Friday, July 29, 2011

Book Review: The Law of the Garbage Truck (2010)

Note: This post will contain NO commas. Take that grammar! <--see what I did there?

About a month ago I was promised a book -- The 19th Wife -- prompting Boyfriend to wonder what happened to the other 18. Father in his infinite wisdom decided that what I really needed was another book -- one that spoke to the crushing agonies of my soul. So he also sent me The Law of the Garbage Truck by David Pollay who used to be a manager and stuff and even worked at Yahoo! as head of customer care and then later as something else. It's all very specific. I ended up reading Garbage Truck because many chapters could be crushed under my mental wheels whilst I spooned up my yogurt-blueberry-almonds breakfast concoction. I typically rebel against self-help books especially the patronizing ones but Dave seems pretty sincere and his reasoning is not as laughable as say Malcolm Gladwell (who said something so moronic about writing in What the Dog Saw that I snapped the book shut and never picked it up again).

Basically The Law of the Garbage Truck says you shouldn't be a garbage truck -- don't dump your crap on others -- and that when other people are garbage trucks just be cool about it. I really like the examples he uses like when his dad cut off another driver who then challenged him to a duel in a parking lot and then when the guy got out of his tiny car he looked like the Hulk and Dave's dad backed the eff up. He just kept apologizing to the guy until he went away and ever since then he's apparently been a nice driver. (Sadly not all of us have giant adversaries to remind us that being grouchy isn't worth the trouble.) Another good example is when Dave and his kids waited in line without complaining while a Blockbuster (I know right! Blockbuster! WTF!) employee dealt with a difficult customer (a Garbage Truck!) and then later the lady repaid his good behavior with super excellent customer service or something.

And really I think this stuff works because no one wants to think of themselves as a garbage truck taking dumps on others except possibly fetishists and I am far too wholesome to even understand that reference. It's a strong mental image: a large vehicle lumbering around with smelly unpleasant things that you definitely hope will never see the light of day. Which reminds me of a quote by Tommy Lee Jone's character in Captain Americ-abs: "If you have an opinion now is a good time to keep it to yourself." Amen sir. Dave would say "If you have negativity to spew think long and hard about whether or not it's worth it to actually spew."

Speaking of negativity I really like the term "negative energizer" -- not the science kind that is used to power foot massagers in Japan but someone who is critical and inflexible and not fun to be around. I'm very lucky in that in my life I have only encountered one such individual who is like this. I would totally share but I am being a non-garbage truck so I will just be totally cool about it.

So anyway this blog post is getting pretty long and it's starting to sound like The Catcher in the Rye -- excuse the conceit -- so I'll end it here. Probably in my next post I'll see what happens when I don't use apostrophes. Dun dun DUUUNNNNNNNN!!! 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How to Have a Fabulous Birthday

Hello, readers! Today is my special day! Here are the secrets to having a Fabulous Birthday:

Step 1: Delight in Your Mother's Gift
I don't mean the gift of Life, which of course is the whole point of the birthday. I mean these bad boys, from Who in her right mind wouldn't wear these delightful statements to the endless inventiveness of mankind in the quest to push all fashion limits and make a buck? What deranged creature wouldn't proudly wear these to display her toned calves and shapely ankles on the streets of Boston?

Step 2: Ignore Disparaging Remarks
Someone will tell you that your 29th birthday is not special. When you shoot someone a glare, as you are morally obligated to in this outrageous circumstance, someone will backpedal and say, "Some birthdays are not as special as others." Ignore this. Remember that all birthdays are special, because you are.

Step 3: Obtain Perfect Weather 
This one depends on the celebrant's location. In this case, I'm in a part of the world where summer is blazing hot with clear blue skies, a.k.a perfect weather. If this were Manila, there would be a typhoon and I would  be canoeing in waist-high water down my street while avoiding falling trees. (I have actually done this, but in a car. We all survived. As an added bonus, my screaming friend swallowed floodwater. That'll teach her to doubt my driving skills!)

Step 4: Be Happy
This is the most important step, and should probably have gone up top, except mom's gift got here too early and as a historian by training I felt compelled to list everything in chronological order. Anyway. Happiness is key to inviting good karma, which leads to...

Step 5: Graciously Receive Gifts

Breeze into your office and show all your teeth to the kind co-workers who cheerfully greet you a happy birthday. Note that this step is only possible when you have dropped at least three hints about the exact date of your birthday. Those colleagues who fail to show up with a present first thing in the morning will compensate by popping out and getting you a pecan pie and a card. I love pecan pie. I love cards. I love brownies. I love sake.

Bonus step: Be Awake for Your Brother's Present
It was very sweet. Uh, I think.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mental Discipline

Sometimes, when it's 5 AM on the dot and I'm shambling to my cat's food bowl, the feline herself eagerly following and encouraging me loudly, a half-formed thought scampers through my brain -- Maybe I should go running now -- and promptly scoots back into a safe corner as I mentally growl at it. Who wants to go running at five in the morning, after having been snapped awake by an ear-shattering meow of primal hunger? Who can schlep around Cambridge perkily after having gone to bed a mere five hours earlier? Why, I haven't even finished metabolizing all the alcohol I consumed!

But maybe the thought is right. Maybe it's not a thought at all, but an instinct for health, buried under layers of comfortable fat cells. Maybe it's the voice of my Mental Discipline. 

should run after I get up to feed my cat at the crack of dawn! But what about my sleep? Isn't proper rest as important as proper exercise?

Er, maybe I should go to bed earlier? But what about socializing? Isn't spending time with friends and loved ones good for your health too, and your soul?

What about solitude? Don't we all need some alone time, to decompress from the stress of the day, without inconvenient, judging witnesses?

Derp, derp?

Yes, these are the pathetic dilemmas I wrestle with on a semi-regular basis. When I get into these thought loops, I just think about, oh I don't know, "corrective" rape in South Africa or the Tohoku quake and resulting tsunamis. Visions of my muffin top are instantly shamed into vanishing by recalled footage of babies being swept from their mother's arms or news articles about victims of violence. Or, worse, the memory of my brother's workout outfit last weekend. OMFG I need bleach for my eyes.

See? Perspective! And how does one have perspective? Mental discipline! So this blog post totally makes sense, and I'm not rambling or anything.

Oh God I'm so tired...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cat vs Human

Sheba: In the Darkness, Water

I crouched under the bed, shouting defiantly at my tormentor in the pre-dawn light. I am growing old; my memory does not reach so far; and so I cannot understand what triggered this attack. I can only stay here, safe from the waters of rage, and cry out, stop! stop! I am innocent!

When Current Human Person (or "CHumP") whisked me away from the Big Place with Cold Floors to the Tiny Smelly Place, and now to this Nice New Place, I thought we had reached a level of harmony that pointed to our long and warm companionship. I let CHumP know whenever it was time for her to pet me; and CHumP seemed perfectly content to have me on her lap after she came back from wherever she goes during the day. I always used my litter box properly, and she had an array of brushes to help with the all-important task of keeping me clean and shiny.

The only point of contention between us is that she insists on a regular feeding schedule of once in the morning and once in the evening, instead of what nature intended: free feeding. But we had worked that out, I thought -- we would communicate, so she would know whenever my food dish content was unacceptably low. This arrangement has worked, up to this point.

From whence does this water come? What instrument of torture is this? What compels my dear human to take up arms against me?

Nicole: STFU! 

Seriously, cat? You wake me up at two in the morning and then at five in the morning and not expect a spray bottle aimed at your face? Get out from under the bed -- now! now! -- and for God's sake stop meowing! Whaddaya think this water's for? STOP THAT BLOODY MEOWING!

Sheba: I am a Burmese Cat, and My Genetic Code Compels Me!

MEOW! MEOW! meow! meow! meow! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! meowmeowmeow! MEOW! MEOW! meowwwwww! MEOW! MEOW! meow! meow! meow! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! meowmeowmeow! MEOW! MEOW! meowwwwww!!!!!!!

Nicole: OMFG I'm Gonna Kill You!

I can't spray you from under there! What the hell are you yelling about? Look, I stopped spraying you! Shut uuuuupppppp!!! It's 5 am and I left you food at midnight, you fatass! It's your own fault you ate it all up!

Sheba: I am a Voice for Free Feeding!

MEOW! MEOW! meow! meow! meow! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! meowmeowmeow! MEOW! MEOW! MEOWWWWW! MEOW! MEOW! meow! meow! meow! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! meowmeowmeow! MEOW! MEOW! meowwwwww!!!!!!!


The scene from five this morning.

Lesson: Damn the vet and his diet restrictions, I need to start free-feeding my cat.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Weekend, or How I Met Fat Charlie

Everything started off innocently enough -- on Saturday I did my all usual chores in true OCD fashion, overdosed on coffee that evening to prepare for the night of drunken revelry, and then danced madly as the fabulously gay people of The Donkey Show revived seventies disco. I was particularly enchanted by the woman who played Queen Titania, or rather by the butterfly pasties that were all that stood between her and toplessness. Costume technology is truly wondrous.
The boy in gold was in roller skates the whole time!
A mysterious tattoo.
After the show, we all went to drink some more and the next morning I found myself with a tattoo of my beloved Sheba in a place that I may not mention for fear of secret Internet censors. I didn't bother to waste my time wondering how the hell I got a tattoo and why it looked like the eyes were drawn in with yellow highlighter. It was clearly a God-given sign that I should stop wasting my life being a good little girl, performing such mundane weekend tasks as cleaning my apartment, going grocery shopping, and doing my laundry. Its miraculous nature was proven without a doubt when I took a shower, and these characters appeared on the tattoo's torso: エンゼル猫はチョーかわいい. They disappeared when I dried off, and another eye-opener came about when I exposed it to direct sunlight (a feat requiring all my gymnastics skills) -- the phrase, clear as day, Este gato es un ángel. El silencio es imposible.

Sheba's true nature was thus finally revealed: she is a chattyphim, a choir of angels that never shuts up, come from heaven to reveal to me the path to salvation. Delighted, I plopped her onto my shoulder and took her outside, so that she may show me the way. Guided by her unerring directional codes -- "mrow" for left, "rawr" for right, and "prrrrrr" for keep going straight -- I ended up at the North End, known for its fantastic Italian restaurants and snooty residents. In a park, waiting for me, was Fat Charlie.
Best birthday present so far!
Fat Charlie's owner was nearby, or should I say former owner, because he immediately came forward and proffered me the key, or whatever one uses to start up these bad boys. I think you press a button. Anyway, he greeted me happy birthday, and although the date was wrong, the month sure was right, so I solemnly thanked him and we stared at each other and then he kindly offered to drive me around on Fat Charlie whenever I wished and we went to a pool and swam and played and saw Japan beat the US at women's soccer and went home and watched HP7 part 1 and the entire time the wind was in my hair and the engine was threatening to burn off my slipper-clad right foot and Fat Charlie was between my legs. Wait, that sounded really wrong, but it is technically true, as Fat Charlie is a motorcycle and good luck riding him sidesaddle! Speaking of saddle, we tucked in Sheba nice and safe in one of the saddle bags, in case you were wondering what happened to her after taking me all the way to the North End on foot.

This blog post has no point, other than to have you speculate which bits of it are true and which ones aren't. But it's all true. Except the parts that aren't. But otherwise, all truth. Totes. I totes swear.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

お風呂 (ofuro)

When I lived in Japan, getting into the hot tub (ofuro) was a nightly ritual. Sometimes, I would get the honor of being the first to go, which was pretty sweet, since the whole family used that thing and there would be unsightly human detritus floating around if you happened to be last.

The first thing you do is get into the washing area and rinse off. After you're reasonably clean, you get into the tub, unroll the bamboo cover so only your head is seen sticking out, and pleasantly steam for as long as you like. Okaasan (mom) explained that it helps you sleep at night. It's so true! Your muscles relax and stuff. Also, homes in Japan usually have no central heating, so there's a big advantage to being superheated right before getting into the futon.

After I moved into my first studio, I made it a habit to have a hot bath whenever I feel tired or stressed. Now I take a hot bath every night, if I'm not home too late. It's become inconceivable to read a book while not submerged in piping hot water.

Sheba's braved the edge of the tub with her two front paws, once when she was extra needy. Naturally, she ran out of the bathroom after she saw all the water. She doesn't know what she's missing!

One day I would like to try nature's hot tub -- hot springs -- preferably in some ridiculously cold European country, like Norway or Romania. Or Russia. That would be sweeeeeet!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Windows 7 Pro

Thank you, Microsoft, for creating a gorgeous OS. I say this despite owning a Macbook Pro running OS X.  Windows 7 is easily as sexy as OS X!

Coming to 7 from XP is like having a competent Baskin Robbins cake one moment and a swoon-worthy Finale extravaganza the next. Meanwhile, if you're coming to 7 from Vista (vomit), it's like going from being pummeled by morons to being massaged at a luxury spa by a deeply tanned, lean and muscular gentleman. Or lady, whatever works for you.

My victory is that much sweeter because I had to fight  to get this OS. And by "fight," I mean, "send a polite e-mail requesting a Windows 7 upgrade, and then wait three weeks for a response."

Tell your office to switch to Windows 7 Pro! Tooooootally worth it!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Book review: Adrift (1986)

Adrift is the true story of Steve Callahan's survival in the open ocean for 76 days. The book is gripping, emotional, and will shame you for being a total wuss when compared to the author. Callahan is hurled overboard from his boat one stormy night, and manages to get into his rubber life raft with crucial equipment that allow him to last more than two months with no land in sight. His body consumes his muscles; sharks circle menacingly; his tools fail and require repair or constant tending; open sores erupt on his skin; basically, it's a bloody nghtmare. Fortunately, he's ultimately saved by two things: his resilience and survival skills, and luck/grace. In particular, the dorados that accompany him provide food and a humbling sense of gratitude.

This book is for sailors and seafarers and people who appreciate people who don't suck. Boyfriend, who loves him some sailing, is definitely gonna have to read this.

Thanks to Papa for sending the book our way!


I saw this article on and had to snicker. The writer is concerned about what she views as extraordinarily high compensations for CEOs of two large non-profits. Oh, sugarpie, if only you knew...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Movie Review: Kung-fu Panda 2

Adorable and light-hearted though it was, Kung-fu Panda 2 nevertheless had a lesson to impart: inner peace is the key to moving on. In the movie, Po reached a higher level of kung fu by accepting the horror that happened in his childhood (er, panda cubhood). In real life, I'm realizing that the problem is me. It's a bit of a conundrum: someone being a dick needs to be called out, but it should stop there. In other words, call a jerk a jerk and move on. What I tend to do is point out bad behavior, and then obsess about it. Roar! Roar! But heck, if it can't be changed, then I have to change. That's how one becomes stronger! Roar.

Also: being angry is EXHAUSTING.

That is all.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Stop eating them, Papua New Guinea!

Environmental Alert of the Day:
The pig-nosed turtle population in New Guinea is declining due to over-harvesting. Having learned of their existence five minutes ago, and having seen two photos -- one close-up of a blank stare and another of a bunch of females trapped -- I am now outraged on their behalf. How DARE you, people of Papua New Guinea! Your craven craving for their delicious, delicious meat and eggs is causing fewer baby pig-nosed turtles to flourish under the tropical sun!

Pig-nosed turtle lovers unite! And do send me an update of your conservation efforts!

News article link:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

That is why Sheba gets +1,000,000,000 points

This morning I almost fell asleep while watching Sheba blink blearily at me, my chin propped uncomfortably on the cardboard of her scratch lounge. There's so much noise in our lives, noise that we take for granted because it constantly surrounds us: cars whizzing past, horns honking, people chatting, TVs blaring, air conditioners humming, the voices in your head judging you, and so on. But when Sheba's around, all that becomes muted; the world becomes fluffy around the edges; and everything is all right. My most vivid memory of Sheba is also my only memory of perfect silence: in the winter of 2009, I opened my eyes one morning to soft sunlight and her little face right beside mine, her head pillowed on my arm. There was absolutely no sound, just light and cat.

Sheba is a tiny creature who patiently endures my constant need to touch her silky fur; who licks my nose when she realizes it's there; whose whiskers vibrate when she purrs extra loudly; and who coos like a dove when she's especially content. All she needs is food, water, her kitty litter, and lots and lots of petting, preferably on a warm lap, or on the closest laptop. In return, I get peace. And that is why Sheba gets an extra one billion points just for existing.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


A comedian once joked that the people you hate are the people you'll end up with in your life. Unfortunately, that's true. Here is my tale of woe:

I was bullied as a kid. Said bully would make his friends walk in on me while I'm in the bathroom, or wipe mud from his shoes onto the book I'm reading at that very moment, or kick me off the bed during nap time, or call me ugly. Okay, fine. We all grow up and get over that.

It turns out that the bullies don't. The very pain they were trying to inflict on others stays with them, affecting them until they become unable to function normally. They become weak, in mind and in spirit.

I have the distinct displeasure of living with the very same bully whom I loathed as a child. I've had to listen to the constant whining about how hard his life is; I've kept my mouth shut when he blamed our parents for how he turned out; I've let him stay without paying a single dime toward rent.  And when I try to point out what could happen if he just tried harder, I get the "but you went to Harvard so you're set for life" speech. There are so many ways I could counter that pathetic argument that I won't even bother in this post.

AND, just to make it even lovelier, he's gross. Yesterday I came home and my apartment stank to high heaven, and it was because of cat poop (he'll feed the cat but not clean up after her) and also, he forgot to flush the toilet after taking a dump. Wow. Then after I washed the dirty dishes he thoughtfully left on the table and all across the kitchen sink, I saw that he'd somehow managed to drop a half-eaten lemon in the clothes cabinet. WTF? The last straw was this morning: I was drinking from my usual glass and there were ASHES in it. ASHES. IN THE GLASS.

So I now wake up resentful and go to bed furious. What the hell did I do to be saddled with this horrific karma? I'm not seeing the humor in this situation right now. The only realistic strategy I've come up with is becoming a one-woman SHUN team: completely ignore target until target goes away.

Arrrrggghhhhhhhh. FML, FML, FML.