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8 September 2006

Comfort Hotel Blues

On returning home from Canada this past May, the four of us spent a night at the Comfort Hotel in Narita City (near Narita Airport). This is what we saw on the door of our suite's mini-fridge:

(In the voice of the Cookie Monster) "Hmm! Your Hotel Manager have good idea! Residue—sound delish. Me think me spread some on cookie and have that with glass of milk!"

To add to last night's list, two more must-see movies are Paul Haggis's Crash (2004) and Steven Soderbergh's Traffic (2000).

I will close with an inspirational quotation from a song by Canadian singer Bruce Cockburn (pronounced "Coburn"—sorry to disappoint you):

"Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight;
Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight."


07 September 2006

To the flicks

I haven't been hitting the weights much lately. It's a dilemma for me these days. When I do have free time, I feel like I should be spending it with my wife and kids. They're only going to be this little and cute once, I reason. Plus I feel bad leaving the burden of childcare to my wife. Plus there is a heckuva lotta housework to do. On the other hand, life can't be all sacrifice, and we need our personal space; we need to develop ourselves; we need to pursue our hobbies. My mood isn't good when I can't sling iron. I wish I felt like working out at the end of a long day, when work is finished with and the kids are in bed. But I just can't get into it at 10:00 p.m.

Regarding the topic of movies, I've been watching a lot of movies during the last couple of years. I often watch a quarter or half a movie a night. The more movies I see, the more I am turned off by the bad ones; I'm not usually able see a bad movie all the way through. The good ones have it all down right: a meaningful, intelligent and thought-provoking script; solid casting and setting; fine acting; and decent editing.

In no particular order, here are a few classy productions worth viewing: The Ice Storm (1997); Requiem for a Dream (2000); Kids and Bully, both directed by Larry Clark; Tarantino's Jackie Brown; Brad Anderson's The Machinist; Memento (thanks Kevin); Unbreakable (2000); The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996); Equilibrium (2002); Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, Casino, Gangs of New York, and The Aviator; Menace II Society (1993); Fight Club; Twelve Monkeys; and The Skeleton Key (2005).

That ought to keep you interested for a while.

Starship Troopers has its obvious flaws, but is almost worth watching just for the musical score by Basil Poledouris.

Nevertheless, I do still like to watch simple-minded action movies; the violence and big muscles (Van Damme movies) hold an attraction. And B-movies (e.g. Army of Darkness) are fun to watch just because they're so bad.

31 August 2006

The times they are a changin'

Those who know me well will be aware that I often harp on the need for perspective. If lately you've been plagued by the feeling that your life is nothing but one big collection of woes, then feel free to check this graphic news feature out. Of course, it's easy to pontificate about the need for ontological perspective. However, keeping a balanced perspective 24/7 is an entirely different proposition. It's very easy to let oneself get carried away by one's ego. When it's hot and humid as hell, I have to go to the can, the babies are crying, and I'm hungry and tired all at the same time, it is perhaps understandable why I fly off the handle and let loose a string of invective at the wifey. Understandable, yes. Forgiveable, less so. This is one of the major challenges of human affairs: mitigating the ego.

Looking back on high school, I really wish we had been given a head start on learning useful life skills. I'm talking about the kind of skills I knew nothing about several years ago, the kind of skills it has taken me years to acquire, and which I will have to spend the rest of my life honing. Things like moderating the ego, learning how to listen—really listen—to people, and character development in general. At any rate, I'm glad Fate has seen fit to give me the chance to work on my character and learn how to be less selfish. (I have had a lot of close calls, especially when I used to drive cab. A lot of near misses on the road where I was literally inches from seriously hurting myself or others. Considering how easy it is to die I've been darn lucky.) I'm glad I've learned how—and been given the opportunity—to give back to the world. Fuck, was I ever a selfish, self-absorbed jerkoff in my mid-20s. Still am, but to a far lesser degree, I think.

Now that I'm done with the philosophy, a few words about the kids. The pace of their development is amazing. Shiho and I marvel at every little new thing they do. Several weeks ago, Mickey and Milo both began pointing at things they saw around the house or on walks. They aim their index finger at some object and blurt out "Ah!" or "Oh!" Now, my wife asks Mickey simple questions in Japanese such as, "Where is Daddy?" and he points to a very proud and grateful father. Mom asks where the light is and he cranes he neck back and points in the direction of the brightness. Mickey is now also taking his first unaided steps, though he often crashes to the floor (he never cries, though; he's tough). It helps that we have a wooden floor. I remember those crazy concrete floors in Korea; they were covered with only a thin film of some linoleum-like substance. I used to teach one guy who had a baby; the kid kept falling on the floor and banging his head. Still can't figure out where those concrete floors fit in childrearing.

When we talk about the development of babies, however, one thing seems kind of weird. Think about animals. Most animals mature at a much faster rate than humans. Newborn colts are able to walk around on their first day. Yet it takes a year or longer before babies can walk. Even longer before they can talk. The changes are much slower and more incremental. Nevertheless, parents such as ourselves are awed by the ostensible speed of our babies' development.

One final comment about children. The funny thing about raising kids is how they start off so dependent, but end up so independent. When they're a month old, they rely on you for everything. At almost 15 months old, little Milo sometimes begs for me to hold him and then cries when I put him down. A far cry from the behavior of many 17-year-old high school students who are, at best, embarrassed by their parents. Having kids has made me realize that I want to be closer to my family. In retrospect, I feel that when I was growing up I was not close enough to my parents and siblings. These days, I try harder to keep in touch with my parents, which means writing more and phoning more. It's really sad, I think, how sometimes a day or more goes by when I don't think about my parents or siblings. From complete dependence to...indifference. Sad, sad, sad. So much of human life is sad. When we're dead and gone, who will remember us. Our children? Yes. Our grandchildren? Probably. After that, though, the memories just evaporate into the mists of time.

I don't mean to wallow in despondency. I didn't intend to end on this sad note. But, if you don't believe in an afterlife or have a strong sense of spirituality, life can ultimately seem (sometimes, when you probe too deeply) an exercise in futility.

I just uploaded a mess of photos. Sorry, but I didn't feel like labeling them. Click here to view.

18 August 2006

Back to the land of the living

OK, so I'm back. It wasn't my lymph glands that were swollen but the salivary glands. Diagnosis: it was the mumps. If you didn't have the mumps as a child, it is definitely something you do not want to get as an adult (the symptoms are far more severe in adults). I had a forty-degree fever for several days, had absolutely no desire for food or drink, was throwing up, and the like. Worst part of it was probably that my left ball was swollen to the size of a goose egg—that's right, a goose egg—for a week. It was a story of ice, ice, and more ice. That ball may or may not wind up infertile. We'll have to see.

I checked myself into the hospital Wednesday last week. I only wanted to be there for two or three days. I needed to get hooked up to the IV thingamajig because, how can I explain it now...there was just no way I could take more than a sip of fluid at a time, I couldn't eat, and I was getting seriously dehydrated. After my fever broke and my stomach settled, I wanted to check out of the hospital, but they wouldn't let me. The Japanese way of life again. It makes me think of those action movies where the hero gets shot and a mere three hours later he wakes up in the intensive care unit; before we know it he is already stripping wires from his body and getting dressed. That didn't happen with me. Too bad for my pocketbook, because the hospital charge, even after insurance, was an amazing $1,100. Now how the fuck is the average Joe supposed to get ahead in this world? When you consider I'm only able to save a few hundred bucks a month, there goes four months of savings.

Anyhow, my appetite is finally returning to normal. I lost an incredible 15 pounds, most of it hard-earned muscle; it took me only two weeks to lose what it had taken several months to gain. If you never had the mumps as a kid and you haven't been vaccinated...I won't tell you to get vaccinated but boy you certainly don't want what I had.

But, you know what they say, things could always be worse. You could be dead, raped, hurled into a cold ditch. Eaten alive by hogs like in that scene in Hannibal. Turned into a quadriplegic. The possibilities are endless. Suffering ain't hard to come by in this vale of tears that we call life. So I'll count my blessings and move on. See ya later.

04 August 2006

Fuck, fuck, fuck!

Goddammit I hate being sick. My face is swollen like a goddam chipmunk's. (Once again I realize that people in other parts of the world are suffering much more, but everything is relative. Right now about the only thing I can do is blog. I'm supposed to eat and take my medicine, but I can hardly contemplate eating my next meal.)

OK, so first, from a couple of weeks ago or so, I had this weird cold, the only symptoms of which were as follows: my nose had become very sensitive to certain irritants (cigarette smoke, car exhaust and the like), and without warning I would start to sneeze, and then my nose would drip like a tap, uncontrollably, for the next 20 minutes or so. Needless to say handkerchiefs came in very handy. (They have been ever since I came to Asia, which has dished out a helluva lot of asshole cold viruses in my direction. I remember my first year in Korea I was so sick that during class I sometimes had to turn my back to my students in order to cough up a great gob of phlegm.)

The next phase, which lasted a couple of days, was a total lack of energy. None. Zero. Zilch. Zip. It was like some cosmic energy vampire had sucked me dry. So I got some medicine for these symptoms, and they improved, markedly.

Until yesterday, which was the beginning of phase three. Just as the symptoms of my cold had almost completely tapered off, my lymph glands (the ones under your jaw, below your ears) exploded with inflammation. We are talking mega-chipmunk here. Can't open my jaw the whole way to admit food. I managed to teach the one class I had to today (will give that student bad dreams tonight), and tried queuing for meds at the local hospital in the morning, but the place was jam packed. So I went back to the hospital at five this evening, and got some meds, and I am now waiting for the swelling to go down (it seems to really bad the first 20 minutes you wake up) so I can chew some food and pop those pills.

Because really, ladies and gents, why me? "Poor me!" goes the lament. I don't even smoke or drink, I exercise, I eat pretty well, I manage my stress, I sleep OK, and yet I end up getting these vicious freakin' colds. Blame on it these virulent Asian viruses. I think I'll be ready for the next killer flu pandemic, what with all the exposure I have under my belt. Kindergarten is a particularly good source of pathogens, all those kids coughing in your face. On more than one occasion during the last year I have taken what I got from work, came back home and spread it to my family, causing my kids a week of misery.

So, Jesus, I just want to be normal again. I want to work out. I want to go hiking. I want to go swimming. I want to bloody well take care of my kids and help my wife out, instead of spending all this time in the sack. I'm sick of this bloody indoors life. It would be great to have a job that let me work outside and where I could live by the sea.

Thank God my only student tomorrow called the office tonight to cancel. Over and out.

22 July 2006

Still Rolling

I'm still putting on muscle (now weigh about 185 pounds, with some bodyfat) and the twins are continously developing. It's a delight to see them explore themselves and the world around them. They enjoy playing with their pee-pees in the bath. Not much else is new here.

Since ay 1, it has been overcast or rainy about 90 percent of the time. I grew up in cloudy Vancouver. When I was young, I liked the grayness and constant drizzle. As I entered my mid-twenties, though, I began to tire of the gloom. Korea, with its sunny autumns and winters, was a welcome change. And after five years in Korea, I had begun to take the cheery weather for granted, because the weather in Utsunomiya, Japan, caught me by surprise. Constant cloud can have a strong effect on you; even the birds don't chirp. Now, however, I have readjusted and enjoy losing myself in silent contemplation of the many-hued and multi-textured gray skies this city has to offer. That said, a retirement in sun-kissed Arizona is still one of many possibilities.

Here are some photos from some time back. The first is of Shiho during this year's cherry blossom season. The next two snaps, which are a few months old, show the twins having their bath in the kitchen sink.

14 June 2006

Time Rolls On

No, not much at all in the blog department for a while. The last two months have been fairly routine, and routine is good. I've been focusing on taking care of my kids; being good to my family, friends, and other people in my life; doing my job (English teaching); bodybuilding (my only real selfish vice, self-abuse aside); being a good citizen of the planet Earth; helping other people; looking after my health; watching movies to relax.

I don't know, I'm not offering excuses or anything. But if I didn't have to work I would have a lot of energy left over to invest in creative pursuits like writing and playing piano. I haven't touched a piano keyboard for three months. I'm just not into it. I feel like work saps my juices. Again, I'm not complaining or anything. We all have to work, of course. I marvel at some people I know who only need four or five hours sleep a night. Anyhow, to me, it feels right to concentrate on the fundamentals. At least I know I'm doing some things right.

I know this sounds like an apology, but it wasn't meant to. When you think about famous people, they made a lot of sacrifices to get where they were. When he was starting out, Thomas Edison repaired machinery by day (his paying job) and by night tinkered with machines in his office, practically living off coffee and apple pie. Nelson Mandela spent more than a quarter century in jail because he felt the freedom struggle was more important than being with his family (he admits to having made this very difficult choice in his excellent autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom). Think of all the workaholics who chose to spend their best years at the office in pursuit of status and riches instead of spending time with their kids. Many people who have got "ahead" in this world have made very big sacrifices, either going through hardship themselves or else causing pain to others around them. I prefer to just live a normal life. My mom recently accused me of lacking ambition, but that's perfectly all right with me. The career does not make the man; the sum of his deeds does. I'm sponsoring two children in poor countries and I feel for the first time in my life that I am making a real contribution to the world. I want my kids to love me and I want to be the best father possible. And when I come home at night, I don't hit my blog but instead spend an hour watching a flick on my PC. That's me, that's the way it is. Sometimes I wish I could be the guy with super energy levels, but I ain't. OK, enough of this stream of consciousness, here are some photos. The last one shows the recalcitrant twins on the laps of their paternal great grandparents in Niigata.

23 March 2006

A stab at poetry

OK, so I haven't blogged for a while. To paraphrase Trevanian, the reason is that I have been busier than a one-legged man at an ass-kicking contest. OK...so that's not true.

Here's the real reason. My mind has been full of ideas, as usual. Nevertheless, I have not been that inspired to write. I love writing, but only when I feel the urge. That's probably the main reason why I never enjoyed writing essays at university, and probably why I wouldn't want to make a living out of being literary. Another reason for my silence is that I've been in a certain mood lately. The mood runs like something like this: there's a lot of negative things I have to say, and a lot of criticism I want to make, but I just don't see the value in getting online and giving something or someone a verbal shitkicking.

All right, just one little rant. When I was in college, I was friends with a white chick. One day we were having a conversation, and the word "negro" somehow came up. She replied, "I hate that word." I can understand when Caucasians become apologists for white racism. But her position was hopeless. Here's why:

1. First off, we still got the United Negro College Fund. They're even on the Web.
2. Next, the word "negro" in Spanish simply means "black." Nothing racist about that.
3. Movies and rap music are full of black people calling each other "negro."
4. Finally, there are the influential brothers named Nicholas and John Negroponte. You gonna deny them the right to use their own goddamn names?

Ruth, wherever you are, if you happen to read this, don't take it too badly.

Anyhow, what I did do recently is compose a poem. I don't think it's a very good poem, but I don't give a fuck. I'll do a better job the next time around, you know? This poem is about how people view their priorities in life. I think a lot of people have the wrong priorities. (I know "wrong" is a hopelessly loaded and subjective word, but I need to define my terms before I can make my point.) Not that I've reached the pinnacle of ontological wisdom, but I think that after 32 years I have a pretty good idea of what life is about. Life's about caring for other people, life's about doing the best you can, life's about mitigating your own ego, life's about pursuing enriching experiences (as opposed to mindless ones), and life's about just appreciating the fact that we're here in the first place. My poem, appropriately entitled "Have you ever...?", is dedicated to those who might have missed out on life.

Have you ever?

Have you ever learned to play an instrument?
Or lay in bed thinking about the firmament?

Have you ever kissed a newborn baby's buttocks?
Or thanked the nameless Chinese slave who makes your socks?

Have you ever stood and watched the moon?
Or lazed on the couch and listened to Elvis croon?

Have you ever bothered to taste the food you eat?
Or realized there's more to sex than just the meat?

Have you ever gone for a hike and hugged a tree?
Or cursed humankind for how petty it can be?

Have you ever been thankful for the things you got?
Instead of constantly lamenting your lot?

Have you ever thought about the point of life?
And understood that we must end all strife?

Have you ever thought about the grand scheme of things?
And known that fulfillment sure ain't material things?

That's all folks. See ya.

4 March 2006

One more reason to learn English

Here's something for us ESL teachers. Yet one more reason a decent knowledge of English comes in handy (not safe for office use).

2 March 2006

I'll link to that

In my opinion, one of the greatest virtues of the Internet is free access to information. Thus, on this blog, you won't see me supporting websites that ask for money, nor will you see me asking for money from you. Notice the lack of ads? Anyway, the hosting only costs me about U.S.$13 a month. Here are some sites of interest to me.

First, courtesy of Google and the U.S. National Archives, newsreels from World War II and the like. Some excellent stuff here. Next, I found a very decent French dictionary. Note that it's in French only. I still haven't been able to find a decent English-French dictionary on the Web. All that I have come across so far are shite. Next in the list is New Scientist magazine. Although not all the content is free, there is a good selection of free articles. This is where I get a lot of my science news. After that, mosey on down to Slate Magazine for some surprisingly intelligent and erudite political commentary. I say "surprisingly" because (a) the magazine is produced by MSN, which I had hitherto thought of mostly as an arm of the software giant Microsoft and (b) it's free. Finally, in the same vein, I was amazed to find a ton of free articles about managing money from MSN Money. There is a lot of useful information here on how to manage your finances.

OK, I hope you find some of these sites useful. Chowder.

21 February 2006

This place is going to the dogs

Alms for the dogs

Shiho and I took a trip to Thailand in 2001. Thailand makes for an interesting, not to mention cheap, getaway. You can pick yerself up a decent chicken curry and rice for a measly fifty cents. Bangkok (no pun intended) is a wild place. Black smoke from tuk-tuks (the local version of taxis) permeates the air. There's a relatively new overhead light-rail network that most of the locals can't afford to use. In the red-light district, Patpong, families and bacchanalian pleasure seekers roam the street side by side. So as my wife and I strolled hand in hand, it probably should have been of no surprise when a man in the street proferred us a "menu" that listed, among other items, "Pussy with golf ball," "Pussy with coin," and the like. There are plenty of excellent markets in Bangkok. One thing, though. Stuff is so cheap that I sometimes felt guilty bargaining for trinkets, even though bargaining is de rigueur there. One salesman acted sorry for himself, saying that he didn't make much money on the wooden bookmarks he sold. Thus I relented.

In addition to Bangkok, we also visited the island resorts of Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. I have to say that while the islands were beautiful, I wasn't too impressed with the locals. To me, they often appeared indolent or indifferent (i.e., rude when it came to service). I also had the feeling that they were unhappy with having to serve me, sort of like they were making me feel guilty for my comparative wealth and standing. Needless to say, you don't want a guilt trip when you're on vacation.

Anyhow, getting back to the photo I posted above: those homeless dogs in Ayathuya are feasting on white rice fed to them by local Buddhist nuns. The point of that snap is to show that stray dogs in Thailand sometimes eat better than people in North Korea. Rice in the un-DPRK is very hard to come by, and many citizens have to make do with barley, which they resent. Way to go Kim Jong-il, starve 'em into submission. Treat 'em like the dogs they are! No, treat 'em worse than dogs!

24 January 2006

A Time for Teething

Cuteness is Catchy

12 January 2006

Bath Time With Daddy

(Photo since removed)

Sorry there's no shot of my own genitals. If I ever decide to rebel against the taboo of adult nudity, you'll find out about it here first. And a mental note to my vain self that I need to hit the weights more. Not enough shoulder or trap development in that photo. The arms need more work, too.

Well, it's a bit late for New Year's greetings. Instead just let me remark how nice it is that the human race has gone another year forward in time without initiating a global catastrophic event. In the meantime, I'll keep my fingers crossed against the Aum Shinrikyos, the al-Qaedas, and the Bushes of this world—or any other hell-bent apocalypse seekers. (Global warming, by the way, isn't a good candidate for earthly annihilation. Just make sure you don't buy any property at sea level, nudge nudge, wink wink.)

Doing some Websurfing tonight, I remkarked once again how easy it is to get lost on the Internet. It's very easy to let the mountains of data overwhelm you. And you just have to tell your ego that no, it is not possible for one human being to get a handle on it all. We're at a point in human evolution where knowledge is exploding exponentially. Just think, if you lived in Rome 2,000 years ago, it was perhaps possible to have read everything that was ever published (in Latin, at least). The explosion of data is one reason we need artificial intelligence (or at least computer-assisted human intelligence). Improving our brainpower will help us manage increasingly chaotic information flows.

By the way, did you know that "woman Hitler" is an anagram of "mother-in-law"? Some genius (or somebody with a lot of time on their hands) figured that one out.

Time to catch my forty winks. 'night.

As we speak, though, it's 1:12 a.m. and Milo has decided it's going to be playtime for a couple of hours. I hope I can get six hours of Z's tonight. Ciao for real now.

30 December 2005

Link Time

Well, tomorrow is New Year's Eve. Now that I'm clean, however, partying holds much less attraction than it used to. I'll be happy just to kick it at home.

Here are some links you might want to check out. First, how good is your vocabulary? Try the SAT/GRE word game on this page. Let me know how you did. There are twenty questions in each game; I played three times, yielding 17/20, 16/20, and 20/20. I still have a lot to learn, even about my mother tongue. Also, check out this blog about life in Iraq. The writer is extraordinarily literate in English, more so than some of my native speaker friends. Be sure also to check out these flash animation parodies of Saddam Hussein. Finally, before you go to bed tonight, listen to some pulsating stars.

29 December 2005

Five Reasons to Hate Canada

I've been living in East Asia for about six years now. Like other expats in Japan, I often criticize the perceived failings of my host country. Now it's time for some balance. I'm going to slag the Great White North, my homeland.

Five reasons I hate Canada:

1. The paucity of public bathrooms. In the summer of 2004, I picked up my wife at the Stadium Skytrain Station in Vancouver. She had to micturate (take a whiz). But there were no bloody bathrooms in the station. We had to drive all the way into the West End, where we were picking up our friends, and ask them if she could use the can in their pad.

The local wisdom runs, "When you need to pee, find the nearest McDonald's." Even in Canadian shopping malls and department stores, there is a dearth of pissoirs. There must be a conspiracy going on. Pretty soon they'll have us all wearing Depends.

2. Man, those buses are slow. After five years in Korea, where the bus drivers race around at breakneck speeds (one guy drove with the front door open in place of air conditioning), and where you have to hold on for dear life (I've seen people knocked to the floor), the "loser cruisers" in Vancouver slime along at a loathsome snail's pace.

3. Cheeky-ass customs officers. When I was returning from Paris to Vancouver in 1991, I had to stop at Canada Customs. The lady inspecting my bags snatched a plush toy from my suitcase and snarkily demanded, "What's this?" "It's a stuffed animal," I said. "Stuffed with what?" came an even snarkier riposte. Talk about lady on a power trip. Most of the men and women at Canada Customs are a bunch of hard-nosed, even-harder-assed jerkoffs who revel in wielding their petty authority over weary travelers. You can see that even after 14 years, I'm still affected by this incident. "I'm a goddamn citizen of Canada!"

4. Slacker service. Last year I headed to a convenience store to pick up some items. The schmuck at the counter made the sale without even getting off his cell phone. Bad service is a rarity in Japan.

5. Daily withdrawal limits at ATMs. Need I say more?

28 December 2005

A Bodybuilder's Diary

(Before we begin: Mom, if you're reading this, please check your e-mail. Thx.)

A self-congratulatory pat on the back. A couple of hours ago, I weighed in at 80 kilos. That's about 176 pounds, mostly lean, with some fat around the middle and on the buttocks. (It's really hard to be both big and lean at the same time. The guys in the muscle magazines are able to be both huge and ripped at once because they're on 'roids. The only way I could get washboard abs would be to diet, which would mean losing a lot of muscle mass, so fuck it. I always hated being small and skinny.) I'm now a far cry from the skinny-ass 135 pounds I weighed after graduating from high school.

Anyhow, so I'm finally putting on the pounds. Right before I came to Japan this past April, I weighed about 81½ kilos, but the weight came off for a number of reasons. My goal now is 85 kilos.

It's funny how so many fat and obese people want to shed the weight, while I want to put it on. The same goes for hundreds of millions of hungry people in this world. Here's what I consumed today:

- 10:00 — Meal #1: whey protein shake with glutamine; bowl of quaker instant oats

- 13:00 — Meal #2: fried egg, 200g stir-fried beef, kimchi, green salad, rice (Thanks, Shiho)

- 17:00 — Meal #3: hoedeopbap (a big bowl of tuna sashimi, rice, hot sauce, and mixed greens, all mixed together); kimchi (Thanks again, Shiho)

- 17:45 — Snack: half a piece of chocolate cake (today is a cheat day) and two glasses of whole milk

- 21:00 — Meal #4: pre-workout shake (three scoops of weight gain powder with glutamine); creatine mixed in grape juice

- 22:30 — Postworkout drink: grape juice with creatine and glutamine

- 23:00 — Meal #5: salad; one can chunk tuna with mustard and (a little) mayonnaise; natto (Japanese fermented soybeans); rice; big bowl of blueberries and plain yogurt (both unsweetened)

- 24:00 — Snack: half a piece of chocolate cake and three glasses of whole milk

27 December 2005

They say it's your birthday...

Well, it's not actually my birthday. Not for another six months anyhow. But hey—here I am in my birthday suit!

(If this blog is still around fifteen years from now, I might be one unhappy teenager.)

27 December 2005 (late night)

Across the Generations

Here's a snap of Mickey with his maternal great-grandmother. I greatly appreciate being able to take photos such as this because I never even knew my grandparents, let alone my great-grandparents. I hope the kids get to grow up receiving the love and warmth of many family members.

Mickey and Great Grandma (photo taken with a cell phone camera)

22 December 2005

Another Grade School Flashback: The Matron

Today's the darkest day of the year. Henceforth, let there be light. Here comes the sun. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Enough of the clichés, already! Let sleeping dogs lie.

From grades six to nine, I boarded at St. George's junior school. From Monday to Friday, I lived in the dormitory, and on weekends I went home. It's not like our home was far from school. It was darn near. So I asked my mom why she had enrolled me as a boarder. The answer was that the school needed money and would only accept me if I came on board as a boarder. Looking back, I think this was a white lie; the truth of the matter was probably that my parents were seeking to instill some discipline in me. I was a pretty unruly kid. I'm sure it didn't hurt them to have me out of their hair five days a week, either.

Back to the boarding house. At the dorm, there was a "matron" (that was her official job title). Her duties mainly consisted in handling our laundry. She did some folding and sorting, but I think most of the washing was done off site. Anyhow, one day, my socks came back from the laundry with a few partners missing, and fairly or not, I immediately blamed the matron. Entering the dorm room I shared with seven other prepubescents, I let loose a volley of foul invective: "Fucking matron fucking bitch! Fucking matron fucking bitch! She fucked up the laundry again!" And wouldn't you know it, there, quietly folding laundry, hidden out of view behind some high dressers, was the little ole matron herself. As I walked around the dresser, her eyes met mine. "Max," she uttered, "I'm completely shocked." Exit Matron. I was about as ashen as an egotistical sixth grader could be.

I'll close with one more anecdote. When you get to the age of thirty (I'm thirty-two now), you begin to understand the concept of your mortality. I only graduated 14½ years ago, but by the end of the millenium three of my former teachers had already died of cancer. Two were relatively young, and both of them were smokers. My father himself fell victim to colon cancer at the age of 50, dying when I was one year old. So I never knew him; that's a shame, isn't it? You might understand me when I say that I'm pretty darn scared of cancer. I quit smoking several years ago; I eat my greens; I exercise; and I take me antioxidants. That said, you never know when death's around the corner. You gotta take whatever hand fate deals you.

19 December 2005

Grade Six Flashback

"I really do not appreciate people being socially unpleasant," he was saying. "It's simply not acceptable in polite society to be socially unpleasant."

The speaker was, of course, C— A—, the former Vice Headmaster of my old school. St. George's School, in Vancouver B.C., was a good ole private school in the British waspish disciplinarian tradition. (Nowadays, it's much less waspish, at least in terms of the racial makeup of the student body. Sorry, what was that? Oh yeah! That was a turban we just saw going by.)

Anyhow, you might be wondering what the heck good ole C— was talking about. "Being socially unpleasant" was his own personal euphemism for passing gas. Apparently, one of the kids had let rip in class, and Mr. A— wasn't about to let his boys flagrantly flaunt the anti-flatulence rules. No siree Bob, he wasn't going to be caught with his pants down here. Hence the lecture from good ole "Pizza Face," the nickname given to him by pupils who mocked his warty, mole-ridden visage. All-in-all, Mr. A— was a very fine gentleman. He was a hale and hearty fellow who led by fine example. No irony whatsoever in that statement.

Oops, time to go. I've gotta go be socially unpleasant.

11 December 2005: Before Bed

Yeah, I know. I am painfully behind when it comes to twins news. Here's an update in a nutshell.

Mickey and Milo turned six months old on December 7. The last six weeks have seen a lot of changes. Both of them have begun to interact much more with their surroundings. They vocalize a lot (baby talk, and I wish I had it all on tape, there are some hilarious sounds), Milo especially first thing in the morning and before bed. They're a lot more fun to play with because they're so interactive. The first three or four months, they're pretty much in their own world. They're grabbing everything that's within reach and putting it in their mouth. They're teething. The first teeth (bottom incisors) started coming in a week or so ago. We just bought some new rubber teething rings, which should put us in good stead. The concept of drooling, salivation, or slathering (what have you) has taken on an entirely new dimension. I give them a gum massage (with finger) in the morning. They love it. Yes, I do wash my hands first. They've been able to roll over for a while now, but couldn't really move around much. Now it looks as though they're ready to begin crawling in earnest. They're an absolute joy to be with and my life has never felt so complete.

Now that they interact more with their environs, they've also started to interact with each other. Here's a recent snapshot (so many photos, so little time):

And another...

Yes, I can hold my feet now. I like to suck on my foot in the bath, too. I also sometimes assume this position when you change my diapers. Even though I'm only six months old, I'm already helping you wipe my butt!

11 December 2005


So I haven't blogged for quite a while. It's not as if there's a shortage of things for me to say. I just haven't been into writing as of late. Probably one of the reasons is that I'm working a lot (by my own standards, of course). I'm pretty darn busy from Monday to Thursday. I might only teach a class or two on Friday or Saturday, but home life keeps me very occupied on those days. Here's a typical Tuesday for me.

Day in the life of a married man, father of twins, bodybuilder (currently weighing in at a fairly-lean 78 kilos), and mobile ESL specialist

- 00:00 — Hit the sack
- 08:00 — Up and at 'em (I really needed those eight hours' sleep!)
- 08:00-08:25 — Play with the kids
- 08:25-08:45 — Meal #1: invariably 25g protein shake and bowl of instant oatmeal (bodybuilder's power breakfast)
- 08:45-08:50 — Feed birds and give fresh water (I know that pets are supposed to eat first, but...)
- 08:50-09:20 — Daily ablutions and so on, take vitamins
- 09:30 (if I'm on schedule) — Out the door
- 09:30-10:00 — Drive to kindergarten, listen to music, check out the bucolic scenery
-10:00-11:50 — Teach five different kindergarten classes (about 20 minutes each)
- 11:50-11:55 — Famished. Head to neighboring conbini for a prepackaged tuna salad and pork curry. Kiddies keep saying "Bye bye" and I keep saying "It's not bye-bye, I'm just grabbing lunch" (this happens without fail every week)
- 12:00-12:20 — Enjoy Meal #2, along with a gratis instant coffee with creamer, in the principal's office
- 12:30-12:55 — Drive to university (classes begin at 12:50)
- 12:55-13:00 — Walk to locker, remove teaching materials, head upstairs to class (I know I'm late, but given my schedule, there ain't a whole heck of a lot I can do about it)
- 13:00-16:00 — Teach two ninety-minute classes (there's a ten-minute break in there during which I can tackle Meal #3, which translates into either downing a protein shake or munching on some high-quality beef jerky)
- 16:00-16:45 — Bathroom business, unwind, make photocopies for next week's classes
- 16:45-17:05 — Drive home while munching on nuts (lotsa nuts if I didn't eat much between classes)
- 17:05-17:15 — Wash hands, unload belongings, greet wife and kids
- 17:15-17:40 — Meal #4
- 17:40-18:40 — Play with kids, change diapers, and so on
- 18:40-18:45 — Get ready to go again
- 18:45-18:50 — Bike to office
- 18:50-19:10 — Chat with co-workers, make photocopies, fetch water from cooler (gotta keep hydrated), bathroom business (water is very dear here so I brush my teeth etc. at work where possible)
- 19:10-20:20 — Teach a class, my consciousness made possible by sugared, instant coffee
- 20:20-20:40 — Unwind, drink water, "Read the late paper, it was full of bad news"
- 20:50-20:55 — Bike back home
- 20:55-21:30 — Eat dinner with wifey (Meal #5), talk with wifey (though sometimes just masticate wordlessly, in a vegetative state akin to that of Jack Nicolson's post-lobotomy character in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
- 21:30-23:30 — The twins are asleep, so here's my first chunk of real time to spend on myself. At this point, I'm usually too tired to write, practice piano, or work out. All I manage to do is check my e-mail, surf the Net a bit, and maybe watch part of a movie. Oh, and I quaff a few tall glasses of milk (Meal #6) before bedtime. Gotta keep that calorie count up.
- 23:30-24:00 — Make bed, brush teeth, take bath, take vitamins, hit the hay

Yabbity, yabbity, that's all folks!

1 November 2005

Photo Update

Here are two photos of the twins. I believe they were taken in late August or early September. The shape of Milo's head reminds me of an eggplant.

I gotta say, I love my kids. The older I get, the more I am convinced that one's wealth, possessions, and status have very little to do with one's happiness in life. I know, I know, it's easy for me to say that, since I'm not a starving North Korean or Ethiopian. But it's amazing how dissatisfied a lot of Westerners (or citizens of affluent countries) are. Many people are unhappy in spite of—or even perhaps because of?—their many material acquisitions.

Lately, I've come to realize the extent to which people in rich countries can be chained to the pursuit of a material life. I make a king's ransom by the standards of the Third World ($2,600 a month), but my wife and I blow a lot of money on luxuries (cosmetics, processed foods, weight gain powders, clothes we don't wear very often). Our monthly accounting has shown that since I started working in Japan, we've been going into the red about a couple hundred dollars a month. Fortunately, I do some extra work for a university in Korea, so that helps out. And admittedly, rent, food, transportation, and utilities take a lot of our cash. I'm looking forward to the point at which I can begin to save at least five percent of my salary.

Here's Mickey.

And here's "Eggplant."

26 October 2005

Long time, no blog. Chapter 3 of Taxi Tales is ready. Click on the taxi image in the upper-right hand corner of this page.

25 September 2005

A lil' slice of Japanese

Here's a little peek into the world of foreign loan words used in Japan. You'll notice the way the Japanese play with the meanings of English words.

Well, I hope that was informative. I'll keep an eye out for new additions. Cheers.

24 September 2005

Let me say this flat out

OK, so what's the big deal with flatulence? Why is it not OK to fart in public?

Big, smelly diesel buses pollute my airspace with impunity. Factories belch their filth into the air. The guy walking in front of me is taking long drags on his stinking cigarette.

Seriously, though—it's socially acceptable to damage other people's lungs. So why I can't I do what only comes naturally, that is, release a toxic cloud of methane here and there?

One thing I like about being in noisy, crowded places is that you can let it rip and you don't have to suffer the consequences. The social breach goes unpunished. A thronging supermarket is ideal; just make sure you put some distance between yourself and the scene of the crime.

I'm into lifting weights, and when I'm in a bulking-up phase, I increase my caloric intake (especially protein) significantly. Unfortunately, one side effect is tremendous gas, much of it noxious. The other day I was teaching kindergarten when I let slip an SDB (silent-but-deadly). There was no shocked reaction, however, on the part of the kids. One good thing about teaching the little ones is that you can fart and be happy. Kids haven't yet been inculcated with adult sensibilities, notably the fear of things scatological.

So come on, folks. Let's lift the social ban on flatulence. I'll close with a quote from Scary Spasms in Hairy Chasms, a book written by a friend of mine: "If gorillas can fling their dung when angry, why can't I?"*

* Emphasis in the original



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