Thinking back to Japan

Temple of the Daibutsu, NaraLast Saturday, as sort of a joke, I ran a “contest” on Facebook:

Place your bets!

Sean has been out of town this week and is coming home today. Last night he said he would “leave in the morning” and “get home early”.

The person who guesses closest to Sean’s actual arrival time will receive a vignette written by me on the topic of their choosing.

Go!

My friend Heidi won the contest with her guess of 6pm. (The earliest guess was 1:23pm; the latest, from someone Sean went to high school with, was 9:30pm. Sean got home at 5:30. He did not leave in the morning. I did not expect him to, which is the “joke”.)

Heidi thought for awhile about what topic to give me, and finally issued the following:

Ok write -something about visiting Japan that you didn’t expect. (or another place if that’s too specific.)

On the surface, this doesn’t sound like a difficult topic. But nothing immediately came to mind. I think part of it is simply the fact that I went to Japan in 2001. That was quite some time ago. I was also a completely different person in 2001. So I have to think back to my memories of that trip, plus try to remember who I was and how I felt then. It’s an interesting challenge.

As part of my research for this, I’ll go through my photos from the trip. In 2001, my family had just purchased our first digital camera, a Canon C3030-Zoom (“Filmless,” boasted the box!), and I took it with me to Japan. This was actually the starting point of my photography. I’d had film cameras before that point, but I’d never taken this volume of photos before.

I also have a few pieces of writing to serve as reference material. First, there’s this blog post, copied from a handwritten journal entry. (A quick glance through it has proven to be somewhat depressing!) If the Internet Archive is to be believed, I had two more pieces of writing, from the first two days of the trip…but those pages weren’t archived, and I don’t have copies of them. The essay I wrote to thank the Institute of International Education for the grant that allowed me to go on the trip was archived, though. It seems kind of short, but as I recall, I was overwhelmed once the trip was over. I didn’t–couldn’t–write much about it at all. Finally, that fall, in a creative writing class, I wrote a short story inspired by some feelings I had on the trip. I still have a copy of that, and I’ll probably refer to it as well. (It’s private, though.)

I have been really inspired to write lately, which is why I offered a vignette as the prize for this silly contest, and also why I’ve committed to write something every day this year. It’s hard to write something every day, though. Some days it just pours out of me; yesterday was one of those days (although it didn’t feel that way until I started putting words down). And some days I’m absorbed in figuring out what I’m doing, and it’s much harder to get to the storytelling part.

Right now I’m concentrating on building the habit of getting words on the page. It doesn’t matter what those words are or what purpose they serve, if they serve any purpose at all. I’m not worrying about particular projects, either; I’ll write whatever I feel like writing. Once I’ve established a habit, I’ll start worrying about goals and word counts and stuff like that.

With all that in mind, I am considering this blog post my writing for today. I look forward to coming back to my keyboard tomorrow, refreshed and ready to share some sort of story.

A theory of love

This morning I got up at around 6:44. Of course, Sean and his houseguest William were still asleep, Sean on the couch (as is his wont when he stays up late) and William in the office where my computer is set up. I went and got the Lenovo from the living room and a protein shake from the kitchen, then secluded myself in the master bedroom, listening to and looking up fanart for Welcome to Night Vale, my latest obsession.

Around 9 or so it was time for second breakfast. Sean and William were naturally still asleep. I decided to go to McDonald’s. I also decided not to get them anything, and this was my logic: After eating this meal, I would probably be hungry again at around lunchtime. Sean and William would likely only be getting up at that time. So they would eat whatever I’d brought back from McD’s, and I’d have to go find something else for myself. It seemed logical, therefore, to just have myself a snack, and then eat lunch with Sean and William later.

Back in the bedroom, I was eating a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit and fangirling like you wouldn’t believe when the door opened and Sean slipped in, making puppy dog eyes at my food. “You didn’t get me any?” he said pathetically. I tried to explain my logic. He lay down on the bed on his stomach, arms straight at his sides, pouting. “Do you want some bites of mine?” I asked. “No,” he said. “So you’re just going to pout, then?” I asked. “Yes,” he said.

I started to talk about something else, and he literally got up to leave the room! What a guy :D

“Do you want me to go get you some?” I asked.

The answer was obviously yes, but Sean just stood frozen at the door as if lost in thought.

“I don’t mind,” I said. “Do you want me to?”

It became apparent at his continued silence that he could not bring himself to ask it of me.

“Okay,” I said, “I’m going to get you some.”

“Okay,” he said, obviously relieved beyond measure.

And I went and got him some, and some for William too, who was up by the time I got back.

It occurs to me that my marriage would be far unhappier if I didn’t find this sort of thing adorable. If my reaction to Sean moping around was to take it as emotional blackmail and seethe in resentment. Actually, I’m sure there was a point where I did stuff like that, but I’ve learned from watching good relationships that your attitude toward your partner is everything. If you are constantly thinking about what you don’t like about your partner, of course you will “fall out of love.” And if you instead constantly think about how cute and adorable and smart and attractive and funny your partner is, and how much you want to be with them and make them happy, then staying in love is just natural.

Another fun Japanese pun

I love puns, as you may know. This morning I spotted one on Twitter:

What did the Japanese person say about British food? 馬そう。 –@tokyorich

Reading phonetically, うまそう or “uma sou“, it would seem like the Japanese person is simply saying that British food looks delicious. The joke is in the kanji.

そう/sou means “looks like”. うま/uma can mean delicious. But the kanji 馬 means horse.

You may have heard about horse meat found in beef products in Britain; here’s an article excerpt from CNN:

First UK tests reveal scope of horse meat contamination

Over the past week, unauthorized horse meat has been discovered in a variety of products labeled as beef that were sold in supermarkets in countries including Britain, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and Ireland.

… The meat industry was first thrust into the spotlight last month when Irish investigators found horse and pig DNA in hamburger products.

So as you can see, the joke is hilarious.

A pun like this was actually used in Yakitate!! Japan, when Azuma and Kawachi meet the manager of Pantasia’s southern branch for the first time and he demands they bake bread a horse will like. When the horse is satisfied, it cries out 「うま!」, uma! However, instead of the proper kanji for delicious, 美味, 馬 is shown.

The Feigning Innocence Grand Prix

I set my Twitter to Japanese some time ago, and since then I’ve developed the habit of saving each new Japanese ad I see in the sidebar. Some of them are really cute. I enjoy it when I can read some or all of the text without looking it up, too.

Today I spotted one ad that included the phrase グランプリ (Grand Prix). This phrase is often used in marketing to mean “campaign”, at least if Twitter ads are to be believed. For those of you unfamiliar with katakana, the romanization is guranpuri.

I posted on Twitter, “I wonder if any Japanese marketing campaign has ever used the phrase 知らん振りグランプリ…”

知らん振り is a phrase I learned from Detective Conan. It means “feigning innocence” and was used to great effect to determine who the native Japanese speaker was in a group of three Western-looking people. They were all told to stand in front of chairs, and then the police inspector said “知らん振り”…and two of them sat down. This is because 知らん振り is roughly pronounced “shiranpuri”, which to a Westerner might sound like a Japanese person trying to say “sit down, please” in English. The native speaker of Japanese didn’t sit down because he knew what 知らん振り meant.

Since “shiranpuri” totally rhymes with “guranpuri”, it’s a natural fit!

After wondering whether any marketing companies used the phrase I’d come up with, I googled it. While I didn’t find any ad campaigns in the first few results, I did find videos and articles using 知らん振りグランプリ as a tag, and blog posts with 知らん振りグランプリ as the title. Score.

I dare you

Sean went to turn out the light.

“It’ll be totally dark if you do that,” I pointed out. We stared at each other for a long moment. Then he flipped the switch, engulfing us in blackness. “See? I told you.”

As our eyes adjusted, we picked our way out of the room and down the hall toward the light. “It sounded like a dare,” Sean said.

“It was a statement of fact!” I said.

“It was a dare. A double dog dare.”

“Who can resist the double dog dare?” I agreed. “No one.”

“‘What’s the matter, McFly? Chicken?’ is almost as irresistible,” Sean replied.

This is why my husband is awesome.

I love Rikaichan.

Rikaichan is a Firefox plugin that acts as a Japanese reading aid; I hover to the left of a word or phrase I don’t know, and possible definitions pop up. While I may be using it a bit too much as a crutch, I’ve found it really helpful with quickly confirming that I’m reading something right or in deciphering kanji I don’t know without copying and pasting into a dictionary.

One of the big reasons I love Rikaichan, though, is that it is totally up with slang. For an excellent example, click the image below!

Screenshot of Rikaichan use in Twitter trendsOh, Rikaichan. ワロタ indeed!

Conrad’s cold pack

I just discovered that someone sold Conrad-branded cold packs with his cringe-inducing pun, そんなはずがアラスカ, printed on them. Here is a picture from an eBay listing for the item:

Photo of Conrad cold pack from eBay
This line, そんなはずがアラスカ, is a play on the phrase そんなはずがあるっすか?, which basically means “That couldn’t be the case.” Literally, it’s more like “Could you really have that expectation?” What Conrad is doing is changing the very last part, the part that asks the question. He leaves the introduction of the topic, “the case” or “that expectation”, and then changes the question part to–wait for it–ALASKA.

For those of you who don’t read Japanese, here’s a romanization that will make everything clearer.

The original phrase: sonna hazu ga arussuka?

Conrad’s version: sonna hazu ga arasuka.

Just a slight sound change, and the whole meaning is different! Yet similar enough to be punny.

Of course, this joke fails, because it doesn’t make any sense. Alaska? What? When Conrad makes this joke in Kyou Kara Maou, Yuuri is horrified that such a cool, handsome guy like Conrad would make such a terrible pun…

Conrad is pimp.
…but he reminds himself that everyone has to have a flaw somewhere.

Here’s the kicker, though. In Japan, when a joke falls flat, people basically respond by going, “Brr! It’s cold!” I don’t know why this is, but in my head I equate the cold, frosty scene after a bad joke in Japan to the crickets and tumbleweeds we evoke here in the US. And this, my friends, is why it’s so hilarious that Conrad’s terrible pun is printed on a cold pack.

Conrad’s jokes: guaranteed to cool you down.

Rotate that underwear

I watched Frasier religiously when it was on the air, and one particular comedic moment has stuck with me since. I haven’t seen the episode in years, but I can still see it in my head (though I may not have the exact wording correct).

Daphne is preparing to move out of Frasier’s apartment so she can be with Niles, and she’s fretting over who will take care of Marty. She rattles off a list of perfectly normal things she does for him, but when she gets to one particular item, she’s met with shock and confusion.

“Rotate your underwear drawer–”

“What?”

“Oh, you know, go through and throw out your old underwear and replace it with new. Surely you didn’t think you’d been wearing the same ones all these years.”

“…I just thought I’d found a really good pack.”

Terror!

Last night when I opened the dishwasher to set my dinner plate inside, I saw movement at the place where the door meets the washer.

My eyes were there in a flash, in time to see a cockroach skitter out in a mad, looping retreat.

I screamed my I’ve-just-seen-a-cockroach scream and slammed the washer closed.

I’ve dealt with cockroaches before. I’m not really sure why I scream when I see them, or why I recoil from them the way I do. I can handle them dead–well, not handle them, but I can deal with throwing them out, but when they’re darting at inhuman speeds across my floors to potentially hide among my belongings, scurrying into little cracks where they can’t be killed and just waiting for the opportunity to terrorize me, then, well, yeah.

The cockroaches here in Marietta are different from the ones back in Augusta. They’re black rather than slightly reddish, and while I have seen one on the ceiling I’m not sure they do much flying. (Wishful thinking?) They also look like they would crunch a lot more when stepped on, but as I haven’t actually caught one yet, I don’t know for sure.

Regardless, one of these abominations had been in my dishwasher, probably because I’d left it open a crack rather than fully closed, and now I had no idea where it was.

I armed myself with shoes, just in case, then pulled the dishwasher door back down. No sign of the thing on the bottom or among the dishes. I slid my eyes upward…

…and there it was, on the back wall of the dishwasher, nestled right near the corner with the left wall and ceiling.

I had, of course, been giving Sean the running commentary, and as I went for the broom I informed him, “You know, guys are supposed to handle this stuff.” He made some sort of noncommittal noise and I sighed and opened the dishwasher a third time.

Sliding the broom in above the top rack of dishes, I jabbed it forward as hard as I could at that awkward angle, hoping to catch the roach in the bristles of the broom. But maybe Marietta roaches are harder and slicker, or maybe I didn’t jab hard enough. Whatever the reason, the thing simply fell down the wall into the bottom of the dishwasher, and then, as I leapt back, preparing to guide him out with the broom and stomp on him, he crawled with impossible speed into a two-inch wide hole on the back of the dishwasher door I hadn’t noticed before, a place that had apparently been broken out accidentally.

Furious, I closed the dishwasher again.

And that’s the situation as it stands now. I apparently have a cockroach in the door of my dishwasher. Not only that, but there’s a hole in the door of the dishwasher where just anything can crawl in and hang out. Ew.

Today, irritated, I opened the dishwasher, loaded it, put in a detergent sac and ran the thing. There was no sign of the cockroach. No water spilled out of the dishwasher, so I have to assume the closure is airtight…so where’s the roach, then? Still in the door? Did the heat from the drying cycle kill him, or can roaches withstand that much heat? If I open the dishwasher now, will the roach scurry out and get all over my clean dishes?

Or is there a dead cockroach in my dishwasher door…and if so, will he at least serve as a warning to the others?

Funny!

From a recent Groupon:

Without classical music, brides would have to run down the aisle to the tune of Yackety Sax and supervillains would have nothing to play on their pipe organs.

Insane

So one time I was watching some sort of show in which deductions were being made. One of the deductions hinged on the fact that “no sane person would ever drink straight from an aluminum can without wiping it off first”.

So apparently I’m insane.

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Augusta’s under construction

The following is a conversation I just had with my coworker Lisa C.

Me: I can’t believe they think they’re going to get a baseball stadium built by 2011.

Lisa: You never know; miracles happen.

Me: Have you seen Bobby Jones and I-20?

Lisa: I live that dream every day.