General Updates

I've returned!

General Updates, LinksKristina PinoComment

As it turns out, I didn't have as much time for blogging, or even reading, as I'd hoped to while I was on vacation this month. The good news is, I'm back! This week, everything will be business as usual, so you can expect regular updates again. Meanwhile, some stuff went up on Book Riot while I was gone, and yesterday I posted a book haul video on YouTube. Links below:

Rad Covers of Bookish Songs (warning: YouTube black hole of awesome music ahead)

Making the Jump from Lit to Comics: Where to Start (alternatively, or additionally, you can read a post I wrote for Quirk Books a while back listing more comics for bookish people)

A note on Friday Things and what's up for winter vacation

General UpdatesKristina PinoComment
Hello, readers!

In case you haven't noticed, I missed Friday Things last week, and I'm not going to run the column this week, either. Because I've been busier as we get closer to the holidays and vacation, I've decided to put it on hold for now. Friday Things will resume as a weekly link dump starting in January! Until then, I may do a couple of random link dumps, but please don't hold me to it.

What's happening that I haven't been able to get to it? 

Well for one thing, I'm on a heavier schedule at school since we've only got two weeks to go before next term, which starts in January. As such, my administrators are trying to cram in more English classes, so I'm getting home a little more tired than usual these days. The kids are officially off on the 20th, and I'm off on the 24th, so things will definitely relax for me on that department soon.

The other thing is, again, since we're coming up on the holidays, my social schedule is also more booked than usual. Between parties (including a bonenkai) with co-workers and Christmas events with local friends and other foreigners, I don't have as much free time as I'm used to on the weekends, either. Not that I'm complaining - it's just that reduced internetting in general makes it difficult for me to collect a list of cool links from around the web consistently.

Finally, vacation notes! I'm going to be out of town from the 26th through January 5th and hitting up a few different places around Japan as I did during my summer break. You can keep up with me on Twitter while I'm out, and I may or may not do a photo-a-day update again while I travel. I'll blog when I can, but you can depend on regular Twitter updates. When I get home, I may have some videos to share. But no promises!

I think that's it for now. Thanks for reading this far, and I hope you'll stick around!

Upcoming reviews: what I'm reading

General Updates, BooksKristina PinoComment

[Updated: 11/02]

Heya folks! I'm busy preparing for several reviews in the next couple of weeks, so here's the outlook, with relevant links to more info on each title. I've also put an "On the TBR pile" section, which isn't my entire backlog, but rather a look at the books I'm 90% sure I'm picking up once I'm done with the official stuff.

For Japanator:

Rising from the Ashes by Dr. Akiko Mikamo (status: halfway)
Hobonichi's Techo, newly-translated daily planner: English edition (status: review live!)



For GeekeryDo:

Before Happily Ever After series Book#4: Down the River and Awakening the Rose by Ann T. Bugg (status: review live!)
Little Red Gem by DL Richardson - coming November 11th, my day on the book tour! (status: finished reading. Also, I'm going to post an interview with the author)
Pushed by Corrine Jackson (via NetGalley; halfway)



For Bookalicious:

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by L Frank Baum (status: halfway)



On the TBR pile:

A Game of Thrones/A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin (status: just started, despite pile-up)
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff by Christopher Moore (borrowed from a friend)
Unnatural Creatures by Neil Gaiman



Changing Tastes: on salt

General UpdatesKristina PinoComment
During one of my many lunch time conversations with my principal, the subject of salt came up in reference to its use in Japanese food, along with salty or high-sodium seasonings/extras like soy sauce. It used to be pretty excessive in Japan, until eventually the general populace figured out that it wasn't healthy and they cut down. My principal went on to talk about how it took a while getting used to a reduced salt diet, but now he can't imagine going back to how things were.

It's kind of funny, because even though I've only been here six months, I'm already experiencing something similar. While I use salt in my own cooking at home, it's usually just for dinner, and depending on the meal I may not even use any. At school, the from-scratch salad seasoning has some soy sauce in it, but I wouldn't really have known without the nutritionist having told me the ingredients. So after spending some time consuming much less of the stuff, I find that normal salted snacks I used to enjoy without a second thought are now burn-my-mouth salty.

I guess it's a good thing? But dang, all these plantain chips aren't going to eat themselves.

Funny Search Terms: Barsoom could be true

General UpdatesKristina PinoComment

Sometimes, I check up on the sort of search terms that lead people to my blog. I am, of course, mostly interested in what topics, reviews, types of posts, etc. appear to be more relevant to my readers. But sometimes, I see some odd phrases that are somehow relevant to my blog (or are just plain amusing). Every now and then, whenever I've got a few of these to share, I'll do one of these posts.

By the way, I haven't altered any of these searches in any way (just put them in bold). I've just added a little commentary after each.

320 section bb - what? I don't even know.

"bag beginning" book reviews - Ah yes, "bag beginning." A most excellent book.

chomp carl hiaasen chomp jokes - Alas, I don't know any chomp jokes. I can't even think of a bad one.

barsoom could be true - Could it? Though I'm pretty sure science doesn't work that way, I'd be pretty amazed if there were, in reality, humanoids and oversized bugs on Mars.

aren't there any schools with tasty lunches? - Why yes, there are. They exist in Japan!

chomp book report by kids - I can always tell when a book is being assigned for school, because I get floods of searches that look a lot like, "let me look at your full book summary so I can just copy that for my book report." Sorry kiddos - just read the book!

disney wars my mickey - What. Disney x Star Wars x Where's My Mickey? Or something? I don't even know how those words work together.

This concludes my first installment of Funny Search Terms.

10 ways moving to Japan has changed my daily life

General Updates, JapanKristina Pino7 Comments

Besides the obvious trans-Pacific, living abroad, different culture sort of deal that comes with moving to another country, there are pretty basic things that have changed about my daily life as a direct result of moving to Japan. This isn't to say that the changes are unique to Japan and wouldn't have happened anywhere else, but these all directly relate to situations I've been put into here that I never was back in Miami.

Read on below.

1) I squeegee my bathroom every day

Because mold is a problem (ventilation issues), keeping my apartment nice and dry is pretty much a red alert-level priority. That includes the bathroom after I shower, so I keep a squeegee in there and wipe that sucker down every single night. After wiping it down, I turn on the drying fan built into it to really make sure it's perfectly dry.

2) I brush my teeth at my workstation after lunch each day

This one's a "mileage will vary" situation for some, because I realize there are many people who brush 3+ times a day regardless of where they live. In my case, I used to just chew some Orbit for 20 minutes after lunch and get on with my day. Now, I keep a toothbrush and toothpaste in the bag I take with me to work, and brush at my desk after lunch along with all my other co-workers and students. Everyone does this. Together. We bond.

3) Gotta have my green tea with lunch

Before moving to Japan, and even before visiting Japan for the first time a few years ago, I didn't ever like green tea. I didn't like any hot teas at all, and cold green tea still tastes awful to me. When I first started working at my school, I was always served some hot green tea with lunch. At first, I forced it down to be polite. Then I got used to it. Now it's just something that goes. Lunch time? Where's my green tea?

4) The first thing I do each morning is look out the window and check how sunny it is

If it's a clear, sunny day, that means I can air out some of my clothes and bedding and kill whatever might be creepin' in the stitching. The paranoia of mold runs that deep - I don't feel good about my things if I don't lay them out in the sun every once in a while.

5) Eat all of the pork

Before moving to Japan, it'd been years since I ate any pork. I'd gotten sick of it when I was a kid, and have spent most of my life completely grossed out by the idea of eating pork, even though pork is kind of a way of life with Cubans. Pork is an integral part of Japanese cuisine though, and it's tossed into everything, including the "vegetarian" bentou lunch at one of my local bentou shops (seriously?). Now we're cool. But just cool. I don't go out of my way for pork. I just got tired of the opposite: trying to actively dodge it.

6) My umbrella (and/or backup umbrella) goes with me everywhere

The last time I came to Japan, I "misplaced" (forgot, donated) three umbrellas because I was not accustomed to carrying one. In Miami, I drove a car and just kept a couple in there as needed, and that was the end of it. In Japan, I don't have a car, and when I have to plan my entire day, I need to consider whether I'll need an umbrella. It isn't just about keeping dry in the case of rain, it's also about making some shade in case I end up having to spend more time than necessary out in the sun. I'm actually kind of shocked that I never had this issue in Miami.

7) Always carry cash

Relying on a credit card and carrying minimal cash around (if any) are a thing of the past. Though I'm used to it now, I don't like it at all. I don't really worry about my wallet being stolen or whatever, but it just always feels like cash disappears faster than my invisible money would since credit card transactions require that extra step of signing to make sure you know how much you're about to spend.

8) I haven't worn perfume in months

I didn't even bring any with me. Folks just don't douse themselves in cologne or body splash around here. And because of that, I'm becoming rather sensitive to it. Whenever someone passes me by who just dabbed a little cologne or spritzed a little fruity spray that morning, I'm already drowning in the fumes. Perfumed person sits next to me on the train? I'm sick to my stomach.

9) I carry tissues and hand towels everywhere

It's getting better, but in general everyone carries around tissues for various reasons, including the obvious need to blow one's nose or wipe accidents, and the less obvious (to foreigners) precaution against lack of toilet paper in public toilets. I haven't really had an issue with that lately, though a few years ago it was a miracle I ever saw any TP while I was out, so maybe that's just a deep-rooted paranoia I developed in a short time. The hand towel is still essential, though, since not all bathrooms will have paper towels or a hand drier for after you rinse your hands. Bonus points if you keep an extra little towel to wipe your sweat.

10) Being on time really means being on time 

Though being a professional anywhere you go means being on time, the casual life in Miami runs on "Cuban Time." Everything occurs "around" whatever the set time is. In Japan, "around" is never anything but the exact time given, whether it's professional or social. And if, in many cases, you aren't actually early, you may miss out altogether. I've already missed too many trains and been "late" (arrived at the designated time, but 10 minutes after the others, for example) to more appointments than I can count. So, yeah, that's a new thing I'm still getting used to, months later.

And that's my list. Yay! Anyway, like I mentioned above, these aren't all necessarily specific to living in Japan, but because of my move here, they've affected my life directly. At least half of these wouldn't even be a factor if I'd moved out on my own in Miami. Ok, actually, probably none of these would have affected my daily life in Miami.

Did anything weird affect your life on a basic, daily level when you moved out on your own?

Outlook: My life in Japan

General UpdatesKristina Pino2 Comments

As I'm sure a lot of my friends/family and internet-buddies and other readers are curious, I figured this was a good place to just talk about where you'll be able to keep up with me if you're interested in learning about life in Japan, life abroad, Japanese culture, etc.

Whenever I've got stories printed, I'll be adding links to them in my weekly link dump labeled "Friday Things." I'll make a special "Life in Japan" section whenever applicable for easy indexing. You get a freebie today, though - I made a video for Japanator about the Hello Kitty campaign that Mister Donut has going on.

A lot of cultural stuff, food-tasting, talking about nerd pilgrimages and other small bites will probably appear on Japanator. It could be something as simple as talking about seasonal sodas, a visit to one of the various nerd mecca around Japan, or talking about general sight-seeing stuff.

If I have something toy-related to share, like the latest hobby magazines or sharing pictures/reviews of various figures I may acquire during my time here, it'll probably appear on Tomopop. I'm still keeping Gunpla/model kit-building stuff here on GeekeryDo, though, and I already bought a kit last week that I'll be working on soon, so please look forward to that.

As for just GeekeryDo? I've got something for you, too. On Twitter, following a friend's lead, I'm going to be tweeting about my school lunch often as I can. It may not necessarily happen daily, but I'll try. I'll also try to discuss the daily lunch on this blog - the various dishes, what is in them, and where they come from. Yesterday, for example, we had a Korean dish, seaweed soup, and strawberries. School lunches are, by design, supposed to be balanced and healthful. I'm not simply tweeting/showing a picture of my food to the web void - it's more for the purpose of talking about what's on the tray, and like I just mentioned, why it's there.

Besides talking about the school lunch, and I'll make a separate post about why it's important/special soon, I've also decided I'd like to try doing a sketch a day. I bought a drawing pad the other day for this very reason, and I drew my first sketch already yesterday (Wednesday). I'll share that in a separate quick post and I'll make a new tag for them: "sketch a day." The sketches could be anything -- flowers or crops that are planted on school grounds, a student (not detailed enough to recognize the child, but perhaps a general impression of a general Elementary School student if I see something interesting), anime or cartoon characters, comics, you name it. Whatever I'm feeling at the moment that I've got some time for a sketch that day is what's going down on paper.

So, to wrap things up - your best bet to see what I'm writing about Japan is to check here every Friday for my link dump and checking the "Life in Japan" section for updates. Besides that, check back often (hopefully, daily) for regular content on GeekeryDo including, but not limited to, school lunch and sketch-a-day quickie posts, comics and book reviews, and my thoughts on whatever games I'm playing.

GeekeryDo is a nerd-style blog in which I discuss all kinds of things, and I intend to keep it that way. The Japan Life is just an extra spice.

A glance behind and a look ahead

General UpdatesKristina Pino4 Comments

It's a new year! Time for new things!

Before that though, I suppose I should discuss my achievements and high points regarding 2012. It has been a big year for GeekeryDo, but really a big year for me in general. I've made some life changes and taken real steps toward something huge. I just don't know what it is yet.

My goals for 2012 included visiting new places, reading more books than I had in 2011, especially books released within the year when I got to reading it, playing more games (read: completing more games), getting a cool job, and raising my viewership on this new(ish) blog GeekeryDo. 

As for new places, I'd written on Snapitude a top five list of destinations I'd want to find myself at in 2012. I made it to two of those places: Grand Canyon National Park and Yellowstone National Park. It was pretty awesome, and besides those two national parks I also visited several states for the first time (or at least, the first time since I was too young to remember) over the course of two separate road trips. Since I got the job in Japan, I resolved to get to know more of the USA before leaving it for a while. This year, I've visited California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, and Georgia. Some more briefly than others, but nonetheless I'm very proud of this list.

My resolution to read more books was realized in spades. Though I haven't written about each book I actually read throughout 2012, I reviewed or discussed most of them and you can check the archives. I discovered that I rather like reading young adult fiction as well as autobiographical or creative nonfiction. Though I'll give most books a chance, that's just the trend. I've participated in a couple of blog tours and gotten to interview some rad authors, which is fun fun fun. I even started reading comics again and writing about those, too.

When I play video games, I tend to clock a ton of hours into it and then drop it right before the end. Many games in my library have been victims of this and I resolved to complete games this year. Though a lot of them were older games I'd missed (or had to start over), I did actually complete at least 10 games this year, including the likes of: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Trine, Limbo, Final Fantasy XIII, Kirby's Epic Yarn, two adventure games, Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and more.

I didn't just get one cool job; I got three cool jobs. First, I was recruited by Interac to live and work in Japan as an English teacher in the public school system. I'm thrilled to be moving there this coming March, and I'll have more updates on that as the time comes. The second gig I snagged was with Quirk Books, an awesome publisher with a blog that runs on their front page. I was hired as a freelancer and you should start seeing articles with my by-line this month. Finally, I became a contributor for Twinfinite, a totally rad games news and reviews blog with an overwhelmingly infectious positive atmosphere and a wonderful crew to work with.

Finally, we've got the "big" one. My traffic! I didn't really expect my little blog here to grow as quickly as it did, but Blogger is clocking me at an average of 4,000 hits per month as of December 2012. I'm truly happy to report this number and have thus set a goal of 10,000 hits per month for December 2013! As one could surmise, top traffic spikers on my blog have been:

1) Reading/reviewing books which are being adapted to film
2) Reading/reviewing newly released books either on my own or as part of a blog tour
3) Playing newly released games then writing about them
4) Writing guides for adventure games (solutions to adventure puzzles, etc.)
5) Ranting about bad anime (Seriously, the popularity of this post is beyond me)

Other updates to my blog include a few redesigns, a new logo created by dear friend and designer Jonathan Tubbs, and new profile image by Mikey Turvey. The site will continue to be updated regularly, hopefully all for the best. As usual, I am also taking feedback and suggestions in this area!

A look at 2013:

I'm not one to make "resolutions" so to speak. I do have a few goals for 2013, but the word "resolution" feels like it's got kind of a stink on it. It's a word I associate with weight loss, over-ambition, and forgotten promises.

The top things I want to accomplish in 2013 include traveling to visit even more places, which shouldn't be too hard this year since I'll be living in Asia and have only seen small parts of it within Japan, reading more books, playing more games, learning to sew, improving my crocheting skills, and getting back into drawing and painting regularly enough to maybe even sell some work online. 

Yes, ambitious indeed! But I think it's a reasonable list. I'm not out to be a superstar seamstress and make complicated stuff. I just want to make myself a snazzy apron or sew a summer dress. Maybe crochet myself some hats, mittens, and scarves to keep me warm in the cold months.

I'll probably be reading almost exclusively eBooks this year given that I won't have much shelf space in a tiny apartment and access to English-language bookstores will probably be limited anyway. Yeah, sure, I could just order books online. But then what? They'll clutter up my limited space and, someday, I'll have to either lug the books home with me or give them away to someone else. No, I'll just read from my Kindle (or iPad depending on formatting). It'll be less painful that way.

My big, big gift from my family this past Christmas was a new laptop. The one I've already got (it's several years old) isn't reliable enough for me to really get work done (it overheats just from trying to stream videos online), and I'm not going to haul my desktop over to Japan. I needed something compact and snippy to get my work done and also double as a gaming machine.

The only console I'm taking with me is a PS3, and I'll be taking my portables, but a huge chunk of my gaming is done on PC. This is where things get awesome. The computer I got for Christmas is actually a gaming laptop, so not only is it going to suit my gaming needs, but it's powerful enough to handle my photography needs as well as the simple blogging, Skyping and other online tasks. I am extremely grateful for this and will not soon forget about the kind of support I've gotten all around for my ambitious international move straight out of my parents' home.

Of course, it should go without saying that I'm always striving to do better for myself, get even better gigs and work my way toward a lasting and fulfilling career - whatever that may be. Part of the reason why I'm moving out is because I've got some thinking to do in terms of which direction I want to take my life, and I also just really needed to try something totally different - get out of the house and try something new while also being productive. Who knows... maybe I'll love teaching and just keep at that. Or maybe not. At this time, what I really want to do is go back to school and get an MA in Anthropology. Since that isn't financially feasible right now, I'm looking at other options. Lately, I've been thinking about getting into publishing. I love books, after all.

This concludes my year in review and goal-setting for 2013! Expect lots more fun, more words, more pictures, all that good stuff. I hope all of you reading this had a rad Christmas and a fabulous turn of the New Year, and wish you all the best in 2013 as well!