Info Gluttony

A Closed Letter Turned Open Letter to My Boomer Parent

Posted in personal by echan on February 18, 2012

As my mom’s eldest child, the question that I hear the most from her, is “When can I retire?” My response always revolves around her savings, the mortgage that we share, and budgeting her expenses out for post-retirement life. She wants to retire earlier that what I think is currently feasible, and I try to emphasize that there may be no money left in my wallet, when she’s in her 80’s and her grandchildren de-camp for college at $422,000 a pop.  She seems to believe that she only needs to plan until she’s 85 (and to be fair, the average life expectancy in the States for a Chinese American woman is 86.1 years).

There have been a couple of essays circulating lately written by Boomers taking care of their Greatest Generation parents, and even though I dislike the tone of these articles, I think about them pretty often. The writers’ parents thought they too would go quickly and cheaply, but this was not the case. My own grandmother spent nearly 2 years in hospice care at the price of $10,000+/month.

I see these essays and my grandmother’s case as cautionary tales for what happens when you live beyond of the number of years that you anticipate. Thus, I sent my mom the brief email below (I purposely put the Sandra Tsing Loh essay first, thinking my mom would identify with her more easily):


From: E Chan

To: H_____

Subject: Long term planning

Here are a couple of essays written by children of elderly parents who are around your age. I think you will find them interesting. You need to plan for 90.




Best Shows of 2011

Posted in concert, music, personal, Uncategorized by echan on January 20, 2012

In keeping with my tradition of annual round-ups, here are my noteworthy shows of 2011, a year, where I saw everyone from Prince to St*rF*ck*r, and Arcade Fire twice. I didn’t cry tears of emotional joy at any of the 2011 shows, but the band that took the top spot very nearly put me into concert retirement with their performance at the Greek Theatre.  So, in ascending order of how much I enjoyed myself:

8.  Cut Copy at the Regency – This is the runner-up in the dance party category, simply because it was the most energetic. It took me forever to steady my phone to take a picture because people were jumping so hard on the dance floor. Oonce oonce oonce.

7.  The Kings of Convenience at the Fillmore – Based on Erlend Oye’s past work with Royksopp, this show was in some ways a companion piece to entry #5 below.  This was a two-man acoustic guitar and vocal set, which definitely emphasized, loud audience aside, that quiet is the new loud.

6.  Thao and the Get Down Stay Down – Miss Thao always gives her all, in her full messy glory for her shows. She’s definitely my favorite local musician.

5.  Royksopp at the Regency – This won the dance party category by the sheer force of Royksopp’s sound.

4.  Foster the People at Outsidelands – I went to the festival for Arcade Fire, but on day one, Foster the People stole the show. I didn’t think of them their album as all that dance-y beforehand, but I had fun doing the indie bop in Golden Gate Park during their set. Plus, it helps that like everyone else on Spotify, I spent a few weeks listening to their album non-stop.

3.  Fitz and the Tantrums at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass – Such stage presence! I boogied! I shook! Hands down my favorite act of HSB. Thank you, Mr. Hellman.

2.  Erasure at the Fox – Oh, L’amour, I broke out my gold suspenders for this show, and it was worth it.

1.  Portishead at the Greek – Half of the number 1 spot was earned through anticipation alone, but Beth Gibbons’s and her haunting presence earned the rest. It was nice to see that they moved beyond the screaming banshee rendition of Sour Times, into a more jazzy, lounge-y mode.  After waiting over a dozen years for this show (and after having checked off all of the other acts on my list), I felt very satisfied after this show to enter into concert semi-retirement (I had a very long post-Portishead show lull in ticket purchases). In 2012, I’ll probably halve, if not quarter, my show going habit, but I’m looking forward to Radiohead and M83 at Fauxchella.

Other honorable mentions:

Washed Out at the Great American – This originally made the list above, but I couldn’t remember anything from this show, other than it was good.

Ellie Goulding at Outsidelands – Her music is not quite my cup of tea, but an excellent set, plus the sunglass scramble added to the fun.

Best Coast at the Regency – Along with Thao, this goes into the messy, drunken, emotional vocalist category, and I mean this in a good way.

Beach House at the Fillmore – I was worried about this show because Toastyken had told me that seeing Beach House live was one of his least enjoyable concert experiences, but despite the droning vocals, I liked this show, and the teepee stars were a neat touch.

Someone Else’s Illustrated Reaction to a Book that I Happen to Like

Posted in books by echan on December 7, 2011

Why I Won’t Move to Oakland (Anytime soon)

Posted in personal, politics, thinking about cities, urban planning by echan on October 28, 2011

I was born and raised in SF, and with the exception of my academic exile on the East Coast, and the past 9 months down in the foggy D.C., I’ve always lived in SF.* During and after law school, I’ve toyed with the idea of moving to Brooklyn West, since it’s sunnier there and the real estate is shiny and a few hundred thousand dollars less than San Francisco. My friends there are cool and open-minded, and generally politically and socially engaged. Plus, there’s stuff going on over there, unlike the sterile strip malls and quaint small towns of the South Bay, or the sleepy homogeneity of Marin. Before this week, the three things that held me back were:

1. Fear of earthquakes. I constantly ask which is scarier, being in the Transbay Tube or on the Bay Bridge when the Big One hits, and both options terrify me equally.

2. Fear of crime / lack of policing to deter crime. I’m not sure that I feel comfortable living in a place where the Police Department doesn’t investigate property crimes. You’re house got burgled? You got mugged? Tough luck!

3. I don’t really drive, and BART doesn’t run late enough. I’d hate to constantly look at my watch at a Fillmore concert to make sure that I made my last BART train home.

But the brutality of the police response to Occupy Oakland this week has sorta sealed the deal against me moving to Oakland. When a City Administrator can issue orders for brute force to be used on peaceful protesters, something is wrong. When the Mayor, Jean Quan, can claim ignorance to the plans to raid Occupy Oakland, something is very very wrong. Between the Oscar Grant protests and now this, my dominant image of Oakland isn’t of art crawls or Children’s Fairyland, but of police in riot gear and people in wheelchairs being tear-gassed, and that’s not the type of city where I want to live. And my head has been trying to tabulate how much of the City’s budget is going to pay out settlements for police brutality related to this week’s clearance of Occupy Oakland.

A huge part of me is trying to understand how the City of Oakland, which prides itself on incorporating the language of social justice and addressing inequality, had one of the most violent reactions (that I know of) to the Occupy movement. I know part of this is rooted in the OPD’s sense of impunity and their past scandals, but until there is some progress on this front, Oakland goes onto the “places where I won’t live” list. I’m not sure how much the Planning and Police Departments talk to each other, but the image of a police department is key to attracting new residents to a city. A police department that terrorizes residents, instead of doing any actual policing, does all of your realtors a huge disservice.

*This is a total aside, but in case you didn’t know already, I’m moving back to SF next week.


Posted in culture, Internets by echan on October 19, 2011

I wouldn’t want to re-live my high school experience, but I appreciate these wise words to kids from David Eagleman (interview here):


What advice would you give to a smart kid who’s now in high school?


Watch TED talks: smart people will distill their life’s work down to 20 minutes for you. Follow links through infinite trajectories of Wikipedia. Watch educational videos on topics that resonate with you.

There are a million ways to waste time on the net; reject those in favor of ways that teach you exactly what you want to know. Never before have we enjoyed such an opportunity for tailored, individualized education.

And be sure to get off-line often, to take digital sabbaths. As much as the net provides a platter of mankind’s learning, there is a different kind of learning to be had from a hike in the woods, the climbing of a tree, an afternoon building a dam in a stream.

“Creativity is a challenge against yourself”

Posted in books, fud, personal by echan on October 13, 2011

This is a quick fire post, but I wanted to transcribe my notes, at least in bullet-point form from Monday’s Ferran Adria talk at the Castro. This was definitely my favorite talk of the year, if not of the last five years. I walked away completely mesmerized.

  • Adria is no Anthony Bourdain. He is not there to make you laugh with funny anecdotes or foul language. Adria is there in his messianic way to: 1. guide you to create, and 2. point you towards the future of food.
  • Adria opened up by stating, “In order to cook well, you must think well, and in order to think well, you must be humble.”
  • Adria used the fable of the omelette and the mini-skirt to illustrate that it’s not important to be the first person to create something, but to be the person who conceptualizes it. We don’t know who invented the first omelette, but now most cookbooks devote 5% of their content to omelette recipes. Similarly, miniskirts date back to ancient Greece, but it took Mary Quant in the 60s to pair it in such a way to emphasize the female form. The evolution of the recipe is key.
  • We know nothing about cuisine and everything about food is subjective. The Spanish eat the second most fish per capita, but they hate raw fish. Adria’s own parents did not like sushi, when he brought them to a Japanese restaurant.
  • Back before his restaurant was big in the 90s, chefs guarded their recipes. But recipes are meant to be shared, so that people can improve them. Essentially, Adria was advocating open source cooking.
  • Fruits are an alphabet. When you cook with them, you create a language.
  • Adria showed us a clip of how his kitchen can make 2 meters of cheese spaghetti. When we eat a plate of spaghetti, we eat 60 meters of spaghetti.
  • I can’t find a good video online of the El Bulli Foundation masterplan, but it’s going to be on a nature preserve, and it definitely puts forth Adria’s utopian vision.
  • Finally, this event was also a book signing party of Adria’s The Family Meal. This is simply one of the most stunning cookbooks that I’ve ever opened.
Finally, while I’ve never had the fortune to dine at El Bulli, I had a chance to eat at another temple of molecular gastronomy, Arzak. At the time, I didn’t appreciate the level of technical skill that went into the tasting menu, but when he explained spherification and other techniques, I had an “A-ha! That’s how they made it” moment with some of the dishes I tried this spring.
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Look Over Here

Posted in thinking about cities by echan on October 11, 2011

Here’s my first post for a little blog on urbanism that grew out of my summer program. Check out the other writers too.

Rah Rah Warren!

Posted in politics by echan on September 22, 2011

One of my law school section-mates succinctly summed up my feelings about Elizabeth Warren in a Facebook status update:

I love this woman. I know her from law school and I love her. The end.

But one reason why her little video resonates with me so much is that it succinctly explains what I wish I could tell every relative who thinks that the government takes their money without giving them anything back.

A month or so ago, I was engaged in a conversation with an aunt whom I admire, but who is an exec at one of those giant infrastructure and defense companies. She complained about the millions of dollars the government was “throwing away” to protect desert tortoises near a solar project her company was building. She said, “The government has never spent any money on me.”

My jaw dropped. I pointed out that she went to public school and to the UCs. Her kids went to public schools and the UCs. She’s used public transit and the roads. But she was stubborn; she felt that she contributed to her kids schools via the PTA, not through her taxes. And she was angry that she was still paying for other people’s kids to go to school for free.  My inability to reason with her, despite my best efforts makes me want to flyer her car (and the cars of my other similarly minded relatives) with the image below.

I debated posting this on Google Plus, but what the hell…

Posted in music, personal by echan on September 21, 2011

Last summer, when the Hold Steady played Constructive Summer live, I turned to my friend GKKD, and in my slightly buzzed state, I told him that it would be my theme song for the summer. These lines, in particular, stood out as a motto:

Let this be my annual reminder

That we can all be something bigger

I was off by a little bit in terms of predicting when this summer would occur for I was in too broken of a place in the middle of 2010 to make that happen. Essentially, after May, I was on auto-pilot for rest of 2010.

This year, however, is different. Although it’s technically no longer summer, NorCal’s Indian summer allows me to lengthen the season by a couple of months, and I can say that I definitely built up my own happiness this year. I won’t go into detail, but I’ve just been excited about being able to learn again, and to learn in an area that interests me. I must strive to maintain this happiness, but I’m thankful that I’ve had this summer to put myself on the right path, or at least, what feels like the right path.

Wise Words

Posted in personal by echan on September 15, 2011

LYL alerted me to this excerpt from Roger Ebert’s soon to be published memoirs, but I was particularly struck by these words:

To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.