Semi-Charmed Life

29Aug/111

Hurricane Irene

This weekend, NYC was supposed to experience one of the biggest hurricanes that the city has ever seen in years. It was expected to be bad enough that residents of low lying areas such as Coney Island were mandated to evacuate the area and the MTA made the move to shut down operations of all trains and buses for the entire weekend. Supermarkets were cleaned out of bottled water as New Yorkers stocked up on food, water and other necessities in anticipation of the worst.

The anticipation of the hurricane was a little intense. With the city basically shut down, the streets were eerily quiet on Saturday. At a certain point, it was just "damnit Irene, where are you? Just come already so I can move on with my life."

Rain poured intermittently on Saturday and around 9pm, that is when the hurricane finally "started." It pretty much lasted throughout the night. I had slept through most of it as I had passed out in bed around midnight.

The next morning, as people awoke to survey the damage, it was realized that the hurricane had been less destructive than anticipated. The winds were not as strong as predicted, and the most damage came from the heavy rains, which caused heavy flooding in some areas. The basement of my parents house was a victim to the rains, as it was submerged in over ten inches of water. People posted pictures of downed trees all throughout the city, and some people had lost power. Overall though, New York City was pretty much spared.

New Yorkers being New Yorkers however, instead of being grateful that NYC made it through this hurricane relatively unscathed, seem to be disappointed that the hurricane did not do more damage. The collective sentiment seems to be that there were too much hurricane hype. New York City was shut down for this?!

This makes me a little puzzled. Would they have preferred a more destructive hurricane? It's obvious the hurricane did not perform to their expectations. Some people complained that it was very "over-hyped," and that the massive city-wide shutdown and evacuation plans were too much. I guess it was a little too much that the city prepared itself on data based meteorological evidence and satellite data. It passed over the Bahamas as a category 3 hurricane, with a trajectory leading right through NY, so it seems a little unreasonable that the city would react based on that.

I remember after the blizzard this past winter, people were asking for Bloomberg's head due to lack of preparation and city response. I guess you can never win with New Yorkers. You do too little and you get lynched. Do too much and people think it's unnecessary.

Somewhere out there the sea gods are cursing themselves for having let us go so easily.

A lot of people are having a laugh at the perceived disparity between the East Coast's frantic preparations for Hurricane Irene and the storm's relative lack of force. But just because entire buildings weren't washed away along the seaboard doesn't mean that the precautions were all for naught. Irene did indeed kill people, including an 11-year-old boy who was struck by a tree, and, as you can see from this slideshow of post-hurricane pictures from New York City, it had the potential to kill more. Just ask anyone who lived through Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans six years ago today: Superfluous measures are always preferable to too few measures.

A destroyed tree in Jackson Heights, Queens.

photo via (cc) Flickr user JoeInQueens

A mudslide covers the tracks on Metro-North's Hudson line. A former MTA employee who called the MTA shutdown an "overreaction" might have said otherwise if he'd known that passengers could have been seriously injured had the trains been running.

photo via (cc) Flickr user MTAPhotos

Floodwaters overtaking the tracks of Metro-North Railroad's Hudson Line at Ossining.

photo via (cc) Flickr user MTAPhotos

Floodwaters cover a subway yard in upper Manhattan.

photo via (cc) Flickr user MTAPhotos

Metro-North's Harlem line flooded at Valhalla. 

photo via (cc) Flickr user MTAPhotos

A giant felled tree on Roosevelt Island.

photo via (cc) Flickr user _snapp

Downed power lines on Metro-North's Harlem line.

photo via (cc) Flickr user MTAPhotos

Slideshow: Aftermath Photos Prove Irene Was No Laughing Matter

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25Aug/110

FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out

I was listening to Z100 this morning at work and they were talking about this.

Feel Like a Wallflower? Maybe It’s Your Facebook Wall

ONE recent rainy night, I curled up on my couch with popcorn and Netflix Instant, ready to spend a quiet night at home. The peace was sweet — while it lasted. Soon, my iPhone began flashing with notifications from a handful of social networking sites, each a beacon of information about what my friends were doing.

As the alerts came in, my mind began to race. Three friends, I learned, had arrived at a music venue near my apartment. But why? What was happening there? Then I saw pictures of other friends enjoying fancy milkshakes at a trendy restaurant. Suddenly, my simple domestic pleasures paled in comparison with the things I could be doing.

I'm glad I'm not the only person.

FOMO explained:

It’s known as FOMO, or “fear of missing out,” and refers to the blend of anxiety, inadequacy and irritation that can flare up while skimming social media like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram. Billions of Twitter messages, status updates and photographs provide thrilling glimpses of the daily lives and activities of friends, “frenemies,” co-workers and peers.

This sums up my social networking experience:

A friend who works in advertising told me that she felt fine about her life — until she opened Facebook. “Then I’m thinking, ‘I am 28, with three roommates, and oh, it looks like you have a precious baby and a mortgage,’ ” she said. “And then I wanna die.”

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24Aug/110

Embracing Unhappiness

I've cut down a lot recently on my Facebook usage. I'm tired of the positive skew it paints on everyone's lives. If I didn't know any better, everyone's lives seems to consist of constant vacationing, partying, drinking, job promotions, fine dining and happy and healthy relationships.

Don't people have problems anymore?

They do, but the only problems that generally exist on Facebook are complaints about the weather or bemoan about the inefficiencies of the MTA and how they're late for work.

Late for work FML!

Spilled soda on my shirt FML!

You would think that was the extent of their problems.

But we all know better. Everyone has problems. Actually, the term "problem" is a gross simplification of the things we go through in our personal lives. Calling something a problem implies that there is a possible solution, and suggests (at least to me) that there should be a structured way to find a resolution. The term problem is a little too neat.

I think there are times in life when there isn't necessarily a specific problem per se. Is it possible to not have a good reason to be happy? Or maybe a combination of things that just add up? Maybe just the feeling of being lost and having no direction can be the problem itself.

I know so many people who lead seemingly good lives. Some have kids. Some have girlfriends. Some have wives. Good jobs. Good health. Yet at the same time they're unhappy about something in their lives.

Is it possible to be something like 80% happy and 20% unhappy? Or does happiness have to be an absolute. You're either happy or you're unhappy.

I think most of those friends would probably consider themselves happy if you were to ask them.

I feel like the culture these days is all about empowerment and positivity, and that I should be squashing these problems with my awesomeness. Or something.

I feel guilty for having these kinds of thoughts, and in my head I'm yelling at myself "Look at you and your first world problems. Man up and go fight a bear or something!" This is what I, and everyone else, display to the world. We take pictures to document all the cool shit we are doing and post it on Facebook to prove that hey, I really did do all this cool shit. We post status updates of all the interesting things we're doing or places we're visiting and we go about the day with these winning smiles that let's the world know that everything is a-okay.

More and more I find that it's harder to communicate these kinds of thoughts and feelings to your friends. When I was younger I was able to talk about this type of shit to close friends. When you're young, it's easy to pour your heart out to friends because teenagers are damn emo and enjoy commiserating with each other like that. As we get older we don't enjoy listening about other people's problems anymore. We have our own problems already, so don't lay all your shit on me too! We don't say that or even consciously think that, but that's in the back of everybody's mind. The Me First mentality is what makes us grownups.

I ran into a friend the other day on the subway. We were chatting about random stuff, about work and what not, when my friend mentioned to me that he had started seeing a shrink. I was surprised, not because of the fact that he started going to a mental health professional, but that (1) he outwardly leads what appears to be a very happy life and (2) he is what I would consider an alpha male who I would have imagined to be against these types of things. Thus, I was quite flattered when he told me all this, especially when he mentioned that I was the first person he had told. And to think all this was gleaned from an extremely random subway encounter!

I was very intrigued and asked him a whole bunch of questions because I've never met a person who has seen a mental health professional. Or maybe it's just not something that comes up in conversation. I have a ton more respect for this friend because he was able to overcome this social taboo and give something different a try.

He does not know what will come of these sessions, but one thing he did say was that it was easier to talk to a stranger about these things than talk to a friend. That's not a new idea, but when did this become true? Why is it that sometimes it's just easier to get things off your chest to a complete stranger? I suspect part of the answer goes back to the idea unloading all your shit on your friends. Who has the time?

Whew long post. Good night!

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22Aug/110

Familial Piety a Burden?

One thing that I am really grateful for these days is having siblings around to help my parents out. A few years ago I was so stressed at home because at the time, I was the only person helping my parents out with issues. It may not be the case for everyone, but being the sole person responsible to help your aging parents who do not speak any English out can be very taxing. That's why I'm grateful that my brothers have matured in these past few years and have been much more supportive of my parents, allowing me to be less involved and giving me some breathing room.

I have a friend who is in the same situation I was in, except he does not have the benefit of having any siblings to help. As an only child, he's the only person his parents rely on and it's been taking a huge toll on him. Not an enviable position to be in.

I wonder if other children of immigrant parents feel this way, especially those that are the only child of the family.

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19Aug/113

Black or White

A friend of mine started a poll asking all my Chinese friends what they would do in this hypothetical scenario:

It's World War III and you have to side with either China or America.

If you choose America, the entire Chinese population will be wiped out and there will be no more China.

If you choose China, the United States will similarly be wiped out along with the American way of life.

And by choosing a side, it means to fight on behalf of that country.

I think hypothetical situations like these are absurd. At the very least, more information should be given before one entertains such a scenario. Questions like these are a form of litmus test to show where a person's loyalties lie. How would you be able to blindly just choose a side without further information?

Most of my friends seemed to have clear cut answers. Some were adamant on fighting for the United States and others were adamant on fighting for China due to Chinese pride.

My response was, if I am to fight and possibly die for anybody, whether man or country, I need to know what I'm fighting for.

My friend then asked me what kind of information I'm looking for. He re-iterated the question in the same exact simple scenario, which basically amounted to "Just pick a freaking side will ya?"

I refuse to play that game. His choice was that he would fight for the United States because that is his home country. He is obviously a loyal [Chinese-]American. But what if the United States was the clear aggressor? What if they made ridiculous threats or demands and unjustly imposed their will? Would he knowingly commit GENOCIDE on an entire race simply because of nationalism? The same set of questions apply to those who blindly choose China (and don't even get me started on why an American citizen, enjoying the benefits of America, would blindly choose to side with a foreign nation).

But that's probably considering too many factors. People just like simple, clean scenarios. Blind nationalism is just plain silly in my opinion. Faith, loyalty, nationalism, pride. These things are what blinds people to critical thinking. I was a little disappointed that all my friends were able to choose a side so quickly, especially within the context of the proposed scenario (GENOCIDE).

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