Dec 11

100 ATRO #76: Working Between Christmas and New Year’s

If you didn’t already know, ATRO stands for Awesome Things Rip-Off because I totally ripped off the idea from this guy.

For the past week, my workplace has been closed and I’ve been working from home. Sounds great, right? And in some ways it is. I get in some extra hours of sleep and some extra workouts. But at the same time, I kind of wish my office was open.

Even when I had a job I hated, I loved working the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It was a short week, and most people (ie, annoying bosses) were out. That meant I could luxuriate in a quiet office, slacking or working on personal stuff for most of the day. I could hit our company gym for two hours at a time, and have long leisurely lunches. I could run errands with my friend (and former co-worker) YP all over town. And all the while, I was getting paid.

I love my current job and so doubly wish the office was open. While working at home is great some days, it gets boring if I do it every day. And there’s only so long I can sit in a cafe. Going to the office gives me a “break” from my apartment. The peaceful walk in the morning to the train station allows me time to think through my novel or stuff for work, as does the quiet train ride. My co-workers give me some much-needed socializing and comraderie. Otherwise the only people I talk to are MB and various baristas.

So while I’m grateful to have some extra shut-eye (especially this morning after not being able to sleep till after 2 AM [damn you delicious Blue Bottle drip coffee!]), I’m looking forward to heading back into the office next week. Till then, my Japantown “cafe office” will have to do.

Dec 11

100 ATRO #77: Not Shopping for Presents

If you didn’t already know, ATRO stands for Awesome Things Rip-Off because I totally ripped off the idea from this guy.

I used to pride myself on giving people the perfect gift – something they didn’t even know they wanted till I gave it to them. One Christmas for my mom, a coffee and sweets lover, I gave a coffee of the month membership. Each month a different kind of coffee, with accompanying cookies or candies, came to her doorstep. Once I gave my dad, who loves red wine, a high tech bottle opener and stopper, which he still uses and raves about till this day. For my ex-father-in-law, I gave a beautiful pen holder for his pen collection. His eyes lit up when he saw it.

“I need something like this!” he cried.

For my ex-mother-in-law, I gave clothes to her specifications, which she wore every day.

But even as I delighted in giving people wonderful presents, I grew to hate it. The stress, the crowds, the lack of appreciation from my ex who once said to me, “No junk for my mom,” as though I’d ever get her something junky. Giving his parents the perfect presents made absolutely no difference in his eyes, and while they did love the gifts, nothing I gave equaled what they actually wanted: a Korean daughter-in-law. But still I tried. Still I competed with my ex-BIL’s Korean wife, who gave expensive yet utterly impractical presents (like an angora sweater for my bedridden MIL) that sat in my in-laws’ dresser, untouched.

Giving gifts, a presumably self-less act, became entirely selfish. It became a way for me to earn points and approval.

Now I only get gifts for my parents and brother. (MB and I don’t exchange gifts. He doesn’t celebrate Christmas and I don’t care. I’d rather have sweetness, affection, and emotional support every day than a big fancy gift once a year.) Almost every year I get my dad wine, for my mother chocolates or a gift card, and for my brother, also a gift card. I buy everything online so I don’t have to stand in line, haha.

Also, lately I’ve taken to sending gifts at off times. My friend YP loves Wonder Woman and writing letters. In a Japanese bookstore, I spotted some Wonder Woman stationery and sent it to him, saying it was very belated birthday gift. I didn’t get anything for my brother’s birthday this year, but then I noticed that Moleskin was having a limited edition Star Wars series, and sent those as another belated gift.

That’s a hell of a lot more fun than shopping for Christmas.

Aug 11

100 ATRO #78: British slang

If you didn’t already know, ATRO stands for Awesome Things Rip-Off because I totally ripped off the idea from this guy.

Man it’s been ages since I last did one of these! I’m an Awesome Things Rip-Off slacker.

Anyway, now that a lot of our favorite shows are on summer hiatus (except for Breaking Bad, True Blood, and Louie of course) MB and I have been watching a few British shows off Hulu, Netflix, and, ahem, by other means.  I love these shows not just because of shots of London, the cursing, nudity, and, the sometimes better acting.  I love picking up on British slang and differences in casual conversation.

For instance, on Law & Order UK and Luther, they say copper for police officer.  Copper seems to be said in old American movies, but nowadays U.S. crime dramas use cop or officer, or like on The Wire, PO-lice, as in “He’s good PO-lice.” The British copper seems to have the same sentiment – someone who’s a police officer not just in occupation but to the very bone (by the way, Idris Elba who plays bad guy Stringer Bell in The Wire plays copper John Luther in Luther).

For the longest time, MB and I couldn’t figure out what DS was, till finally he figured it out: “Detective Sergeant!”  (In the U.S. it’s just detective.)  “All right?” people say instead of “How are you?” or “What’s up?” which I first heard in the Harry Potter movies.  Same with mental, crazy, or ment-ul.  There’s ending sentences in yeah? which seems like our equivalent of ending sentences in right?  “You were at your mum’s all night, yeah?”

Then there’s the name calling, which the misfits in Misfits are fond of.  Wanker.  Tosser.  Twat.  Prick (which Americans use too).  There’s fanny, which on the this side of the pond is a prim way of referring to the ass, but over there actually means vagina (note to self: do not refer to my fanny when in London).   When the misfits talked a about fancy dress party, I automatically thought formal or black tie.  Wrong!  Fancy dress is what we’d call costume or masquerade.

There’s “It’s not down to you,” like American English’s “It’s not up to you.”  “Are you finished with me?” instead of “Are you breaking up with me?”  “Are you taking a piss?” seems to be the same as “Are you joking around?”  “Are you dicking around with me?” seems to be a more hostile version of “Are you taking a piss?”

It’s also interesting to see the differing degrees of slang between the shows.  Sherlock and Torchwood seem to have less while Misfits has a lot, which I love, as well as a couple of accents I can barely understand (Kelly, I’m looking at you).

I know there’s tons more slang and colloquialisms I’m not aware of, and you bet your fanny, uh I mean ass, I’ll be writing them down.

Apr 11

100 ATRO #79: Care packages

If you didn’t already know, ATRO stands for Awesome Things Rip-Off because I totally ripped off the idea from this guy.

Living close to home for most of my life, I never got any care packages.  After visiting my parents, I’d simply lug back shopping bags full of leftovers, promptly smelling up the train with scallion dumplings and pork cutlets.  Now that I live across the country, I can’t do that anymore, and man, do I miss it.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked my mom to send me a few sweaters I had left behind at their house in New Jersey (I was tired of wearing the same three day in and day out).  After spending way too much time describing them to her, she asked, “Will you guys eat some peanuts if I send them? How about some cookies?”

“Sure!” I said.  My mom makes these insanely delicious roasted peanuts.  As for the cookies, I knew MB would gobble them up.

A week later I got a notice from the post office that I had a package.  Luckily it’s just a block from my place because it was kind of big and heavy (that’s what she said!).  Busy that day, I didn’t open it for a couple of hours, and when I finally did, I was delightfully surprised.

Not only were there my old sweaters, my mother had included several new tops she had gotten me, MOUNDS of her homemade roasted peanuts (excellent for my pseudo-Paleo self) and cookies. A giant tin of gourmet cookies that look more like chocolates.

So awesome? Or so evil?


Luckily by now, the cookies are gone and I resisted!  MB ate about half, and I brought the other half to work, where my co-workers happily inhaled them.

The peanuts?  Gone, like Vin Diesel’s career.

I could get used to regular care packages (I’d say “hint hint” but my parents don’t read my blog, thank goodness).  Makes me want to send some of my own.

Mar 11

100 ATRO #80: Seeing a movie by yourself

If you didn’t already know, ATRO stands for Awesome Things Rip-Off because I totally ripped off the idea from this guy.

MB was away this weekend at another conference. While I enjoy *some* alone time, I mostly just him like crazy. While I’d like to think of myself as a fairly independent person, I do sometimes work better when MB’s around.

Case in point. This weekend I needed to work on an entry for an essay contest due this past Wednesday. By Saturday I had barely started it. I mean, I had thought about it a lot but hadn’t actually jotted any words down.

I had good intentions.  I got in an early workout, then grabbed my laptop and headed to one of my favorite cafes in Japantown.  It helped that it was a gorgeous day, making the walk there very nice.

The only problem was I was tired.  I couldn’t sleep the night before so got about five hours.  I tried to write.  I wrote a paragraph.  Well, “wrote” is an exaggeration.  I took an already-written paragraph (from my memoir) and revised it.  I surfed the internet.  I had some tea and an Earl Gray macaroon.

Then I called it quits.  After ONE HOUR.  And went to the movies.  The King’s Speech.  It was awesome, and in more than one way.

While I prefer to see movies with friends, there’s something so peaceful about seeing one by yourself.  You’re quietly sitting there in the dark, totally caught up (hopefully) in a great story.  You’re focused completely on what’s the screen.

What made seeing The King’s Speech extra nice was that the theater was almost empty.  It was a matinee and most people at the theater were there for the Asian American film festival (so I’m a traitor for seeing a “white” movie instead, oh well!).  There was no one sitting next to me, and while the women behind me were slightly annoying, laughing at anything that was even remotely amusing, I still highly enjoyed myself.

And it was certainly better than sitting in a cafe not working.

As for the essay, I *did* finish at the last minute.  Like by midnight on Tuesday (or Wednesday, technically).  Definitely not awesome.

Mar 11

100 ATRO #81: Hot sauce in the morning

If you didn’t already know, ATRO stands for Awesome Things Rip-Off because I totally ripped off the idea from this guy.

For some reason, some people think this is weird.  “Hot sauce in the morning?!” they’ll proclaim, as though you’re swigging whiskey with your Fruit Loops.

Why not?

At my old company, my co-workers would give me and my friend YP a hard time for putting the firy condiment on our eggs and potatoes, respectively.  But why? While I probably couldn’t ingest some tobasco upon rolling out of bed, for that second breakfast – later in the morning, after a workout or a commute – it’s perfect.

That unbeatable combination of salt, vinegar, and of course hotness is just right for blander savory foods like eggs or potatoes.  Eggs and potatoes are breakfast foods, aren’t they?  You’d put salt and pepper on both, wouldn’t you?  You’d even put some ketchup.

Why not tabasco?

And it’ll definitely wake you up.

Feb 11

100 ATRO #82: Unexpectedly good workout songs

If you didn’t already know, ATRO stands for Awesome Things Rip-Off because I totally ripped off the idea from this guy.

A song can make or break a workout, at least for me.  While I love soft and soothing ballads on the bus ride home, they just don’t get my blood pumping for a run.  For that I need dance music, hip hop, or rap.  MIA, Britney, JT, Christina, J.Lo, Kanye, Madonna – if it has a good beat and I can dance to it, it’s going on my workout playlist.

Then there are the tunes that you wouldn’t think make good workout songs.  Wait, isn’t that folk music? Do I hear an acoustic guitar? Is that fiddle and a harmonica? But hey, people dance to fiddles and harmonicas too.

“A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians

What makes this work as a workout song, at least for me, is the driving, almost monotonous rhythm. It almost imitates the feeling of running. Plus I love the lyrics.

“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” The Beatles

What better way to get your feet moving than a happy, jaunty song. And if it makes you think of that show Life Goes On, so the better.

“Rise,” Eddie Veder

That acoustic guitar again! Or this time, ukelele.

“Return to Roan Inish,” 1 & 2

I’d say about a third of my iPod selection are soundtracks. (Come to think of it, “A Hard Rain” and “Rise” are both from movie soundtracks too.) These two tracks are from this beautiful Irish movie you may or may not have heard of, and which make me want to do a Riverdance jig. If I knew how, that is.

“All I Want Is You,” Barry Louis Polisar

One of my favorite songs, not just for running but in general. I think of it as MB’s and my song (whether he knows it or not), because it’s from one of the first movies we saw together; it has a harmonica, which MB can play; and it reminds me of him – joyful and full of life. This is cheesy, but when I hear this song, I imagine us whirling around a dance floor.

And for some reason, I run better.

Feb 11

100 ATRO #83: When the gas finally comes out

If you didn’t already know, ATRO stands for Awesome Things Rip-Off because I totally ripped off the idea from this guy.

This will be a TMI post.

Burping used to not be a problem.  If I had to burp, I did so.  But nowadays, it’s more of an effort.  I’ll be enjoying my food, when suddenly I feel that pressure in my gut.  I have to stop completely, stand, and walk around before, finally – AHHHH!  The gas comes out.

My mother has gastroesophageal reflux disease, better known as GERD or acid reflux. I’ve never had the problems she’s had, but when I told my doctor about my mom’s condition and also mentioned that I “occasionally” get heartburn, he immediately jumped on it.

“We’ll do a test!” he said, a bit too enthusiastically. “You might have it you never know!” Then he rubbed his hands together, relishing the idea of writing me yet another scrip.

Just kidding, though I do think my doc is a little too eager to find things wrong with me and prescribe me meds.

Anyway, the test turned out negative. No acid reflux, just eating too fast, or getting older, or something.

Yesterday was the worst.  The night before MB and I ate at one of our favorite places in Japantown, Juban.  When we go to Juban, we always get the roasted garlic.  I can eat that shit all day long, and that night I ate most of it.

“I’m going to pay tomorrow,” I told MB.

And pay I did.  Without going into too much detail (I know: too late), let’s just say that while I love our new office space, I don’t like that you can basically hear what everyone is doing in the bathroom.  Or at least I can, being so close.  From a stall, I can hear people talking across the office, so I can only assume that they can hear me.

There’s only so much unnecessary flushing one can do.

Finally, I got the bright idea to return to our old office space.  On the first floor there’s a public restroom that’s supposed to be for the restaurant, but is actually rarely used.  I’ve never seen anyone in there while I’ve been there.

The downside is sometimes it’s unpredictably locked.  As I reached the restroom, I prayed and prayed that the door would be open.  Success!

And finally, FREEDOM.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Jan 11

100 ATRO #84: Yelling “Heads up!” at someone

If you didn’t already know, ATRO stands for Awesome Things Rip-Off because I totally ripped off the idea from this guy.

Ah, texting and walking, a hazardous activity. You’ve seen it done. Maybe you’ve done it. I know I have, but while I try to glance up occasionally, especially when crossing the street or on a crowded sidewalk, others do not. So then it’s up to me to yell, “Heads up!” to avoid a full-on collision.

It may be my imagination, but people seem to do it more here in San Francisco than in New York. In New York people certainly yakked on their cell phones as they walked – or rather, veered all over the sidewalk, which made getting around them impossible. Here we’ve had alert several people with their eyes glued to tiny screens that if they didn’t move, we’d have a clusterfuck of pedestrian traffic. MB likes to stomp his feet, while I’ll shout, “Watch out!” if need be.

Guess it makes sense: New York, a city full of loud talkers, SF, a city full of tech-addicts.

Either way, maybe someone should have yelled, “Heads up!” to this lady:

I know I’d have appreciated it.

Jan 11

100 ATRO #85: Running into your SO on the street

If you didn’t already know, ATRO stands for Awesome Things Rip-Off because I totally ripped off the idea from this guy.

The other night I was walking home from the bus stop. I stopped at the corner a couple of blocks from my apartment to wait for the light. From the corner of my eye, I saw a tall thin guy come near me. Of course I stiffened. There are lots of drunks and weirdos in my part of town. But then I looked a little closer – and it was MB!

“I didn’t recognize you!” he said, giving me a hug.

What is it about seeing someone near and dear to us unexpectedly and out of context?  Maybe it’s like seeing them for the first time again, on that first date, when you think, Okay, this guy is cute, and his emails were nice, there could be potential, but at the same time you know him.  The love and comfort are already there.  For a split second, you have the best of both worlds – that exciting but uncertain first meeting, and the certainty and love of a secure relationship.

The same can be said of friends and family.  One winter break in college, SB came to my house.  It was warm enough and we were sorta bored so we took a walk down the street behind my house.  It led to a strip mall, where there was a popular grocery store.  We said, “What if we saw ES there?”  We knew she was going there with her mother at some point before meeting up with us later.  We walked in, and there she was, looking very surprised.

Another time, right before I moved to SF in fact, I was hanging out with AY at a cafe in, where else, the strip mall at the end of the road behind my parents’ house.  We were sitting there talking when I saw from the corner of my eye an older Chinese guy walking towards us.  Suddenly, I realized: “That’s my father!”  I knew he was taking a walk, but still I was totally surprised.

It’s like worlds colliding.  For the moment, you’re grocery shopping with your mom, or hanging out with your friend, or walking home from work – you don’t expect to see someone you know enter that world.  But to your delight, there are your friends, your father, your significant other.

What wouldn’t be awesome is running into your SO kissing someone else on the street.  That’s for a whole other list entirely.