Though typical tea orders for us plebians might be unaffected, distribution and trade of tea have been sorely affected by the current state of politics in the United States. We get approximately 25% of our tea imports from China, though notably all of our “Chinese” tea varieties are from there (i.e. 100% of Tie Guan Yin). What does that look like, when we speak money? Approximately $90 millions USD, according to SCMP.Read More
As 2018 closes up and 2019 begins, so comes the contemplation of another year past. The thoughtful action comes up like a thief in the night, catching us all seemingly unawares. The holiday season seems to be a distraction from the impending deadline through the merriment of of the cold season. Family, what we are reminded through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve (to those of us blessed with such closeness), can prevent us from having the lonely moments of internal critique. Though a wonderful time, the days preceding the arrival of a new year can block us from focusing on analysis.
Sometimes, this can be good. Sometimes, it isn’t.
I had no resolutions for 2018.
I have nothing to make note of, in terms of progress on goals. My 2018 was a vague call to “be better” or “feel better about myself”. Maybe just “exist”. Honestly, I didn’t think very much about it.
In the years before this, after several years of an earnest drive to make progress on self, I had gained some things. I graduated from high school over two years ago now, going into a wonderful university and surrounding myself with similarly driven attitudes. But, I didn’t do well. Technically, I have a better GPA than my major average, but it feels so low in comparison to my close friends. I’m involved in several on campus organizations. I work. That looks like a lot, under objective analysis. I have a decent resume.
However, for the past two years (since being at Berkeley), I haven’t been able to shake the feeling of stagnation. I feel stagnant. (It’s an ugly word, I think.)
I’ve gained some peace, very recently. I’ve returned to a lot of my pre-Berkeley attitude while allowing room for a lot of post-independence experiences. I value reading, painting, relationships more — but through the lens of someone who recognizes how small she is still. I’m working with the idea to change. With that being said.
To myself, in 2019.
Recognizing that I can only feel successful when I work on things that are important to me,
Understanding that I am a strange person and embracing different standards for myself,
Prioritizing : God, relationships, creativity, productivity, and wholesomeness,
1. Pursue progress little by little, day to day. I’ve been pursuing big goals of vague success for a long time. Recently, however, I’ve realized that I’m not at all excited by what I’ve accomplished. In contrast, I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything. I have this website and this blog, but I hardly write. I miss writing. I’ve tried my hand at it a little bit more after getting more free time, but I feel so out of practice. I don’t feel as good. I feel capable without feeling like I can follow through. Even a little writing every day, even a little time of quiet contemplation. Even signing out of social media accounts (I quit Snapchat last year) or pursuing a more content-centric presence.
A. Read everyday. Anything — bible, books, articles.
B. Draw everyday.
C. Work everyday.
2. Take my projects more seriously. In this past month, or so, I’ve already changed this website to be more project oriented. I won’t deny that I’m unfocused, professionally. I can’t decide if I want to move into public policy for my career, participate in the design industry (although the awful gatekeeping of veterans has pushed me away), go into tech with UI/UX, continue with academic research… honestly, I wish I could just be myself and do it all. In the end, I feel driven by projects. I know I would thrive in project management, in terms of a role, but I don’t have any idea what industry I would do it in. It makes sense to continue working in sustainability-focused companies, since that’s where my past experience is. But, I’m not sure. In that sense, I’m directionless. I think, for me, it would be best to focus on my projects and let industries and companies decide if they want me.
3. Stop competing with other people. Maybe even with myself. This is a difficult thing for me. The bolded sentences of this section are grammatically irksome, for one (if you don’t get this point, it’s fine). I’ve organized this kind of as I would a resolution in Model UN — it’s a theme with me — but it’s so, so, so bad. A lot of this blog post is the flow of consciousness. I would grade this badly in a competition. But it’s not a competition. I don’t want to let a drive to be better than everyone else, or a drive to beat myself, distract me from actually doing things. I’ve found myself preferring doing nothing over doing something worse than other people. I’d rather not practice a math problem than get it wrong.
This mindset is self-defeating. I’d like to write on it more, sometime. But, look, my previous post on this blog portion was several months ago (the one about procrastination). I haven’t published anything since. I have drafts. I always have drafts. I have so many things I’m working on. Few of my projects have ever seen the light of day or computers. I like my projects. I want to publish them. They don’t have to be perfect for them to be out there. In the end, my unhappiness with my work becomes an excuse to lazily state that I’m not good enough, rather than make my work better day to day. While perhaps this point makes a generalization that isn’t entirely valid, it’s definitely a trend when it comes to my actions and my projects. I desperately want to change.
4. Read more books. (As mentioned above, just vaguely.) I did, at some point this year, make a bookmark with space for 30 books to read. The list isn’t currently accessible to me, but I didn’t make much progress. Perhaps I read 10, 15 books? Most fiction. Some were difficult. (I didn’t count school books though! Just pleasure reading. If I counted books for school, I would definitely be over the 30 mark.) This year, I will read more. I want to read the bible more, and maybe more nonfiction. In other words, I’d like to expand the range. I think the first book this year I read was Good Omens. The last book was 1984. I’m out of the loop for more current publications and, as someone who once dreamed of being a writer and maybe still does, this is a little sad. I want to at least hit the 30 book mark this year.
5. Generally — finally — be better. This is straightforward, I guess. I manipulate people a bit. I also cite the truth that is most convenient to me in order to win arguments. I love having arguments (sorry family and boyfriend). I’d like to be more honest. Sometimes, the more honest thing to do is to give in. Honesty does not equal being right. Being better can be letting go. Being better can be being good. I haven’t been volunteering recently. I’d like volunteer again, like I used to in high school, since it was once a very integral part of who I was.
Five, I believe, is enough for now. Yes, there are smaller goals in them. But, I’ll keep it simple and stick to the themes. The important things, here, are those little steps for every day. A new year marks 365 opportunities to take at least one step forward each day. At the end of the year, even those small steps can put me 365 steps ahead of where I am now. Another year marks a multitude of potential. It’s scary but exciting.
I have to go. My family is calling. By the time I’m sitting at my computer again, it’ll be the new year.
For now, good bye 2018.
I have to write a lot of essays for school. I just do. I choose to study classes where there's a lot of reading and writing because I love reading and writing about things that I love.
But: if I love reading and writing essays, why do I procrastinate?
Let me first explain how I procrastinate.
Yes, they were all due in the evenings so I had all day to work on them. And yes, I'm aware of that these all got turned in right before they were due - a minute before they were due. In fact, I'm kind of proud that I went three-for-three right in a row for the same class.
My approach to procrastination is bold, to say the least.
(You're impressed too.)
No matter how I feel about it, the question I always get asked - after a moment or so of stunned silence for those who don't know me too well - is: "Why do you do this to yourself?"
My typical answer is really quick and simple: "I like the rush."
I live for that continuous and blissful mode of pure, unconscious focus that comes in the 2-3 hours before a deadline. It's honestly addicting. Even though there are a couple moments of crazy stress and pressure, the sense of pride that comes after you turn in five page essay that was written in two hours? That 15 page paper you finished in four? Better than any blog post that takes me two days to write.
(In the case of this post, it stayed as a draft for exactly a month.)
It's amazing what the human mind is capable of doing under pressure. The experience of the practice is more exhilarating than any action movie might be.
Yes, there are some casualties: papers that could be better, people who get offended at your isolation mode (sorry mom), pressures of time that you know were technically wasted, etc. etc.. But, I wouldn't have it any other way.
I only do this for essays that are due for school. In high school, I used to do it for position papers (think research papers but for Model United Nations competitions), something I think trained me best for college. Honestly, I do my best writing in limited timeframes.
There is another layer to why I procrastinate on my essays, and this side of it has a little bit more to do with the mindset I apply to my life.
If I have too much time and start too early, I write a first draft, which upon pursuing a second draft I throw out altogether. I'm never happy with what I write, so using more time to potentially perfect it would be a waste of resources.
Procrastinating on my essays has been synonymous with letting go, getting things done, mentally accepting that the words I write will not be perfect.
If I don't have a due date, I work for a perfection that I know will never come.
This lesson has been learned through years of self-inspection under many different circumstances. My hope is that, some day, I will be content with my work and can call it finished even when there is no due date to cut it off at. I'd like to finally feel at peace with imperfection. I want to be able to say "This could be better, but I'll publish it now. After hearing feedback from other people, I can return to it if I feel I can do significantly better. Until then, I will be happy."
Someday, my life will come to an end and I will not be able to do any more with it. Perhaps that is strange for anyone to think of so often, or for a mention in a seemingly casual blog post about procrastination, but I see it as connected.
I will do my best for now, enjoying my time, but I will be content with the failures I see along the way. There may not be the opportunity to return to back to it if I feel I can do significantly better, but perhaps I should focus on the rush of it all instead. When my due date has come, I'd like to call all the projects I wanted to do and all the words I wanted to say as "finished", even if it would still feel incomplete.
Even as I know I can be better, I understand it's a constant process and that the status of "better" is something that will always be left to be achieved.
Until then, I will be happy.
Another star has died, but unlike those involved in fashion or film, this one is in food. In light of Anthony Bourdain’s passing, an article he wrote - published by the New Yorker - came to my attention. It’s an older piece from 1999 but the content of it is as relevant today as it was then.
It must be noted that I like food. I love food. I don’t eat much but I eat out regularly, maybe once or twice a day. My wallet is much thinner than me.
I have to thank my family for feeding me well when I was younger. I grew up in a wonderful area for good food. Farm-to-table dining began as a social movement up here in Northern California and notable proponents are as close as a ten minute walk away from where I attend school. According to the Michelin Guide, the Greater SF Bay Area is the country’s capital for fine dining. I’ve been to many restaurants on the guide, one with a star - Gary Danko’s - and I hope to go to many more in the future.
However, it must be recognized that some of the best restaurants to eat at aren’t the fanciest. I've definitely been to establishments that I didn't enjoy because of the setup and ostentatious cuisine. It’s difficult to enjoy a meal if you aren’t comfortable. Especially with my favorite kinds of cuisines - think European style, French, Italian, or Chinese - the restaurants I hold dear are not always the fine dining of vogue. The best places to eat, I believe, are modeled after places like my grandmother’s kitchen.
In other words, good food is a home where the heart is warm.
Anthony Bourdain was well known for several things in the food industry: his expertise, his passion, and his values. Significantly, he understood that food has cultural meaning. Food is powerful.
The article I reference here is not about the fashionably shallow appeal of the fine dining we see in Instagram pictures and Yelp reviews. Instead, Bourdain exposes the reality that the kitchen and dining experience is not as clean as it should be. The kitchen is a community - communities are often messy and not often very pleasant.
I consider myself a foodie, but I’m probably one of the few foodies in the developed world that has helped raise the food she’s eaten. In addition to getting down and dirty in the garden, I have to admit that the best tasting lamb I’ve ever had was raised in my backyard - you can’t go more farm-to-table than both the farm and the table taking place on a 0.28 acre property.
I grew up with an appreciation for food because I knew where it came from.
Bourdain did a lot of good for the world by telling it how it is. Things that seem really clean and nice and perfect aren't always that way on the inside, and vice versa. Life can be quite confusing. Death, in the case of Bourdain, even more so as we try to wrap our heads around it. If icons succumb to the very issues that they've symbolically manifested, the truths they've given us start to come to question all around us.
There's nothing special to be found in the ramblings of a person who just likes food and wants to appreciate the life of another person.
Maybe, if anything at all, here is a lesson to remember all the good in someone's life. In particular, let's eat and appreciate life. Let's live life while we have it. Let's explore all the senses we have to appreciate this world with. Let's walk from place to place, let's listen to music, let's feel the breeze blow by the seas and the field, let's look at all the colors of art and flowers and nature and fiction. Let's eat with our family and share these experiences with our neighbors and friends.
Being a lurker on the internet is such a passive activity. So much mindless consumption of social media, scrolling, and double-taps — all barely suggesting the slightest enjoyment of content.
But who am I to say?
I would say I’m authority on apathy. I’ve been reading Medium articles for God knows how long. I’ve been on Quora reading interesting answers to questions I didn’t think to ask. I see my friends posting pictures and links on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. but don’t personally do so on a regular basis. I guess I have a portfolio website/blog, but I pay the hosting fees and domain name costs without publishing much at all, if ever.
I don’t know if I’m too lazy to post content or if I’m too scared to.
When it comes to my relationship with the internet, do I get anything out of the content I consume? Do I just consume content because it distracts me from the aspirations I have to produce content? Do I even care?
What bothers me the most about how I am is that, when I was eleven, I was determined to live deliberately. Once upon a time, I filled composition notebooks with tales of my life, my concerns, my dreams, and — most importantly to me — my thoughts. I wanted to be a writer. I have record of my ambition through old notes for story ideas scattered throughout my bedroom. Conscious of all of those things now, I feel like a failure.
Internet publication is a medium by which we, as consumers, have more access to content and resources than ever before. As producing members of this fast-paced community, it’s also an opportunity to live out our dreams.
Honestly, I don’t mean to inspire you or myself by writing this.
I’m taking a page out of eleven year old me’s journals and writing this for myself. Before, when I said I wanted to be a writer, I wrote. A little later, if I said I wanted to be a painter, I painted. If, at the moment, I don’t know exactly what I want to do, I’ll make a space for myself to explore and think about it. For the time being, this exploration will be done by taking a step back to a time where I understood myself better and knew what I wanted to do with myself.
In the end, moving forward isn’t only a question of progress but it is, more importantly, about movement. Sometimes we need to take a step back to understand what the best steps are for the future.
I can’t say I’m entirely sure what I’ve gotten out of writing this. I’d like to think that the act of writing it has helped me to think more deliberately and that the process will help me to live more deliberately, but there’s a strong chance that this is just another burst of activity before I get tired. I wish I were more disciplined to say exactly what I want to do with myself and actively work more to get to that, but I’m not very confident about it.
Goal: Someday get a job where I get to do some sort of creative problem solving, story telling, or product management capability.
Complication: I’m not picky about what industry this would be in.
Priority: Work hard to develop relevant skills while I research and explore future prospects job experiences.
Plan of Action: Build a portfolio, do freelance jobs in different industries, and establish a network by reaching out to possible clients.
Action Taken: Netflix.
But this isn't at all what I want.
In a little bit more than a week, I'll be turning twenty years old... and I still don't know how to do what I want.
Here is what I am doing: I decided to take three classes this summer because I want to. I told my followers on Instagram that I intend to post art more frequently, so I'm hopefully going to be more accountable. I bought more art supplies that I've decided to use. I'm rewatching movies that I find particularly creative in order to remind myself of why I want to do what I want to do. I'm planning a trip abroad in order to push myself out of my comfort zone. I'm writing this blog post because I'm hoping that activity can become a trend in my life.
Now here's where it's becoming a real commitment: I'm going to share this with my friends on Facebook.
I'm sorry it's a mess. Sometimes you just have to push content out there into the abyss to feel like you're doing something with your life.
We have a lot of problems in the world. It’s difficult to try and solve them when a lot of us have the emotional desire to make the world a better place but lack the tools we need in order to take appropriate action.
A lot of the time, the way we try to address issues like healthcare, poverty, or hunger – through economic models – oversimplifies the issues in order for us to make mathematical sense of an assumed free market. We leave out the things that may be most important to us simply because they cannot be quantified through money—things like family time, sense of fulfillment, or community welfare.
Economics is not so much the study of money or the management of wealth as it is the process by which we can model the decisions we make in order to maximize welfare. The immediate thoughts related to economics most likely reflect the free market model taught in introductory economics courses. But free market economics doesn’t provide the framework that most economic advisors and researchers should use. Though a lot of financial thinking and profiteering supports the idea that we live in a zero-sum world, this is not the case. Instead, creating holistic economic models that are just as rigorous can help us to make intentional decisions about how we make the world better for ourselves and for each other. “Once we move beyond the notion that no matter what we have, we want more, and getting more is always good” we have the ability to develop better economic models that take other things into consideration.
One of the major problems with the free market model that most conservative politicians and policy-makers tend to use is that it doesn’t take into account the externalities associated with economic justice or environmental sustainability.
At a time when all major economies of the world are growing, it’s especially important to make sure that they are doing so in a way that is sustainable and that actually helps the citizens in each country. Implicit in managing sustainable development is making sure that you are able to model the growth and take into account all the asymmetric information, relative incomes, and possible market failures that may come with it. Understanding behavioral economics, altruism, and human capabilities are required of the Buddhist economic model, which directly coincides with the return of ethics in economics. A more holistic model would help show that economics can deliver prosperity, justice, and sustainability for all people, and just more income for the rich.
One of my favorite things to apply economic methodology to is the policy used in urban development. Cities are condensed populations and the policies required to manage these kinds of communities are much more intentional. The Buddhist Economic model is typically easier to implement in situations where living is intentional and based on a community that holds to these values on a public scale. However, many cities follow more closely to the free market tendencies by rule of thumb as the city becomes a dog-eat-dog competitive world. The scale economies and agglomeration of individuals – though technically existing in a community, not necessarily participating in it the way that Buddhist Economics hopes people would – results in a lost sense of agency. For example, people commute to the city and then leave at the end of the day; though there is implicit interconnectedness in this kind of a system, it is forgotten by the greater majority of individuals. Few businessmen and women will take the time to stop and care for the people asking them for money on the side of the road and in the rush of commuting not many people will appreciate the talent of the buskers or drop change for them. A more inclusive, holistic model could help to include the missing values of sustainability in policies and reinstate them as factors of urban development and the sprawl associated with it.
The general idea is that, in solving the problems of our society, there are more factors that we need to take into consideration. We have tools; we just need to use them right. A paradigm shift must occur in order for this world to change for the better.
 C. Brown “Buddhist Economics” Chapter 1, page 6.
 P.S. Goodman “Every One of the World’s Big Economies is Now Growing” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/27/business/its-not-a-roar-but-the-global-economy-is-finally-making-noise.html?smid=pl-share
 J.K. Bruekner “Lectures on Urban Economics” Chapter 1
My father came home from Costco right while I was in the middle of putting my Microeconomics notes into my black folder and gave me the items I requested. I sequestered the bags into my room and hastily finished up the organization, but then quickly busied myself with other mindless tasks such as actually reading the notes. Now was not the time, I told myself… But, of course, this was to be a family affair. Within five minutes, my younger brother appeared in my room.
“Can I?” He nodded towards the conspicuous bags.
I always had a soft spot for him. “Of course,” I replied. It was going to happen eventually. At least I wouldn’t be the one to do it.
He picked up one of the bags. On the exterior it read “Country Style - Barbecue”. Already, my heart began to race with the excitement of knowing I’d finally be able to satisfy the cravings of my tongue and cool the heat of my yearning for those deliciously crisp slices of potato - so rich with potassium and so flavored with the sweet and salty epitome of a warm summer day grilling outdoors with my family.
“Why’s this so hard to open?” He muttered. “Oh wait - there’s a place to tear.”
“Don’t bother,” I told him while walking over to pick up the scissors on my desk. I was a master at this. I knew what to do. With as much gusto as a girl who has few passions in life could muster, I ripped the bag from his hands and set the sharp blades against the only barrier between me and my happiness. The only right way to cut the bag, I knew, was to cut at a point low enough to reach in easily but also high enough to tie the bag up later, if one was incapable of finishing. Having made the careful calculations, I was well on my way.
I cut off the top easily. As the light hit the reflective and metallic surface of the bag within, the chips shone with a glorious luster that could not be described to a blind man. You cannot use words to describe the wonder of a fresh bag of chips to someone who hasn’t seen one before. It would be like trying to describe what joy looks like under the same circumstances. Such a thing would be impossible. But, you can feel joy and you can taste joy. The taste of joy, happiness, and all things that are good and right in the world is a crunchy chip.
I was a kind soul; I handed my brother the bag so that he could have the first pickings. He ate a couple and then handed the bag over. He knew the sacrifice I made in that moment and rewarded it with his own act of generosity, tactically saying he had homework to do and couldn’t just stand here eating chips with me.
So I began my own venture into the chips of the bag.
They were magnificent. My first chip was a rather ordinary chip, flat but with the bubbling and crispiness you would expect out of a kettle-fried chip. It was covered in the perfect layer of barbecue flavoring. As I bit in, my tongue met its touch with warm salivation while my gums scraped slightly against its contact. The second chip was better: the potato slice had layered over itself to make a bubble within the chip, leading to four times the crunchiness - chips, of course, grow their crunchiness exponentially - and significantly more enjoyment on my end.
I searched for another chip of a similar standard within the bag, picked it up delicately between two fingers, and walked over to my brother in the living room. He and I had a likemindedness not common with all siblings; we loved each other and we tried to share our happiness with each other when we could. This applied to food, and also netlfix, but mostly food.
“You have to eat this chip.” I said, and so he did.
“Wow,” came his verbal approval alongside of his nod, “that was pretty good.”
But now that he tried one, I wanted one too. I went back to the bag in my own room and stood caressing it, eating more than a couple chips.
And then I came across the one: it was a four layered chip, folded once over and then once over again. So I brought it to my brother. But then I wanted my own so I had to go back to my room. But then I found another really great chip.
I gave up and brought the chip bag to the living room, sitting down on the couch while stuffing my mouth with chips and handing my brother really good ones.
About five minutes into this wonderful bonding experience centered around the happiness only chips could provide, it happened. The chip was comely in appearance, creased once over, but not very promising. I put this chip in my mouth, brought my teeth down around it, and my life was changed. I will never assume a chip is ordinary again because this chip changed my life. It crunched with both ease of process as well as a loud crispness. It was beyond the perfect chip.
But I wasn’t happy. This chip was gone and only I would ever know how wonderful it was.
What I’m trying to say is, sometimes the things that make us the most happy are things that we can't share with other people. Share the moments you can share and try to do what you can do to give your experiences to others. Some moments are fleeting and, yes, that's sad. But we can all do a little bit more to spread the love around.
After my first year in university, I realized that my online portfolio of years previous was radically out of date. I still considered it visually appealing, but the content was primarily from my third year of high school and the current hoster (webs.com) was running on such an old theme that the style profile would break half the time, revealing the ugly html backing that didn’t match the goal of the website. At one point, it was great but it fell to the bottom of the list somewhere along the line.
With the domain name contract expiring in June 2017, I realized it was time to move on.
The first thing that I really thought about was what I was going to do. Obviously, it would be my own personal website, probably having some sort of blog that I’d occasionally want to update to show how alive I was, and be consistent in a physically appealing appearance. My primary desire with this new website was to phase out of a static user interface and to start having a more profitable structure. I narrowed down what I wanted into a simple list:
1. Simple store/more accessible commission information
2. Consistent and independent aesthetic
3. Integrated portfolio
4. Affordable hosting costs
5. Opportunities for change and growth
The more difficult question concerned with the “how”.
With how common WordPress is, I played around with it for over a month. But somewhere along the line, I realized it just wasn’t customizable the way I wanted it to be. It’s great for blogging, but I didn’t exactly want a blog.
I worked with Weebly to build up my mom’s business website (this just sort of happened, because she bought the domain name from an organization that worked exclusively with the company – please do your research beforehand everyone) and it was ok.
I had some experience with Strikingly, but wasn’t a fan of long-form, one page websites.
I hadn’t ever used Wix or Squarespace, but both are well known to be top of the line (I’ve watched the Wix advertisement on Youtube enough times to be both annoyed by it and pretty damn attracted to it as well).
If I was going to use a website builder, I knew it was going to be one of those five. The thing was, after a little rudimentary research, I once again felt the temptation to tackle things on my own. I kept of going back and forth between integrated website building/hosting and doing everything on my own. A new website would be an investment, but where would it hit me hardest? Money or time?
For what I was looking for, I’d be paying $9 - $25 a month and doing only a little bit of theme customization – the focus being on content. Making my own website would take a lot more time and I’d be focusing on learning more web development rather than content. With research, I found a couple answers to how I would do things, but it seemed like it would take so much time, and as I researched even more, would actually cost quite a bit as well (somewhere within the same range as Squarespace).
On one hand, Squarespace. On the other hand, a hodgepodge of Sublime Text, Adobe Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Muse, HostGator, and Shopify.
I spent at least 20 hours studying how to make a website from a Web Developer's perspective until my summer classes hit me - and they hit me hard. I suddenly found myself lacking the motivation for productive self initiative. But, for so many reasons, I wanted to have those coveted Web Dev skills that I had hooked myself on.
So, I came to a compromise with myself: submit to the confines of a service like Squarespace for convenience sake while exploring the wonders of Web Development through an online John Hopkins certification.
I'd finally be doing something new. Thanks for joining me on this opportunity.