Monthly Archives: December 2016

Travel on Trains With Men in White

All things considered, I was surprisingly calm, even as I was kicking foreign tourists out of our seats.

Along the way I ate hot dogs (carbs) and saw a character who has to appear in a novel some day.

Today our oldest and I traveled to my in-laws. The prep for that involved denial, folding, washing, waiting, and several “where are you?” texts.

Our oldest had a “school related event” that didn’t involve her school uniform and She Who Must Be Obeyed didn’t know about it so that leaves me going “Hmmmm”. However, she did make it back in time for her to pack and for us to catch our train. (We even took a selfie, of sorts, modified with Prisma.)

S and I on the bullet train to Itoigawa. #fakeart #playswithcamera

A photo posted by DL (@d.e.lively) on

She Who Must Be Obeyed, for her part, made several calls confirming that we were packed and ready to travel and aware that today was the day we were supposed to travel. I, being in an oddly relaxed mood (more on that in a future post) resisted torturing her by saying things such as “I thought we were traveling tomorrow” and “what daughter?” and by not pretending I’m worried that I didn’t turn off the kerosene stove. Oh, and I paid that homeless guy and his friends a bunch of cheap booze to house sit.

Our trip was on the new Hokuriku Shinkansen which runs from Tokyo to Kanazawa with a stop at Itoigawa, which is now the township where I used to live (a long story involving government and mergers).

Because it was late in the New Year’s season, we ended up with an oddly complicated trip. Our train stopped at Nagano, but not at Itoigawa. This meant we had to change trains, which, luckily, merely meant a walk across the platform.

However, when we boarded our first bullet train, there were people in our seats. I politely pointed this out, and the people, who were Asian but spoke neither Japanese nor English gave us the seats, but seamed annoyed. (Note: the train was a very rare reserved seats only train.)

(Note the Second: By colossal coincidence, SWMBO and our youngest had people in their seats when they traveled, too.)

Luckily, one us remained awake so that we could change trains at Nagano. Then, at the end of our ticket, there was a mad rush through the suddenly large and confusing Itoigawa Station, but we managed to get tickets for the local train to Nou Machi (which, oddly, we had already passed in the bullet train) but we got tickets and got on the train.

On the train, a single car with only a driver, was man with gold hair. He was wearing a white suit, a white mask and blue Oakley sunglasses. If he’s mafia or a host, he’s very low class because he’s forced to take the train. Either way, he occupied four seats and seemed to be struggling to stay awake.

Now I’m at the in-laws sipping Japanese whisky and wondering how I remained calm through all this. I’m also wondering how to work the man in white into a story.

Last Day Before The Train

Spent today doing nothing. Well, I did a few things, but not much else.

Our oldest was off at a concert and I was left behind to do laundry and finish season two of The Man in the High Castle, which is an impressive adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name, but lacks his sense of “No really, what the hell is real. No really.” It is well acted, but season 2 drags as they only had 15 episodes of material but decided to make 20.

I did manage to break down some boxes and slightly organize some things, but mostly I was relaxing before tomorrow’s trek to the in-laws.

I should probably try to do a little work before then, but I probably won’t. I should also pack.

Cooking With What Little is at Hand

Two forces collide when She Who Must Be Obeyed isn’t around: the lack of food available for cooking, and my strange ability to combine random ingredients to make a meal.

The former force is a result of SWMBO’s lack of confidence that 1) I can cook and 2) will cook. (There are complicated reasons partly involving me always being wrong that explain why I rarely cook when she’s home.) As a result, SWMBO uses up almost everything available in the refrigerator in order to guarantee nothing will be left behind to spoil. She then wonders why I favor store-bought meals when she’s not around.

The second is a result of my having been a bachelor for way too long combined with an interest in cooking combined with bad money spending habits. (Books before food.)

(Note: I realize there are a few book maniacs who don’t understand why this is a bad spending habit.)

As a result, I’ve always had a knack for assembling random ingredients into a meal. I’ve always maintained that if you gave me a Snickers bar, three pieces of dried toast and a can of Cream of  Mushroom soup I could make a an actual meal out of it. (Toast the bread and cut it up as croutons that you sprinkle on the mushroom soup. Eat the Snickers bar as dessert.)

The alternate plan, if you have a little cash, is ignore the dry bread and mushroom soup and eat the Snickers bar on your way to McDonald’s.

Tonight I had two more giant chicken breasts that had met their “abandon hope all ye who consume this” date two days ago. I responded with a can of crushed tomatoes and two leeks. It all turned out pretty good, but it needed something.

I’ll probably get in trouble for using the tomatoes but that’s a small price to pay.



Last Minute Rushing in the Rain

I didn’t go out yesterday, which meant that it was raining today.

Luckily, around lunchtime the rain stopped and my youngest and I were able to escape.

My first mission involved 1) go to atm and get money; 2) cross street to different atm and deposit money: 3) find a place to eat lunch.

Step one went badly as the atm I was using wouldn’t let me withdraw money. Instead I had to get back in line and get a different atm. Once the money was secured, I headed over to a different bank and deposited the money. Once the money was deposited our youngest and I went to a fast food place for lunch.

After that my job was to stay out of the way of last minute packing. I also had to refrain from comments and suggestions.

Eventually, She Who Must Be Obeyed and our youngest made their way to the other side of the island. Now it’s my job to think about packing. Eventually.

Planning Without Plans

As She Who Must Be Obeyed and our youngest prepare for a trip to my in-laws’s house, I find myself trying to make plans as our oldest has plans and that will keep us from traveling at the same time as the others.

She Who Must Be Obeyed, with a certain sense of snarky triumph, declared that I’d be responsible for laundry. I didn’t have the heart to point out that 1) laundry’s not that hard and that I mostly don’t do it because I’m not considered competent (i.e. I don’t do it the way SWMBO thinks it should be done and that means she prefers to do it herself) and 2) even if I don’t do laundry, the clothes will still be here when we get back.

Mostly, I need to know when those of us left behind have to travel and which days I’m responsible for making sure meals get made.

I also have to decide how many chores out oldest will have time to do.

The Traditional Annual Foods

Our Christmas dinner morphs a bit from year to year, but this year established the basics: Chicken, potato salad, bread, cheese, wine.

Because turkey is both difficult (and expensive) to acquire and nearly impossible to cook (unless the bird is the size of a pigeon) we end up with whole chicken leg (defined as “roast” chicken, but it usually ends up as teriyaki chicken.) This is easier to cook but lacks what I consider a vital element: the ability to use leftovers for sandwiches. There’s also no stuffing and very little pie.

Because everyone was busy, more or less, an odd side effect was that the sweets remain unfinished. This means dessert will be tomorrow.

Knowing the way we do things, that might end up being supper.



Schedules and Other Distractions

Over the years I’ve come to accept that Christmas is just another random festival here in Japan. As such, especially as the girls have gotten older, our actual Christmas is fairly modest.

This year our oldest has plans that will keep her busy most of the day and our youngest has plans that involves cupcakes and will keep her away part of the afternoon. I have work to do but I’ll be able to do it at home and She Who Must Be Obeyed and I might sneak out for cheap sushi.

The advantage of Christmas being just another random festival is that restaurants don’t fill up. It’s just an ordinary day.

We usually make the New Year’s holiday our big celebration. This year even that will be slightly complicated, but more on that in a future post.

Until then, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to everyone!

The Inevitable Ending of the Good Thing

Today was the recital for our oldest’s orchestra club. Unfortunately, it ended the way I’d hoped it had begun.

The recital involved 19 different combinations of club members playing different songs with different instruments. Our oldest performed as part of a flute quartet and, judging by the crowd reaction, they rocked.

Unfortunately, because our oldest is a first year, she only got to perform once.

Somehow I managed to stay awake and reasonably attentive throughout the remaining eleven performances.

At the end, all of the older girls came to the front and performed a medley of Christmas tunes. They did a good job and the crowd gave them appropriate praise. However, when it was all finished, the speech phase started. There’s always a speech phase.

What annoyed me about this one was it came at the end of the performance rather than at the start. We were late arriving which, in my mind, meant we’d missed the speeches. Instead that speech was five minutes long, as was the second speech (by a different person).

Then, just to troll me, they called up a third guy to give a speech. Luckily, as I was contemplating setting fire to something, the third speaker was unprepared and gave a very short “keep up the good work” speech that was more of a series of comments and lasted less than a minute, including the time it took him to walk tot he front.

After that, I finally got to escape. .


Have Yourself a Merry Homework Christmas

If there had been chocolate waiting for me, perhaps what happened might not have happened. Well, actually, it would have happened, but at least I’ve some chocolate right now.

Today was the last class before the new year’s holiday for my evening class. Because they won’t have class until 2017, I gave them a few homework assignments: write a speech; do some grammar homework; speed read a couple short essays; write 150 words of personal journal each day.

The more I wrote, the less happy they became. When I said “Merry Christmas” and gestured the writing on the board, they insisted on pointing out that what I was doing was not, in fact, that merry.

It doesn’t matter to me though. As I pointed out, it’s 2016 now, but their homework isn’t due until 2017. That gives them an entire year to finish it.

Now I’m on vacation. Sort of. (More on that in a future post.)

Technical Difficulties Meet Worn and Done

Technologically, it was one of those days that remind me why I prefer analog tools such as fountain pens and paper.

First, Scrivener and I formed a new working agreement: if it stops f@#king with me, I won’t uninstall it.

I worked on a novel yesterday only 1) to find that I was actually editing a version that was in Scrivener’s trashcan and 2)  to discover today that everything I’d worked on yesterday was gone.

Much swearing ensued.

After a few minutes of using a hammer to “hit any key to continue” and playing with lighters and kerosene for a more permanent solution, I figured out the problem was that because I was using the program on two computers, Scrivener was confused. Once that was figured out, I went back to my laptop to open Scrivener and it wouldn’t open. Instead it gave me an error message.

Much more swearing ensued.

Then I reopened it on my desktop and it worked.

Much “Huh? What? Really?” ensued.

Then I tried again on my laptop and it opened without me having to change anything. That’s how I know Scrivener is f@#king with me.

After all that was resolved, and yesterday’s work was moved from the trashcan, I started up my printer to print the current draft and my printer announced that it had put itself on a death watch. It told me that parts of it were approaching the end of their working lives.

Much more swearing (and yen counting) ensued.

This means I’ll have to find a way around that alert or will have to finally break down and buy a new printer. As I’ve had the current one for 10 years, and it doesn’t like working with Windows 10, it’s probably something to consider.