Saturday, November 24, 2007

More Picture Tomfoolery

Went to Sendai to do some Christmas "shopping." I didn't buy anything, but I took one or two vaguely funny pictures, so read on.

Damn, that's depressing.

Yes, that's a big robot nonchalantly crossing the street. No one cared. Just another day in Japan, I guess.

This could be the name of the badass if unimaginative main character in a D.A.R.E. pamphlet.

This is another one of those brand names where I would give one of my kidneys to have been a fly on the wall in the meetings where they decided on it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Mochi for the Rich!

I was walking back from the local Buddhist temple with my boss tonight. We had received a big bag of celebratory mochi from the priest. "You know," my boss mentioned, "during the Edo period common people only ate mochi once a year. It was a huge luxury."

I looked down at the humble blobs of rice dough. Mochi is not a luxury to me. I gluttonously feast on it nearly every day. This concept does not compute.

"So, but I's just...rice."

"And water, yes."

"So it's just rice and water, but it was such a huge luxury you could only eat it once a year?"

"Yeah. Because you have to take the rice, soak it overnight, and then pound it into mochi with a big hammer. People didn't have enough rice to waste all that time turning it into mochi."

Damn, that is seriously poor. Imagine that. You are a farmer in Japan--a rice farmer, in fact--and you are barely subsisting to the point that you can't spare a few measly ounces of your crop to make into a delicious treat, because you might half-starve in the extra time it took.

It was a good conversation to have on Thanksgiving--something for me to consider next time I'm trying to find something to complain about.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Greatest Idea You Will Read Today

If you've visited Japan, you know that any and all debates are settled by "Jan Ken Po," or as we round-eyes call it "rock, scissors, paper." The battles here are the fiercest I've seen outside of a stoned group of Ultimate Frisbee players. Some people start to employ some strategy. For instance, one theory is that paper is subconsciously considered to be weaker than rock or scissors, even though they are equally weighted in the game. Thus, it's less common for your opponent to throw it in his first attack.

Or this strategy: tell your opponent what you're going to throw, and then throw it. They usually think you're lying, and you end up victorious. This is great for people you're playing for the first time.

The dangerous thing is when people have played you long enough to know that you usually throw rock the first time out, or that you favor a particular attack. This is where my glorious idea comes in:

A keychain randomizer to tell you what to throw. That's it. You can never be out-foxed or out-guessed by your friends. Finally, a level playing field in the never-ending battle to figure out who gets shotgun on the way back from sushi.

Japanese people already hang so much crap from their cell phones that they'd certainly find room for this useful product. Farm it out some Chinese gulag, sell at the 100 yen shops, and you'll find yourself a rich man.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Enjoy Your Limp Bizkit In Hell

Day after day of boring erging takes its toll on your will to live. You realize, at some point in the middle of your 20k, that you are sitting on a rusty piece of exercise equipment in a dark, cold, warehouse moving back and forth and getting absolutely nowhere.

The one shimmering light of fun in this bleak existence is music. I burned a great new CD with all the classics that dumb athletes love. It had Ol' Dirty Bastard, Ludacris, Beastie Boys, Silverchair, and a host of other bands from my adolescence. Basically, if you go to Hot Topic and kick the fat 14-year-old in the Deftones sweatshirt's ass and take his iPod Nano, you'll have a ballpark idea of what my CD sounded like.

Now imagine my surprise when I discovered that some bastard of a Japanese high school student ripped off my CD! The next day, I frantically shuffled through the painfully bad Japanese music, looking for it. "Radwimp?" still there. "Streat Beatz vol. 4?" Still there. "Asian Kung-Fu Generation?" Still there.

But not my CD.

So whoever you are, I'm dedicating this Asian Kung-Fu generation Youtube video to you. Enjoy your Limp Bizkit, right now I'm drafting a letter to Fred Durst letting him know that some Japanese youths are listening to pirated music he wrote. So watch out.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Japanese Pet Store

Some of us went to Sendai today. The trip was fun but not hugely notable. We did go to a Japanese pet store, so you can look at those pictures and read my hilarious commentary.

There was a monkey. Not sure if he was for sale...I think it was more like the owner of a used car lot parking his personal Ferrari out front. So exotic, so unique, but not for you.

This little guy was so cute, and so surly-looking.

I think he looks a bit like Winston Churchill here.

This was a flop-eared something or other. It was a small, frightened-looking cat.

Unrelated cognitive dissonance. Isn't this coffee shop an Oregon thing? Strange..

Thursday, November 8, 2007

"Potentially Doable"

I received a troubling e-mail from an old coach. I asked him for a training plan for my upcoming 2k race in Sendai. I told him I need to row a 6:15 and I have a month to get ready.

He said "Nate, I think a 6:15 is potentially doable."

I'm not sure what to make of that. This guy does not speak in half-measures. The freshman recruit who decided to go to Harvard didn't do so because it was a better fit, he did it because he was "a complete retard who couldn't read." This is a guy who didn't just want us to win races, he wanted us to "win by so much that the other team's parents were ashamed of their children." I was never told that rowing with slightly canted knees was a bit awkward, I was told that "it looks like babies are going to fall out of your ass at the catch."

So either the corporate world has forced tact upon his speech, or he thinks I've set myself an impossible goal. Because the guy I used to know would have said, if I even had a 50% chance of hitting my target, that I would absolutely kill the piece, get off, make myself a sandwich, and still have time to laugh at the poor bastard coming in second.

Time will tell. I did 8x 500 meters with 1 minute rest and kept the split around 1:33 today, which is around where I should be.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I'm Coming For You, Mountain Child

I received a key to the erg room this past weekend. With one month to pull myself together for my race in Sendai, I figured I better start laying down some meters.

It was rough going. If you think erging is hard, try erging to Japanese ska music--the herpetic lesion on the genitals of the international music community.

Luckily, during the rest after my first 10k I found a scratched-up copy of Bon Jovi's "Have a Nice Day" at the bottom of the CD pile. I never thought I'd compliment the man, but I must admit it felt really good to finish out the day to New Jersey's finest. It's all relative, I guess. In the land of crappy Japanese pop music, Bon Jovi starts to sound like a musical genius.

Also exciting: today may have marked the first time in the past 5 years that I've erged without hearing either "Sandstorm" OR AC/DC.

Young Girls

Tonight in my Junior High School class we were reading mini-narratives in our textbooks. These short blurbs detailed the lives of adolescents in different cultures, and were accompanied by a picture of the teenager next to the paragraph about them.

Mid-way through the story of "Adriana" from Rio de Janeiro, one of my students interrupted. "Nate sensei," she asked. "Which one is ichiban..." she struggled for the words.

"Do you need help with number one?" I asked, pointing towards the questions at the bottom of the page.

"No," she said, grasping for the English. "Which one, for you, is number one cute?" I paused, still not sure what she meant.

Then she exasperatedly pointed to the picture of young Adriana and her 2 friends. The accompanying text began with "My name is Adriana. I am thirteen and I live in Rio de Janeiro..."

"Uhhhh, none" I said. My student seemed shocked. "None???" She exclaimed, not seeming to grasp the incredible creepiness of her question. She quickly flipped over to another page with another 12-14 year old girl. "What about she?"

"No, not cute. Not number one cute."

She turned to another page, now suspicious. She pointed at the square-jawed male protagonist in the detective story at the end of the book. "Him?" she asked accusingly, then burst out into fits of emasculating laughter, which continued for a good five minutes.

All in all, not a huge boost for my "rep" tonight.