Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The sound of adventure

The exchange rates were so in my favor I have now nearly achieved my savings goals for the past two years (nearly) of hard work (kind of) in Japan.

On Friday evening I had a very large Enkai. My memories end at the point where myself and one other, much older, male teacher were sitting in a snack bar, the mama san so drunk she was pouring us GLASSES of Jack Daniels. The next thing I know, I’m face down, fully dressed, at the wrong end of bed, its one o’clock in the afternoon and my walkman is still going. Thank you Creative audio industries.

I have been recovering since then. I will never drink JD again.

Tomorrow morning I fly to Tokyo, the city of eternal light and limitless possibilities, for five days of unleashed anarchy and site seeing with Tim and Kamil.

Can you smell my excitement?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Lazy Friday

The machine now whirs happily into action every morning when it’s called upon, and the entire system is clean and new and complete. It’s really like having a brand new computer. Very nice to use and reasonably priced too.

At school today is the closing ceremony for the end of the year. At school today is not where I am. I have seen more than my share of ceremonies where children are spoken at and give pre-checked speeches back to those who were speaking. I can imagine the whole ceremony in detail as it is occurring now, in fact starting as I write these very words from the sun bathed comfort of my own couch. I have taken the last working day off. In fact, when I was looking for a supervisory teacher to tell this to this morning when I popped my head in at about eight twenty, I found that the person I was looking for had also taken today off.

The sun was bright yesterday morning as I arrived at work to watch the inter-school sports games that were running. I immediately saw two of my less sporting inclined students sitting under a tree and joined them. We agreed in unison that today was in fact, very boring, and set about learning about modern contemporary Jazz and Indie Rock, by listening to Adamu sensei’s walkman for an hour or so.

Soon everything at work will change. Looking forward to it in some ways, not looking forward to it in others. No mater the outcome, it is time to start slowly preparing for departure.

The exchange rates are in my favor today, so I might go to the bank and send some money home before they fly away again too.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Vernal Equinox Tuesday

Fukuoka sat under heavy grey cloud, like a sprawling fat, neon frog in a muddy pond, as me and Fumiko disembarked from the carriage we had been sleeping in on the hour long trip from Kashima. Fumiko had been called in to cover a sick workmate, and I had arranged to have my computer repaired. My machine lumbered along at the end of my arm in its two brown boxes, packed tight inside between layers of thick Styrofoam and pink anti static bags, the kind that are unfortunately the same color as condoms.

It’s unusual for a public holiday to begin with such an early morning train ride, but then again everything has been feeling unusual of late. It’s currently party season, the end of the business year. Low workloads for teaching assistants and farewell enkai backed up in the appointment book, a time when one seriously needs to manage ones health to avoid falling under the weather. It is this that I have been trying to do like a dive bomber pilot desperately yanking on the control column, and after a weekend when I actually said to someone ‘as your attorney I advise that you immediately drive to my house, stopping to purchase a six of beer, a quart of Jack Daniels and two, two point five liter bottles of cola’ I am coming slowly out of the dive, on this, Vernal Equinox Tuesday. We are in spring. Fukuoka is wet, like a grumpy cat left out in the rain.

But at the moment, the downpour is holding back its extremities, obviously trying to save them up for the very moment that I decide to move a piece of expensive electronics. We march a block from the eki, it’s hustle, the push and shove of the crowded Japanese urban transport system, and disappear down a back alley behind a large, opulent hotel.

The interior of the computer store bespeaks the fact that the management are not just running a business, but are actually computer enthusiasts to an extent themselves. Instead of the mess, marketing and loose packaging that is associated with some computer departments in larger stores, the shop we enter is a calm sea of products behind clean glass cases, a well stocked technical desk and staff that know what they’re doing. The shop smells like new electronic components. It inspires confidence in the abilities it purports to convey.

By stroke of luck on this grey, dripping, vernal equinox of a Tuesday, the store has in stock one singular 80 gigabyte sized hard disk that will match my machine. This means that if the technical diagnostic I had presented them, ‘the hard drives well poked and needs replacing’, was correct then I could have my machine back this evening in full working order. I agree to let them service the entire computer and check all the other components, to ensure my diagnosis is correct, and they agree to re install my O.S. and give the machine a thorough clean.

MOS burger is a Japanese chain of burger restaurants. MOS stands for Mountain, Ocean, Sea. They have two types of restaurant, the first has red signage, the other has green. The difference is that green branded restaurants use organic vegetables and are a bit more expensive. It’s the kind of restaurant where you place your order from a menu at the counter, take your ticket number and wait at your table to be served. There’s no racks of stale burgers waiting to be unloaded onto which ever poor customer wants to play Russian roulette with a dose of E. Coli. It’s all cooked fresh. Brunch is a spicy cheese burger. Tasty.

I drop Fumiko off in the staff area of the mega mall she will stand in and sell Visa cards for the next six hours. I am now at my own disposal, with several hundred dollars, in a large Japanese metropolitan area. I of course, head straight for the robot store.

Seriously, the robot store. Five foot high nurse robots, with arms and hands straight from an 80’s sci-fi movie sit on glittering display. I play with the latest AIBO dog’s that connect to the web and can write their own blog using the pictures they take with their eyes. I talk in Japanese with a robot that’s only purporse is to talk with children, some bizarre kind of foster parent robot. It’s actually quite expressive and displays a range of emotions that are scarily subtle. I interact with a life size baby harp seal robot, designed for use in therapy with special needs children and the elderly. It is currently sucking on an oversize pacifier that is connected to a wall outlet. It’s how it recharges its batteries. It looks up at me, bats it big black, shiny, soulless eyes, wiggles its paws, its body and coos whenever I touch it. Maybe if you had limited cognitive abilities it would be a novel thing to interact with for hours on end. It is cute to say the least, which however, considering this is Japan, is like saying in New Zealand that a sheep has wool, or a movie has landscape shots.

In the next part of the shop, kids are gathered around miniature soccer arena. They are working through the playoffs of a robotic soccer tournament, which I watch for as long as it is possible to watch at an event where you don’t know the participants and want to see what’s going on. It’s interesting to see how the different teams have written different algorithms for their robots. One team writes programs that send the two robots around in concentric, complimentary circles, another writes ones that involve the machines moving the ball to the wall and using the wall as a guide to the goal. The ball is a large shiny flashing device, with a transponder that the robots are able to ‘see’. The youngest of the children participating is about seven or eight.

I walk up and continued on the way down to Canal City, a major retail complex that incorporates a multiplex cinema. The sky descends down another few hundred meters and it begins to lightly precipitate. Wandering through I uneventfully check out a pet shop. No sugar gliders today. I manage to find the cinema and after spending nearly an hour twatting about all over town, find the one film I wanted to watch starts in fifteen minutes. This is a good thing. I purchase a ticket and kill some time watching Charlize Theron lark about in skin tight lyrca and vinyl, dispatching enemies with some very flashy editing techniques and generally attempting to overthrow a corrupt regime. This is Aeon Flux and that’s all I’ll say for now.

I emerge from the cinema. It rains. I buy a small present for Fumiko. We have lunch. She loves the present. The computer store calls me, my computer is ready to be picked up. I take the subway across town again and receive my technically functioning machine from the store for the fairly reasonable price of 15,782 yen. I warily cross back to the central station, as in what seems to be a third wave of luck, the rain lets up for just long enough for me to cross the street and get back into shelter with my laptop in tow. I deposit it in a coin locker, secure the key deep inside the recesses of my backpack and browse through Yodobashi camera, looking at toys and games to kill the time. I sample the fair on offer from Microsoft by trying my hand at a game on their new 360 console. The game involves you controlling a character with a huge sword and equally huge mammaries from a third person point of view as she is pitted against whole armies, the size and detail of which is very, very impressive. The game play is frantic button pressing madness as you leap into massed formations of some kind of demon werewolf creature and the game has a good array of anime style combat special effects. You know the stuff, flashing white sword trails, lighting, glowing balls of energy, spinning dismembered corpses, bright lights and big bangs jazz. The game clocks up a superb body count and I quickly amass over 1000 kills in a one-on-many close quarter combat game. I’ve had my walkman on this whole time and have been too engrossed in the game to notice the five or six Japanese kids who have been standing behind me and watching as I dish out pixilated doom with the style and flair that only an experienced player of games can summon. I turn to leave, noticing I have to be across town again to meet Fumiko. They bow, I bow, hand out high fives and find my way out of the rabbit warren of techno-goodies.

Meet Fumiko, meet some of her friends and go to dinner at Zou, a huge restaurant of elaborate size. You sit, for the most part, in huge oversize fishing barges, large Asian style ones with elaborately sloped prows, maybe twenty five meters long and five across each, that are placed on top of a large, deep pool of live fish of all different varieties, swimming around in very clean, well filtered water. You can order from the menu, or, yes, you guessed it, you can pick up a rod and a net and try and catch your own supper, which is a little bit harder than you’d imagine, the pool is quite deep, you get no bait and the fish have more chance than you’d expect. Except for the crayfish, who are in large pens. Because of the range of wild life swimming around below you, it’s like eating at an aquarium. A man catches what looks like a small snapper. He nets it, takes it to a kitchen window overlooking the whole affair, hands it over, talks price and style, there is some loud song and dance which draws the attention of the entire establishment, and the fish is taken away to its inevitable doom. I took some video and will post it soon.

We can’t stay for long as we have to get a train back. We leave, eat again at MOS Burger, and find seats on a very crowded train taking people away from rainy vernal equinox Fukuoka. Arrive home. The computer, when taken out of its box, looks brand new. My assessment was correct, the hard drive was fragged, and all it’s other components have been tested and are in good working order. The machine the been totally cleaned and even smells new.

Hopefully when I turn it on and rebuild this afternoon, it will be just fine.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

If you were a kid and it was 1988, you were one of the blessed few who got to experience the true joy of what can only be described ‘a stroke of pure marketing genius’. Who thought it up?

‘Hey Chad, you’ve got a retarded name but I’ve got a good idea for a new line!’

‘What’s that Ron the unimaginably smart guy?’

‘Kids love Dinosaurs right Chad?’

‘Yeah Ron, kids love dinosaurs like my ex-wife loves the punitive alimony payments I am court ordered to pay her.’

‘And Chad, kids also love G.I. Joes right, you know, the whole action war fighting thing?’

‘Yeah Ron, hey I think I see where you’re headed, we make a range of G.I. Joes that are actually dinosaur soldiers, you know, the body of a human with the head of a dinosaur!’

‘Chad, You’re a retard, I’m taking your job, your home, your dog and your ex-wife. Why? Because last night I talked with the devil and he gave me this idea for a toy range that will give the under twelve’s wet dreams sooner than their biologically ready for.’

This was heroin for kiddies that they produced, a compulsively addictive range of perfect toys. In 1988-89 there seemed to be nothing more on the face of the earth that nine and ten year old boys wanted more than Dino Riders. Fuck the turtles, burn the Joes, these even shelved the Transformers for a while. Josh and me lived ate breathed and shat Dino Riders.

Now I was one of those dorky little kids that new his Jurassic from his Triassic and his Cretaceous. I had fact sheets, catalogue books, wall charts and I would’ve had tattoos of a Tyrannosaurus gutting the carcass of a triceratops on my skinny white chest, except for the fact I was mortified of needles and I was nine. While the other boys were playing bull rush on the fields I could often be found digging through the cat turds in the sand pit desperately trying to find a fossil, then I would get distracted and build a huge sand pile and make tunnels through it, only to find...more cat turds.

One day I was watching T.V. and an add came on. A huge logo blazed across the screen, I swear like message from on high:

‘Harness the power of Dinosaurs: DINO RIDERS!’

And behold, some blonde haired American children were playing with simply the coolest toys ever bought into creation in the late 80’s. Dinosaurs, controlled by humanoid (ish) characters, that were engaged in an epic battle for control of prehistoric earth after their spaceships had crash landed there. These weren’t just cheap lizard looking dinosaurs, oh no, these were scientifically accurate dinosaurs, modeled from fossil records. The boasted a degree of scientific accuracy that would encourage parents to purchase them on mass for their children as they could of course ‘play and learn’ about paleontology. This struck my young brain as being the kind of gifted inspiration that could only have passed down from some high peak of oriental wisdom to us in the west.

Had Josh seen this? Did he have one already? Was I already in an arms race that would leave the cold war for dead in its wake of dismembered, smoking dinosaur corpses and partially digested action figures? Parents had to be cajoled into providing funding immediately! Like a veritable President I stood before the congress of my two parents and begged for the funding necessary to assemble my army of perfectly detailed dinosaurs. Dinosaurs...


Hells yes was I ever persuasive. Now of all the myriad range of dinosaurs that were available in the first series release there was one, one huge, brilliant, gargantuan item that no true collector, no true aesthete of Dino Riders would or could ever do without.
The Tyrannosaurus Rex. Seeing the box on display in the toy store was a feeling akin to what I’m sure it would feel like to look on the face of God for the first time. The art work on these boxes was amazingly detailed. It had a rich palette that evoked perfectly the dark and sinister primeval world that the warring Rulon and Valorian factions had crash-landed on.
Somebody had taken the largest flesh eating creature ever to walk the earth, the biggest, coolest thing that had ever existed, bar none, and they had built a laser cannon battle station on its back, which was Christmas, Easter, your birthday and the last day of school all rolled up into one cluster fuck of endorphin producing, eye ball popping, expensive beyond the realm of pocket money Lost Arc-of-the-fucking-Covenant.
My battle of one-upmanship with Josh continued, progressively over the year our armies leapfrogged one over the other in progressive escalation in accordance with birthdays and Christmases. He got the Deinonychus, I got the Styracosaurus, he got the Pteranodon, I got the Quetzalcoatlus. One day I was mortified, shocked beyond belief when he pulled out the Triceratops! The Triceratops! It was only one of the three battery powered dinosaurs that walked on its own. He could put it in a direction and it could attack autonomously,just by running over my armies while I was forced to attack and defend against Josh himself. It was a large scale force multiplier. It had a moveable radar dish! All was lost.
My parents went to London on a holiday business junket. I sacrificed playmobil and star wars characters on an arcane altar to the heathen god’s of the Rulon’s, for there was only one thing that would truly be able to sucker punch Josh’s Triceratopian reinforced army of doom.
When the now beloved congressional panel of Dino Rider war funding parents produced the physically overwhelming box that held within it’s confines the solution to my long and weary campaign of attrition I thanked them profusely, then took with my own two hands one of the greatest toys of the 80’s into my possession. It gleamed, it glimmered, it’s mouth opened and it roared when it walked, and most of all, all it bits and pieces were surprisingly really well designed, sturdy and stayed on the dinosaur when it moved. Hopefully, somewhere high above in the attics of my family, my T-Rex still remains.
Josh got one at the same time. Somehow to this day I think there was a meeting of congressional funding panels that orchestrated this. This effectively ended the Dino Riders arms race, and they did look cool when they ran into each other. You see, the T-Rex had the power to destroy anything on the battlefield. Josh Eventually got the Torosaurus and I got the Diplodocus, so between us we had the entire first series release in what at the time was mint condition.

Dino Riders were one of the coolest things ever about being young. So damn cool. I want my T-Rex.


addendum: The images I pinched for this piece I got from TheToyArchive.com at

They pinched the logo for their banner, but the two photo’s of the box and the armored T-Rex are personal photo’s someone has donated to the site. Didn’t think they’d mind me using them as long as I didn’t claim they were main. Got to the Toy Archive now and browse through all those old toy’s you had. The entire post is in aid of today’s Japanese phrase…natsukashi. Essentially referring to sentimentality, especially regarding ones childhood.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Unthinkable

It happened so quickly. The program I was running locked up and then within a few short seconds, the screen switched to a bright, blank blue color. I began to feel the blood drain from my face.

A reboot confirmed my fears. I was facing a full hard disk drive failure. Stomachs clenched, pupils dilated and my first thoughts ran along lines of ‘where are my backup files’ and ‘how much will this cost me’ at the same time I was inserting the XP boot disk.

Booted up into the recovery mode from the installer disk. Ran XP in safe mode. Managed to make it into safe mode once, but the program became unstable within a few minutes, rebooted, which now takes five to seven minutes. Ran some diagnostics in a DOS shell. Yes, my hard drive has died.

‘This disk has one or more unrecoverable errors’

The digital man, his entire working life existing mostly within the mechanical confines of an 80 gigabyte internal hard drive suddenly found himself adrift on the open ocean of life as he watched his steadfast stead take on water and list beneath the waves. It feels like a pet cat or dog has gone missing or is very sick. It’s kind of like an empty yawning sensation that nags in the pit of the guts, like a worm twisting on a hook of frustration.

Fortunately, I have a life raft. The hours ticked by until a neighbor arrived home and I was able to use her machine to check on the state of the food supplies in my life raft, the quality and extent of the files I had backed up.

Aside from the physical inconvenience of now being marooned without any working computer of my own, I have sustained only minimal data loss as a result of the hard drive failure. What I have lost is annoying, recent photo’s, my downloads file of the past year and a half, my full email records, internet favorites and contact list, and all the original work on chickens Vs tanks. I have also lost anything and everything to do with gaming, although these are only games and really not very important. In a sense this is disheartening, but it’s not so bad if I look at what I have still got and the fact that the majority of what I have lost is easily, if not time consuming and annoyingly, replaceable.

I still have nearly all of the photo’s of the past year and a half, and of those photo’s I have lost, I posted the best of them on the web, so I will be able to recover some part of them at least, including chickens vs. tanks, which is on hold to say the very least until I am back up and running, which will take at least a week. I still have nearly two years worth of lesson planning material. I still have the full copy of everything I have written in Japan, more or less. I still have all my music, movies and pre Japan downloads. I will still have an old email contact list. I hope I still have the draft of the bay, although I do hope a certain someone still has the copy I sent to her locked away in an email somewhere. If that certain someone reads could she please let me know?

I was lent the use of Aine’s laptop, the one which recently also succumbed to full hard drive failure, giving me the diagnostic experience to arrive at the conclusions I have regarding my machine. I immediately went to the video store and rented ‘The Big Lebowski’. Reverted into the modus operandi of ‘The Dude’ in order to see myself through the data crisis. Made a white Russian and went to bed.

Now I wait for 10am, when the companies help line opens in Tokyo to schedule a pick up and deliver repair job. Unfortunately, my warranty expired quite some time ago, so this will cost me a few maan to bring my machine back up online, however, when it does arrive back, I will be able to start again with a fresh clean system and will ustilise even more intensive backup methods than ever before. In the mean time, if you need to get hold of me urgently, please use my lycos email address, which is my full name, with no spaces, full stops or underscores @lycos.com. Or there's the good old fashioned telephone of course.

What the hell am I going to do this evening?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Racism part 2

Recently over on Saga Blog,


my buddy Jayne described an encounter she had with the Nagasaki police over a parking ticket and why she felt discriminated against due to the fact that she's a foreigner. You have to go and read this brief post which references BBC articles about Japanese attitudes towards foreigners in Japan that were carried out by the U.N. recently. Jayne invited people to comment on her posting and I began to. However, at present word count, my reply is over 1000 words long and is a bit too long to put in the comments section, so I’ve posted it here, in case anyone wants to continue the discussion here on my site, or the SagaJET forums. To the people that normally just read the Feature Wall, click that link to put the diatribe below in context for yourselves.

Yes, I have witnessed recently a pretty bad example of indirect discrimination in Japan. It was bad enough to the extent that I was personally offended by it. While on holiday in Sapporo we went into a late night onsen. In the changing rooms was a sign informing patrons to ‘secure their valuables’ as ‘thieves were around’.

On the poster, in between the text at the top and the bottom of the layout was an image of said thief. Yes folks, you guessed it by now, a Caucasian male, with a beard, like mine but blonde, dressed in a black cliché burglar’s outfit, all in slinky black, with a black woolen cap. He had a black mag-light and a black loot bag. In fact, he looked a bit like James Hetfield.

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To the owners of that onsen:




Never the less at the time I was drunk, and it was late at night so a vociferous protest from me would not have accomplished much as you can bet the top management wouldn’t be around at this time of night, and chiefly would have reinforced the stereotypes that some people like to build around us here. So I let it slide. I bent like the proverbial reed in the wind. However, if anyone who was on that trip kept any of the fliers they were handing out on the street that led us there, I’d appreciate their address so I can send them a U.N. style “We’re very angry with you and this is the letter to tell you so” letter. What’s wrong with having a figure, male or female, dressed in all black clothing wearing a balaclava that covers their face for goodness sake?

Then there was the time I was standing in line behind a middle-aged woman at a convenience store. Quite neutral, zoned out, just waiting in line. I was well outside of the limits of her personal space, especially as I use my own, western limits of personal space, which are somewhat greater than Japanese limits. She turned, saw me and jumped, really, she *jumped* another half meter away with a look of abject terror on her face. I thought to myself,

“What a fucking retard”

And didn’t do anything, again, not wanting to actually provide her with a legitimate reason for her stupid, inbred, banal reaction. Not actual discrimination per se, but certainly an example of the sometimes rampant xenophobia that lurks in Japan’s soft underbelly. But i really wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her screaming "What did you think I was going to do to you?"

Of course to balance it all out, for every stupid person or thing you run into here, you run into someone who is totally the opposite, here's Joes comments on the website for the reason why the bad ones tend to stand out...

"Most Japanese however, are not racist. The problem is that the 20% or so who are happen to be yelling the loudest. Plus, they have government support, which really isn't a surprise since the LDP founders were mostly right wing war criminals..."

and on a seperate note

"The saddest part is that this attitude will only make Japan weaker in the years to come,"

Joe's probably got a good point with the idea that xenophobia / racism could make Japan weaker in the years to come. With Japan's birthrate in decline, if the current trend continues there will only be 27 Japanese left in Japan by the year 3000. Well, that’s the fancy statistic they've put out anyway.

So Japan actually needs more foreigners to come and live here to keep their labor pools and employment markets at a sufficient level as time goes on.

However, we can but hope that the current generation of students who we have all been educating over the past x many years of the JET program will eventually be able to move things in the opposite direction, as they have been exposed from an early age to foreigners and foreign culture, and thus perhaps be slightly less xenophobic (unless you terrorize your students for fun).

The majority of students who have passed through the education system while the JET program has been in place will still not be as fully integrated into the broader political franchise, in terms of actually holding political power, for some time yet due to their relatively young age.

Maybe over time our students, with their less polarised views of gaijin, will be the ones who will begin to remove some of the more significant legal barriers that can face foreigners in Japan. Hopefully the kids will be alright, and I honestly think they will be.

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But we have to deal with the here and now. Did anyone read Seb’s article earlier in the year on the forums?


The article concerns proposed plans in the name of ‘anti-terror’ legislation that involve placing small computer chips into all Gaijin cards that contain all information about the owner and may even have their fingerprints encoded into it. Biometric data tracking. Welcome to the police state. Sorry to sound like Alex Jones, however, the more I’ve been reading over the years, the more that things are actually starting to resemble what Jones and other people like him have been warning about is a wake up call and it’s time to take this whole thing seriously. Really, biometric data tracking is just stupid and invasive. I am not a violent criminal. Never mind the blatant glaring omission that the only major terror attack in recent Japanese history was carried out by JAPANESE PEOPLE.

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Its bad enough I have to carry an internal passport, it’s bad enough that the government brutally enforces what kind of material I can and cannot put into my own fucking body (Japan’s draconian drug laws), but to enforce computer controlled collection of biometric data based on a persons nationality, or legal status as a ‘foreigner’ is outright blatant racism.

Yes, the U.S. does now collect data on all foreigners that visit the country now and of course, that’s not acceptable either. In fact U.S. tourist numbers have dropped dramatically recently by up to 30%.


So it’s obvious that many people around the world will simply not put up with the bullshit that modern governments are trying to foist on people in the name of anti-terror legislation. Giving up your rights in a time of crisis is the worst possible action for any civil society and is one of the first steps on the ‘granny takes tumble down the stairs’ fall into authoritarian government.

Fight the power!

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

End of the business year

A weekend in which one undertook a variety of activities including the imbibing of fermented alcoholic beverages, procurement of a variety of new filmic forms of entertainment and even traveled at great length and expense to view in detail at large on the very big screen, a new moving motion picture.

Friday did end with a whimper when I skulked lately out of the office after finishing the publication of the latest edition in my epically unfolding web cartoon series. I did retreat back to my quarters and didst replenish my spirit with beer, before advancing with my good lady friend and Mr. Joe Tris of Chicago towards a local eatery where we dined on the flesh of porcine beasts flayed over a thick cabbage and pickled ginger yest batter, fried and covered with cheese, the mayonnaise and sauce.

From this point we made further travel by way of the train across the sprawling morass of fields and houses to Kubota. On arrival at the house belonging to ms. Poonam, we were somewhat early in our arrival and passed the time where for the rest of the evening we engaged in digital sport, vying to outscore one another in bouts of guitar karaoke, vocal karaoke and the partaking of alcohol.

We awoke with a start the next morning, still sitting in front of the gaming machines, coated in beer.

Was then distracted from writing in style for about thirty minutes and now cannot bring myself back into the headspace.

Yes, also saw the Narnia film. Tilda Swinton was good, the CG looked top notch, the battle sequences were fairly violent affairs too. A well polished piece of commercial fantasy cinema. Leave your disbelief at the door and buzz out for two and a half hours. which is all you can ask of a fantasy film for it to rate as "workable and successful" so yeah, it was okay. Wouldn't want to see it again and again, but I’d consider paying to see the next installment. One nice touch is that its release date in Japan seems to have been delayed to sync with the start of spring, as this is one of the key themes of the movie, the seasonal shift from winter into spring. So you watch a film where an entire region thaws out and then when you leave the cinema it’s happening in reality all around you. Yes, it is warming up over here.

My favorite trick at the moment is still to walk up to people in the staff room first thing in the morning, point to them with both fingers game show style and say “Oklahoma” to which they invariably reply “Ohayo”. This terrible joke provides me with a much needed kick in the mornings.

This week is graduation time again. I am in favor of a ‘two plan’ style of graduation, once when you finish your final year secondary school (not if you leave before hand) and once again if you finish a tertiary qualification.

In Japan however, compulsory schooling ends at the termination of Junior high school and thus is the justification for another long winded ceremony involving speeches from every Tom, Dick and Daisuke. Solemn, robotic sounding pronunciations and idealistic promises from graduating students, a song or three, and people getting far, far to emotional over the whole thing. This happens whenever a child graduates at all levels of schooling. Tim even had to attend a kindergarten graduation one year. KINDERGARTEN! These children have no comprehension of what is even happening to them!

Graduation season actually provokes a marketing drive in the video camera sales department, so parents can cry like little babies while watching their wee precious ball of resource consummation waddle across the stage, and then replay the whole nauseating event over and over again to bore people to tears for generations to come.

Another event that we have coming up is the end of the Japanese business year. The new business year starts on April 1st. In most Japanese companies, especially the civil service, people are transferred around from department for department, with blocks tenure being allocated in one yearly allotments. You may have been working in the board of education for four or five years and then told that you will be transferring to the board of civil engineering. April 1st is the official date of this transfer and it can bring some pretty big changes. Last year my desk moved across the room unexpectedly and this year I am expecting essentially the same to happen. I may have all new people to work with; I may get a new supervisor or nothing may happen at all.