2016/04/03

Questions I Get When People Find Out I'm Vegan

Usually the first question is, "Why?", but that's covered in my about me page. Long story short, I first went vegan for environmental reasons but I came to know more about animal rights and now I'm vegan for everyone. Animals, humans, the planet, and myself.

1. But what about (nutrient)?

People are concerned that I might not get enough protein/calcium/iron or some other ingredient. Many nutrition expert groups including but not limited to American Dietetics Association state that well-planned veg(eteri)an diet is healthy. For example, soybeans (dry) has more protein per unit mass than pork, and they're much, much cheaper, too. Zinc, iron, calcium, all of those can be found in plant foods. The only thing you should be concerned about on a whole-food plant-based diet, or any diet, is vitamin B12, which can easily be supplemented. I've written more on B12 in my "So How Much Nutrition Do I Get on a Vegan Diet?" post. I also supplement vitamin D, only because I'm a hermit and there is no way in hell that I'm getting enough vitamin D from sunshine.

2. Don't you miss meat? What non-vegan food do you miss the most?

Not really. I guess if I happen look at a steak commercial and think, "Yeah I remember eating that, it was delicious", but I don't feel like I 'miss' anything, at least not enough to ignore the animal suffering and environmental implications. Besides meat kinda smell like blood to me now. I don't know if it's real or if I just feel that way after seeing slaughterhouse videos... What I miss is how easy it was not to be vegan. I could go to any restaurant and order anything on the menu, I never had to check labels, things like that. However I have access to vegan alternatives so it doesn't really matter.

3. Do you hate non-vegans?

Love the sinner, hate the sin, I suppose. I used to not be vegan, and I can understand why they are the way they are. I thought I could never be vegan, but hey, here I am. Maybe, hopefully, what happened to me will happen to them and they'll change.

4. Then what do you eat?

Grains, beans, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, mushrooms, things like that. Before going vegan, every dish I've ever known other than tofu and salad contained animal ingredients, so I get why people have to ask this. I came to realize that most of those dishes can be made without those animal ingredients. Pasta I've had before going vegan usually had meat or dairy, but now I love to throw in bunch of vegetables and tomato sauce to make pasta.

5. Does it bother you when other people eat meat in front of you?

I guess I don't like it, but honestly I don't think about it that much. If I were to get upset every time anyone ate any animal products in my sight, I would be upset all day every day, and I can't afford to do that. Also, some think that it makes me uncomfortable because deep down I want to eat meat (huh?) and they are rubbing it in my face or something. That's simply not true.

6. Would you date a non-vegan?

I am currently in a relationship with a meat eater. Again, love the sinner, hate the sin.

7. Bacon.

Wait, that's not a question… But really, I don't get this bacon thing. If I am going to (hypothetically) eat meat it's gotta be better than this greasy, salty mess.

8. What's the hardest part of being vegan?

People would think that having limited options would be really hard but it really isn't. Some people can be very hostile to vegans and that does bother me, but I can get over it. The hardest part is being fully aware of the implications of eating meat, dairy and eggs, and being fully aware of how normal it is in this world to do so.

2016/03/31

April Will Be a Month of #ZeroWaste for Me!

Going Zero Waste for a Month

It's on my 25 before 25 list. I care about the environment very much and I'm generally pretty mindful about it, but I'm not perfect. I can't only focus on the environment 100% of the time. At least for a month I would like to challenge myself to push even harder to make sure that I reduce my environmental footprint. Starting tomorrow, April 1st, I will abide by these rules until the end of the month. It's basically reduce, reuse, recycle, just more hard core.
Here are my rules.
  1. Recyclables do not count as 'waste', but I will try to reduce them, too. I will collect them in boxes to see how much recyclables I have at the end of the month.
  2. Unlike regular trash, in South Korea 'food waste' is collected separately and often aren't sent to landfill, so I will not count them as waste. I will still try my best to reduce food waste.
  3. When I'm at home I'll wash with water instead of using toilet paper (TMI?) but when I'm outside I'll have to use toilet paper.
  4. Other than exceptions stated above, no waste for me. Nothing goes into trash. If I do end up creating some waste, I will donate 10000 won to an environment NGO every time that happens.
I'll be posting weekly updates to see how I do. At the end of the month there will be a recap post, so look out for that, too!
Here are my plans for reducing waste.
  1. When I forget to eat before I head out or to pack my lunch, I end up buying something on-the-go from convenience store or fast food joints. That creates waste, or at least recyclables. I will make extra sure that my food is prepared so I don't have to do that.
  2. No packaged food, no drinks other than water. Soda, bottled juice, things like that. Just good old water, it's best for my health, too. I carry around a flask for water so I'll be drinking water out of it, and nothing else. As for packaged food, I will stick to packing whole food based meals and only eating that.
  3. Less shopping. Specifically, less online shopping. I don't shop much and I buy second hand whenever possible, but I usually buy online and the packaging, protective fillers, and bringing the product all the way to my home leaves carbon footprint. If I don't need it, I'll live without it, and if I do need something, I'll try to find something from local thrift store or flea market first.
I hope that this will be a change to rethink and re-evaluate my previous lifestyle and improve. Even if I stop aiming for 'zero waste', I'll still keep on with good habits I picked up on my journey, and that's the purpose for this little experiment of mine.

2016/03/29

This Is My New Work / Study Anthem


So I am the QUEEN of procrastination, and that damaged a lot of things.

I asked myself, what the fuck is wrong with me? Why do I do this when I know how destructive it is? I just couldn't stop. But there's always light. While extreme procrastination can be a sign of emotional distress and may require professional psych treatment, I think I found my cure.

I usually don't listen to music when I work or study. It doesn't really help me, especially when it's loud(ish) music like this. White noise does help sometimes, but that only helps when I'm willing to concentrate. However this, really works. "JUST DO IT. YESTERDAY YOU SAID TOMORROW" really, really gets me. Whenever I lose my focus just enough to notice the lyrics it slaps me back into working hard.

So thanks, Shia LaBeouf and Songify, you saved my work ethic.

2016/03/25

Tips on Transitioning to Vegan

Educate yourself.

It's so much easier to be vegan when you know what you're doing and why. Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives, and Earthlings [TW: I thought this one was a little graphic] are common documentary recommendations. I prefer books, though, and these are the books I recommend.


Now that we've covered the 'why?' part, let's move on to what you're doing. This is a lifestyle overhaul. You will likely need recipes. There are tons of lovely recipes availble on the world of the Internet (including this blog) but if you are in search of vegan cookbooks:

I don't use cookbooks often but they do come in handy when I need something new. Here are few other books that might be helpful.

Take one day at a time. No, one meal at a time.

"These are the list of things you won't eat and you will never eat them, ever again!" Sounds pretty terrifying, if you ask me. However it doesn't have to feel that way. Maybe cutting out all animal products altogether may seem drastic coming from a society where it is perfectly normal to consume meat, dairy and cheese, but you can definitely eat vegan pasta instead of steak for dinner today. For just one meal you can make a vegan choice, it's not that hard. You can pick up more vegetables instead of meat on this grocery shopping trip. You can drink fruit juice instead of chocolate milk for today's snack. You can pass on that buttery cake this one time. If you keep making these tiny changes each and every time, then voila! You are vegan.

Connect with other vegans.

Becoming a vegan used to be unfathomable to me. Then I saw dozens of other girls my age on the Internet who are successful vegans. That made it so real. Something that I could do, since other people just like me are doing it. Also, you can share information and support each other! Utilize social media and the Internet in general to find other vegans and communicate with them. I'm always available at my Instagram @livingafiction (shameless self-promotion) and this blog is open for anyone as well.

Decide where to draw the lines.

Being vegan is pretty straightforward for the most part, but there are obstacles and grey areas, and at some point you will have to compromises. If you already own leather items, do you throw them out? Do you throw out non-vegan foods in your pantry? Do you have to take medicine? In most countries they're tested on animals so they're guaranteed not to be vegan. The Vegan Society, who coined the term 'vegan', defines veganism as "Veganism is a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose." so if not taking medicine is not possible or practicable for you, do what you need to do. While some contend that using non-vegan items you already have 'normalize' use of animal products, not everyone can afford to replace them and I've kept my non-vegan items myself. Bottom line is, try your absolute best not to cause any more avoidable suffering.

Learn from your mistakes.

You will make mistakes. At first I made a ton of mistakes, too. Eating something thinking it's vegan and then it turns out it's not vegan, buying something without scrutinizing the label, things like that. Just learn from your mistakes, vegan police will not take your vegan badge away :P

2016/03/23

What I Eat in a Day as a Vegan: March 23, 2016


 

I was (again) in a hurry and ended up leaving my home without breakfast. So I bought this, because I know what skipping breakfast does to me. I would crave sugar like crazy. I don't like to buy packaged foods but oh well. This keeps me going until I can have lunch.
Forgot to take picture until I was almost done lol
For lunch, I had made simmered seasoned tofu in the morning to bring as my lunch. I brought rice with it. Looks kinda weird because the container was tossed and turned around in my bag but it tasted good!


For dinner I steamed up some frozen veggies with rice. I added some spices for flavor. It's an easy, convenient, healthy go-to meal. I had some orange before dinner as a snack. but I don't have a photo.

Cronometer nutrition info
My nutrition intake today.

I feel like it would have been a more nutritious day had I eaten a proper breakfast, but it was still a good day. See what I said about nutrition yesterday? I got 199% vitamin C today as opposed to 78% of yesterday, so it all balances out.

2016/03/22

So How Much Nutrition Do I Get on a Vegan Diet?


Whenever I mention that I'm vegan I am met with "but what about (insert nutrient here)?" I do not know why people think that you must eat animal products to get proper nutrition, that is absolutely false. So I decided to put in the amount of food I ate and see what I'm getting. I don't bother with it because I know I eat balanced diet, but I wanted to prove it. I ate fried rice for lunch and pasta for dinner. I skipped breakfast today :( As you can see, I am getting enough iron, protein, calcium, etc. I supplement vitamin D and vitamin B12, and the B12 supplement also has folate.

And for those who think "well, isn't it unnatural that you have to supplement?" or "We need animal products because B12", let me explain. B12 is created by bacteria. Naturally, humans would get enough B12, because naturally, we do not wash our food spotless like we do now. Since modern food industry is so pristine and sterile, there is no B12 left on most of our produce. So the problem isn't vegan diet, it's just contemporary world's obsession with cleanliness. (See an article about B12 by John McDougall, M. D.) And that applies to animals people eat, too. They live in cement factory farms and get injected with antibiotics regularly. Many livestock animals eat B12 fortified feed or get B12 injections. If you eat animal products, you're simply getting B12 supplements second-hand. It's much better to take those supplements directly.

And when it comes to vitamin D, there is no (natural) dietary source that provides enough vitamin D, whether it be animal product or plant food. Dairy milk may have some vitamin D but that's because it's fortified with it. You're supposed to get vitamin D from the sun. However, during colder season it is difficult to get vitamin D from the sun, and unprotected UV exposure (which does create vitamin D) is inadvisable anyways. So supplementation is a good idea.

I don't aim to get 100% of RDA 100% of the time. Sometimes I get more, sometimes I get a little less, but it all balances out. For example, my vitamin C intake was rather low today. But most days I eat more than enough vitamin C from fruits. I just didn't feel like eating much fruits today, and one day of less fruits isn't going to affect me.

The only thing that concerns me is that I consumed a lot of sodium today. I accidentally used too much soy sauce in my rice, and I ate a lot of seaweed. (Although some of the sodium would have washed out when I cooked the seaweed in water and then poured the water out so the number above isn't 100% correct.) I'll be careful tomorrow not to eat much sodium, then. That's just how it is.

I'm not perfect. This is obviously not the representation of the best diet. In fact it's not the best representation of my diet, because I don't eat chocolate or drink soda every day. Today I had a bit of sugar crave from skipping breakfast. (Which is why it's so important to have breakfast!) But still, I got pretty good nutrition. Vegan diet can be very healthy and I do not need animal products to have proper nutrition.

2016/03/21

How to Save Money Part 1 - How to Spend Less



If you're serious about saving money, you've got to spend less. That's the only way you'll have something to save. So here are my tips to spend less money, without starving yourself or anything.

1. Don't cut down too much on food.

It will affect your health, which may come back as a huge medical bill. Where I live, fast food is so ridiculously expensive that it's cheaper to eat cleaner, but even if junk food is cheaper, it's actually not that cheap. Eat as healthfully as you possibly can.

2. Buy used.

When I needed something, my first instinct was to go to the supermarket or the mall. Now I hit thrift stores first. Of course, you can't buy food or toilet papers used, and I would not buy underwear used, but most non-consumables can be bought second hand. Thrift stores and flea markets are your friend. If you need a coat and have $50, buying $100 coat second-hand for $50 is much better than buying a $50 coat retail. Online second-hand exchange can be wonderful but since you often can't see the product for yourself, you need to be more careful. Also, never underestimate hand-me-downs. Half of my clothes and many of my best clothes came from my mother's closet.

3. Think 8 times before you buy something that isn't absolutely necessary.

I only allow myself to buy one non-essential thing per month at most. I kind of want cocktail shaker right now, but could I live without it? Yes, therefore it can wait. After a while you stop wanting unnecessary things. Shopping was an amusement for me, but now that time and money used to be spent on shopping can go somewhere more important.

4. Pack your lunch and bring your own beverage.

$6 lunches and $4 coffees add up to a significant amount of money. It's $10 a day, which is $220 in a month (22 business days), which is $2640 in a year. If you'd rather have Caramel Machiatto more than anything else, you do you, but ask yourself, would you really rather have a cup of coffee than (insert whatever matters to you)? If the answer is no, then you know what you have to do.

5. Go through your things. Sell what you don't use, and remember the things you have.

SO much money is spent because you buying something not remembering that you already have something like it. Get rid of the clutter and know what you have, and try to make use of what you already have instead of having to buy something new. Also selling things that you don't need can get you a decent amount of cash.

6. Think of the long-term cost.

Remember what I said about cheaping out on food can lead to hefty medical bills? Cheap things are not always actually cheap long term. If you buy cheap clothes, you'll have to replace them pretty soon and if you keep doing that you will end up spending more money than buying one, expensive, good quality clothing that will last you years after years. Of course price doesn't equate to quality, but remember that there are lots of overpriced things, but underpriced things don't exist (the spell checker is putting red line under "underpriced" as I type, that should prove it). You can use cheap toilet paper. Although pricier TPs feel nice, cheap toilet papers don't lead to anything bad and you'll use up expensive toilet papers just as fast as the cheap ones. Cheap bag? It will probably fall apart soon and repeatedly replacing bags can add up to greater sum of money than just buying one good quality bag.

7. Use rebate sites when you do buy something.

When I encountered the idea of these sites I was quite skeptical. Cashback for buying thing I would buy anyways? That's too good to be true, right? However, you do really get money! I personally use Ebates (referral link). However, beware. If you don't control yourself this might cause you to spend more money. Always be mindful!

Review: Alter Eco Organic Chocolate (Vegan and Fair Trade)

Alter Eco Dark Qunoa and Alter Eco Sea Salt chocolates


These amazing chocolates are:
  • Organically Grown
  • Fairly Traded
  • 70% Cocoa
  • USDA Organic
  • Fair Trade Certified
  • Vegan
  • Soy Free
  • Gluten Free
  • Non-GMO
  • No Artificial Flavors
  • No Emulsifiers
  • Certified Organic by QAI

I do strive to eat local produce whole food diet most of the time. I also tend to avoid chocolate because most of them are destructive in many ways. (related article from Vegan Feminist Network) but I decided to treat myself with some organic, vegan, fair trade chocolate.


The packaging is FSC certified responsible paper and the inside of the packaging explains how these products are saving the forests. For someone who is concerned about environmental issues especially when it comes to packaged foods, this is a huge selling point.

The Dark Quinoa one was less crunchy than I imagined, but it was nice. Usually crunchy chocolates make a lot of noise and are very sweet, but this wasn't. It was nice that I can enjoy a slightly crunchy chocolate without all that problem.

The Deep Dark Sea Salt one was the perfect harmony of sweet and salty. The lovely flavor of dark chocolate, the right amount of sweetness, and the slight saltiness was just amazing. The sea salt really adds to the flavor. I liked the sea salt one better.

I love that they are 60% and 70% cacao each and are not overly sweet. People tend to equate chocolate with sweetness. I can appreciate a little bit of sweetness, but when it gets to the point that the sweetness masks the unique flavor of cacao, that's counter-intuitive. If I wanted something that sweet, I have multiple kilograms of sugar and syrup in my cabinet.

$3.38 price tag is slightly hefty for a bar of chocolate, but it's fair trade and organic so I would expect that. In fact, they're not that much more compared to the TESCO chocolates I would buy here, and I would totally spend a little bit more for better working condition and sustainable farming.

TL;DR - 10/10 would recommend.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I bought the products with my own money. iHerb inc provides rewards program for anyone who signs up for their website.

Tips for Ethical, Sustainable Wardrobe.

Photo: Tips for ethical, sustainable wardrobe.

The clothing industry these day have so many problems. Fashion industry is the third most polluting industry, and many of the clothes we see at shopping malls are made by people in awful, unfair working condition. We should do what we can and avoid positively reinforcing such unjust business practices by paying them money.

Learn about the issues.

File:The True Cost.jpg

To be more educated on the subject, I would start by watching The True Cost and reading Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. There are more resources, but these two would give you enough insight to the problems.

Get clothes second hand whenever possible.

I do think that supporting ethical companies is very important, but nothing will ever be as environmentally friendly and suffering-free as second hand clothing. That's why I almost exclusively buy second hand. There are some misconceptions about second hand purchases, but I can assure you it's a great way to get lovely clothes without worrying about whether the clothing came from exploitation or not. Plus, you save your own money!

Tips for thrifting and buying second hand clothes.

  • I know there's the 'ick' factor, but try them on if possible. You should make sure you're buying something that actually looks good on you. You can take a shower afterwards.
  • It's cheaper, especially in thrift stores, but don't get carried away. Know what you need and want, and stick to that.
  • If you have specific item in mind, visit thrift store/second hand exchanges regularly. If you're using online stores or apps, you may be able to set an alert that sends messages to you when something you're looking for is posted. (If you are based in South Korea, I recommend 중고나라.)
  • Inspect the item thoroughly. Second hand items my be difficult to return or exchange, so you should be careful. If you are buying online, check the measurements and scrutinize the photos to see what you're getting. If you're buying second hand from an individual seller, not a company, it's likely that they will provide these information for you when you ask. If you're buying from a company that deals second hand products, the information should be already available, but if not, ask them. 
  • If you buy second-hand items from someone online, use a site that has some kind of scam protection. Scam isn't common for clothes that aren't worth much, but it does happen. If you're trying to buy an expensive designer piece, then scam is definitely possible.

When you do buy new, buy from more ethical brands.

30 Ethical Fashion Brands You Need to Know from Into Mind
BetterThread
True Cost Website: Buying Better
Fashion Revolution
Sustainable Apparel Coalition

I recommend visiting all of the above but if I had to pick just one website, it would be BetterThread. You can effortlessly browse fairly made, sustainable, vegan clothing manufacturers.

disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links

2016/03/20

Slunch Factory: Vegan-friendly Restaurant/Cafe in Sangsudong, Seoul

Slunch Factory: Vegan-friendly Restaurant/Cafe in Sangsudong, Seoul
When you are a vegan in South Korea eating out can be very stressful. I have resources and tips for that on my blog but I try to review vegan/vegan friendly restaurants whenever possible to guide other vegans and show these amazing restaurants some support.

Slunch Factory is in Sangsudong area of Seoul. It is kind of hard to find, but I'll post the map below. They have vegan dishes and vegan things are clearly marked vegan on the menu, so there is no hassle of trying to find out what is vegan and what is not. THEY HAVE VEGAN CAKE! I was so excited when I found out their cakes were vegan. I didn't get to try them this time, but I'll definitely come back for them cakes.

Mushroom rice noodles

Mushroom over steamed rice with perilla seed sauce.
Photo by my friend.


The food is good, but if you eat a lot you may find that their portions are a bit small. Their prices are slightly higher (10000 won ish) than average in South Korea, but I think it's good price for the quality you get.

  • There are steps and the door is rather narrow so wheelchair access may be difficult.
  • The terrace (which is right in front of their entrance) is smoking zone so you may have to walk past smokers to enter.
  • They have free wi-fi


Click each image to see the menu. Sorry for potato quality


2016/03/19

My Vegan Shower Routine


Even after my transition I still kept my nonvegan products because I felt like sending them to landfill wouldn't do anyone any good. So some of the products I use in the shower were not vegan until recently. Finally, my shower routine is now 100% vegan.


Pure & Basic Natural Clarifying Shampoo

Pure & Basic, Natural Clarifying Shampoo, Citrus, 12 fl oz (350 ml)
I don't use it every time I take a shower, I just use it when I feel like there's buildup in my hair, which is every 7-15 days. It makes my hair feel really clean and fresh. A lot of people I know who have oily hair swear by this and they use this more frequently.

Skincure Sandawha Camelia Shampoo & Conditioner


Skincure is one of the very few Korean companies that have wide range of products and are 100% vegan. They are confirmed to be cruelty free and vegan by Korea Animal Rights Advocates. I need to show them some love, right? To be fair, I don't have high bars for hair products. My hair is naturally pretty nice, and these keep it that way so I'm satisfied.

Dr. Bronner's Fair Trade & Organic Castile Liquid Soap

Dr. Bronner's Fair Trade & Organic Castile Liquid Soap - (Tea Tree, 32 oz)
I. Love. This. This is on my holy grail list, too. This makes my skin feel so squeaky clean. I use it both on my face and on my body. You can clean everything and anything with this (except the things that shouldn't touch water). Clean yourself, clean your home, clean your food, clean your clothes. I usually use my hands to wash my face and body, but occasionally I'll use loofah or washcloth thingies for more intensive cleaning.




So that's my shower routine. My vegan skincare routine and everyday makeup routine will be up eventually, so look out for that :)

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. All products purchased with my own money and this post wasn't sponsored. iHerb inc and Amazon provides rewards programs for anyone who signs up.

2016/03/16

What I Eat in a Day as a Vegan

Breakfast:


Toasts with peanut butter and raspberry jam
Half an orange

Lunch



Rice with avocado, onion, mushroom, paprika, garlic, soy sauce and red pepper powder.

Dinner


A full Korean meal!
Seaweed, tofu with soy sauce, radish, spinach, bean sprouts, rice, pan fried onion and mushroom.

Weekly Sophia

Spotlight

spotlight poster

This is one of the best movies I've ever seen. I do not even know how to explain how amazing it is.


Read 70 pages of books daily. - I was SO busy during the week, but I got a lot of reading done during the weekend so on average, I did read 70 pages a day.
Be less grumpy. - I think I did okay. Didn't have a tantrum even though I was menstruating. 
Don't buy anything. - Well, I bought MATLAB, but that was for my computational physics. Other than that I didn't really buy anything.
Write 3 blog posts. - I delivered. :D
Goals for the next week:
Eat zero junk food.
Catch up on my studies.
Get 8 hours of sleep every night.

2016/03/12

On My Bookshelf

I have digitized most of my book collection. Physical space is expensive, and e-books are so much easier to carry around. Kindle is amazing. If it wasn't for Kindle, I would never have finished Les Misérables, because it's too freaking big to carry around and I do most of my reading when I'm out and about. Many of my textbooks are digital, too.

When I'm not reading an e-book I'm likely reading a book I checked out from a library. It's free, which is the best. I am very blessed to have access to multiple great public libraries and my university's library. Library is my one of my few happy places. There's an unpopular room that no one ever goes to in my university library, and being there makes me super calm.

As much as I love the convenience factor of e-books and free factor of library books, I still own some paper books. I have this bizarre fear than one day the industrial society will collapse and then we wouldn't have power system to charge the electronics with or a library system to get books from. Hopefully that will never happen, but power outage and blackouts actually happen from time to time. Reading is one of the very few things I can do under candlelight. Also, I will always love the feeling of paper books.

I have a hand-picked selection of books that I keep paper copies on my bookshelf.


1. Economics: The User's Guide by Ha-Joon Chang

This is an incredibly informative book. Not only does it explain economic concepts very well in a way that a non-economics major pleb would easily understand, it offers great insight as to what the economy is and what happens in it. I watched "The Big Short" the other day with my dad and I knew all of the economic terms without even having to read the explanation the movie provided.

2. Cosmos by Carl Sagan

This may not be for everyone but I need this book. That's the physics major in me, I suppose. I love all things Carl Sagan, but this one is my favorite out of all.

3. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

This is one of the books that made me who I am now. I was a lost teenager at that time. Ponyboy is my homeboy :P This is so touching and beautiful. Because of this book I will always stay gold.

4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I don't really like classics, to be honest. However, Pride and Prejudice is pretty amusing. I wouldn't have gotten this if it weren't for my class, but now that I did, I enjoy this book very much. Who would have known that I'd care about English rich people's shenanigans from few centuries ago? It turns out I kind of like 'novel of manners' type of books.

5. Starseeker by Tim Bowler

I don't really cry when I read or watch, but this book did make me cry. I try to stay away from young-adult, coming-of-age books as I'm getting older, but honestly, I will always read this book. This is my favorite work of Tim Bowler.

2016/03/09

Vegan Recipe: Mushroom Tteokbokki - Seasoned Rice Cake

Ingredients:
  • Rice cakes (360g should serve 2 people)
  • Gochujang (pepper paste)
  • Soy sauce
  • Sugar
  • Sesame oil or sesame seed
  • Green onion
  • Onions
  • Minced garlic
  • Mushrooms of your choice
*I will not state the specific amount of the rest of the ingredients as they are highly preferential.
  1. Soak rice cakes in cold water. The time should depend on what type of rice cake you're using but 20 minutes tops.
  2. Mix gochujang, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil/seed, and minced garlic. The ratio depends on preference but I do: 4 parts gochujang, 2-3 parts soy sauce, 1 part sugar, 1-2 part minced garlic, and 1 part sesame oil/seed, 5-6 part water.
  3. Chop onions, green onions and mushrooms.
  4. Heat oil or water in pan.
  5. Sauté the vegetables until onions are translucent.
  6. Take out rice cakes from water and cook with the vegetables.
  7. Pour seasoning mix and cook until rice cakes are soft
  8. Done!
The recipe is rather simple. Usually tteokbokki is made with fish cakes but I used mushroom to substitute for it to make it vegan. The mushroom makes it taste SO delicious, it's probably even better than the fish cakes.



When made with enoki mushrooms :D

2016/03/07

Digital Security and Privacy 101

The South Korean National Assembly passed "Anti-Terrorism" act, the government can officially spy on civilians. However I've been meaning to write this way before that because identity theft is another huge issue.

Digital Security and Privacy 101

1. Be mindful when you click on links and DO NOT download files from the Internet unless you are absolutely sure that it is safe. (e. g. from an official website of a big company)

No illegal software or movies. They are illegal anyways. Always download files from legitimate, official sites. Don't click on link unless you can trust it or you absolutely have to.

2. Encrypt your hard drive and your phone.




3. Firewall and Anti-virus software

I think Windows Defender is enough for most people (who have Windows) but you can use paid services. I don't think free ones are any better than Windows Defender.



4. Use DuckDuckGo.

Other search engines track you.

5. Back up important data.

It's a possibility that a malware or ransomware would infiltrate your device and damage your data. Even if your HDD is encrypted, the ransomware could just encrypt over it, because that's what they do. Your encryption will make it harder for them to steal your information but their encryption will prevent access to your files. Back it up in a separate device that can be disconnected from your computer. Don't pay the ransom, it only encourages those scums.

6. Get a VPN if you can.

Anonymizing and encrypting your Internet connection is important for security, especially when you have to use public wi-fi with flimsy security. Most VPN services out there charge money and even if they have free plan it's usually very limited. Tor is the best free, open source VPN, but it's slower than paid ones. Maintaining those servers isn't cheap, you know. The price is less than $10/month with annual plan, and many of them are like, $4/month. It's not high at all, and if your school, work, or government block certain sites, this can unblock them. You can also bypass regional restrictions. I reccomend CyberGhost or PureVPN.

7. xkcd on Password Strength

Password Strength

Weekly Sophia

This was the first week of my junior year at the university. It was pretty uneventful other than that, but here are some things from my week that were semi-noteworthy.

Red Band Society


I watched this because I ran out of things to watch (can you believe that?) and I was pleasantly surprised. I loved it! I've seen lots of shows set in hospitals, (Grey's Anatomy, I'm looking at you.) but those all focus on the doctors. This show is about teenage patients. Seeing the bond between them and how that bond changes every one of them was very touching. My favorite was Leo. Every time he was feeling down I just wanted to hug him so badly. Unfortunately, Red Band Society only has 13 episodes or so. I don't understand why it was cancelled early. It's awesome! I could imagine this show getting boring after the 3rd season or so(because most TV shows do), but if they went through with the 2nd season like they had planned, it would have been great. Now I have to find something else to watch…

Late Period

This isn't unheard of, but my period is usually extremely punctual. When I'm 3 days late, I freak out, even though I've always used birth control consistently. So yeah, I freaked out for 4 hours until I managed to get my ass down to the pharmacy and got the pregnancy test. It was negative, whew!  Whenever I'm late I get my period like 3 hours after buying the test kit and it's like, "that was a waste of money" but it happens every time.

How did I do on my goals?

Study at least an hour a day. - I did study, but I feel like I did very unproductive studying.
Study Russian on Duolingo every day. - I did every day except today. I put it off because I was in a noisy environment so I couldn't study well and I ended up forgetting :(
Drink enough water every day. - I did drink more water than I did before, but I didn't track my water intake.
Make friends with incoming freshmen. (main goal) - Unfortunately a lot of really bad crap happened at my school recently so many of the events at which I was supposed to meet freshmen were cancelled. I have another opportunity next week, so maybe next time…

My goals for the next week:

Read 70 pages of books daily.
Be less grumpy.
Don't buy anything.
Write 3 blog posts.

2016/03/01

Weekly Sophia

What caught my eyes this past week:

Kurt Cobain's Top 50 albums

Top 50 by Nirvana
I'm always looking for more great music and I didn't know about this list before, even though it has been out there for a while. I'm so late, ahh. Anyways when I learned about this list I was excited. I'm on number 8 right now, and loving it so far.

Sarah Pinto stationaries

NB_NNN
I am very anal about planners so it's a challenge for me to find something that I actually like. Sarah Pinto ones look perfect! I already have a planner for this year, but next year's planner will definitely be one of these. Portion of their profit goes to a children's hospital. I can use a lovely planner and support kids with heart condition. How wonderful is that?

My goals for next week:

Study at least an hour a day.
Study Russian on Duolingo every day.
Drink enough water every day.
Make friends with incoming freshmen. (main goal)

2016/02/29

25 Before 25


I have been inspired by several other young bloggers to write out 25 things I'd like to do before I reach 25 years of age. It's a mini bucket list, I suppose. I got a little less than 4 years left. Some people do x before x every year with changing numbers as they get older, but I think one list right now will be enough until I'm 25.


  1. Go to Russia once more - I went to Russia this month and I LOVED it! I would so so much like to visit again.
  2. Write a novel - it won't be published, but I just want to experience writing a book full of story I created on my own.
  3. Learn sign language - I like learning languages, because it allows me to communicate with more people. I realized that I don't even know how to communicate with people from my own country who have hearing impairment. I still converse with them via writing, but I think learning sign language would open so many doors. 
  4. Get a DSLR camera - I should get one sooner or later, to have high-resolution encapturement of precious moments and to make better contents for this blog. I hadn't made the splurge, but soon…
  5. Travel to a place in South America or Africa - I have never been to either of those continents yet. I haven't been to Antarctica and Australia, either, but there honestly isn't much in Antarctica (about 98% is ice) and I have a feeling that I'll visit Australia without having to plan it.
  6. Throw a big party - I've never had a big party for my own. Not even a birthday party, really. I'd like to host a big vegan party so everyone would come and enjoy vegan dishes!
  7. Save up 10,000,000 won - That's the amount of money I would consider a 'safety fund', taking inflation into account. If something happens and I need money really bad, this is the money that will be my security blanket. I have around 10% of that right now.
  8. Have a fabulous vacation - Most of my vacation days were spent laying on couch watching TV, which I enjoy very much and I think it will be that way for most of my life, but I would like to have a nice getaway once in my life. Where should I go? Bali? Cabo San Lucas? Somewhere in South Korea?
  9. Paint a painting - I haven't taken an art lesson in 7 years or something. I wanted to take one since the beginning of college, but I haven't had the time. I really want to create one great work that I can frame, hang on my wall and appreciate all the time.
  10. Have a full-on pamper day - Spa, massage, facial, hair, makeup everything! It will be an ultimate 'treat yo self'.
  11. Get full-body laser hair removal - I hate hair and I hate hair removal. I'd rather get expensive laser removal and be done.
  12. Read all books on this list - I've already read a few in this list but I plan to re-read them. I read them in Korean so may be I should try reading them in English.
  13. Pick up a sport - Or a physical activity like dance. I really should, for fun and for health.
  14. Get a driver's license - Can you believe that I don't have it yet? Born-and-raised in Seoul, I never really had to drive, and I put it off for what seems like an eternity.
  15. Get a full health exam - I had a few tests here and there, I even have a PaP test scheduled in a week, but never had a full exam, and I probably should.
  16. Get a computer certification - I'm pretty good with computers, but I don't have anything that proves it.
  17. Take a Railro trip - I've traveled to 10+ countries but I haven't traveled much in my country. I'd like to appreciate the place I live in.
  18. Move out of my parents' house - And be a strong, independent woman.
  19. Grow a plant - I'd like to have a nice garden eventually, but let's start with one.
  20. Knit something - My sister is good at knitting and I'm so jealous!
  21. Do a project with my sister - I don't know what it will be, but it will be a great opportunity to bond with my sister and accomplish something.
  22. Get a tattoo - It will be a small one in a not-so-noticeable place, but I have a tattoo idea in mind.
  23. Zero waste for a month - I always try to live environmentally friendly, but I'm not perfect. I'll never be perfect, but I'll try to be near-perfect for a month.
  24. Get my portrait painted - It will be interesting to know how an artist sees me and how they express it. 
  25. Visit an international film festival - I love films but I've never been to a big film festival.

2016/02/28

[Rant] Korean Air is so irresponsible.

Few weeks ago I took a Korean Air flight from ICN to VVO. In order to maintain my vegan diet, I ordered the 'oriental vegetarian meal' which was clearly labeled, "Does not contain any meat, fish, egg or milk product." I was flabbergasted to find that one of the products served with my meal contained sodium caseinate (a milk derivative).

I was told that there would be no milk product in my meal, yet there was milk product in my meal. I have been lied to. This raised my concern especially because sodium caseinate is one of the major allergens in milk. A lot of people would have automatically assumed that the meal would contain zero milk product, because, well, that's what they were told. What would happen if they neglected to scrutinize the labels, because they trusted the airline? Also, the label was in English, so a Korean or Russian passenger who didn't know English may not even be able to identify that there's milk protein in their meal. A person could have gone into anaphylactic shock 22000 feet above the ground. 

I sent them an e-mail addressing my concerns, but the reply I received said that it's okay because "according to the FDA regulations products containing milk protein are allowed to be labeled non-dairy". What the actual fuck? I don't care what USFDA has to say. They told me that there is no milk product in my meal, so there should be no milk product in my meal, period. I mean, how is USFDA regulation even relevant? Its "KOREAN AIR" flight from SOUTH KOREA to RUSSIA.

I wrote them back, but I have not received any reply for over 10 days. Either my e-mail magically disappeared or they are just ignoring my message. Either way, it is clear that they have no concept of food safety and furthermore have zero intention to fix their problems when it is pointed out.

I hope no one dies because of their inability to keep their own word. If you are flying Korean Air beware of the milk protein in your food!

2016/02/27

Is It Cheap, Easy, and Effortless to Be Vegan?

Is it cheap, easy, and effortless to be vegan?

Whenever anyone (vegan or not) even remotely suggests that being vegan is hard, they are bombarded with comments from other vegans stating how 'cheap, easy, and effortless' it is to be a vegan. Moreover, they are sometimes attacked for being so stupid that they don't know how cheap, easy, and effortless it is to be vegan.
I would like to point out two things. Firstly, that may not be true for everyone. Secondly,
What does it mean to be a vegan?
"Veganism is a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose." - The Vegan Society
By definition, 'animals' include humans. In this sense, being vegan doesn't just mean not eating and using animal products. It means to reduce any exploitation (human or non-human) occurs in production of the food, clothes, or anything else we consume. That is actually kind of difficult, and more often than not, expensive.
Some might argue that "Terrible jobs are better than no jobs," but why should the question be no job vs. terrible jobs? Why can't it be good jobs vs bad jobs instead? We can, and must, achieve that by supporting ethical labour.
A lot of plant-based snacks and foods that people consume for pleasure, such as chocolate, coffee, and process foods containing palm oil, are notorious for being destructive and exploitative, and most people don't want to give them up. However, at least we could live without them. What about the types of foods that we need to eat in order to live? A lot of inexpensive produce that vegans love, such as bananas, come from human exploitation and environmental destruction. "Fair trade" alternatives for those things exist, of course, but they are usually more expensive and often harder to find. Making sure that what you eat is ethical isn't easy at all, because it's much more than just avoiding meat, seafood, dairy and eggs. I try to confine myself to domestically grown produce from family-owned farms. It's usually possible (for me at least) but it gets frustrating.
Another thing I noticed is that vegans usually focus on food aspect of vegan lifestyle. There are so many aspects of our lives that doesn't involve food. One example is clothing. Most affordable clothing and even expensive clothes are made in sweatshops with awful working condition. Clothes and other items are easier to avoid because you can buy second hand, but that is not always an option.
When it comes to consumables like toiletries and stuff, it's harder because the sources of ingredients are not clearly labeled. Depending on the region, cruelty-free vegan products in general might be harder to access before we even begin to concern ourselves with the sources of the ingredients. For example, the only brands that are cruelty free and available in bricks-and-mortar stores across South Korea are Beyond (owned by non-CF company), Lush, Burt's Bees and The Body Shop (also owned by non-CF company). A lot of their products aren't vegan. Lush, the only brand with significant number of vegan products with items clearly marked if they are vegan, is overpriced. There are few online-only vegan brands, Urban Decay (owned by non-CF company) has 1 offline location and a web store, and that's it. Except Beyond, all of them are on the more expensive side. These vegan-friendly brands have a very limited selection of makeup except UD, so it really is frustrating, especially because South Korea has this misogynistic perception that a woman not wearing makeup is rude and unprofessional. I have to order most of my products internationally, which is more expensive and time-consuming.
When I present this opinion of mine I am often confronted with the "as far as possible and practicable" part of the definition. They are confusing "possible and practicable" with "cheap and easy". The thing is, my lifestyle is possible and practicable for the most part. I think it's possible for most middle-class people. It's just difficult. Actually, doing anything to the extent of as best as you possibly can is almost always difficult, so if you really are doing everything as far as possible and practicable, you should know how difficult it can be. If we brushed these issues off just because it's difficult, then how different are we from those who refuse to cut out animal products because it's 'difficult'?
My conclusion is that:
It is cheap, easy, and effortless to be plant-based, but 'vegan'? Not so much.
I do understand that it is impossible to cause zero harm as long as you live in an industrialized society. Moreover, I am not saying that people who consume non-fair trade products are not 'true vegans' or anything. I do believe that only exploiting humans is better than exploiting humans and killing animals. Nonetheless, we shouldn't be okay with settling for that. We should strive to reduce suffering even further, as far as we possibly can. It's not easy, it's not cheap, but it's only right.
It's okay to make mistakes, it's okay to have compromises, but it's not okay to never try at all. If non-fair trade items really are all you can afford, you have no choice. I understand that that is the case for many people. However if you could be reducing exploitation even further and you just aren't, then you should, well, stop whatever you're doing and try harder.
I understand why vegans (including myself) want to portray vegan lifestyle as cheap, easy, and effortless; we want more people to go vegan. We don't want people to brush it off because it's "too hard and extreme". However, pretending that we don't have to avoid human exploitation and its products is not the right way to spread this message.

Back to School: What's In My School Bag? My School Supplies

In South Korea, school year starts at March. School's about to start and I kind of feel bittersweet about that. Part of me wants to start school, but part of me wants to lay around and enjoy more free time.

Going back to school is still exciting, so let me share what is in my school bag.


The Bag: National Geographic grey backpack. I think my mom got this when she bought a set of NatGeo suitcases.

School Supplies


Five Star Flex Notebinder - I like that I can easily take any paper in and out of binders, but I don't like the bulkiness of them. This notebinder is perfect!

Red 3-Ring Pencil Pouch with Mesh Pocket (similar-4pack) -

CMYK planner - I use this to meticulously plan my day and I use this to take to school, and my other planner is to use outside of school.

Molskine Volant Ruled Notebook Sage Green -

Ruler/hole puncher - Having a hole puncher at hand is very convenient, and this one doubles as a 30cm ruler.

Inside the pencil pouch: 


Some cheap earphones, sticky notes, Jetstream black pen, mechanical pencil and lead, Signo DX green pen, Gelly Roll pink pen, Lumi-liner orange highlighter, Zebra Mildliner grey highlighter, orange ball-point pen from Daiso, blue highlighter, ruler.

Others



A pouch from Daiso - This is kinda old but I use it anyways.

Casio fx 570ES-PLUS - I kinda stole this from my SO lol. I have a more expensive calculator but I reach for this more often. It's smaller, and it has all the constants listed. Besides, some professors don't let me use the TI n-spire CX CAS because they think I might use its functions to cheat.

Stanley Adventure Stainless Steel flask - I find that this flat-ish rectangular parallelepiped shape is much easier to carry around than cylindrical bottles. One downside is that people think I'm carrying around alcohol.

Wallet - SO got this for me last year. All I really need to spend my money is my phone, but this is an important thing for me so I take this with me all the time. The first card in the wallet is my organ donor registration card, so if I ever go braindead the doctors can transplant my organ as soon as possible.

Inside the pouch:



KiKi's Delivery Service handkerchief, toothpaste* and an electric toothbrush that looks like a dildo, hand lotion*, a tampon, wet wipes I got from Russia, hand sanitizer, hair tie, Dior Addict Lip Glow*, Nivea lip balm*, eye drops*, blotting paper, Lush Imogen Rose solid perfume.

* not cruelty-free or vegan, I'm trying to use up the products I already had before I decided to go vegan.


"School organization", "How I use my planner for school", and "What's in my bag?" posts are to come so look forward to it! :)

2016/02/26

How to NOT Get Pregnant: Contraception 101



I cannot stress enough how important it is to be safe and responsible when it comes to having sex. Unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection will have serious consequences in your life. That's why I'm writing up this long ass post. People don't like to talk about sex, but this is too important to dismiss.

I would also like to remind you that no contraceptive method other than abstinence is 100% effective. I'm not going to promote abstinence. As long as you use contraceptives properly, the chances of unintended pregnancy is very low. But it's still a possibility, no matter how improbable it is, and you should keep that in mind.


Condom

"Cap it before you tap it," they said.

Condom is probably the most easily accessible, usable form of contraceptive. You can easily buy condoms from supermarkets, convenience stores, and you can sometimes get them for free at health centers and such. You can just put one on right before you have sex, no preparation necessary. Not only does a condom prevent pregnancy, it decreases the risk of STI(note that condoms won't prevent STIs perfectly). I think condoms should be used unless the partner is guaranteed to be STI-free, even when you are using other form of contraceptive, just to avoid STIs.

Condoms are quite effective (98%) when used correctly, but condoms are often used incorrectly and that lowers the efficacy to 85%.

Here are some things you should know about in order to use condoms more effectively.

  • Check expiration dates. Yes, they do expire and it is unsafe to use expired condoms.
  • Be careful when you take it out of the packaging. Fingernail and teeth can cause your condom to break.
  • Do not use oily lubricant, it will cause the condom to degrade. Use water-based lubricant if you need to.
  • Only use 1 condom at a time. Using multiple condoms does not make it safer. In fact, it makes them more likely to break as there is more friction.
  • Do not reuse condoms(eww).
  • Twist the tip to remove air from reservoir tip. If there's air bubble it might cause the condom to break.
If you are in South Korea and need condoms consider Eve Condoms. They are eco-friendly, free of nitrosamine, paraben, fragrance, colorants, certified vegan, and they use a portion of their profit to provide sex education for at-risk youth.

Emergency Contraceptive Pill

also known as: post-coital contraceptive pill, morning-after pill (a misnomer), Plan B

This is technically a hormonal form of birth control, but I'll treat this as a separate category as its use is quite different from regular birth control methods. There is a reason why it's called an "emergency" contraceptive pill. It is less effective than most other forms of primary birth control. Taking ECP is generally safe, but the risk of adverse effects such as vomiting is greater. There is not much data yet about using ECP repeatedly, so it is safer to use other forms of birth control as your main contraceptive measure.

You should only use ECP if your primary birth control failed (e. g. if a condom breaks) or if you were raped. ECP should be taken as soon as possible after the intercourse, as the effectiveness decreases as time lapses.

I won't get to the medical side of the ECP as I am no expert, but for more information about ECP I recommend this website.


Hormonal Birth Controls


There are many different types of hormonal birth controls, but basically the hormones prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation.

Oral contraceptive (birth control pill)

This is probably one of the most popular methods along with condoms. For pills to have maximum effect, they should be taken around the same time every day(i. e. if you take your pill at 7am you should take your pill at 7am every day). If you are on certain medication or have any other health issues, it may be less effective. Like any medicine there are side effects. One of the more dangerous side effect is having strokes. While the possibility is rather low, the risks are higher if you are over 35 years of age, have familial history of cardiovascular conditions, or smoke cigarettes. Whether BC pills require prescription or not depends on the region, but even if you can get the pills over-the-counter, it is best to consult an OBGYN. There are so many types of BC pills, and the doctor can help you decide which one is best for you, or if you should use pills as your contraceptive method at all.

Implants

Implants are convenient as you don't have to take pills every day for 3 years.

IUD with Hormones

I will cover this in the IUD part.




Other forms of hormonal birth control include vaginal rings, injections, and hormone patches.

Intrauterine Device (IUD)

An IUD can be used as a post-coital contraceptive when placed immediately after sex. However it is usually used as a primary birth control method. It is highly effective, and it is very convenient as you can get one inserted and then you don't have to do anything for a while.

Copper IUD

Copper IUD is the most cost-effective and convenient method long term as it is inexpensive and can be left in the uterus for years. It's effective, too. It is recommended that you get ultrasound every year to make sure it's in place.

Hormonal IUD

As you can guess, this is the most effective form of contraceptive as it prevents ovulation with hormones, thickens the uterine lining to prevent eggs from implanting.
For more information, visit Mayo Clinic page for Mirena (hormonal IUD).





Overall, there are so many ways you can avoid pregnancy. Condoms are best for irregular sex as they don't require planning or doctor's visit, and provide protection from STIs. For exclusive long-term relationships, I think IUD is the most convenient and cost-effective. But to make educated decisions that's perfect for your own situation, consult a professional.




This is a general advice I would give to everyone. "Use condoms, use sunscreen. Protect yo self."
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