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Domestic idyllity (I'm not really sure that's a word) is getting home, munching on tasty bread and a crisp delicious apple, drinking nummy coffee milk, and getting to read a postcard from Kate. Exactly what I needed after a rather obnoxious Monday.

I had to go to the plant doctor's office today for a physical. That was an interesting experience, to say the least. Some of it was academically interesting, like the fact that their physical forms don't ask about your grandparents when they query your history, or ask if you're allergic to any medication, etc. Some of it was funny-interesting, like the debacle of figuring out how eye tests work in Japan (hint... there's no cascading sheet of progressively tinier letters over here). And then some of it was just kind of humiliating "interesting," like when I totally forgot that the Japanese word for "down" is the same as that for "tongue" (they use different kanji, but both are pronounced shita), and couldn't for the life of me figure out what "put out your down" meant. Sigh. I got poked and prodded and had some weird stuff clamped to me for a while, but I managed to escape with only a pinprick where they drew blood to mark my passing.

Today was supremely boring. I didn't really put my finger on why I was so irritable, though, until Jon spelled it out for me at lunch when he said he hoped they'd get me some real work soon, that he thought it sucked for me having nothing to but read for weeks. And I realized that that's part of what's been bugging me for the last couple days at work. I feel up to speed to the point where I want to do some work, but I'm having to wait on Satou-san's lazy butt to get that dataset completed. Yoshiyuki says that he thinks Satou-san will probably have it to me by next week... late next week, sigh. That's indicating another two weeks of nothing to do, given that I've voraciously consumed about all that I can find to read on the subject that I'm theoretically going to be working on.

Yoshiyuki did ask me today if I'd like to co-author a research paper that he's about ready to forward with on the compressibility of filter cakes (read : crunch some numbers and check his English, heh), but he says he wants to wait on that until after I'm done with the current project... which hasn't started yet. Bah. He also gave me a book on computing in chemistry today, so I guess I'll read that over the next couple days while he's at all sorts of meetings. Sigh.

I feel like such a lump the last couple days, now that I'm feeling like I'm not learning much by reading. I tried my hand at working some problems in hopper design just to be doing something today, which worked out just fine, but I get self-conscious about Satou-san sitting next to me, probably wondering wtf I'm doing. Totally tangential, circling back to the previous subject... I think I shall ask Yoshiyuki tomorrow if it's possible that I could compile the damn dataset myself from whatever sources it is that Satou-san is supposed to be using. THAT would give me something to do.

Jon hung out with me for a bit during break today (he couldn't go play soccer like normal because he had a 12:50 meeting... what sort of heathen schedules a meeting for mid-lunch?); it was nice to have someone to chat with in competent English, heh. I learned all sorts of interesting things, but mostly that his program at university was as wacko as wacko can be, from a US standpoint. He completed a bachelor's and a Master's in four years, through this crazy combined track that had him taking graduate classes while he was technically an undergraduate. It never really occurred to me before that the college system in the US and England might be different... I think I was probably assuming that shared language = shared educational system. I kind of feel like going and reading about the British school system, now.

I think on no day more than Monday does the damn 4:30 bell bother me more. You see, at Sumitomo (and maybe at other Japanese companies), they signal things with bells. Like, work-start, lunch-start, lunch-end, work-end... and then there's the "you still have an hour left of work, sucker!" bell at 4:30. I'm rather confused by the bell that I think I remember going off at 6 one on the nights I stayed past 5:45 (the time I usually duck and run). Maybe it's the "go home already, you stupid fuckers!" bell, I dunno. Anyway, on Mondays, when I very most want to be the hell away from work, the "nah nah still have an hour" bell really drives me up the wall.

In cuter news, Yoshiyuki brought me a present today, heh. He took Yuuki to some Hanshin Tigers store over the weekend, and picked me up a little Hanshin inkan holder. How spiffy is that? It's tacky, but extremely adorable at the same time, plus it has a tiny inkpad, so I can stop having to ask people to borrow theirs whenever I need to stamp something. I win! He also brought me a fatass stack of English-language tourist information that he'd had from when an American friend visited him a year ago.

More on the reminding self about TV schedules front; Detective Conan is on at 7:30 pm on Mondays. Rot your brain on schedule! And Hey! Hey! Hey! is on right after. I'd forgotten; Mondays are the golden days of Jen's love affair with Japanese media. And there goes out the window all plans of reading or studying or anything like that tonight. Whoosh! Because, if Jen remembers correctly... her beloved Smap Smap will be on at 10 pm sharp.

Man, two loser dinners in a row. What happened to my luck? It's as though the universe decided to punish me for having Indian food. And I just noticed (hah... hah... hah...) that the popsicles whose label I didn't actually bother to READ because they were right next to the obviously labeled strawberry popsicles... and the picture looked like strawberry popsicles... are actually azuki popsicles... That's red bean popsicles to you folks at home. Ick. I deserve it, I guess. Right now, I'm trying to figure out how to toss it without getting nasty sticky popsicle goo in my two good trash bags, and without attracting too much notice. Bah. I have this paranoia that someone will look in the common trash and see things I've thrown out, and that that will somehow be bad (rolling eyes at self). Lesson learned—I CAN read the labels, so I should probably do so from now on (Jon was telling me stories today at lunch about his exploits when he first came to Japan, couldn't really read any of the labels, and blindly hoped that things in similar areas of the supermarket somehow went together... in some order or another, hehe).

Tomoko invited me to go get Indian food with her down in Umeda sometime, though, so that and Washington cherries will console me for the night.

(happy dance) But I'll tell you what will truly console me... I was correct in my memories of Monday at 10 and guess who's watching Smap Smap...? ;) If there is anything cuter than Katori Shingo dancing around in a v-neck t-shirt and pajama bottoms, I'm hard pressed to think of it right now. Those guys have spent basically their entire lives learning how to milk every ounce of charm they have... and they have learned their lessons well.


Well, today ranks up there for stupid misunderstandings, resulting in me accidentally getting three full boxes of takoyaki (instead of one). Wouldn't have been so bad if I'd been more willing to admit it when I realized what was wrong, heh (rolling eyes at self). It is quite tasty, though, so I'm not as bad off as I could be.

I kind of feel like my Japanese has gotten worse in the last couple days. Dunno how that would happen, exactly, but the idea is being borne out by circumstantial evidence. I have this crazy idea that the problem is all the reading in English I've been doing, which of course is bullshit, but that doesn't stop it from occuring to me.

I'm feeling better after getting about twelve hours of sleep. I had a good cry, finally, and managed to exhaust myself into dropping off. Bad dreams not withstanding, everything always seems better in the mornings than it does at night.

Today, I attempted to navigate the futon dryer cleaner thinger. It was actually a lot more understandable than the washing machines they've got here (mostly because it had instructions rather than just having a bunch of strangely labeled buttons). I guess we'll see if the dorm bursts into flame in the next 30 minutes or not.

Just got home from another hour or so spent exploring Toyonaka. I actually ventured underneath the train tracks and over to the other side today. Didn't really find anything worth reporting... was mostly just nice to be out wandering around in the late afternoon sunshine. Stopped by Wonder Panic to drop off those CDs (and much more competently than last night, managed to leave my phone number this time), went grocery shopping... a nice laid back afternoon, spent listening to that Kobe radio station I can pick up. They call themselves the "Smooth Rock Station," but so far as I can tell, they have a totally random playlist ranging from American hiphop and rap (this afternoon) to Japanese urban jazz (yesterday). It cracked me up to hear Eazy-E broadcast in full uncensored glory... that stuff would never make it on the air in the US, at least not with the shit bleeped out of it (hehe). The contrast between hearing Eazy-E followed immediately by an ad for "Riverdance Japan" in Tokyo was priceless.

I also went to the store. For those who have never heard me complain about Japanese prices, here we go. I just spent about 20$ buying four apples, a pint of blueberries, a small box of cherries (like about 200 g), a pint of Haagen Dazs, and three strawberry popsicles. And the cherries and the Haagen Dazs were both on sale (rolling eyes). But when it's hot out, nothing sounds good like ice cream and fruit, and what else do I have to spend my money on around here?

And after a dinner that edged only just barely into this side of edible... I was extremely happy to be able to have some blueberries and ice cream. Eep.


My feet hurt, wah. It's about five on Saturday and I spent the whole afternoon wandering around Umeda and Toyonaka. Umeda was boggling, particularly when I wandered down into the pachinko areas, but I amused myself quite nicely taking a couple pictures (look for the ones with the latest modified times, although the ones marked toyonaka-sunset and toyonaka-station are also new but have weird modified times) and people-watching. I was annoyed that it was raining, but the Umeda area has this crazy network of underground shopping levels, so I stayed mostly dry. Maybe in another weekend or two it'll be nicer out so I can actually see what the surface looks like.

I spent a lot of time in the Hankyuu department store. I'd sort of forgotten how strange Japanese department stores are. They're laid out really confusingly compared to your average Nordstrom's, and contain about a billion more departments and stores-within-stores. I stayed entertained exploring just in that building for at least 45 minutes, heh. I even found myself slightly tempted by some of the clothes, which was vaguely depressing. I'd never be able to fit into a lot of them. Us fatass Americans...

Wandering around Toyonaka later, buying laundry detergent, I scared the bejeesus out of a white guy shopping in the same store. He came around the corner, saw me, and I swear he jumped six inches. And then said "hi," bemusedly. Heh. Other than that, though, not a lot interesting happened. Although I did find an Indian restaurant (though not the one that Erin gave me rough directions to... I guess there's more than one around here), so guess where I'm going for dinner! :D

Phew, teach me to have a whim. So I'm coming home from eating dinner and I get the idea to just waltz into Wonder Panic (hehe, what a name), the local rental shop, and rent myself some CDs. Of course, I would get this idea on the only day in the last two weeks that I wasn't carrying my passport with me, and on the single worst day for my Japanese comprehension to boot. I swear, the people there must think I'm a blithering idiot. And then after I ran home and came back with my passport (they needed official Japanese ID or a passport to open an account), it turned out they needed the dorm's phone number. And of course I didn't have Sayuri with me, so I had to explain that I knew the address, but not the phone number. Sigh. The girl had pity on me, though, and ended up just telling me to make sure I brought in the phone number next time. Frustrating to have my Japanese be so poor tonight, but I'm listening to rented Porno Graffitti at the moment, so I guess it turned out all right.

Indian food was tasty, much more so than I'd hoped. I was worried when I walked in and the woman at the register was Japanese... but the cooks were as Indian as can be, and my butter chicken and naan were sublime. Not to mention that my lassi was better than at many restaurants in Seattle. Happy happy tummy. It was passingly expensive, but hey, if I'm only going to eat out of the dorm once a week, I can splurge. A British couple came in almost right after I did; I thought it was funny that us foreigners outnumbered the Japanese in there for a bit.

It's only nine at night, but I'm not sure what I'll do after I finish reading over the "new member" guidelines from the esteemed Panic of Wonder... Maybe there's something good on TV (shrug). Given that I didn't get up until after noon, I'd feel pretty weird about going to bed this early.

(eep) I went down to soak my feet for a while because they hurt so bad... which is when I noticed that part of why they hurt was because I managed to blister one of them slightly. What I get for walking around in Birks all day when it was somewhat wet. Sniffle.

Listening to Porno Graffitti... the album that hadn't been released yet last time I was here, but had singles all over the place; Kumo o mo tsukamu tami is I think how you read it... I will buy it, definitely. I hope I can find it used around here; new either here or in the State would cost me near 30$. Sigh. Something about not being able to tell anyone in person about some music I've found that I like brings all the loneliness to the front.

As I might have predicted, it's the lack of physical contact that's hurting the most. I find myself daydreaming of hugs and hands to hold, my mind flush with memories of friends and boyfriends and the feeling of affectionate hands on my shoulders. It's worst on the weekends, of course. I'd gotten myself generally used to having Jim being busy during the week, however much I wished it weren't so, but it's been a rare weekend in the last three years that we've spent apart. And knowing that my weekends will remain this way tears at my heart like a cat raking its claws through a screen door.

I'm very weak, you see. I don't consider myself one of those girls that needs to be dating someone because they don't know how to define themselves without a relationship; I know pretty much exactly who I am, and have for a long time. I almost wish I could hide behind the excuse of vapidity. No, I'm just weak, and part of what I know about myself is that I have a hard time being without physical affection and emotional support. I rely too much on external shoring up of my self because I have such a hard time doing it on my own; I dislike myself too much. And so when I'm berefit of that support, all I'm left with is my own self-pity and hatred. Which is bad enough company when I'm only a phone call away from possible help from a friend.

Well. That was an intensely disagreeable little paragraph. I haven't felt this sorry for myself in a long time. Which makes me about as attractive to anyone else as I feel to myself. Sigh.

I hate the yo-yo-ing between feeling sorry for myself and being angry with myself for being such a puss. I can't be left alone sulking for more than a minute or two without the stupid rational bit coming in and making me feel guilty for everything I'm feeling. Sometimes I'd like to just lobotomize that part of my brain and be left to be depressed in peace. Like now, for instance, I have a voice in my mind telling me that being alone isn't that bad, and that I could probably stand to appreciate it for what it'll teach me rather than whining. I love getting lectured by my own fucking conscience. Of course, it wouldn't be so bad if I could stick to feeling one thing or the other, but noooo the two emotions have to be going on at the SAME DAMN TIME. Fucking A. And I can't even get myself to have a good cry, because after a minute or so I just start feeling stupid and annoyed. Piss.


Ah, back to the dorm days; memories of washing dishes in the bathroom using handsoap in Terry. I couldn't be bothered to go up a floor and down the hall to the kitchen when there were perfectly good sinks right across from my room. There's a nice domestic feeling to just doing a few dishes at a time, really; it was soothing to stand there and just have to rinse a cup (rather than a mountain of a week's dishes, heh).

I was horrified, however, to look in the mirror, and spot not one, not two, but three budding whiteheads on my freaking NOSE. I haven't had visible pimples on my nose since I was going through puberty, for christ's sake. My complexion is much worse here in Japan due to the heat and humidity, but pimples on the tip of my nose are going TOO FAR. Damn you, stupid climate, damn you!

Mmm just got out of a nice bath. I didn't linger too long in the ofuro, but it was long enough to send my blood pressure all wonky. I would have stayed longer if I'd had something to read, but reading in a public bath, even if there are only 9 other women who might possibly wander in, just seems a little weird. Got mad compliments on my robe on the way up the stairs, too. Fujii-san (the timid mouse, as I think of her) and last night's toothbrush girl were raving about how pretty it was. Points to my dad for a nice buy.

But I had such an uneventful day that that's really about all I can write. None of the usual crew were around for dinner tonight; they all had things to do out on a Friday, probably. Sigh! But I am content with my baseball and my bath, and I believe I shall now go and curl up with Shirley Jackson, finish listening to my CD, and then drift off to the sound of crazy Japanese commercials.


What cracks me up is not so much that the toilets at Sumitomo are supplied with a function to create a "flushing" sound to cover up your own noises. Really, it's merely par for the course in crazy-gadget Japan. No, what makes me laugh every time is the fact that my fellow employees actually USE that function. I can just imagine those girls sitting there, hoping in vain that I can't hear them pee over the patently artificial flushing sound, and I can't help but giggle.

Today was another good day. I studied particle science for most of the day again, taking a look at some of the papers that barely made sense to me last Friday. And lo and behold, I actually understood them (well, some of them... some of them were crazy high level math about surfaces, and I was content to let that slide on through without much comprehension). Toward the end of the day I asked Yoshiyuki some questions about items in their dataset were unclear, and inadvertently managed to apparently impress the hell out of him by what I've learnt the last week. So not only do I feel like I actually synthesized some information this week, I got praised by an expert in the subject for my understanding. Go me!

I spent lunch speaking in English again; I'm perfectly happy to hang out with Ookubo-san, Ishibashi-san, Yamamoto-san, and Jon over the latter half of the lunch hour and ramble. One of those it's-sorta-nice-to-be-honestly-appreciated-for-something-you-do-naturally sort of things. Bonus point : today Jon mentioned specifically telling me where some good places to get curry are, which made me happy (he says it's something of a hobby of his to find Indian food around Osaka, heh).

Dinners spent hanging out with Tomoko, Kimura, and Arimori could start to grow on me. Even if I don't understand as much of what they're saying as I'd like (particularly Kimura, who makes no effort to simplify his Osaka-ben, heh). It's nice to have people around my own age (well, Arimori and Kimura are 25 and 26, and I'm not sure about Tomoko) to joke around with. They couldn't believe that no one had invited me out drinking yet (snicker). Arimori did the Japanese equivalent of denouncing my entire group for heartless bastards, which made me laugh. He's a really good guy, even if I'm not sure sometimes whether he's laughing at me in a good way or in the my-god-you're-an-idiot way. Sharing his Japanese wheat beer with me so that I could try it was greatly appreciated.

The defenses, I must admit, have cracked. I actually caught myself the other night thinking (hiding my face) how GOOD a beer sounded. I think a lot of it is being lonely; the idea of hanging out with friends and drinking is incredibly attractive from a purely situational point of view. But some of it, sadly, is taste-related. Ryan, Jim, Patrick, they all predicted, and I scoffed... and lo how the mighty have fallen. Heh. That's me. Mighty as mighty can be.

I'm looking forward to having the weekend to goof off by myself, though. I didn't really mind giving my time up to Yoshiyuki last weekend, but it'll be fun to go down and wander around Umeda all day on Saturday like I'm planning, play tourist and take pictures. As long as I don't forget to get detergent and wash my clothes, I'll be happy. Life is shaping up pretty nicely this week.

It really is amazing what a difference having my own place makes, even if it's just a small room. I just spent some time re-reading some of my entries from when I was in Hakodate (weirdly, I left the US on the nearly the same day two years ago); between those and the glasses of two years experience, it's been an interesting half hour of reflection. I'm much better adjusted to the idea of being in Japan this time around, of course... Two extra years of study plus prior experience will do that. But a lot of the difference, I honestly believe, is the differing expectations placed on life by virtue of my housing situation. I don't expect anything from the Masudas other than a roof over my head, and they don't expect anything of me other than that I don't run screaming around the halls at 2 am. And having that situation be expected from the outset makes all the difference.

Talking about the dorm reminds me that I wanted to share some pieces out of the "Guide to Dormitory Life" they gave me, heh.

"While keeping both the dormitory regulations and the rules written in this guide, you should strive to keep the dormitory life orderly (methodical), improve the atmosphere of the dormitory and improve yourself as both an employee and a member of society."

The best are the three things I am to bear in mind while "supporting the bright and healthy atmosphere of the dormitory."

1) Please keep public morals and maintain the well-ordered (methodical) dormitory life while respecting each other and striving to improve yourself.
2) Try to avoid creating trouble in any form from which may possibly disturb the peace of this dormitory.

Wait for it... Wait for it...

3) Please lead your healthy life style, and try to take precautions against any accidents.

Yessir. Lead my healthy life style. Check.

It's hard to lead my healthy lifestyle with the terrible postures I'm forced into at work, though. There's a minature wheeled bookcase inserted underneath my desk, which happens to be at the exact right configuration such that I can't stretch out my legs. So all day I shift through a succession of positions (the winner so far is one that has me take off my shoes and stretch my feet into the second shelf of the bookcase, but the angles are still a little wrong), and hope that my knees don't cramp up. I don't know where we'd put it if we took it out from under my desk, so I guess I'll just put up with it, sigh.

And last but not least... In the signs-of-good-times department, I turned on that little TV last night to keep me company for bed, and who did I find starring in a movie that started right at that moment? The one, the only, the little brother in Long Vacation, the lead in Dekechatta Kekkon... That one actor I really like whose name I never remember! And the crowd goes wild! Woooooo! The only thing that rivaled it was discovering that Utaban is on channel 10 at 8 pm. If Jen can locate Smap Smap and Hey! Hey! Hey!, Jen is set to jet.

Heh. Conversations mumbled over toothbrushes with a girl whose name I don't know that start with her indignantly asking "Why the hell is your Japanese so good?" make me laugh.


(rolling eyes) Of course, I get to work in the morning and realize that I didn't forget the power cable, I just put it in a pocket of my backpack that I forgot about. Drrr indeed. More to come latah.

Narahara-san is my personal angel, I swear. He came into work today with a minature TV (screen about the size of Sayuri's) for me to use until I get an actual one. So I've now got the Hanshin game going on in the background. :D He also gave me a prepaid keitai (cell phone) for me to use in case of emergency before I get a real one. I have to pay him back for the time I use, of course, but still. It was like Christmas at work this morning! He got a lot of nanpa (basically, hitting on girls) ribbing about it, heh.

Work wasn't so spiffy today (reading and more reading, discrete element modeling and neural networks, hooray!), but I'm in a really good mood. It was actually decent out today; the humidity really wasn't bad at all, and not to hot. I got paid (not reimbursed for my passes yet, piss), and I took the chance to get an ice cream cone when I got off the train, and my dad gave me a subscription to Salon so I can get some decent commute reading material, and the sunset was pretty, and I got to go grocery shopping, and take a nice walk. Pretty much the exact opposite of yesterday.

As mentioned, I took advantage of the lovely evening to take a walk. I hurried right back out after getting home, with my camera, with some lame-brained idea of snapping a couple pictures before the light fled, but alas, it was not to be. My camera sux0rs in low light. I decided to walk home along side streets and decided that Toyonaka MUST be home to some serious cash. There are some ridiculously huge houses tucked back there, and I counted no fewer than six Mercedes, eight BMWs, two Volkswagen bugs, and three Audis. And hardly a car older than 3 years, I'd wager. Snicker, that reminds me. The other thing that cheered me up on the way home was seeing an uber p1mpmobile drive by. Silver BMW roadster with tinted windows and maroon interior, with a strung-out looking guy smoking out the window and yelling into a cell phone. Hehe.

One of the nice things about being a gaijin is that the people handing out shit in the streets tend to ignore me completely. I've only had to wave off crap once in the last week or so. It makes weaving through the streets so much less stressful. Wow... "week or so" I say. I've been here over a week already?

Oh man, choices choices... Hanshin game on one channel, Tigers game with PIP commentary by Smap on another! (laughing) Oh, the hardship of TV (dancing).

And Chinese food for dinner tonight. The cooks here must have some sort of special affection for Chinese; I don't think I ever had it while I was in Japan last time. Tasty, don't get me wrong, I is not complaining. Got to chat with Tomoko some more, and Stefan... All in all, it met the requirements for a good dinner. I think I shall now retire to enjoying the brain rotting that Narahara-san has gifted me with the opportunity to indulge in.


Drrr... And so begins a likely common trend of leaving the power cable for Sayuri at work by accident. Ah well, I'll just hope I don't run her down goofing off tonight.

Spent a nice hour chatting with Arimori-san and Kimura-san... Stefan and I were talking in English over dinner right next to them, but I really wanted to see what they were working on. So once Stefan went up for the night I wandered over to where they'd relocated on the couches and asked if I could listen in. They were discussing an organic synthis Kimura-san is trying to get to go; I understood so much of it, I was really proud. Reminded me how much better I understand Japanese when I already know the underlying subject material, heh. We kind of got derailed, though, with them asking me all sorts of questions. They thought I was 25! o_O

They called another guy over to consult on the synthesis at one point... I didn't catch his name, but I was pleased when he told me quite sincerely that he thought I had a beautiful accent. I'm so used to Japanese people routinely and perfunctorily telling me my Japanese is so great, it was really nice to have someone say it and actually seem to mean it.

Hanging out with them made me feel much better; I was really out of sorts from bashing my head against engineering I only barely understand all day. And getting on the loop line going the wrong way because I wasn't paying enough attention to where the crowd swept me, and having to get off at a weird station and go back (wasting about a half hour in the process). And having the computer I was using at Complex suddenly drop its Internet connection in the middle of me writing a letter to Steph. And not realizing that the girl at Complex overcharged me by a half hour until I was a block away and really thought out what she had said. And getting totally poured on. BAH.

Today was the first day when I really wished I had my trenchcoat. It was POURING, and still is... The sort of rain where you actually want both a coat and umbrella. People always assume I'm used to rain because I'm from Seattle; other Seattle people, I've had enough, it's time to drop the illusion and admit to everyone as a group that the rain in Seattle is nothing and that we've been joshing everyone for years. In Seattle, you want a coat OR an umbrella, not both, and really, only pansies use umbrellas (mostly joking). The rest of us just hunch our shoulders up and endure the drizzle. Fricking typhoon season in Japan is an entirely different story. Grumble.

Other than complaining, I don't have a lot to say about today. I studied alllll day at work today, with a small break at lunch. I know a shitload more about hopper design and Mohr stress circles and powder mechanics than I did this morning but (scrubbing face) my brain hurts. I feel a lot better about understanding the fundamentals of what the group is doing, so that's something. Yoshiyuki's gone all tomorrow, so I won't have anything to do but study study and study some more again. w00t?

I get paid tomorrow, but it's only for half a month, and they aren't reimbursing me for my flippity flipping train passes yet. WTF. I want my 600 goddamn dollars. If I want to get a TV, money's going to be tight in here.

I asked Narahara-san today if there were any places to get used electronics around Toyonaka (I don't think I've mentioned that he lives just a few blocks from the dorm), and he said that if I could wait until weekend after next, he'd go with me, the sweetie. Don't tell his wife, heh. But apparently he also sent out an email to everyone (he didn't copy me on it so I found out from Yoshiyuki) asking if anyone had an extra TV stashed in a closet to lend to me, which I appreciated. I'd feel weird about asking, myself, but doing it unwittingly like proxy is okay. Heh. I'll probably end up having to buy one, though... anyone who's changed TVs lately in the group probably tossed their old one instead of keeping it around. Stephen says that I can get about 12 local channels without paying for cable, which would be an extended annoying process for only a six month stay. I can live with 12 channels of Japanese chaos quite nicely, I think.

This has been a terrible update, but I've now confirmed definitely that using the kb saps extra battery power (gone down 15% in the last 20 minutes), so I'm going to throw up my hands in despair and call it good.


That does it. I have to go clothes hunting. With my camera. I've had it with laughing helplessly as funny shirts go by; some of this shit needs to be memorialized. And if I can find that "Mind the Vomits" shirt, I am SO buying it (giggling). I uploaded a bunch of pictures from my camera today; this'll get posted tomorrow morning before work, but during lunch tomorrow I'll try to rename them something intelligible. There's not a great amount of Engrish, but there's some pictures of things like my dorm room and the mysterious no-door public bathroom in the nearby park.

I was very proud of myself for getting the camera up and running. I'd assumed that it would just work, because it "just worked" as an external drive on my machine at home. Lo, the laziness that Win2K has taught me. I had kind of forgot all that DRIVER CRAP you have to do with Win98. Not that installing drivers is very difficult, but it is a little harder when you're trying to do it quickly on your lunch break and you can't read half of the dialogs. I just let my Windows spideysenses guide me to click either "yes" or "no," though, and everything came right the first time around. I rules0r.

On the other hand, I can't figure out wtf is wrong with PIE on Sayuri. When she's in her cradle at work, MSN Messenger works just fine... AvantGo picks up Web content just fine... but PIE spits in my face and can't find a connection. Unfortunately, JournalBar (the program I use to get weather and some additional news) piggybacks on PIE, so it isn't working either. Piss.

I met the famous Barker-san today. Well, not so famous, but it was getting ridiculous with everyone asking me if I'd met him yet. Yes, the powders group is graced with two of us foreign devils; Jon is a full-time employee, not an intern, but he's as British as British can be (pansy Eurotrash British, not kickass kill-you-and-kick-your-dead-body cockney British or anything). And OMG is he CUUUUUUUTE. Mmm mmm mmm I so win in the eye candy department. He'd been out on business all last week but I went up to him and introduced myself today... mostly so that I could finally tell people I'd met him. He told me that Stefan had told him about me... (eep).

He speaks Japanese with a very heavy British accent, which I find simply hilarious. I've never heard anything like it. I found out over lunch that he knows all the places to get Indian food in town, so I might bug him before the weekend (they don't feed us dinner on Saturdays at the dorm). Trust the Brit to know where the curry flows. Anyway, totally aside from the fact that he's cute, he really was incredibly nice (I do pay attention to, and give more weight to, things other than looks, despite all appearances to the contrary. Shut up, Mr. Dammen). He said that he did JET for two years out of college, so he understands my worries about coming into the job a long time separated from taking chem. It did make me feel better, a little.

Today was largely unremarkable other than the meeting of Jon, though. I started working through several of Yoshiyuki's derivations to get my mind more on math; I can't get one of them to come out right, though, unless I arbitrarily set two sets of variables equal to each other. I guess I'll ask him about it tomorrow... He also gave me the beginnings of the data set that he wants me to start work on. I really don't know what I'm going to do with it except in the most general sense (moan). I feel bad to bug him all the time, although I guess as my mentor/supervisor, he's supposed to be available for that. Why oh why couldn't I have gotten the web design internship? Wahhhhh.

My next door neighbor Tomoko asked me to eat with her tonight (smile). My Japanese was not in fine form, but she and the boy we ate with (whose name I've already forgotten, sigh) were impressed anyway. I guess when your main experience has been Jon's crazy accented Japanese, anything sounds good (heh). I also figured out on the way up why Kubota-san seems so cute (other than the tallness); he's Josh Roberts transplanted to Japan. Down to the crooked smile. I hadn't thought about Josh in a long time... it surprised me that I made the connection.

(dancing) And my ATM card came! Hooray hooray hooray! I can go get money tomorrow! I do have to wait until after work, unless I can find a non-retarded ATM... the ATMs in Japan are only useable at certain times of the day, and the main ones I know about for my bank are only turned on 8am-9pm. My card is all shiny and has my name on it in raised gold katakana... Spiffy spiffy!

And yet another night with nothing to do than snag my book and head to bed before 10. I'm turning into Brandon! (hehe) What I wouldn't give for a TV, a computer, or some friends. I don't stay late enough at work to hit most of the people coming home, and I don't know most of them very well anyway. Most of the people at the dorm work up in Takarazuka, not in Kasugade (where the plant I work at is), so I don't see them but at meals or randomly in the hallways... I knew it'd take a while to make friends; I'd just stopped noticing how much time I spent on my computers at home. Sayuri's a great toy (btw, if anyone wants to toss me a serial for Pocket PC Text Twist, I'd appreciate it... I don't want to pay 15$ for just one Astraware game when I paid 15$ for Bejeweled, Atomica, AND Alchemy, and the delay before playing has started to get annoying), and news reader, but I miss having Photoshop and shell access to a Unix server and web browsing and Emacs and... all that jazz, at home.


Melancholy is finding Lars hair on one of your shirts.

Ugh, man oh man is today nasty icky. Muggy muggy muggy. I went exploring for an hour or so around Toyonaka, and my shirt and jeans are now drenched. Ick. I discovered that there is really no reason for me to ever head northeast, away from the station, ever again. There is nothing of interest up there, nada. Although I did find a crazy riced-out car which was pretty funny.

I find it amazing how many BMWs and Mercedes I'm seeing around. I haven't been walking on the streets elsewhere in Osaka, so I don't know if it's a Toyonaka-local phenomenon or what. But I'd say 1 in 5 or 6 cars is a European import. Even if it's only a Toyonaka thing, it really serves to highlight the difference between rural Hakodate and here. Boggle.

So I ended up spending last night at Yoshiyuki's house. He invited me over to meet his family, and once it got late they got all up in arms about how it wasn't safe for me to go home by myself. I didn't mind so much; it was really fun to hang out with his kids and watch TV and talk last night. His daughter Yumi is 16 and speaks some English (his son Yuuki is stubbornly monolingual, heh, and quite shy). Amusingly, it turns out that the tall Wyoming kid is in her class. I really liked Yumi; she's a pretty adorable girl and was happily eager to explain Japanese pop culture to me. Turns out we both have huge crushes on Katori Shingo (of Smap fame), heh.

I did score some points with Yuuki for being a baseball fan, though. He started teaching me the songs to sing for each player on the Tigers that comes to bat (apparently the Hanshin Tigers are something of a local team, kind of shared between Kobe and Osaka, with a lot of players from both cities). Man, was the game last night brutal. Things were tied up until the 8th inning, when the Tigers scored 10 runs. Blink. Three homers including one grand slam, just to make it worse. Yuuki was going nuts, running around the apartment screaming and banging noisemakers together. We were playing against the Yomiuri (sp?) Giants, Tokyo's team; the Giants are kind of like Japan's Yankees, the rich team that buys up all the talent and dominates the game, the team that everyone loves to hate. Especially Yuuki, heh.

Yoshiyuki's wife Yoshiko (hahahaha, I didn't tell her that's what I named my computer) was also really nice, and a tasty cook to boot. She made me okonomiyaki and yakisoba (dancing) for dinner, earning her my loyalty forever and ever. She suggested that all five of us go up to Kyoto sometime, which would be super cool; I don't really relish the idea of going on a big sightseeing trip all by myself.

Mmmmm tasty Japanese curry for dinner tonight! If every weekend is this good for food, I'll definitely have to be taking hour-long hikes around the city to work things off. I got to meet another person at the dorm today; cutie-pie Shinichiro Kubota. He's been hard not to pay attention to, given that he's at least six feet tall, freakish for a Japanese guy. He was sitting with Stefan when I came down for dinner, so I chatted with the pair of them; Kubota-san's English is not quite as good as Stefan's, but some code-switching on my behalf kept them both laughing at my witty self, hehe.

Pretty fractured entry today, but it's been a weird day full of naps and studying and feeling icky because of the heat... so oh well.


Well, I lied about writing more. I got terribly depressed for no real reason on the train on the way home (I think it was mostly because I didn't get home until really late, so I was hungry, and tired, and had to deal with a drunk guy to boot). It was all I could do to keep from crying while I ate dinner downstairs, and then I just couldn't face the idea of staying up, that depressed, so I went to bed at like 9:15. Bah. So of course now I'm wide awake at 9 am on Saturday with nothing to really do.

This morning and last night have decided me absolutely that I should get a TV for my room. Even a really small one... I feel weird about watching anything but baseball on the TV in the dining room, and when I'm depressed, there's nothing else to do here that'll distract my mind from worries or boredom like TV can. I've only got another couple days worth of reading left on the Shirley Jackson book Seth lent me, and after that, it's going to be Japanese reading. Which I don't have a problem with in principle, but when I'm upset, having to figure out kanji is more than I want to deal with. At least with the TV on, I can just focus on images and let the Japanese roll off my back if I want to. The monthly charge for TV is only about 1000 yen, so might as well... if I can find a TV, hah. Narahara-san asked me if I wanted one; maybe he has an extra or knows a good place to get one.

Yoshiyuki's picking me up at noon to go do something with his family... that may or may not suck. I'm not really keen on the idea of meeting new people just for the sake of doing it, which is pretty much what this is: I'm American and so he wants his family to meet me. His daughter is studying English and I think he wants her to talk to me (rolling eyes). He's kind of like my dad making me speak Japanese, or Spanish, all the time. If my co-workers and his daughter feel half as annoyed about his behavior as I did about Dad's, then I feel really sorry for them.

There were a couple things I was going to mention yesterday... what were they? Oh yes. I'm starting to wonder if my brain really only has two modes at the moment. I can either be understanding Japanese really well, but be unable to adequately produce, or the other way around. Yesterday was another one of the I-can't-really-speak days. Blah. And then as the day wore on, my ability to understand eroded as well; that's another part of why I was so upset last night. I went with Yoshiyuki up to Kyoto yesterday afternoon to meet with a professor friend of his at Kyoto Daigaku (Kyoto University). Normally I have the problem with Japanese that I understand the general gist of what is being said, but word-to-word meanings escape me. Yesterday, it was (very weirdly) the opposite. I understood a lot more of the scientific blather than I should have, reasonably (I can thank a year of TJ for that... why else would I know the words for things like seed crystal and microscale?), but the overall meanings were totally going over my head. So frustrating to have a grasp on so much vocabulary, for once, but not be able to follow the conversation. Bah.

The other thing that occured to me yesterday, an epiphany if you will, had to do with Engrish. We laugh all the time at funny marketing Engrish, but I spent a while yesterday on the trains (given the commute to work and to Kyoto yesterday, I was on trains for a total of about 3.5 hours) looking at advertisements... and I noticed that even in Japanese, this shit makes no sense. Even if you produced the most beautiful translation possible (which admittedly is rare), a lot of marketing Japanese would come out as total nonsense anyway. Their marketing sensibilities, in terms of slogans and whatnot, are just that different.

I've been snapping a few pictures here and there, but I didn't get a chance at work yesterday to up them like I meant to, so hopefully on Monday they'll start making appearances. I do need to work up the courage to stop in the train station and snap one of the "cool/lovely" English conversation billboard... maybe I'll just wander over there at night sometime so it's less crowded. My favorite so far is the "Beer Restaurant" that I pass every day. I mean, what other kind of restaurant would you possibly want?

The reason I didn't get a chance to up stuff yesterday was that my lunch break was unexpectedly co-opted by some co-workers. Co-doing something. Heh. Anyway, I nerved myself up and went to the shokudo (cafeteria) by myself a bit late today (Yoshiyuki dragged me along on a safety inspection thingie 20 minutes before lunch), and sat down with Shimura-san and some other guys whose names I haven't learned yet. They very nicely waited for me to be finished before they left (they all eat mad quick, and I was a bit late to boot), and then Shimura-san invited me to come along with him for break. There's a very few people who work during the lunch hour, but most everyone takes the time to go do hobby or sports stuff. There's an English conversation group that meets twice a week that Ishibashi-san invited me to come along to, for example. But Shimura-san is one of the sports people.

He and a bunch of other guys play what they call "free tennis." The rules are basically like tennis or ping pong, and the scale is roughly in between the two. They use paddles about twice the size of ping pong ones, and the court is roughly two or three times the size of a ping pong table, with a proportional net that brushes the ground and is just under a foot or so tall. They play out in one of the back roads of the plant, heh... the ball kept on going under stacks of pipes and shit. I didn't play at all this time, even though they asked if I wanted to, but I might wander out and try my hand at it... It looked like something that even I could do decently.

I didn't really know any of their names, even though I've been introduced to several of them (whoops). One of them I swear looks exactly like a Japanese version of that uggin' French director whose name I can't remember... the one who did City of Lost Children and The Delicatessen. I really like one of the other ones, though, a wiry and dirty plant engineer whose dialect is so strong I can't understand more than a couple words what he's saying at any given time. But he was really funny, mocking the other players and dancing around every time he scored a point. The best, though, was when they were tied up at one point and he strikes a pose and shouts dramatically... "With this serve, everything will be DECIDED!!" And serves it directly into the net. Hehe. He screamed and threw himself onto the concrete and threw a tantrum while we all cracked up, and then yelled at us all something about how he'd laugh while we all sucked, or something... I think, heh. I was just glad that I understood the whole "everything will be decided" part so that the joke made sense. Anyway, a lot of other people do baseball, soccer, basketball, and such at lunch, but free tennis is a sport I could probably actually play.

I'm gonna have to get a belt for my uniform, particularly if I do much running around. The pants fit basically perfectly, but instead of a button closure, it's got velcro (weiiirddd). And it's the sort of "fits perfectly" where if I have a big lunch or something, it fits not too perfectly (rolling eyes). The next size up for pants would be waaayyyy too big, though, so for now, I have to be careful not to burst velcro loudly apart (giggling). I just hope I end up losing some weight, really. I'm walking a lot more than I was at home, but I'm also eating more meals a day. Smaller meals, generally, but still. I guess we'll see how the breakdown looks in about a month, hah. As long as I don't gain, I'll be happy.


Grumble. There's a stand-up shower type thing in the dorm, but I can't get it to actually have hot freaking water. Today it was hot for about 30 seconds, long enough for me to get in, and then it went ice cold... I guess I'll ask what's up, because bathing sitting down isn't comfortable for someone who's not used to it.

(laughing) So I get into work today and Ueda-GM is steaming mad about my uniform! He overheard me complaining about it yesterday and investigated; apparently, I was (along with all the female engineers, as opposed to the secretaries and technicians) supposed to get a choice between decent gear and clown suit, but the HR people just assumed and gave me one. But now I've got a normal uniform on the way (dancing). There will be more on this development later tonight, when I don't feel guilty about goofing at work.


I promise to never ever forget my water bottle to work again. Guh. Right around 3 I get hit with a super case of the dizzy thirsties, and the amount of liquid you can get out of the vending machines at work is somewhat limited.

Today was ridiculously busy (until the last couple hours, when I just sat on my duff and read journal articles on powder technology, heh). I had six kyouiku (training, or orientation) meetings, with five different people, on all manner of random crap... everything from the patent process at Sumitomo to a full-on plant tour (which was pretty interesting, actually, even though 45 minutes of going up and down stairs in the various un-air-conditioned plant buildings was a strain).

The best part was getting to meet several more people in the group. Ishibashi-san was almost as good to listen to as Narahara-san, and just as nice... I felt bad that I kept on getting distracted by his fingers (heh). He's got some weirdness such that from the last joint on all his fingers, it rather looks like he's got olives stuck on. Very round, and wider around than the rest of his fingers... wacky. Fujisawa-san briefed me on computer stuff (he works under Narahara-san), and was suitably impressed by my l33t computer skills. He also spent a long time showing me how to use a shinkansen (bullet train) fare finder, which was largely an excuse for us to talk about other random stuff, particularly Sayuri, under the guise of working. Incidentally, he cleared me to install stuff on my computer for synching. w00t! I should be getting this stuff uploaded tomorrow morning if I can get my ass in early. Terada-san is the technician in charge of the lab space for our sub-group; a very smart guy to everyone's account... and mad cute and funny. He and I spent a lot of time joking about lab rules (like how he'd fly to my aid like Superman if I started dying in the lab, heh). Shimura-san and Ookubo-san were largely unremarkable, but very nice.

I also met with the head of the department, Ishimaru-san, for a bit in the morning (organizationally speaking, he's at the top of this particular research collective; there's four general managers below him, one for each group, and then each group has four or five section managers for sub-groups, of which Yoshikyuki is one). It was kind of uncomfortable at the time... I didn't know what to say to him. But he went out of his way to ask me to go to lunch; apparently he hangs out with all us peons for that hour every day. Over lunch there were more people around, so I wasn't so embarrassed... the fact that the cutest guy in our group is apparently a regular cafeteria goer along with that bunch was merely icing on the cake. Heh. I haven't figured out his name yet; he doesn't wear his uniform jacket much, so his nametag is always sitting on the back of his chair, facing in.

Which brings me to my uniform. Sheesh. When Yoshiyuki said it was "not good in style or dress," he WASN'T kidding. I held out hope all yesterday that I'd get a cool one like all the guys were wearing (well... comparatively cool. They really aren't bad at all, tan jackets and pants like you might see mechanics wear). I'd seen several women wearing an ugly monstrosity, but some women were running around in similar outfits to the guys in my section, so I was crossing my fingers. I'm still not sure why I've been seeing some women wearing decent gear... maybe they've passed some sort of esoteric "you no longer have to look like a circus clown" bar.

So yeah. Theme colors are pale yellow and blue. w00t. I did figure out that I don't have to wear the provided shirt unless the one that I wear in that day is patently unsuitable for work... given that none of my clothing is patently unsuitable, I'm in the clear from having to wear the goldenrod polo shirt that goes down to my knees because sizes are so off from my body type over here. What was giving me fits was the over shirt jackety type thing. Pale yellow with blue piping, baby, and down to my knees from the same sizing issue. Hot as freaking hell in addition to the mad fashion sense. I'd seen a lot of the guys running around without their jackets, but no women, so I was despairing that I'd have to be wearing it all the time. Thank god, Yoshiyuki told me that I only have to wear it when I'm wandering around the plant or up in the lab. Hoooooorraaaay. I don't mind the pants and safety shoes so much, so not having to wear the clown shirt while I'm at my desk totally made my day.

Well, what actually made my day was the amount I understood today. I was worried that I'd have problems with stuff like regulations and all, but my Japanese listening skills were in fine form. Production wasn't as sweet as it could have been, but hey, I'll settle for one at a time.

It was crazy muggy today. A typhoon is supposed to be sweeping in tomorrow, and today was a complete sauna. It wasn't all THAT hot, I guess, about 86 degrees, but when the humidity is about fifty million percent, that's plenty hot, thank you very much. It does present the single advantage of having a work uniform; the outfit I sweat in all day is not the one I have to sweat to and from work in, and vice versa.

I'm feeling really good about being here today. I'll probably get really lonely this weekend, and work is going to be mind-numbing for the next while, but other than that, things are generally keeping me busy enough to not worry too much about the whole Jim situation. Sigh. Distraction. Good for the soul. Sort of.


I'd forgotten that wearing my Birks in the rain dyes the bottom of my feet. Oops. I just got home from my first day of work, but before I get to that, I wish to relate the "woah, white person!" moment of the day. So I'm being buffeted around in Osaka station when I hear a little gasp and a "mite mite" (look look) to my side. And I turn to see a Japanese girl tugging at the arm of a very tall blond kid whille pointing at me. Having had a long day, I just said the first thing that came to mind... the aforementioned "woah, white person" comment. The kid started cracking up and told me that that was exactly what he'd been thinking; said I made his day by actually voicing it. Heh. High school exchange student from Wyoming, of all places. Boggle.

Just had (tasty Chinese) dinner with Stefan the weird German guy. His English is not terrible, and his sense of humor is a little more in line with America than the Japanese are, so it was nice to chat with him. But DAMN is he weird, in that sort of uncomfortable science geek sort of way. It was nice of him to explain some dorm stuff in more intelligible English than the rule pamphlet they gave me, though.

So. First day of work. "Work" (rolling eyes). They have no frigging clue what to do with me. I gather that everything concerning me was given to Yoshiyuki, and he's more concerned with my English than anything else. Bah. I got a lot of chances to meet people, and most of them were just overjoyed that I speak Japanese, so they don't have to try to hobble along in English. I guess I understand Yoshiyuki's drive to make me speak in English to people so that they have to practice it... but it seems kind of mean to them, and bluntly, demeaning to me.

I think that eventually they'll have me working with their software for statistical modelling of powder dispersion. Yoshiyuki's all hot about how much better able to do analysis they are with this particular neural network software. But apparently, no one in the group wants to deal with it, because the software and the documentation are all in English (hehe). It's comforting to think that eventually I'll have something more interesting to do than hang out with Yoshiyuki for an hour and a half while he's supposed to be working, talking about whatever pops into my head.

In other news, I've already found my favorite person (so far, heh); wonder of wonders, it's the computer guy, Narahara-san. I'm not sure exactly what he does research-wise, but he was in on a research meeting this afternoon so it must be something. But his primary job is to be the support and admin type person for our group (amusingly, his initials in Outlook are NA... network admin... haha... get it? Never mind), and apparently, he drew short stick on getting to do orientation for me today, hah. I didn't realize until this afternoon that he speaks decent English, which is good to know; I'd been distracted by the fact that he has the most understandable Japanese of anyone I've met so far, and that he seems to be the only Japanese person I've ever met with a good grasp on the idea of explaining a concept, using examples, to someone who's lacking vocabulary knowledge. I dunno, it never seemed that hard to me to explain around a vocab block to someone who doesn't speak English well, but no Japanese person I've met other than my teachers at school have ever had it occur to them. They just try different vocab, which isn't the most useful.

Anyway, I think I'm just going to be sitting around, trained monkey style, for the next couple weeks... I have my own computer and everything, but the screen is pretty visible to other people, so I feel a little weird about mucking around online or somesuch. I will try to go in early in the next day or two and install ActiveSync to get stuff dumped over... I'm not sure if I want to ask permission to install my own stuff or not. We'll see what sort of mood Narahara-san is in tomorrow; maybe if I couch it in terms of being able to sync Sayuri to my Outlook schedule.

And the parting shot... two more cute women found today; my next door neighbor and Higo-san down the hall. And none of my Asian-loving friends will ever meet either of them! Haha! Take that all you people who will never come here!


Stupid jet lag. I was tired enough to go to sleep at 9 pm and then I'm wired as wired can be at 3:45 in the morning. I finally gave up on trying to get back to sleep; I figure if I end up crashing early tonight, that's just less reason that I might be late for work tomorrow.

Ater spending a couple hours amusing myself watching videos I'd stored on Sayuri, I still don't know if I can get back to sleep. I gotta be "up" in just over an hour... I guess I'll just try for a nap.

Breakfast: generally tasty. I think I'll check out prices of bread and stuff at the store, though, because given how infrequently I actually want to eat breakfast, having to shell out 200 yen/day for it isn't my style. Notes to self: avoid the "milk," I think it's actually cream (cream is good and all that, but not a whole glass of it). Also, avoid the toast pockets stuffed with egg salad. EWWWWWW.

(grin) There's certain sorts of things that can't help but make you grin; Big Pimpin' blasting out your earphones while you're on the train surrounded by a bunch of withered old Japanese women is one of them. The first thing I did after I got free of Yoshiyuki today was predictable... I found the Mister Donut right by Toyonaka Ekimae (my station in Toyonaka), and I had myself a curry doughnut. And let me tell you. It was every bit as tasty as two years of longing had painted it to be.

And today I learned to pay attention to which direction I take on the train. Because as much fun as going north for 15 minutes (where the train turns around) was... particularly getting to then ride it back for 15... I think I'll pass on doing it again.

It's very depressing to be coming home at 5:15 and seeing all the schoolkids just then being released. Poor little bastards. It's also a litle depressing to come home, be the only person in the dorm other than the caretakers and the cooks, and realize that tomorrow I have to go to work. Albeit as a glorified, English-speaking trained monkey, but still. Shit, I gotta come up with a speech for tomorrow, almost forgot. o_O

On a completely different topic, I successfully navigated downtown after the incorrect train incident, and made it back intact after checking the email. I rock? I even saw another gaikokujin downtown. I was like... wtf, a white dude! There must be more of us around, because I'm not getting stared at a fraction as much as I did in Hakodate, which is a relief. It allows me to stare at all of them so much better when they're not looking back at me, heh. In my studied analysis of the Japanese people today, I found three attractive ones. All the rest need bags over their heads (or maybe to scrape some makeup off... I honestly couldn't tell what a few of the girls looked like). And I noticed a new trend (well, a non-Hakodate trend) in old-ladies-on-bikes: the handlebar doily. It's like a ovenmitt, except lacy, and it covers your hands when you're riding your bike. Inquiring minds want to know: do the doily ladies ALSO wear the white gloves that the non-doily ladies do?

Experimenting with radio, I can actually pick up one station in my room. Only one, but it gives me hope for picking up other ones elsewhere. Maybe. The fact that I only pick up station "Boring Newscasts All Day" 101.8 is not the most promising, though. I swear to god, they're broadcasting out of someone's basement, too. I keep hearing faucets running and paper rustling and people yelling at kids and shit. But hey, it gives me something Japanese to listen to while I study, and their sports coverage includes the Mariners. Wait a minute, study, you ask? Because damned if I'm going lose my abilities to read/write kanji just because I no longer have to study them every day. I'll go get some manga in a day or two, and study time will be much more fun, but for now, I've got a company memo, a discount ticket from the Internet cafe, and that sign in the bathroom that I totally don't understand. I don't want to inadvertently end up like all those people who live in Japan for years and manage to never learn a single kanji just because they never need to write. Plus it gives me an excuse today to reward myself with other long-missed treats like coffee milk and Japanese bread. Mmmm... Japanese bread.

Some serious studying, dinner, and a baseball game later, and still no speech has come to mind. And I'm fucking dog tired. I hung out in the common room for a while tonight, watching the Yankees-wannabes Hanshin Tigers (complete with ripped-off looking logo and pinstripes) play against some dudes wearing blue. I think the blue dudes were the Yokohama BlueSomethings. Blue Stars? Blue Shizzles? Who knows. I'd somewhat forgotten how much I like watching baseball in Japan. I like watching normally, too, but when I'm far from home, it's even better... Watching all those people cheering their hearts out for an American sport... aww. Funnier still that there's gotta be more foriegners playing professional baseball in Japan than all of the rest of us here put together. Both teams sucked it up, but I was distracted by things like the traffic-cop type guys in the audience who were directing cheers. Yes, they were wearing the ubiquitious white gloves. Heh.

And a few minutes later I decide, fuck the speech. I'll wing something about the UW and learning about chemistry and improving my Japanese, and they'll think I'm an idiot, but whatevah. My dinner's not sitting so well and I just want to go to sleep. Dunno what it is tonight; dinner was suprisingly tasty. I don't know where the hell the cooks got the idea of putting sliced tomato on top of lightly breaded pork, smothering it in cheese, and then baking the whole thing, but hey, I'm down. Maybe it was the salmon in the cold dish... I eat so little fish normally, maybe that and the unidentifiable white fishlike substance last night are what's rumbling in my tummy. At least I'm eating the fish. That's more than some picky eaters would do. They try to throw olives at me, though, they're flat out of luck. Even if they cover them with cheese.


Well, after much fumbling, I figured out how to turn on the AC in my room. Thank god. I mean, I know I'm a wuss... but when I have access to a perfectly good air conditioner, the electricity fee for which is apparently included in my 1000 yen/month general utilities charge, I'm not going to have my room be 80 freaking degrees. Even if that's still significantly cooler than outside. Guh.

My room is bigger than I expected, but laid out weirder. There's a lot of wasted tatami mat space. At the same theoretical point at which I get set up to actually put these updates up (I dunno if I'll be able to use a company computer's USB or if it'll take a few days of looking for an Internet cafe... where hopefully I can have access to a USB port), I'll dump some pictures of the place.

Had my first dinner at the dorm. Not the most icky Japanese food I've had, but on top of all the stress today, it's not sitting as well as it could. Apparently I don't pay them directly for my meals; there's a sheet (somewhere, I don't know where, sigh) that I can cross off if I don't want a meal, otherwise the cost each month is deducted from my salary. I don't know how I feel about that; I don't like the idea of having to know a day in advance if I'm going to eat here or not. Bother. The company cafeteria at the plant though, is apparently easy to steer clear of without having to tell someone about my every move (and Yoshiyuki recommended, with an appropriately distasteful face, that I avoid it and just bring my own food).

The dormitory has turned out to be danjo (male/female), actually. I'm in a special wing with the other women. The caretakers don't speak English, and Yoshiyuki insisted to them that my Japanese is perfect (wince). I understood most of what they said to me... or at least most of the rule-wise stuff. The other stuff... not so much. They're really nice, though, and they're giving me a refrigerator that another tenant who just moved out was going to throw away. How sweet is that.

Yoshiyuki has requested that I speak to him in English. I guess that's fine; I'll have plenty of opportunities to speak Japanese in the next six months. He's a nice guy, decently talkative, and with poor, but passable English. I think he'll keep a good eye on me.

Have I mentioned that I'm incredibly homesick? Sigh. I've been avoiding the thought, personally, but being alone in a room has a way of letting it sneak up on you. I knew I would be; not being able to call home or even email is hurting the soul. And that's not even considering Jim. Ah well; I've been waiting all day to cry; maybe now's the time.


I've decided that the way I'll keep it straight is that anything I decide to write (or do) before I get off the plane in Osaka counts as being "today," regardless of whether it actually is in any sort of general sense.

So this is the first update typed with the kb on Sayuri (I haven't practiced enough; my fingers are definitely trying to make bigger movements than they should be... but it beats the hell out of the whole writing-it-down-and-then-transcriibing-it-later shiz that I did last time). It's 6:50 am, Seattle time, and I'm on a plane to San Francisco. I look terrible; three hours of sleep does that for you. And crying. Jim and I were pretty good, actually. There was crying, but no wailing, so nobody at SeaTac stared or anything. Sigh. For all our high and mighty planning, we just don't know wtf we're going to do. But I hereby say that I will put that whole problem out of my mind until I'm no longer surrounded by tens of strangers.

Anyway, I just thought I'd get a head start on what promises to be six months of uberupdates. All that crap I'd normally just say to people and get it out... will now be crap online! And I hope to have a way to get pics up as well, because that'd be sweet.

9:07 am. Fuck me if San Francisco doesn't have the WORST GODDAMN SECURITY CHECKERS IN THE WORLD. For one thing, I understand that they've only got one team slotted to work before 9 on Sundays, that's understandable. But I just spent 45 minutes in line waiting for those fucktards to do their job competently. They finally opened up another lane at 8:45... and let the man three people back from me start the charge for it (the way it's set up, they could have easily started the line split right at the head of the line... two people ahead of me). And then apparently everyone and their mother gets to work at 9, so they were skipping all the employees to the front... of just the one lane. My lane. I was good natured about the six people that got to cut the two people ahead of me... but when I was standing there, shoes off, right about to go through the gate, as twelve (TWELVE) employees got to cut me, well, I got a little pissy.

I'm a little worried about my bags; I can't remember how it worked last time, if I had to haul them myself through some checkpoint at the midway or not. The only person who seemed to know wtf they were talking about, a baggage handler down at claim, said that since my bag check ticket says Kansai, I don't touch my bags till then. So here's crossing my fingers that I don't have to wear these same clothes for the next couple weeks. In other news, I can't quite tell yet, but it kind of seems like using the kb saps extra power. How odd.

1:56 pm, Osaka time. That's about 10 pm on the "previous day" for Seattle. I spent the last ten hours mostly sleeping, in three bursts. All I can say is thank heaven for Dad's miles. I'll cry if I ever have to do a oceanic crossing in coach again... I'm spoiled, I know it, but business class is really the only way to go for this sort of stuff. Round about an hour and a half until I meet Yoshiyuki; I'm moving into more excited than nervous, finally. As long as my bags are there, I'll be happy. Even if I seem unable to remember any Japanese at the moment.

Call me superstitious, but I'll try to believe that Mou Kari Makka (A B'z song done in Osaka dialect) coming on is a good sign. It did herald me finally getting that "I'M GOING BACK TO JAPAN!! W00T!!" feeling, complete with total nostalgia for tasty tasty coffee milk.


Short, because I have to be up in about three and a half hours to catch my flight. Final goodbyes said and hugs received... I guess there's nothing else that I can get done. But before sleep, congratulations to Chris on his wedding today! Sorry I couldn't make it. :(

And if I left someone out while whoring out my address in Japan:

Jen Barrick
8-7-20 Honmachi Toyonaka-shi
Osaka Prefecture 560-0021

Here I go...


Heh. Nachos and beer for lunch today. Not that I want to have such a lunch every day, but I am so glad that the possibility exists to do so here. Turned in my keys, last lunch with my co-workers, said as many of my goodbyes as I'm going to get in at work. I know I'll see all my friends in just six months... but it's still a little depressing. Not quite as depressing as the prospect of no nachos for six months... but up there.


Today was spent frantically trying to get things done. Many things that should have been done were forgotten. Much extra crap was done. Hooray for stress.


T-minus a couple days and counting. Jeebus.


Happy birthday to my honey.


The paper got finished around 4:45 pm today, meaning that I could no longer weasel out of helping clean out the apartment. It's not the moving that I mind so much, really... cleaning shit is much worse than packing stuff into boxes. Particularly when you find out that apparently, the last kind of paint they used in your apartment colorizes in heat... meaning that you've got black marks all over your walls where your lamps (and fucking CLOCK BATTERIES) were close by. My hands hurt, my back hurts, and I haven't eaten in 12 hours. And then I had to crawl in Jim's window at 11:30 at night because he was still at work, Ian was gone, and he never got around (in the last fucking nine months) to getting me a set of keys. F. Not that I should be too mad about the key thing; I was with him three times when he tried to get them copied but the dude said he wouldn't copy them. But for Christ's sake, Ian put out the effort to copy Laura some keys. I don't see her crawling through the goddamn window. I guess slinky Chinese girls get perks from their boyfriends that dorky whiteys don't.


Jim and I spent the last two days driving; we took the ferry to Bremerton on Saturday and drove over to Port Angeles, and then drove back from PA to Olympia along 101 and the Hood Canal today. The most relaxing weekend I've had in... well, months. At least since this quarter started. The paper still isn't done, but I've doublechecked and I've got until 5 pm tomorrow. Thank god. Bid goodbye to my classmates at the party tonight... sad to think I won't see any of them but maybe Hayato for six months. Funny that Andy of all people was being downright flirty... heh.


I actually have a day or so of entries sitting on Chiyo, but she's at the other apartment and isn't connected to Ze Internet of Love yet. 95% out of the apartment, but of course I don't leave for a week, so I guess I'm dragging my shit around house-hopping for a while. And the paper still isn't quite done (but much more than it was). And it's 4:30 am and I'm going to go to bed. So there.


Only one more final. And the paper. Oh yes, the paper.


And the greatest plans of mice and Jen to work on the paper tonight were smashed by the dreadfulness that is my typical Tuesday. Plus the fact that I only got three hours of sleep last night. That's not helping much either. I figure, hey, there'll be enough to read here in a couple weeks... I deserve my going to bed to study at 10:28 pm.


Originally, I planned on staying up late tonight working on my paper. In actuality, I stayed up until like 1 am working on my paper (its at approximately 7.5 pages, out of a requirement of 20... due in a week). But then I stayed up another two hours packing CDs. I don't think it was really a justifiable activity or anything... it just happened to mindlessly occupy my time the way working on the site normally would at this point in time. I did determine that I have a fuckload of CDs, though. Perhaps a summer project will be to listen to all of them through, in alphabetical order...


For the first time, someone suggested that there be a get together before I go. Given that this person was my mother, it didn't really make me feel better. Schedules being what they are, I think things will be hectic enough over the next week and a half anyway without trying to plan a party, so ah well. I'm getting into frustration mode again; I get really annoyed with people who don't understand why I'm so stressed out: "when I went to Spain for a vacation, I didn't worry like you are, and things were fine." See, most of my friends grew up in the area, and so the whole idea of what goes into moving (as opposed to visiting) to a different country totally escapes them. Even friends who moved from other states... well, it's just not the same thing. I've written and erased a couple different sentences on why it's different, but I can't seem to phrase it right, so I think I'll just go and study for my Japanese finals and sulk.