Broccoli and Dinosaurs in “Office Girls”

I’ve started watching a Taiwanese drama called Office Girls, all about the drama behind the scenes at a fancy mall.


Here’s our male lead wearing a dinosaur suit and promising Sheng Xing Ren he’ll eat his vegetables. It’s a very serious show.

In order to take over Chairman Qin’s department store, lazy son Qin Zi Qi must give up his spoiled tuhao ways and make a success of an entry level position for one year, without touching his family’s money or revealing his identity. Young Qin walks into a very junior job in the Operations Department, without changing his name, his luxurious clothes or his little emperor complex. Qin must be one of laobaixing, the Old Hundred Names, so it’s not completely obvious that he’s the heir apparent (like it would be if I started working as a peon at Stivison Enterprises), and he starts pretending that his high-fashion clothes are street knockoffs. He reports to hardworking Sheng Xing Ren, an Operations employee who has never been late or absent in four years at the company, and who lives as frugally as she can while saving money to buy an apartment for her mother.

taiwan dd

Most of the drama takes place between coworkers and departments in the Chinese department store. There’s a credit-stealing boss, a lazy teammate, and a girl from Leasing who definitely has her own agenda. The mall, with product placement of luxury and international brands, makes a real contract to the scenes with Sheng Xing Ren’s old ma out in the countryside. Sheng Mama is the greatest character, her little happy dance when Zi Qi comes to visit the second time is so charming, and her decision that the two young people must be dating and living together regardless of their denials is hilarious.

The storylines are very Chinese. In one, Operations has to deal with a well-connected supplier selling sub-par mooncakes, and in another, a delivery girl convinces Zi Qi to sign for Xing Ren’s package, which turns out to be a box of  empty bottles and not the cosmetics she’s ordered. Both the delivery girl and the online seller have disappeared, of course.

emotionall munches broccoli

But my favorite arc is about Zi Qi eating broccoli. That guy does so much moody broccoli chewing, and emotional discussion of broccoli, and dramatic announcements about broccoli.


Anyway, I’m about ten episodes in, and I expect to become fluent any day now.

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Groupon Coupons

Groupon coupons sponsored post! All opinions are my own.


At first, I was a little bit confused by the pitch for this sponsored post. I mean, isn’t the Groupon discounted price already basically a coupon? Isn’t that kinda what Groupon already does?

But actually the new Groupon Coupons are online or in-store coupons for popular brands. Groupon Coupon helps users save money, just like the group discounts on the main Groupon site, but with the coupons, you don’t need a certain number of other signups to get the discounts. Instead, you just find the store’s name, and browse available coupons. I was happy to see well-known stores like Barnes & Noble, Starbucks, and Sephora in the coupon aggregator. I also found EA Origin’s coupon shop for discounted online games, including a free 48-hour demo of the Sims 4.

ea origins

You can sign up to get alerts for coupons for brands you like, too.  Starbucks and Sephora have great products, and when I’m rich, I will go there every day, but for now, I always like to find a discount so I don’t feel like I’m wasting money on lipgloss and lattes. (Now that the Starbucks gold card gives rewards drinks based on dollars spent, and not drinks ordered, it looks like using a Groupon coupon for discounted coffee or related projects, and paying with your Starbucks card would still be adding to the balance towards a free drink… maybe the switch from drinks to dollars isn’t all bad.) And you can follow Groupon on Facebook and Twitter to get new deals.

Groupon coupons sponsored post! All opinions are my own, if you’ve been reading for a while, you probably already know that I love Sims, Sephora and Starbucks. 

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A More Honest Introduction

I started taking my first courses for grad school, and although I was very, very excited to be in this program and to begin this stage of my life, the first assignment was a vague and dull self-introduction with mandatory comments on other student’s introductions. We were asked to share our favorite books, which is a pretty annoying prompt because I have about twenty favorite books for different reasons or to go with different moods. Maybe more than twenty.  I was really hoping that a literary crowd would know that asking for one favorite book is a silly question.

We were also supposed to share what we write personally, and even when specifically asked in a creative writing classroom, I felt awkward listing my publication credits. I felt pretentious saying I’ve been writing and publishing consistently for about 10 years now, and AT THE VERY SAME TIME I felt like a hack who’s never been published anywhere that’s a recognized name and doesn’t require an explanation of what kind of outlet it is.

My honest introduction would probably be:

I wrote some stuff for games, some of them shipped. I wrote some stuff for magazines, some are still in business. I swear a lot in Chinese, and sometimes I have simple Mandarin conversations, too. 


Probably shouldn’t write that, though.

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Performed Happiness and Real Friendships in “Still Here” | (The) Absolute

I have a new piece up on (The) Absolute:

The blurb for Lara Vapnyar’s upcoming novel Still Here says the book is about an app that will keep digital profiles alive after the owner has died. The app will do this by searching for patterns the original poster used and applying those patterns to the account after death.  Actually, that’s about as far as I got in the blurb before I knew I had to read this novel.

And yes, this story is about digital personas, how we craft our online identities, how we make our lives seem happier and fuller online, and how much our technology knows about us. And, yes, it’s about what happens to those personas when we die. But it’s also an unsentimental look at the relationships between exes and romantic near-misses.


Via “Still Here” Confronts The Dating Profile Afterlife | (The) Absolute

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Mandarin in Five Scenes

#1 I’m in Yantai, Shandong province, 2006. I’m just beginning to recognize Mandarin characters, mostly from a baby book I buy myself when it turns out that my school’s promised “English lessons” are curriculum-free hours with a teacher who’s too embarrassed to correct me. I recognise both 大, big and then 林, forest, and I’m delighted to find two readable words in a sentence, but my friend Lily is not too embarrassed to tell me I’m wrong, and that 大林 actually means Stalin. I’m pretty sure that Mandarin is a massive conspiracy just to screw with me.

#2 I’m teaching ESL in Boston, 2016. My students are playing Celebrity Password, and one of them gives another student Stalin as their clue. There is a short argument over whether this person is famous enough to be a good clue, with some students insisting that everyone knows this person, and some insisting they’ve never heard of him. I settle this by writing  大林, the Chinese characters for Stalin, on the board next to the English. Because of course that’s something I know in Mandarin.

#3 The Chinese word for alien is 外星人, Other Star Person. I find it in a Chinese reading, and it sticks in my mind because it’s adorable and also it’s enough like foreigner, 外国人, Other Country Person, that for a moment, Mandarin seems logical and cute.

#4 In another class this summer, one of my students plays alien abduction in Apples to Apples, and I can explain it in Chinese, because of course that’s something I know. Ok, so I need to rely on a rising hand gesture with take, but still.

#5 After this, my students refuse to believe that the Mandarin vocabulary for soviet heads of state and for extraterrestrials are just random flukes, and that actually I struggle with anything more than the most rudimentary conversations. They insist that I speak fluent Chinese, and nothing I can say, no matter how bad my tones are or how halting my responses, can convince them otherwise.

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Invisible Monsters

eevee's ready to fightI’ve been having so much fun playing Pokemon Go on campus. I don’t even care that much about the Pokemon franchise, and there’s not a whole lot of gameplay, but being part of such a large-scale augmented reality is amazing. Pokemon Go is pretty much a location checkin game, with a bit of threeway capture-the-flag thrown in, but man, I love having a cute invisible world all around me,  and I love seeing others checking out of the real world and checking into our shared Pokemon fantasy.

The other day, I followed a lure to Pokestop by the campus bookstore, and joined a bunch of teenagers at sportsball camp (lacrosse? I think?), a family on a pre-college visit, one of the groundskeepers, and some other virtual Pokemon hunters sitting on the grass catching invisible monsters.

I’ve also been trying to dress like an adult for classes, which means that my students are constantly shocked to see me chasing Pokemon or to hear that I play. Today I was in my cardigan and skirt in the hallway, listening to students talking about challenging the Pokemon in the nearest invisible gym. They knew I was there, but they didn’t know it was my Eevee they were discussing.

This is the cyberpunk future I’ve dreamed about.

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Oh, My Sweet Summer Children


Catching a few Pokemon before bed.

Students: Can we have class outside?

Me: No, we can’t run around campus catching Pokemon during class.

Students: How did you know about that?!?!?!?

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I just went to the liquor store to bring a bottle of prosecco to Tiffany and Diego’s place tomorrow. This is exciting to me, because I think it’s nice to bring a bottle of wine when I got to see friends, but that means that I always stop on the way there. See also: Every birthday card or wedding card that I’ve ever signed was purchased on the way there.

Not only was I shopping in advance, but I even brought a canvas bag for carrying the prosecco home. The city of Cambridge now charges extra for plastic bags, which is a pretty good motivator for to bring my SXSW bag when I’m going shopping, but actually I only remember it about half the time. (I’m pretty sure an NPR or a public library tote stored permanently in my purse is the next logical step)

Anyway, I was pretty proud of myself and this newfound advance planning thing.

And then I got carded.

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Jane Austen Fanfiction

Not on the Common. Still Janeite.

I was reading on the Common after class the other day when — ugh, this is one of the times when truth is misleading. This sounds like I left a well-executed English lesson, scooped up my papers, and walked across the street to the park to sit in the sunshine and read literature, doesn’t it? Picture me with my pencil skirt and wedge heels, partly because that’s what I actually wear to class, and partly because that’s what an English teacher reading the part ought to wear, right?

Actually, I’ve been subbing, so my students ask me perfectly natural questions about their schedule changes or the absence policy or other things no one’s explained to me, and I have to admit that I can’t possibly help them. I mean, I’ve barely found the copier and spare pens. A lot of my class time is spent realizing that my 20-minute activity is going to take 40 minutes at least, or vice versa.

So when I say I’ve been reading on the Common, what I actually mean is that I leave class,  toss myself onto an empty patch of grass, and enjoy the delightful silence and solitude. And then I start reading about the further adventures of Mr. Darcy, which is what I meant to tell you about in the first sentence.

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Me, as a first-year teacher: Teaching is a noble calling, and I will change lives in the classroom. I will share my love of language and literature, and I’ll encourage my students to be their best. Decades later, my students will look back on their year with me as a positive and formative experience, and they’ll remember my class fondly.

Me, today: This summer teaching job is great! This school provides enough whiteboard markers and binder clips! I can make enough photocopies for class! Teachers are treated so well here!

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