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Squared Sevens Blogging Corp.
Sunday, 8 July 2007
School on a Sunday

That's right, we had classes yesterday, Sunday July the 8th. Why? It was PTA day, so a lot of the parents came to school to observe classes and have meetings. There was also a guest speaker, another foreigner who lives in Oita, and his Japanese was really, really good so I was pretty jealous. Then I learned he has lived in Japan for the past 18 years, and I didn't feel so bad. But the meeting just dragged on and on, and coupled with the fact that it was supposed to be a weekend day, it didn't put me in the best mood. In the evening though, the 3rd year students and their parents had a yakiniku BBQ and fireworks, so that was nice. But because Japan really doesn't have that Judeo-Christian tradition, there is no rule about resting on a Sunday, or going to church on Sunday, so that opened up the chance for school. Monday, today, is a makeup weekend day, so we still get our two weekend days, but for the first time in my life, I went to school on Sunday.

The weekend before that, I finally made it over to Fukuoka to watch a baseball game, something that I had wanted to do since I arrived here 11 months ago. While I am glad that I got to go, I'm not sure what it is with me and Japanese baseball games, as this one ran over 4 hours and 30 minutes (compared to the marathon 5 hour, 40 minute Yokohama Baystars game I attended). Despite a couple of exciting rallies by the Hawks in the 8th and 9th innings, the game still ended up a tie after 12. Try seeing that in Major League Baseball. Afterwards, we hit up a couple of spots around town, at one tiny bar, the bartender played some magic and card tricks for us, which was pretty neat. Ended up that we stayed out all night and just caught the first train back on Sunday morning. Needless to say I was pretty exhausted.

This week has been non-stop, torrential rain. We got a bunch of Flood Warnings on the TV, and some of the train lines breifly shut down as well. Elsewhere in Kyushu, there have been mudslides, fatalities, and all of that. In Kumamoto, the JSDF had to be called in to rescue residents of a small town whose bridges had washed out. As I type this it is raining pretty hard even now. All the playing fields have turned into mush, which rules soccer and baseball out of the question. Even though I want to complain about the everyday gloom, I am glad that it is keeping temperatures down.

In another purely slef-referential moment, I started growing out a beard again. It's an "Abe Lincoln" (just like ol' Honest Abe) and I got it because I became tired of shaving over a couple of days, looked in the mirror, and decided, "Hey well I'll give it a shot".

It's been interesting to see everyone's reactions. Some of the students like it, some of them don't, but they all say 'Hige'(beard, mustache) when they notice it for the first time. Most of the boy students tend to like it, seeing as how they are about 13 years old, and to them facial hair is the coolest thing. Some of the students try to touch it as well, but when you're a foreign teacher in rural Japan, you're used to kids touching your hair and stuff like that, so it's no big deal. As for the other teachers, most of them have been complimentary, but as it is with workplace relations here, you can never really tell if they are just being polite when they say it. So this little decision to grow out some facial hair has proven to be quite the socialogical experiment in Japanese schools.


Posted by nc/frodaddy at 6:13 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 3 July 2007
To Do List

Here's some new media, just released, that I want to check out. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments

Beastie Boys- The Mix-Up- An all-instrumental album, supposedly in the vein of the instrumental tracks on Check Your Head and Ill Communication. But, as I liked those, I think this is a good thing. Interesting to see how after To The 5 Boroughs, a very focused electronic hip-hip album, the Beasties make another album that concentrates on one part of their music. Maybe the mish-mash days of Hello Nasty are long gone.

Die Hard 4.0 (Live Free or Die Hard)- Well, I'm a big fan of the series, so I was probably going to watch this one anyway, but to my shock and surprise the movie is actually rating a 77% at RottenTomatoes- that's quite good, and a pleasant surprise as I didn't figure this latest addition to be worth much. Now, I definitely have to go see it.

The Legend of Zelda- Phantom Hourglass- Take the classic Zelda gameplay, and marry it with the DS's touch-screen capabilities, and hopefully you get another great game. The exciting thing about this one is that you control Link using the stylus pen- no button pushing. That may sound a little weird but reviews so far have been very, very positive. Zelda games are almost always as good as it gets and this one looks to follow suit.

Transformers: The Movie- It may be great, it may be horrible, but it is Transformers with some sweet looking SFX, so I've got to watch it. Doesn't come out in Japan until August though.


Posted by nc/frodaddy at 9:02 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 27 June 2007
"Horrific Tragedy"
Obviously, in the world of professional wrestling, strange and bizzare things have a tendency to occur... but htis is too much. Former world champ Chris Benoit was found dead with his family, and police are saying that it was a murder-suicide, that Benoit killed his wife, his son, and then hanged himself. It leaves you with more questions that answers, first and foremost as to why would someone do such a thing. We may never know. There was no suicide note.

Tragic, but unfortunately fits the pattern of young wrestlers dying before their time... Eddie Guerrero, Owen Hart, Curt Henning, Brian Pillman, and others. However, the circumstances surrounding Benoit's death will make this one especially ominous in both the wrestling world and the public sphere. Benoit won't be remembered as a fearless performer, or as gifted athlete, or as one of the toughest, most imposing guys in the business. He'll be remembered as a murderer. Plain and simple.

Based on these damaging revelations surrounding Benoit's death, WWE has gone into full-on defense mode, pulling all of Benoit's tributes, posting a detailed timeline of WWE's knowledge of the events, and detailing several reasons why this couldn't have been a "roid rage" event (still a touchy subject for WWE, obviously). The lawyers and PR types will definitely be busy with this one, as Vince McMahon tries to deflect another tragedy.

WWE Links

http://www.wwe.com/inside/news/chairmanbenoit

http://www.wwe.com/inside/news/chrisbenoittimeline

http://www.wwe.com/inside/news/benoitpressrelease

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 10:32 AM EDT
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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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