Life: Declining Social Events Politely

I’ve invited some long-time friends to dine with me, but don’t want to pressure them to attend. Long time friends can always decline – we’ve known each other forever, after all – and I’ve invited them to say they aren’t in the mood if that is true. Historically, some of them won’t decline, but then bounce during the event, or agree to attend, but cancel at the last moment, which is less fun.

To prevent bouncing and bailing, I’ve invented a list of excuses they may use at any time with me, which I will accept without challenge. This list includes:

  • attending an appointment for plastic surgery (giving or receiving)
  • having tires rotated (must pretend to own car)
  • entertaining out of town guests
  • filming porn
  • engaging in crimes on behalf of the Republican National Committee
  • washing hair (must not be bald)
  • having hair cut (same)
  • cutting hair for others
  • attending pet therapy.

I hope to update this list seasonally, so none of the excuses become worn out.

Life: Working too much, reading too little

So, the usual.

I’ve been entertaining myself during times when I can stay awake. I took a ferry ride, and observed that the usual boat was in the shop, so one of the giant commuter boats took its place. I texted a friend about this, with the note, “I like big boats and I cannot lie,” and he found it hilarious. (This is a Sir Mix-a-lot reference, for you young people.)

I am enjoying pleasant cross-employer camaraderie during my commute, and enjoy speaking with my solution-oriented allies at the office.


I’m reading multiple new manga which are published serially and are incomplete, so it is difficult to know WHEN to write about them. I may invent a rule about reviewing them at the end of each season, or perhaps 100 chapters? (I’ll need a similar rule if and when I ever write about The Second Sex, which is complete but very, very long. And filled with book flags/darts that I’ve left there for points I want to dwell on.)

I continue to avoid comics which are creepy about female characters’ bodies (groin close-ups on underdressed female characters during battle scenes? No, thank you!), while the men are covered to such an extreme that you can’t see their hands without gloves. That is just weird. If men are that uncomfortable with men showing skin, they should really work on their issues.

The drama and fantasy stories often have women softening/improving violent male characters, even to the point of turning depots and recluses into engaged authority figures who actively attend to the needs of their subjects, and I don’t think that is a very safe theme to promote. The hashtag for those is #charactergrowth, and I find that funny.

I’m still mystified by the many story tangents relating to agriculture. There is a drama, someone is trying to prevent their own execution, and then there are many pages devoted to growing a crop. I… I… What?

There is a running manga in-joke that still surprises me, sometimes 100 or more chapters into a story:
a main character enters a room covered in blood
others characters express concern
the bloody character then says ‘it’s not my blood’ (the actual wording varies), suggesting that they just won a battle of some type that is not being illustrated here.
It is… very funny, in these stories – unexpected, as there hasn’t been a lot of violence until that point, or there was but it was distant. The fact that I find this funny means it is well done, but also that I am living in a culture that has normalized violence. (Oh-oh. True. Yes.)

Please be sure to work on your own #charactergrowth without waiting for a new romantic partner, and avoid being covered in ANYONE’S blood.

Life: Spring

We are still having rain, somehow, as if the brief rainy season grew accustomed to making national news with its excesses, and is performing an encore.

I am… tired. Late last week, I had the experience of nearly fainting for the first time ever after donating blood. I believe I deserved this for scoffing at others’ need to rest afterward. (Foolish and unwarranted pride is fun to try on, but not fun to wear outside the store – do not purchase it!)

The world is big, but my tired thoughts after work feels small, and I am unaccustomed to this smallness.


It’s been about 10 weeks since I relocated, and I still can’t find everything. I am too tired from work to unpack much on weeknights, and some of my furniture where I could put things away remains in storage, so my progress is slow. But it is progress, and I’ll take it!

Construction has resumed, and there is a fresh trench outside. (Yaay?)

I know where I am when I wake up. I’m delighted to be back at home.


Despite my long to-read lists of very long books, I remain preoccupied with Korean manga. (It is satisfying in small doses that I can consume before falling asleep!) I remain impressed at how many terrible traumas the heroes and heroines of these stories must overcome. I was summarizing one for my guy friend, telling him about how this young woman had survived her mother’s suicide and family’s abuse, only to escape into feudal poverty, raise her dead best friend’s children as her own, narrowly avoid the children’s trampling deaths, and be indebted to a bloodthirsty nobleman who requires her to become his live-in woman.

The increasingly horrified look on my friend’s face as I described this was superbly dramatic. And THIS IS ONE OF THE MORE CHEERFUL BACKSTORIES! It’s not all bad: she has access to a library, has a loving aunt, and remains impertinent (her spirit is unbroken); the nobleman grows fond of her, is warm, and has abs-for-miles. (That’s ‘abs-for-kilometers’ for those of you outside the U.S.) I’m rooting for her to come into her own in Season 2.

The NOVELTY of all of these Grimm Fairy Tales backstories in illustrated contexts impresses me. Also: perhaps we should send therapists to Korea.

Internet: An On and Off Relationship

image of a latte heart, seen from above the cup
Mmmmm. Almond milk latte love.

My celebration of the arrival of Internet was premature: two days after it was successfully installed, I came home to find a flattish black cable on the ground in front of my home, with white fibers coming out of it, not attached to the pole or any of its cable friends.

This situation made for an awkward customer support call, as I accidentally called the router people instead of the fiber people. (These should be the same people, but somehow are not.) The customer service rep disregarded my “cable on the ground outside my house” scene-setting in favor of telling me that we were going to plug and unplug the router.

Me (in cheerful tone): “Yes, but since the cable is disconnected outside, how will that help, exactly?”
Customer Service: [confusion / panic over departure from script]

I had to console them by reassuring them that they would have helped me very ably if that had been technically feasible. (This cheered them tangibly.)

The fiber people GOT IT right away, and we didn’t play the power-cycling dance at all!

Life is better with the Internet, operationally. (I can order FOOD! I can check the weather! I can pay my bills! I can respond to work emai- oh, wait, less of that part.)

One of my neighbors passed me on the sidewalk and sought confirmation that I’ve REALLY moved back. I understand her skepticism: construction isn’t completely finished, and the Water Department has been using heavy equipment outside, implying that I haven’t had water, and instead am styling my fabulous hair with shea butter hair products and MAGIC.

But soon. SOON. The final inspections will be complete! The sidewalk will be paved! The house numbers will be located AND on the wall in the correct sequence! All the [things] will work! I will put things “away,” and “away” will not just mean ‘in a slightly different pile!’ Please continue to wish me luck.

Internet: I Haz

I have gone without desktop internet access for about 15 days, and… I know this isn’t a hardship to well-adjusted people, but it was a mild hardship to me.

Also, moving my place of residence is DIFFICULT. I couldn’t find any of the five kinds of coffee I had packed, AND I HAD NO INTERNET. (I remain unworthy of your pity, despite this – these are the least of my problems, but the fun ones to complain about!)

  • The five kinds of coffee I had to move:
    • Peet’s – Yosemite Dos Sierras
    • Peet’s – Major Dickason’s Blend (a.k.a. Major Dick)
    • Hawaiian Paradise – Volcano Roast (a lovely gift of Arabica – I love Hawaiian coffee)
    • Philz Coffee – Philtered Soul (I won this in an Xmas gift exchange, and if I had realized it had artificial hazelnut flavoring in it, I would have tried harder to swap it with something else)
    • Peet’s – Holiday Blend (in lovely packaging, as always).
    • (No, I don’t have Peet’s Ethiopian Supernatural this year. It was too… something two years ago, and it kind of put me off. Also, I have to get down to three types of coffee before I am allowed to buy more!)

Gripe: UNLIMITED CELLULAR INTERNET SHOULD MEAN UNLIMITED CELLULAR INTERNET. If you have ever hit the arbitrary limit for this, you know what I’m griping about: my cellular provider slowed my cellular data to a crawl because I used enough of my data to get their attention for the first time ever. I’ll switch carriers when I get my next [whatever smartphone devices are called by then].

Internet is exciting: getting all of my household devices to talk to the new router is much less exciting. (My garage door opener required persuading, and I upset the spider that lives in the control panel!).

The piles of boxes all around the house have been replaced by piles of things that were in boxes in two particular rooms. I want to reestablish my household in a slightly modified way, but can’t move heavy things on my own, and am very tired after work. Wish me luck.

  • Manga I hope to write about when publishing is complete (or I get to a good stopping point)
      • Ashtarte by SOON, Tappytoon Studio (ongoing) – child neglected by corrupt religious influence survives (ongoing)
      • The Broken Ring: This Marriage Will Fail Anyway, by Chacha Kim, Chokam, Cheong-gwa (ongoing) – dark second chance story set in imaginary imperial Spain
      • The Castle: Keeper of the Sacred Eye by Jin Soye, hyeyong, pecan (just started) – contemporary imaginary Korean royalty battle evil spirits trapped in paintings through heterosexuality (this is an incorrect summary, but it is funny, so I am leaving it) (ongoing)
      • How to Clear a Dating Sim as a Side Character by Cherti, DALZO, Metal Kang (ongoing) – one of those waking up in a video game stories, but with system dialogues telling the heroine when she is winning the men over
    • Viz Media
      • The King’s Beast by Rei Toma – a beautifully drawn, Chinese costume drama where a member of the oppressed animal-eared group attempts to avenge her fraternal twin brother – the way the artist draws EYES is just so gorgeous!
      • Mao by Rumiko Takahashi – an exorcist meets a girl who survived a freak accident, who may team up with him to beat evil spirits. (It feels a lot like RIN-NE by the same author.)
      • Yakuza Lover by Nozomi Mino – a college girl falls in with a model-handsome, well-dressed criminal who is good in bed
      • Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon by Takashi Shiina based on characters from Rumiko Takahashi: the next generation of the Inuyasha saga, in which the children of Inuyasha/Kagome and Sesshomaru/Rin team up to rescue the parents who lost them as infants. (I couldn’t cope with the anime preview voices, but the manga isn’t bad!)

I am sorting through my observations, and hope to get back to writing here soonish, but only if it doesn’t slow down my reading!

Life: Locally Rough Times

One of the things that is easy to take for granted living in the innovation hub of the San Francisco Bay Area is that there are jobs. There are absurd boom-bust cycles here, along with lots of companies that ride a wave of hype-based funding into nothingness, while a tiny percentage go on to become improbably massive employers. After each cycle, there is always a New Thing, and the cycle starts again.

In the core business districts, some of which have been lively since the gold rush of 1849, the success of any industry feeds others by catering to the workers in the booming sectors, creating ripples of success for businesses offering essential supplies, convenience, and services. Famous universities and even more famous hospitals anchored companies in the area, providing a flow of research and graduates.

Or, at least it did.

From my apartment this past year, I have read of mass layoffs in tech, and within weeks I watched the lights go out up and down the apartment building across the street as it emptied of workers who could no longer afford them.

It is happening again.

Across multiple industries, including my own.

Across multiple employers, including my own.

And the wave of trying to refer people for jobs, screening lists for potential roles for them, comforting people with survivor’s guilt, being sympathetic to colleagues who set work goals for the year that are now impossible to meet, those are all happening again, too.

Superb HR colleagues are reposting departing colleagues’ work-seeking announcements, which are all quite concisely written for this purpose, and are easy to respond to for boosting purposes on LinkedIn, which is new to me, and really good.


Things are rough. Be extra compassionate to everyone you interact with. Lots of people are in uncertain situations. This is something that is always true, but this comes in waves, and some waves are bigger than others.

If you ever wonder about the scale of local layoffs, or want to scope out the habits of specific companies, those of us here in California can read the WARN filings of companies engaged in layoffs.

It is not pleasant information, but it is a lot of information, and some of it is useful. Scope this out before accepting a job offer, so you know how potential employers have operated on this front historically.

Life: Talking to Strangers In My Kitchen

My maternal grandmother and mother are both somewhat famous for talking to strangers, often in unusual situations.

I take after them.

On a recent work from home day, I was wrapping up a call when my entry doorknob moved. I wasn’t expecting anyone, and my boyfriend has the keycode, so it didn’t make sense that someone was trying to enter and was failing.

I went to the door, and found a couple looking a bit lost, staring into their phones. I asked if they needed assistance, and they said they were here to see my apartment, which is listed as being available soon.

[Insert me shaking my fist in the general direction of my landlord, who knows I’m moving at the end of the month. Reader: it is not the end of the month.]

Being me, I offered to show these total strangers my apartment, which is a total disaster because I’m inventorying things for packing, and also was working from home at the end of the week, by which time most order has broken down.

I asked them not to judge me IN FRONT OF ME. They said yes, so I showed them how the locks work, gave them a tour of my unit (have I mentioned it was the messiest it has been in months?), talked about the merits of other units I toured here when I was selecting, and answered their questions about my experience living here for the past year, safety, neighborhood features, temperature comfort, and so on.

Beyond that, we chatted about why they are in the market for an apartment, and it turned out one member of the couple got her Ph.D. in blood cancers and is interviewing at local biotech companies. By coincidence, the famous commercial drug for treating blood cancers was my responsibility in legal contract writing at a famous local biotech company. We chatted about the local biotech and biopharma landscape, employers I could recommend or warn her away from, and the wild over-qualification of many people in this industry. We also spoke in detail about specific blood cancers and HER+ breast cancers, because this is totally the sort of topic I can speak about in depth with strangers in my kitchen.

‘Nice couple. Small world, if I move out and another biotech person moves in.

Also, I have to keep an eye on my landlord, because sheesh.

Life: Happy New Year

Decorative banner displaying San Francisco's financial district from the southeast in the evening, along with the western spans of the SF Bay Bridge, and fog draped over Mt. Tamalpais

2024… is definitely happening. Ready or not!

I had time off from work during the last week of the year, and used it to recover my health more fully (having been ill earlier in December), read, and print acrylic monotypes (a favorite art pastime!).

I don’t do new year’s resolutions – no one should wait until January of a new year to make useful life changes! – but as a concession to tradition, I’ll make a sincere effort to do a better job of using the ALT TEXT features of WordPress. (This feature helps disabled readers know what’s going on by making more information about images available to supportive tools.)

Out in the world, COVID is still spreading, my most alert friends don’t want to dine indoors, and my social circle includes several people who have had COVID two or three times (!). The data on Long COVID, and what scientists are finding as changes in the bodies of those who were exposed, is… alarming, and completely beyond the perception of my friends in Europe, somehow.

Humans continue to be… I’m looking for a euphemism for violently disagreeable, but it isn’t coming to me. There are multiple scary wars and attendant war crimes happening. It has become unpopular to say that genocide is wrong. (Sign I need to make: friends don’t let friends do war crimes!) Right wing, racist, and authoritarian parties do too well in elections. Fascism appears to be entirely too popular, though I observe that people who support it mosts don’t like the label, which is a minor concession to accepting that it is not good. (Not that semantic arguments work with fascists.)

My reading list has more books on it, but it might alarm you if I disclosed the full list, so I’ll just note that I am actively reading The Story of Art Without Men by Katy Hessel. The title may sound provocative, unless you’ve ever taken art history in a U.S. college, in which case you noticed that only ancient Egyptians and European men have art that was considered worthy of books, and that these textbooks were all written by European men (coincidentally!). For the design degree I was pursuing, art from any other part of the world was only offered as an optional elective, implying that it didn’t really matter. This felt… wildly inaccurate. It took some nerve to call a class “Art History” when it should have been called “European Male Art History, plus some Egyptian Monuments.” [cough] So this book has a good premise, and is off to a good start. Perhaps I’ll be able to read it I have fewer 9pm meetings and people from work stop texting me on weekends to get me back online?

I have some personally disruptive events coming up, and expect my posting to be spotty, though more frequent than in 2023.

Here’s hoping 2024 is a better year for all living beings!