I’m a winner!

Hey guys and gals! I’m only moderately sorry that I haven’t posted in several months. I’m sure by now most people have given up on me. The truth is, I’ve been a little busy participating in NaNoWriMo. For those of you who don’t know, that stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal for participants is to write a 50,000 (about 175 page paperback) novel in the month of November.

Today I reached my goal, making me an official “winner” of NaNoWriMo. Before you ask, no, I won’t tell you what it’s about. And no, you can’t read it. Even though I’ve reached 50,000 words, I’m far from finished. So… back to the bear cave for me!

However, now that I’ve reached my November goal, I promise to start uploading content here again. Some of you smart people might want to raise the valid point that this excuse only works for why I haven’t posted in the last month, but doesn’t really explain the several-month hiatus before that. To you I say: I’m a writer, not a mathematician.

Settling In

As part of Jeff’s employment offer, we have a one-bedroom apartment in a building the university owns across the street from campus. Although it’s not up to American standards, it’s much nicer than my old Beijing apartment, and is a good apartment by Chinese standards.

While several of the appliances have broken in the last week, the management is incredibly responsive and has fixed everything quickly. It doesn’t bother us much since we expect things to be unreliable here, but having good management can’t be over-valued.

We live on the third floor (no elevator) and there are several other foreign teachers at the university who live in the building. It’s great to get to know the neighbors, who have been really helpful with tips and advice about the university, the neighborhood, and the city.

Enjoy your tour!

Our combination living room/dining room/entryway. Came furnished, husband not included.

Fairly large kitchen, complete with microwave. It looks like a lot of storage space, but most of the apartment’s piping and wiring isn’t in the walls, it’s hidden inside these cabinets, so less than half of the cabinets can be used as such.

Bathroom/laundry room, with one of the only glassed-in showers I’ve seen in a Chinese apartment ever. Very plush!

Bedroom with enough clothing storage for both of us — thank goodness that bit of matrimonial peace will prevail.

Balcony view out across the way, where they are finishing a new building. It seems that very little progress is being made, since I’ve only seen a one or two workers laying down tile in one apartment for the last week.

Balcony view east toward the street.

Maker Faire: Geek Heaven!

Yesterday I went to my very first Maker Faire, which is sort of like Coachella, but instead of music it features lots of geeky inventions.

At first, I thought it would be lame, but it was AMAZING. Maker Faire, sponsored by the ever-hip Make Magazine, is a huge festival where “makers” or DIY-ers” are invited to show off their crafts. It’s way easier to just show than tell, so enjoy the pictures below!

A robot from Intel, which apparently can dance if you’re good at the controls:

A giant rocket ship — nonoperational I think.

Neon land shark robots:

Gigantic tesla coil music and lightning show. It emitted 1 million volts apparently!

Some of the many R2D2s that were cruising around the faire:

A creepy cardboard monster:

One of several cupcake cars. You can actually sit inside the cupcake and drive around. The whipped cream and cherry are actually a little hat for the driver to wear.

A human-sized game of Mouse Trap:

A Cyclocide ferris wheel — you could seriously die on one of these contraptions, but it was so fun!

Another Cyclocide ride:

I don’t even know what to call this thing, but it looked like fun:

Doggy Diner, a San Francisco favorite!

No comment necessary:

Transportation of the future, a robot-pulled chariot:

All I can say about this next picture is “YES PLEASE!”:

OK, Battle Bots the TV show was great. Watching robots battle in real life — infinitely more epic. There were so many plot twists in the robot battle we watched, and there was a pretty gruesome finale for the losing robot:

Cute geometric elephant:

A huge Lego village complete with working train:

This was a hobby I’d never heard of. The group makes remote-controlled, scale replicas of World War I and World War II warships, complete with BB gun cannons, and battles them on ponds. It was pretty amazing, and the “Allies” team won!

There were also more crafty booths at the faire, such as quilters, embroiderers, sewers, scrapbookers and letter presses.

This is a homemade machine that can draw any line drawing pattern onto eggs by way of computer software:

A giant old steam engine:

Powered the old-fashioned way!

A fire-breathing dragon:

Weird cars:

There were tons of other things I didn’t take pictures of, as well as lots of lectures by geeky folks on a variety of subjects. Even seeing the variety of people who went was worth the price of admission. There were steampunk types decked out in full steampunk fashion, there were “horseless carriage” enthusiasts wearing early 1900s garb, there were lots of goths, tons of geeks, animal costumes and even a few people dressed like they were going to a renaissance fair. It was so much fun, and I highly recommend going next year — I know I’ll be there!

On Dandies

As a lion hunter would study his lioness quarry, I have recently been pondering the fascinating creature of the dandy. To my surprise, there are several websites and articles attempting to dissect, discuss and celebrate (with the appropriate distance and dignity requisite of a dandy) this unique form of masculinity.

I thought I’d share some snippets from an article on dandyism.net, the definitive blog on dandies. They have explained and analyzed dandyism to a degree I couldn’t hope to do myself. And so, I give you their abridged definition of the dandy:

We agree with Barbey d’Aurevilly that dandyism is as difficult to describe as to define. We can opine about effortless elegance and sparkling wit, but dandyism is ultimately characterized by the nearly indescribable effect of the dandy’s appearance and demeanor on the spectator. The French call such effect a je ne sais quoi; in Hollywood it’s called having “it.”

The magic of dandyism resides in the interplay between the dandy’s temperament and his appearance. Yet it is not a question of simple harmony, for one dandy may combine severe dress with a jocular demeanor, while another meshes cold aloofness with colorful and audacious dress.

The common characteristics dandyism.net identifies among dandies are the following: physical distinction, elegance, self-mastery, aplomb, independence — ideally financial independence; wit, a skeptical, world-weary, sophisticated, bored or blasé demeanor; self-mocking and endearing egotism; dignity/reserve; discriminating taste; renaissance man; caprice. However they add the following caveat:

Because dandies are an enigma wrapped in a labyrinth, and because dandyism makes its own rules, the final quality is the ability to negate all the others.

For in the end there is not a code of dandyism, as Barbey writes. “If there were, anybody could be a dandy.”

These definitions and criteria certainly put the plume in the hat when it comes to the outward effects and affectations of a dandy, but I found these comments from another article on wikipedia quite interesting as well.

Charles Baudelaire, in the later, “metaphysical” phase of dandyism defined the dandy as one who elevates æsthetics to a living religion that the dandy’s mere existence reproaches the responsible citizen of the middle class: “Dandyism in certain respects comes close to spirituality and to stoicism” and “These beings have no other status, but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in their own persons, of satisfying their passions, of feeling and thinking …. Contrary to what many thoughtless people seem to believe, dandyism is not even an excessive delight in clothes and material elegance. For the perfect dandy, these things are no more than the symbol of the aristocratic superiority of his mind.”

What I find so fascinating about this commentary on the dandy is that it elevates dandyism above the material manifestations and ways that the world perceives a dandy and gets straight to the heart of why dandies are the way they are. They love to think, to feel, to pursue their passions — all other manifestations of sophistication are mere reflections of their desire to cultivate their minds and talents.

I’m still marinading about dandies, and would like to continue expounding, but I’m almost too interested in another idea — the definition and inner workings of a female dandy, should she exist.

Hobbies

I am not a patient girl, and one of the results of this is that I don’t have many hobbies that last. For example, I started scrapbooking, but it’s not as action-packed as I’d like, and I have yet to finish even one.

At any rate, I tried my hand at some advanced origami with Jeff recently and epic failed.

Here is what Jeff made:

And here is my attempt to make the same thing:

P.S. — this was with a lot of help from Jeff. Pathetic!

In other news, I’ve had several successful geocache finds, so at least I’m making progress in some of my new hobbies!

Of facial hair and flights of fancy

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about facial hair. Not really for myself, but more because Jeff has decided to grow out an imperialist mustache, sort of like this one:

Of course, until he really gets a big handlebar mustache, he has to keep a beard, or he will look like a child molester (see: molestache). After that, he has promised to shave the beard and keep the mustache.

Being the girlfriend of someone with a lot of unruly facial hair can sometimes be a nuisance. Also, the face I fell in love with was hairless and lovely, and I miss it. So, I decided to google the phrase “why facial hair is awesome” to cheer myself up.

Naturally, I came across a website devoted to the World Beard and Moustache Championships. Before we get into the really hairy parts of this genre, let me just show you the USA Beard Team logo:

AMAZING, right?

Anyway, every year a bunch of crazy guys get together and show off their ridiculous beards and mustaches.

Here is a snippet from their website:

The United States is the world’s new facial hair super power, having captured twelve world championship titles out of eighteen categories plus overall at the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Anchorage, Alaska on May 23, 2009. Possessing home field advantage, the USA was able to dethrone Germany which had dominated this competition since its inception.

Hometown favorite and Beard Team USA member David Traver was crowned overall champ, having styled his beard to resemble an Alaska snowshoe which earned him top honors in the freestle full beard category. Meanwhile Germany’s Karl-Heinz Hille’s elaborate moustache earned him second. San Franciscan Jack Passion placed third with his long, red natural beard. The winners took home engraved gold pans.

To me, the ability to grow a large or unique beard isn’t so impressive. In fact, it reminds me of Meg’s power in the Family Guy episode in which the Griffins all get super powers. So now I’m a little curious — what makes these titans of mustache-growing tick?

I suppose one advantage is the $5,000 prize at the championships. Plus, it’s free to join the USA Beard Team, so that’s pretty prestigious. It’s practically the Olympics!

Membership is Beard Team USA is open to everyone.  There are no dues, no applications, and no acceptance process. You don’t even need to have a beard or moustache to join. In fact, there are no known disadvantages to membership.

And, when you think about it, outrageous beards and mustaches have a long and rich history:

President Taft sports a modest yet robust handle-bar mustache.

President Martin Van Buren goes whole-hog with the mutton chops.

Acclaimed director John Waters sports a thin mustache, bordering on molestache.

Artist Salvador Dali shows off his meticulously groomed imperialist mustache.

Insanely hot Hugh Jackman remains hot (gets even hotter?) as wolverine with mutton chops.

If you go to the National Beard Registry, you can learn more.

Many famous and well-known men wore full beards. How did it happen? What does the term ‘clean-shaven’ really mean? Are full beards ‘dirty’? Are we ashamed of our beards? These great men were not ashamed.

All beards are beautiful and worthy of registration. But the majestic and magnificent full and aged beard is the ultimate quest of The National Beard Registry. Like a fingerprint, a year or more of full growth on a man’s face produces a one-of-a-kind appearance that defies trend, pop culture, and media driven conformity. It is a very natural and beautiful symbol of individualism, and honors the self-expressed essence within each man.

I have to say, these mustache enthusiasts make some good points. I hate to admit it, but I’m excited to see how far Jeff decides to take this new facial venture of his.

Sitting in Narita

I’m going to interrupt the chronology of posts here since I’m pretty backlogged on posting. I’m currently sitting in the Tokyo Narita airport waiting for an open flight. Jeff and I are flying standby and we’ve been here since yesterday, but we’d expected this, so it’s ok.

There’s an airport TV that plays a loop of programming, and I’ve seen all the programs at least five times now. It plays about five different Japanese music videos, the weather, a promo for touring Japan, promos for touring Thailand and Switzerland, weather from around the world and the news. It has ads for Coke Zero, some kind of credit card called ID, American Express, Calpis soda and Pocari Sweat.

I’m really tired of it.

Fall

The other day, I remarked to Jeff about how weird it was that the leaves are changing colors in Japan.

In my mind, there were still months before the end of summer, while Jeff, with his pesky reality, noted that we are midway through August, and fall is just weeks away. What poop! Fall is when you’re definitely no longer a college student, you’re just unemployed!