Sunday, October 31, 2004

I must give out due congratulations to my former teammates on the Macalester CC team. The 3oth was the MIAC Conference race on the venerable Como Golf Course. I remember the pain vividly. It looks like the fellas had a pretty good race and that, given the times, it was a pretty rough and windy day. Paul, I'm sorry that Martins escaped you for the final race. At least you look cuter in tights. Bo, nice job, and Roscoe, I'll definitely give you an 'attaboy for effort. Good luck at Regions (nationals as well, dare I say) and also next year.
I gotta give a shout out to my dear old dad. Today i recieved a perfectly timed box of halloween candy. Inside were all of the necessities for the day; halloween candy, the Toons, the Onion and 2 cans of beets. I admit, my dad took a hit for the team to the tune of $36.80, but man was it appreciated. The halloween candy is of course because today is Halloween and the beets are because I've been pining for Borscht in my diet and you can't get beets for love or money in this country. Well, actually they can be had for an exorbitant sum, but I haven't bothered to shell out for that yet.

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

Why isn't voting day a national holiday? In japan they've got like 20 national holidays a year and they're doing fine. I mean, everyone loves a national holiday. Sure november also has Thanksgiving to it's name but within a similar span of time the US also has the Christmas (not official but defacto) and Newyears. We could make it kind of a stretch of holidays extending from October 31, Halloween to November 1, which we could call Spirituality Day (instead of the denominational All Saints Day) and then we could do it up right with Election Day. If that name doesn't seem so fitting we could call it "National Futility Day" or maybe "Random Guessing Day" for those people who think that we don't need to bother making any more effort to get the poor people into the voting booth.
What do you think reader(s)? Are you with me?

Monday, October 25, 2004

I think that from now on i'll refer to the Onion for my election coverage. They at least are unbiased and fair regarding their reporting practices. Just look how evenly irreverent they are.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Ok, this is mostly a facts post. I just wanted to let everyone know that while we did notice the earthquake here, nothing bad really happened in our prefecture. The 6.7 quake was centered about 100 miles from here and did a pretty good deal of damage in what is already a poor ken. I was actually rock climbing at the time and didn't really notice anything from the original quake but I did feel several of the aftershocks, including one last night at about midnight and one this morning, kind of a seismic wake up call. As I mentioned, while rock climimbing I noticed an odd shaking in the trees and what sounded like an animal moving quickly, which was probably just the earthquake shaking the ground. As we were hiking out from the climbing area in the dark we noticed one of the aftershocks though. It was pretty cool actually, first a couple of dogs in nearby farmhouses started going nuts and shortly therafter the ground started jiggling and the roof on the nearby Buddhist temple started shaking and rattling.
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

Now for a well reasoned post to sock it to all of you getting bored with my whining. I'm going to lay down the law on all of you doubters of my sincerity and intelligence. Well, mostly i'm talking to Ben, just because he's my cyber-foil.

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

Alf has somewhat assuaged my fears about him. He's not voting because he's made a pact with his father in which niether of them will vote because the votes would cancel eachother out. This makes a lot of sense from alf's perspective, he gets all the benefits of voting, plus he can be lazy. However, alf will miss his chance to potentially choose school board members, approve judges and maybe Congresspersons or Senators.
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

One of the nice things about Japan is that it's exceedingly easy to meet other foreigners. With so few other options for socialization here it seems that anyone who can speak English is automatically part of the club. Now it's not exactly as though i'm saying that Japanese people aren't worth hanging out with, I really enjoy talking to most of my students and I wouldn't mind seeing them in a bar or hanging out on the weekends, I do it occasionally. It's just that since my desire to study and practice Japanese has waned since getting here, so has my guilt over not having Japanese friends. My main attempt at internationalization is at the rock climbing gym through meeting people there, but for the most part, the people who hang out at the gym won't talk to me because I suck. It's a pretty clique-y country and the fringe hobbies such as rock climbing are really so. Plus, i'm not really willing or able to play into the big affable gorilla that most Japanese seem to be looking for in their foreigners. If I had the gift of gab, i'd be a popular guy.

Friday, October 15, 2004

I just got an email from doug in which he, the arch-liberal green party archetype voted for kerry, just as I did. I mailed my ballot in this past monday and just like Doug said, it feels good. Doug also apparently wants to find some sort of heathen sexpot in china, but frankly, this is to be expected. What was unexpected and in fact rather shocking is the fact that my good friend and well known anti-Bush kermudgeon Alfred Austin Shoemacher Hickey IS NOT VOTING IN THIS ELECTION!!!!
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

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Here's a little TMI* post.
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

I heard from a reputable source ( an elderly student of mine, why would she lie?) that bush was recieving live help via a radio earpiece during the last presidendial debate. As my student put it, "Therefore, he's stupid." Wouldn't it be great if that were true, that we really had a very clever robotic puppet for the President of the United States, If that were the case, we could easily impeach the impostor. Since Bush is apparently just an actor portraying the president, I nominate Martin Sheen to replace him once he's out of office. I think that Sheen protrays a much more magnanimous and respectable president than the current drawling muppet.

Monday, October 11, 2004

I've been in a sort of "Whitehouse Fever" recently. Firstly, it's October 2004, a month before the election and the fate of the free world hangs in the balance. Fucking Bush. We've been listening to the presidential debates on and have found them to be pretty interesting. I wish that I could have watched the TV version to get the whole effect, but the radio only version has a great bit of nostalgic feeling, even if it's radio downloaded from the internet and played over my laptop's speakers. I honestly thought that Bush did a lot better in the First debate than the commentators seemed to think that that he did a lot worse in the second. Kerry was pretty even both times, but honestly he seemed to kick ass in the second one. Bush just spouted off the same lines as in the first; "I know how these people think, I talk to them every day... That just ain't how it is...etc." Kerry seemed to bring new ideas into the second debate more than Bush. Of course I'm just biased, if I fucking hate that waste of 4 years in the office and all of his warmongering suplicants on the hill, of course I'm going to give him negative points for whatever he says. Likewise if I agree with pretty much everything Kerry says, of course I'm going to give him props for that. What I still have a hard time believing is that anyone can actually support Bush for any reason. Someone back home, please tip me off as to why. I can understand the reason that single issues advocates (pro-lifers, religious zealots, gun nuts, Saudi princes and the shamelessly rich) but I am just going mental trying to figure out how anyone can be "on the fence" at this point. It's getting to the point that i'm starting to have dreams about the election. Yes, I 'm voting for Kerry and yes I'm sending in my overseas ballot tomorrow.
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

Ok, there have been a lot of picture only posts recently. I've run out of space on the local server and so have been using a program from Blogger that allows one at a time posting only. It works well for one or two pictures, but it takes a long time with more than that. The weekend is here and aside from the typhoon yesterday, our 8th of the season, it's been nice. Typhoons have a really particular and predictable weather pattern. They blast in one day, rain a ton and then are gone in about 24-36 hours leaving us with a usually very clear and pleasant day.
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.

Ok, the last of the pictures today. This is a typical traffic jam in Manila. It's one of those "Traffic lights are optional" places.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Over the course of the trip we either accidentally or intentionally met up with this couple from Germany who were, "Only on a 3 week trip," about ten times. It's not so hard to find someone who has the same guidebook as yourself.

Here's the spunkiest hermit crab on the beach. While the rest of his compatriots were hiding away this dude was busy jumping off of tree branches and such.

Some of the local toughs. They were busy pushing eachother into the water when we arrived at the biggest beach that I've ever seen.

The ferocious MONITOR LIZARD!

Here is the hellish road that we took for several hours to get to the site of the world's longest underground river where a bunch of these shots were taken. We hired a van and were carted around like the imperial capitalist turds that we are. It was really convenient.

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.

The nex day we rented an outrigger canoe and paddled around for a while. Not as easy as a regular canoe, but a lot more stable.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The hard life of a snorkel captain. Aside from the fact that this guy probably makes about $1000 per year, it's a pretty easy life.

It's a strange experience to snorkel for the first time. For a landlubber like me, it's a bit disconcerting to be able to see sunken wrecks 30 feet down as you easily float by. Of course, it's mostly about looking cool.

Here's a picture of just one of the bazillion picturesque beaches in the Philippines. If your idea of a good time is lounging on an isolated beach, you could do worse than the island of Palawan.

We spent the next day snorkeling around Coron Town. It's pretty amazing that for $9 a day you can rent goggles and snorkel and a whole boat.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Here is Coron Town where we stayed for the first two days in Busuanga. Don't let the idyllic scene fool you, all we heard all day whas the buzz and clatter of ill kept engines, motorcycle, truck and boat.

Here is a little view of the town from the top of a nearby hill. This photo was taken from the base of a giant illuminated cross.

And this is the airport. We were greeted by 4 airport employees, 6 mangy dogs, 15 chickens and 1 pet monkey.

Here's where we touched down.

We flew from Manila to the small island of Busuanga on a 15 seater aircraft. The view was spectacular from the airplane. Turquoise waters and then all of a sudden a reef or a white beached island.

This is a view of the first morning in Manila. It's already damn hot outside and we have yet to figure out how to get where we're going. The garbage pickers we saw as we entered last night have cleared out and it's rather sterile around our hotel at this time.