Thursday, May 29, 2008

While We're NOT on the Subject of Japan...

Several weeks before I went to Japan, I happened to be at Safeway filling a prescription, and I had to wait awhile and this magazine caught my eye:

The copy talked about the most important article I could read this year, so I picked up the magazine and flipped to it. The article was about the losses of the war, written around the trip home for a fallen soldier, and it was interesting enough, but I bought the magazine because of two articles: The 75-year-old Alpha Male Don Wildman (and the related "Change Your Life in One Week" article) and the list of 75 Skills Every Man Must Master. The latter, especially, I wanted to memorize. I read through the magazine several times, and then I went to Japan.

Well. Apparently I wasn't the only one who noticed this article. While I was out of the country, it was apparently blogged about, discussed, shot down, idolized, added to, the add-ons were argued about, etc. People tried to write female versions. You know you've got a really good list when you publish it and immediately people tell you you're wrong. For myself, I liked it, especially the parts about things I don't know much about. For example, I don't know anything about gambling, but I believe the list when it tells me I should know how to place three different bets on a craps table and split aces and eights in blackjack. I'll work on it. It's not NECESSARILY a man's list, because women could certainly stand to know how to do all 75 things. But there's a few more things that women should know, I think.

One restatement of this list that I actually like can be found here (possibly the only right-wing link on this blog so far). An example of stupid comments about this list can be found here, especially annoying because the name of that blog is the same as the title of a really excellent book that doesn't deserve to be associated with stupidity.

(For more, there's more discussion on this than you could ever want on this google search.

And Now, My Two Cents

I've been thinking a lot about this sort of thing recently. I recently realized, while running, that most humans should be able to jog two miles and walk five miles or so, daily, if necessary, and that got me thinking about things that Most Humans Should Be Able To Do. In the case of Armageddon, what would I do if I had no food and water? No way to contact family? How would I travel? What would I do with Titan? Where would I sleep, how would I shower enough to stave off disease? Would I know what plants to eat safely or how to cook a rabbit? Would I know how to find clean water? And then I started making a list, in my head, of things that Most Humans Should Be Able To Do, and more specifically, Things Grown Women Should Be Able To Do.

Most Humans Should Be Able To:

1. Run or walk quickly enough to cover a mile in ten minutes or less. Then keep going for several miles. What if someone is chasing you? What if you have to catch a ferry?

2. Cook for themselves without prepared food.
Most humans should be able to cook for themselves and feed themselves properly and healthfully. There's no need to count vegetable servings. Starting the day with complex carbohydrates and fruit and nuts, and then repeating that process two more times, adding a complete protein, is all you need and it's not difficult.

3. Lift most things you own.
In a pinch, if you are friendless, alone, and broke, you should be able to move your stuff. Be able to separate what's important and what's not; keep track of the stuff that is important, let the rest go.

4. Know how to inflict pain. Physical pain, that is. Know how to inflict pain on an attacker. I've read that the eyes and nose are especially good, as, of course, are the privates if he is male. Don't punch with your hand--you'll break the bones. Use the heel of your hand. The head is also a good weapon; the skull is a lot harder than almost any other bone in the body. Smash suddenly forwards or backwards with your head, or drive an elbow into the stomach. Smash down on the instep. (The arch of the foot.) Grab of handful of his hair and attempt to rip it out. It will hurt.

5. Fend Off Boredom and Depression. Set yourself goals for the day. Do them. Work out a routine for each week of different things you will do on each day. Stick to it. You should include: working, exercising, eating, household chores, and time spent on a pleasant hobby. There's plenty of way more involved websites about this, but household chores should include: keeping the windows, walls, and floors clean. Keeping the bath, toilet, and shower clean. Keeping the counters and kitchen sink clean. Changing the bedsheets. If you can't remember the last time you did any of these things, you're not doing them often enough. It seems simplistic, but I have trouble with this, full disclosure. Writing it down in this simple fashion can help.

6. Get enough sleep.
This is one of the most important things humans can do. It helps maintain body weight, hunger cravings, and mood. Not sleeping enough drops your IQ as much as smoking marijuana. You have no excuse to get less than eight hours. Kick in your TV and give away your computer if you find yourself pressed for time.

7. Spend Less Than You Make. A lot less. You can't buy everything, just get over the idea right now. Someone will always have more toys than you. And if you can't be first place in the toy race, why are you fighting for 52nd place? No one cares. Buy the stuff you need, buy a few things you want, spend the rest of the time developing a hobby.

More Specifically, For Women

8. Know how to take pain. Women, not having the benefit of tough sports, often don't know how to protect themselves, and so will simply stand and take physical punishment, or will run, or scream. Know which parts of your body you have to protect and let the other parts take the punishment. Hold up your arms in front of your face, or if you're on the ground, curl up into a ball to protect your inner organs. Your arms and legs will heal, your face won't. The kicks or punches or knife cuts will hurt terribly, but it's all superficial. Really. Let your limbs take the pain. If he has a gun, though, definitely do run and scream, in that order. It's very difficult to hit a moving target.

9. Know Your Limit and Stay Below It.
Do not become noticeably drunk in a public place. Know your limit with food and without food; with sleep and without sleep. My personal rule: If I've eaten recently and am well-rested or pumped up on adrenaline I can drink a maximum of two drinks per hour. If I haven't eaten in as few as two or three hours that drops to one drink per hour. Other rules I try to follow: Avoid being the most drunk one, no matter what. Hot weather or working up a sweat dancing increases feelings of intoxication, so watch out for that, as does smoking. Try to avoid sugary drinks, or mixing alcohols. After midnight, stop drinking. Do Not Succumb to Peer Pressure to have six shots of tequila in an hour.

10. Nothing Wrong With Getting Drunk Sometimes. Do it at home with people you know. Some women I know only get drunk with other women, pretty specific but valid.

11. Know how to tell when a man is not right for you. It could be for something tiny. That's fine.

12. Know how you feel about marriage and kids. Not how your mother feels or how your friends feel, even your best friends. You'll find other methods of fulfillment if you truly don't want kids or a husband. You just have to admit it to yourself first.

13. Get Over the Idea of Romance. I can't believe how many grown women--way older than I am--that I've known of who left their husbands because of someone they met online or in a pottery class. Who claimed true love. Who find the idea of star-crossed love attractive and want it to happen to them. There are very few real great love stories that have happened or will happen in the history of the world. Your love for your new internet friend is not among these.

14. Know your personal style. I look good in higher-waisted jeans and crisp button downs, wrap dress, and fitted tanks or tees. I look better in higher waists, but not empire waists unless they're fitted just right. I look good in medium-to-deep colors. I look terrible in cardigans, vests, suspenders, low-rise anything, most empire-waist things, any pullover that sits right at my hips, and any pastels or warm tones. Know this about yourself.

15. Don't obsess about your personal style so much that you refuse to wear your friend's bridesmaid dress.

16. Decide who your important friends are in your life. Cherish them. Make sacrifices for them. Loan them money, offer to babysit. Make sure these things are returned. Give them honest advice when they ask for it. When they don't, keep your mouth shut. Unless your friend is being abused, her relationship is not your relationship.

17. If a friend complains for more than a year about her relationship but doesn't do anything constructive, you're allowed to tell her to shut up occasionally.

17. Stay in contact with your family.
Even if you don't get along.

18. Refuse to obsess about things. Meditate enough so that you know the tangled paths your brain goes down. When it goes down a bad one, stop it. Especially do not obsess about germs, work, or relationships. Basic personal hygiene is plenty of guard against getting sick. Work on your career, and work on work; when you leave work, forget about it. Some of your relationships will work out and some won't. Maybe you'll end up divorced at 55. Worrying about that now won't change the outcome one bit.

19. Put your feelings aside. While in the sports game, or in the argument, or in the raise discussion, disregard all emotion. You'll have plenty of time afterwards.

20. Know how to carry on a conversation with a famous person.
Regardless of my success or lack thereof with the other items on this list, I have absolutely no idea how to do this. Thoughts?

21. Know how to talk to a very good looking man.
SMILE, for God's sake. He's just human. Ask him where he's from, ask him what he does for a living, ask him what he does in his spare time. Everyone wants to be found fascinating.

22. Know how to budget your time.
You really do not have to do everything. This seems like a little thing, but if you constantly seek to be Superwoman, you'll never be happy, and you'll obsess and become overly emotional. Be very good at some things. Pay someone else to do the other things for you.

23. Keep a stock of guest foods. Nuts, cheese, chocolate.
A few beers, a few bottles of wine, some basic liquors. There's nothing that makes me feel more like a failure than when people show up at my house and I have nothing to offer them. Cream for coffee, toilet paper in the bathroom, soap on the sink.

24. Make peace with your relationship with feminism.
How do YOU feel about make up, about gender roles, about sexual assault, about blow jobs? Don't worry if the feminist party line is different. You think for you.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Among the Things I Bought

It's inevitable: you will buy things, especially things that you would like to take with you on trips, and you will take them on trips--many, many trips--and if you are not LT, they will eventually break.

In this case, Japan ate my camera and my iPod earbuds, although it might be more appropriate to say that two very clumsy and cow-like ladies climbing over seats on my Northwest flight ate my earbuds. (One of them, with her tree-trunk legs, broke off my earbuds in the jack. Making it impossible for me to fix the problem with a new set of headphones. Two hours into the nine hour flight. I'm still miffed.)

Regardless, Japan actually did eat my camera, although I'm sure all the trips to the mountain didn't help either, and I have to (darn!) buy a new one. And then while I was at it I bought some earbuds, and three books, and I do also desperately need an immersion blender. (Shut UP. I do.)

And then I read this post, and then I read the follow-up, and I thought, yes! That's what I need to do!

And then I saw this list of cute shoes.

In conclusion, I must stop reading blogs. Thank you.

P.S. I realize I just went ahead and bought a camera and some earbuds without asking you guys for opinions, and yes, I realize that I'm not tapping my blog audience here. I'm an impulse buyer, what can I say? Just ask my American Express card.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I KNOW. I know. Japan. But I went camping this weekend. You'll have to excuse me.

Moving on, I bought a bunch of things to replace the things that got broken on my vacation and three books. I'm cooking all the vegetables in my house before they go bad and I'm off to tutoring. One of these days I swear I'm going to scale back to one job.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sustainability Vs. Yuppiedom

A good example of a morning that's sustainable for my waistline, wallet, and the planet:

6:15 am: Wake up. Shower, dress. Pack breakfast and lunch: Homemade bread sandwich with local cheese and farmers' market pear. Homemade vegetable soup made from farmers' market vegetables, quinoa, a farmers' market apple, and a SIGG bottle with water. Extra credit: salad of dandelion greens from front yard. Fill personal mug with tea or coffee.

7:00 am: Take Titan for nice 20 minute walk. Taking backpack, lunch sack, and mug filled with hot beverage of choice, catch bus into downtown. Catch bus to Bellevue.

12:00 pm: Take walk at lunchtime.

5:00 pm and beyond: Ride bus back. Take long walk with Titan and do the Eastlake Hill Climb, or alternatively, go for thirty minute jog. Relax with glass of organic, local, red wine. For extra credit: Ferment homemade wine.

A good example of a morning that is not sustainable in any way, shape, or form:

10:00 am: Wake up, cursing with jet lag, at alarm that has been going off for four hours. Work very fast from home to make up for missing hours.

11:00 am: Far too late to take bus. No time to pack lunch. Get in car, drive to Bellevue. Stop to buy hugely fancy coffee from Starbucks in paper cup. Buy peppered bacon and cheese breakfast sandwich, packaged in paper bag.

2:00 pm: Sit on duff for hours.

6:00 pm: Drive to Happy Hour.

8:00 pm:
Drive to grocery shopping.

9:00 pm: Drive home. Let engine run for several extra hours just for kicks. Leave refrigerator open and turn up heat extra high. Turn on all lights in the house to go to sleep.

Okay, I was just exaggerating at the end. But STILL.

New Goal:
More days like the former, a lot fewer like the latter. Hey, I carpooled today...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Home! Socks, Driving, Ceremony.

Yes, it's true, I'm back in the USSR. I mean, Seattle. (Anyone get the Beatles reference? By the way, did you know that the LT can't stand the Beatles? I'm dating a man who doesn't like the Beatles and prefers peanut butter cookies over chocolate chip, not that he's the devil or anything.)


So far I have paid all my bills and returned my way-overdue library books, shockingly enough, and Titan and I are getting reacquainted. A few thoughts on returning:

1. Being able to understand overheard conversations is actually not that interesting. Most people don't have casually interesting conversations, except of course T-Town and myself, and we are FASCINATING. I sort of miss being able to tune out the chatter because I can't understand it anyway.

2. If T-Town and I never open up our bikini coffee stand in Whistler, we are opening a sock company in Japan. I've never seen so many socks in my life. Japanese girls do not, under any circumstances, go barefoot. Or bare-legged. If they wear shorts or skirts, they wear pantyhose or thigh highs. (I saw a ton of thigh-highs. With very spiky sandals. At first, the girls I saw looked very tarted-up, and then I realized that to them, bare legs would have looked way more inappropriate than I found their thigh-highs to be.) Because not only are bare legs inappropriate in Japan, but because no one wears shoes indoors, you have to have socks on or else you'll be going around in bare feet, so the style was to have special lacy socks that were meant to peek out from your stiletto heels. Some socks even had straps on them to add visual dimension to your spiky heels. Weird.

3. Umbrellas. Coming from Seattle, where no one uses umbrellas, it was a shock to see rainy streets COVERED in umbrellas. EVERYONE has one, and they don't fold up--they're the old-fashioned kind that look like a cane when furled, no actual collapsing. You can buy clear furled ones, with white trim, at any gas station for three bucks. There's umbrella stands at all doors, at all shops, everywhere, and no one takes your umbrella when you leave it there, and in fancier stores there's an attendant waiting at the doorway with a special plastic bag for your umbrella, with which he or she politely encases your umbrella and then hands it back to you with a bow. Even a three dollar umbrella.

4. Speaking of attendants, for a country so obsessed with automation, Japan employs thousands and thousands of people. Every subway has two conductors, every ticket window is staffed, every store has six people working each small floor, there's a guy who encases your umbrella and a guy who hands you a shopping cart. Their labor charges must be enormous. At ten at night, in a huge camera store, there might be fifteen workers for every customer. No one goes home, no one acts bored. The minute you come in the store they treat you like royalty and don't stop until you leave. I had reason to go in a bank, and the Js and I were bowed at by ten people and ushered around by fifteen more. On the way to the rest room alone.

5. Ceremony. In a country known for mass-production, the Japanese still treat every purchase, every object, like it is uniquely valuable. A four dollar comb is picked up carefully with both hands, shown to you, held while the price tags are gently scraped off, carefully wrapped, and presented to you with both hands. And a bow. I bought a ten-yen stamp--less than ten cents--and the hotel clerk brought out a special book that is only meant to hold stamps, arranged in neat little rows of plastic holders. I picked one out, and the hotel clerk handed it to me...with both hands. And he barely had space for both sets of fingers on that tiny piece of paper.

6. Disorientation. I flew in from Tokyo on Monday morning, and I met T-Town for lunch that same day, and I was surprised about how helpless I felt, driving to meet her and then driving somewhere else, in a town that I had grown up in, for 16 years. I was in a slightly unfamiliar area, but that's not a big enough reason as to why I felt it necessary to write down her directions to the freeway and obsess about how to get to the restaurant. More importantly, I was jet-lagged and disoriented, and most importantly, I was unused to driving. When you're on foot, you can change direction at a moment's notice, you can just stop on the sidewalk or in the subway, you can call people or decide to pop into a computer store or spend half an hour reading a map while foot traffic flows around you. Taking the car, I felt that I had to have a specific plan and it couldn't change. If I wanted to go somewhere else, where would I park? How would I get there? What if I got lost? On foot I felt more secure, and even safer; I don't know why.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Eleven Days Down, One to Go

I have gawked at real live geisha, I have cheered at sumo bouts, I have seen the largest Buddha in the world, I have seen sculptures from the 7th century, I have been in palaces and experienced nightengale floors and gotten to know a country, a history, and a people. I have squirmed to enlightenment by a shortcut. I am in Tokyo on my last night before I leave this amazing country, and I am filled with a desire to see ALL the countries of this world, right now, I never want to go back to my "real" life.

Lots of photos--more photos than any human should want to see, ever--coming up. Highlights from the trip. Notes on gear, what I brought, what I forgot. Tips on getting cash in a foreign country with no PIN number, drinking with Norwegian boys, communicating by sign language with Japanese girls, and playing, "Guess What's In My Bento Box" on a hungover stomach. The three stages of Templeosity. Deer-feeding. Being fascinated by Engrish. I fly home tomorrow. I'll miss vending machine iced coffee and convenience store food, I won't miss language barriers. I'll cover everything in detail. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Trains, Cable Cars, Ropeways, and Boats

Very short post to say:

1. The JJs and myself are now in Kyoto.
2. We did not see Mt. Fuji although we tried twice.
3. We have learned that although Tokyo's train system is larger, trying to navigate Kyoto's train system based on spotty tourist guide information and no English is way more difficult.
4. We got some GORGEOUS photos.
5. Writing an email to my boyfriend is more important than finishing this post.

From Kyoto,

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Japan, First Day

5/09/08, 4:15 am

I've been awake since 3:20--a coughing fit and the impossible-to-shake-off-sense that it's really 11:20 in the morning combine to make me sleepless. I know what time it is because I brought my watch, which was the single most important decision I made preparing for this trip--I didn't know that my phone wouldn't tell time if it couldn't find a network, and had I not had my watch I would have continually been asking people who don't speak my language for the time. That sounds like a one-way ticket to insanity to me.

5/9/08, Later in the Morning

I have mainly strolled through parks today so far, after the fish market and my sushi breakfast. (If I can get my camera to work, I can retrieve the pictures--the tuna were about as big as Mrs. J and myself put together, with no exaggeration.) The duck park--that's Hama Rihkyu Garden, for those playing along at home--was really incredible. Very peaceful, I got some great photos, and I had tea and a sweet at a tea house, with my best attempt at performing a tea ceremony. Hama Rihkyu Garden was built as a duck hunting ground for a Shogun, which is why I call it the duck park, although they might as well call it the crow park now--I've never seen louder or larger crows. You can actually hear them walking on gravel, that's how larger they are--as big as hawks.

This park is connected to Tokyo Bay, so the ponds are saltwater--and the wildlife is incredible. All kinds of birds, shellfish like oysters and clams seemed to be everywhere, growing all over the rocks, and walking along Tokyo Bay, I happened to look down and see a STING RAY swimming past, the first once I've ever seen in the wild.

The next park I saw, Kyushiba Rikyu Garden, was fresh water, with well-groomed lakes, islands, and bridges. If you stand at the water's edge for more than a minute, the huge carp see you and rush over, fighting with each other and turning their noses up and opening their mouths, begging for treats just like puppies. Feed them and they fight like crazy. A comorant flew in and groomed himself on a big rock, and all over on all the rocks the turtles were out, sunning themselves, standing so still that I almost thought they were statues. Great wildlife here.

Random notes: I wore the wrong shoes for 12 hours of walking--not used to starting my day at 5--and my feet hurt so badly I could barely walk Friday night. Tokyo is beating me up, but I don't care, I love it. There's Starbucks everywhere, although I have (as yet) only gone into one, mainly to get my picture taken. I am very lucky that my ryokan has a refrigerator--although no microwave--because Thursday night when I ate, I pointed something on the menu, then changed my mind and shook my head, and pointed to something else. I guess I should have just gone with my first choice--the waiter thought I wanted both things, and both things were large enough to split with another person! Suddenly I had four times as much food as I needed! I had some leftover soup for breakfast on Saturday morning before taking a side trip out of Tokyo for a day--worked great.

Summary from Yesterday

So, I have figured out the subway system, learned how to use sign language and the occasional American word said in a Japanese accent to be understood, bought a phone card and a chapstick and a plug adapter. As long as you don't ask me to do anything complicated like pee, I'll be all set.

(My Ryokan--traditional Japanese Inn--has Western-style toilets, THANK BLOG.)

And a quote: My friends, the JJs, got here today. I was supposed to meet them at their hotel and got there before they did, so I took a walk. Just a few minutes later, they showed up, and the front desk lady said, before they even said who they were, "Oh! Your friend was here!" She told them I had gone to look for a cup of coffee, and they laughed. When they found me on the street, J said, "We heard you were here and we thought, "We just have to find the blonde in the coffee shop, and that'll be her. She's probably the only blonde for dozens of miles."

The blonde in the coffee shop, that's me!

Friday, May 09, 2008

From Tourist to Local in 24 Hours

From my journal on Wednesday morning, after having been locked out of the house without my luggage:

Actually on my way to Japan by myself. I can't believe this is happening. This, so far, is the best decision I have ever made.

5/8/08, On the Plane

Same day on my personal clock, but tomorrow! I've crossed the international date line! Never done that before. According to the Northwest Info screen, Tokyo is 16 hours ahead of Seattle. Huh.

Note to self: Flying sick is the worst thing ever. I seriously thought my head was going to explode.

5/8/08, Just an Hour Later

I have visited two Japanese bathrooms (looking for tissue, and also looking for a really high tech toilet, found the former but not the latter). Have successfully bought a cold green tea from a vending machine and a pack of gum from a kiosk. Have leanred that the right way to say "thank you" is to say it all at once, with emphasis on the Do: DOmoarigato. I think I can do that.

I find the Japanese signage, packaging, and everything endlessly fascinating, despite not being able to hear out of one ear. (Leftover from plane ride.) A lady next to me on the train is playing Sodoku, probably a Japanese game in the first place. Numbers are the same in every language, always a comfort--at least buying things is easy! (A little too easy. Suddenly I wish I were bad at math.)

I felt so miserable on the plane that I briefly considered flying home again and crawling into bed. Never have I felt that pessimistic on the start of a trip, even business trips. I felt--and still feel--truly awful, although the excitement of being somewhere new--and interaction with other humans, even more critical, even something as little as learning to say hello--has helped a great deal.

5/8/08, Still Later

I have learned many important things.

1. Make sure the signature you use on your traverler:s checks is consistent. Don't use the long version to buy them and the short version to turn them in for cash, and especially, on the only one you bought using the short version, don't decide to cash it in using the long version. You will cause yourself and some older Japanese men several minutes of anxiety. In the end I think they just gave me my money to be rid of the crazy foreign lady.

2. Using the toilet is apparently not foolproof. In many public bathrooms, they have bidets--female urinals, a great idea--and I cannot use them. I tried once, and am sure I got it all wrong. Now after 24 hours in Japan I will still walk a long way to find a western-style toilet.

3. Shoes that you thought were comfortable won't be after 12 hours on your feet.

4. Even after being up for 36 hours, jet lag will still hit you hard at 3:30 am. Be productive and just get up.

More to come, on how I felt pretty hip and local-like until I ordered four meals worth of food and it was all brought to my table.

Miss everyone, enjoying myself hugely.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Leaving for JAPAN!

So far I have:

1. Washed all my dishes.
2. Returned all library books.
3. Run an important bank errand. (Fighting some overdraft fees.)
4. Emptied my refrigerator of all perishables.
5. Held my mail.
6. Packed.

So far I need to:

1. Return some things at REI.
2. Buy traveler's checks.
3. Buy a small, collapsible, second bag for more stuff. (optional.)
4. Do some work. (In the morning.)
5. Leave for airport at 11 am.
6. Get over this damn cold!

Good bye, everybody! I've got to go! Gotta leave it all behind and face the...oh, wait, that's a different song.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

About Those Vietnamese Sandwiches...

Aarwenn's a tease, or more likely a ditz. I mentioned Vietnamese sandwiches, and then I didn't talk about them, as the LT pointed out. Whoops.

Picture from Herbivoracious.

Doesn't that look yummy? The author made it himself, an effort which I applaud but see no need to repeat. Instead, I'm following his post on where to buy Vietnamese Sandwiches. Because buying them premade is, in most cases, under two freakin' bucks, so why wouldn't you?

(For those who keep wondering why I'm so excited about the idea of a sandwich being Vietnamese, and isn't that a little racist?--they're a product of the French Imperial Occupation of Vietnam, aka A Specific Food Item.) I've never had one but plan to buy one or several at my earliest opportunity.