10 Things of Thankful

TenThingsBannerI’ve been reading other bloggers post their 10 Things of Thankful which made me so happy to read. I am thankful for all the typical things you are thankful for: health, my husband, my family and friends, my job, and freedom. Here are different things that I’m grateful for.

Money

I remember being sick right after college when I had a full-time job. The job paid little so when I went to the drug store to buy medicine, I distinctly remember having to buy the generic cold medication because I could not afford the premium brands. I felt very defeated at that moment, having worked my ass off and knowing that I deserved better. And I vowed never to be in that position again. It took me some time to get here, but I want for nothing because I fought and continue to fight to be compensated for my true worth. Takeaway: Don’t ever settle!

Potato Head

I’m thankful I never owned a TV nor am I a couch potato because watching TV is mindless, when you could be educating yourself or being productive. I grew up in libraries. Books were my best friend when I felt alone. Books were my ice-cream when I felt depressed. Books inform and educate, and will make you better. Takeaway: Ditch the TVs!

No or Low Technology

I am glad I grew up in an age where we didn’t have cell phones. I reminisce on the days when we were beholden to our word and meeting up at a certain time meant meeting up at that time! No texting that we were running 15 minutes late. It makes me sad that we can no longer enjoy each others’ company, that iPhones and iPads are so prevalent, that it’s now more important to capture the moment than to experience it fully. Takeaway: Live for the moment, not for the picture!

UC Berkeley

I used to think I had a great college experience, but that was because I didn’t have anything to compare it to. In retrospect, going to Cal was brutal. Organic Chemistry, Physics, Physiology. And don’t think it was just the hard sciences. My English courses (#1 English Department in the country) were just as challenging. Oh how I cried! My college experience taught me a lot about competition and persistence. After I graduated I felt like I could do anything I set my mind to. And I wear the scars with pride. Takeaway: Subject yourself to challenge and competition. It makes you stronger.

700 square feet

I feel very liberated living in a cheap (comparatively for San Francisco) 1-bedroom apartment with my husband. We don’t have a lot of stuff, nor are we emotionally tied to any of it. I’m actually very grateful that we currently don’t have mortgage payments. It’s very freeing to know that you can just pick up and go, and not have to worry about material things or finances. Takeaway: Stop buying more shit. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Blurbs for the Brain

The founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely, is the first female billionaire to join the Giving Pledge, whose signers commit to giving the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. I am a firm believer that inheritances suck the drive out of people and thus love the concept around the Giving Pledge. According to Forbes, Blakely is the youngest female self-made billionaire. Check out her inspiring commitment letter.

Read about the person who received the highest honor to be bestowed on a graduating senior at UC Berkeley. Ritankar Das is a double-major in bioengineering and chemical biology with a minor in creative writing. He completed his degree in 3 years and, get this, is only 18 years old. I think that’s how I was when I was a freshman at Cal! His bio goes on and on and on, including founding a non-profit and organizing poetry slams. Ummm, Ritankar got an overallocation of the genius genes!

Affirmative Action: Addendum and Life Lesson

I was reading an essay in the Wall Street Journal about affirmative action and the research-based negative results that occur as a result of mismatching. To summarize, the whole process ends up being more destructive than constructive in that students who are admitted through affirmative action tend to be isolated because they cannot perform academically, they tend to abandon majors in math, science, and engineering more quickly than other students, and their self-confidence plummets. They call this phenomenon mismatching because of the wide discrepancy between the rigor of the school and the capability of the student. Hence the solution is to align kids with colleges that are more suitable for them.

One of my roommates at Berkeley (I say “one of” because I lived in a triple my freshman year.) faulted the system for accepting her, yet not providing the resources and the mentoring to help her succeed. She was Latino and eventually left after our 2nd year. She makes a valid point, but I have a counter-point to all of this. And that is…take accountability! I have been saying that a lot lately and think that is the root of most people’s problems: lack of accountability.

Problem: I hate my job. Solution: Take accountability and find something better.

Problem: I have so much credit card debt. Solution: Take accountability and start paying it off.

This is not rocket science, people. It’s called life and life is manageable if you get off your ass and do something about whatever is bothering you or keeping you from finding glory.

Back to affirmative action. If you’ve had your heart set on Princeton and believe you may have gotten in because you’re part Cherokee, then take accountability! It’s not hard to determine whether or not you’re mismatched for a school. Let me walk you through it. We all take standardized tests, yes? What’s your score? Let’s say it’s 1100. I’m alluding to my age because I know the SATs are no longer on the 800 – 1600 grading system I remember. Or are they? I have no idea. Ok back to the example. Your SAT score is 1100. You find the average SAT score of Princeton and you see that it’s 1350. That’s a guess, but let’s just say that’s what it is. All these stats are easy to look up, so no student can feign ignorance. Whoah! That’s a pretty big delta. 1100 compared to 1350? What do you think that tells you about the school you’re about to enter? Mainly, you’re going to have to work pretty damn hard to compete. This is where self-awareness comes to play. Do you think you are a hard enough worker to be able to compete or not? Are you willing to forgo sleep to study your ass off?

Getting into a school and then matriculating should not be a shock. It’s quite simple, actually. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am pro-affirmative action. But given my stance, I would also expect 100% accountability on the student’s part. Know the stats. And be self-aware.

Thoughts on Affirmative Action

I wanted to provide my thoughts on the Supreme Court weighing in on the Fisher versus University of Texas affirmative action case, whereby Abigail Fisher is challenging the university on using race as a criteria in evaluating a candidate’s entry. She was denied.

I know my lawyer friends are going to be all over this. If I mis-state the facts please feel free to comment.

Diversity is extremely important in school and in the work place as we are all citizens of a multiethnic, multicultural community. Ideally where you go to school or where you work would naturally reflect the same exact diversity that you are a part of locally.

Taking a step back, it was not easy seeing some unqualified Latinos from my high school class get into Berkeley. When you think Berkeley, you think prestigious. You think, cut-throat. But with two Latino classmates in particular, they were unremarkable. So unremarkable that those who didn’t get in, would scream, ‘That’s so unfair!’ I get that. I have been there. I can sincerely imagine the unfairness Miss Fisher must feel, having been a talented, accomplished student, and not gotten into her top choice college. Or worse, watching less qualified classmates of color get in.

From a different perspective, there were a few times during my college career when white people have bluntly told me that I must have gotten in as a result of affirmative action. Ouch, that hurt. My retort was always, “Asians aren’t on the affirmative action list, you retard.” But you know what, their jabs made me study harder because I wanted to prove that I deserved to be there. And I used to tell myself, “I am so going to make more money than that asshole/bitch.  Just watch.”

Here’s the deal. It didn’t matter how you got in, whether it was through affirmative action or your own merit. You know what mattered? Whether or not you graduated. Those who got in through affirmative action and couldn’t stand the pressure, yeah, they failed. Bye-bye. There were also valedictorians who, once they got to Cal, had meltdowns when they realized they weren’t so smart anymore. They also dropped out. So my message to Miss Fisher is to move forward. I see why she’s bringing up this case, that she feels wronged, but girlfriend, you are so going to be more successful than all those UT chaps. The world is your oyster and you’re going to come out ahead.

There’s no doubt that affirmative action needs to be reformed, but I believe using race as a factor is an important tool that should not be taken away. Cmon, do you really want to go to a school that’s practically all Asian? That’s what Berkeley is. It’s 43% Asian. That percentage has drastically increased from the time I went to Cal. I don’t want to go to school with that kind of makeup. Why? So I can participate in a class where everyone wears glasses, plays ping pong, and your parents do your laundry? SHOOT ME. I swear that a diverse school is beneficial for everyone involved.

When is enough enough? It’s not hard. Look at the composition of the local community. When those percentages are reflected in the composition of a school or work place, then we will no longer need affirmative action.

UC Berkeley English Department

I was reading the UC Berkeley English department newsletter and was extremely proud to learn that the department boasts the highest number of professors to receive the university’s Distinguished Teaching Award.

“It is the highest teaching honor given by the university, and the selection process is rigorous: nominated candidates must pass through a meticulous review of student evaluations, course histories, grade distributions, statements from former students, and teaching philosophies. Finally, the candidates who emerge from these rings of fire are visited in class by members of the Academic Senate-appointed selection committee, who in turn debate the relative merits of each candidate before selecting the few deserving recipients. As a result of this stringent selection procedure, in the fifty or so years the award has been given, only about 240 teachers have won the thing. And among those 240 are 25 English professors. To put that figure in context, 25 is the same number of times that the second and third most awarded departments – Electrical Engineering & Computer Science and Law – have won the award combined.”

I read through the list of 25 and recognized 5 names. I took classes from 4; I noted the class I took next to their names. And I was advised to major in English by the passionate Julian Boyd. I will forever be grateful to him as I think majoring in English was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.

1980 Anne Middleton – Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

1986 Janet Adelman – Literature in English

1993 Julian Boyd – advisor

2002 Jeffrey Knapp – Shakespeare

2009 Mitchell Breitwieser – American Novel

It’s so easy to dismiss English as a fluffy major, even at a prestigious school where the program is ranked #1 nationwide. At the time, I too, did not give the major the attention it deserved, splitting my time by double-majoring in a more analytical subject. And that, is probably one of my biggest regrets.

“The best English teachers are able to provide remarkably new insights into the most familiar materials…this mixture of enlightenment and estrangement may be unique to teaching literature. Reviewing the teaching philosophies of past DTA winners, a trend quickly emerges: English professors repeatedly stress the importance of questioning, uncertainty, and paradoxes as roads to insight. By contrast, faculty from other departments overwhelmingly emphasize the importance of having a firm grasp on the topic – thoroughly understanding the issue before attempting to communicate it to students. Of course, there’s nothing incompatible about a thorough understanding and an eye for complication. But unlike those subjects in which a teacher’s ability to explicate means the difference between success and failure, in English, explanation alone is insufficient.”

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