An anonymized diary

A bunch of my friends are trying to waste less as their New Year’s resolution. One of my friends spent 2019 trying to go 30 days without generating non-recyclable, non-compostable trash. I loved reading her notes and learning about the unexpected hurdles. She didn’t want to share this publicly but was okay with me posting it.

January 1/1/19 — Leaving Philly, BF and I stopped for breakfast at Au Bon Pain. Bought oatmeal in a non-recyclable container. Totally forgot.

January 1/2/19 — Bit my nails at work but didn’t have a composting bag with me. Also, don’t really want to…


Gold being favorite books — listed towards the end of this post.


In an Internet already lousy with unsolicited life advice, here’s mine: Pick a hair salon that’s far away.

Resist the obvious pick of the closest salon to you, the one on the block you go up and down a trillion times a week, because how will that possibly save you?

No, pick one that’s in a neighborhood you like but never go to, preferably one that’s on a bus line you rarely take.

When you schedule your appointments, leave plenty of time before and after to get in trouble. Haircut hours? Pfft, you’re making it a full-fledged haircut day. …


(I wrote this in April 2015.)

On my first day working in London’s Benjamin Franklin House, I cracked open a window and overheard one of the many tours of the city that passed by the House. “This is where Ben Franklin lived the longest in his adult life. Franklin is of course best known for being president of the United States, but he was a fascinating man with many other interests besides — ” The tour guide’s authoritative voice faded down the street, along with dutifully shuffling feet and a stroller struggling down the bumpy sidewalk. I sprang to my…


Why visitors do the museum shuffle and leave disappointed

I’ve worked in museums on two continents and beeline to them everywhere I travel. And I’m here to report that the “museum shuffle” happens the whole world over. This is the customary way of going through a museum: reading each sign, spending an appropriate few seconds in front of each object. Repeat room by room until you’ve covered the whole museum, or you’re out of time, tired, or feeling like you’ve gotten your money’s worth. Who knows if you’ve absorbed any of it at all.

Keep an eye out for the museum shuffle. …


Here I am
Sunniest morning San Francisco will ever get. Here I am, determined to make the most of the cavernously empty Sunday I’ve eked out for myself. I’ve packed a choice of books and even (overkill) a choice of journals. I plop down on a patio, grab a drink and a banh mi, planning to while away a few hours. But I finish eating, and then I’m just done. My feet start instinctively carrying me home, laden down by the books I haven’t so much as touched. …


Why it’s worth choosing your values

Even though it takes time to define values, I think it’s well worth it. Having set values means you can focus on just the new information and relevant parts of a given situation.

At work, individuals have to make decisions on behalf of their teams all the time. Having set values helps guide reasoning and reduce ambiguity. Employees can use values as a rubric and make the decision that the whole company would have arrived at, without having to actually convene everyone.

Personal values are also helpful for big decisions. Decision-making can get really meta, really fast: How should I…


When I casually agreed to my mother’s simple request, I had no inkling it would take on a life of its own.

I was visiting my paternal grandmother in Tianjin, China, and Mom requested I bring back some of her favorite childhood candy: tanghulu (糖葫芦), haws strung on a stick, dipped in rock candy, and left to harden. She wanted me to hunt down the same brand my father had brought back for our family in 2013, and only that brand. The kicker? She never wrote down its name.

Still, how many varieties could there possibly be? I figured I’d…


If you got a beautiful journal for Christmas that you’re looking to start on January 1st, 2015, awesome! I don’t want to dictate what you do with it — I think keeping any sort of journal is worthwhile. But I am interested in the two most common failure modes:
1) Not knowing what to write about and being daunted by the blank page
2) Reading your filled journal, only to find its contents mundane or incomprehensible.

These two problems definitely feed into each other. If you feel pressured to write only things that will be meaningful later, of course it’s…

Carrie Tian

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