Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Year That Was

With it being the end of the year and all I figured it was time to take stock of what I accomplished this year and put down some goals for next year. I realize this is probably less than entertaining for you all, but if my main reason for keeping this blog was to be entertaining I'd have to be working a lot harder at it than I do. So there.

Big Things That Happened in 2007
  • My divorce was finally finalized
  • We moved into our house
  • I got a "real" job, meaning I basically kept the same job but now with more money and benefits. (Who says hanging on for 4 years without any promise of advancement isn't a real career strategy?)
  • Met my freelance translation earnings goals for the year, which was about double what I earned last year.
  • Joined a Knitter's group and now have much more inspiration to feed my knitting obession!
  • Stayed a fairly acceptable weight despite quitting WW. I could only go so long calculating the damn Points Value of everything.
  • We went on a real family vacation in the summer and it was a blast.
  • I went on a "girls only" overnight with my girl. Should definitely repeat that in 2008.
  • Ate good sushi in Boston with my sis. Is this the end of my cityphobia?
  • Traded in my old car for one that seems nearly new and also has 4 wheel drive.
  • Had a lot of fun at work.
  • Hiked another 4,000 footer.
  • Had my therapist set me loose after determining that I'm really not struggling with too much any more. I agreed, but it was like taking off the training wheels.

Oh Boy! Oh Joy!

An all-nighter! Or as close to one as I get these days anyway. Suppose this is what I get for accepting a rush job during the pre-holiday weekend. It's been a while since I've done one of these. And actually, I'm kind of in the mood for it. I'm just generally feeling weird these days anyway.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Things I Wanted to Say Out Loud This Semester but Couldn't

I was going to post this after some sort of link but that would mean messing with the blog template and I lack the time and patience right now to do that.
  • I don't care that you were a debutant
  • Take a shower
  • Get a haircut. You are starting to look like Krusty the Clown.
  • Stop whining and study more if you want a better grade
  • Stop poking holes in your face
  • That new hair color really doesn't suit you
  • You think you are way more sophisticated than you actually are
  • Your boyfriend is a dork
  • Stop looking for loopholes
  • Enough with the nose rings already
  • You're probably cooler than you think you are
  • You're a nice kid, but you have no clue
  • I know you mean well, but you annoy the hell out of me
  • Yes, you are smart. That doesn't entitle you to act like an asshole
  • I don't care if you're pissed off. Your grade is what you earned
I really do love teaching, but sometimes I just have to bite my tongue. Bring on the vacation already!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Winter Blahs

For the past five or six years I have felt sick for the last couple weeks of December through the first couple weeks of January. The first year it happened I thought the nausea, dizziness and fatigue meant I might be pregnant. The next couple of years I thought I was coming down with the flu. Now I just recognize that I'm going to feel like crap when the days are short. It's probably the expression of an instinct that wants me to hunker down and hibernate. That, however, is not really a possibility. So instead I'll just nap when I can and wait for it to be over.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What a Year in Japan

The top Kanji of the Year have been announced at Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto, Japan and judging from the top three selections, it appears not to have been a very auspicious year in the Land of Wa.
Number one was 偽 (nise/gi) which means fake or deceptive. This came from a string of scandals about fake news reporting, fake brand name goods, fake expiration dates on food and such. The second choice was 食 (shoku) meaning food. This is connected to the first choice, since food sold as one thing often contained something else all together (ground pork sold as beef by Meat Hope) and well established food manufacturers being exposed for using expired ingredients in their products. The third choice was 嘘 (uso) means lies. Politicians lied. Businesses lied. Nothing new, of course. They've all been doing that for years.
I wonder if anyone is going to take the words of Kiyomizu's chief priest to heart and use the disgraces of this year as an opportunity to turn things around in the coming year. It would be wonderful if they did, but I won't be holding my breath.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sorry Bob. My Bad.

I know Bob Dylan is universally revered for his song writing talent, but I honestly can't stand to listen to him for more than 5 minutes at a time. I'd rather read his lyrics than listen to him sing them. My bad, I guess. Maybe some day I'll grow in to it. Or not.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Channukah and a Ramble

I made latkes and noodle kugel for dinner tonight, for what has become our traditional Channukah dinner. The latkes are a little bit labor intensive, but they're tasty and since it's just a once a year thing, I don't mind making them. Noodle kugel was something I think I only ate once or twice as a kid. It wasn't a regular feature of my family's holiday meals, but I made it last year and it was really good, in an artery bursting kind of way. Again, something that's fine to eat ionce a year. Hell, anything made with a stick of butter, 8 eggs (!!) sugar and sour cream is likely to be rich and to taste pretty good to me.
Speaking of which, I'm all chubbed out again. And I really don't care that much. It could be my age, the wintry weather or something, but for right now it seems ok to not obsess over every morsel of food that goes down my throat. Life has not and will not be compromised because I am 5 or 6 pounds over the number I think should be my absolute top weight. Nothing terrible has befallen me. I'm still getting exercise and trying to drink enough water and be generally healthy. My boyfriend has not fled in terror and run off with a skinny chick. My daughter still talks (and talks and talks) to me. My students all still like me and show up to class and work and listen. My dog still adores me and follows me around the house like a ... puppy dog. There has been no major inconvenience resulting from this. What a notion!
I like food, dammit. I like to make it. I like to eat it. I like to think about it, read about it, and talk about it. I like to look at pretty pictures of it. So yeah, me and food and the scale are coming to some kind of understanding where I'm going to stop admonishing myself every time I step on the scale, but I'll act like a reasonable and healthy adult and eat well and enjoy it.
And another thing. A conversation I had this evening with my boyfriend turned another light on over my head. I'm Jewish. I can opt out of all the Christmas hype on the grounds of that, even if I'm not the most Jewish-y Jew you'll ever find. I am not obligated to jump whole hog into being Perfect Miss Christmas. I mean really, why the hell does my family give Christmas presents to each other when we're all Jewish? That's just silly. The season has its lovely moments and no, I won't be offended if anyone wishes me a Merry Christmas. But it's really okay if I decide I don't want to play along in full force.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Woo Hoo!

Just got my invitation to Ravlery. Because you know I need to belong to a website that will feed my obsession with yarn and pointy sticks and surround me with a community of people who take it way farther than I ever could.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Not Such a Bad Jew

I went to temple for the first time in about 30 years last night. It was kind of nice. The motivation to go was my girl. She's usually with her dad on Friday nights, but she's staying here full-time for the next couple of weeks since her dad is out of town. She knows she's at least part Jewish, but she had never been to temple, so I figured it was a chance for her to check it out. In a nice surprise, my boyfriend, an atheist who was raised Catholic, decided to join us too.
The temple we went to is a reform temple. I grew up going to a conservative temple, so it was pretty deifferent from what I remember. The weirdest thing to me was that apparently it was ok not to wear a yarmulke in the sanctuary. I mean, wtf? I wore one anyway. I couldn't not wear one after the way I was indoctrinated as a child.
Anyway, the service was nice. There were about 15 members of the congregation in attendance, mostly older folks. People were friendly and welcoming and made a point to come over and say hello and introduce themselves. The rabbi plays a 12-string guitar and a lot of the prayers were set to music in more modern arrangements. Later on in the ceremony when they got to the Aleinu, the Mourners' Kaddish and the Kiddush I found I remembered the words and the melodies and could still sing them. After the service everyone went and had some nice refreshments and stayed to chat.
I liked being there. I enjoyed the service and the sense of community. I am honestly not sure how I feel about the idea of God. I tend to think that what people call God really refers to our higher nature rather than the existence of some external entity that controls the show. But aside from the God part (if I can say that) I liked a lot of what I read and heard in the service-- the emphasis on doing good and helping others and peace for all nations, on prayer for those for are suffering and remembering those who have passed on. I also liked that my girl could at least get a glimpse for herself about what it's all about. I've heard her refer to herself as Jewish more than once and although she has a handle on some of the cultural aspects of it, I always felt bad that she had never experienced anything about the religion. I don't expect she'll attend Hebrew school or anything, but she at least has had a taste and something to go on if she decides to pursue it more at some other time. I might go back again. I'm not so sure what it means to go if I'm not so into the God part of things, but I am interested in getting involved in some of the volunteer work they do and I'd at least like to be familiar with the community.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Last Day!

Well, with this post I will have successfully blogged everyday in the month of November. yippee.
Not sure what the point was actually. Several days were bare minimum perfunctory posts. I suppose it takes a modicum of discipline to blog on a daily basis, but bare minimum discipline isn't really something I have trouble with.
I've spent a fair chunk of the early evening watching the local tv station's coverage of a hostage taking situation at a Hilary Clinton campaign office in a neighboring town. That was kind of exciting, even if it does seem to turn out to be more about a troubled man on a bender making some bad decisions rather than anything to do with Hillary herself. She just got on tv and made sure to turn it into a political soundbite opportunity for herself. Par for the course and I expected that from her.
The most interesting event of the day has yet to happen. Since my girl is with me for a couple of weeks while her dad is away, we are taking the opportunity to go check out a Friday night shabbat service at the local temple. I haven't been to temple in years. My girl has never been. Neither has my boyfriend, who was raised Catholic. I think the girl should be able to have the chance to experience what it's about at least once. And I'm a little nervous but also looking forward to seeing what it's like.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Looking Back

I hear myself tell people that I lived in Japan for 12 years, but I swear I don't remember most of it. It seemed like 12 very long years at the time, but now it's pretty much faded into memories of onigiri, convenience stores, discontent and fun nights out with friends. I think that's what I miss the most-- the nights out at Tokaiya in Seta, or any good izakaya, putting down beers and good food with friends after work. Walking home to Kayanoura all buzzed with Mike or Dave. Maybe stopping by the conbini for one last beer to drink beside the lake. That part was good.
The rest of it? I don't know. I spent a lot of time trying really hard and still felt like most of what I did wasn't right or good enough. That's not Japan's fault. There were other ways to approach it. I just wasn't able to do it that way.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Unbelievable Idiocy, Cruelty and Cowardice

I read about a 47 year old women who posed as a 16 year old boy to "mess with" a 13 year old girl who lived down the street on some blogs yesterday and today the story is running in the New York Times. The woman created an online personality on MySpace as a 16 year old boy and had her own daughter and the daughter's friends in on the "joke". The online boy became the girl's cyber boyfriend and then broke up with her harshly online. The girl was so distraught by the whole thing that she hung herself in her closet. Overreacting to MySpace nonsense? Yes, of course. But that's what 13 year olds do. They overreact to teenage drama. What I want to know is why a grown woman was so interested in involving herself in that. What makes it even worse is this woman knew the girl had psychological issues (and at 13 who doesn't, really?) and claims she doesn't feel guilty because she heard the girl had tried to kill herself before. (Something that was refuted by the girl's parents.)
I find it crazy that a court could find JT LeRoy guilty of fraud for writing under a pseudonym, but no criminal legal action can be taken against this psycho-mother who apparently got her kicks by tormenting a child while hiding behind a facade on MySpace. I hope the girl's parents sue the shit out of that stupid woman in civil court.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


If your sense of humor has escaped you in the dreariness of November, check out Everyday Normal Guy by Jon Lajoie. Not safe for work or around young children, but it's hilarious.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Keeping In Touch

Yesterday I met up and had a few beers with a couple of former students. We've kept in touch on Facebook and they both live in the area. They've met up for beers before and suggested I join them the next time they got together. It felt kind of weird when I thought about it too much, but not so much once we were there hanging out. I mean, I've certainly spent my fair share of time in bars enjoying good beer and conversation and this really was no different. It's stupid that I can get so hung up on age differences when I never thought it made much of a difference when I was younger.
I won't go out and socialize with students who are still taking my classes, but once they're of legal age and no longer my students I think it's okay. I really do enjoy my students and I get to know the ones who take classes with me for two or three years pretty well. I realize they're going to move on with their lives and go out into the world, but I love it when they keep in touch and let me know how things are going. It's great when they send emails or keep in touch on Facebook, but it's even better to go hang out and have a few beers together.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ni Hao

I don't understand any of it, but this make me think the new Australian Prime Minister Elect, Kevin Rudd, is The Man.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Writer's Block

Aarrghrghg. I had a very nice day, but I don't really feel like writing about it. My man did a good job writing about it here. Go read him.

Friday, November 23, 2007

No Black Friday Here

Seems like lots of people were all worked up to "take advantage" of the Black Friday sales. I can think of very few things I would rather do less than be at the mall at 4am the day after Thanksgiving to fight for items on sale. I really would have preferred not to shop at all today, but my father's birthday is tomorrow and I had to go out and get him a present today. I went out around 5 this evening, figuring the early morning Black Friday warriors would be all shopped out and at home by then. There were still a lot of folks out shopping, but it wasn't anything too crazy. And since it was so close by, I went by Michaels and spent $20 on yarn which will net me two Christmas presents and a hat for myself.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Memories of Thanksgiving Past

Seven of us sitting around the dining table with my back to the picture window facing out to the front lawn and Miller Ave. My parents, my sisters and my grandparents. I sat next to my Gram with my Dad on the right at the head of the table. The gorgeous crystal chandelier, now over that same table in a different dining room in my Mom's house, watching over us, with light refracting off the crystals. White tablecloth. My Mom's china in white with delicate blue flowers (?) and silver rims. The fancy silverware and glasses. Everything laid out ahead of time. (Mom used to pack for trips a week in advance, too.)
The food came out from the kitchen via the pantry. Turkey and stuffing. Broccoli "souffle" that was really more of a broccoli and cheese casserole but no less the object of my ardent affection for the gap between the fancy name and the plebeian ingredients. Mashed potatoes. Salad. Cranberry sauce. No yams or sweet potatoes or God forbid, anything with mini-marshmallows. That room, with its chandelier, fireplace, hardwood floor covered by an oriental rug, some sort of pastoral mural wall paper on the long wall. It could never allow mini-marshmallows.
The straight backed chairs demanded good posture and of course we had to dress properly for the occasion. The conversation was warm. Lots of grownup talk, of course. I liked to listen even though I don't think I understood. My grandfather always tough in his convictions; a counterpoint to my grandmother who was soft and gentle and wore her long gray hair wrapped into a bun on the back of her head.
After the pies and the grownups' coffee we'd adjourn to the living room, a room used only on special occasions. Otherwise it was a place to pass through on the way to the den, where the TV and stereo resided in a long, narrow room full of wood-louvered windows and two huge hanging ferns. A few more logs tossed onto the fire and we were full, warm and sleepy. One year I fell asleep on the gold velvet sofa. The mark of my napping drool remained long after the nap was done. I turned over the cushion and hoped no one would notice.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Count Down to the Big Day

Tomorrow is the big day. I'm looking forward to kicking back, eating a lot (but not as much as last year when I was feeling physical distress from eating too much), hanging out with my family and enjoying the day. I do not plan to take part in any sort of Black Friday nonsense, except my Dad's birthday is on Saturday and I still have to get a gift, so I might end up out there anyway.
I hope you all have a very happy Thanksgiving, no matter where you are and how you spend it!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Obviously The Adjuncts' Fault

The NYT (now registration free!) ran an article today about the decline in the number of tenure track faculty on college campuses across the country. The article had a very strong bias against adjuncts and basically blamed non-tenure track faculty for falling graduation rates, with quotes like "(researchers) analyzed 15 years of national data and found that graduation rates declined when public universities hired large numbers of contingent faculty" and "Several studies of individual universities have determined that freshmen taught by many part-timers were more likely to drop out."
So, obviously this means adjunct faculty are to blame for dropping graduation rates, right? This kind of logic reminds me of the reasoning in the classic article, The Dangers of Bread.

First Snow

It seems to me that usually the first snow of the season sprinkles down prettily for 20 or 30 minutes and then melts away. That's not how it went today. It snowed from mid-morning to mid-afternoon and then turned to drizzle. It was a gray, cold, wet and crappy day. I was happy about the snow for the first hour or so. Then I had to go outside.
I tried taking the dog out for his usual evening walk, in the pitch darkness of 5 pm. He wasn't willing to go along with the program. I think I liked being out there more than he did. Eventually I had enough of his lollygagging and questioning looks and turned around to head home.
I'm officially on Thanksgiving vacation. I'm partially happy and partially not, because I'm fighting the urge to drown myself in either carbs, chocolate alcohol, or a combination of all three. I'm trying to make that just a one-day event on The Day itself and not an excuse for a week (or even half week) of debauchery.

Monday, November 19, 2007

This Is The Future

This afternoon the girl and I went to the local coffee shop after school. (Lately that's our thing-- we go hang out at coffee shops once a week.) It's a locally owned, non-franchise establishment and reminds me of when I used to go hang out at coffee shops in my college days. Except for the number of people using laptops and cell phones. Occasionally they're using both at once. Sometimes I'll look around and really see all that portable technology and realize that I'm living in the future. Remember how that all used to seem so futuristic? Now I usually don't even stop and think about it. Except when I slow down enough to really look.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

One Thing I Am Thankful For

This looks to be the first Thanksgiving in four years that I do not have to fight with my ex about what the custody schedule will be.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I Am What I Am

Here on Day No. 17 of NaBloPoMo I have come to the realization that I am able to participate in this endeavor because I basically have no life.
Well, it's not that I don't have a life. I just have a rather predictable, settled life. That's not really so bad considering I am a 42 year old with a child, a committed relationship, a steady job and a couple of pets. I'm a homebody, damnit! There are worse ways to go through life. I went out one night last week. To the local Meet Up for knitters. And it was fun. I enjoy hanging out with other women who are obsessed with yarn.
The other highlight of the week (or of the past few days, which is all I seem to recall in any detail. Anything further back then that is pretty much a blur) was that I baked my first-ever cheesecake. It was a trial run of a new recipe I'm planning to make for Thanksgiving. After extensive quality testing I have declared that it has passed the test and is now approved for Thanksgiving worthiness. This year my brother-in-law is in charge of the meal and I'm handling the deserts. I'm really looking forward to it. My bro-in-law is an excellent cook and Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. After that I can start worrying full-time about what to buy people for Christmas presents.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Holy Crap!

Toto wants to convert you to that Happy Washlet Feeling.
Because apparently, we all deserve to be pampered that way.
Personally, there are many other things I'd rather spend $1,000 on.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thou Dost Protest Too Much

Since it's NaBloPoMo and I signed up for this pony ride and don't have all that much to say, I'll take the old "comment on someone else's blog post" tactic.
During my daily check of Japan Probe I clicked on a Latest Japan News Headline link and ended up on this post by Ampontan. I think I've run across the author on a translator's mailing list or two and my recall is that he's generally a pretty smart cookie, so I was kind of disappointed to see him appearing to flog the old "American women are jealous that I chose a Japanese one" stereotype. I honestly haven't heard that line in years and even still, most American women change their point of view once they hear that Japanese women control the family finances. (Money is power, after all.)
I really didn't understand his cringing response to the feedback an American family got when they announced to friends that they were moving temporarily to Japan to advance the wife's career opportunities. I believe that most Japanese couldn't even imagine moving abroad for the wife's career advancement.
In the end, I just don't get the need for so much justification of what is ultimately a very personal decision. If you are happy with your partner, no matter what nationality, personality, occupation, station or gender, then good for you. You don't need to sell the rationale your choice for anyone else's approval.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


cash advance

Wow. I've been promoted.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Yay for the Alma Mater

Yay for my old high school, which I hated with all the teenage passion I could muster at the time even though I was the one who chose to go there. They recently announced that a Phillips Exeter Academy "education will now be free to to any admitted student whose family income is $75,000 or less." I think that is awesome. Sometimes the girl and I discuss the possibility of her applying there when she gets to high school. She could be a day student.
Some people may think I never lived up to my potential since I graduated from a "fancy" high school and didn't go to an Ivy League college, nor did I chose to follow a lucrative career path. Of the many lessons I learned at that school, go out and make a lot of money really was never one of them. The importance of learning foreign languages and cultures was emphasized; as was the notion of teaching as a career option. I learned that it was okay to have a passion for learning and to love being in school. I think I took what I needed from the four years I spent there and along the way learned that having my own opinions and standing behind them ultimately is more valuable than following, or even leading, the herd.

Monday, November 12, 2007

On the Needles

Now that the weather has turned chilly I am back to knitting regularly. I finished an entrelac scarf yesterday and after much careful deliberation have decided I'm keeping it for myself because I don't think anyone else will love it quite the way I do. (It's been blocked and is drying right now. Suppose I can put up a picture once it's dry.) I have decided to just go ahead and give up on the sweater I have been trying to knit for the past three years (using two different patterns, even) and to salvage the yarn for other, smaller projects. The yarn is a nice cranberry colored merino wool from Knitpicks. It wasn't expensive but it just doesn't want to be a sweater. I know. It told me so. So now one or two random balls are on their way to becoming cabled mittens for my girl. Once I get my hands on some size 5 double point needles it may also become other hand warming type garments. Anyway, it has clearly let me know, it will never be a sweater.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

How Many Cats?!

27 CATS!!!!
I'm glad there are such entertaining people in my family.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Holiday Gift Idea for the Japanophile on Your List

If you are wondering what to buy that Japanophile on your holiday gift recipient list I suggest you consider Japanland-- A Year in Search of Wa by Karin Muller. I had the university order the book for the library and just started reading it this morning. It's an easy, entertaining read with humor and delightful insights into modern Japanese culture. There is also a 4-hour documentary made by the author that was show on public tv. That's the next thing on my wish list for the library.

No, But Really. He's Into Me More Than Any of Them

I was thinking today that if I had to chose an imaginary rock star boyfriend I'd chose Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters). It appears I am not alone. Not alone at all. Oh well, I guess that's the good thing about imaginary rock star boyfriends. Everyone can share them and it doesn't really matter.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Ohh, Edumacated

cash advance

I found this while surfing the NaBloPoMo randomizer.
I think it means no one understands what I'm talking about but they nod in agreement because they think it' supposed to be making sense.

We can discuss my mistrust of and poor attitude towards Academia and Academics (the people) some other time, ok?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Um, Yeah

Not much to say really.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Think Local, Vote Local

Lots of people spend a great deal of time and energy getting revved up over national political races that won't even happen for another year, but I think voting in local elections is just as important. I mean, that's where you choose the people to run your school board and your city infrastructure-- things which may impact your daily life much more than some national issues.
Municipal elections were held here yesterday. The big issue was an amendment to adopt a a tax cap that would limit increases in spending based on the Consumer Price Index and the value of the previous year's new construction and demolition permits. While everyone agrees the city needs to get its spending under control, opponents pointed out that the tax cap could foreseeably lead to cuts in school budgets, road maintenance, street lights and other things most people consider necessities. I thought about it and decided I was voting against the tax cap and then made my choices for mayor and city councilors based on where they stood on the tax cap issue. I'm afraid the cap might end up resulting in more new construction permits being issued in order to raise revenue to the result that the town will become over-developed and less attractive as a place to live.
Apparently other people in town don't see it that way because the tax cap amendment was passed and the current mayor was re-elected to office even though he chose not to take a position on the issue and his most serious challenger was clearly supportive of the cap. It seems like most wards voted for Councilors who supported the tax cap, so maybe people just like Myers as a mayor and his declining to take a stand on the tax cap issue was neutral enough to please everyone. I understand that people don't want to see any more increases in their property taxes, but I hope the school system doesn't suffer because of it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

She Not Just A Mouthless Cat

I bet you never knew Hello Kitty has so many permutations. Apparently each of Japan's 47 prefectures have their own limited edition versions of Kitty (sold only at select locations). There are also multiple Kittys for each of the four seasons and various randomly themed Kittys.
And lest you think Hello Kitty is just a cute plastic children's toy, maybe you ought to know that her shallow, expressionless demeanor is deeper than that, she is, in fact, a "cute-therapist for the emotionally exhausted masses" of Japan.

Monday, November 05, 2007

I Hate "Fall Back"*

Screw it. Here's the minutiae.
Once in a while I decide to change things up and do my grocery shopping at Shaws rather than Hannaford, my usual haunt. In general I think Hannaford has better produce and I'm used to it, so I can get in and out of there with relatively more efficiency than Shaws. But today I decided on a change of pace and went to Shaws. And was reminded of what is probably the real reason why I usually chose not to shop there-- their shopping carts give me really strong static shocks. Audible snapping electrical-sounding shocks. Even when I hold on to the plastic handle cover, the shocks sneak up underneath my fingers and get me there.
Snap! Ow! Snap! Ow! roll roll roll Snap! Oww!
That's no way to shop.
So yeah, the all registers open from 4pm-7pm thing is really good, but unless it's a quick enough trip that I can carry my purchases in one of those hand baskets, I'm not shopping at Shaws anymore.

* I realize the post has nothing to do with the title. I just thought I'd announce that I am also not pleased that it is DARK out at 5pm now. And it'll only worse until the holiday season is done with.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

I Must Be Getting Old

I thought I was going to be clever and call on a backlog of remembered conversations to help get me through this month of NaBloPoMo without resorting to telling you all what I had for breakfast and other similar minutiea. Then after I posted one I checked my archives and realized I already blogged about that particular conversation nine months ago.
Oh God. I'm becoming one of those people...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Week That Was

The past week was just full of miscommunication. And I felt like it was my job to do everything I could to bridge all the gaps. There were in-class issues, interdepartmental issues and intercultural ones, too. I think I did all right. I'm handling the in-class stuff with as much tact as I can muster, although I wish some of the students had enough maturity to realize that there are all kinds of people in the world, and behavior they see and judge to be uncool or weird is not always deliberate. The interdepartmental stuff just seems to be people talking past each other. I have no idea what the hell is going on there, but I really want to see it worked out. I haven't been dragged too far into the intercultural stuff yet, just consulted about it. If it comes to the point where I get called in to help, I'll give it my best shot. Don't really know how much I can do though. I already know that if people are determined to feel misplaced and miserable it's very hard to change their minds.

Friday, November 02, 2007


I bought a new car today!!!!!!

It's a 2005 4WD Toyota Matrix. It's beautiful. And I went and did it all by myself. For the first time in my life. Ever.
Go me.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Bureacracy Sucks

How much do you hate it when you have to do someone else's job for them because they are lazy or clueless, or both? I hate it A LOT. Even if it only took me 10 minutes to do it, it still pisses me off.

Rabbit Rabbit

And so it begins...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Leaving me home alone with a big bowl of candy is not really very smart. Tonight's dinner was a leftover pork chop and several mini candy bars. With more candy for desert.

Monday, October 22, 2007


These days are the peak of our season. All the colors-- yellows from butter, blonde, and gold, to the flames of the sun; oranges from bronze to pumpkin to copper (old and new); reds are pinky strawberry to crimson, tomato, burgundy and blood. And all their crinkly faded remains scattered on the ground. When you're in the right place on a sunny afternoon the whole world appears on fire. It's a psychedelic send off before winter with its bare tree skeletons, gray winds and icy stars swoops down upon us and reminds us what really makes New Englanders.
Our fall is the antithesis of the cherry blossoms. No delicate pale to cherry pink blossoms flutter away to reveal the season of lush new green and warm breezes. We flash out in a riot of vibrancy before the dearth of color lets ours really show through.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sometimes I Wonder

I know people who left their homes and moved to other lands because they really had no other choice. I wonder if I could ever have been one of them. Sure, I left all I knew when I was 22 and moved to Japan with no job, no contacts and a less-than-sure grasp of the language, but I always knew I had a ticket back home if I needed it. Sometimes I wonder if having had the safety net makes it all less valid somehow.

To what extent does growing up with privilege negate a person's accomplishments? Or is that just another way I find to tear myself down?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Note: It's Getting Cold

This morning there was frost on the lawn for the first time this season. I had to scrape it off the car windows, too. If I was cooler, I would have taken a picture or something, but it's hard enough getting me and the girl to school on time as it is.

Try Try Again

As you can see by the little LOL cat-ish badge over on the right, I'm signing up to do the NaBloPoMo again. That means I'll be blogging everyday in the month of November.
I can tell you are all just quivering with excitement.

I should probably make that side badge clickable and all, but I have fallen way behind in my web skillz and don't care enough at the moment. Ah, apathy...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Like He Needs a Hole in the Head

The hole in my dog's head is healing, but it's still pretty deep and generally gross as a concept.
Last weekend he showed up with a big bump behind his eye. Over the weekend it got smaller then bigger and squishier. I called the vet on Monday and got an appointment for Wednesday afternoon. On Tuesday the dog decided the rub his squishy head bump around on the carpet and popped it. It leaked and then stopped. On Wednesday morning the bump was gone and there was an icky messy hole instead.
At the vet's the doctor clipped his fur out of the way and cleaned things up. The hole was about the size of a dime and looked pretty deep. I got medicine to put on the wound twice a day. Five days later, this is what the hole looks like. It's definitely gotten smaller and less icky, but it's still a pretty big hole.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ivan Ramen!

The Wall Street Journal today has an article and video interview with my friend Ivan who has a ramen shop in Tokyo. We've been friends since taking Japanese classes together in college. I'm so proud of him!

(YouTube link. should be permanent)

Friday, September 28, 2007

I Knew My House Was Too Dusty and I'm The Only One That Cares

This NYT article discusses the "happiness gap" between men and women. Apparently men have found ways to cut back on activities they find unpleasant in the past 40 or 50 years and women spend as much time as they ever did on chores. It's just that now the chores also involve paid employment and the housework gets pushed back down on the list of priorities.
I'm not sure what conclusions I draw for myself from this. I'm tempted to say I should try harder to not be bothered by the dusty surfaces and the cat and dog hair on the carpet.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pigs Are Flying as I Type

Oh. My. God. Either the gaijin thing doesn't have the appeal it used to or the foreign guys in Japan are just a lamer breed than they used to be, but apparently there is a group of guys making money off of teaching other foreign guys how to pick up Japanese girls in Japan. These guys charge almost $800 for a two-day Bootcamp, $600 for a 5-hour workshop, and $1,000 for a 5-hour Sexual Mastery Seminar; they appear to have happy, paying customers, if their testimonials are to believed.
Back in the day (late 80s and early 90s) I used to hear my guy buddies telling all kinds of tales of girl hunting in Japan that involved minimum to no effort on their part. (And most of these were guys I knew from before Japan and they were by no means "players" before hitting the Land of Wa.) I wonder what the deal is. Has the gaijin aura lost its shimmer or has moving to Japan just become such a mundane choice of post-collegiate experience that when separated from their helicopter parents these guys need to hire someone to teach them how to get laid?
According to this, these guys must be much, much lamer than the generation that might be their older uncles or even their grandfathers!

Info on The Osaka Crew taken from a post on the once-promising-lately-not-so-much Stippy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

LOL Secrets

You know, I think this was inevitable.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Freelancer's Dream (or Nightmare)

Man, it's like someone had a spycam watching me, except I was a guy with a cat, ordering pizza instead of a gal with a dog and a cat, eating senbei sent from Japan.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Observation While in Traffic

Young girls stare into mirrors
looking for answers
what they get are reflections

Monday, September 03, 2007

Full On Empty

On Saturday I went to get a massage. (an awesome deal at $30 for an hour-long massage, btw.) During the session I was talking with the massage therapist and as the usual "what do you do" question led to others, she asked me if the Japanese really were healthier than Americans. I answered that they probably are, they certainly eat a lot less than we do. The student-therapist told me she waitressed this summer and noticed that the European customers at the restaurant ate so differently from the locals; they were very picky about what they ate and usually ate only about half of what was served. It all got me to wondering, once again, why we in this country are so obsessed with stuffing ourselves silly. I know there are plenty of researchers who will point to evolutionary reasons, but other countries that also enjoy abundant resources don't pig out American style. Sure the details of what we eat play a part, but I'm thinking strictly of volume. What's the void that developed over the past ten or twenty years that is begging to be filled with ever greater quantities of super-sized food?
When I was a kid, no matter how much I ate I never felt over-full. This appalled and worried my parents, especially my mother. Somehow over time I developed the ability to actually feel full and even uncomfortable as a result of overeating. I don't always pay attention to that, but most of the time I try to pay attention to the hara hachi-bu ("eat until you are 80% full) feeling that's common sense in Japan.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Mad Men

I admit it. I'm hooked on Mad Men. I'm glad I didn't have to live in that world, but it's an interesting place to visit in retrospect.
Tonight we watched episode 7 (thank you On Demand) and I noticed that the "new girl" Peggy seems to have doubled or tripled her bust size over previous episodes. What's that about?
They are so careful about all the details on that show, so it's got to be somehow deliberate. It just struck me as so strange. Maybe she is just getting used to being a working girl in the city and bought a new 1960s style Wonderbra or something.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Tonight we went out for dinner at Kelly's Row in downtown Dover. We had a nice meal and on the way out, I saw a friend I haven't seen since high school. We recognized each other immediately even thought it's probably been about 25 years since we've seen each other. I've been smiling all night thinking about it.
I used to wonder how old people recognized friends they hadn't seen in decades. Who could tell with all those wrinkles and stuff? Now I get it! I mean, she looked the same to me as she did back then.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Summer On the Wane

Even in mid-August, if you look up at the trees that are old or sick you can see patches of leaves starting to change color. The weather has been cool the past couple of days and it's all reminding me that summer really is going to end soon. Damn it.
Not only am I going to miss walking out of the house without a thought of a sweater or jacket, I will have to snuffle my way through hay fever season before we get to the soup and cozy sweater weather. The sneezing and blocked sinuses have already commenced. Joy.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Friday, August 03, 2007


Wow. I was going to try to be eloquent and write gracefully about my ex-mother in law, but I'm feeling too happy for eloquent execution right now. My former mother in law has called me recently because of some paperwork she needed me to sign regarding some investments she made in my daughter's name. With the divorce and all I hadn't spoken to her for a couple of years and knowing the typical Japanese reaction to divorce and the acrimony of my ex, I figured the whole family probably hated me.
I was wrong.
My mother in law called last week, and along with discussing the business part of things, we also did a lot of catching up. She told me she still considers me her daughter (she grew up the youngest of five or six girls and then went on to have two sons herself) and invited me to stay at the house when I visit Japan next summer. It made me very happy to talk with her and to hear that she is well and doesn't have any hard feelings.
She called again this morning to let me know she received the documents I sent and to thank me. We chatted some more. She told me again that despite the divorce, she still thinks of me as her daughter and once again said to come stay with them next summer. At the end of this call I had my wits about me enough to ask her to give my regards to her husband.
My ex-father in law and I have had some rough moments. I've spent a fair amount of time being pissed off at him for blaming me for his dissatisfactions with his son. I kind of figured we were definitely on the outs now, no matter what my mother in law said because I know she's the kind of person who will do as she wishes even if it rubs him the wrong way.
Well, after I said "please send my regards" she put him on the phone. He sounded healthy and cheerful and , dare I say it, happy to be speaking with me! He also told me I was their daughter and to stay healthy and come stay with them next year.
This whole development really blows my mind. In a good way.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My Second Favorite to the Darwin Awards

Yeah! The 2007 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest winners have been announced. Read through the Vile Puns winners and dishonorable mentions and see if you can keep from rolling your eyes and possibly groaning. Fun!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Making a Buck Off the Bust

The real estate bust. Not my bust. Geez, get your mind out of the gutter....
We've all heard that the real estate boom is over and that the repercussions are being felt throughout the economy. Bad news for a lot of folks, but not necessarily for me.
I've recently been offered (and accepted) a freelance paralegal-type assignment working on foreclosure related documents. The work itself is not so tough. At least it's all in English. The pay rate is decent and it seems the work is being offered on an as-much-as-I-want-when-I-want-it basis for now. It also counts as actual legal-related work experience, which could distinguish me from the crowd on my translation resume or when I talk to potential translation clients looking for a legal translator.
I earn more per hour translating, but I also have to use my brain a lot more. If I did either job on a full-time basis I suppose I'd have to decide which I prefer: more pay and harder work, or easier work and less money. Good thing I get bored so easily and am apparently incapable of doing any single job on a full time basis.
When I was at the law office getting the low down on the assignment one of the legal secretaries asked if freelance legal work is what I did full time. I was somewhat appalled as I heard myself explain that actually I teach and translate and am picking up this legal stuff as another side gig. Does the word "enough" not exist in my world view of employment? But when you freelance you are subject to the phenomenon that when it rains, it pours; and when it doesn't rain, you're stuck bone dry. Might as well make the most of the opportunities and make hay while the work pours and later on, when it dries up, kick back in the sunshine. Or something like that.
Many freelancers extol the benefits of multiple work sources and how it's really more secure than relying on just one employer. Looks like I'm taking that concept and expanding it to cover multiple fields. If the teaching somehow doesn't work out, I have the translating to fall back on. If the translating ended up driving me nuts (which it could), I could work as a freelance paralegal. This should probably make me feel secure in my ability to earn a living. Instead I think it just makes me sound scattered and twitchy. Which is dumb because it's not impossible that I could be good (or at least competent) at all of them.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Tomorrow will mark the first time in 17 years that July 27 will not be my wedding anniversary.
Seventeen years.
That's crazy.
That's a hell of a long time.
And sometimes it seems like it all happened in another lifetime. I don't think I'm that same person anymore. The one who chose to behave badly in reaction to a bad relationship rather than be courageous enough to leave it. I don't regret the choices I made because I had to make them based on where I was at the time (and the way the laws work there). But now it doesn't seem possible that I would ever convince myself it was worth staying so unhappy for so long.
Sometimes I'd like to go back and smack that old me upside the head for hiding my head in the sand. Except that playing woulda-coulda-shoulda is such a waste of time.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My Cat's Head Smells Like...

My cat smells like Borax. It reminds me of my grandmother's house. She used to have powdered Borax soap in the bathroom. There's a box of Borax in the cabinet under the sink in the downstairs bathroom. Maybe the cat hangs out there sometimes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Hiking with Buddha

Today was a gorgeous summer day and the Girl and I finally started up our seasonal hiking with a trip to Mt. Major. Since Wonderful Boyfriend was at work and has been having knee problems anyway, it was our first girls-only hike. Except I guess it really wasn't girls-only since the Girl's Pocket Buddha came with us. (She has the pink Peace Buddha and carries him around on a daily basis.)
We took the Boulder Loop trail, which starts on the left side of the parking lot, for the ascent. It lived up to its name and was full of rocks and boulders. There were some pretty steep sections in the boulder field, but the last 0.4 mile to the summit was an easy stroll across rocky ledges surrounded by tons of low blueberry bushes. I like it when the last spurt to the summit is a stroll rather than a heart-bursting ordeal. The views from the summit were superb and we spent about half an hour eating gorp and jerky and taking in the scenery.
I thought about taking the Brook Trail on the way down, but the Main Trail has such great views of Lake Winnipesaukee that I figured we might as well enjoy them a little longer. The Main Trail is steep at the top but the latter part is pretty easy. I managed to get to about a half mile from the end of the trail before my knee started twinging, so I didn't even bother with my knee brace.
It was a great warm-up hike to break in the the Girl's new boots. Next week we're heading up to Holderness to do the Mt. Morgan/Mt. Percival loop.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I Hate Pretentious Japanophiles: Part 7 Million

Sushi for Two - New York Times
Oh, let's be pretentious and stupid! Obviously this guy hasn't taken check of the Japanese sushi restaurant industry in the last 20 years because in this article he is completely ignoring the proliferation of cheap kaiten sushi restaurants (the conveyor belt places) that have brought sushi to the level of the masses in Japan. I suppose while we're discussing enforcing cultural correctness overseas, the Japanese really ought to do something about their interpretation of ice cream and pizza. ("Ideal taste of sea goodness and mayonnaise" anyone?)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Joy of Translation

Don't you just love it when an eight-line-long sentence contains a parenthetical phrase that is seven and a half lines long and that first parenthetical phrase contains another four line phrase in parentheses?
That is why it can take me twenty minutes to get through one sentence sometimes. It's also why I usually just ignore the larger set of parentheses, when it's feasible.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Global Premiere

Well folks, you can say you saw it here first. My girl and I have run with the flash of inspiration that struck me the other day and have created a documentary of our own making. It's titled, "Kiddie Size Me".

I may later edit this further so it's short enough to post on YouTube, but for now I like this version and I just wanted to put it up here so people can see it.

I did cut about a minute out of the embedded version and added music to the ending credits. If anyone's interested, check it out here.

Just a Bit of Microprocrastination to Sweep the Mental Floor Clean

One advantage of a having a nearly adolescent child on summer vacation is that I can get up at 6:30 and do 3 or 4 hours of translation work before she wakes up in the morning. Then we can go and enjoy the rest of the day.
There's something kind of crazy in the works now. Watch this space, ice cream lovers...

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Overheard in a Chinese/Japanese Restaurant

Guy sitting in the booth behind me to waiter: "Is the octopus real octopus or is it squid?" (repeated several times while the waiter tried to understand the question)

Its growing on me:
Is that beef real beef or is it pork
Is that tofu real tofu or is it yogurt?
Is that salmon real salmon or is it tuna?
Is that Kleenex real Kleenex or is it a paper towel?
Is that muffin a real muffin or is it a cupcake?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

What's the Message?

I'm confused. My girl has just finished 6th grade. She's a great kid, a great student and most of her friends seem to be the same type. They all make highest honors and are involved in athletic and/or artistic pursuits. They aren't among the "prostitots", to borrow a phrase from my ever clever niece, in heavy black eyeliner and barely there clothing. And, collectively, these "good girls" have mothers who bring them to the salon to get blonde highlights in their hair, eyebrow waxes, pedicures, and encourage them to wear makeup. They are 12 years old. They've barely started to get pimples. And the weird thing is most of the moms seem (or at least look) pretty down to earth to me.
What is this really about? Is the message that they aren't pretty enough the way they are without all the primping and spending? Or they are princess divas who deserve to be pampered? Is our culture so lacking in ritual that the salon and the spa now stand as rights of passage for girls on the verge of becoming young women? It's like they are being told it is not enough that they are dedicated students, athletes and friends. They should be all that and also be (or try to be) exceptionally "pretty" as well. How many steps will it be from Mom calling for beauty professional intervention at age 12 to eating disorders and other bad reactions to the nearly inevitable realization reached by every teenage girl-- OMG! I've got Mom's (insert unfortunate feature of choice) and Dad's weird (insert another unfortunate feature of choice) and I'm probably not ever going to look like the Hollister models no matter how many $50 sweatshirts I buy there.
What's the big rush to get past the natural beauty of childhood anyway? Who do they need to be so prettified for? Are we trying to sell them off into a good marriage match or something?

And you might be wondering, what about me? What kind of mother am I on that spectrum? My girl gets haircuts every 2 or 3 months. Sometimes she paints her own nails. She has an extensive collection of lip gloss. She owns but rarely wears clear mascara (heh. clear mascara.) and says she's thinking about asking me if it would be ok if she got some real mascara. I told her I'd think about it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Life is ...

I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with the Life is Good brand that originates from here in New England. It's very popular around these parts and every day you'll see the crunchy, happy stick figures and loopy hand lettering somewhere on a t-shirt, a baseball cap, a sweatshirt or even tire covers. At first it was cute. Then it got kind of hokey and now it's pretty much overplayed.
In downtown Portsmouth today I spied something similar but oh so much better and ever so appropriate for my boyfriend, who was suffering a rather crappy day that started with his car not doing the same. I strode right on into the store and laid down some cash to get him this shirt. When I picked him up from work, I handed him the bag and said I found something to suit his day. The grin that spread across his face when he looked at it was the best thing I saw all day.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


In an odd way I'm starting to like this legal translation stuff.

Indemnification. Termination. Consideration. Jurisdiction.
In the event of violation...
entered into and by
Governing Law
Force Majeure!
Force Majeure!
In good faith
Creating two (2) copies and each party retaining one (1) copy of said Agreement

It's kind of got it's own swing to it, once you get going. (And once you stop procrastinating about getting the actual work done by scatting in legalese on your blog...)

Proud Teacher

If anyone cares to see what my students did, check this out. (It's all in Japanese.)
Just don't tell them you got there from a link from my blog, since I have never really mentioned I have one.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Finally decided on a nice splurge to indulge in with a little of the divorce settlement money. I ordered a Panasonic PV-GS85 digital camcorder and some accessories to go along with it. It's definitely an entry level camcorder, but it's gotten some good reviews and I plan to use it at school as well as to shoot family video. I thought I was very into film-making in college, but a reviewing of those works about a year ago really made it clear that I was actually into partying too much and thinking I was being arty when I was just being drunk and making crap. Oh well. Maybe this time I'll try to film some things that have some sort of narrative involved and not make disjointed "art". (*cough, cough*)
Anyway, I'm having some issues with M&Ms these days. As in, I can't leave the damn things alone. The obvious answer is to not keep them in the house, but since they are already in the house I have to get rid of them by eating them. I've spent the last six month hovering 3-6 pounds above the "goal weight" I set at Weight Watchers. It's better to be about 5 pounds over my goal than 25, which is where I could easily be without the Weight Watchers routine, but I just can't get motivated to buckle down and do it. I've been working out at the gym 3-4 times a week since January. I take a 90 minute belly dance class once a week. I walk the dog once or twice a day on the 3 or 4 days he spends here, so I'm definitely getting more exercise than I did a year ago. I'm fit. I'm healthy. I'm medium sized. So why can't I just say Screw It and accept the five pounds? Good question. I'll have to think about what the answer is.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Rut or Groove?

So many changes going on around me. The ones happening to me are minimal and welcome (like the new situation with the same old job), but things are spinning around and away in my midst. Big changes afoot for other folks that are rocking the nice safe little bubble routine world I have put together for myself. It reminds me that nothing always stays the same, not even the stable, quiet times.
I've noticed I get quiet here when gentle routine has taken over my days. Is it that I'm afraid writing about it will jinx it and make something big happen to change it? Am I afraid that if I inspect it in too much detail I will find fault and then start to tug on a stray loose thread that will unravel everything? If I stay perfectly still, nothing will ever change. That's what I try to fool myself into believing. Then people keep on going and making major changes all around me and those changes intrude on my bubble. Thankfully, they remind me nothing ever stays the same. And I don't want to stay the same. Living means growing and growing means changing.
I've been thinking about travel lately. Used to be I set out for all kinds of far flung parts all by myself, with no real plan. Now I won't even drive down to Boston for a day. How is that not-driving-to-Boston person even me? Can the wanderlust really be lost or is it just hibernating and waiting for its chance to come out again when the daily obligations eventually lift?

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Cure for Blah

I've been working at a job I love for the last 4 years. The compensation has been minimal and the tangible benefits (in the HR sense) non-existent. Despite that, I chugged away because I was doing something I love to do, living where I want to live and getting by thanks to the support of the people who love me. In my experience, that ranks as a pretty decent way of life, so I tried not to worry too much about it. Still, I always felt apologetic about the pitiful paychecks and, honestly, felt ashamed that the knowledge and skill I possess was worth so little in the eyes of the people who employed me. If they didn't think much of it, how could I? (Yeah, yeah, I know my earnings should not form the basis of my self-worth, but the truth is it does come into play.)

Well, today has been my lucky day. Or my pay off day. I was offered a lectureship position by my boss that will slightly increase my course load and more than double my salary, plus I will receive full benefits such as health insurance and the ability to open a retirement savings account. So, am I kicking back on the deck with a pina colada and some light summer reading to celebrate? Not exactly. I'm looking around trying to figure out how I want to structure the Japanese Culture course I'll be teaching next spring! But I also stopped by the public library and checked out a novel by David Liss and now I think I and a glass of cold jasmine tea will head out to the deck for some reading, at least until the current load of laundry is done...

Sunday, May 20, 2007


My summer vacation has started and I'm already catching shit from my family and questioning my own self-worth because of it. Good times, huh?
The deal is that I teach during the academic school year and also translate on a freelance basis. Freelance basis means sometimes I have too much work coming in and I have to turn down offers and sometimes nothing's coming in and I could, theoretically, just kick back and relax and enjoy my free time.
Except I don't just kick back and enjoy the down time. I spend the down time wondering if I should go back to school for yet another degree in order to "change careers" or whether I really should, as my father urges every time he sees me, figure out how to contact Theo Epstein and try to get a gig an an interpreter for the Red Sox even though I couldn't give a shit about baseball and abhor the thought of commuting to Boston, never mind traveling for a job. And then there's my sister, who is now gainfully employed by dad after years of slackerdom, and her not-so-subtle contemptuous tone of "oh, that must be nice" when I tell her I'm currently not working on any translation at the moment and am done with school for the year. Well, excuse me for having skills that let me work freelance and also for having received my settlement check from the divorce, which along with the payment checks now coming in for the work I kicked ass on last month and the understanding and generosity of my wonderful boyfriend who values my contributions to our home and family even if they aren't all measured in dollars, lessens the immediate need to pull in a paycheck at the moment.
But, really, I know I should just say screw them and enjoy this opportunity to slow down and enjoy life. I figured out a long time ago that "high-powered" is not what I want to be. I love to teach. Time flies when I'm in the classroom and it doesn't feel so much like work. Translation isn't quite as much fun as teaching, but I like the freedom of working freelance. So what's the problem? I don't make a ton of money so that means I'm "wasting my potential"? What if my potential to be happy with the way my life is now means more to me than my potential to bust my ass to impress my family?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Yoga and Animal Attraction

I have an on-again off-again yoga practice. I have for years, actually. When I was a kid back in the 70s, my mom used to take a lot of yoga classes and practice at home, so it was something often seen in my daily life. (Mom still does yoga on a regular basis, btw.) When I lived in Hawaii for grad school, I started to attend weekly Iyengar yoga classes held in a little white studio that was part of the Mo'ili'ili Community Center, behind the Down To Earth health food store on King Street. (This was in the days back before yoga got really trendy and yoga teachers could afford full-time studios for their classes.) For all the mellow early Saturday morning sunlight and plumeria scented breezes wafting in through the windows, the classes were quite kick ass.
My practice now is a do-it-myself at home affair. Sometimes I use DVDs or, more often , one of the Yogamazing podcasts. (I think I consider Chaz my yoga teacher at this point.) Unfortunately, it's been several months since I practiced with any regularity, probably since before we moved into the house. When I was still living in the apartment I would lay out my blue yoga mat and inevitably the dog would come over and lay down on it. I would shoo him away and start my practice. At various points, mostly when doing postures that involve lying on my back, the dog would amble over and stick his nose in my face, then try to lie down on the mat again when I got up to do standing postures. Eventually, he'd move off the mat but stay in the room to watch.
This morning I decided that I need to get back into a regular yoga practice. I've been sick this week and I can feel my body is kind of a mess and it needs some gentle straightening out. The dog is at the Girl's father's house at present, but this was the cat's first exposure to me doing yoga. For most of the morning the cat has been content to hang out and keep her distance from me for as I did some chores, read and what not. But once the yoga mat went down, I suddenly became quite irresistible. She was crawling over me, rubbing around me, purring at me, smooshing her face in my face and trying to find a good spot to settle down and sleep on me, which was impossible since I was not in any one position for any length of time that would accommodate one of her naps. She was finally able to happily curl up in my lap for a few minutes at the very end, as I was sitting cross-legged and taking a few final deep breaths. Now she's back at the other end of the couch, napping after such a big workout, I guess.

Monday, May 07, 2007

I Just Feel Like We're Not Communicating...

I'll be teaching an advanced level Japanese class next Fall and I've been looking around for a textbook to use. The normal way to go about this is to contact the textbook publisher and request a free desk copy so you can check out the text before you commit to making your whole class buy it. Unfortunately, this is apparently not the way Japanese publishers do business, but you have to read between the lines a little to get that. Witness the email exchange I had today with the rep from the Japanese publisher. Originally this communication started when I submitted a comment form from their website requesting a desk copy of the intermediate text.
Dear Ms Pamming About,

Thank you for your e-mail.

We would like to tell you that we ask our agent,
XYZ bookstore in San Francisco to send
you Elementary 1 textbook and workbook.

To go ahead, we would appreciated it if you could
let us know your address.

Once again, we thank you for your interest in
our publications.

Yours sincerely,

I was a little perplexed when I received this message this morning because I couldn't recall having requested copies of those books and had half forgotten about the request I sent through the website a week and a half ago. So, I sent back this email--

Dear Ms. Publisher Rep,

Thank you very much for your email. We already use the level I and II textbooks and workbooks in our first and second year classes. My inquiry was about the
Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese by A. Sushi and N. Sashimi for adoption by our third-year Japanese class. If you could send a desk copy of that, I would appreciate it.

My mailing address is:
Pamming About
Dept. of Languages, Literatures and Stuff
Random State Univ.
Podunk, NH

Best Regards,

Because, I really did think perhaps she had misunderstood my original request since all the textbooks have almost exactly the same name. Then, I received this reply--

Dear Ms Pamming About,

Thank you for your e-mail.

We regret to inform you that we are able to offer Elementary 1
textbook and workbook for free. We would appreciated
it if you could understand our company's policy.

Once again,we thank you for your interest in our publications.

Yours sincerely,

Don't you just love it? The rep regretfully informs me she can supply me with the books I don't really need, but never actually says she can't/won't send the one I am interested in and then asks me to understand the company's policy, which has really only been alluded to and not ever explicitly stated. I know it's just an extremely Japanese style of communication, but wtf? Is she afraid my feelings will be hurt if she just straight out told me they don't supply desk copies of that title? Every time I run into stuff like this I'm glad all over again that I left Japan and came home.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Animal Lessons

originally uploaded by bassbot.
A cat is a lesson I'm still learning. We got our kitty from the local humane society shelter about a month ago. She's my first cat. Dogs are simple to understand. Cats, not so much.
The things I learn from the dog are simple, kind of obvious and mostly "other-centered". The dog teaches me about enthusiasm, loyalty, persistence, forgiveness and devotion. The cat is ... different.
The cat is all about the cat. She is a contrarian and will never do what you want or ask her to do if you approach is straighforwardly. Reverse psychology seems to work pretty well, though. She runs away and hides when she doesn't like what's going on. She spends a lot of time curled up sleeping on the cushiest surfaces she can find and seems always ready to join in on a nap. She growls at the dog and looks upon us all with utter disdain when required to be in his presence. She never looks hang-dog when she knocks something over. She just flees the scene or ignores it. She has no compunction about walking all over me in the middle of the night. There's almost something regal in her absence of eagerness to please.
Wonderful boyfriend says there is plenty to be learned from watching a cat. I suppose that's true, but I also think the the cat attitude is a lot more charming on a cat than on a person.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Escape from Reality

It's 10:12 pm and I'm exhausted. My now-12-year-old daughter is having a birthday sleepover party tonight. It involved a lot of screaming and running around for the first couple of hours. Then there was the hour or so where they called boys to see if the one one of them likes likes her back and if he wants to "go out" with her. (In 6th grade here going out seems to consist of sitting together at the same table at lunch. And lots of scheming and screaming and coaching by friends on all sides.) Anyway, at this point I am hiding out in my room. The dog is hiding here with me. Wonderful boyfriend is bravely watching Monthy Python and the Holy Grail with the kids.
I think I'll do the following book meme for a change of pace. I got it from Kinuk.

bold - I’ve read it
italicise - I want to read it
normal font - I am not really interested in reading it

1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Steven King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. The Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According to Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Hmm, interesting mix of choices on the list. Wonder why there's no Vonnegut listed?

Monday, April 16, 2007


Every day goes by so fast. I swear it used to feel like I had so much time on my hands that I actually got bored. The days are full in a mostly good way. But they fly by so fast.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

She Works Hard for the Money

In some sort of fit of insanity I accepted way too much translation work to do over the weekend. There is ginourmous litigation going on with a big Japanese corporation and there are thousands and thousands of pages that need to be translated in conjuction with it. I've had so many agencies offering me so many piece of the job that I finally bit.
This is my first experience working in the office of our new house. The office is nice. I have an eye level view of the street and the light hits the room nicely in the late afternoon and early evening, which encourages me to keep on working until night falls.
The sheer volume of the work I was foolish enough to accept (and let's just not mention the entire day I wasted yesterday working 10 hours on a part of the document I didn't need to translate. *sob*) has motivated me to try out a few new tools. Specifically, I got some OCR (optical character reader) software and some translation memory software (Wordfast), and while I don't really know how to use either one skillfully, I am already seeing a bit boost in efficiency. I imagine it will be even better once I actually learn the right way to use the tools.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Moment in Time

I'm almost a week into living in the new house with the wonderful boyfriend and my marvelous girl. So far, things have been hectic. The move was originally planned for the morning of the 17th, but the big snow and sleet fest that decided to rain on my parade put the kibbosh on that plan. Instead, the big move took place on Sunday. We had many helpers, who were greatly appreciated. My sister was one of them. She told me she occasionally saw me standing there in sort of a daze as people paraded out of the apartment with various pieces of my life, as if I couldn't believe it was actually happening. Exactly.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Goodbye Old Life, Hello New Life

This is my last post from the "old" apartment. It's nearly empty now and I'm just waiting for someone to come pick up a piece of furniture I free-cycled. This place was good. I lived here for 2 years and seven months. It was where I needed to be. Now it's time to move on!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Emptying the Cup

Last night was my girl's last night staying in the apartment. (She stays with her father from tonight until the weekend.) She was very cute about it. Her best friend, who lives across the street, called her shortly before supper time and asked if she would like to go on a walk with her, her dad and her little brother. Although she was a little hesitant, my girl decided to go since it was a "last chance" kind of thing. As seven o'clock started to roll around and my stomach started to growl, I text messaged the girl to ask when she was coming home to eat our Moe's. She showed up at the door a few minutes later, out of breath, sweaty and a little angry . It seems her friend kept urging her dad to make the walk longer and longer and during that time my girl decided she was sorry she had gone in the first place because she wanted to spend as much time as she could with me in the apartment on our last night here together. She's such a sweetie.
We had our sandwiches and shared a bag of salt and vinegar chips. Then we settled into the couch (loveseat, really) to watch American Idol and did our best to finish up all the ice cream in the freezer so I don't have to move it or throw it out. She was so aware that everything she did, she was doing it for the last time here. She even made a point to pause and ask for a "last hug" in the apartment before I took her to school this morning. I keep reassuring her that we'll still be together, but I also understand how she feels.
We're both excited about the move, but I think it's natural to feel some uncertainty. We've been settled into our routines for a few years now and they are comfortable and comforting to us. But change is a constant in life and we can create new routines and new comforts and adapt the ones we have to new situations. Letting go of the familiar is always difficult, but it's the only way to keep moving forward.

Monday, March 12, 2007

It's Official

And it's actually been official for exactly one month, but today I finally had the time and the motivation to head over to the county court house and purchase a certified "divorce packet". That was $15 well spent.
I've read that many people feel a resurgence of sadness when a divorce is finalized. Some people throw big parties for themselves to celebrate, but I think that is lacking in decorum and it's just not my style. I drove home with the packet sitting in the passenger's seat; its shiny gold superior court official sticker winking at me. I felt something like a thrill in my chest, because this divorce saga really is over and everyone is still alive and in relatively good shape.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Misery loves company?

Misery loves company?
Originally uploaded by bassbot.
Please excuse the blurry photo. I think, in a way, the blurry nature sort of lends itself to the subject matter of my trashy neighbor who has now decided the dirt outside her bedroom window is a perfect place to both dispose of and store her vodka.
It disturb me that this woman drives a large pickup truck through this neighborhood, where my child and my neighbors' children play.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Trash Neighbor Trash

Originally uploaded by bassbot.
Last night, when I took my dog out into the yard to do his business, something down below the deck caught my eye. On closer inspection today it appears that the downstairs neighbor decided to get rid of an empty Stoli bottle by pushing it out the screen of her bedroom window. How classy.
Moving day is in less than two weeks. And not a moment too soon.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

For Those Who Like It Dirty

If you like dirty pictures, click here.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


I had a birthday today. It was great. My sister whisked me off for coffee in the morning. My honey made me a birthday cake (and schemed with my girl to have her help decorate it while I was out doing the grocery shopping.) Then he took me and my girl out to a very yummy dinner. I haven't had a homemade birthday cake since I was a kid. It was extremely chocolately and delicious.
I have to say that so far my 40s are pretty awesome. Most of my 20s were spent searching for some elusive prize I never found. My 30s were spent mostly confused, wondering how the hell I had ended up that way and feeling resigned to having to spend the rest of my life avoiding or enduring the consequences of the choices I had made. Now I finally feel like I'm where I belong and together with the one I belong with.
Youth gets all the hype in this culture, but I'm finding that this "mid-life" phase is way better than I ever expected.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Marking February Gone

It wasn't the drugs that killed her
they were used to mask the deeper
mental illness
wasn't what killed her either
her life is what ended her life
all the decisions upon decisions
to take whatever would make her lose control
until she was all out
all she has missed being gone
all who have missed her
even the ones who never met her
who were not here when she was
decisions upon decisions
leave echos and hidden scars

Friday, February 23, 2007

Da Kine

Being kind of sick kind of sucks. My head feels like a bowling ball on my neck. I have no appetite and feel sort of sick but am not actively puking. This is something definitely beyond my regular lethargy, but it's not presenting as actively sick. I don't have to go to work today, but there's plenty of work to do on the house and getting ready to move there and all the other stuff March will bring with it. I'm kind of torn between acting responsibly and resting now so this thing hopefully doesn't develop into the flu that many people around me have been sick with this past week and forcing myself to do stuff, which will most likely make me undoubtedly sick and then I won't feel guilty for resting because I'll be too busy feeling like death to care.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I just don't like February. It should be shortened to about 20 days.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Blahentines Day

This was not the day I expected it to be. Yes, it was Valentine's Day. Yes, we had a big storm and schools were canceled and everyone hunkered down and stayed home. My normally bright, shiny, happy girl was sick and camped out on the couch all day long. I shoveled my driveway out twice and later saw it plowed out twice. I spent most of the day at the kitchen table working on a type of translation I haven't done in years. And now I remember why. Translating notes in computer code is boring as hell. It requires extreme visual attention, but not a lot of writing skill. I wouldn't call it brainless, but it lacks the challenge and satisfaction of turning out a finely polished sentence.
I hate it when the girl is sick. I hate that I had to actually spend several hours wondering how to take my sick girl out in the middle of a raging snow storm so she could go to her dad's house due to the stupid custody schedule. (He only lives 5 minutes away and for various reasons, including both the weather and her throwing up several times during the day, we didn't actually head out until the end of the afternoon, but still, why should either of us have to worry about that and why does it all have to be communicated through email and not the phone?) Not enough sleep. No nap today. I felt bad eating when I knew my girl was too sick to consider it. Ass glued to the chair while my eyes bugged out over pages of code. Shoveling was actually a welcome break. At least I got some fresh air and exercise. It'll all get better. I just need a nap, I think.

Snow Day, Sick Day

Today is the first day of this winter that has been officially declared a snow day. My classes are cancelled. My girl's school is cancelled. And my girl is sick. As a kid, I can't think of much worse than being sick on a snow day.
She came and got me up sometime during the night (2-ish? 3-ish?) and told me she wasn't feeling very good. She climbed into my bed and we both slept fitfully for a while, but then I got up to see about school cancellations and she got up and got sick in the bathroom. I tried to sleep after that but wasn't able. She's napping in her room now. I'm (procrastinating on)working on a translation job in my bathrobe at the kitchen table.
I hate when she gets sick on the days she changes houses. I always want to make excuses to keep her with me. From everything I've read, I know that it's very important for a child to spend a lot of time with both her parents even after they have split up. But on days like this I kind of wish I had been more of a bitch at the start and fought to have her be mostly with me.
Today's mantra-- Taking the high road pays off in the end. Take the high road.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Is This It?

According to the official date of the last paper issued by the court, today should be the day my divorce becomes final. (Our divorce? hmm, somehow that sounds funny since a divorce is all about the rendering apart and nothing "our" about it at all.) If no other appeals or motions have been filed then today should be the day. I probably won't receive any notification about it for another several weeks, if the pacing of prior events is anything to go on.
It's been nearly three years since I left him and many more than that since I realized I needed to leave. The trial was eight months ago. The preliminary hearing was about a year before that. It has been so long and dragged out that I'm not sure if this piece of paper is going to make me feel any different. But maybe I'll feel a slightly richer taste of freedom. I moved on so long ago in my heart and mind, now I guess the rest of me is free to follow.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Or Do You Mean the Three Stooges?

Driving the girl to school this morning and "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" comes on the radio.
The Girl: Is this the three old Jewish guys?
Me: Huh?
The Girl: I can't remember who does this song.
Me: The Beastie Boys.
The Girl: Yeah, I couldn't remember the name.
Me: Well, they're like my age so they're not that old...
The Girl: ......

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Now I've Seen Everything

I guess the people at Animal Planet have really lost their minds. My girl happened to channel surf onto the Puppy Bowl III. As far as I can tell it's hours of video of puppies frolicking on a set that looks like a football field. Now we're watching the Kitty Half Time show. As you might guess this is a bunch of kittens frolicking to disco music on a stage set filled with kitty toys and tinsel. It's so dumb and yet so highly entertaining.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Red Scarf Project

originally uploaded by bassbot.
I'm probably too late in mentioning this to anyone else who wants to participate, but today I finished my scarf for the Red Scarf Project. Since I work with college students I see how hard the adjustment to college life can be sometimes, even for the kids who have families to give them support. The Red Scarf Project is a way to offer a little encouragement to young adults who have aged out of the foster care system and are attending college without the family support so many others are fortunate to have. I think this is now becoming an annual event, so if you'd like to participate but missed it this time around, keep an eye out for information about the 2008 project. I think the announcement comes out in August or September. (btw, the awesomely cute wrapper for the scarf was courtesy of Melissa, who has many wonderful things related to this project on her blog.)
(ps: don't tell anyone, but I didn't even block the scarf after I finished it. It's made with a machine washable wool blend and I think it looked ok even without blocking. sshhhhhhh.)