Wednesday, August 31, 2005

First Day of Class


oday, classes officially started... As is my custom, I wear a dress shirt and neck tie. It is, afterall, the day I have to impress my students, many of which I will meet for the first time. Today's class was J-Lit in Translation. Students interested in Japan take it, but there are a good number of students who take it just to fulfill their foreign culture requirement.

So I do as I always do--speak Japanese for the first five minutes. Since this is a J-lit in translation class, many students in previous courses have looked at me or started whispering to the person next to them trying to confirm if they had to know Japanese to take this class. It is such a mean trick. But this year, not a single student batted an eye. They all looked at me ready for class to begin.

Hmph! No fun... I wonder if the word is out and they knew it was coming? Did someone from a previous year warn them? That would really suck. What fun is teaching if you can't tease the students from time to time? I better come up with something different for next year.

Totally bummed...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005



ireless is so cool. I'm at a Language Center meeting where the language lab administrator is explaining the use of the equipment. Since our Chair said she'd come, I thought it important to show my face--gotta look involved, y'know.

But the stuff the administrator is talking about is old hat. Too boring. So I sit in the back of the room, turn on my laptop, and logon... Every five minutes or so, I look at the administrator as she talks about how to use the overhead projector--duh!--make sure I get firm--if brief--eye contact, nod in understanding as if I am absorbing every word she is saying, then start typing as if I'm taking notes of what she said.

Of course, I'm writing this post! Hahahhahaahaha. I'm so bad....

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Is it Sunday Already? II


h my God. I can't believe I went a WHOLE week without even looking at Xanga! Me! The prototypical Xangaholic, not even checking my comments for... a WEEK! Okay, so where do I turn in my official Xanga secret decoder ring. I am so not worthy...

Anyway, I have spent the last week doting on wife and family. I have been working non-stop for what seems like two years. During my last two recent breaks--winter and spring breaks--I was sick, so neither was really a vacation. Yeah, this was the first real break I've had in a while. I should have been working on the paper that's due... last June! But I needed to be with the family and relax.

Of course, it was not all relaxation. M and I had to go to court last Wednesday to resolve her permanent residency status. I am happy to report that the judge saw fit to stay the proceedings and rule that the issue is administratively finished since we have already completed most of the necessary paperwork and seem to be on the right track again. In other words, M is no longer under the threat of being removed from the country. Of course, the case is not completely closed as we need to file the appropriate papers to "remove conditions" of her green card. So this weekend was spent putting together evidence that proves that we are still married and living together--a letter from our bank, affidavits from friends, etc.

I wish we had had the wherewithal to go somewhere, but lawyers fees and my new computer have basically left me broke. No, worse than broke, in debt! I not only have no money, and the money I earn I owe to the bank. I also had my car worked on last week and there were some issues with the front axle which cost me another $1400. So, yeah, I did not have the ability to take the family anywhere. The only thing I could give them was my time, so I gave it.

Now school starts this week, and once again it is busy, busy busy. But I'm back on Xanga for the duration. Hope all of you have been well for the past week. I will try to make the rounds as soon as possible.

And thanks to all you who offered advice and help regarding the last two entries.

Peace, all...

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Is it Sunday Already?


ith the end of the summer session, I have been trying to catch up on all the things I have neglected: family, cleaning around my desk, gardening, etc. I can't believe I've haven't updated since Thursday. One of the things I 've been working on is a new website design fro our department. I've been struggling with dropdown menus. I found a free program called uMenus at It's okay, but the direction of the the menus is limited.

Anyway, this is something I can work around if I design the site adequately. But I wanted to add some images to the page that represent the three languages we teach: Chinese, Japanese and Korean. I thought that among us scholars I could get a few photos that I could crop and edit to use on our site. But, egads! Scholars are definitely not photographers. I looked on the Internet and there are, of course, a lot of great photos, but they are all copyrighted. So here's another question for y'all.

Is there a site that offers free images or stock photos? Or would any of you be willing to send me a photo of famous/recognizable sites from China, Japan and Korea? I will, of course, attribute the photo to you if I use it. Leave me a comment so I can email you... Or you can email it to me at onigiriman at gmail dot com.

Anyway, thanks to all of you for your advice and comments on the previous post. I think I will seriously look into Verizon Fios. It's actually $25 dollars cheaper--$300 annually--so I could probably buy space for much cheaper. Don't some of those domain name places also provide Internet space? Maybe I should get or .net or something... Muwahahahahaha, The narcissistic get even more so...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Quick Question


have a question for all you computer and Internet experts. Verizon Fios optical Internet lines are now available in my area. In terms of speed, they are basically the same as my current cable service, Cox Communications--15 mbps download, 2 mbps upload. The difference is that Fios is $20 cheaper a month. Cox has been a major headache ever since they were my cable TV carrier, which is why I switched to Dish satellite. I wanted to quit their Internet service but they were the only provider in town, unless I wanted to go with dialup or DSL, and cable is much faster.

But now I have an option.

Cox provided e-mail addresses and webspace where I can upload my images when I share them with you guys here--70 mb total. Fios offers nine e-mail addresses and 10 mb of webspace.

Okay, here's the question. Has anyone heard anything about Verizon's Fios? Does anyone actually use it? It's optic fibers so I can't think of anything bad to say about it technologically, although Cox claims that Verizon cut and duct taped their lines when Verizon was laying down its own lines. They sound like kids fighting over a small piece of pie.

Also, does anyone know where I can get web space to upload images if I decide to quit Cox. I have more than 10 mb of images and other stuff, so the 10 mb that Fios offers isn't enough.

Thanks for your input, guys...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A Bright Light 4


s Yoshiko stifled her cry, she noticed that she could move her body a bit more, and began to wonder if the moving ruble affected anyone else beneath it. If she could move more, maybe others in the same predicament could move as well. Maybe there was hope.

"Mr. Shimizu? Can you move?"

But all she heard were moans. And they were not Mr. Shimizu's. Who's moaning? Why didn't I notice them before? When Yoshiko first regained consciousness, she was still in a daze. The first voice she heard was the one that was most familiar. But as she slowly gained a sense of time and place, her senses sharpened and she began to notice more than the darkness.

What happened? she thought. How did the building collapse? She tried to recall she had experienced up to this moment--she woke up, then ate breakfast, then walked to work and entered the office, then... A bright light, a flash that kind of filled the room, like a camera's flash bulb when you look right at it. What was that? Yoshiko had no idea. All she knew was that she was trapped under some rubble and she had to get out of there.

"Mr. Shimizu? Are you there?" But she did get a response. All she heard were the moans faceless others.

Dear God, please help us, Yoshiko thought. She had never been an especially religious person. Like many young people in Japan, her life was filled with the symbols and rituals of religion, but little understanding of it. She knew that the state religion was Shinto and that the emperor was a direct descendant of the Goddess that created Japan, Amaterasu Omikami--the Great Deity Who Lights the Heavens--or at least that's what the text books taught her. Every New Year, she went to the Shinto Shrine to give an offering and received from her mother or grandparents an amulet that was supposed to protect her, sometimes to help her with her studies, others times to ward off illness, usually a general purpose amulet. She would happily accept it, then shove it into her small dresser when she got home. When she went to the shrine, she always copied the adults she was with by washing her hand with the water at the well near the entrance. It had never occurred to her that this purification ritual was related to her taking off her shoes before entering a house, or the mounds of purification salt placed in front of many shops and restaurants around town.

At home, they also had a Buddhist altar in which were displayed a faded sepia-tinted photo of her great grandparents. Everyday before a meal, either she or Tadao would place a small bowl of freshly cooked rice--or whatever staple they had for dinner--at the altar as an offering. Tadao once wondered out loud why they had to waste such a precious commodity as their dinner--rice was so scarce--but he was roundly scolded by their mother. It was simply there way of honoring their spirits. Their grandfather was also a devout Buddhist. He was a strict vegetarian who refused to even kill pesky insects. Yoshiko, who wouldn't think twice about swatting a mosquito feasting on her forearm, would stare in amazement at her grandfather who calmly shooed away the bloodsuckers by fanning his hand or blowing at them.

And yet, with all these symbols and practices around her, she did not understand religion very well. But she began to try very hard in the darkness of the fallen building.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Summer Session Ends


onday was the last day of class, and I gave my kiddies a final. I guess it wasn't as hard as I thought. They just wizzed through it. Of course, this could simply mean they were fast. It does not necessarily indicate accuracy. Oh well, we will see. In any event, I am grading, grading, grading...

Be back soon...

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Lactose Intolerant


o yesterday, for forgetting the ACTUAL date of M birthday, we went shopping. We went to a place called Dick's Sporting Goods, which is pretty high end in Virginia. There we bought her a couple of swim suits. and some Under Armor for her training. Then we went to Artie's, an Amercian pub/grill. I have never been dissappointed, no matter what I have ordered there. It's probably the best restaurant in Fairfax County.

The problem started when we got home. The night before, Friday, we had a small party for M's aerobics students and their family, and I also invited my summer students. Actually, the party was for my students but M asked if she could invite her students, too, and of course I said "yes", and they out numbered my students 2 to 1. Oh well. But the problem was not the party, but what some people brought to party. Now, I love pastries and of course choux creme, but one of my wife's students brought bite size ice cream choux creme. On Firdasyk, I didn't eat that much, but yesterday, after shopping and eating at Artie's, I got home and, drunk, I started popping these choux creme into my mouth., I think I ate about a dozen!

Yes, lactose intolerant Onigiriman ate one dozen choux creme. Remember that the filling is full of dairy produsts, but worse, the outside is a creme puff cover that is almost al butter, my worst enemy!

So this morning, I woke up as if my stomach was holding a major revolution. Shit! And to top it off, I had to go down to Ballston because one of my students had forgotten his backpack at my house on Friday.

Ugh. So today, I went to Ballston to return his bag--Ballston is half-way from my house and school. And with M, we went.... drinking again! I think I'm dying....

Someone, please save me. My stomach can't take any more....

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Hiroshima Responses


he other day, I posted a comment that reflected something I had recently read. I was surprised at the number of comments I received. I was just expressing my feelings and commenting on the conclusions of a scholar in a recent book. Just to set the record straight, as if such a thing were necessary for such a subject:

  1. Dizzo: I must admit that I was surprised and rather pleased to get a comment from you. Your comment reminds me that many--if not all--of my subscribers actually read my posts even if I don't always get feedback in the form of comments. Thanks. I truly appreciate your input. We may not always agree but, hey, that is the spice of life, right? It is certainly the spice of American political life.
  2. I don't necessarily agree with all of Hasegawa's conclusions, but they are the first to be based on a fairly thorough reading of all available documents in Japanese, English and Russian, something I doubt anyone on Xanga has done. If nothing else, it should at least give us pause to consider alternative ideas and possibilities. I like to think that I have a fairly sophisticated readership--none that wRit3 Lik3 tHis. Ugh.
  3. In spite of all the opinions expressed, I can only say, I don't know what Japan was trying to do. I wasn't there. Did Japan find Russia a threat? How could they not? That is one of the reasons why they were in contact with Moscow to try to have them play intermediary between Japan and the US--this had been documented rather conclusively. To have war declared upon them by the Russians--the very people they were reaching out to--had to have shocked them. Yes, the Japanese were stupid. Why should they expect help for the Russians? But that is not the point. I believe Japan was desparately attempting to reach a diplomatic conclusion, as unrealistic and selfish and foolish as it may have been.
  4. All decisions made in the White House are political. It is a political institution. As such, showing Russia that the US had the A-Bomb was a way to show off their big American dick. It is a cowboy attitude--I have a bigger gun that you, so don't fuck with me--a dangerous attitude that I hope the current administration doesn't adopt, even if Al Qaeda does the unthinkable. BTW: I think there were some misunderstandings. I do not think Truman is a terrorist. But Truman used the bomb for many reasons, one of which was to defeat Japan with such ferocity that they would have no choice but to surrender. Is that not a way of instilling terror and fear in the Japanese people to force them to quit? The bomb was not used as a diplomatic tool. Likewise, all the experts have suggested that Al Qaeda would use the bomb if they had the means--which they might. Why? To defeat the "devil" and force it out of the Middle East, the holy lands of Islam. The point is that people use or would use such a terrible weapon to FORCE their enemy into submission. Of course, the difference between Truman and bin Laden is hindsight. Truman had none. Bin Laden--and every other world leader today--does. The question is whether the vision is 20/20 or not.
  5. I hope that no one is blase or indiferent aobut the use of the bomb on Japan because of what they did in Asia. Yes, the Japanese military and much of its civilian authority did horrendous things. Much of the Japanese population were naively stupid, as well, stuck in a mind set resembling Nazi Germany--we just did what we were told. But does following blindly because you were raised that way, because you didn't know any better make you eligible for atomic annhiliation? Do you think the world would have remained silent had the US dropped the bomb on Germany? Of doubt it. So then, why act indifferently on this issue.
  6. But ulitmately, my opinion on the use of the bomb are skewed , because of my direct relationship to it. My mother--who was not a military combatant at 14 years old--was one kilometer from the epicenter. This reality always affects how I view this topic, for good or ill.

Anyway, I will continue the story, "A Bright Light", soon. In it, my mother--whose real name is not Yoshiko, by the way--was convinced that God had helped her survive.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Feeling the Love


h, to be bitch slapped. Thanks to Avidevi, Marie, and especially the Fongster--you really know how to bitch slap. I can just feel the love. Ooo! Ow! Oh yes, slap me one more time! Hahahhaahhaha. Just kidding, guys.

Just FYI, I did buy M a gift when I went to LA two weeks ago, but you know me. I forgot I bought it! Hahahhahaa. LA has many more sizes and styles for athletic shoes, so I got her a couple of pairs while I was there. So while I forgot--only for like 24 hours--that it was her birthday, I hadn't completely forgotten it. I just happened to forget it on HER BIRTHDAY! Okay, you can bitch slap me some more. C'mon, I can take it. This is what happens when you get old.

After I got home from work, we went out to our favorite watering hole. For you guys in Fairfax, if you ever get a chance to go to Glory Days--Pan Am Square--drop by, I'll buy ya a drink if I'm there--usually Friday nights or sometimes Saturdays. Sometimes both. We are true lushes.

Primitive Man

The other day, I was watching the discovery channel, the documentary on the story of evolution theory. As usual, they introduced the many attempts to find the "missing link" and did their usual dramatic recreations--obviously because they had place to plug in video equipment 50,000 years ago when Neanderthal men met our ancestors, homo something or other. Well, yesterday, M told me I kinda reminded her of one of these permodern men.

I was about to take a shower when a particualr thought crossed my mind for the paper I'm still trying to write. Not wanting to lose the thought down the shower drain, I walked over to the computer and started typing. M came into the room with folded laundry and started to laugh boisterously.

"You look like one of those apemen on TV," she barely said as she laughed.

"Whaddya mean? Me? An apeman?"

"Well, maybe with a little less hair," she said laughing even harder.

Okay, so I was sitting in front of my computer buck naked. Big deal. Doesn't everyone do that from time to time? Actually, I think she had one of those 2000: A Space Odyssey images in her head. You know, that monkey/apeman-confused-by-techonology scene. There I was, naked, staring intently at the screen, seemingly punching random keys with my index fingers on a machine I could not understand.

Alright, I'm not so technologically advanced, and my brand new Toshiba laptop keyboard confuses me from time to time. But that doesn't make me an apeman. Tarzan, maybe. But no apeman...

So have you ever sat and typed on your computer buck naked? And just to be clear about this, I mean to type with your fingers...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A Bright Light 2


s someone there?" Yoshiko recognized the voice. It was Mr. Shimizu. For a moment, she was excited and relieved to hear someone familiar. Even in the dark, she struggled to turn in the direction of the voice, but the best she could do was turn her head.

"Mr. Shimizu. Over here."

"Ah, Hayashi-kun? Are you alright?" he said in a weak voice.

"It's dark and I can't move my body. I think something's on top of me."

"Me, too. It looks like the building's collapsed. Just stay still. Someone will come to help us soon."

Just as Yoshiko was about to answer, she heard a shudder, and whatever was on top of her shifted at an angle downward, freeing her hands. But she was still pinned down from the waist. "I can move my hands, now."

"The rubble is shifting. Maybe you can wiggle yourself free."

Yoshiko tried hard to push whatever was on top of her, but she was afraid of pushing too hard. Not seeing what was on her as well as what was around her unnerved her. "I can't," she yelled. "I'm scared."

"Hang in there," Mr. Shimizu said, when there was anothter big creak and a thud.

Yoshiko let out a scream. Then she covered her mouth instinctively out of embarassment. She didn't necessarily have a low voice, but she knew that her scream was not very girl-like. Her brother had told her as much a year earlier.

The summer of 1944 was hot and muggy. Sleep was virtually impossible. On one particularly muggy night, she and her brother spent the night drinking cups of cold barley tea in an attempt to cool off.

"Yoshiko, I have to pee." Tadao confessed.

"Then go, why don't you?"

"It's dark," he whined.

Yoshiko got up from her bedding. "Okay, let's go," she sighed in resignation.

In some of the more recent homes, the toilet was isolated down a long hall at one end of the structure. But the house in which they lived--their grandparents' home--dated back to the Edo period, according to her grandfather, so the toilet was located in a separate structure out back. While spotless, an outhouse is still an outhouse, Yoshiko often opined. There were ten gray stepping stones at even intervals covering the twenty feet between the back door and the toilet. As far back as they could remember, they would jump from stone to stone, yelling the number of the stone they landed on--Two! Four! Seven! Nine! Indeed, this is how they learned the various counters used in Japanese. Yoshiko would say pencil, and Tadao would count using the counters for long narrow objects: ippon, sanbon, gohon, nanahon, as he jumped from stone numbers one, three, five and seven. Then Tadao would yell plates, indicating flat objects, and Yoshiko would call out nimai, yonmai, rokumai, hachimai, as she jumped from stone two to four to six to eight.

In the middle of the night, they did not want to make a ruckus, so they were not going to raise their voice. And, as they often did when not adults were looking, they went barefoot. Out of habit, Yoshiko jumped from stone to stone. Two, four, si... She froze as her foot landed on something wet and gushy. She looked down at her feet and saw in the moonlight that she had squished a frog the size of her fist. Every muscle in her body tensed as she bellowed. "Oooooooooh."

Tadao started to laugh hysterically, trying to stifle himself by covering his mouth with his hand. But he had buckled over in laughter.

"What!?! Why are you laughing." Yoshiko was staring at the frog that was still moving.


"Foghorn? Ooooh!" Yoshiko bellowed again when the frog suddenly hopped away into the darkness. She caught her breath, relieved that she did not have to deal with a dead frog. "What do you mean, foghorn?"

Tadao was still laughing. "Your 'scream'. It sounds like a foghorn."

My scream sounds like a foghorn? Yoshiko repeated mentally. At that moment, Yoshiko hated her brother. How could he say that? I just yelled in surprised. There's no need to compare it to a FOGHORN! Tadao, I just hate you. But at least it was only her brother who heard her. She swore that she would never let out a loud voice again, for fear that someone else would hear her foghorn of a scream. And she didn't, not until a year later when she was pinned beneath a mountain of rubble, one that used to be the municipal building in which she worked.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005



oday's M's birthday.... and I don't have a birthday gift for her! Ack! I hate it when I forget things like this. Will someone shake some sense into me?


I love it when I geet bitch slapped.....

Monday, August 08, 2005

A Note on "A Bright Light"


s some of you probably already know, my mother is an atom bomb victim, which makes me a second generation atom bomb victim 原爆二世. Interstingly enough, this is an actual status in Japan, where if I was registered, I'd be eligible for certain medical benefits. But that's not the point. As someone who was directly affected by the atom bomb, I have very strong feelings about it, just as Koreans whose relatives were forced into labor--especially as comfort women--and Chinese whose family were in Nanjing when the Japanese army raped and pillaged and murdered civilians will have strong feelings about their sufferings.

In any case, three years ago when my mother died, I gave a eulogy at her funeral that was, in part, a synopsis of her fateful day in Hiroshima. As this is the 60th anniversary of the bomb, I thought I'd write a slightly more detailed version of the eulogy, but as it turns out, I am fleshing it out much more than I had intended. Why is it that memories can trigger such verbosity. I find myself recollecting many of the stories my mother had told me over the years of her life in Hiroshima as well as what happened on August 6th. I hope you guys don't mind as I set down in words these recollections. I believe that in many ways, blogs are our oral histories in real time. But it can also be a repository of our memories--as flawed as they may be--as well as a place to record the recollections of those who can no longer record them for themselves.

As the only offspring who spoke Japanese, I became the repository of my mother's life story. I wish I had been more aware of the value of her stories when I was younger and the memories fresher in my mind. I wrote previously about the scars she still bore from that day. "A Bright Light" is not a verbatim transcription of my mothers stories. Rather, it is a collage of the various stories she had told me of her life in Japan. As the talkative kid in our house, I became my mother's conversation partner on many nights, and I heard a number of stories: funny, sad, always interesting. (You youngins out there should also talk with your parents and find out their stories, if you haven't done so already.) While the content is consistent with what she had told me, I have woven it together into a narrative so I won't bore you guys to death...

Speaking of which: I am not one for e-props and I write mostly for myself, but I'd be a liar if I said I didn't care about comments. I don't particularly get a lot of them, but the number of comments for the first two installments have been unusually low, which could suggest little interest in the topic. Oh well, I will still write it, if only to set down a personally important part of my mother's history.

"A Bright Light" Next: The Hand of God

Sunday, August 07, 2005

A Bright Light


woke up as she had every morning for the past six months. Tired but optomistic, she looked forward to another bleak day at the city office. As a fourteen-year-old and as a young girl, she had little understanding of the politics of war. Such things were discussed by the old men with whom she worked. She knew it was atopic that affected her daily life but still it was something she'd rather not think about. And a clear August morning gave her no reason to think about any further.

That is, until the air raid siren screamed.

Her mother immediately turned on the radio to see what was happening, to learn if there was anything they had to do, any specific place to where they had to evacuate. But the siren stopped and the radio announced that everyone should return to their normal routine. What's so normal about our life? thought Y.

Once upon a time, Y would ask her mother to switch stations to listen to popular songs, but all she ever got was the news. But today, as with every other day lately, her mother turned off the radio after the announcement, her way of saving electricity for the ar movement. So silently, she ate her breakfast of miso soup. There was no rice, as it all went to the military. They rarely had fish to eat--perhaps something someone caught in the river behind her house--but that was a luxury reserved for dinner. But she did have chunks of potatoes and daikon radish in her soup, something that some of her classmates did not enjoy.

After eating, she washed her face and hands with cold water from the flat tin basin, as she prepared to go to work. Her younger brother was just waking up and getting dressed in his black uniform to go to elementary school. Her mother had few words of comfort after coming home from Chosen--the name the Japanese had chosen for its Korean colony. No one really knew what was happening, except for the news of bombings in Tokyo and Nagoya, but a bad economy, more frequent air raid warnings and news of the deaths of friends and relatives was enough to make most suspect that things were not going well, and to drag morale down. So when Y went to work, all she and her mother could muster was a perfunctory exchange: Itte mairimasu (I go and will come back); Itte rasshai (Go and come back).

She lived along the banks of Honkawa, the main river that flowed through the middle of Hiroshima. During more leisurely times, she would crawl down the steep, rocky banks and dive into the river to swim with her brother to wash away the heat of Japan's searing summers. It seems like decades ago, she thought as looked down toward the river as she walked to work. She turned the corner, crossed the bridge over Honkawa and made her way toward the city offices near Hiroshima castle.

Ohayou-gozaimasu, she greeted everyone in her office with a good morning as usual and then turned to sit at her desk when suddenly there was a bright flash. It came through the window at first, but soon it seemed to permeate through the very wall of the city building. There was no sound and the light began to fill the whole room in slow motion, bleaching the everyone and everything white.

It's brighter than the sun. Everything's so white. What is it? These thoughts flashed through her mind in a millisecond.

Then everything turned black.


lowly, Y regained her consciousness, although there was nothing to suggest that she was actually conscious. She opened her eyes to look around, but it was pitch black. Dazed and disoriented, she tried to figure out where she was.

I went to work. I said good morning to Mr. Shimizu. Her mind tried to recall what had happened, but it was difficult. It was hot and her legs burned. She tried to reach down to feel what was wrong, but she could not. Her whole body was pinned down by something heavy and she could not move.

But with each passing moment, she began to get her bearings. She became aware the moans around her. If nothing else, this told her that she was alive, if barely. She recognized Mr. Shimizu's voice. He was the section chief where Y worked. By the beginning of 20th year of Showa, there was a dearth or able-bodied workers, so everyone who had graduated elementary school had to work. Y felt lucky at the time. She didn't really like school, and many of her friends were forced to work in factories outside the city, some as far away as Kure, where the Naval shipyard was located. Thanks to her grandfather's connections, she was assigned a municipal desk job where she filed and served tea. Since her commute was short, she could wake up later and return home from work earlier than any of her friends. She was the envy of her classmates, but in a playful sort of way.

On Sundays, when they didn't have to go to work, they would often gather at Y's house to go swimming in river right behind her house. From the back door, there was a short but steep grassy incline that led to a stone embankment, from which there were a few steps that led directly to the river. But the girls rarely used the steps. Instead, they would jump directly into the deep river, using he steps only to return to the top of the embankment to jump in again. Once in the water, they swam across to the other side then back, then they'd scream and giggle and carry on.

The river had a purifying effect on them. The waters cleansed their young hearts, washing away the soot and grime of the adult life they were forced to live, and allowed them to be fourteen-year-old girls again. If even for a few hours on Sunday.

"Yoshiko, you're so lucky to live so close to work," said Atsuko as she stretched out grass above the the embankment .

"Yeah," agreed Setsu as she started to spread out her lunch in front of her. "I have to take a train out to Hatsukaichi everyday. Do you know how early I have to wake up?"

"Gee, sorry." Yoshiko laughed. "But being so close to work is not always good, you know. I get off at five o'clock and come straght home. There's nothing to do."

"Oh, how sad," they all whined sarcastically, then giggled as they devoured their modest lunch of rice balls.

But during the week, it really was boring for Y. She was one of the rare youngsters to get an office job and she was surrounded by adults. When the clock struck five, Mr. Shimizu would look for her immediately. "It's five o'clock. Go straight home now. Don't take any side trips," he would say everyday on cue. Mr. Shimizu was one of the few men younger than 50 still living in the city. But he had a bad leg from a childhood accident and could not serve in the military, although he always insisted that he wish he could go to the battlefield to do his duty. These comments were always annoying to Y. Who'd want to go to war? Who'd want to die? But his comments after work were always welcome. Even if they both knew she had nowhere to go after work except home, it was a small kindness that seemed to be in short supply, like rice and meat.

"Yes, I will," she replied obediently.

In the darkness, it all seemed so far away


Saturday, August 06, 2005



don't know what I was thinking. But I ended up buying a computer on Friday. Yesterday, I had psyched myslef out to buy an Acer, but a tech savvy student came to see me to talk me out of getting one. Well, I was going to get one anyway. Comp USA had one with a Celeron (yeah, yeah, I know), 512 mb RAM and 40 gig HD for $499. Can't beat that price, right? Well, they didn't have anmore. It was limited to what they had in stock. They called around to local stores for me and they were all sold out, too.

So what did I do?

I got a Toshiba. I spent more than I wanted to, but it's too late now. This too has a Celeron, but for my needs--I don't play games--I don't really need a fast processor. But it does have 512 mb RAM, 60 gigs HD, and a 15.4 screen which I am really loving at this moment. Anyway, I finally broke down and got one.

Thanks to everyone for all your input. I truly appreciate it, only as the Oman can.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Hiroshima Legacy


am lucky to be at an age where I never had to go to war. I was born in the last year of the draft for the Vietnam war, but my number was low enough that I never had to go, even though I had to register with Selective Services, as all men in the US must. I suppose this is one reason why I cannot support any decision to go to war. I cannot support an action that places young men and women in harms way when I myself have never done so. That would be akin to saying, I support the Iraq war as long as it's someone else going to fight it. I find this to be rather gutless. Those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are truly brave souls.

War is--as far as I can tell from the safety of my own living room sofa--ugly and dangerous and certainly hazardous to one's health. But it has always been something in history books and the evening news. As such, it is an intangible, abstract concept to me. So when I went to Hiroshima the first time, I was saddened and moved by the tangible traces intentionally left "intact" for later generations to see. The atomic dome in Peace Park. The pieces of rubble in the Atomic Museum. Reminders of the horrors of war.

It has often been stated that the atomic bomb may have killed over a hundred thousand Japanese, but it saved a million lives--American and Japanese--because it forced Japan to surrender, thereby avoiding a bloody invasion of the Japanese homeland. While this position is accepted by many Americans, it is not entirely true. The straw that broke Japan's back was Russia's decision to declare war on Japan two days later--one of Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's conclusions in his book Racing the Enemy. A great war on two separate fronts was something the Japanese could not withstand. According to Hasegawa, the decision to drop the bomb was complex; besides Truman's public position of saving American lives and bringing Japan to its knees, he also dropped it to warn Russia by showing America's might and to prevent them from "sharing" Japan. Truman also viewed it as payback for Pearl Harbor.

I am no historian and so I am not so qualified to comment on Hasegawa's conclusions, but even if partially true, it is a frightening representation of the American cowboy, wielding his power recklessly in an attempt to take revenge on his enemies and, worse, to show off US might to other potential enemies. It almost mirrors our curent situation. Bush attacks Iraq to get Saddam out of power, and the current war is a display of power and resolve to other would-be enemies, such as Iran and North Korea. The war does not go smoothly, but I hope he doesn't pull a Truman and decide on an ostentatious display of US power, nuclear or otherwise.

Ironically, Truman's position of bringing Japan to its knees by using a nuclear weapon also resembles Al Qaeda's oblique remarks of using "dirty" bombs on US cities: blow one up in a major city and perhaps the US will meet their demands of withdrawal of the US/West from the Middle East. The thought, for me, is too scary to contemplate at any length.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Class Reunion



s I mentioned in a previous post, I went to LA for a class reunion. It was the 35th anniversary of our graduating class at Maryknoll. I guess it would be the equivalent to a middle school reunion, but we students were together for nine consecutive years, starting from kindergarten to the 8th grade. We were a class of 44 students and knew each other pretty well. Of the 42 still living, about 24 came back to see how everyone else was doing. It was a relatively small gathering, intimate and enjoyable, if for nothing else than to see how everyone looked and to learn what they had been doing for the last 35 years.

I went to a private high school with a number of guys--I think there were about 10 of us?--but I had lost track of virtually everyone else. Especially the girls. So you can imagine how interesting it was for me to see them again.

Anyway, if was amusing to see that some looked just like a mother or father. But virtually all of them I recognized after a moment or two. Although there was one--Tatts--who I would never have recognized. No, he did not have a sex change operation, but he did grow about 6 inches since the last time I saw him, so I definitely had to concentrate to try to find a smidgeon of what he once was--at least in my subjective memory. Some have gone into business, others had become teachers, like me. Some were married, some still single. I didn't ask, but I would guess that some were even divorced--again like me.

Be that as it may, the gathering did more than just satsify my curiosity. It brought back a flood of memories and I must admit that it served to remind me of how "uncool" and "unhip" I was back then. Not that I'm any cooler or hipper now, of course, but the sight of the "cool guys" sitting together at one table aroused recollections that I had nearly forgotten. I'm not sure if they remember, but back then they called themselves the seven samurai. Three of them had been held back a year so they are older than everyone else. This is not meant to dis anyone; we all develop at different rates and so they were probably too young for their class at the time. There is nothing strange about that--God knows it took me freakin' 5 years to graduate a 2 year community college. Let's see, one excelled in sports. He was tall and handsome and he probably knew it. He would qualify as "the jock" if we actually used that term at a small private school like ours. Another was a good friend of mine who gradually gravitated toward the cool guys as he became friendly with them. And another was a guy who I still haven't figured out: How did he get with the "in crowd"? Maybe because of his older brother, maybe because he was willing to go crazy sometimes. The last samurai was uber-cool Reed, about whom I have already written. As for me, I guess I don't have to tell you that I didn't sit at their table...

Well, I recalled a number of situations and incidents that stretch back to kindergarten, and I am again getting that itch to set down memories once again. As I have said time and time again, memories are my subjective perception of the truth. They are skewed to represent my version of events and so may not always be an accurate depiction. But it is still an honest representation of my thoughts and feelings... well as honest as I can be 35 years after the fact. So stay tuned.

Working out

A couple of people asked why I didn't use the exercise facilities at my school. Well, that's because my school does not view use of health facilitites as a necessary perk or benefit to be enjoyed by faculty gratis. When I went to UCLA and later Stanford, all facilities were free for students and faculty. At Stanford, students and faculty could even bring their spouse and children to the outdoor swimming pool, a boon during the summer. They were unbelievably generous. Here in DC, the university insists on charging faculty for the use of the facilities. The fees are similar with those of a sports club without the benefit of open aerobic classes or even towel service. They even have a faculty club for lunch, but you have to be a dues-paying member to get a table, and then have the privilege of paying prices that seem high for the middling fare they offer. Does anyone know of a teaching gig in their area? All I ask for is a fair market salary and respect.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Meeting a Professional


Vlade Divaceeting someone you know but don't know filled me with anticipation. When that guy is an NBA All-Star, well, the anticipation increases manifold. I mean, how often do you get the chance to have a beer with the guy who was the bee in Shaq's bonnet--if he wore one that is--and flop so well that his acting would make Chevy Chase's Gerald Ford impersonations look simply amateurish? Well, I had that beer with Vlade Divac.

On Saturday night, I left my class reunion to meet up with him at Yoro no Taki. Steffy said she would be there and apparently she tried to come, but didn't. This is not her fault, of course. The address I gave was correct, but the shop has been sold to someone else, and they changed the name. Steffy said that she thought it was the wrong place and went to the stand-by place. Sorry, girl. They must have changed the name very recently because everyone I talked to did not realize the place had changed either.

Well, I was just as perplexed to see the restaurant's name change when I went there, but walked in nonetheless, just in case someone was waiting there. I guess the O-man is pretty recognizable because someone immediately got up and motioned toward me. I smiled, walked over and shook his hand. It was Vlade. I must admit, I didn't recognize him right away. He was wearing glasses and was pretty clean shaven. What really surprised me was that he was much shorter than he appears on TV. He's listed as 7'1" but he could not have been more than 5'8" max. Oh well, so much for truth in advertising.

women spinning yarn at Prickett's FortAnyway, we had a pleasant albeit short time together. We talked about Xanga and others we'd like to meet--were your ears burning, Sammy? I asked him why he changed adresses, and Vlade finally fessed up about a freaked out fan who was trying desperately to meet up with him. She seemed okay at first, you know, your typical fan. But when she called him in his locker room during a team meeting at the Arco Arena, he knew he had to get away. That's when he decided to exercise his free agency and moved back to LA to play with the Lakers.

You know how I'm trying to lose weight? Well, Vlade gave me a great tip. Spinning. At first, I sat there thinking, I'm sure the early colonists were svelt, but can you really lose weight from spinning? I guess the look on my face gave away my ignorance. He immediately explained that spinning was an aerobic exercise but instead of doing side-steps and grapevines, you ride a stationary bike in a class. The "ride" takes you through various speeds set to music and the class--and getting to know your classmates--was motivational. I'd consider it, but the O-man really can't afford a health club membership at the moment. Oh well.

So that, in a nutshell, was my meeting with Vlade. We had a nice time with a few beers, and I thoroughly enjoyed our time together. Thanks for meeting me, dude.

FLASH: The O-man Almost Dies

Yes, I was almost shot to death. No, no, no. I was not a victim of the random pellet gun shootings in LA. It happened in Zurich, Switzerland. If you go to Eechim's site, you'll see me as a seemingly dead Agent. In reality, I'm just sleeping... anyway, Eechim farked my photo and wove it into the fabric of her story. She got my face from a pretty old photo, and it must have taken quite a while for her to find it. I must say that she must have a lot of time on her hand, and I mean a LOT! Hahahahha. Just kidding, girl. It's a pleasure to be a part of your story. (How's that for advertising?)