Did Somebody Say Free Classes?

I’ve been caught in a cycle for the past few months that looks a little something like this:

  • Week 1: Existential crisis
  • Week 2: Less panicking, careful consideration of my career and school options
  • Week 3: Decide I’m not decided enough for grad school and can’t afford to waste my time on a random pursuit like massage therapy
  • Week 4: Comfort myself with fulfilling projects until the next existential crisis

Therefore, when T-Mobile decided that one of its T-Mobile Tuesday perks was going to be a free class from Shaw Academy, I was elated (and very skeptical). I’ve wanted to take up graphic design for so long but could never justify it. If I’m going to go back to school, the results need to be tangible. I’ve been doing the freelance/work from home thing for a few months now and it is not all it’s cracked up to be.

When I looked through the reviews for Shaw Academy, they were pretty mixed. Some people were saying that they got charged when they were doing the free trial, some said the lectures were obviously not live, and some had other complaints about it. After seeing that it was accredited and digging around on the website, I decided that I would try the regular free trial and, if it went well, later on I would redeem the T-Mobile credit for another class. Part of me also figured that T-Mobile wouldn’t give credits to a scam school, but then I remembered that they did the whole free year of magazine subscriptions thing and figured it was pretty much on the same level.

I signed up for Principles of Graphic Design and was quite taken aback. I enrolled on a Wednesday or Thursday and the class started the following Monday. That seemed way too convenient. Then, the same day I signed up I got several text messages and 3 phone calls with verification codes for the email account I used to sign up for the class. I’m not saying that the school tried to hack my email…. but that has definitely never happened to me before. (If you do not have 2-factor authentication set up for your email accounts, you should definitely get on that!) The key thing is that they didn’t ask for my credit card information.

Despite the red flags, I logged in on Monday and attended my first lecture. There was definitely a real person teaching the class. However, it was also very definitely not live. You do have a chat option, but you aren’t talking to the professor. Instead you can talk to support. I very cheekily asked how to partake in the “live chat” that the professor kept referencing and got no response. However, this past week I attended my fifth lecture and they had a drawing for someone to receive a free year-long membership and you had to put your name in the chat. I opened the support box and noticed that support had been asking questions to help me stay engaged through the lecture. I was quite surprised.

While the first week was very basic, I must say I have actually really enjoyed the subsequent lectures. I went in knowing nothing about Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign.* After week 2, I asked my best friend to send me a picture to Photoshop and ended up making a picture of her dog being sucked into a black hole. Progress!

*In my high school photography class, we only had one assignment using a digital camera and I didn’t have Photoshop at home. I played with sharpening, contrast, and saturation, and that was it. Then, in my college photography class, we had a few more assignments where we used digital cameras, but I still only did super light editing. It’s been… 4 years since I even did that, so for all intents and purposes, I knew nothing.

I just finished my third week of lectures (meaning I’ve attended 6 in total), and I don’t feel like an expert on any of the Adobe programs, but I know where to start.

Overall, I have really enjoyed Principles of Graphic Design. The whole email thing still seems really shady… and I usually have issues with my web browser crashing after I’ve attended a lecture, but I’m not too worried. (Mostly because hubby can fix anything that happens with my computer and I know whoever it was didn’t successfully breach my email account.)

If you want to take a class and actually have proof that you know what you are doing, then this is not the program for you. You can theoretically get the equivalent of an associate’s degree through the program, but it’s not worth actually paying for, in my humble opinion. For one, there is no homework. You just take these 20 question quizzes on the material and as long as you get the answers right, you’ll get a completion certificate. Of course, if you’re interested in pursuing graphic design, I don’t think a degree matters anyway. You just have to have a good portfolio. This program works for me, though, because I’m just learning because I want to. I’m not necessarily going to do anything with the material other than make my blog look better.

When I finish this course, I am undecided on what to take next with the credit from T-Mobile. It would make sense to take the Advanced Graphic Design course, but I feel like now that I’ve gotten my feet wet with Photoshop I might be able to figure out the rest of what I want to know from YouTube tutorials. The other course I’m interested in taking is Digital Media Marketing. Luckily I have until November to decide. (Thank you, T-Mobile!)

If you’re feeling adventurous, I would definitely recommend taking a free course. Maybe consider making a new email account just for the class, though.

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Mystery Blogger Award

Ahh! Thank you so much Maddie for the nomination! After a couple weeks away from the blog, logging in to see this has given me the kick in the butt I needed to get writing again.

Also, thank you Okoto Enigma for creating the Mystery Blogger Award.

Rules

  • Display the award logo/image on your blog
  • List the rules
  • Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you and provide a link to the nominator’s blog
  • Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  • Answer 5 questions from the nominator
  • Nominate 10-20 bloggers

Three Things About Me:

  1. I took hip-hop dance classes for 2 or 3 years in high school and loved it, even though it was quite out of character for me. The annual recital/performance was my least favorite part – sure, I’m impressed that I can pop, lock, and drop it, but that doesn’t mean I want anyone else to see it.
  2.  This past weekend I discovered that the Harry Potter podcasts I listened to in high school (MuggleCast and Pottercast) are actually still making new episodes. Listening to the familiar voices and a couple new ones was great. It was like catching up with friends I’d forgotten I had.
  3. I had a few guinea pigs in elementary school. The last was a long-haired guinea pig named Cheetara. Yes, I was a huge Thundercats fan.

Answering Maddie’s Questions:

 

Do you think you spend too much time on social media?

I don’t get on Facebook or Twitter too much (in fact, I was pretty much resolved to delete my Facebook this week but decided not to after unexpectedly talking to people on messenger), but I definitely spend wayyyyyyyyy too much time on YouTube.

Do you think people are born evil or become evil?

I don’t think people are inherently good or evil. People are, by nature, self-interested and can either learn to care for others or develop beliefs that allow them to continue being self-centered.

What’s your favorite lyric?

“What are regrets? They’re just lessons we haven’t learned yet.”  – Sweetest Decline, Beth Orton

However, for songs that overall have brilliant lyrics, I’d have to go with some older Ingrid Michaelson songs like “Breakable” and “Starting Now.”

Do you believe in second chances?

I’d be pretty screwed if I didn’t.

What lie do you tell yourself regularly?

This might sound a little depressing, but anything along the lines of, “Tomorrow is going to be better/easier.” However, the truth of the matter is tomorrow isn’t going to be any different if I don’t make a change today.

Nominations

(I’m only doing 5.)

Sara in LaLaLand – Sara keeps it real talking about mental health stuff and engages so much with her followers. She’s the first blogger that made me feel like there was a real community on WordPress.

Down the Road – Jim is a down to earth film photographer. I like seeing his pictures because his style is very different from mine.

Brain Bonbons – Dina talks about her studies and is all around awesome.

Kawaiipaperpandas – If you like anime and have a good sense of humor, you will like this blog.

Today’s Perfect Moment – Anthony’s blog is genuine and all about slowing down to appreciate the little things.

Questions for Nominees

  1. Do you tend to read a lot of blogs that are similar to yours or that are different from what you do?
  2. How has your blog changed over time?
  3. What’s something you want to get better at (can be blog-related but doesn’t have to be)?
  4. Describe your corner of the internet. (Which sites do you visit most and what do you do there?)
  5. What’s the last movie you saw and what did you think of it?

Thank you again, Maddie! This was a lot of fun.

 

Port Angeles

This week, hubby and I took an impromptu 3-day mini vacation in Port Angeles.


DAY #1

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From the beginning of our journey, taking the ferry.DSCN9192The first place we went after checking into our hotel was Crescent Bay. I had been debating between Crescent Bay and Hollywood Beach, but according to the visit Port Angeles website, you can see “orcas, humpback, gray, and minke whales” from shore at Crescent Bay, so that’s where we went. DSCN9198Spoiler alert: we didn’t see a single whale. But it was still gorgeous. The water was super clear and there really wasn’t a lot of people around.DSCN9212

DSCN9207 DSCN9211We weren’t up for hiking or swimming yet, so after walking the length of the beach, we ended up heading back to Hollywood Beach anyway.DSCN9219As you can see, Hollywood Beach is right on the city pier. We got there just as the Feiro Marine Life Center was closing, and the girl at the counter let us in for free (but strongly recommended we make a donation, which we did). I wish we had had more time there because there were so many beautiful starfish. DSCN9222We went out on the pier before settling down by the sand. It was incredibly windy, and I imagine it is there all the time. We saw a few seagulls get blown off course.


DAY #2

20170830_122444Our next day was completely devoted to seeing what we could see in the Olympic National Park. You would need at least a week to adequately explore the park, so our plan was just to get to the hot springs and see what we would along the way. 20170830_12394720170830_123545Madison Falls – you don’t need to pay to see this part of the park.

DSCN9263  20170830_133007_HDRGlines Canyon Spillway Overlook DSCN9276

DSCN9292The drive to the end of the road was more exciting than I anticipated. My anxiety was going a little crazy thinking the car was going to go crashing down the hillside.

We didn’t make it to the hot springs. I was banking on the springs being a little over 2 miles away from the parking lot, since that was what was listed on the sign, but after over an hour of walking, we ran into some people and they said we were barely even halfway there. They also said that it was rather disappointing. Jason had fallen and hurt his ankle, I was chafing and hungry, and I was ready for a cold swimming pool rather than hot springs. We ended up going out for Chinese then spending the rest of the night alternating between the hot tub and the pool at the hotel. It wasn’t what I originally had in mind, but still a very relaxing evening with the hubby.


DAY #320170831_122408

Our last day was the most laid back as we started the drive home. I also didn’t want to push hubby to do anything too intense since his ankle was in bad shape. We stopped by a lavender farm, B&B Family Farm, and it was so relaxing. It smelled heavenly and Bruce was very kind. He didn’t mind at all taking 20 minutes out of his workday to explain the different types of lavender and how they process them. We learned that French lavender is mostly used for fragrance while English lavender is used in cooking, that lavender buds will stay on the stem for years if undisturbed, and saw how the oil is extracted from the buds. We also found out that lavender can be used as an insect repellent. Lavender FarmUnfortunately for us, we arrived just after they finished their harvest, so there wasn’t a whole lot of purple for us to see. Even so, it was beautiful. DSCN9295

DSCN9296They also have a shop where they sell all kinds of lavender stuff. Lip balm, insect repellent, candles, hand cream, air freshener, lavender oil, cleaning products, soap – you name it, it was there. DSCN9300Our last stop was a bit crazy. We ate at a diner for breakfast and our server highly recommended it. She said it was a place where show animals were taken when they weren’t being used in movies. I was expecting a walking tour, but that was not the case.

DSCN9312Olympic Game Farm was a bit more intense and exciting than I had anticipated. Most of the animals actively came to the car and put their heads inside the vehicle to be fed. I was a bit worried about the safety of my car, especially when going through the high risk area.DSCN9319

DSCN9322 DSCN9325

DSCN9328 DSCN9331

Smiling BearI don’t know how Jason managed to do it, but he got all three kodiak bears to smile for the camera.Smiling Bear #2

Smiling Bear #3 DSCN9356This was the high risk area. The pamphlet specifically said not to stop your vehicle because the animals will swarm your vehicle. To that I say easier said than done. The car in front of us was going too slow and we did end up getting trapped with animals blocking our way. However, we managed to get through without damaging the car or losing any fingers. It was definitely a once in a lifetime event.  I would highly recommend it if you have an older vehicle you’re not worried about getting scratched up.

This was the first real vacation hubby and I have gone on together. It was really nice to have a few days out of the apartment to do fun things and enjoy each other’s company. I just wish he would stop hurting his ankle every time we go somewhere.

Pulled in a New Direction

Over the past few weeks, I have been so tired. Spiritually, physically, mentally exhausted. I’m adjusting my sleep schedule for working third shift, and I’m about halfway there.

I’ve been very lax about my Japanese studies. However, I have tried out Human Japanese at Dina’s recommendation and can’t say too many good things about it. It gives actual pointers on how to make your characters look good rather than just giving you an outline of how to do them, it explains the material succinctly, and it moves at a good pace. Hubby also surprised me by ordering a couple Crazy Kana Notebooks, which I have yet to use though they look lovely.

I was also briefly inspired to finally start working on a side project I’ve wanted to get up and running for a long time. I started a music blog where I will be analyzing song lyrics and otherwise doing music reviews. So far, I’ve only written a review of Kesha’s new album Rainbow, but it was a lot of fun and I hope to get back into it soon. I’m planning on covering music by Rufus Wainwright, Vienna Teng, Jillette Johnson, and maybe even Pink Floyd (who I adored throughout my teens). So, if you would be interested in that sort of thing, go check it out.

Other things I’ve been up to:

  • Binge watched season 7 of Game of Thrones yesterday and am not so patiently waiting for the finale
  • Finished watching season 1 of The Worst Witch on Netflix and loved it – it is as heartwarming as the books, which I listened to when I couldn’t sleep in college
  • Got bored watching Little Witch Academia on Netflix because it’s so similar to The Worst Witch (but with less character development and more nods to Harry Potter)
  • Cracked up while watching the first episode of One Punch Man
  • Tried reading the otome Locked Heart and ended up deleting it… The protagonist was annoying and disbelief could not be suspended
  • Spent half a day looking up fun things for hubby and I to do (botanical gardens this weekend!) so I would feel more motivated about life
  • Did some research on hikikomori (social recluse) in Japan
  • Learned about crime in Japan (or the lack thereof) and some criticisms of their justice system
  • Started my trial of Apple Music (after being a long time Spotify user) and can say that I will never make the switch
  • Updated my phone to Oreo and have barely noticed a difference

This weekend, I will be watching the new version of Death Note that’s coming out on Netflix and I’m hoping it exceeds my expectations…

If you read my list and thought that I have watched too much television lately, you’re probably right. I banned myself from YouTube for a week and when it was over the binge watching got a little out of control. It didn’t help that I was home alone for 3 days while hubby was out of state for work.

I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking, and have decided that it’s high time to get back to work on my more creative endeavors. I enjoy blogging about mental health, documenting my progress in Japanese, and writing reviews of things, but that’s not really what I feel called to write. Essentially, it feels like busy work when I should be working on my novels or even returning to poetry (which I wrote daily for a very long time).

This doesn’t mean that I’m going to write less about the things I already write about. Rather, it simply means that I need to write more.

That thought makes me very tired.


How are you all doing? What are you excited about doing in the future?

At My Worst

I recently read Sara’s post “Depression Does Not Make You a Monster” and her follow up post, and felt compelled to finally put pen to paper, so to speak, on something that has been on my mind for a long time now.

I’ve spent a lot of time mentally processing my diagnosis, and here’s what I’ve concluded: Depression is and is not controllable. Depression is disabling, sometimes. And trying to tease out whether any particular bad patch could have been prevented is not worth the effort.

Most advice about depression is contradictory. That doesn’t mean it’s incorrect; depression is just complicated. The advice about how to help people with depression is similarly full of conflicting ideas.

On the one hand, I have had days where I agree with Sara’s advice to “ignore the depression, not the person suffering from it.” Sometimes the only way to feel better is to escape the thoughts in your head, which cannot be done if those around you are constantly asking you what’s wrong, why you’re not happy, and if there’s anything they can do. If I’m out and about, trying to distract myself, the last thing I want is to be pulled back to the thoughts I am trying to get away from. I certainly don’t want to feel like a burden, or like everything needs to come to a standstill while I get my emotions back in check.

All that being said, it is my responsibility to communicate my needs. If I drag my husband to the beach in an effort to lift my spirits and am still in the dumps, it is only natural for him to ask me why I’m upset. He is not a mind reader.

On those days, the best thing I’ve found to do is to go somewhere I’ve never been before and focus on the new surroundings. Otherwise, I read, sing, or otherwise find a way to silence the unwanted thoughts.

I should note that my therapist has also recommended focusing on sensory information. For example, think about the way your body feels against whatever furniture you’re in contact with. Now imagine what the furniture feels like supporting you. It’s slightly different, but it effectively changes the flow of your thoughts. (Aromatherapy can also work wonders.)

On the other hand, there are times when you need to express what you are feeling. I’m going to borrow again from my therapist. If you are worrying about something, imagine your brain is trying to send you a letter. It wants to tell you something important. First it’s going to knock on the door. If you ignore it, the mailman is going to start ringing the bell. Then, he might start yelling or trying to shove the letter through the cracks.

Once you acknowledge the mailman, he stops trying to break down the door. The urgency is gone and you can peruse the contents of the letter and move on. This is partly why it is so therapeutic to journal (or blog).

However, even writing about your experience has some problems. I experienced this when I tried online therapy. I spent so much time finding the words to describe what was happening to me and waiting for a response that I never gave myself the chance to bounce back from my bad times naturally. Writing is wonderful, but it makes you revisit your old emotions so you can immortalize them accurately. Then later on you might notice a typo. Before you know it, you’ve read your own angst-ridden sentence twenty times. Sure, your creative head space is probably not as bad as your original raw emotion, but you still relive that moment every time you interact with your writing.

All this is to say that there isn’t a “right” way to handle your depression. There isn’t a “right” way for others to interact with you. Every day, you have to assess your capabilities and determine what you need to do to maximize your productivity. Some days, all you may be able to do is cry over your failed drawing of a Tyrannosaurus rex (my Tuesday afternoon). Other days, you can muster the determination to clean half your house, put in a few hours of professional work, and write a blog post to boot.

What’s important is that you give yourself an A every day you do your best, even if your best today isn’t what it was yesterday.

An Evening At The Arboretum – Japanese Week 6

DSC_0531I haven’t made any particularly exciting progress with my studies this week, so I want to talk about something a little bit different.

This evening, hubby and I very much enjoyed our walk through the arboretum. If you put me in nature with a camera, especially when flowers are blooming, I will be more than content… until I get hungry.DSC_0455Hubby particularly enjoyed finding all of the hidden painted rocks in the vicinity. They were, indeed, rather cute.
DSC_0557As we were making our rounds to make sure we had found every last one of the stones, we sat down by the fountain. I had recently learned a little about kintsugi and Japanese art in general. (Kintsugi is a method of mending broken pottery where the pieces are put back together with gold, silver, or platinum lacquer, making the damage part of the object’s history rather than disguising it.)
DSC_0496Looking at the fountain, I thought about what I had learned and ended up wishing that the rest of the arboretum had taken the nod from the Japanese section of the arboretum. The Japanese part looked much more harmonious.
DSC_0514Instead of putting down mulch to suppress the growth of unwanted plants and visually asserting dominance over the natural order, the Japanese design just had the various types of plants grow side by side, fully fulling in the entire area. Thus, the Japanese design looked comparatively organic. Even with the fountain, it was unobtrusive and didn’t look like a testament to the triumph of man. Rather, it showed balance with the natural world.
DSC_0493While I don’t see a problem with finding mulch to be less than pleasing to the eye, I quickly realized that I have become quite cynical and, perhaps, overly critical of American values in general.DSC_0451While studying French in high school, I never got as wrapped up in French culture as I have been with Japanese culture over the past few weeks. Part of it is that Japanese culture feels more foreign than French culture. However, the main reason is that I was more critical of French culture than I have been of Japanese culture.
DSC_0539For instance, my reaction to the French Revolution compared to the head collecting practices of samurai warriors just doesn’t match up.

When you are learning about Japan, it is easy to fall into the trap of skimming the surface of an idea and romanticizing it. Sure, it’s easy to love manga and anime, think the art is beautiful, love the architecture, find the folklore fascinating, etc. But you can’t separate all that from the political history of Japan.

As far as current political issues go in Japan, here’s what I’m aware of:

Yes, I will expose myself as woefully ignorant. (Typical American, eh?) But I have plans to change that and, of course, I will share my discoveries with all of you.

What Should You Do With Your Life?

The fears started creeping in during my senior year of college. It’s actually time to decide now, what do you want to do?  It’s been 3 years and 6 jobs since I graduated (2 of which I currently have). I still don’t know exactly what I want to do career-wise, but I had a bit of an epiphany, and I’m not panicking anymore.

I quit my office job at the end of March, flew home to see my parents for the first time in about 2 years, and returned a week later, telling myself I was ready to find a job that would make me happy. At the end of April, I did get a job. And it was writing-related, which is what I always thought I wanted to do. But I wasn’t happy. In fact, I was more depressed and anxious than ever.

I tried a lot of things to get back on the right path. I took a skill/career/personality quiz from my college’s career center to see what careers it matched me with. I had zero results that were a true match. That upset me a little but I looked at the possible matches. They ranged from hilarious to depressing. (Broadcast news analyst, choreographer, DJ, foreign language interpreter, etc.)

Time passed and nothing changed. One evening, I was watching videos on minimalism and YouTube recommended I watch a video on the Japanese concept of ikigai. Your ikigai is basically your purpose in life. This diagram came from this site and it sums up how to find your ikigai really nicely. If you love it, you’re good at it, you can be paid for it, and the world needs it, that is your calling.

I loved the concept, but this still wasn’t all that helpful for me. Sure, I could say that writing fits in all these categories, but getting paid for it isn’t all that easy and I needed something more reliable to get my life back on track.

A couple weeks ago, I watched a Ted Talk called “To find work you love, don’t follow your passion.” In a nutshell, the speaker made the argument that passions fade and to feel fulfilled, you should have a career that helps others. The passion will come from seeing the difference you make in others’ lives.

This talk was pretty much the exact opposite of horrible advice I was given by a pyramid scheme recruiter. Pyramid scheme sleazeball said that instead of instead of focusing on nurturing your passion and making a career out of it, you should look at the people around you and see who has the lifestyle you want. Then, you should do what they do. He shared his story about running a pharmacy because he aspired to basically be able to set his own schedule. He wanted to own a business where he didn’t have to be there all the time, in other words. (He also said some really degrading things about anyone who earns an hourly wage.)

I definitely trusted advice from the Ted Talk much more than the sleazy pyramid scheme guy, but it still seemed really off to me.

Today, I took a step back. I feel like I’ve been angsting over the same question since I first began trying to decide what I should major in. To take the pressure off, instead of trying to answer questions like “what am I good at” and “what makes me happy,” I just thought about what I want out of my life. I came up with ten things.

What I discovered when I did this was that there is no specific job that is going to help me meet my goals (aside from funding). Let me say it a different way: what I want from life is not going to come from my job.

All that soul-searching I was doing trying to find a fulfilling career was misguided. I already know what I want. I just need to go after it.

I don’t need to get the perfect job to achieve my goals. There is no entry barrier, no hoop I have to jump through to make progress, and that’s pretty dang empowering.

My Favorite Works of Art Inspired by Starry Night

In general, I think most people disregard “modern art.” We look down on those paintings that aren’t pretty, seem to have no discernible meaning, have an incredibly high price tag, and were probably created by a hipster. For instance, here’s Black Square by Kazimir Malevich, often referred to as “the zero point of painting.”

Malevich.black-square.jpg
So deep, so mysterious, so…black. Except that one bit there.

A few years ago, I went to the Museum of Modern Art in Glasgow with a friend and we spent the entire trip either giggling or being very confused. I’d say there were a few things I found intriguing, but I did not feel emotionally moved by anything the way I felt the first time I saw Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Of course, there have been a million works of art inspired by Starry Night since then, but the vast majority of them are either studies/recreations of the work, or just add in famous characters without adding any original content whatsoever. I can’t recall how many dorm rooms I walked into in school that had the Dr. Who/Starry Night poster plastered on the walls. While I like that poster, I feel like the only reason I like it is because it is like Starry Night. I also love the Hogwarts version and every single Charlie Brown version I’ve seen, they’re just not different enough to stand on their own.

There are, however, those far and few between works that truly move beyond being a recreation and add to the conversation. Here are a few of my favorites (in no particular order).

1. Starry Night by Alex Ruiz

I love the idea of making the “inspiration” of a work the work itself. This clever twist on the iconic piece is mesmerizing. If you don’t know this guy by name, you’ll definitely know him by his work. He’s had a hand in The Simpsons, Eragon, Halo, Avatar, Family Guy, etc.

2. Starry Night Interactive

Animating the painting and letting people play with it is simply genius. This video is hypnotic. (You can download the app here on Android and here on iPhone.)

3. Daan Roosegaarde‘s Starry Night inspired Bike Path

Van Gogh Fietspad.jpg

While I love the “art for art’s sake” mentality, you bet I would ride my bike every night if this was in my neighborhood.

4. Van Gogh on Dark Water

This captures the movement in the piece like no other medium can.

5. StarryNightmare by FrozenTempest


I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong. I did say that I don’t count those works that just copy & paste without doing their own thing. But, this piece does do its own thing! Digital painting is not the same as oil painting or stop-motion animation, for one. More importantly, this piece mixes the look of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Starry Night together and has its own unique style, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.

What do you think? What’s your favorite Starry Night inspired work of art?

Please support all these very talented people by checking out their other art.

The Tortoise and the Hare – Japanese Week 5

There are many people on the internet who claim that they mastered hiragana and katakana in a few days. I choose to believe those people are liars.

Seriously though, learning Japanese is hard and you shouldn’t measure your progress against others. Competition can be healthy, but if you start feeling like you’re not learning as quickly as you should be, that doesn’t exactly encourage you to keep going, does it? If, like me, you’re learning just because you want to, there’s no reason to rush. Remember that your studies are for your own personal satisfaction and there’s no gun to your head.

I truly don’t have much to report this week. I was mentally out of sorts for the first half of the week and barely got any studying done. Thus, I’ve only been able to get 2 rows of the katakana chart inside my brain.

Since my mind was being a bit obnoxious, I decided to work on my handwriting skills. Your brain cannot easily rebel against muscle memory.

This was my first attempt at writing the hiragana chart (from my first or second week of studying, I believe):

I painstakingly spent an hour writing this down, not even knowing that “wi” and “we” are no longer in use – and “we” was one of the hardest ones to write! I would say that “wo” was actually the one I struggled with most though. I must have erased and rewritten that one at least 10 times.

I now see a lot of problems with my writing, but I still think it was a solid first attempt, especially considering I picked one hiragana chart and decided I was going to write just like that one.

When you try to write like a computer, it just doesn’t turn out right. My lowercase e in English looks like an e in most computer fonts (you can see it on the far right above) and the vast majority of people who try to read my handwriting tell me that my e looks like a t. (Yet I refuse to change my ways because I like the way my handwriting looks and don’t think it’s that hard to read.)

This week I practiced with my brush pens and my handwriting was considerably sloppier. With brush pens, you have to write bigger than you do with pencil and there is no erasing. It’s very unforgiving. However, the bigger your mistakes, the easier they are to spot and work on fixing.

Finally, I have two app recommendations this week. Learn Japanese is the only app that I’ve downloaded that will check your pronunciation (and, yes, it’s free). So far, I would say it works fairly well. When I know I’ve butchered something, it agrees. I’m not sure how fine tuned it is, but something is better than nothing. Regardless, the app forces you to practice speaking, which is always a good thing.

The other thing I like about the app is that you can set it to display new phrases on your lock screen. I wouldn’t recommend this for your cell phone/primary device because then you have two lock screens to get through (unless you disable your password), but I like having it on my tablet. While your screen is still locked, you can tap to hear how the phrase is supposed to be said. That doesn’t force the app to open when you unlock your device, so it’s not super intrusive. The lock screen does, however, display a small ad toward the bottom of your screen.

Kanji Samurai is a fun resource as well. It has a simple plot that I enjoy, and it’s a fun way to learn new kanji. It doesn’t have any mnemonics – you just practice writing over and over again in battle. You go through three rounds with each group of kanji, and during the final round, the only hint you get is where the kanji begins. Repeated exposure works well for me, so I’m fine with it not offering a lot of shortcuts. The one feature I wish it did have was to hear how each character is pronounced.

Time to hit the books! See you all next week.

Work Smarter, Not Harder – Japanese Week 4

edit 2This week, a lot of light bulbs came on for me. I rarely make snap decisions, but learning Japanese was one of them, so it makes sense that I’m having so many, “this would be so much easier if…” moments now.

I made a Reddit account this week and have probably never been later to the party. I joined r/LearnJapanese. The first thing I read was so simple that I facepalmed. Practice writing on graph paper to make sure your proportions and spacing are correct. Why didn’t I think of that?? I had considered printing off worksheets to practice writing kana since my workbooks are all for kanji, but decided against it. (So much ink!) Instead, I started practicing on regular notebook paper, like a dummy.

The sad thing is, I’m pretty sure I actually watched a YouTube video of someone practicing kanji on graph paper and it still didn’t click. Sigh.

The next resource I found that was a real game changer was realkana.com. Memrise has helped me out a lot, but this site makes it so much easier to focus on what you are struggling with. You can select as many columns of the hiragana/katakana chart as you need and study in multiple fonts.  It’s absolutely wonderful. Using the site has really cemented hiragana in my memory.

The other epiphany I had this week was about using the kanji practice apps. (I rely very heavily on apps to learn because I hate wasting paper.) Instead of practicing “writing” kanji by swiping with my finger, I should use a stylus. I know, I’m a regular Einstein.

Sometimes, my approach to problems in life is a little too similar to this:


Click here if you don’t get this reference.

All that being said, I still hit a bit of a wall this week. After making so much progress with hiragana, starting on katakana felt like returning to square one. I know this is the next thing I need to do before I really dive deep into kanji, but my brain is in rebellion.

edit 1Therefore, in order to make learning fun again, I decided to download even more apps to make the process as pain-free as possible. By far, my favorite app has been Tabekana. It is an early access download, but I haven’t had any issues with it so far. Why is Tabekana great? Cats. Cats make everything great.

My other app recommendations for the week include Infinite Japanese for learning colors, Learn Japanese with Anna for conversational skills, and 72 Seasons for cultural education. You can practice numbers in addition to colors with Infinite Japanese, but the audio for numbers sometimes cuts off the beginning of words a bit and you have a 50% chance of getting the number right every time so I don’t find it nearly as useful as the colors. (You will need to learn to write the names of the colors separately; this app will only help you with listening skills. While it does show you what the kanji characters are, your focus is generally elsewhere on the screen so it doesn’t really help.)

edit 3I have only listened to one lesson of Learn Japanese with Anna so far, but I feel like it is a very trustworthy source of information. The audio is from “Easy Japanese,” which was produced by NHK  (the PBS of Japan). NHK also has their own app where you can listen to Japanese news in a wide variety of languages.

72 Seasons is based on the ancient Japanese calendar. As the name implies, it shares information about the 72 seasons as well as related haiku, photographs, and illustrations. Since there are 72 seasons, the app updates approximately every 5 days. (You can only see the current season.) It’s a gorgeous, simple app.

I know I’ve had a lot of recommendations this week, but I’m not quite done throwing them out yet.

Since the only books I’ve purchased are kanji workbooks, you may have noticed that my studies are a bit all over the place. However, I think in the coming weeks things are going to stabilize because… I found some excellent stuff. This Japanese Grammar Guide is exactly what I’ve been looking for. It’s free, for one thing, and it also doesn’t focus on teaching you a bunch of quick phrases. While videos that teach you the basics of how to introduce yourself and ask for directions are great if you are in Japan and just need some quick information, those rely far too heavily on rote memorization. I don’t learn well that way, and rewinding videos gets old real fast.

Typical learning resource approach: Here are some phrases. By the way, you should also know that “ka” is a question marking particle, “no” is used to make possessives, “ha” is used as a topic marking particle (but then it’s pronounced as “wa”), etc. Grammar is always introduced as an afterthought because what is important is that you have phrases to say immediately. While it is important to work on your pronunciation from day one, understanding proper sentence structure is, too.

This is why I love “The Japanese Grammar Guide.” It is what its name says it is: a grammar guide.

In addition to all that, I’m about 80 pages into Haruhiko Kindaichi’s “The Japanese Language.” It covers the history of Japanese and examines the strengths and weaknesses of the language. I never studied linguistics so some of it goes over my head, but for the most part it is very engaging. Did you know that Shiga Naoya, a very well-respected writer, once wrote that Japan might as well “adopt French as her national language?” I can’t imagine what it must have been like to feel that way, especially for a writer.

For the next week, I plan to carry on with katakana and continue reading the grammar guide and “The Japanese Language.” Wish me luck!


A couple other things:

  • Thank you to Ben from Project Believe in Yourself for featuring me in a blog review this past week! I love hearing people laugh at the jokes I write and your feedback was much appreciated.
  • I finally got rid of my beach header last weekend. It was a good temporary placeholder while I figured out what to do for a logo, but it wasn’t… up to scratch. I finally buckled down and spent at least 4 hours on Canva (which I do not at all recommend unless you’re willing to pay for things) designing a logo. I’m very happy with how it turned out, though the process was not so fun.the writing waifu Of course there’s a cat.
  • I made the images in this post! Me, who is not so good with drawing and has no graphic design experience! (To be fair, I only added text for the meme.) I have been playing around a lot with Silk Paints because it makes me feel a lot more talented than I actually am.
  • If you have a good recipe for yum yum sauce, please share it with me. Hubby and I tried one out and it was a total disaster.

またね!