The Not-So-Secret Diary of a Bad Luck Girl

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AWP 2014 Index

by Angela Tung on Sunday, March 2, 2014, no comments

And I’m back from yet another AWP! While this year doesn’t compare to the blast I had last year, I still had a good time. Plus I got see Seattle!

  • Number of hours my flights were delayed compared number of hours I was in the air: 2.5 : 3
  • Number of hours I was in the airport compared to number of hours I was int he air: 6.5 : 3
  • Number of times I was in the very back of the plane compared to number of flights: 2 : 2
  • Number of “preferred guest” rooms I received because I got to the hotel so late and all the regular rooms were taken: 1 (yay!)
  • Number of hours of sleep I got that first night: 3
  • Number of runs I got in over 2 days: 2 (four and three miles, respectively)
  • Number of hours I spent in my room compared with number of hours I spent at the conference on that first day (not including sleeping hours): 8 : 4
  • Number of old writing teachers I saw and almost didn’t say hi to but then I did and I’m so glad: 1
  • Number of times I forgot said writing teacher had blurbed my memoir: 1 (I’m such a dumbass)
  • Number of online friends I met in real life for the first time: 2
  • Number of three-minute stories I wrote on an old manual typewriter: 1
  • Number of times I avoided eye contact with book fair participants: 100
  • Number of hours I lasted at the book fair: 1
  • Hours last week I spent looking for a new outfit for my reading: 2
  • Number of new outfits I bought: 0
  • Number of cute outfits I forgot already had: 1 (cute little black jacket, white button up blouse, jeans, boots, cool necklace, in case you were wondering)
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how nervous I was for my reading: 11
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how fun the reading turned out to be: 10
  • Number of taco salads I inhaled after my reading: 1
  • Number of sips of straight whiskey I was able to handle at the book fair: 3
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy I was to visit the Seattle Public Library: 11
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy I was to run into the Gourmet Dog Japon cart: 11 (I got the Samurai)
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy I was to have some alone time in my room with my Samurai dog (don’t be dirty) and some stupid TV: 1,000,000
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy I was to have brunch with an old college friend: 1,000,000
  • Out of five stars, how yummy the food at Steelhead Diner was: 5+
  • Number of days it rained out of 1.5: .5 (It was beautiful but chilly on Friday, and only a little drizzly, though cold, Saturday)
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy I was when I was finally back home: 1,000,000
  • Number of hours it will take this introvert to recover from all the socializing: 24



2013 in Retrospect

by Angela Tung on Wednesday, January 1, 2014, no comments

fuckitWhile 2012 was my year of living dangerously, 2013 was more a year saying, “Fuck it,” but in a good way.

As some of you may know, the beginning of the year was tough for me, but in a way, that allowed me to let some things go and allow myself to do other things I might not have.

I lost myself in Boston. Back in March I attended AWP and had a blast. Being in that huge conference, working the book fair, seeing friends, and schmoozing with other writers was such a nice reprieve from the previous month. It didn’t even bother me that it snowed like crazy and was freezing.

I had an east coast birthday. Normally I wouldn’t have done anything special for myself for my birthday, but this year I spent it in New Jersey and New York. There was the scary moment (or day, I should say) in the hospital with my dad (who turned out to be perfectly fine), but if it had to happen, I was glad I happened to be there. Then the little surprise party that YP had waiting for me in New York more than made up for it.

I went to motherfucking Paris and London. When YP invited me along on his trip, I said hell yeah. It was just what I needed. Highlights: the Catacombes, Musee D’Orsay, and all of London, where I could see myself living someday.

I played the tourist. I was on my own over Fourth of July weekend so I had to make sure to stay active. I ended up visiting a couple of places that I had been wanting to see but just hadn’t had the chance, namely the Winchester Mystery House and Alcatraz and Angel Islands.

While the Winchester House was touristy and cheesy, I loved Angel Island and especially Alcatraz. I’d return to both although I wouldn’t do the tour for Angel Island again. I’d rather go hiking on my own or with a group.

I moved to a completely new part of town. I didn’t really want to move but I couldn’t afford my Nob Hill (more like Tendernob) apartment on my own. I looked at several places in San Francisco, but as you may know, rent is batshit crazy lately.

A few years ago, I saw a beautiful one-bedroom in Russian Hill for less than $2,000. Now that same place would probably be over $3,000. I contemplated living in a studio (they were mostly just under $2,000), but they all seemed so small and shitty, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

My parents had been pushing me to buy a condo. That idea was on hold but since condo prices were lower in Oakland, I thought rent might be too. I was right. I got the idea to live in Oakland for a year or so, and if I liked it, possibly buy a place there. In the end I only looked at one apartment: my friend’s condo.

While the location isn’t the most convenient, the place itself and the surrounding area are beautiful and very peaceful. I mean, I can see the Pacific freaking Ocean from my window. It even passed the Mom test when she visited in October.

I don’t know if I’ll stay longer than my lease (the commute feels really long sometimes), but at least I gave it a go.

I gave up krav maga. I’m not saying I’m never doing it again, but this year I let myself not worry about it. I decided that as long as I went to conditioning and punching bag classes, that was fine.

And you know I’m in better shape now than I was at this time last year. It’s not because I don’t do krav maga, but because I’ve been going to those other classes regularly, as well as taking full advantage of my condo gym.

I let myself write the fun book. This was the biggest fun thing I let myself do this year. I haven’t written about my new novel here but I did write a post about it for work, I’ve tweeted about it, and have described it to friends.

You might remember that in 2012, after much struggle, I finished a different novel on Christmas Day. I felt accomplished but I didn’t feel excited about the novel. I was just glad it was done.

I had an idea for a YA fantasy novel for a while. The plan was that I’d “indulge” myself after I got the other novel into good shape. But I couldn’t bring myself to look at it. I tried working on other things. An essay, a short story, an essay I tried turning into a short story. Everything was blah.

Finally, in March I decided, Fuck it. I’d let myself work on the fantasy novel, and I’d just have fun with it. I didn’t do an outline or character chart or anything. I just jotted down a whole bunch of ideas (some in chronological order, some not) and started writing.

I became obsessed. I wanted to work on the novel (which I’ve described as Pretty in Pink meets The X-Men) every day, even if just a little. I wanted to be with the characters, to visit with them like they were good friends. I thought about them all the time. I’d listen to certain songs during my commute and imagine scenes from the book, like a trailer for a movie. I imagined scenes from the sequels. I got tingles as I did.

With the other novel, each and every day was a struggle. I was never excited about it; I often hated it. It never gave me tingles.

By September, I had a first draft. By December I had a second draft. Now I’m letting myself take a break before tackling a third. After that it will probably be ready for people to read.

I will stay interested. As for 2014, I have no resolutions or goals. My only plan is to keep doing what I’ve been doing and to focus on staying interested in things rather than being happy.

I love this quote from George O’Keeffe:

I think it’s so foolish for people to want to be happy. Happy is so momentary–you’re happy for an instant and then you start thinking again. Interest is the most important thing in life; happiness is temporary, but interest is continuous.

May we all stay interested.

[Photo: CC BY 2.0 by Jochen Handschuh]

The Whisper Whisperer, Or What Puts Me to Sleep at Night

by Angela Tung on Sunday, September 8, 2013, one comment

The Whisper

The Whisper

To entertain myself during my slightly longer commute, I shelled out three bucks and got the This American Life (TAL) app. I haven’t listened regularly to the show in years so I have a lot to catch up on. Recently I listened to the episode called Tribes.

The whole thing was great, but what I found especially fascinating was the segment called A Tribe Called Rest, which is about ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response. People who experience ASMR get a “distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body” in response to whispering. Bob Ross (you know, the “happy little tree” guy) is apparently a favorite among whisperer-lovers, as is Maria the towel folder.

The first time I heard of ASMR was when I read this article in xoJane. The author talks about how she watches Maria the towel folder to help her sleep. I don’t usually have trouble sleeping, but when I do, I freak out about it. When I read the article, I was feeling particularly anxious (about my relationship although I didn’t realize it at the time) and was looking for ways, such as meditation, to help me relax.

I watched part of the towel folding video, and found it wasn’t for me. I actually don’t really like the sound of whispering voices. I find them grating. But there are other low sounds that I do like, and until I read about ASMR, I didn’t know why.

For instance, I love the sound of paper being cut. Not just any paper. It has to be thick and firm. Construction paper preferably. And it has to be on TV or the radio. The sound of paper being cut live just isn’t the same.

I don’t get the physical tingling sensation (I only get that from actual physical interaction, like a head massage) but I do get an indescribable feeling of pleasure. It may come from childhood and watching Mr. Rogers cut construction for various projects. Who knows.

While whispered towel-folding instructions or jewelery descriptions don’t do it for me, there are other things that help me relax and which I seek out before bed.

Midsomer Murders. Yup, a murder mystery show helps calm me down. But it’s not like Law & Order or other crime dramas. It’s quirky and light, and I find the British accents very soothing. Doc Martin, a British show set in Cornwall, has a similar vibe: light, quirky, and with a mystery, this one medical, to be solved.

Mushi-Shi. This Japanese anime series falls in the category of animes that are more traditionally Japanese, in other words soft and subtle rather than crazy, loud, and laden with girls and women with impossibly enormous boobs. I’ve seen the series before and am rewatching it. I hardly remember anything — maybe because it made me sleepy the first time around too.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams. When I started watching this, I didn’t know about the soporific effect it would have on me. I had heard it was a great movie by a great director. Who knew that it would make me lose consciousness?

Don’t get me wrong: it’s a beautiful film about a fascinating subject, but between Werner Herzog’s soothing, lightly accented voice (Andrea Seigel, the woman who did the TAL segment, prefers lightly accented voices) and the several long panning shots of the cave drawings, I visited the Land of Nod several times.

I’m always on the lookout for more soothing things to watch. The Planet Earth documentary narrated by Alec Baldwin is pretty good, but I think I’ve seen them all. I remembered recently that I used to love watching documentaries while I lived in China although I barely understood it. Maybe my not understanding the narration was what made it so relaxing. All I heard was the soft tone of the narrator’s voice, murmuring musically as though just for me.

[Photo: CC BY 2.0 by Brian Smithson]

Panic alarm

by Angela Tung on Saturday, August 17, 2013, no comments

Don't Panic BadgeWhere I live in Oakland is considered a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone. This explains the goats I’ve seen grazing on nearby hills as well as the sprinklers I have in every room of my apartment.

However, I didn’t know any of this until this week.

For the first several days that I lived here, it got pretty cold at night. So cold I had to turn on the space heater and wrap myself up in a blanket when I watched TV. Then early this week the weather got warmer, and Tuesday night the apartment felt particularly toasty when I came home late from conditioning class.

However, thinking nothing of this, I jumped into the shower.

Then the smoke alarm went off.

When I say “went off,” I mean “screeched incredibly loudly,” as smoke alarms do. Not only that, the other alarms in the apartment went off as well.

At first I thought maybe it was the steam from the shower and tried to wave it away. The alarm stopped after a few seconds, and I thought that was it.

But then it went off again, and again. And again.

My friend who owns the place had told me story of a tenant who made her come to the apartment because the smoke alarms were going off. At the time I thought, What an idiot. Now I was the idiot calling my friend and sending her panicked texts.

The alarms seemed to be going off randomly. I wasn’t cooking, and I didn’t think the steam from my shower could have that much of an affect. I took the battery out of one of them, but then it made that annoying chirping noise. Also I couldn’t get the cover back on properly.

The alarm in the living room was a bigger problem. I have 18-foot tall ceilings, which is lovely, except that there’s no way I can reach the alarm. I started to panic. Would these alarms be going off randomly all night? Why wasn’t my friend answering her phone? What could I do?

I ended up knocking on a neighbor’s door. While she couldn’t really help me, she did have one good suggestion: call the fire department for advice.

So I did. First making sure they knew it wasn’t an emergency, I explained the situation, and told them how desperate I was for help.

The woman said, “We don’t normally send people out for that kind of thing, but you sound nice, so I’ll ask.”

A couple of minutes later, she came back and said that someone could go out there since it wasn’t too busy.

I was relieved at first, but then thought, If the alarms are malfunctioning, they won’t be able to fix them anyway. So I, get this, made a  reservation at a hotel in the city. It was pricey but I didn’t care. That was how desperate and panicked I was. Then I called the fire department and told them to cancel sending guys out here.

I got dressed and started to get my stuff together, but I was still upset. I didn’t want to go to a hotel. I wanted to stay home. As I was trying to focus on packing a few things, there was a knock at the door. I opened it to find three burly firemen.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy and embarrassed at the same time.

They asked me a bunch of questions. Was I cooking? Had I turned on the heat? The A/C? Had I taken a hot shower?

The shower! The steam, combined with the warmer than usual temperatures, was indeed the culprit. Because this is a high risk area, they explained, the smoke alarms are super-sensitive and hard-wired together. That means, when one goes off, they all go off, which is how they knew they weren’t malfunctioning.

One of the guys fixed the alarm cover that I couldn’t get back on, and they opened up the porch door and told me to turn on fans and open the windows. I kept apologizing and thanking them.

“Don’t worry,” one of them said. “We’ve seen this before.”

The alarms didn’t go off again that night, and now I’m extremely careful about opening windows and turning on fans whenever I shower or cook.

The firemen were so nice, if I baked, I would bake them something and bring it over. But then I might set of the smoke alarms again.

My friend did get back to me soon after the firemen left and confirmed what they said, and I was even able to cancel my hotel reservation with no penalty, all of which tells me panicking has no negative consequences and I should totally do it again.

[Photo: CC BY 2.0 by Jim Linwood]

The first 10 days

by Angela Tung on Saturday, August 10, 2013, no comments

It’s been a whole 10 days since I moved into my new place. Here’s what’s been going down.

Delancey Street Movers

While I was stressed about the move, everything went smoothly. I hired Delancey Street Movers, which had been recommended to me by a few co-workers. The organization is, as the website says, “the country’s leading residential self-help organization for former substance abusers, ex-convicts, homeless and others who have hit bottom.” My co-workers raved about them, saying they were fast and professional.

And they were. There were five guys – a couple sporting neck tattoos, a few missing teeth, but all polite and fun – and one crew leader, and they were awesome. They were extremely thorough, very careful about wrapping up my stuff and at my new place, patient as I hemmed and hawed and changed my mind about where to put furniture. When they were finished, the crew leader encouraged me to spread the word.

“I’ll tweet it,” I said, which for some reason they all found hilarious.

The only snag was the guy I had spoken with on the phone wasn’t clear about the price. He had said $35 per guy but left out “per hour.” He didn’t give me a total, which I should have insisted on. So it was more than I thought it was going to be, but still worth it. There was no way I could have done it myself, they did an excellent job, and it’s a good cause.


There were a few things I expected to be disasters but weren’t.

Public transportation. Since I was taking public transportation to the new place, I thought it would take me a good hour to get there and that the movers would be waiting around (the crew leader promised me, however, that they’d take me off the clock if I was late). But it only took about 45 minutes. I hopped a cab to the Powell Sttreet BART, then another cab from Rockridge to the place. Once you get on the BART, it’s pretty fast.

The big truck. I was also worried that the movers’ truck wouldn’t fit through the gate at the condo complex, and that they wouldn’t be allowed to drive up the hill due to weight issues. I kept picturing them having to move the furniture from beyond the gate a far distance to my apartment. But they fit through the gate and got up the hill just fine. They parked in front of the garage and brought in stuff that way. I relaxed upstairs and just waited for them. Unloading the furniture was much faster than loading it up, and I was thrilled to see the place come together as they set everything up.

Comcast. Finally, if you remember, I was quite stressed about my cable/internet situation. I kept hearing that trying to move Comcast was a nightmare. That old service got canceled early, that service people never showed up, etc. etc. Still, that Monday I tried moving my service online, only to find that the prior tenants hadn’t yet canceled theirs. Comcast said they would contact them, and also I asked my friend (who owns the condo) to ask them to cancel it.

I assumed that they would never do it and started looking to other options, like MiFi. However, that was much more expensive than I thought. At the same time, I got thisclose to buying a device and signing up for a plan, until I decided to wait one night and see what happened.

I’m so glad I did because the next day, my move day, I took a chance and called Comcast. It turned out the prior tenants had canceled their account by then, and that since the apartment was already set up with Comcast, all I had to do was hook everything up and call an activation number.

And lo and behold, it worked. My internet was immediately available. I was confused at first about the cable. Turned out I couldn’t activate it until it was actually wired up, which I couldn’t do because I neglected to take a cable wire with me. Dehr.

Luckily I had taken the next day off so I was able to pick up what I needed, and after I hooked it up, it worked. Hallelujah!

A breather

I had taken an extra day off just in case, and I was so glad I did. I went into the city early and picked up a couple of hair care products I had left in the medicine cabinet and to drop my keys off with the management company. Then I had the whole day to have a leisurely breakfast and pick up a few things (like the cable wire).

And you know what else I did? I saw a movie. Star Trek into Darkness. It was SO GOOD, and the best reprieve to several stressful days.

The commute

Since commuting for a week, I’ve come to find that it’s really not bad – that is, if everything goes as it should. If there’s no Bay Bridge traffic and CalTrain is running normally, it’s actually quite nice. It’s a one minute walk to the bus, which is one of those nicer ones with soft seats. I listen to NPR and stare out at the water, and in about 30 minutes we’re in the city.

Then it’s a less than 20 minute walk on the Embarcadero. I’ve already fallen in love with that walk. It’s peaceful, the sidewalks are nice and wide, and it’s right next to the water. I usually manage to catch th 8:19 train, which is less than 30 minutes.

But if something goes wrong, everything goes wrong. On Monday a big rig caught on fire on the Bay Bridge, and that 30 minute bus ride became more than an hour. Thursday night the CalTrain hit a car (only minor injuries) and there were delays of over an hour. A co-worker and I split a cab to Millbrae, where the BART is, but I had long missed my bus and had to take a cab from the BART to my place.

So when things go well, it’s pleasant. When things go bad, they go really badly.

Oh well. I’ll survive.

The apartment

What helps is that the apartment itself is so nice. It’s way bigger than my old place and has tons of storage space. In fact even more than I need. Plus it’s in much better condition, so quiet I haven’t worn earplugs at all since I moved in, and you can’t beat the view.









Moving Stress

by Angela Tung on Saturday, July 27, 2013, no comments

StressAs some of you may know, I’m moving to Oakland. This Wednesday. Eek.

The truth is I’d rather stay in San Francisco, specifically my area. So many things are walking distance – Whole Foods, three small grocery stores, a million restaurants, Union Square, Japantown, the movie theater, my gym, my krav maga place. There are lots of buses, and while the 1.8 miles to the CalTrain is a bit of a schlep, I’ve grown to enjoy it.

But all of that means something else: high rent.

If you haven’t heard, rent in San Francisco has gone bonkers. The median price of a one-bedroom in my area is over $2,700. My rent is lower than that, but not by much and I have a feeling for not much longer. We just got a notice in the mail that the management company wants to do a lot of repairs on the building, which is good, but that means even higher rent. And because of tenants’ rights in SF, I know mine is the highest in the building.

Back in 2009, I looked at a beautiful one-bedroom in Russian Hill for $1,900. The same place is probably over $3,000 now, and $1,900 will get you a shitty studio. I know: I’ve looked. Having lived in one-bedrooms for years, I can’t bring myself to live in a studio or have a roommate. (NO WAY.) Hence, the move to Oakland.

Originally, the idea was for me to get to know the East Bay to see if I wanted to buy a place there. However, that’s been put on hold and I’m tremendously relieved. My parents would rather take their time fixing up their house before selling, and I, quite frankly, don’t feel like buying anything. So that makes the idea of moving Oakland even harder, what with a longer commute and living in a location that is, while beautiful, not so conveniently located if you don’t have a car.

Teaches me to make decisions right after a break-up.

I realize It could be that I’m just stressed about the move itself and once that’s done, the commute and other stuff won’t be that big of a deal. But part of me wonders if I shouldn’t have gotten a place near my job. The rent is cheaper and getting to work would be a breeze. On the other hand, the places don’t seem as nice as my new one in Oakland. Ditto the $3,000 and under SF one-bedrooms that I looked at on Craigslist out of curiosity. In fact, they seemed shitty and definitely not worth over $2,000.

So all of that makes me feel better about my new apartment. Other upsides include very affordable rent and a really pretty place that is bigger than my current one, in much better condition, and with lots more storage space. It’s also quieter – the apartments are carpeted and I’m on the top floor so now more Frankenstein neighbors walking around in their shoes on hardwood – and has a gorgeous view with a little deck that can fit a small table and chairs. I love imagining waking up in the morning and gazing out at rolling green hills and having my coffee and breakfast outside.

Okay, I just convinced myself. Now here’s hoping switching over Comcast will be half as easy.

[Photo: "Stress," CC BY 2.0 by Bernard Goldbach]

The Danger Zone: Breaking My Routine (Sometimes)

by Angela Tung on Sunday, July 7, 2013, no comments

Panneau Zone dangereuseLifehacker recently had a good article about the science behind why it can be difficult to break out of your comfort zone, and the reasons it’s important to do so.

Your comfort zone is a place “where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk.” I get stressed out pretty easily so I love my comfort zone. However, if things are too easy, I get bored, which explains why when I’m busier I’m more productive.

This is called Optimal Anxiety, and “it’s just outside our comfort zone,” says Lifehacker, “a space where our stress levels are slightly higher than normal,” but not too high, otherwise “our performance drops off sharply.”

My brother Greg took himself out of his comfort zone (sometimes way out) every day for a year. He’s said it’s not necessary to do what he did, that even small challenges are good, but sometimes I forget that. The Lifehacker article reminded me of Greg’s points, that sometimes it’s as small as doing an everyday activity differently.

17_viewfromsacrecoeurWhile YP and I were in Paris, he asked me what I hoped to get out of the trip. I realized then that I had no idea. “To have fun?” I said at the time. That was true. To get away? Not really. Even with recent struggles, I love my life. I love my job and writing; I love where I live. I love my routine.

Ding! ding! ding! I wanted to go to Paris because, well, Paris, but also I wanted to change my routine, no matter that the trip would be slightly stressful what with leaving work for so long, spending money, and being in a brand new place with a language barrier.

Now I realize that those slightly stressful reasons were partly why I wanted to go. When I returned to my comfort zone, I knew I’d feel great. I’d be physically tired, but mentally and psychologically re-energized and more creative. (This is probably why I like vacations that require effort, rather than, say, a cruise or resort.)

This weekend I broke my usual routine, and I’m so glad I did, although when I planned it, I didn’t think, I need to break out of my comfort zone. What I wanted was to be a tourist here in San Francisco the way I was in Paris, and see some things I’ve been wanting to see.

How I bailed

Let’s get this out of the way first. I did bail on one of my planned activities. The night of July Fourth, I was supposed to go to the Exploratorium. Every first Thursday of the month, the museum stays open late for adults only and has special programs. This month it was about the science behind fireworks. Cool, right?

But the later the day got, the less I wanted to go. Then I started hearing firecrackers in the street, and remembered that there’d be tons of drunk people out, and I wanted to go even less. In the end, I stayed in.

The Winchester Mystery House

Going to the Winchester Mystery House was scary, but not because of ghosts.

I was going alone. I’m not someone who always needs to do stuff with people. I love going shopping, to the movies, and museums by myself (although I love doing those things with friends too). But I’ve been wanting to go there for a while, and the timing was perfect.

However, when I got there, I kind of felt like everyone was looking at me like I was a freak (ironic considering the freakishness of some of the people there). Was it because I was Asian? Or because I was on my own? But they didn’t necessarily know that. Anyway, what these random people thought made no difference in my life so I ignored them.

Next I had to brave being in a tour group as a single. After they checked our tickets, they made us take a picture with props, which they’d try to sell to us afterward. GOOD GOD NO. I was not going to be made to stand there by myself with everyone watching. Sure, that would have taken me right out of my comfort zone, but I was already there, wasn’t I?

While the photographer was distracted, I sneaked in behind him and avoided it all together.

It was in a place I had never been before. The house is in Santa Clara, which is not far from San Jose. The Caltrain goes straight there, which was a comfort to me, but once I got there, I had to figure out where my bus was, and then get off the right stop.

Getting to the house was easy (although the bus ride was much longer than I expected, about 20 minutes, and I kept thinking was, Where the fuck is this place? [off the highway and across a mall, that's where]), but returning to the train station was another story.

I assumed the bus stop would be on the opposite side of where I first arrived, and so that was where I waited. And waited, and waited. The schedule said the next one was due to arrive at 7:51. That time came and went, and that was when I started to panic.

I ducked into a nursing home and asked the man behind the counter if he knew anything about the bus. He said it came in more like 40 minute increments. I went back outside and tried to calm down. Sure enough, it eventually arrived, and I got to the station in time to catch the next train back to SF.

Was it worth it? Yes, in that I’ve wanted to see the house since moving here back in 2009, and I overcame my fear of going to a new place on my own. But the house itself? Not really, I’m afraid to say. It was neat but pretty cheesy and not worth the 1.5 hours on the train, plus the 20 minutes on the bus, plus waiting 40 minutes for a bus to go back.

Alcatraz and Angel Islands, or How I Almost Bailed Again

I know, I know. But these were circumstances beyond my control. And I said “almost.”

I woke up early Saturday morning to get ready to catch the 9:30 ferry to Alcatraz. First thing I checked my phone – Instagram, Facebook, email, Twitter, and Words with Friends (in that order) – as I do every morning. That was when I discovered my internet wasn’t working.

Long story short, I called my provider and they said the earliest someone could come was between 8 AM and 12 PM that day. At first I thought, Screw Alcatraz, I can’t be without internet. But after a few minutes I thought, No, I want to ride a ferry to see a cool prison. I don’t want to sit at home for four hours. So I wouldn’t have internet for a couple of days (I still had cable TV). Living on the edge!

I rescheduled for the next afternoon, but in the end I didn’t even need the appointment because by the time I got back that same day, the internet was working again.

View from ferry to Alcatraz

View from ferry

I’m really glad I didn’t skip Alcatraz and Angel Islands. Alcatraz was the opposite of the Winchester House: gritty, dirty, smelly (large flocks of seagulls STINK, even the cute fluffy baby ones), and real. In other words, I freaking loved it. Other highlights:

  • The ferry rides. Who doesn’t love a ferry? Even when they’re freezing cold.
  • The park ranger who led the Escapes tour. I can’t remember his name but he was nerdy and awesome. Made me want to be a park ranger.
  • The audio tour. The narrator is a former guard and has this gruff voice. “Now walk down this hallway. Turn left. You’ll see a photo. LOOK AT IT.”

The tour on Angel Island wasn’t as exciting. It was an hour-long tram ride. The scenery was beautiful, but I’d rather hike there. In fact I hope to return and do just that. More Danger Zone!

The Lifehacker article mentions that the comfort zone is neither good nor bad. It’s a natural state for most people and shouldn’t be thought of something that’s holding you back. It’s a place of recovery after stepping into a more dangerous zone, a “head-space where we’re least anxious and stressed so we can process the benefits we get when we leave it.” That may be my favorite part of these danger zone adventures: returning to comfort to remember them.

[Photo: "Zone Dangereuse," CC BY 2.0 by Frédéric BISSON]

More Adventures in Etymology: ‘Boudoir’ and ‘Powder Room’

by Angela Tung on Sunday, June 9, 2013, no comments

No business like itSome of you may think that adventure and etymology should never appear in the same sentence. If so, you’re reading the wrong blog.

I was doing some research for work when I came across the etymology for boudoir. The strict definition of boudoir is “a woman’s private sitting room, dressing room, or bedroom,” but refers to any room where one can retire in comfort and privacy and perhaps entertain close friends.

You probably guessed that boudoir is French origin, but do you know which French word it comes from? Bouder, to pout or sulk. So a boudoir is a room where a lady can go and pout in privacy.

It’s also apparently a kind of photography (which I knew but somehow forgot). So it’s also pictures of scantily clad women posing and pouting.

Then I wondered, Is that where we get powder room? I had always assumed it came from the idea of a woman powdering her nose, but then I thought maybe powder was a corruption of pouter.

Nope. Powder room indeed comes from the euphemistic idea of women delicately applying powder and makeup rather than pissing and shitting. It also used to refer to “the room in a ship in which gunpowder is kept.”

Scantily clad women, bathroom humor, and gunpowder. I told you it would be an adventure.

Used to things

by Angela Tung on Saturday, June 8, 2013, one comment

Getting used to:

  • Eating dinner whenever I want.
  • Eating whatever I want for dinner.
  • Eating dinner at work.
  • Enjoying eating dinner at work.
  • Not worrying about being noisy in the early mornings.
  • No noise in the next room as I try to fall asleep late at night.
  • The middle of the bed.
  • Having toilet paper, paper towels, soap, juice, etc. last much longer.
  • Less laundry.
  • More quarters.
  • A lower electricity bill.
  • Higher rent.
  • The cable bill.
  • Entertaining myself.
  • Not expecting anyone at the door.
  • An empty apartment when I come home.
  • A peaceful apartment when I come home.
  • No check-ins during the day.
  • More check-ins with friends during the day.
  • Not worrying.
  • Not wondering where this is going, what’s happening.
  • The idea that this is how it’s always been.

My inner monologue during the ‘Red Wedding’ of Game of Thrones

by Angela Tung on Monday, June 3, 2013, no comments

Spoilers follow. (Duh.)

Okay, something bad is supposed to happen in this episode. Someone or someones die. Which important character will it be? Those Green People? Osha maybe? That would be sad. I like her.

Everything okay so far. Is it Jon? Maybe he loses an eye from the eagle? No, he’s okay. Oh, and he’s running away. Hmm, nice.

Is that the caretaker guy from Harry Potter? I think it is. Wow, what a dick. Maybe Robb will kill him? No. So which girl will Robb’s uncle have to marry?

Oh, he hasn’t even met her yet. Well, luckily she’s pretty. God forbid she were ugly.

That sucks they’re not letting in the Hound and Arya. Oh good, Arya ran inside.

Hmm, Catelyn seems nervous they’re closing the doors. I wonder why. And the music is more somber. Hmm, is something happening? Why is she staring down at that guy’s arm? Wait, is that chainmail?

Oh no. Oh no! OH NO!!!

[Silence. Hands over mouth.]

Oh no, Arya don’t go in there. Why does this keep happening to her?

Okay, Robb is still alive. His wife and baby are dead but at least Robb is still alive, and Catelyn. Jesus, that’s that guy’s wife? Cold-hearted.

Oh no!!! Holy shit!!! NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!