Friday, September 17, 2004

Friday September 17, 8:42 p.m.

Well, finally paid the hunk of money and I'm now a member of NAS Sports Club. Seeing that I haven't received any schedule from the school for any classes, it looks like my first outing to the club will be on Tuesday afternoon. The coordinator told me the details about the welcome party for the 25th so I responded with a shot across the bow about what my status at the school will be. But back to NAS, my nervousness was showing when I signed up, I forgot to take my change and forgot to take my package of materials with me. I'm sure the staff must think me a bit of an idiot.

With The Teacher off with her cold and SR too busy today, I had a totally free day so just did some shopping and cleaning up. Cooked up that curry udon that the juku boss had given me back on Tuesday. She said that she didn't put any meat into the curry since she's not a big fan of the stuff. Well I am an unrepentant omnivore so I added some chicken and some remaining veggies to give it a bit of a lift. Worked out well.

We're still waiting here for the final word from the Japanese baseball negotiations whether there will be indeed be a weekend strike. The guys have delayed their decision twice already.

Actually, I received e-mail from DTE for the first time in a while. Apparently, she'll also be joining Movie Buddy's party next week. I also asked her about the fate of Arwen and 99 since she was also close to them. Carolina also contacted me to see if she could move up her next class to the holiday Thursday next week. Since I'm teaching Jazz Buddy on that day, I said that I could do that. Only problem is that the Tea Room closes early on national holidays so we'll need an alternate venue. I'm waiting myself for what the kids' mother wants me to do tomorrow. I still don't know whether I'll be teaching the older daughter or "teaching" the parents.

Well, gotta pack for my trip to Karuizawa tomorrow afternoon. I assume that Paddy is already up there. I'll give the bath another try to see if I can endure my stay there better with my bath radio.

Oh, news flash...the strike is on. Baseball is taking an unscheduled holiday for the first time in history in Japan.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Thursday September 16, 11:02 p.m.

I guess the theme of this entry can be considered to be of the explosive kind, both figuratively and physically. Let's get the latter kind out of the way first since it is, fortunately, the shortest. It looks like my destination for Saturday, Karuizawa, had its first ashfall of the season thanks to some grumblings from nearby Mt. Asama, that formerly vacant volcano along the Nagano/Gunma border tonight. Apparently, some towns as far south as Saitama Prefecture which borders the northern edge of Tokyo got a bit of the white stuff. My friend up in Karuizawa did tell me to bring a jacket for the trip since it drops to about 4 C at night. Now, I wonder if I should make sure that it has an asbestos lining. Well, it should make for interesting traveling.

The second bombshell could be rather beneficial for Japanese baseball, especially with the grave news of the Sword of Damocles threatening to fall upon the weekend games again. Two corporations, Livedoor and Rakuten, will be applying to set up new baseball teams. This is very welcome news and probably the only thing that management and the players' union have agreed upon. Apparently, Livedoor is interested in setting up shop in Miyagi Prefecture, which is located between Hokkaido and Tokyo. Good move considering that the closest team to the Hokkaido franchise is in my neck of the woods....the Chiba Lotte Marines. However, Rakuten may face a bit of a battle since the president wants to establish the team in his hometown of Kobe. The snag involves the president of the to-be-merged Orix Blue Wave, also based in Kobe, who believes that two is a crowd.

Explosion No. 3 is of the criminal variety although it has been foreordained. The second body of those two kids who were killed by their father's brutal roomie was found today in a river. The heinousnous of the crime was further amplified when the suspect admitted that he had thrown the kids into the river alive. And then there is the case of that woman and her three kids who had been stabbed and bludgeoned several times in their sleep before being torched to death. Since no valuables were taken, the police are now looking at a revenge motive. I truly, truly hope that the psycho who perpetrated this abomination is found soon.

The last bombshell came in the form of an article forwarded to me by the Doctor. The article talks about some lady Stateside by the name of Malkin who is loudly proclaiming that the internment of Japanese-Americans was fully justified and feels that the ethnic group is a bunch of whiners who secretly abetted spies against the US government during WWII. I rarely give long oratory responses to anyone over e-mail but I did for this one. However, it wasn't of the fire and brimstone variety since I believe that people like her and Pauline Hansen of Australia may make a big splash initially but relatively quickly fade away into bitter obscurity against time, facts and vigilance.

Now that I got the theme for this entry out of the way, I can talk about my day. My lesson with the Jazz Buddy turned out to be mostly a chat session. I don't think the girl minded too much, though. She certainly didn't seem to retain much information on the Conditionals that we had worked on a couple of weeks back...which makes me wonder if I should even emphasize the grammar component all that much anymore. At one point in our dialogue, she said that she wanted to talk about stuff that would be relevant to her. Perhaps, grammar (although I think she still needs work there) doesn't qualify. Well, I've known that she's cheerfully mercurial so I wasn't too put out.

I made my way down to that new mall I talked about in my last entry. Oazo. It just skirts the northern edge of Tokyo Station and is basically a number of cute trendy shops and eateries surrounding the new and improved flagship branch of the Maruzen Bookstore. And as with all new openings in their first week, there was a ton of people walking through...mostly of the older variety. Man, that new Maruzen sure puts the dying Nihonbashi branch out of its misery and that's considering the makeover that it went through a few years ago. Basically the new store got the Barnes and Nobles treatment. Ivy League College decor, silver signs done up in large New York Times font and glass walls overlooking the station characterize this baby. It rather reminds me of the Chapters bookstores back in ol' Toronto. When I bought my usual book of crosswords, I noticed that each cashier now had a flatscreen display on the customer side of the counter to show every little detail that the cashier punches up.

Basically, the Oazo resembles the other megacomplexes of Roppongi Hills, Shiodome and that new one in Nihombashi in that there are restaurants sandwiching the rest of the mall on top and bottom. I was starting to get a bit famished (certainly my stomach has been growling a lot more since I made my latest start to a diet) but didn't really find anything there which appealed to me so I traipsed through the underground of JR Tokyo and went to that possibly-soon-to-be forgotten faded glory known as the Maru Biru just a quarter of a kilometre away. Not to be outdone by the grand opening of a potential rival, the Maru Biru folks had signs proclaiming its 2nd anniversary. Or should they be best seen as signs of desperation? It's a bit odd that the Maruzen flagship has been set up where it is since Maru Biru also has a Maruzen branch which is far smaller and less grand. I wonder if it will close up shop in the near future. I went up to the 6th floor where one of my fave eateries, Akai no Noren, is located. I noticed that there was hardly anyone there on the restaurant floor but then again, not to alarm anyone in Maru Biru management, most of the eateries there go on afternoon hiatus. Not Akai no Noren...I still got my Hakata style ramen course with kimchi rice, gyoza and an amaretto creme dessert (yup, you read that dessert right...what a contrast).

After my little exploration of the new Tokyo Station area, I went crazy. Crazy for CD and book shopping, that is. Then again when I have point cards screaming to be redeemed and special coupons demanding to be used, I am no match. Tower Records and HMV should be kowtowing to me for a week after my purchases. It was quite an eclectic set of purchases as well. I got a couple of jazz discs in the form of Basie and Darin, a YMO techno tribute, two albums by rockabilly/jazz unit Ego-Wrappin and even a compilation of ol' 80s ballads. Look out, Foreigner, Chaka Khan and The Jets. I even picked up that report from the 9/11 Commission. Just from browsing through a few pages of it, it just reads like a Tom Clancy novel. All too true, though.

Finally, my long shopping spree came to an end and I went up to the Tea Room and had that preliminary with my newest student, Carolina. She's a friend of SR's and another old student who's now living in LA. Her English ability is pretty good but has patches and rust which I'll need to work on. I heard from SR that she was pretty disappointed with the inconsistency of the teachers at her last school so I hope I can come through with the goods.

The e-mail has been interesting. Not only did I get that article from The Doctor, but I also heard from The SE and the coordinator from the school, two people that have largely been missing in my life for a little while. I'm not sure if it had been the somewhat dismissive response I sent to the Curry Master concerning my erstwhile lessons with her and the SE, but I actually got my first e-mail from the SE himself asking if I were available in November. I replied politely that I could be available for him. As for the coordinator, she just sent me the invitation for the welcome party for the new folks on the 25th. Does this mean I'm still wanted to teach classes? I didn't whine to her on that matter and just said that I could make it. The 25th is also the day for Movie Buddy's party to herald his good friend's wedding, but that should be taking place in the evening. I even got word from Skippy about the latest outing on the 26th for ribs at Tony Romas. Looks like it'll be a joint indirect pun intended. My life will be complete if Arwen ever decides to contact me again.

Ah, The Teacher also informed me that she has to cancel her class tomorrow due to sickness. This means that I'm free and clear all day. I'll probably head up to that sports club again and see if I can join up now that the bank situation is resolved. And I have to think about securing that ticket for the trip home during Xmas.

Man, that was the longest entry I've ever made in my short life as a blogger. I hope the publishing doesn't get too overwhelmed.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Thursday September 16, 8:19 a.m.

Well, we're still wondering if there will be baseball here this weekend. However, back in ol' Canada, the NHL decided to lock out its players. I'm sure there will be a lot of fans crying in their Molsons this week.

Nice to wake up in cool surroundings once again after the hellish summer. In fact, I even had to wrap a blanket around me. I got word from my friend in gets down to 4 degrees C at night there. Definitely jacket weather.

I've got the Jazz Buddy for her usual lesson then I have my newest student for her inaugural. In between, I'll be checking out Tokyo's newest mall. Called Oaso, it's named after the Esperanto word for "oasis". Well, this must be the linguistic equivalent of winning the lottery. One Esperanto word will now become a household one. In any case, I now know where the ol' Maruzen Bookstore has headed. It will be closing in Nihombashi but it's new HQ will be in that mall where it's said that it will be one of the largest bookstores in Japan. Gotta check that out. I'm quite relieved, actually. It's one of the few bookstores here that sells my favourite brand of crossword puzzles.
Wednesday September 15, 10:03 p.m.

Well, I went to my UFJ branch and found out that I actually did open my account by signing it and not by using the stamp. So I'm free and clear to sign up for the sports club. Mind you, I missed out on the deal. Not quite sure when I'll sign up. Perhaps I'll do so after my lesson with The Teacher on Friday.

My lessons with The Hawaiian and the OL went OK. The OL seemed somewhat distracted though since she was rather off tonight. She's entering a rather busy time at work so I won't see her for the next few weeks. At least for next week, I can't see her in any event since I'm seeing the old oil company students.

I lucked out on the budget for the past month. Surprisingly, I actually made a very small profit. However, I'm not sure what this coming month will hold since I didn't get any classes at the school.

The news has focused once again on the psychos who kill. A few days ago, a middle-aged man murdered the two toddler sons of his roomie after abusing them. The shocker was that the father of the dead boys had left the murderer's home once previously because he had been thought a danger to the kids only to return to the fold. What could the fool have been thinking?!

This story perked up the ears of the media to go digging back into some of the other sociopaths of the recent past. A nutcase who went on a killing spree a few years ago in an elementary school in Osaka finally got his richly deserved fate via the gallows a few days ago. He didn't show any remorse...he just asked to be killed ASAP since he felt that he was just gonna spin his wheels anyways in jail. It's interesting to note that he was executed within a year of his sentencing. Over here, that's a major miracle. Usually years pass after the final verdict and before that final march to the noose.

Then there was that girl who slashed her classmate to death back in June. The murder made the papers while I was up in Hokkaido. It was decided that she would be put into solitary for the next couple of years since she couldn't function safely in society.

Well, on the way back home, I noticed how cool it felt tonight. It felt like mid-October. Man, I hope that this is now the trend for the rest of the Fall.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Wednesday September 15, 8:17 a.m.

It's of course the middle of the month. I'm happy to say that while the days are still fairly steamy, the nights are much more pleasant. Hopefully by the end of September, the other half of the equation will catch up.

My rubdown yesterday garnered the usual comment from the masseuse of likening my shoulders to geological formations. Well, that's why I do my biweekly sessions.

On the way to work, I dropped by that gym near the station. True to my luck, looks like I'm not gonna get in on the first try. The lady there needed a "hanko" along with my bankbook to start the automatic withdrawals of payment from my account. However, I lost that little stamp years ago and have managed to do well without it. Since I think I started my account by using that hanko, I'll need it again. Well, I'll be heading down to my branch to see if that is indeed the case. Plus, I won't be able to take advantage of that 75% offer since I had to start working out there by today to get the deal. I think the way the conversation with the lady went, she must have assumed that I was trying to pull a fishing expedition with her. However, she was cordial enough and gave me some information. Hmmm...well, if do need that hanko, I can get one made but if it costs a ton of money (as the official ones do), I just have to wonder if it's worth it to pay that to get a piece of wood so that I can enter a place that I have to pay even more money.

But I am fully aware that I've gained a good bit of weight even with the increased amount of salad. At the juku last night, when I was leaning over the table, I just felt that spare tire as if there really were a spare tire around my girth. I'm just wondering if I should just skip food altogether....especially after seeing Phil Mahre's rant about the slow poisoning of the American public on Larry King yesterday.

Speaking of the juku, I had my first official class with the boss. As I figured, she talked a mile a minute. She didn't sidetrack too badly though but the non-stop stream managed to take us several minutes past the end time of 10 p.m. much to her surprise. She was so shocked that she decided to pay me for the extra 30 minutes...heck, if she's gonna do that, I'll be very willing to listen to her.

I listened to my latest two purchases yesterday. Yup, the reviewer was right about that Anita Baker CD. No real blockbusters there but I don't think she's really come up with any super hits since her second album, and yet I've remained a loyal fan. Despite the decade's absence, she sounds as if she never left.

Skippy contacted me. Looks like I, ROBOT is least with her, but she did mention that there was going to be a special anniversary at Tony Roma's that day with the according discounts. Looks like I've become her herald since I sent out the messages to everyone at her request (or behest).

I even got a message from my ex concerning the impending change in my e-mail address. She gave me a polite standing invitation for our occasional tonkatsu lunch near her company. It's interesting how announcing one's change in Internet protocols brings out people from the woodwork. I even got e-mail from the Curry Master. As was assumed, she told me that she couldn't really say when she and the SE would be available for future lessons so I just let her off the hook by telling her that the two of them really don't need my help.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Monday September 13, 9:46 p.m.

Classes went amiably enough today. My morning class was another chat fest and my class at the Company actually showed some good diligence from the two students. Felt quite energized, actually. Enough to whip up some rare Monday night cooking in the form of pork kimchi.

In between classes, I bought that bath radio at the Shibuya Tokyu Hands. Actually I was fortunate enough to get a radio which was only half as much as the one I'd seen at the Shinjuku branch. Then, I had lunch at TGIFridays since I had a 500 yen coupon. Last year, I vowed that I wouldn't go there for lunch since I had a rather bad experience with their chicken dish. However, a coupon is a coupon so I decided to take the risk. Luckily, I had a much better dish. It was chicken again but only a few cooked sticks in a large salad. It was the first time that I'd ever had veggies as a main dish. However, to ensure that I wasn't going entirely healthy, I had French Fries on the side.

I also hit pay dirt at Towers as well. A couple of beloved singers who had largely disappeared from the public scene have come back with new releases. One is Anita Baker who hasn't put out an album in 10 years. I took a listen to it there and found it worthy. The reviewer in Entertainment Weekly said that the new release doesn't have a bombshell hit like "Sweet Love" but hey, even a merely good Baker album is well worth the yen. The other is by Ruiko Kurahashi, a local singer here whom most Japanese wouldn't remember or recognize aside from those who were REALLY into the 80s pop scene.

Well, I did my usual stop off at the Andersens cafe in that Shinjuku Plaza for an hour of tea, crosswords and nodding off. Geez, that really starts to age me. Maybe my new impending lifestyle as a fitness nut will relieve my narcolepsy.

In other news, after all the Olympics and Iraq and the US election, we've come back to the plight of Sgt. Jenkins after his 40-year defection to North Korea. He has apparently reported for duty for the first time since the 60s at Camp Zama...perhaps for his court martial. Also, speaking of North Korea, Japan has been rather worried about that big explosion near the N. Korean-Chinese border last night. Anything that involves Kimland and explosions tend to bring that feeling of dread. What's distressing everyone is that the explosion came about in the form of a mushroom cloud. Uh-oh.

Well, I'm waiting for a call from Paddy concerning part of that personal improvement project. I did send him an e-mail giving him a report on my progress. If he calls soon enough, I can actually take a bath and test out that radio.

As expected, the summer heat wave refuses to go quietly. We've got another 32-degree day tomorrow. I thought I would have to use the yogurt machine this time, but I guess just leaving the milk and starter outside in the usual bucket will suffice just nicely.