Monthly Archives: February 2022

For the Music Lover

Avid travellers are also music lovers. The strongest memories we have usually are associate with certain songs. Music can evoke emotions and create an experience one cannot put into words. In this way, listening to music complements a travelling experience by engaging with all our senses.

It seems obvious that travelling and music go hand in hand as form of escapism. I have always found music comforting especially as a way to express one self. As well as, I love how I can put on my headphones and pretend I am the main protagonist, ready to go on an adventure or ride the bus to downtown. Not only is music a form of an escapism but I have found that, I can turn off my computer and phone and just tune in to a playlist.

I have an old school Apple MP3, strictly used for only listening to music which I will never get rid of. When Vinyl Records and LP were becoming trendy again, I found it exciting because I was discovery new artists and even rediscovering singers I totally forgot about.

I would visit record stores and hunt for Queen or Billie Holiday record. Yet, no one I knew felt passionate about LPs. Which made me think what was better, Digital music or Vinyls?

Digital or Vinyl?

Although I use both formats to listen to music, I found there are pros and cons to using either digital or vinyl.


PRO: The aesthetic feel.

I love the feeling of LPs. Whether thats displaying on a shelf, or listening to the sound Vinyl Records create a cozy atmosphere, where you can just sit with a cup of coffee and listen, without any screens distracting you.

CON: I would say a huge con for vinyls is storage and cleaning them. Although they are cute, it takes up energy to maintain vinyls.


PRO: digital is convenient. You can hold a thousand songs on your apple phone. What else is there more to say?

Visiting a record store gives the same vibes as visiting a bookstore. You cannot replace the tangible, cozy feeling you get when your there.

Nonetheless, any format you choose to listen to your favourite song should be enjoyable and fun!


Peer Review 2: Chii’s Sweet Home

Dear readers,

Today, I’m exploring Chii’s Sweet Home. Right away, the sweet header, soft colour scheme, and this enticing image really speaks to me that this website is a comforting place. It’s downright dreamy to look at.

How dare Chiiharu entice me with anime foods!

The image, by the way, is from Studio Ghibli film From Up on the Poppy Hill. What a good aesthetic to use! Most people associate Studio Ghibli animations with comfort and beautiful animations, and for the subtitle of the blog, “Cooking and Chill. Home-cooked recipes, inspired by Asian cuisine with a touch of Western-style,” that suits it quite well!

Chii’s sweet homepage 🙂

The picture of ramen on the top of the homepage looks delicious, too. But initially, I thought it was a recipe or a photo she took, so that’s what I looked for. But I think it’s just a photo used to sell the impression that the average reader will find Asian cuisine here. It looks like this header photo rotates once in a while, too, but with the muted colours, it always blends in with the blog.

I’m a bit confused by the side bar because the text, “About This Blog” makes me expect that there will be a short description of what the blog is about. I feel like a short blurb about who Chii is here would do, since there’s a subtitle underneath the title and an about page in the menu.


Peeking at Jana’s peer review of Chii’s website, Jana notes that Chii has done an excellent job visually of communicating that there are comforting recipes to be found here, and some real heart in Chii’s inspirations to cook. One challenge Jana issues is for Chii to insert more of her personal memories or stories into her posts. She remarks that her “cross-cultural experience” could be the foundation for Chii’s branding and how she writes. In other words, tapping more into Chii’s relationships with Vietnamese and Western cuisine could help blog posts be more personable.

In general, I think Chii is also leaning into the theme of a college student cooking alone finding cheap and healthy recipes, too. In her second essay, she writes, “I notice that a lot of people are having a hard time finding fun things to do while spending their days in isolation. And because we all stay at home, cooking becomes a crucial part of our life.” This personally spoke to me. Having accessible recipes that could also draw people to Asian recipes is really heartwarming. Like Jana, I think future posts should thread this feeling of Chii talking about her feelings about the recipes that she’s making. I’d like to see not just an explanation of what food she’s making, but more about why she made it and how she feels about it.

When I read her egg white recipe post, for example, I kind of felt like I wanted to learn more about those macaroons! And maybe hear a little about how Chii came up with this recipe: did she just think egg whites, onions, and proteins went well together? Did she like it? Just two sentences explaining those details can add more personality to Chii’s recipes that I think would really help it skyrocket!

Also, her more recent recipes are centered on healthy foods. Is there a reason? I know personally that making healthy foods can feel difficult because it might be too expensive, so that’s something Chii can talk about when she’s introducing those specific recipes.

I also see a really good opportunity to start making Youtube or Tiktok videos making the recipes, and linking the full recipe in the description of the videos. In the blog posts, I would personally suggest putting a video link after the recipe so that people can see Chii make the recipe herself, and so people don’t have to scroll too far to get to the recipe. I also suggest a video link rather than embedding a video in WordPress outright because it might take longer for the post to load for the average user.

Still, if Chii would like ad revenue from her blog posts, it could be a good strategy to write a story about the recipe she’s making before having the recipe available so that users have to scroll past ads. But that may annoy other users, too, so these are some considerations Chii would have to make.

Chii’s latest blog post

With all of this being said, I think Chii’s latest post on the signature noodles in Vietnam is really interesting! This isn’t a recipe post, but it does give a really cool overview of Vietnamese cuisine. I found my mouth watering as she explained these recipes. I liked that in some dishes, she inserts her memories of the dish and how she experienced them. For example, she writes, “I would like to tell you a couple of abstract meanings for this dish,” about Bun Thang. She explains the difference between what Hanoians call the soup and how her grandparents referred to the soup, with the former referring to the ingredients and the latter just meaning soup.

I thought to myself that “thang” is similar to how my Hakka parents pronounce a healing kind of soup rather than a regular soup. So it’s cool to make that connection. And I think having those moments where readers can feel Chii’s sincerity in day-to-day posts is really powerful. Sentences like how Chii would return home to eat all of the chicken pho her mom would make her is something that I think would speak to Chii’s audience: fellow students away from home that really miss their parents’ cooking. Maybe she could include recipes that her mom made. Or, if her mother is like mine, joke about how her mom doesn’t really have a strict recipe with what she makes. Having personal details like that in every post really solidifies, content-wise, the lovely branding that Chii has already established visually.


Overall, I find Chii’s Sweet Home to be a really comforting website. It’s visually very cozy, and the suggested recipes are approachable, too. My biggest comment is for Chii to find ways to insert herself into the recipes of her website.

Chii’s second essay for PUBL 101 really spoke to me. She says that writing can sometimes feel like a weakness for her. Reading this, and Chii’s about page, I think Chii expresses herself really well emotionally. I would like to see her talk a bit more about herself when she cooks a recipe. When I see Chii talk about her memories, or what it’s like to be a student living in a different country trying to make meals affordable, that’s when I relate to her the most. She could ask herself questions like:

  1. What does this food remind me of?
  2. Are there any memories I have about making this food that I can share?

Answering these questions in one or two sentences a post will really bring back the feeling of cozy home cooking that I get from reading through Chii’s blog. I think Chii already does a good job of explaining the flavours and textures of the food, but having these personal connections would help set Chii’s recipes apart.

I would also ask Chii to credit where her photos are from directly under the photo itself. When using images that aren’t yours, it’s ideal to check whether they are under Creative Commons licenses. One way Chii can do this is to do a Google Image search, and under “Tools,” click “Usage Rights,” then “Creative Commons licenses.”

An example of a Google Image search where Tools -> Usage Rights have been selected for reference.

Besides this, Chii also shows clear interest in developing videos for her recipes! This would be a wonderful addition to her website. To make the process less intimidating and less tiring, Chii could just set up a video camera and record herself making the recipe step-by-step with music in the background. She may need a friend to help her record, but overall, having something to watch would help bring the content to life.



Peer Review #2!

In this week’s peer review, I was assigned to Edelweiss’ website and I immediately fell in love! The clever title and unique colours immediately draw the viewer into the site. Her “about me” section explains where the title came from and why it’s extra special and unique to her as a moderator. My only wish for Letter Elle is that it went on to explain “All Things Y2K and Hallyu” as the opening page reads. Like I said, I love the colours and lay out of Elle’s site, and my suggestion would be to explain the meaning behind the Y2K content in the “About Me” section since it is a common theme of the website itself. 

The niche-ness of Elle’s post’s make her website interesting and engaging, and personable, as if you really are conversing with Elle. For the posts themselves, I wish Elle would put her own twist or opinion, in lieu of general pop music content. Because the bands she has posted about aren’t as mainstream as pop bands, my suggestion would be for Edelweiss to explain why they mean so much to her. 

I see Elle has a pending post titled “So…Why Y2K?” which is an awesome play on words! I am so excited for this post as I imagine it will address my previous concerns. My suggestion would be to put this on the main page for viewer accessibility. 

I really enjoy the small quirks Edelweiss has placed in her site, like the “Mmmm…” on the search barand the “Recent Posts” on the right of the site. I am SO excited to read her forthcoming letters. 

I really enjoy the direction Elle is going in, she’s chosen such an interesting and unique theme, and I’m so excited to see how all of her posts end up intersecting. It’s really smart to play on the Y2K current trend and the rise of Korean dramas and music. You can tell who Elle’s target audience is, and once she has more content up I am so sure it will take off as a fun, quirky, informative and personable site! Thank you Elle!

Peer Review #2: Joanna Lin

This week I will be reviewing my classmate Joanna Lin’s website, Joanna Lin. This website is Joanna’s outlet to share her creative journey as a graphic designer, videographer, and photographer, in hopes of being a source of artistic inspiration to others. 


Hi Joanna! At first glance at your website homepage, my eyes are immediately drawn to the graphic image of yourself. This image is so cool! I think this graphic of yourself is a great homepage image as this site is all about YOUR creative journey as a designer. I also like how you introduce yourself with the tag line, “Hi, I’m Joanna”, and that the subheader indicates your creative skills. Something I might consider adding to this subheader is your website’s tagline. Instead of sharing your mission statement in your “About Me” section, I think it would fit better on the homepage of your website. This way readers know right away what to expect from your site. 

I’m here to share my creative journey as a designer, videographer, and photographer, hopefully inspiring others and creating some laughs on the way.”

In your last peer review, Briana Carniel suggested “there could be more examples of Joanna’s work on her home page, so viewers get a better grasp at the content she develops.”, and I completely agree. There is quite a bit of open white space, and while I appreciate the clean aesthetic, since your website is about your journey as a “creative”, I think you should utilize the homepage to feature more of your wonderful creations!

Navigation Menu

The JL in the top left corner of your website which displays the menu is a design element that I appreciate! Having your initials there makes the website look more professional and the pink accent of the box makes it obvious to readers that they should click there.

One thing I might consider changing about the navigation menu is deleting the grid option. When I click on the grid option (the second icon to the side of the menu), it makes the menu page options disappear. I’m not sure why this is happening, but since there is no use for this button, I would eliminate it from the side of the menu. 

At the bottom of the navigation menu, I like that you have embedded social media icons linked to these platforms where readers can keep up with your other content. 

About Me Page

I like the way you have displayed the images on the About Me page! The images frame the text nicely and it’s appealing to the eye. Your write-up about yourself is well written and gives readers the inside scoop about you. 

Again, I like the fact that you have added social media icons at the bottom of this page with links to these platforms. The more places for readers to view your content, the better! 

Projects Page

I like the idea of having a Projects page to document your creative work. I might consider changing the title of this page to “Creative Portfolio” as appose to just “Projects”. “Creative Portfolio” sounds more professional and implies that the work you are sharing is completed, whereas “Projects” might give the impression that these ventures are still in the works.

Blog: Photo & Video

I enjoyed scrolling through the content you have on the Photo and Video pages! It’s very cool to see your creative process and the final product come together. I am a little confused however how the blog section of your website is different from the Projects page. For instance, the “Sound Design: Soundscape Composition” post and the “Video: Buttshy” post are both academic design projects that share your creative process and the final product, yet these posts are not under the Projects page. In my mind, it makes more sense to post all completed design work/projects under a “Creative Portfolio” page, and then utilize the “Blog” page for content such as how-to videos, unboxings, your creative journey, etc. 

Posts’ Cover Photos

When your blog posts are displayed, it would be nice to see a cover photo go with the title of the post. Especially since your website is so visual, adding a cover photo to your posts might entice readers to check out your content.

Utilization of Social Media

You have done a great job embedding social media icons with links to their respective platforms throughout your site. If you want to make it even more clear where your readers can follow you, you could consider creating a separate page specifically for your social media links and adding it to your navigation menu.

In terms of how you have used your social media sites, I think you’ve done a good job to post content relevant to the concept behind your website. I would however suggest keeping your user name consistent on all of these platforms (if possible for you to change it!) so they’re easily identifiable as you and align with your Joanna Lin “brand’.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I am very excited to see where you take your website, Joanna! I’m very impressed with your design, photography, and videography skills and I’m excited to see more of your creative journey.

Best of luck!

Trying to Help My Brain: Part I

Dear reader,

Today I tackled a formidable mountain. It was made from about three weeks of the consequences of my actions.

I’m talking about my laundry.

I often find myself neglecting putting away my laundry for a few reasons. It feels like a much more formidable task to me than it actually is, and with every new load that I put, I’m reminded that the task has grown.

And in the last two weeks, midterms, job applications, and papers got the better of me. I got lost in a pile of papers and deadlines. I found that under this stress, I couldn’t focus, didn’t have much energy, and often had trouble getting out of bed. I felt like I was literally buried under things that were technically doable, but I had exhausted my threshold. The stress that I had to do something about the mess around me eventually while worrying about my work felt like a messy circle. I wanted to work, but I couldn’t work when I kept getting distracted by how my arm kept pushing into books, how I had two baskets of laundry, and how there was so little space in my closet that I couldn’t do anything about it all!

Finally, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I finished my workload, so as I stared at the amorphous pile of clothes sitting at the edge of my room, I thought I’d try something out.

Unfortunately, I can’t find the Tiktok now, but I saw a Tiktok that suggested setting a timer for how long you think a chore will take. The user said that this is because they often thought the chores took a lot longer than they actually did, and wanted visual confirmation.

I set a 30-minute timer to do about three baskets of laundry. And honestly, I know it sounds a bit lame to be impressed that it took 20 minutes, but I was! Here was this formidable task that I had been putting off for weeks because I thought it’d take up too much of my day. And there I was, worrying that I wouldn’t meet the timer I had set for myself, even if there wasn’t really any consequence for not finishing in time.

The first basket took about 6 minutes, and the last two only took about 14 minutes. As I put away the last of my shirts into my closet, I asked myself if this made it easier for me to do the chore regularly. And honestly, I’m not sure. Although time is a factor for why I can find it difficult to keep up with chores, it feels like one piece of the puzzle.

Even so, I felt so much better once I’d done it. I definitely felt like it was a lot less scarier than I thought it would be. I definitely feel like I at least have to try this next time a task feels too scary to handle on my own.

I know this is a small thing, but in this moment, I felt like my own hero. It’s nice to prove my brain wrong when it’s being mean!



Thoughts on Lunar New Year, and on recent Asian hate crimes in New York

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I didn’t intend to write something like this, but after thinking over it, I felt like I needed to. I know this blog centers on self-care, but I’ve been meaning to talk about how systemic barriers sometimes make self-care feel useless. There is no amount of what I can do for myself that can correct the nagging fear that I feel systemically as a Chinese woman. But it might do some good to talk about it.

Please be warned that the following post has mentions of racial violence and sexual violence. I had drawn and written some thoughts on these graphics, but they in no way convey the full severity of the pain and palpable losses of Michelle Go and Christina Yuna Lee this past month. I ask that you pardon how scattered some thoughts might be. It is always hard to write about this because it hits so close to home. I will be repeating a lot of thoughts. There are two primary reasons for this.

The first: I’ve already written and spoken on anti-Asian hate here in this article that was published in April last year. I am directing you to it because I speak extensively on the historical ramifications of fetishizing Asian women, leading them to be exposed to higher rates of violence. I also speak on BC’s history of subduing the exploitation of Chinese labour in the construction of the CPR. I reference much of the same information here but in much greater detail there.

It is still true that a tragedy will precede any conversation of preexisting racial biases, and I only had the privilege to ignore this until Asian hate crimes escalated in 2020. It is still true that it is an enormous burden to beg for people to protect our elderly, our vulnerable, to value our lives.

The second: I feel that I should expand further than what I’ve written in these little graphics. I feel that I do the victims, and the severity of anti-Asian hate crimes in general injustice if I do not elaborate. Media attention on crimes against people of colour just seems so temporary, as if our tragedies are just a rotating news cycle for people to consider their morals. I feel if I don’t talk about it, I help these terrible crimes be buried under a sea of horrible news with no change.

Regardless, this is a post where I am positioning myself as a Chinese woman with fair skin. If you are reading this and considering further reading on anti-Asian hate crimes, I suggest listening to especially South, Southeast, and West Asian ethnicities on this topic, as I can not summarize what this may feel like for them.

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Lunar New Year is such a special time in our lives. This is one of the only major holidays we have to celebrate and uplift our community. There is a cruel injustice to how this moment of joy has been scarred with tragedy in the Asian community. On January 15, Michelle Alyssa Go was shoved into the train tracks while waiting for a train. She died momentarily. Less than a month later, Christina Yuna Lee would be followed from Chinatown and violently murdered in her apartment. These acts of violence against Asian women are not isolated to New York, nor are they anomalies. They reflect the escalation of Asian hate crimes that have been increasing everywhere in North America.

Tweet: @namholtz

Reactions to these crimes, especially so close to each other, echo my thoughts on this as a Chinese woman living in Vancouver. In 2020, Asian hate crimes were documented to rise by 717%, from 12 to 98 reports. This was a year of listening to news of elderly men being shoved on the street, women being assaulted, and fearing for whether it might be me or my mom next. To this day, it feels like this surge in hate crimes has only slightly slowed down.

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I remember the lump in my throat I felt at reading headlines from reading fearmongering articles two years ago. I read memes upon memes that pointed to the virus spawning from the “barbaric” eating habits of Chinese people. In one Daily Mail article that falsely stated Chinese people ate bats, the video was found to be doctored, and not filmed in China at all. But the damage of this kind of content had already been done. Rumours spread like wildfire and put the blame on Chinese people for being the carriers of this virus. It was as though the western world was content with blaming the Wuhan people for contracting the virus because of their culture, however true the representation of that culture may be.

I can not describe how horrid that felt across the world, where every bus ride felt unsafe. It felt like it only took one month to completely dehumanize anyone who looked like me. Whether they were actually Chinese or not didn’t change the fact that this cultural shift was scary.

I watched videos of my friends talking about how they felt glares on them if they so much as sniffled. It made me feel smaller on every transit ride. My skin made me feel like a target in the places that I would normally feel safe in.

Two years later, it feels like sinophobic sentiments have not subsided. My heart sank when I read that the Dr. Sun Yat Sen garden had been vandalized in January and February this year. And on New Year’s Eve, a woman was shoved into a bush unprovoked. “Gods,” I thought. “I’m only a year older than her. I’ve walked the same streets as her.”

Asking if every victim could have been me is an exercise that I, and many other Asian women have been doing since 2020.

Lee and Go were supposed to be safe. Whether these were crimes specifically because they were Asian doesn’t matter. It adds to that visceral fear that we could be perceived as submissive victims, and therefore easy targets.

We shouldn’t compromise our security with a body count. We shouldn’t only talk about Asian hate crimes in cases of death.

But here we are.

Tweet: @imontheradio
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I’m not really sure how to end this post. As I said, I feel as though I’ve already poured my heart on the topic, so what can I say about it that isn’t thoroughly exhausting? This has been both a rant and an attempt to make something educational in a time of mourning. I feel as though I am more cohesive in the article I wrote a year ago, and want to direct you towards it again, if only because there are more perspectives aside from my own that tell their own important stories about anti-Asian hate crimes.

In any case, I just wanted to write something that vocalized my concerns. I’m mourning these deaths in our community, but at this moment, I understand that I am also positioning myself as a spokesperson for people to care about our pains. If I didn’t write about this, I feel like these crimes will be obliviated as though they don’t matter. And they do.

Please pay attention to marginalized people’s voices, and help protect our vulnerable. Our sex workers, our elderly, we all deserve the same protections as anyone. Do some readings on how anti-Asian hate crime has affected people across the diaspora. This isn’t a trend, nor is it a one-time tragedy. I’m tired of feeling afraid for myself and on behalf of the people I love.

For now, I want to direct your attention to these fundraisers for Go and Lee‘s families towards their memorial funds.

I am asking you to support the following organizations. If you live in Vancouver, consider visiting Chinatown and supporting the businesses there.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen garden, where funding will help protect the property and preserve it for future generations.

Yarrow Intergenerational Society, an organization that assists low-income seniors in Chinatown and helps them with anything from groceries, providing translation in legal services, medical accompaniment, and more.

SWAN Vancouver, an organization that helps immigrant sex workers through housing, immigration, crisis management, and advocacy in appointments.

Film Review: Reign of Fire (2002)

Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey fight dragons – what could go wrong? Unfortunately, everything. 

What’s It About?

The year is 2020, and dragons reign in England. It all began decades early when London miners uncovered a buried dragon – the first in a species-wide reawakening. No matter how many were killed, the tide could not be stopped. Futilely, governments deployed nuclear weapons, which only devasted population centres as the dragons soared freely above.

In the present, the remaining inhabitants of Northumberland, England live together in a fortified castle, led by Christian Bale’s Quinn, the son of one of the London miners. Life is hard and getting harder, causing many to give up. One day, a corps of Americans arrives, led by Matthew McConaughey’s Denton Van Zan, stirring up both hope and trepidation.

What Did I Think?

On paper, this film has a few things going for it. I like both Bale and McConaughey, and the ridiculous premise suggests just the kind of wacky fantasy I enjoy. On paper.

On the screen . . . it ain’t good. 

At 81 minutes, Reign of Fire is short for a fantasy epic, but somehow even makes that runtime feel too long.

My most general complaint has to do with how inefficiently paced the film was. The overlong opening flashback sequence and subsequent narration from Bale are redundant, and neither offer much more substantial description than I did to begin this review.

Off to kill some dragons!

The opening flashback – following Bale’s traumatic childhood experience in London – does set up his (weak) character arc, but the same could have just as easily been done in a much shorter sequence. For example, as a nightmare he has or replacing the other story he tells the children in his care.

Because of all this, the inciting incident – McConaughey’s arrival – doesn’t happen until thirty minutes in – well past the first third of the film. After that, the film trudges on through its simplistic plot, with a climax enabled by one of the stupidest movie reveals I’ve seen.

“Only one thing worse than a Dragon. Americans.”

As a fan of sci-fi and fantasy, I don’t mind wacky premises – I love them. However, once that premise is established, I expect movies to have some logic and realism within the established framework. Not so for this movie.

To make matters worse, the film suffers from largely boring characters.

This is made worse by the lost potential of starring a bunch of Hollywood leading men before their careers took off.

Bale’s central conflict between hope and despair is both uninteresting and underexplored. Gerald Butler – Bale’s sidekick in the film – was supposed to bring some levity to the film but was too underutilized and at odds with the bleak atmosphere to do much good. The film’s only female character has no defining traits. The only spot of colour in this dark and dreary film was McConaughey. On set, he apparently refused to go by anything other than “Van Zan,” and his over-commitment pays off in his unhinged and campy performance.

The film also suffers in the worldbuilding department. 

There are one or two cool images – such as the tank-like fire trucks Bale’s people use, but overall, the setting is boring, and altogether far too contained (the mere $60 million budget was surely a factor).

It’d be remiss not mention the few positives though. Though we don’t see them very often, the CG dragons hold up reasonably well, and there are a few striking combat scenes. Additionally, there is one scene I genuinely love – where Bale and Butler reenact the conclusion of The Empire Strikes Back as a legendary tale of knights and heroes for the children under their care.

I first became interested in Reign of Fire when it was mentioned on the Intentionally Blank podcast, but unfortunately their brief discussion of it is more interesting than the film itself. I wish the movie had leaned into the crazy premise and zany side of McConaughey’s character, that might have made a more fun film.

I knew it was a bad movie going in, but I was hoping for more of a “Haha, this is so bad” bad movie rather than a “Oh, this is just bad” bad movie. I was disappointed.

★ ★

The Necessary Contradiction of Epic Fantasy Prologues

Spoilers For: The Eye of The World (Prologue & Chapter 1), A Game of Thrones (Prologue & Chapter 1).

In epic fantasy, prologues generally open before the events of the later story and describe some mysterious or wondrous events – such as great displays of magic. Then, as quickly as they begin, they end, raising many questions but offering no answers. Readers are left with a sense of wonder, dread, or confusion. Then, invariably, the opening chapters follow a farm boy worrying about the harvest – or something equally mundane.

Lews Therin roams his ruined castle, dead wife visible in the background.
From the grapic novel adaptation.

Take The Eye of The World by Robert Jordan for example, the classic opening novel of The Wheel of Time. Its prologue opens on a great castle, the inhabitants massacred by “lightnings that had flashed down every corridor” and “fires that had stalked them.” A madman, Lews Therin Telamon, called The Dragon, roams the castle, searching for his wife while unknowingly walking over her corpse. Another man – an enemy – appears, and reveals that Lews Therin himself caused the destruction. They speak of the “Rings of Tamyrlin,” “the Nine Rods of Dominion,” a battle at “the Gates of Paaran Disen.”

“This war has not lasted ten years, but since the beginning of time. You and I have fought a thousand battles with the turning of the Wheel, a thousand times a thousand, and we will fight until time dies and the Shadow is triumphant!”

In his madness, Lews Therin somehow Travels instantly to a new location, “a flat and empty land” beside a river with “no people within a hundred leagues.” Here, he draws “on the True Source deeply,” and summons a fiery “bolt that str[ikes] from the heavens,” raising molten rock “five hundred feet in the air.” Killing himself in the process, Lews Therin erects a mountain that bisects the river. 

The scene ends with the other man Travelling to the new location and cursing Lews Therin: 

“You cannot escape so easily, Dragon. It is not done between us. It will not be done until the end of time.”

What just happened? 

On my initial read, I picked up on the great battle between good and evil but was otherwise hopelessly confused – and overawed. Between all the events mentioned, the titanic displays of magic, and the cyclical conflict across the eons, I knew I was in for a truly epic story.

Then, Chapter One opens on young Rand al’Thor, a farm boy, trudging home alongside his father and worrying about the harsh winter season.

What happened to the awesome magic? Why did Jordan do this?

In short, it’s all about setting a reader’s expectations.

While potentially jarring — especially for readers unfamiliar with the genre — this narrative transition is critical.

Consider: why do people read epic fantasy? Largely, we do so to experience extraordinary elements of the world-building: impossible locations, nonhuman species, battles between good and diabolical evil, and of course, magic.

But authors can’t just front-load their stories with crazy world-building — that would overwhelm readers. Lots of readers give up on Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson for this exact reason. Readers need time to explore the world-building, we want to learn why things exist before we see them in action. 

An Other stalking towards a fallen solider.
Art by Magali Villeneuve

But if authors don’t front-load the cool stuff, how will readers know about it?

That’s the problem.

To solve it, authors in this genre are forced to compromise between attractiveness and accessibility in their opening chapters. In the above example, Robert Jordan uses his prologue to showcase the attractive aspects of his massive world and insane magic system, and his opening chapters to introduce an accessible character and setting. So, while readers follow Rand and his friends around the Two Rivers early in the novel, they have the expectation of great things to come.

Another classic example is A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Martin uses his prologue to create a sense of dread and introduce a terrifying fantasy race, the Others, and his opening chapters to introduce House Stark and castle life – a familiar millieu for experienced readers. We know the Others are out there, but also that we aren’t ready to see them again just yet.

Other examples include Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter, and The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin – all great books.

In these stories, the prologue is a teaser for greater things to come. An expectation. A promise.

The most common way for fantasy writers to introduce their worlds to readers is by following a naive and callow main character. The reader and protagonist embark on an adventure, discovering the strangeness and intricacies of the novel together.

Using this strategy, writers are freer to develop character and setting in the early parts of their novel, having assured impatient readers of what’s to come.

Essay One

Freedom of Speech on Social Media

Gossiping and discussing have appeared for a long period of time, the only thing that changed is the ways the news spreads. If in the past, the fastest news you could hear was from mouth to mouth as a rumor, then nowadays, you can easily access all sorts of social media platforms to know about the latest news. But because everyone has their freedom of speech, it causes lots of issues about fake news, racism, violence, and hatred on these social media platforms. With the era when human rights are put first, everyone’s freedom of speech becomes more difficult to control.

Last year, Donald Trump becomes one of the people who have been banned from using social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, etc. The reason is simply that his speech was not accurate and it started an unwanted protest that harmed many people. Freedom of speech is for everyone but Trump was banned to speak on these platforms was an ironic matter. It would not be bad if social media was used for the right purpose, but in these few years, as the internet outgrow, it is harder to control what people write on the internet. Why would social media become a place where everyone easily expresses themselves to the world? It is because on the internet, we, the users are nobody. This online disinhibition effect is called “dissociative anonymity”. According to John Suler, author of The Psychology of Cyberspace, dissociate anonymity means that the identity on the internet can be anonymous, no one could know who is writing behind the screen and even if the anonymous do something bad on the internet, they would convince themselves that it was not their action, they did not do it (Suler, 2004). So because of these people, social media become a toxic place. A few toxic comments can actually shape public opinion easily, especially if you only listen from one side. A few months ago, an author, a YouTuber I know, Lindsay Ellis has quit being a YouTuber and deleted all of her accounts on social media because of harassment and bullying she received on the internet after on post of her on Twitter about “Raya and the Last Dragon”. She was being harassed on social media platforms to the point that she mentally breakdown because her explanation was not being heard, but backfired her with even more toxic comments.

From Twitter
(Mustafa, 2022)

There are some extends that a person can withstand bullying from social media. But in Lindsay Ellis’ case, it grows out of control just because she writes about her own thought on Disney’s animation movie and cancels culture related. It would not be too toxic if anyone who has an argument with Ellis on her ideas listened to her explanation until the end. Social media is a good place to express your own thought but in Ellis’ case, the opinion that being pleased by people can be eliminated by society.

Freedom of speech on the internet can shape public opinion easily because the human mind is easy to sway. The way that can easily sway a person that involved with personal freedom. If any of the politics violate freedoms, the public would not stand for it. Because of the pandemic, many of the restrictions as well as rules have violated the freedoms that the people usually have, for example, their own choice in vaccination and wearing masks. Recently, the truck convoy has made a big protest in Canada about vaccination and vaccine passports. Most of them make their opinion about how unnecessary the vaccination is since the people who got vaccinated can also have a high chance of getting covid-19 and vaccine passport did not help much in preventing the pandemic. On CBC News around February 19, because of the protester, who have blocked the way on the street and causes many disruption to the neighborhood, the polices have to do their best in order to arrest truckers (CBC News, 2022).

This is a serious matter on social media because the way the protester where trying to delivers where quite convincing. It is hard for anyone who got mental health issue during the pandemic can pass the opportunity to protest against the government and get back their own freedom.

It is more serious when most of them were thinking that anyone who believes in the governments was actually being brainwashed. In the eyes of others who are not protesting, this is the action of selfishness. But to the truck convoy, it was because of their freedom in democracy. During this period of protest, many people took advantage of the opportunity to create fake news that made many people worried. Not only in the countries but fake news can also be possibly created from outside of the country. There are many people who use fake news with fake accounts to stir the politics inside the country, according to CBC News: “A former official in the State Department and Department of Defence under George W. Bush, Kristofer Harrison, said in an interview that Russia uses dummy profiles to promote all sorts of polarizing content across the political spectrum, from Black Lives Matter and defunding the police to white supremacists and yellow-vest protests.” (Panetta, 2022)  

Why is freedom of speech more severe and violent in highly democratic countries? Because they value human freedom more than countries that are democratic but control human freedom. Countries where they control the source of information easily gain people’s trust because they believe that the government is always right and for the people. So like in China, free speech is allowed, but sensitive topics will not appear on social networking platforms. Therefore, it is easier for the government to control information, and public opinion will not be easily distorted or changed by an individual or an organization. Countries like the US and Canada place great emphasis on freedom of expression and human rights, so it’s completely normal for leaders to be mocked.

In conclusion, the role of social media nowadays is very important, but anyone who use it need to have sense of responsibility. Because the internet is unpredictable, there are no saying when your word would hurt someone you do not even know. Social media can be toxic most of the time but it is not mean that it was not good. Using social media for expressing your own thought is good but everything that is post on these platforms need to be checked as many time as possible so social media can be come a place where everyone can enjoy and looking for different opinions.


Suler, John. 2004. The Online Disinhibition. Retrieved from:

Panetta, Alexander. 2022. U.S. Congress asks Facebook: What role did fake overseas accounts have in promoting Canada convoys?. Retrieved from:

Mustafa, Filiz. 2022. Why did Lindsay Ellis Quit Youtube? Twitter Explained. Retrieved from:

CBC News. 2022. Protesters against COVID-19 measures march in Toronto after gathering at Queen’s Park. Retrieved from:

You, The Living – Du Levande (2007)

Image from IMDb

Last week, I and my friend went to The Cinematheque to watch You, the Living by Roy Anderson. This film is a black comedy-drama from Sweden about humankind, sometimes people can have joy, but also sorrow, everyone has their own problems.

The film is made with a humorous angle but when you think about it, the whole movie is a very subtle and humorous satire from director Roy Anderson’s point of view.

Even though the film is filmed in 2007 but the scenery and image make me think about the years’ the 90s. The music is, not dramatic but can give the audience an understanding of what is happening at that moment.

One thing I love in this movie the most is how many times Roy Anderson break the fourth wall.




通过反复洽谈与多家实体商户达成 资金及物资赞助意向,并和十余家本地自媒体及新闻机构沟通并达成宣传意向;


本次活 动邀请到中国驻温哥华总领馆领事出席,并收到加拿大总理特鲁多的亲笔贺信

The problem with “Do your Own Research”

PUB 101 Essay 1: Does social media Create a Space for Democratic Conversation?

Today, social media is so entwined in our daily lives we can send or receive any kind of information just by the click of a button. We have become very accustomed to being connected to the internet, literally in our back pockets with tucked away phones. If you asked anyone, walking down the street if they have facebook you would most likely get an affirmative yes.

The emergence of these platforms has changed the world in so many ways, especially in the ways information is presented, received, and digested. With the prevalence of this type of connectivity, one can become too caught up in a world that is not reality. Social media gives society the opportunity to widen the pathways to connect giving a democratic space for dialogue yet it can also divide.

Despite social media’s freedom of expression, access to unbiased quality information is restricted by algorithms based on personal preferences, therefore control over what we watch and read by a third party can impair our judgments. In this way more extreme voices can be amplifying a point of view that threatens social medias fragile status as an arena of true public deliberation. It has become apparent over the last years, that the flooding of information via social media has intensified the divide between polarizing forces. Although social media normalizes the ideals of democratic free speech – we must realize that the medium is more subjective rather than objective, according to personal branding and algorithms. In this way influencers or content creatives, fight to have their voices heard. Personal branding on social media is shaping the public perception. In other words, an intimate voice has the influence to impose personal values on the masses. While we can take advantage of this to gain insight, how much of personal algorithms is manipulated to the point of it being dangerous.

According to Margert Roberts personalized algorithms can amplify extreme viewpoints. This cause issues of filtering, which are built upon:

Fear: forces behind censorship

Friction: delayed censorship and government intervention

And lastly flooding: to distract or confuse audiences via fake news

The flooding of information can be so overwhelming at times that it is hard to filter what is true.

Recently, the term fake news has been loosely used to describe the issues of filtering of information. Fake news is often misleading information that aims to damage a person or entity’s reputations or to create sensational reports. It pulls readers towards a narrative that can push an agenda causing polarization. According to Tucker, “Social-media technology is young, but has already played a part in numerous turbulent protests and a highly polarized U.S. election. Social media have often been described as the site for conflict between “good” democratic forces who use social media to make their voices heard”. Therefore, platforms are neither inherently democratic. Rather social media represents as a tool for individuals to use, often to push paradoxical goals. For example protestors can battle for influence on platforms or outsiders can impact an election such as in 2017 when BuzzFeed highlighted Trump supporters pretending to be French to manipulate the French election. The problem with this is it targets certain groups of people and presents them as threats which then can push towards violence.

The internet then creates this double reality that aims towards exclusion rather than giving voice to the voiceless. Loosely connected groups can mobilize and coordinate, consistent messages that seem reliant and credible, yet this creates more barriers. Due to the overwhelming amount of information flashing before our eyes – our brains take short cuts because we are mentally exhausted and see claims of ‘experts’ all over the internet. It is a battle of influence within the flow of free information that can causes polarization.

What is Polarization?  

According to Wikipedia, Polarization is the act of dividing something, especially something that contains different people or opinions, into two completely opposing groups. This creates extreme opposing views. Although social media gives voice to those excluded to political discussion, algorithms tailored to personal preferences distorts and loudens the voices of extremist. With so much information at our fingertips it is easy to feel bombarded with information that spikes up anxiety and takes a toll on mental health. We lean towards what is easy or comfortable. In the case of social media filtering is done by simply unfollowing someone. But does that give us a the whole picture?

There is no reason to believe that the internet can strengthen democracy, only accessibility to information. Whether we can filter overload of information depends on values and social norms of individuals.

 To prevent fake news, we need to seriously think about who is creating these types of content and why it is being created. Wardle, author of ‘Fake news. It’s complicated.’ urges us to reflect upon the core foundations and values surrounding society and how we live our lives. By taking a step back, to second guess instinctual reactions, we can act more rationally rather than emotionally.

Public information accessibility means faster results which enforces a sense of responsibility. To be digitally responsible means to respect and protect privacy and to be transparent. By being digitally responsible it can help reduce digital divide among the already sensitive information ecosystem of social media platforms.

Keeping in mind while, there are some negative associations with social media the positive aspects potentially outnumber the negative ones. Social media can be beneficial if it is used in the correct ways; It requires a balance to help social media be a good influence in one’s life – by motivating people through stories we can learn from. One must carefully weigh the benefits before engaging excessively in social media.

Works cited

Anderson and Rainie. “Concerns about democracy in the digital Age”,

  Blokland, Hans. Pluralism, Democracy and Political Knowledge. Routledge, 2011,

Dahl, R. A. (1998). On democracy. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

Tucker, Joshua A., et al. “From Liberation to Turmoil: Social Media And Democracy.” Journal of Democracy, vol. 28, no. 4, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017, pp. 46–59,

Wardle, Claire “Fake News. Its complicated.” First Draft

The Love Where You Are Project

Coffee with Belle presents: The Love Where you are Project

Mini Assignment #3: Create a story out of media only: a sequence of images, an audio production, a video production.

For the Purpose of this assignment Ive compiled a sequence of photos that tell the story of an ordinary day: Coffee, Exploring, Being in the moment, and feelings of wanderlust. I also wanted to show a feeling of love for where you are through the composition of tiny moments in a day

– B

The Online Creators I Follow

As of lately, it seems like every day I check my phone, the world is inundated with bad news. Between Covid-19, the war in Ukraine, and the effects of climate change (just to name a few), the world feels ‘heavy’. Scrolling on social media was leaving me feeling sad and fearful about the state of the world, and this was certainly not conducive to my mental health. 

Deciding I needed negativity and more positivity in my life, I curated my social media feeds. Now, I deliberately choose the content I want to consume, and I’m more conscious of how the media is making me feel. This strategy has been beneficial to my overall well-being.

Below are some of my favourite online creators. They offer an escape from reality, and I find their content to be uplifting and compelling. Check them out!

Lexi Hidalgo

Lexi is a social media influencer who gained popularity on Tik Tok for her lifestyle videos. She currently lives in Hawaii and her posts are always full of adventure and fun!

Annie MacIntosh

Annie is a photographer and social media influencer from Vancouver, BC. She posts about her travel adventures and takes great photographs along the way!

Esther Cannon

Esther is a photogrpaher based out of Oahu, Hawaii. She’s a master at ‘visual storytelling’, and I love her style of photography.

Wholesome Han

Hannah is a social media influencer who posts about health and wellness. She has a wonderful free spirit energy, and her content promotes a positive outlook on life.

Bree Lenehan

Bree Lenehan is a social media influencer whose content is surrounded around self-love and body positivity. She shows her audience that the way people portray themselves on social media isn’t always real.

Nats Neat Eats

Natalia is a lifestyle influencer who promotes balance and wellness in everyday living. She has a contagious energy, and I can’t help but feel motivated and uplifted when I consume her content.

The post The Online Creators I Follow appeared first on Sincerely, Gracie.

I ran out of cake flour…

My flour container becomes lighter these days ;(

In baking, it is very important to identify and choose the right kind of flour for different kinds of pastries. There are three main types of flour that we come across a lot: all-purpose flour, cake flour, and bread flour. Of course, there are many more types of flour like almond flour, coconut flour or rice flour, etc… However, those 3 types of flour are the ones that decide the texture of the pastries.

Here are my thoughts on the three main flour. They are concluded from my knowledge and personal opinions. So, if you think otherwise, please feel free to leave a comment below! I would love to know what you think.

Cake flour contains less protein than all-purpose flour. Therefore, we use cake flour to get the spongy and light feeling of the cake. On the other hand, if we use all-purpose flour, the texture of the cake will be denser and gives a heavy feel of carbs. As a result, all-purpose flour is more suitable to make cookies and fried pastries. As for bread flour, it contains more gluten and protein than the other two. This characteristic creates the chewy and low moisture in bread texture.

Recently, I have gotten really into baking, and so cake flour is at the top of my must-have list at all times. However, because I rarely used it, I always looked for all-purpose flour when grocery shopping. Whenever I needed cake flour, I would just make it by mixing all-purpose flour and cornstarch. A couple of years ago, I found this recipe for making cake flour from all-purpose flour online and still use it now. It is said that to make a cup of cake flour, you need a cup of all-purpose flour, from which you take out 2 tablespoons and replace them with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. The use of cornstarch is to saturate the protein in all-purpose flour.

When I think about how often I use cake flour, it is more convenient to premix a big container for later use. Therefore, I rewrote the recipe and would like to share it with you here.

To make the ultimately huge batch of cake flour from all-purpose flour, you will need:

  1. 7 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 1 cup cornstarch

I hope this will help you prep the right amount of flour without having to remake it frequently whenever it runs out.

Happy mixing flour!

The post I ran out of cake flour… appeared first on Chii’s Sweet Home.

Rest isn’t optional, Kelly

Dear reader,

I had a really bad day yesterday. I saw it coming: I had a lot of work and school assignments piling up, and I was working through what felt like a neverending barrage of writing. I knew eventually this would catch up to me, but I just kept going until I was there in front of my computer, unable to do anything.

No description available.

It’s not the first time this has happened. Like I told you last time, I kind of have a habit of pushing myself to burnout. I put a lot of expectations on myself, and when I don’t meet them, it feels like I’ve failed. After sitting with those thoughts for an hour and a half on the floor, I confided in my partner. He comforted me, and because he was also busy, we found ways to balance our time so that we each had time to work and to rest through the week.

It reminded me of something really important my friend had told me: rest isn’t optional. How much work you think you need to do, or how little work you think you’ve done can’t change the fact that you need to rest.

Unfortunately, since the pandemic, most of my work and social life is on my computer, so it’s made work-life separation very difficult. All I do is sit with the thoughts of the things I need to do, and it stresses me out. Then I realize I haven’t made any progress, and I stress out more. Sometimes I compulsively do chores, bake, or do something productive while stressing about the things I do need to do. It’s an unhealthy cycle.

No description available.

Here’s where I’ve compromised with myself and my workflow so far: I put on a timer, I put on some music, and I write. Part of my problem when I write is the worry that it’s not good. If that’s the case, I just keep pushing through and reminding myself of everything else I’ve written. But, if I find that my mind is slogging through my work because I’m exhausted, I’ll take a nap. Sometimes this means I’m getting up at 5 the next morning to finish what I’ve started, but I’ll feel considerably more rested. It’s a very temporary solution.

I also always tell my supervisors and friends what’s happening. Keeping up with interpersonal relationships when you’re already scheduling so much in your brain is difficult, but no one aside from you knows what’s happening in your mind. I get extensions as needed, and I try to make up for any appointments I’ve missed. I learn that it’s sometimes best to just say no. “No, I can’t take on an extra assignment this week, I’m busy.” “No, I haven’t had time to hang out with my family, maybe next week.”

It’s hard, and I feel guilty about it. But in the end, I know the kind of work that I make when I’m dead tired, and it’s not something I’m proud of. And most importantly, I know how empty I feel when I need to rest.

If you’re feeling overtired and you can’t do anything, take the day to yourself. If that’s not possible, try to identify the bare minimum that you need to finish for the day. Sometimes I list down three of my most important tasks, work through those, and then, I’ll do something I enjoy. After that, I might feel ready to work more.

You don’t need to be exhausted to deserve rest.



How do I start?

Dear reader,

I’ve been mooning over how to write this first post for ages. Thinking about different versions of what my first real impression would be on this blog, and how it would reflect for the rest of its time. Then, I thought: this is way too much pressure! So . . . I’ll start by saying hi. I’m Kelly.

I started this blog because I wanted to put a voice out for self-care, but frankly, that felt a bit presumptuous of me. I don’t know anybody else’s mental health, and to give advice when I’m not a professional on this front seemed really disingenuous. Instead, I thought I’d show the way I navigate my own mental health. And if what I’ve learned can help someone else, that’s all the better!

This is a trigger warning for mention of depression, mental health, and existential crisis for the next four paragraphs.

An illustration of a small girl holding onto a giant pencil
Oh, the freezing grip of starting out!

Let me start by talking about why I wanted to put this voice out in the first place. When I was a teenager, I was encouraged to look after my mental health to a certain degree: take long baths, eat some chocolate, the stuff that you’d see on television. But I didn’t know what that actually meant. Instead, I’d average four to five hours of sleep a night, burning myself out on my grades to ensure my safe entrance to university. I thought that this was the best course of action for me. I was sure that my life’s trajectory would plummet if I didn’t keep going.

But in my first year, after I had safely settled into a Criminology classroom, I started to crash. I wasn’t sure why I was studying what I did. For the second time, I was certain that I would be unsuccessful in life, and fail in securing a stable life for me and my family at all. I’m saying this because no one growing up told me how much your mental well-being relies so much on your ability to secure your social needs in life. No one told me how much systemic factors like these can play into your mental health.

I was 17 when I first really panicked that my life would be nothing if I studied “worthless” things. And if it was nothing, there would be no one who could really help me.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs really hit me.

So I started writing about these fears in my journal. I wrote about how I was afraid that my friends seemed to properly know what they wanted to do with their lives. I had written in diaries before, but I was always mindful of how I was presenting myself . . . even to myself in private. This was the first time I had ever really allowed myself to be vulnerable.

Unfortunately, this didn’t really solve my problem. But writing those fears out without thinking about neat paragraphs and just letting my stream of consciousness go showed me something very important. For the first time, instead of thinking that I was over-dramatic, scanning all the entries I had written pushed me to seriously consider whether I might be depressed.

These thoughts were strange to me because I thought they were just passing moments, but seeing similar entries day after day let me reflect on whether there was something wrong. Writing gave me a place to validate and articulate the feelings that are hard to talk about. It made it that much easier to talk to my friends because I had already practiced writing it out.

No description available.
Just some growing pains

These are the moments I’d like to write about: an honest reflection of the moments that have helped me in my day-to-day life. Because for me, self-care isn’t meant to be a day to recover for another day of work. Setting aside mental health for the sake of capitalism, after all, might push you even deeper into burnout. Instead, I want to talk about the things I wish I learned that have protected my mental health in my personal life: when to turn to your support system, when to establish personal boundaries, and how to seek help. I will try to share free resources here, too.

Thanks for listening. I’ll see you soon!



Classic SF Review: The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Though I enjoyed The Fall of Hyperion, I didn’t like it as much as Hyperion.

I loved Simmons explorations of so many genres in Hyperion, especially how he changed his prose for each one. Here, Simmons shows off some great technical writing – including narratively justifiable first-person present – but I miss the variety of styles he included in the first novel. 

In addition to missing the way they were written, I found myself missing the characters themselves. They’re still there, of course, but most of the page count is devoted to two new point-of-views, neither of whom I liked quite as much. And when we do get the old characters, they’re all in the same situation. I missed the variety.

None of this is to say The Fall of Hyperion is worse than Hyperion, but rather that the elements of the first book that I liked most weren’t there. It makes sense: book one is a collection of stories about individual characters, book two is the story of the space opera that was unfolding behind them. I think I preferred the main plot when it was in the background.

To be sure, many of the new elements are great. My favourite scenes in the book were those with the lyrical and insane AI, Ummon. Simmons did a great job of making character’s lifelong traits and struggles (which we learned about in Hyperion) relevant to their immediate and dire circumstances, and the choices they had to make. 

Having already laid the foundations, Simmons was also able to add depth to his worldbuilding and reflect on this imagined society even more critically. He clearly subscribes to the idea that pain and struggle breed innovation – which makes sense – but I almost feel like he takes this message a bit too far, especially in the ending. The themes were reinforced so heavily that, even from early in the novel, I knew there was only one way the book could end. 

It’s probable that Simmons intended the novel to crawl inexorably to this conclusion, as the characters slowly realized that there were no other options – but I just wasn’t excited by it. The ending in general fell flat for me – some of the twists were a bit too obvious – and, though I won’t spoil how it was done, the final tone and neatness of the ending struck me as a little incongruous with the overall story.

I read this one slowly – took about a month – and overall wasn’t motivated to keep reading. I had fun when I did but was never itching to get back to it. At least right now, I won’t be continuing with Endymion and Rise of Endymion. I’m glad I read the first duology in the Hyperion Cantos, but there’s just so much more out there to read.

★ ★ ★

Bo Burnham: Inside (2021)

Image from IMDb

Bo Burnham: Inside is a comedy special from Netflix. Some of you may or may not hear of his name, but after watching this I was pretty much impressed how talented this man is not only as a comedian. After 2 years of staying at home because of Covid, I am pretty sure that most of you feel very stuffy, tired, and bored, so if you feel that way, go and watch this comedy special on Netflix right now. Because this one is for you.
Bo Burnham: Inside is quite similar to stand-up comedian talking but for this comedy, there will be no laugh from the audience, no hand-clapping, only Burnham himself. You will follow Burnham to experience his struggle during the quarantine from the Covid-19 pandemic, his topic is all about the present, from trending news to the newest social media posts.
This comedy is not only about talking, Bo Burnham will also treat your ears with songs as well. These songs are very trending on Spotify and Tiktok right now but I won’t tell you about the name so please experience it yourself.
What impressed me most is that this is a one-room set, he did everything in one room and all the editing, camera, and production was him, the man did mostly alone.
I think that at the present, everyone can go out for work and for school now. However, this is still a good comedy to watch and reflect on what happened during these two years. This film is not only about comedy, but it can also help anyone, who have the same situation during the pandemic can have someone understand them, and make them feels that they are not alone.

Signature Noodles in Vietnam

Signature noodle dishes across the country


Pho originated in northern Vietnam in the early twentieth century. The breadth of the noodles, the sweetness of the broth, and the herbs used in the Hanoi (Northern) and Saigon (Southern) types of pho differ. The popularity and origins of pho may be traced back to a confluence of historical and cultural events in the early twentieth century, including increased beef supply owing to French demand. For me, pho is more than just a meal. It is a representation of Vietnam’s long-standing culture.

Pho Bo (Hanoian Beef Noodle Soup)

Beef noodle soup is a transparent beef broth with thin cuts of beef (steak, fatty flank, lean flank, brisket) served in a bowl with a special cut of flat rice noodles. In southern Vietnam, slow-cooked tendons, tripe, or meatballs are common variations. Chicken pho is cooked with the same spices as beef pho, but the soup is made using chicken bones and flesh, as well as parts of the chicken’s organs, such as the heart, undeveloped eggs, and gizzard.

I remember when I was back home, once a month, my mom would make a big pot of chicken pho and my whole family would eat it for the whole weekend without getting sick of it.

Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle)

Bun Cha (BBQ Meat Paddies with Vermicelli)

Bun Cha is made of grilled pork, pickled green papaya and carrots, and warm fish sauce from Northern Vietnamese. The pork is marinated with lemongrass, pepper, garlic, shallot, fish sauce, honey, and oyster sauce. Traditionally, the pork paddies should be grilled over charcoal, which gives them a distinct flavour. The fish sauce mixture is a must-have. Fish sauce is mixed with sugar, vinegar, and pickled carrots. The sauce is heated up before serving, which compliments the cold vermicelli perfectly. The veggie side dishes are fresh lettuce and Vietnamese herbs.

Bun Thang (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)

Another traditional dish from Hanoi is Bun Thang (Bún Thang). In Vietnamese, “Thang” literally means “ladder.” However, I would like to tell you a couple of abstract meanings for this dish. In some Asian countries, medicine formulas are created by selectively drawing herbs that would help cure the patient. This mixture of medicine is called “Thang” (Thang thuốc). Therefore, Hanoians call this soup “Bun Thang” to refer to the classic, flavourful, and healthy features of the dish, despite the variety of ingredients used. My grandparents explained the meaning to me in a different way, which is more straightforward. In Chinese Vietnamese (the old Vietnamese language), “Thang” means “soup.” And so, Bun Thang is just a kind of soup.

Bun Thang consists of regular vermicelli, fried egg, chicken, mushroom, Vietnamese ham (giò lụa), and is topped with green onion and fried shallot. All the ingredients are uniquely cut into strips. Because of its simple recipe, Bun Thang is referred to as “Vietnamese chicken noodles.” One of the main elements that highlights the fresh, clean, and sweet taste of the dish is the chicken broth, which is seasoned very lightly.

Cao Lau (Cao Lầu)

Cao Lau is a specialty from Hoi An, a city in the Central region of Vietnam. The dish is a harmonic combination of large yellow noodles, meat, shrimp, raw vegetables, and mixed sprouts, all served in a broth cooked from rich pork bones. During the 17th century, Japanese and Chinese merchants came to Hoi An to trade. They brought their own culinary cultures with them, and Cao Lau was developed as a result of the fusion of flavours. Over time,  Cao Lau was gradually changed to fit Vietnamese cuisine while at the same time developing its own unique and distinctive traits.

The texture of the noodles and the distinctive rich broth from the Central area are what distinguish this dish. The pig bones are first stewed for a couple of hours at a low temperature. The pork is marinated before being placed in hot oil to fry. This makes the outside of the meat crispy and the inside juicy. Excess oil is set aside as the surface of the meat turns orange. Some bone broth and extra meat juice are added to cook the inside of the meat thoroughly. Any remaining liquid after cooking the meat is added to the broth to make it taste even richer.

Bun Bo Hue (Spicy Noodle Soup)

Combination of thick vermicelli with beef shank and ham in spicy lemongrass soup

Bun Bo Hue is a dish of noodle soup originating from Hue (Huế)—a city in central Vietnam associated with the cooking style of the former royal court. The dish is greatly admired for its balance of spicy, salty, and umami flavours. The predominant flavour of the dish comes from the lemongrass. Compared to Pho or regular vermicelli, the noodles are thicker and more cylindrical. The dish is served with vermicelli in a bowl as the first layer. Next, the soup is added with pork and beef bones, with a kick of lemongrass, annatto, and shrimp paste. Finally, it finishes off with a tangle of herbs, a squeeze of lime, and a few delicious add-ons like sliced brisket and crab balls. In some cases, cubes of congealed pig blood are also added.

Mi Quang (Vietnamese Tumeric Noodle)

Mi Quang (Mì Quảng) is a Vietnamese noodle dish that originated from Quang Nam (Quảng Nam) Province in central Vietnam. It is one of the most popular and nationally recognized food items and is served on various occasions, such as at family parties, death anniversaries, and Lunar New Year (Tết). Mi Quang is also served in a lot of restaurants across Vietnam for lunch, and it is a big hit.

The main ingredients of Mi Quang are rice noodles, meat, shrimp, and herbs. It is most commonly served with a small amount of broth, which is generally infused with turmeric. Wide rice noodles are placed on a bed of fresh herbs in a bowl (sometimes the herbs are set as a side dish), then warm or lukewarm broth and meat are added. The broth usually has a strong flavour so only a small amount of it is used.

Bun Thit Nuong (Grilled Pork with Vermicelli)

Bun Thit Nuong in a bowl surrounded by chopsticks, salad and dishes of pork fat and crushed peanuts


Pictures: Pinterest