03 December, 2016

A sizeable Christmas tree

The Christmas tree we bought at Thrift Shop in October has turned out larger than we expected. It came in three boxes (see the photo here). We've had to shift furniture around to fit it into the small Japanese room we call our lounge room. It's diameter is about half-a-room and it nearly hits the ceiling. 

It doesn't look so intimidating in this photo, possibly because you might expect that the room goes a lot further back than the camera, but I was perched on the lounge and plastered against the back wall when I took the photo. Our 11 year old can easily crawl into the corner under the tree and barely be seen.

We're adjusting to it (we put it up last Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent) and watching the TV in that position isn't too bad. The only trouble we're having is figuring out what to put under the tree . . . teenage boys aren't so easy to buy for, especially when it's not our habit to spend much on presents.

But then I read this post from a "kid" who doesn't have parents anymore and remember how little presents mean in the long run. We're hoping for some great memories to be made this Christmas.

02 December, 2016

The people you meet

Sometimes I get stuck behind my computer doing lots of writing/editing work, but this week, between computer and family management, I've had an interesting time meeting people.

On Monday I had a video call with my forever-friend Mel. We do this regularly. It's mutual debriefing. When our family were in Australia last Mel and I regularly did this over coffee, and found it so beneficial that we've continued. Not quite the same at a distance but still something we both look forward to.

CAJ campus is gorgeous with autumn leaves just now!
Late on Monday afternoon (is 5.30 still afternoon if the sun's been down an hour already?) I attended a short information session about basic wrestling rules at school. I didn't really need to go, but went primarily to support a new wrestling-mum who I invited. Still, it was fun to be there with her and I learnt more than one new thing!

On Tuesday I met a lady who I also know a lot about. Over the last nine years I've critiqued much of her writing and she's critiqued mine--we're in a small writing group. She's in town because her son and daughter-in-law work here, in fact her daughter-in-law taught my youngest son last year. We met up and FaceTimed the third person in our group. 11am here, 9pm there, in Virginia, US. We chatted for over two hours! Our writing is non-fiction and often very personal, so we know a lot about one another and it wasn't hard to talk for ages. These are the ladies (along with a couple of others who are no longer part of the group) who taught me how to write well and how to edit. I owe a lot to them!

On Wednesday I met my language exchange partners. With so much going on I found it a challenge to talk and listen in Japanese, especially when their English is much better than my Japanese, but they're so encouraging helping me to persevere even in little steps to improve my Japanese.

That night we had former OMF Japan colleagues visit for dinner. A Japanese-Singaporean family. They also have three boys, our middle sons were classmates at CAJ for a time and good friends. Alas they are now based in Singapore. But the mum's hometown is our city so when they visit family on their holidays they land in our "backyard". Most short term visitors to Tokyo don't come this far west so we relished this opportunity. Six boys, though: they ate a lot!
My Friday meeting. 

On Thursday I got to stay mostly at home behind my computer ticking stuff off my To Do list. Editing, desktop publishing, magazine managing etc. I did have a short meeting at school about one boy's behaviour, but we won't talk about that!

Thursday night I took the night off cooking because CAJ was hosting two basketball games and the accompanying "concessions stand" with Japanese curry rice or chili dogs or hot dogs for sale. It was a great place to cross paths with friends I rarely see.

Today I've been at another OMF Japan website revamp focus group on the other side of town: left home at 8.15, got back at 3.45. But another good time connecting with likeminded people.

Almost every morning this week I've had trouble waking up. I'm feeling residual tiredness that was exacerbated by our extreme camping experience last week. I'm looking forward to a sleep-in tomorrow and quiet weekend. But there is a lot of baking needed. Thankfully that's something I enjoy.

Hopefully I'll enter into next week with more energy! Especially because next weekend is a big one: the first wrestling tournament of the season and our school is hosting it, which means more work for us (we provide breakfast and lunch for the coaches and officials).

01 December, 2016

Publishing a book (or an article) isn't a solitary act

I like this blog post, it gives a succinct explanation, not just of the process a book goes through to be published, but it differentiates the different types of editing that editors do. It helps me understand how many different skills I need as a managing editor of a small magazine where I hold many different editing roles (although it doesn't cover all the managerial tasks I also do with the magazine).

Here's a summary of the list from the blog post (which is about book editors) and how it fits into my job:

Acquisitions editor: this editor is the entry point to the publisher for an author seeking to publish a book, though often in a big market like the US there is an agent between the author and the acquisitions editor. This editor may decline your "project" straight away or may present it to what the author of the post calls the "Pub board": the group that decides whether your project is viable (this is a business after all).

I am the acquisitions editor for Japan Harvest. I send out calls for proposals (we don't get many submitted otherwise, our pool of authors are missionaries and are very busy doing things other than writing). I receive proposals, summarise them, and usually pitch them to our executive editor and together we decide what we'll include and what we won't. I then communicate the terms with the author and receive their article at the due date.

Development editor: this editor does the first edit, but mostly writes their thoughts about the project and sends it back to the author for the author to revise. That includes things like improving the plot, dialogue, characters, structure, etc. Me or one other editor on my team does this, but not with every article. Quite a lot of articles we receive don't need the author to do major revisions. But of course we are dealing with much shorter pieces of writing (generally less than 1,300 words).

Substantive/line editor: this editor rearranges/deletes/adds paragraphs or sections, rephrases, reorganises, tightens, and recasts sentences or dialogue. They try to catch most spelling, punctuation, and grammatical mistakes, but it isn't their main focus. I do this too. If the article doesn't need a revision from the author, then we dive straight into this editing mode.

Copyeditor: this is the editor that most people think of when they think of editors. They are "persnickety" (to use the word the blog writer used). They pay attention to everything. Our editing process with the magazine means this task generally falls to a second editor after the first editor has done the above two steps. But our proofreader also doubles in this role (and often our designer sticks his or her oar in too).

Proofreader: this is the person who looks to catch all those last minute errors, after the text and graphics are in place in the digital draft of the magazine. We have a great proofreader, but after he's gone over the magazine, I also do a second complete read-through myself, and it's surprising how much I find at times.

Looking at this, I can see how at different stages I'm focused on different things. I shouldn't be so upset with myself for missing things in the early stages of editing, I'm not perfect and the itty bitty things that the proofreader picks up aren't my focus early on.

My editing role here is currently expanding, though not with the magazine. I'm now editing a blog that one of our Japan regions is publishing (see here). There's more coming as we revamp the OMF Japan website too and get more up-to-date stories flowing onto there. 

It's good to take a step back for a moment and think about the different types of editing that are necessary, especially as I realise I'll need to get help. I think when people think about helping someone else with editing (in a non-professional fashion) they think about proofreading or perhaps copy editing. Not so many are experienced or willing to do development or substantive/line editing, though that's sometimes necessary.

30 November, 2016

Citrus tree at a local house

This last week of the month is once again proving to be very busy. I've got lots going on to write about, but no good time to do it. Hence another short "cheat" post based around a photo.

I took this photo this afternoon. This is a short, quiet street near us that I often walk or ride along, sometimes multiple times a day. I love it that even though Japanese often have almost no yard, they usually use the space well. It is not uncommon to see fruit trees. This citrus tree just looks scrumptious (I'm not sure exactly what kind of fruit it is, though, there are many, I wrote about the most common ones in a post back here in March.)

29 November, 2016

Lego organisation

Now for an unusual post (not that our camping trip wasn't unusual). I told a friend I would "show" how our family organises our Lego. The boys don't actually play with it that much anymore, unfortunately. Though they aren't interested in giving it away. We talked on the weekend about how we could divide it up and "smuggle" it back to Australia as they all gradually leave home over the next eight years.

However, here is the system. The pieces are filed by function/size. So we have a drawer of flat pieces, a drawer of long thin pieces, one of weapons, etc. The yellow set of drawers in the top left has dismembered mini-figures!

The brown drawers are full of tiny bits. The white box has medium bits.

This one is technic lego.

We know people who have their Lego sorted by colour, but my guys are against that, saying that this is much easier to find the functional piece you want.

28 November, 2016

More photos from camping

Here are some other miscellaneous photos from our camping trip.

Defrosting a tea towel over the fire so we could wash-up breakfast on our first morning. Do notice the boy in the background. This guy regularly wears shorts to school in winter, it is notable that he has a hat and gloves on!

Second morning: frozen washer (face cloth).

We needed snow chains just to get into the campsite and out again. These things are tricky to get on and very noisy if you get off the snow onto bitumen as we did on Friday going out to get a couple of extra ingredients for lunch.

We were amused to find this toilet-paper origami chart next to the pedestals. I guess it would be useful if you were planning on spending a lot of time sitting there. 32 steps!

A large icicle found by our youngest. Notice his bare arms! He'd been digging in the snow and got quite warm.

The ubiquitous pickup truck that all campsites in Japan own, as do most farmers. They all look the same as this!

Not the best of photos, but this is snow piled up on a fence. Any slightly horizontal surface catches snow and it piles up: even on power lines and washing lines!

I looked in envy on these on-site accommodations as we set up camp on Thursday. They are still "tents" and you have to bring most of your own bedding but have heaters inside and a covered area with a table and BBQ outside. But we paid a lot less for our little piece of snow-covered gravel, and had the satisfaction of doing a reasonably good job of it too. No one has come home sick or any the worse for wear (except for a bit of weariness).

I can't finish without putting up this amazing view. This David and I both saw on walking back from the toilet block to our tent on the first morning and I snapped it on my iPhone that happened to be in my jacket pocket. I put the photo up on Facebook and to my boys' amazement it garnered more than 130 likes, loves, and wows plus many comments. A friend said: that could be anywhere in the world, but I wouldn't have picked Japan!

27 November, 2016

Our unexpected camping adventure

We're back from our camping trip. It turned into a bigger adventure than we'd planned for and for a little while I wondered if we'd finally bitten off more than we could chew. If you thought we were crazy for going camping at this time of year when temperatures regularly dip below zero, then this story will convince you we really are.
What our journey out of Tokyo looked like.

On Thursday school finished at midday and we planned as usual to leave as soon after that as possible. The unexpected was snow. It snowed all morning!

Digging out our tent site with a borrowed spade. The boys were great,
they just wished that we had more than one spade.

Because we lived in snowy Sapporo for four years (with its average yearly fall of five meters) we aren't usually impressed with Tokyo snow. It's often a small amount and very short-lived. November snow is almost unheard of here. The last time it snowed this early in the season was more than 50 years ago! The snowfall on Thursday was bigger than we expected. We even got stuck behind snowplows on the highway.

We were prepared for cold but not snow. We had to borrow a spade to shovel our tent site. It was covered with several inches of loose snow when we arrived.

There were doubts we would make it but when the boys managed to dig out a rectangle that was the perfect size (without measuring) we cheered. At that moment we realised how experienced we were at camping and from that point doubts drained away.

We arrived only thirty minutes before the sun disappeared, however, so we did much of the extraneous setting up in the dark, including bed-making and fire-starting. Thankfully it was a powered site so we used our one light to advantage as well as the light inside the backdoor of the van. Thankfully, too, I'd spent that morning making dinner (Japanese Curry Rice) so all we had to do was warm it up.
Dessert on our first night: foil packets with bananas, chocolate, and
 marshmallows, or some combination of those. We accidentally left
a left-over banana out of the cooler overnight and it froze!

After dinner we washed up and raced to the ofuro (Japanese bath) then raced back and jumped into our beds still warm.
The next morning we were greeted with an amazing winter wonderland. Indeed it was a gorgeous blue-sky day.
Walking back from the toilet block at 7am.
Lake Sai.
Autumn caught snoozing.

-5.9˚C is a record for us!
But it was exceptionally cold. I wore many layers and my core was okay but my feet suffered. As the day wore on it didn't warm up past about 5C but it was enough for the places that got sun to become mush and we were sloshing around by early afternoon. My outside ugg boots got soaked and kept my feet cold.

We walked down the road to see some local lava caves, formed during Mt Fuji's explosion in the 800s. A bit sobering as we realised we were camping at the foot of the giant mountain (though we couldn't see it due to a small mountain between us and it). The caves were pretty cool, however. Just the thing even big boys could enjoy.
Lava cave.
Though most of us weren't prepared for wet
snow, our youngest was, with all his plastic
snow gear and he had fun building snow creations.

As we began to lose light at 4.30 we started dinner (simple hot dogs) with the goal of getting to the bath then bed (and getting our feet into dry socks) as soon as possible.

I think late afternoon as the temperature dipped again was the worst I felt, almost nauseous at times. However, despite what you may suspect we had happy campers 95% of the time. One of the keys was lots of food and frequently!

Our second morning wasn't as cold but neither was it as pretty. The sky was mostly grey and much of the pretty snow had melted or turned into grey mush.

Everything outside was covered in frost and inside the
tent everything that hadn't been touched by the water
seeping up through the holes in the floor was covered in
We took our time packing up and it was a little complex as almost everything was wet, inside and out. We had huge puddles inside the tent but amazingly our bedding was protected by an aerobics mat and thin silver-coated foam that we'd put down for insulation from the ground.

Our trip home was all autumn again. Like the clock had been wound back! 
Autumn leaves on the way home.

People may think we're crazy but we weren't out there alone. There were several other campers, including several who arrived well into the evening on Friday and set up completely in the dark. There were people fishing, even water skiing. As we packed up on Saturday a guy came with his two large parrots and set them up with a playground then put up his tiny tent beside them! If we're crazy, we've got plenty of company in Japan!

These two older guys set up in the dark after we went to bed on Friday night.

We have created some great memories. We'll be talking for a long time about "that time we went camping in the snow"! On our way driving down we introduced the boys to "TheFour Yorkshireman" skit by Monty Python. Our guys now have their very own "you're lucky . . . . remember the time Mum and Dad took us camping in the snow". I personally will treasure conversations had while we washed up (one adult paired with one kid makes for great conversation) and while huddled around the campfire trying to warm our hands and feet.

On Thursday evening when we were nearly set up I realised that everyone was in high spirits. After living with guys for the last 19 years I've gradually realised that guys love to be challenged, especially a physical challenge. Even if you have to boot them into the challenge, they love pitting themselves against the odds and coming out a winner. That is what we've done this time. We pitted ourselves against extreme weather with less than ideal equipment—our tent is not a winter tent and all our sleeping bags are second-hand, not what you'd take to trekking in Nepal. And we survived, not just survived, but came out the better for it as a family, I believe! 

But just so as we're clear, we never planned to camp in the snow and don't plan on doing it again. But we will camp again at this time of year. Anyone know of a warm place we can camp at within two hours of Tokyo at the end of November?