Jan 17

My daily rituals

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

Enjoying a cup of coffee (or two) is one of my daily rituals.

I’m a creature of habit. I find comfort in having a routine and doing some of the same things every day. I also love having something to look forward to, whether it’s that first cup of coffee in the morning or relaxing after work with Netflix.

Inspired by this Quora question, I thought I’d share my own daily rituals.


I wake up between four and four-thirty. Even on the weekend. I sleep later if I’m sick or sleep deprived for more than a day. Although I don’t necessarily think getting up and going to bed earlier is better. Being an early bird or a night owl each has its pros and cons.

I (groggily) make coffee. This is the very first thing I do. It wakes me up, and I love how my apartment smells.

I brush my teeth. I’m one of those people who has to brush their teeth before breakfast.

I get back into bed and look at my phone for 5 or 10 minutes. The light from the screen helps me wake up more, and I catch up on the news and messages from night owl friends.

I have my coffee, eat breakfast, and read whatever book I happen to be reading. Breakfast is bread with peanut butter and jam or Nutella or some kind of pastry.

I work on my novel. My minimum is 250 words, either new or extensively revised, during the week, and 500 on the weekends.

I go to the gym. I work out four or five days a week, either running 3 to 5 miles or hitting the elliptical for 40 minutes, followed by strength-building exercises like plank, squats, or free weights; ab work; and stretching. When the weather’s nice, I like to run in Central Park.

I have my second breakfast. This is usually an egg, veggies, and coffee or chai tea.

I do some freelance work. Namely setting up tweets.

After that it depends on if it’s a work day or the weekend, and if it’s a work day, whether it’s an in-the-office or work-from-home day.


I eat dinner between 5:30 (yup) and 7:30, depending on if I have to go into the office or have plans.

I watch my stories. Usually a short sitcom or two, followed by a longer drama or action show.

I watch something soothing. This is probably not a great habit, but I need to watch something calming before I go to sleep. This means a nonviolent anime or a British cozy mystery like Midsomer Murders. For some reason I find the Japanese language and British accents very relaxing.

I (try) to stop looking at my phone.

I stop answering texts and calls around 8. This is when my phone automatically goes on Do Not Disturb. The only calls that get through are from my parents and brother.

I go to sleep between eight and nine. Yes, like I’m seven.

I know there’s probably room for change and improvement, like incorporating meditation or more social activities, although I do enjoy my rituals the way they are now.

What are your daily rituals?

Sep 13

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

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]

Feb 13

Teeth Saga


I grind my teeth in my sleep. So does my brother (so loudly that when we were kids, I’d hear him in the next room) and probably our mother. She insists she doesn’t although her teeth are very sensitive and her children and younger brother all grind.

I’ve probably ground my teeth since I was a kid but a dentist didn’t notice until I was already in my 30s. Or at least a dentist who attributed the wear on my teeth to the right cause. When I lived in Boston, I was stupid enough to go to a dental school. Sure, it was the Harvard Dental School, but the guy who checked my teeth was still an idiot.

First of all, he cleaned my teeth first, then did X-rays, which meant pressing those plastic things against my gums really hurt. Then at one point he left me for a very long time with my mouth in an uncomfortable position, and finally his theory for the cause of the wear on my teeth was from my clenching my jaw when I ran or from eating crunchy snacks.


This week I went the dentist for the first time in about five years, maybe more. I don’t usually mind the dentist, but the one I went to in New York was so disorganized, they lost my last appointment, and then didn’t bother reminding me of six month or annual cleanings. Since moving to San Francisco more than three years ago, I haven’t bothered finding a new one.

The main reason I finally went was that for months (or maybe years) MB has been bugging me about my gross night guard. At least he thinks it’s gross, and okay, I guess it is. There’s some black stuff on it (which later the dentist told me is normal since night guards are hard to clean) and toothpaste stains. But it’s been several years since I’ve had the guard, and it doesn’t fit quite right anyway.

I’m so glad I went. This dentist is like none I’ve never had. First of all, they use – gasp! – technology. They emailed me the patient forms so that I could fill them out before my appointment, as well as my insurance information and, since the appointment, the estimate of my bill. Plus the hygienist used this voice-activated program to record the condition of my gums. “Two, three,” she’d say for parts in good condition. “Four” for inflamed sections (from tartar build up, ie, not getting my teeth cleaned often enough). Five and six would have meant bone loss. Luckily I had all twos, threes, and fours.

Second, the dentist took the time to talk to me about my teeth and advise me about what I should do for my grinding. Usually, the dentist flies in after the cleaning, checks my teeth for two seconds, and is gone. Maybe it’s because I have more problems now, but I appreciated this dentist’s time all the same.

He had some interesting advice. He said my night guard might be doing more damage than good. The enamel on some of my teeth has already worn away, exposing the dentine, which wears away much more easily than enamel.


So plastic rubbing against it, especially on a guard that is loose, is worse than just grinding teeth. He also said that teeth grinding is supposed to decrease as you get older, and that the only reason I am is because in my sleep I’m playing with and adjusting the loose guard so that it fits.

His advice? Not wear a guard at all for a few months and observe in the morning how my teeth feel. If I feel like my teeth are sensitive or my jaw is sore, then we’ll get me a different kind of guard, a harder one that may be uncomfortable but could do a better job.

I’ve made up a rating system. Ten is “very painful” while one is “no pain at all.” So far my past two mornings have been twos. No pain but maybe a little sensitive, but that could be from the dentist appointment itself.

It is very weird not to be wearing a night guard when I go to bed. It’s been part of my routine for so many years. It does save me time though – there’s nothing to clean – and MB is definitely glad he doesn’t have to see it anymore.

Dec 12

The Fruit Fly Experiement

Last week we had a slight fruit fly infestation.

We’ve had fruit flies before, but those were because of our across the hall neighbor, who, while a nice guy, has a tendency to work long hours and neglect to take out his garbage. The building manager told me how once she and the exterminator (who checks the building once a month) found our neighbor’s trash can positively teeming with fruit flies. Then my suspicions were confirmed when I witnessed a fruit fly buzz in from under our doorway.

This time, however, it was all our own fault.

MB was very excited one night to come home with free bananas. He doesn’t care so much about free or cheap stuff, but he knows I appreciate it. The only problem with the bananas was that we couldn’t eat them fast enough, which unfortunately attracted fruit flies.

We’ve had bananas before. They’ve drawn a few fruit flies, but as soon as we finished or threw the bananas away, the flies would be gone. However, this time, in combination with the bananas, we unthinkingly threw out some pear cores in an open garbage bag. One day I went to throw the bag away, only to be greeted by a swarm of fruit flies.


I got the bag in a large plastic one and tied it up, but not before a whole bunch more came zooming out. I threw out the bag and still hoped for the best. Maybe there weren’t as many as I thought, or maybe they’d just follow the garbage (or go into our neighbor’s apartment – just kidding, of course). But there were as many as I thought, they didn’t follow the garbage, and they didn’t go into our neighbor’s apartment.

They were in our place, and they were everywhere.

They were in the front hallway, the bathroom, and especially the kitchen. They constantly flew into our faces. We managed to kill a few, but that barely made a dent in the population.

Experiment #1: Fancy mosquito zapper plus fruit

MB had the idea to use this fancy mosquito zapper we got (in case you didn’t know, I’m paranoid about mosquitoes). It hasn’t been much use in attracting mosquitoes, but we thought we’d take a shot. MB put a pear core in the bottom of the zapper, and set it in the kitchen. The fruit definitely attracted the flies, but they ignored what’s supposed to kill them: the light and deadly fan. The next morning, the bottom was full of flies – which promptly flew out when MB opened it.

Experiment #2: Vinegar, dishwashing liquid, jar, plastic wrap

I did some research about fruit fly traps and found this one on Lifehacker. Encouraged by the comments, I got some apple cider vinegar and, following the directions, put a little in a couple of jars with a few drops of dishwashing liquid. I covered one jar with plastic wrap and one without since people seemed to say that both worked.

The flies ignored the jar with plastic and flew to the one without. I removed the plastic from the first jar, and more flies went there. However, none of them went in. They just hung out on the edge.

Someone on Facebook said that balsamic vinegar worked better for her, so I filled another with that. The flies were indeed attracted to it, but again they didn’t go in.

Experiment #3: Vinegar, dishwashing liquid, jar, funnel

This video from Chow suggests the funnel method.

I didn’t try it at first because I didn’t believe the flies wouldn’t be able to figure out how to fly back out of the funnel. But Experiment 2 wasn’t working.

I used balsamic vinegar in one jar and apple cider vinegar in the other. It took a while for the flies to go in, but they did, and I was amazed they couldn’t figure out how to get out. They would either hang at the end of the funnel or crawl up the side of the jar to the top, looking for a gap between funnel and jar.

I had taped the funnels to the edge of the jars pretty well, but what I had neglected to do was to tape the paper all the way up the open edge. At least one fly managed to wriggle its way out the untaped flap. After that I sealed that funnel right up.

All afternoon and evening, I obsessively checked on the jars. “Go in!” I’d mutter to the flies hanging out on the edge of the funnels. “Drown, you bastards!” I’d whisper to the ones still clinging mere centimeters above the surface of the liquid.

I let the jars sit out all night and for the whole next day.

The Verdict

There were a lot more flies in the apple cider vinegar jar than the balsamic. There were only about five in the balsamic (yes, I counted the corpses) and about 15 in the apple cider.

I thought we had lot more flies than about 20 so I refreshed the jars (both with the apple cider variety this time) and left them out for a night and day, but only one fly got trapped.

However, it seems the flies are almost all gone. I’ve noticed one or two flying around, but it’s nothing like before.

Now I know if, God forbid, this ever happens again, the apple cider vinegar funnel option is the way to go.

Oct 12

Twitter, the city

Frankly I wasn’t so into this week’s Questioningly challenge at first, “Define Twitter in a Tweet.” It’s something I’ve thought about before. In fact just that morning – the morning after the Vice-Presidential debate – I had compared Twitter to a live, crowd-sourced Pop-Up Video. Another time I compared Facebook to yearbook (not a stretch) and Twitter to the school newspaper, literary journal, and passing notes in class all in one.

But once I started trying to define Twitter, and reading some really clever, funny, and apt definitions (“A riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in typos wrapped in bacon,” from Jael McHenry, and “Finally, the voices inside my head have a home,” by Kelly Thul), I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

What I came up with was, “Facebook is the suburbs; Twitter is the city. I prefer the city.” Not exactly genius, but it tells me why going onto Facebook makes me feel suffocated and depressed, while Twitter for me is fun and enlightening.

On Facebook, it’s just this circle of friends and acquaintances. You kind of know everyone. On Twitter, you know some people, but it’s also all these strangers, and the opportunity to interact with strangers in cool (and not-so-cool) ways. In New York (and to less of extent, here in San Francisco), I often had these moments with strangers. Like you’d bond just for a little while, or yell profanities at each other, and then you’d never see that person again.

On Facebook, you risk running into old classmates and other undesirables. On Twitter, you can run into and engage with real-live celebrities. Margaret freaking Atwood retweeted one of my tweets and replied back to another! My brother had Giada De Laurentiis reply to one of his, and now also Andrew Zimmern is following him! It’s like New York where you can find yourself eating lunch next to Kate Hudson, or watching a play with Sarah Jessica Parker, or riding the damned subway with Jake Gyllenhaal.

On Twitter, you’re surrounded by news, culture, gossip, and some plain noise. New York is the epicenter of all those things. It’s noisy, smart, cynical, funny, and sometimes (well, often) pretty obnoxious. Facebook, unless you like the right pages, is a wasteland of humblebragging and baby pictures, not that I don’t love baby pictures (I do, a little too much in fact), but it’s all so in your face. It’s all there is.

Twitter isn’t just the city; it’s New York. At least to me.

Sep 12

Krav maga update + intentional laziness

I passed my yellow belt test! For excruciating detail, go visit my krav maga diary.

I was so tired after my 4.5 hour test that I was falling asleep in front of the TV by 9:30. But after I went to bed, I couldn’t sleep. I got up at 10:30, and by 11 was dozing again. This time when I went to bed, I was able to drift off.

This morning I lazed in bed till about 8:30, then had a well-deserved vegan donut and a lot of of coffee. Now it’s 11 and I’m still in pajamas with no intention of working out. I finished a scene for a short story I’m working on and did that krav maga blog post. Will also get another blog post ready and work on my novel. Maybe I’ll do some yoga.

Such a relief the test is over!

Jul 12

Quote of the day

“Hanging your attack on a person’s slight grammatical misstep is what people do in an argument when they’re completely fucked and they know they have no argument.”

Describes every troll.

Jun 12

Yesterday’s checklist

  • Struggled with worked on novel.
  • Attempted to run three miles at the gym.
  • Ran half a mile at the gym.
  • Attempted 30 minutes on the elliptical.
  • Completed 20 minutes on the elliptical.
  • Sweated. A lot.
  • Sweated straight through cute yet ineffective Gap “fitness” shirt. (Nipple sweat, I haz it.)
  • Bought a replacement shirt at krav maga.
  • Was delighted by surprising cuteness of said krav maga shirt.
  •  Kicked ass did not have ass kicked in krav maga.
  • Sweated some more.
  • While punching, was told, “You started with nothing, and now you’ve really got something.”
  • Was simultaneously pleased and insulted.
  • Bought groceries. Avoided passive-aggressive hipster cashiers.
  • Did three loads of laundry.
  • Worked on struggled with novel some more.
  • Sparred with boyfriend. Received accidental headbutt (ow).
  • Watched funny/sad South Park about home shopping network-esque jewelery sellers who bilk old people with dementia.
  • Watched Jerry Sandusky-esque Law & Order: SVU, complete with stilted PSA from Ice-T.
  • Attempted to watch old No Reservations: Shanghai. Passed out on couch.

Jan 12

While MB is away

MB got a last-minute gig and so has been away all week. In addition to trying not to go crazy with worry over random things, as I’m wont to do when MB is away for an extended period of time (call me needy but there you have it), I’ve done some other stuff.

I went back to work. Hurray! Last week I wrote about how I like to work the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and while I did work from home, I really missed going into the office. (It helps that I go in just three days a week, getting a reprieve every other day.)

I cooked. When MB’s around, we normally eat out or he cooks. I don’t feel confident in my culinary skills so I refrain. But when MB’s away, I get back into the mode of mostly eating at home.

My new attempt this week was stir-fried shrimp. We had some in the freezer that I wanted to use up. As I started to prep them (peeling shrimp is a pain in the ass, by the way), I realized I had no idea how to cook them. I went with the usual suspects: soy sauce, rice vinegar, a little sugar, ginger, garlic. The shrimp had NO FLAVOR. While the snow peas I threw in turned out awesome, the shrimp themselves tasted like almost nothing.

Yesterday I felt like having shrimp again so I called up my mom – which was what I should done in the first place – to get her recipe for her tomato-y shrimp. The secret ingredient? Ketchup. Also, rice wine, corn starch, and a little salt. And guess what? The shrimp tasted so much better! The minute I started frying them up, they smelled good, ie, like my mom’s shrimp. The ketchup we have is a spicy gourmet kind, which may not be as sweet as regular ketchup, and plus I put too much. But otherwise the shrimp were tasty. I bought an economy size bag of frozen shrimp so I’m trying the dish again tonight.

I watched Downton Abbey. I had been hearing people rave about this show so I decided to check it out. It’s really good! I caught up on the whole first season on Masterpiece Theater’s website. The show focuses on a wealthy family and their servants in 1913 England. Everyone is awesome in it, but Maggie Smith especially cracks me up. Also, they spent a hell of a lot of time getting dressed for dinner! I mean, every night, not just special occasions. That would get tiresome, right quick.

Tonight is the premiere of the second season, which I believe has already been shown in the UK.

I got my hair cut. I’ve been trying to grow my hair into a bob, but my hair is so thick and coarse, it grows out rather than down. Recently I decided I had had enough and chopped it all off. It’s short, like Emma Watson pixie cut short. I do like it, especially since it’s so much easier to care for, and I’ve had it this short before, but it will take me some time to get used to it.

I cursed out then apologized to my printer. MB needed my help copy-editing an article. I did what I always do when I’m copy-editing something: print it out. But for some reason (maybe because it was a text document, rather than word processing) it started printing out one sentence per page. WASTING PAPER!!! In a panic, I turned off the printer, and also emptied the paper tray. Then I canceled the print job from my computer.

The problem was after I turned the printer back on, it kept blinking its red Error light. We have a basic printer so it doesn’t tell us what that error is. I kept turning it off and on, hoping it’d fix itself. But it didn’t. I Googled “HP printer error” but didn’t find shit, except for one person who did the same exact thing as I did (turning off the printer, taking out the paper).

“Goddamned printer!” I kept muttering. “Stupid fucking printer, I hate you.”

Then suddenly it occurred to me that because I had stopped a print job right in the middle, that it might have been in the midst of printing as I did. Hence, paper jam.

It took me another million years to remember how to pull out the toner cartridge to check inside, and lo and behold, there was a paper jam.

Sorry, printer.

You’d think I never lived alone before.

Aug 11

A babbly post for no reason at all

Reading about all the hurricane stuff kind of made me wish I was back in New York! Then I remembered that having no power really sucks, as well as dealing with flooded streets and subways, so I STFU and appreciated the clear skies here in SF.

Yesterday was productive, except that I didn’t do yoga as planned. I did a quick little hurricane-related blog post, then spent most of the day researching and writing a blog post for work. We did manage to get out of the house around 1:30. Grabbed some lunch at our new favorite diner-ish place, Toast, which is usually packed on Saturdays for brunch and lunch, but was half-empty that day. Maybe because all the annoying people have left for Burning Man next week (yay!). Then we walked over to Japantown, where we worked in a cafe for a couple of hours.

I finally finished work in the early evening, then did a couple of loads of laundry. Pizza and Greek salads for dinner! Then Torchwood and Burn Notice, which always manages to put me to sleep for some reason. Or else it’s always late when I watch it.

Today, another work-related blog post and yoga, hopefully!