March 30, 2010
ショック

Yesterday I was presented with some very unexpected news.

Mr. S, of world's weirdest interview fame, passed away in November. He was still young, probably less than 45, and it was quite the shock to everyone.

This hits me on several different levels, but mostly in that he was a very interesting, very generous person. He took a big chance in hiring me in the first place (what with my limited Japanese and marketing skills at the time), and when that didn't pan out, he allowed me to stay at his palatial Tokyo house. He was always kind and interested in my life, and was certainly a very enterprising individual.

I find myself disappointed that I didn't know until now, and also that I hadn't visited the company when I last visited Japan. I know those kinds of thoughts are inescapable, though, at times like these.

Wherever he is, I do hope Mr. S is causing consternation with his incorrigible interview style.

November 19, 2008
Not Dead Yet...

I swear this blog isn't dead yet. There's just so little of import to write about these days.

September 24, 2008
Back to Life, Back to Work

Hi ho, to the three RSS subscribers I have who haven't yet abandoned this cobwebby page. I spring forth from the shadows bearing news:

I got a job.

Of course, I'm pretty sure anyone who reads this page already knows this, but whatever.

It's hardly the glamorous or career-path employment I had been hoping for; in fact it's very well embedded in the "well, it's a job..." category. It means for 9 hours of work every day I get a (quite meager) paycheck and a (very meager) sense of having a place in the world. I guess these days with the economy in flames, it can't hurt to have a job, no matter how boring or pointless.

But I digress. What having a job also means to me is that I have a slightly more elevated sense of purpose in life, a condition that hopefully will lead to a more regular set of updates for this poor neglected weblog.

It also doesn't hurt that I'm working at a Japanese organization, which for you, my loyal reader, means continued anecdotes about Japan. I promise they'll be interesting ones.

February 6, 2008
帰国

kikoku. It means to return to one's home country. As of a couple weeks ago, I've done just that. I spent a month back in Japan tying up loose ends, saying goodbye, and either giving away or shipping all of the stuff I built up over the course of three years.

Now, in the interest of both myself and my readers, I'll try not to bash too heavily on the country I've returned home to. The fact is that I'm not entirely thrilled about being back in the States, but for reasons almost entirely out of my control, I'm stuck here for the time being. So I might as well make the best of the situation. Some things helping me do just that:

  • Super Tuesday. Massachusetts votes today, along with a couple dozen other states, to choose one each of the democratic and republican candidates vying for privilege of cleaning up George W Bush's heinous mess. I voted today. Did you? I appreciate this chance to take part in the democratic process which allows the unwashed masses to choose our next figurehead. At least, that's what The Man tells us we can do.
  • Snow. I lie. I didn't miss snow at all. Massachusetts is a grey-white-brown limbo in winter, where everyone is just aching for spring. Sadly, it takes spring twice as long to get here as anywhere else. At the very least I did get to enjoy a small amount of nostalgic sledding over Christmas. My friend, having never been "real" sledding, shrieked like a little girl. That in itself was worth it!
  • Projects. My father has a kickass wood shop. I've already made a table and have some other ambitions as well. A few of them involve lugging a chainsaw into the woods to find a suitable log...
  • Job hunting. Something I'd thought I'd escaped when I was offered the marketing job in Japan. Before, that is, my visa was rejected. I can't tell you how much I love searching for jobs. I can't think of something more fun than the constant humiliation and self-doubt that come with looking for employment.

I've spent a lot of time fashioning this blog into something that focused on commenting on life in Japan. Now that I won't be able to do that, I have to rethink my direction. Hopefully I can find enough entertainment in the wilds of Western Massachusetts to put up here, but honestly I kind of doubt it. This is the kind of place that no one leaves and no one comes to. But hey, stranger things have happened...

November 7, 2007
Small Town Life

One of the "benefits" of my Japanese visa taking much longer than anticipated to come through is that I've been stuck in Western Massachusetts in my hometown for far longer than originally intended. It allows for me to pursue such stimulating pastimes as catching up on all the quality reading material stacked up in the bathroom. One such thing I've been reading lately is the local town newspaper. It includes the monthly police blotter. This is the section of the newspaper where all happenings involving the town police are painstakingly documented. I decided to reproduce a few entries here for your pleasure. These entries are 100% true to the original source; I haven't altered anything.

  • "Report of stolen property from Suburban Drive; property identified as fake rooster stolen from front lawn of residential property. Officer sent; civilian subsequently located rooster and it was rescued from Neighbors Store roof." (I know exactly whose fake rooster that is. Every time I drive by that house I think there's a rooster watching traffic go by.)
  • "Report of a raccoon staggering down Main Street; unknown emergency. Officer sent; raccoon was gone on arrival."
    (What would the charges be? Public drunkenness?)
  • "Report of a raccoon 'acting strangely' on Main Street. Officer checked the area; report unfounded."
    (Misbehaving raccoons are apparently becoming quite the problem in this otherwise law-abiding town.)
  • "Subject called complaining about a raffle at the Fall Festival; party said he purchased a $5 raffle ticket for golf clubs. He won the raffle, but retrieved an item which was used, not consistent with the item he submitted for; he believes raffle was a scam. Matter still under investigation."
    (wtf.)
  • "Report of a loose donkey and horse at Suburban Drive residence; officer sent. Donkey and horse moved back into field."
    (Sadly, I also know whose donkey and horse these are. They happen to also own the fake rooster.)
  • "Check the welfare request on Main Street; female reported as lying on the lawn. Officer sent; no emergency found. Female fell asleep while reading."
    (Main Street, as you can see, is a veritable pit of depravity.)

There you have it folks; small town excitement. Who needs a city of lights, gourmet restaurants, and nightclubs when you can have this?!

August 9, 2007
Back in the States

So first off, the reason for my incredibly long absence from making any posts in the past (more than a) month has been my move back to the United States. I finished off my contract with JET (the program with which I spent three years teaching in Japan) in the end of July and headed home on August 3. As you can imagine I was very busy packing and tying up seemingly infinite loose ends, and one of my last priorities was posting.

So now I'm back, relaxing in the green hills of western Massachusetts, and thinking about the things I'd so much (and so little) anticipated about being back home.

Some observations of my first days back:


  • Everything is so green. Endless swathes of grass, trees ... you name it! I flew from Detroit to Hartford on a small jet and in looking out the window I remember thinking we were flying over a huge body of water. Turns out it was just endless trees. Awesome!
  • Vegetables at home are fresher and tastier. Don't even get me started on the fruits.
  • Sadly living up to my expectations, people here are enormous.
  • It's cold. Everyone keeps talking about how hot it is, and I suppose midday it gets to be pretty hot, but I haven't once felt like I was going to die of heat like I felt every waking minute back in Gyoda. I really think it's the oppressive unending humidity there. Here it gets hot for a day or two then tempers. There, it lingers for weeks.
  • Jet lag has hit harder than ever this time. I pass out at 9 every evening, only to wake up at 6 or 7 every morning. I feel 20 years older than I really am. I must break this cycle...

I have plans to go back to Japan in a few months, though they aren't decided yet. In the meantime, I hope to have a good long relaxation period before I go back to that frenetic land.

March 6, 2007
Big Move

I've made a big move from one hosting provider to another. With any luck, everything will go smoothly without any sort of loss of this page.

If you see anything weird (particularly in the images area, I'm still working on ironing that out), please let me know.

Look forward to a photo gallery and summary of my just-past Korea trip!

February 11, 2007
Failed Experiment

Today in an attempt to get away from my day-long apartment cleaning frenzy, I wanted to do something with the rock hard marshmallows I bought last year for a camping trip.

Note to the curious: Marshmallows, despite the fact that they are sugar, do not "melt down" to form anything remotely like caramel.

January 14, 2007
Kind of an update

I know it's been a very long time since I've posted anything here. Sorry for that, by my life has been rather chock-full of business and crappiness (in equal measure, as a matter of fact).

To tide you over for now, here's a photo gallery of my trip back home to Massachusetts. Enjoy.

December 21, 2006
Lame Post

Today I'm going home for the first time in 1.5 years. I'm not looking forward to the reverse culture shock. I am looking forward to seeing my family.

Wish me luck.

December 5, 2006
Ye-gads

Break out my slippers and my bathrobe, because it's uncle-land for me!

My sister this morning (evening in the States I guess) gave birth a month early to a healthy baby girl. Woohaw and OMG at the same time!

And thus the frantic search for a pre-Christmas plane ticket begins. Wow.

August 22, 2006
I Know It's Been Long...

Yes, I know I haven't written anything remotely like "substance" recently, but it seems like these days all I have are complaints and I don't want to inundate the blog with that garbage.

I do have a huge amount of pictures I want to post, but my hosting company is being ridiculously unresponsive about giving me more space, despite their selling point of having "no space limitations." So much for that.

I'll see if I can squeeze some pictures in.

June 19, 2006
Japanese Experiment: New Site Open

For a while I've been thinking about trying to come up with a Japanese-language journal for the sole purpose of practicing my Japanese. They say that cataloging your day in a foreign language is a good way to fill in holes in your vocabulary.

In the spirit of that, I've opened 武勇伝(buyuuden: brave story) to frightening public scrutiny. I'm wondering if any of my Japanese friends are on the internet enough to actually take a look at it. Here's hoping.

Anyway, those of you who are into that Japanese-language thing, please do go take a look. It's by no means anything special, so keep that (and my bad Japanese skills) in mind, and try to keep the temptation to condescend at a bare minimum.

NOTE: Since the whole purpose of 武勇伝 is to learn, of course I welcome any comments correcting my Japanese.

June 18, 2006
Martha?

A copy of Martha Stewart Living mysteriously appeared in the bathroom a few weeks ago.

I know this is going to sound incredibly lame, but it has become my toilet-time magazine of choice.

May 24, 2006
Chinese gets even "easier?"

As if learning the Japanese language, with its 3 character systems and sometimes countless ways of pronouncing just a single character, wasn't hard enough, they just made Chinese that much more attractive.

I've heard you need a working knowledge of 2500 kanji characters in Japanese to get by at a fluent level. Whether or not that is true is unknown to me, but it sure as hell makes 900 characters enticing. If I could learn just 900 characters and be able to read 90% of media publications ... that would be awesome.

Of course, it does make things easier when said media is controlled by the iron fist of the State.

Chinese media culls undesirable characters | The Register

May 23, 2006
OH SHIT BALLS YEAH!!!!!!!!!

I just got the COOLEST CARE PACKAGE EVER from THE COOLEST PARENTS EVAR!!!

Crazy thanks and so much love go out to my incredible parents.

Pics of my pant-shitting surprise here!!!

Note: I did not literally shit my pants.

April 24, 2006
IKEA in Japan? Oh my ...

Lost in Japan / Archives / Previewing IKEA in Funabashi Japan

IKEA is in Japan? This is both awesome and terrifying. I love IKEA, but I have this sinking feeling that the Japanese will love it more. The sudden infusion of IKEA stuff into the Japanese lifestyle atmosphere will, I predict, be staggering.

And all across Kantou, home centers with crappy kit furniture quake in fear.

April 11, 2006
Long Hiatus Finished

Of late I've posted absolutely nothing at all (as if you hadn't noticed). I've been on spring break, during which my parents visited me here in Japan. It was a great visit, and I trust that they had a wonderful time. Mom absolutely blew away my expectations in terms of stamina and ability to 頑張る (ganbaru: to try very hard) through a whole range of foreign foods.

I have about four billion pictures to post, so those will be going up after I get them color-balanced and so on. Until that time ... hang in there.

March 20, 2006
Stuff that overrated Ivy League

On mom's suggestion, I took a listen to a short NPR piece about "colleges that change lives." It suggests that there are institutions that go beyond the fluff and conceited self-aggrandization of the big name and Ivy-League schools (and often their students). My college is featured!

NPR : Book Touts 'Colleges that Change Lives'

The idea is that while the big name schools can be great, they're often overrated because of their big-draw name. I've certainly found that to be true since while I was extremely impressed with Harvard's grad-students, its undergrads did quite the opposite.

The book that the piece references: Colleges That Change Lives

March 3, 2006
Interesting article

I know, I know, too many links recently, but I'm in a bit of a creative slump. Maybe I'll write something later today that's been on my mind.

For now, we have Why Everyone Hates The Music Industry, which is a good read about why the monopolistic music industry is going downhill.

February 24, 2006
Way to make the earth greener, Japan

Just when I'm settling some of my angry points with Japan and enjoying living here again, something incredibly boneheaded has to come roaring out of the gates. I've been reading about this for a few days, but sheer disbelief and the vast stupidity of this law has prevented me from talking about it.

I can't wait to see perfectly working but "too old" TVs clogging up the already garbage-choked rivers.

The hypocrisy with which this country claims an "earth-friendly" stance boggles my mind.

Akihabara News - 2nd hand electronics sales will soon be illegal in Japan

Engadget.com: Japan bans old electronics

February 19, 2006
Texas is still a scary place

Matt sent me a real eye-opener this morning. You know my policy on links (not too many in a given week) but this one was both scary and funny at the same time, so I had to share it. Plus it's the weekend and I'm not creative until I'm in between classes at school.

As he said, it's unbelievable that someone said this completely seriously:

"I know a lot of people are concerned about Big Brother, but my response to that is, if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?"

That there folks, is a true sign of ... intelligence.

Houston eyes cameras at apartment complexes

February 15, 2006
dumb ... ass

Honestly I have little to say about this. This has to be one of the least intelligent people I've ever heard of. Absolutely brilliant. I haven't done a link in a while, so enjoy this one.

*snip*
Grace Sium rang the [police station] at 3.15am last Saturday enquiring as to where she might acquire some blow. Despite the dispatcher's repeated protestations that "selling and possessing marijuana was illegal", Sium persisted. Accordingly, the dispatcher admitted the cops had puff in the witness locker, and said if Sium swung by they would "hook her up".

US student tries to score dope at cop shop | The Register

January 30, 2006
The slippery slope to LiveJournal

Recently it came to light that there will be four of us left staying in Japan for the 3rd year of the JET program. Will, Pete, Roy, and myself are all taking the plunge. That being known, I thought "gee, we need a cool name or something." Hence it came to me: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen! So with little fuss (the fuss would be on Roy's end) the name was approved though we have yet to have a cool secret handshake. These things take time, you know.

But do you know what the first order of business was? Mutiny! The members got together and outvoted me, 3-1, in order to force me to get a Live Journal account. If you know me, you know that in the core of my soul, I hate Live Journal. Hating it was almost like a personal religion of mine. And yet, here I am, the shameful owner of a shiny new account. Go me?

The first order of business was to relegate all blog-silliness like memes (still hate that word) and other nonsense to LiveJournal. The "real" posting will still go on here.

Without further ado, Live Journal memeage!

January 24, 2006
Grand re-opening (ish)!!

After a very very long time since my last post, I'm back on the ground running with a new design. I hope you like it. There will still be changes being made slowly as I tweak things, but this is what it's mostly going to be like for now. I had to retool the commenting system because it wasn't remembering any posters (and now it is!), and I wanted a new design anyway.

Now, before you say it sucks, or such-and-such should be changed, or I'm gay because there are flowers in the design or something else ... shove it. No seriously, if you have any suggestions, drop me a line. I always appreciate feedback, regardless of whether or not I follow it!

If you're still under a rock and using the steaming pile of poo that is Microsoft Internet Explorer, please do yourself and the rest of us a favor by downloading/using a real standards-compliant browser like Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Safari or even Netscape. If you are using Internet Explorer, I'm sure you've already said to yourself "what kind of junk redesign is this?" I assure you, thanks to IE's inability to adhere to web standards or render png files correctly, this page looks like crap. Please try it on another browser.

Most of all, I hope you enjoy the new look. I wanted to include elements from pictures I've taken in my town 行田 (Gyoda), and 桜 (Sakura) was the way to go. Also enjoy the new-ish commenting system, in which once you've entered your information, you'll never have to do it again unless you delete your cookies. Woohaw!

January 14, 2006
"Under Construction"

I hate those crappy websites that have those "Under Construction" animated gifs and stuff. At least I won't stoop to that. Anyway, I'm messing around with a redesign, in hopes of fixing the ever-annoying fact that my commenting section won't "remember you" regardless of what you click on.

So though 99% of you won't see the site since you use RSS, I apologize to those of you who do have to see the crappy growing pains. I hope to be finished soon enough while I figure out how to get the comments working correctly.

(everything, including comments, will work perfectly fine, they just won't look nice)

January 12, 2006
That there school bathroom - growing up

Not long ago, I was terrified of public addresses. In high school I hated giving presentations, and during college I warmed up to it a bit but still found myself insanely nervous and sweating. Now, naturally, fate would have it that it's my job! And I think I do a damn good job too. I can sit there in front of a bunch of people talking about whatever with hardly a quiver of the stomach or a sweaty palm.

I've come leaps and bounds in the field of "public" urination as well. I don't mean peeing on people's driveways (no lawns here in 行田) but rather stepping up to the task of peeing while a bunch of people are watching you. It's called "Stage Fright" and I think a lot of men get it while sitting standing there trying so hard to pee at a urinal while everyone's waiting for their turn and watching like vultures. Believe it or not, this does happen, and it sucks. But I've conquered this too! Why?

I've wanted to write about this for a while, but haven't had the time really to go around taking pictures of my school's bathroom. I also didn't want to have to explain to any wandering teachers/students why I was taking pictures of the boys' bathroom. That would be weird. So today in the middle of a class period I snuck most stealthily to the bathroom and took pictures. Naturally one of the teachers caught me and literally was falling over in her weirded-out-ness. I explained, with as little blushing as possible, that at least at my high school we didn't have enormous picture windows in the door. Thanks to this viewport, I try to take my pee breaks whenever classes are in session, thus minimizing hordes of students passing by and peeping.

window.jpg
Stage Fright becomes a thing of the past when you have to pee at these for more than a year. Trust me, squeaking girls outside the door is a much tougher audience than a bunch of other men. Get used to that, and you're good as er ... gold.

toilet.jpg
Luckily, aforementioned teacher didn't see me taking pictures of the toilet stall itself. See, this looks like a relatively (if a little cramped) normal toilet stall, right? I guess it would be, if not for the ice they made the seat out of . The window open to the outside doesn't help matters. I've sat down to ... do my thing ... on occasions, and the cold seat was enough to prevent my thing from ever being done. It really is a sad state of affairs.

legs.jpg
Finally, the piece de resistance. The depth of view in this picture isn't the best, but hopefully the included hand gives you some idea of just how cramped this stall really is. The tips of the fingers are touching the opposite wall, which just happens to be literally half an inch away from my knees. This is obviously a simulated situation, but believe me it's no different than the real thing (aside from frigid butt). It's not so much of a problem when you're actually on the john, but it makes the partial-disrobing process beforehand infinitely harder than I ever thought was possible in a "civilized" bathroom. I'm by no means a tall person. I pity anyone taller than I forced to use this thing. Sometimes I've actually given thought to standing on the toilet itself to get some more room. Before the actual deed, I mean.

In honesty though, as much as the toilet stall is cramped, I'm sure glad there's no window on the door. There are some things you just shouldn't have to do when a window is involved.

January 10, 2006
Back up in this piece

I'm back. I realize it's been a long time and my readers have just been absolutely slavering for a new post. That's right, slavering. You see though, the reality is that I do most of my posting in my short breaks between classes or when I have free time at work. Of course, I couldn't interrupt my movie or shopping marathons of winter vacation, could I?

This past weekend I went on a trip to 札幌 (Sapporo) and it was great. Lots of snow (totally nostalgic, there), beer, and hostess bars. Note that we didn't partake in the latter, though we had no choice about the former two. Not like there's ever a choice when it comes to beer.

To top it all off, we rode home on a Pokemon plane!

sapporo_thumb.jpg

Pete also has a gallery entry (but you'll need a login to view it), as well as Will.

December 24, 2005
The state of Japanese skin care

Yesterday I was looking at this stuff called "miracle clear" or something like that. It promised to erase the ever-increasing age- and stress-induced bags under my eyes. Japanese skin care products have a reputation for being excellent and also extremely varied, so I thought it really was some rejuvenating magical stuff that would make my face younger ... or something. I shelled out my money in haste.

It turned out to be makeup.

December 23, 2005
Christmas comes three days early aka cheap beer

I went shopping for a few last-minute items for the chicken I plan on roasting sometime over the next few days. I took my usual route down the beer and carbonated-beer-flavored-beverage (発泡酒: happoushu) aisle and found to my delight that my favorite beer was a whole fifteen yen cheaper than normal. That's about 12 cents.

You may scoff, but this is a huge deal. As any foreign beer-drinker living in Japan will lament, real beer is very expensive and not particularly tasty here. You see, there's a specific tax on barley, making beer far more expensive compared to other alcoholic beverages. I've also never seen more than a 5 yen price difference between stores, and beer absolutely never goes on sale. If you prefer beer, you're screwed and stuck paying the equivalent of $45 for a case of not very good beer. Your other option is the above-mentioned 発泡酒 that is priced like beer back home but tastes much much worse.

So maybe in time for the New Year, in which everyone gets together with their families and drinks and eats a lot, the beer price (at least in giant-ass bottle format) dropped. I was so happy I bought two bottles to save for a future occasion. Huzzah!

It's the small things in life. o(^-^)o

December 19, 2005
It's that wrapping time of the year again

I just finished the majority of my Christmas shopping yesterday, trying to get significant and/or interesting things for my family. Below, you'll see just how interesting one of these things turned out to be. This is probably the coolest, weirdest wrapping job I've had to do yet.

Yeah, the Japanese characters are upside down. Oops. But it looks like a house with a chimney doesn't it!

present_thumb.JPG

December 13, 2005
New Keroro Gunsou addition!

Last week I posted with my first six (five ,really) pages of my translation of the popular Japanese comic Keroro Gunsou. I've added three more pages. This week starts out at page 7.

It's hard to find good places to stop until my next posting, so page counts will vary each time I make an addition. There's also a lot of prepwork to be done to get everything looking decent enough, so please have patience!

Mail me if you are looking for the original Japanese scans for comparison or study. Or of course if you really like the comic, go and buy it!

Notes:


  • It's in your best interest to remember that "Gero" means "ribbit." Keroro Gunsou says it quite a bit.

  • Shiiiinnn indicates a long silence.

Enjoy!

Keroro Gunsou Part 2

December 11, 2005
Audio Followup to my sickness

This past week I had a horrible cold in which my voice mysteriously got horrible. But you never got to hear what it sounded like at its apex.

To tide you over before my next Keroro Gunsou segment, here are some audio files of my horrible voice.

Squeaky Voice Part 1

Squeaky Voice Part 2

Enjoy!

Note: If you have a lot of bass in your audio system, turn it down before you listen to these. Some weird bass artifact found its way into the recordings.

December 6, 2005
Maybe my Japanese is getting better - A Japanese funnyman

My voice has worsened since yesterday and I've thus spoken as little as humanly possible today. It has left me with a lot of time to listen to the conversations that are always buzzing around me. Usually I listen but not actively. Today I have little else to do.

Three teachers were discussing how an "oo" sound doesn't necessarily automatically claim accent in an English word. The first examples, in which they thought it did automatically take precedence, were "shampoo" and "bamboo." But then they pointed out "Liverpool" and a few others.

Finally one of them exclaimed: "Just who decides this stuff anyway?"

Indeed.

December 5, 2005
The Slippery Slope into Oblivion - My Burgeoning Cold

Yesterday I went with a huge amount of other foreigners living in Japan to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. A few parts of it I spanked around like a fine young ass. Others had their way with me. So be it. At the time, I had but a sniffle. The test room was freezing, and perhaps it helped keep me aware for crucial parts of the test.

But I got home last night and my throat had devolved into this scratchy I'm-Tom-Waits-and-I-smoke-three-packs-a-day kind of voice.

Today I was supposed to teach again at the local school for disabled children. I called in sick because my voice had gone from sounding all husky and sexy (?) to sounding like a fourteen year old boy in the throes of puberty. I could sound kind of normal (if scratchy) when I spoke very quietly. But put any stress on my voice (trying to talk fast, or raise it to teach a class) and I sounded like what I imagine a eunuch sounds like.

Tonight, even those sweet painfully rare baritones of puberty (can you remember that time...when you were just begging your voice to behave?) have been replaced by a steady bad crossdresser falsetto.

I never thought my voice would be this high again.

December 2, 2005
Keroro Gunsou English Translation

There's a comic series here in Japan that's very popular with children ... and me. It's called ケロロ軍曹(Keroro Gunsou: Frog Sargeant) and actually only became popular as an animated television series. Both are hilarious, cute, and generally awesome. A perfect combination, I thought one day long ago, for learning Japanese.

Unfortunately the language used is more difficult than I expected, because the frog character (hereby referred to as Gunsou or Keroro) speaks in kinda old military-speak. But I've been making slow progress when I have time to be sitting for long periods of time with two dictionaries and a notebook. A quick web search reveals that since there is already substantial fan work being done on translating the animated series, no one seems to have bothered with the printed comic. I prefer the book and I need to learn to read, so why not?

Notes:


  • I left the scans in Japanese format, which means you need to read right-to-left and up-to-down. The first two pictures in the gallery are "instructions" pictures. If you're not familiar with the Japanese reading style, make sure you check out those two pictures. They should help a lot. Above each picture you get a detailed description of what to do.

  • I also left all Japanese sound-effects intact. I translated them literally and placed the translation next to them. Hence you get some strange effects like my thus-far personal favorite, "Bafusuu," which mysteriously represents the sound of bedsheets being ripped from a bed.

  • Quick and dirty pronounciation tip for above-mentioned sounds: Consider that the vowel sounds in Japanese syllables are typically long. Thus the A in "Ka" sounds like the A in "Car" rather than "Cat." If you have any real questions about it (can't imagine you would) you can comment or mail me.

Here you are, the first six pages which just gets to introduce you to the main characters. Enjoy!

keroro_thumb.jpg

November 30, 2005
It really has been a dry week. Forgive me.

Honestly I hate "blog memes." But I couldn't help myself on this one. It seemed like a pretty fun idea. Plus, I have really had almost nothing of mention to write about lately. The beginnings of winter do that to you I guess.

From Smoochdog:

If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, (even if we don't speak often) please post a comment with a COMPLETELY MADE UP AND FICTIONAL memory of you and me. It can be anything you want - good or bad - BUT IT HAS TO BE FAKE. When you're finished, post this little paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people DON'T ACTUALLY remember about you.

November 24, 2005
"Marathon" conquered!

Actually, I'd say the title is a bit misleading. I'd say the marathon conquered me is more accurate, but at least I made it through. 10.5 kilometers (about 6 miles) is a lot longer than it used to be in high school when I could run that on a daily basis.

The good news is that 5 years past my physical prime, I placed 142nd out of 692 boys who are 10 years my junior. As we all get older, we grasp at little positive statements we can make like "my physical fitness is better than that of the average Japanese high school student." Rock.

November 22, 2005
Reality keeps you grounded in a foreign place

Living as a foreigner in Japan, you may be tempted to start to see yourself as something rather special. Maybe you think you're better looking, somehow, than you were before. Maybe you think you are so smart because you've only been living here for a year and people just keep telling you your Japanese is awesome. Maybe you think people ask you so many questions because they're truly interested in you.

In an effort (okay I admit it doesn't take much effort at all) to banish such thoughts and more, I simply remind myself that none of them are remotely true. To the majority of the people you meet, you are little more than a passing feature at the Ueno Zoo, something to marvel and point at for a short period of time before the next attraction draws attention. As a foreign English teacher in a public school, you certainly are little more than one more in a long line of continually-changing foreigners. How memorable are you really when people who have seen you daily for two years keep calling you by the last guy's name? Even to your Japanese friends, it is quite possible that a good part of the reason they are your friends is that you are foreign and even somewhat of a "friend trophy."

If you are one of the lucky ones to have command of the language enough to have a decent conversation, you haven't escaped. You definitely have a "specialness" advantage, but as I've heard Roy put it, you're just a talking monkey now instead of a mute one. Nevertheless I envy you horribly. Oh, to impress upon the people I talk to that I do have feelings and a personality to boot! The jury's still out on whether or not that actually works.

People are not looking at you because you're a hot dude(ss). They often have little desire to find out more about you beyond the "weird things" about your home country. They might even use you to the extent that you don't understand the way things work here. Like it or not, as truly special (or not) as you may be, you're still just a passing fancy. Consider yourself the "summer fling" if you will. Welcome to the ever-changing, always-the-same 外人 (gaijin: not-so-nice word for foreigner) roadshow.

This grounding (and bitter, I apologize for that) moment brought to you by shock-e.com

November 21, 2005
Is this the way to learn?

The boneheads in charge of IT at the prefecture level (all high schools in Japan are controlled by their prefectural governmental ministry) run a content filtering app that I am constantly bumping into. Daily you can hear my curses when I'm (usually) trying to find something useful and run into this thing. The things that they do to "protect" the kids from the world, in the end, only manage to make school less educational and more ridiculous. Last time I was trying to find Halloween games to play with my English club. I was blocked from every page because the word "game" was included in the page. No games allowed in school! Enjoying even a moment of your class makes you weak and stupid!

Today I was looking up more about Nanking/Nanjing in thinking about a response I wrote earlier to Roy's comment. Apparently history is also a banned category!

Okay I kinda get censoring the violence part, but history? What the fuck?

idiotic_filter_thumb.jpg

400th Post!!! How do you frame your memories?

Today I was walking back from one of my classes, marveling (not really) at the fact that the halls were frigidly on-par with the outside temperature. At least, as of December, they're allowed to turn the heaters on in classrooms. My thoughts wandered, as they often do, to the lack of insulation in buildings in this part of Japan. For some reason I thought back to living through winter in my own high school days. Thanks to the much colder climate in Massachusetts, schools are insulated and have much better (in theory) heating systems.

What stopped me was that I suddenly realized I had been thinking about my Massachusetts high school classrooms in a Japanese context; all of the rooms had sliding doors and kerosene heaters. It meant to me that I've been here long enough so that my life here has started to color my perceptions, even in small ways, of things elsewhere. I wondered how many of my other memories I had unwittingly altered simply by living here for the time that I have.

I think everyone's memories are certainly colored by their current outlook, but have you ever had a moment of such overt alteration?

In other news, this is the 400th post since the inception of Musings of a Drunken Monk, back in May of 2003 when it was hosted on a computer sitting in the living room of my apartment in Somerville, MA. This also marks the second almost-consecutive month that my site has moved over a gigabyte of bandwidth. Thank you photo gallery (and my awesomely few ... fewly awesome ... whatever ... readers)!!

November 18, 2005
Things not to think about

This morning I had a (quite base) thought whilst 90% asleep:

If "blow job" and "hand job" each describe a sexual activity, just imagine what a "nose job" must be ...

Yeah I know, I don't want to know either why I was thinking this at 7AM.

November 16, 2005
Jamiroquai rocked ... with social observation!

Last night's Jamiroquai concert was pretty good. They play very well live, and even though it was an arena concert (meaning you dance in the tiny aisles of seats) it was fun. I do admit that I much prefer club concerts with general admission/standing only.

At the concert the foreign population was out in force. What I noticed was the overwhelming prevalence of foreign guys with Japanese girlfriends, all of whom were sizing each other up. I don't mean the Japanese girlfriends were sizing each other up (though some do that), but rather the guys. I think there's this unspoken competition ... like who has the prettiest girlfriend or something. Certainly, all the foreign guys in my section were staring at each other (and more strongly, each others' girlfriends) quite openly.

It's like the "couple stare" you get sometimes from Japanese people, only more baleful.

I also noticed that there was a huge advertisement (with blaring "new" music sounding exactly like all his other songs) for Bon Jovi on the way in and out of the arena. I guess concert promoters in Japan think that if someone listens to one foreign band, he must listen to them all. Honestly, I can't imagine that anyone who likes Jamiroquai enough to go to an $80 concert would also like Bon Jovi enough to go to a $95 concert. But who knows ... maybe Bon Jovi has some groovy quasi-funk/disco grooves in his songs I've just never discovered.

November 13, 2005
English Club Halloween Party

We had a Halloween party (about two weeks too late, but whatever) for English club. The students carved a pumpkin (it's hard to get them here so I could only find one in the time frame I had), made Halloween cookies, and eyeball punch. It was a good and tiring time.

Stabbed Pumpkin

November 11, 2005
Students want to know about your penis

I'm coming more and more to realize that my life wouldn't be half as interesting if I didn't teach at the 工業 (kogyo: technical) school. Recently, just about every day I have an interesting story to tell about my one daily class I teach there. Naturally today was no exception.

I went to class and my partner teacher informed me that the students were tired due to "Judo day" which was yesterday. I guess they just spent all day throwing each other around in the gym (that, after all, is what Judo is about). So he wanted to make class 10 minutes shorter, as well as do nothing. Being that I need his help to get anything done in the class, I accepted and we started a class which involved me talking to students, handing out my handout, and going to the bathroom.

It was into the bathroom that one of the students followed me. I was mid-piss, and assuming he would just do the same, continued to piss. But apparently he wanted to talk. About my equipment. After inspecting it. Most people know that it's very difficult to force yourself to stop pissing. I had a good one built up, so naturally by the time I was able to pinch off, he had gotten a long hard look at my junk. Waving him away was pointless, as was trying to cover myself properly. In the end, he was amazed that I had no foreskin. He said "because you're a foreigner?" I agreed to make it simpler (plus, though I know the word for foreskin, I really didn't want to discuss the percentages and rationale of circumcision in the USA. Now that I think of it, I think he was wondering if foreigners just don't have foreskins.

I didn't even get to finish my piss, I was so intent on leaving that bathroom.

More Funky Food Pictures

A few weekends ago we went to 焼肉 (yakiniku: barbecued meat) and the Japanese people in the small group (everyone but me) wanted to try some interesting things on the second plate. There were: pig's tongue, unidenfied cartilage, cow intestine, and cow ovary. Can you guess which is which?

November 10, 2005
懐かしい。。。

I've noticed this year that every time the seasons change, I feel a bit 懐かしい (natsukashii: nostalgic). I think it's because it reminds me of the first time (last year) I experienced the new season in Japan. Winter is coming, and my mood has been rather pensive as I think back on the past year, and what I was doing (and with whom) at this time last year.

It makes me feel old and sad.

November 9, 2005
Talking about your relationship

Relatively recently, I've found out some interesting stuff about Japanese relationships (romantic I mean) versus American relationships.

As it turns out, if someone avoids talking about their relationship (which many people tend to do), they are making an attempt to be modest. If they do talk about their relationship, they play it down and highlight the bad parts in another attempt to be modest. Back home, if someone avoids talking about or plays down their relationship, you can be pretty sure they're either unhappy or being shady.

Why is it that talking about (what should be) a good thing, even mentioning it, could be considered rude or immodest? Wow.

November 4, 2005
I have a small ass!

Today I was informed by a group of students that I have a small ass. I already knew this, but damn ... to have people other than my close friends reminding me of my embarrassingly small ass ... well it was a lovely conversation.

Then they wondered why women have bigger asses. I told them "so I can appreciate them."

Just kidding. I told them the whole "having babies" reason.

October 31, 2005
Comments addition and a Halloween Party

This Saturday a bunch of people in 行田 (Gyouda) had a halloween party. You can find the pictures in my gallery installation but they're private photos so you'll have to have a login.

In other news I added a new plugin to my blogging system and now every post gives the reader the ability to "subscribe." In theory, this means that if you comment and want notification when others comment (or I change the post), you can subscribe. Of course, if you read my posts by way of RSS, this is made largely pointless I think. Some sites seem to update their RSS feed when new comments are posted, but I'm unsure if mine does.

October 27, 2005
Japanese learning style

I've read and heard a lot about the Japanese educational system emphasizing rote memorization, versus the "western" educational system emphasizing "thinking for one's self." I never thought my high school experience particularly emphasized being a real analytical thinker, but I wonder ...

I have a private student, and in most of my lessons I try to work on analyzing the readings we do and understanding the meaning, rather than pure memorization and regurgitation. Thus far, in almost a year of teaching, he seems rather incapable of analytical thinking. My regular high school students seem to exhibit similar patterns. Is it the age? The education system? Hmm ...

October 26, 2005
Hearing without your ears

I know I'd sworn off of frequent link-posting, and since I haven't posted a link to a news story in quite a while, I think I can get away with squeaking this in.

I am utterly amazed by this article. I hope you enjoy it to the same capacity that my attention was captured. It's about "cybernetic" hearing implants ... directly in your skull.

Wired 13.11: My Bionic Quest for Bolero

A Visit to Ashikaga

I am all over the photo entries this week. Well, I guess it's more interesting for people anyway. Despite not many people knowing what it is or where it is, the town of Ashikaga (足利) has a lot going for it. It has Japan's first school (I think college, but I'm not sure), a bunch of interesting shrines and temples, and a really beautiful flower park. It's also just nice to take a walk around the not-so-busy streets.

ashikaga_thumb.jpg

October 25, 2005
Miscellaneous Wonderful Pictures

Over time, I build up random pictures that I've taken singly but haven't been able to group with anything else. Like here and here and even here I've finally built up enough to group them together and label them as "Miscellaneous." To me, they're pretty entertaining. Some of them, I wish I had posted them sooner rather than forgetting about them.

misc_thumb.jpg

October 24, 2005
Exercising these days away

I went running tonight for the first time in a while. 40 minutes out running in Gyoda felt so good. Maybe my legs will hate me tomorrow, but it feels good for now.

Considering Shinshukan's 12K "marathon" is coming up and I'm running in it, this should hopefully become a regular occurrence.

Disgusting-looking but yummy food

We had a small 27th birthday celebration for my friend Naoki at a local Okonomiyaki (self-made fried thickass savory pancakes, if you will) place. I thought it would be a good idea to show off the kinds of things we enjoy eating sometimes.

I'll eternally think you're extra-special (isn't that reward enough?) if you can comment and guess some ingredients that make up this masterpiece.

Extra-extra-extra-special bonus points if you can figure out how one eats it.

Anyone who has lived in/visited Japan doesn't count (sorry, those 3 readers, no extra-special points for you this time)!

The black surface you see is a heated frying surface built into your table.

monja_thumb.jpg

October 22, 2005
Karaoke is surprisingly fun

I used to hate カラオケ (karaoke). Before Japan I hated it because it involved singing in a bar with some douchebag DJ who decided whether or not to play the song you wanted to sing to. It also involved singing like a fool in front of the entire bar.

Japan's version of karaoke is light years better, as the technology is better, there's no douchebag DJ, and you only have to make a fool of yourself in front of your friends in a private room. But I still hated it. Why would I want to sing over some cheesy synthesized version of one of my favorite songs, when I can belt it out over the real one at home? To boot, the karaoke places almost never have what I really want to sing.

The discovery I made rather recently was that alcohol (so often as is the case) is the key. I went out with Pete and Will for a Boy's Night Karaoke session. We got drunk and howled to our hearts' content to such classics that you would never want to be caught dead singing in front of your friends.

Now I've realized that karaoke can indeed be very fun. Just add a smattering of know-how (don't choose songs you want to sing but rather songs you think will be fun to butcher), good friends,and more than a sprinkle of booze.

October 21, 2005
Jamiroquai Tickets Bought!

So probably no one cares, but Jamiroquai is coming to Tokyo in November. I was sad because I thought tickets had sold out. It turns out I was just not understanding the Japanese page. Big surprise there.

For $80 (the most I have ever paid and hopefully ever will pay for a concert) they had better completely rock my socks. Hell, I'll even settle for "r0x0ring my b0x0rs."

October 20, 2005
Disaster at the Post Office ... again

It really is true that every time I go to the Post Office, something goes wrong.

This was a simple pay-the-water-bill expedition, which turned into a bureaucratic semi-nightmare. It involved people calling the tax office, someone telling me something about my savings account which I didn't understand at all, and a lot of waiting.

You'd think I would've gotten used to it by now ... or at least learned to remember my dictionary.

October 18, 2005
Overwhelmed by Kanji

Lately I've been starting to study for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, which I will be taking in December. I'm taking the "level 3," test, which is second to lowest. It basically gets you nowhere in terms of a job or whatever, but it'll be nice to know where my level is. I was emphatically assured by a number of people that I could ease through level 3 without a problem. Apparently they didn't know how bad my Kanji study has been.

I know nothing! Yipe! The upcoming months should prove interesting ...

Though in to be fair, 300 to memorize out of the 40,000-50,000 total doesn't seem so bad.

October 14, 2005
Arrrgghhhh

Again...and again! I lost arm wrestling matches three more times, to two separate students. The second one is a rather small student, definitely smaller than me. So what gives? My wrist hurts so much now I have trouble typing. But I had to redeem myself ... instead losing what little dignity remained.

On the bright side, I'm told it's not my brute strength that's lacking but instead, it's just that I have sucky technique.

Whoever thought arm wrestling involved technique?

Taikusai

Yesterday Shinshukan (my school) had its big yearly sports festival. It was very fun and tiring for everyone. You can see quite a few different games/races here. Though the teachers weren't in the competitions (I wanted to be but there aren't enough young male teachers to make up a relay team), it was still a fun time. Classes today have been difficult for students and teachers alike!

Taikusai

October 11, 2005
Yokohama and White Magic

We went to Yokohama today to explore the biggest Chinatown outside of China. It was big and disturbingly clean. I've come to expect Chinatown to be smelly and crowded. While crowded, Yokohama's Chinatown was hardly smelly.

In other news, the Yankees lost. After the Red Sox got molested by the White Sox, that's all I had to hope for. Go Angels!

There wasn't anything really worth taking pictures of today except a
particularly interesting cat ...

October 10, 2005
School Festival

My school had its yearly school festival this weekend. It was great fun. As you can see the students got totally into it! There were ghost houses, stores, movie houses, cheerleaders, dancers ... you name it!

October 6, 2005
Finest Banking

My English club has a store to run tomorrow and Saturday, which is my school's yearly festival. I hope to have pictures of the festival up as soon as possible, because it's really amazing how charged the kids get for the festival.

For the store I went with the other club advisor (my favorite teacher, Ms. Ishizuka) to the bank to get lots of change. After all, you need quite a bit when most of the items you're selling (stuff I schlepped back from the States) are under 50 yen. At the bank, I discovered that they have machines that will give you change. I thought that was quite nifty, until I discovered that it requires the use of your cash card (why??) and only allows you to get change once in a day (again, why??). We didn't get enough change the first time and upon discovering this problem we went to the teller. We wanted 1000 yen ($10) more in 10 yen coins. She told us we get charged 300 yen ($3) for anything above 1000. What? Oh and you have to fill out this paperwork too.

We didn't fill it out correctly the first time and had to split the 1000 yen between us to avoid the charge.

Banking in Gyoda at its finest.

October 4, 2005
It's getting worse

Last year, the genius factory down at my head office (Saitama prefecture's Board of Education) decided that it would be a great idea to combine a very low-level technical school and a moderate-level regular school. The results of the combination are the enormous school I teach at now.

Since then:


  • Countless wallets and cell phones have been stolen from classrooms in the normal school.

  • Tech school students wander the halls at any time, disrupt class, and mouth off to teachers.

  • Fights, once extremely rare, are slowly becoming a regular occurrence.

  • The school has become a disgusting garbage dump thanks to the tech students' littering.

  • Teachers endure stabbing threats.

Let me make it perfectly clear (in case you already hadn't figured it out) that I do not like the technical school. The students are animals, not children. It is a complete waste of our time and the prefecture's money to try to throw teachers at them in classes they refuse to try in.

In trying to save a little money, the prefecture has succeeded. It has also succeeded in depriving hundreds of well-meaning and hard-working students of a decent learning environment. I'm sure they're pleased as punch about their money-saving decision so they can throw even more money at Wako-Kokusai high school (Saitama's notorious pet high school, which has multiple foreigners doing the same job as me for less students). Congratulations, assholes. Why don't you try to come here and teach for a week?

October 3, 2005
Nice job, meathead

Today I participated in a friendly arm-wrestling match with a student in hopes of getting him to do his work.

I got my ass kicked, not only assuring that he would never again do his work, but also handing myself an injured wrist.

September 30, 2005
Lions in my ear

Let me tell you a little bit about bugs. Specifically, let me tell you about the differences between American Mosquitos and Japanese Mosquitos.

Prior to coming to Japan, I had assumed that if another country had Mosquitos, they would be the same as they are back home; dumb, slow, annoying, and ubiquitous. What I have learned after spending two summers battling them is that they are quite different here, and I can only assume other countries have some other evil Mosquito strains.

The only things Japanese Mosquitos (hereby referred to as Ms because I'm getting sick of writing "Mosquito") share with American Ms are ubiquity and irritation. They are indeed everywhere. And they kind of look alike. But Japanese Ms seem to have these fuzzy antennae things that American ones don't, and there's also a separate kind that is black-and-grey striped. Neither are dumb or slow.

Back home, you can easily nab an M out of the air with one hand. Mashing one against the wall is a cakewalk. Here, it's damn hard. I think they're smaller and they're definitely faster here. It's so easy to lose sight of them, and the moment you've done so, they're probably sucking your sweet sweet red nectah (blood). Just the other night, one woke me up by buzzing in my ear (something they rarely do, actually), and I spent the next 45 minutes trying to kill it. Several times I tried to go back to sleep, only to have it bite me on some new and inconvenient bodily location.

And let me talk about that for a moment. Back home, when they bite they get full and slow and leave you alone. Here, it's like they've been invited to an endless buffet. They keep coming back for more and never seem to give up. A single M has bitten me like 5 times in as many minutes. And their bites itch like hell. I theorize it's because my body is used to American M bites and can deal more easily with the hystamines in their pokers.

It all comes down to using these electric M machines that only sometimes work, and waiting out the end of the season. Winter ain't great, but I'll be spared spending whole evenings stalking about the room singing "Where are you, you little fuckeerrrr? I'm gonna killlll you!"

September 27, 2005
Beautiful train wreck

Yesterday I had one of my few Justin-only lessons to teach. The teacher that is usually the head teacher for the class (after all, we in JET are classified technically as Assistant Language Teachers) had something to do, so it was me teaching the finer points of giving directions.

I was expecting to be eaten alive. In terms of my lack of Japanese ability being a hinderance, I was dead on. In terms of their expected behavior, I was thankfully wrong. Oddly, several of the students even volunteered significantly more than when the main teacher is around. This is an incredible boon in high school, where the coolest thing to do in English class is to sleep, say "I don't get English," or the equivalent of "I don't give a shit."

September 26, 2005
The local dumb foreigner

I swear the people at the post office must think I'm an idiot. Every time I go, it's to send money home or do some sort of official thing. Every time, I forget something. There's so much bureaucracy involved with this stuff that you need like 17 forms of ID, a blood sample, promise to give your firstborn ... that kind of thing. I always forget one of these things, usually either my hanko (really simple and thus easy-to-forge hand stamp which takes the place of signatures in Japan) or my account book. When you do this stuff at home, you obviously don't need the hanko, and I certainly never needed anything other than ID and knowledge of my bank account to do almost any banking.

The result is that I look like a clueless idiot every time I go.

September 22, 2005
Fiasco Solved

If you've been having problems commenting on my site recently, it was due to the change to the new MovableType version and some confusion regarding their administrative interface. Whoops.

I believe I've fixed the problem, but if you're having problems commenting still, drop me a line.

Revelations Follow-up

Matt had the same thing to say several years ago. I imagine, since he just "graduated" the same program as mine after 3 years, the timing for said realization was roughly the same. I think we all have the same thing happen.

He's right, cellphone below desk-level does look an awful lot like you're playing with yourself.

This is a follow-up to yesterday's entry.

September 21, 2005
Teaching Revelations

No, I will not be teaching from any book of the Bible today.

This is something that occurred to me a while ago but I never bothered to mention here. It's something that I'm sure every teacher in my program has also realized, and anyone else who has ever taught also realized.

The bare truth of it is: whatever shenanigans you pulled as a kid in school ... no matter how sneaky you thought you were, no matter how hidden you thought your bullshit was ... teacher saw it. We all thought teachers were blind or incredibly imperceptive, being adult and all. We thought we were masters of disguise and untruth. We were wrong. Teacher knew, and teacher tolerated. Those who got caught were just pushing farther than teacher's impressively-high tolerance.

I can't be bothered to tell you the number of students passing notes (not very common, really), sending emails on their mobile phones (modern day equivalent of the former), chatting, talking about me or other teachers, doing other homework in class, drawing ... and through it all I have come to the conclusion that most teachers also have; don't bother, busting them isn't even worth your time. Just let them think that hunching over their drawing and pretending to "rest" while you pass by is working and fooling you. They'll realize, with the onset of age and "wisdom," just how much teacher knew.

I was a pretty good student in high school, but even I had my moments of adolescent brilliance, like the rubber band banked straight into Mr. Lussier's forehead or the math homework done in English class. My life now makes me appreciate so much more what my teachers did for me and other students.

September 15, 2005
An open 日本語 question

To the oppressively tiny Japanese reading-and-writing subsection of my limited readership, I pose a question:

What is your most trusted method of remembering kanji? Rote memorization? 部首(radical)? Something else? How, for example, do you remember 詰める (which is easy to remember but good for my example), whose radical has absolutely nothing to do with the act of filling or plugging?

Additionally, what percentage (if you will) of importance would you place on visual recognition versus ability to write? I instantly recognize 教える for instance, but often forget how to write it.

What say you?

September 14, 2005
What's really going on in New Orleans

If you've been restricting yourself to reading or watching the regular news outlets ... don't. Read some real accounts, and you may be surprised at how vile and impotent our government can be.

Katrina: a cameraman's journal in NOLA

*snip*
"There are dead bodies on the street. Yesterday, I watched as a man tried to flag down a cop. There was a middle aged woman who had been dead for days, and yet no authority seems concerned. We can see that there was no plan for the living, but you would think that there would be some respect for the dead. When he was finally able to get a cop to stop - not an easy thing to do since they drive through at such high speed…. the cop said that they didn’t care about removing bodies. Someone’s mother, or child, she was still there late last night as I drove out."

Yougo

Monday and Tuesday, I spent my days at Gyoda Yougo (行田養護学校 for those interested), the regional school for disabled children. Students' ages range from first to twelfth grade, and their capabilities range all over the spectrum. I am once again humbled by the patience, stamina, and character of the teachers who give themselves every day at the school. Two days' work was enough to exhaust me; the fortitude of the regular teachers there is absolutely astounding.

In my first-ever elementary school class, I spoke a few greeting and parting words with four energetic fourth graders. Then I donned a sumo hat (plastic hat looking like that infamous sumo hair) and the little daiper thing (yes, thankfully they allowed me to keep my pants on, which created an interesting look, let me tell you), and wrestled with them. For those 40 minutes I was just a playmate (and a bit of a weenie) and it was tiring but nice.

Last time I went to yougo (it's a fairly regular gig) I took part in the pottery class and made what I do believe is the lamest rice bowl ever. Actually I don't even know what it was supposed to be anymore because I botched it so much. I had envisioned I'd be some pottery master using that spinning wheel thing (think Ghost without the sex scene) but I couldn't handle the pressure. I had forgotten just how bad it had turned out, and this time I was forced to take a look at what we've come to refer to as my "art." Art indeed. It's been fired and this time I glazed it, so next time I visit yougo, my "art" will forever be preserved and available for photo shoots. Prepare.

September 9, 2005
Fall cometh

The smell of autumn rode the air this morning. I describe it as a generous helping of humidity tinged with the smell of burning organics (rice chaff, sticks, paper) and sometimes burning plastics. Doesn't sound very appealing, does it? But it is, because I know that cooler weather is coming. The humidity will finally vanish, the oppressive heat will dwindle. I can finally wear pants to work without sweating the moment I leave an air conditioned room. I can leave laundry out to dry that will actually get dry.

It's the small things sometimes that make life interesting.

Suck it up New York

This is something I always knew: Boston is friggin expensive. Here's a study to finally shut all those New Yorkers up about how expensive their city is. Try living in a city with lesser average salary and higher living expenses!

Naturally, nothing can beat Tokyo ... hell, living 1.5 hours away on the train is more expensive than Boston.

Report rates Boston most expensive city - The Boston Globe

September 8, 2005
New student posts

The students with their own blog put up some more posts after a long summer vacation. I was beginning to think they'd forgotten about their assignment, but it seems that one of them was making her own written posts during the vacation. Awesome!

Shinshukan Sougo Diary

The natives are restless

Lately, I seem to be waging a war against nature (or some semblance of it). Not like I have anything against it, I mean I was a "tree-hugger Environmental Science" major. But man, sometimes ...

Last night I was awoken at midnight by what I thought was my neighbors doing major renovations on their house right next to my bedroom window. It took me a little while to figure out that it was a cicada doing it's "whirp whirp whiiiiiiiiiirp" thing ... in the middle of the night. While not unheard of, it is kind of strange and especially loud and disturbing when the nasty insect has attached itself to your window screen to do its little "hump-hump-hump-meeeeeeee" call. So I did what anyone would do: I flicked it. Poor thing bounced around against the outside light for a good 15 minutes before getting the point that it indeed was night and time to sleep.

Two nights before that, I had the most horrifying dreams. I was dismembered, burned alive in lava ... all while waiting for some sort of rescue helicopter that never showed up. The inspiration for such horror, it turns out, was a cat in heat prowling around on my balcony. You have to understand that cats never come up there, so an especially adventurous and horny one at 3AM was disconcerting. Combine this with the fact that I had been awoken by yowling and was just a tad out of it ... well I was terrified. I really had to go to the bathroom but the bathroom has a window overlooking the balcony and I was convinced the cat would try to get me. I held my pee-break until morning. I've been instilled with plenty of Hmong spiritual legendry so in that half-sleeping state I was utterly sure that the cat was bringing ill-will (which is what they do in Hmong belief apparently).

It all turned out fine in the end ... or so I thought. I giggled about it the next day, went to school, and came back. It was then that I discovered the little weenie had chowed on my carefully-tended mint plants.

Damn you nature!

September 6, 2005
The TV quandary

Sometimes I get so bored, I want to rot my brain and watch TV rather than do something productive with my life (write stories, study Japanese, pick my nose). Really, watching TV is one of the last things I should be doing, but I sometimes just can't help but plop down on the ol' yellow fake leather sofa and turn on the tube.

Every time, I'm so disgusted with the horrible quality of the fare that I turn it right back off.

The other night was no exception. We were watching a Japanese game show in which the contestants do various things to show their smarts about animal hijinks. The bone I have to pick with Japanese TV production is 100% my own problem and obviously cultural so don't get all up on me for being insensitive or generalizing or whatever.

The problem with Japanese TV production is the lack of "normal" people. Anyone who is on any show or advertisement pretty much must be famous. Sometimes we see segments of variety shows (whose guests are solely famous people) with normal people on it, but those normal people have to be doing something relatively out-of-the-ordinary to get on the segment in the first place. So here we have, as Pete has put it, a whole variety of TV shows that all feature the same guests. It's like you're only allowed to see the same 15 people on TV during any one season.

What gets me going is already-famous and already-rich people winning more crap and privilege. Anyone who knows me knows I have a huge beef against undeserved fame/fortune/privilege (think Paris Hilton). So back to the animal show. I was watching these celebrities pitted against each other to test their critter mettle. Finally one guy won, and guess what? He won some crazy crystal stuff, and a trip to Bali, and a ton of food ... just like "normal" people can win on American game shows. As if this rich guy can't already afford a million of those crystals and trips and foodstuffs. As if he needs more crap and ego-injections.

It all comes down to, as I was told, a lack of charitable feelings amongst the Japanese which is largely attributed to Christianity (again this is something I was told so don't get all up on my shit for it). Am I to believe there's no charitable spirit in this country? Where people, who are much poorer than the very celebrities they watch, are forced to watch said celebrities get even richer because normal people are pretty much not allowed on TV? I didn't watch much TV back home, but my experience was that if a celebrity were on a game show where (s)he could win stuff, those winnings would go to charity. Here, they go straight to an already-rich person's coffers.

Not to say that there aren't truly-educational or interesting shows on Japanese TV, but they are pretty rare (much like American TV). But I tire of seeing the same 10 or 15 people making the same jokes for days on end. It's with this disgust that I click the power button.

Whatever happened to quality programming like Takeshi's Castle!!

September 3, 2005
WWJD?

You know those hugely popular "Live Strong" rubber bracelets that were started by some Lance Armstrong cancer foundation and then got swallowed into a massive trend machine? Well if you don't, well now you do know.

Anyway, they're huge here too ... but naturally people don't buy them to support cancer research or anything like that. I think the causes are for anything *but* cancer or AIDS or you know ... good causes. It runs more along "I'm paying for this bracelet to support rural Chinese sweatshops."

I noticed one of my students was wearing two of the bracelets in class yesterday. I paused for a moment because written on them wasn't some internet address or random characters (as seems to be popular here) but WWJD or "What Would Jesus Do."

I wonder if my student knows what those initials stand for? I doubt it. I wonder if he is Christian? I also doubt that. It doesn't matter at all, of course. But I was intrigued at how that expression made it over as trendy accessory wear.

September 2, 2005
"Whoof?"

I think this is pretty cool. Carbonated ice cream!

All those kids down there at MIT aren't just making atomic whatsihoos. They're working on useful things too!

MIT crew churns out ice cream with sizzle - The Boston Globe

August 30, 2005
New System (ish)

Sorry it's been a while, been kinda busy I guess. Actually more like I haven't been at work, which is where I do the majority of my updates during my downtime. Go figure.

I waited until MovableType 3.2 came out of beta and just performed a really easy upgrade. Quite nice. Maybe now I can spend my time updating instead of blocking all of the spam I still manage to get despite all my best efforts. Damn spammers.

Tomorrow it's back to school, so you'll probably be seeing more coming up soon. At least I hope so.

August 22, 2005
Stolen Bike

I make a huge committment in my life to come to a completely foreign country and teach my language to a bunch of unappreciative spoiled brats.

How do they repay me? Naturally they steal my only mode of transportation.

August 19, 2005
Mt. Fuji Conquered!

Yesterday I announced that I was going to climb 富士山 (Mount Fuji) with Roy. Could that have just been yesterday? Seems so long ago.

We left Tokyo Thursday (yesterday?) night and traveled to the 5th station (about halfway up) of Fuji. We arrived at about 10:00PM and got going by a little earlier than 10:30PM. You see, it is somewhat of a popular custom to hike during the night to reach the peak and watch the sunrise. So we hiked for the next three and a half hours (it would've been three, did I not have weak chickenlegs) up some pretty steep volcanic scree. I can't believe grannies and kids do that hike, let me tell you.

The good news is that we passed pretty much everyone on the mountain. It became this kind of self-feeding obsession to not allow anyone behind us to pass us once we'd passed them. There were, naturally, other reasons I won't belabor. The end result was we got to the summit at around 2AM which is way too early. See it's friggin cold up there and waiting for two hours in near-zero temperatures with a whipping wind does not equal fun. So we spent two hours, me curled fetally in the corner of a stone wall and Roy sharing a tiny smelly public bathroom space with 6 other people.

We survived and the pictures prove it.

Fuji

August 18, 2005
Fuji

Tonight I'll be hiking Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan, with Roy. Hopefully we'll make it up in time to catch the sunrise (a Japanese tradition) and come down the crazy "sand slide."

Wish us luck!

August 17, 2005
Wilderness ... sort of

Let me give you a quotation from the Saitama Navigator book that every Saitama JET is given upon entering Saitama to live and work:

The Nakatsu River originates in Juumonji Pass at the border with Nagano Prefecture, forming a gorge of breathtaking beauty. The Nakatsu-kyou Gorge is claimed to be the best scenic spot in the Chichibu region of Saitama.

Today I went there and did a little walking around, preceded by a near-two-hour train ride which was followed by an hour-long bus ride.

Let me tell you, whoever wrote this book acts like (s)he's never set foot out of Tokyo. It was very pretty and all, but nothing I couldn't find back home in humble little Western Massachusetts. I don't even think this was a gorge. In fact, the only breath that was taken was my own ... when I dove into the river and my pants migrated to my ankles.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it. Swimming in "the wild" in Japan is a rarity, and it was nice (after being busted for swimming in a fishing area ... oops). And now I know not to fully trust this book of mine. I should've known when I realized it had completely omitted the part about the busride being an hour long.

But hey ... I did something with my day, and that's good.

Nakatsu Kyou

August 16, 2005
There is a town in Austria ...

Called Fucking.

August 14, 2005
Daddy Long Legs

I've always been put out by the myth that Daddy Long Legs are spiders that are so venemous they'd kill you in a single bite but were unable to bite you. To me it seemed ludicrous because they're not even spiders. I even heard the myth for the millionth time while back in Western Massachusetts. So today I decided to take a little time and look it up. Simple enough.

"Daddy Long Legs" and "Daddy Long Legs spiders" are similar-looking but different creatures ... neither of which could kill you!

And there you have it.

August 12, 2005
Observations

It's been a while indeed. But let me tell you a few things I've picked up while back in the States:

  • Baseball is an incredible televised sport.
  • American is definitely the worst airline I've flown. I can't explain to you the seething rage I weathered while standing in line at check-in for two hours only to almost miss my flight. Every other airline, you can get to the airport an hour before your flight and still have time to noodle around in crappy souvenir shops. I (and several hundred others) stagnated while the entire flight to Puerto Rico got checked before us. This was, of course, because the flight was leaving in 15 minutes and American had failed to provide adequate staff to check in the horde. So then I got to my plane 5 minutes before it departed. Maki did miss her flight because they printed the wrong gate number on her boarding pass. Way to go! As I said at the beginning of this trip: Never. Again.
  • A wedding can have a 5 hour open bar without killing its attendants.
  • Food in the States really is that much larger than it is in Japan. I had apparently forgotten. My stomach has obviously shrunken to the size of a pea, as I couldn't eat a single meal without being obscenely full. It's like I got a gastric bypass. Without the staples.
  • Japan is way too hot for its own good.
  • The MBTA in Boston still sucks. But now the Airport stop is all high-tech and Park Street has a souvenir shop.
  • Reverse Culture Shock, whenever I should return, is going to sting ... a lot.
  • Trees are the most fantastic thing I have ever laid my eyes on. Gyoda should give a few of 'em a try.
  • I've been a lot more homesick than I thought. I guess it took a good jolt to get me out of hiding it from myself. I think I prefer to keep hiding it.
  • My sister is not Bridezilla and that is awesome.
  • Must ... figure out ... career ...
  • 18 days is never enough time. Oh, how it had looked so long on my calendar.
  • There were so many things that didn't need to come with me. Computer, shirts, pants, shorts, shoes, Japanese study ... What was I thinking when I packed this stuff?
  • My Japanese still absolutely sucks.

In all, I am happy to be back. Of course it was incredible to be home after nearly a year, but it was also hard at times due to memories, a slight dose of reverse culture shock, and habits I've picked up since coming here. For one, I've come to very much value my time alone. You don't really get much of that when you have only a short time to get a million and one things done with a million different people. And I didn't even get to go golfing!

Anyway, it was great. Thanks all, especially my family, for making it memorable.

August 11, 2005
Back-attack

I'm back, and boy is Japan hot, humid, and full of creepy loud cicadas. The fiery ball of death scenario nearly came true on my flight from Chicago to Tokyo, as we were delayed a few minutes to "fix the engine." No kidding. Aren't pilots supposed to use technical-speak in order to instill confidence in their passengers? Something along the lines of "we will be performing routine maintenance" (if we don't fix this the plane will explode mid-flight) or "just a little systems analysis and we'll be off the ground" (the wing is about to fall off and we're getting the duct tape) would be nice. Luckily my terror morphed into extreme boredom midflight, and then a severe headache by the end.

By the time I finally got home, the overbearing smell of tatami (normally not an unpleasant smell) in my closed apartment sent my stomach into spasms and my recent airplane meal nearly into the sink. Manfully I choked it down and collapsed into bed at 6pm. Yeah!

Expect more later, as soon as I get my apartment out of catastrophe-mode.

August 4, 2005
Still Japanesey

O my faithful, I have not forsaken thee.

I had feared I'd be full of little Japanese sayings and mannerisms enough to confuse and irritate people at home. But for the occasional bouts of driving on the wrong side of the road or saying something randomly, I've been pretty clean.

Except for "See you!"

How did such a cutesy habit sneak up on me and ingrain itself so easily? I can't say goodbye to people in any other way. I can't even say it in full-on English.

So until further notice ... "Shii Yuu!!"

July 23, 2005
Sorry!

Sorry everyone who was waiting to get my stuff after the fiery ball of death airplane scenario. I am alive and (relatively) well.

But I will never fly American Airlines again.

July 22, 2005
Hiatus

As of 6PM tonight my grueling twenty-hour journey back home will be underway. I'll be posting from home, so it's just a hiatus from Japan, really.

If the plane goes down in a fiery ball of death, Roy gets my clothes, Will gets my extra computer crap, and Pete gets my stereo.

Matt, the unassuming pimp, gets uh ... my cologne and my shoes. Yeah!

Domestic Violence ... Comedy Goldmine?

Last night I was watching a TV program about Beat Takeshi's childhood life. I guess the program is more supposed to be about his abusive alcoholic idiotic father, and it shows. The main premise of last night's episode was how the father gets fall-down drunk every evening, crashes into the house while the family is quietly doing all sorts of domestic things, and wreaks havoc.

It was supposed to be funny.

It could be funny, I suppose, if he just knocked over the table and broke the shoji screen door and fell outside. All three of those activities he performed with alacrity, but the problem was that he also beat his kids, threw his wife outside (damaging her back), threw his aging mother into the family altar, and smashed her prized shamisen. I was horrified. My viewing partner, meanwhile, was dying of laughter.

I got to thinking. Is it okay to make light of such a terrible situation? Is my sense of propriety overblown? For me there is absolutely nothing funny about a guy beating the shit out of his family (and neighbors, in this case). But I can also assume I'm missing something culturally here. I want to say it's related to the Japanese tendency to smooth over or ignore the terrible parts of life. But that would be ignorant to say I know what I'm talking about. I've gotten the impression that domestic violence was (and still is?) more ingrained in Japanese family life, but to what degree? And how is it (if at all) connected to the much lesser role a father plays in the emotional fabric of the family?

July 20, 2005
Work Your Technique

This morning at the neighborhood garbage drop-off area I ran into the mother (I think) of one of my students. I'm not sure if the student is in the rugby club (making it a boy) or she was just excited about a rugby game that perhaps I attended (making the student either boy or girl). I unfortunately have no idea, as she spoke too quickly and my "smile and nod" technique is my only defense early in the morning. I should have liked to talk to her more and indicate an interest in her child and the community but ...

Such is daily life.

July 19, 2005
Bureaucracy in the Extreme

This morning, like any other morning, Maki spent two hours on the train to get to her job in Tokyo. Unlike any other day in her adult working life, she forgot her ID badge to get into her job at NTT Communications. When she got there, she was unable to enter the building. Completely blocked. They sent her home to get her ID badge to get into a job she already dislikes. So by 10:30 this morning, she had already spent six hours on the train. Today she will have spent eight hours total on the train for a job where she is treated as an OL (short for "Office Lady" which basically means sits around, looks pretty, and serves the oh-so-important men tea and coffee when they yell). All just to get into the building.

The company is no missile-defense contractor. It's an offshoot of the old government telecom that handles some sort of data infrastructure that no one really cares about. What boggles my mind is that the bureaucracy is so heavy at this company that there's not even anything like a sign-in sheet or visitor ID badge she could borrow for the day. The people in security know who she is, they've seen her face every day for the past two years. Yet here is one more example of how adhering to (however stupid it is) the system is more important than being kind for someone. Were I in her shoes and told I have to hike two hours back home and then two hours back for a simple ID badge, you all know I'd tell them to fuck off. No mediocre job is worth that. I guess that's the difference between us!

Of all the boneheaded things I've heard about this company, it's a wonder they have any business at all.

July 17, 2005
Hot and Humid

The #1 problem with this hot and sticky weather for me fluctuates between getting up in the morning and taking a shower.

It hasn't been hot for long enough to warm the water sources so that I can take a "cold only" shower. So I have to live with the lovely "hot on hot off" tendencies of my shower until I can banish the hot water entirely from my nightly bathing.

Getting up, I still feel relatively clean, refreshed, and most importantly, not sweaty. This will of course change as soon as I put on clothes of any sort. Which makes for a lot of naked puttering around in the morning. I don't really want to be a naked putterer. The longer I wait to put on clothes, the larger the chance is I won't sweat through my clothes by midday.

How's that for Japan living?

July 15, 2005
Drool on my Keyboard

Many of you probably already read Slashdot so you may have seen this. But if not ... wow. This is the coolest keyboard. All of the keys are little self-contained displays, so they can be changed to whatever! Neato.

Optimus keyboard

July 14, 2005
Someone Please Explain

I don't get it. Why do people idolize celebrities? What genetic reason is there for being a brainless sheep? What is the point of talking about how attractive someone is or how great they are or giving a shit at all because they are rich and famous? First, this person has, and always will have, no bearing on the average person's life. Second, fame and fortune do not at all add up to a better person. Yet why does it seem to me that such a small percentage of the general population understands this? I mean, come on. Excuse my venom, but who fucking cares if Brad Pitt goes to the hospital? I went to the hospital two weeks ago with so-called "flu-like symptoms" and the BBC didn't pick that up. Neither do they pick up that every day thousands of poeople in Africa die of AIDS. I'm pretty sure in those thousands, every day there are people dying with more talent and potential than Brad Pitt. Yet he is famous! So we must obsess! Damned be the people who are truly suffering!

I see those supermarket gossip rags and I want to puke. Why the hell do people care who Angelina "Lips of Collagen" Jokie is fucking this week? Housewives, quit trying to catch up on Catherine Zeta Jones' sex life and maybe check out why your husband is so busy every week.

Gah. Yeah, there are plenty of famous people out there who genuinely deserve praise. But that doesn't mean they need legions of blubbering idiots who would rather take their own lives than see their idol in trouble. I watched a news item here in Japan about some shitty-punk (yes, I truly believe that's a viable genre title for the style of music that virtually all teenagers are listening to) star who choked on his own vomit after an OD or some other such nonsense. The footage showed his funeral limosine surrounded by wailing teenagers, who were pretty much flagellating themselves in despair. What the hell. He was a person, not some God. These people react more to some dumbass in ripped jeans and crappy hair than they would if their own parents died.

This world is a disgusting, backwards place.

/rant

Mind you, I was in a perfectly chipper mood until someone thought it was newsworthy to write about Brad Pitt's fever. Oy ...

July 12, 2005
Gallery Up and Running

Last night I got the latest release of Gallery 2 up. It isn't entirely pretty yet, but quite functional. Basically it's a way to set up a place on my site where people can get their own account and share pictures. I see it as a great way for groups of people (for instance, our group that went camping, each person with his/her own camera) to share pictures of a shared experience.

It's a very cool application because so-called albums that users set up may be restricted so that only certain people or groups can view them. I like this feature because it means I can remain true to my self-imposed rule not to publicly post pictures of people.

If you want to take a look at it (and I hope you will, and sign up for your own account in the process), you can find it at www.shock-e.com/gallery2. I'll be posting some sort of guide to make it easier for you to make a gallery. For now, the only rules I have are to restrain pictures to 800x600 size and under 600KB. You can set both restrictions when you import pictures into your album. The application is full of stuff to play around with, so experiment! Oh and keep it semi-un-pervy so as to preserve my good name. Or something.

July 11, 2005
Students

I realized this weekend that pretty much no one reads my blog these days ... so in the name of maintaining my dignity, I'll just pretend I do this for the purpose of having an "archive" of my life. Righto.

Recently I noticed that a student in one of my English classes is the Japanese equivalent of me in high school. He's shy, trying so hard to be cool, and has long hair. Girls don't want to talk to him or be his partner because he's just too ... different and angry. I want to tell him so much "no no no you're doing it all wrong. Girls do not like guys who are different, unless you are different by virtue of having a shitload of cash. And cut that hair too!" Back in high school, females were the singularly most important (and simultaneously inaccessible) thing on the planet. Long hair and angst did not help the situation. Thankfully he is on the right track (maybe) and cut his hair. Now he looks like a girl. In Japan, that goes a long way to getting a girlfriend.

In another class, a boy has a painfully obvious crush on a girl. During class, of course, he can't talk to her (much) but after class I swear he manages to teleport to her side. He carries her books. He massages her shoulders. He pays her more attention than I thought was possible. Unsurprisingly, she gives him the cold shoulder. But maybe that's what she's supposed to do? My limited understanding of Japanese romantic relations tells me that showing genuine affection is some sort of taboo activity. I had thought younger people weren't affected by the same affliction (nice alliteration) but perhaps I was too quick. Or well ... maybe she just doesn't like him.

Thank God I'm out of high school.

July 6, 2005
Mesmerizing

I've known about PostSecret for a while now but haven't actually found the time to poke around enough. It's like the "hot or not" site of old where you just can't stop once you've started. People anonymously write any secret (often their deepest and darkest ones) on a postcard and send it in to be posted online for the world to read.

I've been in a melancholy mood for days (surely thanks, in part, to repeatedly listening to Coldplay ... grr) and this opens the flood gates wide. This is one huge depression-fest with a few light breaks ... but I can't stop reading. Approach it with a grain of salt and it could provide a voyeuristic rush. Otherwise you'll end up sucked in and morose.

Thanks to Smoochdog for reminding me.

July 5, 2005
My Daily Life

Here's a posting of some of the typical things I see in a day. These pictures typify pretty much every single high school (and middle school) in Japan. I ordered the pictures such that you'll see them in the order that a typical student would see them as her day progresses. Of course, she'd only see my room if she actually liked English enough to visit it (which is a very unrealistic expectation).


Shinshukan

July 4, 2005
Camping in Tochigi

I went camping with Pete, Nichole, Roy, John, and Wendy this past weekend. Tent-squatting snakes and frigid water notwithstanding, it was a great time. Probably the snake and the frigid water made it more interesting anyway! But I'll leave that for another time. I'm still tired and want to go to bed.

Some of the pictures are a little blurry or strange, but that's just a result of the camerawoman not knowing how my camera works. Good try Wendy! ;)

Tochigi Camping

July 1, 2005
Embarrassment worn upon my sleeve

Today I have two items worthy of the deep embarrassment that I currently face.

  • Coldplay: Since their inception I have made fun of them as a band with not a single original chord or lyric, sounding too much like illicit coitus between U2 and Dave Matthews. I ruthlessly hounded my friend who (rather shamefully, I recall) gave admission to a secret interest in their music. I hated them. And yet, here I am, years later, and their second album has wormed its way to the top of my current music rotation. I've already prepared to unleash the third upon my eagerly waiting ears. Where have I gone?! What happened to all my firmly-planted musical snobbery? I know they are nothing new. I know they're self-indulgent. I know U2 did everything they did 20 years ago. But I still listen, and I still like it so much! Gah.
  • Last Night's Dream: No this ain't no dream log! Last night I had a dream. I don't remember anything about it except for the singular shining point that I took with me into the waking hours. What was it? Was it the key to a happier lifestyle? A new life goal? Some sort of aching self-realization? Nope. It was the outfit I'm currently wearing. I realized upon waking that the dream showed me new potential in my wardrobe that I had yet to seize upon. And seize upon I did. Kind of sad when the most memorable part of your dream ends up being your clothes. But it is, admittedly, a smashing combination! Still ... embarrassment.

June 30, 2005
More Shinshukan Posting

My students have been a little busier lately and actually have managed to get down a new post. Head on over and encourage them (since commenting has been fixed)!

http://shinshu.shock-e.com

June 27, 2005
Back at it

Just a few observations today.

This weekend I spent suffering through the nastiest viral stomach infection I've had since high school. I can also truly say I've had the first (and hopefully last) conversation in full Japanese revolving around the consistency of my excratory products.

It was also the hottest set of days so far this year. Humidity from 70 to 80 percent, with temperatures of 33 in the day and sadly not much cooler at night (31 last night at 10:00 in my apartment). For those of you still chained by the slavery of the long-defunct British Empire's silly measuring system, that's 92.5 and 88 respectively. Air conditioning becomes not a luxury at some times but a necessity, mostly due to the humidity. But you can survive, anyway.

I also watched The Incredibles and it was unsurprisingly ... incredible. Well actually I've preferred Pixar films but the studio has yet to prove itself anything but spectacular. What other film studio has produced nothing but amazing movies? In watching some of the "making of" disc 2 filler, I noticed that there were quite a few people my age apparently working cool-ass jobs at Pixar. Pixar!!! If that isn't one of the coolest places to work, please let me know what is. And here I am, rather shiftless in my career. I realized these people got there most likely through intense hard work, motivation, and probably a good smattering of luck. But with some of that hard work and motivation applied to myself, I too could perhaps be in a cool, enviable job. It's certainly something more to look forward to than the horror-stricken vision I suddenly had of working my life away in a lame thankless, meaningless office job.

Time to get moving.

June 24, 2005
Frustrations

Like Roy, I also have a crappy teacher situation. Today, for the first time after a year of teaching with him, I decided upon a name: Douchebag-Sensei.

Yes, it's similar to Roy's Dipshit-Sensei but hey, inspired by his brilliant use of dipshit, I came up with "Dipshit-Sensei" anyway. They mean virtually the same thing in my book, but you know ... we can't be eating the same dish (so to speak).

Douchebag-Sensei has actually managed to garner a reputation amongst Saitama highschool teachers as being the least likely teacher to give a shit about teaching. Even before he taught at the current low-level technical school, he taught just as badly at a decent school .

What gets to me is that his shitty attitude affects the students (naturally). Sure, most of them don't give a damn about English anyway, and I don't expect them to. But the teacher's role as I see it is to nurture what interest there might be. If a student asks a question during an activity or shows any interest at all, I'll do my best to work with it. DB-Sensei (acronym usage definitely ripped from Roy) quashes it. Today a student was talking to both of us about the current activity. He was obviously interested in learning more about the usage of the target sentence and its alternatives. Instead of trying to work with this interest, DB pretty much said "yep that's how it works," turned away, and went back to sleeping standing up. I tried to work with the student more, but my bad Japanese rapidly became a barrier to further learning.

If only I could design my own activities for the students instead of using the world's worst English textbook. Every time I suggest an activity, without fail he'll very evasively (which is what passes for politely here) nix anything interesting. And we go back to reading from the world's worst English textbook.

To top it off, Douchebag isn't going anywhere soon, as I have the feeling that his poor performance at previous schools is the very reason he's been placed at a low-level school.

If anything, it's one more reason to study Japanese more.

June 23, 2005
He moves among you

It is with great modesty and humility that I announce my overwhelming genius. As if you didn't already know, it's high time you did know: a genius walks amongst the commoners, and it is I.

How, you may ask, can such a bumbling dumbass as yourself have the gall to call yourself a genius? Obviously, I'll tell you.

I have discovered the secret to making stale chips (of the American snack variety, not the silly British name for fried potato slabs) crispy again.

Indeed.

Mom and dad were so wonderfully kind as to include a bag of Lime Tostitos in the most recent package from home, and sadly the bag popped open no doubt thanks to gingerly care at the hands of the wonderfully efficient USPS. That gave the chips five days to become more cardboard than chip.

But I, yes I, have de-staled them.

The next step is to feed my massive mind ... by eating them. Didn't you know MSG is brain food?

(In all seriousness, check out the MSG link. It's too bad it makes things taste so damn good, because MSG really is pretty bad for you.)

June 21, 2005
Life in Japan: Audio

I mentioned in my previous post that I planned on introducing more audio recordings of my Japanese experience. I've added a few more to my media directory.

Check it out!

June 20, 2005
Reminders of Japan

Let me start this off by saying I really hate blog memes. I think it's the most self-indulgent, pseudo-engaging bullshit that has come to the web since blogging itself. Since memes are virtually the same thing as those annoying "personality quiz" emails that everyone sends around, they are equally lame in my book. But actually you know what I think it is? I just hate the word "meme."

And yet here I am, making something of my own.

Fret nor criticize not, for this is an exercise for me in archiving memories of Japan. Everyone will form their own mental associations with their experiences, but I find there are several I've thought of that would be near-universal to a foreigner who has lived in Japan.

And here goes: What will I eternally associate with Japan?

  • The tatami smell. Indescribable until you smell it. It's something like musty dried grass. Most of the time it's a good smell, until it gets continually damp during 梅雨 (rainy season). For me, this smell defines Japan.
  • Ramen and the slightly-offensive oily smell outside the ramen shop. You haven't lived until you've eaten real ramen. Not that $0.15 Maruchan crap you get in the supermarket.
  • 柴犬(Shibaken) barking. Cute, but the most evil dog breed to date. I've never heard a dog bark or whine more. While there's nothing particularly special about an overly-barking dog, there's something about a Shiba's bark that seems very distinct to me. I remember playing a video game that took place in Japan, and one of the ambient sound effects was constant Shiba barking. It was dead on accurate, as I learned when I came here.
  • Cicada calls during the summer. Cicadas are really huge and creepy but the sound they make conjures pleasant (somehow) memories of the Japanese summer ... sweltering though it may be. Because I first came to Japan in the middle of summer, I think this sound will always be associated with the bewhilderment and exhilaration of my first few weeks here.
  • Japanese children saying "Haro!" when I pass. A future outside of Japan guarantees that now is the only time I will be able to have such a strong (and hopefully positive) influence on so many young minds. Once I leave Japan, this won't be a reminder but simply a memory.
  • 山鳩 (Mountain Pigeon) calls. These birds look so much like Mourning Doves that I thought they were the same bird. But they make a completely different sound. It sounds kind of like that cooing sound pigeons make, but much nicer and pretty damn loud.
  • Local trains passing by. Somehow it's comforting. The sad part is, this is the most expensive and slow train in Japan, yet anything Amtrak would be eating its dust. Kinda crappy audio file here.

This concludes my list for now. I'll be doing some more sounds in the future, as I thought it might help people better imagine the world I live in. Sadly, I have no Cicada sounds, which is one of my favorite sounds of Japan.

June 15, 2005
"Handmade"

I was reading a little about the so-called rise and fall of blogs. Blogs are at their peak and continuing to become more and more popular. I don't see that changing any time soon. But I do agree with the author that most blogs have degenerated into simple link-posting. I, too, am very guilty of this. It's hard to write your own stuff regularly. It's even harder to make it interesting to other people (no, a list of your daily gripes/groans/activities/bowel movements does not count ... because it's boring as hell). So it's time to start writing things that are hopefully more self-spun and also hopefully more amusing both to myself and my (ahem ... few) readers. I remember when all of my entries were like that.

It's time for a change. Starting tomorrow.

What you really mean to say is ...

... New Yorkers are pussies?

I'm sorry, it reaches something like 110 with 80% humidity here, and the only rooms that might have air conditioning are teacher rooms. People say (and know) it's hot, but they suck it up and deal with it.

This just strengthens the international perception that Americans are a bunch of selfish whiners.

To Reading and Writing, Add Sweating and Sweltering

June 14, 2005
Apple camp for the intel switch

I think iLemmings is the coolest term that has ever graced my screen to date. Interesting article on Steve Jobs' so-called "genius."

'Think Again' camp opens for wounded Apple iLemmings

I don't do "dream logs" ...

But last night when my shopping trip to Sam's Outdoor Outfitters in Brattleboro, Vermont rapidly devolved into an epic battle between good and evil, I had to take note and immortalize it here.

Riddle me this: Why do my cool dream-powers always turn into lame pretend powers that somehow still work?

June 13, 2005
Oops

Today I lost my temper a little bit and scolded a set of four students who never shut up in class. I instantly felt bad about doing it and still recognize that it was a bad thing to do. The more you scold them the less of their respect you can get.

They started talking a minute later anyway.

It's no longer the first grade class but instead the babysitting class.

June 12, 2005
The blurred line between Saturday and Sunday

Saturday (last?) night, we went to the very-crowded Womb nightclub and danced for a rather long time. Fending off numerous elbows/ass jabs becomes tiresome, so boy am I beat.

Leaving the cavernous club was something to remember. It has been a very long time since I emerged from a club into sunlight. A weird feeling. Hence, "the blurred line."

June 9, 2005
A moment of vanity

In response to the other day's self-indulgent-post-of-angst I give you a new, entirely different self-indulgent post.

This time, I got a haircut and looks smashing compared to the helmet-hair/receding-hairline look I was rocking a few days ago. In person it also looks strikingly Japanese. I guess that's not surprising, considering where I got the haircut ...

Feast thine eyes, and comment not upon the muscle-shirt, as it is simply my bedtime attire.

justin_new_hair2.jpg

June 5, 2005
Darth Vader Scratching!

One of my previous students alerted me to this very cool video starring Darth Vader doing some fantastic scratching/cueing tricks with the Star Wars Imperial March. You must see this.

Note: There are problems reported with the above clip. If it doesn't work well for you, try this Alternate Clip.

It comes from here:

Keltech strikes back, star wars scratch video, empire strikes back

June 2, 2005
Violin Plays

Ever had one of those days, where you feel and look your worst? Today is one of them. I demonstrate:

shitty_day.jpg

May 31, 2005
The people I hang out with

Everybody, meet Will, (one of the) the nutcase(s) in our little group. See what Japan has done to him?!

Der Der Der DerDer Derrr ...

May 30, 2005
Blog Cheese

I think I'm probably violating several of the listed items in this post alone, but hell...at least I don't do this one (my personal favorite):

* Inventing a nickname for your significant other that you use only on your blog. ("Last night, The Asspounder and I had dinner at a cute little place in the West Village...")

You know you all do it. Read it and realize just how many of these things you do ... and you shouldn't. Many of them are rather unavoidable. Just as many are perfectly avoidable and may make your blog less self-indulgent/ridiculous/boring/whatever.

The Big List of Cheesy Blog Entries.


Thanks to Willing Suspension of Disbelief for this one.

May 29, 2005
Move Complete ... ?

I think the move has been completed. It may take a little while for the DNS to propogate correctly, as is evidenced by the fact that some people see changed content and some people (mainly, me) don't.

If you see anything amiss, comment here or drop me a line.

May 27, 2005
Moving

I'm moving everything in shock-e.com over to a new server in order to better administer the site. I'm really hoping it goes smoothly, but these things rarely go without a hitch. So it may be a while. With any luck, I'll have it moved and be back to posting within a few days.

May 25, 2005
I could do that ...

Actually, I don't want to do that. This article makes me pretty sure that I could be pretty good in the industrial design field. "Why," might you ask?

Because this thing is hideous. A coffee-table designed to look like an iPod. It's ridiculous. The iPod, while still looking like a refrigerator with a screen, looks good while small. But a giant one is rather ... disgusting.

Sure, it's a novel idea, but it's fucking ugly. Did I already say that? One more time won't hurt. I have no doubt I could design a nicer table than that. And this guy is in school for design.

iPodlounge | iPodlounger creates iPod coffee table

May 21, 2005
For the love of ...

I've sort of fixed the commenting section over at Shinshukan Sougo Diary but it's still acting flaky as hell.

It actually has nothing to do with me disallowing comments, but rather a comment-spam filtering system that is being unruly. You can post a comment now, but it's still weird and you will probably have to manually refresh the page after you post your comment to be able to see it. Previewing your comment before posting seems to help.

And there is this nagging problem of insufficient access privileges, which is utter bullshit ...

May 20, 2005
Cute English Students

Some of my third year (12th grade) English students have decided to keep a web-journal thing for the duration of their Sougo (kind of like independent study) English class. So, go on over and take a look if you feel like it. There's not much yet as they don't post often yet, but I'm hoping to get them to post more often. Feel free to say hi.

がんばれ、生徒たち!

Shinshukan's Sougo Diary

May 19, 2005
Environmentalists are terrorists!

I have no doubt it's only a matter of time before anyone who gives a shit about freedom or the environment in the US is branded a terrorist.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Eco-warriors are 'US terror risk'

Wow ...

Woman passes out at supermarket due to vibrating underwear. Need I say more?

Kinky shopper KOed by vibrating knickers | The Register

May 18, 2005
Depression treated without drugs?

Now this is cool. Treat clinical depression using magnets. I wonder if this really works, and if it's something that the FDA would probably shoot down because the pharm companies would lobby against it. If it does work, man that would be great.

ABC News: Using Magnets to Treat Depression

"TMS uses electromagnets to send pulses of energy directly into the left side of the brain, which is thought to control mood. In patients who are depressed, there is often less activity in this part of the brain. The magnets create an electric current and get the brain cells to fire.

...

Patients are generally treated for a few weeks and, if it works, the depression is staved off for months at a time."

May 16, 2005
Brazilian Renewables

This is pretty damn cool. If only this could happen in the U.S., by far the most consumptive of all the nations of the world.

Sigh.

Wired News: Brazil Schools U.S. on Renewables

"Brazil generates 43.8 percent of its power from renewable energy sources, including hydroelectricity, ethanol and biodiesel, according to Agencia Brasil, a government communications division. By contrast, the United States produced only 6 percent of its power from renewable sources in 2003, according to the Department of Energy's Annual Energy Outlook 2005."

I'm not a geek ... no really

New Harry Potter coming, trailer, blah blah. Never thought I was a fan (since I don't read the books) but I do enjoy the movies.

Shameless.

Harry Potter: The Goblet of Fire

May 13, 2005
Office Space

For the first time, after a long enough time in an office environment, I watched Office Space.

As it was guaranteed to me by so many coworkers, it was truly classic. If you have ever worked at an office, and haven't already seen this movie (I think I was the last office lackey on Earth, though ...), you should go see it. Good stuff.

May 11, 2005
More on Real ID ... scared yet?

This is, I fear, the future of America. This isn't at all an extension of liberalism but rather a disgusting turnaround of a Republican party that used to be against big government and wanted states to have more say in government. That's been turned on its head, and we are seeing more of Big Brother in George Bush America than we ever have. I don't see any liberals standing up and cheering for this chilling chapter in American politics.

My earlier comment wasn't intended to insinuate that this was a Red-State-only thing; what I meant was, I don't think we'd be seeing such a prolifery of bullshit if good ol' GW and his cronies weren't at the helm. Rather, we'd just be seeing different bullshit. I'd prefer that to being tracked every time I go to a fucking bar.

Wired News: No Real Debate for Real ID

"The legislation was created in the backrooms of Congress without hearings and without any real understanding or thought about what was being created," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's technology and liberty program."

May 10, 2005
Slightly Paranoid

Every day I try to go down to my school's dingy (but happily free, in a country of very expensive memberships) weight room to train. I've been getting pudgy, you see. Since the room is locked, I have to make my way to the smoke-filled gym-teachers' room (I hope the irony is not lost on you) and retrieve the key. It usually goes without a hitch. Today also went without a hitch, but for a nagging doubt that suddenly took hold of me. I realized that every time I go in there, I get these mysterious weird half-looks. What do I mean by that? I don't really know. All I know is I feel dreadfully appraised ... not necessarily in a good way.

It got me to thinking about my time here. I realized I'm navigating through a world that (despite my time here and my apparent cultural learning) I know nothing about. I'm steadily learning my way around cultural blunders and such, but for the most part the Japanese people remain a mystery.

Japanese people are known (though I was unaware of this before coming) for being rather inexpressive. I, on the other hand, am highly expressive. My face, I guess, is like a little TV monitor showing pretty much exactly what I'm feeling. It makes for a rather shitty poker player. Regardless, because of this fundamental difference in expression, I realized today that I really have no idea what many people think about me. The people I work with are very nice, helpful, and fun, but at the same time it's rather impossible to figure out what they think. Back home, you can pretty easily tell if someone doesn't like you; (s)he'll be a complete asshole to you. Usually workplace civility is maintained, but nothing more than that. If it's out of the workplace, obvious dislike is perfectly fair game. Here, even if people hate each others' guts, they'll be, for the most part, painfully polite. I think it may be part of the uber-pacifistic nature that Japan has adopted since World War II.

And so I wonder what people are thinking when I say or do something. Are they saying "boy he is a funny guy, this ジャスティン character" or are they saying "what a dumbass ... when's the next teacher coming?" In all, it shouldn't matter. Most people say just to ignore what other people think about you and go about doing your own thing. I can't really do that. I rely heavily on the opinions of others, as I not only want to think the best of people but also I want them to think the best of me. I also want to know if I'm doing my job well. After all, I am here to do a job. As a westerner, I have been trained to read facial and body language, which is pretty minimal here. So what to do? Obviously, keep trying to learn about other (if any) ways Japanese people express themselves. But in the meantime, I find myself rather, as I said, paranoid.

You think you're a nice person and that people like you; but to realize suddenly that you can't really feel sure is distressing. It's kind of like having the floor whipped out from under you, with empty space beneath.

People like me, right? Hmm.
Note: That was just a musing, rhetorical question, for all you sassy folk.

Another reason not to go home

This is fucking idiotic. I love how slimy politicians are and how they attach little things like this to other completely unrelated bills in order to pass. You think we're in Big-Brother territory yet? Wait until they can track your every frickin' move with this lovely little "security measure."

Thank you, red staters, for making this a success. This, by the way, is not some paranoid anti-government propoganda. This is real and will be happening very soon. Are you uncomfortable yet? No? You will be.

FAQ: How Real ID will affect you | CNET News.com

"Starting three years from now, if you live or work in the United States, you'll need a federally approved ID card to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments, or take advantage of nearly any government service. Practically speaking, your driver's license likely will have to be reissued to meet federal standards."

May 9, 2005
Masturbate-a-thon?

Did you know that this month is (supposedly, and obviously not endorsed by George Bush and his stagnant cronies) National (in the US?) Maturbation Month. Hey, it was enough to get me to read the article, at least. Not, uh, mind you, that I would do such a thing ... ...

"I'm so lame ..."

Wired News: Net Helps Do-It-Yourselfers

May 6, 2005
Indeed ...

I never thought of flowers that way ... but boy I guess it is nothing but true.

Chopped off sex organs to your honey? How about a dozen?

The Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Flowers

May 5, 2005
What the ... ?

Honestly, I have no idea what this comment left on my site is supposed to be about. It's funny though. I would've thought it to be spam but it doesn't refer to any crappy websites and it's actually relevant to the post. Bizarre.

May 2, 2005
The next big one

Coming hot on the heels of another Florida failure to allow people choice, this could be the next big one. Maybe the republicans will try to misuse their federal power again and look stupid, just like with Terry Schiavo. One can only hope.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Florida girl has abortion blocked

April 29, 2005
Hot

As if by divine prophecy (Could I be the next Nostradamus? Harken to me!), the weather laughed at my mewling and it was 90 degrees today.

As one of my college friends often said, "That's a kick in the ass!"

Following up on the emoticons discussion, a previous student of mine points us to a fine site dedicated to asian-style emoticons.

Wow. Even if nothing else, they are prolific.

April 28, 2005
夏 (Summer)

It's at least 80 degrees today, and I, lacking the magical asian anti-sweat genes, am sweating like it's my job.

I really had forgotten Japanese summer ... and this is nothing.

(>_<)

Cultural ramifications

Today, I am the only teacher on my floor. I am most certainly the only English teacher at school, and one of perhaps a dozen teachers in general. The reason? School trip. Would you believe it if I said that in Japan, a school trip consists of an entire grade of students (and teachers) going to Tokyo, only meeting up in the morning, then going all over the city with no supervision whatsoever? In Litigous America, that just begs for whining parents to come down like sand flies on a stinky, washed-up dead (obviously) Jellyfish.

Ahem. But I digress.

Whilst alone, I had to go through the signing of some papers with one of the two vice principals of my school. Though he has been dubbed "Humpty Dumpty" by some, I find him a very respectable individual. The aforementioned quandary arose when he left the English office. Upon getting my signature, he promptly and very spectacularly tripped out the door and into the hallway in a shower of papers. For a "Humpty Dumpty," damn did he fly and land on his face. Maybe it was some sort of cosmic nickname irony.

Excepting my signature dirty-mouthed "ah shit" comment, all I could muster was "大丈夫?!!" (are you okay?) and some frantic watching while he tried to retain his dignity. The problem for me was I didn't know whether to be light-hearted about it (it was, after all, an awesome display) or mortified. To see a man I really respect splayed out like that bordered on pain. Even thinking about it later I somehow feel bad.

What's up with that?

April 27, 2005
Hydrogen from Poop

Scientists have been working for a while on how to turn biomass (human/agricultural/industrial waste) into something other than environmental contaminants. They've come up with a way to get hydrogen out of these wastes. Now, they came up with an even better way.

Scientists push bacteria to quadruple hydrogen production | The Register

April 26, 2005
David Byrne's Blog???

Thanks to BoingBoing I stumbled across David Byrne's (of Talking Heads fame) weblog. It is fascinating. I suppose I find it so because he is quite liberal, and also obviously intelligent and artistic. I just can't stop reading, and I suggest you give it a try. He has a good way with words.

DavidByrne.com - David's Journal

I should note that I'm not supposed to call it a blog, or maybe Mr. Byrne will come and take my soul as punishment. Because, you know, he can do that.

April 25, 2005
Historical Japanese Train Accident

Japanese trains (especially Shinkansen bullet trains) are generally known to be the most reliable in the world.

It comes as an absolute shock, especially to the Japanese, that this has happened. I saw news about it at lunch but couldn't hear what they were talking about. I though it was Korea or China or somewhere where accidents like this are more prevalent. Imagine my surprise.

The few pictures and videos I've seen of it are frightening.

Train Derails

Online Relationships ... what are they worth?

This article hit close to home for me, as a large amount of my relationships have been conducted online due to distance.

The Internet, in some ways, makes living and loving easier. But it also makes things so much harder.

A good read.

Wired News: We'll Always Have ICQ

April 24, 2005
Start a fire ... with Coke and Chocolate?

This is so cool. Apparently with the help of some chocolate (or toothpaste, or other stuff) you can shine the bottom of a soda/beer can to a mirror finish and start fires with it. I will have to remember this for my future wilderness adventures (if, that is, I can ever get out of the crowded Japanese suburbs).

Tracker Trail - Fire - Can of Coke and a chocolate bar

This also brings up this great survival site that this article is hosted on: Tracker Trail

April 23, 2005
Wow ...

Just randomly found this post in the ether. I'm waiting for the follow-up involving Tijuana and a whore.

I wonder what I would do in this situation?

The Willing Suspension of Disbelief: The World You Pass

April 22, 2005
My Name ...

is Neo!

No seriously. In perhaps the weirdest (and least accurate) statement about me I have ever received, a student likened me to Neo in The Matrix today. I have three words for that:

I ... friggin ... wish.

Waiting ...

I think it's just so cute that the US and everywhere else has to wait an average of six months before they get all the cool stuff that we have in Japan now.

Naturally, when I eventually go home, I will find it revolting.

More from Gizmoville | The Register

Really cool things to look at

Greggman shows off a veritable goldmine of really cool um ... things to look at. They are, I gather, design concepts for games or something? Or maybe just computer animation. Regardless, it all looks so damn cool. If you can figure their page out, the direct link for the place is www.scene.org/news.php.

GMAN: Demo Time

Update: Apparently these aren't video files like I thought. That shouldn't matter to many of you because they're just Zipfiles in which you can find an EXE file that you run. Most of you with a Post-2002 computer should be able to run these just fine, I think. If you have a cheesy graphics-card-barely-runs-solitaire laptop like me, you might have a little difficulty ...

April 21, 2005
Texas is at it again

They just don't give up against those danged homos do they?

As if they didn't learn from Lawrence vs. Texas.

Sigh.

The Peking Duck: Will we let them do this?

April 19, 2005
Intelligence in a sea of insanity

With the China situation getting more and more charged, it's good to see a steady head observing everything that follows (with some knowing observations to boot). I'm glad to have found this blog.

The Peking Duck

April 16, 2005
Update on my life

Boy I bet that title really wanted to make you read my post, eh?

Today I watched The Matrix in entirety for the first time in years. I was reminded, of course, of Keanu Reaves' questionable (downright bad) acting ability, as well as just how cool the movie actually was. Even if you still have a bad taste in your mouth from the second and third installments of the series, going back to the first is somewhat refreshing. Recommended material for a cloudy Saturday afternoon.

In other news, I am addicted to
肉まん (Nikuman).

April 15, 2005
I wonder ...

I wonder how many of these protesters in China know just how much direct aid Japan gives to China a year, and how Japan really has officially apologized for the past. Furthermore, the protesters are largely youth.

Um ... get over it. Quit whining about something that happened decades ago, to your friggin grandparents, not you. Something that has been apologized for. Not a single country I know doesn't gloss over shady parts of its own history, including China. So get the fuck over it and start looking at how shitty your own government is.

I am so sick of Chinese whining.

The New York Times > China Pushing and Scripting Japan Protests

April 12, 2005
Fukiage Hanami

We had a hanami (Sakura-viewing party) during the weekend. It was beautiful. Here you go.

Sakura

April 11, 2005
Gyoda, Sakura, Castles, and More

Dad left after a monumental visit with lots of rushing around and trying to see as much Sakura (桜, cherry blossoms) as humanly possible. It was great and very much worth it. So, to follow up and show you I was after all busy and not just a lazy blogger, here are the pictures. Note that Gyoda really does have pretty things! Imagine that! I am always surprised.

Also note that I have become a macro-lens addict. It just makes for such cool artsy-fartsy (or at least, my lame attempt at it) pictures.

Oshi Castle

April 8, 2005
NEWSFLASH: Silicone Implants are Still Bad

Woah. Can you imagine being a first-hand witness to a boobjob rupture? Well the article seems to indicate that it's not as spectacular as I had envisioned (instant and dramatic change from ballooney and perky to looking like a water-filled plastic bag), but that sure would be weird. I wonder if you can feel it ... ? Regardless, 93% failure rate seems awfully high.

The New York Times > High Rate of Failure Estimated for Silicone Breast Implants

"WASHINGTON, April 6 - In documents made public on Wednesday, health regulators estimated that up to 93 percent of silicone breast implants ruptured within 10 years. The surprisingly high figure will further roil a debate next week about whether to lift the 13-year-old ban on silicone implants for breast enhancement."

What the hell ... ?

I'm sure this is exactly what the author of this website wants (to have everybody come to his/her website and say "what the hell?" and then post about it), but hey, I have to share the ... love.

THIS IS FUN TO MAKE A BLOG ON THE COMPUTER WEBSITE

April 7, 2005
Is that so ... ?

I don't get it. Is this something someone would have to pay for? First, who would want to risk seeming a subway perv (wait, don't answer that)? Second, couldn't you just go and download thousands of free internet porn pics and put those on your iPod for free?

Sometimes I just don't understand.

Playboy turns up the heat with iBod | The Register

April 1, 2005
Spring ... for real!

Though my fingers seem a little too cold to be typing thanks to the open window, I suppose the sudden prevalence of flower blooms in Japan marks the real arrival of spring. I'll still have a hard time believing it until the time I can wear a T-shirt without any discomfort.

Enjoy!

Flowers

March 31, 2005
A ride with the Police

Today I took a ride in the paddy wagon.

To soothe your fears, no I hadn't done anything like expose myself to schoolgirls or steal an umbrella (the most common and heinous crime in Japan). I actually did my karma-boosting-good-deed-of-the-month.

Yesterday I noticed yet another bicycle had been thrown into the river next to my school. Apparently middle schoolers think it's a hoot to find accidentally-unlocked bicycles at stations, steal them, and throw them in rivers. I kid you not, there are at least five bikes in the river near my house. Let me tell you, boy is it scenic when you're enjoying the 桜 (Sakura, cherry blossoms) and your view includes a pile of plastic bags heaped next to a half-submerged bicycle.

So yesterday I rescued the brand-new bike and set it on the ledge that's at the side of the river. My teacher called the police, and they couldn't find it today, so the police came looking for me at school. Boy were they surprised at the main office ...

The bike was rescued and hopefully is on its way to its rightful owner, but I will admit to still feeling a little uneasy in the presence of two uniformed officers. And I'm such a good boy!

March 30, 2005
Can anyone say "McCarthy?"

The U.S. Government has become a disgusting, piggish, oppressive mess.

I didn't know anything about this, but along with Ed Gonzales' expression that the Geneva treaty is "quaint," apparently rendition is also a-okay! USA! USA!

Suit by Detainee on Transfer to Syria Finds Support in Jet's Log

You really should read this. If it doesn't piss you off, you probably refer to people from the Middle East as "sand monkeys."

Two insanely useful things

One is cheap (free) and one is not. Both are from boingboing. Boy, it would sure be cool if someday I could find something cool like this on my own ... heh.

First up, we have a do-it-yourself iPod stand made from cardboard/paper/whatever. You can download the template, which is Creative Commons licensed. Badass, especially because who the heck really wants to spend $30 on the iPod dock?
lists and diagrams: DIY iPod stand

Second, we have something that is not cheap at all, but for people like me, extremely useful. It's some sort of uber Poison-Ivy/Oak medicine. I am personally very allergic to the stuff, able to somehow get a reaction to it sometimes without even touching it. Anything that fights the heinous nastiness that follows is good in my book.

Kevin Kelly -- Cool Tools

Runaway Alarm Clock

I need one of these. The idea is that the clock, when you hit the snooze button, runs away and hides, thus forcing you to get up and find it when it next goes off. Ingenious!

Clocky

March 27, 2005
Lego Doraemon!

This is absolutely stunning. You must click on the thumbnails for bigger pictures. Amazing! Thanks to www.dottocomu.com

Lego Doraemon

March 25, 2005
The saga folds peacefully

The Legend of the Missing Pen came to a close last night. I found it in my bag ... which I had looked in at least five times the night before. Sadly, this discovery obviously rendered my previous search (and resulting time spent) completely useless.

The silver lining is that I did after all end up with more writing utensils than I started with. Sadly, I did not come out a better man, as one might hope from such a soul-searing experience.

March 23, 2005
Not so surprising

Tonight in an apparent fit of stupidity I misplaced a pen. It wouldn't be so much of a problem if it weren't my only pen. Well okay, my only black pen. Oh I guess also the fact that I'm extremely anal retentive.

I spent an hour looking for it and never found it. In the end my search wasn't in vain because I unearthed two pencils and three (count 'em!) pens.

Nevertheless, the needless loss of that pen gnaws like a little goblin on my conscience.

It's a fucking pen!

March 22, 2005
Some of your rights when you get pulled over

Now this is news. I wasn't very interested about the sniffing-dog stuff, since let's face it, I'm a darling angel. However, I was interested to see that "evidence" is suppressed if a routine traffic stop takes longer than it should to write out the ticket.

In other words, I guess cops take their sweetass time writing tickets and badgering you in hopes that you freak out or do something stupid and they can bust you for something bigger. The reality is that they should just get the ticket written and begone, because that's all the law allows for them.

You see, they have pretty boring lives, driving around all the time looking for loitering teenagers to harrass, so a little chasing-beat-em-up-druggie action is something I imagine they look forward to with alacrity.

Boing Boing: Police lie about drug dogs to rob drivers' rights

March 18, 2005
I bet it smells like hippies

Some people in South Dakota are selling candles that "smell like The Lord."

NBC10.com - News - Couple Sells Candles That Smell Like Jesus

What do you think Jesus smells like? I think he smells like sweaty dirt. After all, who has time to bathe when you're out spreading the good word of the Lord (and performing miracles on the side)?

Next up, L'Eau du Moses cologne.

From (as usual) Boing Boing.

March 17, 2005
What kind of booze are you?

Well, whatever, this isn't the most accurate, but hey ... it was fun to take the test for a little bit. Sadly, it does not predict the fact that I am an extreme lightweight due to the fact that not only would I rather partake in other substances but booze is too expensive in Japan. Humph!

Bourbon
Congratulations! You're 127 proof, with specific scores in beer (100) , wine (116), and liquor (78).
Screw all that namby-pamby chick stuff, you're going straight for the bottle and a shot glass! It'll take more than a few shots of Wild Turkey or 99 Bananas before you start seeing pink elephants. You know how to handle your alcohol, and yourself at parties.



My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
You scored higher than 43% on proof
You scored higher than 93% on beer index
You scored higher than 97% on wine index
You scored higher than 89% on liquor index
Link: The Alcohol Knowledge Test
Funny search strings

Every day, people stumble across this site (and a zillion others on the web of course) through a variety of search strings in all those search engines out there. My hosting service keeps track of the terms used in searches that brings people to the site. Here is an interesting breakdown:

53: ass
12: justin
11: iceland
8: government
8: hot
7: gladiators
7: leaning
7: pics
7: tower
6: spring
5: weed
4: mountains
4: korean
3: zen
3: people
3: images
3: dame
3: the
3: monk
3: pictures
3: notre

I left off lower searches. Notice, of course, the search for "ass" is more than four times more popular than that of the next most popular search.

Alternately, there are the strings that people used on the search for this specific site (www.shock-e.com). Unsurprisingly, pervy searches rank supreme. I suppose if I really want traffic, all I need to do is put a lot of dirty words up. Here are some sample searches on this site, courtesy of the site log:

"ass" (by far the most popular)
"anal" (duh)
"sex" (duh x2)
"man boobs" (no, I'm not kidding)
"miss sixty" (what?)
"squat" (that's disgusting)
"panties" (... sigh ...)

March 16, 2005
Commenting System Offline/Online

Hi Everyone.

I apologize if you tried to comment within the last day and your comment never showed up on the page. You were not blocked (unless, of course, you are a spammer ...), I had just incorrectly installed a new anti-spam plugin. I seem to have worked out the problems with it now, but if you still aren't seeing any of your comments show up, please email me.

shock_ez -at- shock-e.com

The Old Man in me

Today I went and did something I've been meaning to do for a while: I bought a bench for my "ベランダ" aka "veranda." It's not really much of a porch, but I'm going to utilize it for what it's worth. I'm going to be an old man sitting on the porch with booze and a laptop. Well that's a pretty hip old man, I must say!

In the first picture, you'll see my "taste test" with my favorite, Bombay Sapphire. You see, tonic is insanely expensive here (I believe I've bitched about this before), so I took it upon myself to try out different things that might go well with Sapphire and not be outrageously expensive. Needless to say, my test didn't turn out so well, but it was ... fun.

The other two pictures are of my bench arrangement. Awesome! Note the rum and Pepsi (Coke? Bah!) on my little table. And then you can see the "view." Not much, but hey, it's better than the other verandas, which give me a wonderful view of ... my neighbor's wall. Come summer, I hope to be chilling (rather, sweating) out there, lazily sipping on something better than cheap rum/Pepsi, and watching the cicadas creep up the trees.

Booze

March 14, 2005
Big Brother Comes to the USA

Has anyone read about this? If not, you simply must somehow get to the New York Times and read this article. It's not like it hasn't been happening before, but it just positively sickens me that the Bush administration so actively uses it. Yet another reason why the "red states" should long ago have been separated from the civilized (blue) states.

The New York Times > Washington > Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged TV News

Quote:
Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production.

Oh.My.God.

Thanks to no-sword for this one.

This is one of the funnier things I've seen in a long time. Recently Warner Brothers decided that Bugs Bunny and crew aren't "hip" enough for the 21st century. What followed is a Mountain Dew-esque line of characters that all look like they'd rather beat the shit out of you than say something cute or funny. Do not view this in public for fear of deportation. Gives me a whole new perspective on creative insults. My favorite? "Man Yogurt." 'Nuff said.

'A New Bunny'

March 13, 2005
Musical Zen of the day

Today, as with any other day, I was listening to my rather large collection of music on random. I went to the store to get some soda, and when I came back, "Blow It Out Ya Ass" (yes, I know, really classy) by Ludacris was playing. What followed was mind-numbingly cool: "Blowout" by The Crystal Method.

My computer has a sly sense of humor.

I should also note that the second track was track number 666 in the playlist. Spooky.

March 11, 2005
Idiots get offended more easily

Usually I don't go to CNN because most of the news I read just makes me sick. Today was no exception. Don't people have better things to do than get pissed at something this ridiculous? Here's an idea: Quit wasting time and money, you fucking morons, and do something useful for the world. I hear poverty and AIDS are a real big deal ...

IKEA to update 'sex bias' manuals

I realize, of course, that I am not heeding my own advice by being pissed at something trivial like this. However, I don't waste tax dollars when I state my gripes.

March 10, 2005
Somewhat Useful

One of my teachers asked today what we call a "fear of women." My first guess was "mammophobia" but quickly I realized that was probably a fear of breasts (heaven forbid). A quick Google Search for "fear of women" came up with this fantastic site: The Phobia List!

There are things in here I never knew someone could fear. Even if you may never be able to bring up your knowledge of Caligynephobia (fear of beautiful women) at your next slammin' party, this is one hell of an entertaining (and informative) list.

March 9, 2005
A Smear on the Underpants of English

There used to be an open space across from the heinously-ugly "Island Club" Karaoke joint in my town. Now, there is an equally ugly wedding store. I say store because there aren't many grandiose churches in which star-crossed Japanese girls can have their fantasy weddings. So they have to buy, at very high prices, time at an eyesore like this place.

So here we have Queen's Hill. I really would have preferred that they leave the old abandoned grass lot. But this is the face of "progress" I suppose. The other day I took a walk to document the absolutely terrible English they used in hopes of making the place seem more western and perhaps Authentic? Since very few people in my town can read English, I imagine the creators of this place feel pretty clever that they can get away with this. Then again, they probably have no idea that there's anything wrong with the English here.

In the fashion of www.engrish.com, here you have a lovely little gallery of eyesores. From the very moment you step into the parking lot, you're treated. Oh believe me ... treated.

Queen's Hill

March 8, 2005
Cursing

You know you curse too much when your Japanese friends comment on it. When someone whose native language is not English notes that you have a pottymouth, it's time to take notice. I kind of knew this already, but it didn't jump to the forefront of my mind until last night, when I was in a bad mood (due to a seriously crappy bout of Japanese cold/flu) and trying desperately to open a rather stubborn package of ice cream. I said to it:

"... fuckin get the fuck open already!"

As if by magic, it opened. This just goes to show that swearwords really do make things work better.

Regardless, who was it that hired me as an English teacher again ... ?

March 7, 2005
Really Cool Idea

It's like a book club with the entire world. I came across this site while I was using www.stumbleupon.com to find new places.

The idea is, you register a book you no longer want (or want to share), and then you put some sort of thingie on the book so people know what to do with it. Then you "free" the book, by leaving it somewhere. Then, in theory, people will pick up the book, and hopefully get on the internet and register the book with the site. Then you can see where it went, and what people thought about it!

BookCrossing

I imagine a problem may be that an awful lot of these books get thrown away.

Me Want

This (very short) article talks a little about a long-term experiment to domesticate foxes. The result? Wicked. Cute. Kits.

Fox Kits

March 5, 2005
Snow at School

Today it snowed a veritable buttload. At least, it's quite a bit for Kanto area Japan. It's pretty much melted a few hours later, but that's the wonder of photography, isn't it? It actually made my school (normally an imposing institutional grey concrete block) look kind of pretty ... when you ignore the institutional concrete block.

Shinshukan Snow

March 4, 2005
More Cool Things to Look At

File this in the "cool things to play with on the internet" category ...

...t.y.p.o.r.g.a.n.i.s.m...

March 3, 2005
I need your help!!

Last week I started a relatively unambitious project. It involved cutting a hole in my current ugly table and painting it. The cutting went without a hitch, but the painting was ... disastrous. The color makes my room look like a preschool.

How may you help? Tell me which color is better! I Photoshopped a few pictures of various views of the table with some colors that I thought would look better. Keep in mind, the Photoshopping isn't perfect, so the colors are a little weirder than they would be in real life. Also please note that I am in relatively rural Japan, which pretty much limits my color selection to primary colors. Oh, and no, color swatches don't exist here, which is what led to the original gaffe you see here.

And now, the pictures!

Table

Also notice that I finally came down to a gallery design I like (I found out how to customize my gallery generator) and one that fits with the page. Expect later galleries to come in this format!

Please comment and let me know which color you think is best. I need your help! Join the cause!

More pointless spam

In follow up to a previous post,
The Most Pointless Spam, I give you part two.

The other day I got barraged with yet another nifty tagline that should just send so much traffic to whatever site is spamming me. All the comment spam contained was a link for "www.chineseapesattack.com" and "www.chineseapesattack2.com" (Note: don't bother going to those sites, they don't actually exist).

WTF?

This admittedly isn't as stupid as spamming for puppets or staples, but come on. Chinese apes attack?

Out of curiosity I went to the other link listed in the spam, just to see who was stupid enough to hire this spammer. Turns out it's some rinkydink antique store in upstate New York. A word of advice to you idiots at "Yellow Monkey" antiques: spamming does not make people want to buy your useless junk. In fact, all it makes me personally want to do is fill your inbox with obscenities ... and possibly sign you up on some heinous spam list.

Seeing as their website looks like shit (along with their "merchandise"), I can't imagine mom and pop "Yellow Monkey" could figure out how to get rid of any spam they suddenly started receiving ...

March 2, 2005
Completely spoiled ...

I realized just now, posting from a mobile phone whilst speeding on a train to the coolest city on earth, that Japan has completely spoiled me. I may complain about prices and some inconveniences, but where in the States can I use a phone to do anything but call someone? Certainly no one uses those poor excuses for "cameras" on them for anything other than very fleeting, grainy entertainment. Where in the States can I take a reliable passenger train hundreds of miles in a few hours? Where in the States can I get rape-fantasy-tentacle-sex comics at any average bookstore?

Errr ...

March 1, 2005
What kind of sushi are you?

The Sushi Quiz!!

As expected, I am Sake (Salmon). What kind are you?

You need to have a basic understanding of asian emoticons - for example, a western "smiley" is :) and an asian one is (^-^) - to get through this, but ganbatte, you can do it!

Thanks, as per usual, to BoingBoing (Link to post of many sushi thingies).

February 28, 2005
Spring Sprung

Since Haruichiban, the first wind of spring happened last week, Spring is, supposedly, on its way. It has indeed been getting warmer lately, so I went outside to do some cleaning. Isn't it nice that I can do Spring cleaning and it's still February?

This does, indeed, go out as a partial jab at my poor friends stuck in no-doubt-still-cold Massachusetts. Suckers!

February 26, 2005
Argh

Tonight I just realized all of my hard work until now has been for nothing; my resume is all over the place and has no real strengths.

I'm going to have one hell of a time trying to get any worthwhile career. Shit. My semi-homeless uncle better be prepared to show me the ropes!

February 25, 2005
Foreigner Price Gouging!

Recently (today, in fact) I finally figured out the kanji for "low fat" in regards to milk (低脂 in case you were wondering). This is an incredible boon to me. I prefer low fat milk, especially in Japan since milk is much less pasteurized and therefore stinky and rather thick.

Until now, I had only been able to buy one brand in my town, the only one that said "Low Fat Milk" on the package. But today I made a major reading breakthrough and figured out how to remember the kanji for it. Now I have multiple (read: two ... sometimes) choices!

Then I made a heinous discovery.

As you may have guessed by the title of this post, I discovered that the milk with English on it is just about twice as expensive as the all-japanese milk. I'm trying to justify it by thinking that possibly just one brand is much more expensive than the other, or imported from, say, the moon. Since virtually all milk in Japan comes from Hokkaido, transport costs shouldn't factor into the more-than-100-yen price difference. My conspiracy-theorist half tells me that it's just a simple demonstration of foreigners getting ripped off for ignorance. After all, that extra dollar for the English-equipped milk is paying for the convenience of not having to learn kanji! Even factoring in that convenience, the expense of the "English" milk borders on highway robbery.

I guess it makes sense ... but it still pisses me off. Anyone else see something like that?

February 24, 2005
And Yet I'm Never Gonna Be ...

In follow-up to my previous story I Think I'm Turning Japanese, I think it's time to write about how I will never ever ever be very Japanese. Current (and some permanent) indications:

  • I will never, repeat, never prefer a squat toilet over a western toilet, provided that said western toilet is not covered in poop.
  • I still can't sit on my knees or cross-legged for longer than 5 minutes without causing myself severe pain. If you want to see what Justin will look like as an old man, just watch him try to get up after sitting for a half hour in a Ramen shop. Ohhhh my baaack.
  • I despise Japanese consumer practices. "Shouganai" (It can't be helped) is most certainly not good enough if I bought something that sucks and I want to return it. Jesus, what kind of capitalists are you people, anyway?
  • I equally despise Japanese television. It doesn't even qualify as "entertainment" in my book.
  • I have not learned to appreciate the fine subtleties of Japanese beer. For instance, I cannot understand why something that tastes more flavorful than Bud Light (but in a bad way) is considered good.
  • I need a Japanese person to translate for me ... when I'm speaking Japanese.
  • I don't, and never will, understand rape/bondage fantasy. Nor do I have the overwhelming (or any at all) urge to steal panties hung out in the laundry.
  • I am well aware that not every man, woman, and child in the US owns a gun. I am also aware that a foray into New York City does not necessarily equate to a death sentence.
  • I can easily recognize who, in the foreigner population, is butt ugly. Very attractive Japanese women are apparently the least gifted with this "skill."

That's it for now. Both of these lists, however, have quite the potential for mass expansion ... especially since I've already thought up additions for each.

February 23, 2005
Minor Changes

Made some minor revisions to my CSS code to make things a little cleaner. You probably won't notice any real changes unless you comment. The commenting interface was ugly as hell before and I was too lazy to change it. Well I do think it looks prettier now.

February 22, 2005
I Think I'm Turning Japanese ...

You knew it would happen sometime. Every Japan blogger in the universe has used that cheesy song (whatever it was) at some point.

Current indications:

  • I talk to myself about the weather. Repeating the word "寒い" (cold) as quickly and as many times as possible in one breath is somehow meant to clarify a fact that everyone already knows.
  • I begin to wonder when the train is more than a minute late. In Boston, there is no such thing even as a schedule. The train comes "when it comes."
  • Heated toilet seats have become not a luxury but a fact of life.
  • For me a meal without rice is not, in fact, a meal at all.
  • Saying "no thank you" is an exercise in extreme confusion by both parties.
  • I can bow while walking, running, biking, and talking on the phone.
  • Ramen is not a $0.15 grocery store item for college students ... it's a delectable feast.
  • I know myself as Jiya-soo-teen Na-row-kee (ジャスティンナロキ) rather than Justin Nawrocki.
  • I have learned the term "アメ車" (amesha) and use it with glee. It is a shortening of "amerikasha" which means "american car" which in turn is slang for "sucky and inefficient."
  • I see other foreigners on the train and can't help but stare.
February 21, 2005
More Flashy Trucks

I posted about this a long time ago and here it pops up again. I guess it's a rather timeless theme, and now we see that not only the Japanese do it, but the Pakistanis as well!

Extraordinary Ordinary Guy In Japan: Flashy Truck Match : Pakistan vs Japan

February 20, 2005
Use up all that Fryolator Junk ...

Today I was trying to find the truth about the supposed Japanese idea of feeding used cooking oil to plants. Is it good? I don't know yet. But instead I found this interesting article about a guy in Maine heating his farm's greenhouse with used cooking oil ...

Out of the fat & into the flora

February 18, 2005
Neat Pages to Play With

Here are some fun things to play with/watch on a rainy/cloudy/sunny/whatever day. I remember these were quite effective for whiling away the hours while I was supposed to be writing a term paper in college.

Kaleidescope
(Trippy Online Kaleidescope Thingie)

Crazy Wireframe Creature
(Manipulate a Slightly Gimpy Creature)

Very Busy Clock
(Click on the Link Above the Clock for More Cool Things)

Time Change

In order (finally) to reflect the fact that I'm in Japan and not the East Coast of the U.S. I changed the time zone. Woohaw.

February 17, 2005
Cute Song Translation

I love this song. It's terribly cutesy and a little sad and very simple, but it's the perfect candidate for translation by me! You see, in case you hadn't yet thought of this, my Japanese still sucks. So here we go, first in Japanese, then in romanified Japanese, then English.

Note that I'm not some Japanese superstar so you're not gonna see as many pretty kanji characters as I'd like in here.

--
僕の子犬がいなくなった (boku no koinu ga inakunatta)
白い足白いしっぽ (shiroi ashi shiroi shippo)
ずっといっしょだったのに (zutto issho datta no ni)

僕の子犬がいなくなった (boku no koinu ga inakunatta)
白い耳白い背中 (shiroi mimi shiroi senaka)
いつもいっしょだったのに (itsumo issho datta no ni)
僕はかわいた涙で (boku wa kawaita namida de)
まい日くらしているはやく (mainichi kurashite iru, hayaku)
かえってきて (kaette kite)

雨の日も風の日も (ame no hi mo kaze no hi mo)
まい日さんぽしてあげる (mainichi sanpo shite ageru)
だからはやくはやくかえってきて (dakara hayaku hayaku kaette kite)

My very rough English translation follows. Please comment and correct as you see fit.

My puppy is missing (lit. "became not here")
White feet, white tail
For a long time, we were together, but...

My puppy is missing
White ears, white back
We were always together, but...
My tears are dry
Every day I live, hurry (this and the above line are tough for me)
Come home!

On both rainy days and windy days
Every day I take you for a walk
So hurry, hurry, come home!

--
The song comes from the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack, and though very Japanesey, it's a nice little song.

Anywhere But ...

Earlier this week, I had an unfortunate run-in with nighttime stupidity. Being that my eyes are rather sensitive to sudden changes in brightness (read: hurts like hell when you turn on the lights), I tend to go to the bathroom at night without the light on. Normally, this proves completely effective, as I have not only good aim, but I can usually see enough to ensure "pissing validity."

On this particular night, about three quarters of the way through my "natural process," I got this sneaking sensation that something wasn't right. I finished, shook off, and made the decision to follow my instinct. Manfully braving the pain, I turned on the light and squinted back into my bathroom.

Not only had I missed the toilet, but I had managed to pee just about everywhere but the toilet. It's like there was a bathroom wildfire and I was trying to spray it down with overzealous use of my own urine. I had even gotten my slippers and my leg.

How did this happen? I asked myself whilst cleaning the disaster site. Luckily my bathroom is small and easy to clean, and my thought processes are relatively quick, so I shortly arrived at a conclusion: my penis was on backwards. That's obviously the only logical explanation.

Peeing in my bathroom isn't an exact science, especially at night. Many guys can use the "splashing method" to determine if they've hit the toilet's "sweet spot." You know, splash splash, ah, I've hit the water, now I just hold steady on that spot. I cannot use the same method. My bathroom is at the front of my apartment building, with a window that opens onto the walkway for two other apartments. Not only this, but there is another house (with connected soba restaurant) a mere 20 feet away. Believe me, the splashing method is quite loud, and while at 2am there probably aren't any soba customers nor any other people awake, I still have developed the habit of making as little noise during urination as possible. My closest neighbor is female, and I'm just a bit squeamish about her hearing my tinkle. And there's also the fact that any tiny sound in the middle of the night sets off the dog from hell next door who will continue to bark until dawn. So I must aim by sheer skill, practice, and luck alone.

I returned to bed with clean pajamas but still a broken man. In spite of my self-loathing, I learned something that night:

Make sure it's on the right way at all times.

Oh, right, and pee with the lights on.

February 15, 2005
Random Images

Okay, so here we have some images I've collected over the past few days that were rather amusing. I hope you find them the same. I chose not to use a gallery because each one of these pictures screams for some sort of sassy caption...

Butt Mannequins
I first thought "What the hell kind of store is this? A butt store?" Buy yourself a new ass! hell, sign me up, but not if I have to wear those pink pants.

Erotica Sunglasses
Yes, the name of the store is "Erotica." No, they don't sell anything remotely sex-oriented, unless you somehow have a fetish for sunglasses. Cuz uh ... that's what they sell.

Pinball
Not only pinball machines but also seals, whales, and dolphins all have frippers.

Cookie Cutters
I just want to make it perfectly clear that I am not the perv who noticed this. Though it did make me giggle.

February 14, 2005
Stuff to Read

I found a fun new place to go, along the lines of www.engrish.com but the other way around.

It exposes idiotic usage of chinese lettering/kanji for what it is (idiotic and most often very funny). My personal favorite thus far is "crazy diarrhea."

This is one to put in the Links.

Hanzi Smatter 一知半解

Oh Boy!

I thought John Ashcroft was bad. Now we have Mr. "human rights are quaint" Hitler himself as Attorney General.

America, ye be fucked.

The New York Times > Washington > Gonzales Is Sworn In as Attorney General

February 13, 2005
What is the point?

Can someone please explain to me why these things are popular? Not only does it look stupid, but it's $50 and all it does is hold your iPod.

This further strengthens my theory that Apple products contain subliminal messaging that commands you to buy more and more pretty-looking but relatively useless swag to match your pretty white Apple boxy thing.

Gizmodo : Kubrick iPod mini iBear

February 9, 2005
Tom Waits is a Bartender?

Last night (this morning between alarms, really) I had the strangest dreams.

In one of them, I was being escorted around Japan on a tour with, of all people, Dick Cheney. The truly weird part of it was that he was quite personable. A really nice guy, that Dick Cheney. That, and one of the famous mountains we were shown on our tour was described as "looks like a butt." It did not, according to my limited understanding of human anatomy, look like a butt at all.

In the second dream, I was at some kind of roadside restaurant which had a cafe section and also a "first class" section. Tom Waits was the bartender/clerk in the cafe section. We weren't allowed in the first class section, so I had to buy some sort of "combination pill/chocolate" which would somehow meld me with my buddy who was with me on the trip ... the Geico gecko. Why we had to meld is beyond me. At some point, bardender extraordinaire Tom Waits informed me that I'd better buy something and pay up (with a 500円 coin no less) and get out before loitering any longer. We did just that and somehow I think (without ever having taken the melding chocolate pill) I was back on tour with Dick Cheney ... in the jungle.

February 8, 2005
Eat Frog! An Update

Ain't Henry adorable? Anyway, I've gone so far as to take a video of what he does best ... twitch! You'll have to get a relatively recent version of Quicktime to view it. I'm not sure about Windows Media Player or anything else.

It looks very erratic in the video because my camera doesn't take exactly stunning video per se. But you can listen to the sound it's making which will assure you that Henry twitches quite regularly. There are four "modes" in which he does different patterns. Here shown is the so-called "UkiUki" or "Happy" pattern.

eatfrog

February 7, 2005
Idyllic Countryside?

I think not.

gyoda_trash.jpg

Aaaannnddd ...

My stomach still hurts from laughing at this one ...

How to Get Man Boobs

Funny Ants

I found one of these things in the "weird section" of one of the bigger department stores in Tokyo.

I never imagined ants could be so lazy.

>>>>>>ANTS>>>>>>

February 6, 2005
Time Cube ... Friggin Bizarre

I found this at bjorn's blog which is somehow linked to Will's Blog. Boy I wish I had that kind of blogroll. Slowly working on it.

This page is one of the weirder things I have read in a while. What is it? I don't even know...

Time Cube

Update: I just tried reading the page, and it makes still less sense. I think if I had patience and perhaps a large sum of hoob, this may be slightly more understandable. Until then, I leave it to somebody smarter than me to tell me what it's about.

Yet Another Reason the T in Boston Sucks

Amazing. I mean, I always knew the MBTA completely sucked, but this goes above and beyond what I considered suckage. It just goes to show that as I always suspected, the T is run by a pack of complete idiots.

Slashdot | How to Take Over a Train Station

Here's the actual report on how this guy easily managed to "break into" South Station's network.

Sad, really.

The (debatable) Joys of Facial Hair and Other Topics

This morning I was forced to recognize to myself that one of the most underrated joys in life is shaving your face with a decent razor after a full weekend of unappealing fuzziness. I do hate shaving, particularly because even with uber-razors like the Mach 3 I manage to cut myself. But it is satisfying to have a nice soft face after a few days "shadow." Women, I feel sorry for you that you don't get to experience the joys of facial hair. No wait. I don't feel sorry about that at all. Jealous.

Almost everyone I know here in Japan has some semblance of a blog. It's fun to "blog surf" through all their pages. So I updated my links page to reflect whose blogs I read are at home and abroad. I've added several blogs that have recently come to my attention. Too bad they're LiveJournal!

I am still trying to finish a half-cup of coffee and my body is twitching. Having an insanely low caffeine tolerance is pretty cool. Then again, it has its disadvantages. Namely, my digestive system hates me.

February 3, 2005
Here We Go Again

I don't even have anything to say about this. I give up. It was only a matter of time after the dumb fucks in the red states elected Bush that this would happen. Huzzah for American Imperialism!

CNN.com - Rice signals harder line on Iran - Feb 3, 2005

February 2, 2005
Do Spammers Have Souls?

Every day I battle with spam, whether it be in my email inbox or on this site. I read recently that spam (junk email) accounts for 80% of all email traffic in the world. That's disgusting. On my site, probably 80% of all of the comments left for my posts is spam. At least I have a tool to deal with it in a relatively easy fashion.

The (long-winded) question that came to mind yesterday as I cleared 5 comments about some sort of medicine was this: almost all spam, as far as I know, is done these days by so-called "spam-bots." They are programs that search for places to leave spam, whether it be a website comment system or email or whatever. But someone had to write those programs, and someone had to write the spam in the first place, and some company had to enlist the help of spammers to (in theory) get business. Do these jerks realize that the "services" they offer to people are completely useless? Do they realize that nearly all of the internet-using population hates them? Do they go to bed at night thinking "well that was a good day. I pissed off 700,000 people!" I personally want to base my career on doing something useful and gratifying not only for myself but for others. Spam is the antithesis of useful and gratifying.

Knowing that spam is pure garbage, do the people who create it have enough of a soul to recognize that they are scum? One could use the telemarketing line: "Everybody needs a job, even people who call and harrass you." But spam is a little different. It's far more prevalent, usually much more disgusting, and doesn't employ many people at all.

Discuss (or not).

February 1, 2005
A Long Rant / List

I promised a while ago a list of the things I do/don't miss about home, and the things I like about Japan. Well it got so long I decided to refrain from putting it up on the main news page. So head on over to the article itself or alternately just go to rants and read on.

January 31, 2005
Adventures in Geekitude

Last night, the handset of my phone fell directly on top of my computer. As a result, one of my USB ports is sadly broken. It makes things a little more difficult, since I have about 5,000 USB devices I use and only one port.

My solution, as I guess I have come to expect of myself, was to take the computer apart to fix the port.

vaio_guts.jpg

In retrospect (okay not really retrospect; I realized this around the time I broke one of the keys on the keyboard), this was a really stupid thing to do. With a desktop PC, you break one thing, you just have to replace that. Good luck with a laptop if you break something. I should've just sucked it up and bought a $20 USB Hub or something.

But in a geeky sort of way, it was fun. Kind of like how pulling teeth is fun.

January 29, 2005
My New Roommate

I saw these a couple of months ago but they didn't have the one I wanted. Just the other day I bought a pair of these. They are so cute. Yes I know that sounds girly/gay/whatever but they are awesome.

You know you want one. Which ones do I have, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. "EAT FROG" and "YELLOW FROG" are the ones I have. They keep me smiling on the cloudiest of days. Aww.

【楽天市場】-KNOCKING FROG-ノッキングフロッグ:BLUE POST

January 27, 2005
Aliens assimilating into the mannequin population

While puttering around in 大宮 yesterday in perhaps one of the cooler department stores on the planet, I bumped into the second one of these I've seen ... both in the same store. This is positively frightening. I wouldn't want to bump into one of these in a dark alley. What a mannequin would be doing in a dark alley is beyond me.

In the West, cartoons typically imitate life. It seems in Japan, life (or some semblance of it in the case of this mannequin) imitates cartoons. Overly-big eyes look cute and somehow "okay" in Manga and Anime, but seeing this on an imitation of a real person makes it look rather disturbing.

manga_mannequin.jpg

January 26, 2005
"Impeccable Taste"

Quoth Kirin Beer:

Brewing from the first wort gives this quality draft beer an impeccable, full-bodied flavor. Kirin's Original Brew--distinctly smooth, refreshing and satisfying.

I don't know about that. I suppose it's full of flavor all right, but the kinds of adjectives I use to describe typical Japanese beer is not something I imagine they would want to reprint on the can.

Nevertheless, I pay for it and drink it. Who's the fool now?

January 25, 2005
Sega Down for the Count

Does anyone remember when the only real players in video games were Nintendo and Sega? I do.

I remember when the wars were about "Super Nintendo is prettier and Sega Genesis is faster." Now, Nintendo is barely a blip on the map kept alive by their Pokemon franchise and their handheld sales. Even in their home Japan barely anyone has a Game Cube. Sega dropped out of the hardware business thanks to bad timing and the deeper pockets of Sony with their equal-if-not-lesser-quality but far more popular Playstation 2 system. At least Sega supporters could look for quality games from the company. Their sports titles were exceptionally good, but in the increasingly monopolistic world of huge corporate mergers, buyouts, and licensing deals, Sega couldn't cut it. This time it's their sports unit. How long before they bail entirely? How long before Nintendo follows?

I await a time when the only businesses that can remain alive are huge multinational conglomerates like Sony and Microsoft.

Sega Bows Out of Sports

That wasn't so bad ...

In looking back over the worst day of the year, I have to say (now that it's safely past and I can no longer jinx myself) it wasn't so bad.

Despite nearly getting my bike stolen (ala being a flake and leaving the key in the lock), dropping half a piece of sushi in my lap and onto the floor and subsequently knocking over the soy sauce, screwing up my big new project, and catching a cold, it was bearable. Definitely not the worst day of the year. So that means there could be worse. Ack.

It's time for "story follow-up." My iPod Woes story, in case you cared, slowly unfolds to reveal something that a lot of people apparently knew but I didn't: iPods in general have less-than-ideal bass response. I gave my "test song" a try on Will's iPod Mini and the result was the same exact "muddiness" as he described it. Thankfully (I guess?) it is not my specific unit but a general iPod problem.

I do really love my iPod. I guess Apple, along with many other portable music player companies, failed to provide adequate bass response. I've noticed that this happens in a lot of handheld music players. Alas, but at least it's on a "relatively" small number of songs. I find it interesting, though, that people still rave about sound quality on the iPod. It seems they don't really listen to songs with a lot of bass or something. That or they are generally bad judges of sound quality? Hmm (strokes beardless chin, contemplating) ...

I've been thinking lately about things I miss about home, things I don't miss about home, and things I appreciate about Japan. That'll be coming soon.

January 20, 2005
The Worst Day of the Year? Prepare ...

Thanks to Slashdot for the link.

Apparently through mathematical shenanigans a British professor has found the worst day of the year. Everyone knew January sucks, but no one specifically blamed January 24. It makes sense.

I have no doubt this January 24 will be particularly bad as not only is it a Monday but also happens to follow the one weekend I am going all-night-Tokyo-clubbing.

Ah, science, how you always rip away my blissful ignorance.

BBC NEWS - January 24 is the Worst Day

An iPod Predicament

So, as previously posted, I had sent my assumed-to-be-defective iPod back to the service center to be "serviced." As predicted, they did a "reset all settings" and assumed nothing was wrong with it.

But the problem remains. Most songs on the thing sound great, especially with $140+ headphones. But then there are some songs that sound like absolute crap. These, at first, I noted with embarrassment that they were songs I had ripped from my CD collection. I thought perhaps I had ripped them from CD and coded them badly. That would make my entire Apple-bashing platform moot.

So for the hell of it, I tried normalizing an already-coded song that I use as my "test song" for "the crap effect." Normalizing didn't help. On a lark, I decided to try the same exact song from Apple's iTunes Music Store. I figured it absolutely had to be encoded well if they were selling it.

The problem remains. In sections of heavy bass, the sound distorts like crazy. I am using the EQ function, and the only way to remove such distortion is to use the "bass reducer" preset. Most songs sound great, but I am somewhat of an audiophile and distortion really drives me nuts, even on a few songs.

My question is this. I know a few of my readers (well, casual glancers, at least) have iPods. Has anyone had a problem with something like this? Does every song sound crystal clear?

January 19, 2005
A Country in the Toilet

And so here we are, "on the eve" of the most disappointing and disgusting Presidental Inauguration ever. And here is what represents our country: a Texas hick in fucking cowboy boots. We should let "the great nation of Texas" be exactly what it wants to be. With Texas out of the way, at least we couldn't have any more cowboy-wannabe presidents with the IQ of a mongoose. At least, none from Texas. Wait, I take that back. Mongeese (?) are pretty smart. George W Bush is a fucking rock.

"Inaugural Fashion:" Hicks Party in a More Civilized Part of Town

January 17, 2005
Jon Stewart for President

I never even thought something like this would seem remotely sensible ... but this article is right on. Maison Neuve captures the heart of the political problems in America right now and presents to us a new kind of alternative that might actually work. The fact of the matter is, if John Kerry couldn't get the American voting public outraged by Bush's lies, who could possibly dig America out of the sand it has buried its head in?

Enter a new kind of candidate: Jon Stewart. Howard Dean was exciting because he actually gave a shit about the country and the world. He wasn't a stiff politico.

But, just like Howard Dean, would the public buy Jon Stewart? Most likely not. But it is a very interesting article all the same.

Choice quote: "The US is a superpower in decline, and Stewart would prove an ideal Fool to its Lear. In the response to 9/11 and the spitefulness of recent political debate, we’ve already seen the beginning of what could prove a catastrophic nationwide anxiety attack. A Stewart presidency would teach the United States how to laugh at itself. The English have learned to do so in their post-imperial age, and soon America will too."

Stewart for President

Ryan posted!

Ryan and I were having an unspoken competition as to who could post less often.

He won ... by a lot.

But the man is back, and again posting academic stuff that as per usual I am unable (and oft-unwilling thanks to laziness) to follow.

But boy, does Cambridge look cold and shitty. Later today I'll post some un-cold and un-shitty pictures of the rooftop of my school. I can see Fuji-san (富士山) from my office!

Ryan's Lair: A New Year

One Good Reason Election 04 Was "Good"

As Roy so perfectly expressed, there is one good thing GW for 4 more years gives us:

COMEDY CENTRAL TV Shows: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Watching a clip or two of The Daily Show makes me remember just how funny Jon Stewart is, as well as just how disgustingly stupid the American people are. If you don't have cable (and/or don"t know what The Daily Show is), take a peek over at their site and watch a few of the clips.

It makes American Imperialism funny.

As funny as it can get.

Apple Breaks records

The last post has singlehandedly broken records for comment-count on my lonely blog. I should bash things more often.

As for the iPod, I agree, I got a crappy one. My other hunch is that Japanese buyers tend to have lower standards of quality, I think. This goes along with the fact that you cannot return anything. So basically Japanese consumers have learned to suck it up if something is broken or not so great. You bought a $5000 stereo and it sounds like ass? Oh well, better get used to listening to ass, cuz you ain't returning that.

My theory is this: knowing this, Apple thought they could off all of their poorer quality hardware in Japan. I happen to be the recipient of a Japan-bought iPod with a crappy screen and even crappier sound. Instead of replacing it, they are going to "fix" it. Highly unlikely conspiracy theory? Yes. This one is more of a beef with crappy Japanese consumer tactics since in the States I believe they'd just replace the thing.

As for the Airport Express, there is no excuse for this one. I've read a lot on the internet about it and even Apple-people aren't particularly pleased with it. That is what I'm really pissed about. Such a piece of crap shouldn't cost more than $100. That is one damn expensive wireless router, considering comparable ones (with better features) cost five times less ... This isn't a matter of me having a bunk one. It's a matter of everyone having a bunk one.

But enough about that, simply put don't buy a Mac Mini without expecting something to crap out within a year. To be fair, you really shouldn't expect to buy any computer for $500 and have it work well.

I just can't stop thinking about the hard drive shitting itself in Ryan's $2000 (correct me if I'm wrong) iBook ...

January 16, 2005
Thank you Apple ...

... for delivering yet another lousy set of products to the consumer.

All the talk now in the computer world is about Apple's new iPod Shuffle and Mac Mini. Both, I am assuring you, are absolute pieces of crap. I don't have anything remotely resembling real evidence to back up my claims, other than my experiences with two other rather popular Apple products: iPod and Airport Express.

Macheads tend to go on and on about the stability and reliability and good design of their beloved white thingies (read: Apple's current design is everything-white). I beg to differ. The first day I had my iPod I realized something was wrong with it. The screen is screwed up and so is the sound. Where is my iPod now? Being "serviced" i.e. someone looks at it long enough to see that it hasn't been broken in half, calls it "okay" and sends it back to me.

Shortly after the iPod disappointment I was rewarded with the Airport Express disappointment. I warn you, if you are thinking that this product is cool (Ryan, this means you, if you are reading), do not buy it. I know a guy who has two of these things and neither of them works right. Mine certainly doesn't. The entire point of the thing is to play music wirelessly. However, I can't play jack so long as I am doing anything else on the internet. This includes merely having a chat application open. That doesn't even mean I'm chatting with anyone. So the options are play music and do nothing on the internet or do something on the internet and don't play music. Boy does that sound handy. I can do that with a $20 wireless router. Boy do I wish I had one of those instead of a $120 Airport Express! Believe me I have tested everything you can test on this thing. What a waste of time.

Don't get me wrong, Apple has great ideas. The iPod is awesome, if only it worked correctly for me. The Airport Express is also a wonderful idea, but very poorly executed. Even looking beyond the crappy inability of the thing to play music (its main selling point), the interface is clunky as hell, and doesn't exactly give me many options. So, I get back to my long-standing Apple complaint: The sole reason their products continue to sell well is that they look cool. The next time I hear of someone who has an Apple product that doesn't crap out, please let me know. I'm dying to hear about it.

January 13, 2005
The Magical Lap Pillow

And without further ado ... the lap pillow. I told you about it once, and here it is in all its glory. Note the beatific smile of joy on my face. I must say, this pillow was nothing like a real lap. Maybe that was because it had so many heads on it that the foam was cracking. Eww. Mom-pillow, you need some moisturizer!

lap.jpg

Not pictured are the fluffy-bosom pillow and the boyfriend-arm pillow that follow the same idea that people are weird and will actually buy crap like this.

January 12, 2005
More and More Pictures ... Nikko

So it's been a really long time. I was busy as hell.

My sister and her fiance (pardon the lack of French accent, I am too lazy to figure out the code for it) visited for a few weeks, and we went all over creation within a few hours' train ride of Gyoda. That doesn't mean we did very much since Saitama Prefecture is essentially the New Jersey (polluted and dull) of Japan, but we got plenty done.

This time we went to Nikko, up in the mountains of Tochigi Prefecture. I rented a car (remarkably easy, by the way) and we drove up to Nikko, where I promptly ran over a baby monkey. Yes, I am a horrible beast. But I swear it wasn't my fault! The cars on the other side of the road were driving moronically (caused, in retrospect, by the monkeys) and I was watching them cautiously wondering what the hell they were doing. I've learned that in Japan, driving doesn't mean anything remotely close to obeying any sort of order. This known, I was very much on the alert for boneheaded maneuvers from aforementioned other cars. I realized at the last second that the little monkey was headed straight for my car and ba-dump.

I speak of it lightly because somehow he didn't get hit by my tires. He managed to duck down and bump the underside of the car, but in my rearview he hopped up and busted ass (read: went really fast) off the road. Poor guy. I just hope it wasn't only adrenaline keeping him alive enough to get off the road. On the lighter side, I was the only one in the car to see monkeys that day.

Note that I use the male pronoun for this monkey. I do this because generally males (of any species) are the ones who are stupid enough to run into heavy tourist traffic. On the other hand, it was probably a female who managed to get them to do it.

Without further ado here are the pics, including monkeys (but not real ones)!

Nikko

December 25, 2004
Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all, and if that's not your cup of tea, then I wish you a Happy Whateverelse. Or Bah Humbug, if that's your style. As you know, when it comes to Christmas commercialization, that's definitely my syle ...

For myself I got an electric blanket for my bed. Good lord that'll make the cold Saitama evenings hopefully loads more bearable.

Exciting eh?

December 23, 2004
Republicans are Sore-Losing Crybabies

You'd think after all of the gloating and playing dirty, republicans would learn to lose gracefully. After all, their rhetoric always centers around bullshit ideas like "morals" and "godliness" and all that crap that George "I Love to Kill Iraqi Children" Bush and Donald "I'll Eat Your Soul For Breakfast" Rumsfeld and Dick(head) "Halliburton Pays Me More in Lobbies Than My Whitehouse Payroll" Cheney spew daily.

Yet again, we see that when things go right, republicans always talk up how great they are and how fair they are. Yet when things go wrong for them, even following legality, they bitch like a losing middle-school baseball team.

Ah Hell, let's face it. The entire American political system sucks, not just republicans.

Washington Governor Race finally gets it right

December 20, 2004
"Money Burning a Hole" ... in my pants

Five days 'til Christmas ... have you bought me an iPod yet? Just kidding.

But seriously, as much as I should be saving money, I have a burning desire to buy something expensive and electronic. Alas, it has always been my weakness. Hence my visit to no less than three used electronic stores on Sunday. Did I buy anything? No. Thanks mom, for the heavy burden of consumer guilt you instilled in me from childhood!

Cuteness and Japanese Advertising

I read somewhere that Japan as a whole is painfully obsessed with cuteness. Any sort of shopping venture is a first-hand experience in this interesting cultural phenomenon. It gets me to thinking: essentially, you can be selling something completely and utterly useless, but provided that it has a cute jingle or a cute mascot, you will sell a lot more than you would if you didn't incorporate cuteness.

Every time I go shopping with Japanese people, I seem to get dragged from one display to the other, unsure as to why the display was interesting in the first place. Then I inevitably see the cute mascot everywhere. That's why we're looking at this bedsheet set! Intriguing.

A very interesting example is the NOVA English school. As far as I know it is the larget and most successful private English school in Japan. I don't know about the quality of their classes, but I do know a few students who have taken lessons there and generally they do know more English than other students. I also know that pretty much every Japanese person I have talked to despises NOVA for one reason or another. Yet NOVA makes millions. Why?

The Bunny with a Beak.

I have no idea what this silly mascot's name is, but I know everyone falls to pieces when they see it. NOVA now has stores set up near major train stations specifically to sell little trinkets with the bunny, and hopefully (for them) a few English lessons on the side. The marketing campaign has been rather successful. Even at this very moment, two of my teachers (after having asked them the name of the bunny) are perusing the millions of Pink Bunny things you can buy from NOVA. They, of course, are English teachers and don't quite need English lessons from NOVA. But certainly plenty of people have been sucked in by the bunny.

I can only hope that these silly bunny commercials go the way of most cute marketing things in Japan. Unfortunately, some of them stay too long for my comfort. But instead of complaining about this odd Japanese custom, I should try to work with it. For foreigners, it is obscenely easy to get on TV. All you have to do is speak Japanese decently (working on that one) and have some sort of "schtick." There is the ugly girl "Becky" with the enormous amount of thingies hanging from her cell phone. And there is the equally unattractive guy with ruffled pink hair sprouting from under an ugly hat who teaches English. What I need is a cute mascot. I don't really know why I would even want to be on TV, nor what I would do there, but hey, it would probably allow me to buy more cool stuff, right?

Cute mascot brainstorm time.

December 15, 2004
Yet again ... only in Japan

CNN.com - Comfy cushion creates pillow talk - Dec 15, 2004

I knew it. Even before I clicked on the headline, I knew it. The headline read "PILLOW POWER Lonely men lap up new cushion" and the picture showed a man with his head resting on a lap-shaped pillow. I said to myself "this has to be in Japan."

Lo and behold, it is.

Let me reiterate: I am living in the weirdest country on earth.

December 9, 2004
Japan and Gadgets ... Must Read

ASIAN POP The Gadget Gap / Why does all the cool stuff come out in Asia first?

It's a little bit of a long read, but I have always wondered why the US was so far behind in terms of cool gadgetry. Now you know!

It all comes down to Schoolgirls. Why am I not surprised?

December 8, 2004
Christmas Music

Today (and in other recent days) I have been reminded just how much I dislike Christmas music. Hearing it in a chipper female Japanese voice doesn't help things. Nor does the Japanese language do much justice to an already awful musical genre.

Maybe I sound like Scrooge McDuck (love the Disney stereotype, by the way, that the Scots are cheapskates. I have no idea where they thought that one up.), but really, the only Christmas music I actually enjoy or even tolerate is The Nutcracker Suite. Maybe it's because there aren't any annoying words.

Christmas music wouldn't be so bad if if weren't for a few things:

  • Simple, campy lyrics and jingly melodies that get stuck in your brain for days.
  • Heinous overplay in any place of commerce starting sometime in mid-November.
  • Every pop artist since the conception of Chrismas music trying to remake a tired old crappy song into something "Fresh." I tell you, just because Christina Aguilera shakes her slutty ass on camera while singing Rudolph The Rednosed Reindeer and wearing next to nothing doesn't mean that it's a new song. It's still the same bad song with a new underdressed singer.
  • Overbearing, inescapable preachiness. I tolerate "holiday" or "seasonal" songs much more (even if they also suck) simply because they don't cram Christmas cheer and religious/Santa propoganda down my throat. If I were of a culture that didn't celebrate Christmas, I think I would stock up on food and supplies in October and never leave my home from November 10 until probably December 29 or so. I guess technically I am Christian, at least, most of it doesn't outwardly offend me, and even I hate all the crap I am exposed to every year. I can only imagine what it must feel like to be of another religion or culture that doesn't buy into the capitalist feeding frenzy we now call Christmas.
  • Plain ol' suckiness. Let's face it. Christmas songs were never known for being particularly creative or inspiring. They are simplistic jingles at best, downright grating at worst. I want to punch those fucking singing Christmas trees. Yeah I'll show you naughty and nice.

I guess it comes down to the fact that I just don't like Christmas music and never will. Once in a while (say, hearing each of the songs once a year...on Christmas) is okay, but continuously makes me want to drill my eardrums out. Being in Japan at this time makes it even worse, considering that the "family time and values" I personally associate with Christmas means nothing during "Japanese Christmas." Like many things in Japan, it's just an excuse to shop.

This year, I know for sure the only place I want to be hearing Christmas music is on Christmas Eve decorating the tree with my family. That will always be the only time I will enjoy Christmas music.

Until then, Rudolph and Rock n' Roll Santa can shove it. Bah humbug!

December 4, 2004
This is NOT December

Today, December 5th, is 24 degrees Celcius. Do you know what that is in Farenheit? It's like 75 degrees or something like that.

Hey GW, come here and wave your flag and speak some Christian Mumbo Jumbo and tell me Global Warming doesn't exist!

Dying to see a squat toilet?

Okay, so I've gotten several requests to see what a squat toilet looks like...so here are a few links:

Squat with Abdul the bear

The toilet all lonesome

November 30, 2004
Blog Plug

The same JET who got me to write this morning about squat toilets and "the smell of Japan" also has a great sassy blog of his own. It's Live Journal (ack) but hey, he's a good writer. Take a look.

Roy's page of sassiness

November 29, 2004
Japan thus far

Last night I was gently reminded by a fellow JET that I need to get my ass in gear and produce some writing on this painfully overlooked page. Thusly, I bring to you my thoughts on Japan, as seen from four (is it five yet?) months into my adventure.

Let me expound on the virtues (or lack thereof) of the wonderful bathroom mystery known as the squat toilet. Basically it's a hole in the ground with a hood and some sort of porcelain trough into which you do your business. Why is it a mystery, you ask? Well, the mystery is actually twofold:


  • First, after having used these nefarious devices perhaps four times I only then discovered that I was facing the wrong way. "Face the hooded part!" I was finally told. Not that facing in the other direction made it any easier to take a crap. The problem is lack of hand rails. While I'm taking a dump, I really don't want to be making effort just to squat there. This is why Western toilets are a million times better. Western people, it seems, are inherently lazier and therefore invented a much better system for taking a shit. "It already takes effort (sometimes)" it seems that they said, "so why should we make it any harder?" Amen. In being here, I have noticed that all the schoolgirls with hiked up skirts (and no I'm not specifically looking so shaddap) have insanely beefy legs. We're talking softball/soccer/karate legs. These legs should be on women probably weighing 20 more pounds. This has been a mystery to me for a while, until I realized that it is probably from using these ridiculous squat toilets. Considering that every time a woman needs to "heed the call of nature" she needs to use the medieval torture device/squat toilet, it's like she's doing two-to-five-minute squats every hour. No wonder they have enormous quads.

  • The second part of the mystery lies in motivation. Why the hell would anyone choose this sort of torture over the much more convenient Western toilets? At first I thought it was because there are usually less Western toilets available. But time and time again I have unfortunately witnessed men heading straight for the squatter. God knows why, because the position of the body and the distance from the "receptacle's" surface makes for some heinous bathroom sound effects. I, for one, will only use the evil squat device if it is absolutely necessary. I will gladly wait, if possible, until I can experience the luxury of the Western toilet. Add on a heated seat, which is available in most decent public restrooms (barring my school and the train stations), and you have a winner in my book. Go ahead guys, keep fooling yourselves that you're keeping Japanese tradition alive. Big quads are for sissies anyway!

Related is what I like to term the "smells like Japan" phenomenon. Peter recently mentioned that as a child, when he smelled a particular odor back home in the states, he would mention to his Japanese mother "it smells like Japan!" What he meant to say was "it smells like raw sewage!"

Being that I lived in Boston, I got fairly used to smelling something very stank every once in a while. New Yorkers are surely used to smelling it almost everywhere (especially after the entire city crapped itself when the Red Sox completely schooled their baseball team ... suckers), since every time I visit I tend to smell it more than in Boston. Outside of the cities, though, I rarely smell such a thing in the States. As a result, I tend to associate that terrible smell with urban centers. No longer. It seems that no matter where you are in Japan, you will smell it. Oh is it often, too. Somehow, it almost always seems to waft into my (huge and therefore extremely sensitive) nostrils right before I want to eat, thereby ruining any appetite I may have had. Even in the middle of a small town in the countryside you can smell it. It's not like there's rivers of sewage running through the streets here! I'm talking here about the world's most technologically-advanced society, and it still smells like shit. This bodes ill for futuristic fantasies about poop smelling like roses. Being that this is Japan, I expected that there might be some sort of feces-zapping invention by now, but alas, they are concentrating on more important things like high-tech vibrators and mirror-cellphones.

Of course there are many cool things about Japan that I haven't yet mentioned, but they are most likely much less amusing to read (and write) about. Can one really make it funny to read about the karaoke cell phone? I don't think so.

Until next time ... keep squattin'

November 16, 2004
The Most Pointless Spam

In my less-than-a-year (or has it been more?) of mastering this little tiny section of the web known as shock-e.com, I have come to realize that the evil of spam extends far beyond the realm of simple email. Every day, my blogging program sends me notifications of new comments posted on my site. Inevitably, seeing as my site isn't precisely of CNN-traffic proportions, the only comments left on my site are spam comments. What are spam comments, you ask? Well you know, spam is all that junk mail you get everyday about enlarging your (possibly nonexistent) penis or making it hard for 36 days straight or whatever. Comment spam, therefore, is that kind of bullshit left in the comment boxes on my website.

I direct you to this entry on my site for an example of probably the dumbest spam I have ever seen. Go to the comments section (you click on "Comments") and behold the stupidity lurking within.

Okay, in all the years I have dealt with spam, I have become accustomed to the standard fare of spam: penis enlargment, penis enhancement, penis exercises, penis anything-else, "huge cum-covered tit" (yes I found this earlier today on my site) and so on. Last week, a spam came through my site for puppets. Yes. Puppets. I was sure that it was the most ridiculous thing I would ever see someone trying to sell through spam on the internet. I mean, who the hell buys puppets anyway, much less through internet spam? Gee, genius, you sure are reaching out to the puppeteer and mime crowd by spamming my website. It goes to show that the dummy "robot" programs designed to scour the web and leave this crap have a long way to go in the Artificial Intelligence department.

But last night. Oh, last night. It couldn't possibly get worse than puppets, could it? Oh, but it could! One thing I have learned about the internet: there is always something worse out there. Well this time it was staples. Staples? Staples?? Oh my God what will they think of next? Surely my three readers are going to absolutely flock to the spammed staple store to get the cheapest staples imaginable. Surely everybody needs staples!!! God. This makes me think of the "good old days" which according to Pete only lasted a few hours. It was a time when the Internet wasn't populated by absolute morons and by association therefore didn't suck. But those days are long past, and I sound like a seventy-year-old man griping about how he used to get to school (three feet of snow uphill both ways, eh?).

For posterity, I'm going to leave this ridiculous staple comment up. I have to go and delete the ten other identical comments left about staples. Oh and don't forget ... cheap staples (and huge cum-covered tits, if that's what you're into) for all!

Update: It looks like I got overzealous sometime during an orgy of spam-deletion and deleted the staple spam. Oh well.

Surprised...?

CNN.com - Fight at Vibe awards; one person stabbed - Nov 16, 2004

For some reason I just really don't feel at all surprised that a brawl broke out at the Vibe ("urban music" aka Rap/R&B) awards. Maybe I'm an elitist snob or something but it just seems natural for this to happen at an event honoring a musical genre that often glorifies violence.

Way to rain on your own parade, morons.

November 15, 2004
How to Move to Canada

CNN.com - Canadians open arms to Americans - Nov 15, 2004

As expected, the Bush victory has led to a bit of interest in Canada. After all, who wants to live in a country that supported Cowboy Moron for another four years? I certainly don't. Thank God I'm in Japan.

November 11, 2004
"Fuck the South"

Jansen was right ... I really do need to post this to my site.

Fuck The South

This is the kind of stuff everyone in the North has been thinking since the pathetic election of 2004. The kind of "damn we should've let them go during the Civil War" thinking. You know you thought it. You know how you hate those inbreeding bigoted redneck assholes. As much as this article is full of foul language and anger, there are lots of statistics. I must say, I didn't know that all of the Bible-Belt marriage-is-sacred toting states were the top states for divorce rates. Blame it on "Southern Belles" (read: blonde bimbo whores) I guess.

Here's a choice quotation:

"The next dickwad who says, "It’s your money, not the government's money" is gonna get their ass kicked. Nine of the ten states that get the most federal fucking dollars and pay the least... can you guess? Go on, guess. That’s right, motherfucker, they're red states. And eight of the ten states that receive the least and pay the most? It’s too easy, asshole, they’re blue states. It’s not your money, assholes, it’s fucking our money. What was that Real American Value you were spouting a minute ago? Self reliance? Try this for self reliance: buy your own fucking stop signs, assholes."

Ignore the obscenity (righteous anger, in my opinion) and you have quite the interesting read.

Been a long time since the rock n' roll

I will admit that is has been a while since I last graced your screens with random pictures of Japan. Fear not, here they are. Prima and I went to Kamakura, otherwise known as "Little Kyoto" because of the fact that not only was it the capital of Japan for a while but also because it has an assload of shrines and temples. That being said, here are a few from Kamakura. You'll notice that one of these places is a little familiar. It's Houjokuji, the bamboo grove temple seen in my previous pictures. Anyway, here you are!

Kamakura

November 3, 2004
The Joke That is USA

This is it people, what we all knew was coming: the sad sad sad turn of events that confirms that once and for all the middle of the US is full of absolute morons. As I said before, sure it's okay that "President" Bush lies about Iraq and thousands of Iraqis and Americans are killed, but God forbid Clinton lies about getting his nut off with an ugly intern. It all comes down to this; I hate Republicans. They are the scourge of the Earth. I always say to my friends, it takes three things to be a republican: selfish, rich, and stupid. Look at college campuses all over the country. Who were college professors voting for? Not Bush, I'll tell you that much.

Yes, I am disappointed. Yes, I am bitter. I would even say I am heartbroken. I find myself this morning in deep, deep depression. I can't even imagine what the next four years will bring, without any re-election fears holding Bush back from doing some truly awful things. I'm no longer afraid to say I hate what America has become and at this point in time I want nothing to do with it. Why would I want to be associated with the same cretins as who ignored all intelligent thought and blindly voted for he who is slowly edging the world closer to chaos and ruin? What little patriotism I had after four years of agony with Bush has completely been washed away by a tide of human stupidity.

I can only imagine how it feels for people who worked hard to get Kerry up there, only to fall prey to Midwestern moronification. I can only imagine how awful it must feel to watch Bush's self-satisfied monkeysmirk plastered all over the newspapers and televisions. I can't even bear to look at the news today, I'm already so sick of seeing the words "Bush" and "victory" in the same sentence.

I, at least, have a buffer of a few thousand miles between myself and the agony of defeat. Just as the Red Sox victory felt rather mild thanks to those few thousand miles, so too does this blow come a little softer. As Jansen said, I guess I would rather the Red Sox wait another year for a World Series victory than have to live another four with Bush representing my country to the rest of the world. I imagine many Bostonites might feel the same.

In truth, Kerry could have won easily if he weren't such a shitty candidate. It shouldn't take much to defeat a talking puppet. Like Gore, Kerry was weak. He was a politico. He had no real inspiration. That, at least, is where Bush excels. He is a strong believer in anti-gay, anti-non-white, anti-poor, anti-environment, and intelligent sentiments. In that regard, he identifies very well with the rednecks from Ohio all the way out to Idaho. Look at a map of the states. Red shows redneck. You can see that ethnic diversity and intellect are pretty much a monopoly held by the blue (democratic) states. Have you ever heard of an ivy-league school in North Dakota? Have you ever heard of anyone non-white even thinking about going to North Dakota? Yeah.

It all comes down to this: Way back in the day, we should have let the South go. They just drag us down anyway, and they haven't changed much since then anyway. We should've let the Midwest go too. After all, what good do any of those states do for the country anyway?

End Rant.

Ashamed to be American

Well, I guess I was wrong. We didn't even get two weeks in which to hope that someone other than a kid in a monkey suit would be president for the next four years.

Indeed, Japan has plenty more room if you wanna join up, and I'm sure Canada will see its fair share of new members.

This election just proves once and for all that Americans are, on average, incredibly stupid. Everyone was up in arms about President Clinton lying about a blowjob, but no one seems to care that thousands died because of Bush's lies.

CNN called this a "disaster for Democrats." I call it a "disaster for the world."

My election prediction

After two weeks (yet again) of political wrangling, yet again Tweedle Dumb manages to win the election through a series of more-than-slightly-underhanded political maneuvers. What results will later be known as "the beginning of humanity's downfall."

Nice knowing y'all, can't wait to see what Bush will do with no re-election promises to worry about.

October 27, 2004
Japanese TV Sucks More than Anything

Here I am, on the edge of a Red Sox sweep of the World Series, and I'm stuck in Japan unable to watch. I have to rely on crappy internet pictures. You know, I told myself that this would happen ... and it did!

And now, I can't watch the game because instead of showing interesting things, Japanese TV has to air some bullshit about food. Don't you people have anything better to watch? Egad. Even when the Red Sox aren't the issue, Japanese TV is the worst crap I have ever seen. American TV is bad, I will not lie. I hate TV. But Japanese TV is by far the most mind-numbing bullshit I have ever watched for longer than 2 seconds.

Huff.

October 21, 2004
Only in Japan ...

... do I have to travel 2 hours (each way) to Tokyo to get pumpkins for an English Club activity.

... can you buy a $100 pumpkin.

... are there so many trains I can't find the right one home.

... am I unable to get a seat all the way home whilst carrying aforementioned pumpkins.

... is the epic Red Sox/Yankees game pre-empted by crappy midafternoon TV drama shows.

... do national live US blackout rules also apply. Try watching baseball online. You can't.

... does anyone notice "President" Bush's obvious listening device during televised debates.

I ran out of things to say ...

Hell Froze Over ... Go Red Sox!

It figures the year I'm in Japan the Red Sox would make it to the World Series. 18 years (since 1986) we have all waited for this. And now, finally, after a record-breaking comeback over the evil empire New York Yankees, the Sox are going to the World Series!

Unfortunately, I had to watch the end of the game on the internet because Japanese TV sucks and they had to pre-empt the game with some really shitty drama. But hey...they'd better not do that for the Series.

Anyway ... yay!

October 20, 2004
Rising Sun my ass

As I am caught inside huddled underneath my kotatsu with the kitten passed out between my legs, I find myself pondering the mysteries of why in the world this place was named the Land of the Rising Sun.

Rising Sun indeed. I think I've seen the sun for collectively maybe 24 hours total since getting here three months ago. We're on Typhoon 23 currently (the 10th so far to hit Japan and the biggest yet in years) and I can't imagine there's going to be any stop to the relentless march of crappy weather. Everyone tells me the weather is great in October but honestly I don't really see where they get that from. They are Japanese of course and they do live here, so I suppose that makes them authorities of some sort, right? Regardless, it's raining like hell outside.

Let me inform you of the wonders of the kotatsu. It is a low "Japanese-style" table with a blanket underneath it and another blanket draped across the top. On the underside of the table is a small heating element. Imagine, you have a little heater creating beautiful heat that's trapped by the blankets. Imagine the wind is howling outside and there's no such thing as insulation in Southern Japan. Imagine my kitty has found no better place to sleep than under said kotatsu. She is absolutely passed out. I find no problem with this, considering the rest of the evening she was pestering me every five seconds by climbing up my leg.

If you live in Japan and you don't have a kotatsu, you are insane. This is probably the coolest invention to come out of this country since ... uh ... Hello Kitty vibrators. I kid. But there really is such thing as a Hello Kitty vibrator. The coolest thing aside from kotatsu, I think, is the technically-advanced cellphones they have here. These are the times when I think "why the heck hasn't this stuff made it to the United States?"

Then I realize Japan is in a class all by itself.

It's no wonder, looking outside at the sheets of rain, these people came out a little ... "different."

October 15, 2004
My Lucky Kitten

All weekend in Kyoto (and long before that, too) I was whining about wanting a kitten. Said whining was spurred by seeing a man selling kittens at the river. I have been without a furry companion for a while. I have long wanted a puppy since my mom got a little princess Maltese, and in Japan especially I thought having a companion of some sort would be nice. But I didn't thing getting one would be a good idea seeing as I live in an apartment.

I was at the train station after Kyoto, and I noticed something in the street. Why had no one else noticed that there was a tiny, helpless kitten in the middle of the street? I scooped her up, knowing full well that she would get hit by a car if I didn't. Immediately I decided to name her (actually we don't know what (s)he is) Piki, or Piki-chan if you want to get Japanese about it. Maybe I'll come up with some kanji for her name. Without further ado, the first pictures! I'm like a new father, showing off new pictures of my baby to everyone ...

Yeah there are some bad pictures of me in here, but I am not the subject of these photos!

Piki

Ain't she just precious? >(^-^)<

Kyoto

Last weekend I went to Kyoto, and now I have all the pictures compiled, named, retouched, and so on. So here they are. Sorry for the lack of writing, I just have a kitten (more on that later) climbing all over me!

Kyoto

October 5, 2004
Japan - Cash and Credit

Last night, for perhaps the fifth or sixth time, I wandered into Mami-Mart (the local grocery store) cashless with the intent of buying groceries for dinner. Also for the fifth or sixth time, I failed to recall that Mami-Mart's ATM was recently stolen (ala the movie "Barbershop") and they don't take credit. I returned home with no food.

In fact, I can probably count the number of stores I've been to on two hands that actually take credit. And that pisses me off. See normally, were I back home and realized I had no cash, I could continue happily filling my grocery basket to the brim and pay with credit. Here, already halfway through filling the basket, I'm forced to abandon the venture and put everything back. I can surely say that in a grocery store where I already have no clue where anything is, it's pretty hard to figure out where stuff should be returned to.

For such a technologically advanced (arguably the most advanced in terms of gadgetry) society, Japan sure is behind the times. It's not uncommon for someone to be carrying around $500 in their wallet. To me that seems absolutely assanine. Sure, there's less crime so therefore you're less likely to be mugged or something, but what if you lose your wallet? Well there goes your $500. So okay, I decided I guess I'm going to have to get hundreds of dollars in cash every time I go to the ATM. Easier said than done.

You see, so everyone needs cash all the time. You'd think that would lead to a relatively advanced ATM network. Of course not! It's like no one has heard of the concept of a 24-hour ATM. Every ATM I have ever been to here has a closing time ... usually at about 7PM or something. So if I go out after that without any cash, I'm pretty much screwed until I can hopefully find a convenience store with a working ATM that actually accepts my bank card (which is another problem, there's no universal system). I can't tell you how much of a mooch I feel like sometimes because I haven't yet adjusted to this stupid cash-based nonsense and I have to borrow money. I hate it. On top of that, if you are getting money outside of the bank's hours (9-5, conveniently when I and everyone else work) you get charged by your own bank to take out money at the bank's own ATM.

I hear we can use our cellphones now as a credit card thanks to RFID technology. How can that possibly make things any more useful, I ask, when most stores don't even take credit cards? How the hell are you going to convince these stores, who are too stingy to buy a credit card machine, to go out and buy some sort of newfangled RFID reading machine? Good luck.

So while the rest of the world is speeding along in payment technology, Japan is still moving at the rate of cash, roughly at the same level where the U.S. was in the 80's. I guess that's the real reason why I never have any food. Because I never have stupid cash. Yeah it's my problem but dammit, if you're gonna kick the crap out of every other country in terms of cool technology, why don't you at least equal them in how to pay for that technology! Nothing is more ludicrous (or like a drug dealer), in my opinion, than paying for something like a computer in cash. But I have seen it done.

I have been able to use my credit card a grand total of maybe 5 times in the two months I have been here. In the span of two months at home, I would've probably used my two cards 15 or 20 times each. What convenience! Oh to swipe the plastic with nary a thought ... what joy!

Travelers beware: prepare for your card to become a useless piece of plastic. Maybe I could do something useful with this ... like melt it and get wacky on the fumes.

September 30, 2004
I don't get it ...

I was listening to some music today and my playlist stumbled on some music by so-called Indie Gods Belle and Sebastian. I guess I will never get what makes something "Indie" and therefore better than everything else on the planet (according to Indieheads). For the life of me, I can't make out any real differences between these guys and Blur. Yeah, I said it. Your music sounds like britpop! Except I guess it sounds a little more gay ... or should I say ... fruity?

Someone please explain to me yet again what makes Indie so great?

September 28, 2004
Really Funny When Conservatives are Wrong

CNN.com - Stewart's 'stoned slackers'? Not quite - Sep 28, 2004

While I can see why Bill O'Reilly made the statement he did, seeing as I know a lot of stoners (though hardly slackers) who watch the daily show, yet again I must shake my head at the stupidity of conservatives. Take a look, this is a short and rather amusing articles. Basically O'Reilly said watchers of The Daily Show are a bunch of morons. Turns out, the morons are the ones watching O'Reilly on Fox. Go figure.

Choice quote of the day:

"So if Stewart's audience is comprised of stoned slackers, how would Herzog describe O'Reilly's audience?

'I'm not getting into that game,' he said."

Oh I can answer that one: "Fucking morons."

September 27, 2004
Awaodori

Well, I'm sorry it's been a long time. Things have been rather busy and disruptive.

Anyway, here's a traditional Japanese dance festival I stumbled across in Tokyo the other day. Make sure you download the newest version of Quicktime (Get it here) to be able to view the movies.

NOTE: Turn the volume down on your speakers. The sound is very loud and crappy courtesy of my phone camera.

Awaodori Women

September 14, 2004
New Rant

Yeah I know I haven't done this in a long time. It's busy! But I received an email with this little link and I just had to say something about it. When will Americans learn to quit blaming others for our own stupidity? Not any time soon, I imagine. Weep!

Go To Rants

September 13, 2004
Yet more pictures

Enjoy some more pictures courtesy of the Keitai camera. I guess eventually I'll get a real camera...

Note the pictures in the electronics shop...of the mechanical horses. Yes, this is the newest exercise trend. While America has that bullshit Atkins diet sweeping across the nation, Japan has mechanical horses. Just wait, it'll reach a store in the states probably 3 years from now ...

Misc

September 8, 2004
Some Pics

Gyodans in Motion :: Untitled

I think this gallery was posted by Peter or maybe Nichole. Check it out, it's our "ground crew."

September 7, 2004
An Old Man

Last Monday, I visited Gyoda Joshi Girls' High School. I'll be the assistant English teacher for two classes there. It was a rather depressing occasion. Let me fill you in. Forgive me if I get a little fruity-sounding; this place gives me a strange feeling.

Gyoda Joshi feels to me like an old man. He is all-too aware of his mortality, and waits for the final moment with both trepidation and anticipation. He knows that death is near, and perhaps he even knows when it will arrive at his bed. Joshi feels the same way. A school that was designed to hold almost a thousand girls now houses sixty students, ten teachers, four staff-members, and myself (but only on Mondays). The building is a shell, a shadow that too quickly reminds you of the aging population in Japan and the shrinking numbers of the younger generations.

Joshi will be closed at the end of this academic year. New admissions ceased in 2001 I believe, such that this year there are only third grade students. The sixty students await graduation with intense anticipation, I feel. For the teachers, it is a different story. They try so hard to engage the students, to participate in a job that has a very definite termination date. A future that seems exciting for students surely is something to bring worry in the factulty. How can you actively engage your students every day, knowing the end is coming and surely you will move on either to retirement or to (hopefully) a greener pasture? Thus, the entire grounds of Joshi smell of decay to me.

This isn't to say that there aren't bright students or dedicated teachers. I did feel that some of the students were interested in English, and certainly the teachers still cared very much for their jobs. But a certain sadness infuses their motions it seems to me, some kind of futility. But I hope I am just imagining it. I do hope that Saitama prefecture will be able to relocate them to a more lively location. I hope their next schools will be filled with the laughter of new students rather than the slow slither of spiderwebs and the creep of mildew. I hope they will find a place where nearly every seat is full, rather than a place where whole wings have been closed off.

I commend the staff at Joshi for their (outwardly) positive attitudes and approach to their situation. Many lesser workers would simply shrink away from the not-so-simple task of finishing out the year at a doomed institution, much as many faced with death will simply wither away willingly.

がんばて!!

Good Luck.

September 3, 2004
Breakdancing

I told you I'd come up with some pictures. I apologize that they are small and blurry, but I hadn't had the foresight to figure out what size they were in. I guess my keitai camera isn't so good with motion either. But it's still handy as hell to have! Check out the 10 year old girls. So cute! And they could dance too ... This was at a small club called Fiesta in the nearby city of Kumagaya. Fun place, really. I guess you just have to know where to go around here to have fun .

Breakdance

August 28, 2004
Miscellaneous Pics

As you can see, I've been taking random pictures here and there during my wanderings. The most interesting here is of me eating an enormous shrimp during Teppan Yaki. You eat the shrimp, as you can see, whole ... spiny things and all. This was the weirdest food I've had yet. This beats out Uni any day in the disgusting category, but the taste wasn't so bad. It was just the ... weirdness of it.

Uni (raw sea urchin), by the way, wasn't as bad as everyone says it is.

Note also the flower pics, taken with my keitai camera. Also please excuse the crappy quality of the engrish picture and also the pile of octopus picture. I didn't know how to use my camera at that point ...

Miscellaneous

August 19, 2004
Hahaha this is like me ... !

CNN.com - Bear guzzles 36 beers, passes out at campground - Aug 19, 2004

The idea of drunken passed out wildlife really gets me giggling ...

August 16, 2004
See, we do have pretty stuff!

Whilst my internet woes grow still greater, I managed to get out into town today with Lorna and Pete to Gyoda Castle and the nearby park.

Meet Bob, the laid-back Cicada. I think he's a distant cousin of Jimbo the pretty-dead Cicada who guards my apartment stairs.

Please enjoy while I call still more numbers in search of the ever-elusive broadband beast.

Gyoda Castle & Park

August 15, 2004
NTT, Kanji, Me, and Poor Uweda-san

If you think American telecom corporations are bad, just wait until you have to deal with NTT. Nihon (Japan) Telephone and Telegraph owns (apparently) every single phone line in Japan. In Japan, if you want phone, you have to either buy a phone line for roughly $800, or you lease one for something like $60/month or something. The "meigi-nin" is the original holder of the phone line, and in my cases, is about 4 or 5 tenants ago in this apartment. To do just about anything with your phone line (including getting set up for internet) you need to know who this person is. It has taken me three weeks to find out who this person is. YahooBB won't give me DSL without it. Neither will KDDI. So I have it. Then I find out I need the Kanji of the person's name.

For the uninitiated, the Japanese have technically four alphabets. Romaji (roman letters), Hiragana (syllables used for Japanese words), Katakana (Syllables used for foreign words) and Kanji (chinese alphabet). Kanji is singularly the most annoying thing on the planet, especially when it comes to names. People use kanji in their names that may have nothing to do with the actual way that people really pronounce other words.

So I'm talking to this poor girl, Uweda-san, and trying to describe in my crappy gaijin ways the kanji for this person's name. It turns out, the kanji for "KAZU" is not "kazu" at all. It's "OSA." Imagine that. I had to actually draw a picture of the thing as my supervisor had written it and email it to a friend, who finally figured out that it was osameru. Gah!

But enough of that. I'm sure you're all dying to see what it really looks like, no? Check it out: 収める. It's the part right before める. Imagine trying to explain that to someone over the phone. Didn't seem too hard at the time...

For those toilet-sink naysayers: The sink in the toilet is perfectly sanitary! The water that comes into the toilet in Japanese and American homes is no different than the water coming into your shower. It has nothing to do with the water going out of the toilet ... unless of course you're pooping in the reservoir tank. Also, it's just a sink in which you wash your hands after flushing the toilet. You do not brush your teeth there, as there is a separate real sink in the showering area of the bathroom. It's a great way, I suppose, to save water.

Anyway, that's all for now. I'm getting cramped sitting in the one corner of my apartment where I can get internet ...

August 12, 2004
A Town Called Gyoda

Yeah, sorry for such a long absence, but things have been pretty insane. You never really realize how much you need certain things; food, water, sunlight ... internet. Having gone through serious withdrawal (apparently though no one in Gyoda has heard of securing their wireless networks, none of them are strong enough for me to use ... curses!), I figure it's high time to start doing my blog writing "unwired" and update when I can. At least I can come up with witty things to say when I'm not trying desperately just to wade through the 400 emails in my inbox. No, that's not a self-aggrandizing statement. You see, most of them are notifications from Movable Type (the blogging program I use) that I've gotten yet another spam comment. I don't even know what the hell cialis is, but boy someone thinks it's important to plaster all over my page. Seriously, spam in every form should be punished with public whuppings. I know just about anyone with internet access would love to get a piece of a spammer or two. Not that kind of piece, you pervert.

So, about my experience thus far: I live in a town of 70,000 (I guess that's really "countryside" by Japan standards) called Gyoda in the Northeast section of Saitama Prefecture. Saitama is known by people in Tokyo as "Dasaitama" which pretty much means "uncool." Think of Saitama as New Jersey or Southern Connecticut is to New York City. But regardless of this, Gyoda is cool enough to live in. Unfortunately, I don't mean temperature-wise, because days here thus far have averaged over 95 degrees with over 70% humidity. Imagine waking up at 7AM only to find that it's already 88 degrees. Living in Gyoda has already been an exercise in self-discovery. For instance, I am reminded that my Japanese completely sucks. I also now know that I sweat more in one hour than I thought was humanly possible. Both of my JET friends have asian ancestry, so for some reason they are blessed not only with relative hairlessness (God am I jealous) but also, they apparently have half the sweat glands that I do. This usually translates into the one sweaty gaijin walking around the streets of Gyoda, even though there are three (or four, when Lorna joins us) new faces in town. I went to the local supermarket to buy groceries, and was astounded by the desparity of prices here. A watermelon literally costs $20 on average. A container of tofu (normally $1.60 or so in the US) costs 60 yen here, maybe 50 cents. 40 doses of asprin (less than a month's supply for me, thanks for the genes dad) costs $20. The most soul-crushing moment for me, though (at least in the grocery store) was the discovery that Doritos don't exist. At least, not good flavor ones. What the hell is "taco" flavor anyway? Oh God, what have I gotten into?

Most of my ramblings pretty much are things that every gaijin since 18-whatever have discovered. I guess I'll just be redundant. But every newcomer to Japan simply must visit the hyaku-en store. That's 100 yen for anything in the store. Basically it's a dollar store. Why so great, you may ask? Simple. It's not useless crap like American dollar stores have. Nichole (one of the other JETs) has bought so much crap there, I'm surprised her apartment still holds people. I hear Peter has bought one less item. It's all cheap, but it's really not as crappy as I may have expected.

I've posted some new pictures for your enjoyment. These are of my apartment and not-so-pretty Gyoda. Pay particular attention to the notebook I bought for Japanese study.

Collabolation!


Gyoda

August 10, 2004
Hey Hey Hey!

I've finally found a semi-reliable internet connection in my town of Gyoda. I'm on the top floor of the Paseos department store. Since I can't really get anything reliable, I'll keep this short...but here are the first pictures! I apologize that there aren't many and the gallery is a little shabby, but hey, I'm pressed for time!

Shinjuku area of Tokyo

August 1, 2004
So Long...

Didn:t think I:d write in a long time, did you? Well, I:m IN JAPAN. Expect more from me once I:m done with orientation, have broadband, and pictures to share.

For now, stay tuned...

July 13, 2004
AAA and Me

Today, I was fortunate enough to navigate the rabbit trails known as the roads of Boston's financial district. While very illegally parked, I managed to get myself an International Driving Permit.

My message to the world:

Fear my skills!

July 9, 2004
Further DNC Madness

The American Spectator

It is not often that I find common ground with conservatives, but here we have two more bloggers who were denied accreditation by the DNC in Boston. The criteria for approval seems to me rather unorganized, to say the least.

This is an interesting read, as I had assumed my denial was because my site isn't political enough.

So what's the deal?

July 7, 2004
DNC folly

In a bizarre series of events (not really), unpopular and nigh-unread blogger Justin Nawrocki today received notification from the Democratic National Convention that his press credentials had been revoked before he had even managed to do anything wrong.

The aspiring political journalist (not really) was quoted as exclaiming "Fuck!" upon receiving the news. Not since earlier in the day, during a one-person "going away" party after work, had he been forced to drastically lower his unrealistic expectations.

The blogger is predicted to add comment on the situation in his upcoming syndicated entry on the shortcomings of Boston.

DNC!

Yesterday I received my official notification that I was accepted as part of the press for the Democratic National Convention. That means I'll be there trying to get all sorts of interesting pictures and things to tell you about. Stay tuned!

Democratic National Convention Website

Coming soon: What I Won't Miss About Boston.

July 2, 2004
Finally, some sense!

Yahoo! News - U.S. Steers Consumers Away From IE

I've been trying to steer people over to Mozilla Firefox for quite some time, and now there is no reason not to.

Your government commands it

June 30, 2004
Leave While You Still Can

Boing Boing: Citizen Terrorist Watch Groups

Great, so now a bunch of fatass hick truck drivers are going to be the next "terrorist watchdogs."

I have no qualms telling you that the last guy I want pointing out potential terrorists is the 300 pound chainsmoker you see at every truck stop in America.

Thanks once again to BoingBoing.

June 24, 2004
A New "Endorsement"

Woah am I on a roll today. Making up for my lazy-ass posting hiatus of the past few weeks, I am I am. Here's what I have for you, head on over to the Stuffs section for "The Advantages of Leprosy."

An Excellent (if not long) Reflection

The Importance of...: The Obsessively Annotated Introduction to the INDUCE Act

Ernest Miller puts in his more-than-two-cents on the new INDUCE act being set forth by Orrin Hatch. This law is idiocy, and Miller undeniably (at least in my eyes) proves it with wit, sarcasm, and a whole lot of good thinking. Good read, if you have the time.

Here's a link to the Original News Story.

If you flew in the last 4 years ...

... you're on "the database."

This really gets my goat. Where do these fucking people get off giving out my personal credit card and health information to put in this database? How in hell does either one of those make me more likely to be a terrorist?

"All records have been destroyed or returned" my ass. Go to hell, TSA.

Wired News: More False Information From TSA

Monster Baby

News

This is pretty freakin' incredible. We did an experiment around the office when we read this (if you are in the office and feel like trying to beat this 5 year old kid at his own game, keep in mind that the average ream of 20lb. thickness copy paper weighs 5 pounds), and the article is right; a lot of adults can't hold 7 pounds at arm's length. In defense of my (relative) manliness, I was able to do it, so nyeaaahhh.

June 18, 2004
Gives new meaning to the term "assface"

eBay item 3682421252 (Ends Jun-16-04 19:35:31 PDT) - WEIRD Mounted whitetail Deer Rump - Face

This is by and large the weirdest thing I have seen on Ebay for a while. Not since the Ghost in a Jar have I seen something like this.

Thanks Shawn.

June 14, 2004
On Evil

I've been pondering frequently lately the nature of evil. The topic has come up mainly because of overused stereotypes inherent in the popular fiction genres that I tend to read and write. It has also cropped up at times when I am making a statement about someone and the term "evil" manifests.

The problem is that both evil and good are subjective and variable. I've come to determine that evil (and good, to an extent) is much less prevalent in the form in which it is typically defined. The "handmaiden of the devil" type of evil that George Bush finds so endearing is dare I say a very rare exception, not a categorization that you can make as easily as Bush does. The problem is that people want to think of the world as very polarized. Good and Evil, black, white, etc. But you already knew this. And, to be cliche, things are more grey than they are black or white.

I think true evil, the only deserving candidate for the word, is the type of psychotic sadism that most human beings are entirely incapable of harboring. Think Hitler, Vladimir the Impaler, Britney Spears. Most people, though their actions may be callous, inconsiderate, bastardly, are really only doing something out of consideration for what is "good" for themselves. What really manifests far more often in the world is self-centrism rather than evil. Even people who are plain assholes are just trying to get by in the world and put themselves ahead of the game, or they are frighteningly unaware of how their own actions affect others. They are simply living by their own definitions of "good." While I might be tempted to call them evil, it's not a fair judgment to make. So now instead of calling ex-boss or girlfriend or whatever "evil," why don't we try something like "psychotic self-centered bitch (which can actually apply to a boss or significant other, regardless of gender ... isn't that grand)?"

It only bothers me because the concept of a truly evil person is so prevalent in modern fiction (both written and visual) that it has become a bad cliche. The evil scientist bent on world domination. For what? What the hell does world domination get you anyway, aside from a big pain in the ass? Oh, and here we have the age-defying sorceror, determined to harness the power of the gods for ... an endless supply of nubile women? Again, what can world domination get you in the long run, aside from an ulcer or assassination? As much as GW might want to think that the world is that simple (I'm sure in his monkey brain, things are that simple), they clearly are not. Obviously my little rant in a barren corner of the internet isn't going to change a long-accepted cliche. But at least I can change it in my own writing ... or something.

June 9, 2004
Money Gets You Anywhere

For a long time now, I have wondered why Paris Hilton is such a big deal. Obviously, there was that porn video, which shouldn't have been a big deal anyway. But then there's money. I don't know why everyone gushes about her as if she's some deity. Did anyone notice that she's not hot at all? Goes to show, the simple act (or non-act, I guess) of having money fools people into thinking you're attractive.

I don't know about you, but the above picture to me looks like a sixty year old woman, not some goddess of beauty. No accounting for (bad) taste, I suppose.

June 8, 2004
An alternative account of the Reagan death

AxisofLogic/ Global Empire

This is a tad frothy at the mouth, but it goes to show that Ronald Reagan was by no means the wonderful president everyone is gushing about post-mortem. In fact, he was a terrible president who ended up showing GW Bush all there is to know about running a country into the ground.

I know it's a campaign necessity, but it saddens me that Kerry feels obligated to pay tribute to the B-movie creep. Senator Kerry, rest assured Bush isn't taking a break for a week from gathering money for his "war chest." Perhaps you might think about taking the same approach.

June 7, 2004
Fossils of the past ...

Why the FCC should die | Perspectives | CNET News.com

This is an interesting geeky article about the irrelevancy of the FCC. I never really thought about the FCC; it has always just been there. Does it need to be there anymore?

June 4, 2004
and I thought Bush said stupid things

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Japan's gaffe-prone politicians

Two things of note:


  • I love how the BBC uses the word "gaffe"

  • I had no idea Japanese politicians said such boneheaded things

Not like our own politicians don't say stupid things ... maybe it just doesn't get publicized?

This is quite the funny read.

Vigorous women are increasing!

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Japan killing comments spark row

Perhaps it's a bad translation, but to use the term "vigorous women" when describing a middle-school murder is just bizarre.

Japan, here I come?

June 3, 2004
"... and more associations with delinquent and drug-using friends"

Parents. The Anti-Drug. -- Drug Information

During my morning ritual of news-scanning, I happened across an ad exhorting me to get "the straight facts" on marijuana. Well, since I'm part of the unwashed masses and according to the "parent - the anti-drug" campaign I know nothing about da hoob, I figured I might as well get myself learned.

And how.

Did you know that kids who smoke pot are more likely to be more rebellious and aggressive? They are more likely to have bad family lives? They will have more associations with delinquent and drug-using friends!!!

These facts are about as straight as that Carson guy on Queer Eye (who, incidentally, I have been told spells his name with a K ... that's pretty gay). Not that there's anything wrong, of course, with being un-straight. However, when it comes to portraying facts as straight, then it may become a problem.

This was my favorite quote: "Compared to the light users, heavy marijuana users made more errors and had more difficulty sustaining attention, shifting attention to meet the demands of changes in the environment, and in registering, processing, and using information."

No shit?

It's a matter of don't get stoned before taking a test. I think if you manage to do that, it's more a sign of baseline stupidity as opposed to being a "delinquent stoner." Perhaps my smartest friend at school partook of the ganj quite often, as a matter of fact even whilst writing papers. He managed a pretty high GPA, especially for the Computer Science department.

So you can stick "those who used have lower achievement than the non-users" in your pipe and smoke it!

Oh I am so clever.

Seriously though, this is an entertaining page. Watch out! Your kid is the next stop on the Marijuana Express!

Parents. The Anti-Drug. -- Drug Information

May 28, 2004
Harbin Snow and Ice Festival ... wow

R Todd King: China Photos 2003 - Northeast Winter

This is something I absolutely must make the effort to visit when I live in Japan. A "must see" if you will.

Thank you BoingBoing for once again providing endless internet entertainment.

Self-loathing coders

Ryan's Lair: Vibrating Razors and Divine Goddess Names

This is a classic post for Ryan. One of the best. I have wondered about this M3 Power thing for a while. Perhaps Ryan could post a review of his "Power Experience?"

This also reminds me of the Midol Monsteruation game and the poor self-loathing coder who had to create the game.

I had a dream ...

" … and now that dream is gone from me." I apologize, my Matrix: Reloaded jest wasn’t that funny. Har har.

I did really have a dream. The only thing that gives me pause in naming it a nightmare is the lack of rank terror that is to me what typically defines a nightmare. This dream was more subtle, more discomfiting, and in that way so much more terrifying than what I might call a simple nightmare. There weren’t any monsters or naked-at-school episodes or long weightless plunges from heights.

My dream took shape in the form of a wall—stationary, white, isolating. I couldn’t move my body, not even my eyes. I could only stare at the wall. An all-too-convenient dream-flashback informed me that I had been in a car accident, and that I was left utterly immobilized. Though my mind was perfectly intact my body could respond to my commands no more than might a statue. It was torture. I was stuck in this immobile form, and there was absolutely nothing I could accomplish of my own accord.

But there was hope. Weekly I had a trip to some sort of machine (my mind’s interpretation of dialysis?) that was able to drain me of my body’s toxins and give me a momentary lease to live life more fully. I could move! I could speak! I can tell you, the feeling of freedom when I was first informed of this miracle machine was something I can’t very well describe. But freedom in the dream is as fleeting as it is here in the waking world. You see, I could indeed walk, but only in a spasmodic and discomforting imitation of walking. I could talk, but instead of words pouring from my mouth I could form no more than a bestial yowl.

My family brought me to a nice restaurant during my few days of freedom. As is wont to happen in a dream, my entire high school class was there, forming some sort of gauntlet through which I was forced to walk to get to the dining room. It was hell. In waking, I like to think that I have gone on to bigger and better things than the majority of them. In dream, I was paraded staggering and twitching in front of them, unable to meet any of their eyes for the shame of it. I tried to tell them that I was still alive within this unresponsive shell, but I could only groan and gurgle. A much-disliked coworker was there as a waitress, exulting in my debasement. She saw me try to move my arms—I almost did!!—and her satisfaction at my self-defeat burned. What do I remember most about the dream? It was the shame, burning hot in my head.

In the end, the effect of the toxin-machine wore off. I ended up back in the hospital room, alone with the white wall and my own fevered thoughts. My family left. The nurse left. I was alone in a prison too small for my brain.

As I’ve come to expect in a dream, it drifted off into something much more blissfully mobile. But it wasn’t long before I woke up to my bladder’s protestations. I remember an intense wash of relief when I awoke in my own bed, able to move my eyes and my limbs, able to go to the bathroom simply by moving my legs, getting some flip-flops, and going. It is here that the dream coincides with nightmare, thanks to the feeling of elation when you wake up and realize that the fall you just took didn’t kill you, that the monster wasn’t catching up to you on the conveyor belt, that your girlfriend hadn’t broken up with your pathetic ass. It’s powerful. I came back from my bathroom visit, fully pleased with myself that I was able to do so without assistance. I lay back and started to fall back to sleep, and my body went numb. I cannot describe to you the terror that shot through me, the instant of absolute truth I felt that I would lose my body forever to this numbness. It was enough to wake me with the shock of icewater and keep me awake until I was absolutely sure that my body responded as I commanded. Have you ever awoken from a dream where you were sure that something was still in the room with you, in one of those shadows in the corners? Have you felt that unspeakable, irrational terror? Imagine that terror, but imagine that the only enemy is your own body.

I wonder if this whole experience was a warning. I could wonder as to its source. Internal or external warning, it doesn’t make a difference. I have lived my life too unaware of the dangers around me and the circumstances that wrap the lives of others. I am relatively sure that my own mind’s interpretation of physical handicap was dreadfully inaccurate. But the experience was enough to make me think, which I suppose is the point. How have I gone through my life feeling the discomfort that I know so many others also feel in the presence of the mentally or physically infirm? I guess I have been an asshole, unable to come to terms with the circumstances with which others are forced to live every day. I am fortunate in that I tasted the warning without living it. It was enough to make me think. I haven’t thought so much about a dream in my entire life. To this point I have made the mistake of avoiding the discomfort and ignorance I have long harbored for handicaps. I guess it has been a long-waiting change.

Note: This entry is by no means designed to offend or disparage. My facts on physical or mental disability are surely warped; I make no guarantee to accuracy. If you feel the need to correct or inform, by all means please feel free to comment. This post is authored simply as a personal epiphany to be shared with others.

May 27, 2004
DNC or Bust

Today I applied to be a member of the press at the Democratic National Convention here in Boston in July. It's actually quite exciting. It would be very interesting to be an observer to the track that will (hopefully) derail the Bush Train of Destruction.

Bloggers have been invited to participate as part of the press core for the DNC. I think they picked up on the importance of grassroots political movements via blogs thanks to the Dean movement. Blogging has become, much as the mainstream media may not like it, an accepted and booming media form. To tell you the truth, I get most of my news (thanks to RSS) via other blogs.

With any luck, I'll be able to access the DNC as part of the media and I can actually have some useful things to say on this site :)

May 26, 2004
The worst website ever

Barf.

Wow. This has to be the worst website I've seen in a long time. Ever since www.neurotic.com.

It's like interracial marriages at the turn of the century!

Ryan's Lair: The Slippery Slope to Miscegenation

yow...

Oh god!

CNN.com - Spanky the clown arrested on porn charges - May 25, 2004

Well, I may have lost a post, but at least I'm not a pedophile ... a caught pedophile at that.

I mean come on, his name is Spanky. Shouldn't you have seen this coming?

More disturbing, this guy is 23. I guess my preconceptions have always been that pervs like thsi are old and scary. What a silly misconception.

I had a nice entry

I had a very nice entry written but Mozilla CrapFox decided to crash right at the end of the entry. So fuck that, I'm not rewriting. I've lost all creative flow to my rage. Maybe later, when I can think clearly through the fog of anger.

May 24, 2004
New Look - The Joys of CSS

You can obviously see that I updated the look of my page. What with the wonders of CSS that I've been slowly learning thanks to a side project through work, I'm finally grasping the fundamentals of the "art" of design. Keep in mind that this doesn't at all indicate that I think I have any sort of "artistic" capability in my design. For that, take a look at The CSS Zen Garden or Mezzoblue or Stop Design, all of which have fantastic design schemas. My own page looks like a backwater 1998 webpage in comparison, but at least I'm adhering (loosely, I suppose) to standards, unlike what they did in 1998.

I personally like this new look. It's a bit more varied, a little less monotonous, and still minimalist. Oh and check out the groovy transparent GIF images for the navbar...now I don't have to change the actual images when I change color scheme. w00t!

May 22, 2004
The Zen Garden!

Click the image to go to my handy-dandy Konqueror generated gallery.

Zen Garden

May 21, 2004
100% Geek Material

Some notes on the "Who wrote Linux" Kerfuffle

Andy Tanenbaum on Linux Torvalds and the creation of Linux. A good read if you follow anything *ix.

May 17, 2004
History

Boston.com / News / Special reports / Gay Marriage / Cambridge plays host to a giant celebration

Boston.com / News / Special reports

Last night I was privileged to stand with 10,000 others in celebration of the first legal same-sex marriage certificates ever to be given in the United States. It was an historic, warming moment. The cheers that erupted from the crowd when the first couple emerged from the doors of Cambridge City hall was deafening, and the din hardly dwindled as the night continued.

I went with Ryan and his friend Christine to hand out flowers, as I mentioned in an earlier post. The crowd was so big that of course it took a lot of sneaking and friendly pushing to get through to hand out the flowers.

My personal irony of the evening was standing on a barrier holding up a sign that said "God Affirms You" (spells out GAY in rebuttal of a conservative sign that read "God Abhors You"). I've never had my picture taken by so many random people in my life, all of whom have no idea that I'm not exactly a God person.

It feels great to participate, and I feel honored that I was able to do so even in a small way.

Later in the day I'm sure Ryan will post pictures, so I'll make sure to link to that.

UPDATE: Here are some pictures on Christine's site. Ignore how heinously bad I look! They say the camera adds 10x the ugliness...

Christine's Web Gallery

May 13, 2004
Drunken CockFighting Congressmen!

The Onion | 34 Congressmen Arrested In D.C. Cockfighting Crackdown

I love The Onion. Can't get enough.

Bad Face Day

Ever have one of those days, much like a "Bad Hair Day," where something about you is just ... bad? Well today is one of those.


It's a bad face day.

Unfortunate, to say the least.

May 11, 2004
What the...?

Boing Boing: McDonalds trademarks phrase "I am Asian"

Wow, I guess every time I say "I am Asian" I will be breaking trademark laws. How the fuck does this stuff happen? Thankfully, I'm not Asian ...

www.i-am-asian.com

This world is truly messed up.

Ohhhh yeah...

Sharp V602SH & Sharp V402SH - Mobile Gazette - Mobile Phone News

The minute I get to Japan I'm getting one of these. Hopefully there's a model without the stupid dog bark translator.

But a TV tuner, radio, SD memory slot, and a 1.3MP camera with optical zoom? Yeah. I'm sold.

Y'all suckers can keep your crapass American phones!

Check it out, a new Rant

Head over to Rants to check out the newest rant on the whole low-carb fiasco. Enjoy!

May 10, 2004
Haha Nice.

Ryan's Lair: Freudian Slips

Ah Ryan, how precious.

"Elated experiences" haha. At first I thought "ahh CIA operants must be proficient in hoobage!" Then I realized it was something entirely different ... and much more sinister.

Dun dun dunnnnnn.

Fuck.You.George.Bush

Boston.com / News / Nation / Washington / President praises Rumsfeld in meeting at Pentagon

Boston.com / News / Nation / New photo, more worry about abuse

I can't stand this shit anymore. No wonder they want to gouge out our eyeballs.

May 6, 2004
Cliches of Sci-Fi

The Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Cliches

I find this site distinctly amusing because


  • I am pathetically and unabashedly geeky
  • It's so true
  • It's so damn comprehensive
  • It's just funny as hell.

My personal favorite (thus far) is found in Section II: 78. "The Free Love Utopia, populated only by fabulously good-looking people, that somehow remains free of sexually transmitted diseases, has no relationship turmoil, and is not inundated with hordes of people looking for easy sex."

Dumbass Republicans

The American Assembler - States With Higher IQ Vote Democrat

Thanks Ryan!

It's a rather humorous piece, but the part on the bottom is sad sad sad:

Those people who still support Bush after all the bullshit he has put us through believe things that are simply not true.

Snip:

"Among those who perceived experts as saying that Iraq had WMD, 72% said they would vote for Bush and 23% said they would vote for Kerry, while among those who perceived experts as saying that Iraq did not have WMD, 23% said they would vote for Bush and 74% for Kerry."

I weep for this once proud nation.

May 5, 2004
Required Reading

U.S. Army report on Iraqi prisoner abuse

A selection of acts by our fine military men and women in Iraq:

"...
c. (S) Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing;

d. (S) Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time;

e. (S) Forcing naked male detainees to wear women’s underwear;

f. (S) Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped;

g. (S) Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them;

h. (S) Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture;

i. (S) Writing “I am a Rapest” (sic) on the leg of a detainee alleged to have forcibly raped a 15-year old fellow detainee, and then photographing him naked;

j. (S) Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee’s neck and having a female Soldier pose for a picture;

k. (S) A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee;
..."

This is the real thing. Not like any Bush (or anyone at all for that matter) fans read my site, but maybe it'll make you think twice about our presence in a country we never should have attacked in the first place.

May 4, 2004
The next Steve Jobs

Me. I am the next Steve Jobs.

I had this sudden realization (well, this has been a known fact for some time, but one that I hadn't really given any real thought to until today) that the computer industry needs a good swift kick in the ass to up its "cool" factor. You see, there's this whole "geek" stigma that isn't going anywhere.

While my next fashion prediction is that geekiness is the next "in," I propose to bring the two together faster than they might naturally happen. The catalyst, you may ask? Me. Strictly because I have this apparently innate ability to see into the pop-cultural future of America, I should be the chosen leader for this new computing revolution. Steve Jobs, move over. Apple may be currently hip in the computing world, but seeing as the name for their next OS X update is called tiger (an undeniably gay and uncool theme), I think it's about time someone else took over and made computing cool again. Again? Hell, it's about time someone made computing cool for the first time.

I propose the uber-new Operating System, "Reptile." It's faster than Windows. More stable and prettier than OS X. Just as "tinkerable" as Linux without a billion dependencies and headaches. It runs on PC, Mac, Sparc, Alpha, Commodore64 ...

The first update for Reptile is "Sidewinder" in which we introduce to the world FLBAM (pronounced "Fuh-Blam" by ultra-cool company insiders, even though the acronym doesn't spell out like that), which stands for Free and Legal Bad Ass Music. Fuck iTunes and it's $0.99 per song price. We get you free tunes that is 100% legal and RIAA litigation-proof! Stick that in your craw and smoke it, metallica!

As CEO of ReptiSys, I promise to provide aforementioned kick-in-the-ass to the computing industry. Bill Gates is a stodgy old geek. Steve Ballmer is the same, as much as he might try to appear hip while he hops around on stage like a raging prostitute on speed trying to hype up some new overpriced undepowered Microsoft product. Steve Jobs attempts to be hip, but come on Steve, the black turtleneck and worn jeans have got to go. In his place I stand as the new hip computing king, ever on the edge of hipness thanks to my future-sight.

It's going to be a glorious month for ReptiSys when we release our first installment of Reptile. Look out for it, and don't forget to buy stock!


(Paid for by the Justin is on Crack Association)

May 16 is a big day

May 17 in Massachusetts is when same-sex marriages are finally (and who knows for how long) legal. I'll be at Cambridge City Hall the night of the 16th (Cambridge kicks it off at midnight on the 16th) with Ryan and others just to be a nice guy and celebrate this state at least coming out of the fuckin dark ages. Surely "compassionate conservative" America will manage to fuck everything up, but one might as well attempt to be pleased with things for the two days it lasts.

The original idea is here.

Drempels

Drempels Madness

Certainly old news for some, I just revived this awsome piece of psychedelic madness on my work computer for shits n' giggles. It certainly serves its purpose when you're sitting around staring at your computer screen. At least the screen could be "neato" right? Right.

Essentially it replaces your Windows wallpaper with visual warping and colors. Quite nifty.

May 3, 2004
Exactly what I need!

BBC NEWS | Health | New teeth 'could soon be grown'

This has me totally stoked, regardless of what monkeys like George Bush think of stem cell research. A natural tooth replacement for the teeth that have been predicted by multiple dentists to fall from my mouth in the years to come.

I can't wait for when I look like a toothless Alabama hick for a month and then pop one of these babies in there.

Grow me some teefs, doc!!!

It's just like Carl!

Jackson Rhoads Custom Shop Polka Dot V

Just read the first review. Read it all the way through. All I can think of is Carl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force saying "I don't need no instructions to rock!"

Oh and make sure you don't miss the "metal sluts" getting wet part.

My god ...

"... that song was by Loverboy, and Loverboy has always sucked ..."

Buddhist Hell ... er ... theme park!

I find this BoingBoing post highly amusing, considering the recent hooha about buddha-themed skimpy swimwear from Victoria's Secret. So it's offensive for nubile bodies to be clothed in Buddha, but it's not offensive to theme an entire amusement park after Buddha? I imagine there are nubile bodies swimming in the Buddha-themed wavepool, so what's the difference? Maybe Ryan could shed some light.

April 30, 2004
Good idea, bad implementation

Yahoo! News - Michigan's 'Hold' Music Gets Much Hipper


Hip? Last time I knew, music from the 50's and 60's was not 'hip.' In fact, I think I'd rather hear some crappy elevator music that I don't recognize than an uber-shitty version of a good beatles song or an uber-shitty version of a bad freaking Beach Boys song.

Then again, now that I've memorized the Capital One hold music-and it is truly awful, this I guarantee you-maybe it's time for a change.

When you come down to it, I guess any music that is super-popular is going to suck. It's just the law of humanity. Mainstream musical taste is only as good as the lowest common denominator.

Case in point? Britney Spears. Need I say more?

I can't help it

I am a geek, through and through. I bought a badass laptop from my friend Dan, but as you may have seen in my Geeks section, it didn't go so well when I managed to blow up the partition the second day I had it. Huzzah for exploration!

So I've been a little busy over the past week trying to fix it, I apologize. As for today, I am lazy and there doesn't seem to be much worth ranting about or mentioning. At work, I spent an hour fixing my Palm Pilot, and I can confirm (as if you care) that it is working after minor screen surgery and a lot of annoying manipulation. See, I really am a geek. But hey, it pays to be a geek when you can fix your own stuff instead of shelling out "mad bank" for a new palm pilot/computer/whatever. Ask a mac owner what he did when his mac broke. First he'll say some garbage about "it never breaks" which is inherently untrue. Then he'll tell you he had to go to some charges-your-firstborn mac store to get it fixed. Then ask a PC geek what he did when his PC broke. He fixed it on his own!

Ugh. This entry is lame.

Maybe I'll get around to ranting about the most recent carb craze. But maybe not today, because I'm in "extreme laziness" mode.

April 28, 2004
Follow Up ...

Remember the choice article I was talking about a few days ago? Well Jon sent me a link to the real thing. Read up. Which are you?

April 26, 2004
Are you a Maximizer or a Satisficer?

AlterNet: GONSALVES: 'The Tyranny of Choice'?

Thanks to Boing Boing once again.

I'm pretty sure I'm a maximizer. Do you agonize over choices or do you go with "good enough?" An interesting read, even if the original article is a stupid pay article.

Presenting...

Kali, the Indian goddess of destruction.

aka bunbun

aka poopmachine

April 23, 2004
Endless Workplace Amusements ...

eBay item 3093334754 (Ends Apr-28-04 10:57:27 PDT) - Telecommunication Receiver Audio Storage Handheld

The things people do in the tech room here at work. Amazing work!

April 21, 2004
So?

I hate work.co.uk

I really don't know how humans have evolved into such whiners. So now a website called "I hate work" is accused of promoting absenteeism.

Personally, I think it's no one's damn business what I do with my Personal days or Sick days. If I take them I take them, it's not my employer's place to judge why I've taken them. We get these days for a reason.

Because work sucks.

Big surprise, we need to get out of work for a reason. Employers won't have to whine about losing workers if they work on making working conditions not suck. It's as simple as that.

I won't hold my breath on that one.

April 20, 2004
My new hobby of the minute ...

"Debating" with Pennsylvania conservatives.

Just what we fuckin' need ...

WirelessCabin, Advanced Communications for Aircraft Passengers

The last places on Earth that you can go to get quiet from cell phone gabbers are, as far as I can tell, underwater, Ashfield, and in planes.

It was inevitable, of course, that they would get people gabbing on planes. I swear to God, if I have to hear some stupid college girl yacking through the whole flight about inane shit, I will go apeshit.

Ryobi Sucks!

eBay funny-ass auction

This is the funniest thing I've seen all day. It takes a little while to read, but man is it funny.

My dad should get a particularly loud chuckle from this one.

PS, there's a new rant today.

April 19, 2004
God ...

stUFf

The things people will buy for the sake of being "hip."

PUHLEEZE.

I've been waiting for this ...

'Lost in Translation' doesn't translate well in Japan | csmonitor.com

I was kind of wondering when this would happen. I was surprised it didn't happen sooner, but I didn't know that "LiT" wasn't out in Japan until this past weekend. For good reason.

While pretty accurate in some arenas, I did notice while watching the form that there were some dramatic overstatements of Japanese culture. I can't imagine that there will be a lot of Japanese laughing along at some of the blatant cracks made at Japanese people and culture.

I remember the one thing that really stuck in my mind when I watched the movie was the shower. It was too short for Bill Murray. Showers there may be short (I didn't have much experience with many showers there), but adjustable, an amenity that I would assume would be present at an upscale hotel like the Park Hyatt (where Murray's character stayed).

I, of course, didn't know this when I was in Japan. Like Murray's character (if only I knew his name ...), I came across a short shower ... a very short shower. Like knee-height. You have to understand, I was in a very different country and a very different culture. My understanding of how the bathroom-with a separate toilet (heated seat) area and laundry area-operated was quite crippled. The showering area consisted of a huge tiled room with a bathtub and the shower head (remember, at knee height). Naturally, I had no idea how to deal with the bath, so I stuck to the knee-high shower.

The thought that went through my head as I huddled in the cold-ass room (they leave the windows open during the night even in the winter) beneath the knee-high shower was "gee, the Japanese sure are weird." I had heard (erroneously) that most bathing was done in the bathtub. Of course I thought the low-ass shower was only for washing one's feet or something. Let me tell you, when you're crunched up in a ball trying to get warm water on you and you lose your balance and fall against the cold tile wall with your naked bum ... well, it's not the most pleasant bathing experience.

Two days later, I learned to adjust the shower. It was a good thing.

April 16, 2004
Time to quit drinkin'

Gout Risk Increased with Drinking

In case you didn't know (which I didn't), Gout (explained here) is some sort of arthritis. There was a debate here at work as to whether it was a Goiter (Evan's initial thought) or Gangrene (my initial thought) but obviously we were both wrong.

In any case, unless you want your joints hurting like hell in your old-ass future, quit drinkin!

Oh lord. More buffoons running for office.

Won't Jesse Ventura go away?

I don't know if anyone saw this unfortunate article anywhere, but it just floored me. Didn't Jesse Ventura get enough of driving Minnesotan politics to a new low? Doesn't George Bush make a mockery of the presidency enough as it is?

Most importantly, why didn't anyone tell me my ass was so big?

Er ... I mean why didn't anyone tell me the man was a visiting professor at Harvard?

Yeah, respect level for Harvard just dropped about 50% right there. Way to make sure everyone knows you have "top grade students." This only proves that all you need to get into "Big Red" is either insane smarts (like my friends) or piles of money (like most Harvard students).

April 15, 2004
Ireland Panoramas

I had forgotten to include the three Ireland panorama shots we took when I posted the pictures before. So here they are. They're rather large (after all, they're panoramas) but truly inspiring. If you don't like the weird border (that's what happens when a panorama gets stitched correctly), then uh ... tough. But look at how spectacular the stitching is! You can barely see any seams between pictures except on the Dingle thumbnail. This was all done automatically.

Click on the thumbnails below for a fullsize view of each picture.

Dublin Doors

Glendalough

Dingle Peninsula

It's National High Five Day! (apparently)

National High Five Day

I've been waiting for a day like this! Now I can wantonly administer high-fives without fear of reprisal or persecution!

Sweet Jesus!

April 14, 2004
Hello Mr. Nawrocki, we know all about you!

American Airlines In Privacy Flap

Good morning, this is flight AA658 with nonstop service to YourPrivacyRaped City. Will passengers Abjheet, Akbar, Malinowski, Ali and anyone else who has a last name that doesn't sound White Bread American please approach the ticketing counter to be entered into the "database" and have your information spread over God knows how many other "databases?"

Thank you for your cooperation, and thank you for flying American Airlines. And JetBlue. And Northwest.

Internet Explorer still sucks

It has come to my attention (yet again) that Microsoft Internet Explorer is still a shitty standards-noncompliant browser. You see, I took the time to come up with a nice little border-color-change for any image that links to something else, but of course Internet Explorer doesn't see that. Every standards-compliant browser out there does fine with it (Safari, Mozilla, FireFox, Opera), go figure that Internet Explorer can't. This is something that I probably should try to fix for IE, since so many people use it and need to know that an image is clickable (my Guinness ads were testament to the fact that people didn't figure out you were supposed to click on the pictures).

But God, can't you try for once to comply to industry-wide standards, Microsoft?

Your time has come ...

It has become accepted fact that I have a knack for pointing out social trends that will sooner than later become the mainstream. Witness metrosexuality (yes I so had my finger on the pulse of that one before it got out of hand and South Park made fun of it) and the pre-wrinkled shirt thing. In fact just monday I pointed out to Kristin and Nicole the prevalence of pre-wrinkled shirts.

Hearken to me, unbelievers, for the time of reckoning is nigh. I have predicted the next fashion trend, suffice to say it won't be long now before it comes to pass. And what, you may ask, is aforementioned next trend? I'll tell you.

Dorxuality. Yes, that word is definitely plagiarized from Ryan's vocabulary, but rightfully so. Geeks will be the next gay. And I don't mean Gay in a bad way. I mean the trendy fashionable gay that permeates today's society.

The trend has already started to seep into society bit-by-bit. Note the thick-rimmed black plastic glasses you see some guys wearing. It's no longer a style relegated to guys who think they are being "mod" or "indie" or whatever. Note also my undeniably geeky hairdo I've been rockin lately. I have gotten more hair compliments with this geeky hairdo than ever before, seriously. In light of this new trend to geekiness, I have worked out the next phase of the geek movement, something that will be snapped up by the masses who don't even know what it means.

I'm absolutely sure someone else must have come up with this idea, but I'm the one with the cool illustration:

FSCK Model

Some of you may not even know what this is a spoof of. Well, have you ever heard of that uber-trendy brand "French Connection UK?" Well their new (insanely popular) marketing shtick is the acronym "FCUK." You can't walk down trend-central Newbury Street without seeing a shirt that says "FCUK Him" or "FCUK it" or "Hot as FCUK." Cute huh? Vomit.

If you're a hardcore geek you probably instantly recognized that "fsck" is the unix-based hard disk checker-upper. If you're not, well, I just told you what it means. Being that my site is light-years away from even remotely sizeable readership, I can get away with spoofs like this. Thank God for that.

April 12, 2004
Our Dependence

Today I managed to drop my Palm Pilot from about a foot off the ground onto carpeted floor ... the force of which shattered the screen. Quality worksmanship, right there.

It's not so much the loss of the material possession that I lament, as I could easily buy something of the same quality for about 30 bucks or less. More likely, it's the loss of the ability to remember shit. It was my little datebook, and now I have to actually remember everything! Gasp!

I see it as a dilemma that will only become more and more prevalent in our evolving society. By the time two years has passed from now, the internet will only be as far as one is from a cell phone, and you'll see almost everyone with one. Just look at Japan, where everyone from 70 year old ladies to 10 year old kids has a "handy phone." With the prevalence of such handy little devices, we are slowly relinquishing control of our own lives and even our brains to little computers. After all, when was the last time you did a math calculation (short of very simple algebra) by hand rather than a calculator? When was the last time you actually knew a friend's phone number? These days I know only a handful of numbers or addresses simply because all of that "trivial" information is stored in my phone and my (now very dead) palm pilot.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen to us if one of those electromagnetic bombs were to go off on our vacinity, frying anything computerized. Seeing as everything, from cars to refrigerators, has become computer-controlled, into what age would we be thrust? It's an interesting thing to think about.

Now it's time to copy down my calendar onto ... paper. The poor man's computer!

April 9, 2004
Kanji for the masses

Kanji Tattoos are all the rage now, with people thinking they have stuff like "courage" or "strength" or "good in bed" written on their arm/ass/penis/boob/whatever. I have always been sure that the Japanese and Chinese were looking at these and secretly sniggering, just like we snigger when we take a look at Engrish.com. Now they get their revenge.

I can't tell you how annoyed I get when someone says "oh you know Japanese?" (which in itself is a joke) and then they continue with "Can you tell me how to write '(fill in the blank with some fruity word)?'"

I inevitably reply "I can't read or write Japanese." And the conversation is done, but I leave it feeling violated at having been asked to come up with something that stupid that might sit on someone's arm for life.

But this article is where it's at. Finally, we see that there are thousands of fools out there with gibberish, maybe even some Chinese guy's sweet, sweet revenge engraved in their skin.

You'll have to sign in, but just use the username and password of anonymous. This is gold.

Roy and the Towncar and my 85 bucks

So you may have (but probably not) been wondering where the hell I was over the past few days that I neglected to update you on your French lesson. The short (and only) answer is that I was in Irvine, California to visit UC Irvine's Urban Planning Department. It was a good trip. I have no idea why someone would ever even think about moving back to cold, depressing, cranky Boston after being out there. Regardless, I have a funny, if not short, story.

My flight first routed me to Houston, where I hung out in the George Bush airport. Yes, they actually named an airport after Bungling Daddy Bush. Thank God it wasn't GW, at any rate. I particularly enjoyed the statue of George senior with a windswept suit and tie, with his coat thrown over his shoulder. What a pose! How heroic! Moronic. Texans truly are weird.

After Houston, I took a flight to LAX, upon which I was informed by native Los Angeleans that the only way to get from LAX to Irvine at 11:30 at night was a cab and for sure I would pay out the bum. Not a pleasant thought.

Upon my arrival, I realized that my hastily-formed plan of going to an information desk would be an exercise in futility, simply because it was indeed 11:30PM and nothing is open, even at the airport, at that time. So I milled around the baggage area trying to figure out what to do, and most importantly trying to figure out how the hell I'd get my hotel's phone number.

But then the big man approached.

He was huge, shaved bald, scary, and in a pimpin suit. He looked at me and nodded. The three things he said to me were:

"My name's Roy. I got a towncar. Where you goin?"

I, of course, was speechless. I didn't want to pay some random guy with a towncar to drive me to Irvine, an hour away. But what the hell, it was 11:30 and I wanted to get to the stupid hotel. I told him Irvine, he told me 85 bucks.

Ah what the hell.

So big Roy grabs my bags, we walk like 14 miles to the parking lot, to his towncar, and got our asses moving.

Now, I know you're thinking "85 bucks?! Ripoff!" Now you try making a rational decision after a day of flight, 3 time zones, no food, and it's 70 degrees and you're wearing a Boston-geared jacket and hat. Right.

It got me to thinking. This is a legitimate business here. Not really legit as in legally sanctioned or following any sort of structure, but legit in that it makes money. Wait around at the pickup area of an airport, and there are surely hundreds of people a day looking for a way to get somewhere. Get them before they get to a cab, woo them with your towncar, and you are set. Most of them are in a state of semi-consciousness like I was (I swear it's the air they use in those planes), so you won't get much of a fight. It's like shooting fish in a barrel!

Though this is an idea that has occurred to many others, I file it away with my other business ideas like the clear front refrigerator (with LCD darkening), the tapeworm, and other less-than-legally-responsible ideas. Someday, when the world has drifted into anarchy, I will implement them. Mwa ha ha.

...

It makes noise? OH NO!

As a hopeful entrant into the ever-expanding field of transportation planning, I've been watching the developments of Maglev trains for a while with a great deal of interest. It's a technology that has been around for years but it has been too expensive for economically-feasible projects. But I guess technology improvements and transportation needs have finally intersected so projects are starting to gain momentum. There are projects even in the U.S., if you can imagine that, where the automobile is king.

But this article gives me pause. This country is full to the brim with NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) citizens. No one wants to be disturbed by anything that may be absolutely crucial. To get away from our disgusting oil dependence, mass transit is a very viable option, especially for growing cities like Pittsburgh. The fact that the mere sound of something could stop a project dead in its tracks (haha nice pun) is something I find mildly disturbing. Of course it is a viable concern of peope who may be near maglev tracks, but people would rather live with 10 lane highways? There are some times when I want to say "screw the people whining, because they'll whine no matter what you do."

And it's true. Americans, apparently, were born to whine. Hopefully in the future the sound of a maglev will drown out their pathetic mewling.

April 8, 2004
French Pt. 2

Okay okay, settle down. I'm sure all 5 of you, my loyal readers (up from the 2 I used to have!), are just waiting with baited (bated?) breath to find out what the French on that clothing tag reads.

So here goes (remember, this is supposedly a real tag):

"We are sorry that our president is an idiot. We didn't vote for him."

HAHA hoooooo anyway, I think it's funny.

Sad that your foreign relations are so bad that people are making apologies for your terrible administration on clothing tags ...

April 6, 2004
Oh My God ... Three Cheers for French!

I found this wonderful little piece over at BoingBoing. Can you read French? Check out the end of this Seattle-printed clothing tag.

If you can't read it, I'll tell you tomorrow ;) Nothing like anticipation.

I wonder if this thing is real? It seems like something some smartass would create in Photoshop ...

Tag

Suckers!

Wired News: The Bigger They Are ...


Hahahahaha thank God I don't shop at Sprawl-Mart! Serves you right for shopping at the demon-spawn!

HOLY CRAP

Beer Can Chicken Roaster

While perusing a particularly interesting piece about wooden speaker cones (fascinating, really), a post from a Slashdotter pointed me to the beer can chicken roaster. Holy hell this world is a weird place.

I mean, who in God's name would have thought to stick a beer can up a chicken's ass (or is it the vacated neck?) to roast it? As much as the visual disturbs me to no end, it does seem like a mildly good idea. Flavor that bird from the inside out!

Oh, I just looked at the picture again, and there is no doubt about it. That can is definitely up the chicken's ass.

April 5, 2004
Okaaaaaaay then...

Well there seemed to be some technical difficulties when I posted the Ireland pics so it posted twice, but hey, it's all good. Thank God for MovableType and the ability to delete posts...

In other news, I'm getting comment-spam on my site! I've made it to the bigtime now, folks. Now you can read about viagra and penis enlargement and all that bullshit not only in your chock-full email account but also in the comments on this site, if you're unlucky enough to read something and find the comment before I find it and delete it.

Joy!

Freakin' FINALLY

My apologies for the delay on the Ireland pictures. I have been struggling for days with various web gallery programs, none of which do what I want them to: make a decent gallery. But here they are, finally, the Ireland pics. Please ignore the awful filenames you see in there, Adobe Photoshop has some interesting tools but for instance while you may be able to rename a whole assload of files, you can't undo it once you've renamed them. Oh and don't even get me started on how disgusted I am by the sorting algorithms available when you make a gallery. I blame those fugly filenames on the awful sort. *sigh*

Anyway, some of the pictures are out of order but I spent a lot of time and did a lot of extra coding to put most of them in the right place and make things look decent. And check it out, with just a little css border fun, I made it look like a real photo gallery with frames and everything! Whoop-de-frickin'-do! Hover your mouse over the thumbnail to get alt text which explains what the picture is. Please enjoy.

Ireland

April 4, 2004
Dun dun dunnnnnn

By the time you've read this you'll probably have missed it, but the date today is 04.04.04 (or 04/04/04 or 04-04-04 or 4-4-04 or ... eh, you get the point).

Spooky huh?

It won't happen again for another ... uh ... year, when we will have 05.05.05 (or 05/05/05 or 05-05-05 ... gah who cares anyway)

In celebration of this momentous occasion, I'm sitting on my ass ... with a cold.

w00t.

April 2, 2004
Hi Ho Neighbors

Well we made it back from Ireland in once piece, though I managed to lose a few of my Irish-gained pounds on the plane due to some sort of heinous illness. Let me tell you, being sick on the plane is one of the worst things in the world.

Still working on getting the pictures in order to post, but soon enough they'll be up. If only I could find a quick n' easy method (that doesn't suck) for creating large photo galleries.

For now, I leave you with this:

Big Brother Strikes ... Again

March 26, 2004
A Geeky Little Present Before Ireland

I'm taking off for Ireland with Zoua this evening at 8PM. It's exciting but I always get that feeling like I've missed packing something dreadfully important. Too late now, at any rate! I'll be sure to post tons of pictures when I return. Maybe I'll even manage to update halfway through the trip or something, but it may be nice to be away from the internet for a while. Clear my brain of all that digital nonsense.

In the meantime and if you're not "in the know," go check out the Geeks section for the lowdown on how to get crackin' with RSS.

March 25, 2004
Friggin ...

Boston firefighters group not allowed to serenade president

Thank God.

The last thing this president needs is more "honor." The only thing he's done for the country is make us look like an international dunce of a country.

My favorite line is this: "The president's visit canceled classes for 1,425 children at the Boston Renaissance Charter School, a K-8 institution on Stuart Street, a block away from the Plaza, because of possible transportation problems."

So essentially what I read into this is that George W. Bush is such a complete asshole and makes obvious his complete disregard for "leave no child behind" by causing school closings! Huzzah!

I suppose this might happen with any president, but I especially loathe the monkey (big ears, limited vocabulary, and all) who manages to disgrace this fine country every day.

Way to waste our tax dollars, dubya!

Update: (3:45PM) Snipers on the roof of the building ... Don't make any sudden or suspicious moves downtown today ... I imagine falling under the category of "suspicious" isn't hard, including not being white, wearing a turban, carrying long objects (brooms, pool cues, hockey sticks), or saying "Iraq was a bad idea."

It's Getting Cold in Boston ...

Oh boy oh boy, King George the W is coming to town! And his entourage is sitting its fat oil-bloated ass down right outside my building. Just grand! So now if I want to go to lunch I'll probably have to go through about eight security checkpoints!

It'll take all I have not to go outside and scream obscenities at that piece of shit. Maybe I should play a little BoomBoom Volleyball to calm my nerves ...

March 24, 2004
Note to self...

Never ever sell my used hard drives.

Link via BoingBoing.

March 23, 2004
HAHAHA!

Ryan sent me this comedic goldmine. Imagine what the little kiddies at your local club/rave/place-where-lame-glowstick-people-hang-out would say when you show up with these pearly whites/oranges/blues in your chompers! Oh the beauty of the internet I tell you!

March 22, 2004
*drool*

All I want for Christmas is one of these.

I've been yammering for one of these for a long time, saying iPod is overpriced and overrated. Until I could play my favorite movies/music/whatever on the subway or in the plane, there was no way I'd be updating from my old NetMD. And here it is!

This is serious drool-worthy geekware. And for once it's not from Apple! We'll have to see if it stacks up though.

Republicans, as usual, play dirty

Well well well, what do we have here? Ah yes! Whenever they get threatened, Republicans start to play dirty! Oh wait, they always play dirty! This article really makes me laugh, as the GOP is supported by nothing but special interests. Suddenly when Democrats have special monied interests on their side, they start whining and crying as if they have no money to spend. Meanwhile, Bush has $170+ million in his so-called "war chest" for the election.

Happily, though, his monied investments from oil companies may not help! It's true, he's fucked up so much that even previous Bush advisors are calling him out on his blatant lies to the American public. And it's about frickin' time.

Fun with The Bible

I was out in Western MA all weekend soaking up plenty of country livin' and family loudness when I made the foray down to Connecticut. I took some pictures to demonstrate the second day of spring as interpreted by the Pagan Gods of Weather in Western MA, but of course I made the mistake of not forwarding them to myself at work. And no, they're not accessible to me on my FTP. Way to go foresight!

Regardless, here's a funny-bone tickling piece in the Bosteon Phoenix. Link provided by the ever-relevant BoingBoing Blog. Check it out! With tongue planted firmly in cheek, it pokes fun at using The Bible as reference for determining law. Funny stuff.

March 19, 2004
All Sorts of Goodies

The first thing today I have to offer is my new (poorly drawn) "Favicon." It's the icon you see up in the addressbar and also when you bookmark my site. If you don't see it, then you may have to delete your browser cache (known in Internet Explorer as the "temporary internet files"), refresh the page, or sacrifice a virgin to the gods of the internet. It really all depends on how fiesty your computer is feeling today.

Also a rant today which I aptly title "Joke of the Year." It covers the sad state of affairs we are privileged enough to live through.

March 18, 2004
A Rant and a Rave

So last night I went with Zoua to the Amon Tobin show. We spent way too much money on watery drinks and bad food, but I think the show was worth it. So go check out the Stuffs section for the mini-review.

Also check out the Rants section for the latest and greatest news about Courtney Love's crashing and burning life!

March 16, 2004
Kerrie's Aerie

Kerrie has a new page up, hosted at shock-e.com! Pretty cool, huh? She doesn't have much up there yet, but go one over and see her design and check back once in a while, and pester her to update!

Kerrie's Aerie

PS Aerie means something about a bird roost or something like that ... ? Not quite sure, you may want to ask her about it.

Not like I'll be a huge referrer to her site or anything ... haw haw.

March 15, 2004
Hippie Endorsement

Did I ever tell you I get carried away about music sometimes? Well head on over to the endorsements section (aka Stuffs) and read on. And don't blame me if your musical taste sucks and you don't like it!

March 10, 2004
Changes

You'll notice that things look a little different. I've (relatively) successfully made the move to the Movable Type blogging system. It's quite nice. Things will probably be a bit hectic around here but bear with me and they'll be straightened out in a day or so. Until then...hang out! Not like there's anything new yet to read anyway...!

Waiting...

It seems endless, this starving suffocating silence that fills my belly. I can't stand it any more, I have waited for the pizza long enough. And this is what I do on a Sunday evening ... wait for pizza to be delivered and blog. To my 3-member audience (recently doubled). I've made an update to the media section in that I've changed the media to ogg vorbis format (for several reasons). It takes up much less disk space, and it sounds just as good as mp3! So check out the media and check out the ogg vorbis site. God where is that pizza!!!!

March 5, 2004
Spring ... it's pronounced "win-turr" dummy!

Boston is an amusing place. I imagine places like Minnesota and North Dakota experience the same sort of phenomenon that we experience here. The first days when it's warmer than 30 degrees, people are busting loose like it's the fourth of July. Women shed about four layers and expose bare (gasp ... I haven't seen those in months!) legs, men rock the t-shirts. I, unfortunately, tend to be one of those people (no, I do not expose bare legs. Even if I did, they're so damn hairy you can't really call them "bare" per se). This week was unseasonably warm. Tuesday it was (supposedly) 70 degrees. Having seen the weather report that morning, I thought that wonderful 70 was actually 54. So the next day when I saw the weather report predicting 57 degrees, I thought to myself "Hot damn, it's a t-shirt day!"

Regrettably, it was not a t-shirt day.

Though it may have been 57 degrees after all, I have never felt colder as I walked t-shirted and jacketless with Kristin to the grocery store. Curse you John Hancock building and your wind-tunnel effect!

In other news, you can see the site has changed for the advent of "spring." I'll be removing the FizBox comments engine soon as no one really uses it and it is unreliable and stupid. I also want to work on an RSS feed so people don't have to visit my site manually and they can just use their aggregator. That'll probably be part of when I move over to Moveable Type (a blogging tool).

Got a few rants in the works, but nothing yet. Stay tuned!

March 3, 2004
Spring?

I realize that it's definitely premature in this Massachusetts end-of-winter time, but I can't help and try to be optimistic. Note the springly colors. Ooooh. Aaah. It's this warm weather! I'll update more in a while, but I hope you enjoy the fresher look. Disclaimer: I'm still moving everything over from the old server, so you might notice a few things amiss or off. Please email me if you see anything!