Saturday, August 13, 2005

Sunday August 14, 2:28 p.m.

It was another late night last night watching the Helsinki Championships. From the two events featuring the Japanese, we were kept off the scoreboard but I heard this morning that one guy managed to get the bronze in the Men's Marathon.

It's a gorgeous day outside. Mind you, I haven't gotten out there yet. I only had breakfast at 12:30 this afternoon. It was the usual Sunday fare: bacon & eggs with a couple of pancakes. Added a little Latin to the atmosphere by putting on my Lisa Ono CD.

Just gonna clean around the apartment today before getting some groceries. The lazy days of summer continue...

Friday, August 12, 2005

Saturday August 13, 12:27 p.m.

Well, I've been up for a couple of hours now and I've yet to eat breakfast. I'm getting pretty hungry. Although I've got the fan on, it's just to drive away the humidity; it's not all that hot inside so the AC is getting a bit of a respite. Although things look pretty gloomy outside, the weather may not garner all that much rain. We did get quite the bucketful last night. May do some washing since the machine looks pretty loaded to bear.

The reason for the late rising this morning is that I was up late last night watching those Helsinki games. I got my money's worth. The Japanese media has a new Russian beauty to gawk its cameras over. I can't remember, pronounce or spell her name but she is the winner of the women's pole vault with a world record to boot. But Maria Sharapova doesn't have anything to worry about. She's still No. 1 in many viewers' eyes although those viewers may be rather disappointed to find out that she's had to pull out of the next tennis tournament due to a pulled chest muscle (ahem...). Also, I saw the prelims for the men's 400 m relay to see the much-expected-to-win US team lose out completely by screwing up the baton switch. Ouch! That must've been embarrassing. Good news for the Japanese team, though. They came in 3rd. No way that could've happened if the US team had won.

I got word from The Madame. Looks like we'll be catching that dinner on the rooftop of some building on the 18th. She was just worried about if restaurants will be open on that day during the O-Bon holiday. Judging from the masses at Namjatown yesterday, she may not have to worry. For me, it'll be the prices. Speaking of O-Bon, the mass exodus out of Tokyo started last night and should be continuing till later today. I could only imagine the hell that everyone here would have to endure if the idiocy at Heathrow had happened at Narita.

Looks like that little misunderstanding between me and Shard was just that. Everything's back to normal.

Well, I'm pretty much on holiday for the next number of days. My next class won't be til 001's lesson on Wednesday. Looks like I've got a few video tapes to catch up on and try to keep expenditures low at least until the 18th.
Friday August 12, 11:02 p.m.

We've been getting intermittent downpours all night and when I took the trash out down to the fetid dumping area downstairs, I saw a few soundless flashes. Since I haven't heard any rumbles, I can assume that they're too far away. Still, as I was going down the stairs with the metal railings, I was thinking a little bit.

Of course, the Japanese media, notably TBS, has been focusing on the World Track And Field Championships in Helsinki for the past week. Once again, the show's been inexplicably hosted by Yuji Oda, the actor from the famed police drama series "Odoru Dai Sosasen" (Bayside Shakedown) and for those guys who were into trendy dramas of way back, "Tokyo Love Story". It's kinda like asking Brad Pitt to do ABC's "Wide World of Sports". Mind you, the Japanese have always gone to celebs to go on their game shows instead of the regular folks for excitement value, so why not sports specials? Uh...maybe because actors aren't necessarily qualified? And I don't think the TBS sportscasters are slouches at their craft.

But there is one quiz show on local airwaves which actually invites the masses. It's called "Attack 25" and is shown on TV Asahi on Sundays at 1:25 p.m. It's probably the oldest of all the game shows on TV, and it's hosted by a venerable actor and the usual female announcer sidekick. Basically, "Attack 25" is a mix of "Jeopardy" and a game of I-Go. Four folks have to answer trivia questions to gain the most territory on a grid of 25 squares. My Japanese ability is good enough so that I can try to answer at least half of the questions. The player with the most territory at the end of regular play gets to try for the grand prize, which is usually a trip to Europe. The only two things I don't like about the program is the mugging that the players have to do when they're introduced to the camera (now, maybe there is a reason that celebs are usually shown on these shows) and the times when one player basically is heads and shoulders above the competition.
Friday August 12, 6:22 p.m.

The OL was in better spirits today. She's at least accustomed to the vagaries of her job although she's trying to escape it eventually by studying for a test which could get her back onto the university track early next year.

Afterwards, I went up to the Ginza HMV to check for any magazines or CDs which would induce me to waive my austerity program and buy them, but alas, there was nothing worth getting that would have had me part with my yen. Then I went up to Ikebukuro to the Sunshine City Building. There, I checked out Namjatown where all those food museums were located, but it wasn't those places that I was interested in. I wanted to see this permanent exhibit called "Riraku no Mori" which specialized in massage inspired idea if a bit overdue considering the mania for massage in this country. I'm not sure where the word "Riraku" derives from. Maybe it's a warped version of "relax" or it's the Japanese version of "lilac". In any case, that mania was certainly illustrated today. The O-bon holiday must have started early for thousands of people since a good chunk of them was at Namjatown.

"Riraku no Mori" (Relaxation/Lilac Forest) is built up as a forest in which several massage places could be found. There is a clinic which specializes in Indian head massage (which I wanted to try), another one for reflexology, and yet another on the more strenuous Thai massage. All of them had long lineups to punctuate their popularity and the fact that it was the summer holiday. There were tons of kids infesting the forest as well as the other exhibits. Ice Cream City was packed to the gills. Basically, my time there was just to observe as I waded through the masses.

I ended up having a filling lunch at a ramen place just around the edge of the Sunshine City complex. For 840 yen, it was a pretty good deal: a bowl of salt-broth ramen with a plate of fried pork, a bowl of rice with pickled greens and a small plate of pickles. I won't be having a very large dinner at all tonight since I still feel bloated. Just a salad and oolong tea. I'm glad I didn't go to the gym today; I could only imagine how much my weight ballooned after that lunch.

With this week being devoted to the people who had died in the two atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it's also rather poignant to see that another tragic anniversary is being observed today. For it was 20 years ago today that JAL Flight 30 to Osaka crashed into the mountains of Gunma Prefecture killing all 520 passengers aboard. It is the worst single-plane crash in history. Although the survivors from the atomic bombings are becoming fewer and fewer, the airplane crash is still fresh in many people's minds. In fact, the usual TBS newscast finished early tonight so that a drama based on that sad day could be played right now. It's starring the comic actor, Naoto Takenaka, from "Shall We Dance?" fame as one of the JAL pilots. There was a ceremony also held (as has been the case every year since the tragedy) at the crash site up in the mountains.

Whenever I'm reminded of the crash, I remember the song "Sukiyaki" or as it's originally known "Ue o Muite Arukoo" ("Let's Walk With Our Heads Held Up High"). A very strange song to hear considering the nature of the tragedy but one of the passengers on Flight 30 was the singer of that song, Kyu Sakamoto. The "Sukiyaki" song has taken on an even more bittersweet tone.

Well, the O-Bon vacation season has finally started in earnest with the highways gradually filling up with cars making the exodus to their passengers' hometowns. It'll probably be another relatively empty megalopolis to look forward to next week...just like Golden Week.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Friday August 12, 7:56 a.m.

Pretty gloomy outside. There is supposed to be some rain later today but it looks like Chiba at least will be getting the precipitation a little early.

Well, Shard has replied back after that suddenly tense end to our last exchange. He didn't refer to the matter after my somewhat glib response. However, I did...ostensibly to apologize if I caused any offense.
Thursday August 11, 10:06 p.m.

Had my third gym outing this week. Again, the guy who I first talked to about my missing file was there but didn't say a word to me about whether something was done about it. Well, the only thing I do with it anyways is just record my weight, heart rate and blood pressure. So I figure why should I care? I've got my access card and that's all I need.

On my way back to the station, I ran into The Songbird and The Den Mother by great coincidence. The Den Mother had just left a message on the machine for me. Looks like she wants to have another outing sometime in the Fall.

Went to the Tea Room for the first time in a couple of weeks. It was completely deserted for the 2.5 hours I was there. It certainly made my teaching a whole lot easier for The Carolinan. Tomorrow, I've got my only lesson with The OL in the morning.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Thursday August 11, 2:01 p.m.

Rather unstable right now. It's clouded over but no sign of rain so far. Still plenty warm and humid, though.

Just had some hearty fare in the form of some Korean miso pork, or metcho, that I whipped up on the stove today. It was a good batch along with the supermarket-bought salad to compensate for the relative lack of veggies yesterday. Well, I'm gonna head for the gym in less than an hour and then it's The Carolinan's lesson at the cafe tonight.

I think today also seems to be the day for misunderstandings. I had a chat with one of my ex-students who's now living in the States. She gave an opinion for which I uttered the word "Absolutely". Suddenly, the next few lines of text had her gasping for an apology. Luckily, I was able to rectify the situation so the chat didn't end badly. However, I just exchanged one of my usual longer e-mails with Shard. Everything went well for the vast part of it but then he seemed to have taken one of my quips a little too seriously and gave me a rather negative emoticon. I just gave him back a "Just jokin'" with happy sign.'d think a guy who you've known for well over a decade would understand you a bit better... Enh, then again...I've got a bit of a misanthrope churning inside of me from time to time anyways.
Wednesday August 10, 10:32 p.m.

The weather was diametrically opposed to yesterday's relative pleasantness. It was cooler but a lot more humid. It was like walking through a sea of sweat. Luckily, I got a break through my food spending. I finished off my point card at the kaiten sushi place under my station so I got 500 yen slashed off my bill. I only paid a mere 480 yen for a large platter of sushi. My kaiten sushi really isn't a kaiten least, it seems so. The conveyor belt has been stilled during lunch and every time I get home at night and pass by the restaurant, the belt is also unmoving. However, the dinner hour may have it seeing some action. And the place is still open, so I'm happy.

My two lessons at Speedy's worked out pretty well: practice and a lot of laughter...just how I, and hopefully 001 and 002, like them.

My second financial break at a restaurant was at the Golden Arches. I know, I know...I'm only supposed to be hitting the place just once a month. But I am under austerity rules and I got those coupons for the Big M. Only paid 400 yen for a chicken burger, medium fries, a Coke and an apple pie. That really can't be beat. However, I'll try and cook something tomorrow for lunch just to get back to the healthy side.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Tuesday August 9, 10:27 p.m.

I'm sure there were a lot of bitten nails all over the world, especially in this country, but after a couple of delays, the Discovery has come back to Earth safely albeit at an alternate site. I'd been wondering how the shuttle fared while I was at the juku. When I got back, I switched on the TV and saw NHK nonchalantly giving a report on the past 2 weeks that Discovery was up in orbit, so I figured everything was A-OK.

Well, I made it to the gym for the second consecutive day. I don't think it was a huge mistake but I think I should've just passed on the outing today. I couldn't really do all that much on the machines since my extremities were still pretty sore. I'd thought about not going but I just didn't want to end up procrastinating as I usually do. But I will take a day off tomorrow.

It was just the two hours at the juku today since The New Kid and The Siberian were off. The Beauty Pair and I once again used some of the hour to discuss our next outing. As I mentioned before, we'll be heading to Namjatown in Ikebukuro in September. It'll be my third annual outing to the various food emporiums but also we'll be taking a look and hopefully partaking in that Massage Forest that's become part of the exhibit. Instead of food, there are various salons specializing in their own little massage techniques. After checking out the website, I'm pretty confident that this will be a permanent area.

The Milds and McGirl did quite well today since instead of splitting us into two practice pairs, I just held a round-robin drill session. We also humourously illustrated the generation gap between the three of us adults and McGirl.

To finish off, there may be some fallout from that failure to pass The Postal Privatization Bill and subsequent dissolution of Parliament here. A number of LDP lawmakers also voted against the Bill which is quite verboten in discipline-crazy Japanese politics. So there is a good possibility that those so-called Benedict Arnolds will receive their punishment in the form of non-support when it comes to the election seats. I'm sure that those lawmakers had been well aware of the consequences so there is probably little regret from them. I'd say they should go Independent and make the election slightly more interesting.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Tuesday August 9, 1:50 p.m.

Just for the is the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. It's not my intention to be flip about this somber occasion, but I rather think that the second city to be attacked by a nuclear weapon must feel like a forgotten younger brother. I was only reminded of the event by seeing a brief clip on CNN. Didn't see anything on the local channels here although to be fair, I think there had to have been some coverage.

The tributes to the late Peter Jennings continue. It was rather amazing to see that all top 3 networks in America started off with the passing of Jennings. I only thought that would happen when Walter Cronkite dies. Looks like the media community has been very sentimental about the death. I saw Diane Sawyer choke up at one point, and I swear that the usually snarky Aaron Brown got a bit misty-eyed.

My Tuesday morning and early afternoon have been pretty relaxing so far. I went outside to get some groceries. The heat was there but it was unusually dry and there was a breeze constantly wafting through so the walk wasn't uncomfortable at all. In fact, I'd say it was a pleasant walk to and back from the supermarket. Mind you, I had the fashion bias in that I was just wearng a T-shirt and my gym shorts instead of the restrictive shirt and tie. Although I naturally couldn't live this kind of lifestyle for long, it's rather nice not to have to worry about grammar lessons and students all that much. At least when I go to the gym, I can see...or more accurately, feel...the results of my workout while the satisfaction in teaching is more elusive and longer-term. As it is, I just have The Beauty Pair and The Milds today. The New Kid can't make it out which doesn't faze me too much considering the lame no-show he pulled last week.
Monday August 8, 11:13 p.m.

Well, it's been quite the news night: a delay, a death and a defeat. The delay was hearing about the space shuttle Discovery being told to stay up there an extra day due to weather concerns. I guess that Air France crash in Toronto last week must've given NASA some pause.

The death was the not-so-surprising news that ABC anchor Peter Jennings had passed away from cancer. During my high school and university days in the 80s, I would usually see the unflappable Jennings instead of going to the CBC or his fellow anchormen, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather. His mellifluous tones did make the news go down all that much better. When I saw his haggard face earlier this year as he made his announcement about his cancer, I knew it was just a matter of time.

The other not-so-surprising thing was the defeat of Koizumi's Postal Privatization Bill in Parliament today. In a way, I was rather glad that it was defeated since I had some reservations on hearing that there probably would've been some cutbacks in services if Japan Post had gone private due to the high upkeep. It wasn't soon after the announcement that the Bill had been defeated that Koizumi played his trump card and dissolved Parliament. Now we're officially in General Election season until the ultimate vote next month. The media has been all over this one today. When I was at the gym, a couple of the television monitors were showing the vote on the Bill live in the Lower House. And then as I was passing the newspaper kiosks in the subway stations later on in the day, I just saw the kanji for "dissolution". Right now, NHK has been going on for almost 90 minutes exclusively on the rejection of the Bill. Just wondering who can follow Koizumi. Ah...the date for the election: September 11.

As I said, I did make it to the gym today. Looks like the minders there have decided to change the format on the user files. Usually, there is a series of files of all of the gym users in the changerooms. I pick it up and take out the record sheet on which I put down my weight, blood pressure and heart rate. Well, I noticed that the file area looked very sparse today, and sure enough, my file wasn't there. I checked with one of the trainers and found out that indeed there was some sort of overhauling going on last week. In any case I got complimented by him on how low, or healthy, my blood pressure was. And I was quite surprised, too. I had heard from CNN that the danger mark was 180/90. Well, I'm happy to say that it was 102/66....too low? I did put my all out..used almost all of the machines and jogged a full half-hour on the treadmill. I do feel a bit achy right now which means that I'll probably be feeling a lot more pain in the morning. Luckily, I have another full day of nothing before the juku.

It was another sloggy session at The Company. It was just a skeleton crew at the office since The Prez and Junior along with a few others were off on business trips. I just had Junior's classmate. He was OK with the early review but hit a brick wall in the next chapter thanks to some new vocab and grammatical structures. I really I wish I could've done a better job prepping up but frankly my motivation is not all that high when I think that all my teaching for a student seems to go down a black hole. Fortunately, I had a better time with The Poppy.

My attrition rate continues...SR called up to say that she wanted to cancel her session this Friday due to morning sickness. Yes, she's entered that phase of life.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Sunday August 7, 8:34 p.m.

It's been a fairly quiet afternoon and evening. Hopefully, on a meterological level, it stays that way.

However for the country's top politician, tonight is the eve before what will probably be his biggest career battle. For tomorrow will be the day that the vote will be held on the Postal Privatization Bill, PM Koizumi's raison d'etre for his prime ministership. I'm sure the airwaves will be focused on Nagatacho like a laser beam all throughout the day. And even if the bill doesn't pass, which could very well happen, he can simply snap his fingers and the Lower House will come crashing down. And then we'll be entering elections. Nothing like good political intrigue.

At the same time, Dr. Noguchi and the rest of the Discovery team will be flying down back to Earth. And perhaps all eyes in Japan (except for mine and those of the Company's since I'll be teaching class then) will be watching for the shuttle's safe return to Earth in what could be a climactic denouement after the bill vote.

Looks like we've got another psycho making the news here. Another one of those typically "quiet..a bit of a loner" types has been nabbed for possibly being a serial killer. He was roving through suicide websites looking for victims to suffocate and kill. He managed to at least off three people so far, including a junior high school kid.

Well, I've got the prelims planned for tomorrow's lessons. It'll be a very late start since The Class Act and SIL are on summer hiatus. I've got The Company and then The Poppy in Shinjuku. Once I finish this, I'll probably do a bit more translation for the latter.