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A Thirty-Something Flying Blind

Destination: ¯l_(ツ)_l¯

Month

August 2016

After 7 years…

Today my Facebook memories showed me my first post that I made from Groningen 7 years ago (I arrived Aug. 25, 2009, but I didn’t have internet right away or a smartphone to post). It is interesting to pause and reflect where I was then and where I am now. Ultimately, I did accomplish my goals that I had when I left the country 7 years ago. Sure, I took longer finishing my Ph.D. (a common occurrence) and lived abroad longer than I expected, but I have few complaints about where I am now or how I got here.

I’ve been back in the U.S. for over a month now, and I must admit it that has been a bit weird switching back. 2009 doesn’t seem that long ago, but things are different now.

  1. Smartphones: The biggest change by far. The iphone was out for a couple of years, but the smartphone market didn’t take off right away. On a related note, somehow things have switched that I feel that I need to text people before calling them now. I didn’t always have a ton of friends to call while abroad, but now it seems like this phone etiquette has changed. Or I just can’t get out of the mentality that I need to “schedule” my conversations with people like I did with Skype.
  2. Amazon prime: A godsend for all the random crap that I do and don’t need in my life. Helpful for moving, and post-move as well.
  3. Netflix: Streaming–the mail service was just taking off by the time I left. Also, I had to cancel my Australian Netflix (which I’ve only had for a little over a year) and subscribe to my American netflix because Netflix doesn’t change countries well. Otherwise, I would have been charged in AUD until the end of time.
  4. Uber: Thank God for Uber. As someone who can’t drive due to a visual disability, Uber makes things way easier for me to get around. I always relied on awesome friends to get me around over the years (and I still do), but Uber allows me to preserve some my traveling independence that I grew accustomed to while living abroad. I still want self-driving cars to become  thing though.

Switching back to the U.S. has been an interesting re-acclimation. For the first few weeks, I found it odd hearing American accents all the time. I realized that I started getting overwhelmed by choices in stores, particularly in grocery stores. Sounds weird, I know, but our grocery stores are massive compared to Europe and still bigger than the ones I generally went to in Australia. On a related note, my sense of how much things cost is way out of whack, both because of Australian dollar costs but also just re-adjusting my cost of living sense. I can’t keep track of which stores use the damn chip insert for my card and which ones don’t (just do the pay wave system like Australia, please).  Finally, I am less tolerant of the uber-patriotic rhetoric, especially this election season. I love my country, but we Americans can tone things down a bit.

On a more personal level, I know that I am a different person, and I believe that it is mostly for the better. As the obvious point, I’m 31 now, not 24. I generally have mellowed out–in a good way. I have found a balance in my life. I think that I often sacrificed and stressed too much for the sake of my education and career over the years, and I think that lack of balance actually hurt my productivity in the end. I still work hard, but I also recognize the need to keep a balance and take care of myself. Also, I am more comfortable with who I am, and I am less tolerant of wasting my time with people who don’t accept that. I guess the best way to describe my current state of mind is content. Sure, things could be better, and I still have my goals to improve myself. Yet I think these things are more of a function of getting older rather than living abroad…even though that time of course had a huge impact in shaping who I am and how I view things.

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Power Pop et al. (2016)

I have several mixes in the works, but this one I think is in good enough condition to share. I’ve been in a power pop mood lately. Why? Who knows. But I lacked a good power pop playlist, so I decided to make my own (see below).

HOWEVER. Before you check it out, a brief warning.

With all sub-genres, definitions of various bands and artists become blurred. Some people get into rather heated debates on this subject, but I never have been among those people. Power pop in its traditional definition includes Cheap Trick, Big Star, Raspberries, The Knack, among others. However, I kept a broad definition when making this playlist, which included power pop influences. If this idea makes you start to twitch, just stop reading now and click on this adorable cat video to restore your calm.

The rest of you, are we cool? Awesome.

I included artists/bands that are considered new wave (e.g., The Cars, Blondie, The Bangles, The Go-Go’s, etc.), 90’s alternative (e.g., Weezer), or contemporary indie stuff (e.g., The New Pornographers, Ok Go, Valley Lodge, Kaiser Chiefs). I also included some slightly controversial picks, including power-pop-predecessors (e.g., The Beatles, The Who) and some artists who are considered other genres but who had specific songs that had power pop-ish sounds to them (e.g., Bruce Springsteen “Born to Run” and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers “American Girl”).

To avoid people sending me cranky replies about X and Y artists are not power pop (aside from the cat video distraction), I decided to name the playlist Power Pop et al. (2016), in homage to the APA Style citation for multiple authors (because I am a nerd). So toss in any genre description you want–I’ll consider it part of the “et al.”).

This playlist is designed to be played on shuffle. It is definitely not in any order, and I do repeat tracks by the same artist (*gasp*). It is a long one (101 songs, 5.5 hours), but I find it to be a nice, upbeat (duh), mix to have on in the background while I work. I hope you enjoy!

Hiroshima Anniversary

Today is the 71st anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. This topic is always controversial. Some argue that the bombing sped up the ending of World War II and thus saved lives, while others argue that Japan would have surrendered soon and the bombing of civilians was not necessary. Regardless of your view on the subject, it resulted in a huge loss of civilian lives in way that rarely has been seen since.

I visited Hiroshima this past December shortly before Christmas. In a nutshell, it was an intense experience. It was a gorgeous day to walk around the peace park, but it still was a sobering experience going to the various shrines and memorials. I also recognized that it was uncomfortable to visit Hiroshima as an American. It was my country who caused such destruction and devastation. Obviously, it was my grandparents’ generation, but it is still part of our national history and identity. Also, I always had a weird personal connection to this bombing that I couldn’t shake. My grandfather was fighting in the Pacific theater at the time (and he was in Japan not long after the Japanese surrendered). If the war continued, then there is a decent chance that he would have died in the process. I know that it is weird to play hypothetical 20-questions with this bombing, but it seems like a natural thing to do when thinking about this bombing and the aftermath.

Within the park, there is a museum that explains the history of the bombing, and it also serves as a sobering reality of the consequences of nuclear warfare. To put it mildly, they did not hold any punches. Part of the museum was under renovation when I went, but the key parts covering the bombing and the aftermath were exceptionally intense. The “artifacts” on display made the whole thing far more real and sobering than any history book could do. I read John Hershey’s Hiroshima in high school, which was also a powerful read for me. However, this museum took it well beyond that experience.

After visiting the museum, I walked around the park and tried to clear my head. Among the many emotions I felt at that time, I distinctly  remember feeling anger. This anger was directly toward Donald Trump (someone I didn’t want in my head while on vacation, but unavoidable), who was casually discussing nuclear warfare with such a cavalier attitude. Part of the mission of the museum and the park is to prevent nuclear warfare in the future, which is a mission held by most Japanese. And then, Donald Trump not only proposes dropping nukes, but even suggesting that Japan should use nukes to protect itself against North Korea (which has gathered more attention recently, but these remarks did start last year).

On the other side, I am glad that Secretary Kerry and President Obama have both visited Hiroshima since my own visit. We cannot run away from our past, and I am glad that our leaders are not shy about confronting our history either.

Bottom line? I am glad that I went to Hiroshima. I knew it was going to be a rough day, but it was worth the visit. It is one thing to be a student of history, but it is another thing to face it head on and try to come to terms with it. There are some things that you cannot experience by reading books, and visiting Hiroshima was one of them for me.

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