Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cryptic Messages

Dear Hasebe-san,

I feel like Olive from Ella Enchanted (the book, NOT the movie): "You o me 6 KJs.  I danced with the prince to times while you were eeting.  Pa me."  Substitute a few word changes where appropriate but the sentiment is the same.  Seriously, kid, please write on your blog.  


Dear Self,

Lately, you're like Sophie when she invented that really amazing weed killer.  Something's gotta change.


Dear Weather,

Tuesday, I drowned.  Yesterday, I was comfortable.  Today, I'm freezing.  It's not March yet.  But is it spring?


Dear World of Kpop,

"In related news, popcorn prices have increased by over 9000 percent."


Dear Pump,

I'd like to know what you do with all that water I gave you.  Where does it all go?  It's a closed loop and there are no known leaks.  I live in perpetual fear that I will break you but frankly, you're getting a bit greedy, don't you think?


Dear Downton Abbey,

I don't know who died and outraged the world in season 3.  However, since I know it happens, I'm less inclined to love you wholeheartedly in seasons 1  and 2.  I can see you for what you are, oh manipulative one.  One can only pray real life is kinder than your writers.  Otherwise, we'll all suffer from emotional whiplash.


Here are some recent random pictures I've taken.  I really love the tree.  Its gaping scars...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tuesday, Which Contained Entirely Too Much Water

"It's supposed to rain today," my lab partner told me when he got into the office.  I smiled at him and nodded.  My feet were already damp from my walk into the lab but in spite of the wet feet I was sure to have for the remainder of my day, I was not worried.  I felt pretty water proof with my thickest coat and its hood.

So, off I went, venturing out into a drizzle that would steadily increase until it was fully rain by the time I arrived at my English class 45 minutes later.  But I had a good soundtrack - CNBLUE - and that waterproof coat so I was unfazed.  

English class was pretty normal.  Every few weeks, I get frustrated with my Chinese students who feel it necessary to tell me how ignorant Americans are of their country.  I try to listen to it as politely as possible but after over two years of this from each new student, it gets rather tiresome.  This was one of those weeks.  

After class, I caught a ride to the wrong library and then spent a few minutes reviewing Chinese vocabulary before wading through the downpour over to the correct library so that I could check on the derivation of thin airfoil theory.  The texts and papers I had read on the subject all used one specific critical substitution but failed to express how it was derived so that I would know when the appropriate place/time to use it.  

While in that library, I realized that my shoes and pants were both pretty wet but since there was nothing I could do about it, I pursued onward back into the rain for my 40 minute hike up to my lab.  On arriving at my lab, I marveled that only the back of my coat was dry because my backpack was soaked instead.  

I went up to my lab and watched the last 10 minutes of the Offenbach/Wolfsburg soccer game.  We won!  I rejoiced and explained the World Cup qualifiers to my lab partner who was left so confused by the world of soccer that I would be shocked if he ever became a fan.  (It can get quite confusing if you can't keep the national teams and professional teams and their associated competitions straight)  

Then I ventured downstairs to put a few replacement parts into my pump system.  Our lab manager told me up front, "I refuse to get wet," since he had been thoroughly soaked the last time we worked on the pump.  I promised him that since I was already pretty wet, I would take all the water instead.  So, whenever we removed a tube or changed a fitting, I put myself directly in the front in order to keep my word.  There were a few close calls though because I opened a valve that he had just closed and sprayed water against a wall.  Once, we both forgot to close a valve and so when I braced the spray of water and removed a tube, water shot out from the line across the room and created a nice large puddle before we managed to wrangle things back into control.  The lab manager kept laughing at me, "You're just trying to get me wet, aren't you?"  With every subsequent error.  He also marveled, "How have we not been electrocuted by now?"  I just looked at him.  "I have wondered that every single time we've worked on this pump.  Who thought putting all of these breakers and this mess of wires down in the pit was a good idea?" 

The pump worked and barely has enough flow to turn on the laser.  This is a veritable miracle and I rejoiced, sent the lab manager home and set to mopping up the water as best as I could.  

Then off to a birthday party for a friend  (45 minutes away).  As I walked through the rain, I called a friend who told me all about her wedding plans.  But since I was on the phone, I wasn't at my best at navigating the slippery shortcut and I slipped and fell and covered my entire left side in mud.  That red mud that doesn't ever wash out of anything.  I kept walking since I had promised to return something to a friend and by that point, I was only a minute away.  When I arrived at the restaurant where everyone was meeting for dinner, I tried to get my soggy phone to let me type out a message for my friend to come outside and instead ran into a few acquaintances and begged them to go get my friend instead.  She came out and saw me in my state and offered her apologies but what could we do?  Being wet was one thing but being covered in red clay mud was another.  I told my friend to wish her brother a 'Happy Birthday' and started the trek (another 45 minutes) back to my home.  

Again, I had a good soundtrack - Super Junior - but by this time, my coat was soaked through, even on the inside.  Since there was nothing left to keep dry, I didn't mind pausing to watch the train pass, letting myself think about my Grandpa and drum out the beat of the song I was listening to.  But it wasn't until I got home and started peeling off layers that I realized that how completely dirty and soaked through I really was.  

What was there left to do but take a warm shower?  More water, I groaned at the thought.  However, there was no other real recourse since I was so chilled through that my skin looked sunburned from the cold (and hurt like a sunburn too) 

I'm glad to see that Wednesday is dry and sunny.  I'd like to have a chance to dry out at least.  

Monday, February 25, 2013

Because It's There

When I was an undergraduate, I took my Fluid Mechanics course in one of those summer terms where you sprint through the material and yet still feel somewhat laid back.  My professor loved to grab our attention by using real world examples and anecdotes.

Professor: Most of you were Boy Scouts, right?
Class: Yes!
Professor: What is the number one thing that all Boy Scouts love to do?
Class: <in unison> BURN THINGS!
Professor: And that is only followed in close second by?
Class: <once again, in unison> PUSH BIG ROCKS DOWN HILLS!  (or over cliffs - same thing really)

I was the only girl (I think) in that class so I just stared at my classmates roaring enthusiasm.  I could have guessed about the playing with fire.  But pushing rocks down hills??  And they all said it in unison, as though it were a given.

I was baffled, thoroughly baffled.  (Now you're wondering about the real world application - it had to do with the natural axes that objects rotate on)

A year later, I was on a week-long hiking/camping trip with my roommates and one of my roommates parents.  And what was my roommate's dad doing the entire time we were ever on a cliff edge?  Picking up rocks and tossing it over the edge.  The bigger the rock, the better.

Last Friday, after inviting two guys from work to a hike, we sat around and shared some camping stories.  I told them the experience of the things boy scouts like to do.  They laughed.

Colleague 1: Yeah, I have to admit.  Pushing rocks down hills or throwing things off of cliffs is pretty great.
Colleague 2 (who is from Japan): Yes, we do that in Japan too.
Me: So, it's the same for men all around the world?  I just have to ask, Why do you all feel the need to do this?
Colleague 1:  Caveman instinct?  It's there so we do it.
Me: Really?
Colleague 1: Yes.

I went back from that conversation and talked to my other lab colleague who not only agreed but then proceeded to tell me all of the times in his life when he threw rocks off of cliffs.

Saturday morning found me on a hike with four men.  It was one of those hikes where it was foggy the entire time and we get to the top and realize that we are above the clouds which is nice but because all we can see below are big white billows that we felt like we were at the edge of the world with nothing above us and nothing below us.  Needless to say, there wasn't a lot of rock throwing but there was a lot of careful navigating on wet and slippery rocks.  

However, when we got down the mountain and were hiking back to the car (about 2 miles away), I was walking along and checking my phone for messages when they all yelled.

"Erin!  You walked over the stick!"

I looked up in shock.  So?
Friend: We're kicking the stick.
Me: Oh, ok.  <I kick the stick> long are we going to be kicking this stick?
Friend: Until we get to the car?
Me: But that's over 2 miles away!
They all shrug.
Me: Why are we kicking this stick again?
Colleague: Erin, haven't you learned by now?  Because it's there.

I started laughing and sure enough, we kicked that stick for 2 miles.  When it broke into 2 pieces, we kicked both pieces all the way back to the car.  It was fun and we chatted about random things as we walked and kicked.  At one point, one of my friends suggested that kicking was bad for our soles and I thought he had meant 'souls' and stopped in shock while everyone laughed at me.

Today, I was walking to meet up with my lab for lunch and tried the theory again.  There was a rock in the drive so I kicked it ahead of me and then passed it up to the guy walking in front of me.  He picked up where I left off and kicked the rock in front of him until we got to our destination.  Not a word was said between us about it.  It just happened because it was there.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Paradigm Shift

When I picked up A Life of Jesus, I think I assumed it would be a quick read detailing a life that I am quite familiar with.  The purpose of the book, as outlined by the author in his preface, was to explain the life of Jesus Christ to those in Japan unfamiliar with Him.  How do you describe Christ to those unfamiliar with Christianity or Judaism or even Islam?  Sounds interesting, right?

By the middle of the book, I was shaking my head in confusion.  Who was this Jesus Christ Endo was describing?  He was so different than the Christ figure I had grown up with.  Some ideas were so vastly different that I wanted to reject the depiction entirely.  However, in the middle of the 模糊 descriptions, a line would stick out that struck a chord with my soul.  So, I couldn't put the book down.  I just kept reading, baffled by this view and wondering what was true, what was conjecture and how to fit it into my own version.  In fact, it got me wondering how much of my own version was true and how much was conjecture. Soon enough, the image of Christ in my head was shaken and grew hazy.  I almost couldn't remember what I had believed before and I certainly struggled to know what I currently believed.  

It's not that I stopped believing in Christ as a divine figure or as someone less worthy of my worship.  But I suddenly felt like his disciples who so often simply marveled at His words rather than understanding His intent.  How could I have so blatantly missed the point of His life and mission?  Am I still missing the point?

Well, I finished the book last night.  I'm still trying to sort out my feelings and my thoughts and my beliefs.  All I know is that things are different.  I can't go back to the way things were before.  I'm not even sure that I want to.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February 19th

I love this xkcd comic.  It reminds me that sometimes, peer pressure is a good thing.

Today, I learned something about myself.  I need people.  When I spend too much time thinking about my own life, I freak out: What am I doing?! Life is hard!  Everyone's lives are so hard!  Why are we all struggling??

But then I run into a friend who tells me she's going to see Secretary Kerry give his first public policy speech tomorrow.  Or I see a group of professors recently come from China who look like they could use some directions and find myself welcomed to China instead.  And I go to English class and realize how amazing my students are for putting up with Shakespearean sonnets.  And then I babysit a friend's baby who enjoys spending time with me.  Or I get a ride from a man from my lab on my way back up the hill in the rain.

When I'm with people and look in their faces and their eyes, I see excitement and hope and optimism for the future.  And I forget about the demons and the dark clouds.

Thank you, people, for making my Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Today, I went to the doctor to see what was wrong with me.  I've had a persistent cough for over a month now.  I kept thinking it would go away but it never did.  One of my friends suggested it might be bronchitis.  I didn't think it was bronchitis but I did think it was something I needed professional help with.

Doctor: You don't have a fever.  You don't have a virus.  There's nothing in your lungs.  And I can't hear anything wrong with your heart.  But you say, you have had this cough for over a month?
Me: Yep.
Doctor: Hold on a minute.  I'm going to go think about this for a while.

As I waited, I stared at the pamphlets they pass out to students.  Then I stared at my book on the chair across the room and wondered if I dared get off the table to go get it.  But mostly, while I waited, I wondered why my body managed to heal from the flu and somehow forgot to heal itself from a cough.  That really happens?

Yesterday, in English class, I had a very interesting conversation with a few of my students.  Not that conversations aren't usually interesting but sometimes it is hard for me to keep the conversation going and this time, it all came very naturally.  Mostly, it was my students who did the talking and I just plied them with question after question.  They started describing some of the terrorist acts around the borders of their countries and explaining a little of the turbulent history to countries that border the Middle East.  I just stared at them in amazement.  There's a whole world out there that I know absolutely nothing about!

I've been in a downright bad mood for a few weeks now.  I've tried really hard to fight it and I spend a lot of my time and energy trying to think happy things and focus on the good.  However, yesterday, one of my students looked at me, "Erin, you looked very down today.  You look like you are very tired."  I looked at her and I realized, she's right.  I'm tired.  Absolutely exhausted.  It's not just physical.  It's also emotional and social and mental and spiritual.

Once I realized I was tired, I realized why I was in a bad mood.  It's like my two year old niece who fights going to sleep and so huffs around the house in a bad mood until we can convince her to sleep.  I laughed at her on Sunday when that anger was directed my way and she refused to let me kiss her goodbye.  The thing is, am I the two-year old who should just give in and let her body rest?  Or do I need to keep fighting?
Usually, when my niece is exhausted, I put a movie in front of her to at least distract her until she acknowledges she's tired

This is the other niece who is not tired (miraculously) but I couldn't resist not putting up a picture - Here, she is smiling at her mother
 Here, she is smiling at me

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Great Beyond

Today, I finally got to see a space shuttle in person.

I was giddy.  We took our little caravan of strollers and children and people and walked into the museum.  As soon as I walked in, I immediately looked over to the shuttle.  I walked right past the SR-71 which normally stops me in my tracks.  I didn't even glance at the Oblique Wing test craft.  I just pushed my niece in her stroller towards the back hangar, whether she really wanted to be separated from her mother or not.

In awe, I crouched down next to her stroller.

Me: Look, Baby.  This is the space shuttle!
Baby: It's a ship!
Me: Yep, it is a ship.  It's a big ship that they take into space.
Baby: What is the space?
Me: You know, at night, when you look up and you can see the stars?  That's space.
Baby: Like the astronauts?
Me: ?!! Um, yes, exactly.  When did you learn about astronauts?

So, then, I'm staring at my niece in shock.  For a two-year old, that is some amazing word connection.  However, that awe directed her way was short-lived.  She next glanced over and saw the stairs and spent the rest of her time in the museum more interested in the stairs and finding an elevator than in anything else.

Typical niece.

However, I wasn't too shocked by it and my sisters let me wander around the shuttle to my heart's content, admiring the TPS and the heat marks on the tiles, the RCS jet system and the sheer magnitude of the vehicle that served as the premier space vehicle for the first 30 years of my life.

As you might be able to guess, it was a red-letter day.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Guessing Games

Watching Baby put on shoes:
Sister: Wrong foot!  You know, you'd think the odds of a kid putting the shoe on the wrong foot would be 50/50.  It's more like 90/10.

Looking at fruit in the grocery store:
Me: <pointing to apples> What are these?
Baby: Apples.
Me: Good job!  <pointing to oranges> What are these?
Baby: Apples
Me: Nope, they're oranges.  <pointing to limes> What are these?
Baby: Carrots!

Playing with her toys:
Me: What is that?
Baby: <hands me a bear that has a green jewel on it>
Me: Hmm...<I turn it over> Oh!  It's your birth month!
Baby: No, it's not.  It's a bear!

Me: Who is that? <pointing to her backpack>
Baby: It's Dora!
Me: Who's her friend?
Baby: Boots.
Me: And who is Erin's favorite character?
Baby: Green!

Baby: I'm bigger than Mommy.
Me: You're bigger than Mommy?
Baby: Yep!  I'm bigger than Erin too.
Me: Oh, really?
Sister: Yesterday, she said she was as big as Mommy.
Me: Ohhhhh.

Me: Wow, Baby you jump as high as Mommy!
Baby: Mommy needs to jump.
Sister: No, I'm cooking.
Baby: Mommy, I really want you to jump please.
Sister: Ok.  Here I go.  <jumps>
Baby: <claps her hands> Yay!

Monday, February 4, 2013


It's that time of year - the time when my boys meet together on their home turf.  It's the time when I zealously keep my eye on the website and when I scan all the soccer-related articles from the Japanese press. 

I've learned through hard experience that if I don't carefully watch the news and the announcements, then I miss big things - like the time Honda-senshu hurt his knee and flew to France, or when Kagawa-senshu broke his foot.  It's not enough to be giddy over the pictures of my favorite soccer players running drills.  I tell myself, you need to be a well-informed fan.  So, I dutifully stick by my loyal companion, Google translate, to help decipher.

This generally works, except when it fails.  When it fails, of course, the results are hilarious.     

Take this article, for instance.  When an enthusiastic fan ran up to Hasebe-senshu in the airport and asked to take a picture with him, the headline reported, "Hasebe reponds to fan enthusiastically, 'Up Yourself!'"(along with this picture - of him looking quite willing to appease his fans)

In the same article, he was reported to talk about his role as captain to help newcomers integrate into the team and admitted that the younger players "have been deprived of (a place) to go to shave." 

Me?  I'm laughing my head off. 

Since (1) I know Hasebe-senshu actually said, "Of course!" to his excited fans and (2) Hasebe-senshu was actually expressing his opinion that ability and being the right person for the job/game/position is what should determine who plays in a game rather than the person who is the most senior/experienced

Then again, maybe I have too high of an opinion of mein lieblingsspieler.  Maybe he really does tell off his fans before obliging them their wishes and maybe he really does enforce bearded newbies. (For the record, I'm all for bearded Samurais) 

I'm not one to judge.  I'm just here to fangirl.

Source: via tumblr
New year, new color. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Baby Doll

"I'll send you a pic," my sister promised me today after telling me that my niece was wearing the outfit I bought for her in Japan.

Buying the clothes had been quite an experience.  While navigating my way to the proper department in the nine-floor store, I ran into a cute couple from church.  Quite oblivious to most things, I naturally assumed they were married.  The elders straightened me out on this a few hours later - turns out they had just started dating.  But of course, not knowing the truth, I asked all sorts of questions, like if they had any kids and if they commuted to work together (since they both worked) etc.  

So, off we went, the non-married couple that I thought were married and I, to go find clothes for babies even though none of us had any.  I looked at the baby clothes and realized that sizes were completely different.  80?  140?  What does this mean?  Oh, but then they also include weights: 11kg, 7 kg.  I could do the conversion in my head to lbs but I felt really dumb - I had absolutely no idea how much babies weigh at certain times.  How heavy was my 2 year old niece?  How tall was she?  I hadn't seen her in a few months and they grow so quickly!  I reached for my phone to call my sister and realized that I couldn't.  Not only would it cost a lot but it was 4 am her time.  Instead, I turned to my new friends and smiled, "Umm... One of my nieces likes purple.  Let's get something purple.  The other niece isn't born yet.  Let's just get her something warm and cute."

We picked out a few outfits that we all loved (including the man) and just went with that.  I crossed my fingers it would all work out.

The result?

She looks just like a doll!  If I didn't trust my sister (and I do) I could just have easily assumed she propped Baby's Christmas present on the couch in the Japanese outfit and taken pictures.

Don't these pictures make you want to love my niece forever?  Yep, she's a keeper.

... Definitely better than anything I envisioned in that department store.