Saturday, March 26, 2016

To the Victims of Terrorism in Brussels


My dad shared this drawing and story on Facebook.


I grew up in the 60s & 70s with Belgian comics such as Tintin (by Herge), Lucky Luke (by Morris & Rene Goscinny), Johan & Pirlouit (by Peyo), Les Stroumph (by Peyo), Sprirou & Fantasio (by Andre Franquin) which I loved so much. I remember saving money just to buy those comic books. And each time when I had enough money, I went straight to the book store to get one and took it home. But before reading it, I opened it and sniffed the pages first. How sweet the smell of those pages were! I still admire the writers and the creators of those comics who really wrote great stories and designed such fantastic characters.

I want to take this opportunity to share a sketch that I just did to dedicate to the artists and writers of Belgium and whoever that used to read those comic books and loved them.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Something for Mom

My mom wears simple things.  Her purse is more like a travel satchel.  Her outfits are off the discount rack.  Though, during Christmas she would joke about wanting a diamond.  When she opened her actual present from me and discovered a scarf she was thrilled as if it was the most precious stone on the planet.

The past year has been rough for her.  My grandpa was finally placed in a nursing home and being the only child she has taken all responsibility - visiting him everyday.  Washing his soiled clothes everyday even though there was a staff paid to do it.  She told me she was strong when my grandma passed away, but this time around she doesn't feel too strong.  She is saddened watching her father age.  "...this is what's going to happen to me" she says to me.  Slowly his mind and body is falling a part.

The vacations from reality that she's tried to take have been stressful.  It rained during her entire 4 day stay in Hawaii and my dad caught the flu.  My mom went to the beach by herself...thinking about my grandfather and having to take care of another person: my dad who had a fever in the hotel room.  She couldn't catch a break.

For her birthday this year, I decided to get her a simple diamond necklace.  Something she joked about wanting, but something I can provide to her to make her happy. I gave myself 3 months.  I was stressing out about it.  It was like buying a car.  I didn't know the value and I didn't know how to shop.

I decided to check online and stumbled upon this necklace from Macy's - "Elegant and eye-catching. Sirena's exquisite pendant features a round-cut diamond (1/4 ct. t.w.) crafted in a beautiful 14k white gold setting."  There were 29 positive reviews and there was a one-day sale.  I consulted my dad and he gave a big thumbs up.  I had it shipped to my parent's place a few weeks early.  My dad wrapped it and I called to video conference her on her actual birthday.

Here's a video of her opening it.  She was wearing the scarf I gave her for Christmas.



Since my dad left the tag on the gift, my mom was worried about how much I had spent on her, but I reassured her that I got a great deal.

She told me that a long time ago, I gave her my tax return.  She told me that she used the money to buy another necklace so that should could wear it and think of me.  I completely forgot that I did that.

It's probably one of the best feelings you can have - to do something nice for your parents, at any capacity. To show them that you appreciate everything that they've done for you.

Happy 55th Birthday Mom.  You're the best.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Setting Goals / Refining Comprehension / Cook for my Man

When I was in Japan during Thanksgiving weekend last year I regretted not buying daruma / dharma dolls for my coworkers as travel gifts.  Morale was low and we were entering a new year so these popular "gifts of encouragement [...] used alongside goal setting" seemed very appropriate.  Draw in one eye to make a wish or set a goal and then draw in the other eye once it has been completed.

Now almost two months into my new job, I have the opportunity to buy this for my new coworker.

Little Tokyo, Los Angeles to the rescue.  I found this cute version and snagged it for my coworker's birthday this Thursday.  Though I've only know him for a little time, he's shared a lot of personal stories and thoughts.  He's guided by spirituality and zodiac and would appreciate this.  

This is also something I need to get for myself because as I challenge myself with a new job, in a new place, with new people... I'm forgetting about me.  I'm so worked up with "catching up" and fulfilling expectations that people have of me.  "Chris is amazing.  Chris comes with a ton of knowledge of the space.  Chris is cool as a cucumber.  Chris already knows all of this stuff. etc. etc."  I get nervous, because I feel as though I've faked it... and now that I'm "making it," perse it means I need to fill in those gaps.  And that means, being stressed out and forgetting what makes me happy.

I'm on a shifted schedule now, which I'm starting to get used to.  Wake up at 5AM, drive to the shuttle at 5:45.  Arrive at the office by 6:45AM and connect with the New York, Chicago and India office.  When 2:50PM strikes, I dash out and refuse to log back on.  I arrive at my shuttle stop at 4:15PM and back home by 4:30PM.  All this time in the late afternoon to myself is usually wasted, but I've discovered that A1 Asian Market is on my route home from the shuttle.  So I've cooked a few times for me and Jimmy:

Pork braised in coconut juice with eggs (thit heo kho):

A photo posted by Christopho (@letopho) on

A photo posted by Christopho (@letopho) on

Salmon and kale if I'm feeling basic.  And then Jimmy does the dishes.  Cooking doesn't seem so hard if you just following instructions.  And that's actually something that I do a lot at my new job: find the instruction document and read through it to find the answer.  My comprehension skills are being refined.  But it's hard when you have to go through 24 pages to find one thing.  There's a lot of frustrations at work, but I'm determined to make this work for me.

So what ARE my goals/wishes?  Continue to do things that excite me:
  • Explore Los Angeles
  • Plan events
  • See friends
  • ...and don't let work consume me so much that I forget to do those things mentioned above.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Los Angeles Asian Food Recommendations

My coworker asked me for Asian food in Los Angeles recommendations and I spent a long time making a list.  I go to a lot of new restaurants every weekend, but the ones below are good enough for me to return to.  I love LA.

Chinese
 - 101 Noodle Express (San Gabriel Valley)- for Beef Rolls, Dan dan mien
 - Green Zone (San Gabriel Valley)- for Hainese Chicken
 - Szechuan Impression (San Gabriel Valley)- for NICE Szchuan food (good service)
 - Pine and Crane (Los Feliz) - Hipster, organic refined Taiwanese.
 - Huge Tree Pastry (San Gabriel Valley) - Taiwanese breakfast - Fan tuan
 - Jazz Cat (San Gabriel Valley) - Individual hot pot
 - Atlantic Seafood (San Gabriel Valley) - for cheap dim sum (in a very modern Asian plaza with a daiso)
 - Elite (San Gabriel Valley) - Better quality dim sum (no carts)
 - Newport Seafood (San Gabriel Valley) - for that lobster

Korean
 - Bud Namu (Koreatown) - for CHEAP AYCE KBBQ - new facility, $12
 - Hae Jang Chon (Koreatown) - for stone grill style kbbq
 - Yu Chun Chic (Koreatown) - for Korean cold noodles. 
 - Eight Korean BBQ (Koreatown) - 8 different types of pork including ginseng, garlic etc. - pretty unique

Japanese
 - Silverlake Ramen (Silvelake) - for dipping noodles
 - Monzo (Little Tokyo) - for creamy udon
 - Kush (Echo Park)- for $$$ Japanese tapas
 - Coco Ichibanya (Koreatown)- Japanese curry.  Some people like Curry House better
 - Jist Caf(Little Tokyo)- Cute cafe.  Get Chashu hash + rice.  Large portion
 - Sushi Enya (Little Tokyo) - American sushi rolls.  Get "no rice" rolls. They come out in bite sizes. Mmm
 - Tokyo Fried Chicken (San Gabriel Valley)- A different take on fried chicken with amazing ponzu dipping sauce and sides.
Indonesia
 - Simpang Asia (West LA)- general Indo food
 - Borneo (San Gabriel Valley) - Amazing nasi campur

Vietnamese
 - Golden Deli (San Gabriel Valley) - Very east, but probably the best 
 - Thai Lai (Hawthorne)  - For their Hu Tieu and Mi Quang

Thai
 - Luv2Eat (Hollywood) - For their jade noodles (dry)
 - Ruen Pair (Thai town)- Everything is amazing here.
 - Hoy-ka (Hollywood) - MMM Thai Noodle Soup

Thursday, January 7, 2016

It's 2016!

I felt that 2015 was an odd year.  On a microscopic scale my friend group was changing and mixing as couples broke up and people came closer to accomplishing their personal goals.  On a larger scale, it was clear that the world is full of hate and violence.  Jimmy and I have been able to distract ourselves with amazing, but short international trips.

2016 will be another interesting year.  I'm starting clean with a new job and with that comes a new headshot (perks of bf photographer.)  It's only my fourth day in and it feels like the first day of school.  Jumping from an office of 15 to 800 is stressful.   Finding the perfect route to work is stressful.  Tonight on the way home, I was in the wrong lane to make a right turn and tried to squeeze in.  I was honked out of doing that.  Very aggressively.  I drove over a backpack that fell into the road.  And... i had to maneuver lefts and rights in order to avoid a gridlocked highway 10.  I'll get the hang of this.  I must.  I was also put on the spot during an internal call and didn't quite shine the way I had hoped.  But there is time to recover.

I'm thankful for the experience I got from my old job of 3.5 years.  Through that company I experienced a cycle of ups and downs that usually takes companies 10 years.  I take pride in saying that I was headhunted for this new job one year ago and declined, but after a year I was finally ready to take the opportunity as a new recruiter from the same company reached out to me again.

"Everyone loved you of course."  How to stay humble?  How to stay modest?  I get really awkward with these types of compliments.  And with every compliment regarding my performance that I get, the more insecure I get about my capabilities.

Today I ate dinner in my office alone.  I hadn't made late evening friends yet.  It really was, the first day of school.

New Years Eve.
I enjoyed a nice house party with lots of alcohol and no activities other than eating and drinking.  Though I enjoyed watching the host struggle to get the right mylar balloons.   Only after buying from Party City for $30, inflating them with helium, putting them in his car and THEN arranging on his wall that he noticed that the balloons read 2012.

A photo posted by Christopho (@letopho) on



Reminded me of his pumpkin carving event... without pumpkins because he couldn't find any on October 29th.

Christmas
Christmas was off too.  My parents found my grandpa with fluid in his lungs and his blood infected.  He stopped eating.  My mom took a month off work to help him transfer from senior housing to a nursing home.  Something that she was trying to avoid for so long by installing cameras in his home and hiring someone to watch over him under the table 24/7.  She discovered that the nursing home was better.  Obviously - these people are trained to take care of him.  When we visited him, we took him on a few laps in the home and made light of the situation which my mom enjoyed.



She cancelled the big family Christmas party, to which my cousin picked up immediately.  My cousin texted me a few weeks before to confirm that I would take care of the games which I agreed to, but then I realized that 50 people were coming.  During the party we sat in a circle talking and eating and suddenly the room fell silent and all eyes were on me.  I realized, that they were waiting for me to initiate games...


Thank gawd for reverse charades.  Everyone acts out while one person guesses.  Yes - together, this group formed "TIMBER."  Obviously.    A handful of folks said that they were happy I brought the game and that family events are not the same without me.   At that point, I felt very appreciated.  I didn't bring any food for the potluck, but I managed to bring something to the event.  I also gave all my cousins The Tile App so that they can find their keys.  Great success!

Being Present
Jimmy encourages me to visit my family.  Especially during this time when my mom was having a hard time dealing with Grandpa.  So I came home early for Christmas just to spend time with her.  We did... nothing.  I spent the day falling asleep on her bed while she watched the Hallmark channel because she's been sick for so long.  But I guess there was some value in that?  I think my parents appreciate our relationship.  We talk, I call them in traffic... and that's how I show them that I love them.

What does 2016 look?
- New Job
- New commute (this is a big deal in LA)
- First Jury Duty
- Major surgery
- Less vacation time

Goal: Purge...
Though that's really hard to do when I just brought home animal stickers from my parents house.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Missing Item

Oops.  I did it again.  I brought my moleskine planner to the store and left it somewhere.  Only to be picked up by a stranger who will now have access to a lot of sensitive material.  I did the same things a few years back while going to Target, but that was really bad because there was $100 in the pocket.  It's so easy to simply put something down and then walk away because you have so much on your mind.... like a last minute house party, vacation planning and an interview.

What I need to do to manage this chaos.

  • Change all passwords - I had a bad system anyway 
  • Rewrite to do list, to blog list, to do in Los Angeles lists - the 3 lists that I've referred many times
  • Think about what loose docs I had in the pocket.
  • Move on...
It's a big deal to me because I put a lot of sentimental things were in that moleskine.  Disneyland ticket stubs, pictures, stickers., ideas... it was my on the go annual scrapbook and after tracing my steps physically and mentally there's only one conclusion: I carelessly left it on top a stack of Von's merchandise outside the store while looking at pumpkins, waiting for my roommate.

Anyway, maybe it's a good thing that I lost my 2015 moleskine.  Important, but weird.  Ten couples broke up this year changing the dynamic of my social circle... actually lets count them.  EE, TM, AJ, HJ, CH, CA, BM, BR, RW... 9 couples.  That's a lot - couples that seem like they were in it for the long run, but 2015 really showed that anything could happen.  

2015 was also weird because back in April my company decided to trim the fat.  Don't want to talk too much about that, but there are a couple of business decisions that were made that left a bad taste in everyone's mouths.  And which lead of a loss of about $10,000 with me trying to play this stock game.  Never again.  

I regret being so careless and also being so lazy.  Another $10,000 of free money was lost when I didn't think that I would stay 3 years to get my company 401K match.  But that was a bad 2009 decision. 

2015 was also wonderful because of these amazing trips I've been on with Jimmy, but luckily those are saved forever in digital format.  More than just digital photos in fact - video:


It's 8AM - The only thing left to do is get in my car and drive, think about creating a new to-do list and go full steam ahead.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Californian Sunset



When Quan visited back in April he asked to check out Venice Beach during sunset.  After we ran to catch the sun, he turned to me and said, "you guys don't understand how lucky you have it to experience this everyday."  He started tearing up, "it's so beautiful."  Then we went silent and gazed west.  And it was that moment that I realized that Californian sunsets were something I definitely took for granted.  It took someone from the East coast to point this out.



How are sunsets different in California?  Or rather on the west coast?  The sun sets into the ocean resulting in magnificent colors and strong contrast between the ocean and the sky.  This week after a random evening of rain, the sky was a beautiful orange.  I managed to snap this while going 2MPH in afterwork traffic.



Quan was right.  We are quite lucky.

We also took Quan to the Getty Center.  Where I demonstrated by model techniques.  I call them "dead fish" and "Thai fingers."  Some photos that Quan took of us: