Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sleepless (And Not Yet) In Seattle

I need to make better use of my insomnia. Instead of watching random cat videos, googling various very pretty male K-drama stars, puttering around Instagram cat feeds (yes, there's a feline theme to my obsessions--one could argue that the guyliner-sporting Hallyu idols incarnate the best human cat-eyes on the planet) and other entertaining but wasteful time-sucks that only contribute to my wakefulness, I could be writing! At least that would exercise my brain in a constructive manner.

Trixie is conked out on the ottoman. She doesn't sleep with me, but she sleeps near me. When I shower, she tucks herself into a neat striped cat loaf on the bathroom tile floor and then greets me with a silent meow when I emerge. She is just making sure I survive this peculiar nightly ritual which she does not understand, and of which she does not approve. Monday, I had to take her back to the vet, as I found she had barfed on the (happily removable and washable) cover of the aforementioned ottoman, leaving a parasite remnant. Of course, this happened Friday night, leaving me the whole weekend to fear that I might have been infected as well. Unlikely, the vet told me. This was a leftover from Trixie's feral days, and a single injection promised to set things to rights. I was much calmer on this visit to the animal hospital, although I can't say that Trixie enjoyed herself any more than last time.

I'm working on my third Chinese writer in as many weeks. "Chubanshe" means "publisher" or "press," and so we needn't include that transliteration in our lists of sources. "Wenye" is "literature."
And the standard spelling of the capital of Taiwan is "Taibei," which is much closer to the actual pronunciation than the old English spelling with a P.

Less than a week until I fly to Korea. I hope I can sleep on the long Seattle-Seoul hop.

Thursday, August 25, 2016


"Why do you want to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles?" One of my friends asked me, puzzled, when I mentioned the first place I plan to visit in South Korea. My Southern accent hadn't  distinguished well enough between a V and a Z. "Zee, Zed," I clarified. "DMZ--the demilitarized zone." "What's that?" She wanted to know. I explained that it was the border between North and South Korea, and that in typical military doublespeak fashion, it was in fact one of the more heavily armed areas in the world. Neither of my two girlfriends there in SK want to go--one said that one way she'd assuaged her parents' fears of her being halfway around the world, next door to a rogue state, was that she promised to stay as far away from said rogue state as possible. I've gone ahead and paid for a ticket for a tour the day after I arrive, which is the only day that one or both of my friends isn't free to do something with me. I think it will be interesting, if just a wee bit freaky. The young and fleshy Mr. Kim of the North seems peculiarly determined to demonstrate his country's ICBM capability of late.

I'm working on an entry about another contemporary Chinese writer, but this one is safely deceased as of 2014,  so any information online about him should remain where it is.

I just finished editing an essay about John Meade Falkner, an English clergyman's son who besides being an antiquarian enthusiast and writer of several popular mystery/adventure/suspense novels, worked as a bigwig at one of the world's largest arms manufacturers before and during World War I. Rather an odd duck, with a seemingly bifurcated personality.

I read some G.K. Chesterton yesterday and today, particularly his proposal to his wife. Brilliant man, brilliant writer, lighthearted and profound at once, like a small bell caroling happily atop a deep crystal spring.

There were several break-ins in my neighborhood two nights ago--car windows smashed and items stolen. Thank God my car was spared--if the thieves looked inside, they probably realized that amongst all the paraphernalia cluttering the back and passenger seats, there wasn't anything worth taking. I'm thinking about installing some security cameras--while they might not be a deterrent, they could record evidence if (God forbid!) this sort of thing happens again. My small neighborhood has never had issues before, though my mother's neighborhood (just 10 minutes away) has been undergoing a rash, averaging one break-in a day. One of the ladies that I walk with lunchtimes at work told me that a German friend of hers had done a teaching exchange at an inner-city Detroit school for a year. She was warned NOT to lock her car--this prevented the windows being broken when the inevitable thievery occurred. It's weird--in a completely unsafe area people don't lock car doors, and in a completely safe area people don't lock car doors--in a middling area, we think that our goods may be at risk, but that a thin piece of safety glass between them and the outside will be sufficient to prevent problems.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Learning Chinese

There's really no hope of my learning Chinese, but as I research particular contemporary authors from that part of the world, I've become familiar with several (simplified) ideographs that are really lovely and illustrative:

Image result for chinese symbol for rain
This is "rain" (I wish the right edge of the character hadn't been sliced off, but I don't know this computer like I did my old one, so I can't figure out how to fix it!). It makes sense--there are little droplets coming down.

I think I've encountered the "Great Firewall" for the first time, however. This past week I was researching the author Yu Hua, who has won several international awards and is widely considered a prominent writer in his homeland, despite his having been associated with a certain student protest in a certain main square in the capital city some 25 years ago. I learned that he even has a center at the university in his home province named in his honor. With the help of Google Translate – which is not available in China, nor are any other Google products – I was able to review the site, and find out more details about Yu and his work. However, there were certain parts of it that hadn't been updated recently (others were current), and there was as well as no explanation of how the center itself came to be established, and by whom. So I puzzled out their address, and wrote them an email, explaining who I was and asking them for more information.

Within a week, the website had disappeared. There was no sign it had ever existed except for a few snapshots preserved in the Internet archive. So much for my efforts.

I wonder if the author himself is about to be suppressed? To this point, he had managed to escape official censure, but his China in Ten Words, published abroad, was clearly critical of the greed, mismanagement, and profound inequalities that he has observed among his countrymen over the last several decades, and he accepted a position as an commentator on China for the International New York Times three years ago, which might not have sat well with the powers that be.

I'm supposed to edit an entry on another living Chinese author next week. I wonder if material about him will disappear, too?

Two and 1/2 weeks until I leave for Korea! Bella is going to catsit for Trixie. my cat was lying glassy-eyed on my dining room rug this evening, total stoned on feline Maryjane. Then she went racing around the house like a lunatic, her tail in the air, sliding into walls when she slipped on the hardwood floor and then running off manically in another direction. I don't think catnip causes the munchies, but who would know?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

We Survived...

...our first official vet visit. No, I am not being precious and twee using "we": it was a bit of a traumatic experience for both me AND Trixie. I had never gone to a doctor before to have a small creature for whom I was responsible treated. It's probably a good thing I don't have children. I found myself, unexpectedly, a nervous wreck. The major indicator was that when the technician asked me Trixie's symptoms, I began talking a mile a minute and couldn't get myself to shut up. I felt like a complete dork. When they were about to inject her, I, who have no problem with needles myself, who have watched countless blood draws from my arm without flinching, felt myself curling up in the chair and covering my eyes. How do parents do it?

I stuffed Trixie in the cardboard carrier a few minutes before nine this morning and rushed over to the vet's office, where they'd told me I needed to arrive early to fill out paperwork. It turns out that animal paperwork is very brief and uninvolved, so even the few minutes I budgeted was generous. I sat on the bench in the waiting room across from a woman who was cradling a ridiculously tiny brown dog with protruding black eyes on either side of its bulbous little forehead. It had been prescribed some sort of medication, and the receptionist was explaining how to administer the pills. After she left with the canine smidgen, the receptionist told the tech about a phone call they had received about an elderly German shepherd mix losing its vision who was unable to find its food and water bowl – there had been a request for a PTS. No trouble figuring out that in-house acronym.

Then a beefy man rushed in the door carrying a wadded towel. "What's this?" The receptionist wanted to know. "It's my urine sample." He said. She paused for half a beat while he unwrapped the cup. I'm afraid I chortled from the corner, and he turned to me and asked what was in the box, and if that was the only one I could afford. I told him that it was a cat and that I had two nice carriers, but I couldn't get her in to either of them. "Do you know how hard it is to get a dog to pee a cup?" He asked rhetorically. Most of the sample had spilled on the towel--the lid hadn't been secured properly--but they said there was enough for the test. He offered to top it off if there weren't.

Trixie only meows when I am in the shower. She sits on the bathroom floor, clearly curious as to why I would subject myself to daily drenching, and lifts her voice in concern. But she meowed pitifully while she was mewed up in the carrier and actually hissed repeatedly at the vet when they lifted her out of it. I have been living with her for a month and I had never heard her hiss. She didn't attempt to bite or scratch, but she struggled vigorously, and I was relieved when they offered to take her back into a room out of my sight to wrap her in a towel and give her the necessary jabs. They warned me that she would likely be in a snit and go hide under the bed when we got home, but she merely shook the metaphorical dust from her paws and turned to me purring once we were in our own space. She's a good cat.

She's also potentially a porky little beast. She loves her kibble. Her foster family had told me that she didn't like salmon, and I have since discovered that she doesn't like catfish either. What kind of cat doesn't like fish?! But she adores chicken flavored stuff, and eats every pellet of food that rattles into her dish in the bathroom. Every time I go in there, she sprints in hopefully, looking up a me with round, innocent, "I am a poor starving kitty cat" eyes, and so I'd upped her portions. But then I observed that she was getting a bit of a gut, and the vet assured me today that limiting her intake was reasonable. I reprogrammed the feeder when I got home.