Thursday, October 1, 2015

The thing about Japanese Toilets

Ok, I know, this might be a strange starting point for sharing my experiences in Japan. But I still have a pile of photos and videos to sort through and organize into something I would call 'good content', rather than just mass upload pictures from my phone.

If you are insatiably curious for a taste of Japanese non-bathroom related culture, you can check out the mini photo collages I posted during my trip on my Instagram account, @turner_sr

But until then, let's talk toilets.

First of all, at many points during my trip I thought to myself, I really need to take a picture of that toilet, but I always refrained from it because, I donno, taking pictures of toilets seems weird. But now I kind of regret not doing it.

I encountered three types of toilet on my trip, in separate locations, and in the instance of the public bathrooms of Narita International Airport, all three types at once. Thank god for airports and choices.

Narita airport was in fact the only point in the trip where I encountered regular old fashioned western toilets, much to my happiness. It was comforting to be able to pee without the awkward toilet anxiety of the past 10 days.

For the toilet weary traveler. A bathroom stall marked with a symbol like this probably indicates a western style toilet.

Now I sure you have all heard of the crazy Techno-Toilets of Tokyo (which would probably make a good band name or something). And the majority of the toilets I encountered were variations on this theme.

If you see the picture of the regular toilet, alongside the picture of the butt fountain, then elaborate toilet technology awaits you. And you should proceed with caution. Because if you think they have a thing for bidets in France, that's only because you haven't been to Japan.

I had heard enough horror stories about toilets spraying water sky high while flashing lights and singing songs before arriving in Japan to make me avoid pressing any of the many buttons on or around my toilets there.

Here's a sample of the kind of options you might see.

And as I didn't take any toilet pictures myself, I borrowed this one from Alaska Girl At Heart's visit to Narita. But you can see that the functionality is exceedingly complex... it also raises a conundrum for me.

You notice the blue 'Butt Fountain' button, when labeled in English it is called spray. The pink button, with the person (although more often than not it featured a woman) is labeled bidet. These two buttons were always colour co-ordinated blue and pink. Making me think, one is for girls and one is for boys.

Which in turn makes me think that the 'Butt' portion of the 'Butt Fountain' is not a butt at all, but something rather more (in the words of Jenna Marbles) Ball-Sac-ier.

Which then brings me to the conundrum of why they used this symbol to label the techno toilets in the women's bathroom at the airport?

Beyond me.

Anyways, lets get back on track, I never touched any of these buttons, preferring my toilets to be as inanimate  as possible, but that still doesn't mean I wasn't subjected to advance toilet functions against my will.

The first time I actually settled my wait onto a Japanese toilet (preferring of course to hover over strange toilets), I immediately launched myself back off of it. Because the seat itself activates a function, and in my moment of fear, surely the toilet was about to come to life. Turns out, sitting down on the toilets just turns on a flow of water into the bowl, for some reason.

But still, moment of terror.

Also, some of the toilet seats were heated. Which when you have a hotel room all to yourself, gives you the creepy sense that someone other than you was just sitting on your toilet (#toiletghosts).

Finally, I was bemused to see that in places with high incidences of foreign tourists (hotel lobby bathrooms in particular) the bathroom stalls all featured an emergency help button. I can only assume these buttons were installed in response to confused tourists flooding the bathrooms when they inadvertently turned the sprayers on when looking for the flush. Pro-tip, the flush may be located on the wall, far away from the toilet.

Now if that was not enough strange for you, I'd like to introduce you to the third style of toilet I encountered in Japan.

If the symbol looks like this.

This is what you can expect.

Oh yeah. And in some places, like the University Hospital Research building in Nagoya, this was the only option.

Yes I was in the women's bathroom. I double checked.

I can tell you one thing, I was really happy to see my crazy techno toilet when I got back to my hotel that night.

And that my friends is how you write over 860 words about toilets...which should tell you a thing or two about just how lasting an impression they left on me.

Thoughts from October 1 AM

I've been awake for 23 hours y'all.

I want to say y'all there because I'm reading Jenny Lawson's new book, 'Furiously Happy', and as she's from West Texas, I, as a Canadian, naturally imagine that 'Y'all' would be a thing she would say. Despite copious evidence from her books and blogs to indicate otherwise.

Wait... I googled it.... she totally says 'y'all'...y'all. (I couldn't help myself, apparently when I'm sleep deprived I think I'm funny.)

Anyways, I wrote about her when I read her first book (the first time) and how it left me feeling inspired to write more, and write my own one day. (post here). And again I am certainly overwhelmed with that feeling, but not yet. 

Although I really do have an idea that's been percolating for about a year in my brain.

Ironic word choice since I don't drink coffee.

Even more irony then that I am awake at now 2:00 am.

24 hours Y'all!

So let's bring this round circle. Right now I've got the Bloggess on my mind not only because I'm reading her new book, but because in said book she talks about struggles with insomnia. And hello, 24 hours awake (which I know doesn't even remotely compare, but I'm feeling a little kindred right now).

Also she talks about a trip she took to Japan. And I literally was just there! I mean I got back yesterday... wait technically it's Thursday now... I got back on Tuesday.

Also she talks about the seriously strange things going on with the toilets in Japan... and that my friends is a post for tomorrow.....or maybe I really just mean later today?

Anyways. The point I'm trying to get to, (you see my thought process above has all been very clear and linear to this point) is that I'm going to write more.

So thanks for the motivation Jenny. Now I'm off to tweet this post at you, so I can imagine we are internet friends or something.

Really I need to go to sleep.


Related side note.

I bought one of those fancy wake up light alarm clocks today, and I am super excited to try it out. The idea is that it starts getting brighter a half hour before your alarm to mimic sunrise (important here in Calgary since we've entered the season of crappily short days) and then you wake up all magical and relaxed and refreshed.

And I'm assuming feeling like Cinderella when her bird and mice friends sign her awake.

Not sure how refreshed I'll be when it starts it's thing in 4 hours yeah, more feedback on this to follow.


And before I forget, please go buy and read Jenny's books. They are wildly hilarious, incredibly honest, and whether or not you've ever struggled with depression, anxiety, mental health etc., I promise you will find something in her to relate to.

Also, holy crap! It's October already. Frig this year is flying by!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Netflix Canada Movie Review: Camp X-Ray

I watch a lot of movies on Netflix...probably too many. But you can be certain I'm getting my 8 dollars a month worth.

Tonight I watched Camp X-Ray.

I had hesitated over watching this movie a couple of times in the past, mainly because of Kristen Stewart, and the topic, her being a prison guard at Guantanamo Bay (not a light topic, so not the movie of choice when you're looking for a comedy, that's for sure).

And having watched it, I'm quite glad I did.

First of all. Kristen Stewart, who's face I previously associated only with the emotionless, bored expressions she wore throughout the Twilight films, has really come into her own. She manages quite the performance in this movie which is centered on he year working at the infamous Gitmo. But rather than making the movie all about the controversy surrounding the detention facility, it instead uses it as a backdrop for a touching story of connection.

Mainly between Stewart and detainee, Ali Amir, played superbly by actor Peyman Moaadi. The scenes between the two, Stewart learns to see through the cell door at a very real human being on the other side, are surprisingly moving. And use of Amir's desire to finally read the 7th Harry Potter book, quickly brings the audience around to his side too. Showing us that whether he may or may not be guilty of crimes or 'terrorism', he's still just a person.

"Two years. Imaging, two years I'm asking you guys to give me this last book. You know what happens at the end of book six? No. I... you know, you know, me, always, always thinking that Snape is a bad guy, okay? Then I was thinking, no, actually, he is not a bad guy... he is the good guy. Then after I read the book six, I don't know what to think now.
You know what? I think you guys don't have the last Harry Potter on purpose. You like to drive us crazy. But I'm not going crazy."

 After this first exchange between Stewart and Moaadi, suggesting that giving the detainees the first 6 but not finale book of the Harry Potter series, I was hooked on the movie. And all the while Moaadi taught Stewart to look at him in a new light, I began to look at her in a new light. So perhaps I can stop thinking of her as just the stupid Twilight girl, and maybe as a serious actress.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Market Collective's 7th Anniversary August 28-30 2015

Do you have any plans for this weekend yet?

Why not come down to the East Village and celebrate Market Collective's 7th Anniversary.

What's Market Collective you say? Well you could just watch the video below. Or if you feel like reading, in short, it's an independent market intended to support local artisans and community building through the arts.

I stumbled across the market on Instagram a few months back, and have been volunteering at it since then. Because volunteering lets me go there and take in all of the artsy goodness, without shopping myself broke.

And I will be volunteering there again this Friday and Saturday, serving up local craft beer at one of 4 bars at this weekend's market.

That's right, I said beer, and bar.

This weekend is the 7th Anniversary market, so they are stepping out of their usual Chinese Cultural Center and heading down to the East Village River Walk. They'll have a main tent, featuring over 100 local artisans, pretty much all of Calgary's food trucks will be there. There will be two stages, one featuring DJs and one featuring bands, and 4 bar areas, although the whole market is liquor licensed, so you can grab a beer and enjoy it while you shop. There's also a photoboth, and a bicycle scavenger hunt.

Pretty flipping awesome sounding isn't it? And admission to the market is only $5 (and is good for the whole weekend in case you need to come back and shop some more).

At the last  market in July, I brought my camera to my volunteer shift, and did a walk around.

And if you think that video is jam pack full of pinterest worthy goods, just wait for the much larger market this weekend.

So if you're not convinced, here's 5 great reasons to attend Market Collective.

1) How often do you get to order craft beer, riverside, and then fill up on some of Calgary's best food trucks food?

2) When else does $5 dollars get you live music, all weekend long.

3) As much as I hate to say it, my friend Lisa pointed out we are 4 months away from Xmas today, so why not get a head start on gift shopping, while supporting local artisans?

4) Men, I cannot stress this enough, visiting Market Collective is absolutely the best date idea ever, so call that girl you've been texting back and forth all week and invite her to the market this weekend. You can thank me later.

5) Even if you are on a budget, go there and shop with your eyes, chat with the artists, Instagram your favourite vendors, and maybe find a little extra creativity in your own life, and then go home and spray paint something gold and neon!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Don't be a D.N.B. , UFC, Ronda Rousey and My Fight/Your Fight

Have you seen this yet? Ronda, my favourite fighter/athelete/kicker of asses..... well actually she's more of an arm bar kind of girl, has coined the term "Don't Be a DNB" or Do Nothing B!tch.

Here's the backstory, in her own voice (mind the curse words).

So a little about my obsession (you might call it that) with Ronda Rousey. Once upon a time I rejected even the idea of MMA, from an outside perspective it just seemed like men beating each other senseless, in a chain link cage. And if you never watch a full fight night, or get to following any of the athletes, why wouldn't it seem like that. All of the clips and highlights that make it onto mainstream media are going to be selected for the most impact factor. Which in this case means the most blood.

So me from 5 years ago, arguing with my brother about why it UFC was just brutal, appealing to the audience's desire to see anything fight, is a far cry from the me who last month cheered her head off for Canadian Rory MacDonald in his rematch against Robbie Lawler, arguably one of the bloodiest, and best, fights in UFA history.

So how did I pull such a 180? Well two things contributed. 1, Kevin is arguably the biggest MMA superfan ever.... seriously, I mean he doesn't read my blog, but I'm pretty sure he reads every mma blog, watches podcasts, and any time he has a minute to kill, mmajunkie is loaded up on his phone.

So you just can't spend as much time as I do with Kevin without having some of that enthusiasm rub off on you. Not to mention that there is a fight night just about every other weekend, and we inevitably end up at Jamesons watching them.

The second thing that brought me around on MMA? Ronda Rousey, The first time I watched her fight was the much hyped Title defense against Miesha Tate, which she won handily in under a minute by arm bar.  And Kevin filled me in on some of her details, apart from being a totally gorgeous bad-ass, she was an Olympic Bronze Medalist in Judo before sweeping the MMA world by storm. Coming into this fight she had 7 professional wins, all by arm bar, and no losses.

Intrigued, I followed her twitter and instagram, and insisted to Kevin that we watch all of her future fights. And I'm glad I did, over her next 4 fights she diversified, with to KOs, a TKO and only one submission via arm bar. None of these fights lasted longer that a minute and 6 seconds, demonstrating just how far above these other fighters Ronda stands.

So there's no surprise that she was ESPYs best female athlete of the year in 2014 and 2015, and ESPYs Best Fighter of the Year in 2015, winning this over Flyod Mayweather, who incidentally said of Rousey, "I don't know who he is." Really? I doubt it.

Not to mention, that in between all her training and fights, she's had roles in Expendables 3 and the Entourage Movie, and in both roles I'd say  Ronda showed she was capable of holding her own on the big screen as well.

So continuing my obsession, I picked up a copy of her book this summer, My Fight/Your Fight, and I devoured it in about 3 days. This is a book that, regardless of whether you give a crap about fighting or MMA, every woman should read. It's full of lessons and Ronda's day to day example of working for what you want in life, and never letting anything hold you back.  The book is well written, which is no surprise as it's co-authored by Ronda's sister, writer Maria Burns Ortiz. Plus it's chuck full of great photography by Eric Williams, and each chapter is headed by lessons or words of wisdom from Ronda's mother.

Surprisingly real and relatable, the book takes your through Ronda's early childhood difficultly in learning to speak, the tragic loss of her father at 8 years old, her path to the Olympics 2004 at 17 and her Bronze medal in 2008. Along the way she battles body image issues, and some really terrible boyfriends, money problems and struggling with purpose before taking on the MMA world in 2010, and proving UFC President Dana White wrong when in 2011 he said Women would never fight in the UFC.

Overall, Ronda is just a shining example for hard work and determination, for never letting your gender hold you back and breaking stereotypes about the kinds of strength women can have.  So read the book, watch her fight again in January at UFC 195, and follow her advice and Don't be a DNB.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

SeaWheeze 2015 - Best yet or Biggest Bust?

This past weekend, runners flocked from all around the world to Vancouver to take part in Lululemon's 4th annual SeaWheeze, and this year, I didn't.

You can read about my first half marathon at the 2013 SeaWheeze here.

And my repeat performance at the 2014 race here.

If you read those two posts, you'll see that clearly I loved my time at both races, even despite chafed thighs and blistered heels. Plus throw in some post run heat stroke.

And clearly I love just about everything to do with Lululemon.

Plus why not go for a three-peat?

Well I made my decision not to run the 2015 race shortly after crossing the 2014 finish line. And why?

Well because registration for the August 16 race went on sale almost a full year earlier on Sept 10.

Based on my experience registering for the 2014 race, I assumed correctly that registering would be a nightmare of wait screens and long loading times. If I was lucky to get through and purchase a spot (at the non-trivial price of $128 dollars) before all 10015 spots sold out (which they did in less than 8 hours), I'd have to commit myself to traveling to Vancouver for the race weekend a year later.

Turns out I was right to assume it was better not to commit to something like a race so far in advance, as I ended up invited to a wedding for that same weekend, 4 provinces in the wrong direction.

However, for  2374 people who paid there $128 dollar dues, turns out they may have committed too soon. All they have to show for it? A pair of limited edition shorts mailed out a couple months before race day.

That's right, according race results posted at, only 7641 people embarked on the race this weekend.  That's down by nearly 600 from 2014, and by over 2500 from 2013.  For comparison's sake the 2014 race registration opened (or tried to) in January, as did the 2013 registration, although it didn't sell out until a month later.

You see, for a race targeted at young women, registering 6 months before race day is probably reasonable. That far out, you likely have received save the dates for weddings you want to attend, any major vacations are if not planned at least in the works, and you should probably know whether you're not going to be 8 or 9 months pregnant on race day.

Plus 6 months out, in chilly January, is enough time before race day to get you but off the couch and start a running plan, but not so far in advance that you will be over the idea of running such a long distance before race day.

So it's no surprise that so many runners just didn't make it to the starting line on race day. With 11 months between registration and race day, that's plenty of time for some pretty legit reasons to not run to pop up, and that's before you factor in sheer laziness.

And furthermore, it's not surprising that Lulu is holding off on announcing registration for the 2016 race. With race day attendance dropping at this rate, they may need to shake things up.

But will they really?

Let's look at it from a business perspective. Lululemon essentially managed to sell a $54 pair of shorts to 2374 people for $128 bucks. Meanwhile, an event staffed and prepped for 10,015 people, only needing to serve a little over 3/4 of that, well you can damn sure bet those runners who did attend had a better experience than if all the race day line-ups were 25% longer. So surely they all went home raving about the SeaWheeze.

Maybe Lulu should just ride the hype of this years race (like they did last year), to sell out next year's registration spots (which have I mentioned? Are non-transferable/or refundable), as soon as possible. With any luck, only 5000 runners will actually make it to the race course.

Wonder what they did will all those left-over finishers medals? Maybe they ended up on eBay, along with the contents of the "exclusive" SeaWheeze pop-up store.

Yep, there they are now.

At the end of the day tho, I do really wish I could have run this year, the race day/weekend in fact is a blast. So who knows, maybe next year things will pan out differently and I'll run. One's things for sure, I won't be registering, and then not attending, and then paying some $40 - 150 (seriously if someone buys that one I'll die!) for a medal so I can make pretend that I did.

Until then, I'll leave you with some of that addictive Lulu crack that we all know and love, here's this year's SeaWheeze Race recap!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Calgary Hail Storm August 2015

I had really short sleeps the last two nights, so when I finished up what I was working on in the lab today around 2, I thought maybe I should head home early and have a nap.

I'm really glad I did,  because the 5PM commute was interrupted today by a massive hail and thunderstorm, flooding streets, damaging vehicles and leaving many without power.

Me? I was rudely awoken from my nap by a freakishly large bomb of thunder. And I say bomb, because in my sleepish state I woke out of bed to rush to the window to see what happened. Only to see clear skies, with a wall of grey on the horizon and moving fast. Moments later I heard my landlord shouting at someone to move their car quick.

Then the rain came in sideways. After rushing downstairs to late to move my car without getting soaked by rain and pummeled by hail, I grabbed my camera and filmed a little bit of the storm.

Hopefully all of you guys here in Alberta stayed safe and dry.