Friday, June 29, 2012

Heat Wave

Except, well, me.

You see, I am leaving for Japan in a week.  And thanks to a cold that I contracted over the weekend, I am incredibly behind schedule for running my experiments.

Having warmer weather means that the iodine levels will be guaranteed to give me sufficient data before I run out of liquid nitrogen.

Therefore, I think I'm the only person who is happy to see that the current temperature is 97 degrees Fahrenheit.

My apologies.

If it's any consolation, running my experiment usually heats up my lab so much that I end up spending most of the experiment in a room that is over 100 degrees, and worrying that my pumps don't overheat in the process.  

But please, stay out of the heat yourselves.   

I just found this song today and I love it.  

Washing Machine by Mayday

"Perhaps I wasn't the best child...
Perhaps I didn't control my rebelliousness...
Perhaps you weren't too happy with me...
But I still wanted to let you know...
Mom, I love you."

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Parks and Recreation

Can't get over how adorable my niece is.  Please pardon the glut of pictures.
 This is the Niece longingly looking at the kids swinging on the swings while she eats her dinner.

 These pictures are all of Baby smiling while she's swinging.  It's actually pretty hilarious watching her swing.  She loves it the entire time but after a few seconds of it, she forgets to keep smiling so she looks quite bored.
 There is actually a picture of my niece looking at the camera and smiling too.  However, I like this one better.  She just adores her Mom.
 Baby shows no fear when it comes to climbing things.

 Or sliding down things.
 She's also learning how to wait for me to take her picture.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Moving Woes

Dear Kagawa-san,

Well, kid, you did it.  You got yourself a spot in the English Premier League.  I know that you know a tough road still lies in front of you.  But I know you have the ability and discipline to make a name for yourself at Manchester.  Onward and upward.


Dear Mario,

WHAT?!  You're moving to ...FCB?  Really?  I know you're sad about not making it past the group stage at the Euro-cup but to run off and sign with Bayern is a little drastic, don't you think?  Sure, they're a good team who will actually be playing in the Champions League.  Sure they actually have a real fighting chance for Das Deutschermeister Titel...but...but.. it's Bayern!  You know, the team that everyone I know loves without any real grounds for doing so.  Why then are you giving me a reason to take an interest in their goings on?  I might end up liking them against my wishes.  Signing you was a significant move in that direction.


Dear Hasebe-san,

When I first saw the rumors on Sponichi that you were in talks about moving back to Urawa, I was furious.  Then I settled down and reasoned that there are other priorities that can come before your career - you know, like family.  Turns out, there was nothing to the rumors.  However, now that I've convinced myself that you being back in Japan was a good thing, I'm not sure what to think.  Just as long as you're happy.  That's all I ask.  


Dear Charlottesville,

These Tuesday morning hikes have reminded me that out of all the ups and downs of my graduate school experience, you have always been an up.  Thanks for being you.  I'm going to miss you.


Dear Japan,

I'm coming!  At this point, it still feels like one big joke - as though any second I'm going to wake up and realize it was all just an elaborate dream.  But each day brings you closer and I'm realizing I have no idea what to expect.  Here's hoping for good things.


Dear Self,

One last week in a young single adult ward.  From here on out, it's normal wards.  With married people.  And kids.  And babies.  And lots and lots of adjustment.  You never thought you'd make it to this point unmarried, did you?  Then again, you never thought you'd get a PhD.  Or go to Japan.  Or buy a really frivolous pair of high heels that make you feel like Valancy.  I think life just works like that - it doesn't run according to our expectations.  But don't give up - the Gospel is true and God is aware of you and your circumstances.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Moral

Look before you leap.

I learned this today.  I went on a hike with my friends on the Rivanna River Trail.  It was a part that was once a Forestry nursery back in the 1930s and it was beautiful and very interesting.

When we were almost back to car, I noticed a big stretch of gorgeous green grass and so I spontaneously threw off my backpack and laid down on the grass.

But it wasn't as soft as I imagined.  In fact, it kind of pricked me.  So I sat up and felt around on the grass, trying to figure out why it prickled.  I noticed a bug curled up with all its stingy feelers sticking out.  With a sigh and my impulsiveness, I picked up my bag and walked back to the car.  A friend followed, having thoroughly enjoyed his stint on the grass.  I noticed a red mark forming on my wrist.  My wrist started to throb and pain shot up my arm.  I looked down my arm and realized I had several blotchy marks forming.  One of my friends laughed a little, "You contracted leprosy!"  The white blotchy marks continued to swell.  And then little dark marks appeared in them.  We looked it up, realized it was just a centipede bite (or several of them) and that it wasn't dangerous - it would just hurt and swell.  So I went home and washed my arm.  They say to use cold for swelling and heat for pain.  I have both so I'm not sure which one to use or if they would counteract.  In any case, I'll live.  But I have a good story and a lesson learned.

It was a fun day anyway.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Two Much?

This weekend was a weekend with the niece.  I don't know how her mother doesn't stop laughing because the Niece is hilarious.

For one, she's very agreeable even when she shouldn't be.
Sister: Baby, do you  remember Erin teaching you particle physics?
Baby: <nods her head>
Me: Baby, do you remember the stock market crash in 1929?
Baby: <nods her head> Yep, in '29.

But she's smart enough to catch on to our games.
Me: Do you remember the invention of electricity?
Baby: No
Me: Do you remember the invention of indoor plumbing?
Baby: No
Me: Do you remember the invention of the internet?
Baby: No

Secondly, her favorite number is two.  I don't know if it is her actual favorite number but if you ask her a "How many" question, her go-to answer is two.
Me: Baby, how many belly buttons do you have?
Baby: Two!
Me: No, count your belly buttons.  How many do you have?
Baby: <holds up one finger> Five!
Me: No, you have one belly button.  One!

Of course, this backfired on me, as it usually does.
<Later, during Sunday school>
Me: Baby, can you give me one <hold up one finger> cracker?
Baby: I have one belly button!
<She lifts up her dress to show off her belly button>
Baby: Look, one!  Belly button!  Belly button!  Belly button!
<I just put my head down and laughed.  One of my sisters had to jump in and say, "Yes, that's your belly button" or she would have continued talking about it>

Third, Baby hasn't quite figured out colors but she certainly tries.
Me: What color is this ball?
Baby: Blue!
Me: Good job!  What color is my phone?
Baby: Pur...Pink!
Me: No, it's orange.

Fourth, she has some definite opinions.
Baby: Sarah!  You, me, outside, now!

Sister: Where's Sarah?
Baby: <points at Sarah>
Sister: Where's Erin?
Baby: <points at Erin>
Sister: Where's your cousin?
Baby: No cousin!

Baby: Cookie!
Sister: Do you know the name of this cookie?
Baby: <eats the Oreo completely unconcerned with its name>
Sister: It's called an Oreo.
Baby: NOT Oreo!
(Oreo is the name of my sister's cat)

And last, she gets excited over the littlest things.
Baby: Wallet?
<I hand her my wallet.  She starts taking things out of it>
Me: Why don't you look for Wookie?
Baby: I finding Wookie.  I finding Wookie.  <she searches through my wallet for the super junior card>
Baby: Wookie!  I finded Wookie!  I finded Wookie!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Favorite Symphony

Dvorak's Ninth Symphony also known as the New World Symphony.

I played this symphony in high school - I was a violist then.  We had been playing Mozart all year long because my conductor had some penchant for him but honestly, if all you play is Mozart and you are a violist, it gets pretty boring.  So to play Dvorak who actually wrote solo parts for the viola section and gave us something other than half notes was a thrill.  (I heard the Dvorak himself was a violist)  Even more so, it was technically difficult enough that us violists struggled and found ourselves going over small sections in our determination to get it just right.  It would be the last symphony I would ever perform, in my last orchestra concert ever.  It holds a special place.

Some time in college, I bought a recording of the symphony.  Since I only had a few CDs, it was soon on my playlist as I got ready for rugby practice.  Not long after, it would be the only thing I would listen in preparation for practice and games.  The fourth movement especially.  On my mission, we were only allowed to listen to classical music and when I told my mission president's wife that the only symphony I owned was Dvorak's, she told me to pull it out and listen to it.  I told her that I had listened to it so many times before rugby that I might end up just tackling people on the street.  She just laughed.

It's been at least two years since I last listened to this symphony.  Even now, I can't hear it without a thrill.  It still reminds me of orchestra and how by the end, I'd be playing with so much energy that my arms would collapse at the end from exhaustion.  It still reminds me of rugby and how much of a routine I followed in preparation for those games and practices.  Oddly enough, it also reminds me of my orchestra friends who were much more than orchestra friends but British Literature study buddies and soccer practice buddies.  And also of all the engineering problem sets I had to pound through and how many times after I'd given up on a problem for the afternoon, I'd find myself figuring out a new way of looking at it while preparing for rugby and listening to that symphony. 

It's one of those days.  Nothing but a symphony will do.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Alter Ego

Some days, most days I forget what it is I do.

The other day, as I was walking to work and listening to my new favorite song, I thought, "I think my alter ego must be a rocker.  There is some part of me that wishes my life consisted of standing on a stage and singing awesome songs like this."  I tried to imagine my alter ego as an opera singer or on Broadway but nope, my alter ego would be a rocker.  

And then I tried to imagine what that alter ego rocker person would dream that their alter ego would be.  "Oh she'd probably wish for something entirely different for her life, like being a rocket scientist or some crazy thing like that."

Hey, wait a minute....that's what I am.

Here's the stuff my alter ego would do for a living:

This is the stuff my alter ego would dream of doing for a living:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Super Mario

I have been pretty excited about the Euro Cup.  Not only would it be a chance for me to actually watch a soccer game, but it would be a lot of those players I've become familiar with while keeping tabs on the Bundesliga.

The Euro Cup started last Friday and sadly, I've been a little distracted since my Samurais have had three games and so I have been busy trying to keep up on all the World Cup Qualifying Games in Asia.  I'm thrilled that my Samurai Blues are at the top of their table but also happy to find Koo and Co. leading theirs as well.  Now that that's up, with a sudden silence and dearth of information regarding anything soccer related coming out of Japan, I've had time to focus my energies on the Euro Cup.

The funny thing is, I need to pick a team.  I assumed I would just go with Germany since I love their national league.  However, the problem with Germany though is that the team is composed mostly of men from Bayern Munich, which is a team that I spend most of my time cheering against.  

When it comes down to it I do like Germany.  And deep down, I hope and think they can win it all.  

However, I need another team.  I went searching and landed on one of my favorite players from my Bundesliga team.
Source: UEFA website
Mario Mandzukic.  I just love this kid.  I love him so much that even though I don't know anything else about his team, I'm cheering for Croatia.  They beat Ireland the other day and just tied in a game with Italy.  They have a really tough battle against Spain still ahead.

And guess what?  Mandzukic is tied with Gomez (Germany) and Dzagoev (Russia) for leading the scoring in this tournament thus far.  Woo hoo!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sunflowers on a Cloudy Day

Yesterday was a good day.  I didn't go to work at all.  That's not why it was a good day - it was just something that happened.  I didn't feel guilty about not going to work.  That was a bonus.

Here is how my day went.  I woke up at 6:15 am and went on a morning hike at Ivy Creek with my friend.  It rained during our hike.   We spent the entire hike wondering if we were lost, trusting that we weren't lost and getting lost anyway.  We also spent our time trying to keep from getting covered in spider webs that spanned the hiking path every few feet.  After letting my friend take the bulk of the spider webs for the first part of the hike, I jumped in to take over for the second part of the hike.  I was pretty ineffective at avoiding spider webs.  At one point, I ran smack into one and was so shocked that I shrieked and threw my hands in the air and accidentally lost my hat in the process.  I am not a squeamish girl so we laughed hysterically over my reaction while I retrieved my hat.  We ended up running through the last part of the hike in order to try to get my friend to class in time.  A man saw us, in our soggy state, with our sweatshirts flailing about our shoulders and our arms and hands covered in spider webby-ness as we stumbled over roots and laughed, "Trying to avoid the rain?"  I laughed back.  The rain was the least of our concerns.

After the hike, I got ready for the day, finished up planning for my English class and went to my eye appointment.  The doctor remembered me and remembered my field of study - either that, or he wrote it on my file.  No one can have that great of memory, can they?  The diagnosis is that my eyes are healthy.  I was so happy and pleased with my healthy eyes that I couldn't stop smiling all the way home.

English class - we discussed whether we would want fame, riches, pleasure or love.  I chose love.  Most of my students chose pleasure.  We also discussed whether we would choose to be divinely beautiful, dazzlingly clever or angelically good.  I said that I wanted to be divinely beautiful.  Most of my students wanted to be dazzlingly clever.  The women wanted to know what type of woman the men wanted.  One said divinely beautiful.  One said angelically good.  One said dazzlingly clever.  The men wanted to know what type of man the women wanted.  They all agreed on angelically good after ruling that dazzlingly clever men might be be too clever.

After English class, I met with some of my Japanese friends who told me about the ins and out of Japanese culture.  No hugging!  they warned.  Don't wave your chopsticks.  And Japanese people love Ghiradelli chocolate they insisted.  But apparently even Japanese people get confused on the train schedules and so they got nervous for me and helped draw me maps and wrote out sentences for me to show people in the station to get me to my destination.  I have some great friends.

After running by my department, I walked home.  Barefoot.  I spotted a newspaper machine and decided to buy a newspaper to read about the recent dismissal of UVa's president.  It's all very secretive and scandalous and interesting.  I can't remember the last time I spent money on a newspaper.  I remembered how much I miss reading a physical newspaper though.  I read that thing from front to cover, read my horoscope - change of geographical location in my future and possible romance - and did the crossword.  It was a satisfying 75 cent  purchase.

My roommate and I attended the showing of Anne of Avonlea - the first part.  As I worked on my knitted, my friends and I kept up a running hilarious commentary about the movie.  The three men in the room who had never seen the movie soon caught on to our playful banter and laughed along with us.  One of them wanted to insist against common sense and watch the second half right then.  He really wanted to know what was going to happen and didn't think he could wait even a day.

Another friend showed up at the end to chat for a few minutes.  I got volunteered to play a musical number for a conference on Saturday.  It's fine.  I will be presenting at the Conference anyway.  That friend and I went out for a cup of hot chocolate and we sat and talked about dating/marriage, change and a little bit about Japan.

I think I will keep this day in my memory for a long time.  Sorry - no pictures.  It was a rather ordinary day after all.  And yet, somehow something quite surpassing extraordinary.

New song that I love:  Sunflowers on a Cloudy Day by William Wei

Sunday, June 10, 2012

On Sale Now!

Sold at your local Bed Bath and Beyond.

Get yours now while supplies last!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Auf Wiedersehen

Dear Hasebe Kato-san AKA Guai Guai AKA Makoto-son AKA Kates AKA Hasebe Car,

Mein liebling auto, oh, how I love you.  I loved all our road trips  and the late night drives.  I loved that you smelled like crayons.  I loved that you were from Wolfsburg.  I loved your quirks - that you panicked if I didn't say goodnight, that you panicked at the sight of snow, that you panicked if I got in the car and sat for too long before turning the key.  You were such a chum - you never cared if I listened to Asian music or musical music or American music or no music.  You didn't mind if I screamed out my frustrations or cheered from happiness.  You always got me back home safely, no matter how tired I was or how bad the roads were.  We were like a team, Kato dear, and now you are gone.  And I am missing you.  I know a person shouldn't love inanimate objects but I can't help it - you were the trusted sidekick I needed to get me through the past few years of graduate school.  Sure, you took all my money and abandoned me for the last final push of school but it doesn't even matter anymore.  I'll just remember the good stuff.



Today I called up the Japanese embassy to check on details for getting a Visa.  My stay is less than ninety days so I didn't think it would be a big issue but I decided to confirm it just in case.  The experience went something like this:

Automated message: <Japanese>
Me: ??
Automated message: For English, press one.
Me: <press 1>
Automated message: <Long amount of information about visas that I already knew from the website> For further assistance, press zero.
Me: <press zero>
Real Person: Visa Office
Me: Hi, I'm doing an internship and I wanted to see if I needed a visa.  They aren't paying me but they are paying for my living expenses and plane ticket.
Real Person: Hold on.
<Elevator music - it was a digital keyboard version of Fur Elise.  I couldn't help but laugh since that was the EXACT SAME MUSIC as the garbage trucks in Taiwan>
Real Person: Do you have a certificate of eligibility?
Me: No.
Real Person: What sort of internship is this?
Me: I will be doing aerospace research ...<give more details>
Real Person: Is this for school credit?
Me: No, but I am currently a student.
Real Person: Hold on.
<Fur Elise, the garbage truck edition continues>
Real Person: A visa is not needed.
Me: Great!  Are there any specific documents I will need to bring with me to Japan?
Real Person: You will need to get permission once you get there.
Me: Wait, what?  I'm sorry but could you repeat yourself?
Real Person: <Explains again>
Me: Let me get this straight; I don't need a visa but I need to get permission?
Real Person: You will need to contact the administration in Japan yourself.

I'm thinking, "I thought a visa was permission to enter Japan."

Suddenly, I'm realizing this might be how most of my internship goes - with me thinking we're on the same page until the last sentence when I'm thrown through a loop and reeling from confusion.

I figured it out now but at the time I was thoroughly confused.  It turns out Japan will let me into the country but permission to do the internship itself requires permission from the administration of the district I will be living/working in.

On a slightly different note, Japan won their game against Jordan this morning.  Honda got a hat trick.  Kagawa, Maeda and Kurihara got one goal each.  And Hasebe got an elbow to the face.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012


"For our generation, a Japanese player going overseas and joining a big club was something you'd only see in a comic book. Shinji's giving kids something to dream about. It's incredibly big, what he's doing."
~ Makoto Hasebe

Essentially, "This is something you only read about in stories.  But it's really happening!"  

Boy who plays soccer from Japan goes to play for one of the best teams in the world. (Source)

Boy born with only one fully formed arm and hand goes on to play professional baseball.  (Source)  

Girl who dreams for years of going to Japan to do research gets accepted for an internship in Sendai.  

I think this is one reason why I have fallen in love with non-fiction in the past few years.  Real life can be magical, the stuff of fiction.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Stitch In Time

Training.  Drills.  It's about practicing something over so many times so that, when it really matters, you get it right.  It's not about getting it perfect or necessarily even close to perfect at this moment.

In an attempt to remind myself to be more patient with myself, I walked into my roommate's room the other day with a skein of yarn in hand and two needles and asked her to show me how to knit.  

She sat me down and showed me.  It only took me a few minutes to realize that I was doing it right-handed and not left-handed.  My roommate wasn't sure that there was a left-handed way of knitting which I smiled at since I'd been taught left-handed knitting twice before (once, by my Mom and once by another friend)  However, I was determined give it a try anyway.  

"If I can learn how to play the violin right-handed, then surely I can knit right-handed."  

I set to with determination.  It only took a few rows to find I had added three or four stitches.  A row or two later, I had dropped a stitch (and left a big gaping hole).  A few rows later, I dropped a few more stitches.  Somehow, in the course of that evening, I had gone from 20 little threads wrapped around the needle (I have no idea what the technical terms are)  to 23 and then ended up with 18.  

As my stitches became more even, my roommate suggested that she teach me the purl stitch to practice too.  I refused.  "Let me feel more comfortable with this one.  Let me practice it until I can get it right consistently."  

So, that's what I've been doing this week.  Every night, for some time before I go to sleep, I practice my knit stitch.  I am determined to get through the whole skein on this one stitch and then take it all apart and relearn the entire skein for purl.  

One day, when it really matters to get it right, maybe I'll accomplish something as marvelous as this:  
Guaranteed to win every ugly sweater contest 
Sorry the picture is blurry.  We were in a vintage clothing store and wanted to get the picture taken before 
anyone realized what we were doing.  

In the meantime, I'm content to just practice.

Also, this is the new theme song of my life.  William Wei, where have you been all my life?  Oh yeah, right where I left you - on the Awesome list.

Introducing The Escape of the Two-Legged Bookcase 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Men Vs. Boys

This is Ryo.  
He is 19.  

Source: Tumblr, chikio3
He thinks he is brave and cool for smelling Okazaki's cleats.  

This is Hasebe.
He is 28.  

Source: Tumblr, chikio3
"No way am I smelling his cleats!"  

I think that about sums it up. 

The Games We Play

As a senior in high school, I attended a symphony performance that highlighted a 12 year old concert pianist.  His execution wasn't perfect but his bashful yet determined personality made up for it.  When he stood at the end of the piece to take his bow and receive his applause, I hoped for a long career for this kid.  I leaned over to my friend and sang his praises.  She looked at me and teased.  Why was an eighteen year old so enamored with a twelve year old?  I laughed back.  "Don't you see?  This isn't about me; I think I just found the boy that my sister is going to marry."  She completely lost it then but I simply nodded.  "It's going to happen."

A month later, I went to Bulgaria for a week.  One of the host families I stayed with had a girl a few years younger than I and a boy a few years younger than her.  The family made me feel at home when we spent an entire evening watching family home videos of the son at ballroom dance competitions when he was 10 or 11.  It was endearing.  The boy and I could not speak more than one word of each other's language but we seemed to still have a good rapport.  At one point during the trip, he spoke to me in Bulgarian and told me that I was free to sit down and that his sister was in the kitchen getting a snack to eat.  The sister ran in from the kitchen to translate for me, only to find me already following his directions.  The boy looked at her and laughed.  I looked at her and smiled.  "We understand each other," we both said in our respective languages.  I wondered how I could get this awesome kid in the family.  "This is the boy my sister should marry."

Twelve years later, I have to admit, I still play this game.

Listening to this song on repeat.  This is my latest choice in a future husband for my sister.

Say My Name by Kangnam