some nights i have trouble sleeping. when that happens, i just pretend i'm at work, and...voila! problem solved.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Waiting For Man-Yi

If you haven't heard...which you probably haven't...there's a typhoon a-comin' And this one actually has me a little nervous. One of my teachers yesterday kept asking me if I was scared...and I really wasn't until she asked me for the fourth time. I guess it's killed a few people on its way through Okinawa and it should be in Oita by this evening. Which is a bummer...'cause it's a 3-day weekend and it's being spoiled by a silly, little tropical storm. Ready for the irony? The reason for the 3-day weekend...Marine Day.

You can track its progress here: Japan Meteorological Agency

Now, I know you're all worried, so in order to help you think happy thoughts, here's a picture I took of some rice fields on the way home from work last week.

We'll let you know how it turns out.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

No Catchy Title

Well...thanks to a surprise, last-minute entry from somebody named's my weekly entry.

Honestly, nothing exciting has happened this week. We had mid-terms at school Wednesday-Friday, so I didn't teach much this week. I read two and a half books...and that's about as eventful as things got. Contrary to popular belief...being in another country doesn't mean endless excitement.

In good news, I weighed in last night at 71.9 Kg...just short of my 72 Kg sub-goal for June 1st. So...I think I might make it. I'm sure you're all giggling with excitement, right? about 10 minutes, we're headed off to the train station to catch a 2 1/2-hour bus ride to Hita. There's some kind of festival going on tonight, and we somehow had connections with somebody who's connected to someone who knows a guy that got us a pretty cool vantage point for the whole thing. We'll be hanging out on a hotel balcony or something with a bunch of other foreigners, watching fireworks go BOOM and POP and FIZZLE over the river. We're pretty excited. (I guess I have to rescind my earlier statement about living in another country not meaning endless excitement...I guess it actually does. My mistake!)

We didn't have anything to take pictures of this week, so I'll just snap a quick one with my webcam. I made it sepia tone to add just a touch of class. You can thank me later.

By the way...that cute girl there in that photo...that's Neil.

More to come.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

You Win (And So Does Oita!)

Wow! I am overwhelmed by the unprecedented outpouring of comments this week. Good job, everyone! And as promised, here is my concession blog.

Overall, this was a pretty uneventful week. Since last's basically just been a lot of work. I taught a lot of silly classes (including 3 feigned trips and falls off of the teachers' unified "oooooh"s), wrote some test questions, and listened to about 700 NPR podcasts.

Tori and I also took a couple of long, long bike rides. One ride took us to a book store with tons of foreign books (we stocked up!), and another took us to the big soccer stadium...where...not-so-coincidentally...there was a soccer game being played. We bought a couple of tickets and ended up in the "supporter" section...which turned out to be the section for all the fans that come on a regular basis. There were cheerleaders (teenage guys with bullhorns and drums) who kept the crowd singing and clapping the entire game. Everyone but us seemed to know the chants (even the 3 and 4-year-olds), and they all seemed to have Oita Trinita jerseys. So...we felt a little out of place, but what's new, right? We're white people in Japan...totally awkward is the new comfortable for us. I don't know what we're going to do when we get back to the U.S. and we just blend in. It's weird to think about.

Here are a few photos from the game (courtesy of Tori):

Our view of the field:

I was hoping to catch a foul ball, dice:

We don't think these kids asked to come to the game:

The hometown heroes. They beat a team that's rumored to be #2 in Japan!:

Fans shuffling out after the game:

The roof of the dome (called the Big Eye)...pretty cool, eh?:

More fans from our section of the stadium:, that just about wraps up my week. Same deal this week...if 6 people comment...I write another one next Saturday. This time, though...please sign your comments...I have a sneaking suspicion that someone (who shall remain nameless) submitted multiple entries. :)

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Is This A New Record??

Almost two months without a blog entry! Incredible, innit?

Tori's been doing a GREAT job keeping y'all updated on our most exciting adventures, but I've had a few developments of my own.

I recently got my bike back from Andy (while we were in Tokyo, there was an Oita-wide charity bike ride, so I lent it out for a while). And...ever since I got it back, the weather has been absolutely gorgeous, so I've been riding to work again. It's nice not to be at the mercy of the busses. It also makes the trip home about 4 times as fast as walking! Tori and I have gotten to take some nice, relaxing rides in the sunshine, too. Today we did about 20 miles to a mall and back (and boy do our tucheses hoit!). The sun was out in full force and our necks and shoulders took the brunt of it. I'm as red as a...uh...a Maraschino cherry. A really old, semi-rotten, lost-most-of-it's-pizazz Maraschino cherry.

SIDE NOTE: We went to said mall in order to check out the kickin' foreign foods...and ended up eating yakisoba. We saw no foreign food...unless, of course, you count the KFC and McDonald's...but they're all over Japan.

What else is new? Oh yes, in keeping with my tradition of procrastination, I recently made a New Year's resolution. Better late than never, right? I've been feeling a little scrawny and out of shape for about 5 years now, so I decided it was time to do something about it. So...on April 1st, I weighed 68 Kg (just under 150 lbs) and I decided to blow myself up to an impossible 75 Kg (165 lbs) by the time we leave in August. I joined a "gym" (an ex-bodybuilder's garage with some weights in it) and have been lifting 5-6 days a week (and eating like a hog)...and things are going well. I'm over 71 Kilo I think I'm going to make it!

To make sure all of the weight I gained wasn't from empty calories, I also decided not to eat any chocolate for 30 days. I went off the cacao on April 1st and abstained in the face of unrelenting temptation (including, but not limited to, a stash of peanutbutter M&Ms and chocolate-covered ice-cream bars) for what I thought was 30 days. Imagine my surprise when (after eating 2 chocolate Krispy Kremes), I was giving a video recap of our day and I was only April 30th. So...I fell a day short. We decided to count it anyway, 'cause really...29 days is pretty good, yeah?

Phil and I finally started getting serious about recording a CD while in Japan, so we set aside some time to record some new songs and redo the old ones. From a list of over 20 original songs, we whittled it down to 14 essentials and started laying down some guitar tracks. It's always slow going with this kind of stuff, but we got 7 songs worth of guitar tracks done in just one Saturday (that's pretty good, by the way). Hopefully we'll be able to do some more soon. Time's getting short...only 3 months left!

Here are a few pictures of our high-tech studio:

Today, we picked up some baseball gloves and a baseball, too! That may not seem too excited to the untrained ear, but...let me tell's exciting. Exciting like a hamster on your 4th birthday. We've been looking for some cheap gloves for a long time, but the majority of them are well over $100...and we're really not that good at playing catch.

So...that's what's going on in my neck of the woods. What's new with y'all??

THIS WEEK'S CHALLENGE: If more than 6 people comment and/or email me in response to this blog by Friday, I'll promise to write another one by next Saturday. Scout's honor.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Tokyo Photos!

As many of you know, we recently took a little trip to Tokyo with Tori's sister Rachael. Tori's going to do the human side of things on her I'll stick to the scenic shots for the most part. Here are some highlights:

Our room at the restaurant on our first night in town. Shinya, Shimpei, and Shinji (some of our old TIUA students) took us here and Jared and Steph caught up with us a bit later.

Shinya, Rachael, Shimpei, myself, and Tori hanging out on the streets of Shinjuku.

Rachael, Tori, and Naoko basking in the sunlight on a beautiful day in Shinjuku Park.

Pretty park stuff.

More pretty park stuff.

View of a skyscraper from Shinjuku Park.

Shinjuku skyline from Shinjuku Park.

Another buildings vs. trees shot.

Cool statue in a shrine in Asakusa.

Cool old street in Asakusa.

Mural in Asakusa.

Asakusa Temple.

Statue of Buddha in the middle of Asakusa Temple.

Smokey thing in the middle of Asakusa Temple...kind of like a wishing well for asians, but instead of throwing money in it, you buy incense from the temple and burn it there.

A street lined with shops in the middle of Asakusa.

Weird circle of 50's-style dancers in the middle of Ueno Park.

Birds in Ueno Park.

More birds in Ueno Park.

The beginning of our boat tour through Tokyo.

A pretty bridge.

Another pretty bridge.

The last pretty bridge picture...I promise.

And...that, more or less, is our trip to Tokyo, told through scenic pictures. Look for more info on Tori's blog later.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Life In Limbo

With more than 6 hours of downtime at work on Monday, I found myself asking that nagging, ever-pervasive question:  "What am I going to do with the rest of my life?" It's something that's haunted me--and most of the people I know--for a long, long time.  For most of my life, I've shrugged it off and said, "I'll figure it out later...I still have time."

But, then...I started reading a lot about the economic superstars coming out of India, China, and South Korea...and I can't believe how hard these countries work their youth.  They realize that in order to make it in today's world...they've got to bust their asses and really go at everything they do with everything they have...and as soon as they possibly can.  Their parents push them into science and business fields and work them until they drop (something most American kids won’t stand for). They’re hungry...and they’re going out and making things happen. And it’s working! They pump out people with advanced engineering degrees in numbers that make Americans look lazy and stupid.

And, to an extent...I guess they're right...we are lazy, comparatively speaking. We think we deserve everything, but most of us aren’t willing to gut it out and make things happen for ourselves. And, let’s face it, our education system isn’t exactly airtight.  Kids with enormous potential are constantly falling through the cracks. Those of us who are lucky enough, wealthy enough, or willing to go into enough debt to graduate from college...often squander our four years and don’t make enough out of our higher education.

But I really don't think that’s the main problem.  I think, more than anything...we're unfocused.  We're unable to make a decision and go after what we want with that Asian fervor. It’s not that we can’t do the things they’re doing; we have as much potential as they do...we’re just having trouble channelling that energy into something productive. Most Americans my age are hungry, but we’re not sure what we want. There are just so many many possible avenues. How are we supposed to make a decision when the entire world is at our fingertips?

Sometimes I think the Japanese have it right. They basically force their students to choose, at the end of jr. high school, the path they'll follow for the rest of their lives.  No muss...just a single decision, made in your youth...dictating your entire future.  

My time here has made me wonder what my life would have been like had I been forced to choose a path in jr. high school.  I imagine I would be crunching numbers as an accountant...or wasting away in a dark corner of a building, designing speakers for hi-fi systems.  I think I would probably be better off financially, but...would I be any happier? 

It’s hard to tell, but I doubt it.

I like where I am right now.  It's kind of an exciting feeling...knowing that there are still so many possibilities ahead of me (I kind of feel like a toddler in that respect). 

Besides...predictability gets awfully boring awfully fast.

But, at the same time...I think I’m wearing out my welcome here in Limbo. I think it’s about time I made a choice.

Seeing as I still have 5 months left in Japan, though...I'll figure it out later...I still have time.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Where's Your Blog At?

Recently a few of you pointed out that it's been a long time since my last entry. Please allow me to explain myself. I gave up blogging for Lent. That's right...Lent. Now, as some of you more-astute readers may discern...Lent is not yet over. To you, I say, "That's right." BUT, allow me to explain myself further. I had no idea when Lent started. I knew it started on a Tuesday or Wednesday (or was it a Friday?) sometime before I picked a Tuesday or Wednesday (or was it a Friday?) and said, "No more blogging!" So...if you're criticizing my blogging habits...I can only assume that you're criticizing my religion...and that it something I absolutely will not stand for. Instead...I will sit. I will sit and I will drink cocoa. Because, blogging habits have nothing to do with Lent...or any other religious observation, for that matter. I'm really just a big (not even Catholic) phony with nothing to write about. I said, not a whole lot of blog-worthy things going on here lately. But, then again, it's becoming increasingly difficult for me to differentiate between blog-worthy happenings and not-so-blog-worthy happeneings. Things that would have seemed ridiculous and/or infuriating 6 months ago...are just commonplace now. So, I MAY have accumulated volumes worth of stories that you--my American readership--would find interesting, but I just don't know any more. My everyday life seems to be so...ordinary. This is what happens when you live somewhere for this long: you become desensitized to all the weird, wonderful stuff around you.

Here's what I, personally, have found interesting over the past...40-some days...not much of it has to do with Japan, but it all has to do with me:

For the past few weeks at school, our schedule has been somewhat...different. The students had their finals for a week...then there was graduation...and, most recently, the junior high school students have been doing admissions testing for high school. So, for 13 days of paid work...I taught a total of 5 classes...2 of which were half-classes and 2 more of which were cut a few minutes short. So, all in all, for 104 hours of pay...i taught a total of about 170 minutes.

And what, you ask, do I do when I don't have classes 101 out of 104 hours of work? What do I do with that other 97.28% of my time? Well, let me tell you. I read 2 novels and a book about international politics...watched 2 episodes of the Simpsons, one episode of Family Guy, and one episode of King of the Hill...researched good values for monitor speakers to add to my little recording studio...caught up on the Scooter Libby scandal...learned about and tested binaural beats (they're a head trip...check 'em out, unless you have epilepsy...then don't)...tried to figure out a sneaky way around inflated magazine prices in Japan...downloaded a demo of a vector drawing program and drew a few illustrations for my children's poems...wrote a new song...and fought off the sandman with gallons of water and countless trips to the restroom.

With a job like this, who needs weekends, right? Trust me...I do. Sitting at a desk all day is not nearly as relaxing as sitting on the couch all day. There's just something different.

In other fairly exciting news...Phil came over last weekend and we recorded 2 new songs; one of mine and one of his. I still need to add bass lines to them, but they're sounding pretty good so far.

After soaking the movable parts of my bike with WD40, Tori and I got to take our first bike ride together in a few months. My bike had been sitting out in the harsh conditions of the Oita Winter...and it was NOT in good shape. The last time I tried to ride it, the chain buckled and it almost threw me over the handlebars. The near-miss involving my crotch and the aluminum frame was enough to keep me on foot for quite a while.

Oh yeah...I also made barbecue sauce...DElicious. we're going to make some salsa to go with the tortilla chips we bought the other day. Yippee! What could possibly be better?

So...that pretty much sums it up. Now, as always, I leave you with a promise that it will not be long before my next blog entry.

Don't hold your breath...we all know I'm a flake when it comes to this stuff.