japan festival

Last weekend was the Japanese festival at my school. Japanese student groups (including my Yosakoi group), students in Japanese classes and the community came together for the festival, which turned out to be a lot of fun. A lot of preparation including advertising, setup and performance practices paid off.

Here is a giant fan with the word "matsuri," or "festival" written in Kanji. It was set up by the registration table.

This sign was set up outside a room where the traditional tea ceremony was being demonstrated. It shows the proper way to hold the tea cup.

Japan is famous for traditional flower arrangements called "ikebana." Here is one such arrangement.

This is a geisha doll in traditional dress.

Someone receiving a lesson on the shamisen, a four-stringed guitar-like instrument.

Yosakoi danced at the end of a two-hour series of performances including singers, a boyou dancer, and a storyteller. Here taiko drummers are performing a song on their drums.

I helped in the Traditional Toys room. In this game, you remove the hammer from the center of the stacks of blocks. Then starting at the bottom of the stack, you try to knock out the bottom block without knocking over the entire tower. I was really bad at this game, but there were some little kids who were really good.

This is another tricky game. You're supposed to swing the ball up into the air and catch it in one of the cups at the top of the stick. Then, if you're good, you can flip the stick over and catch it in the cup on the bottom of the handle. I never got past step 1.

Most of the day I helped kids with three different kinds of top games. This little guy was determined to get the big tops to spin.

These are a variety of paper cranes folded by the people in the origami workshop. There is a Japanese folk tale that says if you fold 1,000 paper cranes, you will have your wish come true.



I tied it myself! Granted, it took three tries and it came loose later, but at least I know how to tie an obi now. Putting on yukata is a lot harder than it sounds!

This week was international week on my campus, and my yosakoi group performed four times, last night being the biggest show. It was a really cool show - we got to have awesome lighting effects and perform on the most prestigious stage at our university. Plus, we got to see other international student groups perform: dances from Nepal, flute playing from Sri Lanka, a Hispanic maypole dance, music from India, and a singer from the Philippines.

And afterward, I got to go out for ice cream with my roommate and her family. A pretty sweet day, all in all.


new skin


I'm not sure I'm done. But Clowngirl was right; it was just too industrial. And the previous layout, too autumnal. And this one...too chintzy? I'm not happy with it yet. But it'll get there.

amusement amidst boredome

Tuesday morning in my Sociology class, I was extremely bored. There is nothing new about this, except that on Tuesday I decided to sit in the very back of the classroom so I could leave right away for my advising appointment. This meant instead of sitting in the third-to-front row where I may as well have been the only student in the classroom, I was sitting back with the people who were sleeping, surfing the internet, or doing calculus homework. (One boy did this throughout the entire class. He was so concentrated on his math that he didn't look up the entire class, and spent a good deal of it entering equations into his calculator. I was impressed.)

My professor and her TA were trying to hook up a DVD player to the projector to show a film, and while the screen was calibrating, it turned white and brought up a message:

I found this amusing for several reasons:
1. My teacher and TA can't seem to get the DVD player to sit there and be ready to play. It has to be re-started every time.
2. The fact that whoever designed the initializing screen apparently didn't take the time to spell-check their work.
3. The simple irony that due to the huge message 'blank screen', the screen is not actually blank.
It's the little things that get me through the day...


echoes in a vacuum

Some days cyberspace scares me.

It's just so...BIG. To think that even a few people filter through the cracks and end up here, lingering long enough to post a comment often amazes me. Why do we do it? Blog, I mean. Do we do it just as a personal catharsis, or in hopes that someone might catch our words and holler back?

It seems that as the internet becomes a more integral part of society, we seem to hope for those answering calls. Sites like Flickr, YouTube and Vimeo allow us to post snippets of our personal lives - kind of like bait - and see if anybody bites. Sometimes the videos are boring home videos or stupid pranks. But sometimes they're touching portraits of one life, questions about humanity, or platforms for social change.

There are even some websites, like takenote.com that exist for the express purpose of posting a note that may be completely meaningless to anyone else ("What exactly is vegemite?" or "Dearest Lester, Why does it appear that your beard is stuck on with 'silly putty'?") Some of these notes, however, can be quite profound. ("Be the first domino." "Love, like paint, can make things beautiful when you spread it, but dries up when you don't use it.")

When I started this blog, I wasn't exactly sure how long I would keep it up, or what the purpose of the blog would be. I'm still not sure about either. I've probably used the blog mostly as a way to fire off random thoughts and see what happens. Most of the time it's meaningless stuff ("I have a lot of homework!" "I liked this quote a lot." "I suck at consistency.")

But at the same time it feels good to have a networking opportunity, as virtual as it may seem. Another note from takenote.com sums it up pretty well. Maybe the intrigue in blogging is not just to say what we've done, but to "meet" someone who's done that too.

"Hello Stranger,
Just like you, I love, suffer, and yearn. We're not very different."


musical prank

My linguistic anthropology professor showed us this video in class today, since this is supposedly the time of year when students begin to suffer boredom in class due to spring fever, approaching finals, etc. It was a lovely idea for a prank, and expertly executed. Brilliant!

Christ is risen!

By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:

Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.
It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be glory and dominion Unto ages of ages.


- from the Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom

Happy Easter to all! Xristos Anesti!* Al Maseeh Qam!** Harisutosu Fukkatsu!*** And 'Christ is Risen' in whatever other languages you happen to speak!

* Greek (of course ;)


holy week

Today, He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross.
He who clothes Himself in light as in a garment stood naked at the judgement.
He who is the King of the angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.

It's nearing the end of Orthodoxy Holy Week, the week before Pascha (Easter). I'm looking forward to going home tomorrow to celebrate the Good Friday lamentations, the Saturday morning liturgy, and finally the glorious Pascha service itself, late Saturday night into Sunday morning.

You can find out the basics about Orthodox Holy Week here.


Have any of you heard of a website called Peter Answers? It could be one of the creepiest but most convincing practical jokes anyone has pulled on me. If you don't want to put your closest friends through trauma that may require therapy to recover from, don't use it to pull the joke on them. If this particular problem doesn't bother you, then by all means use it to mess with their unsuspecting minds.

Let me explain.

Last night I was hanging out in one of my friends' rooms, talking and being bored in general. One friend, who I'll refer to as Tyler in order to protect the not-so-innocent, was messing around on his laptop. "Have you guys ever tried this Peter Answers website?" he asked us.

I peeked over his shoulder, seeing what looked like an answer-generator, one of those things you can type a question into and get a random answer that might be vague or amusing. Something on the level of fortune cookies and magic eight balls. Had I noticed the title 'virtual tarot' in the corner, I probably would have backed out right away. I'm not one to dabble with the supernatural. I don't even read my horoscope, just for fun.

Anyway, he explained: "You can ask it any question and it will give you a specific answer," he said. He demonstrated by typing in the question "Who is in the room right now?" The only stipulation? You had to first type "Peter, please answer the following question:..."

The computer answered, "Gretta, Becky and Laura."

Creepy. It was right. "It spelled my name wrong," I said, beginning to wonder if he was pulling a prank. He didn't seem to be typing anything besides the question, and nobody else in the room was sending him a message from their computer. He kept asking it questions, which it answered correctly - about articles of clothing people were wearing, things that had happened to us that day, and a noise outside the room. By this time, I decided it was best to leave the thing alone. I didn't know if Tyler was just messing with us, or if we were really getting into something we shouldn't be.

Then, in response to a question Tyler typed in, it answered with a question: "Are you scared, Orthodox Christian?"

That buzzed me to the core for a minute. Then I realised, why should I be scared? My faith is more powerful than anything that computer could have inside it. I was determined that I was not going to let whatever was going on get me upset, and just to stay away from it. By this time I was on the opposite side of the room, trying to ignore the questions it was answering about Becky, who was convinced it was some kind of trick.

A few minutes later, we discovered that the site was a hoax. Tyler showed us that when you type in the phrase "Peter, please answer the following question:" you first type a period. The cursor appears to type out that phrase, but you can actually type in the answer to any question you have decided to ask, then hit the period again. When you type in the question and hit enter, the answer appears.

So, I learned some things about myself. One, I should be quicker to rely on my faith rather than let weird circumstances mess with my head. Two, I am probably one of the more gullible people others might find it fun to pull similar pranks on. Regardless, I should probably be a little quicker with my practical reasoning skills. And stay away from time-wasters on the computer.

Looking back on it, though, I'm impressed by Tyler's ability to keep a straight face through the whole thing. I bet he found our reactions pretty amusing.



On a bored whim, and the suggestion of my roommate, I joined Stumble (stumbleupon.com), a site that randomly generates sites I might be interested in, based on categories I selected that are interesting to me. These photos, and many more at Creative Photos by Chema Madoz are thought-provoking as well as aesthetically pleasing. Head on over for a gander, if you want.



Finally, I may just be ready to hand in my News & Feature Writing article. Good thing, too, because class starts in less than an hour.

My article is about a local program that seeks to improve physical fitness through the designed environment - things like creating bike paths, making shopping areas that are concentrated and can be reached on foot, and installing sidewalks along roads. It's been very interesting to research.

How long did it take me? I'm not sure in minutes, exactly. All I know is that it's taken two CD's (Rooney and the Hush Sound), one bottle of water, one apple, seven peanut-butter crackers, two bathroom breaks, one editing session, two paper copies edited to shreds, and absolutely no time spent outside on this gorgeous spring day. I'm hoping the end result will be worth it.