Morning Cartoons

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To me, now, this means Mythbusters or Sliced on Discovery Channel. Instead of a bowl of cereal (or potful, as sometimes in my youth I really didn’t feel like washing dishes), I have at the very least of cup of tea. My hair still looks terrible (still working on the morning curls).

On mornings that I share with Yo, instead of my good, wholesome documentaries, I get mindless variety shows and angry politics. I’m thinking that if/when we get to the US, I am going to think long and hard before buying a TV.

A few days ago I had a chance to get out and take a walk at Narita Temple. One of the trainers at my gym is a single female my age, originally from Kyoto (quite far) and recently returned to Japan from like 7 years in Texas.  She’s really nice and social, and Americanized. So I felt like adopting her for a bit and took her out for sightseeing and grilled eel for lunch. It’s better than it sounds, I promise.  It was quite cold, but some of the first cherry and plum flowers had bloomed and it was neat seeing the flowers that different varieties of tree produce. One of the trees had slightly golden pink petals.

In other “news”, we just finished watching a marathon of the first 4 “Batman” movies because Yo had never seen them. I can’t wait to get on to the last two, since they were done really well in comparison, but it was a bit nostalgic to watch those 4.

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Hot Sauce

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For years I have been warily eyeballing those kitschy-looking “Sudden Death” hot sauces, too afraid that they would kill me. But the other day I was feeling a bit adventurous and homesick, and grabbed a bottle at the foreign food store. It has chipotle peppers in it. And I added it to my Japanese curry rice, and discovered that I can handle it straight in small amounts. Full-flavored and spicy, but still enjoyable. Can’t say how happy that made me!

Also, just saw the official Pirates of the Caribbean 4 trailer on Youtube today! I don’t care what anyone says, its one of the best stories ever told on screen- absolutely epic. I used to watch the first 3 on DVD nearly every week last year and feel like I must have seen them at least 20 times EACH. Every time I watch one I actually find something I didn’t notice the last time, like an Easter Egg.  I can’t wait to see it!

Finally- getting new glasses.  I keep getting pink eye and being stuck with wearing contacts or going blind, so Yo took me in to get eye crutches.  I hope to all things sacred I qualify for Lasik or something. Maybe later this year~

Anyways I am going to take out my lenses and go to sleep, looking at this screen as I type is killing me!

Do I Need to Get Out More?

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As you might know, as most people who know me probably should know, I’m a bit of a hermit. Home right now is not much, but it is home!  My little castle. Cave. Whatever…  I have a red corduroy sofa from Ikea and its the center of my home, at least during the winter, and so its my throne.  Not much can remove me from my little domain. I hardly ever go farther than the grocery store on my day off. But I’m content with that for the time being. While I’m here. At least I have the gym next door so I won’t turn into a potato on my own throne.

But the other day I was summoned, to a gathering far beyond the borders of my realm. Far. Well, not that far I suppose but from a hermit-queen’s point of view it was quite a ways. Shinjuku…  Google that if you must know more… is about 90 minutes train ride from home, and I left after work at 8:30pm, arrived to my destination at 10pm- and upon seeing all the familiar red faces and loud voices immediately felt the question above pop into my head.

The answer is… not much more than I already do.  It was a blast going to the bar and having the chance to buy the impending departed a teeny-weeny beer. Behaving in a way that does not reflect the fact that I am being paid to behave in a certain way, that’s also really fun. Especially around the people who would otherwise only ever be around me when I have the professional muzzle on, and they too self censoring (but not nearly as much as me, I discovered!).  Yes, loads of fun. I miss America.

It took me nearly all the next day to recover. I did do a full workout at the gym- where they were all concerned that I had pink-eye yet again.  My eyes were just that tired.  Its so awesome to go out and I look forward to it when those chances come up but I certainly couldn’t deal with the recovery more often than I do at present!  I’m getting old~

Bye-bye, big white guy.

The Curl Experiment

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About six months ago I came to face something I had been in denial of for a long time- I have really, really curly hair. Up to that point, I had been trying to straighten it in every way possible and on the days that I couldn’t, I was wrestling it into a ponytail. Six months ago is when I realized that working full time at my company was not working out for me on so many levels that I had to step down. One of the things that made me come to that decision was the difference in my hair, between the beginning of my being posted there, and that moment in time.  I had lost what seems like 30% of my hair.  It had been coming out in chunks in the shower for months. My ponytails were getting so sad, and I could no longer do the fashionable wrap-a-bit-of-my-own-hair-around-the-band-to-cover-it-and-look-polished pony. I didn’t have enough hair to do it without looking like a 5-year-old girl with frown lines.

So after I quit and came back to the Chiba school, I started leaving my hair down, knowing that ponytails can contribute to damaged or lost hair. I started to notice, I mean for once really notice, ringlets down behind my ears. My curiosity having been piqued, I went to the great Oracle (otherwise known as my web browser) and started reading up. I decided to give my hair a chance and see what it could do.  I followed the directions the best I could- after the shower, I took a t-shirt (my husbands, naturally), not a towel, and gently squashed my hair up toward my noggin. A then carefully let it air dry without touching it.  In Utah, this would take 20 minutes, but in Japan more like 2 hours, and that’s an optimistic estimate.  The result?  Most of my hair dried into curls, albeit frizzy ones. Less than ideal but encouraging.

By some miracle I found a stylist in Tokyo that worked in one of New York’s top curly hair salons for many years- she’s a wise woman and put an add in Metropolis, the free weekly expat mag. So I made my appointment and went 2 hours to her salon. She gave me a lot of advice about how to treat my hair, how to wash it, how to dry it, how to max the curls without touching a heating element or any other tool besides a towel, some gel, and maybe a spray of herbal water.

The reason I bring this up now, is that for the last week I have been really trying to figure out how to wash my hair at night, usually within 2 hours of bedtime, and wake up the next day with happy, smooth, and satisfactory curls.  It doesn’t work wet, I have discovered- with or without a wrap on my head. Dry doesn’t work either, although its slightly better with a wrap, the curls still look confused in the morning. If I can manage to stay perfectly still while I sleep, and I remember to fan my hair above my head on the pillow, that works wonders…  but that only happened once and I didn’t actually sleep that night for worry of moving.  The best I can do so far is to wash it or wet it down in the mornings, and that’s not ideal.

Maybe today I am going to Yo’s salon for a treatment. For cuts and more serious work, I am sticking with the lady 2 hours train ride away in Ebisu to take care of me. Anyway its past 10AM and I have promised to start getting the gym done with by noon each day. The mornings are like a geriatrics ward! Lots of old people doing the zombie walk and sitting on the benches for 20 minutes after completing their stretching routine. I’m glad none of them are brave enough to try the elliptical!

Update: I can now touch my toes!

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This makes me very happy (^^).  I can finally reach my toes, as long as they are not straight in front of me. But this is great progress for me! I can almost reach them after doing the cardio and by standing and reaching for the floor. I can’t get anywhere close when sitting. In related news, I have finally reached 20 minutes for cardio.  I know that sounds weak, but I started from a very couch-potato lifestyle. I sit at home, I sit at work, my idea of exercise before taking gym workouts seriously was climbing the escalator on my way to the office!  When I can finally return to civilization, I’m going hiking in the woods!!  So getting used to exerting myself for 20 minutes early in the day, and breaking the habit I have of hiding at home on my day off, and SWEATING, with no makeup in front of people…  yeah this is pretty cool.

Gushing over mediocrity. In an effort to absolve myself, I am going to tell you this:  I’m going to continue for my toes and the floor itself for as long as it takes, but I’ll try to have that down by the end of February. And also in February, I am going to camp out at 20 minutes for cardio, until it feels easy. I think one month is enough time for that, then I’ll start climbing to double it by the end of March. The next thing after that, is the actual treadmill. Give my bones something to think about once my muscles are taken care of. If I can avoid shin-splints for that long, then I suppose more impact won’t hurt.

One of my favorite recipes from when I was in high school was taking a pack of ranch dressing, mixing it with some olive oil and red wine vinegar, and marinading a chicken breast in it. Guess whats for dinner?  Yeah!

 

Mansfield Park

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I’ve been reading a lot recently, since my coworker got a Kindle eReader for Christmas and was so attached to the idea of having an iPad instead that he offered to sell the Kindle to me for much less it is worth to Amazon. I’ve never been happier with a purchase! The screen is really paper-like, it doesn’t strain my eyes any more than a traditional book would. And the first thing I did was found as many free ebooks as I was interested in to download (also a free and fast process). I got about 35 classics and have gotten through 3 in the last week.

A few years ago, I really liked the movie for Pride and Prejudice, and bought an annotated copy of the book with side notes on the social context to help me understand more fully what was happening. I enjoyed it so much that I ordered a complete set of Jane Austen’s works leather-bound, but being heavy I have been patient about enjoying them- they are in Utah and I am in Japan.  With this Kindle, I was able to download all of these books free! So I read Sense and Sensibility first. Jane Austen had a real sarcastic, facetious streak to her!  S&S is laced with it.  But it was the next story I chose, and just finished, Mansfield Park, that I really want to mention today.

It’s not so famous as the two I already read, but I was all giddy smiles when I finished it. I think, at least today and yesterday and probably for a while after, its my favorite of her novels. I don’t want to talk about it or write a book report or anything, but I do want to say I think it’s not as appreciated as it should be and I think more people should read it. If I ever have female (or even male) spawn, they should read it. It’s excellent for an introduction into character study, just like Winnie the Pooh is.  And I don’t mean just for writing, but as a primer in how to read real people, I think Jane Austen was really good at illustrating a person’s character, and even explaining the difference between “character” and “personality” in a way as could be applied practically even 200 years later.  All of these lessons aside, I simply liked the story and got so absorbed in it that I got angry at the main character and actually felt sorry for many of the people- my poor Kindle got a good shaking at least twice! But the end~  the end is immortal!

Today is Thursday, and Yo is home. We are going for the gym soon, my SECOND first attempt this year. I only got to go once this year I think before getting shat on with the flu.  I keep trying to build up my cardio stamina; I’m at a whopping 14 minutes!!! or was, last Tuesday.  I hope I can build up to at least 20 by the end of this month. I really want to reach 40 minutes for stamina, then work on speed.  I don’t know why I need a stamina of 40 minutes or any improvement in speed, unless I were to go camping and got chased by a bear, or finally meet my stalker here in Japan (statistically I could very well have one and not know it!). But its nice to know I could run for as long as that. I suppose eventually I will have to move off the elliptical and bike and over to the treadmill and start getting used to the impact. I have shin-splints from Army training over 10 years ago, and I am afraid of aggravating them again, but maybe if I am careful I can keep the injury to a minimum and build up to regular running without pain.  Nyaaaaaa~~~  off I go.

Happy Frakkin’ New Year

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I can’t help it, I like that word.

And right now I’m quite miserable with a sore throat, brought on by my faulty sinuses, further complicated by pestilence. I need to get them fixed. This happens every winter but usually I can fight it off until about March. This time, my Japanese co-workers- lovely young ladies all, bless their souls- have been fighting something… and bringing the fight to work. Its one of the most maddening aspects of Japanese office culture. If you come to work, even when you are sick, you expect the boss to think highly of you; or the inverse- if you don’t come to work because you are sick, your coworkers and boss will be angry, or worse think you are lazy- your back log tossed into your face mercilessly.

Guys, I love you but not that much. Sick days and call-in procedures are in place in my office for Japanese staff as well as instructors and foreign staff. Its a basic human right and just good manners to keep your pestilence at home. There is a time to put your health (and the health of your beloved coworkers) ahead of their opinion of you. Each of us has to make that call and here, it takes guts to make that call. Just mostly Japanese people don’t realize they have the guts until they have emptied them into the toilet (Oh! There they are… guess I can call in sick now!) and even THEN, many of them miss the hint.

I think I have said it before but I’ll end this complaint by saying it once here: Japan is a great place to visit, but living here is a joke.

On to other things.

I started some classes online a couple of days ago, fortunately the first week’s workload is light. I didn’t get around to procuring my textbooks until the first day of class. I got a couple online versions where available, ordered one text from Amazon USA, due next Wednesday, and the other 3 from Amazon Japan, due on the 30th! For SHAME Amazon Japan!! What kind of class am I taking? Well, I’d rather not say here… maybe I mentioned it on a previous post, but… its related to writing. Thing is, I’m not a very creative or careful writer. Which is fine for what I am doing, really, but I wouldn’t want anyone doubting my abilities based on a blog I keep for fun.

My cat is in a grouchy, cuddly mood right now- you should see all the scratches she’s blessed me with.

I have other things to say, I know I do. But sinus headaches and issues actually have an effect on a person’s ability to think. And I can’t think. Awesome if you read through all this!