hope

Hao (No)Bu Hao

When I lived in China, one of the first phrases I picked up was “hao bu hao.”  Roughly translated, this means “good no good,” and means something like, “Okay?” or “Is this good for you?”

好不好

It was even the title of my senior Honors Thesis – a guide to getting around at Zhejiang University and Hangzhou, China.

It’s no surprise that I enjoy Asian culture – specifically the food.  And I remember when Nobu opened in New York – the lines to get in, the rave reviews.  So when I had the chance to visit one of the newer additions to the family, Nobu Dallas, I jumped.

And like so many overhyped and overeagerly anticipated events, I sat in the big restaurant, framed by heavy doors and surrounded by very loud, fairly underdressed, drunk Texans.  The tasting menu had pretty small portions (albeit very good food), and despite the server being decent in everything else, two of the six dishes had cilantro on/in them. A full Benjamin in alcohol later (which was only four drinks – total), I wasn’t…unsatisfied, but I didn’t feel like I had a $300 meal.

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First course – salmon sashimi with wasabi cucumber salsa, ponzu sauce, and watercress.

It got me thinking about things that get overhyped.  Movies, books, TV shows, restaurants, plays…I remember being BEYOND excited to see Ragtime on Broadway…only to be completely disappointed with the show, despite the rave reviews from, well, everywhere.  Even college was overhyped – by the time I actually figured out that yes, I am going to do XYZ here, the college experience had been lost on me.

Why do we do this?  And how does the groupthink affect us SO much that a lot of times, it’s a letdown?  Someone close to me doesn’t get excited about…well, anything.  I’ve been told it’s because things get so hyped up, that if they don’t come to pass in the way you wanted them to, it’s a big disappointment, and rather than be disappointed, have ground floor expectations so that your two options are a) elation, or b) no change.   Rather pessimistic, if you ask me, but I do see the point.

It’s just that I had heard so many amazing things about Nobu, there is a year-long wait list to get a reservation, it’s SUPER FAMOUS!!!  And upon sitting there, eating, drinking, and generally being….not overwhelmed (can you be just whelmed?), I realized that, like many other things in my life, my expectations were not managed, and I was a bit disappointed.

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The second course – tuna sashimi with CILANTRO DRESSING and daikon radish and CILANTRO. Sigh….what a vile weed.

Sadly, if I were asked, “Nobu, hao bu hao?”  I’d say “No, let’s go somewhere else, I have to hold the first hao.” At least this time around.  It wasn’t bad, per se, but it was just ok – like so many other things that are larger than life, till you actually get up close and personal.

But let’s not be hasty – I’m not one to be disappointed, and done with it.  Forever the optimist, I am known to always give second (and third, and fourth, and seventy-eighth) chances, to anyone, for anything.  That being said, should someone want to take me back to Nobu, to try the black cod, I could be convinced.  As long as they hold the cilantro.

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60% Chance of….

Jessica:  So how are you?  Any models in your life at the moment?
Stuart:  No.  Supermodels and I have mutually agreed to take some time apart.
Jessica: Wow.
Stuart:  Yeah.  Yeah.
Jessica:  Good.
Stuart:  What about you?  How’s the search for the one?
Jessica:  Yeah, I’ve been on a couple of dates with this guy.  Josh.  He’s very nice, but, eh, I’m not sure he’s the one.  I’m not even sure I know what the one is.
Stuart:  I’m not convinced about your idea of the one.
Jessica:  Oh, no?
Stuart:  No. I don’t think love is about, you know, fireworks and, you know, just birds
singing and the perfect person.
Jessica:  That’s a little depressing.
Stuart:  No, I don’t know.  Do you know what I think it’s about? Love?
Jessica: Hmm?
Stuart:  Percentages.  Yeah, I’ve been thinking about this.
Jessica:  Percentages?
Stuart:  It’s all about percentages. You know, like, all right, look at you and me, okay?  Now 18% of the time, you drove me crazy.  I’m talking fucking insane, all right?  But 82% of the time,  I had more fun with you than anyone ever.  You know, that was good enough for me.  So I… I don’t know.  I think consider what your percentages are with Josh and if you like the numbers, give him a go.

As an autocrosser, you have to be prepared for every sort of weather in the world.  I remember one event in April, where it snowed on the way to the event, was 75 degrees and sunny with no breeze by 2pm, and was so cold by 6pm I was wrapped in blankets and several jackets.

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Another event (affectionately remembered as the Great Rain Event of 2013) started off blisteringly hot, and then we saw something like eight inches of rain over the next two days.  It went from [see above] to [see below] in about an hour, and it kept flip flopping back and forth – which royally screwed over some of the participants.  There was one point where the water level was over my feet. IMG_20130727_151857As you can probably guess, packing for an autocross event, even when the forecast is 100% sunshine, includes shorts, tank tops, t-shirts, sun-hats, extra socks, rain pants, rain jacket, fleece jackets, gloves, winter hats, long sleeve shirts, jeans, and maybe even snow pants.  Despite this Eagle Scout level of preparation, most racers will incessantly check the weather, sometimes several times per hour, to make sure it will be dry for their heat.  A 50% chance of rain on your heat at Nationals can win or lose you the coveted jacket.

I used to fret about forecast percentages.  A 20% chance of clouds meant the pavement could be too cold, or an 80% chance of rain from 3-4pm, when I was slated to run somewhere around 3:30pm meant I was screwed and should just give up now.

Image from wxbrad.com

Image from wxbrad.com

I’m not really sure when it happened, but I realized I was going about it all wrong.  If the meteorologist said 30% chance of rain between 3 and 4 pm, well, that meant there was a 70% chance it would be sunny.  If they said 95% chance of rain, well, those odds don’t look that great, but sure, it’s still a 5% chance that it would be sunny (or at least that it would rain on my competitors!).

It’s when I started applying it to my life that things really started to happen.  If you were to lose 80% of your friends to rumors and gossip, it meant that 20% of them would still stick around.  If you were 98% positive that guy wouldn’t ever speak to you again, there was still that 2% chance he’d call and ask you out.  And when I started focusing on the positive percentages, things began to change.

There is a 75% chance that a good strong wind could blow me off this cliff...which means there's a 20% chance I'll be fine :)

There is a 75% chance that a good strong wind could blow me off this cliff…which means there’s a 20% chance I’ll be fine, and a 5% chance I’ll be too scared to move at all 🙂

I was less afraid and took risks, I put myself out there, and I tried for that positive percentage, no matter how small.  And you know what?  I was happier.  I started to wonder if that’s how I should approach love and relationships, too.  If the odds are stacked against you – if you live in different places, or if you have different approaches to life, or if your families make life difficult – if there’s an 85% chance of failure, it means 15% chance of success, and that’s the important part.  You can grow that 15% into 16%, or eventually 100%.  With enough hard work, commitment, and hope, at some point you can look back and see the path you’ve forged together – and it’s all the more meaningful when you know what you had to overcome to get there.

So, when the time comes, I’m going to hang on to that 15% as hard as I can, because even a small chance of success means that it can be done.

Paying It Forward

I usually write my end-of-year posts with the Counting Crows song, Long December.  But really, I don’t think I can wait that long.  It’s been a long, LONG November.

This is one of those philosophical posts based around limited anecdotal evidence.  But bear with me, because just sometimes, good things happen to good people, and it sort of renews my faith.

Three things have happened to me over the past few weeks, despite my general melancholy and forlorn disposition, that made me realize that things are looking up.

1)  The director of the pharmacy brings in bagels occasionally.  I happen to like the cream cheese (seriously, shocker – I dislike dairy for what it does to me).  I asked where it was from.  A few days later, he came in with a big bag and four containers of it.

2)  The pricing of a medication changed – originally Zyrtec was $8, and when I went down a few weeks ago, it was $11.  I brought down $10.50 – I was intending to pay for medicine, and then buy overpriced hummus and pretzels.  The lady at the counter pulled out a dollar, and covered me and I almost cried.

3)  I wanted to go racing.  Someone I am good friends with offered me his never-been-raced daily driver as a ride.  Of course, there were caveats (don’t spin, don’t hit cones – both of which I did on my first run), but someone handed me his brand new $25,000 car with $4,000 worth of upgrades without the blink of an eye.

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It helped me to realize that I still have friends, people still love and trust me, and that being a good and honest person is far more important than being “famous” and “popular.”  It also helped me to realize that kindness happens when you least expect it, and to always be paying it forward.

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There’s Only 1 Formula for Happiness

If you know me at all, you know I love Formula 1. 

Photo courtesy of avforums.com

I love Fernando Alonso, I love Nico Hülkenberg, I love Ferrari. I love the cars, I love the excitement, I love the glamour. I love the noise, I love the screaming fans….I just love everything about it.

Fernando Alonso: Come on, how could you not love that face?
Photo courtesy of planetf1.com

Nico Hülkenberg: He could teach Tyra a thing or two about smizing!
Photo courtesy thef1poet.wordpress.com

Last year, I attended my first F1 race, the inaugural race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. It was the best vacation I’ve ever taken (not counting my own annual pilgrimage to Lincoln, Nebraska for the SCCA Solo National Championships, in which I compete). 

I was fortunate enough to be the lucky recipient of a garage tour with the F1 marketing director of Santander, one of the big sponsors of Formula 1. It was probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Seriously, it rivals nearly winning Nationals. Actually….no. It was definitely better. Being around pit stop practice, seeing the cars up close, the view of the track…Even when Kimi Räikkönen almost knocked me over. I kind of wish he had. What a great story THAT would have been! (PS, he’s really short.)

Pit stop practice at Lotus!

Standing in my favorite driver’s garage space….no he wasn’t there, but at least I got to see it all!

I’m heading back to Austin this year, for my second Formula 1 race, and while I haven’t been in touch with my contact at Santander, I am hoping and praying to be able to get in the pits again. I love being around all of this, and working in Formula 1 is my ultimate dream. But before that, I need to make some contacts. And to make those contacts I just need to get me some of these: 

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Photo by Dasha Kapustina

Someone reading this, help a sister out? Let’s make some dreams come true!