Sunday, November 26, 2006

Got Sick

Yep, it happened, sure enough. Not too severe, but enough to lay me in for a day for fear that it would get worse. This gave me an excuse to sit around all day at my desk studying Japanese and fixing my computer.

Two problems had been dogging my Gentoo installation recently: my Firefox ( would freeze reliably on certain web pages, but not all. I eventually traced the problem to two old Flash plugins that weren't part of an emerge still on my system. I renamed them to something innocuous and the problem went away: /usr/lib/nsbrowser/plugins/flashplayer.xpt and /usr/lib/nsbrowser/plugins/

The other problem was that my copy of Gaim (1.5.0) would crash with a memory or pointer problem whenever I ran it. This I was able to solve by deleting the "block" lines from my ~/.gaim/blist.xml file.

Anyone else out there still using Linux or have you all moved to OS X?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Figured it was time to try out this whole mobile blogging thing. I'm writing this from my cellphone as I ride the train home, listening to Medeski, Martin & Wood. Today I learned that at least to many Japanese people flu vaccinations are for kids or the elderly & you must go to a hospital to get one. My impression from the US is rather different. What are your thoughts?

One co-worker who sits next to me is sick with his second cold in as many weeks. Jeff is getting over an illness and Minako was sick last week. No doubt I'll get sick in time for the national holiday on Thursday (Labor Thanksgiving Day). Even though I know it's late in the season I plan on getting vaccinated just like last year.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Everyday Living

Nothing much going on, just studying hard for my upcoming Japanese test. My brain is bulging with kanji! Until something more interesting happens, here are three small items that I observed recently:

  • On my way to work this morning it was drizzling down. Less than one minute's walk from my door I came upon and Indian-looking fellow standing over a huge orange puddle in the middle of the sidewalk. Living in Tokyo, you come upon pools of vomit frequently. Usually on train platforms. Sometimes on the train. Often on the sidewalk. This man looked like he was presiding over a puddle of near Team America proportions. I was further shocked when he began shoveling it up with his bare hands and carrying it towards the curb. Then I noticed another Indian guy with a pushcart laden with pots and pans moving away from us up the street. I just wish I had had the nerve to capture the scene on my camera.
  • I don't think I mentioned it before, but I've been pondering the idea of raising earthworms on my balcony to consume kitchen waste. I did some research about what type of worm is popular in Japan for vermi-composting, and it seems I need to send away for them. My local bait shop sells about 30 different types of live worms, but not that variety. I even tried poking around our neighborhood park on a rainy day, but only found drowned worms. Finally one drizzly evening about a month ago I came across a very energetic reddish worm sliding across the pavement on a back street, no where near dirt. I wasted no time in scooping s&he up in the frisbee I happened to be carrying and deposited it in my biggest plant container. The first thing it did was try and climb out, but I tapped it lightly on the front and it quickly buried itself in the dirt. I had figured it had drowned from over watering or the wrong kind of dirt or something until last night I saw the unmistakable sign of earthworm tailings on the surface! Hopefully it will produce offspring and they will all live to eat my garbage happily ever after.
  • I accidentally deleted some un-backed up source code produced by one of my coworkers today. I was just going to release and re-check out his project from our Subversion repository so that PHPEclipse would work its magic on his copy of the project. I even checked to see if there were any modified files in it and it seemed there were none. However I had forgotten that he was using unchecked in code in his folder. Nuts. Fortunately he had another version that was only a couple weeks old. Back up your files people! (Sorry Ogasawara-san! I know what it feels like to lose work.)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Fire Drill

Quite apt given the event earlier in the week (see "Boya" below), we had our annual fire drill on Friday morning. Standard stuff- "This is the Disaster Coordination Center. There has been an earthquake, do not leave the building as it is dangerous. Please wait for further instructions." "A fire has been reported between buildings six and eight. Please evacuate the building..." Then all the employees at this location filed out (some wearing white safety helmets) into the parking lot near Gate #1 which was barely big enough to hold all of 500 or so of us.

Then the employees of nearby buildings peeked out at us while we tried to listen to the explanation of the use of fire extinguishers and the progress with determining the cause of the fire on the 14th. Way in the back, I could barely hear the man with the megaphone.

Later that afternoon I was surprised to be asked, along with everyone else in my group, for the time we left work on the day of the fire. Since I left about four hours before it was found, I shoudn't think I would have anything to worry about.

I forgot to mention it, but yesterday I was introduced to an American employee of Pioneer Research of America for the first time. During my year working at this location I've seen other Caucasians on about five different occasions, but I'd never had more than a passing word. There are a few Chinese nationals and at least one Korean guy on the staff but as far as I know, no native English speakers. During the meeting with this guy from PRA I also got to hear my boss speak in English, something he hasn't done since the first week I was at this office.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


When I got to work there was a campus-wide email informing us that there had been a small fire last night in the men's bathroom on the fourth floor of the building where I work. Apparently the smoke was intense so all the windows were opened on that floor, making a mess of the papers in the office. Considering the age and apparent lack maintenance of this builing I'm surprised this hasn't happened more
during the year that I've been here. The fire department and police department are investigating.

Densha Otoko

Last night Jeff and I watched Densha Otoko, during dinner. Although I expect news of this never made it out of Japan, it was a big hit as a novel, then as a TV show and a movie. It tells the story of an extremely introverted and awkward Akihabara otaku who meets a regular woman on a train when he stops a drunk salaryman from harassing her. Quite a good flick, in a geeky way. It was cool for me (and I'm sure for thousands of other geeks) to see Akihabara as a setting for a film. I recommend it
to any fans of net culture.

This morning I awoke to the sound of my alarm from a very vivid dream of Brunswick, ME. It wasn't even the nice, downtown part, but rather the strip mall area of Cook's Corner. In my dream I was driving my Jeep (which I bought after I graduated) in a parking lot that was a mixture of the Sears and Shaws parking lots.

In that way dreams have, it instantly made me nostalgic for my time at Bowdoin and reminded me that I haven't been there in about three years. I meant to go there during my trip in October but didn't have time. Next June I'll visit for sure.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Rabbit-Fest 2006

Did I mention that Minako keeps a pet rabbit? I'll have to post some pics of him someday. He's very cute. In the meantime, here are a pair of photos from the rabbit fair we attended this past weekend down in Yokohama. First time I'd been, although Minako was there last year as well, collecting free samples and buying merchandise discounted for the show. Interesting event, but I can't see myself shelling out the big yen for a bunny any time soon. Now a chicken, maybe.

After the show we had a nosh and did a little shopping in Yokohama. Definitely an interesting city. Lots of variety, including a Chinatown bustling with tourists and a hefty helping of Western flavor.

Also, completely by accident, we happened upon an interesting museum, bankART, which was having a modern noh performance. We didn't have the energy to attend it, but we did peruse their bookshop. Wherein I found a book of works by Yukinori Yanagi. First time for me to learn about him. Fantastic stuff, especially his ant farms. Difficult to find images on the net that convey how cool these flag ant farms appeared even in the book.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Back in Japan

I'm back in Tokyo now, finishing up my unpacking and trying to get my affairs here back in order. I had a great trip- thanks to everyone who took time out of their schedules to come see me! Amazingly I felt I was able to hit most of the places and see all of my (local) friends this time. Not to say that it isn't nice to be back in my own time and space again.

Friday was a public holiday here (Culture Day) so we spent some time in my favorite local cafe, "Pow Wow." Lots of exposed wood, sculpture, and a few knick-knacks. Nothing Native American despite the name. They've been there since the mid-70's and I hope they won't be going out of business anytime soon.

On Saturday I went to the dentist and to the bakery that I've been volunteering at for several months now. They were busy since the wife of the couple that runs it is on a several month trip to Tuscanny.

Today I've got to get more Japanese studying in before the exam next month. Also gotta make some bread and play some ultimate frisbee. Another busy day.