Lockdown: ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky

I took two hours of vacation Thursday morning to do some car stuff, but I slept so miserably Wednesday night that I got up to do a couple of things and just went back to bed and slept in. Terrible.

The car stuff will have to wait.

I worked on some staff newsletter stuff, reread some emails I hadn’t paid much attention to the day before, and had a phone call and a Zoom meeting. They were all okay.

Mostly vegged after work. Did one very quick chore and thought about doing the car stuff I didn’t do in the morning, but opted instead to finish watching the Raiders-Chargers game. Pretty good game even if the outcome wasn’t nice.

I was the only person who showed up for the NaNo Skype, which is fine. I wasn’t really up to writing anything formal. I kind of goofed off with some record review ideas, then spent the time journaling while my new Jimi Hendrix Blu-Ray played.

Unfortunately, the steamed kale in my fridge is still quite unspoiled, so breakfast was an omelette with kale, radish sprouts, extra sharp cheddar, and kimchi. It was good. I wasn’t sure without some kind of meat it would work, but I didn’t even notice the absence of animal flesh.

Omelettes are one of my favorite breakfasts. I started making them in high school, and made them a lot in college and early in my teaching career. It had been quite a while, though, so it was fun. A good breakfast and satisfying to prepare.

Lunch was a bowl of pasta, the other half of the bag I opened a couple of weeks ago (I think — what is time anyway?). Threw in some jarred sauce and stirred in some blue cheese and vodka. Delicious and satisfying. I skipped dinner but I’m getting a little hungry as I write this so I may have a small quesadilla if I’m up to it.

Sharon texted me to say thanks for the Christmas gift and card I sent to her desk in one of our on-campus offices. We still have a few people on campus, so a courier picks stuff up once a day and delivers it.

Crush Girl texted me to talk about a few different things. We chatted a little in the morning and then more in the evening. It was nice. I’m still trying to convince her to see Ted Lasso. She saw the first episode on my recommendation and liked it, but you know. It doesn’t get awesome until one or two more episodes in.

This week went by kind of quickly. Difficult to believe it’s Friday already, and only a week before Christmas. I still have a few things to take care of. Might take a day off from work next week. Depends on how things go with my car.

Holidays, shmolidays; am I right? Actually I’m looking forward to them. And if you need some connection in the dying days of 2020, leave a comment. Don’t be alone and miserable.

Lockdown: Midnight blue and crimson will do nicely

Wednesday’s Spelling Bee puzzle. Heatedly came immediately. Deathly, a second pangram, took a lot longer.

I made a few mistakes on my entry for Tuesday, so I went back and made some edits. Also added a photo. Info for the obsessed completionist reader.

So breakfast was a Big Mac combo at the laundry. Tried to do a McRib but the all-night McD’s doesn’t have the full menu at four in the morning.

At the laundry, I wrote a few Christmas cards and did a little bit of planning for the coming week and a half. Still have a few Christmas things to take care of.

On my way home, I stopped at the post office, one with a self-service kiosk, and dropped a few gifts in the mail. You used to be able to mail small packages at a first-class rate, but nowadays everything over some trifling weight (13 ounces, I think) seems automatically to be Priority Mail in the flat-rate packaging, which for my stuff is more than seven bucks. It’s pricey, and for a while I thought of other options, but you know, my reluctance to come face-to-face with people combined with my severe introversion kind of makes seven bucks a bargain. Just seven bucks to spread a little Christmas joy and let some friends know I’m thinking of them? That’s a steal.

Got home, unwound, and went back to bed.

I tried to play a little catch-up on organizational stuff, then I had my weekly one-on-one with my boss. It was pretty routine, but I did tell her how positive are my feelings about the strategic planning, and that I was on board for anything they needed from me.

Worked a little on staff newsletter stuff. I wasn’t especially productive, but I worked. I mean, I sat here and did work things.

I watched the news even though I would rather have lounged in bed. I did some crosswords. Turned the TV off before The Bachelorette came on. Stared at my phone for far too long.

The NaNo Skype energy was a bit down. I think several of us are feeling the stress of the holidays. We all shared a little and chatted most of the evening, without actually writing. I wrote some, listened to music some, and wrote some more. It wasn’t fun. One of the other participants painted. The others never planned to write to begin with, but I’m glad they joined in. Wednesday is sort of our designated night to check in and say hi.

I’m having second thoughts about writing album reviews, and I’ve felt this way before. After a while, they all start to look the same, which is useless to me as a writer. As a reader, I don’t mind so much because I read the stuff I’m interested in, never reading every review a website offers. When I’m the creator of all the reviews, I think I get bored. And boring, which is worse.

It’s weird I don’t feel this way about book reviews. I’m wondering if it’s because I have more to say about any book I’ve completed. It’s my area of study, after all, and I’m pretty much a know-nothing about music. I mean, my book reviews can really go on. My music reviews draw from a much smaller toolbox, so I run out of stuff to say. Is this an argument to keep writing them or to give it up? If I keep practicing, will I add more colors to my crayon collection or will I just keep coloring the sky blue and the grass green?

I hate myself.

After I post this, I’m going to force myself to write a music review in a very different way, speed-writing again just to get it out and see what it looks like.

Somebody give me some new crayons.

One of my coworkers emailed me to say she and her husband were on the last episode of Ted Lasso and thanked me for the recommendation. I was pleased. They both loved it, and she was happy when I shared with her that the show’s been renewed already for two more seasons.

I sent an FB message to one of my former coworkers in Manila. She’s taken my position’s equivalent at another international engineering firm, and she posted a screenshot of a company-wide congratulations, shouting her out for landing the company some good work in Ohio. This is a big deal. I’m super excited for her.

JB texted me to answer a question I had about his family. Ali texted me to respond to one of my texts from teh day before. That was it for texts! I may be crawling into my cave. I can feel myself wanting to even though it would be bad for me. May have to make a little extra effort to reach out to people Thursday. Although I have one phone meeting and one Zoom meeting and they may suck it all out of me.

I made an online appointment to take the car in Friday morning for a few things. If I can get that stuff taken care of and repair anything that needs repairing before next week, I may go for a long drive over the weekend. I think it would have been good for me these past nine months, but I’ve had this sense of impending doom with the wheels. Getting caught up on maintenance will help a great deal.

Lunch and dinner were the same thing: leftover curry with leftover hapa rice. I added a few shakes of cinnamon on the lunch meal and it was amazing. Not cinammony at all, but something completely different. Good discovery, and exciting enough that I ate it again for dinner. Trying to use up leftoves, so tomorrow’s going to be a lot of kale, I think, if the kale in my fridge is still good.

Daily invitation to leave a comment if you need someone to connect with. I’m a little unstable these days, but I can definitely help you steady yourself if you need it.

Lockdown: Chloro-fill me with useful knowledge

The problem with dedicating a couple of hours each night to writing is that even if your nightly schedule allows for it, unless you give up something else, there’s really no time to waste. Say you’re a little tired of sitting at your desk when the workday is done. If you want to lie in your comfy bed (not that my bed is comfy, but it’s comfier than the desk chair) for a bit, you’re pushing back stuff like dinner, chores, TV vegging, and other important pieces of daily existence.

Add the occasional disruption to nightly life, such as a bi-weekly trip to the laundry, and you really can’t mess around.

Of course, I’ve been mostly in messing around mode since March 19. You can see how much of a pain I am to myself just from that.

I got more of that half-terrible, half-restful sleep Monday night, the sort where I fall asleep before putting myself properly to bed, then wake up to hit the bathroom (or something), then put Darth Vader on my face and get four(ish) hours of uninterrupted sleep. It was stupid.

EDIT: I actually got up and hopped into my car for a drive to the beach. It was a Honolulu winter morning, with no real cloud cover but muted early-morning sunlight. The water was very cool but not quite cold, and there was almost nobody in the water when I jumped in, but there were a lot of swimmers when I got out.

As I might have mentioned, I had four hours of vacation scheduled Tuesday, but there was a nine o’clock staff meeting via Zoom, and I hate to miss those, especially since we’re going through the early stages of strategic planning, and I know this is strange, but this kind of thing wakes up in me all kinds of good feelings. It’s like the every-six-year accreditation process, which I have to say I also rather enjoy.

I think they’re both a bit like making resolutions at the start of every year. Evaluate oneself (not the year) and make plans for improvement. Then set those things in motion, maybe. Reason for optimism, not matter how many of these things resulted in nothing all the years past. Maybe nothing good ever came of strategic planning before, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen this time. This time for sure.

I’m being sincere, because even if nothing tangible or meaningful happens, there’s value in the process. I know many of my former teacher colleagues would disagree, and they’re entitled, but to consider self-reflection only valuable if there are results is to miss the value of the reflection itself. As someone who writes for an audience of himself just to sift daily revelations from the profundity of mundania, I’m not here for this thinking.

Too lazy to look up whether mundania is a word. It might be mundanity. Mundania is most likely a bit of wordplay from Piers Anthony, who uses it in one of his titles.

It’s also possible I just groove on the strategic planning because I miss teaching, and accreditation (and other long-term planning) is one of the most collegial professional aspects of the job. I always say writing is a lonely business, but in some ways teaching is just as lonely. I taught for sixteen years and my bosses saw my actually doing my work maybe twenty times, and only for a few minutes at a time. You miss so much of my best stuff if you don’t see me for an entire class period.

Real classroom management happens in little spontaneous moments, and as the sum of these moments. You can’t see the sum if you stick around for only fifteen minutes. Well you can, but you won’t see what I do to make it happen.

Tangent.

So yeah. I may have been the only person leaving non-question comments in the Zoom chat. I left two, but the first was a joke about the CEO.

I needed some rest after the meeting (these things take a lot out of me, even if I’m not a vocal participant). First, I took care of some emails, then I took a short nap. A glorious, peaceful, restful nap.

As my vacation time approached the halfway mark, I forced myself up to take care of that stupid wheel lock key issue. I looked up wheel lock keys on Amazon, saw the kind of info I needed in order to get the part I wanted, measured the lug nuts on my car (it was a challenge because all I had was yardsticks, and the nuts are recessed in the hub cap, and I thought I probably needed metric measurements as well as standard, and none of my yardsticks had metric units.

I drove to the auto parts store in my hood and stared at the stuff in the aisle. I was lost. I asked for help. I told the woman what I needed, including measurements and the fact that my lug nuts were aftermarket, six-spline nuts. She said she had a few wheel lock keys and would go out to the lot with me to make sure the one she had in mind would fit.

Yeah, the Amazon listings were super helpful in guiding me toward the right purchase, but bless those merchants: they don’t come with you to make sure the thing you’re buying actually fits your car.

All that trouble for an eight dollar purchase, but I have what I need now, so I can finally go ahead with the rest of the car stuff.

And that’s the story of how it takes me four hours to run a thirty-minute errand. When you know yourself, you know an unpleasant task needs built-in procrastination time, plus time to psyche yourself up to get into a store and talk to people.

When I sat down to work, I had a few loose ends to chase down, then helped a colleague with editing stuff. It needed help for sure, and I had to get up and look at other stuff a couple of times. There were a few instances of complicated wording.

I think I did okay, although sometimes I wonder if these directors of research centers know how difficult it can be to write something meaningful on their behalfs. Behalves. Hm.

Dang it. That one I did look up, and m-w.com doesn’t offer a plural form. I’m declaring this my poetic license to use either one.

I was seriously dragging, so I took another short nap and it really did the trick. Got up and did all the laundry-prep stuff and the chores I neglected in my lazy time and finally got to bed at about half past midnight. Ugh. Set the alarm but overslept anyway and I was an hour later than I wanted for the laundry. But I’m here.

EDIT: Actually, breakfast was a two-burrito breakfast combo from McD’s, consumed in my car before the sun came up at Ala Moana. The pie was a late-morning snack because breakfast was so early and burned through pretty quickly. Breakfast was a small slice of pie, eaten during the Zoom meeting. I turned video off when I ate but turned it back on when I wasn’t shoving food into my face. Lunch, picked up from Pancakes and Waffles on my way home from the auto parts store, was a Monte Cristo (it was good but not great; I’ve had better). Dinner was a cheeseburger deluxe from the same spot, hours later and cold, but after my short nap, it was what I needed. It was a lot of bread, so I ate it open-faced, with a knife and fork.

Ali and I texted a bit in the evening. She sent me a funny meme about how what teachers teach in the classroom has no real-world application. It misses the mark, but it’s still funny. I didn’t even get the joke at first, because of course the stuff we teach in the classroom has all kinds of real-world value. You may not be asked about chlorophyll in your job interview, but understanding how plants make their own food and how humans are dependent on them for oxygen is far more important for the human species than whether or not First Local Bank wants you to be their quality assurance gal.

Anto and I traded a few texts. Casual catch-up. Penny texted to say she’s on episode seven of Ted Lasso (which you should defnitely watch, whether or not you have an Apple TV+ subscription).

And the world keep on turning
And the sun keep on burning
And the children keep learning
How to grow up big and strong

Daily reminder: leave a comment if you want someone to connect with in the daunting, doldrummy days of pandemic. Light at the tunnel’s end, sure, but it’s still a long way off.

Lockdown: Murderous airbags sent packing

Sunday night was another night where I slept poorly then finally got it together in the early morning, in time for about four and a half hours uninterrupted. I was about to drift off when Ali responded to a few texts I’d sent her, the day we communicated poorly. It led to a semi-contentious texting exchange. I’m over it, but I was already feeling super moody at nearly 1:30 in the morning so it took me a little while to settle back down. She had to go to work and I had to get some sleep.

I watched a few of my favorite moments in Ted Lasso to put me in a better mind. When the alarm went off Monday morning at 7:00, I just wasn’t ready for it.

However. I had an appointment to finally take care of that defective airbag. Pulled up at the dealer, about eight minutes from my house, checked in, and walked around Kalihi for a while. They were done in half an hour. Nice. I asked the service guy about my wheel lock key. He took a quick look and told me what I need and how I should be able to get it. I jotted the keywords down, came home, and looked it up on Amazon. I have to take a few measurements, but it looks like if what I have isn’t weird, I should be able to find what I need, either at a local auto parts store or as a second result, Amazon. And not too expensive. Like considerably less than twenty bucks.

I have some time off Tuesday to do that, and to figure out other car things, but I forgot we have an all-staff meeting Tuesday morning at nine. I hate to miss a meeting, especially an all-staff meeting, even if the stupid thing’s on Zoom. So I emailed my boss and said I’m going to see what things look like after the meeting and then ask either to push my hours to later Tuesday or to take them Wednesday instead.

I used the rest of my vacation time to veg and nap, the stuff I felt kind of ripped off for not getting Sunday. It was good for my brain.

I got some feedback on the story I finished Sunday. It’s doable, but it makes my story a little less interesting. It’s okay. I sent the DO some questions, and this is why I may just postpone my vacation hours to Wednesday. If it looks like I have a couple more hours to work on the story, I’d rather do it Tuesday, just to get it done. I want that thing done.

I worked on some new copy for the website, and that was mostly my work day.

Watched the news. Played games on my phone at the same time, so as not to get mad at the news. It worked, but I also didn’t really soak most of it in. The news is mostly good, you know? The vaccine is the turning of the tide. Yet the incumbent continues to infuriate me in these last days of his term. It’s maddening.

The Bachelorette was so stupid this evening that I came microseconds away from turning it off. I realized that, as compelling as the story was, if I just turned the TV off and did something more meaningful with my time (like stare at my phone and veg) I wouldn’t care in the least what happened. It finally hit that too-stupid-to-watch line, until the bachelorette came out wearing something so hot I had to leave it on. I mean geez. I guess it wasn’t quite at the too-stupid-to-watch-even-with-a-super-gorgeous-woman line.

It’s on again Tuesday night and I don’t think I’ll watch it.

I’m writing this during the NaNo Skype time, after doing a couple of speed-written record reviews. I’m finding the reviews very unsatisfying. I enjoy writing them, but the product is boring. I’ve got to find a more interesting approach.

Breakfast was Taco Bell. I’d been looking forward to it for days, but while it was still good, it wasn’t exciting good. I think it’s time to give it a break. Lunch was leftover curry and fresh hapa rice. I’m skipping dinner. I had a two-clementine snack during the news. If I’m hungry later, I may have a small slice of pie. I’m not feeling it, though.

Besides the texts with Ali, I also texted a few friends to tell them about this new boba spot in Ala Moana called The Alley. It’s the local branch of a mainland chain. Takes its name from Diagon Alley, and the logo on the cup is a stag. Crush Girl gave me a Cho Chang wand for my birthday this year; I’m thinking of going to this place with it (when the world is safe again), pointing the wand at the cashier, and saying, “Accio oolong!”

Anyway. Penny said, “Cool!” Sharon already knew about it. Grace didn’t say anything. Crush Girl said, “Ooooh that sounds amazing!” I keep telling: you I know how to pick ’em. Jennifer responed with “Deerioca?” I thought she was punning, but it appears she looked up the place and that’s what they call the tapioca pearls there. Not very creative. Anyway, not to be outpunned, I replied, “Ooprongs tea.”

Not my best work.

Man, I need to shake this moodiness. I suspect most of it will be taken away when I get that stupid wheel lock key, because it will allow me to do the next thing on my car list, and I really really really really really want to get car stuff squared away before Christmas! Argh.

What’s frustrating you? If you want someone to talk about it with and aren’t getting enough connection, just leave a comment. I’ll send you contact details and we can text it out. Don’t go through holiday moodiness alone!

Lockdown: It’s put a spell on me

the spelling bee puzzle from december 2

I slept without Darth Vader Saturday night then managed to get it on for about an hour and a half, then took it off because I thought I was getting up, but I fell asleep again for another couple of hours without it. Somehow woke up Sunday feeling mostly refreshed at about 10:30.

I knew I had a long day ahead of me; I just didn’t know if I wanted to get it started early or late. The football games didn’t excite me much, so I packed up and headed to the office, stopping for a turkey sandwich at Subway on my way in.

The one thing I absolutely had to do, despite nobody being on my case about it, was get that late story about the Maui chocolatier done. Done as in submitted in first-draft form to my boss. I don’t know why I’ve been having trouble completing it except that most of my organizational strategies just weren’t working for me.

So I did a blind revision, started all over with a blank page, and at first everything flowed and I thought I had it, but then I bogged down. I was boring myself, and that’s not easy to do. So I yanked out the stuff I thought was interesting but distracting to the story and muscled my way to a finish. It’s not my best work but it’s a good start. I hope my boss has some good critique to help me polish it up a little.

That took a few hours. I’m mad at myself for being so late with it and for taking so long just to draft it today. Took a little break, walking a whole bunch of empty plastic Diet Pepsi bottles (four grocery bags’ full) to the little park near the office where there are always homeless people hanging out. Found a woman with a cart and asked if she was collecting bottles, and could I give her mine. She didn’t seem happy to see me, but she said thank you when I left the bottles on the ground near her cart.

There were more restaurants open in the neighborhood than I expected, and although you get tired of them quickly when you work in the area, I don’t exactly work in the area anymore, so they were a welcome site. I picked up a pastrami sandwich from La Pizza Rina, ate it at my desk, then wrapped gifts while my software updated.

I got Christmas gifts for more people in the office than usual. I miss my coworkers and want them to know I’m thinking of them, so I wrapped, signed cards, and left things on people’s desks. Hoping they bring a little bit of encouragement and cheer.

Finally rolled out at about 10:15 in the evening, dang it. I feel good about the productivity, but I wish I didn’t put myself in a position where I had to do it Sunday.

Now I’m having a Corona as I think about this coming week. I have a few hours off here and there to take care of car stuff, Christmas stuff, beach stuff, and decluttering stuff, and I should decide now what’s the must-do stuff and what’s just aspirational.

My uncle sent me an IG message, shared from someone else’s account, with a super positive message, so we chatted a little about that. Ali responded to some stuff I sent her; I think there may have been a miscommunication but I’m trying not to let it bug me.

Crush Girl texted me to say she’s been reading this book I lent her a year ago. I’ve kind of been wanting to re-read it, so I’m glad to hear it, but mostly I’m glad that she wanted to read it and I had a copy of it and she’s (most likely) enjoying it now.

The Suzanne-Julie-Cindy group text is definitely not the place for a Taylor discussion, I realized, so Julie and I will probably break it down on our own. She sent me a thought about one of the song titles. I sent her a screen shot from a book I’m reading. It’s a start.

You know what I’m really annoyed about? There’s this puzzle on the NYT puzzles page called Spelling Bee. You have to make as many four-letter (or longer) words as you can with the letters in the grid, but the letter in the middle must be included in every word. There’s this scoring ladder you climb with ranking based on your score. More points for longer words, and a bonus for finding the daily pangram, the word or words using all letters in the grid.

I played it when it first hit the website, but it wasn’t doing anything for me so I focused on the crosswords, which are still my main purpose for existence. But for the past month or so I’ve been doing the Spelling Bee puzzles daily, enjoying the challenge of hitting the highest ranking, “genius.” I always hit “amazing,” the second-highest ranking, sometimes with difficulty but usually with ease. Hitting genius is always a challenge but I’d say I get it five or six days a week. And for some reason the pangram almost always pops into my head as soon as I see the puzzle.

Anyway I was so preoccupied Sunday that I missed the puzzle entirely, and as I write this the Monday puzzle is already up. I’m so bummed. There’s no way to play the puzzle once it’s the next day.

I’ll get over it. I guess I’ll attempt Monday’s puzzle now, or at least work on it until midnight, by which time I’m supposed to get ready for bed.

Don’t pandemic disconnectedly. Leave a comment and I’ll send you my contact info if connection is what you need. It’s what we all need.

PS: ANTICLIMACTIC. You saw it right away, right?

Lockdown: I dropped your hand while dancing

It passes for decent sleep nowadays. After a mostly restless Friday night, I got about four and half hours uninterrupted in the early morning Saturday. Small triumph, but I’ll take what I can get.

I had to drop some DVDs in the mail, so I also picked up Hawaiian food for like the third time in the lockdown. It was really good, and super duper filling. It was breakfast and lunch, and I think I could have skipped dinner if I’d gone to bed at a decent hour. Late Saturday night, though I got a little hungry, so I made myself a quesadilla.

I spent the whole day like it was a vacation day, pretty much vegging right through the evening news.

I called my parents to see how they’re doing. They’re fine. They enjoyed the Thanksgiving dinner I dropped off for them. We agreed to do something similar for Christmas dinner, and for me to drop off gifts for the rest of the family once they’re ready.

Listened mostly to Taylor Swift’s Evermore, but spun a few other albums from earlier this year so I could write reviews. Apocalyptica and Ryte.

I wasn’t super productive during my dedicated writing time, but I did okay. Journaled and reviewed the Ryte album. I don’t like the direction the reviews are going in: they’re just too wordy for what I have in mind, so I think I’m going to rethink the way I free-write them. This is how I feel and this is why, and maybe a highlight or lowlight. I don’t know; something like that. They’re taking the shape of my film reviews, which are a different creature entirely, something I generally write for an audience of me. I like reading my long film reviews; I doubt anyone else does.

Ali texted me to respond to some stuff I sent her this past week. Crush Girl and I traded a couple of texts about her week. She’s been busy so I’ve left her mostly alone. Reid texted to ask for an album recommendation. He’s spent Saturday mornings lately spinning classic albums. I suggested Crosby, Stills & Nash’s debut album, since they were a huge influence on Cecilio and Kapono (they bonded over their love for CSN when they met at a party a long time ago).

Lockdown: Hometown skeptics; champagne problems

I slept terribly Thursday night. Got out of bed a little early Friday because I thought I might hit Taco Bell for breakfast, but I got involved with my work and remembered I had all that Japanese curry in the fridge, so that was breakfast, with some leftover hapa rice. Good brekkie.

I posted the web story I was sitting on, after stitching together some photos for our header. Then I wrote the social media copy and sent it out. It was the last day for one of my coworkers, someone I really like, who started working with us a few weeks before me. She was a good coworker and a good work friend. I used to confide in her about stuff I didn’t talk about with anyone else. Haven’t seen her since March, which has been a disappointment, and now I don’t know if I’ll see her again.

We had a good-bye thing with doughnuts and pie, some of her favorite things, in the office break room. I didn’t go, of course, and wrote her a short email instead. She didn’t leave contact info in her aloha email, but she did send me her personal email directly, so that was nice. I thought I was going to have to message her on LinkedIn.

I did not finish that one nagging story I really need to finish, so that’s part of my weekend plan. Ugh.

After work I watched the news and did a couple of easy chores, then took a good, long nap. The nap may have been the best part of my day.

I spent most of my evening alternating between spins of Taylor Swift’s Evermore and Chris Cornell’s No One Sings Like You Anymore, Part I. I also spun some old Genesis albums from the 80s and Testament’s Titans of Creation, which I reviewed during my dedicated writing time.

The writing time was productive if not especially good. I signed off kind of early, hoping I’d get to bed early enough to maybe hit the beach Saturday morning, but while I did put myself to bed early, I was up again at around three and didn’t get back to sleep until half an hour later, so I just slept in.

Sharon texted me to ask what I knew about one of our coworkers. We’re doing a Secret Santa activity (I’m a sucker for these), and Sharon needed ideas for the person she drew. JB responded to my question about the new AC/DC album. He’s entirely off base with his take, though. I can’t believe he thinks Black Ice is better than Power Up.

My late lunch was some cold somen with the leftover dressing from Thanksgiving’s Chinese chicken salad. It would have been lovely but I topped it with cold kale and some radish sprouts. The sprouts were actually great but the kale was kind of a distraction. I found myself eating as much of the kale per bite as I could so I was left with just noodles and dressing near the end. Much better.

I think my dinner was a slice of strawberry guava pie. It’s good but it’s much too sweet. I’m going to have to cut myself much smaller slices, or whip some cream to cut that sweetness.

It was a little bit of a bummer of a day. I think I’m unhappy because of my not finishing my work quickly enough for my peace of mind. Need to get on that.

What do you have going on? If you need someone to share it with, feel free to reach out in the comments. I’ll send you contact deets and you can text me all about it.

Lockdown: No hurry, beef curry

I don’t know what’s going on with my sleep this week but it’s been terrible. I dragged myself up Thursday morning and got to work. Posted a new webstory, then left it unpublished while we chased down some photos large enough for our format. We had a department Zoom meeting that went pretty well. We’re doing it weekly now instead of twice-weekly as we’ve done since the lockdown in March.

Breakfast, at my desk as usual, was a turkey-bacon-avo sandwich from Machete’s I picked up after running an early errand. It was delicious, and this place might be my favorite sandwhich spot now. It’s edging out Earl of Sandwich.

After work, as I watched the news, I made Japanese curry in the Instant Pot. Came out pretty great, ‘though I keep forgetting to use Yukon Golds instead of russets, so the potatoes fell apart. It’s kind of amazing to make a very large pot of curry in just fifteen minutes of cook time. The pot takes time to come up to pressure, so there’s that too, but this time it felt very quick.

That was a late lunch. For dinner I was kind of full, so I just had some of that steamed kale on leftover mashed potatoes. I ate the whole thing cold, which probably wasn’t the best idea from a culinary position, but I just wanted to get something in me. And I wanted to finish off those awful oniony potatoes. And I’ll be adding kale to a great many meals for the next few days. I bought a whole farm of it.

I was spinning AC/DC’s Power Up for the review I wrote during the NaNo Skype session, but Sharon texted me to say the new Taylor Swift was already up, so of course I switched to that. The first song, “Willow,” is so good I didn’t even get to the second track until I’d listened to it four times. Maybe five.

The second and third tracks are also great, ‘though the album does lose a little bit of momentum as it proceeds. Still a terrific album. Moody and melancholy, and she records one track with Haim (a murder ballad, I think!) and one with the National, which suits the vibe of the album perfectly. Sharon was unfamiliar with the National, so I turned her on to “Bloodbuzz, Ohio,” which she loved.

Enlightening young listeners, one awesome song at a time.

I used my dedicated writing time to write my AC/DC review and my The Beast Player review. Neither is my best work, but I was happy about the productivity. I had a lot more to say about the AC/DC album than I expected.

When I wrapped, I wasn’t ready for bed, so first I did all the cleanup from making curry, and put my leftovers away. Then I just kind of zoned a little. Finally turned in close to three. Bleah!

In addition to the SMS listening party with Sharon, I sent a few texts to JB about the new AC/DC album, then the Julie-Cindy-Suzanne group text about the new Taylor Swift album. No responses except Suzanne, who’s on a Kpop thing lately, who said she’s still only spinning the new BTS album. Great. I need new friends! I knew Julie’s bould be fully immersed in it eventually. She’s on Rhode Island time so I didn’t expect her to respond until later. Oh yeah, I also told Sylvia I went to Machete’s for breakfast. No response.

You need connection? Hit me up in the comments. I’ll send contact details. Don’t be alone!

Review: The Beast Player

The Beast Player (2006; this translation 2019)
Nahoko Uehashi; translated by Cathy Hirano.

The coastal village of Ake is a breeding and training ground for the Toda, ferocious seadragon-like creatures handled with utmost caution by select caretakers.  Elin’s mother is descended from a different people, rumored to have a dangerous magic enabling her to control the Toda.

Elin’s green eyes give her away as descended from the same people, and she seems to have inherited some of the same abilities, but when she’s orphaned as a little girl, she has nobody to instruct her in the lore of her mother’s ancestors or in their abilities.

Nahoko Uehashi’s The Beast Player series, published between 2006 and 2009 in four installments, inspired a manga series and an anime series.  This 2019 English translation by Cathy Hirano combines Uehashi’s first two novels in one volume, and was a Printz honor book and a Batchelder honor book (for young adult literature and translated juvenile literature, respectively), a dual recognition inspiring my purchase.

I was immediately drawn into Uehashi’s elaborate fantasy world’s politics, mythology, and geography, but it’s Elin herself who kept me turning pages.  The young, abandoned woman applies her problem-solving intelligence and innate sympathy for animals to developing profound relationships with a few very kind people.

Yes, Elin is held in some awe when people see her green eyes, but when she engages them, they become better versions of themselves.  This is not the story of a woman gifted with deep understanding of the world’s most feared beasts.  It’s the story of how she uses it to affect the people around her, possibly even in a way that changes centuries of political conflict.

This is the ambition the best fantasy literature sets out with.  Alienation plus special talent plus international conflict is a well-established formula, but set against this new, Japanese-flavored world, it feels special, at least to this half-Japanese reader.  Certain elements remind me of Anne McCaffrey’s Menolly character in Dragonsong and Dragonsinger, but Elin is a special heroine I can’t wait to read more of.

Friday 5: Heigh ho

From here.

  1. What do you do when it’s bedtime and you’re not sleepy?
    If it’s just not being sleepy, and not insomnia, I usually stare at my phone for a while, then lie absolutely still on my back with a podcast playing, usually one I’ve already listened to, and Darth Vader stuck to my face. I make myself not move, as agonizing as it can be: no wiggling, no shifting, just lying still. I’ll either focus on the podcast or just use the podcast as background sounds while I think about, um, doing things with whoever I’m crushing on, but not Crush Girl because I haven’t gone there in my mind. This usually works before too long. If it’s actual insomnia, I usually stare at my phone until I drop from exhaustion or until it’s time to wake up. Sometimes I get up and eat something or do a crossword puzzle until I’m ready to try again.
  2. When were you most recently bashful?
    I’m bashful by nature, so this is almost always an easy question to answer, but with no social situations these past nine months, it takes a bit of thought. The best I can do is a few months ago when I participated in a Hawaii Public Radio trivia night with my friend Sylvia. It was on Zoom, and Sylvia was the only person I knew, so I was seriously uncomfy. We won, though, and I contributed a few correct answers nobody else knew (Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar; the women’s professional soccer league was the first U.S. professional sports league to resume play after the lockdown; the titles of plays a bunch of Shakespeare quotes came from). So I got a little less bashful and made a couple of jokes, too.
  3. Have you seen a doc in the past nine months?
    I was a no-show for my appointment with my opthalmologist in May or June, and asked my GP to let me get some bloodwork in January. So, no. EDIT: For my company’s staff newsletter, I write a monthly movie column, and this month I’m collaborating with a new coworker, who mentioned in her bio that she loves documentary films. We’re working on a column about our favorite film docs, which reminds me that I saw Woodstock late this past spring. I’m counting it!
  4. What’s got you feeling grumpy lately?
    I haven’t been feeling much emotion at all lately except a bit of boredom. Oh, certain current events are totally making me grumpy, but I’ll avoid them for this entry. I can’t find my Kindle, and haven’t seen it for months. That’s getting super annoying, so I’ll go with that.
  5. What’s making you happy today?
    Again, I’m mostly only feeling boredom these days. Still, I had to run an errand this morning before work, and I picked up a turkey-bacon-avo sandwich from Machete’s, my second visit to the sandwhich shop. Delicious. At least for the moments I consumed that thing, I was pretty darn happy.