Sunday, December 31, 2006

Kicking and Screaming - Night at the Museum

Me, again. The book junkie. No surprise that I much prefer reading a book than seeing the movie adaptation of the same.

Case in point, did anyone see Ella Enchanted a couple of years ago? What were they thinking? The book was... well, enchanting. The movie? Not so much.

I really worried that Night at the Museum was going to be the same kind of overstretching, badly-interpreted dreck. I had read the book by Milan Trenc years ago and really enjoyed it so my toes curled when I saw the previews for the movie. The fact that critics seemed to agree with my initial reaction didn't help much.

But, as these things go, the kids wanted to see it, and so I found myself at the theater, an oversized bucket of (ugh!) movie theater popcorn in my lap... laughing. Wow. What a pleasant surprise. They actually did a decent job with this one.

My favorite characters were the cowboy and the roman dude, and of course Robin Williams made a great Teddy Roosevelt. Never did quite get the purpose of the Easter Island head, but the dinosaur bones were great. In all, it wasn't a total waste of celluloid.

I do hope it is not the only movie I get to see while in the States, however...

Saturday, December 30, 2006

TBR Piles

Hi. I'm Gerb and I'm a book junkie.

There. I've admitted it. I don't really want to recover, I'm just saying. Some women collect shoes. I collect books - even though I have very little space for storing them all back in Japan. Whenever I come to the States, I end up lugging back a suitcase full of books, and my To-Be-Read pile grows while my bookshelves overflow.

I've been feeding the addiction while on vacation, catching up on finding books by authors from my online groups. In case anyone is looking for great YA reads, let me give you a few titles to check out:

Adios to my Old Life by Barbara Ferrer
I Was a Teenage Popcicle by Bev Rosenbaum
Stake That by Marianne Mancusi (but first you should read Boys that Bite.)
The Salem Witch Tryouts by Kelly McClymer
Golden by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
and definitely
I'd Tell You I Love You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

And when you're done with those, come back here and I'm sure I'll have another list for you in a few weeks! :)

Toliver, Toliver

The fun never ends. On the 19th I met up with Wendy Toliver, who I met on one of my author's online groups. She said my blog entry would sound something like this; "So this Wendy chick yakked my ear off..."

Not even.

I had a great time. Wendy's a fellow author, and you know how I love to talk books. Besides, she's smart and fun and has some great things brewing. That's right! Be watching right here 'cause I'd love to announce some great news for her in the very near future...

Wendy, great meeting you!

Vic and Nikki

No, this is not the title of my next book...

This morning, I met with Vic Method, from Women's Ski Jumping, USA, and Nikki Stone, Olympic Medalist and all-around cool person.

For those of you who are new to the blog, Vic was my contact person from WSJUSA and very helpful in coordinating meetings and invitations and gathering information as I was working on SASS: THE FINNISH LINE. He's been up on the front lines, fighting for a women's ski jump event at the Olympics.

Nikki is working on an exciting book project, which I won't reveal details about at this point, though I will say, it will be worth watching for and grabbing a copy for your bookshelves!

Why I love Utah

I'm writing to you from beautiful Park City, Utah, where the kids and I are on vacation. This is the view from our front window (above) and Mount Timpanogos (below.) *sigh* It's perfect. If you have never been to Utah, you are really missing out. The mountains are breathtaking.

Happy getting-ready-for-the-holidays, everyone!

The Day the (ex) President Came to School

Guess who came to our school the other day? (Okay, so I sort of gave it away with the title, but...) yes! George Herbert Walker Bush and former first lady, Barbara Bush.

Politics aside, it was really cool. Former President Bush walked around the grade school shaking hands with the kids...

"Wow, there are a lot of kids out there. Do you think any of them are Republican?"

...and then spoke at an assembly for the middle school kids. (I suspect that he avoided a High School audience as there may have been too many pointed questions being asked by the older and more cynical crowd. This tactic was further evidenced by Former President Bush's address, which included a multitude of references to his recent work with Former President Bill Clinton - as if to appease the largely liberal audience. The message was nice, though. He reminded the students at ASIJ that they had been blessed with a lot of opportunities, and that with that came responsibility. He stressed a life of service - in or out of the political arena.)

"When I retired, Mrs. Bush gave me a 'honey-do' list about this long! And then I heard the one Bill got from Hillary was about twice as long. So I said to him, I said, 'hey, Bill, I have an idea to get us out of the house...'"

"...and I said to Georgie, 'you did what???'"

And get this - I was able to give a copy of NOW AND ZEN to the former president and Mrs. Bush. :) Let's see if they read it.

"Good-bye! Thanks for the book, dear!"

Thursday, December 14, 2006

End of the Season Blues

One of the cool discoveries after we moved to Japan was a service called Slingbox. Many of you know what I'm talking about but in case you don't, I'll give you the whirlwind tour. Slingbox is a program that makes it possible for us to watch American TV here, on our computer.

In the States, the slingbox is hooked up to our aunt's TV, and pipes into her computer. By some magical, mystical cyber miracle, we can then watch the programming all the way on this side of the world. We can even change the channel and everything. Kewl. And then we discovered that we could also add Tivo to this handy set-up so now we don't have to get up at like four in the morning to watch the good shows.

Like Veronica Mars. Seriously. I am totally hooked.

But what's up with this short fall season?! I swear I'm going to go into withdrawals. Ditto for Lost. How can they leave me hanging like that?

Here's to a brief winter hiatus and a quick return to the lineup!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Gender Equity and the IOC

I'm still in shock over the IOC's blatant snub of Women's Ski Jumping. What were they thinking?????

There appears to be no clear logic to their decision. "Not enough countries and athletes?" here are 109 athletes from 14 countries actively competing in women's ski jumping at this time. In comparison, when a slot was given for the skeleton event, there were only 15 athletes from 9 countries involved. Bobsled had 30 athletes from a dozen countries. SkiCross, which got the nod this month, reports 35 athletes from 15 countries. What's wrong with this picture?

Another bizarre IOC statement; "This is a new discipline which requires extensive review and committee approvals." Wrong again. Ski jumping is not new. It has been an Olympic sport since 1924... but only for men.

Remind me again which century we are living in?

And what about the 1991 amendment ot the Olympic Charter that mandates that all events added to an Olympic Program must provide competition for men and women? Gee, if your sport was added prior to 1991, you're just out of luck? We don't have to provide gender equity?

This was a supremely stupid move on the part of the IOC.

Their legitimacy has already been called into question after past ethical missteps of some IOC members. Do they really want to wave the old-boy-network flag in our faces again? Our patience is wearing thin.

Some Canadians are questioning how their government can fund construction of a multi-million dollar facility that bans women. It flies in the face of the rights enshrined in the charter as well as Canada's federal and provincial Human Rights Acts.

Sponsors of the Olympics are glancing around nervously. Can they really sponsor an event that does not uphold gender equity in all its events?

Alyssa Johnson, one of the athletes directly affected by this, put it well; "If they get away with this, it diminishes the whole idea about the Olympic Games and fairness and equality."


A Master in our Midst

Yes! Another cool benefit of living near a top international school... Herbie Hancock visited ASIJ this week, offering a Master Class to the Jazz Band and Vocal Jazz groups. (He was in Tokyo on a concert tour.) He graciously opened the auditorium so the rest of us could watch him teach and hear him perform. Have you heard this man play? Wow. I mean it. Wow.

Now check out his website (link above.) Don't you think he kinda looks like a cross between Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington?

Again. Wow.

The Dark Ages

I'm sad, so very sad today. I just found out that the IOC has voted NOT to allow a women's ski jumping event in the 2010 Olympics. The reasononing and "logic" reeks of sexism and politics. When did we lose our focus? Why was this decision not based on the athletes and their ability to perform?

Here is the press release out of Salt Lake:


International Olympic Committee Ruling appears to be out of the “Dark Ages” according to Former Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini

“The recent IOC decision to block women ski jumpers from the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics is blatant discrimination and a stunning move that harkens back to the Dark Ages,” according to Deedee Corradini, the former Mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah and President of Women’s Ski Jumping USA.

The Olympic Charter’s mission is to “encourage support and promotion of women in sport at all levels and structures with a view to implementing the principle of equality of men and women,” said Corradini. “By denying women ski jumpers the right to compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics, the IOC is exhibiting the most clear-cut case of discrimination of women in the Olympics since the reluctance to add women’s marathon in the early 1980’s.”

The world’s second ranked women’s ski jumper, Anette Sagen of Norway, said "I am truly disappointed by the IOC. Worldwide, people are working for equality for women, but the IOC has failed to do that. They have a double standard when it comes to women's ski jumping."

In May 2006, the International Ski Federation (FIS), the governing body for ski jumping, voted 114 to 1 that the women ski jumpers are qualified to compete. Subsequently, they formally requested the IOC add women’s ski jumping to the 2010 Olympics. In addition, the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) and the Canadian Olympic Committee also sent requests to the IOC for inclusion.

"The ladies are ready to compete in the Olympics,” said Fabien Ebenhoch, coach of the Italian Women’s Ski Jumping team and former Austrian coach. “The World Jr. Championships were on a bigger hill than would be used in the Olympics, and the juniors have already done in 2006 what the seniors can do in 2010."

Last year, Influential IOC member and FIS President Gian Franco Kasper told National Public Radio that ski jumping “seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.”

According to the IOC, there are not enough nations and participants to justify addition of the event. However, since 1995 women ski jumpers from over a dozen nations on three continents have been competing on a women’s elite competition circuit. By 2010, women’s ski jumping will have held four World Junior Championships and a World Championship.

In contrast, women’s Ski Cross, which was accepted by the IOC for inclusion in Vancouver 2010, has half the number of athletes, competing in less than half the number of competitions on just one continent.

ZEN is Launched!

It's official. NOW AND ZEN has been launched!

Thanks to super ultra mega cool librarian at ASIJ, Mr. Swist, we celebrated the book at a Book Launch Lunch in the library. We ate pizza, talked about the book and had a great time (at least I did...)

This was extra fun for me because I had based Nori's fictional school on ASIJ and some of the students I know there, but also a little bit scary, for the same reasons. I mean, these people know Japan. If I made any mistakes, they'd be sure to catch them, right?

And you know what? They did.

Well, actually, I caught one of them... you know where Nori has just arrived at Baba and Jiji's house, and Baba tells her to wear her slippers indoors to protect the tatami floors? Well, that's not completely accurate. Most Japanese wear slippers in the house, but would remove them to enter a tatami room.

The other is completely embarassing. I somehow spaced it through writing, rewriting and the entire editing process and wrote that the Hachiko statue is the favorite meeting place in Shinjuku. Um, no. Hachiko Square is located in Shibuya. The entire scene took place in Shibuya. How could I have written Shinjuku?! Unbelievable.

But other than that face-reddening moment, the launch was fantastic. Here I am with the winners of two signed copies of NOW AND ZEN. (Special shout out to my favorite Question Girl!)

Thanks again, Mr. Swist and ASIJ!


One of the cool things about being overseas is the opportunity for travel. In our expat community, taking off every time we have a long weekend or holiday is the norm. This year for Thanksgiving break or family went to Guam.

Guam in November is a beautiful place to be - sunny and warm, which was a nice change from the rain and cold we left behind in Tokyo. Here's the view from our hotel window. *sigh* How could you not love this?

But of course, me being me, I had an ulterior motive for choosing Guam. Last year we visited Saipan, and I became fascinated with the latte stones that are found throughout the Mariana Islands. I had done some research on them while in Saipan and wanted to learn more while we were on Guam. Yes, another story idea brewing. :) The age and mystery surrounding the stones is fascinating. Here is a picture from the Latte Stone Park in Agana.

Guam is also a US territory and houses a large military base (which is about to expand as troops transfer from Okinawa) so we had all the advantages of being Stateside (Wendy's, Taco Bell, ColdStone and the new Bond movie, baby!) PLUS the exotic setting and cool finds such as old circa WWII Japanese tunnels and ancient Chamorro star maps in caves. What could be better than that?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tokyo Writers' Day

I know, I know. I've been slacking off. My bad. Too many things going on and before you know it, the blog's on the back burner and days turn into weeks between posts and you don't quite know what to write to get back into the whole thing.

Until something special comes along and I can't wait to tell about it. Prime example, the SCBWI Tokyo Writers' Day, where I gave a workshop on series books. I presented in - get this - in a tatami room with woven straw mats on the floor (well, yeah - that's what tatami are) and sliding shoji doors. So very cool. We kicked off our shoes and sat on cushions on the floor around a low table and talked YA series fiction. Loved it. There's a certain creative energy in a room full of enthused writers that's intoxicating.

After my workshop, I hung around for the next with the incomparable David Schwartz, who writes exciting math and science books for kids. No, really. Exciting math and science. I'm not kidding. You should hear this guy talk about numbers. I'll freely admit that I'm a mathphobe, but listening to him was like shining a flashlight on the monsters under the bed. There's nothing to be afraid of!

Next, we met Lynne Reid Banks and crew for dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant. So, yes, I was all star struck meeting her. I mean, this is the lady who wrote Broken Bridge, One More River and the famous Indian in the Cupboard books. She's been bigger than life in my mind all these years, and here I was, sitting across the table from her. And guess what? She's so cool! Totally down to earth and funny. She spoke to a full room after dinner, telling about her adventures in the publishing game in her lovely British accent barbed with sharp wit.

Afterwards, David, Annie (a fellow SCBWI member) and Steve Cousins (author of Frankenbug) trained home, navigating Shibuya and crowded Saturday night trains with David's luggage and enormous backpack. Seemed a fitting adventure to cap of an awesome day.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Finland - IMAGES

Digital cameras are the greatest. I can't even imagine how expensive it would have been to pay for the film and developing for all the pictures I took while I was in Finland. I must have looked like a total tourist nut, because I took pictures of absolutely EVERYTHING I found interesting - which was A LOT. I do wish that I could post all the pictures, but alas - bandwidth being what it is, I'll just show you a few of the images I think make up Helsinki's character...

Helsinki is big on statues and sculptures. Some of them, like this near the Esplanade have an almost Socialist feel to them. Very Power-to-the-workers. Others, like this sculpture of composer Jean Sibeleus, celebrate national heroes.

Another Helsinki feature is the Kauppatori, an outdoor marketplace in the harbor. Check out how some vendors just dock their boats to sell their wares.

For us more modern-type shoppers, Helsinki features at least three big malls - Itäkeskus (the largest mall in Scandinavia,) Forum,and Kämp Galleria, in addition to the major department stores, Stockmann's and Sokos. Here are some images of Kämppi - the front courtyard with its sculpture, and an equally artistic-looking interior - looking up from the first floor.

Look at what they have in the post office! These are bars of Fazer chocolate, complete with special cardboard envelopes in which to send them. The idea is that if someone you know is sick or sad or happy or having a birthday or whatever, you can send them a bar of chocolate to let them know you are thinking of them. You gotta love a country that knows the importance of chocolate!

And last, but not least, where else can you see Moose Crossing signs within just a few kilometers of a metropolis?

Only in Finland...

Finland - LAHTI

Once upon a time, I lived in Lahti. I have many fond memories from Lahti - including the tall, handsome Finn who lived in my kerrostalo (apartment building.) My roommates and I cleverly called him Pitkä Mies (Tall Man,) or simply Pitkä (Tall.) He had the bluest eyes and the most gorgeous build, and when he smiled... ahhhh... sorry. Where was I?

Oh, yes. Lahti. One of the other cool things about Lahti were the ski jumps. Lahti is famous for their Sports Centre, which features three tall ski jumps that tower over the city. The first time I ever became interested in ski jumping was in Lahti. You can imagine how excited I was to return to Lahti after all these years and visit the Sports Centre again.

As many of you know, I'm just completing work on my next book, S.A.S.S. - THE FINNISH LINE, which is set in Lahti. It's about a ski jumper from Park City, Utah who studies abroad in Finland, and gets the opportunity to jump in the Lahti Ski Games. I came back to Lahti to make sure I got the feel of the place right, and to visit with a trainer from the Lahti Ski Club, Kathleline Jongeling, who was kind enough to spend time with me to make sure I got the technical parts of the jumping thing right. She even had me climb up onto the ramp on one of the hills so that I could see how a jumper would gauge their takeoff. Thanks, Kata!

To the right is Kata. I was lucky to have met her when I did because she will be returning to Holland in a few weeks to train young jumpers in her homeland.

Here I am to the left in front of the ski jumps. Woo hoo!

This sign outside the hockey arena says "long live Finland." I second that, and add, "Long live Lahti!"

And long live Pitkä, wherever you are...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Finland: IDOLS!

I don't know about you all, but I'm an American Idol groupie. (I like the tryouts because they're just so weird and I like the finals because the stable has been weeded out - if you will pardon the mixed metaphor. Sometimes don't have patience the stuff in between, though...) This past season I was rooting for Elliott and Chris, who were both robbed. ROBBED, I tell you!

Anyhow, I'm pretty sure you know that the Idol craze is not limited to America. More than 30 countries have their own Idols contests, including Finland. They've had two seasons here so far.

One of the finalists last year was Roni Tran Binh Trong, who we had the pleasure of seeing in concert. If you guessed his is not a typical Finnish name, you're right. His heritage is Vietnamese, though he was born in Thailand grew up in Finland. Whatever his background, I just have to say, he was one awesome entertainer. Smooth, mellow voice, very cute, just the right amount of dance moves.

The concert hall in Hyvinkaa was rather small, so it felt like we were getting a personal performance, which was pretty cool. Anna was able to stand right next to the stage and took these photos for me. Here's Anna after the performance with Roni.

Special thanks to Roni for his permission to post these photos on my blog. Best of luck on a long and profitable career!

Saturday, September 30, 2006



That's all I can say. Finland is so cool.

For one thing, it is absolutely stunning in the fall. The birch trees are just changing colors - splashes of bright yellow and red against a backdrop of dark green pines. I'm staying in Hyvinkaa, which is not far from Helsinki. Everywhere I look are trees and rolling hills. It doesn't take me long to remember why I loved Finland so much when I lived here. All of a sudden, nine days does not seem like enough to see everything I want to see. Or to enough to do all the shopping I want to do!

We hit the American Embassy party last night. (My dear friend Sirpa works at the British Embassy and was able to snag an invite.) The grounds are situated so that they look right out over the harbor. It was fantastic. Special shout out to Sam, our marine friend who may not remember us once he is sober, but who provided a bright spot in the evening with his lively conversation. :)

There's a new national anthem here in Finland - "Hard Rock Halleluja" from the metal rock group Lordi who, despite all odds, took top honors in the Eurovision music festival last May. This was the first time Finland brought home the honor so Lordi have become heroes here in their homeland. Finns used to say that hell would freeze before Finland wins Eurovision, so it was appropriate that Lordi, a band who dresses in monster costumes to perform, won (amid protests from some that they were devil worshipers.)

I won't get to see them perform, but I will get to go see Roni Tran Binh Trong tonight. He is a Vietnamese musician who has lived in Finland all his life and who finaled in Finland's Idols contest. How cool is that?

And speaking of Idols, you would not believe the latest idol innovation in Finland - Mobile Karaoke (a common man's idol, they call it.) Funny to think of a karaoke venue that originated not in Japan but right here in Finland. Here's how it works - you dial a certain number to join the mobile karaoke. You sing into your phone. People listen to you and vote. I read a report that this mobile idol contest generated even more call activity than the real Finland Idols contest on television. Whoda thought.

Hokay, so that's it for now. I have to go eat some karjalan piirakka and kerma juusto. More later!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Arrrr, as it were...

Ahoy, me hearties. Are ye all knowin what day it be? Aye, by the powers! 'Tis International Talk Like a Pirate Day. To me way o' thinkin, tis no better time to be discussin yon Pirates movies.

I be what ye might be callin a Johnny Depp groupie, so it wounds me heart to admit I were not pleased wi' the second movie. The first? Aye, that were a fine piece o' work. The writing were tight. The acting superb. Wi' many a flutter o' me heart I awaited the second. But, alas. It were a sorry thing. Me dear Johnny were more a squiffy than a buccanneer. The plot were silly an' all o'er the place. Were it not for the great, grand special effects, Davey Jones, and the Swamp Witch, I'd not ha'e liked it at all, nae, not one wit.

Now, afore ye all want te keehaul me sorry hide, I'll tell ye, I still love Cap'n Jack, saavy? An' I do intend wi' the same fluttering o' me heart to watch the third installment, but there ye ha'e it.

What thought ye? Were Dead Man's Chest as good as the original Pirates?

Happy Day, mateys.

Monday, September 18, 2006

ZEN on the Shelf!

And we have a winner!!! Thanks to GC of Georgetown, TX for the photo. Here is Zen next to another S.A.S.S. book, Heart and Salsa (a very fun read, BTW,) in her local Barnes and Noble.

Being in Japan, I am missing the thrill of being able to look for my book on the shelves so I truly appreciate these sightings. Keep it up!

Sumo guy is on the way!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Gusty Heroine Types

As a writer, one of my jobs is to create characters that readers will want to stick with for an entire book or series of books. These characters must be interesting. Something about them must be special or unique - larger than life. I like to read about these types of people, too. I look for books with gutsy heroines - you know the kind; they face the world head-on. You could throw every obstacle imaginable at them, but they will keep on keeping on. They're strong. They're determined. They're what we wish we could be.

Sometimes, those kind of characters pop up in real life. They're usually not flashy and loud about it, but you can just tell just by looking at them that they are the ones to watch. They're going to take the long road, to face disappointments and set backs and keep standing tall. They're going to lead the way so the rest of us can follow.

The new women members of the US Ski Jumping Team are a prime example of what I'm talking about. For most of their athletic careers, they've faced inequity and ignorance, prejudice and discrimination, but they haven't let it slow them down. They dreamed of a chance to compete on a world stage, even when there was no guarantee it would ever happen. They've shown - and continue to show - a man's world what a woman can do.

You want gusty heroine types? Let me introduce you to a few:

LINDSEY VAN started jumping when she was seven years old, back when the Winter Sports Park in Park City was first built as part of the bid to bring the 2002 Winter Olympics to Salt Lake. Lindsey was hooked, and told her mom she wanted to pursue the sport and compete in 2002. She never stopped working toward that goal, even when it meant moving to Lake Placid to train when the jumps in Park City were being reconstructed for the Olympics. 2002 came and went, and Lindsey never got to compete in the Olympics. There is no women's ski-jumping event, you see. It's the only Olympic sport (along with Nordic combined) wherein women are not included.* Still, Lindsey kept at it. The number two jumper in the entire world, she set her sights on the 2006 Olympics. Stil no inclusion for women. Now the goal is 2010.

One of the first things I noticed about JESSICA JEROME was her sense of humor. Even in the face of a lot of disappointment as far as the Olympics are concerned, she always seems to have a smile on her face. Jessica got a little taste of the Olympics in 2006 as one of only two girl frontrunners for the ski jumping event. (This basically means she jumped the hill before the (male) competitors to test speed, wind, etc. As the number three women's ski jumper in the world, she should have been able to compete, not just forerun, but I digress...) Jessica is a role model for scholar athletes everywhere - managing to maintain top grades even with a tough training and competition schedule. Sports Illustrated listed her as one of 2005's 'Noteworthy Faces in the Crowd.' Interesting, but I contend that hers is a face that stands out from the crowd.

ALISSA JOHNSON has guts. In 2003, she wiped out on the K90 and ended up unconscious with a concussion, missing half the skin on her face. A week later, she tied with Lindsey Van for 2nd place on the K90 jump. Later than season, she had another accident, this one requiring surgery and physical therapy and taking her out of the circuit for five months. But if you think that's hard, try this; in 2006, Alissa traveled to Italy for the 2006 Olympics... but only as a spectator. Her younger brother Anders, who will freely admit Alissa is the better athlete, got to jump in the Olympics, but Alissa couldn't because she is a girl. No stranger to pain, Alissa took it like a pro, cheering for Anders and fielding interviews from the international media without letting bitterness overwhelm her. She continues to train hard and looks forward to Vancouver, where, IOC willing, she will not have to watch from the sidelines.

ABBY HUGHES is another tough cookie. She may be the youngest member of the US Ski Jumping Team, but she's not one to let age - or gender - slow her down. Get this - in 2004, she competed as the only girl on the boys' team. (And helped bring her team a second place finish, I might add. In the girls' division, she placed first.)

BRENNA ELLIS isn't afraid to compete in a guy's world, either. When she first started jumping, Brenna competed in the Nordic combined event, which combines ski jumping with cross country (Nordic) skiing. She was often the only girl among all the boys. And she kicked butt! Check out her smile. This is how I always saw her - smiling. Gotta love the attitude.

Here's to gutsy heroines. May you all live happily ever after. Go Vancouver 2010!

* The reasons for Olympic exclusion are complicated and varied - from the downright silly ("It... seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view") to the misinformed ("there may not be enough interest internationally in women's ski jumping.") The FIS (International Federation of Skiing) recently voted to give women a world class event in 2009, which they needed to have in order to qualify for consideration by the Olympic committee. Now the decision rests in the hands of the IOC, who, one presumes, will be wise enough to bring the Olympics into the twenty-first century and include women in ALL Olympic sports.


Check it out! For the first time ever, women have been named to the US Ski Jumping Team!

This has been a long time coming, and well deserved. I had the opportunity to meet and visit with these athletes while researching for S.A.S.S. - The Finnish Line and I can tell you, they are a focused, personable and very talented group of women. Watching them jump is like watching poetry in motion, if you will excuse the cliche. I'm so pleased to see them get the nod.

For those of you who may not know the scoop, women's ski jumping as a sport has been fighting an uphill battle for recognition and equality. It is the only Olympic sport to exclude women competitors (a situation which will hopefully be remedied in 2010.) These five women, Lindsey Van, Jessica Jerome, Abby Hughes, Alissa Johnson and Brenna Ellis, along with their teammates and the good folks at Women's Ski Jumping, USA, have worked long and hard to jump all the hurdles keeping them from Olympic inclusion. It's good to see a recognition of their efforts by the International Federation of Skiing, who recently voted to give women a world-class event, and by US Ski and Snowboard Association with this action.

Congratulations, team! Go Vancouver 2010!!!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Just had to give a shout out to those of you who have written to me through my website. It's so cool for me to be able to talk with you - especially those who have mentioned that you like NOW AND ZEN. :) Thanks for that.

Others of you tell me that your bookstore didn't have the book on the shelves even though it was listed as in stock. Sorry! I don't understand the complexities of distribution, but if you keep asking, they'll get the message.

Power to the people! :)


Thursday, September 07, 2006

ZEN WATCH! On your mark, get set...

This is it! Release date for NOW AND ZEN. It should hit bookstore shelves TODAY! (Woot! Woot!)

The race is on... let's see who can email me the first digital photo of NOW AND ZEN on the shelf. The first five to do so will receive a fabulous sumo keychain and a signed copy of ZEN.


(Hint: The books will not be shelved under G for Gerber, but S for SASS...)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Monday, Monday

Sometimes we get the opportunity to see things as they really are. To understand a little bit more about places and the people who live there.

Monday was such a day. I had the priveledge of helping the American School host a group of kids from Kabul, Afghanistan. The only thing I knew about Afghanistan is what I saw on the news - and not much of it good. War, poverty, the Taliban hiding about. Not a very happy place.

So it was with great pleasure that I got to meet the extraordinary kids from the MMCC... and to learn how truly ordinary they are. In explanation, MMCC stands for Mobile Mini Circus for Children, which is an international NGO. In Afghanistan, there are a lot of kids who have been left without homes or families because of war. They seldom smile, let alone laugh. A majority of the towns there don't have schools or even teachers, so the kids we hosted travel around to these areas and try educate other children by acting, singing, doing magic shows and acrobatics - and most importantly, giving them something to smile about. This way, they're able teach the importance of peace, diversity, and women's rights and to educate about health issues such as malaria prevention.

The MMCC kids gave a special performance for the kids at the ASIJ elementary school. In their fancy costumes, they looked different than the other kids. Their beautiful language sounded different than the many other languages we might hear in the ASIJ community. But when they were done performing and they changed into their "regular" clothes, the differences fell away. They played, just like everyone else. The boys played soccer (pheonominally, I might add) and the girls played in the gym, shooting baskets or practicing volleyball serves. Outside, they especially liked the swings and the slides. Just like all the other kids. For all their ethnic and cultural differences, these kids were... kids.

Now, this is nothing new to me. We have about seventeen different nationalities represented at this school at a given time. But it drove home a point. We are all the same. We want the same things. We want to have fun, to be loved, to be happy. That doesn't change according to ethnic group or nationality or culture.

For example, as one of the parent volunteers, I helped serve a vegetarian lunch to the MMCC guests. Guess what foods were the favorites? Potato chips and Pepsi! Also, the girls in particular really attached to the volunteers, touching our faces and telling us we were 'cute' or 'beautiful.' (They had learned a little Japanese in preparation for this trip and used the Japanese word for cute, but tried to explain beautiful.) Believe me, I was sincere when I would touch their faces in return and tell them they were beautiful, too. They liked to hold our hands and hug us and call us 'mom,' which was particularly poignant since many of them have no family of their own. They needed that physical contact. Just like any other kid.

That night, I turned on the TV and watched the latest on CNN about a car bombing in Kabul, and my eyes filled with tears. I can no longer see Kabul as some obscure, far away place populated by nameless, faceless people. It is the home of my new friends - Abida, Roona, Mishina, Samira, and little Ansar. This is what they have waiting for them when they return to their country. It breaks my heart.

To my new friends and to all kids wherever you are, from every nationality, ethnicity, culture or religion, may you find peace and joy and all the love you deserve.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Duel Blogs

All right. Just in case you are wondering... yes. I also have a blog at myspace. And, yes. The blogs are the same... or are they?

For the most part, I will be pasting the same blog entries on this page as well as on the myspace page. The reason for this is that *gasp* not everyone has a myspace account and I didn't want it to be a pain for them to find the blog.

But, I figure... well, since I'm going to have the two anyway... might as well have some fun. I might just have to imbed clues to some future contest in one or the other blog. You might just have to pay attention...

Meanwhile, I'm going to catch this blog up... Here is the extent of what I have posted so far on myspace:

Friday, September 01, 2006
It's Alive!!!
Hey! Wanna know why I've been missing in action the past few days? My website is now live! Check it out!
11:42 AM - 0 Comments - 0 Kudos - Add Comment - Edit - Remove
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
High School Stereotypes
OK, here's the thing. We're a little behind here in Japan. For example, I'm still waiting for season two of LOST. So it was just recently that we watched High School Musical on Disney Channel. Parts of it I really liked. Other parts... not so much.
It did make me wonder, though; how accurate are the done-to-death high school stereotypes? Are they done-to-death because they are real? Or are they an easy cliche to latch onto in creating characters?
Are all smart kids "geeks" with no social skills and a healthy hatred for anyone who has them? Are all jocks self-absorbed and intellectually-challenged? Are all cheerleaders airheaded and cruel?
I'm going to say no. At least it wasn't that way in my highschool. We did have defined groups - there were the D-Wingers; the burn-outs who would sneak out behind D-wing to smoke, drink or take a hit. The Soshes were the popular kids who had lots of personality, lots of money, or both. We had the Future Farmers, the kids who lived down in the rural section of town, and the MidList, the ones - like me - who weren't distinct enough to be categorized. But the thing is, we all got along. Sure, there were some people who could have benefitted from a personality makeover, but it wasn't because they belonged to a certain group or caste.
At the American School here in Tokyo, there isn't that huge division, either. Maybe it's because the student body comes from all over the world and everyone is in the same boat, so to speak. There isn't a sense of exclusiveness or dislike between any of the groups.
What's it like in your school? Are high-school stereotypes real? Are they justified? What do you think?
2:19 PM - 1 Comments - 2 Kudos - Add Comment - Edit - Remove
Saturday, August 19, 2006
OK, so we got back to Japan on Friday and the whole summer thing is behind us. That means the countdown has begun!
In less than one month, NOW AND ZEN will hit the shelves.
Unfortunately, I won't be in the States to enjoy the moment, so I will have to count on you! Watch this space for the upcoming Zen Watch! Be the first to post a Zen sighting and win cool prizes.
I'm not even picky. Preorders count and everything!
Stay tuned...

And that's it! Let the games begin!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Here it is

Gerb's new place!