Saturday, January 27, 2007


There have been many philosophical and theological discussions on the existance of Hell. Consider the debate solved.

Hell is:

A)Teaching 5 classes of crazy eight year olds on your Saturday.

B)Having one four year old girl throw a fit because she is just getting over chicken
pox, doesn't feel well, is itchy, and doesn't want to be in English class at that

C)Having the mother of a girl just getting over chicken pox insist to her daughter
that she will indeed, be attending English class that day.

D)Said mother compromising with her daughter, saying that she will attend the class
with her, if her daughter agrees to go that day and with my permission.

E)Me, giving permission.

F)Having two boys who's sole purpose for coming to English class is to try to punch
and kick you in the nuts, annoying you and endangering the future of your family's
bloodline. They will stop at nothing and you cannot take the necessary measures to
permanently ensure that your family tree continues to branch.

G)Getting a headache.

and finally,

H)Combining all of the above into your fourth class of the day.

Discussion over, debate resolved. Hell exists and I have been there.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

My Newest Obsession aka Why I Am Shamed As A Man

Okay, this is the one you have all been waiting for.

When I went to visit Karie and Reid for Christmas, Karie showed me her collection of Hello Kitty keitai straps. Basically, they are little ornaments that people attach to their cell phones as a way of personalizing them. For example, I have Gizmo from the Gremlins and Jack from Nightmare Before Christmas on my phone. Anywho, I had known that Karie had been collecting these for a while and had written off her assortment of, "Kitty-chan", as Hello Kitty is known here, as a girlish thing that had no point other than to be cute. Man, was I wrong.

As it turns out, these Kitty-chan are very very cool. Each area of Japan is famous for something. Nara has a big Buddha, Kyoto has geisha, the area that Karie and Reid lived was know for its excellent tulips and shrimp, my area is known for its black beans and crab. For each area in Japan, there is a special Kitty-chan that highlights one of the area's famous characteristics. Think of it as a little plastic postcard that you can attach to your cell phone. There are also Kitty-chan for virtually every famous landmark in Japan. If your local landmark does not have a Kitty-chan, it isn't famous. What I once saw as a feminine fetish object, I now see as an artifact that tells a unique story about individual regions and customs in Japan.

This is my collection (Mogwai hangs his head in shame):

I think I have around 50 of them now. As I travel to new areas, I pick up a couple here and there. Part of the addictive nature of these buggers stems from the fact that they are not horribly expensive, around $3.75 USD. Yes, I know that if you multiply that amount by the number of Hello Kitty trinkets in the picture you get a ridiculous sum of money for something rather trivial but what can I say, I am hooked.

Now its time to show you a few of my favorite ones and maybe you can come to understand why I dig these Kitty-chan so much.

First, the special Kitty-chans. For all of the major temples, shrines, and castles in Japan there are special Hello Kitty keitai straps. They are made of metal while the rest of them are plastic. At first, Karie and I thought they were imitations of the "real" plastic Kitty-chans but we then learned that they are actually very special and unique. This is the Hello Kitty for a temple in Kyoto called, Kiyomizu-dera:

The special Kitty-chans are a tad more money but they are definitely very cool mementos for trips to these prized areas.

There are also Kitty-chan to commemorate fairy tales and traditional Japanese stories. My favorite and most prized Hello Kitty is this one that symbolizes the tale of the Bamboo Princess:

These kind of Kitty-chan that come in a blister pack like that are also a tad more expensive but are usually limited editions. To add to the coolness of that Kitty-chan, it also lights up and glows. The region in Japan that the fairy tale was supposed to have occurred in takes great pride in the story. When you visit the area you can buy Bento Boxes that are actually made from a single shoot of bamboo and inside of the shoot there are individual wooden compartments for each food that comes with your selection. That little tidbit is exactly why I like these Kitty-chans so much, I would not have told you any of this information had I not shown you the Hello Kitty strap.

This is a memento from my trip to Fukui, a city known for it's dinosaur finds and it's shrimp:

Here is one from Himeji Castle, this is not the special Kitty-chan but one that shows the Tokugawa family crest. The Tokugawa clan ruled Japan for over 200 years and it was during the Tokugawa shogunate that all of Japan was united as one country. The Tokugawa family was directly involved with the construction and protection of Himeji Castle:

Lastly, here is one more that is from the Toyama region. The lord of the region was in need of money and came up with the idea of selling pharmaceuticals door to door. He amassed a group of wandering salesmen that walked to each village in the region and sold various medicines and herbs to the citizens. They started a very primitive prescription drug plan and would come back to visit customers when their medications were running low. This is why this Kitty-chan is wearing what looks to be a very large backpack, it’s actually a mobile pharmacy:

There are a bunch of others that I really like but if I told you the stories for each one of them, I would be here all day and I do have to teach today. It is just really cool to see the kind of pride that people have for the region in which they live and these Hello Kitty straps help to promote that. I don't think Sanrio makes almost any profit off of these because they are only sold in Japan and some of them are only sold in particular gift shops. That is also something that makes collecting them fun, you have to find them and each region carries different ones. I wish the US would get in touch with Sanrio, the company that makes Hello Kitty, and set something up. I know there is one for each of the fifty states but think of how many there could be based on the landmarks and the size of the country. I just love how all of these little trinkets look so trivial but actually can tell big stories.

Oh yeah, by looking at these pictures you may have noticed my hands look all dry and horrible. Thanks to those blisters I gave myself from worrying too much a few weeks ago, my hands looked much much worse than this last week. They are actually better now than they have been in almost a month.

I'm Up Early, Be Amazed

Well, my little vagrants left this morning. I got up and went with them to my main train station and saw them off. I am glad that Karie and Reid were able to hang out with me for a few days before they left but I have to say, watching them leave dealt me a swift blow of the lonelies. Now, I am pretty much the only one left here out of all of my friends other than Terri. I am glad she is still around but even she will leave me for a couple of weeks to go back to the States for a visit soon. Oh well, I will find something to do, maybe I will actually throw myself into my work and make a few new games for the kids to play...then again...maybe not.

Things I have learned from Karie and Reid's preparations to leave Japan:

1. No one actually knows how much your excess baggage is going to cost you to get home. We called Delta four times and got four answers. The thing that gets me is that the airlines whine about losing money but they fail at simple tasks such as standardizing freight costs for extra baggage. It makes you wonder what other stuff they goof up.

2. Ship pretty much everything but the bare essentials to your destination before you leave. This makes point one moot. For me, the phrase "ship pretty much everything" is a euphanism for "sell 95% of your worldly possessions again".

3. Charge all electronics before a 15 hour flight. Make sure your portable gaming systems have all of the needed games loaded on to them before the trip. For non-pirates, make sure you have all of your games in your backpack. Make sure all your music is loaded on to your MP3 player of choice, make sure said player is charged. For non-pirates, make sure CDs are in order or music legally purchased from the online vendor of choice is loaded on to your portable music device.

4. Make sure all utilities and services are cancelled or in the process of being cancelled by the time you hit D-Day -3.

5. Know exactly what your employer is giving you when you go to get your last check and milk them for all they are worth.

Seeing all of the stuff they were having to do to get ready to leave Japan was a double-edged sword for me. Part of me really wants to come back to the US now but the other part of me says its too much of a pain to leave. I think seeing how excited they were to go home has rubbed off on me a tad. All of the talk of cars to be purchased and pets to be brought home makes me want to go back so I can either buy back my Matrix XRS or snag a Honda Fit and then get a fat, gray, Persian cat and name him Mister Muffins.

For now I will chill here in the morning light, drink my OJ, and listen to some music.

In other news, I was the first customer at the post office this morning. They had yet to open and I knew I was early and had no problem waiting at the door. The office manager saw me standing there and opened the door to apologize to me for keeping me waiting and to re-assure me that the post office would be open soon. That is something I would not get back in the United States. Here, most businesses do their best to see that you are treated with the utmost respect and kindness. When I do leave here, I will miss that aspect of Japan.

Anywho, I am up so I may as well be productive. Later!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Dealing WIth Vagrants

So Reid and Karie have been here for a couple of days. They are homeless, jobless, and do not have a ton of cash. I have nicknamed them "vagrants" and its kind of been the running joke over the past couple of days. Especially the first day they arrived because Reid had been given several beers for the trainride here as a going away present from one of his private students and had started drinking in the morning hours of the day. I told him that sounded like a typical drunkard you would see roaming the steets and to that we all laughed. little vagrants.

Anywho, we went to Himeji Castle day before yesterday and I came home to a lasagna dinner last night after classes. Its been fun having them here but I am kind of sad that they have to leave for good to go back to Canada tomorrow. Fortunately, we all have Google Talk and will still be able to keep in touch. Speaking of which, Ben and Monique, do you two have a computer yet so we can start talking again?

After Karie and Reid leave, I will be one of the last people from our training group still here and will have pretty much run out of friends to visit on the holidays and whatnot. I feel kind of lonely thinking about it but it was fun while it lasted and they will enjoy themselves once they get back to Canada.

Today, I have a team teach with my boss. The only real reason he is coming is because he hasn't seen the school that I am at tonight and wanted to check it out before he left. He has seen every school in the area but this one. It will be nice to see him since I haven't for several months now. Its odd to have a job in which "face time with the boss" means texting him once or twice a day and seeing him every couple of weeks.

I figured I would also let you guys in on a really good movie I have found here called, "Train Man". Its a true story about a guy who accidently meets a woman on a train after fending off a drunk that was harrassing her. He is an extreme nerd and goes to a chat room to seek advice in how to deal with this new person in his life. Its very fun and its very Japanese. Its kind of like a Japanese version of, "Amelie", a feel good comedy/romance movie. I am actually reading the book the film is based on and its also very good. It is basically a direct translation of all of the messages in this chat room with a little narration here and there. Its a very unique read.

Anywho, just thought I would check in before I started being productive for the day. Later!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Lack of Posts


Sorry that I haven't written much lately. This week I was at my school that pretty much eats my soul due to crazy children and long commutes. By the time I come home, I don't have a ton of ambition left in me for writing or doing anything else for that matter. But now, this week is over and I will have more will power to put toward the latest events that have been going on.

In that department, there hasn't been much to report which is another reason for the lack of posts. I figure its better to not update than to just up a bunch of fluff to waste everyone's time. The upcoming week promises to be more eventful. Reid and Karie are staying here for several days before they abandon me and go back to Canada. It will be odd not to have them here but at least I will still get to talk to them via Google Talk. Its been odd without Ben and Monique too but I am sure I will manage.

On Tuesday, we are going to Himeji Castle so Karie and Reid can see it before they leave. We were going to go when they were here last time but I was a tad too sick to be able to play guide to them. Beh, I haven't been legitimately ill in three years and then my immune system chose New Years to take a vacation. Anywho, that is coming up on Tuesday. Tomorrow is my usual administrative day to tidy up and clean a bit. Since it is my first day coming off of my Toyooka class week that also means that I won't be doing a ton. After Toyooka, it takes me a day to recoop before I get really ambitious again. Not kidding, this week sucked. The highlight was one of my eight year olds coming into class with a green hoody on and then remembering that a cucumber is green thanks to a flash card. He then proceeded to take the next five minutes to chase kids around the class, screaming that he was a killer cucumber in a voice muffled by his hood that was pulled so tight over his head that he looked like an Asian version of Kenny from South Park. All I saw was a blur of green with a small porthole equipped with squinty eyes peering out as he ran.

I am still working on my post for why I am shamed as a man due to the new items I am collecting. That will be up in a day or two, I need to take more pictures first. Until then or until something worth mentioning happens, later!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Extemely Random Thought

Can you imagine the meeting in which a television producer pitched the idea of Bob Ross and The Joy of Painting?

I think it went something like this:

Producer: Okay guys, I have an idea for a new show that I want to test on you.

Executive 1: Okay, lets here it.

Producer: Alright, so I know this painter named Bob Ross and he is a pretty good landscape painter. I think he should have his own show.

Executive 1: Okay...what will the show be about?

Producer: Painting.

Executive 2: Alright, so he is a painter that solves mysteries or uses his paintings to communicate with the dead. Or maybe the paintings can talk to him and tell funny stories.

Producer: Actually, I was thinking that the show would just be an hour of him painting a picture and each show is a new picture.

Executive 1: Will there be any women in this show, is he handsome? Where is the sex appeal?

Producer: Well, Bob does have a very soothing voice and there may be women in his pictures at some point.

Executive 2: Oh, he paints nudes? I am not sure how that will fly with the censors but if this is an educational show, they may allow it.

Producer: Actually, he usually likes to paint landscapes. He really enjoys mountains and clouds.

Executive 1: Well, maybe we could get him into a sexy wardrobe and have celebrity guests drop by to keep him company and see how he is doing.

Producer: I don't know about that but...

Executive 2: Let me see if I get this. You want us to air a TV show that is an hour of just some guy painting clouds, mountains, and trees. No sex, no music, no beach parties, just painting.

Producer: Exactly!

Executive: Well, with all of the weirdos running about these days you just might be on to something...or I may just be drunker than I thought. Hell, lets give this show a go.

And The Joy of Painting ran for fifteen years. Odd.

Worn Out

This is one of those days where I was not in the mood to teach. I woke up to back pains ...again. I think my back is telling me that its finally had enough of the futon and sleeping on the floor. Thats too bad though, its got another year of it to deal with. If it keeps up like this, I may get a second futon pad to cushion me a bit more. Whatever.

Yesterday, I did not go to my usual school and had to cover for another school. I am all for new little mini-adventures and whatnot but this school was in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, the kids were well behaved and it was a pretty easy day. Its odd though because whenever my teaching routine gets thrown off, it takes me a day or two to get back into the groove. I think it has to do with the commute times, not sure.

Either way, I did not feel overly commited to the education of Japan's youth and was not looking forward to three hours of train riding. My kids today are also some of my most demanding. Not because they are horribly bad kids but they require me to have more energy than I had today and so I struggled through the lessons and time dragged. The nice part is that the next two days are some of my more mellow kids and I can have fun with them, teach them, and relax at the same time. Downside, nine more hours of riding the same train over the next three days. Upside, three day weekend after that. Kind of...

As it turns out, if you have no plans for your office days, no one calls you to sub for a class and you just do whatever for the day. Technically, there are things I am supposed to do but the upside to where I live is that no one actually knows what I do and if they were to want to find out they would have to make a day or overnight trip of it. Anywho, the second you actually plan something for your office day the company figures out some way to screw it up. I have such a day on Tuesday and had plans seeing that it was Karie and Reid's last day in Japan before they start the process of heading back to Canada. Since I had to deviate from my normal schedule yesterday the company wants me to make it up on my office day. They are punishing me for being a team player. So, I am calling in sick for the first time since I have been here. I am also making a rule to not answer my phone when a certain number calls and wakes me up from here on out. Damn the man. :)

Anywho, I am off now to do something mindless and relax. Hopefully, I will feel more inspired tomorrow.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Prepping For The New Year

While the title of the post makes it sound all official, I really haven't been doing all that much of importance. Though I have been doing some things that will help me out in 2007 and into 2008.

First, all of my visa and immigration stuff is taken care of and I can relax finally. My visa got updated and my identification card as well. The only thing left for me to do that entails talking to immigration officials at all, is to get my re-entry permit for when I go to the US in June. Japan has a rule that if you leave the country without obtaining a special document, they automatically void your visa and send you to your home country from the airport in which you landed. Therefore, any foreign national living in Japan must get a re-entry permit whenever they leave the country if they plan on returning to Japan. I will do that as June gets closer, its no biggie, I just fill out a form and give them money.

Next, I have pretty much cemented the days that I will be in the US and have been getting things in order for my arrival. I need to go to the dentist for a tooth cleaning and I had my mom book that for me. My teeth are in nice shape and the cleaning is really just a formality, that and I like how they feel after they are all polished and whatnot.

As far as maintaining the proverbial fort, today was New Year's cleaning day. I cleaned my closet and threw away a bunch of stuff I don't need. I have one more area that I want to hit but its going to take a couple of hours to clean all of the documents out of it and sort what can be trashed and what needs to be kept. I will do that soon, maybe tomorrow. Other than that, the homestead is pretty much the pinnacle of tidiness.

In cleaning the house, I have been trying to also clean up my computers and free up space. I am out of room again and I do not plan on getting another hard drive for a while. So, I have been burning things to discs. You would think two terabytes is enough room for one person but its not. I am starting to suspect I would eat up any amount of storage that was given to me. I have a packrat personality and it shows in my computer setup. In the quest for more room, I have been cleaning up my music drive. The other day I found that I had almost the entire Led Zeppelin discography in triplicate; I don't even listen to Led Zeppelin. This is when I could use my own clerical midget.

My laptop got paid off the other day so that just leaves the one credit card that I use every now and again. I am not a fan of using credit cards but here, sometimes it is a necessary evil. Buying plane tickets for example or getting caught somewhere here after the ATMs have all closed or none of the ATMs accept your cash card. That happens more that I would like. Japan does not have a standardized ATM system in place so not all ATMs will accept all ATM cards. Its lame. Either way, from a financial standpoint, I am on track for meeting my goal for the amount of money I want to have saved by the time I leave here next year.

On the body side of things, I didn't like how fat I was for my wedding a few years ago and though I have lost a bit of weight since then, I want to lose more. If I am going to have to be in some of my brother's wedding pics then I want to look decent for them, not like some fat Kobe beef cow that just got herded off the plane from Japan. If I could be down about 25-30lbs. by the time June rolls around, I will be happy. That is almost exactly six months from now so I think that is a reasonable goal. I just wish they had a damned gym around here that I could get into, I miss lifting weights. I have cut out all drinks that have calories in them other than juices and 1.5% milk...and everyonce and a while, hot chocolate.

Lastly, I am continuing my Japanese lessons and I am progressing nicely. From the people I have talked to, most think that I could easily pass the first language exam of the four needed to be a professional translator. The first exam only requires you to know 100 kanji and I think I am around the 150-200 mark in that area. The flash cards I snagged really help me out a lot. But do not think I am any good at Japanese because I am not, its just that the first test basically makes sure you know something about the Japanese language. Maya and the Japanese lessons have been helping out a ton though. I am getting there.

So that is about it. This year is all about prepping for whatever the next step is after this because unless something comes up, I will be back probably somewhere in the US by 2008. Maybe. If it does look like I will be back in the country next year, I am going to need to start looking for a car, a cat, and a job sometime around October so when I come back, I can come back and right into something. Oh yeah, a place to live would also be a plus. On the car side of things, I either want my old Matrix XRS back or I want a Honda Fit. On the cat front, I want a fat Persian that I will call Mister Muffins, any color is okay but I would prefer grayish-black. That way he would look similar to a blueberry muffin in keeping with his name. Once I have Mister Muffins, I will raise him to be a dog, hopefully an attack dog but probably just one that sleeps most of the day, more akin to a Basset Hound. Man, I want a pet. Not kidding, I have plastic hamsters that look like the real thing that set on top of my bookcase and I talk to them sometimes. Its really kind of sad.

Anywho, there you have it. Thats what I have been doing and if you are lucky, I will soon take pics of my newest most shameful obsession yet. Seriously, as a man, I feel a tinge of shame for the new item that I am collecting. For now, thats all I am going to say. Later.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mr. and Mrs. Hal Jordan

For the past couple of days, I have been browsing through photos of my friend, Jake's wedding that took place on his brief fieldtrip out of Afghanistan. I am very happy for Jake because having talked...err...instant messaged with Heather quite a bit, I have ruled that she is a pretty cool woman and will be good for Jake and Grace. Not that my opinion is horribly important but there you have it. Anywho, Heather posted another set of pics from the wedding earlier and I found one pic that I really get a kick out of. This is it:

Now you can look at the picture and ask yourself a very valid question: Why in the world does Mogwai like the pic of Jake and Heather kissing on each other in the back of a stretch Hummer? The answer is simple, I am not so concerned about the smooch as I am the bobble on Jake's hand in the lower left section of the picture. You kind of have to be a tad of a nerd to understand what it is that I am talking about but for those that get it, it is very good to know that no matter how long I go without seeing friends, some things about them never change.

Congrats Jake and Heather!!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I Am So Getting One Of These

The iPhone was officially announced today. It will be mine...oh yes, it will be mine.

When they are released they will come in four gig and eight gig models. They are totally touch sensitive and will play mp3s, movies, run chat clients, and it will be a cell phone as well. I think Apple has something here.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Four White People You Meet In Japan

I had an interesting day today but before I go into that I must explain to you the four white people you will meet in Japan so you can better understand the day's adventure.

As stated above, there are only four white people that live in Japan. While you may see slight changes in their daily appearance and you might swear to yourself there are many white people in Japan, you are wrong. There are only four and I know all of them.

First, there is a guy named, Sean. On most days, Sean is a medium to tall guy and is usually skinny. Sometimes, Sean is from Canada but he prefers to be from Australia or England. Sean likes Japan because for the first time in his existence he is a unique snowflake. He is different(better)looking than most Japanese guys or anyone else for that matter, and if you ask him, he knows more about Japan and fashion than pretty much everyone else. How did he get all of this knowledge? He traveled the world and ended up in Japan on "holiday" but stayed because he found a girlfriend that was cute enough to put up with the high maintenance she demanded of him. Sean has a severe disdain for other white people and he lets you know it in every way. Sean especially hates Americans and George W. Bush and as soon as he realizes you are American, he lets you know all of these facts in one huge vomit of verbiage. Sometimes, though it can be hard to tell between the two because Sean is a metro sexual, his sister named Alice will come to visit him. Alice is like Sean in every way except she likes to come to Japan because here the men don't mind her average to sub-par looks because she is blonde. Both siblings love to lord their whiteness over the Japanese and take it upon themselves to tutor the Japanese on style and culture. Out of all four people you meet in Japan, I dislike Sean and Alice the most. They try to make Japan inaccessible for other Westerners just so they can make themselves feel more validated and exclusive. What they don't realize is they are still the same snowflake that almost everyone else is, white and cold.

The second guy you meet is named, Allen. Allen is almost always unshaven, long-haired, and poorly groomed. He can be fat or skinny but it’s usually the prior and he is normally spotted wearing some t-shirt and raggedy jeans. Allen also likes black socks with a comfy pair of sandals while roaming about the Japanese landscape. In normal parts of Planet Earth, Allen would be a nobody that most people would not associate with and most of his friends would come from World of Warcraft or a Star Trek fan site. But in Japan, Allen is special; he is an "otaku". What benefits are derived from being a mysterious otaku, none, but at least now he has a title and that is one thing more than he had in whatever Western cave he crawled out of. Here, Allen and his sister Ellen can satisfy all of their wildest and looniest desires. On the weekends, they can both dress up like their favorite anime characters and rehash forgotten plots of the original Gundam Wing series. Allen likes to play a character he calls Seth Starburner, a tall, blonde mech pilot that has fought in five wars and three minor conflicts in the outer galaxies and has lived to tell the tale but is haunted by a ghastly scar across his left eye that he picked up while battling a ferocious moss creature that ambushed him in the bathtub on his star cruiser. Though he may sound normal to you, Allen is a pretty special guy. On the rare occasions when Allen tires of being Seth Starburner, he will don a heavy backpack and walk around like a ridiculous Euro-tourist who thinks that the world has ended and insists on carrying everything they own with them everywhere they go in a gargantuan brightly colored thing that was a backpack before someone put it in the Enlargomax 5000. Sometimes Allen just likes to let his hippy side show too much.

The next person you meet is Mr. Happenchance. Mr. Happenchance is just passing through Japan. He can sometimes act quite lost and confused or you may find him drunk in a bar. Sometimes Mr. Happenchance is wearing a US military uniform, as are some of his friends, sometimes he has a monolithic hiking pack that he is strapped to. Regardless of the location, you will not talk to Mr. Happenchance for longer than several minutes unless you find him in a bar, in that case, you may have to listen to him for several hours but he will probably buy you shots the second he finds that he has something in common with you. For Mr. Happenchance, he is a stranger in a strange land and any connection with another white person will hang in his memory for a long time to come. Usually, Mr. Happenchance is a pretty nice guy but he just needs a little guidance or some words of encouragement. For Mr. Happenchance, Japan is a scary and lonely place and he is most definitely, "just visiting".

The fourth person you meet is named, Norm. As his name implies, Norm is a pretty average guy. His girlfriend, Norma is the same way. He can come in all shapes and sizes and if you were to ask him, he would tell you that he is the way he is just because. Norm and Norma are extremely hard to find in Japan. Norm is an easy guy to talk to and doesn't mind conversations. At the same time, he has no problem telling someone to get lost or being alone just for the sake of solitude. The other three people will all tell you about a mystical force that drove them to Japan, Norm doesn't really have much of a dramatic story to share. He came because he felt like it or had business or thought the country was interesting. Norm is Norm and that is that.

Out of these four people, I am definitely a Norm with a dash, just a dash, of Allen in me. Reid and Karie are Norms and Terri is a Norm with some Ellen in her. Most of the guys I work with also hover around being Norms with an occasional outburst of Sean here and there. As I said though, Norms are rare and I have been lucky to find the ones I have.

My little adventure to Osaka today, paired Terri and I up with a full-blown 17 year old, Allen. This kid is unfortunately from America and goes to a high school here in Japan. After spending the time with him that I did today, I wish I could go to that school and apologize for Allen and his goofy behavior. I want to reassure all of the troubled Japanese youths that Americans are not all like Allen. I feel bad that he is the one that exposed them to my culture.

Brief description of today's Allen: Tall, pale, unshaven, bad smelling, worn out trench coat, a way too big cross dangling down the front of his boney ribcage, anime obsessed, video game obsessed, no common sense, paranoid, and just flat out weird. I may dislike him more than I should because I can see brief streaks of me as a teenager in him and I feel bad for him and for what I was. Though I will say it right now, I was NEVER as goofy as this kid. Ever.

Allen's biggest problem is that he came to Japan expecting something in the way of robotically enhanced super geeks, riding through the countryside on mechanical horses and battling evil ninjas with katanas and various other martial arts paraphernalia. I think it came as quite a shock to him when his plane landed in a country of normal acting, dark haired people, armed with cell phones and battling their lame boss in traditional Japanese garb such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci. Since his arrival seven months ago, Allen pretty much stays inside and plays video games most of the day. Japan is not the world he envisioned and he retreats to one that comes closer to fulfilling his expectations. I feel bad for him because he is in such a cool place but seldom leaves his town which is maybe more in the sticks than mine.

By the way, I met him because he is staying with a Japanese teacher that Terri works with and she told him we would take him along for the day and show him Osaka and Den Den Town. I think he had a fun day but I find it hard to think that he is 17 and that he knows more Japanese than me, which I know for a fact he does. Looking at the kid and how he behaved today, you would not believe either of those facts. He will not speak Japanese because he is either afraid of getting his grammar wrong or afraid of talking to strangers. It may have been a bit of both. I think he is a smart kid when it comes to books and studying but he has absolutely no common sense. Somehow I think Japan overwhelmed and underwelmed him at the same time and he never figured out how to cope with it. He was also home-schooled in the US and I partly blame that as well. Either way, had it not been for Terri and I, our Allen would have been hopelessly lost in the tides of people and trains. I have had to play tour guide for people before but today, I felt more like I was his dad. It was very strange and mildly disturbing that a person like my Allen is floating around Japan. He needs to be at home in the US where he can grow up a tad and then come here when he has better coping skills and more common sense. I am not kidding when I say this though I wish I was, he could not find his way off the train when we got to his stop tonight. I kid you not. I feel for him but at the same time, I only have so much patience for his type of person. Once I was alone and free of my Allen, I was relieved and almost drained from the experience.

I was so burnt out, I lost my cell phone temporarily and then recovered it half an hour later from a train station employee who was very good looking and spoke excellent English with a cute English accent. She also remembered me from my comings and goings through the station. I may have to talk to her again.

Anywho, its both bedtime and dinnertime and I have time for neither. If you have visited Japan, tell me what you think of my four people, I am interested to see if you view people the same way.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

More Recongnition For BSU

Only this time its not for football. Its for research into "lethal" DNA sequences. Click here for the story.

Year One

I realized earlier that today marks my being in Japan for exactly one year. If I want to get really technically, I have actually been in Japan for one year and about thirty minutes. :)

It's strange to think that a year ago I stepped off a plane and saw a whole different world and now that strange world has become my home. I have never really been able to look back at a year and say, "I did this and this and this," I mean I've been able to do that in the past but not with as much clarity and detail as I can now. As I type this, I feel as if I have accomplished something right, something that fits with how I want my life to be. At least for this time, this is what I was supposed to do with myself and it feels good to be able to say that.

So what have I accomplished? I know a ton more Japanese now and can speak it alright. I am much more self-reliant than I was when I came and much more confident in myself. I have been to pretty much every place in Japan I have wanted to go with the exception of Hiroshima and Mt. Fuji. Hiroshima is happening in May and Mt. Fuji in July. Everything else is pretty much gravy.

I am looking forward to the new year, though I do not think it will hold the wonder and awe that 2006 did. I am still on an adventure but for now, I can see where the road is taking me for a bit and am just relaxing.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Worrying Be Gone!

As of a few hours ago, I got all of my visa extension paperwork figured out and dealt with. This means two things: A)I am definitely here for at least one more year B)I can stop worrying about being deported. The last thing was a stupid worry of mine that started as a small grain in the back of my mind and snowballed itself into a full-blown issue that I have thought about non-stop for the better part of a week.

I am a worry wort. I always have been and probably always will be. I have mentioned this before, how I will worry about tiny things and obsess about them to the point that I make myself literally sick. I cannot concetrate on anything, I lose weight, and I am not the happiest guy to be around when I get into these moods. Ninety-nine percent of the time, all of my worrying is for nothing and whatever studid thing I was worrying about gets resolved. This puts me in a very chipper mood, like I am now.

How everything started this time was while I was on vacation in Takaoka, my postcard giving me permission to extend my visa came in the mail. When I returned from vacation, I read the postcard and it basically said, "Your paperwork for you visa extension came through and was approved. You can come back to the immigration office starting on X date and get your stamp." I had read all but one part the last sentence correctly, the part I goofed up was the "starting on" part, what it actually said was "by". Well, the date that I was supposed to go by was the following day and I did not get my translation corrected until the day after that, on the way to the immigration office. When I got to the office, I found they were closed for the holidays and would not be open again until the 4th of January, which is today. Maya was the one that took me to the office and told me that my reading was off a tad. She also told me that the bottom of the postcard said that if I were to try to go after my date I would not be granted permission to stay. And so my worrying started.

It would have helped had my company's main office been open and I could have talked to someone about it but that was too much to ask. I was able to talk to one person but he was not overly helpful and pretty much left me to my own devices. Today, I called the company again and had them call my immigration office to make sure that I could get my stamp still. They immediately called me back and told me I could get my stamp today and everything should be alright, and it was. So now I am not worrying anymore and it feels spiffy.

I hate obsessing and worrying about stuff and I used to do it a lot but haven't since I have been here. I just can't get over how I can turn the smallest things into very large monsters. I think part of it was the fact that I am not ready to leave here yet. There are still things I want to do and need to do before I leave, one of them being to amass a tidy nestegg with which to start a new life with when I leave here. This last year was about getting to that point and setting everything up so that I can live quite cheaply in 2007. I can now start that phase of my great scheme.

Anywho, I am done worrying for the time being and I feel great once again. Now maybe my stomach will get back to normal.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Boise State Wins!!!

I have been waiting all day to be able to download the only football game I have wanted to see all year and have forced people to not tell me the outcome because I wanted to be surprised. Finally, I gave in and went over to check scores expecting to see a 7-14 point loss for Boise State, my alma mater. Man, was I surprised.

They freakin' won!! 43-42 against Oklahoma in OT. I was going to be happy as along as they didn't embarrass themselves with a huge blowout, but a win? I am ecstatic. Good job Boise State, now maybe the NCAA will see why an actual playoff game is in order.

Go BSU!!!!