Sunday, May 31, 2009

GMAT Test Day

The whole standardized test taking business is all very serious. After weeks of eating, drinking and excessive canoodling with my GMAT books, the big day finally arrived this past Friday. It didn't seem right to be too calm about the occassion, so I threw in a pinch of neuroticism to even things out. For the 5 days preceding my test date, I tried getting to bed by 11:30 at the latest and griped inconsolably if I went to bed a minute after. There was griping for at least 4 out of the 5 nights, but this was to be expected. There are 2 things I seem to have particular trouble with in life and these are 1) going to bed early when I say I will and 2) getting anywhere (besides work) on time. 

Because of #1 above, the night before the test itself, I went to bed much later than I had intended to. I woke up the next morning thinking the most important thing I have ever thought of all the mornings I have lived so far -- I have to eat something before I leave. But I had forgotten that the only things in the fridge that might provide adequate sustenance were a week old Chinese take out box with fried shrimp, a 2 week old take out box of pork chops and mustard and other assorted condiments. Then I looked on top of the microwave, found one whole shining bagel and fired up my oven to toast it. 

On the drive to the test center, I chanted my winner's mantra out loud. "You WILL do well. You will, you will, you will." You could tell all the other driver's on their way to work that morning envied my conviction. Or else they were just staring because they thought I was crazy. But either way, chanting mantras really works to pump yourself up. 

Once I got inside, I took a seat in the lobby and waited a grueling half hour to be checked in before I could start. The first ten, fifteen minutes of waiting were acceptable. But after that, you could tell the whole room was about to explode soon by the number of jittering legs. One woman got up and started doing karate kicks across the room. 

I ended up forgiving the testing center for the wait after interacting with the proctors. These people must have been trained professionals. You could just read it straight out of their eyes that they felt for you. And the suspicion I had that all the proctors were worried that we were all doomed and were surely about to fail our tests was quickly confirmed when they handed each of us the Kleenex box. When I said thanks, but no thanks, I was urged to take some... just in case. At that point, all the test takers looked at each other. We all knew what that meant. They were for the tears we were soon about to cry. One girl turned around, put on her jacket and drove home. (Well, that's what I originally thought. But it turned out she just went to the bathroom). 

After we each tucked 2 tissues into our otherwise empty pockets at the insistence of the proctors, we were finally allowed to enter the testing room and begin our tests. The test went by quickly. Well, as quickly as 4 hours can pass while spending the entire time scratching your head and drawing tic tac toe scribbles on your scratch paper. When I finished, I got up to leave and the proctor asked how I did. I said I think I did ok. He printed out my score report and said with his eyes open wide, "Oh, that's good. That's really good." But I had a feeling that was also part of his training, in addition to the Kleenex offering, and that he must have said that to everyone he had seen that day. But anyway, that's all over and done with... Hopefully.  

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Missing Sun in the City

When your friends move out of the City and tell you that they'll come back soon and visit often, they are lying. What happens after people move out of the City and to say, San Jose, is that they will finally understand the seductive power of the sun. For some, it won't matter that they are blocks and blocks deep within suburbs as long as parking somewhere doesn't involve a 15 minute hunt around the neighborhood. I am one of these people.

When I first moved to San Francisco, I loved it. I loved the crazy homeless man that took me out to lunch so I could buy him a burrito. I loved that people lived in flats. I liked that everyone looked like they had been living in the same pair of clothes for 2 weeks straight. But then I moved out and my skin unfurled itself and became accustomed to warmer days.

Now, the only way to get me to the City is to have someone promise to make it worth my while. Like if you said a new candy store had opened with the biggest selection of gummy candies in the West. I would be there. Or if I could keep a few of my things in one of your spare bedrooms with an extra toothbrush in the bathroom. That would provide a whole new level of convenience. Or if I hadn't seen you in a long, long time since I moved away from a place where the sun always shines, but where there is always traffic at every hour, that would do the trick too. Lisa knew this trick, and when she said she was visiting from L.A. last weekend, I drove up to the City to meet her.

After brunch at Bambino's, the place where sad brunchers go when Zazie two doors down promises to be at least a 1-hour wait, Alan and I had a day chock full of fun planned. The fun included paying a visit to Blue Bottle for a cup of their infamous Joe and one of their double chocolate cookies. After that, we I planned to stop by Rare Device, one of my favorite little shops on Market and in between where Laguna ends and Guerrero begins. And then we'd end the day with a good, solid movie at the Embarcadero Cinema Center. Sounds like such a nice day doesn't it? But after taking a post-brunch walk, we lasted about 30 minutes before deciding the overcast gray sky was too depressing and bone chilling to convince us to stay. So we drove back home and sat inside our house all warm and toasty.

[Side note: I didn't really know my hair had gotten this long until I saw this picture. Hair of this length is typically reserved for a) Lindsay Lohan or b) for mermaids. And I don't know how I feel about that.]

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dentist Visit

When I walk in, I can see the pickaxes laid out neatly on a standing tray. There is not a lot of time reserved for small talk so I don't ask anyone how their 3-day weekend was. We get right to business. I take a seat, my dentist walks in, and then she begins the grueling 6 month ritual -- the teeth cleaning. 

I have developed a special way of sitting in the patient's chair so that to the outside observer, it appears as though I am comfortable, about to drift off to sleep perhaps. I grasp my hands together across my stomache, and it is this alone, the act of squeezing my hands together, that allows me to live through a visit to the dentist. I suppose if I didn't have any hands, I could express my pain and discomfort by making sharp squealing noises, but I imagine that would be very alarming to the dentist holding the pickaxe in my mouth.

Pain aside though, dentist visits are good for self reflection. They are one of the few situations in life where you don't feel the need to engage the person you're with, even when she is just 2 inches from your face. While having my gums ripped into, I thinkt about my saliva glands. And then I curse them. My dentist often tells me about how mineral-rich my saliva is and how this leads to excess plaque build up. (I don't do internet dating, but if I did, that is what I would write on my profile and can you imagine the winners I could get?) It sounds harmless enough doesn't it? But no matter how much I brush and floss, the build up continues. Which is why this morning she is using a few different pickaxes to chisel it all away. And in between switching from lighter pickaxes to the industrial-sized ones, she heaves heavy sighs. It is a little embarrassing, but there is no where to escape to, so I think about other things. 

I hear the nurses in the other room talking about scrubs. I wish I had a reason to wear scrubs. If I could wear scrubs, I would surely need a pair of Crocs to go with them, and I would be set. Maybe while I'm staying at the hospital with Alan after his surgery next week, I will dress in my dream outfit and see just how much better life could be.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Study Break -- Onto the Dishes

Way back when, when Alan first got diagnosed, he paid a visit to the hospital's social worker, Holly. I asked him how it went when he came back, and he told me the Holly story. Holly had immigrated from China back in the 80's and was barely in the U.S. for a month when a car hit her and took off. The car hit her so hard that it caused her to lose vision in both eyes. But she persevered. Determined to devote her life to helping others in the face of trauma, she went to a local community college, learned English and became a hospital social worker.

Alan should never have told me this story. Because it was moving. It moved me so much that I was determined to help Alan as much as Holly had helped the many others who came to see her.

She provided him with loads of info, but most of all, Holly stressed the importance of him eating healthy, nutritious meals. She asked if he had anyone to prepare them for him since he would most likely be unable to cook for himself. I told him I could do it. I would cook the freshest, the most organic meals imaginable. I would wake early on Sundays and ride my bicycle to the farmer's market to pick out the best fruits and vegetables. I would mix in flax seed (collected with my own two hands) with the steel cut oatmeal I'd prepare him for breakfast. And I would squeeze lemons, oranges, tangerines, grapefruits -- I'd squeeze them all! -- so he could have fresh juice.

I meant well. I wanted to cure him with a beta carotene, antioxidant overload. This good intention lasted for about a week before I realized I needed to start studying for the GMAT. And although I probably cannot help you with your GMAT data sufficiency questions, I can offer you one piece of advice: if you are going to try and take care of a cancer-battling loved one, whatever you do, do not plan to also study and take the GMAT.

What will happen if you try is that your house will fall into shambles and will begin smelling like things you have never smelled before. They will not be pleasant smells, not at all like fields of posies. No. The smells will at first be so bad that you will convince yourself that the bad stench is coming from outside, that it could not possibly be from the Jack in the Box bag that has been under the table for a month now. You will start burning candles frequently, during every minute of every day. You will hurry You will run to light a fresh candle whenever a candle is about to go out so you will not for one moment be unprotected from the candle's thick masking scent. You will grow so accustomed to the smell of the candle and the smell of your hose that you will think the candles' scent is called Luscious Lavender-y Mold.

Dirty dishes left in the sink will grow arms and legs and then someone will suggest that maybe the dishes should just be thrown out all together. But because you won't have time to think about such a possibility, because you are so desperately trying to solve GMAT practice problems better and faster, you will suggest instead that dinner should be eaten out that night. And every night after that. When you are not eating dinner out, your beloved will go to the store and buy a family-sized box of Pizza Pockets and Oreos and will subsist on these because he is too lethargic and otherwise pukey feeling to make anything else. This will cause you to feel emotional distress in the form of guilt.

It was this guilt this evening that led me to do the poor man a favor and do the dishes. The act of running water over the stagnant lot shifted a graveyard of small, tiny animal carcasses in the sink and a terrifying stench arose. I have never actually smelled a mummy before, but I imagine this smell would smell sort of like a mummy if you opened his tomb and released his ancient odors through cutting a small hole in his bandages. I had wondered what Alan used the dishes for if he was only eating Oreos and pizza pockets, and from the remnants stuck to the plates, it looked like he had been eating Velveeta, extra curdly cottage cheese and thick forests of lichen.

Holly would be so dissapointed in me.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Study Block

Because my house has no appropriate study space (i.e. a desk), I have grown accustomed to studying in one of 3 places: 1) at the office after hours 2) at Orchard Valley Coffee 3) at Crema.

Today I decided to study at Orchard Valley and got in a good 3 minutes before an acoustic guitar playing woman set up and started singing. I'm not at all complaining; her music was very nice. But the problem was that it's all acoustic. And acoustic music makes me feel wistful; it's almost exactly the same feeling I get when crossing over bridges at night, zipping closer or further from the glow of city lights. Feeling wistful reminds me of simpler times, when all I had to do was show up to the pool wearing my neon floral bathing suit with purple ruffle accents around the waist to feel like the baddest kid on the block. But feeling wistful doesn't do the trick. The only real way to get me motivated for studying these days is to think about showing up to the high school reunion and still having my greatest accomplishment be that I co-founded the Environmental Action club, a school wide recycling program, with Nathalie, the second member in the club besides me.

But seriously, I just googled Environmental Action and it's still alive! I admit it might be a hair too early to call this, but founding Environmental Action just might be the best accomplishment of my life.

Oak Grove Environmental Action Club, Homecoming 2007

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dare to Dream

There are some dreams that are so personal to us that we have grown used to keeping them in stealth mode, tucked away in the folds of our hearts. We don't talk about them because we really want them. Because of that we talk about other things, safer things; these are the dreams and aspirations we believe will be easy for people to grasp and understand. But the real dreams are still there. They are the things we think about when we are out on long walks, when we are just about to fall asleep or when gazing out an airplane window to the miniature world below.

Today I went to a diversity conference/info session for Stanford's Graduate School of Business. And there was one thing that stuck out above all else. It wasn't the fact that every other person was from Harvard or the fact that every third person had started their own non-profit to combat world hunger. What really made an impression was how candidly the current students and alumni talked about their passions and dreams. They not only revealed what their dreams were to us, but they had told the entire business school. And in response, the whole school did not gasp in horror, but joined together to help them make their dreams a reality. One student's dream was to open her own gym. Another alum launched a membership-only barbershop, lounge and wine bar.

The whole time the panels were talking, I just sat there thinking, "I didn't know you could dream out loud like that about things like that in business school!" If the point of the conference was to make me really want to go to Stanford (which I'm fairly sure it was), then it's safe to say that that mission has been accomplished.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

K-Town Cowboys

Jon kept telling everyone not to mistake his serape for a poncho. You can't see the length here, but I'm pretty sure that makes a serape a belly poncho. Throw in some well-groomed mustaches, some wicked faces and these 2 could form their own K-Town Cowboy gang.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sweet Nothings

There was a time in my life when Friday nights were spent going out to bars and meeting new people. And one of the best things about going out and meeting new people was the pick up lines. I especially liked the pick up lines that left a slimy residue afterwards, because those were the ones I would rush home to relish with my roommates.

My senior year roommate Keith really liked the response a guy once gave me when I lied about having a boyfriend to get him to go away. He said, "Just because there's a goalie doesn't mean I can't score." (Because that is exactly what girls like to hear).

But I suspect I heard the best pick up line ever in the history of Friday night parties at Irene's. It involved the yellow flower earrings I was wearing and had been wearing ever since I got them the other day. So snazzy yet simple and capable of adding a pop of color around the face. I liked them a lot.

And obviously Mr. Suave liked them too. I could tell right away he probably wanted a pair for himself. He said (and write this one down because I promise it will come in handy some day when you're trying to pick up on someone), "Your earrings look like big balls of pus stuck to your ears." And then, after he had delivered that zinger, he sealed the deal with, "I mean, in a good way. Like if I were to smell them I might become infected with something."

And why, I ask, can't Alan ever such sweet nothings like that to me?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sugar Mommies, Daddies and Babies

The other day Irene and I were sitting in a cafe studying. Or, more accurately, I was crying over my math problems and Irene was watching the man next to me sketch. Probably when she couldn't stand my blubbering anymore was when she turned to me and told me to check out this site -- And for the next half hour we became engrossed in a conversation about sugar daddies, mommies and babies. Namely, we asked "Are these people for real?", "Who looks like that and CAN'T find someone?", "Who does this?", "Would you do it?", "Would I do it?" Irene seemed to have a harder time than I did imagining how great it would be to be a sugar baby. She kept talking about how sugar babies would be the equivalent of a high class prostitute. But I wasn't listening. I was imagining jet setting to Rome for a bite of lunch on a Tuesday, 50 new pairs of orthopedic comfort shoes and how one day I might not feel the need to steal all of the soap and shampoo when preparing to check out from a hotel (oh, who am I kidding, those are irresistible). 

Driving home from the cafe, I thought about the idea a little bit more and upped my future comfort shoe count to 65 -- there would be no need to be so conservative with my belongings, should I actually secure a sugar relationship. Oh, but Alan. I couldn't be positive, but I'm pretty sure he would have his reservations about the plan and would try to put a stop to it. He does have a way of being a wet blanket at inopportune times. 

A week came and went, a week spent rushing at an accelerated speed from Sunday night to Friday night. And in the rushing, my plan slipped my mind. 

However, the seed of obtaining a sugar parent was still implanted in my head the following weekend when Alan and I sat down to watch one of our favorite movies. A movie, as luck would have it, based on a blossoming romance between two sugar babies. As we watched, I became excited and less selfish -- those sugar babies could be like us! I decided to change my approach, and when the mood was right, I leaned over towards Alan and said as casually as I could, "Maybe you and I could get a sugar mommy and daddy." To which he said without a beat of hesitation, "No." Which was a bit irritating, considering here I was, presenting this grand plan to him, and he couldn't even be bothered to give it a moment's thought.  

Because I was irritated, I didn't push it, and instead switched back to my original plan. "Well, what if you get a sugar mommy for us?" Which I thought was a much nicer, more generous plan, one that would give him the flexibility in choosing his sugar parent. But I don't think he liked that idea too much either, so I didn't bother to elaborate on all the fun stuff we could do with an extra $20,000 a month -- because that is the kind of ridiculousness advertised on some of the sugar mommy's and daddy's profiles. And for $20,000 a month to stand around and be pretty, Alan was being pretty unreasonable if you ask me. 

[Side note: If you like romance, Audrey Tatou or are curious about the life of a sugar baby, Priceless is a great Friday night movie. And after watching it, and after seeing her gorgeous gowns, let me know if you want a sugar daddy or mommy, too.]

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Non-Model Minority

During my first Asian American studies class at UCLA, I learned of all the negatives of the model minority myth. One of the negatives was that it could potentially make "some people" feel bad about themselves for not achieving as high as all of the other "model" Asians. And during this time of GMAT studying, it's now clear that the "some people" is actually me. If the model minority myth were true, stellar math skills and straight, sleek hair would be mine. Oh why can't the myth be true, oh why??
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