Thursday, December 28, 2017

New Years Resolutions: 2017 Summary

Hi everyone! Here are my resolutions from last year, and a summary of how I did. TL;DR I gave myself a 50%, or 6 points on the 12 from last year. Stay tuned for a future post with the new ones!

- Floss/Mouthwash (Health)
Did this one! Pretty proud of myself for this. 1 point

- Read 1 news story (Connection)
I did read more news, but not one per day, and I still missed big news items. 0.2 points

- ACTS prayer (Connection)
I did this REALLY well through March, and then went on a trip, forgot to pack the journal, and didn't pick it up after that trip. 0.3 points for 3 months of going strong.

- Text someone hi (Connection)
Zero points, didn't do this. I decided I didn't need to be texting more to stay in touch with people (the motivation behind this).

- Save $10 towards vacation (Finance)
I did this for half the year, went on vacation with Ryan in July, and spend my savings (Which was great, to have that money set aside!) then didn't KEEP saving (which I needed to do for vacation next year) so only 0.5 points for half the year.

- Write a blog post (Connection)
Nope. Not at all. Sorry, loyal blog readers - I was bad this year. Next year will be TEN YEARS of my having this blog though, so even though it's pretty rare for me to post, I've had it for a long long long time. And I have posted every year. :)

- Vacuum whole House (Organization)
I did this, not quite weekly, but I was better about keeping my house clean, which was the goal. 0.5 points

- Do a crossword puzzle (Creativity)
Nope, not at all. zero points.

- Mop Kitchen/Clean Bathroom (Organization)
Did this! 1 point

- Craft Completed (Creativity)
Did this! Lots of cross stitch this year, some paint nights, some pottery painting, some photo albums and some shadow boxes. Was a good, crafty year. :)

- Read non-fiction (Creativity)
Did this one! Did it better than last year, more actual mind-expansion, less memoirs (but still some memoirs). I read Orange is the New Black, Out of Orange, Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard, Your First Leadership Job, How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age, Liturgy of the Ordinary, All Roads Lead to Austen, What Matters in Austen: 20 crucial questions answered, Talking as Fast as I Can, Scrappy Little Nobody,  Hidden Figures, and Rise of the Rocket Girls!  1 point

- Write a Letter to someone (Connection)
I did this one, but missed the intent of the resolution since I mostly wrote to people I was already writing to, instead of new people. 0.5 points.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Evolution of Personality (through the lens of Hogwarts Houses)

Last week was the Society of Women Engineers holiday social at work. We spent a fair bit of time talking about Harry Potter houses, because we're nerds, and one of my SWE friends pointed out that she feels like she's in a different Hogwarts house now than she would have been at age eleven, when the sorting takes place (let's note that eleven is ASTONISHINGLY young to be telling a kid what they're supposed to be like for the rest of their life). 

I tend to agree with her assessment. As a kid, I took several house sorting tests and got sorted into Ravenclaw most times. When Pottermore was released, I took the official test and was sorted into Hufflepuff. When the Ilvermorny houses were released, I made a new Pottermore account, got sorted into Hufflepuff again, and got sorted into Thunderbird as my Ilvermorny house, in the American wizarding school (Thunderbirds are known for representing the soul of the wizard, and tends to favor adventurers. However, there isn't as much lore about Thunderbirds as there is about Hufflepuffs. I look forward to discovering more about being a Thunderbird as the Fantastic Beast movies are released!)

For those that are not familiar, Ravenclaws are "intellectuals" valued for their intelligence, Hufflepuffs are loyal friends, and not valued for their aptitude. Many Hufflepuffs note at this point that this does not mean Hufflepuffs are not smart - after all, Cedric Diggory, who qualified for the TriWizard Tournament, was a Hufflepuff - rather, it means that the loyalty is more important to them than other things.Which I like, because one of my friends/mentors pointed out that I'm extremely loyal, and disloyalty upsets me (which is why I don't like the movie, "The Notebook", because poor James Marsden gets ditched for no good reason.

I'm not sure if I would have been sorted into Hufflepuff house at age eleven. I think, in the seven years students are supposed to be at Hogwarts that they likely change, a lot. And I'm curious to know if the sorting hat can see their future, and sort them into the house they will ultimately grow into, or if it's based on their thoughts that first day, and that day alone. Seeing the future could explain why Neville Longbottom is in Gryffindor despite not being a particularly brave child, or why Hermione Granger is not in Ravenclaw, despite being a particularly intellectual child - but it could also be that the house shaped them into that adult, and perhaps they would have been different had they been placed in other houses.

Which goes back to the age old question, nature vs. nurture. Are you born into a particular personality type, or are you trained into one? Introverted parents can have extroverted children, which seems to imply some stuff is just born into a child, but other things are clearly are a product of upbringing (like how a child can be brought up to like or dislike math based on their parents feelings towards the subject, which is why you should never ever say you're "just not a math person"). In the end, the sorting hat is nothing more than a personality test, which I think are flawed ways to try to capture the complexity of a person's soul. 

Other thoughts about personality tests on this blog:

Friday, December 8, 2017

Mulling over names (again)

Names are weird. They're intensely personal, both to the person being named and to the person using the name.

For example, my name is Emily. And 90% of the people I know use that full name and it's generally what I prefer. Some people like to shorten it to Em, and occasionally I'll allow that. One of my colleagues recently tried it out, and immediately laughed because it felt so unnatural to her. Because for her, it wasn't natural.

Another colleague of mine also goes to my church. He has a different name at church than at work, and it's confusing for me to know the same man in two contexts with two names, and I'll often use the wrong one in the wrong context and have to clarify who I'm talking about.

Then there's the formal names - "Mr. So-and-So", "Mrs. Brown" vs "Emily". My mom has a particular distaste for being called "Ms. Joanna", she's told me. Either be fully formal or not at all, the in between frustrates her. This, I've discovered, is a common opinion among women my mom's age. Not sure if it's a generational thing (i.e. when I hit that age I'll also dislike it) or a cultural thing (i.e. the 2000-2010 era saw a shift towards less formality between kids and adults which is why I don't mind as much).

Then there's family names. My grandmother introduces herself as "Bestemor" to almost everyone now, not just her grandchildren, but it started as a family name for her (it's Scandinavian, for those wondering).

Then there's nicknames totally unrelated to someone's actual name. I find these endearing, but my brother in law does not, and I have to make an active effort to remember this and use the name he prefers.

This whole post stems from the fact that my sister Abigail's new boyfriend calls her "Abby", which I never have, and find odd. She doesn't care, so I don't know why I care so much, but I do and so I started thinking about names and how personal they are.

(PS - I said "again" because initially this post was called "What's in a Name" but my blog ALREADY has a post with that title:, if you want to read what I was thinking about names six years ago. Next year (2018) I will have had this blog for TEN YEARS, so expect some thoughts on that!)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Happy Birthday, Mama

Today's my mom's 50th birthday.

I only remember making a big deal about Mom's birthday once in my life - 20 years ago, when I was 5 and she was turning 30. We got some cake pans and cake decorations, and Dad had a big plan to bake mom a cake at the neighbors house, and then Abigail and I ruined his secret. We also got some apple scented lotion that my mom ended up not liking, but my dad really liked the scent.

Another year it snowed on Mom's birthday (I was about 10, I guess, based on the kids in the photos from that day). We celebrated Mom's birthday by taking some family snow photos, but that was mostly it.

Usually my Dad got my mom something like pajamas or a bathrobe for her birthday, and occasionally we kids give her cards, but mostly it passes by and we celebrate later with Chinese dimsum closer to Christmas. It's still fun, and it's a big family event, but it's hard to remember it's tied to my Mom's birthday.

It's hard to tell my mom I love her. She's not big on any of the love languages - physical touch isn't really how she operates (most Asian people don't do this one). Gifts of affirmation she appreciates, but I don't know if I've ever seen her use one of the gifts I've given her. Quality time alone with just mom is hard - and even when I call home, she usually passes the phone to dad. Acts of service she appreciates most, but now that I'm in my own home, whenever I try to serve her by doing dishes or something, she tells me to relax and she'll get it later. Words of Affirmation is my primary love language, but I don't use it to communicate with my mom - it's like the physical touch thing, we just don't say it out loud. Not saying this to fault my mom, just explaining why we never made that big a deal about her birthday.

So I'm saying it now. My mom's fantastic. She has the best advice of anyone I've ever met. If I can be half as good of a wife to my husband as my mom is at supporting, encouraging, but also challenging my dad, I'll feel accomplished. If I can raise a child even one ninth as patiently and graciously as my mom has managed to raise nine kids, I'll be doing well. 

When I was a kid and I was mad at my sisters or my dad (which happened a lot), my mom always managed to point me to the gospel. She was always gentle but firm in pointing me towards forgiving the person I was mad at. Always. sometimes it was infuriating because I just wanted to wallow in my anger, and she never let me.

When my mom had her wisdom teeth extracted, I flipped out, and my mom, even though she was getting over mouth surgery, read out loud to me to calm me down. When my sister Charissa was born, I got into a funk about things, and my mom sent me a note she wrote on a paper towel from the hospital via Dad mail to get me back into the right head space (a faded ink note that's still taped into my old journal). I always knew my mom loved me, and when I needed it, she showed it more than other times. 

So I hope that today, on her birthday, my mom knows that it goes back to her. That I love her, and respect her, and hope I can be more like her as I continue to grow up. Happy Birthday, Mama.

Monday, September 11, 2017

My "Mundane" Life in Maryland

Hi everyone - my friend Nancy is in the Peace Corps ( and she recently posted about her "mundane life", and said she'd be interested in her friend's stateside attempts at blogging about their life. So, Nancy, here is that blog post about my mundane life for you, going over just my last week.

Also, Happy Patriot’s Day? I have mixed feelings about the reaction to Sept. 11th every year. I understand wanting to memorialize it but it also seems that some of the memorials have become trite, and many of the people I've heard wanting to memorialize it are kids hoping for another day off of school, which seems disrespectful. In general, shouldn't we try to move on together as a country? I think remembering 9/11 with fear causes a fear of incoming refugees, and so I don't know how to truly feel for the families of the victims without promoting that feeling of fear (which we don't want). Anyways. Here's my week.

Last week was the kickoff for the all-girls robotics team I help coach. We had a parent meeting Wednesday night, and most of the parents were late because they were at Back-To-School nights. Whoops, I guess I should have thought more about scheduling. On Saturday the game was announced at a statewide kickoff. "The Game", for those not involved with FTC, is the challenge robots must complete this season. Video here:

Friday night Bojack Horseman season 4 was release on Netflix, and Ryan and I watched the first three episodes (we have since finished the season). Friday night we like to just veg out together.

Saturday night, my Dad and I went to a play, "The Christians", Baltimore Centerstage was giving out free tickets to opening weekend, which I learned about from the APL Drama Club. It was about a pastor of a mega-church who announces the church is debt-free, then preaches that he doesn’t believe in hell, and the various reactions from members of the congregation (an elder, his associate pastor, a choir member and his wife). It was cool and I think it wasn’t anti-Christian or overly “bible-banging”, just a legitimate look at some of the motivations of various characters and how they might react. The program had interviews with the author, where he said he started in seminary but then felt too much pressure from trying to interpret texts and learning the Bible is never really straightforward. That pressure of interpretation caused him to leave seminary and that comes up a lot in the play. I’d recommend it.

This summer I've been participating in the Innovation Challenge, a summer project for early career staff to show their skill/ability to solve problems. They announce the challenge in May, and teams have three months to work on it, then present their solution to APL program managers. Thursday was our team's final presentation, and I think it went OK. We had a more memorable demo than any of the other teams, because we let the judges be involved. One of the teams (out of six) is announced the winner. I don’t especially care about winning, but my one team mate really wants to win, and winners are announced this coming Wednesday.

Upcoming this next week socially I have a meeting with the program coordinator for HowGirlsCode, a non-profit creating classes for elementary school girls in programming skills. Why am I meeting with her? because I am officially on the HGC board as of August 1st! I'm excited to be doing STEM outreach to girls. I also have a happy hour with other Innovation Challenge participants to wrap up the program, and my group at work is having a picnic to celebrate the end of summer, so lots of work networking opportunities. Got to practice being more social with my co-workers, so this is a good experience for me. On Friday they have a church family board game night.

At work, I have a meeting for a new project kicking off, a C++ study group meeting, and a guest lecturer coming in to talk about robotics ethics, in addition to all my regular software developer tickets (a common term for software development requests is a "ticket" assigned to you to work on). I like my job but most people don't want to take the time to understand what I do. if you're interested, let me know. =)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Why I love Twitter

I know Twitter isn't the most popular social media anymore. In fact, I've been told over and over that it's dying (and I didn't even get on it until 2009, the year it allegedly started to die:

However, I really love Twitter. I like it because it humanizes so many people that otherwise felt out of touch to me. And it does this in a way that Facebook cannot. Facebook has clear roles for businesses, regular people, and famous people. The line between being an account that can be friend requested and a page that can be followed by anyone is very clear. And while yes, Facebook retro-fitted a follow button, it was too little, too late. Twitter has never had that model. Twitter has always been short, sweet, from anyone, to anyone messages. And that's exactly why I love it.

I get a small thrill of excitement when I get tweets from people that previously felt inaccessible to me. Yes, some of those accounts are probably managed by PR staff, just like the Facebook accounts. But the ones I'm talking about aren't. The accounts for smaller, web series actors (like Kate Hackett, Christopher Sean, Ashley Clements, or Mary Kate Wiles). The accounts for authors of books I've read over the past few years (Laura Bradbury, Deborah Yaffe, John Scalzi, Andy Weir). Those accounts are me getting to interact with the people who create for my benefit. They're me getting to appreciate them and knowing they hear it. Sometimes I can get this on Instagram too, but it's not always easy to come up with a picture for what I want to say, and I feel more self-conscious about pictures, so my Instagram is set to private. 

The other side of Twitter I like is the real conversations I have with total strangers about things. Usually, these things are TV related, since I like to participate in TV live tweet sessions. I've talked about the Oscars on Twitter two years in a row now. This year, I got into an interesting discussion about the representation of Asian Americans at the Oscars. When it was still on the air, I tried to participate in the Castle live tweet sessions every night. It was a good marketing technique to get me watching the show the night it aired, instead of two or three days after. And I loved it because most of the Castle cast tried to participate. Sometimes it was humorous (like Jon Huertas tweeting from traffic for why he wasn't at home watching the episode), sometimes it was behind the scenes knowledge (like Nathan Fillon tweeting when he had a cold, and that's why Castle's voice was so husky that day). But it was always fun and interactive in a way that Facebook posts aren't. The Twitter reply model is different than the Facebook comment model. Easier to read, in my opinion. And that allows me to converse with other people who love the show I love.

Sometimes, I'll get into conversations about Twitter itself (I know, super meta). For example, what inspired this post: I was scrolling through my feed and say Gordon Ramsey being Gordon Ramsey (by which I mean, criticizing food people submitted to him for opinions). In the middle of all those Gordon tweets was a single tweet from Michael Symon, responding to someone who had made one of his pasta recipes, full of encouragement. So I tweeted that observation, and noted that I preferred Symon. and I put my phone down, and walked away. The next day, I came back and I had 10 replies - some defending Chef Ramsey, some agreeing with me that they would prefer to hear from Chef Symon, and one from Chef Symon himself, stating that he just loved seeing people cooking on their own. And I really don't think that conversation would have happened anywhere else. 

While Twitter may be the dying social media, it's the only place I feel comfortable being totally public. Part of that is because of the character limit, I think. It's hard to get into long political arguments in 140 characters (something I detest most about Facebook). It's also easy to tap out a quick, 140 character reply to a fan (see above about increased accessibility). I'm going to keep thinking on the reasons Twitter appeals to me so much - so there may be more social media analysis here in the future.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My relationship with Shakespeare

Recently I've been reading a book called "Living with Shakespeare", a series of essays by writers/actors/directors who have worked with the works of the Bard for a long time. It's actually a fairly engaging book, despite it's boring academic sounding topic and title. As I read it, I find myself actually understanding and identifying with some of the points being made about Shakespeare.

Now, I know there's no way that everyone feels this way - in fact, most people have an irrational fear of Shakespeare. So what made me into a Shakespeare lover?  In high school, I used to read the "side by side" translations of Shakespeare. This helped me to get a grasp on the stories being told. High school is also when I saw my first Shakespeare plays - I even wrote about them on this blog in the very early days (wow, I've been on blogspot for almost 10 years!). I wouldn't say I loved Shakespeare in high school though. I was certainly curious, and I wanted to know the stories, but I didn't love it. I liked it, sure. I enjoyed being "academically minded" and knowing the stories from Shakespeare, but I didn't love it.

I think I really came to love it in college, when I took Dr. Hurley's class over winter break my sophomore year. We went to see Cymbeline, which is one of the rare stories in the Shakespeare library. It's like a fairy tale/Shakespeare combo, and I highly recommend it. That's the moment I knew that I had transitioned from a student to an aficionado. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

My open letter to Gov. Hogan

I submitted this letter on the Governor's comment site this morning. I don't think Hogan speaking out will change the policy. But his not speaking out will change my opinion of him. And I don't know what else to do against this action.

Issue - General Comments
Subject - Speaking Out Against the Muslim Ban

Original Message - 

Governor Hogan - As a MD constituent and life-long resident, I am asking that you speak out against the Muslim Ban and encourage Maryland judges to open BWI to incoming refugees as many other states have already done. This is not a partisan issue - you do not need to stand silent based on your status as a Republican. Other prominent Republicans have spoken out against the ban, and both our Maryland senators are opposed to the ban. As a state, this is a place I believe that we can and should present a united front. Please step forward and take a public stand. Given your own wife's status as a first-generation American, you must already understand the important role that immigrants play in the country - please, for the families made by generations of people seeking a better life here, please speak out against the ban and condemn it for what it is - unconstitutional, un-biblical, and un-american. Sincerely, Emily J. Brown

Friday, January 27, 2017

Thoughts on the Current State of Things...

I recently read a story in the New York Times magazine about former President Obama's commitment to reading ten letters every day from constituents, and the team of people hired at the White House to read and down-select the letters for him to read. It was fascinating, and the article can be found here for those who what to read it:

I learned after reading that article that the white house office has a tumbler account where some of the letters (and the president's reply) are preserved for people to read. I haven't read all of them, but the ones I have read have been pretty great, if you want to read those too.

These letters made me think of the videos "YouTube Asks Obama", which were produced by some of my favorite internet personalities, and both of which I was able to watch live as those personalities asked questions from their audience (including me) live and in person. If you didn't see them, they are archived at the links below:

And all of that information about former President Obama has gotten me to thinking about how the power of reputation really matters, especially in a president. I am not a political expert - I vote just as blindly as the rest of America. I vote based on personality. And what I felt from President Obama, the reason I voted to re-elect him to office (the first presidential election I voted in, when he was the incumbent), was that he was at least trying to listen to everyone's opinion. His personality was one that I trusted, one that felt open. 

Like many of you, I have been concerned by the personality the current president has displayed. I have felt that his personality is one of a combative nature, that he is not open to the things I care about, and that he is prone to play the victim, especially online.  Today, in my "Lean In" circle at work, we talked about the concept of "being your own hero". The lesson is available at for those interested. In the talk, the presenter highlighted the importance of not playing the victim, not blaming everyone else for your problems. He said to take responsibility is not to accept the blame - it's to use your power to change the situation. I think, as a country, we could all take that advice - the new president, those that voted for him, and those that voted against him. Rather than blaming each other, let's figure out how to change the situation.

I don't know who originated this quote, but it hung on the wall in my world history class in high school, and I have most frequently heard it repeated by Dr. Hrabowski, the president of my university - "Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become character. Watch your becomes your destiny."

America. Our words are becoming our actions. Our personality matters. I know I'm not saying anything super original here. But I think the in-fighting between parties has become a habit. As the left walks further left and the right walks further right, the thoughts become more opposing. Those thoughts were words in the election season. They are becoming actions, unless we do something about it.

Friday, January 13, 2017

What if social media was honest?

the other day, Ryan said to me, "you know, Facebook is kind of pretentious". I was semi-offended, because I'm on Facebook, but then i thought about how right he is. Now, I have nothing against social media - I'm a Millennial, after all. I see the value of social media for creating connections. I have friends from college that I wouldn't be able to keep in touch with if it weren't for Facebook. But that doesn't change the fact that Facebook is, and has always been, a place to brag about how good your life is, and even bad news is expected to have an ultimately positive spin. My dad is a great example of this. Even his cancer updates are usually wrapped in some positive, upbeat note about some of my siblings. My own Facebook page does this too - and even more so my Instagram page. Instagram is even worse than Facebook, actually. Capturing the perfect picture and sharing it is the punch line of many jokes recently - like the term "Instagram husband". If a picture is worth 1000 words, than every Instagram post contains the same rose colored view of life as a month's worth of Facebook updates.

The other big use of Facebook (and Twitter, for this one) is to share anything that argues for something you believe to be right. In the current political arena, this is mostly presidential, but it applies at all times, not just now. Sharing why it's better for the environment to be vegan/vegetarian. Sharing why you should care about causes. Again, I totally do this. I share articles from Goldie Blox or A Mighty Girl declaring why you should teach young girls the STEM fields are awesome. But in a way, this is just the same positive spin on everything that the above statuses are about. Even if the article that you share only talks about the world falling apart, you are validating yourself and your opinion by sharing it. You're saying "hey look, someone else feels how I feel, and that makes me right, and I want you all to know I am right".

Facebook is the online equivalent of someone asking "how are you doing?" and hoping that you just give the socially acceptable "good" and move on. Facebook is the online equivalent of someone expecting you to fall into their socially comfortable, normal boxes. And because that's what people want, it's what we give out. People want you to talk about how you are #Blessed and how you are #rockingIt, but not about the times you are hurting, or confused, or anything else. Because Facebook is a network that is a mile wide, but an inch deep. And like I said, I see the value of this - I just get frustrated if that's my ONLY connection to you.

So here are two examples of honest statuses I might write:

Emily is jealous of her co-worker, who got the position I wanted to get but didn't get, and who got promoted to the next level the same time I did, even though she has been at this job less time than I have. This co-worker is a really nice person, but my issues get in the way of us really connecting.

Emily feels frustrated, sad, and confused about the political state right now, and feels like friends on both sides of the political aisle are telling her she's not doing the right thing, and to be honest, just wants to stick her head under a rock till it's all over. Which, I'm sure, some of my friends will tell me is the wrong/cowardly thing to do. And I know that. But I'm scared, and it's easier to be complacent than to take a stand, OK?

Do you see why social media is not honest? Because it reveals our sins to be honest. It's easier to pretend to live the perfect, righteous life than it is to address our own failings. However, one of my new year's themes this year was connection. So I'm making an effort to connect with people - both by sharing my honest mess, and by asking you to share yours. I can't promise how I'll react - part of my mess is that I'm a judgmental jerk more often than not - but I'm working on it. The End.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Years Resolutions 2017

This year, I am trying the habit calendar from Free Period Press for my resolutions (

The habit calendar breaks resolutions into daily, weekly and monthly boxes that can be checked as you go along, and comes with a category guide to think up ideas. I used the following categories to think up resolutions: Health, Connection, Organization, Finance, and Creativity.

Here are the resolutions, grouped by type:

- Floss/Mouthwash (Health)
- Read 1 news story (Connection)
- ACTS prayer (Connection)
- Text someone hi (Connection)

- Save $10 towards vacation (Finance)
- Write a blog post (Connection)
- Vacuum whole House (Organization)
- Do a crossword puzzle (Creativity)

- Mop Kitchen/Clean Bathroom (Organization)
- Craft Completed (Creativity)
- Read non-fiction (Creativity)
- Write a Letter to someone (Connection)