Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Bloody spoiled, I'd say.
I've been averaging about 5 to 5.5 hours of sleep per night. My co-workers say they envy me. Apparently the average Japanese male professional only gets around 4 hours of shuteye every night. That would explain a few things, and not just all those idling cars you see parked on the side of the road or in the back corners of parking lots with suited businessmen sound asleep inside of them.
Most Americans claim that they don't get enough sleep because they have trouble falling asleep. Most Japanese, on the other hand, claim that they don't get enough sleep because of long commutes to and from work, overtime just for the sheer sake of it, and all those "obligatory" drinking parties. That trend appears to be changing, though. Younger Japanese men are becoming much lazier and self-centered...to the point that younger Japanese women are starting to complain about it!
As for me, I don't get much sleep because I spend so much time writing things like this.
People: Lack of sleep is bad for your health. It reduces your vitality. It impairs your ability to think, recall, and concentrate. It impairs your ability to think, recall, and concentrate. It has a negative impact on your sexual drive and performance. It makes you go blind. It makes you grow hair on your palms. It makes you break out in a cold sweat during commercial breaks. It makes you more susceptible to religious conversion. It makes you eat more saturated fats. It makes you run naked through the fields, eat grass, and howl at the moon. Well, okay, it really doesn't do all those things, but it is bad for your health. It also impairs your ability to think, recall, and concentrate.
How much sleep are you getting?
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
I just realized that these are contests and that it might be nice to have winners. The award for the previous caption contest with the little handheld critter is DewKid with "Here you go Zxxxy'mGForb77, your new contact lens.... Hmmm, it seems we ordered the wrong size..."
The antiseptic shampoo caption contest winner was TheHim with "Strong enough for a goat, but sensitive enough for the herder."
Since I am lazy, I pronounce myself the winner of all previous caption contests.
Monday, March 28, 2005
INDIAN COUNTRY MOURNS RED LAKE TRAGEDY
NATIONAL INDIAN GAMING ASSOCIATION BEGINS RELIEF FUND
Washington, D.C. (March 22, 2005) - The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) today announced its contribution to the Red Lake Nation Memorial Fund to assist the victims and the families of yesterday's shooting at Red Lake High School in northern Minnesota. NIGA is contributing $25,000 to the fund and is encouraging tribes across the country to make donations to the relief effort.
"We are saddened by this tragedy, the pain and loss of which has been felt throughout Indian Country," said NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr. "At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families and we hope to provide assistance where it is needed for our brothers and sisters on the Red Lake Indian Reservation."
Donations may be sent to:
Red Lake Nation Memorial Fund
P.O. Box 574
Red Lake, Minnesota 56671
Saturday, March 26, 2005
I added two new friends:
Knicks Rule run by occasional poster Catfish Johnny Redbeard.
Life in the Land of the Rising Sun run by The Moody Minstrel
I added a new entry in Best of Capitalism:
Pacific City - What to Do
Moody's Life in the Land of the Rising Sun really brightened up Snabulus and the presence of those vignettes on life in Japan will be missed. I guess Ladybug will need to crank up the cool stuff she always does.
Be sure to check out the new goodies!
Friday, March 25, 2005
The first couple of posts look interesting. Go and have fun!
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Apparently the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth has dropped since the 1950s. This is believed to be the result of aerosols and particulate matter in the atmosphere causing beads of moisture to concentrate, increasing the atmosphere's reflectivity. Ironically, this has apparently slowed the rate of global warming.
Actually, I've known about global dimming for a long time, but I've always believed the strongest evidence has been modern pop culture...
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
I also added Pa`ve's Peculiar Pabulum as a friend link and it turns out I was invited to contribute. When I have time, I will throw out some Douglas Adams tinged discourse in that direction. For now, work is only getting busier, so I hope Moody is keeping his virtual pencil sharp to keep Snabulus alive for a while longer. Vacations anyone? Pick me!
This Yahoo story outlines the details...
Art and fatherhood became intertwined when John R. Phelps volunteered to paint a portrait that would be included in a tribute to soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. His subject was his son.
Phelps' painting of Marine Pfc. Clarence Phelps is among 1,327 images of soldiers in an exhibit titled "Faces of the Fallen." It opens to the public Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery.
"It's a stunning array of pictures," Phelps said after his first view of it. "They were all brave Americans."
Check out the title link for the exhibit web site.
Update: I guess it was too early to allow comments on something relating to Iraq. Our readership is such that this is not a political site. If anyone wants to start a political blog, I am certainly happy to link to it. I wish Anonymous well now that I better understand a small part of his/her point of view.
Monday, March 21, 2005
The hero of this tale is definitely a unique individual...apparently in a good sort of way. I can dig it, man.
You know, every school I went to in Oregon had an obnoxious buzzer that they referred to as a "bell". On the other hand, every school I've experienced in Japan uses chimes (usually the Bells of Westminster, though my school actually has two other tunes that are used when we're on a special schedule).
What's a sound or song you would have liked to hear "ringing in" lunch break or the end of the day?
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Japan is definitely not a good country in which to have pollen allergies. Hay fever is so widespread here that the daily weather forecasts this time of year include pollen level information. Meanwhile, the drugstores have their equivalent of the Christmas buying season as they dump off tons of antihistamines, eyedrops, and nasal sprays. The worst culprit is the famous Japanese cedar trees, which herald the coming of spring by kicking off a huge barrage of pollen, sometimes in giant, yellow clouds that leave most of the population sneezing and clawing their eyes out.
Or, in this case, bringing out the fire department...
(I was actually immune when I first came here, but noooo...ooo...oo...oooo-aaaaCHOO!!!!!)
Saturday, March 12, 2005
Well, the intrepid Mr. Y decided that we should select a few of the best among our 9th graders' work study presentations and have them be included in the event, as well. None of my three han were selected (though one of them was really close). However, I still somehow wound up in charge of a group of four girls from my home room that did their work study at Hakujuji Hospital. I stayed with them for hours, giving advice here and there and answering questions but leaving the bulk of the work to them. They came up with a really good PowerPoint slide show to accompany their oral presentation, which was well organized, informative, and even entertaining. I drew on my experience as a former member of a school speech team and coached them on their oral comp abilities, something that Japanese schools simply don't teach. In the end, they pulled off a very good performance, and they got a lot of compliments.
Not only did they not get any kind of formal recognition for their efforts, but the principal completely ignored all the 9th grade presentations when he gave his address at the end of the event. Afterward, when Mr. Y asked him for some kind of comment, all he would say was, "You 9th graders need to work harder at being like the other students here. Your grade still has too many problems."
Needless to say, the kids were pretty disappointed.
At the faculty meeting we had a couple of days later, Mr. Y was positively rabid, but his impassioned request for an apology fell on deaf ears. On the contrary; one of the teachers of a different grade stood up and said, "I think it's pretty obvious those presentations were really made by the teachers. Everyone knows this year's 9th graders don't have that kind of ability."
I was about ready to brain the guy. I personally sat and watched my girls put their presentation together. All I provided was some technical advice and coaching on their oral delivery. It was their project, they worked hard on it, and they were justifiably proud of it. Too bad they aren't getting any encouragement from most of the faculty. They know it, and it clearly hurts them.
Yes, this year's Grade 9 class does have a poor reputation that will continue to dog it as it proceeds into senior high school next month. Still, it's a shame how preconceived notions can fog the wits of even those who've enjoyed the luxury of a very high education. I've been called a "hopelessly amateur educator" more than once by certain members of the faculty. At times like this, I feel proud of that.
Well this day has certainly been long in coming. Months have been spent in almost excessive preparation. Many letters have been sent out, schedules drawn up and revised countless times, suggestions listened to or ignored, complaints endured. All along, there have also been meetings, meetings, meetings to the point where I can't get anything done. Days ago, I was already almost at the point where I’d start looking for a handy blunt object if anyone so much as mentioned The Project.
What is The Project? Thanks for asking! It’s something our school has never tried before, but our grade chief decided to give it a shot.
Work study. In other words, our illustrious Grade 9 students will all spend one day experiencing regular employment in the establishment of their choice.
It has certainly been embroiled in controversy. The public junior high schools have been having work study days for some time now as part of their regular curriculum. However, as several of our teachers here at the Academy have been so quick to point out, we are NOT a public junior high school. We’re supposed to be “higher”. In other words, we’re supposed to immerse our students in academic study, but not give them the slightest clue as to what real life is like. Real life is, after all, only for riff-raff.
I guess I have to hand it to Mr. Y, our grade chief. His often vociferous insistence that all the teachers treat the students in Grade 9 with kindness and respect at all times and never scold or punish them no matter what (and no matter what rude, spoiled, childish brats most of them have turned out to be) has earned the ire of a great many members of our faculty (including myself). However, he has also gone to great lengths to ensure that the kids get exposed to a wide variety of stimuli in order to allow them a better-rounded education. I think the kids have been fortunate in that respect. This is one grade that won’t be griping after graduation about how they were never given a chance to learn about life. Believe me, many have griped about that over the years…
Anyway, the students were given a list of establishments and asked to choose. They were then grouped into han (groups) in accordance with their choices. After that, each han was assigned a teacher supervisor. Ideally, the students were supposed to plan and execute the whole thing as much as possible on their own. That included getting there and back. Unfortunately, “ideal” is often synonymous with “wishful thinking”.
When they assigned the teachers to supervise the han, they took into consideration where each teacher lived, partly so that the teachers could give advice based on first-hand knowledge and partly to help with the transportation bit, if necessary. Since I’m the only Grade 9 teacher that lives way out in Aso (median age 67), I was assigned three groups that were going to “the Aso area”. As it turned out, that meant one actually in Aso and two others that were at least another 50 miles away. One of the biggest problems is that public transportation still generally comes under the heading “rice wine fantasy” in those areas. So, guess who gets to do the driving?
That includes today’s group, which I have to drive all the way out to the lovely, rural town of
Not surprisingly, it is a very foggy morning. The whole world has been whitewashed out of existence. As I inch across the
One of them tells me that the third boy will be “a little late”.
Just then, the first fleet car, the one I'd reserved, rolls in driven by Mr. A, our resident mad scientist (and fondly heavy drinker). Accompanied by his well-known and well-loved, jolly laugh, he informs me between apologies that he took the car out by mistake. His reservation is for tomorrow. I smile, politely say, “That’s quite alright,” hand him the keys for the second fleet car, grab those for the first, climb into it, shut the doors, and let out a shriek of frustration. Then I open the doors and let the two boys get in. They’re looking at me kind of strangely.
At least I didn’t throw a desk this time.
The two boys that are with me now, K and I, are kind of rowdy but good natured and basically likeable. The third boy, who fortunately comes waltzing in right at my scheduled departure time, is named O. He’s a bit more notorious. He started out as the group’s leader, but he kept dodging his responsibilities, so Ito wound up taking over at the last minute. He’s definitely one of the “rugby thugs”, but instead of being boorish, he’s more like black ice: cold, slick, and largely out of sight. Almost as soon as he gets into the car, he immediately starts his latest series of “Let’s Insult Everything”, all along speaking in a sauve, dagger-in-the-dark manner that is an interesting cross between a gangster and a Japanese-speaking NBA star.
“Like my clothes?” he asks I and K sarcastically. “I put on stuff that just REEKS of hick, because we’re going to stinking
Actually, I think he enjoys the fact that he’s out of his uniform for a change. I know the boys hate those things, and I don’t blame them. Looking like a soldier of the Prussian Army in this day and age probably isn’t much fun. Those jackets tend to smell bad, too.
As soon as I pull onto the main boulevard, I asks me how long it’s going to take to get where we’re going. I reply that it’ll take at least two hours.
O’s spiky hair somehow rises even more. “TWO HOURS??!? What am I supposed to do for two hours? I didn’t even bring a Walkman or a Game Boy!”
A true child of the 21st century.
“Well, you could try using your imagination,” I suggest.
“Oh, yes!” says K excitedly in English.
“Let’s use…our imagination,” says I, also in English.
“Oh, knock off with the English,” moans O. “I’m sleepy…”
“Take a nap then,” I suggest.
O sighs. “That’s too boring.”
“Then shut up,” I retort.
K and I snicker. O nods with irritated understanding and leans his spiky head against the window with a thud. There follows about fifteen minutes of awkward silence, after which Ito asks me if we’re there yet. After that, I’m asked the same question about every five minutes until the boys suddenly launch into a word game. Much to their surprise, that keeps them entertained until we arrive at our first destination, the
“Did I just make it through two hours without falling asleep?” asks O in wonder. “And I didn’t even have a Walkman?”
“You proved it can be done,” I reply. “Perhaps you should put that in your report.”
Just before we go into the office, the boys get antsy, and they start asking me how they should greet people. I feel kind of awkward trying to teach Japanese etiquette to Japanese boys (especially since I have yet to figure it all out…it’s so damned complicated), but I give them a few tips. Things like that seem so basic, so everyday, and yet I have to remember that many if not most of the kids that come to the Academy have had very sheltered lives. That’s one of the main reasons Mr. Y wanted to do this work study thing in the first place.
We meet up with the director of the Center, Mr. Yg. The boys greet him the way I told them, and he seems impressed. He’s actually the father of one of our students (not in this group, though). That’s how he came to be on the list. He is pretty surprised that anyone chose agriculture for their work study at all. He asks the boys if they remembered to bring the information he sent them and is disappointed that only I has. (Actually, I’m impressed that even one of them has. Unlike Mr. Yg, I see these kids on a regular basis, so I have a better idea of what to expect from them.) He gives them a quick orientation, answers a few questions, and then leads us back out to the parking lot. He’s going to lead us to the farm, which is at least another half an hour away.
What’s really interesting is that, even though we’re out in the middle of nowhere, it’s almost as if the landscape were intentionally designed to give me easy landmarks to follow. Just before the turnoff, I see a couple of big, red missiles propped up in launch position right next to the road. Actually, it’s an electronics repair shop, but apparently someone there had a bit of extra scrap material and a whole lot of extra time on his hands. He constructed a whole diorama out of empty crates and drums. Many of the pieces move, but those two missiles, painted red and sporting Rising Suns, can be spotted a mile away. It’s a very good thing, too; we’ve found the fog again.
(It’s probably also a good thing this isn’t
We arrive at the farm, which is actually a large cooperative but still mostly operated by a single family. (Mr. Yg has warned us not to call for someone using only the surname, because that would probably bring the entire staff running.) They grow a variety of crops, but their two main products are barley and strawberries. As it turns out, the latter are the order of the day; when we are introduced to the boss, he informs the boys that their main project of the day is to be picking strawberries.
K and I look at each other but say nothing.
O isn’t as patient. Making a face, he whines, “Strawberries…?”
The boss chuckles, and then he starts giving them advice on how not to die while picking berries in the greenhouses. As he does so, Mr. Yg taps me on the shoulder and suggests we go outside. We step out, and I notice a leathery-faced old man and a younger helper busily doing something involving big vats of rice. Mr. Yg explains that they are making miso.
Since my arrival at the farm, nearly everyone I’ve met there has treated me the same way I tend to get treated in Aso. You can just hear the alarm bells ringing in their skulls when they look at me and realize that I’m a foreigner, most likely American. While not really rude, they do their best to be nonchalant and pretend I don’t exist while still staring at me from the corner of their eye. If I try to talk to them, they pretend not to hear me unless it’s unavoidable, whereupon they react much as one would tend to if his sleeve were grabbed by a man screaming about the end of the world. Sort of a “Yes, yes, that’s nice. Anyway…” kind of a thing. Not so the old patriarch. He takes a total liking to me right away.
The first thing he does is offer me a cigarette. When I decline, he laughs and loudly proclaims, “What is it with people these days? Nobody ever wants to smoke anymore! It’s always, ‘No thank you,’ or, ‘Sorry, I quit.’ What’s the deal? Look at me! I been smoking since before the war, drinking even longer, and I’m fit as can be!”
He sure is. I could easily imagine him doing cartwheels through the barley fields. He attributes his good health to eating homemade miso and drinking lots of green tea. As it is, he just chats me up. I mean REALLY chats me up. It takes a bit of doing to get used to his talk; he speaks a very strong dialect, and he pronounces certain sounds different. Still, the guy is great. I could probably listen to him talk all day, and I’m sure he’d happily do it if I let him, but I’m on a schedule. I manage to pry myself away enough to go over to the greenhouses and snap a few shots of the boys starting their work before hopping into the car and heading back to the school in time for the one class I wasn’t able to swap out.
It's a 7th grade class, and it doesn't go very well. The lesson we cover is a bit more difficult than most, and the kids in general seem restless and inattentive for some reason. There are a boy and a girl that are being particularly uncooperative; actually, they are two of the highest-ranked students. No doubt the grammar patterns that everyone else is stumbling through like a yuppie in a rain forest are old hat for them, so they just screw around. I wouldn't mind so much if it weren't for the fact that their screwing around also involves some students that AREN'T doing well. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor-ranked student. Not good!
As soon as the class (mercifully) ends, I run back to the back parking lot, jump into fleet car #1, and head west again to pick up our illustrious berry pickers. It's not yet rush hour, so the trip goes very quickly despite my taking one convenience store stop to get some lunch and another to make a sacrifice to the porcelein deity.
I arrive back at the farm almost right at the scheduled time. The place appears deserted. Stepping into the office, I find a whole crowd in there. I, K, and O are drinking tea and eating snacks surrounded by the other members of the farm staff (except, I note, the old patriarch). The boys are being treated like members of the family, and they look a lot more relaxed than they did in the morning. They also look totally burned out. They've put in a good day's hard labor, and it shows.
I ask them how it went, and I replies breathlessly, "It was GREAT!"
O says, "I learned a lot."
After we chat for a while, the boss takes us out for a quick tour of the farm. It turns out to be far more high-tech than any of us have expected even though they use only organic fertilizer and no pesticides. The giant hoppers for storing rice and barley have a funky, computer-controlled system that not only monitors their contents, but also automatically shunts them back and forth so that the supply remains balanced. Even so, the boys are especially impressed with the field grader, which uses GPS and a laser topography system to guide its blades so that the resulting field ends up perfectly level.
"Imagine using one of these on your rugby pitch," says the chief. O perks up immediately. Actually, all three of the boys are surprised. They never expected to find computers on the farm, let alone GPS-guided laser systems! Perhaps there could be a connection with their college majors after all!
Finally, the visit winds to a close, and it's time to head back. The boys are reluctant to go, though their spirits are raised several notches by the boxes of (huge!) strawberries they are given by the farmers. As we're leaving, one of the latter suddenly taps on my car window and gives me two boxes. No complaints from me, that's for sure!
The boys snooze away the entire trip back to Kashima. I expected that. They are totally worn out. When we arrive back at the school, however, (and the car's hideously cute navigation system suddenly starts playing a fanfare,) I can't resist asking a quick and totally teacher-like question:
"So, what did you learn today?"
"Never spend half a day bent over," moans K, rubbing his back.
"The teamwork at the farm was great," says I. "They all seemed like family, and they treated us like part of that family."
(Actually, most if not all of them WERE family, but oh, well.)
O hums thoughtfully, and then, in the least threatening tone of voice I've ever heard him utter, he says, "Next time I eat any kind of fruit or vegetable, I'm going to remember all that sweat. Somebody somewhere put it out. That definitely means something."
"I'm definitely going to eat all my vegetables next time," chuckles I.
The other two boys indicate their agreement.
I park the car, and they climb out. However, instead of simply running away as they no doubt would have done the day before, they pause, turn around, and give me a proper, respectful farewell. Then they run away, but they still seem somehow a little less childish than before.
Congratulations, boys. You've finally started to grow up. I guess it just took dragging you out of your comfy shells and tossing you into the dirt for a little while. There is definitely something to be said for dirt, after all.
Best wishes, everybody...and eat your vegetables!
Friday, March 11, 2005
As I’m sure you are all aware, the Thrifty Thirties gave way to a utilitarian look for the Forties, It was patriotic to scrape the bottom of the barrel for clothing discards and women were encouraged to join the workforce (if only for a short time!). Here’s a look back, with some surprising snapshots from yesteryear!
I don’t know why the dog is in the picture, but since pantyhose was rationed, it must have made our boys overseas dream of “naughty” shenanigans!
The office look hasn’t changed much obviously. Curiously, she seems to be looking at either Fashion or Defense as her next career move, they have sooo much in common!
Another gem from the 1943 Sears catalog! You could buy a dress for the price of a latte, although the brown polka dot one looks, shall we say, a bit “dowdy”.
I’ve saved the best for last! Bras made out of TABLECLOTHS! Yes, you too can have the latest in women’s recycled vintage clothing! If you’re young and gay, so much the better~!
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Okay... so as to not confuse you any more than you might already be, Energy CS' plug-in Toyota Prius gets between 120-180 miles per gallon equivalvent for the first 50-60 miles of the day. After that, it drops back to the standard Prius 50 mpg average.
So, how's that work, you ask?
Simple. For the first 50-60 miles, it runs mainly on electricity stored in its brand new, 9kWh Valence U-Charge Lithium-ion Saphion battery pack. The gasoline engine runs so seldom that you would effectively get the equivalent of up to 120 mpg under normal driving conditions using a combination of EV mode driving and electrically assisted gasoline engine driving. With less aggressive driving (and thus lighter use of the gasoline engine) gasoline consumption can be as low as 180mpg.
Saturday, March 05, 2005
What would be a street name that you definitely would not want to live under?
Friday, March 04, 2005
This mail will definitely be coming to you as a surprise, but I must crave your indulgence to introduce myself to you.
I am Miss Marah sadija, former mistress to the son (Qusai) of the Iraqi former leader, Saddam Hussein.
I am an Ethiopian by birth and I am presently in a refugee camp in Zimbabwe, where the living conditions are unbearable.
I do not wish to take your time with a lengthy mail, but I have to put this proposal to you so that you can assist me.
While I was still in contact with Qusai, he made a deposit in my name to Bank in Amsterdam. This deposit was made in my name and the secret code and necessary documents are presently in the possession of an attorney, presently in SPAIN.
This deposit he made in my name is a considerable amount of money in united state dollars which I cannot disclose to you for security purposes, until you have confirmed your willingness to assist me.
I would be pleased and grateful to you if you could assist me in collecting this consignment on my behalf from the security firm in Amsterdam, upon which I will be offering you a percentage for your efforts.
The attorney in Spain will arrange an authority to release and pay in your name which you will tender to the BANK coupled with all necessary documents that will back up your claims in collecting these funds on my behalf.
I have to stop here now as your response will determine our subsequent correspondence. Please feel free to dis-regard this proposal if it is not in line with your principles.
For security reasons please reply to email@example.com
Allah bless you,
The e-mail originated from Austria. So an Ethiopian mistress to an Iraqi freak doctor who is a refugee in Zimbabwe has access to an e-mail account in Austria. Talk about globalization! The world would be a different place if refugees had e-mail access. Something tells me thousands of bloggers would slit their wrists when confronted en masse by all those who suffer in this world.
LONDON (Reuters) - Music can be a mouth-watering experience for one Swiss musician who "tastes" combinations of notes as distinct flavors, according to a report in the science journal Nature.
The 27-year-old woman known as E.S. is a synaesthete, someone who experiences sensation in more than one sense from the same stimulation, researchers said on Wednesday.
That would really be an amazing thing. This woman must hear a glorious symphony whenever she enjoys some fine cuisine. She could also enjoy a multi-course dinner every time she heard a musical work. As a musician, I definitely find that envious.
On the other hand, there could be some serious dangers involved:
"Oh, NO!!!! A6 with an E bass and an augmented...mghlp...***HUAAAAAAAGH*** Uh... Charlie, get a mop..."
Thursday, March 03, 2005
Fossett Breaks Nonstop Solo Flight Record
SALINA, Kan. - Millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett on Thursday became the first person to fly around the world solo without stopping or refueling, safely touching down in his custom-built plane 67 hours after taking off.
A fuel system problem had raised doubt Wednesday whether Fossett could complete the 23,000-mile journey. But he and his flight crew agreed to keep the GlobalFlyer in the air rather than abandon the attempt.
And so far, they did it all without slamming NASA or the space program (or indeed anyone else). It was a lesson in class from Steve Fossett. Perhaps Burt Rutan can take a clue.
Way to go, Virgins!