Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I Need To Be More Careful

When the Japanese police start arresting their own citizens for looking "foreign", aren't we all in trouble?

I really hate to point out the obvious, but don't most Japanese people "look Asian"?

I mean, what with Japan being a country in...Asia...and all.

Then again, maybe I stick out SO MUCH that I just get passed over.

One can't be too careful these days.

The Money Situation

...is taken care of.

I decided to borrow all of the money off of a Yakuza guy I met at a bar last night. He seemed really willing to help me out, and offered me a plan with a decent interest rate.

Y'know, them Yakuza guys really get a bum rap. If you overlook the missing pinkies and the full-body tattoos, they're really a fun group of guys.

Funny that he was that willing to lend such a large amount of cash to a foreigner he just met.

Wait a second...

It says here...

My 2.9% financing rate is...

PER DAY!!!!!!!!!


Monday, February 27, 2006

Regarding Being a Foreigner in Japan

So I want to buy a car.

I am without the funds to pay it all off right away, so I am willing to take a bit of a hit with interest and pay it off on a three-year payment plan.

I do not like to use credit cards or borrow money from people, but in this case it can't be helped.

So I applied for a payment plan though Mitsubishi's Hokkaido credit company.

Their response?


At least, "If it's just him? DENIED."

What a big surprise.

As a foreigner in Japan, you just can't catch a break when it comes to loans.

We are, to put it lightly, considered to be a LIABILITY.

We have to get someone with Japanese citizenship to be a loan guarantor. Y'know, just in case we decide to flee the country or something.

For crying out loud! I'm willing to buy a new car and commit to a three-year loan on it, which pretty much means I have committed to living in Muroran for the NEXT THREE FREAKING YEARS! What's the matter, Mr. Credit Card Company Guy? My money not good enough for you? I have to have a Japanese national backing me up in case I decide to screw you over on the loan payments like the evil scheming conniving foreigner I am?

[The next few lines were edited out for content, i.e. I swore a lot.]

The guy from the car company is doing his best to get me a break from the credit company, but it's not going to happen. My friend Rue couldn't get a loan to buy a freaking computer. How am I supposed to get a loan for a car on my own?

I'm not going to drag Hiroshi in on this, and I don't know anyone else here well enough that I could ask them to back me up.

I'll work out something, I guess.

[more swearing edited out]

Sunday, February 26, 2006

I Make As Much Per Hour As Bill Gates!

Today I had to work.

Getting up at 6:30 on a Sunday morning...not so much fun.

STEP Test interviews again today, so I had to make my way clear over to the other side of town to Pure Water Hill High. When my car was running, this was not a problem. Now, however, it's a problem. (I won't be getting my new car until later this week, so I am still without wheels.)

A short walk over to Washibetsu Station, followed by a train ride to Muroran Station, followed by a taxi ride to Pure Water Hill High. There were a bunch of bikes in front of the station that have probably been there since the first big snowfall back in November.

The modern-day wooly mammoth, frozen in the ice.
[This is the first picture I've taken with my new cell phone. Bigger, better photos! (Still hasn't cleaned my room yet, though.)]

Last time I was an interviewer for the STEP Test, I interviewed three people. This time, I interviewed two. Thirty minutes, and I was done. And I still received monetary compensation equal to that of the previous time.

I wonder if I should feel bad about this. I do the least amount of work but make the most money.



Nope. After all, that's what teaching English in Japan is all about! Ask any JET Program participant. (I kid, of course. But some people would say this in all seriousness and be totally satisfied with themselves.)

If you took the money I made and calculated it out into an hourly wage, I'd be making a fine chunk of money. I wish I was getting an hourly wage of $340. That would rock.

Oh yeah, I got a free lunch out of the deal, too. Woo-hoo!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Muroran News Updates


(dee da dee deet da dee da dee deet da dee da dee deet...)


The students made it back safely from Hidaka on Friday afternoon. Everybody looked pretty tired, but they said they had a good time. Jack, the other English teacher, went along on the trip (basically saying the heck with the weird vibes from all the other teachers...very cool), and he said he had a great time and had no idea what the heck the other teachers were yapping about. Sure, there was work, he said, but it was a lot of fun. He got to know teachers and students better and got a better idea of how things worked at Starfish High. The slopes were great, the skiing was great (this is from a snowboarder), the whole trip was great. Three days of fun.

I, on the other hand, did some paperwork and watched "Glory", "Kingdom of Heaven", and "Snatch". Yippee.

Wasabi-kun Rides Again

Sort of. I started him up the other day and the engine worked. I drove him to school on Friday so a car dealer could come and take a look at him. Ya know, to see if I could get any money for him. The verdict? Nope. 13 years and 160,000 kilometers pretty much kills your market value for a Mitsubishi Minicar.

Signs of Spring

It has been gradually warming up here, and you're seeing less white on the roads and more black. As in actually being able to see the road again. There's a thick layer of ice that has survived and, I suspect, bred underneath the snow cover. With the weather warming up, people are breaking out the pickaxes. That's right, pickaxes. Walking to and from school everyday, I see people hacking away at the ice cover on the road. I actually wish we had a pickaxe at my apartment building. I want to take one to the ice sheet we have in front of the stairs up to the apartment. That is just treacherous!

Love Life

Oh, wait, that's a typo from the news department. Toss this item out!

This just in...


I sprung for a new car today. Not used, brand new. I bought a Mitsubishi EK Wagon.

I threw every single condition of my car purchase out the window and just went for it.

Well, maybe not every one. Let's take another look at the original conditions.

  1. Four doors
  2. Four-wheel drive
  3. A "light" car (yellow license plate) - insurance, car inspections, highway tolls are ALL cheaper than regular (white license plate) cars
  4. Something bigger than Wasabi-kun, so that I can take my friends/parents around in my car when they come to visit
  5. After all the little things total up, it should be under five thousand dollars (I don't want to take out a big loan.)
    aaaaaahhhhh, therein lies the rub
  6. Made within the last seven or eight years
  7. Check.

Four doors, four-wheel drive, a "light" car with way more space than Wasabi-kun, and made this year. Plus, I can lay the seats down so that I can stretch out when I sleep in the car. And it has a CD player. Hey, maybe it can team up with my new cell phone and clean my room!

The LOAN, though. The one big difference. The LOAN.

The car will cost me 1,150,000 yen. That's about $11,500. The loan works out to two hundred thousand yen down, then twenty-seven thousand yen a month for three years. Translated into dollars, it comes out to roughly two thousand down, two hundred seventy dollars a month for three years.

Crap. Now I'm stuck here for three years. At least.

Mitsubishi had a (fiscal) year-end sale and wanted to clear out a couple of old models. The big difference? No rear light above the trunk. No big deal. So there's all the stuff above, plus both winter and summer tires, PLUS a rust prevention coat on the bottom of the car, PLUS floor mats, PLUS winter windshield wipers, PLUS an automatic toll road card setup, PLUS a five-year warranty, PLUS a free tire rotation when spring comes, PLUS a coin tray instead of an ashtray, PLUS a ten-kilogram bag of rice, PLUS a CD of my choice.

Rice and a CD? Hey, they know how to get me to buy a car.

Actually, I must give credit where credit is due. Hiroshi Numero Uno took me out car shopping today. He actually bargained for most of the "PLUS" stuff you see on that list.

At least I will be with wheels once again and will be able to go swimming. No way I'm walking to the pool in Horobetsu. I'd get enough exercise just walking out there.

The reaction from the teachers at Starfish High should be...interesting, to say the least.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Like I Need Some Stupid Test to Tell Me This

The Fool Card
You are the Fool.
The Fool fearlessly begins the journey into the unknown. To do this, he does not regard the world he knows as firm and fixed. He has a seemingly reckless disregard for obstacles. In the Ryder-Waite deck, he is seen stepping off a cliff with his gaze on the sky, and a rainbow is there to catch him. In order to explore and expand, one must disregard convention and conformity. Those in the throes of convention look at the unconventional, non-conformist personality and think "What a fool". They lack the point of view to understand The Fool's actions.

But The Fool has roots in tradition as one who is closest to the spirit world. In many tribal cultures, those born with strange and unusual character traits were held in awe. Shamans were people who could see visions and go on journeys that we now label hallucinations and schizophrenia. Those with physical differences had experience and knowledge that the average person could not understand. The Fool is God. The number of the card is zero, which when drawn is a perfect circle. This circle represents both emptiness and infinity. The Fool is not shackled by mountains and valleys or by his physical body. He does not accept the appearance of cliff and air as being distinct or real.
Image from: Mary DeLave http://www.marydelave.com/
Which Tarot Card Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Sheesh. I already knew I was a Fool. Mr. T tells me that everyday. He pities me, too.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Johnny Cash Revisited

I mentioned in a post last month that my friend Shiba in Yonago asked me to help her out with making a display for the "Walk The Line" soundtrack. As far as all things Cash go in Shimane/Tottori, apparently I am the "go-to guy". She asked me to recommend some of his albums to add to the display.

I did.

Well, the display is done. I'm working on getting her to send me some bigger pictures of the display, but this one will have to do for now.

Damn that looks good.

I took into consideration the fact that your average Japanese music listener has very little idea what country music is, much less good country music, much less who Johnny Cash is. So I chose these albums to try and give a fairly wide representation of his career through relatively inexpensive purchases. My recommendations for the display were as follows:

At Folsom Prison
Since the display is for the "Walk The Line" soundtrack, I figured the live album of Johnny Cash's performance at Folsom Prison, which is featured in the movie, would be a good one to include. Plus, it's just really cool to hear him playing in front of a bunch of prisoners...in a prison...a prison that he wrote one of his most famous songs about.

Ride This Train
This is not an album about trains. This is an album about America. This concept album is extremely well done. The narration starts with "Ride this train to..." and Johnny Cash proceeds to take the listeners around the U.S., singing songs (almost small vignettes) about life in the smaller parts of the country. I figured this album would be a good way for Japanese listeners to understand what it is about Johnny Cash that makes him such an American icon. He sings about and understands America.

Sings The Ballads of the True West
Another concept album about America, recorded in the midst of his drug addiction. You can see the effects of the addiction on him from the album cover, and you can hear how he's starting to become a bit unstable in songs like "Sam Hall". The strange sounds he makes suits the character in the song, but it does make you wonder. It is good as an album and good as a study of what drugs can do to somebody.

The Essential Johnny Cash
The name really says it all. Two discs with all the hits, and some pretty cool collaborations as well. Duets with Bob Dylan, June Carter Cash, Waylon Jennings. A track by The Highwaymen (Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson). A collaboration with U2, which U2 lead singer Bono calls "the best U2 song we've ever done, and I don't even sing on it." A great overview of his pre-American Recordings career.

Love, God, Murder (Box Set)
A collection edited and chosen by The Man In Black himself, this set is less a "Best Of..." and more of a view of an entire career through the three most prevalent themes in his music: Love, God, and Murder. There are some familiar tracks in this set, but there are also some less-well-known songs.

This is my favorite album of the four releases that Johnny Cash put out through Rick Rubin's American Recordings label. While all four albums are incredible and have some amazing performances, this one features him at his strongest. Backed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the songs on this album have a fast, energetic beat (except for the ballads, where things get slowed down). His cover of Soundgarden's "Rusty Cage" is what got me interested in his music in the first place. Plus, on "I've Been Everywhere" the album's closing track, he says he's been to Ellensburg. Hey, so have I.

My Mother's Hymn Book
This is the last album that Johnny Cash ever recorded. It is included in the incredible five-disc "Unearthed" collection, but you can also find it as a single album. It is a collection of hymns that were his mother's favorites. In "Walk The Line", his mother hands the book of hymns to him before he heads off into military service. There is a power in his voice that had been lacking in previous albums. In "Solitary Man" and "The Man Comes Around", you could hear the weakness creeping into his voice, but that is gone here. It's a man and his guitar singing simply and plainly about his faith. It will bring tears to your eyes.

There you have it. When I get those pictures from Shiba, I'll make sure I post them.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Skiing In Hidaka

From today until Friday, all of the first- and second-year students at Starfish High will be skiing at the Hidaka International Ski Resort.

I am not going with them.

This is not for lack of wanting to go.

Allow me to pontificate (see also: b***h).

I've known that there would be a ski trip to Hidaka for a long time now. I just didn't know if I would be up to the challenge.

When I went on the ski trip with the other teachers and was actually able to ski, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could hold my own with a bunch of crazy high school students.

Unfortunately, due to the request from the local authorities that I be available for translation duties in case anything were to happen while the USS Blue Ridge was here, I didn't go on the one-day ski trip to Sunlaiva.

Then the question came. "Dustin, are you going to go on the Hidaka ski trip?"

Something you need to realize here is that this question was phrased in such a way as to make it seem like I wasn't particularly welcome on the trip. Or at least in such a way as I wasn't sure if they wanted me to come along or not.

They say that Japanese people are hard to read. I've known this for a while, but it was the first time I really felt it here at work.

Here's some other things that the teachers told me.

"It's okay if you want to come along." (also phrased in a very hard-to-read fashion)
"None of the other English teachers have ever gone on this ski trip."
"It's not any fun."
"Work comes before skiing." Duh.
"There's a budget we have to keep."

Look. If I'm not welcome on the trip, or if you just think I would get in the way, or if it would just be better if I stayed at school while you all go...


So I just said that I'd stay here. I don't know. It was just a weird situation and I wish that the teachers organizing the event hadn't put me in it.

So yesterday, when I was teaching my one class that I would be teaching this week (two weeks, two classes...I'm earnin' my pay!), I told my students that I wouldn't be going. They seemed to be a little sad when they heard that. Sorry guys.

Today, I saw the buses off with the vice principal, The 'Gida, Hiroshi Numero Uno and a couple of students who couldn't go on the trip.

I must admit, the office is nowhere near as quiet as it was when it was just the vice principal and I. Hiroshi Numero Uno and The 'Gida just blab on and on and on and on and on and...

Ahh well, at least I'm not up on some mountain freezing my American rump off and sunburning my face to the point of permanent damage.

(This is what Aesop referred to as "sour grapes".)

I did watch "Glory" with one of my students, though. That was fun. AND educational.

Two more days of R&R at Starfish High. I could get used to this.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Money in the Bank / New Cell

PAY DAY!!!!!! WOO-HOO!!! (read as Homer Simpson)

The world always seems a little brighter on Pay Day. Even though I make less than when I was in Shimane, it's still a good feeling to know that money has been deposited directly into my bank account. Yeah, you don't actually get a "paycheck" over here. You get a receipt. Hey, it saves me the trouble of having to go to the bank and cash the check, doesn't it?

I also switched over to my new cell phone today. My old cell phone's battery has been weakening for a while, plus I spilled some tea on it when I was back in Shimane and now a few of the keys are sticky.

I've wanted this model for a while now, because it's the shock-resistant water-resistant (SRWR) model. My first cell phone was the granddaddy of the SRWR line. My second cell phone was an upgraded model from the same line. When that phone's battery started weakening, I went in to get a new phone, but the company that made the SRWR models wasn't producing them at the time. So I went with a different, shock-weak water-weak model. Not because I wanted to, though.

This new phone is cool. It has a built in compass, GPS, a street navigation program that moves the map along as you walk, a program that shows where the sun is shining and the cloud cover of the entire planet, a stopwatch, a timer, Internet access, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I'm not familiar with yet. I think if I mess around with this thing long enough, I might find a program that will clean my apartment and make three square meals for me a day. Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?

Monday, February 20, 2006

One Hundred Poems By One Hundred Poets

Or as they say in Japanese, "hyakunin isshu".

Things at Starfish High have been a little strange lately, mostly because of the absence of actual classes. I taught all of one class last week.

This week looks like more of the same.

Today, we had a "Hyakunin Isshu" tournament at school. To explain:

The Hyakunin Isshu is a collection of old Japanese poetry from a whole bunch of old (see also: dead) Japanese people. The game is similar to "Memory" or other card games where you need to remember things.

What happens is that two teams spread out one hundred cards with Japanese poems written on them, fifty facing one team and fifty facing the other. Only what is written on these cards is the second half of each poem.

A reader reads off the whole poem. When someone recognizes which poem it is, they slap their hand down on the card with the second half of the poem. If the card is on their team's side, they take it. If it's on the opposing team's side, they take it and then replace it with a card from their own side. The first team to run out of cards wins.

So we had a big tournament of this game for the first- and second-year students today. It's an activity connected with the Japanese language teachers.

I have played this game before, with a few different rules, at elementary schools. The cards at the elementary schools were a heckuvalot easier to read. The cards they use here look like someone took a brush, dipped it in some ink, and then decided to go Jackson Pollock all over the cards. In other words, chicken scratches.

I had to judge a few matches in the morning. It was pretty crazy. The good teams were extremely good. The reader would only get one or two words out of his mouth and someone would be slapping their hand down on a card. And these kids were serious about their "Hyakunin Isshu". Their expressions would change from bright and shiny to dark and diabolical. I think today was the first day I've actually been afraid of my students.

Although, once they explained what was at stake, I could understand. It wasn't just bragging rights. It was food. The home room teachers promised their students that if a team from their class won, they would take the whole class out for yakiniku (Japanese-style BBQ).

I think I would get a pretty scary look on my face, too.

If you're interested in reading some of the poems, you can look at some translations here. I've never really bothered to try and understand them (or translate them) myself.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Today's Bit of Randomness

Now that I have figured out the secret to how I can post pics from my cell on here again, here's a couple of fun pictures from Sapporo from when I was wandering around town there last November. These are REAL signs from REAL shops.

So what's the point?

Yep. Booty. Maybe people go here after they buy their clothes at Nudie Clothing.

Sapporo scares me.

Desperately Seeking Wasabi

It looks like things are starting to show the possibility of a spring thaw sometime soon around here.

This means that the roads will be clear.

Which means that it might be nice to have some wheels.

Which means...

My conditions for a new car:
  1. Four doors
  2. Four-wheel drive
  3. A "light" car (yellow license plate) - insurance, car inspections, highway tolls are ALL cheaper than regular (white license plate) cars
  4. Something bigger than Wasabi-kun, so that I can take my friends/parents around in my car when they come to visit
  5. After all the little things total up, it should be under five thousand dollars (I don't want to take out a big loan.)
  6. Made within the last seven or eight years

So I went out today with Hiroshi and his family and checked out some cars.

Today's Lesson Learned: Ain't no car out there that fits these conditions.

Light cars are popular. Light cars with four-wheel drive are even more so. Ain't no way in Hay-yell that there's one in the general Muroran area that costs less than seven thousand.

I checked out some cars and did some serious thinking. So, the above list has been edited a bit to come up with this new set of conditions:

  1. Four doors (No change here.)
  2. Two or four-wheel drive (I've decided to not be picky on this point.)
  3. A regular (white license plate) car (They cost less.)
  4. Something bigger than Wasabi-kun, so that I can take my friends/parents around in my car when they come to visit (I'm sticking to my guns on this one.)
  5. After all the little things total up, it should be under five thousand dollars (I don't want to take out a big loan.) (Ditto.)
  6. Made within the last seven or eight years (Ditto.)

The search will continue...

And no matter what make, model, color, etc. of car I buy, I'm calling it Wasabi-kun No. 2.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Walk The Line

"I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends up for the tie that binds
Because you're mine
I walk the line."

- Johnny Cash, "Walk The Line"

I saw it. I finally saw it!

It started showing in theaters across Japan today. One of those theaters is located an hour east on Route 36, in Tomakomai. Which meant that come hell, high water, or an alien invasion from Alpha Centauri, my butt would be firmly planted in a seat in that theater watching the movie.

My good buddy Czar (who, it would seem, is having an EXTREMELY good time in life lately...way to go, bud!) clued me in to the fact that this movie was being made.

I watched the preview on line a few months ago.

Chills. Goosebumps. Joaquin Phoenix as The Man...in Black? It worked, at least from what I saw in the preview. Actually, it didn't just work, it blew me clean out of the water.

I found out Thursday that "Walk The Line" would be playing starting this weekend. I made plans to get out to Tomakomai. These plans ended up involving Eisaku.

I made sure I was dressed appropriately for the movie, which meant I wore my Johnny Cash hooded sweatshirt. (Check out the picture.) We piled into the Debuwagon at 6 and headed east, stopping for a hamburger dinner at a steak house on Rt. 36. "Burgers at a steak house?", you ask incredulously. Well, the steak would have set us both back forty bucks, so we went with burgers instead. Good burgers, though.

Then a stop near the station in Tomakomai for coffee...as in Seattle's Best...as in a raspberry-flavored mocha. Hell yeah.

Fully caffeinated and happy, I headed into the theater.

Lights go down.

Movie starts rolling.

I enter the world of "Walk The Line".

The first thing I noticed was that the executive music producer was none other than T-Bone Burnett, the man responsible for the fantastic music in "The Ladykillers" (gospel) and "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" (folk music). Definitely a good sign.

Joaquin Phoenix had his part nailed. The voice. The singing, while not Johnny Cash, captured the essence of Johnny Cash. The look. The whole package. He convinced me. For two-plus hours, he was Johnny Cash. Amazing.

Even more amazing, however, was Resse Witherspoon as June Carter. Listen to her sing "Jackson". She nails that little growl June Carter had in her voice when she sang it. It was spooky how much Reese Witherspoon sounded line June Carter. I think I need to buy some June Carter Cash CDs. Reese Witherspoon was that good.

I was tapping my feet and nodding my head along with each song as it came on. Brilliant.

I walked out of the theater with a nostalgic tear in my eye and a smile on my face. I'm looking forward to the DVD...hint hint, Mom and Dad.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Two Thousand Hits!

And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'!

(never mind that most of them are probably from me)

Today's Random Photo:

Last week, while I was up in Sapporo enjoying the cold and the snow...oh yeah, and that Snow Festival thing, my friend Eisaku (of DebuWagon fame) was out ice fishing with Starfish High's own pro fisherman, Mr. Kawata.

He looks the part, that's for sure.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Test Time Revisited


Three freakin' days of test time hell are finally over.

On Valentine's Day, we had written tests for Japanese, English, and Math in the morning, and then interview tests with students from far off areas in the afternoon. By the end of those tests I was ready to scream. But I still had to go through the files on all the other students and take down notes for the interviews the next day. I got about halfway done and then burnt out a circuit in my head. I couldn't stare at and/or write Japanese any longer.

So I went home, changed out of my suit, and walked down to a steak house for dinner with some friends. After dinner, even though the original plan had been to go bowling and maybe catch the late showing of "King Kong", we went back to my place and watched "Moulin Rouge". Good flick. Good musical. And Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman can SING!

Then I passed out from exhaustion.

Next morning (2/15) it was off to work early. We had interview tests



There was a short break for lunch, but...


The annoying thing about the testing situation is that the majority of the students that came here aren't even interested in Starfish High. We're just a practice run before the "real" tests for public schools. We even had some real class acts who told us in the interview that the only reason they applied here was as a last resort, in case they didn't pass the test at the school they really want to get into.

Hey, pal, let me tell you something. We may be desperate for students, but we don't need someone with an attitude like that.

You just want to tell them to not even bother with the rest of the test and get the hell out of the interview room. Even if it's just practice, at least try and come up with an interesting lie.

They told us that once the tests were done, we could leave. So I planned on going to see "King Kong" at 5. But they lied. We didn't get to leave any earlier than usual. So I went home and vegged out in front of the TV for a while, debating whether I should go to bed or go to the movie.

Finally, I decided that if I kept pushing the date back (the original plan being Sunday), I wouldn't go at all, so at 7 PM, I bundled up and set out on my trek to the theater.

I arrived at 8 PM. Thirty minutes to spare. So I played some video games and then went up and bought my ticket.

I gotta say it again...good film. That scene with the bugs is so dark, and the music matches so well, that this overwhelming sense of despair comes over you.

Once the movie was over, I made the long walk back home, stopping in for a couple beers at Ippuku-tei before cruising back.

Today was test correction day. 260 tests. Circling, totaling, writing down scores. For FIVE HOURS.


We had a staff meeting at the end of the day, and then I cruised on home.

I am so freaking tired.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Y'know, it's funny that a holiday that celebrates "love" can be abbreviated this way.



Have a "safe" Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I Have Never Seen...

...this many lost-looking junior high school students.

We had class for the first two periods today, and then it was cleaning time. Starfish High's entrance exams start tomorrow, with written tests in the morning and interview tests in the afternoon.

Unlike last time, where the students taking the tests and interviewing actually wanted to come here, the majority of the students this time around will be coming here to practice for the entrance exam tests at public schools. To most students, we are seen as a suberi-dome school, a school to "stop the slide". In other words, we're a last resort. The general idea is something like this...
"If I can't make it into the school I really want to get into, at least I will have passed the test there and will be able to go somewhere for high school."
Lovely attitude, wouldn't you say.


So we spent the rest of the morning cleaning the school. Jack and I went to a local sushi restaurant for lunch, and when we came back, the junior high school kids started pouring in.

Wow. This year we have around 160 students taking our entrance exam. Most of them showed up to check out how the testing area was set up. I went around and talked with some of the students, but basically we didn't really have anything to do. So, Jack and I went to the English Den, opened up his computer, and watched "A History Of Violence". Impressive film. Viggo Mortenson is amazing in this film. The violence suits the word itself, and is sudden and shocking. Wow.

The other thing I did in the afternoon at work was go through the prospective student files and make some notes on things to ask during the interview exams tomorrow. After that, I got a ride out to Date from Jack. I went to the Cultural Center and helped out with the English play that they are doing for elementary and junior high-school students. Then, after getting some dinner at a student's house, I caught the train back to Washibetsu and slipped all the way home.

Mild weather and rain in the afternoon will do that to the snowbanks all over the place. Quite the experience getting home.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Feel The Flow

I have water again!!!!!

The plumber came by around noon and sent an electric current through the pipes to melt the ice. I'm not sure how it worked, but it worked.

So now I have water again.

Unfortunately, it sounds like this could happen again even if I DON'T go somewhere else for a night. I need to drain my pipes before I go to work everyday, because the way this apartment is built, with the garage underneath the building that is open to the elements, the breezes flowing through said garage could freeze the pipes up again.

Hey, at least I know what to do now.

Cool, Clear Water...

...is still not coming out of my pipes.

No shower.

No washing dishes (that need washing).

No laundry (which also needs washing).

No trips to the bathroom.

This is now a battle of the will.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Just For a Laugh

Especially since I could use one right about now...

Am I the only one that notices a similarity?

Go ahead. Laugh. It's okay. You know you want to.

Just My Luck (or Damn, It's Cold Part 2)

My damn pipes are frozen.

I spend one freaking night away from my apartment and my damn pipes freeze.

I have now officially had enough of winter.

[If I was in a bit of a better mood, I would comment on the delicious irony of me making a joke about the toilet on the train being frozen, but as I am currently at about a 203 on the pissed-off scale, I won't.]

Damn, It's Cold

One of the toilets on my train back to Muroran was frozen.

That is one ice cube I don't ever want to see.


One More Day In The North

I ended up spending the night in Sapporo Friday night.

I woke up Saturday morning and turned on the TV to catch a bit of the Opening Ceremonies for the Turin Olympics.

A lot of people knock the Olympics, and while it's true that corporate sponsorship and professional athletes competing have whored out the Olympic ideal, that ideal is still something worth aiming for. Being called on to represent your country on the international stage...that would be such an incredible honor. Holding your country's flag as your team walks in to the Opening Ceremonies? That would be indescribable. If one were to try, one might use the words "intense", "awe-inspiring", or the ever-popular "Wow."

When the Virgin Islands team came in (Just how do tropical islands come up with Winter Olympics teams anyway? Next thing you know, Jamaica will create a bobsled team. Wait a second...oh yeah.), I was reminded of a joke that made the rounds during junior high/high school.
I went to the Virgin Islands. By the time I left, they had to change the name.
That's still pretty funny to me.

The music for the ceremony made me laugh. It was like the organizers had chosen the theme of "Rockin' out to the 80's" for the event. I was particularly impressed when The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" came on. I like that song. Peter Gabriel singing "Imagine" = good. Yoko Ono = weird.

Then I headed out and about to do some shopping.

While wandering around Sapporo and fighting the horrible, horrible weekend crowd (that little thing called the Snow Festival was still going on, after all), I found a shop called Mandrake. The sign out front of the building it was in said it had used CDs and DVDs for sale. Going to a used CD/DVD shop in a big city is always fun. You can make some pretty interesting finds. The albums that Alyssa Milano put out, or the Eddie Furlong one. There are usually two or three Eddie Murphy albums that you can find, as well as one from Sean Patrick Flanery (of "Young Indiana Jones" fame). I always end up walking out of those shops shaking my head and saying, "Wow..." The same thing happened with Mandrake, just for a different reason.

This place was freaky.

Employees wearing costumes from outdated 70's Japanese animation. An overabundance of animation on DVD, and a lack of other kinds of DVDs. Some guy flipping through some grumble (Cornish English for "porn", at least according to my friend Ash) and giggling in a high-pitched voice while saying, "Ooh, she's cute!" Some other guy walking along and talking to himself in an extremely serious voice, sounding like he was repeating lines from television commercials.

Now, I'll admit that I have my geeky side. After all, Being a Trekkie/Trekker does little to advance oneself in social circles. But this was unreal. It was some giant socially dysfunctional geek paradise. And it freaked me out.

(Although, the girl working at the register was very cute.)

So I boogied on outta there. I swung by Tower Records and picked up a couple of DVDs ("Glory" and "Nothing") and a CD. The CD was by the band Vola and the Oriental Machine, the band formed by former Zazen Boys drummer Ahito Inazawa. It's called "Waiting For My Food". I felt a kinship with the album title. I also felt a rumbling in my stomach, so I went to eat lunch somewhere.

I had some really good Indian curry at a restaurant called (surprise, surprise!) The Taj Mahal. It was vegetable curry with lamb, and a big piece of naan. Yum.

A quick run back to the station to pick up Dan Brown's "Angels and Devils", and then it was on the train and back to Muroran.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Quite The Appropriate Name

Now that I think about it, I actually went back to the U.S. for a little while today. More on that later.

Friday was a day off for Starfish High. Something about the anniversary of the founding of the school or something equally important.

Whatever the reason, it meant that I didn't have to go to work today. So I made some plans to hoof it on up to Sapporo for the Snow Festival. It's only a week long, and I didn't want to bother with big crowds on the weekend. I'm not a big fan of really big groups, especially large masses, so I went up today.

Up at 5:30 and out of bed. I had some other stuff to do in Sapporo besides the Snow Festival, so I wanted to get up there as early as possible. I made it over to Washibetsu Station and caught the 7 AM express to Sapporo. It was a pretty uneventful train ride, the only really exciting thing being that I was reading Alan Moore's "V For Vendetta". Wow. Heavy duty stuff. Dystopian future. Totalitarian society. Creating chaos out of order. Taking it to the system. Stickin' it to Da Man. There's a movie being made of this book, and it sounds like it could be pretty dang good. I'm stoked.

Thing #1 To Do In Sapporo: Get out to the gymnasium in Toyohira-ku to watch the girls' basketball team. Our girls' basketball team made it to the All-Hokkaido Basketball Tournament for the "new" teams. Usually, in the fall, following the major basketball tournaments (heck, all sports tournaments), the third-year students quit so they can focus on their studies to pass entrance exams. Unless a player is exceptionally good, or as in Starfish High's case, there aren't enough members to be particularly picky, first and second-year students don't play in any official games until the "new" team games, or shinjin-sen, start. Our girls' team has five first-year students and one second-year student. Only six players, but they still made it to the All-Hokkaido tournament.

I had mentioned in a class that since school was off on Friday, I was going up to Sapporo for the Snow Festival. One of the players, who was in that class, said, "Please come and watch us play, and cheer for us!" Well, she said it in Japanese, but that's what she meant. I said I would, and then after finding out that the gym was pretty far away from any station that I could get to, I debated not going. Even Mr. Nakajima, our resident mafia-man/basketball coach, told me that there was no way we would be able to win our first game. In fact, he said, it would be a blowout. So I was leaning toward not going, but when I saw them off on Thursday, I implied that I might not go, and the team laid the heaviest guilt trip on me that I have ever had lain on me. "Alright then, you guys. I'll be there. Good luck!"

So I took the Toho Subway line to Fukuzumi, the last station on the line, and then caught a taxi from there to the gym.

The game was, as Mr. Nakajima said, a blowout, although we did hold them to less than 100 points. They tried hard, but they were outmatched. The other team was the third- or fourth-best team in Hokkaido, after all. The girls gave me a hard time for not cheering. (I tend to be, shall we say, a bit vocal at games.) I cheered a bit, but the atmosphere in the gym did not lend itself much to my normal decibel level.

Then it was back to Fukuzumi Station, and over to Susukino, for...

Thing #2 To Do In Sapporo: Check out the ice sculptures in Susukino. It's another part of the Snow Festival, only with...ice. The sculptures were pretty impressive, and it looked like there were a couple of bars built out of ice that people could go to at night. Crazy stuff. I would have been more impressed, but when the ice is covered with snow, as in the copious amounts falling all day long, it tends to take away from the impact of the sculptures themselves.

One classic sign, in front of an ice sculpture of the different kinds of delicious tasting food available in Hokkaido, translated the title of the sculpture as "The Teste of Hokkaido". I don't know about you, but picturing this island with a giant ball was not the image I wanted to come away from the Ice Sculpture area with.

I made sure to stop by Ittetsu and grab a bowl of that life-changing ramen before I headed onward. It was cold outside and I needed something to warm me up. That and I hadn't had anything for breakfast, so I was feeling a bit hungry. Ya know, just a bit. Then it was on to...

Thing #3 To Do In Sapporo: Get over to Odori Park and check out the Snow Festival. Wow. This was some impressive stuff. HUGE snow sculptures all over the place. The whole area stretched from the TV Tower on 1st Street all the way out to the Hokkaido Records building on 11th Street. They had some smaller stuff as well. There was an ice sculpture of Angkor Wat. There was a snow sculpture based on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. There was this pretty cool eagle carved by a group of people from Oregon (yay!). There was even a life-sized replica of Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto (which, while cool to see, is a tad over-rated...I prefer Ginkaku-ji Temple - not nearly as gaudy). 11 city blocks worth of snow sculptures. Fun stuff. Plus, it was funny to see people sweeping snow off of snow sculptures. What with all the snow that was falling all day, I found that the naming of the festival was pretty spot-on.

Plus, there were live musical performances going on, souvenir booths, information booths, and food stands. I went to the crab food stand and bought some crab legs. Mmmm-mmm good.

With sightseeing and gastrointestinal needs sated, I headed on to...

Thing #4 To Do In Sapporo: Head out to Maruyama Park and find the Consulate General of the United States in Sapporo. At the party on the USS Blue Ridge on Monday, I ran into the Sapporo Consul, Mr. Hugues P. Ogier. Very nice guy, he is. I told him that I was planning on coming up on Friday and wanted to come by the Consulate. He said it should be okay, but call ahead just in case. I did. It was a very confusing phone call. I don't think the staff realized that I was a teacher at Starfish High, not a student. I was told to call student services the next day. I didn't. I looked up the location of the Consulate. Armed with this information, I headed out there.

The web page said that I should leave the Maruyama Park Station from Exit #3, but on my way out, the information signs said Exit #1 was the way to go. Memo to myself: Listen to the dang U.S. Consulate web page in the future. Yep. I took Exit #1 and proceeded to get lost. After wandering around for about twenty minutes or so, I stopped in a convenience store and got directions.

After successfully finding the Consulate, I went in. Only after checking in my cell phone and camera, running my bags through an X-ray machine and going through a metal detector. But once I passed through all of the checkpoints, I was shown in to the Consulate.

American soil.

So technically, I was home for about an hour on Friday afternoon. Cool.

I met up with Consul Ogier, who gave me a tour of the facilities and introduced me to the staff. Pretty cool place. They are finishing up a bunch of rebuilding, updating security and other stuff. Blastproof glass on the windows, that sort of thing. I offered my services for anytime the Navy would be coming through Muroran, and asked that they consider Starfish High again when activities were scheduled in town. My offer was happily accepted, and then it was time for me to take off again. The Consul is a busy guy, after all. But it was a really neat experience to look around up there.

So I went back out, collected my things, and left. Now, this next one wasn't a necessity, but since it was close to the Consulate, and I had some time, I walked through Maruyama Park over to Hokkaido Jingu. The park was nice and quiet, except for one tree that was full of crows. Kinda creepy. LOTS of snow. The shrine is really big, and the location is perfect. To give you an idea of just how cold things are up here, check out this photo. This is the purification water area at Hokkaido Jingu. It may not be that easy to see, but even with the water flowing the all the time, the whole thing is frozen over. Here's what you do at this purification area. You take the scoop on the top of the tank, fill it with water, pour water on your left hand, then your right, then pour some water into your left hand and rinse your mouth out with that water. Don't drink it! Swish it around, then spit it out. Not back into the tank! Onto the ground. That was some cold water. My hands started to go numb about 0.59 seconds after the water hit them. Brrrr...

After walking around the park and the shrine, I headed back to the subway station and caught a subway back to Odori Park, because there was...

Thing #5 To Do In Sapporo: Go to the Sugai Theater in Odori and watch "Primer". I had read a bit about this film on the Internet sometime last year, and the concept sounded interesting. Two inventors make a time machine and use it to travel back in time and make money, with some unfortunate results. Pretty high-tech stuff. It's an independent film with no flashy special effects, just a solid story. One that was pretty hard to follow and will require additional viewings of the film, but a solid story nonetheless. Even though I walked out of the theater feeling downright confused, I was downright pleasantly confused. It's always good to watch something that will make you think.

And think I did, all the way through Susukino, on my way to...

Thing #6 To Do In Sapporo: Visit Miyukichi, a bar in Susukino run by the mom of one of my students. I said I would go, after all. It was a fun little normal bar, in an area that doesn't have many normal bars. SO I had some food and some beer and talked with my student's mom about how her daughter was doing in school. Good food, good conversation, good beer. It was a fun way to cap off a long day.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Vin, Chuck, and Mr. T

These three sites are awesome, if a bit messed up at times.

The Random Vin Diesel Fact Generator
The Random Chuck Norris Fact Generator
The Random Mr. T Fact Generator

(Warning: contains some language that could be considered really offensive by my parents)

Some examples of the "facts" you can find on these sites:

If you rearrange the letters in Vin Diesel it reveals his credo: "I End Lives."
Vin Diesel invented black. In fact, he invented the entire spectrum of visible light. Except pink. Tom Cruise invented pink.
Vin Diesel coined the phrase, "I could eat a Horse" after he ate every last unicorn in existence.
We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Fear has nothing to fear but Vin Diesel.
Vin Diesel killed the Dead Sea.
(Taken from the Top 100 Vin Diesel Facts Page)

Chuck Norris does not hunt because the word hunting infers the probability of failure. Chuck Norris goes killing.
Chuck Norris sold his soul to the devil for his rugged good looks and unparalleled martial arts ability. Shortly after the transaction was finalized, Chuck roundhouse kicked the devil in the face and took his soul back. The devil, who appreciates irony, couldn't stay mad and admitted he should have seen it coming. They now play poker every second Wednesday of the month.
Chuck Norris died ten years ago, but the Grim Reaper can't get up the courage to tell him.
Cars were invented to have a faster way of fleeing from Chuck Norris. Not to be outdone, Chuck Norris invented the car accident.
Achilles was supposedly the greatest warrior of all time, but he died because of his weak spot, the Achilles tendon. There is no Chuck Norris tendon.
(Taken from the Top 100 Chuck Norris Facts Page)

Mr. T
Few people know that "The A-Team" was completely true. The only thing the producers invented was that the A-Team had been in Vietnam. If Mr. T had actually been fighting for the US in Vietnam, Saigon would be the capital of America's fifty-first state right now.
Bob Dylan goes knock knock knocking on heaven's door. Mr. T punches through it like Kool-Aid Man.
Mr. T doesn't drive. He puts his car in neutral and the road starts running away from him.
(Taken from the Top 100 Mr. T Facts Page)

Just in case I never post on this blog again, it's probably because the three of them found me and pitied, roundhoused, and/or bludgeoned me out of existence.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Type A Personality? Me?

Not freakin' likely.

You Have A Type B+ Personality


You're a pro at going with the flow
You love to kick back and take in everything life has to offer
A total joy to be around, people crave your stability.

While you're totally laid back, you can have bouts of hyperactivity.
Get into a project you love, and you won't stop until it's done
You're passionate - just selective about your passions


Life has a funny way of balancing things out.

I see this when I drive a lot. Someone will turn off the road, and someone else will turn on to the same road, restoring the balance. Someone changes lanes, another someone moves into that lane, restoring the balance. Stuff like that.

Or maybe I should pay a little more attention to my own driving.

I had an incredibly relaxing day yesterday. Originally, I was supposed to go skiing with the first and second year students, but because of the translation request from the Muroran police, I decided that it would be better if I stayed at school and was more readily available than I would be if I were at the top of a mountain skiing. You know, just in case anything happened.

So instead of being really cold at the top of a ski slope having to watch over a bunch of students who may or may not be all that excited about being there, I was able to relax and do some work in the nice, warm staff room. I edited an entrance exam test, did some recording for the listening portion of that test, talked with the vice principal about this, that, and the other thing, and goofed around on the internet. It was so quiet. And calm. Peaceful, even.

And then everybody came back, restoring the balance. And the noise.

I was so relaxed by the end of the day that I went home and went straight to bed and slept for twelve hours. And I didn't even go skiing!

More about balance.

Yesterday was calm and relaxing. Today was hell, condensed and concentrated into a pure form. Busy from the first minute to the last. Recording for the test. Teaching my second-year betas. More recording. Play practice. Designing a schedule for after-school play practice. More Play practice. Training a student for an English interview test. Play practice after school. Finally eating lunch around 4.

Aaah, yes. The balance was restored, with fierce, lethal precision and ruthless force.

Such is the way of things.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Something Cool...A "Blog Cloud"

So there's a website out there that will make a custom shirt for you using words from your blog. A personalized "blogshirt", if you will. Cool idea.

(I like how Matsue, Hakuta, Izumo, Shimane, and Muroran all made it on there. Cool. Although "drink" followed by "drive" worries me a bit...)

This might be fun to put in random websites and see what kind of word cloud it comes up with...

For example, CNN.com...

Or NFL.com...

(Geez, it says "Cowboys" and "Colts" and "Steelers" even "Europe", but not "Seahawks"? There's an Internet bias against Seattle, too! IT'S A CONSPIRACY! A C-O-N...spiracy.)

I found out about this site over at this blog.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Pride of the (Seventh) Fleet

Following that depressing Seahawk Super Bowl loss, I was in a pretty lousy mood for the rest of the day.

There's only one thing that can knock a depressed fan out of the "My team made it all the way to the Super Bowl and then lost" blues.

Or at least numb the pain a bit.

And that thing is...

...participating in a welcoming ceremony for the USS Blue Ridge, flagship of the Seventh Fleet, at Sakimori Port in Muroran.

I was pretty excited for this, because I was hoping the menu would be similar to the party last October on the USS Lassen.

That party had shrimp cocktail.

This is a big deal. Hey, it's hard to find a good shrimp cocktail over here, so when you do find one, it's big news.

So I had Hiraga-sensei drive me out to the port (still lacking wheels of my own - I'm planning on remedying that situation soon) and after passing through several checkpoints, I boarded the USS Blue Ridge.

I may not know much about the Navy, but I knew that they were pulling out all the stops with this party.

Several members of the crew were lined up to welcome all of the guests on to the ship.
The reception was held in the "fancy" room. What? It had wooden flooring. That makes it "fancy". I think it was an officers' lounge or something similarly restricted to certain members of the crew.
They had a live band playing some background music.
There was a small ice sculpture at one of the tables.
And they had shrimp cocktail.


So I had some wine to calm down (not big on crowds at all) and then went over to the buffet table.

Chicken fajitas.
Turkey croquettes.
Spicy corn on slices of bread with a salsa dip.
White fish and green pepper kebabs.
Shrimp cocktail.

Them's good eatins!

There was a big crowd at the party, too. Like I mentioned before, due to the murder that happened in Yokosuka, the Navy is a little less than popular right now. So local groups came out in force to show their support. Self Defense Forces higher-ups, many members of the Chamber of Commerce, city government officials...the room was a tad crowded. But it was cool to see.

The Navy choosing Muroran as their port to stop at is good news for the city. Sailors like to spend money when they visit different ports. Muroran could use the economic boost.

I met some really nice folks at the party, locals and military. I also was able to talk with the captain of the ship. Very very cool guy.

Why? Well...

My school will be taking our second year students to the U.S. this summer. Some students will stay longer to participate in an intensive language program. The plan is to have that part of the program in San Diego. There is a large naval base in San Diego. I was given a mission by Starfish High's principal.

da da da-da da da da-da (Mission:Impossible theme)
Get our students a tour of that base.
So I ask a guy I know from the U.S. Consulate in Sapporo if he could help me out. He told me that he's not the got to talk to, but he knows who is. The captain. So he introduces me, and I give him my sales pitch.
We're taking some students to San Diego, and with the relationship we have with the Navy, what with Kaisei playing hoops against a team from the USS Lassen last October, would it be possible to get a tour.
The captain laughed and said, "Check this out."
He raised up his right hand and made a "come over here" motion to someone.
Someone came over. Ike.
The captain introduced us, and I gave the sales pitch again, and Ike, who is a public relations guy for the Navy, said, "It's a done deal. Give me your contact information, and we'll get you set up for when you go over."
We don't even have a complete schedule figured out yet and I just got the okay for not only a tour of the base, but...
"You want to tour a ship, too?"
...a ship as well.
The captain is awesome.
All in all, a fun night, and I came away with a full stomach, a slight wine buzz, and a guarantee of a tour of the naval base in San Diego.
I hope I get invited to the next party that happens when the next Naval ship comes to Muroran.

Vindication For The East Cost Media Bias


Well, my day's shot.

Congratulations, Pittsburgh. You won a well-played game.

(Not that I watched anything. I listened to the BBC broadcast, which was comedy in and of itself.

"My, Charles, wasn't that a spectacular catch?"

"That decision by the referee was rather objectionable."

"Get me some more crumpets to go with my tea!"

Ah, well, it sounded like a well-played game...whatever.)

Well, this is what we get for planning a victory parade before the victory.

Hubris...the Greeks knew what they were talkin' about.

I guess there's always next year.

Damn. I never knew how little consolation that phrase had.

More Fun With Taro Aso

During the break between the third and fourth quarters of the Super Bowl, I cruised on over to Japan Today and found another tidbit from your favorite Japanese politician and mine, Mr. Taro Aso.

Honestly, this guy makes it too easy.

Oh well, as long as he keeps servin' 'em up, I'll keep slammin' 'em down.


Super Bowl...Monday?

Damn time difference.

Eight hours till kickoff.

That means while folks in the States will be sitting down with their pizzas and beers and whatever elses, I will be sitting down in front of my desk to sling English for the Man.

The game is being broadcast live over here. At eight AM.

I don't have the channel it's being shown on. So I will be hunting all over the Internet for a radio station that I can listen to the game on.

Go Seahawks.

Earn the NW some respect.

Respect we didn't get when the Mariners tied the record for wins in a season (116) and then failed to make it to the World Series. We aren't going to talk about who they lost to.

Respect that hack writers like Skip Bayless fail to give the Seahawks, saying they are a weak team in a weak division and don't deserve to be there.
[Editor's Note: After looking through some of his other columns at ESPN Page 2, despite all of his knocks against Seattle, he did stick up for us after the Super Bowl loss. Maybe he's not so bad. His insistence on calling the Seahawks Sea-Fraud tends to make a fan a tad...emotional.]

Respect that the Sonics and Trailblazers don't get.

Play a good tough game, and show the country that the Seahawks are a team that deserves to be playing on the big stage.

Give the kids in the NW something to cheer about.

Go Seahawks.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Slow Weekend

Since I'm basically stuck in town this week, what with me having to be on call for translation duties should the need arise, I didn't do a lot this weekend.

Played some video games.
Watched some TV.
Went for a walk.
Prayed for a Seahawks victory in the Super Bowl tomorrow ('cuz it's tomorrow in Japan).
Surfed the 'Net.

Which is where I found this.

Just click on the picture and check out Chief Engineer Scotty's Lament.

Rest in Peace, Scotty.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Imperial Lineage


Let me clarify this post by saying that for all the craziness that goes on in this country, I kinda like living here. It's not a bad country, really.

And before we continue, there are some other things that need a little clarification.

Japan is in a bit of a imperial succession crisis right now. The current crown prince and his wife were childless for quite a while. When news came out that she was pregnant, the media frenzy and unnatural pressure that resulted from it caused Princess Masako to miscarriage. She became pregnant a second time, and then was sent into hiding (for all intents and purposes). Keep her away from the press and there might actually be an heir produced.

Luckily, there was! Congratulations! It's a...

...girl. Aiko.

Wow, did this ever open up a whole new can of worms.

The possible successor to the throne is a woman (well, to be more specific, a girl)?

Most of the people in Japan seem to be okay with that idea. A lot of the politicians, on the other hand, aren't.

More on this can be found here.

Of course, the move to make it legal for a female to ascend to the Imperial throne is meeting with opposition. Which leads to quotes like THIS:

"If Aiko becomes the reigning empress and gets involved with a blue-eyed foreigner while studying abroad and marries him, their child may become emperor. We should never let that happen."
This is an actual quote from former trade minister Takeo Hiranuma. (More here and here. Scroll down and read the comments, too.)

Well, now. What a mess.

First off, and I'll start with the easy stuff, not all foreigners have blue eyes. Sometimes I think this must come as a shock. So if the young buck has green eyes, it's not a problem?

Second, ummm, are you her father? No. THEN SHUT THE HELL UP!

Third, if there is this big fear about her meeting some strapping young lad overseas and ruining your preciously pure bloodline (again, not true), why send her overseas in the first place? Gosh, she might actually STUDY in a foreign university. God knows a lot of studying doesn't happen at universities over here.

Fourth, this attitude is not limited to idiotic right-wing chauvinists in the government. This is an attitude a lot of foreigners have to deal with. Not so much the whole bloodline thing. Fathers don't want their daughters running off to some strange land with some blue-eyed foreigner. Or green-eyed. Or black-skinned. Or (add condition here).

Not everyone is like that, mind you. But it can be a pretty damn big obstacle to relationships if you find yourself in the unlucky position of having to deal with a father like that. Yeesh.

I complain. And yet, I'm still here.

Ahh, yes, but I am also single.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

According to This Test...

I'm a lesbian!

Well, if being a lesbian trapped in a man's body counts...

You scored as Lesbian.









Are you Bisexual, Straight, gay/lesbian?
created with QuizFarm.com

And in continuing with the theme of being completely inappropriate, and for that matter, lesbians, I give you Mr. Loudon Wainwright III. Loudon, if you please... (just click on the picture)

(Credit must be given where credit is due...I first saw this over at Anime Video Blog. Since I have the CD that this song is on, and the song is so incredibly fitting for this post, I knew that I had to put this on here.)