Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Leave Japan at about 2:30 pm, December 18th (saturday) and arrive in the Twin Cities at 2:00 pm. Freaky.
We plan on staying in the twin cities for the next couple of days, going home on Monday sometime in the late afternoon, early evening after gorging ourselves on such regional specialties as Steak, Ethiopian, and Holy Land deliciousness. We hope to spend some time with all our favorite people including, but not limited to; Ben and Marye, Emi and Tim, Timmy Pavlish, Paul, Annie, and with the possible strange reunion of my former roomates, Doug, Alf and Jude. This seems unlikely as certain members of the enterage have become estranged over an incident involving Chinese virgins. With luck no other virgins will get in the way of a great reunion and "Fun, Fun, Fun Times." If you are lucky or willing, you may have the chance to bid, yes bid, for the chance to have two smelly travellers and about 1 metric ton of souveneirs in your house/apartment whathaveyou. Contact the comment box below for further details.
For the week immediately preceeding Christmas we will be lounging in comfort in the fabulous burg of Ames, Iowa, home of the Husker Stomping ISU Cyclones; the biggest bunch of nitwits ever to tear down a goalpost.
After fattening ourselves for a week or so, we fully intend to travel East to Amherst Massachusetts to visit our good and somewhat thinner and bronzer friend Meghan Greeley who will have just returned from 2 years in balmy Guinea in equitorial West Africa. From Amherst there is also a good chance that we'll meet Steve and Yarrow, where we will swap stories about Asia.
From the East we'll head back to our home high in the still snowless Japan Alps where we will attempt to recover from jetlag and begin teaching RIGHT AWAY!
We have shitty 100 yen and cheaper gifts for ALL of you, so don't delay, the time is right, let us sleep on your floor Saturday and Sunday night!!!.
The list as it stands, is in no particular order:
Some outliers include New York and at the behest of our good friend Lara here, Montreal
It was really nice to hang out with Tomo and his wife Kayo. I realized while there that I had first met his family a year ago and Tomo over 15 months ago. Odd to think that I've been here that long, and that I've seen kids getting noticely older while to me it's just another year. I'm scared of all the shocking things that have happened in my absence from the US.
I went solo as jennifer was rather preoccupied with packing for our impending return to the Motherland. In a little under a week we'll be back in the Midwest, home sweet home. Tonight we watched "Garden State", directed and starred by Zach Braff. It's a fabulous movie about coming home all screwed up and getting your head back on straight. I recommend it to anyone as a good film and I found it to be particularly fitting as a person who's been out of touch with his home for a long time.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Sunday, December 05, 2004
That's right! SKELETON!
The Nagano Bobsled, Luge and Skeleton team held their open house yesterday and it was open to the public. About 50 people showed up for the event, about 25 of them foreigners. We showed up at 8:30 and got a little safety lesson at the 1998 olympic course and then we were shuttled up the mountain to the 8th turn (out of 15 turns total). We then waited our turn for the thrilling experience of shooting down an ice tube at 40 miles per hour (the pros get up to about 80-100). It was a damn scary experience the first run. The sled just kind of accelerates on it's own and you're relatively unable to steer. According to our coach we should, "Think to-fu, make the body like to-fu."
Well, the first run, i was decidedly not tofu and smacked the wall a good 8 times before sliding to a stop in the finish area. Jennifer smoked me by some 3 seconds. I kind of knew that I wasn't going to do well, I pretty much suck at things where natural grace and poise are concerned. By the second run, times were slower due to soft ice. I beat jennifer this time, to my delight, but still sucked in general. I thought "tofu, tofu, tofu..." to myself but it really didn't have any effect.
One thing that really surprised me was how safe it all felt. Once you get over the shock that you're going to be on a small piece of plastic and steel hurtling down the olympic course, it's not so bad. The sled is built in such a way that there is little chance of you actually falling off. You pretty much have to try to tip the thing over, and even then it would be difficult. Your center of mass is so low that going around those death-defying turns actually is the easiest part . The hard part is not hitting the wall coming off the turns. It was, however an ultimate rush. Physically, it's not so difficult but mentally you're on the edge. Pretty awesome if you ask me. If ever you get the chance to do Skeleton (can't vouch for luge) take it, you won't be sorry.
Saturday, December 04, 2004
Friday, December 03, 2004
Sitting and watching the crowd change in the filmy haze of flourescent light and poorly delineated smoking areas was an interesting experience. I get to try guess the nationality and situation of other undesirables like myself and then to sneak a glance at their passports to confirm my hunches. While i was waiting a large, well dressed young guy came in with a stack of green (Philippine?) passports and began to fill out the forms while his gaggle of young ladies waited in the car. While it's not fair to stereotype, I must assume that they were probably "hostesses". It's kind of odd how blatant the sex industry is here. There is little pretense about it, you go to a hostess bar where you pay some pretty girl a lot of money to sit and engage in small talk with you and then if you're willing and can afford it you pay some extra cash and sleep with her. There's a small enclave of Russian women operating and living in an apartment not 100 meters from my office. They are just the modern Geisha, imported to fill a spot vacated when the Japanese became too affluent to bother with the trade.
Sunday, November 28, 2004
Sunday was pretty decent as well. I went climbing with Jodi and Lara and Shane yesterday. We tried to go to Tobi-iwa (near Sakaki, maybe I got the name wrong)but unfortunately the road is out about halfway up the mountain due to earthquake or erosion, not sure which. We instead went to Omuro (near Tomuli burial mounds) It was pretty good but I'm pissed at myself because i dropped a quickdraw into the weeds there and couldn't find the damn thing. Gotta go back this morning with some rakes ane shovels and implements of destruction to find the damn thing. Oh well, that's stupidity for you.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
As i've said before, there is a season for everything in japan. There are seasonal foods, seasonal flowers, seasonal hobbies and seasonal vacation spots. and this weekend Kyoto was the hot spot. This happens to be the season where the beautiful japanese maple is king. There were thousands and thousands of elderly japanese men smoking profusely, toting giant multi-thousand dollar cameras and stopping everywhere to take pictures of the beautiful things that Kyoto is so renown for. This is cool and all unless you're trying to find accomodations in a place.
Here's a quick rundown of the trip. We started off in Nagano at about 10:30 pm and arrived in Kyoto about 5 the following morning, Saturday. We immediately took the train from there to the nearby city of Himeji to see the awesome castle there. It's the one after which the imperial palace in "The Last Samura" is modeled. After checking it out, we headed off for the city of Nara which houses the biggest all wooden building in the world Todai-ji, a thousand year old temple, well it was established about 1000 years ago, but damn if the thing didn't keep burning down all the time. This particular building is about 300 years old.
THe next day we spent in Kyoto lugging our packs around, looking at some temples, castles and the like. We then found and checked into the scummiest hotel I've ever had the pleasure to stay in. It was basically a shanty town with a single set of toilets and showers and some modest plumbing. The paper thin walls provided us with an earful of the drunken neighbors "tussle on the tatami" at 3 am.
The next day we went to the old imperial palace and the "silver temple" with it's VIM (very important moss, like VIP)
After that we took the surprisingly inexpensive train to Osaka where we saw the biggest aquarium in the world, big enough to hold an adult whaleshark. It was cool.
More on it later, when the pictures are developed.
Friday, November 19, 2004
Oh well, this weekend we're going to Kyoto for a nice little 4 day holiday. It should be a welcome respite from the japan I know and am tired of and a foray into the uber-crowded and expensive world of tourism here. I'll be sure to pep up when I get back and post some of our pictures on the ol' website.
Sunday, November 14, 2004
As for rock climbing, it's an interesting sport for me. Firstly, it requires a great deal of hand and arm strength, something that I absolutely lack. This is coming around though, but slowly. I think that I saw a muscle the other day as I was flexing in the mirror. It could have been just a bone or some oddly shaped tumor, but then again, it might very well be a muscle. Secondly, rock climbing is the only activity that I've done where fear plays such a big factor in success. There's nothing to really be afraid of once the gun goes off in either cycling or running, my other two sports. With rock climbing, however, there's a definite fear factor involved. If you go up the rocks and don't have your head about you, it's scary. When it's scary, you lack confidence, and when there's no confidence you are screwed.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Can you buy octopus in Iowa? If you can that's pretty wicked. Within my parents lifetime, the mighty octopus has made his return to Iowa after a several million year hiatus. The last ones there before dead frozen ones came in on trucks were swimming around in the shallow sea with things like brachiopods and gigantic ammonites. Trippy.
Monday, November 08, 2004
It is also in large part due to the fact that my brain is atrophying at an alarming rate while the brains of my former classmates seem to be rapidly stacking up the neurons, whence my attempt at a reasoned argument on the subject of the environment.
Tim started his post by bemoaning the fact that Bush is still the Douchebag in Chief with an even greater Republican majority which, among other things will gut the environment even further. Ben then countered with a stance that at first attempts to refute Tim's claims that the Bush administration is particularly more anti-environment than the populace as a whole. Ben then finishes his post with a rejoinder for us not just to talk like environmentalists but to buy like environmentalists.
I'm going to first try to respond to Ben's claims about the environment.
1. drilling ANWR is badDrilling in the ANWR is bad, not necessarily because of the actual drilling, which could be done to minimize damage to the area, but because exploratory drilling in a park is symptomatic of a bigger problem; oil dependency and in particular foreign oil dependency. The US is the biggest consumer of oil in the world, importing over 54% of the oil that we burn, mostly in our cars. Though it is a somewhat different topic, this oil dependency is, I believe, one of the biggest, most costly risks to our national security. I dare anyone to come up with legitimate reasons to be involved in an Iraq without oil. New exploration and drilling does not address the root probem, that is consumption. Ben asks us to put our money where are convictions lie, is it so different to ask the government to do this as national policy? With a simple increase in the CAFE standards the government could both reduce our foreign oil dependency and spur innovation, innovation that has so far been lacking in the US auto industry. This increased requirement may have a short term cost but a great potential for long term rewards. The potential to sell increasingly fuel efficient cars to foreign buyers cannot be discounted. China, which desperately wants cars, but can absolutely not afford the oil to power the Explorers and the Tahoes and the Caprices that we currently offer, would be a prime market that could be tapped. Yes, drilling in the ANWR is bad.
why should i care about the arctic national wildlife refuge. you say anwr will be ruined. ruined for whom. ruined for caribou and marmots. ruined for tundra.
2. forests should not be logged.It would be foolish to say that we should never log forests. We have a whole government department devoted to when and how we should log and mine our natural wonders. What does need to be said is that short term profit cannot override long term planning, particularly when we're talking about natural systems which regard years about the same way that people regard hiccups. Bad logging and mining practices can in a short time decimate existing populations of plants and animals, can destroy the landscape that is vital for these systems to regenerate and can introduce destructive and invasive species which will limit the fertility, productivity and diversity of future natural systems. This is a problem if we ever want to use these places again. Mines in the Rockies constantly dribble arsenic and mercury into freshwater supplies, but we want to drink from and recreate in that water. Natural pests such as fungus and pine borer beetles destroy inexpertly logged areas for years, limiting the potential for future use. Logging also increases erosion which kills off tasty species such as trout and salmon, which we would eat. Maybe just as bad is the trend for cabins or second houses which constantly invade natural stands of wilderness by cutting roads and laying electric lines and septic systems. This not to mention the gasoline required for the off-road capable vehicles required to get there. I don't say that I wouldn't love it, but Ben's right on this one. We can't all have the cabin in the woods, there won't be any woods left.
why should forests not be logged. maybe you would retort that logging destroys flora and fauna. why are flora, fauna, and landscape so important to you. is it the aesthetic, the value you give it...
3. global warming is bad.Bullshit. Global warming is bad. We already have preliminary evidence of rising sea levels, changing current patterns and crazy weather. When's the last time that Florida got rocked by four huge hurricanes in a year? How about Japan's record 10 life taking typhoons. It's easy to say that global warming won't make that much of a difference when one is a privelaged westerner who works in an airconditioned office, but it's going to be a lot more bleak if any of the predictions of global warming come to pass. Humans are indeed the great ameliorators, it's true, but only the ones with the money and resources can do any ameliorating. The rest of us just die. The Sahara is expanding at hundreds of square kilometers per year, droughts caused by global climate change cripple many parts of the world. Oh yeah, with a couple fewer inches of rain, the Dust Bowl days are not that far off. Now that would really suck for an Iowan, Minnesotan or Nebraskan. I sound apocalyptic, I realize. I simply wanted to point out that when something happens to the earth, it happens to everybody.
it isn’t that bad. and remember, humans are the great ameliorators, we can change and fix in a hurry if forced.
So, as a result, I'm not really looking forward to the environmental record of the past 4 years being duplicated in the next 4. Like Tim said, all that it takes is one Yes vote to cancel out all those No's.
Sunday, November 07, 2004
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Results indicate future stupidity in the whitehouse.....
Can't . . . bear. . . thought . . . of . . . more . . . shitty . . . . government.
The great thing about this will be explaining to my students who ask, "Why is Bush American President AGAIN?" To which I must respond, "I don't really know. My country is at least half full of fools."
Realistically, I rather expected it to happen. I knew that Americans are fools, just like the Japanese, the Chinese, the Mexicans, the Germans. Hell, over half of the world is below average, I guess that it's just fair that that half gets to represent the US for another 4 years. At least now, in many ways, Bush will have to shoulder the blame for the things that he started; Iraq, the economy, the impending terrorist attacks (there will be something) and the unsustainable tax cuts. My big worry however is that things will just get fucked up even worse and by next election we'll have martial law and Bush and his "good friend" Vladimir Putin will have similar powers.
Monday, November 01, 2004
This is Voting Day. I'm praying and hoping and avoiding all news outlets for the next 36 hours. Please tell everyone you know to vote. (also tell them to vote kerry, if for no other reason than he's NOT BUSH)
Sunday, October 31, 2004
Jennifer, Lara, Shane and I along with a good number of other folks hiked up and down Myoko-yama just yesterday, halloween-een. It was one of the better hikes i've done here and aside from it raining on the last hour of our 7 hiking, it was perfect. The typhoon last week brough a sprinkling of snow to the top of the mountain and from the summit we had a great panoramic view on a grey yet clear day. It was what I imagine perfect Christmas weather to be. I can't wait to get back to the US and get myself some real hiking boots though. My hand-me down Nike boots are just a pain to hike in.
After the fabulous trek we headed back to Nagano for one of the most fabulous pizza bonanzas ever. This guy Peter, one of the longest staying foreign residents in Nagano has established his little bistro where he whipped out tens of pizzas to an eagerly awaiting crowd. Imagine 40 people shoved in a dorm room and eating pizza 'till they puke and you have the general idea. I did 9 plus a little salad and some pasta. I could have made ten, but really who needs that. Shane likewise equalled my 9 and the friendly rivalry shall continue until the next pizza bash.
On a side note, pizza here costs about $30for a pizza-hut multi topping pizza. Compare that with the ad in the Toons for 4 medium pizzas for $14.44 from Home Team Pizza in Ames.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
What do you think reader(s)? Are you with me?
Monday, October 25, 2004
Sunday, October 24, 2004
Jennifer had a better show. When the quake hit, it really set things to swaying and in fact started jiggling all of our liquor stash on the shelf. She ran into the kitchen to support the stuff just as the quake was ending. We're on the sixth floor which really accentuates the shaking. Even the little quakes get the lamp swinging.
I also ran a half marathon race yesterday. I tend to think of it in terms of a big fat race, but realistically there were some mitigating factors. 1. I ran the first ten kilometers in a leisurely 56 minutes, which works out to about a 9 minute per mile pace and ran the second 11 kilometers in 46 minutes which is about 6:45 per mile. I was always told that negative splits are the way to go when running a race. Had I been in shape and run the pace that we used to run in practice, it would have worked out to about 1:31 rather than 1:42. I guess that tells me that I should train more ( which I don't really, my other hobbies tend not to rip holes in my feet and give me a case of "runners runs" for 12 hours after the event). Maybe when I get back to the states I'll be more interested in late fall races, Living History Farms for example, but unless I get someone to drag me back into it, it's unlikely in Japan.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
I dislike George Bush for the following, well articulated (?) reasons:
1. The federal deficit is a goddamn nightmare. It will bite me and my generation in the ass just as it's going to hit my parents generation when social security runs dry in the next couple of years. According to the IMF, the US deficit is reaching levels where this body would chastise smaller governments and send in little IMF spies to keep the govermnet from doing stupid stuff. Here's a quote from the NY Times
The dangers, according to the report, are that the United States' voracious appetite for borrowing could push up global interest rates and thus slow down global investment and economic growth.
"Higher borrowing costs abroad would mean that the adverse effects of U.S. fiscal deficits would spill over into global investment and output," the report said.
Bush can point out the fact that the weak dollar resulting from his fiscal policies will strengthen exports, but that's a short term effect only. Long term, like when I get back to the country, will be a little less cool.
2. Bush and co. misled the American public about the war in Iraq. They didn't check their intelligence, they didn't have intelligence in some cases, and they relied on questionable sources (Chalabi anyone?).
3. Once on the ground Bush and the US military screwed the pooch, let Iraq get way the hell out of hand and then refused to admit failure by sending in the forces needed. I'm not a genius, but honestly, i saw this shit coming a year off. Regardless of the human rights abuses Saddam Hussein perpetrated against his citizenry, at least they weren't being blown up by pissed off mujahedeen on a regular basis. Iraquis are not so different from the rest of the world, they prefer the devil they know to the one with "Foreign Occupier" written on his face.
4. The Bush campaign have used scare tactics to reinforce it's hold on the American psyche. The War on Terror is a great damn catchphrase isn't it, makes you a little afeared that another turban clad crazy will blow your house in suburban middle america out of existence. Cheney himself said that the US would not be safe in the hands of another president. That's odd, they told Iraquis that they'd be more safe under US control too, what about those soldiers getting blown up every day? Are they more safe under a Bush Whitehouse.
5. Bush is crap on the environment. He vetoed the Kyoto protocol, which while not the finest piece of international legislation could have at least served to give alternative energy technologies (of which i am an ardent supporter) a kick in the pants.
6. Bush favors the death penalty and opposes abortion and stem cell research. In one case he wants to play God, "Thou shalt not kill... unless you're government sanctioned in Texas". While in the other he leaves the fate of unwanted pregnancies and mothers in trouble in the "hands of the Lord". Talk about a waffling line on life.
7. Bush is strongly connected to Consevative Christian groups and is likewise opposed to gay marriage. I am in favor of love in all its forms and I'm not comfortable putting a definition on what is good love or bad love.
8. Bush and Republicans in general did not renew the Assault Weapons Ban. Super, that's one thing that I"ve been missing out on here in Japan, my assault weapons and gun toting fellow citizens.
Now for the point where I give Bush his dues. He is strong of will. Even when the analysis, opinion and in some cases the facts are against him, he holds fast to his convictions. This is good if you're a comic book hero, a revival preacher in a pickle or if you're infallible. I don't think that Bush is any of those (not even the revival preacher).
Bush is not afraid of adversity. He sticks to his guns. Commendable, but only if you are never wrong.
Bush projects earthyness. I really think that, other things being equal, I would prefer to drink a Budweiser with Bush than with Kerry. However, i would rather drink a nice Sam Adams any day.
Bush is heartfelt and honest. I really think that he believes he's doing the right thing every day. The trouble is that, like many others, I don't think he's doing the right thing.
As for Kerry. I like what he has to say. I like that he seems to be a cautious and patient person. I like that he changes his mind. I'm not even put off by the way he may have changed his mind about the Iraq war. I've certainly had mixed feelings. I think that if put in danger or in a tough situation, he would have the strength and resolve to get through it. (Think politics in general, the threat of excommunication and well, that whole Swift Boat thing for starters) Kerry at least has pro-environmental leanings. Kerry advocates fiscal responsibility. We'll see how that goes, but at least he's thinking about it. Kerry, like Bush, seems earnest and determined on the things that are important to him.
One last note before I conclude my longest post ever. Edwards seems like a nice guy. Cheney is, in all likelihood, devil spawn.
Monday, October 18, 2004
I have two other comments on this matter:
1. Why doesn't Alf backstab his father? By voting for Kerry from China Alf could add his sentiments to those of the millions of sane people who will not vote for George Bush while his abstaining father would be caught unawares. They don't call it a "secret ballot" for nothing. Plus such a vote would serve as insurance in case Alf's father decides to doublecross him. Simple game theory's all it is, ya gotta vote.
2. I still don't see why anyone is interested in voting for Bush to begin with. I can only imagine (based on my experience with a frustrated Alf) what sort of "swears" must have come out during the discussion.
As for me, I would honestly vote for Mickey Mouse if he were the only opponent to Bush.
Sunday, October 17, 2004
Friday, October 15, 2004
Of course rather than independently verifying it with him, i've decided to post it for all of my tens of readers to individually harass that stupid lazy hypocrite (more things come to mind, I know that his mom reads this website)
Anyway, i would like all of you to collectively overload his inbox with a flood of indignant emails. Is Wisconsin not a swing state y'all? The NY Times info-graphic says that it is!
Please, hassle Alf at email@example.com
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Japan has some interesting ways of making a person feel good about oneself. For one, people are big into the compliments. It's like national policy to say that everything is; beautiful, wonderful, the best ever, the smartest, sooo good at Japanese. These comments are especially poured on if there is nothing close to reality about them. Just a look at Japanese TV will show you what I mean. Every program seems to be about complimenting someone on his cooking, courage, beautiful fashion or something. The mainstay of TV is made up of "variety shows" where a panel of famous or semi-famous people sit around with ridiculous haircuts and sample a wide variety of foods and drinks that are either prepared before or in the stage kitchen. At this time the panelists are all required to shout jokes at eachother and scream, "Suuuuugeeeei!" or the more gutteral surprise noise, "Arrrrruuuughhhh!?!" It's no wonder you can't get a straight answer out of people, it's their culture to sugarcoat and be amazed.
The second, and more personal way that Japan can make a fella feel good is in their clothing selection. While it's annoying and uncomfortable that none of the pants here can really accomodate a person with an actual ass, it is rather complimentary that an Average Joe like me is just TOO HUGE for Japanese brief style underwear. No way in hell that I can get comfortable in those things. It is possible that the discomfort arose principally from the Who-da-man strut that one gets upon discovering that he's the new "cock of the walk" as it were.
*TMI in this case stands for Too Much Information
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Monday, October 11, 2004
The second form of White House Fever is actually West Wing fever. Jennifer's been downloading last season's episodes and as per usual, I'm totally entranced. It's partly because it's so fricking good, but mostly because it's just like reading Tolkien, the show transports me to another world where there are real honest good guys and I definitely know who I want to win. I can imagine for a short hour what it might be like if there were someone in the White House fighting for what I believe in. Ahh, the sweet bliss of reverie.
Saturday, October 09, 2004
We had hoped to climb one of the mountains in the Japanese alps this weekend, Yarigatake, "The Matterhorn of Japan" but the stupid typhoon killed those hopes. I'm thinking that today we'll get out and do something, but i'm not sure what. Since becoming a working stiff at a real job the weekend has attained paramount importance to me. I feel pretty unfulfilled unless i get some outdoorsy stuff in on the weekend.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
After the canoe day, i got myself a bit of food poisoning and slept for about 12 hours the next day. The following day we took a 9 hour bus ride through jungle on the shittiest roads I've ever been on to get to the city of Puerto Princesa. From Puerto we took the road in the following picture to the tiny town of Sabang where the outlet of the world's longest underground river is. We were able to take a tour of only 1.5 kilometers of the total 20 kilometer length.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Saturday, October 02, 2004
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Today we're slogging through the dregs of what is hopefully the last typhoon of the season. It's not so bad, but it has dropped a good deal of rain on us for the past few days. Hopefully it will dry off for the weekend and I'll be able to do something fun outside again.
Sorry for the boring post, but pictures are coming soon, brace yourself.
Sunday, September 26, 2004
The week was over in a flash and at the beginning I thought that I was going to be hating life to go back to Japan, but as it turns out, round about the time I got sick, I totally changed my tune. I don't know what it is, but I really get ripped up inside on vacations. It was on our trip to Europe a couple of years ago that I really first got the travellers revenge and it was the exact same thing this time. Fortunately, I had learned about the lovely power of Loperamide!! This is the drug most commonly found in anti-motility pills and about 3-6 milligrams will stop you up like you can only imagine. It's pretty amazing how quickly it returns you to the world of the living.
This time was trying because we happened to be on an all day boating expedidtion when I first started to get sick and the combination of extremely loud motor, bright sunshine, intense heat and choppy seas made for an uncomfortable time island hopping.
Aside from the subject of poo, the trip was really a good one. Travelling was quite easy, though it took a long damn time. Something that really amazed me was that there was no language barrier. Almost everyone spoke English and most people spoke it well enough to be conversational. It puts the Japanese to shame man, it really does. You could talk to the grubbiest of boat drivers quite as easily as the desk clerk at the hotel. Travel is slow mostly, i think due to the fact that there are a lot of damn island in the Philippines. I started counting, but I lost track at 2 bazillion. I think in the whole archipeligo there are like maybe 6 or 7 bazillion. Roads are also pretty shit out in the provinces. We spent almost all our time on the island of Palawan. It took us about 9 hours to drive 100 miles, much of that over crappy dirt roads and washed out bridges. It just takes forever.
This is running on, so I'll post more about the details when we develop the film.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Thank god i'm leaving this country (if only temporarily) this Saturday. The Philippines will be a welcome respite from Japan. Not like i really hate the place, it's just that it's not as good as home in many ways. For instance, my job involves talking at ignorant highschool girls for 3 hours every week. I would rather shovel manure to be honest, if the pay were right.
Sunday, September 12, 2004
This is the first time in my life that I've done an arm intensive sport. From that perspective, it's ridiculously hard, my poor little pencils are just dying out there. I went climbing outdoors with Jodi today, it was rather an exercise in unbridled expectations and biting off a little more than I can chew. I tried to lead a climb, that is to climb up and put in the protecting carabiners ahead of me, and flopped miserably. Of course I picked two that looked cool and were ridiculously difficult to do-idiot. Anyway, I'm getting better and the hubris finally wore off and I managed to lead a climb successfully at the end of day. No crashes, but my toes are just murdered. It seems that my shoes expand and contract at random intervals, today they were too big for my shoes and it just killed. With luck I won't leave my toenails behind like Jodi did upon buying her new shoes.
Monday, September 06, 2004
How's that for a cyber-ultimatum.
Also, a shout out for dear old Mom. It's her birthday today, so if you're going to be seeing her soon, give her a hug from her vagrant son.
Thursday, September 02, 2004
Another interesting thing; they're building a log house down my route to work and the thing has Pella Windows installed in all of the fittings. Those litttle sheets of glass and casements came all the way from my home state to be slapped into a log cabin in the middle of Nagano City. What a weird world. I imagine that the logs were shipped from somewhere in northern Minnesota too.
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Ian, you can have my stereo.
Asa, you can take my guitar.
Leah, you can take my cross country skis and crazy hats.
Claire, you get all the kitchen stuff, but you'll probably have to fight for it with Kelly. She's a pushover though.
Mom, don't worry about my student loans, I think that you don't have to pay them back if i die.
Dad, sell my bike and buy a nice urn for my ashes (if they can be sorted from the volcanic debris and the accumulated dust in my apartment)
Everyone else, just do paper rock scissors for the stuff of mine that you want.
Actually though, the mountain really is erupting and probably no one will get killed. Our friend Andy however lives only like 15 kilometers from the mountain, however. It could be a nice show for him tonight.
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Get this, he's short, even by japanese standards, he has an unkempt mop of grey hair, he has brownish-greenish teeth from all the coffee and whatnot that he drinks and the clincher is that he makes the same throat noise that Yoda does, constantly. Who better to calculate "Force Vectors in Anti-Missile-Missle Countermeasures" than a Jedi Master? Believe me if I ever want to know about the Force, I'll go straight to Yoda.
Monday, August 30, 2004
Saturday, August 28, 2004
After my strange english class I went rock climbing with my predecessor at my job Jodi and Lara. It was my third time to climb outside and it was soooo great to be better than the previous times. I really felt successful this time, I even started a lead climb and did reasonably well at it. I am looking forward to chances to try outdoor climbing in the future.
Lastly, i went to a barbecue where this Kiwi guy Hayden remarked, "Lemme just size those up here, good lord, you've got hobbit feet!" It was the first time my feet were called hobbity and while somewhat shameful, it was a really good slam, one of the best I've had leveled against me. Hobbit feet they are.
Sunday, August 22, 2004
After arriving at the island's harbor we walked about 100 meters to the camping are, tres convenient no? We set up our tents and proceeded on to the festival area. The whole reason for the trip was to see the Earth Festival sponsored by Japan's renowned Kodo drummers. As it turned out, we didn't get to see the Kodo drummers, but we did watch many of the other acts and some lesser Taiko drum ensembles. The highlight was probably the Saturday evening show where we saw Fanfare Ciocarlia from Romania. THese guys are kind of like a combination Jewish Klezmer, Italian traditional brass band, some German Ooompah and a healthy dose of rural rowdiness. It was a great show all in all.
Island life is always mixed for me, it's nice to be in such a relaxed atmosphere, but at the same time, it's a little claustrophobic. I am a kid of the Midwest, i really need my stretching vistas and my endless highways to nowhere special.
Saturday, August 14, 2004
Anyway, this week has been good. Why good? Because when it comes to the work week, short equals good. I've got a 4 day weekend this week due to the national holidays for Obon, or "Visit dead people weekend" where people go out to the cemeteries and clean and burn incense. It's kind of a nice family holiday, nobody is freaking out like for Golden Week in May.
Thursday, August 12, 2004
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
It was kind of the standard bicycle car affair, and i wasn't even doing anything really stupid. I was riding on the bike path/sidewalk along the main drag to Nagano Station when a car pulled out of a parking lot and cut me off. I tried to avoid it but just ended up smacking into the front fender and flipping over which landed me on my back, shoulder and noggin. Fortunately for me, I was wearing my beloved pink helmet (may it rest in peace). My shoulder is a little bruised and my knee as well, but according to the CT scan the next day (not my idea, the insurance company's) my brain is beautiful. My helmet is all smacked up as was my front wheel and fork. Overall it was rather a pain in the ass, but the result is fine now, I've got a new front wheel and fork and there's a fancy new helmet on order from the bike shop for me. I also got to see the scan of my brain, which is pretty cool. It looks grey and smushy, from what I could tell. The woman who hit me also dropped a box of fancy cookies off at work. It was my best bicycle accident ever.
Sunday, August 08, 2004
Monday, August 02, 2004
It was a pretty stacked weekend, but all in all i don't think that I liked it as much as the Winnepeg folk Fest. For one, it was rainy, and that always puts me in a foul mood. Also, the shows had a really different atmosphere, not so convivial, that really prevented any sort of connection between the crowd and the audience. I believe that the lead singer from the Aussie band JET summed it up in his crowd interactions. "Are you with me?!? I saaaaaid are you WIIIITH MEEE? Can you understand anything I'm saying?" Whether it was the language barrier or the cultural one, I'm not sure. Even with the ridiculously loud soundstage, it must be hard to put a lot of energy out to a crowd of 60,000 moderately interested people.
However, now I can say that i've seen, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, The Pixies, The White Stripes, Lou Reed, Primus and PJ Harvey live. Of the aforementioned, i think that Lou Reed was the biggest letdown and probably the White Stripes were the biggest pleasure to see. I did really love Primus onstage though, Les Claypool is just plain wierd. It would have all been better if the crowd hadn't been dampened by rain and by the fact that they're Japanese. It just wasn't so charged up as elsewhere.
Aside from seeing the bands i knew, the best thing is always seeing people you don't know. I really liked three new groups; Buffalo Daughter (Japanese electronica/pop fusion) Santos (Spanish nerdy but talented DJ) and most of all Simple Kid (British alternative rock). I would thoroughly recommend Simple Kid to anyone with tastes remotely similar to mine.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Sunday, July 25, 2004
This weekend sees the final days of probably the least exciting Tour De France since I started following bike racing religiously some 4 years ago. I mean, it's cool and all that Lance is such a phenomenal cyclist but I was soooo expecting at least some real challenge from one of his rivals. All my guys either crashed out or failed miserably and dropped out. Honestly, I'm not a huge Ullrich fan, but I really wanted someone else to win. I gotta say that my favorite team, however did a great job. CSC headed up by director sportif Bjarne Riis is just magnificent. They are by far the spunkiest team out there. Every day it seemed like there was someone on the attack from CSC. Riis just seems to rejuvenate riders and give them the fighting spirit. Anyway, I look forward to a more interesting Vuelta A Espana this fall.
Additionally, on a more sedate scale of entertainment, Jennifer and I went to a tea ceremony yesterday. It was my first experience and it was interesting but probably isn't going to be my bag of chips. Anything that requires me to sit uncomfortably for an hour or so and culminates in drinking something that is not radically alchololic is not really for me. It was certainly nice to see however. I think that if I were an old Japanese lady that it would be a really great thing to do, kind of like going out for coffee, but also more like a sport, because you have to train for it.
Jennifer also has, spurred by the aquisition of a new, non-composting 'frige, decided to utterly redo the apartment. The everything got switched around and it actually looks quite nice. Fortunately the place isn't big enough for me to really be of help, so I just let her go about her business while rocking out to Liz Phair.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
THis is what they pay me for. I'm part english teacher, part cheerleader, part counsellor and 100% sexy. Well, it's all true except for the sexy portion. However, I think that an unscrupulous person could really take advantage of situations such as this one and wreck havoc on the dissatisfied populations of central Japan.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Friday, July 16, 2004
I was thinking about guys I knew who were really good at starting
things but not so hot at finishing them. Brett is probably top of
my list as a person who is just wonderful at picking up a hobby or a
job or a sport and quickly becoming proficient and then losing interest
just as quickly. I would probably say that my dad and I tie for a
close second. If you've seen my parents basement, you know what I
mean. Half finished projects abound. At first it was just
my dad's crap, but now it's filling up with the residue of my hobbies
as well. Since I could hardly carry all of my crap with me
to Japan, now the basement of my house. There's the bike stuff,
the beer stuff, the half made projects and the camping gear, skis,
boots and shoes. Now i've picked up two new hobbies, rock
climbing and telemark skiing. I'm waiting for skydiving to become
Thursday, July 15, 2004
IFOCE Internation Federation of Competitive Eating
My real hero of course is Sonya Thomas. She's the American champ and holds numerous records. Take for example the Cheesecake, - February 21, 2004, Brooklyn, NY, NY, Cheesecake: 11 pounds in 9 minutes.
- September 13, 2003, Indianapolis Indiana, New World Record for Boiled Eggs: 65 in 6 minutes, 40 seconds
Cool Hand Luke aint got nothin on this woman.
This is my new hero, Takeru Kobayashi. He, as you may know, is Japanese. He is also the worlds most skilled hot dog eater. Lastly, he comes from, drumroll please...NAGANO CITY, LETS HEAR IT FOR THE HOME TOWN HERO!!! For his amazing feat he ate 53 1/2 hot dogs in 12 minutes. He's my god!
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Monday, July 12, 2004
The reason for this is, as you may expect, that I've been dissed. Not only have I been disrespected, but it was by a 12 year old. That's the worst. In my Junior Highschool private lesson with 4 girls one of them with help from her dictionary and some friends,laboriously informed me, "I don't like English-Speak humans."
While it was funny in some ways, her general attitude pretty much sucks in general and i would have given a great sum of money to be able to lay into her they way I want. Here is what I had in mind:
"I don't care. Shut your damn mouth you whiney, snot-nosed-kid. What the hell do you know about 'English-speak Humans' anyway. If you don't want to learn English, fine, don't come and fuck around in my lessons any more. None of these other kids give me the bad attitude that you do, what is your problem. If you have a problem with all gaijin, tell your parents and have them take you out of here. Stop wasting your parents money and my time."
Thursday, July 08, 2004
Yesterday while riding my bike along near the river I made my first kill. This sparrow flew out of the tall grass and skimmed along the ground, and attempting to go under my bottom bracket. The sparrow screwed up. The sensation of running over a goober-peanut was how I could describe the trauma from my end, but for the sparrow, it was much worse. I smushed 'is lit'l brains in.
I'm going to have to check, but I think something like this happened to my Dad while he was riding to work one day, but I think that the animal in question was a squirrel, and that maybe the squirrel lived to tell the tale.
Anyone else ever committed a vehicular homicide with a bicycle?
Monday, July 05, 2004
Yes people, i'm going to be rotting my brains thinking about cycling, cycling and more cycling until this glorious event is over. I have to say that honestly I don't want Lance Armstrong to win. I'm personally a little dubious about him with the doping allegations that have recently surfaced and I also just think that he's kind of a jerk. Just personal preference.
If i had to choose who I wanted to win it would be either Tyler Hamilton (a possibility) or Bobby Julich (a long shot) from the USA and as far as internationally, I take my hat off to Iban Mayo, the Ventoux record smashing Basque. It will all come down to the mountains however and we'll just have to see how it goes.
I know that I will be entertained.
Sunday, July 04, 2004
Overall, i'm not a yoga sort of guy. While I may be lazy, i'm not actually that interested in relaxation time. I'd rather be doing something interesting or outdoorsy than sitting and relaxing or meditating any day. All that time doing yoga I felt like i was just frittering away while i could be outside riding my bike or rock climbing or something.
Jennifer and I both got a little bit of sunburn while poking around in the waterfall (read concrete spillway) near the yoga retreat. She is a total "robsta".
This is my first fourth of July in a country where it is actually legal to buy fireworks. I bought $30 worth of them last night and we went out to the ol' rice field to blast them off. For your information, it's the Bees that are really the highlight of any home done show. They make a little noise, they fly erratically, glow like freaking UFOs and are cheap to boot. Next time i'm getting $30 worth of those and kissing off the rest of the crap.
Friday, July 02, 2004
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Annie can still complain while saying that everything is sooo great ( a unique skill), Jude is looking into gene therapy as a way to build muscles and Brendan is kicking it for real in central America. It sounds like his peace corps experience is a little bit more similar to my stint here in Japan than to Meghan's in Guinea.
Lastly, Ian is apparently starting to turn into our dad, I'll post the reasons why.
Finally, after all these years of blissful ignorance or sturdy denial I
have reached the unmistakable and inevitable conclusion that I am most
certainly a Ritz and that I am turning into Dad. This is maybe not necessarily a
bad thing but something scary all the same. I think I have felt it coming
on for a couple years now and it finally fully manifested itself in me
these past few weeks. This is not just meek conclusion that was decided on a
whim; no this is a process of deduction.
Here are my reasons:
1) I am working far too much and spending far
too little time on myself. I work in the mornings coaching at a soccer
camp and then I work out. I have maybe an hour of rest in which I grab a snack
and then I go to work at Jimmy Johns for 10 hour shifts from 5-3.
2) I spend too much time on my bicycle. I have been tinkering with my bike ever
since I got it up here, mostly fixing flat tires. It is fucking ludacris. I
have had 6 flat tires in as many weeks. I even got new tires from Dad and I
just flatted this morning. I'm going to try replacing the rim strips now
but the whole thing is a bitch.
3) I eat whatever is available. This is not anything too new but a contributing factor none the less.
4) All my activities i.e. work and soccer keep me far to busy to spend time with
my significant other at the moment. I have a little thing with a girl
from the beginning of summer and I just have too much stuff going on.
All of these reasons and many more attached with them have led me to
this state. However, I am trying to postpone the transformation a little
Ian, if you're pissed about me posting your email for all 6 of my friends to see, then just tell me and I'll take it off.
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
For example, yesterday I asked them, "If you had 100,000,000 yen what would you buy?" I ask one of them, "What would he/she buy?" and it's like the end of the world. I feed them the answer, "He would buy..." and still, freak out time. The person I ask has most likely forgotten what the other said, so they have to re-ask their partner, which is where it all goes to shit because to this question "What would you buy..." they look like they have no idea what they would buy, they struggle, make thinking faces, purse their lips and keep saying, "Nandaro, nandaro" (what would it be, what would it be) under their breath. I was thinking, "Honestly, if you have a hundred million yen, you can buy almost anything, so if you say anything, anything at all, you can buy it, so just spit out one English word and I'll be happy."
I think that next class I'm going to start out with a lecture and make the Japanese guy translate. Here is a possibility:
For christ sake people when I ask you a question, particularly an easy question, I don't honestly give a shit whether or not it's the right answer, a particularly thoughtful answer, or anything special. I just want you to say something, anything in fact. When I feed you the answer like I do, it shouldn't take 2 minutes to grind away in your brain, just try something, you can do it you little halfwits. Now I'm not talking to the 5 of you who really do a good job, i'm talking about the 90% of you who just sit and stare. Enough of that, if i ask you a damn question, you should give me a damn answer, even if it's totally wrong. If you don't try I'm a-gonna smack-a you face eh?
Monday, June 28, 2004
All in all the similarities were striking and eerie, I will in the future avoid this evil twin doppelganger with all of my ability, for fear that he weasel his way into my love life as well.
Umm, actually that's just a little bit nuts. However, it was great to talk to someone from the same part of the world. I love my canadian friends, but someone from the upper midwest can only really connect with another man from the upper midwest. It's just how it is.
Coincidentally, I completed my total Iowa/midwest revival day by watching the movie The Straight Story by David Lynch. This is a movie about Alvin Straight, the guy who rode his lawnmower from Iowa to Wisconsin to see his ailing brother. While some of the bit characters were kind of rough and amateurish, the movie was really superb. I say that particularly for the way that it portrayed Iowa as a land of subtle beauty. I was made intensely homesick for the flatness and the corn and the wide open expanses. Nagano is great, but rather claustrophobic. You can't just hop off your bike and expect to be able to take a piss anywhere on a lonely country road. Here there's always some shrivelled old lady digging a hole or picking some fruit or wielding one of the souped-up weed eaters they use to mow lawns here. I miss the corn, I miss the sky and I miss the thunderstorms. I'll always appreciate where I come from, even if I would be bored to live there again.
My site meter reported that all six of you who visited me last week did a nice job of keeping the love, however the rest of the world just didn't give a crap.
This should be a signal to me to put s'more love into the ol website.
Sunday, June 20, 2004
Lara, Shane, Jennifer and I went with Andy, a guy from the south eastern part of Nagano ken. Though his house is but 80 kilometers from us, it still took about 1:45 to get there because of the crazy-ass roads here and the super traffic and the mountains. At any rate we spent the night at his house in Mochizuki (the name means rice cake moon) and awoke at about 3:45 this morning to get cracking at the devilish peak. This seems insane to me, but actually the sun starts rising at around 4:30 because the Japanese in their infinite wisdom have forsworn the wonders of daylight savings time.
Anyway, we were climbing the mountain before 6:00 and had reached the summit at about 9:00 amid gale force winds and fog. It was a rippin good time while we ascended into the bomb shelter on the top and had a bit of breakfast. Honestly, I couldn't stand up straight, the wind was so fierce. It's possibly a result of the Typhoon that's coming our way tomorrow. Honestly, the hike up to the rim was really wonderful, some of the best scenery I've seen in Japan. Should anyone actually visit me in Japan, I'm all over hiking that one again.
I've posted some pictures of our previous hike to mount Aso in Kyushu. The landscape was pretty similar, but in this case we couldn't see it.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
To provide the appropriate "atmosphere" for an english conversation school my employer utilizes cable radio to pull in a preposterous number of stations. The one that has been selected is an easy listening/soft rock channel from Hawaii. Every day we listen to "romace through the night" piped in from across the ocean. It seems like the damn station (while probably owned by the Clear Channel) is sponsored by the Elton John fan club. There is at least 1 of his songs per hour. Let me tell you, you can only listen to "Yellow brick road" so many times before you go mental or punch out your eardrums.