Monthly Archives: March 2014

Leland Yee, Anti-Gun California Senator Arrested for…Gun Trafficking

And corruption.

Leland Yee reminds me of John Kwang from Chang Rae Lee’s Native Speaker.    Seemingly noble Asian-American politician is found to be a moral vacuum and connected to all sorts of seedy organizations and characters from the Asian underworld.  Triads.

This is bad for aspiring Asian politicians as everyone will be using their imaginations and wondering…jeez, is the person I’m voting connected to Asian gangsters BOK CHOY HOW?  Apparently, Leland is.




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The Trendiness of UNIQLO



UNIQLO is a fast fashion retailer from Japan.  They have a strong presence in Japan and have rapidly expanded over the last few years into greater Asia. They opened their first US stores in 2005 in NYC and have slowly begun to increase their store count (now at 17) here.  Their stores are mostly located in the NYC metro and the Bay Area, but they are starting to branch out a little more. I predict that they will have over 100 stores in the US by 2020.

What I like about UNIQLO is that it makes clothes that have an “Asian Fit”, which are usually tighter and more streamlined than the typical American clothes.  The 5$ T-shirt that UNIQLO makes is my favorite wardrobe piece.  They go well with anything and make my biceps and triceps look attractive.  UNIQLO, like Lululemon, makes clothes for thin and fit people.  However, unlike Lululemon, UNIQLO is affordable and appeals to a far broader demographic.  I think Americans, especially young and hip Americans, will start to gravitate towards UNIQLO as it expands its retail presence.  Hip and trendy people of all races have already begun to catch on to UNIQLO in NYC and the Bay Area.  UNIQLO is not just an Asian thing, it is a cool thing.  It is easy to dress hipster by shopping at UNIQLO.

American youth these days are embracing an international culture and turning their backs towards the American culture.  American clothing brands such as American Eagle, Gap, Aeropostale, and Abercrombie and Fitch, are in decline.  It’s not cool to be All-American anymore.  It’s cool to be “International”.  In the middle market of casual clothing, this means H&M (European) and UNIQLO (Japanese).  Moreover, the fast fashion aspect of H&M and UNIQLO lets these companies quickly take advantage of fashion trends. UNIQLO also does a superb job of visual merchandising.  Whenever I walk into a UNIQLO store, everything is neatly folded, the store is bright and clean, and there is a unique sense of calm, even in the NYC locations.  The store environment is second to none.  The Japanese are exacting in their standards and it shows in the store presentation.

Whenever I visit NYC, San Francisco, or Asia, I always stop at Uniqlo to shop for clothes.  The one thing I do not like about UNIQLO is that some of the clothes tend to be of poor quality.  This is understandable, given the fast fashion aspect of the company (the clothes are not meant to be worn very often), but I still find myself wishing for better quality.

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The Whiteness of Pittsburgh #1


“I have never seen so many white people in my life”-white acquaintance from the southwest on Facebook upon moving to the city.  This is allowed because it is funny, but if he were to move to, say Baltimore, and comment on having never seen so many black people, it would be very unfunny O_o and there would be all kinds of nasty comments.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game.  I had never seen so many white people in my life.  I wonder if the any of the white people at the game noticed how white it was at the arena.

The city itself is only about 67% white as compared to 87% for the metro area, because pretty much all the black people live in the city.  In some suburbs of Pittsburgh (which approach 100% whiteness), you can go entire days out on the street without seeing a non-white person.

Pittsburgh, #1 in whiteness.

List of USA’s Metro Areas by White Share of Population (2010)

% White .
Metropolitan Area (of over 1-million population)
1 86.9% Pittsburgh, PA
2 81.5% Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN
3 78.8% Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY
4 78.8% Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA
5 78.5% Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN
6 78.0% Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI
7 77.1% Rochester, NY
8 75.6% Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA
9 75.6% Columbus, OH
10 74.9% St. Louis, MO-IL
11 74.8% Salt Lake City, UT
12 74.4% Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH
13 74.1% Indianapolis-Carmel, IN
14 73.8% Kansas City, MO-KS
15 73.5% Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN
16 71.0% Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH
17 70.0% Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT
18 67.9% Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI
19 67.6% Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
20 67.4% Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI
21 66.2% Oklahoma City, OK
22 66.0% Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
23 64.9% Jacksonville, FL
24 64.8% Birmingham-Hoover, AL
25 63.8% Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD
26 63.7% Denver-Aurora- Broomfield, CO
27 62.4% Raleigh-Cary, NC
28 60.3% Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC
29 59.4% Baltimore-Towson, MD
30 59.3% Richmond, VA
31 56.4% Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ
32 56.1% Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC
33 53.6% Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville, CA
34 53.5% Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI
35 53.0% New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA
36 52.4% Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX
37 51.0% Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL
38 49.6% Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA
39 48.5% Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX
40 47.1% Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
41 46.0% San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA
42 45.9% Las Vegas-Paradise, NV
43 45.8% Memphis, TN-MS-AR
44 45.6% New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA
45 40.6% San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA
46 37.2% Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX
47 33.2% San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX
48 33.0% Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA
49 32.9% San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
50 32.4% Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL
51 28.7% Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA

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Selective Perception

A few weeks ago I participated in a meeting with some of our senior executives.  A week later my team was standing in the hallway with an Asian client when one of the executives came by to introduce himself.  I happened to be standing right next to our Asian client.

Executive(to client): Hello, my name is Executive.  Welcome to our office.  We are happy to have you.

Client (in poor English): Yes. Yes. Yes. Hello.

Executive(to me): Hello, my name is Executive.  And you are?


Jonah (in what Jonah assumes to be unaccented English): Uh, my name is Jonah.

Jonah’s Manager: Jonah works with us.  He just started a few months ago.

Executive: Oh….. How do you like working in XXX department?

Jonah: I like it.

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Restaurant Kids and Computer Kids

Young Asian-Americans are not one monolithic group.  We are different in many respects, be it religion, income, ancestry, etc, etc.  It is too easy for the outside to see us as one, so this is going to be the first of my attempts to detail the nuances of the Asian-American population.

Young Asian-Americans, based on my experience, can generally be segmented into two distinct groups, the “restaurant kids” and the “computer kids”.  Restaurant kids are the kids whose parents labor in restaurants/groceries/laundries/nail salons or in some cases, own these establishments. Computer kids are the kids whose parents work as engineers/doctors/lawyers/accountants.

The first wave of Asian immigrants who arrived in the early 20th century were primarily laborers.  Popular imagination does not deceive us in this regard.  The third wave of Asian immigrants who arrived after the war were a mix of students, educated professionals, and laborers.  The technology boom that occurred in the last three decades of the twentieth century provided plenty of opportunities for students and educated professionals from Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and later on, Mainland China.  As a result, many students stayed in the America, built careers, and started families. And then there were those who came not to study, but to labor.  For some, they were always laborers, and presumably, a life as a laborer in America is much better than a life as a laborer in the home country.  There were more opportunities in America, if not for the immigrants themselves, then for their kids.  Of course, there were also highly educated immigrants who became laborers, because their skill set did not have the same value in America.  Is it better to be a grocery store owner in America than it is to be a doctor in South Korea (see Chang Rae Lee’s debut novel Native Speaker for a literary take)?  Perhaps this was the case thirty or forty years ago, but as East Asian economies have rapidly modernized, this kind of logic has quickly disappeared.

My friends and acquaintances include both restaurant kids and computer kids.  I’m a computer kid, but I’ve always been fascinated with the restaurant kids.  Looking around as a young adult at the life trajectories of my friends and acquaintances, I noticed an unsettling trend.  While most of us have landed somewhere in the middle in terms of worldly “success”, the people who have “failed” are mostly restaurant kids, and the people who have “excelled” are almost all computer kids.  While it may be too early to say whether or not these trends will continue, after all, we are still young, it is unsettling nonetheless.

Studies have shown that Asian scores have steadily risen over the last twenty years while the scores of other groups have remained relatively flat.  What is the secret to this success? The secret is simply what retailers refer to as “mix”.  The composition of the Asian population has changed.  “Asian” encompasses a wide range of groups, both low achieving  (Southeast Asians) and high achieving (East Asians and Indians).  Part of the reason for this increase can attributed to greater representation of the high achieving groups in the current Asian pie.  I suspect, however, that this is only part of the story.  My hypothesis, based on my experience, is that the mix of restaurant kids and computer kids in the high achieving group, plays an equal, if not larger role in the score increase.  The computer kids, the sons and daughters of the second wave of immigrants, have arrived. The sons and daughters of grocers, laborers, and restaurateurs are at a distinct disadvantage academically when compared to the sons and daughters of STEM PHDs.  Confucian (“Tiger Mom”) exam culture is no great equalizer, both groups share this culture.  The application of “Tiger Mom” parenting to the computer kids in my opinion may generate greater returns than when applied on restaurant kids.  The parental profiles typical in computer kid families are highly uncommon in mainstream American society.  As a group, the achievement potential for computer kids is very high.

I know many of my friends who are now participating at the elite level of American society (HLS, Mckinsey, Google, MIT, etc) had parents who both possessed masters or doctorate degrees in quantitative fields.  On the other hand, I know Asian-Americans who have given their parents a hard time, having kids way too early, driving fast cars, dropping out of school or slacking in school, and generally thumbing their noses at the prospect of a middle class lifestyle.  These kids are, with few exceptions, the restaurant kids.

Here is rough sketch of what I believe to be the distribution of achievement between restaurant kids and computer kids.  The blue dots represent computer kids and the red dots represent restaurant kids.


Computer kids dominate high schools such as Monte Vista in Cupertino and Thomas Jefferson in Northern Virginia, areas where there is high concentration of technology firms.  It is in these areas that the phenomenon of “white flight” in regards to Asian domination of public schools has begun to rear its ugly head.  I do not blame whites for wanting to flee these schools.  The truth is, they are competing with the offspring of the some of the highest performing individuals from Asia, a competition, that few can survive.

I’m curious to see what the mix is of computer kids vs. restaurant kids in highly selective Asian high schools such as Stuyvesant and Bronx Science in New York City.  The general perception is that these kids are relatively poor “Chinatown kids”, if you will, who study really, really hard to get into these schools.  I wonder, though, how many of these kids are simply middle class computer kids from the more suburban areas of New York City.

One thing the restaurant kids have over the computer kids is food.  Restaurant kids families make the most delicious food.

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“For sometimes …

“For sometimes you can’t help but crave some ruin in what you love.”
― Chang-rae Lee, On Such a Full Sea

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March 17, 2014 · 4:29 am