“A book is the souvenir of the experience.”

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On Monday- or Wednesday, I can’t remember but it’s not that important- Leah, who is an aspiring author, asked if I was going to the LTUE Symposium/Convention in Provo this weekend. After some clarification and some googling I found that she was referring to a fantasy and science fiction writers convention held at Utah Valley University, and remembering how I was an aspiring copyeditor only last year I decided I would indeed join her for Saturday.

I went to a few good panels and a couple of disappointing ones, but the best panel was entitled “Free Books Are Worth Every Penny” presented by  Tracy and Laura Hickman. Accomplished author/editor team and very engaging, the information they offered on the new publishing paradigm was more than worth every penny of the registration fee for the whole day. It gave me faith that my time spent learning how to copyedit was not wasted, as I was beginning to think. There is a place for me to contribute to the genre I enjoy. This rekindling of hope was great in itself, but when they pointed out the shift from printed books and bookstores to eBooks and Amazon, I felt as though thousands of years of the printed word was an era coming to a close.

Of course, books hold stories and information. As far as information, we can get most of it from the internet, or at least everyone I can think of stops there first. For stories, it’s television, movies, video games or eBooks. We get through the story and feel entertained, but it’s not long before that story and the journey it was and the lessons we learned fade out and we look for the next bit of entertainment.

Years ago I visited my second cousin in London and I remember observing and happily commenting on her bookshelf. It seems as though she felt it was taking up more space than she could spare for it and I remember her saying something to the effect that the only reason to have books on display was to be boastful of how much one reads. At the time, I couldn’t think of anything sensible to say to oppose that, but I remember feeling that having books around is somehow very justified.

Tracy Hickman, in this panel, quoted an associate of his for us. It was a point he also used recently when speaking with the marketing team for one of his books. Even in the days of eBooks and the internet, in the decline of brick and mortar bookshops and the growing demand for instant gratification with the shopping experience, a book is the souvenir of the experience. Why would someone download an eBook and then want a hard copy? Because they want to remember the experience and the story and the lessons the characters brought them, and looking up at one’s bookshelf and just seeing that title brings back all of those things. Knowing it will never disappear in an electronic snafu is reassuring. Knowing it will be there, knowing I can hold it in my hands and re-experience it, or share it with friends or progeny, and knowing that in my care the story will never be completely lost…

That’s why I buy the book. That’s why I set it on the shelf for all to see, especially me, along with photos and souvenirs from the places I was able to bring my body to.

Flavor of Utah- No Artificial Colors or Pop Stars

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It’s a blustery Saturday morning and something unusual happened after breakfast: I actually felt like posting something here. I have something very unimportant to say and no one to say it to at the moment. So it goes here. Sure I could babble at Yosuke but he’s in his own little corner (actually I gave him the second bedroom for his own particular use, so he’s in there on his computer doing something). Me, woke up at the urgent cries of Mimi, who was hungry, and it was the pathetically cute mewls of Norah which finally pulled me upright. I guess it was way past their breakfast time. It’s fine though, because my body was already screaming at me to get vertical. Just been achy these days.

Anyway, it being a Saturday with no plans, I started with Angry Birds. The pull for caffeine drew me back to the kitchen, and I remembered that yesterday I had gone to a grocery store that I don’t usually frequent for the express purpose of buying eggs. I know this sounds silly, but since we got here Yosuke and I as well have been a little disappointed in the eggs we’ve been getting. Japan has great eggs. Rich and dark yolked, full of flavor. The eggs here generally don’t compare. But from my short stint at Winder Farms, I learned about one of the local egg farms that keeps Rhode Island Reds, a breed very similar to the one in Japan which lays the higher quality eggs sought out by 5-star type restaurants. I also learned which stores those eggs are sold at, and they are not sold at the one I usually go to, hence the extra stop on the way home last night.

This morning was my chance to have a crack at them. So I cooked up some skillet potatoes to go with them. Recipe here:

  • 1-2 slices thick cut bacon cut into bite size bits
  • handful of roughly chopped onion
  • two small potatoes, baked and cut into big bite sizes (skins on if you like)
  • handful of salad greens
  • salt, pepper, and sage to taste

In a heavy skillet, cast iron if you got it, brown the bacon on medium heat, DO NOT DRAIN FAT. Add the onions and brown, about 5 minutes. When bacon is pretty dark but not near burning, add the potatoes and brown, another 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add salt and pepper and sage, and the salad greens. Wilt the greens and then remove from heat but not from pan, while you cook up your eggs. Try topping off with parmesan cheese or Greek yogurt. Hot sauce is nice too.

The eggs delivered- the yolks were nice in color, texture and flavor. I may now continue buying eggs, as Yosuke has officially ended his egg strike.

Now for the thought that made me want to post: how much of this breakfast could I make on purely local stuff? Wouldn’t the use of local ingredients define a local flavor? Utahns love to support local businesses, farms, financial institutions, churches, and music. So anyway I was putting Arizona agave nectar and central Utah milk in my Hawaiian Kona coffee, and sprinkling my Idaho potatoes with desert sage, Utah salt, and Tellicherry pepper, wondering where my onions and bacon hailed from as I flipped my Erda, Utah egg.

By the way, did anyone else notice how Lady Gaga’s “You and I” seems to customize itself to the state its being played in? I thought it was Shania Twain on the radio when the DJ corrected me and my jaw fell; I felt cheated on. I heard that woman has a degree marketing and could not for a second believe that Utah was anything special to her and could only come up with the conclusion that for the sake of marketing she must have stood in that recording studio for DAYS covering all the states and capitals. I looked up the lyrics online- whoever posted the ones I found was obviously from Nebraska.

So, if I had to flavor Utah, it would be sage and lavender. If I had to sweeten it, it would be honey (or maybe we could cultivate agave here, not sure, but definitely not sugar!). If I had to spread it on toast, it would be raspberries or peaches. And if I had to sprinkle it with cheese it would be from Cache Valley. I bet we could grow tea but not coffee, however I have never found any “Utah” tea and somehow doubt I ever will unless I did it myself- Mormons and their caffeine abstinence, you know. I don’t know if peppers would grow here- most of our spices that we take for granted everywhere are tropical. I would make the effort to import the caffeine and the black pepper though.

Well that was fun. For me at least. Back to the Birds!

Sorry So Late

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Thank you, Akira, for that succinct and inspiring comment on my last post. Seriously, though, I know I said I’d write guys. And I’m sorry. I got a little busy for awhile and then a little carried away with the extra time on my hands, and access to ALL ENGLISH CABLE TELEVISION YEAHHHHHHH!

It took me two weeks to find an apartment, 3 weeks to find and purchase a vehicle, 4 weeks before Yosuke arrived at the airport, and it took 2 MONTHS for me to find a job. I’m back in the saddle, teaching workplace ESL for a local non-profit, starting to tomorrow. This past week I have been watching the before-mentioned cable tv guilt-free while I can, hitting “haunted houses,” helping a buddy remodel his backyard, and last week went for a horseback ride up in the mountains. Today I fired a rifle with my dad, had shepherd’s pie at grandma’s and picked up a handmade coffee table from my brother, whom I have been taking care of since I got back- not having me around for the last five years to keep him in line has ruined him! But I’m making up for it.

The cats are now fully acquainted, although Mimi got a cold reception from Norah, who received Mimi’s optimistic, submissive and eager greeting with complete confusion and then disdain. Norah is paying for that now- Mimi dominates so much that Norah won’t sleep on the bed, knowing Mimi will throw accurate neko-punches at her through the comforter until Norah runs away. Mimi eats first, plays first, and gets between Norah and mommy any time she can. (You see, Mimi knew Norah’s smell from her hand-me-down toys while we were in Japan, but Norah did not have that advantage. So, Mimi found Norah and at first sight went into submissive play mode, which didn’t work out well for either of them.)

Sleepy. Miss you guys and all our conversations!

A month has past

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Time has gone by so quickly since the 9.0 earthquake, tsunami, and the start of the Fukushima nuclear fiasco. Its been a crazy month!

Today and yesterday, the tectonic plates under Japan decided to mark the day with more moving and adjusting. A few 5 and 6 pointers (yes, in one day). This morning I woke up to a… wait, let me check the news…  an apparently 6.3 quake throwing things off of shelves. Can’t beat that for motivation to get out of bed!  Actually, yesterday the epicenters were north, near Fukushima so that shaking here felt more like a 3 or 4. But this mornings 6.3 was off the coast of Chiba, where I live. Very close to the Tokyo metropolitan area. I FELT like a good 6.  I don’t like that something that has come so far south, because “the big one” is overdue for the area just outside of Tokyo Bay, which the peninsula of Chiba encircles.  Yes, my area, Tokyo, is overdue for its own 9 pointer. Please check this guy’s explanation.

I wanna go home…

I’m glad I got my cat out of here, for her sake, but I miss her terribly. Since rushing off to home is not an easy decision to make- I have a husband to consider now, and he is not at all spontaneous about life-changing decisions- I try to keep busy by working extra. Admittedly, that’s also to make up for the work I missed in March while I was taking a knee during all the power, aftershock, and radiation chaos. My new online courses have started which kept me very busy yesterday. And finally, we’ve been thinking of adopting another cat, to make things more lively, and so that Norah has someone to practice her new social skills on when we relocate. Yes, a friend for my baby.

I better finish my ninja breakfast, in case an aftershock comes.

Am I Radioactive?

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Wednesday was a rough day as far as developments at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Radiation levels were fluctuating high enough that the company deemed it necessary to pull their skeleton crew for a couple of hours, leaving the place unmanned. I admire those workers- they’ll be lucky to live through this, but no one being there to man the hose was a bit of unnerving news at that moment. Before bed we got a radiation report- I understand that normal is in the .001 range. As far as Yokohama- 300km south of Fukushima and down the beach from Tokyo, they got readings in the .01 range. In Tokyo and my area, the .1xx range, and 50 miles north 15.xx…  Early this morning the British were advised to leave Tokyo, and the Americans finally diverged from the Japanese on the point of how far away from the plant people should be evacuating if possible. The Japanese are at 12 miles for evac, 19 miles for hunker down. Americans within a 50 mile range have been told to bug out if at all possible, and consular staff are starting to check on those with addresses in that range.  Message boards online are indicating that many of the Japanese who are aware of the situation (the divergence has not hit the Japanese news yet), are expressing more trust in the American recommendation. While no one wants to hear that they have to evacuate, the distances so far have just not seemed far enough.

People are being given instructions to remove and wash all clothes and to shower well after going outside. Additionally, gloves, masks, and hats are also advised. Today I’ll be going out for the first time in about 4 days:  I need to buy some travel supplies for the kitteh, some boxes for packing up some stuff to send to the US, and get myself a nice sweaty workout at the gym! Most of the employees there have local or farther than Tokyo families, and so do not seem stressed or worried personally about anything yet. One of the reasons that I have not gone out is because I believe that in a situation like this, people and companies should take a knee if possible- I haven’t worked for two weeks and have canceled my lessons for the rest of the month, and all of next month are on hold. On the same principle, I felt wrong turning around and going to the gym like usual.  But this will be my last chance in a couple of weeks, as I am escorting Miss Norah, my kitteh, to her new home tomorrow.

Empty shelves at the local supermarket

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Everyone is preparing for the blackouts and possible warnings to stay at home, indoors, with the window frames stuffed and wet towels over our faces, in the event that these (very strong) winds start blowing the OTHER way, bringing radiation toward us. The news that the U.S. Navy’s Ronald Reagan group has backed off due to sensing radiation 60 miles away from the reactors is NOT on the Japanese news yet. The American Embassy has been diligent about updates and instructions so far, and while they have not recommended evacuation from any area besides the 20km radius around the degenerating power plants in Fukushima, apparently the French have recommended its citizens to head south and out of Tokyo.

The Japanese government and media generally err on the side of understating devastation. Emperor Hirohito, after Japan surrendered in WW2, in his first radio speech to his own people, described the event of surrender after nuclear devastation in two highly populated areas like this: “The war has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage” [translation not mine, btw].  Informative and comforting, no?

Considering the utter emptiness at the supermarket, I can kind of understand why the dangers are not being reported; this is locust/panic behavior already- at the idea of inconvenience. What would happen if people felt their lives were in serious  and real danger from radiation poisoning? Personally, I have just today realized that I am a little worried for myself. I didn’t feel that even in the midst of the earthquake (rather I was a bit preoccupied with the prospect of my cat getting buried under my building). But radiation poisoning… that could follow me everywhere for the rest of my life and the idea scares me. I wasn’t worried until I heard about the Navy backing off the Japanese coast.

Still having aftershocks. The weather is light jacket- a lot warmer than Friday. Skies are blue and the winds are strong, but going north for now. I’m about 230km from the nuclear reactors, to the south, close to a city called Chiba, fyi. We should be out of power in about two hours for a few hours (it is now 4pm in Japan, 1am in Utah). Probably no internet until its back on.

8.9 Quake, Aftershocks, and Tidal Waves

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No one I know was hurt but there were casualties, the body count is climbing toward 100, a few factories and refineries are on fire, and many more are underwater.  In my neighborhood, the factories have shut down until tomorrow afternoon (as my own company has done), many things flew off of shelves including television sets and in my house, my TV is ok, but the oven took a swan dive off of its cart. Well see if it still works tomorrow. The cat is okay. Lots of books and other things fell over but nothing expensive or irreplaceable has been lost. We might spend the night in the car, but for the moment I am doing guerrilla cooking between aftershocks. Trying to get lots of calories in us in case something worse happens.

For Tokyo the greater danger from an earthquake is not getting crushed, as most buildings are built specifically with resilience in mind, but the spread of fire. Just as I decided that this particular earthquake merited an exit from my apartment, I somehow remembered to shut off the gas. The cat had already dashed under the sofa (don’t need to train them for emergencies I guess) but I was worried about her as I stood outside for the next hour watching my 50 year old concrete building rock around.  There was an aftershock- the first one was a swayer, the second one, or the big aftershock, was a bouncer.

I can’t wait to go home!!!