When is a watch not a smart watch? When it’s a watch

Standard

A new acquaintance (NA) looked intrigued by something wrapped around my right wrist.

NA: What kind of watch is that? Android?

Me: (glancing at my wrist in mild puzzlement) It’s a watch watch. Timex.

NA looked suitably less impressed. Apparently it’s weird.

Posted from WordPress for Android

Advertisements

Overheard at the allergy clinic

Standard

Patient: I’m planning on going to Beijing soon. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to China, not since I studied abroad there.

Nurse: Oh, do you speak Japanese?

To his credit, the twentysomething patient didn’t even skip a beat and said something like, “I speak a little Chinese, yeah.”

I guess you don’t really want to correct the lady about to stick a needle in your arm, but still. We are doomed.

Posted from WordPress for Android

Conversation at the Post Office

Standard
Me:
(Fumbling while trying to seal two large envelopes to be mailed.)
Hi. Uhm, these are going to New Zealand.

Post Office Clerk:
(Shocked.)
Really???

Me:
(Looking at him to see if he’s joking. He’s not.)
Yeah. You know, like Lord of the Rings.”
(Wide grin.)

POC:
(Silence.)

Me:
Ohh-kay.
(Pause.)
Anyway, so yeah, I need these to go to New Zealand.

New Zealand is still on planet Earth, right? Juuuust checking.

Secrets and Surprises and New Careers

Standard

You know what I find irritating? When bloggers write something like, “I’m working on a big project right now that will change my entire life and possibly make me a multi-bajillionaire, but I’m not ready to share it with the world yet, so you’ll just have to wait until I have all the facts in order, my hair is in the right place, my lipstick isn’t smudged, and my stars are all aligned, before all is revealed.”

Or something to that effect.

Grrr.

If it’s such a big secret, do us a favor and don’t tell us about it until you’re ready. And telling us that you’re not going to tell us counts as telling us. Copy that? You’re not Master of the Universe, the center of all that is good and holy. Please don’t act as if we’ve nothing better to do than to wait breathlessly for the next installment of Your Life. So spare us the suspense and just share the news when you’re ready to do so.

Hmm. If I sound a little grouchy, I’m probably just coming off a quick M&M-induced sugar high. And I’m doing this work in the lobby of the local hospital while I wait for B. to get off work. The custodian emptying the trash keeps wanting to chat with me, which I don’t mind except I’m working. And he keeps calling me “Sweetie.” **slow burn**

NaNoWriMo Fatigue…or, How Two Old White Men Motivated Me To Exercise

Standard

God, I didn’t realize how exhausting pounding out 3,000 words/day can be. My eyes are red and exhausted, and my brain can’t process anything more complicated than nursery rhymes right now. If my most recent posts sound a little disjointed and not a little, ah, stupid, that’s why.

The good news is that tomorrow is the last day I’ll be crunching out the big 3K. Starting Monday I can dial down to the more reasonable 2K/day goal, and I can focus on other things besides writing. Like reading and research. And writing more coherent posts for my blog.

Of course, as B. helpfully pointed out just now when I complained about the difficulty of writing 3K/day, “Well, that’s your work.”

Oh yeah, I forget that sometimes. I wouldn’t have this any other way, right? After all: A bad day writing is infinitely better than the best day at the office. Leave it to B. to put things into perspective.

To help ease some of the tension of late (I’ve also been working on a couple of freelance assignments lately, plus doing research for my other blogs and the book), as well as to get my sorry ass back in shape after a brief hiatus from running, B. and I joined the gym last week. The weather’s gotten too cold, and the days too short, for us to do much outside.

The facility is pretty decent, offering a fairly large selection of machines and free weights as well as some relatively old cardio machines. It is, however, run by the hospital where B. works and has a well-established cardiac rehabilitation program as well as less-than-junior-Olympic-sized lap pool. They offer lots of low impact aerobics and water exercises, and given the significant senior population in this area and the historical mission of the place, the majority of the clientele appears to be members of the Senior Set.

Not a big deal, of course, although sometimes I wish they offered more Spinning classes (the only ones offered are at 5:30 in the morning on weekdays, and that’s just too damn early for me), maybe a kickboxing or karate group. And I was thinking that it would be nice to see a few more gym rates remotely close to my age.

But I overheard a conversation the other day as I was doing some calisthenics on a gym mat near the free weights that made me rethink the whole senior environment issue. I then realized that, hey, maybe having a bunch of guys with baggy knees, creaky bones and balance problems may be just the motivation I need to get myself to the gym more regularly:

Man #1: (overheard nearby as I was doing push-ups) Boy, I remember when I used to be able to do that. (I gathered that he was referring to what I was doing).

Man #2: Yeah, me too.

Man #3: (sigh and laugh) That was a looong time ago.

Man #2: If someone had told me to drop and give him fifty, I would have done it. Can’t anymore.

Man #3: Yeah? I used to do one-handed push-ups.

Man #2: Really? Wouldn’t that be hard to balance?

Man #3: Well, you put your hand in the middle [demonstrating with his hand].

Me: Well, at least you could do fifty. I’m doing a good job if I can do twenty right now.

[Everyone ignores me. Typical when you’re a small Asian woman in a mostly white, conservative town. Anyhoo, I digress.]

Man #3: Yeah, this is what I should’ve been doing more of all those years, instead of spending all my time sitting at a desk at the office. [gestures to the double-arm row machine he’s sitting on] I wouldn’t be having such a hard time with this now.

Man #2: (nods sympathetically)

Me: (looks at the two men, one tall but stooped, walks very slowly, and with a limp, the other short, fat with a big belly, and the aforementioned creaky knees. Resolves to never, ever skip a day’s exercise again)

MRA

NaNoWriMo Fever

Standard

As I was sitting at the coffeehouse late yesterday afternoon, I realized that I was surrounded by others tapping furiously away on their own keyboards, each one comfortably settled at his or her own table. I wondered idly if they too were doing NaNoWriMo.

Sure enough, as I was packing away my things, I overheard one guy begin to chat up the girl sitting at a table across from him. My back was to them so I couldn’t see their faces or body language, but the boy’s interest in the girl was unmistakable.

He: So, how many words have you got?

She: Uhm, about ten thousand [or something like that].

He: Omigod, are you serious? That’s awesome!

She: Yeah, but I think I’m gonna start over ’cause the story’s not working for me. And I just started this new job, too.

He: Whaddya do?

She: Uhm, I work from home. I call these people who signed up for insurance and get information from them.

He: Hey, that’s cool. You get to work from home, huh?

She: Yeah, it’s a pretty good gig. [pause] What about you?

He: [Deep sigh] Ah, I’m one of a dying breed. Not many of us left anymore.

She: [noncommittal sound]

He: Yeah. I program Web sites. Not many of us around anymore. It’s like knitting, you know? Not many people take the time to do things like that. It’s a dying art.

She: [more noncommittal sounds] Hmm. That’s true.

He: Yeah. [More forgettable monologue about the dying art of knitting/programming Web sites. Yackety yack. Blah blah blah]

She: [thinking that she really ought to get back to work so that she can get her word count back up]

And that’s why my back is always to the room when I write at the coffeehouse.

MRA

A Room of One’s Own

Standard

I read Virginia Woolf’s book-length essay a couple of years ago, back when I was still of the mind that a writer — or any artist, for that matter — will have a difficult, if not impossible time balancing a so-called day job with the mental, emotional and physical demands of creative work. Woolf specifically referred to the need for women to have an independent income that will free them from having to engage in the exhausting pursuit of a nonwriting-related livelihood in order to put food on the table and a roof over one’s head.

She believed that creativity can’t flourish if the writer is unable to devote all of her intellectual powers to the task, which is often the case when there’s a bill hanging over our head or a jealous boss hovering over our shoulder. Woolf wrote that women should be guaranteed an annual income of 500 pounds (what I imagine to be a tidy sum back in the day), as well as literally a room of one’s own, a place to where one can retreat and cultivate one’s creative work, free of the need to waste one’s time on such mundane chores such as housekeeping and errand-running.

On the other hand, Poets & Writers magazine had an article a few months ago about writers — both living and dead — who’ve managed to hold down a day job while still pursuing a writing vocation. Some of them even claim that their jobs give them much of the inspiration that informs so much of their novels, like the lawyer who writes legal thrillers, and that they really like the structure, camaraderie and steady income that their day jobs provide. In the April 2007 issue of Writer’s Digest, the magazine closes with a profile of Ned Vizzini, and how he relies on his day job to maintain his sanity.

I can relate. In the few precious months when I wrote full-time — before I got this current gig at the local library — I lived my life primarily in local coffee houses, with my entire universe centering around my laptop. It can be an isolating, almost maddening experience, and even I could tell that at times, I was living a wee bit too much inside my head. You know the feeling, right, when you’re talking to yourself, maybe even answering back? Or how about this: you’re having a conversation with a character, asking him questions, poking into his private business, nosying around his head and wondering why he did this or that.

It is kinda nice to have real chats with real people, and the fringe benefits of working in a library can’t be beat: access to new books all the time, books I probably wouldn’t have encountered otherwise but which now serendipitously land in our office and call out my name.

And yes, perhaps it does also help preserve my sanity, and maybe it’s not so healthy to be so isolated and keeping company with people who, for all intents and purposes, don’t actually exist.

But I have to admit…I do miss those days when it was often just me and this imaginary world that I had created. I imagine it’s a little like Trekkies who may carry on perfectly normal lives in the “real” world, but when they’re at conventions or in the presence of fellow fans, they’re completely in their element, surrender their inhibitions, indulge in this crazy passion, and just feel so at home.

Yeah, it’s a total bitch and a pain to get up at 4am to write. Usually it’s more like 4:15 or even 4:20, after five or six frustrating bouts with the snooze button. But once I’m in that chair and have powered up the laptop, I’m breathing pure oxygen and get swallowed up in the work. Okay, so I’m not independently wealthy, and maybe we never will be.

S’okay. At least I do have a room of my own. Or at least a corner of a really big room.

MRA

p.s. Snippet of a conversation at this coffee house where I’m typing:

Woman to barista: Where’s the Internet?

Woman’s college-age daughter and barista (simultaneously): Uhm, it’s wireless.

Woman: Oh. I don’t even know how that works. Do you just plug it in?

Woman’s college-age daughter: I’ll show you, Mom.

Wow. Seriously, lady, it’s 2007. “Where’s the Internet???”

A Room of One's Own

Standard

I read Virginia Woolf’s book-length essay a couple of years ago, back when I was still of the mind that a writer — or any artist, for that matter — will have a difficult, if not impossible time balancing a so-called day job with the mental, emotional and physical demands of creative work. Woolf specifically referred to the need for women to have an independent income that will free them from having to engage in the exhausting pursuit of a nonwriting-related livelihood in order to put food on the table and a roof over one’s head.

She believed that creativity can’t flourish if the writer is unable to devote all of her intellectual powers to the task, which is often the case when there’s a bill hanging over our head or a jealous boss hovering over our shoulder. Woolf wrote that women should be guaranteed an annual income of 500 pounds (what I imagine to be a tidy sum back in the day), as well as literally a room of one’s own, a place to where one can retreat and cultivate one’s creative work, free of the need to waste one’s time on such mundane chores such as housekeeping and errand-running.

On the other hand, Poets & Writers magazine had an article a few months ago about writers — both living and dead — who’ve managed to hold down a day job while still pursuing a writing vocation. Some of them even claim that their jobs give them much of the inspiration that informs so much of their novels, like the lawyer who writes legal thrillers, and that they really like the structure, camaraderie and steady income that their day jobs provide. In the April 2007 issue of Writer’s Digest, the magazine closes with a profile of Ned Vizzini, and how he relies on his day job to maintain his sanity.

I can relate. In the few precious months when I wrote full-time — before I got this current gig at the local library — I lived my life primarily in local coffee houses, with my entire universe centering around my laptop. It can be an isolating, almost maddening experience, and even I could tell that at times, I was living a wee bit too much inside my head. You know the feeling, right, when you’re talking to yourself, maybe even answering back? Or how about this: you’re having a conversation with a character, asking him questions, poking into his private business, nosying around his head and wondering why he did this or that.

It is kinda nice to have real chats with real people, and the fringe benefits of working in a library can’t be beat: access to new books all the time, books I probably wouldn’t have encountered otherwise but which now serendipitously land in our office and call out my name.

And yes, perhaps it does also help preserve my sanity, and maybe it’s not so healthy to be so isolated and keeping company with people who, for all intents and purposes, don’t actually exist.

But I have to admit…I do miss those days when it was often just me and this imaginary world that I had created. I imagine it’s a little like Trekkies who may carry on perfectly normal lives in the “real” world, but when they’re at conventions or in the presence of fellow fans, they’re completely in their element, surrender their inhibitions, indulge in this crazy passion, and just feel so at home.

Yeah, it’s a total bitch and a pain to get up at 4am to write. Usually it’s more like 4:15 or even 4:20, after five or six frustrating bouts with the snooze button. But once I’m in that chair and have powered up the laptop, I’m breathing pure oxygen and get swallowed up in the work. Okay, so I’m not independently wealthy, and maybe we never will be.

S’okay. At least I do have a room of my own. Or at least a corner of a really big room.

MRA

p.s. Snippet of a conversation at this coffee house where I’m typing:

Woman to barista: Where’s the Internet?

Woman’s college-age daughter and barista (simultaneously): Uhm, it’s wireless.

Woman: Oh. I don’t even know how that works. Do you just plug it in?

Woman’s college-age daughter: I’ll show you, Mom.

Wow. Seriously, lady, it’s 2007. “Where’s the Internet???”

Sex, War and Other Reasons I Can’t Write

Standard

I received the nicest email from a woman who read my last column about sex offenders. In it she related her own story of abuse and how she’s especially keen to raise awareness among the public about the prevalence of sexual abuse and the need to erase its stigma among survivors, the major theme of that particular column. It was so inspiring to read and reminded me of how powerful a tool writing is, especially when one can use it to influence a person one has never even met, and to spark debate and discussion on an issue that other people may be too afraid to touch. I’m actually surprised it didn’t garner more feedback than I expected. I don’t know whether to attribute that to reader apathy, or just general lack of interest in the topic, or my own inability to clearly convey the message.

The woman in the email is apparently keen to perhaps continue the conversation, possibly in the public square, an action both encouraging and intimidating. Kinda contrary to the ideas I put forth in the column, but a project like this can be pretty daunting to begin with. Having just moved to this town, I’m not really familiar with the resources that are available to survivors of sexual abuse, but I suppose that’s something we can find out together, if we decide to take this a step further. If.

In other news, no feedback yet on this week’s column satirizing the gay marriage controversy (published today), but my editor did call yesterday to discuss one particular line that bothered him. In the end he chose to run it, but he did half-jokingly warn me that I may be stirring up some trouble with this particular article. On the other hand, we both agreed that sometimes, the most controversial columns end up eliciting the least amount of feedback, while those that may otherwise be light and humorous often generate the most reader responses. Go figure. I haven’t received any emails about today’s column, although I’ve learned from previous experience that some readers take days, if not weeks, to send in their feedback. As I mentioned, I did love writing that piece, and not just because, unlike other columns I’ve written, this required little to no research. As much as I love digging for facts and figures — the academic in me desperately trying to claw its way out — it’s a relief to just write and write and write without having to amass all kinds of data to support one’s argument. Takes up way less time, and did I mention it’s lotsa fun?

Meanwhile, the novel plods on. Or rather, this writer plods on with the novel. I scratched out two pages yesterday and watched another film, a 1967 Toho (Japan) feature called Japan’s Longest Day. It recounts the 24-hour period leading up to the Emperor’s historical broadcast announcing the end of hostilities in the Pacific War with the Allies. The film is definitely long — over two-and-a-half hours — but what a picture! Filmed entirely in black-and-white, it has the trademark minimalism of so many classic Japanese films: little or no soundtrack except for a handful of key scenes; a dispassionate narrator; tight, terse dialogue; lots of shadowy corners.

One or two rather graphic scenes jump out at you — it’s a war movie, but only in the sense that it takes place during the war, as the story plays out largely within the homes and offices of the Japanese military officers and politicians who oversaw the imperial campaign — but what lingers is the realization of just how close — I mean, thisclose — Japan was to virtually destroying itself, mere hours before the unconditional surrender.

I guess one can argue that the young, rebellious officers didn’t really stand a chance, but considering that coups d’etat don’t have to actually succeed in order to destabilize the country (are ya listening, Philippines??), the outcome could have been really brought on Japan’s complete self-destruction. What was really amazing was that, despite the fact that Japan had almost six million soldiers in the Imperial Army by 1945, and that they had accumulated over 1.7 million casualties during the war, these upstarts were still obsessed with fighting to the last man — which, of course, would have meant not only every man on the archipelago, but every woman and child as well. The mind reels.

I’m not really sure how this film will tie in to my story other than to give another glimpse of the military machine that my main character will be up against. The second most important character in the book is a Japanese military officer who won’t even show up until well after the war actually begins (probably a good fifty or so pages in), so this film’s unique perspective of the Japanese military ideals will come in handy. I haven’t seen Letters from Iwo Jima yet — don’t think it’ll make it to my corner of the world, so I’ll have to wait for the DVD — but that’s another one that’ll probably be quite enlightening.

One of the main things that’s really hooked me into the research is the realization that the story of the Pacific War, as it’s told here in the U.S., is awfully one-sided. Granted, it’s hard to feel much sympathy for the Japanese side, particularly when you think about the Bataan Death March, the Burma railway campaign, the so-called comfort women, or the Okinawa battle, but the history behind their imperialism is so complex, and when compared to the West’s own manifest destinies (part of which involved forcing Japan to sign treaties unfavorable to its own interests), it’s difficult to argue that they were entirely in the wrong. Am I becoming a Rising Sun apologist? Hope not, but as I do more research for the novel, it’s starting to look as if the backstories will be much richer and more intricate than I ever dreamed — or wanted.

Am reading Ralph Keyes’ The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear. I hadn’t really understood the role that fear plays in every writer’s life. I just thought I was alone in this malady! Check this out: “Among rookies and veterans alike, the most basic writing fear is of simply not being up to the task. Now that I’ve told the world, and myself, that I can write, suppose it turns out that I can’t? Even the prolific Anthony Burgess said he thought constantly about giving up writing because of the debilitating fear that his work wasn’t good enough.”

Well, thank ya, Jesus. If Mr. Burgess himself dreads not only the horror of the blank page but also the terror of the filled one, I guess I’m in good company. And I like what Annie Dillard has to say about writing, how any work is in an “untamed state” that matures over time. “You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room. You enter its room with bravura, holding a chair at the thing and shouting, ‘Simba!'”

I think I’ll program a sound file on my laptop so that, when I boot it up each morning, it’ll scream, Simba! That oughtta scare the s*** out of me and get me to write.

MRA

p.s. Almost forgot!!! Having been honored with a mention in Deborah Ng’s Pay It Forward Tuesday post, I’m returning the favor. Two of my favorite blogs: Coffee with Amee and Trixia in Singapore. Amee’s a writer in LA, and Trixia is a journalist in Singapore. Check out the blogs of these smart and funny women.

p.p.s. Overheard this conversation at the local Kmart:

Elderly man: (walks, stops, looks back) Hey, I thought you were right behind me.

Elderly woman: (shuffling along at least ten paces behind him) I’m comin’. I’m just trying to make sure I don’t poop as I walk.

Thanks for that, Ma’am. All the Kmart customers that day were especially grateful for your caution.