Back in the U.S. of A

Well, faithful readership, you have been waiting for a new post and here it is: Having had a very eventful trip home to FL last year through snap snow "storms" and crowded airports, this time we over-compensated, ending up checking in extremely early for our flight out of Nagoya and having more than enough time to cruise the airport lounges in Detroit (otherwise known as "Detwoit", as its DTW code suggests) and get picked out twice for supposedly random security checks.

Now back, we are doing the traditional juggling of priorities and competing interests while trying at the same time to have at least some time that could actually be called a break. It does become easier the more often we do it but, in common with other international couples of our acquaintance, we have found that it never really possible to achieve that ideal of seeing everyone you want to see, doing everything you would like to do and return after 24 hours of travelling in a sane and rested state.

Our big disappointment this trip is that it seems that we are not going to be able to see Abigail's niece (born January this year) as she and her family are now unable to make the trip down from Wisonsin during the time that we are going to be here.

Anyway, in case we don't have another chance to post this year, have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy and healthy New Year in 2005.

And if you are anywhere near Orlando - call us! 407-295-3583

The Christmas Rush

Just in case you, our faithful readership, have been wondering where we have been for the last few days, well I'm sure you know that last-minute rush before Christmas.

I am working on a website at work (that I will tell you all about very soon so that you can have a look at it and play with it) that needs to be done before I go. The main reason for this is that it is opening on January 5th (US time) which will be my first day (January 6th) when I am back at work. In fact, we are expecting a rush of visitors as we are also carry out some advertising that day. Anyway, the upshot is that it needs to be ready to roll the day I get back all nice and jet-lagged.

We also have John and Sheena (former boss and wife) staying with us right now. Or , should I say, as of this morning, they we still staying with us - even after what happened last night: They went out to meet some friends at a hotel and came back at about 10:20. Unfortunately, we had gone to bed early and didn't hear them knocking on the door. It was only when they borrowed a neighbor's cell phone and called us that Abigail heard the answerphone and woke up. (Apparently, I freaked out and she had to tell me what was happening to calm me down. I don't remember a thing!) Poor J and S were freezing, although they were worried about us and thought maybe one of us had become sick and had to go to the hospital. Hopefully they won't get sick now either!

We're number 1!

In the whole of Aichi for burglaries! Although, I estimate that at 714 incidents for a city of over 400,000, this puts us at about a third of the British average rate.

Christmas pictures from Abigail's students adorn our livingroom wall.

Petty Officialdom

There seems to be a widespread misunderstanding about the role of the church - particularly that of the Church of England, which has given rise to the "controversy" in the linked story.

It is interesting that while most people do not darken the doorway of churches in the UK more than once or twice a year, when it comes to having an opinion about what the church should do - whether about gay marriage, or priority seating at some minor local carol service - my fellow citizens have no compunction about wading in with their opinions. I suppose it has its roots in the same logic that says, "I am English, therefore my religion is Church of England." Anyway, good for the local vicar for drawing the line.

The whole story has amusing similarities to Luke 14:7-11

"7When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. 11For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”" (NIV)

BBC NEWS | England | Essex | Best seats row hits carol service

It's a Celebrity Christmas

Not satisfied with the usual porcelain figurines, Madame Tussauds went one better and wheeled out the wax works. But can you guess who got to play whom?


BBC NEWS | In Pictures | In pictures: Celebrity nativity

Japan's internet 'suicide clubs'

This has been in the news a lot here. I am surprised, though, at the casual way in which the people in this transcript talk about committing suicide. In some ways they don't appear that desperate to die, or as if they want to get attention. It seems like it is a morbid fascination that becomes almost a hobby.

Whatever the motivation, the number of suicides is ridiculously high - over three times the road accident death rate - and a sad indictment of the society that gives no other outlet for these feelings.

BBC NEWS | Programmes | Newsnight | Japan's internet 'suicide clubs'

Junk or Spam

For all the legislative, software and denial of service (Lycos screensaver) efforts to combat spam, I can't help but think that however annoying it is, it is by far preferable to the mountain of junk mail most people in western countries receive.

The average American gets 41 pounds every single year. Most of it is prime quality paper treated with innumerable chemicals in the printing process. Not only does the production of this mountain of waste result in a huge environmental impact, but then it is transported and the majority of items are immediately thrown away, creating additional environmental damage.

Living in Japan, we get a lot less junk mail than we would in the US or UK. I probably get as much spam as the next person, and a lot of it is, frankly, nasty as well as time wasting. That said, I wonder if we should be focusing our efforts on banning junk mail before we worry about fighting spam? Or how about forcing junk mailers to use email instead of regular mail and, thereby, legalizing spam?

Believe it or not...

...the newest flavor of Doritos in Japan, garam masala and curry, is actually pretty tasty.

More weather news

Just a quick addition to Abigail's earlier post about the typhoon-in-all-but-name that came through last night: According to the NHK 7 O'Clock News just now, Tokyo experienced its highest December temperatures ever today. They interviewed people in T-shirts saying that it felt just like summer, which was kimochi warui - gross! Then, we panned up the archipelago to Hokkaido, and low and behold, they were experiencing record snow falls - the greatest being measured at 58cm. What was going on today?

Anyway, the weather girl reassured us that tomorrow everything will be back to normal winter weather again, so that is a relief.

Culture shock

Lots of fun today. I went into Nagoya to Meijo Univ. to take a Japanese language proficiency test, and I must admit I had some reverse culture shock because of all the gaijin I encountered also taking the test. And I did feel old! They were mostly college kids or just out of college, and I overheard some of them saying they've been studying all night lately to prepare for the test. I couldn't do that anymore even if I wanted to! I must be getting up there.

And another thing. Rules are a big thing here in Japan, but apparently they weren't that important during the test. Examinees were talking to each other, opening the test booklets before we were supposed to, and a few cell phones rang at inopportune moments as well. The proctors had yellow and red cards to use, and supposedly you would be sent out of the room and not allowed to finish the test if you got two yellow cards or a red card. I did see some yellow cards go up, but no red. If only. Also, even though it was a Sunday, there was some group practicing singing on campus (sounded more like chanting) and during the third part of the exam there was lots of screaming outside. Test mayhem. I think I did ok but no thanks to the quiet serene test-worthy atmosphere.

I did have a lovely chat with a Granny on the train coming home. She was very cheerful and upbeat, but did mention sadly that she hardly ever sees her grandkids anymore, who are now middle and high school aged. She got to spent lots of time with them when they were in elementary school, but now they have club activities that keep them extremely busy. I've seen it in the schools where I work. They usually have club practices 7 days a week. I guess it keeps them out of some bad mischief, though.

When I got home Stephen had bought me my favorite Japanese chocolate (nama choko) and that just made my day. Ahhhh.

All in a name

We realized something was wrong when one of our laundry poles crashed to the floor of our balcony. This apartment we're in now is almost wind-sound proof, but the blusters of last night were enough to keep us awake. It was a typhoon, but it wasn't a typhoon, if you see what I mean. It's December, so I suppose that means we're not supposed to get them anymore. Ha. We just watched news clips of an apartment roof blowing off and wrapping bits around electricity wires, and the portable toilets and tents which the Niigata prefecture earthquake victims are using fell over as well. It was nuts last night around here, but apparently even worse in other parts of Japan.

I thought it was the Year of the Nissan

I always enjoy sitting in traffic in Japan, and even more enjoyable is being able to read the spare wheel covers on the backs of the cars in front of me.

This morning I was especially moved by the inspiring words on a Rasheen.

Listen to the murmuring of the stream. Run after the wild birds. Rest in the bosom of the woods.

I was on Route 1 at the time, renowned for the steel fences down the median which turn black almost as soon as they're installed.

Calgon, take me away. Goodbye city life! Green Acres we are there!

[I wish it was as easy to remember kanji as it is to recall stupid commercials and dire TV show jingles.]

Year of the Blog

Zeitgeist is just one of the words you can look up in Merriam-Webster's online dictionary. But before you do that, take a look at this BBC story that says that "blog" was the most looked-up word on that site in 2004. So, if you are not sure what you are looking at right now, check out the definition here.

And, in case you are wondering what next year will be - well it's the Year of the Chicken, of course.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Why 2004 was the year of the blog


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