Saturday, November 12, 2016


It's been a bad week. I didn't honestly think that Trump would win. I looked at the projections and thought, well, of course Hillary Clinton will be our next president. Listen to all the awful things that Trump has said, look at who worldwide is praising and who is condemning him. How could anyone ever vote for Trump?

And then 60 million of my fellow citizens did.


I'd Love to Change the World - Jetta (Matstubs Remix)


This isn't going to be a coherent post. I need to write it because I've been thinking about the election in all of my free and unfree time since Tuesday, trying to wrap my head around this dumpster fire of an outcome. There are a lot of pieces to put together, a lot of different perspectives to compare and try to reconcile, and I need to get my own thoughts down so that I can have a chance of focusing on all the stuff I have to do this weekend.

This will mostly be a compilation of things that I've read and my reactions thereto*. You've probably seen all this already.
*this sentence sounds less awkward if you approach it with German structures in mind


First: Hillary won the popular vote by about 400,000 votes. This really stings. I've seen various articles floating around calling for the abolition of the electoral college, and as someone who never thought it made sense anyway I'm likely to be sympathetic to the arguments therein. I remember my eighth grade history teacher saying "all or nothing, state by state," and those words were playing on repeat in my mind as I watched Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin fall to Trump by the barest of margins on Tuesday night.

As a Californian, I felt a huge exhale go through my entire being when our 55 electoral votes were added to Hillary's count, marking one of the few points when she was ahead as the night went on. The West Coast is where it's at, I say, with the caveat that I will address this mindset more in depth later on.


New York Times has demographic breakdowns based on the exit polls. The race one, second from the top, is particularly interesting. For me as an Asian kid it's distressing that 11% more Asians voted Republican than in 2012. Way to throw other POC under the bus there. I may know a Trump supporter, one of my parents' friends, and I don't know if I'll ever be able to look at her the same way.

(This article claims the exit polls were incorrect, but doesn't quite explain why their method is more accurate. Including it here as food for thought, and for general analysis on AAPI voting patterns.)

The overwhelming white support for Trump is unsurprising. It is also scary.

Whites without a college degree voted 2/3 for Trump. For all that the narrative has been "Trump won over the white working class," though, the support by income level is fairly even, with Hillary holding narrow margins over Trump for income levels below $50k/year.

The rural/urban divide is interesting and to be explored more below.

By religion: I want to see Muslim as a separate category, although I doubt the results would be surprising. The overwhelmingly Democratic Jewish vote does not surprise me (although it's interesting that it's even higher than it was in 2012). Same goes for the overwhelmingly Republican evangelical vote.

Who the hell are the 14% of LGBT people who voted for a platform with conversion therapy?

Military leaning Republican not a surprise. I don't know if the lack of marker re: change from 2012 means that there's no data or there's no change.

The direction of country graph is the first one that makes me feel sad rather than angry, because of those who thought the direction of the country was generally correct, 90% voted Democratic. Because these are the same people (myself included) who now feel, with the results of the election, that the country's trajectory has been reversed and very much not right anymore.

The graphs farther down about family financial situation (better or worse today?) and condition of the economy and expectations for the next generation of Americans show the same trend: those with a more optimistic view voted blue. This sentence sounded pretentious as hell; let me address it later.

Most important issue: for those who voted Democratic, foreign policy and the economy. For those who voted Republican, immigration and terrorism. I'm aware that I sound like a flaming liberal by saying this but wow, look at that fear of the Other.

The responses to the question of what should happen to illegal immigrants is frightening. If you click the "scale by population" button at the bottom, it shows that more people said "offer chance to become legal" than "deport," but still...25% of those surveyed said that illegal immigrants should be deported. The margins on support/opposition of a goddamn border wall are even narrower. (As a civil engineer: we can't even get it together to build infrastructure we *need*, much less infrastructure we very much do not need.)

The "most important candidate quality" question is also interesting. "Cares about people like me" has more responses from Democrats than from Republicans but it's a 58/35 split. Trust for the candidates is low.

60% of people had decided how to vote before September. Those who decided later tended to skew Trump. What happened in the last-mile campaign stretch? I have a lot more thoughts about the failure of the DNC to campaign effectively but that chart speaks volumes.


The mood has been tense. In some cases, including my own, fearful. I'm going to start the process of renewing my passport, not because I'm planning to flee the country but because...well, it needs to happen and I want a safety line.

I don't cry a lot, but I did on Wednesday after I'd called both of my parents. They're fine--but I realized that the factors that make me feel secure about them are that 1) my dad has citizenship and my mom is a permanent residence, all accepted by the system 2) they're educated and employed 3) we live in California. For a lot of people, these factors are not true. I am not worried about my own physical safety or about the safety of my family members, but lots of people like me are terrified for the futures of their immigrant parents.

Various people have been posting "what to do" guides on my facebook feed. Here are a few:

One of the items on both of the practical guides listed above is how to get a passport, so here you go.

I'm not personally going into crisis mode, which is a function of my class/geographic privileges. But I'm also not ignoring these, because I know I default too easily to thinking "things will turn out okay."


Above I alluded to talking about the rural vs. urban, liberal coasts vs. middle America, tradition vs. future divide. I was raised in the Bay Area, go to school in Silicon Valley, have been in a liberal echo chamber my entire life.

Someone I know posted this article from, whose URL would suggest it's titled "6 Reasons for Trump's Rise that No One Talks About" but whose actual title is How Half of America Lost its F***ing Mind (language in the article is no cleaner). Some quotes that made a particular impression:

"If you don't live in one of these small towns, you can't understand the hopelessness. The vast majority of possible careers involve moving to the city, and around every city is now a hundred-foot wall called "Cost of Living.""

"The rural folk with the Trump signs in their yards say their way of life is dying, and you smirk and say what they really mean is that blacks and gays are finally getting equal rights and they hate it. But I'm telling you, they say their way of life is dying because their way of life is dying."

"Already some of you have gotten angry, feeling this gut-level revulsion at any attempt to excuse or even understand these people. After all, they're hardly people, right? Aren't they just a mass of ignorant, rageful, crude, cursing, spitting subhumans?

Gee, I hope not. I have to hug a bunch of them at Thanksgiving."

The author's name is David Wong, and when I googled I found that that's a pseudonym and the guy is actually white. Which is not grounds for writing off his article but does provide some context for this quote:

"the racism of my youth was always one step removed. I never saw a family member, friend, or classmate be mean to the actual black people we had in town. We worked with them, played video games with them, waved to them when they passed."

Just notice: we vs. them. The "actual black people we had in town." Hm.

I can read an article like the one above and try for empathy, and I do believe, or at the very least want to believe, that not everyone who voted for Trump is a raging bigot. I have never felt the kind of economic hopelessness described, but I think I can imagine how crushing that would be. But a helluva lot of POC also live in poverty, in rural areas, and every single non-white ethnic group voted blue.

I need to do some soul-searching about what atrocities I co-signed by voting for Hillary, but anyone who voted for Trump also needs to think about what they are implicitly condoning by saying that a man who wants to deport millions, vowed to ban Muslims from entering the country, and has sexually assaulted several women should lead our nation.

This article provides another perspective: I'm A Coastal Elite from the Midwest: The Real Bubble is Rural America. It suits my existing worldview better, so naturally it resonated more with me. But I also think that it's less tone-deaf on race than the one. Some choice quotes:

"We, as a culture, have to stop infantilizing and deifying rural and white working-class Americans. Their experience is not more of a real American experience than anyone else’s, but when we say that it is, we give people a pass from seeing and understanding more of their country. More Americans need to see more of the United States. They need to shake hands with a Muslim, or talk soccer with a middle aged lesbian, or attend a lecture by a female business executive.

We must start asking all Americans to be their better selves. We must all understand that America is a melting pot and that none of us has a more authentic American experience."

This brings up issues of the feasibility of travel, of course. I believe that the time I've spent internationally in the years since coming to college have been crucial in expanding my worldview and have made me a better person--but I also realize that there are a lot of financial barriers to travel, and that the Grand Tour tradition is one strongly rooted in class inequality. So I agree with the author's point but it's not as easy as he makes it sound.

"Change has not been kind to the Midwest and rural America.

And rather than embrace it, rural and white working-class Americans are twisting and turning, fighting it every step of the way. We will never return to the days where a white man could barely graduate high school and walk onto a factory floor at 18 and get a well-paying job for life. That hasn’t set in for much of the Midwest.

This doesn’t mean that coastal Americans can’t empathize more with their fellow Americans and try to find solutions to these problems (nor does it mean that there aren’t many struggling working-class people in coastal states). And it certainly doesn’t mean coastal Americans haven’t contributed to this divisiveness."

When Hillary first called Trump supporters a "basket of deplorables" I thought it was amusing and probably true. But now I think that it was irresponsible and probably cost her a lot of votes.

And was it true? Now that the election results are known, I'm trying to find a way around that. Because I don't want to believe that half of the voters in America are irredeemable. What I want to believe is that people who are hurting economically were persuaded, all too easily, to fall back on baser impulses (e.g. white supremacy and xenophobia), that they are driven by fear rather than hatred. And I want to believe that the DNC will realize that they screwed up and offer a better vision, a better message, for these people. A way to make America great without the "again," without the appeal to a less diverse, whiter past.


I watched the clip below, in which Van Jones talks about "whitelash," on CNN as the election results aired on Tuesday, and have been thinking about it off and on ever since.

My heart hurts for everyone whose sense and reality of safety have been compromised. Hate crimes spiked in the UK after Brexit and have stayed high, and the same thing looks like it's happening in the USA now. I've said that I am not afraid for my own physical safety, but I am afraid for the physical safety of some of my friends. Not necessarily here, but I have friends going home to Texas, to Florida, to rural parts of states that are nominally blue, over Thanksgiving. Are they going to be okay?

My heart also hurts for the Obamas. America elects its first black president for two terms, a man who pushes for universal healthcare, under whom we recover from one of the worst recessions in our history--and then he's followed by a bigoted celebrity with no political or military experience, whose running mate is a conservative Christian whose evil is just barely better hidden, who wants to appoint a climate denier to run the EPA, who is going to undo decades of legislative progress. I'm not going to link to Trump's plan for his first 100 days but it is a goddamn nightmare.

The subtitle of this article from Dem* Spiegel, Europe Reacts to Trump, is "The World is Crumbling in Front of Our Eyes." Who is celebrating? Putin, unsurprisingly; Orban; Le Pen.
*The magazine is called Der Spiegel but if I was writing the above sentence in German the from is "von" which takes the dative case, hence "dem"

I would like to offer a more optimistic point of view but I really can't see the silver lining. Republicans have both houses of Congress, and will be able to put at least one justice on the Supreme Court. I don't think Trump will be able to deliver on all his campaign promises but there is a lot of damage he can do.


A few notes on other topics:

Third party voters/people who didn't vote: I'm not going to blame these people for the outcome as much as literal actual Trump supporters, but I do consider it a bad strategic move, unless someone is truly indifferent to who is president i.e. the Trump policies that have me and most of the people I know terrified do not threaten their sense of safety.

I've been seeing more and more about how the Voting Rights Act was not enforced in this election, and I still need to read up on that. But voting access and voter turnout are huge issues that disproportionately affect lower-income and minority groups.

Political action and organization outside of voting is important, and I should think about that more. I just found this article on action items for young Bay Area people. I'm a young Bay Area person. Going to look at this more closely later.

Some other Medium articles that have passed across my facebook feed: an International Student's Open Letter to Americans and My Reaction to My Grieving Liberal Friends both offer alternate perspectives. I don't agree with them fully--yes, Hillary's actions as Secretary of State contributed to violence and conflict around the globe, but is Trump really going to be any better? +There are substantive policy differences between Trump and Clinton--the choice of Supreme Court nominee alone will affect law for decades to come.

The question of why liberals don't just move en masse to swing states is worth thinking about some more. In the interest of my physical safety I'm not going to move anywhere that is both more white and less liberal than my hometown, but a big city in a swing state could be an option. Looking up the swing state margins is making me upset but I could consider Pennsylvania, I could consider Michigan.

I'm renewing my passport but I don't think that leaving the country is the most honorable route for me to take. Yeah, when I was in Germany I kind of wanted to stay forever, but isn't it better to stay and do what good I can here?


EDIT: This is Der Spiegel's latest cover.
The End of the World (as we know it)

EDIT 2: This article is good. What to Do About Trump

Friday, November 4, 2016

Autumn Update

The past month sure has been something. I can't quite complain, since every bit of stress I've been under has been something I chose, but wow is junior year a lot of work. I'm in four technical classes, which I was warned was a bad idea but which is also pretty much my only option given that I studied abroad and want to clear up my schedule for next year. A lot of different thoughts have been floating around in my head since the last time I wrote anything here. In no particular order:


Financial literacy. I had a really good conversation with the resident fellow of my last year dorm about financial literacy and how most college students, no matter their family's socioeconomic level, are more or less clueless about a lot of financial stuff that we're going to get hit with as we enter the adult world. She asked me for some topics about money and personal finance that I thought were particularly important. I don't remember exactly what I said, but it included topics such as:
  • Credit--how to build a good credit score, what a credit card really is (NOT free money), different types of credit.
  • Taxes--how to file them, ????.
  • Savings--I know I need to start saving for retirement right away because the earlier you start the longer your savings can compound.
  • Budgeting--this past summer in Hamburg I think I did a good job budgeting, by which I mean I saved enough money by eating cheap and commuting by bike that I was able to both travel a lot and take a decent amount home, but my finances are only going to get more complex here on out.

We also talked about other aspects about personal finance to address, one of which is people's pre-existing attitudes towards money, and any potential psychological blocks they have about it. These "issues" so to speak aren't necessarily correlated with SES, and may relate more to people's parents' relationships with money e.g. an expensive lifestyle funded by debt vs. money being tight but always well-managed.

We also talked about making the topic seem approachable and accessible, and how people's backgrounds could differ widely. And about what money means to people--security, status? and how money can be used in relationships as a tool of power (any relationships, but the example she brought up was domestic abuse enacted through controlling money).

When I was about 13-15, I wanted to study finance, and consequently read a lot of financial magazines--Money, Smart Money, Fortune, if I remember correctly--and asked my dad all sorts of questions about things I didn't understand from my readings. When I switched my focus to engineering I got out of that habit, which I think is unfortunate. I need to update my knowledge.

I'm not too worried about my financial future: a single cheapskate living on a civil engineer's salary will be able to make ends meet, and since I tend to be fairly controlling I *want* to learn all about how to stay on top of my money. But to be honest, I want to excel at my personal finances. I want never to have to worry about money, I want never to be in debt where the payback path isn't absolutely clear. I no longer see the point of being filthy rich, which was a goal six years ago, but I want to make enough to support myself, to support my parents when they retire, and to give charitably.


Since I'm in two classes that have lab portions, I decided it was high time to learn LaTeX. Since I use Windows (which my Linux-using friends view with horror) I downloaded the MiKTeX distribution. A collection of links here, my main reference for "what do I type to get this thing" here. The learning curve is very, very shallow and you absolutely do not need any coding knowledge whatsoever. The final product looks super sharp and professional. 10/10 would recommend.


Last Saturday I went contra dancing. Because of Halloween, the dance was a costume ball, so I dressed up as Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation (although I wrote Fire Lord Zuko on my nametag because I'd rather be a fire lord than a prince).

It's been over a year since the last time I went to contra, because when I went at the beginning of last year I was still really uncomfortable with my gender identity/expression and ended up dancing follow pretty much the whole evening, which is making my skin crawl to remember. Not to say that women--cis or trans--who prefer to dance lead are doing anything wrong re being women, but I enjoy dancing lead a thousand times more than dancing follow, and the only reason people think that that's weird is because I appear to be a girl.

So I went to the dance on Saturday intending to dance only lead. Aside from 1.5 dances (once someone asked me to dance and refused to follow and I'm not quite rude enough to have said "well I'll dance with someone who will follow then" and another time when someone led me through the first half of a waltz to show me how it was done) I accomplished my goal.

I remember the first few times I danced contra, when I thought I was cis, I enjoyed it uncomplicatedly. On Saturday, I ended up satisfied but it felt like something I had to fight for. One guy apologized to me during the snack break for assuming that I would dance follow, and that was nice; the women all seemed to take it with more equanimity than the men. I led my friend who is one foot taller than me and we confused people a lot with that.

Gender stuff has been bothering me off and on since the quarter started because 1) apparently I never updated some of my friends on the fact that she/her is wrong 2) I am not coming out in my professional life anytime soon and because of my various extracurrics I'm occupying that public face more this year than last year. There's one friend I really want to talk to about this, a trans dude who was in my dorm last year, but for some reason our schedules just don't line up this quarter. Alas.


Since I'm a junior I've been thinking more and more about my future. The rest of this year is pretty much set, although there are various things that I may be doing in the spring that I want to think about more (a project class working with the City of San Jose that sounds awesome and also very time-consuming) (if I want to graduate with honors I'd better think some more about a question that genuinely interests me that I could turn into an honors thesis). Senior year I really, really want to staff in my dorm from last year, and about half of my classes are set.

And after that? A lot of people at my university coterm, and I am giving thought to that. But I also definitely want to work for at least a year after I graduate. I want to get a masters or a Professional Engineer license and I'm not quite sure what order to do that. When do I take my GREs? I need to schedule a conversation with my advisor, clearly.

I'm also trying to get a construction internship this summer, because every single upperclassman I've talked to has said that you learn more from being in the field than anywhere else. Construction is also probably the route I'm planning to take, although I also haven't gotten to much designing yet so I'm not ruling that out entirely.

So far I've had three interviews, gotten callbacks from two (the third was yesterday so not surprised not to have heard back yet). I'm cautiously optimistic, since I think my employability took a huge jump between last year and this year. Here's hoping I avoid the crushing job anxiety of the past two years.


Writing. Lieutenant Sarcasm and I were throwing around ideas for reviving the Protagonist Club storyline, with our two main characters Serenity and Justine studying abroad in Italy at the same time and running into a whole new cast of characters. Revisiting these characters is quite fun.

A few other threads of stories are floating about, including quite a few set in Germany. Everything requires a good amount of plotting out and worldbuilding, so I've not been very active about getting new words down. But I think I'll reel out a few ideas and see which ones are promising.

I'm not doing NaNoWriMo because really? I'm having enough trouble managing my time as is. One of these years...I may try to use this as a reason to write more consistently, but no promises. This coming month surely will be just as much "something" as the one past.