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I'm not dead yet! Not for lack of trying....

I totally forgot to obviously link to the pics directory this week. Really, anyone who is reading this often enough will have figured out that when I put my gigantic weekend posts up, I usually put pictures as well... but just in case (shrug).

I was shocked as hell to get a message on my phone today from someone I've never met, hoping that I was feeling better. I'm very used to people emailing me because they use the L5R reference (I get an email every month or two from someone about it), but it blows me back on my heels when I learn that someone who has not the excuse of knowing me has been keeping up on this junk for any length of time. How does anyone stand the months of "I'm tired" entries?! John, for example, mocks me to retain his sanity. Not that I'm complaining at all about well-wishes out of the blue, mind you. On further thought, I don't know why I implicitly assumed in writing the above that people I know in person would be more likely to put up with boring entries, considering that I happen to know that they tend to find than as boring as I do. Brain fart.

I got home today to find a FedEx package from my parents (after the unfortunate incident involving the washing machine getting the best of several of my bras, I'd asked my mom to snag some for me). She also sent some super glue, so I can finally fix my broken earrings! Super glue is another one of those things I didn't want to bother trying to unearth in a Japanese store. I can never remember where to find that shit in America, a situation that automatically means there's no way in HELL I'm finding it here. She also stuffed in, at the last minute (when I called, sick as a dog, right as she was heading out to send the package off), some chewable Pepto-Bismol, hooray! I was completely not expecting 3 CDs, however, including two Starbucks compilations featuring my favorite mambo music (how frigging sweet is that? My mama rocks).

So I'm torn... Listen to sweet mambo music... Watch GTO? Listen to sweet mambo music... Watch GTO? DECISIONS! I tell you, it is so nice to have decisions like this, instead of ones like: Try to take a catnap in the bathroom... Hope I don't faint on the way back to my room? Try to take a catnap in the bathroom... Hope I don't faint on the way back to my room?

I wasn't very hungry at lunch, and only had some rice and miso soup (to the consternation of my co-workers, who apparently thought that this was heralding my imminent collapse). Of course, I got ravenously hungry on the way home. Let's see... What's on my way home? Curry doughnuts are BAD for you, Jen, particularly when you've had a horrible stomach sickness for days. Stop! Stop! Fight the irresistable siren of the never-quiet Mr. Donut loudspeakers! Fight the children's voices singing to you of the delicious treats to be found behind the orange and yellow facade! Resist! Resist!

Let me tell you who won that little mental tug-of-war. The part of Jen who is extremely pleased that her mother sent her Pepto-Bismol, that's who.

I dunno why this just now occured to me, but I totally lied when I said the TV I got was 15 incbes or so. More like 19 at least.

Yoshiyuki mentioned today that he thought that I'd lost weight. I would appreciate it if he and the scale could explain the situation to my jeans, which do not seem to have recieved the memo yet. Amusing, though, that I should have chosen this weekend to finally buy a belt. It's the first time that I've owned a belt since I was, oh, ten or so. And I might have shared that one with my brother, so it doesn't really count. It's all snazzy, black leather with silver studs. Not that people will see it much, seeing as I rarely tuck in my t-shirts, but it is snazzy nonetheless. And it does in fact prevent the (stupid stupid) velcro fastening on my uniform from shifting loudly.

I'm avoiding the decision between mambo and GTO by watching the Hanshin game. Heh. Jason's vague relation (cousin's brother-in-law or something) Riggan is closing tonight. First time I've seen him (I was starting to wonder if he actually existed). May he do us proud. Two strike-outs so far... although it won't do us much good if we can't get three runs in our half, sniffle.

I'm really suffering from short paragraph syndrome today.

I haven't yet figured out exactly what the dance team of gorgeous girls wearing camisoles and hot pants is selling. Something with a percentage rate of something. NOTHING with a percentage rate of anything gets sold with dancing girls in hot pants on TV in the US. I need to pay attention, because if it's a home loan commercial or something, that'll be just perfect. Although my current favorite (albeit extremely disturbing) commercial features not dancing girls but grey plastic cherubs in red swim trunks and skullcaps, sipping from cans as they surf on grey plastic waves being moved by whatever the same technology it is that they used in years long past to simulate waves on playhouse stages. The music, some sort of weird Japanese punk-style thing, just makes the whole thing that much more surreal.

I'm vaguely considering going for the bigass, government-recognized Japanese test getting offered in December. All the cool kids are taking it. Jon is going for the top rank, and I hear through the grapevine that Jason is planning on it as well, in addition to several classmates back in Seattle. But Jesus, the material for it is ridiculously hard. Jon was like "oh, it won't be that bad for you," and I'm like "what the hell crack are you smoking?" It's Japanese that NO ONE uses outside of things like academic articles. I find it very obnoxious to be judged on such obscure material. Of course, the only reason I don't feel that way about the GRE verbal section is because I'm abnormally well read in English, so maybe I shouldn't talk. I wonder what it takes to register. And if I'd have the motivation to study for it.


(dancing... metaphorically) I still felt horribly sick as recently as 7 am (right after Narahara-san called to check up on me to see if I was coming to work, I had to rush into the bathroom with horrible cramps for an hour), but I actually slept almost all the way through from 8 until noon. Bliss. I was woken up a couple times by messages coming in (sorry I wasn't able to respond, guys), and by Matsuda-san checking on me, but I didn't mind.

And lord, I was able to eat! Matsuda-san just brought by some really simple udon for me (just noodles, broth, and a little bit of egg), and I was actually able to eat all of the noodles. Not quite chicken noodle soup, but then again, I'm not a big chicken noodle soup fan in the first place. I didn't think I'd be able to eat as much as I did, but barely eating anything yesterday probably helped. My tummy will probably rebel a little, but ah well. Plus, sometime this morning Narahara-san sent Mai-chan over with some bananas and juice for me, so I've got my afternoon taken care of in terms of things to help meds go down. With all the food I've gotten in the last couple days... It's a wonder that I still need to go shopping, heh. My fridge was nearly empty but for two cans, a jar of peanut butter and a squeeze bottle of jelly, and some milk; now I'm stacking things on top of each other.

It was really nice to have Matsuda-san hang out in my room and be able to talk to someone while I was eating; she was amazed by my CD collection, adores Annie almost as much as I do, and wanted to know all about Seattle, my family, my friends... It felt really good to cut loose and talk about me to someone; I almost never do that here (writing here doesn't count, mostly because I'm not getting a sympathetic reactive response). It's usually all about work (or people at work), or baseball, or America in general, or food... all good topics, to be sure, but not quite the same.

Next on the agenda... Taking a shower. I was too weak and too much a slave to stomach cramps the last two days; I'm hopeful that I can finally get CLEAN today.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. I feel like I've returned to being a human being. Albeit one that apparently lost six pounds in the last four days. Jesus. I'm guessing most of that is water weight, but it was still a little unnerving to discover I dropped 3 kg since Saturday night to hit my lowest weight in about four or five years. Even if the scale here is a little wonky, from a relative sense, that's kind of a scary drop for four freaking days. Assuming the scale is accurate, I was lower when I was anorexic, but that's not saying much.

On a totally different topic, I had the singular experience of dreaming while in the bathroom at 3 am this morning. I was lucid enough to get in there, and not fall over or anything, but let me tell you, that was really freaking WEIRD. I kept on trying to get myself to wake up, in the dream, because I was afraid I was going to topple and get a concussion. In entirely unrelated dream news, my cravings for Mexican food have been manifesting at night, particularly the last couple days. I find this absolutely and ridiculously ironic, given my current condition. Anyway, I want some chicken enchiladas covered in melted cheese... with salsa and refried beans... and sour cream. My god, sour cream.... I wonder if they even SELL sour cream in Japan? Surely they must, somewhere, but I can't think I've seen it at my local supermarket (which is admittedly much more of a market, minus the "super"... it's about a quarter of the size of your standard QFC or Safeway at home). I should try to find my way to that big supermarket I went to with Narahara-san, hrm...

I gambled and ate almost all of the delicious Chinese-style stir fry at dinner tonight. I will, quite likely, extremely regret this later, but it wasn't spicy at all, and I think that the glory of eating some red bell pepper was worth it. I hope.

(surveying the disaster area that my room became sometime on Monday) Sigh. I suppose I should clean this stuff up. Or not, because I thought of other things I wanted to mention (and completely unrelated to being sick!)

I find it completely incomprehensible that one of the ad flyer-coupon things I was handed today was for a freaking English school. Maybe the girl thought I was French? Maybe she hoped I'd come be a teacher? It boggles the mind. Not as much, however, as the following shirts caused my neurons to misfire... Where, oh where, do Japanese people go to find these things? I must know! I must have the source made available to me!

"OMG! I hope it's not true! That would be extreeeemely terrible! I hope they don't break up!"
In puffy letters on the back of a white shirt with nothing at all printed on the front.

"I have a FEVER. In the curing of a cold, a thermometer is handy instrument."
In orange lettering on a white shirt, with a large orange drawing of a thermometer separating the two sentences.

"This is not a paint advertisement. This is future."
In scratchy white lettering on the front of a brown shirt with a splash of blue (paint?) in the middle.

It's a good thing the shirt told me that it wasn't a paint advertisement. I was on the verge of being seriously confused on that issue. I swear, though, none of the stuff I've found in stores so far has matched what I see people wearing. But what am I supposed to do? I can't walk up to people and say "I think your shirt is fucking HEE-LARIOUS, can you tell me where you got it?" Although the fact that you can use the same word for "interesting" and "funny" in Japanese might help me do it with a straight face. Your shirt is really interesting, I swear...

I'm vaguely considering buying a Japanese DVD player. I haven't actually checked, but I've got a guess that the newer dramas and movies aren't stocked on tape in my video store. I wonder how hard it would be to get it home. I wouldn't have to zap my current one to get it to play Japanese DVDs... Or I suppose I could sell it to someone when I leave.


Life's kind of funny when you welcome four mosquito bites on your foot because it takes your mind off of your stomach cramps. After waking up at 4 am, with a less blurry head but otherwise same-old same-old, I really couldn't countenance holding out any longer. So at 8:30, off I went to the hospital... that was interesting. The usefulness of learning words like "diarrhea" in that long-ago 2nd year section on going to the doctor suddenly struck me quite hard.

Sigh, but 12 hours later, no real sign of improvement. I suspect one of the drugs they gave me actively made me SICKER. That might be pyschosomatic; you see, they gave me two sets of pills and two sets of powders. And I had no fucking clue what to do with the powders. I'm from America! We don't do powdered medicine! On a better day, I might have chosen a wiser course of action, but a random guess led me to mix one in with some water I had in my room and try to drink it down. Big mistake. Not 15 seconds later I was on the floor hacking the contents of my stomach up into a plastic bag (thank god I had one around). Admittedly, there was barely anything in there but water and FOUL FOUL medicine (the stuff smells and tastes like musty ash... like the smell of fireworks after all the oomph is gone), but still.

So I called my mommy and daddy and asked for advice; they recommended mixing the stuff with honey and using some mint tea to wash it down. Nice idea. If I had honey. Or mint tea. I finally decided to go with grape jelly and really really weak black tea (bet you didn't think that stuff was going to go towards this sort of situation, huh, John). I actually managed the other medicine with just the jelly, and decided to wait 30 min or so to make sure that wasn't going to ruin me; 30 minutes later I was seeming fine (well, other than the ever-present cramping, but certainly no worse), so I decided to give the FOUL FOUL one a try. I pretty much couldn't do it. I mixed it with twice as much jelly, spread it on toast, washed each tiny bite down with a swig of tea, and I still had that disgusting gritty nastines cutting through everything. I didn't toss it, but I wanted to. Ever since I swallowed that disgustingness down, my other symptoms have gotten a bit better but my stomach cramps have gotten a billion times worse. I've probably spent 6 of the last 7 hours hunched in the bathroom, not getting anything done and wishing I would just die. Thus my sentiment about that one making me worse. It's a symptomatic one, not a primary med, and there is no way in hell I'm taking it again. I'll take my symptoms, thank you very much. I don't care if it's a psychosomatic reaction to it making me puke the first time... no more scary labeled-only-in-kanji disgusting powder of nastiness, no way, no how.

I can't bring myself to eat dinner tonight; I'm terrified that it'd make things worse. I coaxed down a bite of banana and half a piece of bread so that I can take one of my other meds, but that was a struggle; I've got zero appetite. And damn am I feeling sorry for myself. There's nothing to damage your self esteem like being reduced to the depths of sickness for a few days. Particularly when you're used to doing things when you're sick by yourself; you make your own doctor's appointments, you get your own scrips, you have your own well-stocked medicine cabinet... you have a car so that you can get to and from the supermarket or drugstore quickly. I can't STAND this helplessness, I can't. It's one thing to be sick and want pity... It's another to be sick and HAVE to depend on other people. I couldn't make it down the block by myself at the moment, much less to the store... Fuck.

Things I have learned today, item number 1: take a lesson from Mom and always keep a full emergency stock of American meds, of all types but particularly tummy-related, when traveling in a foreign country (the Tylenol with codiene that I snagged from her before I left has been the single thing to keep me from totally dying). Just because I've never gotten seriously ill while abroad, in my decade of extensive traveling, apparently doesn't mean I'm immune. Or, as Senor Dammen put it today, it might mean I was due for a whammy. Item number 2: sitting scrunched up with my feet on the toilet seat may be totally and completely ridiculous, but it keeps me from worsening or getting new bruises. Sub-item 2: A bad bathroom can make a gastrointestinal illness a million times worse. Item number 3: Tylenol with codiene is the single best substance in the world (I'm currently experiencing the only full lack of stomach pain I've had in a day or so, excluding when I took some this morning to get me through the hospital visit), the Canadians are to be very thanked for selling it, and my mother is a saint on Earth for regularly smuggling it across the border. Item number 4: Being sick in the summer in a foreign country is to be avoided at all fucking costs. Particularly when the bathroom available to you is not air-conditioned (see sub-item 2).

I'm going to try to snag a couple hours sleep before waking myself up to (sigh) try to swallow down some of the less-nasty powdered stuff (the stuff that at least has a prescription name that I can read).

Trying to decide why Jim still hadn't responded to the message I sent him yesterday morning (oh, by the way to anyone else who might care, you can message my phone at laeren at jp-k.ne.jp, but it'll truncate after 500 characters), I gave him a call in one of my less cramping moments. Turns out that the MS firewall is probably rejecting messages from things like my phone; he didn't get either one I sent him in the last couple days, and John never got the one I sent him (wasn't important). So good to hear his voice... I was admittedly close to tears for the last hour already from pain, but hearing his sleepy "hello?" pushed me over the edge. It's Tuesday morning there, though, so at least he was about to get up for D&D anyway. I only had about 10 minutes of time left on my phone (I've blasted it to hell the last couple days calling Mom and Dad, and work), so we weren't able to talk for long, but he did reiterate that I should try to find something carbonated to drink, and sounded like he was pretty close to crying himself when he said he wished he weren't thousands of miles away at the moment. If only my time hadn't run out (which, by the way, is the reason I won't be calling / texting anyone until I can get to a store that sells refill cards, hopefully tomorrow)... he just tried to send me a message on ze phone, but format was invalid... ARGH.

I'm drinking a carbonated lemon "vitamin drink" that Matsuda-san brought me (she totally thought I'd been sleeping all day and was horrified to find out I was still sick; apparently she knocked a couple times while I was in the bathroom... statistically, I was much more likely to be there today than in my bed, sigh). It's interesting... I think it'd taste better if it were colder, but according to the Japanese doc, I'm not supposed to drink/eat really cold stuff because it'll be hard on my stomach. I'm not sure I'm convinced, but I compromised by warming it by rolling it on my aching tummy. Not quite the same thing, but it somewhat sufficed. Here's hoping that 1000 mg of vitamin C does me some good.

Okay, I'm going to brave another dose of not-so-nasty powder, and sip my vitamin drink until I (oh please, god, PLEASE) fall asleep. And may I feel well enough tomorrow to go shopping and take an hour or so into Umeda to check my actual email (sniffle, PLEASE). Although what I would like most of all would be to feel well enough to go to work. Because that would mean I'd be all better, not because I particularly want to go to work... though I am pretty fucking stir crazy.

Just a spoonful of sugar/helps the medicine go down/the medicine go down/the medicine go down/just a spoonful of sugar/helps the medicine go down/in the most delightful way!


Anatomy of a Japanese sick-day:

(groan) All hopes in vain as I spent from 2 am to past 5 in the bathroom, alternately puking and doing that other thing you do in the bathroom when your body is seriously unhappy. I gave up at about 4:30 on the idea of going to work, which really sucks. I had some revelations on Friday that I was really looking forward to discussing with Yoshiyuki and investigating more. Not to mention wanting to post shit and check my email.

So around 5 am I stumble into my room to snag my phone; at this point, I'm so weak I nearly pass out in the attempt. And my room is right across the hall from the bathroom, mind you. Heading back into the bathroom, I laboriously tap out a message explaining the situation and email it to Yoshiyuki. Or attempt to, seeing as I get an error message saying my phone can't talk to the mail servers. This just about did me in; it's really fucking hard to concentrate on using a cell to send email when you've been puking and whatnot for hours in the middle of the night and to have it all be for naught was pretty upsetting.

So I figured I was going to call work, which would suck in my current condition, sigh. It was of course too early for really anyone to be there, much less Yoshiyuki, who usually wanders in at about 8:15. I'd just leave a message, easy, right? Unless you get a message saying that the number you dialed is inaccessible.

About 5:30 I stumbled back into my room to try to get some sleep for a bit, setting my alarm for about 7:30 so I could try to catch Narahara-san on his way into work and have him tell Yoshiyuki what's up. I didn't really get a lot of sleep in that interval; I was sweating really bad (I couldn't really tell if I had a fever or not, but I probably did), and tossing and turning in efforts to find positions where my stomach cramps would subside. Sigh. At 7:45, I try calling Narahara-san, and nearly wail when he doesn't pick up. It shouldn't be that goddamn hard to call in sick from work! Thankfully, he called me back almost immediately, and I was, despite feeling shittier than I've felt in a long long time, able to explain in perfectly comprehensible Japanese what was up. He got all worried and promised to tell Yoshiyuki, and I made quick excuses to get off the phone and back into the bathroom. Yay.

At about 8:30, Narahara-san and Yoshiyuki called back (thankfully I was back in my room by then). Apparently they'd checked to see if the company would bear any of the burden of me being sick, and it won't. Which is no problem with me; the idea hadn't crossed my mind in the slightest. They wanted to know if I went to the hospital last night; I avoided the twin issues of not knowing where a hospital is and being scared to go to one by myself by telling them that I really did feel better, but I just needed to catch up on my sleep. And at that point I was feeling pretty good, and had been for about 20 minutes; I really thought I was fine, that I'd expunged whatever it was from my body. Yoshiyuki said he'd call me back later tonight to check on me, though.

Once again however, all hopes were in vain as I woke up at about 10 am with the by-now-familiar stomach cramps and spent nearly an hour in the bathroom. Spending an hour in the bathroom isn't such a big deal, normally, you know, at home. But the bathroom here isn't AC'd, so it was about fifty zillion degrees in there and humid (which believe me, is exactly the conditions you want when you're as sick as I am). And that complaint several days ago about the incorrect sizing on the toilet seats in the dorm? Very high in my mind; my hip joints were hurting so very much from being splayed at strange angles that I couldn't stand it, and my back muscles were screaming as well. I tell you, I haven't felt as tortured since ever.

About 11:30, I got a message from Yoshiyuki, hoping that I felt better, wondering if maybe I had a bacterial infection, and if I had insurance that was good in Japan. My mind siezed pretty hard on that idea of a bacterial infection and I freaked out (Bryce had a horrible parasitic infection a few years back and in my admittedly less than lucid state, that was what popped into my mind). I was still cramping but bad, and had at that point gotten no more than maybe four hours of sleep in five or six batches all night. Called my dad (well, tried to call, got some weird messages from his cell and errors about my number being blocked from home, and finally called Bryce and had him have Dad call me) to find out what insurance procedures are for me here; I knew that something was worked out, but not the particulars, and if I was going to take myself to a hospital, I wanted to be damn clear on what was going on. Dad was unfortunately nowhere near as clear on the process as I wanted, but apparently I'm supposed to take a lot of cash, pay what I need to, and redirect bills and reciepts to Dad and my insurance. This did not give me confidence. It was, however, really nice to hear Mom and Dad's voices. Anyway, he said he'd give me a call back tomorrow morning with some cleared-up instructions (I was, after all, calling them at about 8 pm on Sunday night). Either way, I resolved that there was no way in hell I was going to go to a hospital unless I was still in this dire of straights tomorrow.

I basically spent until around 2:45 pm staggering between room and bathroom, sneaking catnaps 10 or 30 minutes at a time before my stomach wrenched again; I was super freaking dehydrated, but worried to take more than a sip or two of water at a time lest my stomach totally rebel at even that. Would that I had a comfy US bathroom... I would have just stayed there. As is, I actually developed slight bruises, and my hips are sore as hell. Not fun. But I actually slept all the way from 2:45ish to 5:45 in one batch, and though my stomach was cramping when I woke up, it subsided within 10 minutes or so. At this point, I've decided I need to get some sort of food in me; bread seems pretty innocuous, watermelon is mostly water but has some sugar to boost levels in my blood, and a couple sips of water shouldn't be too bad. I hope. Plus, this is really all I have in my room. I'm actually feeling just fine, gastrointestinal-wise, at the moment, but we'll see how I feel in the next hour (crossing fingers). Right now I'm just suffering from an aching back and ass (due to the toilet), serious light-headedness (due to the dehydration), and a terrible headache (hopefully due to the dehydration)... may this situation continue.

Hrm, Matsuda-san just came to check on me and thinks I might still be running a fever... please oh please let me be done being sick, please oh please oh please. Fever verdict: I'm a little high, but not that bad. In about an hour she wants me to try eating something something light (some sort of udon, I think), which I'm game to try. Apparently Narahara-san tried to call me and couldn't get through, so he called the dorm and asked her to check up on me. Fuzzies, as much as I'm able to muster at the moment.

Although damnit, I'm still losing everything I put in my body, even if I'm not puking (haven't since about 3 am). My stomach is cramping a little bit, but not terribly bad; I think I'll put that down to the blandness of making a meal out of one piece of bread and four small pieces of watermelon. Sigh.

Narahara-san just called to ask me if I wanted him to bring me anything on his way home, and to tell me that Tera-chan was worried about me and hoped I felt better soon. Sweeties. Although he can't really bring me an end to gastrointestinal hell, which is a bummer, he is going to stop by and check on me.

So I am now under strict orders from Narahara-san to call him tonight if I start getting really bad stomach cramps again, and he'll help me get to the hospital. And I've been ordered to stay home tomorrow. Blarrggh. Staying home is totally awesome... when you're not sick. I was also scolded heavily for not telling the dorm peeps that I was sick, and if I feel okay tonight but still am in bad straights tomorrow, I'm to tell them and THEY'LL get me to the hospital. It was really nice to see Narahara-san and Mai-chan; being sick all by yourself is pretty miserable. Not to mention spawning entries from hell like this one. When you don't have anyone else to talk to...

I'm really conflicted on the idea of going to the hospital, though. My stomach cramps come in fierce within 30-40 minutes after I eat anything, but they're much better than they were last night, giving me hope I'm getting better. Blah, I should probably go. It's 8:45 now; we'll see how I'm doing at 10 after Boku dake no Madonna.

Hrm. Cramps and icky feelings, but it's been a couple hours since I had to go bolting for the bathroom... Although I'd prefer to have Narahara-san help me to the hospital tonight than the Matsudas tomorrow, I'm going to hold out hope that it won't be necessary.


Blargh! I get startled awake by my phone ringing at 10:15, and I just know it's Narahara-san, but I fumble for the phone anyway and check. I am indeed correct, and set the phone down, thinking, I'm in no condition to talk to him, I'm still asleep and I'll make no sense at all. However, in this process I apparently hit a button to pick up the call, heh. I don't realize this, of course, until I hear his voice saying Jen-chan, ohayo from across the room; I guess one of the totally unobvious settings I played with last night did in fact fix the volume problem. So I lurch for the phone, only to accidentally hang it up, gahhh. I called him back and am now going out to lunch in about 10-30 minutes. Whee!

Kind of throws a monkey wrench in cleaning day order, but ah well.

I tell you true, there are few things I like doing more than hanging out with Narahara-san's family. Particularly as they have a tendency to buy me lunch, hehe. And give me ice cream, hehe. And coffee, hehe. Today we went for tonkatsu, and hit a 100 yen shop. I finally got another trash basket... you separate your garbage in Japan, but they only gave me one basket in my room. It doesn't make much sense. I also snagged a silly present for Zach, meaning I've only got (counting) 11 more gifts to find in the next many moons. I want to be able to send several home with Dad in September so that I don't have to carry them all myself, heh.

I got to be Mai-chan's English teacher again today... it's kind of fun in one sense, but on the other hand, I think I prefer teaching more advanced English than "grandmother" and "fire station." But hey, helping her with her pronounciation gives Narahara-san an excuse to buy me lunch, so I'm not complaining. Also went over to the office of a friend of his to take a look at his computer. Tera-chan (and maybe I) is going to build a new computer for this friend, but Tera-chan lives too far away for it to be easy for him to come up and take a look at the software and current config. So I got to be notetaker. The guy really isn't using that specialized of software, so if we put together a decently new machine and make sure he's only got the software he needs on it, he should be good. I swear, people who don't know computers tend to install every program under the sun... I think that's where this friend's problems are coming from. Well, that and that he's using 98, which is especially intolerant of conflicting programs. Anyway, it was nice to be the computer expert for a while, heh.

I think I'm going to throw some stuff in the washer and then run some errands; Tomoko had the brilliant idea of hanging curtains in her entryway so that people can't see in when she opens the door; I'm going to jack the idea wholesale. Of course, I get back and I realize that I probably should have snagged some less transparent curtains, hehe. Ah well, I kind of want to have two pairs anyway so that the hemming isn't seen. One pretty side for me, and one opaque side for the hallway. I guess I'll get them tomorrow...

I remind myself on the nights that dinner is icky that I'm very lucky to be in a place where dinner is only icky maybe once every other week. And it wasn't even all THAT icky tonight; I don't have anything HUGELY against eel, or HUGELY against that weird potato-ball and pumpkin dish, or HUGELY against a soup loaded with mushrooms. Any one of them, honestly, I would have been perfectly fine with. It was just that they were all in combination. A meal full of things I only like in small amounts equals me thanking heaven I've got some plums and some strawberry ice cream for when I get back from the video store.

I can't believe how loud the cidadas have gotten lately. Anyone who's watched an anime set in summer has had exposure to the vague notion that walking down the street in the summer in Japan is noisy... You just don't understand HOW noisy. At points today I was having to nearly yell over them. When I'm walking to the station in the morning and they're drowning out the music in my headphones, I know something's a little wonky.

But I'm going to call it good at this and hit the hay early (it's not even 11 yet)... I've had a nagging headache all day and it's really starting to bug me; here's to (oh please oh please oh please) not being sick. Maybe my body just decided to have Wednesday's, Thursday's, and Friday's hangovers all today.


WHOOPS. Picking me up at TEN, not eleven. Dress in a hurry, dress in a hurry...

It was indeed Den-Den Town that we spent nearly five hours wandering around today. That place is fricking insane. We're lucky in Seattle to find one or two stores with computer and electronics bits, much less an entire damn neighborhood. My eyes started to glaze over after a little while; I couldn't take admiring yet another brand spanking new motherboard that I don't have a computer to put it in, or another super freaking awesome case that I don't have a computer to house in. By the end I was lusting so much to build myself a computer here that I had to force myself to leave before I started buying parts.

I'm annoyed that I forgot to get some AA batteries in the last day or two; I was able to snag one picture of the Happy Hacking keyboard, but it's a little blurry and after that the camera refused to humor me at all. So there are really no pictures from the geeky trip, which may be a good thing dependent on your point of view. Tera-chan wants to take me to Akihabara sometime, so perhaps I will make sure that my camera has batteries then.

Hanging out with Tera-chan, Nakadate-san, and Narahara-san was, overall, an EXCELLENT way to spend my Saturday. Tera-chan, Nakadate-san, and I got to geek out something awful; we all got to tease Narahara-san for not knowing very much about computers... good times with some very good people. I spent a lot of time thinking about how Tera-chan is pretty cute, but the fact that I'm taller than him (admittedly, only by a smidgen) kind of weirds me out. Nakadate-san, on the other hand, is extremely tall and lanky, but one of the geekiest-looking people I've met in a long while. Huge glasses, pants belted that little bit too high, a gigantic belt case for his cigarettes and lighter... poor kid is doomed. Doomed, I say. Anyway, it was fun to hang out with them, and I didn't have to pay for my own lunch, nor for the beer we stopped for at about 3 (only one, shuddup), which was quite nice, heh.

I'm trying to figure out who it was that called me around 6 pm on Friday. It was definitely a local call, which confuses me all the more; so far as I know, only Mel, Hayato, and Narahara-san in Osaka have my phone number, and they show up with their names (not to mention the fact that I was standing with Narahara-san at that particular time). My only guesses are A) wrong number, and B) Narahara-san gave Takahashi-san my number. Hrm. Not that it really matters, but my sense of curiosity is prodding me.

So I spoke too soon when I told Brandon K that my legs weren't burned that badly because at least they didn't blister. Sigh. The blisters just took a day or two to show up. But after I got home today I finally got tired of the whole business and (grossness alert) patiently pulled the outer layer of my skin off, mopping up blister fluid as I went. It was interesting to see exactly how much skin there actually is covering your shins. Heh. Anyway, my legs now have entirely weird colored patterns on them (I only pulled off the blistered areas, so the parts that only got mildly burnt are still there, and a darker color), and they itch a little, but they don't look leperous anymore, which is pretty bonus.

I think I'm going to head into Umeda to try that Indian restaurant I found a couple weeks ago.

Oh, and did I mention that they fucking paid me in cash again?? 15 freaking 10,000 yen bills for chrissakes!! What I don't understand is how they were able to direct deposit the money to pay me back for my train passes, but they can't direct deposit my salary?! Monkeys!! The attitude in Japan about carrying a lot of cash is admittedly different than at home, but l think this is excessive even for Japan. And even though most Japanese cashiers don't bat an eye at breaking a man or gosen en bill (later editor's note: 10,000 or 5000), I can't help but cringe whenever I do it.

Just got back from dinner, which I will talk about quickly. FABULOUS. Best butter chicken I've had in a long while... smooth and delicious with a few bits of tomato and green pepper... mmmm. I forgot again that I need to order rice separately, but it came with some suprisingly delicious naan, so I just made do with that. Lassi didn't taste quite as good as the place near the dorm, but the consistency was better. And the cute kitchen staff spoke enough English to say "Thank you for coming" and "have a good weekend!" when I was leaving, which made me smile.

But what is more on my mind, and has been for something like two hours, is my huge embarrassing failing for the day. So, to preface this edition of "stupid things Jen does," we need to set out some basic groundwork. I fucking hate the phone. I hate talking on the phone in English, and it's a gazillion times worse in Japanese. Throw in the fact that I have a really hard time hearing on cells, and that my phone in particular seems to be ultra-quiet, and you have a huge stress package for the whole phone thing. So at about 8 pm I was in the Internet cafe in Umeda, when my phone (in my pocket) starts buzzing. I checked to see who it was, and it's Narahara-san... now, if it had been Mel or Hayato, I probably would have answered. But I have a huge complex about speaking Japanese on the phone anyway, and with a bunch of other people around, I just couldn't do it.

10 minutes or so later, I'm heading towards the restaurant when I figure, damnit, maybe I should call him back. I don't really count not picking up the phone in the first place as a bad thing, so the decision to call Narahara-san back was Bad Thing #1. You see, I couldn't find a very quiet place (I was smack dab in the middle of the JR station when my bright idea struck me), so I just hied to a corner and dialed. So he answers, and I ask if he called (duh). This is where it really gets bad. I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what it was that he said back. None. At all. I couldn't hear for shit. In retrospect, I admit this. At the time, however, I swear up and down, I thought he said something about dialing on accident, or that it wasn't really important, or whatever. And so I said something like "oh, okay, catch ya later then," and hung up. This combination would be Bad Thing #2. Off I go, and delicous dinner was had.

Heading back out after dinner, I check my phone to see what time it is, and I see that, wtf, someone called? I swear I didn't feel the phone vibrating at all, so I don't know what's up there. I'm basically counting my failure to catch this call as Bad Thing #3. I look to see who called; Narahara-san, not 2 minutes after I hung up. At this point, I think, umm.... maybe he DIDN'T say what I vaguely thought he said. Go ahead. Laugh. And then YOU try to juggle the devil machine and Japanese at the same time. At this point, he'd called about an hour before, so I decided to just let it go. Only in physical practice, admittedly, seeing as I've been beating myself up over the whole thing ever since in my mind. Arrrggghhh. This is one of the times where I just reaffirm my complete idiot status to someone else, and there's been a big knot of embarrassment in my chest all night.

In the midst of this, while flipping through the calls I'd gotten lately, I noticed that two, the original one tonight from Narahara-san, and the later one, had a little tape icon instead of a receiver (calls I picked up) or a hung-up phone (calls I missed). Tape? Message, maybe? Not noticing this earlier was Bad Thing #4. I finally figure out how to play back messages (much harder than it should have been on any reasonably designed phone, sheesh), and the first one runs something like "Jen-chan, it's Narahara... I'll call you back later." Well, fuck. There goes ANY pretense in my mind that my original interpretation of events was correct.

The second one was 2 seconds of nothing, which I'm ambivalent about. I would have much preferred that he left some sort of message when he called back after I hung up, so that I could have an idea what he was thinking (in terms of calling me in the first place, and in terms of thinking how STUPID I am). On the other hand, it must really not have been important. It was after his kids usually go to bed, so it wasn't for dinner... I dunno, maybe to see if I wanted to go out for a drink? Invite me to do something tomorrow? Bleh. If only I'd been in my room when the first call came in, I would have answered it and I wouldn't be freaking out right now. As tasty as Indian food was, I would much prefer to not be shown to be a complete idiot, which would have been much less likely if I'd been at home. I rationally know it's not something to be worried about, but I just can't stand it when I make myself the fool. I do it so often you'd think I'd get used to it, but no, not really. And really, I'm mostly past stressing about what happened, and now worrying about whether I should try to apologize about it on Monday or if I should ignore the whole thing. Well, I lie. I'm really upset about not figuring out sooner that I could get messages, and checking the one from Narahara-san earlier. If I'd gotten that "I'll call you back later" message, the whole situation would have been headed off at the pass. I guess now I know... Bahhhhhh.

One would think that one could run downstairs to fill one's water bottle at 1 am and not run into anyone. But no, I forgot that there's this guy in my dorm who routinely hangs out on the couches in the cafeteria after midnight and reads the paper. Perhaps I should have put something more than my robe on; ah well, heh.

It's kind of funny that I thought I didn't write much yesterday.


My mother has a habit of buying CDs, recording a few songs off of them, and then giving them to me (she was made for mp3 culture, she just doesn't know it). Today's on-the-way-to-work was one of these offerings, one that she handed me perhaps two years ago but that I never got around to listening to. The band is "Everything;" they had that song "Hooch" that got a lot of 107.7 and 103.7 airplay a couple years back. Serious DMB rip-off frat boy band, but enjoyable to listen to on a slightly "off" morning, heh. I particularly appreciated the song that starts off with the lead saying "this one's for YOU," and the first lyrics are something about an international love song. What can I say, it made me smile.

It's a good thing I wrote some bit earlier; I have a feeling I might slack it tonight again.

And that reason might, just might, because after at least four beers (I blurred a bit, sue me) and two gargantuan shots worth of shouchuu? shuucho? (some sort of Japanese hard alcohol at least) and a vaguely screwdriverish thing, I am feeling less of my literary self than normal. As long as you don't try to say that the last couple days have been normal, that is. And as long as you don't seriously try to say I'm literary. Heh.

Tonight I went out for okonomiyaki with Terada-san, Narahara-san, Kumamoto-san, and Nakadate-san (I checked, that IS his name). They were all suitably awed by my ability to put away alcohol; Nakadate-san and Terada-san were suitably awed by my l33t (hahahahaha) Unix (hahahahahaha) skills (hahahahahahahahahahaha); Narahara-san admitted that he thought I was damn attractive for an American; and I actually got to TALK to Kumamoto-san (the only girl there) for pretty much the first time ever. Seeing as the night resulted in plans to get together tomorrow (with the guys... Kumamoto-san patiently played along with our computer talk, but isn't quite the type... Narahara-san isn't even the type, really, but I think he worries about leaving me alone with two younger guys, hehe) and head to some nutty electronics area, I'm happy. I'm unclear as to whether it's Den-Den Town we're going to or not, but I guess I'll find out.

I want to go down and soak for a little bit; we shall see if I write anything when I get back. Totally dependent on me not sliding into the water in a drunken stupor and drowning, of course.

Didn't drown, but did I have to be careless about where I laid my towel so that it got all wet on one edge? Bah humbug.

Okay, what to talk about tonight while I'm still in any sort of mood to do so... I know, my presentation. So every month there's a "gijutsu touron kai," literally, a "technology discusson meeting." Usually this meeting is centered entirely around staff giving 30 minute presentations on the research they've been working on for the past six months, and the only people that show up are the other people giving presentations and maybe 2 or 3 people taking breaks from real work. This time, however, there were big draws: me and Jon. We referred to it as the "monkeys on parade" day. Jon was just doing a presentation, in Japanese, on the work he's been doing, but the novelty of a gaijin speaking Japanese well enough to do so is still running high, so there were plenty of people to see him. I, on the other hand, was presenting in English, about TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION, for chrissakes. Something that no one there knew jack about. Ah well, people understood about half of what I said, which is probably for the best.

You see, I myself think that the research I've been doing is interesting, but ultimately a little pointless. The more my current co-workers learn about what I've been doing, the more I think they would agree with me. Making it a somewhat embarrassing endeavor to talk about, if you catch my drift. But like I said, I think they basically understood. The graphs I showed at the end were a big hit; graphical representation of data has a big edge on me when it comes to speaking in English to a bunch of Japanese chemical engineers.

The big thing that I wish is that I'd been able to express, though, is my passion for the field of TC. I feel very strongly that it's an extremely important and pertinent field of study, for many reasons I'm a little too toasted to eloquently expand upon now, and it's a shame that I couldn't adequately express it today. In normal English I could, but I was speaking in extremely simplified, slow English today, which is a little different so far as expressiveness goes. Narahara-san said that he definitely got the idea that I'm really fucking smart from today's presentation, though, which made me pretty happy. It's hard to speak a foreign language that you're not 100% perfect in, you see; you come off as sounding a bit like a moron a lot of the time, no matter your actual intelligence. But I do think that in the last week, I've suitably awed (for the third time I use that phrase... it just fits in my mind at the moment, I guess) the people I deem it most important to awe with my obvious-in-English awesomeness. Heh. Or something.

Because damn skippy if I ain't totally fucking awesome. Now someone go tell Jim that.

A ridiculous amount of time tonight was spent trading cuss words in between English and Japanese. Unfortunately, by the time that all started, I'd moved into the I-totally-understand-right-now-but-I-won't-remember-later stage of drunken foreign language ability. I do remember that it turns out that the English tightass/tightwad idea translates almost directly into Kansai-ben... Even if I don't remember exactly what that translation was at the moment. Something about a tight ass, at least, heh.

Going out all this week with people has been so incredibly appreciated. Even if I've forced my liver to work like it's never worked before, the chance to go out and be really around people (at work I'm always either by myself or between Yoshiyuki and Satou-san, which might as well be by myself) is so relieving I can't really explain it to people who haven't been marooned in foreign countries without people they know around for months on end... For people who have that experience, you probably know what I'm talking about... for people that don't, well, try living in Japan for a month or two and see how YOU feel about the subject.

Mind... Jumping around... Let's see, Terada-san's birthday is right near mine (which apparently gives us some sort of cosmic juju), Nakadate-san seems to have picked up on the instinctive geek vibe I seem to give off (so now he's decided that he can talk to me freely), and I'm not supposed to tell Narahara-san's wife about the girl he was dating ten years ago and how she went "ayaaiiiiiiii" as he twirled her obi (the belt-type that keeps a yukata or kimono in line) off. Heh.

And though if I were less, you know, I could write more, really all I want to do is slide as gracefully into bed as I can in order to be awake and showered around 11 tomorrow when I have to meet Narahara-san... Sigh. So yeah. I don't think (gawd I hope) that I'll be drinking tomorrow, so hopefully something more lucid will be writen then.


Was there ever a Thursday where I less wanted to go to work? Anyway, I forgot last night that I was going to share this tidbit with the world. This is an email I got from a co-worker yesterday, in response to me me asking if I could come along drinking with them next Friday.

It welcomes. Let's enjoy ourselves together. Jane is already put into the number. I am pleased if it becomes the good recollections in Japan. Does karaoke like Jane? I like rising all together, although it is poor at a song.

Admit it, this is the most priceless Engrish you've ever been exposed to. I've never seen anything that can really match it. People I shared it with at the time I recieved it wanted to know if I was Jane, and yes, I am. The difference between "Jane" and "Jen" isn't really distinguished in Japanese pronounciation, so it's a mistake that gets made often. If they'd just stick to the romanization of how I sign my emails, they'd be fine, but... They never do.

Man, my faded blue jeans are just doomed in Japan. Within one or two days of wearing, I've stained them in one way or another every time they've graced my legs in the past month. I suppose it keeps my other pants from getting messed up, but it's still a little odd.

I listened to Eon's Voiddweller album on the way into work today; I'd forgotten how much I liked it. It's one of the albums I have that I don't have many mp3s of, so when I've got my music collection running off Chiyo for months on end, I forget that I own it. There's a few songs where they sample bits from Lynch's Dune, and during one song where they sample Paul reciting the Litany Against Fear, I was reminded of how ridiculously powerful certain parts of Frank Herbert's creation are for me. For all my complaints about the series, there's damn good reasons I go back and re-read Dune at least once a year.

Life's gonna suck when you grow up/when you grow up/when you grow up/Life's gonna suck when you grow up/and then you're gonna die! This is the song in my head as I contemplate tomorrow.

It really is amazing how quickly I can get depressed.Today, for example, I was perfectly joyous walking up the stairs in the dorm, but nearly in tears within a minute or two after opening the door to my dorm. I can't help it; coming home day after day to such a dark, empty place... if I were in the States, I'd get a dog or a cat to welcome me home, but here, I have what, a desk, an alarm clock? I caved tonight.... I'd resisted so valiantly for so long, but I just couldn't hold out tonight. It's something like 6 or 7 am in Seattle, so I pacified myself with email, but it's still an admission of defeat to myself. I try so hard; so unbelievable, maybe, to people who think they know me, but I do. And I still fail. Funny to think how happy I was last year at this time.

I'll place a lot of the blame on being nervous about tomorrow. Unfairly perhaps, but a convenient excuse. I'm giving a 30ish minute presentation on technical communication to a bunch of Japanese chemical engineers. In English, no less. I asked multiple times if I could do it in Japanese, but was told each time that English was "better," as in, I'd better use English or else. I'm not sure whether this is because they want everyone to practice English listening, or because they think I wouldn't be able to get my point across in Japanese; I'm hoping the former, seeing as one of the ones pushing me to do it in English is Narahara-san, and I've spoken in Japnaese to him every single time but the one time we were talking to Stefan. I think I've shown him that I can convey my thoughts decently enough... maybe. Anyway, I'm stressing more about having to do it in English and having people not understand me than if I had to do it in Japanese and not have people understand me. Not to mention that I kind of didn't prepare anything because I was planning on staying late tonight to work on that bit... which got a bit sidetracked. Shudo-san said tonight that he'd start throwing me signs if I started talking too fast tomorrow out of nervousness; I'm too look for him pretending to stretch something between his two hands.

Tangentially, I told Shudo-san, Nakawhasis-san, and Ashida-san at dinner tonight that I didn't think I could speak Japanese; they hurried to cut that idea off, but I worry so much. My expressive sense is so goddamn limited in this language. I mean, I usually avoid the 10 cent words in English (at least spoken), but at least I know I have them available to me; it pisses me off to have to fall back so much on "to do" and "to use" so much in Japanese, without any real recourse.

Mind... wandering... So yeah, the reason I didn't stay at work until crazy late working on my presentation for tomorrow is that Shudo-san wandered up at about 4 pm and asked me if I wanted to go to dinner with him and a couple other people. Always one for pleasure before work, what do YOU think I answered? Particularly given that Shudo-san is one of the cuter and nicer engineers in my group? So I'm hoping to get a SHITLOAD done in the morning, because I got little aught more than eating and drinking done tonight.

That's right, another first in Jen's slow descent towards alcoholism; tonight marks the first time ever I've gotten drunk two nights in a row. Not falling-down drunk, mind you, but enough so that I've paid good attention to where I'm putting my feet when I walk. Five not-quite-pints and I don't much blame me; that's one more than Ashida-san, and matching both Shudo-san and Nakahumwhaz-san, who are damn big Japanese men. I dunno, I think that I figured that as long as I could still drink, I should. Ah, implicit peer pressure. You have to love, or something, Japanese culture and the alchohol-tingedness of it all. I also had raw liver for the first time (surprisingly tasty), and had yakiniku outside of someone's house for the first time (very fun, and also tasty, but I was expecting that), so the night was not spent entirely contemplating drunkedness. Just partially.

An aside for my dear American friends... a yakinikuya's sole purpose is to feed you meat. Lots of it. And some beer. As such, it really is a beautiful, beautiful place.

I wish I could remember Nakawhowha-san's actual name; I didn't actually catch it tonight and usually he faces away from me so I can't see his tag. As the only guy in my team whose name I don't know (as opposed to the plethora in our overall group that I don't know), it's a little embarrassing. But he helped me explain the difference between hacking and cracking to Ashida-san and Shudo-san, tonight, forever earning my loyalty for even knowing that the difference exists. Even if I don't really know his name.

So I had a great three or four hours after work with them. Admittedly, I rather lost my Japanese comprehension skills for a straight-half hour in the middle, but overall I was communicating, and even passed off a "fatass American" joke to thunderous contradiction. Thus it is with some consternation that I find myself having gotten home in a fine mood only to cry and send text messages home. Stupid moods.

There is nothing that catches me by surprise so much when I'm a little tipsy as the lack of bannisters in Japan. To be sure, there are many bannisters to be found, but they're still fewer than omnipresent. So when I round the corner from filling my water bottle downstairs, it still, after over a month, surprises me when I put a hand out to find nothing but wall. This last sentence is unrelated to all else, which is rather appropriate given it's subject matter... it occured to me that I should clarify that the mind goop that gets tossed down here in a given day is only loosely in chronogical order (given that I upload the morning after I write, I have plenty of time to insert pieces and rearrange... when I want), and even when it does follow a consistent time order, there's often up to a few hours (or a full day of work) between paragraphs. I just don't feel like writing "One hour later..." all the time.

Another short one, mostly because I'm sleepy as all hell and I want to try to catch an early train tomorrow. Or perhaps I just don't write much when I'm a bit on the toasted side? I haven't really had enough experience to tell. I guess we'll see tomorrow when I go out for okonomiyaki with several people in my team (including Nakawheeda-san, whose name by that time I intend to have learnt), which will certainly involve a beer. Or two. Or more. Although given that I way outdrank all the girls and Terada-san (man, did he look pale today, and he only had two or three beers, max) yesterday, and basically matched Nakahumbawanny-san today, it won't be all that many. Theoretically. Anyway, I'm going to go nurse my maudlin feelings.


Rakkii! You have to be happy with a day where you're trudging to work in the rain and Narahara-san drives by!

(flopping into my chair) Wheeeeeeeeee! What a fucking GAME! I'm glad that we won the only Hanshin game I'll probably have a chance to go to while I'm here, but did it have to be in the eleventh freaking inning? With a tie score of zero-zero facing us all that time? Sheesh! But really, I had an absolutely fantabulastic time tonight. Something like ten or twelve of us from work went, and the stadium was JAM PACKED. I've never seen anything like it at a baseball game; tens of thousands of fans screaming and chanting and clashing noisemaker bats together for four straight hours nearly nonstop. Me not excluded; Takahashi-san lent me his bats (and ended up gifting me them at the end of the night), and so I was pounding and yelling away with everyone else. Mass madness.

Three beers and a chuuhai, matched by nearly everyone there, ensured that everything ran smoothly; I was sitting next to cutie Iwahara-san (the cutest one in our group, flat out) and Kimura-san (Kitamura?), who giggled with me the entire night in a way I really haven't done with a girl since, honestly, god, Angela in high school. We took turns fanning each other and the boys that flanked us, whispered about Iwahara-san's cuteness and Akahoshi's coolness (one of the Hanshin players), and ventured together to the bathroom, in of itself quite an adventure; I was sad when she took off at the bottom of the 0-0 ninth inning because she lives in FRICKING NARA and had a two hour commute home. She's one of the girls in my group, but I hadn't really talked to her much... I was really appreciative that she was making such an effort to be goofy with me. I appreciates the jokes. Things like Fujisawa-san beating on my head with noisemaker bats... they just cap a day like today.

I don't know if I can write that much tonight; work was largely uneventful and all evening was spent in buzzed revelry at a baseball game. I think I will suffice to say that I had an awesome time, I'm totally hoarse, Iwahara-san has a very nice ass, the secret to using Japanese toilets without a hitch is to be slightly tipsy at the time, and telling Yamamoto-san that he should give up on speaking English to me and making it into a joke for everyone was the high point of my evening. Well, besides sitting next to yummilicious Iwarahara-san. Finally meeting equally cute but much more incomprensible Takahashi-san was also good; he's a good friend of Narahara-san, and Narahara-san told me this morning that he's drafted Takahashi-san in the battle to keep me from getting bored (he also lives quite close to me; we came home most of the way together tonight). I think I'll be tagging along to a couple parties with him in the next week or two. I wish I understood more than about 10 percent of his Japanese, though... his dialect is crazy strong. But I really am going to fall onto my floor (bed) now; I'm at that point of pleasant buzzedness where John's Butterfingers are the whole of my world, and I want to savor one or two while I read some news and drift away.

PS, Japanese baseball games are the frigging BEST.


Pictures will be posted tomorrow (my) morning, unless I get really motivated to do it during lunch today. And I got motivated. There's a lot of boring ones taken for my own memory maintenance, so exercise a brain and only click on ones that have interesting sounding names, heh.

(stretch) Not getting into work today until near 11 was heaven. If I'd been properly responsible, I would have been in around 10, admittedly, but hey, whatever. I needed to pick up my "I'm a foreigner!" card today, but the Toyonaka-shi office doesn't open until 9 am. Which meant that I got to sleep in by about two extra hours on a normal day. Bliss. I ended up staying at work until 7 pm to offset things a bit, but I don't mind staying late nearly as much as I mind getting up at 6 am.

Mrs. Matsuda stopped me tonight to ask about it, though; she was all worried... thought I'd overslept by accident or was sick. It was the first time in a long time that anyone has noticed or cared much (without my specifically asking them to pay attention to it) anything about the pattern of my comings and goings; I feel a little funny about it. On the one hand, it feels kind of nice to have someone watching out for me. On the other hand, my American, grew-up-ignored-by-her-parents self is screaming bloody murder about being watched.

Work was unremarkable... I spent an hour or so goofing off with developing a naming scheme for my pictures, which leaves only about 6 hours of actual work that I put in. I've basically decided that either we can't do what Yoshiyuki wants to with his data, or my mathematical skills are too limited for me to be able to do it. I futzed around with parameters today for hours for a measley .23 increase in correlation... nowhere near what things need to be for us to be able to predict things accurately. Bleh. He was gone this afternoon, so I emailed a request to talk to him tomorrow; either I'm an idiot or the task is impossible as it now stands. Both are equally likely, honestly, although I'm naturally hoping that the latter is at fault.

I did screw up my courage wayyyy far today and toss Nishihara-san a note seeing if he's busy in the next week or so. I admitted to him that I felt kind of embarrassed about asking everyone all at once, and figured I'd start with one person... He emailed back as soon as he got back from his meeting and said he'd set up something. Sweetie. Although it really does make me giggle when I hear/read "yokai shimashita" (understood) used in actual speech. Since my first several exposures to the phrase were in military anime, it has a sense of "roger that" briskness to my ear/eye.

Tomoko and I came home together, and I was dismayed at how bad my Japanese was. Some days it's on and somedays it's REALLY REALLY not. She was incredibly impressed that I wrote my monthly report in Japanese, though; it was hard to explain to her why it isn't that hard to write something in Japanese as long as I've got a clear idea of what to say in the first place. She thinks she wouldn't be able to get more than a sentence down; I think she, and most people studying foreign languages, sell her(them)self(selves) short. Although it occurred to me, just as I wrote that sentence, that I'm forgetting that Japanese English education places total emphasis on vocabulary; even elementary sentence structures present a problem for many Japanese people I know. Hrm. I'd give a lot to have the vocabulary knowledge in Japanese that so many of my acquaintances have in English, but maybe I wouldn't offer my grammatical knowledge up to that altar.

I don't think I spoke about what happened to my report after I handed it over to Yoshiyuki on Friday. He came back with it in about an hour and it was covered in red marks; I was pretty depressed. But it turned out that all the changes but one that he had were related to vocabulary complexity. I only made one actual error (transitive/intransitive, I curse your name); I just phrased things more simply than he thought appropriate. I learned a lot of good vocabulary that day. It made me smile when he said that he preferred reading and correcting my report to doing Satou-san's, because with me, he didn't have to correct my train of thought, only my words. There's something for me, I guess.

(heh) I like looking through my notes I scribble to myself while walking around town about things to write about when I run out of mind-dribble to spout. The current list runs: beauty shops, lack of backpacks, crosswalk music, analog clocks at station, Japanese bad breath, intense desire for cookie dough. So know that in the next couple weeks, if I manage to make it through a day with absolutely nothing to bore everyone with, you, dear reader, will be graced with a discussion of how much I want cookie dough. Look forward to the monotony!

I want more music that sounds like Echo & The Bunnymen's "Killing Moon" and the second track on the Elbow CD that Ryan gave me for my birthday. With that echoing empty feeling arched over with bells and delicate guitar... Man, I miss Ryan.


(dancing around my room, eating toffee and almond chocolate) My package came, my package came! John is a care package force to be reckoned with. A few Seattle Weeklies and a Stranger, Rolling Stones and Entertainment Weeklies, cookies, candy, tea to take to work... those are only a few of the things that greeted me ripping open a very heavy box. I think I'm going to slip on my headphones, listen to music, munch on some candy, and read some crap. A perfect way to spend a couple hours on a holiday Monday.

Augghhh how dare they end the second episode of GTO with a kid jumping off a building, with me a dinner and a 10 minute walk away from another episode, not to mention the fact that it's MONDAY!!

I just gave up Conan and the first ten minutes of Hey! Hey! Hey! (it's only Morning Musume today) go run to Wonder Panic for my smack... uh... GTO. I don't understand as much of GTO as I'd like (for which I blame the preponderance of gangsters and high school kid characters), but Japanese dramas either trap me or they don't, and this one trapped me. Oh good lord, MM's reasoning for their split this year is that they "thought of the three elements that are necessary for life... water, air, and salt." The only thing that kept me from slitting my own throat right then was that the hosts looked at the MM spokesperson with the same expression that I would have, and said "WHAT are you TALKING about, you idiot?!?" (I'm not exaggerating, the hosts on Hey! Hey! Hey! routinely mock their guests.) But the most amusing thing tonight is that I noticed that 5 Salt's outfits seem exactly calculated to make them look more "black." The outfits are Japanified hip-hop through and through, about what you'd expect... but I swear to god, they padded the asses. It's frigging hilarious.

I am feeling extremely proud of myself that I thought to get sunburnt right before one of the days that I routinely skip a shower. For a person that takes showers as hot as I do, sunburns are horrible horrible things. This way I've got over thirty hours grace before I have to force myself to either take a chilly shower or endure terrible pain. I take what comfort I can when I've fried my legs to a crisp. I was able to wear my super loose cords today because I knew I wasn't seeing anyone I knew, but they're really too dirty to wear tomorrow, which means wearing jeans that will hurt. Sniffle. Teach me to get sunburnt. I was going to go look for some sort of burn cream today, but gave up when I thought about how I wouldn't even know how to go about looking for that stuff in an American drugstore, so trying to do it in a Japanese one would be pretty hopeless. Japanese drugstores are totally on crack, visually, which makes them just that much worse; it'd be bad enough if they didn't assault your eyes every minute with another florescent banner.

I had quite a nice day walking all around town, even though it was really freaking hot and I was wearing long pants (not to mention painful skin stretching at every step). I went back over to Shinsaibashi, where I'd gone with Hayato and Mel on Saturday and spent two or three hours wandering between Shinsaibashi and Namba. I found a couple fobs for my keitai, one which I wasn't sure if I would use because it has a bell. I walked around with it for a bit today and decided that my days of attaching a bell to myself are over, so I stuck it up on my wall with my expanding collection of random "decorative" shit. The other one, however, is so perfect for me that I can't really believe I found it at all: a string of tiny, blue, d6 dice. I almost bought a ring today; it wasn't "me" at all, but it caught my eye... A goth-styled silver and black affair that would fit the me I'd be if I weren't such a nerd. Ah well.

I did buy a couple t-shirts; one I will actually wear and the other one I'm trying to decide if I should give to someone as a present or wear myself. It is quite Engrishfied, but styled not quite like anything that I or my friends would usually wear. But it was 75% off right at the register when I snagged the one I actually wanted to wear (which is sadly lacking in Engrish, as in it has none), and it kind of leapt into my hands. So while I bought T-shirts without really meaning to, I totally forgot to buy a lighter, which I'd intended to. Scatterbrain.

I did get some good pictures today before my camera inexplicably stopped working. Duracells do not last in that thing at all; the ones that were in the camera when I came to Japan lasted a couple weeks, but the Duracells I snagged along from my apartment seem to only last five or six days at the most. Given that I don't remember what the batteries were that were in it earlier, I guess I'll just try for some expensive ones and see what happens.

I walked so much today that my feet actually hurt; two or three hours in Namba/Shinsaibashi, an hour or so around Umeda, 20 minutes or so from Nakatsu to Juuso (I wanted to take some pictures of things I'd seen from the train). I have to offset that care package in some way. Although I think it'd take quite many more days of walking all day to work off all the chocolate that's smiling at me from a box on the floor at the moment.

Today marks the first day ever for me buying alcohol and bringing it home. Kirin chuuhai was on sale, and I figured what the hell. I'm not quite at the point where I'll bring beer home, but it would appear that I'm heading straight down the slippery slope to lying wasted in the streets of Osaka at 11 in the mornings. Or not.

It sucks to have to wait a week between episodes of a drama. I haven't kept track of a ongoing story since my failed attempt at keeping up with 24's second season earlier this year. With dramas, I think I prefer to be able to watch two or three episodes in one sitting, or to watch only one on my own schedule, rather than fretting that I'll miss that particular time on that paticular day... I need a Tivo. I will get one when I get home, I promise.

Bah! It's really almost more than I can stand to read magazines about cute men and watch cute men on TV without any personal contact with a cute man. All I want is a hug. Or even a flirty look, really. I'm not all that picky about my delivery method when I'm this lonely, as long as it's packaged appropriately. Icky man taking my picture the other day, for example; that doesn't count.

Ooooh, the teams are actually changed on a day I'm watching! How will I choose which team to root for if doing so forces a decision between Kimura and Shingo? I think I will choose whichever one was just shown (fingers only, so I'm not sure who it was) wrapping something all in bacon. When I'm faced with two cute guys, the one with bacon in hand wins, heh.


It is times like this when my astounding ability to be an idiot is displayed. I was quite aware that I was coming to the ocean, but did I bring my swimsuit? Or even wear shorts so I could wade? Or even bring shorts so I could change into shorts so I could wade? Idiot, idiot, idiot. I'd really like to swim, too. Piss.

(hehe) Just 30 minutes after we got here, it started raining crazy hard. So we spent about 45 minutes hanging out in a tent on the beach, bailing out the floor, munching on onigiri (the one with the chicken/mayonnaise filling was surprisingly tasty), and reassuring Mai-chan that she was not going to be struck by lightning. A couple people walking by looked at us really funny; you could totally tell they were trying to work out if I was Mai-chan's mother or not, heh. But the two of them are out swimming in the sun, now, and I am contentedly hanging out on the beach, digging my toes in the sand and watching all the kids playing... I'd rather be swimming than on the beach, but I'd rather be on the beach than bored at home.

One very sunburnt Jen later... I managed to burn my shins and feet and arms quite nicely (it was one of those days where you remember too late those warnings in middle school health classes about how you can get sunburned even on cloudy days). I of course didn't notice until we were an hour and a half towards home when we stopped to use the bathroom and Mai-chan shouted "You turned all red!!" Sigh. Anyway, I had a glorious fine at the beach, even without swimming. I rolled up my cord legs and went wading for quite a while, read The Stranger on Sayuri, helped Mai-chan build a couple sand structures, took a few super cute pictures of her, and had a good time, as always, chatting with Narahara-san.

It did turn out, as I mostly suspected, that we were only going for a day trip (Narahara-san did, however, set up a tent on the beach for the time we were there, which struck my American sensibilities as downright weird, particularly as he was by no means the only one doing so). We headed home around four with me being given the sacred task of keeping Mai-chan from driving her dad crazy during the two hour drive; I accomplished this admirably by using two parts patience and one part nodding and smiling when I had no clue what she was babbling about. The kid adores me.

Ten minutes or so out from Toyonaka, Narahara-san invited me over for dinner, which I happily accepted. Home cooked gyoza and my favorite family across the ocean from Winlock? oh no, I don't think I can handle it. I got to spend a pleasant 45 minutes playing with the girls (Ha-chan came running up to hug me when she saw me come in the door; there's nothing quite like the total acceptance of a two-year-old) before dinner, which made me happy. You see, every now and then I get it in my head that I'm totally hopeless with children. It may quite possibly be that I'm hopeless with all but a select subset of children, but even if so, I can hold out hope that my own (eventual) children will fall into that subset.

Dinner was as tasty as expected, and I really appreciated the chance to kick back and have a beer (and a half) with Narahara-san and his wife. He's going to draft me to help set up Parita's computer (the Thai girl coming at the end of September) to have the English version of Windows but be able to read/write Japanese (although if she doesn't learn a whole shitload more Japanese than the squat she knows now, it won't be much use). He's under the impression that it's hard to do, despite my repeated insistence to the contrary. Ah well, it'll be nice to do some straight-up computer work for a day or so.

I was escorted home around 7:30 by the usual menagerie of girls and toys, which brings us to the question of why I'm scribbling this all on Sayuri while I hide in Mr. D at 10:30. Hiding? Well. There really isn't any way to explain this without sounding like a moron, because, well, I'm acting like a moron, frankly. So because I wasn't sure whether I was going to be gone tonight or not (and let's not even go into my thoroughly moronic reasons for not wanting to a just ask Narahara-san to clarify), I decided to go ahead and fill out one of the "I'm going to be gone tonight" slips and drop it at the office when I left. Counting the whole not clearing things up in first place issue as moronic step #1, filling out the slip was moronic step #2. Moronic step #3 is that rather than going back to the dorm like normal and running the risk of facing a puzzled Matsuda, I decided to make sure not to get home before they close up the desk and head back into their apartment. (cough)andtrynottorunintothemuntilatleastnoontomorrow(cough). Trust me that I know how silly this is, but I can't really help myself on these sort of things.

So I went down to Umeda and spent almost two hours listening to bands playing between the stations. A good 45 minutes was devoted to one of those Peruvian pipe-and-guitar groups so ubiquitous in Seattle but that I NEVER EVER thought I'd find in Japan. 30 minutes or so to a rock band, and 30 minutes or so to a group rocking Stevie Wonder and James Brown to do John proud. It wasn't dancing in a club, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself despite the insane tingling in my sunburnt legs. It got to be 9:30 and no bands were still playing, so I headed back here to hang my hat at Mr. D for an hour or so. They played that cute "bubbly toes" song and had curry doughnuts tonight and the Jen is content despite her completely ridiculous reason for being here. Which reminds me: this Mr. D does not play ELO nonstop, but they do play a cut over the announcers, and I'd estimate they play an ELO song maybe every other time I come in. BUT WHY ELO, WHY WHY WHY?!?

It's one of Japan's continuing mysteries.

But it being now just after 11 pm, I'm going to go slink home, feeling very silly. Not silly enough to say I'll not do something like this again, mind you, but silly nonetheless.


(jumping up and down) WHEEEE!!! Turning on the TV this morning to find a 9th inning, 2 men out, bases loaded, 1 run down Mariners game with Ichiro at bat had me bouncing on my toes clutching at my robe.... I actually let out a little scream of joy when he snagged his first grand slam home run. But Tomoko and I determined yesterday that the rooms are soundproofed through the shared walls, so unless someone was out in the hall, my spate of mindless idiocy should go unnoticed.

I am entirely pleased about the forecast for my day. Cleaning day moved to today because I won't be around tomorrow, so after the game is over I'll do some nice puttering around. Meeting up with Melvin and Hayato for dinner and whatever else we can think to do in Shinsaibashi at 7 pm; until then I can look forward to a phone call and (maybe) a package and some time spent wandering around Umeda... It's nice to have a good outlook for my Saturday.

An entertaining day, by all accounts. I spent some time in Mr. D reading Detective Conan, minus a curry doughnut. Some days they don't have them, and I haven't been able to predict the pattern; so I tried a "potato danish" thing that wasn't half bad. Half. Headed into Umeda and spent a long time listening to the different bands that had set up on the platforms between the JR and Hankyuu stations. They were all surprisingly good, and I appreciated the one super cute vocalist who sang to me for a while (I wasn't sure if it was an accident that he seemed to be looking at me alot, until I moved and he shifted his gaze with me).

I also had the less than savory experience of having my picture taken surreptitiously by an extremely icky looking man. He tried to act as if he was just checking the time on his keitai, but his leer at me, at his screen, and then back at me would have tipped me off even if I hadn't noticed him aiming his phone's camera lens at me and heard the click as the picture got snapped. I wouldn't really have minded if he hadn't gone out of his way to try to do it on the sly, and if he hadn't been so... well... icky. Now if that yummy singer had pulled the same thing, that'd be a different story. I'm biased, yes.

I met up with Mel and Hayato around 6:45 and spent several hours exploring Namba, eating dinner (oh my god, I had a small cut of steak over curry and rice... it was more red meat in one sitting... hell, probably overall, really, than I've had in over a month, and it was beautiful... beautiful), and (sigh) doing karaoke. I have learned that the Japanese songs that I think I know, I really don't, but that I have an amazing ability to sing along to ones that I've never heard before. I do have mad Copa Cabana skillz, though. They were both utterly shocked that I'd never done the karaoke thing before; it seemed to offend almost as much as the fact that I don't like sushi. It rather seemed like they feel that I'm supposed to automatically embrace everything about Japan just because I study the language. I figure, the things I like, I like; I don't pick my interests based on their culture of origin.

No package slip on my name tag at the dorm when I got home; it'll probably get here tomorrow while I'm gone, bah humbug. Ah well. Late night Japanese TV is comforting me with its ridiculousness. This year's Morning Musume split is 7 to a rap-pop group "7 Air," 5 to a hip-hop-rap-pop group "Salt 5," and 11 to a pop group "11 Water." Which means they've expanded by two girls in the last two years. There really isn't anything much sillier than Morning Musume; they leave all the other silly Japanese groups in their super cute dust. But I leave for the night with this parting shot at all those who blindly love Japanese pop culture; Ayumi Hamasaki may make some fun music, but she's got a completely ridiculous speaking voice, and looks more fake than any other Japanese woman I've seen on TV (she's generally beaten out by many women I've seen on the street, although her hair-wig-bleached-out-mess-on-her-head-thing is particularly bad).


My shower this morning was less than stellar. Maki the Frightening was down there, and had decided for some reason to take the middle shower. This grossly violated the rule of separation (the same rule, by the way, that says that men shall step themselves one urinal apart unless standing right next to someone is absolutely necessary). I feel a little weird with her in there when she comes in while I'm showering normally, although not from the idea that she's in there watching me wash my hair; rather, it puts a spotlight on things that I do "wrong," like bringing a towel into the shower room (you're supposed to leave it outside in a basket, but then you drip all over the place coming out!), or leaving water running while I soap up (that way I don't get knobs all soapy... although I usually do try to break this particular habit when there's someone else there). But today she was sitting right next to me, and the stress was upped by trying to make sure that I didn't splash her. Bah humbug!

(skipping around) Happy day! I loves my good days, because here, they're so incredibly much better than the bad days that I nearly soar off the ground. Three day weekend to look forward to (and I get to go in to work late on Tuesday!), a lot of real work to do today, an hour long chat with Jon, a ride home from Narahara-san (I think the two times I've gotten rides with him to/from work have been the single best pair of 30 minutes so far in Japan), dinner with Arimori and crew, and a delivery of an asphyxiated Ed to look forward to in the next day or two... Good day indeed.

Narahara-san invited me to go with him and Mai-chan to the ocean on Sunday; I'm totally unclear as to whether we're staying the night somewhere or not (he mentioned a tent in the midst of a section where I had otherwise totally lost him)... I guess I'll throw some clothes in my backpack and see what happens, heh. My philosophy on things like this (in Japan in particular) is to be adaptable. That might seem a funny statement to some of my friends, but true nonetheless; it's just that I maintain sanity in the face of wildly buffeting forces by complaining. Loudly and often (heh).

He also was aghast that I had no plans for doing anything over "summer break" (obon week... we officially have Thursday/Friday off from work, but most everyone is taking the full week). I'd originally just planned to just take the four day weekend easy, considering my in-country friends all have mighty plans and travelling that week is expensive for cheapskate me. Narahara-san is sending his children and wife on a plane to Kyuushuu and then driving down to meet them to go camping and hang out at his wife's parents' place for a week, and he asked me to come along, pending on his in-laws and wife being fine with the idea. I can think of no other family I'd rather hang out with over break... I hope it works out. Although the eight-hour drive down to Kyuushuu might be where my affection for Narahara-san gets tested... (hehe)

Jon told me a week or so ago that if I thought of any improvement suggestions for the way things run at work, I should tell him and he'd do his full-time employee best to put whispers in the right persons' ears. Today I had a flash of inspiration: sound obscurers that do not make a noise in your own stall to ineffectively blot out your own bodily noises, but instead start a deafening roar in all the other stalls. I had this epiphany while using the hand dryer, the noise of which rendered me unable to hear anything, including the dainty "flushing" sounds of the two other women in the bathroom.

You'd think that after a month, I'd stop giggling at the persistent use of the noisemakers... but no. My ability to laugh at the Japanese continues unabated. My Jon-assigned homework for this weekend, for example, is to find houses that have bottles of water ranged around outside and come up with an explanation for why the bottles are there. He dropped hints that it's a superstition behavior of some sort, and when I asked if his girlfriend did it, he said that she probably wouldn't be his girlfriend anymore if she did. Combined with a reference to "the bigger the bottle, the better," I have a suspicion that I will giggle mightily once I find out what's behind it. Although I thought my initial hypothesis of them being offerings to garden gnomes was quite a good one, personally.

And that's it... I want to sneak down and take an after hours soak, and then have the luxury of choosing to go to sleep or finally watch that volume of GTO I snagged a few days ago. Ah, the life of someone with barely any job responsibilities and no homework to do!

There really is nothing better than soaking in a huge hot bath that you don't have to do the slightest bit of maintenance on. Plus the fact that I haven't swum very much in the past few years, so every time I get into a decent amount of water I delight anew in the sense of weightlessness, the freedom of movement... contentment.


There's nothing quite like drinking three cups of coffee in a few hours and then embarking on a fifteen minute walk home. My favorite!

So get this. There's apparently this monthly report I'm supposed to write. I say apparently because before yesterday, I'd never heard a thing about it. Personally, if I were my supervisor, I would have thought to tell me about it. But Yoshiyuki apparently assumed that I didn't have to write one... without asking Ueda-GM. So Ueda-GM saw the list of monthly report titles for this month and noticed that my name was not among the submittees. And the smack was laid upon Yoshiyuki, and the instructions were then passed to me that I have to write one. I asked Yoshiyuki when I had to have it done by, and he shrugged and said the equivalent of "by the end of the month, I guess." This having been the third or fourth time that he's said something similar about a work detail, I hereby resolve to from now on just ask someone else, preferably someone else who is actually doing what I have to do. You see, we settled that I'd turn in the report to him on the 25th (that would be next Friday) for him to double-check my grammar, so still having more than a week left to write the stupid thing, I turned my energy yesterday and today to playing with Insights. At about 5:00 pm today, an email broadcast goes out from Narahara-san, reminding us all that our monthly reports need to be turned in to him no later than midday on the 22nd (that would be next Tuesday). Well then. Seems that if I give mine to Yoshiyuki to check next Friday, hrm, that'd be a little late now, wouldn't it? So now I'm turning it in tomorrow morning. Joy.

I wouldn't mind this if one of the following conditions were true. A) I am fully proficient in Japanese, irregardless of the topic. B) I fully understand what I'm supposed to write down, irregardless of the particular words. There seems to be just the slightest little problem at the moment that neither condition is being fulfilled. Sigh. The real problem is the second part; I can generally look up vocabulary I need as long as I have a good idea of what I want to say. But Yoshiyuki's been so vague on what the hell it is I'm doing that I can't figure out how to clearly itemize stuff like "purpose" and "desired results" even in English. Piss. At least the part about what I've done this month is easy enough... 1) caught up on relevant literature, 2) cleaned up data, 3) began experimenting with neural network prediction of various values. I guess I'll go from there.

45 minutes of struggling over some bizarre sentences and a little cup of comforting strawberry ice cream later, I call myself quits with any Japanese beyond passive TV listening for the day. What's in the bag of tricks for things to write about today.... Oh yes. Taisou.

I've mentioned "morning exercises" to several people and have generally gotten a unified "Wha?" from all of them, so perhaps it's time to do some explaining. First, the scene. It's 8:30 am. Elevator-style music has been playing throughout the building since 8:20, but now it changes and a recorded voice calls out (far too happily) that it's time to start exercises. Right about this time, I sigh mightily, shrug on my jacket, and head upstairs. As slowly as possible, so as to miss as much of the upcoming group humiliation as possible. I slip in to our team's sixth floor lab, where everyone but Yoshiyuki (who routinely skips out) and Satou-san (who usually gets up there about the same time I do) is ranged around, followinmiss you. it's lonely and quiet hereg the cheery voice's instructions to stretch one two three four to the beat of the cheery music... Whee. Cheery is one thing I am not at 8:30 in the morning, and as I attempt to follow the routine that my co-workers have down pat, I like to think about how much I'd like to strangle the voice getting piped in. Thankfully we're spared jumping jacks and situps, although I've heard rumors of the former being required some places.

At about 8:37 we finish the second round of arm swinging exercises and the beloved taisou owarimasu! (exercises are finished!) words release us to our morning team meeting. Four days a week this goes on. Well, there's exercises on Mondays too, but on Mondays we start off with a group meeting... which means our entire group gathers for exercises in the plant alley outside the adjacent building with our conference room (they play the music through every loudspeaker in the plant, internal and external). I can barely handle the experience when it's my team; our whole 40ish person team is too much for my poor American sensibilities. I use the bathroom for a long time on Monday mornings and show up down in the alley usually just as the music is winding down. I'd feel worse about this habit if there wasn't usually a crowd of apparently like-minded girls hanging out in there every time I duck in during those terrible 7 minutes.

I meant to look up today the origin of this silly custom, but I forgot... vague memories tell me that the whole thing got started as a requirement during WWII, but I don't remember why it continued. Most companies in Japan at least play the music, even if their employees don't actually participate (Hayato, for example, says that at his company everyone ignores it completely). They actually broadcast the music in the last 7 minutes of lunch, as well, but no one at Sumitomo... or at least no one down in the office (who knows about up in the labs) moves a muscle at that point. I think the mentality is to get together and do something stupid with your group/team as some sort of brainwashing... uh... bonding exercise, and since we're usually scattered all about the place at the end of lunch, there's no team around to humiliate yourself with. Thank god.

I'll admit that I complain largely out of principle. The whole thing reeks of GroupThink, and I find it completely silly. The exercises themselves aren't hard, and it actually feels kind of nice to stretch out in the morning, but I rebel against feeling pressured to participate in something against my will. As Brandon put it... it's all very pre-school.

Jon told me today that he couldn't believe the way I talk to Yoshiyuki; he can't imagine a Japanese woman ever talking back to and mocking her boss the way I do. It's all a joke between me and Yoshiyuki of course, representative of my interactions with pretty much everyone I know; I'm jokingly sarcastic and insolent (but oso cute) nearly all of the time. Jon thinks I'm probably a refreshing change for a lot of the people here, though... most of my co-workers wouldn't dream of cracking jokes with their managers (or other people's managers, for that matter, as I am also wont to do) about them being old, forgetful men, or about how they should have kept better track of their data. He wanted to know if most Americans were like that with their bosses, which I really couldn't answer; we're like that in EPLT/SACG all over the place (Benton anyone?), but I doubt we're a very representative organization. It's a part of myself that I hold on to very dearly; if I can't mock people, I'm not a very happy person. One of those things that here, marks me as an American, I guess... at home, I'm just a wiseass.

My fingers are with the hurting and I have to get up in about five and a half hours, so I will wait until another time to discuss the crosswalk music. Oh yes, the crosswalk music.


I would like a refund on my depression, please. I've decided I don't really like it.

An extra 20 minutes of sleep is not really worth missing 45 minutes of computer time in the morning and getting to walk in ith as close to friends as I've got. Verdict—I will now get up when my alarm starts going off, no matter how tired I am.

Eh? Eh? What did I say? I said, and I quote, "this ... slump complete with eating crap and feeling ridiculously sorry for myself will continue for a day or two and then I'll have a really good day or two." And if there's one thing I'm right on, it's predicting the course of my own stupid mood swings (now if only I could predict onset more accurately...). And the day is topped off by the only words that are spoken in the commercial I just watched (spelled in the manner they pronounced):

Japanese hiker/adventurer 1: FIGHTO!
Japanese hiker/adventurer 2: It BARNSU!

So, Jen's day, Super Recap Action! First, the weather. I like it when the weather gods hear my pleas and give me the weather that I want. Today and yesterday have been sunny and technically hot, but the humidity has been drastically reduced, so you don't notice the heat. The solar cells that my moods run on seem to have gotten charged up. Yoshiyuki was busy all morning, so I happily spent time advancing my (not so) mad VBA skills. I asked Jon if he had any English-language references for VBA, which I admit, turned into a conversation where I caught myself trying to make up for my lack of engineering know-how by showing off what I can do beter than him (he can't program). Silly pride. He didn't seem to mind (or notice?), so it's all good. I did stop myself once I noticed myself doing it.

Had a nice little chat with Jon, Nishihara-san, and Shudo-san over lunch, and extracted both permission to come in late to work on Tuesday (I want to pick up my foreigner registration card, and Monday's a holiday) and a promise from Yoshiyuki. Said promise being that the high-performance data-crunching machine o' power would have Insights (the neural network modelling software I'm supposed to use) installed on it by 2 or 3 pm. And until then, I entertained myself with more programming, heh.

I decided I wanted to have the full VBA help files installed, even if they're in Japanese, but my computer was having trouble talking to the server holding all the disk images, so I had to draft Narahara-san to give me a hand. And in what proved to me that my day was good (if the excellent weather, my general mood, and feeling totally justified in spending time learning a new programming language weren't enough), Narahara-san switched today to calling me Jen-chan instead of just Jen. Awwwww, feel the fuzzies of acceptance.

The system of relationships around work is strange to hear verbalized. Yoshiyuki and Narahara-san both refer to Terada-san as "Tera-chan." For Yoshiyuki, Narahara-san is "Nara-chan," but other than those two, everyone is -kun or -san, interchangeable depending on his mood. It's a little odd to be able to tell, even when people's voices and subjects don't really change, when they're flipping from one interpersonal mode to another with other people.

Afternoon was spent fiddling around with Insights and deciding where to head next; such a relief to have something other than boredom on my mind at work. I did accidentally delete the models that were used in their previous attempts... Oops. But I don't need to use them, and they're backed up in other places, so my not paying attention to dialogs and accidentally deleting them shouldn't matter. Hopefully. Heh. "Whoops."

I was originally thinking I'd stay late at work today, but at 5:26 I was at such a good stopping point that I figured, hey, might as well stretch out the time of having stuff to do. Plus Whaz-His-Name-Boss that sits across from me got up to leave and leaned over, screwing up his face, and whispered loudly "GO HOME" (in English) complete with shooing motions. Heh. Under orders from above, how could I refuse? I'm still trying to sort out my feelings on working late. On the one hand I don't get paid for it, and if I get on a train by 6 I'm back in Toyonaka with plenty of time to watch some TV, read, unwind, etc. On the other hand, I don't really have anything important to be at home for, and if I'd stay later at work, I'd be able to catch my coworkers heading home. I guess it rather depends on my vision for my free time each day.

Today, though, I happily headed home in beautiful weather with Days of the New in my ears and sat in the small park near my dorm, eating an apple and reading in the sunset until I got a mosquito bite on my foot (Erin's beloved bats can only do so much, but why, oh why, must it be my foot to be bitten again? Why not my arm, where I could avoid inadvertently irritating the damn thing? Bah!). Coming home, I sat down to watch this week's Strong Bad and fell asleep within a minute after it was over... I didn't wake up until nearly 9 pm, heh. Which put me down to eat dinner (maabodoufu, bliss) right in time to sit with Kubota-san and the Matsudas (I've decided to just pick that one and stick with it until I get proof of what their names are) and chat. They're all three dreadfully jealous of me being able to go to a Hanshin game next week, heh; apparently tickets for the next month or so have been sold out forever (I inheirited mine from Ookubo-san, who can't go as planned). Mr. Matsuda (I don't usually think it terms of Mr. and Mrs. in Japan, but sometimes you have to discriminate) said that he was really happy to see me eating so much, and enjoying it, the last month. He thinks Stefan doesn't like Japanese food very much, and the British woman who used to live here was vegetarian and hardly ate. Hey, I'm happy to eat tasty food if it makes him happy. Twist my arm, please.

And to make my day complete, Mrs. Matsuda waved me over after dinner and handed me half a small cantaloupe. She said it needed to be eaten up tonight and they didn't want it... A better reason than it being hot out, heh, but I still suspect her motives. But the route to my heart is definitely through my stomach, so it is with great happiness that I savor cantaloupe and watch TV in prep for bed.

I think the best thing about being here in the dorm is the fact that every morning there's as much fruit as I want... I still buy my own to keep in my room but I don't have to shell out for the expensive stuff like kiwis and pink grapefruit, and even when I don't buy my own, it's there without hassle. Cheap fruit is one of those things that you just take for granted, growing up in the US, and then you come to a place where nearly all fruit is imported with the price tag to prove it, and you're very happy when you're not footing the bill on it. Manami never bought very much, so when I was in Hakodate (admittedly on a much more restricted budget, and without my own fridge, and in the boonies without a nearby grocery store), buying myself a bit of fruit was a twice-a-week major event.

I totally forgot to record the All-Star game, which made me sad, but they covered most of the highlights on the Japanese news tonight, so at least I didn't miss it altogether. Japanese media was going nuts about that sweet catch of Ichiro's... they seriously just spent about ten minutes going on about it. Well, two or three at least. Anyway, having not really watched the game, I can't say a whole lot except that I'm pleased. Finding out that my league will have World Series home field advantage was a nice little cherry to top off my day, and I'm going to bed before my metaphorical ice cream melts and drips on the floor, heh.


I consider my single most important piece of "cultural ambassadorship" so far to be introducing Yoshiyuki (who was already a fan of guitar rock) to Stevie Ray Vaughn. I consider the single most distressing piece of "cultural ambassadorship" that I've discovered so far on television to be the wretched show Big Wolf on Campus. This is probably the single stupidest sci-fi show I've ever seen, from writing to acting to... uh... everything. Why couldn't Stargate be on? Buffy? No, I get Stupid Werewolf Show. Although the simpering gay poodle werewolf kid and the pansy Kelly ripoff is keeping me from changing the channel, given the lack of anything else on. Oh, how my standards have fallen.

In a dazzling (to myself) display of navigational awesomeness yesterday, I managed to unerringly find my way to my preferred gate at the Osaka JR station despite having gotten off the train from a car farther down than normal and being funnelled down an unfamiliar passageway. Of course, right about the time that I emerged, I realized that if I'd just gone with the flow, I would have been over at the Hankyuu station a few minutes quicker instead of backtracking an underground block or two. Oh well. I like the Midousuji gate. So there.

With less display of awesomeness, I managed to unerringly trip not once but twice in the space of about twelve steps going up the escalator at the Ajikawaguchi station on my way home today. In front of (well, more literally to the side of) several old Japanese dudes. Somedays I don't rock so much as others.

I walked into work today with Kojiou-san and Gar-What-The-Hell-Is-His-Name Who-I've-Walked-In-With-Several-Days-Now And-Who-Is-Really-Nice But-Whose-Name-I-Can't-Read-On-The-Phone-List And-Never-Wears-His-Jacket So-I-Can't-Read-His-Nametag. Heh. They repeated the comments of pretty much everyone I've talked to informally over the last few days... They feel very sorry for me, having to sit squarely in the middle of the unending Yoshiyuki-Satou-san feud. I joked about being at morning meetings, when Terada-san and I sit across from each other and watch the back-and-forth as if it were a tennis match. I feel a little conflicted about it; I find Satou-san frightening as all hell, but I don't think he's particularly in the wrong, and most everyone else is on his side... or at least not particularly on Yoshiyuki's.

Regardless, today I was spared having to pretend that I don't understand the slightest Japanese as they spat over my head, because Yoshiyuki was out on a business trip. Of course, I finished the last bit of work I had to do to last me until he comes back at about 10 am. Sigh. I read about neural networks in the morning, and couldn't for the life of me figure out what I wanted to do in the afternoon. I don't really want to ask Satou-san for something; for one, he freaks the hell out of me, and for second, I'm not really connected with anything the rest of the group is doing, so he can't really hand me any of it. So I decided to roll up my sleeves and start learning Excel VBA for realsies. I actually lost total track of time for three or four hours; for all that VBA is STUPID STUPID STUPID and I've been totally spoiled by the quality of information / documentation readily available on the Internet for "free" things like PHP/Perl/MySQL (I can't use the helpfiles in Excel quickly enough to suit me, considering they're all in Japanese), it still makes me happy when I really GET something in programming. That thrill of figuring out something in a realm that I'm not naturally good at, I think. Although, my epiphany for the day was when I'd thrown my head and shoulders at the problem of sorting data in user defined orders for an hour and suddenly thought "WAIT A FLIPPING MINUTE, this is a Microsoft baby language for idiots. I should be able to invoke their own damn dialogs, not have to create them on my own!" And lo, I could.

I hate the part in dramas where they get through introducing all the characters and setting up conflicts, and get into the actual conflicts themselves. When the happy endings are still so many episodes away. It's all the suckiness of the middle of a romantic movie, stretched out into many more hours.

My spirits were lifted yesterday with a letter from Brandon... More like a note, but it was something. My mailbox is the loneliest in the dorm; I don't even get bills. I suppose I'll probably get a bank statement some day in here. The inbox has been scant as well; I'm no stranger to the out-of-sight/out-of-mind effect (on both ends), and don't feel it particularly worthwhile complaining about... but... but. Yes. But. Hah. At me. I spent a lot of time thinking on the way home today of some way to reach out to my co-workers without sounding like I'm desperate in one way or another. I know how I'd say it to Jon; it's not too hard to joke about being lonely and soften the thing up in your native language. It's harder when you have to navigate mentally through another culture's sense of sarcasm and fluff. But I can't just tell only him... That'd be weird. Don't ask me to explain why. Anyway, I'm always one for wanting to be reached out to, which of course, makes it even worse.

I just went down to dinner quite late... nearly 9:30. Tomoko, Arimori, and Kimura were there, and what, of course, is my first thought, given my mood? That they've obviously switched to eating later in order to avoid me. It could have been my chance to laugh and hang out with semi-friends, and I did sit with them and joke and tease Arimori (he claimed that he heard I hated him, so he's been hiding his face from me... I claimed I couldn't live without him); but my mood hung over me like a cloud and things were not as smooth as they could have been. And of course now I'm in a paranoid worry, "sure" that they must be completely convinced of my weirdness (and not in that nice fuzzy way) after tonight. I'm sure it wasn't that bad, probably hardly noticeable. Doesn't keep me from worrying about it, though.

Jen's recipe for depression cocktail: 1 part extreme loneliness to 2 parts hormonal swings, with a dash of knowing that if I was a normal person I'd go ahead and make friends already, and a sprinkle of thinking how much Hayato would laugh if he knew that I do, in fact, cry in loneliness in my room. On my way back from WP, I thought about how Hayato said it'd be hard to get Mandy to come out and do things; that she was happier alone in front of her television. And I gripped my rented tapes tighter and wished for nothing more than to have something to do other than be alone in front of my television.

I tell myself to look forward to the little things that I can. I'll see Hayato this weekend sometime. I'll spend time with Narahara-san and his family on Saturday. I'll go to the Hanshin game with Kumomoto-san, Terada-san, and another few people from work next Wednesday. Dinner out with our team next Friday. That's a solid four times in the next week and a half that I'll see people outside of work, and after fucking up at dinner tonight, I am absolutely not going to let myself squander those precious four chances.

The thing I want to know is, where do we humans come up with our ideas of romance? Things like in movies, books... They never really happen, right? Is it then just our skill for inflating the pale fragments of happiness in our lives into full blown color that gives us our stories?

I almost just caved. I would have, if it were not 8:30 am in Seattle. I would have, and it wouldn't have made a difference. But I won't in the morning, I absolutely won't.


Of course, the single day in three weeks that I decide to wear shorts to work is the single day in three weeks that it's actually almost chilly. Well. 75 out is comparatively chilly, and it was cloudy and windy all day. I can't really decide my feelings on wearing shorts in... I have no problem with the sandals thing (as horrified as Hayato was), but the shorts do give me pause. I'm not really sure why; most of my pairs of shorts cover more of me than the skirts that many of my female coworkers wear. I guess it's really a "principle of the thing" issue, but I appear in this case to have adopted, unwittingly, the principles of my host country in the matter.

I'm watching a program about scary human tricks; they were just showing a young woman in China who is able to balance herself on the backs of a pair of pigeons without hurting them (well, they were crying about it at the time, but as soon as she stepped off, they were just fine). Things are freaky in the world when a 25 year-old weighing just over 90 pounds can support her full weight on a pair of fucking pigeons.

And by the way, the piece of delectable bread I'm munching on at the moment is thicker than most sandwiches I've eaten in my life.

I thought a lot on the train yesterday about why being in Japan gives people from other countries such a shock, visually. Jon complains about the lack of pretty buildings and coherent-looking, matched together landscapes, which is probably part of it. But I wonder if another part isn't the subtle wrongness of perspective. There's certain shapes and dimensions that we expect, culturally, in our buildings, and many Japanese buildings violate those dimensions pretty grossly. I still can't get used to seeing so many external staircases tacked on the edges of buildings as apparent afterthoughts, or the sight of a single building, perhaps one apartment wide, rising nearly 10 stories high. That and the fact that they don't bury wires in Japan, so the entire city looks like it's strung with barbed wire. That helps things look a little strange just a bit.

And then there's things like the Hell Intersection in Toyonaka. I was actually convinced for two weeks that there were more than four streets meeting there (and still am, on occasion), which should speak to some disorientation. It took me until a day or so ago (about a month) to figure out the rhyme and reason to the light changes... basically, they either let cars go through, or every single light is red and the entire damn thing is a pedestrian walkway. In one way, it's nice to be able to go which ever way you want to when you get to cross... in another sense, it's a pain in the ass to wait until the light gods finally decide that cars are done wandering through.

Hey! Hey! Hey!'s presentings were lackluster tonight, so here's hoping that Boku dake no Madonna and Smap Smap can keep my mood from crashing. I had too miserable of a day to not be rewarded with some good TV. I'm nowhere near as bad as when I cried myself to sleep last night, but let's say that today was one of those days when I really really wanted someone to say "hey, you look down, what's up?" and no one did. Bleh.

And if I had started writing things when I got home I would have all the things that were on my mind... but time has passed and I just don't feel like it. So there. If previous weeks are any cue, this Sunday night/Monday slump complete with eating crap and feeling ridiculously sorry for myself will continue for a day or two and then I'll have a really good day or two, and thus the cycle will repeat. Gargle and all.

Oh, and because I've been forgetting to email it to you for days now... the Kirin in the machine is 270 yen (about 2.25$), which, if the comparative prices for Asahi in the supermarket and Asahi in the beer machine in my dorm (oh yes there is a beer jidouhanbaiki inside my dorm) is an indication, is about double the price that you can get it by can in the market.

The teams are so stacked in Bistro Smap. My three favorite cuties are the host and one team (I've been told the teams change occasionally, but every single time I've watched they're the same)... meaning that I get as much as I want of Nakai (hosting) and can always root for Kimura and Shingo's team. One of my favorite things about the show as a whole, though, is how they always perform the song o' the week in what looks like the clothes they just felt like wearing that day; some days some of them are snazzin', some days other ones are, and some days they all look like they just barely made it out of bed that morning. The informality may be calculated, it's entirely possible. The question is, in this case, does the calculation make it less charming?


It occurs to me that I should make clear that Melvin didn't try to convert me or anything, and generally remained extremely respectful of the fact that I wasn't saying grace over my food. So I'm mostly joking about the needing less Jesus thing, because there really wasn't all that much to begin with.

Sunday is souji no hi, cleaning day. Not officially or anything, but I decided when I came here that I would clean my room once a week to avoid having it be totally nasty by the time a few months went by. When I have to have a room in original condition after a mere six months, I feel slightly more motivated than normal to not let it get too icky (when I've got two years or something, that's a little different). So every Sunday, after I finally get around to waking up, I may or may not take a shower, but I wander my clothes down to the laundry room, toss my futon in the dryer, and settle in for twenty minutes or so of vacuuming, straigtening, and dusting. Perhaps if I had a whole apartment to clean, I wouldn't feel so nice about it; but as is, it's similar to the little domestic fuzzies I get from washing one or two dishes. A small, pleasant satisfaction in having a clean space by my own doing. Extra satisfaction today for getting my TV where I want it, heh.

Conflict! I was going to head down to Mr. D for a couple cups of coffee and then into Umeda to check my email and look for some decorations for my keitai... But I turned on the TV after I moved it and discovered a Mariners game being broadcast live. And of course it would be only the second inning. Although maybe I shouldn't watch merely by virtue of my jinxing the Mariners every time I do. Considering Boone just dropped the ball in the middle of a steal, I may already be messing with the mojo. But I do have laundry to fold yet, so decisions on watching games can be made in a bit. If I had a blank tape, I could record it... which reminds me I want to get one today so that I can record the All-Star game.

Man, it's killing me to watch it being 7:30 pm in Seattle and still so sunny out. I'd kill for my latitude and late-night sun at the moment.

Stupid baseball, making me get a lump in my throat at back to back home runs to near up the game. We lost anyway, but it still hits someone far from home in the gut to watch her fellow Seattle fans going nuts in the stands.

I am sulking and eating white chocolate, with full intent to go eat more crap after dinner. Grumble. I'm so tired of this constant oppressive rain. I think I'm finally starting to understand the frustration that so many people feel, moving to Seattle. I've moved to a Seattlite's Seattle... Could I please have one weekend with decent weather so that I could go downtown and not have to fight with umbellas and puddles and wet people. I feel more seriously out of sorts than I have in a while. Argh. Nanka ne, kyou ha sugoi sabishii da kedo ne. For some reason I'm feeling really lonely today... Sigh. Ah well, maybe heading out to the matsuri after dinner will cheer me up.

The scene in the 6th episode of Long Vacation where Sena-kun first asks Minami for a kiss has always struck me hard. Everything about the scene is tuned right, from his nudging shoulder when he asks a little jokingly, to the way he buries his face in her neck at the end and asks if he can stay that way for a little while. But tonight I find myself rewinding eight times and crying every single one. It's a scene with two lonely, unhappy people finding that at that instant, they are in the right place at the right time to be of comfort to each other... and it's a scene that utterly destroys a single lonely, unhappy person alone in a dark, small room at 11:22 pm in Osaka, Japan.

I rather knew I'd end up like this tonight; I was upset enough watching two episodes earlier and yet I pushed myself to watch a few more even though I know that watching romantic stuff when I'm depressed just makes me worse. I've been daydreaming all day of sitting back against a chest with arms around mine, feeling secure in knowing that someone loves me and cares about me and wants to be with me. And daydreams are all I have and can have... in a way, all I've had for the last few months, ever since the talk. I haven't felt not cared about, not that... But still. Rugs were snatched away; all my comforting, shielding, rugs of denial that were keeping me glued together. And so I've been slowly dissolving for four or five months, cracking apart at the seams little by little, until a month into being in Japan and watching a silly romantic drama should cause me to lose my last failing grip.

I'd been doing so good, too.


Doh, change in plans. Hayato just called to tell me his grandfather (I think that's who it was, I was a little disoriented being woken up in the middle of a dream at 8:40 on a Saturday morning... I really hope that two times in a row doesn't spell doom for my Saturday mornings) is in the hospital and that perhaps he should stay home instead of hanging out with me and Mel today. So I called Mel, and I guess he and I are going to get lunch here in Osaka today, instead (and perhaps I shall go to his Jesus sushi party later tonight). Bah. I was totally looking forward to going to Kobe, but sick relatives do come first.

Today was okay. I spent quite a while shopping because I couldn't get back to sleep this morning; I went down and wandered around Umeda for an hour or so before I met up with Mel. Got lunch, chatted quite a bit, showed him some of the funnier Engrish around Umeda (as always, look for the newer ones... there's more than just Engrish; I took a lot of pictures this week, comparatively), and incidentally found a Mexican and an Indian restaurant down there, which will have to be tried. He invited me to come down to his church, which honestly, I may not have accepted if I'd known that the 4-5 pm time he'd mentioned earlier was the time he had to be back to help set things up, not the time the thing was starting. I'd rather wanted to be back up in Toyonaka by 8 or so, but I ended up being down south until 9:30 (and an hour on the trains back). Ah well. Dinner was tasty and cost-free, and I got to chat a lot in Japanese and play some cards. The morning was fun, drinking coffee and wandering around shops... So the day was not perfect, but not a loss either.

I had fun wandering around Mel's neighborhood and riding bikes over to a absolutely frigging gainormous 100 yen shop, but it really gave me a renewed appreciation for being in Toyonaka and being close to Umeda. Down where he is (I totally forget the station he's by) is much more like Hakodate, dirty and industrial and lacking in people and all the trappings thereof. I have a great appreciation for isolation in the name of the great outdoors and wild open spaces... isolation when you're in a foreign city for months on end is an entirely different thing. He's got a roommate (amusingly, another Asian Christian Melvin from Seattle) to keep him company, and I guess devout Christians always have God or something, but I would go absolutely batty if I were stuck down there.

And since I got home so late, I didn't get to wander around and see the festival sights. Maybe the taiko drumming boys will be out tomorrow...

Another short one... But I'm tired and in that I don't want to do anything, write, sleep, watch TV sort of mood. There really wasn't all that much to talk about that happened today, anyway (although wandering down the nurse-fetish porno-booth alley in Umeda with Mel was pretty damn funny; I almost wish I could say I'd done it on purpose, but it was merely hilarious coincidence), so I hereby retire for the night and hope for a more noteworthy tomorrow. With less Jesus.


I would like my toe to stop itching now. I got bit by something while waiting for the train two days ago and I'm about to scratch my skin off it's so bad. Not to mention that my toe is all swollen up and I'm aggravating the slight excema I have there. Sniffle. Poor wuzzy woo.

A good morning complete with getting told by a co-worker whose name I've not managed to pick up yet that he thinks that people are scared of me because my Japanese is so much better than they were told it would be. Heh. May the rest of the day keep me happy. I leave you with this quote from a Salon article on "America's Top Model" that I was reading on the train this morning that just about made me cry laughing, to the consternation of my fellow riders (context: the girl quoted is described as the only one who kept perspective about the modeling industry)...

"There are hidden difficulties like refraining from cuticle picking, relaxing protruding neck tendons, and creatively concealing scoliosis. All in all, though, as you may guess, it's not hard labor. I suspect it is significantly easier to march back and forth 50 yards in high heels than it is to mine coal or build bridges."

Busy day today, with a ton of work to do for once. I brought my first pass cleaned data to Yoshiyuki and he immediately noticed that some of the experimentally measured values aren't reasonable, and that there must have been some sort of error in the data collection. So I got to figure out how to calculate the missing numbers from base principles and particle properties (using a crazy summation that I still don't quite understand why it stops at n=177), and then spent a long hour or two brushing up on my Excel VBA to get out of an hour or two of manual calculation and data entry, heh.

I met the Thai girl who will 90% likely be starting work in our group come October. They flew her in from the States (she just finished up her PhD at U of Utah) for a two day whirl around the plant and wining and dining by various people. Apparently that sort of this is quite uncommon here; everyone was murmuring about why she was getting such "special" treatment. She was quite nice (and quite American, really... she picked up on some of my facial expressions that even Jon doesn't quite), and may end up at my dorm. I thought it funny that Yoshiyuki came hurrying up to me in a panic 20 minutes into a "get to know you all" meeting, saying "Please come and talk, no one's talking, no one knows what to say, it's silent in there and she's so nervous!" So I went in and didn't really know what to say either, but I came up with a couple random anecdotes about living in Japan, and she loosened up quite a bit. Yoshiyuki thinks she'll probably end up on our team if she signs her contract, which will kind of suck. She's nice, but speaks not a lick of Japanese, and I don't want my last two months of work to be even more Englishified.

That reminds me of a complaint! Heh. So a few times a week, Yoshiyuki gets it into his head that he should use my presence as an excuse to teach bits of "English conversation" to our team. It's so incredibly embarrassing, made all the worse because he does it at totally random times... We'll all be just standing up after our morning meeting, and he'll go "ne, chotto zatsudan shitai kedo na" and we all go "noooooooooooooooo!" Well, not really, but by the looks on everyone's faces, including mine, say it for us. And then he forces us through a halting 5 or 10 minutes where his own lack of command of the English language is outmatched only by everyone else's complete and utter inability to comprehend more than a few catch phrases. I just don't see why he sees it necessary to waste all of our time with little lectures combined in English and Japanese where he challenges everyone to figure out what "gotcha" and "paper or plastic?" mean. Arrrgggh. So you see, it's really a reaction to the dreading looks on everyone's faces that makes me hope very much that Parita will end up in someone else's team... I'm already enough trouble for this one!

Today I heard a real life British person actually say "I got pissed" in proper context. I think I'd sort of thought that no one REALLY said that, but Jon proved me wrong.

Something oso strange I've noticed about the kitchen ladies. When you come in at night for dinner, you basically have two choices of what to say: One is "konbanha" (that "ha" on the end is pronounced "wa"), "good evening," to which the response is a reciprical "konbanha." The other is "tadaima," loosely, "I'm home/back," to which the response is "okaeri," or "welcome home." Now for some reason, no matter which one you say (not just me, I've observed the behavior many times), the kitchen ladies invariably give the opposite response. It's to the point where I'm wondering if they do it on purpose to be funny.

Just got back from seeing if anything was up tonight at the Toyonaka mini-festival-thing this weekend. But the light drizzle and the fact that a lot of people were probably still mid-way through their evening commute seemed to have deterred most any crowd. Tomorrow there should be more going along, although there were a couple of (OMG TOTALLY FUCKING RIPPED) boys doing taiko drumming that had quite a crowd. I stayed and listened until they decided that the rain was going to continue and closed up shop, and snagged a couple recordings using Sayuri (one even turned out decent, despite her totally crappy mic pickup).

Tomorrow I need to be down in Umeda by 10:15 to meet up with Mel. Hopefully the poor kid won't get lost (how he can have been in Osaka a couple weeks without having been through downtown once, I don't really understand, but I guess Jesus work keeps you busy), but he's got my cell so we should be able to find each other. And then we shall head over to Kobe for a couple hours to visit with Hayato and have lunch, and it shall be fun. Even if I need to be get up at 9 on a Saturday morning. Sigh. But now it's bath time and then it shall be Long Vacation time... so here goes Jen "bye-bye" to the world.


Super Thursday sneak preview! Otherwise known as, I don't want to forget to write about this morning, so I'll do it now!

I committed the classic blunder last night of setting my alarm accidentally for 5:30 pm. Sigh. At 6:27, the malfunctioning alarm on Sayuri started going off (the 7:27 alarm goes off some days at 6:27 and some at 8:27... is it trying to average out? I don't know) and I woke up thinking "what the hell is that sound?" Taking a shower and all that flew out my mind (because of course, getting into work early enough to use the Internet is more important than a shower... oh yes, I'm rational) and I bolted out the door of the dorm at 6:41, thinking "my god, today is going to suck." But I got not even half a block down towards the station when I hear a honk and look up to see a forest green SUV and a waving Narahara-san. He gave me a ride to work, and thus I am here 15 minutes earlier than I usually would be, and blessedly unsweaty (more, I cannot really ask for on a day when I didn't take a shower). Getting my morning started with a ride to work and the chance to talk in Japanese for half an hour... perhaps today will not suck after all. Stay tuned, and you'll find out tomorrow...

Gordon Bennet, what a rain. About halfway through my (admittedly quite tipsy) wending of my way home, I gave up trying to stay partially dry, and in fact started intentionally slogging through puddles to clear grit off my feet. I can't believe how hard it started pouring; there was barely a drizzle when I got off the train at the station, but by the time I made it to Wonder Panic's corner (the equivalent of about two blocks), I might as well have been swimming.

"Admittedly quite tipsy," you ask? Well, enough so that I'm getting quite scrambled between Japanese and US keyboard layouts, and keep on inputting a shift-7 when I mean to use an apostrophe. Dinner etc. was quite fun... Nishihara-san, Hanato-san, and Jon and I all went for curry udon, then for Starbucks (oh, how I'd missed real coffee, even Starbucks "real" coffee), and were finally joined by Shudo-san for two pub hops for beer. Sometimes my Japanese was spot on, sometimes it wasn't, but I was hanging out with like-minded friends putting back a buzz, so I didn't mind in the slightest. Tonight was probably the most fun I've had all month; Nishihara-san flirted with me, Jon filled in a lot of vocabulary I didn't know, Shudo-san comiserated about Endo-san (editor's note: Yoshiyuki), Hanato-san and I had a good conversation about music... All in all, a completely successful outing. Jen is pleased, albeit in that tipsy sort of way where everything seems quite pleasing.

Work today was six hours spent double-checking for errors and recalculating certain values. "Fun," indeed. But as I told people tonight, hey, at least it was something to do.

Interlude: Why the hell do you get so hungry when you're drunk? Sheesh!

So anyway, I spent the majority of the day checking data and calculating new values and doing re-checks. Bleh. But Yoshiyuki (don't be surprised if I refer to him as Endo-san from time to time, seeing as that's all that I refer to him at work), after some none-too-subtle nudging from me, started moving slightly in the direction that I need to go, so I might continue having work from now on. Maybe. Shudo-san offered jokingly tonight to give me all his work, and I in all seriousness said "yes, please." I can't stand this boredom much longer, you see. I get so jealous when I see Jon wasting his (full-time engineer) time going over someone's English journal submission while I have nothing beyond data entry to do. Bother.

In classic Jen fashion, the extent of my tipsy-ness is just now, an hour after I waved goodbye to everyone else at Umeda Station, which itself was 30 minutes after finishing my last drink, really hitting (rolling eyes). It'd really be much better if I could get drunk like most people, i.e., feel it within, oh, a half hour. Ah well. The whole not-feeling-drunk-for-an-hour-and-a-half thing does have its benefits, I guess. Like, not losing track of the conversation until the very last ten minutes or so, by which time all five of us were riding quite high, so it didn't much matter.

What interesting things did I learn tonight from my peers... Not a lot. Jon has a Japanese girlfriend, Hanato-san's wife is nine-months pregnant (and at one point she called and we thought she'd gone into labor, heh), Shudo-san has been to Hakodate, and Nishihara-san can't hold his alcohol at all. That's about as interesting as it got, which isn't very unless you know the people involved; mostly it was just 100% relaxing to hang out with friends and have a chance to talk and complain and laugh about everything and nothing all at once (quick, name that song!). I am one of those/melodramatic fools... Anyway, the Pig and Whistle wasn't nearly as bad as Erin had intimated to me (although how much of that was due to it being a slow Thursday night, I don't know), and generally the evening was quite good. Certain low points having to do with getting completely drenched on my way home notwithstanding. And now I think I will polish off the liter of water I pulled for myself when I got home, eat up the bread I got myself as a snack, watch a little TV, and drop off into blessed buzzed sleep, TRULY content with life, minus all loneliness that I've had in the last three weeks. Happiness.


I must have something of the air of a poor little orphan girl around the dorm. It started with one of the kitchen ladies (I don't remember their names, so we'll call them "Grandmotherly One" and "Butch One"), Butch One. She somehow has become convinced that in order for me to eat fish, she has to do her best to debone it for me. I've told her twice that she doesn't need to, but she insists every time. I think I'll just give up, even if it does make me feel like something of a baby.

And then Masuda-san (or Matsuda, I've still never seen her name written down... the dormitory manager, anyway) brought me cherries a day or two ago, dropping them off while I was eating dinner downstairs. I was surprised and thanked her and apologized for the trouble and all that, and didn't think much of it afterwards. But I got home today and she motioned me over before I was even partway through the door, and handed me three little cups of ice cream. I was like... What? And her perfectly clear reasoning was that it was hot out. Uh... okay. I mean, I'm not one to turn down gifts of food, heaven knows, but I'm wondering what aura it is that I'm projecting here. Helpless and starving?

Work today was better than previous days by virtue of finally having my hands on as much of the data as they've got. Of course, there's more data missing than there. Apparently a lot of the powders exist in their database but they've never tested them at all. Huh. I figure about one more half day of work will get it all cleaned up (FINALLY), and then I have to start figuring out what the fuck to do with it. Sigh. I really don't have much idea of exactly what it is that Yoshiyuki expects out of that piece of software they've got; I guess I'll just have to play around with it. The big problem looming is that there's only one computer at work that's sufficiently high powered to run that app really well... and all of us have to share time on it. I've not got a schedule or anything, and Yoshiyuki just mentioned that we'd have to make sure that things didn't overlap and then changed the subject. Grumble.

Les see, checking my scribbled reminders of things to complain about (hehe). Oh yes. Ergonomics is supposed to make an appearance. Let's start with the small thing... between the level of the desk, the limits of my chair, my desire to keep my (tiny flatscreen) monitor far back so that Satou-san can't see it as well (my computer, about 1/2 size of a normal tower, forms the only division between us, but if I push my monitor back, it's better obscured), and the height of my (tiny flatscreen) monitor, I can't really accomplish a good angle for my arms/head/neck. Which lead to a severe strain in one shoulder yesterday, part of why I was so anxious to just go to sleep. I probably should have taken a bath, but I felt so shitty that I just wanted the day to be over.

So if major shoulder and neck pain is the small thing, what's the big one? My bookshelf. Bookshelf, you ask? Don't you share a long desk with lots of people? Where's the room for a bookshelf? There's not, that's the point. So all of us have this small, wheeled bookshelf crammed under our desk, that fits perfectly between our drawers and our neighbor's drawers. I can get my feet under the shelf just fine, but I can't actually stretch out my legs when it's there, due to certain physical limitations of the ability of my shins to deform when run up against a shelf. For the first two weeks I tried angling my feet onto the shelf itself, which almost works. Almost. At the exact range of almost which makes my knees cramp up if they're kept in that position too long. So the first two weeks consisted of me constantly shifting position in an attempt to comfortably place my legs somewhere... anywhere that's not tucked back under my chair, which everyone else seems to do fine but I can't for some reason. Even sitting crosslegged in my chair is better (and I do that on occasion as well).

Last week Jon suggested turning the shelf sideways so that I could stretch out, which sort of works. It'd work better if the entire system of my legs was about an inch less in diameter, because the shelf digs in enough so that I can't sit like that forever. It is better, and I can alternate which leg is stretched out to relieve the squishing... But all in all, the whole sitting at my desk thing is a physical nightmare for nine or ten hours a day. Sniffle. And... and... I can't cross my legs under the desks in the conference room because my thighs are too fat... uh... I mean because the desks are too short and the chairs are too high, yeah that's it. Bah. It's kind of odd to be having so many problems with the furniture at work; other than the ass-grinding problem of the toilets at the dorm, Japanese furniture sizing is usually perfect for me. Counters are always the right height, desks and chairs are usually in alignment... It's rather like someone had it out for me at Sumitomo by designing for the smallest Japanese person they could find.

For the first time, over dinner, I managed to untangle exactly what the phrase is that gets spoken over the names of sponsors for Japanese TV shows (the Japanese equivalent of "This program was brought to you by..." except that it's much more polite). I'd been taught what it was at some point, but it'd never really sunk in and I'd never really bothered to understand it, grammatically speaking. But as I munched on tasty little wonton things, not even really paying attention to anything other than the Hanshin score, I suddenly realized that I'd understood exactly what had just been said. My uplifting moment for the day.

Actually, I'll take that back. My uplifting moment for the day was getting invited for dinner tomorrow night by Nishihara-san. He, Narahara-san, and I had been chatting about food on Monday over lunch, and I'd mentioned that I'd not had a chance to go get some curry udon yet. When we went to go pay, Nishihara-san (who is in fact a separate person from the similarly named Narahara-san, don't get confused, my Western friends) said something along the lines of "hey, we should go get you curry udon sometime soon," and I of course agreed (duh), but figured that it was that sort of "sometime" that may never happen. But he emailed me this morning (he sits, like, four rows away and god forbid any of us get up, heh) and asked if I had any plans for tomorrow night. He invited Iwahara-san (snicker... the more haras the merrier... Iwahara-san is another of the really young guys, probably 25 or so) and Jon along too, but they hadn't replied by the time I left work. It'll be more fun if they both can come along, but even if not, I'm pretty happy. It'll be nice to do something with someone closer to my own age (no offense to Narahara-san and Yoshiyuki and their families).

And now I've got to give the "royal milk tea" ice cream I was gifted with a try. And watch Shiko Funjatta. (snicker) I always think it's funny watching old VHS tapes (Shiko Funjatta came out in the early 90s, I think) that have ads for other movies at the start... Particularly when those movies are Miami Moon and Suburban Commando (hehe).

Verdict on milk tea ice cream... it tastes exactly like what it is, meaning it's generally good. But it looks just like coffee ice cream, and so every single bite I was a little disoriented. I bet Brandon Koeller would love it, though. A few hours later than the writing above, I'm feeling a little nervous about dinner tomorrow suddenly (whoo, watch the topic change!). I really don't know Nishihara-san that well, so what if we run out of things to talk about? I guess that's part of why I'm hoping that someone else will be able to come along, heh.

I thought it was very odd today that after Yoshiyuki glimpsed the email about going out, he felt the need to pull me aside. I was totally expecting a lecture about Nishihara-san being a notorious sleaze or something, the way Yoshiyuki was acting, whispering and with a gravely serious look. But no... it was to tell me that Nishihara-san had some form of nasty pneumonia (I think... some lung illness, at least) in March, and had to be hospitalized. At this point I was wondering if he was going to tell me that Nishihara-san was about to die and I needed to be ready to call for an ambulance in case he collapsed. But no... apparently while he was out in the hospital, Ueda-GM gave the entire group a lecture about avoiding getting sick from Nishihara-san. And so I have now been told, very seriously, that it is my duty to the company to make sure that Nishihara-san doesn't cough on me, and that if he does, that I should pay very close attention to my health. For a bit into this, I wondered if Yoshiyuki was joking, but no, no he wasn't. And apparently I'm not to let Nishihara-san know that everyone is "keeping this in mind." It really just seems like the sort of situation that wouldn't really arise in the US, although I'm hard put to express exactly why I find it so weird. If someone reading this finds it weird as well... then at least I'm not the only one.


Well, I bit the bullet and bought a keitai today. It's a decidedly uncool one, more akin stylistically to the Nokias so common in the US than the snazzy ones most people are carrying over here. But I figured, I don't need or want to pay for a camera, so that dropped my selection down, and then among those left, J-Phone, in exchange for less than snappy looks, offered nearly half the price of the phone itself and international calling rates at a ridiculously lower rate. So laugh, all of you at home. I finally have a cell phone. Sigh. My moral corruption has begun.

My mommy would be proud of me; I wore my new shoes that she so admired today. I'd kind of forgotten how much it sucks to break in new shoes, though. (pained look) Why hello, blisters! It's been a while. Well, other than those ones the other week. But those weren't on my heels...

A disgustingly boring and short thing tonight, but I'm absolutely exhausted and my body is aching all over from bad ergonomics at work (I'll complain about it in excruciating detail another time). So I'm going to go to bed. At 11 pm. Shut up.


(eep) So I just got home, planning on having some nice cool ice cream and cherries after a day that felt like pushing through a hot sponge, and promptly realized why I have to move my room back around (or find an extension cord). I totally forgot that the external power switch to the lights also governs the outlets on the right side of my room... including the one that I plugged my fridge into. OOPS. Damn good thing I had my AC on all day; my ice cream melted but my milk didn't spoil. Bah. I guess moving my furniture around is to be the activity of choice tonight.

I found today that I can no longer speak Japanese. I completely mispoke myself on no fewer than four occasions, and was having extreme difficulty with simple conversation. $&#(@&!#@. I blame it on the fact that although I'm listening to a lot more Japanese, the only person I really have much opportunity to talk to at work is Yoshiyuki, and that's all in English. I'm getting in less Japanese than I was in class 1.5 hours four times a week. Although maybe I can blame it partially on Monday funk. That'd make me feel a bit better.

And to make my Monday complete, I'm suffering from what is quite possibly the single worst pimple I've ever had in my life. It didn't start out particularly bad, but it's being constantly aggravated due to its location—directly at the bottom of the right-hand nosepad on my glasses. I can't shift my glasses at all or it hurts like the devil (a problem when I'm sweating ridiculously and my glasses slip of their own accord), and just wearing them hurts because the side of my nose is swollen up. There's a really "interesting" ridge located where the swelling is being redirected by the nosepad. If I didn't have Monday night TV to look forward to, I think I'd just burst into tears right now. How can any day deserve to have an incredibly painful zit on top of it?

OH MY GAY GOD. Yamasaki Tooru, making his first appearance on Hey! Hey! Hey!, is so ridiculously flaming I can't stand it. And he's wearing a baby blue minature cowboy hat and has a little baby blue star glued on his right cheek. Every second longer he's on the screen I'm finding it harder to breathe between giggles. He's Japanese Brendan (Jim's roommate Dan's cousin, for those who might be tempted to think I was mispelling my own roommate's name) with all the gay mannerisms exaggerated in ridiculous Japanese fashion. And them showing footage of him singing in drag just isn't helping (giggling).

It's been my day for seeing Japanese versions of people I know. Here's Japanese Brendan, I saw Japanese Zach in Umeda earlier, and I swear up and down, a Japanese Karalee. Except she had purple hair, which is bizarre enough to see on a middle-aged Japanese woman without her sporting the face of your boss.

Oh jesus, his outfit for the song he performed was enough so that I had to try to take a picture. It didn't really come out with the little crown he had pinned to his head though. Look for pictures of ridiculous boy (and other things I got motivated to take pictures of the screen for, as long as I had my camera out) next Monday.

At least the TV gods aren't hating me today. Smap Smap should be on in 20, and I managed to catch the premiere of a cute new drama with a super cute lead actor and a relatively understandable premise. I'll fall for any drama featuring a boy who can make soulful eyes like this kid. I'm easy, what can I say. I'd give anything to have that look turned on me at the moment, though. Sigh.

And what's this? A drama preview in place of Smap Smap? Bah. I like me my dramas and all that, but where's my Shingo and crew when I want them? Of course it would be featuriing my least favorite Smap boy, and the really-makes-Jen-happy theme of a dying man's last 24 hours.

PS : The secret to perfect soft-serve ice cream at home is to let your fridge partially defrost.


(cheering) Hooray for Fujisawa-san! I now have a 15-or-so inch TV due to his networking prowess (he tapped a bunch of people he knew at another dorm). And completely unexpectedly, I also got a VCR!!!! I had just been thinking I'd like to be able to rent tapes from Wonder Panic, and Fujisawa-san shows up and saves my day. The TV doesn't have a remote, unfortunately, but hey, I can get up to change the channel. Actually, given that I had to totally reorganize my room to get cables to reach, it's currently most likely that I'll watch TV from my chair anyway, given that it's on my desk.

I might end up trying to reconfigure my room back, which would necessitate buying a different TV cable... I'm not sure I really like things this way (I uploaded more pictures again, so look for the ones marked room-reconfigured. This set is pretty boring, although I recommend taking a look at the Cranberries one... that storefront scares the bejeesus out of me every morning), though, so we'll see. I like having the TV on my desk, but I much preferred my desk on the other side of the room. The more I think about it... the more I think that I'll go run down to

AUGH. I totally just thought I saw Ursula in the stands at the sumo tournament I'm watching. That was a little bizarre.

Anyway, I think I'll run down to get another cable. And maybe rent a video, hehe. It's really strange... there were four channels that I couldn't get on Narahara-san's little TV that I do get on this one... and then there's an extra four or five channels that I somehow get through the VCR. I don't know how. The VCR also has a function so that if a show is being broadcast in a particular fashion, I can change between English and Japanese. I'm not sure if I'll use that function much; I'd rather watch Japanese programs in Japanese. But some American dramas are broadcast over here with Japanese dubbing, and watching Third Watch earlier, I figured out that I can switch that back to the original. Overall, I am an extremely happy camper.

I just got back from heading down to the J-Phone outlet store by the station with full intent to get a keitai. The guy there, however, talked me out of it by determining that you can buy pre-paid ones that can call overseas. That way I won't have to fuck around with monthly payments and signing a contract that I'd have to break and pay a cancellation fee for. Of course you can't buy pre-paid phones at that outlet... Ah well. Myabe I'll try down at that bigass electronics store that I wandered into with Hayato.

I went into Wonder Panic to rent a video or two on my way home. I won't watch them tomorrow, heh, but today or later this week... Anyway, I had no idea what I wanted to watch, so I just wandered around the aisles for a while. I wasn't really looking for anything in particular, so it amused me that right at eye level on the first shelf I stopped to actually look at was Shiko Funjatta (one of my favorite Japanese movies). So I had to get that. And then when I stuck my head into the drama aisle, my eyes just landed right on Long Vacation. A big part of this pair of events, no doubt, was that those are some of the few names that I would recognize right off the bat. But hey, I'll branch out another time. Right now, it's just making me happy to have Long Vacation playing on a lazy Sunday evening. And I've changed my mind about changing my room, if I can find a bean bag chair to put on the opposite side of the room from my bed to watch TV from.

Hrm. That one American dude who's been on TV here for freaking ever, hawking his American-ness for all he can, is starting to get old. And run to fat. How does a skinny dude like him manage to get FAT in Japan?!?

Aight, after much much fucking around, I figured out what the hell was up with some channels not showing up on the VCR, and fixed it. The channel up/down buttons only work part of the time, but I can enter in channels manually and it works. So now, except for the fact that I can't turn the TV off with the remote, which could probably be fixed if I could find a code (and figure out how to enter it), the TV situation is pretty sweet.

I haven't watched X-Files in forever and ever. Over six years ago was when I stopped watching regularly, and a year or so later I stopped catching it even occasionally. The one that's on tonight is the first one with Dagget (Dogett?) getting assigned, but that was still a year or so after I'd quit watching, so I really don't know what the hell is going on. In some ways it's really nice to have something so full of the sense of home; on the other hand, I never enjoyed watching X-Files by myself, and doing so puts me a little... off.


(scrubbing face) I hate being woken up and being all disoriented in the morning. Particularly if I then have to go speak in Japanese. Narahara-san came by unexpectedly to give me the manual for the phone he lent me, and to invite me to lunch... I think. I was so out of it when I ran down there after a dorm person woke me up that I only understood about one word in ten that he said to me. I guess I'll head down around noon and if he's there, I'll have lunch with him (scrubbing face some more). Geez... You wouldn't think that I'd gotten ten and a half hours of sleep, the disorientation I'm feeling. Bleh. (looking in mirror) You also wouldn't think I took a shower last night... my hair looks dreadful! Double bleh.

But much later, my day was so good that it's almost an affront to it to leave the above written down. Narahara-san gave me a call around 12:10 to tell me he was coming by, and walked me back to his house with his older daughter Mai-chan (Haruka, or Ha-chan, came with him earlier in the morning). He wasn't kidding when he said that his place was just a few blocks away... It's basically just on the other side of the damn block! And they have a Toyota SUV that's about a million times bigger than most cars around here, heh. His wife Yuuko is beautiful, and his daughters will be gorgeous as well, and they were all incredibly friendly and outgoing.

I spent all afternoon hanging out with them, helping Mai-chan with her English homework (they were all awed at my ability to pronounce "alligator," hehe), tickling Ha-chan, and playing a vocabulary-building computer game with Mai-chan and Narahara-san for a good three hours. It was good study for both me and the six-year-old, heh. I found out that Narahara-san really doesn't like Yoshiyuki, which gave us both a good giggle. Anyway, he told me that any Saturday or Sunday that I feel like coming by to help distract his daughters, that I should feel totally willing to. And now that I've actually met them, I might take him up on that. I'm not usually very good with children, but his two were much less of a mystery to me than normal. And Ha-chan is so incredibly cute I can't bear it... No two-year old has any right to be that freaking adorable.

I found myself thinking several times that the Naraharas would have made an incredibly good host family. There's a certain sort of openness and kindness that lends itself well to that sort of situation, and his family abounds with it. (smile) In the car on the way back from lunch, Narahara-san was explaining to Mai-chan that he'd lent the cell phone that she used to use to me, and she asked him why he'd done that. I leaned forward from the back seat, poked her, and told her "Otosan ga yasashii hito kara ne" (because your father's a kind person), and she smiled back at me and told me very seriously that her Papa was the kindest person she'd ever met. Later on, she wanted to know why her dad was spending so much time teaching me about cell phone plans (I'm probably going to try to get one in the next week or two), and he told her it was because I didn't have my own papa around to take care of me, so he wanted to make sure I was alright. Awwww. In the face of sweetness like that, all my normal resistance to parental figures melts away.

I finally took off around 6, getting walked back to the dorm by an entourage of little girls and toys. I wandered into Umeda to goof off on the Internet for an hour so (I had absolutely no email, which would have been depressing if I hadn't been in such a good mood), and managed to catch up on the last two weeks of comics (I've been keeping up on Zach's, but Sinfest, Penny Arcade, and PvP had all been neglected in favor of not too obviously screwing around at work).

Coming back to Toyonaka, I started hunting anew for Erin's recommended Indian place for dinner. I'd gotten her to clarify directions a bit more, but I was still having ridiculous trouble, mostly having to do with the fact that I wasn't sure which side of the train tracks I was really supposed to be on. I'd just given up and decided to give Baba-Reeba a try (I mean, how can you not with a name like that?) when I saw a sign marked "Banjalore" right ahead of me. I cheered mentally and skipped up, to find a closed store and a rain-stained sign that said something about them having closed up and that the cooks had all shifted over to another restaurant in a location whose kanji I couldn't read (note on Sunday night: it was Minou, up north). Of course, in the instant when I'd first seen the sign, I'd completely set my heart on Indian for dinner, so nothing else would do but to head to Hari again, heh. I had a korma that had not nearly as much cream as I'm used to, but was still delicious, and thus I am home at 10 pm on a Saturday night in a pleasantly stuffed and completely happy mood.

I almost stopped by Wonder Panic to see if they had a particular Yamasaki Masahoshi (I think that's his name, I can't remember off the top of my head) album I want to listen to, but decided that I should wait until my listen-to-all-my-CDs-in-alphabetic-order mission is complete. Today was two Bowie albums and BT at the moment, although I did have about 30 minutes of walking tonight when I didn't have an extra CD on me so I listened to the radio. I was extremely pleased with the offerings on "we're totally fucking random!" Kiss 89.9. A punky band covering two Green Day songs, Ziggy Marley, two JPop songs whose singers I didn't recognize, and a set of three salsa songs in a row. Because of course, that's a completely normal playlist. I'm not complaining... I think more stations should be eclectic like that so that I don't have to go to effort to put together mix CDs that are eclectic like that, heh.

But enough gabbing. I have a strong desire to eat strawberry ice cream and read my Avantgo'd Stranger (it's no mint mocha at the Roma, but I'll take it). Reminds me that I want to find some postcards to send to Peter and Mario...


(contentment) I'd be perfectly happy to develop a regular Friday night habit of taking a bath. Even just a couple minutes in that ridiculously hot water is enough to relax me into mush. I never really take baths at home, mostly because of the following vicious circle: I'm too lazy to keep my tub really clean, and taking a bath in a dirty tub seems really icky, so if I want to take a bath, I need to clean the bathtub, and when I'm in the sort of tense mood that screams for a bath, I don't feel like cleaning in the slightest.

Interlude... Listening to Blood, Sweat, and Tears tonight. I wish I had more than just this one album (it's a greatest hits one that my mother gave me, which unfortunately doesn't have Lucretia MacEvil on it), but at least I have one, which is one more than many people. Anyway, Go Down Gambling just came on, which immediately sent me into a laughing fit. Other people who listen to Loveline might know of Adam Carrolla's deep and abiding love for BS&T, but one night in particular, he spent at least 30 minutes of the show breaking out with "GO DOWN GAAAMMMBBLING!" at random (and frequent) intervals... including in the middle of people's calls. It's possible you had to be there, and you had to have my unending ability to be amused by the cruel things in life (particularly Adam Carrolla being mean as possible to stupid people), but just having that song come on, two months later, was enough to crack me up but good. And now back to the bathing.

So anyway, it's really starting to sink in that I can take a bath here and never once have to clean the bathroom my self. This must be exploited. You see, I didn't become an afficionado of baths until my late teens, by which time cleaning the bathtubs was one of my assigned chores. Once I moved to the dorms, I didn't have a bathtub available, and when I moved to an apartment, cleaning was my responsibility again. This whole bathe-at-will-without-effort is unprecedented and will not last after I leave this country. Baths. They will be taken.

I now have an alarm set on Sayuri to go off at 7:27 in the mornings with a note to the screen that says "Get off the train, fool." You see, it's hard to see the signs at the stations from the trains and I often have my headphones on in the morning so I can't hear the announcements of where we're at, so I usually rely on counting. The third stop after I get on the JR loop line is Nishikujo, and that's where I transfer to get down to work. This works just fine unless I get distracted reading news on Sayuri, and forget to count. No, I didn't accidentally go two stops farther today than I should have, not me.

Another morning-commute related tidbit. I hate. I hate very much that damn middle-aged lady who cuts in line every goddamn morning to squeeze first onto the JR loop. You see, at every designated entrance to the train, you queue up in two lines when you wait. When the train arrives, you spread to the sides so that the people leaving can get of the train, and once they all disembark, you file in. Except for this lady. Every single morning, she comes up to our perfectly well formed double pair of lines (usually about 6 people deep by the time she saunters up), and she starts her own little third line. With only her, because everyone else is, you know, polite. And before people are done getting off the train every morning, she starts shoving them aside and fights her way on. I thought it was a little rude the first day I noticed her doing it... now that I've found out that it's basically going to happen every morning until the old biddy dies, you'd think I'd just shrug and get over it. But no. Every morning, it just annoys me more and more. I could just go one door farther down the platform, I guess, but it's always pissed me off when I have to change my ways because someone else is misbehaving. Grumble.

I was wrong! Lucretia MacEvil IS on this album! Woohoo!

Work was good today, despite old-lady-hating and missing my stop. I finally got my hands on a more complete version of the data set (surprise surprise, Satou-san didn't have it fully ready yet), and started in on cleaning up data so that I can play with it. There were several errors, a lot of things that could have been automated but weren't, and no central collection of data in the file. One sheet would have some particular values... the next would have those minus a few and plus a couple extra, and so on. It took me all day to get it to a reasonable state, and there's still huge gaps. Sigh. But it was something to do, and that was good.

Jon invited me to go out to a party for the other new employees hired this last year, which I was extremely upset I couldn't go to. Out of all nights for them to invite me along, why did it have to be the single one where I had plans with someone else? Bah! But going out with Hayato was a perfectly good substitute (even if I mistook where to meet him and it took us 30 minutes to sort out where we were in relation to each other, heh). I had maabodoufu and beer, and got to run my talkative mouth off with a friend from home for three hours. Happiness. And apparently Melvin is doing some sort of Jesus work in Osaka for the next two months, and Mandy's interning in Kobe for the same period (Hayato is the mad TJ central contact point), so we're planning on hunting the pair of them down soon. Honestly, I'd rather hang out with Hayato than the other two any day, but variety is good for the soul, I hear. We spent a good hour and a half walking all around Umeda, gossiping and comparing notes on our internships (he, like basically everyone but me, has real work to do, bah!) and admiring Japanese electronics and laughing at Japanese fashion. All in all, I would have liked to go out with people from work to get to know them better, but I have nary a complaint about what I did instead.



Sigh, no matter where I go in this country, the bathroom is an unpleasant experience. First, there's the Japanese-style squat toilets, the obnoxiousness of which really doesn't need to be explained to the average American. But even when there's a Western-style toilet, things are cursed for me. For example, at work, the toilet paper is basically one grade softer than the recycled paper towels that show up in the chem department labs at home. I might as well snag the cardboard roll instead; it'd be about as comfortable. Or at the dorm, where the toilet paper is blessedly normal, but where the toilets were apparently designed with only very very skinny Japanese asses in mind. Your ass bones are not supposed to be grinding against the toilet seat, people. How is one supposed to relax when you feel like you're sitting on metal bleachers?

But enough about toilets. Let's complain about something new... Like the moving walkways over in the Hankyuu station! The people who stand (or walk really slowly, which might as well be standing) in the middle of the walkway, or who hang out with their friend, totally blocking your path, are naturally annoying. Those people are to be found anywhere (my favorite... uh, well, the only one I remember anyway... Dilbert cartoon features a frustrated Dilbert attempting to pass around the omnipresent slowly-walking-and-talking women).

What drives me truly nuts is the damn "five meters left" sign. You see, for some reason, the Japanese people think that instead of "five meters left," the sign actually says "stop walking right now." Because unfailingly, at the moment that they pass underneath that big blinking sign, they all stop walking. I almost ran aground the first couple days of my commute before I figured out what the fuck was going on. I hated that sign in a general sense until today, when it was mysteriously missing from the JR Osaka-bound walkway this morning. And lo and behold, people did not stop walking. So you see, it really is the sign's fault. That and the fact that the Japanese are sheep. Kidding. Mostly.

I forgot yesterday to mention the pair of boys playing a single shamisen in front of Toyonaka Eki when I came home. I had something I was going to say about them, but forgot in the hurry to eat last night. And of course (haha, it's been a while since I've gotten to say it...) I've now forgotten it. Anyway, it was pretty neat to sit and watch them play for a bit... it's hard enough for me to imagine playing an instrument at all, much less throwing in having to coordinate with another person's movements.

Work today was reading Japanese alllllll day. I got to read a few more process reports, and two patent applications (and let me tell you, you haven't had fun until you've read patent applications... in Japanese... for three hours). But the patent apps were the only materials Yoshiyuki could turn up today that have to do with their previous attempts to model stuff with neural networks, so patent apps it was. I scribbled down a mad amount of vocabulary, but was happy to find out that I remembered most of the stuff I'd been reading from the last couple days. Maybe my Japanese won't necessarily get worse being here, heh.

Didn't get to hang out and speak English at lunch today, though, which was a little sad. As much as I should be practicing my Japanese, that 30 minutes on Tuesdays and Thursdays is one of the times where I get to socialize at work without feeling weird about doing it... uh... at work. It did make me giggle that Ishibashi-san cancelled it because "the students aren't here today." Almost as much as it makes me giggle whenever he refers to me and Jon as teachers. His insistence on treating it like a class just amuses me, what can I say.

I stopped off at Mr. D and got a curry doughnut today in a preemptive strike against having nasty food for dinner. I needn't have worried, though... perfectly good, if somewhat bizarre, roasted chicken with orange-onion sauce awaited me today. It tasted a lot like the time I experimented with using orange juice in cooking; enough so that I'm pretty damn sure that's what they used. Not bad, per se, just a little weird. But of course, what tied everything together was the tasty cream of something soup. Cream makes everything better, I firmly believe. Although I think I'm getting to the point where I'll just buy myself a shaker of pepper, and take it with me when I go eat down there, because it's sadly lacking. They've got some back in the kitchen, I know, because it shows up in some of the dishes... but it's nowhere that I can lay my hands on. A dash of pepper is pretty much the only way to improve on a cream soup, in my mind.

I may be wrong, but I'm relatively sure that we don't package individual cupcakes with little silica packets in the US. That was about the last thing I was expecting to find when I unwrapped the treat I brought home from work today. Isn't that shit toxic or something? I thought it was labelled "do not eat" for a reason, in which case snuggling it up against a prospective tasty treat seems a tad odd. But I unwrap it and I find something less cupcake and more my mother's double chocolate cake... RAPTURE. You see, normally I get a daily dose of chocolate in my morning mocha, and have a little more in some form or another every couple days. But it's been near three weeks now with nary a scant bite of chocolate goodness. I think a cupcake the size of a golf ball has never been savored so much.

I'm off to rot my brain for a while; I read the last day or two, but having read Japanese all today, I can't stomach the idea of any more. Brain rotting in the name of listening practice it is. Tomorrow's going to feel really long, with getting to see Hayato to look forward to at the end of the day.


Late night tonight; I walked into the dorm at 8:30 and went straight in to have dinner. Which, for people unflaggingly interested in the ongoing saga of my dinner, was disappointing. Sigh. At least I have a tasty apple to keep me and the Tigers company.

It's Jon's fault I'm late... At about 5:25 he scooted over to take a break and talk to me. He was vastly amused by my confessed inability to speak to women, and proceeded to give me advice on how to relate to Japanese girls (heh). I was so glad to do something else than look at my computer screen that I didn't notice time passing until the second "go the fuck home" bell went off at 7 pm.

I think some of the reason I was so starved for company is that Yoshiyuki ate lunch with me today because I've been using his meal card (so unfair... the proper company cards put double the money you put in the machine on the card, as opposed to the ones that menials like me can get) and he didn't have a lunch packed. He insisted that we go to the south plant shokudou, and early to boot... he's got a weird paranoia about the shokudou near our building, and I think he wanted to be able to complain about people, hah. But even though I got more talking in at lunch eating with him, I missed out on the general hanging-out-with-people that I usually get in while everyone is stuffing their faces madly.

I did rather get to do something this afternoon, sort of (and this morning was spent reading on neural network applications in chemical computiing, fun!). I snagged one of the sample's experiment reports from Yoshiyuki and spent a good hour or two reading it (not too bad considering that I had to look up about every fourth word). I also just today noticed (sigh, embarrassing that it took me a couple days) that there were some more sheets in that spreadsheet they'd handed me a day or so ago, so I spent some time trying to figure out how the hell the information in the different sheets fits together. Apparently I'll have access to more of the data tomorrow. And then I get to start figuring out what to do with it, hooray.

Incidentally, at my current rate of three CDs a day, I should be done listening to my entire collection (well, minus the four or so I left at home and wouldn't have listened to anyway) within two months. Fiona Apple kept me company on the train this morning; I hadn't listened to that album in two or three years at least. Funny that it affected me less than it used to, emotionally, while the Armitage album I got at around the same time was the one that got me ridiculously nostalgic. The Jen of six years ago (good lord, was freshman year that long ago?) would be very surpised. Of course, given that I don't have a suidical ex-boyfriend at the moment, nor an unsatisfying relationship with a current boyfriend, my emotional status is slightly different than it was at the time. My fretting about Ethan has long since faded to a background blur, and the lenses of time paint a much prettier picture of dating Lon than they once did. Is it any wonder, then, that songs that brought so much pain about Ethan forward no longer do so, or that an album bought on a particular outing with Lon bring on the aspects of all the other good times?

AC/DC, on the other hand, never really changes or loses its effect, heh.

Jesus, I almost forgot that I got the two most recent Strong Bads today! What am I doing writing when I could be laughing?!?

Okay, time for me to go to bed. After an hour and a half of reading the news and idly playing games, I became totally convinced that I heard Monty Python stuff on the TV... enough so that I got up and looked to make sure I was mistaken. And just a few minutes later, I was sure I heard South Park. Auditory hallucinations = bedtime.


Well. Effort at getting access to data files attempted. This week's experiment... failed. Yoshiyuki nodded a lot when I proposed that I compile the dataset myself, and said he'd talk to Satou-san about it... and then nothing. Sigh. I shall try again tomorrow. My other attempt will be to get access to the big book of processes... that'd be more interesting to read about in Japanese than the formation of filter cakes was today. Oh yes, I spent an hour or two this afternoon on that subject... my life is as interesting as interesting can be at the moment. And let's not get into permeability resistance (rolling eyes).

Jon brought me a couple mags today that have listings of bars and other places where foreigners hang out, as well as some articles written in both English and Japanese. The joke is, of course, that if you want to get your hand on the magazines that list whitey-friendly places, you have find one of the places that they give them out for free... which happens to be only in the places they list. In other words, you have to have an "in." Don't worry, those worrying after my chastity, he stopped well short of asking me out or anything. Although he did highly recommend The Pig and Whistle if I get in the mood for an English pub, heh.

I dunno if I'll actually go to any of the places that I'm idly flipping through; the idea of going to a bar by myself is really rather abhorrent. I enjoy drinking plenty, as long as I'm not doing it by myself, which just strikes me as... I dunno. I guess it's my inner straitlacedness surfacing. That and the whole raging-fear-about-meeting-new-people-en-masse thing. But it's comforting, in a way, to know that the places are there.

But Hayato and I arranged to meet up on Friday for dinner, so company I shall have, and I think by that time, a beer will sound very very nice.

Ugh, I just had to shell out for my first payment to the dorm. I don't have to pay for the room itself, but I just forked over 110$ for the privledge of food and electricity and my bed. W00t. It's really not a bad price; I probably wouldn't feel weird about it if I hadn't handed it over in cash (heh).

And a triumphant return today to things that taste good for dinner, complete with (dramatic pause) cream of broccoli soup! Creamy, silky, tasty cream of broccoli soup. It almost made me stop craving Mexican food. Almost. And how is cream of broccoli soup related to Mexican? Um.... Not at all, really, it's just that the tastiness distracted me. Shuddup. Of course, I still felt compelled to have some strawberry ice cream and blueberries... uh... because I had them around. I think being told by the doctor that I'm about (calculating) five pounds lighter than I thought I was is going to my head (heh).

Japanese "studying" goes by lickity split when it's composed of equal parts watching TV and reading manga. Oh yes. Serious student, that's what I am.