Thursday, May 31, 2012

29 Life Lessons

Inspired by Thought Catalog contributor Ryan O'Connell's 25 Things I've Learned in My 20s, I also would like to share some lessons from living through my 20's decade, when I saw the invasion of Iraq, the Great Recession, the end of the Sri Lanka civil war, Obama's White House win, the campaign against Muhammad Yunus, the Arab Spring and, appallingly, Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

Here is my List of Lessons Learned in My 20s, one for every year I've been alive!

1. Your mom is always right. Maybe not now, but definitely in the future.
2. The friends who stick around after you've been a horrible bitch to them are keepers.
3. Never let money get in the way of any relationship. It just isn't worth it.
4. Jealousy is normal but unattractive. Someone will always be better than you. Get over it.
5. The grass is greenest on your side, because it's your side. Self-love, baby.
6. Throw up if you're feeling nauseous. Your body wants you to get rid of whatever it is in there.
7. Pay your bills on time. No buts.
8. Read.
9. Accept your feelings and always remember that you can control how you act.
10. Stand up for yourself when someone tries to invalidate your thoughts, opinions, or emotions.
11. Tell or show your loved ones that you love them. Anything can happen tomorrow.
12. Acknowledge that you may be completely wrong.
13. Resist the temptation to assume the worst.
14. Ask for help if you need it. People will step up, because you stepped up first.
15. Adopt if you want a pet. Your home is better than the shelter.
16. You can never live up to your fantasies. That's why they're fantasies.
17. Treat yourself.
18. See your doctor and dentist regularly.
19. Be polite.
20. Be open-minded. Everyone is different.
21. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and drink lots of water.
22. Lie only when necessary.
23. Explore the internet.
24. Avoid toxic people. You know who they are -- just thinking about them stresses you out.
25. Be silly! Dance in your living room! Sing in your car!
26. Only buy lottery tickets if the pot is over $100 million.
27. Travel.
28. Yoga is boring.
29. Aim for resolution, not escalation, e.g. when someone's being a jerk, be pleasant. Governments of the world, take note! I'm looking at you, China! Have you seen a map? Those islands are ours!

In other news, I think I've started getting better at drawing comics. Hurray!

Friday, May 25, 2012


I run so I can eat like a truck driver. A couple of years ago, as part of my campaign to get my lung cilia back after quitting smoking, I decided to increase my running speed by getting the famed Vibram "toe-shoes." My local City Sports had a sale going on, so I got some green-and-grey ones. (Pictured above are Boyfriend's ninja black ones.) The shoes fit my feet--and toes!--like gloves. I zipped through three miles in about 25 minutes, which is absolutely ridiculous. I was delighted. I ran through the winter, and drew admiring stares from passerby. I basked in their respect for my amazing athleticism. "They look so comfortable," said a woman reclining on a bench. "Hohoho," I replied, in my best Japanese noblewoman laugh.

Then, sometime in the spring of '10, I woke up and could not walk without pain. I limped to my chiropractor, a crusty New Yorker who, in between tales of how dangerous the NY subway was back in the seventies and eighties, informed me that I had tendinitis, and had no business running with my special shoes. I weakly protested that the best Kenyan and Nigerian athletes trained barefoot, and she pointed out that they run on clay, while I ran on pavement.


Little Brother was visiting at the time and very kindly bought me a bucket so I could dunk my calves in ice water every night until I could walk normally again. After that, I only used my Vibrams for hiking, which apparently was what they were designed for in the first place. Well, excuse me for innovating. Anyway, I sprained my ankle last time I hiked, so obviously Vibram wasn't the product for that activity either.

And then, a couple of weeks before my company charity basketball tournament, Boyfriend and I slipped into our Vibrams so he could teach me to run properly. Apparently, running full speed with your arms out like an airplane with each foot stamping firmly on the ground was not correct. What can I say, I learned to run by watching Sailor Moon. Boyfriend went into his terrifying Teacher Mode and explained the biomechanics of impact transmission in excruciating detail. I eventually figured out that he was talking about how the muscles in my calves will absorb the shock when I spring forward on my tippy-toes, and barely stopped him from scratching out a force reduction equation on the ground with a twig.

And then we ran a couple miles and sure enough, I was limping for a week afterward. See, Vibrams will force you to run correctly, because there's no cushion for heel impact. Also, you are encouraged to jut out your chest and run faster because people are staring at your shoes and assuming you are super awesome. Running faster in Vibram means running on tiptoes and not letting your heel strike the ground at all. My calf muscles, furious at my inability to learn from past mistakes, went on strike and refused to talk to me until I promised to only run in real shoes.

And that is why my Vibram shoes will henceforth be Sheba's playthings. As you may have noticed from the photo above and the one in my last post, she loves shoe-related activities, like sitting, cuddling, rubbing, and rolling around. Cats have it figured out.

Happy Memorial Day weekend!


Edit, 05/31/2012: BBC has an article describing Vibram's valiant efforts to shut down counterfeiters.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Electionerd: Romney's Running Mate


Our time has come. We are now the dominant pet species in the United States. Soon, the world will be ours.

But first, a word from our sponsor:

In this ELECTIONERD post, we will tell you who Mitt Romney's running mate should be: Nikki Haley, governor of South Carolina. She is a bastion of conservatism, fighting tirelessly against illegal immigration, abortion, cigarette taxation, regulation, and allegations of extramarital affairs. Most importantly, her Tea Party scent complements Romney's new-yacht smell.

Yes, the depth of our olfactory information surpasses belief. We have a network across the nation, sniffing humans at the most inopportune moments. An early report indicated that Chris Christie smells like cheeseburger, which catapulted him to the top of the contender list, until our agents came to the conclusion that in fact, he smells like meatballs.

We approve of self-education. Here is a slideshow of other viable running mate options. You may review them. But first, it's mealtime, and where is our tuna?

-The Cats

Monday, May 21, 2012

Keeping Up with the Takahashis

Google+ can help you keep up with your foreign tongues! Just follow a major newspaper in that language and then quickly scan the blurbs. News writing dictates that the most important details go in first, so those three sentences you read in that little box are pretty much what the article is all about.

For example, I follow the Asahi Shinbun, a national daily in the land of the falling birth rates:

The first news item is about a popular "mini-pig" that can follow commands like "shake hands" and "sit." The lesson to take away from reading this is that today seems to be a slow news day for Japan.

Next, we have the 30th anniversary of the country's famous bullet train, at least the eastern bits of it, if I'm reading correctly.

The truly fun part about this informal language reinforcement is the comments. In the mini-pig news item, Makiko (bunny icon) asks if pigs are smart. Yes, Makiko, they are, but consider this -- wouldn't a cat be smarter because it refuses to learn to do silly tricks for human amusement? Since my Japanese is not quite up to par with my English/Tagalog snark, I am unable to respond to Makiko. However, I could say, "はい" (hai = yes). But that makes me sound like a moron instead of the incredibly sophisticated mini-pig expert that I truly am.

Other fun sites to follow on the Google+: Lifehacker, The Onion, and Barack Obama, if only for the 500 comments in Chinese that pop up almost instantly after every post, and the two angry English speakers telling them to write to their own government, darnit.

Back to Japanese--"But Fragrant Elephant, you don't speak to Japanese people," you protest. Not true! Why, this weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting a dog named Kuma (bear), owned by a half-Japanese person. That counts. Also, Kuma responded to "Pikachu." See, I'm still using my Japanese language skills!

And with that, I bid you a Happy Monday! 元気でね~

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Electionerd: Intro

This mint, collectible first edition of ELECTIONERD is brought to you by caffeine! Caffeine: it might be why you're bloated!

As background, I was perusing the BBC during my tea and crumpets break when I happened upon this pretty little interactive graphic about the upcoming US presidential election. I was adding up the numbers whilst clicking on my mouse with my pinky finger daintily raised, when suddenly I exceeded "10" and as you know, the next number is "lots." So I laboriously transferred the information to that old standby, Excel. Excel: it's how people know you don't mess around.
So, to review: you need 270 votes to become President of Google Apple Facebook the US. The Republicans can rely on 185 votes, the Democrats have 186, and there are 161 votes floating around that pledge allegiance to neither party. Those battleground states will be fought over like they're the roast beef sandwiches at the company picnic, while the rest of us are the grapes: you can come back for us later after all the roast beef sammiches are gone, or wrathfully eat us if you didn't get as much beef as you needed.

I'm looking forward to when The Daily Show and Colbert Report ramp up their election coverage. Indecision 2008 was spectacular! And who can forget Tina Fey's turn as Sarah Palin?

Next on Electionerd: We poll ordinary citizens for their choices of Romney's running mate!

Monday, May 14, 2012

How to Cram More Links into your Chrome Bookmarks Toolbar!

1) Google Chrome is a fast, light browser and the choice of awesome chicks everywhere. Like my mom.
2) Switch to Chrome! Unless you're a seasoned Firefox developer, in which case go ahead and bask in my respect.
3) Cramming even more bookmarks onto the toolbar in Chrome is SUPER EASY, I promise.

All right! Gaze upon the finished product:

There! I could easily stuff at least a dozen more bookmarks on there. To achieve this amazing space-saving feat:
  1. Right-click on the item in the toolbar and select "Edit..."
  2. Delete the content in the "Name:" field.

That's it! Do it for all your links. Then all you get is the favicon. Sites that don't have a favicon will show up as little globes, which adds excitement to your life as you try to unravel the mystery of where that icon will take you! A naughty site, perhaps? Your private blog? The suspense is beyond belief!

Bragging Break: My Fragrant Elephant Comics site now has a favicon! I did it allllllll by myself. Very proud.

In case you're interested, here is my chosen internet source for the Chrome tip.

Remember, it's Margarita Monday!*

*DISCLAIMER: Fragrant Elephant Blog is not responsible for any alcohol damage done to readers' livers as a result of reading this blog.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Boston Fog!

To think we were worrying about needing rain just a month ago. The New England spring descended soon after Boyfriend proclaimed that we've only had 9% of the rainfall we had last year, because nature hates statistics, apparently. Nature also overachieves, at least around these parts. Not only did we get continuous rain, we also had some terrific fog. Check out this baby from last week:

And here's that same area, today:

Yeahhhh sunshine! Uh, and please ignore my finger on the upper left. kthxbai

Happy Friday! I've got a white sangria with my name on it. What about you?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Two Magical Books

That was an awesome moon last Saturday, huh? Almost as big and as round as my face!

Today let's look at two magnificent works of literature. In my mind, they're linked because they underline the point that no individual is truly alone -- we are all our family, our friends, strangers, enemies, all the way to people we've never met. We are not just us when we each make the construct "I."

Also, the books below are connected by a thread of pure magic, the magic that lets us peer into the lives of others and immerse ourselves happily in a world of someone else's making: the magic of good writing! sparklesparkle

Magical Book A--The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)
Summary: Oscar struggles under the curse laid down against his family by a Dominican dictator. Or maybe life. 

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a paradise: it talks about history, it brims with S&F references, it examines heavy themes with a light heart, and best of all, it expanded my arsenal of Spanish swear words. (Swear words: the first things you learn in a foreign language.)

Junot Díaz, MIT writing professor and all-around awesomesauce person, won super sexy writing awards for this work, and boy did he deserve it. His characters are beautifully drawn; the narrative style brilliant; the themes resonant; and the stories that unfold wrench places in your soul that you're thankful you still have.

This is the kind of book that will make me do a Rage Quit if they decide to make a movie version. And then I'd watch the movie, obviously.

Highly, highly recommended.

Commercial break: Tell your friends about the Fragrant Elephant comic site! Must love cats and potential dogs.

Magical Book B--The Book Thief  (2005)
Summary: Death tells us the story of the book thief, a young girl who grows up in Nazi Germany. 

International award-winning Australian author Markus Zusak killed me with this book. The novel is set in Germany when the crazy was in power, and the main character's coming-of-age tribulations read like having your heart ripped out of your chest, especially when [THIS SECTION DELETED DUE TO MASSIVE SPOILERS].

Appropriately, with all the death going around, Death serves as book's narrator. Death  takes special interest in the protagonist, whom he/she/it calls the book thief. Death's narrative bombast and flair (center-aligned bold text often pops up) is Zusak's unique approach to telling an essentially simple story. The orphan Leisel goes to live with the Hubermanns, who give her the love and home she needs. They also end up hiding a Jewish fistfighter in their basement. In between, lots of soccer/ football is played, boys are incorrigible, and international and domestic events are distinctly happiness-free.

This book is also highly, highly recommended.


This has been your faithful bookworm, reporting from the front lines of the war against ennui. Tune in next post, when I babble about a topic that comes to me in a flash of inspiration!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Seek and I Shall Whine

Looking for comics? Go here!

Alas, the spirit did not move me to blog this week because...I wrote a short story! Insert sparkles here. Or I should say, I wrote another short story, but that first attempt was so weird that I am confident it will explode as soon as an editor lays eyes on it.

Anyway, I sent my manuscript to Boyfriend, who, full disclosure, is ferociously intelligent and not at all shy about ripping anything idiotic to shreds. Will I have the graciousness to accept constructive criticism? Stay tuned!

The best part about finishing the story was doing a Google search for literary agents, and coming up with the true, magnificent events of 2005, when a group of sci-fi writers created the worst book ever, called Atlanta Nights, under the pen name Travis Tea (say it fast). They were out to get a deceitful publisher, PublishAmerica, which purported to be a real publisher but actually did POD (publish-on-demand, meaning their writers' works didn't make it to bookstore shelves). Read about it here.

An excerpt from their fake opus: Mmm-hmm. Come and get this big Afros and indescribably tender. His hands moved surely.  Recover for a mess.  She'd have noticed if it had so impetuously across the pelting Georgia Girl Grill. This came from a chapter generated entirely by computer. Nice.

The result: PublishAmerica sent an acceptance letter for the horrendous manuscript, proving that they didn't even bother to read the stinker! Hoist by their own petard! By the way, their website made my good taste cry. Yes, they're still in business!

Dear readers, I got my grubby paws on a full copy of Atlanta Nights, and ohmyLord, I had to stop reading because I was getting eye strain from the awfulness. But I shall slog through it, because I have the sinking feeling that my own work will mirror a lot of the deliberately horrible writing in here. The best potholes are the ones you can see because you chucked in some flares beforehand, amirite?

And so, in conclusion: happy Friday!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sheba Wants to Love You

She likes people. But sometimes, when the sun is shining...


Movie Review: Hereditary (2018)