General Updates

Jack of All Trades, Master of Some

General UpdatesKristina Pino1 Comment

Every now and again, I think about the way life doesn't cooperate as this straight, narrow path to some goal. Growing up, I definitely thought I'd always be an artist, and go into some kind of artistic career and that would be my life. But as I got older, my path started to get wider, and eventually when I got into university, it started winding and squirreling around as I tried different things. For all my love of art and expressing myself creatively, my love of learning exposed me to other things that interested me just as much.

The phrase "Jack of all trades" is one I enjoy, but I don't like the weird "master of none" that comes after it sometimes. My life is a web of my various interests and competences, and I like it that way. But it doesn't mean I'm a master of exactly zero skills.

When I hear "master of none," I sit and think about what that's supposed to mean. That we have a finite capacity for learning? Maybe. But not all expertise take up the same amount of space, and I like that bit I read in a Sherlock story that when you reach your capacity, your new memories simply re-write or record over the old, musty ones that your brain deems unnecessary. And I reject the idea that having varied interests and hobbies and being capable at several things (or having several professions) would render someone incapable of honing a craft to mastery, which is something I've thought more about since reading Nick Offerman's excellent memoir. I do think everyone should have one, even private, special craft and make things with their hands. I also believe we have an obligation to ourselves to do things that make us happy, at least part of the time. And I know first-hand that our interests and goals change over time: my competition-level dancing skills as an older teen didn't result in a career path for me, either.

Everyone has amazing skills, whether they realize it as such or not. Some people can make anyone laugh, can write words that make you want to cry, can draw photo-realistically, can photograph surreal-y, can flip an omelet like a champ every time, can hold complicated yoga positions, can empty their minds of noise, can build canoes, can make eye contact and listen really, really well. Skills take time and intention. As a culture I think we value people taking one craft all the way to extreme mastery - and that's really cool. But I also think it's really cool when people are simply masters. An authority, but not The Grand Authority. Or maybe not so much: competent. Good enough. Enough to do the thing right, and happily move on to the next thing, having gained some knowledge, having gained an experience. Is there somehow less value when someone isn't trying to be a Super-Duper Grand-Master?

I'm not going to say "my life is at a crossroads," because I don't think it works that way for many people. It's more like a series of roundabouts and winding mountain roads (or forest paths if you prefer). Not stopped at a crossroads, but traveling in circles until we decide which exit to take, even if it's back where we came from. And we have to choose one (for now). Another path to the same destination might appear later after a winding trip through an awesome (or hey, not so awesome) new place. But with the right amount of time and intention, we can all get there in the end. "There" being where we were meant to go all along.

I'll be over here, enjoying the ride and learning as much as I can along the way.


General UpdatesKristina PinoComment

I'm finally settled into my new place and I'm making space for and accommodating all my beloved figures and statues among my books. Some of the stuff I'm unboxing right now has never seen the light of day, either because of the cramped situation at my previous apartment, or because I acquired it while I was living abroad, or because I didn't have space for it at my parents' house before that. So they were sitting in their boxes in a closet, poor things.

As a result, I'm rediscovering my love for figures I've definitely taken out to take pictures and review and all that, but then sadly had to return to their boxes, as well as figures I've never even looked at outside of their packaging at all. I'll probably be uploading some galleries here and/or on Tomopop soon, because I've got the time and energy for it now. Also, my shelves are looking gorgeous, and they make me happy.

Oh em gee - I'm back! A look at what I'm reading and watching

General UpdatesKristina PinoComment

After an extended, way too long break, I'm back and ready to rock. The Reading Challenge is back on, and of course I'll be blogging as usual about my other reads and what I'm seeing around. I'm also watching more anime recently, so I'll probably blog my thoughts about that here, too. 

Here's a quick update on what I'm reading, watching, etc.:

Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen - I've been reading this book for what seems like forever, because I'm in the middle of a hardcore reading slump. Moving/vacation/reuniting with friends and family will do that, I guess? But I want to finish it by this weekend. (library)

Boys Over Flowers (first few volumes) by Yoko Kamio. This series is kind of a shoujo manga classic, and I've just never looked into it. Changing that! (library)

Last Stand of the Wreckers by Nick Roche, James Roberts, Guido Guidi, and others. I've never read any Transformers-related comics, and this was the book my pals suggested I start with. I've got a whole reading pathway lined up that I'll be slowly working through. (borrowed)

Nisekoi (anime). I started reading the manga a while back, and I had thought it was rather fun and funny, so instead of hunting it down to keep reading, I'm giving it a watch. (Crunchyroll)

I've polled Twitter on what other anime I should watch, and so far the list looks like Attack on Titan, Shingeki no Bahamut, Durarara!!, Mawaru Penguindrum, and... more. If you have suggestions of your own, I'm trying to keep it within the last ~5 years, and I'm also avoiding horror. Have any for me? Let me have 'em in the comments!

Thanks for sticking around.

2015 Outlook: What's in Store Now?

General UpdatesKristina PinoComment

Hi hi!

Alright, so we are nearing the end of this school year, which means it's near the end of my time in Japan. After two years in Ibaraki, I'm moving back to Miami! There are loads of adventures and new experiences and cool things and delicious foods ahead of me, so don't you worry about content and yummies dropping off on this blog.

Quick thing:

From now until probably May, Friday Things will be on hiatus. It's a fun column, but I can't keep up with it weekly while I'm tying things up here/on vacation/moving/etc., so I'm simply going to take a break.


Monday, March 23rd will be the final Elementary School Lunch update for the foreseeable future. There's a possibility I'll take the project up again some day, but at this time I don't plan on eating the school lunches at my next post. Instead, I plan to blog about several other food-related things.

First: Bentou lunches. I'm going to be preparing my own packed lunches for work, and it may not be daily, but I will strive to update this blog with some regularity with what I'm making, and refer you to recipes I use if they're documented anywhere. 

Second: I want to blog more about Miami, and South Florida in general. Not just about food, but since this is the section of this post we're on, I'll just go on and say that whenever I find some remarkable food someplace, I'll probably use Instagram more than anything else for this, but I may highlight it here as well if I've got something more to say, or if I end up talking to the chef or something.

Last: Recipes. I mentioned above I may share where I get recipes from for my packed lunches, but in some cases, they'll be recipes I've collected here over the past couple of years. The nutritionist/lunch lady at my school has been very kind and shared recipes for many of my favorite meals so I can recreate them at home. If this is a thing anyone's interested in, I'd be happy to share those now and again.


I'm trying not to over-plan, but I've got a lot on the pipeline this year, and unfortunately I can't talk about most of it just yet. Sorry about that!

As I mentioned earlier, I want to focus on the Miami area (and South Florida in general), which means I'll be hitting the water, the hiking trails, the festivals, markets, art walks, and anything else, and highlighting them here and/or my social media. When you spend a long time living in one place, you kind of lose your awe of it, and take it totally for granted. Now that I've spent some time away, I'm kind of falling in love with the lovely South Florida again, so I want to share that with the world.

Besides that, I'll be documenting my trips wherever my feet take me. Instagram and Twitter are good places to look and keep up with me in that department, and later on when I've sorted through my images, cleaned them up, registered them, they'll appear in the Travels section of my site's navigation. There may be a bit of a delay because I like to register my images in big batches, but they will be there, and nowhere else. I don't use flickr, or SmugMug, or any other photo uploading service for my images at the time of writing this post.

Books and Comics:

This is the one aspect of my site which will not change. I will continue to review or at least put my thoughts down on books and comics I read and audiobooks I listen to. I've come to rather like the Bite-Sized Book Reviews format, and will probably do more of that and fewer one-off reviews in the future, but that's about it. My comics-related content will probably go up as well.

As ever, you can also see my other book-related blogging on Book Riot and Quirk Books, and some comics-related blogging at PANELS. I love writing for those spots, and that's another aspect of my current life that won't be changing with the scenery. Oh, and I'm not dropping any of my 2015 Reading Challenges. They're just on a short break.

And I think that just about covers it. At least, for now it does. I know it seems like a lot, but if you consider the school-daily food blogging is going away, it doesn't actually amount to any more work than I'd been doing before to mix in a bit of travel/entertainment blogging with the occasional food-related thing. In the end, I'm basically going to blog when I want to, when something is really cool and I want to share it. If it isn't fun, there's no point, right?

If you have any questions, requests, feedback, notes of encouragement, etc. for me, feel free to leave them in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter or somewhere else! It's always great knowing when folks keep up with my adventures here. Onwards to new ones!

You're Gorgeous When You Laugh

General UpdatesKristina PinoComment

I used to be self-conscious about my laugh.

I laugh loudly, and often burst laughing so hard I cry. Sometimes, when I laugh, heads turn from across the room in surprise. Sometimes it bugs me, sometimes it doesn't. I was a little bit worried about what would happen in the classroom once I started teaching in Japan, partially because so many of the teachers I work with like peace and quiet in their domains.

You know that thing people say, about how students impart lessons to their teachers just as teachers impart on their students? I started teaching because it was an option. I'm a teacher today, and plan to continue being a teacher tomorrow, because working with children is infinitely rewarding.

Here are two big things I learned from my students:

Laughter is a wild and beautiful thing. And children can tell when you're really laughing. My students like to make me laugh because they like how I laugh and how they can see my face go red or me double over in a fit. They delight in finding new ways to make me laugh in and out of class because they love the genuine reaction.

Laughter is contagious: If they get me laughing to the point of tears, I take a bunch of my kids down with me. I've lost good 5-minute chunks of my lesson to giggle fits that sweep the room, and it always pays off to open up that steam valve. My students, more often than not, are more open to conversation during class after we've all had a good laugh.

No child has ever told me I laugh loudly. They might exclaim something general like, "Whoa, that's a big laugh!," but they've never said or done anything that communicates to me that I should tone it down. Or that I'm weird. No co-worker has ever complained, either.

I don't remember how or why I became self-conscious about my laugh. Maybe it's because I can hear it echo back at me sometimes when I'm in a quiet place. Or maybe it's because I easily succumb to giggle fits that leave me breathless and unable to move on with whatever it is I was doing at the time. Whatever the case may be, I'm done worrying about it. I mean, I might still have my awkward moments, but I'll never let myself think that there's something weird or wrong when I'm laughing louder than anyone else at a super lame joke or pun.

And this goes for you, too, if you're reading this. You're gorgeous when you laugh.

Thinking of Carp Streamers and Warmer Weather

General Updates, JapanKristina PinoComment

Now that it's getting colder, cold enough that I'm using my kotatsu (a low table with a blanket and built-in space heater to keep your lower body warm), I'm longing for the warmer days of the year. The image above of colorful carp streamers was taken on Children's Day, which is May 5th in Japan. It is neither cold nor hot that time of the year, and I'd be pretty happy if it were like that outside right now. Alas, I must bundle up.

Vlog: What I'm Reading - Oct. 13

Books, Comics and Manga, General UpdatesKristina PinoComment

I'm going to try and do a weekly vlog about what I'm reading! No promises about consistency, but we'll see how this one goes.

This week's books:

Typhoon Day: Phanfone

General UpdatesKristina PinoComment

It's Monday, and normally that means going to work, and getting a lunch post up on this blog later on. But this morning, Phanfone was causing some strong wind and rain, and schools closed. Regular lunch posts will resume tomorrow! And of course, as evidenced by my update here, I'm doing just fine - my area wasn't hit too hard by the storm.