Exploring

Everything around looks
So normal
Ordinary
Nothing out of the blue;
Nothing here does,
Except perhaps you

It’s hard to notice
When everything around
You seek
But it’s a little hard,
Out of shape
On two hours of sleep.

I’m genuinely on two hours of sleep. I was at a hackathon all weekend, and when school, travel and travel costs all add up, you have to give it your all!
And so I think I may have slept a little between 4:30 and 5:30. Maybe.

Totally worth it!

The best part about hackathons is the total exploration. You often end up staying overnight in a single building designated as a coding area. Even if it’s a building you’re quite familiar with, there’s nothing a whole night there can’t teach you that you already knew from spending two hours a week in lecture there. You find new cozy hacking/study spots and if you’re home, you have a alternative to the old stuffy library for the rest of your education!

For me, this time it was about exploring (infiltrating?) a new (rival?) school’s comp sci base: I was up in Montreal! (The commute did not agree with me however!)

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I’d like to walk here more often. Would you? The seamless coexistence of old and modern architecture make for a very interesting picture—and is quite similar to Toronto’s case.

I snuck out on my short break and walked around some really stunning architecture. I wish I’d had more time to explore the city, but my lack of time was a whole other story!
It’s a story that probably deserves its own post: the travel post with some bonus theatrical thrills, because believe you me a sleep-deprived kid mostly confined to the insides of a computer science department building, can still get into fixes.

Hackathons are also a great way to make new friends! Even if it is at your own school or university, spending twenty four hours debugging and crying over your own bad coding habits with someone else is sure to earn you a new friend, one who always knows the pain of getting 178 nested errors only to follow them to the first instance of where thing started going wrong and for your error message to make absolutely no sense to anyone. They’ve seen you there before, in the wee hours of the morning.

Another super cool part of the exploration that goes on at hackathons is obviously, an exploration into the world of computer science, and all its wonderful skills! Most people end up learning something new at a hackathon, maybe because what you’d like to make uses a platform you’ve never used before, or if you’re playing around with totally new, shiny, cool hardware and writing code to talk to it: I will never tire of being amazed at how we bounce electricity around to get a cool chip-spider or whatever’s new in the hardware lab, to talk to your computer and do whatever you command it to do (as long as there are no bugs, of course!)

I gave InVision the ditch and tried out some prototyping on Figma this time, and my word, Figma is advanced. It looks to simple to begin with, but you can use it to come within inches of having the appearance of decently sophisticated code usable by neat UI.

I do want to make another one of those process boards series I made for another prototyping project that was quite close to my heart… and I will, on the other blog that’s supposed to have my art/design stuff in one place! In the meanwhile, you’re welcome to play around with the app from this morning that I wish I’d coded and not just prototyped… Figma genuinely can make stuff look real good!

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Knock yourselves out. Don’t doubt that my exhausted ass will be anticipating you every tap with manic glee that only comes with excessive hours of prototyping in a day that manifest in the form of unnatural attachment to a sequence of light bulbs going off on an LCD monitor.

Pride

Stride
All you like
With a glide
In your footsteps
And pride
Hold your chin up
High
Like you have somewhere to
Go
And purpose to show
In every pace you
Move
And they approach
Calm, composed
Silent,
With the briefest look in the
Eye
That doesn’t give away my
Lies
Push on
One step
Back to my back

To let it all out
In a jelly wobble.

Walking through new buildings looking for a study space is one of the most psychological experiences I have in a day.
I know most people are only trying to help, but when I’m in a new building and looking around for someplace I might want to plop and get working, I really don’t want you asking me, “Where do you want to go?”
Am I lost? Yes, I’m lost. Can you help me? No, because I don’t know where I want to go. Yes, you’ve been around this building for years and years and know every inch of it by the inhale at the start of the syllable it begins with, but you still can’t help me, and I don’t want to stick around and hear it.
I know you’re being nice, but I’m just feeling like there’s impending judgement. Just don’t acknowledge me. I’ll find somewhere to sit.

Apart from that, exploring new buildings is also admittedly one of the coolest things you can do, because as a student, you’re legally allowed to just walk into a random building and it’s not trespassing, and you get to live out your Dora The Explorer dreams.

I got me supplies, let’s go!

What do you find exciting in a normal day? And what terrifies you, even though it’s totally normal?

Leading Line Adventures

 

Where do these lines lead? What lies beyond the bright point? What’s that blue blob? A door? A portal?

I find it interesting how you’ll never know. I do know, because I took this picture, but to you, the very same picture is, and will remain, an utter mystery. A supposition, at best, an educated guess, a figment of your own imagination.

Can you imagine a character running towards the light, arms outstretched, trying desperately to reach that portal and escape to some imagined safety? Do you see a lost traveler wondering how on earth they got into this underground labyrinth, feeling the brick walls as much as to feel its texture and feel some warmth, some assurance, some hope that they’ll ever get out alive, as for some direction? Them, feeling their way along the long, low corridors, fervently wishing for some sign of life to appear… As they make their way down, they see a door. Then another door, hidden in an alcove. Which one might lead to escape? Oh dear, there isn’t time to go exploring, and there isn’t time to waste around guessing!

It’s now or never, they must take their best shot!

The hidden door, that must be it! Freedom can’t be that obvious, right? Here goes, swing, and in!

Swish!

What’s that? Carpeted floors and low, concentrated light. Where is our hero now? They look in front of them: another door? What on earth? It’s too late to turn back. Swing this one open too!

Weeeeoooooeeeeoooowwwoeeeeoooooweeeoooeeeoooo!!

Siren! They’re done for! What sort of trap have they triggered now? What lies ahead for our protagonist?

Our hero sees movement: there are living beings here! They slowly turn their head and look at our befuddled hero. They don’t look happy. In fact, they seem almost… gruntled?

Our hero takes a step back in panic and confusion. They grip the strap of their backpack. So down they must go. Well, they’ll go down fighting!

Sweat droplets begin to form on our hero’s forehead in spite of the cool night air around. Their fist clenches, their muscles tighten. They silently promise themselves that if they make it out of here alive, nothing is going to stop them from going home. They will go home.

Slowly, they take a tiny step forward. They suck in a breath. They open their mouth to say something, but they’re still shaky from the wailing siren around them.

And the figures in the light, they don’t seem to like the wail either.

As they’d figured two minutes ago, “now or never”, our hero whispers through their parched throat.

Just then, a larger figure appears! Her silhouette descends from a higher level and comes down to stand before our hero! As she does so, she blocks the blinding light before them, and our hero’s vision finally begins to come into focus.

With the alarms still blaring around them, our hero really sees the scene they’ve landed themselves in for the first time.

The figure… she seems human, just like our hero! Her brows are furrowing on her forehead, and she adjusts the glasses on her nose. Is she from around here? Will she be able to help me find my way home, and out of this fearsome place? Or is she one of them? What do I do?

At that moment, the woman—for woman she seems to be—begins to speak.

“Sir, I’m going to need you to enter through the other door.”

Our hero simply stares at her in confusion. A-what now?

“Sir, do you hear me? Are you alright?”

Our hero looks up and meets her eye. “What?” they ask.

The lady shakes her head and sighs. “You don’t look like you’re in any shape to pull an all-nighter. I suggest you go home and rest.”

It made no sense, but one word resonates with our hero. Home! That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do all this while: get home.

“I don’t understand,” they reply slowly, the confusion beginning to climb up their chest.

“Kid, you can’t enter the library after 9 PM through this door, don’t you know it’s an emergency exit? It says so on the wall. Now you’ve disturbed everyone around. I understand it’s finals season and tensions and emotions run high, but you need some rest, look at you! If you really have to study in here right now, I won’t stop you, but I highly recommend one thing: get home, and get to bed!”, the librarian gushes.

The librarian?

Our hero looks around as the other faces come into focus. Human indeed. Or maybe almost human. Finals season zaps the humanity out of every studying soul and turns them into zombies. They don’t look happy to have had their preparation for that big final worth 40% of their grade interrupted. Now one of them gives up and leaves to go to the washroom. Curses, now they can’t focus and need a break.

Our hero stands there with their mouth hanging open as they watch the kid leave, taking it all in at once. It’ll be a few more minutes before they can remember who they were and what’s really happened in the last half hour or so. Did they fall asleep in the corridor, or one of the classrooms it leads to? Were they really home? Are they just another student taking finals season badly?

For the truth, as you shall now discover, is that this is an underground passage connecting two of our residential buildings on campus. There is an underground entrance to the library, which comes in very handy during cold wintry days. And during finals season, almost all libraries are open twenty-four hours. It’s a blessed necessity.

Now of course I knew that. You only did a paragraph ago, unless you’re also at my school or just made a brilliant guess, which like I said, is only a brilliant guess.

So there you have it.

Also, if this reads a little weird, I’ll put it out there that I have never written a gender neutral character before. Never used these many “they”s in the same piece. Pick your own adventure, I guess.

Polishing Up The Sharps

Over the past few weeks, I have attended tons of orientations on campus: academic orientations, school spirit parades, Computer Science frosh, computer science frosh, getting used to living on campus orientation, laundry orientation…

And so, this weekend, I put the wonderful advice my seniors had so painstakingly put together for a week’s worth of sermons to great use: I ditched my Sunday laundry, ignored my psychology homework, forgot all about my math and went out for the afternoon and evening, for not one but two music festivals.

Toronto has a pretty unique music scene in that its festivals have a uniquely Toronto vibe. When you think of outdoor music festivals, you normally think of parks or farms like those employed for European summer music festivals (arguably the best in the world) (and perhaps, with the sixteen hour drives like the ones to Pilton for Glastonbury) and American music festivals in the blazing summer (like Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bonnaroo, or the Warped Tour) and to be fair, music festivals elsewhere in Canada (Montréal Jazz). Perhaps you may even think of large, open air arenas and stadiums.

Toronto presents to you a different kind of intimacy when it comes to its summer music festivals (and I mean summer when I say it. Twenty eight degrees has never felt as much like thirty six and as relentless as it did on Sunday). Enter the Kensington Market Jazz festival (taking place for three days over the weekend, their packed schedule can be found here), a weekend full of jazz music (and a few stretches over to some rock and blues) on guitars, pianos and more. The festival is spread out over fifteen venues all over Kensington Market, the whole event being indoors—in shops!

My buddy and I had time only to head to one venue, having left at 12:00 PM and remembering that we hadn’t had breakfast, nor would have lunch for quite some time and making a pitstop by a Tim Hortons, and caught one set at Tom’s Place, a suit shop.

So here’s Peter Hill, on the piano, in a suit shop, furiously churning out some jazz for a seated audience (I wonder if it’s quite what he’s used to).

IMG_0155It did make for a most interesting sight!

Standing behind a mostly older audience seated so disciplined and listening and nodding along with such enthusiasm it felt slightly out of place to whip out my phone and snap a shot, so this is all I have to offer, I suppose.

But there are tons more elsewhere, for after that, we hopped on the TTC streetcar (I’m still adjusting to not calling it a tram…) and tripped down to Roncesvalles for the annual Roncesvalles Village Polish festival. Roncesvalles is known to be a centre for the Polish Torontonian community, and every year, with official patronage from the Polish Consulate, hosts this day-long music and food fest.

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Arrival!
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I can never take a decent panorama… I think a poor passerby just got cut in half in my snap! Thanos would be proud, eh?
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Giving the accordions their due in pixels
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A most sweltering yet beautiful day. I almost prefer it through the camera now.
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Books, books and more books!
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Very Polish set up. Though it must be really hot under all those layers.
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Living for the brass section

If you’d like to listen to snippets of some of the music being played around (and Polish festival or not, not all the music was lyrically in Polish), I have included a drive link with some of the videos I shot around Roncesvalles (three days, and I still screw up that spelling.) WordPress doesn’t currently allow me to upload any media that aren’t photographs.

The entire festival takes place on Roncesvalles Avenue, that’s one long street for the whole festival. A little different from the Reading and Leeds you’re used to, perhaps!

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It really is just this one long stretch of road.

And that was the whole stretch of the road.

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Wow, such empty.

My buddy and I, not quite convinced that we were done walking for the day, decided to head further up and cross the street to do some exploring. It turned out to be a lovely idea!

Cross this bridge to the other side to find the waves of Lake Ontario lapping at the sandy, gravelly shores. Welcome to Budapest Park!

And since there was water, we ran into some little friends of ours…

… silently quacking away about their shit day jobs on their way to downtown. Sunday’s the only day they can go downtown with fun on their minds. It was a well used break, or so I heard.

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Between my friend and I, we quite thought this one picture summed up our year ahead at university quite well: the first ten days, you walk along a carefully planked, well-defined path. Then as you head onto the sands, you tread through a downward curve. From there on, you gain velocity as you descend further down your path with heavier, more uncontrollable steps. There’s a sign board explaining what the various flags to watch out for are, but of course you didn’t notice that. Then come the midterms where you dive into the cold water (absolutely no reference to respite from the heat here, by the way) and try to get swim to the shores but a sudden wave arrives on the waters that honestly seemed pretty still from the admission page far. You try to salvage your record swimming through December (in the icy cold (frozen?) water too, yikes) and finally reach the stones. Congratulations, it’s Christmas and you haven’t died from hypothermia! Time to fix your mental health. You get up and walk along the top, regrouping as January and February go by, only to find that your path has abruptly ended and there are rocks under the water surface and it’s April again. The lifeguard’s off-duty today, of course! (It’s Sunday.)

Pretty apt, eh?

We decided to head back to Roscenvalles Avenue to revel in the festivity for a little while longer. Midterms can wait!

 

We also ran into some unintentional queer support, so yay for Toronto!

As we passed by a band belting out the blues, a lot of enthusiastic older couples starting waltzing (though I’m not dance expert, so don’t hold me to that!) There was this one guy, amidst them all, in a real mood of his own, dancing by himself.

That was, until a real nice lady stepped up and began to dance with him. It made for a more inspirational story than I as a university student could provide you anytime in the next half decade, so you’re gonna have to take it. I managed to get some of that on record too, and to be honest, compared to the videos, the story the pictures tell is underwhelming.

He starts out an awkward lone man dancing, ends up owning the floor, and then winning hearts. What a champion.

[That, and other videos are up right here.]

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And then that was it. We headed back home with trumpets in our ears, crumpets in our stomachs… no, I just said that because it rhymed. Keeping with the Polish theme, we had pierogi. Pretty good, and surprisingly filling!

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That sort of sums it up. Yes, this is part of my dorm room. Don’t judge me. I cropped out the sheer mess. I also cropped out the ‘Computer Science department’ sticker I’ve had since orientation, so are we on speaking terms?

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If not, then this piece of sheer madness I found at the university bookstore should come in handy.

Until I resurface!

Contradiction

There’s something of a contradiction
About those structures set in stone
That stare up at the fragile egos
Of the new era from down below:
They’re modern and a mix
Of reflective and transparent
And hollow yet beautiful
As they stare up at the sky
Barely glance at the year old foundations
As the day’s work goes by
Yet there’s something of a contradiction
About those rooted stones below
Steadfast in their beliefs
Yet changing the way the world thinks
Spatially limited to two dimensions,
Or so it would seem, relatively
Yet for all its worth
Proving to truly be boundless
Never showing what goes on inside
But never one to hide
And somehow the brightest, most visible
To light up the post sundown nights
Calm in the middle of a storm
And there’s nothing uncanny about that
Just a something of a contradiction
About the grand stone structures
In the heart of town
And that’s where it’s at.

Down In The City

Our residence halls at university are trying out something new to prevent unsuspecting frosh humans from turning into sunlight-hating, antisocial vampire-monsters. Alright, I take back the part about sun-haters. The winter tends to fix them, I think.
But we’re trying out an open-door policy for when residents are home, as an invitation to people to come over and socialise.

I did some candy shopping for just this purpose and landed on move-in day with two bags of Reese’s, but I’m now learning that no amount of candy is ever enough (I’d thought two bags was too much for a semester).

I’ve actually got some eye candy for all of you reading too, and I sure hope it’s satisfying for you! (My meagre WordPress storage begs to differ, but as with the junk in my under packed-for room, all nitty-gritties can just be stuffed under the bed for now.)

(I’m sorry, it’s 1 AM, I promise I’ll revise this tomorrow, but I need something to convince myself that a university computer science kid can have a life outside thei–
–r… computers…)

Ahem!

So these are from my walk in New York City last month. We took a bus from New Jersey and spent the whole day walking around, so forgive me if it’s a little cliché an album.

 

 

We then took the subway down to Manhattan, though I didn’t take any pictures on the subway. People on the subways tend to keep to themselves a bit. It’s not as bad as on the Tube though.

 

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The art student in me winces in shame and runs away

 

 

I wonder though, today, is the girl just standing up to the bull? Or is she also in some way looking capitalism in the eye, standing up unafraid and challenging all the skyscrapers and the orderly white and black suits that sit within them? Is she the new generation, about to shake up all the order and rules that the masters of trade hold dear?

 

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Right in the middle of the floor-to-ceiling glass towers, a throwback to the old stone that set the foundation upon which the city grew back when. Who’s to say that NYC isn’t poetic in its own right?

 

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I guess the heat got a bit too much. Fire department got in some action that day too.

 

 

 

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Lady Liberty in the distance! It’s the best a phone camera can do…

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Look up to the skies…
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Disclaimer: not this tall in real life.

I personally liked this bit much better than downtown New York City, but to each their own. NYC at night, all lit up, in and around Times Square is pretty much on every tourist’s bucket list. Of course we went back. Here’s New York, Midtown West (I kind of did use Google maps all day, so forgive me) after dark.

 

All in all, New York was kind enough to give me a few parting gifts. I got tons of pretty decent photos, if I do say so myself, aching feet, a few smiles from a rare few friendly New Yorkers (that city’s got a busy vibe to it), a last-ditch all-or-nothing vacation before university, a blog post, and an idea: Toronto is really more my speed.

Hope you enjoyed it!

Mileage

As a traveller through unfamiliar lands
I’ve quite a specific quest
The idea is to get home
And you’ve no idea that’s a fucking test

Because I’m walking the plank
Where the captain toots a horn
At 160 decibels or so;
My mental drapes have torn

One step forward, two steps back
Is a waltz in my head
Only it’s played on a landmine:
One wrong step, kiddo, and you’re dead

I’ve nearly slipped and drowned
And I was only walking on a road
My treasure chest is getting heavy
And so are my breath, my curses and my groans

I threw away the map
After tearing it to shreds
Around these parts
Only my eyes can get cred

And my legs seem made of lead
The green man’s laughing at me
Only fifty metres away
Arrive to give the dust company

Who’d have thought crossing a road was hard?
Who could possibly have known?
At just a few hundred metres distance
I’m still a long walk from home.

Oh, Buck It.

Everyone has bucket lists, and so do I. But my bucket list is literally filled with various styles of buckets, based on aesthetic, shape, size and comfort. Because I may soon need one big and comfy enough to hide my face. For objectively long enough a time.

On a tangent, my bucket list now includes a wish to a need to travel the world.

Oh, I see you building the image in your head already.  Free spirit, wanderlust, emancipated idealist.

It’s misleading. I need to travel, and do it quick. I need a lot of stamps and visas filling up my passport pages.
I have a life too. How inconsiderate. I don’t look human in my passport picture. I need to fill up its pages and have a legitimate excuse to apply for a new one as soon as I get the chance to. It doesn’t help that for “extra preparedness”, my new passport is twice as thick as my last one. I want out before authorities begin to wonder if it’s not actually a photograph but a textbook example of bad art printed on my pages. It’s nerving enough to stand by and watch them read my documents with a permanently raised eyebrow (tangent– does airport security have beefy eyebrow muscles? To do that all day, everyday must be a workout routine!), I do not need them laughing or gawking at my picture.

Sigh. I miss the old days when I was a chubby little kid who looked passably cute. At least my photograpghs didn’t look like an illustration for a comic book where a racoon’s been disturbed from deep sleep (the hair and startled look says it all).

If I don’t create a goddamned atlas of my passport… (gulp) well, it’s valid for ten years.

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