Stuff guys get away with saying

September 12, 2013 § 1 Comment

My girlfriend shared with me an irritating workplace experience she had recently. She and a female colleague were conversing about hair products, when they were interrupted by a male colleague who said this: “You both seem like intelligent women, why on earth are you talking about hair spray?”

Let’s unpack. My friend’s male colleague is assuming that there has to be certain topics that are intelligent topics, and others that are not.  Put differently, intelligence is not how you talk about something, but what you talk about. And he decided that the topic of hair products is not a smart topic–certainly, not something that smart people would be talking about. I assume that this guy meant no harm from what he said, but his statement is harmful–maybe not in isolation, but certainly in context, that is, historically there has been judgments made much like his–that fields and interests predominantly taken up by women are less smart, less valuable. That judgement has harmful consequences, for example, lower pay in professions dominated by women, sometimes referred to as the “pink ghetto” phenomenon.

And the irony of this guy’s statement is that while he is ridiculing women for talking about beauty products, he probably upholds them to a certain standard of beauty as well. As freely as he felt like he could interject himself to my girlfriend’s conversation, he probably also–like many men–feels freely to comment on women’s appearances whether or not anyone is asking for his opinion.


Spring break update: battling bad cold, and watching old Seinfeld episodes

April 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

There’s an episode of Seinfeld where George Costanza landed in a hospital after he had a heart attack. Turns out it was a false alarm, but while he was lying in bed, he promised himself that if he got better he would turn Zen, and meditate and stuff:

If I ever get out of here, I’m gonna change my life. I’m gonna do a whole Zen thing. Take up yoga, meditate.  I’ll eat right. Calm down, lose my anger…

I mention this because I have a cold, and have spent some time in front of the television watching old sitcoms, among them this Seinfeld episode.

This cold is taking up my entire spring break. My week long break was supposed to be productive. I was going to study hard, outline for my exams, take advantage of the nice weather, and see old friends. Instead, most of the time, I have spent indoors in bed, or on the sofa with a box of Kleenex.

When I get better, I want to not take my health for granted. I actually always say this every time I get a cold or the flu, but I never follow through. (Maybe putting it in writing would help.) I get caught up with being caught up, and forget to think about how awesome it is to breathe without congestion, to have mucus-free channels, to wake up without aches, to have the energy to  get up and go to school…   It’s only when I get a cold that I think about these things. And that shouldn’t be the case.

2011: The Year of Gratitude

February 9, 2011 § 5 Comments

illustration by Roberta Baird

Oh, hi! I am back. The new year has prompted me to return to this blog. February third was the first day of the Chinese new year. And I want to publicly roll out my new year resolutions here, in hopes that the more people I share my resolutions with, the more people I have to hold me accountable.

2010 was a rough year for me and some of my loved ones. And the primary reason that I have gotten through the past year in the manner that I have–still whole and healthy–is because of the love generously given to me from my friends. As I enter this new year, I feel so lucky and grateful.

A new year is no free pass–we are not magically handed a clean slate. In many ways, I still carry weight from the last year, and with it the responsibility to see things through and pick up the pieces. This 2011, I am not necessarily expecting a better year, but I am confident that whatever challenges the year of the rabbit may bring, I will be able to get through it unscathed because I have my family and friends’ strength, love and support. I have many reasons to be grateful, and I wish that my everyday life and lifestyle reflects my gratitude. With that in mind, this 2011 I resolve to:

  • Welcome each morning with a sun salutation and a cup of water.
  • Appreciate what my body is capable of by giving it want it wants—no more, no less. Give it work when it wants to work, rest when it wants to rest. The only necessary ‘diet cleanse’ there is will be the only one that I will put my body through, and that is, cleansing myself from negative body thoughts and talk.
  • Express my appreciation to the Chinese teachers and mentors that I have had over the years– those who have taken the time to teach and encourage me to study Mandarin–through practicing with much greater diligence.
  • Make time each day to journal–to write for myself. I seem to make this resolution every year–some years I am better at this than others. These last couple years my journal entries have been sparse. It can be hard to carve out the space and time to do this type of writing. So, I have started a new approach. In addition to keeping my regular journal notebook, I journal on small index cards. These cards I carry on me throughout the day so that I can easily jot down any quick thoughts. At the end of the day, I date the cards, and I keep them in a small tin box where they are organized chronologically. So far, this has worked well for me, and has gotten me to write for myself much more regularly–even if it is a just a few sentences a day.
  • Single-handedly save the postal service. The postal service has been in dire financial troubles; and has recently announced that it plans to consolidate or close 2,000 branches. With email, sending physical cards, invites and letters have turned into a rarity. I share in LA Times columnist Meghan Daum’s sentiment (“In Praise of Snail Mail”) that nothing can wholly replace mail in its original and physical form. So, I will take it upon myself to send the post office an influx of letters, care packages and greeting cards created and written by yours truly. And for the sake of the postal service, I will self-sacrificiously encourage my friends to send me more snail mail.
  • Less buying new things. More homemade gifts.
  • Partner with my sister Madeline in her sincere and noble efforts to preserve our family’s recipes and history through her blog Restaurant Baby. The more I am confronted with the transient nature of things, I find myself grappling with the question of how I can pay my respects to the people and the things that have come before me. Restaurant Baby is Madeline’s and my way of paying homage to our roots as daughters of restaurant owners.  More and more, I see the value of preservation as a means of knowledge sharing, and a necessary part of true progression; so is creation. Restaurant Baby, intended to be a constant work in progress, is home to my family and childhood recipes, as well as new recipes that Madeline and I can claim as our own.
  • Be a good friend by helping my friends stay on top of their new year resolutions and life goals.

Well, there you have it- my short list.  I will close this with a humble thank you to my loving friends who have stuck with me through thick and thin. Wishing all a brilliant year of the rabbit!

Muslims Serve Detroit on the 9th Anniversary of 9/11

September 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

Sarah Youssef doing weed work at Piquette Square.

On Saturday morning, the ninth anniversary of September 11th, Muslim Americans from across Metro Detroit gathered at Clark Park in Detroit. They were there to participate in “A-Ok Detroit: A weekend of restoration and remembrance”, a day of service in commemoration of 9/11 that was organized by state and local non-profit groups.

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China’s One Child Policy Turns Thirty

September 1, 2010 § 1 Comment

Don't be deceived. They are as cute as they are bratty.

This month marks the 30th anniversary of China’s one child policy. I have a  distinct memory of learning about the one child policy in grade school during social studies class because that particular lesson prompted my elementary school crush to say one of the sweetest things a boy had ever said to me…

After class, the then-love-of-my-life approached me and said, “So, what this means is, if your parents stayed in China, you would have never been born?”  I’m the fourth child in my family, so I told him “No, I guess not”. “Gosh,” he said, “Well, I’m glad that they came here then.”

I don’t know what followed afterward. Those were the days that when I liked a boy, I picked on him. So, I might have told him to get lost. Oops.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand- the one child policy. At age 30, the policy is no novelty. Its not making the news headlines–but it continues to have a big impact on China’s social and economic landscape.

Advertising for the one child policy, 1980s

The one child policy may be hard to conceptualize for Americans, who may read it as a violation of freedom and choice, while proponents argue that it is a necessary measure to curb China’s giant population, which is commonly cited by the Chinese as a source of many of the country’s  social and economic ailments.

Interested in learning more? Check out the following: « Read the rest of this entry »

On Trader Joe’s: Love and Secrecy

August 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

For the people out there with strong affection for Trader Joe’s  (like me), or plain old curiosity, Fortune magazine has an in depth profile on the company, looking at how it became so successful, and–particularly interesting–how tight-lipped the company is about its practices.

The company has never participated in a major story about its business operations. Its CEO, Dan Brynes, declined repeated requests to be interviewed by Fortune. And all of Trader Joe’s suppliers are under agreement that they “shall not publicize its business relationship with TJ’s in any manner”. Fortune speculates on why the company maintains such secrecy:

…Trader Joe’s business tactics are often very much at odds with its image as the funky shop around the corner that sources its wares from local farms and food artisans. Sometimes it does, but big, well-known companies also make many of Trader Joe’s products. Those Trader Joe’s pita chips? Made by Stacy’s, a division of PepsiCo’s (PEP, Fortune 500) Frito-Lay. On the East Coast much of its yogurt is supplied by Danone’s Stonyfield Farm. And finicky foodies probably don’t like to think about how Trader Joe’s scale enables the chain to sell a pound of organic lemons for $2.

Snapshots from Confucius Temple, Shanghai

August 19, 2010 § 2 Comments

Wen Miao, the Confucian temple in Shanghai, is a quiet get away within a city that never stops. When my dad came to visit me, I made a point to take him here because crowds make him nervous, and Wen Miao is one of the few destinations in Shanghai where it is possible to find yourself alone. Also, a secular temple, I thought it appropriate for my dad who calls religious worship plain superstition. Here are a few photos I want to share with you.

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