2015 / 2016

Happy new year! Here we go again…

Normally when I reflect on the past year, I have so many feelings. This new year’s eve I wasn’t feeling particularly reflective, wistful or nostalgic. I wasn’t feeling much of anything, to be honest. 2015 was a pretty good year, but I don’t mind its passing. Still, I can easily point to the bright spots.

Relationships

Despite being majorly stressed out and heads down in my studies nearly all year, it was a good year for my relationships. I made new friends from the programming classes I took, rekindled old friendships, and deepened my existing relationships. I am really thankful for growth in this area in 2015.

Health

I gave up on wanting to do a chinup, but through the magic of running and strength training, I actually got kinda buff/thin in 2015, getting down to high school weight, which was a bit of a shock. Emotionally I was doing well, and had found a bit of stability and happiness in the pursuit of a goal. The Wellbutrin didn’t hurt either, not gonna lie. Oh, and I also finally got my wisdom teeth out. It was my first surgery!

Work

In the spring I pushed even harder to incorporate coding into my job, and that opened a few doors for me. Eventually I walked out one of those doors and on to another adventure (okay that was cheesey but I had to). I saved up enough money to quit my job and enroll in a coding bootcamp. Where that goes, well we’ll see. I’m trying to stay optimistic.

Travel

In 2015 I visited Burma, Austin, Shanghai, Tokyo, New Orleans, along with a few short trips in the Bay Area.  Embarrassingly, I did not make my resolution of seeing my family 4-5x in 2015. I did not see them at all. But you know what, my family can come and visit me too! I’m choosing not to feel guilty about that.

2016

So, what do you do for resolutions when you aren’t feeling inspired, guilty or fat?

  • I want to finish my program and get a job. That’s not so much a resolution as a necessity. IT WILL HAPPEN. IT HAS TO HAPPEN.
  • In order to find a job, I’ll need to network with the programming community here and make new connections. That said, what’s really important to me is to maintain and grow my close relationships (friends, family, partner). I’ve been really out of touch and engrossed in my own world. I can do better.
  • 2015 was the year of me being too busy to put any effort into my style. I knew that I needed to step up my game when coworkers started noticing whenever I dressed the tiniest bit nicer. Wardrobe makeover!
  • While we’re talking style… I’m sick of my apartment and everything in it. I’m a grown-up. I want my house to look like Pinterest, damn it! I know that I shouldn’t be spending money, but I’ve set a modest budget to upgrade and redecorate. I’ve started by reading “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering an Organizing”, getting new bath mats, buying a rice cooker that plays “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and researching how to paint furniture. Those are all Pinterest trends, right?

Okay, that was really long. 2016, let’s do this!

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YOLO in NOLA

Last year in order to beat down existential dread, I got the bright idea of going on a birthday trip. Something to remind me how exciting life can be, and how being old is AWESOME. My birthday is around Thanksgiving, so the only cheap flights that I could find were to Canada. Anyways, I had a blast in Vancouver, so I thought that I ought to make this an annual thing.

This year I chose New Orleans, and bought the ticket oh… back in June? July? Ages ago. I was a bit out of sorts after returning from my Tokyo trip, but New Orleans was just what I needed. Great food, good music and friendly people. We stayed in a beautiful old house that a couple had converted into a home/AirBNB. From the moment I saw the ridiculous color scheme, I knew that we had to stay there.

Honestly, we were in and out with 2 full days in the city, and the entire time I was pretty much like :

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There was just so much that I was excited about (voodoo, jazz, food, cemeteries, chicory coffee, swamps, cocktails…). Basically I was on a mission to soak up as much liquor and history as possible. This is a long and picture heavy post, so… just warning you.

Continue reading YOLO in NOLA

Tokyo Part II

Recently two television shows that I watch ended their seasons with a major character deciding to move to Tokyo. In Girls, after months of professional rejection, Shoshanna finally landed a job, but there was a catch-  the position was in Tokyo. She ended a budding relationship and went for it.  In Master of None, the Aziz Ansari Netflix show, the main character’s girlfriend breaks up with him and moves to Tokyo, because it had always been her dream to live there. Tokyo!

So what is it about Tokyo? What does it represent? The future? The furthest thing possible from American culture?

I’m embarrassed to admit that when I was in middle school, I wished that I was Japanese*. I was super obsessed with manga of course, but to me many aspects of the culture seemed  preferable to my own.

  • Japanese food? Clean, expensive and suitable for a first date. Chinese food? Greasy take-out for when the thrill of the relationship is gone.
  • Japanese technology? Crazy cool tech. Chinese tech? Human rights / labor violations, bound to break, cheap.
  • Japanese language? OMG they have an alphabet! Chinese language? I’ll never truly master Mandarin at this point…
  • Japanese toilets? I have never felt a clean like this before! Chinese toilets? No freaking toilet paper for the hole in the floor!

And so on and so on…

I got back from my trip more than a week ago, but am still trying to process everything I experienced. Tokyo was overwhelming, but in a different way from any of the other Asian cities I’ve visited.

The city had a great energy, but at times I felt so out of the loop, lost and anonymous. Sometimes it was rather lonely. For example, in Thailand or Burma, I felt like I could have a meaningful interaction with locals encountered in day to day travel, and hopefully learn a bit about them (and the other way around). In Japan it was pretty obvious that that kind of a connection wasn’t going to happen casually.

The extreme automation (ramen vending machines for example) was delightful,  but it didn’t help this outsider feeling. It was tricky communicating when we got a chance to, so that added a little stress every time we had to find a meal. A couple of times there were no English menus or picture menus, so we had to concede defeat and try to find another restaurant.

It was rainy all week, so we spent our last couple of days at a slower pace. I managed to get a lot of my bootcamp work done, and check out a few cool things:

All the food was amazing (and so cheap!), but Japanese breakfast in particular was a delight. Congee is still better, tho :)

I took my first rush hour train in order to visit the Meguro Parasitological Museum. Now that I’ve seen rush hour firsthand, I understand how the groping situation happens. They really stuff people in there, if somebody groped you, you could not move away from their hands. You also probably wouldn’t be able to figure out who touched you! It was just that crowded.

Anyways, I had high hopes for the museum, but it ended up being a bust. It was TINY and all of the explanations were in Japanese :( . Still, I got to see the main attraction- the world’s longest tapeworm (29 feet), and a poor mouse who got taken over by a tumor. So cool. 


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Ryan and I visited a Japanese brewery, which was pretty much like every other brewery I’ve ever been to –  bustling, slick and delicious.

Coffee culture isn’t huge in Tokyo, but there were quite a few cute little coffee corners that offered artisanal joe. 

I also dropped by a couple of Ryan’s work events, so it was nice to finally get a real chance to chat with locals. Too bad these events were at the end of our trip!

Once I got to the Shanghai airport, I was greeted by these bad boys! Nom nom.

After a week of walking around in the rain, I unsurprisingly caught a nasty cold. So I didn’t mind when it was time to go home. As if to drill home the differences between Japan/China, the trip back was a trial.

Tokyo -> Shanghai was quiet and uneventful. On my flight from Shanghai to SF, I got shoved out of the aisle by an impatient passenger, and my very loud seatmate spent the ~12 hour flight invading my personal space. First she got cozy by taking off her socks, and putting up her feet on the armrests in front of her, making it look like she was squatting horizontally. Then she pulled out about 7 sandwiches from her ginormous bag and distributed them to her friends on the plane.

Another funny thing that I thought was totally Chinese: during turbulence and landing, the flight attendants asked people to please sit down and no, please don’t open the bins and get into your luggage… The passengers completely ignored the poor flight attendants, who eventually gave up yelling at them.

Did I mention that it’s good to be home?

*No, I don’t feel this way anymore, although it took me a long time to fully appreciate who I am and where my family came from.

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

Halloweenie

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.

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

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  • 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…).

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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.

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Jeans, brah, rly?

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Running.

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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?