tag:powen.net,2013:/posts Powen Shiah - the space between 2014-11-14T17:30:22Z Powen Shiah tag:powen.net,2013:Post/769798 2014-11-14T17:30:21Z 2014-11-14T17:30:22Z 25 Years after the Berlin Wall: Lichtgrenze This past weekend, Berlin was full of people and events commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. November 9th is actually a pretty important date in German history, it's also the date of Kristallnacht when the Nazis attacked Jewish synagogues and businesses all over Germany (1938) as well as the end of the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II and the German Empire (1918). But these days most people think about it as the end of socialist East Germany (German Democratic Republic).

I went with some friends on November 8th and 9th to check out the balloons that were set up along the entire stretch of the Berlin Wall, an awesome art project called "Lichtgrenze" (Light Border). The balloons were released on the evening of November 9th, which I tried to catch on video but didn't really succeed very well. If I can somehow edit the footage into something watchable, I'll post it here. For now, here are my photos:

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/766204 2014-11-06T16:55:59Z 2014-11-06T16:59:01Z Berlin's Better Philly Cheesesteak Last week my friend Tom and I went on a hunt for some good Philly cheesesteak here in Berlin. He grew up near Philly, and we became friends when we were both living there, so we are pretty discerning when it comes to cheesesteak.

The Bird

We first tried The Bird (Kottbusser Damm 95, right by U Schönleinstrasse) which has a lunch special: Philly cheesesteak, fries, and a drink for 8.50€. Tom and I split one, since we knew we'd be having a second cheesesteak in short order. Verdict? Decent, but didn't scratch the Philadelphia cheesesteak itch. The fries were pretty good, and there were plenty of them.

The cheesesteak was on a hamburger bun (though they use English muffins for their burgers, so maybe it's their thing?) and therefore not cheesesteak-shaped. Traditionally it's on a longer Italian roll, or at least what people in Philly call an Italian roll. The meat was good, but very chunky instead of being more thinly sliced. The green peppers you can see are a nice touch, though we didn't ask for them. I can't even remember what kind of cheese was inside.

Hamburger Heaven Kiosk

Our second stop was Hamburger Heaven, of which there are two. We went to the one at Graefestraße 93, which is basically a food stand with some outdoor tables. Dress warmly if you're going in winter! There you can get 6" cheesesteak for 6€ or a footlong (12") for 8€, so we got a big one and split it.

Berlin Philly cheesesteak number 2!

A photo posted by Powen Shiah (@polexa) on Oct 10, 2014 at 6:53am PDT

This one reminded me a lot more of the cheesesteaks of yore. It was cheesier, it was in a long, crunchy roll, it had onions and peppers, and came wrapped in paper. Needless to say, both of us were much happier about this cheesesteak.

Since I've only been to two places, I can't call this the best Philly cheesesteak in Berlin yet, but of the two I've tried so far, Hamburger Heaven's is better by far. But in neither place do you need to worry about how to order a Philly cheesesteak properly. There weren't any options.

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/710310 2014-07-16T15:24:03Z 2014-07-16T15:28:55Z Crowdfund it: My Sister's Documentary to Circumnavigate Taiwan; End Big Money in Politics; Chicken Soup for the Social Entrepreneur HuanDao: a modern exploration of identity

My younger sister SueAnn has launched a really exciting project to document the journey of riding through the entire island of Taiwan, where our parents emigrated from. Instead of backpacking through Europe or journeys of self-discovery (says the 30-year-old on sabbatical) like recent college grads do, she's put together a meaningful way to explore identity and the differences between the US and Taiwan. You don't have take my word for it, here's the fancy Kickstarter video:

If you want to find out more (or want to read it in Chinese!) SueAnn and her fellow producers have put together a great multilingual website about the documentary: HuanDao Documentary

Rooster Soup in Philadelphia

This is the best kind of social entrepeneurship that I can imagine — taking the waste (who knew there was such a thing as chicken backs?) from Federal Donuts as the base for another endeavor, Rooster Soup, creating jobs and profit to support the work of the non-profit Broad Street Ministries. Best of all, it's happening in the city-of-my-heart Philadelphia, which is an amazing laboratory for great ideas like this one.

I just chipped in $20, and I can't wait to pick up my 3 donuts the next time I'm in town.

MayDay PAC

I'm a little bit behind the curve on this one. MayDay PAC has been flying around the internet, its idea being to end the influence of big money in politics by using money to help candidates win who support getting money out. It's already hit the $5M goal, but I just threw a few more their way, since every dollar is being matched by some wealthy altruists -- putting their dollars against their own interests for the public good.

Here's a video, and if you prefer reading, a write-up on MSNBC.


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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/710274 2014-07-03T13:18:57Z 2014-07-03T13:18:57Z Homejoy kommt nach Deutschland, hält sich nicht an den neuen Mindestlohn*

* Ja, das Gesetzt wird erst 2015 in Kraft treten,

In den USA sind die "Profis," die dein Haus putzen, nicht angestellt:

"Workers on the platform are independent contractors—they aren’t Homejoy employees."

Sie sind stattdessen selbständig und so nur prekär beschäftigt – ist das eine Lücke in dem neuen deutschen Mindestlohn?

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/707112 2014-06-24T17:20:00Z 2014-06-25T21:12:17Z Housing in San Francisco got you down? Our house is looking for a roommate from August to May 2015 Another creative re-subtitling of this famous scene of Hitler blowing a gasket from Der Untergang (Downfall) has been making its way around the web this week, this time as he tries to find a place to live in San Francisco.

House Valencia is looking for a subletter!

You're in luck! My wonderful roommates and I are looking for someone to sublet a lovely sunny room from August 2014 - May 2015 (10 months). One of us is going to grad school, so you could be the one to join our merry home. It's a 4-bedroom 2-bathroom top floor apartment off Valencia Street (at 22nd) in the Mission. 

Update: photos of the actual room

It's $1000/month for the furnished room, including utilities and wifi. The roommates are 29, 30, and 35, and we request that you have experience living with housemates. No pets, please.

Update: better pictures of the rest of the apartment and building

If you're interested, or know someone who is, get in touch! Please include some information about yourself, but if you're serious about house-hunting in San Francisco, you'll already have figured that out.

Read more »

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/703939 2014-06-15T17:15:24Z 2014-06-15T17:15:25Z The sweet reward of a recipe "translation" well-done: banana bread

With a couple of bananas making their way from ripe to too-mushy-to-eat on my shelf in the kitchen, I decided to dust off my recipes and try my hand at banana bread.

Two things that are different about baking and cooking in Germany. First of all, they use metric units like grams and milliliters, which is to be expected. Second of all, and this catches me off guard every time, they don't use volume measures in their recipes, e.g. 3 cups of sugar, 2 teaspoons of salt. Instead, most recipes call for a certain number of grams of flour. To make things even more confusing, baking powder (Backpulver) and baking soda (Natron) usually come in single-use packets instead of in jars or containers, so while an American recipe may list 2 tablespoons of baking soda, a German one might just say two packets of Natron.

My very simple banana bread recipe (courtesy of my friend Miler) looks like this:

  • 1/2 cup of oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 3-5 bananas
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda

Converted into metric and weight units, this is what I ended up with, using the guidelines on this handy reference "the Metric Kitchen":

  • 120mL of oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g of sugar
  • 3-5 bananas
  • 240g of flour
  • 7-8g of baking soda (1 packet)

(Mix oil and sugar, then add eggs, then bananas. Make sure it's all evenly mixed. Add flour and baking soda and mix until completely blended. Bake at 375*F / 190*C for about 30 minutes)

The main thing that takes some getting used to is that volume to weight conversion depends on the density of the substance. A cup of sugar weighs significantly more than a cup of flour, so when converting, you have to find the right table for that ingredient.

After overthinking this, I went into the kitchen and actually started getting ready to bake, when I discovered that there isn't a scale! Instead, there's a giant measuring cup with markings for how much volume is approximately how many grams... so after taking the time to convert from volume to weight, I wound up using volume to approximate the weight anyway!

Here's how it looked part way through baking process:

I'm not enough of a baker to know how important the exact ratios of the ingredients are, but it tastes to me like the banana bread turned out fine. It tasted especially delicious fresh out of the oven.
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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/703080 2014-06-13T17:07:45Z 2014-06-13T17:07:45Z Balcony Garden Update: Boo for Aphids, Yay for Heatwaves It's time to check in on my little garden of five tomato plants and a purple basil plant. I keep forgetting to take photos every day, so here's one from earlier this week.

(taken June 10, 2014)

Read more »

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/703064 2014-06-12T17:13:15Z 2014-06-12T17:13:15Z Can you imagine being in love with someone for several centuries? That's the premise of this movie featuring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as vampires, if it has a premise at all. I won't bury the lead, I enjoyed watching it. But the caveat is, there isn't really that much plot or explanation, things happen but they don't really drive the story in any deeper way. Mostly, I simply found it beautiful to watch two fascinating characters interact who have been deeply, spookily (quantum) entangled with each other for hundreds of years. Movies without action-driven plots seems to be my luck these days, since that's how Boyhood felt too.

If you haven't heard of Jim Jarmusch's latest film, here's a trailer to give you an idea.


Tuesday night, I finally had my wish of going to one of the outdoor movie nights that pop up in Berlin over the summer. This particular one was set up by Nomaden Kino at ://about blank, which I've also been meaning to go to -- the club hosts the monthly (twice in June) Homopatik party. If we had gone the night before, Nomaden Kino had shown Only Lovers Left Alive at Badeschiff which is a pool on a ship (or from the pictures, it just looks like a pool in the middle of a river).  Also potentially a neat place to see a movie, right?

I swear I had listened to some group of people on a podcast talk about the film. After I saw it, I tried to find some mention of it in the show notes for any one of the many Slate podcasts that I listen to, but to no avail. I started to doubt that I had actually heard anyone review or discuss it, but then I remembered someone rhapsodizing about the scenes in the movie where Tilda Swinton dances. I don't think that's the kind of memory or discussion I would construct. Unfortunately, podcasts are difficult to search through, and even a publisher like Slate that does a pretty good job of documenting everything that gets mentioned seems to have let this one slip through the cracks.
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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/701532 2014-06-08T13:06:43Z 2014-06-08T13:06:43Z In which I meet an old friend and finally see the enormous Tempelhof Park As I've mentioned before, Berlin has an old airfield which they've just decided to keep as public open space instead of building more housing.

Yesterday, I met up with my friend Mehregan who spent a year as a volunteer in Philadelphia and Camden. Since she lives pretty close to the Tempelhofer Feld, we decided to go there, and it was really was amazing to finally see the what airport turned park looks like.

It's a huge open space with a small community garden off to one side of it, but the rest is really just an enormous grassy space where people can hang out, picnic, barbecue, and relax. It was very sunny and hot yesterday, and I would have liked to sit partially in the shade, but there are no trees (yet)!

Even though Mehregan and I haven't seen each other in years, it felt like we were able to pick up just where we left off and talk about the really important and meaningful changes and conundrums going on in our lives right now. It feels really amazing to be able to do that, and in the middle of an enormous former airplane field under a brilliant blue sky was a gorgeous place to do it.

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/701142 2014-06-06T19:26:44Z 2014-06-06T19:26:44Z Lost in Translation: English and "Chinglish" in Taipei I wasn't looking for instances of mistranslated signs when I was in Taipei in April, so when I went digging through all my photos for this post, I didn't find many photos of noteworthy or particularly amusing uses of English. A few of these are classic Chinglish (more examples on the very popular Engrish site), others I just thought were funny.

On the ATM

"Attention! The gangster may use the english operation interface to cheat you"

This message recurred over the course of my trip, but not every time I tried to use an ATM. This particular ATM when I was quick enough to snap a picture was in the Guang Hua Digital Plaza. Each time, It made me wonder, who is this gangster? Do they just mean thief or con artist? In Berlin, the signs at the public transit ticket remind us to be aware of "tricksters." How is this gangster going to use the English operation interface to cheat me?

On park signs

"Danger: Deep Water"
"No Release Any Animals"
"No Fishing"
"No Toast and Cracker"
"No Littering"
"No Bicycle"

This is the classic example of Chinglish, confusing rules on signs in public parks. This isn't a very good one though, since almost all the strictures make sense, except for "No Toast and Cracker," and even that one makes sense if you look at the picture – it's just about not feeding the fish. I'm going to charitably assume that people were releasing animals into the pond, prompting the authorities to include that rule. 

On construction sites

"all design endeavors express the zeitgeist"

This is not exactly poorly translated, it just seems very high-brow for what is basically gussied-up scaffolding. It would make a good debate resolution, if you think about it... who wants to take the negative?

In bookstores

"Dictionaryies"

I feel a little bad for pointing this one out, since spelling mistakes can happen to anyone. It seems particularly egregious though, given the word that is being misspelled, and the fact that it is in a fancy English-language bookstore in the mall at Taipei 101.

On monuments

"Visiting the Chungshan Steles in addition to the powerful character being profoundly fused with the essence of chirographic beauty, we feel an awe-inspiring righteousness flooding in our chests and emerge out of a sentiment to model ourselves on martyrs and past sage's spirits to share themselves with the life of all creatures, carrying forward the cause and forging ahead into the future, so as to set an immortal foundation for the country and establish a peaceful world for all ages."

They said a lot in that one sentence, I don't need to add any more.

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/700616 2014-06-05T17:56:47Z 2014-06-05T17:56:47Z My thoughts on Boyhood, the 12 year film project by Richard Linklater

Last night, I went with Thomas Weigelt to see Boyhood at Kino International. Boyhood was directed by Richard Linklater, who also made Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004), and Before Midnight (2013) starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke (NB: I've never actually seen this movies, but I keep hearing about them and I really want to).

The first thing about the movie to pique my interest was reading that it was filmed over the course of 12 years with the same actors, in particular the main protagonist Mason, who is played through the entire film by Ellar Coltrane. It's an impressive long-term project, considering how everything in media feels like it's moving faster and faster, with shorter lead times and quicker production. It's a totally different category, but I had a similar feeling of temporal disconnect when watching Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom, which premiered in June 2012, dealing with real events which took place a little over two years before the airing date.

The Verge did a good job going over all of the neat twists and turns that came about from filming over 12 years, if you want to find out more. 

The song in the trailer is beautiful and fits the feeling of the movie perfectly. I've been listening to it on repeat for hours every couple weeks, and somehow I still haven't gotten tired of it. It's Hero by Family of the Year, and here's the original video:

The last bit that I was really curious about is to see what the movie had to say about growing up, about adolescence, and being a boy in America today. I think masculinity and manhood are underexplored topics in mainstream US discourse, and I really wanted to see what this film had to say about it.

In that respect, it was a disappointing film, but that's why I shouldn't make movies. By avoiding shining the spotlight directly on the socialization and education of boys into men, Boyhood is a better piece of art. There were no big turning points in the story, no huge decisions that altered the course of Mason's life. Without being overly preachy or having a pat message about the meaning of him growing up, Linklater put together a compelling, beautiful, yet strikingly normal story of a boy from age 5 to 18. There were funny parts, a few scary and sad parts where I was really worried about what was going to happen to the family, but no crazy reveals or plot twists to keep me on the edge of my seat like your normal summer blockboster. In fact, it's a testament to the acting and the storytelling of what a non-story that I got so into the lives of a fictional family that I couldn't bring myself to go to the bathroom at any point in the 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Patricia Arquette plays Mason's mother, and she is an amazing character and actress whose presence underpins the entire movie. Olivia ("Liv") is strong, weak, loving, confused, and terribly human. She does the best job she can raising Mason and his sister Samantha, making hard choices and doing her best to provide a good home and pursue her own dreams at the same time. While her evolution from single mom to twice-divorced college professor is only peripheral to the focus on Mason's life, it's the one I admired and sympathized with the most. Ethan Hawke who plays Mason's father has his own interesting development over the course of the movie, but it's not nearly as fraught or compelling as hers.

I definitely recommend going to go see Boyhood. It's long, but it's worth the time. There are no huge plot twists or anything really to spoil -- it's not that kind of story. It's meant to be enjoyed, and it left me with a lot to think about what it means to grow up and be responsible for creating your own life.

Final note: Kino International is a really interesting and beautiful theater. It was designed to be the place where film premieres were held in the former East Germany, so it only has one screen and it has some 50s/60s fancy decor inside. They yelled at me for taking pictures, so this is the only one you'll ever get to see:

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/700335 2014-06-05T01:05:17Z 2014-06-05T01:05:18Z Today I realized, I take an awful lot of pictures of reflections My friend Mark is on a northern European vacation, and he came down to Berlin with his mom for a day trip. Of course, they wanted to see all the main sites of the city like Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall (don't worry, we also went to Gendarmenmarkt, Potsdamer Platz, and the Holocaust Memorial). To keep it interesting for myself, we ended up taking a different route, which took us past the [de] Trabi Museum (iconic East German car), the building formerly known as [de] Markthalle III, and the Topography of Terror documentation center.

At that last place, I caught myself taking this picture, which while pretty, has no redeeming qualities except that you can see the clouds and the gravel at the same time.

When my friend Melissa visited two weekends ago, we went up to the dome on top of the Reichstag building which houses the German parliament. I'd recommend to any Berlin visitors with the time, but it's easiest if you register for free visitor tickets or make reservations at the restaurant in advance. It's a great place for amazing views of central Berlin, also full of glass and mirrors... lots of fun reflections.
I dug a little deeper in my photo archives, and found several more from this year.

Read more »

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/699764 2014-06-03T19:50:02Z 2014-06-05T01:00:28Z Visiting the Leftist Book Fair in Berlin This past weekend I dropped in on some talks at the Leftist Book Fair in Berlin (Linke Buchtage Berlin). It was multi-day event where many of the progressive and left-leaning publishers and authors in Germany came to share their new publications at Mehringhof in Kreuzberg. 

There were a whole bunch of events I was interested in, but I ended up only making it to two of them:

CrimethInc.: "Work  –  capitalism . economics . resistance”

I hadn’t heard of the "CrimethInc ex-workers collective" before, but I am curious about works in translation, and in particular how a “translation collective” worked on taking this collection of essays on work and capitalism and translated it into German. The readings that the member of the translation collective read piqued my curiosity, and I’m hoping I’ll find time to read the whole book (in English) in the near future.

Between Migration and Work. Worker Centers and the organizing of precariously and informally employed in the USA

(My loose translation of the German title).
The other talk I made it was for this book by Martina Benz, who researched worker centers in LA and New York. I had not heard before about worker centers before I went to the talk, having not even read the Wikipedia article — but they seem to help address the needs of workers who aren’t or can’t be organized into traditional labor unions, and create room for them to organize and advocate for themselves. In general, a really fascinating topic, and one I hadn’t known much about. It was also particularly neat to hear about US labor organizing from a German researcher, whose perspective and grounding in a German/European labor movement naturally highlights different issues and struggles than say, a US researcher would have.
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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/699112 2014-06-02T17:20:01Z 2014-06-05T01:02:34Z Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? Meet the new residents of my balcony. After asking for advice on the very first day I arrived, I finally got around to started growing some plants on my balcony in Berlin.

Over the years I've tried to grow little things, but I haven't had much luck, living in city apartments without much sun... which is why having a balcony is so exciting. My mother's the green thumb in the family, who can somehow even coax the pit of an avocado into a really healthy plant.

I got five little tomato plants from a woman named Anna on the Reflect-Info mailing list. This email list, in addition to posting calls to action for protests and counter-protests (against neo-Nazi and right-wing groups), sublets, and lefty event announcements, also has people giving away and looking for random things like moving boxes, refrigerators, and bicycles. Anna told me grew the plants from seeds that she collected from a tomato plant growing in the Tempelhof park, which the residents of Berlin just voted a little over a week ago to keep as public open space (instead of a somewhat vaguely formulated plan by the city government to sell the land to developers for market-rate and possibly some undetermined amount of below-market-rate housing).

The bigger plant in the middle is Strauchbasilikum, which is some sort of basil... though I can't seem to figure out what the English name would be. I bought it at the nursery just off of Mauerpark where I also got some potting soil. The tag says it's good for fish and meat, though the recipe for marinade on there is a little vague: "Marinate meat overnight in a mixture of oil, garlic, and some herbs." But let's not get ahead of ourselves, it needs to grow first!

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/678170 2014-04-18T13:55:50Z 2014-04-21T16:59:38Z A love letter to Taipei's public transit: MRT, you're awesome! Taipei (photo by Pedro Angelini)

I'm really impressed with Taipei's public transportation system: the subway, buses, and high speed rail are all extremely modern and amazingly convenient. From the moment I got off the plane, it was pretty simple to navigate. Even though there's not a MRT (subway) line from the international airport in Taoyuan yet, it was pretty easy to catch the bus for 125NT to central Taipei. I hope that by the next time I visit, the new MRT line will make it all the way out to the Taoyuan airport. Construction has been delayed, but according to the project's Wikipedia entry, it should be ready by end of 2015.

Taipei's MRT is cheap, clean, quiet, and frequent. I don't think I've ever waited more than 2 or 3 minutes, the cars are uniformly clean, air conditioned, and run smoothly and quietly. Only the very longest ride (all the way to Tamsui) has cost more than 30NT (about USD$1). The fares are calculated by distance, which is generally considered to be more equitable.

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/676896 2014-04-13T15:32:05Z 2014-04-21T16:58:48Z Eating my way through the Raohe Street Night Market Friday night, my friend Justin and I decided to have a walking dinner at the Raohe Street Night Market (饒河街觀光夜市) in Songshan. It's  an easy walk from Xinyi, the neighborhood where I'm staying in Taipei. In fact, during my daily wandering around the neighborhood, I had run across it in the daytime on my way to the river, which is just north of the market street. It didn't look like much during the day, because all the booths and shops are closed down, but at night it turns into a pretty exciting stretch to walk through if you're hungry for food or looking for neat shops to browse through. If you want to shop for clothes, Wufenpu is a huge clothing market in the same area.

The market itself stretches down one street, with the very pretty Ciyou temple at one end.

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/675605 2014-04-10T09:40:45Z 2014-04-21T16:59:20Z Panorama Bonanza I've thought this for a while, but the last week of exploring Taipei has made me sure: the panorama option is a really underrated iOS camera feature.
  • Square: How stupid, just crop the image later.
  • Video: Very convenient, but so far all I've done is accumulate some shaky footage.
  • Slo-Mo: Still no easy way to export to Instagram or Facebook.
  • Filters: The native iOS options are decent but I still prefer Instagram, or even VSCO's advanced options.
  • HDR: fun to play with at first but the difference between regular and HDR is pretty minimal, and I often prefer the non-HDR version.

I've had a lot of fun taking super wide-angle shot with it since panorama was included in iOS 6 (fall of 2012). Before it became part of iOS, I'd tried a few specialized camera apps, but they always ended up looking funny, and I found one desktop tool called Hugin for stitching pictures together on the computer, but it wasn't that easy to use. I did use it to create a beautiful photo view from the top of the US Bank building in San Francisco.

I admit, I've got a thing for views, whether from the top of a hill or a tall building, or even just a big open space. Particularly when I'm traveling or visiting touristy sites, taking a picture of up to 240 degrees helps capture the experience of being there.

Here's a photo I took recently on the Rainbow Bridge above Keelung River:
Panorama from Rainbow Bridge

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/672730 2014-04-04T07:53:55Z 2014-04-21T17:00:38Z A Visit to Grandma Yesterday I went over the river and through the woods to Shilin to visit my grandmother (on my father's side) which is the same area where the famous night market is. My grandmother lives in an apartment with one of my uncles and his wife and a live-in caretaker. She's been in that apartment for a couple years; before that she lived with a different uncle. The house we used to visit her in when I was a kid was torn down to make way for what I think is now a public park. I haven't been back to visit that area, and actually I couldn't point it out on map. The details of what happened are beyond me, but it's possible that the whole neighborhood was built on public land, with a semi-legal status like a shantytown. Building- and neighborhood-wise, though, I couldn't tell you the difference between that area and the part of Taipei New City (formerly Taipei County) that my other grandmother lived in.

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/657998 2014-02-25T08:43:07Z 2014-02-25T08:43:07Z Confronting my own cynicism: Facebook's new gender options Last year, I had this exchange on with my friend Laurie on Twitter. It's the kind of topic that straddles two of the worlds I live in in San Francisco: one fabulous queer world that acknowledges and celebrates the sexuality and gender diversity in the world, and a more normative world that's looking to quantify and measure people for better product development and marketing -- or more cynically, better advertising.

So it was a really awesome surprise when Facebook announced custom gender options for user profiles, almost exactly a year after that conversation.

But I'm the really cynical one these days, because I never expected a big company Facebook to do something like this and acknowledge different gender identities. Even more surprising is that Facebook added around 50 custom options, several of which I wasn't familiar with (and I try to keep up on these things). If you're wondering what all of the different identities mean, The Daily Beast did a pretty good job of explaining the options as well as the difference between sex and gender, if you want to brush up on that.

What's next?

Well, sex and gender are not sexuality, and Facebook has never given an option to identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or any other sexual orientation. I just checked on my own profile, and there are still only two checkbox in the "interested in" section: men and women. Either we get to list our sexual orientation, or there should be 50 new options for the "interested in" section. Which will it be, Facebook?

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/633325 2013-12-22T04:53:56Z 2013-12-22T04:55:16Z Right-sizing the American Dream

"In either case, the financial hegemons win, since they, essentially, get to have someone else to pay their mortgages. As for society, it's a losing proposition. Rather than the yeoman with his own place, and the social commitment that comes with it, we now have the prospect of a vast lower class permanently forced to tip its hat to – and empty its wallet for – its economic betters. This is the fate ardently hoped for by many urbanists, who see a generation of permanent renters as part of their dream of a denser America."

Yes, there is terrifying and growing economic inequality in the US. But I disagree with the fulcrum on which the argument of "Downsizing the American Dream" balances: you can have wealth-building suburban single family home ownership or you can have dense urban permanent "rentership".

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/624411 2013-11-29T01:02:53Z 2013-11-29T01:03:04Z Thanksgiving musings This year, I'm grateful for change.

I'm grateful that I'm not done growing up yet, that I'm still learning, discovering, and experiencing new things. This year's Thanksgiving lesson: if you substitute cream for milk when making cornbread, add water!

I'm happy that the world continues to evolve and that I have the chance to change with it.

I'm thankful that when life throws curveballs, I'm still nimble enough to jump out of the way (that's how I deal with balls flying at me at high speed).

I turned 30 this year, and I'm grateful that growing older can mean growing bolder too.

I look forward to new friends, new travels, new chances. And lest you think it's all about the new: I'm look forward (and back) to the old friends, revisiting places, and remembering past choices too. 

The aforementioned cornbread:

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/616657 2013-11-06T21:52:34Z 2013-11-06T22:34:53Z Neighborhood changes: 23rd & Bryant laundromat to restaurant

I wonder what kind of friendly neighborhood restaurant is coming. Fancy like Local's Corner across the street or more accessible (yet delicious) like El Metate up at 22nd?

We do our office laundry at that laundromat, so I guess we'll be on the lookout for a new laundromat now.
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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/616397 2013-11-06T07:45:40Z 2013-11-06T07:46:34Z My day in the Mission: Serendipitous street art, Local Mission Market, and HBO's Looking I walked out of my apartment and headed down Valencia Street towards my polling place, only to realize that I'd be late for a meeting at work if I voted now. If I hadn't walked down Valencia though, I wouldn't have seen this parking space-turned-temporary street art installation.

At lunch, I walked over to the grand opening of Local Mission Market at 23rd & Harrison, the latest in the "local" Mission empire (see also Local's Corner and Local: Mission Eatery, but not Local Edition, which is downtown). Nothing suitable to grab for lunch, but I'll check back in a week or so to see what else they add.


As I left work, HBO's Looking was filming at Punjab again. What is their obsession with our local cheap Chinese joint? I don't care, I just want to meet Jonathan Groff and Russell Tovey. How hard can that be?

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/613649 2013-10-28T06:50:42Z 2013-10-28T06:50:42Z 588 Days Later... Looks like there might be some life left in this thing after all!

Like so many blogs, I neglected this one when life got busy. I didn't feel good about posting once Posterous was acquired by Twitter. Despite the assurances that the service would keep running, I figured these were pie crust promises, and it was time to start looking for somewhere else to keep the written part of my digital life.

Sure enough, less than a year after that (and still no replacement found), I got a real shutdown deadline. Not nearly as scary or important as the recent federal government shutdown. In my case, though, procrastination paid off and Posthaven launched in time to save the day.

Looking through the archives, I posted a lot of photos and few random videos and other things from around the web. It may still be about food (half of those links were chicken-related) and other silly stuff, but I'm also hoping to sprinkle in a few honest-to-God blog posts with more than a few sentences and at least one or two opinions.

I'll leave you with a cartoon made with the suddenly popular Bitstrips, which is spreading among my friends on Facebook. In a really unscientific sampling, it seems to be spreading from East Coast to West, unlike many other tech trends.

Welcome to the inside of my brain.

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/387252 2012-03-20T03:50:00Z 2013-10-08T16:45:20Z Ada's 30th Birthday!

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/387284 2012-03-19T17:59:08Z 2013-10-08T16:45:20Z Drag Queens + Wilson Phillips + Chick-fil-A ]]> Powen Shiah tag:powen.net,2013:Post/387292 2012-03-06T01:36:00Z 2013-10-08T16:45:20Z San Francisco's Summer is in March Some photos from walking around yesterday on one of the best weekends I've had in SF!

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/387313 2012-02-23T19:42:00Z 2013-10-08T16:45:20Z @imchriskelly's tweet from a year ago captures my feeling on DOMA being ruled unconstitutional

This DOMA thing makes me nervous. If gay marriage passes soon, I'm going to be a failure instead of a victim.

— Chris Kelly (@imchriskelly) February 23, 2011 ]]>
Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/387345 2012-02-16T08:13:00Z 2013-10-08T16:45:21Z My Boyfriend is Pixelated ▀ ▄ █ □▫

This really touched me... guess I'm not such a grinch after all :)

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Powen Shiah
tag:powen.net,2013:Post/387377 2012-02-11T19:26:28Z 2013-10-08T16:45:21Z It's like even Foursquare is telling me to get the hell out of bed and do laundry

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Powen Shiah