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Dad didn’t have swine flu.

Dad didn’t have swine flu. published on

Shortly after I made this post theorizing that Dad might have caught swine flu at a legal conference, Papaw got a call from Uncle Tall. Uncle Tall told him that two people had died of swine flu in the town where the legal conference had been.

Languishing pathetically in bed, Dad told me, “Now, when I die of swine flu, you’re going to have to go to law school and take over my firm, so there’ll still be a Pin in “Pin, Fork and Spoon Law Offices.””

Me: “You’re not going to die, you’re not even in a high-risk group. And I’m not going to law school. And it would be “Fork, Spoon and Pin,” because I wouldn’t be the senior partner.”

Dad frowned.

Some time later, he called me back into the sickroom. “Sarah! When I die, they don’t have to change the name. A lot of firms leave the name of a dead attorney in there. I can still be in there even when I die.”

“You’re not going to die, Dad -”

“So it’ll be Pin, Fork, Spoon, and Pin. Except you need to fire Fork, because he’s pissing me off, so it’ll just be Pin, Spoon and Pin.”

“I’m not going to law school, and I can’t fire Fork. He’d have seniority over me. And that’s not how law firms work anyway.”

Dad frowned again. But he could not come up with any way out of this quandary. He had the same conversation again later when thegeekgene called.

But he got better within two days, so, probably not swine flu.

Flu-like symptoms.

Flu-like symptoms. published on

Dad just got back from a legal conference, and he’s really sick. I wonder what the odds are that, if it doesn’t clear up, he can be convinced to either 1) stay home, or 2) go to the doctor.

(I’m also sick, but it started while he was gone, so I cannot blame the lawyers for my problems. I have no idea where I caught whatever it is – I barely went out the past couple of days, and I had the house to myself. Perhaps I have evolved to the point that I am capable of contracting disease via the internet.)


Kentucky! published on

We got new carpet today, which was very tiring and confusing for everyone involved (me, Mom, the guys installing it, various other animals on the premises (the cats hid and a dog threw up)). So I was pretty distracted when the news came on. There was a story that involved the word “Columbine” and ended with the guy saying that the kids at the middle school all had to sign their names to “Rachel’s Challenge” posted on the wall.

I was staring at my blank computer screen very hard, so it took me a minute to misinterpret this in my usual manner. I misinterpreted it like this: Are they challenging the kids not to murder anybody?

So me and Mom had this conversation:

Me: What was that Columbine challenge thing about?

Mom: Oh. It’s that thing where that girl got shot at Columbine, and they asked her if she was a Christian, and she said –

Me: Oh.

Mom: – but it all turned out to be made up. So it’s a Christian thing they make the kids do.

Me: At the middle school.

Mom: Yeah.

Me: The public middle school with separation of church and state and things going on!

Mom, Exasperated This-Is-Kentucky Voice: Yes, dear.

There was a mandatory Listening To Bible Stories Hour at my public grade school, taught by the same woman who had enforced Listening To Bible Stories Hour for Mom twenty-five years previously. So she has a certain right to roll her eyes at any attempt on my part to act shocked about this.

Back in the US.

Back in the US. published on

My plane landed a little before midnight Tuesday, and Dad and I got to the house at about four AM. We were both very tired, so it was a somewhat alarming drive. Mom and thegeekgene waited up for us, and thegeekgene and I exchanged sugar-intensive gifts, as you do at four AM.

I have no idea whether I am jet-lagged. I keep waking up at eight AM and getting sleepy at midnight. This is an unnatural condition, and it cannot last. Yesterday evening, discovering myself to be intensely angry with kanji for no good reason, I decided that today I would hone my mad coding skillz instead. But today, instead, I found myself angry with, first, Game Maker’s scripting language (casting is not robust); second, Disgaea (-ed up in the Item World, wasted forty-five minutes); a Nero Wolfe book (kind of heavy); and my desk (blue). So maybe I am jet-lagged, and it is expressing itself as a sort of broad irritation with all things.

Because I think it is sort of inhumane to talk about airplanes in public, I’m going to cut this. Continue reading Back in the US.

I’m smart.

I’m smart. published on

Just realized I have nothing to read on the plane. I packed all my books at the bottom of the hard-side suitcase with my socks and underwear as-is-optimally-volumetrically-efficient. It took me forty minutes to pack, and the takkyubin people are going to be here any minute. They came. My bag is gone. I hope I didn’t accidentally pack the bejeweled casket containing my black heart, from which I cannot be separated for more than one turn of the sun without risking a certain… unpleasant transformation.*

I’ve got ebooks on the DS, but its battery doesn’t last long. I guess I could… buy Twilight at the Narita Airport bookstore? They’ll probably have Twilight. I can’t buy more manga because any manga long enough to last me a whole flight will also require the use of the DS, in its capacity as a dictionary.

* This sentence is, obviously, about menstruation. I packed my thing of pads.


Argh. published on

I was half-asleep and I heard Mr. I Don’t Wash My Damn Dishes say out there, “Oh my god – the dictator of North Korea is dead!” And Mr. Probably Stoned said, “Who?” and they had a short conversation about Kim Jong Il’s history and character traits, which I think was drawn heavily from Team America: World Police.

And I woke up completely and was going, Oh, my god, what happens when that happens? Is that good? Or is there rioting and stuff involved, making it not good? (I don’t have a lot of depth to spare for sociopolitical analysis this time of night, I’m sorry.)

I tried to go back to sleep, because I need to get up early and I clearly can do little about Kim Jong Il’s alleged mortality. But obviously I eventually had to get up and make sure North Korea hadn’t imploded. And obviously I should never trust anything Mr. I Don’t Wash My Damn Dishes says.

There are kids on my LAWN.

There are kids on my LAWN. published on

So there’s anime and video game merchandise and advertising all over Japan, like you’d expect, and a lot of it I recognize. There’s Pokemon, Fullmetal Alchemist, D. Grey Man, Dragon Ball, Dragon Quest, Gundam 00, Evangelion, Naruto, and Final Fantasy stuff all over the place. There’s a fair amount of Moyashimon, Phoenix Wright, and Naoki Urasawa stuff, which surprised me for some reason – I’d somehow thought those would be more niche concerns. Apparently Beyblade still exists in the public consciousness here. I haven’t seen many Vampire Knight keychains and stuff, but the new volumes and issues of its magazine are always prominently displayed.

Still, most of the stuff I’m really majorly obsessed with – say, Claymore and Kaoru Mori and Moyoco Anno – does not get out much. Today I saw a girl on the train reading Otomen, and was startled because I actually knew what that was.

Continue reading There are kids on my LAWN.

Today was Eccentric Old People Day in Tokyo, I guess.

Today was Eccentric Old People Day in Tokyo, I guess. published on

This afternoon I tried to go to the Fukugawa Edo Museum, but when I got there, it was closed for renovation. This is about the third time this has happened to me – apparently Japan’s economy really is based on construction work. Since I’d gone all the way out there, I looked at some maps nearby, saw that the Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Garden was just down the street, and went there instead.

I’d just taken a bunch of pictures of koi (in accordance with Japan’s Park Visitation Act, which requires that all park-goers take a minimum of 4 pictures of pine trees sculpted to trail their branches artistically over the surface of the pond, 7 pictures of moss-covered man-made structures representing the impermanance of human artifice in the face of the persistence of nature, 3 pictures of stones softly rounded by wind and water throughout the ages, and a bunch of pictures of koi), and was sitting down at a table resting, when someone behind me said loudly in English, “Living in Tokyo?”

It was an old woman in a really big hat, long sleeves, a scarf, and a poncho. It was eighty and clear today – this is the official uniform of tan-phobic old Japanese ladies. (She was also carrying an umbrella.) She said the phrase in a way that I associate with rote learning, so I answered “Yes” in Japanese.

She said excitedly in Japanese, “We should get together and talk sometime!”

I said, “I’m sorry, but I’m actually going home next week…”

“Oh! Where are you from?” She became even more excited by the news that I was American. “Where in America? Kentucky-shuu… is Kentucky near California?”

And she dug her wallet out and took out an electoral map from last year’s election, which she had clipped from a newspaper. There were a bunch of other clippings in there, and they all looked America-related. We successfully located Kentucky on her map. “I like Obama, but most Kentuckians don’t,” I said, feeling vaguely compelled to apologize for my state’s red color. I’ve found that Japanese people are often disappointed in Kentucky over this failing.

We talked for a while longer before she decided to go walk around some more. She asked me about Kentucky and how I liked Tokyo and so forth, and I asked her if she’d ever been to the US – she’d been to Hawaii and Alaska, which she felt was a funny juxtaposition. I would be more surprised by the whole encounter, except that the common advice for Japanese people who want to study English is to find an English-speaker to go have coffee with once a week. Some people accomplish this by personals ads for “language exchange,” and some just do it by ambush. I’ve only been ambushed once before that I can think of, but I know it happens. She seemed nice enough.

When my legs were no longer trying to fall off, I got up to walk around some more. I passed an old guy in a baseball cap with a big DSLR camera around his neck. He looked like a typical old vacationer guy, of the type that you always see hauling DSLrs around landscape gardens. They usually occur in twos or threes, with their wives or with other old vacationer guys, and tend to be pretty quiet unless commenting on the size of a koi or the probable age of a tree.

As I walked past him, I felt him giving me a look, which I assumed to be the What’s That Foreigner Doing Here look. Then, he burst into song.

It sounded vaguely like a Buddhist monk saying a sutra, which is just to say that it was kind of tuneless and I couldn’t make out any words in there – it could have been a Shinto thing. For all I know it could have been in Cambodian. But it definitely sounded like religious music, anyway.

What was it about me that made the old tourist man suddenly begin singing a hymn? I do not know. He kept doing it for at least five minutes after I was gone, so I’m assuming this wasn’t something he did purely to mess with the foreigner. I saw him walk by the woman from earlier, still singing – she jumped and nearly dropped her umbrella.

My life is just this really long series of unusual stains.

My life is just this really long series of unusual stains. published on

I don’t know what’s on my shirt. It’s white, and it’s in kind of a ring from my shoulderblades to midway down my back, and it’s gritty. It hangs just outside the edges of the obligatory upper-back sweat-stain I get when I haul the backpack around in hot weather. The placement is wrong for it to be something that came off the backpack. Tentative working theory is that not all the detergent got rinsed out in the wash.

Also, I went to a park again today. It was very nice. I then went to the Shinjuku Isetan to look for junk food, but it turns out that the world’s most expensive department store has not miraculously become cheaper since last week! Yes, I was surprised, too. They were charging completely inappropriate prices for taiyaki and I ended up having to call the police. I bought my cake and tiny box of soymilk at the station.

I went to the most Tokyo place in all of Tokyo yesterday. Please take turns guessing where I think that is while I work up the necessary energy to tag and upload the pictures.

Cruelty to dads

Cruelty to dads published on

via the Gmail chat box.

me: HI DAD

(47 minutes later)

Dad: what is this?
me: It is an instant messenger, Dad.
me: And you just logged off of Gmail, so you can no longer receive my messages.

(11 minutes later)

Dad: are you ok/ the fact that you are instant messaging is that a crisis?

(I just discovered I have tag called “dear don’t blog that your father reads this” and I have no recollection of creating it. It’s never been used before. I guess Mom must have been involved.)

Jishin da!

Jishin da! published on

There was just an earthquake! It was the biggest one I’ve ever felt – intensity 3-4 on the Japanese scale in this area, and it lasted about two minutes. I’ve never been in one of more than twenty or thirty seconds before. My first instinct was to move my cup of tea away from my computer. My second was to get under the bed, but I had a duffle bag under there and couldn’t fit, so I pulled the futon over my head instead. This struck me after a moment as being not particularly helpful. So I went outside in my socks, which are now very wet. (The duffle bag now resides elsewhere.)

The only people to go out into the street were other foreigners from the guest house. I could hear some of the Japanese neighbors going “Kowai! Sugee!” but none of them left their houses. I imagine that this particular street isn’t really all that much safer than indoors anyway. It’s very narrow, and there are potted plants and stuff on everyone’s windowsills and porches.

And Mo just texted me to make sure I wasn’t panicking. I’m not panicking! I panicked only temporarily. There were never any noticeable earthquakes up in Shibata, so I’d kind of forgotten to expect them – I thought the clattering was rain at first.

A post calculated to exasperate vegetarians.

A post calculated to exasperate vegetarians. published on

I’ve been eating like, mostly fruit this week. It’s hot, and I don’t feel like cooking, and my last couple weeks in Shibata my diet got really bad, so I ended up with a vitamin C deficiency or something. So I keep just buying bananas and nectarines and apples and saying, “I’ll have these for breakfast,” and then eating them every single meal. This probably is not very healthy?

Mo has been skipping meals because it’s hot, and because her sister is exerting Peer Pressure on the health benefits of fasting. (Bad sister.) So, today I convinced her to go with me to Ryogoku – aka, Where The Sumo Wrestlers Are – and have chanko nabe – aka, What The Sumo Wrestlers Eat. It’s basically stew made with a bunch of different types of meat, with the aim of providing lots of protein. We got one of the more pedestrian varieties that only had five protein sources: chicken, chicken liver, beef, deep-fried tofu, and something called kinkan.

The kinkan were two little yellow things that looked kind of like egg yolks. Mo looked at them dubiously and asked the waiter what they are. “They’re from chicken,” he said, and then he launched into a very clinical description I was unable to follow.

“Oh!” said Mo, looking concerned. Continue reading A post calculated to exasperate vegetarians.


Uaaa! published on

I am in Tokyo and stuff. The guest house smells funny and one of the other residents is a creepy man who sits silently in the kitchen all the time and doesn’t wash his dirty dishes.

But! Mee has been texting me! I gave her my email address (I gave all the kids a website address, but she asked for my email, too) and she’s actually been sending me stuff! And they are very cute! She had a swimming tournament over the weekend and kept sending me messages about her triumphs – she was competing against much older kids and still placed very high. I want to post the texts here, but that would probably be an invasion of her cuteness privacy. Please just rest assured that they are cute.

Yup. Moving.

Yup. Moving. published on

I’m in a hotel room; it’s my last night in Shibata, and tomorrow I go to Tokyo, spend the first night with Mo, and hopefully move into a guest house Wednesday. (You are again advised not to ask me what my plans are. I have a knife.)

I’m feeling much better that I’m out of the apartment. I’ve barely slept the last few nights in there, obsessing over which parts of it need more cleaning, which things in it I need to abandon and which I can take with me. My mind clings to physical possessions; Snufkin wouldn’t approve; I kept all my Moomins books. I also feel oddly better knowing I’ve decided to take my spices, tea, and coconut milk with me, even though they make my luggage much less manageable than it might otherwise be.

My time today was divided roughly as follows:

Continue reading Yup. Moving.

There was a change of plans

There was a change of plans published on

and my last day of work was today. I don’t think I can talk about this reasonably right now, but it involved an argument with the owner. I keep tearing up at odd moments, or noticing that my heart is racing for no reason. (I request that no one respond to this entry asking me what my plans are.)

Some things that made me feel better today – Mee and Conan and their parents. They were one of the three families I managed to warn before my last class with them that it was my last class with them, and only because Conan came in for an extra lesson a few days early. They both made me good-bye cards. Conan actually wrote her own message, which is a big deal for a five-year-old, though I think her Mom helped her with the content. (This was in Japanese, not English.)

Though it was quite sedate by Japanese-girl standards, Mee was embarrassed by her card’s contents, and ordered me not to read it until she’d left the building. I didn’t have time until just now, so I didn’t. She assures me that she will be studying English very hard so that she can shock me one day. I will not be shocked by any measure of progress Mee makes – she’s pretty hardcore.

Continue reading There was a change of plans