Friday, July 25, 2003

Lame Ass

Dear eBay member.
Your account has been chosen accidentally. Since there are a lot of cases of cheating, we'd like you to visit your account.If you are not going to do that, your account will be removed away from our site system.

This is the actual main text of a fake e-Bay spam scam html email I got. It looked right and I suppose if you don't really read very carefully and are a moronic robot you will send them all your eBay user id info so they can then go and log in as you and maybe hijack your eBay account?
At least learn how to write the damn copy if you're going to try to spam me!!!!


I always want to write about the two years I spent as a rough and tough Karate chick, but I never seem to know where to start. Being a "Japan person", as my friend Dave puts it, I've always been interested in martial arts and had already gotten a couple of years experience in Aikido and Judo under my white belt before I gingerly stepped into the world of Total Combat Budo. All I had really intended to do was sign up my then 5 year old daughter for kids Karate classes at the new dojo that had opened up near the station in Seta. When the Shihan (head dude) asked me if I wanted to try it too, I said, Sure why not?. I'd always wanted to try Karate but had never thought I could really hack it. I never imagined that working out together with my daughter at the dojo would lead me to bare fisted standing and ground fighting with guys close to half my age. It scared the hell out of me at first, but then I grew to love it. In the beginning I had a hard time even hitting anyone because I didn't want to hurt them. After a while I got the hang of it and found out I was also pretty utarejozu; I was good at taking hits and kept on fighting. I could do 700 squats in a row when the Shihan demanded it. I could push myself to the point where I knew I was just minutes from passing out and would step off the dojo floor just long enough to go outside and take in some fresh air to make the spinning stop before I headed back in for more. And I was able to infiltrate and make a place for myself in a very male, very Japanese situation. It was cool.
I was going through a phase where I had a lot of dangerous, volatile energy in me and the dojo gave me a place to channel that. Sure it fed my aggression too, but it was something I needed to work out with myself. It took me almost two full years from my first timid steps to the point where I had to walk away because I had been pulled so far into the inner workings of the organization that I was in danger of losing my autonomy. Sounds dramatic, I know, but it was dramatic.
I do not miss the bruises and the injuries but I miss the buzz. The high I got from sparring was as good as the one I get from playing music. Sometimes I would go directly from a jam session with my buddy Hokkan to a practice at the dojo and the Shihan could always tell because on those days my timing would be spot on. On a really basic level sparring and playing music are the same; you put a lot of time in practicing your basic moves, breaking things down into their simplest parts and mastering them to prepare for when it's time to get up there and let it all loose and it flows from you without thought or premeditation.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Point of No Return

Now that I have safely made it back to The Other Side I've become one of those who can say, "I miss having all that cash in my wallet, but I have a better quality of life now." That was always the point my friends who had left Japan and gone back home would raise, even though I'd secretly wonder how they could be enjoying life without the generous salary and vacation time Japanese university jobs supply.
That was always the issue for me. Everyone I know who works for a Japanese university cites how great the pay is, how long the vacations are and most of them are headed for the airport as soon as classes have ended for the semester. During the last year I was in Japan it became increasingly apparent to me that spending 45 weeks a year wishing I was someplace else meant that I was not where I should be anymore, even if I had put enough years into it that most people had me pegged as a lifer.
Going home from Japan after a year or two or three is normal. For people who end up being Japan fanatics, because they are studying martial arts, other arts, language or living out the playboy fantasies they could never indulge on their home turf, five to seven years may pass almost without them realizing it. After seven or eight years have gone by, people start to consider you a lifer. What's even scarier is you start to think of yourself that way too. You start to wonder how you could ever go home again, not just for a visit but for good. Who would hire you? How could you survive working a "normal" job? Could you really interact everyday with all those foreigners? And isn't the government all screwed up too?
One of the oddest phenomena I observed in Japan was how brave and bold young men and women embarking on the adventure of living in Japan transformed into cautious and conservative folk ensnared in the web of Japanese conformity. I know because I was one. It happens in tiny increments. With every trip home, the clothes I bought became drabber in color. I'd put on makeup for a trip around the corner to the supermarket because someone I know might see me and makeup is etiquette in Japan. I came to feel it was my duty to buy souvenir gifts for my family in America every time I went back home. I stopped asking "Why ...?". Japan became comfortable and safe and it had taken so damn long to finally understand the way things worked that once I'd gotten that down it seemed such a waste to admit that it didn't really suit me after all. The scariest words I ever heard were from Edward Seidensticker, my University of Colorado sempai and a God of Japanese Literature Studies who translated the entire Tale of Genji, at a lecture he gave in Hawaii in 1992 or thereabouts, when he said something like, "I'm not sure it's been worth it" in reference to his life's work and five decades in Japan.
Japan is so hard at first. The common sense you bring with you doesn't apply to anything anymore. It takes so much work to get things right; the language, the customs, the "common sense". After years of learning the hard way and plain old hard work, you start to get it. And then you start to become able to work the angles in your favor, once some people realize you know how to play by the rules. It helps to have a family of your own. One that will claim you and soothe you. And make you a respectable member of society by placing upon you a yoke of responsibility.
So you settle in, feeling proud of your adaptability and your accomplishment of finally understanding that which logic defies, yet still is. You learn that the answer to "why" questions is "because that's the way it is." You work so hard to make a place for yourself that you're shocked when you realize that you have become the antithesis of the person who got you there in the first place. What happened to that young adventurer who set off to conquer the world and explore its mysteries? What happened to that young woman who went to Japan with a big backpack, some travelers checks, an open ended ticket home and a Lonely Planet guide book, without a job, a place to stay, a plan or a clue? How did she turn into me, someone who "fit" in Japan but found herself homesick after a dozen years and almost too scared to do anything about it? After all, the splendor of longing is considered to be so noble, any Japanese lit grad knows that.
Well, I dug out what vestiges of Adventure Girl remained and despite the doubts-- my own and those of friends and family who thought it was much too late and risky to leave the security of the little world I had ensconced myself in-- packed it up and moved it out. And what do you know! I haven't fallen into poverty and ruin, not yet anyway. I don't miss standing out in a crowd. My feared tendencies to overconsumption only seem to appear when ice cream is involved and that's just because the $2.25 small is about the size of three Japanese servings of ice cream that would cost $3 each. I don't have as much money as I used to, but it doesn't matter because everything else is good.
"Are you happy now?" my sister asked, "You're back. You have the house, the yard, the car, the puppy, a teaching job lined up. You all set?" Yes, I am. For now.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Rock On

OK. So the news of the comatose state of my band was a little premature. Stef and I got so fired up by the ShuttleCock show that we called for a spur of the moment Sunday morning rehearsal and Chip answered the call, as he most always does. "Going to church", he calls it. Yeah, the Church of Rock. We sounded good, even though we didn't have the PA for vocals because it hadn't been set back up in the basement after Mat and Tobey's gig on Friday at The Loft at Strafford Farms.
I think Chip and I are going to get in on singing too. All our favorite bands around here have everyone miked for vocals. It adds more to the mix and the show and it might take some of the pressure off of Stef. Now we just need to keep on with it and line up a few gigs. We had a great time playing outdoor gigs a few summers ago. Maybe we can line some up for August.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

ShuttleCock Rocks!!!

If you are hungry for The Rock, you best get yourself some ShuttleCock. They are one of my favorite local bands and they played in Dover at The Barley Pub last night. Hope they're coming back again.
They have mp3s on their site. I suggest you check it out.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Seacoast Blend

Oooh, all this "it's a small world" stuff seems to be too much at times. I may have struck the Seacoast NH-Japan mainline. Got this guy at You Who writing about this guy Eric who studies Kenpo and writes Inspirational Haiku for a Recessed Economy (good stuff there) and who writes about OnMyMind, which is written by Stephen, who is a Seacoast native who now lives in Japan and who found my blog just about the same time I found his.
Eric mentioned that his wife is studying Japanese. See, I knew there were people around who want to learn it, even if the people at the NH College for Lifelong Learning completely ignored my inquiry about the possibility of teaching conversational Japanese courses there. If anyone out there is interested in taking Japanese lessons privately, get in touch. I'd be psyched to teach a small group of students once or twice a week evenings or weekends. I even have credentials and everything.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Anyone remember the China Dragon?

We were having an ice cream at Dover Delite last night and I looked over and saw a sign hanging from the roof of the Asia Chinese Restaurant on Third Ave. It said they were celebrating their 32nd anniversary. I commented to Shiro that I remember my family coming up from Portsmouth to eat at the new Chinese restaurant in Dover. It's actually one of my few memories of Dover from when I was a kid. None of the other people sitting at the picnic benches said, "Yeah. I remember that too." It felt more like they were thinking, "Man, you've been around here that long?"
The old Chinese restaurant meant the China Dragon in Kittery. It was in a huge, old, fancy wooden building right on the water. I think it might be the spot that's across from Bob's Fried Clam Hut now. I liked their tea.


Animals that have been within 15 yards of my front door in the past four hours:
-- A large turtle or tortoise with a shell diameter of about 1 foot. It headed out across my neighbors' lawn and looked like it was on its way down to the river, which is about half a mile from here.)
-- A stampede of about 7 or 8 cows and oxen being chased down the street by the police. I think the stampeding herd included the ox I saw being walked down the street last week.
-- a grey fox that ran across the yard and into the blackberry bushes on the side of the yard.
I'm scared to walk out the door anymore.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003


I was out walking a nice little black Lab mix as part of my volunteer duties at the shelter on Monday and he and I (yes, I consult with the dog about where we go on our walk) decided to go investigate a tall white marble monument sitting on a hill out behind the county services building and the county jail. The inscription said it was dedicated to those who lost their lives in the Strafford County Farm Asylum fire of 1893. Two sides of the monument were covered with the names of the 41 deceased. I think the majority of them were women.
I'd never heard of the asylum before but it's always seemed like the county offices and courthouse and jail were set away in a lonely part of town out there on County Farm Cross Road. No fancy new housing developments under construction out that way.
Once I got home I did a Google search for Strafford County Farm Asylum fire and came across this account written circa 1914. I also found this Poorhouse History site. The Poorhouses by State pages are pretty interesting and there's also info about Pauper's Cemeteries. Fascinating stuff.

Monday, July 14, 2003

And Another Thing... or two

The Sears Technicians who delivered and installed our new washer and dryer (which work great, by the way) connected the hoses wrong so the hot water was feeding into the washer's cold water intake and vice versa. When I called the Sears Customer Service line to ask about the steaming hot clothes coming out of the washer the woman there advised me to check the water lines. I told her our washer was installed by Sears Technicians. She told me hers were too and they had screwed hers up that way. No lie. And she was right about ours.
Oh, and the phone calls. "Hello this is Sears and why haven't you bought repair protection plans for all your appliance? If it breaks and we have to come out there it's gonna cost you a lot so why don't you just pay us now since you know it'll be breaking before the warranty ends anyway." Next time this happens I'll have to stop hyperventilating long enough to say "Please take me off your call list." I'm almost afraid they'll say no and point out that somewhere I have signed away my right not to be harrassed by Sears.

I Hate Sears: Part 2

Actually, the Sears online order fiasco is just one reason why I hate Sears. What happened after that made me hate Sears even more.
Once we were relieved that the online order had been cancelled (yeah, right) I noticed an email from Sears that said any purchases made that Saturday would receive an additional 10% discount. "Cool!" I thought, "We can just go to the store and order the stuff from there and avoid Sears' shitty online service." (This is the part in the horror movie where the audience shouts, "Don't do it!!! Don't go back in here! It's a trap, you fool! It's a trap!!!")
We went to the store in Newington and after one of the sale clerks found it in herself to break away from the pack of chatting employees to offer us some service, we made our purchase. However, we were told that the merchandise was not in stock so we would have to go pick it up at the warehouse at the end of the following week. She didn't even bother to give us directions to the warehouse, which is not located at the mall where the store is.
I asked my Mom where the Sears warehouse was and she told me. On the appointed day Shiro and I drove down to Portsmouth to pick up our stuff at the warehouse. After waiting a while for someone to appear from the depths of the warehouse, we were given four boxes for our 2 orders. It was only after we lugged the stuff home that I saw we were missing a Box 2 of 2 from the set.
I ruefully got on the phone to Sears customer service again and navigated through the automated answering system maze until I was, miraculously enough, finally connected to someone in the sporting goods department in the store down in Newington. I explained to him about the missing box from our order and he called over to the warehouse and confirmed that they still had our box there. There was no way I was going to fight with the Friday rush hour traffic over the General Sullivan Bridge, so I told him we'd go collect our box the next day.
Saturday afternoon we take another trip down to the Sears Warehouse. I present my receipt to the guy working there and explain the situation. His remark was "Yeah, that was [insert name here]. We all heard about that." No apology. No "sorry for the inconvenience". No "thanks for being so nice about our shitty service".
I really really really fucking hate Sears.

I Hate Sears

Can't believe I haven't written about the saga of my ordeals with Sears yet. I think I was just too pissed off about it before to address it, but I think the time has come. Sears-- that bastion of American retailing has really sunk to previously unplumbed depths in the realm of customer service.
It all started back in May when we went looking for some home gym equipment. We priced the offerings at Decathalon Sports and Sears and decided that Sears had better quality merchandise to offer. We didn't make a purchase in the store, but after we got home I decided to check out their prices again online and saw they also offered an in-store pick up option rather than delivery. I checked out how much the order would be with home delivery and laughed at the $500 charge and then placed my order for IN STORE PICKUP online and was promptly charged $500 for home delivery. Knowing that this kind of situation was better addressed with quick action, I called the Sears customer service number to get the order cancelled as soon as possible. I was then told by the young Sears representative that it was not possible to cancel orders placed online. I explained the situation to him and he transferred me to his supervisor. She told me it was not possible to cancel orders placed online, even if they were placed less than 5 minutes ago. I told her I could not pay $500 in delivery charges. She asked if the problem was my credit card limit. I told her the problem was my household budget and the stupidly expensive delivery charges that I DID NOT ORDER. She put me on hold a half a dozen times and then told me the order would be cancelled but it would take a few days for my online account statement to reflect that.
A week later the order was still there in my online account statement, so I called again and asked when it would be removed. Got more run around and was told the charges were in the process of being removed. A couple weeks later I got another online statement with the delivery charges still included. This time I sent an email to Sears and they sent me back an email which said, "As you have requested, we have cancelled your order. " "Finally!" I sighed with relief.
The next week a large truck pulls up in front of my house and when I answer the door and ask the delivery guy what he's bringing me he says some weights from Sears. I told him that order had been cancelled and he should take it back. That was less stuff for him to lug around, so he said OK and drove away. I thought about calling Sears but was so disgusted with the whole thing that I just shook my head and tried to forget about it.
Today I received a billing statement with $500 in delivery charges from Sears. I see on the bottom of the page in miniscule type there is an address for sending billing error notices to. I may just print this out and send it to them. I sure as hell am not going to pay them.

Sunday, July 13, 2003


I've been on a craft project rampage for the past couple of weeks. It was kicked off by Stef's comment that she would love to sell a certain type of spidery-looking sweater at the store once the season becomes sweatery. I know exactly what she's talking about, even though we can't find any pictures of it, because I inherited the black, stringy, mohair creation from her many years ago, after she was done with it.
I am a knitter and thought I could knit up what she was looking for, but the more I thought about it I realized that it will probably need to be crocheted. So I'm teaching myself to crochet now. The best collections of free crafting information seem to come from, and luckily the new Safari browser takes care of all the annoying pop-up ads that used to drive me nuts on that site. I've made two crocheted halter tops. One is orange and I'll try to sell that at the store. The other is made of variegated yarn in white and shades of pink and its for Rachel. I've also finally learned how to make a nice looking granny square and will try to make a few throw pillows with them. I'll probably start by making a rainbow colored one for Rachel's room. Now that I have the basic form down (see picture above for photographic proof) I can start playing around with color.
My husband still finds the craft side of my personality incongruous with the rest of me. Not sure if that's because it demands attention to detail or because he thinks it's more of a girly homebody pursuit than his image of me reflects. Or maybe it was because the first sweater I ever made for him had such a tight neck that he couldn't fit it over his head and I had to rip it out (the sweater neck, not his head!) and redo it.
Anyway, I was going to post a photo of the pink and white top but my model is still upstairs asleep in her bed.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Aren't Genetics a Bitch?

After being interrupted by my 8 year old daughter in a grown-up conversation in the car for the 827th time this week, I told her to stop asking me questions about conversations that she was not involved with.
"Didn't you used to ask your parents questions about their conversations when you didn't understand?" she asked accusingly, as if she might jog the recesses of my age addled brain and spark me to recapture an elusive childhood memory through her experience. I informed her that I never had the habit of asking my parents to explain their conversations to me. I never would have had the nerve, frankly.
"Well," Miss Rachel proclaimed from the backseat after a short pause, "I'm different."
Yes, indeed she is.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003


Was driving back home this afternoon from a family excursion to the supermarket and saw from a distance a guy walking what looked to be the tallest Irish setter I've ever seen. Just as I was about to say "look at the size of that dog!!", I saw it was the guy who lives around the bend walking one of his oxen down the sidewalk on a rope, like it was a colossal dog with really huge horns. He wasn't even walking on the quiet back road where our house is, but on the sidewalk along Back River Road which is lined with houses and fairly well travelled. The horn span on that beast probably equals the width of the sidewalk. I imagine the usual walkers and joggers had to step off the curb and go around.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

To The Sea

I should probably keep my mouth shut, but then again it's not like there's heaps of you out there scoping my blog for the next Hot Spot. The best public beach access from around these parts just may be Seapoint Beach in Kittery. I'm so used to thinking of Rye when I think of the beach because I grew up right in town in Portsmouth and every summer biked to Pirate's Cove every day. I'm sure it's not even called Pirate's Cove anymore since the restaurant of that name went bust years ago and it's not even a cove to begin with, but I don't know what it's called now. Private-- probably.
We went to the Kittery beach this afternoon and the drive down 103 was beautiful. The parking was effortless. Of course the water was freezing, but what do you expect? No one's ever going to confuse Maine with Hawaii.
And it was so much fun driving home, crossing over 95 on route 236 and seeing all the south-bound traffic of the holiday weekenders creepy crawling along on the slog back home. Can't wait until mid-September when the dog restrictions are lifted on the beaches and the tourists have all gone back home.
I think the next swimming spot I want to scope out is Packer's Falls in Durham. I went when I was high school and it was really nice. Easy to get to too, as far as I remember.

Friday, July 04, 2003

They get what they want...

I think my band may be on the way to being no more. Or at least on the way to a state of inertia. Figures that would happen since I considered it one of the biggest justifications for moving back here. Maybe we were just destined to function as a long distance relationship.
I joined the band three years ago when I came back for summer vacation. Stef and Chip had been jamming together for a while and she made it seem like something attainable. Like it was definitely within the realm of possibility to start back up with musical interests. The interest has always been there for both of us, it was just mostly a question of self confidence. I had a guitar in Japan, a Yamaha that I'd gotten from a friend when he moved out of the country. Re-taught myself some chords and started downloading tabs off the net. When I was back that summer I started playing with them as a rhythm guitarist. I'm pretty sure I sounded pretty bad but we got out there and played anyway, which has been part of my approach to the whole thing from the beginning. If you don't put yourself out there into challenging situations nothing will ever develop. No one is going to bust into your bedroom or your basement and force you to take your groove out into the light of day.
Anyway, I played rhythm guitar and sometimes we had various bass players. It was fun. Then it just seemed clear that what the band needed was a regular bass player, not a rhythm guitar player. I'd played bass a little in college and I'd been borrowing gear all summer so I still had time to change my mind before I made that first all important purchase of MY OWN GUITAR. At the end of the summer I bought a black Fender American Standard Jazz Bass for $500 at the Guitar Center in Danvers, MA. I took the bass back to Japan and continued to jam with my buddies in Hama-Otsu. The first thing they said when I showed up with a bass instead of a guitar was "oooh, the bass suits you. you're a bass player."
For the next couple of years we continued to play together and play out for the three months of the year that I spent here. The rest of the time those two jammed together and I did my own thing in Japan. I would fly back from Japan and jump immediately into practice to rehearse for a gig in five days. We'd play out and play hard until it was literally time for me to pack my bags and go back to Japan.
Now I moved back here for good (whatever that means) and we have limped along practicing about twice a month on average. It's not band personality clashes or anything like that. It's just that Stef's list of responsibilities and priorities has grown longer and the band comes at the bottom of the list. So feel free to let me know if you know anyone within about 30 minutes of Dover who wants to jam with an intermediate (medium well) bass player who has reliable transportation, a beautiful bass and an amp that's adequate for a small practice space or small bar setting. I'm also always willing to play on better equipment if it's around, which so far it fortunately has. Most rock-based musical styles considered.

Are they staying together for the kids' sake?

If you're ever feeling bad about your Relationship just spend a few moments at any random point on If you do not soon find yourself thinking, "Well, at least things here aren't as bad as THAT," then maybe you ought to consider whether you'd be better off single.
If you start thinking "Hmmm,that's pretty cool. I wonder if the "" domain is still available," then pack your bags right now, walk out the door and don't look back.
ps-- "" is still available, just in case you were wondering.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Local Papers

This blog has been exposed in a local newspaper (or at least in its online edition). Too bad it's the one I think is lame. Have to say I prefer Foster's much more and that's not just because I live in Dover and it's a Dover paper.
Maybe I better go back and check my horoscope or something and see if they mention newspapers in my forecast. Just had a conversation about the local newspapers with my Dad a few days ago and found out we share the same preferences. I grew up reading the Herald so felt loyalty to it, but for years have heard that Foster's is a better paper. Now that I have a little more objectivity about the issue, I have to agree I get much less annoyed reading Fosters.
Then yesterday a reporter from Foster's, who happens to be from Japan, came to interview Stef and Rebecca about Atomic. Stef called in the morning and told me the reporter was coming and that I should stop by the store if I was interested in meeting her. The truth is I often saw Hiroko Sato's byline in the online edition of the paper back when I was in Japan and always wondered what her story was. Yesterday I got my chance to go find out. I and my husband and daughter lurked around the store while Hiroko interviewed Stef and Rebecca and then once the interview was finished Stef introduced us and we pounced. Basically we interviewed her. Found out where she's from, how long she's been in the States, how she wound up in Dover writing for the local paper. I am so impressed with her ability and drive because I have a pretty good idea of how much focus and hard work it would take to get a job writing for a newspaper in your non-native language in your adopted country. The ability to handle the language is just the first hurdle. Battling people's ignorant preconceptions would be a constant, no matter how long you've been at it and how talented you are.
I've always thought that writing for a paper would be the coolest job, but I've always been too wimpy to actually try to do it. Well, that's not exactly true. My first ever regular paychecks were from the Herald for a weekly column I wrote about the junior high school when I was a student there.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003


This is a photo of the meadows down the street that are currently being "developed". Still not completely sure what's going in there. Hopefully it will just be single family homes and not townhouses or condos that seem to be springing up like poison mushrooms around here. I'll post During and After shots as I take them.