Conversations with Siri, Volume 2

Many thanks to the WordPress community for the Fresh Pressed and for all your nice visits and comments! Siri’s got quite a little personality behind that flat exterior. She’s growing on me, but as you can see in Volume Two of our conversations, we still have our communication problems.

I tried to celebrate a big day with the simple standard greeting and she got strangely defensive. Even a little passive-aggressive.

If I try to get to know her, she’s still so evasive.

But boy can she soak up those compliments with all the fake modesty she can muster…One day, I just completely lost my temper with her, and she stayed so infuriatingly rational in her response.

Other times, I don’t think she had any idea what she was saying.

Finally I calmed down, and tried to make up with her. Only to find that she was really quite alright.

I think she just fundamentally has some existential identity problems.

But she gives some decent advice, nonetheless. Minus the “avoid eating fat” part. Way off base on that one, Siri, way off base.

Well, at the end of it all, I just wanted to wrap things up with a cozy bedtime story. It was off to a rough start at first…

But once she got going (talking about herself, of course), she had quite a story to tell.

The end.



Why So Siri-ous?

Posts have all been more on the serious side as of late. Which means a less Siri-ous post is way overdue. So…here is the visual layout of my very convoluted relationship with Siri. We’re working through our issues but I think it’s going to take some time.

Because as you can see… sometimes she’s really fickle.

She can be very insecure…She avoids talking about her past a lot.She kind of struggles to maintain a good sense of humor.She doesn’t seem to know how to receive compliments, and barely knows how to return them either.Once in a while she can be easygoing.But I’m not sure we have the same worldview, on a lot of levels.There are times when I catch her talking to herself, and it makes me wonder.
She doesn’t seem comfortable being honest with me.Sometimes she is borderline cocky.
Other times, she can be rather controlling.Again, her insecurities get the best of her, and I worry she’ll never believe me when I tell her how I feel.Once in awhile though, she can be sweet, in this cheesy kind of way.She keeps telling me that she’s working on the new and improved version of herself, but I don’t know. It may or may not work out.


I’m (not) sexy and I (don’t) know it

I heard the word used in a couple of different contexts today and I couldn’t help but feel curious. Sexy. What is that? Someone’s original topic for a book proposal was initially rejected because it wasn’t sexy enough. And of course, the more common context. Girl, you are sexy. (Please note, not said to me. I’m not sexy and I know it.)

It’s a curious word. Let’s take the context of getting a book published, in this case, non-fiction. The topic has got to be beyond interesting. It’s got to be beyond important. Even really important. It’s got to be sexy. I’m disappointed to say that the first comparison that comes to mind is Super Bowl Sunday when everyone is scrutinizing the commercials to pick out the most memorable. Meh, we’ve seen the typical Toyota commercial showing a spotless new car gliding along the shoreline, a happy family laughing, a dog grinning in the back, and 0% interest for 12 months. But it’s the commercial where the car door opens and out emerges the very long-legged woman in very high heels in a very tight dress that causes even the most ambivalent football fan to stop mid-conversation to gaze at the screen for a few extra moments. This, I suppose, is the desired effect with book topics among publishers. Sexy. The bookworm will be perusing the bookstand in the “newly released” section. We really do judge a book by its cover. Some, you look at and you just don’t take seriously at all, ever. But there are those books, with just the right play on words in the title and subtitle, just the right delivery of visual interest in the cover design, that lure you. They make promises and you want to know if they will deliver. They draw you in on a deeply personal level, in ways that you have not been drawn in, or drawn out, before. Sexy.

And of course there’s the more common context for the word sexy: people, usually female.  I am not sexy. I don’t know how to be. I’m way too practical for high heels and I shave on the minimal end of minimal. I look at magazine covers and they confuse me. Who makes those kinds of facial expressions in everyday life? The ‘come hither’ look. Am I supposed to learn how to make that kind of facial expression with my husband? I think he’d just laugh. I’d laugh. Who are you and what have you done with my wife? I like that he thinks I’m pretty when I wear a nice dress, do my hair a bit, add a touch of blush and light perfume. But I like that he loves me when my matted hair tells him that I’ve clearly slept on my left side all night, when I don’t feel like getting myself out of my pajamas and bedhead until 10AM on my days off, and when I’ve come in from an evening run with hair pinned back, my face red and dripping with sweat. Truth be told, I like being demure. A lot. I love that my husband wanted to get to know me for demure me. I know he’s not immune to visual temptation but I love that he makes a concerted effort to turn his eyes away when those commercials come on, looks at me and tells me I am beautiful. Who knows, maybe I am sexy. If being demure means that I can draw my husband in on a deeply personal level, like a sexy book where all you want is to spend time getting to know more of what is going on in this amazing life that a well-written book takes on, then maybe I do want to be sexy, maybe I am sexy and I just don’t know it.

a most curious case of people watching

There is no public scrutiny that is quite like that which is experienced in the jury selection process. There you sit, in the jury box, answering rather personal questions in front of a room of strangers, being judged and evaluated as a certain “type” of person based on your responses.

Judge: What do you do for work?

Prospective Juror in mid-20s: I…don’t work.

Judge: Have you ever worked?

Prospective Juror:  No…

Judge: What do you do during the day?

Prospective Juror:  …Um…I help around the house. Sometimes I help my parents out with some things…

One of my favorite mini-conversations went as follows:

Judge: What does your wife do for work?

Prospective Juror: She’s… just a wife.

Judge: You may not want to go home and say that to her.

Then there are the people who seem to really be trying to get out of jury duty:

Judge: Oh, so you blog for such-and-such a company. Are you blogging about this trial?

Prospective Juror: Oh no, of course I’m not! And I won’t.  *Pause.*   At least if I’m not paid for it.

Annnnd…then there are some rather awkward moments.

Judge: Tell us your occupation and the occupation of your spouse, significant other, or partner, if you have one.

Prospective Juror: I work as such-and-such. I’m separated. My wife does this for work. My significant other does that for work.

Some personalities show themselves outside of the courtroom.  For example, the gentleman who thought it was perfectly fine to hear go into a full-on tai-chi routine in the hallway as we waited to be let into the courtroom. He ended the routine with a swift karate chop and a high kick with one leg. I am extremely curious to hear his interview.

Many people find jury duty to be extremely dull and monotonous. Personally, I love sitting in the jury assembly room, being able to catch up on some personal odds and ends and then getting lost in a book for a couple quiet hours. And with all the drama and entertainment of the jury selection process, I don’t see how people can get bored. I also find the legal process fascinating, especially when you have a good judge and good attorneys over the case. Between that and the public scrutiny in the jury box, I find jury duty to be a most curious case of people-watching.

on breeding fruit flies and the fruit of it

I saw this story about fruit flies and sex on NPR’s website this morning, and it brought me back to the days of my first job in college. Breeding fruit flies. I made it happen. Well, not really, because apparently it’s the smell of rotting fruit that really makes it happen. But I helped. My bosses ran a genetics research laboratory, and sadly I can’t honestly even tell you what bigger picture genius they were aiming for in their research. They might have been fighting cancer as the fruit of my labor with these little buggers. All I knew at the time was that I came in every day to boxes containing vial after vial of many different lines of fruit flies. Each vial contained rotting banana at the bottom, and that’s where the squirmy larvae would grow and eventually hatch. Sure enough, after a week or so of transferring a mini swarm of flies into a new vial, the larvae would appear, followed by the next generation of little Justins and Annas. (Apologies if your name is Justin or Anna. I chose these names with no particular people in mind!) Sometimes, not many youngin’s would appear, and there might be only two or three flies in a new vial that should have ideally contained at least ten or so. My job was then to look to see if there was at least one male and one female (distinguished by the rounder abdomen of the male, as opposed to the longer, pointier abdomen of the female), transfer those two into a new vial, and pray that they would find each other attractive enough to want to make new baby larvae together. Other times, a vial would contain just a handful of some lethargic, sickly-looking flies. If that was the case, I would bring the vial to my boss who would immediately put the vial into the fruitfly ICU. I never actually knew what that meant. Did they get intubated? Were their wings restrained for awhile so they could conserve energy? Were they sedated with the fruitfly version of Versed? Alas. It wasn’t a glorious job, and it took me awhile to master the art of transferring flies from one vial to another without losing the whole swarm when I removed the cotton ball cork from the original vial. I was surrounded by unintentionally freed flies a lot in my first couple weeks on the job and probably bred some mutant strains as a result, but eventually I got the hang of it.

So anyhow, if you’ve actually read this far, I owe you a cup of coffee or something just for indulging me in my crazy and somewhat disgusting reminiscence. All this to say, I sure have come a long way in articulating my career goals and moving towards them. I am certain that my boss in the fruitfly research lab knew I wan’t planning to make a long-term career out of it. But I was there to work, and to work honestly. To learn how to be responsible with coming in when I was supposed to come in, show respect to my bosses and coworkers, and breed those little bugs to the best of my ability.

I remember looking for another part-time job during college, and hearing from a friend how she had really enjoyed working at Olive Garden as a food server. I didn’t know the slightest thing about food service, and I was so shy and awkward at the time, I was certainly not really cut out for it. Plus the fact that I had very few interviewing skills under my belt. I remember randomly walking into a local Olive Garden that had a sign posted, “Hiring Now!” The manager sat down with me and asked, “So, why do you want to go into food service?” My answer? “…Ummm…. I don’t know….” Needless to say, he kept that interview short and I never heard from him again.

I am grateful that through the course of much soul-searching, a number of very different experiences in different kinds of work, and not a small amount of tears, I have come to a place where I know with 110% certainty that I love what I do, and I have the privilege and opportunity to actually do it. Sometimes it’s so hard to see where the road is taking us, but there are lessons to be learned with each unexpected stop and detour along the way if we are open to them. Moving forward through the rougher patches on the road helps to clarify and refine our desires, and it makes the reaching of our goals that much sweeter. Don’t get me wrong; my job is not my life, nor is it my identity. But I do find it so wonderfully fulfilling. Yes, believe it or not, even more fulfilling than bringing new fruit flies into the world.

Are You Wearing the Right Mascara?

That was the subject line in the most recent email I got from Sephora. Why I have kept myself on their emailing list, I have no idea. It’s probably the Chinese in me that can’t stand the idea of missing out on a good deal. But beyond that, anyone who really knows me knows that I would be more lost than found in a Sephora store. The rare times I enter, I try to avoid the salespeople because I feel as though it’s literally written all over my face that I don’t have the least idea about proper makeup. They ask if they can help me find something. I respond, I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be looking for. Get me my basic Bare Escentuals mineral veil and foundation, and I’m done. My discomfort with the store and ultimately with myself only grows, the longer I linger and browse at the endless beauty products and all their promises of sultry lips, smoky eyes, luscious lashes, flawless skin. I really didn’t know I needed all that until I entered the store. (Well, besides the flawless skin. I know Heaven isn’t all about me, but when the grace of God brings me there one day, I am secretly looking forward to finally having pimple-free skin. And believe me, I will be praising God for that one.) I was quite content until the ads and the model-ish faces and the promises printed with italics and exclamation points started to tell me that perhaps I needed something more. Perhaps I needed to make sure I had the right mascara.

One of my dear friends who has two young children once shared with me how she was so greatly encouraged by another young mom’s reminder,

Don’t compare your internal with other peoples’ external.

They talked about this in the context of new motherhood, and how easy it can be for new moms to feel terribly flustered, and on top of that, feel the additional weight of guilt and incompetence when they see other young moms who appear, in that brief moment, to have things all together. Little do they know, those other moms are thinking the exact same thing about them. I wish I could be like her. What’s her secret?

Isn’t this how we are with so many things in our lives? Physical appearances. Job performance. Relationships. Artistic skills. So much fodder for comparison and envy, until we get honest and see that 99% of the time, what we see around us is not the real picture, or at least not the full picture.

In my recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, what I quickly re-realized is how much I love being behind the camera, but am terribly uncomfortable in front of it. There I go again. Feeling my insecurities and thinking about how other people are so much more photogenic than I. It’s still so hard to get away from that.

Alas, I will end this post on a lighter note. These two gentlemen clearly didn’t feel so self-conscious about what other people thought of them. While I don’t know that I’d ever do what they are doing, respectively, I’ve got to give them kudos for their level of comfort with themselves.

Yes, he is walking his cat on a leash.

This one simply leaves me speechless.

a house divided

It was the first time I ever caught him lying to me. I wanted to scream but had no one to scream at. I was home alone when I realized it, and I couldn’t even think of what I might say or do when he got home. How did he manage to keep such a poker face for so long? I thought I could read him so well, but obviously, I was wrong. I didn’t know what else he had told me that I had to start second-guessing.

He taught me to whistle one of the USC fight songs, and told me it was UCLA’s fight song. So he, being the die-hard Trojan fan that he was, would walk around the house whistling one of USC’s songs, and the naive, ever-so-trusting wife that I was, would whistle my supposed UCLA fight song in retaliation. He let it go on for months. Until that evening when he was out, and I was home alone watching a USC football game. USC scored their first touchdown, their band started playing, and suddenly my ears perked up. That song. The song I’ve been whistling all these months. That’s not the UCLA fight song!

Ok, so I realize that it’s a bit pathetic that I had been such a terrible Bruin fan (a two-time Bruin, for that matter) that I didn’t even know my own school’s fight song. And it’s even more pathetic because UCLA is so huge with its sports life, as opposed to my first alma mater, UCSD, which had absolutely zero sports life to boast of. I suppose I have some responsibility to account for here. But even still! He lied to me. He lived that lie for months. And he loves to rub it in my face that I fell for it.  

We are without a doubt a house divided. A UCLA blanket lies next to a USC blanket. A UCLA baseball cap next to a USC cap. Mugs, plates, t-shirts, it all testifies of the animosity that pervades our otherwise happy home. Football season has started and I always re-realize just how obnoxious my otherwise kind-hearted husband becomes at this time of the year. I see the same Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde phenomenon in my Trojan friends whom I otherwise love and get along with wonderfully. The trash talk flies unabashedly and they take tremendous joy in waving those two ridiculous fingers in my face. One family of six in particular, the majority being Trojan alumni, even made arrangements to have the USC marching band come to play at their son’s wedding reception, big ridicuolous feathery helmets, sunglasses, brass and all. The Bruins there were outnumbered and we had to endure a good 30 minutes of Trojan cacophany, including the majority of the crowd yelling “UCLA sucks!” at the top of their lungs when it came time for the band to play “Tusk.” You can be sure my husband was eating it up.

For better or for worse is what I signed up for. And now that football season is here, it’s definitely for worse.

the food of my peoples

Every time I plan a trip, the food is one of the key highlights around which I will plan all other activities. I will spend hours on Yelp to make sure I know exactly where I’m going and why. When the husband and I return from a trip and friends ask how it was, our answer is either, “The food was so good!” or “The food was just ok.” Never mind that we were in Spain or Colorado or some other breathtakingly beautiful location. We just always come back to talking about the food.

Well, my parents and I went to visit my sister in Chicago this past weekend, and any foodie knows that Chicago has no dearth of incredible cuisines to choose from. The Parthenon in Greektown, Rosebud Steakhouse, Shaw’s Crab Shack, and of course the plethora of coma-inducing deep dish pizzas are must-visits. Caramel ice cream french toast at the Bongo Room for brunch? Yes please.

But on this particular trip, what we really craved one morning was dim sum in Chinatown. The food of my peoples. The shared understanding with the other immigrant families in the room that this food is at the heart of our own hearts, and hence it never gets old. The yuppy brunch boutiques couldn’t compete with the carts of savory deliciousness brought to you by women reminiscent of that favorite jovial-but-borderline-bossy Chinese auntie who glowed with pride at the morsels they offered, and hardly hid the fact that they were more than slightly offended when you declined their offers. Only in a bonafide dim sum restaurant would this attitude from your server be both expected and appropriate, and earn them a better tip. After all, it only showed how much they cared.

There is, of course, the pork or shrimp siu-mai. Savory, salty, juicy, deceptively light morsels of meat and finely chopped vegetables enclosed in the thinnest of wrappers, subsequently dipped in soy sauce, hot sauce, or hot mustard. I don’t need the fancy overpriced dumplings at Din Tai Fung. Sit me in an old B-rated Chinatown restaurant anyday, so long as I see the aunties with their carts and the wrinkles of pride on their faces, I know what they have to offer must be authentic.

My sister and I reminisced about how adding the thousand-year-old-egg always made the best pot of rice porridge. Don’t let the black-and-green color or the pungent garbage-like smell of those eggs fool you. That stuff is nothing short of gourmet. Barbeque pork steamed buns, taro cakes, deep-fried sesame balls with red bean filling, and egg custard pastry cups are non-negotiables.

But somehow, what we look forward to the most are the chicken feet and the cow intestines. Frightening as they may appear, these delectables deserve a spot on “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Even if you need to close your eyes to eat them, or need a good Tsingtao beer afterwards to help you forget what you just consumed, the flavor in these dishes, when prepared correctly, is absolutely incomparable. (I have to admit though, when we found a small hair in our cow intestine dish, it seemed rather pointless to complain about it to our waiter. I mean, how clean can this cow intestine dish be, really?)

I could tell you plenty of other stories about the crickets and deep-fried waterbugs offered at Typhoon in Santa Monica. The live snake at the hole-in-the-wall in China that was subsequently sauteed into two dishes – one based on the skin, and the other based on the scant amount of meat running along the snake’s slithery skeleton. (That snake dish left me reeling with dizziness in the airport later that day, but it was so worth it.) The raw beef lips that I gleefully found in a 99 Ranch supermarket as the ultimate tool for a future practical joke. The brain soup of some poor unidentified creature that my uncle offered to me in a Taiwan night market. Just a brain in a bowl of broth. (No amount of Tsingtao was going to help me out with that one. I passed.) But alas, this post will remain dedicated to the glorious, incomparable cuisine known as dim sum, the food of my peoples.

Life on the throne gets complicated

Every time I enter a public restroom, my eyes shoot to the same spot every time, without fail. I look for the number, size, and…well, freshness…of stains on the toilet seat. And then I answer the burning question, “Should I stay or should I go?” Go, as in, evacuate. I mean, go, as in, leave the room. Hmm. That was an awkward intro.

Anyhow, I’ve been in all kinds of, shall we say, unique toileting situations beyond just your classic port-a-potty at your local fair. I’ve been in remote villages in China where you enter a small bathroom stall and see little more than a deep pit available for the relieving of your needs. The pit is deep but not deep enough to not see movement. Oh yes. Movement.  (Externally. I mean… *sigh*  …never mind.) The shiny, subtle movement of hundreds of maggots, deep down in that not-deep-enough pit. And that’s when you just look up, whistle, and try to push your too-close-to-reality-imagination out of your head, and then bolt out of there before the tickling you feel on your legs becomes real.

Then there is the infamous squatty potty. What’s that, you ask? Oh you’re missing out! There is a humorous but rather educational blog post about the squatty potty, complete with bonus side tips about toileting in Asia. Suffice to say, I don’t think I ever really got the hang of this, but some international friends tell me that they find the squatty potty much easier to use and much more sanitary than Western toilets. Some, apparently, have found it so difficult to transition to the Western toilet that they would prefer to climb on top of a Western toilet, somehow manage to balance themselves precariously over the bowl, and take care of business, squatty-potty style. I only know this because I’ve seen footprints on the McDonald’s toilets in Taiwan. I can’t even imagine how that doesn’t eventually involve a very embarrassing call to 9-1-1.  I hope that McDonald’s is well-stocked with toilet seat covers, at the very least, for those with less-than-perfect aim…and all who follow afterwards. (I think squidoo’s advice about keeping your pants at your ankles probably gets thrown out the window here, but who knows… I’m no acrobat.)

And of course, the Japanese bidet. My first (surprise) encounter with this clever contraption was in a charming, traditional Japanese restaurant in Gardena, CA. You know, the type of restaurant that only has the menu handwritten in Japanese on the wall. I don’t know why I thought the instructions for flushing the bidet would be any different. For a relatively simple machine serving relatively simple purposes, there were a whole lot of buttons to choose from. I started to wonder if I was on one of those secret Japanese prank shows. I stood up, and after one tentative round of eeny-meeny-miny-mo, I pushed a button encircled in green and this happened. Oops. I bet that bathroom door needed cleaning anyhow. I left a generous tip that day.

All this to say, well, nothing, really. I intended this post to eventually be about how toilet etiquette is a funny reminder that we live in community, and the awkward quirks we encounter when we enter into shared spaces with one another.

But all those deep thoughts have apparently gone…  yes, I’ll say it.

Down the toilet.