Endless snow fall

In light of my cancelled work trip, I spent the day working at home, shifting between my dining table and the couch, under my blanket and outside of it. The snow was steadily falling from very early this morning until now. We’re currently almost at 9am and the snow really has not stopped for even a little bit.

I looked down at the ground and saw the white sticking everywhere, and it just made me feel so miserable. I want milk for my tea and Weetbix, but I have zero desire to deal with the sludge and mess that is outside. I do not understand how anyone can get excited by this.

“Snow is awesome,” my colleague said when I told him that I hate snow days. “Yes, snow is awesome,” I responded back. “It’s awesome when I am inside, in my warm apartment, under a blanket drinking a hot drink, watching the snow fall on the OUTSIDE.”

And outside of Manhattan, if I lived in a real house, I cannot even begin to fathom how awful it would be to shovel snow, deal with snow tires and chains, and ice everywhere. That sounds like the most miserable first world life possible. These are the moments when I wished I lived in Southern California and was completely ignorant of this cold misery.

Yet another Nor’easter

Just when I had a trip to Boston planned for the next three days, Mother Nature decides that my plans are completely irrelevant, and all flights and trains get cancelled… which led to my calling the airlines and the hotel to get my refunds. What joy. And as I am writing this, I have one colleague who is stuck overnight in Toronto due to a cancelled flight (and will not be home until tomorrow night, earliest, and that’s being optimistic), a second colleague who was scheduled to come home from Chicago tonight and his direct flight got cancelled, forcing him to take a connecting flight through D.C. into Newark late tonight. Then, a third colleague is taking a flight to Albany and renting a car to drive him 2.5 hours away. That’s how desperate he was to get home. And, he didn’t have a change of clothes, which probably made him want to go home even more.

This is always something that seems comical and absurd to people who have never lived in snowy areas. Whenever we share this information about meeting cancellations, trip interruptions, and flights getting diverted due to weather, my California colleagues always laugh and think it’s so funny and insane. Yes, it’s funny… when you don’t have to deal with it and have no concept of it ever happening to you.

The downfall of my hometown

As one of my colleagues has recently said, San Francisco is having an identity crisis. It wants to be this progressive, hippie place where all are welcome, but we all know that given the cost of living there and now that rent has sky rocketed to level far beyond what Manhattan, it is not welcome to all. And to make matters worse, my dad is reading all kinds of articles that are illuminating on exactly how bad it’s gotten: the level of home and car thefts which have exponentially gone up in recent years, the homeless tents that are set up throughout the entire city, sparing not a single neighborhood, and the worst part? People are actually using their web development skills to build mobile apps now that track where human feces are across the city so that you can either avoid taking a leisurely walk with your dog in that particular area, or remove that from your running path.

When there is an app that tracks where homeless people are literally shitting on your streets, that is truly when you know that your city is going down, down, and down.


As long as I have been cooking, saffron was always known to me as the most coveted and most valuable (money wise) spice in the world. It’s often been said that saffron is more expensive than gold by weight. Given that at Costco, the equivalent of about one tablespoon of Spanish saffron costs $10, I can only imagine how much it would cost at regular market price.

My friend recently came back from Spain and bought me a small bottle of saffron, and I’d been waiting for the “right” use for it until today, when I decided to make Persian herbed rice. I crushed the little strands into a powder and steeped the little precious bits in hot water to draw out all the aromas. And then I inhaled it. Well, it certainly smelled real.

It was absolutely nothing like the fake saffron I bought when I was in Budapest over three years ago. I got so excited when I was at a market there and found a bag of saffron for the equivalent of a few dollars, and stupidly I bought it and thought I’d gotten the best deal ever! When I got home, I prepared a finishing sauce for chicken with the “saffron” and ended up throwing all the sauce out. That “saffron” was the most bitter “herb” I’d ever added to anything I’d ever cooked. I really got what I paid for.

Never again. I’m going to relish these last few strands of saffron I have left.


My friend, in honor of his 40th birthday, rented out a small theater in the Lincoln Center this evening to showcase all of the films he’s produced. Film production is a side project of his, and to date, he’s produced about six different films. Some are as short as nine minutes long, but the latest one that he’s produced is his longest, and I would say his best. It’s a documentary called Refugee, which is about the Syrian refugee crisis across Europe. It follows a Syrian family as they get separated repeatedly during their process to gain legal status in Germany, and it also showcases the conditions of the refugee camps across multiple European borders.

It was a tragic and eye-opening documentary; I’ve read a lot about the crisis, but the visuals are obviously impactful. It’s hard to imagine someone watching this and not being moved by it. While I was watching it, I wondered for all the people who are not for opening their borders and for all the people who are anti welcoming Syrian refugees into their countries… if they watched this and actually saw the disgusting state of the refugee camps and heard the horrific stories of the people who have gone through them and still sit every day waiting for news, if they would change their mind, if just a little. The lives of these people are literally on hold: they cannot work, the children cannot go to school and learn. They’re just waiting for a new life that they may not even get. And most of them just want to die because of how awful their conditions are. I can imagine that many of them will grow up to be resentful of the harsh conditions they had to endure, and of all the people around the western world who didn’t want to give them kindness when they truly needed it most. It is heartbreaking, and for me, it just feels embarrassing as an American citizen.

Puppy in the office

My colleague recently adopted a puppy from a shelter, and as he’s been pretty well behaved, the puppy has come to the office twice now. Today was his second visit, and unfortunately for us, he had a “bad boy” moment and peed on the carpet… about two inches away from another colleague’s luggage. He got a bit of a punishment after that. No one like urine on the office floor, especially on a rug.

That reminded me of the time when I was at a previous company, and there was an extremely strict no-pets rule in the office. I had learned that they previously tried to have a “bring your dog to work day,” but it resulted in one dog taking a big dump right in the center of a conference room, and no one knew about it until the end of the day when housekeeping came in and found the big lump under the table. Needless to say, dogs were banned from there on out. The question in my head was…. how did no one ever notice the dog poop — was that conference room not in use for the entire day?

Irish soda bread

In an early acknowledgement of St. Patrick’s Day, our office manager organized a bunch of traditional St. Patty’s Day treats today, such as Irish soda bread, complete with Kerrygold Irish butter, Guinness Stout and another Irish beer, among other Irish treats for later in the afternoon. Given that our office is usually quite sparse on Fridays, she decided to have the treats on a Thursday.

When the Irish soda bread was put out, a number of people walked by my desk to ask if I had made it. It’s funny because I’ve always thought about making Irish soda bread, and then when St. Patrick’s Day comes around, I always lose my interest and forget about it. It’s not a hard bread to make at all; it’s leavened completely from the interaction of baking soda with the acidity of buttermilk, hence its name. But it’s odd because it bakes up and even tastes like a yeast bread. Everyone thinks it’s some complex and laborious thing to make, but it really isn’t at all.

I’ve only baked for the office a few times since I’ve been here, yet I’ve already developed a reputation for being the office baker. It still feels nice to be remembered and thought of.

Paid time off

The first job I took out of college provided 15 “paid time off days,” 5 “sick” days, and two floating holidays. In total, that was 22 days of paid time off, in addition to weekends (obviously) and I believe 11 national holidays. The second job, for your first two years of employment, provided 18 paid time off days, unlimited sick days (with the rationale that, how can you really control how many days you are sick in a year?), plus national holidays. That was just for the first two years. Once you reached your three-year anniversary, which I did, you get 23 paid time of days, so an additional five, plus all the other days I mentioned. AND, if that wasn’t enough, the second year I was there, they gave all the days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day off; that’s an additional four days. And THAT doesn’t even include the four “summer days” we got to take between Memorial Day and Labor Day. What does that add up to? That’s 31 days off in a year, in addition to national holidays!! (And, if we really had to get detailed on this… when I left this company, they paid me out three unused paid-time-off days. So, I never even used all my paid time off).

The third and the fourth jobs, the fourth of which I am on now, provide “unlimited paid time off.” We all know it’s not truly unlimited, and that if I decided to take a whole month or two off, I’d probably get fired, but no one really says that to you. The rationale is: take what you need. Be responsible. We are all adults who should be trusted to manage our own schedules, and thus that means managing personal time with work responsibilities. I’d say that on average at my last two jobs, I probably took off somewhere between 22-25 official work days off per year. Because I’ve had the good fortune and privilege of working at these organizations, I’ve never really thought I took off a lot of time. What would I be comparing it to? I’m comparing it to what I’ve had in the last ten years.

So, you can imagine how disgusted I was when I was having a chat with a colleague yesterday, and she said that for her entire working life, which by now spans over 20 years, she’s barely taken five days off per year. For over 20 years, she’s never taken a work-week of five days off? She’s never taken an international trip of longer than a handful of days? Has she even traveled? Does she spend quality time with her young children and husband, or her aging parents? Does she have friends who do anything enjoyable with their lives outside of work?

“I’ve just never wanted to,” she said, shrugging. “I never felt a need.” She’s the kind of person who does work as soon as she wakes up, and as soon as her kids are put to sleep at night, she works until 11 or midnight.

This is the American mentality, that work needs to be your life, that you live to work. I do not live to work. I work to live. And I do not hide that from anyone, including my employer. What is the reason to be like this, anyway? You think you will get a pension? Pensions are nonexistent at companies like mine; the word doesn’t even exist. You think loyalty will get you somewhere or provide you with some sense of job security? Almost all employment contracts are for “at-will” employment, which means that you have the right to leave whenever you want for whatever reason. At the same time, your employer also has the right to fire you whenever they want to, without any cause. So you can work all you want, take only 3-4 days off per year, slave away for a company that will fire you quicker than I can blink my eyes. To me, there’s zero reason to be loyal at a company in the United States. Loyalty gets you absolutely nothing. And employers like it that way. They don’t want to owe you anything. Or, maybe you think you will get more respect for not taking time off, or people will think you are harder working. Yes, that may be true. But it’s also true that people like me will think you have no defined joy or hobbies outside of work, and that you simply live to allow your job to define you.

What I really wanted to ask my colleague is: if you died tomorrow, would you be completely satisfied that you spent the last 20+ years of your life slaving away for corporations instead of spending quality time with your loved ones, or even traveling to learn more about the world, or pursuing some special hobby of yours? This is when you had a choice; it’s not like you didn’t have the choice.

I have moments where I feel very loyal to where I work. Then, they tend to diminish quite quickly when I realize that all I am is a number, another worker cranking out work for some employer who isn’t really going to care or protect me. Part of this is shaped by the fact that I was fired (well, laid off) from my first job during a big downsizing in light of the financial crisis of 2008-2009. I was easily hired, then easily fired. The other part of it is that my dad has always said to me that employers won’t do anything for their employees, and that if you want the life you want to live, you have to work for yourself. “Why should I have to answer to someone else?” my dad scoffed when he opted for early retirement to run his own business. “I’m busting my ass off for some white guy to get rich. You’ll never have the life you want working for the white man, or for any man!” He’s said this to me in varying words over the years.

Unfortunately, I am not as skilled as my dad. I still haven’t found anything that can allow me to be financially independent yet. It does not appear that in today’s day and age that people highly value handmade cards, scrapbooks, or even a homemade meal on their table to the point that they would pay me exactly what I am getting at my day job.

There’s such a thing as working hard and playing hard. It’s unfortunate that this is not quite part of the American capitalistic work mentality.

Ambassadors meeting

Today, we had our annual kickoff for Optimizely.org ambassadors. This group, as a side project on top of our regular day-to-day work, is responsible for executing on the 1:1:1 idea, which is that, aligning with Salesforce’s goal of donating one percent of time, one percent of equity, and one percent of product, we will also do the same (is it any surprise that so many Optimizely employees came from Salesforce?). So I head up all volunteer and charity efforts in our New York City office. This will be my second year participating and being a leader as part of this effort.

We had our meeting today to introduce each other, since a lot of members are either new to Optimizely or new to the ambassadors group. One of the new members who is based in London is originally from Texas, hence his American accent. We had a round robin, and everyone had to say why they wanted to become an ambassador. This member said that having lived in the U.S. for most of his life and then moving to London, he finally realized all the things that the United Kingdom provides its citizens that the U.S. fails to in terms of general benefits, safety net, etc. He said he’d never really thought about it much until he moved to London and saw how much better taken care of its citizens were than where he grew up in Texas. But that general awareness, that knowledge that American society really doesn’t care about its citizens outside of lip service, made him want to actually get involved in charity work in London because he had never really done much of it while in the States. It’s almost as though he wanted to make up for the time he never gave while in the U.S.

I sat there during our Zoom video conference and just felt so frustrated. It had nothing to do with him; he’s doing great things getting involved. My annoyance stems from my general dissatisfaction of this country that I call home and its lack of safety net and assistance it gives to its citizens. When did a crappy $450/week unemployment check merit the equivalency of “living it up” according to right-wing conservatives who have zero desire to provide for anyone other than their grandchildren’s trust funds? Why are we so obsessed with capitalism and the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer? Why don’t we have universal healthcare, and why the hell should it be tied to having a job that provides it for you? That makes zero rational sense to me and never has. And if you have that experience of living abroad, of seeing that other nations will take better care of you because they view your life as important as a human being, why on earth would you ever want to come back to this place?

For my colleague who I mentioned here, it sounds like he never wants to come back. And I don’t blame him.

Office idiosyncrasies

There are so many office acronyms and strange sayings. I’ve especially learned a good number of them while working here. There also is a supposed respect for people’s calendars. It seems to be a thing for people to just throw calendar invites onto your calendar, so these are some of the calendar blocks I have seen while working here:

Wednesday, 8-11: FU — it means “follow-up,” not the “F U” you were thinking of.

Monday, 3-5: GSD – “get shit done” aka do not schedule time here.

Thursday, 4-6 – Commute home. Yes, that’s commute time. Don’t add anything here.

Friday, 3-5: DNS – short for “do not schedule.”

Thursday, 9-11: Think time. Do not schedule over “think time.” All great leaders need this. 

Tuesday, 12-3 – schedule meetings. So, this one is ambiguous, right? Why does it say “schedule meetings” when if I schedule a meeting at that time, you get annoyed and tell me that the time was blocked off. It literally says “schedule meetings”!

Monday, 9-6pm – OOO – out of office. Why didn’t you just set an ‘all-day’ event instead of cluttering your calendar and then mine by sharing this invite with me?!