Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Long and the Short of It

We're expecting a typhoon sometime this evening. The wind has picked up, and a light rain has started to fall. Today has been the first cloudy day I've seen here in Shimane since I arrived. I've been here only since Wednesday, but I'm told that the weather is usually sunny in the summertime.

From Syracuse to Shimane: The short version

Pack Pack Pack Sleep
Pack Pack Pack Pack Mail Drive Drive Drive Drive Drive Hotel Subway Run Broadway Subway Hotel Sleep
Drive Drive Stop Drive Stop Drive Stop Drive Stop Drive Stop Drive Drive Hotel Subway Rain Reception Rain Katie Club Subway Hotel Sleep
Shuttle Airport Airport Food Airport Airport Boarding Runway Runway Fly Fly Meal Fly Fly Fly Fly Fly Claustrophobia Fly Fly Sleep
Wake Sleep
Wake Snack Sleep
Wake Sleep
Meal Fly Fly Airport Customs Bus Bus Tokyo Hotel Books Books Sleep
Wake Sleep
Wake Sleep
Ironing Crowd Meeting Meeting Boredom Pain Lunch Meeting Meeting Dinner Sleep
Wake Sleep
Wake Sleep
Wake Sleep
Breakfast Meeting Meeting Lunch Meeting Meeting Repack Cocoa Subway Mexican Subway Hotel Sleep
Wake Sleep
Wake Sleep
Bus Airport Fly Airport Shimane!

The long version

Tokyo is a blur. Our flight from NYC was delayed two hours, and on top of that we sat on the runway for another hour and a half. When we finally taxied to the runway, applause broke out in the cabin. The flight was 13 hours (and 1 minute, to be exact). We were served dinner, a midnight snack, and breakfast. I read the first hundred pages of the book I'd bought in the airport (Code to Zero, by Ken Follett, Aunt Christiane's favorite author), but I was getting a bit claustrophobic in the small seat, and most of my leg room was taken up by my enormous laptop backpack, so I tried to sleep to retain my sanity. Got about 5 hours in, though I woke up a few times. Customs was pretty simple. Before getting on the bus to the hotel, I sent two suitcases ahead to Nita. The heat was oppressive, but the bus was air-conditioned, which was good cos the ride was two hours long. A few hundred people stayed at the Hilton, but most of us were put up in the Keio Plaza Hotel, where the orientation was held. I got into my room at 11pm, hoping I wouldn't wake my roommate, who had almost certainly arrived before I. But the room was empty. Two minutes later, in walked the very same girl I'd sat next to on the bus—Tamanna is her name. She's from the Bronx. She's been placed in Okayama, a nearby prefecture (not Okinawa, which I'd first thought).

(The rain is falling a bit more heavily, and it smells now of wet asphalt. The wind hasn't changed, but the clouds seem to be moving quickly. I can't find a news-broadcasting station right now (I get about five channels on the TV), so I don't know yet what the updated trajectory is. But it's approaching from the Pacific, and has to cross a fair bit of land before it reaches us, so that should weaken it.)

(The bugs and birds here are louder than I'm used to. Yesterday I was out with Abe-san, my supervisor in Yokota, and we passed by three children playing. There were a few cicadas on some nearby trees, and one boy was picking them off, collecting them in his hand. They were very chirpy on the trees, but they made quite the row all bunched together in his fist. One got away and flew straight into my face, clinging there for a second before I pried it off. When the boy had picked off all the cicadas he could find, he threw them up into the air, and they scattered, screaming like mad as they flew away.)

So Tokyo, like I said, is a blur. They handed us several books when we arrived, and we got shovelfuls of papers, pamphlets, and brochures during the remainder of our stay. Sessions, sessions, sessions, broken up by meals (some Western food, some Japanese food). By Monday afternoon, I had partially regained the ability to sit for any respectable period of time. Tuesday's dinner was the only meal for which we had to fend for ourselves. About half of the JETs there had embassy parties, but there were too many of us Americans, so we didn't get one. <pout>

About ten of us from Shimane got together and went to a Mexican restaurant in Tokyo. "There aren't any Mexican restaurants in Shimane," Marcie, our Prefectural Advisor, told us. Tons of food, served in courses, and I didn't pace myself properly. One of the appetizers served was a plate of big jalapeno peppers, each stuffed with cream cheese, and covered with mozzarella. I had one, and it was tasty, but my mouth was a bed of coals for the next ten minutes.

Wednesday morning we flew to Shimane. By this point everyone was very eager to leave the hotel and get on with our lives. Four Shimane people flew to the Iwami airport, in the southwest, while the remaining 20 of us flew to Izumo, in the northeast.

But I am tired of writing, and you are tired of reading, so I'll quit now and pick up again some other time.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Strange Japanese Television

I'm watching a program right now that seems to be some sort of game show, chiefly involving food. There is a panel of six people, and they get to try a variety of different dishes. The dishes' ingredients are explained, and their preparation demonstrated. Then one or more of the people eat a bite or two, and apparently guess the price—of the ingredients? of the restaurant price? I don't know. And then the real price is revealed. There was a six-way ping pong game during the intermission, which was whittled down to a five-way game, then four-way. Then back to the price-guessing game. At the end, there seemed to be some sort of elimination to see who got to pay the tab.

Now... I don't know what this is, but it seems to be a game show of some sort, with a mystery/detective story within it. Something about an American cab driver in some U.S. city, and one night he passes by the same old building three different times, and each time there is a different car which has stalled in front of the building. I know: like, Ooo, so spooky, right? Maybe there's more to it, but I can't understand what the spooky narrator voice is saying.

Ahh, okay, they've given the answer. All of the cars were set out as bait, with the keys left in the ignition. Each of the drivers was a would-be car thief who had fallen for the bait, driving the car out of the parking lot. But the cars were monitored by police, who could turn off the ignition and lock the doors and windows by radio control. The police always caused the cars to stall in the same place (cos apparently there was only one way out of the lot). They showed actual police videos from hidden cameras inside the cars. Cute.

Now there's another mystery involving diamonds and rattlesnakes in Europe. I don't know either.

For those of you who can't stand McDonald's latest catch phrase, I hate to tell you: i'm lovin' it is in Japan, too. And the AFLAC commercial! They spell it out in katakana at the bottom of the screen, but the duck still says, "AFLAC!"

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Ten Thousand Miles

Fare thee well
My own true love
Farewell for a while
I've gone away
But I'll be back
Though I go ten thousand miles

Ten thousand miles
My own true love
Ten thousand miles or more
Rocks may melt
And the seas may burn
If I should not return

Oh don't you see
That lonesome dove
Sitting on an ivy tree
She's weeping for
Her own true love
As I shall weep for mine

Come ye back
My own true love
And stay a while with me
If I had a friend
On this earth
You've been a friend to me

Mom: Run a search on your computer for "Mary Chapin Carpenter"

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Hukum karo. Banda haajir hain.

From the Hindustani, meaning "Give orders. Your slave is present."
Thanks to Shambly and oook.

Monday, July 19, 2004

McDonald's Bag

Interesting reads, both:
Terror in the Skies, Again?
and the follow-up article, Part II.
(Sorry, Mom, if this freaks you out, less than a week before I fly to Japan.)

I also thought I'd draw some attention to a new addition to my sidebar:
It's so much better than, mostly because it's completely free. You don't have to pay to contact old classmates. Your e-mail address isn't shown on your profile (though it can be, if you choose to enter it in the mini-biography field), but if people want to contact you, they send you a message through the site, which is sent to your e-mail account; they won't find out what your address is unless you return their letters.
Also, you get open-ended fields in which to enter information about yourself, while has just weird survey-type forms.

Mostly, I want it to become popular enough so everyone from my alma materae (?) will hear about it.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Gmail Swap

Gmail invitations seem to be much less scarce lately. I've visited a few times, and I thought it was time to record what I've been given in exchange for my Gmail invitations.

One riddle (from sk8erstudpg):
"What sits in a corner and travels all around the world?"

One puzzle (from berger):
"Ten thieves are captured and brought before the king. Though their punishment is death, the king decides to give them one chance to live. He will place a small hat on top of each of their heads; each thief's hat is either black or white, but he cannot see his own hat. The hat colours could be in any ratio: all white, all black, or anywhere in between. The thieves will be assembled in one room, and the king will ask each one, in succession, what colour hat he is wearing. If at least nine of the ten thieves answer correctly, then they all will go free. If two or more are wrong, then they all will be sentenced to death. How can the ten ensure that they will be released?"

One photo (from sossy.t):

She let me name it, and she mailed me a copy.

And finally,
One song (from Fandangoya247):
Emily Watkins' Song
Kindly hosted by oook.

For your reference, below is the information I provided for song material; you can see he pretty much used it verbatim:

I live in Syracuse, NY, and graduated last year from Syracuse University with a bachelor's degree in physics; I also minored in philosophy. Since then I've been working on campus in the
Astrophysics Lab. I'll be leaving next month to move to Japan, where I'll be teaching English for at least a year. I don't know any Japanese yet. :P

I'm a born-again Christian, and active in my church. I like Nintendo, computer games (strategy, mostly), some books, introverted stuff like that. My favourite television show is _Stargate_SG-1_ (I'm listening to it in the background as I write this). I currently live with my dad and my younger brother.

Umm... I like cats. And art deco. And Peter Gabriel.

That should give you enough material for a couple of verses, huh? ;)
Feel free to use as much or as little of it as you like.

It should be noted that what I meant to say was art nouveau, not art deco. And he still mispronounced deco. And Gabriel.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


Dad scheduled for me a dentist appointment, which was yesterday morning. I hadn't seen the dentist in six years, so I guessed that I'd have two cavities. Turned out I had only one, and that in a tooth that had been giving me a small bit of trouble for a couple of years. And on the top row of teeth, too! I had a filling done once on a lower tooth; they had to numb up the entire half of my jaw. I remember trying to bite down afterward, wondering why I couldn't close my mouth completely.
I finally realized it was my tongue in the way....

In order to get the filling done before I left, I had to go in this morning at 8am. Even though I was sleepy, I was still very tense, hoping hoping that the novocaine would be strong enough and I wouldn't feel the drill. As it was, the filling was less painful than the previous day's cleaning (all I can figure is that the hygienist was unduly rough in scraping the tartar off, since she said my gums weren't sickly or inflamed).

So now no more pain in the tooth when I bite down. The hygienist recommended that I brush and floss religiously while in Japan, so I can avoid having to figure out Japanese oral surgery terms.

Saturday I went with some friends to the Sterling Renaissance Festival. It was buy-one-get-one-free weekend. Lots and lots of people, but much shade and good weather. Here are some photos.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Monday, July 05, 2004

Happy Fifth of July

Photo submitted by alba.

I'll need a tripod for my camera before I can take any decent photos of fireworks. But at least we got to see some yesterday.

After fireworks, Mom barbequed a delicious steak, and made yummy salad and potatoes, and we watched The Princess Bride. I've seen that movie maybe four times, but I keep forgetting stuff, and it's still funny.

Oh, and I'm back home now, Mom. <wave>