Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Tuesday was really Monday

Having just come back from holiday, Tuesday easily felt like a Monday--in every way. I was running late for work. When I got to the company parking garage, I found that my headlights refused to turn off, even with key out of the ignition and the headlights knob turned to off. And my high beam indicator light kept blinking. So, I had to get all my important work done as fast as I could before running out to my car dealership. Luckily, Chevrolet has a shuttle service to take people back to their work/home. Too bad, there was a half hour wait for it. Oh well, I was driven back to work by a nice, elderly man. At the end of the day, I had to take a cab home because my car still wasn't ready, . But I had a really nice cab driver who told me how an Asian guy (actually, he said "oriental") puked on his cab door last Friday and he had to charge him $50. At least the guy was lucid enough to apologize. And luckily, whatever the guy consumed was mostly comprised of water.

Anyway, I had a nice visit back home. My only complaint is that it went by so fast that I didn't get a chance to call up any friends. So much time was set aside as family time, I din't want to try and cram too much in. I don't like doing McDonald's drive-thru visits with several people in a short time just so you can feel less guilty and know that you more or less hung out with everyone. Next time, though, I definitely hope to see some old pals. I spent a good party of my time channeling my inner Martha Stewart--without the domestic Nazism--and make a lunch for all my female relatives. If I do say so myself, it turned out pretty well. As you can see below, I had these plants for centerpieces. I saw in a book called The Secret Life of Food how to make faux flower pots with chocolate cake and cookie crumbs for soil. Oh, and my 7-year-old "niece" (cousin's daughter) subjected me to the joy of High School Musical. It's that Disney Channel TV movie that's all the rage with the pre-teen audiences. Lord help me, but I actually enjoyed it. If a man has an inner child, a woman has an inner teeny bopper. Sidenote: if Lisa is reading this, I think you would definitely like this movie.

Well, I certainly hope my Wednesday turns out a lot better than my Tuesday that was a Monday in disguise.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Never mind the cha-ching

Shhh...I'm doing this entry during my lunch hour. Sorry if it's unprofessional but I need a little diversion.

Alas, I was mistaken about my paycheck. I think I'm owed like two days of pay, not two weeks. I'd forgotten how much the government will take of one's hard-earned money .

So, the state of Arizona definitely has its share of kooks. I saw this press release from the governor's office yesterday announcing that Gov. Janet Napolitano had officially signed a bill banning bestiality into law. You would think not committing lewd acts with animals would sort of be a rule that goes without saying. The fact that they have to make it a real law is creepy. I believe this whole thing was spawned by an incident where last year, a 52-year-old fireman tried to do some nasty things with his next-door neighbor's pet lamb.

Well, guess I should get back to work. Have to tie up loose ends before I go home this weekend--my first visit since moving here. Alas, I won't be able to see everyone I want to. But a short visit is better than no visit.

Friday, May 19, 2006

My first paycheck...cha-ching...well, more like ping!

Yes, I really have gone almost six weeks without a paycheck. I got caught in a terrible web of HR issues. Apparently changing anything about my profile in the company system is more work than pulling a whole mouthful of teeth. The clueless HR lady who handles all the Phoenix bureau's new hires mistakenly put my job down as part-time instead of full-time. I finally got my first paycheck yesterday. Unfortunately, it's only for the most recent pay period, not for the first four weeks I worked. By starting work on a Friday, I knocked the whole AP payment system off its axis, or something akin to that. Hopefully, in a few weeks, I'll get the rest of what I'm owed. Still, I have more money than I did last week. Here's to that darn glass only filling up half-way.

I shall end this post on a totally different topic. The other day, I was thinking about Asians in the media. And I asked Sandy "Do you think William Hung's 15 minutes are finally all used up?" Not to disrespect him, but I'm so tired of seeing an Asian get recognized for having no talent. Well, I must have stirred up something in the universe because today I read this: William Hung crowned 'Artichoke King'.

Stupid-ass Castroville. The Artichoke Festival's arts and crafts director openly admitted more or less they're using him. They want him to perform for his musical butchering skills. Argh! Make him go away and get a real career.

Monday, May 15, 2006

On the road to Tucson while nefarious activities await at home

For someone who honestly believes she has no social life here, I had a surprisingly fun-filled weekend. Saturday, I left the house at 7:45 a.m. (yeah, it was a little tough) and started the two-hour drive eastward to Tucson to visit my friend Sandy, who just wrapped up a school year at University of Arizona. But mid-way through the drive, I detoured to the city of Casa Grande for an awards luncheon given by AP. Every year, our bureau gives out awards for lots of different categories to our member newspapers who subscribe to our news service. I guess it's a good way to foster a cooperative relationship and pat all those Arizona newspapers, big and small, on the back. I went to the luncheon early to attend a seminar on reporting and another on photography. The entire affair was at the Francisco Grande Resort. It's a funny site in the middle of all this desert. Casa Grande looks like Gilroy but without agriculture. And here you have this resort. The first thing I saw when I pulled up was a guy with a visor and golf shorts standing by his car door serenely folding some business pants on a hanger -- to give you an idea of the crowd that hangs out there. Anyway, both seminar sessions were interesting, especially the photography one. Part of my job is to call the photo editors at every member paper and remind them to submit more stand-alone photos to our bureau; in other words, I'm an incessant nag. During the photography session, which was led by a western region photo editor, a photo editor from the Prescott Daily Courier raised his hand and said "I know you want us to submit more photos to AP. But it's really hard sometimes to find photos. And they--I mean that new gal there is always calling us." And that's when Matt, an AP staff photog and one of my co-workers, chimed in: "And she's sitting to your left." Lucky for the editor, he didn't come off sounding annoyed or anything and I know he wasn't insinuating anything. Still, it was funny to see him caught off guard.

At lunch, I got to sit next to my boss. All nine of us from AP shared a table with Senator Jon Kyl--the keynote speaker--and his wife Caryll. I got to shake both their hands and Mrs. Kyl thought we met before. She said I looked soooo familiar. I had to ignore an urge to make a comment about Asians looking alike. For those of you who have no idea who Kyl is, he is John McCain's junior-ranking partner-in-crime. They both made Time magazine's Top 10 list of America's best senators (neither of California's made it...wah). One of the Senate committees he serves on is the Senate Judiciary Committee which means he got to preside over all those fun Supreme Court Justice nomination hearings. He's a lot more conservative than McCain. I actually kind of like McCain. Alas, he was not a speaker. Oh, after Kyl left, his challenger in this year's election, Jim Pederson, came to speak. It's sad to see that long-winded answers is a quality that crosses party lines. The only highlight I took away from lunch was the salad (see picture below). So, of course, I took a picture. Boy, the pics in this blog must make me look like a pig.

Anyway, I finally made it to Tucson at 4:30 p.m. and spent the night. Sandy was kind enough to take me around for the rest of the weekend. I got a taste of two different neighborhoods through our meals. Saturday's dinner was at Feast, a yuppie but yummy restaurant. With colorful walls and gourmet imported goods on the shelf, it had a Dean & Deluca feel except plenty of places to sit down. Sunday brunch, we ate at Tooley's Cafe which feels like Santa Cruz but in the desert (see pic below). Rusty, antique furnishings, brick wall, flies buzzing around--which pretty much characterizes the entire Lost Barrio, the name for the block Tooley's is on. Except for the cafe, the rest of the block is full of funky, Southwest-theme antiques. But with my income, I could only afford brunch and a glass of prickly pear ice tea at Tooley's.

Oh, gee, this post is getting long and I haven't even touched on the nefarious activities. When I got home at 7:30 last night, the first thing my roommate Gaby told me was that somebody tried to steal her truck from the complex parking lot, making it the second time that's happened! Only this time, the two security guys here caught the criminal party. It was four Mexican American guys who live in the neighboring apartment building. Supposedly, they are sitting in jail right now. Honestly, can't be that hard for them to find a legitimate way of making money that doesn't involve stripping a car. For the first time ever, I bought a club for my car last week. I used not have to worry about that. What a shame. Oh, the other bad development is much more disturbing. When I left Saturday morning, I remember seeing a little dixie cup with milk that someone left on a pathway in our complex for the cats that run around. I thought someone was trying to be nice. And there were several of them scattered throughout the building. Well, last night, one of my neighbors who sits on the board of directors of the condo complex told me that in the last few days, they had seen a lot of cat vomit around the place. And this one resident has openly said he hates cats and will do anything to get rid of the strays who come around. So, everyone suspects he is the one who put those cups out except the cats are more likely drinking the Kool-Aid rather than milk. Someone is actually getting the milk analyzed to be sure. I really hope it's not true because that is just frickin' disturbing. And here's another great fact: I heard this guy is friends with a resident in our building who has a reputation for being racist. Gee, I think Melrose Place was less freakier. Anywho, for now on, I'll have my ears and eyes open for any suspicious objects or cups around the building.

The outdoor patio of Tooley's Cafe. Seriously, if Mexico and Santa Cruz merged, they might have eateries that look like this.  Posted by Picasa

The world's tiniest leftovers box, courtesy of Feast where one can find "tasteful take-out." Posted by Picasa

Cutest way I've seen to present a salad. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

No hablo china, por favor.

Saw the season finale of "Veronica Mars." Palms-down the best TV show on right now. Ok, that was random. Time to switch gears.

So, this past weekend, I ate at a Mexican fusion place called Barrio Cafe and dim sum at The Great Wall. Guess where I ended up using my so-so Spanish-speaking skills? Yup, the Chinese restaurant. Funny how things work out.

Barrio Cafe is this very popular Mexican restaurant in a somewhat sketchy area. My roommate warned me that in there back parking lot is where someone broke a window in her car. Even my Aunt Karen told us not to go there. But, the place has such a reputation, I was determined to go. My mom and I just parked across the street in this Mexican strip mall and jay-walked like everyone else around Phoenix does so well. Barrio has an artsy Mexican decor and despite the neighborhood, all the customers were white. I only saw one Mexican and he was an employee. Food-wise, this eatery has a special place in my stomach. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera. So, I can't show the food. But if anyone knows of a Mexican restaurant in the Bay Area where you can get churros stuffed with caramel made with goat's milk with vanilla ice cream and candied pecan bits on the side, please let me know!

The next day, we took my roommate Gaby out for dim sum. She had never tried it before. And if you know my mom, you know that is a travesty she must correct. When it comes to Chinese food, the woman can go all Jehovah's Witness on you. At the table next to ours sat three Chinese guys. They were joined belatedly by two Mexican guys. One of the Chinese men was their boss and he invited them to lunch. One of the Mexican dudes started chatting with Gaby. Guess he was drawn in because we were the only other table with Chinese and Mexican groups being represented. But he was really surprised when I started speaking Spanish too. It was really odd for him to hear espanol coming out of my mouth. He said I should teach Chinese to Gaby. And that's when I had to shamefully admit my Spanish was much better than my Cantonese. If Gaby wants to learn Chinese, she's better off hanging out in Ranch 99. Yup, Phoenix has an interesting make-up of people.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Wow, it's been a month.

I have officially been living and working in Phoenix for a month now. Man, didn't think I'd make it past the first week. It was dreadfully slow. Things are better. I at least feel like I've gotten to the point where I feel comfortable joking with co-workers. Before, I was keeping it formal and focusing on learning the ropes. I have to say, so far, it's proving to be the nicest workplace I've been at in terms of the people. I doubt my boss, the news editor, would fly into a tirade at other staffers littered with curse words like f*** or c*** (I've heard it all). And even when everyone is focused on their work, they don't give off an I-can't-be-bothered vibe. Now that I'm at my Nth journalism setting, there are a few workplace truths that seem to be universal.

1. Advertising/marketing and editorial departments never mix. Our sales staff works out of the office right now 'til our new bureau is finished. Even when it's done, I heard they will rarely be seen -- like they're too important to mingle with us.

2. The guys who cover sports are almost always rambunctious, frat-boy types. The main sports reporter here, Bob, is really cool and really, shall we say, vocal. I can always hear him from the other side of the room. He's really liberal and looks a tad like Mark Twain, except in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts. He openly talks about his personal life. Bob is in his second marriage, which he said "is better than his first -- in an odd way." Or a reporter will give quotes over the phone to Bob and he'll say "I put the 'dic' in dictation!"

3. Editorial assistants (my position) always get the odd research and go-fetch tasks. I have to do things sometimes like go down to the county courthouse and track down a search warrant affidavit or lawsuit. I've also been learning how to browse the public court records on-line. Yesterday, I had to find out any information about this Jamaican man who was just sentenced to 13 months in jail for trying to enter the country illegally. Apparently, he paid a Mexican doctor in Arizona to remove skin from his toes and attach it to his fingers to "clean" his identity. Sheesh, the U.S. is great but I don't think it's worth surgically altering oneself.

On another subject, my mother is visiting me this week. Yesterday, we went to First Fridays. During the first Friday of every month, downtown Phoenix galleries and some retails shops open 'til 11 p.m. It's actually pretty cool. I didn't know Phoenix had this whole artistic, somewhat punk subculture. Musicians and artists can set up shop pretty much wherever. Someone put all their paintings on display in an empty U-haul truck and decorated the inside with X-mas lights. One band set up speakers and lights in a dirt parking lot and the drummer sat on the back of a pick-up truck and the rest of the guitarists stood on the ground in front of him. It's like NYC's East Village in the desert. You either come away thinking 'Wow, Phoenix has a great bohemian atmosphere' or 'Wow, more people in Phoenix need jobs.'