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Squared Sevens Blogging Corp.
Sunday, 22 April 2007
Heavy Load/ Buggin Out
Heavy Load

This weekend, They sure put me to work this weekend. I carried a mikoshi (portable shrine) through the town on Saturday. So, what's a mikoshi? It looks kind of like a little building, and there are some little statues of birds, bells, and various other items added on there as well. Two pieces of wood are but through the base, and it's carried through the streets of the town as a sort of parade. Along the way, there are little dances, people give donations in little envelopes, and at the end, the kids get a bunch of candy, and there's some sake for everyone else.

One thing I have to say is that sucker is heavy! We had 8 adults carrying the thing, and it was still quite a workout. I also wore the traditional clothes, which felt a little strange, and traditional straw sandals, which were just plain painful. We should all be very, very glad we have comfortable footwear today, trust me. But it wasn't all torture. Everyone was really helpful, and there were plenty of participants. Also, there were many stops along the way, and the roads were mostly flat, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been. So it was nice to get involved and see some more of the local culture, and of course there was the sake.

Buggin Out

For whatever reason, Kyushu is famous among fellow JETs for having awful, huge, scary insects. Giant bugs, you could say. Well, I have a few run ins with cockroaches last year, one noisy bug in my room that kept me awake for hours, and saw one of the infamous mukade (poisonous centipedes).

This year, I have decided to gear up and take action. I bought a ton of cockroach traps, pesticide spray, stuff you sprinkle on the ground, stuff I'm not quite sure what it does yet. And I'll ask at school for more tips as well. I'm going to keep my room clean as much as I can. But I have the feeling no matter what I do, it won't be enough. My room just doesn't have enough insulation. It's just not sealed up enough. There are just too many ways to get in. So I'll try to do what I can, but I have a feeling my bug troubles are far from over.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 9:50 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 18 April 2007
Gun Society Pt. II
Yesterday, I mentioned what a gun-free society Japan is. And then? The mayor of Nagasaki is shot and killed by the yakuza. What are the odds? Nevertheless, the shock is clear to see. On the TV, it's all chaos. Nagasaki is a major city with obvious historical significance. It's as if the mayor of, say, Denver of Philadelphia was murdered in the States.

With this assassination, along with the continuing coverage of the Virginia Tech killings, it's a busy day for the news. And when you hear of the Nagasaki mayor being attacked, one can't help but think of a previous mayor who was shot (but not killed) for making critical statements about the Emperor back in 1990. So this puts a little dent in my previous statement about gun safety in Japan. At least I can say with fair confidence that America hasn't had too many recent mayors murdered, that I can think of.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 9:26 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 18 April 2007 9:30 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 17 April 2007
Gun Society
I knew something was up this morning when I turned on NHK and I heard an English-speaking voice before the tube warmed up. Sure enough, there was another crazy shooting at a school in the States. Info is still hard to come by at this point, but it's only a matter of time before all the details come to light. Today, nobody at school bothered to ask, but I'm sure very soon someone will ask me about this disturbing incident. And, well, what can you do in that situation?

This doesn't much help the average Japanese person's image of America. Coming from a largely safe, gun-free society, such large scale killings seem hard to imagine (although Japan has certainly it's fair share of disturbing crime). Of course, you can see it in the news coverage too. Yep, "Gun Scoiety" it says in Japanese on the TV. Listings of previous school shootings scroll by, literally, like the opening to Star Wars. Violent movies exported from America probably don't help much either.

I don't have a gun. I've never fired a gun. To the best of my knowledge, none of my friends have or use guns. But still as the only available American, I will be asked to explain why it is exactly there are so many guns in America, why Americans apparently enjoy shooting each other, why these school shootings now seem to be a yearly event. I don't have any easy answers for these. I doubt that many Americans do. But these are the kind of things that happen when you go abroad to represent your country on the JET program(me).

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 9:39 AM EDT
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Thursday, 5 April 2007
Winter's Revenge!
So the weather decided to get cold again. For the past couple of days, the temperature has dipped down to around 40 at night. That might not seem much but in my chilly apartment that's enough. So back under the kotatsu, back to the electric blanket, back to the cold walks outside and downstairs to the shower. Just when you thought it was over...

I did in fact take Monday off from school. I still didn't feel that great and had a nice little cough. It just wasn't happening. I managed to feel better enough to go on Tuesday, but I was still coughing a lot in the staff room which probably isn't too polite. Something may be going around. Moriki, the former English teacher at Chitose who is like my best friend, also caught some cold recently. Maybe it has to do with this- desert sand blown all the way from China to Japan. A coworker told me about this earlier, but I didn't quite understand it at the time. It's as good as an explanation as anything.

So what am I greeted with at my return to work? Meetings, meetings, meetings. That's all this week has been as the teachers, old and new, gear up for the start of the schoolyear. Since I'm not really a full teacher at the school, I have absolutely no say in what goes on, and I have trouble concentrating on the Japanese for so long. So I'm hardly participating at all, but I still need to be present, so there has been quite a lot of just sitting quietly at my desk. I've tried to study Japanese during this time but there's only so much you can do per day and then your brain shuts down. And, since I never get enough sleep, I've been nodding off quite a lot as well. It's just not a fun way of doing things at all. The return to the regular schedule isn't looking like a bad thing at all right now. I don't always care for the added stress, but at least classes give you something engaging to do.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 9:18 AM EDT
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Sunday, 1 April 2007
March News
It seems as if I've caught a little cold recently. Sore throat, a weak cough, just not feeling too hot overall. The reason for it is pretty clear- I've just been overdoing it recently. With the end of the schoolyear, and many teachers leaving at both schools, there have been more than enough excuses to have drinking parties. It's also Sakura season, so I went to a cherry-blossom viewing party as well (plenty of storms recently have no doubt messed up many people's plans, however). So today, I'm just trying to rest up as much as possible and be ready to go to school on Monday. It is the spring vacation for students, no classes, so it won't be a huge deal if I can't make it.

One other thing is, I went on a trip with Ono's 1st year teachers last weekend. We went to Shimonoseki, which actually has quite a history behind it, thanks to a key China-Japan treaty, belligerent daimyo firing on foreign ships (and vice versa), and a famous battle in 1185. There's plenty of stuff to see and do. It's a major fishing port, so we went to the market for lunch and had some awesome sushi. We all had fugu, the local delicacy, which is famous because it can be deadly if not prepared correctly. I passed on Shimonoseki's other famous food, whale meat- though don't worry, the whole catch is for"scientific purposes", right?

There is also a nice aquarium there, and it was quite a contrast after seeing all the exotic fish you could buy at the market to a place where exotic fish are preserved. I'm sure everyone got tired of me asking when is the "all you can eat" of the cute penguins, for example.

Other highlights included going up in the tall "Yume" sightseeing tower and getting lots of pics, and watching Japan toast Peru in soccer, going to an island where a famous sword battle took place, and a really neat shrine. So, all in all it was pretty fun and the food was great, but it wasn't exactly what I would call a restful weekend.

In the "late news" category, here is what else has been going on:

On my birthday, March 6th, it was a big test day so there were no classes. I did however monitor the English test of the 2nd years. Nothing too special, but I have been on the other side so to speak of so many tests as a student that it felt weird to be the test administrator for once. Also for my birthday, the teachers at Ono brought a nice cake, and several other ALTs in the area got together for some karaoke. I got some nice gifts too. Good times had by all.

As another odd sort of birthday present, Scooter Libby was found guilty in his perjury trial. Of course Bush will pardon Libby in '09 before he leaves office, so it's all a moot point. Or is it? For those who followed the case, it offered a valuable glimpse into the individuals and processes of the press as well as the Bush Administration, and it's not a pretty sight at all.

Also, the 3rd year students graduated in March as well. I hadn't planned on worrying too much about the 3rd year students- after all, they would be the first ones to leave the school, I wouldn't even teach them for a whole year, the younger students are more fun to be around, etc. But you know what? Over time, you find your attitudes can change. Some of the 3rd years tended to be pretty alright folks. It stinks, you know. You get attached to a group of people, and just like that they are gone. I didn't even get to say goodbye to the Chitose 3rd years, because they left school early on Thursday and I was at Ono on Friday. Graduating from Junior High in Japan is a much bigger deal because not everyone goes to the same high school. In that sense it's more like high school graduation in the States.

So that's all. Here's hoping I start feeling better soon.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 8:26 AM EDT
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Sunday, 18 March 2007
Extra Edition Update
It took nearly a year and a half, but I finally got to see Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby on DVD recently. This movie is of great importance to me because I was an extra on the set for one day way back in October 2005. You can read my report on the day here. Well, the big question is, can you see me on the film. The answer is... yes, just barely, for less than half a second, off to the side. But, I'm 99% sure I'm there. Everything matches up with the clothes I was wearing, where I was standing at the time, etc. However, I'm (or whoever) far enough in the background that there is just a tiny little little room for doubt. Check out this screen capture and let me know what you think. Again, you pretty much have to go frame-by-frame on the DVD to see it, so it's definitely not a noticeable thing at all.

So, to break it down, you can see the celebration scene where Will Ferrell meets his gold-digging wife. That's on there, but it's part of a montage and very short. The other scene, where Cal and Ricky are talking after Cal's victory, I'm not sure how much they used because of the way it was edited together. When I was there for that scene, it was clear that it was a pick-up shot, kind of like a re-do that they could use later. So Maybe they used a lot, maybe they used a little. The third scene, which ironically was the most elaborate one, didn't even appear in the movie or in the deleted scenes: Ricky's Dad running through the entrance into "Talladega" speedway to watch his son race. Instead, they just put in a quick scene of him scalping the tickets instead. I'll be honest, it fits the character better and I'm sure was a whole lot easier to shoot as well.

It was dissapointing that the three scenes I took part in amounted to about 2 seconds in the film. Just goes to show how much work goes into making a major movie, all those people and equipment used for an entire day and you only get a tiny fraction of the whole film. But I have a feeling this movie was made in the editing room- they just shot a bunch of scenes, with lots of different improvisations, and then cut and pasted what worked and what didn't work into the movie. Sometimes, stuff just has to go.

As for the movie, well, it's funny. What did you expect?

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 10:28 AM EDT
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Monday, 12 March 2007
Here it is
Well, I'm not completely finished with it yet, but here is my flickr page with some of my favorite pictures from Japan so far. I figure it's finally time I put something like this up. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 10:13 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 6 March 2007
Happy Birthday to me!
24 years old today. Yippie!

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 8:54 AM EST
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Thursday, 1 March 2007
Five for the Price of One
I guess this is kind of an experiment- less frequent updates, but longer and about more topics. Let's see how it works out.


I'm starting to feel like I've been in Japan for a very long time, maybe too long. For example, I was watching an American movie on TV, and during a car scene, I was like, "They're driving on the wrong side of the road!" Yesterday, I went to the grocery store and thought how weird it must be to get a whole loaf of bread instead of only six slices (for basically the same price). But the thing that got me the most was looking at some recent pictures of my sister taken for her engagement- she looks completely different from what I remembered! A very strange feeling. I was like, "Is that my sister"? I guess it has been about 7 months now since I have been to the States. It seems like it has gone by so quickly, but still that's a good amount of time no matter how you look at it.


I don't know what it is recently, but I've sure been injuring myself quite a lot recently. I mean, just being clumsy as all get-out. For example, when I was playing soccer, I was running, tripped myself up, and fell flat of my face (no really, my forehead was all scratched and bloody from hitting the ground). I accidentally sliced my finger a little bit with an opened car top. Then, last week, but put the palm of my hand right into a thumbtack that had been left on a table in the English room. I've been having some rough digestive issues as well. I just don't know what's gotten into me. Just don't expect to save the world or anything, because I will probably slip on a banana peel, and then we're all doomed.


If old Japanese video games don't interest you, then you might want to skip this next part. There's a game store in Oita that I've seen for awhile, but never took the time to check out. It's called Game Museum, and if you know I like collecting old video games, well that sounds like it might be right up my alley. I was out and about Sunday in Oita, and on my way back I finally decided to stop in. Man, I'm glad I did. This place was loaded with rare and sought after collectbales. Sure they had your standard craploads of new and used PS2 and PS1 games, but beyond that they had shelves full of special edition releases, one of the better Xbox sections I've seen, tons of Famicom and Super Famicom stuff too. The other retro stuff was great too- Everything from Mega Drive to PC-FX. The PC Engine CD stuff was especially impressive.
And the consoles they had there were amazing. Turbo Duo R? Check. Sega Wondermega? Check. Supergrafx? Check. LaserActive with PC Engine and Mega Drive modules? Check. There was even some really neat stuff, like a PC Engine LT, on display (but not for sale- I guess it really is a museum, after all). So, upon seeing all this, I was happier than a bug in a rug. But since I was low on cash at the time, I had to watch my purchases closely.


Recently, a study was done that showed today's college students are more narcissistic than ever before. I can't say that comes as a huge surprise to me after 4 years of college. Just read these quotes.

"The study asserts that narcissists "are more likely to have romantic relationships that are short-lived, at risk for infidelity, lack emotional warmth, and to exhibit game-playing, dishonesty, and over-controlling and violent behaviors."

Twenge, the author of "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before," said narcissists tend to lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism and favor self-promotion over helping others."

Sound like anyone you know?


Just Because.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 8:49 AM EST
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Saturday, 17 February 2007
Car Talk (and more)
It's been a pretty crazy week or so here, which you may have been able to tell thanks to the Lack of Updates (TM Frodaddy's 2002). Today, it's raining cats and dogs out there, and I have a terrific headache **partially thanks my my neighbors burning some noxious leaves and rubbish, seriously people will burn anything over here. Just pick any random day, drive for a minute, and you'll see piles of smoldering crap. I guess it's a farmers thing, since everyone does that in some form or another out in the countryside. The worst is when they do it right next to the baseball fields. It sure smells awful, and it can't be good for the lungs either. It's a wonder the air is clean at all, actually.** So, not much going on today. Mostly just lying around and being lazy.

I did get my car fixed, however. See, Wednesday, after school is done, I'm ready to crank the car, and... nothing. It won't start. Thankfully, I had the foresight earlier to join JAF (Japan Automobile Federation, think AAA), and after about 30 minutes someone got my car started up for me. Anyways, it looks like the spark plugs were shot, plus the air filter was filthy, and I think possibly something was up with the carberator too. So, lots of stuff that needed to be looked at. I hope everything is taken care of for a little bit at least. Next big car deadlines- I need to get Shaken, which is like a super inspection, in May, and I'll need to take the Japanese driving test this summer (which I've heard is absolute, total, %100 bullshit). Grreeeat.

In other fun news, MEP #2 is up. It may be a challenge to keep it on time and monthly, but it seems like a good way to spend some of my extra time at work. You can check it out for yourself here:

Also, I realize I haven't put up any pictures of my experiences and travels in Japan... there's really no excuse for it at all. So I should probably do that one of these days.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 9:56 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 17 February 2007 10:02 AM EST
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