(warning: particularly old content) I don't ask for it to make sense RSS feed


It's turning out to be harder than I would have guessed to fully re-equilibriate to being back in the US. I started driving a day or two ago, and while I didn't drive in Japan, and so am not having to get accustomed to left-hand drive, it's difficult enough getting in a car after not having had a wheel under my hands for over six months, thank you very much. I find myself in a strange in-between of knowing exactly where I am and being unsure of whether to take a right or a left at certain intersections... or even if I want to turn at all. To overly explain myself, this is a bad metaphor for how I feel about everything here at home in general.



The next days are apt to be spotty, but I can at least offer the last few pictures I took in Japan, for the time being.



Back home, back entries will make an entrance in the next day or so when I get a chance to sync up Sayuri. It's been a long, long Monday.

You know, having to fly on the day when the "terrorist threat alert" has been raised is not the most comforting thing. Of course, if I can fly at all, I doubt I'll care much... it's just that right now, as I'm already worrying about my day, I'd really just not mind it if CNN would report on something else. Ah. Weather. Thank you.

(doing the going home dance) Today definitely ranks high on my list of pretty crappy days in my life, but considering that the upshot is that I'm going home, I hereby forgive EVERYTHING. So this is what ended up happening... I was officially deported. This sucks, because if you're deported, you're unable to come back to Japan without a hassle and a half. But, if you get deported, you have three days to appeal your deportation. So no sooner had I signed the "yes, I know I'm a criminal in violation of Act Such-and-Such," but the forms to appeal were placed in front of me and I signed that. The appeal was faxed over to the Minister of Justice's office while I finished up the deporation paperwork and procedures (got fingerprinted, yay me), and by the time that stuff was finished, the OK to appeal my deportation came through. I was granted a special two-week visa, nothing will go in my passport mentioning the deportation, and generally, things came out as best as they could given the situation. I've probably been logged in some great Japanese database somewhere, but I was told that since it was my first offense and the appeal was granted, there should be no problem with me coming back to Japan in the future. I did have to sit through a long lecture about never letting something like this happen again, which I solemnly promised to adhere to, but considering that it was possible for them to arrest me, hell, I would have let them lecture me for another hour.

The people at the immigration office were very nice (much better than that asshole who'd been working down at the gate on Saturday, good god), and obviously thrilled that I spoke enough Japanese to carry out nearly everything in that language. Heh. They joked a lot about how good my Japanese was, to which I responded something about how I didn't know the vocabulary for this situation; they grinned and said it was good Japanese practice. I shot back that I hoped I never had a chance to need the practice again, and I managed to send not one but both of the senior immigration officials into peals of laughter. The stern woman who fingerprinted me ended up teaching me how to name the fingers in Japanese (parent-finger, person-pointer-finger, middle-finger, medicine-finger, baby-finger), heh. Hooray for charm, I guess.

Apparently, though, my dad was freaking out the entire time (from when I was finally able to get into the immigration office until I was let out with my new visa was about two and a half hours). He'd gotten ahold of someone who spoke English at United, and had been passed around several times on the phone, but the information he'd got had been that I would have to go to the main immigration office downtown. He says that someone at the branch office I was at told him that, which I doubt, but hey, all's well that ends well. After I made my break with my new visa I called him, soothed his fears, and settled in to wait until I could get my boarding passes and try getting through to the gates again.

I'll admit, even though I knew that the new visa covered my ass perfectly, it wasn't until the woman at the immigration checkpoint smiled, handed my passport and boarding pass back to me, and said "thank you for visiting Japan, have a nice flight home," that I really drew a good breath all day. But now I'm chilling in United's business lounge, plying myself with iced tea and orange juice, and contentedly counting off minutes until my flight. Thank fucking god. Things to never do again: accidentally overstay my visa in Japan. Check.

Hah! Validation for having carried around a $20 bill in my wallet for six long months! Without needing to fuck around with changing money before I left, without getting the exchange rate from hell at the San Francisco airport, I'm hanging out in front of my gate, drinking a mint mocha. I'm telling you, the milk they use in this country is different. And better. I may have only slept a total of two hours on the trans-Pacific flight, I may stink to high heaven and have a completely twerked back from a stressful day followed by being cooped on a plane for twelve hours, I may still be looking at an hour and a half layover and a two hour flight before I get to Seattle, but I'm in the US of A, I'm surrounded by fat people, and I'm drinking coffee. Life, is hereby declared good.

I just noticed that I'm understanding ambient conversation in the airport without concentrating. Halfway through a conversation with my overseas seatmate, I realized that I'd spoken full-speed English to the last four people I'd talked to, they'd all understood perfectly, and I hadn't known any of them previously. I giggled when I caught myself prefacing my coffee order a bit ago with ええと'えすね (eeetou 'esu ne...: basically "um... lessee..."). It's good to be home.



I'm feeling much less upset today, although no less apprehensive about Monday. Small things... a bright, sunny day. A good beef curry with raw egg for breakfast. Starbucks unexpectedly having a seasonal peppermint mocha. The moving walkway between the airport and the hotel being one of the bouncy ones that I love so much.

A full day of wasting time. Checked my email and Slashdot for an hour, swam for an hour, napped for an hour, talked to Jim for two hours, my dad for thirty minutes, napped some more, read a book. (checking) Yep, still freaking out about tomorrow.

All day my fear was an abstract thing, soemthing more than 24, 18, hours away. But as the night wears on, and I try to sleep, the uncertainty of what might happen tomorrow grinds inexorably down on my mind. My stomach is upset; if I turn the TV off I start to cry within bare seconds, and it's a struggle to not lose it during commercials. I tried reading, but perhaps because it is so necessarily something that requires me to think, I get distracted by thinking about tomorrow. About the phone calls I need to make, about what I'm going to tell immigration... about what I even could tell them, for them to let me go home.



As I finished up my packing this morning (jesus are my bags straining), something out of the corner of my eye caught my attention. Throwing open my window, I laughed with delight: on my last, gorgeously sunny day in Osaka, it's snowing. The flakes have come and gone for the last few hours, and nothing's sticking, but it's the thought that counts. I love walking in the snow on sunny days, and so my final pilgrammage to Mr. D's was simply that much better. Fresh 安倍川餅 from the shop on the way, and a perfectly heated through curry doughnut... I am in a good mood.

Ookubo-san should be here in about 15-20 minutes. I suppose it's time to turn George Clinton off and pack up the last remaining thing (AV equipment). Thankfully, the only things that are coming with me out of what's left on my desk are going in carry-on, because sure as hell, NOTHING else is getting into my checked baggage.



It is now 4:41 pm, Osaka time, and I am not on a plane as I should have been from about 3:20 pm. Instead, I'm sucking down a beer in an airport hotel restaurant with tear-reddened eyes, worn down from crying and being furiously angry for the last few hours. What the fuck happened? Japanese immigration officials from hell happened. Apparently my (beer #2, although the appropriate word now is more like "pounding" rather than "sucking") 6 month visa was exactly just that. Six months, to the day, from 6/16. Given that it's now 12/20, I'm in violation of my visa. I had no fucking idea, which is partially my bad... I should have double checked that it was cool to extend my stay by a few days, but really, COME THE FUCK ON! If you think about it, Japan and the US have an agreement by which you can travel for 90 days without needing a visa, which really makes it seem as if you should get a 90 day extension beyond your visa and still be cool. Anyway, there IS a three-day grace period... which means that if I'd flown out yesterday instead of today, they wouldn't have given me any shit. So they said, at least. Two of the guys at immigration wanted to just let me go home (beer #3, up in my room, over more food because I'm so upset, hooray me) and were trying frantically to find an exception in the law that'd let me go. Ignore the fact that if this was America, they would have just waved me go through; for Japanese guys, I recognize that they were doing the most they could. They had just decided they were going to let me go through on a provision that says "the three day grace period does not count holidays," when one of the upper-ups on duty today walked in and threw a hissy fit. Today was Saturday, not a holiday, and I was damn well in violation of my visa. The two guys who'd been trying to help me were overruled, my boarding passes were confiscated, and I was turned away. You see, this is Saturday, and god forbid real immigration officials rather than random beauracratic turds be working on a weekend, and so I have to sit on my ass until Monday when they can figure out what the hell to do with me. I mean, WHAT THE FUCK. I'll tell you what they can do. They can deport me. TODAY.

I mean, REALLY.

What the hell are they going to do to me on Monday? Charge me a fine? Shit. Maybe I should have tried bribing the dudes at Kansai Airport's immigration office, blah. It's still completely unclear what I'm supposed to do on Monday; no one who was working today could tell me what to do other than come back. Fuck. I called my dad, and am thus put up in an airport hotel for the next day and a half; I don't know what the hell I'm going to do tomorrow. My current plan is to use the next day to start reseting my internal clock. Really, what else have I to do? Other than to observe that it's pretty damn spiffy that the hotel brought me a lemon and a tiny dish of curry powder along with my fried chicken. Small things. Small things.

Given that they didn't arrest me today, I can't imagine that they'll do much more than make me wade through paperwork and pay a fine or something on Monday (Japan time), and so I hope I'll be home as normal on Monday (US time). Which is emphatically not today. Fuckers, they made my mom and me both cry. Right now, I'm just thankful that I've got CNN to watch.

Sigh. Being satisfied with CNN lasted about as long as the alcohol in my system. My current horrible fear is that they'll fine me some outrageous amount which'll eat up all the money I've saved these 6 months.



Just finished test packing everything I'm taking home, and satisfied myself that I could fit everything in my bags, even the towels I'm going to use tomorrow morning. Barely. Those bags are GROANING. I've never had to sit on my duffels to zip them shut before, hehe. I also went through all the stuff I've bought here, guessing on the price I'd paid for them, and figured I have roughly $770 worth of merchandise I'm bringing back. Shee-it (thankfully, it's right under the $800 wire for what you can bring back without paying duty). Of course, the DVD player and hard drive are the majority of that, but STILL. That's a lot of money towards people's souvenirs and Christmas presents and random items for myself.

Of course, that's not all I'm coming home with; I went to the bank this morning and shut down my account. Not counting the money in my wallet, I've currently got in my possession 32 万円 bills, which would be nearly 3K for those folks keeping track at home. I don't think I've ever even held that much cash all at once; it gives me the fucking creeps. Since I didn't come home right after my bank errand this morning, I was carrying it around all day... I've never felt like money was burning a hole in my pocket, but I wouldn't have been a whit surprised if a gigantic rip had opened in my backpack and that packet had fallen out.

Man, if only I didn't have to give most of it to Dad when I get back to repay him for paying my tuition while I was gone... that'd be SWEET.

After I hit the bank, I headed over to get my hopefully only second-to-last rather than last curry doughnut (theoretically I'm going to run over to get one, and some last mochi, tomorrow morning. Theoretically). Being in Mr. D's midmorning on a weekday was strange; it was all old ladies and mothers with babies on their hips. Far too many of them, too, and so I rather reluctantly decided that I would not after all attempt to smuggle a coffee cup out. Probably for the best, but I still think it would have been cool. Perhaps next time.

Curry-doughnut-and-coffee fortified for my day, I headed up to the monorail. In the six months I've been here, I've never ridden the monorail more than three times, and all were for less than three stops, and so I'd decided a month or so ago that if my last Friday was a sunny day, I'd ride it all the way to the end and back as a sightseeing jaunt. Today fit the bill, clear and blue as blue can be, and so I spent a nice hour admiring how much nicer Japanese cities look from above than at street level. Everyone walls in their property, so if you're walking around, you can't glimpse more than the barest hints of people's gardens, and because the density is so high and so upward-built, it's easy to forget that Osaka is soothingly bounded by hills until you're up where you can actually, you know, see them.

Errands were run, a present was finally picked out for Dad, and a variety of Japanese snacky-lunch things were brought home. Heh. My last lunch in Japan (unless Ookubo-san insists on taking me out tomorrow) consisted of a piece of mixed-veggie tempura, a piece of sliced-onion tempura, a pork-cutlet sandwich with curry sauce, and a small piece of pizza. With potatoes on it. Gotta love the potato pizza. Promptly put me to sleep it did, for nap #1 of the day (there were two).

The bulk of the afternoon was spent on laundry and packing, a fun activity if ever I've participated in a fun activity. Yep. Tons of fun, packing is. Everything fits, as I mentioned before, and that's really all that I asked, I guess. I could have asked for it to take longer, because I was pretty much done with things by around 5:30 and had nothing left to do other than, well, be bored and have nap #2. Dinner was at least supremely tasty, although there was no one around eating at 8 pm to enjoy it with.

Watched the tail end of a bad movie, and had just gone down to fill my water bottle when for the first time in six months, Arimori and Tomo-chan and crew called me over to sit down and hang out with them on a weekend night. Heh. Masuda-san brought us some champagne, other people wandered in and out, and I'm feeling much less "bleh" about my day than I was a few hours ago. Tomo-chan hugged me goodye, Arimori smacked my head lightly and told me to tell all my friends at home how cute he was, and Dirty One gave me a long look as he went up to bed, saying "my room number's 216, don't forget about giving me a goodbye kiss before you go!" (laughing) Even if I HAD ever figured out his name, I think Dirty One works much better.

I'm trying to decide whether I should go to bed or if I should try to stay up all night to help me sleep on the plane. I only had a small glass of champagne, so I'm not feeling tired, per se, but I'm not sure if that's enough reason to try for it. If I went to bed now, though, I could almost try for the "sleep too much and be weirdly tired because of it" option. Hrm.



Triumphant final Engrish from Ishimaru-shocho:

This is H.Ishimaru.

As I'm in EHIME from yseterday to tomorrow,
I cannot say goodbye to you.

It was very nice of you to stay in our Laboratory.
I am very happy if you put many experiences in OSAKA(good and sometimes troubled)
in your ROM.

When I see you again in future you'll be developper of inovative softwear.
Please take care of yourself.

Good bye and wish you fruitsfull new year.

p.s Please find the attaced files.

What attaced files? The newest ones in this directory. Well, I lie. Three in there, marked me-sumitomo-kumiai_office-* are actually from something totally different, but hey, what the hell. They were all mogrified at the same time, so their dates modified are all the same. Sue me!

Anyway, thankfully, most of my other coworkers are opting to give/write their farewells in Japanese. I don't know if I could take much more of the above.

I'm pulling the sympathy card to not do much work today. I really don't feel quite well, but I fully plan to play it up to best effect for an excuse to not work. I'm terrible, but damnit, I'm tired of this bullshit.

Well, THAT was EMBARRASSING. The entire group got hauled out to the other building's conference room, just to hear me say a few words (no one else even talked at all! Except for Yoshiyuki, whose contribution was basically "Here's Jen."). Which I said with a bright red face and a couple ackward pauses, but at least with understandable Japanese. Small salve to my horrible fear of public speaking.

Heh. Took me until now to notice that the date for today had been listed as 12/18/93 all morning. Mad time-traveller, that's me.

Bored. Bored bored bored bored. Can't I just go home now? Yoshiyuki finally made some time to talk about that paper, in which he was so awed by my, you know, ability to write English, and stuff, that any amount of not doneness apparently doesn't even impinge on his consciousness. Outer space. Outerfuckingspace, I say. Anyway, when did he finally have time/interest in talking to me about it? An hour ago. Which would be two hours before the end of my last day of work. NICE. And now I have nothing to do for the rest of the time I'm at work (down to about a half hour, officially, WOO), and so am reduced to mindlessly reading /. and hitting the tab key over in Pine every now and then. This will be the last thing I can update until I get home on Saturday (I'll be able to check email, just no shell access), and what do I have to say? I'm fucking BORED.

As people started leaving work today, the goodbyes started. A trickle past my desk, a handshake here, a grin there. Exuberant hugs and air kisses from The Girls upstairs. Cookies and a small wrapped gift from Shimo-chan. Another small wrapped gift from Parita. As I started my final packing up, Ishibashi-san brought over a good-sized box, a gift that the entire group chipped in on. I'm torn at the moment whether to open them now, see what they all are, and be able to repack them in smaller ways... and the desire to take them home and open them on Christmas. The thought of having a weird, solitary, pre-Christmas Christmas in my room is far too depressing... I think I will take them home, and just guess at their contents and value so far as customs go.

When I finished gathering up my things around 6:30, and headed towards the board to flip my name over for the last time, the eyes of fifteen engineers were upon me. My back to them, I flipped my name, and smiled to myself while picking up a whiteboard marker. In the space next to my name where we'd normally write "vacation 7/18," or "be in at 11 on 10/9," or the name of another plant or town we were visiting that day, I deliberately wrote "America." Turning, I grinned at the amused looks on their faces, announced 「帰ります」 ("kaerimasu": I'm going home), and then bowed deeply, saying 「大変お世辞になりました」("taihen oseiwa ni narimashita": I'm truly in your debt) to a standing ovation not just from our section, but from scattered other people I know through the whole room. So far as triumphant exits go, I must say it wasn't half bad... I almost started crying in the hall. I may have hated my job, but the PEOPLE there (with a few exceptions) are an entirely different matter.

I'm watching a Diane Sawyer interview with the President at the moment. I'm assuming it's from yesterday or the day before, considering it's 7:30 am even on the east coast right now. Jesus, does he get defensive when pressed on the going-to-war intelligence... I thought he was going to start yelling at one point, and he was downright stuttering and spitting with anger. You know, completely aside from my own conviction that the intel was crap and he knows it, that was REALLY not a good performance. He basically refused to answer several questions, instead opting to simply repeat his previous sentence or two at a louder volume. Watching him talk, later, with his wife by his side, about their holiday plans and what movies they want to see, yeah, sure, he seems like a nice sort of guy. An entirely different man from before, really. But I'd rather have a guy who was rude about his holiday plans and frank and understandable and polite about his foreign policy and politics in general. Just saying.

Wack. A guy broke into a Kyoto elementary school and slashed two first-graders today before he was restrained. Personally eerie, considering that in the last days before I left Japan last time, a similar, deadly, event happened in Osaka, and there hasn't been a serious one since. I totally think it's my fault.

Huh. I might have misunderstood what I just heard. The Yankees are definitely playing their opening game against the Devil Rays next year in Tokyo. But I THINK they said that in the few days before, there'd be someone playing against the Tigers? It sounded like they were talking about one of the American teams, which would be a pretty fun slaughter... uh... game... to watch.



I opted to take advantage of the alcohol in my bloodstream and be able to actually fall asleep yesterday, instead of writing anything. In an effort to look busy at work today, however, I expect to write craploads.

I just had possibly the single most uncomfortable conversation that I've had in my six months here. And believe me, I've had some DAMN uncomfortable conversations. The subject? Yoshiyuki's offhand comment that he'd see me on Saturday. Uh... what? Oh, he's going to see me off at the airport, he'll see me there around 2. First I've ever heard of it, and FUCK if I want him there, particularly since he seemed to want to have some heart-to-heart at the end. No fucking way in hell. I'm done with him at 5:30 pm tomorrow, and that's final. If I didn't mind hurting people's feelings, even people that I despise, it wouldn't have been so hard to come up with a damn good excuse on the spot, but as is, I floundered for a few minutes before finally coming up with bullshit about how I hate to be seen off at airports, it makes me uncomfortable, and didn't even have my parents see me off when I came (the last part is true, although not for the reason I claimed). Even that line took a while to cast... ugh. Ugh ugh ugh UGH UGH (shuddering). I did convince him at the end, but I've had a nasty bitterness in my mouth for the last ten minutes from the whole thing (shuddering more).

Two hours this morning were taken up by explaining files and terms to him, a horrible two hours wherein it was made crystal clear to me that pretty much nothing I've done will ever get used again, because no one but me understands any of it. Sigh. LORD, is that software a piece of SHIT. It would be a six month project all of its own to work out a good way of using it and its data, I swear to fucking god, so I suppose I shouldn't be so broken up about only getting done what I got done. But I still hate not having accomplished Task X to perfection. Only my pride, only my pride, I keep on repeating to myself.

Only pride.

Bits and pieces... Markus passed me some pictures from last Friday, so if you want to see me with several of my friends, take a look. But the surprise bonus was that he included two pictures from when he, Jon, Nishihara-san, Iwahara-san, and I went out for Mexican for my birthday. So here's me in September and Jon, Nishihara-san, and Iwahara-san being cute and drunk.

Last night was the Tomo-chan-organized farewell party with her friends, who I've gone out with before but whose names I have for the most part entirely failed to remember. Heh. Takahashi-san (of "Jen says sexual harassment is OK!" fame) from my group was there, and Ookubo-san and Makino-san. The question arises why I know Makino-san's name, heh. He's in Tomo-chan's group but is best friends with Takahashi-san, so I've gone out with him perhaps one more time than the girls, but that's not really why. You see, my association, very strong association at that, to the name "Makino-san" is the lead character in 花より男子 (Hana Yori Dango: psychological melodrama anime, my favorite!), who happens to be a girl. Makino-san, however, is not only male, but a weird gorilla throwback phenotype that looks like he'd be more comfortable in a wrestling ring than working as a chemical engineer. Every time I see him, the contrast makes me giggle. He's sweet as pie, though, and put up quite good naturedly, I think, with our insistence on at least an hour's worth of conversation being devoted to mocking the lovey-dovey nature of his friendship with Takahashi-san (Takahashi-san defended himself by saying, basically, that HE wasn't the the gay one, and he had no responsibility if the big oaf was secretly in love with him). Not to mention that he brought me a farewell gift, heh. Major points right there.

I finally asked Ookubo-san if he could take me to the airport on Saturday. I waited until after I'd had a few beers so that he could feel free to refuse a "drunken request" if he wanted (especially if someone else heard). He agreed in a heartbeat, though ("of COURSE he agreed, he LOVES you," protested Parita this morning, hehe), meaning that my worries about how the hell I'm getting to the airport and how I'd get my TV/VCR to Parita (they live in the same dorm) were taken care of in one fell swoop. Annoying, that I had to set up my request in such a stupid way, and ask it quietly when no one else was listening, and that he's insisting that I not tell anyone about it at work. Part of it is just his personality, but part of it is symptomatic of one of the major reasons I dislike being in Japan... hint: if I had a female friend with a car it would have been much simpler to ask her. Mixed-pair friendships and outings and roommates, so on and so forth, just aren't really accepted all that well here, something which really annoys a girl who has one female friend at home, period, amen. It'll be really nice to go back to being able to go out to lunch with Andrew or Craig or Ryan, and not have to field questions or askance looks for hours afterwards. Bah humbug.

Ishibashi-san called me, Parita, and Moritou-san into one of the conference rooms at lunch. I was a little bemused, and worried that they were going to do so some ultra-embarrassing second-to-last-day ritual. It turned out to be related to me leaving, all right, but about as far from embarrassing as a sweet and endearing gesture could be. You see, on Sunday at the aquarium, I'd thought that Ishibashi-san was merely taking a lot of pictures, but it turns out he was shooting movie footage with his camera. He apologized that he'd only had time to do a quick hack editing job, but I still thought it kicked ass. Heh, he overlaid some Clapton on it, because he knows I'm a fan, but what songs did he choose? Change the World and Tears in Heaven. Talk about your gloom and doom, but ten bucks says he's never listened to the words. He gave me a disc burned with the eight-minute long movie, the movies taken of the spastic ふぐ last month, and a bunch of pictures... I meant to post the aquarium movie up today, but I forgot, so it'll probably have to wait until after I get home this weekend. My mom will freaking LOVE it, though. Jesus, I nearly cried watching it (of course, I am the one leaving).

That wasn't the end of the presents today, though. The Girls (aka Araki-san, Take-chan, Shimo-chan, and Satou-chan) pulled me downstairs to the locker room this afternoon to slip me a gift and an adorable card. They all took the time to decorate and write messages in the thing... it reminds me of nothing so much as a high school yearbook, looking at it. Yoshiyuki actually gave me a present yesterday, perhaps the best one after Ishibashi-san's, surprisingly. It's a shirt with なんでやねん (nandeyanen: Kansai-ben for, basically, "wtf.") printed on it. The only problem is that it's huge... the times that Japanese people have bought me shirts, this is always the case. I mean, come on, I know I have a fat ass, but so far as shirts go, I can totally wear a Japanese medium—no need to go into the XL sizes, thank you very much. I debated giving it to Dad, but he doesn't wear t-shirts very often. Fool, though, he'd love it... Man, is he ever coming out good on this trip, I've got at least three things I'm already giving him and contemplating giving him a fourth? Shee-it. I don't think I loaded him up last time I came back, though, and I can remember a couple birthday presents that have been less than spiff, so maybe it's just time for the train to swing around in his direction. Heh. Also just occurred to me to give it to Jim, but if he reads this, that would spoil the whole thing, and I happen to like this paragraph. Not to mention other complications. Yeah. Anyway, kind of crappy to pass on a present, but perhaps it makes it better in the cosmic sense that I really DO like it and WOULD keep it for myself if it'd fit me.

I watched 8 Mile tonight, and intended to write something about it... even jotted down some quick notes. But I think I might be coming down sick (go stress, you rule!), so I'll instead leave just the jottings to puzzle people as to what I was thinking.

Rap equals country! That's why!
Fucking drips charisma, wtf
Blame for misogyny equally shared

Usually I find the advice column in Salon to be pretty pointless and crappy, but I happened to really like the following two paragraphs out of this particular one:

In situations like these, it's common for one to "search one's heart," or to ask someone else to search his heart. That is not such a bad thing to do, but it takes much practice, and sometimes when you're young you can search your heart all you want and still not find anything you're looking for. It's best if one's heart is well-organized, with many places already having been well-searched in the past, labeled and remembered. But that takes time. When one is young, one's heart is new and full of unexplored, unlabeled spaces; searching one's heart may therefore be a baffling, overwhelming experience, like walking into Le Video in San Francisco. There are too many videos for one human being. Each one of those videos is a whole experience, and you can't possibly see them all, or even a fraction of them. The heart is like that: You search it but you can't recognize much because everything is new.
Then you get to be, say, 37, and it's different. Your collection is almost completely labeled and alphabetized. Then you have a different problem when searching your heart: You are hard-pressed to find any titles you haven't seen a few times already.



Don't give up
you got a reason to live
Can't forget
we only get what we give

I realized with a start on my morning commute today that my train passes are only good through tomorrow. The company offered a while back to reimburse me for my last few days commute and I turned it down (there was some argument on that, though, so I may end up getting money after all); it's going to be strange to pay out of pocket for my last two days of work.

Ah, yes, work. Andrew and Jeff should be proud—I've taken their advice of the last month to heart and have decided to completely fuck my last week. Today, I pulled doing nothing to new artistic heights, spoiled only by the brief minute it to me to email the head office the internship wrap-up that JETRO requested (which at least I wrote yesterday). Tomorrow, I will have to buckle down and do some more of the only-doable-by-me things that need to be done on my project, but considering that my current intent is to avoid my work being published at all costs, I'm not going to go above and beyond the call of duty on that. The company can take advantage of everything I've done (the most valuable service I've provided for them, in my opinion, is a detailed six-month test of their languishing-unused neural network software, an opinion which Ueda-GM shares with me), write a Japanese patent on it all, hell, I don't care. If my work isn't published in an English-language journal, that's fine with the company. The only thing it hurts is Yoshiyuki's desire to have an additional paper listable on his resume, and it saves me personally a lot of embarrassment.

Sure, it would have been nice to have something publishable come out of this internship. And if I'd known at the beginning what I was coming into, I staunchly believe that I could have made it happen. But my realization and comprehension that I was on my fucking own in every goddamned way came too late, and there wasn't a good way to salvage the mess that things had become, considering the situation. A different boss, a different group structure, a this, a that. A rat spinning a plate on its nose while dancing a waltz.

Had a very good carbonera at Le Petit tonight. I was pleased to see that the barely edible curry they'd offered last time I was there had been cut from the menu, although the proprietor seemed worried that I'd be upset by its absence, heh. My food took forever to come, which I didn't mind at all; he fussed over the delay and brought me soup (omg it was tasty, creamy with potatoes and onions and a meaty tinge) and salad for free to make up for things, so I was more than content to sit and read Salon. While listening to the strange R&B/rap mix they've had playing in there both times I've visited, mind you... it's a bizarre choice by a middle-aged and distinctly unhip-looking owner of a restaurant trying to project the image of a upscale French cafe. My only viable theory is that his cooks insist on it or they'd quit.



Last goodbyes have been said to Andrew, seeing as he's going to be at a conference in Tokyo through the end of this week. I hope I can see him again after he makes it back to the UW, but even if not, I'm just damn glad that he was around for the last few months. I'm all in favor of me staying sane, so things like him that aid me in that goal are always appreciated.

Ishibashi-san, Parita, Nishihara-san and his girlfriend, and Moritou-san and his three-year-old (fucking ADORABLE) daughter took me to the Osaka Aquarium today. It was gorgeous out, I got to ooh and ahh at dolphins and penguins and piranhas, Mana-chan was terrified of not just me but also Nishihara-san, and all in all, it wasn't a bad way by any means to spend my last Sunday in town. I even got in some quality writing time at the Senri-Chuo Starbucks (as opposed to last week)... If I didn't have to go to work tomorrow, and I wasn't spastically worrying about getting things done in the next week and my flight next weekend, I would say I was in a good mood. As is, I'm not, really. Sigh.

Talking to Jim tonight made me want to be home so badly that I could scream. I packed up my box of crap that I'm going to send home separate as a small sop to my woes, figuring if I can get it sent off in the next day or so perhaps I'll feel like I'm hurrying time up in some sense. Ironic, considering that it's going to get to the US much after I do, heh. That mother is going as slow as it can, because it is H-E-A-V-Y, which spells expensive as fuck.



I woke up crying this morning, from a nightmare of a dream where Lars was missing and Jim was trying to hide that fact from me. He kept telling me that my cat was simply off in another room, until I flew into a panic, running through the house opening cabinets and drawers, demanding to know where Lars was. Odd, to get so upset in a dream about a missing kitty that I wake myself up with my own sobs.

I went out after work last night with Arimori, Kimura, Nishimura-san, Tomo-chan, Stefan, Markus, and one other guy from my dorm whose name I've never figured out (for the purposes of the next few sentences, I'll call him Dirty One). A good time was had by all: much beer, whiskey, and nihonshuu was drunk, and some quite dirty conversations were had. Dirty One had slightly shocked me a week or two ago, saying in English that he wanted to "eat the ones that Markus is finished with." "Ones" being "girls." I'd asked him if he knew what it meant, in English, to "eat a girl," and he'd insisted that someone had told him that it meant to gather a girl to yourself. Heh. I'd dropped the topic that night because I was laughing too hard to explain what it actually meant, but we cleared that bit up last night. I also taught him to say "that girl is stacked" but that he probably shouldn't say so to the girl's face, and taught Nishimura-san that the correct thing to say is not "I am drunken easily," but "I'm a cheap date." I can now consider my work in Japan complete. We all found it slightly hilarious that after no more than half a beer, Dirty One was telling everyone A) that he doesn't need love hotels because he has his car, B) how long he is, and C) his average time to completion. Quite an argument sprung up around that last issue, until I realized that part of the problem was that they were all considering it from different starting points, and forced them to agree to calculate from (ahem) insertion. I was highly amused by the whole conversation, quite so, but I felt a little bad for Tomo-chan, and Kimura was being pretty reticent as well. At least they were sitting across from each other at one end of the table, so most of the night they were able to have their own, non-dirty, conversation.

Bound by trains, we bid goodbye to Markus a bit before midnight (he's moved into an apartment in Kobe, lucky duck!). I was sorry to see him go; the "I'll probably never see him again" sort of goodbyes are damn hard and just going to get more common from now on. He was looking really good—he's slimmed down a bit, and is probably knocking the ladies of Kobe dead on a nightly basis... I simply can't believe that he and Stefan are the same age. One of them got the good German genes, and the other one definitely didn't.

Arimori, Nishimura-san, Stefan and I decided to do a little bit more drinking once we got back to Toyonaka, so we spent a good hour or so hanging out in an 居酒屋 near the station, drinking and snacking and bullshitting. It was pretty funny to have the Japanese boys flirting with me so heavily... Stefan kept on complaining that since they both have girlfriends, it was him that I should be flirting with rather than them. Hrm. Cute, fun, young Japanese boys, or older, not cute, rather boring German man... Decision made, stickin' with it. The boys were in a little need of help on the way home, but we managed to make it back with no major mishaps... all in all, an extremely successful night. Even if I did wake up, wide fucking awake, at 7 am and take nearly an hour to get back to sleep. Heh.

People keep asking me what I've learned from being in Japan in six months. The problem is, the people that ask me that aren't the people that I'd want to tell the answers to. Because what have I learned? Let's see... I've learned the exact amount of shampoo and razor blades to last me six months without needing to go to the store for more. I've learned that ergonomic principles haven't made great inroads to Japan. These aren't huge, life-shattering lessons by any means and everything else has been more on the side of confirming something I already expected, like the fact that I can live by myself, but that I hate it.



Being much less drunk now, seeing as it's the morning, perhaps I can do some justice to last night. Well, probably not. Anyway, as I said last night, the party was good times. People got up and did speeches about me, and Nakaya-san (who's moving to Oita to work at the new plant there), and Kitamura-san (who's moving to Tokyo to do something up there... don't know what, but at least two of his co-workers are American and don't speak Japanese—he's terrified, hehe), and we all had to say a little piece (mine was short, I was too flustered). The sweetest thing, though, was that Okada-san emailed the far-flung members of the group and asked them to send him messages for me. They ranged from the very short (Hara-san didn't know me very well), to the very long (Jon wrote a book! In English, so when they were reading them out loud, they made Parita read it), had some funny bits (Mori-chan: "When I first heard Jen's Japanese, I was shocked. I think she's better at it than I am."), and really, almost made me cry. But I particularly liked Narahara-san's, so I spent some time on the train this morning working it into English and transcribing it:

This is for Jen-chan.
When Jen first came into the group and I talked to her, I thought she was me. All I could think was "wow, there's Americans this reserved, too?!?" But after a few months, she unmasked herself: when she drinks, you find out she's a normal person. As you all know... I bet she's getting drunk right now.
You were only here a short time, but we had a lot of fun, didn't we? When you come back to Japan, know you're always welcome in our home; come by any time.
And in closing, remember when you used to say "Narahara-san's a really good guy" and I finally explained that in Japanese that really doesn't have a good meaning? Never forget tricky Japanese like that!

Other highlights... Ueda-GM calling me Jen-chan in front of everyone, Kitamura-san dancing around making devil signs in an attempt to look "American," Satou-chan being REALLY REALLY drunk (her: "EVERYTHING is fun right now!" me: "1+2 is?" her: "TWO!!!!" Araki-san: "No, it's totally four. Wait, what numbers did you say?"), Umeda-san watching my glass like a hawk from across the room and coming over to fill it special all the time, and Tera-chan being convinced that I was lying when I said that yes, we have tofu in the US.

At the end of the party, Nakaya-san, Kitamura-san, and I had to walk down a gauntlet, sharing a word or two with each person. It was hard—a lot of the people, I never really talked to, so I didn't know what to say (I ended up defaulting to saying "thanks" and shaking hands). But for the majority of the staff engineers, I was able to joke around (to Kurumadani-san, who I've basically NEVER talked to: "Please, just promise me you'll stop staying at work past 10 pm. Swear!") or they had something to say to me (Jibu-san: "do all Americans sit cross-legged in chairs, or are you just weird?"), and I collected a few hugs (Yamaguchi-san hugged me... eep). I thought Ookubo-san was going to cry, I swear... I told him to cut it out because I was still going to be around for a week, and he positively sniffled (giggling).

Another day, more butter cookies thieved. I'm helpless... and hopeless. So, the other thing that I forgot to wrap up was my presentation. I did in fact do it in English (such a cop-out, sigh), but I felt so much more comfortable doing it that I think it was the right choice. It went really well—I talked slowly, watching Shudo-san and Hatano-san's faces to judge if I needed to repeat myself, and given that everyone had lots of specific questions, they were actually paying attention. It ended up stretching into 40 minutes between talking slowly and answering Q's afterwards, but no one seemed to mind, and afterwards Shudo-san and Shiojiri-san and I had a good, more in-depth conversation about things. Fujisawa-san and Shudo-san said they finally understood why I always looked so frustrated over at the CoP (I spent a while discussing my methods and fighting with Insights), which made me smile.

I also want to explain why I thought the pen thing was so funny last night... I felt like a retiree. At least they didn't give me a watch, heh.

After a day and a half of severe work non-productivity (I think it's the equivalent of the finals slump), my (both new and lame) sed/awk skills have supplied me with a script to automatically update the rss feed. It'd be totally sweet, if it weren't such a hack.

I have a picture to offer, of the powders team (that would be the one I'm on). It has everyone in it except for Take-chan, who's been out sick all week. So who are all those people?

From left:
Shiojiri-san, Nakadate-san (crouching), Sudo-san, Shudo-san, Parita, Kumamoto-san, Barbarian Devil, Shimo-chan, Tera-chan, Yoshiyuki (in back), Satou-san (crouching), Satou-chan

Of course, without even reading all of that, I could have said "Shimo-chan's the cute one" and let it be, considering the rest are all not of very much interest to people I can think of, heh.



Terrified that I would oversleep again today, I took drastic measures: I switched my alarm over to beeping. I hate the sound of a beeping alarm with a passion and have opted for five or six years to use high-dial radio static to wake me up instead. I've only had problems with the system a few times, for no discernable reason each time, so I've generally had no reason to switch. But oversleeping today could NOT be allowed to happen... while I may occasionally sleep through static, beeping alarms wrench me awake, heart pounding, every time. I also asked a few people to email my phone around half past noon, Pacific time, and left my phone lying out on the hardwood in my room for maximum obnoxious rattling vibrations when messages came in. Cacophony is not the most pleasant way to wake—I was adrenaline jittering all the way through my shower—but if a screeching beep and a phone loudly dancing along the floor weren't going to wake me up, nothing was.

There's a most bizarre image pasted up along the moving walkway in the Umeda Hankyu station I use every day. It's part of a montage of young, happy, fun people being used to advertise a Pier 1 Imports-esk "lifestyle" store, and I stare at it every morning. The girl in the picture is screwing up her face, eyes closed, clenching one end of what I think is a some sort of long lettuce leaf in her jaws. She's meant to look playful, I think, as if she was about to tickle her boyfriend with the leafy green vegetable in her mouth. But really, it looks like nothing so much as if she's in the process of an exceptionally violent projectile vomit.

Zach, your server hates me (reason: 550 You are not allowed to send mail:sc011pub.verizon.net). I'll try emailing you again later today...

Foolish, foolish other group, to leave a tin of Danish butter cookies unattended in the kitchen, with a post-it that says ご自由に! ("gojiyuu ni!": take one!). I'm positively helpless in the face of butter cookies, unable to resist their siren call despite their belonging to a different group (the post-it is directed at their group members, not the general public). I looked furtively around and stole two, and I think their only chance of Jen-survival is going to be my self-restraint in not heading back into the kitchen if at all possible today.

It's hard to write when you're totally smashed and thinking Japanese-keyboard style. I hold no resonsibility for 7's or &'s that show up where apostrophes are expected; I'm having a hard enough time telling where the fuck the keyboard is in relation to my fingers without having to think overly hard on what layout I'm using.

This drunk, it's a bit hard to pull thoughts together from the vacuum pull of sleepiness to talk at all. Presentation went well, didn't get any work done other than that today. Group year-end party was fun and I they gave me a pen, which makes me giggle something fierce (ignore the several-pints-worth of beer at the party and the three vodka collinses at the bar later in the giggle calculation). Went out after the party with Kojio-san, Hatano-san, Fujisawa-san, and Moritou-san, where I confirmed two things: I should have gone out with them more often the last six months, and Moritou-san really shouldn't be married. It's a good thing it was dark in the bar, or the other guys might have a thing or two to tell Moritou-san's wife, that's all I'm saying.



Well, that's two days in a row now where I've apparently entirely slept through my alarm. I woke up this morning with just enough time to exactly miss the last train that I know would have gotten me to work on time. Sigh. The 7:35 train might do me, but I'm not sure... oh yes, this week is shaping up just great.

I got into work today, and went "uh... where's my cup?" Not on the desk where I'd left it, nowhere to be found in the kitchen... I was mightily confused until Kamei-san came in, noticed me poking through all the cupboards, and suddenly shrieked 「ゴメンナサ〜〜〜〜〜イ!!」 ("gomen nasaaaaaaai!!": "omg sooooorrrryy!") while rushing out of the kitchen. Well, that really just confused me more. But then she came running back in holding a platter that had three cups on it... including mine. So apparently ~Delicious~ got drafted for some nefarious purpose at some point early this morning. I hope it was at least... delicious.

Sweet, the stage is cleared for me to bring my work uniform home. Yoshiyuki had said "I'm sure it's fine... probably..." which didn't help much but was pretty much the answer I should have expected from him, but Araki-san has now said that if anyone from the HR department comes and asks her for it, she'll say she's already tossed it. It's nothing special, and they're going to repossess my nametag, unfortunately, but I figure I'd kind of like to keep it as a weird souvenir. I can wear it as a Halloween costume—make a nametag that reads "Token White Girl" and I'll be set to jet.

I'm playing with RSS for /tht/, because, well, I didn't want to actually work at work today. The feed theoretically works (it's at http://laeren.net/tht/tht.rss) but considering I don't actually have an RSS reader set up on this computer (all the ones I tried to download barfed! I tried!), I'll have to wait until one of the web-based ones I'm playing with updates their shiz. I'm still trying to figure out what to use as a title, considering I don't title individual paragraphs in here. My current default is to assign the timestamp of the time I made the entry (although most of the ones in the current file are spoofed as tests), but that seems... ugly. Also, how best to automate the updating of the feed when I write something to thought... well, not like the idea is hard, considering I already have a system thought out. It's just that I need to finally actually learn some awk to get done what I need to happen. Good for the soul.

Small comfort, that the next train out from work is one where I won't have to transfer at Nishikujo. Because that train isn't for 15 minutes, at 10:19 pm. No typo; I'm leaving work after 10 pm today. The vastly hilarious corollary to this fact is that l got absolutely nothing done in my 14 hours at work today (l did make it in on time this morning). I couldn't concentrate on work reading, so I traded emails with Ty and John and Jim, read up on RSS, and started learning awk syntax... apparently for 14 hours. My ability to lose track of time in spurious ways simply defies understanding.

I should do some writing tonight, but I think I'll go the route of not drinking too much at the group party tomorrow, and doing it when I get home from that. I'm simply too beat to face it.



Nothing is better than lying awake half the night followed by sunlight in your eyes and a single thought: "what time is it?" It's one thing when I PLAN to oversleep, quite another when I apparently forget to set my alarm at all... whoops. Yoshiyuki just messaged me, telling me I could stop apologizing "because every other day, you've been working so hard" (loosely). I swear, that man lives in outerfuckingspace. It works to my benefit, so I shouldn't complain, I suppose, but it still gives me the heebiejeebies.

I can't get up the motivation to do anything today. Word to the wise: being depressed and distracted is bad for your energy level. Just a reminder.

Today was my last ever dreaded monthly report meeting. I managed to make it into work this morning just in time to print out some results to show off, and had some sensible, even intelligent, answers for Ueda-GM's questions, although I had to drop into English for a good portion of it (I have an understanding of what's going on, but I've never yet tried to or had to think about Mohr circles and yield loci in Japanese, sue me). Yamaguchi-san was gone today, so I didn't have him to fear, and both Shiojiri-san and Ueda-GM had to leave early for phone calls and apologized to me about it later (Ueda-GM even went out of his way to come over to my desk to do it, I was a little shocked). Overall, an... unbad way to get the last one out of the way.

Ookubo-san was so funny yesterday—he overheard me talking to Tomoko about the get-together with her friends next week, and came running up afterwards to beg if he could get in on it. I'd assumed he'd be along on the Ibaraki crew jaunt to the aquarium on Sunday, but apparently not, and he seemed positively panicked at the thought he might not get to go out with me before I left. I think I haven't seen someone so flustered since poor Andy missed the TJ final last winter. He said something about bringing Shudo-san along, too, but he was stammering a bit in his excitement and I couldn't follow him very well. I suppose we'll see, heh.

Ishimaru-shocho invited all the girls in the group to lunch next Tuesday. I'm unclear why; this one definitely isn't motivated by my leaving, considering that he already invited me and Parita out to lunch last Saturday for that purpose (it was the two of us, him, and his wife at this uberfancy Chinese-Japanese place... very odd). Kamei-san giggled to me that she was sorry they wouldn't give us beer at lunch at the company restaurant (different from the cafeteria... this one's the fancy shmancy place they wine and dine vistors in), which bemused me. I can't think of a time she's been along when I went out drinking with people, but I suppose my fame has spread far and wide, hah.

Exactly seven days left of work. I finished up my loose experimental ends yesterday, spent all day today organizing files and directories, writing an explanation down of files and cells, and slapping together the outlines of a paper, and plan to settle in and read all day tomorrow over several cups of tea. I'm still feeling pretty damn unsure about my presentation on Thursday, but it's at least been made clear that it's my choice and not someone else's to do it in English or Japanese. I'm thinking I'm going to wimp out and do it in English; if I'd had more time than a week to prepare, or more time to spend on it in general, I could have looked up the vocab I'd need, but trying to summarize in Japanese six months of work that I've been conceptualizing only in English just seems like about a million times more stress than I want to deal with right now. I'm just gambling that the stress reduction will outweigh the intense guilt I feel about taking the low road.

Man, watching old Beatles footage is surreal. Boys with grins that dorky would never make it big today. As to why there was randomly a snatch of a Beatles performance shown on a Japanese news show, I have no idea... I missed the intro, and the announcer afterwards saying "yes, that was nice, wasn't it," really didn't help my understanding.

Totally unrelated, but brought to mind by a sentence construction above... An edition of "I don't have anything to say about topic X but I'm going to scribble something down anyway." Several weeks ago, I read an article talking about the casualties in Iraq that pointed out that sure, we were going to suffer fewer casualties than Vietnam even if the war dragged on that long, simply due to advances in military medical technology and such, but that Americans might no longer be willing to accept even a few casualties. The bar, as it were, seems to have been lowered on our collective tolerance. Watching Band of Brothers has been reminding me of this; I simply can't conceive of that many American soldiers dying in combat... it's incomprehensible. I have this weird desire to actually talk to someone in person about this for some reason—I suppose I'm hoping that putting this fragment down will remind me to track someone down to talk to about it when I get home.

The resemblance to Sunnie of the teacher on one of the 英会話 programs, down to personality and outfits, would have some people from work screaming in terror. She's a veritable doppleganger.




And the schedule piles up: Party with Tomoko and her friends on 12/16, outing to the aquarium with the Ibaraki crew (but Jon and Iwahara-san will be missing, making it not nearly as fun) on Sunday, which may or may not include drinking afterwards. I think I've never been this popular in my life.

I renamed pictures over lunch, but there's none of people other than a few (and the last, I think) random self-portraits. Well, there's lots of PEOPLE, just no one that I know. Which means they don't count.

I'm totally thinking of heading off work at the scandalously early hour of 7 pm or so. I'm tired, cranky, hungry, my muscles hurt, and I have a headache. Plus, it's fucking Monday.

Well, that was exciting. I haven't actually passed out after a bath in perhaps four years or so, but I suppose every run of luck has its upset. I had just walked over towards the showers to pick up my shampoo, and at least had the presence of mind to grab at a showerhead as I started going down. Broke my fall a little, and pulled the showerhead out of the wall (THAT was fun leveraging back in, let me tell you). I'm just lucky that it was my shins that impacted on the that marble step instead of my skull (eep).

I'm playing invalid tonight. I was so exhausted and out of it on my way home that I got back all the way to the dorm before I remembered that it was Monday; I briefly considered heading back out for dinner, but slumped and figured, hey, I've got a shitload of みかん in my room. By the time I'd gotten up the stairs to the hall, I'd definitively decided that taking a shower and then snacking on oranges while watching Band of Brothers for a couple hours was about as ambitious I was for the night. Fainting in the bath just capped off the evening... I hereby quit.

I'd already been thinking on the way home what a wretched place I was coming back to, a stark little room where the only voices would be mine and the tv's for the next twelve hours or so. And look, here I am, in a stark little room with a TV for company on a night when I really just wanted to come home to a hug. I wonder sometimes why I don't feel more like I've got friends around... but I suppose that really, there's only Tomoko to talk to, and none of the girls while I've been here have seemed open to visiting each other's rooms anyway. I hear the boys talking about hanging out and drinking or watching movies... Perhaps if I were going to be here longer, I'd work on unhorrifying them about the idea of coming into their wing. Sigh. This shit is ridiculous. No wonder The Mouse is fucking nuts and Tomoko stays out all night with her friends.



Man, these last weeks are going to be something on the insane side. Had the team end-of-the-year party on Friday, got together with Andrew on Saturday, group end-of-the-year party is on Thursday, dorm farewell party is on Friday, Tomoko is planning a farewell party somewhere in there with some girls in her group I've seen a couple times, and I'll probably get together with Andrew next Saturday as well. My liver will be extremely happy when I get home.

My shopping is almost done. I've gotten Jason's birthday present, so I just need to get his おみやげ/Christmas present, I'm still hoping I can find that magazine I'm looking for at another store, and so my dad is the last nagging thing. Obnoxious—my father's a bitch to buy something for. I often just get him candy for Christmas at home... maybe I should look for some crazy Japanese candy.

Grumble. Took the bus up to Senri Chuo, planning on getting some quiet reading and writing in, but the Starbucks was crazy packed. I begged a seat from a guy who was waiting for friends, but they were due any minute and I didn't feel like playing the conversational foreigner game, so I wolfed down my cookie and bolted, chai in hand. Ah well. I took an extra long-route bus on the way up, so at least I got to drive through neighborhoods I hadn't seen before.

I went on a date today, a long, rambling, sunny winter day's walk through Osaka-jo Koen. By myself (my imagination kept me company, I suppose, albeit somewhat cruel company). I hadn't had my camera when I'd visited there with Jason and crew, so I got a couple pictures of my own of the castle and park, but mostly the outing was an excuse to walk around, moodily kicking at dry leaves and thinking. I spent quite a while at one point watching old men fish in the moat (they didn't catch anything); perched on a bench sometime later, I entertained a visit from a hungry and very pregnant cat (no doubt rather disappointed that I didn't have any food for her, she was very gracious about accepting pets as a substitute). I would have moped around longer, but by 3:30 it was clouding up, so I figured I should call it good. My feet hurt anyway.

In (non-frozen) fruit news, now that Masuda-san's figured out how much I adore みかん, she's going crazy with giving them to me. She's like Grandma Gloria on crack! Tonight she gave me something like half a box's worth! I should probably start refusing, but I do love them so. I'm weak. And I'll let her exploit my weakness for another couple weeks.



In exactly two weeks, I'll be on my way home. I wonder who I'll see and in what order; my parents are pulling pick-up duty, but other than that, nothing's been decided. It will be nice to go in to work on Monday, though.

I was glad to see Pari-chan finally putting Jon's and my 飲み会 advice into practice, after several outings where she drank more than she'd intended to (although she'd prefer to not drink at all, really). The secret is this: do not drink your beer. It sounds simplistic, but if you're not willing to tell your compatriots that you don't drink, or otherwise refuse the drink outright, it's vital that you not drink what is placed in front of you. (DISCLAIMER: what follows is, duh, something of a generalization—your milage may vary.) If Japanese people see you drinking or notice that your beer's level has gone down, they will refill your glass. And the more they've drunk, the less likely they are to ask your permission before doing so (our friends are particularly prone to doing it while you're not paying attention, talking to someone in the opposite direction). Now, if you're wanting to drink, this system is an excellent one. If you're NOT wanting to drink, though, it can bite you in the ass. Unlike at home, where you can drink one beer to be sociable and call it good, there is no "one beer." All beers flow together in a long stream in your never-empty glass; if you're easily intoxicated or otherwise distracted from how much you've already had, you're screwed.

I had promised myself that I'd finally write today about the code-switching thing that'd been on my mind since Tokyo. This is sourced in a conversation with Brian; we were discussing his extreme dislike for the habit of slipping Japanese words into English sentences. In his opinion, people who do so trying to show off, trying to pull the people around them (and Brian in particular) into a "whose Japanese is best" competition. I will admit that I know people who do things like that, but I found that I couldn't disagree with him more about it being a general rule.

The vast majority of people I can think of, myself included, do it not as a competition, but as an in-joke with our friends. If you were trying to show off, you'd use words you were betting your interlocutors wouldn't know, but doing so would ruin the joke and inclusiveness most people are trying to generate. When Erin tells me that she totally がんばる'd through her shitty day, or I tell Mark that my はら is へった so we better eat before beer that week, it is exactly because we all know what we're saying that it's funny (by the way, I pull that shit here because my audience is as much myself as it is anyone else). What we're doing is a well-known sociological trick having to do with creating a group structure, reaching out for a connection to others we see as similar. If there's several people around, it could be in bad taste to do this, given people's varying Japanese levels, but I think in that case it's more justified to have a gripe with the rude person themselves than the habit itself. My personal pet peeve is anime freaks who know no Japanese but tack "ne" on to the end of their sentences to sound as if they do (I can say that because a long time ago I was prone to similar behavior, for which I apologize), but that doesn't mean that I have a problem with the habit itself. I suppose my major issue with his issue is that he judges people on it rather than considering the person's motivations for their actions.

I am now rather drunker than I was when I started that last sentence (the interval was between "major issue" and "with his"). God DAMN I wish I lived in Kyoto or Andrew lived in Osaka. This 55 minute-long last train shit is killing me.



(smile) This morning, as I was glooming my way through the Hankyuu Umeda station, I looked up to see a cute black guy giving me The Eye and a lopsided grin. Just as I was brightening from that, his friend a few paces behind did the same thing. Now THAT was a nice way to smooth my morning out. And it needed smoothing.

Holyshitfuckkittens. Jim just offered to fly out this weekend just so that he could see me sooner.

I got pictures from Parita, but it turns out that the weird light and mogrify wreak even more havoc on her camera than mine. Ah well.

Things I enjoy: hunching my chin into a soft chenille scarf, letting my hair form a curtain to ward out my fellow train travellers, feeling music wash over me. The fact that said music was Nelly when I started writing the sentence just makes things funny.

What I found myself verbalizing just now into my empty room: "Fuck you! Fuck you all! You Japanese people and your... your fucking TV!" Context? None, really. Simply coming home inebriated and finding nothing of interest on TV. Or in English, which at the moment would make something uninteresting watchable at least. I'd even take Spanish, for fuck's sake. So I'm drinking a chuuhai (7%, this batch) and watching that Dream House show that I've mentioned before (incidentally, I think that airing this show at 9 pm on a FRIDAY has to be a directed insult on behalf of the schedulers. Bastards). At least I understand 99% of what they're saying on this stupid nesting instinct inspiring thing.

Where did I learn how to pour beer in the "Japanese fashion"? I don't know, but ask any of my friends here, and they'll tell you that I do so. Apparently, I look more Japanese than Parita when doing so... and here I thought I was just, you know, POURING BEER. Not that flipping difficult. I lie a bit... when I pour from a bottle for my friends here, I do on some level think about doing it "Japanese." But not overtly, which is perhaps why I find it so amusing that I pass muster, while Parita, who is actively TRYING to do it "Japanese," sems to fail on some level.

Today was supposed to be a combined end-of-the-year and Jen-farewell party for my team, but The Girls couldn't come, and the group that could come split into two groups at two tables with two different conversations. Thankfully, I was not at the same table as Yoshiyuki this time. Pari-chan and I had fun talking to Nakadate-san and Tera-chan; I envy her for being up in the lab with them so much. She said that the people on our team that work down in the office are "busy"—I say they're "boring" or "fucking scary." Sometimes both.

Watching commercials, I would like to register EXTREME dissatisfaction that I missed the tail end of this year's movies. Mental note—next time, spend the FIRST HALF of the year in Japan instead of the second half. I still can't fucking believe that I'm missing LotR by three fucking days. Three days! Just long enough for all of my friends to have seen it, and not long enough for them to really feel like going again. Bah fucking humbug.

More profanity-inducingness... There's an English movie on, and it's fucking Frequency?!?!? COME ON NOW. I don't ask for much. I don't even ask for good! I simply ask for something I haven't seen. There's a million fucking decent movies in English I haven't seen! If we start allowing bad ones in, their numbers are veritably incountable! It shouldn't be that goddamn hard!

Please Jen, finally write tomorrow about the code-switching thing. If you promise, then you can go watch Band of Brothers and conk out tonight, I promise. Okay? Got it. Thanks.

Man, I'd forgotten the reasons I should drink every night. Insomnia issues? Gone. Always wake feeling alert and rested? Check. I'm telling you, it's the secret to life.



I am exhausted... I have several things I could write, but instead am crawling into bed at 8:15 pm. Tonight I just want time to speed up and get me home quicker; being exhausted allows me to sleep allows me to dream allows me to hasten that goal.



I'm being bad today, pulling my approximately once-a-month "I totally have an errand at the bank this morning" spiel for the sake of a meager extra hour and a half in bed. It'd be better if I planned them, but invariably they're a result of waking so exhausted that I want to cry. Surfacing in the middle of a vivid dream (that I can no longer recall, although the equally vivid one I was having before I actually got up hasn't faded yet) definitely doesn't help. Maybe I do need to cut it out with the heater.

Heh. "I've been telling my Democratic friends, 'Whoever our nominee is, we don't complain, we love our nominee'" (the rest of the quote is "eh," but I thought that part was funny).

On the train home at 9 pm
don't know if I want to laugh or cry
or stare out the window dreaming
or maybe even
but I know I want to be in Seattle

What... the... fuck. I NEVER write fucking poetry. Never. Okay, other than a single spate when I was fourteen or so. But I couldn't get that piece to sound right except as it is right there, despite an endless number of prose rewrites as the express brought me ever closer to home. I bury my head in shame.



Heh, Masuda-san just came up to me at breakfast to see if I could pay my board for the month right then. I stared at her, and was like, "no, you crazy woman, I don't have $150 dollars on me at this time of the morning" (more or less), which led into an extended conversation about how little Americans carry cash around and why. She absolutely couldn't believe that I didn't have at least $300 just stashed away in my room in addition to the $100 or so she expected me to have in my wallet. These people are nuts.

The MIT Media Lab is coming up with stuff just for people like me.

Waking up in a different hotel room and time zone every few days, Patel found himself reaching for his cell phone at all hours to call his girlfriend.
"I didn't want to talk to her, necessarily. I wanted instead to find a way to feel connected to her, or reassured that she was there."

I must agree with the sentiment. There is something comforting about merely knowing that people at home are awake, at work, alive, whatever. When I can pass a few immediate emails back and forth with Brandon, for example, and know that he's sitting at my desk in our apartment at that very moment, I can pretend that he's a mere few blocks away rather than an ocean. Psychological crutch though it may be. On a defensive note, if I were here with my husband or had a girlfriend to go home to such as some people I could think of, I bet I'd be a lot better adjusted about being here.

OMG I want.

My fingers are freezing off. I was handed a pair of jacket oranges straight out of the freezer and informed that I was to eat them before they melted totally. A quick look in the cafeteria showed it strangely busy, so I figured I could watch London Hearts, eat a couple icy oranges to quiet my rumbling stomach, and get dinner afterwards... I hadn't really thought about the consequences on my poor extremities of this action. My fingers are so cold they hurt.

It's been close to six months now since I became petless. I am probably in a better position than I have ever been to really gauge the difference between having cats and dogs around and not, given that this is the longest time I've gone without being around pets since we got Kitty B. when I was eight or nine. I've been able to breathe unhampered for six months, with nary a wheeze nor a hacking cough that wasn't due to an honest-to-god cold; I haven't had tiny scratches flame red and puff up for hours, nor itchy hives suddenly develop under my jawline. Not a single time has my breath gotten so short that I stop and try to will my life into slow motion to keep from suffocating.

And I've decided, with the full knowledge of how my body works when given the chance to do so properly, that it's a nice thing, to have a functioning body. But it's not worth not having pets. It's just not.

Jon speculated that the reason I'm having such crazy dreams lately is because I'm sleeping with the heater on at night (we couldn't figure out where both of us have heard that dreaming is temperature dependent). I'd be more tempted to turn it off if I could figure out how to use the wake function to turn it on a bit before I wake up (I thought I had it right. Four times. Still haven't gotten it to work). It has been ridiculously cold in the mornings, and I am a pansy when it comes to getting out into a cold room in the morning. Anyway, it's kind of fun to subject oneself to crazy fever dreams on occasion... after a fashion.



I'm waiting on getting pictures from Parita's (much better) camera, but until then mine will have to do. Including this really bad one of all of us that is rivaled only by the humor in this other really bad one of me. Me and the cameras don't get along on as little sleep as I'd had that night. Not that they ever really get along with me.

Man, nothing is better than leaving work at 9 pm, and getting almost all the way back to the dorm before remembering that it's Monday and even if I hadn't marked dinner off tonight, I wouldn't want to eat there anyway. So I wandered in to the weird cafe-y place near my dorm that I've been walking past all these months, seeing as it was actually open past 10. The interior looked exactly how I expected it would given the exterior—that special style of Japanese decor that resembles what you'd get if you gave my great-grandmother LSD. I can't remember the last time I've seen that much lace all in one location. But the food was decent and the proprietress bugged me only long enough to tell me what was in my soup. Nary a cliched question to be had... the closest she came to giving me The Foreigner Treatment was to tell me on my way out that it wasn't on the menu but that if I ever wanted a hamburger she'd be happy to make me one. Major points (for the restraint, not for the hamburger offer).

It felt strange to not have tea with Jon today. Sure, he's gone on business trips and vacations on occasion before, but those times I always knew he'd be back in a day or two. His and Iwahara-san's empty desks were like a gaping wound behind my back all day. I did, however, get rather more work done than I might have otherwise. Hoofuckingray.

Can we tell Jen's just a tad on the cranky side tonight?

Nothing that a good pomegranate couldn't and didn't fix.

I'm watching Vanilla Sky, a movie that epitomizes movies that I have not seen in the last few years because friends have warned me off it. Not exactly that I wouldn't see a movie because Brandon and Kate told me it was terrible, but I might shelf them until a wildly lonely and cranky Monday night. Good music. Mint Royale and Peter Gabriel. Can't go wrong.

Jen wants to go out and dance herself to death.