Apr 20

COVID-19 Diaries: Quarantine birthday

Ironically it was pretty social.

Last year I spent my birthday on my own in Taipei. It was very significant because it my first big solo trip, it was my first-ever return to the country where my parents grew up, and it was just weeks before my dad passed away.

The whole time I was away we exchanged emails. I loved telling him what I thought and what I had seen, and he was delighted when I visited his alma mater. I’m only sorry he and I never had the chance to talk about my trip in person.

This year was obviously very different. I was kind of glad the pressure was off to do something because, well I couldn’t! I did talk to a lot of people though (a lot at least for me): FaceTime with my brother, sister-in-law, and their adorable little girl; a call with my mom; a Zoom call with buds Ellen and Sandy; and a Duo call with some college friends.

It’s the most social birthday I’ve had in a long time.

Apr 17

When you’re minding your own business and …


Happy fucking birthday to me.

Apr 13

An East Coast Birthday

As expected I had a mostly great time on the east coast. I say mostly because my parents and I ended up spending all of Friday afternoon at the emergency room.

First off, let me say that everything turned out to be fine, but we only knew that after hours of waiting and tests.

That day we were up early to take my dad to the doctor for an exam. We expected to be done by lunchtime, and then I’d head into NYC around three so that I could meet up with YP in time to go to parkour class with him. Things didn’t go as expected.

My dad fainted during his exam. My mom and I were waiting in the car – the waiting room was crowded and stuffy – when we saw an ambulance and paramedics pull up to the doctor’s office.

“Who could that be for?” my mother wondered. We shrugged it off.

Several minutes later, a nurse came out.

“Is he done?” my mother asked.

That was when she told us he had passed out.

“What?!” my mother cried, jumping out of the car and scurrying with the nurse back to the office.

We found my dad sitting in the exam room, surrounded by paramedics. The doctor and one of the paramedics explained that it was probably a normal reaction, but that we should take him to the hospital to get checked out.

“I don’t want to go,” my dad said, but we convinced him otherwise. As they loaded him into the ambulance, he looked very pale and out of it. I was glad we were going.

My parents kept thinking we’d be in and out in an hour. I knew that wouldn’t be the case, but I didn’t expect it to take as long as it did. We were there until about six thirty.

Like I said, everything was fine, and it was a tremendous relief to learn that. Although waiting around for hours was annoying, everyone was super nice. The nurses, orderlies, doctor, everyone. And I was really glad I happened to be there. If I had heard about it afterward or during, I’d have felt so helpless and guilty.

It’s tough when your parents get old.

I ended up heading up to NYC after dinner and got to Brooklyn after 10 (I was still on west coast time so I wasn’t too tired). I was meeting YP at his sister’s. I walked into her apartment to find a group of people sitting in the dark. I thought they were watching a movie, but then YP snapped on the lights and everyone yelled, “Surprise!”

I was indeed surprised, especially since I recognized only two out of the five people there.

But it was such a nice gesture on YP’s part. He brought out a platter of cupcakes lit with candles and everyone sang. It was lovely.

Riding the subway to and from Brooklyn, I realized how much older the population is in my neighborhood in San Francisco. I’m no spring chicken, but the New York subway seemed full of youngish, cute and artsy men, while in SF I don’t see that as much. In my ‘hood, it’s all baseball-cap wearing douchebags, 100 year old Chinese men, aging hippies, or drunks/drug addicts.

The next day YP and I met AK, my writer/library school friend, at the Met. We saw several exhibits, including Photography and the American Civil War, which I found fascinating. And as tradition goes, I visited the Greek hall, namely a specific site.


I saw the Buddhas too. I’m not a complete degenerate.

Afterward we walked around Central Park. The weather was very nice all weekend. A bit chilly and windy but sunny. Plus all the trees were in bloom.


That night we met up again with YP’s sister and another friend, and saw Oblivion. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t good either. Mostly it was boring, and I fell asleep several times. Also, the whole time I kept thinking how much younger Tom Cruise’s love interests were. One I kept thinking was like his daughter because her coloring was similar to his.

The next day I met my college pal SB for lunch. On my way there, I saw a mother and daughter, who couldn’t have been more than eight, in matching fur vests. Ah, the Upper East Side. I got to see SB’s husband and daughter, too, briefly, before we headed out for a yummy Asian lunch.

I was meeting AK for coffee near Union Square and was planning on walking. SB walked with me most of the way before heading back.

Another strange sighting was that apparently the lobby of the main Pfizer building, where I used to work, is now a bank. I don’t know if the whole building is a bank now or just the lobby. Either way, weird!

AK and I had a very nice chat, and then I headed back to YP’s.

I was pretty pooped so we had a relaxed evening. A walk on the Highline (another NYC tradition for me) with this view of some very cool graffiti –


– and an Indian dinner.

Another NYC tradition is that YP gets me hooked on a new TV show. Last time it was Revenge (which has gotten really stupid since), this time: Hannibal. It’s well-done, and I love Hugh Dancy (aka Mr. Claire Danes) and all the actors, but it does make me think, Goddamn, there are a lot of serial killers in that town. We also watched a French movie to get in the mood for our trip to Paris in a few weeks. Again, I fell asleep several times, but from what I saw it wasn’t very good. YP and I both thought Isabelle Adjani was wholly unconvincing as a diva-starlet.

The next day, Monday, I headed back to SF. Surprisingly the flight back, which is longer, felt shorter. I watched TV and slept. Across the aisle from me was an adorable toddler who kept grinning at me and saying, “Hiiiii!” I wanted to kidnap him.

By the way, on the food ordering system, I noticed the option to send a drink, snack, or meal to another seat. I thought it was for parents to buy drinks and meals for their kids. I see I’m going to do well in the singles world.

Apr 13

Happy Fucking Birthday to Me


I turn 41 tomorrow and I’m going to New York Fucking City. That is all.

Apr 12

The Grateful 40

“For years I wanted to be older, and now I am.” Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye

Okay, I admit it. I turn the big 4-0 today, and I’m not thrilled about it. I can pretend to be positive and cheerful, and say, “Forty is the new 30!” or call myself Forty and Fabulous, but that’s not me. My parents sent me a birthday card that while lovely might as well have been a sympathy card. “Our condolences for turning 40!”

Until I was about 28, I had always wanted to be older. As a kid, as a teenager, those years seem to pass so slowly. I seemed to take forever to reach the double digits, the teenaged years, then 16, 18, 21. Now the years pass entirely too quickly.

From 28 till about 33 or even 34, I felt the right age. Twenty-five was too young. I was unsure and didn’t know enough about life. At 30 and over, I was wiser and more confident, but I still felt young. Part of me wishes I could stay 33 forever, at least until I do the things I want to do, and accomplish what I had hoped to accomplish.

But this isn’t to say I haven’t accomplished anything, and that no good things have happened in my life. They have.


I’m glad I no longer work at the Big Blue Pill Company. While it paid well, every day I felt like any minute someone was going to say, “You have no idea what you’re doing, do you?” and I’d have to say, “No, I don’t! I’m winging it!”

I’m glad I had the opportunity to jump-start my writing career. If MB hadn’t gotten this job out here, I don’t know if I’d have quit my job and pursued writing full-time. Probably not. I needed those six months of writing full-time to get clips, become part of an online writing community, and build up an audience.

I’m happy that I get to write for my job. I. . .LOVE. . .MY. ..JOB. I get to tweet all day and write about fun word-nerd stuff. In fact, it’s sometimes more fun than my own writing. Plus I get paid for it.


I’m grateful for my parents. It’s true that I had and have a lot of conflict with my mom, but when I hear stories about abused and neglected kids, I’m so grateful for the parents that I have. I’m also glad they’re relatively healthy and still active. In fact, I just learned they’re taking off for China and Taiwan for two weeks this fall. Lucky ducks!

I’m grateful that I have a brother who is also one of my best friends. By the way, if you have a story about how you scared yourself, Greg wants to hear about it!

Friends and Loved Ones

I’m grateful to have at least half a dozen people I can call my good friends. I’m glad I was lucky enough to meet MB, and that he’s been so supportive of my writing and other pursuits, and has pushed me not to be lazy and procrastinate. For instance, we’ve struck a deal where I have to give him $10 if I don’t work on my novel at least six days a week (even for just a few minutes) or if I don’t go to krav maga at least twice a week. I haven’t owed him any money for not writing, but I’ve given him about $30 for not going to krav maga enough.

Past Accomplishments

I’m happy I had the chance to travel to some cool places, namely:

  • Beijing
  • Tianjin
  • Dalian
  • Xi’An
  • Hong Kong
  • Amsterdam
  • Brussels
  • Paris
  • Prague
  • Tokyo
  • London

And of course a bunch of places in the States. I’m grateful that I got to live abroad (China for six months), and that nowadays I can pretty much pick up and go anywhere, almost anytime.

I’m grateful that I was able to pursue two graduate degrees, mostly free of charge. I guess the Big Blue Pill Company was good for something!

I’m Still Learning

I’m glad that I realize I still have a lot to learn. I know I worry unnecessarily and sometimes incessantly, that worries and negative feelings don’t change the past, won’t change the future, and only ruin the present. I know this and still I do it. I worry about my parents getting older; I worry about having kids and selling a book. I worry that I’m not where I’m “supposed” to be, that I’m “behind.” But as Zen Habits says, when I compare myself to others, I only create my own suffering. All of these worries are my own creation.

So it’s my birthday, just me and Sizzle and Conan O’Brien and Hayley Mills. James Woods, Rick Moranis, and Eric Roberts. Melissa Joan Hart, America Ferrera, and let’s not forget Kourtney Kardashian. It’s my birthday and I’m glad for all the good stuff.

But between you and me, I’ll be 39. At least for another year.

Apr 12

Birthday Giveaway: My Memoir

April is my birthday month, and this birthday is a big one for me. I won’t reveal what it is except to say that it’s an age Jack Benny didn’t like much either.

To celebrate, I’m giving away e-book copies of my memoir! That’s right, instead of a whole three dollars, my memoir is now a whole no dollars. But it’s only for April so head on over to Lulu and download your copy today.

The e-book is FREE FREE FREE!

And if you insist on having a paperback version in your hot little hands, you can still buy one for just $9.99.

So how else will I be celebrating my birthday? I was talking to a good friend about it yesterday, and we both want to find a happy medium between a destination party in Cabo with 50 of our closest friends, and not leaving the apartment for three days. (I’m leaning towards the latter.)

Luckily for me, my birthday is on a weekday this year (less pressure) so I may switch my work schedule and not go into the office that day. Instead perhaps I’ll get in a krav maga class, get a massage, and make MB take me out for an overpriced Chinese fish dinner. Then I plan on forgetting any of it happened, and remaining Jack Benny-age for a good long time.

Till then, download my memoir! It’ll make my birthday wishes come true.

Apr 11

Me me me!

This post will be all about me (as opposed to the rest of this blog, right?), but even more so, cuz guess what?  It’s my birthday!

This year, I kept forgetting about my bday, for a change, between being busy with work and readying my memoir for publication.  Then it hit me this weekend: I am now just one year away from 40.



Anyway, I’m trying to remind myself age is just a number, and I have a lot to be grateful for.  Wonderful friends and family, parents who are still healthy and active (knock wood), my own health (knock wood again), MB, the chance to live in a new city, and the opportunity to pursue my writing career in the way I’ve wanted for such a long time.

Life is good.

But part of me still wishes I could be 33 forever.

Why 33 you may ask?  Why not 25 or 17 or 29?  Because at 33, I started to feel like I was coming into my own.  I was living totally independently and getting to know myself again and living just for myself.  I was living the life – single and in the city – I had been fantasizing about for years.  Plus I was still skinny, had fewer wrinkles, and gravity had yet to take its toll.

Oh well.

Then again, I had a job I hated, and hadn’t met MB yet.  I was hardly published.  I was still angry about my divorce and took it out on my parents, who took out their hurt on me.

So I guess what I’m saying is there are good and bad things about every year, and actually this year, there is far more good than bad.

~ ~ ~

In other news, I finally have some really nice author photos.  Till now I’ve been using candids.  Not bad but also not very professional.  YP took this one of me which I love and I’ll still use –

Winter 2008

– but I also wanted something less wintery.

I looked into getting headshots last fall, but got lazy/chickened out.  I started looking into it again last week when MB suggested his friend, a talented photographer.

We met up in Union Square, and took pictures all around.  A nearby hotel, against building walls, etc.  He was very good at making me feel loose and comfortable.  “You’re stiff!” he’d say, and I’d jump up and down and shake out my arms.  And all those years of watching America’s Next Top Model apparently paid off: when he had me look off to the side, I made sure to focus my eyes far away – rather than at something close-up, which can seem cross-eyed – to project a dreamy look, and to actually think of something which would give my face some expression.

After not very long, we ended up with these five as my “best shots.”

I love all of them but the first two are my favorites – I’ve already updated my Facebook profile pic with the first one, and will use the second one for my book. I’m sure I’ll find a use for the others as well.

Yay for pictures that aren’t five plus years old!  And thanks again to MB’s very generous and talented friend!

Now to stuff my face with (anti-paleo) red velvet cupcakes.

Apr 10

Lovely low-key birthday weekend

I was somewhat distracted by my dizziness problem, but still managed to have a nice weekend.

Saturday morning we were surprised by someone at the door.  It was FedEx with a package.

“Probably a birthday present for you,” MB said.

“Doubt it,” I automatically said.  Despite all my trying to teach myself to have no expectations – meaning neither high nor low – and being open to surprises, I still have some learning to do.

It was a gift from my brother: a very nice yoga mat and bag.  Such a nice surprise. I had told him how I just use the mats at the gym and he was all skeeved.

“You mean you put your face where other people put their feet?” he said.

Well, if you put it that way.

And I totally neglected to include my brother on my Grateful 38 list!  I blame the Drammamine.  If I were more alert, he’d have gone right after 8, 9, and 10, the ones about my parents: “I’m grateful my brother has always been my partner against the insanity of our parents.”

MB and I went out to lunch, took a nice long walk, and saw Kick-Ass at the AMC Metreon.  I was under the impression that people simply don’t talk at the movies in SF, but Sitcomgirl is totally right that at the Metreon they do.

Still, it wasn’t as bad as NYC.  People, including us, repeatedly told the noisy girls to STFU, and the woman with the baby (great idea to bring an infant to Kick-Ass) apologized for the baby’s crying.  Plus the movie was so noisy, it didn’t matter that the audience wasn’t quiet.

After the movie, we headed over to Border’s, where MB got me a few books plus a gift card.  Yay, books!  I’m still loving Harry Potter.  I just finished number four and bought number two since the library doesn’t seem to have it.  Kids do not treat these books well, by the way.  Number four was full of ripped pages – like deliberately ripped – and in one section, some idiot had changed the word “pus” to something dirty.  Damned kids.

Yesterday MB made huevos rancheros for breakfast, then we took another walk since it was such a gorgeous day.  It was actually hot when we started out, probably almost 80.  We went to Union Square and hung out for a bit.  Then suddenly it was chilly.

We had dinner at Borobudur, our favorite Indonesian restaurant, where we overheard the best conversation.

An Asian couple was sitting behind us. I had seen them walk in – the woman petite and well-dressed, wearing an enormous hat and sunglasses, and the guy kind of schlubby.

WOMAN: Can you recommend something without peppers?

WAITER: Sure, sure. [Rattles off suggestions]

WOMAN: Do they have black pepper? No black pepper either.

WAITER: Uhhh. . .

WOMAN: No black pepper, and no chili pepper.

WAITER: Okay. Honey beef is good.

MAN: No beef.

WAITER: Okay. [Rattles off other suggestions]

MAN: And no salt. Is it salty?

WAITER: Uh, yeah, it’s kind of salty.

MAN: And no oil. Is it oily?

WAITER: Uhhh – How about this? [Kindly makes another suggestion]

MAN: You think that’s good?

WAITER: Yeah, yeah, good.

WOMAN: Is it spicy?

WAITER: No, not spicy.

WOMAN: Um, okay.

By now MB and I are rolling our eyes and staring at each other like, Are they kidding?

A few minutes later:

WAITER: Sorry, that dish is already marinated in salt.

MAN: It is? [Begins to sound desperate] Um, I don’t know, you decide. I don’t know what to do.

WOMAN: It’s okay.

Now MB starts munching like crazy on our tumis buncis, which if you don’t know is string beans sauteed in a very salt, somewhat spicy fermented shrimp paste. It’s really delicious.

“Mmm!” he said unnecessarily loudly. “This is sooo good!”

MAN: That looks good. It’s probably salty though, right?

WOMAN: Yes, very salty.

MAN: [Sigh]

Hearing that conversation was probably the best birthday present ever.

Apr 10

The Grateful 38

I’ve been so distracted by my stupid vertigo, I’ve neglected to post about my upcoming birthday.

Taking a cue from Sizzle who posted 37 positive things about herself in honor of her 37th birthday (the same day as mine!), I’m listing 38 things I’m grateful for, much needed this week as I deal with my dumb health issue.

1. Museum Boy.  Also known as MB.  Of course I could go on and on about how lucky I am to have him, but I’m especially grateful this week as he kept me calm while I panicked during one of my dizzy spells and is making sure I follow to a T what I’m supposed to do to get through this thing.

2. In addition, he has a great ass.  Yes, I am grateful for MB’s ass.

3. The chance to write.  While sometimes I may feel a bit lonely, I know I’m really lucky for this chance to write like crazy and not have to worry about finances.

4. A lovely apartment.  Complete with man cave and Murphy bed for guests.

5. Being walking distance from so many restaurants and cafes.

6. A gym that’s only $30 a month.

7. My friends who will drop everything to listen to me bitch about some random upsetting person on the internet.

8. My mom’s craziness.  Excellent blogging material.

9. My mom’s stories.  Sometimes she even makes sense!

10. My dad’s support.  While my mother may question my choice to write and earn almost no money, my father has almost always been supportive of me and my brother chasing our dreams.

11. That I finished my taxes back in February.

12. That I straightened everything out with library school.  Because my last grades were submitted so late by the professor and I didn’t register for another semester, the school thought I had dropped out and sent me a letter saying to re-register.  But they’ve realized now that I’ve graduated.  Yay!

13. That I have no debt.

14. That I’m not a hoarder.  Every time I watch Hoarding: Buried Alive, I’m grateful for that.

15. That I like being on my own.

16. That I had little trouble moving across the country.

17. My hat and sunglasses.  It’s sunny here!

18. That I’m friends with my former writing teachers.  A great way to find out where to submit work.

19. The internet.  A great way for shy people to network.

20. My tiny little computer.

21. Our free HD cable channels.

22. That I’m seeing Conan O’Brien next week (he shares my birthday too).

23. Museums.  Thank you, museums, just for existing.

24. Libraries.  You mean I can borrow books for free?  I can download tens of thousands of journal articles at absolutely no cost?  No way!

25. The BBC 100 List.  So I don’t have to figure out what to read next.

26. Movies.

27. That people in San Francisco do NOT talk at the movies (unlike New Yorkers – STFU!)

28. No mosquitoes.

29. No rats (that I can see anyway).

30.  Fall in New York.  See you soon!

31. That I’m older as I try out this second career.  I don’t know if I had the skills and savvy back in my 20s to be a freelance writer.

32. Noodles.  Thick or thin, hot or cold.  Ramen, soba, udon – noodles!

33. Coffee.

34. That coffee high.

35. Running.

36. That running high.

37. That my body isn’t too different now than it was a few years ago (except for those harder to lose 10 pounds and this old person veritgo).

38. My sense of humor.

Oy, 38, only two years from 40.  FUCK.

Apr 09

A philosophical birthday post

  • Noodles eaten? Check.
  • Birthday wishes received? Check.
  • Generous gift from parents? Check (thanks Mom!).
  • Beauty-product related present and upcoming homecooked meal from MB? Check.
  • Contemplating the end of the world as we know it as I creep yet another year closer to 40 and away from 35? Double check, but not today. :)

This year is the first time in a long time that I’ve actually been too busy to think too much about my birthday. Every day I think, What schoolwork do I have to do? Will I have time to get a workout in? What are we having for dinner tonight? What’s on Hulu?

Last night MB asked me if I felt any different now that I’m 37. Not really. I feel different than a few years ago, and certainly than several years ago, but I don’t think age has anything to do with it.

What with learning, or trying to learn, about phenomenology in one of my classes, I’ve been thinking a lot about Buddhism. The two seem similar, and it’s easier for me to understand the concepts in Buddhist terms rather than in the terms philosophers use. For instance, phenomenology (which is a bitch to spell) talks about a pre-reflective state – a state in which you are basically simply living in the moment, and not reflecting on it, or the past moment, or the next. Philosophers say it’s basically impossible to reach this state, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a snippet here and there. In Buddhism this seems to be enlightenment.

What the two also seem to have in common is the awareness of the body. While for Descartes, the “mind” was separate from the body, in phenomenology the body is always present and inseparable from the mind, whatever that is. So in design principles, the body also has to be taken into account, not just the mind. In Buddhist meditation, the practice seems to involve concentrating on your body and how it feels, and moving through each part of it.

Something I try to keep in mind, and which may or may not have to with Buddhism, are the ideas of illusions and perception. Sometimes I get worried – about the future, about stuff that hasn’t even happened – and in the past I’d get caught in this cycle of imagining whatever might happen again and again, and getting more and more upset, as though it had really happened.

Now when I feel myself falling into that cycle, I try to tell myself, Those are illusions, they’re not real, you made them up.

In terms of perception, again when I start to worry about stuff like having to give a presentation or some annoying task at work, I try to remind myself that what I’m worrying about is actually not so bad – only my perception makes it seem that way Like presenting – I get deathly afraid, but there’s nothing to be afraid of if I’m prepared. I’m not in danger; no bodily harm will come to me. And any psychological distress is from myself and how I think I’m coming off.

I tell myself it’s okay to feel that way. I acknowledge my nervous feeling, my heart pounding, and my stomach tightening, and take deep breaths to try to alleviate those physical reactions. If I boil down my nervous feeling to just a pounding heart and tight stomach, it seems easier to tackle, and without judgment. The heart and stomach aren’t good or bad, they just are.

Anyway, it takes lot of practice.

Something else I like to try to remember is a quote from Damages, of all things. A character basically says that in hell there is no present, there is only the past and future. This isn’t to say that that to not be in hell there can’t be a past or future, but there has to be a present too.

And presents, preferably. :)