Roomba Shenanigans

Just when we think the office Roomba has finally learned to do his job, he always seems to find a new way to mess up. The other day, he surpassed all expectations and went from incompetent to cunning.

We arrived to find the office wifi turned off; my coworker soon discovered that her mac charger was missing too. Of course, our first suspect was the Roomba – however, he was cleared of all charges when we searched him for evidence, and found no incriminating charger cables in his insides. The next hypothesis was that somebody must have come to borrow the charger, in the process of taking it accidentally switched the wifi off, and then forgotten to return it.

However, nobody would admit to the charger theft. As the situation was growing dire, and my co-workers poor mac was slowly nearing death, we ended up searching the entire office.

Not only had the Roomba managed to pull out the charger and turn off the wifi; he had dragged the charger to the opposite end of the room, and out of sight behind a large rack, hidden the evidence of his crime. After dropping the charger in the most out of place spot, he returned home to his nest (a feat he manages about 20% of the time, most days we find him stranded in the middle of the floor after eating something bad, or jammed under a shelf that’s aaalmost tall enough for him). Bad robot.

Good morning

Today I started my day by knocking my oil cleanser into the toilet. I interpreted it as a sign that it’s time to try a new kind. So I got one whose name translates to “pee” in my native language, because I haven’t learned my lesson and will be keeping this one on top of my toilet too.

Banana Flavoured Easter Kit Kats

One of my favourite things about living in Japan is getting to try seasonal Kit Kats. Looks like this year for Easter we’re getting banana flavour.

Thanks Jesus!

Since Easter isn’t a holiday officially celebrated in Japan, I only realise it’s happening because of the Easter themed candy that pops up around this time of year. It seems to have been combined with the coming of spring (my work calendar does suggest that the spring equinox is a national holiday), into bright pastel imagery of eggs and bunnies and budding flowers.

The back of the package said there were 12 designs in total. I got 9 different ones and 3 repeats

I’m a total sucker for banana and chocolate combined, so I was pretty excited for these guys. Flavourwise I would have appreciated some more chocolate – Kit Kat gimmick flavours are generally white chocolate based, and while I do appreciate the bright yellow spring-y chocolate this allows for, I think this is one that would have benefited from prioritising a stronger chocolate flavour over aesthetic. While the package does claim that the ingredients include real banana, the flavour is definitely close to the typical artificial banana flavour – the one that’s based on a type of banana that’s gone extinct, and only lives on in its candy form. They do have a much more distinct taste than a lot of the white chocolate based Kit Kats – often the advertised flavour will just be noticeable in a vague hint in the aftertaste, but these were decidedly banana.

So bright and spring-y

In a previous year, the Easter Kit Kat – I believe it might have been apple pie flavoured – came in a bunny shape rather than the traditional two sticks. In one end there was extra chocolate to form a face, and the stick shapes made out the ears. It was quite adorable, but it did make it harder to break the two pieces apart. So, I can see why the traditional shape would be preferable for those out there who aren’t filthy heathens who shove the entire thing in their face in one go.
Overall I enjoyed these, and when I come home today I think I’ll try eating them at the same time as some darker chocolate, to achieve my crunchy chocolatey bananaesque dreams.

Skincare

I’m nearing the 1 month anniversary of introducing a bunch of new skincare into my routine, which means I should start to see any results any day now.

While my nasolabial folds remain unchanged, an ever deepening reminder of my fleeting youth and the crushing despair of my own mortality, I did have a dream tonight that my entire face peeled off so I guess that’s some kind of result.

A quick kanji homonym

This one is easy, maybe I’m the only person who didn’t realise these were different words until I saw them written down –

速い and 早い, read “hayai”. 速い means fast or quick, while 早い means early. Before learning their kanji I thought they were the same word, because if you get somewhere early you travelled quickly, right? In my defense I had just started studying, and I always forget how complex languages are when I’m just dipping my toes in.

Anyway, combine them to get 早速 “sassoku”, meaning immediately.

If you know radicals and need a way to keep them apart; 速い has that squiggly radical that means road, because roads are where fastness happens – such as on a 高速道路 “kousokudouro”, or highway if you will.

早い is made from 日 (sun) and 十 (ten), because for me it’s waking up too early if the sun is still out, let alone ten am.

On Buttons and Femininity

The button of my winter coat had come off. Rather than go through the gruelling effort of hunting down a new acceptable outerwear garnment, I decided it was time to woman up and learn to mend buttons (after several months of just wearing it with the middle button missing, either wearing it unbuttoned or closing it but with a gaping stomach gap). Armed with needle, thread, and an hourlong lunchbreak, I took to the internet and asked the allmighty Google, “sew button”.

The first result, the tutorial I ended up following, was from a website called Art of Manliness. Their preamble blurb included the suggestion that button sewing was a task usually left to wives or mothers, but it’s a useful skill for self-sufficiency. Now I may not be anyone’s wife or mom , but I’m definitely not the manlyman that I assume this website targets.

Is it the first google result because I am the only woman ever to not instinctively know this skill, and every other person who looks it up is of the male persuasion?

Or is it specifically a wives and mothers kind of skill, and the secret knowledge would have been whispered to me on my wedding night or while in labour with my firstborn, if only I’d managed to remain ladylike enough to not wreck my button before then? Have I ruined the sacred order of the universe by prematurely gaining this next level lady-knowledge?

But anyway, aren’t most button-wielding garnments for men? As someone who cherishes every second of sweet sweet procrastination in the morning, I simply do not have the time to be spending several precious seconds guiding tiny circles into fidgety holes every morning. With the vast array of ladyfashion available to me, I could still look elegant and put-together sans buttons, but for the professional gentleman a button-up shirt is kind of a must (of course, I do work somewhere where the dresscode basically amounts to “not naked? that’ll do”, so I have fully embraced the sweatpants and hoodie lifestyle, but if I ever were to join the ranks of ~fancy professionals~ I would still have some lady-priviledges in keeping up my anti-button lifestyle).

So, I gained a skill that the Art of Manliness deems “girly stuff”, but I learned it from a website about getting manlier; so, does my expanded skillset now make me manlier or more feminine?

I don’t really have a conclusion, I just wanted an excuse to use the word “button” a bunch because two thirds of the word “button” is “butt”.

Why are Some Japanese Animals Counted with “Head”?

Small animals in Japanese are counted with 匹 hiki. Large animals are counted with 頭 tou. Rabbits are counted as if they were birds, because logic.

Back in the olden days, all animals were 匹. When doing my pre-writing double-check-googling just now, I found one source that suggests this kanji gets its shape from a horse butt. Oh that makes sense, you much too optimistically think, I bet that’s because it’s used for counting horses, right? Weeeell… it used to be, but then English came along and ruined everything with its fancy phrases worth stealing.

I couldn’t find any confirmation for the following, but my more literate friend told me this a while back:

Natsume Souseki, also known as that guy with the mustache who used to be on 1000 yen bills until he was dethroned by that guy with the floofy hair, is the person who popularised 頭 as a counter for large animals. I did find confirmation that it was popularised in the Meiji era, and of its English origins. When counting cows, they’re counted with heads of cattle. My farming lingo isn’t up to scratch so I’ll take google’s word for it. Our boy Natsume Souseki decided this sounded really neat, and decided to count that way in one of his novels; 頭 is read as tou when used as a counter, but it can also be read atama, which means “head”. Ever since, tou has been used for large animals, and hiki for small ones.

Small animals, except for rabbits, that is. Rabbits are a special case, and are counted with 羽 wa. My dictionary tells me that when read hane, this means “feather” or “wing”. Wa happens to be the counter for birds, so the feathers and wings make sense. There aren’t any definitive answers as to why rabbits are counted as birds, but there are a couple prevalent theories. The first is that the Japanese words for “to fly” and “to jump” are pronounced the same (tobu, I believe the kanji are 飛ぶ for to fly and 跳ぶ for to jump, although I might be mistaken and they’re both 飛ぶ). This theory is generally countered with “frogs tho, they jump but are counted with 匹”. The second theory suggests that once upon a time, there were a group of monks. They weren’t allowed to eat animals, only bird meat. But, they really wanted to get in on some rabbit meat action, so they declared that rabbits are totally a kind of bird.

Moebius cast-on experiments

I’ve spent all morning messing around with moebius cast-ons, and I ended up finding a technique that gave me a neat centre to work out from for my next double knit experiment. It is quite convoluted, though.

They look the same but I swear this is the front and back of my work

First, I tried just doing the normal moebius cast-on, the only one I could find when googling, except with 2 colours at once.

I hope you enjoy my pajama pants in the background, because there will be a lot of that

At first it seemed promising, the front of my work looked the way I wanted –

The back, however, got these weird loops around the stitches. They’re for whenever my yarns had gotten twisted together, and I untwisted it to knit the colour I wanted. I guess hypothetically this method would work fine, if you’re some kind of knitting master genius who manages to keep their 2 colours from ever crossing.

No :c

So, I figured I need a way to make sure my yarns don’t get twisted together on my needles. This is where it begins to get weird. I cast on each colour on a separate set of needles, and then knit them together onto my main needles.

Red is main, and green is temporary aid. I did not notice at the time that the stitch markers are too big to stay in place on the green set and are sliding all over the place

I knit them together, knitting the red and purling the green.

Purl in front. On my first try, the ones getting purled were in the back, and everything was chaos.
I don’t have 2 sets of needles the same gauge or length, so green is smaller and thinner. My tention is always too weak on my purls anyway so it works out.
The useless end of the green needle going along for the ride. It stays with the beginning of the round.
Also if everything looks weird and backwards it’s because I’m left-handed (or because I knit continental, if you’re used to seeing the other kind)

Everything worked out until I finished the first round, and it was time to do the stitches that had previously been the bottom row. To get the moebius twist, the purl colour has to go to the back now. This means that instead of moving the yarn to the front for purls and to the back for knits like one normally would, it moves to the middle of the two needles for purls. It got pretty tight in there but it’s doable.

I did eventually realise that I don’t need the loose end of the short set of needles to be in the middle there. It did get trapped inside my first 5 or so stitches before I realised what I was doing. Also, of course I didn’t notice at the time that my headphone wire was in the picture.

I tried to take a couple of pictures to show how the purl stitch is done, but also I’m not a very good photographer (or blogger. Or knitter. Or explainer, as I’m sure has become abundantly clear by now)

This is why I’m not a photogrpahy blog
Oh yes I understand perfectly now thank you
Featuring the end of the bonus needle, dangling hopelessly out of the beginning of the round

I was going to end with some pictures of the end result, but I only have 2 rows done so far and I already put those pictures on the top of this post. Sooo, um, the end?

Counting Japanese Books

One of the first kanji most Japanese students learn is 本. It’s nice and non-intimidating, with only 5 strokes. Plus, you need it to write “Japan” and “Japanese”, so you’ll need it for getting fancy and titling your notebook 日本語 or letting everybody know that you’re 日本語を勉強しています. While it has a bunch of meanings, you easily remember that one of them is “book” because books are made of trees and this kanji is only one stroke away from the one for “tree”, plus it means “origin” too and books originate from trees, and everything is nice and logical and you’ve totally got a great grasp on this whole situation.

Now you, hypothetical strawman reader, have advanced in your studies. You’ve just discovered the complexity of Japanese counters. Instead of everything being “one thing, two things”, there are all these different suffixes you gotta learn depending on the thing you’re counting. One flat object, two small animals, three big animals (yup, big and small animals have different counters. It’s America’s fault, I think I’ll write about that next). Skimming the list of counters, you finally see one you recognise. 本! Of course, this must be how you count books! After all, it does mean book!

NOPE.

本, hon, is the counter for “long, cylindrical objects”. You know what’s neither long nor cylindrical? That’s right, books. The correct way to count books is 冊 satsu. And speaking of kanji pronounced “satsu”, there’s also 札 which means bill (as in 千円札, 1000 yen bill). I just tried to look up whether bills would be counted with 札, or with 枚 (the counter usually used for paper and other flat objects like pizza), but googling 千円札 数え方 just gave me video demonstrations of how to do that fancy bill flicking counting thing they do in stores here. My old manager tried to teach me once, but gave up upon realising I’m cripplingly left-handed. Digressions aside, let’s think about long cylindrical objects.

Oh, I know! You naïvely exclaim, dear strawman, how about chopsticks! Those are long and cylindrical, right? Next time your Japanese friends act amazed that you managed to transfer a whole piece of food all the way from your plate into your mouthhole without incident, you can further blow their minds with some amazingly accurate counting skills, and count the chopsticks with 本 hon.

Oh my sweet summer child.

No? Not hon? Oh of course, chopsticks come in pairs. They must use soku 足, the counter for pairs! Wrong again. Just like books are important enough to get their own special counter (bet you didn’t think my digressions would come full circle), chopsticks also get their own words. If you wanna sound really impressive, count them with 膳 zen, that’s 一膳 ichizen per pair.

Finally, let me leave you with a story about counting pairs. You may have recognised the counter for pairs as the kanji for foot, when read ashi. In Japanese class, we learned this meaning much earlier than we learned it as a counter. My classmate once saw a pair of shoes for sale. The price tag stated the price per 足. As we were not yet aware of the “pairs” meaning, she assumed that price per 足 = price per foot, i.e. the sign was listing the price per shoe and the pair would cost twice as much. I do love the idea of going to the store to buy a single shoe.

A Scary Kanji Homonym

恐い and 怖い, both read “kowai”, both translate as “scary”. The difference between these two is quite subtle.

First off, I just did some light googling to double check the accuracy of what my Japanese friend told me when I insisted he come up with a difference (this was over a year ago so I wanted to make sure I remembered correctly). The first few results insisted that there’s no difference, and recommended to stick with 怖い as it will almost never be incorrect. The third page I consulted did suggest a difference that mostly lines up with what I’d been told, but only when using another reading for 恐; in this case, 恐ろしい (osoroshii).

Let’s start with what my friend told me. After I threw many examples of scary things at him, and insisted he tell me which kanji applied, we reached a conclusion (ghost? 怖い。dinosaur? 恐い。ghost dinosaur? I guess 怖い now please go away). We settled on 怖い being for abstract threats, and 恐い for physical ones. In other words, 恐い物、怖い事。

I honestly thought I had it all figured out until I did my double checking-research just before starting to write this. The conclusion of the link from my second paragraph had a subtle difference. Here, 怖い is for subjectively scary things, and 恐ろしい for objectively scary ones. I suppose my previous conclusion still stands, as a ghost is subjectively scary and a dinosaur would be objectively so.

Speaking of dinosaurs, that’s also how I keep these two kanji apart. Whenever I need to remember which one is for physical intimidation, I think of the word for dinosaur: 恐竜 (kyouryuu). Literally translated that says Fear Dragon, which certainly sounds like something that would be physically and objectively intimidating.

Finally, you can smoosh both kanji together into a new word, 恐怖。It means fear, and I think it’s a noun (I haven’t studied grammatical terms since elementary school, and my 9 year old self was not into paying attention. Thanks a lot, Past Self). This is a trend I often come across on my Kanji Homonym Deciphering Quest – two words with almost the same meaning and the same reading, combined into a word with a similar but more broad meaning.