I estimate that about 10% of the population are wearing masks because of MERS. Not only is this weird to see considering it isn't spread by air unless in hospital conditions, but it pisses me off how many of them are wearing them improperly. I have to wear a mask whenever the air quality is poor so I've gone through a lot of masks finding one that works against the yellow dust and pollution. These people buy cheap masks which don't even seal to the sides of their mouth and somehow think that it's any use whatsoever. Then there's the idiots who pull down the masks so their noses are exposed. And let's not forget the woman who got on the train next to me, while not wearing a mask, then put on the mask for the duration of the ride, only to take it off before she got off the train. In what world would that have been helpful? It makes me want to not wear a mask in order to not be lumped in to the 'paranoid and stupid about MERS' crowd.

So, I went down to Daegu and Gyeongju this past week to do some research. I'd been to Daegu and the museum before and was just taking impressions of the drill holes of beads which I had already examined. This took a few hours, then I caught the express bus to Gyeongju (which only takes about an hour). Gyeongju was the former center of the Silla Kingdom during the Three Kingdoms Period and this was my first chance to visit. I took another short bus ride and checked into my hotel. This hotel, called Mini Hotel 141 is the only one I could find in Gyeongju that was explicitly non-smoking. Considering my asthma is highly triggered by smoking, it was necessary to pay whatever it took to stay in a hotel that was smoke free. Luckily, this one was only about ten dollars more than the cheaper hotels and it's location close to the train station put it close to a lot of the attractions. I got there and discovered that it was also a really nice hotel which provides toiletry kits, and even had a western style towel (this is amazing, believe me). I headed out then to find the mounded tomb park, which, since there was a tomb viewable from the corner near the hotel, I assumed wouldn't be too hard. As luck would have it, I just followed the trail of tombs to hit the park right around the sunset.

I headed inside of the actual park and just wandered around the tombs. I checked out the inside of the Cheonmacheong tomb, which was full of replicas but fun to see laid out. I ended up explaining what was there to a Korean family who was there and who didn't understand the layout and what was what. I then wandered to the far end of the park and did a giant circle before heading back out of the gate I entered in. I then headed back into town proper, ending up on the fashion streets. I got some spicy beef fried rice for dinner and an ice cream which I ate when I got back to the hotel. I watched Korean tv for a bit, marveling about how there are two channels for watching pro Go players and two channels for watching pro video game players. (At one point they were playing a game which hilariously looked like Yugioh as played by Kaiba and his holograms.) Then I went to sleep early because I had to be up early to get to the archaeological center.
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We had to wake up at 6:30am to catch a taxi to the airport. I had about 2hrs sleep total but we showered and made it there. The security for the airport is really odd in that they have separate men and women’s lines to go through the detector but there are twice as many men’s lines so the women’s ones always back up. They make you walk through the detector but they don’t really care since they run a wand over your body in a little blocked off room to protect your modesty or something. Ugh. Once through, we stopped in the bookstore again and I bought a really popular detective novel called The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken which is part of the Vishpuri Series which is kinda the number one ladies detective agency novels of India. I finished it on the trip and it is very good though much more understandable if you’ve been to India. We then headed to the plane. It was a two hour flight to Bangalore and the vegetarian food on the plane was particularly tasty. I tried to nap but it wasn’t taking. Once there, we caught a taxi to the main train station and stored our luggage before heading off into the city again. After checking out the rather sketchy places near the train station we headed to Mahatma Ghandi road instead. There, we were looking for a café but got sucked into a handicraft place. We were fine in the sculpture area because they were overpriced but then we went upstairs and the textiles and jewelry were really cheap *sigh* So now I have a gorgeous handwoven silk scarf and a few beautiful silver earrings.

After that, we wandered into Café Coffee Day where I had an absolutely bizarre strawberry lemonade which inexplicably had breath mints in it. Their chocolate cake was nice though and we just chilled for a bit before figuring out where to eat. We were looking for non-sketchy local food but ended up in a restaurant called 20 Feet High which served steak amongst other things. R. had a delicious sheppards pie with Indian spices and I had vegetable stuffed pancakes which were rather weird but not bad. I also had a margarita (not frozen) which was very nice. We then headed back to the train station and ended up waiting on the platform for a few hours before our 10pm sleeper train arrived. We were in the third class air conditioned car which meant they gave us scratchy sheets, a blanket and a flat pillow. This was not really enough to make it comfortable especially since there were no more curtains and people refused to go to sleep for awhile. I felt a bit like I’d gone back in time a few decades. I managed to fall asleep by lying on my back wearing a sleep mask and earplugs around 11:30pm. I woke up at 2am and had to rush to the really disgusting train toilet with diarrhea. I then tried very carefully to get some more sleep while not having any accidents, but was awoken at 5:30am when the top bunk guys (R. was in the middle bunk and I was on the bottom) decided to have a very loud conversation. After another run to the toilet, I gave up on sleeping as did R. who was also feeling poorly. We huddled on the bottom bunk, playing games on our phones and ignoring the guy in the opposite bunk who was perfectly content to stare at us for hours on end until we arrived in the tiny town of Hospet. Hospet was really interesting with tons of people living in one room houses, chickens and pigs browsing in piles of garbage and dirt roads. We were hounded by the rickshaw drivers through the whole 5min walk to our hotel since we were the only foreigners who got off the train there.

Luckily, the hotel we’d booked for about $40 a night each was pretty much the equivalent of a 4-5 star hotel anywhere else. We checked in early since the train had arrived at 7:30am or so, then I showered, suffered on the toilet and crawled into bed and went to sleep. R. fell asleep while I was in the shower. I woke up again at 2pm. Ran to the bathroom then went back to sleep until 4pm since I had pretty much had almost no sleep for the past few days. Since I could not be far from the toilet (despite Imodium and pepto bismul) we decided not to venture out that day and ordered some plain rice for me since I was still inexplicably hungry. I gave up and took some antibiotics I had for severe diarrhea and despite being quite gassy for that meal and some food we ordered later that night that seems to have done the trick regarding the diarrhea part. We had cauliflower (gobi) Manchurian that night which was delicious. Manchurian is Indian Chinese food which is packed with Indian spices and I think it’s delicious even though it’s really not Chinese food.
The next day I slept as late as possible but the room was noisy because Indians use their horns on their cars all the time, and my earplugs just muffle sound not block it completely, plus it was really bright so I only slept until 11am. We took our time waking up and showering before heading out for lunch at The United Coffee House which is about a 15min walk from the Fulbright house. The Coffee house is pretty posh but clean and the food was good. R. got a tomato lamb couscous dish while I had badshatti kofta which was a tomato curry with paneer cheese balls in it. The cheese dumplings were nice but the curry had less tomato and more cumin than I prefer so I ended up dipping our garlic naan into R.’s lamb dish. I really liked the achar they had on the side which is pickled veggies in oil and spices. Apparently most foreigners don’t like it but to me it tasted like spicy olives. From there, we were on a mission to find the local pharmacy and replenish some supplies like ibuprofen which is only sold in small quantities in Korea. That took forever for some reason but we got what we came for then ended up wandering into the levi store and buying jeans. Mostly because not only were they cheap, but they tailored them to your height for free when you bought them. We headed back to the Fulbright house to rest for an hour then took a rickshaw to pick up the jeans before heading out to get dinner.

We ate dinner at Amichi Café in Khan Market, though first we stopped in at the bookstore there since I’d already read through my English language books which I brought. Then we headed to the café which had some amazing pumpkin ravioli in an anise sauce which I thought I wouldn’t like because I don’t usually like licorice but it was really nice and didn’t really taste like licorice at all. We also had some pasta carbonara which was good though it was too much to finish. We then got milkshakes to go which was a mistake on my part since I haven’t been having much dairy in Korea due to hating their milk so my stomach was a bit upset that evening. I took some pepto bismol and it settled down but it’s wedding season so it was particularly noisy out that evening, plus all the cars so even with an eye mask and earplugs I barely slept.
deralte: (stardust expect me when you see me)
( Dec. 8th, 2014 11:02 pm)
Gimpo airport is only a half hour away from where I live by the airport train so I actually only left for the airport about an hour and a half before my flight. Check in went well and I was able to read for a half hour before we boarded the plane. The flight to Shanghai was only a few hours so I arrived in Shanghai at the Hongqiao airport fairly quickly since going through luggage check and the immigration took quite awhile. I was transferring to Pu Dong airport on the other side of the city but I had a little over eight hours before my flight to India. So I caught the subway to People’s Square in the center of the city and dragged my luggage around until I figured out where the Shanghai Museum was. By this point it was about 3:30pm and the museum closed at 5pm so I stored my luggage and prioritized what I wanted to see. This wasn’t very hard though since they had halls devoted to the two materials I study – bronzes and jade. The bronze hall was really interesting. They had a wide variety and a display on how various bronzes were made, plus a mirror which reflects a hidden picture which I’d never seen in person. There was also a display of recently excavated bronzes from the area. Next I headed to the jade area which was also interesting and had a great video on jade manufacture which I wish I could have gotten a copy of. After that I checked out the silk road display which was small and not very interesting, briefly looked through the pottery and porcelain areas, and bought a pin which is what I collect when I visit places. I tried to get into the main museum shop but it had already closed so I shrugged and headed out the door to Nanking Road the main shopping area of Shanghai. It’s a pretty interesting place with tons of people and shops along with an odd selection of international shops like a whole shop devoted to M&Ms. I was looking for a place to eat some local food preferably duck, but when I wandered off into side streets the options were street food which I was not risking or restaurants full of smokers which my asthma couldn’t take. So I ended up in what was basically a mall devoted to food with restaurants on its third floor. There I had a very tasty crispy duck with rice which was the best duck I’ve had in my life, and a honey, pear, jujube and something else hot tea (it being about 35 degrees in Shanghai that day). I then bought a delicious cream puff and headed out into the street again. I walked around a bit then spotted a place which made real hot chocolate with real milk which I miss very much in Korea so I got a small hot chocolate and took advantage of their wifi for a bit. Then I headed back onto the subway which was quite crowded since it was rush hour. I could have taken the subway all the way there but it seemed more fun to take the maglev train because how often do you get to ride a train floating on magnets? It only took 8min to get to the airport on the train because it sped up to 301 km/hr. Once at the airport I almost was in trouble since they’d overbooked the flight by several people and wanted to reroute me through Singapore making me arrive in Delhi several hours later than I should and with no way of informing my friend. I told them this and was very lucky since I was traveling alone, there was one empty seat and it became mine. I had to run through the airport to catch the last bus to the plane but oh well.

The flight was weird because it went overnight but they fed us food at like, 11pm and I ended up with vegetarian Indian food which was pretty good. I had an asthma attack once I got on the plane from all the pollution, running, smoke, and cold no doubt so I didn’t really feel up to trying to sleep until about four hours in. Instead I read my book and watched part of a movie before dozing uncomfortably for awhile. We landed in Delhi at the ungodly hour of 2am. I then found one of the more reputable taxi companies my friend had directed me to, and I was given a particularly clueless driver to take me into New Delhi where I was staying with my friend in the Fulbright house (since we both have Fulbrights). After getting lost, calling my friend, not understanding her directions, asking a rickshaw driver to show us, then driving past it because he didn’t give me time to read the house numbers, I ended up at the right place and met up with R. We headed into the house which had a communal kitchen and a nicely appointed room with a shower and really fluffy towels. The bed was rather hard as expected and the room was too light for me to sleep but I was exhausted so after chatting for a bit and giving her my presents from Korea (oreos, fluffy panda socks, pizza chips, and croissants) we went to sleep.
Today I went looking for a folklore museum which was supposed to be near Namsan park in the center of Seoul (at the center of which is a mountain and on top of the mountain is Seoul tower fyi). So I got off the subway at Seoul Station and decided to walk to the park since it was only another subway stop away and it would take just as much walking to get to transfer to the line going that way anyway. I set off, past Namdaemun market and then when I thought I went too far, I turned right and started heading up hill, wandering amongst neighborhoods and hotels. My path led me to a tiny concrete trail next to a fence with the highway below me. I headed up. And up. Then I found a map which was useless since it didn't show the museum and the map on my phone didn't look like the map on the board. Google maps on my phone said I was in the right place but nothing was there. So I climbed a truly enormous set of stairs, discovering halfway up that this was the same staircase where they filmed the finale of My Name is Kim Sam Soon (which is good since I spent a lot of that scene wondering why the hell that staircase was so long in the middle of a city). Once at the top, I found another map, and it had been recently altered. In front of me was a fenced off area. Peering through the cracks showed what looked like a covered up excavation to me. I found a sign saying it was the site of the excavation of the city walls. Possibly the museum had been there or it was somewhere else and had been renamed or it just closed down. I decided to give up and headed up a bit more, then down some stairs to arrive at the trail which wound around the mountain. It was bordered by a pretty stream and the occasional waterfall so I didn't mind walking a few km.

I ended up coming down the mountain at Namsangol Hanok Village which is a collection of restored Korean houses complete with furnishings and whatnot. I was most fascinated by the ondol (or under the floor heating system), a modern version of which graces my apartment and many other Korean people's today. I arrived near the end of a rice cake and alcohol festival which was a bit like a country fair since they were handing out awards to women in hanbok (traditional Korean dress) for best rice cake and whatnot. The tasting had ended unfortunately, so I just looked at the pretty cakes, the bizarre coloured drinks, and two men demonstrating straw weaving.

My feet were really tired at that point but it didn't seem worth hoping on the subway just to go one stop again so I walked back to the Myeong-dong area and followed vague directions to get to a Cat Cafe. I'm allergic to cats, so I'd taken some allergy medicine in prep and it seems to have worked since I was able to stay for about 1 1/2hrs petting and playing with kitties. You basically pay a flat fee when you come in and get a free drink with it which isn't all that bad a system and you can stay as long as you want. They provide some cat toys, and you can pay a little extra to get a treat to feed the cats which I didn't bother doing. All the cats seemed a bit tuckered out to be honest. Some played and seemed to be having fun, but there were so many people, I think they get more attention than they needed or possibly wanted on the weekends. I think I'll go to one on a weekday and I bet the cats will be less overwhelmed. They had two of those cats without fur and they were really cute. I'd never seen one in real life before and it was nice that they were taking good care of one who was missing a leg.

After that, I wandered around looking for a restaurant to catch my fancy. I spotted one saying it was famous for pan fried rice (bokeumbap) and figured since they made me wait to get a seat, it was pretty popular and would be tasty. I ordered the chicken fried rice which they cooked in front of me in a big cast iron pan. When it was done, I was surprised to see it looked much lighter than the picture of it in their displays. "Shouldn't it be redder?" I asked, and pointed at the picture in their menu which was labeled as what I had ordered. And he was like, "You want it spicy?" "Yep." So he called someone over to add red pepper paste to it at which point it looked more like, you know, what everyone else was eating. I can't figure out if I was supposed to order it spicy (which would be weird for Korea cause everything is just automatically spicy), or if they left it out on purpose because I'm a foreigner and there's no way I could handle their (really not as hot as they all think it is) food. It was very tasty at least.

I then wandered around for a bit to digest. I ended up buying a chocolate/strawberry ice cream cone which was a good way to digest the rest of the meal even if soft serve ice cream here sucks (I think it's because they use the wrong kinds of milk to make it because their milk is kinda weird here too). I then got lured into Nature Republic. They give you free stuff to get you into beauty stores which if you take, you're obligated to go in, though not to buy. I got handed a snail mask (ie, a face mask made from snail goo which is supposed to be good for your skin) and I happily took it because I spotted the most amazing thing - hand sanitizer. Nature Republic pretty much stole Bath and Body Works idea of having cute, nice smelling pocket sized hand sanitizers and while $2 a bottle is a lot for something so tiny, it's a pretty good deal considering how expensive and rare hand sanitizer is here. So I picked up a few bottles, then got lured into buying some almond body wash since it was buy one get one free. And then the salesperson threw even more freebies into my bag so I ended up with 3 snail masks, 8 tiny bottles of whitening cream (which I have no idea what to do with cause I really don't care to whiten my skin), oils, and steamers (whatever those are. not really sure how to use them). Did the salesperson just like me or do they do that every time is my question?
The pad thai I made from scratch tonight. With firm tofu and chicken and real tamarind.
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It's been a crazy few weeks. I aced Korean which is good, though I feel like I've forgotten everything I learnt in the past two weeks. I hope classes on Tues jog it lose since I need to be assessed for the scholarship on Thurs. Every time I try to think in Korean though, I come up with Japanese.

The moment my final was finished (and I didn't manage to discuss anything I planned in Korean *sigh*), I packed up the last of my stuff, returned my keys, got my deposit and drove back to Wisconsin. Meanwhile, my dad was driving up from Illinois. He was recovering from a cold so we just chilled until Monday when my mother and bro arrived as well. Then it was a week of doing every single thing I could think of around Madison (except oddly, we never made it to any of the museums in town) from eating at the best places to going to the House on the Rock. We got a lot of exercise each day which made up for the copious amounts of cheese, beer, and beef we were devouring and caught up on watching many things. My bro and I finally finished our summer game of Civ. 4 (we defeated the final civilization in 3 turns, we were so overpowered by that point).

I also made a Game of Thrones feast since I was given the official cookbook for my birthday. I have immortalized it here on tumblr. The beef and bacon pie was a lot of work, and so was the mulled wine, but I may make it again and soon since it was amazing and surprisingly cheap if you have the spices handy.

Then my whole family left on Monday and I discovered I had a short paper due the monday after, got a debilitating migraine and have pretty much been down for the count from Tues-Thurs. Today being the first day I really felt recovered, I've been trying desperately to get a bunch of things done that I've meant to do all summer from sending out query letters for the evil overlord book (someday I will find an agent who will tell me that it's well written (which is what they all say), and that it is what they're looking for. It will be a joyous day.), organizing my bookmarks folder, queued 60+ images of Sauron-chan in my sauron tumblr so I don't have to worry about it for a couple of months, sealed the kitchen grout, went clothes shopping for the first time since last year, etc, etc. I may actually be able to sit down and write my little assignment due Monday now (and yes, classes don't start until Tues.).
We finished up the first (and only *sigh*) season of Unnatural History on Memorial Day. I really love how that series is basically Aang, Sokka and Hermione solving very silly historical mysteries. The one that really boggled my brain was the one that ended with showing that the colonists at Roanoke built giant hidden cliff statues of the Norse gods (wtf?) but that episode was doomed to be infinitely wrong for me considering it featured an archaeological dig. And Benjamin Franklin built atomic weapons, doncha know? Ah, the absurdity. Still, funny lines, and great comic timing (the best scene provided by the "sokka"s father was when he was locked out of the museum so he went through the ducts like the kids often do. He fell out of the ceiling, pinned them down with his gaze and went, "Two can play at the duct game." *L* It's such a shame that it wasn't renewed but crap like Tower Prep was *sigh* (My icon celebrates this show.)

Yesterday we went to see POTC: On Stranger Tides which isn't very well liked by critics, but if you're like me and would be happy watching Jack Sparrow go to the supermarket (why hasn't so comedy series (Dead Ringers maybe?) done this?), it was a relaxing and fun time. Not that the plot made much sense, but, uh, when has it in the POTC movies?

We've been indulging in culinary doom by making all our favorite foods each evening, complimented by not just rainbow ribbon cookies but rainbow ribbon cake and exotic cheeses from the awesome Shoprite of Awesome (Kirk loved the cheese selection). So the first night we had fajitas, the second okonomiyaki and the third, a tomato curry in which Kirk really outdid himself. So damn tasty. I was through my first serving before Kirk and Dad had even gotten their plates.

Other than that, Kirk and I have been playing an intensive game of Civ. 4 with the Gods of Old mod on which makes it infinitely harder. We pretty much spent the entire first third of the game having war declared on us. Then while we were in the middle of one war, another person on our other side would declare war on us. So we'd make peace with the first person so we could go fight the second one. It's been crazy and we're not even close to finishing. I'm guessing we'll be playing for a few more weeks.
So I had a chance to hit Mitsuwa two weekends ago and do a whirlwind shopping trip with a few friends before I had to go to work. While I was there, I picked up my favourite furikake and a new bento box. This will be my lunch tomorrow.

I can't seem to figure out how to get the rolls of rice looking more tidy and neat. The purple ones are the ones I dislike the most but I have to use up the furikake for them so I make it occasionally. The ones next to it are my favourite furikake; it's a sort of mushroom seaweed mix. Next to them is a small dish of artichoke and spinach hummus with flowers of carrots in it and a pita chip in the side. Those weird looking round things are barbecue flavoured spicy wheat crackers. They're surprisingly delicious. In the other section, there's another furikake under the sweet egg background. The flowers/trees are turkey peperoni and the stalks are seaweed obviously. Below there is an inari sushi and for desert, a rainbow ribbon cookie and mini apollo chocolates.

And this is what it looks like when it's all wrapped up in my bag with my chopsticks, ready for carrying.

I was very naughty this weekend and spent the whole time filling my kindle with fanfic instead of doing my homework. My criteria was that it had to be a fanfic I'd reread more than once. That it only comes to about 200 fics surprises me. Also, the only author who I consistently reread all the time is astolat. I also reread ten of her fics regularly compared to the three or less for all other authors. She is addictive.

I'm going to go do my homework now *sheepish*
My allergies are killing me today despite being loaded up with allergy medicine. I sound like I've got a massive cold. Even weirder, my watch gave me a rash, so I stopped wearing it, only to discover that the rash gets worse whenever I go outside, and disappears if I spend enough time inside. (Stupid pollen *pout*).

Bento today (there was none last week cause I was at uni all day last Tuesday). My bento box also broke last week so rather than rubber band it back together, I switched to a square tupperware container for the evening. This might be the last bento of the term.

Inside the cabbage leaf is a creamy ranch pasta salad with chick peas, bacon bits, carrots and peas in it. Under the cabbage leaf and visible next to it are a lot of grapes, plus a fresh strawberry, it being the season for both of them. The yellow, sideways heart is made of sweet cornbread. The hamburger (as the Japanese would call it) is actually made of buffalo with a million spices mixed in and marinated in teriyaki. There's okonomiyaki sauce underneath it to dip into (okonomiyaki sauce tastes good on a lot of things that aren't okonomiyaki...) In the blue cup is a thin layer of rice, covered by tomato curry with quorn, bella mushrooms, cabbage, and onions. It's very spicy and was our dinner on Sunday (which is when I made the cups).

I haven't posted in awhile. Sorry about that. I've been trying to figure out what to do about phd apps in the fall and trying to find a summer job. I'm at the background check stage of one job but they take forever to do things so I'm just hoping they get back to me soon. I need to have several hundred dollars by the end of the summer if I want to keep attending Rutgers and apply for phds. I have a job at Rutgers in Sept., but it's not very helpful right now. Meanwhile, I need to do a new, comprehensive phd search with much broader parameters. I'm also going to apply for some internships and try to get an article published (though having never done that before, I don't have a lot of hope. Anybody got some advice?). It's all looking a bit daunting atm.

I skipped Bujinkan last night in order to comprehensively study for my Japanese lesson test. Due to me misunderstanding two test questions on the last one, I got an 84 on the last test (and was publicly humiliated for it to boot) and had to beg to get two points back because a kanji (that I'd written perfectly right below it on the exam) had gotten partially erased. She gave me those points back, but it only brings it up to a 85, which is still too low for my liking, so I decided that it'd be safer if I got a 90 or above on the final two lesson tests, hence the studying. The test went well (I think), despite my massive allergy attack throughout the damn thing.

Bujinkan last week was a bit meh. I trained with a new guy on Monday and he was a bit of a whiner - always making excuses for every little mistake he made. I told him at one point that I knew he was new and that he'd make mistakes. I was pointing them out to him so he'd get better, not because I actually care. He got on my nerves though by making fun of my height. First bending his legs and hunching down so he'd be at a level where he could punch me (for the record, he's not that tall so there was no need), to which I responded with a scornful look and a "Stop that." He then later tried to use our height difference (which was, as I said, less than a foot's difference) as an excuse for why something wasn't working. I said, "No. It has nothing to do with my height. Your distance is wrong." and resolved not to hurt him for idiocy. It pisses me off though cause if I were a guy, he'd never have been making those jokes/excuses about my height. Asshole. I did a good job teaching him though - when Jack came by he took a look at the guy and said new guy was 'getting it'. Maturity ftw!

Bujinkan on weds was walking/running at the boardwalk because there was a rummage sale at the building where we train. I changed into my walking clothes in the bathroom there and accidentally left my bra. I keep wondering if they sold it... Jack walked with M. and I for the first part which was, like, the longest period of time I've ever talked to Jack. M. and were both weirded out *L* We did the whole boardwalk and on the way back, M. and I had to occasionally run to keep up with the guys who were speeding up now that Jack was at the front. Afterwards, we went to the pub for a drink, which was nice, but then I had to rush home to register for fall classes.

While I was wandering this week, I ended up Borders who evilly were offering 40% off on the new Dresden Files book, Changes. I'd only intended to read a bit of it in the store, but with that much of a discount, I decided the book was worth it. Since I was, overall, dissatisfied with it, it probably wasn't, but oh well. If you've read it, my review (spoilers included) is here. Right now, I keep getting its' plot mixed up with fanfic I've read, which isn't a good sign.

The Uric novel has reached chapter 6 and 19,000 words, but I'm sort of stuck until I can think up an appropriate revenge plan for the kiddies to implement against Alexis. If I can't think of something soon, I'll skip to a later chapter and wing it so it's not the end of the world, but I would like to think of something since I write better linearly. I'm very curious as to how long the novel will actually end up since chapter 7 is the midpoint of the novel. Assuming chapter 6 ends up just as long as the earlier chapters, that puts the novel over the 40,000 estimate I started with.

I'm going to try to take a nap before my next class. Ja ne.
My computer is fixed! Saigo lives! I have a shiny new LCD and a (presumably) shiny new motherboard. Best is that I didn't have to reinstall everything. (I'm still backing up everything.) I'm so glad to stop having massive headaches from using the HD tv as a screen, and that I'll be able to get back to writing Uric (which was on hiatus due to not actually having Word installed on either of my other computers).

Tonight's bento was part planned, part sponteanous. I made the pizza (with turkey pepperoni and baby bella mushrooms) on Monday, and saved two properly sized pieces for my bento and my dad's. The salad was because I was craving salad all day, and when you're craving something like that, you probably need it, so I gave in and stopped at the supermarket to pick up some baby spinach and grape tomatoes for a salad. Also added in were some cashews, cheddar cheese and more pepperoni. The jagged white line next to the salad/pizza is pickled daikon which I hoped would keep the balsamic vinegar and oil salad dressing I'd thrown on the salad, separate from the rest of the bento. This was not to be the case. The pizza went on top of the salad once I dressed it.

Meanwhile, the red and white striped thing are obviously a strawberry getting it on with a banana. The weird looking brown things next to it are cooked chestnuts which I used to eat all the time in Japan and found cheap in our local Chinese supermarket. Last were some cheddar flavoured rice crackers to fill in space. As I sort of expected, the balsamic vinegar did leak over to the rest of the bento and while it didn't change the taste of the strawberry/banana, it sogged up the botton of the rice crackers which were somehow massively stale after only being in the bento for a few hours. There were lots of technical problems today too - my bento box top broke so I had to rubber band it, and then I forgot my chopsticks so I had to grab some utensils from the food court before hoping the bus.

And to talk about something other than my life, I watched new Who for the first time in ages (gave up on Rusty in the middle of Donna's season) since I wished to give Moffat a chance. While I'm sure there will still be things I object to in it, I feel very relieved I can finally watch one of my favourite scifi shows again without cringing all the time. [livejournal.com profile] ozmaz came over to visit and as a reward for listening to me whinge about how crappy my week was, I addicted her to Castle. Those first eps stand up surprisingly well in rewatch. In my copious free time (hah!) I've been watching QI from the first season onwards. It's a good show to watch while eating lunch. I'm currently in season 2.

Reading wise, I've been all over in terms of themes, alternating between mysteries, kids books, young adult, fantasy, mythology, folklore etc. I've been going by what feels right rather than those books I feel guilty about not reading yet since I'm more in the mood for literature that will make me feel good. The best two of the bunch were Tears of the Giraffe (The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency never fails to cheer me up even if it always makes me cry as well), and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms which took a lot of clichéd ideas and made them fresh again (I found the romance a bit meh, and some characters could have stood more fleshing out, but it was an excellent example of focused world building.)
deralte: (bento (by me))
( Mar. 23rd, 2010 12:58 pm)
With the addition of the hot dog, today's bento looks very American.

It's actually a turkey hot dog with a cut down bun made out of a hamburger roll. The two green things on either end are sweet gherkins which should go well with the hot dog. In the cup is a piece of cantalope left over from a fruit basket Dad and I have been snacking on. Same explanation for the strawberry. The white things are daikon, which, along with the carrot, were sweet and sour pickled by me a few weeks ago. Yesterday when I made pancakes for lunch, I also tried my hand at making dorayaki but with peanut butter and maple syrup instead of the sweet red/white beans you usually see in them. It worked, but I failed to take into account how viscous the peanut butter would become and I made only three before I gave up on it. I cut one of those in half and used it to block in the butter and herb rice in the centre there (with parmigiana cheese on top). I wish I knew where to buy some plastic partitions for this particular bento because it'd make dividing up sweet/savory/wet/dry things so much easier. This does have the distinction of being my fastest bento yet. It only took maybe 20 minutes all told.
I just found the most hilarious manga. It's called Saint Young Men and it's about Buddha and Jesus taking a break from all our crap to live in a cheap apartment in Tokyo. The sacrilege and excellent mocking of modern day culture combine to make it hilarious. I love that Jesus gets mistaken for Johnny Depp and likes the Shinsengumi while poor Buddha's always having his forehead poked, and was depressed by reading Tezuka Osama's Buddha manga. And that's just the first two chapters! I think they're going to Disneyworld in the next chapter *L*

My Japanese midterm went fairly well. The only part I really don't get is the fill in the blanks part on exams like this. I know I'm supposed to use a grammar point in the blank, but other than a few that are obvious, it's really unclear just what grammar point you're expected to use. It's really frustrating cause I know all the grammar points, and I know I'm going to lose points if I don't use the specific grammar point the teacher wants. Are we expected to read her mind? I think it's a bit of a stretch at this point to expect us to put what a native speaker would put in those blanks. (Sometimes the teacher will tell us what sounds natural to her in Japanese, but the problem is, we have no idea what sounds natural when we're on our own, especially since they seem to have taught a lot of unnatural phrasing to students first, before teaching the actual phrase everyone in Japan uses. It's like they're trying to get revenge for how English is taught in Japan.)

While I was getting dressed before the midterm, I stubbed one of my toes really hard into the post supporting my bed (I'm rather clumsy. Thank god Bujinkan balances it out. Also, it's all the furniture's fault:P). It hurt for a bit, then I forgot about it. I put on my shoes and realized it really hurt when my toes touched the top of the right shoe. I wondered if my socks were too thin, and decided to change them. Pulling off the sock, I discovered the toe was covered in blood. What a pain. And it doesn't seem to have healed any since it hurt just as much this morning (to be fair, spending 1 1/2 hours exercising at the gym might have aggravated it... can't feel pain like that when endorphins are running). This, on top of the patch on my finger where all my skin got ripped off in training on Weds, means I've been going through a lot of bandages and antibiotic ointment. (My finger has finally scabbed over and doesn't hurt today, so yay!)

I rewarded myself for the midterm with good food yesterday, so it was a turkey bacon, mushroom, cheese okonomiyaki for dinner with pumpkin pie for dessert, and my favourite vegan spiced pumpkin cookie with lunch. Kedem to drink too. Yummy. Today, however, I have to buckle down and begin studying for my second midterm on Tuesday. If I can pull myself away from the manga that is... Ja ne!
deralte: (Default)
( Mar. 2nd, 2010 09:09 pm)
Since my little bro is home from uni this week due to his college's weird schedule, I made three bentos this week and was constrained by a few more veggies my brother wouldn't eat.

That's basic rice on the top. The hearts are also rice with a beet/salt furikake (my Dad and bro got three hearts each - I told them it was made with luv! *L*) Turkey salami separates parmigiana breaded cauliflower with a bit of cheddar on top. Next to it is a grape tomato and a mini seaweed furikake onigiri. In the cup is part of a red bean mochi for dessert. Next to it is my triumph - a pig in a blanket *L* The triumph being that I made the dough from scratch in my first ever bread making in my life. Before this, my experience was limited to what I saw in Yakitate Japan!. I had just enough time to make the dough, kneed it, let it sit, shape it, let it sit more, then bake it before class today. It tasted pretty good, much to my surprise *L* I'm also proud that this is the first bento I've made that was packed together enough not to shift when held vertically.
deralte: (bujinkan (by me))
( Feb. 23rd, 2010 01:39 pm)
Buyu: I've been under some sort of reprieve since January and Jack hasn't asked me to teach the class much. Whereas he'd gotten into the habit of making me teach at least once every class last year. I'm rather torn about teaching, I find it nerve wracking, embarrassing and it's hard to concentrate on what you're saying while you're also trying not to fuck up the move you're teaching. On the other hand, I'm proud that Jack thinks I'm good enough to keep throwing me out there - he doesn't do this to everybody after all. Regardless, I sort of approach every announcement of, "Ariana - teach!" with a sort of fatalistic, 'Maybe this'll be the time I'll mess up completely in front of everybody' grimace, and while I've stopped nervously trembling or stuttering through the whole thing (yes, I was that bad in the beginning), I still have a tendency to babble or just not organize what I'm supposed to be teaching very well (If I were given a minute's warning, I think I'd do fine, but what basically happens is I either do something Jack likes while he's watching (sometimes without me knowing he's watching), or he walks me through learning something new then yells out immediately for me to teach it.)

Now, part of the reason Jack makes me teach so often is cause he likes me either figuring out or being shown variations on the move which are more useful for short people (fighting someone tall is a lot easier when you're short - think of all the vulnerable areas you're closer to...). His other reasons? Who knows. I do know that my 3rd and 4th dan certificates finally arrived from Japan last week, and I think they possibly reminded Jack of my level (my other theory is that we had a class with only a few people in it due to the snow so he had to focus attention somewhere, and I was it). Either way, the being forced to teach each class is back in full force. I had to teach twice on Weds, and once today - even after I chose the train with the newbie girl. I figured that would keep me safe since I was going over really basic stuff with her, but I was wrong. I had to teach a particular throw and since the poor girl was my training partner, I dragged her up there and gently put her through it, trying to keep upbeat when she couldn't even roll out of it (I'd have died of mortification if it had been me, but played it down for her.) M. hates teaching the class as well, and her advice was to make an annoyed face and complain loudly whenever it happened - after 14 years, Jack finally got the hint. Though really, I've seen him make her teach before, and I do make a grimace every time it happens, so I'm not really optimistic about a 14 year campaign to get him to stop *L* I'm pretty resigned to it now anyway. I just felt like whinging on here:P

Training last weds was with C. who I haven't trained with for ages due to the newbies. We had a good time, though what I remember the most is we were doing jumping back when someone takes a wild swing at you with a stick/bat etc, then coming quickly in, and in my case, stopping them at their wrist or letting the next swing follow through then going in, then out at a weak direction (taking their stick). It's pretty scary training when someone's swinging something full speed at your head (which C. does). He even managed to psych me out once by changing up the swing style and his actions before it. Still a lot of fun and very good training. Monday wasn't all that interesting with lots of variations on stuff we've done before. I did like when he switched to sword - the main weapon this year in Japan is daitou apparently which is a big, curved sword used long before the Edo era for slicing through armour and stuff. We just pretended our bokken were daitou and held them one handed (using your wrist to support the end of it, so that if you let go of the sword with your thumb, it would rest in your four fingers and brace up against your forearm) to the side, then you leant in to give them somewhere to attack, leant back when the blow came and stepped back along the line while bringing the sword in a shallow upward curve (ending along the line with the point of the sword aiming at your opponent's face). I've done similar things to this before and never got them, but this time it finally seemed to click. It seems last year's sword training is finally beginning to pay off. Our second move with the sword was to fake attack the person who is defending along the line, then when they move to block, strike them elsewhere. It worked really well and even the newbie got it so yay!

Bento this evening is rather simple. The rice is leftovers from dinner last night which was made with a Japanese mix of flavouring and vegetables/proteins like fried tofu, konyaku, carrot, lotus root etc. I always add a bit more soy sauce to it to make it more flavourful. The yellow section is a mini cauliflower casserole with cheese, parmigiana bread crumbs, garlic and a little paprika. On either side of it are grape tomatoes and, well, grapes. Simple and healthy tonight (though I will spoil it with a cookie which I will pack separately *ssshhh*).

Have worked on Uric every day since I last posted about it. Yay!
deralte: (bush frilly (by me))
( Feb. 16th, 2010 02:21 pm)
Bento day today (this is what I tell myself rather than 'boring Japanese in the morning, late, but interesting class in the evening' day).
So today's bento has inari sushi as its main ingredient. I realized at the last minute I didn't have any sushi vinegar so I had to whip up some from the rice vinegar I had, which isn't hard, but is a pain. The star is made of tamagoyaki. I think my second attempt at it went better folding wise, but I liked the first one better since I added more sugar that time. The tri coloured chocolate covered thing is a rainbow ribbon cookie which I have been hiding from my Dad since Sunday *L* Next to it is corn fried yellow squash with ketchup in the centre. I wish I had a smaller container to put it in since the ketchup really isn't contained by the mini cupcake cup I'm using here.

While I was making it though, I realized I was really craving apples and the few that were in there now wouldn't satisfy me, so I put some more in under the inari. And since I was making furikake onigiri with the leftover rice (that wasn't sushified), I made a tiny onigiri out of it, blocking out the star, but for some reason, I think it looks better this way. I certainly got a lot of colour in there.

Very few people showed up for Bujinkan last night (scared away by the snow, I'd imagine). It reminded me of training years ago when we had less people in general. Since I didn't feel like training with the newbies, I grabbed one of the two green belts (C. grabbed the other, doing the same thing I was doing *L*) to train with. Our training was a bit crazy with lots of 'acting' on top of the actual moves. So for example, if you were passing someone by and you wanted to surprise them with a punch, you point off to the side with your non-punching hand and look in that direction, wait until they do so as well (you can speak too), then punch, cross step, then kick in the same spot. We did a lot of variations on that, but I have a hard time focusing when we have to act like that cause it feels very silly. (I've used these in real life to fake out friends and fight my little bro, but for some reason, I can't take them seriously while training.)

Since there were so few people, I got a lot of attention from Jack, which was a mixed bag for me since I mess up a lot more when Jack's watching. It's nice when you succeed while he's watching, but some days, I'd rather he didn't watch at all. (M. has the same problem, much to our mutual lamentation). I also got to practice an ankle lock that I had down on a person's left foot, and got horribly dyslexically confused about on the right one. We were doing a sort of strike with both your thumbs (in a fist) to right below the ribs on a person's sides (going low), then you dropped, cupped one hand around the back of the person's heel (of whichever foot was forward), and braced your other arm against their knee, then pulled on the ankle and pushed on the knee. The person topples right over. Jack's advice for me was that he wanted to see me whallop the guy (preferably in the balls), then get very far away. Sensible advice. Next we switched to the person trying to throw you, and you interrupt it very early to throw them. Various throws here, the one both my partner and I kept getting, then messing up, then getting again was the reverse arm lock throw. This resulted in a lot of tries of it on both our parts, so my wrist was aching quite badly from it after training, plus my knee is still aching from all the walking in NYC last week (stupid knee. stop being weak. it was only a few miles). I've got some fun bruises on the underside of my upper arm too from the throws. At the end of class, I was (finally) given my third and fourth dan certificates (yes, it's only been years since I got the 3rd one *L*). I can't say I do much with the certificates, but it's nice to have them.
deralte: (Default)
( Feb. 9th, 2010 03:23 pm)

The bento isn't very Japanese today. The pasta salad has fried yellow squash, diced pimento olives, chick peas, and grated parmesan cheese with a creamy vinaigrette sauce. The 'flowers' are made of turkey pepperoni and more olives. The side cup is pear, shaped into balls and topped with cinnamon.
deralte: (veggie tales larry oooo(by erin_icons))
( Feb. 6th, 2010 06:31 pm)
Everybody who's ever tried one knows that green tea kit kats are the bomb. I tried quite a few flavours while I lived in Japan and couldn't say that was the case for a lot of their other weird flavours (pretty much every single berry flavour they have was poor tasting, though it was only the apple one that made me gag). Today, while browsing around, I was linked to the official japanese kitkat site (weird, weird place), so I went to see what other flavours they had to offer. I was kinda impressed since not only did they have ones I remembered, but also corn, shouyu (hard liquor), miso (yes, as in the soup), and wasabi. (Scroll down to see.) I can actually see the corn and shouyu ones tasting good because corn does taste good sweet and shouyu has barely any taste at all. I'm not sure if I'd dare try the miso one though, and the wasabi one either tastes brilliant or is so awful it makes you retch. Needless to say, I totally want to try the wasabi one *L*

ps. I need a food icon since it feels vaguely wrong to be using Larry the Cucumber...
deralte: (bujinkan (by me))
( Feb. 2nd, 2010 02:03 pm)
Jack wasn't at training last night, but he wanted us to work on punching, so we ended up doing every single boxing punch/attack in existence, and in various combinations. Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed it, and was shocked to see that everything I learnt while kickboxing in Japan was still very fresh. My cross still packs a very mean punch, and the only thing I need to work on is elbowing (which I'd never learnt before). All that punching for the first hour kept my adrenaline up and the endorphins really boosted my mood so I didn't really mind how hard my partner was punching (he tried not to, but he wasn't very good at it). The last twenty minutes or so, we did a few moves using those boxing punches, all of which involved ducking and a bit of weaving, bujinkan style. It was all a lot of fun, and I'm pleased that other than a few sore back muscles, I barely felt any of it. That shows I was using good form.

New bento for this evening's History of India class. It took a lot less time to make, but one of my ideas fell flat when some mushrooms I froze, spoiled. I was going to use them with the small teriyaki buffalo burger (made when I made bigger burgers on Sunday) as vegetarian buns, but oh well. The rice is chinese stir fried rice, vegetarian style. It's tasty but doesn't provide as much colour contrast methinks. Anything yellow is cheese, orange is carrot, and the white garnish is radish. The sticks in the centre are apple, and on the side are edamame (yum). Desert is the white thing next to the hamburger - it's actually a mini vanilla cupcake (made on friday and frozen). On top of the buffalo burger is okonomiyaki sauce. I'm unsure how the burger is going to taste cold, so we shall see.