things i’ve been working on

While I’ve been jobless, I’ve learned a lot about myself and about the things I like doing with my free time. I found out that I really like writing, translating, keeping up with fashion, politics and tech trends, singing, and using computers to make stuff. I also know a lot more about making websites with JavaScript now after having taken a brain-frying Java programming class at Stanford, so I’m going back into hand-coding my own sites. And I found out that I’m a movement–> sound synesthete, which is why I’ve revived my childhood interest in animated GIFs.

So when I’m not looking at job postings, I’m probably doing one of the following:

Reading the news (and a couple of productivity blogs if I’m really procrastinating)
– Eating ice cream (my family at one point had five kinds in the freezer… in February)
– Hanging out in the Mission
– Walking or playing with my dog
Translating the Japanese Prime Minister’s blog
– Making epilepsy-inducing animated GIFs
– Looking at other people’s art
– Writing and tweeting for my sister’s blog
– Singing for a trance producer

I’m thinking of translating articles from L’Officiel so that I can brush up on my French as well as my Japanese, but I now have a part-time internship at a TV station to work on, so I don’t know if I can take on much more stuff. But I’ll probably just translate a couple of articles for the hell of it– they have all their editions online anyway, and I’ve got a friend who’d be interested in the one about Alber Elbaz of Lanvin…

the future is so much awesomer than the past

Happy 2010! Since that last post, there have been a few adjustments to my life. For one, I’ve decided to stay in the Bay Area for at least another year (unless I get a really good job offer in NYC, or I end up not finding a job and entering the Peace Corps for four years). For another, I’ve figured out most of my game plan for the next five years. Also, 2009’s finally over and it’s the fucking future! They say 2010 is the start of a good stretch for the Rabbit.

My decision to stay on the West Coast was a hard one, but it’s nice to have family around when you’re just getting started in the real world, just in case you fuck up and they have to save your sorry ass. But yup, I’m probably moving to San Francisco the first chance I get, given that most of my friends are up there and I’m turning into a hermit in my house. “Empire State of Mind” still makes me feel both homesick and proud, but I’ve got history here, now, too.

As for doing the things I want to do: I still don’t know exactly what career I’m going to end up in, but I know for sure I’ll be doing lots of music on the side. There’s this producer in Daly City I’m working with to make some epic vocal trance, and one day when we have a place to practice, my Motown punk band will be back on. And I will eventually edit and re-write my novel and get it published, but I’m going to try and find some meaningful work first, hopefully involving a fun, possibly do-gooding company or NGO. Yes, this is not the starving artist schtick I expected it to be, but you can’t really do that when you’re 22 with a Stanford diploma and $100k in debt ($200k with interest!). I might as well be useful.

So, I’ll be investing my free time in music, my extra money in stocks and savings, and all of my trust in only my closest friends. The student loan thing is still a problem, but I think it’s one I can solve. Things are on the up and up.

P.S. I’m sorry that this blog hasn’t been living up to its name. There hasn’t been much serious “transit” going on besides the CalTrain and BART I take to get to SF. I’ll try to write more pieces on cultural stuff, but since I’m staying put, this blog is effectively on indefinite hiatus. PTFO.

ahoy again

It’s been a very, very strange year. I wish I could get a do-over, but at the same time I’d MUCH RATHER NOT have to go through all that crazy shit a second time. I graduated and transitioned into the real world of unemployment and despair. I went to Burning Man (again). I got dumped (again). I went to war with and cut myself off from some crazy, pushy, confounding, conniving people, stressed to the point that I had to question my priorities, my morals, and the very nature of my character, and sometimes I still have to remind myself why I did what I did. I moved back in with my parents and got a sweet little dog who cries when she’s alone. I’ve got lots of free time now, and I spend it working on two novels I’ve written for NaNoWriMo, tinkering with GarageBand and my resume, learning how to drive, and trying not to get cabin fever.

I realized that the three-year cycle that keeps me ever “transitory” is coming around again, and after a two-week jaunt to NYC in October, the “Empire State of Mind” song is stuck in my head. I really might go back to where I came from, that ghetto-ass Chilltown that my sister and I spent years trying to forget. I think I want to finally live in the city proper. I think I’m finally prepared.

Then again, I’ve got a bunch of loans to repay, and maybe staying under my parents’ roof would be a better idea. I don’t know. I’ve talked to so many people this past month. Some of them are my age, or younger, or decades older, with kids a decade younger than I am. Some of them are still at Stanford, some graduated with me and are still unemployed, some have been working the same insanely cushy job for the past five years, some are my parents’ friends who have been working for the past five decades.

I’ve told each person something different about myself and what I want in a job. Everything I’ve said has been true. Everything I’ve said has been me talking out of my ass. I’ve gotten more advice than I know what to do with.

My sister scared me best: You have a degree that will make you more money than mine will, but because of that you also have more debt than I ever had. Pay your dues.

A thirtysomething friend and father of two put it this way: It’s never too late to do what you want to do.

I feel like my clock is ticking, but this is a recession. Despite all of those newspaper articles on people finally chasing their dreams because they lost their jobs and are retooling their priorities, I need to be making bank.

I’m clinging to hope. A friend currently at Columbia told me about a fellow neuroscience Ph.D. candidate who is in a fairly popular Brooklyn indie band. The guy spends all day at his job and all night rehearsing and doing gigs. Sure, you can always make time. Am I really that dedicated, though?

how to go green without becoming a self-righteous douchebag

One of the things that annoys me about living in the co-op community (and in Northern California in general) is the vast number of people I have to deal with who shop exclusively at places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, scoff at non-organic and non-local products, shell out shit tons of money for Dr. Bronner’s (and perhaps console me with “It’s totally okay” if you can’t afford to be good to the environment), spend their summers Flying Out to Third-World Countries to Help Poor People, bitch you out for leaving the lights on, and carry themselves with a smug holier-than-thou air for being so goddamn good. The superbaby progeny of doting soccer moms have evolved into a generation of everything-conscious neo-hippies who embody American whitebreadism. While the vast majority of them are harmless and mean well, some of them can be as stereotypical and annoying as the extremist factions of GreenPeace and PETA.

I’m vegetarian for ethical reasons, and I try not to bitch about it. For lack of money I can’t do the all-organic all-local thing, but I’m also wary of all that shit– those labels sometimes don’t mean anything, just as kosher sometimes doesn’t equal humane practices; small-time farmers with excellent farming ethics don’t always get those expensive cage-free and organic labels, and “certified organic” companies aren’t always what you think. Also, I use lots of jet fuel and electricity, and it’s not even to volunteer to help poor people.

Do I feel guilty about my T-Rex-sized carbon footprint? No, because I’m trying to reduce it, and I’ve learned that guilt over climate change, like guilt over third-world countries, gets you nowhere. (I’ll probably write more about guilt later.)

So the question is: Can you “go green” without turning into a rabid environmentalist? Sure, but it might take conscious effort to both 1) start becoming aware of your products and practices so you can change them, and 2) prevent yourself from proselytizing once you do become aware.

I approach green/Fair Trade/socially responsible/”conscious” living as I would religion: you’ll probably mess up sometimes (or all the time), but try your best. I’d say focus on changing your habits. Use less toilet paper. Turn the lights off. Slow your faucet use to a trickle. Read magazines online. Bike instead of drive. Carpool. Start a compost heap. Dispose of batteries properly. Bundle up instead of turning up heat. Don’t use plastic grocery bags. Buy used. Freecycle. Eat less meat. Drink tap. Cook. Blah blah blah. (It helps that most of these tips also save money.)

Like religion, the whole point shouldn’t be about consumerism, about splurging on rosaries blessed with water from Lourdes or being able to afford fancy bikes, solar panels, organic cotton and Dr. Bronner’s soap. It’s about believing in the gist of things and having your actions speak louder than words.

So yeah, I do think going green is like trying to be a good person– and to me, a good person isn’t self-important or judgmental (I’m obviously still working on this one, given this bitchy post). They would generally be ready to talk about or defend their beliefs if they were addressed directly, but otherwise wouldn’t turn their nose up at people who “aren’t trying hard enough”.

In short, my advice on saving the world is try your best, but shut up and get over yourselves. The end!

fifteen sites that have affected my life and this blog

There’s a list of some of my favorite and most often used links on the sidebar to your right, but they don’t always reflect what I’ve been seeing lately on the Internet (such as Super Lamb Banana which I love, but… What? Exactly). I read the news as a form of procrastination and stress relief; however, there are only a certain number of times a day that you can refresh The New York Times page. As a result, over the past year I’ve amassed a collection of news sites and notable blogs to draw on for inspiration, nostalgia and brain candy. You may have come across some of their articles and posts through links in my own blog posts.

The news sites are international and opinionated, the blogs all have a personal voice and touch, and the “mix of everything” sites (blending Webs 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0) are just a dead giveaway that I live in the Bay Area.

News and opinions

BBC News – Other international news sources claim that they report with a broad scope and without bias, but the BBC is the only one that comes close to actually doing so. 

Salon.com – Super-liberal SF-based online magazine full of people who care about things. I can only handle it in small doses, but I do enjoy reading the Ask the Pilot column.

San Francisco Chronicle – Like the NYT, but obviously with a Bay Area twist. It was between this or the L.A. Times, and the latter’s front page really sucks– it’s very generic and has little area-specific personality. (The LAT fashion blog, however, has better commentary than NYT’s.)

Mainichi Daily News – The English-language version of the Mainichi Shimbun got in serious shit last year for this one editor and his translated WaiWai column (basically a tabloid full of sick sex-related articles) which got into the “Most Popular This Week” box all the time, but they seemed to have fixed that problem. (Japan Times is probably more comprehensive, but I guess I’ve got brand loyalty– when I was in Japan I read the Mainichi Shimbun’s English version daily in my high school’s library as basically my only link to the U.S…)

Le Monde – I like this French newspaper better than the Sartre-founded (but now much less left-wing) Libération and conservative Le Figaro. It’s very much like the NYT in that it’s internationally popular and Paris-centric, and its editorial-full Opinions section is very strong.

People and their blogs

Charles Bremner – He is a Times (UK) correspondent in France and blogs thoughtfully (sometimes British tongue-in-cheek style) about French culture, politics and famous personalities. As a plus, his Anglo-French commenters are some of the most civil on the Internet. Well, that or he knows how to screen them.

Carmen Van Kerckhove – I don’t really think about being a minority in Stanford’s co-op community, but I have to sometimes: in some situations, even with friends, I get caught off-guard or feel uncomfortable. This blog helps me parse those unspoken issues. Racialicious is often a little intense for me, but Van Kerckhove’s own well-written blog concerns racism and discrimination in the primarily American workforce. She’s also got good interviews from diverse people in all kinds of careers.

Lisa Katayama (TokyoMango) – Like Peter Payne‘s blog about Japanese culture, with a less-otaku stance and from a Japanese-American point of view. By day, she’s a magazine writer who covers Japanese culture and Japan/U.S. tech crossover news; on this blog she shares fun trends in Japan that’ve caught her eye.

Scott Schuman (The Sartorialist) – Ever since I got back from Paris I freely admit I’ve been super into admiring fashion and stylish people. This blog is just a bunch of quality street-level photos of people in world clock cities (Paris, Milan and New York) who have interesting looks. Possibly the simplest blog I read regularly, and also the most chic.

Trent Vanegas (Pink is the New Blog) – Reading this celeb gossip blog is my guilty pleasure. (See above. I like looking at good-looking people and am sometimes a voyeuse. There, I said it.) I like Trent because his blog’s got a warm personal touch: his posts are usually polite and supportive of their subjects (unlike his nastier counterpart Perez Hilton) and the photo collages he compiles are always adorned with pink stars and fun speech bubbles.

Penelope Trunk (Brazen Careerist) – She writes about young people and their careers (or lack thereof) while I’m about to become a recent college graduate in a recession. Her advice-giving style is easy to read, full of numbered lists and anecdotes, a style I’d like to use myself. She’s got strange relationships with feminism and Internet privacy that I can relate to. And her posts on blogging got me to keep working on this site.

Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics) – The blog of the authors of the most enjoyable and memorable academic-related book I’ve ever read. They’ve got the NYT behind them and a host of interesting people they’ve interviewed using readers’ questions. Most of their posts follow in the vein of the book– which is great, since Freakonomics II is long overdue.

A mix of everything

Wired – I still remember getting the very first issue of Wired as a supplement to Time when I was little. It looked so futuretech-cool. It still does, but now it’s got thirty times more thirtysomething geek factor; the magazine is easier to read for laypeople than the site proper. Some of the aforementioned bloggers write for it. (Unsurprisingly, the blogs section thrives online.)

Discover – Basically Wired for science and math geeks. The site could use a better layout designer (their site reads like a goddamn RSS feed), their articles are sometimes sloppily posted, and the fact that their “Blogs” are listed with the same treatment as “Articles” and “Departments” on the main page irks me. Otherwise the content is solid and the articles are easy to read.

Culinate – A 21st century member-oriented food site. Their recipes look mouthwatering; their articles and blogs cover a wide range of food topics both practical and enlightening. By the pleasing layout you can tell the site is Web-savvy, and by the farm imagery, “farmer’s markets” search box on the right, “Local Flavors” column and mentions of CSA boxes you can tell it’s committed to local organic food. All in all, a very NorCal site.

N.B.: A year ago I would’ve had more food-related blogs up here, but I soon realized I’m vegetarian and most of them involve meat. Chocolate & Zucchini is a beautiful French food blog but I only used its desserts; Vegan Lunch Box is long defunct thanks to the author’s son growing up (Lunch in a Box is a worthy bento-making successor, too bad she’s omnivorous); Wasted Food is great but sounds a bit too much like a textbook example of Stuff White People Like, and most vegetarian/vegan food blogs are a little too militantly activist for my taste.

Just doing link checks on these sites while preparing this post made me stumble across like ten different articles I’d like to write about. But they’ll have to wait until after finals. Holy shit, I am swamped. With life.

west coast is the best coast

The road trip was a success. Gas was cheap ($1.20s in Tucson, damn!), our car was pumped full of music, and Ricky, being the only driver of the two of us, drank soda after soda while I navigated and kept him talking and alert. I finished off the cans of Spaghetti-Os I’d bought for last year’s Burning Man (even though I’d bought the wrong kind of can opener), Ricky taught me about cactus permutations, I hijacked his camera to take pictures of the road, and he barreled on to destination after destination along the coast and the border. (We almost went to Tijuana just for the hell of it before we remembered that border patrol now requires passports.)

A few things I learned about the west coast and the people who took us through it:

“San Diego’s like a cross between Tucson and the Bay Area”
… what we saw of it, anyway (we stayed with Ricky’s friend in Encinitas and visited Sam J. in Chula Vista). It’s got that low-key sprawled-out suburban desert feel mixed with an alternative hippie community. Ricky wants to buy property along the coast in Encinitas because it’s halfway between Tucson and San Francisco both geographically and culturally, and has the most gorgeous views of the sea.

“Tucson should be closer to Black Rock City”
Tucson turned out to be awesome: it’s strangely chill, fairly young and alternative edgy, the kind of place Burners would love to raise their kids in, mixed with a desert Native/Mexican style characteristic of Arizona. Plus it’s actually great to visit Tucson if you’re broke—  thanks to all those hot U of A chicks, it’s got fashionable thrift stores galore with prices a fraction of those you’d find for similar clothes in the Bay Area. (Too bad I’d spent all my money in L.A. and San Diego on the way down!)

One-story houses and– always– the mountains
Ricky had to do tons of family and friend visiting, so I tagged along to see lots of people’s houses, which in Tucson are mostly one-story adobe-type affairs in bright colors, making it easy to see the four mountain ranges that border the city (in NESW order: Catalina, Rincon, Santa Rita and Tucson– they spell out CRST, or “Christ” in Spanish with no vowels). After a trip to eegee’s (which had a version of poutine italienne! And who knew you could make a Smarties-flavored slushie?) we visited his father, who lives in a new housing development across town, and that was pretty much the only two-story I saw.

A Mexican Christmas isn’t far from a Filipino one
Though Ricky’s super-native, long hair and all, and his house has a lot of Pasqua Yaqui art and stuff, I found out he’s kind of an anomaly in his family since they’re mostly Mexican culturally. (Which was awesome ‘coz I finally got to eat the “real Mexican food” Ricky always talks about when he complains about Bay Area Mex. Dear God, I’ll never think badly of tamales again!) His family’s Christmas party kind of felt like my own family’s parties when I was a little kid in Manila, especially with the posole stewing for hours on the stove and hella cousins running around.

Rain has so much more meaning when you live in a desert
Tucson is the only place I’ve ever been to where people were really genuinely happy about the rain. It’s probably because they’re in a 7-year drought right now. It wasn’t even that much, but if your climate is perpetual summer, you take what you can get.

Anyway, Ricky’s family was super nice and my stay in Tucson was great– before I knew it Ricky was burning sage to pray for a safe trip and a good year, and we were off to L.A.

Austin is the new San Francisco
On our way down we stayed with Ricky’s friends and family, so on the way back up we crashed at my aunt’s place in Glendale and partied with my sister and my aunt’s son Jerrome. He and I go way back (to daycare in NYC!), and he’d been living in El Paso for the past couple of years so it was great to see them. Thanks to him and some of my Texan friends at Stanford (and SXSW), I’m being gradually convinced to move out to Austin. It’s young and hip, it’s sort of neo-eco-hippie like San Francisco, it’s the new indie rock capital of the U.S., and the rent is cheap as hell. But more about that later.

The difference between natives and transplants
Partying in L.A. with Ricky’s friends and partying in L.A. with my sister, Jerrome and my own friends turned out to be two completely different beasts. Ricky’s friends were L.A. area natives— they’re high-rolling, really scene, borderline prepster jaded types who are L.A. insiders but are outside the entertainment industry. They’re basically characters out of Laguna Beach– their parties are at their own hot tubs and houses, they stay within their own social circles and they don’t know much about their own city because they’ve never been tourists, which made them fun to party with but not ideal guides to the city.

My sister, on the other hand, was one of the many who moved to L.A. because of the industry, and she loves the place with all her heart (save the ridiculous traffic– one night I spent 45 minutes holding my bladder in a stressful traffic jam, and realized why my sister doesn’t want to move back here anymore). All of her L.A. friends work in the movies (if we’d had more time we probably could’ve gotten into some studio backlots), she knows the hot clubs and cool tourist attractions like I know my favorite beats in Paris, and she would point out all the famous people she spotted while we were driving, as well as their houses. My former Paris friends Tim and Amy are similarly industry-oriented, and Jerrome, having gone to high school in Glendale and being a hip-hop dancer, has a ridiculous L.A. network and knows where to go to have a good time without all the glitter and coke.

All in all, L.A. the second time around was pretty tight. We got our picture-taking in at the observatory, people-watched at The Grove, and partied at a lot of low-key bars and lounges (my favorite was Little Bar, near where my sister used to live).

A side trip and a new year
Ricky headed out earlier to catch a New Year’s rave in S.F., so I drove back up on New Year’s Eve with my sister and cousin. There was some kind of insane pile-up on our way back, so acting on a recommendation from Jerrome we took a three-hour detour through the most amazing landscapes I’ve ever seen on a road trip (and mind you, I once went cross-country on a Greyhound) and still made it back in time to ring in 2009 at home. (Sort of. I slept through the whole thing.)

Happy new year, everyone. Here’s to more adventures to come.

the road trip: embarking on a classic american tradition

Long time no see? Yeah, I probably have to update this blog more often. But, you know, sometimes I have a slightly more interesting real life to deal with. And last month I had to write a novel, so I was more busy than usual.

But now it’s the first week of winter break and the thunder outside sounds ominous and I’ve got some free time for the moment, so I’ll give y’all a quick update.

My room has been turned into a guest room while I’ve been away and will be in use for the break, so I decided last week to eschew spending Christmas and New Year’s with the family to go on an impromptu road trip to Arizona. Besides, gas is hella cheap right now (this past weekend I saw a gas station in Menlo Park proudly displaying regular at $1.69 FTW!) and my friend Ricky lives in Tucson and is gonna be driving down there anyway so expenses shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Maybe.

FAQ, or, “WTF Are You Thinking?”

Have you got a plan? Sort of– we’ll be hitting up friends in L.A. on the way to Tucson, I’m staying with Ricky’s fam once we get there, and we might spend New Year’s in Flagstaff. (Couchsurfing might be key while on the road. I wish I had in iPhone so I wouldn’t have to worry about Internet, but… oh well, it’s more fun that way.)

Do you even have any money? I’ve got about $50 in cash. So… nope.

Aren’t you worried? Not really. Ricky knows how to throw knives.

So yeah, that’s the plan. My dad’s not too happy about it, but I’m pretty sure he’ll be seeing enough of me when I graduate and move back in next year.


What?

This is a blog of things place-related, by a cash-strapped Stanford grad who's lived in various places and writes about life. She's currently looking for a job in Manhattan or the Bay Area.

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