Sunday, May 25, 2008

consider me your cautionary tale

unlike the first time i had computer troubles, there was no happy ending to this week's story. my computer froze with no warning, i turned it off to reboot, and that was the moment i kissed all of my data goodbye. like a paranoid, antisocial hermit crab, my hard drive disappeared in a dark corner and refused to be found no matter how i jiggled and pried, coaxed and bribed, and implored its maker.
in the apple store, naka broke the news to me simply and gently, "your hardo-doribe is broken. all your data is gone. i'm sorry." i had prepared myself for that and i nodded. however, facing the actual loss of everything, the abduction of my memories, the evaporation of my pictures, work, and history into lost 1s and 0s, suuuuucked. in starbucks, over a weird chicken salad sandwich laced with legumes, i couldn't hold back tears.
hilariously, i have been vigilant in backing up my downloaded television, so i may have to recreate every work file i've made in the last two years and retake all 400 pictures of my students, but at least i can watch Law & Order when i'm done. i have been trying to have a "barn's burnt down, now i can see the stars," attitude about this, but my eyes are still adjusting. i don't feel nearly as pathetic as i did this weekend, and that's largely due to the good company i enjoyed in the aftermath. i met some good people at fern's house, and they allowed me to talk too much and make them laugh, which i needed to take my mind off winkie's demise. another immeasurable relief is that blinkie, my ipod, is healthy, so my 30GB of music are safe for the moment. that's the only thing keeping me from madness as the hours after work stretch out in a cacophony of silence.
i have had the opportunity to re-examine how i was spending my time and consider how much more productive i could be if i didn't spend most of it watching youtube. i picked up the lace knitting i haven't gotten around to for months, started an immense book, and have given some serious thought to making some art again. as i am still down one computer until next weekend, we will see how fruitful i continue to be and if the direction of my life changes for the better. but in the meantime, say these words with me, "hard copy, back it up, save to the web."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

nerds hit rock bottom

yesterday i received the first installment of my Foreign Buyer's Club order, so in an effort to have a special celebratory american-foods-only lunchtime, i opened the nerds candy i have been saving for the past five months. slight problem. the box isn't airtight, and it's clear the nerds are not what they used to be. a far cry from the glossy, crunchy explosions of concentrated sweet-tartness i love so well, they are dull, puffy, soft, and splotchy like a hollywood starlet after five years of hard drugs and anti-depressants. at least my amy's organic burrito was magnificent and deliciously americany. i also ordered some palmolive dish soap, which actually Cuts That Freaking Grease, just like it says. i've gotten used to it, but the dish soap here is mostly useless. now it's like my birthday every day--clean dishes!

Monday, May 19, 2008

my secret path

i love finding secret places. since i was a little girl, i've always loved looking for places to hide, not because i am afraid of being pursued, but maybe because my ultimate desire is to be found, searched for and found, by the right person. that's why i love that line in The Cure's A Night Like This, "i'm coming to find you if it takes me all night;" i love to be looked for, and hiding also makes me feel protected and intimate with the space that surrounds me.
when i was in high school theater, i would sometimes slip behind the expansive and sometimes rickety sets, into tight corners of darkness that smelled like sawdust and paint and old curtains just to listen for a while, just to see if anyone would miss me. i can fit into places people think no one would go. it's like being held securely. for someone with as much nervous energy as i have, it makes me feel calm and anchored in a way i normally don't.
i knew it would take time to uncover the secret places in my town, but i've kept my eyes open for them. imagine my surprise, then, when i heard a rumor that a trail behind my own house led to a boulder overlooking the town. i had to find out. i also love a good lookout. what i believed was a trail to someone's house (as i could see a gate at the top of some steep stairs) was in fact the head of that very trail. there were some houses there, once, but the gate is the only thing that hasn't fallen to ruin.

one saturday morning curiosity overtook me. i didn't even change out of my pajamas, but edged up the trail, body tense in anticipation of what i'd find. honestly i was ready to turn back at any moment if i came across too many cobwebs or snakes, but nothing spooked me, so i kept going.

at the top of a steep climb, the trail met a narrow road which led to a wider trail and a mobile phone tower...romantic. past that, though, the trail narrowed to a jungly trek following the ridge. it became clear that the view must be pretty spectacular, only the foliage was too high to get a glimpse.
i finally reached a crack in the base of a huge boulder with a knotted rope hanging down. i figured climbing it would lead to the view i sought, but i also had gone pretty far in my pajamas, and i would prefer to do any climbing with a companion in case there were troubles, so i called it a day.

several weeks later, i convinced kino to join me, and he invited a few other new teachers, so mayumi came too.
we stopped at the first place where the trail opens a bit. i planned to return alone to sunbathe here until a teacher mentioned that dangerous wild boars roam these woods.

we climbed out of the darkness and into the sun. coming up over the top of the rock, the world fell away in the most spectacular panorama of my town i've ever seen.

to the right, mountains.

to the left, open sea.

the view from below.

i feel like i've uncovered a key feature of my neighborhood, and it only took two years.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

the turbot is ill-smelling

i have several excellent resources i use for translating my students' japanese into english, and this year i asked them to write down one word or phrase they would like to be able to say in english. the results i got were incredibly varied and interesting, some funny, some personal, and in the process of researching the best way to say them in english, i learned a ton.
one of those resources is an online translator widget by Systran. far from perfect, it at least helps me get a rough sense of long sentences, as it usually translates verb tenses correctly. however, occasionally the resulting english sentence is completely random and hilarious, hence the title of this post.
for those who care, my other resources are Jim Breen's invaluable and exhaustive online dictionary, this kanji dictionary for my Nintendo DS, and the internet at large.

now a sample of those things my high school students have a burning desire to say:
old-person smell
cumulus floccus cloud
rhinoceros beetle
three rolls of belly fat
once-in-a-lifetime encounter
when i close my eyes i can still see you on the back of my eyelids.

karei kusai
hitsuji gumo
kabuto mushi
ichigo ichie
meo tojireba mabuta no urani wa kimi ga iru.

definitely entertaining, and i have loads more to translate!
next are a few of the myriad things that have been making me snicker lately.

the worksheet awards:

generally japan is innocent to the history and implications of this statement.

a little too honest?

notice the last topic is food

a t-shirt in tokyo

the R/L distinction is a hard one for many japanese people, which is why this honey is for my yogult.

rain boots: manly condoms for your feet. grab your mandom!

this is my kitchen hand towel. normally placid rilakkuma (who is by definition relaxed) looks quite cross after an unintentional smudge of chocolate gave him a new eyebrow.

man i hate it when that happens! the last thing i need is a bunch of baby hands running around getting all grabby.

i don't know why, but i found this completely hilarious at the time. maybe they'll come in handy when my hand starts breeding again.

and finally, the most recent crack-up catalyst. bone marrow!? for invalids!? gross.