Thursday, March 28, 2013

It's True

Ernest Hemingway, when he would struggle with his writing, was determined not to stop a writing session until he had written the truest sentence he could muster.

I love that idea.  When life is hard and somehow seems impossible to face, I like to sit down and write the truest sentence I know.

Last Sunday, my sentence was, "God will help me get through tomorrow."

Today?

"After all is said and done, my family still shows me best the meaning of true and unconditional love."

I don't ever say this enough:  To my blood-related, married-into and self-adopted family, I love you.

Thank you for being in my life.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Baby's Perspective

Missing my niece today.

Here was one of our latest conversations:
Me: Do you want to come to church with me today?
Baby: <very quickly> I already went to church today; that's why I'm wearing this purple dress.
Me: Wow, ok then.
Sister: You didn't go to church today.
Baby: <shrugs> Oh.
(As though the fact that her making up this elaborate explanation and it turning out to be false was no big deal)

My sister also told me about Baby's opinion about Stake Conference:
I don't like this church.  They don't have nursery and we don't get bread and water.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

Today, in Japanese class, my teacher told me that her niece had a mutual friend with Shinji Kagawa.

I stared at her in shock.  "You're telling me that your niece is friends with someone who is friends with Shinji Kagawa?"

She nodded.

"So, that means I'm friends with someone who is related to someone who is friends with someone who is friends with Shinji Kagawa."

She nodded again.

I couldn't stop smiling as I did the math.  "I'm four degrees away from the famous soccer player, Shinji Kagawa."

She smiled.

"That means I'm five degrees away from Makoto Hasebe."

She nodded.

"This is the best news I've heard all day," I declared, not quite believing my good luck.  It almost made up for our disappointing loss to Jordan earlier.  My friend's niece is a model and I've seen her picture in magazines so I kind of already felt special.  But this was better than I could have hoped for.
(Man hair is hard to stick figure draw.  My apologies to Messieurs Kagawa and Hasebe) 

I went back to work and declared my wonderful news to my colleague.  He smiled at me.  "You know, I bet from any Wikipedia article, I can get to Adolph Hitler in as many degrees."  H-labs to film to indoctrination to Adolph Hitler.  He smiled at me, "Everything is interconnected."

Spoil sport.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Change in Perspective

There are men in my lab this week de-lead-ing our windows.  They haven't interfered with any place I spend my time so it's always still a surprise to walk down the hall and spot a man completely covered in a white protection suit.

This morning, in anticipation of the de-lead-ers hitting our office, my officemate and I wondered if they could bother to take off the bars on our windows in the process since it's not really safe to be situated between compressed air tanks and a combustion wind tunnel.

Then my office mate turned to me, "Why don't we take them off ourselves?"

I looked at him.  "I wanted to do this a long time ago.  But I wasn't strong enough."

He sent me downstairs with orders to find the largest screwdriver I could.  I returned with one that was two feet long and although a smile played on my lips at the ridiculousness of the question, "Is this one big enough?" I knew that it was possible he would send me back downstairs for a larger one.

After all the screws and bolt were out, it just took me jumping onto my desk and tugging on the bars a little before the entire thing came free.  My labmate picked it up and laughed.  "Do you want to mount this somewhere as a prize?"

I laughed at him, "Oh, you mean, like it was mounted on our windows for the past 30 years?"

He shrugged.  "Well, what else can we do with such a bulky piece?  I don't want it just lying around our lab."

I nodded, "Yep, it's called 'put it in the trash.'"

He seemed uncertain about my response.  "Won't they get mad at us for throwing it away without asking first?"

"What?!  No."

"Plus," my labmate reasoned.  "If they ask us to put them back, we can just tell them it's too late because we already threw it all away."

"Exactly!"

So my labmate carried the thing down our spiral staircase and we dumped it in our dumpster.

Suddenly, the fact that I stayed up all night to run an unsuccessful experiment doesn't seem like such a bad thing.  I'm pretty sure that taking away those bars just changed my life.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Someone's Gotta Do It

A few years ago, my friend and I were jaunting around Taipei.  We had just gotten on the subway and tried to find a seat and found a few empty ones.  Excitedly we went to sit down only to realize that a man very near those seats was throwing up right next to us so my friend veered us away and we went somewhere else to stand.

Once safely away from the "splash zone" I paused to watch everyone around me on the train.  Everyone was horrified by this man who was sick - many moved on to a different car.  I wasn't sure what to do.  Part of me really wanted to help this man out.  But I worried about a number of things: not being able to understand his response if it was a specific sickness other than the flu or a cold, not knowing who to contact for help, not having a cell phone to be able to even call someone for help.  I  felt ashamed of my inability to act but I couldn't muster up the courage to do something.   I looked around; everyone wanted someone to do something but none of us did anything.  So, I sat and watched this man who sat doubled over, saliva and throw up dripping from his face, and prayed that someone would step up.

Someone did.  It was a high school student, still in his school uniform, armed with a pack of tissues and a few friends he had convinced to go with him to help out.  The friends hovered while he kindly went up to the man and, kneeling to be eye level, he asked in the gentlest voice if the man was feeling ok and if he could be of any help.  He offered the man some tissues to let the man wipe his face and clean up a little bit.  The man was emotional as he expressed to his gratitude for helping him but told them he was getting off soon.  The boy turned to his friends and together they helped the man stand and get off the subway.

What did I think of that boy?  If that boy had happened to notice me and proposed marriage, I would have said yes.  How had this kid been able to see past the grossness of the situation to see a man, one who needed help and mostly, to be treated with respect?


Last summer, I was on the train, returning to Sendai after a trip to Tokyo.  It was the slow train and the entire trip took seven hours.  At some point, a high schooler got on the train, sat down about 10 feet away from me and promptly fell asleep.  I didn't think much about it until the announcement overhead came that our next stop was Sendai and that everyone should disembark because it was the last stop.  As everyone started gathering their things, I looked over at that boy and found him still fast asleep.  He hadn't heard the announcement.

I watched the boy anxiously as the views outside the window became more and more familiar.  I started praying that he would just wake up on his own or that someone would wake him up.  I looked around at the other people with me in the car.  We all just stared at each other, having these silent conversations that you have with people you don't know.  "Why don't you go and wake him up?"  "Me?  Why me?  Why don't you go?"  It seemed we were all frozen.

We neared the station and everyone stood up, all eyes still focusing on that slumbering figure but no one moved towards him.  Trembling, I walked over and touched him on the shoulder and tried to put just enough pressure to wake him up.  The boy's head was nodding on his chest and he was drooling slightly.  I opened my mouth and out tumbled some words, "Sumimasen.  Sendai desu."  "Excuse me.  It's Sendai."  I might have said something like, "Sendai ni imasu"  which means "We're in Sendai."  It wasn't brilliant - in fact, I'm sure anyone listening to me laughed at my horrible Japanese.  However, this boy needed to wake up and the crowds of people waiting to get on the train for its return trip away from Sendai stood just outside the door.  I said it quickly and then panicked and backed away and towards the door.  It was enough.  The boy was roused and groggily lifted his head and looked up to see the station of Sendai.  I disappeared into the crowd.

However, the experience left me slightly frustrated.  My experience in Japan had taught me that Japanese people look out for each other and yet, they had all left me to help.  Me - the girl who didn't speak the language, the one who had wracked her brain to stumble through a short, vague phrase.  Why?

Last night, I thought about that experience again.  Why was I frustrated?  I think it was because of my previous experience in Taiwan.  I expected a young, fresh-faced boy to kindly emerge from the crowds and do something.  However, sometimes, life doesn't always work like that.

Sometimes, it requires us to be the one who steps up.  Whether it's a small pack of tissues that can't possibly clean up a huge mess or three words in Japanese that can't possibly explain the situation, it turns out the most important thing is to offer what you can and somehow, that will be enough.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Reverse Press Conference

If I am to understand this article correctly, Atsuto Uchida approached sports reporters and asked them what exactly happened that caused Japan to lose a game in the World Baseball Classic.  As the headline reports, he frankly and openly admitted, "I do not understand baseball."

I had to laugh at the situation as I imagined it in my head:  Half a dozen reporters stand around the sidelines of the soccer field in Doha, chatting casually while waiting for the appearance of the national soccer team for their daily practice.  The cameramen stand around with their cameras ready but no one is actively working for an interview with any of the players.  Uchida-san emerges from the locker room and sees them.  He unabashedly approaches them and they all jump to attention.  "I have a few questions for you."  That gets all of their attention - what does a soccer player want to ask of them?  And then he asks about the baseball game.  "Why did the runner try to steal a base?  Why didn't that one guy run?  Why did the other guy go back?  What happened?"  They all look at him with a certain amount of surprise, without a word between them and he just looks back at them, waiting for their response.  Then someone jumps forward and offers an explanation and gets the reward of writing an article about it.

This isn't the first time Uchida has done something like this.  One of my favorite quotes of his was when people were making a big deal about playing a team from the Premier League during a Champions League series and he shrugged and said, "It's not like they have Pikachu on their team."  (Never fails to elicit a laugh from me.)  Plus, there are gifs online of him at a fan event for his team and him leaning over to their dressed up mascot and stroked its fake probably never been washed ratty hair.  You could just see him thinking, "What is this thing?"  (Which is exactly my thinking too)

On one hand, all of this just makes me laugh.  Who does this?

However, on the other hand, I'm genuinely impressed.

If I were famous - which I'm definitely not - but if I were, I think I would be acutely aware of how often I was being watched and I most definitely think it would affect my actions.  I would either act crazier than I usually do or act more conservatively than I usually do.  In either case, though, it's acting.  Of course, this is all conjecture, since I'm not famous and I don't think I ever will be to test out my theory.  However, I do know that I care a lot about the opinion of others and I also have past experiences to go by.  Such as the time someone randomly stopped me in my college's cafeteria and asked me if I liked Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip.  I looked at this table of strangers that I had never met and said what I thought they wanted me to say: Mayonnaise.  Before then, I had never had an opinion either way.  I only remember this experience because I was in the middle of a class project to be completely honest for a week.  There I was, giving in to what I thought my peers who I would never see again wanted me to say and now I needed to go to my teacher and report that I had done the project.  I wasn't sure if Mayo was my favorite but I resolved then and there that it was so I could be sure to be honest.  In fact, to this day, if I have to choose between the two, I still choose Mayo as though still trying, 13 years after the fact, not to disappoint.

Yep, I'm a weird duck.  I'm a weird, I want people to like me, duck.

Sometimes, I really wish I was more like Uchida.  No acting, no pretense.  Just Erin Reed as Herself.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The End of The Winter of Our Discontent

Yesterday, I walked to work and was stunned by the return of winter.  However, it was stunning.  A thin layer of white on new growth and color.  


How can I describe my walk into work today?  When I left my house, I walked through the fog and the mist, rejoicing in the faint smell of wet soil in the air.  It still felt like winter but it also had the distinct feeling that it was coming to an end.

As I made my steady trek up to higher altitudes, I rejoiced to watch the sunlight mix in with the clouds, filling the entire world with a hazy brightness.

Then I got up to the trees on O-Hill and realized I needed to put on my hood because I was getting rained on.  In wonder, I looked around me and saw clouds all about me.  When I looked up, I saw only clear blue sky above the clouds.  It wasn't rain after all.  It was the trees, quietly shedding shiny, heavy, ice drops onto my head.  The snow from yesterday was melting from the sun shining brightly above.

It felt so symbolic of a world that was shedding its winter burdens, reaching for the light and the warmth of a new day and desiring to assert it's desire to live.

I walked in wonder, and thought about the winter burdens I needed to let go and how, like the trees, I could let them go little by little.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Asleep on the Job

Dear Youtube,

At first I was confused when my watching a Makoto Hasebe commercial for en-japan prompted you to recommend a Taylor Swift music video.  Was there a connection between Taylor and Hasebe that I was missing?  Did Makoto Hasebe secretly listen to Taylor Swift?  Did Taylor Swift like Japan?  But then I noticed the rest of the page was recommendations of Taylor Swift from videos that had no connection to each other or to Taylor Swift.  

Also, why do you feel the need to recommend videos that I've already watched? 

It makes me feel like you don't pay attention to my watch history at all.  (Frankly, I'm ok with that.)     

Love,
Me


Dear Bayern,

The only time I cheer for you is when you play Europe.  During, yesterday's game, I was on pins and needles hoping for great plays from Mandzukic and great saves from Neuer.  Then, sometime, much later, I remembered I never watched the matchcast to the end of the game.  I had jumped up to check on my laser sheet and then on the laser chiller and the nitrogen outside and my iodine levels.  I completely forgot about you.  

Sorry about that - it seems my priorities are exactly where they should be.  Welcome to the Elite Eight in the ECL.  

Love,
Me


Dear Mr. Bear's owner,

You are amazing.  Thank you for teaching me about what it means to be friendly and kind.  Good luck on your PhD.  And good luck to your Indiana Jones husband.  

Love,
Me


Dear Charlottesville,

You may send snow my way next week.  But I'm not convinced it's still winter.  Everything is on the verge of bursting into life.  I am so excited.

Love,
Me


Monday, March 11, 2013

Two Years

This song.
 Is wonderful.  It's a song in English but they include English subtitles just in case you don't understand it.  Isn't that thoughtful of them?

I think during hard times in our life, we all doubt and question.  In fact, that was me last night as I bawled on my friend's couch.  However, there is a beautiful promise in the words of this song: yesterday's night will turn to light and our dark tomorrows will also turn to light.  Also, we can't really choose what will happen to us but we can choose what we will do in response.  We can live with hope and determination to make the world better and more beautiful.

Here's to the future.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

誤會

Tuesday:  

 Today: 




The world can change overnight.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

Patience

The Chinese word for 'patience' is 耐心 (naixin).  I looked this up yesterday while sitting next to my friend who is named Patience.  Unsure what the 'nai' meant, I looked that up too.  It means 'to endure'.

I looked at my friend, "Your name means to have an enduring heart."  She smiled.

But that only got me wondering about the parts of 'nai'.  So I looked up each individual part.
'Nai' is composed of two smaller characters, side by side.  One of them is 而 (er) which is a conjunction like 'and' or 'additionally'.  The other is 寸 (cun) which means 'inch' or a small unit of length.

To endure then literally means 'another inch'.  I like that.  I not only like that idea - I love it.  To endure doesn't mean that you are always strong or always perfect.  It means that you keep taking another step, you inch forward just one more inch.  You keep trying, even if your effort seems miniscule.  Somehow, inch by inch, you make it to the end.

It's a beautiful sentiment.


On an unrelated note, yesterday, at the fireside broadcast, the sound didn't come in for a few minutes.  Nonplussed, we sang the opening song anyway since the words were on the screen.  I pulled out my Japanese hymn book and sang along in Japanese.  Then, somewhere in the third or fourth verse, the picture went out as well and everyone muddled along without the words, relying on their memory.  My friend turned to me, laughing.  "Erin, you're the only one left singing right now...in Japanese."  I stopped and stared at her when my friend on the other side spoke up, "Nice and loud.  At least you have a good voice."  Oops!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

When I Die

I hope that my gravestone says, "She loved much"

I hope, by the end of my life, that is true.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Furlough

It's apparently a holiday in my lab but I'm not sure which one.

Only half of the usual people showed up today and everyone else left before 3 pm.

Which meant that I was left alone.

So, what did I do?

I cranked up the music and rocked out to my heart's content.

Here's what I listened to today:

Clock Strikes by One Ok Rock.

Their latest single in anticipation of an album release next week.  I love the rock and the seemingly angry chords and energy.  However, when you read the lyrics, you realize that One Ok Rock is not just mad at the world but probing into the meaning of it.  This one touches on the idea of hating eternity but how the idea eternity is necessary for our dreams and hopes to be fulfilled.  This is an interesting twist since I am a person terrified of the idea of eternity.

Answer is Near by One Ok Rock.

An older song by this group, for some reason it seemed a fitting follow-up to Clock Strikes.  I listened to this song almost non-stop a few weeks ago when I was frustrated with my research and it was an awesome screaming song.  Then I went and looked up the lyrics and realized it was a song about how we have all these questions and not a lot of satisfying answers but that deep down, we know what is right and what is wrong and the answer has been within us all along.  I took the words to heart and decided to start figuring out for myself what was best for me.

Go by Super Junior M

I saw this trending in the Kpop world and thought I'd take a listen and then I couldn't stop.  The song is fun and bouncy and the dance is a ton of fun too.  Siwon looks thrilled to be dancing a song that he can manage. Kyu's English is enough to turn my head.  The fact that he looks like Ashin right before the English part helps his cause. Henry rocks the song and Zhou Mi's perfect Chinese is music to my ears.  :)

OAOA by flumpool
Mayday's OAOA is now in Japanese and sung by my dear band flumpool.  It's not as hilarious as the Chinese verision (although the random "telescope" is confusing) but I still have no idea what OAOA means.  In any case, I adore flumpool and love supporting all of their efforts to connect with their Chinese speaking fans.