Monday, June 30, 2003

I did some translation this past weekend, a pretty lame video script for a Japanese electronics company. Their premise was that aliens had come to Earth to get all the company's latest products because they are just so darn advanced. Right, like anyone is going to travel through space to pick up an Earth manufactured TV-- and a CRT at that, not even a plasma tv.
I've done just a handful of jobs in the couple of months I've been back here. It's not a bad way to make money so I'm thinking maybe I should try to drum up more business again. A few years back I was translating 30 hours a week in addition to my teaching job and while it made for an impressive income source, it also left me with no life. I would wake up a few hours before I had to leave for school to work on a job, come home from school and work all evening and then spend all my weekends working too. Not too surprising that I burned out on it after a while.
Translating is not bad as far as jobs go. I can make my own hours, wear whatever I want, turn down jobs if the timing is inconvenient, and it is a form of writing that I actually enjoy, at times. Reading and comprehending the Japanese is not a problem. (Twenty years on task paid off after all.) The tricky part is to express in English the intent of the original text in a way that doesn't sound stilted, ridiculous or just plain wrong. Someone reading a well-done translation should never know that it's a translation at all, but that usually involves a bit of deviation from the original and some Japanese clients are not comfortable if they can't map sentence for sentence, or even word for word, to the original. That used to bother me and I'd occasionally compain about it, but now I figure it makes more sense to please the customer, even if what the customer wants sometimes sounds goofy to me.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Bad Charlie

I like this blog way more than I should. He's just so nasty sometimes.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003


We have fireflies in our backyard. Apparently this is no particularly big deal around here. I asked my 11 year old niece what she thought about fireflies and she said they're cute and cool. I asked if they had any special connotations and she kind of looked at me funny. Not because I said "connotations" because I didn't, but because she had no idea why I would think there was anything special about fireflies other than the fact that they glow in the dark.
In Japan fireflies are a big deal. People go out in groups (of course) on summer nights to view them. In old times people collected fireflies in cages and used them as lamps. They are a very romantic symbol of summer. Towns in Japan that still have fireflies consider it something to boast about. They consider it proof they have unpolluted waterways.
When I brought the dog out last night before going to bed I thought I saw a few flashes back among the trees on the edge of the yard, but wasn't sure if it was fireflies or a visual effect of my pollen soaked contact lenses. Then I saw a few very bright bugs making their way among the trees and I called Shiro and Rachel out to the yard. The dog seemed pleasantly surprised that everyone was suddenly in the yard to accompany him on his regular nightly business. We all stood there watching the blobs of bluish luminescence and raved about how cool it is to have fireflies right in our own backyard.

Monday, June 23, 2003

I knew something was up when I saw those orange tagged survey stick lot marker things up a few weeks ago. The meadows about a quarter mile up the road are facing imminent demise. I heard a rumor about it from a lady in the neighborhood last week and I asked a guy in a Dover City Community Services sedan today and he confirmed it. I was walking to school to pick up Rachel and was just at those particular meadows when the guy in the municipal car slowed down to check out how things were coming along. Right now there is just a big swath of mowed grass that cuts down almost back to the river and some excavating going on up closer to the road. The guy told me sewer lines were going in the mowed section and that there are 8 house lots and a big lot down back. Suppose it could be worse...
We won't really be able to see any of the new houses from our place and the land directly across from us is protected state fish and game land, but the traffic in front of our house will increase. I've got to walk up and take some pictures of that vista while it still exists. It's probably going to look totally different six months from now.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

In case anyone in the area missed the official announcement--
Northern New England is now beta testing a new seasonal configuration. Rather than the traditional winter-spring-summer-fall pattern, a new stream lined version titled winter-rain is now in operation. By the time the final version is released those pesky random hours of sunshine will eliminated.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Last night I attended the Grand Opening celebration for Atomic, my sister's new store in downtown Dover. My sister and her partner, Rebecca, have opened a vintage/retro boutique with full service hair salon on Broadway, between the skateboard shop and the fire station.
I've been hanging out at the store, offering to help but never doing much more than chatting and giving Stef an excuse to step out to grab some coffee. It makes me feel like Rhoda's sister, Brenda, a shlumpy little sister who hangs around kvetching and cracking jokes.
Aside from the groovy clothes and accesories, hair stuff and general ambience of the shop, another cool thing about my sister's store is that it continues our family's tradition of retailing in Dover. My grandparents had a shoe store here and my uncle's menswear shop was right next door. My only remaining memory of the Dover store and the summer I worked for my uncle is from when I scraped the side of his van on the brick building corner trying to maneuver out of the little parking area behind the store. (Uncle Stu, if you're reading, sorry I never told you about that!)
My grandparents and uncle also had stores in downtown Portsmouth, where I grew up. I can still remember running through the stacks of shoes in the back of my grandparents' store as a kid and the little second floor office my grandfather had that looked down onto the shop floor, like a king surveying his kingdom.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Pancho. Panchorero. Panchoro. Pan-chan, Mr. Potty, Mr. Tick, Senor Diablo (check his horns!), Handsome, Puppy Boy, Mr. Dog Man, Potty Boy, Tick Boy, Spot.

He ignores all the above names equally when it suits his interests.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Yesterday afternoon we went for a walk at Wagon Hill in Durham. Every single person we ran into there (all 5 or 6 of them) had a dog. There are fields and woods and shoreline and paths leading over and through all of it. Access is free. Parking is free. There are even free doggie waste bags provided for visitors.
It sparked memories of a visit I took with Rachel last fall to Wan Wan Oukoku in Shiga. This is what I wrote about it in my proto-blog at the time:
A few weeks ago I brought Rachel to Wan Wan Oukoku. It's a dog park. Kind of disgusting really. They charge about $12 admission to a little theme park with petting areas, dogs in pens, some dog shows, a place where you can line up to take a dog on a 50 meter walk across a lawn with 5 attendents there to make sure you don't have any trouble or get lost along the way. (No wonder it costs $12 to get in with all that staff!) There's a gift shop, of course. And the usual ice cream and hot dog stands. There was a little choo-choo train tha they charge an extra $3 per person for to take a ride around a track you could walk in under 10 minutes.
I think the dogs in the petting section were drugged or outright lobotomized. It was a Saturday and there was a full crowd so most of the little dogs were napping on customers' laps. The ones that weren't grabbed wandered around aimlessly until they were gathered up by some little kid. None of the dogs barked or made any noise at all. They didn't run or jump or lick or wag their tails. I hated it. I'd have felt better if they had just stocked the place with those Sony Aibo robot dogs. That's really the ultimate Japanese pet. See. So this is what happens when I try to get out and enjoy the activities available here. This is why all I usually do is sit home reading and surfing the net on the weekends.
Nice, huh?
Anyway, the picture above is from our walk yesterday. When I pointed out the little inlet to Rachel she stopped right in her tracks, went silent for a split second and then exclaimed-- "Oh my gosh!! Those curves are perfect! I can't believe it. It's perfect. It's art!"

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Mr. Paul Berczeller writes enthrallingly about this true (?) story that would be perfect for adaptation to a modern kabuki or bunraku play. Love, madness, suicide-- it's got it all. Berczeller himself has made a re-creative documentary about it but never once plugs his own movie by title, even though I wish he had. Wonder how Doug feels about it all now.
Thanks to Robert Brady for the link to this one.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

It's confirmed-- I live in Tick Central. I know because I live around the corner from the guy who invented and sells Ticked Off(tm) - World's Simplest Tick Remover(tm). It's the guy with the oxen and the chickens and the big compost piles. I recognized the address from the back of the package.
I have been taking at least three ticks a day off the dog and one every couple of days off myself or Rachel. (And yes, I do use Frontline on the dog.) I got my Ticked Off tick remover when I was at the animal shelter on Monday and I thought I'd be using it on the dog first, but I ended up debuting the tool by removing a small deer tick from my inner elbow Monday night. It hurt because the tick was kind of in there, but it was definitely better than dealing with it with tweezers.
Ticks are disgusting. I thought about trying to take a photo of one since I encounter so many in the course of a day, but they're so nasty that I wouldn't have the patience. If you're not familiar with ticks, you're lucky. This site will tell you a little bit about them.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

I'm seriously thinking about giving my Japanese students at UNH this fall a printout of this on the first day of class.
Found the link on OnMyMind, which also has a nice post today expounding on the sublime divineness of ume juice in summer. I concur and I wonder if it will ever get hot enough here to miss it.

Saturday, June 07, 2003

One aspect of Japanese culture that has, perhaps unfortunately, established itself as a permanent feature of our family regardless of geographical location is the shoe thing. Yes, I am bound by a unique interpretation of Japanese footwear regulations in my own American home.
The porch functions as a genkan, which makes sense. This is the main footwear change-up area for the transition from house slippers to outside shoes or vice versa. There are no guest slippers because guests are exempt from all the shoe rules, within the bounds of "common sense". I need to go out the back door into the yard with the dog several times a day so there is another little shoe station in front of the sliding glass door, complete with it's own shoe rack. I have a pair of low cut Bean boots that Shiro picked up for $3 at Goodwill that I wear to take the dog out into the yard. Slippers are worn throughout the first floor and up the stairs to the second floor but are removed before entering either of the bedrooms. Those rooms are bare feet or socks only areas.
These rules are, of course, devised by Shiro because I still don't really appreciate the full complexity of the Japanese inside/outside paradigm enough to have done it. It's an inconvenience at times, but nothing worse than that so I comply. Although I'm finding the sanctity of inside cleanliness concept a little ironic now as I sit inhaling the fumes near Shiro's very botched attempt at restoring the staircase by applying several bottles of Citristrip and stripping six decades worth of paint off the stairs to finally realize that it would have been easier just to paint over what was there or else rip out the old boards and replace them with new ones. Guess we just moved up a notch on the home owner's learning curve the hard way.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

I don't miss the Japanese Rainy Season. All that humidity and mold sometimes growing inside deep closets and on leather as well. Yuck.
It rains here all the time now too, but they just call it Spring. I got to go play in the spring mud today because Shiro brought me a mountain bike from the Goodwill yesterday. It's got a decent Taiwanese frame, low-end Shimano components, and a comfortable saddle, all for the low, low price of $15. Rachel and I went for a ride after school yesterday and saw a fox run across the road.
It rained hard last night and today is cool and drizzly. The dishes in the sink weren't going anywhere and Shiro won't be back until 2, so I decided to go visit Stef doing her chores at the horse farm down the street. I went down Old Garrison Road, which is actually quite road-like at the far end and all mud and puddles on this end. I put on some waterproof wear and went for it. Got good and dirty and remembered how free it feels to ride downhill on a muddy dirt road, never touching the brakes.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

"This air tastes delicious!"
That was the comment Rachel made as we walked to school this morning. It's not the first time I've heard the comment from a Japanese (or in Rachel's case, half Japanese) kid. The first time I heard it was in Amagasaki about a dozen years ago. I was walking from Amagasaki Station to the municipal gym to go workout and ended up chatting with a junior high school girl who was also on her way to work out. She was tiny, even for a Japanese girl, and she told me she was a synchronized swimmer. I'd never seen a girl her age working out at that gym; she told me she was training for a competition.
She asked me where I was from and I told her and she said her sister had been on a homestay around here. "The air there is delicious. I'd like to go someplace where the air is delicious," she said as we walked parallel to the train tracks past paint factories, pachinko parlors and machine shops.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

My lawn is a beast. It takes over 2 hours to mow the whole thing, but if I don't, this is what will happen. Today I think I reclaimed a good 10-12 inches of lawn perimeter from the ever encroaching blackberry bushes.
I notice that right after I mow all the birds come and hang out on the lawn. They must get easier access to the bugs they eat in the shorter grass. There's a bird that's been hanging around here that looks kind of like a small crow, except it has a beautiful blue-green head. In fact, it's right outside the window now, picking at the lawn. It's getting to the point where I recognize individual birds in the yard? Wow. That's kind of scary.

Monday, June 02, 2003

I love my dog except for from 3-6pm when he becomes psychotic maniac puppy from hell. He tries to dig his way through the porch wall, nips when I try to put him on the leash to take him out in the yard, attacks my pant legs once I get him out there and barks at everyone for no reason I can deduce. The rest of the time he's a very cool dog. It's just like a colickly baby or a little kid who gets cranky and crazy later on in the day, but you can't put a kid into a crate when he acts like that. That's one more way that having a puppy isn't really like having a baby.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Sunday morning. Pissing down rain. The dog is sleeping and the rest of us are up. Just tried out a new recipe for scones and added some dried cranberries and walnuts too. They could well be the best thing I've ever baked in my life. So nice with a big mug of coffee. I don't think life gets much better than this.
I've got people telling me I should become a baker. I think that would be cool but I like not working better. I always thought I'd go crazy if I didn't have a job to engage me. Turns out I can engage myself pretty well without one.