Thursday, January 30, 2003

Man, I'm such a blockhead sometimes. I changed the template on this page and forgot to include the GeoURL code in the header so it looked like I was alone drifting in the sea of east Asian bloggery. I finally set it up right again and found the closest blogger to me is Robert Brady, whose name I know from back when I used to read Kyoto Journal. He must be across the lake up on Mt. Hiei.

I used to read Kyoto Journal religiously. I'd push through the crowds at the Umeda Kinokuniya bookstore to get the latest issue in all its artsy alternative splendor. I think grad school is what finally killed off all my aspirations of being a groovy alternative Japan-smart intellectual. I was really into what I was doing (reading and writing about late 13th century Japanese court poetry and diaries ) until I realized there were maybe a dozen other people in the world who could give a shit about the topic and that probably none of them even actually lived in Japan. Maybe that was what got to me, all the Japan experts I met in the States had only spent a couple of years living here, which is probably all you need if you're just going to studying parts of the culture that died a thousand years ago anyway.
But I can see how the whole blogging concept has connections back to the rampant diary and memoir writing you see in early Japanese lit.
"Haru wa akebono" "In the spring it is the dawn..."
Good old Sei Shonagon. It would've been cool to hook her up with a new iBook and a Cybershot and see how she would've blogged Heian Japan.

Trying out the image thing.
The photo came from Andrew Johnson's who went into camera battle at the going away party for Ian, Mick and me that was held in Seta on Jan. 21. Lots of nice Japan photos on Andrew's site.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Central heating. I just want some good old American style central heating instead of a stupid little Dainichi kersosene fan heater that beeps a ventilation warning every 3 minutes ever since the 3 year warranty expired. I suspect this is a case of planned obsolescence.
If you have to open the window for ventilation for 5 minutes every hour in below freezing temperatures then what good is having a heater anyway?

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Woah. I just had one of those whack on the head with a big wooden stick kind of revelations that I very possibly may be an advanced slacker. It's so uncool it's almost cool.
Seems like I look around and all my old friends are important guys in big places. And I'm not. at all.
But if I get into the right spirit of slackerness I can see that it doesn't really matter. It doesn't mean they're happier or more fortunate than I am.

Friday, January 24, 2003

I realize I am so 5 years behind the times, but I've been studying Thau's JavaScript Tutorial on Not really sure what learning scripting languages is going to do for me. It's intellectually entertaining and if I keep at it long enough to get good it should be some kind of marketable skill.
Went to the meeting for contact teachers ending their contracts. Found out about how to get a lump sum distribution from the pension fund and other exciting info. Also found some resistance when I asked about the reimbursement for return airfare for me and my family, as stipulated in my contract. The initial response was that I was hired in country so that means they weren't really intending to pay for me to go back to the US. If you get hired in from abroad they'll pay for you to go back and if you get hired in country they won't seems to be the intial answer. That's bullshit though because it states in writing on my contract that they will pay for the return airfare. They can't turn around now and say "oh, that's not what we meant."
Anyway, that was Hashimoto-san's reaction today. He called to the Kinugasa campus to talk to the guy in charge, who of course is out of town until next week. In the meantime I'm going to talk to Aldo, who is a lawyer, and see what he can tell me about it.

Monday, January 20, 2003

What is it with young Japanese girls and their fatal fashions?
I few years ago those gigantic platform boots were in style and you'd hear on the news about girls slipping in the snow or ice or down the stairs to the subway and breaking their bones. And stories about girls trying to drive in those things and getting the heels wedged between the pedals and having car accidents.
Now the platform boot craze has passed and I thought that was the end of fatal fashions, but apparently not. Just heard another story on the news about a young woman being strangled to death when the trendy ultra-long scarf that she was wearing got caught in the wheel of her scooter. There was a similar incident late last year when a girl with a long scarf got it caught in the wheels of a go-cart she was driving and strangled to death.
Hey, isn't that what happened to one of those 1950s movie star gals? When you think about it it doesn't really seem very glamorous.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Better record this moment for posterity.
I am sitting in class using the wireless network and my iBook to surf and blog as my students take a test. This is the last test I will administer as a teacher at Ritsumeikan University.
And I feel fine.
Made more cookies yesterday. I can't seem to stop myself. I am the Queen of Cookies. Peanut butter oatmeal cookies with either chocolate chips or raisins. They're kind of cake-like and not as crunchy as the oatmeal cookies I made before. More like peanut butter cookies than oatmeal cookies. Very nice.
Man, these kids amaze me. At least five of them have showed up more than 10 minutes late for their final test.
Today, tomorrow and then I AM DONE!

Saturday, January 18, 2003

My political kick continues.
I just read that the Bureau of Land Management has proposed opening up millions of acres of the Alaskan North Slope for oil exploration and drilling. I've sent email to my state congressman and senator in Washington before about the drilling of pristine Alaskan wilderness via the NRDC BioGems Action Center. It is really push button activism at its finest. It like 2 mouse clicks and you're an activist.
Since the announcement was just made today there is nothing official to send up on the Biogems site yet. So I used their Arctic Refuge letter as a template and rewrote it to apply to today's news. Then I decided to really go all out and find out the email addresses of my senators and representative by myself and not send it through Biogems. Couldn't find a mail address for John Sununu as he just took office as a senator about 10 days ago and his senate website and mail is apparently not available yet.
Wow. I didn't know I was such a geek about all this. It just seems to be springing out of nowhere.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Woah. I'm so political lately. What's with that?
I think Kim Jong Il is a crazy person and I don't think North Korea should be allowed to carry on the way it is, but I'm kind of glad that North Korea is demanding attention at just the moment George Bush was getting ready to spew all over Iraq. It looked like there'd be nothing stopping Bush from forcing himself and his projection of some deep seated personal hang up he must have onto the rest of the world. It all sounds so much faker now when he claims that the North Korea situation can be settled by peaceful negotiation but Sadam Hussein must be disarmed by force. And then North Korea keeps on rejecting all the US offers soften the situation.
Let me get this straight. Iraq is bad because we suspect they have weapons (and the will for) of mass destruction, which they deny. They are cooperating with the IAEA inspections. Japanese news media coverage of daily life in Iraq shows people who support their leader and who also love to watch American tv shows. They don't like George Bush (don't blame them), but they like America. So we want to bomb them.
And North Korea, which has kicked out all inspectors and is crowing that it posseses nuclear devices and is working to make more is not bad. The country that says it has nuclear weapons and where preschoolers are taught to attack figures of American soldiers and where people who are not party members are left to starve and die is not the most serious issue. It's not the point.
The point is George was just about to get his rocks off and he got cut off blindsided from the totally opposite direction.
And it's taking him a while to shift focus. He's still waiting to get off but Kim Jong Il totally stole his thunder. He's totally messing with The Plan. I can almost feel grateful, but not quite.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

The local Tokyo government and the Finance Ministry are planning to demolish the family home of Japan's empress because of back taxes. I heard on TV that the government claims the house cannot be declared an official cultural asset because it was not the home of a person who contributed to traditional Japanese arts.
Let me get this straight. The family home of the current empress, the first commoner to marry into the Japanese royal family and become empress, doesn't rate preservation for its historical significance. Nevermind the fact that it's also a cool looking house.
Of course there is a movement to save the house and get the Finance Ministry to scrap their plans to demolish it. They seem to have been able to postpone the demolition at least for today.

Spent a good half hour or so browsing my my local neighborhood drug store. Ended up buying some corn pads for Rachel's feet, a 12 pack of mini hand warmers, a 5-pack of hot bath salts containing ceramides, collagen and chili pepper extract, and some adhesive capsicin pads to stick on the bottom of my feet before I go to bed. Supposedly they draw impurities out of the body and help you wake up feeling refreshed. Think that's a bit much to hope for for 98 yen (about 80 cents), but they looked intriguing.
I spend a lot of time at the drug store browsing the bath section.There is such a wide selection of salts, powders and potions to add to your bath. Some of them claim to recreate the composition of famous natural hot springs baths. Others just smell nice and make the water pretty colors.
My favorite is the Bub series by Kao, the same company that's responsible for those Biore pore cleansing strips. Bub is kind of like an alka seltzer for your bath. It's a big cube that you drop into the tub which then fizzes itself to nothingness while releasing a pleasant color and aroma. They have cool selections like cherry blossom (pink), green tea (green, duh), Japanese cypress (yellow), chammomile (yellowish green), lavender (guess), and maybe yuzu or some other sort of Japanese citrus fruit (yellow). The nightly bath is just doesn't feel right without a little Bub. But tonight I'm going to try the one with the pepper extract just for a change of pace.

Monday, January 13, 2003

Yesterday was Coming of Age day here. In Japan when you reach 20 years old you are considered an adult. On the second Monday of January (traditionally Jan. 15) towns and cities across the country hold a Coming of Age ceremony for all the young people who have turned 20. They dress up in kimono and other fancy clothes, go to the ceremony and then party.
Over the past few years there has been a lot of media coverage about bad behavior at the public ceremonies; too much talking during the old men's speeches, everyone on the cell phone all throughout the ceremony, public drinking, kids shooting off fireworks inside the ceremony hall. Basically really juvenile behavior that eventually caused some cities to cancel their ceremonies all together.
All the tv news shows covered the ceremonies nationwide looking for cases of bad behavior, which they found down in Okinawa. And then most stations went into nostlagia mode as they reviewed how things were 20 years ago when all these new "adults" were born. So typical to focus on the past and what was rather than what the future holds and what kind of society these new adults are going to create. Couldn't they find a handful of 20 year olds doing exceptional things and do short spotlight features on them? The only individual 20 olds they really spent any time on were the "talents" (a term used very loosely here), mostly the girls who are aidoru, magazine pin up models or tv personalities.
I spend most of my time at work surrounded by Japanese kids of that age. They do not paint a pretty picture for the future of this country. Everyone concerned about their own comfort and the amenities available to them and very little apparent ambition or drive.
It's definitely time for me to leave here. With this attitude there's no way I could continue being effective as a teacher with this much contempt for my students. During the 7 years I've been teaching in Japanese universities I'd say there are fewer than 10 students who have struck me as being bright, motivated and likely to make a good future for themselves. It seems like the rest will take whatever comes along, rather than go out and get what they want.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

The luxury of a Sunday afternoon by myself. I love the family but sometimes it's really nice to be alone.
I did some work, went for a jog. Now I'm listening to the new Foo Fighters cd I bought last week while I cook up some chicken chili to have on hand for lunch tomorrow.
It's really time I shake off that mantle of winter hibernation and crawl on out of my cave into the light. It's really weird and hard to stay motivated finishing out the end of this contract. And it's not that staying motivated for work is hard because there's really so little left to do at this point that it dodesn't take a huge effort to do it. It's everything else.
It just feels like it's time to wake back up.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

I think one reason for the communication gaps between Japanese university students and the foreign instructor facult y is that we instructors believe that preparing students for the reality of the work world is part of our job. That is why we stress the importance of performance standards and meeting deadlines in our classes. In Japan, there is still a lingering belief that the university should function as something of a 4 year vacation for students between the shit they endured in the entrance examination hell and the shit they would have endured as new salarymen, if that system had survived.
It seems pretty obvious to me and many of my colleagues that with the current state of the Japanese economy, these university students probably don't really have the luxury of spending the bulk of their four years here immersed in the depth of membership in a tennis circle and all the bonding and social structuring that provided. Ah the good old days...
The way I see it these kids ought to realize that accountability is a fundamental concept they need to get a grasp of. It's no longer going to be possible to build a career on mediocre skills and the ability to get along well with others.
The future is not bright here. I can't see their vision for the future. I know it will all look different again once I'm back on the outside.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Disjointed disconnected
you don't know me
you don't hear me
I'm right here but you don't see me
and if there's anything you feel I'd never know it
not to look at you

avert your gaze
keep those eyes away
so i won't know there's nothing
there inside
you have nothing to hide
because there's nothing there inside

**inspired by spending yet another morning with my Ritsumei students

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Good thing I didn't get up and get cracking on that translation job since the agency called me at about 10am and said the client had cancelled the job. That's fine. Leaves me more time to play around with web stuff. I just registered with GeoURL. It helps you find URLs located near a specific location. So far I'm the only one within 1,000 miles to be signed up. oooh, I love being a trendsetter.
Oh no! Going through a career crisis moment now. I have 5 teaching days left and after that I'm really no longer a teacher. I won't get back to NH until April and I can't really look for work there until I get there. At any given moment I may want to 1) look for a teaching job 2) look for more freelance translation work 3) gain some new programming skills and get involved in web development 4) work in adult education/training 5) get some on-line teaching or tutoring gig 6) get some sort of work as a writer or editor 7)get my butt back to NH and just BE for a while.
What I really need to do is stop pondering all the options and get to work translating the 25 page Power Point presentation for Toyota that an agency sent me yesterday.

Monday, January 06, 2003

Man is it cold here. It's just around freezing which isn't so bad compared to some places, but when you have no central heat it sucks. Our kerosene fan heater sounds it's "bad air" alarm and shuts itself off every 5 minutes and the wall mounted "air conditioner" unit basically just heats the top half of the room, so we switch back and forth between them. I guess if I got up off my ass and moved I'd feel warmer, but it's too cold to move.
So instead I'll go ahead and start the countdown. Approximately 83 days left until I'm out of Japan and back in NH.

Saturday, January 04, 2003

It's a new year so it's time for a new look to the blog.
Started the year off in what's got to be one of the corners of purgatory-- the old people talking of hospitals and aiments corner. I don't think I really have any age-ist issues to work out. It just bores me to tears to have to spend day after day hearing the recitation of it all. I end up looking at the experience as a chance to maintain a calm heart. Like it's some sort of zen test. Hey, it may well be my substitute for the New Year practice in the river ritual I did back when I was living and breathing for karate. Overcoming fear and reluctance by force of will. Ten minutes in a freezing river, four days at the inlaws. It's all the same thing. I brought a book and a knitting project and was able to occupy myself staying "in" on things in physical presence, if not in mind.
Time for resolution making. Better start with the usual ones about exercising and not becoming a total hog. Practice bass more so that I can be where I want to be with it when I get back to NH and my band! Write more (this applies to everything: blogging, mail, songs, essays, etc.) Take time and chances as they come; don't go chasing.