About Sara K.

Sara K. is an aromantic asexual from California who has previously lived in Taiwan. She blogs at the notes which do not fit, has previously been a contributor at Manga Bookshelf, and has written guest posts for Hacking Chinese. She enjoys reading, travel, live theatre, learning languages, and gardening.

A Guide to Distinguishing Sinitic Languages by Ear

There are many forms of Chinese, and many of them are not mutually intelligible. For many years (basically until I started studying Mandarin) I wasn’t good at distinguishing the sounds of the various forms of Chinese. It was only through exposure that I learned how to identify forms of Chinese just by hearing it, and I’m still far from perfect. In particular, because I’ve had very little exposure to Shanghainese, I’m still not good at identifying it by sound alone.

Why do I think it is good to be able to distinguish these languages? Because it is one thing to read something like ‘Hakka culture is primarily found in China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia’ or ‘Cantonese is the language of the Punti people‘, and another thing to be able to recognize the languages. Though merely being able to recognize the languages doesn’t make one an expert, I think it is enough to imprint on the mind that these cultures/peoples/languages exist in a way that just reading/hearing the statement ‘these cultures/peoples/languages exist’ cannot.

(Personally, I am embarrassed that, in spite of growing up in a neighborhood with plenty of Cantonese and Mandarin speakers, I learned how to distinguish Cantonese and Mandarin at a much later age than when I learned to distinguish French/Spanish/Italian).

This blog post is a guide to learning what these five Sinitic languages sound like. This blog post is not about trying to understand these languages (which is why I ignore tones).

To start, this helpful video teaches common phrases in each of these five languages. In that video, it’s obvious that these languages are related, yet not mutually intelligible. (That video also refers to Mandarin as “guān​huà​“, which is interesting). Continue reading

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I Have Started Going Through the KonMari Method, Part 3 (Final)

This is continued from Part 2.

Hey, you removed the “(Not Really)” from the title. Does that mean you’ve really started this KonMari nonsense?

Yes, I have definitely started the KonMari path. I have finished selecting which socks, T-shirts, and pants I am going to keep.

How many are you going to keep?

13 pairs of socks, 8 T-shirts, and 5 pairs of pants. But those numbers won’t stay fixed because a) clothes eventually wear out and b) I may choose to add to this collection.

How many of those T-shits are ace T-shirts?

Two of them. I was originally planning to let go of one of them because I didn’t like that it was mostly white, but instead I mixed tara powder and iron sulfate to dye it purple. I like the purple color much better, so I’m keeping it.

This is what the t-shirt looked like before I dyed it.

This is what the t-shirt looks like now.


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I Have (Not Really) Started Going Through the KonMari Method, Part 2

As I said at the beginning of Part 1, one of the early obstacles to doing the KonMari method was figuring out which clothes in my room belonged to me, and which clothes belonged to my mother.

I had vast piles of clothing in my room (writing this sentence in past tense feels very good). 95% of this clothing was clothing I never asked for, never wanted, and if a fairy had come along at any point in my life and offered to make those clothes magically disappear, I would have enthusiastically accepted the offer.
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I Have (Not Really) Started Going Through the KonMari Method, Part 1

Though I haven’t seen Marie Kondo’s Netflix show (I don’t have Netflix), the buzz around the show caused me to read her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I am now in the process of going through the clothing-

YOU REALLY HAVE JOINED MARIE KONDO’S CULT! NOOOOOOOO!

Maybe I have joined, so what?

But it’s a popular hot trend of the type you usually ignore! Especially since it’s from TV!

I think it is cool that I’ve fallen in sync with a hot TV trend for once, albeit almost by accident.

But everybody is overwhelming the thrift stores at once!

The picture is more complicated that than in San Francisco (and I am saddened by the disappearance of the thrift stores in the Mission / SoMa). I do sincerely wish I had discovered the book a month earlier (or possibly years earlier).

But you’re an atheist!

I do not plan to do the part of the KonMari method where I set up a little shrine in my home.

But you’re going to be thanking objects! Inanimate objects!

Ummmm, I was doing that even before I heard of Marie Kondo or any of her work.

Fair point. But before you mostly kept that practice to yourself and told only a few people about it. Now you’re not just going to quietly thank inanimate objects, you’re going to try to push other people in the KonMari cult!

I promise that I will not try to push other people into the KonMari cult. I may talk about the benefits (as well as the negative effects) of the KonMari method, and I may counter criticism when I feel like it, but when people say ‘I don’t want to do the Konmari thing’ I will say ‘cool, then don’t do it.’ Continue reading

Is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up a Book about Ultralight Backpacking?

While I was reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, I was frequently reminded of ideas from ultralight backpacking. And as I follow various discussions of the ‘KonMari’ method online (and offline – no, I didn’t bring it up, other people mentioned it first), a lot of it sounds very similar to the various (and eventually repetitive) discussions around ultralight backpacking.

Here is a quick overview of ultralight backpacking: carrying weight on a long journey on foot, especially if it involves mountains / rough terrain / stream crossings / etc. really sucks. It takes more energy, it makes bodies feel more sore, it reduces mobility/nimbleness, it reduces speed, and generally, nobody wants to carry weight. However, people who are going to spend multiple nights on a trail need to carry some things, such as food, something to keep them warm while they sleep, etc. and since these things generally will not fit into pockets, one needs a backpack to carry these things. In short, weight increases the physical costs of backpacking, and generally people want to only carry things which bring enough value to justify the physical cost.

(Bulk also imposes a cost by taking up more space in a pack, but backpackers are generally more interested in reducing weight than bulk, especially since bulk and weight are often correlated.)

The ‘ultralight’ movement in backpacking got started in the 1990s – the beginning of the movement is often attributed to Ray Jardine. It was possible to reduce the weight of backpacking gear partially because of technological advances, but the main change is that backpackers asked what was really necessary or only being used due to outdoor cultural conventions, and then they systematically went through their gear, asking themselves whether or not they needed everything, whether a lighter thing could serve the same function, and so forth.
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When You Live With the Assumption that Everything Will Have to Go

I recently read the popular book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Kondo Marie-

Oh no, don’t tell me that you’re joining the Konmari cult!

Why would it matter whether or not I am joining the Konmari cult?

Because if you join the cult, you’ll repeatedly use the phrase ‘spark joy’. Are you going to do that?

No, especially since I suspect that it is an imperfect translation of the Japanese word tokimoku anyway (just as this comment claims that the English verb ‘tidy up’ does not quite convey the Japanese cultural concept Kondo Marie wrote a whole book about). I’m willing to completely avoid the phrase ‘spark joy’.

Phew.

I suspect the real reason this book is such a bestseller is that it is fun to read. Even if you have zero interest in tidying up your own space, it is worth reading for the humor. Kondo Marie has visited hundreds of messy homes and offices; she has anecdotes.

However, this book did not just make me laugh; it also prompted me to think about my life in Taiwan (as well as ultralight backpacking philosophy, but that is for a different blog post).
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7-Year Anniversary Post: How This Blog Changed My Brain

You may notice that the subheading for this blog is ‘thoughts I do not want to keep in my head’ (if you do not notice it, examine what the top of the browser says). This is related to one of the reasons I started this blog seven years ago.

Yes, I started this blog exactly seven years ago. This is a bloggerversary post.

Seven years ago, I was aware that my internal monologue – the constant stream of words I say to myself in my mind – was very active, and I thought it would be nice if it would be less active. I thought, maybe if I started a blog and wrote down some of these ideas which preoccupied my internal monologue, I would be able to let go of some of these thoughts, and my mind would become less verbose.

It did not work out that way.
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