Sunday, August 30, 2009

Craigslist Article

I can't shotgun this article because I found it on an Apartment Therapy, but this is a really interesting read on the nature of Craigslist. Is Craigslist awesome or awful? You decide.

Why Craigslist is Such A Mess by Gary Wolf in Wired Magazine

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sunday is for Church and Breakdancing

On Sunday I saw this at a sports bar called Freeball. A friend had told me about this awesome break dancing competition and I dragged Margaret and Dara along to watch with me. I got too excited to take video of the really intense stuff, but this should give you a little taste.

First this.

Then the world champion Diabolo juggler (who can also breakdance). Take note, boys. This is how juggling makes you cool to the ladies.

Then Dara and I went to church.

Edit: The last, longer video finally decided to jump from my camera to the computer. This is almost an entire battle towards the finals. Sorry to say that I didn't get the really exciting parts of the juggle guy or the dancing, but I was too involved to film.

Conference Recap

Day 1: Speak slower, new guys. We all like stickers, and so will your students. Yes, Spanish restaurant El Fogon, I do want to eat your expensive bowl full of boiling oil with some shrimps thrown in. Delicious.

Day 2: Don't be a hermit, new guys. Let's eat Subway at Kyoto station. Now I will go home and feed the rabbit and tidy up. Now I will get on a train and go to Umahori to have dinner with Sachiko (and English supporter at my school and the one whose English summer camp I visited). What fun with her and her sister and brother-in-law and their children. Huzzah.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Artsy Fartsy Sycamore Street Press

I've been looking for some art to put up in my home for a while. I didn't want anything too cutesy or too serious. I certainly didn't want to break the bank on something that would be large and expensive to ship. I also have very little artistic talent, so I can't be like those people who hang up their own paintings. Thanks to previous comments I did hang up a couple of plastic protector sheets so I can rotate my most recent kanji from shuji class.

The one in the center is my favorite. It says "One day, one thousand autumns." That's the leave-everything-out-but-the-most-important-part Japanese way of saying that for lovers, one day apart is like a thousand autumns alone. Still.

Today was a day of destiny. Today I ran across Sycamore Street Press, a letterpress company based in Utah. They offer snarky-yet-touching cards, calendars, posters, and each month they offer a new limited addition print.

I bought two! The first is this print by artist Katie Kortman, a high school art teacher. Man, her students would have a completely new respect for her if they knew her art was the March '09 limited edition print. Especially if they knew that someone as cool as me bought it. Then they would examine the grammar that I used in the sentence and realize that I write in fragments.

The second is this beautiful creation by artist Meredith Prévot. Says she about this painting: "This drawing is based on sketches of Rococo architectural details I made while visiting Paris earlier this year. I enjoy recontextualizing old forms and giving them new life within my paintings, drawings, and prints.

I'm always up for a good Paris inspiration. I quite enjoyed the city, myself.

Safe to say that I feel quite grown up now. I invested in art. Many happy returns to me.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Most Awesome Chair Ever

Have you seen this commercial for the Hawaii Chair? Seconds 36 and on are my favorite, like when the office worker grabs desperately for a pen while "on the phone." They just told me that after just 10 minutes on that horizontal bronco my breathing rate would double. Why would I want to use it at work? Or while spending time with my family? Or while reading, given that I can't read while jogging on a treadmill?

Or maybe you have it and you like it. Thoughts, anyone?

[EDIT: I also noticed that "old men" can sit on the chair. Did they get confused? I only saw old women during that part.]

A Big Boy Bunny

I left Kuma in the bedroom today outside of his open cage. It was an experiment to see whether he was sufficiently litter trained enough to not act like a rabbit and mark his territory. Suffice to say that I reentered my home this afternoon with due trepidation. I anticipated having to clean up a whole mess of rabbit mess.

Instead I was greeted by an excited ball of fur who had done no more harm than push his toy (this thing) behind a suitcase. Oh, Happy Day! I rewarded him by allowing him to eat some of the dying Bolivian Rainbow Pepper. Also, Kuma rewarded himself by eating some of the pepper plant that was doing perfectly well. Oops.

Lately the temperature has risen quite a bit, and Kuma has taken to lying down on the floor when I let him out in the afternoon.

Poor guy. He looks like a rabbit pancake.

We have also taken two walks. Walk=me trick Kuma into wearing a harness, carrying him to an empty, overgrown lot, and holding on to the shoestring I use as a leash while he hops around and eats plants. I've gotten some weird looks for that one. One lady stopped and said in Japanese, "Oh, how cute!"

"Thank you," I replied politely, bowing.

"How old?" she asked. "Is it a baby?"

"Yes," I replied. "Yon gatsu…sai."

The lady nodded and continued down the street.

Later I asked a friend how to say "four months old," and he replied, "yon ka gatsu."

So, when I think about what I said, it would translate like this: Yes. Four month years old.

Argh, Japanese counters. I hate them.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


The word is "proactive." I thought that proactive was something that business people made up in the '90s, like synergy, but a dictionary search told me it was actually added to legitimate vocabulary in the 1930s. Proactive is the opposite of reactive. I want to be proactive about my jewelry. Why? I'll tell you. It's because I make pieces that I'd never wear, but that I think other people might like. Also, jewelry supplies have emptied my pockets many a time in my life. It's time for retribution.

Like any good narcissist I've been toying with the idea of making a website. Ever since I got my new computer I've pulled up iWeb on the occasion and toyed with the templates. Usually I get frustrated and give up, only to pull up the file again a month later.

More recently I've felt the pull (read "call," fellow Jesus lovers) to really get going with putting my products on the web. That sounds strange, I know, but caring about sparrows and caring about websites are totally on the same level. Being at the BOE every day has given me plenty of time to look up information on how to be smarter than iWeb and publish it to my own domain. I need to get a scanner and some help. Thankfully a friend of mine is a graphic designer by nature (ALT by trade) and has indicated willingness to help.

Current status: I own like a boss, but I didn't know what to do with it while I mess with iWeb and try to make a real website. I figured I could start by redirecting my blog to the new domain. So, change your bookmarks and RSS feeds to, or pretend to have done so when I ask you about it. Someday it will be a part of a larger site, but the internet is harder than I thought.

Would anyone be interested in my website? I'm not really sure. It'd probably be pretty sad, both in appearance and number of visitors.

I'm going to go back to taping construction paper to my wall.

Animal Therapy and Impressive Organization

Notice: Kuma only plays with this toy under close supervision. Or close enough supervision. Now that I've captured this on video I'm much faster to pull the bag off his head. Of course, more recently he tries get even farther into the bag. He'll get his head stuck, run into a wall, then try to brace the bag against the wall so he can get the pellets way in the back. Getting unstuck is a secondary instinct to getting food. He also figured out that the fridge often means vegetables. Yesterday he tried to climb into the fridge, he got so excited.

Those ripped up pieces of paper are from an old phone book that became one of his toys. It took him a while to figure out what he could do with that paper. Then the massacre began.

Since I've been forcing pictures of and information about my sad apartment on you, I figured I'd show you a little positive inspiration. Laura Cattano is a professional organizer with a good sense for modern design. She has two house tours on Apartment Therapy, one of her 450 sq ft apartment and another of a recent relocation to a 250 sq ft temporary residence while she looks for another apartment. Mind you, she's only been living in the second place for 5 months. I am both inspired and ashamed. It's a complicated feeling.

Mom, some people really do put everything away and hang their clothes up. There are real adults in this world. Someday I may join the ranks. Maybe.

Hint, ye technologically impaired: Click on the green text to go to the links. Really, everyone should see this woman's skills.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Decorating Therapy

I used to wonder why the heck my mother was always rearranging things in our house. Every so often she'd call one or all of us to hold a picture frame in place while she stood back and assessed. Occasionally she'd ask us for our opinions on a new picture frame/candlestick/knickknack arrangement. The last time I was home she had purchased something new (a lamp, wasn't it?) and was waiting patiently for my father to notice.

Now I get it. Here's what I did between Friday and Saturday night:

The bedroom before. I was in the middle of rearranging the closet when I decided to give up. Those metal shelves are cumbersome and heavy.
This is what happened to the living room in the process of cleaning the closet. I have no excuses.
The closet after.
Yes, yes, I know. It's amazing. The dresses are only on the wall because the rod in the closet kept falling down and I had to lighten the load. Turns out that all but one of my dresses are black/gray or green. That big wood thing is the table which my desk replaced. I will ditch it someday. I will. I must.
Sure, it doesn't look all that much better, but see how I moved one of the shelves to the living room? When I move back into my bedroom/rabbit room I will put the futon in there, but I need to figure out better storage for it. Some of that mess is my purging of unnecessary items. I'd put up what it looked like this morning, but I moved another set of metal shelves to the patio. Ergo, the mess from the shelves is now the mess on the couch, and I was focusing on cleaning up the porch outside. Baby steps.

Also, I had mentioned in this post that my kotatsu and chair projects had been ruined by the rain. The kotatsu, at least is no longer an orange green monstrosity. Look under the television on the left and you will see a white and green monstrosity. Progress like a boss.

My first Ikea. I found this "Rimfrost" chandelier at the thrift store on Friday after work. I had intended to purchase a light fixture to replacing the glaring fluorescents. I know that good decorating means less reliance on overhead lighting, but I have limited electrical outlets and even less space.

I had posted pictures of the fixtures I was eyeing here. The triangular one would have worked nicely in the genkan (entryway) and the round one would go in the living room. 4,800 yen would have made me the proud owner of a cool living room light. I didn't have the funds to buy that and have Italian with a friend the next day, so I perused the aisles. Kim and Paulette were also cruising for good second-hand finds, and thanks to Paulette's interest in lighting we noticed the boxed lights. Things in boxes, not on display, but still with price tags. I saw the Ikea name on the outside.

Cheap and easy Ikea! Huzzah! Enter the happy dance. For only 2,000 yen I was able to snag the chandelier and the necessary light kit to add a little kitschy class. I wanted to put it in the living room, but it's not a dimmer light. The ceiling lights in the bedroom and living room don't have switches, so any fixture has to have a pull cord. Kitschy class got moved to my kitchen. The kitchen light is now in the bedroom, the bedroom light is in the living room, and you can see the living room light one the floor. Your thoughts.
This is actually an older project, but I finally took a decent picture. This is a repainted, recovered chair. It wasn't a stellar job, but it was the first time that I had used spray paint on wood. Also, I screwed up and accidentally got water-based paint. Not a good idea when I have to paint outside during rainy season. Thanks, Matt Farrell, for pointing out my kanji misreading. You saved my sanity.

The BOE doesn't seem to care about how many color pictures I print. Maybe they don't care like printing pictures is me singing Journey, while making too many copies on the wrong copier is me singing Dionne Warwick. If you don't get the reference, watch the first video of the previous post. Either way, I have hated the color and weird texture of my walls since I noticed it. I can't paint, can't wallpaper, and the walls are too bumpy to throw up one of them newfangled decals. Inspiration struck while at work, and I turned the above into…

wait for it…

This is the cheapest DIY wallpaper ever. I covered this entire door with free materials, including the owls in the middle from IndieFixx's free art download. The room already brighter. I plan on covering the living room's entire south wall in this manner (though with fewer pictures). How do you feel about it? Is it tacky? Too cheap? Fun? Trying to hard? The best thing you've ever seen in your life? It was an experiment. I'd love to read opinions.

Tell everyone you know—there is such a thing as free, easily installed and easily removable wallpaper. Let me know if you want step-by-step instructions. I documented the whole process. I can rip it all down in a minute flat. Or I can make another in an hour. I can also show you what the chair looked like in its super-ugly days. Then you can tell me, "Naw, Laurel, the new version doesn't look that bad." Up to you, blog readers.

Last home update is my genkan light shade. Double-sided tape and a cloth placemat. Czech it out. That's not a typo. It's a little jacked up because it's actually too short to fit all the way around the bulb without touching it. I get paid on Friday. I'll show you what it looks like when I have two placemats* with which to work.

I have DIY fever! Stop me before it gets out of control!

Last note: I have two-day ALT orientation coming up tomorrow and Wednesday. I may or may not end up eating out with new JETs after the boring times. On Wednesday I'll go to a friend's for dinner after calligraphy. I've been trying to post more frequently, but it'll likely be on hold for the next couple of days. Email and Facebook, too, will suffer. Blech. Orientations. For my reaction to last year's orientation click here. We'll see how it changes the second time around.

*Spellcheck tells me that there is no such thing as the plural of "placemat." It first offers "placenta" as a replacement for the misspelt "placemats." I refuse.

Friday, August 14, 2009

In Trouble

I'm currently making my own wallpaper and have nothing witty to say. Let's be enjoying three videos of me talking and talking and talking and talking. 15 minutes' worth of video may be too much to handle in one go. If so, feel free to make the videos keep secret while you take a coffee or potty break.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

I got inspired at work today, and then went shopping at the thrift store, so I'll post my before and during pictures next time. My kitchen just got a whole lot classier.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Animal Therapy

This is just a little video I've had lying around for a couple of months. Rabbits express extreme happiness through "binkies." A binky is a head flick/hop combo that is often followed by a short sprint. This video documents the first time baby Kuma got really happy. I like to think it's because if the awesome obstacle course I set up.

For you:
I'm sorry for talking a little bit in the last part.

Also, don't let me forget to tell you all (all five of you who read this) about getting in trouble at work.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Things on a Saturday

These past couple of weeks have been a little hectic, but I wanted to share what I've been doing. Through the art of photography. Through the pain of my photography skills.

We had a taiko performance. I don't have any pictures of us performing, just the setting.

Paulette (bottom), Margaret and I saw Phil (left) of for a little bit and Liz (top) off for good. Five people, three mouths. We weren't as excited about Liz's departure as we looked. We weren't crying, we were just cutting onions to make a lasagna for one.

I spent a day with an English school's summer camp. The students were preparing to help out at the Hozugawa Boat Ride (I've been before. I put up a slide show). They practiced helping foreigners and reciting Hozugawa history. Then a few boatmen from the Hozugawa came over to eat with them and play some games. This is suicawari, a game in which a person is blindfolded, spun around three times and directed to the watermelon.

They used a wooden sword to bust that sucker open. It only took four tries; pretty impressive.

Correction: Nature eats the bicycle that someone (not Paulette) never uses.

Every August 7th is Kameoka's hanabi festival. One whole hour of fireworks. They had some in the shape of sunflowers this year, which was really cool. Hanabi, by the way, translates directly as "fire flower," so if you're ever in Japan in July or August and someone asks you about "fiya hlowa" you'll know what it means.
Hanabi partners in crime, left to right: Margaret, Dara, Kim-chi, J.S. We never did find Paulette…
That's right, suckas, I did this myself! With help from Kim and J.S. One of my teachers had given me a yukata to wear to the festival, since summer festivals are when Japan breaks out its traditional dress. I turned a lot of heads in this one. Not the, "Hey there, pretty lady," kind of head-turning, but the, "What the crap? Was that a foreigner? Did she put that on by herself?" kind. There was that drunk guy and his wife/sister/wife's friend who asked to take a picture with me and Margaret, though.

Japanese yo-yo=balloon partly filled with water on a rubber band

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Check NO for Motivation

I'm currently seated at my desk at the BOE, using a proxy server to surf the web and write this blog entry. I read all the blogs I follow, checked out Apartment Therapy's daily offerings of inspirational decorating ideas, and researched French negatives for Kim-Chi. I suppose it's no more or less productive than some of my days at junior highs while I wait for classes to start, but I do have things to do.

Oh yes, ladies and gents. On Thursday I will take a day off from work to visit a juuku summer camp. Juuku is often translated as "cram school," but it could also be called tutoring, supplementary classes, prep school, or suck-the-joy-from-life class. Some of these prep schools are intense study sessions that keep students away from home until near midnight. The juuku for students in elementary and preschool are more like short classes or clubs.

One of the women who visits some of my elementary schools runs an English juuku that, apparently, some of my elementary students attend. She asked me in June if I would like to be a special guest one day during the summer English camp, and I agreed. Enter planning that I have completed, preparation I haven't. Don't blame me entirely; the BOE is out of A4 size laminate sleeves.

Then there are the wonderful new JET orientations. The first is on the 18th and 19th, and will entail all ALTs getting together to bore each other with self-introductions and lesson plans. Intermittently we will passively engage in boredom while government and JET people talk at us about stuff (safe to say that I remember nothing from the "information" I was given last year).

The second orientation involves the new municipal ALTs and CIRs only. I have been honored with an invitation to present on a fill-in-the-blank topic and I'll pretend to know a whole lot about success at Japan Life. Then I will get a group of baby JETs lost in Kyoto and pretend that I'm pointing out landmarks while desperately searching for a recognizeable strip of land. I will foolishly allow my tourees to enter stores to "look around," only to drag them out by their hair forty minutes later.

I've tried to think about subjects for the second orientation. About what could I speak with any authority? Learning Japanese? Nope. Dealing with life in the countryside? Negative. Dating in Japan? Kim-chi suggested I do research on that subject. Cold hard investigative journalism that involves meet-ups, personal ads and speed dating. It would be for the sake of the new JETs, of course. Then again, all I'd really need to do is put up a few flyers advertising "language exchange" and specify that I'm looking for men between such-and-such ages. Hello, Japanese boyfriend.

To conclude my procrastination, I release here my proposed topics. I would put up a survey, but using a proxy server has its limitations. Please help me choose in what people brand new to Japan might be most interested:

Surviving the Seasons (dealing with the heat, the cold, the rain, and the mold)
Life Outside of School (getting involved, blah de blah)
Handling Multiple Schools (This might be completely irrelevant, depending on how many countryside kids there are)
Staying Positive
Daily Tips and Tricks (futon care, what to do about mukade, Japanese study tips, how to survive without Starbucks, how to avoid eating pig intestine, ATMs, etc)

Gahhh. So lethargic. It must be the August heat that rises four stories to melt my brain. Maybe going home will revive me. Maybe.