I continue to recommend this app/website/team for your language practice adventures.
Most of my Duolingo practice days have been devoted to refreshing my German, but I have also been using the Japanese course (which I’ve already gushed about).
One thing I especially need is writing practice, so my Japanese notes will be more legible. For this, I’ve recently started using the downloadable writing practice sheets at japanese-lesson.com. I also have a brush pen, which should help with some of the subtle points, curves, and flourishes on the characters, if I ever get good enough to include them!
The site includes writing practice sheets for Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. (I’m providing a link to the Hiragana page, but you can easily navigate to the others.)
Hiragana Writing Practice | Characters | Japanese-Lesson.com
Downloadable/printable writing practice sheets (PDF) with grid lines for correct, beautiful handwriting of Japanese Hiragana alphabet
Studying a language for fun at your own pace is a great thing. It’s great that it is possible, and that so many people are working hard to make studying fun!
This is preliminary data from a combined Phase 2/3 clinical trial, so they are still confirming the dosing along with the tolerance, but the preliminary results from this Pfizer trial are even better than those from the Merck drug. Which suggests that COVID may soon be something that is survive-able for more people!
Pfizer’s Novel COVID-19 Oral Antiviral Treatment Candidate Reduced Risk of Hospitalization or Death by 89% in Interim Analysis of Phase 2/3 EPIC-HR Study | Pfizer
PAXLOVID™ (PF-07321332; ritonavir) was found to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% compared to placebo in non-hospitalized high-risk adults with COVID-19 In the overall study population through Day 28, no deaths were reported in patients who received PAXLOVID™ as compared to 10 death…
An 89% reduction is AMAZING, and it will be good to see what the final analysis shows.
This warms my heart. We could all use some more hope for better outcomes with this terrible pandemic.
I have enough supplies. Probably. I’m always missing a shade of green or blue that can’t be mixed, but I surely have enough.
Anyway, there’s a type of Japanese watercolor that I (somehow) do not have. It had escaped me, because we call several things “watercolor” in English, but they have different names there.
The paint is called gansai. It is often mineral based, opaque, and generally not vegetarian in composition, commonly using animal skin binders. I wanted to know more about it, to see if a vegetarian version is available, and to know if it offers colors I don’t already have in the only big set of paints I’ve ever bought, which is a set of Holbein’s “antique” Japanese colors.
Does Holbein offer a gansai range?Yes! But only in Japan: the product isn’t available through their US distributor. Also, they don’t address my animal ingredient concern, so I may need to ask.
Is it similar in color range to Holbein Irodori Antique Watercolors? Well, this was a hard question, because that set is no longer listed on the Holbein sites. Why? It has been replaced with a full line of Holbein Irodori GOUACHES!
The NEW Holbein Artist’s Gouache, Traditional Colors of Japan Irodori Series of opaque watercolor allows the user to experience the rich beauty and delicate expressions that the four seasons of Japan bring to mind during spring, summer, autumn and winter.
[insert sound of me, a gouache lover, losing my mind]
Oh oh oh oh oh… I need to know more about this, and found an Irodori fan who runs her own art supply shop in Hanoi to share her insights:
Knowing that I already love gouache complicates my research into gansai… Though it’s not like a huge box of tubes and all the related equipment is very portable, and I was looking for something portable in this instance. (During my business travels, I used the portable tools and got satisfactory results. While I’m at home, the bulky tube paints give me better results, but require more space and equipment. Since I created work while traveling to justify that purchase, this means I can justify having both! 😀 )
So, setting aside how gorgeous the gouache looks (though there are only a few colors that I feel I can’t go on without in that new line), I chose to go back to research gansai.
Did I see other magical things during this research? Oh, goodness yes. Tons of tours of various art supply shops in Japan, plus this gem on one VERY SPECIAL art supply store:
A New Japanese Painting Supply Store Lines its Walls With 4,200 Different Pigments
Thousands of pigments fill glass vials below the slatted wood ceilings of the new concept Pigment, an art supply laboratory and store that just opened in Tokyo by company Warehouse TERRADA. The store design was created by architect Kengo Kuma, utilizing bamboo and large open spaces to create a sense
My mind is filled with colorful paint fantasies now… I’ll try not to talk about paint again until I show you something I’ve made with it.
UK authorizes Merck antiviral pill, 1st shown to treat COVID
LONDON (AP) — Britain granted conditional authorization on Thursday to the first pill shown to successfully treat COVID-19 so far. It also is the first country to OK the treatment from drugmaker Merck, although it wasn’t immediately clear how quickly the pill would be available.
I’m looking forward to seeing it on the US FDA’s list of emergency authorizations for this crisis. (The list is a bit depressing, because you see statements like that first footnote: “1 The virus that causes COVID-19 has led to an increased number of patients requiring critical care, such as with severe respiratory illness. As a result, there is a shortage of adequate, FDA-approved drugs used for their treatment, such as propofol for sedation of mechanically ventilated patients.” The idea that there is a shortage of common sedatives because of this crisis is a reminder of how broad the impacts are…)
We need more where that came from! There are other medicines in the pipeline, which I get to read about in the local pharma news summaries, and while reading about a vaccine company where a friend works. I would like this progress to be celebrated more widely, or at least recognized, though I understand that the emphasis is, and should be, on getting everyone vaccinated. (Additional vaccines are in development, also!)
Since I’m writing from the country with the highest cumulative number of cases and deaths, I see lots of reasons for optimism elsewhere, because other countries are doing so well relative to us!! [Laugh/cry here]. A country with a fraction of our infection rate is high on my tourist destination list, and I hope they will open for vaccinated tourism in early 2022 so I can go.
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These zoonotic diseases continue to make me resent consumers of animals, who bring these illnesses into human populations and affect all of us.
One of the stranger articles on the animal-impact theme is that Americans are infecting deer with COVID, and the illness is now raging through deer populations without our noticing. Which is just another population for it to potentially mutate in…
I wish humans learned faster!
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My daily life is relatively conventional now, in terms of being able to get where I need to go on transit, being able to keep supplied in basic household goods, getting medical appointments for routine check ups, and such.
My City isn’t fully recovered. There are still many boarded-up storefronts. There are still For Lease signs up in even those posh shopping districts with brands I’ve never understood. (You can see all the way through some fancy shops and out into Maiden Lane in spaces that have not been vacant in my lifetime…) There is still a fleet of “recreational vehicles” serving as housing at unprecedented densities in certain locations. There are still too few shelters for the people who need them, with prior progress being undone by health distancing requirements. Some hotels and restaurants remain closed, especially those that catered to professional conferences in my once-conference-filled town.
The impacts of evolving remote work policies will also take a long time to sort out.
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I’m happy for the new medicines, the flexibility the FDA has shown, the large number of medicines still in development, and regional improvements in infection rates. I’ll try to dwell on these things.
“Novel Progress” here means I have an update on the progress of my novel, not that making progress is novel in itself… English is silly, isn’t it?
I’m over 43,000 words into my rewrite of my first novella. There’s still a lot of story to go, and I’m impressed that I’ve got so much, considering I’m 62% of the way through the printed first draft, and that draft was just over 50k. (I’m truly rewriting it, and not just retyping it. 62% of 50k would be just 31k, so…)
My writing isn’t as steady as I’d hoped: I’ve had many real-life interruptions and minor crises to resolve. I also take abundant breaks to ensure that I don’t inflame my arms from doing too much of any one activity, having just finished physical therapy for an arm injury recently.
The breaks are unexpectedly beneficial, because the time away from the writing allows me to rethink some of the motivations of the characters. There have been several nights and mornings when I’ve sat up in bed, re-evaluating how some powerful beings came to power, and how they maintain it. There’s another story there, one that I reveal partially in the climax of the first draft. While it should not be fully revealed in this book – I’m keeping the focus on the central character and how she is affected by power struggles from her point of view – refinements of these motivations have already contributed heavily to the wording of the re-write.
I hope to use breaks to decide whether or not the lead character will realize why no one else remembers the things she is talking about from earth. Not even really basic things. There’s a reason, and it was hinted at, but she missed the hint at the time, and hasn’t revisited it. Her understanding of [the cause] won’t change the arc of the story, but it may make things easier for a friend of hers, and that may be worth doing before the story ends…
Summary: I want to complete this draft zealously, and then move into continuity editing and additional story refinements. I know editing is complex, and I’m unsure how long it will really take. I am enjoying the process, and feel I am improving on my old draft. I’m glad I am making the time and space to do this!
Having been unable to travel for so long due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have a wicked case of wanderlust.
Some of my wanderlust is just caused by escapism: I’m dealing with lots of dull obligations, so the appeal of being AWAY is as alluring as the idea of specific places I may enjoy! I know myself well enough to recognize this, and am evaluating my fantasies carefully, to see what they are REALLY about.
That first solo trip was an amazing experience, but writing about it while I was sick with a persistent case of bronchitis skewed my reporting. Writing to friends who didn’t share my interests in art narrowed it further. I managed to convey the difficulties well, but not the gorgeousness of misty paths leading to ancient shrines in wet, shady forests, or the beauty of clouds clinging to mountain tops, or the satisfaction of soaking in deeply sulfurous waters… While my friends (fairly) interpreted my writing as disappointment, and I did describe negative experiences and states of mind, I still enjoy memories from that trip: of oversized leaves that fell so noisily while I sat in a forest, lush carpets of moss in a chess-board-like temple garden with stone lanterns as chess pieces, the unexpected appeal of my German hiking companion as he boarded his departing train, the hot lemon drink that warmed me when I was rain-drenched, the bliss of soaking up to my neck in deep hostel bathtubs that I didn’t describe…
The frustrations of the noisy crowds and the jostling students are also vivid, but are less important now: that wasn’t my only trip to Japan, that wasn’t my only visit to those sites in Kyoto, and my subsequent experiences at popular tourist sites mean I understand the limits of what they can and can’t offer me in a way I didn’t at the time.
That trip helped me see and accept what popular mass tourism is. I accept that there are lists of “must-see” destinations (which I don’t actually have to see), and that some of those destinations may be worthwhile if I am willing to accept the consequences of their popularity. (This has also led to my intentional photo series of tourists taking photos at crowded sites, which I enjoy making, and which are only possible due to the nature of such sites.) Accepting this helps me make more informed choices about opting-in AND opting-out. I freely do both.
My business travel was also highly educational. Being overseas as part of an initial team that dispersed at the end of the business day/week, leaving me unexpectedly alone in a new place, I had to orient myself, and then decided to use my newfound knowledge to orient others. I recognized and appreciated the collegiality of someone with more experience there, and ensured I repaid that collegiality when our project changed sites, and that I followed his example in general. I knew what kinds of social and logistical support I had wanted, and I provided that to those who followed.
I gave tours, and took newcomers to my favorite spots if they shared my interests; I wrote a brief visitors guide; I recommended restaurants, dishes, beer, museums, hotels; I met up for meals with colleagues who didn’t want to dine alone; I translated; I learned train lines, bought tickets, and guided colleagues to work, and in doing do, expanded the practical hotel range for a suburban office with a limited pool of hotels, so my colleagues could spend time in a world-class city rather than sit in a remote, rural hotel at night; I took colleagues on field trips… That felt GREAT! I felt useful, I made things easier, I enjoyed good company, I had good fun.
With multi-country business trips that spanned several weekends, I had a chance to learn about different approaches to exploring: about how to use hotels (the sort that are too cramped to linger in, and the sort that are a pleasure and destination of their own); how to pace myself based on my energy levels, moods, and the weather; how to go away for a weekend; and how to stay put.
Both on business and on my vacations, I learned about the complexity of traveling with others. Of how the wrong traveling companions complicate a trip, and the right ones make my experience of a destination better than I could have managed on my own. This last point is the best lesson: I do have a few friends whose company is great ON THE MOVE, and I should experience places with them more often!
I’ll now return to my daydreams (and online research and list-making) of safe and enjoyable travel, with expectations well grounded by my actual travel experiences…
Also, the clouds have been glorious! Blue skies are nice, but clouds can be so much more dramatic, especially as they arrive or depart. I’m a big fan of huge, puffy clouds blowing over between storms, and dramatic patterns that cast bold shadows or have the textures of quilts… They remind me that the sky has depth, not just color…
Some data sticklers find the tally of official COVID-19 deaths to be too simple. It doesn’t really show the impact of all the deaths. Another way to look at the losses would be to calculate how many YEARS of life have been lost, to demonstrate that the loss of the elderly and the loss of the young have different impacts on society.
The totals are high:
Covid study finds some 28 million extra years of life lost in 2020, with U.S. male life expectancy badly hit – Washington Post
I think this approach is thoughtful. This is much like the study of how many children have lost parents due to this pandemic, how we need to think of the impact this has on them, and how we can respond.
I’m hoping these different ways of looking at the impacts on us can generate some more practical responses and ideas on how our societies can recover from this devastation in a healthy way.
Now that I can’t have wheat for medical reasons, I have a nostalgia for certain meals. Including simple meals that were just bread, a spread, olives, and perhaps a glass of cider or wine.
Acme’s Olive Bread was one of my favorites. It is nearly crisp on the outside, but soft and springy inside, laced with rich tasting olives (Halkidiki?) that I’ve never had outside of this bread, but which are AMAZING.
Bringing home a loaf of this bread meant I had dinner in my hands, and would pay attention to nothing else until I had my fill of it. [insert all the swooning emoji that exist, and some that don’t, here.]
Acme uses organic wheat, and since I have to live without wheat now, I’ll just have to sigh longingly and remember how good it was!