Sunday, April 30, 2006

55 Fiction "Friday": Law School Sympathy Edition

Last year, I would have spent this Friday studying (as opposed to this year: frantically trying to make a filing.)

Study hair: for women, the inventive use of Bic pens and hair elastics, swirls and plaits of nervous energy incidentally highlighting the furrowed brow. Anxiety radiating through the joggling knee, the tapping finger, the constant lip balm application. Returning to caveman-like territoriality, complete with glowering looks, over a particular chair or table in the library.

We can work it out

Ode to 12-hour work days
I picked up my cell
Hit '9' for an outside line
Too much time at work

I've lived at work this week, and as far as I can tell, this will be my reality for the foreseeable future. I'm on a case that is heating up (boiling over may be more accurate!) The part that really surprises me is that, not only do I not mind, I'm actually enjoying it. I keep checking in with myself, "Do I feel put upon? Taken advantage of? Am I feeling mope-y?" And the answer is consistently "no." Part of it is that everyone on the team is putting in the same kind of hours, including the partner (and I respect him for it.) Part of it is that the work is really engaging me: I'm learning about a technology I know nothing about, and experiencing litigation from the inside.

Litigation reminds me of Austen-era social dancing: now you clap, then turn to the left: a complex etiquette guided by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as well as local rules, and the particular judge's standing orders in true reverse pyramid style. Notices, motions, briefs in support of, certificates of service, exhibits, appendices - it's a little Brazil-ian in its worship at the altar of "paper."

Those are the mechanics, archane and esoteric - baseball statistics traded between paralegals, secretaries, and associates. But, what I really like is the hustle. People are surprisingly efficient when time-pressed. Like an excited electron, we can suddenly operate on a higher level: more decisive and incisive, more straight-forward. Deadlines force a clarity of thought and purpose.

Knowing that I will be spending the next few weeks/months in Bauer-like intensity, I've started changing my life. You can go all-out for a week, but not for 6: I need to find ways to take care of myself. I'm spring cleaning so that I can minimize messiness at home and create a sanctuary. Because I'm now dedicated to one project, my schedule is, oddly, more flexible. I will work later in order to have an hour driving around with the sunroof open, or a quality date with the gym, or a really stellar glass of wine.

Friday, April 28, 2006

On guilt

... and my brazen refusal to be guilted.

From: the Star
Sent: Thursday, April 27, 2006 7:41 PM
To: maisnon


From: maisnon
Sent: Thursday, April 27, 2006 7:53 PM
To: the Star

Dude, we JUST ordered Pizza from Applewood's. :(

Sorry, I should have asked you.

From: the Star
Sent: Thursday, April 27, 2006 8:00 PM
To: maisnon

Nah, no prob...I'll go out all by my lonesome self.

Thanks, thanks anyways...

boo hoo hoo...whoa is me...

From: maisnon
Sent: Thursday, April 27, 2006 8:03 PM
To: the Star

Have fun!

And, btw, it's woe...WOE is me. Or, in this case, woe is you.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

One of these things is not like the other

Malaysia is a simmering cultural stew. Just as rasam, dosha, and idli are inexorably linked to childhood memories - the clattering of aluminum dishes and endless tumblers of squash, so are bao, congee, the staccato of chopsticks and the watermelon flavor of soybean milk.

Dim sum is comfort food. The gathering of family around a giant table with an impressive lazy susan, each uncle making sure to order his favorites. For me, it's the original tapas - trying a little taste of something you're not too sure about, sampling all kinds of flavors and textures. Now, eating dim sum with those who are relatively new to it is an opportunity to teach: sesame balls, dumplings with chives, shrimp noodle, etc.

I was thrilled to get invited to the Hong Kong Flower Lounge for a dim sum birthday party. Scanning the eVite, I saw that I would be one of the few non 'Asian Asian' people attending. No biggie, I know my way around dim sum. I arrived and I asked for the birthday party. When that drew blank looks, I asked for the Shen party. The hostess started to lead me .... away from the main hall, upstairs and into a party room.

The room held about 5 large tables, perfectly set, including gift bags (in fuschia and aqua.) We're not in a dim sum restaurant anymore, thought I. Surveying the room, I found five women gathered at the far end finishing up the party favors. Oh, I'm definitely not in the right place. At this point, they had spotted me, so I had to say "Ha! Looks like I'm not at the right party!" One women asked, "Are you a Zeta??" Uh, no. And if I were, wouldn't I look less confused/bemused? That explained it, though: the perfect place settings, the elegantly flipped hair, twin sets, and pearl earrings. I wished them well, and then beat a hasty retreat.

As IF! Just because I'm not of the Chinese persuasion, I was lumped in with the OTHER non-Chinese people at the restaurant. Even after asking for a distinctly 'Asian Asian' name, I was still categorized that way.

I wasn't offended, I was amused. With a little more time, it's made me think. A friend and I had a "discussion" about race. His take on it was that race is such a small part of my experience - to which I responded that anything is small, depending on how you dice the pieces. Race, or how you are identified is more than your perception of yourself, it's also in the way that society perceives you. I could wake up tomorrow and decide that I'm absolutely 110% male, but that would not change how others interact with me (at least not without some very concerted effort, and even then, somewhat doubtful.)

I remember shopping in Madras with my mother when I was maybe 10, and hearing a child about my age remark (in Tamil) about the 'American' and knowing that he meant me. At the time, I thought of my elementary school classmates, one of whom regaled me by whooping and doing a war dance around me. I was too stunned by the ignorance to even try and explain the "dot not feathers" distinction. While to many (most?) Americans, I'll never quite be thought of as an American, I'm in no way considered Indian by Indians either. Where does that leave me?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

55 Fiction Friday: Midnight Sun edition

Friday has many miles to travel before it sleeps.

The midnight hours no longer held mystery. Before, she assumed they were fragranced with a subtle and exotic perfume, now she knew that they were like the early night, but harsher in their fluorescent light and faintly blurred, buzzing edges. The bitterness of coffee spilling into the memory of a pillowslip cool against the cheek.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


... or why you can't treat your guy friends exactly like your girl friends.

The Star and I were headed over to Zibibbo to meet a friend for dinner. In my girliest moment in months, I was putting on makeup in the car. (It's not that I don't wear makeup, but applying it is a very private thing. For whatever reason, that is its own intimacy level for me.)

At the corner of Marsh and Middlefield, I swept DiorShow mascara on to my right eye. At the Middlefield and Ravenswood stoplight, I finished with my left. The Star politely said that it "made a big difference," which it does - the stuff is great - but I know he's full of crap because he recently exclaimed "Wait, you wear glasses???" when I wear glasses 99% of the time. Since he was trying, I decided to treat him like a girl friend: I told him that the mascara smelled really nice, and made him smell it. He said, and I quote, "But someone would have to be kissing your eye bags in order to smell it."

He's a charmer, that one.

I was too stunned to explain that mascara scent is often used as an indicator: when the smell wears off, it's time to replace your mascara. Also, I think manufacturers add a scent to make me (the consumer) happy - make-up is largely about what women want and like (not the male(s) the Star seems to assume are the ultimate target.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Great expectations

I was grousing to Paticus about law school and how so many people acted like there was a finite amount of success and happiness in the world - which means that if a classmate or friend achieved some, then there was less in the pot for them. Happiness as a zero-sum game. Paticus looked at me a long time and said, "You know that's life, right? Not just law school."

Old friends know you in ways that you sometimes don't even know yourself. Paticus went on to tell me that I have high expectations for people, and that I expect a lot from them - and that I'm always a little disappointed (or a lot, depending) when they fail to meet my expectations.

I'm not sure to what extent you can change the way you are wired. I've changed some - I am much easier on myself now than I was 10 years ago, and I am, in turn, less demanding of others. But, I also think that if you expect great things from people, they are more likely to come through. In a way I hadn't seen before, expectations are a form of trust. I trust you to be considerate. I trust you to think about the consequences of your actions.

Of course, trust can be misguided and mislaid. I've never understood most discussions of trust - I don't see how trust is earned, or how it is validated. In some ways, trust is defined by its absence - either you trust someone, or you don't. Someone has violated your trust, or she hasn't. Proving a negative is never secure.

Ultimately, I'm living my life the way I want to live it. I wouldn't want to mistrust everyone, or expect the worst from people. Just typing the words and feeling the thoughts behind them, I feel sour and somehow smaller. I know that this means that I will be disappointed at times, but I think that I also get to see people at their best.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Spin Spin Sugar

Procrastination is an art: the truly professional practice what I call active procrastination. This means that they complete other tasks on their "to do" lists in order to avoid the most pressing, or most onerous chore.

I am nothing if not a consummate professional.

That's right kids, I have chosen Friday April 14th to finally gather my tax documents. I have been piling them (along with seemingly every other scrap of paper to enter the house) on my recently purchased desk. Every weekend in March (and, um, April) I've said that I will organize the desk, get the tax docs in order and just file. This is especially ridiculous because the gubmint owes me money. Big time. And I could have had it months ago. This offends my desi sense of thrift, but I'm learning to accept being (very) imperfect and roll with it, so .... taxes get done when they get done.

Sorting through the piles of paper, I found the printout I made for myself when I was moving out here. It has my flight information, the Star's directions to his car in long term parking (he flew to Thailand the day before I flew in to SF), directions from the airport to PetCo and then on to the Star's place. (I am by turns a procrastinator and absurdly detail-oriented.)

The date on that flight: Sept. 15th. I've been a Bay area resident for 7 months. Going through papers from that time, I remember the excitement (disguised at times as the giant knot in my stomach.) The deep, deep cleansing breathes. The "stop the world, I want to get off" roller coaster of emotions, and interminable lists of things to do. (At one point, I'm pretty sure I had a list of lists!) Trying to be excited about the upcoming changes in the face of anxiety, buyer's remorse and renovating my condo with my dad.

And I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. At this very moment - 12:33 am - sitting on the floor of my apartment and listening to some BDP accompanied by Gia purring - life is sweet.

55 Fiction Friday: She's crafty edition

Friday, y'all!

She cast on dolefully, counting the loops under her breath, each an onerous task. Slowly, the needles picked up speed along with her thoughts, the yarn sliding between her fingers. She traced the pattern with a fingertip: “ *K1, p1; rep from * to end of row.” If only life came with such simple instructions.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Breathe Me

I finally finished watching the series Six Feet Under (Netflix - I love ya!) The series changed my life. I know that sounds like boilerplate, pablum ("I laughed, I cried, it was better than 'Cats'.") but I mean it.

The show is stellar for two reasons. First, it is the best exploration of human relationships I have ever seen on film. Its unflinching examination of our our desperate search for connection (and simultaneous fear of losing our selves) is akin to literature. At different points in the 5 seasons, you hate, identify with, and understand each of the main characters. Absolutely phenomenal character and story development - and I'm picky.

Second, the show takes a magnifying glass to the idea of our own mortality. If there has ever been a pink elephant in the room that no one wants to mention, that's definitely it. The show's central message: you don't know when you're going to die - make sure you are living your life. It's oft-repeated, but somehow this format, this particular configuration really drove it home for me.

The closing sequence was incredibly moving for me. It was so hard to disengage, to let these characters that I feel I know so well go. I spent the rest of the weekend in SFU-fueled frenzy: the guy who works at Stacks - is this the best use of his time, his life? What does it mean to have a meaningful life? Thankfully, I've calmed down since then. A meaningful life to me is one in which you are as honest as you can be with yourself, face your fears, do work that makes you happy, and find your "family of choice" (i.e. the people you choose to surround you.)

The closing song was so hauntingly beautiful and vulnerable:

I have done it again
I have been here many times before
Hurt myself again today
And, the worst part is there's noone else to blame
Be my friend
Hold me, wrap me up
Unfold me
I am small
I'm needy
Warm me up
And breathe me
- Breathe Me, Sia

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I believe that children are the future

Tutoring a first grader....

maisnon: What does f-l-o-p spell?
small child: "Flava of Love"

Thursday, April 06, 2006

/Tar · ZHAY/

How do you say... Tar-zhay?

Why hasn't Target picked up on this yet? Why haven't they come out with an ad campaign exploiting what everyone calls them in jest? They could use that Deeee-lite song, and Lady Miss Kier could star. It would be trippy and fabulous.

Clearly, I'm not fully exploiting my talents. Amiga and I spoke today of potentially forming an advertising/marketing company. It would be a community service, really. I see way too many ads that suck. I could do something about that.

Also, I'd like to discuss a little Tarzhay phenomenon - why can I not get out of the store without dropping pretty close to a Benjamin? Everything is so reasonably priced (and cute!!) that I can't point to an item and say, 'Yeah, I really shouldn't have purchased that.' And that's why they own my ass.

Follow-up ad: Rupaul (who, by the way, has been blogging for over 4 years) with a different take on "Sashay, Chante (You Better Work!)" - Tarzhay, Tarzhay!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Hindsight: 20/20

These are the tunes that no one tracked down:

(1) Take me to heart, and nobody can make me do wrong
Do Right Woman, Do Right Man - Aretha Franklin. Soul was the music of my childhood and adolescence. (See also, number 11.)

(5) I can't hold this day any more
Over - Portishead. I'm a huge, huge Portishead fan.

(9) Love - I see you there, adrift on the air
Open Window - Sarah Harmer (A fellow Queen's alumna!).

(11) Sit back down and talk to me about how you want to be
You Ought to be With Me - The Reverend Al Green.

(12) I told you how I feel, but you don't care
Sleep to Dream - Fiona Apple. I'm surprised no one guessed this one, but maybe the lyric is obscure, or generic-sounding.

(14) I'd say love was a magical thing, I'd say love would keep us from pain - had I been there
A Different Corner - George Michael. Love him, ain't ashamed.

(15) You're my love, you're my sweetest thing
Ooh Aah ... Just a Little Bit - Gina G. How embarassing is this? Even worse - it's off of an MTV CD! (The Grind, Vol. 1)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


For whatever reason, I decided to do some searching on the Malaysian Wikipedia. Yeah, my Bahasa Malaysia is sufficient to maybe get me through a menu, and even that's pushing it.

Check out this page. See how much you can figure out from the various languages you know (and what you know of Wikipedia's general page setup.) One of my faves: Inggeris (sort of what 'English' sounds like phonetically spoken by....someone for whom Inggeris is not a first language. Plus it reminds me of that paean to "innovative" usage of anglais,

Sunday, April 02, 2006


On Tuesday, I will post the answers for the remaining 20/20 lyrics.

Since posting my list, I've been thinking of some of my favorite lyrics, one of which happens to be an opening lyric. (I'm not in love, but I'm open to persuasion) I'm kinda, sorta thinking about posting another mini-contest with my favorites, but it would involve some extensive combing through my iPod. Which doesn't it mean it won't happen, I'm all about research sometimes.

I've been using and abusing my library card. The library is only a block away - so convenient! And you can borrow CDs (To think, I may never have been introduced to my new obsession - The Lost in Translation soundtrack!) Because I have such access to music (i.e. without having to do the "is this CD worth the $$" dance), I'm trying out different things - sometimes, I choose CDs simply because the cover interests me, or someone mentioned the artist once at a party. Abbey Lincoln, Manu Chao, Maxwell - they've all come home with me.


oodles, brimful, ads, and J-diddy spent Saturday evening hearing me endlessly quote the hook from Jay-Z's "Change Clothes" as we all attended the 4th Annual Evening of a Thousand Scowls to benefit 826 Valencia. (Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, the line-up included Sarah Silverman, Patton Oswald and Al Madrigal.)

The line to get into the middle school venue was a study. As Dolly Parton once said, 'It costs a lot of money to dress trashy." The same could be said for hipsters: a lot of time, money, and energy goes into the carefully, "unstudied" hipster look. Whatever. The nearly-belligerent, appraising looks were nearly as bad as, if not worse than the Marina.

And then we saw some guy carrying a giant cross and being whipped walk up the street.