Archive

Tag Archives: Food

May 24 – September 11

I know I know. I wasn’t good about keeping up my blog this summer. Chalk it up to living in the moment because this summer was F.A.N.T.A.S.T.I.C!

First I wrapped up my time at Kellogg. It was bittersweet (and I suck at goodbyes). Since I skipped graduation in order to kickoff the move process with Ryan (and clear the way for writing this summer), Kiki came to visit me before I left to celebrate. She dragged me to a T Swift concert – which was actually pretty good. And then we went to Alinea, one of the best restaurants in the US. We were blown away!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After I left Chicago, Ryan and I immediately started apartment hunting. Unfortunately, very early on, we got attached to the idea of a townhome (having a front door, big kitchen, etc.) – this blew up our budget a bit as well as limited our options. BUT we were lucky and found the perfect place in San Mateo pretty early in the summer. We’ll do a housewarming at some point, and I may share pics.

I’ve also been pushing pretty hard on the writing front. I worked on a near-future new adult novel for most of the summer (pitched as Friends meets Black Mirror in Silicon Valley). I got 30,000 words into it and realized it wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be. Too serious, too message-y, too disjointed … the writing isn’t bad, but I’ve decided to put it aside for now and work on a few shorts as well as a new, more entertaining and more fun novel (outlining in process). After spending a lot of time with writers this summer (including at some great conferences – Readercon, Worldcon), I’ve realized that being so focused on publishing / external validation is just a setup for disappointment. In general, I’m trying to take it easier and make sure writing remains a stress-reliever not -inducer for me.

Of course, the biggest summer highlight was my wedding to Ryan! The weekend was beautiful and perfect. I’ve never been so filled with love for so much time. It was the best experience of my life, and I’m still riding the high. I love Ryan, his family, my family, our friends, and I can’t wait to one day be in a position to spend more constant time with the people I care most about. I’ve posted most of the wedding photos on my facebook page, but here are a few of my favs:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Next up is officially starting work at Facebook. I am excited/nervous and eager to learn what product I’ll be working on.

Writing Update

Official update: I’ve had two more final round bumps at Stupefying Stories and IGMS (the latter of which was eventually rejected – boo!). Three new short stories written (two on sub, one still in beta). Novel worked on (~30k words) and benched. New novel outline 90% done. I slush-read for Cosmic Roots (another slush round starts in 1.5 weeks). And I’ve beta’d a few shorts from friends.

Story Recs

I did a TON of reading this summer. I crushed the Hugo nom list and then some. The highlights from my summer reading are:

+ The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein. This is non-fiction and a must read for every American. I knew that African-Americans didn’t have the same opportunities in this country as others since the end of slavery, but I had no idea it was this bad. Could not recommend this one more.

+ Down Among the Sticks and Stones by Seanan McGuire. This is a prequel to her Hugo-winning Every Heart a Doorway, and I enjoyed this one more. It tells the origin story of two of the original book’s most interesting characters, Jack and Jill. It is a novella (so quick read).

+ The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi. This was my first Scalzi book, the first in a new trilogy. This one is just entertaining space opera fun. I want to write more in this vein.

On the video game front, I’d also recommend Last of Us if you haven’t played it. I picked up the remastered version and was blown away. Sequel should be out sometime in the next few years (also looks great).

Advertisements

August 1 – September 10

What an incredibly busy last month in the Bay!

First, my family came to visit, and we went to Lazy Bear. I’ve been to this award-winning restaurant three times now, but my last visit was 2 years ago. This may be a controversial statement, but I was actually pretty disappointed this time around. I remember feeling wowed by both the service and the dishes my last two visits – each bite feeling like some new explosive flavor I just had to have more of. This time, it felt like many dishes leaned into a more polarizing flavor (e.g., let’s really bring out the fishiness) and overall was less ‘umami’. The service was also a bit lackluster – my mom ordered a drink she never got and it took way longer than usual to actually get seated downstairs. I don’t think I will be back.

Here are the photos anyway (the best dishes for me were the corn grits and the peach-shaped ice cream dessert):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I also finished my internship with Facebook. My entire internship was great, but my last month was exceptional – I got to be the PMM for a new product and work in a truly cross-functional team. I loved our product, our team, and how much we accomplished in the month I was there. I am sad to have left but am eager to see where the product goes (likely to be launched in the first half of next year :D).

Oh – I also got a return offer for full-time 🙂 AND, while I am still ironing out the details of the offer with my recruiter, I am fairly certain I will accept. This summer really exceeded my expectations and I genuinely enjoyed working with everyone on my teams.

Right after I finished, I went on a week-long vacation to Hawaii (Kona) with Ryan and his parents. The trip was fine, but it became clear to me very quickly that Ry’s parents had a very different “ideal Hawaii vacation” than me. They wanted to go to every national park on the island and all the major museums – I just wanted to read on the beach (where we spent a cumulative 45 mins in the whole time we were on the island). Different strokes for different folks I guess – I think for future vacations, I need to be a little more in control of my own itinerary than I was for this one. Group vacationing while introverted is generally challenging anyway.

Speaking of vacations, we’ve officially decided our annual New Years trip location for this year: Seoul! I’ll send a message out to the group shortly, but please ping me directly if you’re excited to join us 🙂

Now I’m back in Evanston (doing homework 😦 ) – tomorrow is my last first day of class ever!

July 5 – July 31

What a busy month!

First: the good news. I got into Viable Paradise!!! This is my first writing-related acceptance ever, and it is a BIG one. VP (for short) is a SFWA-recognized writing workshop. Only 20 students are selecting each year and apparently this year was very competitive (I know a few folks that sadly didn’t get in). Forgive my lack of humility, but I am really proud of myself. I found out about VP at the Nebulas, ~2 weeks before the deadline to apply. I would need to submit 2 short stories that I hadn’t already submitted to a professional market (which I usually do right after finishing a story). This meant 2 weeks for 2 brand new stories. AND those 2 weeks overlapped with my final exams.

In an exercise in aggressive prioritization, I hunkered down and wrote two short stories I am actually pretty proud of in what was a very quick turnaround for me (at my best, I’m usually churning out two submittable stories each month).

The workshop is in October (1 week in Martha’s Vineyard :)). I CANNOT wait.

After this great news early in the month, Ryan and I went to LA to visit his family and ring shop. This trip was fine (we picked out the design for the ring), but this month is shaping up to be travel / family heavy and I am going a little crazy.

The second big trip was two weekends ago. I flew back to Orlando last minute when my mom took Keno to the vet and they found a pretty malignant tumor in her left armpit. I won’t say much about Keno here because it’s still pretty raw, but we ended up putting her down on my visit. She was the sweetest dog and I’ll miss her a lot.

IMG_6344

I don’t really know if there is an afterlife (Ryan says I’m silly for even questioning – he says there obviously is not), but I like to think that Keno is with Nuni somewhere playing.

Other news: Nancy + Fam are visiting me this upcoming week. The Keno trip was unexpected, so I’ve just seen everyone, but it will still be nice to spend time with them (even though it’s getting down to the wire at work – AH!). Ryan’s family is visiting next week so lots of family / social time overall (ugh.) – I’ve also given up on veganism. I’m just trying to eat more green veggies and less red meat.

This vegan “hot dog” was served at the office a few weeks ago. It is literally a carrot on a piece of lettuce:

IMG_6333

We’re doing Lazy Bear Friday, so look for those amazing pictures next blog post 😉

June 19 – July 4

Happy Independence Day!

The last few weeks have flown by. Work is going great! My summer project is very high impact and very visible. So far I’m loving it (and Facebook). My team works pretty hard, but it is because our work really matters. Also, the walking path on the roof of my building is A+

IMG_6323.jpg

Healthy, meatless eating is going just as well as was expected. I don’t get to eat any of the foods I like and, because I am not a fan of vegetables without cheese or meat (even as a garnish on a salad), I’ve been mostly carb-loading which also sucks for my waistline. Still, I know it’s the right decision in the long-run.

IMG_6312

On a personal note, Ry and I are doing well. He is dragging me to LA next weekend to speak with his jeweler about my engagement ring. I say ‘dragging’ because I explicitly asked to NOT be involved in any part of the ring (I want Ryan to pick it out and surprise me). But he really didn’t feel comfortable with that :/

I am also a little worried about what moving out to the Bay will mean for my social life (if that’s what I decide to do – still don’t know yet). Ryan will of course want me to be in San Jose (and I DO want to be with him), but I really don’t like his house and it really is too far from everything and everyone else I care about.

That’s pretty much it for now. By next post, I should have heard back from VP (the writing workshop I applied to). Wish me luck 🙂

March 20 – March 27

First week of Dev Bootcamp onsite = DONE

We spent much of this first week reviewing a lot of what we’d learned in Phase 0 (the remote program before arriving onsite). In some ways this was good and in other ways it left me eager for the pace to pick up. At least now, I feel really competent at Ruby.

I do hope that next week and the following 2 months are filled with greater challenges (I suspect they will be given what I see the cohorts ahead of us working on). I also hope our lectures become more focused on the ecosystem around coding (great: I can write up some good code and save it in a ruby file, but then how do I turn this into a gem or an app or a program with some sort of user interface). I want to learn the practical parts of programming.

IMG_4324

Otherwise the week was good. I didn’t realize how challenging it would be for me to be around so many people all the time (#introvertlife), but the Caltrain is actually super manageable so I was able to recharge at home with Ryan more nights than I had anticipated.

I also got to celebrate my best friend’s (Chris from WashU!) engagement. He and his wonderful fiancee, Lisa, had a small engagement party at R&G Lounge in SF (an amazing Chinese restaurant). The food and company were stellar. I cannot wait for bachelorette party / wedding fun! Who knew I would be a grooms[wo]men before ever being a bridesmaid?

I hope as my time in DBC progresses I am still able to see friends and family, get back to some writing, and really push my knowledge on the practical CS front. Will keep y’all posted!

 

October 21 – October 27: New City, New Rules

Well, I’ve left Japan, BUT not without a little drama.

Turns out Osaka has more than one airport (take note!). So, waking up at 5 am (four hours before your flight) and following the subway signs to “Osaka Airport” is NOT a sure-fire way to end up at the right place. Which, is what happened to me.

At 7am (2 hours before my 9am flight), I discover that Osaka has two airports and I am at the wrong one. Oops. Also, I learn that, while there is a bus that drives between the airports, the ride takes about an hour. Double Oops. Oh! And guess who has just run out of all her yen and if she goes to exchange for more will miss the bus that has just pulled out in front of wrong-airport and will have to wait 30 minutes for the next one? Yeah ….

And this is where my faith in humanity is restored! Not only did a very nice attendant at ITM make sure I found the right bus, but, upon learning I had no money to pay for my ticket, a very nice couple comped me the few dollars I needed.

I arrive at the right airport this time one hour before my flight takes off. I find the Air China counter and, guess what? My flight has been MOVED UP 15 minutes. Great. Oh, and it is final boarding call.

And once more, humanity rocks! The woman at the Air China counter grabs me, takes me through the crew security line, runs me to the right tram, and I board the flight just before the gate closes!

Whew — what a way to leave Japan!

So now I am in Shanghai. After one week here, my thoughts are as follows:

The Good

  • OMG the food! Street food all day, everywhere! And it is awesome (and SO cheap — like <$1). See this guide that roughly describes what I am eating every day: LINK HERE
  • The history is incredible. There are tons of museums here, but so far the Shanghai Museum in People’s Square is my favorite. The museum is filled with different forms of Chinese art (pottery, porcelain, jade, statues, seals, calligraphy, etc.). Many of the items on display are literally thousands of years old. The museum is massive and incredible. A must-see!
  • Mass transit is awesome here. The subway systems are vast and inexpensive (albeit a bit crowded). Shanghai is huge, but the city is very accessible
  • Fitness is actually really huge in the city (not something I experienced while in Japan). I am doing Crossfit on an outdoor track (see next list for why on a track) and there are constantly people around playing soccer or ultimate frisbee, dancing to traditional Chinese songs (in impressive unison), performing tai-chi, ballroom dancing, etc. There are so many parks and places to exercise that it is pretty much a constant no matter where I’ve been. I love seeing so much activity!

IMG_3011 IMG_3014
IMG_3020 IMG_3030
IMG_3034 IMG_3039
IMG_3032 IMG_3040
IMG_3041 IMG_3045
IMG_3050 IMG_3192
IMG_3226 IMG_3141
IMG_3213 IMG_3156
IMG_3138 IMG_3084
IMG_3081 IMG_3082
IMG_3086 IMG_3072
IMG_3124 IMG_3067
IMG_3053 IMG_3056

The “Could-Be-Better”

  • As you’ve probably heard, much of the internet is blocked here. I am talking Google (and Google products such as Gmail and Google Maps), Facebook, most blogging websites, etc. Bring your VPN (/ more than one VPN option). The Chinese government is not relenting on blocking these sites and is constantly updating its firewall. My normal VPN could not break through. As of today, ExpressVPN works — go crazy!
  • The Chinese government really is king here. My crossfit gym found a notice on its front door 2 weeks ago saying that the government wanted their land for a new construction project and they had one week to move. Ouch. Par for the course I hear. BUT, before you start raging on how totally unfair this is, I do hear the government generously compensates owners when land is seized (hey! have you ever heard of eminent domain in the US?). It just sucks if you are a renter and don’t get a ton of notice (the government moves FAST on these projects).
  • Drivers are INSANE here. I have never seen such poor adherence to traffic lights, signals, signs, etc. Oh, and I include pedestrians in that. Everyone pretty much just does what they want. The green lights even have countdowns to yellow on them and I’ve still yet to see a red light actually stop traffic. Be careful out there!
  • You really stick out as a white foreigner here. I actually think I saw fewer white people in my time in Japan, but I think the Japanese are more exposed to Western culture and english than the Chinese are (or at least it is painted more favorably). Those I have met here in Shanghai who are expats or have spent any time outside of China are totally friendly to me, but from those who appear never to have left the country, I don’t feel as welcomed. Now I have only been here a week and haven’t wandered into every non-touristy / less-commercial neighborhood in this very large city, but the places I have wandered, I will say that the stares weren’t exceptionally friendly.

And that’s it for my first week! Will check in soon with more adventures!

——-

Shoot muffins! I had thought I had published the above a while back, but looks like I merely saved the draft and moved on with my life. Whoops. So this will be a bit of a double post!

——-

October 28 – November 10: China Rage

China continues to prove itself a wild and challenging place. Fortunately I have a friend who lives here in Shanghai who I’ve had a chance to hang out with. Ganesh and his girlfriend, Gabby, have invited me to join them for a bit more upscale Shanghai dining. Spending time with them has given me a chance to see more of Shanghai at night, explore the Bund, and eat some amazing food. They’ve also explained to me that my frustrations (what they dub “China Rage”) are normal feelings foreigners have when they spend any significant time living in places throughout China. Apparently discomfort with the chaotic lifestyle of the locals is normal, whew!

I’ve also been able to take a few day trips outside the city. Not as easy as day trips around Japan, but possible. Hangzhou and Suzhou are great (water towns! — think: Chinese Venice).

And I have found a new box in the city that has really tough (read: awesome) crossfit classes.

Maybe my most exciting update is re: my book (tentative title: Sandwatcher). I will probably finish my first draft THIS WEEK (I’ve said “tomorrow” for the last few days, so I’ll refrain from saying that again here, but I do really think tomorrow is the day!). I have a ton of revisions I’ll need to make to get a second draft ready for review by others. But, I’m feeling good about the core of the work and am excited to keep plowing ahead!

IMG_3435 IMG_3438
IMG_3441 IMG_3445
IMG_3454 IMG_3456
IMG_3463 IMG_3473
IMG_3482 IMG_3483
IMG_3486 IMG_3501
IMG_3520

Now I am off to Singapore (!!!) for a few days for a b-school interview. Looking forward to warm weather, western-ish food, and more english speakers 😉 Ramen at Bugis anyone?

September 22 – October 1 – Osaka & Kyoto

My adventures in Japan continue! I spent much of this last week exploring Osaka and Kyoto (~$10 train ride from Osaka).

In Osaka I have enjoyed just hopping on the train and seeing where I end up while also trying to hit the highlights. Osaka Castle is definitely one of them:

Osaka Castle

In the heart of the city, Osaka Castle is a national landmark that played a huge role in Japan’s unification in the 16th century. It was surreal walking around this castle in the middle of a city. I was amazed at how well the structure was preserved (Osaka Castle is older than the United States!).

Lamb Tree
Osaka Castle 2 Osaka Castle 3

The day I visited there was even a wedding (sorry I am a creeper, but at least I was not the only one):

Wedding

It was also funny to see Japanese tourists acting as kooky as American tourists often do (I grew up in Orlando so I have seen some wacky tourist behavior). For example, this booth where you could dress up in traditional Japanese attire and pose with weapons in front of the castle:

Picture

There was also a booth handing out free drinks. Lesson: ALWAYS ask what it is before you take a swig …. unfortunately I learned the hard way that the samples weren’t water or Pocari Sweat (the clear Japanese gatorade) … they were shots of sake (OOF!):

Sake

Oh and hey … if you were worried about where you were going to buy your Japanese shurikens, Osaka Castle has also got you covered on that front:

Shuriken

Other fun things I’ve learned and seen in Osaka:

  • There are brothels in Osaka, but these aren’t very popular. What ARE popular are ‘hosts’ – young men and women who you can pay to hang out with you for a night (you buy their drinks, food, etc. and pay for their time by the hour). At first this concept was confusing to me, but it has been explained to me as being similar to paying for the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend for however long you pay them (minus anything physical). The hosts will treat you how you want and in return you get to live your perfect relationship fantasy. Awesome?
  • Over a third of Japan’s population is above the age of 60. This is a problem that the government is very concerned with as salaried work is often so demanding on the mostly male workforce that dating is difficult and seen as a drain on income and precious free time. You don’t see too many kids on the street or in parks walking around. TOO though, you don’t see that many elderly men and women. Interestingly enough, how convenient much of Japan is (there are at least 2 drink vending machines on every block in Osaka) also makes it easy for the older members of the population to stay indoors. Kind of bursts the “Japanese people are so healthy” stereotype I had certainly imagined before coming here.
  • Speaking of health — fitness is not a huge concern for many Japanese. If you are a salaried employee you probably don’t have a ton of time to work out and fitness in general is just not embraced in the same way it is elsewhere. As Sean, my crossfit coach says, “most of the Japanese in Osaka are skinny-fat; they have no muscle!” — while it is difficult to verify this, I will say my crossfit gym is the only gym I have seen in my wanderings across Osaka so far ….
  • Really, why isn’t Japanese fried chicken served in America? It is truly amazing. Below though are takoyaki (Japanese octopus balls!)

Takoyaki

BUT, the highlight of this past week was definitely my trip to Kyoto.

I took an express train (which again, round trip was about $10) that got me from Osaka to Kyoto in ~30 minutes. I barely cracked open my book (*side note: is that still an expression if you read from a kindle?).

Train

First stop was Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine:

Shrine

This shrine was gorgeous and my favorite sight in Japan so far. I cannot recommend it more! I would suggest getting there early / before 9am (being able to explore the shrine alone and in silence was fantastic) and be prepared for a hike (up steps) of about 1-2 hours. You will walk under literally (LITERALLY) thousands of toriis as you venture through the shrine.

IMG_2381 IMG_2363
IMG_2414 IMG_2433

That last picture is of the final torii near one of the shrine exits. Apparently it is purposely unfinished as it is believed that the path (along with the torii gates) continue through the sky to heaven.

Really this shrine is so special — a must-see!

I also explored Gion, the Shoren-in Temple, and the beautiful park and shrines in between. Gion is a shopping area / street in a more traditional part of Kyoto.

IMG_2442

I have to say, I was surprised by how different Kyoto felt from Osaka. Even the food was different! Crab on stick? Grilled fish? Tofu flavored icecream?

IMG_2448 IMG_2439
IMG_2440

Well, my next stop is Hiroshima (excited to see the peace memorial). Will report back soon!