A Perfectly Useless Amount of Chinese

Like many other Asian Americans, I went to see Crazy Rich Asians. And like many others, I had some typical takeaways like wanting to make dumplings with my family and . However, I also had one realization that I think is somewhat unusual.

Continue reading “A Perfectly Useless Amount of Chinese”

Memories of my Yeye

(Author’s Note: I wrote the first version of this post on the plane back from Toronto on December 20th after my grandfather’s funeral, so the dates are relative to that. I told myself that I had other year-end posts to write, but I think I was just trying to avoid this one.)

I didn’t talk to Yeye (my paternal grandfather) much over the past twenty years. He knew probably less than twenty words of English, and I never learned a useful amount of Cantonese. When my family moved down to Houston, I stopped going to Chinese school, and we only saw him on the occasional vacation.

Continue reading “Memories of my Yeye”

2019 New Year’s Goals: Slowing Down

Although I’m posting my 2019 goals announcement after my 2018 goals review, I actually ended up doing them out of order. By the beginning of December, I was already thinking ahead to my 2019 goals without having looked back on 2018. Of course, I ended up refining the goals and tweaking the presentation, but I’m sticking with the big ideas that I already had.

And so my goal setting process perfectly illustrates why I have a theme for 2019 to slow down. My parents could tell you that I have always been hasty about doing things. I’m the most impulsive amongst my siblings, and I rush from one thing to another as quickly as possible. It makes me sloppy and careless.

Continue reading “2019 New Year’s Goals: Slowing Down”

2018 New Year’s Goals Review

Welcome to 2019! Like the last two years, I did a complete life review of how 2018 went and what I want for 2019. During that process, I evaluated progress on my 2018 goals and set new goals for 2019.

In past years, I combined the previous year’s goals review with the new year’s goals announcement. However, these posts have gotten quite long, so this year, I have split the review and announcement into two separate blog posts.

So let’s see how last year’s goals went.

Continue reading “2018 New Year’s Goals Review”

Meeting My Neighbors

For the past three years, I have hosted a holiday cookie exchange for my building. Our building has 12 units (mostly 2 bedrooms), so I had hoped that we could get at least half of them to participate. However, in the last three years, we have had three, four, and three units participate, including ourselves. It hasn’t been increasing, and I have been wondering why.

Peanut Butter Cookies, Macaroons, German Chocolate Cake Cookies, and Very Fancy Christmas Cookies of unknown variety because they’re too beautiful to eat.
Continue reading “Meeting My Neighbors”

My Understanding of the 5-star Rating System

Julie and I have very different understandings of the 5 star rating system. Here’s what usually happens at a restaurant:

(Kevin nosily scrapes the last bits of food from his plate using his finger as a backstop instead of his knife)

Kevin: So how would you rate this restaurant?

Julie: I liked it! Maybe four or five stars?

(Kevin gives Julie a look of horror and confusion)

Julie: Oh, maybe more like three and a half stars

Kevin: Yeah, I was thinking three or four stars

We then (mis)remember how we rated other restaurants and try to slot this meal against those ratings. This process is haphazard at best.

And it’s not just restaurants: I’m consistently more critical than Julie on movies, books, and recipes. However, rather than accept that I am just a negative person, I instead embarked on an empirical study to prove that rating systems, not I, are the flawed party. Continue reading “My Understanding of the 5-star Rating System”

What Do You Mean By “Cook” and “Chef”?

Recently, I caught a podcast episode of The Splendid Table where “Nigella Lawson Defends the Honor of Home Cooking.” She recently wrote an article on Lenny Letter arguing that people shouldn’t say that they are “just a home cook.” The word “just” implies that home cooks are less than a chef where Lawson seems them as distinct crafts. Continue reading “What Do You Mean By “Cook” and “Chef”?”

Way Too Much Detail About My Oatmeal Ritual

Since I started working about 7 years ago, I have eaten oatmeal for breakfast before work about 4 out of every 5 weekdays. Just recently, Julie and I decided that she would take over oatmeal-making duties to better align our morning schedules, and I had to show her how to do it. Continue reading “Way Too Much Detail About My Oatmeal Ritual”

My Favorite Things (with Evidence)

People love to share their favorite things. They write gift guides. They sing songs about them. They form committees to publish lists. They will bore you endlessly at parties. However, most of that is just talk. To really know what someone’s favorite things are, they need to put their money where their mouth is: what things did they actually spend money on? Continue reading “My Favorite Things (with Evidence)”

The Skating Rink

Before splitting up for the holidays, I wanted to meet up with my Bay Area transplant cousins Maddy and Adam. Maddy suggested that we might go ice skating, and since Julie had coincidentally mentioned skating as well, I knew we had quorum.

Wanting to avoid downtown Oakland, we drove out to Walnut Creek on Ice, which was the next closest rink to Berkeley. It was small and crowded. There were a lot of flailing skaters to avoid. It wasn’t safe to go very quickly. All of that was very similar to my past 2 experiences skating at the Winter Lodge.

What was new, however, were the “walkers”. Instead of carefully skating with their children and occasionally getting pulled down, parents could rent big, plastic, sliding podiums (see an example here) for their children to hang onto and scoot along. I can appreciate the concept: they work like training wheels, and they provide a physical barrier around the child. However, I found them somewhat scary because they can move so much faster and unpredictably than a child sitting on their butt because they had fallen down.

Having to deal with inexperienced skaters is fairly unusual amongst leisure activities. Most activities are structured and separated: 10 people play a game of pickup basketball, and 2 play a game of chess. Some players are good and some are bad, but you generally don’t have to worry about someone else knocking over your pieces. Even in other forms of exercise, there’s enough structure to avoid chaos. Swimming pools for doing laps get divided into lanes, and when it’s just open hours at a pool, there isn’t much of a shared goal. Ski slopes are rated for difficulty, and bicyclers pass on the left.

The skating rink, however, can have an arbitrary number of people sharing the same space, and successfully skating requires a lot of awareness to avoid others interfering with you. I have heard that some rinks have inner and outer loops for different experience levels, but that isn’t a lot of granularity for the chaos that can still ensue when one person can’t stop in time.

The fact that we haven’t imposed more structure, however, is maybe a testament to its effectiveness. When people fall in a skating rink, they usually laugh despite landing on ice. I can’t remember witnessing any serious injuries while skating. Generally, the crowd successfully skates around at the same rate. Despite complaining about how choppy the ice gets and how I almost got decked trying to avoid some hapless child, I have a good time skating, and since the rinks haven’t put in rules, I guess other people do, too.

After skating, we went to Smoke’s Poutinerie for dinner to incidentally complete a very Canadian experience here in California. Despite having skated frequently as a child in Canada, I can’t remember eating poutine while there. My best hypothesis for why is similar to why I missed other food in my childhood: my mom didn’t like it. But she probably knows best. Despite how wild the skating rink looks, a pile of fries drenched in gravy and covered with bacon is probably more dangerous anyways.