Angela Tung

Oversharing on the internet since 2005.

Writing Update: Nature Words, Boardwalk Empire, the Jersey Devil

by Angela Tung on Monday, November 3, 2014, no comments

baskinginsun-300x200Behind as usual. But at least I didn’t wait a whole year this time.

The Case for Making Libraries Full of Toys and Games

I wrote this piece for Quartz back in August. Researching the importance of play was really interesting.

10 Unusual Nature Words We Should Use More Often

An excuse to write about petrichor. By the way, the photo above is an example of apricating.

Boardwalk Empire: Our Favorite Words from the Final Season

I had to pay one last word-nerd hurrah to my favorite Prohibition-era gangster show.

The Mysterious Origins of the Jersey Devil

Writing the short Jersey devil entry on the Wordnik Boardwalk Empire piece inspired to me write this longer article for The Week. What I didn’t know: New Jersey is the only state to have an official state demon. Who knew?

[Photo: “Miss J Basking in the Sun,” CC BY 2.0 by Aiko, Thomas & Juliette+Isaac]

Writing Update: Huffington Post, Quartz, The Weeklings

by Angela Tung on Sunday, June 8, 2014, no comments

Holy crap, it’s been a whole year since I’ve done a writing update. (If you’re curious about what I’ve published since then, just check my publications page.)

technicaldifficultiesFor The Huffington Post, I wrote about how my company used gratitude, patience, and humor to handle a server outage which brought down our app.

The big surprise for me was that as I was trying to entertain our customers, I ended up entertaining my co-workers too, which, I was told, made folks feel a little better during a stressful situation.

Oh, and hey, my article is currently featured on the front page of HuffPost Tech! Although it’ll probably be gone very soon.

Jane-Addams-2696444xFor Quartz, I wrote about what 21st century libraries can learn from Jane Addams’s Hull House, a 19th-century institution.

hannibal-500x332For The Weeklings I wrote about the TV show Hannibal and the symbolism of its many suits, from Lecter’s fab three-piece deals, to his crazy plastic killing suit, to people as suits of meat.

The actual writing of this essay didn’t take unusually long, but the research did, and by “research” I mean rewatching all of season two and jotting down notes and quotes along the way.

But it was worth it, and I hope to write more about TV.

Sad about strangers

by Angela Tung on Saturday, May 3, 2014, no comments

"This is just a break, right?"

“This is just a break, right?”

Lately I feel like I’ve been hearing a lot about troubled relationships — couples separating, thinking about separating, questioning their futures.

Most recently are two writers I admire. Admittedly, I think it’s more their lives I admire than their writing, of which I’ve only read some blog posts and many Instagram descriptions.

From their pictures they seemed to have the perfect life. A loving marriage, two beautiful little girls, successful writing careers, the woman especially (her book is being made into movie with a very popular young actress). More than once I’ve thought, I want her life.

But then I noticed a change. They stopped appearing in each other’s pictures; they stopped commenting and liking. There were no family shots.

Then the kicker: they spent the holidays apart.

I worried. Isn’t that silly? I was worried about two people I didn’t even know. I worried as though it were my own relationship.

Last week the woman finally came out and said that they had been living apart for a while.

It bummed me out, a lot more than it should have. I’m not sure why. I mean, they’re strangers, right? Why should I care? But following people on Instagram or any social media, keeping up with their lives, you feel like you know them.

It also made me wonder why some people break up and others stay together. Those of us who’ve had relationships that haven’t worked out — did we make the wrong decisions, are we not satisfied with something less than it once was, did we not work hard enough to fix things? Or are other people fooling themselves?

I know it’s useless to wonder. It doesn’t change anything.

RWS_Tarot_12_Hanged_ManIt’s been more than a year since my own life status change. While it certainly doesn’t feel new anymore, I do feel like I’m in a holding pattern.

That was one of the cards that came up during my tarot card reading with YP: the Hanged Man, which in its position meant that’s how I look to the outside world, as though I’m in a stalemate.

Then again, while it may look like I’m in a holding pattern, in some ways I’m not. I’m enjoying living on my own, doing exactly what I want when I want, not constantly worrying about what someone else thinks. Because of my personality that’s what I always do. It’s hard for me to turn it off. The only way I can is when I’m on my own.

I met my ex-husband when I was 21 and was pretty much with him for 12 years. After we split up, it was only four months before I started dating someone. I dated that someone for two months, we broke up, and about five months later I started dating someone new. He and I dated for six months, broke up, and four months later I met someone else. I dated that guy for two months, we broke up, and five months later I met MB.

Before last year, the longest I was single was five months (which seems so weird to me because I’ve always thought of myself as a wallflower), and during those times I was single, I spent much of it getting over a guy, trying to date, or actually dating. This past year and two months, excluding the time I was grieving my relationship, is really the first time I’ve concentrated fully on myself.

Maybe that’s why I’m so reluctant to give it up, at least for now.

typing-womanIn other news, a few months ago, I finished this paranormal teen romance novel I’d been working on since last March. I was loving it but now I’m a little discouraged. I queried a bunch of agents, and I’ve gotten several rejections so far, including one very kind, personal one from someone who had requested the entire manuscript.

Now I’m wondering if the book wasn’t quite ready. I think the premise is there but maybe the story could be stronger. But I’m not sure yet what I want to do, if I want to revise the book or plow ahead with the sequel — or sequels — which might help me go back and improve the first installment. The advantage of plowing ahead is that it would keep me creating for a long time, instead of trying to sell. Creating is much more fun.

In the meantime, I’m still working on short pieces. I had my first article published at Quartz, “What 21st-century libraries can learn from this 19th-century institution,” and continue to write for the Wordnik blog, most recently about horse racing terms, selfie variations, Heathers slang, and when a thing isn’t “a thing.”

I’m still loving my new digs, which seven months later, aren’t so new anymore, although not according to the neighbor I rode the elevator with other night. She eyed my suspiciously before finally asking, “Are you new?”

I said not really, that I’d been living here since August.

“Oh, that’s new,” she said.

Whatevs.

I had thought I’d stay only one year, but now I want to stay at least another one. In the beginning I wasn’t used to not living within walking distance of everything I could possibly need. But I’ve gotten used to it. While I can’t just pop out to pick up food or whatever, I can make sure to stock up things when the opportunity arises.

Plus I’m totally spoiled in other ways. The gym right in the complex, my own washer and dryer, all the space, the quiet and beautiful surroundings.

While at my old apartment, I had to wear earplugs every night because 1) my neighbors were super-noisy and would come home at two AM and fight, have sex, or talk on the phone for three hours, 2) the floors were hardwood so you could hear every footstep, and 3) the walls were so thin you could hear everything else, here I never have to wear them.

The only things that ever wake me up are birds in the wee hours of the morning and, get this, a full moon on a clear night. Like, the sky is so clear that the light of the MOON wakes me up.

I’m not ready to give that up either.

Birthday trip recap

by Angela Tung on Saturday, April 26, 2014, no comments

Hey look, I’m blogging for a change!

I realize I’ve been sort of terrible about keeping up here. There’s no way I can blog even once a week, but I figure at least I should be better about documenting my travels. I’ve gone as far as to go back in time and add a much more detailed entry about my trip to Paris and London last year based on some diary entries.

My latest trip was to New Jersey and New York last week for my birthday. Here’s a recap in excruciating detail.

Tuesday

My flight was supposed to leave at two, but it ended up not leaving until 5. While the weather was perfect in San Francisco, back in New Jersey it was apparently raining and very windy.

At one point they thought we’d leave at 3:30 and got everyone on the plane. Then the captain came on the intercom and said we weren’t leaving until five. At least they let us off the plane.

I was worried because I thought I’d miss the last train to my parents. My dad was the one who alerted me that the trains stop running after 1:45 and don’t pick up again until about 5 AM. I arranged it with YP that if I missed the 1:45, I’d cab it to his place. Then I checked the schedule myself and saw that the trains ran all night.

Assuming my father was mistaken, I told both my mom and YP.

Then I realized I was the one who was wrong.

I was looking at the afternoon trains instead of night. Duh.

I texted YP that oops, I got it wrong, and 1:45 was the last train.

Are you drunk? he texted back.

Anyway, I ended up making the 1:45 in plenty of time.

Wednesday

I got in a little work in the morning and then met up with an old college pal.

SN and I first met freshman year in Latin. We also lived on the same floor. After freshman year, we were always friendly but never hung out. And then after graduation, we totally last touch.

Then after I moved to San Francisco, SN found me on Facebook, and we’ve been in contact ever since. We always see each other when I return to New Jersey (she happens to live near my parents) and we even traveled to Orlando together in February.

Anyway, that’s a really long way of saying while I was home, we hit the gym together and had a yummy Indian lunch afterward.

I spent the rest of the day working, had a great homecooked meal with my parents, and then crashed with iPad and Hulu+.

I was pretty exhausted from having gotten in so late the night before and wasn’t affected by jetlag at all.

Thursday

After working for a few hours, I went out to lunch with the parents at what is now my favorite Chinese restaurant in the area. It specializes in little juicy buns, or xiao long bao, of which we had two servings. I also made sure to have noodles (long noodles for a long life) since it was almost my birthday. (Pork with mustard greens, in case you were wondering.)

Lunch was pleasant. Then I made the mistake of telling my parents that SN tried to set me up with her mother’s doctor, who is Chinese, 38, and “nervous around women.”

Deal breaker for me. Not so for my mother.

As usual, she was like a dog with a bone. “I have a sixth sense about these things,” she said. And, “If he’s nervous around women, that means you can trust him.” Finally just to shut her up, I said fine I’d exchange emails with him, which I have no intention of doing.

Later, she tried to get me to give her SN’s phone number. “Why?” I asked.

“For things,” she said.

“What things?”

“Stuff.”

The conversation wasn’t exactly like that but it might as well have been. Needless to say I didn’t give my mother my friend’s number.

After lunch we did a little shopping, and then at home I did a bit more work before my high school pal AY picked me up for dinner.

We went to happy hour at this steak place — food and drinks for $7 each! — and had a great time chatting and catching up.

Friday

Finally, I was off to the city.

I took a late morning train and still felt jetlagged and groggy so I got a coffee for the ride. There is something so lovely about drinking a coffee on an almost empty train – that is until the coffee went through me and I had to pee in the worst way.

First stop was SB’s, who was kind enough to treat me to a yummy Japanese birthday lunch. Next was coffee and writerly-talk with a librarian/writer friend, and finally YP’s.

That night we saw The Cripple of Inishmaan with Daniel Radcliffe. It was good in an old-fashioned way although some of the dialogues seemed to go on for much longer than necessary, and the audience’s laughter was disproportionate to the only mildly amusing jokes.

When we left we saw a line of people waiting for Daniel Radcliffe to come out. There were some kids, and one grown man clutching a Harry Potter book.

Oy.

I love Harry Potter too but not that much. 

Saturday

Saturday was activity-packed. First, YP and I went to the Met and checked out this exhibit, this one, and all the butts of the Greek and Roman statues.

We also walked around Central Park and met AY at the Houdini Museum.

“Museum” is actually stretching it. While there were some very cool artifacts, it was basically 2/3’s of a magic shop. At least it was free.

Then because for me it’s now a New York tradition, I wanted to go to the High Line, which turned out to be the worst idea ever.

The time to go is when it’s about to close, not right around lunch time on a gorgeous Saturday on Easter Weekend. It was wall to wall people, and while it wasn’t hot, the sun was very strong. Plus I was hungry. About to go insane, I kept darting around and speeding ahead of slow people, not even caring if YP and AY were keeping up.

Finally reaching covered food area was such a relief — sustenance and shade, hooray! I got some barbecue — pulled pork, beets, pickled cucumbers, potato salad — while AY and YP opted for Mexican.

For dessert I got a decadent ice cream sandwich. The cookie part was red velvet was the inside was cream cheese flavored ice cream. I ate two-thirds of it and then thought I couldn’t eat anymore. I gave it to AY, but before she could get at it, I finished it anyway.

After we got off the High Line, YP said he was pooped and begged off. AY and I started to walk along the water — but the sun was killing me again. We ended up just going to YP’s place, chatting, and drinking up his delicious grapefruit soda while waiting for him to finish at the gym.

Eventually we met up with him at this coffee place, where he gave me a tarot card reading. I won’t go into details except to say that overall it was hopeful and positive.

For dinner we ate at Cafe Blossom, which is vegan. It was very good. I always think vegan places aren’t going to fill me up, but my pasta and brussel sprouts was more than enough. In fact I couldn’t even finish them. I was glad when YP and AY ate my leftovers.

Sunday

Another activity-filled day! First up was the Easter Parade. YP dressed up as, guess what, a rabbit. It was less mortifying than in Paris. At first people barely gave us a second glass, but as we got closer to the parade, that changed. I heard one woman exclaim to her kids, “Monsieur Lapin!” and it was as though we were back in France.

At the parade itself — which I had pictured with floats, but really it’s people just walking in the street dressed up or not dressed up — people couldn’t get enough of YP-as-rabbit, and kept asking to take his picture.

That picture, by the way, has gotten over 70 likes and 30 comments on Facebook, mostly YP’s friends.

Next up was a reunion lunch with a few college buddies. I saw one friend recently when I was in Seattle but I hadn’t seen the others since before I moved to San Francisco. It was lovely catching up with everyone and eating yummy Chinese food.

That night YP, his sister, and I had a ramen noodle dinner. Yay, more birthday luck!

Then it was an early night in. I was pretty pooped from the whole weekend, and we both had to get up early the next morning, YP to go to work and me to catch an early train so I could go back to my parents’ and work.

We watched Bob’s Burgers, which was super-fun since we both love that show, and a couple of episodes of the new season of The Americans. HOW HAVE I NEVER WATCHED THIS SHOW BEFORE?!? A new addiction.

Monday

Then I was heading back to New Jersey. While the station was crowded, the train was pretty empty since it was a week day and going in the opposite direction.

It was a leisurely day: some work, a nap, some working out, and a delicious dumpling dinner with my parents.

Tuesday

I got in a little work before leaving at one to head to the airport. For some reason the train was packed. What the hell? Why weren’t people at work? Anyway, I got to the airport super-early like I always do, but luckily my flight was not delayed this time. In fact, we left a little early and landed about 45 minutes ahead of schedule. And since I hadn’t checked anything, I was lickety split to the BART, where I had just a one-minute wait.

The travel gods were indeed on my side that day.

I got back to my apartment before 10, and while I missed the east coast and my friends and family there, I was very glad to be back in my own place.

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.

Non-disasters

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.

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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]