December 22, 2016

Last Day At Work

I left the factory extremely satisfied yesterday. I had finished making an illustrated directory for the wiki of our first 40 employees, when each left the company and what they'd been doing since. I wanted to keep tweaking this morning and then I got the call. Kinda like last week's calls from my mom ("Your brother is dying, and we have to go see him"), but from a reliable source this time. The Bro-ham is in the hospital, melanoma's in the brain and they don't expect he has long.

There are only so many times you can hear such a thing. I thought he had a reprieve. His PET scan from ten days ago showed no melanoma in his brain, or as he put it "Melanoma everywhere *but* my brain". I feel so bad for him. His kids are on the way up there and will give us the lowdown. My sister just touched down and will be at Mom's soon.

I was at a good stopping point, so I left work early. But not before watering Dave, my ficus.

Then I went to the gold place and got $90 for the charm that came with the chain I got at an auction. On the way back to my car I appreciated this:

Then I went to the German deli and got mrguy and I smoked turkey sandwiches. I am in love with this crown of weiners they have on display.

Then to the Japanese supermarket to buy comfort food: udon, edible chrysanthemum, tobiko, tofu puffs.

Then home, to wait it out. Who knows? Maybe he'll come home and do hospice. Or he'll leave us today, which he'd kinda predicted, because it's the anniversary of our dad's passing.

Poor bro. 

[A happy update: he had his meds tweaked, came home for Christmas, ate a fat pile of bacon and is taking it day by day. The future will look more like this (up and down, in and out of the ER) I imagine, as his disease progresses].

December 19, 2016

Pantheon of Dudes

Last night we went to a party at our neighbors' house. Their tree was a classic beauty -- tasteful ornaments, nice tree with lots of space between the branches and (a guilty pleasure) it was flocked.

They suspected I'd have an artsy tree, so they inquired about it. I think they'd be horrified. It's a Nordman Pine, which is perfectly normal, but my tree is all about sentimentality. I didn't even have the energy to be very artful this year, but all the elements are in place.

The glass garlands came from a structure in the backyard of a house that had housed shipyard workers during WWII. Some of the older ornaments did, as well. The color is coming off a bunch of them because the oil from flocking spray must have broken down the paint, but some of those decomposing balls are my favorites.

There are some ornaments that I got from the five and dime near the diner where I worked when I had my first apartment. Some more recent Santas came from the estate sale of an acquaintance. 

The two caricatures of Iris Apfel, star of the documentary Iris, are tags that came off my bracelets from her collection at Macy's.

The potholder is a tip of the hat to my sister, whose tree used to sport a photo of the same Democratic candidate (she'd cut it out of one of his expensive glossy mailers and used it as an ornament).

 And then there are the dudes. Last year when I had to clean out the ancestral toy drawer at my mom's house there were some random dudes left behind. 

Their heads were all floppy and they didn't have the cars, horses or motorcycles that they'd originally come with. I fell in love with them. Now those dudes are wired onto the tree. By their chests, mostly. I tried by their necks, but that was too disturbing. Anyway, today I passed by the free pile at work and saw these two dudes. I couldn't resist. They will join the Pantheon. The Pantheon of Dudes.

I also found an anatomically correct hog (male) but I'm saving him for mrguy. There is no Pantheon of Hogs today, but if a hog finds a friend, suddenly there is a Pantheon of Hogs where once the category was unaccounted for.

December 17, 2016

Calling Linda Wong

Linda and I first met a year ago, when I got a new phone number. The first time I called middlesis using my new phone she said "Linda Wong?!!!" Her caller ID had identified me as Linda Wong. And thus it started. I am now officially Linda Wong to my sis.

And then I guess Linda need insurance. And a loan. And maybe she was an undecided voter. So I started hearing from the Obamacare phone bank. Love the President. Love the Affordable Care Act. Don't love receiving 8 calls between 8 and 9am for Linda Wong.

Since the election the flow of calls has slowed somewhat. Until yesterday.

But let's back up about 15 years. We'd moved to the little house on the hill, and had a peekaboo view of the mountain and the flats of the city. But there was this annoying weather balloon in the middle of my view on weekends, and hideous rock music blaring out of a building nearby, both courtesy of Greg Smith Motors.

Maybe I was an obnoxious dork for complaining about the balloon in my sight line, but maybe they were dorks too. They cut down the city's trees in front of their dealership and eventually defaulted on a quarter million in taxes they owed the city before skipping town. Anyhoo, I would call to complain about the big balloon in my view and whoever would answer the phone would hand the phone over to "Greg Smith" himself, who would field my complaint. The first time I called he had a local accent. Next time he sounded like he was from Nashville. Finally "Greg Smith" had a very thick South Asian accent. Such a crack up. Eventually Greg Smith skedaddled and the next dealership didn't use balloons.

So yesterday I'm at work and I see a call coming in. Urgent calls related to my mom can come from anywhere, so I picked up. I hear a crunch and a pause, and a guy with a very thick South Asian accent introduces himself as Greg Brown and says he's in charge of cybersecurity blah blah blah and without thinking I just burst out laughing. Then I hung up. Just like the old days. So excellent, "Greg Brown".

Lots of people who work phone banks take pseudonymns. As an example I had a friend, last name named Gil-Sola, whose phone bank name was "George Sola." It wasn't so far off the mark but gave him anonymity. That works. Make it believable, People.

Feed Me

And now a word from our sponsor, old man cat, who says "Feed Me!"

This is his first day of no-feeding-in-the-morning-because-you're-finally-plump-enough. I don't think he'll be celebrating. 

For years our routine has been to feed all cats once, at night. For people who don't like to wake up in the morning, this is best. The cats don't try to wake you up to be fed, because they don't know any different.

But since the old man is 20 and was sick earlier in the year and was very bony, mrguy started feeding him twice a day. Our reward? No sleep. Our sweet old deaf boy greets our every motion in bed with a comment, sometimes loud, because he wants his bowl. Starting at about 6am he faces the bed and waits for movement. When he sees it, he meows. Hilariously, mrguy realized that if old boy sees a limb, he also meows. By waving your arms you can play him from the bed, like a conductor. 

We call it the meow-onium.

Yesterday mrguy declared an end to morning feedings. We'll put away the meow-onium.

December 16, 2016

December Beauty

I looked at my phone when I got home and found this photo.  A funny moment of accidental beauty.

And this was a photo I took while something else was happening. I couldn't reveal factory secrets, so mrsguy gets a photo of turnip greens.

Looking for photos to distract me as the year winds down.

December 14, 2016

More Moments!

My bro saw a specialist on Thursday. He has more like a year. To a guy who was going to call Hospice on Monday, having a bunch more months to think about that seems like a great deal. We all agree.

Bigsis has a yearly tradition of cookie decorating with her granddaughters around the holidays, but she wasn't going to be home to host. She was with the mama and our bro, supporting everybody as we grappled with this horrible and then less horrible news. I suggested that we host cookie day at our house, because the kids live near us. So in the middle of all of this chaos we had a magical day.

Mom came over with her wonderful caregiver (who saved my bacon by bringing dozens of lumpia with her). The kids and their kids came and decorated cookies with the caregiver. Our awesome niece's family comes from the same province in the Philippines, so they talked about food for a while.

Nephew was suffering from a neck issue, so the mama gave him a massage. And she helped me finish trimming the tree. And I put on a bunch of awesome music (Jack Teagarden, the Talbot Brothers, random Mexican rock music from the 60's). The mama danced with me.

Oldest grandniece called it Mini Christmas. I have to agree that it was tremendous.

December 4, 2016


I try not to make this blog about life's challenges, and there is an internal battle I have between wanting to commune with the blog and not wanting it to be about those struggles. But that's where I am, man. Life is a mixed bag.

Lately death is the topic. My mom's best friend left us, the cousin who had the stroke almost died this week, and my brother called me the other day to tell me he has weeks to live. This was moments after getting my holiday bonus at the factory. It was as if someone had hugged me and then slapped me.

Which is a great example of how there are moments in every day, week and month that are good and bad. Failing to appreciate my great good fortune only makes the bad worse. And on the whole I am going through this rough patch surrounded by a cocoon of love and support. Hell! A handsome man just brought me a cup of coffee. I am a lucky lady.

So here are a few life appreciations. Here is Squirry. He is on a tear at work. He eats little berries that are the fruits of the palm trees and makes a crazy mess. He is bold, unafraid of humans and in this photo his little tummy is about to droop onto the ground.

And here are a few photos from Thanksgiving.

I made an impromptu dessert when I found that Mom had over a dozen apples at her place. When you have an elderhoard, make elderhoard-ade! It was delicious, by the way.

 The sunset was amazing, and we bundled up to watch the whole thing. Mom said it was "almost perfect".

When Mom went home on Saturday we had a skype date with our dear dear friends in New York, including chasing the cats down with the laptop so they could all be seen. Here's our side of the conversation before it started.

And here we are. Another day, another cup of coffee, another different friend in the hospital with a stroke. Really, people?

Gotta concentrate on those moments. Moments are where it's at.

September 19, 2016

Really? Really???

Japan take two was great, but there is a series of complicated life events surrounding us, and we leave for Hawaii day after tomorrow:

  • Mother-in-law wants more opiates than her doctor wants her to have and is pitching fits
  • Mom's best friend of 75 years is in hospice
  • Mom's caregivers are flaky (this item seems small by comparison, but I've filled in by spending every day with her since I came home, and I'm beat)
  • One of our favorite cousins had a major stroke yesterday
  • #2 cat is violently ill and is puking and drooling
  • Middlesis isn't speaking to me

Should I stay home to deal with some of this?


September 4, 2016

Japania 2016 Saturday -- On The Way Home

It was blisteringly hot in Nagasaki. So hot that I'd preferred to do nothing than do something in Japan, one of my favorite places in the world. Kinda sad.

My plane from Nagasaki was scheduled to leave at 7pm, but I took the bus to the airport at 11am (my hotel checkout time). The bus trip kills some time, which is nice. And you get to see some real Japan. Once at the airport there is air conditioning.

Anyhoo, I shopped at the airport. Looked at every possible knicknack and food thing. I came home with a Kewpie floating in a bathtub of Champon.

I did not purchase the "make rain go away" characters. But this ghost dude emerging from a bowl of Champon was the best. When I made these into earrings, weeks later, mrguy was both impressed and entertained.

Then I ate a set lunch and melon soda, while reading a book -- a former employee's fictionalized account of his time at the forklift factory. What's interesting is that he transports it to more present day times, when we all have phones. It would be too hard to explain the reality of his time, struggling with Palm Pilots that are supposed to recognize your handwriting and running around with heavy binders, then back to our desks where our computers lived. I read this book voraciously, and annotated with a pencil.

  Around 4pm I realized that the sound I was hearing was the hyoshigi (japanese blocks, clapped together to announce the beginning of the day's sumo matches). The sumo broadcast was starting! Right on. Nobody was in the seating area in front of the TV except me, a mother and her little boy, who was an avid fan. I watched all two hours pretty much by myself, except for a nun who joined me at the end and watched the proceedings while slowly munching a rice ball.

There were amazing foodstuffs on sale at the airport. Nice to know that you can get some whale bacon for the road. Ugh.

Hours later, at Haneda, I had another long wait. At one point I heard my name called. Never a good sign when traveling internationally. The gate agents invited me behind the ticket counter for an apologetic frisk. After that it was smooth sailing.

Tomorrow is Labor Day and I'm headed back to do this Japan thing all over again. Preferably with less whale!

Japan July 2016 Friday

Again with the food! I should amend what I said about Thursday's meal, by the way. We were "treated" in the sense that it is a treat to be able to partake of the artistry of someone who is so gifted. We did, in fact, pay (and handsomely!) for that meal. And no our per-diem doesn't really cover that level of cuisine, but we ate many cheap meals at the supermarket that week.

At this point in my trip I was ready to go home. My work was done, and I had a whole day to loaf around. I spent it at the mall, and then wached the sumo broadcast and napped until it was time for dinner. This was the big finish. Kagetsu, where the dining experience to have is Shippoku Ryori.

Established in the 1600s, Kagetsu began as a fancy courtesan house. It is now a restaurant, where you are served by ladies in gorgeous kimono.

We had an entire corner tatami room to ourselves, overlooking the garden. 

Adjoining it is a room you step down into, wearing slippers. This room was the first Western-styled room in Japan. I took weird photos of the ceiling and floor.

This is early on in our meal. Our server brought out dishes, explained them to our colleague who was translating for us, and then we asked questions. She would then take the one gorgeous plate and make six equally gorgeous portions out of the one. That alone was pretty spectacular.

There are some famous dishes associated with this meal, and we called ahead to say "No whale and no turtle". They must have just heard "whale" and "turtle". Witness "Whale Three Ways". Noooooo!

Now you know what whale bacon looks like. It's the two-toned stuff on the left.

Next was a famous Nagasaki dish called a "Pasty". This was the dish that contained a love bomb of turtle. Ohgeez.

This little gelee contained shrimp, gold leaf and okra. As you do.

Local vegetables, beef, more fois gras?

There was a pork belly dish, which I didn't photograph, and a dessert, and mochi swimming in sweet red bean sauce. The evening was kind of intense. And awesome. We paid these people wheelbarrows full of cash for this experience, and it was worth it. To be able to have these beautiful dishes described to us, and have this translated was alone a special treat.

So ends the last fancy night in Nagasaki. On our walk home we saw little bobtailed Japanese kittens in the parklet across from the restaurant. So cute.

Japan July 2016 Thursday

Thursday we were treated to an amazing kaiseki meal at a six-seat restaurant.   The reservation process was a little complex. A guy from the museum called for the reservation because he's a regular. Turns out that there was already a reservation for *one*, and we were already a party of six. But the guy who had the reservation was a friend of the guy from the museum, so the museum guy persuaded him to eat there on another night. We had our kaiseki meal after all.

Let the deliciousness begin! 

This photo shows a cube of savory something, topped by a pickled yuzu bud. The champagne flute to the left contains some lobstery fluid with seaweed.

Sashimi of various fishes served with their respective livers:

 While waiting on us and preparing other dishes at a *furious* pace, the chef was also tending to the grill on the left, which had a heat source under what looked like Spanish roof tiles.

This plate was complex -- two nubbins of pickled ginger that the chef had grown and pickled himself. Two chunks of cod miso yaki, a gigantic scallop and some sort of scallop pudding that was the best thing we ate all night (right up there with the lobstery liquid).

In this photo, our chef is putting the final touches on filet mignon.

The pace went on unabated, and we were filling up fast. It was a little intimidating, because the chef was pouring his heart and soul into these dishes and they keep coming. Some, like the sashimi of fish and their livers, were quite rich. I think there's one dish I didn't even photograph! Here is the filet, with a huge chunk of fois gras, a potato and a gigantoid mushroom. It arrived bloody rare. So huge. I felt trapped. Everything was delicious but I thought I'd pop.

Finally, the end. White peach season was upon us, and the white peaches in Nagasaki were delicious. White peaches, white peach ice cream and something else -- maybe white peach gelee? 

We waddled home, petted Pudding and had another excellent conversation with Pudding's mama. We hugged a lot that night. I missed my own mama, so it was nice to hug a willing, toothless old lady (even if she did slap me in the boob and call me fat earlier in the week).

Japan July 2016 Wednesday

On Wednesday, we finished the condition reporting. It was amazing to be done that quickly. I spent the rest of the day on documentation.

After work we walked to a restaurant where we ate in a tatami room. I don't know the name of this pesticide company with the rooster mascot, but I love this sign for their mosquito coils.

It was fun to have a place to ourselves (with a phone to call downstairs for more beer or food). It was up a set of stairs that was quite precipitous. 

The food was delightful, but I'm ashamed that I ate whale. This was whale tail, and it was fluffy like gelatin and served with some steamed and exquisitely prepared green onions. A mystifying dish.

It wasn't all about whale. We had some gorgeous sashimi, as well.

Then we headed to a cowboy bar, Jimmy's Graceland. Jimmy's wasn't technically open that night, but he agreed to show up and play some music for us. He sang Route 66 and some Hank Williams. And we were the only customers. I felt bad about this because I am a cheap date these days, so there wasn't much in it for Jimmy except for the mad amounts of press he'll get from the readers of mrsguy ;).

Japan July 2016 Tuesday

Work continue to go amazingly, and we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant. 

The night sky was fabulous.

Japan July 2016 Monday

Our first day at the museum went so smoothly. Really. The jet lag kicked in just before we needed to wrap up at 6. Then we went to an Ojiya restaurant. It was magical. Super woodsy, with whatnautical jimcracks everywhere. The Ojiya was a bowl of umami. Something so tasty and evenly ingrediented that it was just a big bowl of salty pleasure.

The walk home:

We walked through a shopping arcade on the way home. These figures are supposed to make it stop raining, but they're kinda creepy.

I love a figure of Colonel Sanders, so I had to stop and snap a photo:

At one point we stopped to light some sparklers. Japanese sparklers are awfully pretty. I don't understand why the custom is that we hold them with the flame below our fingers. That's a little nerve wracking.

Across from our hotel is the home / restaurant of a lady who has a beautiful bobtailed cat named Pudding. His bobtail is striped, he has a single teacup-sized striped spot on his side, and striped ears. We petted him yesterday, and did so again this evening, disturbing her dog, so she came out to say hello. 

We had a long conversation, aided by our tour manager, during which she decided that I would be huggable, so she hugged me, and then we got to talking about cats, so I showed her a picture of our second oldest. She thought my cat was fat, so she started rubbing my tummy and indicating that she looked like me. This woman was so much like my mom ten years ago. She opened her outer jacket and indicated that she had no boobs, and then up-slapped mine. 

No really.

You can imagine how much my crew was enjoying this. I should stop to say that I’m wearing the plumeria in my sprout that so horrified the people of Vienna and Budapest. It has the exact opposite effect on people here. It’s a) taking Nagasaki by storm and b) emboldening them to say and do almost anything.
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