Saturday, October 22, 2005

Sunday October 23, 9:55 a.m.

Decided to watch one of those video tapes of TV shows that one of my friends has been sending me for years now. I actually saw another episode, only my second actually, of the hit show "Lost". I had only seen the pilot ep and since then my regular shipments have had at least a couple of episodes.

With the typically irregular schedule of an English teacher in Japan, a growing disinterest in anything VHS and my late-bloomer tendencies of not recognizing a hit until far too late (see: X-Files), I never really cottoned onto "Lost". And after seeing an episode far into its first season, I just thought, well, I'll never really get into it. I just get the impression that it's a more fantastical version of "Survivor". The episode that I caught and in fact, an episode of the Patricia Arquette show, "Medium", that was also on the tape certainly strengthened my belief in the single life.

In a few hours, I'll be meeting up with Skippy and The Madame for that gyoza outing in Ginza. It's kinda strange...gyoza is a bit more of a dish for run-of-the-mill workers and therefore would be seen more in the salarymen areas of Shimbashi and Ueno, not in fancy Ginza. The Kid and OA will be joining us.
Saturday October 22, 6:43 p.m.

Back from my two hours' worth of teaching. JJ was a bit better since I didn't throw any more of those fluency exercises at her. However, the frustrating part was that the ambient noise in Starbucks today was rather high so it was hard to hear each other. But we managed to slog our way through.

As it turned out, JJ came early to the cafe so we got done early so I was able to leisurely make it to the juku in plenty of time. The lesson with the Milds and McGirl was generally fine although I think Mr. Mild was getting a bit peeved at his wife for her slow answers. But then again, Mr. Mild getting annoyed is like feeling an increase in one degree in the weather. McGirl was having her struggles with the lesson target so she was getting a bit subdued. Chalk it up to the weird Saturday slot.

McGirl was in the midst of a cold so I kept the Kleenex close by. She wasn't the only one of my brethren under the weather. I got a cancellation from GS for tomorrow's lesson because she's got the bug and Betty Boop sent a message talking about our next eating meeting which included her saying that she also has the cold. Yup, it's that time of year. In any case, I'm pretty free and clear with Skippy and The Madame tomorrow, and I guess I won't be working 13 days straight after all.

The big item in the crime news recently has been about this man who was arrested a few days ago for setting up secret pinhole cameras in pamphlet boxes over the ATM screens of UFJ Bank. Apparently, the pinhole cameras were able to get images of people's card numbers and number codes. Several ATMs were set up in this way all over half of the Kanto including Tokyo, Chiba and Saitama. As a UFJ customer, I was somewhat nervous but so far it looks like there hasn't been any surprise withdrawals noticed. But I have noticed that those pamphlet boxes are nowhere to be seen now.

It will be a big night for baseball fans since it's the first game of the Japan Series tonight. I'm sure there will be a lot of bars and pubs filled with drunken fans in Osaka and Chiba rooting their teams on. As for me, I'll be ironing.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Saturday October 22, 9:50 a.m.

The rains have returned to the Kanto again. Ah, well...

The juku boss contacted me just now to explain why she wasn't present at the Thursday make-up lessons. She had decided to take some vacation time then. The boss had been going non-stop with her kids' classes for several months without a break. That could leave someone pretty brain-dead...could explain some of the near-errors I caught on Tuesday night.

As I said last entry, I've got JJ. I hope her confidence is better. It may not be the best idea but I've decided to hold off on the fluency exercises for today only and just go to grammar which she does have a better hold on. Then I gotta run over to the juku and teach The Milds and McGirl.

Speaking of the juku boss' Ironwoman record...mind you, it doesn't compare to it....because of that lesson with GS tomorrow, I'm gonna end up working 13 straight days right up to the 29th. Then again, some of those days I'm only working 2 hours a shot. That's a pretty far distance from teaching caterwauling kids all day.
Friday October 21, 10:31 p.m.

My long day is now over...

The Teacher was her usual self. We spoke about the struggles of marriage, something that I think is becoming less and less likely now that I have entered the 40s. She was looking rather pained and at times was massaging her temples. She has had problems with chronic pain for years due to an auto accident. I did feel rather sorry for her. We also spoke about the rather intriguing relationship between The Madame and myself, although I do wonder if we do actually have a relationship since we haven't seen each other for almost a month after Taiwan. I also had had a simlar talk with the kids' mother last week in which she was a lot more rah-rah about me not giving up on the opportunity to make things more meaningful between us. The Teacher was more sanguine about it; she just shrugged at the oddness of the situation.

Had my usual three hours before SR's lesson so I just had my McLunch near the station since I was looking out for my finances if not my belly. Then I just decided to head over to Yurakucho to browse through HMV. I had no plans to buy any CDs since again that nasty little word known as austerity has been staring me down. Then I just went up to The Tea Room. It was a quiet afternoon. By the time, SR showed up, the place was empty although people came in later on.

Like with The Teacher, SR also had her serious talk about the business cultures between Japan and the States. Since her American airline company declared Chapter 11, the atmosphere in the office has become rather downbeat but even before that, she felt that the American staff has never been all that professionally friendly or even apologetic on many things. I explained that though it was a matter of individual cases, American business culture is generally less prioritized toward group harmony and more toward keeping that bottom line. On the matter of apologies, and I myself will have to apologize to all those American readers (if you are even out there) when I say this, I have to say that American busines entities consider apologizing as an ultimate failure and Americans would prefer reinstating Saddam Hussien to power before they would consider apologizing without considering every possibility to avoid it It's a matter of pride. Not to say that the Japanese have no pride but if there is a public screwup in some institution, it doesn't take long before the higher echelons will make their deep kowtows in front of the media. Mind you, even I sometimes think that the bowing gets a bit too overbearing; I wonder if the governing board just bows deeply to escape any further wrath...almost like a cultural Chapter 11. Still, getting back to SR, it was sad to hear her say that because of her time at the company, she feels that she's become a colder person due to the somewhat toxic atmosphere there.

I made it down to the final lesson with The OL tonight. When I got into the Starbucks, the crew there greeted me en masse with the petite manager looking at me in some shock since it was my second consecutive appearance there in as many weeks. I guess The OL has found her scheduling groove again so the staff can look forward to regular appearances. The OL showed up again looking pretty good and she even gave me a belated birthday present in the form of marrons glacee, a particular treat here.

Curse my cravings. I hope that this isn't a symptom of early middle-age syndrome but as I was coming home on the subway, I had this urge to eat ramen. It was like fighting Barbapapa; I couldn't beat it down into submission but I was able to manage it by deciding not to hit the ramen shop since that would defeat my attempts to keep my daily food expenditures under 2000 yen but instead to just buy Sapporo Ichiban instant ramen for a mere 68 yen and then get some rice and cheap toppings. I was successful...even when I threw in a bottle of tea, the total price came to less than a bowl of one of my favourite ramen at the shop. But really, I should control my appetite...this, I'm saying while I'm considering having one of those marrons glacee.

Well, I've got a late start to my day tomorrow. I've got JJ and then I have to rush over to the juku to have that makeup lesson with The Milds and McGirl. Not too bad although I should be cleaning things up around the apartment in the morning.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Friday October 21, 8:48 a.m.

Another sunny beginning to the day...this could set up a dangerous precedent, n'est-ce pas?

Looks like Skippy has set up this meeting for herself, The Madame and me on Sunday for some lovely gyoza. Movie Buddy contacted me on my suggestion about getting together for breakfast at Fujimamas the following Sunday. He saw me and raised my ante with a further idea about doing the usual DVD night at my place on the Saturday before. Sounds good to me. He also finally got back to me about his feelings on the new Bond, Daniel Craig. Happy to say that he's a moderate like me..let's give him a chance. Perhaps we should make it a Bond theme night for the DVDs.
Thursday October 20, 11:15 p.m.

Did my stuff at the gym. Went a bit longer than usual so I should be feeling the burn once I get up tomorrow morning. Then I hit the KFC...the staff there were just a little too smiley for me although I was cordial enough. And then it was off to the juku to do those two make-up lessons. It was another one of those nights when the juku boss was missing. In fact, despite trying to use my spare key to the house, ringing a defunct doorbell and knocking on the door, I couldn't get in. I was left just sitting on the front step doing my crosswords for about 20 minutes. Actually the boss' mother was the only one in the house but at her advanced age, she couldn't hear a nuclear explosion happening next door. I overheard a phone call from who I deduced was the boss herself telling her mother to unlock the door for me. She did and quickly slipped into the living room before I could even say thank you.

Basically, it was just me with the students all night. I had The Beauty Pair. Again, it was a pretty good session and then I had The Siberian for what was 2 hours of gab. I was only supposed to have him for just the one hour but we got so into the topic du noir that it just spread to 10 o'clock. I think it's safe to say that I had him pretty overwhelmed by the end of the night. When I wrapped up, the boss still hadn't come home so I just gave my goodbyes to the mother and then headed out. It was cool but for a Canucklehead like me, I was perfectly fine in my short sleeves.

Tomorrow should be a busy day with The Teacher, SR and The OL on tap. Hope to make some money there.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Thursday October 20, 11:22 a.m.

The first sunny day this week. Couldn't get here any sooner. I've got a huge load of laundry churning in the machine right now. I was happy to get up gloriously late...just a half-hour ago. Ironic, considering that this time last week, I had already been on my feet for several hours due to that trip to Immigration. Today? Just gonna get those plans for The Beauty Pair's make-up lesson tonight and then head out to my lone outing to the gym this week.

Every year, it seems that there is an "It" tarento and actress in Japan. And as befits an "it", that person is just thrown about all over the airwaves, be it on the tons of variety shows or serial dramas. Now, you may have noticed that I said "actress", not "actor". For some reason, a male thespian doesn't seem to grab as much media attention at such a regular rate although in some years, such a person does happen to crop up. But for the actresses, there always seems to be one new starlet that grabs the cameras' attention for at least 12 months.

All the way back in 1991, it was Honami Suzuki of "Tokyo Love Story" fame. It seemed as if the public couldn't get enough of the cuter-than-all-get-out actress whose most memorable role is arguably that of Rika Akana from the same drama. It would seem that since we entered the 21st-century, the "it" actresses have all tended towards the tall and glamourous type in her late 20s. A couple of years ago it, or "it", was the voluptuous Norika Fujiwara. Last year, it was the slightly slimmer but no less gorgeous Ryoko Yonekura. Now, it's the sylph-like (sylphic?sylphan?) Misaki Ito. If anyone just comes here, there would be no avoiding her face on posters or on television hawking a car or cosmetic. Being the "it" actress also has some lasting effects since basically no matter what happens, bar major scandal or tragedy, she's set for life as long as she makes some effort to keep herself in the spotlight. And before I finish this paragraph, may I also mention that even earlier than Honami Suzuki, a young Rie Miyazawa was also an "it" girl. She's still around guessed and cosmetics.

On the other hand, the "it" tarento (or TV personality) seems to burn brighter for a shorter time. As for the brighter part, it's due to the fact that by nature, the tarento has to be extremely over-the-top wherever and whenever he/she appears on a variety show, the natural home for a TV celeb. They have to be famous for some schtick or expression that makes it into the cultural lexicon usually reflected by the annual "Catchphrase of the Year" awards that are handed out in December. Several years ago, there was a duo of buxom girls known as The Pirates whose mot d'annee was "D'atchuu no" (That's what he said!) while they bent over toward the camera and showed off their freefall decolletage. Then there was last year when The Guitar Samurai strutted his stuff saying some sort of nonsensical freeform poetry wearing a ratty hakama and strumming a guitar while he punctuated his statement with a shrieked "Zannen!!" (Too bad!!)

Where are those two examples now, though? The Pirates have long broken up and disappeared to appear on the occasional nude feature in a convenience store magazine (unlike in North America, the magazines are not hidden way up high on the bookracks behind a brown shield although lately a lot of the more risque ones are being taped shut until purchase...Zannen!!). And as for the Guitar Samurai, we hardly ever see him, let alone hear him, anymore. And he was such a persistent presence just a year ago. Unlike the "it" actress, it would seem that "it" tarento cannot last forever on just one gimmick. And I think that could be the case with this year's "it" tarento, Laser Ramon HG (the HG stands for "hard gay"...oy vey). This guy, whether he is really homosexual, absolutely fulfills the main criterion to become "it". He comes out (no pun intended) every time in this skintight vinyl reject from a Village People video and gleefully starts humping the air with his unit....I gather that this is his version of air kissing. And he also makes these loud pronouncements which finish off with him rapidly raising his arms in a V and yelling "Fuuuu!" I don't think he'll ever quite make it on "Saturday Night Live" but he has a temporary home on Japanese TV. One of the biggest signs that an "it" tarento has made his 15 minutes of fame is ironically if he or she is invited onto the year-end Red-and-White Song Festival or "Kohaku Utagassen" on NHK, just four hours shy of midnight. I say "ironically" since the biggest sign may also be his/her last sign, the swan song. The Guitar Samurai made it on there. I'm kinda wondering if HG will actually make it on...the usage of his own special instrument may just be a little too much for the "venerable" network.

However, there are a few of these "it" tarento who have extended their fame past the normal expiry date thanks to showing some hidden depths. One guy is Takashi Fujii aka Matthew Minami (famous for his guest star performance on "Lost In Translation"). He has gone beyond his fey/gay schtick and gone into acting, singing and hosting. He has actually made it from "it" and into TV omnipresence, something that agents and production companies love to hear. Another person who was a late "it" last year is the loudmouthed Sayaka Aoki, perhaps the Japanese version of Rosie O'Donnell. Not a huge fan of hers but she was able to go beyond her punchline of "Doko mittennoyo!" (Where the hell are you looking at?! ) and parlayed her career into hosting and lots of chatter and banter on other programs. She even did a semi-nude book (oh, the horror!).
Thursday October 20, 1:23 a.m.

"Sorry we couldn't blow you away, but why don't we just give you some good ol' rock n' roll?"

Well, that's what Mother Nature would have said if she had been anthromorphosized last night. Typhoon 20 was a no-show but we instead we got majorly rocked by a quake around 8:45 p.m. It was a Shindo 5 Minus based somewhere in Ibaraki Prefecture. I was having my inaugural class with Student 003 at Speedy's when things started shaking. We were having a pretty promising beginning until then but then when the tremor coursed through, 003 started getting a little panicky and headed for the doorway. She got a bit misty while I, Speedy, his wife and another lady just waited it out. Of course, we went straight to the remote for NHK. Aside from a special 5-minute bulletin though, it was back to regular programming. 003 calmed down and though the rest of the class was off-kilter, we managed to survive. I remarked to her (and she did pretty well for a first lesson, by the way) that her class was a bit of a thriller movie: some scares, some laughs and a few serious scenes.

Earlier in the day, I had my lesson with The Class Act. Midway through the lesson, all of us got into the talk about Japanese women and how desirable they were with the Western males...the so-called "yellow cab" phenomenon. I think it was The Matron who mentioned that the guys weren't aware of how strong the women here can be and I added that, yep, speaking from experience, the Osakan women could be quite formidable. The Lady suddenly winced a bit and said something that I can't remember. I was taken slightly aback fully aware that she was born in Osaka; I certainly didn't mean any offense since I thought I wasn't mentioning anything particularly controversial. However, a few minutes later I did apologize to her. But it seems like it was another one of those mixed message things again. She got a little surprised at my attempt to make amends and said that she wasn't insulted at all. Well, chalk this one up to experience. And I figure that the longer you know someone, the more likely that you'll piss him/her off sometime.

There was no free lunch courtesy of The Chef so I just ended up having a new burger at Wendys....something called the sesame chicken burger, a chicken patty slathered in sweet sesame sauce. Not bad but nothing that I would stop the presses for.

After a stop over at HMV and at a discount CD shop, I just made my way up to Speedys again and spent the next few hours just prepping for 001 and 003. 001 was certainly full of beans tonight. Not sure what they're putting into her water but it was certainly the fastest 90-minute lesson I've had.

By the time I finished up with 003 and got everything written up, it was already around 10 p.m. Speedy then invited me to have dinner with him and his wife at some new oden shop just down the street near the station. The place had just opened a few days previously by a former pro wrestler and his wife. He was ably assisted by another wrestler who's still at it. I guess the days of oden are back. Oden is this stew of various things such as different types of fish cake, boiled eggs, jellied plant material and so on which are cooked in fish broth. Usually you see these old wagons in various quarters around Tokyo with lots of chairs around a couple of rickety tables. Salarymen in need of some food and drink inhabit the oden stand eating the stuff while swilling back the sake or beer. The new place we were in was a proper restaurant but it was pretty cramped since the place only could hold 15 people, most of whom had to sit by the counter. The wrestler-turned-cook/owner was still showing the extreme politeness and eagerness of a greenhorn restauranteur as he apologized to us for not being able to serve some of the stuff we wanted (we'd gotten there about a half-hour before closing). But we got some complementary hand towels (a common practice for a new shop) instead.

The Force was also with me and my apartment. I was able to grab the second-last train going out to my area. The rush crowd was pretty much gone at Iidabashi Station but when we got to the middle stations of Otemachi and Nihombashi, it was back to sardine cans again. However, that was better than having to grab a taxi from Toyocho Station. Actually, I'm starting to think that mass transportation is finally getting the message that Tokyo has a proper nightlife fit for a metropolis and increased the duration of transit service. As for my apartment, I was expecting to see a whole bunch of stuff turned over when I got in through the door. So you can expect my slight surprise to see that nothing had fallen off the shelves, nothing had turned over. Mind you, my place usually looks like it was devastated by an earthquake so I'm never really sure.

I just got one message from Skippy. She finally got back to me about what's up for the 23rd. She wants to take me to this favourite gyoza place of hers in Ginza. I've also CCed The Madame.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Wednesday October 19, 7:41 a.m.

We've dodged another bullet. That much-dreaded Typhoon 20 has decided to not only veer off from the Pacific coast but it is already breaking apart. Although I hear some winds whistling away off in the distance, there is actually some sun peeking out there. Long time no see, Sol.

I can understand why the juku boss seems to need me around. I caught her a couple of times almost making some scheduling mistakes...nice lady but she can be such a scatterbrain at times. The Beauty Pair were more amenable last night thanks to the announcement of my niece's birth and I was able to parlay that into proper usage of Past Tense questions. Now, if they can only do their homework once in a while.

I've been seeing some news on the Doctor Who front. Looks like the bisexual Captain Jack Harkness has definitely made an impact. BBC has wrapped an entire new TV series around him. Quite a promotion from beefcake companion to Chris Eccleston. Speaking of the erstwhile Doctor No. 9, he seems to have gotten a bit crochety and fed up about all the rumours swirling over his very short stay in the TARDIS. A journalist concluded in print that Eccleston left the series due to exhaustion to which the actor vehemently (and I assume in his shouty Northern) denied and spat out that the journo should not stick his nose into his business. Considering that the actor had also rated his time on the series as "mixed", I think there are some unaired issues.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Tuesday October 18, 1:50 p.m.

Still miserable out there. Managed to soak my sneakers on the way back from The Beehive so I've gotta go to my dress shoes although they got wet last night.

Got word from my brother that his newly enlarged family is doing fine back at home. Good to hear.

As for the Beehive, looks like it was another food session. Mrs. Travel and Mrs. Jade brought over some chocolate and some apple chips from the local branch of Carrefour. I thought the supermarket was kaput this year but it seems as if the owners decided to keep the name and just adjust the place for more Japanese tastes. I also handed out the first of the Yoku Moku cigars in celebration of the birth of my niece. Mrs. Perth mentioned jokingly that I'm probably gonna end up an "oji-baka" or doting uncle. I'll be very happy to keep that title. The ladies were in good spirits today since The Chiba Lotte Marines won the league pennant. Mrs. Travel, however, is in a bit of a bind since the rest of her family are ardent Hanshin Tigers fans; Travel is also one but she also supports the team of the prefecture that she's lived in for many years now. The thing is that the Marines will be up against the Tigers in the Japan Series. There was some talk about the cultural difference between the fans of the two clubs. TIgers fans are fairly (in)famous for their boisterous nature...on that note, the Tigers probably more closely resemble The New York Yankees than The Tokyo Giants. But that's the way the Kansai people are...wear their emotions on their sleeves they do. As for the Marines fans, they are a far more sedate lot just using their voices and hands to yell their encouragement.

Speaking of baseball, I heard on the airwaves this morning that Ichiro will be starring as the next "criminal" on the next outing of Japan's version of Columbo, "Ninzaburo Furuhata". The Seattle Mariners star never struck me as the most expressive person so this team-up could be a car crash waiting to happen. I remember with some distaste Wayne Gretsky's thankfully short cameo on a soap opera, which is why I'm not particularly looking forward to this Japanese versin of celeb team-ups.
Monday October 17, 10:37 p.m.

Tis a very happy night here in Chiba Prefecture since the local baseball team, the Chiba Lotte Marines won their first league pennant in 31 years against the Softbank Hawks. I wouldn't be opening this entry with this news since I've never been a big Japanese baseball fan but the manager of the Lotte Marines is ol' Bobby Valentine, former manager of the New York Mets. Well, thanks to him, he and his team are now headed for the Japan Series.

The rain was with us all day and night. I headed on out in the afternoon to the Ginza to pick up a box of Yoku Moku Cigars in the basement floor of Matsuzakaya. Of course, the cigars are to celebrate the birth of my niece. However, they're not the smoking kind but the edible type. They're just individually wrapped thin cookie wafers rolled up into cigar shapes. I'll probably be handing them out to The Beehive and the juku students tomorrow night.

I took the subway to Shinjuku and had lunch at Hansens Hot Dogs again. Looks like after my adventure in risky eating with that nuclear mabo dofu last night, my stomach seems to have recovered sufficiently for me to have two dogs and a plate of crinkle-cut fries.

Kinda surprised at The Company today. I was sitting in the main office area when Junior came up to say that another member would be joining from today. That was news to me since I had told The Prez a week ago that I would be finishing up my time with The Company on the 31st. Apparently, my news was news to Junior but he took it pretty calmly and just told the new guy that he was out of luck. I would've thought that The Prez would have told everyone about it by now. I still felt a little badly about my course of action since tonight's class actually worked out pretty well. However, I think it was time for a change because even if I had stayed on, it would have just meant another year of grammar for not much actual use. And there's now a possible business opportunity for Speedy since Junior told me that his wife is looking for an English school. I gave him Speedy's business card. Hopefully, this may turn out well.

Got a lot of messages just while I've been writing this entry. The juku boss told me that The Siberian would be a scratch for tomorrow but would be available after The Beauty Pair's make-up class on Thursday. Then, Speedy gave me a rather detailed situation report on Student 003. She certainly sounds like a hard-nosed consumer (which I can respect) in that she's only paid up for the first 4 lessons just to test the waters. Some pressure on me but her requests for business greetings and small talk with foreign clients are up my alley. Then, it was a long-awaited response from MK about her and The Manager's lessons. Looks like we'll be meeting next on the 3rd; it's a national holiday but at this point, money is now a big priority. Just hope that I'm still allowed to stay here. And then, I got a response from The Madame. Perhaps we may meet on Sunday for coffee.

Good night....

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Monday October 17, 10:23 a.m.

Well, there was a full court press for much of the morning about this sudden Koizumi trip to Yasukuni Shrine. Frankly, I just saw it as much ado about nothing. The Prime Minister arrived at about 10:10 in front of the shrine gates to a large crowd of reporters, photographers, aides and security along with the usual rubberneckers. Just about every channel except for TV Tokyo trained its live cameras on Koizumi as he soberly but confidently strode straight up the 50 or so metres to not the main shrine but a secondary one, threw in a coin, prayed for about 30 seconds and then did an about-face to head back into his car and out again. It was spitting rain but he refused any umbrella and was just wearing a regular business suit instead of the formal kimono that he'd worn for his last visit on New Year's Day in 2004. Those last two facts pretty much stressed that it would be a very short visit. This was the diplomatic equvialent of a McDonalds drive-thru instead of a sit-down meal. Not sure how much China or South Korea will complain about this 1-minute visit...obviously the governments will gripe any time that a Japanese prime minister even sets a toe into the shrine grounds but I can't really see them raising a huge hue and cry this time unless they want to sound overly shrill. I'll be waiting for the results on this little game.
Monday October 17, 8:29 a.m.

More rain...and it will continue until later this week. I thought we were only supposed to have one rainy season a year. In any case, I'll have to do the laundry and hang it up inside the apartment. My machine is fully loaded to bear as it is.

We're expecting some diplomatic fireworks in a couple of hours. It was just announced that PM Koizumi will be visiting Yasukuni Shrine at about 10 a.m. Tokyo time. I'm sure the Chinese and Korean ambassadors are now arming themselves with offiical letters of protest. Gotta say something about ol' Lionhair; he's got guts...he could've just ridden the wave of good feelings and political safety having vanquished his enemies and passing the Postal Privatization Bill but he has decided to throw the dice again on going to the shrine of the wartime soldiers at this time. I don't think I've ever recalled the PM heading to Yasukuni this late in the year.

Well, that mabo dofu recipe was almost a homer. It tasted like the real thing and had the same consistency. However, I went overboard on the seasonings, putting in too much of that Chinese miso, tobanjan. As a result, my mouth was on fire and my intestines were doing some rumbling for the entire evening. My mouth currently has the worst morning breath but perhaps thanks to some stomach medicine that I'd bought for Taiwan, I've been spared the gory consequences that occurred when I had mabo dofu that hot a few years back. I ended up in my futon for three days with some rather nasty problems.

Gotta get breakfast ready and then plan for the Company class.
Sunday October 16, 7:04 p.m.

About a few hours ago, the Kanto got rocked with a Shindo 4 quake. Aside from some surprised people and some broken bottles in the convenience stores, no other damage. My living room got the worst of it as usual. A couple of my CD racks fell off so I'm now thinking of just keeping them solidly on the tatami from now on. I don't know what it is but the rest of my apartment just absorbed the shock with aplomb.

A bit of a bummer in my mailbox. Yep, the government delivers stuff even on Sundays. My premiums suddenly went up on my National Health Insurance. Not enough to kill me but enough to annoy me. The reason is that as soon as I turned 40, they went up. But on the good side, Speedy told me that I have another new student starting from this Wednesday. Still, I hope that I can some more students for that vacant spot from November.

I should be getting started on dinner shortly. I followed my muse and got the fixins for my first attempt at mabo dofu. And I'll be switiching to a recipe on the Internet. Wish me luck.

I'm currently watching a special version of a quiz show with celebs that used to be a regular program on Saturdays hosted by none other than Beat Takeshi. It's now hosted by manic tarento, Yusuke Santamaria (most famous for his role as Police Negotiator Mashita from the Odoru Dai Sosasen {Bayside Shakedown} series). The show reminds me in passing of that old Canadian quiz show for university students, "Reach for the Top" since all of the questions are very academic in nature. I see that one of the celeb participants is Tomoe Shinohara, another completely-off-the-deep-end young lady who had her day in the mid-90s on TV. She was well known as a teen tarento who had all the fashion sense of a Doctor Who mixed with a Harajuku girl, a voice which frequently could make milk curdle and some songs that made Weird Al Yankovic's canon seem like the works of Mozart. But that was then, this is now. She pops up occasionally on various variety shows but with her formerly nutso personality and look considerably toned down. And she now pops up on some respectable NHK stuff which is the refuge for "retired" celebs.

Off to cook.