Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Where the heck am I?

I don't know what day it is, what time it is, or where I is :)

We flew to Chicago, sat around for 3 hours, then off to Japan.
The 13 hour flight was more boring than anything. I had only
gotten 4 hours of sleep the night before, so I dozed a lot on
the flight, and read a guide book, and ate a lot. Then somehow
we were here. There were no lines for immigration or
customs, so we just flew through.

Our wonderful friend was waiting for us right on the other side.
I'm so glad. I thought we would be able to negotiate the trains,
but as tired as we were, I'm not sure we would have figured them
out. It was about an hour on the train into Tokyo, and then we
had to transfer to a bus for 20 minutes to get
to his and his wife's place.

We went out to dinner at a great place where you grill your meat
on hot coals at your table. We walked around the neighborhood
and chatted with our friends and watched a little Japanese TV. That
was all I had in me at that point, and we crashed hard and slept until
about 9:30 this morning. Breakfast was from the local convinience
store, where the food is pretty good.

I don't have a feel for the place yet. Just lots and lots of amazing
things to look at - it sort of overwhelms the eyes and the senses.
And not being able to read, does make everything much harder.
Can't wait to get out there and see things today.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Teetering on the edge

I'm just sort of stunned at the moment. I have to be up to leave
for Japan in 9 hours. Everything that can be done, has been done.
I tried to stay busy cleaning all day. If I stopped to think I
got over excited. I didn't sleep all that well last night from
excitement. I haven't a clue how I'll sleep tonight.

I kept declaring packing was done, and then someone would show
up with "something small" (NOT!) that they wanted us to take to
our host in Japan. (We are all friends with this guy and his wife).
And somehow we would have to make it fit. We are taking more and
heavier luggage than I wanted to take, but we should have lots of
room for bringing home goodies when we unload all the gifts...

I feel like I'm on the precipice, ready to leap into the unknown.
Our host says "It's like being in Manhattan, only you cant read".
I do speak a little Japanese, studied it for 2 years. But not
reading will be kind of humbling.

I'm still amazed people do this everyday, and it is no big deal.
To me it is huge, and I've been to Australia and England a couple
of times. For Cayenne it is "the most exciting thing he's ever
done". (He has never left the country).

I don't know if I'll be able to post while I'm gone, I'll try, if
I get access to a computer. I'm sure they have them in Tokyo :)
And when I get back, oh will there will be pictures.
Cherry blossoms, here I come!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

End of the fog this morning

I'm in the mood for....Japan!

I'm deliciously tired. Woke up to a thick fog outside. So I stayed in
bed for another hour. It was 64 degrees today, and 75 tomorrow.
This is not March 24th in Minnesota. Where is the snow and cold?

Cay and I chatted for hours via Instant Messenger with our soon
to be host in Japan. He said the cherry blossoms aren't open yet,
they are thinking this Thursday. He even got us a tarp to sit on
for the Hanami parties. Most people bring those blue tarps to
mark their spot. He got us a Japanese Twister game mat! We will
be the coolest kids on the block. :)

Then it was a marathon day of laundry, cleaning house, packing,
more packing, changing my mind and re-packing, looking at the
Tokyo weather report on the Weather Channel, and packing a couple
of slightly warmer shirts. I think I'm done! Then the coffee
maker broke and had to run out in the now pouring rain, and get
another. I think everything in my house should just knock off this
breaking thing. At least it was cheaper than the furnace....

Tomorrow there isn't much left to do. Sleep in, get the house
ready for David (he'll be living here, and taking care of the
unruly pets). What a sweetheart he is. He made this trip possible,
we wouldn't have gone if someone didn't stay with the dogs.
One of them is over 14 now, doesn't see or hear well, and has
to have his arthritis meds - and the other is as psycho as ever.
The cats just want somewhere warm to sleep and aren't too much
work. But they love their "Uncle David", so they will be happy.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Yeow!

I was trying to get everything wrapped up at work today, and at
4 pm, it hit me full force. I'M FRICKEN GOING TO JAPAN !!.
A wave of excitement hit me, and I was done. I couldn't calm down
for the rest of the day. I went and helped someone else fix her
computers, because I just couldn't focus anymore.

Then I went and bought a $9 watch from Target. It suddenly occurred
to me that I don't own one, I'm always near a computer, or have my
cell phone. In Japan I'll have to know what time it is to catch
trains and buses. And to know how many hours into a 13 hour
flight I am, so it can feel like forever.

I can't think of anything else I need to get. So tomorrow it is on
to packing! As usual, I'll pack everything I think I need and then
take about half of that, because it will be too heavy...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Musing about jobs

Racing for the finish line. Trying to do too much into the
last 2 days at work and getting worn out. But now there is just
tomorrow and then it will just have to wait. I can't remember
the last time I've had 2 weeks off from work! Many years.
I think I'll have to make taking real time off a new habit.

At one point today, I was so overwhelmed at work, even though
I do really like my job, that I said to a friend, "I'm actually
looking forward to sitting on a plane for 13 hours with nothing
to do!". I'd been dreading it, but it sounds kind of heavenly to
me at the moment. But I'll probably be bored after about 2 hours
of that.

What else is up...? I did walk last night and tonight. It is
wonderful to walk again. I'm definitely in a lot less pain and
a lot more mobile. I don't feel sick all the time, as I have for
the last few months.

Also there were layoffs at my old job. I knew they were
coming. It seems that it always happens about 1 1/2 years
after a company is bought. Just making sure one old friend
who got it, is o.k. I wonder if layoffs are ultimately worth
it to any company? Or does the morale loss or depression
for those that are left counterbalance any monetary benefits?

It seems when ever a company is in that mode, it is writing on
the wall that things will only get worse. The company or at
least the division is on a decline. Has anyone every went through
one, where things actually got better? I'd love to know.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

New Video - FINALLY!!!

At long last we have posted a new comedy video for
Channel Surfing Wipeout.

I know you wont believe it. There hasn't been a new one since last
June. I don't know where the time went. With luck we will keep
doing them and get another T.V. show done. This is only the first
5 minutes of a T.V. show. Cayenne ran into a guy at a party last
week, who turned out to be from programming at the T.V. station.
He said we were his favorite show and where the heck was a new one?

Anyways, give it a viewing, and enjoy!

Escaped?

Last night I skipped posting, went to bed early and slept for 9 hours.
My throat hurt all day and I was terrified I was getting a cold right
before the Japan trip. That would be the worst. I also took doses of
Emergen-C, Noni, and Astralagas hoping something would knock it out.

So far, so good. I woke up feeling fine and no sore throat. I refuse
to get sick on the trip of a lifetime. I suppose if I do get sick, I
can just drink enough Sake, that I wont care. But I don't want to
make my host friends sick, either. But it could have just been the
usual allergies or asthma.

4 days left to live through before the trip. I hate the last few days,
they take forever! But it is warmer out today (54 degrees) and the
snow is pretty much gone. I'm considering taking the first walk
since the snow hit. Wait it is the first day of spring today! How
fitting.

Also when I got home last night, my house was toasty warm. The new
furnace is installed. And the beginning of the big payments :(

Monday, March 19, 2007

Less than a week!

There, I started packing tonight. I feel better! I came home from
work realizing there is less than a week to go, so I drug out the
suitcase and put some stuff in it. I think it is a summoning spell
to make the time go faster, or something.

Only 4 workdays left. Auugh! I have way more than 4 days of work
left. I suppose that will make the time go too fast. At this time
next week, I wont care about all that undone work. I'll be going
nuts because I'll have been on the plane out of Chicago for over
8 hours and we wont be there yet.

Otherwise. Let's see. The house is rather cold and it is going to
be 15 degrees F. tonight. I'm happy the furnace guys are coming
tomorrow with the new furnace. Just in time for it to warm up.
Ha, so it was me. It just cost me over $5000 to make the weather
finally warm up.

And the Celadrin is working. In only 2 days, all the pain and
stiffness is gone! I didn't expect it to work so quickly. They
say there is a cumulative effect from it that gets better over
30 days. I'll keep taking it and see what happens. It would be
wonderful to have all that pain gone, and be able to easily
walk and move about again. Maybe I'll be able to exercise enough
get that extra weight off.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Too much creativity in one day!

Exhaustion! I finished another Uncomfortable Questions interview
and posted it. Very interesting interview with a 20 year old
mathematician and fractal artist. Get it, as usual, at:
www.uncomfortable-questions.com.

It took longer than usual because I wanted to put music in it to
show off the new CD by previous guests from 3 Blind Mice.
Lots of messing with file formats and encoding the whole mess at
a higher bit rate, and in stereo, so the music would sound good.
I was selfish, though, and played my all time favorite song of
theirs, not even one from the new CD. I'll do that in one of the
next two shows.

As I was frantically trying to finish the show, David came over and
we finished up filming for the next Channel Surfing Wipeout
video. It should go up this week! Cayenne has promised to do the
final edit while they are putting in the furnace all day on Tuesday.

I didn't even have time to start pulling things together for the
Japan trip. Maybe I'll start packing during the week. Or maybe I'll
just sleep!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Heatless Wonder

Surviving quite well, without the furnace. The house retained the
heat well, and last night it only got down to 63 degrees inside
(even though outside, it was around 18 degrees). Today was sunny
and 40 and the wood stove actually made the house too warm!
So, making it until Tuesday without heat is just not going to
be a big problem. Still in a bit of shock about paying for it,
however. It will probably build character, or something.

I got some Travelers Cheques for the Japan trip today. I think I
might start packing tomorrow. Yes, it is still a week and a day
away, but I want to make it feel real. It still seems very abstract.

Much of the day was spent trying to get an edit of the next U.Q.
podcast done. It is almost a week late, but I'm only half done. I
hope I can finish the edit tomorrow, and get something up.

My arm and hand was hurting a lot for the last few days, making
the editing difficult. I realized that everything has been aching
a lot lately, so it was back to the web, for research. It seems the
top anti-inflammatory solution these days is something called
"Celadrin". It is some kind of fatty acid from god knows what
(animal products, it says - what kind? Puppy dogs? Rats???)

But while I was out I picked up some pills and topical cream with
Celadrin. It actually made a difference almost immediately!
Interesting. I'll keep trying it and see how it goes. I will be
very happy if it helps. Pain sucks!

Friday, March 16, 2007

$5559 and No Heat

Well that was a bit surprising. We are on a plan with the gas
company to get a free yearly inspection of our boiler furnace.
He came today, and immediately shut off our furnace and forbade
us to use it! It had warped and cracked and was shooting heat
out the side towards a wooden wall. We are apparently quite
lucky the house didn't catch fire.

The gas company sent over 3 space heaters since they can't
install a new one until Tuesday. The new furnace will cost $5559.
Ouch. I don't have that kind of money, so they are putting it
on my gas bill over 12 months. That is still $463 a month.
Crap. I am never going to get out of debt! Money will be very,
very tight for the next year. And I haven't quite payed off the
water heater yet, either...

So far the house isn't cold. It will be interesting to see if
we can stay warm enough for the next 3 days with only a wood
stove and 3 space heaters. It is supposed to be about 18 degrees F.
at night and around freezing during the day. I'm glad this didn't
happen when it was 20 below zero, last month.

Well, at least the trip to Japan is payed for, because nothing
else is!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Flowers and Newspapers

Heh-heh! The Japan Weather forecasters moved the opening of the
cherry blossoms back to March 23rd (from March 18th). The little
flowers are waiting for me! There are a few already open, so I'm
not sure what they refer to - maybe a certain percentage of them
have to be open.

I've listened to so many Japanese lessons that every morning when
I wake up, several of my first thoughts are actually in Japanese!
I guess it is sinking into my head, somehow.

I'm sort of fed up with humans today. I accidentally read some
gross articles in the newspaper. I really should just stop reading
it. The cruelty and sickness of some people really discourage me.
I falter in thinking there is any meaning or reason to life when
I pay attention to the news.

I suppose I should just do another interview for my show. I always
meet someone new and wonderful, and I like humans again for awhile.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Weights and Fretting

Ow-ow-ow! I haven't weightlifted in 2 weeks, just been doing light
aerobic stuff. My arms started to hurt more and more until I did
some lifting tonight. So weird that your body has a tantrum when
you stop doing weights. And then promptly hurts again when you
give in and do the weights. Bodies. Feh!

Life is a little overwhelming at the moment. Way too much to get
done. Work is really heating up, with yet another huge project
looming. I still have to get through this one! Every spare
moment outside of that seems to be doing something for the trip
to Japan. I keep thinking I'm totally ready, and promptly think
of three more things I forgot to do. 1 week and 4 days to go!
It will be nice to be on the plane when it is too late to
fret and scurry about.

I wanted to study more Japanese, I wanted to be stronger, I
wanted to loose some weight. It really is too late for all of
that. I did my best, life got in the way, and I'll just have
to go with what is. And enjoy the heck out of it!!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Grand Life?

It occurs to me, after all the planning, packing, shopping and
listening to 112 Japanese lessons, that I have been driving to
the goal of my trip for 6 months now. After I get back, then what?
I need to think about the next big goal. It really helps me to
have one out there, on the horizon.

It keeps me interested, it keeps me going. I certainly can't
top this trip for time, effort, and money spent. Maybe some
smaller but exciting goals would help. But there is something
great about doing the BIG things. The small goals are too
easy to delay, or blow off.

My biggest problem with life is I've had very few big things.
Getting through college, a few big trips, some massive weight
loss (twice), buying houses (3 times), and .... that's about
it. I've done lots and lots of smaller things, but many were
just hobbies or diversions. But the all encompassing life goals
haven't come along very often. The rest of the time I just
coast along and see what life brings me.

The lazy person's approach to living. It works.
It just isn't grand.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Finish Line

It was 56 degrees out today! The huge snow piles from the previous
storms are dropping rapidly. And it was still light out when I
left work at 6:45 pm. It is hard not to hope for spring, though
it can snow here through April. But I'm in the mood!

Work is now the frantic dash to get this project nearly done
before I leave for Japan. Less than 2 weeks now! This time
in 2 weeks, I'll still be on a plane. Oh well. It sounds good,
until I think of that. It is an hour to Chicago, 3 hour layover
and then 13 hours to Japan. It is hard to imagine sitting on
one small airplane seat for that long. I can't believe people
do this all the time! What do they do while they are doing it!?

I suppose this is the time to do everything right, rigorous
exercise, very healthy eating, plenty of rest.... I just want
to stay up late, drink beer and eat chocolate cake! :)
But, except for staying up too late, I probably wont. :(

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Fun Times

Things are kind of fun at the moment. Cay got hooked up with a
very popular local T.V. show, and he is now a writer on the show.
They hope it will go somewhere (money) someday, but even if
not, he has met a lot more of the local creative crowd. Good
contacts for him.

Then new friends came over for a drink last night. They brought
snacks from a newish Jewish deli (we have a serious shortage
of any good deli food in town). We talked for hours, and of
course got to bed way late, and lost another hour to daylight
savings time, so are way under slept.

Got up and got a call from a friend moving back from New Jersey
next month. He is going to move in with us and if he likes it, we
may have a new roommate! We adore the guy and I think it is
going to be a lot of fun.

Then Cayenne had to go try the new Jewish deli. He's from New
York city, and misses the Carnegie Deli. The food was excellent,
and the portions huge. I'm never going to fit on that plane. I'll
have to get my own plane after that lunch! So I had a proper
Irish dinner. Oatmeal and beer.

David came over, and we worked on our video show, Channel
Surfing Wipeout.
We were going to do voice over work today, but
instead came up with 5 more shots we simply had to have to finish
the last sketch. Then the whole thing still needs a final edit.
I don't know if it will get posted before Japan. I haven't even
started the edit on my own U.Q show that should have gone up
today. I think that will have to wait until next weekend...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

3 friends together

Me and my two best buddies on the California trip. My sick friend
is the one on the right. So young! So vibrant! Damn.


Death and Taxes

Seriously. You shouldn't have to deal with them on the same day.
I went to see my Tax accountant yesterday and did my taxes. I
did better than I thought, and will have a little extra spending
money for Japan. I was feeling pretty good.

I got to work and got an unexpected email from a good friend in
California. I last saw her when I got sent to work Headquarters
a year an a half ago and drug my whole group on a wild 3 hour
drive to go see her. She was my cube mate when I worked in
California, and ultimately one of my closest two friends there.

The letter was sad, loving and resigned. It stated:
"The cancer has spread throughout the abdomen, including the
colon, liver, and kidney, it has returned to the pelvic area
including the rectum, and it has now spread to the chest area
(mammary lymphs)."

I didn't even know she was sick!!!
How do you deal with death. Me? I get really, really angry, every
time. It is so shocking, especially when they are younger than me
or the same age. I just get furious at the universe for being so
painful and so unfair. I just can't get my head around it.

My friend is going to Mexico to get alternative care, as western
medicine has given up on her. She is one of the kindest people and
loves animals more than anyone I know. She does a ton of volunteer
work at agencies that save animals and give them a second chance.
She has something like 6 cats and a dog, and treats them like kings.
The universe is very wrong if it lets someone like that die young.

I had a painful tightness in my chest for the rest of the day that
wouldn't ease up. It must have been the asthma. It couldn't be
sadness...

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Hoping this will be me!

Hopefully this will be me in 3 weeks.
Shot of Hanami parties in Ueno Park, Tokyo.


Hanami Forcast is a GO!

Worked like a fiend today. I'm trying to concentrate on 2 major
projects and everything has to be done RIGHT NOW! I had to
read a lot of documents, really fast, to get ready for a call
and my head still hurts. Oh well, it does make the days go fast -
way too fast, that is!

The Japanese weather people finally put out their Cherry
Blossom forecast. Hanami (flower viewing) parties are a big
deal over there. There are so many cherry trees that when they
bloom, there is massive pinkness everywhere, and everyone goes
to the park and has picnics and gets way drunk. I wanted to
see this! So I carefully planned my trip time so I would catch
the Cherry trees and Hanami parties. I studied average bloom
times in Tokyo for the last 6 years and picked my time.

They can be early or late, depending on the weather, so I took
my best guess. They only last about a week and the window for
when it can happen is about a month wide. So I've been anxiously
awaiting the forecast. The National weather service there makes
the forecast in early March, so everyone can plan their festivals
and parties, I assume. It turns out they will bloom the earliest
ever this year, due to a very warm winter. The date they posted
was March 18th. Augh! I thought I had missed it - I leave for
Japan on March 26th, and wont get there until the 27th.

I was trying not to be disappointed, and then read another
article today. March 18th is when the buds start to open, not the
peak in Tokyo. The peak viewing (when all the parties are) is
forecast to be March 25th to April 3rd!!!
I will be there! Wait for me, little cherry blossoms!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Kitchen After

New sink, faucet, plumbing, sink cabinet, dishwasher and counters!
We still have to stain the end piece by the dishwasher,
but looking good!



Kitchen Before (spending too much money)


Money will buy happiness

The workmen left at 10 pm last night. I am $1500 poorer, but the
kitchen is beautiful! The new counters totally change the look of
the kitchen. Cayenne did 6 loads of dishes today, just because he
could. The new dishwasher is really quiet, and cleans really well.
Ah, the joys of new technology.

Work is crazy busy. I was there until 8 pm tonight, and still
didn't get what I wanted done. I could have just kept going.
Lots happening and too little time. I just want to get it all done
so I can go off to Japan and not worry about it. I'm in for a long
couple of weeks. 2 weeks, 4 days left! Woo-hoo!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Houses

Ewwww. I was so lethargic yesterday, I didn't even get around to
posting. I just went to bed. Today was a bit better. Right now I
have 2 handymen installing my kitchen counters and dishwasher.
They have been at it since noon. I don't want to see the bill!

Finally, a dishwasher. The last one broke 5 years ago, and
everything took priority over replacing it. So of course I did
it the same time at the Japan trip. So I guess the rest of this
year will just be paying bills.

What really hurts is the heating bills this winter. Last months
heating bill was $500!! And I'm still paying for the water heater.
You really have to like living in a house to own one...

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Lethargy

Another slow day. It will be hard to go back to work, I enjoyed
the time off this weekend. I did my next U.Q. interview today
with a nice mathematician from the east U.S. He was young, and
still working things out for himself, but had some interesting
perspectives. I'm hoping my next interview is in Japan. I'm
bringing my recorder, and hope that someone will do the show.

They had better, I'm out of volunteers at the moment! There
are more people I could do locally, but I'm not sure I'll have
the time or energy to track them down, before I go.

I've been a bit worried about my energy levels, lately.
Everything I eat makes me sick, and my body hurts a lot. No
amount of changing diet or exercising seems to help, it just
makes it worse. All I can do is keep trying. I want to have
the energy to enjoy my trip. There has to be a way.
I will not give up!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

We are snow pikers

This was in this morning's paper, a picture from Duluth, a couple
of hours drive north of here. They had 15 to 20 foot snow drifts.
Makes my pictures look idealistic and pastoral!




Photo by Brian Peterson , Star Tribune

Saturday Geekfest

Ah Saturdays! Did everything at a slow and leisurely pace. No
hurries, no worries. How wonderful. I spent most of the day
reading the Full Metal Alchemist manga, which I have become
embarrassingly hooked on. (I just finished watching the anime
and the movie, and was unsatisfied with the ending). Then I
found out the comic books took a different direction, so
I'm reading those to see where the author intended to go.

I'm embarrassed to be an anime geek, but this morning I realized
that I'm glad it is there. It is one of the only forms of art
keeping the dreams alive. American fantasy is so stuck in the
medevil genre, that it is not great escapist literature.
The Japanese do this wild scratch mix of anything and everything.
They let their imaginations run wild, and I feel like I get
taken to new places I haven't been before.

Why is imagination so darned important? I don't know, but I
have this gut level feeling that it is. It is the real thing
that makes humans so different, I think we should use it for
all its worth. Can we really create new worlds with it? Do
we get tested on it? Who knows. I actually hope so...

But now, I have to shed my geek image and get ready for a party.
It is a friend's birthday and as she is a Brewmaster, there is
always really fine beer and good food. Mmmmmmm. What diet?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Pictures after the storm

Here is the gate, half buried at the end of the storm.
Also the garage roof with bird feeder. I cleaned that feeder
off 4 times yesterday, trying to give the birds a way to get
at some food. The squirrels live off this feeder a lot also,
but I don't think they can get from the tree in the back
through the 1 foot of snow on the roof. I wonder if they
can tunnel through it? Squirrel Tunnels. Good name for a band...



After the snow

Well, it isn't after, yet. It is still snowing a little bit.
We only got about 12 inches total, which really isn't all that
much. But it has been so many years since we have gotten
significant snowfall, that it threw everyone into a panic.

They even closed the University yesterday! They haven't closed
since the Halloween blizzard of 1991 where we got 3 feet of
snow. Man, we are getting soft...

I sailed into work today, because everyone decided to stay
home today, after it was pretty much done snowing. I thought
it much more sensible to stay home during the snowstorm. There
were very few people at work, so it was a nice quiet day.

But I'm glad it is over, and the weekend is here.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Snow pictures

These pictures are from 4 pm today.
We are only about halfway through the storm expected snow
at this point. The poor dog had the snow packed under his feet
turn into large balls of ice when he came in from playing in
the snow. He couldn't walk on them, it was like he had a 3 inch
iceball glued to the bottom of each foot. I made him lay in
front of the fire until they melted off. He's fine, he was
just very confused by it!



Living in a snowstorm

Sense won. I stayed home and logged into work. I could have
made it in, the city did a good job keeping the streets plowed,
but I just wasn't up for the battle. Good thing, instead of
spending all my time trying to drive in the snowstorm, I got
a fair amount of work done!

I like working from home under adverse conditions, but I
actually prefer going into work. I like interacting with
people and some things are just easier to do when I'm near
all my computers and equipment.

So the snow. We've got about 2 inches overnight and then it
really kicked in this morning. I think we have about 9 inches
now (on top of the 9 inches from this last weekend), and it
is supposed to snow several more inches overnight. I really
hurt from shoveling and am headed for the hot tub.