Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Happy New Year!

Perhaps I should have waited until February to wish a Happy (Chinese) New Year, instead of a belated western New Year greeting. It would have at least been charming rather than negligent.

Life has been busy since we settled into winter mode living in Blizzard's world, in more ways than one. Add work, Plants vs Zombies, and Angry Birds, and we are busy with a whole lot of pixels.

I am coming to terms that my über gaming computer that we built for hardcore raiding in EverQuest back in 2003 is no longer relevant. With very little financial wiggle room to update my PC, I'm more or less stuck for several months with a PC that works (ha!) irregularly, with random isolated reboots or in flurries, as it did a week ago over a span of several hours until I pulled the plug because it was no longer reaching desktop anymore. This may be a good way of moderating my playtime on WoW!

As far as the weather, yesterday was frigid with temperatures at around -4ºF (-20ºC). At least we didn't have packed ice on the roadways, nor did we have Minneapolis' -35ºF (-37ºC).

Akemi picked up a new quirk recently, eating snow and ice as we are out for our daily walks. After about a block of constant diving for and crunching on ice or snow, she shudders from the cold. Maybe one day she will realize the consequence of gorging on so many free frosty snacks.

We were caught in a loop a few weeks ago, when she ate snow every few steps. This, of course, caused her to want to go outside a couple of hours later because her bladder probably felt like it was about to explode from all that water. As we took her out to relieve herself, she ate snow every few steps. A few hours later, she rang the door bell to go outside. Yeah, I don't think she'll make that association either.

The start of a new year always leads to discussions about resolutions. I don't make resolutions. I have goals; the usual ones, negotiable and, for the first time, non-negotiable.

Losing 25-30 pounds, with a longer term goal of losing 45 pounds. Seems lofty, but I believe this can be done since I lost 22 pounds in 3 months last year.

At work, a program was established where I was instructed to lose 20 pounds in 3 months to receive a health insurance rebate and lock in the 2010 rate for 2011. Due to a loophole, I was denied my lock-in rate in 2011 without a real way of contesting because it is a "voluntary program." Whatever.

Bug cooks most meals from scratch and they're mostly healthful. Our beef consumption has decreased by at least 95%; general meat consumption has gone down by ~75%. He has also shifted cuisines. Where he mostly cooked American comfort foods initially, he now cooks mostly Middle Eastern and Southern Asian food, with the occasional East Asian and rare American dishes.

While I recall "shichi, go, san" (7, 5, 3) as monumental bad years in one's life in Japanese tradition, I vaguely remember my mother mentioning other difficult and joyous birthdays. Other difficult years are 18 and 32 years of age for women, and, for men, 24 and 41 years of age.

When my uncle turned 60 a few years ago, I attended his birthday party, which I thought was a cool thing to do, not for any culturally symbolic reasons. He wore a funky red hat and a vest, which I am sure was explained. I didn't think anything of it because he is eclectic (in a good way!). He also does an awesome Elvis Presley!

On the way home from my uncle's party, my step-mother asked me what was done for my father when he turned 60. You got it, nothing.

From reading online about these age milestones, kanreki (literally, "return" and "calendar") symbolizes rebirth, returning to the exact time in the zodiac when one was born. The traditional Japanese calendar, eto, runs on a 60-year cycle represented by "ten stems and twelve branches."

As with many ancient Japanese customs, its roots derive from the mainland. The 12 branches are associated with the well known animals that you see printed on your paper place settings when you eat at Chinese American restaurants.

Following 60 years, celebrated birthdays are 70(koki), 77(kiju), 80(sanju), 88(beiju), 90(sotsuju), and so on.

My father is turning 70 this year so I must plan a koki celebration for him, but don't know where to start. The information I have gleaned conflict with one another so I'll have to find a more reliable source.

"Koki" is used in a line of a poem, "By the Winding River," by a Chinese poet, Tu Fu (Toho in Japanese), who lived 1250 years ago. His poem comments on the rarity of a man reaching the old age of 70. The kanji for koki is translated as "old" and "rare."

Oh, and my uncle's funky red outfit? I read tonight that the hat and vest symbolizes what infants wear. Also, the Japanese word for baby is akachan, where aka means red and chan is a diminutive suffix for a young child.

- Cassaendra

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