Friday 5: Hold On to the Knight

In honor of the defeat of Gary Kasparov by IBM’s Deep Blue in a game of chess on February 10, 1996.

  1. When and how did you learn to play chess?
    I received a board when I was in second grade, and my dad taught me the basic rules.  In addition to the regular game pieces, this set came with cardboard squares on which the pieces were drawn, captions reminding you of the pieces’ names, and little arrows to tell you how the pieces were allowed to move.  They were training pieces, and you put them on the board instead of the real pieces until you didn’t need them anymore.  I was fascinated, but that was before I learned how much I suck at chess.
  2. How is your chess game?
    Yeah, I pretty much suck.  I kind of do respectably against people who can play but have never studied, and I can throw around words like “fork” and “skewer” and even employ the tactics sometimes, or at least accidentally make it look like I’m employing them.  But I don’t think far enough in advance, so anyone who looks three moves ahead can put lickings on me.
  3. When did you last find yourself in a stalemate?
    Grace’s birthday is a couple of weeks after mine.  When the village idiots texted me to ask when I wanted to get together for mine, I said I wanted to celebrate mine after we celebrated Grace’s.  See, I didn’t want to find myself in a conversation about politics or the media, and I know Reid can’t help himself.  I thought I might be okay by some time in February, and Grace’s birthday is near the end of January.  I thought we could do my birthday in February, after Grace’s birthday at the end of the month, without my having to admit the real reason for my request.  But the idiots interpreted my request to mean I’d prefer to have Grace’s birthday THAT WEEKEND and mine after that, which wasn’t nearly enough of a delay.  So I got what I asked for but not what I wanted.  But then Penny had to call it off because she was ill.  So we’re doing Grace’s birthday this weekend and mine sometime after.  Stalemate at first, but then kind of a win for me.
  4. A gambit is a chess opening in which a player sacrifices a piece in hopes of gaining an advantageous position.  What was one of your recent, real-world gambits?
    My life is pretty non-competitive, so it’s tough to think of something, but without getting into details I’m probably not at liberty to share, my landlord had a plumbing issue in the upstairs part of the house (I rent the bottom, a separate living space).  There was some dripping through my ceiling, so it looked like it might be pretty bad.  When I got him to come over and take a look at the situation, I admited a certain uncomfortable truth to him, making myself about as vulnerable as I’ve ever been in our relationship of 18 years or so.  I didn’t do this for any kind of upper hand, but I did think that making myself vulnerable this way would make it more likely that there would be some kind of merciful resolution to a super awkward situation.  He surprised me by admitting a similar uncomfortable truth, and I think we’re communicating better now, and on better terms, than we ever have.
  5. Which piece on the chessboard is most like you, and why?
    I think my mind is a knight, able to take weird turns and to leap over over players, but the rest of me is a pawn, slow and steady, sometimes saving the game near the end, but more often being taken out of the game so others can have their fun.


Friday 5: Shiver Me Timbers

From here.

  1. When did you last make what could be described as a wriggling motion?
    I put a t-shirt on backward last week.  Then I pulled my arms in from the sleeves and did a weird succession of shoulder movements to turn the shirt around without taking it off.  It worked, but it would have been faster just to whip it off and put it back on.
  2. What never fails to give you the willies?
    Roaches.  I’m not even kidding.  They are the biggest part of the reason I sleep with the lights on even though I hate sleeping with the lights on.  It hasn’t always been this way, but I had a few bad experiences a few years ago.
  3. What’s something you’ve seen on TV or in a movie that made you squirm?
    The toilet scene in Trainspotting first made me squirmy, then it made me run to the toilet and throw up.  It is one of three films (with The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Loverand The Blair Witch Project) that made me physically ill, as in actually vomit.
  4. What’s something in your life that could be described as serpentine?
    Well.  I just watched the final two chapters of The Good Place.  That.  Times ten.
  5. Where can you get a really great shake?
    I suspect most Hawaii people will say Teddy’s, and a Teddy’s shake is heavenly, but a shake at Big Kahuna’s is a step above, especially the apple pie shake.  It’s a shake with a slice of apple pie blended in.  Killer.

Friday 5: Questions to Make Your Hands Clammy

From here.

  1. Who’s been a ray of sunshine lately?
    The writing partner most recently.  She’s in the middle of some big stuff that’s taking away from her goals as a novelist, but she’s adjusting, and we’re going to approach the partnership differently for the coming year.  We had an encouraging talk yesterday and I think we left feeling as committed to our partnership, even with these different needs, as ever.
  2. When do you next expect to be stuffed to the gills?
    I haven’t had a regular paycheck in over a year and a quarter, so as soon as I get paid from the new gig, I’m going to take myself somewhere naughty for dinner and eat one of everything.  No idea where yet, so stay tuned.  I’m sure I’ll document the gluttonous adventure when it goes down in about ten days.
  3. Among people you know, who can really tell a whale of a tale?
    I’ve got this friend, the pastor of a local church and a director (or something) of the campus ministry we were in together when we were in school.  He’s maybe the most charismatic person I know, and he tells a great story.  I confess that more than once when I was in college, I found myself on the verge of doing something dangerous, mischievous, or dangerously mischievous (such as stealing my pastor’s wife’s BMW when the friend who was house-sitting for her wasn’t around and I was left alone in her house with the keys to her car), and as I hestitated, I thought about how it would be a story to put me in this friend’s storytelling league.  I was never courageous or rambunctious; I was just envious of another person’s stories.
  4. What’s something you’ve been herring good things about?
    I’ve been herring good and bad things about Manchester By the Sea.  Since a lot of the good has come from Ann Hornaday, and since I (generally) roll with Ann, I’m going to give it a try, hopefully soon.
  5. Which of the S.S. Minnow‘s passengers or crew do you think you’d get along best with?
    How is anyone going to answer this with anyone other than Mary Ann?  We’d get along so well we might populate the island.

I’ve been a bit quiet in this space lately.  The new gig is throwing my routines off, but I’ll get it down soon.

Friday 5: We Can Work It Out

Holy moly what a week.  I’ll recap sometime this weekend.  I need to pound this out and get myself to bed.

  1. What’s a real-world lesson you learned from your first job?
    My first job was putting books on shelves at Aiea Public Library when I was in ninth grade.  I made $3.85 per hour ($4.10 after six in the evening — it was a state of Hawaii thing).  A good lesson I learned is that small children make a lot of work for people in service positions.  The worst part of my job was easily straightening shelves in the easies.  There was nothing easy about it.  It took me forever to get the easies in order, but there was this girl (actually, she might have been in college, so girl may not be the right word) who seemed to do it really quickly, really well, and without complaint.  She just got down to business and got it done, and maybe that’s another real-life lesson I learned there.
  2. What was pleasantly unexpected about your current (or most recent) job?
    Speaking of libraries, I discovered this week in my new job (about which, more later) at the state’s largest university that I have borrowing privileges in the library.  I have yet to exercise this privilege, as it’s taken me every ounce of waking energy just to do what I have to do, but I have taken a few moments to look up a few things in the online catalogue, and I have to say it’s all very exciting.
  3. What are some identifying tools of your trade?
    I have two trades: writing and teaching.  For writing, I’ll go with my idea board, which is basically a bunch of stickies stuck to a wall.  For teaching, the easiest answer is a gradebook, but I haven’t had a physical gradebook in a million years, so I think I’ll go with dry-erase markers.  I’m particular about my markers, and I still carry some around in case I’m ever called upon to write on a dry-erase board.  This hasn’t happened in half an eon, so this behavior may fade away, but among the first things I put into the top drawer of my new desk at my new job were several Expo bullet-tip dry-erase markers of many colors.  These are, by the way, my second favorite.  They don’t make my favorite anymore, the Avery Marks-a-Lot markers with the liquid ink in the reservoir.  They were so juicy!  You could do neat stuff with them, like make ink splatters by whipping them in the direction of the board.  I haven’t had occasion to look for some alternative, and it wouldn’t surprise me if someone has filled the niche (there are still liquid ink highlighters out there, so I don’t see why not).  I still have one somewhere, the last of a dead breed.
  4. What’s something a job required that you thought was far outside your skillset?
    Counseling frustrated parents of teens.  I didn’t get into teaching because I have decent interpersonal grown-up skills.  I don’t.  But when confronted by unreasonable parents, I’ve learned how to listen to them and somehow talk them down, and get to what was really bothering them (it was seldom about me, no matter how the conversation began).  Just listening to someone goes about as far as you need it to.
  5. Robert Frost wrote, “My object in living is to unite / My avocation and my vocation / as my two eyes make one in sight.”  To what degree have you united your vocation (your job) and your avocation (your hobby)?
    For most of my professional career, I was all about this.  I ache every day with longing to be back in the classroom.  But somewhere in the ridiculous demands of that glorious, wonderful, humbling work, I forgot that I memorized, in eighth grade, the last stanza of this poem because I wanted to write.  I’m not quite there yet — the type of writing my new work requires isn’t quite it, but I feel I’m getting closer, and it’s why I’ve pursued an opportunity like this (about which, more later).

Almost.  The.  Week.  End.

Friday 5: Animate

From here.

  1. In what ways are you like an ox?
    I always imagine that oxen are quiet and thoughtful.  I don’t know how quiet I am, but I am something of a loner and I consider myself thoughtful.  So I guess that.
  2. In what ways are you like a rabbit?
    I don’t know a lot about rabbits except what I read in Watership Down, a novel in which rabbits are pretty much impossible to stereotype.  Still, they go on kind of a long, focused journey, and I’ve done a bunch of long, focused walking this past year.
  3. In what ways are you like a snake?
    My favorite football player of all time was nicknamed Snake.  I guess that doesn’t help much for this question.  The serpent in the Fall of (hu)Man story went after Eve first.  That’s pretty much my move as well.
  4. In what ways are you like a goat?
    Are goats kind of solitary and mind-their-own-businessy?  Or am I putting characteristics of sheep (which I have recently been calling my spirit animal whenever someone asks) (although I’m changing that to an okapi now) on goats just because they make similar sounds?  I also eat a lot of junk.
  5. In what ways are you like a rooster?
    I do like my hens!


Friday 5: Forward

From here.

  1. What are you looking forward to in your personal life in 2017?
    Although I don’t really have an idea of how this will look, I’m hoping to be slightly more social this year than last.  I also would really like to finish the next draft of this long writing project I’ve been workingon for the past couple of years.
  2. What’s something you’re planning ahead for?
    The new gig is going to make it tougher and easier to hit my weekly step count goal.  I’ve been playing around with different ideas for the commute in order to address this.  The most appealing solution might be to ride a bus part of the way and walk part of the way, in each direction.  Last week, I walked the whole way from home to the new office, and it was about a 2.5 hour walk, but that was at night when it’s cool and when there’s far less street traffic.  It’s five miles or so, however, and that’s a good number.
  3. How intense is your to-do list for the last days of the year?
    Pretty intense.  I have a lot of work to do, for two clients, and I’m behind on my reviews for books and movies.  Need to get some groceries, too, and do some housecleaning.
  4. What’s something you’d like to jump past, between now and the end of the year?
    Almost all of my podcasts are on vacation, so I would like to jump past the vacation part, if that’s possible.  How do you jump past a non-happening?  Meanwhile, thanks to Julie, I’ve recently discovered the Judge John Hodgman podcast, and it’s super smart and super funny.  I’m working my way backward through that, and it’s been helpful, but I still miss my regular stuff.
  5. How will you ring in the new year?
    I’d like to see a movie in the theater and then spend the rest of my time quietly, at home.  Maybe with a DVD or two.  That’s the rough plan, anyway.

Friday 5: Something’s Afoot

  1. What’s the nicest pair of shoes you’ve owned?
    About fourteen years ago, I bought a rather expensive pair of shoes.  Or maybe they weren’t so expensive.  I’m kind of cheap when it comes to shoes, so I don’t know what expensive shoes are.  These were a nice pair of black dress shoes from J. C. Penney and they were about a hundred and twenty-five bucks.  They look good; I still have them.  They are in need of a good shine, though, and I haven’t worn them in maybe five or six years.  When I wear them, I usually get complimented on them.  They’re okay for what they are, but I don’t wear them unless I really need to.
  2. What’s likely to be your next shoe purchase?
    Almost certainly some athletic shoes for walking around in.  I just bought a really, really cheap pair of all-black Avias at Walmart for fifteen bucks, and they’re a lot better than I’d have expected.  They look pretty good, good enough to wear to my job interviews this past month, and they’re confortable enough.  My right foot has been a bit achey lately, and I’m wondering if it’s the shoes.  The right shoe’s been noticeably loose, but I tightened up the laces last night and it felt a lot better.
  3. Where’s your favorite place to get shoes?
    For my entire teaching career, I wore all-black Vans to work.  Teaching really dictates athletic shoes over dress shoes, no matter what they tell you about appearances.  The same is true of jeans, but both schools where I taught have been slow to embrace this fact, because apparently appearances mean more than practicality, despite very few people ever actually seeing me teach except my students, who didn’t care what was on my feet.

    So all-black Vans were a nice compromise.  They’re comfortable for most of the moving around I did, and you’d have to look closely to notice they were really skater shoes.  There used to be a Vans outlet nearby, down at the old Dole Cannery, but when it opened a new location in Waikele, where all the outlet stores are, it closed shop in town, so my go-to has been Famous Footwear.  But I do prefer the Vans store when I can get out there.

    I once bought a pair of running shoes from ESPN, back when they sold gear from the website.  They were marked down quite a bit, and I was running five days a week after work, so I kind of thought this would be the most hassle-free way to keep myself in decent shoes.  I’m thinking I will go back to online shopping for shoes in the near future.

  4. When did you last swap out the insoles or laces on a pair of shoes?
    I get insoles almost all the time now.  Since the budget dictated really inexpensive shoes this time around, I bought some gel insoles that cost about the same as the shoes, so call it about three weeks ago.  So yeah.  I’m gellin’ like a felon.  I haven’t bought laces since high school.
  5. What were the last shoes you got rid of like?
    I wore all-black New Balances for almost the whole year.  I bought them for the office when I was working in Chinatown.  They looked great, but then I no longer worked in Chinatown and didn’ t need to get dressed up, but by then I was really used to them, and they were built for activity anyway.  I Shoe-Gooed them twice to get a few extra miles out of them.  Finally had to toss them when the hard rubber sole actually wore all the way through to the foam-rubber cushion beneath.  I conservatively estimate that I put 2500 miles on them.

Friday 5 for December 16: Back in the Highlights Again

From here.

  1. What was your highlight in dining for 2016?
    Dining has been mostly uneventful this year, but I got together with the family a few times (thanks, Dad!) to celebrate a few things.  Mom’s birthday at Paesano in Aiea was a particularly memorable meal.  I had a vegetable thing with pasta.
  2. What was your highlight in relationships for 2016?
    I made a concerted effort to avoid people this year, mostly because I just couldn’t afford to be social.  It’s tough telling people I can’t get together with friends because I’m completely broke all the time, so it’s just been easier to live hermit-like.  But I have continued to meet with my writing partner, pretty much every week, and it’s been a good, productive working relationship as well as a much-needed in-person friendship.
  3. What was your highlight in entertainment for 2016?
    Probably A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty, a wonderful young-adult fantasy I crammed in somewhere between cozy mysteries.  The 2016 World Series was pretty great too.
  4. What was your highlight in self-improvement for 2016?
    There’s an obvious answer, but I’m going with a less-obvious answer, which has to do with keeping my head up when it would have been very easy to be brought down.  I’ve had a tough year!  But through most of it, I’ve remained optimistic.  I feel pretty good about that, and think it bodes well for a better 2017.
  5. What was your highlight in completing something for 2016?
    Man, this is tough.  I always have ten million things in progress and seldom actually complete anything.  I think I’ll go with what seems to be a completed search for some regular employment.  I found out today that I don’t begin until the second week of January, which I admit is something of a disappointment, but unless something goes wrong in a really weird way, I end 2016 continuing to do my freelance writing while looking forward to a desk in an office for the first time in fifteen months.  I feel pretty good about that.


Friday 5: Ache but Don’t Break

From here.

  1. What caused your most recent tummy ache?
    Jalapeno poppers at this pizza place in town.  My writing partner loves them.  I love them too, but I’ve been having major problems on the evenings after we meet, and I’ve narrowed the culprit down to those poppers.  I’m super annoyed about this, but whatever.  One of these days I’ll tell the story of how I had to relieve myself in the field at a local middle school at close to midnight.  Or maybe not.
  2. What cause your most recent heartache?
    It’s not one of those break-down-and-cry heartaches (I’ve had plenty of those), but today I ache for this week’s death of Greg Lake, the singer in Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (also in King Crimson for a time and briefly in Asia).  Keith Emerson died in March, so it’s been a rough year for prog-heads.
  3. How did you deal with your most recent headache?
    I popped three ibuprofens the night before last.  I usually do three pills in some combination of aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetominophen (usually two of one and one of another), but I’m down to just a handful of ibuprofens right now.  Need to make a Walmart run soon.
  4. How do you deal with a sore throat?
    Ugh.  Usually hot tea.  Sore throats are miserable.  My mother used to give me an iodine swab, something I hated (I gag on my own toothbrush every day), but it did seem to work most of the time.
  5. Where else do you ache?
    I’ve been having some tightness in the neck, shoulders, and back that gives me some pain, especially in the mornings right before I get up.  My feet were pretty achey for a while, but that seems to be subsiding, thank goodness.  And that thing I’m still not talking about, that still aches like crazy.

Thanks for participating, and have an owie-free weekend!

Friday 5: Celluloid Heroes

From here.

  1. What movie most recently impressed you with its score or soundtrack?
    Last year’s Oscar-winner for best score was Ennio Morricone’s beautiful work on The Hateful 8, and I was pleased that it was recognized.  I was sure Star Wars: The Force Awakens was going to get the award, and it was certainly worthy, but Morricone’s was slightly more memorable.
  2. What movie most recently impressed you with its costumes or makeup?
    The costumes in Mean Girls, which I saw recently for the first time, were really creative and interesting.  You could tell the costume designer had a lot of fun dressing up these four pretty actresses.  Honorable shout-out to Captain America: Civil War.
  3. What movie most recently impressed you with its scenic backdrops?
    Strangely, it might have to be Pali Road, a film I disliked.  It’s filmed in Hawaii, and at first the scenery is the usual Hawaii stuff.  Beaches, mountains, greenery, oceans.  But then it takes us to some less picturesque locations that residents will recognize, if not for their exact spots, for their everyday Hawaii-ness.  It’s a film that looks like home.  A pretty crappy film that looks like home.
  4. What movie most recently impressed you with its originality?
    I’m going with Inside Out, although the case could be made for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.  The very concept of a children’s movie about emotions personified is so huge and unreal that its making it to screen is impressive enough.  But not only does it exist, it works in ways that hadn’t been invented yet.  Pixar didn’t just create a movie whose technology hadn’t been seen before (as is the case with just about every Pixar movie); it may have created a movie whose characters, themes, and plot devices hadn’t been seen before.  It’s just an amazing piece of film.
  5. What movie most recently impressed you with its dialogue?
    There’s a scene in Hail, Caesar! where Alden Ehrenreich (the future-and-past Han Solo) and Ralph Fiennes do the old “repeat after me” gag that had me nearly in tears, it was so well done.  It wasn’t the most creative dialogue — I mean, it was basically the same line said over and over — but it was so well delivered I may have sprayed iced tea all over myself.  That was just one scene, though.  For a whole movie of impressive dialogue, a recent rewatching of Chasing Amy was a nice reminder of how good Kevin Smith is.