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Frustration

There was just something wrong with the colors. The red… it was too shallow. The green was too faint. None of them were vibrant and I began to crave blue. Blue, the only color not at my disposal.
“Agh! They’re just not working!”
“Well then, work on a different one,” said the Messiah. “You’ve got tons of pictures there, if something’s not working for you then just move on to the next.” Her immediate attention was taken away as Raraneko once again displayed a beautiful design, complete with whirly-gigs and punched sunbursts. On blue.
I quashed the jealousy spinning its way around my innards. Oh, the blues.
The night was a loss. After accidentally [*insert shifty eyes here*] spending $60 on new and exciting things, my absence of blue was causing me to go into apoplectic fits. The new neon orange album, with it’s squiggly lines and random floral pattern, was absolutely perfect. If only there were some blue to go into it.
But now. Now is a new month, as it is May 1st. Tomorrow is May 2nd, a week [or a month] from the ill-fated doom that was last Saturday. And I will try again, to scrapbook my way to cuteness. I’ve done it before, it is in me. After the new lease on life given to me by last-minute Peelander Z, with so many activities completed since then, and so much excitement on the horizon, tomorrow shall be splendid.
But first, so as not to tempt fate, I’m going to stop and get some blue. And maybe some purple, for good measure.

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Fridays

In a world full of brownish-gray cubicle it is very rare to feel alone. The only time this ever truly occurs is after two on beautiful Friday afternoons. Even though there are no windows in my area of the office, I can feel the pure blue sky and puffy white clouds reflecting their way from upstairs – where such a rare thing as a window does exist – by way of the bright orange and yellow walls. They are tempting, but there is another hour of work that I must fight my way through before I can retire home.
Behind me there is nobody for at least four rows of cubicles. As I sit at the head of my row, there is no one to my right, and the only row in front of me is completely unpopulated as is the rest of my row to the left. The closest coworker is farther away than a knight can move in chess. The “Laugher” left at one, and the Messiah is in a meeting. Old Man leaves at 12:30, Old Woman is on vacation. The silence reverberates off the bright blue ventilation tubes in the ceiling. I can do *anything* and nobody would be the wiser.
Instead, I sigh and answer the phone as Monkeyface calls with a inquiry that I can’t satisfy and return to my empty email inbox, hoping against hope that a time warp will occur and it will magically be 3:10 very soon.

America…

Today I went to my first peewee football game. I’m not interested in sports, I don’t like them, I don’t follow them, and if my future children ever end up interested in sports it will be through absolutely no fault of my own. Unfortunately, the Messiah is a downright hardcore football fan and thus her son Messiah Jr plays football. Calling it peewee was probably a little harsh, I think technically it’s referred to as “flag.”
The sun was sweltering, the breeze was brisk, the sky was a beautiful shade of deep blue with puffy white wisps drifting their way across it. I watched chubby over-indulged children play rugby for a while, and watched them sob as they lost. A hawk drifted by, clasping a struggling squirrel in its death-grip, floating on an upward breeze to alight, daintily, on its nest at the top of a hulking piece of electrical infrastructure. Merely moments later it took to wing again; probably having fed it’s squalling chicklets and now in need of some peace and quiet.
Messiah Jr and team lost. It was upsetting, as the other team was apparently full of bad sportsmanship as they congratulated each other for each of their four touchdowns. It was embarrassing, however, as Messiah cheered, and screamed, and told the players what to do as if she were a coach herself but terribly, contrastingly, loud. As a person who calls attention to oneself only when I feel I am being genuinely interesting, Messiah’s urgency in conveying to their players that it was a “nice throw!” or to “shake it off, it was a good play,” made me wish that I had claimed the red chair instead of the blue. That way the rapidly appearing sunburn would instead be camouflage instead of clashing.

Back to my roots

Since I recently spent some time wandering my parents’ garden, I remembered that I was always growing something, when I was growing.  I had sunflower seeds bigger than my head. I had marigold flowers that propigated across the yard until Kaachan considered them a scourge.  I helped Tousan and Kaasan plant the first vegetable garden, and I’ve done more than my share of tilling rows and planting tiny seeds.
So, I decided, I needed to start my own garden.  My porch, though tiny, northward-facing, and concrete-lined, at least gets SOME sunlight.  So I’m trying.
If things don’t work out there, it’ll be time to move them on to the front “porch,” or walkway. That way, they’ll at least get afternoon sun.

The beginning

The plan is for me to grow my very own tomatoes [roma], cucumbers, watermelon, and sunflowers.

Let's keep our fingers crossed

頑張って、プラントちゃん!

Home

Circumstances being that Kaachan was recently hospitalized for as-yet-undiagnosed random illness [Kaachan has a monopoly in this market], Monkeyface and I paid a visit to my childhood home earlier today.

Home, to me, is three quarters of a mile down a dusty limestone road.  During the peak of summer, the road becomes so dry that each passing car causes dust to billow behind it in a suitable impersonation of a smoke stack. The passing winds cause mini dust tornadoes to storm their way down the street, dissolving the second something more substantial is encountered, be it a house or a kitten.  The result of all this activity is a fine layer of dust covering everything, and prior to my recent visit to the more seasonally-inclined parts of the country my family jokingly referred to this phenomenon as a sort of “summer/Florida snow.”

Home sits at the peak of a “hill.”  Proudly billed as one of the highest elevational spots in all of Hernando County, Aulistria [native of West Virginia] scoffed at its unimpressive stature.  The driveway is actually another, untravelled, road, and it snakes around the side of the property in an effective u-turn, as Home faces the street but is set an acre and a half removed.  The house itself is rather unassuming, but is somewhat dwarfed by the two guard towers Tousan had us erect when I was a Junior in high school, shortly following the September 11th terrorist attacks.  The towers are set inside a three-layered fence; chain-link, ranch fencing, and chicken wire.  It speaks back to the era of Casper, the dog who could climb or chew his way through any fence.  That fence is secured in concrete, three feet down, and once stood nine feet tall.  I know, I helped build it.

Kaachan and Tousan were extremely glad to see us.  I was glad to see them too. Until Tousan said something about the chicken coop in the backyard.  “What chicken coop?” I asked, genuinely confused by this conversation.  We had discussed chickens once, and I promptly got a kitten I nicknamed Chickenkiller in protest.  Chickens? Fiona and Freckles, the current “fearsome” guarddogs, were known to cart in random wildlife that they had proudly brought down in the backyard.  Actually, the last I heard, Freckles had climbed a tree after a squirrel.  Tousan smirked.”Your mother hadn’t told you?”

At that point, we had removed ourselves to the back porch – the realm of painful hair brushings, childhood lectures, graduation parties, and the site of Monkeyface and I informing the parentals of our upcoming nuptials.  Tousan, still smirking, gestured into the backyard at the behemoth of pvc pipe and fencing.  The backporch door, too, had somehow relocated.  “The chicken coup.  We can’t have little dog here [insert pat of Freckles] eating them all up, can we?”

I shared a panicked look with Monkeyface, who also smirked and jerked his thumb at me.  “Kao will be glad to help,” he said, settling himself down to fix Tousan’s most recent computer explosion.  I shot a pleading glance at Kaachan, but she was already heading into the backyard after the hose to water the immense vegetable garden that they had started several paces away from the site of the coup.  Glaring death at Monkeyface, I followed Tousan outside.

“Here, grab this side,” he said, shoving a coil of pointy chickenwire into my arms.  “Go down to the end there, and we’ll kind of fold it up.”  I don’t think I’ve mentioned, but that is the extent of his directions.  “Where? How? What?” My questions went mostly unheard.  Eventually, I had the chickenwire tied to the chainlink fencing in the wrong place, but Tousan had given up on grunting at me to get it placed correctly.  “Now get inside the coup, and make sure that it’s tugged securely,” he stated. Ok, I thought. I can handle that.  I get inside, standing on tiptoe to reach the wires, and gave it just a little tug.

And landed flat on my back.  Apparently my little tug was a little too much for the PVC framework.  Tousan erupted in chuckles and guffaws, and Monkeyface started laughing at me from his secure position on the porch.  “Tousan,” I stated. “If I could do this much damage, imagine the chickens!”

After righting said PVC piping, and Tousan securing it with something a bit stronger than kite wire, we headed inside where I shooed Kaachan away from the homemade spaghetti sauce and apple pie [separate dishes, I promise. She’s not the crazy one] and sent her off to nap after admiring their new pear tree [to go along the side of the house with my lemon and my sister’s tangelo trees].  Several hours later we were sent on our way, with full stomachs and promises of as many cherry tomatoes as Monkeyface can eat once they start maturing by the thousands.

Home is quite an excellent place to be.

Open Source

I’ve always considered Microsoft to be the devil. And it truly is, I think.

Let me explain.

About a month ago, Monkeyface and I bought him a new NetBook with our income tax refund. Technically we were going to get me a new laptop, as the one I had had was quickly fading and we ended up giving it to one of his work colleagues, but I couldn’t find one that I was satisfied with for the money I was willing to pay.  Monkeyface and I came up with an even better plan: he would get a new Lenovo NetBook and I would inherit his mostly-new Dell 1501.  [How easy it is, sometimes, to sound like a total nerd.]  Anyway

Problems set in, and almost immediately, because I was running Windows. Don’t get me wrong, I hadn’t been having any problems wrong with my Vista install on my desktop and was actually a fan of some of the “pretty” features – the volume mixer, Aero, silly things like that. But! Living the life that I live, I have different expectations out of a computer than a lot of “normal” users

1) MUST be able to use Japanese IME [Input Method Editor?] in some form
2) MUST be able to play video.
3) MUST be able to edit video/pictures/whatever else I feel like messing with
4) Sims? Maybe?
5) Soft-sub support is a must

The final point doesn’t seem terribly important, and it never seemed that important before. Of course if I just downloaded the right program and had the right codecs installed it would be no problem. I wasn’t a novice in the slightest.  Fighting with programs, codecs, and video compression has been my life for the past two years; longer than that if you count my anime days.

The breaking point in Windows came when my laptop had a bug with the onboard video card drivers. It was a laptop, of course it was onboard, and thus replacing said video card was a null issue.   From my internet research, Windows blamed ATI, ATI blamed Windows… it all came down to the fact that my soft-subs weren’t going to render, ever, without serious computer crashes. I saw a BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH for the first time in five years over this driver.

So, Monkeyface says, let’s try the new Windows 7 beta. It looks like it’s going to be everything that Vista promised, and since Microsoft obviously dropped this issue in Vista, maybe they would quietly pick it up in Windows 7.

Two hours later, nothing. Ok, to be fair, the video lasted two minutes longer without freezing, but then BLUE SCREEN.  Making the most pitiful face I have ever made, I handed the Dell to Monkeyface with the tears of a last resort.  Ubuntu? he asked.  Yes please.

Built on the policy of Open Source or Free Software, Linux is a community-built entity based on the premise that people work better together, without any sort of limitation.  When programs are developed under Open Source they are required to be distributed for free, and openly, in order to further the community.  Richard Stallman, the creator of the philosophy behind Free Software, sums it up neatly: “Free software is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of ‘free’ as in ‘free speech’, not as in ‘free beer’[Wikipedia].  This is very, very similar to my general life philosophy, that just because you can make money off of something doesn’t necessarily mean you should, and that if you do, it should not be disproportionate.  Anyway, to continue:

My last encounter with Linux, in any of its myriad distributions, was when I was in middle school, almost ten years ago. Back then Linux was completely text based, no graphical interface at all.  Onii had decided that it was necessary for him to learn as he was aspiring to work in computers and we shared one at the time.  You had to type in a string of commands. For instance, all I ever did was chat on ICQ [way before AIM days].  A typical conversation went like this

/msg 20031194 hey what’s up?
20031194: nothing much, you?
/r [reply]: I MADE COOKIES!
19874108: hey!
/r they were delicious!
/msg 19874108: crap. That wasn’t supposed to go to you 😦

Comparatively, I’m in paradise right now.  My videos play seamlessly, my instant messaging program no longer crashes, and my favorite programs are available either painlessly from a respository or virtually through Wine. I’m in love.  My entire interface matches my background. A Photoshop-equivalent program came pre-installed. No more piracy.

And seriously, installing the Japanese IME on my own without help from Monkeyface has probably been the most accomplished I’ve felt in a very long time.

Hard Work

Today I feel validated.

If you’re counting, and if I know you well enough, this should be the fourth or fifth contact you’ve had with me on this subject, today. After several months of stress, nervous twitches, three months of intense study followed by three months of nerve-wracking suspense, and way too many questions from people that are Neither My Mother Nor My Friends, I passed JLPT Level 3.

Not… that that is particularly astounding. I should have been able to pass it upon the completion of my fourth semester, but life kind of got in my way for a while there.  Graduation.  Marriage.  An eroded mind after two years spent in an environment festering with black mold that sucked all my will, ambition, and life away.  A bigger congratulations is in order for 楽良, who passed Level 2.

But beyond just being the passing of a test, it was the proof that I could work for something.  That probably sounds rather… obvious, but as a student that skated through seventeen years of school without ever really cracking a book, the fear of failure for something that I actually cared about was rather intense.

The fact that I barely passed is weighing rather heavily on my consciousness.  But that, I suppose, is for another day.

For today is for VICTORY.

PS: Cake. We should do that.