Aug 11

Hurricane vicariousness

Reading about Hurricane Irene and how people are getting ready (or making fun of people getting ready) makes me feel like I should be doing something. Like rushing to the grocery store and buying all the buttermilk and quinoa, or canceling plans (not that we have any), or preparing to hunker down all weekend with movies and a good book (which I may do anyway).

The only hurricane I remember experiencing was Hurricane Gloria, back in 1985. I was in the eighth grade, and got into an argument with my dad who insisted school for me wasn’t canceled the next day although my brother’s was and, more importantly, it was officially announced on the news. My father thought only the younger kids didn’t have to go to school, and that I as an old junior higher-er still did, although I kept pointing at the TV and yelling, “There! It says Clifton T. Barkalow school canceled! THERE! THERE!”

Unlike with my mother, I could argue with my father without apocalyptic repercussions, and when he was finally convinced I did not have to weather the “storm of the century” to go to school the next day, he apologized.

Yesterday I checked in with my mom. “The grocery store was soooo crowded!” she said. People were going nuts, acting like it was the end of the world. Her friend was supposed to have a mah-jongg party on Sunday, and the friend’s daughter insisted she cancel. “You can’t go outside at all!” she told her mother, who apparently wants the party to go.

“You guys grew up in Taiwan,” I said. “A hurricane’s no big deal.”

“Yeah,” my mother said. “We know typhoon.”

On the other hand, my mother hadn’t heard a thing about the earthquake earlier in the week. “Did you guys feel the earthquake?” I asked that day.

“What? Cupcake?”

Needless to say, they didn’t feel it nor even know about it till I told them.

One natural disaster at a time.

Jul 11

The weekend thus far

Yesterday I was very blah for some reason.  Coffee didn’t even do its trick!  I ended up spending most of the day aimlessly surfing the internet, playing Words with Friends, and reading.  The only productive things I did were yoga, reading and commenting on a couple of Nervous Breakdown pieces, finally getting together a free memoir shipment I still owed, as well as a submission to a magazine that accepts previously published works.

Here are a couple more exciting highlights.

More crazy Chinese mom craziness

In the fall I’ll be participating in a couple of readings in conjunction with this anthology I’m in.  Exciting, right? So I shared the news with my mom during our call yesterday. But it wasn’t so easy.

Me: Remember that book I told you about? With my essay about Puo-puo.

Mom: Yes, yes.

[Thank God she remembers] Me: Well, the editor lives in Sonoma.

Mom: I don’t understand.

[Here we go] Me: You know what an editor is? The woman who put together the book. Well, she lives in the San Francisco area.

Mom, hesitatingly: Okay.

Me: Well, she arranged a couple of bookstore readings for those of us who also live in the Bay Area.

Mom: Okay.

Me: You know, a bookstore reading? We go to a bookstore and read from the book.

Mom: Okay.

Me: We go to a bookstore and read ALOUD from the book. To an audience. It’s like a speech, or a presentation. Except we’re just reading.

Mom: Oh! The whole book? That will take a long time.

Me [about to lose it]: No, Mom. We each get five minutes.

Mom: Oh. With a microphone?

Me: Why does that matter!

[At this point, MB comes in the room and wags his finger at me for being impatient with my mom]

Me: Yes, with a microphone.

Feeling bad, I called her back a few minutes later, and it turned out, my mother STILL didn’t get it.

Me: MB says I was too impatient with you.

Mom laughs: I never went to this kind of thing so I don’t know.

Me: I know, I know.

Mom: So you guys won’t go.

Me: Huh? Of course we’re going. I’m IN the reading, Mom! I’M one of the people doing the reading!

Mom: Oh! I thought you said the editor was.

Me: No, she’s just arranging it.

Mom: Oh! [Now she sounds excited.] That’s very good!


Then I get this email from my dad:

Happy to know you’re gonna do a live presentation of your article.

First of all, since when does my father say “gonna”?  Secondly: sigh.

I know, I know, they’re both very cute and sweet, but – SIGH.


Early yesterday evening MB and I decided to take a walk to lower Haight and check out Rosamunde Sausage Grill.  He’s eaten there before and thought I would like it.  And I did.

I got the beer sausage and the chicken habanero, and FUCK were they spicy.  I expected them to be white person-spicy (ie, not), but they were killing me.  My nose was running, and while I tried to be paleo and not eat the bun, I just had to or else die of spiciness. (Plus it was tasty.)

We had a very nice walk too.  It was in the upper 50s, low 60s, and windy in some parts.  It’s crazy that it’s July, and we were wearing jeans and jackets.  Love Bay Area weather!

Today so far I’m feeling much more energetic.  The coffee is working!  My main project is to finish this next section of my novel.  Must do it!  It even takes precedence over working out.

Jun 11

So busy

This week I was very busy with work stuff.  While I love how my role has expanded, and while some things are totally fun (like live-Tweeting the Scripps National Spelling Bee!), some stuff has me worrying.  Worrying because it’s unfamiliar territory and I’m afraid to fail, so much so that I woke up at five in the morning two days in a row, and couldn’t sleep, my head spinning: “How many I supposed to achieve what is being asked of me?”

This morning, of course, after a good eight hours of rest and sitting in my pajamas, drinking coffee and listening to the rain, I feel better.  These are good, exciting challenges that are forcing me to not be complacent, and that, unlike my old job, actually make sense and are related to what I love in life – words.

In book news, I was happy to hear that the cover contest participants have begun to receive their free copies.  I don’t get the postal system: I think my friend in Switzerland got her book before folks in the U.S.!  Weird.

Anyway, if you got a free book, or if you bought one, give me some internet lovin’ with a Tweet, Facebook post, review, or just tell your friends. I’d appreciate it! :)

Also, remember I’ve set up a Black Fish Facebook page.  While I started with the fish having a faux-Asian accent, I quickly got sick of the idea, having forgotten an important lesson in marketing: be sincere.  Sometimes I have a tendency to over-snark, so I’m toning the snark down a little on the page.

In crazy mom news, my mother has gotten word that my book exists, and has been bugging me about it. If you know anything about the book, you know it would not be a good idea for my mother to read it. I’ve told her this again and again, yet she still feels left out.

“So all your friends get to read it?” she asked, implying, But not your own mother?

“This is not something you want to read,” I told her. My father gets it though.

“I don’t want to know,” he says.

It’s good to have at least one parent who is not crazy.

Nov 10

The anti-plan

A logical plan has now finally been forged regarding my grandmother’s burial and funeral, after many illogical turns.

First off, the funeral is in L.A. and the burial in Palo Alto.  Palo Alto makes sense.  My grandparents lived in Berkeley for years, and so Palo Alto is where my grandfather is buried.  Why have the funeral in L.A.?  Sigh.  Who knows?

That’s one thing.  Next my mother told me, “We’re all driving back to Palo Alto from L.A.”  Ooookay.  When I told MB this, it made him think we were taking the casket back ourselves.  I was pretty sure this wasn’t the case, but still wasn’t really sure why we were driving six plus hours, instead of taking a one-hour flight.

Very carefully I broached this with my mother.  “So we’re driving instead of flying becaaaauuuussssse. . . .????”  In my mother’s head, it was easier to drive because we’d have to rent a car anyway to get out to LAX and once we got to the Bay Area.  Then she got all put out.

“What’s wrong? You don’t want to be in the car? MB doesn’t want to be in the car? How are all these people supposed to get to the airport?”

I immediately dropped the subject and told her I thought it was a wonderful idea.

My brother wasn’t pleased either.  “Why are we driving?” he kept asking during his visit this past weekend.  I held up my hands.  I was certainly not going to get into another argument with my mother though he was welcome to.

The whole time MB kept insisting, “We’re missing some info here. There’s some thought process we’re not aware of.”

He was thinking of my cousin’s wedding back in June when my aunt got it in her head that MB should lay down the aisle runner because 1) she thought it had to be rolled out and taped down before the ceremony, and 2) although my brother was an usher, he was already dressed up and she didn’t want him to get dirty.

Then after many simultaneous Chinese voices shouting at us, we figured out that the runner had to be rolled out right before the bride walked out, and yet my aunt and uncle still thought MB should do it.  I wanted to ask why my brother couldn’t do it, since he was in the party, but didn’t want to argue with my elders.  Thank God my mother – for once – saw through the insanity, and MB was off the illogical hook.

Anyway, so the original plan was:

  • MB and I fly down to L.A. Wednesday night
  • Funeral Thursday morning
  • Drive back up to the Bay Area after the funeral (at which point who knew when MB and I would get home?  Nine, ten?)
  • Burial Friday afternoon

Then last night my mother called.

“So would you prefer to fly?”

Sigh.  SIGH!!!

She had just found out my uncle and his family are flying, and that my younger aunt thinks it’s a good idea.  Plus my brother said renting a mini van for five days would cost over $500.

At first, my mom thought flying into San Jose instead of SFO was the thing to do.  Not sure why, but luckily one-way tickets from LAX to San Jose were more than double the cost to fly into San Francisco.

You know what I think happened?  My mother heard that the funeral parlor was driving my grandmother’s casket to Palo Alto, and got it in her head that we should therefore be driving too.

For Pete’s sake.

On top of everything, I have to give a eulogy, along with a few other cousins.  Butterflies.  No: bats.

Apr 10


I feel like I barely got any work done today.  Yesterday I started an essay that I was supposed to type up today, but the day just totally disappeared.  I did at least pitch an idea to another magazine.  Then I just remembered I wanted to do a blog post today too.

My essay for Smart Pop Books Dollhouse contest didn’t win. Oh well!  Here it is in full if you’re interested, and a list of the winners.

I finally got a hair cut. Now MB can stop calling me a “dirty hippie.”  Even my hairdresser was like, “I think you waited too long to see me.”  Charles is great!  He’s French and a total scifi/fantasy nerd.  We always talk about movies, and today he basically critiqued all the C.S. Lewis books.

I ran eight miles today. I ran four, rowed for a couple of minutes, and thought I’d run two or three more, but at three I knew I could do another.  Hence, eight!  Hopefully that will make up for having cheese at nearly every meal yesterday (breakfast: cheese toast, afternoon snack: cheese in a pita, dinner: pizza).

This weekend will be a nerd extravaganza. Tonight are the season premieres of Stargate Universe and Merlin on the SyFy channel.  Tomorrow MB and I are going to WonderCon and seeing Clash of the Titans.

My mom changed her mind AGAIN. Now the cruise is out, and coming to SF is back in.  But they’d only come for a few days because it turns out they don’t have to be back in L.A. the following weekend to take care of my grandmother.  My aunt volunteered to skip the wedding (sure she’s crushed) and come up the weekend my grandmother needs care instead.

My parents will take care of their own flight.  We just need to find them a hotel.  A possibility is seeing if one of the furnished apartments in our building will be vacant at that time.  That would actually be ideal.

MB wants to go to G&L Guitars in Fullerton while we’re in L.A. But how will we get there?  We don’t drive!

Mar 10


Now my mom has a new plan: instead of coming up to San Francisco, go on a cruise for a few days.  I was so glad to hear she and my father wouldn’t be staying with us for a week, that I enthusiastically said, “Sure, I’ll do the research!  We’ll treat you guys!  I’ll go!!!”

I don’t mind doing the research and treating my parents (they won’t let us spend too much anyway), but I realized after the fact that I really hate cruises and really don’t want to go.

I’ve been on one cruise.  Three days and three nights stuck on a giant floating hotel, which managed to make me feel both claustrophobic and agoraphobic.  It was the same time of year too, June, and so the boat was full of partying college kids.

The room my mom and I shared a) was the size of a walk-in closet, b) had no windows, and c) was right next to some incredibly noisy girls.  One night they just went on and on.  My mom wasn’t complaining so I tried to suffer through it, but then my mother muttered, “Xiao gui.”  Little demons.

That did it.  I banged on the wall three times.  “Shut up!” I shouted.

The girls were silent for a moment, then started laughing and banging back.  “Shut up, shut up!” they mimicked.  After that they’d do things like bang on our door late at night and run away.

It was like all seven deadly sins in one place.  Lust, the college kids doing god knows what in the outdoor hot tubs.  Gluttony, all those all-you-can-eat buffets, including a midnight Mexican spread that I gave in to.  Sloth, nothing to do but sit your ass in a chair and stare at the ocean, wondering if you’ll survive the next three days.  Greed, the people gambling in a casino (I won $70 playing video poker, then promptly lost it).  Wrath at those stupid noisy college girls.  Pride kept me from admitting how lonely I was (my marriage was falling apart at the time).  Finally, I was totally envious of anyone not on that cruise.

But there were some fun moments.  Like when my cousins and I climbed the rock climbing wall, and joking around at dinner, and playing Pictionary, and seeing my grandmother’s face light up whenever she saw any of us.

But I’m really hoping I won’t be able to find a cheap cruise, and my mother will have to come up with crazy plan C.

Mar 10

Oh, Mother


So my cousin is getting married in June in L.A.  This means my parents are flying out, and thought they’d take the opportunity to come up and visit us in SF afterward.  Simple, right?  WRONG.

My mother, as she does, has come up with a flurry of complicated plans.  She had told me that my brother had suggested driving all of us back up to SF and spending some time together.

“All of us?” I said.  “We’ll have to rent a van.”

“Oh sure,” my mother said.

Then today she told me that IF my brother wanted to drive, THEN she and my father would both come up to SF and stay with us for a few days before driving back down with my brother.  (They need to be back in L.A. for the weekend to look after my grandmother while my uncle, aunt, and her side of the family go to Las Vegas.)

BUT, if my brother didn’t want to drive, then only my mother would come up and my father would stay with my brother, and in that case my mother would stay a whole week instead of just a few days.

Oh my head is spinning.

ANOTHER scenario is that she’ll convince my dad to go to SF no matter what (ie, even if my brother doesn’t drive, though why that’s a determining factor I have no idea), and they’ll stay a whole week.

A whole frigging week.

Tactfully as I could, I said our place is actually not that big so that while they could stay a few days (hopefully more like two), a hotel might be better, and I promised to do research.

My mother seemed keen on this idea, but then suddenly said, “You know, you guys should pay for the hotel.”

I was thinking that same thing, out of guilt, and said sure.  Fine and dandy, right?


“You didn’t even offer,” my mother huffed.  “You didn’t even think of it first.”

So after I a) offer to research hotels, and b) agree to pay for it, she still criticizes me.  I was so frigging annoyed.

But because I’m such a wuss when it comes to my mom, I did a little research and called back to very nicely inform her of current hotel pricing.  “Too expensive,” she kept saying though she seemed to have gotten over her huff.

There is just no winning with her, my brother said.  You’re going along, you’re trying your best, and then there’s this secret behavior that you’re supposed to engage in, and if you don’t, you’ve totally failed.

By the way, it turned out my brother never offered to drive them.  It was all her own idea.  What is wrong with her???

Jan 10

My mother strikes again

Now that my mother doesn’t have to worry about MB and me living in some one-room hovel that exists only in her imagination, she’s looking for other things to worry about.  Like cooking, or my lack thereof.

“Why don’t you cook for MB once in a while?” she asked earlier this week during an otherwise perfectly pleasant conversation.

Now.  I make maybe four dishes: stir-fried tofu (which I suppose could be replaced with chicken or pork), salmon in a soy sauce-brown sugar marinade, pasta and meat sauce (seasoned ground beef + jar of whatever sauce I happen to have), and a curry beef concoction made up of, yet again, ground beef, instant Japanese curry sauce, and carrots and potatoes, served over rice.  Of course there’s also instant Korean noodles with tofu and veggies, but even I won’t count that as cooking.

Basically what I’m saying is on my own, I won’t starve or have to do takeout every night.  I can get by.

But making one or more of those dishes for someone else?  I don’t think so.

“It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t taste good,” my mother went on.  “It would be a nice thing for you to do.  It would make things, you know. . .better for you two.”

Better how?  Will MB suddenly start seeing me as a valuable asset?  “I can’t get rid of her now! She cooks!”  I know what she means: it would make me better.  Through cooking I can earn my keep and prove my worth.  Why else would MB want to keep me around?  Cuz he loves me?  Naaah.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with cooking something for someone you love, IF you want to do it.  And I’m not against bettering my culinary skills.  But doing it to fulfill some stereotypical role and because my mother says so makes me want to do it even less.  In fact, it really annoys me.  Here is my mother yet again foisting her value set on me, and asking me to live up to expectations that have nothing to do with me, MB, or the lives we lead.

We think of ourselves as partners.  We divide the work.  He cooks, does repairs, and lifts anything heavy.  I wash the dishes, do the laundry, and take care of the general up-keep and organization of the apartment.  The important thing is we share the work – who cares who does what?

So will I ever cook for MB?  Maybe, if the mood strikes.  But if my mother asks again?  I may have to lie and say I made some fancy dish, just to see her reaction.

Nov 09

My mother, the queen of negativity

Mom: So things are. . .good?

Me: Yes, very good.  I just saw my friend.  Did Dad tell you last week we chatted for five hours?

Mom: Why did you talk so long?

Me: Because we get along well.

Mom: . . .

Me: And I went to that writing club thing on Sunday.  It was a lot of fun.

Mom: How many people were there?

Me: About seven or eight.

Mom: That’s it?  I thought it would be more like twenty.

Me: Well, it wasn’t.  But it was still fun.

Mom: Oh sure.

. . .

Me: And I picked up a small writing gig.  It’s just $15 an article, but at least I’ll have some publications.

Mom: Just $15? That’s so little.

Me: Well it’s better than zero!

Leave it to my mother to turn every single thing I said into something negative.  *Sigh.*

Apr 08

Tuesday randomness

It’s only Tuesday and I’m already ready to get random.

I finally got my watch fixed. After several years of not wearing a watch, I’ve recently started wearing my again. Only I either a) can’t stop looking at it, especially in long boring meetings, or 2) forget that I have it on so that I’m wandering around, wondering what time it is. Today I forgot to wear it.

Firefly was a good show. MB downloaded a bunch of episodes and we’ve been watching them for the past few days. What a good show. It’s neat that Chinese is thrown in here and there (the Alliance is a U.S.-Sino Alliance, since in the future America and China will be the only true super powers left), but sometimes the actors’ accents are so bad, I can’t tell what they’re saying. Too bad the show was canceled.

My mother can be so annoying. I called her late last week to tell her about the jobs I’ve been interviewing for, and how I actually feel hopeful. She said, “That nice. But it’s not like your job is so bad now.” Um, have you not been listening to me complain for the past year?

But that’s not all: “Sure, getting a new job is nice, but what’s more important is that you’re with someone now.”

Wha? Hunh?

One doesn’t preclude the other – career and relationship are in two different realms for me. I was perfectly fine boyfriend-less, but in a crappy job with a shitty boss, I’m still unhappy. No boyfriend = happy. With boyfriend = happier. Crappy job = UNHAPPY. Uncrappy job = happy.

My mother didn’t really see my point.

And the rest. Reposted my furniture ad and have gotten more responders. Hopefully tonight “Jenny” will buy my tea tables. Another woman is supposedly interested in the dressers and couch. Don’t tease me!

Had another digital marketing interview bright and early this morning. I think it went well, but who knows. Have my last one for communication manager in a little bit.