Friday, March 30, 2012

The Story I Cannot Write

I am an aspiring authoress.  I have been since middle school when my friends and I wrote stories on notebooks and passed them between us throughout the school day.  I always knew that my friends had a lot more talent and ability but I figured that at least my desire would make up for it.

I kept writing.

It's been 16  years since I was that middle school girl, passing notebooks and pouring my heart into made up characters and plotlines.  I still keep those notebooks in a box and I pull them out every so often as a reminder of the emotions I put into those stories and as a reminder of the dream of becoming a real authoress.

Writing is not easy for me.  Someone - William Faulkner - once said that a writer has to write because they can't not write.  I am that type of writer.  I don't write because I have talent and wonderful ideas that come spewing off the page.  I write because to not write hurts.  I write because my soul won't let me do anything else until I've expressed something in words.

The result of all of my writing though is this: a dozen unfinished short stories, three unfinished novels, and a dozen poems.  I pull out the bits of novels for bedtime stories to read to friends who are stressed or sick.  I pull out the short stories on those nights when the writing demon has gotten me and I think that I must surely finish something.  None of it is brilliant - in my nicest moments, they are like old friends who bring a smile to my face of good memories and in my most critical moments, they are raw and ugly brainchildren, proof of my limited ability.

I never finish anything.  I'm starting to wonder if I ever will.

However, in all of this, I keep writing.  Because I must.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sunny Side Up

Dear Hasebe-san,

It must have been a surprise and an honor that you were chosen as the magazine cover for the An-an issue, "Strong Men".  It makes me smile though that your first thought/concern/question was, "Does this mean you want me to go shirtless for the picture?"  The result may be a disappointment to all your faithful fangirls (except one) but once again you prove to be nothing less than mein lieblinggspieler.

Love,
Me

P.S. For the record, I'm so glad that you know the appeal of a man in a well-tailored suit.


Dear Taemin,

I'm no rookie when it comes to distinguishing pretty boys from pretty girls in the world of Kpop.  Today, though, when I saw a picture of Shinee after winning M!Countdown! - a well deserved win, I might add - I honestly thought you were a girl.  I think it's time to stop wearing that wig, kid.  No older sister wants to be upstaged in feminine beauty by her little brother, even a fake-me-out adopted one.

Love,
Me
Source: Allkpop.com
Taemin's on the very left.
Dear Uchida,

I love that when Benni said, "It's amazing how much fan mail Uchida gets, so many sweets and nice stuff,"  that your response was: "I think he receives a lot more marriage proposals than I do."  More marriage proposals?!  Do you realize how much of a game changer that statement is?  We went from girls sending you nice little gifts to actually proposing to you via mail!  (What am I saying, they even propose to you via Captain Hasebe - "I want to marry Uchida.  Will you introduce us?")  I love that you're so nonchalant about it.  I love that you don't even see it as a big deal.  Meanwhile, the rest of us live in perpetual shock at your star power.

Love,
Me
Source: www.schalke04.de

Dear Yoochun,

What an honor to go to the Blue House and perform for the First Ladies from all around the world.  What an honor to get to meet South Korea's first Lady and have her personally greet you and tell you that she is enjoying watching your latest drama.  I just have to laugh though.  Somehow I still expect First Ladies to like serious or important TV shows and not romantic comedies about Crown Princes from the Joseon Era who find themselves suddenly dropped into modern Korea.  In any case, definitely a day to remember for a long time.

Love,
Me



Wednesday, March 28, 2012

On the Run

Dear Subconscious,

I've been on the run in my dreams before.  I've had chase scenes that make action movies seem tame.  It was one thing to be shocked when a kimodo dragon jumped up onto my lounge chair.  It was quite another to find that multiple kimodo dragons were intent on following me and eating live animals in front of me.  Even in the midst of trying to figure out how to deal with the situation, I marveled, "In my dreams, I've been chased by a number of things but nothing as surprisingly disturbing as this.  I wonder what is going on in my brain."  If you'd care to enlighten me, I'd be most interested.

Love,
Me


Dear Tuesday,

Where did you go?  In any case, thanks to you, I'm already desperate for a Friday.

Love,
Me


Dear Dreams,

You feel far away.  One day at a time; one step at a time.  I'm not entirely sure what I'm working for anymore.  PhD?  Marriage and Family?  Living/working in Japan?  Where have you gone?  I think I'm most worried that at the end of this semester, I'll stop to take a breath and realize that everything is still as distant and unattainable as ever. Or worse, that you've disappeared altogether.  Please don't leave me here alone.

Love,
Me


Dear Charlottesville,

It feels like my first spring with you rather than my sixth.  You continue to amaze me and take my breath away with your beauty.  Even in the midst of my running around, I cannot help but marvel.  Thank you for being so wonderful.

Love,
Me

Dear Chinese Professors,

After having gone off about the length of time for a Master's in China and a PhD in China (3-4 years), I was hesitant to give an answer when you asked what year in school I was.  Sixth.  You all got very quiet, looked at each other, and then jumped in with, "You must have a really strict professor.  You have such a hard program, it's no wonder it takes you so long."  It was so kind of you to think it must be someone else's fault besides my own.  But really, it comes down me to me, and my inability to get good data.  Thanks for the support anyway.  It really did mean a lot.

Love,
Me

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Restless

A few weeks ago, UVa had spring break.  I do not say "I had spring break" because I worked the entire week.  My colleague and I decided we were going to take a few days off and we not only ended up coming in the entire week but I even stayed late on Friday.

But of course, despite what sounds like stellar work ethic, I was feeling as much in need of a good break as everyone else.  So, on Friday, I called up one of my sisters for help.  We came up with a plan: to meet somewhere near the middle of our two houses and visit something off the highway that we've always wanted to explore.

My sister decided on Chapman's Mill.  We were pretty excited to investigate this historic site which played some part in the Civil War.  We were encouraged when we noticed a lot of other cars parked near the entrance to the spot.  Apparently everyone else really likes this place too!  Then we wandered along a trail until we got to this:

 Ummm.... Also note, we were the only ones on the trail by this point.  But undeterred, we forged onward to the mill.

So...yeah, it got destroyed by fire twice.  It was a great view of a skeleton of a building.
 Oops!  So much for our historic outing.
We had a good laugh at our expense.  We also really liked the sign with its description.  Apparently, the mill was used by the Confederate soldiers during the War to store two million pounds of meat (!!!) while they occupied the area.  When the soldiers left, they set it on fire so the Union troops wouldn't have access to the meat.  The captions also made us smile.  On the left it says, The Mill.  On the right it says, The Fire.
 Here I'm trying to take an artistic shot of the building.
Well, that sightseeing adventure took all of 10 minutes (mostly to walk to this point).  Since we were on some trails we just started walking along.  We started finding lots of people who were all decked out in hiking gear, equipped with plenty of water and walking sticks.  We didn't really get what the trails were about until we got to the car and realized that there was some outlook that everyone else was hiking up to.  So we turned around and hiked up to the outlook in our non hiking gear and without water bottles or hiking sticks.  
 The ground sparkled!  "What is this?  Twilight?"  ~ My sister
 The hike proved to actually be a hike.  But after an hour of hiking we reached the top.

 It was a beautiful view.
 So our adventure turned out to be a real adventure after all.

I recommend it.  The view was great.  The hike was not too difficult and very beautiful.  And of course, the company couldn't be beat.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Stats of Single Men

Yesterday, I heard a statistic on the number of single men for single women above age 30 in the Church.  It was shocking, disconcerting but it at least led to some very fascinating conversation with a number of friends.

In any case, my curiosity was piqued so I did a little research.  (Operative word: little)  I found this marvelous gem.  It's an article from 1960 written by Eleanor Harris for the women's magazine Look about the state of single men.

While I do take some issue with this article, there were a number of aspects that left me feeling I honestly could do little but laugh at it (and point out its gaping flaws).

For one, the lists that men create for the women they are looking for.

Man 1 is looking for a girl who is:
Catholic, acceptable to his family, short, as good-looking as his sister, a logical thinker, willing to have five children in three years, distinguished looking rather than just pretty so that she'd still be handsome at 80.

Man 2 is looking for a girl who is:
Protestant, tall and slim, pretty, smart (high IQ), rich (family money), outdoorsy, a good cook, willing to live in a small community, of compatible blood type, between 20 and 25 years old, even tempered, a non-smoker, a non-drinker, a non-swearer, concerned about her makeup and void of a a history of inherited disease.

While I don't doubt that religious preferences, family considerations, looks and intellect are important, it is absolutely laughable to me that a man would specify that his wife must be willing to have more children than years available or that he would even care about blood type (unless he lived in Asia where there is still some idea that blood type indicates personality type).

Not unfamiliar with lists (and ridiculous ones at that - my 14 year old self cracks me up), I found these lists so contrived that I could just see the author trying to think of an "impossible" list for a man and after realizing that those things all seemed normal threw in a few off-the-wall items that would have every matchmaking busybody shaking her head in disgust at those "picky perpetual bachelors".  I'm sure the result would also have some women in fear of never matching up to all the expectations men place on a suitable marriage partner.

As if that wasn't enough, the article tries to bring in a science base to the entire process by citing the "Scientific Marriage Foundation".   The process this organization utilized included applicants filling out forms, supplying character references and attaching photographs.  You have an interview with a foundation counselor who writes down impressions of the potential bride or groom.  So far, this sounds nothing different than a typical old-fashioned matchmaking agency.  But no, they send all the results to an IBM sorting machine in Indiana which successfully pairs people.  This is 1960.  Computers were nothing much more than large rooms of adding machines.  And how did this magical computer sort people?  Based on their age, race, religion, education, etc.  Essentially, it doesn't matter what that counselor thought of you - this is no database looking for key words.  It's simply a matter of quickly comparing quantifiable information and spitting out matches.

And then of course we get to the most scientific of all measurements: statistics.

"Widowers and divorced men (20–44) are four times as likely to be killed in automobile accidents as husbands. Five divorced men commit suicide to each married man. In homicide, the picture is even blacker. Out of every 100,000 men (20–74) in this country, 24 divorced men are murdered, as are 17 widowers and eight bachelors—while only four married men die at the hands of a killer."

As any statistician knows (or should know) correlation does not equal causality.  I don't think murderers are running around targeting single men because they don't have wives or children.  Nor do I think auto accidents are more likely to be fatal if one of the parties involved is a bachelor (even a crotchety old one).  

I wonder how this article was received back in 1960.  I'm more curious about the article that preceded and prompted this one.  Another interesting point of this article is the discussion of homosexuality which manages to proves to be highly ignorant and offensive even while trying to challenge traditional social mores.  (On second thought, I guess it's treatment of homosexuality is no different than it's treatment of heterosexuality)  

In any case, this article like others shows the struggle we make to address the state of singleness and it's  perceived problems as well as the risk of citing science to back up an argument.  Failed logic = failed logic = failed logic. 

I close with probably the only true line of the entire article: 
A man in Missouri writes: “Having been indoctrinated in college with the ideal of the scientific method of solving problems, I found that method was applicable in almost every area of life, except in choosing a wife."

I couldn't agree more.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

可愛くてしょうがない

At nineteen months, my niece is showing more and more of her personality.  She is just so much fun.  Whereas I felt from day one that she was a stubborn and determined little individual, I never expected to find that she also loves to help as much as she can.  I also can't figure out if she is highly risk averse or not.  For instance, when she was learning how to crawl and walk, she was always very cautious and possible even slowed her progress by insisting she always had a foot behind her in case she fell.  But then during this process, I once turned around to find her rocking her heart out in a child's rocking chair and then just leaning forward in the chair to reach down to get her toys on the ground below.  She continues the same pattern at nineteen months in which she shows hesitancy to jump because that requires both feet leaving the ground but she shows absolutely no fear running around on a moving and stopping subway train which should cause just as much uncertainty on her feet.

In any case, I am pretty smitten with Baby.  Here are a few scenes from the weekend:

(1) During dinner on Friday, I had the niece in my lap facing the table and was feeding her rice.  (She can feed herself but the large spoon in the restaurant was unwieldy and too big for her mouth)  If I tried to feed her something other than rice, she would shake her head and I would laugh and put it in my mouth instead.  Baby decided to try her hand at feeding herself and I watched her scoop up a little bit of rice on her spoon and put it in her mouth.  Then she took another spoonful and tried to feed me.  However, since I was sitting behind her, the result was that she threw the rice over her shoulder and onto me (and the floor).  I couldn't stop laughing at the result of her desire to help me out but had to put a stop to the mess she was making.
(2) My niece likes to use the phrase, "It's hot."  She knows that if we hold up food and say, "It's hot" that she is supposed to blow on it before she can eat it.  She has learned that this applies to more than just food.

While on the computer and putting in my thumb drives, the drives would light up red when they were running.  My niece put her hand on them and said, "It's hot."  I smiled at her.

She tried the next thing the next day on the subways when she saw the blinking lights lining the platform indicate the doors on the subway train were going to close.  "It's hot.  It's hot."  She was less than thrilled that we wouldn't let her go out of the subway and touch the lights.

She tried to describe something else as hot - she put her hand on an elevator window and insisted, "It's hot."  I touched it and found that it was actually cold.  "No, it's not Baby.  Nice try."

(3) Baby loves pictures of herself.  Looking at pictures of herself, I asked her, "Who is that?"  She smiled and pointed at herself, "Me."  I nodded.  "Yes, it's You!"

Later when we were looking at other pictures of her, I asked her the question again, "Who is that?"  She pointed at herself and, imitating almost perfectly my voice from before, said, "It's You!"

I am really good at confusing personal pronouns for my niece.

(4) My niece decided to try dressing herself.  After putting her in her pajamas, she took the clothes we had just taken off her and tried to put them back on.  She managed the skirt pretty well.  But then she tried to put on the shirt the same way she put on the skirt.  All of us adults just sat back and laughed as she maneuvered herself into this second "skirt" and then stood up and tried to walk around.  We tried to show her how to really put on the shirt but she couldn't manage more than just putting it on her head like a hat.
(5) Her mom and I tried to get her to sing songs with us to keep her occupied on the car rides, subway rides, and walking.  The first time we tried If You're Happy and You Know It, she was on board with us and completed all the actions in time with us.  It was adorable.  However, when we got to the third verse and she realized that we did something different from her, she just glared at us and refused to finish the song. Her look seemed to say, "Even the younger babies at daycare get it right.  Why couldn't you?"

(6) We went to a fancy bakery for a dessert on Saturday and splurged on a few cupcakes to share and a few macaroons.  Baby insisted to getting a bite of one of the macaroons so we handed it to her and let her take a bite.  She decided she didn't like it and squished the macaroon in her hand, crumbling it into small pieces and then brushed all those gooey crumbs off her hand over the side as the stroller while us adults tried desperately to take the remains of the macaroon out of her hand before they were lost.  What is one baby's trash is another aunt's treasure.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Dewdrops of Anticipation

I have this random loosely-based theory that one reason why Korean dramas will not hit mainstream in the US is because of their very interesting and slightly ridiculous titles.

Every time I tell a friend about one of the dramas I'm watching, I sometimes leave out the title altogether because it usually always results in my friend bursting into laughter. "You're watching what?" "What does that even mean?" "That sounds like a harlequin romance novel."

With this theory in mind, I decided to compare the titles to popular shows and movies in America and went away feeling that we come up with just as crazy of titles. However, I returned home and told my roommates my theory.

Roommate: Are you kidding me? Korean drama titles are not like American movie titles. Boys over Flowers? What does that even mean? It makes no sense at all.

My other roommate nodded in agreement.


Here's some of our favorite non-sense titles:

Flower Boy Ramen Shop - yeah, I know - it sounds we used a random word generator

Shut Up Flower Boy Band - again, what's up with the random word generator?

Beethoven Virus - a new strain of the flu?

City Hunter - sounds like a travel show and not about revenge

Heading to the Ground - "It sounds ridiculous. Even knowing it's about soccer, I have no idea what they really mean"
I Need a Fairy - Don't we all?

Me Too, Flower - Me Three, Pine tree

Shining Inheritance - for some reason I always imagine a blindingly shiny pile of gold
When Women Powder Twice - is this about understanding women or a Hitchcock thriller?

You Who Rolled in Unexpectedly - Rolled in what unexpectedly?


What are your favorite titles?

In case you're wondering, I haven't watched all of these dramas listed.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

White Day

Yesterday, while all of my friends - nerds and non-nerds alike - celebrated Pi Day, I celebrated White Day.  (In fact, I completely forgot it was Pi Day until I got onto facebook)

White Day?  It's a month after Valentine's Day and is a day for men to give girls gifts as a response to the chocolate those men received on February 14.

Now, this must be noted, I did not give out chocolate of any form to any males on Valentine's Day, nor on any day following Valentine's Day.

So how does a girl in my situation celebrate White Day?  She spends all day hoping for something pretty fabulous.

This is how my day went:

(1) I foolishly spent twenty dollars so I had an excuse to see my favorite Asian market attendant but then was too shy to say anything.  Now I have to figure out what to do with those extremely random items I thought absolutely necessary at the time.  He's just too cute for words.  Literally.

(2) One of my friends brought me back French macaroons from her trip to NYC.

I'd say it was a success.

Now to survive the Ides of March.

CNBlue put out a new song.  Love it!

Their new album "Ear Fun" comes out on March 27th.  (Yes, I'm laughing about the album title as well - still not sure how this was the winning entry from their online contest).  Look for it at an Itunes near you.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Macaroni

Stick a feather in my hat.  I think myself clever at times.

Today in English class, we briefly, ever so briefly covered limericks in honor of the upcoming St. Patrick's Day.  In fact, I was so tickled over the prospect that I wrote a limerick for my weekly postcard to Hasebe-san.  My brilliant poem though would have to be put aside because I later realized that Europe still hasn't switched to Daylight Savings and won't for almost 2 weeks.

Alas.  My genius must not be wasted so here is that limerick and others that I have written for various friends over the years.


For Hasebe-san: 

There once was a man from Nihon
Who liked to talk on the phone
  He found it odd that a day
  Could take an hour away
But make him feel closer to home.  


Written after a glorious trip with friends to Moab:

There once was a girl named Erin
Who liked to follow the cairns. 
  To the arches she'd go,
  Which way she didn't know, 
Only to get lost in the barrens.

There once was a boy named Robbie 
Who liked to take pictures as a hobby, 
   Every sign he would see, 
   Every flower rock and tree, 
Every car, every hotel, and lobby.

There was one a man named Jay, 
Who liked to hike all day 
  But when he found the need, 
  For his magical octagon he'd plead, 
And then he'd be whisked far away.

Melinda once wanted to know, 
If a strong wind were to blow, 
  How fast would I need
  For my auto to speed 
In order to avoid a tow?


Written after a glorious water fight: 

There once was a fellow named Justin
Who liked to get water balloons and bust 'em
  On his friends they would spray;
  But they'd make him pay
Such is the demise of dear Justin

買與賣

More ads.  This time, it's the Japanese soccer players edition.

The last time I showed Japanese player ads, it was Hasebe and Uchida advertising Puma and Adidas, respectively.  It's pretty hard, in my opinion, to get those kinds of ads wrong.  Well-known soccer players + well-known soccer sponsors is a hard combination to botch.  As long as you show the soccer player being, well, a soccer player, and wearing the sponsor's soccer gear, you can send a clear message of "If you wear X Brand, then you can play like Soccer Star Y too."

But what happens when those soccer players start endorsing products that have no obvious connection to soccer?

Here are a few such examples with my interpretation below.

Yuto Nagatomo:

"Soccer players and actors drink beer and get drunk together."

Shinji Kagawa:

"Shave your face -- your legs and arms will be so smooth that gold lines will skim off you."

Keisuke Honda:

1st 15 second spot: "I've got it all: the private jet, the line of yes men, the briefcase full of money...oh wait, I don't have the...oh wait, yes I do, the mints, the girl and the fancy car."
2nd 15 second spot: "I've got it all: the private villa, my own personal staff, the girl and the mints.  What more could a guy want? Oh yeah, for the mints to double as an MP3 player.  Now I've really got it made."

Does it work?  Does it sell?

I think most of these ads just raise questions for me ---

"Does Shinji really even need to shave?"

"Why would you want your mints to double as an MP3 player?"

"Hasebe doesn't drink during the soccer season because it affects his playing.  Does that make him the rule or the exception?"

They also, interestingly enough, somehow manage to also front as ads for their given soccer gear sponsors.  While those gold lines were skimming off of Kagawa, all I kept noticing were his beautiful orange and yellow Adidas cleats.  (The logo was covered up but everyone who knows the slightest thing about Kagawa knows his cleats are from Adidas)  Same with Nagatomo, who is wearing a Nike shirt and is playing with a soccer ball with a well-placed Nike symbol.

Honda's commercial avoids the soccer subject altogether.  If you didn't know he was a famous soccer player, you'd really have no idea.  The result is an ad that raises questions but is definitely clever enough to get a smile.

It seems then, that, at least for me, when soccer players decide to endorse other products, it might be best to leave the cleats at home.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lest We Forget

On Saturday, my sister told me about a recent home video released of the Challenger explosion.  Apparently, no one knew that anything was wrong until the announcement came over the PA system saying that the Challenger was gone.  We could only imagine what that must have felt like - and the shock and denial as well as the overwhelming sadness that such an event happened.

My sister went on to tell me that she read the comments underneath the video and people expressed how clearly they remember where they were and what they were doing at that moment.  It's true.  Those moments do not leave our memory or our hearts easily.  People remember what they were doing when Kennedy was assassinated, when the Challenger exploded, when 9/11 hit.

I wasn't alive for the Kennedy event, I was only 4 when the Challenger exploded (although I do clearly remember the day in second grade when my teacher told me about it).  I do remember though exactly where I was for 9/11.  I was in the library at my custodial job when a coworker came up and told me that someone was attacking the nation's capitol.  He was a bit of a joker so I brushed him off.  "Stop making up that stuff.  That's not funny."  He argued his case again but I waved him aside again.  Then, something made me stop. I overheard two professors run into each other and exclaim, "Can you believe it?"  Their ensuing questions were spoken partly in fear and shock but also a genuine concern for the welfare of our countrymen several thousand miles away.  I wanted to march up to them and demand answers.  I tried to find my coworker again and ask for more details.  The more I looked, the more I saw more people talking in subdued and shocked tones.  The rumors I overheard grew until it sounded like the entire east coast was under attack.  With family in North Carolina, I fairly sprinted home to watch the news and burst in to wake up my roommate.  We watched in shock at the footage and then watched the second plane hit the second tower.  Words cannot describe how I felt.

A year ago, Japan was hit by a tsunami.  It was another one of those moments.  As soon as I heard about the tsunami, I was shocked and saddened.  Over the previous year, I had been falling more and more in love with the people of Japan.  In shock, I walked through the halls of my lab, only to run into a recently arrived visiting professor from Sendai, Japan.  Without thinking, I blurted out, "You're from Sendai?  Your family...how is your family? Are they ok?"  Uncertainty in his face and voice, he responded, "I do not know.  I have not heard from them."  The tsunami felt so much closer than it did before.  I prayed that this man's family would be safe.

With all of these thoughts, it reminds me of one of my favorite sculptures in the Art Institute of Chicago was completed in marble and is entitled The Solitude of the Soul by Lorado Taft.
Source: Art Institute of Chicago
The sculpture has four sides, in which each side portrays an individual who is sculpted with great detail while leaving the background largely unfinished rock.  Each individual portrayed is suffering and struggling in some way, seemingly cut off from others in its agony, except for one point of contact with another individual on another side.  This is usually through a hand or a shoulder and an arm.  I find this sculpture very poignant.  We all suffer and struggle in very individual and solitary ways but reaching out and through simply the touch of another, we can somehow make it through.

When I think about the disasters and tragedies of the world and the suffering that those events bring upon individuals in the world, I realize that I cannot truly comprehend their sorrow.  However, I can lend a hand, a  shoulder just to let them know that in their suffering, they are not truly alone.  I think that remembering those events clearly and the feelings that accompany those events can be a way of reaching out.  Those events remind us we are all human, all subject to trial and sorrow.  But those events can also remind us that there is much we can do to help and lift one another.

(This is also the main message of Hasebe-san's blog post regarding the tsunami disaster.  Even google translated, I find great truth in his words, asking people to reach out to each other, knowing that our situations and our experiences and feelings are all different but that in reaching out, we can grow together.)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

五月天

Imagine a girl going to karaoke in Taiwan for her first time.  She has no previous knowledge of what her peers listen to there.  She has a good grasp on the spoken language but practically none on the written.

A few years ago, I was this girl and I used the opportunity to educate myself.  This was the takeaway:  My friends in Taiwan surprisingly liked Avril Lavigne and "Way Back into Love" from the Music and Lyrics soundtrack.  (Yes, these were both kind of hilarious points to discover).

AND.  We all loved Mayday.
Source: Wikipedia
I know they look like they're about 25 but the youngest one - Masa (on the left) - is currently 34.

In many ways, their story is very typical of a band - a bunch of kids in high school who thought it would be fun to start a band and made it big.  Their band started off with a funny name (SoBand) that was changed when they entered a music festival.  They played gigs at colleges which turned into concerts which turned into world tours.  Now they are credited for being one of the leading pioneers of rock music in Taiwan and of capturing the zeitgeist of youth in Taiwan.

But why love Mayday?

Their music is, in turn, humorous and poignant.  It's style ranges from angsty teenage emotion in raw heavy chords to introspective pondering in impressive poetic wordplay.  But, in everything, it's real.  It's a band of individuals who are growing and living and pausing to express what that process is for the rest of us.

Bonus: the lyrics are concise and beautiful but also frustratingly layered in its meaning.  Ashin, especially, loves to throw in references to literature, movies, history, and pop culture.  Interestingly, this just means that it's relate-able to many people in many different situations.

Llately, I have been reminded again how much I love this band.  For one, they recently put on a new album which I have heard bits of and am anxious to get my hands on.  Secondly, things about Ashin and his success and good work ethic keep coming across my desk. (I will spare you those articles since they are all in Chinese and I'm too lazy to translate it)

Here, then, is my nod to my first love when it comes to Asian music.

"Falling in love for the first time, all over again"

I actually love the video as much as I love the song.  This band cracks me up.  They don't take themselves too seriously here and the result is a lot of fun.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Love, and Love Again

Today, I officially fell out of love with my lab.

You, the reader, ask: What? You were in love with your lab?

Me: I'm not sure. It had its moments. I liked getting things right. I liked knowing my lab forwards and backwards. I liked knowing its quirks and its personality. Last week, I even considered becoming a lab manager of a lab much like my own.

You see, the thing that makes me not like my lab is that I need data and FAST. And my lab is quite effective at thwarting those efforts at every turn. Over the past few months, I have wavered between nervous and desperate. Today, I reached a breaking point.

I even texted this to my labmate: "Do you think I could transfer to someplace else to get a PhD?"

He saw that and panicked.  I reread what I wrote, looked for the possibility of PhD programs in another country and then came to my senses.  

It takes time to fall in love with something.  It takes patience.  It takes kindness.  It takes heart.  

I think my lab and I are both in need of all of those. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Brewing Thoughts

I have a lot of serious things on my mind so while I mull over them, let's peruse the superficial.

(1) I want to write a short story that includes my awkward experiences as a human being.  However, I have no idea where to begin.  Somehow, I feel that I would have to be a literary genius such that the full glory of my awkward life is exhibited while remaining entertaining.  Any ideas?

(2) A few weeks ago, the JNT played a friendly against Norway.  Despite the fact that most of the first team was not in attendance, I was surprised to find that I recognized and still knew most of the team.  Realizing that I knew so much about a team that I have no real connections to, I decided that I should show a little more hometown loyalty and so I dutifully looked up the USMNT to find out if I could attend a game and show my support.  Instead, I came to the conclusion that it has been too long since USA has played Japan. Their last showdown was six years in San Francisco and, incidentally, the debut of Makoto Hasebe.  I think it's time for a rematch.  In DC please - I have never watched my Samurais play live and I would love the opportunity to wear blue and scream their names and wring my hands in desperation as I hope for a win.

(3) Kato works again!  Yesterday, when I went to pick up his new battery, I accidentally said "Wolfsburg" the German way before correcting myself and repeating it like an American would. The auto store clerk took it in stride but my friends and I laughed at my mistake the rest of the night.  It's good to have my sidekick with me again, even if I live in fear that any minute he's going to break again.

(4) This weekend, I spent a considerable amount of time with my friend and her fiance.  On Friday, we picked up a friend from the airport and then returned home to go running and then watch a movie about Steve Prefontaine.  On Sunday, we put together 80 invitations and ate dinner.  It was during the dinner - nothing more than leftovers from other meals - that I realized how much my friend's life is changing.  In a few months, I will eat a meal at that same table and watch those two laugh and chat and enjoy each other but they will be married, not just dating.  I couldn't be happier for them.

(5) Makoto Hasebe has been looking so happy and at peace in pictures on his blog and on the soccer websites.  Any guesses as to why?  I'm pretty curious.
Previously:
Recently:
I've never seem him like this at a
press conference before
Source: Tumblr
Photo Credit: Koko NAGAHAMA
(6) I found this on the sidewalk last week:
My thoughts immediately went to the Korean boy band, Trax ,which boasts such hits as "Oh, My Goddess" and "Blind".  It next went to the transit system in Utah.  It wasn't until I googled Trax that I discovered that it was mostly likely a nod to the club that Dave Matthews Band used to frequent.  It closed in 2001, making that sidewalk at least 10 years old.

(7) While out walking the other day, I walked past this fashion statement:
Is this for real?  Do people really wear seafoam green pants with plaid shirts?  Or is this just a UVa thing?

Raising Boys

Sunday evening, I returned to my house.  It had been a long day of choir, church, putting together wedding invitations and then returning to church for a fireside.  So, when I opened my front door,  I was quite ready to enjoy the rest of Sabbath in relative peace.  Instead, I was met with noises that accompany the play and fighting of three restless and house-bound boys.  You see, my roommate's nephews were visiting.

My roommate was exhausted and I was too tired from the other activities to know exactly how to face the situation.  I texted a guy friend, "Come over."  

He came.  He played with the boys.  He entertained them and even the littlest one was soon trying to imitate his parlor tricks.  We played a card game that brought out name calling and fighting and even tempers, but he returned frustration with a smile, and insults with kind words and humor.  

Afterwards, I just sat and stared at him in awe.  

Me: "How do you do it?"
Friend: "I have eight younger siblings."  
Me: "I just don't get these boys.  Why do they have to fight and hit?"  
Friend: "You like Tom.  He's all boy." 
Me: "Tom was different."
Friend: "Was he?  He stole the girls' candy that they had been making for hours.  He hurt Polly's wrist.  He called people names and pulled his sisters' hair."  

Of course, my friend and I were discussing Tom Shaw, Jr. of An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott.  It's one of my favorite books and one of my main reasons for liking Tom in the first place was because Tom was simply 'a boy'. 

 I'd always liked boys who were boys.  In fact, not only did I hope to marry a man who still had a lot of boy in him (not a Peter Pan type who won't grow up but the type who hasn't forgotten how to laugh and have fun), I also hoped to raise boys myself.  

But now, after a weekend of these boys and a Saturday dealing with an entirely different type of precocious but equally hard to handle nine year old boy, my visions of adorable husband and sons were crumbling away before my eyes.  

Sometimes, I think I understand men.  Since I have a lot of tomboy in me, I somehow think that means that I have insight into the male psyche.  I am an engineer.  I love playing sports.  I adore airplanes and fast cars.  These are things that lend themselves easily to conversations with men and I deal with men on a daily basis.  However, it was quite the wake-up call to realize this weekend, that for all my 'boy' activities, being a single woman who lives with other women and is close friends with other women, I really do not have much experience with boys.  

Marrying a man, raising boys - this is all terra incognita.  It kind of overwhelms me to think that I've lived my entire life hoping for something of which I am entirely ignorant.  

Equally overwhelming to realize that for all this weekend did to open my eyes to the realities of my hopes, I am still desirous to be given the opportunity to try.  

I still want to get married.  I still want to raise boys.  

It's just going to be a lot harder than even my wildest imaginations had thought up before.  
I think I thought raising boys was something as idyllic as this.
Source: 
On a slightly similar topic, here is the interpretation of men's actions as relayed by a movie, a man and a boy.  

From the movie The Lorax.  
"When a boy does something stupid once, it's because he's a boy.  When he does something stupid twice, it's because of a girl."  

At this point in the movie, the dad sitting next to me leaned over to his daughter and whispered.  "That's true."  

I looked over at him and laughed.  He apologized for interrupting my movie watching.  I simply smiled, "It's a  good thing to know."  

Later, the precocious nine year old gave his interpretation.  

Nine year old: When a boy does something stupid once, it's because he's a boy.  When he does something stupid twice, it's because he's a human.  When he does something stupid three times, it's because of a girl."  
Me: Do you have personal experience with this?  
Nine year old: No.  
Me: Then how do you know it works like that?
Nine year old: Because I have human instincts. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Pop Quiz

I always wanted to know what would happen if I were to walk into a test and take it without studying for it.

Would I pass?  How much latent knowledge do I have stored in my brain?

Today, I had that experience.  I took a quiz on a subject that I have never studied.

The result?

Once I got over the euphoria of doing something I'd always dreamed of doing but never done that is....

I wanted to kick myself.  At one point, I knew some if not most of the answers to that quiz.  How I wished  that I had just glanced over my (nonexistent) notes.  I also fell for the same trick that I always do; I think that if the question it straightforward, then it's because I misunderstood it.  For some reason, I have come to the conclusion that all professors are trying to trick me into guessing the wrong answer. I over analyzed everything and completely choose the wrong answer.  In a word: FAILURE.

Next time, I should just go with my gut feeling.  It turns out my gut feeling was correct more often than not.