Joe’s burger-mobile

I must have passed Joe a dozen times on my morning walk before he finally waved me over one morning. I noticed his burgers looked pretty tasty, but I was always coming home from my morning walk and it seemed kinda pointless to get up early to exercise and then have a good-looking burger for breakfast.

But Joe cooks his burgers on a griddle in a box on the back of his scooter, and there’s no denying that it was a pretty cool setup.

And there were always people waiting around.

There are actually a lot of options: tomato, pickle, onion, cheese, double burger, and a supreme. He also has pickled japalepenos and he isn’t afraid to share them.

He even has cold-brewed coffee that he’s proud of. It really wasn’t bad!

Joe also speaks incredible English, so if you’re new to town and you see him making amazing burgers on the back of his scooter, don’t be scared to ask for one.

When we lived by Sogo, Joe was our go-to guy for any pre-travelling breakfasts: He parks his scooter on Cihui Third Street til about 11 every morning.

(Now that we live near the night market, we just get tangbao from the stall by the bus terminal.)

What Do Women Want? Sex!

What Do Women Want? by Daniel BergnerWhat Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire
by Daniel Bergner

[Note: None of my links are affiliate links. Right now, I’m only blogging for love and brownie points.]

After reading enthusiastic reviews on Slate and Salon, I had to download this book and start reading it immediately. [I did that. I also started writing this review like a month ago. It just took me a long time to wrap it up.] It had everything I was looking for a in a new perspective on female sexuality. Female monkeys and rats chasing their male counterparts, demanding sex? Check. Evidence that studies done on animal sexuality are largely done in unnatural contexts that conform to human presuppositions about male sexuality being active and female sexuality being passive? Check. Cutting-edge prescription drugs that provide the antidote to libido-killing monogamy, squelched by big business and politicians who feared it work so well that they wouldn’t be able to control their wive’s and daughters’ uninhibited sexual appetites? Check. Rape fantasies attesting to a self-centered sexual appetite? Check. Indiscriminate arousal as evidence of an omnivorous female libido? Check.

It’s almost as if the patriarchy has conspired by means of fairytales about loyal princesses who chastely kiss princes and live happily ever after to convince women that their sex drives were non-existent and irrelevant in order keep them locked in the kitchen and cultivate a false consciousness that finds satisfaction in duty, loyalty, monogamy, and tedium so that men could indulge in guilty pleasures and return to the sanctuary of their homes for absolution by their pure and good wives. Except that mess of women’s desire occasionally slips out of cracks in Pandora’s box and women find themselves disappointed and disillusioned by the the only things that are supposed to make them happy. Thank God for anti-depressants, and thank Him that men know they can satisfy their primal sexual urges elsewhere while still loving their wives and wanting to remain enmeshed in their families…
Continue reading “What Do Women Want? Sex!”

Not gonna work there anymore

So, this is awkward, but…I got laid off in mid-March.

I am ambivalent about it to the extent that paying bills, paying down debt, and buying groceries are good things, but I was so miserable working there that I would come home and cry some nights and every morning was a struggle to get out of bed. 
I was laid off with about 65-70 other people so any embarrassment I might have felt is mitigated by the fact that I got laid off with many really excellent people who worked there much longer than me—four years, five years, seven years, twelve years—so there was not any chance that the broad ax was going to spare me. I mean, a couple of those people won iPads and trophies for being awesome employees last year, and this year, they’re gone. 
The company was struggling during the time I worked there. Our C-levels rushed in and out through swinging doors. The old guard had rested on their laurels and when they were finally fired off, the new guard chased their own tails for a year. I was the last writer hired and any writers and editors who left while I worked there weren’t replaced. 

In the end, I worked there for two years and thus expected the two-months’ pay as part of my severance package. I had also made liberal use of my PTO, so I couldn’t get too riled up when they told us that they wouldn’t pay out our remaining vacation days, either. But for my colleagues who had measured their time with the company in eras, who hadn’t taken PTO in order to prove their dedication to their work, the cost-efficient severance package added insult to injury. And after wrestling with the lack of direction and persistent disappointment in our newest projects, not a lot of people were sad to leave, but plenty were angry.

Obligatory Office Space clip:

It was definitely a wake up call for me. At work, we complained incessantly about the leadership, the management, and the known issues in our products. We felt like we had no agency and were never “allowed” to change things, but instead of leaving, we kept our heads down and our nose to the grindstone. If something was terrible, if customers complained, if a new product wasn’t received well, it was management’s fault and we were “just doing our jobs.” 

Basically, we were all smart enough to realize that the company was flailing, but we stayed on board—for the money, for the people, out of loyalty, or out of fear. And then we got laid off. In my existentialist way, I believe the responsibility for our current individual situations rests on our shoulders because we sat like smug Nostradami predicting the eventual downfall of a company built on outdated technology, faulty content, and poor management, but we still we sat. It’s like seeing all the signs for the perfect storm, then standing there and watching it brew and waiting for it to touch down instead of getting yourself to safety. We shouldn’t be offended that so many of us were let go in an effort to maintain and increase profitability when we knew things couldn’t continue as they’d been going on.
From donireewalker

I’m just gonna call it a learning experience and continue to march in my own way toward a future that doesn’t require me to sell my time and skills for a paycheck and a dental plan (fingers crossed and here goes the cold water). I never want to have another corporate teat shoved down my throat so I’ll be freelancing for grocery money and the retirement fund. I’m fortunate that my husband is able to pick up my slack while I get reoriented, but I can’t help but think that being let go when I was finding it hard to leave because of the paycheck and because of the stability–was just a mercy kill, and I’m okay with a little cosmic tough love. I hope everyone else that was mismanaged out of a job moves on to better things in the near future.

3 Things I Learned from Pat Flynn’s Let Go

Photo by VinothChandar

Though I’ve listened to some podcasts by Pat Flynn before, I only checked out his site, Smart Passive Income, for the first time the other day. There was a big post about the success of his new ebook, Let Go, and it was only $3.99 for a Nook version, so got it and read it–in all of 30 minutes. It was like a superdose of caffeinated motivation. For the rest of the day I found myself meditating on a few ideas that resonated with me.

Here’s what I learned:

1. Devote yourself 100% to anything, and something will happen
As successful as Pat Flynn’s been online with his Smart Passive Income and Green Exam Academy, he was an ambitious and successful aspiring architect first. His ambition drove him to work harder and continue learning beyond what was minimally required of him, and his side project of blogging about studying for the LEED blew up and became successful without that being his intention. An opportunity might come from an unexpected direction when you’re out there hustling for something you want, but it’s not going to fall in your lap when you’re not doing anything at all.

2. Use all your time intentionally
Pat initially used his time on the train listening to music, and his story might have taken a very different turn if he ended there. Instead, he chose to fill that time with listening to inspiring and informative podcasts by two dudes I am learning to love: Jeremy and Jason of Internet Business Mastery. For four hours a day, he tuned into to podcasts by people enthusiastic and knowledgeable about building an online business, instead of tuning out.

3. If you aren’t going solo, make sure you have an awesome life partner
I loved reading how Pat’s wife responded to the scary news that her husband-to-be was being laid off. She told him it wasn’t his fault and they both moved back in with their parents to save money. She was totally supportive of him and willing to make some sacrifices as an investment in their future together. That’s the kind of person you need to be with if you have big goals that will take a long time to realize. It’s easier to go it alone than it is to try to reach your goals with a dead weight around your neck. Choose your partners wisely, in every part of your life.

If you’ve read the book, what parts meant the the most to you? What did you learn?

Five ways to make new friends in a new town

Photo by elvissa
It wasn’t that long ago that I was new to this little town in Virginia, and it wasn’t long before that time that I was new in Shanghai, and before that, in Taiwan, and before that, in Pennsylvania…and so the list goes on and on. I’ve had a lot of experience being the new person, so I’ve had lots of opportunities to practice meeting people and making friends.
Here are my favorite ways to make new friends in a new town:

  1. Volunteer
  • Within my first few weeks of moving to Harrisonburg, I started volunteering to teach English as a second language with a local nonprofit. Immersing myself so quickly in the community made me feel more at home, even when I was still getting to know the people at work. In any new town, there are probably lots of organizations that can make good use of your time and talents. And if you sign up right away, your schedule won’t be too full to help other people. 
  • Take a class
    • In Taiwan, I made a number of new friends in my Chinese classes and my French class. Again, they were people I never would have met if I hadn’t decided to do something that I loved to do. And right away those friendships are built on the solid foundation of a shared interest. 
  • Join a club
    • When I found out there were Hash House Harriers (a drinking club with a running problem) in Shanghai, I met up with them as soon as possible. I met a lot of cool people that I wouldn’t have met through my office, and we saw some really interesting parts of the city. And then we partied together in restaurants I never would have known existed. Check out your new neighborhood for a chapter of Toastmasters, a hiking or running group, or a lesbian book club, whatever you like. Bring cookies or drinks to share, and you’re in. 
  • Hang out in public
    • Sitting at home watching HIMYM reruns isn’t going to help you meet any new people, but if you make an effort to get to the grocery store, the mall, the farmers market, or to park yourself at the local coffee shop for a couple of hours, you’re more likely to see other human beings. It might not pay off right away, but you might get a conversation started at the bar with, “Hey, I saw you at the coffee shop this morning! I really liked your [shoes/purse/nails/frappucinno].” (Just avoid being creepy and intense about it.) Also, a pro-tip: I am a big advocate of bringing your own lunch to work when you’re on a budget and your counting calories, but forcing yourself to eat out with your new co-workers the first couple of weeks is not a bad idea. Neither is tagging along for happy hour, or even asking them if they want to join you. Which leads me to my next suggestion…
  • Initiate contact
    • This seems counter-intuitive at first glance: you’re the new person, so how could you possibly have anything to offer one of the established residents of your town? The thing is, most of the established residents have probably gotten themselves into a routine, if not a rut, and an invitation to a poetry reading, or to try a new restaurant, or check out a local tourist attraction that they’ve long overlooked would probably be welcome. Remember that even though your new, it takes just as much courage on their part to approach you as it does for you to approach them. 

    No matter what happens, remember to stay positive and just keep it in perspective. If someone turns down an invitation, don’t take it personally–you’re new and you don’t know what they have going on in their own lives. If the team doesn’t invite you to their barbecue, don’t stress about it–they might have genuinely forgotten the new person, or they might need a few more weeks to warm up to you, and that’s okay. Just keep putting yourself out there, trying new things, and making new friends. In a year, you’ll be the one showing the noob where the best restaurants in town are. 

    Dear Dentist, we are never ever getting back together

    Photo by Betsssssy

    Dear Dentist,

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that even after all these years you can still hurt me. I thought it would be different this time, but every time I see you, you drill me and fill me with pain. I can’t keep going on like this. I can’t eat; I’m popping pills to numb the pain. Every time I say I never want to see you again, you ask me to come back and all you want to do is hurt me. You try to tell me that it’s my fault, that I don’t brush long enough or I need to floss more often, but I was fine before I saw you. Now I’m $2000 in the hole and I’m in agony and you just keep me coming back for more. Well, I finally have nothing left to give. I don’t think you even love me as much as you love torturing me. I’ll come back next week because I still owe you, though I am still not sure how that happened, but then that’s it.

    I am totally serious when I say I don’t ever want to see you again.



    See all the things!

    I made a list of ten things I wanted to see, do or try before we leave Virginia, knowing that if I’m not intentional about it, we’ll move and I’ll regret not doing so many things. Here’s the list:

    1. Chicken and waffles 
    2. Moonshine
    3. The Floyd Country Store Jamboree 
    4. A horseback trail ride 
    5. A summer weekend at Virginia Beach 
    6. King’s Dominion 
    7. Tubing 
    8. The Virginia Safari Park 
    9. Visit Roanoke 
    10. Hikes from Skyline Drive
    Right after I made the list, J and I decided to book a trip to Roanoke that weekend. I’ve been wanting to go since I heard it was “a cuter version of Harrisonburg.”
    I googled “best chicken and waffles” in Virginia, and there they were, at Thelma’s chicken and waffles in downtown Roanoke. So without much effort, I got to cross two things off my list.
    Whoever decided that waffles doused in butter and syrup served with fried chicken was a good thing deserves like a Nobel Prize or something. This is like all my favorite things, with coffee and bloody Mary. My god…

    Then, I got some tickets on sale for the Natural Bridge and Caverns. The Natural Bridge wasn’t on the list and I’m not sure why I omitted it, but J and I had talked about going when we first met. Specifically, he was happy that I wasn’t from Harrisonburg because we could do all the touristy stuff that local residents overlook. It only took us about 18 months, but I was totally stoked that we were fulfilling one of those early promises.

    After that, we stopped at Foamhenge, which is, of course, an exact replica of Stonehenge, made out of foam. So there were giant blocks of Styrofoam on top of a hill at the end of an incredibly muddy road. I don’t know that it was as moving as the real thing, but it was so absurd there among the trees and the mountains that it really was almost mystical. It looked like it hasn’t been maintained, though. The paint was falling off  and you could see where people had scratched out little holes in the Styrofoam. Maybe it was a commentary on the impermanence of human creations in the face of natural forces…

    I also tried my first cup of Cuban coffee. It was a coincidence that we found a little Cuban cafe because Jeremy was telling me all about Cuban coffee–super potent and served in tiny little cups–on the way down to Roanoke, so we were had to stop. It was awesome.

    And after what was already a ridiculously awesome day (I did not even get a chance to tell you about the butterfly garden and the caves!) we went to the Safari Park. That was so cool that I have to write a separate post about it.

    I’d like to point out, however, that all this is just testament to the power of writing things down so you can get things done. I’ve wanted to do the things on my list for the past two years, but there’s always been a reason to put them off. But we made hotel reservations and got tickets for Natural Bridge right after I made this list, and I’m so happy we finally did. I don’t want to leave with any regrets!

    I was in a commercial!

    I’ve said it before, but I really love my bank. It’s almost like I love my husband, like everyone who came before him was an asshole and I feel so lucky and so relieved to have finally met such a wonderful man. Every bank I dealt with before Dupont just left me feeling empty and unsatisfied, but now I really know how great a banking relationship can be. 
    When I had the opportunity to fill out a customer satisfaction survey online, I gushed about how happy I was with the customer service and the terms of all the financial products at Dupont. Then their marketing company called me up and asked me if I wanted to be in a commercial, and it turns out that I most certainly did want to go on local television and the internet and tell people how much I loved my bank while wearing my favorite gray sweater on a good hair day. 
    I am a total ham, so there’s that, and also I really do have good things to say about Dupont, but I was also very curious about what it’s like to shoot a commercial and work with people who do video camera stuff for a living. So, after eight hours of shaking hands, making coffee, and talking about every single little thing I like about Dupont, here is the one-minute result.

    The funny thing is, I thought I would like just soak up the attention and channel my latent inner rockstar, but actually as soon as the camera was on me I got horribly self-conscious and fidgety. At least I could finally admit that I hadn’t actually missed my calling as an actress on the big screen. 
    Anyway, I definitely had fun, I learned a lot, and I hope other people in the Shenandoah Valley go check out their local DCCU branch. 

    Half-marathon training schedule

    Here is the training schedule I used to prepare for the half-marathon I ran this weekend. Only experienced procrastinators should try this. This program is not recommended for smokers or people with high blood pressure, or back or neck problems; the pregnant; the infirm; those who’ve had recent surgery; anyone with a low threshold for pain; or those with common sense or time management skills. This plan is ideal if you want to prepare for a 13.1 mile race in twelve weeks without losing any of the weight you gained over the winter.

    Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Total
    1 Realize that race is coming up soon. It’s too cold. Don’t run. It’s still too cold. Don’t run. Eat a big lunch. Don’t run. Payday! Buy some new running shoes! Walk three miles, as long as it isn’t raining. Rest. 3
    2 Run one mile. Run three miles. Get your period. Rest. Rest. Rest. Rest. Rest. 4
    3 Run two miles. Run two miles. Get laid off. Celebrate with booze and cigarettes. Stay in bed with a hangover and self-loathing. Walk two miles. Walk two miles. Rest. 8
    4 Run two miles. Run four miles in through cold sleet. THIS IS SPARTA! Rest. Rest. Rest. Rest. Rest. 6
    5 Run two miles. Run five miles. Why is it still cold outside? Rest. Rest. Rest. Wash your sports bra. Rest. 7
    6 Rest. Rest. Get your period. Rest. Rest. Rest. Run four miles. Rest. 4
    7 Run two miles. Run six miles. Rest. Rest. Rest. Run-walk seven miles behind your fittest friend. Rest. 14
    8 Stay warm inside. Stay warm inside. Stay warm inside. Stay warm inside. Stay warm inside. Make a nice ham dinner for Easter. Rest. 0
    9 Eat leftover ham. Eat leftover ham. Eat leftover ham. Eat leftover ham. Eat leftover ham. Eat leftover ham. Rest. 0
    10 Buy a new water bottle. Buy new shorts. Get your period. Run four miles. Walk four miles. Run twelve miles. Rest. 20
    11 Bike four miles. Run twelve miles. Walk four miles. Rest. Rest. Walk four miles. Rest. 24
    12 Rest. Rest. Rest. Rest. Garden. Race day! Pace yourself–this isn’t a race. Take a road trip. 13.1

    [I made this chart by myself. In HTML. You jelly? Obviously, I still have a lot to learn…]

    After the 5th annual
    Park-to-Park Half Marathon
    (Waynesboro to Stuart’s Draft)

    Here I am in my limited glory. Note: that’s not a sense of accomplishment on my face, that’s a salty sweat crust. I wasn’t super proud of myself for merely finishing this year, but as they say: “Don’t be upset by the results you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do.” After finishing the same half-marathon last year, I felt like I had just run an ultra-marathon, like I was an amazing and unique individual who made a special contribution to life on Earth. This year, I felt like I was 40 pounds overweight, but I ran (and walked and jogged) for two hours and thirty-six minutes anyway so I couldn’t be a total waste of oxygen. I mean, once you’ve read Born to Run, you can’t really get too uppity about running a little ol’ half-marathon.
    Quick insight about health and body image: This is the heaviest I’ve been in my life and I’ve been this size for about a year now (yes, there’s a correlation between my current weight and both living in the U.S. and being married). And I’ve been running off and on for about 18 months now and I doubt I could have run a half-marathon at any random point in my life before now. I don’t look my best, but I certainly feel good about myself and what I can do. 

    I’m gonna start training for the Richmond marathon or something now that I know what a smartass I am about running thirteen miles. Running a marathon would also be something awesome to accomplish before we left Virginia. Training for a marathon would help me manage my time better and get me out of the house. Really, I am giant wimp about cold weather and can barely get myself out of bed if it’s below 60°F, let alone outside, so I’ll have far fewer excuses for slacking during the summer (and yes, I will run in 80, 90° weather without complaining).
    If you have any tips on getting and staying motivated to run, I’d love to hear about them!