January 2008 Archives

Thoughts on blogging

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Now, as I test out Movable Type v.4.1 for the first time, I can not help but think about what the interface looked like when I first used it, and how writing that first post felt. Blogging was pretty well-established by 2003, but it was new to me and it was with the encouragement of my brother that I started to run with it.

Back then I was living in a far away land, and the blog started to serve as a lifeline back to family and friends, allowing us to stay in touch, even though we were on different sleep cycles. Now, it still serves that purpose, though it does not occupy as much of my time. Life just doesn't seem as fast-paced and adventure no longer lurks just around a bend in the road over here. I almost feel as if I am living in a retirement community, and I am in a sense. Just under two years ago, I was teaching in one of the worst schools in Osaka during the day, out in the big city at night, and constantly exploring strange and foreign sub-cultures and worlds. There was a lot of stuff for me to share.

I probably would not have been as involved in writing or, for that matter, taking pictures as much as I do had it not been for Justin keeping this domain up and running, and that would have been unfortunate. Sometimes, when I feel like I'm forgetting my life in Japan, I look through the archives and everything comes back. My posts are a hedge against dementia, a touchstone to the past.

I am fascinated by Justin's efforts to keep the architecture of our blogs up to date. Whenever I take a look at the various templates, lines of code to make CAPTCHA or Analytics work, or any of the other moving parts that are hidden under the hood my eyes glaze over and my brain protests against trying to make sense of it all. I, the slacker, much prefer to focus on the content rather than the infrastructure.

I have a hunch that he does not like dealing with the installations - like is not quite the right word. I think he gets a satisfaction of learning how to use all of the tools to keep our blogs running smoothly and up to date, and it wouldn't surprise me if the process of staying on top of these things is one of his forms of meditation.

Given the choice between learning Movable Type from scratch and blogging on something that attracts some of the best features as a result of being open source or subscribing to a service like Blogger and not learning anything more than I needed to, I probably would have gone the Blogger route. I'm glad I didn't though, as I really like posting things here.

NeverEnding Nostalgia

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I took shelter from the cold rain, in an old, dark room, full of books with yellowed pages and a jumble of artifacts and well-worn work items. Scant light fell as running streaks on to the warped linoleum, I contemplated as I breathed in warm, stale air.

On the walk to the room, my Hawaiian pizza (with green onions!) had shed some of its cheese, which had coagulated onto the side of the carton. I tried scraping it back on the pizza, but when the cold fats and proteins were sampled, they proved unsatisfactory. Despite this, the flat bread with tomato sauce tasted really good after coming in from the rain.

Though I only had thirty minutes to eat, time seemed to slow down, as I enjoyed my packed lunch and read a book. It felt as if I were living another version of The NeverEnding Story, when Bastian cracks open a book and gets lost in the tale.

I wonder if this cartoon was inspired by the same scene...

For such a shitty cartoon, Beavis and Butthead was pretty entertaining.

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Surprisingly, this little dog is able to go boulder hopping if you direct her along a clean, reasonable line.

Though she can climb up steep rocks and plows along like a little bulldozer, she doesn't necessarily like going off the path.

The yawn indicates that she's had enough, clearly not interested in checking out the critters left exposed by the low tide. It's probably better that way. We don't want her to stick her nose into the nematocyst-laced tentacles of the green anemone in the nearby pool.

We get back into the car, and she gets her muddy paws on everything (that I will end up wiping off later on in the day). Next time, along with dookie containment bags and water, I must remember to bring a towel to clean her off.

I'm curious to see just how steep a course she can safely handle, but that is an activity for another day...

Kid with Guitar

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What is Beef?

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Is it Nas vs. Jay-Z? Tupac and Biggie? Ice Cube talking smack on Common?

Cubicle Warfare

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Look around the cubicles at my workplace and you won't notice anything out of the ordinary. There is a war going on, and not everybody even notices it. Once you do notice it, you start to see things and to hear things that shouldn't be there.

There is an infestation of plastic army men, civil war militia, barnyard and African animals, and other miniaturized people and things. They're watching you from the light fixtures. They're blending into the office plants, communicating with each other. In every part of the office you go, there's another army man there with you.

There is also a mysterious beeping that no one seems to be able to locate. It doesn't beep at regular intervals, and must be well hidden because no one has found it so far. Sound familiar?

My supervisor is pushing the envelope with a USB Laser Guided Missile Launcher. He doesn't even use it and it's annoying because it constantly emits a laser from a concealed location.

It's only a matter of time before someone snaps and unleashes a Sonic Grenade upon the office. One day, someone will probably go a little too far, and it will be fun to see what happens.

Ah, it's nice to be a neutral party during times of conflict...

Old Bones

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Forgotten side roads, hidden deep in the green hills of Kyushu, are where I spent many epic afternoons driving around in my trusty '89 Civic. Often, I would encounter fallen trees or boulders blocking the road that I would skirt around, nudge out of the way, or get out of my car and physically move them to the side. Almost always, if I was at an impassable, the road was so narrow that I would have to drive what seemed like a mile in reverse, before I could even attempt a 3 point turn.

Even then, the 3 point turn would have a sheer wall of rock at one side, with a steep cliff on the other. The prospect of imminent death is a great motivation to learn the abilities of your body and vehicle. On more than one occasion, my neck was sore from looking over my shoulder for a prolonged session of driving in reverse.

Most of the time the roads would lead to a secluded farm, a colony of green houses, a pasture of rolling hills with cattle traps on the borders of the road and gates blocking further access, a rice field, or a uniform-sized grove of cedar trees used mostly to grow Shiitake mushrooms. Sometimes, there was a charming coffee shop or restaurant hidden away run mostly by people moving back to the country for a simpler life.

It wasn't uncommon to see an abandoned building on the side of these far away roads. Usually the surrounding woods would be well into the methodical process of eating, over growing, or generally reclaiming these forsaken spaces. Layers of leaves, dirt, mold, and animal droppings formed the beginnings of soil, mostly colonized by weeds and creeping vines.

On a late cold winter afternoon, under branches that formed a dark tunnel over a weedy road, I came upon one such house. Clearly, this place been abandoned by its owners a long time ago, but it had managed to evade vandalization. Stacked around the front and back yard that ran up to the edge of jungle, discarded appliances, media, and other semi-organized debris stood as testament to a sorrowful neglect.

Though the living no longer inhabit these places, you can still feel the shadow of their presence in the things that they left behind. Just thirty feet down the road, the sun shines brightly on the dusty road. The thick tangle of trees surrounding the house block most of the windows, and the dark green walls seem to absorb the scant light that makes it into the structure.

On the polished eves of the house, yellowed black and white pictures of the family patriarchs, all stern-faced males dressed in formal attire, glare down from their heavy frames on the rotten tatami mats, amidst the weeds and scattered, yellow papers and books as if in disapproval of the house that they are watching over. Were they, at one point, looking down on a family with contentment? It is hard to imagine that there might have been happiness, laughter, or even a relaxed conversation under these eves.

Scrolls with highly-stylized kanji hang on the adjacent wall, edges curling and black with moisture and the very same mold that is eating the wood, tatami, paper, walls, and even the very glass. The kitchen is littered with a few old, worn out plates, bowls, and cups. Opposite the kitchen, the tatami mats have rotted through and the very floor boards have caved in, exposing the ribs of supporting beams. The darkness, right below the floor, might be hiding any number of things that go bump in the night.

Just past this ominous chasm lies another room, almost pitch black, and packed full of mistreated, old luggage, broken toys, and other creepy artifacts. Getting there would involve walking on rotten beams over the darkness. I carefully put one foot down and test the narrow 2x4, and it starts to give. Slowly, I retract my foot, and decide that I'll stay on this half of the divide.

Though it feels like a really long time, I only spend a short time investigating the house (the watch indicates that I've been in for seven minutes). I take care to leave everything as I find it. Snapping pictures does not seem appropriate with someone's ancestors looking down on me. Quietly, and carefully, I exit the house, taking the same route out that I took in.

The feeling that I get when I enter places like this is similar to the experience of walking into a great cathedral through a dark beam of light in an ancient Toledo neighborhood, or hiking by myself alongside magnificent giant sequoias on a rainy day. It's not scary, but it weighs profoundly on my mind and soul.

Not all abandoned buildings can stir up these feelings, especially when you are with a rowdy group of friends. With this in mind, I never shared the location of some of these places with anyone else, and I like to think that they will remain forgotten, and will return to the earth unmolested by others.

Dusting off the cobwebs

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Why is it that things that I like to do seem like such a pain in the ass until I end up doing them? I'll give you a few examples of what I'm talking about:

I like to cook, but I haven't cooked more than a handful of times this year.
I like to exercise, but until recently I haven't gotten out much to do it.
I like reading, but I only get through an average of one book every two weeks.
I like making clay figures, but I haven't made but three last year, all of which suffered catastrophic structural failure when I fired them.
I like photography, but I don't shoot as much as I would like to.
I like snowboarding, but I haven't been on the slopes for over two years.
I like a clean room, but entropy takes control and matter goes from a state of higher to lower concentration, requiring ever-increasing amounts of energy to clean up.

Now that I'm doing these things (I still need to go boarding), I am enjoying them again, even if I've fallen out of practice.

Take cooking as an example: tonight I am making stew. It doesn't taste nearly as good as I'm capable of making it, but just getting back into the practice of cutting, peeling, frying, browning, simmering, and reducing, has been therapeutic in a way I can not fully articulate.

Now that I'm pushing past my resistance, I've already gained the motivation to do things that has been sorely lacking.

I think that this vacation was just what I needed. I've been back to work for only a day, and already I can't wait until my next vacation.

Tonkotsu-gram

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Tonkotsu ramen is my favorite noodle soup by far, and unfortunately, there are no places to get really good tonkotsu in Monterey. I had gone so long without tonkotsu that Shinsengumi was the place where I wanted to eat the most on my last trip to Southern California. If only I could get Tonkotsu up North, I would be really happy - I remember thinking this when I departed on January 2nd for Monterey.

Vacation came a few days later. On my first day off, I received a notification that an undelivered parcel from Japan was waiting at the Pacific Grove post office for me. Due to power outages and other obstacles, I wouldn't end up getting this parcel for another 3 days, and only then after a 20 minute wait in a line packed with people trying to do everything that the post office was capable of, it seemed. The staff at the PG post office is polite and efficient, much like a Japanese Post office.

I was surprised to read this label on the box that was handed to me:

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Reading the label, I knew that this wasn't going to be a pack of Top Ramen or Cup o Noodle, but it did raise a chuckle.

One of my favorite teachers from Ubuyama, Hieda-sensei, must have been listening to my thoughts because he quickly dispatched a 3 pack of instant Kumamoto-style tonkotsu ramen, complete with takana from Aso-prefecture!

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Here are the ingredients for my Kurotei instant ramen:
cup noodle
pork broth
salt
shoyu
natana oil
lard(!)
garlic
?
starch
karashi peppers
amino acids
caramel color
rendered bones
sweet flavoring
seaweed

And there's more, but I'm getting tired of looking up kanji and trying to remember Japanese. I think I'm going to have to prepare extra noodles so that I can enjoy the broth to the fullest with kaidama...

To Hieda-sensei, the man who dared to climb Mount Kuju during the middle of a blizzard on April 4th, 2004 with Ubuyama-mura's 3rd resident ambassador of gaikokujin, I am truly in your debt!

Green peeks through

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About this time of year, when the days are slowly getting longer, I used to look forward to the plum blossoms coming into bloom. During this season, snow still falls in the mountains, we'd eat nabe under the kotatsu table, and the plum blossoms appearance would encourage us that in a few months hanami and the release from the bitter cold would be upon us.

In Pacific Grove, we have no orchards of plum or cherry blossoms. Instead we have succulents. Right now, like the plums of Japan, our massive aloe plants are flowering up and down my stretch of coast. Thankfully, it is not cold enough to make using a heater necessary (though we still turn in on occasionally).

In the near future, our smaller variant of ice plant will send up a carpet of purple flowers. To me, it's not as beautiful or as fun as cherry blossom viewing, but it is still very nice. It would be fun to set up a picnic and invite friends and family out to drink amidst the blossoms, but we would probably be busted by the police pretty quickly.

These heavy rains have coaxed the grasses to reach for the sky and climb over the dead, brown stalks and leaves of last year. It shouldn't be too long until the flowers start to come out.

Vacation stops here

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Well, that was a fun five days off. As much as I like the aquarium, sometimes we need our own time and space to ourselves.

For my last day off, I woke up late, and went for an afternoon hike at Point Lobos. Thankfully, today, the rains let up, and I was able to survey the effect of the storm in the woods.

Trees were uprooted, and the trunks of some of the larger Monterey pines were snapped in half, splintered like disposable chopsticks. Paths were eroded by the deluge, and rocks were freed from their earthen prison.

Walking was nice today, as wet pine needles formed a lush blanket along the whole trail, covering the viscous mud. The phrase "lather, rinse, repeat" came to mind, as I looked up, all of the dead, brown needles and many of the rotten boughs had been scrubbed off and washed to the ground.

I always remember how much I love getting out into the outdoors when I get there, and then I promptly forget it when I'm debating whether to go out or to do something else. I wonder why this is...

Taking these five days off has made me realize how much stuff I really have to keep me occupied, and has allowed me to spend time doing things that I don't spend enough time doing because of a busy schedule. I would not be opposed to taking five more days off, but I might never return to work!

Fun on a trampoline

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Grizzly Adam

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When I was in the 6th grade I wanted to have facial hair. I don't know why I wanted it, only that it seemed like a cool thing to have. I imagined that when I started shaving, it would encourage my follicles to produce a luxurious mustache and beard.

I carefully assembled all of the materials I needed to remove the peach fuzz on my face. Next, I slathered an over-generous amount of shaving cream below my nose and ears but above my neck. Slowly and carefully, I scraped away all of the foam under my chin and on the sides of my jaws, leaving the area where my mustache would be for last.

Emboldened by my results thus far, I quickly swept my disposable Bic single-bladed razor down my upper lip, and felt the stainless steel blade bite into my flesh, and a warm gush sprung forth. The coppery tang of my blood laced the cologne scent of the Colgate shaving cream and dripped into the white suds in the sink. Despite this set back, I meticulously finished the job. It wouldn't do to leave a few patches of peach fuzz on my face.

The cut was so deep, it took a few days to scab over completely, two weeks for the scab to peel, and almost three months for the pink scar to disappear. I think my dad noticed the cut, because that Christmas I got an electric shaver as one of my presents (I barely had enough facial hair for it to cut, but I still did it religiously). I wouldn't shave with a razor blade again until I received a Gillette Mach II in the mail, as a present on my 18th birthday, from Proctor and Gamble.

Occasionally, I have gone several days without shaving to see what the effects would be. It turns out that despite regularly shaving for about ten years, I do not seem to be destined to have thick facial hair.

On this vacation, I have gone without shaving for six days so far, and although my facial hairs have grown to about 2/10ths of an inch, it just doesn't look like much. I would post pictures, but really, it's not worth it. It has been kind of fun growing it out though.

If I make it to an old age, I plan on growing out a really long, really stringy Fu-Manchu mustache and beard just for the hell of it.

On a side note, I seem to have about three hairs in my "beard" that are red. What the hell is that all about?

A walk in the rain

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I went for a long walk in the rain today through the streets of Pacific Grove.

I used to frequently go for a walk in the other neighborhoods I lived in, but the prospects of having an adventure, experiencing exotic sights, sounds, textures, and smells in your home country just don't seem like they could stack up to a place where you are not used to.

Today, and the other times I've decided to walk around, proved this preconception to be wrong.

A house not too far away from my apartment has the same garish leg lamp that Ralphie's dad in A Christmas Story fights with his mom over.

The recent storms that have knocked out power for thousands of homes in California has gone through the streets, leaving a path of destruction. One large wooden fence looked as if it had been karate chopped by the very hand of God. Much termite damage was exposed, as the strong winds wrenched the rotten cores of 4x4 posts from soil, loosened by the torrential downpour. Piles of broken tree branches and fallen trees were stacked aside the road.

Walking by these things, I was able to take in so much more for two reasons. Walking afforded me the time to focus on the details of the houses, things I would miss if I were in a car. I was also able to bypass roadblocks and other obstacles easily on foot.

One cool thing I happened across was this flower:
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I don't know what kind of flower it is, but it looked as if it didn't mind the drizzle...

Ocean Force!

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It's weird to see how popular Huntington Beach has become, and seeing people on the show who I didn't know were lifeguards.

They call it "actuality TV" as opposed to "reality TV", but it's interesting to see how fancy editing, a dramatic voice over, and a sound track can hype and dramatize a regular day at the beach.

Lifeguarding is a demanding and exciting profession, especially at Huntington, but it's still strange to see an area that I consider home on TV.

TV worth watching

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The only reason I have cable is for the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, PBS, the Travel Channel, and Comedy Central. These three channels constitute what I watch 80 percent of the time, with Comedy Central being the one channel I probably watch the most.

Laughter is indeed therapeutic, but there is something else. Comedy showcases some of the most intelligent and insightful people around.

South Park, for example, is not a cartoon that most people think of as anything other than an outlet for toilet humor and profanity, but it is probably the best satirical voice for those interested in keeping up with the most ridiculous things that our culture is currently obsessing over. When I lived overseas, I got my news via Google and stayed on top of everything else with the Daily Show, the Colbert Report, the Chappelle show, the Mind of Mencia (which really went downhill after the first season), and South Park.

I just caught the tail end of Chris Rock's Never Scared performance. Like always, he put on an entertaining, thought-provoking show.

I'd have to say, Chris Rock and George Carlin have consistently produce things worth watching and sharing with others. On that note, George nails my feelings on the impending elections:

I am going to vote for the candidate who I dislike the least, but I'm not going to lecture anyone who stays home...

Rediscovering Weekends

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Ah, to socialize on a Sunday! I forgot what it was like to have my days off overlap with my friend's days off. Going a year working on Saturdays and Sundays has profoundly affected how I socialize, though it is not all bad.

Nowadays, I usually spend half of my first day off working at the Tuna Research and Conservation Center, doing water quality, prepping food, and maintaining the place (siphoning tuna shit, scrubbing bio-growth from the sides of the tanks, and scraping rancid anchovy fat from Weir boxes is time consuming and labor intensive). The next half of the day is usually spend doing chores and errands.

My second day is either dedicated to other chores, but sometimes I get a day that I get to spend how I really want to. On these rare occasions, I try to find cool places around here to hike on the cheap. It seems like every park wants to charge people money to use the trails. I'm happy to contribute money to help protect our natural resources, but I can't afford to pay as much as they ask. Like many others, I am more than happy to hike a bit longer to avoid the fees, and this is one benefit of having Tuesday and Wednesday as days off - I usually have the trails all to myself.

On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, I work. After work, I am usually not up for much more than a movie, or hanging out for a few hours, and then it's bedtime. Living in a small town, once again, has made me want to go to bed early every night.

For about a year, I had been intending to visit Joy and Eric, up in Los Gatos, but our schedules never overlapped, so I was never able to make the trip. I ended up going today, and we tried out a new restaurant, went hiking in the hills, had a Wii bowling tournament, and had a nice dinner together. I used to do things like this with friends on a regular basis, but since starting this job, these days spent with other people have been few and far between.

The drive out to Los Gatos, via the 17, was like driving through the Japanese mountainsides, except the roads were wider and there was more traffic. Clouds drifted right over the roads, and the dense foliage was rich and had a green usually reserved for the beginning of the Spring months. It reminded me of some of the roads that I drove down in Kagoshima.

On a sad note, it looks like the auto-focus on my D50 might be broken. I hope that I am wrong, but we shall see... Cleaning and testing equipment is something I will add to the ever-changing list of things to do.

Also, it doesn't look like I will make it up to the powder this Tuesday or Wednesday. Boarding, it seems, will have to wait for another time...

For all of you that have regular weekends off, enjoy them! For if they ever shift to non-standard days off, your social life will almost certainly be a little lonelier.

If I had a cappuccino maker...

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...I would add this to my list of things to do on vacation.

Away from work

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For the past year, I've dedicated myself to learning everything about my job at the aquarium. On my time off, I read books about marine biology, social marketing, how the brain works, leadership, and science. I've also started up a couple of internal blogs at the aquarium, which are much less fun and even less rewarding to post to. At least when I post here, it doesn't feel like I'm having a conversation with only myself. In the race to get a public-facing blog up and running, I lost. In this new year, I will make one last hard push in the hopes of jump-starting these other blogs, and if it fails, then I will move on.

Which brings me to this mini-vacation. After working on a few of my weekends, I accrued 3 extra days that I am now using to make a 5 day vacation- a much needed respite from the work environment. As cool as it is to work at the aquarium, it is a place that will take as much as you have to give and more.

Yesterday, due to the high winds and rain, the power went out all around Monterey County. When I got off of work, we drove along a coastline devoid of lights, other than the stray passing car. I almost expected to see zombies emerge just outside of the reach of our headlight beams.

It's amazing how many candles it takes to generate enough light to read a book with. It's also amazing to see just how much we depend on electricity for our basic needs, our work, and our entertainment. I was just glad that the water and gas were still working, so I could use the restroom and take a shower.

Can you imagine not having running water? I imagine that we would set up a plastic bag in a bucket to make a crude squat toilet in case our water ever stopped flowing. For bathing, we could use the 50 degree waters at the Lover's Point beach, which would probably best be used in the morning before work. Dried salt would form grains that itched every time we shifted in our clothes.

The power turned back on for a few hours, but was out from early this morning until half-past noon. I went to the Post Office to pick up a parcel, but they had locked their doors without an explanation. I could hear the employees inside, sorting mail and chatting, and decided to go read a book over at Border's. So much for the old post officer credo. Rain and wind, it turns out, can effectively keep you from getting your mail.

I have allowed this vacation to sneak up on me, and have decided to let it decide what it wants me to do, but I have certain things I want to accomplish:

1. Get my mail! But tomorrow is Sunday, and the P.O. is closed so it will have to wait.
2. Start cooking again. Tonight I will look for short rib recipes and think of what courses I want to eat.
3. Plow through my growing list of books to read. I feel like they're starting to stack up like a losing game of Tetris.
4. Get out on the trail more. I am now equipped with my trusty Mephistos.
5. Concentrate on photography a bit more, specifically shooting in manual mode and paying more attention to exposure.
6. Fomulate new strategies for the new year.
7. Visit friends who I haven't had time to visit due to my unique schedule.
8. Lay out options for education and extracurricular activities (diving, exercise, etc...).
9. Test out my rain gear on the way to a waterfall hike.
10. Post more here instead of the other blogs.

And for the 10th thing I want to accomplish, this should merely be getting back into the practice of documenting the thoughts and ideas that go through my head each day. It should be much easier to do with a 5 day break than my usual 6 day grind, as i usually have things I want to say during the day, but I steadily lose momentum due to other distractions and challenges by the time I come home.

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I have been thinking about Japan a great deal lately. During my three and a half years over there, I developed a strong attachment to the people, culture, places, food, and experiences that I have shared with friends, family, or myself. In future posts, I intend to write themes that are more well-developed, but I will now share some random thoughts and observations that pop into my head.

RE: The Last Samurai
I truly think I would like this movie if Tom Cruise were removed. It just isn't right that this Scientologist was chosen for the role of "last samurai" (or was he merely intended to be the last samurai's friend?). He, single-handedly, ruins the whole movie for me, and that's not even taking the Scientologist factor into account.

RE: Drink Bar
For those of you who have been to a family restaurant in Japan, do you miss the drink bar? Well, it turns out that Burger King and other fast food places now provide a similar set up where you can get different types of coffee drinks right next to the soda fountain. The only things that are missing are the ice cubes that you have to grab one at a time with a small pair of tongs, and the pot of consomme that no one really ever drinks.

RE: Sad Books on Japan
If you were to only read Michael Zielenziger's Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation, Alex Kerr's Dogs and Demons, and Karl Taro's Speed Tribes: Days and Night's with Japan's Next Generation, you would probably never want to visit Japan.

These books should be required reading for those who want to spend a year or more teaching in Japan, but they need to be put into context. There are just as many problems in any other part of the world you go to, they just happen to be different.

RE: The relative value of food
When I was living in the middle of Kyushu, in the hamlet of Ubuyama, I was surrounded by high-quality foods that incorporated ingredients that were locally produced, if not grown by the people that prepared them. I enjoyed these foods, but had cravings for In-N-Out, Mexican food, good cheeses, and many other foods and goods that were simply not available in my location.

I think I miss Japanese food, like tonkotsu ramen, izakaya food, and inaka-ryouri, more than I ever missed the foods I could not get in Japan. I certainly ate healthier, higher-quality foods when I lived abroad than I do now.

One cool thing is that In-N-Out still tastes as good as I remember it, probably because I don't get to eat it on a regular basis. By going without In-N-Out for long periods, it tastes so much better on those occasions when I do get to eat it.

Tip for travelers: If you are bringing In-N-Out to a friend or loved one that lives a long drive or flight away, order the burger "Protein Style" with the buns on the side. By packing the buns separately from the lettuce-encased innards, you can reheat the burger, maintaining the textural integrity and distinct flavors of the ingredients.

RE: Natural gas central heating vs. Kotatsu, Toyu and "space" heaters
It is nice to be able to change the temperature in an abode with the flick of a switch on the thermostat, and eliminate the trips to the gas station to buy kerosene, and to breathe in fumes that make your eyes water and stink up the air. If you live in an apartment, you can sometimes leech off of your neighbor's heat as well, eliminating the need for heaters.

I do miss my Kotatsu. It is really the hub for much of the socialization one has during a Japanese winter. Kotatsu tables hold portable burners to cook sukiyaki and nabe, beer and other libations, and provide a great place to take a nap on a cold evening.

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Well, that's probably more writing than I've done in the past two months on this blog. I'm going to stop now so that I can eat and get around to the other nine things on my list.

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