Daily Journal of an Assistant Language Teacher / Automatic Language Tape Recorder (ALT) in the JET Programme living  and learning in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. More information on the JET Programme here and here.

Friday January 2, 2004

I'm back from Thailand and Tokyo. I've got so much to write about it will take me days. My secret trip is coming up on Monday so I need to plan for that. Today I woke up at 6:30 in a capsule hotel and then proceeded to Tokyo Station. There I met Renea, Liz, Ben, and his girlfriend who flew in from North Carolina Wednesday. Then we went to the Emperor's Palace (my second time) and waited for a few hours before being able to enter the palace once again. This time I got it on video which is far better than still pictures like last year. Here is a link to my Tokyo Trip last year which includes photos of the emperor. Then Liz, Renea and I hopped on a Shink and cruised back up to Fukushima Prefecture.

Here's an odd thing about Thailand versus Japan. I can easily identify the King of Thailand, even though I was there for about 9 days, but after 16 months I can't pick the Japanese Emperor out of a line up. In Thailand the King's picture was everywhere, almost to the point that I thought he had an inferiority complex. I probably saw no less than 500 pictures of the King during my stay, he was everywhere.

I need to sort through the 250 pictures I took in Thailand before documenting my trip. I seriously took that many. That's the beauty of having a digital camera with the capabilities of taking over 500 high quality shots. I was snapping anything knowing I could delete it later if it was bad. So now I get to sit back and look at all of them. I should have the first few days documented by Saturday or Sunday and then I'll post a link.


Well I've been working pretty hardcore and I got a few pages up so feel free to peruse them. My Thailand trip.

Saturday, January 3rd, 2004

I was having a strange dream like the phone was ringing or someone was ringing a doorbell. Then I realized someone actually was, it was Saturday at noon and the luggage delivery guy was knocking and ringing, at the exact time I scheduled him to. Japan has a great service where you can have your heavy bags shipped to & from your apartment to & from the airport. It's only about $10 a bag and well worth the hassle if you have heavy cumbersome bags, as we did coming back from Thailand. So he knocked and dropped them off and I get to start going through them and sorting all my crap out.

No plans today or tomorrow, and I really wished we were here, but I am so I'll find something to do. Maybe I will rearrange again and try to find the perfect fit for my apartment. I have an idea of what will give me some space, but I'll have to move everything around. Maybe I'll use the time documenting my goals for the year. Over and out.

Sunday, January 4th, 2004

Renea called and told me she had Liz's passport. Luckily she caught that before we left for our secret trip on Monday. Today Liz had to come to the station, shink to Koriyama, shink back, and then bus back to her place all because she didn't check her passport at the Japanese Immigration on the way back in. Lesson learned, almost the hard way. I bet she always checks from now on. I always check, but also my passport is pretty used so it's obvious from the outside.

Other than that I slept most of the day because I did laundry last night needed change for the machine so I find the cheapest thing in the vending machine outside the building. It was warm coffee. For some reason I actually drank it at 9pm. Needless to say it kept me awake all night and I finally dozed off around 6am. I picked up the airline confirmations for the flight from the travel agent. There was some mix up with someone else getting them. He thought she would call him and she was waiting on him to call, so I just went ahead and got them. She wrote all the details out for us and it was very nice. I more or less finished the Thailand Update last night. Be sure to check that out.

Well I am going to pack and make the final preparations for our less than 3 hour flight tomorrow. I'll post the location on Wednesday when we return as well as pictures and stories.


Wednesday, January 7th, 2004

Well I'm alive and back in Japan from .......my secret trip.


Thursday, January 8th, 2004

No classes. Some boring, but short, opening ceremony. Then I sat in the teacher's room and read my new sci-fi books that Liz got me hooked on. The day went by fast because the book is good and I don't want to put it down. Then it snowed like 5 inches. At times it was coming down hard others it would almost stop. I rode the bus to school and was a little late, but I don't care. There is no reason for me to get there promptly at 8:30 and sit. I still can't understand how the schoolgirls wear the skirts with nothing covering their legs. I had on my brown corduroys and some pajama bottoms under that and I was still cold. Tomorrow I go to the night school so I have most of the day off until about 4. Then no plans. I'll probably just chill. I am going to see if Liz will help me move my apartment around since it would be faster with two people and I wouldn't have to disassemble the bed. This weekend is a three day weekend and I don't feel like traveling or doing much really. Nor do I have much money. Pay day is on the 21st which is a Tuesday or Wednesday I think, only 13 days away. Sounds like a lot as I type it. I am hungry now. Over and out.


As I said it snowed heavily today. then the sun came out and melted a bit away, but then it turned cold and now everything is icy. Great. I walk ten feet and lip everywhere and then I have to take these obnoxious baby steps as if my legs were chained together. I need to buy snow climbing shoes with the long spikes on them.

I've been in a travel mood recently and I'm already planning my May trip. There are about 4 National Holidays in a row so I can take off about 4 vacation days and get almost two weeks off. I am thinking of Shanghai - Beijing - Xian - Tibet, but there might not be enough time to get it all in. I don't really want to spend days in one place shopping so it can be quick. I really just want to see the famous places like the China Wall and the Terracotta soldiers and then dip into Tibet for the heck of it. Still planning so I will keep you informed.

Friday, January 9th, 2004

I go to the night school in a few hours and I actually look forward to that place now. Especially when I plan ahead and take a book to read during the time before and after classes. I always have two classes and then I eat in the cafeteria. If only it weren't Friday, my life would be complete. I remember looking forward to Adachi in the past because there was the 3-3 class that was small and so much fun, and it was Friday and there's just a good feeling about Friday, because it's Friday. It makes the whole day a little better. I have nothing to do after school so I might stay a bit late since there will be times that I need to leave early so it will balance things out.

I should take a small Thailand gift or South Korea gift, but I don't know what. Argh. I'll dig through my things and find something later. I should at least give something to my supervisor there although one usually brings a treat for the Vice Principal as well.

On a slightly different note, I have found a single point on my body where all nerves apparently end. It has to be the most sensitive place I have ever touched, and not a pleasure sensitiveness, nope, pure pain. There is a pimple at the base of my nose above my upper lip. Not to be too graphic, it was ripe and I wanted to relieve the pressure. When I took action, pain spread throughout my face and down my neck and I felt my fists clenching and my toes curling. then I started crying, not like sad crying, but instant horrendous pain crying. Now I can't touch it. Ouch.


Back from Chuo High, the night school. I explained to them I went to Thailand and then South Korea. When I drew SK on the board it looked like a penis. I redrew it and it still looked like one. Once it looked like a cow udder, but still it was phallic like. They laughed and I just went on. When I finished both classes I normally read or goof off in the teacher's room. Today for some reason I was coma-tired and passed out while reading my book. It was strange, I couldn't stay awake. Now I am back at home and not tired at all. Matter of fact I need to work on my New Year's resolutions. I'll do that now.

[While I am working on that why don't you read about my Thailand and South Korea trips?]

Ok, I finished my NY's Resolutions and I should be able to actually stick to them. I did ok last year, but I really need to crack down and make some major changes. I have found a small change in a certain area trickles down and affects several other areas and things. For example, if I lose weight and get down to 88 K, which should be around 200 pounds I think, then so many other small (or not so small) health issues will go away as well. Plus I will feel better about myself and that will be a bonus in itself.

[later yet]

I just realized my local state taxes aren't done so I tried to do them myself. I am physically incapable of doing my own taxes, I am that bad at math and thinking in the math brain. If someone broke into my house and said do your own "simple" taxes or I will kill you now, I would be dead. Unless I worked for one company all year in the US and had no interest or dividends and I could use the EZ form, then MAYBE I could get through with minimal errors. I just tried to use the EZ form and it was pretty easy, but then I read I had to be a full time GA resident and that nixed it. I thought about pretending like I didn't see that and putting my Ga address, but I would get caught somehow and then be in deeper sh*t. I hate math. It is the devil.

Saturday January 10th, 2004

Did nothing really all day. Sat around and sorted some things out. Liz came over around 6 and we ate Gyoza then she helped me rearrange the apartment. There is a ton of room now. I put the bed in a little nook area, it hangs out some, but still there is room for about 5 or 6 people to sleep width wise in the place now. Not that I would ever have that many people over at once though, much less sleep over.

Sunday January 11th

Might as well re-read yesterday's post. I did nothing today as well. Nothing productive at least. I am still planning things for the year, but conveniently delaying starting them. I'm going to go eat at McDonald's as my symbolic end of eating poorly. Tomorrow I start juicing and eating better. No drinking for one solid month and eating less and walking to school more. I need to set a weight goal for 1 month away, but a realistic one.

On a non-weight loss tangent, we are planning Mexican night at Liz's house probably next Saturday. We will have tacos and fajitas and nachos and beans and margaritas. It will be great. Another night we might plan Greek night and have Hummus and Falafels. I'm going to spend a few hours working on my 2nd book. The first one is selling slowly, but surely. I've had some good reviews from people.


I just added a page with a few pictures of a friend who went to Afghanistan in the summer to do volunteer work. There are only 4 or 5 pictures, but it shows how bad things were / are over there.


The King says don't do drugs and you'll get Leid.


Monday, January 12th

Today is one of those days I wish I had a Fast Forward button on life. I would fast forward until this weekend maybe or later. I have nothing to do today, but luckily it's a holiday so I didn't have to wake up at 8am to go to school and have nothing to do there. All this week I will most likely have no classes for some reason. Luckily I have two or three books to read. They are books in the Ender's Game series. All sci-fi nerd stuff, but very well written. These books are the reason I don't try to write a sci-fi novel, I could never compare. I'm glad the author found his calling and wasn't trapped forever at some part time meaningless job somewhere. So in-between reading these books I'll study some kanji. That way it is semi-productive.

Today I'll probably head out to Liz's place and watch a DVD. I need to get out to Yamada Denki and check on juicers. Mine is working great, but I am moving past it and I want to see what they have that's better. I'd prefer one that also crushed nuts (not mine) into a butter. Like peanuts and some other kind. I found a good protein nut recipe, but have no nut crusher (I twinge when I type that). Then I need to clean up the apartment some and organize it a bit. Moving things around freed up so much room, now I have to clutter it up again. Hopefully not.

Tuesday, January 13th, 2004

My sister told me via email today that she is pregnant. Not sure if she wanted that public record or not, but I doubt there are millions reading this. Then she said the expected birth date was on the same day as her husbands grandmother. This reminded me of how odd I think it is that doctor's give a specific date. Why not give a time as well? How often are people born exactly on the date that was predicted? Excluding, drug induced labor, I would doubt very often. Just say "around this week" or so. It's like when I flew to Thailand and the South Korea the pilot's would say "the trip today will take 6 hours and 43 minutes". How on earth can you predict a flight to the minute? You can't and I tested it. From the nanosecond the wheels took off to the micro-moment the plane shook as it touched down we were off by 5 minutes or more. So for flights, why not round up to the nearest 5 minutes and then say we got in early. Same with pregnancy, just say it will be around the week of May 5th-12th.

I walked to and from school today. On the way there I walked a little fast to get the blood flowing. I got there faster than I thought. Walking seems so slow, but I guess it's not really. I almost caved and took the bus back, but I just missed it so I decided to walk. I stopped and bought some things at the 100 yen store and then some veggies for dinner and breakfast. I need to learn how to make Hummus and some other veggie related things. I am not going hardcore vegetarian, I still eat fish, and I am not opposed to eating meat, I'm just avoiding the fried meats mainly as well as the beer and sugars. So beer-battered deep fried sugar steak is out for a while.

As I walked home I passed Brad, a local DJ. We chatted about nothing really. Then we departed and I started thinking about his apartment situation. He lives in a big apartment, with 5 other JETs in the same building. It's really close to my school and to the center of town. It makes me jealous sometimes to think of the close knit community they have there. They might invite each other  over for dinner and then casually walk back about 20 feet to their place. Sure I could go over and join them, but there's a difference in biking for 15 minutes and walking 10 feet. It would make so much more sense for me to live in that building, since it is about 5 minutes from my main school (the one I sit and read at all day 3 times a week). It's even closer to the night school. I'd rather live in a building with other JETs and ignore them when I wanted to be alone, than to live alone in a building with no one else I know. But alas the universally energy has not chosen this to become so.


The weather here is driving me crazy. When I walked home around 4:30 it was cold, but more of a cool cold. I didn't wear the scarf or gloves. A few minutes ago I was studying something on the bed (I don't mean I was staring at something on the bed and studying as in researching it, I was on the bed and I was studying - technically I was editing my second book project I am working on) and I heard a strange blowing sound followed by the sound of cars driving on a wet road. I go to the window and see the weather is dancing between rain and sleet / snow. Oh how I miss Thailand with perfect weather all the time, though a bit hot in the summer. They have such wonderful winters. I need to move there.

I think I am going to cave in and get satellite TV. It's cheap here and I have been avoiding it in the hopes that I would take the time to learn Japanese. But I have come to realize, part of the way I just relax is by sitting in a chair or on the (non-existent) couch and just watching TV. Anything or nothing, just watching. I have no way of doing that now so I find myself walking around the apartment in a repeated loop not knowing what to do next. I think Liz inherited the dish and receiver from the people before her and she never uses it so maybe I can work out a decent trade. Now that I rearranged the apartment I have plenty of room for a chair and TV viewing around. Perhaps even a couch. Interesting.

Wednesday, January 14th

Just made it in after walking to and from work in a pseudo-blizzard. Snow was coming in sideways and pilled up about 6 inches today. But I fought it both ways. I don't mind it, after all not everyone can do my job. I trained for many years and I am a specialist now. Only 7 people in the world have the skills it takes to do what I do. Other people have tried and failed, but I succeed. Sure it seems trivial to sit in a room all day reading sci-fi novels, but don't be fooled. There is much more to it than that. Tomorrow, back to the grind. My bones are weak from the laborious work, my muscles ache. But I know the children depend on it. They need me to fuel their flames, and feed them knowledge, somehow, by sitting in the teachers room reading sci-fi novels.

[back to reality]

It is snowing like a banchee out there. It's already about 6 inches, but the wind is blowing and it's coming down so hard I can't see 100 feet in front of me. Big change from everything shutting down after half an inch of snow like in Atlanta. This would deadlock Georgia for weeks. When it gets colder tonight I expect there to be even more snow and tomorrow to be really nasty, but I'll still walk to school and try to get there on time. Luckily I have nothing to do this weekend of importance. Unfortunately I don't have the money to go skiing or snowboarding. Maybe the next weekend, though this paycheck is more or less already spent as well. We'll see.

Thursday, January 15th 2004

I read a book last year called "Finding your purpose in Life". Despite the cheesy title it was really cool. It talked about how before you are born you had a soul group and they would come into your life at certain times to present new ideas to you that would direct your life that way. Another part, though now I am thinking the other part is from The Celestine Prophecy , was about when you run into certain people several times or after thinking about them, it's because you two have something to discuss. That happened today. I was thinking about having to go to the night school tomorrow in this nasty blizzard weather and how I couldn't ride my bike and it was a tad far to walk. So I thought about it on the bus home, because it was far too nasty to walk. Then as I get off the bus I see a girl named Amanda who teaches at Fukushima High, where I went about three times last year. We chatted about nonsense such as our travel and the nasty weather. Then as I was saying goodbye I saw a student from the night school and that reminded me that Amanda lived near the night school. I asked her if she was taking a bus and she said yes. Then she proceeded to tell me which buses went directly in front of the night school. It was interesting. I keep thinking about the Swedish Bikini Team bringing me loads of money (in US dollars) and then offering lifetime body massages, but I guess the Universe is busy now.

In references to the 2nd paragraph up, "it's snowing like a banchee", apparently banchee is not a word and spell check was correct in underlining it. I tried to look it up, but no luck. I swear I have heard it before, but I can't remember any form of spelling.

I'm going to finish reading the last of the Ender's Game series of sci-fi books this week, most likely tomorrow, and then spend all my time working on my second book, which is not a sci-fi book, but a helpful and useful Japanese language book. Then I'll spend a few weeks double checking it and then I'll put it up on Amazon.com and see what happens. Then I'll start the whole process over with a book based on my time here. That's going to be a tough one to write, because it could be a great book if I can find the best way to present it. I just babble like a banchee in the journal so it can't be verbatim. I want to show the differences, annoyances, similarities, benefits, and what I've learned, all in a humorous way, but I don't know how. I will continue to ponder this idea more.

I seriously thought about walking to school one day in the freezing cold and snow wearing shorts, just to see what it's like, but I don't think I can do it. I am freezing as it is wearing two layers, which the girls always get a kick out of. I don't think I should leave "of" dangling at the end of that sentence, but it sounds fine.

I went to the station on the way home and bought some processed carrot juice. It tastes so much smoother than mine. When I make it , it tastes great, but it takes like 20 minutes to make. The stuff I bought has a different taste and I didn't make it. Sadly I can make it much cheaper than I can buy it, but it tastes better when I buy it.

I will be booking a flight to Kyushu, which is the southern island of Japan, in February. It's already the southern island, but I won't be going til Feb. Sorry. Anyway, we have an AJET meeting down there. I hope it is a little warmer than it is up here. I might go down a night early and stay with my friend from Georgia. I left to become a Fukushima JET and he got married to a Japanese girl and moved down there. His parents came to visit recently. I couldn't imagine my parents coming to Japan. Wow what a headache that would be. A 14 hour flight, no one speaks English, squat toilets, man that would be quite the time.

Good news. I contacted the lady that did my Federal Taxes and asked her to do my local taxes and she agreed. So she should be mailing the forms that I need to sign and send in this week. That should be another $200 or so, as long as the Georgia tax Division doesn't screw up like the Federal ones did. Man, that is still outstanding, and not outstanding in a good way, like unpaid. They said 90 days from December sometime so maybe that Feb or so. I am going to send %100 of that money to my credit card debt so I can get it paid down as quick as possible to complete one of my new year's resolutions. Then I can divert the money I was sending there to two other loans I have and get them down quickly as well. I have already paid the entire amount I borrowed back in interest only. So sad. But I'll never be in debt like this again and I won't have to declare bankruptcy.

As soon as these are all paid down I am going to start saving hardcore money. The money won't be hardcore, the way I am saving will be. I will set a goal of X amount in the bank by a certain time. I want like 50 grand in liquid cash. I don't even know what that means, liquid cash. Maybe I made it up, but I think I have heard it before. Then I can retire to Fiji or Thailand. Man, with 50 Large in the bank, I could live like royalty in Thailand. Even on the beach in a condo. I could open my own Mexican food place, and sell Falafels and Hummus and Gyoza. What a nasty combination, but I could do it.

Friday January 16th, 2004

I thank the two readers who researched, or just knew, the answer to my banchee dilemma. The correct spelling is banshee and the definition is:

Pronunciation: 'ban-(")shE, ban-'
Function: noun
Etymology: Irish bean sídhe & Scottish Gaelic bean sìth, literally, woman of fairyland
Date: 1771
: a female spirit in Gaelic folklore whose appearance or wailing warns a family that one of them will soon die

Which unfortunately now makes me wonder what the heck that reference means. I guess the reference goes along the lines of the "wailing arms". I always used it as meaning something that was flailing around in a wild manner, which I guess I can see that now. Either way, thanks for clearing that up.

So I went to the night school tonight and since there was snow everywhere I rode the bus, as mentioned above about the coincidentality (that's not a word, but I propose it should be). I got on the bus at the #8 stop (as if you know where that is) and asked if it stopped at Chuo-Kou which is the name of the night school. The driver said it did so I sat down. I always sit in the front seat so I can pretend I don't see the elderly people behind me standing. Man that is shallow. I meant to think that rather than type it.

Anyway, we are going in the right direction. Then we stop right in front of the school. The stop name was Funabacho, and I almost got off but I figured if there is an actual stop named for the night school, it must stop even closer if that is possible. So I waited a second. The bus sign showed Chuo-Kou as the next stop. But we drove past the school and around back and then it stopped. I had to walk all the way back around, and past the Funabacho stop. Well now I know.

Before that I ate some sushi at the 100 yen place. I have been trying to eat less there since I always get 10 plates and just stuff myself, but being addicted to food, I never get full. So I usually stop myself at 9 plates, but today I had ten. Then I went to the Travel Agent to get her to book a flight to the warm island of Kyushu which is the Southern most island of the 4 major islands of Japan, above Okinawa.

Here's a map I jacked from somewhere. I'll fly from Fukushima to Fukuoka and then take a train to Kagoshima. There I will hopefully be able to visit my old, old as in in the past - he's my age, roommate from Georgia. He got married to a Japanese girl (adult) and moved to Kagoshima.

Here is his picture from when he went back to Georgia for Christmas and New Years. His name is Ken and her name is Ai, which means Love. How touching. She speaks great English and he speaks great Japanese, though I'm sure they are probably both bilingual now. So anyway, since I'll be down there hopefully I can visit them for a bit. The real point of me going is for AJET and I will eventually get to Kumamoto which is in between the two.

At Chuo-kou we did the same old stuff. I cut up with the students and the girls flirted with me. One is really hot. I know she's 16, but man she is a babe. And she knows it too, she struts around with a quiet demeanor which only adds to it. Don't worry I'm not going to ask her out, but if I didn't know she was 16 I might. She looks 25 easily. Then I walked home. I am going to walk from now on, at least until Spring and then maybe during the Spring and Summer. My teacher told me that she has been walking and has lost a few kilos and someone else told me that as well so I took it as someone trying to get a message to me that I should walk to lose weight. I have a weight loss goal, that is reasonable, as one of my New Year's Resolutions. Sadly that will involve me eating less Gyoza, but I think if I cut down on the beer occasion Gyoza will be ok. I have heard I can build in one cheat day anyway. I had a CC Lemon with dinner tonight, but that's not super cheating, I would have had water, but apparently that's impossible at the night school. Whatever.

Oh I bought a children's book, the type is called Manga, which would be like our comic books. The title, or at least the main character is a famous icon in Japan called Doraemon (doh rye eh mohn). So far it has only the basic Japanese language and not so much kanji. This will give me practical reading practice. I must not have read much in the store because when I started reading it at the night school I realized this book was about Math. Argh. I can't get away, but at least it's a kid's book so it will be relatively simple to read. So far I have read a few pages and then there were too many words I had to look up so I stopped. I'll continue now.

Saturday, January 17th, 2004

I woke up around 10am freezing. Apparently my stopped working in the night or I turned it off accidentally, since it is remote controlled. Then I finally got out of bed and had sushi at the station, for half price since they always give me the 50 yen off coupons and I found out recently I can use up to 10 at a time. Then I bought some weird green tea flavored funnel cake like donuts. The guy gave me one extra, he always does. I guess it's cool for the foreigner to come buy and chat with him so he hands me the bag and says " iko sabisu" which means one extra for free. I always thank him and eat it happily.

I'm about to head to BJ's house and then we are going to drive away like Thelma and Louise. Not really. We are going to drive, we as in he, to Shiroishi  where some JETs in another prefecture are having a party. I'm not sure of the details, but it's something to do and I can meet new people. That will be fun. They are pretty close to Fukushima city so we should get up there more. But we, we as in me, are always too busy with something. I have nothing to do this weekend except clean the small apartment so I'll go and meet someone new.

It's strange how I keep meeting people that remind me about things I need reminding about. Like I have been wanting to get back involved with Japanese Calligraphy, but I have been too busy, so someone out of the blue emails me from Wakayama and says she is a calligraphy teacher and that reminds me I should practice more. Strange. Off to the party.

Sunday, January 18th, 2004

The party was fun, but ended up being a birthday party for some 60 year old woman at her house. All her family was and then about 10 foreigners. I still can't figure out our connection to her. She was super nice, as was everybody. There were three young kids there that were really cool to hang out with. Luka was super hyper and age 3, a girl. She was cute and out going and would walk around passing out plates or pouring beer, but she never sat still and was running everywhere. Finally she gave out around 10 and her father came and got her and took her home, her mother stayed and chatted with us. Then there was Haruka, she was 5 and also a girl, hence me saying "she".  She was a little more mature, or at least less hyper. She could speak basic English pretty good for her age. She would come around and say "Hello my name is Haruka, what is your name? Nice to meet you." and then shake your hand. She was really cute. Then there was Joichi, who was less than 1 most likely and male, but still had a good personality. When I would hold up my hand and say "high touch" he would try to touch it and smile. Then he would crawl around and everyone would step over him.

One time I was sitting next to the mama-san, the party girl, and she said in English, what are you doing. I had a plate of food and the fork was half way to my mouth. I said I'm eating. So she said, still looking at me, what are you eating. I started laughing and pointed to the food and said this. I didn't mean to, but it was funny. They had tons of food and beer, I only drank 2 small glasses. It was my cheat day so I didn't mind, which means today I have to eat right, which I planned on anyway. I am going to clean in a minute since I have been avoiding it for a while, which is odd because it won't take long and I will feel great after doing it. Oh, the phone is ringing.

Tuesday January 20th, 2004

Not much going on so far this week. Had Gyoza with Liz tonight. That was the highlight of the week thus far. On a weather note, it snowed last week and then on Monday so there's a ton of snow out there, but today it was about 50 degrees so it's melting, or actually, turning to mush. Here's a view of what I see every morning when I leave the apartment.

I cropped it down so all you see is the nig mountain range in the background. It would be so much better if the shink tracks weren't in the way, but overall they don't really block the view.

Tomorrow is payday so I can breathe again. But most of it is spent right away as usual. Though hopefully not much longer. Once the Hokkaido trip is over with I should be able to save a bit more, or better yet pay off the debts faster. I am really pushing to get them down by summer so I can divert that money to the other loans.

So not much going on this week. Higashi tomorrow and Thursday and then the night school on Friday. I think I am taking part in some Thesis Project in Iwaki this Saturday and I think I get paid for it as well. Either way it's something to do. I need to finish these novels I'm reading so I can get down to studying Japanese again. Liz and I, man we sound like a couple but we aren't, decided to not shoot for the L2 test this year and learn actual conversational Japanese. We might take the test anyway to see what it's like, but not plan to pass it until 2005 which I will still be here for and should be in a position to actually pass it or come close. If I were to pass it this year it would be strictly because I guess correctly, which is how I feel about the L3 test. They aren't cumulative, and L4 is the easiest and L1 is the hardest. I have heard L1 is hard for Japanese people, because it is grammar in the purest form. We are going to map out some levels we would like to be at and present them to the teacher. Things like the ability to order pizza on the phone or talk to a dentist. Helpful things.

I'm thinking about setting up another website based on my capsule hotel experiences. There aren't many sites about how to use them and where they are and things like that. I'll figure that out more. There are already 986 things on my to do list and all I am doing is reading sci-fi books. I love procrastination.

Thursday, January 22nd

Argh. I just typed about 5 paragraphs and then FrontPage locked up and I had no choice but to end program. Argh. That will teach me, as I have experienced time and time before, to save your work while you are doing it. Argh.

I can't even remember all I had typed. Most likely I babbled about various things. One thing I remembered was that I get a state tax refund as well as a Federal (if it ever comes in). I'm going to use that money to pay my debts down faster. Then I remember something about having more travel time coming up and wanting to go to Osaka or Beijing. Then I posted two pictures about Osaka and Beijing, so I will do that now.

[You'd better believe I have hit save about 10 times so far]

So obviously the top one is Osaka castle, which is really cool and very Japanese. I'd like to do a tour that went from Beijing through Xian and back around to Shanghai. Here's a map:

There are so many things to see and do on that tour, but it's a little pricey so I might have to wait a bit. There are palaces in Beijing, the Terracotta Warriors in Xian, the world's largest structure - Three Gorges Dam in Chongqing, something cool in Wuhan, and then Shanghai is just Shanghai.

Man I have saved this three or four times and it didn't work. Finally I got it to work. I had better save it locally a few times as well. Oh, I also remembered I managed to set my timer on my wall heater and it came on by itself at 7am. It has a vent that moves and it always seems to point straight down so I need to figure out why and get it to point up so the whole room gets warm, not just the computer desk. At least I can sleep in the cool air and then wake up warm. One winter in college I had a few heaters set to timers so the room would get too hot by 8am and I would naturally wake up. That was great. Before I came here as a Fukushima JET I worked 1pm to midnight 4 days a week and I'd wake up naturally around 9am everyday. It felt great to never use an alarm clock. Even though I hated my job and my life at the time, those were good times.

Alright I am going to stop typing for a bit. I have to save this about 4 times before it actually goes through and I can see it locking up one of these times. Over and out.

Friday January 23rd, 2004

I found a picture of the room I used to work in at my old company. I was in the Network Operations department and we would answer the phone "Net-Ops" which was really cool. Then it changed to the Command Bridge and we would say "CBO". That was cool as well. The room was dark and looked like the command center of a spaceship. Excluding the fact that the job sucked and I wanted to tear out my eyeballs and gut myself every day, it was a cool room.

My "desk" was the right corner and I had 4 monitors to watch plus the two big TVs. When tour groups (i.e. investors) would come by we would put on a show where we walked around and talked on the phone and pointed at things and acted like we were busting our butt. We were usually ordering lunch or something. I wanted a sign on the wall that had all the Defcons and I wanted to be the one to say "Take us to Defcon 3". Defcon is an American term for Defense Condition. Defcon 5 means we are at peace, D1 means we are at war, like physically being attacked not bombing another country.

Still snowing here and cold too. I go to the night school later so I will leave a bit early I think. Tonight a girl named Megan (not Meg from last year) will crash at my place because tomorrow a group of us are going to Iwaki (the beach town) for some kind of Master's Project for someone. All I know is to be at the station at 8:30am and they will take us. She lives too far to make it tomorrow so she is crashing at my place. That is good for me because it forced me to clean my apartment top to bottom.  I rearranged some things and then had a garbage party where I was really strict and threw away a ton of old things. I am a pack rat by nature and it's hard for me not to keep things. I always think "I will need this in the future" and then eventually my place is packed and there is way too much stuff. So I was really critical and just tossed a bunch of things. I might need them later, but oh well.

I updated my travel pig recently when I went to Korea. I forgot to take him to Thailand, which would have been some great pictures. I'll take him to the ice festival. His name is Darwin so you can track him or others if you'd like. I am going to pay rent and finish laundry, so for now, Over and out.


I added some info and pictures to my keitai photo page.

Sunday January 25th, 2004

I did a lot more than I had planned this weekend. I had planned on doing this study thing in Iwaki for a girl's Master's Degree Thesis experiment and then coming back here and doing nothing much, but I ended up going to Shirakawa, about an hour away, to a party and then sightseeing. Oh before I go any further, this needs to be said:



I made Hummus, and it's cheap and good.


So that is out of the way. It's been a bother for some time finding the right ingredients, but I found them and made it and it's good. I spent maybe 500 yen, but I'll be able to buy another can of Chick Peas and make more for only 100 yen ($1). I'm eating it now and it's yummy. As I said, there was a study in Iwaki, the beach city where 10 foreigners chatted online with 10 Japanese people who spoke English. The purpose was to see how we react when we can see them and when we can't. We were supposed to be more empathetic if we could see them and they could see us than if they couldn't. I found this to be true. I would thoughtfully correct them on certain problems with English, whereas when I couldn't see them I took charge and led the project. Cool.

So then I ended up going down to Taishin to visit Jo, the girl that came up and saw The Last Samurai with me recently. Don't even ask, she has a boyfriend, but she is quite cute. We went to the party at someone's house. It was an amazing house, it looked like a temple. Then we left and went to her place and I crash in a separate room). In the morning, we went to a park, where I took some photos to update my Japanese Zen Gardens page. By the way, if you want to use any of those photos for any reason whatsoever, please feel free. I hate sites with great pictures and copyright notices. Geez, it's a digital picture that took me 1 second and used 1/billionth of a kilowatt finger muscle energy to take. So take them and use them for Japan stock photography if you want, while you are at it you can use my Japanese Computer Wallpaper page as well.

So this morning we went to the gardens, as mentioned above, and then to the Shirakawa Castle which was pretty cool. At the entrance to the gardens, there was a cool statue of a fallen samurai. But his sword was tucked under his arm and he was squatting. So from the front it looked fine:



You can see where this is going can't you? So we have a nice statue of a samurai with a sword. But when we move to the side and look we have something a tad more obscene.


Happy Samurai

How can you NOT notice this as you can carving it? We walked at it head on and it looked nice, then as we walked past it I glanced over and burst out laughing. It was quite the Kodak moment.

Back to being serious.

After the laughing passed we headed on to the castle. It was small, but high up and had a massive wall. The walls amaze me for some reason. I guess because they are so big and they were built so long ago. There's usually a moat around them as well. I often wonder how someone would attack the Castle when it has the moat, wall, and people defending it.

See. It goes all the way around the thing. It's amazing to me. I know it's just bricks and what not, but it's still cool. Here are some other cool castle pics as well. Again, any picture on this site is copyright free and yours to do what ever with. As long as it's legal, or done in the privacy of your house.

This was the World's Steepest Stairway. There was a
rope to help pull yourself up. It was crazy.

Another amazing shot of a mountain range, this one from the top of the Shirakawa Castle.

A far shot of the Castle. Not as big as the Aizu Castle, but still pretty cool.


Then I caught the train back to Fukushima. Now I am here typing after making the Hummus from this recipe. I've got other various computer things to work on, so perhaps I'll check in later.

Tuesday January 27th, 2004

One good thing about being a foreigner in Japan. I ordered some stuff from the Foreign Buyers Club and it came yesterday. I wasn't here so they left a note. Today I had no class since the students have some test to take for college. So I took the note and called the number so he could redeliver. I worked out a speech about how I barely speak Japanese and can he redeliver it today. So I called and said in Japanese "I'm a foreigner and my Japanese is so-so". Then the delivery guy said in Japanese "Oh Mr. McDonald, I can be there in 10 minutes". Then there he was, how easy was that. I was possibly the only foreigner on his route today and it stood out in his mind. So then I ate my Chef Boyardee Ravioli and Hummus. They were separate, but actually I mixed the occasionally and it was oddly good.

I slept until 2 pm and for some reason I was awake until 3am. I just wasn't tired, but I hadn't had anything that should have kept me awake that late. I was watching a tape my parents sent me of Alias and The Practice and other shows, but I just never got sleepy. Strange. I have really nothing else to do today, but I might go walk around later and see what comes up. I need to go by the post office and see who all has paid for the Sapporo trip.


I just made the most incredible smoothie drink. I had no recipe, I just "knew" it would be good, though I didn't know how good. I went down to the Hot Coffee vending machine at the lobby of my building and got a small can of French Blend hot coffee, it's about one serving. Then I poured that into the blender and added a heaping scoop of smooth peanut butter, and a generous squirt of honey. Then I blended that and added about 7 small ice cubes. Then I blended it more and drank it. I didn't even make it to a cup, I just chugged it from the blender. Oh it was so good, if it weren't for the fact it had caffeine in it I would go make another one. I'll make one tomorrow before class. Ha, I mean tomorrow before sitting in the teacher's room all day.

Earlier when I went walking around I bought some soymilk (god I hope it was soy (milk and my digestive system are bitter rivals)) and some Frosted Flakes and then some Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal mix. I already had a little of each and it's great. I need to start eating breakfast which should help me burn more fat and lose weight, although this weekend there are two going away parties and I will most likely drink a little at them. That coffee will keep me up all night now. It didn't help I slept until 2pm.

Wednesday January 28th, 2004

Tomorrow is a big day for me. It's the end of the month of January for my time at Higashi. as of tomorrow I'll have had 3 hours of class time for the whole month. I should have at least 3 hours a day. So I will fill in my little chart and have it show %9 usage for the month and then the next week, when they ask if I am renewing, I'll drop the bomb. Yes, I will renew if I actually have........classes........I'm sure they will see my point. Then I'll ask for a few other things as well. Mostly trivial and in their favor.

Today, needless to say, I had no classes. But I was productive and worked on Japanese Flash Cards for a project Liz and I are working on. I was able to make about 2,200 of them. I'll fill in more details later. Tomorrow I get a half day for some reason. I think they are deciding about which of the new students can come in to Higashi this April which is the start of the year. Wow, it's almost the end of the year, I think it's over in March. I might go to Osaka and Kyoto for the break. I think I've already mentioned that.

Thursday January 29th

I took the money from everyone to the travel agent today. Man that was scary, but relieving at the same time. I had 90 $100 bills in my pocket, and it really felt like a wad of cash. That was about $8,500 USD. That would have almost been enough to retire to Fiji on. Though I'd prefer about double that since airfare would get me. Anyway, they gave me the info and tickets and what not. It should be a groovy trip. There are some pictures that are insane. I am going to take 9,672 pictures and post as many as possible. I can't find too many sites with a lot of pictures, and that's about all you do. Sadly there is a contest for America's Funniest Home Videos for building something amazing out of snow. This would qualify, but the due date is the Monday we come back, and not much chance I could get it in on time. But I will try anyway.

Oh, I have to pause and set up this page with pictures my sister sent. They are insane. This guy drew 3D pictures on the sidewalk and from what I can tell from the 2D picture, they really look 3D. I have no idea how he did it. Here's the link to the amazing 3D pictures.

Those are amazing, I can't imagine how they did it. Another amazing thing is this place I found in New Orleans at Mardi Gras. These guys were painting elaborate space shots using nothing but spray paint. Here is one example, and I can attest to the fact they only used spray paint, not a single brush touched the canvas:

Isn't that also amazing? I wish I had an artistic creative outlet like that. It was awesome watching them work. I went home and bought spray paint and tried to do it myself and it looked horrible, yet they made it look so easy. I paid $15 for it and I thought that was a steal. For the comet in this one, they turned the can of white paint upside down and touched the nozzle to the paper, then he tapped the bottom so it spat out a little paint. For the planets he spray red all over the place and then dabbed it with a rag. Then he covered an area with a bucket and sprayed black all around it. For the caves he drug a rag down the painted area. The stars in the distance, he just sprayed white paint in the air and big drops fell.

Nothing worked for me.

Here is a link to their website, though they could use a bit of website design help. They were called, appropriately, Can Gogh.


After I typed that I felt strange and laid on the bed a minute in my regular clothes. Then I felt a coma like nap coming on and I passed out for 3 hours. I woke up in time to walk to the store to get some carrot juice, soy milk, Oatmeal, and Frosted Flakes (not on the diet). Then I came back and ate some stuff and goofed off online.

After eating dinner I felt strange again, but this time like someone punched me in the gut. After that passed I had strange chest pains, though not around the heart really. Then I tried to watch a movie, but it bored me. It was Citizen Kane. I just couldn't get into it. Then I tried another one and finally gave up. Now I am chatting with someone in Wakayama and typing this. Soon I will go to sleep. I did figure out how to get my heater vent to stay open instead of pointing straight down. I taped it open. Probably not so good on the gears, but the apartment is warm. Since I already figured out the timer, it warms the apartment as I am waking up. Now I need a curtain thing to block the air from going into my kitchen, and maybe I will get an electric blanket as well.

The farewell party for Lisa will be tomorrow instead of Sunday as predicted earlier. Not sure of how or where, most likely Shoya since we always go there and they tolerate loud foreigners. Then Saturday is another farewell party, then Sunday I am going to the gym with BJ, possibly. I do need to get to the gym more and I'd like to go with him the first time. OK, I am tired again, so over and out.

Friday, January 30th, 2004

Slept late. Watched a video tape of US shows. Sadly I am thinking about getting a satellite. I can get the satellite and receiver for free and the service is only $30 a month, which I can afford in a few months. That will allow me to watch things the Discovery Channel and the Learning Channel and so on. I get tired of watching these same tapes over and over.

I've got the night school later tonight, around 4 actually. After that I half-planned a party for a girl that is leaving. I had planned it for Sunday and then found out I had to change everything. So I only had time to half plan it. I set a meeting time and place and haven't actually made reservations since I don't know how many people are coming.

Nothing much to do this weekend. I need a hobby. Dave almost convinced me to take Akido, but I don't know if I feel like getting tossed around and limbs almost broken. Though the end result would be great. I'd be in better shape and more confident about things. I should practice Japanese Calligraphy, since that could be a productive hobby if I ever got decent at it. It's manly in a non-manly way. Here's an example:

The one on the left is a plain style where you can easily read the characters. the one on the right is more cursive style. I like the red stamp in the bottom left which is his signature. I have one, but that would require me to actually draw something worthwhile. I'll work on it. I need a hobby that gets me out of the apartment more often though.