J is for Japan

Just in case you thought that living in Japan for five years has made me fluent in Japanese, this post is here to prove you wrong. While Living Abroad in Japan has indeed improved my Japanese ability beyond what I had learned in high school, and in spite of Japanese being the easiest language I have learned so far (yes English included) I have yet to come anywhere near to mastery of it. At best I can hold a casual conversation and buy my groceries. Complicated things like talking to the folks at Immigration is completely beyond my abilities. (Speaking of which, I have enough paperwork piled up from my trips to Immigration to make A Japanese Visa Handbook.)

One of the things that makes Japanese so hard is learning to read again completely from scratch. With each Chinese character having several potential readings and meanings depending on which other character it is paired with, even reading Japanese Names can be impossible if you haven’t memorized you Basic Kanji Book.

If you’re thinking that you don’t need to read, or even speak Japanese to be able to communicate, I have to burst your bubble of optimism. Even a simple look at A History of Japan will show you that social communication that has been evolving in this country for thousands of years is a great deal more different than what we are used to in the west. There are a lot of potential missteps to Making Out in Japanese, but if you think you can hack it, I invite you to give it a try. Take a Womansword for it, though; it’s a lot harder than it looks.


An Open Letter to the Canada Revenue Agency

Dear Canada Revenue Agency:
Pour l’Agence du revenu du Canada:

In 2013 you sent me a letter kindly asking for my 2011 and 2012 tax returns. In response, I called your agency and informed you that I have been living in Japan since 2010 and that my subsequent income in Canada has been negligible. You verified that this was true and requested I send you a written notice to this effect. I did.

This year you have now sent me two letters to my Japanese address, requesting my 2013 tax return. I’m somewhat baffled by this. Obviously you are still aware that I am living in Japan. You must somehow think that I have acquired a secret source of income in Canada. If this is the case (you seem to be able to verify these things on your own) I would love to hear about it. I’m a little strapped for cash at the moment.

It seems that I have no alternative now but to send you yet another letter detailing the exact same information I have already given you, as you appear to have saved nothing from the previous letter other than my current mailing address.

For the record, I am not currently living in Canada. I have no income in Canada. The total sum of money I have in Canada would not be enough to cover Prime Minister Harper’s teeth whitening, let alone register as taxable income. When I do return to Canada, I will be sure to inform you, as I will be returning penniless, as a student, and I will most assuredly need you to be keeping very diligent account of all the money you will owe me at that time.

You Won’t Let Me Vote, But You Still Hassle Me For Taxes

April A – Z Highlights

survivor-atoz [2014] - SMALL

I did it. I blogged every day in the month of April. I even kept to my regular Sunday schedule (except for one Sunday when I was just too tired to have a coherent thought). It was a lot of fun researching the authors on my shelf, talking about my favorite books and connecting with fellow book lovers. Most of all, I enjoyed the incredible, entertaining, and educational content I found with other bloggers participating in the challenge. I want to give the spotlight here to a few of them whose blogs I especially enjoyed reading every morning:

Claire Gillian: Oh my goodness, did Ms. Gillian ever have me laughing and giggling over my coffee! In her theme Regrettable Books A to Z™, she gave us a new cover and back blurb for a new ridiculous, completely fictional romance novel each day. While they were each over the top with their tongue in cheek romance tropes, I admit, there were a few days when I found myself genuinely wanting to read some of those books that do not exist. Maybe Claire will pen a couple of them and satisfy my curiosity.

Editorial Stand: Giving fantastic advice and definitions from the editing side of the publishing industry, I looked forward to a new fact every day to add to my writing notebook. For writers, this blog is a must read. If you have a manuscript in need of professional copy-editing, Editorial Stand provides that service.

Jay Noel made me feel old, then young, then old again with his theme One Hit Wonders from 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s pop music. Many of the songs he featured threw me back to my childhood. Many more I’d never heard in my life. In addition to enjoying spending a few minutes in my past every morning, I also enjoyed the originality of the theme, which is what earned this blog a spotlight here.

Mina Burrows: I don’t watch a lot of classic movies (or really any movies much anymore) but I love a good monster story, and Mina took us through A – Z of classic movie monsters. Quizzes, trivia and clips from old classics–this blog was a delight for looking back into what scared us in the past, and what still does.

MopDog: With a new strange Hungarian cultural tidbit every day, MopDog was a delight to read for me who sometimes feels as though I grew up in a cultural vacuum. As the adage goes, the grass is always greener (or more interesting, in this case) on the other side– these quirks and oddities from Hungary more than once made me want to visit the country on my next vacation.

Murderous Imaginings: Love a good slasher story? Writing a crime novel and just can’t pick the right murder weapon? Murderous Imaginings has you covered. From Axe to Zip Line, throughout April this blog gave us murder weapons and the bizarre, gruesome, horrific true stories that go with them. Don’t forget to lock your doors at night.

Notes From My ApartmentIn case my theme for this challenge didn’t make it obvious enough, I love books and the people who write them. It’s no surprise then that I loved stopping by this blog through the challenge for a new author and applicable book recommendations every day. I was both saddened and delighted by the number of books and authors featured here that I had never heard of before, but that is the way of things. I recommend going back and giving this A – Z a look if you’re interested in filling your shelves with more books.

Olivia Waite: Doing her challenge on intersectional feminism in romance, Olivia Waite amazed me daily with deep analyses of the romance genre and how it portrays women and people of color. There were some great recommendations and some well deserved dressing downs, and for someone who takes an interest in feminism in literature, this was a great blog to keep up with.

SaylingAway: I love history; I love art; I loved this blog which explored the life and work of a new historical artist every day. Some of the works I was familiar with but for the most part, every entry was entirely new information for me–something I also adore.

Tales of a Pee Dee Mama: This was one of the blogs I especially looked forward to reading each morning. As a kindergarten teacher, this A – Z animal crafts theme was and still is a great resource for my lesson plans. Each letter gave a detailed craft idea, and several facts about the animal in question, which I also very much enjoyed.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping: With tales from life that were sometimes stranger than fiction, this blog had me giggling and chuckling through most of the month. A must read for those who enjoy everyday humor.

I’d also like to give my thanks to the following blogs for being so active in the comments. You guys are awesome, and I really looked forward to seeing what you had to say about my shelves! Please come by again. I have cookies!

Tina DC Hayes
Elizabeth Hein
Dean K Miller
Shere y Paul
Defending the Pen

Linda Covella
Donna’s New Day
Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams
Anabel’s Travel Blog
Tell Me Another
Doorway Between Worlds

herding cats & burning soup
The Transgentle Wife

And of course I couldn’t have done it at all without the encouragement and support of Alex Hurst.

There are so many others too. Thank you for your time, your interest, and the audience. I had a lot of fun this April.

P is for…

PP is for pick one, they’re all good:

Pratchett, Terry



Much like Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett is pretty much universally loved as a fantastic storyteller. His Discworld series in particular has had tremendous success and packed as it is with clever, whimsical humor, it’s not hard to see why. Pratchett was knighted in 2009 and is also an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (so says Wikipedia).

Believe it or not, my first introduction to Pratchett’s writing wasn’t Discworld. It was Good Omens, coauthored with the above mentioned Neil Gaiman. I adore that book to itty bitty pieces; just thinking about it now makes me want to go back and reread it. I’ve read a handful of his Discworld books as well and have the opinion that–as an author–he can do no wrong. As I’ve mentioned in previous entries, Pratchett writes an amazing, entertaining Death, such that I look specifically for those books which feature Death as a character.

Really, it’s hard to pick a wrong place to start with Terry Pratchett’s books. I’ve read them all over the place where I could find them in the library or in book stores or on my friends’ bookshelves. Each one is a witty little adventure into a brilliant tongue in cheek fantasy world filled with complex societies, strong personalities, and a full, rich magic system. Pick one and dive in.

Happy reading!



What’s your favorite Terry Pratchett book? Come on, I know you’ve read at least one. OK, none? Well, give me your favorite P author then. My bookshelf is a little heavy in one area where P is concerned.

Ibis Hotel: We’ll Email You More Than Your Mother

IbisLast week I wrote about my experiences in Seoul, which were pleasant and restful and adventurous. I didn’t talk so much at all about our hotel, in part because we didn’t spend a lot of time in it, and partly because it really wasn’t worth our notice. Now, I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth so to speak–we didn’t have to pay for the hotel, and I’m thankful to our boss for finding us relatively clean and satisfying accommodations. In short, it was a place to sleep which we didn’t have to pay for; I didn’t give it much thought beyond that.

But a little over a week ago I was made to recall my stay again. They sent me an email asking me to complete their survey regarding my experience in their hotel:

Dear N–,

We appreciated having you as our guest recently at Ibis Ambassador Seoul Myeong-dong,
where you checked out on April 3, 2014.Your feedback and suggestions regarding your stay would be very valuable to us.

We invite you to complete the short survey on our guest satisfaction web site.

Please click on the link below, and your web browser will automatically take you to our survey web site and identify you…

These sort of feedback surveys are common these days and so it wasn’t exactly surprising to get one from the hotel. But I am a busy woman–the school year has just started and as coordinator of the elementary program it’s my job to see to it that all the new teachers know what they are doing, are comfortable with the school and their classes, that all the materials are made and textbooks arranged, that everybody knows where to go at what time and so on. In addition, I’m still writing and reading daily for the A to Z blog challenge this month, as well as keeping up with personal reading and writing. What I’m getting at is, I acknowledged the existence of the survey and put it from my mind until I had enough breathing room to consider whether or not it was worth my time to respond.

And then I got this email,

Thank you for choosing ibis Ambassador Seoul Myeongdong for your recent stay in Seoul.

We’d be grateful if you would review us on TripAdvisor. It’s the world’s largest travel site, helping millions of visitors every month plan the perfect trip.

Our guests often tell us how helpful it is to read past guests’ reviews before booking their own visits. And we’re always eager to hear what you liked and how we can improve.

Thanks again, and we hope you’ll choose ibis Ambassador Seoul Myeongdong the next time you’re in Seoul.

Which put me in a little bit of a sour mood. How many surveys and reviews am I going to be asked to take? You’re a hotel, congratulations. Would you like a pat on the back for being a hotel? Anyway, I still hadn’t formed any sort of opinion on Ibis one way or another. I was too busy to think about it, or to care all that much.

But then, four days ago I got this:

Dear N–,

Recently, we sent you an invitation to complete a Guest Satisfaction Survey concerning your stay with us at Ibis Ambassador Seoul Myeong-dong,  where you checked out on April 3, 2014.

We noticed that you did not have time to complete the survey. We are concerned that you may not have responded because we have somehow failed to live up to your expectations.

At Accor Hotels, we are committed to providing a superior guest experience to each and every one of our customers. Please take a few minutes to tell us how well we met your expectations.

To complete the survey, please click on the web address below. If that does not work, please copy and paste the entire web address into the address field of your browser.

[The linky was here]

Thank you again for choosing Accor Hotels, and I look forward to hearing about your stay with us.



At this point I got angry. I made note a little while ago on another blog about this particular passive aggressive trait that I encounter which suggests that because one refuses a service it must be because the service is disliked. The suggestion from Accor that I didn’t drop everything to take a ten minute survey praising them for being a hotel was somehow because I hadn’t enjoyed my stay was too rankling to ignore.

So I took the survey.

I wish I’d had the foresight to note down the questions as I went through them, but true to avoir l’esprit de l’escalier, I didn’t actually think of writing this post until a day had passed after sending it, and I’m unable to return to the survey now. It occurred to me, though that multiple choice questions simply couldn’t capture my whole feelings about my stay at Ibis. Since they are obviously very, very, intrusively interested in what I thought about them, I thought I might elaborate a little bit on some of my answers.

Ibis pillow

Alex, in the only photo we took of our hotel room.

Dear P–;

Recently you asked me to complete a survey on my stay at Ibis Ambassador Seoul Myeong-dong. Let me start first by saying how much I appreciate the level of respect and weight you put on my opinion. It is every writer’s dream to have an audience which hangs on her every thought. I found however, that your multiple choice questions were somewhat leading, and tended to lean away from an answer that would express explicit dissatisfaction. I therefore found it necessary to elaborate on some of the points you wished me to opine on:

With regard to the service

I was delighted to find that the Ibis Ambassador Seoul Myeong-dong hotel has multilingual staff who expressed momentary flashes of exasperation at the approach of guests to their counters. At our check-in we were offered a discounted rate on the breakfast buffet and subsequently weren’t informed that reservations needed to be made 24 hours prior to arrange the discounted breakfast for future mornings. We were also handed a very useful card with the hotel address, phone number and a map to show to taxi drivers should we need one to return to the hotel. I might note here that it seems the information on your card is out of date, as our befuddled taxi driver attempted twice to call the number provided and received no answer. The hotel lobby is also very nicely equipped with a video screen which informs guests that shuttle buses are available to take them to the major sights of the city. When we inquired about this service, we were affirmed that yes, it existed, and reservations were needed. As no further information as to where or with whom reservations could be made was supplied to us, we assumed that the buses were booked for the day, and made alternative arrangements.

With regard to the exterior of the hotel

The Ibis Ambassador Seoul Myeong-dong shares the same location as what I assume is a very high profile bank, as the latter occupies the entirety of the street facing side of the building. We noted a small directory which indicated the hotel was on this block, but it was because of our misunderstanding that we could not for ten minutes find the entrance of the hotel which was located in the adjacent alley.

With regard to the cleanliness of the room

The room was very neat and tidy, with crisp clean white sheets and spotless drapes which called stark attention to the floor which has been in want of a carpet cleaning for many years. I also appreciated the hair remaining in the bathroom which proudly stated that previous guests had used and enjoyed the facilities.

With regard to the amenities

Our room came with many lovely features to make our stay more comfortable. These included a refrigerator which could store a single can of soda each for Alex and I at maximum capacity, a decorative thermostat, a very, very frisky bidet, and a singular and hitherto unheard of bottle of miracle soap in the shower which could wash the body and hair with equal efficiency. The lone bar of hand soap by the sink also stood to laud that this was indeed a four star hotel.

With regard to the bar

There was a bar?

With regard to the breakfast buffet

For a price of 22,000₩ ($22) I was very pleased to have not gotten sick from the breakfast buffet. This was a real relief for me as I have a delicate stomach which does not care for deviation from my usual diet. I give credit for this to the short variety of offerings which didn’t tempt me toward gastronomical adventure, and the relative blandness of watery eggs, plain yogurt, and cereal. We also appreciated the attention you give to the esophageal safety of your guests by offering only room temperature milk with which to mix chocolate for a morning cocoa.

With regard to value

As mentioned above, neither Alex nor myself paid a single won for our stay at Ibis Ambassador Seoul Myeong-dong, and we consider that we got our money’s worth for the experience.

I hope this satisfies for a thorough review of our stay at Ibis Ambassador Seoul Myeong-dong. If you’d like to send a voucher for a stay in another of your hotels, I’d be pleased to leave another review, however, I kindly request that you send me no more emails regarding this stay. If you do, I will conclude that you and I are very close friends, at which point I will be pleased to send you the draft of my erotica novella for your beta read and review.



A Few Lines to the Sad Looking Salad Which I Ate for Lunch

You were sitting in the grocery,
Alone among your fresher betters.
Your leaves wilted,
And your edges brown,
You knew the crisp qualities
You once had to offer
Were gone long hours ago.
But I was hungry, and touched
By the melting green of your lettuce,
And the wrinkles on your onions.
Also, you were half off.

But they say no good deed goes unpunished,
And oh, how you embodied
Those cautionary words.
While I, in my mercy
Ate you when no other would,
You planned sour mischief
With my fragile digestion,
And left me in embarrassment
Squatting over the toilet
Of poetic form.

2013: Some Bookish Stats

Everyone likes a good look back at the previous twelve months at year’s end. No? Only me? Well, since it’s Christmas time, and I assume that no one is actually paying attention to the last few blog posts of the year, I’ll slip this one in right now. You’re more than free to click away if you’ve got something better to do. Probably more turkey eating or wine drinking. If, however, you’re trying to escape relatives for a few precious moments under the guise of ‘very important emails from the office to tend to’, please enjoy the visual summary below of my 2013 reading list:

thanks but this isn't for us tMoFSF sep-oct the elements of style the halloween tree civilization and its discontents scaramouche the incrementalists shadowdance The unicorn sonata leviathan yurei attack yokai attack sandman-the dream hunters Hawkwoods voyage tMoFSF july-aug The woman in white landmarks of scientific socialism- anti-duehring lord of light TMoFSF may-june Dr. Jeckel & Mr. Hyde The gift of the magi The devil's dictionary 50 great american short stories One flew over the cuckoos nest plot & structure expletive deleted A book of five rings the scarlet pimpernel mythical creatures bible characters viewpoint & emotion womansword Description & setting Masks Book_SunMoonStars

books 2013 piebook format 2013

Ooo, colorful graphs and all.

My goal was to read fifty books this year. Turns out that was just a little bit ambitious. I got through thirty-four in the end, which isn’t all that bad, I think. I’ll try to set a more realistic goal for the new year. I read much more non-fiction than I figured I would, and read a disturbingly small amount of fantasy. This needs to be corrected in the new year. I had a lot of fun reviewing [the fiction books] once I realized that I could do that–give my opinions of written works. In a public place. Where people will read them. GAH!

Mostly, I just enjoyed reading again. As I mentioned in a previous post, in the last five years, I really haven’t had a chance to read much at all. Moving out of my parent’s house, starting university and moving to the other side of the world were just a few of the hectic life changes that have kept me from the sort of leisure time that I would spend with a good book in the past. Unfortunately this means that my reading library ended after high school, while my tastes have matured along with me. I’ve missed out on a lot of good books, new and old. Now, fortunately–and with the help of many likewise bookishly minded friends– I’m discovering some of those great reads for the first time.

So, for all you book lovers out there desperate for a few more minutes of alone time before braving the family holiday drama once again, what were your favorite books of 2013 and which books (preferably fantasy or science fiction) do you consider must reads?