Showing posts from April, 2015
The beginning of cherry blossom season in Boston. Many varieties of cherry have flowers that conveniently color-coordinate with common allergy medications.

(Not pictured: Sunshine.)

It took me an embarrassingly long time to connect the dots in re: cherry trees. I was aware that cherry wood was a popular option for New England furniture, and that American cherry trees did in fact produce the fruit that you eat. But being as the Japanese make a very big deal of sakura petals and New Englanders don't, I was unaware that all varieties of cherry bloom copiously in early spring, even the North American ones, until I got up one morning a few years ago and noticed that it had snowed flowers while I wasn't looking. The drifts accumulate through early-mid May. Cherry trees must grow well out here and need little maintenance, as they seem to be the default choice for things like road medians and sidewalk planters.

Weeping willows also bloom during 'mud season', as the locals ref…

Saturday Serial: Captain America #9

It's amazing what kinds of things lodge in your head when you're a teenager, never to be pried loose.

I've been talking to a friend of mine, Tommy, whom I've known for... shit. It'll be twenty years this year, sometime in the fall semester, depending on whether you're counting from the time I first typed at him or the time I first talked to him face to face.

Goddamnit, now I've made myself feel old.

Leaving aside the glorious multitudes of things my parents inadvertently taught me by counterexample, I got more of my people-ing ethics from Tommy than I have anyone else, ever. Most of my really unusual ones were from him, particularly the one where I persist in believing that the strength of one relationship does not hinge on the relative weakness of others. Credit where credit is due: I did have to look these things over myself and decide that I thought it was a good way to run my own life, then implement them without fucking things up too badly in the proce…
I was having a conversation the other day with someone about the wide and occasionally insane varieties of Japanese speech. Most languages have this, to one degree to another; while Japanese does draw some of the lines in places we recognize (formal/informal, close friends/distant social contacts), some of the lines strike English-speakers as weird, and one of the big ones is that males and females speak differently. There are different verb constructions, speech tags, and the big obvious one, different sets of pronouns for I/you.

The person I was talking to commented that they'd find that a horrible minefield of confusion, because they were agender and the prospect of having to sift through that sounded awful. I cheerfully assured them that they could just use 'watashi' and 'anata', which is the gender-neutral set they teach foreigners, so we can't fuck it up.

It occurred to me quite a bit later that this is probably one of those conversations that other peopl…
There are some unpleasant truths you learn very quickly when you get to the reading-real-things part of Japanese.

1. The Japanese consider spaces to be optional.
Corollary: People are lazy. If something is optional, it won't be done.

This is one of the few things that gets better when you learn kanji. Before that, it's one long string of kana where you just have to sort of insert breaks at random and test to see if it makes any damn sense. Once you start throwing kanji in, you can at least start by figuring that character + okurigana (kana used for grammatical endings) means it's a verb.

This also, incidentally, makes me uncertain why case markers in Japanese are taught as separate particles rather than inflections. There are short tags that come right after nouns to indicate nominative, accusative, genitive, etc. Left to their own devices, Japanese people will attach them to the end of the preceding noun. English-speakers will slap a space in between the two, to set the part…
One of the things that takes a while to grasp when you learn Japanese is how to spot equivalents in the various fonts. Japanese has different typefaces just like Western languages do, and they're even grouped into families the same way. You've probably read English long enough that you don't think about it anymore, but imagine being a Japanese kid and being presented with

a a a a g g g g
and being told that all the characters on any given line were supposed to be the same thing. You would think you were losing your mind.

The first font you learn to read in your Japanese class is the one in your textbook, which is going to be unfairly legible. It's usually a printed minchou 『明朝』style, which is the equivalent of a serif font in Latin alphabets. The name comes from Ming-chou, as in Ming Dynasty, the period during which they nicked it from China. (The characters mean "light" and "morning", which goes to show you what the Ming Dynasty thought of itself.)…

Saturday Serial: Captain America #8

As you all know by now, I am physically incapable of putting down any video game that involves crazy puzzles, big gay lawyers, or both. I've found out that there are Detective Conan games, because of course there are, and that they are not available in the US, because of course they aren't. This is why I have a flashcart.

My Japanese is, by my own standards, not fantastic. This is because my standards are based on English, a language that I learned to read so early that I do not remember what it was like to see marks on paper and not have them mean things. By the standards of normal Americans, who took two semesters of Spanish in high school and have long since purged it from their brains, my ability to hammer my way through games like this in Japanese is some kind of crazy magic power. The level of incredulity in Boston is much lower than in Flagstaff, where I would get people walking up to me when I had my nose jammed into a not-English book specifically to ask, "Can yo…
It is allergy season. The weather is warm again, and that means all the local plant life is spawning. I would think it was much prettier if it didn't also make my nose stuff up constantly. I've spent most of the week trying to fight back one of those headaches that makes you feel like you have too many teeth, and your eyeballs have routed your heartbeat through a powerful subwoofer.

I cope with this by overmedicating as much as I dare -- you can actually take three of the 325 mg aspirin tablets at a time, FYI -- and by distracting myself. Right now I am also distracting Moggie by throwing detectives at her.

I used to work overnight at an answering service. It was boring as hell. Nobody called after the bars closed at about two. They had the computers locked down and I can only carry so many books, so I spent most of my time in the break room, where the cable TV was, conducting a survey of all the kinds of fascinating nonsense stations started throwing on at four in the morning…

Saturday Serial: Captain America #7


Way back in the Stone Age, I worked in the IT department at my alma mater. Students would call into the helpdesk if they couldn't figure out how to get connected up to the internet. Most people could be walked through the webform over the phone, but if they couldn't or something was legit broken, we had a beleaguered hardware tech who could go down and do it for them in person.

One day, Apple came out with a brand-new iMac model. I think it was the one we used to call the iStalk -- the flat panel ones with all the brains packed into the little round base. The year they came out with that one, we suddenly started the semester with these clusters of panicked calls, a whole bunch of people in one section of one hallway of one dorm, who couldn't get connected up to the internet no matter what they did. We walked them through the webform, and their accounts were registered to the right rooms, but they weren't showing up …
When you are a young woman working in the entertainment industry, there are certain red flags you learn to recognize in a hurry.

"I'll pick you up," is a good one. No, you won't. I'm not telling you where I live, and I'm not going anywhere I can't get myself out to and home from unassisted. You are certainly not meeting me somewhere and getting me to climb into your car to go somewhere else. "Second location" is unfortunately often synonymous with "scene of the crime".

"No assistants/chaperons/escorts." No shoot, then. I might not necessarily bring one, but if you forbid me to have one, we are not working together. If your creative process is so delicate a thing that having someone else standing in the corner holding my robe and playing sudoku on their phone blows it all to hell, then you're going to think I do an unfortunate amount of thinking and talking.

"Let's talk about ideas over drinks." Let's not…

Saturday Serial: Captain America #6

Back when I was at Weaponized Social with a bunch of other sociable geeks, we spent most of two days beavering away with math, networking, creativity, art therapy, and lots of really pretty decent catering, at the idea of creating spaces in which people have the best possible opportunity to, as Bill and Ted once put it, be excellent to each other.

This is great stuff. This is rainbows and puppies and nerdy workshop spaces. I love these things. They are wonderful.


Sometimes, people do not want to be excellent to each other. It would be great if everyone did and all the trouble in the world was due to misunderstandings, but it isn't. It would also be great to get my Utopian future based on bitchin' guitar solos and George Carlin, but I'm still waiting on that, too. Sometimes, people -- and there is really no way to put this delicately -- are shitheads.

I may have missed something in one of the other discussion groups, but to the best of my knowledge, I was the only one …
Hi, I'm Arabella, and I'm still an Ace Attorney addict.

I've given up on ever having enough money to throw it at people like Nintendo or Capcom, so I broke down and spent a bunch of my mindless-repetitive-activity-TV-watching time on running a letsplay of Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies. (I have a lot of this. You don't really need your eyeballs for a lot of hoop drills, and I've knit entire bedspreads in moss stitch without bothering to look down.) This one is a commentary-free but not blind playthrough, so there's no one talking over the soundtrack, and you don't have to watch the LPer flop around for ten minutes at a time, brute-forcing a cross examination that they can't figure out.

[This strikes me as being a little like an alcoholic drinking mouthwash because it's all they can afford. But on the other hand, at least mouthwash isn't toxic, and Scope is like 75% of the way to being cheap peppermint schnapps anyway. I try not to think about it t…

Il y'ont les poissons d'avril