On Giving

If you’re interested in following my newsletter, sign up here!

When I was in the Philippines back in June, I had a chance to talk to my grandma about giving money to charities. At that time, the majority of my donations have been going to environmental advocacy groups and to local non-profits. But what she was telling me was that I should try and think about giving more effectively, to think about how a little money can go a long way in poorer countries like the Philippines. That way, she said, my donations would have a more significant impact on people’s lives.

It was hard to swallow because the non-profits I’ve been donating to are local, and I love that they: support the people around me, work on things that personally I care about, and improve life around my city. I feel good when the money I give goes directly to my immediate environment. It feels more tangible. More real.

But she was right. My grandma forced me to think about why I was donating in the first place, and to think about the opportunity costs of donating my money to one charity instead of another. With money being a finite resource, wouldn’t it be better if it went to people who need it the most? Should I really choose charities based on things that I have an emotional attachment to and make me feel good instead of giving to charities that can actually do more good?

Take malaria, for example. I don’t know anyone who’s had malaria, I don’t know what it feels like to have malaria, and the community around me doesn’t get malaria. (Although certain parts of the Philippines do.) I have no emotions towards malaria whatsoever, and yet it continues to be one of the leading causes of death in the developing world.

Malaria is one of the most severe public health problems worldwide. It is a leading cause of death and disease in many developing countries, where young children and pregnant women are the groups most affected.

CDC’s Report on Malaria’s Impact Worldwide

So knowing that it’s a deadly disease and knowing that the solutions are proven to work and are low-cost (see long-lasting insecticide-treated nets and seasonal malaria chemoprevention), why wouldn’t I direct my money to that cause?

Of course, I’m not saying that “having the most impact” should be the only criteria that people should use for choosing a charity, and I’m not saying that local charities aren’t worth giving your money to. People’s donations can be shaped by the community around them and their experiences in life. But for someone like me who wants to stretch out every dollar to reach as many people as I could, I think this benchmark makes the most sense. (I don’t actually believe that my money will literally land on the hands of the people in need or be used out there in the field because organizations need to compensate people, do research, do outreach, etc. There are overhead costs, and that can be a good thing.)

But still, I’ve been hesitant. I can’t help but struggle with thoughts of not giving to causes that I have a personal connection to. But I’ve come to terms with it by reminding myself that I don’t have much to give away (therefore I want it to be focused on something that will likely work and get the most “bang for my buck”), and that I shouldn’t value people’s lives differently just because they live in the same country or have had the same experiences as I have.

So, I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve decided to focus 100% of my donations to GiveWell’s discretion because they have the resources to make decisions on which charities are the most effective and which charities have room for more funding. What they do is they take this money and distribute 100% of it to the short list of charities that need it the most. They do a lot of research on cost-effectiveness and impact, so that gives me confidence that the money is going to the right places.

I’ve also decided to bump my donations from 1% to 3% of my pre-tax income.

I’m glad that I got to take a second look at my assumptions and challenge my thinking on giving. I think this is a step in the right direction, but I’m always open to changing my mind as I learn new things. If you can relate to this experience of not knowing where to give, I hope you find this at least a little bit helpful. Here’s a good starting point: Giving 101.

Visiting Singapore

If you’re interested in following my newsletter, sign up here!

I couldn’t get on the plane the last time I tried to go to Singapore. I had a passport that was going to expire in less than thirty days, so they couldn’t let me in. And even if they did, immigration would just send me back.

I should’ve done my homework.

Fast forward a year and a half later, I finally got to fly out and visit my friends in Singapore for the first time. A few of them have moved to the city-state for work so I flew over there as part of my sorta-yearly trip to the Philippines.

I only stayed there for five days, but Singapore is probably my favorite city—at least as a tourist. First of all, the airport itself is a tourist attraction. It features sights like the rain vortex—a towering indoor waterfall that pumps collected rainwater onto a glass roof. I also liked how it created a fine mist that was enough to cool you down, but not enough to get you wet.

Singapore’s public transit is fast. I got to zip around the city easily and got to meet people on time—even during peak hours—thanks to all the money that they put into their trains and buses.

All I needed was Citymapper and a WiFi hotspot to find my way.

Wait times have been very short in my experience, and data shows that that’s true: There is a 12 min average wait time in Singapore compared to 16 minutes in Philadelphia.

I’ve also never seen a city as green as Singapore before. It has so much greenery that the place is a literal urban jungle.

I find that it’s somehow able to satisfy my desire to be in nature without ever having to take a trip and leave the city. There are a lot of parks to go around and a lot of plants along the sidewalk. There’s even a car-free path distributed all over Singapore called the Park Connector Network where people can bike without any worries.

I ate so much while I was there. The cuisine was so new to me that I just had to try whatever I could get my hands on. It’s also relatively cheap if you went to eat out at hawker stands which costs about S$3 to S$10.

My favorite breakfast when I was there was laksa paired with coffee and condensed milk.

There were so many places that I wasn’t able to go to like the zoo or the botanical garden, so I’ll try to make it out there again in the future. I’m also eyeing neighboring countries as well, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Till next time!

Yurts and books.

If you’re interested in following my newsletter, sign up here!

I’ve always had trouble reading fiction. Reading is often informational and a source of personal growth for me so I’ve had a tendency to reach for non-fiction books on my down time.

Reading non-fiction for me had made a lot of sense because it’s very relevant to my everyday life. Just take a look at the titles of the books that I’ve read recently:

But recently I’ve been thinking that it’s about time I read outside of my comfort zone. I felt like I was missing something because I didn’t know how to read imagined worlds and stories. Or at least I didn’t have the patience for it. I could watch movies and TV shows, but I couldn’t sit down and read. I think a part of it is that other forms of media are more attractive compared to a book:

There is no team of brilliant and vaguely sinister engineers, cooking up ways to get you binge reading. There is no auto-play technology frictionlessly delivering you from one chapter of the novel you’re reading to the next. There is only you, alone in the silence of your room with a chapter break before you and your phone cooing at you from the dresser. No one could blame you for putting “The Count of Monte Cristo” back on the bedside table where it spends its days. Maybe, like a long-forgotten glass of water, it will evaporate of its own accord.

Why You Should Start Binge-Reading Right Now
Just the idea of a vampire running a suicide hotline was enough to engage me. There are bits and pieces of familiar vampire lore in the book, but the rest of it was unexpected and new to me. It’s basically about a vampire who took it upon himself to give advice because of his old age.

I appreciated that the book had a mix of both humor and dark themes like rape, murder, and, suicide. (Not for kids!)

Anyway, I guess I’m just happy that I’m starting to get into fiction. Next up on my queue is The Quelling.

Andrea and I stayed at a yurt in Connecticut last weekend to get out of the city. We mostly slept in and enjoyed the sound of rain falling on the tarp.

We stayed at a farm that had Scottish highland cattle roaming around. They were very cute.

Community. Prom. Philippines.

If you’re interested in following my newsletter, sign up here!

I’m starting to love it here in South Philly. I’m really feeling a sense of community since I moved. Last week I split my WiFi (now paying only $15/month!) and compost bucket with my downstairs neighbor.

It’s also incredibly easy to find community-based activities around the area like cooking classes and volunteer work.

Design Work & Visualizations.

I recently wrote about my design process for redesigning a form at work, and I also did some visualizations on global warming.

Speaking of global warming, there are so many issues going on in the world that it’s super easy for me to get overwhelmed and end up not doing anything, so I thought maybe I could at least I could focus on climate change. It seems that governments have the biggest impact in this issue so I’ve personally been using 5calls, GovTrack, and ResistBot to contact state officials and congress, and I’ve started to donate 1% of my monthly income to organizations that advocate for policy change ($1,080 per year):


Andrea has been planning and preparing a prom-themed fundraiser for the non-profit organization 12PLUS, and a few friends and I went and had a lot of fun!

Unfortunately Andrea and I didn’t get to go on the photo booth together so here’s us being bums the next day.

Philippines & Singapore.

I’ve also started to plan my trip to the Philippines and Singapore because I’ll be leaving on May 28 to June 25. It’s coming up! I won’t be able to text, but you can reach me on Telegram or WhatsApp!

I moved!

If you’re interested in following my newsletter, sign up here!

So I’ve been packing my stuff into boxes all week, and I’ve finally moved into my new place and unpacked! It feels like I’ve been preparing for this for a while now, and I’m glad it’s over.

Two things I did differently this time: I got the boxes for free by asking grocery stores and liquor stores, and I also hired movers to move everything for me. (Definitely worth hiring people!)

Other than that I also got to write about my design process at work. I wrote about redesigning forms.

Moving, Maps, and Food

If you’re interested in following my newsletter, sign up here!

Hey there!

I’m currently prepping to move to my new place on 2023 S. 17th Street, Philadelphia. It’s a lot cheaper than my current place because it’s a lot more residential than commercial.

I’m excited to be saving around $600 a month! I’ll be moving on May 4.

I’ve also been writing about data visualization on my blog recently looking at my own public transit data and the city’s biking data. Here’s a video of me presenting at my co-working space.

I’ve also been making a lot of food recently, and my favorite has been paella and gochujang mushroom bowls. They were surprisingly easy to make and I didn’t get tired of them at all.

I also had a little fermentation club with a few buds. One taught how to make bread, one pickling, and I taught how to make yogurt.

And that’s it! Hope you’re doing alright.

A Tour of Philly + Making Dumplings

If you’re interested in following my newsletter, sign up here!

I miss how incredibly easy it was for me to stay in touch with people on Instagram.

I could snap a picture and tell people where I was, what was doing, and how much fun I was having. Of course, the downside was that everyone else did the same thing.

Whenever I used the app, I would feel anxious and inadequate because I couldn’t help but compare myself to other people. I also felt drained because I somehow believed that I needed to keep up with strangers on the Internet who were always doing new and exciting things. And as time went on, I gradually ended up equating my self-worth to the number of “hearts” and “likes” that I got on my posts. The more hearts I got, the more I felt like I was succeeding in life.

It was bad.

I didn’t get much sleep either because I would mindlessly scroll through that bottomless feed for several hours past my bedtime. But now that I’m not on social media, I’ve been thinking about how I could maybe use e-mail (I know!) as a non-addictive way for me to update friends and family.

I hope it’s alright that I added your e-mail in this newsletter. You’re free to unsubscribe, filter, ignore, or archive as you please!

Cousins Visit Philly

Paige and Danica came over for President’s Day weekend to visit and get a tour of Philly. We were all over the place, hopping on virtually every available SEPTA transit!

  • Reading Terminal Market
  • Mütter Museum
  • Amalgam Comics
  • Atomic City Comics
  • Free Library Of Philadelphia
  • Magic Gardens
  • Eastern State Penitentiary

Mütter Museum

I had never been to Mütter myself, so it was interesting (and a bit nauseating) to see all sorts of medical oddities and history like enlarged colons, rare skeletal disorders, cysts, and civil war era medicine.

Eastern State Penitentiary

Steve Buscemi’s voice guided us through the penitentiary as we listened to the audio tour on our headphones. The place was designed to “inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners” and influenced other prisons in the US. Not only did they talk about the history of prisons, but they also explain the causes of today’s mass incarceration.


Andrea and I made dumplings from scratch! Well, except for the wrapper. The filling had pork, shiitake, carrots, and cabbage, and it filled around 80 dumplings. I had a few failed attempts at making the dumpling, but it was surprisingly easy to get into the groove of things.