Tag Archives: Chicago

I Love Cali (Guest Post)

– By Michael Tu

I hate Chicago! I can’t wait to move back to Cali. I must have heard my Californian friends senselessly bash Chicago at least 100 times the past 6 years here. They claim they would be significantly happier if they escaped Chicago’s frigid hell (paradox?) and returned to their paradisal motherland. I have always found this line of thought to be quite superficial, the outcome of an insufficiently examined life. If the limitless wonders of California do indeed make you much happier, then Californians must be the happiest people on Earth. Sure. I’m skeptical that the weather is a central determinant of life satisfaction. Far more crucial are factors such as whether you are surrounding yourself with people who and engaging in work that bring you meaning. You can achieve this almost regardless of location.

It turns out that this notion of Californian superiority in life satisfaction has also bothered leading behavioral scientists David Schkade of UCSD and Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University (who also won a Nobel Prize in Economics). They performed a study called “Does Living in California Make People Happy? A Focusing Illusion in Judgments of Life Satisfaction”. While the title makes the study seem silly at first glance, I assure you that it is a legitimate one that has been cited 627 times. The researchers surveyed ~2000 undergraduates from the University of Michigan (UM), Ohio State University (OSU), the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and the University of California, Irvine (UCI) about their own overall level of life satisfaction and their own level of satisfaction with specific factors such as the regional climate. Moreover, the researchers surveyed the students about what they perceive to be the overall life satisfaction of their similar other (someone else similar to themselves) in the Midwest and in California, and their similar other’s level of satisfaction with specific factors such as the regional climate.

 

The study yielded many interesting results. I will only cover a subset of them:

  1. The students in the Midwest and in California had a similar level of overall life satisfaction.
  2. The Californian students were more satisfied with their own climate than students in the Midwest were satisfied with their own climate.
  3. Both geographical sets of students predicted that their similar other would have a higher level of overall life satisfaction in California than in the Midwest.
    1. The higher life satisfaction prediction for California occurred because the students believed their similar other would be more satisfied with the climate and cultural opportunities in California.
  4. Both geographical sets of students placed higher importance on the climate’s effect on well-being for their similar other living in another region than for themselves.

 

The professors interpreted the results as follows:

  1. The climate is not an important factor when a person assesses her own overall life satisfaction. That person focuses on more central aspects of life in her evaluation.
  2. Objectively speaking, there is a difference in hedonic experience between the climate in California and the Midwest’s climate. A person tends to over-focus on the salient Californian “advantage” of climate when imagining his similar other’s life in another region.
    1. Note: I inserted the apostrophe around ‘advantage.’
  3. Hence, a focusing illusion occurs that causes the person to exaggerate the impact of climate on his similar other’s overall life satisfaction in another region. He fails to realize that his focus shifts to more central aspects of life when evaluating his own overall life satisfaction.

 

To be fair, this study has a limitation. UM, UCLA, UCI, and OSU are mostly comprised of local, regional students, so the surveyed Californians probably have lived in California their entire life, and the surveyed Midwesterners most likely have lived in the Midwest their entire life. At most, you can solidly conclude that lifetime Midwesterners and Californians have similar life satisfaction despite California’s salient “advantages.” You cannot definitely say that a person who moves to the Midwest from California will not have lower life satisfaction, ceteris paribus (excluding the climate and cultural opportunities). Conversely, you cannot definitely say that a person who moves to California from the Midwest will not have higher life satisfaction, ceteris paribus (excluding the climate and cultural opportunities).

Yet, in the face of imperfect information, I strongly believe there is beneficial value in assuming that the authors’ conclusion is a close approximation of the truth:

“In the context of life satisfaction, the present discussion suggests that people may not be good judges of the effect of changing circumstances on their own life satisfaction, or on that of others. Our research suggests a moral, and a warning: Nothing that you focus on will make as much difference as you think.”

If you are a Californian struggling to adapt to life in Chicago, realize that it is wholly possible to achieve a similar level of life satisfaction here that you enjoyed in California. Instead of focusing your energy on trivial elements of life such as the weather, seek and be present to the crucial and wholesome gifts of life: the people around you who bring you meaning and the work that you find meaningful.

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TSNY Trapeeeeeze

How did I move from Chicago to somewhere even colder? Apparently there were signs of first snow in Boston a few hours ago, ekk! After the freezing morning run along Charles River, I’ve strategically planned to stay at a coffee shop all day. It’s nice and toasty in here, so I had to double-check….first snow on Oct 18?

Only three weeks ago, I was still in Chicago waiting to try my first Trapeze class in nice, warmish weather. Trapeze, for those unfamiliar, is where you hold onto a horizontal bar (think monkey bar) and swing in the air, just like Cirque du Soleil. Terrified by the idea? I was too! Convinced that I wouldn’t be able to hold onto the bar and embarrassingly fall off in a split second, I walked up to write my name on the chalkboard and hear the instructions for first timers.

The basic instruction is to hold on tight to the bar and then follow the rest of the instructions being called out to you when you’re on the bar. READY? um….not really….?

Ignoring my shaking legs, up I climbed on the thin ladder, which was wobbling in the Lake Michigan breeze. Here’s a video of what I could do by the end of class:

I think I’m ready to audition for Cirque! Okay, maybe not, but it wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be. I know you skeptics out there will not believe me when I say that. The truth is all the movements relied on momentum, especially when I had to put my leg up onto the bar, it was much easier than it looked because it used the force you get when you jump off the board. In fact, the hardest part was probably getting your legs off the board, which took me an entire minute, along with ample convincing from the instructor, the first time around (the video became too long to upload…) Otherwise, it’s not bad!

I would definitely encourage you to try if you’re even slightly intrigued. Full disclosure – my muscles did hurt for about 2 weeks after because it used muscles that I never knew I had (possibly similar to the ones used in yoga?) Great experience and great crew!

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For those of you who might want to give it a try, they have rigs in Chicago, NYC, Boston, DC, LA. Check it out at TSNY.

Stay Warm! xx

Reducing Youth Violence

I was listening to a Freakonomics’ podcast “I don’t know what you’ve done with my husband but he’s a changed man” episode and learned something related to the topic of this blog that I want to share with you.

The episode was on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is a type of psychotherapy in which Psychologists and patients work to overcome difficulties through discussions and problem solving. Most of the time, it means changing one’s thinking, actions, or emotional responses to their surroundings.

Chicago was mentioned several times in the podcast. Ever since living in Chicago, I have had a tendency of getting very excited about the topic being discussed when Chicago is mentioned. I feel that the general population is referring to Chicago more and more now, or is that my illusion? Either way, I decided to look more into BAM (Becoming A Man), a youth program in Chicago that was mentioned in the podcast.

The program is super interesting. It’s part of University of Chicago’s Crime Lab, where they implement research-based policies to reduce crime and violence. This program, BAM, was a one-year program aimed to reduce youth gun violence that is so prevalent in Chicago. In addition, they wanted to reduce skiving and school dropouts.

The Crime Lab went into schools and taught Grade 7-10 males on a variety of social cognitive skills, including self-control, conflict resolution, and social information processing. These are crucial knowledge for everyday functions that is curiously not taught as part of the school curriculum.

Results from the implementation were remarkable. Before the program, the average youth missed 6 weeks of school and had a grade point average of D+. After the program, students missed fewer classes and performed better. More importantly, they were 10–23% more likely to graduate and violent crime arrests reduced by a whooping 44%!

The long-term effects of this program are still being evaluated. The after effects of an experiment are something that is important to think about when implementing programs in the real world. Firstly, the results of the program itself could have positive or negative impact on the participants (though you hope that it’s positive of course!) However, researchers should also think about what happens to the participants after the experiment is “over”. The long-term impact might range from positive, where the situation continues to become better, neutral, where there’s no impact, or worst-case negative, where it has adverse effects. In this case, the worst case scenario could be that the Grade 7-10 males immediately resorted to gun violence after the program because they didn’t have cognitive behavioral therapy sessions anymore.

Hope this was new and educational! It was for me. Have a productive week!

Steph

 

Source: University of Chicago Crime Lab Research and Policy Brief – “BAM – Sports Edition”

A Summer Weekend (Guest Post)

By my friend, Jenny Xia, who also wrote about Eataly exactly a year ago

Having lived in DC for the past year, I couldn’t help but feel slightly overwhelmed by how much bigger Chicago seemed in comparison. As Steph and I explored the city, I began to convince myself that Chicago has to be larger than NYC. In a moment of nerdiness, I Googled this and it turns out that NYC’s over 30% bigger in square mileage.

It also turns out that I experienced a psychology phenomenon called the “contrast effect.” The term describes how undergoing two contrasting experiences can skew a person’s perception of the latter event. During my stay with Steph, Chicago seemed enormous, though I probably wouldn’t feel the same way if I had been visiting her from NYC. In a way, the cognitive bias worked in my favor as it made my visit to Chicago feel even more exciting and the city grander.

The rest of the weekend Steph and I spent together was as exciting as the day Steph recapped in her last post, here’s some of our activities that weekend:

  1. Touring Pilsen

Continue reading A Summer Weekend (Guest Post)

COLORING BOOK

My good friend Jenny was visited me in Chicago this weekend. It was a memorable weekend exploring different chi-neighborhoods, attending local cultural events, and showing her my chi-city life (i.e. brunch/workout/drink). In fact, we did so many fun things this past three days, I can’t decide which one to highlight, but stay tuned for my post next week for some of the things we did 🙂

SecretGardenShe also surprised me with a gift – thank you love!! It’s a coloring book called Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book, which has elaborate garden designs to color in. She also bought me a set of 24 color pencils, something that I haven’t touched for way too many years. Along with the present, she also expressed that coloring has therapeutic effects, which intrigued me to read more about this. 
ColorPencilSetof24
It turns out that coloring book for adults have become so popular that it makes the Top 10 Bestseller Book on Amazon. It is becoming a phenomenon not just within the US but also worldwide, where people are using these beautifully outlined pages as a way to de-stress or lower their anxiety levels.

Research has supported that this works! In an experiment, people were asked to complete an anxiety-inducing task, and then after engage in 20-minutes of coloring session. They were either coloring 1) on a blank piece of paper; 2) on a plaid design (below) that is basically crisscrossing of straight lines ;3) on a mandala, an elaborate and repetitive pattern often seen in Indian religions and associated with meditation. PlaidDesignThey found that after 20 minutes, those who colored the plaid design or the mandala had significantly lower anxiety levels, whereas those who merely colored on blank paper did not relieve any stress. Additionally, they found that there is no difference in how much stress was reduced between coloring the mandala, which is much more difficult to design, and the simple crossing lines that could be drawn on Word. However, I suspect that the reason all the coloring books out there right now are closer to the mandala designs is because marketers and designers would opt for the fancier and prettier option to attract consumer attention. Shoppers might be less intrigued to buy a coloring book made of just straight lines, which I could probably draw with a ruler and a piece of paper myself. PagesinsideSecretGardenCannot wait to start coloring these beautiful pages in the Secret Garden! While I have a set of 24 color pencils, the participants in the experiment only had 6. I wonder if having 4x more choices will make me more stressed out – a choice-overload problem?

MyfriendJennyandI

Miss you already! With Love, Steph

NEW REBOZO

Hello everyone, Happy Sunday! Hope you’re enjoying your weekend. My weekend has been a combination of new experiences – brunch spots, dishes, and some not-so-new chores – doing laundry. One of the highlights of my weekend was in itself a mix of new and familiar experience.

My friends and I went to New Rebozo, a mexican restaurant in River North, Chicago. It’s a familiar experience because I’ve been to this restaurant twice before. The first time was after I signed my lease for my first apartment (woop!) That itself earned New Rebozo a special place in my heart. Then, I went again with Shraddha after my first (and only) attempt at aerial yoga. For those of you who have not heard of aerial yoga, lmgify here. That time, we established that they have pretty good margs.

mole

This time, I decided to try mole poblano, a traditional mexican dish. Even though I rarely venture outside of my fish tacos, chipotle burrito bowl, and guacamole for my mexican choices, I wanted to see what this featured item on the menu was all about. So here we go, mole, pronounced “mo-lay”, which is slightly different from guaca”mole”, is a chocolate based sauce that is poured over your dish. I ordered the Fiesta Mole, which was a platter of 6 moles over 6 enchiladas, the best way to try out all the varieties. To put inside the enchiladas, I chose chicken and cheese, though you can also choose beans, guacamole, or chorizo.

The experience was interesting, though I confess I’m not the biggest fan of this traditional mexican dish. The different mole flavors were chocolate (plain), pistachio, pumpkin seed, almond, etc. Each of them tasted very different from the next, making each bite an exciting experiment. The chocolate mole, which I was told is the most basic or traditional version of what people call mole, is probably my least favorite of all. I’m usually a big proponent for mixing sweet and savory food, but the chocolate mole had a strange after taste to it. A few of the flavored ones tasted better and complemented the chicken and cheese enchiladas.

margs

I’m glad we tried moles at New Rebozo. It was definitely a new experience for me, though I’m most likely going back to the tacos and margs next time (which are great, btw!)

Lastly, while we are on the topic of mexican food, here’s a game for a BOGO chipotle if you’re a fan (or not): Chipotle Friend or Faux

Have a great week!

Steph

MATCHA OREOS

the weeks seem to be going by faster every month. can you believe it’s already the end of April? where did the time go? in other news, i’m starting to think that my desire to bake is linked to the season. from november to february, i had no interest in experimenting with flour/sugar/butter/vanilla extract/brown sugar. but now that it’s getting warmer, i’m really excited to fire up the oven again!
for those who know me well, you might know that i’m (slightly) obsessed with pumpkin products. the pumpkin spice lattes, yum. why can’t we have that all year round? i also tend to bake a lot of things with pumpkin purée during the fall (and all year round). but at the request of my friends, i’ve decided to branch out and search for a new ingredient to bake with.
that’s when i came across this blogger: my name is yeh. her food features a combination of the east and the west. as an example, her latest post is drunken zucchini noodles. the post that really caught my eye was Matcha Oreos.
matcha 7

Continue reading MATCHA OREOS

Beef Stew with Beer

Hey guys!

 

Sorry I’ve been MIA. I’ve been getting addicted to the idea of “Lazy Sundays” and have been slacking on “Blogging Sundays” – my apologies.

 

This past weekend has been quite productive though. I’ve cooked Beef Stew for the first time, and made Apple Muffin – both of which I’ll share with you today.

 

Old-Time Beef Stew

 

Paula Deen's Beef Stew
Paula Deen’s Beef Stew

 

I came across the idea of making beef stew because I’ve never made anything that required cooking time of over 30 minutes – my usuals are stir-fry, salmon, pasta, salads, quick soups, etc.

 

Continue reading Beef Stew with Beer

Guest Post: Chicago Architecture Tour

By Collin Fu

 

So, I heard a lot of good things about Chicago from my friends and they are absolutely true from my experience. I went to Chicago during fall break to visit Stephanie. It was still fall, weather was awesome and people are really nice. Of all the beautiful things in Chicago, one thing that particularly impressed me was the architecture.

I was taking a boat tour along the river in the city center and I was fascinated by the magnificent skyscrapers. These buildings, despite of different shapes and style, fit in with each other perfectly and artistically along the river with too much the dense.

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Continue reading Guest Post: Chicago Architecture Tour