Saturday, July 28, 2007

Friday, July 27, 2007

This is... good....



No comment...

Arts and Sciences

Back in my grad school days I used to work part-time as a bartender. One of my co-workers at this job, and a fellow grad student, was a young woman who was doing a PhD in Biology. I was doing a lowly MA in Classics, and I was 10 years older than her ( I didn't enter uni until I was in my 30s). Sometimes we would drink, and talk, and argue. We often argued about the "utility" of study in the "humanities." She was a real "scientist" so I usually forgave her generally unforgiving views of the humanities.

One night we were at a party. My friend didn't drink much, because she always had lab work, reports, and a bunch of other stuff to do every day. At this particular party I got completely blotto, and found myself hugging the toilet, if you know what I mean. Anyway, my friend finds me and figures this is a good time to "get one in".

"Jesus, Rick, look at yourself. You humanities students are something else. Do you guys ever, like, study or anything?"

I've got puke on my chin. I'm drunk, I'm sick, I'm wasted. I look at her and say, "For Christ's sake, what the fuck do you think I'm doing now?"

A Real Pain in the Neck (and Shoulder and Upper Arm and Elbow...)

It hurts to use my computer. It hurts to sit down in front of my computer. It hurts thinking about using my computer...

I've been out of action all week because of the pinched nerve I mentioned in my last post. Two doctors, more ineffective painkillers, and a few days of "rehabilitation" later, I'm actually in worse shape (subjectively, at least) than I was a week ago. I'm only posting something now because, well, the pain has become my companion, if you know what I mean. That, and it's my birthday today, so pain be damned.

My wife has said she'll permit me to drink beer tonight if I don't take any painkillers. Sounds good to me! Hopefully I'll be back in a few hours to catch up on what you guys have been up to and maybe post some nonsense or other...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Whine and Cheese...

I've had a nagging pain in my shoulder for a few weeks. A couple of days ago the pain began radiating down my arm, so I went to the hospital. Turns out that one of the vertebrae in my neck is somehow not quite where it's supposed to be and is pinching against a major nerve coming out of my spine. It's not as serious as it might sound, but it hurts like fuck and has been hurting like fuck for about a month. I'll likely have to be decapitated or something.

The Japanese medical establishment doesn't seem to have a clear conception of what a "painkiller" is supposed to do. I certainly have never taken any here that were good for anything worse than a headache or toothache. Thankfully I can supplement the crappy pills my doctor prescribed with a few beers and some aspirin...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Random Zoo Photos, Pt. 2

A few more pics from the zoo (click to enlarge):

Damned if I know what kind of bird this is...


Birds of a feather...


Not speaking...


I like the colors in this one.

Random Zoo Photos, Pt. 1

The day after last weekend's typhoon my wife and I took our daughter to the zoo. Here are a few random pics (click to enlarge):

This kangaroo cracks me up. Something about its posture...


Just friends...


Rosemary's baby?


I live in a condo, so I can't put any flamingos on my lawn. I can put them on my blog, though...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Taking It on the Chin(chin)...

Sigh... just when I start to think that things are going smoothly and I'm beginning to "fit in" around here, I go and put my foot into it yet again. Last night after I returned home from work my wife pulled me away from talking to our daughter to inform me, somewhat sternly, that I have, yet again, caused an uproar at our daughter's kindergarten. Before I explain, perhaps some brief background is in order for those unfamiliar with daily life in Japan...

Readers might be familiar with the fact that the Japanese are not as hung-up on the body and bodily functions as North Americans (and perhaps English-speaking people generally) often appear to be. I think one reason for this (maybe the main reason?) is that, from the time they are born through to the end of elementary school, boys and girls in Japan share the same changing rooms and, in kindergarten at least, the same washrooms. (I know that elementary school kids change their clothes together, but I'm not sure if they use the same washrooms.) These kids typically are not "ashamed" of their bodies and the things their bodies do because they've seen it all and have learned at an early age that there's nothing to be ashamed of.

Related to the above, it's also customary in Japan for immediate family members to share a bath, and there's nothing unusual about a mother being in the bath with her young son, or a father with his young daughter. In fact, in our household it's generally my "job" to give my daughter her evening bath, so we share the tub together. (Yes, my 4-year-old daughter has seen me "naked". Hundreds of times. If anyone is shocked by this then I respectfully suggest that that's their problem.)

Anyway, it should be clear from what I've already written that my daughter knows the difference between a boy and a girl (well, she knows the physical difference). And, like most Japanese kids, she also has a pretty rich vocabulary for describing those differences. She knows, for example, what "chinchin" (ちんちん) means. In Japanese "chinchin" means "penis". A few nights ago, while we were in the bath, she asked me how to say "chinchin" in English. I was reluctant at first to tell her, but then, in a chain of perfectly logical but fatally flawed reasoning, decided that since she already knew what a "penis" was and knew how to say it in Japanese, there could be no harm in telling her how to say it in English. "Penis," I said. "Penis," she repeated and, apparently satisfied, she nodded her head and seemed to forget about it...

Back to last night, my wife, looking somewhat exasperated, pulled me aside and asked me if I had taught our daughter how to say "chinchin" in English. Suddenly I felt all cold and sweaty. In the realm of possible questions a man might be asked by his wife, this was one question I had never considered, one combination of words that had never occurred to me. Without yet knowing how or why, I knew with dread certainty that I was guilty, trapped, doomed. I made blubbering noises as my mind frantically tried to figure out what had happened, what had gone wrong. Finally, feebly (having drawn a blank), I said that yes, I had told our daughter the English word for "chinchin"...

According to my wife, who heard it from my daughter's kindergarten teacher, yesterday while my daughter and the other kids were changing into their swimsuits, my daughter pointed at one of the boys' "chinchin" and said "Penis! In English "chinchin" is penis!" This new word spread like wildfire among the children, and apparently the boys (being, after all, boys) were especially taken with this new word. "Chinchin is penis!" "Hey! I have a penis!" "This is a penis!" "I pee with my penis!" What a scene it must have been! As my wife was telling the tale I was trying to keep a straight face (and I was certain that I caught a fleeting, quickly-stifled smile on her face too). My wife finished with an admonishment to be more careful about the words I teach our daughter.

"But really, dear, what's the big deal? What's the harm?"

"What's the big deal!?"

"Yeah, the whole thing sounds kinda cute and funny to me."

"Oh really? Tell me, do you have classes next Wednesday?"

"What? No, you know classes finish this week. Why?"

"Next Wednesday is parents day. It's in the morning, so it's mostly just the kids' mothers because the fathers are at work."

"Umm... yeah?"

"I have to work next Wednesday. You don't. You're going. Have fun..."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright



In the forests of the night,


What immortal hand or eye


Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


[William Blake, "The Tiger"]

Take Me to the River...

In the previous post I said I had some pictures of the Oyodo River, which is rather swollen thanks to typhoon Man-yi (feel free to insert your own dirty jokes here...).
Anyway, with no commentary from me, here they are:













Saturday, July 14, 2007

Take Me to the Bridge...

So, typhoon Man-yi has come and gone (to Tokyo, I hear). Miyazaki allegedly bore a direct hit, but from where I was sitting in my condo it seemed to subside just as it was getting going. It's still quite windy as I write this, but this sucker is long gone (from Miyazaki).

Anyway, I took a drive over to the Oyodo River before dark to see how high it was after all the rain we've gotten. It's quite swollen, but I've seen it in worse shape (I'll post some pics in an upcoming post).

The pics below are all of the same bridge over the Oyodo River (there are several, but this one had the best "background"). Sorry if it seems like I'm beating a subject to death, but the greys in these shots simply blew me away (click to enlarge).









Waves

[Typhoon updates are here.]

I took a drive to the ocean after work yesterday to see what (if any) effect Typhoon Man-yi was having on the ocean hereabouts. The water was a little choppy, but I imagine it's a lot worse this morning.

I'm (sadly) discovering that taking pictures in crappy weather is very difficult. Sure, the lighting is bad and what not, but the biggest obstacle is the fear of getting my camera wet! Anyway, here are a few (kinda crappy) photos of the ocean that I took yesterday. (Click to enlarge.)









Thursday, July 12, 2007

An Ordinary Bummer: Typhoon Man-yi

The good news: A long weekend is approaching!

The bad news: So is a big fucking typhoon...

Details in the pics below (click to enlarge). It's really too soon to say, but it doesn't appear that typhoon Man-yi will directly hit Miyazaki (updates below). We will, however, likely get some very nasty weather, especially on Saturday.

The forecast.


A look at what's coming.


Updates to follow and, although I'm a bit paranoid about getting my cameras wet, I'll try to post some pics (if I can get some good ones).

[Images updated 7/14 2:40 pm JST; it appears that Miyazaki is going to get the worst of it around 6 pm; it's beginning to look like a direct hit again...]

[Images updated 7/14 10:45 am JST. Man-yi is one slow motherfucker! It's been pulling into Miyazaki for the last couple of hours, but hasn't really arrived yet. I'm not sure when we can expect the strongest effects, but the whole city is basically closed down today. I hope I don't run out of beer, it's at least 300 meters to the nearest vending machine! Also, I've taken (and will take) some video, but my dvd/rw is on the fritz, so I can't upload anything right now. My daughter is beginning to climb the walls...]

[Images updated 7/13 11:00 pm JST; hmm... the Japan Meteorological Agency seems to think Man-yi will veer a bit north. If so, things might not get too nasty here in Miyazaki. It's still a few hours from Kyushu, so we'll have to wait and see...]

[Images updated 7/13 4:50 pm JST; according to this Bloomberg article NHK is reporting that areas of Miyazaki are already flooded with reports of power outages and cars being blown over (although I suspect the latter was from Okinawa, not Miyazaki). The typhoon proper is still several hours away...]

[7/13 12:00 pm JST: The news out of Okinawa, which is currently being battered by Man-yi. The wind and rain are starting to pick up here in Miyazaki...]

[Images updated 7/13 11:40 am JST; things are definitely looking grimmer; possibly a direct hit. Find Miyazaki in the map below and compare it to the forecast above.]



[Images updated 7/13 6:30 am JST; hmm... looks like things have taken a turn for the worse. It seems to have picked up strength, and it's definitely passing a lot closer to Miyazaki than was forecast yesterday.]

[Images updated 5:05 pm JST]

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Coloring Outside the Lines

I ask you, gentle readers, when a guy posts a picture of some coloring he did with his little girl on a rainy day, is it a) an act of pure, fatherly love, something joyous that he wants to share with the whole world; b) an act of sheer desperation, a sure sign the idiot has nothing to say so he's cynically hoping the sappiness of it all will fool his readers; or c) both of the above?



By the way, can you guess which one I did?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Wish You Were Here

The last couple of years my family lived in Winnipeg we lived on the air force base there because there were no available PMQ's available on the army base (we'd lived off-base until, I guess, it became too expensive). The elementary school I attended was just on the other side of the school's sports field. Being an army kid on an air force base wasn't always easy.

-----

I remember drinking with my old man and some of his old army buddies one night. I guess I must've been about 20 or 25. My dad went for a leak or something and one of his buddies leaned over the table at me and, getting all sincere, said, "You know, your old man could have gone a lot further in the army. He had too many friends, though..."

-----

One day my father was mowing the lawn. He was using an electric lawnmower. I think they were pretty common back in the 60's. Maybe they still are, I don't know. It was summertime, but I was in the basement shooting pucks at a concrete wall. I don't remember where my mom and sisters were. So, my dad's mowing the lawn. I can hear the electric hum of the mower as it cuts the grass. It stops, and just a moment later I hear my old man say, "Shit!" Not loudly, mind you...

-----

My dad loved to party. So do I. It was once a family tradition to have a party on Boxing Day, with family and friends and neighbors. I remember one year it was getting quite late and there were only a few people left at the party. My father was asleep (well, passed out) on the sofa. This guy, a neighbor who'd been sitting there the whole night drinking my old man's booze, turns to me and says, "You know, don't you, that your old man is an asshole?" This startled me a bit, so I asked him to repeat himself. He did. We were sitting near the fireplace, so my initial impulse was to club him with the poker, stuff him in, and burn him. Fortunately (for both of us), my father had taught me better. Instead, I just stood up and told him he had 30 seconds to finish his drink and get the fuck out and never come back. This loser actually had the nerve to appeal to my mother, who didn't even waste time getting details. "If my son says, get out, well then, get out." Yeah...

-----

So I go upstairs and outside to see what my dad is swearing about. Yikes. He's standing there with the index finger of one his hands kinda hanging there and bleeding. A lot. (I found out later that he'd turned off the mower to clean the blades. Apparently the blades of electric mowers can take a few seconds to stop after being turned off...) He pulls out a white handkerchief from his pocket, and as he's wrapping his hand he calmly asks me to to into the kitchen and get the car keys. A few seconds later I bring out the keys and he says, "Let's go for a drive." We go to the hospital and he gets his finger stitched back on. He never flinched. Not for a moment. I'll never forget it.

-----

My father died about 7 months before I came to Japan. He died too young (64). He never met my wife, or our daughter, or his recently born great-granddaughter (to my niece). His birthday would have been the 4th of July. My father was my biggest "fan." I remember, crying to my my mother as my father was dying, saying that I was nothing without him. Wish you were here...

Friday, July 06, 2007

Shazai ("Apology")

Choose an appropriate apology, proportional to the degree of guilt. Append "sumimasen" ["excuse me/I'm sorry"].

An interesting and informative video on shazai ("apology") in Japan. The "perpetual ojigi" is a personal favorite, but the "predominantly used by ninja" bow on one knee is also pretty cool ("be wary of approaching enemies!").



Now you too can grovel with the best!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Tagged Out...

I've been tagged by my buddy John at konichwa, bitches. I'm supposed to give eight random facts about myself and then tag eight other people. Unfortunately, I don't think I have eight friends who haven't already been tagged by some meme or another recently, so I don't think I can play along fully on this one.

I can, however, list eight random things about myself:

  1. Brush with fame: Michael Chiklis (The Shield, Fantastic 4, etc.) said hello to me at Narita Airport in Tokyo about two years ago.

  2. I can play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on every musical instrument known to humankind.

  3. I was in grade 4 when I played my first game of organized hockey in a league in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I scored four goals and two assists. A "scout" from an "elite" team happened to see my game and invited me to play that evening with his team. My initial excitement was dampened by having to don the jersey of the hated Montreal Canadiens (I was born a Boston Bruins fan). This indignity had an adverse effect on my play, and to this day I blame the "curse of the Canadiens" for my ultimate failure to fulfill my destiny as a star player in the National Hockey League. Instead, I turned to a life of crime and debauchery which, of course, had only one logical end: teaching English at a university here in Japan. I'll see you in hell, Habs.

  4. I lived in Germany for three years when I was a kid, and even attended kindergarten there. Apparently I used to make my mother sick with my habit of crossing the autobahn in order to get to the Canadian military base where my father worked. I did this because when I (4-years-old) arrived at the gate the guards would call my dad and he'd give me a ride back home... in a jeep! One day I got lost and wandered onto the American base by mistake. Paydirt! They drove me (in a jeep!) to the Canadian base, and from there my dad drove me home (in a jeep!).

  5. When I was 17 I hitch-hiked from Truro, Nova Scotia to Medicine Hat, Alberta. I ran out of money in Medicine Hat, so I hung out there for a week. I hitch-hiked back to Truro when the drugs wore off and I started to get hungry.

  6. I once dated a stripper (for about 6 weeks).

  7. My only A+ grade in university came from a course in "existentialism". Talk about self-discovery...

  8. My mother is fond of telling the following story about me: When I was about 5 she sent me to the corner store to buy a loaf of bread. I honestly don't remember this, but apparently when I found out that the store was sold out of bread I walked outside and threw the money away. I'd like to think that this story is true...

That's probably more than anyone needed (or wanted) to know about me...

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Blah Blah Blah

Here's a fun game I play with my EFL students. It's called "blah blah blah" and the rules are really simple. First, pick a famous person. Any famous person will do, but don't tell anyone who you've picked! The trick is to get others to guess who your famous person is without actually speaking any English! Well, maybe a few words. All you have to do is say "blah blah blah" over and over while inserting occasional "key words" that serve as clues for other participants to guess who your famous person is. Sound confusing? Naahhh. Look at the following example:
Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah freedom. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah justice blah blah blah blah blah justice. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah justice blah blah blah blah justice blah justice blah blah justice blah blah freedom. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah evil-doers blah blah blah blah justice blah blah blah freedom freedom freedom justice justice justice. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah leadership blah blah blah God blah blah blah blah blah blah leadership. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah enemies of freedom blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah freedom. Blah blah blah blah blah terror blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah terrorists blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah terrorists blah blah blah blah Islam blah blah blah Muslim blah blah blah blah blah blah kill Christians and Jews blah blah kill all Americans blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah Islamic blah blah blah blah blah blah extremism blah blah blah Muslim blah blah blah blah. Blah blah freedom blah blah blah blah blah blah hate freedom blah blah blah blah justice blah blah blah freedom blah blah God blah blah blah. Freedom blah blah blah justice blah blah blah freedom blah blah blah justice blah blah blah freedom blah blah blah evil blah blah blah blah freedom blah blah blah blah blah justice.

Wasn't that fun? Did you guess who it was? Well, my students here in Japan typically guess my "famous person" after two or three lines, and they don't know any English. How did you do?