It’s Official! Japan Trip 2015!

A takoyaki stand near my hostel, Osaka, 2006

It’s actually happening!! This September will be the first time I’ve been back to Japan in ~8 years, and the FIRST time my boyfriend is leaving North America! It’s gonna be fun…aside from the pain of traveling across the world in Economy class.  I do wish we could stay for a whole month, but we can’t leave Jasper for that long. That just means we’ll have to take MORE trips to Asia… :)

This week, the two of us got the itinerary together.  The flights are BOOKED, the lodging is BOOKED, I’ve generally researched train timetables and routes.  There’s still some holes, like I want to have a list of yummy restaurants to try out while there so I don’t have to look while on vacation.  But overall, I feel good – the things that need to be locked down are now locked down!  Come July, I’ll purchase a couple JR Passes and everything should be good to go.

BASIC TRIP ITINERARY:

Sept. 17: Depart U.S.
Sept. 18: Arrive in Narita Airport.
Stay one night in Tokyo.
Sept. 19: Shinkansen to Osaka, settle in.
Sept. 19-25: Explore Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara
Sept. 26~28: Two nights of strict relaxation at a traditional ryokan in Hakone, enjoy the hotsprings.  The both of us are REALLY looking forward to this one!

Sept. 28~30: Explore Tokyo.

Oct. 1: Return to the U.S.  :(

I’m pretty excited about everything.  It’s leaning more towards sightseeing and touristy things overall, but in a way I haven’t done that much of that in Japan.  I’ve never been to Nara or Hakone, I haven’t tried coffee in Kyoto, I haven’t been to a rabbit cafe (!!), and…..I get to see my boyfriend react to the new foods and new sights!  Maybe it will make him more concerned about taking his shoes off at home, at the door :D!  With only 12ish days to explore several cities, there may not be much time for shopping, like I’ve wanted for years.  But at least there’s good food.

You know what’s crazy…8 years is a really long time. The last time I was in Japan, smart phones weren’t a thing yet.  I would run in to the Apple Store to get some internet time, or wait to use the communal computer at the hostels.  You had to plan things out way in advance “or else”, and expect to get lost a lot…which I did….if you messed up following your printed map.  Also, I was 10lb lighter, haha!  But I’m not any taller, so I think Japanese clothes will still fit ^_~  There’s this thing called Pocket Wifi now, which we’re getting from our Air BnBs for free…OH, and there’s a thing called Air BnB.  And I didn’t know anything about cameras, I just had this chunky plastic point and shoot.  Man.  I was still a part time worker in 2006!!  And not heavily in to VFX.  I feel so old because of the awe that modern technology and entrepreneurship has inspired.  Anyway, I’m really excited to see how else Japan has changed.  There’s at least 2 old friends in Japan that I haven’t seen for a decade and will likely meet up with too for some food.  And maybe an even older friend, although that’s iffy because he moved to Okinawa.  What sucks is none of them really talk to me anymore – I’ve sent messages and only 1/5 of the time they get replied to.  But, eh, at least they sound excited to meet up again!  Perhaps this will restart our friendships.

One thing that hasn’t changed, from what I can tell online, is that Cash is still King.  Is it weird that this is kind of comforting to me?  At any rate, it makes it easier for me to budget on the go.  I’m estimating that the entire trip will cost somewhere around $3500 ~ $4000 per person, depending on how much we spend on shopping and eating.  Our lodging wasn’t bad, since Air BnB really does have great deals, and our plane tickets were just about as cheap as I could hope – $812/person.

My Japanese is a bit rusty after a decade.  It’s time to find some more live action dramas to practice with!

Be Smart, Play Dumb

Dead Rabbit, an awesome bar on Stone St. that dates back to 1818.

Sometimes, I think being a generalist is a curse. Sometimes, it’s smart to play dumb.

If my employers didn’t know I could do both 2D and 3D work, I would have half as much work to do. And by that, I mean I would be over-worked instead of drowning in work. With a project as large in scale as the one we’re working on, with over 300 deliverables to give the client, and with such specific, name dependent parameters to this….it really sucks doing both the 2D and 3D side. I was hired to do 2D and I haven’t had the months of time with our custom 3D asset system to know my way around it. So I’m slower in 3D work than the dedicated 3D guys. No one seems to mind that I ask a million questions a day, and on the bright side I’m learning a lot. But then my 2D assignments fall behind in schedule. They really just need to hire another human body – another pair of hands and eyes. It isn’t going to happen, though. While I’m wishing, we could hire like 3 more people.  And the funny thing is, big clients have small budgets so we can’t afford it.  Multimillion dollar companies have small budgets.  It’s weird.

I’m at work 9:30am to 8:30pm on a good day, and stay to midnight routinely. I hear the sun sets late in the evening now, but my body hasn’t witnessed it, except on the weekends.

Still, this could’ve been my last week of work. I didn’t have to agree to extending my booking on this crazy, over-achieving job. But I did and I might do it again. I’m not sure yet. The money is good and I have international vacations planned this Fall. On the other hand, I miss having dinner at home and spending time with my boyfriend.

We’ve collectively started drinking once 6PM hits, to get through the rest of the day.  I have my 2nd espresso.  At lunch this week, we started drinking our sorrows away there as well.  Morale is low but we won’t mutiny, we still want the money.  Maybe that’s just destiny when you’re on Wall St.?

A good friend of mine has been a great connection for the past couple of years, getting me jobs with him around the city. But a pattern has emerged. It was there all along but I kept making excuses. He was bragging about this other place we worked at where he would routinely leave at 6:30PM on the dot, and how great it was.  A flash of anger hit me, and I said, “You leave at 6:30.  I was staying to 10PM at least, every night.”  Kinda wish I pushed that issue more because he brushed it off.  I stayed late because no one else would, so the work wasn’t going to get done unless I did.  Man.  Next time, I’m not staying later than this guy anymore.  I gotta put my foot down.

Figure Drawing Weekend #2


Forgot to post these!  I went to another figure drawing session a week or so ago.  It was fun, but this time the model wasn’t as pro as they usually are.  Ah well, still got some great practice out of it :)  I pretty much stuck with an H pencil for the whole 3 hours.  I was a little sad that everyone who said they’d come with me, and even RSVP’d, ended up not coming.  It was quiet and a little lonely, but that’s alright.  Here’s my favorite 3 of the batch!

House Envy

ABJ Terrarium “Linea”, by ABJ Glassworks

It took them 3 weeks to make a beautiful home. There were house plants, fresh cut flowers, framed wall art everywhere, bright splash colors, a walk in closet, and rich, warm grey bedsheets. Little tea candles flickered on every surface. I walked through the rooms, taking it all in. It felt like a showroom for IKEA.  Every room had at least 2 Pinterest decorating trends in play. 

Now contrast that with my place. The only wall art I have are old nail holes and mysterious black (wheel??) streaks. There’s a decade of dust that previous occupants never cleaned, and that I can’t reach without real effort. Things are starting to come together, furniture-wise (I no longer use a stepping stool covered in paint as a nightstand), but I gotta say it makes me feel pretty inadequate. I been here for almost one year and the apartment doesn’t look cozy or personal yet. 

“We need to make our place look this nice!” I said to my boyfriend. 

He said, “You’re the girl, shouldn’t you know how to do this?”

“But you’re dating me because I’m not a girly girl!”

The true tragedy is, I actually love girly girl things! Neon nails, fashion blogs, home decor, I love it all…I just have no idea how to execute it in real life. I’m an artist but not that kind of artist, and in a way that’s also what makes it sad. It’s a different skill set, a different mindset. Maybe it’s easy for a Graphic Designer to see their house as a canvas, but I’m a CG artist! 

So for the past few weeks, I’ve dedicated my last waking hours of each day to reading decor blogs like Apartment Therapy, Pinterest, and Refinery29. 90% of what I see is trash, clutter, and useless sensationalism.  But that 10% has been motivating, and I’m identifying how I have been holding myself back. 

One big thing keeping me from decorating is how cheap I am. It’s been a huge effort for me to change myself from being cheap to frugal. I realized when I look at nice things in [online] stores, my first thought is, “Pretty!” My second and immediate thought is inevitably, “But how much does it cost? What else does it DO to make my life better? Will I regret this later?”  Everything, to me, has to be utilitarian. It has to be multifunctional, or be irreplaceably essential for my life to function. But why? Why can’t something’s sole purpose be “eye candy?”

That cheap, practical side of me would say, “Because you live in an apartment and not a house. Because you don’t have a basement/garage/, or deep/multiple closets to hide useless clutter. Or barely used items. 

And have you seen the prices of home goods? They get PRICY.  Like these awesome geometric terrariums – $210+ each!

Obviously I’m not going to do that.  But I do have a list of things to do and buy for my home.

  • Give the bedroom a fresh coat of paint. Est. ~$65
  • Get a vacuum that can handle pet fur!  Est. ~$450 (Miele?)
  • PLANTS!!!!  I’m limited by the low-light stipulation… $??
  • Candles!  Candles EVERYWHERE!! $8~15 each.

Figure Drawing Weekend!

This weekend was extra fun, partly because I finished working at a hellhole, and partly because it was social!  Saturday, I went to the movies with my boyfriend and some college friends that he hasn’t seen in a long time.  They were all really friendly and easy to talk to.  We had drinks, saw the movie, and ate wayyy too much Thai food.

Sunday, I did a bunch of boring errands and then my boyfriend, a couple friends, and I went to Midtown to attend a figure drawing meetup.  It was great!  It’s the second we’ve (all) done this year.  Most of us are out of practice by years, so everyone is struggling, haha!  It feels good though, and I’m happy to see improvement already.  The guy who runs the Meetup runs it like a traditional figure drawing class, so we started with ten 30-second poses, 10 one minute poses, and then switched to 20 minute poses for the rest of the 3 hours.

The model was absolutely BEAUTIFUL…she had almost no fat except in her butt and boobs, so her shoulders and back showed off these muscles I didn’t really know about till now.  My own back is uh, too soft to learn anatomy off of :P

It’s easy to get carried away when you’re in an art store and try buying everything…and blaming your personal lack of skill on the tools.  I hear people say that in the room.  But as long as you have something sharp and something to shade with, that’s all you need.  Sometimes, like in the case of a graphite pencil, you get both in the same tool.  It’s a pet peeve of mine to hear people blame their tools when there is no shame is simply saying, “I need more practice,” or “I’m pretty rusty”.

Inappropriate At Work #9: Your Halitosis

This isn’t my usual little post about sexual harassment or some other offending comment. This is about an offending smell that no one wants surrounding them at work. Probably not even the perpetrator.

It’s a weird kind of torture. For the past two days, a guy has been sitting at the station to my right with terrible halitosis. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is or what he eats, it’s just always sprouting from him when his mouth opens. He sits over a yard away from me and I can smell it, it’s that bad. The air is a minefield; sometimes it’s clear breathing for a few minutes, then suddenly the stench assails your face. Invisible. Stealthy. Lunch is my reprieve, because he’ll leave the area and then I can work in peace. Evening has more frequent bombings, because he gets talkative with coworkers.

Podcasts For Foodies!

I’m one of those people who likes to talk about food, learn about food, and eat a lot of food.  When I’m preparing dinners at home, it gets a little boring without a little noise…so I turn on a food-related podcast to keep me company :)  Here’s a few of my favorites so far, in alphabetical order.

America’s Test Kitchen

[Link]

This is probably one of the most popular food podcasts out there, and for good reason.  I learn a lot by listening to their Q&A section in the beginning and the interviews in to current and historical food methods are pretty interesting. There’s a ton of back episodes too, so they’ll keep you busy for a long time.  They’re part of the Cook’s Illustrated network, and consequently have all the experience and technique you’d expect from a CI book.  There’s also a section in the show for equipment reviews, which are pretty great since you have to pay to access the text versions online, and a wine tasting and taste testing section….both of which I don’t care much about!

Gastropod

[Link]

This podcast is pretty new, so there aren’t many episodes yet…but they’re all really good! If you like food AND it’s history and science, listen to Gastropod!  The first ep especially was really interesting – about how the material your utensils are made of change the taste of food.  It made me really want to eat ice cream with a gold spoon :)

KCRW Good Food

[Link]

This one was a new discovery for me, recommended by a fellow foodie coworker.  They’re based in San Francisco, so expect a lot of chat about local SF restaurants.  I haven’t listened to many episodes yet, but I did hear them go over the history of edible underwear in their latest episode, and talk about the gentrification of SF’s Chinatown.  A lot of the topics look really interesting so I recommend checking them out too.

The Sporkful

[Link]

Another new-ish podcast, based in NY this time!  The host has interesting discussions about food, but instead of just focusing on the past (eps on bagels and the origin of Belgian waffles), he also highlights and discusses new and more interesting ways to enjoy food.

Hope you guys enjoy these podcasts as much as I do!  They keep me motivated to keep cooking nearly every weeknight.

My Experience With HSIL And The LEEP Procedure

A needle, over a foot long, to administer anaesthetics. Took a pic while waiting for the doctor to come in to the exam room.


Note: I wrote this on my phone about 3 weeks ago, on my commute home from my LEEP procedure.  It took me some time to revisit this entry, since a big part of me wanted to forget about it.

As I ride the subway home from the hospital, feet apart to manage the sway, I wonder to myself. Do I feel weak from being nervous, or from having an electrical current shooting through me?

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Being A Villain Is Being A Friend

Sometimes I feel like I’m a villain when I’m with my friends.  They spill their problems and worries, ask for advice, and I tell them what they don’t want to hear.  9 times out of 10, I will tell you to break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend.  9 times out of 10, I will tell you “That really sucks, but this is one of those times you need to pull yourself together and man up.”  I focus on the weakness in their relationship, deem it unworthy in my own eyes, and tell them it’s over.

In a way, you could call it tough love.  But as the person doling out what people don’t want to hear but need to hear, it gets me a little down sometimes.  I start wondering, why does it seem like everyone’s in a shitty relationship?  Why does it seem like everyone is making bad choices?  But hey, I’ve been there too, so logically I do know the answer.  It’s just hard to see things objectively when you’re the one in the shitty relationship and the shitty-but-easily-escapable situation.  And thankfully, I too have friends who can be a villain and tell me the hard truths I need to hear.

What’s really rare, though…is when a friend actually TAKES this advice!  When they actually do break up with their significant other.  When they face the hard truth and deal with it.  It so rarely happens.  And even rarer than that, a virtual unicorn, is the “thank you” that may come afterwards.

Recently, a coworker of mine went through a breakup while we were rushing at work.  I have no idea how he even got work finished because if I were in his situation, I’d just shut down and not be productive.  He vented to me about his relationship, about what he loved about his girlfriend, about what he hated.  And what does a villainous friend do?  The villainous friend latches on to the bad stuff and slings it back to her coworker’s face, in full fury.  It was clear to me that they weren’t compatible on a fundamental level, and I tried my best to make it clear to him, too.  Two big red flags for me: she was uncreative but constantly complained that she wanted to do something about it (So why not just do it? Huge personal pet peeve), she constantly talked about “the ex” and how much better he was.  At what, I can only imagine. But HEY EVERYONE….You’re only allowed to compare your ex to your current boyfriend if it makes your current boyfriend look awesome in comparison!!  What the hell kind of bitch will say their ex was better at x y z?  A soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend kind of bitch!  I had no guilt in persuading my coworker that it’s great that his relationship is exploding.

“You dodged a bullet,”  I told him.

Days later, whenever my coworker would feel the urge to try and break their “no contact” agreement, he remembered those words.  I really don’t feel that I said all that much, and we weren’t very close beforehand.  But the fact that he latched on to those words meant, to me, that breaking up was the right choice for him.  He knew deep down that it wasn’t working out, he just needed a 3rd party to let him know: you’re not crazy for thinking that.  Throughout January, she would ring his phone, an attempt to break no-contact even though she imposed it herself.  He’d tilt his phone towards me, and I’d shake my head.  My coworker would turn the phone face down and get back to work.

Well, we’ve come this far.  I may as well brag some more, as he is one of the few people who listened to me when I was the devil on his shoulder.  Most people ask for my advice and don’t take a word of it, so this felt GREAT :D  I’ve probably told everyone I’ve ever met to break up.  Your relationship shouldn’t be a chore, you should light up when talking about that special person in your life.  Despite how often I say this, I feel it’s true every time.  Most relationships just suck.  Anyway!  My coworker had also hurt his leg two years ago; it still aches and he never got it looked at.  So what do I do but bully him in to calling a PT NOW, not later once he does other errands, but he needed to make that appointment on the phone NOW.

Couple days later, which is today, I got a message on my phone.  “Thanks again for the push.  Day one was eye opening for my leg. Alot learned and quite hopeful actually.”

Left a smile on my face :)

Cloning My Old Roommate

My old roommate was perfect, and had all this nice house stuff for us to use – a blender, a vacuum, glasses to drink water with (what a novelty!), pots and pans for cooking…the list goes on!  So I’m slowly buying replacements … that are pretty much the same exact things she had!  If she came back to visit, which she might do and almost did already, she might freak out a little.

With my week off, I’ve had time to go shopping!  Allow me to show off some crappy iPhone pics of my railroad apartment…

For The Kitchen

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