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?

One Red Paperclip – A Social Experiment and Game Examined

Some of you might already be familiar with Kyle MacDonald’s “One Red Paperclip” project. If not, be sure to see his blog: One Red Paper Clip, and TEDx Talk below:

The concept is simple. You start with a small object with relatively low value, and approach people to ask if they would like to trade you anything for your item.

Some folks explore this concept as an economic experiment, where your goal is to trade up. Others, like myself, just play the “game” with brave friends to just enjoy the experience. While we do split up in the beginning, we’re not there to compete. We gather at the end of the day and recollect our experiences interacting with strangers.

I personally love this game, because 1) it provides entertainment for you and all those involved at little to no monetary cost, 2) it pushes you to talk to strangers and improves your social skills, and 3) it give you appreciation for people’s generosity and creativity. We jokingly state that this is middle ground between pick-up artistry and salesmanship.

Having played this game on several free Saturdays, I’ve come up with some observations.

If you ask with a smile, you’re more likely to get what you want.

It’s no joke when they say positivity goes a long way. People seemed more open to interact with us when we expressed more enthusiasm and positive emotions. after a few cold call approaches, we could better read people’s faces to know if they would respond well to our requests. If we smiled, and they delivered a genuine smile back, it was pretty much a guarantee that they would accommodate our request.

People are less likely to trade after they have spent money.

We’ve played in Downtown San Jose, San Jose State University, UCLA’s main campus, Eastridge mall in San Jose and a shopping mall in Pasadena to list a few places, so I’ve noticed differences on people’s level of receptiveness based on setting.

One of the most remarkable thing is that some people at the mall shut us down by stating they have spent too much money. According to the scarcity mentality, when people fear that they don’t have enough to provide for themselves, they are less generous.

On the opposite end, the university setting removed that financial stress. At this liberal setting, most college students seemed very receptive. They readily handed us their pens, pencils and small doohickies right out of their backpacks. I should note though, things might have been different had I been interrupting a class or scouting for students near the Financial Aid office in Murphy Hall.

Young people are more open to playing, even though they have “less” money.

Older people often professed that they had nothing to give us. They were looking for items with equivalent monetary value to match our item. They tried to avoid engagement. However, young people were inventive about how they approached the situation. We got stickers, candies and erasers as they eagerly entertained our requests to trade. In fact, our youngest trader at 7 years old got so excited to give us her chocolates.

People want to help others who they feel are more relatable. One could argue as we age, we become more conservative while youth are more open-minded. This might echo the scarcity mentality, mentioned earlier. However, we should also note that the young people felt more connected to us due the small age difference, therefore seemed more willing to help us out.

If you can’t speak their language, people are more reserved about trading.

Feel free to refute this, because I’m making a huge generalization. However, my friends and I noticed that first generation Asian students and immigrants were very skeptical about playing this game with us. They wanted explanations, but still shied away from trading. At first, I thought it was a cultural thing for immigrants to be risk adverse. However, that doesn’t make sense! They literally made the biggest gamble of all by leaving their lives at home behind.

Instead, I believe it’s more of a trust issue when there’s a language barrier. Since my friend spoke Spanish, she was in a better position to encourage folks to trade. However, since our Mandarin, Vietnamese and Cantonese skills were quite limited, we couldn’t effectively convince first-generation folks to participate. This severely limited the quality of our communication with them.

Fun does not need to be attached to a dollar sign.

Entertainment can come cheap if you are creative. Often times, you can just enjoy the free company of new friends and learn quite a bit from listening to stranger’s stories. It’s really nice that each time this game ends, we’re left with a physical souvenir to remind us of all the wonderful people we have come across.

Cheap (and Free) Dates for UCLA Students Near Westwood

Oh, to be young and in love again. What you might not have in money, you certainly make up in cute study dates and extensive PDA. So Bruins, are you tired of dorm dates at the dining halls yet?

Well, count your lucky stars, I have some exciting alternatives for you!  You can do so much outside of Netflix and chill–even with a limited student budget, so here are my top picks for cheap/free dates.

Bus to Santa Monica, play in the sand and walk down the pier together. If you’re sticking around til sunset, be sure to walk down Third Street/Promenade and enjoy the talented street musicians. Talk over to Tongva Park at night for ambient lighting.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for something within walking distance… Take a swim with your boo-thang at the Sunset Rec Center. Get your tan on too.

Snack on the classic Diddy Reese cookies as you stand in the rush-line for tickets for top-of-the-line performances at the Geffen Playhouse, which is located right next to Ralph’s. Tickets for student Rush is only $10, compared to their normal prices starting at $70+.

Go to Sawtelle for a boba run. Self-explainatory. Have a debate whether Coco’s, Volcano, MJ, or Koala T serves the best.

Can’t drive to the Griffith Observatory? Come to the free weekly shows and night sky viewings at the on-campus Planetarium, found right on the top of Bolter Hall. What’s more romantic than the stars?

On Wednesday nights, join the Salsa club near the Bruin Bear. No problem if you don’t know how to dance. There’s friendly faces who would love to teach you!

Stay up late for a midnight showing of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show”. The talented beings at Sins O’ the Flesh put on a weekly show on Saturday at the Nuart Theater, which is on Santa Monica and Sawtelle.

Head to the Hammer Museum together. The second floor has ping-pong, whereas the first floor has those fun spinny vertigo-inducing seats. See the thought-provoking exhibitions, which are sometimes accompanied by free tours and talks. It’s free.

Ditto for the Fowler Museum. It’s home to world arts. Not the mention they have the free Fowler Out Loud series each week, and cool parties with tasty hor d’ouevres for each new exhibition opening!

Go to the Getty Center’s sketching gallery. The gardens are lovely, and this also makes a great mutual study spot. It’s always free, but closed on Monday. Or go beyond the Urban Lights at LACMA, which is free after 3pm for LA residents.

Can’t leave the dorms? Stay in, play scrabble or chess. Make cute drawings of one other. Rent out the video games from Powell library to enjoy with your partner. Play music while you cook each other dinner. After all, everyone has to eat, right?

Have any fun and affordable date ideas of your own? Let us know in the comments below.


Things to Check Out: Explore Downtown Los Angeles

A friend asked about recommendations on places to check out around Los Angeles. Considering it’s such a large city, I had to break this request into several parts.

So here it goes. One of the hippest places for the 21+ crowd is Downtown LA, also known colloquially as DtLA. Here are some cool things to do in the area.

Walk through the Arts District.

Look around, there’s just so much street art to see! If you’re a museum-junkie like I am, you’re sure to enjoy this neighborhood since admission to Hauser Wirth & Schimmel is free.

Looking for the perfect gift for your hipster friends? Poketo surely has something to fit their aesthetics.

In the Arts District, there’s also a farmer’s market during the day. At night, should you choose to stay past sunset, Angel City Brewery is laidback with lots of room, food trucks, and tabletop games!

Brunch at Egg Slut at Grand Central Market.

The Market is also home to gluten-free ramen there as well as famous ice-cream. As you exit, you’re across from Angels Flight Railway, close to where “500 Days of Summer” was filmed.

Don’t mind spending more time Downtown?

Get tickets to MOCA, which can also get you admission to its sister branches in West Hollywood and Little Tokyo. Then check out the classic Pacific Electric Building. If you’re looking for live music, some people like the view from Perch.

Support the artists on the upper floors of The Last Bookstore, or at least get cheap books and new profile photos upstairs. Afterwards, you can share some world famous macaroons in Botega Louie or splurge for dinner there.

Noteworthy mentions include the Central Library, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Staples Center, City Hall and Grand Park.

Notice something missing? While Little Tokyo technically is part of DtLA, I have to devote a different section for this neighborhood. There’s just too much to say! It’s the perfect place for foodies, arts patrons, museum goers and those interested in Japanese American history.

Afterwards, let’s talk about Chinatown/Olvera Street.