Wednesday, February 26, 2003

We returned to Oahu from Maui today. Maui was great. Spent a lot of time with my cousin Sarah, who I probably hadn't seen in about 15 or 20 years and had never really sat down and talked with ever. Guess we made up for it over the past couple of days.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Spent time with some old friends today that I hadn't seen in 4 years. They look just the same and it felt like I'd just seen them last week. It makes me wonder if that's something that happens when you get older-- that you think everyone looks just like they used to, but really they don't. Maybe it's just that we're all getting older at the same pace so in a relative way everyone looks the same.

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Woke up this morning and turned on CNN to hear news about a fire at a club in Rhode Island that left about 100 people dead. Rhode Island is not too far from NH. I've driven down there to see shows before. First thing I thought about was my brother in law. I don't think he's particularly a Great White fan, but he goes to a lot of shows with friends or when he wins tickets on the radio. It wasn't totally out of the question that he could've been there. I mailed my sister and found out he's fine and no news of anyone else we know having been there. Not that it makes it any less horrible. It's just so sad that people going out to enjoy a night of music had to lose their lives, end up in the hospital or had to experience what must have been a scene from hell.

So this morning I woke up to news about the club fire in R.I., the story about the girl who was given two heart and lung transplants because the first one was the wrong blood type, the oil storage plant that exploded in NY and the US sending combat troops into the Philippines. Is this normal US news? Have I been living in some kind of numbed out fog in Japan? It's terrifying. And then I walk out the door and it's a beautiful Hawaiian morning and the air smells like plumerias. Sometimes life seems more surreal than real.

It's from a totally different context, but for some reason this poem comes to mind. Maybe I just wish life was so simple that I could live it as if it were a dream. Or maybe I'm just imagining waking up in a burn unit after going out one night to see a show.

Kimi ya koshi
Ware ya yukikemu
Yume ka utsutsu ka
Nete ka samete ka

from Ise Monogatari ca. 980

Did you come?
Or did I go?
I can't remember.
Was that a dream or real?
Was I asleep or awake?

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Got to Hawaii yesterday and on arrival was treated to an hour in the immigration office while they hassled Shiro for having a green card. That was lovely. My tax dollars at work.
Aside from my jet lag, Hawaii is lovely as always. Have been to the beach both days we've been here. Going straight from February layers to a bathing suit was a bit of a shock, but fuck it, it's Hawaii and the beach and the fact that I glow flourescent white is not really a problem.
Had the lau lau plate at the Aloha Poi Bowl last night. Hawaiian food rocks.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Leaving for Hawaii today. Just doing my packing now. I hate packing early. Seems like I always bring too much stuff with me when I do that. All I'm bringing to Hawaii is 4 t-shirts, 2 pairs of jeans, 1 skirt, underwear, socks, a bathing suit, a hat, 1 pair of shorts, pjs, toiletries and 3 books. That's for a 12 day stay. Even that is probably too much.
If you check here you may catch a glimps of me sometime. Aloha nui loa!

Monday, February 17, 2003

According to the morning wide show, the surprise hit movie of the season in Japan is Bowling For Columbine. It's playing to packed houses in 9 theaters in Tokyo and will be shown nationwide in over 100 theaters in March. Well, all right!
Must admit that I have a thing for Michael Moore. I've loved him since back in the old TV Nation days. I was also impressed that one of the commentators on the wide show said that Michael Moore and his "no appointment" interviews were what the original Denpa Shonen (lame site, btw) used to be like before it turned into the typical tv drivel. It started out like a derivative of TV Nation but proceeded to lose it's teeth over the years.
Anyway, if the movie isn't playing in Hawaii anymore I will catch it when I get back here next month.
Google Buys Pyra: Blogging Goes Big-Time
What will it mean for an average blogger like myself? Somehow I get the feeling the Big TIme is gonna pass me by.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Oh, I see on the news tonight that the anti-war rallies happened today, not yesterday. This may explain why they weren't covered in yesterday's news.
Isn't it crazy that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people around the world have come together to protest what the US is threatening to do and it still might not even make a difference?
Today was Kim Jong Il's birthday. At least North Korea didn't launch a missile to "celebrate".
Well, I have found a way to arrange for cheap travel while feeling the thrill of gambling all in one site:Hotwire.
I don't consider myself much of a gambler, but after spending almost every waking hour of the last 2 or 3 days online trying to arrange for rental car, hotels and interisland flights in Hawaii next week, it all seems like a crapshoot. At least Hotwire lets you admit it. They offer really low rates on flights, car rentals and hotels, but you don't find out the details (like the name of the hotel) until after you have purchased. Since we are splitting our time in Hawaii into three parts-- Oahu, Maui, Oahu-- I figure we can take a chance with a few days worth of accomodation. We leave in 4 days and so far I have managed to book us the first four nights of lodging, only. Something will come through. Nantoka naru.
The problem with dealing with companies in Hawaii is that they all operate on Hawaiian Time. What this means is that someone living in Japan, like myself, expects anything business oriented to be dealt with lighting fast. If I send an email inquiry to a Japanese company I expect I will hear back from them within 2 or 3 hours maximum. Hawaii doesn't work like that. I lived there for 4 years. I should know better than to expect instant responses.
If it comes down to the wire I'll just book most everything through Hotwire and be done with it.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Conspicuous Absence
I seem to recall having heard that big anti-war rallies were going to take place today in the Japanese major cities, as well as other major cities all around the world, but I haven't noticed any mention of it on the tv news. In fact, the only place I've seen it reported is in the Japanese news online at And even that was about events that took place in other countries, not about anything in Japan.
If a tree falls...

Friday, February 14, 2003

Even though I love to bitch and moan about the entrance exam marking experience, I have to admit it's kind of fun. The marking itself can even be rather entertaining because of some of the interesting turns of phrases students come up with and the insight into high school kids psyches.
The real fun though is in spending time with the other teachers. For most of the year I only see the other teachers in my own department or those who on the same campus. During the marking period I also get to spend time with the teachers from the main campus departments. That's when I start to realize that this job has allowed me to meet, work and make connections with people from around the world, not just Japan. I think I will miss that in NH. Or maybe it's just something I'm going to have to seek out or create for myself.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Finished up with that exam marking finally today. After that went out with "the boys" in Kyoto, first to Hill of Tara and then to Flamingo. Flamingo might be the coolest bar in Kyoto. Cool layout and decor, good music (don't really have the lingo down, but I'd tag it ambient trance or something close to that). Learned way too much about my colleagues' formative childhood erotic experiences. I wonder what's up with that? Do I really need to be privy to what's going in in their heads? It doesn't bug me or offend me. It's the true human condition so there's no use in denying it. Kind of interesting to hear their truths and see how much it does or doesn't differ from the images I had. Was told that basically I am Elaine (yeah, from Seinfeld), which kind of makes sense to me.
I'm tired and shivering and need to drink a couple of big glasses of water and get to bed. I'll leave you with one of the more foreboding yet potentially accurate essays I read today. They were asked whether they thought students should study modern history.
***** I think so. Japanese students know a few things. Therefore, awful things will happen.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

My Bloginality is INFP
It is said We Japanese put on many unique wears such as Kimono and Geta and so on. This is because I think so.

2 more days of essay grading left. May not make it out sane.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Definitely could have done without it, but this evening I got to experience the quintessential urban Japanese experience-- the sardine-packed train. Actually, sardines have it better than I had tonight in the train back from Kyoto. Had a full day of exam marking. What an exercise in futility that is. But after 4 years I understand the criteria now and don't really have to experience too much anguish during it. It's a lot of nonsense-- bud gus is in the air polluted. Some of it is so random in gammar and syntax yet it manages to convey a general sense of what the writer is trying to say, so you can't say it's total gibberish, but to try to grade it is painful.
Yeah, so after a day of THAT, followed by a standing crowded bus ride from one end of Kyoto to the other in rush hour, I get to Kyoto Station, go up, over and down to my platform and there's a whole lot of people standing around waiting. I stood and waited too and the board just kept showing how many minutes late the trains already were. Then they announced the delay was due to a jinshin jiko at Yamashina, the next station down the line. Jinshin jiko literally means individual accident. Could be an actual accident, but it often means someone has committed or tried to commit suicide on the tracks and they have to get the situation cleaned up so the trains can start runnning again. I saw on the news last week that around Osaka they are installing motion sensor lights at certain spots along the rail as a deterrent.
Anyway, I can't help but wonder if this particular jinshin jiko was making a final statement to us all by timing it for 5pm on a Monday night before a national holiday when everyone was just trying to get home. We jumped on the first train that came through and that thing was pack to the gills. It then proceeded to get worse at each successive station. Everyone was all smushed together at odd angles and people push and brace to try to claim some personal space but it's futile. You can feel the press of bodies around you as you draw in a breath. Human beings should not have to spend any part of their day like that. I can't believe people spend a lifetime doing that.

Saturday, February 08, 2003

In Japan the seventh anniversary of someone's death is considered a milestone. They call in a priest and have him recite sutras in front of the family altar. It's called a houji. In my family we mourn individually.
I visit Kate's grave almost everytime I go back to NH. Last summer I snapped off the branches of a tree that was growing through the chainlink fence next to her grave and dropped leaves and crud on her stone. Even now, seven years later, I can never quite recall the exact date that she died. I check the stone everytime but it doesn't stick.
I remember that I brought the last picture I had of her to the funeral. It was a picture of her, Mom, Stef and me taken at Mom's house a couple of months before. I'm not sure why I brought it with me, maybe I was planning to put it on top of her casket. But Dad said he didn't even have a recent picture of her so I gave the picture to him instead.

Friday, February 07, 2003

A Great Marketing Blunder?
Last summer Kirin introduced a seasonal item (a very big concept here) into their Ichiban Shibori happoshu line. An autumn beer made with fresh hops (beer snobs please feel free to correct the lingo) that they cognominated 'Marihana'. I caught the tv commercial a few times. Very lush imagery.
Wonder if they'll use the same name next year?

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Yesterday we finished up the second day of exam marking in Kyoto. If you think about the actual content of the work it's pretty mind numbing, but it's one chance a year to meet up with people who work in the other departments. And it's a chance to go to Kyoto. Which means a chance to go out in Kyoto after work.
We went to Hill of Tara and drank Killkenny ale and half and half until the live Irish music started to grate on the nerves. It's a really nice pub and if you are into live Irish music and/or very tasty beer then you should check it out .
Then we went and ate ramen in Kiyamachi in probably the foulest smelling room I have ever sat in. I think it was Nagahama Ramen. It was okay. The noodles were good. The chashu was okay. It was a tonkotsu soup but not too heavy. Continued on into the evening and ended up in a bar in Kiyamachi that has a great selection of rock. The master spins requests too. He played Radiohead, which I had heard before but hadn't really paid attention. But something about it totally grabbed me last night. It just seemed to sum up the moment perfectly. It was a really fun night with suprisingly few lingering after effects. It's so hard to believe that in just a few months this is all going to seem to have happened so long ago.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Jurors say they were duped and I agree. What a witchhunt.

Monday, February 03, 2003

Let's concentrate on the positive.
Things I like about living in Japan:
drying my laundry in the sun, not in a dryer
living half a block from the supermarket
kaiten sushi
seasonal foods
Yahoo wireless broadband
100 yen shops
cherry blossoms in spring
green tea parfaits
energy saving appliances
equinoxes as national holidays

I discovered a cool project by link surfing off Notes from Pureland Mountain. It's called the ageless project and it's purpose is to send "the message that the personal, creative side of the web is diverse and ageless."
Age. I'm one month away from my 38th birthday and being here in Japan that makes me nervous because I am already out of the running for many jobs due to my advanced chronological status. That is one of the reasons why I need to get out of here.
Overt gender discrimination in job ads became illegal a couple of years back, but there's no legal or social problem with discriminating on the basis of age. Many of the universitites seem to embrace it, actually. They specify that you must meet their age requirements not only at the time of application, but at the time you would accept the post. In my case my birthday is in March. Most teaching jobs here start in April. So it's possible I could be rejected for a job because I would be 26 days too old by the time the appointment started.
Of course not all schools are that rigid. And of course, I shouldn't allow myself to get bogged down by someone else's standards. But I came to this country when I was 22 and have spent the bulk of my adult life here. It has had a great influence. The prevailing mood seeps in around the cracks and I have at times found myself longing for the facade of stability and security that is held as sacred here. That "permanent position" that guarantees an income and a title and the denial of any other possible path through life.
That is not what led me here half a world away from where I started. It's not my ideal at all, but still sometimes the thought creeps in. I should be "looking out for my future". I should be striving to climb the career ladder, even though I know it doesn't lead to anyplace I want to go.

Sunday, February 02, 2003

I downloaded Opera yesterday and am now trying it out. I'm not running OS10.2 yet so I can't use Safari, which has gotten some rave reviews from my friends who use it.
So far Opera is nice. Can't say I find it noticeably faster than Explorer in loading pages, but I haven't tried to download any media files yet which is maybe where I'll notice the speed difference. I like the keyboard shortcuts. I like the multi-page in one window concept. Everything looks nice.
Guess this means I have managed to free myself from Microsoft products for the internet. Oooh, somebody ought to give me a medal.
Live free or die!

Saturday, February 01, 2003

Kurt Vonnegut, spot on as always.
In These Times | Kurt Vonnegut vs. the !*!@
Maybe you really are what you eat:
An International School Lunch Tour