Monday, December 31, 2012

Good-bye, 2012!

I have a tradition of looking up my yearly horoscope, both astrological and Chinese, saving it in a word document, and then reading it at the end of the year.

For YEARS, my Chinese horoscope has told me I would have 10 bad months and 2 neutral months.  Then 9 bad months and 3 neutral months.  Thanks, Chinese horoscope, for your boundless optimism.  -_-  And my horoscope for 2012, both Chinese and regular astrological, said I would be seeing a career change.  At the time of reading it, I laughed at both.  I don't really BELIEVE in astrology, I just think it's fun.  But there ya go.

I'm glad to see that both horoscopes talk about a huge positive turn I'm going to have in 2013 and how great things are going to be.  And my Chinese horoscope says I'm going to have 11 favorable and 1 neutral month!!  What?  That's a sudden change from years passed.

And 13 is my lucky number.  I know that's odd and out of the ordinary, but Friday the 13ths are always my best days!

I realize these are all just superstitions and whatnot, but I still think it's fun.  And it's better to think things are going to be good than worry that they're going to be bad in a situation where...you really don't know.  The mere fact I can look forward to something unknown speaks volumes, really.

I feel really good about 2013.  Not hopeful.  Just...good.  I know good things are going to happen, which is not something I say lightly.  I just have....a feeling, though.

Unless I get hit by a bus tomorrow and die.  Then...I take it back.


Friday, December 28, 2012

My Journey To Caruthers

I have a friend who lives in Caruthers, which is about 35 minutes away from where my parents live in Fresno.

It is in the middle of nowhere.  NOwhere.  Like...empty dusty land and some...crops of something and one QUIK STOP with a fake airplane going into the gas pumps.

I went to visit my friend Jenny who I have mentioned before.  She is the amazing mom of a 3 year old girl and a 1 1/2 year old special needs baby.  To make her life a little easier, which I am happy to do, I visited her out in Caruthers today.

I am not a baby person.  Most people know this about me.  I don't think babies are particularly adorable (I find puppies WAY cuter), I don't think babies are interesting, and being around babies doesn't make me want one myself.  In fact, oftentimes, it is the opposite.  I like kids once they hit about 2 or 3 and can have a semi-conversation with me, and I can mess with them a little bit.

However, today I played with James, and we had a good time!  Any time I took an object and slowly started attacking his arms...he would watch intently and then burst into a huge smile and wiggle away. We were both entertained.  It was also the first time I saw him smile, so that was nice.  I did this with a toy moose, a fake flower, the state of Montana...each time with great results.

Attack babies with Montana.  They LOVE it.

I was also amused when Josie, the 3 year old, asked to watch "Polka dot polka dot afro circus".  Madagascar 3.  =)

A good day was had by all.

Except I might have gotten sick.

And the 2 cats sensed my disdain and therefore sat on my legs.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Or Happy Christmas, if you want to be British about it.

This is our fake Christmas tree that I put together for my parents.  They aren't really into Christmas, and my sister hasn't been back in over a decade since she started dating (and then marrying) her future husband.  It's really not the same without Santa.

But still, I like the holidays.  It felt the least holiday-ish this year, I think, since I wasn't teaching and had a pretty hermit-like lead in to the holiday.  That's okay, though.  I just wish people around me were more into it rather than complaining and asking to finally be done with Christmas.

I remember when I was little, and I'd wake up SUPER early and shake whatever present Santa would bring me (he brought one, unlike a lot of other families).  I'd count all my presents.  I'd shake my sister's present.  I strategically placed the presents I got/made for the rest of my family.  And then'd I'd wait impatiently for 7:00 to wake up the rest of my family.  We'd go through a series of Christmas pictures that were always the same every year.

My favorite memory is still from when I was 9, and I tried to shake my sister's present from Santa.  I was startled to find I couldn't pick it up!  It ended up being a television...

Sneaky, Santa.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Back in the 'No

Well, I'm in Fresno.

I'm cold.  I'm bored.  I'm watching Sound of Music with the volume off.

I am not an avid watcher of The Office, despite the fact that people frequent tell me I'd like it.  It started with watching SNL last night, and watching Bill Hader start laughing while doing Weekend Update as Stefon.  I didn't understand why he was laughing, so I googled "Sidney Applebaum" which brought me to the top 21 breaks of character on SNL.

I remember how much I loved Jimmy Fallon for always losing it and cracking up during sketches.  The best is Rachel Dratch trying to look like a downer when she was really exploding with laughter.  <wah wah>  From there, I watched the famous Stephen Colbert break on The Daily Show.  Watching a normally dead pan performer laughing uncontrollably is quite delightful.

Of course, that made me think of Stephen Colbert.  Insert hours of watching bloopers from The Office.  Thank you, youtube.   And I now have decided I really like John Krasinski.  I love that he tries to stop himself from laughing/smiling by putting his hands up to his face and smushing his smile.  But I especially love that he goes into this high pitched laugh and makes little squeaks.

This is what I do when visiting my family.  I also spent 12 minutes teaching my mom how to copy and paste a link into email.  I fixed the tv.  I explained cable television to my dad.  Again.  And I wrapped the presents for my family.  We have no boxes in the house, so I used tupperware.

I think outside the box.  Heh.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Friends and Food Trucks

I set my alarm and actually woke up at 9:30 in the morning.  While I wasn't meeting my friends until noon, it was in Palo Alto, and I wanted to give myself an hour and a half to get there.  Especially when going to new places, I like to add on time, just in case.

I arrived first at the Palo Alto Creamery and put down my last name for 3 adults, one booster chair, and one high chair.  When I spelled out my last name, the guy said, "Yeah, I know how to spell it.  That's my grandfather's last name, too."

Stopping for a moment, I said, "That means we're related!"  My last name is very uncommon, and all of us in the United States are related.  But there is, apparently, a whole side of the family we've never met because of some...problem that happened years ago between two sides of the family.

The guy didn't seem as excited as I was.

My friends, Jenny, Justin, and their two kids, Josie and James.  Josie was wobbly on a scooter, and James was being pushed in this...it wasn't a stroller.  It kind of looked like those old toy vacuum cleaners that have colorful balls that pop around, but you could sit in it.  And they also had the biggest backpack I've ever seen for all of James' medical supplies (he has a genetic disorder and has an enormous amount of...stuff that accompanies him everywhere).  They were, in fact, visiting the area to take James to the doctor.  He spent most of the first year of his life in the hospital with the family split apart.  They are an amazing family.

Justin is also a teacher/coach and we talked about my recent exit of the profession.  All the while, kids were breaking straws and zooming around and being...kids.  James is 1 and Josie just turned 3, I think.  At one point, when the very breakable straw broke and Josie could not drink out of it, she turned to her mom and said, "This straw is defective."  To be fair, we had been using that word earlier, but it was still amusing to hear out of the mouth of a 3 year old.

But all I could think was...Jenny and Justin must be tired all the time.

I headed home, rested for a bit, and then went out to meet a friend and her friend for food truck eating and a comedy club adventure.  Below is the picture of the food truck I perused.  I found it funny because they were showing episodes of Full House.


It was a fun evening, and I was happy to meet someone new.  It was FREEZING, however, and when we went to the comedy club, all 3 of us fulfilled our 2 drink minimum with two rounds of hot chocolate.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 6

This video, in particular, I'm a little....hesitant about, but it's meant to pay respects and tribute.  It is the andante section of the first movement of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Conservatory of Flowers

This afternoon, I visited the Conservatory of Flowers at Golden Gate Park.  I thought the flowers would mostly be outside, for some reason, and it didn't occur to me that the majority of the exhibit would be inside this exotic looking building.



Admittedly, I know nothing about flowers and plants except that I kill them.  I don't mean to, and I have good intentions.

Orchids.  I keep alive orchids.  I have no idea how.

$7 admission (I didn't have any proof that I was a San Francisco resident) and I was able to peruse the many many flowers and plants.  I am proud to say I didn't sneeze ONCE (being allergic to nature and all, this is quite the accomplishment).

Once again, I was (by far) the youngest person walking around.  I guess plants and flowers isn't really a big draw to most people my age?  I have no idea.

A nice older gentleman told me about all his flowers and proceeded to tell me the species of flowers we were looking at.  I had...no idea what he was talking about, but he was nice and I had the intention of being interested despite the fact the Latin names were going in one ear and out the other.

He also showed me pictures of his own flowers at home :)

I can definitely picture my dad doing the same thing, as he loves taking pictures of the same tree over and over again, at different angles, in different weather, with different people.



Below are a bunch of pictures of flowers.  Look or don't.  My mom would appreciate them, though :D Don't bother asking what the flowers are.  I will respond with, "pretty" or "interesting".



















Monday, December 17, 2012

Rain, Rain, Go Away

I feel like it's been raining and/or threatening to rain forever.

I've spent day after day indoors in a definite hermit-like state, afraid to go sloshing outside for fear of becoming sick.  Instead, I watched The Jersey Shore for the first time and mused what would happen if I ever had to interact with any of them, random tv, and Toy Story 3 (also for the first time).

I went to Japantown today, to do some holiday shopping for my mom and dad.  Yes, their gifts will be $1.50 each this year.  I'm going to get other things, too, but the $1.50 gifts are kind of awesome.  I also bought myself a bench scraper for $1.50 and a raincoat for $2 at Ichibankan.  The raincoat is a child's raincoat, but it fits fine....except the sleeves are too short.  That's okay, though.  It'll do for now, and it has a hood!

Nijiya was another stop today, a Japanese market.  My mom had asked me to get something for her, and it took every ounce of self control not to buy my two favorite things: tonkatsu (pork cutlet), and salmon onigiris (rice balls with salmon in the middle).

Maybe later this week, depending on when I leave.

I guess that's it.  Not terribly exciting.  I attempted to make a video but was too halfhearted and not satisfied with the result.  I kind of have the blahs right now, though they are cheerful blahs.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pier 39


Yesterday, it had been my intention to go to Pier 39/Fisherman's Wharf/Ghiradelli Square but awoke to find cloudiness and gloom.  Today was supposed to rain, and I woke up to find sunshine!

I didn't have as much time as I wanted, so I only went to Pier 39.  It was COLD!  I couldn't figure out how people were walking around in short sleeves when I had on jeans, a long sleeve shirt, a really thick sweater, a jacket, a scarf, and gloves!

Walking around, perusing the little shops, I didn't buy anything.  Maybe when I leave San Francisco I will buy something, but it seems a little odd to be walking around your own city with your city t-shirt.  Maybe that's just me.  I'm also in the phase of don't-buy-it-unless-you-need-it-or-really-really-love-it.

I was really tempted to get a waffle cone at the Dreyer's, but it was so cold I couldn't do it.  The smell was intoxicating, however.  I wish there was perfume that smelled like that...I would spray it on my arm...and then eat my arm.

See the rainbow?
Alcatraz

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmastime is Here

I love Christmas.  It's been my favorite for...ever.

When I was little, it was one of two days I ever got presents (the other one being my birthday), so I always knew exactly what I want.  But it's more than presents; it's how everybody is a little more cheerful around this time of year.  It's the festive decorations and the smell of pine.  It's twinkly lights and hot apple cider and gingerbread cookies.

My parents are Buddhist, so it's not exactly a religious holiday for us.  My sister is now Jewish and refuses to acknowledge Christmas exists (we exchange "holiday" presents and the Christmas tree has to be gone by the time she arrives for New Years).

I love getting/making presents for people.  This year I have to be a little more...crafty than most, but fortunately I live next to a Daiso and a Japanese grocery store.  When I was little I used to draw pictures for my parents, and one year in college I made bookmarks (index cards, markers, scotch tape, electrical tape).  I never really understood the concept of preferring something handmade over store bought until I became a teacher, and began receiving generic gifts in mass quantities.  Chocolates, lotion, bath gel...I was lucky enough to receive enough to last me the whole year!  I'd bring them home and share them with every non-teacher I knew.

This year, I can't put up a tree since I live in an apartment and that would be a pain.  There's not even really a lot of room for my Christmas decorations.  But that's okay.  It still feels festive to me, despite the lack of ostentatious decor.

And now I am enjoying Christmas movies!  I love any Christmas movie.  ELF - Will Ferrel is just so sweet in it (surprisingly), and Zooey Deschanel has a beautiful voice.  HOME ALONE - a classic.  I think I always liked it because I'm the same age as Macaulay.  IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE - a MUST watch for the holiday season.  THE SANTA CLAUSE - Even though I'm not a huge Tim Allen fan, I think this is a smart movie and answers a lot of questions.  POLAR EXPRESS - I watch it just for the message: believe.  And to listen to Josh Groban sing.  A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS - once I bought the music for my orchestra, I started watching this every year.  It's kind of sad, actually, and as a kid I never noticed how mean everybody is to Charlie Brown!

I even went to watch the very boring Jim Carey version of Christmas Carol.

What are your favorite holiday movies and traditions?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Danville

Yesterday, I woke with a text message inviting me to a family holiday party in Danville.  While I assume that most of my coworkers have already forgotten about me, more or less, this one has family up here and was visiting.

I figured...why not?  My original plan for the day was to go to the California Academy of Science's museum since they were having a free day.  A normal person could do both, but a person who wakes up at 12:30 has to choose.

I normally also bring something to parties, but wasn't sure what to bring and figured...I WAS invited a few hours before it was supposed to happen, so it's okay, right?  My mom would be mortified, but she doesn't have to know.

It took me almost 45 minutes to get over the Bay Bridge.  There was an accident both getting into the bridge and ON the bridge yesterday.  It wasn't horrible, but I had a flash back as I sat stuck in traffic of: I used to do this every day!!

Once I got to Danville, it was dark and I wasn't sure what was going on.  But I had fun at the party.  I only knew one person, and it's always been difficult for me to maintain a conversation with someone I didn't know.  And trying to explain to the relatives of a teacher that you used to be a teacher but aren't anymore is a bit...difficult.

Though, when explaining my assignment (2 schools, 5 grade levels, 500 students) one man exclaimed, "That's ridiculous!  How can you take it; that doesn't seem right!"  I answered, "I couldn't; that's why I quit," which made everybody laugh.

In talking with my friend's nephews and nieces (12, 14, and...16, I think) upon finding out that I used to be a music teacher, they all got very excited and the 14 year old said, "Aw, I wish you were MY teacher!"  That was sweet.  The 16 year old boy asked me what the worst part of being a teacher was.   I didn't even have to think.  (But I'll let you sit in suspense)

At the end of the evening, Santa came and had an individual gift for everybody at the party (very impressive).  Thank you, Santa, for my awesome colander with happy faces in a bright happy orange.  It's very Naoko.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Inner Richmond

Last night, I went out to Inner Richmond for the first time with my good friend, A~.

It was a free night, with all sorts of local businesses offering free goodies and raffles.  I think it was sponsored by The Bold Italic, a local newspaper, and Green Apple Books.

I arrived early, so I perused Green Apple Books.  I got stuck in the music section, as they had tons of CDs (and records) from various artists.  Unfortunately, they didn't have the one CD I was looking for (The Best of The Beta Band), but I still enjoyed perusing the various selections.  I love book stores...a little too much.  I tried to restrain myself from buying more books, as I am still working on the two that I bought during Thanksgiving.

Once A~ arrived, we entered the raffle at Green Apple Books.  Everyone who didn't win jokingly "boo"ed, which I found funny.  I appreciated that it was a funny boo and not a malicious boo.  We got some delicious free cookies.  Free hot chocolate, a free scoop of ice cream (salted caramel chocolate brownie for me!), A~ made a Christmas card, we got free tater tots (YUM!)...and then we ate dinner.

free cookies!
Hooray for free events!  And hooray for exploring new neighborhoods!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

San Francisco Symphony REHEARSAL

Apparently, if you are a donor to the San Francisco Symphony, you get invited to a rehearsal every now and then (not sure how often).  While I am not a donor, my DAD is!  And since he lives in Fresno, he sent me his invitation and I got to go!

At first, I wasn't sure.  I walked a mile in the rain with ill fitting rain boots.  I never did see a bus pass me, so I'm fairly confident my decision to walk was a good one.

When I got there...I couldn't help but laugh.  I was literally the youngest person there by at least 30 years.  And I think I was one of 3 non-white people.  And people kept staring at me!  I think the older people were confused what I was doing there.  I did have a very pleasant conversation with two ladies about umbrellas and my rain boots.  =)

They rehearsed Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major with pianist Yefim Pronfman, Strauss' Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, and a debut piece by Mark Volkert called Pandora.

There was a lecture beforehand that reminded me of my music history classes in college.  Very interesting and entertaining, but I fear my brain probably won't retain the details given.  That and I hadn't slept and still haven't slept since yesterday.  Then there were coffee and donuts....or so I am told.  While others left to get refreshments, I stayed for what I think is the most interesting part; the musicians arriving and warming up.

I am a sponge.  I love to watch what other people do to see their process, method, and to steal all the wonderful things I can.  And one-by-one, as the musicians came on stage, I got quite a few looks and smiles from them.  Again, I think it's because I was the youngest one and I just stuck out like nobody's business.

Sitting in the 6th row was...awesome.  It's an experience I've never...experienced before.  I can't afford those seats!  I plopped myself as close as they would allow us and right in the middle.  I wanted to watch the technique of the cello players with an eagle eye, and I wanted to be able to hear Michael Tilsom Thomas's comments to the orchestra.


Empty, right before the lecture
The piano concerto was fun.  It's not one of my favorites, but I was right in the pathway of the piano's sound.  The Strauss was...Strauss.  It was loud and exciting, brassy, technically very challenging, and a lot of fun.  I was taken aback by how LOUD it was in the 6th row.

And the Pandora piece was really interesting.  The bass player got a cadenza!  I was so happy for him!  I've never seen or heard a bass player play such an intricate and technically demanding...anything.  All the principal string players had really really difficult solos.  It was very impressive.

It was very inspiring and a good reminder that music fills my heart and soul the way nothing else does.

Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5
Full Orchestra



Saturday, December 1, 2012

It's the little things

With the rain pouring down this week, I've left my apartment a total of 3 times....each time to go to the grocery store.  The downside of not eating processed foods is you can't exactly buy produce and expect it to keep for a week.  The mushrooms get slimy.

It was sprinkling when I left my house, and even though I have enough food for today I don't have enough for tomorrow, and it's supposed to super rain tomorrow.  I crossed the street and stopped to listen to a violinist who was practicing.

Walking a bit more, I heard a piano player practicing, and stopped again to listen.  A big part of me wanted to say, "Helllo!!!!!" but I refrained.

Almost to the grocery store, I was startled and said, "Oh!" when something licked my hand.  I looked down, and it was a dog!  I think a golden retriever; I'm not sure though.  I do love dogs.  If I win the lottery, I'm so getting a dog.

When I got home, I was drawn to my window by lights.  I realized that the violinist lived directly across from me, and he was practicing by his lit up Christmas tree...shirtless.  I found that really funny.  The best part?  He seems to be probably a 50+, very skinny older gentleman.  Good for him.

I'm debating whether or not I want to go to an anime party.  If I do, it's going to be the laziest costume ever.  But considering it's raining, it will require 2 bus rides, I don't know anybody, and it starts at 9:00...and It's A Wonderful Life is playing tonight, I probably won't end up going.

I want to be sociable, but I don't want to get rained on.

I will be more social next week.  I will talk to someone besides the workers of Whole Foods.