After two and a half weeks we still have no internet and none is coming until May, can you believe that absurdity, in this day and age, all because AT&T lies.  But that’s another rant post.  Instead, I’ll tell you about one non-internet way to spice up an evening: the handy dandy whoopie cushion.

That’s right, poot jokes, FTW!  After the second appointment for the Great Internet Restoration was also canceled (not by us!) and the new appointment was a further two weeks into the future, depression would not be too strong a word for the mood around the yurt.  It was an emergency.  Enter the whoopy cushion and and endless stream of one or the other of us saying, “Oh, I think I’ll just SIT HERE and [activity of choice]…” PHTTHPPPTHTH!!!!

Giggle, giggle, giggle.

Okay, after and hour of on and off poot jokes, it was getting pretty tiresome.  But there we all were, doing our various non-internet related activties, when the cushion goes off.

We all look around.  There was no set up, no overly loud “I’ll just sit right here…”, no giggling.  Who was it?

That’s when we realized.  IT WAS HENRY!!

That’s right, our adorable dog sat, of his own free-will, on the abandoned whoopie cushion and then looked around like, “huh? what was that?”

HAHAHAHAHA.  We were DYING we were all laughing so hard.

 Henry and the whoopie cushion

He’s so cute.

In between whoopie cushion usage, we’re continuing to make daily treks to internet cafes, libraries, and various hot spots for a hour or so of connectivity, where I cram in as many tasks in as possible.  It’s starting to be the new routine.  If my calculations are correct, a month of no internet at home will cost us about $60 in gas for driving to wifi.




One more week!!!! Can you believe that?  How can I not have internet for 15 entire days?  I feel like such a tool for being so annoyed about this when some people have bombs dropping on their cities, or are hungry, or have kids with fatal diseases.  I’ll be back soon, though, I promise.  Regular internet returns next Friday, or so they are now promising. *grrrrrr*


We’re switching from 1.5 to 6, um, I’m not sure the unit, let’s call it internet-ness, and apparently this transformation requires a week of no internet at all.  I’m kind of terrified.  Tonight the old service goes off and the new service comes on in “seven to ten business days.”  In this modern era (aren’t we living in the future?) 7-10 business days seems positively absurd but apparently there is nothing to be done.  Shikataganai.  I have a fantasy that I will use the internet-free black hole period to try to finish my current novel—but actually, since the kids will also be internet free, I’ll probably find myself playing Cruise Director for the Good Ship Yurt.  I smell rousing games of Munchkin  in my near future.  Wish me luck.


I got sick this week, one of those drippy, annoying colds that make you drag your ass around like you’re in the dessert searching mirages for water.  That pretty much flushed the whole seven days down the toilet, except for a bunch of extra tv watching, because there was the tv, right in front of the couch.  I can’t complain too much because I wasn’t sick much this winter except for that terrible flu that nearly killed me, but that was back in the dark ages of last fall, so, yeah, not complaining.  Much.

Anyway, my point, and I do have one, is that the commercials on Hulu SUCK ASS.  What is wrong with these people?  I mean, I get that Hulu has to have a business model that actually brings in some cash besides the measly $7 bucks a month I’m paying for access, so I’m resigned to commercials.  Hulu still beats the heck out of $130 to DirectTV for a bunch of shit I don’t want to watch, even if you can’t fast forward the ads and they suck.  I actually love Hulu and Netflix and you can pry them out of my cold dead fingers.

But here’s the thing: Hulu plays the same damn commercials over and over and over and IT MAKES ME WANT TO HIT THESE PRODUCTS WITH BATS THEN SHOOT THEM WITH NUCLEAR MISSILES AND THEN SEND THEM OFF INTO SPACE.

And I’m a peaceful person.  I am.  I don’t think nuclear missiles are a good idea in any other application.

I’m come to believe that most of these ads were designed by people who are stuck in the broadcast tv model where maybe you see the same ad once a night or something, and that only if you’re a big TV watcher.  They don’t realize that if you are going to subject someone to your “message” five times in a 45 minute show (when you are already annoyed at having your show interrupted so many fucking times to begin with i.e. a hostile audience), you’ve got to totally rethink your design.  That kind of repeat kills even the best, cutest, funniest commercial.  Kills it dead.  And the already semi-annoying ads becomes torture devices guaranteed to make the viewer hate that product with the fire of a thousand suns.  Trust me, name recognition is not a good thing when it means, OH YEAH, I HATE THOSE GUYS.

For example.  Ford has some really nasty ads full of actors paid to pretend to be brimming with fake-sincerity “real people” giving their “honest experiences” but the whole thing is just ONE BIG LIE and we all know that, so no one is buying this little ruse, okay, Ford?  DUH.  “Brandon” wants me to know “I’m always telling people, look at what Ford has to offer.” FUCK YOU BRANDON. NO ONE EVER SAYS ANYTHING LIKE THAT.  And don’t even get me started on “the truck guys.”  Those truck guys can suck my dick.  And I don’t even have one.

Surprising side bonus: Actually, Brandon’s phrase has turned into some hilarious jokes around the house , I’ll give it that.  Luc doesn’t want to eat dinner?  “But look at what broccoli has to offer.” Sophie’s staying up super late?  “Look at what the bed has to offer.” DearHusband is complaining about my lack of housekeeping? “Hey, look what my foot up your ass has to offer.”  It does have remarkable applications.  I stand corrected.

Second example: I really hate the State Farm ad with the terrible, depressed, overweight, miserable married couple having a late night fight because she’s caught him talking sweet to the State Farm guy (why the fuck would anyone talk to the insurance company in the middle of the night, anyway?) and thinks he’s having an affair.  This is so awful, to imagine being a wife who has so little confidence in her marriage that she jumps to that conclusion, or the husband who just takes it like the hen-pecked shmuck he is.  I don’t want to see this scene from their terrible marriage even once, much less FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND TIMES.  Is this really the market State Farm is aiming for?  Fucking depressing.

Oh, and I can’t tell you how disturbing the “bacon in your burger” ads are for a vegetarian, what with the genetically modified cow/pigs and the square-dancing nightmare Stepford wives probably ready to eat me next.  Fucking nauseating.  We have a standing rule that if you sing that song to anyone in the family, you have to pay them a dollar in damages.

I could go on and on.

There have been a couple of good ads that have miraculously retained their not-torturous-ness through repeated viewings.  The PS4 ad with the guys singing “you just keep me hanging on” (song is Perfect Day) is still funny, and the other PS4 one with the band of guys waking up in new costumes for each game, culminating with the pirates, that one rocks.

Oh, and there were some ads for the Daily Burn, some kind of subscription exercise tv-show-class, that were fun because Paul started the practice of dancing around like a hilarious idiot whenever they came on, saying that was his work-out for the day.  Thirty seconds of him mimicking the moves of those aerobics instructors got me laughing pretty much every time, so much so that I started looking forward to the ads.  “It’s the daily burn!  Time for you to work out!” I would say, and he would long-sufferingly get up and do his moves.  “Whew, that was a tough one,” he’d say, settling back onto the sofa for more tv.  I was sad when they stopped playing those.  Plus, quick shots of gorgeous bodies doing interesting gyrations apparently has a much longer half-life than most other things.

Take Away Message:  Advertising people, please.  Have mercy on us.  Realize that your Hulu ads are, in 90% of the cases, causing us, your potential customers, to detest your products.  Reinvent the visual ad so that seeing it ten times in a night doesn’t make us hate you and the horse you rode in on.  Keep them short.  Not insulting.  Great music helps.  Interesting visuals are good.  Stupid tag lines, puns, annoying jingles, fakeness, all of these flaws burst the seams after a few repeats.  And we have to watch them many, many more times than that.

And just in case you think I’m against all ads completely, I’m really not.  They can be these amazing tiny stories.  I’ll leave you with one of my favorite ads of all time, in no small part because of the terrific music by Four Tet.  You might remember it, Raining Runners?  I love this 60 second story….

…the moment when the runners are all playing like kids in the rain?  So lovely!  And the message/story is actually in line with what the product is actually for.  For once.

Please, People-Making-Ads-For-Hulu.  Try to be kind.  Try not to torture us.  I’m begging you.

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I decided my practice needed a kick this week, so I surfed around and turned up Kino MacGregor classes over on  Cool, perfect, I was so in.

I cut my Ashtanga teeth on Kino’s Primary Series DVD which came out around the time I started practicing.  I reviewed it and several women doing ashtanga dvds here on the blog way back when—man, that  seems like a million years ago.  In addition, I’ve watched and benefited from dozens of her short how-to Youtube videos that focus on specific poses.  Really, this is a fabulous time to be a home yogi!  And Kino is no small part of that.

Yogavibes has dozens of teachers and styles and hundreds of classes recorded, wow.  You could do a different class every day for years, I think, and never repeat, if you were into that.  Anyway, they have a 14 day free trial, so heck, with nothing to lose, I signed up and have done a different Kino class each day this week.

I think she’s adding a new class each week (so ambitious!).  Some quickie reviews of the classes I tried this week:

*****BEST OF THE BEST:  Core Strength: Lift off and Jump back.  This video is TERRIFIC.  I would put glitter and rainbows on it if I could and if it wouldn’t be horrifically annoying.  But seriously, this is the best of all the jumpback videos I have ever seen, and I have watched them ALL, no lie.  From unknowns to master teachers, this one tops the cake.  The problem with just about all of them is that the increase in difficulty from walking back to jumping back (or jumping through) is always too big.  This video breaks it down in a way I’ve never seen before, bit by bit, with strength training for each segment.  I’ve been doing Primary for nearly five years and I’ve never felt my stomach muscles burn and work the way I did in this video.  This one is totally on repeat for me.  FIVE STARS.  *roaring applause*

Ashtanga Yoga Basics: Sun Salutations and Standing. Easy going, a quick, 30 minutes worth of Primary, nice.  I probably wouldn’t repeat since I already know the practice, but once through was interesting, another take on the mechanics of the poses, reminders to suck in the belly, etc.  A good starting point for someone thinking about getting into Ashtanga.

Yoga Arm Balances.  30 minutes of working up to Vasisthasana, or one armed side plank, holding the upper toe, you know the one, they’re always doing it on the cover of Yoga Journal.  Let me tell you, this little sequence KICKED MY ASS.  I kind of loved it.  I don’t do Advanced A so I don’t have Vasisthasana in my regular practice, but I have been throwing in some planks and side planks lately, trying to get stronger.  Kino breaks it down and builds it up, bit by bit, the way she did the more complicated jumping back and through video.  I was quivering jelly by the end.  Very good.

Opening Your Inner Thighs. Very easy, a baby Primary with a 3 each of the Surys, part of standing, a few seated, part of finishing.  A dip-your-toes-into-Ashtanga practice.  I didn’t get a lot of inner thigh opening, but then I’m used to more of Primary than this—actually, I kept pausing to throw in some of the skipped poses, haha, my body is just too used to the sequence, it feels weird to leave things out.  Again, probably for someone just trying out Ashtanga.

Complete Yoga Core Strength….I want to do this one next, I’ll post here when I finish.

Ashtanga Yoga Primary for Beginners.  This is a lovely practice, all the bits and pieces (surys, vinyasas, no missing poses) of Primary up to Janu Sirsasana A.  Super friendly, supportive, “No stress!”  Lots of beginner options along the lines of do this, if that’s easy move to this, if you can do that move to this.  A bit of backbending, finishing.  She includes the opening and closing chants and just a general mood of “you can do it!” and supportive talk and tips for beginners.  High recommended for people ready to dig into Primary but without the endurance yet for the whole thing.

Asthanga Yoga Primary in Warsaw.  Long.  Wow.  A two hour Primary showing a class of strong ashtangis.  I nearly died.  While I can happily do a whole Primary in 75 minutes or so, it’s clear that I just don’t have the endurance to do a two hour version.  It’s the same poses, but staying in them longer, gah, I was about to quit several times.  I kind of limped through the end.  Clear instruction, interesting to hear her give a few instructions to individual people in the class (since she’s miced the whole time), plus the gal in the front has a gorgeous practice, bet they cherry picked her to be up front and I’m glad.  This is probably not a repeater for me since I rarely give two hours to yoga a day, but I’m glad I worked through it once.

A bunch of others, sheesh, I just don’t have the time.

Bottom line, wow, what a resource.  I poked around a little on Yogavibes, looks like Michael Gannon has a class, Ana Forrest has a section (I’ve always had a girl crush on her), there are just a TON of classes.  I’m pretty happy with my little Ashtanga practice and not looking to branch out, really, but it’s interesting to shake it up every now and then.  Yogavibes is a totally affordable ($20 a month after the trial, about the cost of a class a month) way to do that.

P.S. Kino ROCKS.  Thank you so much, Kino, for all your work!  From a home ashtangi here in central North Carolina, my practice would be much poorer without you.

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I’m writing the last chapter of current work-in-progress (I don’t even have a working title, not a good sign! *panics*).  This is not as good news as it could be because I skipped over the final Big Scene (because I haven’t figured it out yet) and went straight for the denouement and the epilogue, Cheating For The Win!  Let’s hurry to The End because by gawd, it’s ABOUT DAMN TIME. So, yeah, I’ll have to go back to that BIG FREAKING BLANK SPOT but other than that, I’m like this close.

There is just…GAH! there is something in the center of this book  I haven’t figured out yet—and it’s driving me NUTFUCKING CRAZY.  I keep whittling away at it, but something, something right in the center, is eluding capture.  It’s maddening, I tell you.  There is a hole in my book and the story keeps leaking out….

Nevertheless, soon, like, in the next couple of days, I’ll have typed The End, for the Very First Time (on this book) (there are usually a couple of times you type The End), and that will, indeed, be Something, at least.  It will mean I have all the clay on the wheel.  Time to make it into a pot.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all this extra, struggle-filled work meant that this will be an extra-gooder book?  But no: there is no correlation between how hard a novel is to write and how good it finally will be.  All the struggle might mean the damn thing is fundamentally and fatally flawed.

That would suck.

The only thing to do is to keep walking, keep working, one word after another.  BUT (says the inner tyrant voice) I’m nine months and 60,000 words in and I haven’t even typed The End once yet!  What the f is wrong with this book?!!? *pulls hair, gnashes teeth, moans*

However!  I’m not listing to that crazy voice. I’m Staying Positive.  So, my pretties, The End is coming soon, wait for it, wait for it

In the meantime, I look at this photograph when I get stuck (re: all the time) and I find it helps me out.  To me it’s Hazel, looking moody over Takeda’s violin.  I imagine the ghost of her dead mother hovering somewhere over her shoulder….

Hazel and the violin

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And by cycling, I mean bicycling.  And by bicycling, I mean pedaling my bike while it’s up in a trainer in my yurt.  It’s a kind of meta-cycling, is what I’m getting at.

But back to the Not-Agony.  Actually, my initial riding attempts of any longer duration than, say, ten minutes were not Not-Agony, they were just plain Agony.  My heart rate loved it, my energy level loved it, but my wrists, my sit bones, and my lady parts were most definitely NOT loving anything about it.

Wrists turned out to be an easy fix by adding some handles that flange out, giving a wider pressure base than a typical round handle bar.  Boom.  Surprisingly comfy.

bike saddle 7

See how the whole palm has support here, instead of a circulation-destroying bar?  It’s cool.  I thought I would need aero bars or something, put the pressure on my elbows instead of my hands, but nope.  This worked.

The Down There issues, however, took more tweaking.  I’m talking about my bike seat.  And by seat I mean  saddle.  And by saddle I mean, torture device designed by the devil himself.  When did they start calling it a saddle, anyway?

Here is a picture of mine, the one that came with my bike:

bike saddle 6

They say you have to become “conditioned” to your bike saddle, so I tried toughing it out for a while, but f that.  It was awful.  So, in between icing my sit-bones, I hit the internet.

Here is an amazing blog post at Lovely Bicycle! with over 200 comments by women talking about the various damages and attempted solutions their bike saddles have visited upon them.  Chaffing, bleeding, swelling, infections, numbness…  The two standard fixes are gooping your works up with greasy lube called chamois cream and tipping, dipping, and angling the saddle, all with mixed results.  Women cyclists everywhere are suffering.

Then there is getting a different saddle altogether.

Enter the inventors.  There are a ton of saddles with these funny little cutouts that I find it difficult, nay, impossible not to mock.  Here is the Team Estrogen—haha, love that name—page on bike saddles for women.  There are a ton of them, from $20 to $200, from hard to soft, all with variations of The Cut-Out.

Bottom line, they look like a v-jay.

bike saddle 2

They even come in pink, emphasizing the effect.

bike saddle 3Don’t you just want to get a sharpie and draw a clit on there and be done with it?

Maybe we’re going for some kind of sympathetic magic in action.  But seriously?  This is what we’ve got?  Where’s the injection molded, internet powered, anti-grav saddle? Come on, aren’t we living in the future?  Cut-outs?  This is the answer?

When I first started looking into upgrading my saddle, I thought for sure I was going for the Comfy-Bun, something with a fuck-ton of padding, like, strapping a bed pillow to my bike.  I mean, when if feels like you’re sitting on a rock, padding definitely sounds good.  But everyone says no, no, padding is bad.  To which I whined, are you sure?

Because I was mashing my labia so much I tended to ride with my pelvis scooped forward to reduce the pressure, which put my neck in a stretched out position and gave me shoulder pain.  My seat—I mean saddle—was giving me a pain in my neck.  Not to mention the terrible pain my sitbones were in…it felt like two circles of bruised, mashed meat where the bones were taking most of my weight.  Ride the bike and then sit on the ice-pack.  When does that get fun?

Fine, fine, said I.  I decided to try one of the vagina shaped seats.  With the cut-out.  Mock, mock, mock.

I got this one because it was on super sale at Performance, $20, and my budget is, like, negative 4 bucks.  Heck.  I was desperate.

bike saddle 5

The Forte Contour XFS.  The fellow at Performance who helpfully led me to the saddle section was super professional, and charmingly managed to find just the right mix of practical advice delivered with delicate language…all the while his ears and neck were a brilliant, and I mean brilliant, red. We were talking about my genitals after all.  It’s not something that comes up in conversation with strangers very often.

And why is that anyway?  It’s bizarre if you think about it.  Half of humanity has a vagina, and a large percentage of the other half spend a decent amount of time in contact with one, it’s not like its a secret or anything.  Why would we wipe a body part from existence and pretend like it doesn’t exist?  What, are we Barbies?  Imagine if we did that with ears?  Or knee-caps?

Anyway, I got the seat, stuck it on my bike and…well, hand to heart, no longer will I mock the cut-out.  Those cut-outs are fucking brilliant.  No pressure on the squishy bits, which is fantastic, a revelation, hey, it doesn’t have to hurt!  And no pressure means no humping my lower back, which means no shoulder pain.  Winning!

Well, maybe I’m going to mock a little.  How about a vibrating seat attachment?  You could power it with the peddling action of cycling, faster for stronger vibrations, slower for a gentle buzz.  You could have orgasms while you get your exercise and never struggle with motivation to get on your bike again.  I’m just saying.

Here’s a seat that has taken the cut-out to new levels, the Infinity seat, not specific to women, that recently scored nearly $200,000 on a Kickstarter.

bike saddle 10
Aren’t they cute?  I’m very curious to try one, but too expensive for me.  Maybe in my next life.

So, the cut-out is a big win.  That’s half the problem.  But the sit bone issue….with the new seat the sit bone pain is better, for sure.  But not great.  This is Not-Agony, remember.  It isn’t Bliss.  I can ride about 30 minutes before my sit bone start aching, which is an improvement—telling you how bad the other seat was.  But since I rarely ride for longer than 45, it’s doable.  For Price-to-Relief-Ratio, I’m going to give the Forte Contour a thumbs up.  It is light years better than my previous seat.  But it isn’t rocking my world.  It doesn’t vibrate or anything.

Honestly, I don’t know how the gals going out on four+ hour rides are surviving.  I could not do that.  Just thinking it makes me weep.  No wonder there were 200+ confessional comments on that blog post.

Doesn’t this seem like a shocking oversite?  How could there be this amazing, designed-out-the-wazoo, device, the bicycle, and the best we can go for is Not-Agony?  I can’t be the only one who feels this way.

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Here we have the yurt site, nine years ago, a tiny Sophie (who just turned 10 last week) and my uncle, who put a huge amount of work into helping us raise the yurt.

sophie and spencer 600



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My typical morning coffee lately: boat-sized mug, spoon (it stirs AND is a great bookmark), manga in both English and Japanese, ipod with Japanese dictionary app—I like Midori (1)—plus the notes I make.  A bout with Wani Kani (2) for kanji and vocab finishes out my breakfast.

japanese through manga

I’ve been studying ye ole Nihongo for about thirteen months now and with a kid manga like Yotsuba (3) (LOVE) I find that I can read about 33%, I can look up and quickly figure out about 33%, and with the remaining 33%, I have no fucking clue.

I kind of thought I’d be further along by now, but there you go.  Japanese is freaking hard.

(The little numbers go to notes at the end of this post, isn’t that fun?)

Surprisingly, it isn’t the kanji that messes me up.  It’s the pile of of extra little hiragana bits (particles! how I am confused by thee!) that seem randomly shoveled into every sentence.  And why can’t they separate the words with spaces, what is up with that???  No, they have to let all the words run together into one big pile of tofu and I can’t figure out what’s a word and what’s not, or what’s just been tacked on for emphasis.  To, Yo, Bai, Ne, Na, just sprinkled in helter skelter (for emphasis!), not to mention the whole Wa/Ga disaster.  I think I have No figured out, and possibly Mo, but that’s it.

But see?  A kanji is a freaking relief in all this mess, because hey, at least you know you’re at the beginning of a word.  Plus there are, like, fifty words that sound the same for every sound (shyo, I’m looking at you, and ryu, don’t get me started) so just because you’ve gotten the beginning and end of a word figured out, good luck knowing what it means.  A kanji nails some of that shit down.  Love me some kanji!  But then they skip the kanji on a bunch of stuff and I’m lost again in kana soup.

This might be the point at which the new and shiny has worn off the “learn Japanese” project, and the size of the undertaking is starting to become apparent.  This could take a decade.  Am I really up for that?

Despite my complaining, I enjoy studying Japanese.  The beautiful characters, the weird ass sentence structures, the SRS (4).   But honestly I wonder if my interest in Japanese might be some sort of disease, a mental illness with its own DSM-IV entry, because, I mean look: me studying Japanese makes no sense.  I’m probably never going to go to Japan, and if I do, it will probably be a short trip.  I don’t know any Japanese people.  Yeah, I love manga, but learning Japanese is years and years of effort.  Is reading raw manga really worth that?  Could I possibly be more happy and fulfilled as a person if I spent that odd hour a day doing something else?

Well, let’s see.  Doing an extra hour of housework each day would make the yurt a shit-load more tidy, but screw that.  Life is too short.  An extra hour of marketing and publishing work for my books would make me more money, but GOD that stuff is boring.  Okay, an extra hour of walking the dog would make Henry super happy but…oh yeah, I tend to study Japanese while walking Henry already, so not much change there.  My husband just helpfully suggested an extra hour a day blowing him and…okay, I can see the advantages from his point of view but, honestly, my jaw hurts just thinking about it.

What about yoga?  If I’d spent an extra hour a day doing yoga this last year, maybe I’d be some Cirque d’Soleil badass by now, or possibly enlightened, and yeah, that sounds pretty good.  Maybe I should do that in 2014?

Or how about an extra hour a day of freaking WRITING THE NEXT NOVEL, HELLO?

Except, it isn’t really a solid hour, more like fifteen minutes here, ten minutes there…Japanese fits into the cracks of my day.  They all add up to an hour, maybe a max of two hours if I take on a project on like a Lang-8 (5) post or a chapter of Genki (6).   But I can’t do that bits and pieces thing with writing. I need 45 minutes at least to really work.

But maybe fifteen minutes of yoga here and there throughout the day?  If I would do it.  But I can study Japanese while sitting down on my cushy bum, drinking coffee.  Hard to compete with that.

What about an extra hour of reading novels in English?  No learning curve!  Or an extra hour of learning a language I might actually use in a vocational sense, like, say, JAVA?  Or playing guitar?  I could be in a rock band by now.


The hardest part of learning Japanese is the feeling like I am wasting my time, and the guilt that I ought to be using that time for something more productive.  Something that makes sense.

My first sentences—after a year of study—SUCKED.  I can’t say anything!  It’s freaking embarrassing.  The equivalent of My name is Maya, I am American, I have a dog, His name is Henry, He doesn’t like the cold.  I mean, sheesh.  They’re great over at Lang-8, just correcting your shit, no shame, moving right along.  But so much work just to write a couple of puny little sentences with funny-shaped letters.  I can write NOVELS in English, why go back to See Spot run in some other language I’ll probably never use?

While another part of me is thinking, the only good reason to do anything is because it’s there.

Plus none of my best ideas have ever made sense.

I enjoy the process.  Quite a bit, actually.  And people do crossword puzzles and sudoku over breakfast with no greater goal beyond a bit of intellectual stimulation.  Maybe learning Japanese is like that for me.  Do I sound like I’m trying to convince myself?  Yeah, a little bit.

For now I’m still in it.  I’m going for year number 2.  What will my percentages be for Yotsuba on my 44th birthday?  Will I make it that far?  Tune in next year to find out.


Notes!  Here’s what I’m using in my Japanese studies at the moment….

(1) Midori.  It means green and is also the name of one of my favorite violinists, but in this case I’m referring to a Japanese dictionary on the ipod.  I like it because they have example sentences and everything is clickable.  I go on long click-click-click journeys through Midori all the time.  It also has handwriting recognition for looking up kanji, which is cool.

(2) Wani Kani.  A terrific kanji and vocabulary learning SRS site by the makers of Tofugu.  Paid but cheap ($5/mo I think). 50 levels, mnemonics, readings, the works.

(3) Yotsuba.  Really terrific manga series about a hilarious, adorable, green-haired girl.  The kids and I have read all the English versions, super sweet and FUNNY.  Very re-readable.  Good place to start with reading Japanese.

(4) SRS. Spaced Repition Software.  Flashcards on crack.  Very cool.  See Anki (7).

(5) Lang-8.  Crowd source your language learning needs with this terrific site where you can post anything you’ve written, a sentence, an essay, whatever, in your target language, and native speakers will correct it for you.  In turn, you correct their posts in your native language.  Boom.  Language learning happens.   You are not alone, with your Anki (7) and your Imabi (8)  you are in a sea of language learners all helping each other out.  Getting past the embarrassment of being stupid in your target language is the hardest part.

(6) Genki.  Most popular Japanese textbook.  I picked up a copy used when I realized I knew a bunch of words but couldn’t string a sentence together—it’s pricy, but accessible and comes with audio, which I like.

(7) Anki.  Really good SRS.  FREE (unless you get the iOS version which is totally worth it).  Lots of shared card packs for Japanese, like a Genki deck, or a Yotsuba deck etc etc.  Or make your own.  Indispensable for memorizing anything.

(8) Imabi.  Astonishing labor of love, all of Japanese grammar on one website, FREE, and the guy that does it is super nice.  I’ve spent some serious time over there.  Harder to get into in some ways than Genki, but much more in depth.

(9) Japanesepod101.  Free podcast, fun for listening to while walking Henry.

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You might think that post-title is odd, but seriously, we only get snow every few years here, and an actual storm comes once a decade or something.  Plus, I’ve lived hear twenty-five years and it has never been this cold.  I asked my great aunt if she ever remembered a winter like this and she said, “Yep! In 1976.” So, there you go.  I’ll be a great aunt one day and my nephew’s kids will ask me about some crazy ass weather we’ll be having and I’ll say, “yep, we had some snow like this once, Back in 2014.”

It all started last Wednesday when the kids were out at a park, playing with aforementioned great aunt, when the first flakes started coming down.  I gave her a call, all low-key, “Hey, I should probably come get the kids now.”  “Okay, sure, see you in a bit…” The picture of nonchalance.  Because hey, when it snows here it almost never sticks and when it does, takes at least an overnight to amount to anything.  Plenty of time, no sweat.  I did up a mug of hot tea, found my wallet, and headed for the car.

By the time I was on the road, it was already slippery.  Fifteen minutes later the roads were covered.  Meeting up we were all, “Shit, shit, we made a mistake!”  The normally fifteen minute ride home took me an HOUR, my hands white-knuckled on the steering wheel. We passed NINE cars in ditches in that ten mile drive, people out standing by their hopelessly stuck cars, waiting on help.  Terrifying to this Southern Girl, let me tell you.  I had to bold that mofo sentence just to convey the horror.  I mean, only a half hour earlier it had been black asphalt!  What the hell, Weather?

But we made it.  I was SHAKING by the time we pulled into our driveway.  Seriously, I turned off the car and my hands were flapping so hard I couldn’t get the key out of the ignition.  Look, 1) no one in North Carolina—at least not the natives—knows how to drive in this stuff, 2) there’s like, one plow for the entire county, and 3) no one has snow tires of any kind.  I don’t even know what snow tires are.  They’re bigger or something, right?  See, we’re hopless.  And then comes some obnoxious Yankee transplant, driving along in his four wheel drive, actually passing me as I inched along the roads with my kids in the back seat and my slow deep breathing to keep myself from a full-blown panic attack….I’ve never been so glad to park my car in my LIFE.

Of course, once we were home, it was soooo pretty, just a big adventure, whoopee!

snow storm 1

snow storm 2

Our big creek looked gorgeous!  And note the plastic bags on the sneakers, because we have no snow gear.

snow storm 4

More and more came down, giant flakes.snow storm 9

snow storm 6

snow storm 7

snow storm 5

By the end of the day, the kids were breaking weapons off the yurt….
snow storm 3

The next day it looked like this:

snow storm 10

You know what came next.  Snow ball fights.

snow storm 12


snow storm 16

snow storm 17

snow storm 13Leading to an arms race…
snow storm 18An army of creepers was raised…snow storm 20Plus some snow usagi folk…snow storm 8

Good times!  Plus, we were super lucky that our power didn’t go out.  Being snowed in is lots more fun with hot water and wifi.

But check this:   today, only five days later, it’s 65 degrees out!  The kids are out playing in the remaining snow in short sleeves!  Freaking daffodils are coming up.  I’m so confused.

It’s weird, I tell you.  Weird.

Of course, I was talking to my good friend in upstate New York yesterday and she said, “Oh, yeah, it’s been crazy. We got 23 inches of snow just yesterday.” TWENTY-THREE INCHES.

Forget that.  Snow is pretty, but I prefer it to be an amusing couple-of-days house guest, one that knows when it’s time to leave.  Snow should not be a way of life, thank you very much.

Is this the back side of global warming?

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