New Year! (and goodbyes)

It's the start of 2007, and the beginning of The Year of NerdTour '07: Nippon! Time is counting down to the takeoff, sometime in August, exact date to be finalized sometime this month. I hope to have a new job in a few weeks, so I can have money for the trip.

This year starts off with a sad note for me, with the death of President Gerald Ford. So much has been said about him, pro and con, but he was the first person I ever voted for for President, as I reached voting age in 1976. Ford was President during some hard times, and he was The President for a generation of us who came of age when disco was rearing its ugly head, "Saturday Night Live" was actually funny (they were just creating some of the jokes and skits and catchphrases that would warp a generation), and I was actually managing to start fitting into high school. Ford was "my President" in ways that no other political leader was before, or since. He was a good guy but not a star, not a hero (at least, not that my history-ignorant peers knew of, I've since learned he was far more heroic than we could conceive back then), but a decent man who was doing his best in a crappy situation. For someone who wasn't heroic, athletic, good-looking, or rich, and was slightly clumsy to boot, Ford was a fantastic role model, and I supported him unashamedly. Given what happened during the Carter Years, I really wish he had been elected in '76. I doubt the Shah would have been overthrown, the Ayatollah Khomeini would still be in Paris, and half of the Middle East would be a safer place today, if Jimmah hadn't decided to play The Great Game by surrendering.

Anyway, some of the world is mourning our loss, including me. One thing that really frosted me was learning that only two low-level Democrats deigned to appear at the ceremony for Ford in Washington. That is the height of unspeakable crassness and disgusting partisanship of the basest kind, to refuse to make time to honor a fallen President, just because they have a mad-on against his party. Just because you hate the current occupant doesn't mean you can't honor a true war hero and former leader of this country. it's just common decent courtesy to do so, and doesn't hurt you in any way. If no Democrats appear at the funeral service, I'm writing letters (snail mail, with stamps) to the "leaders" of the Democratic Party expressing my disgust.

2007, a new year, starting sad, but hopefully with some happy times ahead. Happy New Year!
  • Current Music

More "art"...

This is just a quick entry, I finally got off my butt and took photographs of the paintings I did in college, so that at least if something happens to them, I have some record of their existence. I'm kind of proud of them, it looks like I did a better job than I thought I did, which is to say I can still recognize the women, even after so many years! I'm going to seriously look into doing prints from my pictures, and seeing if I can sell them for actual money. After seeing what kind of originals are being sold on eBay, and the prices that they're getting, I should have no trouble making some good money, maybe even enough to pay my groceries, in case I still can't get a "job" job after the first of the year.


Now I just have to finish JAPA330 with a C or better, and I can relax over the Christmas holiday.
  • Current Music
    The Sounds of Silence (no, really, quiet)


Well, this past weekend was a lot of fun. I've always like AnimeUSA, ever since I started going to it a few years ago. Something about small conventions, with just a couple of thousand fans, makes it feel more comfortable. AUSA always has a good selection of recent anime (not always licensed, of course) for viewing, their dealer's room although small always has good companies, with good selections of "stuff" to buy. This year I made a pretty good haul, I bought some wall hangings for the first time, bought a droolicious Yomiko Readman figure, and snarfed enough anime DVDs to keep me dazed through the Thanksgiving holiday.

This AUSA is also the first one I've participated in as an "artist". I painted a picture of Fuu staring into the sunset, and got quite a few compliments (although I wasn't there, my friends relayed some of them), plus the biggest compliment of all, someone bought the painting! Some of the comments were interesting, in what they said about the kinds of things that are being displayed at anime convention art shows lately. It seems that more and more people are creating "paintings" using Photoshop, and very few are taking brush to canvas. Some people were surprised (and the guy who bought the painting said he was pleased) by the fact that I had actually painted a picture for display. There were also a lot of prints of paintings by very good artists, but I've seen the same prints from the same artists at con after con this past 4 or 5 years. The person running the Art Show said that this year she had only seen about half of the works that were in the show just last year, and I'm wondering if the crowd is just getting tired of the same things, or if fans don't have the time to create, or worse, that they no longer have the motivation to do so. It's a bit worrisome, especially if it's a trend. I intend to find out at next February's Katsucon, where I plan to have at least 2 and maybe 3 paintings done and displayed.

I told my friend Speaker that I've been slowly participating in the con-going experience, first by attending, then last year by cosplaying (I made a passable, if very overweight and old Jigen from "Lupin the Third"), and now by participating in an Art Show. If my talents went in that direction, I'd make an anime music video, or possibly amateur animation, but those are extremely time consuming, and I don't think I'll have a lot of time once I get a job (if I can get one, grumble grumble). Also, if I did make an AMV or something, and it went over well, Speaker's head may explode from the sheer amount of incredulity! (He was astonished by the fact that I sold my painting, and mentioned it more than once during and after the con. Heh. ^===^ )

At any rate, AUSA is always fun, and I'm looking forward to Katsucon! Anyone reading this, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!
  • Current Music
    The eternal music of the spheres (can't stop the durn thing)


Today, November 15 2006, would have been my mother's 90th birthday. Delphy Diseker was an unusual woman, private, strong-willed, independent, and often frustrating. She was the last child of her family, her parents were married around 1893, and all the stories about her say she was intensely shy. Of her children, I seem to have inherited that trait the strongest. She married my father Norman Diseker in 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, in the coal camps of Kentucky. My brother and sister were born not long after, but I wasn't to come on to the scene until 1958. It was a dangerous time, most 42 year old women didn't have children, and just as she and my father (who was 57 at the time!) were getting ready to figure out how and where to settle down, they get stuck with a newborn. But, they raised me just fine, and Mom made sure I learned how to take care of myself early on. I know now that she and Dad were thinking they weren't going to be around much longer, but thank God they both lived into their 80's, my Dad living long enough to see me graduate college, and my Mom long enough to see me settled into a good career. I miss them both terribly, but I think I miss Mom most of all. I never had a chance to tell her goodbye, she suffered a stroke on Christmas Day 1996, a little over a month after her 80th birthday, and she lapsed into a coma from which she had arranged not to be resucitated from. I had no idea what was happening, as I was feeding her lunch that day in her hospital room, she started nodding off, in a strange way, and she became less and less responsive. I tried to get a nurse interested, and her doctor was off that day promising to come in later (he showed up about 10 hours later), but no one really seemed to care. I kept watch by her bedside, as she slept, wishing I could contact my sister or my brother (my brother was over 100 miles away working himself, and my sister was nearly that far, taking her daughter to the airport). I kept talking to Mom, holding her hand, trying to wake her up, and also letting her know someone was there. Just before she completely lost consciousness, she tried to say something, but it came out a mumble and I don't know what it was she was trying to communicate. I wish I could have told her one last time, while she was awake, that I loved her, but like a lot of times in my life, I missed my chance.

Years before, when she had her first mini-strokes, she had filled out a "living will", which she reiterated down through the later years, requiring her not to be given "extraordinary means" for resucitation if she suffered a major stroke or other brain damage. She loathed the suffering that people she knew had seemed to go through, hooked up to machines that kept blood flowing and breath pumping, but without the possibility of the release of death. She wanted none of that, and made sure her kids knew it. So, one day in December, a couple of days after her stroke, her doctor told us the results of her CAT scan, which showed major damage at the base of her brain, which was allowing her autonomous system to function, but which had disconnected her consciousness from her body. The doctor told us that the terms of the living will stated he could not do anything like respiration or inserting a stomach tube for feeding, but that as relatives we kids could override the will. My brother and sister told me they would let me make the final decision, and agree with whichever way I decided. I knew how I wanted to decide, but I also knew that, on the miniscule chance that she regained consciousness, she would have despised us kids for the rest of her life, because she would know we couldn't be trusted to carry out her most important last wish. So, I told the doctor to honor her will, and so he disconnected her IV, and allowed us to spend as much time with her as she passed. Because her body was so strong, she didn't pass on for nearly 3 weeks, which the doctor and nurses marveled at. I made sure that I played her favorite tapes on a portable cassete player by her bed, and talked to her as much as I could on my shift with her. I don't know if she was aware of it, or if she was truly cut off from the world, but I had to go on the assumption that something of the world was getting through. I pray that she heard me tell her how much I loved her and that I was making sure her one last wish was fulfilled. I can't think of a harder thing to go through, or a harder decision I have ever made, but I'm thankful that my parents raised me and passed on their strength to me to handle this last duty to them. They sent me to church, but taught me that having faith in God (or not) was my choice, and I believe God gave me some strength to help me to help Mom on those last days.

I think I sometimes irritate my friends and acquaintences by not taking many "important" issues of the day very seriously, and basically living my life with little stress and not much thought or worry for the future. I believe it is because of the last lesson my parents taught me, a decade apart from each other. There is only one big thing that can happen to you in your life, and that's the end of it. Everything in between can be survived and overcome, both good and bad. The bad never lasts, and neither does the good, and if there's nothing I can do about it, I don't have to worry. I believe that's also what Jesus was trying to get at when he told his followers "take no thought for tomorrow, for the Lord will provide" or words to that effect. I greet each day thankful for living through the night, and if I survive the day, I thank Him again. I make some plans, of course, but I never fully count on anything, because "the best-laid plans of mice and man gang aft agly" and no matter how much I expect certain things to happen, they seldom do. Sometimes this makes me seem pessimistic, but as I tell my friends, "pessimists are never disappointed, and optimists are never pleasantly surprised."

Boy was this rambling, and I never expected to put so much of myself into a posting like this, but on this day "it needed doing." Thanks, Mom.
  • Current Music
    "Fragments of memory" downloaded MP3

It's not Art, but an incredible simulation!

Okay, so, here's the deal: When I was in college, and giant reptiles ruled the earth, I used to paint pictures. I don't know if they were any good, but I liked them, and I really enjoyed the effort to create them. I got the same kind of mental feeling (many people call it "flow") that I got when I was deeply involved in creating and debugging software. Some say that creation stimulates endorphin receptors, but I don't know. All I know is, I had to give up painting for 20 years, while I spent all my free time working for companies that, for all my sacrifices for them, only gave me back more requirements and more demands on my time. I've been out of work for a few weeks, now, and finally worked up the will to put paint and brush to canvas again. This is what I painted:

Fuu at Sunset

It's not really finished, but I never did "finish" a painting to my satisfaction, I just had to stop before I made it worse. This is the first painting I'm going to show at an anime convention (AnimeUSA in Tyson's Corner), and I hope someone bids on it at the auction. If not, I get to bring it back and show it with my other paintings, and I'll start work on the next one or two for Katsucon in February. I have a couple of ideas that I want to paint, I can visualize them, but now all I have to do is paint what's in my head (that's "all", he says! :-)
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An annual event: Making a new LJ Post!

Well, it's nearly 3:00 AM, and I can't sleep, even though I'm worn out. So many things going on, so many things to do, and even though I'm not working (shrinking bank account for the lose) I still don't have all the time I want. It's probably a good thing I'm not working, in a way, because I am able to spend a lot of time studying Japanese. JAPA 330 is harder in many ways than the earlier classes (which is to be expected) but in some ways it's actually easier. The hardest parts were learning to read and write the alphabets, learning basic grammar rules and learning some common vocabulary, but the way the classes were taught, the rules have built on each other, and after much repetition, I'm finding it easier to think in Japanese. Knowing how to conjugate verbs enables you to build more and more complex thoughts, because the mechanics of the rules are simple and common. There are just a lot of them to keep track of, more so in some ways than English, but less than other languages I've tried to learn. I have a hard time listening to native speakers talking in "full gallop" as it were, but I can start to pick out ideas while watching "raw" anime episodes, now. If the person speaks carefully and not too slowly, I can get by, I think. What I have to do is try to build up my vocabulary, because I have a good feel for the rules, and I can recognize them being applied, but I have no idea what some of the words mean. Knowing that someone is using the past tense of a verb doesn't help if I don't know what they are talking about doing in the past!

Well, this was a rambling post, and I'm nowhere near being any sleepier, so maybe I'll work on my painting. I'm getting back into painting pictures, for the first time in 20 years, since my university days. When I started work, I found that I had no time to devote to art (or at least, what I call art) since I and my fellow drones were expected to give up all for the company. If the company had a deadline, we were supposed to work all hours for no more pay, and to sacrifice private personal time to solve the company's problems. Well, I'm too old and tired to do that anymore, so in future I'm going to spend some of my time on myself. Selfish, granted, but the older I get, the less total free time I'm going to have before I die, and unless I win the lottery, I'm going to have to devote a big chunk of the rest of my life to someone else just to be able to pay my rent and buy my food, so I value my free time more and more highly.

The painting I'm working on is an interpretation of a scene from the closing credits of "Samurai Champloo", an anime favorite of mine. The closing credits show scenes from the childhood of one of the characters, Fuu, and the scene I'm painting is a profile of her looking up at the sky at sunset on the seashore. It's a striking scene, and I hope I can do it justice. I plan to have the painting done by the time the next local anime convention starts, which is AnimeUSA up in Tyson's Corner, in about two weeks. I don't know if they allow only one artwork for show, but if someone likes it, maybe they'll bid on it and I can make a bit of money, and they can enjoy the picture. I'm not greedy (although I am a bit mercenary) but if I can make a few bucks while creating something people like to look at, why the heck not?

Well, that's all I'm going to write for tonight, maybe it won't be a year before the next post! Anyone reading this, check out my other blog, "Systemic Cheese" at
  • Current Music
    Ishikawa Sayuri: Yuno Hana Kouta

Well, this should be interesting...

I decided to dust the cobwebs off of this journal *cough* *cough* and see if it still works.  It's been two years since the grand Nerd Tour, and I'm preparing for another Grand Adventure in 2007.  Yes, it will be "Nerd Tour 2007: Japan!"  I plan to go over to Japan with my friend speaker2animals for Worldcon 2007 in Yokohama, and hopefully spend a couple of months just roaming the country afterward. 

I decided to start preparing early, by taking Japanese courses at George Mason University.  So far, I've taken JAPA 101 and 102 in a brutally intensive Summer session.  Each class lasted 5 weeks, averaging 9 hours per week of classwork, and an equal amount of homework.  It was like the proverbial "drinking from a firehose", but I managed to make a B in both classes, and more importantly began learning the language! 

I've gotten two of the three writing systems down pat, hiragana and kataka, and will start learning kanji this semester in JAPA 201.  My vocabulary is still sparse, and I have a very hard time following the teacher (she is a native speaker) due to my poor hearing, and my even poorer brain!  But, apparently I can pronounce the words I know well enough to be understood, so I guess that's something!

I'll try to post here occasionally (I'm not as comfortable with this as Speaker), to update the world (yeah, right) about the preparations for "Nerd Tour 2007: Japan!" as I make them, and any milestones I set and reach.  Hopefully I'll be able to insert some にほんご as I learn it, so that anyone who knows Japanese can get a good laugh!  :-)

That's it for now, stay tuned campers!

  • Current Music
    "Ask DNA" Cowboy Bebop Movie Soundtrack

Nerd Tour 2003: Aftermath

Well, I've been back from the road for a week, now. Back to work, back to most of the habits and some of the chores as before. The last leg of the trip was uneventful, a mere 200 miles in clear weather. Just finished unpacking (I never claimed to be fast at the chores!) and putting stuff away. While doing so, I've been thinking about my life, before and after the trip. Living for a month with just the contents of my car has made me realize just how much extraneous stuff I have. A lot of things that have pleasant memories associated with them, and a lot of books that are out of print, but mostly it's just a bunch of "stuff." It's time to get rid of a lot of it, starting this weekend. Fortunately, the trip seems to have given me a lot more energy, but unfortunately, not any more time, so this project will likely take several weekends. But, as I said many times on the road, when trying something new, "what the hey?"
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    accomplished accomplished

Not long, now!

Made it to Middlesboro successfully, just in time to be almost washed away by a huge downpour from a thunderstorm. It came over the mountain and pounced on the town like some huge monster. Fortunately it was short-lived, and I managed to make it into a fast-food place to eat while the storm flailed about the valley. Today I got up, checked out, and went up to the cemetery out on the edge of town and put fresh flowers on my parent's grave. Later I was able to locate one of my old friends, as well as some friends on the staff at the local library where I worked decades ago (okay, during the Ford administration). Had a pretty good time catching up on what's been happening (or not happening) in the old hometown. Headed up into Virginia, and gazed at the incredible scenery along Highway 58 in Lee County. Almost painfully beautiful, green rolling hills, wide farms, laying at the foot of the mountains. *Sigh.* Words fail.

My friend Michelle at the library pointed me to the local real estate paper to get an idea of prices and availability of property in the area (thanks, Michelle! Man, you find some smart people at the library!) One of these days, I'm going to get some old farmland or other good piece of property in the area, and set up my retirement place. The DC Metro area may be where I have all my stuff, but the mountains are where my heart is.

I left the area, and made it up into Virginia, up to Harrisonburg. Ran into more rain, of course. Turns out there was a storm cell that actually kept up with me as I drove from Roanoke up I-81. I may not have to wash my car, now!

Tomorrow: Journey's End!
  • Current Mood
    calm calm

Rounding the third turn, heading into the home stretch!

Well, the rain kept me from being able to see a couple of my great-nephew's games, and residual alien contamin... er, sinus infection symptoms kept me from seeing the other great-nephew's games, but overall, I had a good time at my brother's. Got to see all of his kids but not all of his grandkids, we went to see "Finding Nemo", had a couple of home-cooked meals, and got 4 of 5 rolls of film developed. Also got a little better illness-wise. Sunday afternoon I drove down to my sister's home, in Manchester Tennessee, where I'm currently using her cable modem (yay!). Had a very relaxing time, finished (hopefully) recuperating. Had more home cooking (yay!).

Now, I'm getting ready to head to my old hometown, Middlesboro Kentucky, where I hope to see a couple of old friends, check out some property I might want to buy around there, and just generally hang out for a day, before starting the last leg of the trip. If all goes well, I'll post one more LJ entry from the road, and should pull into Alexandria sometime on Friday, giving me a weekend to get ready for work next Monday.
  • Current Music
    Beatles' "The Long and Winding Road"