Ugh, I really need to start updating more regularly. Really, I do.
So, let's see. I'm still studying Japanese. I'm nowhere near being able to read even simple text yet (I have too much vocabulary left to learn before I reach that point) or understand spoken dialogue, but every day I'm learning a little more about the grammar and a few more Kanji characters. At least I have Hiragana and Katakana down pretty well now.
Oh! My family took our trip to the Disneyland resort two weeks ago and absolutely LOVED it. We've never been out there before (we've always gone to Florida since it's considerably closer to Wisconsin than California is), but we found a few great deals on airfare, ticket prices, and hotel prices and had to jump. I didn't think my parents would like it since they'd never expressed interest in going there ever before, but they loved it just as much as I did. In fact, if I were to compare the Magic Kingdom in Florida (not including EPCOT, the Studios, or Animal Kingdom) to Disneyland in California (not including the California Adventure park, just their Magic Kingdom equivalent), I almost liked Disneyland beter. Their "Pirates of the Caribbean" is two times longer, FCOL! Their Space Mountain is an absolutely awesome ride (unlike the Florida version, which is DEFINITELY showing its age in all the bumps and sheer jerkiness)! Their Autopia is actually an enjoyable drive, through a lovely park and with cars that aren't ridiculously difficult to control! They have an excellent Indiana Jones ride! They have the submarines and Nemo! They have Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin (basically a teacup on a dark ride track)! They have Mr. Toad! They have some amazing miniature displays in the Storybookland Canal! Granted, the Splash Mountain, Winnie the Pooh, and Buzz Lightyear rides in Florida put theirs to shame, their Matterhorn did nothing for me (it actually reminded me of the Space Mountain in Florida), and their castle is miniscule (we lost track of how many times we couldn't see the castle past the trees, and the first time I saw it I burst into laughter and called it "cute," which really isn't how an iconic castle like that should be described), but I still really, really enjoyed it.
Disney's California Adventure I wasn't quite as enthralled with, but I still enjoyed it. Maybe it's because most of their "big" rides and attractions there are almost identical to the ones in Florida -- Tower of Terror, Soarin', Muppetvision 3D, It's Tough to Be a Bug -- or maybe it's because the whole Paradise Pier, carnival-ride type attractions do nothing for me, but we didn't spend as much time there. Of course, they have some awesome sourdough bread (at the Bourdin bakery, where we ate a LOT of lunches), California Screamin' is a great roller coaster, Mulholland Madness was fun enough, we loved both parades we saw there, the Monsters, Inc. ride was cute, and their Aladdin show is phenomenal, so it definitely wasn't a complete waste. I'm sure if I liked water rides more, I would've given Grizzly Bear Run a try, but I just don't see the appeal in walking around a park completely drenched so we avoided that one.
The weather there was amazing. After the winter we just had in Wisconsin, we needed the sun and 60-80 degrees like you wouldn't believe. Flights were great -- both were on time, we bought the signature seats so we were comfortable and had plenty of leg room for the 3 1/2-4 hour trip, and we didn't have a cloud in the sky flying out there, so we got to see everything well. Even coming back, the sky was mostly clear. Not having seen the Rocky Mountains in years, that was a real treat. Our room, too, was wonderful. We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel, which was about a ten minute walk (through Downtown Disney) from both parks. I would happily stay there again -- big rooms, comfortable beds, decent food. All in all, an excellent, much-needed trip with lots of familiar sights but plenty of new stuff and exploration as well. I definitely see myself planning another trip out there in the next few years, and seeing a different park than the one I'm used to just made me want to go to Tokyo Disney (which is supposed to be spectacular) even more than I did before.
"Frozen Flame" revisions are still crawling along -- generally about a few paragraphs a day, depending on the size of the paragraphs. Unfortunately, I also haven't felt like working on that Daniel/Vala fic on my plate lately, so I've fallen way behind on that, too -- sorry about that, Misty. :( I just haven't felt motivated to really focus on either of them at the moment (probably because I'm also working on proofreading a book on urban education struggles during my free time for someone at work), but I'm sure that will change eventually. Experience has taught me that my interests tend to be cyclical. For a few months I'll be in writing mode, then I'll switch to watching DVDs, and then I'll switch to video games, then I'll switch back to writing mode, etc. Right now I'm heavily in video game mode, and I have been since I delved into Final Fantasy XII last fall. And that's perfectly fine with me, seeing as I have roughly 100 RPGs backlisted that I haven't even touched yet. *gulps*
And speaking of RPGs...Tales of the Abyss has eaten my soul. Seriously. No, maybe it's not the greatest game ever, but it's pretty darn good, with awesome characters *points to icon and would huggle Guy except the poor guy would undoubtedly run away screaming* and even more awesome character development and interaction. And the battle system is FUN! It's even knocked Kingdom Hearts II out of my top three favorite games ever list -- and anyone who knows me knows that's saying a lot. I'm on my third playthrough already and I suspect I'm literally going to have to force myself not to start another playthrough of game so I can finally play a different game. Hopefully this time I can finish up everything I still haven't done in my previous two playthroughs (like maxing out my levels so I can beat Nebilim on Very Hard and/or Unknown mode, mastering Dragon Buster, and completing the Collector's Book) so I'm not tempted to play it yet again -- because I know I would be. It's just that much fun.
Oh, and so I can quickly find it again later -- link to my all-time favorite Guy/Natalia fic: And the Clock Struck Twelve
. Not only does it make me SQUEE!!! every time I read it, but it makes me really wish I had a storyline so I could tackle writing that pairing myself. I wish the author had included a focus on Guy's struggles to overcome his gynophobia, but I can understand why she didn't for the sake of the story. But oh, how tempting it is to write a fic with more of that angle to it.... Too bad her sequel to it is solely Luke/Tear, a pairing that, while canon, I'm pretty much indifferent to. :(
Also on the video game front, this past weeked I finally caved and bought a Playstation Portable. Like I really needed to spend even more money right now. But I'm dying to play "Tales of Destiny 2" and "Tales of Rebirth" (even if they're all in Japanese), and I'm curious about what happens in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, and, well, there are quite a few other RPGs out for that system that I'm itching to play, and the PSP was the only feasible option for being able to do so. Yes, I AM an JRPG addict and have been since I was eight, thankyouverymuch. But then -- the icing on the cake -- was when I discovered that I could take any DVD in my collection, convert it to a .mp4 file, and watch it on the PSP. That means I can take an entire season of a TV show, put it on a single memory card, and watch it while on a road trip! I've already started converting my favorite Stargate eps, and I plan on working on Farscape and X-Files next. It takes awhile to convert them (a little over an hour for each episode), but the quality still comes through beautifully. Needless to say, the PSP just became my new favorite toy. :)
In not-so-happy news, summer is coming up, and after everything that happened last summer, I'm dreading it. My neighborhood still isn't doing real well. The elderly woman who lives across the street from us had her purse stolen at the Walgreens just down the road. A drug dealer was shot at the same Walgreens. Three people were caught breaking into a gas station two blocks from our house just yesterday morning. Our neighborhood block watch is disbanding because the woman in charge doesn't want to do it anymore, and I don't have the time or leadership abilities to take a job like that upon myself. I'm guessing we have a week or two before anything starts happening (closer to when school gets out for the summer, judging from the past two years), but I wouldn't doubt that some stupid kids with nothing better to do decide to come back to our house and try to break in again. And with the economy crashing around us and gas prices so atrocious, I fully expect the state of the neighborhood to get even worse. I've already evacuated my DVD, CD, and game collections to other places so they're not sitting around inside the house in the event of another break-in, but it really is a pain dragging things I think I might want home on weekends. *sigh* Tell me again why the world is this way?
But enough of that, since I made a point last fall to be as upbeat as possible and enjoy myself during the months where I don't have to worry as much about that kind of crap. Besides, I really should get back to work...not that I have a lot to do right now when I'm still waiting for people to start turning in their course evaluations. At least I get to play on the internet while I'm waiting.
I hope everyone on my f-list is doing well!