Blog

I disappeared but I’m (sorta) back

Hey y’all. It’s been a while since my last post, so I just wanted to fill you in that I’m doing okay. At least much better than last summer.

Last summer, I was feeling lost as I finished up my undergraduate years, moved to Ktown and looked for a more permanent job. I made a stupid decision. I entered a really tough situation/pseudo-relationship with the wrong person, craving some sort of close connection during this lonely transition.

Worst of all, I neglected my close ones and hid this relationship from my friends, pushing them away cause I wasn’t really happy with myself. This time involved a lot of crying and I still don’t think I was in the right mind. But you know, I eventually did admit it to others that I was making a bad decision, had to cut my losses and had to leave as painful as it was.

Although I’m still greatly embarrassed about my own bad conduct (lots of cutting words from my end) and intense negative feelings, this experience had made me grateful for those friends who stuck. It’s also made more cautious about those I trusted as well, because sadly some folks are just looking out for their own interests/agenda. At the same time, I know it’s going to be okay in the end. 

I think give it a few years, I’ll be more ready to open up about the details, and maybe write that screenplay about that crazy stupid summer that I was joking about. Until then, I’m setting down a reminder to check in in a year – to see what progress I’ve made since this post.

How do I feel about Vegas?

I’ve been to Vegas for a total of four times. Each one of these experiences were unique, with wildly different folks. And I happened to have a very good time, even when I didn’t expect to.

The first time I was a prude. Hating the idea of how a city could  harbor wild secrets of infidelity, drugs and excessive drinking. I was 20 years old, going as a student chaperone for underaged summer students from Turkey, China and Australia. Not surprisingly, we weren’t able to enter any clubs or establishments with alcohol. It was a pretty tame trip of shopping in the outlet malls, tubing in the rapid river pools and walking in the hot sun chatting with these awesome folks. I was also able to meet with up my internet boss/founder of Mochi after only chatting with each other online/through phone for the previous 5 years. Walking down old Fremont street, I was amazed by the fire breathing Mantis, giant yellow fire hydrant and Zappo’s vision of Vegas. The students honestly didn’t really need my chaperoning. Great trip, and I had a hotel room all to myself and slept like a baby. Plus, this is when my love of Burgr by Gordon Ramsey started, and proud to say – I’ve been back three times.

The second time I went to Vegas, I went with an RA group of seniors. One of the folks was my then boyfriend, and we were all 21, so we hit the club. Although I was lucky to have my date look out for creepers at the club, I became weirdly defensive about my personal space in the crowded Omnia club, and much rather preferred the Ka show by Cirque du Soleil. We had Fat Tuesdays plus Earl of Sandwich, drank and slept quite a bit. I also had a dark thought wondering if any of the children performing on the streets were being trafficked or exploited for their talent. But I kept that to myself…also what I found interesting…Rather than taking the long distance bus, my RA buddies drove all the way there. That was wayyy tiring. 

The third time had me nervous. It was a bridesmaids party. Boy was I nervous. Is someone gonna get arrested now? I had this crazy idea that it would put me out of my comfort zone – but the weekend actually turned it to be tame. We hit the day pools and ran into these polite Canadians who we spent the weekend with up until dawn.  We got amazing seats for the Britany Spears show, and ate lots of Taco Bell. I passed by the Miss USA contestants and planned to check out the aquarium- until I read the horrible Yelp reviews. The other girls had already driven home and I had some time before the flight, so I just treated myself to good food and people watching.

The fourth and latest time I went to Vegas was with a different group of RAs for our friend’s birthday. We surprisingly went to a pizzeria to get kale salad, and I couldn’t have been more proud of our responsible group. Some older guys tried to buy us drinks, but we weren’t really having that and ran to see Zedd’s set. Again, I felt uncomfortable with crowded places and our guy friend had an intense stare down/shoving match with this jerk who tried to touch us. But we got to the front and stayed the whole night long. Then we ate at the Wicked Spoon, bumped into some folks we happened to know from high school. Met awesome Singaporeans from UC Berkeley who shared their mega drink with us and just took time to do some self care. One of my favorite parts was the group of laughing Asian women in their 40s holding a divorce party. I complimented one of the women’s shoes and she told me to never get married to the wrong person. I felt like she had words of wisdom. 

Overall, my initial skepticism of Sin City turned out to be unfounded. Yes, quite a folks blew smoke, yes, there are cheating horndogs who holler, and unscrupulous folks. However, if you roll with me – I’ll be your mother hen. I will keep it safe and sane. I found myself enjoying these mini vacations of dressing up and enjoying the sun. Hope next time I go, I swim more, watch more shows and check out the Grand Canyon.

Seafood at Redondo Beach Pier

Upon suggestion of a friend/uber driver, we checked out the pier’s freshest seafood wares. From Santa Barbara crabs to periwinkles, they really had everything there. Will write more about this soon.

 

“It’s as tasty as it is ugly!”, said the vendor about the #Spidercrab. #redondobeachpier #freshseafood

A post shared by Kathy Pham (@kathyhasramen) on

Crayfish Removal at the Santa Monica Mountains

My friend Lauren and I had a great Saturday collecting and measuring crayfish. They’re an invasive species in the Santa Monica Mountains, most likely introduced by fishermen. We learned quite a bit about them thanks to the friendly folks from the Mountain Restoration Trust, who host bi-monthly removal events to educate the public about these efforts.

Originally from northern Mexico and southeastern USA, the red swamp crayfish are a hardy species. They thrive in freshwater, but can survive in brackish mucky water sources as well. In times of drought, they can burrow 3-4 feet into the ground in order to reach the water table. They eat nearly everything, including each other. These cannibalistic baddies are causing ecological damage and outcompeting local species here. The crayfish don’t have natural predators in the area, so they’re pretty much the apex species here. We found specimen anywhere between 5 to 13 cm, ranging from bright red to a dark rusty brown.

Here are some photos from our day.

It’s a free event, and I’d personally love to go back with more friends. Nifty activity, great way to reconnect with nature’s beauties and absolutely a good memories. So if you’re going, hit me up!


In case you were wondering, we didn’t eat these animals. Instead, they’re most likely going to be refrigerated and fed to animals in rehabilitation, like these cute little raccoon below.

Source: KPCC
Frozen crayfish are fed to rehabilitating raccoons and opossums at the California Wildlife Center. Source: KPCC

Besides, who knows what’s been in that creek? The crayfish might not be the healthiest to eat. On the other hand, we heard that a particular someone used to take these crayfish home, store them in a fresh water tank for a few days and boiled for dinner. So it appears, it’s possible to eat them, but why would you want to?

Is it easier to play the ukulele or ask a stranger out?

Instagram post for accountability:

 

The #challenge is on! 🙌 Each week for the next five weeks, @gjuarez7 and I will ask out one stranger out on a date. Romantic or platonic, doesn’t matter. Rejection is fine, and makes for an even better story.

📲 Dating apps don’t count, the ask must be on the phone or in real life. The first one to meet their #truelove wins, or at the very least, this #fun experience will help us become comfortable talking to folks! #avocadope

What’s on your list?

Made a list of things/activities that made me happy. Not necessarily in order:

  • Zumba
  • Comedy
  • Scrabble
  • Food
  • Museums
  • Karaoke
  • Boogie Boarding
  • Aquariums
  • Gardens
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Musicals
  • Interviewing People
  • Reading about Socioeconomics and International Affairs
  • Good Insightful Talks
  • Video Editing
  • Event Planning
  • Getting Things Done

What would be on your list?

Wisdom Tooth Extraction (Again)!?

Yesterday, I went back to the dentist to get tooth #32 removed. The tooth grew in sideways, so I wanted to deal with the minor pain of extraction earlier rather have it develop into something worse. Like a cavity. Or who knows, just something more painful?

So here we are again, some painkiller injected to numb down my gums. While I was losing sensation, I texted a few friends and listened to the classical music in the office to distract myself. I’m sure when the dentist and his assistant came back, I was covered in drool even if I didn’t feel this coming down my chin. Thanks kind assistant, for helping me wipe it off. You helped maintain whatever dignity I had left in that room.

Then dentist cut down my bone and fractured my impacted wisdom tooth into four itty bitty pieces. Honestly, the process was a lot better the second time around, since I knew what to expect. Thanks to prior experience, which involved watching a load of YouTube videos for mental preparation, it wasn’t as scary this round.

Plus, we had some small talk about Russia with the dentist, so it helped calm me down. As silly as it sounds, he definitely reassured me when I found out about his dog’s name. I felt like I could trust a guy with a dog named Boris. The name seems to suit the pup, who I imagined was kind-hearted, naive yet fully lovable. I’m sure the dog had solid oral hygiene too.

Anyhow, back to the extraction process. This time around, I tried to focus on things outside the dental clinic. Like UCLA, crushes, and what sort of food I could eat in the next few days. I knew I would be on a liquid diet, so apples and carrots were out of the equation. I reminisced on the time Karin brought me chao, or what others call congee/rice porridge. I really missed that mush, and kind of wished I was getting my tooth removed in a strip mall in the 626 so that I was closer to Valley Boulevard and the food down there. My train of thought just carried me to another place, while I’m certain the assistant was wondering why I was producing so much saliva. Thank you again for this woman for helping me not choke on my own spit, and using that suction tool to help keep things neat.

For the most part, I didn’t feel pain, but I did feel the pressure on my jaw and experience some uncomfortable moments when it was hard to keep my mouth open. Everything seemed to be going well, even if it took a lot longer to remove this tooth. The extraction was done, and we were onto the stitches. The visuals sucked. Cringeworthy even. I hate looking at the wires and blood, so this time around I closed my eyes at times and just trusted the dentist.

I cannot tell you how much I hate stitches. They stung. They looked gross, and they smelled of my bad breath and singed tooth. But they at least play an important role in the recovery process. So thank you to the dentist who sewed them on so tightly. I should be thanking you for the whole process actually, so thanks again! Also, thank you for the drugs!

The procedure was done, so I got picked up shortly after. On my way home, the blood-drenched gauze in my mouth got soggy quite fast. I felt a bit conflicted, since I couldn’t replace it until I got home.

Unfortunately, we were stuck in LA traffic — so it took an hour to get from Little Tokyo to Westwood. I would just have to bear the wait, and embarrassment of having to aim my tissue at my sense-less self to keep my bloody spit from dripping. I learned the hard way not to talk or even slightly open my mouth during that ride, as that nasty concoction got over the seatbelt and shirt a few times. Yuck!

When home, I snuck to a specific women’s restroom, which normally wouldn’t have gotten much foot traffic. However, people did still drop by. A middle school cheerleader and her team came in when blood was dropping down my chin. Her jaw dropped in response, so I must have scared her. Bad time to remove the old gauze, I guess. But I wasn’t so embarrassed as amused, I soaked my fresh new gauze, stuck it on top of the wound and tidied up — making sure all the traces of red were gone.

Then it was dinner time. I had lost my appetite during the car ride home, but I knew I had to eat. My friends who had their wisdom teeth removed had previously warned me about eating enough. I think a couple of them fainted, while others vomited because there wasn’t enough to food in their stomach. I wanted to avoid that, so I took those words seriously.

I brought my turkey barley soup and glass of milk to a pretty secluded part of the dining hall. It was pretty challenging to sip and swallow, so I took longer than usual to eat. Meanwhile, a portly fellow sat down at the table adjacent to mine. He had two cheeseburgers, chicken breast, pizza and a stack of watermelon slices as high as the Empire State Building.

I was impressed, because it looked like he was eating to bulk up — something I struggle with, eating enough. I was also partially jealous, because he could eat whatever he desiree. Lastly, I was also rather entertained, because our meals stood in stark contrast to each other. I felt sorry for the guy since I stared at his food, and found it ironic that he had to sit at the loneliness corner of Bplate next to me — the girl who can’t eat!

While it was so tempting to take a photo of his dinner to show you the amount of food he ate, I resisted. It took a lot of willpower, and I didn’t want to be rude.

Poor fellow, I was already rude for not minding my own business! So I finished my soup and milk, got up and grabbed a watermelon slice on my way out of the dining commons. I struggled to bite down, and thought about getting more to turn into a juice/slush — but then I reconsidered. It would also be rude to take more than one piece fruit from the dining hall, so I settled on just going back to my room.

Popped the pills like the doctor recommended, read my friend’s awesome comic series called Ten Years, and called it an early night! 

In the aftermath, things don’t seem so bad. My daily ritual has changed, but only slightly. I take some inflammatory drugs and painkillers. I drink lots of water to stay hydrated and I have to be mindful of what I can eat.

I’m to find good food even if I can’t chew. It’ll be a fun game to see how I can get some variety and taste in the mix, so maybe it’s time to look for Indian and Vietnamese places nearby. The only downside is that I probably won’t get enough protein, and my dentist said I need to skip the gym until at least Friday. It’s a bummer, but I’ll survive. And afterwards, I’ll forget about all this!

On another note, I hope this procedure doesn’t dampen my fun. I’m so excited to watch David Sedaris tonight. Maybe I’ll be as funny and witty as him one day.

Selfies aren’t New. Neither is Narcissism in the Age of Social Media.

Each year, click-bait pieces claim that today’s youth are the worst yet.* As a result, older folks get the impression that Millennials are categorically self-absorbed, spoiled and entitled. It’s repeated so often. Even mainstream news outlets like NPR, TIME, and Fortune call Millennials the “me, me, me generation”.
 
Attacking our generation’s love-hate relationship with taking selfies, critics claim that young people are vapid and vain. But who’s to say the previous generations wouldn’t have indulged in the same activity, had they possessed the technology?

Selfies are an inherently narcissistic act, but this quality isn’t unique to Millennials.

People assume Millennials are more narcissistic, because we take selfies. Especially since we take thousands of them a year. We then share our favorites on Instagram and Facebook for “likes”, a social currency externally validating the self-worth of many young people today. Yet, this phenomenon of self-documentation and the quest for adoration is hardly new. Our forefathers were just as vain as us. It just wasn’t as apparent, since self portraits were harder to both create and preserve in a pre-digital age.

Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait as a Painter, 1887 – 1888

Even before the term “selfie” was coined, the concept of recording oneself was around. The tradition predates our generation. Consider the glorified portraits that decorate the wall of a fine art gallery, or historical museum.

For these masterpieces to have been created, a wealthy patron must have endured hours of posing in front of the commissioned painter. They paid for these highly-edited reflections to immortalize their youth and power. Instead of Photoshopping their least desired traits like youngsters do today, our predecessors ordered the artisan to refine their physical imperfections with a stroke of a brush.

Likewise, who knows how long royalty and high-ranking officials have waited for their likelihood to be sculpted? Weeks? Months? The process of getting these labor-intensive art pieces done is as egotistical as today’s selfies, if not more.

Like today, people felt insecure about how their peers and posterity would view them. Regardless of social standing, everyone also feared that future generations would forget them. To safeguard their legacy, the rich paid for the luxury of canonizing themselves through sponsoring the arts. Even artists like Vincent van Gogh and Frida Kahlo battled their mortality by leaving behind self-portraits. The rest, unskilled or unlucky in finances, attempted to carry on their image, traditions and life through their offspring.

Robert Cornelius has been said to be the first to take a “selfie”; photo taken  in 1839.

From high culture to low-brow entertainment, selfies are now everywhere.

Some of the oldest photos were selfies. When the camera first came out in the early 19th century, early adopters were pleased that to wait less time in front of a camera person than in front of a traditional artist. Some folks even took control of the camera for themselves. They ingeniously experimented with mirrors to capture images of themselves.

As Kodak and others companies made film cheaper, the public bought cameras. Excited, common folks explored photography as a newly accessible medium. Camera users appealed to their own internal Dorian Gray by taking self-photographed portraits. Self portraits became commonplace among the middle class, and lost their place as an exclusive status marker for the elite. Through these photos, people insured that they were seen by future generations.

New technology through the years eventually boosted the prevalence of selfies. Flip-phones, and later, smart phones sold out as on-the-go devices for selfies. The emergence of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat made it effortless to share these images. It became easier than ever to present ourselves as who we’d like to be. Empowered, we armed ourselves with a gallery of selfies to show our best self — as artificial as it may be.**

So, you might ask, “What’s the point of ‘selfies’ if they’re mostly self indulgent?”.

Simple answer: selfies bring people joy.

While some view selfies with great disdain, others regard selfies as a positive thing. CNN writes that while looking at selfies lowers life-satisfaction, posting selfies can raise self-esteem.

We can agree that passive act of constantly consuming selfies is dangerous, because it’s deceptive to compare one’s daily life to the curated highlights of another person’s. Millennials can even experience “FOMO”, or fear of missing out, when they aren’t included in their friends’ selfies. Additionally, critics blame selfie culture for the growth of eating disorders and body dysmorphia. However, more likely the pervasiveness of digitally-edited bodies rather than selfies themselves have caused these unrealistic standards.

On the other hand, posting selfies can be a beneficial way to track development and life events. Fitness models show off their “gains” through progress photos. Parents and kids alike swap photos of fleeting moments like high school graduations. Travelers memorialize their ephemeral presence at historical-cultural landmarks. Selfies have also united people of color through online communities, where members can embrace their ethnic beauty.

If it hasn’t already happened, selfies will ultimately transition to a normalized means of documentation for people of all ages. Well-known galleries have even started collecting selfies, so it isn’t too far to consider it an accepted art form nowadays.

Call us the “selfie generation”, if you want. Millennials are no less vain than their predecessors. We should admit that humans historically have been predisposed to narcissism and self-preservation. In fact, we are all members of a “remember me” generation, even if we embrace different art forms. With or without selfies, humans will continue to find ways to express our personal vanity. It’ll be exciting to see what will come in the future.
 

*Amusingly, The Atlantic points out the ongoing tradition that the old will always find fault with the young. Google the term “juvenoia”.

**I find it just as genuine to share something on Instagram as we do through physically scrapbooking or writing an autobiography. While some argue that selfies are highly-edited and narcissistic, these other means of self documentation also carry the bias and half truths we often tell others.

Making Maps on Asian American Poverty – Published for the End of #APAHM

End of May means the end of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Decided to post some maps I made for class from my last Winter Quarter. I’m a bit tired, so I can’t provide much context behind them…But I will say that the socioeconomics behind different ethnic Asian groups in the Santa Clara County greatly vary.


What Does Being an Adult Actually Mean?

I often wonder what does it mean to be an actual “adult”. In a legal sense, it’s when you reach the age of 18. By then, you can sign forms without parental permission. Or perhaps it’s 21, the age when you can grab a drink at a bar with your actual ID. Having passed those milestones though, I never feel quite like an “adult”.

I wonder if I exhibit traits of a typical specimen in this life stage. Am I responsible? For the most part, yes. Am I able to pay my own taxes? Check. Am I working? Currently, yes. Am I able to drive? Um…not quite.

Maybe adulthood is life after college. Maybe adulthood is when you have children. I think the confusing part is that as we “grow up”, we have so many expectations or ideas of how to qualify as “grown up”. I suppose, adulthood is a process and not a destination.