Thoughts on Renting Out Storage Space (Part 1)

A while ago, I was listening to this interview with Gretchen Rubin, and she made some comment about how, if she had money to invest, she’d want to invest in the self-storage industry. My reaction is ‘I am involved in the storage business, and that’s not where I’d put money if I had a lot of money to invest.’

That’s not to say that the storage business is bad. It’s been a great side hustle for my mother for decades. But I also know that renting space to people for storage isn’t all rainbows and unicorns.

When I say we are in the storage business, I mean that my mother rents out much of the basement, including the garage, to outsiders (and in recent years I’ve been helping her). When I wrote about the ‘storage room’ in this post, I was being a bit misleading. The reason that room was empty was that it was available for rent. It has since been rented, and currently is full of the tenant’s stuff.

When my mother bought this building, she needed a mortgage. The only mortgage she could get came with an 18% interest rate. That means paying almost 1/5 of the outstanding balance of the loan every year. It was a time of high inflation, but it was still a steep interest rate. On top of that, because the house wasn’t inhabitable when she bought it, she also have to pay for a renovation, which ended up costing ten times more than the initial estimated cost. Suffice to say, she was under a lot of financial pressure. Of course she got roommates who paid rent as soon as she could, but she also wanted to make money off the basement to help pay the mortgage. Thus, she started renting out the garages and some of the rooms, and has been doing it ever since. The only room in the basement which has never been rented out, other than the basement corridor, is the furnace room.

So what are the costs of renting out basement space as storage? Continue reading

Thinking about Beautiful Aliens during Pride Month

In honor of Pride 2020, I’m writing this blog post about Beautiful Aliens: A Steve Abbott Reader.

I first learned about Steve Abbott when I read Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father by his daughter, Alysia Abbott. The book walks the line between biography and autobiography, since it is told from Alysia’s perspective with first person pronouns, yet her father Steve, not herself, is the main subject, because being a single gay father in the 1970s and 1980s was *cough* unusual. Nowadays, Steve Abbott is probably much better known as The Single Gay Father of Alysia Abbott than anything else.

But I was curious about Steve Abbott’s writing, so when Beautiful Aliens: A Steve Abbott Reader was published, I got a copy. Continue reading

A Few Book Recommendations for Juneteenth

Juneteenth – which is today – is a holiday which celebrates the end of slavery (except in prisons) in the United States. It is often celebrated with readings of works by African American writers. I’ve decided to share a few books by African Americans about African Americans which a) don’t belong to the canon of Famous and Prestigious African American Literature (I have great respect for that canon, but I think there are plenty of other people who are sharing that canon for Juneteenth, so I’d rather promote less-well-known works) and b) which show African Americans who are thriving. Continue reading

First Responders To Replace Police

Content warning: mentions of domestic violence / intimate-partner terrorism

A couple years back, as I was walking on a street, I saw a woman who looked distressed. I asked her ‘Are you okay?’ Her answer was ‘no’. I asked ‘How can I help?’ Her answer was ‘Call the police’.

Okay, that’s an oversimplification of the conversation. She said that she was staying at a hotel down the street while she was visiting the city, but they kicked her out (note: this was at approximately 11 pm). She was resigning herself to sleeping on the sidewalk that night. I suspect that she was also going through a mental health crisis.

I asked her a few times if she was sure that she wanted the police to come, to make sure that I understood her request. She said yes every time. I wanted to help, and she said that’s how I could help.

That is the only time in my life that I have called the police.

I stayed with her until the police came, even though she said it was okay if I left, because I wasn’t comfortable with leaving her alone there. That said, I was also tired and wanted to go home. When the police finally arrived, I was relieved to pass the buck to them. I hope they helped her, and that she was fine.

What if there had been an alternative to calling the police? Someone who could come at 11 pm at night to a specific sidewalk? Continue reading

What Government Policies Can Make Law Enforcement Agents Obey the Very Laws They Are Supposed to Enforce?

IMPORTANT UPDATE 6/8/2020: Since publishing this post, I have learned about serious problems with the data used to support the ‘8 Can’t Wait’ Campaign. Please read this critique. I have signed this petition. I am going to leave this post unaltered (except maybe to fix typos and low-level mistakes like that), but be warned that some of the comments I make in this post are based on a bad foundation.


First, I’d like to bring your attention to this website about ‘Police Use of Force’ put together by Campaign Zero. I recommend reading the whole thing (it’s not that long), but the highlights are that they have identified 8 policies which, when adopted by police departments, are correlated to fewer people being killed by police, and those same policies are also correlated with fewer police officers being killed while on duty, and that having or not having those policies doesn’t seem to affect crime rates (other than the crimes of police officers killing civilians or civilians killing police officers). In short, those 8 policies are correlated with fewer people, in uniform or not, dying in police encounters.

Correlation does not prove causation. It’s possible that the police departments which put in place those policies were already less likely to use lethal force, and that if you forced those policies on police departments which hadn’t voluntarily adopted them they wouldn’t work. But if the data is accurate, this correlation strongly suggests that implementing those eight policies in all police departments is morally necessary. And it seems obvious that if the Minneapolis Police Department had implemented one of the recommended policies ‘ban chokeholds and strangleholds’ George Floyd might still be alive today.

Campaign Zero has also launched the ‘8 Can’t Wait’ campaign to get cities across the United States to implement these policies. If my local government (San Francisco) hasn’t already implemented these eight policies, I’d be contacting them about this. Continue reading

My Favorite Novels Which I First Read in the 2010s

I spent a bit of time thinking about what were my favorite novels which I read for the first time in 2010-2019.

To make this list more interesting, I’m only putting in one novel per writer. I’m also including fanfiction novels and novel-length narrative poetry. I’m not including any novels I which I had read before 2010 and re-read in the 2010s. And I’m not claiming that these are the best novels I read in the decade, just that they are my personal favorites.

Rather than trying to make up my mind with which novel belongs in 5th place, or 7th place, or 9th place, I’m just going to order them by original publication date in the original language. With serial novels, I’m ordering them based on the year that the first installment was first published, though I also know the year the last instalment was published. Continue reading

An Ace Perspective on the Book Revolting Prostitutes

I recently read Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights by Juno Mac and Molly Smith. First of all, I’d like to say that is a thought-provoking book that I would recommend to anyone who has any interest in feminism and/or workers’ rights, even if they have no particular interest in sex work. Obviously, the book discusses sex and violence, so reader discretion is advised, but it always discusses sex and violence in a very practical way – nothing in the book is meant to titillate.

I’m going to examine the book from an ace perspective, not because that’s the most important perspective (the most important perspective is ‘what is the best policy for society as a whole and vulnerable people in particular?’), but because it is a perspective on the book’s content which a) I can provide and b) is relatively hard to find.

The book never explicitly mentions asexuality, but while reading the book, I realized that sex workers and aces have more in common that I knew before (of course, some sex workers are aces). Sex workers often have sex with people they aren’t sexually attracted to. Saying that aces have sex ‘often’ is misleading, but by definition, when aces do have sex, it is often with someone they aren’t sexually attracted to. Thus, when sex workers and aces have sex, it is often with someone they aren’t sexually attracted to. When I write it out here, this seems so bloody obvious, but so many people (including myself) have missed this obvious insight because our culture tells us that sex workers are extreme sluts, and aces are extreme prudes, and the only thing extreme sluts and extreme prudes could have in common is that they are extremists who aren’t ‘normal’. Continue reading

What Is the Difference Between a Yǔ​ and a Wén?

In Mandarin, some languages tend to be described as a ‘-yǔ’. For example, ‘Spanish [language]’ tends to be called ‘Xī​bān​yá​yǔ’ or the abbreviated form ‘Xī​yǔ’. Some languages tend to be described as a ‘-wén’. For example, ‘French [language]’ tends to be called ‘Fǎ​wén​’.

Spanish and French are very similar languages in many regards, so why the heck is Spanish a ‘-yǔ’ and French a ‘-wén​’?

Technically, it is acceptable to refer to Spanish as ‘Xī​bān​yá​wén​’ and French as ‘Fǎ​yǔ​’, and indeed on the Chinese Wikipedia pages for both languages they list their names as both ‘Xī​bān​yá​yǔ’ and ‘Xī​bān​yá​wén’​ / ‘Fǎ​wén’​ and ‘Fǎ​yǔ’. But in practice, I’ve mostly seen ‘Spanish [language]’ referred to as ​’Xī​bān​yá​yǔ/Xī​yǔ’ and ‘French [language]’ referred to as ‘Fǎ​wén​’ (at least in Taiwan where I lived – it may be different in other parts of the Sinophone world).

If you’re wondering what English [language] is, it’s a ‘-wén’ just like French. I have on a few occasions seen English referred to as ‘Yīng​yǔ​’ but at least 95% of the time in Mandarin it is referred to as ‘Yīng​wén​’. Japanese [language] is similar to English in this regard – it is usually referred to as ‘Rì​wén​’ but occasionally as ‘Rì​yǔ​’. Furthermore, I’ve noticed that Japanese described as ‘Rì​yǔ​’ in the very same contexts that English is decribed as ‘Yīng​yǔ​’ – which is a very strong hint that ‘-yǔ’ and ‘-wén​’ aren’t fully interchangeable.

What causes some languages to be ‘-yǔ’ by default (like Spanish) and others to be ‘-wén​’ by default (like French)? Continue reading

Let’s Put KonMari and Way of Choices Together (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1.

I want to bring up Chen Changsheng’s thousands of swords again, the material item which he has in the most surprising quantity. Those swords are quasi-conscious. They have (very limited) agency. Without someone to wield them, they can, with great difficulty, take a very restricted range of actions independently, which means that on their own they don’t do much but might occasionally do something. When they are being wielded, they can choose whether to assist or resist the wielder, so they are only useful to Chen Changsheng when they are willing to go along with him. They also form memories.

On top of all that, the swords can fly. That is how Chen Changsheng can use 1000+ swords at once in a fight – he is conducting/coordinating them rather than physically moving every single one with his hands. You can see a clip of this in the live-action adaptation and you can also briefly spot in in the 5th season opening of the animated adaptation.

This is far from a new idea in Chinese xia fiction. It’s a trope of wuxia that swords just might have a bit of a life of their own, shaped by how they have been wielded in the past. Being xuanhuan rather than wuxia, Way of Choices gets to push this old trope in a much more fantastical direction.

What does this have to do with Marie Kondo? Continue reading

The Fun of Watching BATS Live on Zoom

One of the more pleasant discoveries I’ve made in recent weeks is that watching BATS on Zoom is fun.

No, I’m not talking about flying mammals. I’m talking about Bay Area TheaterSports – Improv (BATS Improv).

As you probably know, traditional live theatre shows around the world are very cancelled right now. Some theatre companies are planning shows for this summer and fall, but I predict most or all of these will also be cancelled since live performances with audience members travelling potentially far distances to sit next to each other in close proximity while performers project respiratory drops much more than 6 feet / 2 meters so that they can be heard in the back row is one of the last things I expect to open up again. Unless there is an amazing breakthrough in preventing/treating COVID-19, I think traditional theatre shows are too risky. Even without legal restrictions, I expect that there will be so many people who agree with this that there won’t be sufficiently large audiences.

A lot of theatre companies around the world are streaming recordings of old performances.

BATS Improv it taking it one step further. They are doing live performances – on Zoom. Continue reading