The sad story of the shared chicken drumstick

While I was away on my work trip last week, Chris decided to defrost some of the chicken drumsticks in our freezer and make a Malaysian-style curry. There weren’t a lot of drumsticks, so he decided to ration them out to make them last at least five days. So when I came back with Kaia after picking her up from daycare, he had prepared our dinner bowls, but only his bowl had a drumstick in it, and mine did not. Kaia had a drumstick with some chicken pieces torn off it on her dinner plate.

“How come there’s only one drum stick you warmed up?” I asked him.

“Well, I want to make the chicken last because there weren’t that many drumsticks and we don’t have that much (cooked) food left, so we can share one,” he responded.

I always thought that wherever we lived was always “food rich.” It doesn’t matter what point of time you are referring to: we usually have a freezer brimming with frozen meat, seafood, and vegetables, amongst other ingredients I use for cooking, whether it’s frozen cubes of stock, tomato onion masala, curry leaves, frozen shredded coconut or purple yam. I have from-scratch made sauces and pickled things in our fridge, plus plenty of fresh produce in the vegetable and fruit drawers. Some food in the freezer is ready to eat once you pop it into the oven for 25 minutes, while others (like my zongzi and banh chung from Chinatown) are ready after you steam them for 15-20 minutes. Our pantry is stocked well with plenty of dried noodles, pasta, mushrooms, and canned goods. But this chicken drumstick incident honestly seemed completely ridiculous and made me feel like we were extremely food poor. Where the hell had our life gone awry where two grown-ass adults living in a luxury apartment building in the middle of Manhattan were sharing a SINGLE chicken drumstick for dinner…?

I gave Chris some grief about this and shared my sentiments above. He proceeded to not get another drumstick. Instead, he simply took one small bite of the drumstick, then put it in my bowl. No, that did NOT make a difference with my sentiments.

This is what happens when I am not here to cook regularly. We end up with faux food rationing, and I cannot handle it. It’s a good thing I am back to take care of the food preparation in this house.

New work laptop excitement

At my company, I’m allowed to request a new computer every three years. Given that I have already been at my company for 3.5 years, I decided to put in the request and specify that I no longer wanted a Macbook Air, but rather a Macbook Pro. Although the Air is great because it’s extremely lightweight and easy to carry around, I actually hated using it. Once I had anything more than Chrome, Safari, and Slack running at the same time, the entire machine would run really slowly. If I had Excel running at the same time, the fan would go on overdrive. And don’t even get me started when I had to start using Microsoft Teams more frequently this past year due to customers who can only use Teams for video calls. It was like my computer was about to croak one last time before exploding on me.

So I had the new laptop shipped to me last week, and I spent some time today adding all my necessary applications and files on, as well as configuring it exactly as I’d like. I LOVE this computer. I cannot even believe how much I like it. I don’t really keep track of the latest updates to Apple products and other technology the way a lot of people in my industry do because I can’t really be bothered, but the updates to this computer are incredible. Yes, it’s a bit heavier than the Air, but it doesn’t get mad at me when I have Microsoft Teams running; no fan is screaming at me. And the best part about this new version of the Macbook is that it has a touch button so that I don’t constantly have to type in all my passwords all the time. This is amazing!

On the downside, as soon as I came back from Denver and tried to use my 3+ year old wireless head set, it decided to die on me. So now I need to find a new head set that I don’t hate to go with this new Macbook Pro!

Blessed is she who gets to meet interesting, good-hearted people everywhere

I’ve been in a customer-facing role for the vast majority of my career. It has certainly had its challenges and frustrations, but I would say that overall, the role suits me since I do enjoy (most) people, and I love hearing people’s personal stories. The more you work with people, whether they are internal or external / customers, the more they are willing to open up to you about their own personal stories and what actually makes them unique. I think everyone has interesting stories to share if they are given the opportunity to share them. But you’ll never get to this point unless you build a relationship and ask. Once the relationship is built, you have permission to ask and actually get a thoughtful, real response.

Today, I met a customer I’ve been working with for the last 3.5 years for the very first time in person. He happened to be in town for a quick 36-hour trip and suggested we have lunch together, so I picked a fun lunch spot near his hotel in Times Square. I originally blocked two hours for lunch, knowing he’s a talker, but the lunch actually went over three hours long until I told him I had another meeting to run home to. He’s an interesting guy who clearly loves the people in his life. Last year, he had shared that his best friend, who lives in California, was having a medical procedure done and would need help around the house and with her teenage child. So he drove his car all the way from Virginia to be with her for a couple months and help out. I’d never heard of someone being so selfless.

This time, he shared the story of his three (now grown) children. The first was adopted. He and his then-wife struggled for five years to conceive despite all their fertility tests coming out normal. So they proceeded to adopt, and shortly after adopting, became pregnant (it seems like once you stop trying, getting pregnant seems to suddenly work in so many cases!). They ended up having one adopted child and two biological children. The first two, he almost fully paid for their college tuitions since they qualified for no financial aid. The third got a full ride at her first choice college, and so because he “saved” money by not paying for four years of her undergraduate tuition, he said he would buy her a brand new car, which he did. I was really touched when I heard this story; he wanted to treat all his kids equally, but in the end, because he didn’t have to pay for the third child’s schooling, he decided to “make it up” to her with new wheels.

“I love all my kids equally,” he insisted to me. I believe what he says. “I just want them to know that I love them, and I want them to enjoy life and get the opportunities I never had. And if I can afford it, then why the hell not buy a damn car for her?”

I always hear stories like this and am amazed by people’s hearts and generosity. And well, frankly, I know that if I had been lucky enough to get a full scholarship anywhere, my parents would NEVER have bought me a brand new car!

Bjorn’s Colorado Honey at the Denver airport

When I arrived at the Denver airport on Tuesday, I waited for my colleague to use the restroom before we got into an Uber. As I waited, I noticed a little stand called Bjorn’s Colorado Honey with all kinds of cute glass bottles of honey in different sizes and colors. I made a note of it on my phone to come back to this stand on Friday. Instead, it was actually an even better experience: after I went through security Friday late morning, I noticed that Bjorn’s Colorado Honey had a full-fledged store right by the area where you enter Concourse C, which is right where all the American Airlines gates were. I got super excited and decided I would check it out.

While at the shop, I got to taste at least 10 different types of locally made honey, ranging from vanilla bean honey, propolis honey (incredible!), and “untouched” honey (they literally don’t touch it after it comes out of the hive, so there are traces of honeycomb and propolis in it!). The propolis honey was particularly interesting to me. I had previously read that it was used by the ancient Egyptians to ward off colds and viruses. Propolis is made by bees from tree and plant resins, and it’s known for its ability to fight against viruses, bacteria, and microbes. It’s also considered a powerful antihistamine. It’s recommended to take a spoonful once a day as a preventative, and to take it three times a day while fighting off a virus/infection. I had never purchased any propolis before but was intrigued, especially since we give honey to Kaia Pookie while she is slightly under the weather. Kids under the age of 3 (or 4?) are not supposed to have any cough medication or decongestants, but honey is recommended for children over the age of 1 to help loosen up any blockages or phlegm. And Kaia loves her morning daily dose of honey, as she’s been a little congested over the last couple of weeks.

Honey was always just honey to me, until I read that a lot of “honey” in the U.S. is fake and companies reduce their costs by adding corn syrups/sugars to theirs. So the only way to know for sure that your honey is legitimate is if it’s certified USDA organic here. Over the years, we’ve purchased a number of incredible honeys, from the endless Australian honeys with unique flavors to the Brightland Hawaiian one (that Kaia was obsessed with) to the Sri Lankan jungle bee one we picked up at the Good Market in Colombo last summer. I think I really got interested in honey and tasting different ones after our December 2015 side trip to Tasmania, where we had generous tastings at a local honey shop of many types, including the very famous leatherwood honey. It made me realize that the honey in the plastic bear squeeze container was just one-noted and bland compared to all these other incredible honeys with multidimensional flavors you could get elsewhere.

So I ended up leaving Denver with four glass jars of honey: propolis, untouched, whipped lavender, and raw whipped. It was a fun and unexpected end to my trip. I didn’t think I was going to buy anything to take home during this trip, but instead, I took home riches made from Colorado bees!

Ronny Chieng: on judgement and social hierarchy, and how it applies to the workplace

Tonight, we went to see Ronny Chieng’s sold out show at Radio City Music Hall. If you asked me when I was in middle or high school whether I thought I would be seeing Asian or Asian American comedians as “mainstream” in my thirties, I would have thought it wasn’t possible because the U.S. could only see “black or white.” So I’m happy to see when I am proven wrong. I guess America (and the West, for that matter), IS selectively able to accept Asians in show business.

It was another show, similar to Vir Das’s show the previous weekend, where I laughed so hard at moments that I almost cried. At this show, though, there were so many relatable moments that my face nearly hurt after from all the laughing and smiling. One of the moments that I could definitely empathize with, especially given our annual kickoff that had just ended this week at work, was his discussion and commentary on “social hierarchy,” how whenever he goes back to Singapore or meets up with his friends and former classmates from there that it always feels like people are trying to size him up, see where exactly they stand vis a vis him. And it’s hard with him because he’s a comedian, so you can’t instantly group him into the lawyers or the doctors or whatever other careers are “expected” in Asian culture. He’s in show business, and it’s not easy to “type” him into a specific income bracket or level of success because of that.

I don’t feel this constant judgment about “social hierarchy” with my friends, especially since I’ve parsed down my friends list so much that anyone I still maintain semi-regular contact with is a good friend, someone who I’d consider has a good heart and isn’t just with me because of my income bracket. But where I feel this the most is at the last two company kickoff events. Each person at these conferences has to wear a lanyard with a badge attached to it with their name and title. Sales people are pretty cliquey; most of them stay amongst themselves. If they go out of their groups, they’re trying to meet and connect with people “higher up” than they are on the corporate ladder, people who can help them or get them something they want. I can feel the gaze of many people walking by me, staring down at my badge, sizing me up to see if I’m important enough, based on my title, for them to introduce themselves to or even talk to. Most people who have higher titles rarely give me the time of day unless we have worked together previously; they are quick to stop our small talk so that they can go schmooze and hang out with their “equals or above.” Do I really care about this? Not really. But I do notice it, and I do find it pretty funny because at the end of the day, the vast majority of us are not running this company. We’re not effecting that much change at the individual level. We’re all just working minions here for our paychecks and our perks. We’re not in Elon Musk’s tax bracket. If you want to be snobby and stick with people at “your own level” or judge me simply because of my title, I don’t really care because I not only don’t know you, but I probably don’t want to know you. But the judgment and “sizing people up” is definitely real in corporate America. And while it’s annoying, it’s something you just have to live with and navigate as long as you want to participate in the rat race.

Tamales smothered in green sauce at the Denver airport

Last year when I was leaving Denver, I did not remember my food options to be that exciting. I got a so-so sandwich on my night flight back to New York, and I was not at all enthused by it. This time, though, I found a spot called La Casita that had a sign for tamales, and I can never say no to a tamale. I don’t eat nearly enough of them, so when I see that they are available, I definitely go for them.

I had the option of red chile pork or green chile cheese. The description said they would be smothered in red or green chile sauce with my choice of beans. I guess I ignored the second part of that description because when the server took the fresh tamales out of the steamer, I was a bit surprised when I realized he was taking them out of the husks for me. Then, he asked me about my choice of sauce (I chose green), and he proceeded to douse the tamales in the green chile sauce, then added my requested black beans to the side.

I was a little sad that he did this because I felt like it would take away from the flavor of the tamales themselves. Their flavor would be masked by the green chile sauce. In California, New York, and Mexico, where I have enjoyed tamales, tamales are usually served in their corn husks with sauces on the side. But I found out subsequently that this is Colorado-style Mexican food: everything is covered in a green chile or red chile sauce, and that’s the way they eat Mexican food here. So, in the end, if that’s what they do in Colorado, and I am eating this food in Colorado, then I will go with it.

I will say: the quality of the tamales was really high. The fillings were delicious. The green chile cheese filling was HOT. The masa was very soft, tender, and well seasoned. The green sauce was good, though I am still a purist and would have preferred the sauce on the side for dipping. And this was cheap airport food: two tamales with sauce and beans didn’t even break $10! I will definitely be back here at La Casita in Concourse C the next time I am going through Denver and flying American.

Unfortunate workplace incidents

Whether you work at an office or 100 percent remotely from home, it’s obvious that there are clear pros and cons to both sides. Neither is a perfect fit, and it really depends on your life and career stage which is going to fit you at any given time. One thing I will say that I absolutely do not miss about working at an office is that while I am remote, I will never have to deal with inane, petty, and childish human resources complaints like I did at my last company, whether it’s someone reporting me to HR because I asked them to lower their voice as they were shouting over the phone in the middle of the open floor plan at the office (yes, this really happened), someone else reporting me for not wishing them a happy birthday (this, sadly, is very, very true), or me catching someone watching porn on their work computer during work hours, reporting it, and then having our HR partner gaslight me and question whether I really did see what I saw (“How do you know for sure that it was porn? Can you please describe the details of what you saw or heard? Can you mimic what you heard? Who else witnessed this?” YES, THIS REALLY HAPPENED, and apparently, my word isn’t enough. You always need other people to vouch for this crap!)).

But sadly, at each annual success and sales kickoff, whether it was at my former company or current company, I always hear about unscrupulous incidents that happen which inevitably involve HR intervention or sexual innuendo that I want no part of. Some people blame it on the presence of alcohol; I blame it on a bunch of so-called professionals who claim to be mature adults, but attend these official company events as though it’s their time to do whatever they want to do and not recognize that these events are actually WORK EVENTS, not personal parties. You may wear more revealing clothing or higher heels at these events. You may drink more at these events than if you were at an office. That’s no excuse to think these are “pickup” events where you can “score” with your colleagues as though they are random people at your local bar.

All the annual President’s Club awards were announced, and a number of colleagues I work with were declared as winners. I made my way around, wishing them congratulations. But one of them was particularly odd. First, he accused me of writing up multiple bullet points of negative feedback about him “that he would forgive me for.” Then, he insisted that “something went wrong” between us and that he didn’t know what happened. I was confused, as I never wrote anything about anyone. Then, before I could even ask additional questions, he suggested that I be his plus-one at President’s Club weekend. This was not only completely ridiculous, but totally inappropriate. I told him there was no way that was going to happen, and he asked, why not? What’s wrong with that? I asked him if he was joking, and he said, no. Then, he insisted that I be his plus-one, and said that there were rumors going around that our camaraderie was more than just colleagues, and that he knew there was something between us. I told him that was insane and wrong, and before I could walk away, thankfully a colleague came by to check up on us, and I left with her. And as I told her what happened, a few other female colleagues came by and shared that this same male colleague had accosted them about negative feedback in the last day. No one had mentioned any sexual provocation, though.

“Something between” us made my stomach turn. We worked on two accounts together. We saw each other in person only twice ever (at this kickoff and last year), and while we have been friendly over Slack and text, I could read through all my Slack messages and texts and see zero flirtation. This guy was crazy. Not to mention: if you want to try your luck and score with one of your female colleagues, maybe, just maybe accusing them of talking crap about you behind their back is not the best way to convince them to join you on a long weekend trip paid by your company….?!

Even at the best companies, there’s always going to be one or two slimy, awful people who you never want to interact with ever again, and you’d want to keep away from anyone you cared about. And only time will tell how this situation unfolds.

Unexpected friends meetup during work travel

Since the COVID pandemic, work travel has been pretty sparse for me. I only did one work trip last year, which was in mid February for the same annual company kickoff as this year, and also in Denver. The pros of coming to these big, 400+ person company events is that in-person time that I never get while being remote. I like these events because I get that face time with my colleagues, and I do miss the daily social interaction a lot. But it’s also challenging because this is socializing on steroids in a very confined space for a finite number of days, so you really have to pack in all that socializing before you have to pack up and leave again — to go home and be in front of your home computer all day long as a remote employee. It would be nice if we had more outdoor time, or time to socialize and be outside and actually experiencing the city we were in. Instead, we have to stay inside in windowless conference and presentation rooms. But I guess this is work, after all. We didn’t come for sight-seeing, unfortunately.

But I still made a point to get outside every day this week, even if it was just to walk around the block. And I happened to have a friend from San Francisco here for work, as well, so we met up at my favorite milk tea place in downtown Denver (Milk Tea People, yay!) before our company welcome dinner this evening. I haven’t seen this friend in almost a year and a half. Kaia was only about eight months old then, and my friend was pregnant and due to give birth in just a few months back then. Now, we both have older baby/toddler aged kids, and we spent most of our time talking about our kids, raising them, our relationships with our parents, death and estate planning, and family in general. The conversation felt serious and in some ways kind of sad, like we’re now slowly but surely approaching middle aged and realizing that life is just going by. But in some ways, it felt kind of comforting to have this conversation in person, face to face. We don’t see each other that often, but when we do, it always feels comfortable, like we can just be ourselves and say whatever annoying or stupid things are on our mind, and it’s all okay. No judgment. No worries. No fuss. We just are who we are, and that’s okay. That’s the benefit of having a friend for a long, long time; I’m 38 now, and she’s turning 37 later this year. That means we would have been friends for over 25 years at this point. I’m lucky to have friends still in my life this long who I can just say what I think to, and they just accept me as I am.

What is also funny about meeting up with this friend: whenever I see her, it looks like as time goes by and as we get older, she looks more and more like her mother. And when I look at photos of us together, I realize I am looking more and more like my dad’s sister, my aunt, who I really do not like and have not spoken to since my 2016 wedding, but the resemblance is undoubtedly there whether I want it there or not. I guess that’s what time does to you: we are all aging, even my sweet Kaia Pookie is aging, but in a much cuter way.

Oh, and it also helps that she likes and appreciates really good milk tea, as Milk Tea People is a standout amongst ALL milk tea places I’ve visited around the world. The care these people put into their tea, from hand whisking the Uji matcha to making all their lavender, orange blossom, and fruit syrups from scratch and in-house every day, is incredible. None of my colleagues I asked wanted to come here with me, as they all said they weren’t really into milk tea, or this place was too far of a walk from our hotel….

A long work travel day with subpar, expensive food

I’m in Denver this week for my company’s annual kickoff/offsite. Though the scheduled events are Wednesday through Friday, we all needed to arrive by Tuesday evening in order to be here in time for all the Wednesday morning sessions. Though the flight time, if direct, between New York City and Denver is only about 4 hours and 40 minutes, the actual time I spent in transit today, if you just confined it to my first flight’s takeoff time to the final flight’s landing time, was about nine hours. Because I am loyal to American Airlines (for better or worse) while in the U.S., I realized there were no direct NYC > Denver flights at this time of year (they seem to be seasonal for the warmer months! But what about the people who ski…?!). And my connecting options were mostly in Chicago or Charlotte. The ones going through Chicago were out of the travel limit for this event, so I ended up going through Charlotte. The layover time in Charlotte was originally supposed to be quite tight, only about 45 minutes, so I didn’t think I’d have much time there. Unfortunately, my flight got delayed three times, so I ended up spending more time than I’d originally anticipated there. The plus side was that I could leave the concourse to go to another one that had… Midwood Smokehouse, my favorite BBQ spot in Charlotte that now had a location in the airport!

My dreams of delicious brisket or burnt ends were quickly extinguished when I almost sat down and the server said, “I just wanted to let you know that we’ve already sold out of brisket and burnt ends.” My face immediately fell. Well, at that point, there was no reason to eat here if the two best things were gone. I could have chosen the ribs, but I really didn’t want to eat anything that messy because I needed to multitask and get some work done on my computer. So I ended up leaving and going to another spot next door. It was supposed to be a “Santa Monica, California” style eatery. I ended up having a cobb salad and an unsweetened iced tea. After tax and tip, my lunch cost $39. Eeeek.

Well, I guess it’s no wonder my food allowance while on work travel is $125. You think that’s a lot of money until you have to transit through and get stuck at airports, where even the most basic food costs over $25-30.

Buy-Nothing group brings goodies in the form of: shrimp stock!

One of the greatest communities I’ve ever joined has most definitely been the Facebook Buy-Nothing group within the walking radius of my apartment. In the last year, not only have I been able to give away plenty of things that we no longer needed or found useful, but I’ve also scored endless great things for the apartment, Pookster, and myself. The vast majority has been toys, books, and clothes for Kaia, but we’ve also gotten some occasional goodies for ourselves here and there, including Bundaberg ginger beer for Chris, and today: shrimp stock for me!

Hot Thai Kitchen recently posted a video a few months ago on her channel about how easy it actually is to make good laksa… as long as you have access to good shrimp stock. How do you make shrimp stock? With shrimp heads, shells, and tails! It’s difficult (nearly impossible) to find shrimp heads on shrimp when you buy them at places like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, but more likely if you buy them from Asian grocery stores. So I’d been collecting a few sparse shrimp heads, shells, and tails from takeout food we’ve gotten and throwing them into a small bag in our freezer for future stock. When I saw someone post that she had 7 1-cup cubes of homemade shrimp stock, I immediately raised my hand. I went to pick up the cubes from her apartment (very shrimpy smelling, so a good sign!), but she told me that she used random herbs like oregano, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf (she said she didn’t cook much, so she basically threw her spice cabinet at the pot!). So now I’m not sure I’ll use this for laksa, as it may not have the right flavor profile I’m going for, but I can still use it as a soup base or a flavor base for grains like farro, quinoa, or even just plain rice.

Normally, I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking food like this from a stranger. But this particular Buy-Nothing group almost feels like extended family with how honest and considerate people are, and so I’ve really enjoyed being a part of it. The verdict for the goodness of this shrimp stock awaits when I come back from my Denver work trip later this week!