Sunday, July 31, 2011

FX summer field trip: Fort Funston

It was great to see the FX crew again after 2 months. We took a summer trip to Fort Funston.

FX field trip to Fort Funston
FX field trip to Fort Funston

Do you see how beautiful that path down to the beach looks? Is the experience as beautiful and fun going up as it is going down? Hint: it is not.

Activities for the day included: throwing a nerf football; playing jump rope with a giant length of kelp; searching the shore for jade and sea glass; avoiding washed-up jellyfish; playing with joyful dogs; gawking at the hang gliders. Life is hard.

FX field trip to Fort Funston
FX field trip to Fort Funston
FX field trip to Fort Funston
FX field trip to Fort Funston
FX field trip to Fort Funston
FX field trip to Fort Funston
FX field trip to Fort Funston

"bringing nothing to the party"

The distrust of outsiders -- particularly reporters; even bloggers -- isn't because the people of Las Vegas are mean; in fact everyone I met was as warm-hearted as the people I've met in any town in America. It's because every month another journalist or filmmaker comes into their small town and writes the same story, or makes the same movie...Those writers mention the wedding chapels (ho ho ho), but not the museums; they meet the comedy mayor but not the people actually making a difference downtown. And then they fuck off and leave the good people of Las Vegas to continue worrying about their mortgages, or their kids' schooling or their jobs.
For whatever reason, I completely missed Paul Carr's series on staying in Vegas for 33 days. Catching up now, starting with the epilogue and prologue.

I would have also added this: Vegas locals are also antagonistic towards tourists and short-termers because despite all of the above, we still need them to make our town run. The cynicism isn't because we are wretched, bitter people. The cynicism is because we have to continually shuck and jive for people who do not nor will ever care about us. And that's a hard thing to explain to your kids.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Japan 2011: Saitama

I spent quite a bit of time this trip with my relatives, including a long stretch in Ogawamachi, Saitama-ken. It takes about 90 minutes from Tokyo by train to get there, and is considered inaka (country).

around my uncle's house

I initially felt a little apprehension going into this part of the trip. My uncle had extended an open-ended invitation to stay there, and I tried to parse that the best I knew how. Because he's Japanese, I couldn't tell what exactly "however long you want" meant. If I stayed too long, I would become an inconvenience. If I left too soon, I would be ungrateful. Finally, I called my mom.

"Stay as long as you can," she said. She was at work, and I could hear the slot machines in the background. "If you leave, they'll think they aren't good enough." I love my Americanized Japanese mother.

It turns out that it was a good thing I stayed for most of the week; my experience in Saitama transitioned from "let's do lots of day trips and activities!" to "let's just live our daily lives" over the course of six days. At the end of the trip, I was allowed to help with meal prep (which guests are not permitted to do but close friends and family are). My uncle and aunt cried when I left, which was touching and surprising. I wasn't as close with my older uncle and his family, so I was really blessed to have this chance to get to know them.

around my uncle's house
around my uncle's house
around my uncle's house
around my uncle's house

Side trips:

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ridge Vineyards

My friend Evan has a membership with Ridge Vineyards, and so invited a group of us up to the Monte Bello estate for lunch and tastings. Evan usually stops at Ridge as part of the Montebello Road cycling ride. The location has pretty so-so views:

ridge winery

The wine was kind of interesting; none of the varietals smelled or tasted how I expected them to. The chardonnays were melony and crisp; the cab had an almost absent aroma; the syrah was more sweet than peppery. A more reasonable explanation, however, is that I don't know that much about wine. Ridge's Cabernet Sauvignon placed 5th in the 1976 "Judgement of Paris" wine competition, so I assume the winemakers know better than me.

ridge winery
ridge winery

There's a short path from the picnic area/tasting room level to the top of the mountain. From there, you can see the entire mid-peninsula. I would like to build a tiny treehouse there, please.

ridge winery
ridge winery
ridge winery
ridge winery

Thursday, July 28, 2011

sick day

I messed up my back (again), so I'm spending extremely still quality time with my hot water bottle, ibuprofen, and Mad Men.

hot water bottle

Saturday, July 23, 2011

NY Times: "Think Like A Doctor" series

One of my former students and TAs was featured in the NY Times "Think Like A Doctor" series. This series presents a "medical mystery" and invites readers to submit their best diagnosis based on the presenting information. The "solution" is posted the next day, highlighting the first reader to correctly guess the diagnosis. Tress is now an emergency room attending in Washington, D.C., and she submitted the initial mystery case.

Lady Gaga, "Edge of Glory" (acoustic)

This acoustic version of "Edge of Glory" won over both Howard Stern and my husband.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Japan 2011: Family

My favorite part of this trip was being able to spend so much time with my family. Met my second cousins for the first time (well, I had met Hinako before, but she was about 18 months old and therefore has no recollection of me). I stayed in Kofu for 2 days, and Ogawamachi for about 6 days with each of my uncles' families.

Kotaro and my uncle
my uncle

I can't even wrap my mind around how grateful I am that my family treats me like family, instead of a gaijin. If you've spent any amount of time in Japan, you should have picked up that foreigners are treated spectacularly different, and if you've spent even more time there, you will have come up against the frustration of being friended, but never truly integrated, into Japanese culture. When my three-year old cousin Kotaro grabbed my hand while exploring my grandmother's house, I nearly teared up. Both he and his sister call me "Madika oneechan" (older sister) which is what their mother used to call me when we were children.

Hinako and Kotaro

I also got to hang out a bit with my older uncle's children as well. Takuya is living down in Kansai, and Kiyoteru is married with a one-year old. It took me about 2 days to really understand that it's been 10 years, and the shy teenagers that I remembered had magically turned into adults.

cousin Kiyoteru and family

I hadn't been to my older uncle's house since I first arrived in Japan in September 2001. September 11, 2011, to be exact. Kiyoteru was the one who broke the news that what I was seeing on the television was not a movie. Good times. And now my uncle with a puppy.

my uncle with a puppy

Sunday, July 17, 2011


The Nadeshiko defeat the U.S. 2(3)-2(1) in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Japan 2011: Baird Brewing

Because my friend Jason can't walk two (long-strided) steps without tripping over a beer contact, I managed to finagle a tag-a-long to Baird Brewery in Numazu my first day in Japan.

Baird Brewery

We met with head brewer Chris Poel, who gave us a tour of the brewing facilities. Among the group, I was definitely the one who knew the least, so I tried to stay out of the way and just take photos.

Baird Brewery
Baird Brewery
Baird Brewery
Baird Brewery
Baird Brewery

Baird has four taprooms -- one in Numazu, two in Toyko, and one in Yokohama. After the tour, we went to the Numazu one to try the beers.

Baird taproom
Baird taproom
Baird taproom
Baird taproom

I had the Single-Take Session Ale, Red Rose Amber Ale, and Angry Boy Brown Ale; however, because at this point I had been awake for about 32 hours, I was so tired I can barely remember what the latter two beers tasted like. While chatting with Chris, I felt my face drop, which he also noticed. Despite my desire not to fall asleep on the couch (because, really, what Japanese business needs a gaijin crashed out in the corner?), I wound up napping for about an hour.

I did taste some of Rachel and Jason's selections, which included an IPA that I didn't hate. The session ale was super drinkable. I did feel terrible about not being entirely present for the taproom; Jason and I wound up going to the Harujuku taproom my second-to-last night in Japan so that I could try the brown ale again (it was delicious).

Jason and Rachel diptych

Combination of mine and Rachel's photos.

Friday, July 15, 2011

White House virtual town hall: disability policy

My friend Becca works for the White House as the Director of Priority Placement for Public Engagement in the Presidential Personnel Office, and totally kicks ass as a person. I could seriously listen to her speak for 3 months straight about any topic. Her kid is also crazy adorable.

Becca participated in a virtual town hall with Kareem Dale and Jeff Crowley to respond to questions about the government's disability policy. Their bios are found here.

Japanese grammar I have known and loved

For those of you who don't know, I received my masters in East Asian Studies, primarily focusing on prewar Japanese literature and history. I did quite a bit of translation in my second year, and thus, my Japanese grammar skills were quite good. Unfortunately, my subsequent non-use of Japanese on an everyday basis has resulted in a lot of language atrophy (one phrase that I've committed to memory is "zenbu wasurechatta" -- I've forgotten everything).

I do recall some things, albeit randomly. For example, I must repeatedly look up how to say "medical school" (ikadaigaku, 医科大学) in order to describe my job; however, I have no problem remembering how to say "vending machine" (jidouhanbaiki, 自動販売機).

There are also particular grammatical constructions that I'm relieved to know have stuck around (examples from movies quotes).

1. Asking permission to do something (~te mo ii desu ka).
"Mother, may I sleep with danger?" Okaasan, rokudenashi to netemo ii desu ka? // お母さん、ろくでなしと寝てもいいですか?

2. Indicating whether or not you've had experience doing something (~koto ga arimasu/arimasen).
"Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?" Joey, Toruko no keimusho ni itta koto arimasu ka? // ジョーイ、トルコの刑務所に行ったことありますか?

3. Saying that you must do something (~kereba narimasen).
"I must break you." Anata o warana kereba narimasen. // あなたを割らなければなりません。

4. Saying that something has become something else (~ni naru / ~ku naru).
"So Peter, you've become a pirate." Jaa, Peter, kaizoku ni natta. // じゃあ、ペーター、海賊になった。

I get a surprising amount of mileage out of these phrases, although I sometimes feel like a broken record in using them. Phrases that I still have difficulty with are asking whether someone wants something, something is better/worse than something else, and that I attempted to do something. Otherwise, I usually communicate through a combination of hand gestures and drawings. Like a caveman.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Japan, in numbers (briefly)

I'm back from Japan (with an extended airport adventure on the journey from Tokyo to San Francisco). I'll have more photos and details upcoming, but would like to share my quick Japan-by-numbers:
  • Number of earthquakes felt: 2 (July 6 and July 10)
  • Number of mosquito bites: 14
  • Number of servings of 冷やし中華: 3
  • Number of shopping trips to Muji: 5
  • Number of times I watched my cousin Hinako perform the following song: 8