Hello from Tokyo – Part I

Note: This post is rather long and photo heavy. Sorry!

View from our hotel room

So, I quit my job a few weeks ago. It was a good job with good people,  but I found myself wanting to spend more time on my data-sciencey coding stuff, and less time actually doing the day-to-day duties of an analyst. I know that if I had continued on, I could have done a few pretty cool projects, but it seemed like a good time to go. I had been doing work all day, school all night for almost a year. I was burnt out. So I saved up enough money and quit. I’m doing a web development bootcamp, and hope to start looking for a job in 4 months or so. But all of that is for another post. :)

Anyways, Ryan was going to a conference in Tokyo about a week after my last day at work, and he joked that I should tag along. Just for fun, I looked at tickets to see how bad it would be. Surprisingly, I found tickets at ~$500 and under! These were flights on a terrible airline with terrible layovers, but hey, it seemed like fate. I couldn’t NOT go.

So the cheap tickets were worth it, but man I had to work for it. Getting to Tokyo took 30+ hours, and included a rainy layover in Shanghai. The food on China Eastern was terrible even for airline food, and gave me some weird stomach ish.

Even though I was feeling tired, I pushed myself to go into the city, had some fun, and then I got stranded! It took a couple tries and several hours, but in the end I was able to get back to the airport via black cab. Of course that is not safe, so don’t do that. Once I made it back,  I barely slept on an airport bench, with my head on my luggage, avoiding the airport’s bright fluorescent lights, wondering what I was doing with my life.

Shanghai in the rain

Given that the China leg of my trip was so unpleasant, being in Tokyo has been a dream. The food has been divine, and the dollar is strong here.

It seems that Tokyo is similar to San Francisco in that it can be a totally different city depending on who you are and what you’re interested in. I am interested in food, robots, culture, and kitsch, so that’s what we did.

Continue reading Hello from Tokyo – Part I


If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already seen this, so apologies!  Sharing here for my mom, who is the biggest TinTin fan ever, and most certainly not on the ‘gram.  :)

Oh Halloween. It’s come and gone, and now here we are barreling right into the holiday season. I was incredibly boring this year and on Halloween night I didn’t go to any haunted houses, silent movies, raging bars, pumpkin patches, or any other such debauchery. The stars just didn’t align, and also I was SO FREAKIN’ TIRED.

I did however have a costume that I felt good about! I love Halloween, but I don’t love paying a lot for a costume that I will only wear for one day out of the year. I’m on a budget, so this year I picked a costume that would minimize my spending – TinTin :D. Most everything was in my wardrobe – I just needed to buy a stuffed dog and a blue sweater.

photo (16)


If you ever want to be TinTin as well, it’s a super easy formula. From CostumePlaybook.com: 


  • White button up shirt
  • Blue sweater or sweatshirt, crew neck is most accurate (Uniqlo was great for finding just the right blue)
  • Brown/reddish orange pants or “knickers” – I just rolled my skinny jeans up
  • White socks pulled up real high
  • Sensible brown oxfords
  • Way too much hair gel / hair spray (a curling brush is good for getting the right quiff)
  • Optional: Spray your hair orange
  • Optional: trench coat
  • And of course you need your sidekick Snowy! Official Snowy plush toys are very expensive, but any white dog will do.  I bought this realistic looking Westie, and freaked people out all day long :)

It’s Running Season

After an unusual heat wave in the Bay Are, we’ve returned to our regularly scheduled fog and gray, just in time for fall.  Also, just in time for racing season, thank god.

Another year, another JP Morgan Corporate Challenge. While the race is a short distance (3.2 miles), and the whole thing goes by FAST, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. If you’re competitive, you’re sprinting the entire way.

Last year around this time I was in tip top run shape, and was gearing up for a half-marathon. This time around was much more casual. I have been running for fun, and barely training for a 12K (coming up in a week…).


Run team run!

While the race is really just a corporate bonding event, there was also a greater international challenge being hosted at the same time. Basically JP Morgan flew in 2014 winners from around the world, and pit them against each other. They got to go first, and then it was the “fast” regular runners, then the rest of us regular office drones (walkers and runners). According to the race’s website, there were 10,000+ runners from 330 companies. !!!

Short fun runs are always the worst races to run. While they can have fun themes and cool schwag, you are also surrounded by people (and some children) who … hmm.. how to put this kindly… get in the way. You’ll be running behind someone, and suddenly they’ll just decide to start walking, right in the middle of the road!!  Also people dart on and off the courses, and there were quite a few small collisions. My coworker said he saw one guy trip into a barrel roll! Thankfully they keep medical staff on hand in case of emergency. Last year I saw someone being loaded into an ambulance at the finish line, but this year seemed pretty quiet.


Jeans, brah, rly?




Finish line. Ready to go home and eat nachos.

With all the different waves of runners,  we didn’t get to start running until 7:25 or so :/ . Even then we were walking a solid couple of minutes before things thinned out enough to “run.”  I made an 11 minute mile, which is about a minute slower than last year. For not actively training, however, I’ll take it.

I love the post race happy hour with my teammates, but given all the build up and waiting around, I’m not sure that I’d do this race again. I run the same distance on my morning runs down Valencia street, and it’s much less stressful.

Learning How to Learn

It occurred to me the other day that I’ve been learning programming for about a year now! Happy code-a-versary to me!

About a year ago I wanted to go deeper into data sciencey stuff at work. After reading a ton of DIY curriculum guides, it seemed that there was no way around it: I was going to have to learn to code, probably in Python. I’d used SQL a bit in my previous job, but it was a bit of a bore, to be honest.

In the past year I’ve tried learning so many different ways. At first I used online tutorials and taught myself on the job. That was slow goings, with small victories few and far between. However things really came together this spring when I took a Python class at the local community college. Hmm… it’s funny how much you get done when there are deadlines!

After my class I was able to do a lot more on my own, especially at work. Recently I got interested in web development, so I signed up for an intensive front-end web dev course. The class was 6:30 – 9:30pm, from Monday to Friday. I felt like I had no life for an entire month. I woke up early to get some exercise in. Every night I came home exhausted around ten. I had a beer, watched some tv, and went straight to bed. What time I had off on the weekends I spent catching up on cooking, cleaning and more studying. It was hectic and stressful.

And yet… I learned so much. I don’t regret taking the course, even with the *ahem* high fee and time commitment. Or maybe that’s just me rationalizing the expense since it’s too late. :) Now that I’m back on my own and without a set study program, I’m trying to figure out my next steps.  I thought that after trying all these different methods, I’d have a better idea of what was working… but not really.

A little googling turned up the VARK questionnaire, which claims to help you identify how you learn best. It looks like I am a read/write and kinesthetic learner. The other options are aural and visual learner, btw. Read/write is apparently good for traditional schooling, with note-taking and lots of reading and handouts. Ah, that’s why I like regular classes. Kinesthetic = learning by doing, which I was pretty much doing with my work projects.

So, I have way too many options for continued learning:

  • Real Life
    • Continue learning on the job slowly, project by project
    • Go to meetups and informal coding lessons. I’m always so tired after work, and also I’m nervous about going to meetups without knowing anybody there. So, this one will be hard. But being around like-minded people is such an encouraging boost.
    • Books- I don’t really own any relevant books, but I haven’t checked out the SF public library yet.
  •  Online
    • TreeHouse is a nice tutorial site, kind of like Lynda.com. I lucked out a year or so ago and got a free lifetime membership ($25-50/month).
    • Working my way through this Udemy web dev course, which has 147.7K students. (OMG I need to make a Udemy course. That course is 200 bucks usually, but I got it for $10 with a coupon. Either way, this guy has gotta be a millionaire!)
    • Free Code Camp  One bonus of FCC- After you complete all of the lessons and projects, you get to work on portfolio-building projects for non-profits. Win-win!
    • Finish auditing the ever popular CS50x class.

It’s honestly really overwhelming, and why I seem to gravitate toward traditional classroom settings. Somebody just tell me what to do! For now, I’ll just be plodding along as usual… Whatever I do, time will pass. Might as well learn something, even if I’m unsure if I’m going about it the “right” way.



Shifting Goals – Being Flaky or Realistic?

The other day Ryan mentioned that it was high time that I take down my framed New Year’s Resolutions, which sit on my desk next to an unfinished Stitch Lego sculpture and too much fucking washi tape.

“Why would I do that?” I asked, bracing myself for what I knew was coming next.

“Well, you’re not applying to grad school, you are nowhere close to seeing your family 5 times this year,  maybe you’ll do a chin up… If I were you, that’s just really depressing. I wouldn’t want to look at that everyday and be reminded of my failures.”

Maybe I’m performing some intense mental gymnastics, or I’m just used to the nature of New Year’s resolutions, but I definitely don’t feel depressed that I am not on track to complete my goals.

In my mind, these specific benchmarks I created all have a greater motivation behind them, so it doesn’t matter if I don’t do exactly what I said I would, as long as I make progress in that area of my life.

For example, do a chin up – it would be cool to do a chin up, but what’s really important is for me to continue my strength training, which I’ve done. For applying to grad school, the deeper goal is to further my career and somehow bring more programming into my job. That is happening slowly. (Also I want to note that I have been frugal this year, and I was writing consistently in my journal up to a point, so hey, some things are working.)

So, yeah I’m not sad when I look at my list. This is shallow, but what I’m more worried about is what my friends think of my changes of heart. For example, several years ago I said that I wanted to be a marriage and family therapist. I told everyone. I looked into it, researched MFT programs and signed up to work with the Friendship Line (elderly suicide hotline). After putting about 6 months of work into that path, I scrapped it. The reality of a therapist’s hustle and the fun of dealing with health insurance red tape was not what I wanted for my life. While I had done my due diligence in investigating this career path, I still felt embarrassed when I had to tell others that I had changed my mind. Right now I’m doing a similar “pivot” and I worry about not appearing serious enough about my goals.

On a slightly related note, lately quite a few people in my life have had job changes (mostly voluntary) and so I’ve been a patient ear in too many soul searching “what should I do with my life?!!” conversations. I usually enjoy these chats because it’s fun to hear other people’s dreams.

This time around, I’ve found myself getting angry at any signs of flakiness and lack of follow-through in my friends. I know that this is partly me projecting my feelings of inadequacy about changing my own damn mind, but on the other hand, some of my friends are actually really flaky. They come up with grand ideas and never follow through, or give up quickly.

Or even worse, they are chronic complainers. It’s really draining to regularly listen to someone whine about their recurring problems, discuss solutions, and then have them shoot down whatever you suggest, or see them do absolutely nothing to improve their situation. Next time we meet up, we’re having the same conversation. Rinse, repeat. We’re too old for this shit!

I’m still trying to figure out how to act in order to be supportive, but also to protect myself emotionally. The best I can come up with is to listen, and try to avoid giving advice. When the conversation is over, I take a big breath and “let it go.” It’s a bit of structured detachment, and it’s hard. It goes against my natural tendencies to get overly involved in my friends’ lives. But I gotta let it go, in order focus on my own goals.

Anyone have tips for dealing with friends stuck in a rut, or acting consistently negative?

Looking for Balance

Obligatory “Hey I haven’t posted in forever, but here is a life update” disclaimer….

So, at the beginning of the year I was pretty nervous about balancing two college courses along with my full time job (and relationships and hobbies and family and SLEEP…). I meant to blog about the classes in order to make some sense of the madness, but I found that my perspective on the situation kept changing.

In January I was anxious about making it all work. About a month in, I found a rhythm, and thought I was handling things rather well. I found a way to start using the skills I picked up in class at my day job, and that really helped accelerate my learning. Also, it was incredibly satisfying to be encouraged and PAID to pursue my interests. My company is the best.

Well, I lied. My rhythm turned out to be studying all the time, which is total folly. When I got tired, I switched from Python to Linear Algebra (woo hoo!), then back again. My lack of balance was a perfect recipe for burnout. Eventually my body said NO FUCK THIS SHIT I’M OUT.

Luckily, this happened just before a planned vacation. Ryan and I went to Myanmar, but as much as I love Southeast Asia, it was stressful and exhausting (I was sick the entire time). I came back tired and humbled, but determined to plow through the rest of the semester. Since I had more flexibility with my online Linear Algebra class, I put it on the back burner and focused on Python. I decided not to kill myself, and skipped a couple of homework labs. And you know what? It was FINE. I got a B, and a recommendation for a teacher’s assistant job in the fall. 😀

So, now here we are about a month and a half after my Python class wrapped. I’m mostly excited by the projects I’m working on, but to be honest, when I’m not in the zone, I feel bummed out. My friends’ summer vacation photos taunt me. I could go on vacation, but I need to be saving money. Also, several people in my life have recently gotten big promotions, and while I am truly happy for them, I wonder to myself when my hard work will pay off. I’ve been at this for about a year, and the goal still feels so far away.

So, this whole balance thing… I’m still figuring it out. Here are a couple of tips that have saved me:

  • Health is a priority. Eat healthy, make time for daily exercise, sleep. Don’t drink too much. Whenever I skimped on any of these things, I felt it the next day. I’m old.
  • Outsource what you can. Despite living within walking distance to 6 grocery stores, I started buying groceries on Instacart again. Having one less thing to do gave me more time to relax, which was well worth the delivery fee.
  • Lean on your partner for support. That’s why they’re there, right?
  • Lower your standards.  Sometimes things just have to be “good enough.” Easier said than done, as I am a total control freak who can not let go.
  • Keep your hobbies. Or you will become a boring zombie.
  • Batch your chores during non-peak hours to save time and stress. I fell under the spell of Meal Prep Sundays, and did my laundry at weird hours.
  • Do not feel guilty and attempt to read all of your magazine subscriptions which have piled up on your nightstand and remind you that you have no life… START FRESH.
  • Schedule time with friends. Going into hermit mode was a mistake that I learned too late.
  • Find like-minded people. I barely had time for my friends, but being around classmates who were going through the same craziness has been invaluable for support and motivation.

Journaling has also helped me navigate my stress. I’ll try to post more frequently here, since I am paying for the web hosting after all :p. Let’s say once a week, optimistically.


New Year, New You

The blogosphere has been a bit overwhelming lately. I usually enjoy all the Year in Review and Resolutions posts. I like reading between the lines for drama (especially juicy breakups, so good), and reading resolutions is inspiring. But now everybody’s posting 12 part retrospectives with each and every month’s highlights and struggles? Phew, exhausting stuff. I mean, it’s already boring thinking about my past year. Plus these photo heavy posts take forever to load!

Even more annoying than the trend of month by month breakdowns is the hot new un-resolution trend of choosing a single word to manifest in the coming year. Common words I’ve seen: create, balance, gratitude, embrace, enough, beauty. BARF. The New York Times has gotten ahold of this trend, so it’s totally basic by now.

Anyways, here in my little 11 x 10 corner of the world, I’m sticking to my personal tried and true: setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. That’s right, going Six Sigma on my life. I learned about SMART at an old job, and while I didn’t meet my professional goals there (it was the type of place that talked about goals, but didn’t really honor them when it came to resources), SMART has been great for my personal life!

Specific / Measurable / Achievable / Relevant / Time Bound

I had a little trouble coming up with goals for the year, so I tried to remember what I did in 2014. It was a pretty good year. I feel like for the most part I handled most challenges like a rational and kind human being. While I didn’t expect much out of the year except a serious grind at work, looking back I accomplished quite a bit.


  • Mostly, it was a big year for fitness. For some reason my running got better in the beginning of the year. I honestly don’t know what I did differently. Riding that wave of success, I decided to do a half marathon (inconceivable!). I tried a few new types of exercise for fun (Insanity, Zumba, kettlebells), but due to the race training I ended up settling into a weekly routine of lifting/Pilates, running, and yoga. With the intense training schedule and a slightly cleaner diet, I dropped 15 pounds in about 7 months. So I lost the extra pounds I put on last year and then some.
  • I also tackled my general moodiness with a few new tools and found myself feeling much better by winter. No Seasonal Affective Disorder- huge win!

$$$ / Hustle

  • I made February a frugal month, which was a needed reset after the holidays. Overall for the year, I didn’t save that much, which was disappointing. Surprisingly, I still hit my net worth goal of 100k, pretty much all in retirement funds. 😀
  • I started an Etsy shop.While I haven’t made a ton of money from it, it’s been a really fun side project. I’ve even gotten some touching emails from customers. Can’t complain.
  • I got a promotion at work, which is good, but not a surprise.


  • This sounds silly, but I finally finished a class on Coursera. Two, in fact. For years I’ve been signing up and dropping out weeks later-my secret shame. For the record, the Wharton Intro to Marketing class is really interesting, and doesn’t require much of a time commitment.
  • I started learning R & Python this year. It makes my brain hurt a lot, but I’m glad I finally got serious about it.
  • Not learning my lesson the first time, in a fit of madness I began seriously contemplating grad school. I’ve found a few part time night and weekend programs that look promising (Berkeley?), but I’ve got a lot of work to do to apply, starting with prereqs.


  • 2013 ended with me kicking out a roommate, which was awkward but necessary. Two roommates later Ryan moved in. While it was a bit bumpy adjusting to the change, overall it has been positive. Despite having less privacy I think our relationship has gotten better. Also everybody in the house gets along, which makes it such a happier atmosphere. No more worrying about being attacked by a drunk roommate.
  • I visited Los Angeles 3 times in 2014, which is better than the year before but not great.
  • The floor in our bathroom rotted out and everything had to be gutted. I developed quite the daily relationship with the annoying handymen. I thought maybe I would learn to love them, but no. It was terrible.

2015 Goals- Building on 2014. Challenging, but doable.

  • See my family 4-5x this year. I’m really hoping to land one of those 1$ MegaBus tickets. One dollar!!!!
  • To fulfill my prereqs I’m taking two after work college classes this semester. I’d like to make it through without losing my shit (is that measurable?). Since I’m going to have to study during most of my non-work time, I need to learn to accept “good enough” and to let go of control by delegating tasks to others. This is actually really hard for me.
  • Be more frugal. Save up enough money for another year off. Safety money.
  • Journal daily. I’m using a 2015 daily planner as a journal. So far, so good. Surprisingly, the 2015 Moleskine daily planners are extremely popular -Amazon is sold out of most models. AMAZON.
  • Work on my lifting and get some super strong arms. Goal: chin ups.

So there you have it. I found this holiday card on sale at the art store, and filled it out with my goals. It’s staring at me every day. No excuses!


GChat Digest: 7

Friday! Yes! Finally! It’s been a strange week. I celebrated my birthday over the weekend in chilly Vancouver and then once I got back promptly got incredibly sick. I’m finally starting to feel normal again.

Let’s look at some links!

Tiny Burrito Hamster had a tiny Friendsgiving! Afterwards he watched tiny football and did a tiny 5k to burn it all off.

Portraits of gender reassignment. These are quite lovely.

How hillbilly reality tv got too real. I am very sad about the unraveling of Honey Boo Boo.

New episodes of Bee & Puppycat!

I fell down the rabbit hole reading these Monistat 1 reviews on Amazon. Moral of the story is don’t use that shit! An excerpt from one of my favorites:

The last 10 minutes of work my boyfriend showed up and I was hunched over a freezer in the back, breathing as though I was about to give birth to satan himself. I followed my boyfriend home with one hand on the wheel and the other pulling my shorts aside praying that the ac would somehow reach my poor little “who” and make her feel better. I waddle in the house and my boyfriend tried to touch my butt… I slapped his hand down and suddenly the devil leaped into my body and lashed out at him. The meanness rolled from my tongue, but I couldn’t be touched. Boyfriend simply couldn’t understand, when I finally came to, that my Netherlands felt as though a large colony of fire ants had decided to call it home and were celebrating by setting off fireworks and eating wasabi covered hotdogs while the red hot chili peppers gave a killer performance of “come on Baby Light my Fire.” I crawled in bed and whimpered for god to just take my life…

Interested in doing a No Pay MBA? Or just learning basic business skills? Here’s a good guide that includes online resources.

I don’t believe in astrology, but this Dating the Zodiac series is pretty fun.

21 women on the dumb things they spend their money on. Hint: food is expensive.

Also, New York women draw their own boobs.

There is an academic journal for Adventure Time research

Classic principles of economics, illustrated with Seinfield clips

The NY Times chats with Gillian Flynn and Cheryl Strayed.

I had a hard time getting into season 1 of American Horror Story (Murder House), but the latest season, Freak Show, seems just up my ally!

Here’s Seal Boy from Season 4 in his real life…. doing burlesque with his prosthetics.

Here’s the original Seal Boy, Sealo! I actually really like that entire site, Human Marvels. It’s informative, but doesn’t really feel manipulative.

Last freak show link, I swear: This essay makes me want to re-read Geek Love

Agency life

Also, if you are in advertising and love cards against humanity, an ad agency created their own cards…

To celebrate Black Friday, the actual creators of Cards Against Humanity sold poop. 😀

It’s the end of the year-best of lists are coming out like gangbusters. Here’s NYTime’s best books of 2014.

Top gifts for your fitness freak friends. Which at this point is pretty much all my friends. Crossfit dice, anyone?

Scallion pancakes are one of my favorite unhealthy Chinese foods. Now I can make my own at home, Yan Can Cook style.