16 years later

My friend is in town visiting for the weekend, and we were reminiscing on our college days when we took three different trips to New York City and all the funny things that had happened. One thing I completely forgot that happened our second trip: it was so cold and windy that my friend’s pores on her legs started bleeding during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. We had come for our second trip together just the two of us during Thanksgiving week 2005, and it was probably the coldest visit we’d had to New York. We had to get her to a bathroom to wash off the blood and some bandages from a local Duane Reade.

During our combined three trips, we visited probably every major museum together while quizzing each other about each others’ art history knowledge. We both took Advanced Placement Art History in high school, and in college, I took another semester of it. She is one of the few people I know who has actually taken a real art history class (even though she didn’t do so well in it, nor did she really retain the knowledge or love of it, but well…).

Our physical selves haven’t changed very much since our 2004 trip. We looked back on old photos that Chris put up on our Chromecast, and we more or less look exactly the same. I can still wear the same clothes that I had back then, too, if I really wanted to. Our minds have certainly gotten older, though.

Paranoia at its finest

I haven’t called home since the day after I came back from San Francisco. I sent my mom flowers to acknowledge her “birthday” a couple days after her birthday two weeks ago, though. She expects a gift around the time of her birthday, but not on the day of her birthday because that would be going against Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs about no celebration of birthdays or holidays (it seems like a total crock because she wants what she is not supposed to have according to her chosen religion, but hey, that’s what she wants). Part of the reason I haven’t called home was due to work stress and drama. The other part was because I just needed to decompress from all the pointless arguments that happened where my mom, as per usual, insists people (including me, of course) have wronged her endlessly and that she’s 100 percent innocent and has never done a single thing wrong.

I called today after work, which was probably a mistake. I regretted it as soon as I heard her cold, testy voice. She immediately started saying that because of something someone else caused (me) where she did nothing wrong, she’s now being “persecuted.” I had no idea what she was dramatizing, but whatever it was, it was clear she had her finger pointed at me as the one to blame.

Apparently shortly after I left, my aunt, who lives upstairs, hosted a large gathering of JW friends, and while hosting all these guests, she never bothered inviting my parents. My mom was livid and ran through all the reasons that my aunt wouldn’t invite her. “But I put two and two together, and I know what happened,” she said. “You told your cousin bad things about me, and he told your aunt, and that’s why your aunt is mad at me and doesn’t want to invite me!”

A previous version of myself would be angry to the point of yelling. I’d raise my voice, tell her that it was all a paranoid, made up story she decided to fabricate in her head and run with. I’d get soft feet, feel my throat drop into my stomach, and feel small. I’d stand there, scared of her response. The current version of myself merely stated that I never spoke with my aunt; I did no such thing. She can believe whatever made up stories she wanted to believe, but (and I love doing this) “God knows I did nothing wrong, so you can believe what you want to believe and make up whatever you want.”

The paranoia was obvious. She started raising her voice, saying she never “directly” accused me. I’m not stupid, I said plainly, and I wasn’t born yesterday. She’s blaming me, and it’s not true. She then moaned on and on about what a good child my aunt’s eldest son is, how “he tells his mother everything and obeys her from her head to her toe. He would even tell her when he has sex with his wife (yep, this is a real quote) — that’s how much he cares about his mother!” This is her way of comparing, saying I do not obey, I am not enough of a daughter, that I am a terrible child who is “against her parents.”

If I wanted to get a really nasty reaction out of her, I could have responded, “Yeah, I really love that you keep comparing me to my aunt’s oldest son. Constantly comparing — it’s so nice of you! I mean, that’s what you used to do to Ed — constantly compare him to ‘the kids’ upstairs.’ You and dad used to repeatedly call him ‘useless,’ ‘brainless,’ ‘stupid,’ ‘idiot,’ ‘moron,’ ‘dumb.’ And where is Ed now? Hmmmm….”

But I refrained and I held it in. Because I recognize that will get me nowhere. It will get us nowhere. Ed and I had an emotionally and verbally abusive upbringing, and it ended up being a huge contributor of his ultimate downfall. That “upbringing” isn’t over for me because I still have to endure all the nastiness of my parents to this day. But there’s line you have to draw to be an independent, healthy adult, where you acknowledge that you cannot “blame” your parents for everything bad in your life, that you have take ownership of your own life.

And that’s what I am trying to do. I’m drawing an invisible line to separate myself from my parents, to prevent their constant criticisms and fabricated stories from getting the best of me and my psyche. I refuse to endure the constant abuse, to try to continue rationalizing the made-up stories she keeps creating in her head. The world is not “out to get her” the way she thinks. The world… just is what it is. It’s not the warmest, friendliest place, but it’s also not full of evil at every corner, either.

Coronavirus making its way to the U.S.

The COVID-19, or Coronavirus, has slowly made its way to the U.S. We now have reported cases in California and Washington states, and it’s only a matter of time before it gets everywhere. With that, panic is everywhere: companies are issuing travel bans for International travel and severely limiting domestic travel; people are wiping out entire shelves of face masks, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and hand sanitizer; Non-perishable foods are slowly being sold out everywhere. Panic instead of prevention seems to be the theme right now.

The only real “change” I may have made is using hand sanitizer a little more often. I already wash my hands all the time. I’ve been buying food the way I normally do. I’m not sure what else any individual can do to help the situation other than try to remain calm and collected, and do what is practical.

When the CEO comes to town

Our CEO is in town here in New York this week, which means that all of NYC leadership is going to dinner with him. A colleague commented to me that the entire dinner will be white men, with the exception of one Indian-American man. I shrugged and said I wasn’t surprised, but that’s our company. What are we going to do about it? This is not really a real conversation that is going to go anywhere. I do not know why we are even bringing up such a moot point.

I’ve realized that voicing concerns like this really do not make any difference and prompt no change. When it’s convenient, someone from HR will say something callous like, “it’s diverse on our leadership team: our CMO is Japanese.” Or, “there are two (white) women on this team’s mangers/directors list.” They think they are helping; they are not and only making things worse. They are tokening the entire diversity situation. The most we can do is fight for ourselves and our paycheck, get whatever we can out of the company (which usually means.. trying to outperform as much as possible so that you are not only maximizing your paycheck but also adding a lot of business value for the customer and ultimately the company), and tune out all the politics and the genuine care. We cannot really survive in the business world if we are constantly caring about things that are fully out of our individual control.

Computer by day, computer by night

I’m getting into a good groove with video editing for the YouTube channel. It’s been fun to look for music that suits a video theme, and it’s been entertaining for me to use creative juices to edit and cut video for my final versions of my vlogs. The travel ones always require more time, thought, and work, but the process has actually been very enjoyable despite how time consuming it is. Even though I am at a computer most of the day at work, working on this at night is actually something I’ve looked forward to this week. It’s my creative outlet away from the humdrum of work, which has zero creativity.

If I could edit video all day long and get paid for it… that would be really fun. But, I don’t think I’m quite that good just yet.

Radish cake followers

After posting about my Chinese radish cake making on Instagram, a number of people responded and said they were inspired to make their own after watching my videos. Another said she’d tried making a few different versions based on different recipes, but they never came out quite like she wanted. Some were too dense; some totally lacked flavor. I wonder if she actually spent the money on the right ingredients, as the fillings for these cakes are not cheap, hence why so many places skimp out on the fillings. A small handful of Chinese dried scallops or shrimp can easy be $5-10 alone. A former colleague messaged and said he and his wife had just went out to buy all the ingredients to make this same cake, but he had a hunch that mine would turn out better than theirs.

I realized that because there are so many different versions of all these recipes that sometimes you just have to combine multiple and tweak them until you get the result you want. I probably used four different recipes to get to the version I made, and I’m really happy with it on the first go. Next time, I might sub in Chinese bacon instead of the Chinese sausage since the bacon takes more prep work and time, but I’m lucky it was the perfect taste and texture the first time around.

Chinese radish (turnip) cake

After years and years of making wu tou gao, or Chinese taro cake, I decided this year to branch out and also try making the equivalent version with radish this time. At dim sum and at dim sum takeout spots, this cake is always just a bunch of rice flour filler, pan fried with pretty much no filling. I will eat it if my mom gets it, but it’s usually just for the sake of eating rather than because it’s any good. It never is outside. But when I made it today, I was surprised by exactly how simple it was to prepare; it’s exactly the same as with the taro cake, except there’s no fuss around peeling an unruly and hairy taro. It actually felt much simpler to make.

And when we actually pan fried it, it was light and airy, almost custardy. The texture was so much lighter than the taro (understandably so), and it didn’t feel as heavy and dense as the taro. The outside edges were perfectly crisp, especially since I used my stainless steel All-Clad pan to pan fry them evenly to a golden brown on both sides. Chris actually admitted he liked this one more than the taro cake, even though he complained when I told him I was going to make the radish cake. He liked it more than the taro cake! I was shocked.


I went on a cleaning spree today through the apartment, vacuuming, dusting, and mopping. Mopping does not happen frequently in the apartment. I don’t particularly like the act of it, and I hate constantly having to ring out the soap and water, even if we have a more modern “mop” and it doesn’t have all those nasty stringy things on it. But I suppose I am addicted to that feeling afterwards of a super clean hardwood floor, the lack of sound I hear when I walk across the floor with my flip flops, and even better when my barefoot touch the floor and I feel not a hint of dust or stickiness. It’s ridiculous to think how quick the kitchen floor gets; all it takes is a few crumbs of spinach of flour, some smudges of water, and then feet to walk across it to get the whole place dirty. It’s no wonder my mom always had a rag on the floor to wipe things up when I was growing up. I might need to start doing something like that when I am cooking.

This is one of those situations where you thought you wouldn’t be like your mom, but in the end, you end up being exactly like her…

Grass isn’t always greener

A former colleague and I met for smoothies this afternoon to catch up. He left our company last summer after being angry about a lot of the processes and politics he faced internally. The company he went to was a public company but had no New York office, so he was 100 percent remote in his role. Initially, he found it great: he could work from home full time, make a proper breakfast every morning, schedule everything around his gym sessions. But gradually, he got lonely and felt miserable. He felt like all he did was stay at home for work and after work. There was no separation of time. It would be 8pm suddenly, and he realized he was still working and hadn’t eaten any dinner. The work itself plus the remote nature of his role got to him, so he ended up resigning this week.

The grass isn’t always greener when you leave. I thought about this when I was leaving him and going back to my office today. He decided he wanted to leave this type of role completely and is trying something new. But he says he still has no regrets about leaving our company — he couldn’t take the politics anymore.

But realistically, when do you ever fully leave politics? You can leave a company and its individual issues, but then you’ll move on to the next one, and it will have its own set of issues and back talking. It just keeps going.

Coming to Queens

A good friend from college is coming to town the last weekend of this month, and when I asked her what she wanted to do, she said, “eat!” She has a list of things she wants to try: Peruvian chicken, Levain Bakery chocolate chip cookies, Xiao long bao/soup dumplings, Indian food, and Thai or Malaysian food. When I asked her what she wanted to actually do outside of meals, she said she wasn’t sure and would have to get back to me. Food is the priority when she’s visited New York a number of times (and some of those times were with me when we were in college together!).

New York City is one of those places where you can finish doing all the “touristy” things such as the Empire State Building, Central Park, Times Square, but still never get enough of it because of the massive diversity of cuisines here. I suggested that because she wanted a lot of different Asian foods that I take her to Queens; outside of JFK airport, she’s never really seen Queens. It’s a very under loved and under appreciated borough, so we have that on our plan for Saturday of her weekend with us.