cost of christmas

I'm not much of a macroeconomics person, but this chart on my MSN homepage caught my eye this morning. It's the cost of everything mentioned in the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas", measured at today's price, and compared to last year's price. You can see the breakdown and read the rest of the article here.

PNC Christmas Price Index
Item 2005 2006 % change

One partridge $15 $15 flat
Pear tree $89.99 $129.99 44.40%
Two turtle doves $40 $40 flat
Three French hens $45 $45 flat
Four calling birds $399.96 $479.96 20.00%
Five gold rings $325 $325 flat
Six geese a-laying $300 $300 flat
Seven swans a-swimming $4,200 $4,200 flat
Eight maids a-milking $41.20 $41.20 flat
Nine ladies dancing $4,576.14 $4,759.19 4.00%
10 lords a-leaping $4,039.08 $4,160.25 3.00%
11 pipers piping $2,053.20 $2,124 3.40%
12 drummers drumming $2,224.30 $2,301 3.40%
Total Christmas Price Index $18,348.87 $18,920 59 3.10%


missing naruko

These are naruko, the castanets that we use to emphasise rhythm when we do Yosakoi dance. Unfortunately, we will be seeing a lot fewer of these wooden instruments at practice, due to a theft from our coach's car. It boggles the mind why someone would want to steal from a random car in the first place, but what they'll do with 60 wooden castanets is beyond me. Here is the e-mail our coach sent out after the theft (humorous to us because we thought the naruko had disappeared several weeks ago, but it turned out they had accidentally been stowed in a member's closet.)

Hey all!
Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving holiday? :-)
Unfortunately, mine started out with a theft of items from my car (my car is still ok though, thank goodness). The thieves took around $350 worth of stuff (including a box of tissues...weird). Anyways, the old NARUKO in the cooler were in the back of my car and they took that. What they will do with 60 NARUKO I don't know? Luckily, I didn't have the radio in my car! But anyways, real sorry that it happened. We still have the 80 new ones that I brought back from summer. And some Japanese students have already offered to buy some more over winter break when they go back to Japan. Anyways, if you see any naruko in a trash can somewhere, let me know. Or if you see someone who isn't in Yosakoi walking around with NARUKO, do-koi-sho on them! >:-(

"Do-koi-sho" is a fast dance move that involves stomping. :P At least we still have some naruko left...

make ready o bethlehem

Ok. I can now officially start gearing up for Christmas. Thanksgiving is over, the last traces of pumpkin pie and cranberry Jell-o have disappeared and Christmas trees are appearing in department stores and local windows. In the Orthodox Church, the Advent fast has begun, and we'll eat no meat, dairy or poultry until Christmas day. Also, Wednesday evening Paraklesis services have begun. These candlelit services are solemn but also bursting with anticipation as we chant hymns that explain church traditions surrounding Christmas, and sing as if we are rejoicing with the angles and shepherds, awaiting the birth of Christ:

“Make ready, O Bethlehem;

for Eden hath been opened for all.

Prepare, O Ephratha;

for the Tree of life hath blossomed forth

in the cave from the Virgin;

for her womb did appear

as a super-sensual paradise,

in which is planted the Divine Plant,

whereof eating we shall live and not die as did Adam.

Verily, Christ shall be born,

raising the likeness that fell of old.”


it's beginning to look a lot like...wait a minute...

It seems strange to be back after slacking at this particular pursuit for awhile. Although slacking might not be the best word for it...a death in the family and a mad push to study for end-of-the-semester projects might actually merit a break from blogging. But I'm home for Thanksgiving, which gives me a few days to relax before plunging back into the frantic stretch toward finals, and Christmas shopping and decorating...

Which makes me realise it actually is only about a month until Christmas. Where did the time go? I'm one of those people who likes to wait until just before Christmas to decorate so it seems more special...but lately I've caught myself humming a few Christmas carols and wondering when to decorate my dorm room. It's almost as if I've mentally skipped Thanksgiving and am heading straight on towards Christmas and New Years'. I'm sure that will all change when we have our Thanksgiving dinner here on Thursday, complete with my mom's awesome cranberry-walnut salad, bread-and-butter pickles and sour cream country potatoes.

What is everyone else doing for Thanksgiving? I love to hear family traditions, especially ones centered around the holidays. Hope it's a great day for everyone!


so it's been awhile...

Yes, it has been quite awhile since I've been able to post. Mostly it's due to craziness with the end of the semester coming up, and tests to study for that seem to be popping up in exponential numbers. I'll figure out something more interesting to post soon, but until then here is a picture of the henna tattoo I got at an Indian festival we had on campus last weekend. Among other things, I got to make a traditional sand-art drawing and try my hand at spinning a toy top - easier said than done.

Well, that's as good as it gets for now...over and out.


birthday, etiquette, language exchange

Birthday: Yesterday was my roommate's birthday, and it was fun to celebrate it with her. She got a new pet Betta fish, who is our official room pet now (his name is Gus, Gustin for long.) It was fun to see her having a good time on her birthday, wearing the paper tiara she got while eating out with some friends. We also cleaned our room together, which may not have been the most exciting birthday activity, but definitely made the room seem more comfortable. And we had fun in the process.
Etiquette: I went with some of my Japanese friends to a business dining etiquette class. We learned all about fancy dining during an interview from how to pass the salad dressing (to the right; the first thing passed is always passed to the right), to how to order drinks or an entree when an employer asks you (turn their question of 'What do you want to order' into another question - 'What do you reccommend?') The food was delicious as well - buttered rolls, various pastas, basil chicken, and vegetables, with a choice between raspberry sorbet or chocolate raspberry torte for dessert. We dressed up in business attire for the occasion. It was informative, and helpful if I ever have to do a lunch or dinner interview in the future. Definitely a tasty way to learn.
Language Exchange: After dinner I went back to my friends' room to help her with an English essay she's doing for her written communication class. I simply answered some questions about what it was like growing up in the US. In turn, she wrote down Japanese characters and some common words for me to work on. She also let me borrow a book about Japan that translates various words into Japanese, as well as Hirogana characters. And she added some lemon and milk flavoured candies into my 'learning about Japan' materials. This should all be fun to study - I'm excited to finally start learning words and phrases!


plaza, brownies, emails

Plaza: A lovely way to start my day: after an anthropology lecture on art, talking with the teachers' assistants and meandering to the Union plaza to study and draw in my sketchbook. It's so fun to people-watch as students trek to and from class, or to get some lunch in the Union. There are businessmen and women in formal attire, runners in athletic wear, artsy-types in berets and colourful scarves, a man lounging smoking a cigarette, a Wiccan woman handing out candy, and a cheerful African American man saying good morning to everyone, me included. "Good morning, young lady," he said with a big smile. "Isn't it a beautiful morning? Just like the littly birdy said...'It's just right!'" I made a sketch of a tree growing outside the Union, and decided I might do a sketch of it a day, from different angles: bark, leaves, the surroundings...could be interesting.

Brownies: Coming back from a mediocre lunch without any dessert, and having our neighbour offer me a giant brownie made by her little brother. It was delicious.

Emails: Two surprising and nice messages in my inbox today. One from a highschool friend checking up on how things were going with me; one from a new friend whom I've barely talked to - a completely unexpected pleasant note.



photo: Tony Dunn/phototripusa.com

who are you little i

(five or six years old)
peering from some high

window at the gold

of November sunset

(and feeling: that if day
has to become night

this is a beautiful way)

- e. e. cummings



This meme, courtesy of Sonnjea B, is appearing because I am experiencing both boredom and lack of inspiration. Feel free to steal the meme if you so desire.

When was the last time you shaved? Is this honestly something people need to know? However, I am doing a completely random meme about stuff you probably didn't want to know anyway, so if you must know, it was last night.
What were you doing this morning at 8AM? Sleeping. But not for long.
What were you doing 15 minutes ago? Surfing blogs. And YouTube. And Wikipedia.
Are you any good at math? Eh. I guess I'm ok at stuff like advanced algebra and some trig. But that says nothing for torturous hours of study and headache. Maybe I'm good at math. Math is not good for me.
Your prom night, what do you remember about it? I've never been to prom. I was going to go my senior year, but it turned out prom was on the night of Pascha, the late-night Easter celebration in the Orthodox Christian church, and I wouldn't have skipped that service for anything. But I went to breakfast at my friends' house at 3 in the morning after a glorious Easter service and feast...it was a wonderful night, although it didn't involve prom, really.
Do you have any famous ancestors? Nada. That I know of, anyway.
Do you know the words to the song on your MySpace profile? MySpace kind of creeps me out. I don't have one, don't want one, and consequently don't have a song to memorise.
Last thing received in the mail? A reminder for our residence hall's all-hall "sleepover".
How many different beverages have you had today? Lessee...chocolate milk and water. But tangerine-grapefruit juice is starting to sound really good...
Do you ever leave messages on people’s answering machine? I have been known to do this. However, I prefer face-to-face confrontations...eh, conversations.
Do you draw your name in the sand when you go to the beach? Beach? What's that? Living in the Midwest, the closes thing to a beach I visit on a regular basis is a fishing reservoir... If I write anything in the sand it's random squiggles or other people's names.
What's the most painful dental procedure you’ve had? Hmm. I had my wisdom teeth pulled recently, but surprisingly, it was nearly painless. The most painful dental experience was when I had braces, and the hygeinist tried to remove a band from one of my back teeth. It was on too tight, and they pulled and pulled, and that band would not come off. My mouth hurt from so much prodding around with those pliers-like things, and my head was even jerked up from the chair. The band never came out, in case you were wondering. They removed it several months later when my braces came off.
What is out your back door? We have a lot of doors, but the technical "back" door to our dorm opens towards another dorm and dining centre...a street...a parking lot...sycamore and pine trees. And lots of really friendly squirrels.
Any plans for Friday night? Too far into the future for me to see. I'll let you know...Friday night.
Do you like what the ocean does to your hair? Again, beach? Ocean? I wouldn't know...
Have you ever received one of those big tins of 3 different popcorns? Yes. Unfortunately, I don't eat popcorn.
Have you ever been to a planetarium? I don't think so. But if I did, I think I would be bitter now that we only have 8 official planets. But not so bitter that I couldn't enjoy it.
Do you re-use towels after you shower? Yep. I'm paying for laundry services out of a tiny jar of quarters...I like to keep that jar as full as possible while maintaining a sane level of clean laundry.
Some things you are excited about? Yosakoi! And Japanese culture...my friends here...anthropology...learning new things...Word Cup soccer...travel...writing...life in general
What is your favourite flavor of JELL-O? I think if you blindfolded me and fed me different types of Jell-O, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between flavours. So maybe a better question is 'What is your favourite colour of Jell-O?'. That would have to be something in the red category. I like to think I'm eating something berry-flavoured.
Describe your keychain(s)? About that...I don't have one. Which might be the reason I so often lose my keys in the bottom of my jumbled-up purse...
Where do you keep your change? In my billfold. And my laundry jar. And my random-pennies-for-charity bag.
When was the last time you spoke in front of a large group of people? High school speech class. It was a tribute speech for Red Cross volunteers.
What kind of winter coat do you own? A red and white coat-inside-a-coat with a broken zipper.
What was the weather like on your graduation day? Warm and sunny. Perfect spring day.
Do you sleep with the door to your room open or closed? Always closed.

come to anthro with me

This is a trailer my anthropology professor made for the world simulation we'll be doing in class at the end of the semester. It's a dramatic 'trailer' of sorts for the students who did the same project last semester. Preparation for the simulation is getting really intense in class, and I hope the simulation turns out to be as cool a project as this video projects it to be. Enjoy.

(p.s. - the video I previously posted of the presidential debates is no longer available due to copyright issues with Comedy Central. That's why it won't work when you click on it.)


halloween, macro, hugs

Halloween: The other night was our Yosakoi "Washoi" Halloween party. I usually don't celebrate Halloween, but this seemed to be a relatively tame, alcohol-free alternative to most of the shindigs going on around town. In the late afternoon it was interesting to see people walking around in their costumes...there was someone dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow who went around to random classes acting like a pirate. There was also someone dressed as Edward Scissorhands who was taking his role so seriously that he wouldn't answer people who went up and talked to him on the street. Also, our local Chipotle was giving free burritos to people who came in wearing aluminum foil, so there were a couple of people walking down the street wrapped in the shiny stuff. Interesting, let me tell you. In the evening we had our yosakoi party, and ate Chinese food (ironic at a Japanese function, but tasty all the same) and watched videos of different Yosakoi styles from a festival in Japan. We also played "conversation bingo" to get to know other members better, and had a costume contest. I won a bamboo fan for my flamenco dancer outfit, complete with swishy red skirt and roses in my hair. It was a fun night.

Macro: I'm not talking about the mind-numbing economic stuff. It was at the party that someone showed me how to use the macro lens on my camera. The macro button was right there the whole time, and I've been taking blurry up-close pictures the last few weeks because I didn't see the button. It takes a certain amount of talent to miss the idiot-proof macro lens button, and I must say I've got it. But now I can photograph cute fuzzy spiders like the one above, that we made at the party. (My friend Noreen's is the biologically correct one with eight eyes.) Yay!

Hugs: I don't believe in karma, but just after posting the Free Hugs Campaign video here the other day, I got what I would believe was a dose of it if I did believe. I was getting ready to start my second day at my new job when I walked into the 'employees only' area upstairs. One employee, who I had not yet met, was looking at me strangely as I left my jacket with the other employees' wraps and started towards the computer. "I don't think I've met you," I said, smiling at her bewildered expression.

"So you work here now?" she asked.

"Yep, this is my second day," I answered.

I was suddenly thrown off-guard when she said "Yes!! Another one of us!" and ran over and gave me a big hug. I don't know about you, but I think that's a pretty good way to start out at a new place. It's all in the little things...


did I just walk into debate class?

I just got back from Expository Writing II, where apparently our next paper will be a ‘mystery paper’. I say this because we completed our last paper three class periods ago, and the only homework we have gotten so far is that we have to have (and I quote) “a vague idea of what you want to write about” by next class period. So what have we been doing for the last three classes (1.5 hours each, mind you)? Talking politics. And this isn’t even election debate stuff – the only connection is has to our writing class is that we have been reading example essays leading up to the one we will write. Today’s example was an essay by Ellis Cashmore, who believes steroids should be legalized in athletics. So instead of analyzing Cashmore’s argumental structure, we spent the entire class period listening to anyone who wanted to give an opinion on the issue discussed in the paper. This opened a debate between two people in the class. One was an ex-football player who took steroids, which he said made him irritable, and led to a fight with a fellow student, resulting in fines, suspension and exposure in the paper. He and a girl who is a collegiate athlete who never takes any supplements got into an argument that lasted most of class. And what did we learn about writing Expos papers? Nothing. Did I engage in the debate? No, I didn’t. I sat there listening to everyone else and wondering why I had even bothered to come to class. This is an issue I’d feel comfortable discussing in a smaller group setting, not in a class where we should be learning about English and bettering our writing skills. So what did I learn in Expos today? What I gathered is that in today’s society we must have a set opinion on every issue and be prepared to shoot down any opponent who thinks differently than us. This discussion may have been acceptable if we were in a political science class, or current issues or something. Not in English class.

Along the same lines, this YouTube video expresses frustration with one-sided political debates and was created after the last presidential debate. There is a little inappropriate language. Sorry. But I think the video gets across the ‘I’m right, and I’m only looking at one side of the story’ attitude. Our anthropology professor used the video in lecture last week while discussing political power. I found it quite humourous.

Ok, rant over. There is brighter discussion to come.

all we need is love...

In a society rife with political unrest, consumerism, natural disasters, hunger and war, wouldn't it be great if everyone took a minute out of their day to give somebody a hug? It's such a simple gesture that generates powerful emotions...just watch the video. Who knows...maybe you could start a free hugs campaign in your own town. Cyberhugs to everyone who drops by...:)