Monthly Archives: July 2006

Don’t Get Smart with Me, Mister!

Don’t Get Smart with Me, Mister!

Friday already. Aren’t I glad I declined my friend’s invitation to meet her in Europe for two weeks (she’s there on business) starting today? So I sent an email to my shippers… before I’d left Shanghai, they’d estimated that my shipment would arrive around today. So one of the reasons I fore-went (is that a word?) Europe was so I could be around to take care of our shit while John was at work. Well, I should have known better. From the beginning, this entire shipping personal effects experience has been a nightmare. Seriously, I don’t understand why other people make money from my leg work. Anyway, I’m working with two dudes in two offices within one company– the SF office and the SH one.

Long story short, the SF one emails me a reply today, and he has the nerve to give me attitude.

Well, did you ever reply to me with the corrections I requested? Because I never received anything. Please review my message below and make the appropriate changes. I’ve reattached the documents here for your convenience.

Also, I never got a commercial invoice from anyone. You said you were working with our Shanghai agents to create one. Is it completed?

This guy has been condescending from the very beginning. When I asked about shipping an ebike (obviously, a kind of personal effect– something that should be within HIS realm of expertise), he basically scolded me for not doing my “homework.” Like I was supposed to research potential issues with the USEPA and the DOT. First off, how the hell was I supposed to know this was anything different from a normal bicycle. That’s how they’re classified in Shanghai. Second, that’s why I’m asking you, the international shipper/mover. You’re supposed to tell me what the USEPA and DOT regs are. So whatever, I ended up just not getting the ebike. I’ll have the manufacturer ship it directly to me. So then this morning, yeah, I get this smart-ass email. Maybe if you just read it alone, it’s not so bad; that’s why I gave you some context. Fucking asshole.

So I let him have it, with attitude back. I mean, hello?! I replied to your email that same day AND I copied your SH rep (with whom you clearly do not communicate) who told me (the day before I left) everything was good to go. Not my problem you’re Chinese, and you can’t even communicate with your colleagues. Jesus. Plus, if you didn’t receive my documents, why didn’t you follow up? Seriously, wtf? I was so pissed, I went to the pool. Probably looked like a total dork doing my non-swimming exercises. Oh well. When I returned to the apartment, I was still angry so I called him up. He was all apologetic. Apparently, he DID get the email… oops! I swear, these people. How do people like that have jobs and I don’t? Yeah, I AM saying I’m better. The facts are the facts, man. After all, I have the advantage of OCD, so I’m all about keeping tabs and following up.

Anyway, the end result is that my shipment doesn’t arrive in port until August 1. Then, the containers have to be unloaded and the cargo separated, so basically, we’re talking August 8 at the earliest. Oh, just about 11 days later than what I was originally told. So I really could have gone to Europe. Oh well, I like spending time with the hubby. We do our quiet, old-fart activities. 🙂 More fun coming up this weekend too, as I’m in charge of organizing things to do. Shrug.

Making Friends

Making Friends

So John and I had a talk tonight about my issues “adjusting” to my new life. I guess it’s taking me a bit longer than expected and well, a disappointing call from the engineering headhunter didn’t help either (firms are apparently turned off because I “strayed” outside environmental work). I guess it’s fine– job hunting just takes time. I think part of the problem is that I’m frustrated with all this me time without my friends.

Thinking back, today was actually a pretty good day. I sold my house phone on Ebay for more than expected. In the morning, I took the dogs to the San Mateo park: we walked along the water and the sun was out (as usual). I got a cool skirt for $8 at TJ Maxx and CK jeans for $10 at Marshalls. (Usually, I hate those stores, because they’re just so damn disheveled and junky, but today I was pleasantly surprised.) I was also very happy to FINALLY find my scunci Magic-bun gadget at the Rite-Aid next door.

You have no idea how many places I went searching for this fucker: Walgreens, Safeway, Ulta… Since I lost mine at Tairyo in June, my hair just hasn’t been the same. Speaking of hair, my ‘do is looking pretty damn ragged these days. I was thinking of going long again, but I’m in the middle of another mid-life crisis, so perhaps a chop is in order? I looked on Craiglist and a few salons are searching for hair models… maybe I’ll try that.

What else happened today… let’s see, did a bunch of stupid administrative tasks– bills, frequent flyer point requests, more job applications. Aren’t you jealous? So the lows of today were also numerous: 1) I got lost heading to John’s office for lunch (after shopping) 2) the post office was out of Jim Henson Muppets stamps; instead, I had to get the Super Heroes (ok, not so bad) 3) I made dinner, which involved heating up packaged risotto in the oven. I followed the directions but placed the container on the wire rack (not a baking tray) and put it in the toaster oven (not the normal oven)… the container melted and risotto leaked out inside the oven! 4) My friend bought me a t-shirt for my b-day. I went to the website and became utterly distraught by the disconnect between my politics and my consumer habits. Granted, practically none of the companies in that database support the Dems (duh, big biz always goes right), but fuck man, Amazon? Target? We just moved and bought tons of shit from these people. They’re big-time red staters!! The only big companies that go blue are Costco, Estee Lauder, Apple, Gateway, Sun. I don’t know. I just felt ill thinking about it all. Seriously, how am I supposed to reconcile my existence with my heart? It’s like, I’m moving away from nonprofit, because I want to make money. I also want to donate more money (because ultimately, I believe that’s what progressive causes need). Now, I’m getting rejected by employers who can pay me better, I have no job, I’m disillusioned with demonstrations/protests/rallies, and I have no substantial personal money to donate. On top of that, I’m aiding and abetting the Republicans on their path of world destruction by supporting companies that fuel their machine. See why I had a frickin’ breakdown this evening? Sigh.

John’s gone to bed, and I’m still up. I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately. I think I need to make local friends. Maybe that will help me ease back into things. Tonight I searched “Mandarin” on Craigslist. I signed up for “Mandarin Language Dinners,” this group that meets monthly to socialize in Chinese. Also, there are a few DV shelters looking for Mandarin-speaking volunteers– might be something to do while I’m job hunting… This ad also caught my eye, as Foster City is right down the road from here. But apparently, I’m not cool enough to join:

OK, seriously, where are all the hip/cool/fun people nowadays? So far away from me it seems! Everyone seems to grow up so fast nowadays that they don’t want to go out and have fun anymore. I’ve heard it all: “I’m too old for that now”, “That’s so immature”, or they’re tied down in a serious relationship or are married. Geez people, don’t act like you’re all 40 years old! Or else their definition of having fun is different from mine.

I guess that my definition of fun mostly has to do with more active and youthful activities: having some drinks, socializing, dancing; all in a lively atmosphere with other people in their 20’s. Don’t get me wrong though; I’m not a party animal; I like to do lots of other things and am willing to try many new things too! Maybe even things like going bowling or going to amusement parks could be entertaining. Or going up to the snow and/or Reno/Tahoe?

So anyone want to go out and have a good time? I really hope that there are people who connect with this message. Please be in your 20’s, Asian, and have some life in you!

club, dance, Korean, Chinese, Japanese

Even if I were in my 20’s, this person strikes me as being a bit too TRL. Still, the posting made me laugh; it reminded me of a time when John and I had this huge fight. He then said something totally insulting like, “I can’t, because I have a girlfriend who’s allergic to having fun!” Whatever. I’m fun. People want to be my friend… 😛

Just Call Me Patches

Just Call Me Patches

So you know I have this thing with tires… I think I talked about it before– my random little obsessions– with receipts and with tires. Before moving to China, I checked my tire pressures constantly. Like once a week. In China, without a car, that obession went towards my bike and e-bike. I just had to have the max psi (it makes a huge difference in the ride, by the way).

When I visited John last April, I did the penny test (stick a penny into the groove, and if the tread comes at or above Lincoln’s head, you need new tires). We definitely needed new tires. Not only was the steering wheel vibrating at high speeds, but the tire edges were balding. As expected, I started to imagine terrible things– tire blowouts on the freeway, with tire shards flying into other vehicles, killing the passengers inside. Yes, very morbid thoughts.

I then spent an eternity researching tires online. Costco, Sears, Pep Boys, blah, blah. And when I research, I go into a zone and do not emerge for days, possibly weeks. In May, I finally settled on a tire: the Kumho Solus KH16. But I had to wait until my move back to CA to arrange the purchase (John doesn’t handle that stuff). So yeah, I’d never heard of Kumho’s either but hey, the price was cheap and the ratings were really good. I wavered for a few days, unsure whether I ought to do the whole online purchase –> ship direct to installer thing (versus getting them at Costco or the dealer). In the end, I decided to take the plunge. The tires arrived Monday, and the installer mounted them yesterday. In and out in two hours. Easy breezy. If you’re looking for tires, check out TireRack. Seriously, it was a total cinch. And now, we’re cruising around on shiny, new wheels and there’s no vibration on the highway. Hurray!

In other news, did you hear about that new sunblock the FDA just approved? Anthelios or something? Apparently, Europeans and Canadians have used it for ages; the active ingredient is more effective than any other compound on the US market. All the news got me thinking about sun protection, especially since we are in the middle of a heat wave (supposedly). I’ve used Neutrogena Ultra-sheer Dry-touch sunblock (SPF 30) for the last two years. It’s a decent product, but my issue is that it peels/flakes off when I touch my skin. So if I want to apply makeup over it, or if I just wipe my mouth/chin with a napkin, the stuff comes off like eraser fuzz.

Yesterday, I began researching new sunblock. What a frickin’ headache: there are SO many choices out there! After reading reviews and product literature for a few hours (see how OCD hinders me?), I landed on SolarSense Face, a clear 6% zinc oxide sunblock. Until Athelios turns up on shelves here, zinc oxide and Parsol 1789 (avobenzone) are our only options for UVA/UVB protection. I hope SolarSense is the answer for me.

Oddly enough, I don’t go in the sun much. I’m kinda an internet junkie that way. Still, I am in California, so I really ought to have a tan. It just goes with the territory, you know? Enter sunless tanner. I used to apply this gunk in college. Back then, my argument was that I didn’t have time to sunbathe. Haha. Well now I have the time, but I’m no dumbass about the dangers of the sun. So yesterday, while I was out getting my zinc oxide, I picked up L’Oreal Sublime Bronze (can’t resist the BOGO–buy one, get one–offer), a self-tanner PLUS SPF 15 sunscreen. I probably should have been more skeptical (it’s far too multi-function), but I got sucked in anyway. And like a kid with a new toy, I had to try it as soon as I got home.

I follow product directions kind of like I follow recipes: I take minor liberties here and there. In this case, I didn’t shower and exfoliate right before. Plus, rather than go lightly over the rough spots (knees and ankles), I just decided to avoid them entirely. Haha. This morning… well, at least I know the color is right. Problem is, I look like I ran patch tests on my legs. Yeah, it’s pretty bad but you just have to laugh at my idiocy. The good thing about sunless tanners is that they last three days max. Think I’ll survive.



I’ve been back in the States just over a week now… I’m happy to report that jet lag didn’t get the best of me this time. I suspect the secret is my rencen wulong tea. Not sure what the caffeine level is in this stuff, but all I know is, I’m up early and I go straight through the day. That’s a good thing, otherwise John would probably feel a tad bitter if I were taking siestas while he was busting ass at work.

So I’ve been pretty productive. The meeting last Thursday with the environmental engineering headhunter went ok. I’m supposed to touch base with him tomorrow to get some interviews set up. After I withdrew my application for the grant writer job at the domestic violence shelter (it was part-time, plus the timing is just too soon), I got an email from the development director this morning. She finished with the second round of interviews and decided none of the other candidates fit the bill, so she’s going to work with a former employee in the interim but she said if, after I got into my job hunt a bit more, I was still interested, I should check back with her to see if the position is still open. Pretty good sign, eh? Made my day. I really got a good vibe from her… it’s too bad the position is only part-time and at nonprofit pay; these days, I’m a self-serving bastard who wants to earn some dough. 🙁 I know, I have a warped view of the world.

On Friday, I got my Office Depot shipment in. John wanted me to have my own workspace in our one bedroom apartment (read: he doesn’t want to share his desk), so I ordered my own desk. You can tell we’re comning up on ten years together, because we’re totally into being on the “same team.” Like we have the same Champion blue mesh shorts (just different sizes, of course). And before, we had the same running shoes. Now, we have the same exact desk– both in the living room. John convinced me to get the hutch also, so we’d only look like half, rather than total, dorks. In usual Office Depot fashion, this desk/hutch combo was a “self-assemble” deal. Jesus Christ. The shipment arrived at 10 am. I finished assembling it all at 9 pm. That thing was a total beotch, man. I am still reeling from having to spend $650 for a desk I have to put together my damn self! The good news is, the desk looks really good. And John was right– I had to get the hutch; otherwise, the look would have been compromised.

So I was feeling very accomplished that night. After all, I had put it together all by myself… well except for getting John to help me lift the hutch onto the desk. We went across the street for dinner at around 10:30. On the way back, I went to fidget with my wedding ring (twist it around my finger), and holy mother of god, the thing was not round. Under the street lamp, I looked down and the thing was totally warped– it was so fucked up, it was the shape of Ohio. I’m talking, not circular, not strongly elliptical, but totally fucked. On top of that, three of the pave diamonds on the band fell out. The damage was so incredible, I was in shock. That shit fucking desk! I was so pissed. Screw the goddamn, good-looking, bullshit desk, you know? I should have taken a picture of the ring, but on arriving home, I immediately started searching ring repair online. I grew increasingly anxious. I mean, here I was still suffering from the sticker shock of living in the Bay area; I was like clipping coupons and turning the thermostat to 82 during the day and hang-drying my clothes (still trying to play my game) and then WHOP! How much was this repair going to cost? Goddamn jewelry. Such a rip-off… the crooks at DeBeers with their blood-sucking, artificially-inflated market. ARGH!!! And yet, this wasn’t just some ring I got at a side stall in China, you know? So despite that crap wedding ring sentimentality, which I despise, I was so angry that I had destroyed something John had worked so hard to give me. Ugh.

So fine, whatever. I started surfing all these like wedding ring forums and shit. And I came across this one lady who was totally hysterical. I should set the record straight though: to my surprise (and to everyone else’s, I’m sure), I didn’t cry. I was just pissed. Pissed that now I would have to get this thing fixed and it was probably going to cost an arm and a leg. So anyway, this lady wrote this post where somehow her ring had gotten damaged, and she apparently “cried and sobbed all day” over it, and she moaned and groaned about how the damage was some kind of insult or blow to their marriage…. you see, that’s when the ring thing has just gone too far. The ring is no longer just a thoughtful, symbolic gift. In her case, the ring IS their marriage. Now, that is messed up… By the way, anyone see Bridezilla? OMG! People spend like $120k on a freakin’ wedding! Seriously, what is wrong with people?!

Back to my Ohio state cookie cutter… After an hour or two of beating myself up about being careless and not removing it before assembling furniture, I got over it. I mean, I could have gotten into some accident where the ring could have cut my finger off (my finger was very bruised— I think I had accidentally set the hutch on my ring/finger but I hadn’t noticed the weight of the furniture because my ring was actually carrying the weight). Or I could’ve gotten hit by a bus and killed (this actually happened to the girlfriend of someone we know). Or seriously, what the hell is going on in Lebanon? People disgust me. And sometimes I disgust myself. So that’s that. I shipped the ring to the manufacturer. They’ll repair it. It’s not the end of the world.

From 2005.07.24

The Jobhunt Begins… in Earnest

The Jobhunt Begins… in Earnest

A couple months ago, I refreshed my resume and drafted new cover letters. I sent my vitals out to a variety of employers, mostly nonprofits. These days, my “targets” keep changing… am I really that fickle? You see first, I aimed for nonprofits, especially those working with Chinese women. Then, tech companies drew me in with their young staff, non-existent dress code, and souped up offices… perhaps I could squeeze in as a tech writer, I thought. Then following my semester at Jiao Tong, I felt compelled to apply my Mandarin in a work setting. Unfortunately, that search quickly went dead: employers either want native Mandarin or Mandarin PLUS Cantonese skills. The industries requiring Mandarin/Cantonese don’t even sound very interesting– mainly business or trade or customer service. BOR-RING! So now, I’ve decided to go back to environmental engineering. It’s not that I’m selling out again (as my friend suggested) or anything. The truth is, I’ve always liked environmental engineering in its truest sense– to me, it’s this great combination blending pragmatism, innovation, problem-solving, sustainability, and education. I suppose what disillusioned me years ago was the bureaucracy (and consequently, the turtle’s pace toward trying new things) and well, to a lesser extent, sexism. Anyway, that was four years ago. Thankfully, more people are finally starting to give a shit about environmental stewardship and pollution prevention. Also, companies are changing. Surely even stodgy places are sprucing up their images, right? So environmental engineering might just be a whole new world… we’ll see.

How did environmental engineering even re-enter my brain? In early July, I met up with my former CDM PM in Shanghai. Chris has always been a cool dude; he’s pretty much the antithesis of the stereotypical engineer. Anyway, he’s working on some landfill gas projects in China, and during our meals, I was all excited about getting the industry scoop. Haha, I even remembered some things about landfill gas (I did write a thesis on it)– pretty good considering my last contact with engineering was in 2002. Chris started rattling off some names, and I knew most of them. What a small world, eh? I guess there are only a handful of landfill experts. Needless to say, my meeting with Chris resparked my interest. So now I’m jobhunting again for environmental engineering jobs. The twist, however, to making this experience different than before, is that I’d like to get in on the “soft engineering” side of things. All the hard engineering stuff? Sizing pipes, calculating gas flows, pressures… that doesn’t sound as sweet as it once did. Now I’d like to try my hand at marketing… like writing project proposals. I think that could be a really good fit since I have the tech background and I want to develop this whole persuasive writing skill… Imagine the things I could do with that.

So this past Tuesday, I hopped right into the pool with a job interview for a part-time grant writer position. I met with the development director for a nearby domestic violence organization. The director was super cool, and I think I would learn tons about fundraising, grantwriting, the art of pitching… I was really pleased too, because she wanted to put me on the shortlist– in with the final runners– if I was really interested. So the downside, of course, is timing, pay, and benefits. Fortunuately, she understands that what they can offer is limited. The position is only 15 hours/week with NO benefits. And pay is $18-25/hr, with the upper limit of course going to someone with actual grantwriting experience. So, not so great. The plus side is that I’m always a softie for nonprofits– more so for orgs focused on women. The staff is also really diverse and multicultural, PLUS the office is dog-friendly. Dayum!! Ah but age has turned me into a greedy beotch. I want it all: challenging and meaningful content, progressive co-workers, a nice office with kickass resources (that’s what happens when your hubby is a tech nerd), AND high pay (or at least higher pay). Sorry, but I just don’t want to be a 30-something earning $35k/year in an area where a 3-bedroom townhouse costs $900k! Know what I mean?

ANYway, tomorrow I’m meeting with an environmental engineering headhunter. Honestly, I didn’t even know those existed! Silly me though: I threw all my suits in with our ocean freight. Guess slacks and a top will have to do. I’m such a retard.

In other job-related news, I started reading John’s book, 12 Bad Habits that Hold Good People Back. Apparently, the authors are Ph.D. psychologists at Harvard or whatever. The text is surprisingly readable and insightful. Unfortunately, I think I possess like 4 of the 12 bad habits! Yeah, I’m bad news. Great start, I tell you.

It was a Great Situation. But it ended.

It was a Great Situation. But it ended.

Oh, I meant to share this earlier… like right when I left my beloved Shanghai. Sorry it’s out of sequence: We left paradise for the suburbs
Regardless, my man Cary is brilliant! How does he know just what to say and just how to say it? Admittedly, I don’t agree with EVERYTHING he advises (what, you think I just follow him blindly??), but still, when he’s right, he’s right.

Btw, I should state that I HATE driving. I’ve already had like three close calls in three days. I never thought I’d admit to this, but I’m a terrible driver. Pre-China, I was passable. No major accidents, a little heavy in the foot. Now? I dunno if it’s my new immigrant status or what. I’m like looking at all the street signs, hoping they’ll be like the ones in Shanghai, with north, south, east, west markings. Nope. Plus in California, the damn lanes are misaligned. Like if you keep the wheel straight and drive through the intersection, suddenly you’re in the far right lane whereas before the intersection, you were in the middle lane. Drives me crazy. I gotta order Furby junior soon. Can’t deal with the car. Need my ebike back. I’m all disoriented.

Farewell my Shanghai

Farewell my Shanghai

Sorry for the recent inactivity; despite the quiet on Goodbers, my life has been anything but. Shit man, moving is a bitch! I dunno why we keep getting the relocation bug every two frickin’ years. It’s such a damn inconvenience, I tell you. The packers came July 4, packed all our junk. Original estimated volume was less than three cubic meters. Actual? FIVE. To be fair, we threw in my oversized guzheng (Chinese zither) as well as John’s 23-inch Apple cinema display (which will appear on Ebay next month…). The rest was mostly books— and clothing (can’t chuck winter clothes since I’ll likely visit DC in the winter). We’re low maintenance, really we are!!? No knick knacks, no trinkets, no baubles. Nonetheless, our shipment is gonna give us a nightmare on the other side… in our one bedroom apartment that already has two dogs and two adults and basic furniture. Upgrading to a two bedroom might actually be in order… Ugh, can’t think about it now. Too stressful. So anyway, packers came but that wasn’t even the worst of it. Then, we began the process of emptying out the apartment. I’m just shaking my head, man. The kitchen? Spices, canned foods, dried goods, enough food to feed a village. Then all this stationery crap like pencil lead, erasers, rubber bands. Then household products: bug spray, mosquito coils, cleaning agents… So much goddamn crap. This is why I want to live in a tree. All this frickin’ clutter drives me nuts. And then of course, I was obsessing about “proper” disposal or reuse. In the end, it was still a mad dash to the finish. Thankfully, Wu cleaned us out. Literally. She took TONS of stuff; I really wonder how it will all fit in her place but maybe she plans to upgrade. I dunno. Oh well, I’ve washed my hands so it’s all good for me.

Receipts to the Rescue!

Receipts to the Rescue!

I’m cleaning out my hard drive today (September 21, 2006), and guess what I find? An old entry, which I don’t think ever got posted (blogger connection problems). So here it is, going back to July 14…

Between cleaning and in John’s case, working, we managed to squeeze in several gorge-fests. We finally went to City Diner. My friend Joon’s been raving about that place for months. Thankfully, I didn’t try it sooner; I’d easily be 20 lbs. heavier. That shit beats good old American diner food in the States. God, the BLT… I’m salivating just thinking about it. Also, we hit Di Shui Dong (滴水洞), a Hunan place. Yeah, all the sudden I’m all into hot and spicy. We’re addicts. Yes, hit that place at least FOUR times in the last two weeks-— braved the bathroom consequences and all. I should insert a funny story here.

On one of those nights, a waitress came up to us near the end of dinner. She asked if we were there earlier that week. Yeah, we’re regulars. Then, she asked if we sat on the other side of the room. I started to realize she wasn’t just commenting on our frequent patronage… Apparently, the other night she got the checks between two tables mixed up, and one party got a steal, paying 89 rmb less than the value of their order. Poor girl realized the mistake only afterwards, so she had to foot the difference.

I insisted that I sat at a table on the other side but not the one she pointed. I also explained our bills NEVER come under 200 rmb. I could see in her eyes that she didn’t believe me. But what else could she do? All she could do was show me the order ticket (it had other items we didn’t order) and take my word for it. But I still felt bad about it. I didn’t want her to feel like I was lying. So what did I do? 发票 to the rescue, man. I’m telling you, my receipts game SAVED me. I dug up my receipts from the last week, found the ones with their company chop/number, and showed it to her: 210 in receipts from the other day. Aw yeah baby! It was a fine redeeming moment. Haha!

Tweaking the System

Tweaking the System

In China, at one time or another, you learn to work the system. My Chinese friend 毛毛 (Mao Mao) recently switched jobs. As a 外地人 (migrant), changing jobs is no walk in the park; unless you’re Shanghainese, you get screwed with loads of extra paperwork just so you can work legally in the city. Labor permits, work visas, annual health checks… a total pain in the ass, not to mention a time sink AND a money pit. I went through the tiresome process myself a couple times, so I empathize with Mao, who is both low on time and low on cash. Needless to say, she was over one night, and my scanner caught her eye. I’ve done a couple websites and shit, but I’m certainly no graphic artist or “documents expert.” Ah well, I will say this: her new employer received all the photocopies she requested of Mao’s materials. Am I a good Samaritan slash bad ass or what?