Archive for August, 2006

Strange Dreams

Very strange dreams of late.

Last night, for exmaple, I found myself at the theatre in Sheffield, or maybe it was a lecture hall. One of the staff from my department, Takeda Sensei, was there, speaking fluently in Greek. Her friend had just opened a Greek restaurant, and asked her to announce to us, in Japanese, that we would now be watching a short video about how to prepare a fish without turning it over more than once – preserves the flavour you see.

Earlier in the evening I’d been at a cafe with friends, when William, the old tramp who used to live in a ditch near our school (he really did, had a little tarpaulin home in this great culvert type thing. He was a bit scary to us children as he had a dog that liked to bark and look vicious. When I worked at Wormelow Stores my boss would sigh whenever he entered – as he never washed he stank the place out; I seem to recall he lived on Baked Beans which can’t have helped much), er, anyway, he came in to this cafe and started to dip his filthy fingrs in my cup of tea. I was reluctant to scold him, scared that he might turn his dog on me. Eventually, when he’d had enough of his little game, I went and got another cuppa.

The other night I went away with all my classmates. I guess this was connected with the fact that we’re all off to Japan over the next couple of weeks! In my dream, we all went together, and ended up in this chalet-type place. It was all a bit summer-camp-esque. I remember one (now ex-) classmate kept on prodding me with a Squirrel finger puppet. I always did think of them as a wee child!

Speaking of classmates, I note that we now number only 16 or 17, having started off with about 47 in September 2004. So that’s, let me see, a 63% drop-out rate. Hmmm.

Phoned KLM yesterday to confirm a few bits and bobs. We DO get 30kg of checked-in luggage allowance for some reason, although the woman said she doesn’t know why as most pasengers with our sort of ticket only get 20kg (could be thanks to Gendai Travel?). Regarding hand-luggage, a particularly sensitive issue following the revelations earlier this month that a group of terrorists were planning to bring down a load of planes by forcing the pilots to consume vast quantities of gone-off semi-skimmed milk, which would then give them the runs meaning that both pilots would have to spend hours on the loo thus resulting in planes falling out of the sky due to a lack of people at the controls, we are limited to 10kg. This is ok, except for the fact that the dimensions of said carry-on luggage must be no greater than those of a laptop carrying case. We’re talking 16cm x 35cm x 45cm. How one is supposed to get 10kg in something that size I don’t know, but boy will I try!

Rather bizarrely, apart from baby milk and window cleaner, the only other thing you aren’t allowed to take on board is key fobs – the type you unlock your car with. Laptop computers are no problem. A little odd, me thinks. Still, this is a good thing of course, as it means I need not be parted from my baby during the flight.

If I can’t fill that bag with items that have a combined weight of 10kg, I shall add a couple of lumps of lead.

Check-in for us begins in Orcop, via the old wind-up internet, at 5.15am on Sunday, the second that e-Checkin opens! Having consulted a diagram of the plane, we have chosen our seats (11D and 11E). Ideally we’d like to be in row 77, but those are First Class Executive with a complimentary masseur and a celebrity of your choice for company, so it’s unlikely we’ll be able to nab them with our economy status.

I’ve decided to take the precautionary step of upping my intake of Epilim over the next couple of weeks. Tiredness and stress are what trigger my epilepsy, and I want to make sure that I don’t end up fitting all over the place. Wouldn’t make a great impression upon *Twinkle’s* family (whom I meet in, er, under 96 hours) if the first thing I did upon entering the house was to fall to the floor, flash around breaking various precious objects, then bite my tongue off, thus not have the abilty to apologise post-epi. The last time I had a major series of minor seizures was last summer, upon my return from Japan. It seems that my body is not too keen on crossing time zones.

It’s very weird to think that by this time next week I will have already been back in Japan for 2 days. *Twinkle* and I have established an agreement that we will not use English to communicate with one another as of halfway across Siberia. It’s going to be so tricky to break my habit of giving up on trying to use Japanese when it’s so much easier to use a language that we are both essentially fluent in. I need to get over my fear of making mistakes and sounding stupid, the curse of millions of language-learners worldwide.

Am I allowed to talk about my Mac again? Well, considering this is MY Mumle I don’t see why not. Well, just a shorty:
I can’t quite get over how clever Mac’s are. I am staggered by the gulf that seems to get wider every day between the dinosaur that is Windows XP, and this beautiful Mac operating system. Spotlight, the built-in search engine is amazing, and the way it integrates into the system (through things like smart folders) changes the whole way you work. I thought Google Desktop Search was good – until I bought my Mac. Automator also knocks my socks off, by allowing me to create my own workflows (like macros), I have been able to carry out tasks in seconds that on Windows XP would have literally taken hours. I love the way you can attach actions to folders – no more tedious resizing of images depending on their destination (TGW / Flickr / Photo library etc), it’s all done automatically when the camera is plugged in. Of course, all these things are possible on Windows if you have the software and the patience (and at times, programming knowledge) to set up the systems, but with a Mac, it’ so quick, and it’s so easy that even I can do it!

It also has a very nice screensaver that makes you feel high and happy without the need for the intake of drugs.

Basically, if you need a new computer, buy a Mac!

Anyway, I’d best get on. A million and one things to do before I pop on down to Bristol this afternoon.

tarra!

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in the middle of the night

What clever things our bodies are!

I was awoken, at 4.40am, by what at first I thought to be nothing. I carried out an IBS (Initial Body Scan, a program run every time I wake), and noted that it was not time to wake up properly yet, as sleep timer was yet to reach 8 hours. Hmm, why had I woken up? A mystery.

I decided to run an SBS (Second Body Scan), this time covering areas such as my Outer-Room Audio Detection Program, and Do I Need The Loo? service. And there we had it – a full bladder! Happy that I had found the cause of my awakening, I rolled over, shut my eyes, and wet the bed.

So now here we are, 70 minutes later, still awake. Thing is, it’s all so EXCITING at the moment!! Japan in what, er, 5 days ish. Cripes O’reilly. And I still have sooooo much to do, like learn 150 kanji, go to Bristol for a night, strim the brambles, chop the wood, pack my bags, oggle over my beautiful mac… (I lye in bed and gaze across the room at the desk where it lies sleeping. If I were a Windows PC I would be desperate to insert my floppy, no, hard drive into its USB port, and download my data. The results would be, no doubt, the most beautiful halfcast handheld you could ever wish to create).

Speaking of which, check out these SHOCKING STATISTICS from Japan!!

Were *Twinkle* and I married it seems we would be in the top, er, 0%!! Most of the marital population being green with envy. No wonder they have a population crisis. Its not for me to say, but from what I’ve heard over the years I’ve spent in the trade it’s all down to the size of their willies (I can’t spell the plural version of “Penis”).

Having said all that, one should bear in mind that these statistics are the product of a survey carried out on behalf of a Viagra manufacturer, so one suspects they may have employed leading questions to make japan’s performance appear to be even worse than it did in the Durex Global Sex Survey, which you will remember ranked Japan at the bottom of the league table, at once every 8 days (although bear in mind that that wasn’t restricted to married couples).

Well, whatever, if the Japanese government is really serious about tackling the population crisis they really should start demanding that convenience stores sell energy drinks containing Viagra, or encourage Toto (Japan’s largest toilet manufacturer) to quit trying to sell people loos with built in bum-washers & Dryers, and instead install penis-enlargement devices.

JAPAN TODAY – HEADLINE NEWS

HUSBANDS ACROSS JAPAN COMPLAIN OF WIVES FITTING LOCKS TO OUTSIDE OF BATHROOM DOORS

Hmm, well you never know.

And with that, having offended 64 million men in the country I’m just about to go and live in, I think I’ll go back to bed.

Night Night.

my mac, and pre-departure images of japan

phew. the migration is complete.

I’m told that the average length of time spent setting up a new computer is 5 days. based on past experience, I’d say that’s about right. Thus, I’m mightily happy to say that this switch, from my old Toshiba to this shiney new MacBook, is done, only 60 hours after I took delivery of it. Not bad eh, considering how thick i am.

I tell you what though, I am NEVER going back to Windows. I’d been starting to get the feeling that my old computer wasn’t actually mine, that it was just leased from Microsoft, what with their genuine advantage crap and all. Hundreds of processes going on in the background, endless security alerts about this that or the other. All history now. I like the simplicity of it all. For example, if you want to uninstall a program on Windows, you have to faff about with Add or Remove programs. Takes forever to delete all those files, leaves empty folders lying around the place, and a right mess in the basement. With a Mac, it’s simply a case of dragging the program icon out of the Applications folder and into the rubbish bin. Done. Originally, I was intending to install Windows on it too, but just don’t see the point now.

And all those clever things it does… and it’s so shiney…!

The move has not been without problems. I’ve lost all the postal addresses and phone numbers from my address book. Not too fussed there as I only ever really use email these days. I have lost 25% of my music; before the migration I backed it all up onto 18 DVDs. Turns out all 18 DVDs were faulty, thus rendering vast swathes of them unreadable. The rather bizarre thing is that it seems to have chosen every single 4 star and 5 star rated track. Luckily I have another backup copy back a few hundred miles south of here, so shall be retreiving the music at the weekend. Emails: can’t import my emails from Outlook into Mac Mail without a lot of hassle. I intend to use the imap method (courtesy of my university email account) but need a windows system to upload from first. That’ll have to wait till Japan.

Apart from that, it’s all good. Oh, and the Podcast software – fantastic! Can’t wait to try and do something with it rather than just look at it!

__________________

So, I’m feeling kinda jetlagged. Only had 5 hours sleep these past two nights, thanks to wanting to get the migration over and done with so I can learn my last 200 kanji! I must be careful, if I have a epileptic wooptommony this week I’ll be in big poo. Smelly poo at that. Speaking of which, Shit! Does it really say 9 days to go up there? I think I’m all sorted now. I’ve ordered my Japanese yen, sent a big wadge of cash from my UK bank to my Japanese bank account – I just hope it’s still open as I’ve not used it for years! Accomodation is STILL not confirmed. Ce la vie. Have just spent the last 2 days, inbetween looking for the non-existant delete and hash keys on my keyboard, proofreading Twinkle’s 14,000 word (40 page) dissertation. For the second time this week. It’s great, but I can honestly say I won’t be that sorry if I never read it again!!

We’re really moving into the floaty world that is Between World’s now. Always happens, when it’s about a week before some significant departure. My heart starts to make its was over ahead of me (flight was fully booked you see), leaving me utterly ungrounded.

If you’ll permit me to use the word “Shit” for the second time in this post I’s just like to say SHIT! I’m really going back to Japan! What is it about Tokyo that I love so much? The smell of rain on tarmac, the looks of disinterest on people’s faces as someone falls off a motorbike, the packed trains full of professors with cameras or mirrors attached to their toes…

I love the little backstreets. Not dirty, just untidy, with their telegraph poles and aircon units everywhere, flowerpots mingled with bottles of water that allegedly stop the cats pissing on your beautiful concrete wall. I’ll have to get a bike pretty soon. In theory, I could cycle to uni from home, but I get the impression that I wo’t want to give up so much time for that excercise. I once did the 9-minute subway route from my home to my office in Nishi-Shinjuku, by bike, and wondered how the hell the road managed to be so long. Took me over an hour!

The closer I get to going back, the more I’m taken back to March 2003, when I came back to the UK after almost 2 years in Japan. I remember thinking how alien thewhole place seemed, and worrying that I would never fit in. I had felt so at home in Japan.

The housing, that’s another thing. It may be cramped by Western standards (although not by Western Student standards if my university accomodation is anything to go by!), but I love it. I like that fake wooden flooring, I love tatami, and the cold – there is something about houses with absolutely no insulation (i.e. 90% of those found in Japan) which just gets me going. I remember waking up and the room being so cold there was no way I could get out of bed and make it to the heater switch on the opposite wall without my feet freezing to the floor first. I love the fruit and veg shops, the stationary stores, the jingles played at the railway stations (each station, and in some cases each platform, having its own unique song).

And of course, I love being a gaijin. But how thick will the walls of my bubble be this time? The language barrier will be considerably less, but I’ll still be a gaijin, and there will be no getting away from that. But oh! What a joy to be a gaijin! All that discrimination! Both good and bad, it’s makes for a very exciting time! Watermelons given to me in supermarkets, estate agents refusing to do business with me, strangers asking me how long I have been in Japan (think of that bundle of stereotypical waffle which makes me long to return to Shinjuku, Lost in Translation, when he’s in the hospital).

Ahh it’s gonna be exciting, that’s for sure. Can’t wait to see me mates too. Mr.Tkob, Stu san, to name but two.

Well, I’m bushwhacked. I have a huge pile of logs to split tomorrow, so I’d better go and sleep.

much love xxx


My nephew Edward, who has just this week started to stand up!

herefordshire

You find me stranded in the Herefordian outback, a long, long way from civilisation, broadband and mobile phone signals. The only way out of here is by donkey and trap (due to the passing of a law last month aimed at helping alleviate the pressure on the local donkey sanctury …which is now empty, resulting in permenant residency being the only option for those of us still here). Passport control, which can be found all around the rim of this picturesque valley, demand that anyone entering strips themselves of their Levis and Gap sweatshirts, and replaces them with calf-length hesian sacks. The electric supply comes and goes; Channel 5 is not available, although I’m unsure as to whether or not this is something to be upset about.

Mum and dad are being remarkably tolerant. I find being around people with high-anxiety levels immensly stressful, and unfortunately, when I am comfortably familiar with such people, my reaction tends to be one of avoiding-eye-contact-and-running-away. I don’t feel good about having permenant PMT. It’s not all bad though; dad and I spent a very constructive day together in the back garden, smashing up concrete, digging a trench and pouring concrete in it. The foundations for the mini-extension have been laid. I had promised them that I’d help all week, but the kanji are pressing: I’m up to about 1850 now, and want to cover the remaining 200 before my MacBook arrives, as I know after then I’ll have trouble concentrating! It’s been terrible this week, cranking up the old pay-as-you-go dialup internet connection 3 times a day to track the package as it makes its way from Shanghai. Apparently, it left China at the weekend, although checking the status today it sems to have decided that it didn’t like the West, as the “Truck has arrived at final destination: Shanghai”. The delay in delivery really is a blessing though, as it means I can concentrate on my studies. Heaven help me, I really am Gadget Boy.

I can’t quite get over what a busy social life the folks have. They seem to be invited out almost every day of the week. Mind you, they don’t always make it. A couple of weeks ago dad borrowed a book from the local vicar, and it was agreed that he would return this important hardback last Friday night, when he and mother joined said vicar and husband for drinks and nibbles. Friday night came, dad went swimming, mum watched a film – they clean forgot. The following morning a phone call came through from a rather agitated vicar, wondering what had happened to my parents, and when the book, vital for her sermon the following day, would be returned. Dad, being somewhat like his youngest son, was mortified at having let them down and causing such bother. Thus, he immidiately jumped in the car and drove to the vicarage. He rang the doorbell, got down on his knees, and put his hands together in the manner of one asking for the Father’s forgiveness.

The door opened.

It wasn’t the vicar.

It was the vicar’s husband who was not in the least bit amused, having cancelled an engagement the night before specifically for my parent’s benefit. Dad tried to weedle his way out of the horrendously embarrasing situation through the employment of humour. Vicar’s husband remained fuming. Father left quickly.

That wasn’t the only incient of its kind of late. Three weeks ago dad forgot to go to the Much Dewchurch Gardening Club AGM, despite the fact that he was the only one who had been put forward in the committee elections to be held that night for the position of Chairman. He was informed on the phone the following day that the entire club had waited about twenty minutes for him to turn up, before voting him in as Chairman in his absence.

Tonight they’re off at a BBQ down the road, and will no doubt return rather drunk. As lomg as they don’t try anything funny whilst I’m in the house. There may be two walls between my room and theirs, but sound does travel.

In I’m-Going-To-Japan-in-OH-SHIT-12-days news, I can report that everything seems to be proceeding smoothly. All paperwork is now in place, still waiting for confirmation on housing though, and haven’t yet figured out how to distract the air-hostesses in order to gain entry to the mile-high club yet. Textbooks are in the post. I hope all the money I sent to my Japanese bank appears on the screen of the ATM when I get there. Recording has begun for AYearInJapan.com (the podcast), and the website / feeds are almost complete. I’ll be adding an email notification service to it as soon as I get back onto the internet proper. I’ve had a bit of feedback from a couple of folks in the year below me at uni, both of whom have just spent the summer WWOOFing in Japan. Their reports are pretty positive, and I’ll be meeting up with one of them upon my arrival in Tokyo; have to find the loyal mumbler a shag before he returns to the UK mid-September. He needs to know about the extra muscle.

Spent the weekend with *Twinkle* who has now finished her 14,000 word dissertation on intercultural marriage. Boy oh boy was it great to be with her when neither of us were stressed. Caw blimey I’m a lucky lad, despite being the target of silent abuse by her neighbours. Probably. In addition to proof-reading and ‘appreciating one another’, we spent a fascinating evening learning about the huge benefits of financial cooperation, something that had never even occured to me before. We also had an equisite Sunday lunch with someone towards whom I will always feel utterly indebted (identity withheld for reasons involving an olympic swimmer’s bid to represent England in 2012).

My little sis visited yesterday with my two well-groovy nephews. I was mighty proud of Jamie, now almost three years old, when he marched into the bathroom where I was washing concrete off my hands, and proceeded to do a proper grown-up wee standing in front of the loo. I wasn’t so impressed when he later wee’d on a chair in front of me, but I suppose it was my fault for being so funny. He’s really talking now, which is well groovy. Conversations about socialism and all. Amazing. Edward, at 15 months-ish, is also ultra-coolio, with his scowls, co-ordination and chucking matchbox cars on the floor. Jessie’s going to be getting broadband soon too, which means video chats with my nephews from nippon! I look forward to the day that *Twinkle* and I have children. As long as it’s not for another 5 years.

So yeah, life is good.

Anyway, food is calling. Till next time

2 weeks 5 days

argle argle argle. The excitement of everything is almost too much to bear!