Brazilian Carnival

The carnival is a major annual festival that marks the celebration prior to fasting season of Lent. We went to the carnival for the first time. The event was held at nighttime and continued past midnight. It was a huge party with performances, alcohol, dancing, and samba music. The atmosphere was very boisterous and flamboyant but very fun.

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Woman in butterfly costume

Consider the fact that this year’s theme was Mardis Gras and usual tradition of activities, the event was marketed towards adults. Abundance of alcoholic and flamboyantly, colorful dressed (or underdressed compared to average attire in day to day life) supports that notion. Some people expressed their creativity via handmade costumes.The presence of a woman in a brightly lit butterfly costume is a testament to that.

We arrived relatively early to avoid hunting for parking spots. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the beat of the drums until the inception of the parade. Unfortunately, standing on platforms didn’t afford us the best view of the performances but at least height is independent of audio quality.

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After the parade, several dancers performed with fast paced live samba music. I’ve noticed several dancers performed more than one dance at difference times, which was impressive  of how much skill and practice from a person was input into this for a night.

After performances by dancers, music was sung mainly by a single lady who led the stage with her powerful voice and energy. Several guests did had the opportunity to get on stage to dance along with the singer. We all danced to the music, especially those who participated in the Congo lines.

Other than alcohol, there were many options for food except for snacks such as pizza, chips, sandwiches, etc since the main point was to drink and dance just like in a wild party held by college students except the majority of the guests were from the older crowd. Overall, I had a great time despite introverted tendencies.

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The Power of PR and Marketing

When you think of butterflies, what comes into your mind? Beautiful, elegant, colorful, and, delicate are some of the adjectives when describing its appearance. As for its food source, butterflies sip nectar from equally beautiful flowers, right?

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Wrong! Butterflies do consume nectar but their diet belies their attractive countenance. Equally as commonly as they consume nectar, butterflies can also feast on mud, sweat and tears, decaying flesh, blood, urine, and poop! Nectar is just one food group for butterflies and doesn’t provide all the necessary nutrients. Instead butterflies had to source their nutrients from elsewhere.

Puddling comes from “mud puddling”, which some butterfly species crowd on mud and suck up substance to obtain salt and proteins. When a butterflies lands on you, most likely it’s interested in you for the salt in your sweat. Since a lot of puddlers are males, it is believed that the males need the sodium for reproduction purposes. Waste is another food source for butterflies that we viewed as disgusting. For butterflies, waste provide a lot of nutrients such as salt and minerals. Butterflies are one of the few animals that can recycle their own urine as some do like to drink their own.

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Butterflies eating elephant dung

Meanwhile flies and other animals with similar diets are certainly bashed for the same habits. Their gruesome appearance doesn’t help them win our hearts. In addition, their habits would mean they are likely carrying bacteria that would infect us if we contact anything they have already had landed on. For that reason, the disgust of flies is understandable. Due to butterflies landing on decaying flesh and dung for their diet, it is unlikely they would be as clean as we thought them to be.

If butterflies eat such disgusting things, why do we not know about it? It’s because butterflies have one of the best public relations departments around. That and because we are willing to overlook their habits because of their beauty. Marketing and public relations shape our perceptions of the world regardless whether the message is based on facts or not. Two different subjects can receive different receptions and reactions despite having the same flaws and taking the same actions. Our bias can enable us to overlook flaws in one subject but allows us to bash another subject for the same flaws. This principle is very applicable to the example of mass media influencing political opinions on the world regardless of the reporting is based on facts and truth or not. Exaggerations, omission of crucial facts, and taking concepts out of context can change the reactions. There is so much noise that research more on the subject would help us obtain a clearer picture. Even that requires discerning credible sources.

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How to Search on Taobao by Photo Trick

When shopping on Taobao, there is a range of  items you can possibly purchase. It’s similar to eBay / Amazon in that sellers list their products except it’s not auction based. However, the sheer number of items can mean devoting tons of time and effort to narrow the search down to a product you had in mind. Luckily, there’s an image recognition feature in the search bar in which you can upload a photo and the search will load results that would match the photo or similar to it. This is a trick that I’ve delighted to discover since it saves a lot of time and effort by days.

  1. Navigate to Taobao website, not the world.taobao version. If you are on world.taobao version, change your location to China. If you are in Google Chrome, it will translate the text to English. I use a Google translate extension for Safari. Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 12.13.02 PM.png
  2. There should be a camera icon in the search bar. When you click on it, you will be prompted to upload a picture. For an example, I will be using Ista Mori’s Nameless Poem Op for the photo. Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 12.15.15 PM.png1-nameless-poem-op-ista-mori.jpg
  3. Search results will load based on the photo you uploaded. From there, you can scrutinize the sellers to determine whether they are reselling the original product or the replica version. It’s helpful to look at pictures the buyers provided to get ideas of what the seller would be actually selling. Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 12.18.55 PM.png

I do wish Ebay or any other similar sites have a feature like this. Searching by key words can be serious tedious.

Chinese New Year (Spring Festival)

For the last week, I’ve celebrated Chinese New Year by going into festivals. I was so excited at what they had to offer since it was my first time. There was great food, live performances, and variety of activities that showcase Chinese culture.

Dim Sum – Chinese version of tapas

There were other dishes I ate in a Dim Sum restaurant but were not pictured due to my camera being full. I also ate shu mai, congee, soup dumplings, and some desert buns.

For the topic of food, it is customary to eat dumplings for Chinese New Year since  they symbolize good fortune as they resemble ingots (ancient Chinese currency).

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Vendors and main stage

The festival have many booths that appeals to both children and adults. Activities appealing to children include face painting, red envelopes while tea tasting, calligraphy, and fortune telling were pretty popular to adults. Surprisingly, the festival was more diverse than I thought with about 30 – 50 % people attending are Asians.

Red envelopes are commonly given to children during Chinese New Year. Red color symbolizes happiness and good fortune. Inside the envelopes would be money. Honesty, if I get free money, it would represent happiness and good fortune regardless whether it was delivered in a red envelope or not.

Traditional Han Chinese clothing (hanfu) and Manchurian clothing (Qipao) 

People were taking pictures with Chinese young adults dressed in traditional garb. Those on the right were wearing hanfu while those on the left were wearing a traditional qi pao. However, the man in the brown robes in the right picture is wearing a hanfu.

Lion dance

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Face Change Opera

Face change opera is a performance originated from Sichuan province. Performers wear brightly colored costumes and move to quick, dramatic music. They also wear vividly colored masks, typically depicting well known characters from the opera, which they change from one face to another almost instantaneously with the swipe of a fan, a movement of the head, or wave of the hand.

Chinese Dance

 

Mooncakes (Mid-Autumn Festival)

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, corresponding to the night of the full moon. Also known as the Moon Festival, this is believed that this day in which the moon is at its fullest and brightest.

In the festival, a very important food item is the mooncake. The mooncakes can be sacrificed to the moon for offering or be eaten for celebration.The round shape embodies the reunion of a family, which is reunited at the time of the festival for celebration. During the festival, mooncakes are commonly bought and gifted to friends and families.

Mooncakes – tea & chestnut, longan, oolong tea, green tea, jasmine, and pomelo

 

Snow skin mooncake with lotus paste filling

The first set of mooncakes came in with a box full of tea and fruit flavors. They were tasty, better than the ones commonly sold with lotus paste and egg yolks inside them, which I don’t like. My flavor preferences are biased towards either savory or sweet, not together. Out of all the flavors, I liked oolong, pomelo, and green tea flavors the best. If mooncakes were more like this, then mooncakes wouldn’t have so much of a divide in opinions as some deemed mooncakes the Chinese version of fruitcakes.

The snow skin mooncake was too sweet for me. The skin itself was already sweet that the lotus paste filling combined altogether made the mooncake nauseating to eat. As a result, it’s not my cup of tea. Perhaps, if I drank tea with the mooncake, the bitter taste would balance out the sweetness?

Delving in the background of the holiday, the festival derives from the customs of moon sacrificial ceremonies. Observing that the movement of the moon was correlated with the changes of the seasons and agricultural production, sacrifices were made to the moon on autumn days to express appreciation and gratitude. 

Several stories and legends were inspired by the moon. The legend of Lady Chang E is particularly commemorated by the festival. In the legend, Lady Chang E drank her husband’s elixir of immortality, and as a result, flew to the moon.