Top of the Rock: The New York City Skyline

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All of these photos were taken on July 23, 2014 at the Top of the Rock in Manhattan. After fighting my way to some of the more optimal spots and waiting around for hours and even getting rained on, I was able to get these pictures of Manhattan at dusk, during sunset, and after dark.

New York City truly is one of the most beautiful, interesting, and breathtaking cities in the world—a city ripe with dreams and opportunities. Hopefully you can get a glimpse of it through these photos.

For my photo blog of Times Square (that includes a short video panorama), click here.

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Thai Culture and Food Festival

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On May 24–25, the Thai community and Buddhist Center of Dallas celebrated their first Thai Culture and Food Festival.

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I love when different groups open and share parts of their culture, so it was really exciting to have the Thai community be willing to open up to the rest of Dallas to share their food, music, traditional dances, and even their Buddhist temple. And even though this was the first time the Thai community has held a cultural festival at the Buddhist Center of Dallas, it was definitely a success.

As soon as I walked in, I was surrounded by tons of tents selling all sorts of food.

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There was definitely more than enough pad thai and egg rolls to go around, but the most difficult part about it was that the lines were really ridiculously long. I guess just too many people like Thai food? Continue reading

I Am An “Other”

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imageLast week, I took my AP World History exam. When I left the exam, I felt lost and confused. But it wasn’t the questions about world history that bothered me the most—it was actually the standard identity questions before the test began. While I could rattle off my name, address, and school without an issue, there was one question that stumped me.

Race and ethnicity.

I was given a few options and was told to select one:

  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
  • Black or African American
  • Hispanic, Latino, or Latin American
  • White
  • Other

I am mixed race. I am a Hapa, a half-Asian person. The easiest and most logical response for most people would be simply to mark Asian American. That’s what people see me as, right? Well, not exactly—people don’t really know what I am when they first see me and I’ve gotten everything from Middle Eastern, Hispanic, to purely white. But when I tell people I’m half-Filipino and half-white, doesn’t that make people treat me as a Filipino-ish person and not a white person? Well, sure.

And yes, in the past when I was told to only choose one, I would choose either “Filipino” or “Asian,” since I identify more with my Asian side, partly because I’m more comfortable with that part of my identity and partly because society doesn’t want to see me as a white person since my skin is a shade of brown. And last fall, when I took the PSAT that required me to list one race, I chose Asian and suddenly felt very weird and guilty about it. That was the first time I ever felt guilty about that.

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The Battle for Texas: Meet the Democrats

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This is Part 1 in a series about the 2014 Texas gubernatorial race, The Battle for Texas.

Texas Capitol and flag, taken by Jon Wiley.

Texas Capitol and flag, by Jon Wiley.

On Tuesday, March 4, all eyes in America were focused on one state: Texas. People across the state cast ballots for their party’s primary election, leading to some very interesting results from both the Republicans and the Democrats. The current governor, Republican Rick Perry, is stepping down, leaving the Governor’s Mansion in Austin completely open. (As a disclosure, I personally align with the Democratic Party, and I very much hope to see the Democratic Party win this November.)

The Filibuster

The beginning of the battle for Texas really begins in June, when State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) launched a dramatic 11-hour filibuster to block extremely restrictive abortion restrictions in a special session called by the governor that would ban abortions after 20 weeks and impose unnecessarily stricter regulations on abortion clinics and doctors who perform abortions, closing all but 5 abortion clinics. To stop House Bill 2, she had to speak continuously until midnight.

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By Texas filibuster rules, she had to stay completely on topic, couldn’t eat, drink, or use the restroom, and not lean on any desk or chair. After three strikes—first for referencing the Planned Parenthood budget, second for having a fellow senator help adjust her back brace, third for referencing the Texas sonogram law—her filibuster was abruptly ended at 10pm. As the Republicans in the chamber hurried to pass the bill, Democrats challenged lieutenant governor David Dewhurst’s ruling that Davis violated Texas filibuster rules, culminating in State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) slamming her male colleagues and a 15-minute “people’s filibuster” where a packed gallery delayed the vote to stop the bill’s passage.

Governor Rick Perry immediately called a second special session to pass the abortion restrictions, and after making its way to the Supreme Court, a 5-4 decision to not interfere with Texas’ abortion bill allowed the state legislature to set the bill into effect. The last rural abortion clinic closed within the past week.

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Why We Need More Ads Like Coca-Cola’s

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This post first appeared on The Roundup, but because most of you won’t be able to comment on there or won’t see it, I wanted to share it on here as well!

Earlier this month, as the Super Bowl went underway, one ad sparked more controversy than any other: Coca-Cola’s. Despite lasting only sixty seconds, a national conversation on the issue of multilingualism and diversity ensued. Disputes broke out on social media. Both conservative and liberal politicians and commentators argued over whether the ad was anti-American or pro-American. Against the will of detractors, Coca-Cola defiantly aired the ad again during the opening of the Sochi Winter Olympics, this time televising the ninety-second version and adding the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” (Latin for “out of many, one”) to the beginning.

So what was it that caused so much controversy? Singing “America the Beautiful” in other languages.

Nine languages were represented in the song: English, Spanish, Tagalog, Mandarin, Hindi, Hebrew, Keres, French and Arabic. All of these languages—with the sole exception of Keres, which is a language native to the Pueblo Indian peoples of New Mexico—were brought to the land we currently call the United States, English included. Really, unless you are one of the small percentage of Americans who claim Native American heritage, at some point your ancestors (or maybe even you or one or more of your parents) immigrated here by foot, boat, or plane.

Diversity has been a particularly important issue recently. The idea of “being American” is so widely debated and open to interpretation that no one can truly pinpoint what it means. How much of your “foreign” culture can you retain—whether it’s Irish, Indonesian, or Iranian—and still consider yourself a part of American culture? Does it mean anything if America’s most common last names go from Smith, Johnson, and Williams to Garcia, Rodriguez, and Martinez?

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I’m Ready for You, 2014

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Whoa, can you believe 2013 is already gone? The new year came pretty quickly, but it didn’t take me by surprise.

Yesterday, my family and I spent hours cleaning the house, vacuuming, and getting our home ready for the new year to arrive so that luck could come in. I made sure my wallet was filled with money, because an empty wallet means no wealth or prosperity. After going to a friend’s house that night, we rushed home ten minutes before midnight because it’s bad luck to be outside the house when the clock strikes twelve—or so I’ve been told by my mom and grandma.

Within those last ten minutes, we turned on all the lights in the house so that 2014 will be a bright year. I scattered coins outside the door and around the house—on tables, on the ground, on the counters… all so that wealth would be attracted to my home. We turned on the TV and the radios and made a lot of noise to scare away evil spirits.

As the clock struck midnight, I jumped twelve times so that I would grow taller, and we all ate twelve grapes, one for every month of the year—a Spanish tradition that melted into Filipino culture that’s said to bring about prosperity and good fortune. I left the door to my room open, so that the good luck would flow into my room and fill me with good fortune, too.

As quickly as you may have come, 2014, I’m ready for you. Continue reading

The Boy Who Lived: Adventures from Harry Potter World

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I’ve actually never been much of a Harry Potter kid. By the time I was really old enough to start reading the books, the Harry Potter movies were already in to the fourth or fifth one, so I felt like I missed the boat on that one. Plus, I’ve never been much of a “magic” kind of person—unless you’re talking about Disney magic—and my mom didn’t like the first movie because it was boring (the first movie is probably the worst).

In eighth grade, I decided to read the first Harry Potter book, just because. I secretly enjoyed it, even though the unicorn blood stuff at the end weirded me out. When my brother was forced to wanted to read a new book series, I made him recommended for him to read the Harry Potter series in all its magical goodness.

Because my brother read 4 out of the 7 books, his prize was a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (a.k.a. Harry Potter World), located in the Islands of Adventure—one of the parks at Universal Orlando. Continue reading