dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Just a grab-bag of things that have been happening lately.

I got my yearly bonus and annual raise this week. Higher than average on both, because we managed to exceed our department goals by a respectable amount and I did pretty well. There also wasn't as much pressure to hold down salary increases this year, so I got more of a salary increase and less of a bonus. And I put it all into tax withholding and 401K contributions. Well...that's responsibility.  photo 58-2nsylaw.gif

Yesterday was also the last day that we're using the old database system, and over the weekend they'll be switching over to the new system that they've spent the last two years working on. And true to software project form, it was a complete mess until the last week, where it was pulled into at least semi-reasonable condition. That also meant that I couldn't do anything involving the database on Friday, and since my work almost entirely involves editing database entries, I had to make work for myself. On a co-worker's suggestion, I did some prep work so that when the new database is up and able to accept new entries, I can go add in all the disciplinary actions to the appropriate physician records without having to scan through state board orders for what the doctors did wrong. Unless the database upgrade doesn't go well, in which case everything will be on fire.  photo onfire.gif Hopefully it all goes smoothly, but these are computers we're talking about.

Today was the first session of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's 7th Sea 2e game! I read the book through to make sure I knew the system and I had some misgivings--it's much more loose and narrative-styled than the systems I tend to prefer--but in play it worked out really well! And doing a silly Russian accent and coughing at the republican and revolutionary talk for my Ussuran nobleman was a lot of fun. He's not that great in a fight, but he has magical powers. He's also really rich, which is kind of like a magical power! The star moment was when I called a raven to our jail cell where, we had been treacherously imprisoned for a crime we didn't commit, and asked it to fetch the keys in exchange for a bauble from my nobleman's clothing. I then let everyone out, locked the cells behind us, and left. The legend grows.

I paid our 2016 taxes. Last year we owned an enormous amount because I forgot to take into account [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's new job and thus that our salary was commensurately larger. This year I spent more time modeling our income vs. taxes paid and I came a lot closer--we owed 4% of what we owed last year, in terms of additional payments beyond our normal withholding. I'm not sure how much we'll owe on state taxes, but the state is usually much better at figuring out how much we owe than the federal government is and we rarely get a large refund or have a large deficit, so I'm not that worried. Edit: We owed more on state taxes than federal taxes. Looks like I spoke too soon!  photo shaking_fist_emoticon.gif

We're going to see Hamilton on Thursday. I've successfully avoided most news about it, so while of course I know the subject matter and the characters, I haven't listened to a single song all the way through, nor do I know what parts of history the musical covers. I'll probably write about it after I go, but until then, it's a mystery! Question block photo emot-question.gif
dorchadas: (Kirby sweatdrop)
For most of my life, I have paid no Federal taxes. At first it was because I didn't make enough and contributed to an IRA, then it was because [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd was in school the year we got married, then it was because we lived in Japan and came in under the income limits, then it was because [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd was in school again. But the last couple of years, now that we both work full-time in real grown-up jobs, we've made enough that the bill has finally come due.

Last year it caught me by surprise due to the aforementioned lack of owing and we had a multi-thousand-dollar tax bill, which we fortunately didn't owe any interest on since our income had jumped so much. This year I was much better about estimating how much we owed and our bill is comparatively low, but I was surprised at my reaction when doing my taxes. Every time I put in something that raised our taxes I twitched. I owe money based on the paltry interest from our savings account? They're charging us how much for our dividends? What do you mean I can't deduct our contributions to an IRA because we make too much money?  photo emot-argh.gif

Of course, taxes are the bill for civilization. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and are fortunate that we make enough that this is even a matter of consideration for us. But it's easy to see how without some thought, those moments of indignation could fester and turn into the lower-taxes-at-all-costs attitude that so many Americans seem to have. It's important for my own sake to remember that I'm not categorically different from a rich asshole--well, upper-middle-class asshole--and it could easily be me that falls into that destructive philosophy if I don't take some mental precautions.

I will indulging in some fist-shaking as that tax bill ticks up, though.  photo emot-doom.gif
dorchadas: (JCDenton)
I would have had this up earlier today, but first there was a power outage that took up forty minutes of our time and then I went out to a three-hour-long dinner. Add in some other things I was doing, and there was a short delay. But it's still the first, so it's still a retrospective on the New Year!

I don't bother with New Year's resolutions. But I did find this tweet that I like:

The biggest change I made this year is that I got serious about Japanese. Technically I've been taking lessons since August of last year, but this is the year where Aya-sensei suggested that we read 世界の中心で愛を叫ぶ and where I've worked my way through a fifth of a Japanese novel. I also played multiple games in Japanese and read a manga volume in Japanese as well! I never really sought out opportunities to use and practice my Japanese other than through flash cards and listening to podcasts occasionally, and that's why I was stagnant for so long. Now I'm getting better because I'm making a space for myself to do so and moving into that space.  photo wheeeeee_emote_by_seiorai.gif

This is also the year that we went back to Japan! And with friends! It was a whirlwind tour, and there were several places I wish we could have spent more time at, but it was a fantastic experience. And I wrote something about it every day for a total of over 50,000 words under the Japan (日本) tag, so I'll say no more about that.

I was not more social than last year, and if anything, I was even more of a hermit. A regular game night on Mondays, Japanese lessons on Tuesdays, and book group on Wednesdays along with softlykarou having a standing commitment on Wednesdays meant that time for the two of us was in shorter supply than previous, so I valued it more highly and make extra time for it, pushing other things to the side. This isn't actually something I mean to change either way. It's not something that bothers me. But I would like to play more board games in 2017, like Kingdom Death and Android and Chaos in the Old World and our old copy of HeroQuest with the cannibalized DragonStrike parts, and that means I need to reach out and not just retreat into single-player video games. We'll see.

Also, maybe I should have a minis assembling session for Kingdom Death. Still in the box.  photo chryssalid.gif

I managed to keep saving money even with going to Japan and the bulk of replacing my wardrobe! Discovering Orimono and Guylook and similar sites, to say nothing of the designers I already knew of, gave me a pretty wife selection of clothes I loved, but fortunately my closet is only so big and is basically full now. There's a few more pieces I want to acquire, but my wardrobe is basically complete for now. And I put a good chunk of our salary into savings every month, aided by our lack of student loans. It'll be worthless after the Last War when the only currencies will be bullets and the heaped skulls of the dead, but maybe I'll be able to trade with some feral hedge fund managers for toilet paper and beef jerky.

We were supposed to switch to the new data management system at work, but the project is behind schedule, so no news on that front. Question block photo emot-question.gif

I usually post pretty hopeful quotes at the end of the year, but I'm not feeling that hopeful now. The quote I think is the most apt is a bit more pessimistic:
"There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."
-Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Hopefully 2017 will not be as bad as we fear, for me, or for any of you.


明けましておめでとう。皆様のご健康をお祈り申し上げます!
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
At least, I hope so!

We bought our plane tickets back in March, and while they would have been a lot cheaper if we bought them a month later and we would have gotten a direct flight--right now we're flying Air Canada to Toronto and then Toronto to Tokyo--but there's no use complaining about that now. We reserved our hotels in May and got pretty good prices (~$110 a night on average) and close to shinkansen and transit lines. On Monday, I ordered our JR Passes from JTB, and yesterday they arrived. On Tuesday, I went to the bank and got new debit cards sent out. Chipped versions, so we can use them in 7Bank ATMs.

Then there was trading our currency. I asked about it at our bank and the banker told me not to do it there, do it somewhere else, but I asked for a quote to compare. Then I checked against the place she suggested and the rate was worse, so I looked around and found a third place and asked [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou to go there and make the trade. Then that place didn't allow credit card payments over $500 and slapped a surcharge on top of them to prevent fraud, didn't take her debit card for some reason, and didn't take checks, so at the end of the day yesterday I asked her to go back to the bank and just do it there, since they can easily accept payment since they already hold our money. So that went through.

Then the Brexit vote happened and the yen took off like a rocket. When we did our trade, it was 104.5円 to the dollar minus fees and so on, so we got something like 99円 to the dollar. Today the yen is already trading around 99円 to the dollar (though up to 102円 at the time of writing). The Nikkei is down over 1300 points and when I went to sleep, they had suspended trading when it lost 1000 points in an hour. Who knows what the Bank of Japan is going to do--Kuroda is already trying negative interest rates and it didn't help at all.

I just got a phone call that our yen is waiting for us at the bank. This is pretty much terrible news all around, but at least we managed to get lucky on something small.
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Thursday we had [twitter.com profile] xoDrVenture over to watch Revolutionary Girl Utena, and then after she left I got a bit overwhelmed by my upcoming schedule and the fact that the pants I ordered arrived and didn't fit, and I ended up lying down in a dark room for fifteen minutes while [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd did some work in the kitchen.  photo emot-glomp.gif

The next day I sent back the pants and the replacements are in the mail, and then I got home from work, devoured dinner, and immediately turned around and headed out to Call of Cthulhu, which you can read about here. Then we came back home and went to bed.

Saturday was LARP and shopping day, taking up a large portion of the afternoon and all of the evening, but also the day where I received an email from my father with the subject "$" and then checked my bank and noticed a pending transaction for a substantial sum of money. Enough to pay for our upcoming trip to Japan multiple times over. When we called my mother for Mother's Day the next day and asked about it, their reasoning was basically that they're not getting any younger and who knows what might happen. So if you wonder why I'm all #doom all the time, well...

Sunday was the aforementioned phone call and the Beach Party of Hope, scheduled in February. Fortunately the weather cooperated, but those again took up a big chunk of the day. We also wrote a letter to Kaminaka-san, one of our old students from Chiyoda, since we're planning to visit Chiyoda on our upcoming trip to Japan and wanted to let him know! That took a bit of time mostly because I had to hand-write Japanese, which I'm not very good at and which always makes me nervous.

Monday was session six of Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom, which i haven't written about yet because over half of it was Small-time Peddlers of the Mushroom Kingdom, so I'll do a combined six + seven post next week and edit in a link here when it's written.

Tuesday was Japanese class again, which actually went pretty well. 世界の中心で愛を叫ぶ is getting better now that they're getting into more characterization, and at least with the most recent chapter, I went into class thinking I had a lot of trouble with the reading and it turned out that I actually understood almost all of it. Aya-sensei mentioned that it's easy to get caught up in a couple small things you don't understand and assume it means that you don't understand the larger picture and that's simply not the case, and that's definitely true. I think at this point I'd keep reading the book even if I didn't have class anymore.

Tonight, I have nothing scheduled and I'm going to play Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and watch Aria with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, and the only thing I have scheduled that is of any importance is that we're going to write another card to one of our students in Japan. And this Friday we're going out to eat at Travelle and then I don't have anything scheduled for the rest of the weekend.  photo emot-effort.gif Other than beating Symphony of the Night and finishing up my Ender-kun costume for ACEN. Just need to do the grass block!
dorchadas: (Teh sex)
Okay, I'm not sure that's an entirely accurate characterization. Even if I did consider buying this suit when I found it online. That's pretty much exactly the kind of formal dress style I want and it would look great on me. I just don't wear formal clothing nearly often enough to justify it to myself.

Anyway, suits aren't the point of this post (I'll get back to you if I buy one).

For a long while, I basically never bought any clothes for myself. My parents would occasionally make remarks about how I would only wear black, but then whenever they would buy me clothes it was usually black t-shirts with cutesy white text on them (I had something like two dozen of those at one point). Through most of high school and university, I pretty much dressed in all black unless all of my clothes were dirty[1]. When I got a more respectable real job at the newspaper, my parents would start mixing in khakis and the occasional plain color t-shirt or polo to their presents, and so the black clothing kind of fell away and turned into, well, something pretty generic, and that's basically what I wore for years.  photo emot-effort.gif

Until a couple months ago, when out of nowhere I decided that I had my own personal style and I was time to build my wardrobe around it. The kind of clothes they sell here. Or here. Or that get reblogged here or here.

And now I'm buying a bunch of new items, and going through my closet and throwing away or donating a bunch of worn out clothes, or even just clothes that I keep to wear to work because they're solid color and thus appropriate--I have a powder-blue shirt two sizes too large for me I've inexplicably kept for several years until today, when I got rid of it--and replacing them with pieces that I think fit me a lot better.




This is me in "clothes for rich elves" mode.



And here, right before I head out to do a run on that Mitsuhama server bank.



Not wearing black for once.



I think I've spent more on clothes in the past couple months than I've spent in the past...maybe the past decade, if you exclude the new coat I bought. And maybe even including that, honestly. And that's not because I spent an unreasonable amount recently--less than that suit I linked above would cost me--but just because for the longest time, I didn't buy clothes. Maybe one new shirt a year. And now the floodgates are opened.

I realize one of the reasons for this might just be that this is always the way I wanted to dress, but it wasn't until [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou and I both had adult jobs that I could afford to dress that way.  photo latest.gif I think there's a lot of merit to that. On my meager university budget, I did buy a few pieces that I still have and that fit in with my new wardrobe (and still fit!), but that was about all I could afford. Now that our apartment is decorated, we have all the furniture and utensils we need, and I'm saving enough money to quiet that internal voice that spent most of [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou's years in grad school screaming in terror, I need something else to decorate. And, well...

Hmm. I guess it's also true that I've had an interest in fashion for a while, it's just that I used to use it to advise [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou on her style choices. She has a pretty good sense of what she likes now, though, and my help isn't as necessary anymore. So I guess that it's being repurposed? Maybe that's it.

Maybe it's just the latest thing I've latched on to. That happens a lot when I'm working on RPG stuff.

[1]: I had a pair of red pants that [livejournal.com profile] greyselke hated, and you could tell when it was laundry day because it was the only time I wore them. I probably shouldn't have worn them even then, but...
dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
The Grim Reaper was stalking our halls, as my father puts it. We had a bit of warning, and it turned out to be almost a year to the day since the last time this happened, but I managed to avoid it and am still gainfully employed. And that after spending some time taking the recommendations of The Antidote into account and meditating on the possibility of being laid off.

Our division wasn't hugely impacted--no one I specifically work with on a daily basis--but almost everyone hit was a manager. Apparently that was deliberate, and it's some kindness I wasn't expecting from American businesses (if that term even applies when I work for a nonprofit). I mean, "kindness" is a relative term here since people still lost their jobs, and it's easy for me to make that declaration from my desk where I listen to podcasts all day and no one talks to me, but the 課長 did say that they were taking the amount of work we have to do into account in not reducing our number too much. Small favors.

From my perspective, the other benefit is now I can plan for the future again. I was stuck between wanting to go into austerity mode--stop buying anything extraneous, don't go out for any food, bread and water diet, etc.--and realizing that I had no news and there's no point in acting like I am already dead. I mostly fell on the latter end, but it was a struggle.

As a present for myself, I bought a horror-themed dice bag to put those new dice thing. Smooth is the hand which makes the world, and steady is the mind which grasps it.
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
So I saw this picture on Facebook yesterday, and now it's time for me to rant about it:


Original source here.

First of all, I take schadenfreude that statistically, half of the people in the comments who are complaining about McDonald's jobs are for kids and not meant to live on, that the workers should work harder if they want to get paid more, that they should go back to college, and all the other standard anti-labor talking points, will have their jobs replaced by robots. What's that, Mr. CPA? Your job was taken by a robot? Well, maybe you should also work 24 hours a day without food or sleep. You're obvious just lazy.  photo troll001.png

I'm not going to claim that I have the moral high ground with that, but since a ton of those comments are spiteful "I don't get paid that much, so they shouldn't either" whines, I don't particularly care.

But mostly, they don't seem to understand that one person's expenses are another person's income. I mean, giving money to the poor is incredibly effective in terms of fighting poverty, and it's one of the situations where the phrase "a rising tide lifts all boats" is most accurate. Poor people spend all their money because they have to to survive, that money becomes profit for other businesses, who also spend it, which benefits other people, etc., etc. Give that money to someone like me (or for that matter, raise my salary) and I'd just stash it in investments that may or may not do anyone any good or a savings account that definitely won't do anyone but me any good, but give it to people who have to spend it and it gets spent, and since the majority of the American economy is driven by consumer spending, well...

On the subject of inflation, here's a reasonable article. As it points out, the impact is likely to be minimal, and nowadays we need more inflation anyway to convince people to spend some of that money they've got locked away.

I suppose there's always the Shania Twain Defense for low wages...
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
This weekend is ACEN. A few years ago, by this point I'd be frothing at the mouth excited, but I'm actually mostly just apprehensive and kind of second-guessing my decision to go at all. I think [livejournal.com profile] stephen_poon put it best recently when he said that he used to get a feeling of "These are my people!" when he'd go to a con, but he doesn't get that anymore and it reduces the draw. It's not just age--though part of it is definitely age--but also that I don't really feel like I'm part of the "community" as such. I spend much more time playing games now than watching much of anything, much less anime, and I really have no idea what's going on other that what I learn from listening to Mouthful of Toast.  photo emot-ohdear.png

I think some of it is just sadness that we aren't cosplaying this year. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I had originally planned to do Creeper-tan and Ender-kun from Minecraft, but my skittishness about money--three years of grad school and not really being able to save anything ran my nerves ragged--meant that we put it off for this year. I was looking forward to dressing up as something I would have actually enjoyed, and now I won't get to. Even though it's my decision, it's still disappointing.

On the other hand, I get to see [livejournal.com profile] ping816, [livejournal.com profile] klenkers, [livejournal.com profile] redpikachu, and some other people I haven't seen in a long time. I remember years ago that I wondered about the people who sent to cons and seemed to spend a lot of it sitting in the hotel bar talking to people and wondering why they came, and then last ACEN I spent a big chunk of it in the hotel bar talking to people. Gaze long into the abyss...
dorchadas: (JCDenton)
I haven't posted anything other than curry night in a bit. That's partially because it's the same old, and partially because I hit a low spot for most of the last week and didn't have enough motivation to do much other than play Dark Souls and post quotes on Facebook. It definitely made me appreciate how helpful to my mental well-being it is that I can go literally days at my job without having to talk to anyone. But enough has happened in the last couple of weeks that I can do a list post, so here we go!

  • Dark Souls: I heard a lot about how great it was and thought "Oh come on, no modern game can be that amazing" like some kind of area man who doesn't own a TV. Well, fortunately I never mentioned it anywhere because I don't like the taste of crow, and Dark Souls really is that great. 25 hours in the last week-and-a-half and loving nearly every minute of it with a few hiccups (capra demon...  photo emot-commissar.gif). I'll have more on this in my inevitable review, but it reminds me of a lot of the great parts of Nethack mixed with probably the most satisfying third-person melee combat I've ever seen. I'm not sure I'm ever going to be able to play Skyrim with its nerf-weapon flailing again.

  • Money: [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and my diet costs a lot, since it's fat-heavy and we mostly buy organic and local, but it came up much higher than I was expecting so far this month even with hosting a Seder. We're fortunate enough that we don't have to track every penny we spend, and also fortunate in that any budget crunch we have is because of my insistence that we put a third of our income into savings and investments, but it hit me harder than normal because I was hoping this month that we'd finally be able to get ahead and put more into savings above that one-third floor I set. It seems like every single time I clear away some expense something else crops up. Linked to that is:

  • Cosplay: I was really looking forward to actually cosplaying again at ACEN. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd was going to do Creeper-tan ... and I was going to do Ender-kun, but I cancelled my plans because I know that now I'd only be able to think about the money we were spending and I wouldn't enjoy it at all. That's another reason for my doldrums lately. Maybe next year...

  • Spring Cleaning: We stuck to a reasonable cleaning schedule in our old apartment, but maybe because we thought of our time there as temporary, we never really did a full-on spring cleaning session. This year, prompted by Pesach coming on and the fact that both [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I had a week off at the same time, we tore the whole apartment apart and cleaned everything. Two-and-a-half hours later, everything was sparkling, dust-free, and chametz-less (though we hadn't had any chametz on our house for weeks, so that's not saying that much.

  • Work: It's the end of the dull period, which usually lasts from November to March and leaves me knocking around with little to do. But conversely, the busy period isn't that stressful, because I don't have any deadlines or quotas. I'm basically just fed an effectively unending stream of data and have to sort as much of it as I can, and if some of it slips away, they'll send an update again later in the year. Low stress, podcasts all day, no one talks to me...I really do love my job.

  • Star Wars: I haven't watched the trailer.  photo emot-sweatdrop.gif

Still not all the way back to normal, and the weather isn't helping. I know the sun cheers most people up, but my eyes don't do well in bright light and I associate the sun mostly with headaches, and fatigue if I'm in it too long. Give me cloudy fall skies any day.
dorchadas: (Not the Tale)

Nonetheless, I'm writing a New Year's retrospective.

I'm very fortunate that 2014 was a pretty good year for me. A lot of my friends had major shakeups or active disasters, to say nothing of the national or world situation (which are admittedly mostly things that got greater exposure this year rather than being entirely new), but for my family, everything went very well. In honor of the listicle becoming a thing, I'll do this in a list format:
  • Marriage: Still married, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd is still the best wife ever. This alone helps brighten every year.  photo emot-chio.gif

  • RPGs: I finished off the Delta Green game I started years ago, played in (and wrote up an Actual Play of!) a short-run game run by my wife in a setting I wrote, am playing in her Princess: the Hopeful game, and am currently running two games, a WFRP 2e game and a Fallout ORE game set in Chicago. I'm also slowly working on Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom, and I have some other ideas in the pipeline when I have more gaming time. I'm set on this score.

  • Work: I didn't get fired in the sudden layoffs a month ago at my job, my performance review was great, I still get to listen to podcasts for hours every day, and I still don't have to talk to anyone. The new managerial team means the future is uncertain, but for the last year, at least, everything was great.

  • Writing: I write a lot nowadays. Between putting more RPG stuff here, Fifty Weeks, Fifty Curries, my book reviews, and starting to write reviews of all the video games I beat...well, I'm not sure how many words a week that is, but it's easily in the thousands. I didn't do NaNoWriMo this year, but I don't need it to compel me to write. I'm doing fine on my own.

  • Video games: I'm happiest that I finally beat Morrowind again, but most of the fond memories I have are of playing with my friends. Minecraft and a Secret of Mana with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and Terraria with her and another friend filled a lot of happy hours. I got some of the kickstarters I backed too (Divinity: Original Sin and Wasteland II), but I can't speak to their quality, because I'm waiting for them to be patched up to play them. I even picked up my DS copy of Chrono Trigger and started to run through it again. And finally, I ended up sharing even some of my single-player gaming with my friends through the magic of streaming video. It is truly a Golden Age of gaming on all fronts.  photo emot-qfg.gif

  • Exercise: Last year I was worried that I wasn't getting enough walking in, but I easily fixed that problem. My tracking program tells me that I'm getting an average of around 14K steps per day, which is more than enough and is also probably why I go through socks so fast and wore through the soles of my boots and had to replace them in November. On the other hand, I've maintained my weight and I'm very happy with the way I look and feel. The only disadvantage is the amount of money that goes down my throat with all the food I eat...but fortunately we can afford it. The only problem I ran into was smashing my toe on a doorframe, but while it hasn't healed back to the same way it was before I smashed it, it's not actually hindering me in any way, so I can count that a victory. I could have broken it, after all.

  • Money: After years of living close to the bone, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd graduated from grad school and got a job making over twice what I make at her first choice of school, so we're in good hands for the foreseeable future and I can return to my customary behavior of saving about a quarter of our pre-tax income. I also, through the incredible generosity of my parents during [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's tenure in school, managed to pay off all of her student loans two days before she graduated, which puts us in an incredibly fortunate situation compared to the vast majority of our peers. We also finally finished off the saga of the Japanese Pension Office payment, receiving our payment roughly two and a half years after the average amount of time it's supposed to take. We are unbelievably lucky on all monetary fronts, and, b'ezrat haShem, hopefully that luck will continue.

To celebrate my good fortune, I made sure to accomplish a resolution I've had for a while--eat an entire bar of dark chocolate at once. The secret to achieving your dreams is to make sure they're petty and stupid.  photo emot-parrot.gif

As is my somewhat years tradition, here's some song lyrics which I've posted nearly every year since I was in university:
A long December and there's reason to believe

Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember the last thing that you said as you were leavin'
Now the days go by so fast

And it's one more day up in the canyons
And it's one more night in Hollywood
If you think that I could be forgiven...I wish you would

The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that it's all a lot of oysters, but no pearls
All at once you look across a crowded room
To see the way that light attaches to a girl

And it's one more day up in the canyons
And it's one more night in Hollywood
If you think you might come to California...I think you should

Drove up to Hillside Manor sometime after two a.m.
And talked a little while about the year
I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,
Makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her

And it's been a long December and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass

And it's one more day up in the canyon
And it's one more night in Hollywood

It's been so long since I've seen the ocean...I guess I should


I honestly don't remember how I got in the habit of posting those. I think it was adolescent angst and the eternal hope that things would be better, and now I'm just continuing that tradition even though things have gotten better. A lot better. Here's to them continuing that way in 2015.  photo emot-c00l.gif

明けましておめでとうございます!皆さん、今年もよろしくお願いします!

On Decor

Sep. 21st, 2014 05:26 pm
dorchadas: (Jealous)
When I was younger, I never would have considered myself to have good style or aesthetic sense. Or rather, I wouldn't have considered my style as something that the average person would think of as good. It helped that until our current apartment, I never really had the opportunity to actually decorate to my satisfaction, but I'm also pretty sure that if you had given free range to the me from, say, ten years ago, it would be all black paint on the walls and black curtains and H. P. Lovecraft posters on the walls and so on. And that's not objectively a bad aesthetic, but I don't think it would age well.

These thoughts were prompted by finding a large table at Scout in Andersonville that has maybe 1.5 square meters of space, a few drawers in it including one that we could use as a silverware drawer, and is made of wood. [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou really liked it, and it's true that much of our apartment is furnished in antique wood or wood built by my father. We decided that we should think about it, and anyway we needed to go home and measure the kitchen to make sure that it would actually fit there, and then I started having second thoughts. It's true that the crappy IKEA flärke bookcase we currently have in there doesn't fit at all and has no additional space...but on the other hand, I wasn't sure if the new table would fit either. It was more weathered wood, like something out of a log cabin. And there's nothing wrong with that--I actually quite like that style--but since the rest of our decor is all polished wood, it wouldn't have fit in.

It's also $800, which admittedly did figure into our decision, but the real problem for me was the appearance. I think what I want is something like this. Maybe a bit darker wood, and with a slightly different configuration of drawers. As [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou mentioned, for that amount of money we should hold out for osmething that makes both of us happy.

I'm actually surprised at myself. We had a housewarming party last night and got a lot of compliments on our apartment, and [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou was quick to mention to people that it was mostly the results of my aesthetics. Which is true, yes, but...I'm a good decorator? I can coordinate things to the degree that people compliment us on it? It's not a goal I would have aspired to only because I didn't realize that it could happen. I was just setting things up the way I liked them.

Maybe that's the secret.
dorchadas: (In America)
I guess good things really can happen for those who wait.

I wrote here a while ago about how annoyed I was with the Japanese Pension Office’s continued inaction. Well...they finally acted. I checked Mint this morning, because it's payday and I wanted to check my credit card bill before I paid it, and I noticed that my checking account said there was a lot more money there than I remembered there being. Investigating revealed an "incoming wire transfer" currently waiting to clear, which left me super confused until I remembered that, in my research into why the Pension Office hadn't paid us yet, some people mentioned that they had received a letter letting them know their refund was coming and some people had just received a wire transfer out of nowhere.

Either there’s a bizarrely coincidental bank error, or the Pension Office finally paid us. Yay! High five!


Now we can apply for a refund of the taxes that they automatically deduct before they send you the remittance and wait three more years for that, but that's a much smaller amount of money, so my annoyance should proportionately be smaller. In the meantime, though, I will concentrate on my luck winning the day once again.
dorchadas: (Office Space)
Okay, backstory time. So every year [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou has gone to the NASP national conference, and as you might imagine, Loyola has funding available for grad students who are giving presentations or part of a presentation at the conference. [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou has qualified for that every year, and applied every year, and her application has been accepted.

So far, she hasn't been paid at all. Not for 2012, the year where she was the only one who applied. Not for 2013, a year in which all the other students in her cohort who applied for funding received it. And not even for 2014, where she applied and hasn't been paid, but there are others who also haven't been paid yet so at least now I have some hope that we'll get the money in a timely fashion despite Loyola's past track record of screwing us. Though there are also other people who have been paid, so Loyola continues its track record of claiming to value [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou's contributions and then doing nothing to demonstrate that at all.

The reason I'm so annoyed at the moment is that [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou had a meeting yesterday to figure out why we haven't gotten any money despite applying for three years in a row, and their response was basically, "dunno lol. Who knows if we ever had the money to give you in the first place! Probably should have checked that before we let you apply, amirite? We'll look into that," which is...not what I would have expected from a university that claims justice and stewardship as its mandate, shall we say.

[livejournal.com profile] softlykarou has other people to talk to about this, so we'll see if it goes anywhere. After years of total silence, I'm not expecting anything other than stonewalling and incompetence from Loyola at this point, though.

Hey, more reinforcement for me being cynical and misanthropic.

Addenum:
Well, [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou had a meeting today with the program chair for Loyola school psychology and, as it turns out, it isn't Loyola's fault at all. She didn't read the directions right and didn't turn in all the forms necessary to submit a proper request, so that's $1,000 down the drain.

She managed to fix it for this year, but there's nothing to be done for the last two years that we were waiting on. (>_<)
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Insert appropriate sound effect here.

We got our yearly bonus checks today and the notice of how much our raises would be for the next fiscal year. My yearly review back in December was really good--4.1/5, on a "no one ever gets a 5" scale--so I’ve been looking forward to seeing what the amounts would be for a while. Well, my raise was stereotypical, but my boss told me that was basically a mandate from on high to keep raises standardized and not a reflection on my performance.

My extra bonus on top of that, though, made up for it. The AMA did better than we had expected on our various metrics, so the bonus amount was correspondingly raised, and then my boss's boss put all the extra weighting of my performance review onto the bonus, so it's double what it was last year. It's even higher than the group rating percentage that dictates bonus calculations, which is apparently really rare. And since the bonus is expressed as a fraction of my salary, I can deal with having a lower raise than I was expecting in exchange for getting it up front and being able to do what I want with it.

And with my newfound riches, I...bought iOS Final Fantasy Tactics for $13.99, and I'm probably saving most of the rest. Some things never change. (^_^;)
dorchadas: (Kirby Walk)
Things I'm thankful for: addition errors.

I went down to the bank today to go deposit the remaining savings bonds that I haven't cashed in yet, because I'll need them to pay off the last of [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou's student loans a few days before she graduates in order to laugh in the face of the student loan companies, and it turns out that I was wrong about how much we actually had. $300 wrong, in that they were worth a lot more than I thought they were.

I realize that this is the textbook definition of a first world problem, but it really bothers me how off I was in my calculations. I've been keeping track of my own accounts for almost 15 years at this point, from when I was introduced to money software by my father, through the demise of Microsoft Money and switching to Quicken, through the rise of Mint (which I mostly use so [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou has easy access to a close-enough copy of our budget), I make sure entries are properly categorized and filed literally every day.

So, how did I make such an error? It turns out that the software I use, with the file put together and tracked by my father before being handed over to me, was incomplete. There was a bond included in the bundle he gave me (that he had been keeping in a safe deposit box) that hadn't been entered in, and I never bothered to specifically check the envelope containing the bonds closely enough to find it because I figured that my father, from whom I learned my penny-pinching ways (though by observation, not explicit teaching), wouldn't have made such a mistake.

On the one hand, it's like secret free money. On the other hand, it's not doing much to convince me that I don't need to use such a heavy hand when managing my finances.
dorchadas: (Not the Tale)
Let's talk about the last year!

I guess the biggest change from the perspective of this blog is that I started actually posting here again. I got inspired by RPGs--as is often the case, I admit--and started my Dungeons & Design series, and I think it was mostly the fact of posting those that got me into the habit of posting about other subjects. There are other factors too, like how I have enough down time here and there at work that I can write posts in notepad, send them home, and then post them. I also stopped friend-locking everything and started defaulting to public posts, even when they're about my life. It's essentially security through apathy--I can see how many people visit my blog, and on an average day it's a couple dozen. I post all these updates to Facebook and Twitter and the truth is that most people don't care. That may be a little sad, but it certainly tells me that the excessive care I was taking about talking about anything remotely personal is unwarranted. Whatever I say will mostly just get lost in the flow of the internet anyway, unless people are specifically looking to read it.

I was hoping that we'd be paid back by at least one of the people who owed us money this year, but it didn't happen. Aggressively didn't happen, in the case of the Japanese Pension Office. Or perhaps passive-aggressively? Regardless, it led to some tight moments at times, especially during the summer, though I do admit that some of that is because I refuse to touch the principal. Now that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd has a steady paycheck from her internship everything is okay, though I admit my grasping miserliness does mean I'm less happy with our finances that their absolute quality should lead me to be, but overall it's been on an upward trend. And maybe someone will actually pay us this year. A man can dream.

Work continues much the same as it has been. I had my annual review and did better than I did last year, and my job's bureaucracy and policies means that I'll get an automatic raise and a yearly bonus commensurate with my performance. It's theoretically possible that we won't get the bonus, since the amount and whether it occurs at all is based on the AMA's overall performance during the year, but I haven't heard of anything that would indicate that it's not coming. Even if it doesn't, I'll still get the raise. The benefits of working for a non-profit with no shareholders!

In terms of personal improvement, I took up programming! I originally thought about doing it back in May and was given a lot of resources, and later took a Coursera course that I wrote all about. I've even seen found an implementation of Python for the iPad, and since I have my iPad with me all the time at work, I can get that and then have time to bash my head against programs at work as well as at home! Indeed, during my interview for the job I was asked if I knew anything about HTML or programming and I had to say that I did not, so if I can actually learn programming to a useful level I can hopefully get a promotion. The end project was an implementation of Asteroids, and I'd love to do a lot more to work on it than I had to do for the class to keep my hand in, but what I did accomplish is reasonably impressive, I think.

Also, studied Japanese, but on that subject I'm less confident. I maintained my ability, and that's about it.

Last year, I told myself that if I maintained the weight I had reached in August (~77 kg) for a whole year, I'd go get my wedding ring resized because it's rather large now and I'm kind of worried that it will slip off at some point. Well...I did maintain my weight, but I didn't actually get the ring resized--see the above-mentioned grasping miserliness. I also linked up my new iPhone's M7 chip with LoseIt and started tracking my steps and apparently my average number of steps per day is...5,218. Out of the 10K that's recommended. Exercise is healthy basically no matter what, and getting that number up is something I'd like to improve on in the future, but so far I'm doing pretty well on that front.

Oh, also I'm Jewish now. That's pretty big, I guess. I wrote a lot more about my feelings at the time at the linked blogpost, and since then...yeah. It was the right decision.

I made much more of an effort to be social in 2013. In 2012, I think I had the tendency to hermit a lot more, turning down people's invitations and not really inviting anyone over to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and my apartment. I'm not sure what exactly it was. It might have been some remaining difficulty with adjusting to the pace of social life in America vs. what it had been like in Japan, maybe some Anxiety Cat--there's a really old one that I thought fit me really well that said something like "too nervous to talk to people, come off as arrogant or standoffish"--maybe just my typical introverted personality, but this year I tried to avoid falling into the trap of staying home all the time. I like to think I succeeded, or at least reasonably well. And it turns out that traveling out to other places isn't really that bad, even on a work night. I tend to apply the maxim "past performance is no indication of future results" to social events if I'm not careful, in the sense that sure I had fun the last time I went to a party, and the time before that, and probably the time before that...but what about this time!?!? That's not a productive attitude to take, honestly. So this year, I made sure to try to shut that off at the pass. Once I get out of the house, then inertia takes over and I'm not exactly going to turn around halfway there. And it turns out that my friends are awesome people and fun to be around to an extent that far outweighs the annoyance of having to change my physical location. Who would have thought, right? Obviously, this has always been true, but it's convincing that little voice that's the trick, and in 2013 I beat it into submission. Or at least, I inflicted grevious wounds.

All in all, it's been a pretty fantastic year, and I'm looking forward to what 2014 will bring.

I realize that posting song lyrics is incredibly emo and so early-2000s as to be aggressively unhip, but it's pseudo-tradition for me, so:

A long December and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember the last thing that you said as you were leavin'
Now the days go by so fast
And it's one more day up in the canyons
And it's one more night in Hollywood
If you think that I could be forgiven...I wish you would
The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that it's all a lot of oysters, but no pearls
All at once you look across a crowded room
To see the way that light attaches to a girl
And it's one more day up in the canyons
And it's one more night in Hollywood
If you think you might come to California...I think you should
Drove up to Hillside Manor sometime after two a.m.
And talked a little while about the year
I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,
Makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her
And it's been a long December and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass
And it's one more day up in the canyon
And it's one more night in Hollywood
It's been so long since I've seen the ocean...I guess I should...
dorchadas: (Ping Kills)
For context: If you leave Japan after having paid into the Pension Fund, you can apply for a refund of your pension money, which we did after we left. That was about two and a half years ago. They owe us around ~$8,000--it was ~$11,000 when we left, but exchange rates. (-_-)

Back around July or so, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd got an email from someone at the Pension Office asking to resubmit her documents. All of them--the entire application and the supporting documents. Note that this is two years after we first submitted them.

So last week, we got a note that we had a piece of registered mail that we had to sign for, and the sender was just listed as "Japan." Seeing that, I got all excited. I knew that sometimes, when the Pension Office is about to make a deposit into your account, they'll send a card to the address of record in order to make sure you still want the money (if you're planning to move back, you might want to leave it there if you plan to draw on it in your old age) and that you're living where you think they are. So, after an attempt to get it redelivered that failed, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd went to the post office to go pick it up and see what it was.

It was a request for a form resubmission. Apparently, the forms that we had submitted six months ago weren't proper because...[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's name wasn't in all caps. They helpfully filled in the name field with caps so we wouldn't make that mistake again and asked us to resubmit it.

fffffffffffffffffffuuuuuuuuuu-

It is said that Stalin claimed that bureaucracy is the price we pay for impartiality--or at least, it is said that it is said that--but sometimes, it is a high price to pay.

お正月

Jan. 3rd, 2011 01:52 am
dorchadas: (Zombies together!)
[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I had a few people[1] over for New Years, avoiding our error in previous years by not traveling anywhere. Well, other than to one of the local shrines. I asked Kaminaka-san if he knew of any place doing anything for 初詣 (hatsumōde, the first shrine visit for the new year), and he told us a couple. One of them, the one in Mibu (the same place that has Mibu no Hanadaue in the summer), has a small event for the New Year, so we all watched Firefly until midnight and then went to Mibu-jinja. I slightly misunderstood the directions at first, but after seeing which way everyone else was walking, we managed to find the shrine (and as a bonus, I now know how to say "T intersection" in Japanese).

In addition to the typical hatsumōde events, there was a service going on inside the shrine. We stayed for a moment outside, unsure what to do, but after seeing that people were entering and leaving freely we went inside. There were musicians playing (a bit similar to kagura, actually), and after some chanting, they had everyone come up, take a branch tied with a white ribbon, and offer it at the shrine. We did (I stood up first, the others took a little urging from one of the people nearby), and then we left, along with half the people inside. It makes me wonder if they just ran the same thing over and over in a loop, and people would drift in and out as they came to the shrine. I'm not sure to ask who would know, however.

Unlike any of the previous six months, we're ending this month with more than ¥10,000 in our bank account. First we had the Singapore trip, then car trouble, then a number of other things kept cropping up. We're actually quite lucky that we never needed to request a pay advance to withdraw money using our credit cards or anything, but now we're mostly in the clear. It was a bit harrowing, and somewhat humbling, since I considered myself good at financial planning (our savings rate in America was around 30% of our post-tax income. A rate high enough that if everyone did it it would destroy the economy) but we still kept running into problems. I think I got a bit lazy--I never bothered to save receipts in America, since buying everything with a credit card left a record of our purchases that I could use to determine where our money went. That doesn't happen in a country where everything is done in cash, though, so now I keep records.

I've been playing a game called Winter Voices lately, which is quite an odd little game. The basic plot is that the main character's father has just died, and the game (so far) is about her dealing with his death. All of the RPG-style combat that takes place is a metaphorical representation of her coping with her grief. As such, combat isn't usually about defeating your opponents, since you can't really destroy your own memories. Instead, it's typically about surviving a certain amount of time or reaching a certain spot on the board.

One interesting consequence of this is that success and failure aren't binary. Being "defeated" in most battles just means that you weren't able to deal with the past, so instead of dying you lose a percentage of the xp you'd normally get and have the option to retry if you want.

The story is a little slow (I've played for a couple hours and I don't know much at all, except that while the men in the village my character is in seem to like me just fine, some of the women are cold or dismissive. Mysterious...), but it helps fit the mood. What doesn't really fit the mood is the walking speed, which makes it take forever to get anywhere, and the animations. Memories in combat with you get multiple attacks and have relatively slow animations (and I'm not sure how to speed them up, or if you can), which means large battles can take forever because of all the slow animations taking place. The other minor issue is that the game is by a French company and sometimes there are translation goofs or odd word choices which do a great job of snapping you out of the mood they're trying to create. These are pretty rare, though. It's interesting, but I'm not sure I'll have the patience to play through all of the seven episodes they have planned. I may also have been better off not picking the hard-mode class to play on my first go through, though even so I'm doing pretty well.

This is the most I've written here in a while that wasn't a story.

[1]: My blog is hampered here by my policy of avoiding real names, I think. Still, nothing much to be done.

Argh

Jan. 10th, 2009 01:18 am
dorchadas: (Default)
So, recently, our cell phone bill has been going up by quite a lot, even though we aren't using the data-transfer on our cell phones more. It wasn't until recently that I realized the problem.

We're paying for our cell phone bill using a credit card, because apparently it's illegal for gaijin to use their legally established Japanese bank accounts to do so. That means we're paying in dollars, but the bill is in yen. And the dollar has been tanking against the yen recently (down like 20% from the rate it was when we came to Japan). Blarg.

Sadly, paying in cash each month is also not an option. I just wish I had paid for the iPhones up front now.
dorchadas: (Terminator)
So, Japan is a cash economy. Credit cards are only really accepted by some institutions in major cities and checks are what businesses write to pay each other. So how does one pay large bills without mailing sums of money? Why, the convenience store! Most monthly bills mailed in Japan have bar codes on them. When you get one, you can take it down to the conbini, where they scan it, stamp it and then return half of it to you as a receipt. It's not neceessarily more convenient (well, it wouldn't be, except we don't have a mailbox), but there's no worry about losing cash in the mail. If the company complains, you have proof you already paid.
dorchadas: (Angst)
I assembled my proof, drafted a brief "Dear Sir or Madam" letter and sent it off to the Illinois Department of Revenue today. At the last moment, I noticed the "Page 2" they wanted was page two of the form they sent me, not page two of my IL-1040, but I sent both along anywhere. It certainly can't hurt. We might still have to pay some penalties, since I legitimately forgot to include the W-2s in the tax return, but at least we won't have to pay $1000.

My father told me a story about one time the IRS sent him a letter saying that he had overpaid by $60 and they had deposited it back into his bank account. Not wanting to get screwed, he ran the numbers again and found that they were wrong, and sent them a letter telling so. They agreed, and then asked for the $60 back...plus $1.32 in interest for late payment.

Oh, bureaucracy.
dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
Okay, it wasn't really that bad.

I got a letter from the Illinois Department of Revenue today, politely informing me that we owed $1000 in taxes on our income and could we please pay it as soon as possible. Once my heart started beating again, I grabbed last year's tax return and compared it with the letter. Fortunately, I saw it was a simple error (though it's still my fault)--I hadn't sent in copies of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and my W2 forms, so the government had no proof that we had paid any state taxes at all. We have, of course, so I'm mailing it out tomorrow. While I might still owe fees and penalties for forgetting this, I didn't make some kind of horrific mistake that will drain our savings. This is what comes of filing online for years and then having to go back to that medieval "paper" crap.

I've been playing a half-translated Japanese Roguelike called Elona lately. In the manner of most Roguelikes, it is fiendishly difficult and actively evil--the tutorial has you eat a piece of food to demonstrate you know how to...except the food is a human corpse, so eating it makes you go insane. Magical storms occasionally catch you when you're outside and mutate you into horrible things...the works. Most of the stuff is randomly generated, which can lead to hilarious results. For example:

"I want to give my kid a [rod of summon monsters] as a birthday present. If you can send me this item, I'll pay you 1222 gold pieces and ores in exchange."

Oh yeah, lady. That'll end well. The one below that wanted to give her kid a [dead fish] as a birthday present.

At least I have my pet little girl to keep me company.

dorchadas: (Angst)
That is all.

Dammit

Aug. 10th, 2007 12:57 pm
dorchadas: (Gendowned)
I should have made that investment today instead of last week.

Or, more probably, next week instead of this week.

Hindsight, blah blah.

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