Saturday, July 30, 2011

marriage and motherhood.

With the announcement of engagements among friends in my graduating class, I realize that many of us are going to be parents by the time I get out of graduate school- one of my friends was married and pregnant at graduation.  Now, you can't be a parent without being an adult yourself, so this must mean we are entering real adulthood. On the other hand, I do believe that parents grow up with their kids, that parenthood is best learned with experience. My parents look like giddy kids when I look at my baby pictures now, but I remember thinking they were infinitely older and wiser.

The average age of first-time mothers has been steadily increasing for the past decades from 21.4 in 1970 to 25.0 in 2006. There is also a greater percentage of first-time mothers at an older age.

A woman's fertility usually peaks at 22, and after 35 it is significantly harder for a woman to get pregnant. But think about the fact that a typical person graduates college at 22, spends four years in graduate school and another four to settle into a job and maybe a relationship- she may be 30 when she can even begin to consider having kids.

There has been much recent debate about part-time female doctors and their attempt at balancing family and career. But why is this a female issue? It takes two to have a kid, and behind every woman making a choice between family and career is a man who takes his job-option for granted.

Anyway, during my career crisis, I chatted with many professionals settled into their careers and curiously, all of the women asked if I were in a serious relationship, reminding me that this is an important aspect to consider when making life choices. But I wonder if they would have asked the same questions to males, if my male counterparts were reminded to consider marriage and family in constructing their life timelines.

I hope that I don't have to make such decisions in the future(I hope I never have to decide or choose), since a successful career is valuable for me and I would like to make full use of my education. But I think I am already ahead of the parenthood game, for example, I already know:
- how to negotiate bedtime
- how to find a pacifier under blankets and pillows in record time
- how to speak baby-talk

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

why can't research be perfect???

Familia has asked me to please put up some pictures of myself- so here we go. Today was the longest day over, and it's still not over yet. I woke up and frantically finished frosting the cupcakes I had baked the night before. I headed out to drop off the cupcakes at the volunteer organization, walking down the stairs juggling two dozen cupcakes, a lunchbox, and my hugemontacious tote bag.

I got into work later than usual, so I stayed over to finish up a task I had planned to finish by today. Unfortunately, some of our samples need to be re-prepped.
saddest thing to see on your screen at 7:30PM
When I saw that these streak marks on the sample, I wanted to cry. Then I remembered the security cameras above me.

One good thing was that there is no rush hour at 8PM. I stopped by Whole Foods and spent an idle twenty minutes looking at food and finally picked up a Muesli bread snack.
I feel like I've been working full-time forever, although it's hardly been two months. When I told my co-worker our samples are not ready, that they must be polished again, he warned me to "not go crazy"- I think he knows me well already. One thing at a time. Research can't be perfect all the time.

But Entourage is baaaaack!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

am I average in my time and money use?

I like to compare myself to the average man. I don't mean in terms of accomplishments or education, since I am well aware that with my Bachelor's degree I've joined the 6.7% of the world population with college degrees. I am both proud and grateful about this accomplishment. But you know, it's the little things I think about, like: how much do others spend on groceries a week? How often do people do their laundry? How much do people sleep every day?

Deviating from the average on these minor points wouldn't make me abnormal, but still, I am curious. It turns out that Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles data on Americans' daily time use- they have done all the work for me already (ha ha), with the American Time Use Survey in 2009.

For instance, take a look at this:

- The average full-time college student sleeps 8.3 hours a day (really?) and an average of 3.3 hours studying, which is about 23 hours a week. This means that assuming they are taking 15 credits as semester and attending all the lectures, they spend about 8 hours studying outside of classes.

- The average male and female 20-24 years of age sleep for 9.4 hours a day. This means I don't have to feel like a lame ball for going to bed at midnight.

And how the average household spends its dollar$:

- Since the average household of 2.5 spends about $6372 a year on food, that comes out to about an average of $212/month for a single person.

Here's my latest favorite commercial- you gotta live those hours, spend those dollars.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Kinsey": behavior behind closed doors.

Saturday evening after grocery shopping and literature search for work, I scrolled through U-Verse and found "Kinsey". It starred Liam Neeson and Laura Linney, and I recognized the name Alfred Kinsey from a psychology study I'd read for a psychology class. Press play.

Alfred Kinsey, an entomologist by nature who studied gall wasps, realized the need for a widespread study on sexual behavior while lecturing a marriage course at Indiana University. Realizing the lack of public knowledge and conversation about sex and sexuality, he began collecting information on people's sexual history through verbal questionnaires. He eventually published the results of his questionnaires on around 18,000 people in the Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, known collectively as the Kinsey Reports.

The movie portrays struggles in Kinsey's professional and personal life. He struggled with his own sexuality including his (and his wife's) relationship with his assistant Clyde Martin portrayed by Peter Sarsgaard. The movie is informative and moving but never overwhelming. The different conflicts Kinsey deals with fade in and out (even the climax of the movie when his health is failing and Rockefeller Foundation withdraws their funding), but the movie is a overall satisfying portrayal of a great man who triumphs against social "propriety" to bring a much needed conversation out from closed doors.

It is rated R, and the subject matter may be touchy for some people. I highly recommend it- you may learn more from this movie than you did from your high school Health class, for example, that people's sexuality fit more onto a spectrum than a dichotomy (Kinsey scale).

Friday, July 22, 2011

cutest little ones.

There's more sprinkles than ice cream in there
"Oh my god, you might wanna mix it up before you eat it!"

Life with little ones is liberating and fun(ny). Why is that we have more reservations about life when we are old enough to know consequences don't matter? It's Friday! TGIF.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happiest when planning a vacation.

Planning makes me happy. Knowing how my week is going to be gives me assurance that I will get necessary tasks done(thank you Google calendar). Now that I am working a full-time job, what better to do than daydream- or better yet, plan out- an entire vacation or even a staycation? Combining the words "stay" and "vacation", this newest trend (so new the spellchecker thinks it is wrong) is staying close to home while relaxing and being touristy.  It doesn't matter if I actually take this trip; the process of daydreaming and itinerary-planning is exciting enough.

Bora-Bora, picture from National Geographic
Recent studies agree. Most happiness from vacations is derived from planning and anticipating the trip, not during the actual vacation(you may be stressed or homesick) or even after returning.

A 2010 study of 1530 Dutch individuals (974 vacationers and the rest non-vacationers) found that while vacationers are generally happier than non-vacationers, their happiness from the trip is temporary for about two weeks before returning to pre-trip levels (eight weeks). In addition, the length of the vacation had no correlation with the amount or length of happiness derived from the vacation. This implies that given limited number of vacation days, people should take shorter vacations more often. The vacationers were thought to be happier due to their anticipation of the trip, and perhaps from memories associated with the trip. Nawijin et al, Vacationers Happier, But Most Not Happier(2010)

Vacation taken around week 35, Nawijin et al

In another study, dreaming of a fictional future vacation(all-expense-paid ski vacation) brought on more positive emotions than dreaming of a fictional past one, indicating that there is power in anticipating a positive future eventVan Boven and Ashworth, 2007

De Bloom believes that happiness from vacationing comes from 1) being free of regular responsibilities and 2) being able to engage in enjoyable activities. It is also conjectured that the high level of stress after vacations may be due to the catch-up work that inevitably follows vacation. De Bloom et al, Vacation from Work. Lesson? Do your work ahead before leaving for vacation, so that the afterglow happiness from your trip can last longer. When you're on vacation, turn off your smartphones. Not only take a break from the hectic work schedule, but actively pursue activities you enjoy.

I may understand why Appa used to plan out detailed itineraries(hour by hour), make pretty documents with clip art images, and hand them out to us before family road trips. These were days before portable DVD players or iPod's, so we would make family mix tapes and play word games on the road!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

why we feel envy (and it's perfectly normal).

There are a couple of things I miss about my old life, such as Publix grocery shopping, not commuting to work and even the servery food that's been prepared, served, and cleaned up. Though these feelings fall more on the spectrum of nostalgia, this made me think about envy and jealousy. A quote on my fridge from Kenneth Koch's "Some General Instructions":
Do not/ You be envious. In fact I cannot tell envy/ From wish and desire and sharing imperfectly/ What others have got and not got. But envy is a good word/ To use, as hate is, and lust, because they make their point/ In the worst and most direct way, so that as a/ Result one is able to deal with them and go on one’s way.
Being envious or jealous must have some evolutionary and/or psychological explanations, since everyone feels them. And so I went onto Google Scholar.
Picture Source
First, people make social comparisons. This proves advantageous so they learn what traits are valued by society and how to improve such traits in themselves (make-up, bigger house, fancier car). This is a form of RHP (resource holding potential) assessment, and humans participate in RHP-displaying rituals in their everyday lives (arms-race, an arm-wrestle, or even posting an attractive profile picture). Another important measure is SAHP (social attention holding power) which evaluates one's attractiveness to a "reference group". This takes into consideration if I am more desirable to B than A, not if I am better than A. Interestingly, men place much emphasis on physical beauty when assessing SAHP of women, while women consider power and status most important, just like Kanye saidSocial comparison, social attractiveness and evolution by Gilbert et al (1995).

This may naturally lead to the feeling of envy. It is important to distinguish between two types of envy: envy proper which accompanies hostility, and benign envy which is closer to admiration. I was fascinated to read that envy consists of two axes: competition and fear, and that envy manifests itself in form of compliments. This paper mentioned that the underlying envy in compliments may be the reason people are uncomfortable when receiving compliments, that they may be "warning signs". Compehending Envy, Smith and Kim (2007)

Envy may be an evolutionarily advantageous tactic. Desirable resources are often scarce by nature, which implies that you have to complete with others to gain access to these resources. Therefore, it is often more important (and smarter) to outdo your competition than to follow an "absolute benchmark". For example, it may be smarter (cunning) to simply spend more time on your project than your co-worker you are competing with for the promotion, rather than spending all-nighters putting in your maximum effort. Therefore, it is important to gauge your standing by assessing others' advantages.

Feeling envious, jealous, manipulative? My Best Friend's Wedding

People feel envious regardless of whether the said trait is desirable to themselves. In other words, I may envy your Amazon butterfly collection, although I have no desire of wanting one for myself. It is interesting to note that people do not like to admit that they are envious. The reason may be two-fold: they need to hide their feeling of inferiority which can be a sign of weakness to others or the secret may be a useful tactic in destroying the others' advantage. The example in this paper mentioned a girl hiding her jealousy at her roommate's boyfriend so she can "spend more time with the coveted mate" without her roommate catching a hint(!!!). In conclusion, feeling envy may be an important survival technique whether to gain the advantage themselves or undermine the others' advantage, by assessing one's social standing and improving it. The Evolutionary Psychology of Envy, Hill and Buss, 2008

What are you most envious of in others? I've been envious of people's accomplishments, but I think they are more benign envy since I recognize that they put in the hard work to deserve such feats. (Also, how would I take away their fellowship or 4.3 GPA?) And, should I be wary of giving and receiving compliments now that we know they are really Trojan horses?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Harry Potter 7, part 2: the end.

I just came back from an early premier hosted by my school of Harry Potter 7 Part 2. We had to grab dinner after our rush hour traffic commute to Memorial City so we ended up sitting on the second row. The movie was awesome nonetheless.
after-movie treats.
There are moments of laughter/relief during serious moments when you forget to breathe, and the entire issue of Harry grappling with immortality becomes more obvious in this movie. It is the end of an era- I grew up with HP as no one else in the entire world knew what was going to happen next, and it is now over. Hello, I'm growing up! I mean, why else do I need to go to bed at 10PM except to wake up for work on Friday morning?

Late-night thoughts:
1) I am turning into a professional dogsitter.
2) I want to go to Prague!!!
3) I told my brother I just bought "froyo" and he goes: "the android operating system?"

How to guess someone's age.

I used to be intrigued by the carnival booths where they offer to guess your age or your weight within some reasonable margin of error. For me, it was more about gauging how old or how heavy I was perceived to be, rather than getting that free Teddy bear.

Now that I've turned twenty-two and magazines tell me this is a good time to begin my anti-aging, anti-wrinkle regimen(before it's too late!), I am intrigued by this cultural obsession of masking your age. The national obsession with looking younger- housewives with regular Botox appointments, "lifting" everything there is to lift, and dressing like your teenage daughter- does not seem appealing to me. I think there is some joy to be derived from acting and looking your age, to be proud of your life accomplishments and days you've lived through. It may be because I grew up in Korea where age indicates wisdom and naturally draws respect from those younger than you.

Anyhow, how do those carnival guessers estimate your age? It seems to be more of an observation game. They look at the crowd your are with- your kids or parents or friends may give your age away. They also observe the way you speak, the way you carry yourself, or the clothes you are wearing. One thing I found interesting is that the carnival workers will guess the women's age on the lower side, because after all, they are more likely to be offended by the suggestion that they look older even in a silly carnival game meant for laughs.

Your face does go through predictable changes through time. In your 20's, you may see lines in your brows and start seeing "crow's feet", wrinkles around the eyes. As you progress to your 30's, these lines may be more prevalent, and lines(called "11's") may appear between your brows. In your 40's you can expect to see lines around upper lips, forehead, and crows. Onto your 50's, 60's, and beyond, the fat beneath the skin continues to decrease, making those wrinkles and lines deeper while your face may droop downward. This WebMD article discusses the treatments you can consider in each age frame.

 The ultimate age-proof celebrity: Jennifer Aniston. Picture Source

Correspondingly, Dr. Thomas S. Huang at University of Illinois has developed an age-estimation softwareThe paper which appeared in IEEE transanctions on Image Processing discusses this program which can process images to determine someone's age. This program may be used to collect consumer data- what age group frequents this restaurant at this time frame on Thursdays, or who comes into the soap and fragrances store-without jeopardizing personal privacy by collecting only the age information.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Atlantis- eight and a half minutes into orbit.

Friday morning, I took a quick break from my morning task to watch the launch of Atlantis, the live stream from NASA TV to watch the launch of the final manned shuttle to outer space.
I learned 1) It takes eight and a half minutes for the space shuttle to reach orbit- must be some of the longest eight and a half minutes of the astronaut's lives! 2) The weather in not only Florida but also Houston and California matters so that if things go wrong, the contingency plan will be cleared.

We're living through history! I guess it is always true no matter when you are alive, but end of the oldest tabloid newspaper, birth of a new nation ending decades of war, and the possibly-last shuttle launch... I feel alive.

Oh, and let's not forget Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- our school is hosting a private early premiere again. I'll be strolling into the theatre to watch HP7-2 at 6:30PM on Thursday- this is the thought that's keeping me going this week.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

blog update(d).

I think the blog transformation is almost complete! I have gone through all my past posts and deleted most of them. The ones that are left are posts that I believe fit into my new "vision" for the blog... and then there are the ones with a lot of beautiful pictures I want to keep. I have also added the "about" and "contact" pages and changed the labels on previous posts.

Currently spending the evening with my favorite boys- we watched Despicable Me and ate kiwis with spoons!

accidental pizza (and how to love).

Times flies when you are having good conversation, and I am now way past my bedtime. T came over with her extra brownie mixes, so we mixed-baked-ate brownies while chatting on my kitchen floor. I hustled in from yoga fifteen minutes before she was scheduled to drop in, so I made this quick meal to throw in the oven while showering:

Tortilla eggplant-spinach pizza
Throw on spinach and eggplant(semi-cooked by throwing them in boiling water for ten seconds), dash of cilantro, and chopped onions on a whole wheat tortilla. Cook in oven for fifteen minutes at 350F- this makes the tortilla crusty while cooking the veggies entirely. When T calls for entrance to the gate, add mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce on top and heat in the microwave for two minutes. Run downstairs then bring your guest up to your apartment. And voila- the microwave rings and your pizzas are ready. Enjoy the cheesy-crusty-concoction so much you forget to snap pictures.

I think I'll be dreaming about you...
One of my favorite things T said in our conversation was an advice she once received: love someone so that they feel loved. It reminds me of two things: 1) Make it love, not an obsession or a disease, but something they welcome and want too. 2) If you love someone, let them know about it.

And so it goes.

Friday, July 8, 2011

hello, pyeong-chang!

The city of Pyeongchang, in the Gangwon province will be hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics. When I visited couple of weeks ago, there were many promotional billboards around the province cheering on the bid for Pyeongchang. I kakao-talked my dad Wednesday morning who sent back a picture of the family in front of the television waiting for the announcement of locale for the 2018 Olympics... then celebration!

The NY Times article mentions hwang-tae(sundried fish) as a local delicacy, which we did indeed take for family friends. It is strange to be reading an article on this local place I got to know and love, from a different neutral perspective which doesn't forget to mention that it is only 50 miles South of North Korea.

People are cheering for selection of Poporo as the mascot for this Olympics, which would be perfect- he's a penguin, enjoys winter sports, and has the name starting with P!

***I looked down at the pen I was writing with and realized that it's an Olympic pen! I stole this from my dad when I was in Korea, and now it's a reality.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

what are we so afraid of?

I spent a good chunk of my Fourth of July re-organizing my apartment and creating a working nook space by a window. I also spent some time thinking about my career and my life trajectories, including the fact that by this time next year, I may be anywhere.

This is both exciting and scary, because I view life as a series of narrowing and delving process where with each decision we make we zoom in on a field, effectively eliminating the other possibilities out there. What if I take a wrong turn? What if I don't feel the same way twenty years down the road? What if they are right?

I watched this video from a recent TED conference by Kathryn Schulz. More than just a "wrongologist", she is a journalist and a writer whose recent book is titled "Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error". Here she talks about our misguided sense of "wrongness"- we don't know what is feels like to be wrong, instead we know what it feels like to realize we are wrong.

At TED2011, March 2011

Why we shouldn't focus on being right (besides that our "internal sense of rightness" can be flawed):
But to me, what's most baffling and most tragic about this is that it misses the whole point of being human. It's like we want to imagine that our minds are just these perfectly translucent windows and we just gaze out of them and describe the world as it unfolds. And we want everybody else to gaze out of the same window and see the exact same thing... The miracle of your mind isn't that you can see the world as it is. It's that you can see the world as it isn't.
 Reminding us that life is not predictable:
... our stories are like this[surprise endings] because our lives are like this. We think this one thing is going to happen and something else happens instead... For good and for ill, we generate these incredible stories about the world around us, and then the world turns around and astonishes us.
I took the advice I wanted to from this video, but I imagine different people will learn different lessons from this lecture. I'm reminded that "being right" is a subjective quality that may change depending on the time and the situation. Even if a decision was indeed "right" at a certain point, the world may change, and if I had made the said decision solely to be right, that decision will no longer hold intrinsic value for me.

Friday, July 1, 2011

major renovations to blog(s)!

You may have noticed that I've been playing around with the blog for a while now. I never feel completely happy with it after I've tweaked little bits, so I have decided to reconstruct the entire blog. The time I spend on this blog will be focused on designing and content-shifting, but if you are curious about how I'm doing, e-mail or call me.

Oh, I've also started another blog called "The Daily Drill", which will concentrate on my dental application process throughout this academic year peppered with information and advice on the process. I may whine or rant on it until this one is ready!