Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Years Resos

Long time no blog. In theory I've been getting more writing done, in reality I've been reading too many blogs. But I resurface because I love making New Years resolutions. I'm very goal oriented you see.

Rarely do I acheive my goals, but I like to aim high. The point is not to check something off a list, but to do SOMETHING. And, with that in mind, here are my goals for 2007:

* Read a paperback book a week (this is somewhat loose, over-all I mean read 52 non-ebooks in the year)
* Cook more, eat out less, and with that in mind...
* Cook one new thing a week (this time I literally mean each week, but 'cook' can mean making a new kind of cocktail sauce)
* Loosely document these goals and reaching them

Normally I'd feel this list is a bit skimpy, but I'm going to keep it simple. I have a few things I want to do that I will also try, hiking more, knitting lace, finish and attempt to publish my novel, teach classes at my job, but these things will remain far looser, mostly undocumented goals.

Happy New Years!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Fast Draft: Day X+2

The day before I actually managed another page before I went to bed, for a grand total of 10.

And then yesterday, a work day, I managed 14!! Wooo!

I probably could have gotten 20 if I hadn't lost speed in the end.

It also helped that I skipped the bus to and from work, which gave me the extra time I needed.

Okay, now for todays pages!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fast Draft: Day X+1

The past few days I haven't written much of anything. I got majorly stuck. Then my mom helped un-stick me.

Today I got 9 pages. Tomorrow I work, but I'm going to get up early and do my best.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Fast Draft: Day Four

Oy. I spent most of yesterday reading instead of writing. So I got a grand total of 4 pages.

I've got major plotting problems I need to figure out.

I've also got work today, so maybe I should think about them then.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Fast Draft: Day Three

I've got to get better at writing on work days.

I could stay up at this point, it's only 10pm, but I just can't do it.

I've only got about 3-4 pages.

Tomorrow I need to come up with a better blueprint of what I am writing so that maybe I have more willpower to write later into the night.

But for today - this will have to do.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Fast Draft: Day Two

Today I managed a full 20 pages. Some of it definately useless crud which will be tossed. At the same time, by writing it I knew that it wouldn't work, so I won't spend too much time thinking about it or working on it.

I came up with a few things that surprised me and will stay as long as they have a place that fits. Just little moments.

Also, I find that I have a tendancy of writing so fast that I end up with more of a sketch than a real scene. Not much description, even many dialogue tags missing. I'm not sure if this will be a real pain on re-writes, or good. Guess I will find out.

Anyway, I should go to bed soon. I work tomorrow and my chances of doing 20 pages on a work day are more difficult. Best if I get up early and try to get a few before I leave.

Fast Draft: Day One

I, along with my mother, am working on a Fast Draft Challenge. I'm supposed to write 20 pages a day.

Yesterday I wrote 6. A tad disappointing considering I can write at least 10 on a normal day, I was hoping to go above that, still, I was exhausted and low on ideas (excuses, excuses) so that's what I came up with.

Now, lets see how today goes.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Knit Equivalent of the Blue Book

Stupid Realization of the day: I write more without distractions.

And now I present to you the yarn store equivalent of the Blue Book.

"Hello. How can I help you?"

"I'm working on this pattern, the something-or-other shawl. And I want to know when I add the new yarn will it make it longer or wider."

Silence for a moment as I contemplate what on earth this woman is asking.

"What does the pattern say?"

"I don't have the pattern, I left it in North Carolina."

"Would you hold please? Thank you."

I tell my boss what I was just asked and she looks at me as though I were crazy for then asking her. Honestly, I think she might be right but I'm new and there may be some magic I don't know about.

"Thanks for holding. I'm sorry, but you'd really need to bring the shawl and the pattern in for us to be able to tell."

"Well, it looks like it is going to be too small for me and I just wanted to know."

"Different shawls are constructed differently. We'd really need to see it."

"It's page 128 in Laura-something-or-other."

I contemplate the kind of woman who might imagine that at this point I would jump up and search for Laura-something-or-other just so that I could help her in another state when she's left her pattern behind.

"I'm really sorry. We need to see it."

"Well, it's definitely too small for me. Good-bye."

"Different shawls are made differently. It really depends on the pattern."

"Okay. Well. Good-bye."

And I spend the rest of the day trying to imagine a shawl too small to be worn and the degenerate manners of older people.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Valium Song

On the first night of Valium the little pill gave to me dreams of squirming maggots in my worm bin that were terr-ri-fy-ing.

On the second night of Valium the little pill gave to me dreams of Eunny Jang having a party with me-e-e-e.

On the third night of Valium the little pill gave to me dreams that a giant gorilla was chasing me around the house to kill me and a bonus dream that I was meeting people on a bus trying to get to 11th and 2nd street and this man told me the bus I was going to take was bad.

I think tonight I will skip the Valium.

(I'm taking it for possible jaw-pain-teeth-gnashing issues)

(Yes, this song isn't very good)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Foyle's War, The Closer, and Tea

I've been rewatching Foyle's War lately. If anyone reads this blog and has not seen at least one episode of Foyle's War, they really should. Aunt Kitty? Have you? Do I need to bring up a DVD when I visit? For those Not In The Know, it's about a detective dealing with murder and mayhem amidst the backdrop of World War II. The British made it, and it's awesome.

One of my favorite little things about the show is tea. Yes. If Foyle's War is to be believed the British see tea as a cure all. When they capture a German spy and don't know what to do with him, they put him in a room and give him some tea. When a woman's husband is found murdered inside her bombed out house, they stick her in a pub and give her some tea. I've decided that at some point a Foyle's War drinking game must be done, and of course you would drink whenever they drank tea.

Meanwhile, I've been drinking more tea lately. If it works for them...

And then there was The Closer, a TNT series about a woman who comes from out of state to be a Deputy Police Chief in Los Angeles. The situation is ripe for overblown conflict and yelling, but they managed to handle it in a manner that was funny and realistic. No yelling, but plenty of subtle power struggles. The secondary characters, the detectives who work under her, are very well done. Once they get to know her they are protective of her, but at the same time, she is their boss, and they are willing to be a little mean and nosy as well.

I adored season one, but I'm having a major issue with season two. Our heroine keeps coming up with major clues to the solve the case through correlations with her personal life. Like, three episodes in a row. Done once with finesse, this is fine. But now it makes her seem lucky rather than intelligent. So, if her own life hadn't mirrored the case in some way, would she have never come up with the solution?

So Foyle's War, keep it up with the tea. And Closer? Stop that!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Why don't my roses look like my neighbors?

I got an e-mail from someone recently saying they kept an eye on me through my blog which prompted me to think that maybe I should update it just a tiny bit more often. Japan is going to be on the side burners, but I may update it at some point.

The title of this post is a reference to a TV Ad for Time/Warner Cable. Apparently the evil overlords at Adelphia and Comcast were defeated recently by Time/Warner, and they now feel it necessary to tell us with commercials every 15 minutes. This particular quote comes from an ad where some stressed out people are worried that now that they have a new company they will no longer receive e-mail, etc. A nice, clean-cut Time/Warner guy assures them that they can answer all their questions. This of course leads to questions like: Why does my husband always disappear when it's time to do the dishes? And: Why don't my roses look like my neighbor's?

"That seems like a strange question to me." Tech Support said.

"Um. I don't really think so." I say.

"Well, why would he want that? What is he asking?" Tech Support said.

Growing confused and a little disbelieving I am having this conversation I say: "I think his neighbor's roses are nicer and he wonders what they are doing to get them that way."

"Oh." A pause. "You know what I thought he meant, right?"

And I didn't. But a moment later it dawned on me. He thought the guy was saying: Why don't my roses look like my neighbors? Without the apostrophe. He thought the man wanted his roses to look like his neighbor's human faces.

Sometimes Tech Support is on another planet I think, though we now laugh whenever that ad comes on (9 million times a day - I watch too much TV).

In other news my cucumber plant made 3 cucumbers before dying, my worm bin is going strong, one of my best friends arrived in Japan last night and is going to be there for a year teaching English and I already miss him, and I now work part-time at The Knitter's Studio.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Day 9 - Tokyo Day 2

(I know, it's been almost two months since the trip, though I wrote this early last month, but I plan on finishing up all my blogging on it in the next few days)

Friday started sluggishly. Mum and I blame Tech Support. Our aim was to be at the Ghibli Museum at 10am, but instead we left around 10am. The train ride out takes a fair amount of time because the museum is in a Tokyo suburb area called Mitaka. Getting there wasn't too difficult because me and Tech Support had been there before.

We introduced Mum to the natives.

As before Ghibli was a little magical. Certainly being under 13 probably makes it all the more wonderful, but there is still something about the construction that calls to my whimsy. The tight little metal spiral staircases and thin wooden bridges across the open third floor. Of course you can't take pictures inside, but there are pictures worth taking outside.

After exploring an exhibit on the Aardman Studios and nearly being crushed to death (and drained of all money) in the tiny gift shop we got to go to the little theater and watch a short movie. Last time it had been a fairly easy to understand adventure about some young kids that was reminiscent of the Muppet Babies. This time it was a strange story about a kid who gets some seeds which grow a planet from a mole and a frog, and then he has to go back to the city but then he... Yeah, it was confusing. But pretty. My Japanese is just good enough so I can understand some of the side comments (such useful things as "I feel sick" and "64 years"), and enough to get confused.

After Ghibli we headed back across the town to check out some of Ginza. Ginza is another trendy, shopping area of Tokyo, but first we needed somewhere to eat. Last time Tech Support and I had explored the streets of ginza for hours before eating at a strange Korean place almost entirely because we were waved in by a member of the staff. Luckily this time it was far easier, as we found a restaurant in our guidebook just a few feet from where we were. A german beerhall. It was different.

The type of place where when you say "non-smoking" you are put across the aisle way (about 4 feet away) from the smoking session and the staff need to flagged down. The food was very tasty anyway, and Mum managed to spray herself with soy sauce.

Afterwards we went and found another Uni Qlo, and did a bit of damage but not as much as before. While I adore how everything fits me very well, the fact that I was now a common size meant that all the Sale Items in my size were gone, and Mum left the real winner with three pairs of pants. I still got a fantastic pig... dog... shirt. And a hat.

A brief rant: Mum has already blogged about this, but taking your Hiking Boots Off so you can stand on a 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 piece of carpet (and not NICE carpet) and try on some pants, is very, very tiresome. Day 2 was no better than Day 1.

Anyway, poor Tech Support had suffered well through the shopping and it was now his turn. First we hit the Mac Store which was fun, though really just another Mac Store, only with a lot of Japanese customers. We played around with the macs and checked to see if there was anything really cool and unique (nope) before going to the Sony Building. At the Sony Building we could play around in the show rooms with Sony Products - tomorrow, because it was still under renovations today.

Throughout the day I'd been feeling a bit crummy, I was catching a cold from my boy, and by the end I was feeling pretty bad. We went back to the hotel, at which point I had a bad headache, and I crashed, curling up in my futon and falling asleep before it was even 8pm.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Day 8 - Tokyo Shopping

The rigors of splitting one laptop three ways overtook us in Tokyo, along with the simple exhaustion that come from trouping across a metropolis and spending large amounts of yen everyday. Finally, the truth is that blogging about yen flowing through my fingers like water isn't quite as interesting as say, a Japanese wedding. I can only imagine that reading about how "I found my perfect size AGAIN" and then "We went to ANOTHER STORE with fabulous clothing I LOVED" is rather obnoxious.

But I'll try my best anyway.

We set out Thursday morning with the bright gleam of shopping in our eye. We had a guidebook and money at an exchange rate that we weren't sure of, and that was all we needed.

Of course this neccesitated a first stop at Mr. Donut for some sugar to rev us up.

Our first stop was the department store nearest us, one of a branch mentioned in our guidebook with a convenient location right at our subway stop. When we arrived though it hadn't opened yet. This led to one of the delights of the day, something I'd heard about at some point in my life and forgotten about.

The grand ceremony that is opening a department store in Japan.

Mind you, this was a Thursday morning in a branch (not the main one) of a department store in Tokyo. I'm pretty sure they do this everyday. It starts with us, a great many older people, and a few others standing in the small front area of the store keeping our eyes on both the friendly uniformed woman standing by the enterance and the clock, five minutes until ten.

At almost ten another woman comes and speaks over a speaker, I couldn't understand what she said but the words were spoken with a pomp befitting Disneyland. When she was done some signs were moved, but no one made a move towards the displays yet. No, the music hadn't started yet. Yes, music. Cheerful, lets-go-shopping music.

The uplifting tune played as we were once more spoken too, and then finally bowed to and allowed inside. As we walked through the rows past counter after counter of expensive cosmetics and clothing we weren't interested in, as everyone bowed and gave us a good morning, the music played. I felt a bit like I was in my own movie, in that triumphant montage before I finally show just how beautiful I can be with the right clothing, and this was my theme song.

Tech Support, Mum and I laughed quite a bit amidst our bowing.

The department store was a little disappointing at first. Formal clothing, beit Japanese or American, is really not my style, and not cheap. But then, I think on the third floor, we made one of our best discoveries, Uni Qlo. The prices were like Target while the styles were like Urban Outfitter or Giant Robot or something. The absurd post modern T-shirts were just my style, and the sizes fit me perfectly. In the end I walked out with four shirts and a pair of sandals for something like $35. Tech Support and Mum did not indulge quite as much as me, but also left with their own bags.

After exploring the department store further and discovering only expensive quality items of no interest to us we took the subway into Ueno. There we explored another department store right at the station. This one proved to have many, many dresses that I would have looked adorable in, never had the proper occasion to wear them on, and then when I finally did would get food all over them. The fact that the average price of them was about $150 also helped from making me even itch to take out my wallet. There was a Muji on the bottom floor however, where I got some socks and a cute bolero.

Next stop was Harujuku, a young, trendy and upscale section of Tokyo that took about 1/2 an hour by train from Ueno. Tech Support and I had explored the main drag previously, but were definately up for hitting it again. Our first stop was Condomania, which promised and delivered unique and interesting condoms. Our next store was a toystore we'd been to previously but was worth wandering around. I found one wall of US magnets that caught my eye.

I think I stood there imagining a skinny Japanese car adorned with a red-white-and-blue "Support Our Troops" magnet for quite some time.

Lunch was a difficult affair to figure out, three hungry grouchy people are hard to satisfy, and then we stumbled across a great little place. Odd bits of American Coffee House sat around us as we enjoyed a combination of Chinese and Japanese food.

Finally we ended our shopping expedition in Shibuya. There we wanted to go to a department store called Tokyu hands. Our guidebook directed us to leave out of one exit, and when we asked someone at the train station they directed us out of the wrong exit. We climbed through a strange dirty section of Shibuya, following Tech Support who seemed to understand the map the best.

Despite this however, alleyways and streets were still confusing, and we actually found ourselves in the Love Hotel section of Shibuya.

Here you can rent hotels by the hour. While still sleazy they still aren't nearly as sleazy as the equivalent in the US. People who go to these places generally live with their parents and just want to get away. Plus, apparently if you go late enough that the hourly rate is done it's quite cheap to stay the night. Someday, but not with my mother and boyfriend.

Finally we found Tokyu Hands, which was indeed a wonderous department store. Floor after floor of everything under the sun. Unfortunately, nothing that I was really interested in purchasing, or maybe that is fortunately?

We found the train station a lot easier this time, and as it was growing later it was getting really busy outside, the streets were flooded.

Back in our hotel's neighborhood we walked for quite a while looking for somewhere to eat and finally settled on a fast-food tempura place. Mum was quite happy with it, but me and Tech Support found the shrimp a bit... limp.

Back at the hotel Mum and I tried out the public bath, Tech Support had tried it the night before and recommended it highly. It was far nicer than the Ryokan in Kyoto. The walls and tub were all wooden, and the water drained between the slats. After showering we relaxed in a reasonably hot wooden tub and gazed out at Sensoji's Pagoda, lit up in the night. It was a serene way to finish the day.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Last Day In Tokyo

Today is our last full day in Tokyo and though I am behind in my blogging, I am opting for an early start rather than a full blog post. Still, I leave you with these two pictures to give you an idea of what I've been up to:

Fuller posts too come.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Day 7 - Kyoto to Tokyo

Dear Worms,

I know, living as you do in a black plastic box on my Patio, you can have very little interest in what goes on across the pacific. But despite your lack of interest, I thought I'd write you and let you know I'd met a cousin of yours yesterday.

Let me go back to the beginning of the day. My mum had so enjoyed the Fushimi Inari shrine (the one with the fox and the red gates) so much that we decided to visit again. If you'd read any of my previous blogs or journal from my last trip, and being worms I know you haven't, you'd know that I've never had much time at this particular shrine. The first time I went in 2004 me and Tech Support were exhausted and only made it so far before being forced to turn back. On Monday we'd had to catch a fast train to Nara at 10:50, and could only go so far again.

This time, having given up on the idea of Hiroshima on account of 6 hours in the train, we had all the time in the world.

So we hiked.

I did not find it as transportative as the Buddhist Temple the day before, but nonetheless it was terribly beautiful up in the hills. The orange toris did indeed continue forever. And we met several critters on our way up.

Japan has a somewhat progressive view of noraneko (stray cats) in that they do not trap and kill them. They do not however, trap and nueter them to my knowledge, and one of the kitties was definately pregnant. Still, there is something about Shrine Kitties. I guess no one had told them it was a fox shrine.

These are two different kitties who were fairly close together and obviously kin of some kind.

This kitty was further up, near a shop.

And this kitty was on the way down, a place we'd passed a few times, and was the only one that wanted to be pet. In fact she (this was the pregnant one) walked right up to Tech Support and flopped on the ground by his feet. She then bit him on the hand to try and indicate her preference on being pet.

The other critter we met were the crows, who made the most wicked sounding caws as we hiked through. The crows outside your box have nothing on this.

We also got very thirsty.

Of course now you're thinking "what do I care about these creatures, what about our cousin?" (Or more probably, where is the food? But that will have to wait.) On our way down from the summit, which had been a bit disappointing because you couldn't see any view and the shrine there looked like any other shrine, we ran into a giant worm. This one was in rather poor condition on the steps so we stepped politely past and moved on and I won't horrify you further on that score.

Then we met another one. I took his picture though he seemed to object and writhed desperately to get out of it, I still managed this shot. I should have put something in there for scale, but I was rather afraid of him.

You would not want him in your plastic box with you, I promise you that, because he is about 6 inches long and I bet he is rather mean. Still, I told him you said hi.

After the Fushimi Inari shrine we were all very exhausted so went back to the Kyoto station. I had sushi again while Tech Support and Mum went and ate something else, and we did a bit of last minute shopping. Then we ran back to our Ryokan to get our bags, and made it to the train platform with relative ease. I must tell you, moving giant bags around a strange city is my least favorite thing to do. Feel happy you will never deal with this.

The Shinkansen to Tokyo takes 2 hours and 45 minutes, and afterwards I had to drag my Mum and Tech Support around the Tokyo station to get on another train. Mum was overwhelmed by the number of people, and reluctant to drag her gigantic bag onto the train. Nonetheless we made it on, and I lied about the number of stops we had to get off until. In my defense, it was very hard to read the map above several salarymen's heads, and the English was very small.

We then took the subway, a new one for me, to a private station near our Ryokan. Luckily this was very painless. I then managed to direct us straight to our ryokan, which made me very happy as we were all very tired.

The Tokyo Ryokan, as expected, is a little smaller.

But it is nice. The area of town we are in is very interesting. I will try to take lots of pictures and post them tomorrow, as trying to explain them would be inadequate. We voyaged out into it last night to get some more riceballs and crackers for dinner, and then, once more, I collapsed into bed.

I hope you are doing well my worms. I will be back to give you all sorts of terrible treats next week.


Day 6 - Kyoto

A day will never be enough time to cover the wonders of Kyoto. Ignorance is a bit of bliss, in that at the end of the day, we don't know what we've missed. We were thinking of going to Hiroshima the next day, so knew we'd have to pack in what we could. As it turned out we didn't go to Hiroshima, but we also didn't explore much more of Kyoto either. Maybe someday I will have to come and spend a week in Kyoto, but not for a while.

But on Tuesday we did our best.

The day started with another Japanese breakfast that was excellent, though I preferred the previous days soft tofu. The room was swarming with older Brits and I felt like I was in the middle of an episode of "Keeping Up Appearances". I have no idea what group they were with, but they did not seem to be Nippon-O-Philes ("Seaweed with breakfast eh?" "I dunno what it was, but I ate it in one gulp.")

A prerequisite for any day exploring Kyoto is the day bus pass, which we picked up, and then set out for Kinkakuji. I'm not sure what can be said of kinkakuji, it looks a lot like the picture, it was my third visit there, and anyone who comes to Kyoto needs to see it, so we took my mum to do just that.

But I am forgetting one thing.

Apparently it is national school trip week or some such, and the school children are out in force. It would not be outside of the realm of possibility to be trampled by a stampede of them. Furthermore, they have homework. These poor children must find English Speaking Gaijin and ask them questions. So we spoke to a cute, young group of Junior High Students from Chiba, took a picture with them, and gave them our adress for sending us a copy. I'm really curious to see if we get one.

Unfortunately, the massive (MASSIVE) number of Elementry, Junior High and High School students swarming the most popular sights did make it a bit difficult to see them as well. Kinkakuji might have been more pleasant without them.

Luckily we arrived at Nijo Castle just in time to see a herd of them depart.

Nijo castle, another third time visit that I had to show my mum, was beautiful as usual. The gardens are sculpted and beautiful. And worth having your picture taken at.

Mum enjoyed it. I admired the wooden carvings yet again.

We also did a brief, Gaijin-Friendly tea ceremony, that mostly involved eating mochi and sipping tea with a lovely view of the garden. My mum was quite pleased to get to join in a tea ceremony, and I enjoyed it as well.

(Photo looks weird because we sloppily tried to adjust for dark interior.)

Stopped briefly at a museum where Tech Support once more decried the Japanese size as his feet stuck out 3 inches past the slippers we had to wear inside and said were the most uncomfortable yet. Mum and I agreed that the slippers were hideously uncomfortable, and thus the exhibit did not hold our attention well.

I then led us back to the bus stop to depart for a new area of town I had not been to, and as we waited it began to rain. We got into the bus. Then it began to pour. Hard.

Luckily by the time we got off it had calmed, but not enough to yet voyage out to a temple, so we hoped on another train and ended up getting off at a big shopping area. This was mums first exposure to such a place and she loved it. I managed to spot a Very Cute Store where Cute Things were procured, and we ate at a curious bakery with a rather ostentious name.

I was determined to get to one new Temple, so dragged us back out onto the bus once more. The temple was near what seemed to be a nicer, municipal area of Kyoto, with high walled streets that reminded me of some anime. Apparently those kids lived in the nice area of town.

We hiked up a bit of a hill. The rain had stopped completely and it was warm again, but water rushed beneath us and it smelled lovely. Fresh from the rain. We passed a school where lucky children get to learn at the base of a mountain next to a beautiful temple. A beautiful temple I was very happy to find as my directions were - well, I was going off the maps on the street.

The temple had a big gate that for a couple hundred yen, you could go up.

It was worth it for the view. The temple, Nanzenji, is at the base of some of Kyotos mountains, and the recent rain somehow made it all the more wonderful.

We then skipped paying any fees to see further inside, and instead hiked along the side. We passed a Roman Aqueduct that I can find no information on and Tech Support Theorized had been brought by the romans themselves, or maybe aliens.

Closed off areas are somehow more mysterious for their remoteness.

I was terribly pleased with just how beautiful the place was and did my best to explore. My tired Mum waited while me and Tech Support climbed further into the mountain. Though I was happy we came after the rain, I regretted not having more time to explore. Perhaps it is all a romantic notion, but I can see what inspired Miyazaki (director of My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirited Away, and many other good animations) in these moss covered steps and wood enshrouded shrines. A sign warned us at the base not to speak loudly, but this is the type of place I instinctively whisper in anyway. I don't want to disturb the wood sprites.

And so that I don't get too serious, there are signs like this to inject an odd humor into the moment.

I left the beautiful, mysterious forest with a little regret, but mostly happiness, and found my mum.

We went back to Kyoto Station for a bit more shopping. Discovering another yarn shop and going to Muji once more, where my Mum agonized for a bit over what she wanted to buy. I was too exhausted at this point to do anything more than stop at a conveinence store for a dinner of riceballs, crackers and evil pepper rings.