The Holiday Reconnect (1-17 Dec)

Holiday lights on the staircase leading to the moon.

Wednesday, Dec 2

Racism and racial biases are a hot topic in the past century, more so than ever, especially as we raise issues of racial inequality despite America’s claim of equality. Ever since the “equality” of blacks versus whites was signed into the American law, there’s a constant disconnect. Are we really supposed to follow the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated?

Today, I dared to venture out of my field of study and into one of my rare dabbles in one of my fields of potential possibilities. As a part of the various learning opportunities for staff on my campus, I’ve been given the opportunity to attend a lecture by Dr. John Dovidio from Yale University. He focuses his research on issues of social power and social relations, especially relating to aversive racism. So what? His studies show how racial biases can be detected through subconscious social cues given through — not just verbal cues (e.g. Talking slower to a minority, speaking with a tone of superiority) — but also through physical cues (i.e. Displaying negative body language) and actions (e.g. Prescribing less pain relief medication to a minority). ┬áThis can create a less trustworthy bond between people (e.g. Between white doctors and their minority patients) where a minority’s livelihood is at stake. However, when we set our minds on limiting our subconscious biases, there is a significant difference in how we treat other people, to the point where our subconscious biases may no longer effect our interactions, thus making our lives — and society — less biased — or, using the more negatively con notated word, racist.

So from this point forward, may we not function by the Golden Rule, but by the Platinum Rule: treat others as they would like to be treated. Our subconscious, afterall, can easily get the best of us, even if we have good intentions.

The Chinatown Gate here in Boston’s Chinatown.

Saturday, Dec 5

So, after all that humdrum marinating on racial biases and all that, I faced the realisations of my ethnicity with my middle sister. She and I had previously planned to grab some noms in Chinatown today. Boy was I in for a surprise. Not only did we go to Chinatown, but she also brought me to the Chinese supermarket/grocery store there known as C-mart, across from the Chinatown Gate. I didn’t expect much of it, but I sure was shocked when I walked in. Sure, everything was in Chinese, but they had some pretty darn good prices for some delicious goodies (e.g. These weird-looking seeds Chinese people love to snack on, persimmons). Afterwards, we went out for food and gorged our faces on some great, authentic Chinese food. Although, sadly, their chives box was not up to my standards. Alas, my picky, picky food preferences get the best of me at times — often to remind me how Asian I really am, despite my constant denials.

Thursday, Dec 10

It’s the holiday season — almost. You know what this means?! Holiday parties! Today is the first one I’ve decided to attend. My department is known to throw a holiday party every year. I didn’t know much about it, but decided to go based on my curiosity and desire to simply get out and socialise with people — at least a little.

I get to work today at my usual time to find my graduate student raving about how our department holiday parties always has great food. All the more reason to go right?! So off I went, after work was nearly over with. OH MY GOSH. It was mad! First off, it was on a WHOLE floor of the Harvard Museum of Natural History, so there were beautifully ancient skeletons and preserved insects everywhere! Then, lo and behold, my graduate student was right. The food was amazing; my favourite: the butternut squash ravioli. I would never have thought 1) to put butternut squash in ravioli, 2) that I would thoroughly enjoy a squash — the ones “we” consider vegetables when it comes to cooking — in any way, shape or form, 3) that I would enjoy another vegetarian dish THAT much — the first being my Italian flatmate’s mushroom risotto of course. The last and final thing I delighted in was definitely the fun “party favour” they had set up for us: a 30-second flipbook printed and prepared for us on the spot, by FunPhotoFlips.

Definitely worth going way out to main campus for.

Thursday, Dec 17

It’s been a while since I wrote, but there’s not many exciting things to write about in between holiday parties. So, holiday party number two: our Arboretum holiday party. Last year, I started my job during the winter just shortly before last year’s holiday party. This year’s was significantly fancier. Previously, we had a rather informal gathering and enjoyed a bit of fun with our — apparently — annual Yankee Swap, or as we call it in California: the White Elephant. This year, the lady who organised the holiday party decided to do away with the Yankee Swap completely. Instead, we had a holiday munch and chat. We had fancy finger foods passed around by caterers from our favourite catering company: Jules Catering. It was so much fun to just try a little bit of everything that went around. One of our administrative staff got smart about it all: after a few rounds of falafels and other goodies served on bamboo toothpicks, he began stowing the toothpicks in his shirt pocket. Why? To get more goodies at one time on a single toothpick — and also as to not get his fingers too messy if he wanted to dip things in the sauces provided. Smart thinking!

One single candle per window. Apparently, it’s a “holiday custom” here in Boston.

“Today” I Learned

  • When I was growing up, I loved to eat this delicious cake I had heard called a “checker cake.” Well, recently, I learned it has an even more official name: the Battenburg cake.
  • The nautical measurement known as a knot is based on when sailors used to actually tie knots on a rope to measure the speed they’re traveling through the water.
  • Matcha is — on a very basic level — ground up tea leaves.
  • Boston — if not all of New England — seems to like putting a candle in each window during the holiday season. I was curious, so I looked it up. Turns out, there are many theories behind this practice tied mainly to the Catholic church liturgies, Colonial Williamsburg or a custom brought over to America by the Irish. For all we know, it could be all the same story!
  • Different necklace chains have different names.
  • Minnesota is so big that it takes 8 hours to drive it from top to bottom!