Sunday, November 28, 2004

On a personal financial note: FALL DOLLAR FALL!! I'm going to be the richest boy in the world, assuming of course that the dollar falls to the 50 yen to the buck ratio that I dream of! I just won't be able to buy anything outside the US for a while, or travel cheaply. Se la vie.
Saturday was a pretty good day. First slept in till noon, a first for this year I think. Dawn, Lara and Shane came over and we talked the talk and drank the drinks until the wee hours of the morn the previous night, so I had to rid myself of the odious 二ζ—₯酔い (futstukayoi=hangover). A wee bit later I was rock climbing, just to sober up you know. Got my kiester spanked by the rock, as will happen sometimes. In the evening we went to the Suzaka International Exchange Freakshow. Suzaka is the neighboring city where Dawn lives and the event was not actually called freakshow, but that's what it amounted to. I have never been asked the same question so many times as on this particular evening. "What's your name, where are you from, how long have you been in Japan?" I even got my genitals bumped by a really drunken guy who was complimenting my "strength". What a great time!

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

It's been a while since I've posted, but we've been vacationing fiends for the past 4 days in Kyoto. It was a whirlwind expensive trip, as you might expect in the most popular tourist destination in Japan (outside Tokyo Disney, of course). We took a bunch of pictures, which will probably be ready sometime next week and right now I'll spare most of the details for some general observances.

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

So, this week has been a draining one. It's not like I've really had that much more work than normal, but my general level of stress and apathy is getting me down. I've bungled a couple of things here, namely missing two lessons in as many weeks. I can blame it on foolishness or forgetfulness, but I think what it really boils down to is Apathy with a capital A. With a month left until we're going home for christmas it's increasingly hard to stay focused on things here. I pretty much don't care about doing a good job at work, mostly about getting through my day. That has its benefits, as in I don't really mind if a lesson is bad, as long as it fills the time effectively. It also has negatives, like, each lesson is 70 minutes of boring hell at worst and stalling tactics at best.

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

This country is sometimes just perfect. Yesterday, on what I thought was going to be a rainy day, shane and I hiked up in 55 degree sun to one of the local crags and went rock climbing for 4 hours in the beautiful outdoors. The mountains are supremely beautiful with the changing leaves right now. It's just like they were painted. I can honestly say that if I liked my job better, it would be easy to stay for ever. Of course, that's just whistful thinking, but I'm a sentimental guy.
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

I was contemplating what foods to bring back from Japan for all y'all to feast on. I'm for sure bringing some mochi, the gooey rice cakes. I am also planning on bringing home a Tako-yaki maker. Tako-yaki are the "japanese fastfood" from Osaka consisting of a fish flavored pancake batter ball filled with some rice crispies, ginger, green onions and a fat chunk of octopus. You can make them with shrimp or weiners, but the official ones are only octopus.

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.
I just realized, fortunately, that I have to renew my visa in about a month. It's pretty crazy to think that I've been here that long. It's just been one wild ride, for sure y'all. I'm tolerating my job pretty well, particularly since i've had a good number of easy weeks in a row, and the prospect of our trip to Kyoto in another week makes it all the better. Fall has been just bitchin so far. We've had a whole week without rain (ending today) and the temperatures have been in the teens and twenties C all week. I've been here so long that I can even understand Metric intuitively. I remember one time where I was bitching about Farenheit and the rest of the Imperial system to my dad when he said, "Celsius will never catch on, the degrees are too big, 9/5 of a Farenheit degree." I didn't want to scoff at the time, but really, that's why they created decimal points. Oh well, those who know him realize that my Pa really just likes to have an answer handy no matter what the question. Go ahead and try him. Sorry Dad, but ask Mom, she'll back me up.

Monday, November 08, 2004

This is in response to the discussion started by my venerable Blog colleagues, Tim Pavlish and Ben Knudson
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 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.
Drilling 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.

2. forests should not be logged.

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...
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.

3. global warming is bad.

it isn’t that bad. and remember, humans are the great ameliorators, we can change and fix in a hurry if forced.
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.

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

When one is in a foreign country one is often subject to differing views of international politics. Some of them are quite interesting and some of them make you cringe. This week will be spent explaining why Americans spent their time and votes to re-elect one of the worst presidents in recent memory. I think that we should really turn to our spiritual guides, the Canadians, for solace and reconciliation. We would have more national holidays, universal health care, decriminalized marijuana and also the nicest public servants in the known universe.

Oh Canada!!!!

We can dream, can't we.

Here is one of the perspectives of our northern neighbors.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Mild depression setting in.....
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

Here are some pictures from our hike last weekend. The weather was grey but afforded a good view. There's a particularly dashing one of yours truly.

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)