Thursday, December 25, 2008

The stones get bigger and bigger

A piece of fatherly advice that my uncle offered to one of my cousins at dinner tonight, as initially inscrutable as it was unsolicited, and repeated several times. We were picking on my cousin's "dating history" and had begun to move away from the topic when this gem was placed before us. I think what he was getting at is that by not picking the first stone you see on the beach, you have a chance to examine and choose from the bounty that remains, and that each time you pick up a stone, you will have picked a better stone. This did not come across right away, and we had a good long wtf moment to savor with one another. This was by far the most interactive Christmas dinner in history, maybe because there were fewer people so us kids could line up all along one side of the table. Also, I cooked the majority of it. I started by making cioppino stock last night, then this afternoon put together mashed potatoes, stuffed peppers (a la mrs. L), macaroni and cheese, and completed cioppino. Janice and Arthur got in around 3, rousing me from my nap, and we piled into the kitchen together. Janice made some nice bruschetta for everyone to snack on while waiting for the rest of the family to arrive, and Arthur heated up the ham and made the glaze for it.

So, a note on the peppers. These turned out very well, but I have to put a warning here to my future self: wear gloves next time, for heaven's sake. The peppers themselves looked pretty mild, and having eaten them before, I was under the impression that the heat level was fairly low. Well, it is, but that doesn't actually matter when it comes to using your bare hands to tear out the seeds. After a while, I found myself staring at my hands, wondering why I felt like they were covered in tiny little cuts. Could I have been that careless with the knife? Probably like an hour later (ok, maybe half an hour), I realized that, oh, the acid or capsaicin or whatever was burning invisibly through my flesh. So I dunked them in milk. Then rinsed them with beer. Now, nearly 12 hours, several hand-washings and a long shower later, my right hand is most definitely still on fire. It's like having my fingers on a hot range. Ooooooow.

Ok, speaking of, I just had to go flush my hand under cold water. And now I shall continue. Food was pretty good. Got a little paranoid with the cioppino, so the fish was a bit overcooked maybe. Dinner didn't last long. Afterwards, some of us sat down to watch a few episodes of How I Met Your Mother, while others started going through old medical supplies. Eventually, I ended up downstairs with Arthur, Janice, and Alex, watching the Top Chef Christmas special.

Afterwards, Janice was really into the idea of dessert. I... wasn't hungry, but I did really have a hankering for whipped cream, and you can generally get me on board to cook around midnight as long as someone else will be doing the dishes. Also, this was the first time post- late nite cooking show that I had enough ingredients/eaters on-hand to fulfill any culinary cravings. Janice thought crepes sounded like a good idea (possibly inspired by the sudden death-round offering of one of the remaining chefs), so we ventured back upstairs to search out the recipe and rustle up interest. Turns out one of my uncles had eaten 5 slices of raisin bread because he'd really wanted dessert. So I whipped up a chocolate sauce, very easy, just by heating up some milk, stirring in some cocoa powder, adding half a large bar of dark chocolate, removing from heat, whisking up, and tossing in some cinnamon and powdered sugar. It had a slightly liquid-chalk appearance before serving since some of the stuff was thrown in after the mixture had cooled, but it was still smooth, drizzly, and tasty. Arthur was de facto in charge of crepe batter and, never having made crepes before, did a really good job and keeping them thin, spongy, and moist, though the shapes ended up being rather non-traditional. Janice raided the fridge, peeling and cutting several apples, then threw them in a skillet with some butter, brown sugar (why do I keep wanting to spell that "shugar?"), vanilla, and spices. She then cut up some bananas, and also put them in butter. I added brown sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg to that. We tried mixing up some whipped cream, but the hand mixer doesn't get enough air in to actually make this work. I pulled the whisk from chocolate duty and started on the cream that way, and it was successful. I set Daniel up with the heavy arm-work, and once he got the hang of it, he whipped up some pretty nice cream. When everything finished, we set up an assembly line, and everyone came to get dessert!

Very fun. Afterwards, Arthur and Janice left with the dog, and I went for my shower. On a completely separate note: I LOVE my new hairstyle. I don't know if this can ever be replicated or not, but I hope so! Maybe I can find some reason to take pictures of myself before it starts doing its own thing again... On another separate note: I'm screwed with these apps. Haven't worked on them in earnest in a week or possibly more. Eek!

Ok, fingers still searing hot. I'm assuming I'll be able to sleep with this going on, and that it'll have burned itself out by morning.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

See you on the other side

Ok, so not to be negative or anything, but it's been really windy outside for the past 12 hours straight and it's gotten me to thinking about whether or not I'll be making it home on time/in one piece for the holidays. I've been a little edgy about flying since last January, and all this winter storm advisory stuff hanging over the places I'm flying through on my dates of travel makes me uneasy. Continental has a re-accomodation option right now for both Newark and CVG through the 22nd, and I'm like... better safe than sorry? That's a huge pain though, I just really really really want to go home!

Ok, article at makes it sound as though the worst of the storm should be past by the time I land in Newark on Monday... so... yeah, let's hope that's the case. I think I just am not that comfortable with the idea of most of our flight coming over the Arctic and the Canadian northeast.

Anyways, it's probably not the best idea tempting-fate-wise to go posting this on the internet, but in case I ever go down in a plane (which, I realized last night, the probability gets higher as I fly more) my loved ones (you know who you are) are welcome to search out my passwords and read all my diaries and tell the relevant people what I've always thought about them. Just don't be too embarrassed for me, please.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Maybe I'm addicted to caffeine again?

I should actually be working on my plan for my project in the spring, but I just spent a few hours editing something for the cardiovascular hospital (and i do mean a few hours), so I'd like to take a breather. I'm surprisingly not into being awake right now, even though it's not yet 11:30 (though, ideally, I'd be in bed within half an hour from now), and I also took the opportunity to pass out for about 3 hours after lunch. I can explain that part though. I got a bit of a headache this morning that I exacerbated by making the 20-25 minute walk home for lunch. I thought it would be nice to get some fresh air and sun and exercise since I'd likely be spending the rest of the day cooped up with various tasks, but did not account for very cold wind. By the time I got up to the apartment, I was feeling all kinds of unpleasant sensations.

I have been wondering a bit about the state of my body recently. As far as I know, I'm eating well, sleeping all right (certainly not as much as I'd like... usually about 5-7 hours a night, 8 on the weekends). But sometimes I'll be walking and... I go out of phase with my body for a moment. It's unsettling, like I lose signal from my limbs for a second or so and just have to wait to get it back again. At those times my arms and legs go all wobbly and my head takes on a gelatinous quality while my vision loses a bit of distinction. Totally weird. I don't think I'm sick. Besides, the illness I had a couple weeks ago was all sinuses and didn't even give me a headache. I'd guess maybe it's stress, but I'm kind of in a state of denial about all my work right now. Not that I don't know that I should be doing it, and not that I'm not doing it (though slowly for lack of looming deadlines) but just... I'm unnaturally cheerful and inexplicably willing to play hours of Free Cell.

Couple other things to talk about. What were they...?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

They made me do it

I hope whoever's reading gets a good laugh out of this.

I went, bitterly, to the school yesterday afternoon to give my "speech." I'd just made a series of notes of things to touch on, and assumed that my rambling ways would fill at least 45 minutes, and that the students would be sufficiently curious to ask a few questions that would let me ramble a further 15 minutes. I went and started talking... the room was actually pretty full, and a lot of my students were there. I chose to gauge myself based on the face of a particular student, who was smiling and nodding most of the time, but about 10 minutes in, I realized that I'd lost most of the room. Soooo I just kept going. I finished with 10 minutes for questions, but there were none. The student who was chairing the lecture got up and said "due to the time, we should bring the lecture to a close..." and THEN suggested that I perform in some way for their entertainment. They wanted song or dance. Obviously I was not going to dance. And sing? Moi? You may not know this about me, but I love singing. But I love singing so that you do not know about it. I'm happy to do it in the shower, in my car, in an empty house, at drunken karaoke... yeah, that's fine. And I'd hazard that, in the absence of anyone to critique my ability, I ain't bad. But I'm sorry, put me on the spot and expect me to serenade you out of my ass, and you're in for an unpleasant experience. Anyways, there was more than 100 of them, and one of me, and this boy very humbly came up and expressed profound interest in it, and I couldn't think of any way to escape... I thought actually how much I wished I was a dude. Dudes I think can really respond to a song request however they want. Girls have some bizarre reputation to uphold with their tinking voices and such. So... I cleared my throat... a lot... reminded them that I was sick (I don't think they understood me) and after a long awkward worst performance of "Another Day" EVER. OH MY GOD I haven't been so embarrassed in a long time. Long long time. I did not like how I felt at the end of that ordeal. I made the insistent student come up and sing also, and he came up bashfully, then like... broke into a rolicking rendition of some Chinese song about a pretty girl (I was implicated here), and it was fun. Then we were all dismissed. I spent like the next hour trying to figure out what I could have done differently to make that any less of a traumatic experience. Sigh.

Other things of note: I was recently trapped in the revolving door at the front of the Archives building. Not like I was spinning around infinitely. Like I must have dodged the sensor somehow, so the door didn't speed up once I entered it, instead rotating at what I'm assuming is its energy conserving velocity. It very clearly printed (in Chinese) at face-level (for me) on the glass not to push the door. But not quite understanding the mechanism behind the door's movement, I figured it was a 50-50 chance that pushing on it would get me out sooner, as opposed to like... setting off an alarm or something. I nudged it slightly, found that it was unforgiving, and decided just to wait and walk very slowly until I reached open air. Then I heard the guard behind me yelling. It seemed like he was saying "[something something] push it!" Well, since I wasn't pushing it, it seemed unlikely that he was telling me to stop. So after a few moments and still not quite getting what he was saying to me, I gave the door a hearty shove. Aaaand it stopped moving altogether, positioned just so I had no hope of escape either forward or backward, like a bug in a jar. A group of workers standing just outside burst into laughter. I... also laughed. The guard behind me laughed and came to my rescue. My first such experience.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Blathering about culture speech

What that whole thing was supposed to segue into was a scratch sheet for this dumb speech I have to give tomorrow. Like I said, I remembered it last night right as I was settling in to watch some Dex before bed. I cussed a bunch, regretted the whole situation, and groaned both inwardly and outwardly, but actually I think I just felt really guilty for having forgotten and not worked on it at all. So what's going down is that tomorrow afternoon I'm going to be set loose in an auditorium of up to 100 students (likely less) to give a speech for culture month. I've been asked to talk about "college life in America." Apparently, there's a teacher from New Zealand (blogger insists that this is spelled wrong. why must it make me doubt myself?) who will be giving a simultaneous talk on Western lit. Um, ok dude. So... what on earth am I going to say to them?

I suppose I'd like to talk about the whole getting-into-college process. I plan on going somewhat into the "infinite possibilities" spiel, but also want to be... sensitive about it because this is a vocational college and they sort of don't have those there, or at least that's what I've been getting. I'm obviously going to talk a bit about my own experiences, but I don't really want this to turn into one big "well, when I was in college" tale, because there is no random discovery of money at the end of it to make it of particular interest. Also, isn't that a bit pedantic? I guess I could talk a bit about the pluralization of college. Pluralization? Popularization? Populization? That last one doesn't make it through spell-check. But then neither do any contractions or, for that matter "New Zealand." What makes college culture in the US? It's the freedom of exploration right? We're safe to go just about as far out there as we want in terms of research and expression. It's like being in a biosphere on another planet. OH SHIT THAT'S WHAT MY DREAM WAS ABOUT THIS AFTERNOON. Man, that was suuuch a weird dream. You're so far away from the things that troubled you before you went, and you're not quite into the things that will trouble you once you leave. It's about discovering the world and yourself. And to do that, you need your professors, your libraries, your quiet places, and your fellow students. What dominated my college experience? Late nights. God, how many nights weren't late nights? I had late nights enjoying company, laughing and playing and whatever. And lots of really intense nights working like a mofo. I had so much more energy in college to devote to stuff like that, and a lot of enthusiasm (well, and also plain old-fashioned fear). Yeah, late nights working. I just... recall so many. But few specifics. Also dominating-- extracurricular... stuff. Getting involved in lots of stuff. Getting to know what I liked and didn't like about being in groups. Meeting tons of new people and working with them on... stuff. Haha.

Oh wait I can shower now. Brb.

It seems to me all of a sudden that maybe this is best continued not on blogger. Not that it would necessarily be any more productive in any other medium, but I want more ease of mobility.

I want futuristic touch screens!

Inner tickings

What I'd really like to do now is shower (like, I'd really really like to shower), but as there are reporters here interviewing Mrs. L, I guess I should be prudent and hold off on that.

My mind hasn't really recovered yet from last week. I'm no longer sick, I don't think. In any case, I'm not snotting up as much anymore, and when I do have to blow my nose, the product is no longer neon enough to grab my attention. Sunday night I took Tylenol cold nighttime medication and basically had to come home yesterday afternoon to sleep the rest of it out of my system for about 4 hours. Or 5? Funny I can't recall. What's troublesome of course is that I can't seem to get things in order. It's like some sort of bizarre manifestation of ptsd. I keep making lists of things I have to do, and it's gotten longer within the past hour or so just while I was at dinner. Write an article about the TCSVA and donate it to Nov's blog. Write two new statements of purpose for UM, preferably before I board my flight on the 22nd. Write a speech for the college's cultural festival to be given tomorrow afternoon (obviously I've gotta get on that one). Ponder the menu for this year's Christmas feast. Shop and purchase gifts online (based on their website Express really doesn't seem like it wants my money at all). Pick a topic for Harvard's silly analysis essay. Draw out a plan for a weekly kid's activity day for the springtime, to be presented to the secretary before I leave next Friday. File Berk's DCRP supplemental form before the 15th. Start thinking about what I'm going to tell the SD people when my interview eventually rolls around. Write a "why you should extend my visa" essay for the authorities. Respond to e-mails.

You know, those kinds of things. Without an applications deadline looming close, it's hard for me to apportion my time. I was doing pretty well before the great brain sewage backup of 3/4/5 weeks ago... whenever it was that I started working on the SD application. What I have now is the illusion of respite, and I really need to fight this. It's just sad because I haven't had much of a chance to get to know this town, and there's some new friends here that I should really be spending more time with, and honestly there's some volunteer stuff that I haven't been able to commit myself to, because I've been hunkered down with these apps. Because I want to dual degree at UM, I think I need to specialize my SPs some more, and that's going to take time if not a fresh start. And both are due at the same time. But between now and then is the stress of travel and then the holidays. And I can't really work up to the deadline this time, because not a week after comes Harvard, who wants customized everything, then not a week after that, several other schools on the same day. Daaaaang my adrenaline just went up.

Oh, another thing: pay my cell phone bill!

Last night I suddenly remembered that I had this speech thing tomorrow and I flipped. At the time I was also just being generally upset about the fact that I'd have to teach this morning. Like I told someone earlier today, it's my least favorite part of the week. I don't mean the actual teaching part. I don't think I really mind being in the classroom, hanging out with the students, talking and so on... but everything leading up to that is just torture for me. When that occurred to me last night, vividly, I changed my gchat status to "I don't think I'm a very good person." The point was not to fish for responses like "oh no you're not," of which, thanks, I got a few. The point was that I really just felt like a shitty person. Why don't I like teaching anymore? I... can't explain really, because the explanation doesn't match like... the fury of the emotion that I actually feel when I think about it. It's just a matter of, I didn't want to do that anymore. I expected that I'd have to a little bit while I was here, because oddly that's my area of expertise, but that wasn't what I wanted to spend all my time doing. And yet somehow I've been forced by etiquette into a situation where most of my volunteer commitment is teaching. It's also not as though I spend much time in lesson preparation. Then I'd really be annoyed and probably for a better reason. No, I decided that I don't mind doing this for peanuts if no one expected more than an organized chat session from me. I got very irate a couple months ago during a coversation with Nov about the inclusion/execution of English language education in the system here, and I realized that it's not something that I want any formal part of anymore. I don't mind tutoring. Despite having turned down several tutoring requests (I could possibly be rolling in the dough right now, but then I wouldn't have been able to complete my applications or maintain a real semblance of mental stability), I enjoy it, because it gives me a chance to really focus on someone. You know, I've always sort of functioned better one-on-one. If I'm going to put any amount of effort into helping someone, I want that person to be putting at least as much into helping themselves. And I feel like a jerk for saying this, but I don't get that kind of cooperation as the kind of teacher I am. It's not that I don't feel like teachers have a responsibility to cultivate that, but for a casual oral English teacher? Good freakin luck. Don't get me wrong either. I've had some really great students and some very successful classes. But it's just not that time of my life right now, where I have that sort of patience to devote to classes and classes of people who may or may not care. I did it for a year, and I may very well do it again, but now? Now's me-time.

Which is a problem. I've been getting to know me-time pretty well over the past two years, and while it's very empowering sometimes, I look back on it and feel just plain selfish, and in a bad way. I feel lazy or withholding or overly demanding. I realize a lot of times when I ask to be left alone or elect to stay indoors working while other people go out to shop or eat, I'm doing myself a huge favor. That's how I've been able to stay on schedule so far for these apps. But that's easy to forget. I mean, if you recall, the weekend before last I never left the building. When I finally did, the construction site outside had made so much progress that I might have been Rip Van Winkle. That's only a minor exaggeration.

Today I was listening to Mrs. L tell more of her stories. And every day you hear people telling stories about her and her generosity or whatever. And I think, man, I am not like that at all right now. I wish I could give more freely of my time. After all, that's the very reason I'm even here. But after rationalizing everything into pros and cons, I find that I'm still conserving a lot for myself. I'm sure my friends would come to my defense and say that it's all for good reason. But... the truth is that things are very lame right now. And add on top of that how I want so very badly to back out of all my teaching obligations. I am so not a good person right now.

I'll be glad when January is up. I mean, assuming that everything goes according to plan and I don't screw up my essays too badly. As disappointing as the fall was (and, let's face it, it always is), I'm looking forward to the spring and can't wait for the summer. Assuming that at least one school says "yeah, ok, why not" I'll be good to go. There's some things in the works and I had them listed then reneged at the last second because I didn't want to jinx myself. I don't mind talking about it in person though, so I can do that with anyone that I haven't already told.

I've been watching the second season of Dexter. I was doing it as sort of a calming-down ritual before I moved to the dorm, but picked it up again this weekend to feel like I had some free time to throw around. The simple idea of being able to actually sit down and watch an hour-long show over the internet is very therapeutic. This afternoon though I found myself identifying with him a little bit. Like... when I think too much about myself and what I want, things tend to get a little rough. Haha, that's as far as the comparison really goes. Beyond that, it's just me thinking how it's easier when I don't explicitly have to worry about myself. I used to do it instinctively and use more of the active part of my brain to deal with other stuff (totally made it up just now). Recently though, I've just been focusing on myself so much that it makes me very uncomfortable. So I'll be glad when I don't have to do that anymore. I feel like right now though, I'd better keep doing it until all the more urgent priorities are taken care of. Surprisingly, I owe it to a lot of people right now to do a good job on these apps. I feel like I've sort of been letting them down with the first few, but we'll see.

This post is getting too long.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Funny, I don't feel like I have my life back...

Three down! I was so excited to be able to take a break after this one, but it occurs to me that that's a really bad idea. I'm feeling a little depressed now because I don't think my application materials were the best. Well, I've got a month until the next two... Did I have more to say besides this? Probably I got sidetracked though and I'm not really fully functioning right now either...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Ok I take it back

I have decided to quit being so crotchety and admit that I'm not as annoyed now with the essay prompt as I was last night. Ok fine, also it's because I read it a few more times, closely. Also because the department's characterization of the essay is slightly different from the graduate division's. I'm sort of almost done with it, but it's coming slowly. I'm finding that I'm easily distracted at this point. Also though, I think what I'm writing is somehow missing the point, so I'll need to do a bunch of tweaking to make sure I get it in 750 words or less...

It's late again wtf

I'm working on this essay now, but I just wanted to state for the record that I kind of resent the phrasing of the prompt. And no, this isn't just be complaining because I don't want to write anymore (though to be totally honest, I would be very happy sleeping right now). Way to be really specific about the type of story you obviously want to hear while still managing to use the word "might."

In an essay, discuss how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Please include any educational, familial, cultural, economic, or social experiences, challenges, or opportunities relevant to your academic journey; how you might contribute to social or cultural diversity within your chosen field; and/or how you might serve educationally underrepresented segments of society with your degree.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Touch me

Monday night I wound up doing some random interpretations for an acquaintance, then afterwards collapsing in a heap on the couch. Rather than do any work, which would have required energy that I didn't quite have at that point, I caught up on something like a week's worth of episodes from the Daily Show, which I haven't seen since before the election. In one of the episodes, John the correspondent went to investigate CNN's giant touchscreen and interviewed its developer. I got really excited at this point... something stimulated the Jetson-envy part of my brain. First of all, that screen is exactly what I need right now to rearrange all my essays and stuff. Second... oh my goodness, it's meant to be touched! And when it is touched it does what you want! What a wonderful piece of technology.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Chalk up another

Well now that's over-with. What an interesting weekend that will be embarrassing to recount for weeks to come. I quite literally haven't left the apartment since Friday afternoon (it is now Monday afternoon). I showered once and subsisted mainly on a diet of coffee and chesnuts. The evidence was scattered on all the tables up until this morning, damp bags of coffee grounds by the pot on the stove, and jagged nut casings on plates, in bags, on tissues, and on paper towels. Pretty disgraceful. At mealtime I'd treat myself to rice and a fried egg... sometimes two fried eggs. The little trash bin is a tower of tissues (I was allergic to something on Saturday) and eggshells. This afternoon I'll have to buy eggs to replace the ones I ate, and bread to replace the bread I ate. Otherwise I'd feel like a jerk. But there are no chesnuts left, I have no soap left, and no facewash left. Good thing today was the last day. Well... sort of...

Last night I was reading an article in New York Magazine (ok this one: and thinking... wow, I'm so at risk right now. Looking forward to venturing outdoors today. Human interaction's gonna be awesome.

I went to bed sometime between 3:30 and 4 am, got back up between 7-7:30. I stayed up late to get everything to a place where I could feel comfortable about leaving it... had heartburn for a while, one assumes from all the coffee I've been imbibing. Surprisingly alert right now. I guess it's just the rush of freedom, sweet freedom. Only not really...

I wound up being "that guy" this morning when I decided to take a strategic day off library translating in order to finish my application and spruce up the apartment for when the owners return with their guests on Wednesday. Turns out that they were hoping I could judge a skit-reading this morning... something I'd been prepared to do the week before my trip, but since I had no way of knowing ahead of time no one's really to blame, right?

My intention is to sleep in "my" bed tonight, back in the dorm. I haven't stayed there in almost 2 weeks. I've been wearing the same combination of clothes since then, though that might just be a function of my only packing 3 long-sleeve shirts in my entire suitcase. Do some life maintenance. Tomorrow... crap, tomorrow's Tuesday. I guess that means that I should be doing some work tonight too. Berkeley's deadline is up this Friday. I just re-examined the application and realize that I need to produce some sort of statement of purpose fission. That should be... no fun. Hahaha.

Ok, back to life!

Sunday, November 30, 2008


I've hit a low. It's kinda weird. Got up early today, feels like hours ago, accomplished things to the degree that I wanted them to be accomplished by a given time, then suddenly... it was like the key in my back stopped turning. I decided to take a nap and clear my head of stuff, and that sort of worked. I woke up slightly disoriented as always though with Passion Pit's "Sleepyhead" jaunting around my head, refreshed but somehow sadder than before.

I'm actually pretty sure that it's a function of afternoon light. I realize now that I don't really like afternoon light. It's a little depressing and, counter-intuitively, just doesn't have the same quality as morning light. It seems like once 12 noon rolls around, the rest of the solar cycle should just be a rewinded version of what took place that morning. But no.

I'm really such a morning person, assuming I can ever get my ass out of bed in time. I like the dark before the sun rises, and I like the sparse white light that you get before 8am, and I like how bright the world seems until 11:59. The morning moves more slowly than the afternoon. It's easier to focus in the morning and there's nothing to be afraid of in the morning (well... unless something really horrible is about to happen... usually late morning or the afternoon). If shit does go down in the morning, you have the rest of the day to recover.

It's harder to light a room in the afternoon. Right now, the setting sun is kinda making things dark, making shadows longer and so on, and so I've turned on a lot of lights. You kind of can't tell, and everything's still got that rusty tint to it.

Don't even get me started on evenings.

It's also right about now that everyone's going to sleep back home, so I can look forward to a whole lotta isolation over the next several hours.

Thanks to my deadline, I haven't exactly left the apartment since I got back on Friday afternoon. I've only been able to communicate with a few people, via the internet mostly, since then. I guess that's depressing too. Can't wait until the 6th, when I get a slight reprieve from all this. I mean, I could really only afford to take like a weekend off, but how good is that going to feel? I'm looking forward to the New Year with like every fiber of my being... with the exception of the ones now dedicated to the task at hand. Those cry: "NO! MORE TIME MORE TIME"

Back to work! The afternoon's short (another reason it depresses me), but it's gonna be a much longer night ahead than I'd thought.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Save me!

oh WOW this is a DISASTER! I can't write anything but the most useless drivel for this absurd essay. There's no obvious reason why this shouldn't have been done 5 hours after I started it LAST FRIDAY. And I'm now behind and running out of steam on this whole project. I may... sleep very little tonight. Anyways, I'm just going to complain a little bit about this to blow off some, um, more steam, and then I'll go back to whatever it was I was doing (sobbing inwardly in front of a defaced word processor screen). So, as I was saying earlier, I'm having a hard time talking about my good points without sounding like either a douchebag or a department store mannequin. So the irony here is that I come off looking way worse at the end of it all, which, I'm thinkin, isn't quite the point. There's something... something I'm doing wrong. I know it. I still haven't figured out what yet, well, outside of "everything," but nothing specific/helpful in the the slightest yet. All I know is that this is the incorrect approach. The research team that I've deployed to look into this matter has returned absolutely nothing of substance quite yet, but their desperate voices have suggested that I look into writing the weaknesses essay instead. At least that way I get to defame myself to my heart's content and that's easily upwards of 500 words at this point. Honestly, this whole "describe your strengths thing" was never my bag anyways. Sure, we can converse about it off the record or we can hang out for a bit and you can figure them out for yourself, but who honestly wants to offer up their insides on a silver platter just so a group of higher up hoo-has can compare it against other people's silver platters and then somehow make a value judgement based on its contents? And just how important is the platter? Does it matter whether it's like the "chills in the curio until the queen of france comes to visit" type of platter or the "i found a box of forks on the roadside and recycled them with the blowtorch in my garage" type of platter? You know which I'd prefer. Ok my left hand is wigging out again. Best I save it for the real battle.


Does anyone remember Amazin' Fruit gummy bears and how they were such a big deal when they first came out? I just thought of them because every time something is "amazing" a peal of "amaaaaazin'" sounds in my head.

Anyways, I've taken to doodling again, something I haven't really done so much since maybe junior high, and the margins of my notebook are getting kind of crowded and a little awkward. Also recurring: impulsive snacking and ceaseless whining. Also looking to others for comforting words when the true keeper of my salvation is someone I don't really want to have anything to do with at this point (that'd be me). Falling back into the old habits of distress. I think if I'd been a smoker at any time in my life and quit, I'd probably be lighting up right about now too.

Bleeeeeh. Bleeeeeeeh.

What obviously upsets me is the simplicity of this particular essay prompt. How injurious.

Well now I'm just angry thinking about it. I oughta go knock some teeth out of this thing. BRB.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Not one of them

Struggling here. In my quest for a satisfactory intro to this essay, I came up with this:

I have gone skiing a few times. My performance on each occasion could be fairly summarized as gleefully riding a chairlift up a big hill, skidding to the edge of the plateau, then commencing a sustained roll down the side of the hill, flinging equipment hither and yon, acting as a moving obstacle for teams of graceful 5-year-olds, and perhaps maintaining an upright position for a few fleeting moments before wiping out at last in front of the lodge. Skiing is not one of my strengths.

Neither, as has been painfully evident over the years, is writing introductory paragraphs.

Naming conventions

Currently trying to put together an essay for UC San Diego. It's the classic problem though of just how to begin. I spent all afternoon brainstorming and harassing people for their opinions, and I think I know where I'm bound with this topic, but... that first paragraph? Elusive as ever. But in the interest of writing something somewhere, I'm going to put down something I've been giggling about to myself for weeks now.

It's always fun to contemplate the origins of the English names you encounter among friends and students in this country. Generally it's as one would expect, middle school classes where Bobs and James' predominate thanks to a hasty scan of the textbook, and your requisite Lily's and Linas thanks to their resemblance to the pinyin of the person's actual name. Among certain high schoolers you get names like "Killer" and "Wolf King" as either defiant self expression or an in-your-face to the teacher that one rationalizes with "well, at least he's using English." Among others, you meet Kobe Bryant and Alan Iverson. Then, though, you find surprisingly high concentrations of Irises and Fionas, which leads me to my favorite aspect of all this. I know I'm guilty of this too in the name lists that I've drawn up, but you can always tell a little bit about the foreigners who have preceded you in any given place by the trail of English names that they've left in their wake. I remember naming students with Russ one day and hearing a number of suggestions that might have been more en vogue in byegone days. So I was thinking, how would you feel if you walked into a room of Chinese people and discovere that their names were all...

1) a series of preppy names like "blake" and "aspen"
2) post-prep androgyny, like "bryce" and "avery"
3) of the tradition that brought us "k'neisha" and "deshawn"
4) familiars like "jim bob" and "emmylou"
5) the entire cast of the star wars films
6) disney characters
7) characters from prime time TV
8) Arthurian legends
9) from the old testament
10)brought to you by the letter "G"
11) not English

I'd be so happy.

What do I do now?

I just got a tremendous urge to buy something. You know, just to boost the endorphins a bit. I probably would not have actually made a purchase, but I wanted to alleviate this feeling by doing a little online window shopping. It always makes me feel a bit better and it seems like as good a time as any to get a little bit distracted.

Imagine my distress then when I realized that THERE'S NOTHING I WANT TO BUY. I can't even think of anywhere to shop! An odd sensation, I assure you. I honestly can't even remember where all the things I currently own came from. All right that's figurative, but like... the shorts I'm wearing was a Dick's purchase, my t-shirt was from a concert, my sweatshirt Bear Necessities, the bra was the result of a fun morning at Victoria's Secret, and I can't remember what underwear I have on but I'm sure it's really old anyways.

So... what now?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I count!

After weeks of hand-wringing and nervous ranting:

So it's not too crazy to believe that my vote was in there somewhere today!

Monday, October 20, 2008

kind of grossed out

in the course of my stalking, i have discovered two dead mosquitoes in this room. one was... long gone and kind of white, and that one was under the cabinet. then was another fresher one by the closet. i would like to believe that that's this evening's nemesis, but... that might be wishful thinking. meanwhile i'm extremely sleepy. functioning tomorrow will likely be an issue.

trying to lure it out with my laptop. if no response soon i'm probably just going to pass out.

vengeance will be mine

there are two things in the world i wish i had. ok, while we're at it, there are 3. one is my absentee ballot. come on warren county board of elections! wake up you bastards!

not long ago, i knew the joys of peaceful slumber. i fell asleep some time after 12, and again, not long after awoke having been supped on. i was PISSED. i now have turned on all the lights in my room and have been mounting an all-out offensive on the biggest ugliest flying blood-sucking piece of shit. it will not survive this night, and, granted how tired i am, neither might i. also, it's only big because it's full of my blood and i will not rest until its insides are smeared on the walls.

so, back to those things i wish i had. 1) a citronella candle. i have what is apparently a mosquito repeller, but what i want is one of those things that draws them in and then kills them. i recall the picnic table at our campout back when, and what i waaant is a killing field of mosquitoes. 2) one of those electrified badminton rackets that they've developed over here expressly for frying these little fuckers. I did used to have one of those in Beijing and I am going out tomorrow and buying another one and keeping it by my bed like a shotgun.

if you can't tell i'm really angry and itchy and sleep-deprived. i am doing the latimes crossword.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pfffft. I started the morning by being productive and then spent it all looking at old stuff and reading poems online. None of the other ones I wrote that year are any good, so I shall instead share this one that I just read on the Poetry 180 website.

After Years
Ted Kooser

Today, from a distance, I saw you
walking away, and without a sound
the glittering face of a glacier
slid into the sea. An ancient oak
fell in the Cumberlands, holding only
a handful of leaves, and an old woman
scattering corn to her chickens looked up
for an instant. At the other side
of the galaxy, a star thirty-five times
the size of our own sun exploded
and vanished, leaving a small green spot
on the astronomer's retina
as he stood on the great open dome
of my heart with no one to tell.

More relevant things to come, I promise! I'll get down to work after lunch :)


The google search turned up one or two things of interest, but also revealed that one can no longer find the pastel plant still-life I did in 11th grade or the crappy poem I submitted to Sam's website so that she'd have participants just by typing my name into a search engine. That may be for the best. And I went to flip through the crappy poetry I wrote as a sophomore for a creative writing class and discovered that none of it is on this computer. After a search through the piles of old webmail that I had forwarded to my new address before the Cornell system locked us out, I found it. And it's embarrassing, but you know... why the heck not? Oh GEEZ.


On the way from point A to point B
I discovered a bashful little stowaway,
A miracle and a chance meeting,
A grasshopper on my dashboard.
I discovered the bashful little stowaway,
Sitting demurely on top of my stereo,
A grasshopper on my dashboard,
Politely enduring my taste in loud music.
Sitting demurely atop the stereo,
He eyed the messy passenger seat with obvious indifference,
Politely enduring my exceptionally loud music,
As a vortex billowed outside the open windows.
He eyed the messy passenger seat with indifference,
And I wondered if he was as worried as I was
About the vortex billowing beyond the open windows,
If he were the daredevil type.
I wondered if he was as worried as I was,
I’d never want a guest to go flying out the window,
Even if he were the daredevil type,
Especially one so accepting of the hectic state of my car.
I’d never want my guest to go flying out the window
Before we reached our destination,
And he modestly accepts me with my hectic car.
I marveled at the bonds between strangers.

Before we’d reached a destination,
On the way from point A to point B,
I marveled at the random bond between strangers,
A miracle, and a chance meeting.

Refugee from another blog

Felt inclined to google myself today... and came across this blog entry on imeem. I decided to move it over here, but deleted the original just because.

The Downfall of my Junior Year

For anyone who's interested, I'm file sharing my art history 395 paper for a limited time. This is the paper that nearly killed me this semester... the one for which I'd had all the info and research for for weeks but which still ended up a tortuous week and a half late. This is funny for a few reasons...

1) I'm only posting it because I saw that there's a section for file sharing but it's the only thing I could think of to share off of my laptop. On the other hand, my sharing it actually makes a lot of sense.

2) Alice is currently my only friend, therefore, the only person who would even have the opportunity to read it if she wanted to.

3) I still don't think it's a very good paper.

Oooh well.

BTW, the picture is from a pattern called "Ladder of Clouds" found a book by Traude Gavin called Iban Textiles. I thought it was appropriate. I honestly loved my topic and my professor, obviously so much that my blood curdled before it could reach my brain, which suffered immensely from the diversion.

Thank goodness that's in the past now. I really do owe a lot to every single person that was supportive of me during my meltdown even though I'm pretty sure it didn't make any sense to anyone.

So.. Onwards and upwards!

Just don't ask me what grade I got. I won't tell!

Monday, October 13, 2008

As for lunch today...

The first task... ok, wait, the second task that was ever assigned to me here was to assist the TEDA Public Library with their English website. What that currently means is that I'm translating the Recent News section of it, which is a lot like pouring acid onto my brain. Directly. It's certainly cool, and it's great for my Chinese, but after about 2 arduous translations I'm pretty much unable to continue. But that's just setting the stage.

Today was my second day at the library, and I had to leave about an hour and a half after I got there. As I learned, a hot pot (actually more like shabu shabu) restaurant had invited the folks from the nursing home for lunch at 11. We were invited too. I feel a little weird taking part in events with the nursing home because they typically involve my getting fed somehow despite not having actually ever volunteered for them. Yeah right, I feel really weird. But I went this time determined to be really nice. The restaurant was at the Shimin Guangchang, which is... well I wanna say it's usually a term given to a public square. In TEDA it refers to a mall, which was more or less deserted at this time of day. When the seniors arrived, I went down with Sunny to collect them. I didn't really know what I was supposed to be doing, but in the end wound up having to chase some of the speedier old men into the building and show them up the escalator. The man I specifically had to follow started the walk with a cigarette and tried to throw it into a trashcan. Fortunately he couldn't get it open. I told him that we could wait until we got up to the restaurant and they would probably have ash trays there. But by the time we got on the escalator, the cigarette was gone. I looked around but saw no trace of it. Turns out we were in a non-smoking establishment anyways.

The hot pot was all right. Lots of veggies. I really can't eat lamb at all anymore though I realize now. The man I was sitting next to kept taking my dipping sauces. Which was fine, obviously, since they weren't MY dipping sauces, but I just thought it was really funny. The seniors took up most of the restaurant, all in their matching long-sleeved polos. It was really nice to see them enjoying their lunch!

Afterwards, well... after an obligatory photo-session that I again questioned my part in, we all got up and walked around the mall. During much of this time I was trying to remove a chopstick splinter from my hand. Speaking of, I noticed that one of the men had torn one of his chopsticks into bits to fashion a toothpick. I eventually ended up by one of the more lively and much older men, who was being helped along by a really sweet volunteer. She attempted to indicate to him that I'm an American. I'm not really sure what she said, but since she said it in English it set him off. He turned to me and was very excited about speaking to me. I'm not 100% sure of everything that was said and what I agreed to or not, but he was awesome and made me laugh. While waiting for the elevator, he sought me out again and proceeded to give the cutest old man rant of all time. He insisted that the China Construction Bank had done everyone a disservice by translating its own name wrong. He felt that it should be Construction Bank of China. Which... makes sense. He set down a number of other examples and rationale, but alas, I had no idea what he was saying to me. Mostly I just nodded and the other girls laughed at me.

We saw them off then rode back in a sweet rickety van. Then I went to finish the translation from hell and when I did I was happy.

I need to say something about Shine home and probably last week, but... I'm starting to feel unbalanced in my typing again and it's making me really anxious and uncomfortable. I don't think I'll ever be able to type in peace again actually. That's kinda sad...

Thanks, eh?

I almost don't know how to begin. I haven't had any time in the past week to just sit down by myself and write anything here. I tried sorting out my finances just now and was simply unable to account for any of my activities the past few days. But of course, any good elementary school math student learns how to work backwards...

Tonight I celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving. Well, sort of. I celebrated it in the sense that I went to a place that was celebrating it and proceeded to eat a lot. An expat-run restaurant and bar called Parrot hosts Thanksgiving buffets (2) every year, and I didn't know anything about it until after I walked through the door. Last week Mrs. L introduced me to a woman who was looking to rent out a room. She's nice and her apartment's great, but totally out of my price range. Also she has two cats that are really crafty and like... mind-control you into petting them, regardless of how allergic you are. Anyways, she'd reserved a table at this event and invited me to come along.

I'd like to say that if you're in TEDA and really into Thanksgiving, this restaurant is where you want to be on this day of the year. I thought we would just be sitting in a big group, ordering off the menu, and running up your typical slightly-more-than-chinese-food-but-still-not-gut-wrenching bill. But yeah, actually, all-you-can-eat Thanksgiving buffet. I met her friends, mostly teachers at an international school, and then the owner came by to let us know that we could get our turkeys whenever we wanted. He's a suuuper-nice oldish gent with a southern drawl, and I asked him later where he's originally from. North Carolina! Anyways, I was like wow, turkey, what? But he directed us to the buffet while they brought out the birds. At the buffet: green beans, corn & red peppers, salad, sweet potatoes, cheesy broccoli, aaaaand STUFFING and MASHED POTATOES.

I really hadn't planned on eating any western-style foods for the next few months, for a number of reasons. But MAN I was happy to smell that stuffing. It was real quality stuff, and the potatoes were nice too. Gravy and cranberry sauce were also more than satisfactory. The owner came by and ladled a bunch of it into bowls for us to keep at our tables. At the tables were two honest to goodnest huo ji. I have no idea where they came from.

I really don't know how to stop eating Thanksgiving food. So I had a lot. And then went for pie and chocolate... torte? Should have skipped the chocolate. It was not what I wanted. But there was sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie. And lots of real whipped cream.

How much was it? Y150. Luckily I happened to have that amount in my purse, otherwise I might have been embarrassed. Ok, I would definitely have been embarrassed. I would pretty much venture that I would usually never disburse such an amount for a meal. Oh, and by today's exchange rate, that's about $21.9535... but that's a lot of money kind of.

It was really tasty food though and fun company. Glad I went!

Just remembered: severely apocalyptic dream last night. Like... I'm pretty sure the world was honestly ending. The moon crashed down anyways. And other stuff happened. Scary stuff.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Don't tread on me

I heard this story after dinner today. A better version, obviously, and in Chinese, so forgive me. I'm a little unclear as to how the scene was set up, but let's say it takes place at Tiantan (the temple of heaven).

At the Temple of Heaven, the grass was full of ducks, and it was very difficult to navigate around them. God declared that anyone who stepped on one would be sorry. There were three women in the park, and the first started to walk through the grass. However, she accidentally stepped on a duck. God then paired her with an ugly husband. The second woman started walking through the grass and tried to be as careful as possible to avoid stepping on a duck. Unfortunately she also accidentally stepped on one and was paired with an even uglier husband than the first woman. The third woman was terrified, and started walking through the grass. She managed to make it through without stepping on a single duck! She was paired with a strong, tall, handsome husband. A catch, if you will. She couldn't believe her luck! Wondering how she could ever have been so fortunate, she turned to him and said, "Wow, what did I ever do to deserve a man as wonderful as you?" He replied, "I don't know, but I stepped on one of those ducks back there."


This is what my name means.

Before we were born, my grandfather drew up a list of names for our parents to snatch up on our behalf on a first-come-first-served basis. As the story has it, by being the second-born girl in our generation, I managed to get the second-best name on the list, beating out Selina by two years and also slightly annoying her parents.

Here it is in traditional characters: 潘絢愷 (pan1 xuan4 kai3)

Today as we went from office to office meeting various managers and higher-up sorts, I ended up in front of a man who asked what the last character in my name means. Now that you know where this is headed, I'm going to veer off a bit.

The first character, of course, is Pan, the family name. That's what's engraved on the giant headstone in the graveyard in Springdale where we all have plots.

Once, back in either junior high or high school, Selina brought up the topic of Chinese dictionaries during a phone conversation. At that point I'd already dropped out of Chinese school and was mostly uninterested in the topic, but when we started wondering what our names meant, I asked my mom to pull one out and show me how to use it. This was, of course, before the internet and looong before or any of those other fancy online dictionaries. Dictionaries for the traditional system are really fascinating things, and definitions are itemized by radical and stroke count. So you really kind of have to know what you're doing in order to navigate one. Anyways, we looked up the character pan, and discovered that it refers to the water in which one washes rice. It's not one of those words that ever comes up in conversation, at least not as far as I can tell, having been relegated to the status of a popular surname instead.

Xuan is the generational name for girls in our family, so Christine, Selina, and I all have 2 out of 3 characters in common. I looked this up with my mom too, and she returned that it meant "bright." After I got into college and was regularly looking up words on the internet, I double-checked all of these, and got basically the same definitions. The MDBG dictionary corroborates the meaning as "brilliant," but also adds "adorned," "swift," "gorgeous," and, uh, "variegated." Whenever I hear Chinese people describing my name to other Chinese people, they describe this word by using the phrase "xuan li," which means gorgeous or magnificent. But usually people can guess which one of the various xuans we're dealing with, and I'm guessing that it's common enough in girls' names. For example, no one's ever mistaken the xuan in my name for the one which apparently means "lathe/thread in screw."

I remember back when I first started attending Chinese school, we were in a dark ornate part of the church, seated around a big table, and since we were most of us too young to have any clue how to go about writing our names on our papers (in traditional, no less), the teachers were doing it for us. It went swiftly for the most part, but then they got to me and the process stalled. There was some confusion as to which kai served as the last third of my name. They discussed briefly, then wrote down two characters, showing them to me and asking if either seemed familiar. I didn't even really know what I was looking at. After some more deliberation, they decided it was more likely to be one than the other, and wrote it down and moved on. It was SO COOL to have my name written down on my stuff, right? When class ended, I went to show my mom right away and she was nonplussed. She told me that that... wasn't my name. I was stricken. We went up to the teachers and they said that they had been confused and showed her the other option that they'd come up with. She said, "oh no, it's not that one either." Eh? said the teachers.

So, this is the character that everyone invariably assumes it to be. 凱, as in 凱旋 (kai xuan). It means triumphant, and the phrase means to return triumphant (according to MDBG).

When I started Chinese 109 my freshman year at Cornell, there was one morning that the teacher went around the room and commented on everyone's name. I was told that my name was a boy's name.

While hanging around the copy shop in Baotou waiting for one thing or another, the owner and his daughter(?) asked me if I had a Chinese name. I gladly told them, and the girl-- who I'd liked pretty well up until that point-- turned to the owner and said that it didn't sound good.

When I told the fruit seller what my name was, he said he liked it. I had to write it out so that he could see the character. He said it was unusual, but that it made more sense once knowing the character, and that it was fitting.

In Muping, they just called me 小潘 (xiao pan) which means, literally, Little Pan. It's a common enough nickname though, since according to my host here, that's what they used to call my dad in college.

In Baotou, no one would call me by my Chinese name. Instead I was Kai se lin, to go with the official name on my documents, or, for some reason, Cathy/kai xi/combination of both. The one time in my life I've ever let the name Cathy happen to me, and I still shudder a bit.

I understand the necessity of going with a Chinese version of the name on my passport since the name by which I've been known in my family all my life is devoid of any officiality, existing nowhere outside of my family, our friends, certain classrooms, and my Chinese homework. How weird is that?

So, today, I was sitting with my host at the desk of one of the important people with whom I ought to be acquainted and he asked me what my name was. After hearing it, and saying it, he asked me about the meaning. What does the "kai" mean? From our dictionary, my mom had come up with "victory," and that's the meaning I've held to throughout the years. Mrs. L didn't know, so I told her what I thought it might be, and she translated for me. They discussed it a bit more and she decided to have one of the girls in her office look it up when we got back.

In the office, the Chinese Literature major was assigned the task of checking online for the definitive answer. I expected her to eventually just come up with a few synonyms and phrases and have that be the end of it. Instead, she very sweetly gave me a great explanation.

Back to the character: 愷. It's made up of two parts. The first, the line and two dots on the left, is the radical and it's actually a variant of 心, which means heart. The other part means happiness or joy. According to, it also means celebrate. So one meaning is happiness or joyfulness. She went further to say that it describes someone who is good and can bring that joy to others. Another dictionary definition is "kind." There's a second meaning, which basically translates as "easy-going." I was surprised to not hear the meaning that I believed it to have all this time. Then she found one more. It also refers to the type of song played by a party, I picture an army of some sort, after a victory. Her favorite was the second, easy-going.

Ok sorry, this ended up being far longer and more involved than what I'd initially intended, which was a paragraph-- maybe two-- just about today's encounters. But anyways, this morning I loved my name, but I had no idea that it was so... cool. It's funny to me a lot of times that I was given an English name that people appear destined to be misspell for eternity, and a Chinese name that's so easily misunderstood.

I felt really happy while she was explaining it to me, like a shade was being lifted or like a massive spit-shine was taking place. Aside from actually being able to share this information with others from now on, I discovered that my name is something that's really worth living up to. I remember when I cornered Prof. Zimbardo after his lecture at the WAC and asked him to write one of his favorite inspirational quotes in my book, he sort of misunderstood and instead wrote an inspirational message directed at me. Basically, it's the hope that whoever I meet, I manage to make them feel special and glad to have known me. That's what popped into my head during this conversation today.

Hopefully I'll be able to do justice to these three words that are such a special part of who I am. I've got my fingers crossed, anyways. Remember: be optimistic and kind, joyful and at ease, and smile until people start smiling back.

Visa clarification

This one's for future reference.

We went to the PSB today so that I could register my presence. We didn't have all (ok, why is spell check telling me that "didn't" is spelled wrong?) the necessary materials, but the officer went ahead and looked over my passport anyways to take a look at my visa. In the process, she answered a question that had been plaguing me for most of August but which no one unofficial could answer.

For the record, my visa's an (F) type multiple entry, valid from September 19, 2008 until the same date in 2009. The duration of each stay is 120 days after entry. What this translates into is permission to enter initially at any point between the valid dates. However, once I've entered once, the 120 day countdown begins. I can exit and re-enter as many times as I want, but only until the 120 days pass. At that point, my visa is considered expired and I would need to either extend it here or otherwise apply for a new one.

The question I'd been asking before was: If one gets a double-or-more entry visa with, say, a 90-day duration, is that 90 days per entry or 90 days total? Well, it's 90 days total, which makes just slightly more sense considering that we are in fact dealing with a system, but just in case there was room to wiggle around in, I wanted to know that it was there.

Anyways, this means that my visa's only really valid until I go home for Christmas, at which point I'll have some more paperwork to muss with. Luckily it looks like things might go more smoothly now that I'm here.

Friday, October 03, 2008

This is dedicated...

Mainly to Steph Glass because this is our poem, but also to anyone who is/has been/will be anything. The words popped into my head earlier today and I felt like it was about time to share them again, because I do still love this poem.


by Billy Collins

You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine . . .

Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley,
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I am not the bread and the knife.

You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and—somehow—the wine.

Billy Collins, “Litany” from Nine Horses. Copyright © 2002 by Billy Collins. Reprinted with the permission of Random House, Inc.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Twice Shy

Last night I went to bed at some point after 12:30.

I dreamt, possibly of momentous things, but then in my dream I started feeling itchy. Oh crap I remember now. I was dreaming about Sarah Palin... I was watching her on TV and was convinced that she was somehow making me itch. Then I started waking up, and was in a semi-delirious state, scratching at various parts of my arms and trying to get back to sleep. Then I realized that I was honestly very itchy and scratching at swollen bumps and freaked out. I thought it must be like 6 or 7 in the morning, but when I turned the light on, I discovered it was only 2:50. I decided to go to the bathroom mirror to check myself out, and there I found 4 large fresh white-hot welts on my arms and index finger. I continued cussing in amazement. I was still pretty out of it and my mind raced to explain the situation. Usually I'm very sensitive to the sound of mosquitos, so I wasn't sure if that was it. But they didn't look like spider bites, and I ruled out hives and other allergies. For a fleeting moment I feared bedbugs (OK, I always fear bedbugs), but having thrown the sheets around in search of any insectoid culprit and come up clean, it seemed like it had to have been a mosquito after all. Still couldn't find any sign of one in the room though, and I thought that any single mosquito only bit like once or something before going off to lay eggs... or something.

Anyways, in the course of 2 hours, I acquired my 2nd-5th mosquito bites all year. There's another reason San Francisco rules. They have since swollen pink to the standard size of an inch or two in diameter. I'm lucky though... even if I somehow drew my attacker in with my smooth skin and comely ways, it seems my exposed face wasn't quite attractive enough to be ravished the way the rest of me was. It came away unscathed.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I have arrived

Turns out that my flight from Newark was only 13 hours.

The embraer, though small, was comfortable enough for me, and I liked not having to sit next to anyone. It wasn't a very full plane though, and the other passengers were mostly jovial suited men. I slept, obviously, and upon arrival at Newark was so dazed that I could barely follow the trail, which bent oddly, that they had set up on the tarmac. There was a man with a few pieces of paper stapled together and so I thought I had better see if he had an opinion about where I should be heading, considering I had no idea. He directed me to a small shuttle bus sitting off to the side. In it, there was a fellow passenger also on the trek to my terminal, so I decided that I must follow her wherever she went, because she was alert and I was not. I assumed she was alert because she was able to ask questions of the driver. The bus took us to another bus, which I also boarded, ever behind this other woman. That bus did arrive at terminal C.

Terminal C at Newark has to have some of the worst airport bathrooms I've encountered. Concourse C at Dayton wasn't that great either, by the way. Earlier this month I had planned on writing an entry exclusively rating the airport bathrooms I've visited recently, but never got around to it. It's on the table though.

Somehow managed to pass 3 hours there. I think a lot of it happened when I leaned over my backpack for a moment and then promptly fell asleep. I woke up just in time for them to announce that everyone needed to form a single-file line to check in again-- so that they could examine our passports.

I'd thought I'd be seated in 40E (smack center of the plane), but somehow last night I guess I managed to change my seat to 24D, which is an aisle seat in the center row. It was bizarre because when choosing seats after booking, nearly all seats were shown as occupied except for a few non-window-non-aisle seats in the back of the plane. When I unsuccessfully attempted online check-in, though, nearly all of the seats at the front of the plane were available, so I tried to switch. After my attempt failed though (they need to check your passport in person, I guess) I went to view my itinerary again and my seat hadn't changed. And then when I went to look at the seating chart again, I got the original mostly-booked chart with my original seat. So I just ignored it and moved on.

Anyways, it wasn't a very full flight so while boarding, some people got spread out a bit so that people could have more room. The center seat in my row was unoccupied, so not only did I get a second blanket, but I also got to take advantage of the tray table. This excited me.

The 777 had personal TVs on all of the seats, and while they were a pain to navigate, there were some interesting things going on. I watched two movies during the flight: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, and How to Eat Fried Worms. The first one was all right... I probably would have enjoyed it a lot less if Lee Pace hadn't been in it. However, I would like to recommend right now that everyone go watch How to Eat Fried Worms. I very very vaguely remember this book from either the 3rd or 4th grade... I think it was well-recieved. The movie though is adorably funny. A lot of those "pffffft" laughter (originally typed lafter... hm) moments, and a lot of those snorkly back of the throat chuckles too.

Did a ton of sleeping. Well, not a ton, but I tried to spend most of my time in a sleeping position with the though that it wouldn't hurt to actually fall asleep. I also spent a lot of time staring at the flight show, at the little airplane making its way along our route and all the info about tail wind speeds, altitudes, and outside temperatures.

A few hours in, we started hitting a lot of turbulence. It's probably not something I would have thought too hard about before this past January, but since the wind-shear/Fresno experience, I've become really paranoid about rocking turbulence. I was wondering what on earth was bouncing such a big plane around so much, and, seeing that we were off the northeastern coast of Canada, concluded that it must have something to do with Kyle, maybe. Maybe that was not the case, but it's all I really had in terms of an explanation. Eventually it subsided, but no one else really seemed that bothered. I was getting rolled around in my seat and folks were still standing up for a leisurely stroll to the bathroom, and only one of them got reprimanded at all.

Yes we were off the northeastern coast of Canada. Our route did not take us over North America and the Pacific like I had for some reason envisioned, nor did we go by way of the Atlantic and Europe as a friend had guessed. Instead, we went straight up over the Artctic and came down through Siberia. Somewhere between 6 and 7 hours in, I got up for a bathroom break and took some pictures of the north pole (or somewhere near it) through the window in the emergency exit. Surprisingly, no one had their windows open. A few of us gawked out for a couple minutes, commenting on the sunlight, then I did my business and went to sit down again.

Meals were eh. I don't think I'll be having the salmon again, though it's partly because of a bad cilantro experience. Dinner came with Milanos though, which I saved, as well as a salad topped with smoked salmon that tasted all right. Later there was a beef and swiss sandwich (more like an oblong sparse swiss burger or LaRosas style hoagie) and a little thing of vanilla haagen daaz. Not bad (kind of a weird combination and if you're lactose intolerant you're screwed), butI don't think I will be eating a whole little thing of ice cream in the future either, because I definitely got like heartburn or something from one or both of those things. Dairy? Lastly came breakfast, which was eggs or "dim sum" and caused a lot of confusion among a lot of passengers. Eventually the attendants started asking "eggs or noodles" by way of clarification. I didn't really know which way to go this time, but ended up going with the thing less likely to make me sick later, meaning not-eggs. The noodles did in fact come with some dim sum items: a pork bun that might have been a bbq pork bun though the filling was odd, a piece of shiu mai that had a large chunk of inedible animal part within, and a leaf of baby bok choi. The accompanying fruit tasted kinda like dish detergent. I haven't had sub-par airline melon in years though, so that was a surprise.

Anyways, that was the obligatory critique of the food, though I should probably follow it by stating that I still appreciate having had the opportunity to enjoy it or not during this flight. I love being served food on the airplane.

Landed in Beijing, just as I remembered it. Entry forms are currently the most straightforward and simple iteration that I've experienced and I wasn't made to fret over an irrelevant customs form this time either.

Got my things and came to the realization that not only could anyone there have just picked them up and walked off with them, but that there's even less safeguard against that in domestic baggage claims in the US. In fact, in Dayton or CVG, anyone could really wander in through the front doors, stand by baggage claim, take however much they wanted, and walk back out through the door. Awesome, right?

Found the driver no problem. Initially I thought I'd have the task of getting on a bus to get on another bus to get on a train to get to where I was going. But my host was really cool and sent a driver to collect me. He took my suitcase and my bag and we made our way into the garage, which is also how I remembered it. I got really nostalgic in there actually. Then we sped through a pedestrian walkway and then nearly ended the life of a sprinting child. He really wasn't paying any attention, though perhaps he wasn't planning on actually running into the path of oncoming traffic in the garage. Even though he stopped in time (he was trying to get some people's attention) he gave me, the driver, and probably his whole family a good pump of adrenaline.

We chatted for a bit and then I was told to get some rest. I tried to say something along the lines of how I'd been resting for the past 13 hours, and I think it worked, but lapsed into silence anyway. I watched traffic patterns and roadside foliage and read the street signs. But then I inevitably fell asleep. I woke up once I think while we were going through Tianjin (or did we go straight to TEDA?) and thought that I should remain conscious to see the city, but fell asleep again until right at the end. The area looks nothing like I expected it might, and the place I'm staying is way nicer than I expected it to be. Mrs. L came down to get me and the two of us moved my things into her apartment.

I got a tour of the rooms and then set up my computer to let my parents know that I'd made it. And there's wireless internet. I also took the opportunity to brush my teeth. My dad was really excited that I'd get to eat his friend's food, so obviously I was excited to. Mrs. L boiled up some squash and chicken dumplings for dinner and they were delicious. Doubly delicious because there was also vinegar involved. God I was so happy when I saw that.

Afterwards, Mrs. L insisted on taking me out to get my feet massaged so that I'd be able to sleep tonight. I'm pretty sure that sleep was always on the docket, but I'll admit that I was enticed by this prospect. Well, enticed and extremely wary because I have a very low tolerance for tickling and that's all I hear when someone says "foot massage."

We walked TEDA's long blocks and she pointed out the landmarks to me. I'd forgotten how positively terrifying it is to cross multi-lane roads here. Maybe I was still in a daze, but there were a couple times that I was confident that the way was clear to walk when a car would advance from the least obvious direction with no intention of sparing anyone in its path. Fortunately Mrs. L saw them all coming.

The massage parlor I guess is run by a friend of hers? We sat down in a room in two comfy chairs and took our shoes and socks off. Two girls came in with buckets of very very hot water that I splashed around in until it was cool enough to just submerge my feet. That felt pretty good. Then the girls came back in and gave us hand and arm massages. Not being a massage person really, I liked this part a lot. My arms have been all out of sorts for months and while this probably didn't do anything to help, it did feel good. Um, it was a bit awkward though because at this point I could look my masseuse in the face and just couldn't think of anything to say to her. So I looked at the ceiling or watched the floor and a little cockroach that was traversing it. At intervals, I'd look up and see it on the wall or on the flat screen TV and wasn't as repulsed as I could have been.

Next I was moved onto a stool so that she could do my back. Ah, ok, I did not like this part. Some of it was appealing, yes, but a lot of it was just pain and her beating the crap out of my lower back. I have no doubt that most of my other friends would have enjoyed this segment of the massage, but it wasn't really for me. At one point the other girl turned around and saw me making the gritted-teeth-wide-eyed cringe and I had to turn it into a smile real fast. She asked me if I was ticklish and so I said yes. I didn't want them to know that I'm a wimp.

Last up came the feet. At first I didn't know if I could make it through without an outburst, but it actually went pretty well. For the feet-- not too ticklish though she kept hitting like a pressure point or something on my instep that was uncomfortable. Also included was a leg massage up to the thigh. I'd closed my eyes at some point and it's possible that I dozed off for a while or something.

And then it was over and we caught a taxi back. I showered, checked the blogs, and then wrote this. Sure, not a masterpiece or anything (unfortunately it looks like it's not entertaining enough to double as an e-mail), but at least now I have all the details accrued thus far.

Monday, September 29, 2008


I’m currently about an hour away from boarding my 6:30am flight out of Dayton airport… I’m feeling good. Also, did you know that if you carry several dollars worth of spare change in your purse, it will get searched by TSA? According to the nice man who had to hand-examine my book, notebook, camera, wallet, ipod, cell phones, and various other paraphernalia, a large cluster of coins creates a dark spot that the x-ray can’t read through. WOW.

Anyways, since I’ve got all this time, I think I shall use it to answer a few Frequently Asked Questions, or FAQs, about this trip.

Q: You’re going to China again?

A: Yes.

Q: How long will you be gone this time?

A: Starting with 3 months. I’m coming back on December 22 (missed too many family holidays the last couple years) and sticking around for the beginning of January. Unless something absolutely ridiculous happens to preclude my return, I’ll then be going back until next summer, June-ish.

Q: Where in China are you going?

A: Tianjin, specifically TEDA, the Tianjin Economic Development Area. Actually I’m only guessing on what that stands for, but if I’m wrong I’m at least very close. And no, I’ve never been there before, so this should be interesting.

Q: Ok, wait… where is that?

A: Haha good question! I thought I knew, but yesterday my parents told me I was wrong. It’s a port city southeast of Beijing, and there’s a high-speed train that connects the two cities with something like a 30 minute ride.

Q: Are you going to be teaching English again?

A: That is not my primary directive, no. Honestly I think I’m more or less past that now, although I do expect that at some point over the next few months I will be helping someone with their English in some capacity. Yeah, ok, now that I think of it, there’s a very good likelihood that they’ll make me teach at the local college.

Q: So what exactly are you going to be doing while you’re there?

A: Uh, as of right now, it’s not entirely… clear. The back-story is that there’s a friend of the family who works with the TEDA Community Service Volunteer Association (they have a website in English!) who thought that I might be able to help her out. So she’s willing to take me on and keep me busy and show me how the organization operates. I expect to be volunteering with some of their projects in the city, but also hopefully getting a little administrative experience too. Most importantly though, I’m going to have a chance to observe and learn and I also get to work my Chinese more than I have before, hopefully picking up a lot more technical vocab.

Q: Hold on, does this mean you STILL don’t have a paying job?

A: That is correct!

Q: You’re not going to get robbed again are you?

A: I’m not really sure why this is so frequently-asked. I’m certainly not planning on it.

Q: What are you taking with you?

A: One medium-large suitcase of random crap that evidently weighs 53 lbs., a frame backpack full of clothes, and old faithful, my trusty backpack.

Q: Can I come visit you?

A: Absolutely! I expect to get an apartment relatively soon, at which point anyone is welcome to crash with me for any period of time. I’m an enthusiastic hostess and will stuff you with delicious foods and take you wherever you want, um, within reason. I recommend coming anytime between March and June.

Q: Are you excited?

A: Yeah, sure. I’m definitely glad to be doing something again and I can’t wait to explore more of China.

I’m flying Continental for this trip and I’m actually looking forward to a nice series of flights. First of all, since I don’t have to switch airlines, my bags are checked all the way through to Beijing. After LAX last time, and DEFINITELY after friggin JFK, I’m glad not to have to drag everything between terminals and wait through check-in a second time. Second, I get to fly in an A seat on an Embraer between Dayton and Newark. This has to be the most comfortable small plane I’ve flown so far, and A is a single-seat row. Bwahahahaha. From Newark, it’s an 18 or so hour non-stop flight to Beijing, middle seat in the middle row on a 777. Oh well, at least I’ll have options?

Is this too much information yet? Well, you can look forward to more. I arrive in China right as they kick into their national holiday! So I guess I’ll just get to hang out for a couple days and get acquainted with the city since there will be absolutely nothing for me to do since everything official shuts down for the week.

I think I'm packed...

So... that was almost too easy. I know I'm forgetting something monstrously important. But honestly, as long as I have underwear and face wash I'm probably OK right? All of my clothes are piled on top of each other in my large backpack. I'm assuming that will be enough to get me through. The suitcase is honestly just full of random things like tampons and shoes, packed more or less inefficiently. A lot of it will be gone when I make the return trip. I did some quick searches and I think I might be able to climb a bit while I'm gone, so at the last minute I went ahead and stuffed my gear in on top of everything else. Worse comes to worse I can shop there (everyone know how much I LOVE shopping in China... PSYYYYCHE), and if it gets worse than that, I'm coming home in December.

Looking forward to that, by the way!

OK, I feel feverish... I think I should shower and have some frozen yogurt while watching one of the movies I rented when I thought I would have time to watch them. I don't think I shall be sleeping tonight, since I have to get up at 3 to leave for the airport anyway.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


My brain is all a-scrambles.

I like writing. It helps me get all the clutter out of my head so that I can get my thoughts organized. When I really go at it, you can pretty much see the dust pluming out of my ears along with a stream of migrating spiders and a few tiny post-it notes. It's a personal meditation and clarifying process.

When I was younger, I loved essay tests and writing prompts because I felt like I had some kind of advantage. With hindsight, I now realize that that was a bit delusional, but in any case I enjoyed myself and my grades were good enough to get me into Cornell, so whatever, but still.

In the present day, however, just the thought of the GRE issue prompt makes my armpits all sweaty. My body hunches over and I tend to begin staring very hard at a single point in front of my face. It's weird. I have such strong opinions on nearly all 243 of these topics, but the simple act of beginning sees my brainwaves fade to snow. I responded to a question yesterday afternoon that called for evidence that I can rattle on about for hours (proven case). But when I realized that I needed a new introductory paragraph and went to sort it out, I just could not. I BSOD'd and crashed and then had to leave the room.

It's very hard for me to achieve a state in which my mind is totally clear. But in thinking through my approach to a lot of these topics, I often find that I've been sitting for whole minutes not thinking anything at all. In my meantime my breathing has grown shallow and quick and my mouth is hanging open.

I'm familiar with this psychological block-- it's been one of my most steady companions through 4 years of undergrad. Seriously, I wonder what it is I'm so afraid of.

Friday, May 30, 2008

This time next year

Insane. So this thought has been slowly digging at me for the past few days, and every time I acknowledged it I'd sort of be in awe, and then get distracted by something else enough that the thought lost its relevance, only to stew around a little longer, getting more relevant as time wore on. Ok, I know I said just a "few" days, but it's been a weird week for time, what with the long weekend.

Anyways, one of the tasks I have set for myself at the library is to catalogue, label, and store a box-load of CDs that was left in my possession back at the beginning of my tenure here, as well as all the new ones that get recorded as we continue to have programs. At first it seemed like a pretty daunting order, because someone's really been neglecting these things for a while now, but with a trusty (or as trusty as it gets) mail merge set up in Word, it's going way faster than I'd ever anticipated. In fact, I have already completed pretty much every program that I have been present for, and am now moving on into the territory they usually call "before my time."

It's eerie, really, and I'm having trouble articulating why, to now be faced with all of these program names and speakers to which I have absolutely no emotional attachment. Trying to come up with a proper comparison has only led me to remember what I read about the Capgras delusion on wikipedia. Documenting these CDs hasn't exactly been a pleasant stroll down memory lane, or nostalgic at all for that matter, but I was getting used to expecting familiar titles and flier layouts, and such. First of all, to have rushed through that whole time span in a matter of hours was jarring, and I admit I'm a little confused when I look at some of these old program fliers, since information that I now expect to find in certain places is now hidden elsewhere.

It's been like going through a geological sample, watching the devolution of style (not to say that it gets worse, or to say that it doesn't) as the dates go farther back. It's just weird to suddenly be among such unfamiliar objects, and also a little weird to think that while these were being recorded by people I may or may not know, I was somewhere else entirely doing something else entirely.

Which actually leads to the thought I referenced at the start of this whole thing. I have been here almost a year. While it's unlikely that I'll continue loitering here until September (I'm not planning on it at least), that would mark a year of being *here* and that's hard for me to grasp. In less than three months I will have been back on home turf (as it were) for a full year.

A year ago today, this whole situation was as distant from me as the moon. Actually, no... more distant, because I can see the moon pretty clearly. What was I doing? May 29, 2007 (ok, technically May 30). I guess I would still have been teaching as if it weren't no thang. Riding the bus to China Care a few days a week. Breaking out the tank tops for summer. Buying those shorts and capris probably happened at some point around here. Stopping by the fruit stand, drinking lots of water, getting tofu after classes with Russ & Dave, perhaps watching YooHee with Alice and Tara, interviewing teachers, stopping by the French restaurant, reading Lolita, listening to the Stars, shopping at the new grocery store, eating modified ma la chuan and squid and diao zha bing and popsicles, sitting by my window, dreaming about coming home. The entire month of June is missing from my blog, so I have no record of it except for the dates embedded in my digital photos, but I'm assuming that I was busy enough that I didn't waste much time reflecting on it. I wonder if I knew already at the end of May that I'd be spending the rest of my summer in Beijing? I mean, a quick gmail search could answer that question for me, but I'd rather just pose it. I'm wondering if I ever mentioned the frisbee game that we struck up one afternoon, or our various attempts at badminton, or that one housewarming party I went to with Alice.

So it's weird, to be removed from all that by the length of a year. And a strange year. I've been in San Francisco for about 9 months, and I'm still of the mindset that it's temporary. The result is, of course, that I'm even more disconnected from the people around me than even new transplants. It's awkward, but I get the feeling that I don't want to invest myself too much in my surroundings because I *should* pick up and go.

Ok, that was personal. But anyways, should I pick up and go? I'm committed until the end of July, at which point, I ought to have a next step. I don't really remember how to set that up, nor do I really know what I would count as a valid "next step" anyways. What am I going to do in August that will eventually lead me through the course of another year, back to yet another today? That is a very good question.

Part of me says very much that I should just go back to China, no matter what it takes, because something interesting is just bound to happen there. What a bizarre rationale. But...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A very brief entry today, since a WAC program is about to start... I'm just still feeling a lot of anxiety right now, and rather than obsess about it to someone else AGAIN, I'll just unload here.

Basically I just want to angst about the job I've been trying to get. During this whole process, it just seemed very clear to me that this opportunity was somehow tied in to all the random decisions and detours I've been taking since I missed that flight in Shanghai in 2005. People have been telling me not to worry, but it's really hard for me not to. As I explained to a co-worker last week, I want this job so bad that I can't even imagine applying for any other positions right now. I don't think I could be convincing about having a passion for whatever field, or the necessary level of experience for any other job. It's like... now I know exactly what it should feel like to know that you're perfect for something or that something is perfect for you. It would be quite the emotional blow to be rejected for something I was so ready for, and I am having trouble picturing myself getting it all together to start applying and interviewing for random office jobs again.

More importantly, not getting this job might quite literally shatter my entire worldview. The whole basis of my relentless optimism and goodwill... my patience... the very nature of my cosmos... that's what's at stake here.

And that's why I'm so concerned.

I'm really trying to scrape together a psychological contingency plan here, but it doesn't seem like it's really working... though I suppose this is one of those parachutes that you really can't test until the ground really starts coming up at your face.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mondays can be like this

Ah, today... was a good day that didn't seem at first like it was going to be very good. As I was packing my things this morning, my mom called, rather unexpectedly, to tell me that some company was denied a charge on my credit card and sent a collection notice complete with a $15 fine, also unexpected. The charge was related to the membership fee for the climbing gym, and we did have issues with that last week, but I assumed that they had been resolved. What I was really peeved over was the $15 fee, especially since I'm positive that I wasn't at fault in this situation in any way-- I'd just paid the balance on my card a few days prior, and it was nowhere near topped out to begin with. So my mom said she'd scan the letter to me, and I resolved to take care of it when I got to work.

I left at 8:30 this morning because I just needed to do something other than sleep in from now on. Last week was nice... nowhere to be until 1pm so I remained stubbornly in bed until perhaps 11 every day. But as cozy as that is, it gets old when you're already feeling pretty useless, and so today I went ahead and started volunteering my free time to do random office tasks for Transfair, an organization that I would have liked to had interned for, but whatever. My feeling is that volunteering is similar to interning, if less focused and intensive, but equally unpaid. Also, I've been dying to get to know this org a little better because fair trade is one of those interests that I'd consider pursuing academically and then professionally, out there in future-land. Anyways, the environment there was really nice-- their office space is huge and everyone on the staff was very friendly. I got a fairly menial task, though it was one I could appreciate. But also I got a nice cup of coffee, which had me buzzed etc. for most of the day. I'm headed back in tomorrow and really looking forward to it.

Then, on my way to work, I gave away an 85 cent BART ticket I've had sitting around in my pocket for months, and then made it just in time for the train. I listened to music I enjoyed. The weather was nice.

Once I got up to the library, I tackled the whole creditor issue with every ounce of self-righteousness I could muster. The thing is though, no matter how worked up I get, I can never bring myself to be rude to customer service agents over the phone. This is probably a good thing though. Anyways, I called the company, and the rep said that the charge eventually went through and they already took the fee, which is non-refundable. I was slightly indignant. I mean, if I wrote my card number down correctly and it was copied wrong by others, or if I paid my credit card bill and they denied it anyway, or if someone input the expiration date wrong or whatever, then... the fact that something went wrong has a lot less to do with me than it does with points elsewhere in the system, is that correct? That they arbitrarily charge a fee to the first person they see just seems sort of unfair.

Anyways, I followed that call with one to my card company, who directed me to call customer service at my credit union. Both parties insisted that they saw no attempted charge for the alleged day and made suggestions as to how I should approach the fee-takers. I called back and explained the way I saw the situation, and after two awkwardly long and silent transfers, I got put through to a supervisor who very straightforwardly told me that I had a right to see my money refunded THIS TIME. It was very reliant on the fact that it was the first time anything like this had happened, but I'm assuming it helped that it was probably not my fault in the first place. I'd been sitting in the stairwell at work while this all took place just to avoid making any scenes in front of lunching co-workers, but every once in a while, someone would have to use the stairs, and I just felt awkward having this petty financial dispute on my cell phone in there. But in any case, I fought the Man and won, so what up.

When I picked up the library mail this morning, I was delighted to find my arms just full of stuff. But also, among all that stuff, was a list of labels that I ordered last week, meaning that I could finally complete an odyssey of book-cataloging that I had begun and left incomplete my first day on the job (because I had to wait for the labels). Also, I had two other jobs to keep me busy. So I was fairly busy all day, wrapping and labeling books and other time-consuming things. When the day was almost out, I decided to take a look at the steps in cataloging that involved importing and whatnot with this outrageously stand-offish system that we utilize, and ended up in a battle of wills against that until after the library officially closed. I left about half an hour later tonight, so I figured I might as well stay for the remainder of the lecture going on downstairs, which was a little... random. It was funny cuz I wrote a lot of the planted questions that got asked and was feeling bashful because of it. But also, my questions were not eliciting the interesting answers I thought they would. But whatever

Then I left, had some company on my way to the BART, and after some inexplicable delays in East Bay, got home, ate, and showered. And now I'm here.

So, I actually had something worthy of being tagged "Advice" in this ridiculous blog, but I've forgotten what it was, and now I doubt that I'll even be able to benefit from whatever incredible piece of knowledge it was. Sigh.