Wednesday, March 28, 2007

10 Songs Meme

Okay, I love doing this so whenever I get the chance, I take it. The rules of the game are simple, someone gives you a letter and you have to find ten songs that you like that start with that letter. This time around Phyrry assigned me the letter E.

Here we go in no particular order!

1. Placebo – Every You Every Me

This is one of my all time favorite songs. This is also one of the only songs that started with E that just popped into my head. E was kind of a difficult letter to come up with songs for. Either way, Every You Every Me is angry and catchy and I have liked this tracks since the first time I heard it years ago.

2. The Prodigy – Everybody In The Place (Fairground Remix)

For those of us that like electronic music, this is a classic. The Fairground Remix is my favorite version of this song.

3. Rammstein – Engel

I love the whistling at the beginning of this song and the rest of the track is something I would play if I were in a movie and getting ready to put the beat down on someone.

4. Apocalyptica – Enter Sandman

As a general rule, I am not a Metallica fan. One, is really about the only song of theirs that I truly like. However, I do like two covers of Enter Sandman. The Apocolyptica cover is my favorite followed closely by a punk version by a band called, Vice Squad. Apocalyptica kicks ass in for the most part so they made the official list.

5. Bush – Everything Zen

When I was in junior high I liked this song. Now, it's merely okay but it starts with E so it makes the list.

6. Foo Fighters – Everlong (Acoustic Version)

This is the other song I instantly thought of. Everlong is easily the best song Foo Fighters have put out in my humble opinion. Actually, it's one of my all-time favorite songs, period. I like the acoustic version better than the original because it is more simple and straightforward and this song does not need a lot of spicing up to get its point across.

7. Smashing Pumpkins – Eye

A good Smashing Pumpkins song and a solid example of the quality the group was capable of in their prime. It's not my favorite song they put out but it is a good song nonetheless.

8. Poison – Every Rose Has Its Thorn

I had the cassette that this song was originally released on when I was ten. I have always liked Poison and feel they are a good role model for all 80s hair bands. For some reason this song somehow got nominated to be a classic 80s song and thats okay, it's just that Poison put out much better songs than this one.

9. Orgy – Eva

I went through a week in which this song was played a lot. I am not sure why I like it exactly but I do and so it's here.

10. Tears For Fears – Everybody Wants To Rule The World

One of the better pop songs to come out of the 80s. This is an essential track for anyone making a 80s playlist, at least it is for me.

Okay, there you have it, my ten favorite songs that start with E. As I said, this was a toughy and to be honest, a couple of these songs are tracks that I would not normally listen to a whole lot but made the list because of the sheer lack of truly good songs that start with the second vowel in the alphabet. If anyone wants to give me another letter to take a shot at, I would be happy to do so; I do love this meme for some reason, probably because it gives me a chance to go through my music with a specific purpose and makes me listen to stuff I haven't heard or thought of in a while. Anywho, if you want to, throw me another random letter and I will see what I can do. Also, if anyone wants to participate, let me know and you will be assigned a letter.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Kiyomizudera and Around Kyoto

Okay, here is the deal. I am feeling lazy and don't want to type out a long post about Terri and I's adventures in Kyoto the other day. But I do want to show some pictures from the expedition so scroll down and enjoy the pics. Also, if you click on them, a larger image will come up.

This is a maiko. She is a geisha in training and you can tell because she is wearing a red collar beneath her kimono. Maiko and Geisha are kind of like the real world equivalent of Pokemon, there are only a few hundred of them throughout Japan so when you spot one, its kind of a big deal. Gotta catch 'em all!

This is the entrance to Kiyomizudera. Kiyomizudera is one of the oldest and most popular of temples in Japan. It has been nominated to be one of the seven wonders of the modern world and is over 300 years old.

What in the world this guy was doing was beyond Terri and I's collective imaginations so we did what any good tourist would do and took a picture.

This was me playing photographer. I liked all of the color that this one building had under the afts of the roof. The pic turned out kind of cool.

The whole Kiyomizudera complex is huge. This shot kind of gives you an idea of what I am talking about. Where I was standing when I took this pic is also within the grounds of the temple. Also, all of the bare trees you see in the pic will be pink by the end of this week. I will take those pics when I go back the first part of next week.

After Kiyomizudera, Terri and I went across town to one of Terri's favorite places in Kyoto. This is from the roof of the Shinsengumi headquarters. The group was formed in the 1860's to act as the secret police to the shogun of time. The group was about 200 men strong at the pinnacle of their existance and recruited only the best swordsmen in Japan. They lived by a strict code and are somewhat of a legend in the Kyoto area. For Star Wars fans, think Japanese Jedi and you have the Shinsengumi.

This is Nibudera. This temple is right next to the Shinsengumi headquarters. I took this pic just as the sun had started to set behind the gate and I thought the lens flare would look cool.

Lastly, no Japanese pic post would be complete without a wierd car.

There you have it, the latest Kyoto excursion. More pics to come very soon, cherry blossom season is almost here!

Monday, March 26, 2007

God Is Laughing At Me

Yesterday in Kyoto was very fun and I will get to that later. For now, let me tell you about my odd day so far.

So Maya, the girl that I hang out with everyonce and a while and teach lessons with, told me something very strange today. She is getting married.


Last year, she had no desire to ever get married and was supposed to leave to go to Italy for six months next week. Today, she calls me and tells me that she isn't going because she is getting married to a guy she has only talked to a few times and went to the movie with once. All this after I got her a couple of books on Italy as a going away present. On top of that, I kind of thought there was something between her and I, guess not.

It shouldn't really bother me because we didn't have anything going on really other than being friends but man, she was my best shot at any kind of relationship here so far and I like her. I guess when she was solidly single it at least gave me hope. Oh well.

In other news, I am still getting a new Japanese tutor. I think Maya just decided that she wanted to get married in the past couple of days and by that time, another girl named, Aki said she wanted to teach me. I was supposed to meet her tonight but she is sick and can't meet Maya and I for dinner. So now, I may have two Japanese tutors. I asked Maya if she would still want to teach me and the way it may work out is I'll have one tutor for writing and studying and another for conversation.

Anywho, its been a kind of weird day. I also got in an arguement over the phone with another Japanese teacher over some really stupid stuff that I thought was resolved but wasn't. This doesn't bother me so much because she is being forced to quit because she is worthless and I don't have to see her again. Just that fact that she had the audacity to call me over the issue kind of peeves me and then after all of the back and forth over the phone, she hung up on me because she didn't get her way. I swear, today is not my day to shine with the women.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Upcoming Events

This week may be kind of dead but starting this weekend, I am going to be having quite a bit of fun.

On Sunday, Terri and I are going to do to Kyoto to see if we can catch the cherry blossoms around the city. It is a couple days early but if the weather is warm there this week, we may get lucky and see the beginning of the blooms. That should be a fun day. We are going to Log Kit for lunch and that means trying to down the biggest hamburger I have seen in Japan. I have told Terri about this phenomonon but she has yet to see it for herself.

The following day, I teach my final private lesson with Maya before she takes off to Italy for six months. After the lesson, in theory, we are going out to dinner so I can meet the person that will be teaching me Japanese from here on out, here's to hoping that person is a single, good looking, non-smoking, female with half a brain and nice teeth. They are rare here but I have high hopes.

On that following Saturday, I may be naughty and call in sick for my busiest day of the month. I have a danged good reason though, I may go to Yashino with some friends and view cherry blossoms there. Supposedly, it is one of the nicer hanami (blossom viewing) locations in Japan. That would also mean I could explore Nara a bit as well. I would also be able to go donw there for free and crash with Nighthawk so it would be very cheap and a very fun experience.

Then April kicks into gear and not a lot happens for a couple of weeks until my buddy, Jim comes at the end of the month. I am very stoked to see Jim again, out of everyone I left in the States there are only a handful of people I still keep in contact with and Jim is one of them. Just typing this gets me very anxious for his arrival. I have played tour guide for my family when they came here but I have never had a chance to do it for any of my friends. I am interested to see what they think of my little world. Having Jim come will also give me an idea of how much money I will be spending when Ben comes in September. I have a rough estimate but I want to see if it holds up. Either way I am happy that Jim is coming to visit and then Ben. It will be a blast!

After the Jim visit, stuff gets quiet again for a month and then I am on a plane back to the US for my brother's wedding. After returning from that, stuff is quiet for a few weeks and then I am going to climb Mt. Fuji on a three day weekend I have in June. Then September rolls around and Ben is here. After that, I have the holidays to myself and then in theory I will be leaving Japan sometime in either February or March of 2008. Before going back to the US, if Ben and Mon still want me to terrorize them, I will make a pitstop in Australia for a week or two and hang out with them and see the sights there. It will be odd to go from a cloudy place surrounded by cold water to a sunny place with warm water.

Okay, wow, I just planned out the entire year. Well, I guess that works. At least I know I will be having fun in the year to come. Stuff can also change in between now and then too so who knows, but as it stands, that is my rough draft of the year. I am excited, lots of fun things coming up.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Intruder Alert!

I have been hearing that phrase over and over for the past two days. I think the guy across the street picked up a car alarm without learning how to use it and is constantly forgetting to disarm the vehicle before opening the door. And I also think he has it set to go off if the frailest of butterflies lands on it because earlier it was going off for a good 45mins. before anyone ever turned it off.

On that note, there have been several vehicles that have been speaking to me lately. Earlier, I was out on the patio washing clothes and I heard a van back into a space below my apartment. Instead of just doing the caution beeps, it was equipped with a very gentle but firm female voice telling people to move or they might get squished. Earlier in the week, a white car was skulking through the streets of my neighborhood (ghetto) equipped with a female voice telling everyone within earshot to vote for someone who was running for some office. The cop cars, fire trucks, and ambulances are also equipped with a voicebox and I heard them last week. The Japanese like making machines talk. Train ticket machines talk, vending machines too, there is even a line of beer vending machines that require you to speak to it so it can verify your age by the wavelength of your voice.

There is a book out that I want to read about how the Japanese perceive most machines to be friendly and benevolent, while most Westerners view them as frightening. Take robots for example, the Japanese love robots and if you go to the Honda plant, all tours and on site sales are conducted by them. There are robot toys and cartoons filled with mecha-sapiens (you heard that term coined here first), robots can be mean but most robots are usually portrayed as good spirited. In American media, with the exception of Johnny 5, Kitt, and the robot from Lost in Space, there are not a lot of nice robots. Most robots in the West are portrayed as violent, take the Terminator or Robocop for example.

I know this is kind of a geeky post but I do wonder what happened to make the Japanese love robots and Westerners fear them. It's just kind of a cool glimpse into the minute differences in the Japanese psyche and the Western one.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mr. Nishiki Rides Again

For those of you that don't remember, Mr. Nishiki is the bike that replaced my beloved Butterfly Battle. If you do remember who he is, you may realize that I haven't mentioned him almost at all lately and this is because for the past four months, he has been serving a punishment.

Way back in December, Mr. Nishiki had issues with his rear tire staying inflated. I think I ended up getting the tire patched three times in under a month and on the fourth time, I told Mr. Nishiki that he could sit in the bike area and think about what he had done. He has been thinking on his wrong-doings now for four months. Finally, yesterday, it was nice outside and I decided it was time to have Mr. Nishiki aired up and repaired again. I took him to the bike shop and had a new tube put into a new rear tire because the old was was getting pretty bald and thin and they may have led to some of the flats I was having. Now he is as good as new and the tires have kept air for two days, this makes me happy. I think it makes Mr. Nishiki happy too.

In other news, I got my plane tickets in the mail today, so it is set in stone that I will be back in Boise for a little more than a week in June. The girl that did all of the bookings for my trip was quite funny. She was super friendly and one day she even called to tell me that she was not booking my flight for a day so that she could save me money. When was the last time you have had a travel agent do that for you? Anywho, tickets in hand, I am glad to have that taken care of.

I also bought new hair gel yesterday. Normally, this would not be a noteworthy event but man, this stuff kicks ass. First, it holds better and for longer than anything I have used before; the stuff is like rubber cement. Second, it barely flakes at all. And third, I think the tube cost me all of five bucks and I can get it from the nearby grocery store. The name of this wonder gel, G.

Aside from crantabulous hair products, plane tickets, and a bike that works, not a ton else has been going on. I am super excited because The Sims 2: Seasons is in the mail to me this very instant. Soon I will be able to garden and possibly turn into some kind of man-plant creature. I do love my Sims.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Out And About Day

This morning a woke up earlier than usual and hopped on a train to Kobe. Since I still have days left on my "ripoff" card, it didn't cost me anything to go and I had a blast.

The fun started on the train. I was chilling in my seat when the girl across from me started giving me weird looks and the all of the sudden, jumped across the aisle and landed in the seat across from me. As soon as landed she asked me the most random question I have had someone ask me in a long time, "Do you like science?" I told her it was okay but I was more of a history guy and no sooner had that come out of my mouth she handed me a paper and told me she needed help. All of this was done in pretty good English. I asked her what it was she needed help with and it was some test question about if people had landed on a planet similar to ours, what steps would be taken in proving oil was below the piece of land in question. It was very odd and I took a shot at it, I also called a friend and he agreed with my logic. I am not sure if she used my answer or not but that was the springboard for a conversation that lasted the rest of the train ride.

She was kind of interesting, she was born in Texas while her parents were there working so technically she is an American citizen and she told me she would like to visit Texas but was afraid to go because of the food. I asked her what was wrong with American food and she said that it was very unhealthy. I agreed but also said that it just came down to what you chose to eat. She decided that it would be best if she brought her rice cooker with her so she could at least have properly made rice when she wanted it. She asked me all sorts of questions and I found out that she lived in Kyoto with her sister and attended university there. I think she was really nervous to talk to me because she asked me a couple of questions twice. Either way, it was a fun way to spend the train ride. The next funny thing came during a lull in out talking. I noticed a really good looking woman had gotten out of her seat and started baby stepping closer and closer to our seats. She stopped on the other side of our seats and stood directly in front of me. She then started to give me very strange looks and glances. I couldn't help but notice because she was hot and so for the rest of the ride both of us looked each other over. After a bit I noticed why exactly she had been scooting closer to us, she knew English too. She pulled out a book and was reading it and it was definitely in English. I am not sure why I was a chick magnet today but it needs to happen more often; that was a fun train ride.

After leaving my two new lady friends, I headed to Kobe. The thing I like about Kobe is no matter what the weather is like wherever I came from, in Kobe it's always sunny. When I arrived in the second most beautiful city in Japan (not my opinion, it was actually voted that behind Sapporo) it was cloudy but after a bit, the sun decided to show itself and it even warmed up a tad. I found a cool place just outside of the station that I knew existed but did not know how long it went on for. Directly underneath the railroad tracks there is a tunnel that is lined with shops. When you start at the beginning, it is kind of seedy but the stores are really varied and carry interesting stuff. For example, as a momento of the trip, I snagged three buttons from 1960's China. Two of them have Chairman Mao on them and are silver with red behind Mao and the other is of Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh or "Uncle Ho" as he liked to be called. They were cheap and they all had to do with a time in Chinese and Asian history that I find very sad but interesting.

As you get nearer to the core of the tunnels, the shops get trendier and much more expensive. Think of clothing stores you would find along Rodeo Drive and put them in a trashy tunnel under some railroad tracks and you have this shopping area. It's a very interesting walk. At the end of my tunnel journey, I was spat out into the open air and right in front of the entrance to Kobe's Chinatown. As Chinatowns go, this one is very clean but not very big. It's pretty much all restaurants and street vendors and I snagged a tasty little treat while I was there; it was basically the Chinese take on the hamburger, a slab of rice bun dough folded over a chunk of barbequed pork. It was tasty and I think it may be something of a traditional food for this Chinatown in particular. I was able to get a Hello Kitty cell phone strap with her eating one of the things I ate.

After Kobe, I went into Osaka to go to my bookstore to see if anything new had come out. I am hard up for reading material at the moment and am grasping at straws for something to keep me interested. Either I have gotten pickier in my reading habits or the book selection has really started to suck; I think it may be a combination of the two. After the bookstore, I made a quick trip to Costco to get more cheese and while there, I picked up a USB flash drive. I have some things that I want to get backed up on to something easily accessable and more durable and smaller than a CD or DVD, this fits the bill and give me plenty of room.

That pretty much gets me to where I am now, slightly worn out and on my computer. Since more pics were requested, here you go.

This is just a cool building I saw today and I like the colors or it contrasted with the sky:

Cherry Blossoms!!!!


So there you have it, my busy but fun day.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

On A Different Note

Now a change from last post's rant. Lately, I have been really getting into photography and have started kind of pursuing it as an actual hobby. I started looking at HDR images a few weeks ago and would really like to try out some of those techniques but my camera isn't quite up to spec for it. Next gadget I buy, will be a new camera. I am not sure when that will be but I am sure that my next major purchase will come in the form of a 10 megapixel Digital SLR. My 5 megapixel with a splashing of manual adjustments just isn't cut out for the stuff I want to try, despite the fact it is a nice enough camera.

If you have never heard of HDR photography and want to see some really cool pics, go to Flickr and look up HDR. Prepare to be blown away by the colors and detail of the pics.

Bored and Sick of Peppy

When I used to work at Costco, I complained a lot about it and how moronic many of my managers and co-workers were. Little did I know that when I started with Peppy Kids Club, it was only going to get worse.

Japanese businesses are horribly inefficient on average. All of the things you see on television and movies about the Japanese being hardcore workaholics are BS. The Japanese like to work and do lots of it, but in a corporate atmosphere the ideal of work is to look busy, not get stuff done. Peppy is the prime example of this mentality.

The way the company is structured is so riddled with inefficiency; you would think it had been structured by five year olds. Basically, the company is laid out like this:

The Bottom: At the bottom are the teachers. You have the Japanese teachers and you have the native teachers (me). The native teachers get paid a ton more than the Japanese teachers but the Japanese teachers do three times more work. The Japanese teachers aren't supposed to know how much I make and the fact that my salary is the same across the line. The Japanese teachers are paid based on number of classes and students. I am paid based on days worked which is pretty much the same every month. Whereas, if a Japanese teacher loses a couple of kids or a class or two gets combined, they make less. Therefore, the Japanese teachers have an impetus to keep kids attending Peppy. If they lose kids, they lose money. The problem this creates is lots of kids who would rather not be in class are encouraged to stay even when they want to quit. This is done by both the parents and the Japanese teachers. In theory, it’s done by me too but the way I figure it, if a kid wants to leave, let him. If they are forced to stay, they are just going to create problems for me and the other students in the long run. Peppy even recently faxed everyone telling us that we have to use a particular method to retain students for the betterment of the company. That fax illustrates the very core of what’s wrong with this company: It's an educational establishment that only cares about the money and not the kids. Even the Japanese teachers are starting to get that message and are quitting in numbers I have not seen since I started the company. Anywho, that is the bottom of the Peppy ladder.

The Middlemen: The word "middle" is used very loosely because damned near everyone who isn't a teacher is a middleman. These are the bane of the company and if Peppy had any brains whatsoever, they would get rid of half of them. The company loves money but is so spend happy that they leak it like a scythe. Basically, every region's native teachers have a boss, sometimes two depending on the size. Every region's Japanese teachers have a boss as well. My boss answer's to the Japanese teachers' boss. I actually communicate with her almost as much as I do my actual manager. Therefore, why does a company need two managers for each area when only one does any real work? I like my boss but I think his position is pretty pointless. If the company were to axe the native teacher manager position, they could free money that they would normally be spending on thirty people. The two managers for each area also take orders from a region performance guy. There are three of these guys company-wide and there really only needs to be one or two. These guys really don't do much other than speak to employees who are late or naughty in some way. They have a couple of other jobs but they are so miniscule that I doubt they do too much on any given day. But if they send out a couple of faxes or do a phone call or two, it looks like they did work and they get a paycheck.

On the Japanese side of things, this is probably where you would put the sales team and trainers and whatnot. The office workers. I am not kidding when I say this, if you fired half of the office workers in every region, there would not be a single change in productivity. Most of the sales people are pretty hard workers and I don't have a beef with them but the office support staff is pretty pointless. They spend most of their days trying really hard to look busy. Also, if Peppy ever got a clue and started to use computers, they would save so much money and time in the long haul that the upfront cost would more than justify the expense. You would not believe how many faxes each classroom gets on a daily basis. Every native teacher has a laptop so why not email things instead. Why have huge notebooks of crap when a single cd would do the job. Peppy runs a company like businesses were run in the 1980s and its just kind of sad.

The Top: Here is where the heads of the company are and all of their support staff. Native teacher trainers would go here as would all of the rest of native teacher support, or as I call them, "Whitey Aid". In the Whitey Aid crew there are four people last I checked. Of these four individuals, only 1.5 do anything whatsoever. Talking to people from this department is akin to talking to a wall with an attitude problem. The same is true for the HR guy, he is an idiot. Why are all HR people braindead? Why? You could fire him and at least two of the support people and be just fine. There are a couple other departments I would put in this category but most of them actually do something.

To top all of this off, I now have to teach a new curriculum starting in April. I am pretty sure this curriculum was designed so the curriculum development team could say they did something. Pointless fluff in the new program: All of the classes have been renamed to the most outlandish colors of the rainbow. I have an Ocean class now and a Magenta class. The kids don't even learn these colors! We are told that the change is because if a kid is held back, it isn't as traumatizing. People, if you are held back, it doesn't matter what the name of the class is, the kid still knows he is showing up to that class for an encore year. Kids are not stupid. More songs and chants have also been included...yay.

So if you have made it this far, you are probably wondering why I just don't quit and call it a day. To be honest, Peppy really hasn't done a ton to me, personally, to piss me off. I just hate working for a company that is this generally incompetent. I also do not like the fact that the company sees kids as a paycheck before they see them as a student. When they start pressuring me to retain kids who don't want to be there because they want more money out of them, I get angry. It’s my job to be a teacher and I get very little support in that area when I need it; when I see this money grubbing coming before education I get very disillusioned. Either way, I get paid, don't do a ton, and am not bothered normally, so I keep my head down and keep earning a paycheck. Also, I haven't seen all I want to see of Japan and don't really want to go back to the United States just yet. I just wish I could teach more days where I felt like an actual teacher instead of a babysitter or Barney. It used to be that I encouraged people to work for Peppy, now I would tell them to go somewhere better.

One more confession, I am also angry because I am being forced to get up very early to travel to a meeting in which my presence isn't really necessary and then come back into my area and teach. Sorry for the rant everyone, I just needed to vent. If you actually read all of this and made it this far, give yourself a gold star.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Quest For Cheese

Yesterday, Terri and I headed out. We were on a mission...actually...I was on a mission, she just wanted to go to Costco. Either way, I needed cheese, glorious orange cheese.

All in all, the mission was a success and the day went very well. It was sunny and warm and there were no major issues with the trains or buses. We even got to see the lunar eclipse and the moon, also wanting to be like the cheese I craved, was orange too.

Three major things came out of yesterdays quest:

A) I got a nice block of Kirkland Mild Cheddar Cheese. I also got some chocolate muffins and a box of premade Indian meals that are very tasty when put over rice.

B) I found out how crazy cheap it was to travel by bus here. I could go from Osaka to Tokyo and back for under $80. The same trip by shinkansen (bullet train) costs $300.

C) Terri tipped me off to a special promotional train ticket that lets you use regular trains to go anywhere you want for $80. They are good for one week and you get to choose the days it is used. I call it my "JR Ripoff Card" because the JR train company has absolutely no clue how much I am taking them for when using this card. For example, yesterday's trip usually costs me $40 so I paid off half of the ticket right there. I still have four more days to use up on it too.

It was a good day and I was quite happy when I got home.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


My head feels huge and it hurts, my nose is running, and my throat is on fire.

I hate little kids.