Random Series

Can't talk now, gotta go take advantage of my last two days on vacation!


Long Shadows

On a walk with my dad on a sunny winter afternoon. Being home is wonderful!


Blurry Neon Ballerina Series

I saw some college student dancers perform a couple weekends ago and I took photos, since I'd been wanted to take photos of dancing. However, I was sitting in the audience and I didn't want to use flash, so the photos turned out terribly. But I quite like them in technicolor!


Photo Monday: Big News Edition!

Guess What?!

Remember this Saturday Aspiration back in July where I wanted to find a place to display and sell my photos? Well I took my portfolio to one place and the manager said that he liked my stuff, but they didn't have any wall space, but they are building a new place right downtown and would I like to take photos of downtown specifically for this restaurant/bar? So I took about 100 photos and the manager and his art consultant and the restaurant's designer all loved them and the designer picked 15 to hang in the restaurant (a few of which I've posted here!). And the restaurant finally opened last week! They are still working on getting my nameplates up and I am going to make business cards to leave there, since apparently the photos have already been getting compliments! It is insane!

And, even cooler, this place is THE new hotspot downtown. It has a younger crowd than the other bars and it isn't as expensive as it looks. It has been packed since it opened!

There's more: I am now working with the designer who has hired me to photograph his work at the restaurant as well as other work he has done. These photos will be for his website, his publicity package, and for submission to interior design publications!

If I hadn't made that Saturday Aspiration, I probably would've put off showing my portfolio and I probably would've missed this amazing opportunity. Definitely the best outcome from starting this blog so far! Thank you all for your support when I posted that aspiration and on all my other photos that I've shared here!



I took these in lab the other day with my old camera; technically not happy with them but it's all I got. I haven't really had time to take many pictures lately, but I really want to take my new camera into the lab one of these days!



I was sitting in the balcony at a concert a couple weeks ago in this church-y venue and I loved how cool the chandeliers looked in the crazy lights from the concert. I seriously kept looking at the chandeliers instead of the band -- I have a thing for interesting chandeliers. I think the lighting and angle makes it look like it is underwater. Anyway, I took this shot really quickly with my tiny Canon Elph, zoomed in as much as possible, and hoped that the people behind me didn't think I was weird. This could've been better with my new digital SLR but that would have been harder to sneak past security in my purse.


Ubiquitous Fall Pic

I got to take photos of some friends this weekend and I really liked how this one turned out. When they threw the leaves up they blew straight at me! I wish the one leaf wasn't hiding her face, but I can still see her smile! In retrospect, this is a situation in which I should have used the continuous shutter release to capture the best possible moment. Gotta keep practicing.


Portrait Series

As you can probably tell by my Photo Mondays thus far, I never photograph people in an artsy way. It's kinda awkward taking photos of strangers or even of people you know. But, in order to expand my repertoire and build technique, I asked my beautiful friend to help me practice! It was so much fun!




I've liked photographing contrasting architechture ever since High School.


Concrete Jungle Series

Took the new camera out for a spin the other weekend...


Graffiti Series

New York City this is not. But we do love our turtles (?).



Late afternoon, early Fall

This was like inadvertant, ephemeral installation art.


David (Foster) Wallace's Syllabus

For those who are interested, here is his syllabus for the Literary Interpretation class I took in Spring '05. I wonder if any of the contemporary authors knew he was teaching their work? Click to enlarge. You can download a PDF copy here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/74315843/Literary-Interpretation-Syllabus If that doesn't work, you can email me at sophilosoph@gmail.com


Remembering David Foster Wallace


Taking a class from David Foster Wallace was one of my best academic experiences at Pomona. I was already in awe of his work, and when I had the opportunity to take a Literary Interpretation class from him my Senior year at Pomona (a rare opportunity for a Biology major), I jumped.

Even though he was the most genuine, modest, and awkward person, I couldn't help but be intimidated. How could you not be intimidated when writing something to be read and graded by THE David Foster Wallace? On a short story by an author who is a personal friend of the certified genius David Foster Wallace (He wanted to be called Dave, but that seemed so irreverent...which was probably the point -- he actively deflected all reverence when possible.)? But I got over the intimidation, at least during class. He corrected our stuff with three color-coded pens and typed 3/4 page, 10pt-font responses, full of constructive criticism, praise (!), and humor. If anything, he was intimidated by us (a class full of mostly freshmen and sophomores), and was greatly devoted to our learning, even though we weren't the advanced creative writers for whom his classes were usually reserved. His seven-page, footnoted syllabus contained a caveat emptor ("let the buyer beware") section, the first point stating that he was not a "real" professor because he did not have a Ph.D., so his course would most likely be filled with "pedagogical clunkiness," in case that changed our minds about taking the class. He told us to think of his teaching as, rather, his dispensing "avuncular advice."

This "advice" included abundant grammar (of course -- see "Authority and American Usage" in Consider the Lobster, or the original article in Harper's HERE), vocabulary (also, of course), and Latin, in addition to literary interpretation. He wrote in "And" and "But" in front of a lot of my sentences, which was one of his own writing habits ("And but so..."). He encouraged me to stop using fancy words and phrases when I should have been using the accurate, simple words (In his case, the accurate, simple word is the one everyone else has to look up, but, sure enough, is right on target.), a practice that is very relevant to scientific writing (oh yeah, he was also a genius in math and science which he incorporated into his books, and he had an article in Science). He taught me how to use commas. He had us read and interpret Silence of the Lambs among the D.H. Lawrence and A.M. Homes literature. He chewed tobacco (a glimpse of his own addiction) and brought his dog to class. He never used email, and he gave us his cell phone number to call whenever we had a grammatical question, "even after you graduate." He offered to subsidize the cost of a good dictionary for any student who didn't already have one. He was a very dedicated SNOOT (see "Authority and American Usage" again).

Our class discussions were always interesting, but whenever a theme that is common in his writing (such as addiction or the media) came up, I wouldn't even blink should I miss any new insight from him. There was an unspoken rule at Pomona to never mention his work. He spoke just like how he wrote, which was really cool. Critics often accused his writing of being too show-off-y, but, the fact is, he was the last person who would ever try to show off -- that was just the way he communicated. He was incredibly self-conscious, which [sense of self] is another big theme in his writing. I can't fully articulate the experience of taking a class from him, but it was unparalleled. If you haven't read anything of his yet, I highly suggest you do. Start with A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again (read this story online HERE) to get a feel for his style, and then delve into the rest.

He has impacted me, as all good teachers do, not only through his class but also through his books, which have and will continue to impact thousands more.

I was so lucky to have seen him when I visited Pomona last semester. I stopped by his office to thank him for teaching me grammar, because I had realized that too many scientists slip through the cracks in that area. He heartily agreed and we discussed grad school and other things. He didn't look the same as he did when I took his class, or as he does in all the stock photos being circulated in the news articles online. He looked thinner and pale and I think his signature hair was chopped (woah, biblical ref.). Apparently he had gone off of his depression medication in July '07. I am so glad I got to thank him, even just for that one little aspect of his impact (any more and he probably would have just cut me off and left), and I think (and hope) that he appreciated it.

I feel so much better after writing that out. These are the things I would have been remembering at the vigils and memorials going on at Pomona right now that I am getting the emails for but cannot attend. Thank you for listening, internet.

** Some DFW online:
Short stories in Harper's, including favorites "Ticket to the Fair" and "Shipping Out"
The McCain piece
One of many tennis articles
Consider the Lobster

More remembrances: http://mcsweeneys.net/


There were funny parts, too.

An exceprt from my term paper (which I wrote one year before taking a class from DFW at Pomona) about Infinite Jest:

David Foster Wallace’s portrayals of addiction and obsession in American culture send a warning to his readers about the fragility of life and the dangerous traps in the pursuit of happiness. Wallace describes obsession as “a very American illness, the idea of giving yourself away entirely to the idea of working in order to achieve some sort of brass ring that usually involves people feeling some way about you – I mean, people wonder why we walk around feeling alienated and lonely and stressed out?” (Miller). The view that people are simply “chasing a carrot” in a futile attempt at success and acceptance by others reinforces the initial feelings of loneliness and stress that catalyze the pursuit of addiction in the first place. It is a cycle that, as the novel shows, has no happy ending.

Miller, Laura. “Interview With David Foster Wallace.” Salon. March 9-22 1996.



I'm stunned. He was my favorite author and professor.

"As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master."

From David Foster Wallace's 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon


Looks like summer...

...and feels like summer, but it's not quite summer anymore. At least fall will bring the colors of the leaves...until they fall down all of a sudden and everything is grey, at which point, wake me in the spring.


Recipe Thursday

When I was home last week my mom gave me a package of rice paper that she probably found at an Asian grocery store or Whole Foods. I was very excited about these, and I immediately had to try my hand at making Vietnamese spring rolls. The Whole Foods website has a recipe for spring rolls and a peanut sauce (already naturally gluten-free) that didn't look very daunting, which you can find here. However, I was pressed for time so I just bought Thai Kitchen's Peanut Satay Sauce instead which, if not authentic, worked out well. Here is the spring roll recipe that I adapted, the ingredients of which are entirely interchangeable (but the mint and cilantro are KEY):

2 ounces thin rice stick noodles (I cooked the whole bag without thinking and had a huge pile of rice noodles leftover)
18 or so shrimp, cooked and peeled (I just bought cocktail shrimp and cut them in half lengthwise so they would fit in the roll better)
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, and julienned
1 large head of stiff lettuce or cabbage (chop some of it into thin, short strips)
1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Rice paper (spring roll wrappers)

Cook rice noodles as directed. Dip rice paper wrapper in hot water. Wrapper will feel rubbery -- don't leave it in the hot water longer than a few seconds for maximum workability. Layer ingredients on wrapper. Fold the bottom of wrapper over the top of the ingredients. Fold sides, roll up, place seam side down on plate. Cover with wet lettuce leaves to keep them from drying out. I stored them in the fridge under a damp paper towel, all covered with saran wrap.

These were so fun to make, and sooooo good! Turning appetizers into a main course is always a good idea.



Sometimes it is obvious when a photograph is more suited for black and white rather than color or vice versa. This is something I've been learning just in the past three years since I got a digital camera. Before then I would shoot with black and white film only and was trained to look for shots that would look good in black and white. But the digital camera thing has opened up worlds of options!

But with options comes indecision. These are some photos on which I can't decide -- b&w or color? What do you think?


Recipe Thursday

My Mom and sister (who took this photo) made this recipe whilst in Paris and emailed it to me. First of all, I was jealous that they were in Paris. Second of all, as much as I like the food that I cook, I still miss food cooked by my parents. So here is the recipe, straight from my Gmail à la my sister's latest blog post.

From: mom @ emailaddress.com
Jun 19
Re: Great Recipe

Quinoa Black Bean Salad

Delicious, especially if you're a fan of black beans and limes like I am. Ingredients (use vegan versions):

Soph--we tried this quinoa black bean salad (without black beans) and it was pretty terriffic--kind of like the whole foods version !!--worth the effort--make a ton at a time !

1 cup quinoa, washed & drained
2 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 2 fresh limes (or to taste)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes (108-oz pkg), cut in half
5 green onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
1. Wash & rinse quinoa. In a saucepan, bring quinoa & water to a boil. Reduce & simmer, cover & cook until all water is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes. Let cool.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice, cumin, and red pepper flakes.
3. Combine cooled quinoa, beans, tomatoes, & onions in a large bowl. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss with cilantro. Season with salt & pepper and serve.

I haven't gotten around to making this yet, but it sounds really easy (I don't know why she said it was 'worth the effort,' though I suppose it takes more effort than a bowl of cereal which has been my go-to lately) and delicious! Especially if you love quinoa like me. I don't know why she said to use vegan ingredients since she's never mentioned veganism ever before, and I can't even think of any non-vegan versions of these ingredients, but whatev. Also, now I see where I get my affinity for hyphens and exclamation points!