Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Meaning of Gifting from Paris

Christmas shopping this year has been really difficult for many reasons, and mainly because I'm shopping for people I no longer see on a regular basis, so I have no idea what they want or what they need. A lot of people might just say, oh come on, you live in Paris, just bring back something Parisian...well here's what I found out over the last year and half i've been here - almost everything you can buy in Paris, you can buy in the US - and for a lot cheaper as well. Yes, even the stuff made in France.

Exhibit A: Nuxe Paris
Nuxe is a very popular skincare brand here and I have to admit, they have some really good stuff - and the smell is just wonderful. As this is a relatively unknown brand in North American (unlike Vichy, L'Occitane, Lancome, Yves Rocher, Sephora, I can go on...), generally this would be a great item to get for the women - "hey guys, this is the most popular moisturiser they use in the land of the glam!!"

Except, apparently you can simply get this stuff online on their US branded site, for CHEAPER.

Here is the body lotion on the US Nuxe website for $23 USD for approximate 400 mL

Here is the same one from the French website for 18.6 EUR for 200 ML - which is about $25 at current exchange rate. WTF would be the correct way to describe this....

Well, what about Macaroons, you ask, everyone LOVES macaroons. Well they don't really eat macaroons i'm not sure what you mean....oh, unless you are talking about MacarOns...yes, people always think France = Eiffel Tower, perfume (I'll get to that later), and the land of the "Macaroons", so bringing back macarons must be easy! Well except there's a slight problem - actual good macarons, like baguettes have a life-expectancy of 3-4 days. So even if I were to run to L'aduree or Lenotre the day I leave the country (which is actually possible as there are l'adurees in the airport if i happen to be in the right terminal), there's still the issue of having to see everyone who wants them as soon as I get off the long-haul flight, which, even if I wanted to (and I might not), is almost impossible. Plus, let me show you:

Exhibit B: L'aduree Macarons around the world:

Yes, they even have stores in China. If you really wanted fresh, good macarons, do you really want them flown here in economy from an 8 hour flight from Paris or do you want fresh made ones that you can get from the various US locations? So as much as I'd love to bring everyone good macarons, it's really not possible. I could bring those ones they sell at the tourist stores that lasts up to a year, but I'd be a horrible friend and person if you are not my friend and I'm somehow obligated to bring you back something.

So what else...what else...?
Chocolate? Yea, I brought everyone chocolate last I can't give chocolate every year. Perfume? I can bring perfume right? Sure, if you can't buy them in departments stores in North America already, then the fancy custom ones cost 50-200 EUR a bottle. I'm not made of money....Handbags and fashion accessories? Same story. Oh La Creuset! Same story, except also they are CAST IRON pots and pans so I'm afraid they might not meet flight restrictions. Fois Gras? Illegal, not to mention not very many people i know want to eat those things.

Look, besides the type of tourist garbage that no one wants to import from France (and even those you can get on ebay), thanks to our wonderful global village, nothing in France is special anymore.

I will bring back any of the above under special requests from people (I have had a friend that asked for cough syrup that had codeine in them), but I can't bring it back for everyone I need to buy something for.
Did I mention also that everything here is so goddamn expensive in comparison to Canada and the US? If I wanted to buy something not French, I am better off doing my christmas shopping onsite and not here, but also brings back the entire dilemma of not knowing what to buy for people you haven't seen for a long time...or have never met at all, in this case, Caleb's family in Nevada.

I went Christmas shopping yesterday and that was my divination based on my sore back and exhausted state of being. Perhaps I just need to realize that Christmas gifts are not about getting people what they WANT or NEED, but just buying something to show them that I bought something for you cuz I care?

I like the gifts I give to be meaningful and meaningful is harder and harder these days, with the world becoming one village. It's both a good and a bad thing. The bad thing is that buying something from afar or from somewhere "exotic" no longer counts as being meaningful, but the good thing from that I guess, is that for something to be meaningful, you would have to really know and care for the person, which is what it should be in the first place, no? I need to start calling people regularly on the phone to know their lives - that's what meaningful is - caring about them regularly and not just once a year.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I've seen in movies people who have been ravaged by war and hardship seek refuge in cities with food and humane conditions. I've read in books about people coming from poor areas going into big cities hoping to find a job and a better life. I've heard stories of people with nothing, migrate to places with something, only to find, still, nothing. But they were always stories from another time or another place, sometimes both, far far away from my reality. The very very limited number of beggars, homeless indivduals, and dumpster excavators I have seen, I've been told to stay away. There's no empathy - there's hardly sympathy.  It's not because I'm superior or haughty; it's because I've never understood and was never asked to understand. These people, by my education and by my instinct, are from a different universe, one impossible for me to relate to.

Moving to Paris has started to make me realized how privileged I am. No, not because I get to live in Paris. The grandma on the street looking through the garbage bin got to move to Paris too, but as a refugee from a war-torn country and living in a squalor home provided by the French government. She hasn't had the education to allow her to find a job. The only thing she knows how to do is to scavenge through the junk and debris in order to find something she understands to be useful and could help her family, even though her family no longer needs to do that. The near middle-aged woman who lives in the metro station with a baby in her hand begging for change or ticket restaurant was privileged enough to stumble across Europe to Paris too, but she doesn't know how to look for a job and she doesn't understand why anyone would need a job if there are people on the street who can give her money. You can't even tell if that baby is hers or even real. The young man whose ancestors have been colonized and exploited by the French Colonial Empire speaks French in a thick accent has managed to illegally but luckily sneak his way into the city of lights and glamour. But he has been shunned to the suburbs of Paris looking for odd-end jobs to tie him over until he falls into the economy of crime. Yet, they are still privileged in relations to what might have been otherwise if they didn't come here. This is not the privilege I talk about.

Where I grew up, the couple of beggars at the train station seems physically disabled and you wonder who's taking care of them; that one homeless teen who lives next to the beer store in the neighbourhood plaza is considered lazy; and few trash digger you sometimes see downtown are probably crazy. I understood that if you work hard, you will succeed. And anything outside, beyond what is comprehensible, is therefore flawed. Except none of this is true - or maybe some of it might be. But it doesn't matter, does it? As long as you stay away from the crazies, far enough that they can't steal, rob, or hurt you and you study hard and you work hard, you will be someone and even something; everyone else is simply not putting in enough effort.

The privilege I am talking about, is the privilege to have ever thought this way and that I can, if I choose to, continue to think this way.  Everyone is born with tabula rasa and despite that we all somehow ended up in Paris, there are those who grew up with less than nothing and their goal in Paris is to survive, while mine is to live magnificently. This city is full of people who are here to survive. And it makes those of us who has never had to fight for survival unbearably hard to breathe. And that, in and of itself, is a privilege. I get it now.

My 30th Birthday Presents - Balenciaga

As I said before, growing up, I've never had any interest in handbags. The thought of carrying something on me all the time without losing it is so burdensome to me. And then I got into having bags at 20 and I started to learn about Coach and Kate Spade and Gucci, LV, Chanel, Hermes. At the time I would covet the lower to middle end bags but I never really bought them. Most of my collection has been under $50 with the exception of 2 Kate Spade and 2 Marc by Marc Jacobs. Even the Coach stuff were just around $100 mark.

In the back of my head I've always thought, one day I will buy one nice bag that's over $1000 even though the idea seemed actually quite absurd. By the time I've been working full-time for a few years, I would consider the idea once a year and then do some searches and not find anything I want. The process was kinda like getting my tattoo. At some point in my life, the idea begins to take more concrete shape and maybe 2-3 times a year I'd browse and see what I like. In 2011, I had a convo with my friend about how i'd set myself a goal of buying the bag if I reach a certain status (e.g., my first pay cheque, my first promotion, etc) and then never doing it because I can't seem to justify it. We joked about how maybe I should make it my 30th benchmark bday present - big girl with a big girl bag and although at the time it was really just a joke, the idea stuck.

As I approached by 30th birthday, I started to get antsy, as I had pretty much decided what I'm going to get and researched the pricing and knew that the best place was to get it in Paris. Around October, I asked Caleb if I should buy it before my bday or after, since on my birthday I will be in North America and he laughed and said I can do whatever I want since it's a bday for myself. So on a weekend while he was here in Paris with me, I dragged him to the Balenciaga Boutique with me and made my purchase, 3 months before my 30th birthday. The best part about all this is that Caleb said Bal bags are the nicest luxury bags he's ever seen (and he's seen quite a few) so it really took a lot of the guilt away.

While we were there, we spotted something else that we both loved as well and while I bought one for myself, he ended up getting me my 30th bday present 3 months early as well!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

My Marc By Marc Jacobs Classic Qs

Early 2012 as I sat at my desk feeling miserable from the winter weather, I decided I needed to buy a handbag. It had occurred to me that I just turned 28 and my holy grail was still a canvas Kate Spade bag from 2005. I deserved better!! I went online and started looking for bags I liked, going through Neiman Marcus, Saks, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's website to see if I saw anything I liked. This was when I discovered the MBMJ Classic Q line and I loved the clean and simple lines. I took at look at the baby groovee and decided it wasn't my type, and then I saw the lil Ukita and began cross-referencing the bags on Google images and on PurseForum. Then I started looking at the Hillier and did the same and compared it to lil Ukita. After about a week or two of online search everyday, I finally decided that I wanted the Hillier. Except now I needed to figure out how to procure one.

At the time, I wasn't aware that the MBMJ bags go on crazy 40% off sales around November and December. What I did see though is that the 2011 price was marked up from $385 to $428 in 2013. So when I spotted one in creme from Neiman still priced at $398 I decided I will take the plunge. I asked around to see who is in the US and can bring it back for me because shipping to Canada means duty. Luckily I had a friend who was making a trip to Chicago so I had it expedited to the hotel there. After tax and expedited shipping the total came out to be about $441 USD. I see it online for less than $300 all the time now so it does hurt me a bit when I think about it. Nevertheless, I have to say that I really love this bag because the leather on this is really durable and it made me realize the difference between leather and canvas bags.

My Salvatore Ferragamo Continental

As I had mentioned previously, my go-to wallet has always been compact tri-folds. When I was 20, Mike had gotten me a continental Guess wallet because he felt that it was more feminine. I didn't like anything about it - not the shape nor the monogram nor the brand nor the colour and I have never used that wallet. It wasn't until 2006 when I saw the Ferragamo Saffiano Continental that I was triggered slightly by the prospect of using one. Nevertheless there was no way I could have been able to allow myself to purchase a wallet that was $350+tax. At the time, my most expensive bag was the Kate Spade and it was cheaper than that wallet and I only paid for half of it. In 2007, when I was at the HK airport, I saw the wallet on sale in white and a part of me almost took out my credit card, but after wandering around the airport thinking really hard, I walked away from the deal.

I never forgot about the wallet and kept an eye on it after and showed it to Adam one time about my dream wallet when we started to date. I told him that one day, when I make enough money I will get this.

Thus, you can imagine how much I cried when I arrived in Boston in September 2009 when this wallet was waiting for me (along with a shiny red blackberry).

Friday, December 6, 2013

My Bags - 2006 to 2011

After 2005, my bag shopping has calmed down a whole lot. However, I was still purchasing them on a regularly basis and getting some as gifts. Unfortunately, there are some that I had gotten rid of before I took a pic of or with them. Below are some of the ones I have pictures of.

My Bags - The Beginning to 2005

I have decided to pay tribute to my handbag collection and note down all the stuff that I have had over time as best as I could. Every bag for me had a story attached so these entries will be a trip down memory lane for me.

Growing up, my mom was never a handbag fanatic and in my memory I only remember a very old and tattered purse that she used to carry on her and thus I've never really developed an interest in handbags. My mom did teach me the important of a wallet and where I should carry my money so I've always had a wallet since consciousness.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


"It must have been in another lifetime..." she thought, maybe out loud.

She looked at the words, listening to them, even. Swirling, in her head, together and then apart, leading, following, swing and then turn...choreographed by wisps of desire. Hauntingly beautiful words, strung together by flurries of melancholy, creating perfectly sensible meaning. Their meaning seem captivating,  the stories they make...maybe even beautiful, too.

She doesn't need to come back to the words again. She can see them when she closes her eyes. And, for some reason, she can even recite the rest out loud. Without having seen them! No, she must have seen them before. She was the choreographer who had woven the steps together.  But she's having a hard time relating to those words.

She looked outside at the snow slowly accumulating from the pretty snowflakes. She can see two little toddlers all bundled up, excited about the lovely white fluffs falling from the grey sky. Their moms must be nearby. Do they remember what it was like before having children? Do they miss it? Was it also a different lifetime for them?

How many lifetimes does a person get to have? One stack here for one lifetime, and another there for a different one. Or are they organized that neatly? When did one lifetime end and another one begin?

The gaps. Must be the gaps.
Beautiful, heartfelt stories do not create the lives that lived. They are records of the lives that ended.
The gaps are where the living is found, where the lives are lived. Stories are the most beautiful at the expense of death. The irony isn't lost on her.  Suddenly she fears that the day will come when she will write beautifully again. Peace and bliss don't make good stories. But she doesn't want to write good stories anymore. She doesn't want another lifetime.

She puts away the stacks that she stumbled upon while looking for that vintage necklace her mom gave her. She wants to find it and give it to her daughter to wear for her wedding day. She chuckled to herself and thought about what her husband said to her before she ran up to the attic an hour ago, "what is a 1 month-old going to do with that?"

She'll look for it in a couple of decades. Sometimes, her imagination runs too far. But she's just that good at making stories, even if they're not beautifully written. Not yet anyway.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Grammar and Manner

It is okay to say:
"What is your background?"
"What is your heritage/race/ethnicity/ancestry/lineage?"

It is not okay to say:
"Where are you from?" if you want to ask someone for their ethnicity
"Where are you REALLY from?" after asking "where are you from?" and getting a literal answer
"Why is your English so good?" without asking for a person's background first
"Your English is perfect!" without knowing the person's background, unless you are editing a written piece of work.
"What is your REAL name?" after asking the person for their name.
"Are you Japanese? Are you Korean? Are you Chinese?" if you want to know what their background is. Why are you guessing and making assumptions based on your own silly stereotype????

It is also not okay to:
  • Shout random asian languages to me as I'm walking down the street, such as "konnichiwa" or "ni hao"
  • Attribute how i am or things i do to my race/ethnicity/ancestry/lineage, no i don't like shopping because I am Chinese, no the pasta im cooking is not chinese, no i don't like the cold even if i'm from canada, and no I don't speak French in Toronto even if I'm from Canada

Friday, October 25, 2013

French Food

Things I've discovered in France I love eating:
  • honey mustard
  • rilette
  • brioche with speculoos
Other more obvious items:
  • baguette
  • pain au chocolat
  • sausage a l'ail
  • jambon perseille
To be continued..

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Have you ever felt like regardless of what you do, how hard you work, what choices you make, thoughtful or not, you end up just in some "category" of people in someone's eyes? Someone will know you and make predictions about you because you fit in with a "type" - and more often than not they are usually right.

"Oh I know people like him"
"Oh I've had people like her - she's good, but this isn't what she wants and she won't be around to stay"
"He's gonna want more money later, you will see"
etc., etc.

Sometimes they're right because they know who you are as a person after a long time, sure. But I'm talking about the people you are not up close and personal with - and after knowing you for a short time, they know the pattern. Yes, you fit into a pattern. I fit into a pattern. A pattern for every aspect of our lives. Sure we may be all made up of a mish mash of patterns and we are all a giant mosaic, each person a stain glass window that looks slightly different if you look hard. But from afar, everyone looks the same - just a giant palette of uncontrolled colours.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I've figured it out

I just need to find my voice again. I don't have one anymore.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Still About Shopping

I'm getting close to turning the big 3 OH.

When my I got my new job in Paris, I decided that for my first pay cheque, I should buy myself a nice legit high end handbag (about time right?). Well i kept procrastinating this task and doing other things that I just never got around to it. A couple of days ago, I pressed the mouse button and got myself a Nexus 7. Granted, the price is nowhere near the price of a nice bag - like 1/8th of the price, it made me wonder whether it would be easier for me to pull the trigger/press the mouse button on gadgets moreso than handbags. I think less guilt is involved with buying a gadget than a handbag. But then again, I don't think I've ever purchased anything over $300-$400 for myself before (The nexus 7 was $300 after tax, my marc by marc jacobs bag in 2012 was a little under $400 after tax and shipping, and my Asus Netbook in 2008 for just under $400 after tax).

Maybe about two years ago, I posted a conversation I had about actually just biting the bullet and getting myself something for my big 3 OH.

I have a few I have in mind - but am I gonna do it? I hope so...or not...AH.

Anyway, my posts are still about shopping. This is defeating the purpose...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Bandages vs. Plasters

I fell the other day. I was biking in the middle of London and fell off my bike in the middle of the road in a busy intersection. I was lucky and didn't get run over by car, but I had a huge scrape on my knee.
What I learned from this incident, however, is that although some people might tell you "plasters" are the British equivalent to American "bandages", they are not.
Here is a bandage from the US:
Here is a plaster from the UK:

Do you see a difference? 
Here's a hint, look at the actual dressing.

A Response to Writing More

Caleb said I don't write enough. He seems to think it's a better past-time than shopping, which seems to be my #1 past-time on the weekends nowadays. Now, he's never directly said, "you should stop shopping and write" but I can read his sub-text.

It's true that in some regards, I haven't been doing very much brain-stimulating activities for a while now. I still read - quite a bit, but reading is a type of consumption, much like shopping, and it doesn't seem like anything substantial has been created out of my consumption.

Human beings are born to consume - it's so easy. We eat great food, we wear pretty clothes, we read interesting books, we drink in world events from newfeeds, we absorb useless information of other people's life on Facebook, even when we travel, we are simply consuming the views and the culture - but how much of what we consume is created by us, or becomes a creation as an output of our consumption?

I've been feeling a bit listless lately. I don't really know what to do with myself on weekends when I'm not travelling - not to say that I prefer travelling than having down time, but I just don't know what to do with my down time that one would consider "productive."

The truth is, outside of "producing" as a cog in a corporate office, most people have no creative/productive outlet for a hobby either. With the advent of Internet and blogging, a lot of people are able to transfer this need to create onto the www (world wide web). People write reviews for products they consume, they write travel blogs to detail they've learned, they write about the things you need to know to live abroad, they write about a new recipe they've just created (or simply that they made something from a new recipe they found), they post pictures taken with their new DSLR, or they simply post photos of the stuff they eat.

All of this is perhaps to say that now that everyone is writing, writing has really lost its glamour. I use the word "perhaps" as I'm now writing in a stream of consciousness - which I haven't done for a while, and I haven't come to a conclusion yet. I just wanted to post something, in response to Caleb's request of me writing more.

Writing used to be easy for me, but it's not any more.
My writing is often critical and can offend, so the fact that even writing about the fact that everyone writes nowadays can offend someone.  I've never been a non-fiction writer. I used to write in a stream of consciousness and then I edit and edit and edit until it becomes coherent. Or I don't, and write like a teenager in a journal.
My writing was never great. At best, someone might liked a piece or two. But those pieces took work. To sit here and write something either insightful or useful takes not just a lot of time (which it did), but a lot of brain power.

To come home from work at the end of a long day, and sit here and write something good, if even possible, would be exhausting. To do it on a weekend - well therein lies the dilemma.

What is considered productive? What should I do on the weekends?
A person who sits in his garage all weekend long putting together his model airplane or building a boat in a bottle - is that productive? He's creating something and he's enjoying it. That's important. What's not important is whether the work he's doing is either important or even good. If a dude spends 2 wknds a month in his garage building boats in a bottle that isn't good enough to sell - is that an act of consumption or creation?

The premise that we shouldn't just consume, but we need to create - must the creation involve giving something back to society? Or does the creation just has to be something that works our brain in such a way that it doesn't deteriorate?

If a person only takes pleasure in consumption, but never creation, it's probably not very attractive either.
Maybe fundamentally, what it really boils down to, is to be good at something that not many others are. That is what is attractive. A person building crappy boats in a bottle every day isn't attractive, but after a year of practicing, he builds brilliant boats in bottles might. One can never be better at consuming than others, but one can be better that creating.

If I spent at least one day a weekend writing a blog and practicing whatever it is writing a good piece requires, I might become a better writer. Or, I can spend at least one day a weekend cooking something different. Or, I can spend at least one day a weekend re-organizing an area of a house and then I will have the neatest most organized house. Or, I can spend at least one day a weekend, reading articles and learning about my industry or my job so I can be better at it.

And now we have come to the final conclusion - I need to become more attractive by being really really good at something, cuz right now, I feel like I'm not good at much any more.

Let me get back to you on this.
(Although if you start to see a lot of mundane posts, you might know why)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Wardrobe Essential: Nude Pump

I don't own a pair of pumps - after having tried gazillion pairs of pumps, including US size 4 (I'm a 5) and still unable to walk without having my heels get pulled out - i've come to realize that wearing sexy pumps are just not in my books. Alas, when I saw these, you can imagine my excitement:
Okay, so they're technically not full pumps but Mary Janes, but they're asymmetrical and definitely less child-like. The smallest size in UK is a 3, which is a size 6 US. One size to big for me. They have it on the US site for size 5 - but I made the Oxford store call a few places and found them in Canary Wharf!

25 quid and patent leather means they're not the most comfortable shoes to stand in, but I'm gonna get some thick insoles to celebrate no out soles!!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Parlez-Vous Anglais?

Random American: Parlez-vous anglais?
Me: mean yes I do..
A: My daughter really likes your shoes - where did you buy them? Or what brand is it?
Me: Sorry I got them in Singapore..they were 10 bucks on the street market...
A: How did a Singaporean girl like you end up in Paris?
Me: Actually I'm not Singaporean, I'm Taiwanese. I was just in Singapore for work
A: Wow your English is really good!
Me: Well...I grew up in Canada...
A: Wow, you get around!


Friday, June 28, 2013

It's Always in the Last Place You Look

I arrived in Stockholm Monday night and the hotel asked me if i wanted to prepay and I said okay. After i got my credit card back, I held it in my hand, along with my room key.

I get to my room and tried to turn on the light, to no avail, realizing I needed the room card to turn on the electricity, so I slipped it in. Just as I was about to walk away, I recalled a trick Caleb taught me about using a useless card in your wallet instead of your room key - but I also remembered that there are some hotel rooms with contactless smart cards that will not let you do that. I wanted to see whether or not another card would work and was about to put in my credit card and in a split second decided that it was a stupid idea and didn't end up doing it.

Later that night, I went downstairs to meet up with my colleague and offered to pay for the drink, only to find that my credit card was not in my bag. Embarrassed as I was, I said I would pay for the next one. When I got back to my room, I forgot about the missing card and went to bed. The next morning, before I left for work, I searched thoroughly for it but couldn't find it. I left the room in a hurry, taking my Canadian back-up credit card with me.

While staying in Stockholm for the next four days, I searched morning and night for this card. The room is a very Scandinavian room with no cracks for cards to hide so it was really confusing to me as to where this card went. But since in my memory the card HAD to be in the room, I did not cancel it and felt that once I pack all my things, the card HAD to show up somewhere.

By noon today when I was all packed, I admitted defeat. As confusing as the situation was, I decided I'll have to suck it up and call France to get my card replaced. Of course, in regular French fashion, they asked me a million of question and told me that the card will be sent to my branch at work, and then a new PIN code I cannot change will be sent to my house, after a full week. So it looks like I'm out of a payment method until next Friday (anyone wanna come feed me?)

After I got off the phone, I put on my shoes and dragged my suitcase out of my room. As I was getting in the elevator, I felt something slippery in my shoe. In the elevator, I took off the shoe, and there it was.



Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Girlfriend Zone

1. I don't have this problem as I have lots of male friends who don't put me in the girlfriend zone. But this is similar to the response I provide people when they tell me any of my friends are interested in me - are you trying to tell me that I don't have anything to offer as a friend?
2. This is a satire of men's complaints of "Why do girls always put me in the friends zone?" but I'd also like to think it's mocking women with this problem..

Why Do Men Keep Putting Me in the Girlfriend-Zone?

You know how it is, right, ladies? You know a guy for a while. You hang out with him. You do fun things with him—play video games, watch movies, go hiking, go to concerts. You invite him to your parties. You listen to his problems. You do all this because you think he wants to be your friend.
But then, then comes the fateful moment where you find out that all this time, he’s only seen you as a potential girlfriend. And then if you turn him down, he may never speak to you again. This has happened to me time after time: I hit it off with a guy, and, for all that I’ve been burned in the past, I start to think that this one might actually care about me as a person. And then he asks me on a date. 
I tell him how much I enjoy his company, how much I value his friendship. I tell him that I really want to be his friend and to continue hanging out with him and talking about our favorite books or exploring new restaurants or making fun of avant-garde theatre productions. But he rejects me. He doesn’t answer my calls or e-mails; if we’d been making plans to do something before this fateful incident, these plans mysteriously fail to materialize. (This is why I never did get around to seeing the Hunger Gamesmovie. Not to name any names, but thanks a lot, Tom.) Later, when I run into him at social events, our conversations are awkward and lukewarm. This is because the moment we met, he put me in the girlfriend-zone, and now he can’t see me as friend material. 
I must say that I find this really unfair. I mean, I’m a nice girl. I have a lot to offer as a friend, like not being a douchebag and stuff. But males just don’t want to be friends with nice girls like me. They can’t help it, I guess; it’s just how they’re wired, biologically. Evolution conditioned our male hominid ancestors to seek nice girls as mates and form friendship bonds only with the other dudes that they hunted mammoths with. It’s true—I know this because I studied hominids in my fifth-grade science class. 
So what’s the answer? Should I take up mammoth-hunting in an attempt to appeal to the friendship centers of men’s primal lizardbrains? Should I keep making guy “friends” and then prevent them from making a move on me by subtly undermining their self-confidence? Should I just give up on those manipulative, game-playing, two-faced bastards once and for all? I don’t know. I mean, I’d really like to have a true friendship with a guy someday, but it’s so hard to trust and respect them when they never say what they mean—and you never know when you might be relegated to the girlfriend-zone.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Primark in London

Over the last 3-4 years, I've been to London countless number of times. However, it wasn't until the last time I was here, in November 2012, that I finally discovered what Primark really is. Every time I come to London, I stroll along Oxford Street at least once, and everyone is carrying bags that say Primark on them. At first, I thought it must be some some department store like Selfridges but the more bags I see, the more I started to think that there must be something more to it than a department store.

When Westfield Stratford City Mall finally opened before the summer olympics and I saw all these people carrying the bags, I decided I really needed to see what this place is about. I mentioned to Caleb right before Christmas that I wanted to check out Primark and he winced, and then shivered, and then shook his head violently. "No," he said, "there's no way you would like the place! It's crowded and full of cheap crap." But alas, how can he argue against my whining? We ended up heading there one fateful evening and being the brilliant guy he is, he actually stood in the line for 20 minutes to buy me a £5 scarf. Looking back though, I'm pretty sure it was actually his way of saving himself from the chaos while I waded through the mobs of people with their suitcases shopping for gifts.

This scarf would be our first purchase at Primark

Funny enough, if going to Primark right before Christmas didn't deter me from going back, then you know nothing will stop me from going again. After my first 20 minute experience in the store, I was hooked and I really needed to check out what the Oxford Store was about. So when I got back to London in late January, I went to Primark at Oxford THREE times, spending 4+ hours in there every time. And when my coworkers decided it would be funny to torture Caleb, they informed us of the NEW store at Tottenham Court! So after an early evening of hanging out, we ended the night at there. Yup, you count right, I must have gone to Primark at least 4 times that trip and ended up with 2 pairs of boots, a skirt, numerous tops, 2 pairs of thick comfy tights, 3 hats, ear muffs, some mitts, some scarves, and even a coat (£10!).

Coat and boots

Ear muffs, mitts, skirt and boots

Now that it's May, the summer season is about to begin, and I'm back in London - well it's time for another trip to Primark right? This time I was good. I only went to each of the three stores once (a total of 3 trips only :P) and ended up with three pairs of pants, a pair of shorts three pairs of flats (less than £6 each!),  two dresses, and two tops. Oh and a luscious bath mat for £3.  I think i'm quite well behaved.

At any rate, now that I'm super experienced with shopping in 2 central locations in London and one in the east end (there are more in various parts of London), I thought i'd provide some tips for budget shopping at Primark.

Eight Tips for shopping at Primark

The Tottenham court one opens at 8am and the Oxford St one opens at 8:30am everyday. They actually open their doors more than promptly, so arriving on time doesn't make you look like a douche standing outside waiting for the doors to open. I needed to make some exchanges and got there at 8:32am and the store was already filled with a good number of people on every floor. By 9am, I was standing in the Customer Service line after trying on all the clothes I needed to exchange for. The wait was about 8 minutes, a lot faster than going during the day.

2. Don't spend all your time in one store.
Honestly, this might make some people cringe, but I have found that the best way to do this is to, I repeate, go early, spend an hour or two browsing for items you like and try it on, and if they dont have the perfect colour in the perfect size, then look for it in another location, the next morning.

The issue is that more often than not, only really big sizes are left (14-20). Their smallest size is UK 6,  EUR 32 (otherwise known as an XS) and it fits me perfectly (although more recently I've some 8s that are okay...). At any rate, 6 is a really difficult size to find, so I often end up buying an 8 or a secondary colour, and then exchanging it at a different store that has the right colour in my size. Stratford City, I have found, has been the best in terms of size, but does not have all the styles.

3. Wear a fitted tank top, leggings, easy to slip off shoes, cross-body bag.
The lines at al the Primark for the fitting room can be really really long. The good thing is that they have a good system figured out. Only 8 items per person and you can't swap. If you want to try more, you need to get back into line and re-queue. If you wear a fitted tank top, you can try on most things without having to queue, and leave your quota for the harder to try things (e.g., dresses, skinny jeans). The Tottenham Court one, I have found, is the fastest for fitting room queues. They even have a system where your baskets are numbered so although the line is long, the wait is short. Unfortunately, they also have the least sizes...

Also it's HOT in there. Mobs and mobs of people in there means you will be sweating so if it's cold outside, wear a sweater over your tank top so you can stuff the sweater in your bag when you need it.

The bag should be big and hands-free, so you can use your hands to rummage, carry, try things, or push people out of the way.

4. Try it at home.
29 days return policy. Enough said. If you follow 1-3, you won't have to do this. But I've seen people bring back bags and bags of clothing. Not classy? I know. But if you're shopping at Primark, trust me, class is your last concern (see #5). You can't do returns or exchanges at their regular cash. The best place to return/exchange? Oxford Street. They have 10 registers in a corner of their top floor just for this. BUT, I can't say this enough times, GO EARLY. If you don't, 10 registers still isn't going to make the line faster. (Disclaimer: I've only exchanged 2 items before for good reasons because i didn't do #7). Also, they allow exchanges at current price without receipt.

5. Buy for trendy not for classy.
People often say that clothing at Primark is cheap and the quality is crap. To a large extent, it's true. But if all your clothes comes from Primark, then you have a bigger problem. Primark is good for FUN clothing for a wardrobe with a high turnover rate. Primark itself is big and fun, filled with every style imaginable with average price of £8 per item. But when it comes to class, material matters. Looking classy sometimes isn't just about style, but it's also about fabric and cut. You can tell these things. Think before you purchase.

Dress i did not buy

6. Buy Kids
No, not actual kids, but buy in kid sizes. Their kid sizes are huge. For shirts, dress sizes, their Large is about Women's UK6. Shoe sizes, I'm generally a 35/US 5, which is about a UK Kids 2. If you can't find your size, they might have a style similar in kids in your size. All three pairs of flats are from the kids section and Caleb actually likes them. Their selections are smaller, but worth a try. I was trying on these kids shoes when to women working at Primark were next to me discussing how many kids shoes they've bought for themselves.

7. Check the quality.
Buttons fall off, seams rips, style goes awry. My last trip there, I bought this super cute dress. When I got home and put it on, Caleb was like, omg what's that nasty thing in the back? Apparently the giant gold zipper is sewn on the outside of the lace dress and went all the way from my neck to the middle of my butt. The devil is in the detail, as my grand-boss loves to say.

Caleb loves to look for flaws in my Primark buys and he usually finds them (at this point, you might have realized he hates that store). So before you buy it, make sure to do a quick check to make sure everything is in tact.

8. Don't go if....
  • You don't like shopping
  • You are carrying a boyfriend/SO who hates shopping
  • You don't have enough time
  • You don't have patience
  • You don't like tripping over clothing, shoes, or children
  • You hate rummaging
  • You hate trying things on
  • You hate crowds
  • You hate crying babies
  • You hate americans
  • You hate the french
Hey, Primark isn't for everyone. Sucks for you!!

Now that I've spent this much time declaring how much I like shopping at Primark, I shall leave you with this: Primark bans attractive people.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Oral-b Smartseries 5000 vs Healthy Clean Precision 5000

Like I said, it's been more than 3 years since I bought my Oral-b ProfessionalCare Smartseries 5000 electronic toothbrush.

The toothbrush, though rechargeable, does not have a battery replacement methods and you will need to really hack it to change the battery:

As my toothbrush sits with the battery life only lasting 2-3 days, I considered changing the battery myself, only to realize I have no tools, and decided I will just buy a new one.
At the time when I bought my first one in December 2009, not very many people had been using expensive electric toothbrushes, so there were not that many reviews on Amazon. At the time all reviews were glowing - including the one i provided:

At this point, in May 2013, there are a ton more reviews about the toothbrush now. So while I researched the prices, I started reading negative reviews on the toothbrush - things like the battery life sucks or the charger breaks easily. I got a bit worried and after digging into the issue more deeply by reading various consumer reviews on different sites (, and all their international counterparts), I discovered that there appears to be a voltage problem. The new Smartseries toothbrush no longer carried dual voltage adapters.  People would basically blow their toothbrush, or not have it charged properly when they bring it to other countries. Nevertheless I thought to myself, that's okay, I can just buy the new toothbrush and use my old adapter....boy was I wrong.

So I bought my *new* toothbrush here:
Note that this seller posted a box that's in Spanish (which i didnt notice at the time i bought it), still calling the new model toothbrush Smartseries 5000. However, when I received it, the box looked like this:

The thing is, you have to give credit to the seller, who actually did sell the latest North American Model of the the toothbrush: Oral-B Healthy Clean + Floss Action Precision 5000. Basically, Oral-B is doing away with the old Smartseries 5000 and replacing it with the new Precision 5000.
However, I soon discovered that I wish she had just sold me the old one, because after "making some business decisions" they decided to really cut back on the quality of the product.
Old Oral-B Smartseries 5000

New Oral-B Healthy Clean Precision 5000

Charger and Voltage - Buyers Beware!

First off you might notice the adapter has changed.:
  • The old Smartseries charger has an adapter and the model is 3731
  • The new Healthy Clean Precision charger does not have an adapter and the model is 3757
Secondly, note that 
  • the old 3731 adapter is dual voltage from 100-240v
  • the new charger 3757 is single voltage
    • either 110v-130v with American plug
    • or 220v-240v with British 2-pin plug (looks like european but smaller in diameter)
Thirdly, you cannot use the old charger 3731 for the new toothbrush 3757. Some websites claim you can, but I have tested this and you cannot.
So, as you might already know, I live in Paris. The voltage output in paris is 220v. I currently have an American charger who can only take input of up to 130v. To use this would blow up my adapter and likely my toothbrush.
Easy, so buy a 220v British charger and use an adapter right? Well, to buy one will cost me about 30 GBP (like another $40) but it's not even about the price. The British 2-pin plug is not very universal at all. Even a lot of British homes don't have a 2-pin shaver socket in their bathrooms and must buy adapters for them, let alone homes in France. My only other option really is to buy a voltage converter, just so I can use my toothbrush.
So for the charging problem, the new toothbrush is:
  • unfit for international travel (which is ironic because they give you a travel case)
  • unfit for europeans in general (they only have british 2-pin)
At this point, I'm running out of steam so I'm not going to go into the smaller differences on the two toothbrush (there are some and negative ones for the new ones) but they are not detrimental to purchasing decision (I think). I did hear that it takes much longer to charge the new toothbrush than the old one and there are often battery and charging issues. Since it hasn't happened to me yet, I can't comment about that. 

Let's just say that after a few uses, I prefer the old one much better than the new ones.

Oral-B 5000 - Naming Confusion

I felt the need to do the dental care world a little favour and write about the issues of the new Oral-b Professional 5000 that i just received. I wish I had really known this before I got it.

Towards the end of 2009, after going to get my teeth cleaned and suffered sensitive gum bleeding for the billionth time, I began researching about electric toothbrushes. After looking through the different types and reading about them and discussing this with Mike Z, we decided to go with the best recommended toothbrush at the time, the Oral-b ProfessionalCare Smartseries 5000. It was likely the most expensive toothbrush at the time too, selling for close to $200 in Canada before tax. But i think one of the exciting thing was that I was now living in the US and it was about $110 with no tax and a $20 rebate (which I had completely forgotten about after we got it).  The price wasn't that much more after rebate than other leading brands at the time and this one was #1 on all the sites so we went with it.

I was really happy with my toothbrush after receiving it. At first i'd still use a manual toothbrush when i got lazy, but after a while I only used the electric one. There are a couple of modes on the toothbrush but i never bothered figuring out how to use them and stuck with daily clean and floss action brush head in all the 3+ years i've owned this. With daily flossing, my dentist visits were a lot less agonizing. There were still some bleeding because my gum is built that way, but significantly reduced. 
Recently, my toothbrush battery life has been dwindling. At full charge, the toothbrush can only last about 2-3 days before it completely dies so I started to worry about it completely dying on me soon. I checked the prices of the toothbrush in Europe, as I now have moved to France, and they were all significantly more expensive than the US (though not as expensive as canada for some reason -.-). 
I bought the toothbrush off of Amazon again and I was led to believe I was buying this:

I had it delivered to NYC. When my friend Elliott went to see his gf there, he brought it back to London for me. Brand new in a sealed box - fantastic. And then I took a closer look at the box:

The box said it was Oral-b Professional Healthy Clean + Floss Action - Precision 5000 (how's that for a mouthful), and not Smartseries. At this point I started to panic. I went online and frantically searched for the differences between Precision 5k and Smartseries 5k. I mean, it's a $100 toothbrush...did I get ripped off? Although I never found confirming evidence that the two branding was the same, I noticed that a lot of sellers and mom and dad reviewers were calling the toothbrush one name, while the box says another. Some have reviews for smartseries but show box for precision, some have review titles for precision but the box say precision. 
P&G Red Flag #1: Note that most of the "reviews" I found online were all stay-at-home mom and pops who were given the toothbrush for free and then asked to write a review for them on their blog. If you were to google "Smartseries 5000 reviews" You will get a TON of advertisements masked as reviews. They were not real reviews, but basically copied and pasted the features so they can get a free toothbrush. This made finding real reviews really difficult.
I also noticed at this point that these toothbrush all have different names depending on the country in which they were being marketed. For example, in the UK, the toothbrush is named Triumph 5000. Interestingly, the toothbrush, being made in Germany, also has the name Triumph 5000 across the side of the handle for both my old one and my new one. I tweeted to Oral-B and they were very quick to respond and it was confirmed that they are the same type:

After some more digging (Caleb wants to know why I spend so much time on something so insignificant.....and decided that I was too curious for my own good), it looks like they have been rebranding for the last two years and all the sites are as confusing as their own site. 

As far as I can tell at this point, they were doing away with the name Smartseries 5000, and there's a really good reason for this. If you are considering buying the 5000 series, I would advise you to CHECK to see if you are getting the Smartseries or the Precision, as there are DIFFERENCES.  But no websites ever tell you about them nor do sellers differentiate them so when you purchase it, you can be buying one or the other. See my next post: Oral-b Smartseries 5000 vs. Healthy Clean + Floss Action Precision 5000

Sunday, February 24, 2013


There, I said it, it's out in public.
Here is why:
For my birthday, Caleb bought me a macbook air. The last time I owned an Apple product was 2005, a gift of a 3G ipod nano (what is it now after 8 years? 15G?). I hated itunes then. I never could figure out how to use it. Now, at the tender age of 29 - here i am being technically challenged again (last week i learned how to mess with web apps and repackage .war files with very little help from caleb and a lot of help from the internet and yet i can't install a single app on my macbook...WTF).

I've been avoiding signing up with itunes for the last two months since i've had my computer. Last week, I finally created an account when i needed to talk to Matt using facetime. Fine, whatever. account created. (I probably have another account somewhere when i had my nano) (oh and another sidenote, i've not touched my nano for 5 years now and it looks brand new - why? because i hate itunes.)

So today, I wanted to install evernote on the mac to plan my trip to australia with Caleb.
1. google evernote for mac
2. click download
3. taken to itunes
4. tried to click download
5. asked me to sign in
6. sign in with account, asked me to register and review my itunes data
7. agreed to terms, filled out all information, until i get to billing
8. I CANNOT continue unless i put in a credit card info?!
9. press cancel
10. Back to square one, unable to sign in because i cannot register
11. google how to use itunes without my credit card
12. find FAQ "How to create itunes account without credit card"
13. tried for 5 minutes trying to find how to use itunes account without credit card - apple has no answer
14. found answer on youtube video
15. follow the instructions on this TEN MINUTE video
16. had to create a NEW account, because old one would not work.
17. finally registered, tried to find evernote in itunes
18. searched for evernote, would not start in my computer - why?
19. looked around for five minutes and figured out how i just downloaded evernote for iphones. WTF - why is this even possible?!?!?!
20. searched for evernote in itunes again, in attempt to find MAC version
21. CANNOT find versions that are not ipad or iphones....
22. went back to google to google evernote for mac
23. went to evernote site, clicked on download, and app store opened up - wtf is the diff and why do i have itunes then?!
24. clicked install app - computer asked me to restart....okay
25. computer restarts, searched for evernote in spotlight - does not exist
26. opened app store again, evernote was not installed....
27. clicked resume download...finally....


/end rant.