You know what I can't give you, he says quietly.

The world, I know, says [redacted], knows how he would write it in the book of the dead and cross it out again, sacrifice with the stroke of a pen, a smudge on the second knuckle of his right pinky finger. He would never do this, was not capable, not with his own heart.

The lighting isn't that great. The hairs on his arms turn blonde, white on raised goosebumps. Woven textiles of a trillion cells stretch like desert dunes to form around fire, warmth, what he had searched for, long ago and far away, a spark in the dark.

And I don't need, he begins, but [redacted] interrupts.

Okay, but you know the value of secrets, he asks.

I don't like secrets that much, [redacted] admits.
it's a living

Five easy pieces

I momentarily get to spew everything on here because I've now connected with someone irl on Tumblr and he's a writer I respect and admire so I can't really update with, like, Teen Wolf graphics and random shit about my day because Teen Wolf graphics. How my week went:

Monday: Dinner with Brazilian couple, Julio and Bianca, perhaps the cutest couple in the world. Julio's a grad student at Urbana-Champaign, Bianca is an artist who creates foam art spirals and paints Frida. They are originally from Rio de Janeiro. The cutest couple in the world! We went to Flame which was berlgh but whatever, buffet. I pitched them a limited look at the Twin Cities, i.e. only the parts I know, like Uptown and the MIA. They gave me long hugs and multiple kisses and then patted me on the head and called me cute. No, I said, you're cute! So cute! Too cute! Then my dad felt dizzy and his blood pressure spiked, so we took him to emergency.

Tuesday: Slept from about 3:45 AM to 6:21 AM. Woke up in the house alone because my mom spent the night at the hospital with my father. Forgot to brush my teeth. Went to work. Skipped my volunteer shift. Fell asleep many times before evening. My dad was craving chicken nuggets, so I bought him a 20-piece. I stole, like, three.

Wednesday: Dad gets discharged. I go to writing class and get workshopped. My writing sux but people are really nice about it. Mostly I'm too tired to think. Conference with Sally Franson, my instructor. She's so happy and funny and, how to say it. She's like, there for us. It's great. We mostly talked about how I need to slow the fuck down because my writing is basically like this condensed bundle of emotional triggers, and it might be actually novel to spread some of that shit out. Try a slow burn. It makes me really excited about my novel idea. All I can say is that there are reindeer.

Thursday: Dad has worrying levels of PSA. I am starting to run out of things to do at work. I get home and rush through an Afghani rice pilaf recipe but replace the basmati with Minnesota-grown wild rice, chyeah. I bring this deliciousness to the Science Museum for a presentation on Dubai and Egypt. Seeing pictures of Dubai make my heart hurt. But only a little. Egypt is my favorite ever, I cannot even articulate why. Okay, part of the reason is childhood romanticism, but that shit stays with you for a lifetime so you might as well go with it. Fucking Luxor temples and the Avenue of the Rams and the Pyramids, ugh I cannot. Brilliant, brilliant. Got complimented on the rice, which was great. Ate this fish spam patty, which was not so great. Went to meet Julio, Bianca, and my parents at a Chinese restaurant after. They came to our house and Julio gave me guitar tips. Bianca sang. The cutest couple in the world! More kisses.

Friday: I ran out of things to do at work. I talk to my supervisor about this, and he suggests new things. I feel both excitement and regret. I leave early for an interview with Organizing for America, to work as one of their Fall Fellows. Community organizing badam. I mean, it is unpaid, but phone banks, yo. The interview is at J&S Bean Factory, and when I walk in there I don't order anything. I am cheap, cheap cheap. Then I drive back to work and pick up my forgotten lunch bag. Then I get a facial and mild chemical peel because it's my birthday month and I get 15% off. Only for the birthday month. Only 66 bucks. I get home, fall asleep. My best friend comes in at 6:00 AM tomorrow. Debating whether I should do some work, or. 

6/26 Writing Assignment Pre-workshop Workshop -- Feedback Welcome

I’m taking a creative non-fiction writing class and we have two opportunities to submit writing for workshopping — I have never done this before. I have no in-progress memoir, so I just wrote this in the last couple of days. I guess it’d be considered a blog-style post. If you have time, please let me know what you think. I think it needs to be longer. Most importantly, would you still care if none of it was true?

I can’t remember the last time I didn’t scratch an itch. The song that licks at the back of your brain, tiers of ambition, making sure to skim every available opportunity if there’s no time to dunk your whole hand in. When I was ten — like everyone else at ten — I wanted to be an astronaut. I read Andrew Chaikin’s Man on the Moon, I hunted for vintage model rocket kits, a wad of superglue is permanently stuck to my child size 16 khakis; ripped video clips from The Right Stuff, styrofoam Spunik and Apollo rockets, “Get With The Program” says a navy blue polo post-Austin, Texas road trip (Cape Canaveral gets all the attention but Johnson is where they control the mission).

There was no doubt that I would become an engineer. My father is an engineer, and this is like the primary driver of my present life — all things tainted/tinted with graceless mathematical logic, NOT to say that these two things have to be treated separately, but the way in which they are presented in early childhood education, in distinct categories, quantitative analysis leaves no room for qualitative inquiry, and suddenly my priorities changed. That is, astronomy was not only about constellations and cold nights among the bright lights — it was navigation, calculations, things I struggled to get good at. What about the stories, the battles and gods and trickery? Stars were, okay, gas giants, millions of miles away, thousands of years behind us, but I only have ten fingers and ten toes and it only takes fifteen miles and twenty-five minutes to get to my grandmother’s house, and I have only been in school for ten years, and I can only care so much.

It’s different from restlessness. I have fidelity, towards values, home-grown themes. A thought which is nearly detestable is that nothing really matters, so to hell with everything, do what you love and only this. No, no. These are all fundamentally bound to improving as a person. I fight fires, I wield a chainsaw, I visit Geneva, I go see the orcas, I conquer my fears and satisfy my curiosity at the same time, I am so fucking efficient. I can say I’ve done this and by doing this I will be less afraid to help.

Astronauts, as it turns out, are engineers. Problem-solvers, but only by stuffing our brains with elemental science. Engineers are supposed to have ego, but I guess my whole personality is post-modern — I don’t know anything, and everyone else knows everything. Only after 100k of tuition and four years of mind numbed by machine systems do you realize that it’s just about sticking square pegs in round holes — easy! Shave down the corners — super easy. There’s no real need to understand anything beyond this, no need to understand why steel teeth can cut wood fiber, the difference in volume, the generated heat. Sometimes magnets attract — use that. You can make a square with a single piece of rope. In fact, you already know how to do it, so make it work. Done, pronto, and now you’re on the moon. Armstrong also went to Purdue — boiler the fuck up.

I get eczema about three months before I graduate. The severe, weeping kind — like in a full-length novel it would considered symbolic. That kind of itch you can’t help but scratch, the type of itch that jolts you awake, a flaring pain in the middle of the night. Symbolic because, all along, this didn’t quite fit: the machine language, the MathCAD logic strings, the chemical equations and discrete mathematics. There seemed to be no purpose except entrepreneurial-ship and efficiency. Later I would realize that efficiency – taking pieces out, streamlining the process, shaving down the corners, as it were – was really to save money. There was a bigger engine behind innovation and initiative in the so-called bubble of academic learning, and I had no idea, I had no idea. The first internship I ever applied to was for Monsanto, I had no idea. But they tell you about hungry people in other places, they tell you about cheap, miraculous seed, and you overlook the fact that no one chooses to go hungry. You’re given this clean, neat issue, something that should be steeped in culture and social studies and environment but instead is stripped, reduced to A-B-C logic, and then you are told, solve the problem. You have the tools, remember. Overlooking that if it were so easy, why is it still a problem.

But it worked! I came back down to earth, and I loved, love the earth. The eczema was recovering, and I was gaining insight on problem-solving, not for people but with people. Farmers need things, and cultivators need things, and pollinators need things, and contractors and conservationists and construction workers and women shelters and marginalized minorities in rural West coast cities. My job, I think, was to connect all of those needs, to feed a need by filling it with another.  It’s never a win-win, of course. We spray poison and burn oil to kill invasives, to control nature, which is an absurd idea to permaculturists, because if it’s growing then it’s meant to grow. It’s a twisted logic if you were to apply the same idea to people — if they came then they were meant to conquer. I agree it’s nice to have peonies and palm trees when we’re weary of ash and maple, but fundamentally, it’s not very fair. So we interfere.

At the end of the day, it’s about food on the table. I can’t remember a time I went hungry. Numbing hunger, when your stomach shrinks to the size of a walnut. I don’t think I’ve ever starved. I chose not to eat, on several occasions, religious fasting, for a Lent volunteer sleepover bash at a Lutheran church, and for Ramadan, last year, with my roommate in Olympia. Our job required fieldwork, tramping through canary grass and prickly ash, blackberry bushes and stinging nettles — there was no way we wouldn’t be able to drink water, at least. But it was all voluntary; food was ample at our fingertips, and there was no danger of things tasting dusty or stale. This sort of mocking privilege and shakable ethics makes me very uncomfortable, and tired. All the while I’m trying to apply and circulate my expensive education to these experiences, to claim engineering as a type of expertise, to claim that I’ve suffered the schooling, so I should know about some things. Because my father is an engineer, and I am first generation Asian American, and others were brave so that I could be here, and practice this privilege, and analyze from afar, and want to help but always be disconnected, elevated, but the accompanying guilt cannot make me anything less because I have to honor both my family’s sacrifices and do right by people who are not so lucky as I.

There was one time, I can’t remember what city we were in, but I was younger, and fatter, and more frustrated at myself, and my father and I were trying to catch a bus. We missed it, because I refused to run. I remember him saying something like, man you kids nowadays. In Hong Kong, we always ran for the buses. No matter how ridiculous it looked; you’re letting opportunity slip away. At the very least, try. Now I always run for buses, no matter how ridiculous I look. Richard Feynman’s wife Arlene said, what do you care what other people think? Maybe it’s a science and engineering thing. Opportunities as itches, and I’ve had eczema, I know when to scratch.


Summer items

  • Swimming lessons

  • Writing class

  • Science museum volunteering

  • Self-teach guitar

  • 5k marathon

  • Not getting into a car accident on 94 jfc

  • Pride & Prejudice at the Guthrie

  • Working the system re: graduate school

  • Eating my way through Minneapolis idk

  • Being alone and being okay with it

  • Getting evenly tan pls

  • Maybe stargazing

Yeah I know, same old. Yesterday I celebrated an 100 year old's birthday. I asked my dad today when I'd be meeting my rich Chinese husband so I can get a half-million dollar condo in one of the white outskirt suburbs and he said, next year. It sounded really ominous. Tomorrow I'm tucking my dress shirt into my dress pants, goddammit. I really miss Washington, but only half the memories.

Two if by sea

I can still swim! albeit in very poor form, like I'd last all of ten seconds if I was unexpectedly thrown into the ocean and then drown, immediately. But I did, like, actual laps (okay, four) and rightly so because my swimsuit costs 78 dollars because what is money for except for spending. Hoping this will end where I am left with an amazingly toned/lithe body and can swim 10+ laps without having a heart attack (i.e. I signed up for swimming lessons and this was actually a prerequisites check to see if I could still float so in a way I surpassed my own expectations).

Then I ruined it all with pasta, but. Some stuff still sucks, but. I'm not hating my job and I'm learning a little guitar, learning a little about letting go. I'm finding out I have like zero embarrassment left because there's really no pain to be felt anymore when you've been, well, dumped, and y'know, sometimes that gets me far enough.

NYC in three weeks and then a strong-maybe Singapore/Hong Kong at the end of October which is legitimately weird and way exciting, like I thought this was stuff I should save up to share with someone special, but life still moves on and it can be something to look forward to all on my own, too. I have cousins I have not seen for years, and extended relatives I have only seen on scratchy VCR tapes. I have ancestral villages to visit and a peak to climb and an island to walk around on. I was standing in the backyard today and was suddenly hit with a very deep affection for gravity and how our house completely blocks out the tilt of the sun from the garden beds, and that is why we have never succeeded with perennial plants, hell, with one-summerial plants. Except a couple of peonies that my grandma picked out, which has to be more than coincidential. The earth moves, what, approximately 1000 meters a second and we are so lucky. We are in movement all the time!

I need: to finish Feynman, to play Mumford & Sons I Will Wait at just speed, to diet again because there are at least two weddings this year, to bike more despite my bike being so crappy even the bike shop won't repair it (even when it involves me paying them), to not get a chemical peel because I can so live with scars, to start graduate-level coursework (and all the steps leading up to, ugh), to save up for New Zealand. To not work out in my pajamas. To find a way to reconcile my guilt upon reading the news with being like, okay, my life should still be important to me.
it's a living


I don't hate my life. I want to go to Santorini and New Zealand. I have a new job, which doesn't have the word 'intern' in the title. It's temporary but it pays double and buys me time, which is really what life is all about. I'm going to be single and happy in the Twin Cities.
it's a living

What's the opposite of rapprochement

You know all those fics I used to read/write about one-sided and/or unrequited love and how it was so easy to read/write "she had been in love with him for five years" and it was supposed to convey devotion and inspire sympathy. Let me tell you, in real life five minutes is like five thousand years. Every second of any memory is torturous, like I would rather have painful, weeping eczema erupt all over my skin again as opposed to this.

I am trying to meditate. Occasionally it works, but it's weird because when it's successful then time seems to speed up extra fast.

My orchestra teacher was going through a divorce when I was in elementary school and everyone was afraid of him. I am turning into a crabby, occasionally erratic orchestra teacher, sans the mediocre cello skills.

(i.e. I hate my life, I hate it)
it's a living

I miss you

I'm reading a couple of typography papers -- belated, they were due last week, but because we are so often encouraged to spread out beyond our comfort zone and basically devour every piece of free information available that may help our careers or intellectual development, I have guilted myself into finishing them, even though at this point they're probably taken 16 hours to read. But I'm finishing up the penultimate paragraph and I have this sudden flashback to my parents taking me to Baker's Square to eat back when I was a kid. And I would sit squashed against the highback vinyl bench-booths and color pies and chickens with faces with crayons, and I would order whatever I wanted, usually something with potatoes or with cheese. And then a piece of pie, usually something chocolate or fruity, for dessert. My parents would let me eat whatever I wanted. And that was love from them, that was them feeding their kids and having a good time and not feeling hungry themselves. And now it's like, everything you put in your mouth, every gulp of oxygen you inhale is attached with a thought. Or maybe it's just me, or maybe it's the developing world, or maybe it's that we have to share that air with 3 billion more people since I was a child.

I also realize I have no idea what my parents were going through when I was a child. I have memories of fights, but mostly it was incredibly blissful and pleasant and I did not have any worries whatsoever -- I probably couldn't even conceive of it. And that, again, was such the purest kind of love. I am lucky, and I'm acting childish right now because I can only see three, four months in the future, and really I should be thinking about my parents, and my grandparents, and everyone who has ever shown me grace and kindness. Because I've had plenty. Which is a miracle, no doubt.