Friday, February 28, 2014

So I’m into men now, even though they can be frightening. I want a schedule-keeping, waking-up-early, wallet-carrying, non-Velcro-shoe-wearing man.
- Mindy Kaling; comedian and author of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Palm trees = smiles

Miami was wonderful, paradise on earth during a grueling seemingly neverending winter with 80 degree temperature, sun, and best of all palm trees! When I look at a palm tree my mouth just naturally curls up into a smile. Maybe it's because the northeast doesn't have them or that palm trees represent everything wonderful in life: beautiful weather, beaches, and the heat!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Open sesame

This is what greets you as the elevator doors to the Philadelphia Anthropology opens:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson; essayist, lecturer, poet

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Rewriting of the Nijou’s

Rummaging through nostalgia, this was a short story that I wrote for a Japanese women literature class in college. Truthfully speaking, it was mainly a piece that was trying to mimic Michael Cunningham's The Hours (one of my favorite book and the movie was quite true to its roots!) with a slight flare of my own. Reading it with the distance of time, I am embarrassed at the mimicry but the waves of fond memories follow closely. So here goes.

The Rewriting of the Nijou’s                                                                                        
            There is still paper to buy. Nina blows out a sigh of exasperation but drops a smiling kiss on Georgiana’s sleeping forehead, takes care to close the door quietly, and leaves the tiny apartment complex with a faint click.
            The air feels particularly filtered on this fine spring morning as Nina’s heels click smartly on the cool concrete. Tiny flowers peep out from the dull brown earth, reminding everyone that they are but playing hide-and-seek for the winter. The universe seems to consist of children who smile and the parents who love them; all is in harmony. Yet there is a niggling sense in the back of Nina’s mind, taunting her to go back to bed, lie flat on her stomach, pull the thick down comforter over her shoulders, huddle over The Confessions of Lady Nijou and continue reading. But no. Today is not her day.  Today is their day, Georgiana’s day, and so Nina shall set aside her desires for that moment and go on, for there is paper to buy and things to do.
            The wind chimes on the tiny used bookstore’s door clink faintly as Nina opens the door and walks in, a tiny waif in a gypsy skirt among the dusty books that she has so many times lovingly pored over, debating about whether to purchase or not -- only to slot them back into their original position. There is no room in the apartment and the appearance of the used books would clash with the sleek modern furniture. Mr. Smith, the owner of the store, says hello, pauses a second and offers his cheek for a kiss.
            Nina places her lips against the whiskered, leathery, sagging skin, and for that moment everything is in accord. Surrounded by more than five thousand books that contain five thousand different worlds, each with a happy ending, Nina feels at home.
            “How are you?” Mr. Smith inquires.
            “I’m fine. It’s Georgiana’s and my 5th anniversary; I want to make it extra special.”
            Mr. Smith’s eyes turn hooded for a second, and then he asks, “Shall it be the regular,  then?”
            “Yes, please, the regular.”
            As Mr. Smith rolls the sheet of fine calligraphy paper made from the hands of authentic Tibetan monks (so they say) with his delicate blue-veined hands and secures it with a single blue rubber band, Nina suddenly wants to know his name. His real name, not just Mr. Smith. How many hours has Nina came into here to look over every volume of twice loved books and seen that gentle old man in the corner? Approval is a funny thing. Nina never thinks she sought it, but on rainy days when there is only Mr. Smith and her in the bookstore, she craves the praise and the love a child would receive from her parents. Granted, they have shared a few ideas but whenever Georgiana is mentioned, Mr. Smith gives a token polite smile, as if he neither understand nor wants to understand; and an unexpected wall is instantaneously erected between them.
            Just as Nina’s curiosity and quiet desperation threatens to gush out, Mr. Smith asks, “Is that all?”
            “Yes, that is all.”
            “Well then, have a good day.”
            “You too,” says Nina and leaves the bookstore as she found it.

“The restless world of the unenlightened men is like a burning house,” Ariake once said.
Lady Nijou wonders if he has attained enlightenment. After Ariake died, Lady Nijou thought a lot about death. If Ariake had worshipped the Buddhas with as much fervor as he worshipped Lady Nijou, then he must have gone straight to nirvana, for who can be as heartless to deny passion as strong as his? Even if he didn’t attain enlightenment, Lady Nijou is sure that he died happy, for finally he is able to do what he derided so much: burn like the commoners do.
Many say it takes more courage to live than to die; well, it takes more courage to burn than to live life slowly, carefully, as if every single step determines your next move, your last move. As if every single decision creates a definite ripple in a tiny pond, until all of the ripples blend into one another so that you don’t know what you did, what you didn’t do, and how it all began.
 To throw away the promises of salvation in one fell swoop. Now that takes courage.

            By the time Nina passes the myriad of punks with technicolored hair smoking weed in the lobby and reaches the fourth floor of the ritzy artist-filled apartment complex, she realizes that she has forgotten her keys. After a few minutes of debate, Nina knocks quietly on the smooth splinterless oak door. The door swings lazily on the hinge and Nina’s eyes look up to meet the even lazier, exotic, half tilted, single lidded moon-eyes of Georgiana.
            “Okaeri nasai, Nijou-Sama,” greets Georgiana in a husky, just woken up voice, with a perfect pitchless Japanese accent. Nina is annoyed and briefly wonders when Georgiana will stop with this silly nickname. When they first met, Georgiana declared that Nina was too plain a name for her and insisted on giving her the name of an immortal heroine. Nina had suggested Athena or Minerva, her favorites of all the goddesses of mythology, but Georgiana insisted on dubbing her Nijou-Sama, the tragic Heian woman writer whose literature still persists after more than a thousand years. So Lady Nijou has the last laugh.
There once was a time that Nina was so afraid of becoming like her namesake that she kept on chanting, “No, I am not promiscuous. Will not become a nun” until it became a mantra in its own right.
“Tadaima,” replies Nina. It seems like yesterday that she met Georgiana in her Japanese calligraphy class. Nina doesn’t know what compelled an English major at Berkley College to take a course as eclectic as Japanese Calligraphy. In the 1700s Georgiana would have been persecuted as a deviant, an abnormal, the devil herself, but in the 1980s Georgiana just took her gorgeous mixed body (half Japanese, half Norwegian), sauntered over to Nina, and asked her for a date. Day by day, date by date, Georgiana claimed parts of Nina, her thoughts, her dreams, her hopes, her fears, her joys till nothing was left but bare bones and a kiss.
Then Georgiana kissed her.
Nina wonders about what if’s all the time. What if she had slanted her head away at the last minute in the little rusted park bench beside the ancient maple tree? What if she turned away and feigned disgust?  What if she had refused to accept the bestowment of Georgiana’s kiss, all that happiness it promised and all the sadness that followed? Surely if all the what if’s had coalesced together in an alternate universe, bifurcation after trifurcation after multi-furcation, they would have been so powerful that they would have taken their toll and punctured the balloon of reality of ‘had been’s’ and ‘had done’s.’ Yet Nina had tilted her head ever so slightly, met the cool lips.
“Happy 5th year anniversary,” says Nina.
“Has it been that long already? Happy anniversary, sweetheart.”
“Yes, it has. Come back early tonight. There’ll be a surprise.”
“I’ll try. I’m leaving for work now,” Georgiana proclaims with the confidence of an artist who does not dance to anyone’s tune but her own. Her crisp, blue-collared shirt ironed the day before by Nina is slightly unbuttoned, revealing the single silver cross that Nina gave to her on their first month anniversary. Georgiana had laughed in her low breathy laugh and graciously accepted it. But Nina felt mocked, for she later discovered that Georgiana is an atheist, reined by no god, be it be a man or a woman.
They go through the ritual they have gone through for the past five years. The flurries of kisses, the handing over of coat, briefcase, and shoes continued as a practiced dance, faultless since the movements have been traced over so many times. Nina wonders what will happen if she “accidentally” dropped the coat, but she never does.
What is Lady Nijou doing in the book right now? Will she still be there as I left her on page eighty-one? Will Lady Nijou finally accept the devoted Ariake or turn him away?
When Nina was a child, she never wanted to leave a book alone till it was done. She was afraid that the characters would magically pick themselves up from where Nina left them and proceed along the story without her, she was like a child missing a parade -- the parade of life. Nina would stay up all night long till her tired bloodshot eyes forced her to go to sleep. She didn’t want to miss a single minute.
Georgiana is no longer thinking about the night but about work, the few hours she gets to shine and show the artistic side of her that wants attention, compliments, and love. Always love.  Like a child, Georgiana craves love and is never completely satisfied. Nina was surprised when someone as brilliant and ephemeral as Georgiana picked her -- a white girl, a little bookworm with no root, no mother or father to anchor her, fresh out of college -- to be a life partner, to be the beacon for Georgiana to return to after the excitement of the multiple new affairs has worn off.
“Love ya. Be back soon. If I’m not back by midnight, don’t wait up for me.”

Lady Nijou sits still as a stone as the two maidens attend her hair, the one on the left, Ayako, being slower but more careful, the one on the right, Seiko, being fast and efficient; but what is the use of Seiko’s haste if Lady Nijou  must inevitably wait until Ayako finishes brushing the floor length hair to her satisfaction before sneaking out to see her lover after?
GoFukakusa hasn’t visited her in three weeks and four days. For each those days Lady Nijou has been waiting up each night, accompanied by only the chirping of the cicadas on the trees and the lonely moonlight traversing the length of her hair. The shuffling of the palace guards sends her heart into a staccato every time. The footsteps stop to shoo away a cat, to flirt with a maid, or to bring messages to other ladies, but never stops at her door; and Lady Nijou waits each night in vain.
Was it because of that incident he is repelled? Lady Nijou knows that trying to stop rumors and gossip is as useless as trying to catch sakura petals in a net. Her mind constantly wavers among the image of GoFukakusa’s face as he ardently pledged his undying love in poetry so moving that even the gods must have wept, to him begging her to continue her affair with Ariake, to the multiple affairs that he conducted with Lady Nijou as the go-between, and finally to GoFukakusa waking up groggily that morning, oblivious to what had transpired the night before between Lady Nijou and his half brother, Kameyama. All these images superimpose upon one another until Lady Nijou does not know which one is true, while the maids placidly brush her asset of beauty, wealth and status, unaware of the turmoil swarming inside their mistress like a group of angry bees.
One more hour and it will all be over.
            All is not perfect. Nina squints critically at the last stroke of the u in Otanjoubi Omedetou, disappointed in the flatness of the character. No matter how many times Nina tries to smooth the curve, the character refuses to be coaxed from the brush and ink. If only she had the skills of her namesake! All this time spent on making the floor spotless (Georgiana likes to walk around barefoot), cooking (filet mignon with cream hollandaise sauce, Georgiana’s favorite), and calligraphy leaves Nina no time to return to the world of Lady Nijou. Nina bites her lips and looked around; the clock on the wall reads a quarter to five. Georgina gets off work at exactly five and should be back soon.
            Not that it matters. The quaintness and lack of direction in Nina’s calligraphy will please Georgiana nevertheless. Georgiana will smile and say what a great present it is, how she doesn’t deserve it, exclaim how it brings back memories of how they met, and give her a kiss. Those pale faded memories feels like sad excuses that are unshelved once in a while to admire but are quickly returned to the closet before the sunlight does more damage to their already worn colors. It irritates Nina that no matter what she does, Georgiana will be unperturbed.
The shade of pasty green on the wall tempts Nina to dig her fingers in, until she hits the asbestos lining, and then pull off the vile wallpaper. It reminds her of puke. Neither does she like the metallic table, the ebony black closets, the stainless steel refrigerator, the black leather sofa that is too high for her and leaves her legs dangling above the floor like a child sitting in her father’s favorite loveseat; but nor does she like the steel stools that provide no cushion for her weak back or the white veined black marble kitchen top. Nina has no memory of when these things were bought in the first place. The only thing that Nina can claim for herself is the ridiculous Mickey Mouse telephone that she insisted on buying despite Georgiana’s protests. Surrounded by all the hard metal and dark colors, Mickey’s red shorts and yellow shoes look out of place.
“Maybe he needs a Minnie,” Nina says idly out loud.
Lady Nijou would have never stood for this. She would have elegantly composed a poem so filled with feeling and truth that GoFukakusa, Ariake, Akebono, and Georgiana would have come crawling back to her, begging to be accepted back in her graces.
            Suddenly Nina rips the calligraphy paper in half (there goes three dollars and twenty five cents), rips the halves into halves, and then halves the quarter pieces again till there is nothing but asymmetrical pieces left. She carefully places them at the very bottom of the trashcan, taking care to hide them with a torn Gap bag; closes the lid as if it were a coffin, and wipes her hands on her pants. A broad black smear is left trailing on the right thigh of her white pants.
            How is she going to get the stain out in time? There are only fifteen minutes till Georgiana returns; she can’t change her outfit. No, it will be all right. Maybe she can wear her white skirt instead; it will go nicely with the patterned white collared shirt she spent days looking for in vintage stores all over downtown Los Angeles. No, it would make her look childish, almost virginal.
Suddenly Nina wants to stop, let it all end. What does it matter what her pants look like when she still has not returned to Lady Nijou’s world? What does it matter that the cake is ready and the present is finished when Georgiana left with a careless, “If I am not back by midnight, don’t wait up for me”?  For all Nina knows, Georgiana might be in the same situation as the last time Nina randomly decided to visit her office: shirtless, in the dark, with Sharon, again.
No, it will not be all right.

It would be so easy. There’s a bottle of Tylenol in the bathroom cabinet. “Take no more than four tablets in twenty-four hours,” the bottle instructs. What if Nina took 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 356, 712 tablets? What if Lady Nijou took the ornamental sword hanging on the wall and slowly drew a line with it from one end of her neck to the other, leaving a fine line of red, red blood trailing elegantly down her pale neck, a single drop falling onto the sleeves of her favorite red Chinese jacket with ivy patterns?  What a picture she would make: serene, pretty, and still. That’s too easy, too simple, no flair at all; something Nina would do. What if she jumped off the fourth floor of the apartment complex? The spring sun would feel nice and breezy while the four floors flashed by in rapid succession until her face kissed the hard concrete that countless dogs have defecated over. But today Lady Nijou is wearing her favorite outfit  and does not want it to be dirtied by blood. What if she casted herself off the quaint wooden bridge spanning the pavilion between her garden and the other lady’s? The layers and layers of gown would be soaked, clinging to her legs, dragging her to the bottom of the calm artificial pond, cutting off everything — sight, sound, air — until time slowed, faded, and stopped into the darkness that no Buddha could pierce: for suicide is a sin. The thought of her body shattering to pieces and leaving an unattractive splotch on the concrete disturbs Nina. What if her blood flickered onto the white jacket of British man who happened to walking his Scottish terrier at 4:57 in the afternoon?  Nina knows how hard it is to get blood out of clothes, especially white ones.

Nina runs into the bedroom, takes her copy of The Confessions of Lady Nijou, slips back into her prim black heels, and leaves the apartment with a click. Out the splinterless mahogany door, down the elevator, past the lobby now absent of technicolored punks (although the sweet cloying scent of weed still lurks the air), and onto the street. Everything feels like a dream, highlighted by the brilliancy of the setting sun, dulling all edges and casting everything in a kinder light. I need a place, any place, a place of my own. I need to finish this book. Is this what it feels like to be crazy? The movies always depict crazy women who rend their hair and beat their breasts, but real insanity is a desperateness that is punctuated by silence and a clear mind.
Finding herself in front of the secondhand bookstore again, Nina pushes the resilient door, whose chimes clink sweetly, and looks into the face of Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith looks tired; tired of owning a bookstore that does not make any money, tired of sleeping on a queen size bed by himself at the age of sixty-seven, tired of waiting for the short hand of the clock to hit six everyday.
“What are you doing here?”
“Let me stay here and read. Please”
In that moment Mr. Smith sees a woman with a glazed look in her eyes clutching a book as if her life depended on it, so tightly that her the bones of her knuckles form tiny white islands against the sea of red skin, wearing white slacks with a huge black smear on them and black heels that do not match the rest of her outfit. Pity creeps into his heart.
“Please, I’ll close up. I will lock the door and make sure nobody breaks in. Just for a little while. Please.”
Perhaps Mr. Smith will curse himself later, wondering what makes him hand over his key without a thought to the girl with the desperate gypsy eyes. The eyes that asks for constant approval that he is never able to give, never wanted to give, but suddenly at that moment he wants to reciprocate and perhaps leave her with a kinder memory of him, for he is but an old man who has nothing else to give. Mr. Smith puts on his jacket, tips his hat, and goes out the front door.
At last! Nina pulls down the blinds, turns on the lights, sits down at a neatly organized table, and begins to read.

The sound of laughter pierces Lady Nijou’s reverie, cleanly severing the thought of death from her mind. Lady Nijou looks up and spots two maids playing with a calico tabby barely weaned from its mother. The setting sunlight gleams unbearably bright on the girls’ black, black hair and the world is on fire. Yes, the same fire that fuels the poets to pick up their brushes, the heroes to brandish their swords, and the lovers to forsake their duties.
She wants to burn. Lady Nijou hasn’t felt that fire in a long time. Dulled are her senses that used to be so fine and exquisite, dulled from the petty gossips and the fear of GoFukakusa’s suspicion. Or is it just GoFukakusa himself? GoFukakusa the father, the lover, the confident, the betrayer. Lady Nijou couldn’t think of a single moment when GoFukakusa hadn’t been in the picture of her life, peripherally or centrally, overshadowing her (the supposed protagonist of the story). Casting her from heaven to hell and back to heaven within the space of five seconds and ten syllables.
Lady Nijou no longer knows where the beginning of her story is. Was it when her father handed her over to GoFukakusa? Was it when she started her affair with Akebono? All these possibilities pool into the past that was, the present that is, and the future that will be.
She needs to get away, to find a place of her own so that she can burn freely with oxygen of her own. Yes, she will become a nun and take the tonsure, wash away all the sins that she has committed and dedicate her life to Buddhism in hopes that one day she too may attain enlightenment. Or can she? Are her sins too deeply fixed now that no matter how many times she scrubs the darkness will remain?
Lady Nijou suddenly remembers the poor fanmaker, the painted undergown seeping in the rain, her nose red and her hair wild. What an unpleasant sight it was then, but the fanmaker’s sorrow resulted in joy while Lady Nijou’s joy resulted in sorrow. The poet Semimaru once said, “One cannot live forever in a palace or a hut.” Lady Nijou decides that neither will she.  But she can’t leave at once; she will need a week’s time to prepare quickly and find GoFukakusa to tell him about the sudden revelation she has had. Surely he will understand and let her go.
Two days later, GoFukakusa declares the banishment of Lady Nijou from the palace.

A sigh of pure bliss escapes from Nina, spirals into the air and is captured by the softness of the surrounding books. So this is how it ends. The pure craft and perfection of Lady Nijou’s story leaves her breathless, wonder-filled, and hopeful; like being in love with Georgiana except without the confusion and the heartache. Nina can no longer tell where Lady Nijou’s story ends and where hers begins.
Was it Nina who was sold by her father to GoFukakusa, or was it Lady Nijou? Was it she who recoiled at the thought of conducting an affair with Ariake? Was it Lady Nijou who cried when she saw Georgiana bestowing a kiss onto another woman? Was it she who boldly traveled in Kamakura Japan as a nun? Or was it she who forgave Georgiana for a few crocodile tears that glistened so prettily as it slid down her cheek, and a fake diamond bracelet she saw in the windows of Walmart? Does it matter?
The world is suddenly simple. Lovers will meet, couples will cheat, pets will die, and children will cry; yet despite it all, we go on in life. No one’s story is truly original or extraordinary, although we lie awake at night wishing it to be so. But life is not like that. If you are good enough the world does not mock you; if you are lucky enough the world remembers you; and if you are truly great the world will put you onto a pedestal so high so that others can bounce their dreams off your shiny patina, hoping that the dreams will be reflected back to themselves.
Georgiana should be home already.
Grabbing a piece of floral stationary off the top of the desk, Nina begins to write. Purging, returning every gift, every promise, every lie to Georgiana so there is nothing but Nina left. As Nina drops the flimsy letter into the mailbox, she imagines a satisfying clunk breaking the fall.
Whistling, Nina walks away; Nina, and not Nijou-Sama, for there is no one to call her that again.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Women kill me. They really do. I don’t mean I’m oversexed or anything like that — although I am quite sexy. I just like them, I mean. They’re always leaving their goddam bags out in the middle of the aisle.
- J. D. Salinger; author

Friday, February 21, 2014

A fantastical sight

Hogwarts Castle in Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studio in Orlando.
Mmmm...butter beer!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Owning "jook sing"

Some call us ABCs (American born Chinese) others call us bananas and Twinkies (things that are yellow on the outside but white on the inside), the Cantonese call us "jook sing" (literally the bamboo pole that the farmer hoists over his shoulders to balance two baskets of goods). Regardless of the phrase, the implication is the same: someone who of Asian or Chinese descent, who looks Asian but doesn't inherently have Asian cultures, values, and traditions. Essentially people who look a certain way but have false advertisement all over them.

Regardless of the phrase there is at least a slight negative foreign connotation to them all. When I was growing up in the rough non-hipster side of Brooklyn that means the Hispanic, African-American, and Caucasian kids look at me and proclaimed me Chinese (although I potentially can be any other Asian race but it's the most common and largest in population, so at least they got that probability right) with my relatively sallow skin, slanted eyes, skinny and short body, and uncouth Asian accented English that comes with English as a Second Language. When I am visiting my family in Hong Kong and Guangdong they pronounce me American; assuming I don't speak fluent Cantonese, can't properly hold chopsticks to eat chicken feet at dim sum, not understand the slang floating around me, not accord respect to my elders, and to be fatter than everyone around me. Either way there is no winning because I am like a pentagonal object trying to simultaneously fit both a round hole and a square peg resulting in the classic Goldilocks syndrome: not quite this but not quite that.

Immigrants are an admirable hardy bunch: only the grittiest can have the courage and determination to leave their homeland and go seek opportunities in a foreign land where they have no identity, no ties, no family, no friends, no money, no language capabilities, and often no skills. They seek and dream of wealth, education, opportunities, and success if not for themselves then for their progeny. However they don't realize this: there is no such thing as a free lunch. While the brave immigrant is willing to give up blood, sweat, and tears there is one thing they did not expect to lose: their culture.

So these immigrant family scratch their heads in confusion asking: why is my child not of my culture and their own heritage? How can they blithely give up such a rich and proud history to identify with foreign taste, culture, and values? How come we are literally and figuratively speaking different languages? What did I do wrong?

The truth nothing was done wrong by anyone. In coming to a different country, the culture is not the same. While proud expectations are high to preserve the homeland culture, when a child grows up in one culture at the parental home but another outside of the parental home what you get is a mishmash of all the things that make each unique.

So when my relatives and parents' friends compliment me on my fluent accentless Cantonese I proudly say I am a "jook sing" because I AM of two cultures: Asian and American. I am of two rich worlds: conservative-liberal, heterogenous-homogenous, inward-outward, independent-communal, peach-coconut, and the combinations are endless. I am neither basket #1 or basket #2 but rather the important tool that connects two entities. I see both the flaws and the beauties of two worlds and thus I can pick and choose what values, taste, and culture resonate with me because despite how we all look the same, we all have such different experiences.

Those who only see from one perspective cannot appreciate the differences that make the world dynamic, wonderful, and evolving. Those who only speak on language cannot fully appreciate the beauty and the struggle of syntax, grammar, and vocabulary that makes language unique; those who only eat one type of food may become bored of blandness more easily; and those who only associate with one type of people may not have the pleasant surprise of discovering the difference and universality of humanity at the same time.

So yes I'm a "jook sing" and I'm proud of it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Going to Miami for a long weekend trip. Sooooooo exciting to be finally escaping from winter and can't wait to wear shorts!!!

....wait that means I have to shave!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

- Mark Twain; author

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Explosion averted

Do something that scares you once in a while. Mission accomplish: cooking with a pressure cooker.

It was one of the most agonizing wait for the pressure to build sufficiently and then lower the heat because 1- I overfilled it with water and 2- have no idea how long it should take. It was like watching a ticking timebomb without a timer!

The beef stew was super watery and pale but beef was super tender so success!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Subway art

Brooklyn is getting fancy! On the former B and now D (but still orange) subway line all the above ground stations get their very own artwork. When the sun streams through the art, it reminds me of stained glass windows.

This one is from my 'hood.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Love Everyone Day!

Or it can be Happy Only Love Each Other Day!
Or Happy I Want Someone to Love Day!

Regardless, the world can always use a bit of more love and happy so enjoy and be merry.

(Cappuccino love art from Seattle.)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves. 

- Mary Wollstonecraft; writer, philosopher, and advocate of women's rights

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Stop it with the "having it all"

If I have to hear/read another article about a woman who can or cannot have it all, I will scream.

Although my interest in genderism (or feminism, which I think is a biased term) is relatively recent, it seems like the media, even our dear POTUS and FLOTUS Obama, are capitalizing on the gender inequality that still exists despite the feminist movement starting in the late 1880s to getting the right to vote in 1869 to Equal Pay Act of 1963 to Equal Opportunity Act of 1972.

Having media and political attention on the subject is great because women are still making only 77 cents to the manly dollar. Even when the salary data accounts for similar age, education level, industry, role, experience, etc, women in the same exact position as men are only making 91 cents to the manly dollar. So clearly discrimination is still at play and equity is not achieved yet.

But what absolutely sets my teeth grinding, nerves firing, fist pounding, and foot stamping is when the phrase "Why women can't have it all?" or "Can this woman have it all?" used. I get it: it's brilliant media fodder because it's very attention grabbing for both supporters and detractors however: when was the feminist/gender revolution about "having it all"? WHO actually can "have it all"?

What does "having it all" mean anyway? Just as "happiness" is a term that is differentially defined by different people according to their personal experiences, current situation, and future aspirations, there is no consensus for the "have it all" phrase. While there is no one definition of "have it all" whenever the phrase is used it usually implied having a fabulous combination of financial wealth, power, marital/romantic/family relationship, friendship, charisma, good looks, health, amazing career, full head of hair, white teeth, sexual vigor, and above average height. That's a tall order! And more men don't even have that nevertheless women.

By saying that women can or cannot "have it all" implies that men (or least non-women entities) are "having it all." When I look around I don't see that. Even if you see a successful (often defined in our current society as having financial power) man, it doesn't necessarily imply he has a great family, marriage, friends, health, or mental state. Even if he does have most of those things, if he has a successful career usually he is not the one taking care of the kids, picking up the groceries, cooking dinner, cleaning the bathroom, and having enough energy to have sex at the end of the night. Usually his wife does it.

Yet these articles keep saying how it is or is not possible to be a wonderful mom and have a successful career in a leadership role. At what point in any of the waves of feminism/genderism was it about "having it all?" The initial waves of the movements was about attaining things that were taboo or not allowed for women but were a guaranteed privilege of men, such as the right to vote. So when goal go from attaining something that was denied to a person based on gender to now a gender having everything?

It drives me nuts when people use that phrase because no one in the universe can "have it all" unless you are a deity endowed with superpower. Because we are human we cannot "have it all" because there are scientifically and literally only 24 hours in a day, which will always limit us to certain things we cannot do unless we don't sleep, eat, get bio breaks, laugh, read a good book, spend quality time with friends and family, get our weekly Bachelor fix, ogle in amazement of superhuman strength of the winter Olympians, or go to work.

So what I'm trying to say is that while I really appreciate the increased media and societal scrutiny on gender inequality, I am not appreciating the framing and presentation of the issue. By often associating "having it all" with women (but we don't say that of men), along with the expectations that a progressive modern woman means being successful with attaining a career dominated by men who are unaware of the unconscious discrimination while still maintaining lion share of the caretaker role along with being a sex goddess, is simply unfair and unrealistic. The more we keep saying why women can or cannot "have it all" shifts the dialogue to an area that is not progressing the gender imbalance issue. Instead it holds up the conversation at fulfilling that impossible role. We should agree that NO ONE can "have it all" but that does not mean women shouldn't be given opportunities in an unbiased and undiscriminating way that men are. (This of course also applies to any other minority being treated differently because of what they are vs. who they are.)

So women can't "have it all," so what can we achieved based on what we do instead of what we look like, along with all the societal assumptions that come with our appearances? That is what we as a society need to progress beyond.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Here's all you have to know about men and women: women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.
- George Carlin; comedian, writer, and philosopher 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Old school: Mad Libs

Not only is it non-nonsensical but it forces kids to learn what a noun, verb, plural, adjective, etc is.

Caribou Coffee is going old school with Mad Libs on napkins. Nothing like coffee getting the creative juices flowing. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

First birthday wishes

Happy 1st birthday! The first of many more to come my dear little "nephew" (well since your dad/my college friend insists that I am your auntie then that makes you my nephew then)!

The "first" is always the best: first cake, first child (just kidding!), first snow, first kiss, winning first place at a competition and beating everyone else, first love, first trip, etc not because they always last but because of the things that were brought to our lives to open our eyes and see things in a different ways. This is the first of many first for you with many more to come.

As you go through life, I wish you this:
- May you have enough joys in your life to keep you smiling, positive, and forward looking but also enough sadness to make you appreciate the good in life, to treasure what you have, and to do better in the future. Studies have shown the ratio (at least in successful relationships) of good:bad to be around 3:1. Feel free to increase ratio as need be.
- May you have enough structure and guidance from family, friends, and loved ones to know that you will have support, develop grit, and cultivate diligence when you are going through rough times but also enough freedom to express your creativity, personality, and the wonderful things that make who you care to pursue the things you want, savor the good times, and value yourself for just who you are.
- May you continue to be curious and kind. The world always needs people who sees the world slightly different in a positive way.

As always your auntie will be there, albeit a bit less hands off (just because I don't change your diapers or never babysat you doesn't mean I don't care!). I will offer you a different perspective from your parents, though they are fine folks, another perspective and more red envelopes during lunar new years never hurt anyone! Along with kisses, hugs, and candy.

Happy birthday and here is the preview of the gift you will receive:

Can you tell that even though you are turning 1, the egg within egg is for 6 months plus, and that I really really want it for myself? 

Friday, February 7, 2014


Whew, I just finished catching up posting for the whole week.
Ok mini break and then I will get back on this hamster wheel call blogging.
Darn you new years resolution!

Listen to this smart woman talking about grit. Need to get some more of that for breakfast.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A free impromptu therapy session

When a friend of a friend was in town visiting Philly this week, arriving at just the right time between the snowstorm and the icestorm (come on spring, hurry up!), we met up for dinner. In talking to her I was blown away by her: a small (shorter than me!) woman who has such a purpose and positive attitude about life.

Her job as a social worker has showed her sometimes the saddest and most tragic things in life: from conducting family therapy sessions to help the child to her current role of parlaying the importance of organ donation to families who have just lost a loved one, in hopes they will consent to organ donation of the deceased.

Our conversation gravitated to the Asian community since that who she mainly serves and there were some interesting points she brought up:

- Sometimes the most "successful" people have many issues since the lawyer/doctor/engineer has been pursuing what their parents have been telling them their whole lives that they suddenly realize (around mid-life crisis) time that they don't know who they are, this in turn affects the child which sometimes feel intense pressure to "do well" and not necessarily valued for who they are. These are the families showing up to therapy.

- Asian Americans have one of the lower organ donation rates and as an organ donor counselor she has about 60% success rate in her clients consenting to donate. Lots of times families are so wrapped up in grief and despair that they have no head space to think about donations.

- People tend to make the idea of "love" to be an end all be all. If the person has issues, love cannot solve it for them so they need to work on themselves first.

I felt like I got an free impromptu therapy session into the lives of others! 

Some quotes that really struck me:
"You have to play with the cards you've been dealt till you can play the cards you want."
"Since you're a glass half full person, instead of concentrating on how you deserve the whole glass, think about how wonderful and thirst quenching this half glass is until you can get the whole glass."
 The key here is owning your life through the decisions you make and that no matter how bad things are in the "now" there is potential for it to be better in the future. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Fortune Cookie Rule #4: Don't read too deeply into it

This is literally the first fortune I received this (lunar) new year. "How hierarchical anachronistic, especially for this modern age for a woman!" I thought and promptly wanted to open another cookie per my Rule #3, but alas all my elder relatives have taken their cookies already and it would improper if not downright rude to steal from them. So here goes:

in bed ;)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

People who scare me:

- My dad, when I was a little kid
- Vagrants roaming around the streets screaming obscenities at me
- Those who are really smart, ambitious, go-getters, and successful all the time, actually they make me feel small but in a scary way
- People who cook really badly and expect me to eat their food
- Myself, when I am in a bad mood
- People with really big things. Such as Amy Poehler with big eyes, Anne Hathaway with her big mouth (Although she has really grown beautifully into it. For some reason Julia Robert's mouth doesn't bother me), or people with really big boobs (real or not)
- My paternal grandmother. I don't think I have every saw her smile during our brief interactions. Though she is one smart and driven business person with 8 kids
- Old white men; or as my friend affectionately calls them pale frail male who represent most of senior management in America. Although my fear of them has been diminishing with age and realizing they are actually not as smart as I thought they were
- Anyone above an executive director level at my company. How did they get to that level and what did they do to get there!?
- People carrying sharp pointy objects/screaming little children who really need a diaper change/hot coffee near me
- Gun owners who don't know how to operate their weapon safely
- Close minded people with inflated egos

Monday, February 3, 2014

In the mail:

I caved in finally got a pressure cooker!

It's going to be deliciously dangerous or dangerously delicious.

I hope I don't blow it, harharhar!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Two things a woman should always be -- classy and fabulous. 
- Coco Chanel, designer and business woman
Two things a woman should always be – classy and fabulous. - See more at:
Two things a woman should always be – classy and fabulous. - See more at:

Saturday, February 1, 2014