Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Rainiest Place In the World

The rainiest place in the world, in terms of the number of rainy days per year, is Mount Wai-'ale'ale on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. They get 350 days of rain annually.

So I guess I shouldn’t be complaining about 11 straight days of rain here in the Bay Area, but in fact, this news actually upsets me a little bit.

Normally at this time of year, I remind myself that at least it isn’t snowing or freezing cold, and that kind of perspective helps. But now I realize that I could be experiencing 11 straight days of warm, Hawaiian rain. But I’m not.

We don’t get Hawaiian rain around here. We get numbing, seeping, soaking, SAD-inducing, turn-your-umbrella-around, no-hope-of-going-for-a-walk San Francisco rain. And I’m over it. The snowpack is above average. The hills are green. (I know because I saw them through a break in the clouds yesterday.) We don’t need any more rain this week. I don’t need any more rain. I need my shoes to dry out. Please, make it stop!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Just in the Nick of Time

I finished my editing project. I wasn’t sure I would get it done for a minute there, but I got it to FedEx on time.

We now return to my regularly scheduled life.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More Procrastination

This is really addictive: It’s a game called Virtual Pilot, which seems to be a part of the Lufthansa Web site.

In this game, you are shown a European city name, and a map of Europe. You have a limited amount of time to click on that city’s location on the map. While you’re thinking, a little airplane icon is hurtling across the sky, and I’m afraid to see what happens if no selection is made before time runs out.

As a result, I’ve been making a lot of panicky choices. It’s probably best I never got into aviation. I’m discovering that, among other things, I have no concept of Italian airport locations, and that’s a country I’ve actually flown into. And I was about 1,000 miles off on the location of the Faro airport. For some reason I thought the name sounded Scandinavian; it’s in Portugal. I did hit Warsaw and Hamburg right on the nose, though, in spite of never having been to either place.

I doubt that flying for Lufthansa is really like this—at least I hope it isn’t. (“Wait, no, that’s Marseilles. Land! Schnell!”) But it’s a fun game, and like I said, addictive. I’m clicking back there right now.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Procrastination Ploys

Just this morning, when I was supposed to be editing a chapter on casseroles, I was thinking about the Red Room writers’ site. I was thinking about how the site connects authors, but I realized I wasn’t sure how that actually was done.

Suddenly, it seemed imperative that I look into it, but I stifled that urge, recognizing it as a ploy by my id to try to get me to procrastinate. (I didn’t dust all the photographs in the house, riffle through my penny jar, or go shopping for that new set of bookends it wanted me to find, either.)

Oddly enough, though, someone else contacted me today. It was more or less spam, but it was promoting a decent cause—rebuilding the New Orleans public library system—so I didn’t mind. I’m glad to know this feature works.

And if this editing project goes on much longer, I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Ghost of Christmas Past

I think I mentioned that they do Christmas in a big way at Philippine Airlines. Today it was Christmas all over again. I got a fat international envelope in the mail, and inside was the Christmas issue of Philippine Airlines’ magazine.

They sent it to me because I had an article (on Lake Tahoe) in that issue. I’d seen it already, having picked up a copy at the San Francisco office, but it’s always good to have another one. You can’t have too many clips.

What made me merrier still was the check that came along with it. That’s always a nice thing to unwrap! Mabuhay is new to me, so I didn’t know how long they take to pay. I invoiced in December, which isn’t bad at all.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Still raining. It’s just as well, though, since I have a paying gig right now--a nice change of pace. I’m editing a cookbook. Editing is kind of a moonlighting thing for me, but it feels more like a day job because it pays more reliably than freelance writing. I am on a deadline, though, so I can’t take the time for a stroll as easily as I normally do.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I didn’t mean that I thought I might get mugged at the port! If I really thought that might happen, I wouldn’t go there. I was talking about trying some other neighborhood. But as it happens, I didn’t get out today anyway. Maybe tomorrow, if the rain holds off.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Journey of 10,000 Steps

I’ve been using another gift a lot. I got a high-class pedometer for Christmas, which is really coming in handy on my walks. It keeps track of the number of steps I take per day, as well as the distance walked. It seems to be really accurate, unlike others I’ve had that register steps every time they move or get bumped. Once I drove somewhere using an old one, and when I got to where I was going, I discovered that the pedometer had registered 300 additional steps along the way. This one doesn’t do that.

I’m learning a lot with my new toy. One thing I’m learning is that it’s really hard to get to the magic 10,000-step level. I came close the day I walked around the Port of Oakland. In a little over an hour I covered 3.76 miles in 8,526 steps.

I know, I know: That’s not a very brisk pace, and yes, I do take little steps. It’s not a race, it’s fresh air and exercise. I hope to get out more this week, but the weather is supposed to be awful.

(I read somewhere that it’s good to walk in rough neighborhoods in bad weather, because fewer people are hanging around looking for trouble. But I can’t think of anything worse than getting mugged in the rain, so I think I’ll stay in.)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Surprise

Sometimes I write something and I send to a dozen places and I never hear a word from any of them. Or I do, but it’s all rejection. Sometimes I flog a piece around the globe until I’m tired of it, and a little embarrassed for myself. My Thanksgiving turkey story is an example of this. It did end up being published a few places, but with the marketing effort I gave it, I expected to see it on magazine covers, billboards, milk cartons, and maybe on leaflets dumped out of airplanes over major cities.

And then once in a while there is a day like today: This afternoon I discovered that I’d been included in a book with almost no effort on my part. (Not for writing, though; this was a collection of photographs.)

About two years ago, I emailed a photograph of a silly sign I’d seen in Alameda, CA to Signspotting, a weekly column that usually features an unintentionally funny road sign. I forgot about my submission until about a year later, when I received a check from them out of the blue, and saw my photo in the newspaper the following Sunday.

I figured that was the end of the pleasant Signspotting surprises, but today I received a book from them in the mail that I hadn’t ordered. It turned out to be a complimentary copy of the latest Signspotting anthology. They were sending it to me because my Laundromat photo was on page 96.

So now I’m an even bigger fan of Signspotting than I was before. And I’m enjoying the book, too. There’s a lot of very funny stuff in it. So thank you to the Signspotting folks for a late stocking stuffer!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Article Photos

No, they’re not my photos, or John’s, unfortunately. I think they’re just stock and/or promotional photos. I never even visited the hotel pictured on page two—but now I wish I had! That’s quite an atrium.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Shanghai Zen and Now

I finally made it back to the Philippine Airlines office. It wasn’t at all crowded this time and I had no problem picking up a copy of the latest issue. It has my (short) Shanghai article in it, right next to an article about Beijing by my friend John. It’s a small writing world!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Red Room Page Done

I’m an author now, at least as far as the Red Room site is concerned. I’ll probably tweak this page some tomorrow, but it’s live now.

Friday, January 11, 2008

My Red Room Page

Coming up with an author page is more work than I expected. It’s a little sparse still. I’ll be working on it over the weekend. I wanted to show you how it's coming along, but it's not showing up live on the site yet. Maybe Monday.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

In the Club

I met Amy Tan once, and I suspect we both regret it.

I was in college, and had the opportunity to meet Amy Tan and several other authors I admire at a reception after a charity event. I gathered up the courage to approach her as the reception was winding down. She already had her coat on and purse in hand.

“Amy Tan,” I said, realizing as the words came out of my mouth that I had no idea what to say next. She looked up, and I stared at her like the proverbial deer. “Uh, I loved The Joy Luck Club,” I finally blurted. Internally, I was smacking myself on the forehead like Chris Farley’s talk-show host character (“Idiot! I knew I’d screw up!”) and it just didn’t get any less awkward. We stared at each other for what seemed like an hour. Seeing that I was hopelessly tongue-tied, she politely explained that she was on her way out the door and excused herself. As she hurried away, I realized that I could never, ever again speak to someone I admired.

(I’ve broken my own rule a few times, but only under very controlled circumstances: I stammered a few words to the Indigo Girls at a record-signing event once, and a few months ago I imposed myself on two professional soccer players I met on an airplane. In both cases, though, I had a crush of people behind me that I could count on to literally move me forward if necessary.)

I mention this because I am about to have the opportunity to again rub elbows with Amy Tan. This time it’s in cyberspace. She’s one of the authors included in the Red Room site I mentioned yesterday, and, as of this afternoon, so am I.

I haven’t set up my page yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as I do. I’m very excited about one feature of the site in particular, which, if I've understood correctly, allows you to connect to other writers in the way that MySpace and LinkedIn connect friends. I will let you know if I find the courage to ask any other of the authors to do this.

Let’s hope Amy Tan doesn’t remember that we’ve already met.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Red Room

I spoke too soon. I went to the Philippine Airlines office this morning to pick up the latest copy of their in-flight magazine, which should include an article I wrote about Shanghai. But the place was mobbed, so I decided to come back another day. I will post the article when I get a hold of it, but not today.

Instead I want to show you something else I discovered. It’s a site called Red Room, which bills itself as a social networking site for authors--sort of like MySpace with better grammar. It says they’re open to writers both known and unknown, but I’m a little intimidated by the fact that you have to apply. This makes it seem a little more like a sorority with fewer parties. But I applied anyway. They asked me what I write, where I’ve been published, and whether I think Paul Theroux or Tom Wolfe is cuter.

Okay, not really. I just get catty when I’m nervous. I’ll know within a week whether or not I’m one of the cool kids.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Playing With My New Toys

I got something for Christmas that I’m enjoying a lot—a scanner. At first I wanted this so I could make back-ups of old photographs. But I realized a new use for it: I can scan and upload articles, too.

Scanning was easy. My HTML is pretty rudimentary, so uploading was more problematic, but I got it to work—here’s my most recent Philippine Airlines magazine article.

I realize it’s a little shaky. I’ve got another article to upload tomorrow, and I think I can do a better job. Still, I’m pleased with my experiment in web design. (Won’t quit the day job, though.)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Back From Hiatus

Some years it’s hard for me to let go of the holidays. This year for some reason I found it particularly hard to come back from my break. (Wait, doesn’t anyone want to listen to my Christmas mix again?) But I finally have to admit that it’s 2008 and it’s time to get back to blogging.

So let me wish you all a belated happy 2008. You’ve probably all been living in the new year for a week or so now, but it’s kind of new to me. So far, so good!