Sunday, December 27, 2020

Life Post: I'm Leaving Japan and Going Back to the US

 I'm kind of dreading writing this post (despite the title already giving you the gist of it) because there's just so much I could say, and at this point, I'm kind of exhausted by repeating it.

But after three and a half years of living in Japan, I'm moving back to the US at the end of January.

This feels like such a long time coming because I actually made the decision to move back last January. The plan then was that I would go back in July. Then the pandemic hit, and I wound up extending my contract twice. I could have extended it again, and in many ways it might have been the smart thing to do, but continually pushing it back was making leaving so much harder. I feel like I need to leave now. Not because I'm unhappy or anything but because it feels like it's the right time. Or, rather, it felt like it was the right time months ago.

I know I'm not unique in the pandemic pushing back plans. It's happened for just about everyone, so I won't go into that too much. But when it comes to why I'm deciding to leave, I really don't have an answer other than it feels like the right time.

When I started working at my school, I had eight coworkers. As of right now, three of those coworkers are still at the school. Our school has two foreign teachers (of which I'm one), and I've worked with three different ones since being here. I've apparently worked here longer than any foreign teacher has at least in a long, long time, and it's been incredibly difficult to tell everyone that I'm leaving.

I haven't mentioned anything online until now because the students didn't know yet. We started telling them the week before last. There are still a few who don't know because they were unable to come to class, but the odds of them finding this before I can tell them are at least very low.

Leaving Tokushima is going to be one of the most difficult things I've ever done, and the fact that it's happening during a pandemic definitely makes it harder. I have a lot of anxiety about something going wrong (especially with my flight), and every day I think about the fact that I have good health care here but don't know if I'll even have health insurance when I get back to the US during a pandemic that's far worse there than there.

But those aren't worries that I want to dwell on in this post. I'm sure I'll right more in the future about how moving back goes, and once I have dealt with the grief of leaving a bit more, I'll hopefully write more about my experiences and emotions about leaving as well.

Now that I can talk about leaving online, you can probably expect to see some mentions of it here from time to time as I've been talking around it quite a bit in the few life posts I've done on here for the past year. But that's if I have time to even write anything. Believe me when I say that I have a to do list a mile long and more stress than I know what to do with over everything I need to do in the next few weeks. I'll just keep my fingers crossed that nothing goes disastrously wrong and that I don't get so stressed out to the point of not being able to enjoy the time I have left.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Book Review: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Published: January 5, 2010
Publisher: The New Press Inc.
Received: purchased
Read from October 31 to November 22, 2020

Summary from Goodreads:

"Jarvious Cotton's great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole."

As the United States celebrates the nation's "triumph over race" with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status--much like their grandparents before them.

In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community--and all of us--to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.


This book is a decade old, but it is still relevant to the current situation in the United States. Really, it's quite striking how much that is true. The book was published not long after Barack Obama became president, and references to that are made in the book. Now, after another Obama term and a Trump one, this book is as true as ever.

Much of what is covered in this book are things that I've already known from other reading, but that didn't make it any less compelling. Alexander has done a great job of providing data about the current state of incarceration in the United States. I know this saying has become quite cliche, but this book should be required reading. These are things that every American should be aware of, yet too few are.

I highly encourage everyone to pick up this book.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Life Post: I Don't Know Anymore

 Life feels like it's back in this realm of a new normal. It's been nearly a month since I last posted, but I don't feel like I have much to say.

The cases here have been so low before that it almost started to feel like coronavirus wasn't affecting us even though it very much was. We were wearing masks, getting our temperature taken at stores, sanitizing everything, etc., but there weren't many cases here, so people mostly felt comfortable even when doing those things. A few weeks ago I went shopping with a friend, and it was the first time I'd actually been shopping for something other than groceries since the pandemic started. It was fun to actually do something (complete with masks, temperature checks, and all of that).

This past week there was a cluster at a local university though, so that made news again. Right now, it seems like that cluster will stay pretty isolated, just like the cases we've had before. Anything could happen though, so only time will tell.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Published: May 19th, 2020
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Received: purchased
Read from June 1st to July 27th, 2020

Summary from Goodreads:

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capital, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He's been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined -- every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute... and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes. 


When I learned that there was going to be a Hunger Games prequel about President Snow, I was pretty hesitant and nervous. I didn't want this to be another case of new material that just didn't live up to the original (i.e. Cursed Child), and on top of that, Snow? That was who she was focusing on?

But it was a new Hunger Games book, and I wanted to at least read it for myself to see. I kept my fingers crossed that Collins would do a good job, but I was still quite skeptical going into the book.

People seem pretty divided over whether they enjoyed it or not, and I'm not sure if anyone has loved it per se. At least from what I've seen. Having read it myself, I did like it in a "it makes me think" sense, but at the same time, I completely get why people don't.

The book is told in Coriolanus' point of view. At the time of the book, he's a student, but of course, we know he's going to become Panem's tyrannical president by the time of the original Hunger Games trilogy. I suppose you could look at this book as a villain origin story. That's essentially what it is except Snow is not a supervillain. He is, in fact, a normal person with some messed up morals.

What saved the book for me was the fact that Snow and the other inhabitants of the Capitol were written in a way that made them feel like people within our actual world. When people read the original Hunger Games, they want to identify with the districts instead of the Capitol, but there were numerous parts of the book where it felt like the story wanted you to confront that many aspects of the modern United States are more like the Capitol than the districts. That felt more immediate in this book than the original trilogy though it never felt like it was being shoved in your face.

The downside to all of that, though, is that you do have to put up with Snow for an entire book, and it's quite a long book. He is just...the worst. I think that's a good thing in the end because I had no desire to see him redeemed, but it did make reading his point of view quite a chore at times. I enjoyed certain things the book made me think about, but I wasn't reading it for the main character or his story so much as the story of Panem and how things came to be as they are in the original trilogy.

There were side characters, especially Lucy Gray and Sejanus, who were far more fascinating than Snow. If the story had focused on them instead, I would have found it far more compelling. Though many of Lucy Gray's decisions (namely those involving Snow) made me want to pull my hair out.

All in all, there were many aspects of this story that I appreciated, particularly the way it explored the politics of Panem, but I didn't find Snow's personal story all that interesting. If anything, I wanted the story from Sejanus' point of view instead once I was finished, but I guess there's fanfiction for that.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Life Post: Lots of Work to Do and Youtube to Watch

 It's been nearly a month since my last one of these, and to be honest, I don't have much to say other than that I've been really busy. When I last posted, I was home sick because of cold/flu/possible Covid symptoms. 

Once I went back to work, I was behind by about two weeks on some stuff even though I'd been teaching lessons at home. I still needed to plan for all of my upcoming lessons (including the ones that day) because I hadn't had the materials at home, plan for and schedule counseling appointments, etc., and it felt somewhat overwhelming at first.

There's also been other stuff happening, like one of my coworkers leaving and gaining a new coworker, so work hasn't been bad (though it was very sad when my coworker left), but it has been a lot lately. I haven't had the energy for much after work except collapsing and watching a billion old Dan and Phil videos on Youtube every night. Honestly, that's basically become my life.

I'm behind on books I'm reading, including some for book clubs, and on fanfics that I need to write for exchanges and things, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can get better at concentrating on non-work things in October. Especially since I want to attempt Flufftober with some short ficlets. We'll see how it goes!

Monday, August 31, 2020

List Post: Sick During a Pandemic

The last time I posted here it was Obon vacation and oh boy have things happened since then.

After Obon, I went back to work for a week. However, last Tuesday, my throat started hurting. Long story made short, I wound up at home with some prescription cold medicine. Last week, I taught my lessons remotely from my house over Zoom. Because of Covid restrictions, the earliest I could have gone back was this Thursday. However, I have to be symptom free for three days before I go back, meaning today. Today was also my first full day without any medicine. And guess what...

Today my throat not only hurt worse than it had when I first went to the doctor, and I wound up getting a fever. My temperature had been higher than normal a few times over the past week, but today was the first time it officially became a fever according to Covid guidelines. So, I went back to the doctor.

This time I'm at home with antibiotics instead of cold medicine. The doctor didn't actually test me for anything though. He looked at my throat, listened to my lungs, and then prescribed the antibiotics. Fingers crossed that they'll work because I'll probably cry if I have to go back to the doctor again.

Needless to say, I'm teaching online for at least most of this week again, and I'm hoping for the best.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Life Post: More Obon Updates

I'm on day four of my holiday, and I've reached that point where I'm not entirely sure what day it is without looking at the calendar anymore. It feels odd.

The number of cases of coronavirus we're getting seems to have slowed over Obon, which I imagine is because everyone's staying home instead of going out. I'm not really looking forward to see what happens after Obon when everyone (presumably) goes back to what they were doing before.

As for me, I'm happy with a lot of the stuff I'm getting done, like writing and such. One thing I do really need to do is start reading Space Struck, which is the current Life's Library read. I haven't started it yet and need to! Though I've at least made progress in the Divine Comedy and The Mill on the Floss.

My washing machine and stove are still broken. Truthfully, I haven't done anything to fix either of them yet because of Obon. Maybe I'll get desperate, but right now, I think I'm going to wait until the holiday is over.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Life Post: An Odd, and Surprisingly Stressful, Obon Week

This week is Obon, a Buddhist holiday here in Japan where people often visit their hometowns. Many people, including me, get the whole week off work, so it's one of the biggest weeks for traveling in Japan. This year, though, most of us are staying home, including me.

Since things are getting worse, the advice to stay home is getting more and more strongly worded, though nothing has been made a "rule" yet because Japan is reluctant to do that. Either way, I was planning to stay home out of a sense of self-preservation if nothing else, so I'm looking forward to a week filled with writing and reading.

However, the week has not gotten off to a great start. My stove has been giving me some difficulties for a while, but now that back burner seems to have completely stopped working. On the same day, my washing machine (which has also been causing trouble for a while) decided to completely stop working in between the wash and rinse cycles.

I let the laundry sit over night (because it was late and I could not find the energy to do it last night) and then handwashed everything in there this morning. It's now taking ages to dry because of how wet it was. Meanwhile, I still have water in the washing machine that didn't drain, but I can't do anything about that at the moment.

I'd been putting off doing anything about the stove or the washing machine because, you know, there's a pandemic. Having someone inside my apartment to fix it didn't feel like the greatest of ideas, but now the issue is a bit more pressing. I know I need to figure something out, but at the moment, I'm so stressed by it all that I need to take a step back. I at least want to let the laundry finish drying and get it put away before I have to deal with anything else. (And I'm trying not to think about the fact that I had multiple other loads I needed to do too.)

I'll get it figured out. Hopefully. But it is a holiday, even if it's a holiday spent at home, so I'm trying (and mostly failing) to forget about the water in the washing machine and the clothes now hanging around my apartment and relax just a little bit.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Life Post: Birthday in a Pandemic

Unfortunately, this is mostly going to be about coronavirus again. The number of cases we have here has been going up pretty quickly compared to during the rest of the pandemic. Earlier this week, our number of cases over the course of the entire pandemic doubled in the span of two days, and it's been increasing since then.

As I'm writing this, we have 28 cases, which still is hardly anything compared to other places, but considering how it's going in the rest of Japan as well, I'm certain that we'll keep getting more. There are now more new cases before reported than there were during the "first wave."

Tomorrow is also my birthday, and my friend messaged earlier asking if I wanted to do anything for it. Tomorrow I actually have to work, but regardless, I don't think I'm going to be leaving my apartment except for work and to buy food for quite a while at this point. Maybe I should have bought myself a slice of cake or something at the store... Or ice cream, which is much better than cake even if my digestive system doesn't appreciate it. Maybe I will do that tomorrow.

This week I work, but the week after is Obon, which means our school will be closed. So at least I have a full week of social distancing to look forward to when it might be even worse than it is now. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't really worried about everything right now.

Star Trek Discovery Review: 2x01 "Brother"

Monday, July 13, 2020

Life Post: The New Normal (I Guess)

I hate how every time I write something here it's basically just an update on Covid-19, but that's really the only thing I've been paying much attention to other than reading and fanfiction. I've been avoiding going out as much as possible and all of that.

We've started getting cases here again after another (briefer) pause in any new ones. They're all still mostly coming from Tokyo or Osaka, so it doesn't seem to really be spreading around here (yet).

Work is full swing again, with all of our students coming to the school for in-person classes. This week I also taught on Sunday for some kids makeup lessons that they missed when we were closed. It's been nice to see all of them again, but it also means being busier.

I started reading a lot of books while we were closed, and I'm still reading most of them because I have less time now. One of them is a book club book, and I may not finish it before the book club finishes discussing it at the rate I'm going. Fingers crossed though.

That along with writing has been keeping me busy when I'm not at work. I have a fic due in a few days for a fanfiction competition I'm in, so that's definitely keeping me busy. Here's hoping I can also get more of that done before work tomorrow.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Life Post: Long Time No See

Long time no see. I've been saying that to my students a lot lately, and it's fitting here too since I haven't really written anything here since the beginning of May.

Like I mentioned in that post, we reopened but were teaching online classes. A couple of weeks ago, we began teaching some in person classes, and this week we'll finally be teaching all classes in person again.

It's been a bit of a whirlwind, and I've been coping by writing and reading whenever possible. To say that I've been a bit exhausted lately would be an understatement. There's so much going on that just keeping up with the news can be draining.

Since I last posted, the Black Lives Matter movement is being talked about more again, and J.K. Rowling dug her hole even deeper. A lot of my reading recently has been related to those two topics as well, and I've been having a lot of conversations about them as well.

That's everything happening that I can really talk about I think, but there's been a lot happening.

I spent a lot of today tag wrangling over on the AO3. People are still writing a lot of fic due to the pandemic, so the bins are always plentiful. I've also made a lot of progress on writing today, which has been awesome.

Here's to an awesome upcoming week. I can only hope.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Life Post: Back to Work

For about the past month, I've been at home in quarantine after our school closed. I haven't been working, so I've had a lot of free time, but that changes come tomorrow.

We're going to be doing online classes for the month of May, and starting tomorrow, I need to actually go into work in order to learn how to teach the online lessons. (The actual online lessons don't start until next week, and I'll teach those from my house.)

This whole thing is new, so I'm not entirely sure what to expect. It will mean that I have more to do around the house though, and I'm excited to get to talk to my students again even if it's through a computer screen.

Today, has actually been a weird day as far as my brain goes. I slept really well last night but then for some reason could not get out of bed this morning. I think it's the days on end spent at home, but I feel really lazy. For the most part, I've actually been doing a lot. I've written a lot, read a lot, etc., but it's like my brain just doesn't want to do those things anymore.

Going to work tomorrow will probably be extremely good for my brain as will the online classes I think. Here's hoping that everything goes smoothly.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Life Post: A Golden Week Spent at Home

It's officially May here in Japan, which means it's also Golden Week.

Golden Week is a week that's full of a lot of Japanese holidays, so most companies in Japan give their employees the entire week off. Usually, people spend the week visiting family or traveling.

I also usually travel during Golden Week, but for obvious reasons, that didn't happen this year. It's sad because I had wanted to go to Tokyo Disneyland, which I haven't been able to do that. I know that Golden Week is possibly the worst time of the year for it because of the crowds, but I was excited anyway. Now that it's canceled, I'm trying to look on the bright side by telling myself that I can go a different time when it will be better.

The government has told people to stay at home this Golden Week to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and I definitely hope people will listen. I haven't checked the news to see if they've said anything about people traveling, but I'm hoping for the best.

In the meantime, I'm going to get back to tag wrangling. I still have plenty I can do at home!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Life Post: Home Time

It's been more than a week since my last life post, but I don't really have anything new to share. I've been staying home, only going outside for walks every other day or so, and that's basically it.

The state of emergency hasn't been extended as of now, and we probably won't find out whether it will be or not until after Golden Week. I feel like it probably will be since the cases are still rising, but I could be totally wrong. It just seems like it would be the right thing to do to me.

Whether it's extended or not, I'll be teaching online classes in May instead of going to the school, so I'll still be staying at home and social distancing.

Right now though, since the online classes haven't started, I'm occupying myself in other ways. That's mostly looked like a lot of reading and writing, which has been nice even if not talking to anyone for days at a time is difficult sometimes. I'm incredibly introverted, so I haven't found being stuck at home all that bad. I'm definitely not bored; there's plenty to do. Just look at how many blog posts I've managed to post in comparison to the past couple of years.

I have no idea what the future will bring, but I do hope that things start to get better soon.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Book Review: The Razvak Hunter by Arel B. Grant

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Published: February 28th, 2016
Publisher: BZN Writing House (self-published)
Read from February 25 to March 3, 2019
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Aelwyd has worked hard to become strong. As the Fairest One of Vallenthar, her power is formidable. Years of battle honed her into a fearsome warrior who never falters in front of an enemy.
However, there are shadows that when they come, they can swallow you whole.
After a hundred years of praying against it, the minute she walks into the chilling scene of death in front of her, she knows her personal nightmare is back.
He nearly destroyed her once, but she isn't a victim anymore. This time, she will stop him, or she will die trying.
Dalbran knows nothing of friends, joy, or mischief. The orphaned ward of a ruthless warrior woman, she’s never showed him love or affection. Instead she fills his days with learning the art of battle, savage teachings of how to survive in their harsh world. Days are filled with pain and exhaustion, but nighttime used to be his own. Even that is now lost, though, for something lurks in the shadows of sleep, clawing at him the moment his eyes close. He tells himself it’s okay, that he can handle it. However daunting the voices may be, however cold the hand that chokes him in the darkness, as long as it stays within the nightmare, everything will be all right.
As long as it stays within the nightmare…

The Razvak Hunter had a writing style that made me have high hopes for it when I started reading.

Not too far into the book, I realized that there were a number of typos in the book that left me wishing it had been better edited, but I enjoyed the author's voice enough that I wanted to keep reading in spite of that.

Unfortunately, the book's climax left me more confused than anything else. There are a lot of things that happen that don't make much sense, but I don't want to go into too much detail in this review because of spoilers.

That being said, the rest of this review does contain some spoilery details, so don't read past this point if you're worried about it.

The Razvak, who is the villain of the story, seemed to be rather easy to kill despite a lot of build up about how difficult it would be. The climax of the book played out very, very quickly. I felt like I didn't even have time to become invested before everything was over.

There were some details that were mentioned that left me going, "Wait. When did that happen?"

I either missed a lot of things or these things were happening off the page and only being told to us later. It would have been much more interesting to see them happen on the page, and then I don't think I'd have been as confused by the events of the book as they played out.

All in all, I think The Razvak Hunter as a lot of potential to be a really great book, but it felt like it needed to be fleshed out more. There were too many details that we're told about without seeing them, and it made the story both confusing and too fast. That's a real shame since I do think there were so many great seeds here that could have become an amazing story.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Book Review: The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, Translated by Ken Liu

Published: November 11th, 2014
Publisher: Tor Books
Read from February 16 to 25, 2019
Synopsis from Goodreads:
The Three-Body Problem is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience the Hugo Award-winning phenomenon from China's most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin.
Set against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.


The Three-Body Problem is a sci-fi book that I knew would be unlike anything I had read before.

The idea of a world that unites once aliens enter the picture is a common one in sci-fi, but many sci-fi stories popular in the West are also those written in the West, which means that the "united" Earth pictured is very West-centric no matter what the author's intentions were.

Not so with The Three-Body Problem. Liu Cixin is Chinese, and the Earth portions of this book take place in China. This naturally provides a different starting point for exploring what the world would do when faced with the problem of aliens, and the differences between Chinese and Western culture are apparent in what happens next.

This book also starts farther back in time than I had expected. We enter the world in the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Anyone who knows about that period of China's history knows that many aspects of it are hard to wrap your mind around, and that chaos goes a long way towards establishing a sense of uncertainty about what is happening during the book.

There are many unknowns. The aliens themselves are a mystery of course, but in many ways, the governments of Earth are just as much of a mystery as Wang Miao tries to sort out what is happening from what little information he's being given.

Because this book was written in a culture different from my own, there were aspects of it that were challenging to wrap my head around. The characters don't necessarily act in a way that's easy to understand because they've had very different life experiences than me, and because the book was written by a Chinese person for (originally) a Chinese audience, the book wasn't written to explain any particular character's actions to people from other cultures. But I found that to be one of the enjoyable aspects of the book as I got to experience a different view of how the future might go.

This book is a translation, and that does present difficulties in how things are translated from Chinese into English. The writing style struck me as somewhat plain, and in parts of the book, italics were used for thoughts in a way that I found distracting. These are things that can have more to do with the translation than the original.

There were a couple of other details that I found frustrating:

We are introduced to NATO, CIA, and Chinese military officials throughout the book, and all of these officials are assumed to be men. So much so that them being men isn't noted. I noticed this because I was struggling to figure out which gender the characters were before realizing I was supposed to assume they were all men.

One woman character is called autistic by Wang, and it seems pretty clear from context that he means it as an insult. However, Wang also becomes fascinated with this woman to an extent that I found creepy.

There are also some questionable comments made about different cultures. The Aztecs are portrayed rather negatively by one person. Someone else then defends the Aztecs only for someone else to defend conquistadors by saying they helped the Americas become a democracy. (In case you need a reminder, this book has a Chinese author, and this part of the book is taking place inside a video game. The game raises questions about who's actually a human instead of a program, and on top of that, there's no way to be sure of what part of the world each person is from. I struggled with what to think of this scene a lot, and I'm sure different people will interpret it differently.)

There are large chunks of the book that just involve discussing theories, and the characters aren't afraid to deep dive into those theories. It made the book drag a bit for me at times, though I'm sure there are some who would enjoy those parts as well.

But despite that, I found the plot of the book fascinating.

In the book, there is a video game, and the main character has been tasked with solving a very important problem through playing this video game. He's not the only person playing it, and just who in the game is a real person and who's a computer program is one small part of the mysteries within the book.

Beyond the game, everyone's actions in this book feel suspect. I was never sure who was meant to be trusted, and there's an overwhelming sense of anxiety over just how much is being seen and by who. Throughout the book, you feel as if someone is aware of everything Wang does, but you're never sure if it's the aliens, the government, or someone else entirely who's watching him. Or if it's all of the above.

This is the start of a series, and this first book ends with far more questions than answers. I was left with no idea what to think about what I had just read. This book was a "thinker" through and through. It wasn't a fast-paced read; I needed to sit with it. In a similar vein, the ending wasn't one that had me wanting to rush out to get the second book. (I had too much to think about first.) But it did leave me feeling like I needed to read the second before I could even begin to have a final opinion on the first book.

The Three-Body Problem isn't a book for everyone. Many will find that it drags or that it's not fast-paced enough for them. Personally, I liked the way it made me think. The entire book was like trying to solve a puzzle, and I still haven't put all the pieces together. I'd like to read the sequel eventually to see how much more of it I can solve.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Life Post: A Trip Outside and Other COVID-19 News

Hello, again!

Since my last post, I have left the house exactly once. Two bills arrived in the mail with due dates before the state of emergency is due to be lifted, so I needed to go to the convenience store to pay those. I bought some snacks while I was there. It was a strange experience.

The convenience store closest to my house has put plastic sheets up in front of the counter between you and the cashier when you're checking out. I'd already seen that at the convenience store right next to my work, so it wasn't too shocking. The clerks there are also all wearing heavy duty plastic gloves, the kind you wear when you're scrubbing down the bathroom or something. And, of course, they're all in masks.

I actually saw more people than I expected while I was out. While people in the US are used to buying a lot of food at once, which makes storing it for long periods easier, a lot of houses don't have room for that kind of storage in Japan. And frozen foods and other things that keep for a long time exist but not in the same abundance as in the US. Most people I know here go to the supermarket on a near daily basis to buy food, so I imagine a lot of people are cutting back on how often they go but might still be going more than in the US. But obviously that's just me speculating.

Though I bought myself a sandwich (and some frozen food and ramen) at the convenience store yesterday, I've been eating a lot of furikake and rice to avoid going to the supermarket for as long as possible. (I can't pay my bills at the supermarket; otherwise, I realize that going there for food would have been the better option yesterday.)

Yesterday also marked the day when Tokushima got two more cases of COVID-19 because I choose the best days to finally leave the house. That brings our total up to five during this entire thing.

The other big piece of news yesterday was that Awa Odori, the festival that Tokushima is famous for, was canceled. It's not until August, but I guess that the most famous dance groups start practicing months in advance and they don't want those groups gathering for practice. It's really sad since Awa Odori is such a big point of pride with Tokushima, and it's a reminder of how long the effects of this pandemic are going to last.

Meanwhile, I'm still at home. Eventually, I'll venture out to the supermarket, but for the next few days, at least, I'll probably just be here trying to keep myself occupied.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Life Post: Social Distancing at Home

In the week since my last post, the school where I work has closed because of the state of emergency declared in Japan. That means I'm officially social distancing at home and haven't left the house in more than three days, though I'm probably going to have to go to the grocery store either today or tomorrow.

While many people have been talking about struggling with this, I'm honestly more than fine at this point. This, of course, comes with the disclaimer that I've only been doing this for a few days whereas people in other parts of the world have been stuck at home for much longer. But at the same time, I feel like I was kind of built for this. Left to my own devices, I'd stay at home for days on end anyway and not think much of it. I have a list a mile long of things to do, and all of those things are things I can do at home. I'm not even close to wanting in that regard.

Most of my anxiety is still from the disease itself and the effect it's having on the world. Thinking about it too much does get me into a less than ideal mindset. However, that hasn't been much of a problem really.

While I was still working, I was checking the internet for updates on COVID-19 constantly, and it was really wearing down my mental health. I was worried I might do that even more once I was stuck at home, but the opposite has been true. I'm still checking some information and seeing some things on social media, but I'm not obsessively checking the news for updates like I was when I was still going to work.

Because of that, I feel much calmer at home than I did before. I'm reading three books right now (I was in the middle of one before being stuck at home), and I've been writing and such as well. I have plenty to keep myself distracted for the moment.

I can only hope that nothing gets worse either here or anywhere else, but I know that dwelling on what may or may not happen won't do me any good.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Life Post: More COVID-19 Updates (and Everlark Fic Exchange)

It's been nearly three weeks since my last post, and I don't really want to write this because it's just more of the same.

Things are continuing to get worse here in Japan, and my anxiety is going up as it does. Everything is unknown at this point, and the developments that have happened since I last posted here aren't things I really wish to share on the internet right now.

In my last post, I mentioned that daily life here in the countryside was mostly the same, but that's not really true anymore. We've gotten two more cases since my last post, and today (Saturday) when I went to work, the city was noticeably quieter than normal. Many of my students came to class, but many people aren't really leaving home unless they have to.

And I'll be one of those people. I'm planning to go to the store this weekend, but other than that, I'm planning to stay home. Both because of COVID-19 and because my Everlark Fic Exchange fic, which needs to be up by the end of tomorrow, still needs to be edited and posted!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Life Post: More of the New Normal

It's been nearly two weeks since my last post, but not much has changed here that I can update you about. Future plans of mine have been altered thanks to COVID-19, but there were reasons why I was refraining from talking about them before: there was still a possibility they would change. And now they have.

The future feels quite a bit uncertain now. Americans have been told to go back home or stay where they are, and I've chosen to stay where I am.

Daily life here in the Japanese countryside mostly feels the same as usual. Some people are choosing to stay home, but far more seem to be going about their daily lives. I'm still working. There was one case here a while ago, and it's still the only case reported here. But I do feel anxious about what might happen next.

To everyone else: I hope you're safe and doing what you can to protect yourselves and other people. While we can't possibly predict what will happen next, I hope everyone stays safe.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Life Post: Where Do I Begin?

I don't want this to become a thing where I constantly talk about preparing to post more and then nothing comes of it. I mentioned before that I was trying a new way to schedule my time so I could post more, and I guess I have been posting a little bit more, but it doesn't feel like it.

This isn't going to be the happiest of posts, but it is going to be a very vague one. Since the beginning of March (or probably earlier than that actually, especially with the cold I got at the end of February) some stuff started happening that has made writing and other things difficult. It's hard to talk about this more specifically partially because I'm talking about a million different things that all happened at once and also because a lot of it is things that I don't want to share on the internet right now for various reasons. (A lot of it will be stuff I talk about later.)

Everything happening with the coronavirus is probably the background noise of it all. I don't think I'm overly panicking about the news, but I am paying attention to how the situation develops, which means reading about a lot of people's anxiety. If it were just the virus, I'd be mentally fine right now, but having that as a constant stream behind all of the other stressors playing out right now has been a lot for me. Because of that, I'm trying to significantly cut back on how much I read about the coronavirus, but that's difficult as it means I can't even go on Twitter anymore.

I don't want to make it sound like everything is doom and gloom. A lot of the things stressing me out are actually good things that I can't talk about yet because I'm not sure which things will pan out and which won't.

Actually, having quite a few good things happening alongside some bad things is probably making this period of time more challenging for me as I'm never sure if I should be more upset/worried or happy/excited. It just makes everything feel weird.

One bit of good news I can share though is that I've signed up for season eight of the Quidditch League fanfiction competition. I've been invited to join before as people I know from other fanfiction forums always participate. And I've wanted to join, but I've avoided it in the past because I was worried about time. After reading the beginning of this post, you might be wondering why I'd choose now to actually do it. Well, I think I needed something positive, especially since most of the good stuff I mentioned before has a chance of not actually happening. I know this competition will be fun because I already know many of the people involved, and I need something like this to help get my mind off of everything else. So, here's to a good season for the Appleby Arrows!

I'll try to keep you updated, especially with good news as it becomes more concrete and easier to talk about.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Life Post: Coronavirus in Japan

Anyone reading this will probably have some idea of what's been happening in Japan recently. There's been a spike in coronavirus cases, and people here are worried. It's a little surreal to have all of his happening around me.

The US has issued a travel warning for Japan and is telling anyone who comes to be cautious. I've received emails from the US Embassy warning me to register with them so they know my location in case US citizens are evacuated. It's one of the only things anyone is talking about.

We're not having kids classes at our school for two weeks after the Japanese government called for all elementary, junior high, and high school classes be closed for the month of March. We are still teaching adult classes, but I feel like everyone is on edge, and it makes me feel anxious too, even though I know there's no use worrying about it at this point.

This weekend I'm doing my best to just relax. I'm not going out except to go grocery shopping (and put something in the mail) because of how anxious everyone is, and the plan was to focus on just about anything except the virus. But that's not exactly what's happened. I guess there's still tomorrow.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Life Posts: Colds Are Nothing to Sneeze At

I always get at least one cold a year, so I've been overdue one this year. Last weekend, my throat started hurting, and it became very clear that I was getting a cold. By Tuesday (the first day of the work after the weekend for me), my voice didn't sound right and it really hurt. When I showed up for work, everyone was really worried, and I wound up going to the hospital a few hours into the day after they made me take my temperature and I turned out to have a slight fever.

Everyone in Japan has been pretty on edge about the coronavirus. We have new rules to follow at work that include cleaning even more than normal, guidelines on when the wear masks, etc. I was already kind of worried about how everyone would react to me being sick considering everything.

At the doctor, they tested me for the flu and pneumonia, but I had neither one. They have me medicine for the cold, and I got the rest of the day off work. By Wednesday, I was back at work and powering through. Funnily enough, that's when it started becoming much harder to speak even though my voice sounded better to everyone else.

Despite the medicine, it was undoubtedly the worst cold I've had in at least several years, and I did, in fact, field my fair share of jokes about having coronavirus. Saturday also happened to be our Valentine's Day party, and despite how fun it was, I was ready to completely crash by the end of the day.

Luckily, today was the day when I finally feel almost entirely okay. (Which is really good because today is also the day that the medicine the doctor gave me ran out.) I'm still congested, so I'm using nasal spray that I sometimes use for my allergies to fight that. But compared to the rest of the week, I feel fantastic. I thought I was going to stay in bed all day after the week I'd had. Instead, I've been really energetic after feeling fatigued all week. I can't complain right now.

There's still time left in flu season though, so fingers crossed this will be my only brush with illness this winter. I can only hope (and keep washing my hands).

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Life Post: New Year, New Time Management

After my last post that hinted at some emotionally tough stuff, I should probably open this one by saying that everything is well and good here.

We're in the height of flu season, and the Coronavirus has been a hot topic here in Japan. Masks seem to have become an even more common sight than usual, and everyone is keeping hand sanitizer handy. Meanwhile, my allergies have been through the roof. At first, I thought I might be getting a cold, but I don't think that's what it is. Heaters always get to me because the air both dries out my throat and because of my dust mite allergy. So, at the coldest time of the year, I'm struggling a little bit to keep that in check.

Last weekend, a friend and I went to see a waterfall, but it turned out to be pouring rain on the day we'd planned to go. We went anyway, walking up the mountain in the rain, and the waterfall we saw was a lot smaller than expected. I think the big one was farther up the mountain, but with the rain and everything, we didn't go farther. It was an amusing experience, and we were lucky that, though it was raining, the temperature was rather warm.

I've also been trying to change up my routine quite a bit. Since it's January, it probably sounds like that's a New Year's resolution thing, but to be honest, I didn't even think of that until I was writing this post. Maybe that was in my subconscious?

It's no secret that I haven't been blogging as much since I started working full time, and that's true of many other things too. For a while, I was writing fiction (including of the fanfiction variety) with much more frequency, and I started volunteering as a tag wrangler for the Archive of Our Own. Both of those contributed to my lack of time for other things as well.

The past week or so, I started sitting down and thinking about how to more effectively manage my time. I'm trying the plan I came up with now (one reason why you're seeing this post now and not later), so we'll see how it works out. I'm sure I'll have to adjust it some as time goes on.

If anyone else is trying out changes for the new year, I hope they're going well. Here's hoping it won't be long before we see each other again in this space.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Life Post: Tough Things and Blankets

Sitting down to write this post is difficult because I've had an emotionally tough week, but I can't yet tell you what happened. That will come in time, but for now, it's not something I want on the internet.

It's incredibly tough when a ton is happening that you want to discuss but you just can't. That's me right now. There are a million and one things that I want to share. It would feel so good to just sit down and write it all out for you, but it's just not a good idea right now. I'll have to stick that kind of stuff to a private journal for now.

The important part is that the toughest stuff is over for the moment, and I got the softest blanket ever in my Accio Box for the month. It's made to look like an invisibility cloak, and the color of it is also gorgeous. I'm in love. I've spent most of my Monday (one of my regular days off work) wrapped up in it, and I have to say it's been a good day. So here's hoping it'll be a good week.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Life Post: Food Poisoning and New Year's Travels

Happy New Year, everyone!

I'm back at home in Japan after spending Christmas in the US with my family and the New Year in Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara also with some of my family.

It was fun, but it was also exhausting. On the way back to Japan, we had a layover in San Francisco, and my mom, sister, and I wound up getting food poisoning that hit us a couple of hours into the plane flight. It was terrible. They were running out of puke bags by the end of the flight. It was an experience that I never ever want to repeat.

Unfortunately, that also made the first day of our trip in Kyoto somewhat difficult. (And the process of getting from the airport to our hotel was a nightmare. I don't recommend getting sick in a tiny highway bus bathroom.) The worst of it passed after about a day, but I think all of us were still feeling a bit weak for a few days after, and eating anything was a struggle, which got in the way of introducing my family to a bunch of Japanese foods.

Still, we had a good time overall, and I'm glad that my family got to see some of Japan. It was the first time any of them had visited me in the two and a half years I've lived here, so it was awesome getting to introduce them to some things, even if it wasn't as much as I had imagined.

I went back to work yesterday, but I only had to work one day before the weekend. Now I plan on relaxing, which I haven't done much of. (The exorbitant amount of sleep I did at the hotel while sick doesn't count.) I need some extra energy to get the year started, but I have a feeling that it's going to be a good one.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Book Review: Beyond the Veil by Pippa DaCosta

ISBN: 2940151727495
Published: February 15, 2015
Publisher: Crazy Ace Publishing (self-published)
Read from June 1 to 4, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
If your ex is the Prince of Greed, you’d better be ready to raise Hell.
Charlie Henderson is living a lie. Her real name is Muse, she's half demon, and her attempt at a normal life is about to go up in smoke.
When an assassin walks into her life, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake, Muse must return to the one man she hoped never to see again and ask for help. The Prince of Greed isn’t known for his charity. The price is high, and the cost could tear her apart.
Trapped between the malevolent intentions of a Prince of Hell and an assassin with ulterior motives, Muse must embrace the lure of chaos at her core—the demon inside her—in order to survive.


Usually, when I read books, I take notes to better remember the details when I sit down to write the review. With this one, I either didn't take notes or the notes got accidentally deleted at some point. In either case, I'm working entirely off my own memory and recollection for this review.

What I do remember is finding every guy in this book creepy. Muse, the main character, was kept as a prisoner in the underworld by her father for a long time. The Prince of Greed (a demon) "rescued" her from her imprisonment. Muse is now trying to live independently from the demon who saved her, but you find out over the course of book that he's been stalking her and controlling her life in ways she was unaware of. Basically, she traded being her father's prisoner in the underworld to being a different demons prisoner on earth. However, this demon has been letting her live under the illusion that she's in control while he pulls the strings behind the scenes.

The way Akil (the Prince of Greed's name) is presented made me feel like I was supposed to be rooting for him and Muse to end up together in the end, but he was a stalker.

Sure, I realize that he's a demon. Stand up moral behavior is not what I'm expecting from a demon, but I don't want to be rooting for a stalker to end up with his victim. And the way it was treated as if it was an annoyance to Muse but not deeply violating and wrong rubbed me the wrong way. There's nothing romantic about it.

That's pretty much the only thing I remember about this story. I don't remember the characters or the plot standing out to me much. All I remember is being angry about how Akil was portrayed and Muse's relationship with him. I definitely don't plan on reading more of this series.