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Sunday, 24 June 2007
Condition: Humid!
It is really, really, humid here. Like, cut the air with a knife humid. I think its about 80% humidity everyday here now, and coupled with the rain it makes for a muggy experience. I had wanted to hold off on the A/C for as long as possible, because it is pretty expensive, but I just had to give in. At least I have A/C, right? The school classrooms only have windows and fans to stay cool, fortunately for the students, summer vacation is about a month away.

One consequence of all this is the sweating. I just bought a bunch of "Dry" clothes from Uniqlo which are supposed to be good at evaporating the sweat and keeping you feeling cool, but who knows. Also, another consequence is losing all that water... I've had to drink a whole lot more liquids to keep up with thethe sweating. I've started drinking two servings of milk at school lunch, which doesn't always end up feeling so great. Of course, every morning I am still served scalding hot green tea every morning at school, I think I will have to lobby to swtich over to mugi-cha (Barley tea) which is served cold. My plan for this is to fill up a Thermos mug every day before school with ice water and just keep it at my desk. That way, I can get some refreshment, instead of some more green tea. Oh yeah, and taking along a "sweat towel" sounds like a good idea too.

At least it is only warm and humid now, instead of in a couple of months when it will be scorching hot and humid as well! Great!

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 4:25 AM EDT
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Saturday, 23 June 2007
Yippie Ki Yay...
Die Hard 4.0 (it's about cyberterrorism, get it?) is out today in Japan, and will be out soon in the States. So, why should we be excited about a series now starring a 50+ year old, in a PG-13 movie with an ridiculous CGI trailer, far removed from its gritty, high-rise 1980s origins? Well, let this be a refresher course. Each movie in the series has been interesting in its own certain way, and this music video on Youtube is a great reminder of what made the series so damn entertaining to begin with. Warning: contains spoilers, extreme explosions, and excessive use of the F-Word!! But you probably knew that already!

http://youtube.com/watch?v=R5in09EwYV0

(Angelfire users, you get to cut and paste! Sorry!)

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 4:39 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 20 June 2007
Watch out for Charlotte baseball!
The Charlotte 49ers baseball program is tearing it up recently. A10 Champions, school record for wins, lowest team ERA in D1, school record for wins, two NCAA regiona wins, on and on. Senior pitcher Adam Mills has been on just about everyone's All-American 1st Team, and is in the running for some major plyaer-of-the-year hardware. On top of that, former 49er John Maine has been pitching great for the New York Mets and is one the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated (check the lower left). Oh, and there will be a new baseball stadium on campus soon. So keep an eye out for the 49ers baseball team and support them when you get the chance.

SI details: http://charlotte49ers.cstv.com/sports/m-basebl/spec-rel/061807aab.html



By the way... they cut off baseball broadcasts here in Japan very frequently, inevitably in the late innings of a close game. I can't say that I like it very much. And just to be annoying, I imagine, the pitch count is reversed too (strikes, then balls). Yeah, it can be a pain.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 9:29 AM EDT
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Sunday, 10 June 2007
Sports Talk Internet 490 AM the Fro (Local Japan Edition)
It's time once again for the sports talk show of the internet age, 490 AM the Fro. Frist off, local (Japan) news. This year's big sports tournament just took place for my middle schools, and I was on hand to cheer them on. Well, sort. Firstm I have two schools worth of students and sports clubs to keep up with, and its just a little too much to make it to all the games. Second, of course, the two schools faced off against each other on more than one occasion. So, who did I cheer for? Well, the answer is that I didnt cheer for either team. It's like, if you are a parent of multiple children, having to choose which one you like better. It just doesn't work out. So I tried to stay as neutral as possible, but even that wasnt enough- sitting on one side or the other of the baseball field was enough to get me in "trouble" with the students.

And as luck would have it, out of seven teams in the city, it was my two schools that faced off in the baseball championship game. And for the losers, it would be the final game for the 3rd years, plus a trip to the prefecture tournament was on the line, so it was a very big deal. As it turned out, Chitose (the team I practice with sometimes) outlasted Ono in a defensive battle, 2-0 to take the title. But there wasn't much celebration for me, because half of my students just lost, right? Since then, I've kind of forced myself to be a little happier about the outcome, because yes, one of my schools did win, I have spent a lot of time practicing with those kids, and they earned it by playing well. Ono did upset the defending champs in a previous game, so they have nothing to hang their heads about either.

On top of that, Ono and Chtiose faced off in the Volleyball semifinal, with Chitose winning in two sets. Unfortunately, Chitose then lost in the final. So there were lots of tears for the players on that day. In other results, two of my school's students qualified for the prefecture tournament in Kendo, and one advanced in Table Tennis. The boy's basketball team at Ono won their title and will advance as well.

So, as you can see, there was a lot of stuff going on in just these two days. I had to hustle, but I did manage to watch a lot of volleyball, baseball, and some table tennis, but I didn't see any basketball or Kendo. Sorry guys. I'll try to do better next time.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 7:42 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 5 June 2007
My New Computer
Well, if you haven't noticed, there hasnt been any posts for awhile. What happened is, my four-year-old ThinkPad crapped out on me, and that has left me without a non-work computer for a couple of months. Well, this Sunday I was out shopping and bit the bullet, shelling out the dough for a new PC. Its a Hitachi Prius desktop, yes the same name as the car for a reason Im not sure of. Of course, its not a hybrid, as there is no gas-powered computer to go with the electric *cough*.

Its very nice, the monitor, drive, and the computer itself are all well intergrated into one unit, and the keyboard and mouse are both wireless. Now, the fun part- its a Japanese OS, all in Japanese- great! But this way I can learn some new words. Ive heard that you cant change Windows from Japanese to English, but even if I could, I would still be using the Japanese-style keyboard, which is the trickiest part of it all really. If youll notice, I havent used hardly any apostrophe ' marks, because you have to hit Shift plus 7 to get the apostrophe, and its a pain. I also just realized I have no idea where the 'plus' key is... oh, maybe there isnt one, I will just have to abuse the number keypad. Also, the backspace is extremely small, the same size as a letter key, and the space bar is tiny too, about the width of two and a half letter keys I'd say. And I'm sure this is just the beginning of the fun. But like I said, at least it's wireless, which I really like so far.

As for what I've been up to, I did go back to North Carolina for my sisters wedding, which was very nice, but it all went by so quickly. Recently I've got some allergy or something, which sucks pretty bad. And tomorrow is the final sports tournament for the 3rd year students, so its a big sports day. Well, now that I have a new computer, I will try to update with new information as time permits. Later.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 9:58 AM EDT
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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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