My Shiny New Office

I’ve never had an office in this house.

We built and moved in in 2005. Even though I worked from home, running Canines In Action, organizing and supporting my KPA workshops, writing seminars, and writing fiction, I never had a separate office. Mostly I worked on my bed or a couch, which was pretty bad for my posture and health, until I acquired my treadmill desk and set that up in a corner of the great room/kitchen, which was a dedicated workspace but not separated.

But everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked in 2020.

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BOOM! Another tree (and my inaugural stream!)

There was, to borrow a phrase, an earth-shattering ka-boom. I launched up from a dead sleep like Nosferatu on Red Bull.

The Horror - Jobs That Make The World Worse

In that incredible space where time dilates and the brain can work blazingly fast, before I was upright I had already considered and discarded thunder (we were having a storm but the sound profile was different) or a blown transformer (I’ve heard that from very close, it didn’t match either, and besides there isn’t one nearby). Sitting up, looking out the window, I recalled a friend telling me that the recent Tokyo fireball had awakened her in the night, and I seriously wondered if we’d just had a meteor strike.

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Fushimi Inari Taisha

Fushimi Inari Taisha (shrine)

The iconic red gates mark the entrance to a shrine, defining a sacred space, but to many outside Japan they are most associated with Fushimi Inari Taisha, the famous shrine at Kyoto. While there are many fascinating aspects to explore here, the seemingly-endless red torii are a captivating visual and immediately recognizable all over the world.

Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) was founded in 711, on Inariyama (Mt. Inari) outside Kyoto. The main structure today dates to 1499 (but is regularly reconstructed, per tradition). Inari Ōkami is the Shinto spirit of rice and its related themes of sake and prosperity. For this reason, you will see donated sake near the shrines.

Throughout Shinto’s long history, Inari has been variously depicted as both male and female. While Susan Spann graciously guided me on my first visit to Fushimi Inari Taisha, we were amused by our distinct references in conversation—I kept referring to Inari as she, and Susan kept saying he, but really that makes sense when you remember that we write in different historical periods.

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When Change Is Necessary (As It Is)

Very personal post today, friends. And long.

(Note: I really debated posting this and potentially diluting signal. This is not me lecturing on racism or its effects or its solutions; God knows there is plenty of formal and informal education available, and I’ve linked some at the end. This is my own thoughts on my own blog on my own working out frustration and inability, which might resonate with and perhaps prompt some others who feel as I do. Let me be explicit — if this post is taking time from more educational or proactive reading, skip this. If you’re interested in my personal experience, it’s here.)

I have always been the kind who called or wrote instead of the kind who marched, because I can articulate a more detailed argument. Nothing against marching, props to those who did, I just thought I could use my own skills (I do words professionally) in another avenue. But in the last few years I have been increasingly frustrated with expressing my opinion as a constituent. (Last week, for example, I finally received a senatorial response to my January plea on proposed changes to Title IX making sexual assault harder to prosecute, a month after those proposed changes were enacted, and that response was just a “thank you for your message” and a ridiculously insulting mansplaining-down that Title IX existed, as if anyone who wrote to express specific concerns about proposed changes wouldn’t know what Title IX even was.)

My sister Alena (L) and myself

As a behavior professional, I know that a lack of response leads to escalation. That’s just the science. (Watch anyone whose snack doesn’t immediately fall out of a vending machine.) If we didn’t want people marching and shouting instead of kneeling or writing, we should have listened earlier. I’m glad I escalated. This is about Baby’s First Protest, if you will.

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Kuro-Tamago (Black Eggs)

I’ve been thinking a lot about Japan lately. Just over a year ago I was on a dream trip through the country, visiting historic sites both famous and less touristy, and I am anxiously waiting for 2020 to play through to see if I can make my scheduled trip this fall, where I plan to hike the Kumano Kodō (熊野古道), a network of millennium-old pilgrimage trails through the south.

But while I wait, I’ve been reminiscing.

Author and Tōkyō resident Susan Spann was my guide to the best of Hakone, from the hotel where we were personally greeted to the little Italian restaurant where the owner brought in a wood-burning pizza oven. (Fair warning: I’m going to be talking up her books, both her historical mysteries about the murder-solving ninja/Catholic priest duo and her upcoming memoir about climbing 100 Japanese peaks in a year to change her inner and outer life.)

But today, let’s just talk about Ōwakudani.

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StoryTime from Japanese History

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Chocolate.
Click to download the free story for virtual con attendees (and you, if you got here!)

I promised to share them! These are the Japanese history videos I put together for Anime Central 2020 Online, now bundled into one convenient playlist.

There are 9 videos in all, ranging from 8th century history to modern cultural fun. Here’s the list:

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Another review of Shard & Shield

I don’t post about every review, obviously, but Publishers Weekly is kind of a big wheel in the industry. A couple of weeks ago they published a review of Shard & Shield, a bit late for its mid-2019 release but I’m not complaining; there’s always time to join a series!

And I was delighted to find some very flattering comments, such as, “satisfying, high-stakes fantasy…with tightly plotted action sequences and taut suspense” and “multidimensional characters make consistently believable choices…. high fantasy fans will find plenty to enjoy in this fast-paced adventure.” Yay! Thank you!

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Villains Gallery

Tonight some friends from church held a “decompression night” and invited a bunch of us over to blow off steam. We had stress balls to squeeze, bubbles to blow, putty, over-sized Jenga, punching bags, wrapping paper swords, cornhole, video games, and a Nerf shooting range (with paint for the darts to mark your shots).

They’d set up a villains gallery for target shooting, with four rogues to take fire. There was the demogorgon from Stranger Things, Harry Potter’s Delores Umbridge, and–

…Oh, wow.

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I’ve mentioned before my annual maze project, and I’ve just completed this year’s.

It’s a challenging task, since I got into the habit of making some literary reference, usually related to a project published that year (first found out by Google Maps in 2015), and since I’m working without much of a plan in vegetation taller than my eye level, just working with spatial awareness and distance guess-timates to produce my pattern. But I have to say, I’m pretty proud of how 2018’s trail came out:

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