Ops is my favorite bakery in Korea. You feel like you’re in Europe when you walk in, their desserts are top-notch (I don’t really like bread, so I won’t comment on that), and the people who work there are quick and polite. And they always have something new: a sign that they’re not lazy.
Today my family and I ran into the guy who started the whole thing. Knowing how buttery-smooth his business runs, I wanted to hear some words of wisdom from him. And thankfully, he gave them to me. So here they are:
1. You’re majoring in econ – if you’re looking to go into business, choose fast what business you want to do and start getting all the experience you can get in that field. Without experience business fails – whether you started your own or took over your parents’.
2. Gain trust. Whatever your business may be, gain the trust of everyone – boss, colleagues, customers. Without trust your business can’t grow.

I hate my dad. (Just to be clear, I love him too but I also hate him.) There are qualities about him that I despise and I wish they will never become a part of me. History suggests we resemble our parents more as we grow older, though. How should I break this trend?

Thing about marriage is that there’s always a chance that it’ll fail. Grew up in a broken family or not, arranged marriage or not,  loaded or broke, cheating on the spouse or not – either way, it might happen. Parents in Korea seem to think they know the leading indicators to future divorces and “failed” marriages, whatever that means. I think they’re depending on their availability heuristics far more than they should and not thinking about base rate enough. If anything, extensive psychological research should guide these people’s caution. That rarely seems to be the case.

An article on education

My initial reaction to this article was hostility toward the proponents of turning universities into “job training centers.” Why? My psychology professor would say this is because over the past two years of attending Swarthmore, I’ve grown to become a believer of liberal arts education in order to internally justify my decision to go here. (A study showed that people asked to do boring manual labor for $1 said they enjoyed the task more than the people who were paid $20 to do the same task. They were justifying their actions by believing that they liked what they did.)

Knowing when to stop eating

Earlier this week, I had an excellent dinner out and became happy. Soon after leaving the restaurant, however, I was so full that I wished I could take out what I just ate. Then I wondered, how come the most basic creatures know when to stop eating when we humans don’t? I’ve seen overweight people and animals but so far haven’t heard of insects or microorganisms suffering from obesity. Of course, we are more capable than them in so many other ways, but personally I’m very bothered by this flaw. And thus I feel the need to grow more conscious of my appetite.

A very happy old couple

Today, I saw a middle-aged couple holding each other and smiling like children. It was the first time I’ve seen an old couple looking so happy. I thought, that’s what I want to be when I grow up.

Fear of insects

I was coming out of the shower this morning when I found something dark on my floor. I didn’t have my contacts on, so I had to bend down and squint to figure out what it was. Three quarters of an inch long, dark brown. Belly up, not moving. Crap, it’s a cockroach. Again. (I found one in my room two nights ago. I trapped it with a paper cup.) I was relieved at having found it belly up, but I was tense nonetheless. I’ve done this before, I can do this, it’s going to be alright. Hastily I looked around for a container 1) with a flat opening large enough to effortlessly enclose all parts of the bug at once, 2) that I’m ready to throw out, and 3) hopefully with an airtight lid. My objective was simply to contain it, so I could deal with it later. It was a dirty creature, and I didn’t want to think about how I’m going to get rid of it.

Unfortunately, I found none. An empty water bottle was too risky; I might crush its legs or miss it entirely in the process of containing it, and neither scenario sounded too appealing. My best bet was to cut the bottle in half. And when I returned to the scene, the bug was moving its legs. If I were a cat, this is when all of my fur would be sticking up. Frantically, I put the half-bottle over it and watched. I was a fool to think that I was done.

Did you ever feel life is just full of lessons? At that moment I did, and this lesson was called great execution is just as important as a great idea. The cut I made under the half-bottle wasn’t level. The roach escaped and disappeared. And to put it lightly, I felt doomed.

This nasty pest is going to crap all over my apartment, crawl over me while I sleep, and eventually scare the shit out of me. It might lay an egg case somewhere I can’t see, or even worse several of them, and once they hatch it’s only a matter of time before their lethal germs put an end to my existence. I hadn’t moved a bit since the bug escaped, and while standing there blankly I mistook dark spots on the faux wooden floor for more cockroaches. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been this scared. I had do do something.

I found, dug out, and grabbed an empty jelly punch can from the trash. My double-decker closet was only a foot away, and there was a gap under its doors. It was the only place I could think of where the cockroach could go. More specifically, the closet’s bottom section. At this point trying to capture the cockroach meant the following: opening the closet, inspecting my suitcase on the floor and my shirts on a rack, and chasing down the bug inside the dark closet. All of this requires – as you would imagine – a great courage. Last night East of Eden taught me that conquering sin takes bravery, but I think capturing a cockroach takes more. I really believe that.

Breathing lightly, I opened the closet doors. No insect in sight. I lifted my suitcase out of the closet, and there it was in the dark: my enemy. I reached into the closet, and my shadow fell over the bug. The damn thing was smart – it stood where the floor meets the wall, so I couldn’t enclose it at once. And when I got closer, it ran along the edge into a corner: the darkest corner there was. Unfortunately, the closet protrudes outward to the left of the doors, meaning it has an extra-dark corner where the protrusion ends by the doors. And that’s where the cockroach decided to hide – the top of the corner, in fact. I launched my 7-Eleven lunch box from the trash into the corner to make it move, and when I looked in the bug wasn’t there anymore. I looked back, and it was on the other side of the closet. After some struggle and suspense, at last, I captured the cockroach with the can.

Sadly (for me, since it meant contaminating my closet floor) it lost its head and a few legs when I dragged the can on the closet floor, but I reclaimed them by steering the can in reverse. I covered the bottom of the can with a Taipei visitor guide brochure, flipped it over, taped the edges of the guide around the can, and dropped the enclosure into the trash. My breath was heavy, but I felt happier. And now that I was feeling brave, I figured I’d trash the first cockroach too. I used more of the same brochure to cover the bottom of the cup, flipped it over, and quickly put the plastic lid over it. I let go of it with relief. I know, I know. It’s not over – not any more than the battle was over for the Na’vi when the Avatar ended – but I felt safer.

So now there are two cockroaches in my trash – one of them inside a paper cup with a plastic lid, and the other clumsily decapitated and trapped in a can with some brochure taped to the top. They may or may not be dead. I’m just hoping that I’ve demonstrated enough will against them living that they died. But even if that’s not the case, I’m pretty sure they won’t be able to escape the confines I’ve created for them. So I’m not going to make sure they’re dead. Besides, I’m afraid of having to come in contact with them.

What’s strange to me to think about is that I don’t recall feeling this way about insects before. They used to be fascinating and lovable. In sixth grade the first thing I did every morning was to play with my praying mantises (my favorite pets at the time), and I recall watching on TV this Australian woman who kept as a four-inch-long cockroach as a pet and thinking that’s cool. If someone asked me if I would consider keeping cockroaches as pets seven years ago, I would’ve probably said yes, because I could always wash my hands after touching them. And now, I find the idea that there are insects sharing this building with me repulsive. Right after I dumped the cockroaches today, I pictured insects being eradicated off the face of this planet with a nuclear weapon. In my mind today, they’re just these gross creatures with deadly germs that shouldn’t exist. I don’t know what happened to me.

Thoughts about News Feed

Springtime. Moist breeze hits me with the warmth of August, but I don’t feel that vitality of moving in. I get lost in so many thoughts this time of the year I can never concentrate. I have yet to pack, ’cause I know I don’t have to right now. Instead I’m checking the News Feed every now and then to make sure I’m not missing out on any signs of, say, an imminent apocalypse. Or other things that really have little meaning to me.

But maybe, Facebooking has more nutritional value than we think. I think there’s also a whole lot of meaning to it. Maybe not the kind that adds much to your life right now, but one that helps you gain some insight about those around you, and your own self.
Those of us who make it to the News Feed do so somewhat willingly. They’re sending a clear and concise message to you. Go on your News Feed and try absorbing your “friends” and friends’ real-time likes, event invites, wall posts, pictures, exclamation points, links and video clips as a way of saying “This is what matters to me.” “This is what I care about.” “This is part of what life means to me.” It may seem like a stretch, it can’t tell you a full story about anyone, and maybe they just wanna be funny, but if it’s not a part of the story why would they make it known?
Whether they think of their pages as accurate depictions of themselves or not, whether they want it that way or not, I think their posts reflect what they’re about. And now I wonder. What matters to me the way their raves, school plays, bitching about exams they signed up for and artsy campus photos mean something to them?

Oversleeping and more

My most embarrassing habit is oversleeping. Back in high school I rarely made it to the dining hall before the omelet cutoff time on Sundays (10:30 am), and last summer my wakeup time ranged between ten and eleven. I missed a few classes to sleep last semester and this one too, regretting signing up for courses that require waking up, getting dressed, and biking to another building before eleven in the morning. Yes, sleeping feels that good.
Then, a couple months ago, I had a miraculous streak of waking up between eight and nine for about two and a half weeks. I couldn’t believe it. My first memories are being late to kindergarten and hating them for making me get up so early. Did my body suddenly (and finally, because I did wish at times that I could) turn into that of a morning person? Each day, I was amazed and grateful for feeling the desire to get to bed by twelve thirty and being able to not crawl back into bed after my first alarm. But I was also somewhat skeptical about my body’s new hours of operation: ‘This just isn’t going to last. There’s no way my body can stay this desirable forever.’
Sure enough (or arguably because I didn’t trust my body enough), I was no longer the almighty morning person by April. I was dreading each and every morning again. And when classes were over four weeks later, my body went on a strike. My sleeping hours jumped up into the two-digit territory, and now that I’m almost done with school, I feel no shame falling prey to the indulgence. How will I ever wake up in time for my morning summer classes? Damn the world for not offering courses that start later in the day.
There’s something really nice about oversleeping other than its sweet sensation, though. I have the most realistic and yet the strangest of dreams at these guilty post-alarm hours in bed. Almost everything’s the same as they are today in these alternate realities, but there’s always something nonsensical about it. My friends from home in Busan, Korea would be waving goodbye at me as I get on the airport bus to catch my flight to New York (so I can get to my school, Swarthmore College), but we’re in a suburban town center outside Oslo. A friend from high school visits me at Swarthmore, and we discover a Pajama Sam: No Need To Hide Outside When It’s Dark Outside-style underground railroad that takes us to a cave in a subtropical forest. We couldn’t find our way back. And this morning, I got out of bed with a proofless assertion that I had at least two eclectic dreams. Unfortunately I recall too few of my dreams to go on about them, but one thing all of them have in common is that they’re all extremely similar to the reality as I know it at the moment. There are just a few things, or at times just one, that are different enough to set the entire experience apart from everything else I’ve known.
As I headed to the bathroom to start my day this afternoon, a question rose from my head, much like the dreams that have been getting me high lately. “Can I twist small things about my world, just like my daylight dreams have, to make differences bigger than the things I twisted?” I believe I can. And I want to. More on this to be continued soon.