Saturday, December 31, 2011

At Year's End

The last day of the year is here.  Tomorrow I pull off the Makoto Hasebe calendar off my wall.  

Despite the fact that it rarely if ever functioned as a calendar, it brought me a year supply of smiles.  Every time I looked at that "calendar" on my wall, I had to chuckle at the hilarity of a calendar that doesn't do much, at my impulsiveness to buy such a thing in the first place, at the fact that I still kept it on my wall.  

This year has kind of been that way.  I've made a lot of mistakes.  I've been foolish and impulsive.  Sometimes, I feel like I've done little to serve in the capacities to which I've been called.  However, I've learned from my mistakes and laughed a lot at myself in the process.  I've continued to do my best with what I've been given.  I've never given up.  

Thank you 2011.  

And I never thought I'd say it, but I think I'll miss having a non-functioning calendar on my wall.  

On to 2012.  


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Waylaid

Sometimes the best laid plans go awry...

One of my sisters taught my niece how to fist bump.  It is the most adorable thing, with her little fist held out and her eyes looking at you expectantly.  And when she fist bumps one person in the room, she has to fist bump everyone.

Over the weekend, my brother-in-law tried to teach Baby how to fist bump her beloved Teddy bear.

Now it goes more like this:  Baby fist bumps someone and then pounds her teddy bear in the face a few times.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Verbal Awkwardness: Holiday Edition

In case I ever think that I'm starting to make headway in maneuvering in the world of speaking, something always comes back to remind me how verbally awkward I really am.

Scene 1: While my sister is out with my niece doing some Christmas shopping, I hear a knock on the door.  Assuming it's the mailman (or someone like that) I skip over to the door and open it to find some vaguely familiar person holding out some gifts.  She smiles, "For Anna and the baby."  I look out at her van in the driveway and dumbly nod.  She looks past me and waves to my mother who she knew from previous visits.  Still struck dumb, I just nod.  I don't invite her in.  I don't explain that my sister is out along with my niece.  Instead, I just stand there, awkwardly holding these gifts.  The woman waves again, wishes me a Merry Christmas and runs back to her car.  I walk back inside the house to find another sister laughing at me.  "Why didn't you say anything?  Why didn't you explain that Anna and the baby were out?"  I shake my head.  "I have no idea.  Should I go tell her now before she leaves?"  My sister laughs again, "Yes!  Go run outside and chase her down the street. 'Hold on!  I can explain everything!'"  I laughed back, half ready to do just that.  Instead, I just waited until my sister got home, explained the situation to her and told her to write a really nice thank-you note and apology for her sister.

Scene 2: While waiting to leave church yesterday, a woman walks up to me, "I just want to tell you that you look so much like my daughter that I thought she had driven all the way up here to surprise me at church."  I look at her, take a deep breath, and fight for words to say.  But what can I say?  Struck dumb, I just nod at her and try to look as optimistic as possible.  She smiles at me, still kind of hoping that I was her daughter.  I nod, hoping that her daughter was sitting somewhere else in the chapel.  After this awkward exchange, her other daughter jumps in to save me, "Mom, do you really think she drove all the way up here to sit with another family?"  The mom laughs and the family moves away.  I turn to see my family looking at me curiously.  My sister speaks up, "Why didn't you say anything?"  I look at her, "What could I say?  'I'm sorry your daughter is not here for Christmas?'"  She shrugs.  Is this another one of those moments when you run after them to explain your awkwardness?

I should start just wearing a shirt that reads: Verbally Awkward.  Please excuse.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Niece the Adorable

Yesterday, I picked up niece up from her daycare in place of her mother.  It was the first time she has seen me in a while.  She just stared at me as I gathered her up, and her coat and took her out to my car.  She didn't mind being with me - in fact, she chose me to hold her over others at some points.  However, I wasn't sure that she knew which aunt I was.

Then, we had a moment alone.  Alexis looked up at me and put her hand on my mouth.  I looked at her confused, so she did the same thing to her own mouth.  And I recalled a funny little trick I had taught her over the summer - Yayaya.  I looked at her and laughed.  "You do remember me!"  She smiled and then giggled.

In the time since I last saw my niece, she has changed a lot.  She has new teeth, she no longer has a turning radius of five feet and "Baby" has almost completely left her vocabulary.  She also knows how to perform simple tasks, "Take this to your Mommy."  "Here, Baby, help me hold this."  "Make sure you hold my hand."  "Riley is trying to go outside - go get him!"  (For that one, I ran after her to find her trying to close the door to make sure her beloved cat did not run outside)  She also says, "Oof, oof!"  when she sees an animal that resembles a dog and can make the sign language sign to tell you that she's hungry.


Tonight, I pulled out my camera and she spent the evening taking pictures of herself.  After each photo, she would flip around the camera to look at the digital display of the picture.  "Who is that?"  I would ask.  "Mama," she always said back while pointing at her nose.  I laughed at her and she'd turn the camera around again and take more pictures of herself.  I tried to teach her to say, "I love you" tonight.  It ended up with her pointing at me and saying, "I, I, I"  I think nouns and formal names are not her forte.

Here are some selcas (self-portraits) of the baby.  She thought they were all masterpieces.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Idle Thoughts

A few thoughts I had while driving today:

<while listening to Hairspray, the movie soundtrack> The speed of sound?  At atmospheric conditions, that is 343 m/s.  But of course at lower temperatures, that would be much lower.  Next time I fly, I should find out the airplane's external temperature so I can figure out how fast the the airplane would need to travel in those conditions to be traveling at sonic speeds.

<while driving on extremely wet roads> I always assumed that speed limits were something designated by the engineers who designed the roads, accounting for a safety factor.  i.e. a speed limit of 65 mph would actually correlate to safe driving at speeds up to about 90 mph.  However, now that I think about it, I wonder why I ever assumed engineers had any say in this.  Isn't it lawmakers who set speed limits?  Do they understand/know the parameters the roads were designed for?

Nerd much?

Yes.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

To be James...

This morning, over breakfast, I idly flipped through a calendar of upcoming events at the Kennedy Center in DC.  I happened upon the picture of James Gaffigan (shown below) who is scheduled to conduct the National Symphony Orchestra in a few months.  
I was surprised by how young he looked.  After breakfast, I did a little searching on this conductor and found the 32 year old studied a Julliard and has conducted for a number of orchestras all over the country.  That searching led me to his blog where his latest post told about his adventures in conducting the Vienna Philharmonic.  His tone was conversational - he seemed like a good friend sitting down to a cup of coffee with me, describing the rush of pulling together a piece of music at the last minute.  I understand that to some extent - as conductor of a ward choir, I am learning above all things how to be flexible.  However, I also have no concept of his life.  We're not talking about ward choir here; these are professional musicians who actually can pull off Boheme at the last minute.  I just stared at his blog post in shock.

You see, lately, I've realized, I don't often share much about my day-to-day life on my blog.  I don't write about the latest work in research.  I thought about trying to include more of the normal goings-on of my life.  When I think about what to write on a blog post, though, I often find myself grasping at straws.  What did I do today?  Ummm....

And yet, when this man goes to his computer, creates a new blogpost and asks himself the same question, the answer is something like, "I conducted professional musicians in Vienna."  I can't even imagine having those memories and images captured in the bank of my brain called, "my personal experiences".  It's baffling.

People like James Gaffigan actually lead lives like James Gaffigan.

This isn't jealous even though it may sound like it.  It's such sheer amazement.  As small and connected as this world sometimes seems, it still is so vast and diverse that one lifetime is not enough to even traverse the smallest fraction of it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

International Relations

Dear Bulgarian,

After my brief stint with you back in 2000, I never thought I'd use you again.  And yet, somehow in my very last assignment for my very last class EVER in my academic career, there I was, relying on my understanding of the Cyrillic alphabet to study and analyze an engineering paper in Russian.  I'm kind of looking forward now to seeing where/when Welsh will pop up.  Life continues to twist and turn ...

Love,
Me


Dear North Korea,

Your Dear Leader is dead.  It's so funny to realize where people stand on the issue by their reactions.  Some people wonder what this mean for Beijing.  Some people wonder what this means for Kim Jong Eun.  Some people simply wonder what this means.  I feel like I'm about to burst, anxious to understand what your future will hold.  Here's hoping for good things.

Love,
Me


Dear Eiji-san,

You've only been on your team for a year, you aren't even from Europe and you're already the team captain?  If that was not impressive enough, there's the fact that you bought season tickets in Frontale for underprivileged kids to attend games for free and you see nothing wrong with sleeping in on a Sunday.  For the record, if you're going to be teased about looking like a Pixar character, you have to admit: Buzz Lightyear is lightyears ahead of Mr. Potato Head on the 'attractive' scale.  

Love,
Me


Dear MH,

Your dirty, stinky cleats are worth more than I make in 3 months.  How does that even work?  I mean, soccer is soccer, but it's not exactly rocket science.  ;)  No, seriously, kid, all my love.  But would you please update something about your life other than the already well-documented TV spots on you?  I'm starting to think you actually enjoy having your face blown up and plastered on people's walls under the ruse of being a calendar.

Love,
Me

** edit.  Dear Hasebe-san, looking at you arrival in Narita, I realized how exhausted you must be.  Go home and rest up.  Love, Me.


Dear Julian,

Thanks for making me realize how much I miss Germany all over again.  Even if I can't express my love in words, I promise it's there.  Germany is special.

Love,
Me

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Things to do in the middle of Virginia

One of my friends (not so) recently moved to Lincoln, Nebraska.  She puts up blog posts about things to do there.  I decided to copy this post after that.

You can travel around the world and back:

1.  Wear a Yukata.  (Sorry, there were two robes but only one obi)



 2.  Visit Foamhenge.  Yes, this little place is about as fabulous and random as it sounds.  Some artist decided to construct a Stonehenge replica entirely made of styrofoam.

Jumping!
Playing with the shadows

Jumping!


My sister's 'zen' picture

3. Take pictures next to an elephant statue (outside a zoo that was closed for the winter)


4.  Visit a bookstore.  One of the best ways to travel around the world and back is to get into a good book. In the middle of Virginia, there is a book fair that comes a few times a year with thousands and thousands of books on sale for extremely cheap.  I avoided buying everything I wanted/saw.


And because I miss this little one, this is what Baby currently chooses to do with my nice pens.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Relegation Revisited

I woke up this morning with one thought: I was here once before, six months ago, facing relegation.  But this time, it's real.  It's not some self-appointed goal I would like to meet to save face.  If I don't pass my proposal defense, then...

Six months ago, I was a sad little soul, working her heart out in her lab with nothing to show for her efforts.  Except this: that people loved her, that she would never give up, and that, in the end, things have a way of working themselves out.  (If it hasn't worked out, it's not the end)

I've been struggling for the past 6 months since then to keep myself going despite my exhaustion.  Yet, so many people have done so much to keep me going.

A very small example of this: I need a computer for my proposal tomorrow to Skype in a professor for the defense.  My own computer will be used for the presentation and it's doesn't have any Skype capability anyway.  I sent out a random request to the people in my ward.  Within 5 minutes, I had multiple people write me back, offering their services.  In fact, even hours after the fact, I still have people texting and emailing to make sure I am set.  People that I love, people that I know well, people that I don't know well, people that I wished I knew better.  How does a girl get so lucky?

Despite my worries about "relegation" I have to keep these things in my mind.
I'm not alone in this battle.  I never was.

12 hours.  12 hours.

I can do this.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Our Last Moments

Me: Who would you call if this were your last day on earth?
Friend (contemplative): My lawyer
Me: (reeling): Y..you..your lawyer?
Friend: I have no idea why I just said that; I don't even have a lawyer.
Me: I was wondering.

Sometimes we wax profound and sometimes?

This is more along the lines of what I had been thinking.  If Tomorrow Were the Last Day of the World by Magic Power.  What things haven't we said?  What things haven't we done?  What dreams haven't we fulfilled?


This song has also been stuck in my head lately.  Not Again by Jeffrey Kong.  I think I might be getting sentimental in my old age.  :)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Burn Out

Dear Germany,

The weirdest things have been happening - you have been coming up more and more in my conversations.  It's not enough to drink hot cocoa - I have to compare it to yours.  I idly think about traveling distances and times on the trains.  I find myself craving German torte.  I wonder if I could learn how to make schnitzel.  I keep making plans about what I want to go and see and do when I see you.  I have to keep reminding myself that it's not last year - that I'm not going to see you soon.  I think it's safe to say I miss you.  When will I see you again?

Love,
Me


Dear Subconscious,

Last night's dream was an utter nightmare.  Sure, it was nice that someone decided my lab looked old and dilapidated and I appreciated the remodeling.  However, when I saw the result of remodeling was that my own lab was now strewn across several offices and that the equipment was rendered useless through the carelessness of hasty remodelers, I couldn't stop the tears from coming.  There I was, with some new secretary at her desk, gawking at me while I bawled my eyes out, helplessly aware that my PhD degree was getting pushed back indefinitely.  Thanks for the (unnecessary) reminder that so many things could still prevent me from getting my degree.  Some friend you are.

Love,
Me


Dear Semester,

How is it that I only have two weeks until Christmas and yet I still have a semester of work left to do?  I promise I've been working hard.  So where did all that effort disappear to?  I would beg you to slow down so I can get something done but I don't know if that will even help at this point.  I'm just going to keep going until I can't anymore...

Love,
Me


Dear はせべさん,

The fact that you take a picture of every meal you eat, that you played babysitter and peacemaker the entire North Korean game, that you showed the camera men that you enjoy reading books out on our balcony and sometimes, you even rest your feet up on the balcony's railing/ledge when you do so, that you always manage to walk around with your glasses perched up on your forehead - when I see these things, I think, "How your mother must love you!"  I think I was supposed to see a mature 27 year old in all of these things but instead, I kept seeing a little boy who is good and doing his best, but little boy nevertheless, with a vulnerable little heart and plaintive eyes.  So, why is it that this week, with pictures on your blog of you losing your sled halfway down the sled run, and pictures of you riding on the children's carousel by yourself twice -  that which would assure your ever-present boyishness - why do I feel instead that we are just the same age after all?

Love,
Me  

From Tumblr, AP Photo
From Tumblr

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Be a Man

On Saturday, after cleaning my entire house, I celebrated my long week by watching Mulan - not the Disney version but the live Chinese version that came out in 2009.

For those of you unfamiliar with anything but the Disney version (which I also love), the story of Mulan is based off a poem called The Ballad of Mulan that was written during the Northern Wei Dynasty (386 - 534)  about a girl who goes to take her father's place in the army and fights for 12 years.  Just like the Disney version, this girl steals away in the night, joins the rest of the recruits and makes a few very close friends and starts out with a slightly light-hearted mood which is quickly changed with the reality of war.  Unlike the Disney version, the live action version never regains its humor and it doesn't have a happy ending either (in the romantic sense).  Furthermore, rather than examine the issues of gender roles, the live action version examines the issues of war, told through the eyes of a girl who expresses and verbalizes the same thoughts as the men round her.

The result is a thought-provoking dialogue on duty, love, self (one) vs. others (the whole), and sacrifice.  It's interesting to contrast its thoughts and opinions with my own.  It's even more interesting in light of the highly different cultures and values upheld by the differing cultures.  However, I didn't feel that I was watching a movie about "Chinese" thoughts or that I was examining the movie with an "American" perspective.  Instead, it felt simply and profoundly "human", applicable in ways that all humankind can feel and understand.

There are three scenes that made this movie for me.  These aren't the only good scenes in the movie, nor do they encompass all  of the issues mentioned above.  These are simply scenes that I 'liked', without reference to the details that make any movie review actually worth reading.

(1) The scene: We've just been introduced to the three main characters and the other endearing side characters when a brawl breaks out among some of the soldiers (one is crying because sold himself to fight in a nobleman's son's place in order to hopefully get the money and medicine necessary to care for his sick mother only to find himself facing the chance of death in war while his mother's health continues to decline.  Another soldier jumps up to beat him up for being such a 'crybaby'.)  Ever the honorable one, Little Tiger jumps in to the defend the crying soldier and break up the fight.  Too quickly, he finds himself over his head when the bully brings in his cronies.  Mulan jumps into the fray and silences everyone with her/his skill, easily ending the brawl and further tussles.  ("Save your fighting for the battlefield.")  Little Tiger gives a wry little smile with a glance at his new friends, "That's my brother, Mulan."
Why I love it:  Little Tiger already knows Mulan's real identity; they are from the same hometown.  That means he knows it was a girl who just showed him up on fighting skills and it was a girl who just beat the bully and his cronies soundly.  However, there's nothing but pride though that this person is on his side, and counted as not only his friend but as a family member, a brother.  This was the moment I started to adore Little Tiger and that feeling only grows throughout the movie.  I can't say enough good things about Little Tiger.

(Interesting side note:  The man who plays Little Tiger in this movie is Jackie Chan's son.  The fact that Jackie Chan's son was just shown up in fighting by a girl also add a clever little commentary probably not intended but entertaining (and worth the wry smile) nonetheless.)

(2) The scene: Mulan the general gets up in front of her men and says, "Your general Hua Mulan honestly is a person who is very afraid of fighting in war.  I am always afraid.  I am always avoiding it.  But my fear and my running away from the war has caused me to lose my most important friend.  His leaving has helped me realize that avoidance does not end the war and that fear has only caused me to lose even more.  From now on, I will become stronger and protect each of you.  You also need to become stronger and protect the people at your side.  Will you do this?"
Why I like it: How often in war movies does a general over the army admit that he is afraid to kill?  And that he has made mistakes?  It's real; it's very real.  This is the scene that makes the army and defines Hua Mulan as a good general - not because of her good tactics, although she definitely has those - but because of her devotion to her brothers and their determination to stand by each other for the sake of each other.  Also of note, in this scene, she is wearing two fellow soldier's dog tags on her armor - the tag of a friend who died because she too zealously jumped into a battle to protect another friend and the tag of the most important friend who died because she didn't have the heart to face another battle and stayed behind.  Both are interesting lessons - to know when to fight and when to stay still.

(3) The scene: A dust storm interrupts a very serious battle between Mulan's outnumbered army and the enemy's army.  Minutes before the storm, Mulan was pulled off her horse because she had received two arrows to the chest.  When the dust settles, the air is eerily quiet and it looks like everyone has died.  Wentai jumps up and starts turning over soldier and soldier.  He panics as he fails to find who he is looking for and finally just starts wandering the battlefield while yelling, "Hua Mulan!  Hua Mulan!"  It's a desperate plea from a man who is hoping the person he cares most for is still alive.
Why I love it: I'm a romantic.  We all know that about me.  But this isn't romantic in a 'I wish this were my life' way.   It's romantic in the sense that here is a man who, having learned to govern his life with self-sacrifice and emotional discipline, is now staggeringly overcome with emotion and selfishness.  You see, Wentai is that important friend in the second scene (above) who Mulan lost.  She was told he had died and he meant for it to be that way, partly because he wasn't sure he would survive his wounds, partly because he wanted her to become the general he knew she could become.  That would require her to learn to put aside her feelings for Wentai and learn to truly lead on behalf of the thousands of men under her stewardship.   Wentai recovered and remained in the army as a mere foot soldier, never returning to his role as general, never revealing to Mulan that he still lived.  He remained on, lonely and separated from his best friend, for Mulan and her army's sake.  However, in this horrifyingly beautiful scene, suddenly Wentai is faced with the very real fact that Mulan might be dead.  He loses it, in one fell swoop, betraying both his emotion and his identity.  It's agonizing and it's beautiful.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Reinvented

"Toyota recently put out an ad campaign for their "reinvented 2012" Camry.  They essentially created their own Korean drama over this car.  It was melodramatic, outlandish in plot line, unrealistic in portrayal, and starred a cast of gorgeous male leads: Lee Minho and Lee Minho.  In a word?  Brilliant.  Toyota wasn't taking themselves too seriously with this in the most "we take ourselves too seriously" manner.  It was hilarious.  For a company to laugh at themselves, tongue-in-cheek, the way Toyota was, suddenly made me more interested in the company.

I wish I had been a fly on the wall when the company's advertising division came up with the idea and the plot line.  Someone(s) obviously knew their Korean dramas because they pulled out all the cliches.

The Ad Think Tank - synergistic thinking at its best.
"Let's have the biggest star in the Korean drama industry..."

"Yes!  And let's have him wake up out from a month-long coma."

"With perfect hair and hooked up to no machines with simply an IV in one arm."

"Of course!  This is a Korean drama, not reality!  This means of course the man has amnesia and all his phone contacts have been deleted and his wallet is emptied."

"Did you even have to state the obvious?  And then...the CAMRY will help him regain his memory."

"Brilliant.  What does he need to remember?  The girl!"

"Of course the girl!  She'll be as beautiful as he."

"More beautiful than Lee Minho?"

"Okay, so maybe not as beautiful but close.  And he'll be engaged to this girl but...there has to be a catch...and an evil long lost twin somewhere."

"He has to stop the evil twin who just broke out of prison from pretending to be him to marry his fiancee."

"I think we're onto something here."


And really, they were.  (You can see the trailer below and the entire series here)

I laughed over each episode and appreciated all the Camry points they threw in.  Sure, it would have been more helpful to have Lee Minho recall who he was by the fact that Sohee (his fiancee) was on the list of recently visited places but showing off the Pandora app was definitely cooler.  Sure, Lee Minho insisted that he could get to wherever he needed to go in an hour and ended up driving for what seemed like days, but the car needed to be shown with the backdrop of the mountains in the day and at sunset.  Sure, it was kind of weird to have motorcyclists randomly follow him during this long journey but it showed off the new blind spot monitor.  All of these little quips just made me laugh more - the melodrama of it all was perfect given the setup.  (They just needed a random U-turn in the middle of a six lane street in a busy city to seal the deal)

Yesterday, the last episode came out.  "The Camry will prove everything!"  Lee Minho insisted as he pulled out his cell phone, synced it with the car and turned on the Pandora app to blare out the theme song.  For some reason, his spoken Korean and that song were enough to convince the English-only speaking police officers who turned tail and chased down the evil twin and hauled him back to jail.  All that was left then was the happy ending.

But what's a Korean drama without a twist ending so that the audience is left reeling.  The reactions? (from the website; I'm only putting initials of the commenters)

"What the what?"  ~ TH
"So Kwon is with sohee and Joon is in jail? o_O
Confusing ending... the Toyota proved nothing -__-"   ~ CY
"No matter how much we love Lee Min Ho, this doesn't make me want a Camry. It puts innocent people in jail. LIES!"   ~ VM 

"Darn you Camry! I'm buyin' a Ford!"  ~ LC

"Lee Min Ho is an extremely talented actor and outrageously handsome man! I'm sure he got a good laugh out of doing this advertisement! It shows the mischievous, prankster side of his personality! Well done! I will buy another Camry! I wish these commercials would air on American TV! Lee Min Ho please come to Northern California next time!"  ~LC (different one)

"WHAT? He's actually Kwon and the real Joon went to jail? THIS PROVES NOTHING! what is Toyota trying to say? I'm so confused. First, they're giving off the image that a Camry protects and keeps you safe, then they show the owner/real joon going to jail. *sigh* I did enjoyed the mini series though :)"  ~ NN


Did Toyota go a little too far in their replication of the Korean drama?  You tell me...


(For those of you who watch the series and want to tell me what you think it means, please feel free to post your ideas or contact me.  I have some theories...)



Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Life Throws me Through a Loop

Dear Daren,

Am I gullible or what?  "Hey, Erin, I need you to walk in that room."  Why was I so willing, so blindly willing to follow your suggestion?  The moment I walked in, I was met with three men who looked at me expectantly, "Are you our violinist?"  Ummm... It's a good thing I need an excuse to pick up playing again.

Love,
Me


Dear VfL Wolfsburg,

You now allow me to vote for man of the match?  You do realize that I can only watch matchcasts and listen to the radio broadcast in a language I don't understand, right?  And thus it's a rare day when I know who actually had a stellar day.  I'm afraid that all too quickly this could turn into the poll ESPN attempted last year regarding favorite World Cup song --  Super Junior won by a landslide thanks to adoring fangirls (seriously, how is 90+% even a fair poll?).

Love,
Me

P.S. How did Hosogai Hajime from the opposite team end up in every single picture from the game?  I know he's awesome, but really?


Dear Life,

We all know dances make me nervous, especially those slow songs when no one asks me to dance.  For perhaps the first time in my life, I had the courage to ask that handsome man to dance and found out that he spoke Chinese.  My efforts seemed to be further rewarded by him asking for my phone number and introducing me to his other Chinese-speaking friend.  When I got a text that night from him that night I was elated.  My friends and I rejoiced in my courage and my good fortune...except that text message was not from him after all but the new neighbor in my apartment complex.  Figures.  It was too perfect to be real.  Thanks for the fantasy anyway.

Love,
Me


Dear Self,

You didn't go to your sister's for Thanksgiving so you could work on your paper.  You also hoped that you could get your sleep and not get sick from your niece AGAIN.  Except you still can't sleep and now you're sick.  How is that fair?

Love,
Me


Dear Kato,

You're looking ragged these days.  People tell me I look the same.  We make quite the pair, don't we?  Let's survive graduate school, ok?  You're still 'mein liebling auto'.

Love,
Me


Dear 中文,

Did you know that the other day, at 2 am, I realized that I spoke Mandarin?  I know, it shouldn't be a new revelation but it was.  There is nothing in my life that says I should speak this very foreign language - it has been 7.5 years since the mission, I don't take lessons and I don't have many people to speak with even for the most basic of greetings and phrases.  And yet, there I was, completely exhausted, looking for a book on my bookshelf and muttering about it in Mandarin.  I love that you're still in my life.  I hope that you always will be.

Love,
Me

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Why I'm not a Stats Person

It's no surprise that I like numbers.  As an engineer I get my fair share of them and the one time I thought I was in the wrong field and spent an hour (an interminably long hour) trying out a different major, I spent the entire time making up math problems.  Note: This is not to say that I am a math whiz.

It's also no surprise that I want to turn everything into a scientific study.  For instance, a few years ago, one roommate and I had the brilliant plan of surveying everyone in our ward to determine if the perception that no one was dating was true or not.  We came up with a list of about 100 questions that were intended to help us understand the perceptions and perspective of 'dating' among our peers.

The sad thing about all of this though is that I always get stuck on the statistics.  How can I make sure my studies are sound?  If I survey people, how do I know that the willing respondents are a good representative of the whole?  There are always so many factors behind who responds and why.  Can I trust the resulting data?

Now we will start in my story:

In January, during the Asian Cup, I carefully kept track of all the games that my Samurai Blues played and dutifully watched the matchcasts.  However, matchcasts are nothing like watching actually games.  You stare at your computer screen and wait for one line or two every few minutes that says things such as, "Shinji Okazaki attempts a goal but it hits the cross bar."  or "Makoto Hasebe suffers a foul."  You read it, and then keep waiting.  I would examine as many of the statistics as they gave me to sort of determine how possession was playing out, how each player was performing but honestly, those don't give you the best picture.  (Especially if you are an amateur at soccer spectating)  Most of that waiting then was just nervous anticipation; I had no idea how things were going to go.

As a result, I would do other soccer-related things to occupy myself.  One of those was to start taking down personal statistics of the players themselves.  I would look up each player on the team and read their Wikipedia article and then search to see if any of them wrote blogs.

I started to notice that a lot of players were married.  In fact, I was pretty curious because it seemed every soccer player around my age was married.  For some reason, that struck me as odd.  So my nerd brain started working and I started a spreadsheet detailing the marital status of the players and the number of kids they had.  I ordered them according to birth year and alphabetically within the birth year.  And despite the fact that this is perhaps one of the weirdest whims of my love for Japanese soccer, I keep it updated with the current active team.
All of these men are married except one.  Can you guess which is not?
Image from Fifa.com
So, I have this data about the "representative" team for Japanese soccer which I pretend is a statistically good representation of the soccer community in Japan overall.  I started to think I really understood how Japanese players worked and decided that they were not quite like the average Japanese person.  For instance, the average marrying age for a man in Japan is 29.6 years old.  So, how did we have a Takashi Usami who was married (and playing for Bayern Munich) at the young age of 19?  How did we have a team with an average age of 25 that was half married and half single?  Especially since only 2 of these people were at the average age of marriage?
Usami and his wife landing in Germany
I thought I had it all figured out.  Japanese men wait to get married because they want to be settled in a career before marriage which usually occurs only after college and other such training.  However, soccer players are often getting employed almost right out of high school and thus establishing themselves in a career and getting financially stable earlier which gives them leave to marry at a younger age.

I was so excited to prove my theory with statistics and numbers.  So I did a few calculations, make a few pie charts to support my theory.  It was all going splendidly until I searched for the standard deviation for the marrying age of Japanese men.  5.3 years.  Which means that those 24 year old married men on the team aren't oddities but are within the bounds of "average" and normal.  Even a 19 year old Usami is within reason.  Now a 13.7 year old married Japanese soccer player might turn some heads but frankly, any 13.7 year old married person would.
Image from Wikipedia.

Silly statistics.  Silly me.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Discernment

A few Christmases ago, I brought home a book to share with a sister: Howl's Moving Castle.  This sister had recently been into the movie because it was dubbed in English by Christian Bale.  Another sister picked it up with some interest, read it, and summed it up as, "It's dumb.  Nothing happens.  What is even the point of it?"  I couldn't really answer her question or explain even why I was drawn to it.  But I loved it and still do.

I picked up that book again recently.  Howl's enigmatic character in this and subsequent books always keeps me coming back for another read.  This time I thought about my sister's comments and wondered, "What really is the point of this book?"

I've decided it is this:  You are looking at a magical world where you don't quite know all the ins and outs as related by a person who equally doesn't know the ins and outs but thinks she does.

For one, she constantly underestimates Howl as a wizard.  She never seems to think of magic as his profession.  Ripped suit?  "How would Howl ever learn to mend it without me?"  Except, one minor detail - He's a wizard and can magically fix it.  Dirty Room?  "I'll just wait until Howl leaves for the day and then clean his room"  Except, again - He's a wizard and can show up again any time he so chooses.  Spell on Sophie?  "He'll never figure it out."  Except, you get the picture - HE'S A WIZARD; he can recognize magic from twenty leagues away.

Likewise, she underestimates his intentions and his personality.  She comes into it thinking that he's a ladykiller (eats girls' hearts), a "slitherer-outer" (avoids commitment), and does nothing but gallivant around the countryside (lazy).  How much of this is really true?  It's hard to gauge.  Countless women and mothers and aunts have shown up at his moving castle angry for leading innocent girls on.  Yet, Howl also spends one scene crying because he fears that from one bad decision, he will be barred from ever loving.  He keeps multiple aliases so that it's harder to be pinned down and he even sends Sophie to the king as his aged mother to blacken his name so that he won't be named the king's decreed Magician.  However, the result of all of this is only that he serves three times the amount of people but the book relates several accounts of his aiding the king in the past.  He makes a big show about what he's NOT accomplishing.  However, in the process, he looks for Prince Justin and Wizard Suliman, resolves Sophie's old age aches and pains, works on countless spells, attends a funeral, fights the Witch of the Waste, and puts a lot of effort and thought into helping everyone else's problems around him.  It's hard to just write it all of as untrue but likewise hard to claim that it is definitively true.

It's a fascinating game I play every time, trying to draw closer to the truth and understand what really is going on.

It's like life.  Every day, I hear the stories of people.  It's a hard game to figure out what is true and what is perceived truth.  It's equally hard to take off my own lens and biases to understand the heart of the matter.  I wish I were better at it.

I rather feel like Sophie - getting it completely wrong.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

T Minus...

Dear Research,

You're enjoying this, aren't you?  It kind of amazes me how many different systems engineers have to learn to think in.  It's not enough to just have a pressure; there's total pressure, static pressure and freestream pressure to confuse a gal.  We're not even discussing how 3 km/s as a freestream velocity without any other parameters is practically useless - don't you know that sonic conditions are conditional to isentropic conditions?  The more I look at this problem, the more I just want to write: "My research hasn't been done before; you're just going to have to believe me on this one."  As it is, these late night/early morning writing sessions are starting to wear me out.    

Love,
Me



Just found this song.  Although I don't have anyone to sing this song too, I think it's cute and applies to my life at this very moment.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Faffing About

Last night, I had a dream about marriage.  I've had a number of dreams about marriage in the past 5 years and they never fail to entertain.  This one was equally interesting so I will share it here.

In this dream, I suddenly found myself in this very fluffy white lacy wedding dress.  You know the dress from My Big Fat Greek Wedding?  Yep, I think I was in that dress.  There was too much fluff and too much lace for my taste.  So, I'm sitting there in this slightly gregarious wedding dress, waiting very nervously for my groom, who is running late.  I'm nervous because I don't actually know who my groom is or what he looks like.  Someone comes up to me and says, "You need to fill out your marriage certificate."  I'm handed a form with lots of blanks.

I look over it and see the usual, expected information: Name, birthdate, birth place and parents for both the bride and groom.  I skip over the parts that I know - the information about me and my family - and immediately look at the big blank in the middle of the form where my future husband's name goes.  In a slight panic, I look up.

"I don't know my husband's name."

Someone pipes up.  (There are no faces in my dream, just voices and hands)  "Sure you do."

Me: <gulp> "Really?  I can't seem to remember it right now.  Could you remind me?"  (This is where my nervousness turns to panic because I'm wracking my brain for any sign that there is a man in my life and coming up absolutely blank)

Someone else laughs at me, "You don't remember your own groom's name?"

There I am, staring at this blank form while these girl voices all titter and giggle as though I'm pulling their leg with some clever joke.

Finally, someone takes pity on me and laughingly says, "Silly girl.  His name is Jacob."

I look up from the form with shock.  "Jacob?!  I would never marry a Jacob.  My brother's name is Jacob."  (This is true to a point.  I've never thought I would marry someone who has my brother's name, not because I'm prejudiced against Jacobs but because I don't want my brother Jacob to feel like second-place.  He's first place as far as Jacobs go.  I've kind of always felt this way.  It turns out one of my sisters feels the same way.)

The girls laugh.  "Well, his name is Jacob but you call him Jake."

I relent a little.  My brother HATES being called Jake.  I could be ok with marrying a Jake and leaving Jacob for my brother.  "Really?  I'm marrying a Jake?"

I look down at the form and see the name "JACOB" has been written on the form.  I start tracing back over the letters.  J A C O

I wake up.

Aren't people supposed to wake up before they find out the name of the person they are going to marry?

Weird dream, no?




Friday, November 18, 2011

Discoteca

It's no secret that my sisters and I try to influence our niece with our preferences in music.  Ever since the  very first time I held Alexis in my arms, I've been singing to her.  Most of that has been Asian music since that is what I listen to.  When I try to distract her on my sister's cell phone during long car rides, it's Asian music videos that I pull up.  Likewise, other siblings have tried similar approaches.  In her short little life, she's heard music in English, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and French.  

To my excitement, The Niece fangirls over Korean pop boyband B2ST.  Seriously, the first time I showed her Bad Girl she went crazy in a way that shocked even her mother.  Here is a clip my sister caught of the little one rocking out and creating her own choreography to B2ST's Fiction.  One year old and already such a sense of rhythm.  I would like to claim that I have half of those genes.  

Last weekend, I got a glimpse of the flavor of music that my niece chooses for herself.  Whenever I put on a music video, my niece would toddle over to the clock radio near the bed and turn it on.  Then she would sit back and dance to it with consistent, rhythmically accurate choreography.  The music?  Latin.

"Really, Baby?  This is the music you like?"  She laughed.

I turned it off.  A few minutes later, she went back and turned it back on.  We stopped and stared.

Soon enough, our conversation moved to other things but every so often, during those lulls, we would remember that that music was still playing and the niece was off-and-on dancing to it.  (Babies are easily distracted creatures)  Her mother would ask, "That music is still playing?"  I teased, "Baby, your mother wants you to turn your music off.  Go shut it off."  Alexis would just laugh and dance away from my reach.  We'd forget about the music as the conversation took off again and then at the next lull, that situation would replay.

I would tease Alexis about listening to music she can't understand but I guess her aunts have done a pretty good job at setting that precedent.

(In all truth, right now, my niece is really just obsessed with buttons.  She also figured out how to turn the hotel phone onto speakerphone and would have dialed China if we had given her the chance)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Whate'er Thou Art, Act Well Thy Part

My dad called me the other day to tell me that the Astronaut Program at NASA is hiring.  They don't require PhD's any more, just a Bachelor's plus three years experience.  I just have a Bachelor's and 5 years in a PhD program.  1 PhD degree = 3 years experience.  So, it looks like either way, I'd need that ever elusive degree.

When I was younger, I often wondered if I could be an astronaut.  I love space.  I mean, I really LOVE space.  It's one of those un-explainable love affairs I have.  I can't get it out of my system.  Exhibit A: I cry every time I listen to the transmission of the Moon Landing.  Exhibit B: My favorite Smithsonian Museum is the Air and Space Museum.  Exhibit C:  This line from October Sky never fails to elicit a huge smile from me: "What do you want to know about rockets?"  "Everything."  Exhibit D: I am studying reaction control system jets on the mars entry vehicles for my PhD.  I could go on all day.  I'll stop there; Exhibit D is probably proof enough.  

When I got my dad's call, I immediately started looking for the application materials.  I haven't ever really wanted to be an astronaut before - I long ago decided that facing eternity through the expanse of space might terrify me.  I also wondered how I would manage knowing that everyone and everything that I loved was far away on the tiny little orb that is Earth.  

However, suddenly, I'm contemplating being an astronaut as though it's a real option.  In many ways, it's not ideal.  Astronauts under rigorous training that is meant to test their emotional, physical and mental limits.  The hours preparing for and on a mission mean for long periods of time, you are largely absent from family and loved ones.  It's a high-risk job.  During the Challenger investigations, famed physicist Richard Feynman likened launches as Russian roulette.  Especially with budget cuts in NASA, and the era of "faster, cheaper, better" which defies logic and requires NASA to rely heavily on out-dated technologies to complete current Mars missions, the safety of space travel is still a concern.  (This is not meant as a negative reflection on NASA - the people that I have met at NASA impress me time and time again with their intelligence and their warm-heartedness and humor.  These are people who are working here not because of impressive paychecks - it is only government pay after all - but because they truly love space as much or more than I do.)  All of this is not even including the rigors of a space mission itself which requires technical know-how to fly the vehicle, perform maintenance, perform scientific experiments while eating space food and having your muscles atrophy in the low-gravity conditions. 

Could/Should this be me?

Despite all of these negatives, it's a temptation.  Do I dare?  Do I try for it?  

Applications are due by January 27, 2012 and transcripts aren't required until July 2012 (which gives me until then to get that pesky PhD).

Now if only I could push that thought out of my head long enough to focus on the task at hand: proposal writing.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My PhD

"Character is the aim of true education; and science, history, and literature are but means used to accomplish the desired end. Character is not the result of chance work but of continuous right thinking and right acting.

"True education seeks, then, to make men and women not only good mathematicians, proficient linguists, profound scientists, or brilliant literary lights, but also honest men, combined with virtue, temperance, and brotherly love-men and women who prize truth, justice, wisdom, benevolence, and self-control as the choicest acquisitions of a successful life."

~David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals pp 440-441



I can't say I'm well-educated but more than ever, I desire so to be.  



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pocket Wookie

All week long, I've been slightly jealous of the Japan National Team.  From Doha, Qatar to Tajikistan to Beijing, China to Pyongyang, Korea DPR - one fascinating adventure after another to places that most people barely even hear about.

I was surprised to find that Tajikistan's game was played on a pitch worse than the one I played at my high school (Butler).  It looked like nothing but a dry plowed field.  (Hasebe's thoughts on the field? "It's basically dirt.  You could say the turf was green...if you looked at it from a really far distance.")  (I can't stop laughing)

However, I was most intensely curious about Pyongyang and conditions in North Korea.  After reading a few books on North Korea last year, I have spent much time since wondering about conditions there.  I wished that I could somehow be there with the team to see what they saw and to feel what they felt.

A few bits of news started trickling out about the North Korea/Japan encounter:

The Japan national team was detained at the airport for 4 hours due to problems with security.  During that time, power went out at the airport three times.  


The men at airport security warned the Japan national team to stop laughing.

The last team that beat North Korea in North Korea was assaulted with rocks and broken glass.  

The last time Japan went into North Korea for a soccer game was 22 years ago, in June 1989.  The world was very different than it was now - we were still in a Cold War.  June 1989, as many of you may recall, was the time of the Tiananmen Square Incident in Beijing, a startling reminder that China would remain red.  The Fall of the Berlin Wall, meanwhile, was still half a year away.

This time, however, North Korea is isolated, a hermit nation surrounded by flourishing nations on all sides.  The USSR is long gone.  China, though still red, is making its way up the ladder as a growing economic leader.  The heavily feared and worshipped leaders, the famines, and the stark, grey buildings that commonly marked communist countries of yesteryear almost seem like a distant memory to most of the world.  The pictures that appear out of North Korea though all too poignantly remind us that those aspects of communism haven't been eradicated yet.  (In fact, many of the articles that expressed the recent burst of soccer support in North Korea also made a point to state that currently 6 million people are going hungry)

Add to that the fact that Japan is one of Korea's most bitter rivals.  Ever since the military dominance (read: wartime atrocities) of the1940's, most of east Asia has struggled to overcome the wounds Japan inflicted.  For a recluse country like North Korea, with limited interaction with Japan, grudges remain and even fester.

So, there goes my team, into a hostile country, with only 150 supporters and a few dozen reporters to help broadcast the game home to Japan.  The supporters were asked not to bring any noisemakers or banners lest they upset the local fans and were surrounded by armed guards the entire game.

Despite the fact that Japan had already secured a berth in the next qualifying round and North Korea had lost that chance completely, this was long past simply being a soccer game.

North Korea had something to prove and they showed that in the 90 minutes when they dominated possession and managed the only goal of the game early in the second half.  Of course, it wasn't a clean win; North Korea booked seven yellow cards in the process.  But no matter how it ended, they came away the victors.  The first loss for Japan since the World Cup.  The first loss for Alberto Zaccheroni as head coach over the Samurais.

The whole situation kind of amazes me.  It also amazes me that the world didn't sit up and take notice.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Everyone's Selling Something

Sometimes we just can't figure out what that is.

Can you?  These are all ads, I promise.

Shinee:


Girls' Generation and 2PM:


B2ST:


Atsuto Uchida:


Makoto Hasebe:


Volkswagen France:




My friend recently challenged me to put subtitles on ads.  Here goes:

Shinee: Cool, well-dressed kids like us eat chicken!

SNSD & 2PM: Extremely attractive people have loved and fought for the chance to be your lifeguard at the Caribbean Bay amusement park.

B2ST: We sing and dance.  (I think they failed to make the connection between that and the BBQ - sorry "baby baby baby cute" doesn't count)

Atsuto Uchida: I am awesome and nonchalant; Go buy Adidas so you can be nonchalantly awesome too.

Makoto Hasebe: The Puma Powercat shoe unifies Japan. (Can I just say that this is the ultimate ad to get people like me?  Asia, Hasebe, soccer AND tap dancing?  What are you going to show next - the moon landing?)

Volkswagen France: Now or never - buy the car of your dreams.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Marginalia

I have a friend who wants to be so famous that, one day, people clamor for her personal library so they can extensively research her marginalia.

If I were to become that famous, I'm afraid, aside from my textbooks, it would all be a blank.  And who really wants to know the thought process of a person figuring out quantum mechanics?  (Wow, I suddenly realized that it made it look like I actually had something to share.  Don't be misled.  My marginalia is simply filling in the blanks of the parts that most authors write off as, "It can be easily shown...")

Marginalia really is a curious thing.  Once, when I was reading an early edition of The Wheat Princess by Jean Webster, checked out from the UVa Library, I found, written next to the text, a line from the book Jack and Jill by Louisa May Alcott.  I felt an instant connection with some unknown other reader that spanned time and space.  There were other people like me -- who spent their childhoods consuming regular and large doses of Alcott, Webster and Montgomery?  (Most people, you see, have never read any of Alcott beyond Little Women and never heard of Jean Webster)  I flipped impatiently through the rest of the book looking for other marginalia.  I think I even went to the Alcott section of the library and searched through a few books.  Who was this person?  What had this person gained from the reading of such books, how had it changed this person's perspectives and the manner in which this person lived?

I felt that connection once when I was watching, of all things, a Korean drama.  There was a man who was trying to quietly help a girl through some difficult time.  As is the normal course of a kdrama, she was probably a penniless orphan who was cheerful and determined and the man was the son of the richest man in Korea, except actually his father was rich only because he pilfered all the money from the orphan's richer father who died in a tragic car accident.  Anyway, the brother/best friend/cousin who was also secretly in love with the orphan girl got angry and demanded, "Who do you think you are - her Daddy Long Legs?"

I stopped and stared.  Daddy Long Legs?  As in the book I currently own two copies of, by Jean Webster?  Not the spider?

When I mention Daddy Long Legs to my friends, once we've established that I'm not talking about the spider, someone might pipe up, "Oh, do you mean that movie starring Fred Astaire?"

"Yes but No."  (That movie though runs a lot like other American "Based upon the novel" movies - as in, they have the same title and maybe the same character names but nothing else in common.)

And now you're telling me that there are people - possibly even an entire culture of people - who understand that reference?

Who knew my world was so small?








Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dance Break

If I were to have a Bucket list before leaving Cville, having an Asian dance party would be on it.  Why?  Because there is a TON of great dance music out there in the Asian pop world that my friends need to listen to and love.  It's like all the great parts of American music with clean lyrics.  (And if they aren't clean, we can't tell right?)  (But they're clean.  I'm about 95% sure of that)  Plus, the last dance party I went to, it was embarrassing to ask a friend during every song, "What song is this?  Who sings it?"

To get the dance floor full of people dancing rather than that awkward standing around staring at each other, I'd play this number: Neverland by U-Kiss


And then there's the fun song that tells you how to dance.  They are very helpful for those who aren't good at making up choreography.  Lucky Guy by Kim Hyun Joong


This one does that too.  But since it's in Korean, we can't tell.  Sound effects are helpful.  Clap Your Hands by 2NE1


No dance is complete without a good rock song: In My Head by CNBLUE


Or two: Flower Rock by FT Island.  Rock songs are perfect because all you have to do is jump up and down and you're good and even cool.


You always need a good swing song at any dance for those who like a slightly different feel.  Mayday's Ok La has a really fun 60's beach feel.


Since we're going slightly retro, there should always include a disco song.  Those are so much fun to dance to.  Roly-Poly by T-ARA (It's pronounced rolly polly) Note the modest clothes.


Don't you like those songs that start out sounding like a slow song and then end up being fast?  And then you laugh at the couples who start forming and then awkwardly look at each other as suddenly the beat is not conducive to the deacon shuffle? Get Out by JYJ.


On the topic of JYJ and awkward moments.  Don't you love those songs that you're singing and dancing to and then you suddenly think, "Wait?  What am I singing about?"  Empty by JYJ is one such song.  It's a clean song but it's kind of mean.  I had to laugh when they sang this at the closing ceremony of some sports competition in Korea.  Really?  I mean, really?


I love the rock ballad that everyone loves but no one dances to.  We just stand around and scream out the chorus as loud as we can while standing in large groups, arms linked.  Stranger by SOLER.  Every dance should have this song even if it's not to dance to.  (Ok, so I would be the only one who sings this song but you get the idea)


And finally, the slow song.  This one has all the elements of a perfect slow song: a clear beat, the electric guitar and a ballad feel that makes it perfect to belt out to for the wallflowers.  Because of Love by William Wei.



And there you have it.  Just a sampling of the musical awesomeness that my dance party would have.

Deadlines

Dear 昨天的我,

Last night in my dreams, I started having thoughts about all those ridiculous things I probably missed on the NSF proposal.  I refused to listen to my doubts though and ended up waking myself up.  You worked hard.  You met a deadline.  You learned what you can achieve in a short time.  But you also learned how your friends do stand by you and hail you with warm hearts and friendly hands (Doctrine and Covenants 121: 9)  "God sent a miracle - the miracle of a friend."  Thank you for teaching me that lesson.

Love,
Me


Dear 現在的我,

It's crunch time.  Work your hardest every day.  Don't rest on your laurels from yesterday's success.  But don't spend your time panicking about the "What if"s either.  加油!頑張ろう! Fighting!  Trust that the preparation and the lessons of yesterday will help you today and carry you on to tomorrow.

Love,
Me


Dear 明天的我,

I'm coming!  Please patiently wait for me.  Part of me wants to rush to you in anxious anticipation.  But I need to learn to love the present and not just endlessly run towards an endless future.  I'm not perfect but I need to remember that neither are you.  And that is ok.

Love,
Me


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It's 2 AM

Yes, I should be in bed.  I will be heading there shortly.  I have a deadline tomorrow (today) and I'm so worried that I'm going to wake up and it will be past the cut-off time that I'm doing all I can to be almost completely ready now.

As it is, there have been some awesome short tidbits of conversations with friends recently that make me smile.

Sister: I've been worried about you and your iodine.
Me: Oh, I'm fine.  The doctor says I'm healthy.
Sister: Good.  Did you know that today is the birthday of Marie Curie? And her research killed her. Of course, she was doing it with a man she loved, so I suppose that helped. :-)
(This is not meant as a slight to Marie Curie or to her research or husband.  I just found this adorable in light of the fact that my sister was worried that my research was killing me)

Friend: I'm kind of worried about getting these notes to Dustin.
Me: Why didn't he come over here and study with you?
Friend: <shaking her head> I don't know.
Me: Did you ask him?
Friend: No.  <light bulb switches on> That's probably why.

Sister: Alexis' new favorite word is 'no'. I ask her, 'Do you want milk?' She says, 'no!' 'Do you want water?' She says again, 'no!' I offer her a banana, 'Do you want a banana?' She speaks up again, 'no!' But really, she did want the banana.
Me: <laughing> I think it's about time for her to start learning 'yes'.

Friend (native Japanese): I was in the store the other day and this person said my son was adorable.  I had no idea what she meant.
Me: That's a good thing.
Friend: Adorable sounds like the word for 'thief' in Japanese.  I thought she was calling my son a thief.

Today was a good day:
I voted.
I got dressed up in a beautiful yukata.
I saw my friend 'Shuai Ge'
Did UKiss really just say, "Don't deny the R-squared Pi" in their song?  Because that's hilarious and as fabulous as my high school's cheer:  "e to the x dx, e to the x dy, sin cos cos sin, 3.14159..."  Nerds unite!

Definitely tired.

では,また.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Random Camera

(1) Last week, my friend and I went to THE LAWN to watch kids Trick or Treat.  It was so much fun watching thousands of people gather for the fun, admiring each other's get ups.   

I saw plenty of adorable kids.  But these are the only pictures I took - of the miniature pot-bellied pigs feasting on the Lawn.  The pigs were a hit with everyone, who kindly ignored everyone and everything except for the luscious green grass in front of them.  Good time was enjoyed by all.  


(2) Recently, I learned that I've been mispronouncing Nakamura.  Same pattern as Okazaki.  Instead of NAH-kah-mur-a, it should be said nah-KAH-mur-a which sounds more like nah-Camera.  

(3) This is what Hasebe's calendar looks like for November/December (picture on the right).  Do you know how odd it is to see that on my wall every day?  Best part is, the calendar is so situated that he's perpetually looking at my art prints on the adjoining wall (as shown below).  
Le Premier Chagrin (The First Grief) by Daniel Ridgeway Knight, from the BYU Museum of Art.  Hasebe looks either confused or saddened by the scene, I still haven't decided which.  Maybe it's a little of both.  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hazel Eyes

Music that changed my life:

The entire original cast soundtrack of the musical The Secret Garden.

I won't bore you with all the details.  Suffice it to say this music not only made up most of my dreams and visions of a career on Broadway but has also prominently played a role in every attempt I've made to get into theater and musicals.

Driving home today, listening to it and singing along, it occurred to me that I would be old enough to play Lily who was always one of my favorite characters by virtue of the amazing songs she sing.  (My absolute favorite role is Master Craven but I couldn't really play him)

It's kind of amazing how far my life has strayed from my childhood fantasies.

Funny thing is, I still haven't quite given up on the Secret Garden.  One day, one day...

Friday, November 4, 2011

What you didn't know about iodine...

But now you do.

Misconception: Iodine is orange in color.
Fact: Iodine in its purest form is actually violet.
Reason: The iodine they use at the doctor's right before they give you a shot or a needle is always orange.  But that's because that iodine is a water-soluble form of iodine and iodine is highly reactive with water.  It is also highly corrosive, especially in the presence of moisture.

Misconception: If too little iodine causes hypothyroidism then too much must cause hyperthyroidism
Fact: Too much and too little iodine actually causes too low levels of thyroid hormone.
Reason: When the levels of iodine are too high in your body, the iodine actually attacks and destroys part of the thyroid gland resulting in drop in production of thyroid hormone.  (I just learned this today from my doctor)

Fact: Taking iodine pills helps your body absorb less radiation.
Misconception: Iodine has some ability to repel radioactive particles.
Fact: Radiation fallout actually contains a radioactive iodine isotope that can be absorbed and held in your thyroid for a long time causing problems.
Reason: So, why take iodine pills?  By ingesting large amounts of non-radioactive amounts of iodine, your body will less likely absorb the radioactive isotope of iodine which will keep your body healthier.

Fact: Iodized salt has greatly reduced number of thyroid problems.

Fact: Iodine naturally occurs in kelp and seaweed.

Fact: Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of preventable mental retardation.

Fact: Iodine fluoresces under 514.5 nm green laser light.

This last fact is kind of important for my PhD research.  The rest of it is just highly interesting.






Thursday, November 3, 2011

がんばります!

When Japan underwent its earthquake/tsunami/Fukushima power plant disaster, I first became aware of the comment, "がんばろうニッポン!" (read: ganbarou nippon!).  It's like, "Good luck Japan!"  but it somehow expresses more than that phrase does in English.  I always think of it as the "加油" of Japanese, sufficient to encourage and support both those who are winning and those who are struggling, to express that one expects more but only because they know that you are capable of giving more in the most positive way possible.

Of course, there are variations to ganbarou such as ganbatte and ganbare.  I never knew the difference between them...until now.

The other day I was watching a music video by Greeeen (yes, those 'e's are all intentional)  called Love Letter. The love letter the video shows was surprisingly one that even I, with my extra-limited Japanese ability, could read and yes, even understand.  "先生~ありがとう。ばんばります" (Sensei~ arigatou.  Ganbarimasu)  (Doctor~ Thank you.  Good luck"


Aha!  I figured it out!

-masu is the polite positive form of a verb in Japanese.  So all those other forms are just conjugations of the verb with the root ganbaru.  (Ganbaru is defined as "to stand firm, to do your best" given by the kanji 頑張 which implies a stubbornness and obstinacy in your resolve)

Ganbarou - presumptive familiar form to indicate an anticipation for something one will do.  "We can do this!"

Ganbatte (kudasai) - imperative polite form to indicate a command.  "Do your best!"

Ganbare - imperative familiar form to indicate a command.  "You got this!"

Ganbarimasu - present indicative polite form.  "Good luck!"

In any form, it's cheering.


But I have to laugh.  This new understanding just makes me realize that in previous uses of this verb, I was giving commands to people I didn't know in the familiar form.  Oops!

My apologies to Hasebe-san and Toshi-san.



On a side note, did you know the emoticons were used in typesetting as early as 1881?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rearview

Today, by a random turn of events, I attended a meeting I had expected from which to be absent.  In a hurry, I decided to parallel park on the road rather than search for a spot in the parking lot farther away.

I pulled up next to the mini-van that I would be parking behind before turning my wheel all the way over.  This was really a classic textbook parallel parking job and I was confident in my abilities until I caught a glimpse in my side mirror...and then my rear-view mirror...and my side mirror again.

I was backing into a space right in front of a Jaguar!  Panicking, I slammed on my brakes and started inching at a painfully slow pace towards the vehicle-I-hoped-not-to-touch.  When I got as close as my nerves could bear, I turned the wheel and moved forward again.  What should have been an easy and simple parking job turned into an ordeal.

When I got out to inspect my parking job, I noticed this:
I was only inches away from the mini-van in front of me.
I was a foot away from the curb.
There was a clear three foot gap between Kato and the Jag.

Scared much?

Yes.

But at least the owner of that Jag will never have to get my number and address so he can send me a bill for an imported car part worth more than me (financially speaking, of course).

I'd call it a resounding success.

And a good story.

Moral: Looking before you leap might mean you freak yourself out of doing a good job at something but at least it can prevent you from doing a really bang up BAD job at something.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Grateful

Today, in my English class, we discussed the uses of logos, ethos and pathos in rhetoric.

It was a lot of fun.  I can't claim that I am the best at rhetoric; I failed at persuasive essays in English class.  However, we enjoyed examining the way we communicate with people and which of the persuasive strategies we use given certain situations.

For my example of a use of rhetoric that exemplifies good use of all three strategies, I pulled out Martin Luther King Jr's I Have a Dream speech.  As a class, we went through a few important points, outlining which strategy he used at various points.  And then, because I didn't want my class to miss out on hearing it given, I played a recording of it.

I sat down next to my students and listened along, at first absorbed in identifying what made his speech effective.

And then I thought about what he actually meant when he used ethos to refer to the Constitution, Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation.  I thought about that fact that 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, he was still arguing for and crying for his people - and all people, really - to be free.

I thought about the first time I heard this speech given.  I was in second grade.  We were supposed to write out all our dreams.  I remember taking that assignment very seriously.  For some reason, around that same time, I remember distinctly running errands with my dad (I used to beg him to always take me using this fabulous bit of child logic, "If you have to run 'erins', shouldn't you take Erin too?")  He was listening to NPR and the news talked about Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union.  There I was, a little girl, quite cheerfully naive of the USSR and the Cold War, listening to the radio broadcast and declare very serious subjects about the state of the world and its people.  It was a jolt into the rest of the world outside of South Jacksonville and my family.  I asked my dad lots of questions then.  I think that might have been my first glimpse into just how big and sometimes broken this world can sometimes seem.  By the time I turned in the assignment, I had written down as many little "world peace" and "goodwill and freedom to all" comments my little brain could think of.

But I didn't realize then that those dreams could be a reality.  When my words were published in the local newspaper - I lived in a small village so getting the paper was really no big deal - someone handed me a copy of my assignment with a smile.  On it, she wrote, "I hope your dreams come true."  I just stared at those words, wondering if I really, really believed what I had written.

Martin Luther King, Jr., however, did not wonder if it could be a reality.  He knew it could.  He lived for that dream; he died for that dream.

I marvel that this world created a Martin Luther King, Jr. with his vision.  I marvel that the world creates so many other good men and women who dream that we can yet make this place better than it is.

Back to class: Carried away by all of these thoughts by the end of that speech, I was almost in tears.  One of my students started clapping proudly while the other students soon followed suit, while I just watched them in amazement.  Somehow, they, too, got a glimpse of what he saw and hoped for.

I am grateful, truly grateful.

In another display of the beauty of the human spirit, I can't seem to stop listening to this amazing song by Monkey Majik with images from the tsunami that hit the Miyagi Prefecture in early March.