Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry X-mas

I'm at Ai's house for the weekend. Right now I'm watching TV with her and her mom. Last night before I came up to Tokyo, I was able to pick up the box that mom sent from the post office, so we opened it last night. Mom sent a bunch of candy, two german cookbooks, and a "Monsters INC." looking scarf for Ai. I got a scarf from Ai, and a new camera from Ma and Pa (but I bought it here).

I was going to update my blog a few times this week, but each time I noticed that even my own mother hasn't posted a reply to my survey, so I didn't.

On Sunday afternoon, I am taking the ferry across Tokyo Bay to Takeyama to visit with some friends from WWU, and hopefully go sailing. I am also teaching a dentist that has an office in my area, and he has a sailboat too, so maybe I will have sailing opportunities in the near future.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Transportation Cost Survey


Keikyu with Holga
Originally uploaded by noexit.
I have been wanting to do a small survey on transportation costs. So post in the comments how much you spend each month on transportation. That includes gas, car payments, insurance, and any other miscellaneous costs. Just make it an average estimate for one person for one month, and if you get any reimbursements from your company for commuting expenses, mention that too.
This is in response to some comments that transportation in Japan is expensive, (but it's usually the same people that ask if I can eat Japanese oranges, and interrupt me to ask if I can use chopsticks (while I'm using chopsticks)) and so I became curious. I'll compile results and post my estimates in a week or so.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Taxes

I already had to submit tax paperwork for my Japanese taxes. All I really had to do was write my name and address, and that I had health insurance, and give it to someone at my company. They take care of the rest, but it seems not too hard anyway.

So then I decided to see what US taxes were going to be like for me this year. Holy Moley!!!!! it's going to suck!!!! No more 1040EZ for me! The rules about weather or not I can claim that I'm a bona-fide resident of Japan alone are mind boggling. If I can say that I am, I can deduct housing costs and $70,000 of income, so I'll basically not have to pay any tax, but if not, I'm going to be taxed to hell!

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Did you know?

Did you know that approx. 7 million college students could have gotten their 4 years of school paid for with the amount of money that has been spent so far in the Iraq war?

Interesting...

Friday, December 03, 2004

Job Hunting

I've spent most of today and yesterday (when I wasn't puking) job hunting. Mostly I've been looking for teaching positions in Tokyo, and I've found a couple that are really close to where I want to live. They are mostly teaching young kids though, some younger than the first graders that I teach now, and I don't really want to be a baby sitter.

My other option is to try finding a job that is not in the teaching field. This would be ideal because I'm going to move back to the US sometime, and kind of job will I be able to get if the only work experience I have is teaching little kids english? But what can I do? I'm pretty good with computers; I worked for Western's Tech support department for almost 2 years. But I know almost nothing about programing, and my Japanese ability is not quite business level, so I don't see where I could apply it. The only other thing that I can think of is that I'm good at research. Since my major was basically a history degree, I should be at least. But does that mean I'm good at writing? I'm not really a good judge of my own writing. It never seems to come out how I had intended. I think I'd be pretty good at translating though, but I don't have any official experience working for someone as a translator, which every job posting I've seen requires.

Ai's been going through the same problems as me for quite a while now. At first she was thinking about the things that are popular among female college grads; working for an airline or a travel agency. Now she's thinking a lot bigger. So I think her chances of finding a good job are pretty high. She's referred me to a consulting company that helps people find employment in various fields. One thing that I remember a private student of mine telling me is that in Japan, you don't really need to know anything about the job you are going to be doing. Companies expect that you didn't learn anything in University, so they will give you all the necessary training. He started out working for Oracle, and was at the time working for EMC as a computer programmer making 12,000,000 yen ($120,000) a year. He said that his company would probably even hire me after I graduated and returned to Japan. I wish I still had his email address...

Sick! Sick! Sick!

I got very sick last night for some reason. Last night I had dinner before going to my private lesson, and when I got back I had a little more something to eat. About half way through, my stomach started feeling strange, and starting around 2 am, I began throwing up. Fun, huh? I couldn't even drink water. Must have been something I ate. When I woke up, I had one last puke of all the water I'd tried to drink, and began hunting for what I'm supposed to do to call in sick. I called the school and my company by 8am, and went to sleep. By 11am, I was finally able to eat a pice of bread and drink water, but I couldn't eat anything more until around 3pm. Now I'm just sitting here wit ha fever.

I really didn't want to have to call in sick ever, and this day was supposed to be my last day at this particular school. I Think I will be able to re-schedule the missing classes for my last day of work, next February.

Now I get to spend the rest of tonight looking for a new job. Not because I called in sick, I don't like the company I'm working for much, and I want to move to Tokyo next spring. Hopefully, I can find a job making a little more than I am now. I'm really not getting paid enough.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

It's cold. I need a coat


Here are two stupid pics of me wearing two coats. Which do you like? (This is as good as I can possibly get with my cell phone without the memory card.)

Monday, November 15, 2004

New Job

I started a small part time job today. I'm teaching 5 beginning level students at their company north of Yokohama, about 20 minutes from my house, for an hour and forty-five minutes, twice a week. I was kind of nervous this time because I've never done a real business English class, and that's a long time to be teaching a single class. This time, a lot of time was taken by an orientation from the head of the company I'm working for, but I don't know how I'm going to fill that much time next time. The conference room that we're using has a projector, so I might be able to bring some movie clips of something for listening practice or something, but I'm not going to be ready for that for a while.

The students are two women and a man in their late 30's, one guy in his 40's, and a young guy probably in his late 20's. The oldest guy is the best, but they are all pretty low level. Of corse, all of the have "studied" English ever since junior high, but in Japan, that usually doesn't mean much. After studying that long, their listening and reading is okay, but speaking is not that great. Still, it's nice to be teaching adults that can at lease understand what I'm saying for a change.

This small job will end up making me ¥50,000 extra a month (about $500) which will be nice if I go on vacation early next year or decide to move. The bad thing is that I'm stuck doing it every monday and friday until the end of March, so I don't even get to take a long weekend until then.

Friday, November 12, 2004

No pictures from me

Ai has my memory card again, so no pictures from my cell phone. I should just give it to her and get another... I have a roll of B&W to develope, so if I get around to mixing up some chemicals, I can get that done this weekend. I don't remember what's on it though...

In the meantime, here's a nice site I found | sorryeverybody.com

Edit: Link fixed

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Short Days

Since have been shortening so much over the last few weeks, when I get home, there isn't much daylight left. I'd been wanting to go riding for a while, but this weekend I bought some lights for my bike, so now I can feel safer at night. So when I got home from work today, instead of being tired and lazy, I hopped on my bike and went for a ride. I rode 50 km in 2 hours. That's a half century! (but a half metric century, which is 35 miles (huh? A century? Yea. It's a 100 mile or 100 km ride.)) The cool thing about 50km in 2 hours is that it's only 47km from my house to Tokyo station, and if I could ride the same distance by bike, it would take only twice the time as the train (and probably the same as by car.)

So now instead of "I'm tired" being the first thing on my mind, it is ranked 3rd, preceeded by "I'm hungry" and "I can't stand up" in first and second places.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Guess I'llbe staying here for a while...

Hmm. I don't really know what to say. I guess not enough people from Ohio read my link. That's too bad. I guess they wont be having a visit from me for a while. Neither will anyone else really.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Photo Album

I've also added a link in the section on the right to my new photo album. It's the Artsy Fartsy one with the B&W that I have taken in the last month, and well as some 35mm and Polaroid that I've taken with a heavily modified Chinese plastic camera.

The Facts on the Bush Administration

Just incase anyone has any doubts in the next few days about who to vote for, please read this. I will let the facts speak for themselves.

The Nation: 100 Facts and 1 Opinion

Friday, October 29, 2004

My Bike!!!

My wonderful mother got my bike sent to me really cheap through FedEx, so now I have a real bicycle. It was supposed to get here Wednesday, but it got delayed in customs a little bit, so it didn't end up getting here until Thursday night. The road that I live on, as I have probably mentioned, is really small. Down the street and around the corner, the road narrows into what looks like a walking path between the railroad tracks and a sandstone bluff. If you can fit your car through there, then you have to negotiate a 90 degree corner between two old houses, with concrete walls on either side. The final part up to my apartment building is half taken up by stairs, so you have to squeeze between them and a drainage ditch. I don't think the delivery truck made it past where it narrows past the railroad tracks because I heard a clanking sound coming up the street for a couple minutes before I had a knock on my door.

I got my bike put together pretty quick, but I had to walk it past the next station to a decent bike shop to get the tires inflated. Most regular bikes in Japan use this really weird type of valve that I really hate, and my bike uses European valves, so I didn't think any other shops would be able to do it. Plus I needed some other stuff.

Once I got air in my tires, I rode home and WOW!! I'd forgotten what it was like to ride that fast! I've gotten pretty good on my other bike at predicting the movements of Japanese pedestrians, who care even less that you're coming at them than US pedestrians. If I was driving a car going that fast, people wouldn't go out into the street, but on a bike, it's like they assume you wont be going that fast, so they walk right out in front of you. I was looking forward to going on a ride today, but it's rainy. I might go anyway.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Rocking and Rolling

Tonight starting at 5:30, we had a few strong earthquakes. The main one was 6.7 on the Richter scale, about 150 miles from Tokyo, but where I was at Ai's house in Tokyo, it shook pretty good for about a minute and a half. It wasn't as strong where I was as the one a few weeks ago, but near it's epicenter in Nigata, it collapsed some tunnels, houses, started a few fires, knocked out power and telephone, and derailed a bullet train. In the hour after the earthquake, there were at least 4 or 5 more that we could feel.

After the earthquakes subsided, Ai and I went to her grandma's house and she made us Sukiyaki, which is vegetables and thinly sliced beef cooked in a broth in a pot on the table. It was really good.

I got a scanner finally, so I will start uploading pictures to my Flickr page, and a new one I have set up at Lomo Homes. I will put a link to that site up when I a chance.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Tully's


Tully's
Originally uploaded by noexit.
Tully's Specialty Coffee to go. In a convenience store near you.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

More Cool History

They area that I live in, though seeming like an uneventful place compared to the mega-city a short train ride away, is loaded with history. My first cool history discovery was way back around when I first got here, and found a park where Matthew Perry (Of the US Navy, not friends) first landed in Japan, opening Japan up for broad international contact. A few months later, I discovered that my area was also the place that the first Japanese Constitution was drafted, a direct result of the influences and disruptions that international contact brought.

Today I ran across something that's been staring me in the face since I got here. I was looking up Gulliver's Travels in Wikipedia because, having never read it, I was wondering what all the fuss was about him in Japan (Japan was the only non-fictional place mentioned in the book). So one thing lead to another, and I ran across A Brief History of William Adams.

The story of William Adams may be familiar to people who have seen the movie Shogun or read the book by James Clavell. Though about as accurate as a child in a coloring book, the character John Blackthorne is based on William Adams. Adams was an English pilot on a Dutch ship that became stranded in Japan in 1600. Being told by the Portuguese that they were pirates, they were immediately captured by the Shoguns forces. The Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, took a liking to Adams and made him a vassal. But he could also never leave Japan, so Tokugawa William Adams dead, and gave him the name Miura Anjin and rank of Samurai. Since Adams was legally dead, he could remarry, so he married a samurai woman, and was given a fife.

Fast forward back up the the 21st century, and I find myself living on the Miura Pennensula, and passing through a station called Anjin-zuka every day. The Miura Peninsula is the domain that was given to Miura Anjin when he became a samurai, called Hemi at the time. Now, Hemi is the name of the station 3 stops from mine, and Anjin-zuka is the next stop, probably close to where he lived. There have been westerners in the area for far longer than I had ever imagined.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Damon's Party

A friend of mine from the little english conversation school that I taught at the last time I was in Japan had a little party last night. In the few years since I was last in Japan, he's been very busy making connections, and now, he barely teaches anymore. Instead, he's gotten into the entertainment industry I suppose. His main job seems to be producing promotional stuff for a fancy restaurant owned by a friend, and doing shows. Also, his photography hobby is becoming something more than just a hobby.

Given this background, his party last night was huge. It was hosted in a trendy night club in Aoyama, one of the most expensive and trendy areas of Tokyo. He had giant prints of his and a friends photography on the walls, and two giant video screens playing a film they made.

The interesting thing about this whole thing was how he was able to hype his photo's to get people to pay $30 to see. He came up to where Ai and I were sitting and said "look at this! If you ever want to show some of your photos, just let me know. I can set up anything. Just low key at a resturant, or a club thing like this. Just add a little hype, and you can turn anybody into a legend. "The place wasn't packed, but it was pretty full. Lots of the normal club-goers, plus more than the normal amount of foreigners and some really strange arty looking people. Luckily we didn't have to pay to get in (I didn't expect him to let us all in free, but there was some confusion with fliers that he was supposed to send, and then not being on the guest list like we were supposed to. I was kind of disappointed about that. I've always want to be on a guest list) because Ai invited 3 friends, and they didn't really like the kind of music that was playing, so around 2 am, we left and went in search of a new place. We thought about going to a place than one of her friends works at, but it was way to fancy (dress code and all that) and drinks were $10 a peace, plus a table charge, so we eventually settled for a Japanese style bar until they closed at 5 am and we all went home.

Now I have a cold and have turned nocturnal.
Check out Damon, Will Rob, and others at Lomo Box

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Invasion!

Body snachers!
Martha

I went to quite a few department store looking for bed sheets that weren't pastel pink, pastel blue, or pastel green. I didn't have much luck. Some, but not much. I was able to find some non-pastel at a reasonable price.

But who really cares about all that when you're confronted with the pictures to the right? That first picture looks suspiciously like a sign in a Walmart store. I'm was pretty sure I wasn't in Walmart, but it turns out that Walmart has invested a large sum in the Seiyu Department store chain in an effort to break into the Japanese market.

Martha Stewart has also made an effort to break into the Japanese market, but I don't know how many people have actually heard of her here. The only thing I saw with a Martha Stewart label was in the clearance rack, so I don't know how well she'd doing. Maybe it's not pastel enough. Ai knows who she is and likes Martha Stewarts' pronounciation of Arigato Gozaimasu (a-RIG-e-toe ga-zai-mas as relayed to her by Kelsey, so it's fifth hand information by the time you read it here.)

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Still not there

On the other side of Yokohama, all the trains are clogged up. There is no scheduale right now, the train just gets there when it does. On the train on the other side of the landslide, there was a group of navy guys oblivious to the blockage until a Japanese guy tried to tell them that they had to get off. Even though they couldn't understand japanese, they had plenty of warning signs, like huge hand written signs in red letters, station workers talking into megaphones, groups of confused looking people standing around in front of the station, and the trains actually being late. It all should have made them think "huh, I wonder what's going on?" but it didn't. Most of the navy guys that I've been unfortunate enough to come across don't pay attention to much, and they were completely oblivious, so I had to explain it all to them.

No Train

When I posted this morning, I said that I heard trains going by, so I thought everything must be okay. But, it was saspiciously quiet. As of now, trains are running on a very limited schedual, and stopping a few stations away because of a landslide blocking the tracks. There are two ways around, either JR from Zushi, or the Yokohama Subway. They're giving everyone free passage on the Subway, but it's really not too crowded. I think most were smart enough to stay home.

Typhoon!!!

Bed Boxes
bed

What a week it's been for natural stuff. First a pretty strong earthquake, and yesterday, the first direct hit by a typhoon. It was the 22nd Pacific typhoon, and the I'm-not-sure-what-th to hit Japan. (but a lot higher than usual)

Yesterday morning I woke up at about 9:30 wondering where my bed was. I got online and found the tracking site for the shipping company, and found out the my bed was shipped from the factory on the 29th, and had been sitting in a warehouse in Yokohama for a week. I called them to figure out what was going on, and arranged a delivery the same day. At 12, I got a call from the delivery truck driver saying that they'd be there at around 2. By this time the rain was pretty hard, and I think they were worrying about it getting worse. At 2:00 I went outside with my umbrella, and both corners of my apartment building were dumping huge columns of water. I walked as far as the train station and by the time I got back, the bottom part of my pants were drenched. At 2:30, my bed arrived, and delivery men carried all the boxes up to my room.

I spend the next few hours putting my bed together and watching stuff blow by at an increasing rate of speed. When the bed was done I turned on the TV to watch NHK's Typhoon report showing the eye passing just about directly over where I live. Just after the strongest part of the storm, the power went out, and I was in the dark.

Once the bulk of the storm passed, I decided to venture outside to procure food. Outside, it had stopped raining much, and most of the wind was gone also. Few people had umbrellas, and the ground was littered with the skeletons of dead umbrellas, potless plants, and plantless pots. A small tree in front of my apartment building had snapped in half. The train line that runs past my house had stopped. NHK was showing footage of landslides covering the tracks south of Yokohama, so there were a lot of people stuck down here, just standing in front of the station waiting for it to open.

It seems like everything is back to normal now. I can hear the trains going by, so they must have cleared up the landslide on the tracks which is good since I'm going to meet Ai in a few hours. I really didn't want to have to take the JR line.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Earthquake!!!

There was just a pretty strong Earthquake! In Japan's classification, it was a level 4 where I live, and a weak level 5 in the center. The Japanese system is based on what is felt by people, so a one is weak, felt be people that aren't moving. Level 2 rattles doors and windows. Level 3 shakes buildings and rattles things loudly. 4 is supposed to shake buildings strongly, knock over objects, splash water out of water holding containers, and cause people to panic and run outside, while five can cause cracks in walls. I would say it was a weak 4 where I live since nothing fell over, but I could defiantly feel my apartment building swaying. The TV says that Tokyo and Yokohama were level 4. I think I'll live in a reinforced cement building next time I move.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Under Construction

My blog is under a little construction right now since Dansen is bored and doesn't like my colors. So try not to breath in any of the dust, I'm not sure if it's toxic or not.

And that person who always does a yahoo search for get out fast, if you type 'ctrl-d' it will add a bookmark and you won't have to search for me anymore. Or better yet, add it to the bookmarks bar.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Darkness

Last Sunset
Click above for full size

Last thursday was a holiday in Japan marking the first day of fall. It was quite a striking difference, and I was quite happy that the weather finally started to cool off. But today I realized the other thing that happens in fall. It gets dark. I got home at around 4:30, had a snack, and noticed it was dark. I didn't expect that it'd sneak up on me like it does in the US when daylight savings time ends. There's also been a lot of misty Washington type rain for the last few days. It makes me tired.

Now that it's getting dark and cold, I'm getting some furniture for my room. Ai and her uncle drove down on Saturday to bring me a table and chair which will become my desk, and a kotatsu, a low table with a removable top and a heater underneith. During the winter, you put a square blanket over the frame, but the table top on top, and sit with your legs in the heated area under the table. I don't have a blanket for it yet, but I saw some at a shop yesterday, and when It starts getting colder, I will go get one. I will also be getting a real bed next week. It will have a real matress, and will have some storage space underneith. My room's getting smaller, but more livable.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Pictures


WWU students
Originally uploaded by noexit.
Two weeks ago, I met some old friends from WWU along with Dansen in Shinjuku. Dansen is leaving for Korea pretty soon for a teaching job in a regular school like me! That means he'll have to start waking up early. He'll also be a millionaire. 2 million wan a month. (that's only about $1700usd though). The people in the picture are Keiko (left) Chie (middle) and Hiromi (right), and Dansen above.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Great Blogs

Most blogs that I see are really horrible. I don't pretend that mine is great and interesting, but at least I can usually spell, or at least use spell check, and I write words out completely. Usually I have something to say as well. But list night I found two really great blogs. One blog I would swear was written by a history professor I had at Western. This professor describes herself as
"an overworked, underappreciated, over-educated, undervalued Professor seeking asylum from the often mind-numbingly boring world of academia. Help me use my grand IQ for something more than entertaining 19 year olds and conducting exciting, life-altering research for scholarly articles that only an average of 4 people will actually read...." and "a thirty-something, Professor with a long list of grievances and shorter list of things that are working in my life...."
Her entire page is black, and she has an avatar of a gothish looking cartoon girl. My history professor at Western always wore black, with these strange black wrist guards, drank at least 12 Diet Cokes in a day, and was never in a good mood. It was either bad, or worse. She wasn't a bad prof; I learned a lot, but we were all scared of her, and I think that's what made us learn.

The similarities between my prof and and darkness of this web blog are so similar, I might think that I've found her blog, except that this professor says she has two dogs and a husband of five years. I'm positive that the only living things in my professors house were a couple of cats.

Here are two fun professor blogs:
Advice at your own risk
Cheeky Prof

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Coloring Contest!!!

I'm going to redo the layout of my blog with some cool stuff that I've been learning, but I am having problems deciding on a color scheme for the new layout, so I'm having a

Coloring Contest

Just send me the colors that you thing would look good. It can be from 2 to 4 or 5 or so, and I'll pick one after I've received a few submissions. If you want to be really fancy, you can send me the hex numbers for the colors if you know how to do that(For example #FFFFFF is white, and that blue color that is my current background is #112233).

I will also be able to post some pictures from my camera soon. Ai's probably somewhere in Texas right now on her way back from Chicago. She's really excited to be in Dubya's home state for a for a short period. As short as possible. So she'll be back home tomorrow, and she's already been bugging me to go on a road trip to Yosemite.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Womens Uni

There was an ad on the train this morning for Kamakura Womens University. It listed some of the exciting majors to choose from like Home Economics and Child Development. I guess with Child Development you could be a kindergarden teacher, but it sounds like a spend-four-years-preparing-for-marriage shool to me. Child Development can be part of education, psych, and other majors in the US, but I doubt thats how its intended at this school. Have there even been majors like this in the US since the 60s?

yuenchi

Well, this is the best I can get out of my phone right now. I had to split it in four and email the pieces separately from my phone, the glue them back together on my computer.

This is Ai and I on the Pirate ride at an amusement park we went to a few weeks ago. There was a big water park too, be we both had colds, so we decided it would be best not to do that.

There, you got a picture.

Edit: I had to take the picture down. I can only get away with putting Ai approved pictures of her on my blog. That's why there are so few of them.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Anwser to Marcia's Question

My anwser to my aunt Marcia's question was pretty long, so I decided to make a post out of it.

I don't have more pictures because my girlfriend took my memory card with her to Chicago.

There's been six typhoons to hit Japan so far this year, but none have made it to Tokyo yet. Right now, there is one going up the west coast, and another going up the east coast. The east coast one will be here on Thursday or Friday, and might get Tokyo. They usually just have a lot of rain, and the wind makes it difficult to walk, but not usually dangerous by the time they get this far north.

To get this much vacation after a month of work, first you'll have to put up with 250 little kids a day, and probablly cut your sallary in half. That's not all there is to it though, because you could also end up not getting more than 10 days of vacation a year, so you also have to avoid the conversation schools.

Kyocera Ceramic Knife

I got a new knife. It's one of those Kyocera Ceramic knives. Apparently, the only thing harder than the type of ceramic that these knives are made of is diamond, so it's supposed to stay really sharp. And it is really sharp! It also doesn't stick to things like meat (maybe chese, but I haven't tried) like steel knives do, so it just slips through. It was really cheap too compared to the US; about $18USD, but in the US, they are around $40 -$60 for the small one I have, and more than a hundred for the bigger ones. One site said that this is due to a huge import duty that the US has on them. I really needed a new knife, my old one was a $5 one that I used as a can opener once.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Back to Work

I don't know what was going on, but Blogger was being really slow last week. I wouldn't even post, and my page was loading slowly too. I don't know if any of you noticed. I guess that's what happens when I use free websites.

I started work again Friday. I didn't want to go back, but it's a great school, so a good place to start my second quarter.

Dansen's moving to Korea soon, so we met some friends in Shinjuku today, and I found out that one of them actually lives near the station next to mine. I hadn't seen any of them for a while, so I had fun. Nothing much else. Rain.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Vacation Ending

I have less that one week to go of my month and a half vacation. It's going to be strange going back, kind of like starting from the beginning again. I will be back at the first schools I went to way back in May, and for the first time since May, I will be teaching something new. This was fine for the first quarter because most of the schools had something in mind for what they wanted me to teach, mainly self introductions. But this time, plans are much less concrete. Right now I think it would be easier working at a conversation school, but it would mean longer hours, and I am learning more and getting better experience working in the public schools. I'm also working on waking up earlier: back to my 6am schedule.

I got my new voter registration card in the mail this week. It surprised me that it actually got here though. They used the regular "First Class Postage Paid" post card that would be sent to people in the US, and where the address was located was less than clear. It gives me confidence in the Japanese Post. (Which I never had a reason to doubt: A postcard that I sent to a friend a few years ago while in Osaka arrived later the same day!)

I'm heading up to Yokohama today to hang out with Ai. She's leaving for Chicago next week to visit her host family and friends from when she studied there in high school for a year. But no pictures from me for a while because she has my camera phone's memory card to use in her digital camera.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Hospital


pills
Originally uploaded by noexit.

I finally went to find out what's wrong with me, in the lungs that is, and it wasn't as scary of an experience as I though it would be. In fact, aside from the sucking blood part (which they do just about anywhere) it wasn't bad at all. Of corse they did fulfill the expectation that Japanese doctors really really like X-rays: they did two X-rays of my chest. The waiting part was what I didn't expect. In a clinic in the US, if you walk in at 4:30 in the afternoon expecting to see a doctor, you'd better expect to wait a long time. If you walk into a hospital at 4:30 in the afternoon, you'd better start thinking on what you want on your delivery pizza (you don't want cafeteria food do you?) and clearing out the seats on either side of you so you can take a nap before you see a doctor around 2 am.

I however, walked in at 4:30 pm to the local hospital, signed up at the receptionist's desk, and they handed me a sheet of paper to write down my symptoms. I didn't even have time to get past writing down my temperature before I was called in to see a doctor.

The doctor spoke a little english, and thankfully knew all the technical works to describe what was wrong with me (the lungs that is). Since this is the first time for me to go to a doctor in Japan, I don't have the vocabulary to deal with describing things like that. After a few minutes, she sent me out to get a blood test and and some X-rays. After all that was done, carried my X-rays back to the waiting room and waited for my blood results. By 5:15 I was called back into the doctors office where she showed my my X-rays and told me that I have bronchitis. She prescribed me 5 different medicines for cough, getting the gunk out of my lungs, antibiotics, and who-knows-what-else, and by 5:30, I had all of these and was on my way.

So it all really beats the last time I went to a doctor in Bellingham. I drove around for 2 hours trying to find a clinic that would take new patients and was on my insurance plan. Finally I was recommended to this walk-in clinic where it took about 2 and a half hours to get out. Then we had to go to a drugstore and wait another 45 minutes to get my prescription filled. With Japan's national health care system, premiums are based on your income, and I can go to any doctor in the country, so It's cheap and convenient.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

History in Industrial Mess



I was lost riding my bike today through the industrial mess that surrounds the Nissan Research facilities and manufacturing plants just south west of where I live, when I noticed a large granite slab nestled between a factory and a small tree covered hill. This granite slab contained contained the words, "Site of Origional Drafting of the Meji Constitution In the Year Meiji 20 - AD 1887".

This is a interesting thing to find here, since it's in a place that now really has nothing, I wouldn't expect that there was much there in 1887 either. It is possible that whatever was here was blown up during the Pacific War, since this area was also a major center for shipbuilding and airplane manufacturing. The reverse gives a strong indication that this was the case. It lists the sponsors of the monument, and the a re-construction date of 1951.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Yahoo!

I finally have internet of my own. After almost three months of mooching off of someone else's unreliable wireless internet signal, I finally have my own. I signed up for 45mbps Yahoo! Broad Band (It's not really 45mbps unless you live right next door to the local NTT building. Since I'm 1.5km away, my speed is somewhere between 15 and 25mbps, still damn fast.) at the beginning of August, but since I didn't have a phone line, I to wait until NTT hooked it up. NTT is the former national telephone company that was privatized a few years ago. (But it was done so sort of like the US Postal Service or Amtrak, so it's not completely self reliant) Being a former nationalized company, it has many weird quirks, the biggest of which is that it costs about $740 to buy a phone line. This comes from an old system where they charged lots of money to give you a phone line so that they could use it build up their infrastructure. Now it is no longer needed, but if they were to stop charging this exorbitant price for new phone lines, they would also have to refund all the people that already own them, and that would bankrupt the company, so instead, you can rent a line, which, unless you plan on using it for more than 9 years, will save you money. (I think you can also buy phone lines second hand for quite a discount)

So they NTT guys came at 9am, and my modem was delivered at 11, and I had it set up by 11:15. The coolest thing about it is that I can also use it as an IP phone. You just plug a regular phone into the modem, and you can call anywhere in the world. Incidentally, calling the US at 2.5 cents a minute is cheaper than calling the person down the street (This is, again, thanks to NTTs high rates). I tried to call a few people tonight, but no one answered their phones, so I'll try later.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Sick and Snoreing

I've had a cough for the last 2 weeks, which I guess my neighbor has been hearing because she stopped by tonight to see that I had medicine and health insurance in Japan and that I was going okay. My coughing at 2am must be bothering her, but I don't really care since she snores really really loud, making it hard for me to sleep some nights for months.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Music

I really need to keep up with music. I was just listening to one of my favorite bands, Radiohead, and I decided to see if there were any dates coming up in Tokyo. There was, last week... This is the second time I've missed them here. I did a similar thing with U2 a few years ago. They were playing in Tacoma a few days after I was leaving for Japan, but I figured that they'd come to Tokyo too. Apparently it costs too much to get a venue for a big show like U2, so they didn't come. U2's next tour is rumored to start early next year, but they probably wont come to Japan on this tour either, so I guess I'll have to plan a trip to Dublin sometime next May. Darn...

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

cassette bomb


cassette bomb
Originally uploaded by noexit.

I saw these "cassette bombes" in a local 100 yen shop. They gas canisters used in table top burners for cooking certain foods the dinner table. I thought the name was particularly fitting since the manual to surviving in Japan that my employer handed out during training warned not to buy gas canisters at a 100 yen shop because they have a tendency to blow up.

Also, I got the beginnings of a dark room set up. I have a developing tank, and the chemicals to develop B&W film. I developed my first two rolls of B&W film, and they seem to have turned out well. I don't have a scanner or anything yet though, so I can't tell to well. My next goal is to find an enlarger so I can make prints. They are quite expensive, so I've been looking at Yahoo Auctions for used ones. Sometime soon, I also hope to go to some used camera shops in Shinjuku to look for one. Once I have an enlarger, I'll be able to make my whole apartment into a dark room, and start making prints. My friend Damon, who ran the defunct Japan Box that I had a link to, now runs a photography site, Lomo Box which is dedicated to a specific Russian camera that has a sort of cult following. It's also a good resource for cool photography stuff. So my next big purchase is probably going to be either an enlarger or a scanner. A scanner would be practical since I would be able scan negitives and upload them, but an enlarger would be a lot more fun. hmm...

Saturday, August 07, 2004

A Note on the Life Cycyle of Panda's

Japan has a reputation for being a very crowded country, with high population densities in very large cities, but the population of Japan is concentrated in a fairly small percentage of the land mass. There for there is ample opportunity to observe nature. Spending Summer in Japan gives you a unique chance to view first hand, the life cycle of the panda.

The panda, like the kangaroo, is born very small, about the size of your little finger. Because adult pandas don't have a pocket like kangaroos to rear their young. Instead, a baby panda digs a hole in the ground where it will live for the next 7 years.

During the 7 years it spends underground, a panda larva will gain an amazing 360kgs (800lbs) feeding mostly on roots and worms. After the 7th year of the larval stage, it is time for the full grown panda to emerge. It has to wait for the exact conditions before it's emergence. This usually happens at the beginning of summer, when after several hot days, the ground temperature reaches a steady 20°c (68°c). Once the full grown pandas emerge, they climb into the trees where the make calls to attract a mate before their two week adult life is up. Because the soil temperatures in different locations reach the proper temperature at different times, the time span that you can see and hear pandas in their adult stage lasts about a month and a half.

So if you plan on being in Japan for the summer, make sure you take the time to look for a few pandas. You'll be glad you did.

(This theroy on the panda life cycle comes to you from Ai in response to the question, "If pandas a born really really small like kangaroos, how do they survive without a pocket to stay in?)

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

My Company

The company I work for is generally pretty good. For the most part I don't have to deal with them at all. They have a main office in Tokyo, which is where I was hired and trained (if you can call it training), and branch offices scattered throughout Japan. My brach office is in Yokohama, 25 minutes south of Tokyo. Generally, the only interaction I have with my branch office is when I send in my transportation claim sheet on the 25th, so I can get a refund on the $150 to $200 I spend on transportation every month, and my trip of the office on the last day of the month to drop off my time sheet so I can get paid.

I don't have the problems that a lot of people have. I never see my coworkers except on that one day of the month when I go to the office, and even then, the chance of seeing anyone I know is slim. This means I don't have to see people I don't like, but I also don't see the people I made friends with during training either. My real coworkers are the Japanese teachers at the elementary schools. If I don't like one of them, It doesn't really matter, because I will only see them 2 to 5 more time the entire time I am working there.

I have had only two problems with working here. The first is pay dates. They've never missed a pay date or anything, but the pay day is once a month, on the last day of the month, which would be okay, except that if there is a holiday, rather than paying the first day before the holiday like every other company I have ever heard of (in the US or Japan) the pay the day after. This means that if you don't have any savings (like me since I've just started working) you can't pay rent when it's due.

My other problem is trying to figure out insurance. With every other problem I've had, I just email someone at my office, and they'd have an answer for me within a day. But when I was concerned about the insurance plan that they had for us not including optical coverage, I got no response. Their plan which they say was subsidized by the company, cost me something like $65 a month and is from this company offering insurance to foreign teachers. But Japan also has an excellent national health care plan which I had last time I was in Japan. I remember that it only cost me $85 for the year when I was here as a college student. I asked my company about doing this rather than the plan they provided but got no reply. (When I say provided, I mean they gave me a form and said "Fill this out". I would then receive the bill for the whole thing.) Finally I decided to just get national health insurance. It's only going to cost $15 a month, which I can use anywhere, and any doctor or specialist without having to get a referral, and I don't have to pay up front and wait for a reimbursement like I would with the other plan. I will have to pay a deductible of 20%, but with as little as I'm paying, and the amount I expect to have to use it, it will be much cheaper. There is also a cap on how much you pay in deductible costs, so if you become seriously ill, you will not be stuck it thousands or even hundreds of dollars in medical bills.

When most people hear the words "National Health Insurance" they will inevitably thing of the horror stories they hear of Canada's system and think it never works, but Japan's system actually works, as do plenty of other countries systems.

So I'm finally getting some new contacts today. My glasses are old and bent out of shape, and now that I have insurance that will cover it, I will be able to see again.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Yokohama

I rode my crummy folding bike to central Yokohama today. If I had a real bike, it would take about 45 minutes to get there including being lost time, but it probably took me an hour and 45 minutes.

While exploring the area around Sakuragi-cho station, close to the main touristy area, I stopped to look at a map, and met a guy who had just come back from LA to get his visa renewed. We talked for a while, and I asked what were good places other than where I'd already been? It turns out that I've already been to them all, so I rode the rest of the way to Yokohama station. Between the two stations there is a long wall of the elevated tracks that has a ton of really good graffiti. If you go to my new pictures page (there is also a link on the top left) you can see some of these and some other pictures that haven't made it into my blog.

I also found Yodobashi Camera, and Bic Camera, two of the Tokyo areas (and probably all of Japan's) largest camera and electronics stores. It's nice to know where these are so I don't have to go all the way to Tokyo to get some of the specialty films I like. They also have all the darkroom stuff that I will need when I start getting that set up. Yeah!

graffiti2
Originally uploaded by noexit.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Alien

This is an artists rendition of my alien status. I think I am making the "Kelsey face" in that picture.
floating head
Originally uploaded by noexit.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Tokyo Culture

The modern cultural hub of Japan is centered around two neighboring districts in Tokyo; Harajuku and Shibuya. Harajuku, begining at the entrance to the shrine of Emperor Meiji and sprawling south, is know as the center of the strange gothic counter culture. This group, which used to be a Sunday fixture at the entrance to Meiji Shrine, has dwindled to almost nothing in recent years, but the casual feeling of Harajuku still remains. It's a good place to go for lunch in one of the many cafe's (although my favorite, a french cafe off Aoyama Dori closed down) or browsing through galleries, or looking at the hub of Tokyo's fashion.
V4018024
Originally uploaded by noexit.


A little ways down the road from Harajuku, or the next stop by train, is Shibuya. In contrast to Harajuku, Shibuya is fast paced and always moving. Entering Shibuya from the JR Station, the first intersection you cross is the busiest in the world. 6 streets converge at an intersection that has existed since the Edo period, with a huge crosswalk that gives equal time to both pedestrians and cars. Each time the crossing lights turn green (or blue if your Japanese), the entire intersection is filled with people crossing in every direction. Above the intersection, there are huge TV screens on the buildings, and the busiest Starbuck's Coffee in the world. This famous scene can is also shown in the movie "Lost in Translation". Shibuya competes with Shinjuku as the center or night life with its innumerable clubs, bars and restaurants. But it is also home to all or the top department stores and brands that young people spend way too much money on.
oxygen
Originally uploaded by noexit.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Fixed?

It was pointed out to me recently that my page was rendering poorly on Windows computers using Internet Explorer. I believe the problem was that Internet Explorer shouldn't handle the width of one of my pictures. It was probably a bug in Internet Explorer but I changed it so that it shouldn't look bad in IE.

Internet Explorer is known to be buggy and lacking in security and support for web standards. Security experts have recently begun to recommend browsers such as Mozilla. Using Mozilla will give you a popup blocker that actually works without blocking pages that you want to popup, and you will have fewer problems with spyware and browser hijacking software (which I think are worse headaches than viruses and worms). Check out the "About Internet Explorer" in the Internet Options Menu. "Most people don't even drive cars as old as this browser." Check out this article from the Seattle Times.

If my page is still looking bad with Internet Explorer, leave a comment, and I will see what's going on.

Yamanashi

I came back from my friends house in Yamanashi on Sunday, but my internet connection has been flaky for the last few days and I didn't really want to spend an hour typing a paragraph on my cell phone.

Yamanashi was really fun though. It's way up in the mountains about 3 or 4 hours from here, one of the two prefectures that Mt. Fuji is in. The weather was pretty good, and Saturday all but the very top of Mt. Fuji was visible. Mt. Fuji is 3775 meters (12,387 feet), a bit shorter than Mt. Rainer at 4392m (14,410 feet) and further south, so in the summer there is usually no snow. After I arrived in Yamanashi, we went to a sushi place for lunch and then drove up to Mt. Fuji. When climbing Mt. Fuji, there are 10 stations and there is a road going half way up the mountain to station 5, which is where most people climb to. I didn't actually climb the mountain, except a little ways to station 6. When I climb, probably next summer, I am planning on starting at the bottom. Both my grandpa and my Japanese teacher said that you have to start at station one. Starting at 5 is kind of cheating...

After Mt. Fuji, we went to one of the five lakes that surround the mountain, and to this famous spot where a cold water spring gushes from the ground. I don't know what it's called, but I'll have pictures of it all sometime when I get my film developed. (I should start doing everything in B&W so I can do it myself. Or get the digital body for my SLR...)

The next day we went to the river and had a Japanese style BBQ. Rather than grill just hamburgers and bring things like salads like we do in the States, in Japan they grill really thin slices of really good cuts of beef, pork and chicken, along with peppers, onions, squash and other veggies. You can eat is straight off the grill with your chopsticks, or dip it in sauce. So we just sat around and grazed for 3 hours and played in the river until it was time to go.

Right now, since I am on my vacation, Ai and I are planning on taking a trip somewhere up north or to the mountains. We're not really sure where yet, since she's still a poor student, and I'm only on my first pay cheque still, it's going to be cheap. Camping or something would be fun, but we don't know anyone that has tents or sleeping bags or anything, so maybe a ski resort. They usually have cheap deals for the summer when they want business.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Trains

Here my first attempt at using Blogspots mobile blogging tools. Unfortunatly, I wont know if theres anything wrong with it or be able to fix it until I get home.

I'm on the train right now to meet someone in the last car of the east bound train on the Chuo Line departing Hachioji Station at 9:18am. It's one of the members of my AUAP group from 4 years ago that I haven't seen in over 2 years. We are going to her family's house in Yamanashi (山梨 not 山無).

But the title of this post is "Trains". I live about a 30 second run from one of the many private commuter lines that radiate from Tokyo, so I don't really ride Japan Rail lines much anymore, so I forget about the warning signs of a part of the train that no one wants to ride. As I stood waiting for the train, I noticee that the markings for the doors on the platform were really close together. But I forgot that this means the car from hell. A lot of the JR lines that have newer train sets have one of these cars with 6 doors per side, leaving room only for small seats that are locked folded up during most times of the day. Instead, there are just lots of handels an poles down the center of the train. They are not bad on the croded Yamanote line in Tokyo, but on this rural line I have been riding on for the last hour, its not so good.

So heres the result of about an hour of typing on a cell phone. Not very fast, and I have forgotten what I wrote at the beginning...

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Lightning! Thunder! Oh My!

There's a great thunder storm going on right now. It's pretty close, and really loud, and there have been at least 30 stikes already. There is so much, that I can't even tell which thunder comes from which lightening. My electricity even went out for a few seconds! Everything in my room goes badum with really close ones. Cool having a laptop eh?

Speaking of my room, do you want to see it?


Here's the right side of my apartment. To the left is my hallway and kitchen, and left of that, which you can't see, is my closet.


Here's the picture from the hallway. On the left is my water-heater. In front is my balcony, and folded up in the corner is my futon.


And here's my bathroom. It's all a separate plastic box with a drain in the floor, when when I need to clean it, I just hose everything down.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Pictures!!!

I finally got two rolls of film developed. Total cost: About $40 US for one set of small prints, and one CD with scans of all the images. There's got to be a cheaper place...

Anyhoo, I'm working on getting a gallery set up. In the mean time, here's a sneak peak.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Semi

The semi are coming out. Semi are Japanese Cicadas that come out every summer. In Japan, semi are symonomous with the hot, humid days that you just want to sit around and do nothing. So semi are the reason I haven't been updating my blog much. And because I finally got paid, so I'm not sitting around in my room doing nothing. So right now are the 'meeeeeeeeeeee' semi. There aren't so many of them yet, but I think they will start to get louder. Later this summer will be my favorate, the 'mueeemmm eeeemmmm eeeemmmm eeeemmmeee muwaaaaa' semi. They are really loud. Last time I was in Kyoto during the summer, I had to yell to be heard over the semi crowding the trees.

Here's a good page that has recordings of the various semi sounds.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Start your Summer Travel Plans now!

If you will be traveling by train this summer, and want to spend as little as possible, or just want to take the scenic route, it's time to start thinking about your your plans. By far the cheapest way to travel during the holiday seasons is the Youth 18 Ticket (Seishun Jyuhachi Kippu). It costs ¥11500 for 5 non-consecutive days on any regular JR train in Japan. It's not good on the Shinkansen, or Tokkyu (the fastest express) Trains, but if you used one of those, it wouldn't be scenic.

The most popular route during the Seishun 18 Kippu season, is the JR Tokaido line, connecting Tokyo with Nagoya, Osaka and Kyoto. For this route, I recommend the Moonlight Nagara. This train is by far the most popular train used by Seishun 18 Kippu holders, as it will take you from Tokyo to Kyoto or Osaka over night, in your own reserved seat, for only ¥2300.

The Moonlight Nagara has changed a little bit since list time I used it. In years past, the Moonlight Nagara Left Tokyo Station at around 11:30 (which meant that you had to pay for the first half hour before midnight), and arrived in Kyoto at around 9am the next morning. In addition to the Moonlight Nagara, there was a second train running only during the Seishun 18 Kippu season that was completely free seating, and left from Shinagawa Station at 11:45. This was great if you were unable to get a seat on the Moonlight Nagara, but it was incredibly crowded, and uncomfortable, and they didn't turn the lights off at night.

This year, they have bumped the Moonlight Nagara's departure time back to 11:45, and replaced the seasonal night train with a second seasonal Moonlight Nagara #91 which runs between 7/18 and 8/21. Both trains are now reserved seating, which I interpret as meaning that the #91 is the same type of train as the regular Moonlight Nagara, with individual high backed seats, and completely reserved seating. The #91 leaves from Shinagawa station at 11:55pm, which means you will only have to buy a ¥230 or so regular ticket, but probably you don't have to at all, since calculating the fare from Shinagawa to 12:00 will be too much hassle for the guy manning the gate in Kyoto.

To make a reservation for either Moonlight Nagara, you must go to a Midori no Madoguchi at most JR stations. It is recommended that you make your reservations as soon as the ticket window opens 30 days in advance. You can't make reservations earlier than that, and if you try later than that, it is unlikely you will get a seat. Occasionally some seats do open up, but it's best not to take you chances. Seat reservations on these two trains are free.

For exact routes of the Moonlight Nagara, or other trains, including night trains to Hokkaido and Kyushu, I recommend that you pick up a copy of the JTB 時刻表 (JTB Pocket Timetable), available at most bookstores in the travel section for ¥500. There are other time table books, but I have found the JTB version the most complete and easy to use. That is not to say the time table books are easy to use however. It will take some figuring out, and you should be able to read the Kanji of the places you will be passing through, as well as knowing where you will be going on a map.


For more information on the Seishun 18 Kippu, take a look at this article on Japan-Guide.com

Friday, June 25, 2004

I might as well be swimming

After the last typhoon passed over, we had characteristically nice weather, but now it just sucks. The temperatures aren't that high, but the humidity is near 100%. It rained all day today, and even though it was kind of cold, it felt hot. I also had my clothes hanging out to dry, but they ended up getting another rinse instead. I have an airconditioner in my room, but if I turn it on, it's too cold, but if I turn it off, it's too humid. Fun. And it's not even summer (is it?)

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Don't let this be you!

Picture died, I'll have it back up later.

Off the dock across from the Japanese Navy base in Yokosuka.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Typhoon!!

Another Typhoon is coming. This one is supposed to be pretty strong. I haven't heard yet if it will make it up here.

Edit: Typhoon's long gone, so the live image is too.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Ocean

I took a ride out to the ocean today. On the train a few weeks ago I say an ad for a place to rent sailboats and wind surf boards, so I thought I'd check it out. It was a really windy day, and the wind surfers were living it.

I also checked out the local marina, which I had also seen advertised in the trains. It was a really small marina with just a few slips. Most of the boats were out of the water on carts. I assume that you would have to call ahead and ask them to but your boat in the water if you were going to go out.

There was a small temple with it's traditional entrance gate on land, and another way out in the water on a shoal. I presume it is for spirits to find their way back home. There was also a row of monuments along the shore there, probably to those lost at sea. Something else interesting about this temple, was that a very large bullet seems to have been enshrined on a pedestal.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

More bugs

Click the title for a link to a National Geographic Artilce about these hornets.

I took a picture of this bee while I was walking around in the woods. I showed it to the science teacher at the elementry school I am at, and she said that it was a very dangerous hornet. They like eating meat, such as humans, and also like sweet things, like this tree sap. They are about 2 inches long, and if they bite you, you pretty much have to call an ambulance because you will start to dissolve.

Anyone still want to come visit me?

He he, I forgot to post the picture...

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Navy

After work yesterday I decided to go for a ride off in a direction I haven't been yet towards a town called Zushi. I heard that there was a marina there, so I wanted to check out the town. It was only about 30 minutes away, but by the time I got there, I was tired, and stared heading back. There was a map at the station in Zushi that had some trails to various temples and stuff in the area, so I decided to try to find one on the way back. After about 20 minutes, I came to what looked like a park. There was green grass, and trees and stuff, so I turned that way, but as I approached the gate, I realized that it was being guarded by a guy in camo carrying a large gun. Whoops, this isn't Japan anymore! I didn't actually get to the gate, though. I didn't realize that there was another military base in this area. It's on the opposite side of the peninsula, and there are mountains in between, so I don't suppose many come over here.


In Japan, it is almost impossible to have a gun. There are special licenses for hunting and sport guns, but they cost a lot of money, take a lot of training to get, and are heavily regulated. Even some police don't carry them, and those that do are required to follow strict protocols, including firing a warning shot into the air before shooting someone. It is extremely rare for a police officer to shoot at a suspect.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Birds

How many birds fit in one nest?

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Huntsman Spider

Females of H. venatoria make flattened, disc-like eggsacs about 1.5 cm in diameter which contain over 200 eggs. The eggsac is carried under the body, its size and shape probably causing the female to remain relatively immotile. All stages of development of juveniles and adults appear to occur simultaneously throughout the year.

This and similar species are highly valued in tropical countries because they capture and feed on cockroaches and other domestic insect pests. As with other vagrant spiders, huntsman spiders do not use webs to capture prey. Their great speed and strong chelicerae (mouthparts) are used to capture the insects on which they feed. Poison is also injected into the prey from glands extending from the chelicerae into the cephalothorax. It is not a dangerous spider, but a locally painful bite can be delivered to any human who carelessly handles a huntsman spider.

(Thanks to Amanda for looking up the spider's name)

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Ok, so I had to get it back out and measure it. I got it to sit still for one more picture, but then it scampered off. It didn't just creep like spiders are supposed to do. You could actually hear it's feet pattering on the floor. So here's the official measurement.

It's just over 10 cm! (That's about 4 inches to the non-metric folks) It could definitely take out a mouse. (The picture sticks off the screen a bit, but I did that because on my screen at least, that is actual size. Use a tape measure for your own comparison)

I knew that Japan has really large beetles and millions of Cicada's (Semi) that scream day and night during the summer, but I didn't expect this to jump out at me while I was taking out the garbage.

It's huge! There is either an egg sack or a dried up rat that it's carrying around. If it's carrying a rat, then I'm glad it caught it, but it's time for it to leave, and if it was an egg pouch, then it's really time for it to leave because I don't want a thousand of those things running around. I'm glad it wasn't in my shoe.

Monday, May 31, 2004

This weekend, I went to a archery competition at a park on the sea. I took a ton of pictures, but this is the only digital one. I'll post some others when I can afford to have them developed.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Pictures 


Because it's what everyone wants. These pictures were all taken with my Cell Phone.

First, is a picture of the harbor, about a 3 minute walk from my apartment. Above is the Seaside line that goes past Seaside park and Hakkeijima Amusement park. Off in the distance, is Nojima, the park that I was heading to that day, where I met the Doctor/professor/olympic nut.

Next is the maid tunnel of the factory that was inside this mountain during WWII. It's all blocked off, most of the smaller caves are cemented shut, but this one just has a fence. I really want to go inside. Spelunking anyone?

On top of the hill, there is a lookout tower.

There's a really good view from up there. My apartment is this way.

Since people like my parents still only have 56k modems, I'll stop there for now. I think I'll have some pictures of Yokohama later.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

The Doctor


On Wednesday night I went for a walk to this island that is out by the bay. The entire hill is carved out and it used to be an airplane factory during WWII. That was going to be my interesting blog post for Wednesday, but I met a more interesting guy while I was up there. He started talking to me by asking where I was from. He said he was a professor at Yokohama Municipal University Medical School, but changed the topic to sports pretty quickly and pulled a stack of pictures out of his wallet. He has pictures of himself with all of the major Japanese athletes that will be participating in the Athens Olympics. He also said that he had participated in the Olympics, and that he had won a medal (gold I think), but a search on the Olympic website for his name turned up only a member of the 1934 hockey team, and he's not that old.

Next he told me that he was on the Yokohama Board of Education, and showed me his ID card. I found this page with a Google search for the Yokohama Board of education. The only one that looks close to him is the second guy from the left, and I think that is the same name that was on his ID card, but he doesn't wear glasses... When we went our separate ways yesterday, we exchanged phone numbers, and he said his name was Sakai.

Those of you who can read kanji will notice that the name under the second guy on the left on that Yokohama BOE page does not say Sakai. I'm not sure if this guys completely for real, but he really has met the Japanese Olympic team, and he really likes to brag. He's an interesting mystery.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Sirens

It sounds like there are about 50 fire trucks or ambulances going through town right now. I sure wouldn't want to be in ambulance in Japan. Every time I see an ambulance, it is going so slow, that I hope the injuries of the person inside are not too life threatening. Japan is a much older country, and most of the roads were made before cars, so there isn't enough room for the cars to get out of the way. Usually, the ambulance has to wait for the cars that are blocking its way to wait for the people that are blocking their way to move so they can get out of the way of the ambulance.

The typhoon came early Friday morning with so much raid that it was gushing from holes in the retaining walls around my little valley. I'm really glad those walls are there, because it probably would have been mud instead. The rain was probably heaviest at around 6 when I woke up, but by 7:30 it was just a drizzle, and by noon, the sky was blue and it was pretty hot outside. The calm after the storm.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

You know how when you align two mirrors up face to face just right, you can see the future? Well today I was on the train on the way home, and through a tunnel, I saw another tunnel. Through that tunnel, I saw a third, and through that, I could see the future. Unfortunately, I can't see that far away very well, so all I could see was me picking up my suit from the cleaners.

Then again, it could have been the rain. The weather had been very shifty for the last week. This morning it was pretty good, but at around noon, it started pouring. It's really coming down now, and all I can hear is running water. Apparently, there is a typhoon on the way!!! I though it was a little early for that, but typhoons are fun!

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Ahh... The smell of a new Teiki...


I bought my first Teiki ever today. It was ¥10400 (about $100) but I won't have to pay for a ticket at all between the two stations I bought it for, so I will end up saving at least ¥3000 with it, and probably more since I can use it as much as I want during a day. And the best part is, my company will end up paying for the whole thing!

Can you smell it?

The School from Hell?

My second day at the school from hell was not so bad. In fact, if I hadn't been there yesterday, I wouldn't have known it was the school from hell. The students were attentive and enthusiastic, and the teacher were for the most part helpful, and when they weren't, I was able to work around it. So things are better and I have a teiki!

Monday, May 17, 2004

Finally, some pictures

I went out yesterday and started walking and took a few pictures. I walked a few stations down the tracks until I got tired, and then hoped on the train until I got to the end of the line. I didn't even leave the station though because I didn't want to have to pay for it. So I just got back on the train going the other direction, and went home.

The area that I live is quite mountianous. As I was riding the train to work today, I counted tunnels. There were 12 between my station and the station that I worked at today.




The school that I taught at today was the worst. They started out by having an assembly where they introduced me to the whole school, and they made various other announcements including a chastising by the principle to all the students because some kids threw rocks at a car. After the assembly, I went to my first class. The teacher wasn't getting involved in the class like the teachers at other schools were, and the students were having a hard time paying attention. The only class I had that was okay was one of the 5th grade classes taught by a pretty young teacher.

The first grade classes are usually the best, but at this school, they didn't concentrate at all, and I had a hard time keeping them focused on something. The may not seem like something that any first grader is good at, but this class was defiantly bad at it. If I thought the first grade was bad, the sixth grade was worse. They talked the whole time, and were completely disinterested. The teacher gave them no help or motivation at all. I will try to have some ideas for tomorrow so that I can get the brats moving. :-)

Saturday, May 15, 2004


As I'm sitting here on the train whith some lady falling asleep on my shoulder. I wonder if it's possible to make some one fall out of their seat by making them accostomed to having your shoulder for stability, then slowly easing them forward untill they topple out of the seat? Well, I get off at the next stop, so I guess I wont get to try it out...

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Kanazawa Hakkei


I just figured out that the name of my station, Kanazawa Hakkei, is actually from the name of the Hiroshige woodblock prints that I talked about a couple of posts ago. It means, "Eight views of Kanazawa". I should have realized it from the kanji, but I actually found out from this webpage. The name of my district, Seto, comes from the name of Seto-jinjya, a temple built on the side of a hill down the street.

I'm going to Ai's to get the rest of my stuff on Thursday, so I will be able to post pictures and stuff finally. (If I find a new host...)

There are three high school kids sitting in the road in from of my apartment. Two girls, and one guy. I have no idea what they are doing, the don't look like they are drinking or anything. Just talking and laughing. My apartment is in a really low traffic area, so I was probably the only one to pass them in the two hours they have been out there. I guess there's nothing better to do around here...

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Moving in


I moved into my new apartment Saturday. I didn't know until Sunday that a famous serise of wood block prints were carved of this area.


This is a view of the bay I live near by Ando Hiroshige. Unfortunately, its not as beautiful now as it was then. It's still a pretty neat place though. There are hills all around, and they are all tree covered, and the bay has a bunch of fishing boats pleasure boats and sailboats. There are other prints of the area that I live here.

The place that I was using to host my pictures died on me 'cause I didn't do enough to trick them into thinking that I wasn't just using it to host pictures, so I have to find a new service before I can put up any more pics. Once I have money, I will get a real pay service, but if anyone knows a better place than Angelfire, let me know.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

I know that some now people have been coming to my blog. Please leave a comment after a post sometimes so I know who you are.


I am on the train home from my first day of work. I had to get up at 4:30 this morning to get to the school, and it took two hours and 15 minutes. I have to do that again tomorrow, but Saturday I will move into my new apartment so I wont have to do that anymore.

Sunday, May 02, 2004



I'm not sure what this means... I would have thought that it means "don't park your bike here", but every time I have seen a sign like it, it has been surrounded by bikes.



I've been kicked out of Ai's apartment (some friend of her mom is staying there) so im staying at Dansen's apartment.



This might be my new apartment.

Saturday, May 01, 2004



Anti war grafiti at Yokohama University

04-05-01_17-36.jpg

Who says Japan is expensive?

Friday, April 30, 2004

My Phone


I just found a nice english page for my phone here.

Done with training

I finished training on Wednesday. It was kind of a joke. We covered the basics of what to do, but mostly of what not to do. At on the last day, we all had to make a lesson, and teach it to the rest of the ALT's while being taped. The pig guy's was terrible. He didn't prepare anything at all, and he had to go talk with the trainer afterwards about his lack of planning, and creativity. It was really bad. I hope I don't have to see him again.

Thursday, I went with Ai to an electronics shop in Shinjuyku to get a phone. We thought I would have to get it under her name at first, but since I had a credit card, I didn't need any other forms of identification as long as I had the bill directly withdrawn from my account. So I got a phone with a one mega-pixel digital camera built in.

I had to send it via email from my phone so it's very compressed. One I get a memory card for my phone, then I will have full quality pics to upload.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Training


I started my first day of training today with Interac. It's quite an international group. There are three Aussies, four Americans, and a British-South African and a guy from Kazakhstan, and our trainer is Canadian. The training in the morning was kind of boring for me because I have had 6 classes on teaching english already, and one of the american guys was driving me nuts. I guess he is half Japanese, but he doesn't look like it at all. Instead, the sounds me makes and his facial expressions look a bit like a pig.

Tomorrow I have my second day of training, and I will go out to Yokohama to meet the head of the office I will work for, and to meet the school board that I will work for.

Friday, April 23, 2004

My first full day

I'm home!

I spent this first full day trying to sleep in, but I woke up at 6, and was unable to get back to sleep. I made french toast for breakfast this morning, and went with Ai to school. She only had one class today, so I explored a little and did a little shopping for cell phones. I think it's between the one with bluetooth, and the one with a 2 mega-pixel digital camera.

After Ai's class, I met her friend Emily, who is Japanese-Russian and grew up in Japan and England. Afterwards Ai and I went to explore places for me to live. We went to one real-estate agency to talk to them, but we were both so confused about how it works, that we spent most of the time in the office trying to translate what the agent said, until we gave up, and went to talk about it over coffee. I think that I will try to have my company find me a place in the area that I want to live. I just hope they will do it. The real-estate agent says that it is best for the company to sign the contract themselves, and the company says that it is best for me to sing the contract myself. So begins my apartment hunt...

Thursday, April 22, 2004

The Japan time warp

I forgot what it's like hurtling through the air in an aluminum tube packed with 350 people at 550 miles per hour. Especially going west. On the flight east, you leave Tokyo in the mid afternoon, say 5pm, and after an eight hour flight, you land in Seattle at 9 am in the same day you left. On the trip to Japan, like the flight I'm on now, You arrive a day and a few hours after you leave. Even though through this time warp, in my case from 2:20 to 4:40 the next day, adds up to 26 hours and 20 minutes, there is no night for the entire trip. In real time, without thinking about time zones and stuff, I will have been exposed to about 22 hours of daylight. This makes it kind of hard to sleep.

The last time I went to Japan, I had a lot of trouble getting my internal clock fixed on Tokyo time after I got there. I probably took a week for my body to figure out the time warp. When I returned back to Washington, I expected that I would have the same trouble, but the adjustment that time was remarkably quick.

On the flight East to the West, (Why do they call Asia the east if its in the west? (damn Europeans...)) there is a night time between. On the plane, they serve you dinner a couple hours into the flight, it gets dark for a couple hours, and then they serve you breakfast a little before you land. On the way to Japan, they do the same thing, trying to make a simulated night by serving dinner, at the beginning of the flight, then breakfast at the end of the flight. Our bodies aren't fooled by it. You look out the window and it's still day time. It's going to be a long day. That's the Japan time warp.

Next time I should fly first class. The have power up there. For my laptop.

Weather Report for the North Pacific: Cloudy

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Finally, I got a ticket!


They sent me an email the this last night saying that the immigration office was taking a little longer with visa applications this month, so I wont be able to get a visa on time, but there is a way to get a visa in Japan.

So a woke up at 8am this morning to wait for some travel agencies to open so I could buy a ticket. After calling my list, I found 3 agencies that all had tickets for around $615 round trip including all taxes and everything. So I found one that was convenient, and booked a direct flight from Seattle to Narita on NorthWest Airlines leaving next Wendesday!

I decided to go a few days early so I could stay with Ai for a few days before I started training. I'm so excited. I haven't seen here since last summer. Waaaaaaaaaay too long. I have 3 days of training starting a week from Monday which is supposed to teach me how to teach (luckly, I have my TESOL classes or I'd be lost) and then a week off for Golden Week before I start teaching on May 6th.

It's about time it all started coming together.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

We'd need you here by next Friday


"Sure, I can do that" How the hell am I going to do that? Eh, I don't care. I will try.

I called last night, just after 5pm Japan time, 1am my time, and this time I didn't have to talk to a Japanese secretary. This time it was another recruiter. This was refreshing for a change. He told me the situation that there were no more positions in Western Tokyo. This closest there was is in Yokosuka. Yokosuka is about 1:45 from Shinjuku, but I won't be living there. I refuse actually. I hope to live somewhere just north of Yokohama, that will cut the travel time for Ai and I to see each other. It's not what I wanted, but it's the best I think I will be able to get. I asked about my visa, and it seems that they can check up on it, and possibly help it along. That is the only worry I have. If I am going to be there next friday, that means that I will be leaving next Thursday morning, which means that I have to have my visa paperwork by next tuesday at the latest. It seems a little unlikely, but I will see if my recruiter contacts me, and if not, I think I will talk to this other guy.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

"Thanks for the email, I'll give you a call tomorrow morning Japan time"


I've been pretty patient and relaxed about getting the details of my job straightened out since most of the necessary things that needed to be done to get the visa paperwork submitted depended on my graduation.

On friday I received two emails, one offering a position in Zushi, southern Kanagawa and a long way from where I want to live, and then a second email saying that Zushi was a mistake, and offering placement in Yokosuka, not far from Zushi.

This really irritated me. More than the other things for some reason. This isn't the first time they have tried to get me to take a position in Kanagawa, but last time they said that there was a position in Western Tokyo, about as close as I hope to get to where I want to live, and that it would be perfect for me since they want someone that can speak some Japanese.

I have called this guy three times in the last 2 weeks, and every time he says that he will call me back, but doesn't. When I email, he rarely responds in a timely manner.

My original plan was to be in Japan at the beginning of April, but my realistic plan was April 15th. Doesn't seem very realistic now does it...

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Still not much


The recruiter for my company, the only contact I have with them so far is proving to be quite unreliable. It's driving me crazy, and Ai seems to be having an even harder time. I don't have much of a problem with not having exact plans, but she has to have everything planned out plenty of time in advance. When people ask me when I'm leaving, I just say "ah, about a week or two". But she wants an exact date so she can plan ahead.

I called the recruiter last week after not hearing from him for a while after I sent in all my paperwork, but he was in a meeting. He sent me an email an hour later though that said, "Thanks for the email" and that he'd call me the next day. He didn't. This Tuesday night I called him again, and again I got an email saying "thanks for the email"... I don't know why he keeps thanking me for emails whenever I call. This time he apologized for not calling me back; he'd been on vacation. He also promised to call me back last night. He didn't. This is getting pretty frustrating since I don't know for sure where I will be working, or when they want me there, or when I will get the Certificate of eligibility to get my visa. If he doesn't call me early this afternoon, I will call again tonight. Agrh!

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Sent Documents to Japan


I got my transcripts and a letter saying that I have graduated FedExed to Japan on Thursday, so it should be there on Monday. Now I have to wait for them to get me my certificate of eligibility. Hopefully, Kerry will let me know how log it should take. I think that certificate of not, I will buy my plane tickets next week. The price is going up every day I wait, so I've got to do it soon. Right now I'm shooting for the 15th. If I could get there sooner, it would give Ai enough time to help me find an apartment, but after the 12th, she is in school. Right now, I am fully expecting to have to go to Korea, be I would like to avoid it for now.

My mom is coming up to B'ham to help move me out tomorrow, so I have to get my stuff packed up. I canceled my internet yesterday, so I am at the HorseShoe using their internet. I will have to get used to not having internet in the air at home. I will even have to use dail-up when I get to my parents house! I don't thing there is anywhere with internet in the air around Bonney Lake.

Time to pack!

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Don't I look graduated?


You didn't think I would graduate without putting something piratey on my cap did you?

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I'm done!!


I turned my paper it today. It was pretty close. I finished typing it at exactly 3pm, the time it was due, but they I had to print it, find a report cover thing, and sprint over to my teachers office to turn it in. I'm not worried about it or my history class (since I am such a great student...). My ceremony will be Saturday at 10 am, and Lousie, Saki and I are having a graduation party at Laurel's house. Call me if you need directions.

Next week I plan to spend riding my bike. I haven't ridden it for ever, at least not for anything other than transportation. My legs are going to die.

Basically I am just waiting up here until they print my transcripts. I was told that I would be able to get them by next friday, so I will imeadtaely send it off to Interac to get my vias paperwork started. Yesterday they asked me if I would be able to be to start by the third week of April. This is earlier that I had expected, but very good news. I think I may be able to get a position near where I originally wanted too. I guess every thing works itself out eventually.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Yusa


I had an interesting talk with Dr. Yusa, my Japanese professor. It's really strange, but she doesn't really seem so evil anymore; slightly crazy still, but not evil. This is kind of what I had always thought anyway, but it was amplified by only receiving 3 credits for a entire year in Japan. Its been two years now since I came back from Asia University, and I have realized that even if I had gotten more credits, it wouldn't have really done much for me since they would have been 200 level credits. It's kind of a symbolic thing. But I think that actually talking to Yusa has been good. I think that the more we be honest to her about what we think about the program and such, the more she will try to change things. I have definitely noticed that they way she teaches has gotten better. I think she also understands the way in which American students think too. She said yesterday that Chinese and Korean students will take anything that their teachers tell them as truth, and memorize every word. Japanese students are somewhat similar. American students on the other hand, study what they want to. They don't necessarily follow their professors every word. I think this makes us more independent, and research that we do can come out more creative and unique. This also makes it harder for teachers. They have to figure out what the students want or they will not be effective. I think she is trying to do this.

We also talked about what I am doing in the future and my job in Japan. She asked if I was going to do something related to computers, which I have considered. I was generally the person she asked about for tech problems because she knew I work for ATUS, but then she suggested that I could teach sailing. I was shocked. I guess I probably talked about sailing sometime, probably at her house last year when she had a party for the 300 level class. It made me realize that she actually knows something about us if we ever made a effort to talk to her.

I think the best thing that came out of our chat was that I was able to talk about what I thought were the strengths and weaknesses of the Japanese program at Western. I let her know what I think most of us studying Japanese want. For me, becoming more communicative. Of corse, I wasn't completely at ease, I still couldn't tell her that we all hate the text book...

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Papers


How many times have I started a blog post out like that? Must be a dozen times by now. Louise and I have been in the library, sometimes writing, sometimes goofing off for the last 5 hours. She has actually been in there longer. I have about a half page. I finally decided what to write about. It's pretty much what I was going to write about forever, but I actually found a good article or two. Time to stop procrastinating and get it done though. I have less than two weeks! All I have left are two tests, two papers, and one concert. Louise and I are having our graduation party on Friday night of finals week at Laurel's house (we still have to ask her though). Time to write!

Monday, March 01, 2004

$20,000 is a lot of money.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Birthday


Birthday was fun. I went to Boundary Bay with Louise and Briged at 9, and ordered beer and pizza. Rachel was the first to come, but she didn't stay long since her schedule is crazy and she doesn't know how to drive. We had to call Laurel twice before she came. TJ, Emily, and Alisa were there too. Pizza was good, beer was great, and they gave us brownies and ice cream with a candle. So I'm old now. 23. wow.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Bush Must Go!


Bush has done a lat of bad things during his presidency. he is so far in the pockets of corporation that I don't understand how anyone can't see it. He misled Americans into supporting his war to get oil, but his latest attempt to destroy what any semblance of a respectable free nation that we have left, he is trying to write discrimination and oppression back into the constitution. He is trying to undo the work of more than 200 years of struggle for the basic freedoms and rights that Jefferson wrote about in the preamble to the Constitution.

The US is supposed to be a secular state. This too is written into the Constitution. Yet somehow many of our politicians seem to forget this. What about 'Under God' on our currency and in the Pledge that children recite every morning? That was added in the '50s when the nation was so afraid of the Communists. Is it applicable? No. We are one of the most diverse nations in the world. We are NOT a Christian nation as some want us to believe (or become). Bush is trying to have us believe that gay marriage is a threat. The Governator of California even speculated that continuing to allow gay marriages will result in violence and rioting!

Bush is of the position that marriage is a purely religion institution, and since his religion finds gay couples morally wrong, it should be illegal. What's the difference though if I were to go to a courthouse with my girlfriend and get a married by a judge? I will not be having a Christian wedding. Does my marriage constitute a threat as defined by Bush? If Bush thinks he can impose his Christian ideals on Americans through constitutional amendments, then what is the difference between him, and Muslim Clerics in Iran, or the Taliban in Afghanistan? In the 1960's Iran, makeup, miniskirts and high heels were just as popular among young women in Iran as they were in other parts of the world. I don't think Bush has a chance of passing a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriages, but if he does, it will mark the beginning of the loss of any rights we have left.