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.

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!

Windows Mixed Reality (VR) Demos in Shreveport!

Looking to try out some new technology this holiday season? Here’s a suggestion – come get a demo from me of the new Windows Mixed Reality headset in Shreveport!

What? The Windows Mixed Reality headset is Microsoft’s own entry into the field of Virtual Reality (VR) technology. It’s been out since mid October and I’ve had the pleasure of demoing it for customers since! To go into detail here would detract from the demo but allow me to leave you with a slightly better idea of the system – Windows Mixed Reality is a VR headset designed to interact with your Windows 10 PC for a more accessible, more valuable VR experience.

Where? At the Best Buy at 7080 Youree Dr, Shreveport, LA 71105. That is unfortunately a full hour and a half from the Texas A&M campus so I’d suggest planning a day out in Shreveport with visiting the store at some point in mind – the demo’s about 7-10 minutes of time with the headset.

When? Here’s my schedule in store:

  • Wednesday: 5PM – 9PM
  • Thursday: 5PM – 9PM
  • Friday: 12PM – 9PM (Out for lunch between 4PM and 5PM, roughly)
  • Saturday: 11AM – 8PM (Out for lunch between 3PM and 4PM, roughly)
  • Sunday: 11AM – 8PM (Out for lunch between 3PM and 4PM, roughly)

This schedule continues until 8PM December 31st, at which point my job (as it is contracted) ends. There’s no word on if I’ll continue afterward or if it would be at the same store so you’ve got the next three weeks to decide if you’d like to stop by!

How? Easy – just come to the store and find me in the Windows department on the right hand side. I will be hanging around that area and I’ll be the only one in a Microsoft uniform – so feel free to flag me down!

Demos are first come first served – especially considering the drive to Shreveport from Texarkana (and I should know – I make that drive twice a day, four days a week!), I’d recommend earlier in the day and not later.

Of note, however, is that you’ll need to sign a waiver before putting this headset on and the powers that be use this to create an age restriction – Anyone under 13 cannot be demoed and anyone under 18 needs a Parent or Guardian signature in addition to their own.

That’s all you really need to know – anything other than that, I’d rather tell you in person. If you do stop by, I’ll be happy to run you through the demo – although as a favor to me, let me know you’re from Texarkana and saw this story when you stop by! I don’t post this expecting a large showing but it’d be pretty neat to know you’re a reader of the newsletter.

PlayStation Plus vs Xbox Live Gold December 2017

Xbox and PlayStation have been competitors since 2002. The evolution of the systems has come to modern-day online services so you can play against your friends. You not only pay a monthly fee to play online but you also receive a couple of monthly games for free. The question is:  which one is better?

This month on PlayStation:

PS4

  • Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition
  • Kung Fu Panda Showdown of Legendary Legends

PS3

  • Xblaze Lost: Memories
  • Syberia Collection

This month on Xbox:

Xbox One

  • Warhammer: End Times – Verminitide (December 1 – December 31)
  • Tales From the Borderlands (through December 15)
  • Back to the Future: The Game – 30th Anniversary Edition (December 16 – January 15)

Xbox 360 

  • Child of Eden (December 1 – December 15)
  • Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death (December 16 – December 31)

Both consoles offer great game but PlayStation only offers two. Another downfall is that once your PlayStation Plus subscription expires, you are no longer able to play the games you got free. Xbox allows you to keep and those games for as long as you want, even when your subscription expires. Xbox also has backward compatibility where you can play Xbox 360 games on your Xbox One.

When I first got my Xbox One, I was able to download Xbox 360 games I got for free with Gold years ago. As an owner of both consoles, Xbox Live Gold is overall the better buy.  If you buy a console this holiday season, you might want to keep these things in mind.

 

The Keys

If you’re looking for a good motivational read then this book is for you. The Keys by DJ Khaled is a self-help that offer five major keys to being successful. Khaled breaks down how he overcame hardships and turned his passion into a career. Most people spend most of their life searching for what it is they were meant to do in this lifetime. How is one supposed to know what their purpose is? When you find it how is one supposed to achieve it? One of the things I enjoyed about this book is that Khaled show us what to do when you run into certain road blocks.

“Patience really is a talent. Sometimes when you see your vision so clearly, it’s challenging not to just want to rush the next win. I always say timing is everything, meaning as in, there’s a right time for everything, so patience is important. My patience has been tested at every step of the way to see the level of success I’ve seen, and I know in my heart that really big wins take years.” –Dj Khaled

One of the five major keys that Khaled mentions is Stay Away from “they,” who is “they” you might ask, let me explain. “They” is just a simple word for negative people or the haters, if you want to accomplish anything in life getting away from negative Nancy is a start. Like Steve Harvey says, “Stop telling your dreams to small minded people.” Khaled says, “as long as you stay away from “they” you will prosper,” sounds simple enough, right? There will be people in life that will tell you that thing that set your soul on fire is impossible or you’re not capable or worthy of certain things…don’t listen to “they.”

“They want to put you in to a box or put limits on you, so make sure your vision is so huge that it destroys the box and those limits.” (page 71)

There’s a section in which Khaled mentions the importance of being yourself and that section my friend touched my soul. Sometimes it can be hard to be the “black sheep” especially when you are living in a world where people are hesitant about accepting anyone not following the social norm. However, the thing you have to remember is that you are unique and no one can do the things the way you do it.

“Being yourself is power. In some ways, of all the major keys, it’s the most important key. But it’s the hardest to master. It’s the one you have to keep working at as life goes on, and it’s the one that leads to the others. Ignoring who you are will eat at you. When you live life by what other people want from you, you aren’t really living.” (Page 21)

I highly recommend this book to anyone that feel stuck or need that little bit of a boost to keep you going. The four other major keys he talks about:

Secure the Bag
• Respect the Code
• Believe in the Hustle
• Win, Win, Win no Matter What

Within each of these major keys he offers other life lessons that are beneficial to a person’s life. There’s a possibility that you’re scratching your head trying to figure out what these major keys mean…well I guess you’re just going to have to read the book to find out

Fun Fact: DJ Khaled’s first and last name is Khaled…so yes, his name is Khaled Khaled.

Demon-Haunted PechaKuchas

 

Dr. Rebecca Martindale gave a PechaKucha presentation at the end to give her interpretation of the book.

On Friday December 1, Dr. Rebecca Martindale, Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology, had her students present their PechaKucha presentations over the book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan.

 

“When we first started these presentations, I kind of did it in the middle of the semester and Caleigh started at the beginning. She’s going to do her presentation of The Demon-Haunted World the way most students and faculty would present when they use PowerPoint Presentation,” said Dr. Martindale.

The event began with Caleigh Bailon’s traditional presentation summarizing chapter 1 of the book. She discussed the key points of the chapter and her slides were text-heavy, which is common in many traditional presentations.

“After learning the new method of presentation, it’s kind of gruesome to go back and look at something like this,” Bailon said.

Next, Philip Dorouen explained what a PechaKucha was and how they worked. PechaKuchas are presentations that follow a specific format. 20 images are shown for 20 seconds each and they advance automatically.

“They are a great creative way for students to express themselves,” he said.

The benefit to this presentation style is that it can prevent the speaker from spending too much of their time talking about one part of the presentation. They have to keep speaking to keep up with the presentation and it can shorten a lengthy topic to highlight the main points. You can visit the PechaKucha website for more information and to watch other presentations. He also played the following video for the audience to give them a visual of how this presentation method worked.

“One of the things they do is have PechaKucha nights. It was originally designed by a couple of architects who basically had this philosophy where if you give an architect a microphone, they’ll talk for hours and hours. People all around the world get together in lots of different venues and have PechaKucha nights to talk about whatever they want with this particular format,” said Dr. Martindale.

Abram Garza presented his PechaKucha to summarize chapter 3 of the book.

Abram Garza presented the first PechaKucha of the event to summarize chapter 3: The Man in the Moon and the Face on Mars. This chapter was about pseudo-science and how people tend to believe tales without proof of their validity. He used note cards to aid his presentation because this format relies on images without text. Roslyn Swofford was the last student to present and she summarized chapter 21 of the book.

Dr. Martindale ended the event with her own PechaKucha presenting her interpretation of the book. This particular method made it easier to stay engaged during the presentations. The absence of text put more focus on the presenter and what they were saying, while also providing an interesting visual. Next time you have a presentation for class, try using this method to make your presentations more fun, engaging, and interesting.

Need a Good Book?

Starting in 2015, I got back into reading and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My favorite genre of books to read are motivational/self-help books, because I’m always in the mood for good energy. I also enjoy memoirs/autobiographies, because reading about how someone else overcame hardships remind me that it’s possible for me to. So, I decided to share some of my favorite books for those that enjoy reading or want to start reading.

1. Year of YesShonda Rhimes
This book is one I’m sure I’ll read for a second time and I benefited from it tremendously. For years Rhimes turned down any and everything that was outside of her comfort zone as most of us do. Until one day her sister Deloris whispered six simple words, “you never say yes to anything.” At that moment Rhimes decided to challenge herself for one year to say YES to everything that scared her. With this challenge, she learned so much about herself and the things that scared her ended up producing her biggest accomplishments. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, because that is when you are really living.

2. Write It Down, Make It Happen- Henriette Anne Klauser
This was actually the first book that sparked my obsession with motivational books and the one that I picked up in 2015 when I wanted to get back into reading. This book Klauser discusses how simply writing down your dreams is the first step into making them a reality. There are many stories in this book of how everyday people wrote down their goals and saw things transform into reality right before their eyes. Klauser stressed that by writing down your goals and being clear about them makes you more motivated to want to do them.

3. Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success- Steve Harvey
I don’t even know where to begin about this book. Mr. Harvey, he helps you to find what your calling is. Once you discover that purpose he mentions how to make your passion your career. There’s a few times when Harvey talks about his personal life and how difficult it was to come from nothing to making a huge name for himself. Success don’t come easy, but as long as you work hard, don’t give up, and believe in yourself anything and I mean anything is possible.

4. Jump- Steve Harvey
Yes, I’m mentioning another Steve Harvey book, because when it comes to motivating people he’s perfect. One day after a taping of Family Feud, a game show in which Steve Harvey host he had an encouraging message to the audience. Well, without knowing someone filmed it and uploaded it to the internet and before you know it the video went viral. That video is what prompted him to write this book. This book talks about how nothing extraordinary can come staying in your comfort zone. All the real magic and joy is on the other side. In order to really maximize your full potential and your purpose you have to take that leap of faith and JUMP. He says that when you first jump from that cliff your parachute isn’t going to open right away. In fact, you’re going to get bruised up, scraped by the rocks but eventually your parachute will open, but you can’t be afraid to take that risk. I highly recommend this book for anyone that has been day dreaming about a goal and need that extra push to get started.

5. Life is not an Accident- Jay Williams
Talk about depressing this amazing memoir inspired me in a way that I can never fully put into words. This three-time Duke All-American player and number two pick in the NBA draft ended his career due to a motorcycle accident. Jay Williams the former player for the Chicago Bulls thought he was invincible until one day that came to an end. This book shows how he hit rock bottom and was still able to rise above and change his life around. I think this book also teach a person to always stay humble no matter how much fame or money you have, because there’s always something in life that will remind you being a good person is key.