Saturday, January 28, 2006

A fine day out

Today was finally a nice, sunny, warm day. I took a bit to get going, but in the afternoon walked down to Enoshima island from Fujisawa and watched the sun set. I got some great photos, so I'll be sure to post the better ones later.

Tomorrow is the Chinese Lunar New Year, so I'm heading to Yokohama with some friends to check it out. We also may be getting tickets to visit Korea at the end of February. I have to do some calculations tomorrow and make sure it's financially possible, but it'd be a fun thing to do. Also on the list is joining the gym, so hopefully I can get myself back into some semblence of shape.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, the Densha Trooper! (via OctopusDropKick) He's also got a fun vid of him taking the train. Well, that oughta keep you going for a bit. More hopefully this week.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

No, really....WTF!?

So I found this over at OctopusDropKick. It's insane and almost beats the Kikkoman song. Evidently it's some supergroup teaming up with a comedian. Go figure.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Work? Whatdy'a mean 'work'?

Sorry for the dearth of posts folks. A killer weekend and 2 days of too much work have prevented me from doing anything.

Friday was port and cheese night with Julian and Koichi. Beforehand, Julian and I stopped off at this little bar I pass on my way home every day. It looked interesting, but since it's out in the middle of nowhere, it was a bit intimidating to go into. We walked in, and tripped over the stools in the smallest bar I've ever seen. There was probably about 8 inches between the edge of the bar and the back of the wall. Those 8 inches were occupied by a row of barstools, 6 in all, with 2 barflies seated at opposite ends.

We took a seat and ordered up some beers. The bartender seemed a little ill at ease at first, but once he realized we could muddle our way through basic Japanese, he warmed up. The drinks were ok, and the 2 other guys in there were quite friendly. We had to sing some karaoke (Julian's idea, because he can actually sing, whereas I croaked out some Billy Joel), and the bartender, Oboke cooked us up some free squid okonomiyake, which actually tasted pretty bad. When he'd gone off for a bathroom break, Shinyu, the guy next to me leaned over and said, "Don't eat that. He can't cook. It tastes awful." It looked awful, too. We dutifully ate half of it between us, then begged fullness due to ramen earlier (mostly true), and sent it back. I'd finished my pair of beers, and was waiting for Julian (ever the talker) to finish his, when Shinyu started pouring me drinks. He had some cheap Jin-ro (sho-chu, dangerous Korean liquor), and was pouring me 3/4 that and a splash of oolong tea. Yikes.

So we finally escaped out dive into Japanese low-brow culture and got back to my place, where Koichi met us. We had a great bottle of port I'd brought with me from the States, as well as a block of Wisconsin cheddar (yum!). We had that while watching the first couple episodes of Long Way Round, the round-the-world documentary I'd just finished the book of.

Saturday I awoke to a splitting headache. That damned bottle of Jin-ro had done a number on me. Julian, who'd had about the same as me, minus Jin-ro, woke up just fine. It had started snowing during the night, and we awoke to a nice blanket of white stuff all over the park under my balcony. We watched it for a bit and tried to warm up in my less-than insulated apartment. I spent the whole day pretty much incapacitated and sitting under my kotatsu doing nothing.

On Sunday I had my first lesson with a private student in Japan. Masako's a nice lady, we met at a Starbucks' cafe. She was a bit lower than I'd expected, so I have to modify the lessons a bit, but it should go well, I hope. That's a nice sum to support my drinking.

This week I'm at O-shimizu junior high school. It's a great school, the teachers are really nice. But they seem to love working me to the bone. No breaks but lunch, really. I think not having slept well the past couple nights has aggravated a busy work schedule. Today, I had 5 classes (out of 6 possible) plus checking papers and correcting a letter the city office wants to send to Windsor, their sister city, as well as helping prepare some of the 3rd year students for English interviews for their high school applications.

You don't just go to whatever high school happens to be nearest you. It's much more like college. You apply to lots and narrow your choices, and then hopefully you end up getting accepted to one that's less than an hour's commute. A few students chose a school in Yokohama that will be 45 minutes by train. This one has a focus on English, so they have to take a special interview in English to assess their abilities. So I sat down with them today and yesterday, and probably tomorrow, to practice vocab and possible interview situations. I really hope they get in. They've tried so hard.

The rest of this week is looking busy as well. I applied for a job (unpaid, of course) as a freelance contributor for Nozomi Online, a website about Japan, particularly J-pop music and anime. I hope it'll force me to write more and actually get something done on that front. For those of you unfamiliar, I have a vision of myself as some sort of writer-type, and I'd like to actually cultivate that. I need the practice. Too bad I picked the one week I actually have to work my arse off to do it. Ah, well.

So that's what's up if I don't write for a while.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Penguin Sex!

Got your attention didn't it? :P

The weather yesterday was horrible. It was cold, and rained buckets. I went out once and got soaked coming back, so I just stayed bundled up. I watched March of the Penguins last night. It's pretty entertaining (maybe because I just like penguins), and the cinematography is spectacular. The emperor penguin is a beautiful creature, and it's vivid orange/red markings really stand out against the white of Antarctica. Morgan Freeman does an awesome job as narrator, he's got that soothing voice, and his accent makes him sound like he's weaving a fairy tale rather than talking about birds.

In other news, I've been reading this really cool book called 1421, about how the Chinese navigated, mapped, and colonized the world before Europeans ever did. I recall a National Geographic article a year or two ago about Chinese ships that were the biggest ever built until the advent of the aircraft carrier in WWII. The author, Gavin Menzies, asserts that these ships, accompanied by fleets of dozens of support ships (much like modern-day carrier groups), travelled the world and were responsible for the introduction of chickens into the Americas, as well as mapping almost the entire world. He also claims they were probably the first to reach Antarctica, and probably left settlers in various places in both the Americas and Africa. He comes up with some improbable ideas, such as the Bimini Road being a repair ramp for Chinese junks, but he does lay out a convincing case. I'd advise seeing for yourself.

In any case, we've all been brainwashed in elementary school about certain 'facts' (Washington and the Cherry Tree for one), and I'm all for having the truth be known, as long as it really is the truth.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Back home again in Japan

Got back last night, slept well, but woke up at 5am here. Suck. Here's why I hate flying:

1. Got into an argument with the check-in lady because I was allowed to take 2 bags @ 50 lbs each. I was freaking out before coming here because I thought I wasn't allowed that.

2. Because of (1), I was stamped SSSS, which in airline terms means you get everything searched. So it took them about 30 minutes to go through all my carry-on stuff at the security check. If you have electronic items, they have to swab everything and put it through a chemical detector. Here's what I had:

*1 cell phone in my pocket
*1 iPod in my coat pocket
*1 XPC computer that looks more like a bomb than a computer (that one was fun to explain)
*1 power cable for a laptop computer that I didn't have on me
*1 cd case that also counts
*various pharmaceuticals (all OTC)
*assorted computer cables that went to accessories in my checked luggage
*1 thermos cup of oolong tea. Oolong tea sets off all the warning lights when it's put through the sniffer, plus the metal container made it opaque in the scanner. Yay.
*1 turkey sandwich. I love turkey.

Not to mention a thick belt buckle and hiking boots. I held up the line so long, with so many people behind me, they just told everyone else to go on through. It was rather absurd, but that's how it goes, I guess. Thankfully, there was no security check at Detroit. It was strange, because I've always recalled going through immigration or customs when leaving the US. But I walked out of the gate at Detroit, down the way and onto the plane to go to Narita, without having to show anyone my passport or have anything stamped. I thought that was a bit odd. At least I didn't get searched again.

Northwest is one of the worst airlines to fly on. Every flight is late and something always goes wrong. Going to Indy, both flights were delayed (the 2nd of which saved me, otherwise I would've missed it), my tray table was broken, so I had to prop it up so my food didn't slide off into my lap, and the movie projector broke, which wasn't a bad thing becuase the movies showing were "Sky High," "Mr. Perfect," and some other piece of trash.

This time, we left over an hour late from Detroit because of de-icing problems. The movies weren't too bad, I'd never pay to see "Dukes of Hazzard," but it was at least not completely horrible. The other two movies were some Reese Witherspoon flick and Roman Polanski's "Oliver Twist." Again, not bad, but it couldn't keep my attention the whole time.

I did manage to read The Long Way Round by Ewan MacGregor and Charley Boorman. It's a pretty good read, about two guys who go around the world on motobikes. Can't beat that. It also shows that actors aren't always superficial, and how events can affect people. MacGregor's thing was UNICEF, as they visited a few different facilities in the Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. The best parts were reading about all the interesting people there, and makes me really wish I could do something like that. Guess I have to become famous first. Really, though, if two famous actors have trouble getting something like that funded and paid, what chance do I have. I think mine will forever be a pipe dream.

Anyways, I got back to Hiratsuka a bit after 9pm, took a taxi home, hauled everything up to my room, showered and crashed. I woke up at 5am and watched the sun rise, for lack of anything better to do. When shops finally opened up, I wandered out to the electronic store and purchased a monitor so I could hook up my computer. I've got it all set up and am back sitting under my kotatsu tapping away. Julian's off at a sumo match, I bowed out so I could straighten things up around here and prepare for classes tomorrow. But since the school's neglected to send me anything, I don't have that much to do. Oh well.

On that note, take care and hope to see everyone again soon, when you come here to visit. It's your turn now :P

Friday, January 06, 2006

Last night in the USA

Well, I'm finishing up my packing, the only major thing left is my computer box, which will gently go in my carry-on, then I'll be set for my big trip back to Japan. I really don't care much for travelling 24 hours by car, plane, train, & taxi, but that's life I guess. It'll be nice to get back and relax one whole day before I go back to work on the 10th. I don't have as much volume to take back, but my stuff weighs more. Since I'm allowed only 50 lbs for checked luggage, and 40 for carry-on, my suitcase isn't packed full, but already over the weight limit. I'll have to put an empty box in to make sure that nothing rattles around and gets messed up. I'm bringing back some stuff that's potentially breakable, so that's a big concern. Wish me luck, & see you all soon!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

So...Happy New Year!

Sorry for not posting, I've been having so much fun here at home, I haven't had much time to do anything communication-related. Well, sorta. I've just not felt like posting lately. I always mean to, but nothing ever comes up. Xmas was fun, I got to see the whole family together for the first time in couple years (only because I haven't been there). We had a huge Xmas lunch/dinner with roast beef, mashed potatoes, etc., all topped off with my favorite of desserts, persimmon pudding. Yummm, droooool. The week in between was spent seeing old friends, especially the Zionsville crew. I'm amazed at how much everyone's matured. Most of the people are in semi-serious relationships, even the people avowedly not so 2 years ago.

I also got to see my good friend Sam from Purdue. She and I kept having psychology courses together and got to chatting. We really hung out only in the last semester there and the year before I took off for Japan, but I feel that I know her really well. She's one of those glowing people who makes everything, even going to see the late showing of "Brokeback Mountain," fun and entertaining. Hopefully, she'll come visit in Japan. Right, Sam? ;)

New Year's was spent drinking with the Z'ville crew and the first day of 2006 I spent lazing around the house, too tired to move. My family had our traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner, something that I've heard is a tradition, but I don't know anyone else who does that. If anyone has heard of this, please let me know.

This week will be spent arranging everything to go back to Japan. I'm still allotted only 50 pounds (23kg), and I think everything will be jammed in again. This won't be fun. I also have all my dinners for this week planned out. Tonight is buffalo wings, tomorrow is Japanese dinner at Ana's, Thursday is steak dinner at home, and my last meal Friday will be roast turkey breast, something I've been craving almost since I left the last time.

Last of all, here's your dose of cuteness. Imagine living in this world, and you can imagine being in Japan.