Friday, December 29, 2017

I managed to do a lot.

Iroiro dekimashita.

The New Year Holiday is only six days again this year. Haven't made a Holiday Goals list yet.

The first day was really great, though.

Got up at around seven, ate breakfast. Took the Pumpkin Princess to her test prep course, and then went to the local mall. I browsed around and then got an early lunch. I'd always wanted to try the noodles at Mister Donut, so I got the noodle set with coffee and a chocolate covered donut. The noodles were good. Not great, just good. The coffee was good too, with free refills. I wrote my nengajo (New Year's cards) while having my second cup of coffee.

I went alone and saw the subtitled version (the kids prefer dubbed versions) of the movie I'd wanted to see. It was long but didn't really seem like it. And the geeky Asian girl kissed the cool guy! How often does that happen? (Please don't say Harry Potter because Cho Chang wasn't geeky, she was dating the school rep for the Triwizard Tournament.)

Got home, made chicken stock from the bones left from the Christmas chicken (which probably deserves its own post if only as reflection to review before next Christmas), set some of it aside for my New Year zouni (soup with mochi) and used the rest for tonight's curry. Went grocery shopping and tossed the postcards in the mailbox on the way. Dinner was curry with rice and salad. Cleaned up, and tried to make some clothes for Tiny Vader, but couldn't. Hey, I figured out what wasn't going to work, that's a good thing!

Really, the only thing that would have made this day even better was if I'd woken up to my alarm and gone running. That has seriously lapsed, and I need to change that.

I saw a movie.

Eiga wo mimashita.

The short geeky Asian girl got lots of screen time. She saved the hero, got badly hurt in the process, kissed him, and told him that she loved him before passing out. The hero took her to safety and looked at her with a concerned, pained look as she lay in bed, very still. The prettiest girl, who had feelings for the hero and had kissed them in the previous movie, looked at them a little sadly as he did.

Actually, a lot more happened, but that was the part that made me happiest. That the short geeky Asian girl got to kiss the hero and more or less has his heart at the end of the story (or at the end of that one film, at least). If you can give me the title of one more big budget movie in which that happens, I will go watch it and I will also send you a token of my gratitude.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Made and saved


Super proud of myself today. I woke up and didn't go running, but instead of just fooling around on the internet like I always do, I got up and wrote 16 Christmas cards and addressed them and took them to the post office during break time. I haven't sent paper cards in, well, ages, and I felt really bad about it every year. But this year, I did! I think I missed some people. Let me know if you think you should get a card from me but don't get one.

Today's phrase is about cooking. The basic premise of Japanese cooking is that you have a bowl of unflavored rice, a bowl of soup (usually miso soup), and a couple of additional dishes. Ideally, it's ichi ju san sai (one soup, three sides). You'll have a main side (kind of like an oxymoron, but the rice is supposed to be the main dish, so your meat or fish dish is your main side) and a few additional side dishes (vegetables or tofu or whatever). Back when I'd try to cook after getting home from work, it would be ichi ju ni sai (one soup, two sides) with the main side something like chicken that had been marinating in a ziplock bag since Sunday night, and the additional side being something like a few slices of tomatoes.

So if I'd found this book back then, I would have been all over it. Actually, I found it last month, and I am all over it.
You cook all your side dishes over the weekend and keep them in storage containers. You eat the stuff that don't keep very well like salads and chicken  on Monday and Tuesday. Stuff that keeps longer like stir fried root crops, you save until Friday. You can also use these stored foods as part of your bento lunch. I tried this once last week, and it was no trouble just tossing three or four different items into the box and buying a convenience store musubi.

I think this works because of the way Japanese cooking works. If you have hot rice (compliments of the timer on your rice cooker) and soup, cold dishes in limited amounts can be forgiven, and if that's not the case, there's always the microwave. It probably won't work for American style meals where your main dish is a meat dish or a hearty soup and have bread or a salad as a side.

I don't fix four main sides and ten additional sides like the book suggests. It's more like one main and four or five additional. This week, I made a simplified version of Indian butter chicken, a salad, and a couple stir fries. I also boiled some broccoli. I know already that this is just not going to happen on busy weekends. And that's all right. You do what you can, when you can, to eat as healthily and cheaply as possible.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

There is only one truth

Shinjitsu ha hitotsu

(Scene: workplace party)

Distinguished-Looking older man highly respected in our field: So, do you have any hobbies?

Me in my head: I like to fool around on the internet checking Wikipedia pages about Hollywood Golden Age films. I have Star Wars dolls that I use to recreate Instagram accounts I hate follow. Oh, I also write really bad Mary Sue (fan) fiction that should never see the light of day. Really bad. I'm talking brain melting stuff here.

Me out loud: I like cooking and sewing, but I don't have very much time to sew these days...

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Hiding place


Seen at Starbucks:

A woman slightly younger than me wearing the exact same coat I was wearing (last year's version of this coat) studying for some kind of certification exam

A woman much younger than me studying for the same certification exam I took over two decades ago (good luck! You have so much more to remember than I do, but that's progress, I guess...)

Slightly older man poring over a book about kaiseki (traditional formal Japanese cuisine) while nursing a hot beverage of some kind in this year's holiday cup and also checking his phone for...something

I love hiding from work and family, if only for a short time.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Unrequited love


The man I consider my work mentor passed away after a long illness. The disease was generous at first, letting him work full time with reasonable interruptions for therapy. Then the disease decided it was done being the nice guy.

I went to Yoda's memorial service.

(I've decided to call him Yoda for purposes of this entry. I should clarify that this is a Star Wars reference, not his real name, even though"Yoda" is an actual family name in this country.)

I thought about what I'd learned from him, and how much I loved and respected him, and how I'd thought I wanted to have a family with someone like him someday (I didn't) and how I'd wanted to have something like a family with him someday (I didn't).

My co-worker showed up later than I did. She was guided to one of the seats in the front of the room, where the important people got to sit. I turned green with envy. Surely I'd loved him more than she had? Was I not important to him?

Then I looked around the room and it was full of people who loved and respected him, and the room was so full it overflowed into another room set up with a big monitor that showed the ceremony going on in the room I was in.

My love for him was greater than his love for me. A selfish thought, but still genuine. A very common tale, really. It was probably that way for pretty much everyone in the room, save his wife and children and grandchild.

He was one of those people who was everyone's favorite teacher. I guess that's his legacy. Us. His intellectual descendants who will do the work that he still wanted to do but can't anymore.

Yoda, I love you and miss you. You are in every work task I undertake. I will try to live up to the honor of being one of yours.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Recent News

Saikin no nyuusu

This is another kind of funny, kind of sad story about my dad.

If you've ever been to see a neurologist (or taken someone there), you know there are a couple standard questions. The most common are "what is your name?" "what is today's date?" and "do you know where you are? Where?"  These are to assess the patient's orientation for person, place, and time.

There are other questions, like "subtract 7 from 100, then again, and again, and again." 7 is a good number because it is a large prime number and there will be no pattern to the first digit of each answer until 30, and no neurologist goes that far.

Another common question is "anything in the news catch your attention recently?" This assess the patient's ability to acquire and retain new information. Most people can recall something they saw on TV or read on Yahoo! or someplace (like a recent natural disaster or an arrest of a terrorist or a serial killer), but others haven't been able to remember anything new for a while.

When my dad was first asked this question in February of this year, his answer was "President Trump. He makes me angry." The neurologist nodded and wrote it in the chart.

When my dad was asked this question at his last appointment the other day, his answer was "President Trump. He makes me angry." The neurologist nodded and wrote it in the chart.

No matter your political views, I am sure you will agree that since his election, Donald Trump has consistently been in the news. I can see how some of it might be misunderstanding, but no other president in recent memory has been able to produce negative press so effectively and so constantly. Based on the premise of the recent news question and how it is assessed, my dad's memory issues are not too bad. But in reality, he can't remember what month it is. Donald Trump is inhibiting adequate neurological assessment by being in the news so heavily as he is.

So Donald Trump needs to avoid negative press for a while, so my dad can get an accurate assessment of his neurological status. Oh, and to form a more perfect union. Or something.

(Disclaimer: I did not vote for Donald Trump. I did not vote for Hilary Clinton, either. Something about residency and citizenship :P)

Monday, October 30, 2017

Class differences


The Pumpkin Princess wants to go to a very selective school. Even though it's a public school, the acceptance (based on transcripts and an exam and an interview and an essay) rate is something like 20% for girls. We can afford to send her to the test prep courses she needs to have a remote chance at getting in, plus, the courses are fun and interesting, so, why not, right? And if she doesn't get in, the local JHS isn't exactly a dump. (O.K., it was where I went during my Year of Requirement so maybe it is a dump...) She can work on getting into a high school that she likes. It'll work out either way.

But when you go to the school's Open House, you can tell that the kids and their parents are a lot better off than average. And then it hits you that rich kids are getting an education funded by taxes paid by, well, people who are less rich.

And then you feel kind of dirty for sending your kid to the test prep classes, which you can afford, but only because you're a little better off than most to the parents of the kids in your daughter's class. But on the other hand, am I allowed to tell my daughter she's not allowed to go to these test prep courses and study hard and try to get into a school she wants to get into because it goes against my left-of-center worldview?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017



I'm at a McDonald's typing this (and setting this to post at a later date to camouflage it). Shhhh, don't tell anyone. No, I'm allowed to stop at places for lunch on my way to consultant gigs. I just don't want the Pumpkin Daddy to know, because he's placed a household ban on McDonald's. A couple years ago, McDs Japan used expired Thai chicken in their nuggets (instead of fresh domestic chicken) and lied about it and didn't really explain what they were going to do about it. So the Pumpkin Daddy decided the Pumpkin Prince and Princess weren't going to get Happy Meals any more.

I don't particularly like McDs, but...they have free WiFi. And I can feed my internet addiction while eating French Fries. Which is really bad table manners that I wouldn't want my kids to see me do, so I hide. At McDs. On my way to a gig as a consultant. The fries were fresh and salty. I got full sugar Coke and a Double Cheeseburger too. There's some guy my dad's age singing out loud with his headphones on. Fortunately, he's singing in tune and has a pretty ok voice.

Wait, did that blogger post another picture with her new boyfriend cropped out? Sheesh, she needs to get over herself, or maybe it's her old boyfriend she needs to get over, or maybe she needs therapy for her anxiety.

Or maybe I just need to get a life.

(Disclaimer: I had beef stir fry with rice and vegetables and miso soup the night before, and grilled fish with rice and vegetables and miso soup the night before that, so no jabs at my eating habits, please! Feel free to jab at my internet addiction, though!)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Today is Sunday

Kyou ha nichiyoubi

My dad has Alzheimer’s.

We got his official, board certified neurologist’s diagnosis earlier this year, but we’d suspected it for a while. It was not a pleasant process, but we (meaning my mom and I) wrangled him into the university hospital’s neurology clinic and got the official verdict. We (also my mom and I) made him return his driver’s license.

All this is stressful. I will rant about it later. But today was funny, and when something funny happens in a situation like this, you enjoy it because you have to take what you can get.

My mom planned a day out with her friends. She’d go to lunch and then do stuff and come back at around five. She’d been looking forward to it for weeks. The Pumpkin Daddy and Prince and Princess and I also had stuff planned for today, but I worked it around my mom’s request to go check on my dad a little after lunch to make sure he’d eaten the lunch she’d prepared for him and taken his meds.

My mom called me at around ten in the morning to say that there was something wrong with my dad, that he kept coming downstairs from his room asking if it was time to go to the hospital. My mom would point at the calendar and remind him that his appointment was on Wednesday, today was Sunday, and that she had told him about her plans to go out with her friends and that the Pumpkin Prince would come over after lunch. Dad would go upstairs, and then, after a few minutes, return downstairs and ask if it was time to go to the hospital, and my mom would say exactly what she’d said five minutes ago, and he would go back upstairs. Lather, rinse, repeat. I could tell Mom wanted me to stay with Dad the entire time she was gone, because he was acting strange (well, more so than usual) but I couldn’t reschedule the stuff we’d planned, so I told her so and felt super guilty about it. Mom was really disappointed, but she said she understood.

A few minutes later, Mom called again, She sounded really happy. “I’ve figured it out! Everything is fine!”

Apparently, Dad had torn off September from his calendar, forgotten that he had, and peeled off October as well. So, he thought today was November 1st (a Wednesday) as opposed to October 1st (today, a Sunday). He would come downstairs thinking that it was Wednesday, the day of his hospital clinic visit (which would be correct if it actually were Wednesday, but it wasn’t), have Mom correct him, look at the calendar in the living room, see that it was Sunday, go back upstairs, do whatever (watch cat videos on his computer, I guess), forget about the interaction he had with my Mom just 10 minutes ago, look at the November page of his calendar, think it was November 1st, and go back downstairs to ask Mom when she was going to drive him to the hospital, be shown by Mom that it was October 1st, repeat. “So I found the calendar page for October in the trash can in his room and taped it back on the calendar, and now everything is fine!”

“Oh, I’m so glad. Have a good time with your friends!”

And so she did. I’m glad, because she deserves it. When I went to check on Dad, he’d eaten his lunch and had even done the dishes. He tries. When he remembers. And when he can control his emotions. It must be hard when your intelligence is your only asset, and you are losing that, and you know you are losing that. But it’s also hard for your caregivers to get yelled at when they are only trying to keep you from harming yourself.

But today was funny. My mom figured out and solved the problem. And we know that he still knows how to use a calendar. We have to take what we can get.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Remember me sometimes

Tokidoki omoidashite

I didn’t want to post this on 9-11, because even though it’s kind of a 9-11 story, it’s petty and mean spirited and probably not the kind of thing that most people want to read that day. So, I’ve set this to go online later when it’s all less raw for everyone.

Back in the day, there was a boy. Of all the boyfriends I’ve had, he was the most beautiful, outwardly anyway. He had light brown hair and green eyes and boyband good looks. We both liked coffee and Thai food and big hamburgers and chocolate and reading and art museums. He told me I was pretty and I told him he was smart and we laughed at each other’s jokes. It was meant to be, right?

Except it wasn’t. He started ghosting me after a while. I called him on it, and sent him strongly worded emails when he didn’t change the way he did things, and dumped him in June when he still wouldn’t stop. (Except, is it really dumping if he was the one ghosting you?)

We called and texted every so often even after that. Or, rather, I called and texted every so often, and he replied when it suited him. Because I was stupid.

I must have gotten home early that night, because I was sitting at home watching TV when the newsflash about the Twin Towers came on. I picked up my phone and called him.

“Turn on the television.”


“Turn on the television.”

He turned on the television.

Then he hung up on me.

We met once in person after that, on friendly terms. We drunk dialed each other a few times. I think the last drunk dial was his, but I’m not sure. I think it was in March of 2002.

I haven’t heard from him since.

I still think of him sometimes. When I do, most of the time I end up feeling angry. It isn’t so much what happened, but that I still think him worth getting angry over. He shouldn’t matter that much. But he does. Because I am stupid.

But I’ve got my revenge. I am living well. And he is forced to remember me at least once a year for the rest of his life.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

It's called summer vacation because it's a vacation

Yasumi dakara natsuyasumi to iimasu

Haven’t posted in a while. Nothing really bad has happened, except for my dad’s Alzheimer’s progressing just like everyone knew it would. That warrants a whole post (or a series of posts) on another day.

Today I’m here to post that it’s the last day of summer vacation for my two offspring. I remember that summer vacation when I went to school was depicted as idyllic. Those 2 1/2 months began at the end of the school year, so you didn’t get any homework, so you ran around with your friends/ went to day camp/ went to summer camp/ had some intense clinics at the YMCA, that kind of thing. Of course, my parents were always anticipating Armageddon for me, so I went to Japanese Saturday School, which meant that I got homework during the six or so weeks of free Saturdays I got out of summer vacation of that. You got to do a whole bunch of math and language arts (Japanese) worksheets and you were also assigned either an essay or a book report or both (depending on masochistic overly optimistic enthusiastic your teacher was) and you also had the option of handing in some kind of craft or construction project. Of course, quite a few of us ended up doing things on the last Friday before the first Saturday of September, sometimes having to stay up past midnight to finish those darned worksheets, and lamented that Japanese Saturday School should be like American schools and not have homework. Then, our moms would reply that schools in Japan have summer vacation homework, and that was why Japanese Saturday School has homework.

My kids were pretty good about getting their summer vacation homework done. They had their workbooks done by the second week of August. Still, the journey was not without trials and tribulations. It would have been more vacation-y without homework.

Another thing about summer vacation for kids in this country is that there are required activities, especially in the final year. The Pumpkin Princess had marching band practice the first and last weeks of summer vacation. (Marching band is a required activity for sixth year kids in her school.) She also had juku (the standard translation is “cram school” but they aren’t cramming. They try to teach the kids how to analyze information and write out their findings in a coherent, logical manner) summer courses, and between those things, it worked out so we couldn’t go on any overnight trips during summer vacation. We managed to squeeze in a day trip to the theme park, but that was about as good as it got.

As of 8 pm on Sunday evening, everything is already packed up and ready to go, including the restocked glue and watercolor paints and colored pencils. But I still think that summer vacation should be homework and required activity free (well, maybe a small maintenance dose of workbooks..)