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August 31, 2002

Saturday Scruples

It's been a while since I played Saturday Scruples last.

1. The couple in the next apartment is brawling. Later, you speak to the woman who has minor bruises. She asks you not to call the police. Do you call them?

No. She asks me not to and the bruises are minor. But it could depend on how well I knew of the couple, or how mean the guy was.

2. A member of the school board is convicted of shoplifting. She is a competent official. As a parent, do you support demands for her resignation?

No. Give her another chance. If I were her, I would resign, though.

3. You're shaken up in an auto accident. Your lawyer can get a large settlement if you exaggerate your aches and pains. Do you?

Nooooooooo. I hate football players who dive and roll over the ground.

August 29, 2002

Moving, moving...

I'm getting settled in with the PC moving. There has been no problem so far. I have installed one of the heavy RPG programs I bought in Sapporo as a test, and it works with perfect smoothness. Beautiful! -- No, no, I don't have time to indulge in games. But just briefly ...

I know this year's highest-performance machine could be next year's lowest. That's what computers are about, eh? Ha! OK, I'll enjoy a here-today-gone-tomorrow kind of fun for a while. Now, what makes me mukatsuku (pissed off) is the fact that newer software products always require higher performance. I don't want unnecessary features. I don't want heavy products. Make them simple. Make them light.

Ever since I bought my first PC, it seems I've faced the choice to buy upgraded applications again and again. The newer they are, the better they look. Frankly, I can't resist in most cases even though I know they aren't always satisfactory. But interestingly, when Windows XP was released, I was somewhat indifferent to it, applying the theory that as long as the current software works all right anyway for me, I don't have to upgrade it. In fact, Windows ME was not that bad for me. I didn't need to re-install it as I had to do with 95 and 98 a couple of times. ME bashing? I don't get it. Why not MS bashing? For me, the most evil program is MS Office. I have the impression that MS products are generally heavy and unreliable. Then why do I use Windows? That's simply because I have no other choice. And it is the most widely used OS. That's all. You know, I'm an analogue guy.

August 28, 2002


OK, guys, sounds like it's much better for me to start using Windows XP instead of ME. I didn't know ME has got such a bad name because I haven't cared about Operating Systems for the past year or so. I mean, I've taken things around computers as they are -- often with resignation. So enlighten me as to what specifically are wrong with ME as compared to XP. Just out of curiosity and a bit of aspiration for studying. I know XP is based on Windows NT and so it's more stable. And? I'm beginning to be interested in the new OS.

I've changed the line height a bit. It's funny I've thought my site was designed around the Verdana font since I started this blog.

August 27, 2002

Working On PC

I've been struggling on the new PC. There are a bunch of things to do before I get the settings right as before. However, the new PC feels very good. This is the first time I've felt the speed of a machine obviously faster than the former one. Windows XP is all right, well, maybe. I think I'm getting used to it. Oh, I've noticed the font of my blog entry looks different. I've used the default font set provided by the MovableType template, and didn't know the primary font is "Georgia," which didn't show up on my Windows Me machine. I'm thinking of changing it to "Verdana." What do you think?

August 26, 2002

New PC

I have ordered a new PC from DELL Japan and it is to be delivered today. I'm not so excited about getting new PCs as I was before, but, yeah, I want to see it sooner now. The reason I decided to get a new one is that recent RPGs or simulation games, I noticed, are too heavy for my current PC: 600-MHz Pentium III chip and 128 MB of memory. Though I'm not into PC games these days (I have little time and enthusiasm to play - those were the days...), alas, I bought a couple of titles in Sapporo. Actually, I had been thinking of buying a new PC this year, and that triggered the purchase this time.

Moving to a new PC needs a lot of work. Phew. You know, I'm an analogue guy.

August 25, 2002

The Aquarium

Violet has been busy preparing for a series of tests she has to take at school this week. So, no diary last week. Stay tuned for her next entry, folks.

I went to the Okhotsk Aquarium with my wife yesterday to say good-by to the friendly seals, stunning sea lions, scary-but-hopefully-good-natured wolf fish, and stuff. Looking over the 46-year-old aquarium, I couldn't help feeling how small and old and downhill it is. Once it used to be a wonderland for me as a child. Have you ever experienced -- when you revisit a place where you once spent your childhood, you find the street narrow, the playground small, everything smaller than you felt in those days?

The Okhotsk Aquarium will see the end of its history on August 31. Nostalgia.

August 23, 2002

Sound of ...

So it's been a "toilet" week. Thank you for all the comments regarding this topic. Every one of them has been very informative and instructive to me. Meanwhile, Kurt has blogged about the different "cleanliness-conscious aspects" between Japan and the US. It's really a good read. I thank him for responding to my request.

By the way, do you like the sound that staplers make? If so, go visit this site (the link found via 100 SHIKI), where you can enjoy clicking on the three virtual staplers. I'm sure you have some particular sounds you like. For me, they are the one that is made when you turn a page of a book, the one that leather shoes make on the floor, the one of a river in the country ... . Oh, some of you may remember the sound I hate most.

August 22, 2002


It's been windy and rainy here for the past three days because of the season's 13th typhoon. I didn't know it has a name "Phanfone", meaning "animal" in Laotian. This naughty animal should have gone eastward in the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, but suddenly changed its mind and turned northwest toward the eastern shore of Hokkaido. Though Phanfone downgraded to a temperate depression yesterday morning, it still has the power to bring about heavy rain and winds around here. What a guy! The temperature is terribly low, about 10 C (50 F), and we turned on the heater this morning. Oh yeah, heating in summer.

Completely ill-timed, these three days have been in the midst of the yearly summer (fall?) festival in my town. Really. No more typhoon festivals.

August 21, 2002

JET & Toilet (No relation)

Darren has set foot on the Land of the Rising Sun as an AET (Assistant English Teacher). As someone whose job is to teach English, I'd like to welcome wholeheartedly a person like him to this country, who shows genuine interest and understanding of the Japanese language and culture, and eagerness to teach his wonderful language to the local students. I wish him luck. From now forward, you can expect him to write a lot about his encounters with things Japanese in his blog. So he has already. Check it out!

So, excuse me for another toilet talk. Let me say what confused me a lot when I first heard of it long, long ago was the idea of "bathroom" in the US. It was this simple -- Why are the bathtub and the toilet in the same room? Though now I take them for granted in places like hotels in Japan, my initial reaction was that of "Unbelievable!" Also it amused me to know that "going to the bathroom" means "going to use the toilet." By the way, is this use of "bathroom" particular to American English only? I suppose every culture has its own various ways of referring to "a room that contains a toilet." In Japanese, "toire", the Japanese way of pronouncing "toilet", seems to be most popular now. How do you usually say?

August 20, 2002

High-Tech Toilets

So you got what the Japanese style toilets are, and used to be, like, eh? What makes you confused about toilets once in Japan may not be limited to squat ones, though. Even Western style toilets could give you pause for thought -- high-tech toilets.

It was in 1980's that TOTO, a Japanese sanitary ware company, announced its new product named "Washlet" with the impressive catchphrase "Even your bottom wants to be washed." To be honest, I didn't imagine them to be as popular as they are now. I don't know what percentage of Japanese homes equip them, but you can easily find them in, say, urban hotels. Beside the toilet seat is a control panel with many buttons on it, and because they are usually written in Japanese, you could enjoy the thrill of pushing the buttons at random. Be careful not to leave the seat once you push a button, or ....

A lot of restrooms in department stores or restaurants provide both Japanese and Western style toilets. You can choose between them. I would choose a Japanese one. I'm perfectly used to Japanese styles, of course, and I don't want to sit, if possible, on the same toilet seat that some strange guy has just used. Neither, it seems, do many people. Some toilets equip automatically-rotating seat covers. I was amazed (and amused) to see it first, but, yeah, I like them.

My wife told me that some toilets in public washrooms have censors that will make flushing or river-like sounds to cover up the noise while you are doing your business. Aha! I don't want to see them at men's rooms, though.

Generally, Japanese are known to be cleanliness conscious. I think it's true, provided it's specifically for oneself, and that makes the high-tech toilets popular here. But you may be disappointed with the mess in public washrooms.

August 19, 2002

Pit Toilet

Yesterday's entry reminded me of this toilet experience:

Back in 1984, I rented an old house that had long been vacant, and started an English school. Being a very old house, it had an old style toilet -- a hole in the floor with a porcelain cover. Actually, it was like a pit hole. Whenever I used it, I would check my pants pockets in case some valuables were in them. I felt like once something fell into the darkness, it would be gone forever -- You could pick it up with some tools anyway, but the thought terrified me a lot. What's worse, the floor was made of wood, aged wood, making squeaking noise every time, and it made me scared to death to think it might fall out some day.

When I was a kid, "compost holes" (um, not literally, please guess) were commonly seen in the fields. A kid falling in a hole was a likely enough story. In fact, I saw a friend fall into one of them, which was a disaster. I would never want to experience it in my house.

A kind of horror story, isn't it? Fortunately (?!), we were safe. The house is still there, used as a warehouse for a supermarket, I hear.

August 18, 2002


This page is too funny but very effective to show how to use a Japanese style toilet! One of the things that will confuse you when you first come to Japan may be "toilets." Western style toilets are widely used in Japan now, but you can see Japanese style ones commonly in public washrooms. If you use a Japanese style toilet, you have to be skilled in squatting. Also watch your balance!

August 17, 2002

Violet's Diary 5

Violet has carried on writing. This week too, she wrote about something interesting on junior high life around her. It seems that every school has its own mysterious stories.

Here we go:

Thursday, August 15

I know charms,conventions and rumors about my school.

Do you believe CHARMS ?

I was taught these charms at school.

You put what-do-you-call-it into your purse,
and you'll get money.

You put mustard (karashi) into your purse,
and you'll get a boy friend(kareshi)

This isn't a pun ?G)
You can use Mister Donut's mustard only.

There are many CONVENTIONS about love,about club...

You keep your class tag upside down.
It means,
I'm looking for my boy friend.

Girls get second button from favorite graduate when graduation.

Baseball club's students must not make a girl friend.

Basketball club's students must not eat snacks.

RUMORS have it that...

There are ghosts in certain class.

There is a M-san's house in certain room.

August 16, 2002

Seals and Wolves

What in the world has happened to this cute animal? A bearded seal, which should usually be seen in the Arctic Ocean, has been found swimming in a river in Tokyo. The seal has been there for more than a week and drawn a lot of visitors. Animal experts say it can stay there for a while because the river is rich in the animal's favorite fish, and it can presumably adapt to the water temperature. Hmmm...but is s/he really all right there?

I have seen seals in a river near the Okhotsk Ocean in mid-winter.

Speaking of seals, there is bad and sad news. The Okhotsk Aquarium in Abashiri City will close down this month because of its falling visitor revenues. The aquarium started in 1956 and has been one of the must-see spots in Abashiri. Though not a large-scale aquarium, it was a big attraction for me as a kid. I liked to watch grotesque-looking wolf fish (have you ever seen one?) and huge sea lions. Also driving a go-kart was a lot of fun. I, however, haven't been there for ages. Too bad. I must see them again.

August 15, 2002

Cellar Dwellers

As I predicted, it rained the next day while I and my wife were heading for Sapporo. It was a nice drive.

The ball game was awesome. The Yokohama BayStars, which have been our favorite team for more than a decade, beat the Hanshin Tigers 3-0. Yokohama starter Guzman did a great job -- so great that the game proceeded too easily. It was like the game ended well before we could fully enjoy it. I don't get why the marvelous Dominican pitcher had won only one game up to then. But that's all right. Thanks to him, we witnessed one of the few games that Yokohama have won this season. That's great and we were lucky. It was worth while to go all the way from here in the rain, wasn't it? Though I'm not a big fan of pro baseball now, which actually I used to be, we go to watch a BayStars game that is held in Sapporo once a year.

I think I'd better not wash my car day before going to Sapporo next year.

August 13, 2002

A Ball Game

I'm off to Sapporo to see a pro baseball game. Go Yokohama Baystars!

Have nice, er, weekdays! ;)

August 12, 2002


Wow, the sun is shining today, after a long spell of cloudy or wet weather. I read in a newspaper that this cool summer in Hokkaido has given the local businesses that deal in summer-related goods a hard time. Hey, Su.... OK, I'll go get my car washed at a gas station. I haven't washed my car for a long time partly because of the bad weather. (And mainly because of my laziness, you know.) I predict it will rain tomorrow. I do because my experience says whenever I wash my car, it will rain. Darn!

Meanwhile, it's time for Bon holidays in Japan. Bon, or Obon, is an annual festival for welcoming home the souls of one's ancestors. People take holidays at this time of year. It is reported that Tokyo salarymen seem to have difficulty getting enough summer holidays.

Thanks guys for writing in the guestmap. Now I can tell where Illinois is. ;)

August 11, 2002


Inspired by michelle's and TaTroyer's sites, I have set up a guestmap. I'd be glad if you would pin your location on the map.

Though my father was a social studies teacher (retired now), I'm not good at geography. (Incidentally, he also used to teach music, but I'm not so musical. Doesn't it sound interesting I'm the only one in the family that can speak English?) So don't ask me, say, where Illinois is, how Norway and Finland are situated, or where in Australia Canberra is. I know it's no proud matter for someone teaching English. Oh, I have to keep it secret from Violet.

Please enlighten me where in the world you are.

August 10, 2002

Violet's Diary 4

You can see a lot of English in Japan. Sadly, that doesn't mean Japanese in general are proficient in the English language. I hope Violet will be a true communicator in English.

This week's diary:

Thursday, August 8

I feel English everyday.
There are lots of English in Japan.
Most of Japanese teenage Girls' clothes have English logo.
Even if English logo of clothes is wrong ,we wear them.
Most of girls can't get the meaning of the logos.
I wear clothes(have English logo) within limits.
For example, logo are Milk or Apple or Straw berry,I wear it.
But ,logo are Bitch or Marijuana,I don't want to wear it.

I introduce English logos ,using my fashion magazine .

"My foster parents are dearer than my real mother & father."
"Kiss" "Are you fighting?" "Fresh love" "Wild cats"
"Yum yum ice cream" "Dress this way."

These are English logos that I have.
"Who made who" "Green flower street"

August 9, 2002


Cold stories go on. Hehe. Since I often catch cold, I think I'd better be an authority on colds. I'm joking. My slight cold gets neither better nor worse -- just like this indecisive summer. Dang, dung. How do you cope with colds, or cold symptoms? I searched the Net for fun, and came up with this site. There, I found a test on how to stop a cold. Why not take it? Boy, the results were amazing. I answered all the nine questions correctly. Call me an authority. Some of them were done by random shots, I confess. Hey, is it the time for me to use my "luck" for this kind of stuff? OK, I've learned the best way to avoid catching a cold is "keep your fingers away from your face, and wash your hands often." Sure, there always seems to be someone among my students that has a cold, sneezing and coughing. I wash my hands with antibacterial soap and gargle after the day's classes, but that seems to be insufficient. Also, "drinking a lot of water, at least ten glasses a day." Aha, yeah, I've tried to drink a lot of water recently.

Be that as it may, it's another cold day today. Hey, Summmmmm....

August 8, 2002

Getting a cold?

A Cold Syndrome. At a 9th grade class yesterday, we were reading a passage on making soup. I called on a student to translate a sentence into Japanese. The sentence was: "Eat it before it gets cold." The student paused for thought and answered. Her translation was something like this: "I got a cold before I ate it." ... She made a hit. She was serious, but it was she herself who laughed most for the answer.

If you are learning Japanese, try translating them. ;)

August 7, 2002

Cold Camping

I've had a slight cold for the past couple of days. Seems like I'm susceptible to colds. Or shall I say I'm a big-time cold catcher, huh?

This summer, there's been a big temperature gap between days around here in Hokkaido. A shivering day follows a sizzling day. If you want to catch a cold now, this is the right place. Really.

It's kind of pitiful to get a cold in summer. I remember having a cold at a campsite when I was a kid. My relatives would often get together for camping in summer. I was looking forward to it every time. One summer, I'd had a cold, but joined the camping anyway. It was a terrible camping trip for me. There is a photo of it in which I, heavily clothed in a black coat (!), was approaching to a watermelon with a long stick in my hands. This is a scene of a popular summer beach game in Japan called SUIKAWARI (Splitting the Watermelon). You walk blindfolded to the watermelon and try to split it with a stick.

I have a lot of wonderful memories of summer.

August 5, 2002


As you may know, you take off your shoes when entering Japanese homes. As a Japanese, I feel relaxed sprawling on tatami.

What you can wear on your feet indoors is slippers. The word was taken into Japanese directly, and is pronounced as "surippa." But, as is often the case with loanwords, when we say surippa, it means mules rather than slippers. So you can wear either slippers or mules in Japanese homes -- other than in tatami rooms.

The Japanese language doesn't care about plural forms. So, whether it's singular or plural, surippa is/are surippa. It's quite an accident that the plural "s" in slippers came off when the word came into Japanese. And we use it as it is. Don't be embarrassed even if a Japanese would say to you, "Please put on a slipper."

Speaking of plural forms, the words like shorts, pants and jeans made me puzzled a lot when I first came across them. I thought, "Why do they have to be plural?" They have two separate parts for each leg, to be sure, but overall (not a pair of overalls!) they look like one, I mean, the parts are not cut off. Besides, I felt it quite troublesome to count them by putting "a pair of" or "two pairs of" each time. You can say "these pants," but it doesn't clarify in itself how many pairs there are. Actually, even now I'm not entirely used to referring to "a pair of pants" as "these pants." Now can you say like, two pants, three pants? What about one pants? ;)

August 3, 2002

Violet's Diary 3

Seeing the oyayubizoku's thumb agility, "all thumbs" might be a compliment some day in the future. Acquiring thumbing skills could literally bring about a "golden thumb." Well, Violet is also a baribari-no (energetic) keitai (cell phone) user. I don't know if she is a skillful thumber, though.

OK, here's Violet's diary:

7/28 Summer vacation

There are two hard schedules
in summer vacation.
Those are club and study .


We draw pictures on wall of a company.
About pictures,
we draw a character of the company
called Do-ko kun.
Three Do-ko kun is drawn by us.
Art club is very interesting!
We always take a bus to go to the company.
(Company's bus come to our school
to take us to the company.)
In the bus,we are talking, speaking and singing!
We can't keep quiet(^-^)/
When rest time,we are eating and drinking.

But,of course,we draw pictures seriously,
while working time.


I must study for entrance exams.
I'll take two entrance exams.
One side is a public school
regular course near my town.
Another is a municipal school
English course distant from my town.
I just take the entrance exam
of the municipal school,
because I can't go there.
I want to try my head and English.

After the summer vacation

We have exams about ten (@O@) !

August 2, 2002


It's August! Summer! Yay! (Huh?)

Seems like it's been becoming more like summer around here. The maximum air temperature in my town, 32 C (89.6 F), was reportedly the highest in Hokkaido yesterday. But, it's cold again today -- less than 20 C (68 F). Hey, Summer! Blah blah blah... .

Well, the phone talk. According to a recent survey conducted by the Cabinet Office, 76.9 percent of those questioned, aged between 12 and 30 in Japan, said they use cell phones habitually. And besides, 23.1 percent of them use their phones more than 10 times a day for sending and receiving e-mail. Sure, many of my students seem to have ones.

Communication by e-mail through cell phones is widespread especially among teenagers. This phenomenon has produced a new term "oyayubizoku" (the thumb tribe). They use their thumbs very dexterously at lightning speed to input text messages on their tiny phone keypads. I wonder how they can do such a "trick." It's just amazing. It could be fun to hold a "Speed Thumbing Contest" or the like. Or are there any already?

August 1, 2002

Cell Phones

Darren wrote about a smart barber who has two mobile phones. It's a fun story. Yeah, it can be a good reading material for English class in Japan. I think it would be cool if native English teachers in Japan let their students read a lot of what they write. They must be way more interesting and instructive than the bland school textbooks.

I have ONE cell phone. I'm a pretty new user -- it's been only a year since I started using it. I used to think for no specific reason that I wouldn't buy a cell phone. It would be in the same way that I hadn't expected myself to be a PC user before actually buying one in 1995. Maybe I'm more of an analog guy.

Funny thing is, I don't use my cell phone very often. To be more precise, I have hardly ever used it. I haven't sent email via my cell phone. I have used it to access the Internet only a few times. For one thing, I don't go out so often on weekdays. I don't have to commute to work. Well said that unused treasure is a waste of treasure. My thinking for now is that carrying a cell phone will be useful in case of an emergency. That will do. I'm more of a PC guy.