Jack waited patiently while Gao and his sergeants poked at and clambered all over the six-legged vehicle he’d just finished fabricating. Something that had taken a not-inconsiderable amount of time, given the sheer number of parts the thing had needed. To get it done he’d had to repurpose a number of fabricators repeatedly to get the most he could out of his limited build capacity.
He’d gotten it done though – and the first Kang-Crawler was complete. And you’d never know the original design was based on a medium-light ore hauler,
he thought with some small pride.
The cargo bed was now a crew bay fit for four people. The drone-control block now contained the driver’s seat, an incredibly rustic manual control system and a single mesh grill through which to see. He’d used the same system on the top of the vehicle, with a domed turret built to house the vehicle’s main armament; a single twelve-pound smoothbore cannon.
That last addition alone ensured it was not a pretty vehicle. The melding of the ore-transport’s ruggedly efficient square lines with his dome shaped additions was not a smooth one. Not by a long shot. It gave the whole thing a distinctly… Frankenstein-esque appearance.
Something he was sure would only get worse once he saw the crawler in action. While multi-legged vehicles had a number of uses on worlds where the terrain was guaranteed to be rough,
the uncomfortably organic nature of how the things moved meant that crawlers had never really caught on in the civilian market.
At least, not outside a few weirdos. Plus, they’re universally slower than an equivalent tracked, wheeled or hover vehicle,
he thought as he looked at the thing’s crab-like legs.
The only upside they had was that they weren’t super energy intensive like hover vehicles while still able scale just about any surface you cared to aim it at. A useful trait in a land where roads were far from a guarantee, mountains were plentiful, and forests were all but omnipresent.
No, legs had been the only viable choice.
“And this war wagon can move for weeks?” Gao asked curiously as he clambered down off the hull. “Without needing to stop for rest?”
“So long as you keep it topped up with the battery packs loaded in the crew compartment.”
Gao nodded, before turning back to the turret. “And this ‘cannon’, it works like our rifles?”
The man was impressed, Jack could see that much, but he wasn’t blinded by his awe. He was thinking of how this massive beast would function in combat, and Jack could see the Crawler was coming up wanting in his mind. As evidenced by the frown that stole over his features as the man watched one of his people inside the tank make the turret traverse.
The traversal wasn’t slow by any means, but it wasn’t fast either. And to accurately hit a cultivator in combat, you needed to be fast.
Or make your shots indiscriminate.
“Sort of.” Jack allowed. “It’s got something called grapeshot.”
Gao’s eyes widened in interest at the new word, before they moved to track something behind his master, a frown forming.
Curious, Jack turned to see what had caught his second in command’s attention.
The answer was Elwin.
“How fascinating,” the elven woman said as she peered around the massive room, taking in the myriad of cables, screens and whirring devices that filled it.
Behind her, Lin gave him an apologetic look over the woman’s shoulder. A sentiment echoed on the shamed and worried faces of the guards accompanying the pair. Though whether they worried about Gao or him, Jack couldn’t say.
Truth be told, Jack wasn’t too bothered by this invasion of his workshop. No one in here had the sort of technological grounding needed to truly understand what they were seeing. Well, except perhaps the Crawler,
he allowed. But that was never going to remain a secret for long.
Besides, he’d not told his people to restrict the elf’s movements – and short of attacking her, he doubted they had the ability to stop the headstrong woman from going where she wanted. He’d only instructed them to watch her.
The silver haired woman’s eyes lit up as they alighted upon the crawler, a delighted giggle issuing from her throat.
“Oh, is this some bizarre mix of golem and wagon? How ingenious. Though I see not the purpose of the pipe?” She turned to him. “Is it to spray boiling oil upon one’s foes?”
He moved to say no… only to realize that wasn’t a terrible idea. Not so much oil as… fire,
No, that was certainly something to consider when he built the next one. He’d always intended to have at least three. So they could cover each other in combat. Even if they blasted each other with grapeshot, the small ball bearings wouldn’t penetrate the hull, so they could hose attackers off each other if one was boarded.
With the flamethrower idea though? Perhaps he could implement that idea a little more literally than he’d originally intended.
“What are you doing here?” He turned his thoughts away from any future thoughts of bathing cultivators in sticky napalm and back towards his problems in the here and now.
Of which Elwin certainly ranked – though truthfully, not through any real fault of her own.
“You weren’t at breakfast.” The elf used a single delicate finger to tap her chin. “For a host to leave his guests to dine alone, well, where I’m from it would be considered rather rude.”
It was considered rather rude here too, but he’d done it anyway. Elwin was an added paradigm he didn’t want to deal with.
He had enough problems without adding ‘foreign interests’ to the mix.
To that end, he would have palmed her off on Ren, but she was undergoing some kind of… cultivator thing because of the scrolls he’d palmed off on her and couldn’t be distrurbed.
“I was busy,” he said brusquely.
To that end, he glanced back at Gao. “Assuming the crawler gave you the staying power to go head to head with spirit beasts, could you do it?”
The man’s answer was instantaneous. “If it can do as you say great one, then I believe what you ask would be possible. To that end though, I would need more people. Securing the compound already has those we have brought with us stretched beyond what I am comfortable with.”
“Recruit from the local populace. God knows the city already has a surplus of people in it. I imagine you could find a few decent recruits amongst them.”
If the militia captain was in any way surprised by the answer, he didn’t show it, as he placed one palm on his chest and bowed. “By your leave.”
Jack nodded. “Get that done and come to me when you mean to start your people on driving lessons. I should have the training program hooked up by then.”
The other man seemed momentarily puzzled by the latter half of that sentence, but gamely continued on as he took the dismissal for what it was.
It seemed that was happening more and more often around him, people just taking his oddness for ‘hidden master’ eccentricities. He imagined it helped that word of his extra-imperial nature had slowly started flowing down through the ranks.
Most now knew he wasn’t born in the Empire – though only Lin knew exactly how foreign he was.
When Jack turned back around, he was a little dismayed to see Elwin still standing where he’d left her.
Did elves even call non-magic people ‘mortals’? Or did they just use peasant? He didn’t know. And he didn’t want to know.
“This, all of this, only reaffirms my decision to seek you out. I am glad to see the rumors about you are not exaggerated.”
Jack sighed. “What do you want?”
“What all women of power and reputation want,” Elwin smiled. “A continuation of my line. To that end, I have traveled half the known world, seeking a man who is both powerful and not currently… entangled. A rare pairing of traits, as you might imagine.”
He resisted the urge to sigh. So this was another woman after his baby batter. Well, she would be disappointed. The genes in his blood were company property, and as such, DRM locked.
Given he was already stringing along both An and Ren, he might have felt guilty about that fact if he were a more sentimental man. He wasn’t. He liked An. He liked Ren. He felt zero guilt about lying to them. He’d been lying from the start, this was just another notch on that belt as far as he was concerned.
Besides, he had time to sort the whole situation out before it came to a head. It wasn’t like they were expecting kids tomorrow. With the war on, both the women in his life were quite content to wait.
Apparently cultivators could control that kind of thing. And he’d be lying even more if he said he was surprised by that.
And when it did become an issue, he thought. Well, I can think of one solution. Not exactly one I’m super psyched about, but it would work… after a fashion.
“I’m sorry to say that I am quite entangled. You’ll just have to keep searching.”
Elwin just smiled. “Really? I don’t think that’s truly true. You have commitments and goals, certainly, but none that I can foresee precluding you from taking me up on my offer at a later date.”
“I’m not interested.”
“You haven’t even asked what I can offer.”
God, this woman was persistent.
He sighed. “Make your case.”
The elf’s smile only widened. “The woman you intended to meet, you intended to meet her to recruit her. As a trainer for your own house of cultivators?”
That got his attention. “How did you know that?”
“She told me. Or rather, she told half the inn.” Elwin inclined her head. “She was bragging about it and I happened to overhear her from my table. As did others I imagine, given how her former compatriots showed up soon after. And I think we all know what happened after that.” Damnit Bai,
Jack thought venomously. On the bright side, I can tell Ren that her information network hasn’t sprung a leak.
“What were you doing there?” Jack asked, turning toward her. “No offense, but I have a feeling that particular establishment wasn’t exactly up to your standards.”
For the first time since he’d met the woman, the elf’s smile turned decidedly brittle. “It wasn’t. Unfortunately, as a foreigner to this fair
city, those establishments that might otherwise cater to a woman of my standing refused me service.”
Yeah, she definitely wasn’t pleased about that.
“What are you getting at?” Jack asked.
“In the place of the woman you lost last night, I am willing to act as a tutor in her place. To teach those with the talent ,the skills of a magister.”
It actually took Jack a few seconds to process that. “That could take years. And could the locals even do… whatever it is you do?”
Elwin waved a hand airily. “I am four hundred years old. A few years are nothing if it secures me an heir. My father might be old and ailing, but he likely still has a decade or two left in him. In a few years, you will return to my home with me, with an heir in my belly. With my line secured, my father will look more favorably on me as heir.”
The woman spoke like it was a foregone conclusion. Jack didn’t care. No, his interest was on something else.
“But could you teach the locals to do what you do?”
Just a hint of annoyance seemed to enter the woman’s features. “I could. Mana or… whatever it is the locals call their bastardized variant, until it is one or the other, it is but energy.”
Huh, so until you learned techniques it was like…stem-cells?
He hesitated for just a moment before he asked his next question. “Could you teach those techniques to Ren? The woman who was with me last night.”
Elemental attacks were pretty damn high level around here from what he’d seen – and Elwin had taken out Pen like it was nothing. If she could teach that kind of thing to both Ren and An, it would really boost their usefulness.
Unfortunately for his burgeoning dreams, the elf sniffed disdainfully at his question. “Reach into yourself and feel my mana upon you.”
He stiffened a little as he reminded himself that he was supposed to know this kind of thing.
“Hum, how elusive,” the elf muttered. “Still, you can feel how my mana washes through you without touching upon your own energies. Water and oil cannot mix. As my mistress once said, you may carve stone into a statue, but once carved will remain so. Mana and… Ki, I think it was, are incompatible. One nourishes the body. The other the mind.
A little relieved he hadn’t accidentally rumbled himself, he continued. “Sounds like mana doesn’t make you hardy like the locals? And me.”
Despite adding the last bit as an afterthought, Elwin didn’t seem to notice. Instead she sniffed disdainfully again. “No, but even if I were I would not lower myself to clashing with steel like some plebian. Yourself excepted of course. Your work with golems is just more proof that you were destined to meet me.”
This time it was Jack’s turn to ignore the last part of his conversational partner’s statement. Instead, he found himself unsurprised to hear that mages were just as ridiculous about avoiding close combat as the locals were about avoiding ranged combat.
Though if Elwin was as squishy as a normal person, that kind of made sense.
Still, even if his mages wouldn’t be shattering boulders on their pecs, that didn’t mean they wouldn’t be useful. If he couldn’t have a cadre of punch wizards to bolster his forces like he’d wanted… well, maybe regular wizards could be a semi-decent substitute. Though it might come with more political headaches,
“I’ll consider it,” he said finally.
Elwin flashed him a knowing look. “That’s all I ask. If you need me, I’ll be here.” She tapped her chin. “It won’t even be a chore. Your delightfully precocious goat-girl showed me the ‘shower’ last night, and I now intend to inspect the ‘cinema’. I hope it’s equally as enjoyable.”
As Elwin moved to leave, her entourage in tow, she nearly bumped into Ren as the other woman… didn’t quite run into the workshop. Still, the two glared at each other as they passed by.
Indeed, Ren was still glaring in the elf’s direction when she disappeared out the door. Finally though, she turned to Jack, hesitating only slightly as she noticed the intimidating shape of the crawler behind him.
“Shui wants to meet.”
This time Jack did sigh.
Why did it feel like his life had become an endless series of meetings?
As it turned out, unlike what he had expected, Shui had not called him to meet about his clash with the Silver Paw last night.
“The compound you created in a night.” The woman said without preamble as soon as he was ushered into her office. “Can you create more?”
Jack paused in the act of looking around the woman’s remarkably mundane workspace. Sure, it had a few swords and a small assortment of hunting trophies hung on the walls, but aside from that, it just looked like any other office he’d been in, albeit a little more rustic than the norm.
Stone walls. Lanterns. An open window with an expansive view of the city behind her. A large wooden desk covered in parchment, a few quills and an ink pen.
It was not what he’d expected of the gregarious pig-kin at all.
“For a price,” he said finally. “And much simplified.”
He certainly had no intention of expending any more nanomachines than he had to in order to give this hypothetical building electricity or gas heating. Water was simple enough though. All one needed was pipes, gravity and a water tower on the roof.
The pig-kin snorted. “Of course. But can it be done? Just as fast?”
He nodded. “Give or take a day or two.”
The pig-kin nodded, relief pervading her. “Good. Good. Then I need you to create me a series of structures. Homes. Preferably tall ones that will take up less ground space.”
Jack’s confusion must have shown on his face.
“They’re for the mortals.” Shui continued. “They pervade the streets, getting in the way of troop movements and generally getting underfoot. I have counseled the magistrate to have them cast out, but the Imperial Scion has refused for reasons that are beyond me.”
Jack nodded slowly, even as he mentally raised his opinion of the Magistrate up a notch. Maybe his shaming of her treatment of the lands outside the city had some effect?
Probably not, but it was nice to dream.
“More to the point, petty thievery and muggings are now rampant. Merchants dare not leave their homes after dark. Eventually, we can expect riots to break out. The nights are warm now, but winter will come again and we will have frozen corpses littering the streets.”
The Brigadier tapped her desk with a single thick finger. “I need not tell you that such a thing would be bad for the morale of my mortal troops. Not to mention the city as a whole.”
This time Jack nodded more firmly. The woman’s words were a small reminder that while cultivators were where most of the killing power of the Empire lay, mortals were the ones who held the line long enough for those cultivators to deal the decisive blow.
“So you want me to build big houses that can house hundreds, if not thousands of people in the name of getting them off the streets?”
“I want my name on the buildings.”
Shui nodded again, more slowly this time. She seemed confused by the request.
“And I want to reiterate that I expect to be paid well for this.”
This time her nod was more confident. “I will take as much as we need from the defense budget. Though I
will reiterate that these buildings should be simple. I am paying to see these mortals off my streets, not have them living in luxury. I expect that to be reflected in the price of these buildings.”
This time it was Jack’s turn to nod, before he hesitated. “Still, these people have been here for months now. Why are you only just clearing them out now?”
“Only just.” Shui chuckled mirthlessly. “As if I haven’t been complaining of these problems for months. No, it’s only your arrival that has given me a second option, one palatable
to the Magistrate.”
She leaned back, pensive.
“Though in truth, that’s not the full answer.
She wet her lips, the next words coming hesitantly.
“Apparently a number of instinctive warbands have broken away from the main front around the breach and are now rampaging through the northern reaches of the Empire. The Imperial army is too preoccupied with the main force to pursue them.” Shui gazed into his eyes with deadly intensity. “Recent reports from our scouts put one of these warbands on a direct intercept course with Ten Huo. Initial estimates suggest this force may number near a million strong.”
Jack swallowed uncomfortably. “So, we’re outnumbered about something on a scale of ten to one?”
Shui smiled mirthlessly. “Something like that. Hence why I’m hoping you’ve got a few more tricks up your sleeve, Jack Johansen.” First
/ Next Another three chapters are also available on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/bluefishcake We also have a (surprisingly) active Discord where and I and a few other authors like to hang out: https://discord.gg/RctHFucHaq
Happy Halloween! This is um, so very wordy it's spooky.
Section One: Assets and Debt Retirement Balance (and how you got there):
$9,059 in Roth IRA and $135,567 in 403b. My work creates a 403b account for every FT employee on their 2nd year work anniversary, and automatically deposits 10% of your paycheck (no match needed). From there, it was easy to put in 5% starting in my mid 20s. This is one of the best perks of my job and I am so grateful as I’m nearing my 40s! For a full picture, I guess my actual compensation is $95,700. Equity:
Mint.com says 1.2 mil but I have no clue. I live in a multi-generational home with my parents, my sister, and a niece who is in her last year of college but will move back after graduation. As a first generation household, we were lifelong renters until the landlords put the house for sale in 2013 with little notice. After a stressful couple of months, and with the help of family and friends, I moved back home and we were able to purchase the home and became homeowners. It’s a single family home but my dad renovated it so it functions as two separate living units; I live on the top with my niece and my folks and sister are on the bottom floor. We can rent out the top floor for passive income if needed. I genuinely don’t know if I will be able to afford a home in the Bay if I meet someone. Buuuuut I try not to think often about Bay Area real estate (or dating in your late 30s) lest I spiral lol. Savings account balance:
$13,173 total. With $10k earmarked emergency fund and the rest split into fun fund and property tax buckets. Checking account balance:
$5088, got that sweet sweet interest rate this summer. Investment account balance:
$15,098 with e-trade. Credit card debt (and how you accumulated it):
$3077 right now, but I pay everything in full each month. Highlights from this period include Disneyland tickets for December, incredibly expensive but SO VERY PRETTY Halloween nail polish, and a pair of Allbirds because I needed new sneakers.
Section Two: Income Income Progression:
I've been working with this company since 2008. I started as an assistant in 2008 with $35,000. A series of 4% to 5% pay annual increase followed, until 2013 when I was promoted into an assistant manager role, which came with a 10% raise plus the normal 5% pay increase. I received another promotion in 2019 so another 15% pay increase. Main Job Monthly Take Home:
Around $4400 monthly after tax.
Section Three: Expenses Mortgage:
$2668, my mom gives me $1200 and I pay the rest, usually $100 more so about $2788 a month. We refinanced at an incredible fixed 15 year rate in 2020, so I am very motivated to pay this off ASAP. Home insurance:
My sister pays so I don’t know. Retirement contribution:
$50 to the Roth IRA, really due to inertia than anything else (did not count the 5% pre tax to 403b) Savings contribution:
$650 a month to the various buckets mentioned in section one (emergency fund, property tax, fund fund) Investment contribution:
$100 a month to E-trade, even though the total gets lower the more money I put in this year. Electric/Gas:
Parents pay, we range about $110 - $200. Electric is cheap since we are leasing solar panels, but gas can vary greatly depending on how much we use the heater. Wifi//Landline:
$65.97 for Wifi and a landline with an independent provider. I hope to never pay Comcast another cent. Cellphone:
I’m on a group plan with friends so I pay about $31 a month for unlimited data with Google Fi Subscriptions:
NYT $17, Experian Credit Reporting $14.95, Netflix $15.49. I also paid $30 to a friend for her Disney+ when they were having a promotion. I believe this will cover me for 2 years. I’m on my friend’s Spotify Premium, and my parents get HBO Max for free through their cell phone services. I also paid for a year of Apple+ at $99 but really need to cancel that because no one uses it. Gym membership:
$41 a month to use the gym where I train with my personal trainer. Training sessions are $100 each and I pay $500 every month or two (we don’t meet every week due to scheduling). Pet expenses:
Family dog (K) takes anti-anxiety meds, and her meds are $80 every 3 months. Our vet behavorist prescribed the human version of anti-anxiety meds for our pup as it was cheaper. Annual home vet visit is usually $120 - $200. My dad pays for the grooming and dog food. We make our own chicken jerky for the princess as snacks, and she gets peanut butter in a kong and with her meds, to keep the cost down for dog treats. Car payment / insurance:
I don’t have a car but pay $60 -$80 a month for public transportation (Clipper Card), this is pre-tax. Paid hobbies:
I take surveys for Usercrowd for cash. It's not much but it's honest work.
Money Diary MONDAY
Co-worker texted the previous night that she threw out her back and won’t be in to open for the morning shift. Boss and I both move up our scheduled start times to accommodate. (Changing my alarm almost 2 hours earlier on Sunday night was a deep kind of hurt). It actually worked out since my sister’s office days start at 8am and she’s also in Downtown SF. So we commuted in together. By “commuted” I mean we took the metro together and snoozed until our stop, ha! Got into work at 7:45am. I have been on a decaf kick lately to help with my sleep, but today really called for a cup of coffee or 2. Boss had the breakfast laid out so I really didn’t have anything to do until the attendees arrive. We do professional development training, and my office days are dependent on when we have live events.
After the morning rush, boss and I talked about how we miss bagels as we’re both gluten intolerant. She recommended Odd Bagels. I looked on their website, and impulse bought both the onion and everything bagels. ($20.93)
I work so much work. It’s a hectic day and while I like being in the office (my coworkers are good peeps), I do get pulled into various different tasks and projects. A few things are left uncompleted on my to-do list, but I managed all the time sensitive ones, so I’ll take it. I pack up my laptop and other things as I’m working remote the next 2 days. Out the door by 5:45pm.
I’m home by 6:30pm! K is already fed so I just take her to the backyard for some fetch and a few scritches and ask her about her day before I sit down to dinner. We try to sit down to family dinner every night if we can, and rotate cooking depending on scheduling. It is so nice to have that option to not cook after a long day.
It’s been a long day and my brain is fried. I watch some vlogs on Youtube, hop in the shower, do my skincare and get to bed around 11:30.
*Monday total: $20.93 TUESDAY
I wake up 30 minutes before my alarm and feel rested despite getting less than 7 hours of sleep. I check my email and scroll Reddit in bed before nature calls and I’m up by 8:30. I get ready for the morning, throw on some makeup because I have a morning Zoom. I normally make a drip coffee if I’m working from home, but I don’t have any decaf grounds so I make a decaf nespresso. I’m ready for work by 9….ish.
11:42am Call done, working on other things and then, earthquake! I immediately went to Google and sanfrancisco to confirm. Other co-workers in SF also posted about it in Slack. It was a 5.1 in the south bay. You get used to them living in CA, but this one shook for much longer. Normally the smaller earthquakes are so short you play the “was that an earthquake or a really big truck passing by” game.
Lunch at 12 since the earthquake threw me off. I don’t usually eat breakfast, so I guess this is brunch. I have a pack of portobello mushrooms about to go bad, so I make a spinach and mushroom omelet with some leftover sweet potatoes. I also say hi to doggo and see if she needs to go out for a pee (she does not, the princess is sleeping in). My friend texted our group chat about SF Restaurant Week. We make reservations for a restaurant I’ve been waiting to try for Friday night. It’s so popular they only have an 8:30pm available. Granny here eats at 6pm, but I rally because I REALLY want to try their uni creme brulee. You prepay with the reservations, and it came out to $102.33 per person. My friend paid, so I venmoed her later.
Rest of the afternoon flies by. I stop working around 3pm but keep my laptop open for any emails or slack. I work on my Vote Forward letters in the meantime. I hope the letters can persuade at least one person to vote. I also hope they can make out my horrible handwriting!
It’s 5:00pm and I officially log off. I feed K and give her meds, and we play a nice game of fetch and she barks at random birds who have the audacity to fly over our yard. We head back in and I chat with my mom a bit as we heat up leftovers. My sister also made chicken soup and it is now definitely chilly enough for soup. We have dinner, my dad shared some worrying news about his brothemy uncle. He’s recently diagnosed with late stage colon cancer and it’s spread, a lot. Uncle lives in Shanghai and the zero policy Covid meant that he was suffering for a month before he was able to get an appointment and diagnosis due to all the disruptions to services. China still has a 10 day quarantine so it will be difficult and expensive for my dad to fly back. It's a whole mess, and we are all worried.
I clean up the kitchen a bit and wash the dishes, and it’s time to relax. I finish the night with some Netflix and Sims 4. …I stay up waaay too late playing Sims.
*Tuesday total: 102.33 WEDNESDAY
I wake up at 8:30 and get ready for the morning. No calls = just some sunscreen and lotion. Not too groggy, so I make tea and log in by 9am. My calendar looks suspiciously empty, so I double-check my emails and Slack to make sure I didn’t forget anything. I didn’t! I work on my self-appraisal (what’s a fancy way of saying “please give me more money, but not more responsibilities?), and slack with my direct report. We hired 5 additional people this year (a huge percentage when you’re originally an office of 12), with 4 newly created roles. One new role was a coordinator for my team. I check in with her as we have some repairs scheduled at the office and see if she has any questions about upcoming tasks. I don’t like being micromanaged so I do my best to not micromanage, and I think it’s been working out well.
I open the fridge at 11:30am, and the box of portobello mushrooms stared back balefully. I decide on miso soup with mushroom and spinach, and air fried salmon over rice. It was delicious.
Lunch time break to see the pup! She’s out in the yard, keeping my mom company as she works in the garden. We get a rare day of sun, so K is soaking up the rays and living her best life.
After lunch I check in with my coworker who called out on Monday. She had to go to the ER due to the pain, but thankfully is now recovering. Doctor’s note will be submitted to HR and she has some limitations in mobility for 3 weeks. I ask her to check with my coordinator so she can make any accommodations needed for Thursday, her first day back at work. I also get a proof of life from my boss, who has been battling a lingering cold for over a week. I make a note to take Emergen-C with dinner.
I work out some details for a high level meeting for 2023. I’m reviewing a hotel contract and negotiating the terms, like I’m someone who has the authority to do that? Almost 15 years and I still can’t shake the sense of imposter syndrome. I channel my best “fake it until you make it” energy and called the sales manager and pushed back politely on the terms. It escalated to the director and we reached a compromise (aka where no one gets what they actually want!), but the executive team is pleased with the results so I’ll take the win.
As usual, work slows down around 3pm, I check in with a coworker on a marketing project, and then spend the rest of my work day on Vote Forward letters until 5pm.
Dinner was a blur, the news regarding my uncle is not great. He’s not eating, and is just in constant pain. The doctor estimates anywhere from 3 months to a week left. I also learned that my cousins are doing the plot from “the Farewell”, and not telling the rest of the family in China just how dire it is. They only told my dad the truth. We did a quick family prayer after dinner at around 7:30pm. I feel emotionally raw. Listlessly spent the rest of the night trying to build a house for my legacy family in Sims, and turned in around 11pm.
*Wednesday total: $0 THURSDAY
Woke up around 7:45am, hopped out of bed to get ready as I’m going into the office today. I do sunscreen and makeup, change really quickly and grab a gluten free bagel for breakfast later. K is eating her breakfast so I say goodbye and head out.
Made it into the office around 9ish. A coworker from our east coast office is visiting, so I say hi and we caught up as I got my coffee. We want to go over some workflow procedures, but she is slammed, so we reschedule for the afternoon. Boss is still sick, so I check in with her quickly about an overhaul in procedures we’re working on before she leaves for the day. I sit down and deal with Slack and emails. I try the gluten free bagel around 11, and it’s pretty tasty. I continue working on the 2023 meeting and some materials due next week, before taking my lunch at 12:30. My coworker and I head down the block to grab prepared meals. I get a salad and a probiotic drink ($20.90). I eat lunch at the break room because I need to step away from my computer a bit. I also realized I felt really good after the probiotic drink, so I finally got around to reordering the probiotic I normally take on Amazon ($28.23).
The class had a 5:30 end time, and the afternoon dragged
. I spend some time working on my self-appraisal and putting notes together for my coordinator’s review, while chatting on the side and trying to answer my friend’s questions about I-bonds. I leave the office around 5:45 after chatting with the instructors.
Commute was a breeze and I’m home before 6:30! The rest of the family are eating already, so I quickly take doggo out for some exercise (she is more active at night) and her post-dinner potty break if needed. I have some leftover steak from Wednesday night and some home grown spaghetti squash. After dinner my parents head to bible study, so I help with washing the dishes, and give K her kong toy as she settles for the night. I head back up to my kitchen and do some light cleaning and also prepare a sandwich for lunch tomorrow. For those keeping track, the mushrooms are still there; waiting… spoiling. I might have to admit defeat and throw them out with the Monday compost.
I finish off the night by lighting a candle and do my full skincare routine (double cleanse, active, toner the whole kit and caboodle). Also used a shower bomb in my shower as well for a real treat yo’self moment. I have two episodes left in a k-drama (Hotel Del Luna), and tried to finish it. However, the penultimate episode felt like a weird filler episode unrelated to the plot, so I lose interest quickly. I alternate scrolling Reddit and IG in bed before falling asleep around 12am.
*Thursday total: $49.13 FRIDAY
TGIF! I have to go into the office today but at least it’s a short day. I do the morning things and am out the door by 8:30. There’s usually coffee at work, but I swing by Starbucks since I have money left from a giftcard from work. The oatmilk apple crisp macchiato is a delight, I get an extra shot of espresso (#justFridaythings) and pick up the drink on my way into work at 9….ish.
My boss is out sick, so I check with my team to see if they have questions. I don’t bother her on sick or vacation days unless absolutely necessary because she has a hard time shutting off and will respond immediately. We are in good shape. I head to my office and get some work done. I stop by my coworker’s office about a technical issue that has ballooned and can potentially turn into a Very Big Security Issue if we don’t fix it soon, and try to come up with different strategies.
I finally get to sit down with my visiting coworker, but we spend most of the time talking about our respective European summer vacations and catching up on office tea (oops!) We tweak the process a little bit, and strategize over how to advocate for her coming to the west coast office more often.
Because I really want to leave by 4:30, I take my lunch at my desk and I eat my sandwich at about 12. Having a bagel for breakfast AND a sandwich for lunch was not the best idea, it was a lot of carbs and I struggled to stay awake from 2 - 3pm. We have a very busy week coming up, so I had a meeting with my coordinator regarding the schedule next week. We talk about the upcoming year end review, this will be her first and she’s nervous. My belief is that any review period should not contain surprises, and we go over the review process so she’s not caught unaware. She is a stellar addition to the team, and I tell her so. We talk about logistics for an early Thanksgiving event for the office, because we all could use some sugar and refined carbs.
I casually start packing up at 4pm, say good bye to the instructors and answer any questions, and I’m out the door by 4:30 successfully! It takes me just about 35 minutes to get home. I am both excited and regretting my 8:30pm dinner reservations because I’m feeling old. I have an extra long fetch and sniff around session with the dog to tire her out, and I skipped family dinner and took a quick nap.
I call an Uber at 8pm ($17.91) and I’m at the restaurant at 8:30pm on the dot. My friends are already seated, and we proceeded to have a lovely meal. We prepaid for the 3 courses, but added on some wine and 2 uni creme brulee to share as starters. They were creamy and rich and absolutely decadent. Sometimes you eat for the body, sometimes you eat for the soul. We caught up and chatted and ended the meal around 10pm, while making ambitious plans for Friendsgiving and succulents DIY workshops. I paid for all of us since it was Friday night and no one wanted to math. ($149.18) We walk one friend to her car, and my other friend and I called Ubers home ($16.94).
I was super awake after the dinner, so I did my full skincare routine again and watched Youtube until 1am. YOLO?
*Friday total: $184.31 (though I will be reimbursed for parts of dinner) SATURDAY
I sleep in until 9:30am. (My parents usually take K out for the morning routine, but she doesn’t mind sleeping in on weekends. She’s way more active in the evening, which works out great for me.)
I’m scrolling through IG and see that a bagel shop I thought had already closed is still open for weekend service until the end of October. I am intrigued because they serve sourdough bagels, and I am able to tolerate a long ferment sourdough. I use my $5 credit on Doordash and place an order for a bacon, eggs, and cheese bagel and half a dozen bagels to try out. ($37.04) It is a very delicious bagel, and I wash it down with some coffee. I watch a Youtube video on a prawns curry recipe and that sounds really good. I’m missing a few staples in my fridge and pantry as well, so I do an Instacart order from Sprouts (a slightly fancier supermarket). I’m pleasantly surprised by the deals, and also forgot I have free delivery and $15 cash back from a credit card promotion. I fill up my cart (including some cream cheese because I am shot in the ass with bagels oops) and check out ($98.00)
It’s also the day we send off Vote Forward letters, so as I’m waiting for my Instacart delivery, I quickly prepare the envelopes and slapped on “Be a Voter!” stickers. I drop off 40 letters and feel like I should have done more, sigh.
I’m home in a flash and help my mom with some computer issues, and then get my Instacart delivery. I celebrate by eating ANOTHER sourdough bagel with my newly acquired cream cheese. It’s 3pm on a Saturday, all I’ve had today was gluten, so naturally I took a nap. I woke up at 6pm feeling like I had a rock in the pit of my stomach, and had a light dinner of chicken soup and veggies. K had no interest in exercising, I think because her and my mom did a long fetch and zoomies session this afternoon. So I just walked a few laps in my yard as the sun sets.
I work on this MD a bit (2 meta), and then settle in to finish Hotel Del Luna with some microwave popcorn. The last 2 episodes turned out to be an hour and 30 minutes EACH, so I didn’t finish until 11:30. I stayed up another hour looking up the lead actress’ music videos and vlogs, and she is adorable. I was too sleepy to shower, so I washed my face and brushed my teeth and crawled into bed at about 1am.
*Saturday total: $135.04 SUNDAY
I have weird dreams and slept through my church alarm. I laze in bed and got up to shower around 10am. I make my coffee and tried to watch the recording of the church livestream, but I’m distracted by my phone. T__T This is why I really need to attend in-person service, despite how absolutely convenient live streams are. I give up and make myself ANOTHER bagel with eggs. I also defrosted an ahi poke kit last night and I plan to have that for lunch. The news from Itaewon is absolutely horrific, but I cannot stop looking at the videos. I take a break to go hug my dog and brush her coat out. She naps while I prepare my poke bowl with some brown rice around 2pm. This bowl is delicious, and it’s a better value than if I buy it from a poke place. I work off some of that poke bowl by cleaning the bathrooms and kitchen. I stare at my laundry to see if I can squeeze out another week without washing, and alas, I cannot. So I start the laundry as well.
Dinner is more poke bowl because it was a hefty portion. I watch Youtube reviews on horror movies I’m too scared to watch in theaters, and fold and put away laundry. I have a headache, so I watch Youtube a little bit longer before turning in at 10pm. Very exciting Sunday!
*Sunday total: $0
|Category ||Amount |
|Food + Drink ||$428.38 |
|Home + Health ||$28.23 |
|Fun / Entertainment ||$0 |
|Clothes + Beauty ||$0 |
|Transport ||$34.85 |
This is a pretty common week for me, though I normally don’t buy all the bagels or get groceries delivered. I try to save my beauty and clothing purchases for sales and stock up then. For example, if this diary took place during Sephora’s VIB sale the totals will look VERY different. Overall, it's a pretty accurate snapshot. This has been helpful as I do really want to ramp up on savings as the big "R" word looms in 2023.
Thanks again for reading!
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