Sandpanther (sandpanther) wrote,

Happy New Year!

The joy of living in an international, multi-cultural area is that from mid-September to mid-February there are practically monthly reminders that any time is a good time to declare a fresh start. So in that spirit, happy Chinese New Year! I think the Ox was a dose of well-needed down to earth practicality but it's time to move on to something new. The Tiger should fit the bill well.

Speaking of new years, I'd meant to do this back in early January but, well, didn't. No time like the present.

1. What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?

- Saw a movie in Japan.
- Finished translating a lengthy (50 episodes!) Japanese TV series with friends.
- Called 911.
- Worked more hours, for a longer overall duration than I ever thought (or wanted to think) possible.
- Went to Japan during Golden Week.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Not so much, I think, on the keeping. Very much on the plans/goals for 2010.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

One of my coworkers did, though I would not say that we're close. (Considering I'm all in favor of her not moving into our cube, I'd have to say we're really quite distant, and a well-appreciated distance it is.)

4. Did anyone close to you die? </i>

Happily, no.

5. What countries did you visit?

Japan twice. Low on the trips this year. Next year will be better. France, Luxemborg and Belgium are on tap for the coming year.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

More sanity? More free time?

I want to spend more time focusing on things I care about. To have energy when I get home to garden, or work on translations. Last year I'd intended to get my kanji reading level up enough that I could take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, but that didn't happen. This year I want to make it happen. If I spend regular amounts of time reading Japanese books I can get it there, it just takes sitting down and doing it.

7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

12/12, the release of the latest Ultraman movie. Because I spent months and months keeping track of it. Otherwise, specific dates didn't really stand out.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Huh. Hard to say. Surviving, I think.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Ah, make me choose but one failure. If I had to pick one, I would say allowing myself to be so stressed for so long that I was on the edge of a nervous breakdown. I coped, but really in that one foot in front of the other and don't look up kind of way. I think it was useful in that I'm less inclined now to succumb to the berating of "it must get done!" and accept that if it doesn't, it doesn't. Oh, and I'm much more likely to take a step back and relax earlier. Avoid the rush, de-stress before it's critical.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nope. Remarkably healthy, all things considered. Oh, I suppose there was the stupid flu that fresne came back from SDCC with. But that was the only sick. And by that point in time I probably needed a little stupid.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Probably my new camera, which makes me look like a better photographer.

Or maybe my ticket to the new Ultraman movie. I was pretty jazzed about that at the time, and am still pretty pleased over the whole thing.

Ha. Or I should instead say the tickets to the Ultraman stage show I saw earlier in the year? That was a profound and impressive experience that still makes me smile and not regret a bit the somewhat high price I had to pay to see it.

Or perhaps something else I bought that I've so incorporated into my life now that I don't even remember how I lived without it. Hard to say. Like maybe the furnace that keeps my house warm in the winter and gives me the option of escaping the heat in the summer? Yes, like that exactly.

Not so much on the buying, but taking down the patio cover and knocking out the BBQ was one of my better moves this year. I'm so used to it now that I don't even remember that not so long ago my patio was dark and cramped and collected a lot of junk that made me cranky.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

That pilot who landed on the Hudson? He was wonderful -- not just because of what he did, but because he gave us all something hopeful and positive to think about rather than staying stuck in all the "life sucks".

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

*snork* My boss certainly had some remarkable moments. But overall, not an appalling year that I can remember.

14. Where did most of your money go?

My note from last year said "this year has been an unexpectedly expensive year." Well, this year was all that, and more. Two trips to Japan and a new furnace accounted for a chunk of cash. There were more expenses, but I don't remember the details.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

My lovely new Ultraman movie (which was mentioned in last year's review as well, though they are different movies.)

TV series: Merlin, Glee, Supernatural, Stargate Universe, to a lesser extent Warehouse 13. It's been a good tv series year.

I'm kind of excited about exploring the possibility of doing voice-overs, and maybe getting into voice acting. I never would have expected it, and yet the idea sits there, looking at me like it's always been there. When I look at it I think perhaps it always has. Or perhaps it's just good at acting.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?

Probably "Hoshi no you ni", since I've spent most of the month of December listening to it.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. happier or sadder? Generally happier, I think. Certainly better able to cope.
ii. thinner or fatter? I think I'm about the same weight. Not a great year for weight loss, alas. But today's a new day!
iii. richer or poorer? About the same, though employed. So on even keel, but with great prospects for the future!

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Anything not work?

Excersise, definitely. Work on improving Japanese skills -- I did almost no translations this year, very little reading. In fact, I think compared to this time last year my skills have slipped. *sigh*

Relaxing. This was not a relaxing year, and in many ways not a year that was enjoyed.

Gardening. I wanted to have my back patio re-done by now. But I only got as far as the destruction phase, and then not even completed that.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?


20. How will you be spending Christmas?

Oops, I see this was supposed to have been done earlier. Because of my dad's health issues they came over and we hung out. Very relax-a-Christmas.

22. Did you fall in love in 2009?

No, alas.

23. How many one-night stands?

Why do I even leave this in every year? The answer's going to stay the same!

24. What was your favorite TV program?

Merlin, Glee, Supernatural, Stargate Universe, to a lesser extent Warehouse 13. Also, surprisingly, Power Rangers RPM

*tries to remember the Japanese series* The only one that comes to mind at the moment is Atashinchi no Danshi. Though Otomen and High School Samurai have been cracktastic so far.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

Nope. I'm not big on the hating.

26. What was the best book you read?

Wow, did I read anything in 2009?? The thing I've read that I enjoyed the most was the Mebius novel, though I've hardly started that.

Oh, I did read a few things, my favorite of which was The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart. I'd read some of her books as a kid but hadn't ever gotten into her Arthurian stuff. I thoroughly enjoy her writing style.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

... I honestly don't remember buying much music this year.

Ah, I remember one: Ann Licator. I recommend her. Indian flute music, most relaxing.

28. What did you want and get?

So all those news reports about consumers not spending? That's not me:

- new furnace (I had been wanting it, but had been deferring. Watch what you ask for -- sometimes things will catch on fire to get you what you want!)
- new camera
- new TV
- 2 trips to Japan

There be the big ticket items. I also got to see the new Ultraman movie in the theaters on opening day, which pleased me greatly as did the Ultraman stage show I saw in Nagoya. I'm sure there are other things that I wanted and got, but I'm not remembering them at this time.

I got to shake Ultraman Leo's hand, (well, Mannatsu Ryuu) and boggle him. Not something I necessarily wanted, but once I had it it's been a comfort to me in my dark hours.

29. What did you want and not get?


Sanity in my work place?

My house painted. And my garden re-done.

I wanted to take the JLPE and missed.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

Continuing the theme from last year, Daikaijuu Battle Ultra Ginga Densetsu the Movie.

Did I see any other movies?? Yes! Up! It was delightful.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I was in Japan, though I can't remember where (other than, Kyoto.) I am now officially over the hill.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Having a job that's sane. As in, the traditional 40 hour work week. Yeah.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?

Business casual.

34. What kept you sane?

All the lovely TV shows on this year, and geeking with fresne about them.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?


36. What political issue stirred you the most?

I'm not thinking of any currently.

37. Who did you miss?

Myself? I spent about half this year so completely stressed and overworked that I hit a point of forgetting what it is I like to do when I'm not completely stressed and overworked.

I miss fangirling with swtjemz, for all that I full well acknowledge why she's otherwise occupied these days.

I miss chatting with sakon76. Though I'm not sure how to remedy the situation (if it's even possible?) For now I wait patiently to see what the future may bring.

38. Who was the best new person you met?

Wow, I can't remember who I met new this year. The most recent person I remember meeting is a lady at a Japanese interest group who seems really nice, and told me about a real Japanese-style bath near me. When last I saw her we parted with the intriguing (and highly misleading) words of "call me and let's go get naked together!)

(Her friends won't go to the Japanese bath with her, since they're uncomfortable being completely naked with strangers. I've been to Japan enough to 1. not care, and 2. appreciate a good bath, particularly when it's cold out. So no, I don't have a new girlfriend, other than in the sense of a friend who is female. No new boyfriends either, but that's a different story.)

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009:

Midlife crisis is rather freeing. Time to do something new, explore new horizons.

Work ain't worth it. Or perhaps, find work that is? ... Though I think not. No matter how worthwhile the work is, it's not life. There needs to be a balance.

Hard to sum up in words, but I had a crash course in what's the little stuff, and how not to sweat it.

You know those moments just after you've had a really scary near-miss where you freak out and panic about what might have happened? Well, it didn't happen. Drop it and move on.

Related to the above, most of what I worry about happening doesn't. In the rare cases when it does, I can handle it. Quit wasting time and energy fussing.

Sorry, was that supposed to be only one lesson?

All in all 2009 wasn't that bad a year for me. Very nose to the grindstone, but that kept me from having the energy to get upset by things. There were a lot of things that could have gone very badly but ended well enough, so I'm inclined to thank my lucky stars and dwell on the "it didn't turn out for the worst" rather than fussing over what did happen. My father ended up in the hospital twice this year. Oddly enough the non life threatening stay is the one that fussed me the most. The other one I didn't know about until after the danger had passed.

I started 2009 with no job, which was getting fuss-worthy. I got one, and then proceeded to work 9-10 hour days as a "normal", with several bouts of 11-12 hour days. After being there for three months I calculated that I'd worked over 80 hours of overtime. I had a lovely trip to Japan and when I came back thinking the situation was taking a change for the better it took a change for the worse. By September I'd racked up at least another 80 hours' worth of overtime and was heading solidly into Not Coping Very Well land. (Which for me tends to be cleverly disguised as "totally got it under control and coping -- until I snap." I'm always surprised when the snap happens, because I think it's all under control. Outside observers usually look at me strangely when I say that.) I'm now insisting on getting a lunch break, taking at least a morning break more often than not, and telling myself that being a "slacker" and only working 8 hours a day most days is good for the soul. And probably good for the rest of the company in setting an example of what could be.

On the home front, a few upgrades were had. With the help of my folks and a friend I took out the overhang that made that side of the house dark and crowded, along with the BBQ pit that I never really liked. It's all messy and work in progress now, but I'm a lot happier with it. My old furnace gave me an unpleasant surprise one calm March morning by catching on fire and filling my house with smoke. As it turned out by the time I was aware of the problem it had already fixed itself, but I still ended up calling 911. The firemen were very nice about making sure that my house was not about to burn down, and I ended up with a new furnace. This is, ultimately, a win since the old one was, well, old, and tended to make unpleasant noises that would wake me up whenever it went off. It was a great opportunity for my practicing not getting all into the drama of the situation, as I could have been really uptight about it all and went off on a great cosmic rant about the unfairness of it all. Instead I merely shrugged and said it was clearly time for a new furnace, and how convent that it did it after I got a job rather than before, with a side of "whatever, the bank account will cope."

Along similar lines, my TV decided it's time to go on to its new life. On the one hand it's disappointing, since I was hoping to get at least four more years out of it. On the up side, well, I had been coveting a nice, thin flat screen HD TV and my Dad, in a move completely breaking with past history, volunteered to get me one. *floored* Completely wow and thank you and gee, look, something that could have been an excuse for fuss and angst turned into a great blessing.

Heck, even Dad's heart attack was kind of a blessing in disguise. He was steadily getting to the point where something was clearly not going well. We (and by "we" I mean my mother and I) had known for some time he had another mostly clogged artery that he was avoiding dealing with. Pulling weeds for five minutes should not require a ten minute rest break after. Well, now it's dealt with and no longer looms like the Sword of Damocles.

So yeah. 2009 could have been scary-bad. But in the end it turned out to be... another year lived.

Enough about the past, let's move forward. There's a lot I want to do in 2010.

The sure things

I'm in the middle of reassessing my life. It's the weirdest feeling, living in freefall. Anything is possible but nothing is known. Well, almost nothing. The one thing I know is I'm going to France around Labor Day. At this point it looks like we'll also be dipping our toes into Belgium and Luxemborg. Oh, and I'm going to SDCC and Wondercon. How odd, having conventions being a fixed point that I participate in, rather than just being a date and a note on the calendar.

These things are happening. This year for sure. Really, I mean it.

The house needs painting. I was going to do it last year but ended up so slammed and exhausted during all the months when I could have done something about it that I didn't. Well, it's not getting any less peel-y, and I'm not getting any more fond of the color. Change is in the air! I've already trimmed back one of the bushes that would most be in the way, so all that's left now is to choose a color and choose a painter. Oh, and wait for the rainy season to end and the temperatures to warm up enough that the paint will dry properly. Check back in again in late April.

That back patio. I want it to be something else. Ideally that something else will include underground storage tanks for rainwater reclamation and hopefully a koi pond. And not lots and lots of cracked cement. That I'm not so fond of.

Both of these were put off from last year, so I'm pretty fired up to do them.

Goals and stuff

1. Those 15 pounds I was going to lose last year and didn't? Well, there's no time like the present.

2. I watch too much TV. It's gotten to the point where I have it on all the time as background noise. Multitasking while I do a hundred different tasks and just sucking down brain power uselessly. Last year I started on a campaign to trim out any TV program that I don't honestly enjoy. If it's something I can read LJ while watching then it doesn't need to be watched. Dollhouse and Sanctuary went in the first round of purge, and Heroes is up next. (Sorry, I tried to be a good geek and support My Kind Of Programming On Network TV. But I've never liked it that much and I really am just not interested any more.) I'm looking to watch no more than an hour a night on the weeknights, maybe a little more on the weekends. But having the TV on just for background noise stops now. I can't think, and I have enough that I want to think about that, well, I want to think. Or not think, and just listen to silence. That won't kill me either.

The hard part about this particular resolution is that I sit next to fresne, who keeps telling me about cool new programs. So while I've pruned a bunch of programs, I've added about as many in. I'm not complaining (much) -- Merlin and Glee were both added and I've enjoyed them both immensely. But there must be appropriate room to enjoy them. So out with the rest!

3. I want to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test this year, hopefully at level 1, level 2 if I don't get my butt in gear and prepare. Doing this is going to require doing a lot more reading Japanese books. Oh horror, oh dread. Okay, not really. I just need to sit myself down and do it. Hopefully that will happen more now that (per item #2) I'm watching less TV.

I do have to be careful in the watching less TV column to make sure that I don't drop too many Japanese programs. I'm thoroughly dissatisfied with my level of spoken comprehension. This will only improve through listening practice. Ideally I want to have conversations with native speakers, but listening to Japanese programming helps. Ah, the difficult balances.

The above are a line in the sand, make this happen kinds of things. I will be disappointed, come a year from now, if any of those are not met. (Yes, that includes all the way up to the trip to France. Because my parents haven't left the country since before I had to take my socks off to count my age and they've still p0wned me on number of countries visited. No, I take that back, my mother did add Japan onto her list after I had to learn to count past ten. Still, even adding three countries isn't going to push me over her count. Must fix this.)

Below are the "stretch" goals. I want to make these happen. Any that actually get accomplished are a feather in my cap.

1. Start a career in voice overs/voice acting. No, I'm not looking to switch out of IT and move to Hollywood. (Yet.) But I think I could make a go of doing voice overs and pick up some spare cash on the side. (Not to mention a second revenue stream for those in between jobs times.) Long term I would like to do full on voice acting, but I think that might take a little while to build up the skills and contacts for. I think it would be fun to do, though.

2. Book of the month. Yes, I know. Twelve whole entire books in a year. I used to do that in a month. How far have I fallen?
I'm designating the list of books below, along with which month they're to be done in. They are more in the nature of research or projects than pleasure reading, with most of them moving me along in things that I want to know more about.

3. There's a particular Japanese historical figure my mother likes. (Oda Nobunaga.) There's a total of two books specifically on him in English. One of them came out about two months ago and is short, largely focused on one particular battle. The other one is... well, it's obviously someone's doctoral thesis. I know the time period, I know a lot about the subject, and it's one of my favorite periods in Japanese history. That said, the book is so dry that I haven't managed to get through all of it yet. My mother would like to know more about him, but there's no way I'm handing her that book. So, I want to do the research necessary to write her a book she can read on the guy. And since he's a major shaper in Japanese history, once I get the book written I want to shop it around and see if anyone wants to publish it. I don't figure all of that will happen in just one year (seriously, I do see the list of other things that are happening and have some faint grasp of reality.) But I'm drawing a line and saying this is the year that I start. Finish the two English books. And make headway on at least one of the Japanese books I have on the guy. Heck, if I get it together enough maybe I can self publish and give Mom the book as a Christmas present. I mean, how cool is a book written just for you by your child?

4. Be available to friends more. I've been a bit of a hermit of late and I want to stop it. The way to stop it's pretty simple: don't be a hermit. So, there. I want to have friends over for dinner more, and get out and socialize more. There are tons of opportunities that I keep spacing through, and I'm trying to stop that.

Wishful thinking and daydreams

1. I want to learn pencil drawing. My mother's gotten very into it, so it's a bit of a bonding experience. I've always wanted to draw. I even know the secret of learning it: practice, practice, practice. Let's see if maybe I can't get at least one of those practices in?

2. Hot tub. In lieu of a genuine Japanese bath, this will do. I want hot water readily available for me to wallow in. We'll see how this goes. It may be a long shot. But hey, that's why it's under "wishful thinking and daydreams".

3. Quilting/embroidery. I've been puttering around doing sashiko and collecting fabric to quilt. I want to do more of the sashiko. And I have a moritorium on buying new fabric until I actually start making quilts out of what I have. There's a lot of nice fabric out there that I want to buy, so I better get cutting and sewing.

4. A trip to Japan? Shockingly, I don't know when I'm going to Japan next. We've run through the trips scheduled while I still was at eBay, and we haven't committed to anything since then since my employment situation is so up in the air. I'm currently debating a shorter trip the week before Golden Week, since the flowers were so lovely last year when we went. My excuse is that I want to focus on photography, with intent to eventually produce a book about the gardens of Kyoto. Sounds like as good an excuse as any. The reality is slowly boiling down to I just want to do something that I enjoy because I enjoy it, and there's nothing wrong with that. We shall see if that wins, or if the long variety of "practical" considerations ends up dominating.

5. Decide what next. I've hit the point where I know I don't want to keep doing what I'm doing. Network Operations Manager is not my ideal job title. (Though I do like the shininess of it.) Being on-call all the time drives me crazy, and being in a largely interrupt-driven, support environment makes me cranky. I don't know where to go next, though. I do know that I want to spend time living in Japan, probably through a language immersion study program. The lead time on those is pretty significant, so I want to get it figured out what program I want to pursue, and when. This is kind of crucial for figuring out budgeting and other details.

6. Relax. Yeah, there's a lot on the list. It doesn't all have to get done this year. Do what feels right and roll with the rest. This line probably should be at the top. But in actual execution I think it's probably where it's going to end up. :P

As mentioned above, I want to do a book of the month. These are chosen for specific reasons, and several of them are more projects than simply a sit down and read.

January: There's Money Where Your Mouth Is. An introduction to the field of voice overs, this provides the foundation for figuring out the next step.

February: The Japanese Gardens Kyoto. This is more of a project than a read. The plan is for the gardens listed in the book to be plotted on a map (I was planning on using my GPS software since then they also end up handily on my GPS for planning purposes but will also look at Google Maps to see if that will serve.) In addition to pinpointing the gardens I also am planning on taking notes on the garden for things like best time of year to visit, size, type of garden, etc.

March: Kami to Hotoke no Michi o Aruku Another project, this book focuses on major temples in the Kansai. I want them plotted on a map as well. There being a couple of hundred listed in the book I will probably not go full out in copying directions, main image venerated, mountain associations, etc., but I do want to at least start the list and see how far I can get.

The above two are put early in the year as a possible pre-planning effort for a possible trip in April.

April: Yumemakura's Onmyouji. This is largely a simple read, though in Japanese so it will not be necessarily quick and easy. It's partially for practice, partially because I've loved the author's writing style in what I've read so far, and partially some base research for some ideas I have on a story.

May: Japonis Tyrannus: The Japanese Warlord Oda Nobunaga Reconsidered This would be one of the two books on Nobunaga in English. I've had it for years and have never finished it, so it's high time I got around to doing so.

June: The Sharing Knife: Legacy Okay, this is a pure fluff book. I figure after the last one, I'll need it. And it's a humiliation as a Lois fan to have never read this book. Time to man up and pay my fandom dues. At least I know I like the author, even if the first book in the series left me disengaged.

July: Making Pilgrimages: Meaning and Practice in Shikoku. A useful read if I'm going to do something scholarly with all the pilgrimage research/pilgrimaging we've been doing. This is another of the "just sit down and read it already" ones.

August: Souryuuden, volume 1. More practice. August is when the applications for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test open up. So this is probably a good yardstick on how confident I feel about taking it.

September: Shapers of Japanese Buddhism. The very most major ones I know. The rest, not so much. I'd like to know who the heck some of these folks are when I get an inscription saying I've come to pay my devotions to them.

October: Kyoto-Nara no Sekai Isan. Aka, The World Heritage Sites of Kyoto and Nara. I think it's criminal how few of the World Heritage Sites in these areas get mentioned in guide books. I want to do a guide book that's nothing but a description of the WHS in the area, and this seems a good place to start the research. Because how can I complain if *I* don't know where they all are?

I haven't designated books for November and December yet. I'm leaving these slots open to accommodate whatever changes happen in my life in the next ten months. If nothing else comes up, following is a list of possible candidates to fill them:

- Ultraman Mebius: Anderes Horizont. I expect this will be a freebee, since I'll probably have finished it by then.

- One of the Japanese books on Oda Nobunaga

- The pencil drawing book my mother gave me. This is more in the nature of a project, since simply reading about drawing is kind of lame.

- One of the Stephen Turnbull books I haven't finished yet. Sad, sad, sad that I have any of these unread. And yet I have multiple ones. This must be corrected.

- One of my Japanese books on Onmyoudou. Again, research.

- A Mirage of Blaze novel. If I need fluff, and have a brain free to be eaten.

January's book: Half finished. Turns out the latter half are exercises. I'm going to get a microphone and start recording me doing said exercises. So this is not the checked-off win I was hoping for, but I consider it good progress.

February: Was I crazy? There's about 200 gardens in this book! I've done about 8 of the gardens. Must crack down and focus if hope to finish this in the next two weeks.

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