The Case of the Savage Cabbage, and other Grimm Tales

Misfortune Level: 10

The first sign I believe, that I’ve been placed under some sort of curse, came when I was cutting cabbage for dinner about five weeks ago. Being a little tipsy and a lot stupid, I wasn’t being particularly careful and put the cerated knife right through the tip of my finger, splitting it open.

There was a lot of blood.

The EMTs, luckily, arrived in two minutes, stopped the bleeding (mostly), and also helpfully cleaned up the living room, which was good because the Lawyer reported the bathroom looking like we had murdered someone in the sink, and I had only spent about 20 seconds in there before realizing my finger needed professional assistance. I refused an ambulance ride, and got my housemate to drive me to urgent care.

“You need to take this to the ER,” the urgent care doc said.

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The Best Laid Schemes o’ Mice an’ Men

Friends, I am aggrieved. There be beady-eyed whisker monsters in this house.

It all went down on Tuesday, as I was mindlessly browsing the Internet, watching Jun’s Kitchen on Youtube while browsing pictures of hakama on Amazon, when frantic movement caught the corner of my eye. Lurching from the bed and to my feet, I yelled at the Lawyer in the room next door to fetch me a butterfly net while trying to locate the invader with my phone light. It was 10pm but I was ready to Shizuo the heck out of any rodent stupid enough to make its presence known in my territory.


It took some convincing, but I got the Lawyer to come in my room and stand on my bed while holding the phone light. I proceeded to turn over bags, box poised, hoping to unearth and capture a pest smaller than a ping-pong ball but faster than a freshmen in a room with free pizza. Unfortunately, he made a run for it first. With a scamper of claws and house-sandals, I chased him into the Lawyer’s bedroom and pinned him against the dresser. Black eyes in a head bigger than his body eyed me warily. I made a valiant but clumsy attempt to catch him with the box, but he skittered back into the hall and then into a small hole between the lowest stair step and the baseboard. Continue reading

The Beginning of the End

Full disclosure: this post has an inordinate text-to-meme ratio. Apologies in advance; my sense of proportionate humor is deceased.

I am now two weeks into my final year of grad school. This’ll be my sixth year of higher ed, so in some ways it’s hard to believe that the education part of my career is coming to a torturous close, at least until I loose my mind and go for a PhD.


Predictably, the semester has started like a house on fire. I had to move my stuff, my car broke down, I pulled a tendon in my foot, and I’m currently on antibiotics for mouth ulcers (my dentist asked what was causing my body so much stress, but I was in my head calculating the number of hours I needed to work to pay for medication and a night guard). The good news is, I got a job (PAID!) working for one of these D.C. NGOs. The bad news is, I’m also doing a full semester of classes plus a capstone research project. Continue reading

“只是修剪!” Just a Trim!

Instead of regaling you with tales from grad school, my adventures in Asia, or even mediocre humorous anecdotes, I have emerged from the woodwork to indulge my vanity, and talk about my hair. In particular, the process of getting it cut.


Google’s first return for “Chinese boyband haircut” – apparently all actually women

In my experience, barbershops in China are mostly hole-in-the-wall places staffed by a trimmer-wielding crew of sweaty young men with fabulous hair. If they were in America, they would all be gay, but since they are in China they just care about their image, and that image is some hybrid of American 80’s rock and K-pop bands. Now, in China there isn’t really a difference between barbershops and a hair salon. Men, women, and children all visit the same place, the humble 理发店. You can still find barbers who work only with scissors and razors and do the same three variations of a crew cut, but these guys generally have been working since before the Cultural Revolution, and China’s younger clientele tends to veer in a trendier direction. Continue reading

Grad School 2.1: First Lessons I Didn’t Get in Class

Semester two has begun. The following are four things I learned this week.

1. Snow is a thing

Last Saturday, the heavens clouded over and a strange substance began falling eerily from the sky. Now, as a Texan whose secondary domus has been various points in East Asia, I’m pretty familiar with ice and wind. Not Canadian levels, of course, but enough to know that shiny roads = Not Safe For Bicycling. Consistent amounts of frozen precipitation, however, are a new experience, at least in terms of having them thwart my regular activities. By 4:00pm I was astonished to look out my window and see this:

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Full disclosure: This photo was actually taken post-shovelling. The snow did not magically disappear from the driveway, most of the credit for that going to persons other than myself.

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Hello 2019! 圣诞快乐 & メリクリ

The Gym

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It’s Good to Have a Lawyer When Dealing With Bodybags

It all began last Saturday, when me and my housemates were lounging around the living room, them recovering from a week at work and me preparing for a week of final examinations. There was a somnolent atmosphere, the kind helped on by booze and low-scale trauma. I was staring at the stretch of floor between the couch and the wall separating the living room from the dining room, which was empty save for some charging cables, feeling appropriately uninspired with holiday cheer.

“I want a tree,” I said.

There was a mutual grunt.

“I want a real Christmas tree,” I continued, pointing a finger, “and I want it to go in that corner.”

The Cat Lady perked up. “Maybe we can get one off craigslist,” she said, “and some stockings for the fireplace with our names on them.”

This line of conversation dwindled. My brain, however, tired of plotting the relationship between exchange rates and the money supply, set about new machinations. Craigslist proved disappointing. I am, by admission, too cheap to pay $25 bucks for a tree without a base and only half-working lights. Do you know how much ramen I can buy with that money? Or 14.5% of my semester textbooks. Or two hours of parking in D.C.! No, paying for a tree would never do. Instead, I put out my feelers on, craigslist’s picture-free cousin for all your garage sale needs, and waited for a bite.

I was not to be disappointed. Continue reading

Curious Consequences of My Bad Habits

It’s dead week in in D.C., and all the students are in the throes of finals-preparation anguish. In fact, as I submitted my last paper for history class today, I looked the professor in the eye and said “pity the damned,” which has come to summarize my current worldview quite succinctly. In consequence, I have nothing vaguely epic or inspiring to share, so instead I submit for your consideration this mundane admission:

I don’t cope well with stress.

I don’t mean in the existential, Romeo and Juliet, throw down your books and drink cyanide kind of way, tho’ I have a kind of alacrity in sinking, to keep with Shakespeare. I mean I have bad coping habits, specifically the kind that empty my wallet a little too fast. You see, 99% of the time my brain is running on some abstract, higher plane cataloging the differences between Maoist and Leninist Marxism or whether I can glaze leeks like onions. Put me under enough stress, say, my laptop breaking down after having the dentist at my teeth for three weeks straight, and my brain starts to turn itself inside out. Suddenly, I’m in this sensory tunnel where my mind wants to consume a lot of physical material with having to actually think about what it’s processing, usually in a frantic or overloaded fashion. Thanks to modern technology, the coping mechanism that best fits this tendency is online shopping.

Bezos, you’re such an enabler, you devil. Continue reading

Reflection (向中国致敬)

I have been out of China for a solid five months now, so I suppose it’s time I psyched myself up to writing some formal reflections. I’ve been putting it off, because sustained introspection is hard and often disappointing. Grad school is already difficult enough, thank you very much. However, what is hard and disappointing is often also genuinely worthwhile, so I’m going to take a stab at it. Prepare for some extended navel-gazing.

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Taken while standing on top of Nanjing City wall, the oldest in the world.

The year I spent teaching was the kind of experience you come out of and think, wow, that was incredible. Have I changed? Have I become a stronger person, more mature, more imaginative? More in touch with the world and all its fascinating and frustrating facets?

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