Tuesday, July 15, 2014

New Story Out

Another one for The Daily Dot. Check it out here


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Back from Alaska


​Most of you already know, I just spent two weeks in Alaska on a boat (albeit a much, much smaller boat than the one photographed in my previous entry).

It was an incredible trip. I think over the next few weeks I'll try to post a few entries about what I did and what it was like, plus include some photos. I posted an album to Facebook, but I know some people didn't see it. 

My ego isn't such that I require all my 600+ Facebook friends to see my stuff, but it would be nice if it showed up in the feeds of the people I'm close to, who might actually be interested. Last night I was on the phone with a girlfriend (not just any girlfriend, I stood in this one's wedding) and she asked about my trip - see, she knew about it because I'd told her on the phone about a month ago. She asked about photos, and I said they were already up. "I feel like all I ever see now is a bunch of updates from people I don't care about," she said. Me too. I had almost the same conversation (different girlfriend, different photos) several weeks ago.

In its efforts to sell us stuff, it seems like Facebook has abandoned its initial mission, which was to foster connection between the people we already know and care about. I guess I'll just have to start picking up the phone again, at least until Mark Zuckerberg 2.0 comes along and gives us something better.

Anyways - more about my trip soon. 

Until then, here is my impression of every single Alaskan I told that, although I grew up there, I now live in Texas:

.
.
.
.
wait for it...
.
.
.
"TEXAS?!?!"

Okay, more posts soon!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cruizin'

Docked on Cozumel

Tourista

Submarine Coral Reef


Me and Nainai



Taken after James got an internship offer! More on that in a later post

After James graduated the entire Meiser family descended on Austin and we all piled into a mini van bound for Galveston to board a five-day Carnival cruise to Cozumel and Progreso (to see Chichén Itzá).

Nainai came all the way from Taiwan, first to Hawaii to see James' sister's graduation, then to Texas for the cruise. She's 85 and what a champ to do all that travel and eat almost all Western food for a couple weeks. When we all got caught up talking in English, she'd just take a nap. She was fine with all the Western food, James' mom said, because growing up in China (back when it was nationalist China!) she'd go eat at the hotels that served Western food, so she likes tiramisu especially. It was good to see her again, and this was most likely her last trip to the US.

The boat was fun. I've never taken a cruise before, but every day there are a ton of activities and gambling specials and shopping deals ... We did some of that stuff, like we went to see the shows every night, but the nicest thing was just finding a table on the top deck in the morning and hanging out and watching the ocean.

Cruise ships are also great for people watching (lots of people + leisure time). I witnessed several interactions over the week that were interesting:

1. As we were boarding the ship in Galveston a Carnival employee was trying to hustle people down the hall, away from the customs area. A woman told him forcefully she was not leaving because "she was waiting for a minor." The man barked into his walkie talkie "she refuses to leave." Eventually the kid showed up and the woman continued away, miffed.

2. On the pool deck I was in line to use the restroom. It was a tight space, a young woman in front of me asked in a loud voice before she opened a stall door, "is anyone still in there?" to a middle-aged woman exiting. The woman responded, "No one is going to help you if you are rude."

3. James and I got on an elevator. One floor up we were joined by a big group mostly comprised of giggling teenagers. They got off one floor later and next thing I hear James shouting at them. None of them will look at us. The adult in the group turns around to ask what's wrong and James tells him they've pushed all of the elevator buttons (we were on the 2nd floor, headed to the 9th). The man apologized. We continued upward.

The first instance in Galveston was funny because when the woman's daughter appeared, she basically looked like a full-grown woman. I suppose she was 15, but if someone had told me she was 25, I would have believed them. Even still, both parties, parent and worker, felt they were in the right. I think the bathroom issue was mostly miscommunication. The younger woman wanted to be sure she wasn't going to walk in on a kid, the older woman thought her tone was too demanding. Then what happened to us was just annoying, and the kids deserved to be yelled at.

The reason these three things were interesting to me is they all seemed like distinctly American interactions. They aren't scenes I can imagine playing out in the same way in China. I saw plenty of pushing and shouting and run-of-the-mill angry people when I lived in Shanghai and Beijing, but I think Americans feel more inclined to "teach" one another (i.e. complete strangers) what is right. I think this is probably wrapped up with our low power-distance culture and high value placement on individualism.

It reminded me of a New York Times article I read recently about spite. Usually that word is used in a negative context, but a group of researchers used game theory models to show the utility of spite. Basically, societies need people who will go out of their way, perhaps cause themselves inconvenience, in order to punish misbehavers. This provides a net benefit to the society as a whole.

Anyways, enough arm-chair sociology. The vacation was great.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Graduation and Some Updates


Squeaky wheel gets the grease, y'all. After complaining pretty much everywhere about my stupid fly ribbons PIC Corporation (who licenses the Raid brand for all this fly-killing business) sent me a free fly stick and a window trap. But after about a week of stalking flies in the kitchen and bathroom, they seem to be all gone. We even put bananas back out on the counter - heavens! - and we still haven't seen any. So I wont be able to evaluate these two anytime soon (or ever, hopefully!), but I appreciate the gesture. 

Elsewhere in business transactions: It is really lame that Red Box charges for a second day after 9pm. Everyone knows you're supposed to have until midnight. So that's lame. What's not lame is I went to West Marine to buy sailing gear for my upcoming adventure (June is just around the corner!) and had excellent customer service both in-store and then later on the phone in the process of ordering my boots and gloves online.

Okay, I think I've sufficiently buried the lead:


James graduated! Yay! Where does the time go, now he's a master - all of that good stuff. His job hunt is ongoing, so for the moment (and by that I mean exactly right now at this moment) we are two people at a kitchen table staring at our laptops trying to figure out what's next and where's next and how to get that cash monay! Millenials in tha house, woooo!

What's next immediately is a cruise down to Mexico starting this Friday with James' immediate family plus Nai Nai, coming all the way from Taiwan! There's basically no Internet on the boat, so in a couple weeks I should be able to tell you exactly how much Mandarin I've forgotten. 


Monday, May 5, 2014

About Flies

Houston, we have a (fly) problem.

I don't know why I'm telling Houston, because the problem is HERE in my apartment, in Austin. 

The worst of it was last week. Anytime I entered the bathroom or kitchen there were 2-3 flies. I poured boiling water-vinegar down all the drains, I cleaned everything, and now all of the fruit is the fridge, nothing that isn't sealed remains on the counter. 

Bugs stress me out. Initially I went into ogress mode and told James he could never put a plate in the sink without rinsing it again (ever!), but then he pointed out that our upstairs neighbors just moved out.

A word about our former upstairs neighbors: Based on what we could hear, they were essentially nocturnal and did not have jobs. Around the time we'd be going to bed, they would start making scraping noises as if they were moving all their furniture, and they did this on a regular basis. Sometimes when I woke up at 7 or 8, I could hear them still playing music or fighting. 

They must've moved out in a hurry, because last week I saw the maintenance workers hauling bags and bags of trash out of their unit. No joke, one thing that was removed was half of a Taco Bell sign, and no I was not surprised by that AT ALL. One of the workers was nice and offered me their dining room chairs, which are sturdier and more comfortable than our IKEA ones. 

So my new and improved hypothesis is once our dirty nocturnal neighbors moved out, the flies had to travel down the pipes for more fertile turf. 

Besides the boiling vinegar-water drain thing, the Internet told me to fill a cup with apple cider vinegar and dish soap. The flies are attracted to the smell and then they land on the soapy liquid and can't fly away. We caught four this way.

Looking to speed things up, we went to HEB and bought RAID fly ribbon. Do not buy this product. 

I'm so annoyed, I wanted to tweet this at the RAID company, but apparently they're not into social media. The only reason to buy RAID fly ribbon is if your space is so filled with flies they can't help but run into the tape. It's essentially glorified packaging tape in a fancy RAID container. Ugh.

The tape has been up in the bathroom and kitchen for almost a full day now and hasn't caught anything. So I refilled a cup with vinegar and soap plus half a banana and I've already caught at least one more fly that way. 

Also - that thing about catching more flies with honey than vinegar? Total bullshit. I caught zero flies with honey. Honey is about as useful as RAID fly ribbon. 

I have a friend who has lived in this complex for 5 years and at one point had a neighbor who was so dirty they bug-bombed her building 4-5 times and still couldn't get rid of the cockroaches until management kicked the people out, so I suppose I should count my blessing that all I have is a few flies. 

Friends and family, I welcome your pest tips. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

One day, two bylines

When it rains, it pours.

I had two piece published today. One is about censorship and one is about cryptocurrency mining

So there ya go.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Fortnightly Blog

The speed at which I blog these days, I may as well be sending out a newsletter - by post. Ah, well.

I'm just shy of the six-month mark here in Austin and rather magically everything has become easier. I knew from Taiwan and Shanghai that six months is generally what it takes to get adjusted, and sure enough that proved true again.

I loved Austin from the first time I visited, but figuring out a work situation was stressful. Things aren't perfect, I'm still a freelancer, which means there's always a looming existential worry that the money train will dry up, but I've had a couple good months, and can at least kick that worry somewhat further down the line.

Transitioning back to the U.S. has greatly expanded my empathy for people suffering long-term un- or under-employment. I really didn't have to deal with this that long, but it is depressing and unmooring and is a surefire method of bottoming out your sense of self worth. What am I? and What am I good for? are terrible questions to face when you have no work. When I first moved here, it made me uncomfortable when people asked what I did. Now I say "I'm a freelance writer" with ease, though I usually feel I have to add something about how the pay is crap and some of what I do is bo-ring. 

James and I spend at least a couple nights a week at a local improv theater, The New Movement where we take classes, so we're always hanging out with funny, creative people and that helps Austin feel even more like home. This month we're going to three music shows, we saw a comedian last night, I went to a series of author talks yesterday and next weekend we're taking a sketch writing class from one of the Key and Peele writers. After three years in China, the amount of cultural wealth available here in Austin makes me giddy. 

But just as Austin really starts to become home, we may be giving it up soon. James is applying for jobs and internships. He's made it past the first round at a couple big national firms, one in Boulder, one in Chicago, and he still has quite a few more applications to turn in. We both wish there were more firms here in town, we really wouldn't mind staying.

Also, I finished a draft of my novel. It's terrible, but it's nice to have a whole draft done. At the author talk series I went to, Anthony Marra talked about spending a couple years on a novel he ultimately trashed, and Daniel Alarcón said that he had a whole draft of the novel he was reading from that he threw out and started from scratch, which was a nice reminder that nobody builds Rome in a day, or whatever. 

Happy Easter, y'all!