Gloom Lives

This picture, from months ago, is from when I first noticed the house at 224 Sea Cliff Ave. First impression: it looks haunted. The feverish sherbet orange, the broken wall, rusty prison fencing, boarded and empty windows… fascinating. You really have to see it from above. The walkway winding down the cliff looks like spilt entrails. I had never been this far down on Baker Beach, never seen a house in this neighborhood neglected like this. After, I looked for the house from the street side and found that it was for sale.

If you look up the address or the current owner, you’ll find a sordid history. It was once used as a storage facility for a multimillion dollar art heist. The owner is serving a prison sentence for things like wire fraud and tax evasion. According to Zillow, a sale was pending December 2019, then again May 2020, but neither sale was completed: what disclosures, what rot caused two buyers to back out? Sotheby’s was once the realtor, but they gave up. No interior photographs are available. The house itself is scheduled to be auctioned city hall on August 13, 2020.

I am strangely drawn to this house, which I’ve begun to call Gloom. My little obsessions have always been unreasonable, and this one is no exception. Sometimes I say hi to Gloom from the beach, if the high tide hasn’t blocked access. Sometimes I look towards Gloom in the fog and wonder what it looks like inside. Sometimes I think about the gloom and neglect, and it makes me sad. I must sound like a nut. Don’t worry, it’s just curiosity: no threat of trespass or harm.

As with any other hopeless crush, Gloom and I have a song. Here it is, please enjoy:

Through cloud and sunshine, abide with me.

Names I like

This post was inspired by the arrival of a new baby to one of my oldest friends. A child they have named after a bird. It is hard to name a boy, so I understand. Here are some themes for naming I find promising:

Names ending in -er

These emphasize action and usefulness. Or employed-ness. Or at least being well-off enough to be doing obscure leisure things. Or none of the above, there’s just something pleasant about the -er ending. Examples: Hunter, Archer, Alexander, McAllister, Winter, September.

Town names/Family names

Towns were once upon a time named after someone, usually. I don’t mean towns like “New York City.” Examples: Hartington, Hadley, Montgomery, Savannah, Exeter, Lexington, Coventry, Devon*.

Names from nature

It is hard to choose a name from this category and not have it sound too-hippie (Rain, River, Meadow, Lark). The answer is to go for slightly obscure ones. Examples: Linden, Aster, Bryony, Laurel.

Bad things that sound nice

There are some words that sound pleasant but have meanings that aren’t great. While none of the ones I like are common as names, I know that Amara is used as a name and means “bitter” in Italian. Examples: Arson, Avarice**, Invidia, Aryan (but misspelled as Aerian), Sarin, Heroin.

Well, maybe it’s a good thing I’ve never been in charge of naming things other than my own electronics and a few cats. Funny though, I prefer animals to have traditionally human names. This exercise was fun. I hope I’ve shown that it’s possible to give a child a unique name without it rendering them un-hirable.

*Though I think the spelling “Devin” is more promising because it’s less likely to be mispronounced as something like De-Von.

** I know someone named for the corresponding virtue: Charity. So why not bring some balance to the world. Funny enough, she has a sister named Saren.

Sleep Hygiene

I visited a friend earlier this year, and we were out with his wife at a board game party having a grand ole time. At some not-unreasonably-late hour his wife said “I have to go home now, it’s my bedtime.” I thought this was strange: I haven’t personally had a bedtime since middle school. I responded “It’s fine: tomorrow’s a holiday, so no one has a bedtime!” She narrowed her eyes at me and said, “Well, *I* maintain good sleep hygiene.” Can’t argue with that! We left the party and (one hopes) got back in time for bed.

I had no idea what the phrase “sleep hygiene” meant at the time. What she said to me made me wonder if I was somehow a dirty sleeper. I mean, sure: I drool. Luckily for me, another friend soon recommended a book which explained everything. It’s by Matthew Walker, and it’s called Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams.

Other than the basics of what exactly we mean by “sleep hygiene” (a simple google search can answer that), the book describes research on the phases of sleep and each of their relevance in our waking lives. It answered some questions I have always had such as:

  • Why do I work on a math problem for hours and feel completely stuck only to wake up from a nap with the correct solution?
  • Why do I show more improvement in piano the next day than after an hour of practice?
  • Why do I feel more hungry if I didn’t sleep well the night before?
  • Why do I have worse self-control if I’m sleep deprived?
  • Why was it so hard to wake up early and go to sleep early as a teenager?
  • Why do old people sleep less?
  • Can you actually die of sleep deprivation?

Anyway, I highly recommend the book. It’s one of my bibles now, along with Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Dr. Jason Fung’s The Obesity Code. Though I am not quite as strict about bedtime as my friend’s wife, I have learned a lot from the book about the myriad of benefits of a good night’s sleep and the perils of not sleeping enough. Plus, now I have science on my side when I argue that it’s good for me and not just pure laziness that I sleep as much as I do!

I was a stupid child

Forgive me if I’ve told some of these stories already. These all happened in elementary school.

Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein was in the news constantly when I was about 6. The news was on in the background of my life several times a day. As a result, I heard about Saddam Hussein constantly. But I never looked up to see how his name was spelled. I heard “Saddam, who sang”. It was curious that I never heard him sing during any of the news segments featuring him. I wondered (to myself) — “If this guy is so good at singing that they can’t say his name without mentioning that he sang, how come we never get to hear him sing?” I also wanted to know what he sang. I imagined him wearing a tux and white gloves, singing our national anthem, wildly gesticulating in the air.

No stove, no problem

I was forbidden from using the stove. But my dad was also grumpy if I woke him up from naps. Once, I got hungry while he was asleep and decided to make myself a grilled cheese sandwich. Since I couldn’t use the stove, I figured the toaster could work. I put a Kraft single with one of the pieces of bread, pressed the lever, and waited. When the toast was done, the cheese had disappeared. I thought, “The toaster must’ve been hungry. Poor toaster. We always put bread in but we never feed the toaster.” So I tried again with more cheese. This time, the toaster started smoking and my dad woke up. He was pissed. He imposed a new rule for the toaster: only bread.

No stove, no toaster, no problem

The same happened again. Dad asleep, no stove, no toaster. There was cold pizza, and we had a microwave, but I didn’t like flabby microwaved pizza. Oven was off limits too. So I asked myself what makes things warm that I am allowed to use. I considered the hair dryer, but that would wake up grumpy dad. I settled on the VCR, which has that convenient slot like a toaster, and also does warm up the cassettes while playing them. The thing is, a VCR doesn’t “play” slices of pizza, and it doesn’t “eject” them either. I pretended none of it happened. My dad was not happy to find the pizza some days after, but at least I wasn’t banned from using the VCR.

The right to bear arms

I guess I heard about this on the news too. The phrase “constitutionally protected second amendment right to bear arms” was in my head from an early age but I thought it meant that as a U.S. citizen, I had the legal right to go around with sleeveless shirts in public whenever I wanted. One sunny day, I wanted to wear a tank top out and my mom wanted me to put on a jacket. I said I didn’t have to. She disagreed. Loudly. I told her “I have a constitutionally protected second amendment right to bare arms.” She had no idea what I was talking about. I explained my legally protected right to show my bare arms in public. She said “If that’s true your country has strange laws but I’m your mother so I still get to tell you what you wear out of the house.” I put on my jacket.

Freedom of speech

I got in trouble constantly at school for talking in class. I had nothing better to do once my schoolwork was complete, so I’d pester my neighbors. I was thrilled to discover that the first amendment gives me freedom of speech. When I was told by my teacher to stop talking in class, I said “I have a first amendment right to freedom of speech. I CAN TALK IF I WANT TO!” I got sent to the principal’s office for that. They had to drag my mom in to tell me that at school, students don’t have that right. Oops.

Always impolite

I was at a dinner my uncle put on for his boss when I was about 5. His boss was a large man. When I met him he was eating a plate full of hors d’oeuvres, so my first question to him was “Did you know that you are REALLY FAT?” Every adult in the room gasped, audibly or inaudibly, and went silent. Luckily for me, the boss thought I was hilarious and replied, laughing, “Yes, I know.” I continued my line of questioning: “So why are you STILL EATING?” He looked embarrassed, but kept eating.

When I grow up

At the same dinner, all of us kids were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. I had no idea what that meant. “What do you mean, what I want to BE?” The boss explained, “If you work hard, you can be whatever you want to be when you grow up.” Shocked, I repeated “ANYTHING? I can be ANYTHING?” He nodded. I struggled with the infinitude of possibilities. I looked around at everything in the room. Had all of these inanimate objects once been people? A person who wanted to be a spoon? A dining room table? A television? My cousins answered first: a veterinarian and a race car driver. When it was my turn to answer, I said “If I can be anything, I guess I want to be a bathtub.” Because I liked to take baths. What could be better than not having to do anything but take baths. The boss thought this was funny too.

I’m not sure I’ve grown out of the stupidity, but the stories are less funny now that I’m older. Happy Thursday.


New year resolutions are like goals. Depressing. I like Barack Obama’s opinion on them: that he’d rather evaluate daily whether he’s going in the right direction. Not once a year. Still, here we are. I have a word of the year (a concept I saw first in a Mormon family blog). I have assorted resolutions. I also have a small rant on why goals and resolutions are depressing. Let’s begin.


My word of 2018 is vagheggiar. Funny that I should choose a word in a language I don’t speak. A word I can’t pronounce. And one that I only vaguely know the meaning of (and only through googling and google translating). Why? Google translate tells me it means “contemplate with joy.” But it also suggests that I translate it from Corsican. In which case it means “wandering.” This word. I figure, if I can live my life and not feel that everything was forgettable at best and a waste of time at worst, that would be something. I have never considered time that spent contemplating with joy (or wandering) to be either forgettable or a waste.


Discount first impressions. Mine are rarely accurate. My imagination fills in blanks that aren’t there. Mostly to ascribe positive attributes to beautiful people and assign fault to unattractive ones. This is… one of my biggest failings.

Play Liebestraum like Lang Lang. At least give it a serious go and practice daily.

Pay more attention to finances. My frivolous expenditures are so frivolous. I own a killer whale shaped paperweight named “Mumu” and I have neither papers to weight, nor wind in my house, nor a desk. I own every kitchen thing known to man. And I’m not sure that benign neglect is the best investment strategy. Nor, I’m sure, is letting money pile up in checking and being periodically shocked that I have that many dollars in checking and that many checking accounts.

Learn how to write. Engrosser’s script is what I’m starting with. I need to spend a lot more time with spacing and regularity of single strokes and letters before I can move on to actual words. See above. Looks ok when I’m following the lesson, but quickly falls apart when I attempt to write my word.


The reason I find goals and resolutions depressing is that they remind me of how limited I am as an individual. If I could not fail, I would have goals like “Never spend another second waiting. Not in line, not on hold, not for a response, not for a bus, not in traffic. Not even at a red light. Never again.” Or “Create a secret social club with a Pac Heights mansion as headquarters and have only interesting people as members.” I would have many other grandiose, unprintable goals.


10 things on a Monday

Post format blatantly copied from one of my favorite Mormon family blogs, the aptly named Dripping with Passion.

Always eat what gets soggiest fastest first. I don’t know. I just woke up one day years ago with this sentence repeating in my mind. It has a nice sound to it. But also, it’s true. If you leave it for later then it gets… soggier than the other stuff that you did eat first! Okay.

It will fit better if you lose weight. This wasn’t always true, but now that oversized things are an acceptable fashion concept (think of robe jackets, boyfriend jeans, loose shirts and hoodies), it’s true now. I remind myself of this whenever I decide I can’t live without some piece that looks awkward on me.

I find things worth buying if and only if I haven’t picked up a basket/cart at the entrance.

(Corollary to 3) I find things worth photographing mainly when I don’t have anything to take pictures with.

A good reason I have found to reject solipsism is that I couldn’t possibly make up so many other people that cause a low level of annoyance everywhere I go. There’s at least one other mind that is out there trolling the hell out of me. Or, alas, all of these thoroughly objectionable others actually exist.

I recently discovered the following quote:

Imagination is the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow.

— William Blake

The phrase “vegetable universe” made me laugh, but it’s probably unfair to vegetables. You know, the theme that they’re ineffectual, etc. Sort of related to (5), this view is similar to Kant’s objection to the ontological argument for the existence of God. Are real things really greater than imaginary things? My argument against isn’t fancy at all. I don’t bother to imagine the petty annoyances of everyday existence that would mar the perfection of an utterly perfect being.

Exciting things pile up on top of each other. Most of the time my schedule is so empty that tumbleweeds roll through. Then, once in a while, I’ll get invited to 3 things I really want to do … all on the same evening. Not any special date, either. Just a random Friday in October.

I may have agreed to cook for 20 people over a long weekend. Not from my own kitchen. This is giving me anxiety. I’ve never done this before, besides my failed audition to be a cook during co-op job assignment week. Wish me luck and send me recipes that little engineer hipsters would like.

I am that person who makes eye contact with your dog and breaks out in a manic smile. (And maybe produces some small excited squeak). I don’t care about babies and children, but dogs? Especially large dogs? Yes, please! I hope dog owners don’t find it too disturbing. My boyfriend said that I should stop because people think I want to eat their dogs. I guess this means I make the same face for “You are adorable, let me pet you!” and “You look delicious, let me devour you!”

I have a teenaged half-sister who I’ve never met. But we’re friends on Facebook. She posted the following quote on her wall:

Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

— Pablo Neruda

I don’t know whether to be proud or to shake her and say “No, child. Don’t be like me.”

The emperor’s naked

Or, “This is why I’m cheap.”

There are many factors that go into the price of a consumer product. The only one I willingly spend more on is marginal cost of production. That is, how much it costs to make one more unit of the item. This factor includes things like cost of materials, labor, electricity to run the factory, etc. In most cases (i.e., besides in the case of inefficiently produced goods), marginal cost of production is directly correlated with quality.

Wine is a good example of this. Did you know that even wine experts can’t tell expensive from cheap wine? Or that people report wine tasting better just because they’re told it’s expensive? They aren’t lying: the increased pleasure shows in their brain scans. Here’s the solution to the wine problem: have your friends bring you cheap wine and tell you it’s expensive. Do the same for your friends.

Here’s another great example:


The MSRP on this designer (Eames Hang-it-all) coat rack is $199. But on Amazon, you can find one that looks similar for about $35. It’s even lower on Alibaba. We can assume the marginal cost of production is less than $30. Why does the original cost 6x as much? If there is really a noticeable quality difference, that would be fine, but for me, that would justify a price difference of 2x at most. Is it that the designer gets a royalty? Again, that would be fine, if most of the markup went into the designer’s pocket. However, I don’t think that happens. So why the price difference?

Here are things I won’t pay extra for: advertising, exclusivity, gimmicks, company bloat. I especially won’t pay for what I’m guessing is the most common reason things are overpriced for what they are: no reason at all. Simply to line the pockets of whoever is selling the overpriced things.

I wish the price tag of each item included MCP (marginal cost of production), so we could all be informed consumers and know what percent of our purchase price is pure bullshit.

What’s in my purse


I remember reading articles in magazines where famous women would empty out their purses for magazines and talk about the contents. They probably got paid to pimp certain brands and products. I understand that I’m not famous and no one cares what’s in my purse, but I thought it’d be fun to write a post about it anyway.

  1. Phone. Okay, not really my phone. But how to take pictures of your phone with your phone? I haven’t gotten to that level of ninja yet. iPhone 6s, if you’re curious. I don’t like that the 7 has a nub camera that sticks out. Or that I have to drill my own headphone jack.
  2. Wallet. It’s not big enough for all the cards I want with me so that leads us to…
  3. Wallet addition. This holds my slightly-less-commonly used cards.
  4. Shopping sac. Yeah, the black rectangle with reindeer and trees. It’s from Monoprix and self-declares as the best shopping sac in the world.
  5. Floss. Worst feeling ever: something stuck between your teeth that you keep trying to dislodge with your tongue. But it won’t budge.
  6. Keys. The boat keychain lets me hang my keys near the door.
  7. Chapstick. Actually, I haven’t needed this in a while. Maybe I should remove it. I’m told this chapstick makes me look like I’ve been feasting on fatty pork. Attractive!
  8. Pen. I can only remember to do things if I write them on my hand. I don’t have the habit of checking notes or productivity apps, but my hand is pretty much always in plain view. Otherwise I have bigger problems.
  9. Comb. I shed like a Persian cat in summer. If I combed my hair inside the apartment my boyfriend would probably evict me.

Before you ask, I don’t have any makeup in my purse because I don’t know anything about it. I sometimes participate in studies where they pay me to apply makeup to my face and report back if I develop a rash, so I’ve decided I only wear makeup if I’m getting paid to do so. Plus, makeup doesn’t make me look cute. It makes me look like Donald Trump.

Poor person fantasies

Someday, I’d like to read an essay by a rich person called “rich person fantasies” because I’d love to know what they fantasize about.

As for me, I’m poor. You might argue with me and point to a starving African orphan, but that’s no fun, is it? I’m poor by my own definition, we’ll leave it at that. For your amusement, these are the things I fantasize about, in no particular order:

A kitchen so large that even if I wanted to put every dish, pot, pan, cake pan, vegetable and spatula on a counter, I’d still have plenty of counter space left over to do gymnastics. A kitchen so large that I could have 25 people in it and none of them would have to touch to get by each other.

I’d have a washer and dryer inside my own house. The kind that dumps the washed clothes straight into the dryer and dries them.

Everything I own would work. The refrigerator roof wouldn’t be dripping water, the hall lights wouldn’t only turn on if the switches at both ends of the hall are in a particular configuration. The car wouldn’t make noises or smoke. My internet would be fast enough that videos don’t pause themselves and require a refresh to play again. I could stream NPR and not have to constantly press play twice to get the stream to restart.

I wouldn’t hear anything I don’t want to hear. No one’s leaf blowers, no arguments with gay lovers, no babies, no loud Indian phone conversations. Certainly not vacuuming from another house.

I would never smell anything I don’t want to smell. No one around me would sleep in their own urine. No one would ever smoke.

When I buy food, I won’t look at the prices. It won’t matter.

These are my fantasies. These things are what keep me feeling poor.