Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Grad School Postmortem

Okay. I dropped out of graduate school. I was really sick of working on my thesis (seriously. I would get stomachaches and things). I was to the point where I was worrying about it all the time and procrastinating all the time and then when I did work on it it felt like I wasn't going anywhere. I thought about it a bit, and I decided that for the things I think would be really awesome to do in my life (be a video game journalist, make a video game, be a freelancer, be a mom), I don't need an MA. I would need an MA to teach composition, and I don't like teaching composition. It was a good experience to finish all the coursework for the degree--learning about feminism and aesthetics has been really helpful to how I criticize books and video games. But in the end I don't really need a master's degree in English.

So I'd like to do a postmortem kind of thing and maybe if you ever write a thesis you can avoid the mistakes I made.

Mistakes I Made:

-I was distracted with taking Japanese my last year in coursework. I liked studying Japanese a lot more than working on my thesis, which maybe says something about what I should have gotten a degree in.

-I sat on drafts. Early on in the drafting I pestered my adviser too much and he chastised me. Ever since, I was worried that I was bothering him. I would finish the things he told me to do and then try to anticipate what the next revision would be, instead of sending him back a draft quickly and waiting for a response. I should have worried less about being a bother and more about getting my tuition money's worth of feedback.

-I chose a professor on my committee who I had never worked with before, and she turned out to be kind of scary and have more sway over my other two professors than I thought she would. I wish I had had a professor on my committee that I felt better friends with--someone that I could have complained to a little but would also have been able to explain the weirdness of thesis-dom. I also would have liked someone on my committee who had read either House of Leaves or Portal. As it was, I felt like I could say anything about the works and no one would care whether or not my analysis rang true.


Frustrations with my Adviser (who is a nice person and a scholar and this isn't meant in a mean way, more as a retrospective, "I wish this had been different" way):

-Sometimes I would meet with him and he wouldn't have looked at my latest draft. Once he told me to make changes I had already made. This combined with my habit of sitting on drafts was frustrating.

-He had a vision for my thesis revision procedure that he didn't share with me from the beginning. Each time he gave me feedback, I was thinking "I'll do this and then it will be done," whilst he was thinking something like "after she reorganizes it, I'll tell her to reintegrate secondary criticism." When I found this out I was upset that our communication hadn't been clearer.


It was bad enough writing papers for one professor, but writing one for three was too much for my politically-anxious mind. I probably could have gone on and graduated, but I feel a lot better now for having made this decision. I feel like I can focus on what I want to do and not what I have to do. I have a plan for dinner every day this week and a cleaning schedule. I want to learn CSS and Javascript. Life is just better now.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Koko: Confused by whistling

I actually worked on my thesis today, and then sent out a draft to my committee! So, much thanks to those of you who commented on my last draft, it was somewhat helpful (as was the feedback from my advisor). I'm not really sure if I will defend this semester, and I'm not really sure if I want to give it another semester if I don't.

Other things: We are going to Minecon next week! Let me know if you have swag requests or anything. Koko got spayed and she has been teething it up really bad, so we've been trying to be extra patient with her while she grows up. Also, whistling confuses her:



Oh, I finally finished watching LOST. I read up on some of the explanations for stuff. I feel kind of meh about the whole series, and I think there's some more potential for magical realism in TV shows.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Domo-kuns of Japan


I bought this folder in Japan and felt like sharing it. Please enjoy the many Domos of Japan.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Magic: the Gathering Treasure Hunt

Back when my brother and I had our birthday party together I made him a Magic: The Gathering treasure hunt with clues I made to look like Magic cards (using this set editor). I tried to vary up where the "hint" was--from the picture to the flavor text I wanted to make it exciting to read the card (and not too hard). Making them reminded me of the Unglued set and now I am wishing that there were more humorous cards in Magic. Anyway, it was fun, and here are the clues. Feel free to steal them for your own treasure hunt, but making them is so fun that I recommend that.
Our deck
Koko's crate
The dryer
Some Miracle Grow
Bread
Toaster

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The anxiety of the undone, and an invitation to help

I feel like when I was in college classes, I could do a ton of different things and still have a social life and time for goofing off. But now that I'm in charge of scheduling my own days, time seems to shrink and I procrastinate things I need to do. Like put up the curtains we bought or clean the kitchen floor.

I'm still struggling with my thesis. I am so sick of it, but I can't forget that it's there. I try to get inspired by reading video game criticism but I feel like I really have nothing more to say about the postmodern journey myth. It's hard to feel very productive if I don't work on my thesis, even if I vacuumed/cleaned the kitchen/prepared to have an awesome party/blogged about GEEX. There's always in the back of my to-do list this huge looming mountain that is my thesis and I feel like it will never go away. Any fun I have playing a game is eventually turned into procrastination of the inevitable.

Friday, September 23, 2011

that sick cycle

Day 1: Okay, fine, I'm sick. Day off! Video games! Try to stay away from people so I don't spread germs!
Day 2: I can do this. Wait, what the heck is going on in LOST? I've lost to this boss in Persona how many times? I am just not with it. That's it, I'm going to run around in Assassin's Creed.
Day 3: Maybe I'm feeling better. I might as well finish reading this book. Okay, I can do video games, yeah.
Today: I'm better right? How about I get dressed and everything, that will convince myself.

But no, I'm still weirdly sick. I feel like the master of a marionette which is my body, which I can't decide if it is a side effect of my decongestant or a symptom. Time stretches and shrinks. I feel dead tired and I almost fell asleep, but it felt really strange. You know sometimes when you're falling asleep you feel like you're falling and give a little hypnogogic jerk when you hit the bottom? Well, not like that at all, but the same semiconsciousness. It was like dreaming without any of the images, only the feeling of gradually getting higher or maybe falling out of bed, but not actually falling. When I think about my thesis I think of how neglected it is and resolve to write many pages tomorrow when I'm feeling better. Everything seems unsurmountable, but irrelevant. Stupid things like "Andrew Void-Webber" seem hilarious. You know, viruses.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Book projects in the last year

I wanted to document some of my bookbinding projects from last year, and I only just now got around to uploading photos. I can't remember this binding type's name, but the entire cover is made from one expensive piece of paper. The endband is hand-sewn. I gave it to my older brother for Christmas last year:



 This was a regular hardback I made with my mom's tastes in mind. It has yellow inside paper things and only got a little glue on it.




Below: This wasn't a bookbinding project, but it was a little book I made for a friend I was missing. I entitled  it "Activites for Adults and Children Alike." I'd like to see a real book like this, with cutesy drawings and stuff. I took a signature from some paper I had cut and just sewed in together with some yarn.




I also made a Minecraft cookbook, which I put over on my gaming blog. I know that I'm no expert at bookbinding, but it was fun to make some books.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Children in Japan: Have They Ever Had Fun?




The art of child raising in Japan generally has high expectations of children, but with a high amount of indulgence (and that’s not just anecdotal: see this study and this discussion).

Make Wise Mothers

The focus on children and their mothers began in the late Meiji period (1900s), when men’s jobs kept them away from home and women had the responsibility to become the family’s “supreme ruler.” Many of these women learned how to be “wise mothers” from their education; the last two years of girls’ high school was devoted to becoming a good mother. That makes sense--it takes time to learn how to make tempura and learn to teach children morality (girls’ morality classes were twice as long as boys’). While the samurai lifestyle expected children to be little adults, the turn of the century saw a heightened sensitivity to children’s needs. It’s this emphasis on mother-child relationships that, in my opinion, led to its idealization and spillover into non-maternal relationships (referred to as amae, but that’s a discussion for another day).

Expectation of the Superior Student


So as not to cramp the child’s energetic nature and individuality, mothers started giving their children more practical clothing and their own self-decorated rooms. This included in one instance, hanging the bookshelves crooked at the child’s request. The child was to have the most spacious, sunniest room (as referenced in Real World: "We'll make Ryo's room the sunniest one on the second floor"). Along with these indulgences, mothers expected their children to be “superior students.” The pressure on boys and girls to be at the top of their class so as to get a good job later on remains to this day. And it wasn’t just for men; the higher and more prestigious a woman’s education, the higher her desirability as a wife.

Mothers and Children In Japan Today


Many mothers are also working, though they do not receive the same seniority pay raises as their male counterparts, and about 40% of Japanese people think that women shouldn’t work while they have children at home (my source is from 1999). There’s still this incredible pressure on children to do well in school, but Japanese people are recognizing that sometimes kids need a break from studying. Indeed, one magazine found that children who had time to relax in the summer got better grades (so... they want children to relax so they can do better in school, basically).

I think it’s great for a mother to stay home with her children if she is able to and desires to do so. I don’t think I would raise a child in the indulgent style, but it appears to work alright. What do you think of traditional Japanese child rearing practices?

Most of the information in this article came from Children as Treasures.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Another Koko vid



Here's Koko tearing apart a thistle. She's 12 weeks old now, and she's getting even more energy and chewing on everything. Thanks to Koko, we've been going for more walks, and I've been trying to get up earlier (although for a while I was waking up to let her out and then crashing for another three hours).

I'm trying out new ways to study Japanese. I've started yet another blog, mostly for myself, where I take clips of anime and write out what they're saying in Japanese. It's a little harder than I thought it would be! So, I'm looking for anime with good examples of daily speech and especially polite speech. So far I think I have plenty of material to work with. I'm also thinking of getting a conversation partner through livemocha or something. Maybe I'll start out with a blog on lang8; chatting to friendly strangers is scary! But I guess the worst thing that could happen would be that I have to block someone (or get taught the wrong things).

Thursday, August 04, 2011

August rain and lunches

Koko snoozing
Koko at 10 weeks looks out the window

I think it has rained every day for the past two weeks. It even hailed a ton one day:

It's the first August in Utah I've had where it is possible to be outside at 3pm and be comfortable in pants. I love the cooler weather, and I'm sure there will be a hot day somewhere down the road that really feels like summer. I got super-soaked by a four-year-old and Koko did nothing to protect me. She fled, not even barking a threat. Maybe when she's older she'll be less bitey of me and less scared of everything (last week the vacuum was nothing, this week it's a monster about to eat me). 

We got a breadmaker, and even though I've messed up the last two recipes, the products have been delightfully edible. Oh, and I picked up some old bento boxes from Balgram, which renewed my vigor in making them (also, I promised I would use them, so this post is in part proof). I've been looking to Bento Love for inspiration; I love all the photos. Here are all the lunches I've made in the past week (also, sorry about how Blogger and photos never get along):
Zuccini, cabbage, mushrooms, and ground beef. I forgot to salt the beef. 

Steamed cabbage with blanched bean sprouts and bonito flakes on the right. The left is shrimp taco leftovers: Red onion, corn, and shrimp combine with mango and cilantro (thanks to my Aunt Melissa for the idea)
Barley salad from Shana's recipe sharing circle; that stuff is rice pudding. Two tiers is especially nice for this kind of setup.
Spaghetti with green beans, chicken, mushrooms, and spinach
Spinach, sweet omelet, and ginger garlic chicken over rice (pickled ginger garnish)


Having leftovers like the chicken and spaghetti made making these lunches a lot easier. It also helped that I was getting up earlier to take Koko out (although I've simply gone back to bed some mornings). It's a way I show my love for my husband, and also it helps me experiment with new food stuff in a low-risk situation. I'm still content with a bagel and an apple for lunch, but I think making myself a portion beforehand is a good way to make sure I actually eat something other than pieces of bread (the laziness of the afternoon!).  Anyway, that's what the last two weeks have been like. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ethnic Food in Japan

Now, another Japanese culture post! Tufugu has even more Japanese cultural bizarreness.


You’ve heard of the uncanny valley, right? When a robot is really lifelike, but just different enough to be creepy and unsettling--that’s uncanny. That’s how it feels to eat some Japanese ethnic food. It’s just... not quite right. What’s so weird about it?

Italian-Japanese Food


Pasta is kind of like noodles, so it makes sense to put shrimp and crabs in it, right? Lasagna is pretty much the same, except with the seasoning toned down to perfect blandness. And the pizza... well, as you can see, toppings at this restaurant were arranged in a sakura-blossom pattern, and the pizzas were tiny and made with minimal cheese. Patrons ate everything with chopsticks. Makes perfect sense for Japanese people, just kind of unsettling for me.

French-Japanese Food

Most bakeries in Japan have French/European influence, but with modifications for Japanese tastes. The most popular bread is snow-white and fluffy, but sourdough and cinnamon-raisin bread are available. About 90% of the bread is sweet, but there are sausage rolls (yes, including fish sausage rolls). I’m actually a big fan of anpan and melon bread. Probably the weirdest thing in Japanese bakeries is how perfectly iced the cakes are. Crepes, available from street-side vendors, are offered with the usual fillings (strawberry, chocolate, and custard) with the occasional exotic place offering savory fillings. Probably the weirdest thing about crepes is that they’ve been made into food you can eat on the go: wrapped up with a paper cone like an ice cream.

American-Japanese Food





If you ask for a hanbaagu (ハンバーグ) in a restaurant, you’ll get something that looks like the above. It’s kind of like meatloaf, and due to the insane price of beef in Japan, it’s a good way to stretch out hamburger meat. There are McDonald's in Japan, which are very popular with both adults and children; if you want an actual hamburger it’s hanbaagaa (ハンバーガー). This ad suggests that children are indeed, wild about McDonald's:





And now, for the most unexpected interpretation of an eggroll:

Yes, that’s a roll with a mashed-up boiled egg on top. Yum!

There are tons more hilarious versions of ethnic foods in Japan (soy burgers, sardine pizza, oh and no one knows what a taco is). What’s the weirdest/most uncanny ethnic food you’ve come across?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Koko video



This is Koko running around our backyard. She loves pouncing on anything moving (flies included), so I think we'll have to include waggling shiny things around her as part of the playtime routine.

In other news, I went to the Decemberists concert in SLC and it was AWESOME. Seriously. They had dueling guitar solos and everything. Keep the classical cadenza tradition alive through rock!

Friday, July 22, 2011

PUPPY

We have a puppy. She's a shiba inu named Koko and she's 8 weeks old, and she is super-adorable. And it's a good thing too, because she is basically a patience-testing machine. I'm learning what kinds of chew toys she likes and how to get her so worn out that I have some time to not worry about her while she's sleeping. She's doing very, very well with housetraining (probably thanks to her excellent breeder). She also wants to chew our chairs and dig through the last stair. So if you have tips on helping puppies chew the right things I am game.

Friday, July 15, 2011

NHK’s Efforts to Teach a Nation English

A little background here: I wrote some posts on Japanese language/culture for an internship application. I didn't win the internship (no surprise), but I'd still like to share the posts, because I worked hard on them and I think they're interesting.
Japanese people really, really want to learn English. as evidenced by the sheer amount of English learning material produced and consumed in Japan. Most of us know the problems with traditional English learning in Japan: too heavy reliance on kana pronunciations, overly focused on rules and not focused enough on fluent, self-generated speech. While they may not be famous for good oral proficiency, most Japanese people do pretty well with written English, and they’re trying really hard to get better at speaking. What are they doing right?

Trad Japan



NHK, Japan’s public broadcasting company, has a large English-teaching empire. One facet of this is the monthly Trad Japan. The magazine is a collection of short essays about Japan in Japanese and English, with explanations of tricky phrases.


To round it out, they’ve transcribed some interviews with a proper-sounding British person (you know, to get conversational English in there). The website has English audio samples of the material, and it really looks like they’re doing their best to keep adult learners interested by discussing Japanese culture from a westerner’s point of view while using real English.

Little Charo 2

From the same company comes English education for Japanese children. The cartoon Little Charo 2 (リトル・チャロ2) is set in a universe where animals speak English (humans still speak Japanese). English becomes a cipher to decode; the key to understanding the fantasy-like “middle world.”
The series has a website where children can test their knowledge with quizzes and role-playing video clips (completing the “scrambled scenes” rewards you with the Japanese of the English sentences). Little Charo even has his own DS game: (embed this youtube video here)

Along with Little Charo 2, NHK has a variety of bilingual shows for adults. Personally, I’d love it if we had some bilingual shows other than Dora the Explorer and more language learning DS games. NHK has the right idea: make language learning part of your daily entertainment, and make it fun with good design and interesting content. What aspects of Japanese English-learning material do you admire?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Moving Along

Okay. Most of you probably know that I had a miscarriage. The fates have given men an enduring heart, etc. I have since watched most of the Adventure Time cartoons and beat Pokemon White. It was painful, but it was also wonderful to see the support everyone gave me.

This might be weird, but I feel like now that I don't have pregnancy as an excuse to be lazy anymore, I'm starting to expect more of myself. This week I dug grass out of the flowerbeds in my backyard every morning (thank you, brainygamer podcasts, for making this process relevant to my aspirations). I worked on my thesis every day, though some days were more productive than others. I sent in an application to be an intern at tofugu.com, and I pitched an idea for an interview with a game composer to the Killscreen. I made a profile on Deseret Connect that I haven't done anything with, but I feel like I can at least keep myself busy with my aspirations to be a freelance writer/blogger.

I also hung out with a new friend and her kids today and biked to her house and back. I feel like I don't really belong in a place unless I've biked there, so it was good to get to know my neighborhood better. And I can bike to the library if I really want to. I started playing Ocarina of Time with the vintage game club. I'm planning to host a Japan party in a month (let me know if you want an invite). And I want to get a puppy (displaced maternal instinct be darned).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Adventure Time!


I love "Adventure Time." It's a cartoon series by Cartoon Network, and it makes me want to give American cartoons another chance. Finn is a 28-year-old dog and Jake is a 12-year-old boy and they have adventures. Sometimes I feel like a 12-year-old for watching it, but sometimes there are nerd jokes or plain funny things. I also like the art style. It's not trying to be anime, or trying to be some edgy artsy thing--it just feels fun and maybe a little silly. The world is similar to the ones I used to imagine with my siblings, minus Orcs and Ents and plus the candy kingdom and an awesome tree house. I think you can watch it streaming over at the Cartoon Network website. Also, am I missing out on other awesome American cartoons? Let me know.

I also love pastime books. I think I have about six I Spy books now, and some of them are really hard! I like that I can say I'm equipped to keep any 4-15 year old occupied for a half hour. I also got my copy of Fun for Boys and Girls that Genuine Draft suggested, and it's kind of hilarious and odd (envelope people, how to speak pig Latin, ransom notes actually called "paste-up" notes, etc.). It was published in the 1940s, and some of the items in the book reveal weird fashion trends. For instance, it appears that the cool thing to do was to wear skull caps and jackets with things people wrote on them embroidered on. Weird!

I think it's because I'm pregnant, but I just feel like a little kid sometimes. I'll be cranky or hungry and not even realize it, and I get all emotional sometimes. I think it's a good reminder that children aren't fully aware of themselves and have less control over their emotions. And, well, maybe pregnant women too.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

My gaming blog and links

Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention this, although you probably already know. I want to become a game journalist, so I made a new blog called The Ludi Bin at thepretentiousgamer.blogspot.com.

Also, I added some more links to my sidebar, because Google integrated their analytics into blogger and now I have no excuse for not seeing stats about page views and such. I noticed that some of you were referring people to my site and I decided to return the favor. If you're disappointed that I didn't link you, just drop a comment and something might happen.

Biking and Diets

I tried to do some maintenance on my bike today, which I found kind of cool and also frustrating. Armed with this book, I was happy to find that gear-shifting failure is supposedly super easy to fix! Unfortunately, I don't have the same patience with books when I'm hunched over my bike with a screwdriver (it turns out some of the screws on a bike are not supposed to be screwed in all the way).

In other news, I am pregnant, and I have been looking into nutritious diets. The past few weeks I have been just kind of eating as much as I can and hoping the best (and taking folic acid, don't worry Mom!). The book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration is a kind of outdated but thorough study in what happened when white flour and other Terrible things were introduced into traditional diets (invariably, tooth decay and tuberculosis set in). I'm intrigued by the benefits of cutting down on white flour and refined sugar, but I haven't been able to find much modern research on the subject (but I have found plenty of people who want to rebel against "politically correct" diets). I'm also not sure if I could give up cereal and white bread; I suppose I could eat oatmeal and rye or wheat bread. Anyway, I've ordered a cookbook of traditional cooking methods, and I hope they are accessible enough to try out in a modern kitchen and good-tasting. It's not just raw foods, it has bread and stuff in it. I'm a big proponent of moderation, but I'm also open to trying out new things.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Packing lunch

I've been inspired by bento-style lunches and decided to try my hand at it. Last Friday I packed half-hamburgers:

Monday was salad, leftover mashed potatoes, and egg salad sandwiches:

Tuesday was 2 onigiri (rice balls; they're the triangle-shaped white things), Asian salad, lemon yogurt, instant miso, and beans (which Adam returned with. Apparently you need bread with baked beans).

Wednesday was Asian salad 2nd try, with leftover potato salad and vanilla pudding with a cookie. I also gave him some bread to have with yesterday's beans.

Thursday was company lunch for Adam, and Friday was just leftover bean soup and steamed potatoes/carrots. For dinner tonight I made sushi:
I tried making sausage sushi for the first time. It's... definitely American. The other rolls are permutations of crab sticks, shrimp, sweet omelet, and carrot. The only thing raw was the carrot. They were good with soy sauce and mayo! I was really proud of trying to make new things for lunches. In the past I've had the same thing every day: bagel, apple, granola bar, and yogurt. Adam is helping me see the virtue in variety, and while sometimes it's a struggle for me, I think it's very rewarding to think of good food to make with what food is available. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On tourism

Being in Japan made me painfully aware of my status as an American (complete with huge suitcases). It reminded me of some David Foster Wallace essay (I think) about how tourists are ruining the thing they are there to see: culture unsullied by their influence (this blog write out a quote on the topic, but it isn't quite what I was remembering). Adam attributed this feeling to some depressing hipster vibe, but I don't think it's a new idea. 

It was a weird feeling to see other foreigners in Japan. It was at once a feeling of comradary and defensiveness ("I thought I was the only white person who knew about Japan!"). Of course, both feelings are ridiculous. Nevertheless, among the excitement of being introduced to a new country is also the feeling that I could never fit in perfectly, as I am not Japanese and was not raised in Japan. I think that's something America has over Japan: even if you don't know all the social rules and don't speak American, you can still feel like an American. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Japanese dogs are cute

I love this Japanese dog breed. It's which is called "inu" ("dog"). It almost tempts me to buy a dog... except I know it would be a lot of work and then everything might smell like dog forever. Also, it's expensive to get a certain breed (although I found an older inu selling for a reasonable price). Anyway, maybe someday.

Shiba Inu's profile

Back from Japan

We're back from Japan! I uploaded all my cell phone pictures on Facebook, so you can go look at them there (it's easier to write captions and stuff on FB). It was really exciting and exhausting! The weather was wonderful. We did so much walking and every night our feet hurt, but it was totally worth it.

I experienced jet lag for the first time. I could sleep fine at night, but I would get super tired around 10 or 11 in the morning (my bedtime in the US?). I was also hungry at the wrong times for the first 3 or 4 days. We're still getting back into the swing of US time. We went sightseeing most of the time, and I think Adam blogged pretty well about that (I link his blog on the sidepanel somewhere).

I also think I have a small understanding of "culture shock." I think it's kind of a weird phrase; it's not shocking that another culture is different, but it is sometimes unanticipated. I tried to read up on culture and etiquette in Japan. This is the big shocker: sometimes books will tell you to avoid doing something, and some Japanese people will do it! I saw a guy wiping his face with the warmed hand towel at a restaurant. Sometimes they don't say "Itadakimasu." Most public bathrooms we saw didn't have special toilet shoes. It was hard to get used to some things and using a squatting toilet was scary for the first time (but I watched how-to videos on youtube so I was prepared). Everyone seemed very stylish and well-dressed; I felt stupid in my jeans and t-shirt. Even mentally ill and disabled people seemed well-dressed. The nice thing about Japan is that they really do try to not embarrass you (unless they're talking about how your chopstick skills are improving). I loved the different uniforms at the hotels and the fact that they still called staff members "concierge" and "bell hop."

Speaking of fashion, crocs are completely different there. I know they are a symbol of anti-fashion here (not quite like these high-heeled Tevas, but almost), but there they actually looked good. They come in non-annoying colors and have a white stripe on the bottom that has a smaller navy stripe in the middle (check it out). They don't have the stupid side holes that just get dust and stuff in your feet. Anyway, I guess you can tell I'm leading up to this, but I bought a knockoff pair in an import store there (~500 yen). ...none of the other shoes in Japan fit me ;; Also, they wear sandals with socks (nice color-coordinated socks, mind you), and it looks good. And I realized that they have a tradition of wearing socks and sandals (duh, kimono shoes. I'm still not a fan of the white sock + black sandal look). They also had wonderful, wonderful socks with lace cuffs that looked formal and were not stockings/tights (I am into any excuse not to wear stockings).

One thing that surprised me was that... I felt like I didn't speak all that much Japanese, and I was surprised by simple things I didn't know (like when the waitress asked us if we had already ordered). The main obstacle to my not using Japanese was probably Adam. He would read things and translate for me. I admit it, I'm lazy! If I can get away with not reading something I won't. This is a bad thing... it led me to buy a fashion training game instead of kanji training game. A lot of games start with 大人 and end with トライニング. So if you're looking for one of those training games, pay attention or you might end up with common sense or geography training instead of what you wanted. Also, most of the people I talked to while I was there understood some English. It probably would have forced me to learn Japanese better if I had been actually speaking it... but I was mostly trying to read a little here and there and kind of surviving.

I bought a ton of video games. DS games: a kanji study aid for the DS (which seems a little hard, even though it says "start from zero"), a Taiko game (drum rhythm game), a Rilakkuma game with mini-games that use rhythmatic patterns, and that Tomodachi game where you make wii-like minis and have your character make friends with them. The Taiko game is by far the most fun without any reading, but the others are also interesting. We also got a Japanese PS2 and some PS2 games, including Princess Maker 4, which is excellent reading practice (usually there is a voice that reads the text which you click through), and is fun as I enjoyed Princess Maker 2. I played it for a few hours this morning. It's a time management kind of stat-cruncher where you direct your adopted half-deamon daughter to go to school or work or take a break (apparently she has to make all the money). Maybe it's not for everyone, but it is just my cup of tea. Boku no Natsuyasumi (My summer vacation) is a little more difficult, because the text goes away after the anticipated reading time, but is still fun. You're a young boy on vacation in some countryside and you can do things like swim around and milk cows.

Along with games we bought some manga (mostly Naruto; I got the first two Yotsuba books and the first three Azumanga Daio, which doesn't have furigana;;). We also bought books. I found a Mameshiba book that is hilarious. We got some storybooks and an excellent Anpanman vocabulary book. Adam found a book that consists entirely of different foods that start with the previous food's ending syllable (I forgot the name for that game). Next time you are over we would love to show you. You know how we love our books. I also bought three stuffed animals (I limited myself!!): Totoro, Scraggy, and a little Cheburashka. Also tons of stationary and some stamps. Basically we decided to take stimulating the Japanese economy into our own nerdy hands. :-) I'm pretty sure I had more to write about, but that's probably enough for now. Later!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

BREAD

Ever since I tried to make dinner rolls four years ago and ended up with dough all over my hands and my grandma had to emotionally resuscitate me and show me how to work with roll dough, I have been afraid of making anything I had to knead. I started simple a few months ago with pizza dough. My first try flopped (whole wheat pizza dough requires a whole wheat recipe), but I tried again and met success. Then I made cinnamon rolls last week, which were surprisingly easy to make (it just took a lot of time and dishes). So this week I felt ready to try baking bread. I used the Joy of Cooking recipe for two loaves (I couldn't find my mom's recipe) and kneading was really hard. I kneaded for ten or 15 minutes and I just gave up when I was exhausted. Luckily the product was edible. Today I have returned to my traumatic introduction to breads (dinner rolls), but this time when the dough stuck to my hands I was ready with a spoon and lots of flour. The kneading was pleasant and much easier than with the wheat bread. The didn't come out looking like Mom's but they are tasty. Hey, if I'm going to sit at home and play video games all day I might as well bake bread!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My strengths and weaknesses, glossed

This person who I am friends with has a blog and it updates the perfect amount. Not too much that I get sick of it, but enough that I'm like "oh, yeah, this is interesting." She posted about how weird it is that people don't perceive you the way that you perceive yourself. Rather than comment with some essay I thought I would post here about it.

One way to look at the difference, roughly, is to have friends fill out johari squares for you (maybe you remember when I did this about five years ago. These were my results; I also did the nohari. If you never did it before and want to fill out the johari for me, go ahead! Maybe I've changed). You can look at the results yourself. I think the way others perceive me depends partly on who they are and when they interact with me. For example, most people in my ward tend to label me as intelligent since they know I'm in grad school. But in my graduate cohort, we're all smart so my defining feature gets to be something like "cynical" or "cheeky." With my family [incl. in-laws] everyone is cheeky so I think I'm more defined by being easily embarrassed. I don't know, I'm making it up.

I used to think that one of my better traits was sticking with things and enduring, but I now see this as more of a neutral trait. And I've come to realize that I'm not better at finishing things than other people are. Other people say that I am introverted, but compared to how I used to be, I am a veritable social butterfly! And I think that now that I'm not taking social psychology classes I have toned down on my "actually, research shows..." (maybe it just feels like that because my husband does it too?).

One positive trait I have that I was vaguely aware of is that I don't mind admitting that I don't know something. Maybe I got this from my mom? But if I don't know something, I'm pretty sure that I could learn it if I wanted to (with the exception of physics, possibly).

Oh great, another introspective blog post all about me. Maybe I never matured from being a teenager. Wait, I think I did. I don't write emo poetry anymore. :-)

Friday, April 15, 2011

More free time!

Classes are over and I have time to do things like play video games woo! I have been enjoying Dragon Age: Origins which my sister lent me (along with several other games I'm excited about) and Kirby's Epic Yarn, which I was going to buy for myself as a reward for graduating... but oh well. I really like them both. Dragon Age is everything I missed in FFXIII: a storyline where I understood what was going on, a role I could actually play, conversations with options, that kind of thing. I'm still not very good at combat (I usually try to stay off to the side and just use spells as quickly as possible. Why don't I know more ranged spells?).

Kirby is very very fun. Based on the opening video, it feels like it was made for a kindergartener, and it is kind of easy... but I like easy games sometimes! I love the art style (fabric/organic textures) and the 2-player mode isn't bad either. There are some creative creatures and things that Kirby can turn into. Mario is a little hard for me so I think Kirby is the perfect thing ^__^.

I've also been playing DDR. I'm hoping to play every morning for an hour or so to get exercise and also have fun playing video games.

In other news, I did awesome closet-tetris-fu with the guest room and now I don't feel terrible every time I walk into the room. I have my Japanese finals tomorrow and then the last scholastic thing for me to do will be my thesis rewrite, which I have been basically ignoring due to stress/being annoyed that I'm not done yet. Today I looked at jobs on craigslist and noticed that I qualify for maybe one of them. Great job Whistler. Oh yeah and we leave for Japan soon!!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Conference weekend

I have yet to come to a happy medium with my conference weekend activities (conference being the weekend when LDS prophets give sermons to all their members and anyone else willing to listen for 8 hours, with breaks). One year I happily cleaned my room. I've had years where I diligently take notes and feel gross from watching TV that long. This year I may have gone to the other extreme: I washed the kitchen floor, did my calligraphy homework, finished the mending, made breakfast and lunch, and also stared at talking heads (I've been contemplating individual differences in appearance, i.e., characterization, in hopes that some day I can draw people who look different from each other). And I think maybe I tried to do too much during conference, because I don't really feel like I had a favorite talk (although that one about keep on loving your spouse does stick out a bit). Although, to be honest, conference talks seem incredibly abstract to me even if I can take notes. It's just much easier to visualize the organization when the talk has an organizational element (for me, seeing them broken up into paragraphs helps here). I guess I could just wait until the talks go online and read them, rather than listen to them, but for some reason that feels... not as good? 

One thing that I decided to start on is to start buying some of the music I have... acquired over the years. I think it will be a good summer project.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Things I can look forward to

I'm not defending this semester. It is mostly my fault for not being brilliant (but if they were going to tell me to rewrite it, why didn't they tell me sooner?). I'm maybe not graduating until December, unless I can convince one of my professors to skype while he's in England. I was super bummed at first, but you know, it's not like I had pressing plans for later this year that required me to have my degree. My PS3 doesn't care if I have an MA or not. You will probably love me the same whether I have an MA or not. I'm not really sure why I want the degree, all things considered (because... I like finishing things?).

I have other things to look forward to! I am excited for David Foster Wallace's posthumous novel The Pale King to arrive tomorrow! Like every other contemporary-literature-loving hipster, I was puzzled and enthralled by Infinite Jest. The Pale King is unfinished, but it will be a heckuva lot more interesting than The Original of Laura (Nabokov's posthumous novel which was a lot of index cards, but not really a novel). I used to think that getting excited about books or movies or games the opening day was kind of silly (while reading the Harry Potter novels the day they came out, or with the 7th, the day before), but now I'm totally down with it! Daily life can get boring, why not buy something new and shiny on its newest and shiniest day? I'm doing this with Portal 2 as well. Maybe if I were more hardcore I would stay up until midnight at a store... but no one in Utah was doing release parties (is it sad that I checked?)... so I ordered it from Amazon. 

Other things for me to look forward to besides my never graduating would be the Arcade Fire concert next month (wooo!) and going to JAPAN. Yes, we're staying in Osaka instead of Tokyo... but it means we get to see the cherry blossoms at Yoshino, which the Japanese tourist site says is the best place to see them. I admit I was kind of down about not being able to go to the Ghibli museum, but this totally makes up for it (watch, there will be a huge storm right beforehand... but even then, at least the ground would be full of cherry blossoms, right?). If you have a burning need for something in Japan, let me know in the next month or so (you might get something out of me depending on how large it is and how closely you are related).

Monday, March 21, 2011

Enjoying my free time

Recently I have decided that if I am doing something for fun and it is not fun, I will stop doing it. This seems pretty basic, but I think I have had a problem with this? Especially with reading books, I find myself reading a book because I "should" like it or just because I want to know why everyone else liked it. Well, if I'm reading a book and I'd rather be playing a video game, what am I doing reading? So I've kind of taken a break from reading. I know there are books that I really do like reading, but... I don't know. I haven't been enjoying it as much.

I don't know how to explain it, but this really applies to everything I've been doing. I haven't turned into a short-term hedonist, but if I'm doing something for no reason then... duh, why am I doing it?  I realized in the middle of playing FFXIII that it was boring me, despite how pretty it was, and I couldn't imagine playing it for 30 more hours. So... I don't think I'll finish it! I don't need to play all the final fantasies to have nerd cred or something... and I don't need to read everything Dostoevsky wrote to have nerd cred. There are plenty of things I actually like doing that make me cool. The thing that annoys be about, well, past me, is that I felt I had something to prove (?) so I spent all that time doing things I only kind of enjoyed in my free time.

Something I really did enjoy was eating yam fries with fry sauce on Sunday night. I love me some fry sauce. Then we had oatmeal pancakes with fresh strawberries on top. Why am I not eating yam fries with fry sauce EVERY DAY? Is there any other way to get that delicious vinegary sweet taste?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Towards a more balanced pokemon paradigm

I have decided that Pokemon has a terrible strength/weakness system (for reference, see this chart of Pokemon type effectiveness). You can start with a fire, water, or grass pokemon, but grass pokemon (pokemen?) seem to be at a big disadvantage. Five types of pokemon are x2 damage against grass, and grass types also deal less damage to 7 types (compared to 3 and 4 for fire and 2 and 3 for water). Additionally, this makes it so that one of the easiest strategies against a single-type pokemon gym-trainer is to simply train pokemon they're weak against. I was trying to think of ways to make the game better, strategy-wise. Here are some ideas:

-Instead of type weaknesses, make the weaknesses be associated with the pokemon's battle position. For instance, if a Squirtle is sitting there glaring at its opponent, it should be better able to dodge. Likewise, if they're in the middle of fury swipes, they could be taken off guard by a sleeping spell. Maybe the pokemon could have varying in-battle stats reflecting their psychological state (frustration, overall happiness, "calmness," something like that). That way you could adjust the traits for their status changes and not have strange things happen like a sleeping pokemon who suddenly wakes up and does a takedown.

-Starcraft: Pokemon. You choose what kind of trainer you are going to be at the beginning of the game. Zerg trainers get to keep up to like 20 pokemon at once, but their collective levels can't exceed [some number that changes gradually over time] and work better in packs. Okay, sorry, it's a terrible idea.

-Get rid of the hundreds of pokemon and just have like 25, with 5 types instead of 17. This way even casual gamers can actually strategize on what types of moves are better??

-Zelda: Pokemon. You have battling abilities as a trainer and your pokemon just kind of help. Never mind, that's stupid.

-Post-apocalypse: Pokemon. Have everything be brutally realistic. To catch your first pokemon you have to throw rocks at it, then nurse it back to health. You can train your pokemon without having it battle other pokemon (by throwing rocks at it and making it do laps?). If it dies, that's it! You have to teach it the rules of combat, and wild pokemon don't know these rules (in fact, you have to hunt pokemon down with your sniper-sight). You can sneak up on pokemon, but stronger ones might sneak up on you. In fact let's not call this one pokemon but something like "pack dogs" because that is kind of what I'm going for.

Maybe it's just that the RPG mechanic is both soothing and too-easy-feeling... but I feel like pokemon could drastically change everything and still be a fun game (though with their funding, it would be surprising if they didn't make a good one). I'm playing Pokemon White right now and I like feeling like I'm 12 again, but I'm also reminded by the things that now seem stupid about the game. It's probably the best of the Pokemon genre, but seriously, they could change a few things to make it more balanced/fun.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Contact is the DS's Earthbound

Contact is a cute and hilarious stat-cruncher action-adventure game for the DS. The gameplay is fairly simple, but knowing how to exploit the experience system requires some sophistication; you get more experience for doing harder things, so dying usually means you just gained a lot of exp. I wish I had known how to make potions earlier though, it would have saved me some stat grinding (it's herbs + water!). A walkthrough is helpful for some of the weirder puzzles, and I really wish there had been a way to fill multiple bottles with water at the well (as it is, you have to do them one at a time). However, the storyline is unique in that "you" the player are not synonymous with the protagonist (very postmodern). Terry is explicitly controlled by you through the professor's computer. There are a few rare times when you lose control of Terry and it made me think about how difficult it is to develop the character of the player's character in a game. Hotel Dusk was able to create a sense of character through the actions of the protagonist you couldn't control (sometimes he would just say something or get angry without your permission), but those times were also somewhat frustrating. It's a weird problem.

Contact is not quite as epic as the SNES game Earthbound, but it has the same sense of humor. One island is a gigantic electronics store where you can kill zombie gamers to get weird games. On almost every island there is a girl who will like you (er... Terry) if you give her the right gift. Additionally, after you beat the game (which is admittedly a little short, but I am okay with that), there are still sidequests and skills to gain. One of my favorite aspects of the game is the cooking system. I don't know why, it's just so fun to try to put different ingredients together to see if they will make something new! The only drawback to the game is that you have to save a save points, so it's more of a "sit down and play it while you are in the car for 2 hours" rather than a "play while you wait for your husband to pick you up at school."

If you see the game at Gamestop or something, I recommend picking it up (it should be ~$8)! I regret that since I bought it used, I didn't get to read the manual (which I hear is also hilarious), but maybe the website has a similar feel.

On last note: the music is SO much better with headphones. Those little DS speakers just cannot get bass out.

Game Dev Story


Game Dev Story is an addicting stat-grinding $2 game for smartphones. I bought it because the graphics were cute and the ratings were high, and I pretty much played it all day for the next two days (okay, more like 2-3 hours, but be warned: it's addicting!). You're a game developer in charge of hiring and maintaining your staff (the guy on fire in the screen shot is having a flow moment). You start out making cheap PC games and can end up making your own console. You can train or level up your employees and buy advertising for your games. The controls are pretty good for a touch game, though backing out of menus can be tricky. In my mind it's perfect for a phone: you can save at any time and easily pick up where you left off, but you can also play it for hours. If you make a strange game type and genre combo it's harder for the game to be popular. The fun is figuring out how to make the best game and win the game of the year award. Since it's a Japanese game, you can also make games in the dating sim and interactive novel genres (not sure if we have too many of those here).