Remember these? I was trying to describe jelly shoes to Stephen this evening. I had a pink pair when I was about 10 and started feeling nostalgic about them.

Decision Making 101

Stuck with two alternatives that you just can't choose between? Use this simple method and expedite your decision-making process. (As used by world-leading corporations Enron, WorldCom and - our insurance company - AIG.)

  1. Get a coin.
  2. Make Option A heads.
  3. Make Option B tails.
  4. Flip the coin.
  5. Do not look at the result, but cover it with your hand and gaze at it for a while.
  6. When you catch yourself thinking, "I hope it's ...." then you have your decision.
  7. If time passes and still this thought does not cross your mind, reveal the result.
  8. You may accept the outcome, in which case you have your decision.
  9. If you decide to do it again, you have your decision without even needing to flip the coin: It is the opposite of whatever the original result was.

A nice relaxing bath after a hard day. Just what the doctor ordered.

Happy Day!

Today just happens to be our 4-year England wedding anniversary. Stephen is handsome, witty, intelligent, and so many other good things all rolled into one. AND he does the dishes quite a lot. :)

I couldn't ask for a better bloke!

Wish us a happy one!

Life turnaround

Amazing story! Every day I realize how much I need Jesus. I don't believe anybody is better or worse than anyone else. We all need him. This excerpt from Romans 3 (The Message translation) is so clear and uplifting: "Since we've compiled this long and sorry record as sinners...and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we're in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ." I feel so blessed to know Jesus and to have so many brothers and sisters around the world who rely on him, too. I'm encouraged by David Lu's testimony. Hope you are, too.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Taiwan's gangster-turned-preacher


No, that's not my IQ. It's actually the magnitude of the earthquake we had today here in Japan while I was doing some online research.

My only advice to you is: Never have a desk chair on wheels if you live in a country notorious for earthquakes. It was a very moving experience.

All that miso soup...

really pays off! I think this guy probably runs way faster than me. Sad. And to think, I'm only turning 30 this year.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Japanese 95-year-old sets record

Ballet mania

Went to see a former student of mine in a ballet yesterday. Saori is now a third-year middle school student. She's in the back, wearing a blue tutu, just to the left of the flowered wagon. I was so proud of her, especially during a solo performance when she just completely awed the audience. Made me want to do ballet again! Didn't think they wanted a lumbering gaijin teacher on the stage, though.

Anyway, my friend Naomi and I had a great time and came away bolstered and joyful. We both really loved seeing the wee lassies do their dances as well. Adorable! I think they were about 3 or 4, but did much better than I ever did when I was 7 and 8 at Miss Carolyn's School of Dance in Pine Hills, Florida. My guess is that, in true Japanese style, the girls here probably have to practice every day for hours and hours, no matter their age. It definitely paid off.

That's just rong! R-O-N-G, rong!

Well, that is one of my little catch-phrases these days, but this story on the BBC is really wrong:

The Sri Lankan government invites Oxfam and other aid organizations into the country to help, because it cound not cope with the scale of the Tsunami disaster. So what do they do? They then tax Oxfam $5,000 per day per4x4 vehicle brought in to transport this aid. And if Oxfam - one organization - has paid out $1 million, how much has been charged in total among all the aid groups?

I have expressed my disgust in an email to the Sri Lankan government. Disgust that was significantly multiplied when I arrived at their website and found a banner saying "Help Tsunami Victims". You help tsunami victims!

You can see for yourselves and write your own angry email here:

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Oxfam pays $1m tsunami aid duty


Have you ever heard of a rainy season without rain?

Allegedly the muggy Japanese season of three or four weeks of rain started this past Saturday.

It rained Saturday. It rained a few drops last night. But other than that, the birds are chirping, I hear classical music blaring from the loudspeakers at the elementary school down the road, and I'm going to make my way to a local shop in a few minutes - on dry ground.

What is this world coming to?

Mom's Home Cooking

Recently I've been studying Japanese characters (kanji) by going to our little local library branch and reading cookbooks. One I spent quite a bit of time on was Okaasan no Aji (literally translated the taste of mother). Yesterday in Japanese class as I was explaining one of the recipes to my sensei which involved ground beef, macaroni, and curry powder, she laughed and said she'd never heard of such a weird recipe in Japan. (I actually thought the creation was tasty; Stephen wasn't so crazy about it.)

I've tried a few of the recipes but couldn't bring myself to make the broccoli and strawberry salad. I don't think mother would've approved of that one.

Click on the link below to see the cover of the cookbook with pictures of a few of the dishes. 本: お母さんの味大百科―これがわが家の味!21世紀の家庭料理決定版!

Happy Anniversary, Love Birds!

4 years today! I am so happy to be with Abigail, it just seems like the time has flown by - like the little love birds on our anniversary cards.

Yes, you are not seeing double - we each bought the same card. But it is not as statistically unlikely as you would think: After all, this year was the first time either of us could remember actually seeing anniversary cards on sale in Japan at all. Not that they had really gone to town, though. There was a choice of two. (We bought our cards at different shops, so I think we can safely say that there are only two choices in the whole of Aichi at least.) And the Japanese message in one of those two made it inappropriate for giving to your mate. So really, there was only one choice... so that's the choice we both made.

Perhaps the sudden jump in sales will encourage them to make more varieties available for this time next year.

The Wrong Trousers

Ok, not really trousers. It was actually the wrong car.

It all started like this: We invited our new friend Lucy over for dinner last night. Ok, seems harmless enough so far, right?

Lucy is new to Japan, having arrived 5 weeks ago from New Zealand, and she had never been in our direction before. She used her funky car navigation system and was able to reach Amigos, our local neighborhood Brazilian shop, about one block from our building.

She called on her high-tech, gadgety Japanese cell phone from the shop, and I promptly told her to wait there, I would be right over.

When I arrived at the Amigos parking lot, Lucy was standing next to a nice-ish dark blue car. I commented on the fact that CESA (the English school where she is currently working and where Stephen used to work) had gotten a new car since Stephen had stopped working there. She said yes, it might be new for CESA, but it's still old.

I didn't think the blue car looked very worn-out, but thought maybe she and I had different definitions of old.

All these things were running through my mind as I opened the passenger door of the blue car, got in and sat down. I was intending to direct Lucy to our apartment and tell her a convenient place to park. Good intentions, but my plans went slightly amiss as Lucy said (from outside the vehicle):

"That's not the CESA car, Abigail."

The ancient faithful CESA Corolla had been hiding from me on the other side.

I'm just glad that lots of Brazilian people are very friendly and laid-back. I've never been between one and her beloved automobile, though. Fortunately the owner of the car was busy shopping inside, probably buying that way-delicious passionfruit juice or the out-of-this-world homemade bread.

Hopefully, if she had seen me occupying her car, her tummy would've been so happy from the outrageously yummy pastella that she wouldn't have minded too much.

Ah, well. These are just what ifs. As Corrie ten Boom once said, "There are no ifs in God's kingdom." So what if an Abigail had been caught in a strange car? No need to ask that question. You should've seen how fast this Abigail jumped out. Faster than lightning on a Japanese June afternoon.

Debt Relief

So, let me see if I have got this right:

1. During the Cold War, we set up or encourage client regimes in impoverished countries. ("They're dictators, but at least they're our dictators.")
2. We then liberally lend them money to prop up their corrupt (but non-communist) regimes.
3. We tell them which of our construction or arms corporations to spend it with, flooding the continent with arms and huge inappropriate infrastructure developements.
4. The money is squandered or stolen, and corrupt leaders fall and rise.
5. These countries now spend more money paying back the loans than they get in aid and trade, and often more than is left to spend on health care or education for their people.
6. We won't allow them to stop paying us back until they get rid of the corruption that we fuelled.

Oh, that makes sense. We create the twin beasts of debt and corruption furthering our own geopolitical ends, and then say that we won't eliminate one until the other (miraculously) eliminates itself.

And another thing: Why trust the Africans with their own money, anyway? After all, our bankers and bureaucrats can manage money much better, so let's keep on having them give it to us, so we can keep it safe.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Bush and Blair in Africa pledge

Great Balls of Fuzz

Here are a couple of cute little fellas we bumped into yesterday when we hung out with Mike and Andrea. The Agricultural Center near their apartment in Nagoya has a hatchery, so we saw some just after they had popped out, and others (like these two) who were a day or so old. Very cool.

23 too few...

And here it is (was)! The main event, carried in by the beautiful Abigail.

The Birthday Party

Eri and Rumi (my former CESA colleagues) came over to celebrate the passing of another Stephen-year. And... soon Eri will be heading off to my old stomping ground of Kanazawa to work with OM, so it was a leaving do as well.

(Sometimes we gaijin actually get to see Japanese people off, rather than the other way round.)

Big begonia

Yesterday we spent the day with our friends Mike and Andrea in Nagoya. We went to the Agricultural Center for yummy pineapple ice cream, but an added bonus was the begonia greenhouse.

Casual blues

The Japanese government is urging salary-men to get rid of their suits, just for the summer months, in order to save on electricity. They've done that before and it hasn't really worked as far as I can tell. It's already getting muggy here in the Land of the Hot Rising Sun and if I had to wear an itchy suit every day, I'd take them up on their offer. Read the article and find out what a previous prime minister urged business people to wear in the summer. Just can't imagine it. I don't wonder at the brevity of his administration.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Japan vetoes suits in summer heat

Here he is...

...the birthday boy! Yep, Stephen's 33 today and just enjoyed his not-quite-so-full English breakfast. (No black pudding - don't think we can get that in Japan.) Click on comments below and leave him a special birthday message.


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