Underneath my yellow skin

Author Archives: Minna Hong

Little things mean a lot

I never thought about my thumb before it started being a problem. It makes sense. Why would I think about my thumb? I have two of them and they do what they’re supposed to do. Period. That’s good enough for me. Until my left thumb started twinging in pain. Nothing big. Not often. Just once in a while, it would tweak. And the joint would pop and lock when I bent it. This was perhaps two or three times a week. The clicking didn’t hurt; it was just annoying. Then, about a week ago, things escalated dramatically. The base of my thumb started hurting more regularly. Again, not in and of itself, but if I touched it or moved it in an odd way. Not hurt, but more like ached. The clicking was deeper for a lack of a better word, but still did not hurt.

It was highly annoying, however, and I knew I did not want it to get worse. I Googled it because that’s what I do. It’s rheumatoid arthritis also known as trigger thumb in this particular case. There are stretches recommended for it, which I’ve been doing every day. In addition, I have picked up a splint for it that I am wearing most of the day and night. Is it helping? I think so? It’s hard to say.

I have to say, before I got the splint, the pain increased dramatically. the base is painful to the touch, though not inflamed-looking. The clicking is more often than not, ranging from a quick, barely-audible click to a deep, grinding click. Bending the thumb is painful at the base and the clicking itself hurts sometimes. Once in a while, the bending pain is excruciating, but it’s bearable most of the time.


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On the contrary; life as a contrarian

I’m a contrarian. I know this and to some extent, I embrace it. I swear to the heavens that it’s not out of spite or because I think I’m better than anyone else, but it’s just how my brain works. I tend to look at something from several angles and poking holes in theories. I will say that part of it is me always rooting for the underdog, which means I want to represent the minority viewpoint more often than not. It’s also because I hate things being misrepresented. It’s one reason I had to step back from politics because of the in-fighting. I expect Republicans to attack Dems, but it’s Dems viciously tearing each other apart that drives me fucking nuts. It’s always been that way, but it started getting really bad during the 2016 primaries and it has just gotten worse over time.

I am a far leftie in theory and a not-quite-as-far leftie in practice. That means I get to see the ugly on both sides. It really irks me that some Democrats online spend more time slinging arrows at each other than across the bow. What is the fucking point? I’m not talking about discussing the differences and hashing out what’s important to the party. I’m talking about demonizing the other side and declaring them the enemy. Seriously. We’re talking about degrees of how far we should go on an issue rather than being on opposite sides. It’s frustrating and irritating, and I want no part of it.

However, this post isn’t about me being a contrarian about ideas and politics and whatnot, but rather about me being contrarian when it comes to pop culture.  Now, while it’s true that in the aforementioned instances, there is often a small part of pure contrarian because that’s who I am. It’s 95% not that, but maybe 5% that. In this case, though, it’s simply I don’t like what other people like. I know some people think it’s me being hip or whatever, but it truly isn’t.

A recent(ish) example is Knives Out. It was a huge success and it got raved about over and over again. So many superlatives, so little time. It was an ensemble cast with a quirky detective, which should have been right up my alley. I watched the trailer and was…not impressed. Everyone talked about how great Daniel Craig was, but I could not get past how terrible his accent was. Maybe it was purposeful? I mean, he’s a great actor so I cannot imagine he couldn’t do a spot-on accent. Also, he appears clueless, but it had to be an act, right? Like Poirot.


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Not feeling…well, much of anything

I’ve been feeling shitty the last few days. I’ve mentioned that my sleep has been all over the map and I think I’m getting sick. Why? Because I only sleep more than seven hours when I’m feeling punk. Last night I slept…almost ten hours on and off. I’ve fallen asleep before midnight for the last three nights. That’s unheard of! And I’m exhausted in the morning. I mean, I’m usually exhausted, but this is very different. So, yeah, I’m probably getting sick.

Or, it could be because I gave up coffee again. I am drinking one mug of pomegranate green tea after I get up, but who knows if the caffeine content is the same as a mug of coffee? I don’t know what’s going on except I have trigger thumb with my left thumb which is fucking annoying. I don’t mind the pain in the base of the thumb so much, but the clicking is driving me crazy. I’m doing exercises for it and I ordered a heat/ice brace from Amazon, but it’s really frustrating. When it first started happening about a week ago, it was minimal and only happened once or twice a day for maybe five minutes. Now, it’s more often, harder, and for longer. It doesn’t really get in the way if I’m doing something, but any time I try to straighten or bend it and it’s wonky, it clicks. The click itself doesn’t hurt, but it’s annoying as fuck.

I know part of getting older is having things fall apart. I just didn’t realize how fucking annoying it would be. I’ve been able to stave off body aches and pains through taiji, but this is something that taiji isn’t helping. To be fair, it’s only been a week or so, but I’m used to taiji being on top of things.

Anyway, part of my sleep being so fucked up means that I’m in no mood to play games most of the time. I do a Hades run now and again–

Side note: For whatever reason, I cannot leave Hades on a completed run. I don’t know why, but it’s been like that for ages. I have to at least do a few rooms on Tartarus if not run through the boss of Asphodel.

Hades is comfort gaming to me at the moment because I’m still trying for that goddamn legendary fish, which means zero heat. But even that I haven’t played every day because I’m just so tired.

I still love Tales of the Neon Sea, though I haven’t played it in a couple days. I got to play a lot as William, talking to the other street cats in order to get information. As with many games of this type, I’m not enamored by the platforming sections, but it’s bearable. I adore the cats and their whole ecosystem. I would be perfectly happy if the game was just cats.


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The more things change….

I gave up coffee. Again. Maybe not for good, but I switched back to green tea for my caffeine. Why? Because my sleep has been terrible since I started drinking it again. Green tea didn’t seem to have that effect and it’s delicious, especially with pomegranate. I haven’t had this bad of sleep in some time and it’s really messing with my head. Yes, my migraines have been kept at bay, but is it worth it? I don’t know. With the absence of the migraines, I would say yes. But, in the middle of a migraine, I would say no. It’s the duel of the conflicting health issues!

On the weapons front, I loaded up today. I did the beginning of the Double Sabre Form, sword drills, the whole Sabre Form, the Karambit Form, and spear drills. Oh, I forgot to do the one row of the Cane Form I know, so I’ll do it tomorrow. I’m still thinking about about a music/form mashup and we’ll see if I have the energy for that. One thing about going to the demo is that it fills me with possibilities–much like a kid with her nose pressed to the window of a candy shop. I want everything I can see and all at one time. My teacher likes to say that there’s a lifetime to learn things so there’s no reason to rush.

She’s right, but that doesn’t stop my brain from whispering that I’m behind and need to catch up. Not that kindly, of course, as my brain is really mean to me most of the time. Actually, I have to check that. It used to be horrid to me. I had a constant tape of negativity that looped in my brain and it just felt normal. I called him (and it was definitely a him) The Dictator and he was a cruel master. He had so many rules and regulations, it was impossible to keep them straight and not mess up.

Side note: Quick background about the Dictator. I grew up being constantly told, mostly by implication, that my feelings were not valid. They constantly got minimized and ignored, and I was not allowed to show any kind of negative emotion. Negative meaning anger, sadness, depression, etc. Only my father was allowed to show anger because he was king of the castle and allowed to do whatever he wanted. The rest of us had to tiptoe around him and catered to his every whim.

I internalized those messages to such an extent that even now I have difficulty showing human emotions in a natural manner. It’s one reason I prefer writing because it’s easier to mimic through written words than through speaking. I’m better at it, but it’s still not something I can do without thinking. In the past, I’ve been able to mimic the emotions because I’m observant and I used to do some  acting in my youth.

I want to be clear. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel the emotion on some level. If a friend told me they, say, got a great new job, then I felt happy for them deep down inside. The problem was that I had wrapped my emotions in multiple layers of cotton that I could no longer feel them. Not only that, I couldn’t even access them.

I had a flat affect at the time because I was in a deep depression and I felt as if I could never get out of it. Now, I’m still not as emotive as ‘normal’ people, but I can more easily  pass. And I have access to my emotions, albeit muted versions.


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Happy Lunar New Year + taiji demo

Happy Year of the Ox, everyone! I’m not a huge celebrator of holidays, but I’m more into Lunar New Year than the alternative because, well, just because. That doesn’t mean I do much about it, but I at least acknowledge it–mostly because my family celebrates it.

One thing that comes with the Lunar New Year is the demo at my taiji teacher’s home studio. Last year was right before the pandemic really hit and it was both great (saw the Double Sabre Form) and terrible (car wouldn’t start afterwards because of the bitter cold). This year, there was question whether there would even be one given the pandemic, but they decided to do it on Zoom.

My teacher was in charge of it as she does all the online Zoom classes, but this was the first time she’d done an event of this magnitude. We had twenty-five or so people, which was more than I expected for a Zoom event.

The way it was handled was that my teacher had roughly twenty slots for demos. Solo demos, which was the only way it made sense. It was limited to 2-3 minutes per demonstrator. Hm. Not a good word. Presenter.

It would have been better in person, of course, but there were a few benefits to it being online. One, we’re in the middle of a wind chill advisory and it might get down to -45. Two, for me, it was nice to be able to sit in the comfort in my own home and not have to worry about my physical energy levels. Also, while I enjoy watching the group presentations, it’s easier to focus on the details with single presenters.

One thing that blew my mind was that two of the women who demoed did their routines to rap/hip hop, one being a Beastie Boys song. I had never thought about doing a routine to music, let alone hip hop/rap, and it was the most amazing thing. One was the Dancing Wu-Li Form and the other was a mixture of sabre forms.

At first, I was taken aback with the two of these being brought together. But, watching the first demo, I immediately got into it and thought, “Why the hell not?” Then, I was besotted by it and by the end of the demo, I was thinking of which forms I could unite with which rap songs.


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Tales of the Neon Sea? More like Tails!

I’ve been playing more Tales of the Neon Sea by Palm Pioneer and am completely charmed by it. I wrote about my initial hesitations, but I’m all in. Why? Because of the cats, bay-beeeee! Also, murder mystery that is being handled well so far. I’m only two hours in, but I’m loving every second of it. Well, not every second, but most of them. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Let’s start with the murder mystery part. i have tried for years to find a murder mystery video game that I liked to no avail. I’ve played almost all of the critically-acclaimed Sherlock Holmes games, and not to put too fine a point on it, I hate them. I know this is a me-thing and probably because I had specific expectations for the game which were not in any way fulfilled. I wanted to be able to deduce and figure out murder mysteries. Instead, I had to do a bunch of typical point-n-click games like how to cross planks atop a building in order to get to the other side but some are crumbling. Plus, the trope of seeing a thing that you KNOW you’ll need at some point, but you can’t pick up yet. Everything I did took away from the mystery aspect and I never finished one of those games.

I also tried the Poirot game because I am a HUGE Poirot fan. But,  it was a crashing disappointment and I didn’t finish that one, either. I loved Paradise Killer, but it made me constantly nauseous and had to finally, reluctantly, quit. I played several point-n-clicks and fell off all of them sooner or later. The one that hurt the most was Kathy Rain. It was so great for the first two-thirds of it (as long as I ignored the usual point-n-click bullshit like endless backtracking and esoteric puzzles that only make sense if you’re high as a kite when you try to solve them) as a retro ’80s feel to it with a strong female protagonist. Badass who smoked cigarettes and drove a motorbike. There was an interesting story about her mother going crazy and her searching for answers. Her father disappeared and it was really building up to be something special.


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If you can’t say anything nice

Come sit by me. That’s usually my attitude towards that saying, but today, I’m going to put a spin on things and list all the good things about me that I can. Why? Because normally I gloss over them or downplay them or ignore them completely. I’m not comfortable with any kind of self-praise, evev if it’s just me saying it to myself. I’m treating this as just an experiment to take the heat off myself and I’m pretty sure I’ll explain away every positive point, but so be it.

Let’s start with the physical. I have two features I like. One is my hair, which is funny because I wear it in a topknot all the time. When I wear it down, I get compliments on it. It could be simply because of the sheer length.

Side note: I’ve mentioned this before, but my hair used to reach my waist. It stayed there for several decades until a few years ago, it began to grow again. I had no idea why. Normally, I would give credit to taiji, but that wasn’t something that had changed in that time. After some reflection, I realized it was probably my change in diet. That was around the same time I cut out dairy and gluten plus some other things that were giving me issues. That made sense to me and I’m sticking with it.

It grew to nearly my knees, well, a few inches from my knees, and I noticed that the edges were getting scraggly. I cut off roughly six inches and it’s now at the top of my thighs. I’m holding out hope that it’ll grow past my knees and that’s my new hair goal. The old one used to be let it turn all white a la Storm from the X-Men before chopping it off.  Now, I want it to reach my ankles.


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The grass is always greener

Most of the time, I’m fine with being a weirdo. Sometimes, I take a perverse amount of pride in not being traditional. My mom once said with much irritation after I–oh, I know what it was. My cousin had gotten engaged by her husband (fiancé at the time) and my mom was relating how it happened. Or at least, we were talking about it. He had collaborated with her boss to make it appear as if she had a professional meeting in another country. Unbeknownst to her, he was flying out to the same country a day early to propose to her.

My mom thought this was the most romantic thing I had ever heard. I, on the other hand, was horrified by it, as I would be by any flamboyant/public proposal. Sad to say, I went on a rant about it because I hated the whole idea and thought it was a way of one-upping other people. I also hate people having secrets about me so everything about this proposal hit me in the worst way possible.

Now, decades later, I can see that it was more about me than the actual proposal. To be clear, I would still hate it, but it wasn’t about me. It was about my cousin and what she would like–and she loved it. It made her feel loved and cherished, and it was a great proposal story she could share with people.

Just because my idea of the ideal proposal if I were into getting married, which I’m not, is for me or my lover to roll over in bed and say, ‘Hey, wanna get married?’ before hoofing it for the JoP, there’s no reason to rain on other people’s parades. Fortunately, I never said any of this to my cousin because I had a higher EQ than that.

My point is that I’m weird. I’ve always been weird. When I was younger, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t think the way other people did and I was miserable all the time. I got picked on all the time for being Asian, fat, and smart. I didn’t really have any friends and I didn’t know how to go about making them. I didn’t watch TV or go to the movies. I ate mostly Taiwanese/Chinese food before it was chic and took a lot of teasing about it at school.

I first learned about death when I was seven, which freaked me out. But, at the same time, I became inexplicitly drawn to it. It became my boon companion, both lover and bogeyman. I used to sit up in bed, my heart pounding in terror at the idea of simply not existing forever. And yet, I looked for death wherever I went because it was calling to me. I wanted to kill myself as early as eleven and that lasted…well, it’s still around in a lesser form. And it’s not that I want to kill myself, but rather than I don’t want to live. It’s hard to explain the difference. I’m not actively seeking to die and haven’t been for decades. However, I’m not sold on this life thing, either.


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Black cat strut

black cat strut!
My newest BFF, William.

If there’s one thing you need to know about me, it’s that I love black cats. Black is my favorite color and cats are my favorite animals. Put the two together for pure gold. If there is a black cat in a game, I will play it. Well, within reason. Not if it’s a Collar Duty* game or an MMO, but in general, stick a black cat in it, and I am all about it.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 by Larian Studios has a black cat, which makes it an instant classic. I haven’t played more of it, though, because I have to decide who I want in my party and I can’t decide. In addition, I have so many side quests going on, I’m feeling overwhelmed. I will go back to it, but I need to get my footing first.

Side note: I’m off caffeine again and it’s rough. I am exhausted, which is my normal state of mind, but it’s even worse. Once all the caffeine leaves my system, I’m hoping it’ll even out so I’m just tired and not bone-weary.

Ian gave me a bunch of games from his monthly Humble Bundle. One of them is Tales of Neon Sea by Palm Pioneer. It’s a cyberpunk point-n-click (I know, I know) with colorful graphics and cats! There is a black cat who is your buddy and I was already following it on Steam. The main character is a detective and there is a mystery, which is also up my alley.

I will say, I wasn’t immediately impressed with the game because the controls are a bit fiddly. I’m using a controller as seemed to be suggested by the game and the prompts aren’t precise. In the beginning, I’m dropped down and then some dude with a plague mask came after me. I promptly died trying to get away from him (I knew better than try to fight him).

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Conflicting health issues

i have suffered from migraines for quite some time. Let me backtrack a minute. I’ve had a low-level headache pretty much all my life. It’s always been there whenever I really think about it. For decades, it’s been something I’ve lived with and just dealt with as need be. I took ibuprofen when it got bad, and that did jack and shit. I will confess something that I rarely talk about. When the migraines hit in the old days, they were fucking awful. Two ibuprofen did nothing to them. My migraine just laughed at that pitiful attempt to block it. Three? Ha! Not a chance. It took six in order for the ibuprofen to have any effect on the migraine. Which, by the way, I didn’t recognize as a migraine at the time because I don’t get auras.

Side note: This is one of the reasons that it’s important to not have a fixed idea as to the symptoms of a health issue. They don’t manifest in the same way for different people.

Side note to the side note: It’s similar to how most medical studies are done on white dudes. Well, that holds true for a lot of things, but the medical part is especially pertinent here. I was in my thirties when I discovered that Asian people needed much less of most medications than do white people. It was around the same time when I also realized that as a woman, my ‘normal’ dose would be much less than a man’s. This had disastrous results when I tried to find a solution to my sleep issues. Hm. Was it in my late twenties? Maybe. That or my early thirties.

I was desperate. I had tried a bunch of things that didn’t work. Hot milk before bed. Hot chamomile tea. Lavender in the bath (how I found out I was allergic to lavender). Ambient music. White noise machine. Which, I will say, did help, but didn’t eliminate the core problem. Same with earplugs and an eye mask, but those didn’t come until later. At some point, I tried melatonin, valerian, St. John’s Wort (more for depression than for sleep, but didn’t work). The valerian actually made me suicidal because it slowed my brain down so much, I couldn’t make a coherent sentence.


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