So here’s a thing: I’m 37 years old, but there’s stuff I never learned how to do, or have done maybe once or twice but am not an expert at. And there’s stuff I just don’t like doing. I generally dislike cooking, for example, though I do feel satisfaction when I make something that tastes good. And I don’t have much experience dealing with money issues beyond paying bills and taxes.

Sean and I stayed at a hotel back in Nicholasville, Kentucky over Christmas. We’ve never had a problem there before, but this time things were weird as soon as we checked in. I’d reserved the room online, and at that point we received the quote for the full bill and a hold was put on our credit card for the deposit. When we arrived at the hotel, it was late at night. The woman working the desk frowned at her computer, said it couldn’t possibly be right, and started changing a bunch of things that I didn’t see.

At the end of our stay, the final bill that was slipped under our door was for a ridiculous amount of money, over $600 when the original quote was just under $400. I pored over the bill and figured out what had happened: the night desk clerk had tried to adjust our room rates (I belatedly remembered her muttering something about “we don’t do variable room rates!”) and had not removed the rates she was trying to replace—so we were double charged for three days.

I wrote all of this out and carried it to the desk to show the manager what our bill actually should have been. I also showed him the quote in my email that had the variable room rates. He adjusted everything, and the receipt I ended up with had the amount we were originally quoted. We happily went home and I resolved to check our account later to make sure we were charged correctly.

We weren’t.

When we checked in to the hotel, that hold that had been put on the card became an actual charge. And for some reason, the night desk clerk charged that deposit again. So we paid $209.46 at time of check-in. But after adjusting the bill, the manager did not subtract those deposits. This meant the total charged to our card was not $392.46, as it should have been, but $601.92!

I had felt pretty powerful at the hotel when I showed the manager my math and he adjusted the bill. I was not nearly as confident about dealing with the situation over the phone. But I called anyway, and I explained the error, and I told him the exact amount to refund. Once he understood what had happened, he processed the refund right then and there while I was still on the line. I just checked and confirmed that the refund came to our account.

Given that there was a time when I was terrified to use the phone to order takeout, this feels like a huge win for me. I’m really pleased that I was able to resolve this situation (and get our money back)!

Managing myself

One big thing that changed for me in 2015 is that I started really chatting again.

Much of my online life, starting with BBSes back in 1993, had been chatting. Talking directly to people. Making friends. With the advent of social media, my chatting, just like my blogging, declined. I started saying a lot of the stuff I’d say in private chats on Twitter instead. I liked the idea that I had a lasting record—my chat logs up until 2005 were lost in the fire. When I started using Facebook, a place where I could specify who was allowed to see my posts, I chatted even less. For a long time—years—I would chat with people here and there, but never regularly. Mom was the sole exception.

That changed early last year when I started meeting people in the Welcome to Night Vale fandom on Tumblr. At the time, Tumblr didn’t have their Messaging system, and Asks and Fanmail were too clunky for the kind of natural conversations I enjoy. So I started asking people if they wanted to chat with me on an actual chat service. At first I had several people on Google Talk, but then, when it became apparent that the majority were on Skype, we all shifted over there. Eventually a group chat formed, something I hadn’t really done since I stopped using IRC many years ago.

I don’t think I realized how disconnected I’d felt until I started chatting again. I only have a few local friends other than people I interact with at work. So I wasn’t really talking much with anyone. Suddenly I have this circle of wonderful friends who I care deeply about. It’s been quite a change.

I’ve made some big mistakes. I haven’t been as sensitive as I could have been. I can be extremely hurtful when I’m depressed. I say things I would never otherwise say. I don’t drink, but I imagine it’s similar to that, having my inhibitions lowered to the point that I’ll just spew whatever garbage I’m feeling. In one incident that I still haven’t quite recovered from, I really hurt a friend’s feelings. She suggested wisely that when I am feeling depressed, I should just stop typing. In another, more recent incident, I was feeling overwhelmed by the dynamics of a relationship and acted out, and upon rereading I was horrified to see what a bully I had been.

All of this is context for the following. Last night, I started feeling horrible again. I felt disconnected, down on myself, and angry that people did not care in the exact way I wanted them to care. Everything people said—stuff that had absolutely nothing to do with me—made me mad. And so instead of staying in that environment and possibly saying something awful, I politely excused myself for the evening.

It felt odd. Unnatural. I tend to just get online and stay online. But taking a break is what I needed to do. I’m happy that I recognized that and did it and did not say something cruel to people I love.

I’m pretty scared of my potential to hurt other people. I will continue to be mindful of my moods and the effect they have on my behavior.

Looking back at the 2015 Daily Writing Challenge

Happy New Year! I decided to take a nap at around 6:30pm last night and ended up sleeping until 2am, so I missed midnight kisses and whatnot. It’s 2016 now and I figured it’s a good time to see how I did with last year’s resolution: write something non-work-related every day.

Let me just say up front that I did not write something every day. And I was feeling pretty down on myself about it, so I hadn’t recorded my word counts since September. I was convinced that I’d barely written anything for the latter half of the year. But this morning I went through and tallied everything, and it’s a lot better than I’d thought. While it’s true my monthly word count fell below 10,000 words from August onward, I wasn’t that far from April, June, and July’s totals (with the exception of November, which I will forgive myself for, as I was very depressed that month).

I wrote a total of 175,809 words in 2015. That is huge. If all these words had been for the same project, I’d have a novel. Of course, they weren’t; I wrote a bunch of smaller things. I don’t know how many projects there were, but they ranged from five-sentence ficlets to (as-yet-unfinished) chaptered works. The majority were one-off stories, which seem to be my strong suit. Regardless, that’s an impressive number of words, especially since before this past year (technically, November 2014), I had not been doing any creative writing whatsoever.

I’d like to keep writing, but I’d also like to not disappoint myself like I did when I started missing writing days. Failing to meet a goal makes me lose confidence, and I end up not wanting to do anything for fear of further failure. So I think this year I will change my goal. Instead of saying I will write something every day, I will commit to writing every week, with the goal of a certain number of words per month. Since I averaged 14,650 words per month in 2015, maybe I’ll make my monthly word goal 15,000.

I can work out the details, including how to track this (I’m not sure the spreadsheets I used in 2015 are ideal), at a later time. For now, though, I’m pretty sleepy, so I’m going back to bed.

Solving unrealistic murder mysteries in Japanese

So you’re a mystery writer, or a private detective, and you’ve been called to Japan to solve the harrowing, grisly, impossible murder of a rich and powerful politician, Yamaguchi-san, during a party at his home. But where do you begin?

You begin, of course, by learning all the important mystery and forensics terminology.

First, you have to know how to introduce yourself. You’re not a “mystery writer”; you’re a 推理筆者 (すいりひっしゃ). Or, rather than a private detective, you’re a 私立探偵 (しりつたんてい) who works for (or perhaps operates) a 探偵事務所 (たんていじむしょ, detective agency or consulting firm). Maybe you’re even a 名探偵 (めいたんてい, great detective), your exploits known throughout the world, but it would be impolite for you to say so.

The 警察 (けいさつ, police) have called you because of the 怪しい (あやしい, suspicious) nature of the death. The 事件 (じけん, incident) was, as far as anyone can tell, a 密室殺人 (みっしつさつじん, “locked room murder”)–a 不可能犯罪 (ふかのうはんざい, impossible crime). It would have been ruled a 自殺 (じさつ, suicide) if not for an apparent ダイイングメッセージ (“dying message”) left by the 被害者 (ひがいしゃ, victim). Unfortunately, the message is unclear–it may be some sort of 暗号 (あんごう, code), or it may be some other sort of indirect reference to the 殺人犯 (さつじんはん, murderer).

Now it’s up to you to double-check the work the police have done. Assemble all the 手がかり (てがかり, clues) they’ve noted so far, and start keeping track of your own. Talk with the 客人 (きゃくじん, guests) of the パーティー (party) and analyze their アリバイ (alibis). Go over the 犯罪現場 (はんざいげんば, crime scene) for clues that may have been missed. Talk with 鑑識 (かんしき, forensics) about the tests they’ve done and order more if necessary. Based on what you’ve learned, you may want to order a ルミノール (luminol) test somewhere on the scene…the killer may have cleaned up some 血液 (けつえき, blood), but you’ll still be able to get a reaction if you know where to look.

Once you’ve figured out what really happened, it’s time for your 推理ショー(すいりショー, literally “deduction show”, where you present your findings). Have the police help you set up a demonstration of how the 殺人 (さつじん, murder) went down. There may be a grumpy inspector who complains a little about this, but you’ll also usually find at least one very willing detective to be your errand boy. He’ll also sit in as your victim if you want! Just try not to bump him off in your excitement to reveal the killer’s トリック (trick).

Make a big show of demonstrating the trick first. Once you’ve impressed everyone with your reasoning skills, start eliminating suspects. Ticking them off one by one adds to the サスペンス (suspense). Finally, lower your head, close your eyes dramatically, lay out your best 証拠 (しょうこ, evidence), and then say the following line:

山口さんを殺したのは… (“The one who killed Yamaguchi-san…”)

Then snap your head up, point straight at the killer, and say:

…Xさん、あなただ! (“…was you, X-san!”)

And with that, you’re ready to be a 名探偵 in 日本. (Just watch out for 黒ずくめの男達 [men in black] with 実験的な薬 [experimental drugs]!)

I wrote this in 2012 and never posted it. It is, rather obviously, inspired by Detective Conan.

Here’s some stuff

I haven’t updated my 2015 Daily Writing tally in a couple months, but the gist is, I have not been writing daily. Or even weekly. The last thing I wrote was a tiny fanfic on November 1. Before that I was writing somewhat regularly, but not every day.

Sometimes when I think about writing, it seems like too much effort. Sometimes I can’t think of anything I want to write. Sometimes I just feel too tired.

Lately I’ve started to think that maybe I might be ready to write again, but I haven’t done it yet.

I have an appointment on Thursday to talk with someone about what I assume is depression. We’ll see how that goes.

I don’t know what happened

I have had bouts of severe unhappiness in the past few months. I haven’t kept track of them or anything, so I don’t know how frequent they are or when they started. I just know that I’ll have one or two days where I feel fine, and then I’ll sink into this horrible depression. I’m filled with self-loathing all the time, thinking about all the ways in which I have failed and continue to fail.

I feel like I don’t have the energy to do anything. I also don’t feel like I want to do anything. A book I’ve been waiting to read for months finally came out a couple weeks ago, but I still haven’t finished reading it. It’s like I don’t care at all.

There have been bright moments. My trip to New York City, from October 1 to 8, was fantastic. I was happy the whole time I was there, riding a travel high. Even when plans didn’t work out or when my feet were killing me from wearing uncomfortable shoes, I felt great. (I’m sure a lot of that had to do with the company.)

And the weekend before last, I went to Gibbs Gardens on Saturday by myself and Sunday with Charles and Heidi, and the fall leaves were beautiful, and the Japanese Culture Festival was going on and it was a lot of fun.

But those happy feelings never seem to last, and in an instant I can be sobbing over how uncreative I am or how I can’t seem to actually do anything or how I fail at human relationships. I feel like lately all I’ve done is bring my friends down, which makes it worse. I feel like I shouldn’t be around people. I’m so negative, I keep saying awful things and making people feel bad.

I just want to enjoy things again, and not hate myself.

Remember when I used to blog?

Life has been…different, lately. And very busy. I don’t know that I’m actually doing a whole lot, but it sure feels like I’m spending every moment on something. It occurred to me that it’s been awhile since I actually blogged, so I thought I’d put down some sort of update.

There are several new people in my life, friends I’ve made through the Welcome to Night Vale fandom and through Sean. It has been so wonderful getting to know them and sharing things with them. I’ve been doing a lot more chatting recently than I had for years. I’d really missed it. So many of my new friends are artists or writers, so we’ve been inspiring each other to create fanworks, and it’s been so much fun.

My online life has sort of shifted; I used to spend a lot of time on social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, but now I hardly ever look at those two sites. I’m enjoying the chatting a lot more—it’s more personal, and it’s with people I care a lot about. (Sometimes on social media I get a bunch of updates from acquaintances and barely anything from my closest friends.)

I have a trip coming up soon; I’m going to New York City! I’ve only been once before, during Sean and my visit to New York state in 2011 (which I never finished writing up, alas). I’m really excited to see the city properly. I’m going to a Broadway musical, even! But the best part is that I’m going to meet someone very special in person for the first time. :)

I went home to visit my family over Labor Day weekend. It was nice. I didn’t feel like doing much, so I hung out in the office with Mom most of the time. On Sunday, the day before I left, we had a cookout, and AJ let Connor and Logan invite a bunch of their friends. Mom and Dad’s yard was filled with teen and pre-teen boys, swimming, playing horseshoes, tossing beanbags, and helping with the grill. It was amazing. Eventually we all sat down to eat wherever we could find a spot and one of Logan’s friends, Cade, entertained us with jokes. Then he and Logan challenged each other to eat various food items with lemon juice squirted all over them. It was funny.

Ben had no idea I was visiting, so I didn’t see him at all. Gah. Next time I will be sure to tell him myself that I am coming!

My daily writing challenge has kind of faltered. Some days I have been too mentally exhausted to write. Some days I just haven’t been in the right headspace. I’m still trying to write regularly, but it seems like every day isn’t sustainable. I’m trying not to beat myself up over it, and instead to enjoy the writing I’m doing.

So far the vast majority of my writing has been fanworks. I’m trying not to feel bad about this, either. For some reason I feel like I should be writing original stuff, like the work I’ve done isn’t “real.” But people have enjoyed what I’ve written, and I’ve enjoyed writing it. There’s value to it. I’m trying to break out of the “if it can’t make money, it’s worthless” mentality.

(Of course, I’m also nervous that I’m just scared to try to write something original, because I don’t feel like I can do it and I don’t want to fail…)

Sean and I eat out a lot these days. Neither of us is a big fan of cooking. For Sean, it’s mostly that it takes so much time. For me, there’s the added issue that Sean is fairly picky, so there’s the danger that I’ll spend forever making something and then he won’t like it. So we tend to get takeout or fast food, or just go to a restaurant.

We have been trying to make healthier choices, at least. I’ve been getting Starbucks’ Protein Bistro Box for breakfast pretty regularly. It comes with a hard-boiled egg, two slices of white cheddar cheese, a small multi-grain pita with honey-peanut butter spread, apple slices, and grapes. It is so yummy! Much nicer than a sausage or bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit, and healthier too. It’s a struggle not to just eat one every day. (I’ve been thinking that I could probably create my own version at home that would cost less. Maybe I’ll do that.)

Exercise-wise, neither of us is doing much of anything. We have to go up a flight of stairs to leave our apartment, and I take the stairs in the parking garage at work, but that’s about it. I’ve been thinking about getting back into walking or running in the mornings now that the weather is cooling off again, but I’m not sure I want to get up any earlier than I already do. My evenings feel pretty short already, especially since most of my friends stay up late.

Yesterday one of my friends linked me to a couple of videos: the pilot short and the first episode of the miniseries Over the Garden Wall. I had never seen it before, though I knew a lot of people were fans. It was absolutely incredible. So unique and charming. Creepy and cute all at once. The music is spectacular. At some point I need to sit down and watch the whole thing. (I was disappointed that both of the two main characters are boys, but my friend says there are important girl characters in the show, so I will hold out hope.)

Otherwise, I haven’t been watching or listening to much of anything lately beyond Welcome to Night Vale. I’ve heard of a couple of podcasts that sound great, but it’s hard for me to find time to listen to podcasts. I need to be doing something with my hands, but it can’t be something that takes too much mental energy, because I’ll get distracted from the show. Maybe if I start walking again, I could listen then. I’ve also been thinking about learning embroidery, or at least cross-stitch. I could listen to podcasts while doing that, maybe.

Well, that’s basically what’s going on in my life right now! On the whole, things are really good. Love, family, friends, hobbies, adventures, happiness. :)


Really glad I got all the pictures off my iPhone before I tried installing the new iOS, because something fucked up and I may have to restore to factory settings >_<

Edit: Yup, have to restore. SIIIIIIIIGH

Getting things in order

It’s been quite some time since I have edited and uploaded photos. Today I moved over four months of photos off my phone. These joined a mass of other photos dating all the way back to November 2014, plus a few from August and March 2014…all waiting to be processed. (I don’t even want to know how many photos this is total.)

To make the task seem less overwhelming, I created some main category folders for each month—1403, 1408, 1411, 1412, etc.—and put all the daily folders inside them. This makes my My Pictures folder a lot more manageable, and it also gives me a way to organize the task of going through these. I can pick a month folder to do one day, or a day folder to do another day, depending on how much time I have.

I’ve felt a little disjointed lately. I spend a lot of time doing “fandom stuff”—looking at, sharing, and creating fan content. And this is fun, and I’ve enjoyed it, but I sort of feel like I haven’t been doing anything else, besides work and chores. So I think I will make an effort to diversify. Get back to photography a little. Read stuff that isn’t fan fiction. Get out of the apartment more.

I’ve also been thinking about getting back into running. I need to do some sort of exercise; just taking the stairs in the parking garage at work is not enough to keep my cardiovascular health where it needs to be. I haven’t really tried running since I lost all the weight. It might be fun. I’m thinking about checking out Zombies, Run, which apparently has a plot and stuff! That sounds neat; maybe it will encourage me to keep running. We’ll see.