Memoirs of a Geisha

During the semester, I did not have as much time to read as I would have liked. I reread one of my favorite stories, Memoirs of a Geisha, recently and was reminded of why I enjoy this book.

The story is told from first person point-of-view from an older geisha. She begins the story when is a just a young girl in Japan during the Depression. Chiyo Sakamoto is a poor girl from a fishing village, but captures the attention of a man for her unusual eyes, which are a blue-gray color. She and her sister are taken from their home and Chiyo is sold to an okiya (house where geisha live) in a prominent area of Kyoto. The story is based on background information provided by retired geisha, Mineko Iwasaki, but Chiyo’s character is fictional. Without giving too much away, she becomes a maid before she begins her journey to being a geisha. Chiyo is in awe of the beauty of the geishas and the respect they are given, but the path is very difficult.

I enjoyed the novel because it read at a leisurely pace without being slow. In the beginning of the story, Chiyo is just a child. The narrative highlights her curiosities at that age and her emotions as she is taken from her home. It also reflects her maturity as she gets older and encounters different experiences. Reading the story made me feel like I was following Chiyo through her life. A good book will pull in its readers until they feel every emotion and that was my experience with this one. When there were moments of heartbreak, it hurt me to read of her tears and devastation. The story was very detailed, but well-balanced with dialogue. Many different characters are introduced throughout the story, but it was not confusing because there was a clear distinction between them. Each character had a strong impact on Chiyo and I could feel that through their descriptions.

Prior to reading this book, I had heard of geishas and only knew what they looked like. I did not know what they did, but there was a negative association between geishas and prostitutes. Geishas are traditional Japanese entertainers. They entertain men through song, dance, conversation and serve tea as hostesses. Young girls spent years training and perfecting their skills that would make them successful geishas. They went to schools that taught dance, musical instruments, and other skills. It was important for them to be successful because they were expected to repay their okiyas back for the money spent on their food, lodging, kimono, and other tools needed.

There is a great deal of effort and time that is required for being a geisha and not every woman can do this successfully. It is also important to note that some people would confuse geishas with prostitutes. The difference is that geisha’s wear their sash tied in the back, but the prostitutes tied theirs in the front. There are still some geishas practicing in Japan, but they are mostly in the company of the higher social class.

This book is controversial because Iwasaki sued Arthur Golden after the book’s release. According to her, he was supposed to keep her identity a secret and revealed parts of her life that were supposed to remain personal. She felt that he did not accurately portray her life and shamed the geisha profession. Iwasaki published her own book in 2002 titled, Geisha: A Life, to tell her story in her own words.

Whether the story is completely true or not, it is still a very good story that I can always come back to when I want something to read. This is also an award-winning movie.

Closing Chapter 2017

2017, how would I describe you? Where do I even begin? If you’re about to indulge in this article then I ask you to bear with me as I will probably be all over the place, because that’s the type of year 2017 was for me. However, I’ll be sure to keep this short. First thing first, congratulations for surviving yet another year of college, not only surviving but graduating! You did it, you did the thing that you once thought was impossible. Let this be a huge sign for you that anything is possible and who knows in the next few years you might meet Justin Bieber. By the way when that happens it is a must that you come back to update this article with that story.

Okay, let’s begin, as this year come to a close I thought it would be a great idea for you to stroll down memory lane. I’ll start with the good stuff, as I mentioned earlier you finally graduated college! Yes, it took you a year longer but hey you were able to finish what you started. You certainly doubted yourself a lot this year, but every time you doubted your abilities to do something, somehow you came through and achieved it. Also, you made a lot of new friends this year and they’re pretty cool, of course not as cool as you but hey they’ll do. You also bought the cutest puppy he was Brussels griffon and Maltese mix and you named him Walter. However, you returned him after a day, because he cried all night and it was more responsibility than you thought. On this day, you learned that you’re not ready for a pet or kids.
DJ Khaled also tweeted you back after tweeting him on how much you loved his book. Lisa Ling one of your favorite journalists also replied to you on Instagram and gave you some advice on becoming a journalist yourself…that was pretty cool.

Of course, with all the positive stuff there were a few hiccups. In February, you had a surgery that kept you out of school close to six weeks, friendships ended, nevertheless everything worked out. You challenged yourself in ways that now looking back I’m shocked that you survived…good job! I mean, how in the world did you survive this grad class, being the only undergrad was a little intimidating at first, but everyone was so nice and welcoming so shout out to the COMM 501 research methods class. Let’s see, what else, oh yeah remember that ulcer that you had on your uvula (the dangly ball thing at the back of everyone’s throat) yeah that was painful! However, you got a new doctor that look just like Matthew McConaughey, curly hair like Screech from Save By the Bell, and his eye color was similar to Ellen DeGeneres. Anyways, you also contributed articles to TAMUT’s online digital newspaper. That newswriting course taught me a lot and I think my writing is slowly but surely getting better considering you’ve always thought of yourself as weak writer.

Okay, I said I would keep this short so I’ll end it here. In conclusion, the thing I learned most from this year was to live in the present moment and take things day by day. I learned to not doubt myself so much. Some friendships will eventually fade and lastly, you’ve become a bit wiser too. Keep up the good work and continue to challenge yourself in 2018, I think you’ll be amazed at what you can do when giving up isn’t an option.

Food Myths: The Truth Behind Diet Soda

Let’s begin with this quote. “I don’t believe in ‘diet’ sodas. Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke are still sodas. If you’re on a diet, why are you drinking soda?” I am going to go out on a limb and say that most Americans are not nutrition experts. So, when we hear of a new fad, trend, or see a label proclaiming ‘DIET’ on the front, we tend to automatically assume that product is the better choice. It is no surprise that when someone decides to tackle a diet, they switch from normal soda to diet soda, thinking it will be the healthier option. However, like the above quote states, soda is soda. Not only is diet soda not the “healthier” option of the two, but the effects can also be worse.

The main reason people switch over to diet soda is because of the calorie count. The less calories the better, right? Why waste 140 calories on a can of soda when you could still have a soda with 0 calories and put that 140 towards something more nutritious? The problem is, to have zero calories, real sugars are replaced with artificial sweeteners like aspartame.

Studies show that these artificial sweeteners tend to have the same effect on our bodies as real sugar. In a study done by RD Brooke Alpert, she found that “Artificial sweeteners trigger insulin, which sends your body into fat storage mode and leads to weight gain.” There was also a study done by the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. They compared diet soda users to non-users and discovered a 70% increases in waist circumference in those who drank the soda. Even more shocking, there was a 500% increase in those who had 2 or more a day. The average waistline increase was 3 inches in 4 years. While you may not be taking in any calories, you’re not drinking something that benefits your body in a good way either. If you want a non-caloric beverage, try sticking with water.

Not only does diet soda cause weight gain, but it is also extremely acidic. It is even more acidic than just a regular soda. We know that too much acid in our system can disrupt the balance of our intestines and destroy important gut flora. This leads to some not so fun side effects such as acid reflux.

Finally, is metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association did a study over diet soda consumption and the results should leave everyone hesitant when making the final decision on whether to drink one. Results of the study showed daily consumption of diet soda was associated with a 36% greater relative risk of incident metabolic syndrome and a 67% greater relative risk of incident type 2 diabetes compared with non-consumption (HR 1.36 [95% CI 1.11–1.66] for metabolic syndrome and 1.67 [1.27–2.20] for type 2 diabetes). This shows that caution needs to be taken when consuming these beverages. Metabolic syndrome can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. It can also lead to increased belly fat, which we already know is an effect of diet soda, and high cholesterol.

If you are trying to make the decision between diet or non-diet, you can now clearly see that just a regular soda is the way to go. Diet soda causes weight gain, high acid levels, and increases your risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes.  However, if you are serious about trying to have a healthier lifestyle or lose weight, no soda is a good option too. Remember, there is nothing “diet” about diet soda.

Monster Hunter World PS4 Beta Ongoing

If you’re looking to take a quick breather from finals, how about taking some time to slay giant monsters?

Monster Hunter World is an upcoming action adventure game being developed by Capcom. It’s the next entry in a long-standing series about hunting down and defeating giant creatures which is now seeing its way to consoles – and is available to play now as a beta!

The Monster Hunter World beta is divided into three missions where you’re tasked with hunting down a monster of Easy, Medium or Hard difficulty alone or with friends. You’ll track and fight these creatures in ever-evolving boss battles across two stages from the full game – the Ancient Forest and Wildspire Wastes, pictured above. These stages also contain an Apex Predator monster, something you’d normally fight in its own mission which is instead just roaming the three missions available to be tackled as an optional boss.

None of these monsters are to be underestimated though – they’re fierce and unique, with styles of attack and characteristics unique to them that change the fight. An example is the above pictured Barroth, a monster with a rock-hard skull who coats itself in mud and muck as a sort of outer shell or armor.

You’ll be fighting these monsters using a plethora of tools and a wide array of weapon types to choose from, ranging from long-range options such as the Bow or Heavy Bowgun to more melee centered options such as the Longsword or Insect Glaive.

The beta is available to download on PS4 right now and the beta will last until 11AM Tuesday (12/12/17). Better get hunting!

Hidden Secrets in New Ready Player One Trailer

The recently released trailer for Ready Player One packs some nice pop culture references! Here’s the trailer:

Ready Player One takes place in a world where the depletion of fossil fuels and global warming have led to a worldwide energy crisis. People now seek refuge from this harsh reality inside a virtual reality world called the OASIS, where anyone can be anybody and do so much more than the real world now allows. It’s founder announced in a postmortem message that he left a treasure within OASIS that when found would award wealth and control of OASIS itself to the person who discovered it.

Much like Wreck-It RalphReady Player One is jam-packed with references to other people in pop-culture, namely games and movies. Here’s a couple I could spot myself:

  • The Iron Giant, from Iron Giant
  • Even more obviously, King Kong is shown
  • For a moment, you can spot Tracer from Overwatch and Chun-Li from Street Fighter

There are surely more I couldn’t spot without rewatching the trailer a dozen times over. Ready Player One releases March 30th, 2018.

LA Noire Review: Devils in the Details

LA Noire is a remastered version of the original 2011 title released by developer Rockstar Games. This action-adventure detective game portrays all the glorious conventions of its namesake, even if it’s still very rough around the edges. You play as Cole Phelps, a veteran of the Okinawa campaign turned police officer turned LAPD detective. You play through many, many cases in Cole’s career through various departments – Traffic, Homicide, Vice and Arson – including all cases from the original release that originally existed separately as pre-order DLC.

Each case feels distinct from the other – although depending on your sleuthing skills, each case isn’t necessarily as satisfying to solve as the last. LA  Noire’s cases play out through two primary ‘phases’ – gathering evidence and interrogating witnesses. Gathering evidence is contextual as Cole navigates crime scenes or locations of interest – your controller vibrates to show you’ve found something. While it isn’t all of value – you can interact with stray liquor bottles irrelevant to the scene itself – Cole’s dialogue about the items that actually are of import to the case conveys a sense of discovery the player is feeling in equal measure.

This evidence is catalogued in Cole’s notebook and used in the other distinct ‘phase’ of LA Noire – the interrogations. This part of LA Noire is what stands out from the rest – the game uses advanced facial mapping to represent real, emoting faces. This means that people look like and act like people, which the game means for you to interpret to properly progress in dialogue. This all works but only to a point – the technology was a little odd even back in 2011 and there are definitely signs of age in the remaster because of how almost experimental this technology was. It makes the other facet of interrogations – choosing how to interpret witness statements – a bit of a chore, and that’s before you factor in the game’s ever-changing logic. In the original release, you had three ways to react to testimony – you could Believe it, Doubt it (if you thought the person was lying but lacked evidence) or call them out on their Lie with gathered evidence. These options exist in the remaster under new names – Good Cop, Bad Cop and Accuse. It’s less a criticism of the remaster as it is the original but it’s very misleading as to which choice is the correct one. You may think because of analyzing the testimony and reading the dialogue that you can only play Bad Cop to a statement but in reality you were supposed to Accuse them and the game wasn’t giving you a clear picture of the situation.

A remaster is ultimately a rerelease of the original game – LA Noire is served well by a fresh coat of paint in the modern gaming era, even if it’s still bogged down by its original issues.

Delicious Dishes- Christmas

It’s that time of year again. Tis’ the season to go home to family members asking what your major is, how long you have until graduation, and the ultimate favorite… are you dating anyone yet? The good news is, these family recipes I’ve gathered will taste so great that your family will be asking for your cooking secrets instead.

Sparkling Holiday Punch – Rebekah Drennon 

  • 32-ounce bottle cranberry juice cocktail, chilled
  • 1 quart orange juice, chilled
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice, chilled
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 bottle dry white wine, chilled (optional)
  • 2 bottles champagne, chilled (optional)
  • Orange slices

Combine juices and sugar until dissolved.

Add wine and pour over ice.

Stir in champagne before serving.

Add orange slices for garnish.

Festive Cranberry Salad – Linda Gordon

  • 2 packages lemon-flavored gelatin
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 4 cups fresh cranberries, ground
  • 1 orange
  • 2 large apples
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Lettuce leaves
  • Mayo or salad dressing

Dissolve gelatin and sugar in boiling water.

Add next 4 ingredients – stir well.

Pour into bundt pan – chill until set.

Un-mold on lettuce leaves.

Fill center with mayo or dressing.

Garnish with orange slices.

Christmas Roast – Bill Gordon

  • 1 shoulder roast
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 sliced onions
  • 5 small red potatoes halved
  • 1/2 cup baby carrots

Brown roast on all sides.

Combine next 6 ingredients.

Add onions and carrots – simmer 2 hours.

Add potatoes – cook 45 min.

Homemade Sugar Cookies – Misty Jones

  • 2 & 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 & 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, stir together flour and baking soda, set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in dry ingredients.

Roll rounded spoonfulls into balls.

Place on un-greased cookie sheet. Cook 8-10 minutes.

Chocolate Mousse – Rachel Drennon

  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Combine morsels and 1 tbsp. sugar in top of double boiler until chocolate melts. Let cool.

Combine egg yolks and vanilla. Stir into chocolate mixture.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy; gradually add 1/4 cup sugar beating until stiff peaks form.

Fold egg white mixture into chocolate mixture. Stir well.

Cover mousse. Chill for one hour.

Christmas Fruit Squares – Linda Gordon

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 & 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup self rising flour, divided
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1/2 pound chopped red candied cherries
  • 1/2 pound chopped candied pineapple
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut

Cream butter and gradually add sugar while beating with electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time. Add 3/4 cup flour. Stir well.

Combine remaining ingredients. Dredge into 1/4 cup flour.

Stir fruit mixture into batter. Spoon into greased and floured square pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour 10 min.

Cool on wire rack and chill before cutting.