Radical candor

This week, I started reading the book Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott. It’s been on my reading list since last year, and since we have a small but solid “library” at the office on books that help with professional development and our industry, it’s nice to be able to borrow a real hardcover book and take it home to read at my leisure.

The thing about these books is that even though they are categorized as professional development and targeted at white-collar working humans, the techniques they discuss are actually helpful in life. It’s helpful to give honest feedback, even when it’s not pleasant, because it helps people be cognizant of where they fall short. It’s helpful to develop a thicker skin so that you can withstand criticism and actually grow and learn from it. It’s helpful not to be stagnant in the way you think and develop. Those skills should not be workplace-specific; they should really be about everyone’s life if we’re all choosing to have a “growth mindset” and constantly learning and improving ourselves.

Workout apps

I’ve been getting bored at the gym the last month, especially since now I no longer have a fitness club membership and use the gym in our building. I don’t have classes or other people going faster than me on a treadmill to motivate me. So I decided to do a 30-day free trial of a fitness app that I kept getting targeted for on Instagram called Aaptiv. They have different instructors, different types of music, and various workout types, such as running outdoors, running on treadmill, elliptical, strength training for arms, legs, or whole body, etc. There are also different target session lengths depending on how much time you have. I’ve already done five workouts on it, ranging from interval running to upper body strength training, and for the last two days, my entire body feels sore. I’ve actually been waking up looking forward to it. I guess I must be doing something right. So far, this has been a good way to re-motivate myself into doing challenging activities to see changes in my body.

Sous vide cooking class

After neglecting the sous vide precision cooker we received as a wedding gift over a year and a half ago, Chris decided to get me a sous vide cooking class as a Christmas gift. Tonight, I attended the class after work, and while it was a lot of fun and yielded some very delicious food, I could not help but be annoyed by the other students in the class.

For the most part, the instructor was probably a bit too nice, as he struggled to speak over people a lot. There were always multiple conversations going in our group of 15. There seemed to be little respect for the chef instructor. He oftentimes got the same question multiple times, or even got questions to things he already explained just because people were not paying attention. Because there was not a cooking station for every student, not everyone was actively participating in the activities, whether it was the chopping, the searing, or the vacuum sealing. So as you can imagine, a lot of people didn’t really participate at all. What’s the point of taking a class if you’re not going to be fully engaged?

One person came as part of a client/team outing, and because a lot of what we prepared was meat (via the salad with chicken, the sous vide chicken breast, and the sous vide tri-tip steak), as a vegetarian she ate only two things that we prepared. She insisted that she came for the “learning” and the company. Everyone else at least ate everything.

Then, there was the woman who was a repeatedly self-proclaimed “germophobe” who insisted on breaking her own 65-degree egg onto her salad. Um, didn’t she realize that ALL the other food that was prepared that night was touched by multiple other hands in this kitchen, and before that, the vegetables and meats were cut/slaughtered/killed/deboned by other hands? She also had the worst chopping skills of anyone I’d ever seen at a cooking class who claimed to do a lot of cooking classes. Even after the chef demonstrated how to “use your full knife blade” and not go “up and down” on the knife, she did the exact thing he said not to do and said she didn’t care.

So in the end, the majority of the students annoyed me, didn’t pay any attention, and had to impose their neuroses on the rest of us. At least the food was good and I could get out of there as soon as I could to take an express train home to peace and tranquility.

Split pea soup

Split pea soup. It’s one of those soups that most people cringe when they think about it. They’re thinking of some green, thick, goopy mess, usually out of a can, heavily laden in sodium. It’s one of everyone’s seemingly least favorite Campbell’s soup tins.

The funny thing is that I actually love split pea soup and have fond memories of eating it growing up. We didn’t have very much canned soup growing up, though my brother and I did have a decent amount of canned vegetables and fruit (I still abhor canned peas, but I do love the sweetness and even the crunchy texture of canned corn to this day). But one thing that other people had in canned form that we occasionally had in fresh form was split pea soup. I’m not sure how my dad got into it. Maybe it was because it was an economical meal, but my dad would make us split pea soup. He’d soak the peas and simmer them in stock. He’d cut the carrots, onions, and potato and dump them into the pot. He’d also add a little chopped ham to further add protein to the soup (and… well, to get my brother interested in eating it).

So I guess I associate split pea soup with memories of eating soup as a child, eating with my brother, eating the food that my dad made. He didn’t cook a lot, but there were just a handful of things he would tinker with, and this was one of them. I don’t recall a lot of variation, but I do recall always enjoying it.

So, I made it today with my homemade chicken stock, an onion, and three cups of soaked split peas. I had no ham, carrots, or even potatoes. This was really poor man’s split pea soup. But I added some red pepper flakes, urfa pepper, and sumac along with the usual garlic, oregano, and thyme. And I enjoyed every bit of it.


Tonight, we went to see the show Admissions at the Lincoln Center, which is about a liberal white couple, one of whom is the head of admissions at a New England prep school, the other the school’s headmaster, and the contradictions in their beliefs about “diversity” and what liberal white America truly is. The conflict arises when their only son, who gets deferred for Early Decision by Yale, starts speaking about the supposed injustices he’s faced by not getting accepted and instead getting deferred, when his black classmate and fellow basketball player friend gets admitted. His parents call him out on his state of being spoiled and privileged and his racism, and he has a change of heart that ultimately results in massive conflicting feelings for both his parents about how much diversity they really want in life.

The play was extremely well done, and it also brought up a lot of questions I’ve had that I’ve never been able to answer. While their son is screaming and bemoaning not getting into Yale, he also calls out the contradictions of how Americans view people of “color”: why is it that people in Argentina or Chile who speak Spanish are considered “brown,” “Latino,” “Hispanic,” and thus people of color, but someone who speaks the exact same language, Spanish, in Spain, is not necessarily considered “brown” or “Hispanic,” but instead is categorized as “white”? Here’s the case in point that I actually thought about while in high school watching the horrible film Vanilla Sky, in which Penelope Cruz was a costar. Penelope Cruz is Spanish, from Madrid, Spain, yet she’s oftentimes given roles in which she portrays people from Latin America (hi, Frida Kahlo). Hollywood kind of views her as white… but not really given a lot of the roles that she’s played? So because of this, why do we not consider people from Chile or Argentina “white”? What the hell really is the difference?

What it ultimately brings up are the contradictions of how we perceive race and “color” in the world here in the U.S. We love to label and pigeon-hole everyone. Some people are considered more “white” than others, therefore more “acceptable.” Frankly, it’s easier for someone from Chile or Argentina, based on her face, to “blend in” as a white person in white America than someone like Chris or me ever could. The fact that we have to have these conversations is just so ridiculous and makes me feel unsettled about race in general and the supposed “progress” we have made.


When a homeless man starts yelling at you

I was on the train today, still thinking about my time this past Wednesday at the Bowery Mission. I’m not accustomed to getting yelled at by strangers, but this ended up happening while I was serving meals to the homeless and in-need people lining up at the Mission two days ago. All of the volunteers were lined up at the food station, manning specific dishes, utensils and cups to hand out. I was in charge of the pasta station and given strict instructions to give only two scoops of pasta to each person, regardless of whether they asked for more. The supervisor was watching closely in the beginning, whispering feedback to me about when I might have scooped too much, too little, and of course, what was just right. I had a feeling this was going to get messy at some point, but I just had to wait for it.

So it did happen. One guest passed on his portion of pasta; he didn’t even want it touching his plate. The guest after him asked him if he could take his portion, and he said yes. He asked me for a double portion, and I gently told him that he could only have one portion as that was what the rules were. He started yelling at me, telling me that the previous guest said he could have his portion, so why can’t I just do what I was told. Then, he proceeded to call me stupid, dumb, and awful until the supervisor got involved. “It’s okay,” the volunteer next to me said while smiling. “Don’t worry about it.”

I came back to the office after our volunteer service, and when the head of our office comes over to ask me how it was, I told him that I found it to be a great experience, a character-building one at that. He asked me to elaborate, so I told him this anecdote. He started laughing and said, “So, let me get this straight. You’re the awful person for spending five hours of your day doing free labor to serve meals for people you don’t even know who need food and likely won’t eat anything else that day? Sure. You must be terrible.”

I know it’s nothing personal. It certainly was a bit more drama than I originally anticipated. But I get where the guy is coming from. Like most of the people who were there to receive a free hot meal, this would likely be his only meal of the day, so he wanted to maximize what he could get. In theory, it did make sense to get the portion of the guy in front of him who passed, but I wasn’t really in a position to do that. When you have that little, you want to fight for every last bit that you can get, right?


Did I really just find out tonight that one of my colleagues is actually a Trump supporter?

I know I’m not supposed to be shocked because Trump supporters are all over this country, but really? Now, every single time I talk to her, I’m going to have this in the back of my mind: “you are one of the 53 percent of white women who helped elect this dipshit, this pussy grabber, this no-politics experience, this illiterate and racist asshole into the highest office of the land? You think you are smart? Really?”

I’m not trying to be a nice person here. I’m just being honest. She probably thinks I’m another docile Asian, another person of color adding diversity to this metropolis we know as New York City. I’m some liberal from San Francisco who doesn’t know any better. It’s okay. She is entitled to her potential opinion. Even if it’s wrong.

I just really cannot stand stupid people.

Bowery Mission

Today, I spent five hours of my work day at the Bowery Mission volunteering with four of my colleagues to help prepare and serve meals for the homeless and New Yorkers in need. As the Optimizely.org ambassador to our New York City office, I head up all our volunteer and charitable efforts. The Bowery Mission has been serving homeless and in need New Yorkers since 1879. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals every day of the year to those in need, without any show of ID or income. They provide emergency shelter, housing, showers, and food.

Shortly after we all arrived, we had a short orientation to learn about the organization before getting started. The director of the program actually started out as the people they serve do — as a homeless drug addict with no where to go, no future in sight. But years ago, he came to the Bowery Mission for a free hot meal, and suddenly after that, he was inspired to change his ways, get clean, and get back on his feet through the services they provide. He wants to serve and help these people every day because through this type of help, he himself reaped the benefits and is in a healthy and happy place now.

It’s inspiring to hear these stories of people whose lives seemingly crumbled, getting back to a normal and healthy life. We volunteer to help others, but to be totally honest, we also volunteer our time and energy because it makes us feel good about ourselves. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing as long as someone outside of yourself is benefiting. Doing good work like this benefits everyone. I wish there were more charitable, like-minded people in the world. So many people talk about doing good. Far fewer actually make it actionable.

Bad mouthing

Gossip is a thing in every office environment, in any environment where there are multiple people who repeatedly interact with each other. Bad mouthing is generally a part of gossip — everyone loves dirt on other people. Some of us are more discreet about it than others. But isn’t it especially toxic when the bad mouthing is done from people who are in leadership positions, speaking this way to people on their teams and cross teams about people who have departed the company?

There’s a colleague of mine who was let go back in the autumn and I was really sad when he left because I got along with him really well. Ever since then, I can’t seem to go a week without hearing his former manager bad mouth him, or people who directly report to the manager saying derogatory things about a guy who they haven’t even met because they started after this guy was let go. It puts such a poor taste in my mouth and is just not a good reflection of a manager, who is supposedly a people leader, nor is it a good reflection of any any current employee who speaks badly about someone she’s never even met. Doesn’t this just go back to basics of what we were taught in kindergarten: treat others as you’d like to be treated? Are we really living in such a world where we can’t do or even think about that anymore?


I have a lot of biases. I am wary when a white person gives his opinion of any Asian food. I won’t take a man’s opinion seriously about how he feels on women’s rights if he’s insistent that she change her last name after marriage and/or be the primary caretaker of children. If you have never lived anywhere outside of a 30-mile radius of your hometown, I’ll probably dismiss your opinions about other parts of the world or the world in general unless you make a really good case for it. But some of my strongest and most easily guessed biases are the ones around food: if you ever say you hate an entire continent’s food, I’ll never respect your food judgment (or maybe even your judgment on anything — who the hell says they will write off an entire continent’s food when that continent will likely have so much variety that this idiot making that comment probably has never even had half of their food?!). If you say you are gluten-free but do not (and very likely do not based on statistics) have a gluten allergy, I will think less of you. If you ever categorically say that an entire food is unhealthy and bad for you (e.g. bread, meat, fruit, and I’ve met people who’ve said all the above), I will not want to have any further voluntary conversations with you. At all. And if you tell me you can’t stand any Indian food, we’ll probably never share a meal, ever.

The reason I say this is because India… is a damn big country. Each region, much less each town or city, has its own dishes, its own way of spicing things. It’s the same reason I take offense when people say they dislike all Asian food, all European food — how much have you really eaten, anyway, to make such a massive statement like that? A Kerala curry is very different than a Punjabi curry; they are NOT the same thing. The base isn’t even the same. So why do people make stupid statements like this? Does it make them feel more comfortable being in their ignorant little shell of “this is what I like to eat and that’s it?” Has it ever occurred to them that a comment like this could be perceived as… racist?

Somehow, I remembered someone telling me she just couldn’t stand Indian food, especially having traveled to India multiple times for work — all while doing research for our India trip this summer. She said she just couldn’t take it even though she tried.

Yep. Never taking a food recommendation from this person ever again.