Thursday, September 29, 2005

Time, Time, No Time


am so tired these days. I wish there were more than 24 hours in a day. I wake up when I can, run if I wake up earlyenough (9-10am), shower, go to work (11-11:30), teach (12:45-2), then teach another class (2:20-3:35), eat lunch (3:45), hold office hours to which I will always have students come (4-5), then teach still another class (5-7pm). After which I grade papers, prepare for class (7-8pm), go home, eat dinner (9-10pm), watch some TV to relax (10-11), walk or run lightly for a bit (11-12am), do any left over work--of which there is always plenty--and then go to sleep when I finish or pass out (from midnight to anywhere between 3-6 am). *yawn*

At the moment, I'm still working on the paper I submitted two Saturdays ago. I got some feedback to which I must respond. It is, unfortunately, time consuming. I work on it in between the hours I have set above. Sometimes I don't watch TV to work on it. Sometimes I don't run to work on it, Sometimes I don't sleep to work on it. *yawn*

I'm dying.

Life isn't supposed to be like this. Certainly, teaching isn't supposed to be like this. I have students who insist it is all about time management. Perhaps they are right... But I must insist that for me to exist, I need my own time, time to relax and not think about work. Down time. I want to watch a movie, or work out a bit, or--heaven forbid--read a freakin' book. Down time is for rejuvenating the mind and soul, and I have had precious little time. The few hours I allow myself to watch TV or run barely allow me to keep sane. I wish I had more time for Xanga.

I miss you guys so much.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

No Time


am sad that I cannot spend as much timeon xanga as I pused to. I used to be pretty good at posting with regularity and also visiting most of my subscribers on a somewhat regular basis, certainly to those who come here and leave a comment. But time has become a commodity that is in very short supply. I can't even find the time to finish the story "A Bright Light".

Well, at least the paper is finished. I expect, however, the editor to send it back with comment on what to fix/rewrite. You know, I read somewhere on Xanga that someone (The Vixen?) knew someone who had a first novel accepted by a major publisher and received $25 grand. Is that right? A first time novelist can get 25 big ones? Of course, I'm sure the style and content has to be good. and apparently, this person has an MFA degree, and so has a good grasp of the arts... although, as i think of it, I'm nost sure of the connection between fine arts (painting, sculpting, dance, etc) and writing. Besides, I am a "critic" of writing... sorta. I analyze poetry and read prose rather critically--meaning critiquing and not criticizing, of course.

Anyway, like SammyStorm and perhaps a bunch of other people here on Xanga, I would love to find the time to sit back and write a novel. But I'm not sure I'd have anything to write about... well at least, nothing that would be commercially viable enough to attract a major publisher. Any thoughts? -- I'm not try to ellicit compliments, if that's what you're thinking. The only thing I know with any degree of confidence is my life as an Asian American, but I'm afraid that that topic would not sell. I always assume that Amy Tan has already tapped out the Asian American theme in mainstream America in novels such as "Joy Luck Club". *sigh*

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Oklahoma 24 UCLA 41

'Nuff said....

Oh yeah, I sent in the draft of my paper... about 40 minutes before the UCLA-OU game, so I was able to watch the game completely guilt free!

Woo hoo! Go Bruins!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

No, I'm not finished


mmm. It's 8 AM Saturday morning and I haven't slept since early Friday, I think... or was late Thursday. *yawn* But I can't stop now. My brain is filled with linked-verse, and I can't stop for sleep. I'm afraid I will lose some of the good ideas I still have floating around in my brain. *yahahawn* I have to finish! I promised myself I wouldn't watch TV until I finished, and I can't break a promise... well, not usually. Even is UCLA is playing Oklahoma. Must finish, must finish.

Today's game should be a douzy. Okay, OU is not the team is was the last two years. They no longer have Jason White, they lost to TCU and they looked pretty vulnerable against Tulsa. But that doesn't mean anything. They are still Oklahoma. They have Adrian Petersen, runner up for the Heisman last year as a Freshman. Bob Stoops is still coach and he won't let them stay crummy. And their five man offinsive line? I could get all my subscribers together and they'd still be lighter than these five. Gokingsgo said he scored some tickets to the game. Grrrrr.... If only I lived in LA, I'd go with ya'. Please, please join the Bruin faithful in an eight clap in my stead. Here's a warm up.


You can replace the last "fight-fight-fight" with "beat O-U". Your choice.

*yawn* Anyway, back to work for me. I'm so sleeeeee... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Just a Skosh More


amn, teaching just takes too much time. How the heck do they think I can research and write with a five course teaching load. Ugh. Well. just a bit more. The paper ain't what I would have wanted it to be, but it's getting there.

BTW: Does anyone use the word, "skosh"? I first heard it used in a Levi's commercial about 10 or 15 years ago. Levi's used it to mean "a little bit". Does anyone know the etymology of this word? I always imgained that it was derived from the Japanese 少しsukoshi, which means "a little bit."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I'm Dying


h, the life of a procrastinator. I suppose I deserve every rasberry I get. My paper is due last week but my editor gave me 'til Friday. Okay, I haven't been procrasitnating THAT much. I just have a sh*tload of stuff to do--teaching five courses, family obligations, blah, blah, blah. I sound like a broken record. Well the next day or two will determine what's what.

If I die, I beqeath all my Xanga rights and properties to M... but she probably doesn't want anything to do with it.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Live Action


hunger to watch live sports. I enjoy screaming and yelling at the top of my lungs to root for my team. Okay, I do this at home or at the bar, but nothing beats yelling at a game that is unfolding beofre your eyes--by the way, the Bruins handled the Owls of Rice University rather handily, 63-21. It was 21-7 at the end of the first quarter and 49-14 at halftime. I almost felt sorry for the Owls... almost. I say this because I know of no fan of an opposing team feeling sorry for us when we've been whooped by a lop-sided score.

Back to the point. I enjoy live sports and hunger for football. My school does not field a football team--I think it's too expensive or something--and I have no team to cheer for. I have been a Redskins fan since the days of George Allen when he was virtually kicked out of LA and he went to lead the Redskins to the Superbowl while the Rams languished as brides maids year in and year out. So I would love to go to a Skins' game but they are sold out and the scalpers sharge a price that is prohibitive for me.

So I yearn to see a game...

And I finally did. I decided to go to a local high school game. The Oakton HS Cougars are ranked in the top ten this year--they were league champs last year--and this past Friday, they played their opener against their rival, Madison. There was a modest crowd of probably 1500 people in atendance--many of them noisy and rowdy students, and I had a surprisingly nice time. I accidentally and fortunately ended up sitting in the middle of a group of Oakton students, and I was able to yell for the home team without embarrassing myself too much. The "adults"--likely parents of the students--were pretty sedate, and if I sat with them, I would have stood out rather awkwardly. M was rather surprised and uncomfortable amongst the high school kids so we ended up leaving at the end of the 3rd quarter, ut we still were able to watch Oakton score 28 points on their way to a 35 to 14 win.

As I was watching, I noticed the running back for the Cougars. He looked like a man among boys--well, big boys, I guess. But there was a noticeable difference. In the program, #1 was identified as Keith Payne, 6'2" 220 lbs. He looked like a college player and he ran and hit like one too. He was awesome. I found out later that he is considered one of the top prospects in Virginia and being sought after by the likes of Notre Dame, Maryland and Virginia Tech.

But I guess that is neither here nor there. I just enjoyed watching a live game for the first time in a long time and it was fun...

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Time to Be Concerned...


t has been four years since 9/11 and the government has had ample time to implement many of the ideas and plans to protect us from a large scale disaster, one that could be brought on by a terrorist attack. Katrina was not a terrorist attack, but it did bring about a disaster that could have shown us how the government would respond to a major disaster. As we all know now, they failed miserably.

It is true that local and state government failed to implement evacuation plans, causing many who wanted to evacuate but could not to suffer needlesly. So yeah, they failed, but the federal governement could have stepped in immediately and boldly to overcome the failures of local government. It did not. But I won't talk about federal failures to respond adequately. The news people do it enough. Photos say more than enough. And the opinion writers--even staunch supporters of Bush like Kristol and Krauthammer--have expressed their share of disbelief and disappointment with the federal response, and I have nothing more to add to their insights.

But as a citizen of the US and a resident of a "high-value" target--Washington DC area--I am in fear for my family's life, my neighbors' life, my life. The Bush administration is responsible for protecting us against enemy atack, and as commander in chief, Bush bears the lions share of responsibility, if not for the actions or inaction of his appointed staff / subordinates, then for appointing political allies who are inexperienced and ultimately inept.

After 9/11, Bush changed the structure of government to better protect us, the citizens. One of the things he did was create a new department, Homeland Security. Further, he placed the heretofore cabinet-level Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) into the new department, effectively taking away much of its ability to respond and act independantly and decisively when needed. Now, FEMA as a branch of Homeland Security has defer to the Director of the Department, which leads to more bureaucratic tape. I suppose that the director of FEMA could have just cut through the red tape and ordered action immediately along the Gulf Coast, and especially in New Orleans. Perhaps, a compassionate person would have done so, a competent person would have done so. Geez, even Gore did so--which is perhaps a bit more presidential than the guy who beat him in 2000. But Michael Brown, when told of the starving people at the New Orleans Convention Center days after Katrina struck, said that it was the first time he had heard of it.

Does that not boggle the mind?

What had he been doing? Was he not paying attention to what was happening in New Orleans? Did he not have a staff to keep him informed? Was he playing dumb? Or is he just dumb? Either is unacceptable. But this begs the question:

How did Michael Brown become director of FEMA in the first place?

His most notable administrative job was as the Judges & Stewards Commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association (he was not fired as some media have claimed), and his responsibilities included "managing the education, appointment and evaluation of judges and stewards for competitions that come under the jurisdiction of the IAHA." Now, I'm sure these are all admirable qualities, but how does this relate to emergency management? Oh wait, I found this at Time: According to a White House press release from 2001, "Brown worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., from 1975 to 1978 'overseeing the emergency services division.' In fact, according to Claudia Deakins, head of public relations for the city of Edmond, Brown was an 'assistant to the city manager' from 1977 to 1980, not a manager himself, and had no authority over other employees. 'The assistant is more like an intern.' "

Oh, great. *rolls eyes* So the director of FEMA knows the ins and outs of choosing judges who judge Arabian horses and was an intern for the city of Edmond. An INTERN! So who appointed this guy? Oh yeah, George Bush.

So here I am wondering. Since 9/11, George Bush has taken away FEMA's cabinet-level authority and placed it into Homeland Security, in a way taking away its teeth. Then he hires a man whose resume suggests that he had no business being the head of the emergency management arm of the federal government. And Brown's lack of experience and Bush's mistake of putting him there in the first place are exposed by a real disaster, inexperience and a mistake that probably cost more than a few lives.

So how does that make me feel about possible terrorist attacks? Does George Bush have the right people in charge? Can we trust this administration to have put in the necessary safeguards to protect us from possible attacks? And if a terrorist attack is successful, will the government take care of us? Or will they take there time as Bush simply does a fly over from above in Air Force One? With these questions in my mind, I read the following in today's Washington Post.

Terrorism Could Hurl D.C. Area Into Turmoil
Despite Efforts Since 9/11, Response Plans Incomplete

By Sari Horwitz and Christian Davenport
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, September 11, 2005; A01

The U.S. Capitol and the White House have been fortified, police forces strengthened, high-tech security equipment purchased, vulnerable streets closed and checkpoints and barriers erected. In all, federal, state and local governments have spent more than $2 billion to protect the Washington area since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Despite these efforts, security officials in the region concede that they fear another major terrorist strike would result in the kind of chaos and confusion seen along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

Even those who helped spend the money envision gridlock on the Capital Beltway as residents flee after a truck bombing at the Capitol or a chemical attack on Metro. They see D.C. police, U.S. Capitol Police, the FBI, U.S. Park Police and the departments of Homeland Security and Defense scrambling to figure out who is in charge, strained hospitals overwhelmed with thousands of people in need of medical care and confused downtown workers from the District, Maryland and Virginia who don't know what to do.

On the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the nation's capital lacks a comprehensive way to tell people what to do in a state of emergency, especially a terrorist attack with no warning, according to law enforcement and Homeland Security officials involved in emergency preparations.

"What we lack is a coordinated public information system in the event of a major incident," said David Snyder, a member of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments' homeland security task force. "What we need is a system that will function instantaneously and automatically every time. . . . That doesn't exist now."

Complicating the planning is the fact that officials don't know exactly what they are planning for. A tornado would require a different response than a dirty bomb at the Capitol or a smallpox attack on Metro. And officials are not going to have to communicate just among themselves but also tell a panicked public what to do and where to go. Sometimes the edict would be to evacuate, other times to stay put.

After watching the bedlam in New Orleans after Katrina, Washington area officials said they are concerned about how much help they would get from the federal government and how quickly it would come.

Yes, I am concerned, probably more concerned than the Washington area officials. If you live in a high-value target area, which would include virtually every major metropolitan area, you should be too.

I find little comfort in the fact that I did not vote for Bush.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Another Saturday


oday my boys in blue will play Rice University. It shouldn't be toomuch of a big deal. They handled San Diego State pretty handily and so there shouldn't be much fuss over Rice. but then, if they take any team too lightly--especially if they're looking forward to next weeks game against Oklahoma--then anything can happen. And in my experience, the Bruins have a habit of overlooking teams they are supposed to beat and then have a hard time winning. I hope that is not the case. they need to stay focused at all times.

Anyway, the game will be broadcast on FoxWest 2 and for some stupid reason, Dish Network does not carry it. Something about only carrying one sports network per region. what kind of BS is that? I am definitely thinking of changing over to DirecTV. As a result, I will be going to our local watering hole again. And this time, I will be going with M's friends. They've neer been to a "sports" bar and the also want to learn the "secret" of the crane game. I tell 'em it's in the wrist, but they want to watch me play the game to see if they can master it too. well, I don't mind, as long as I can watch the game....

M will be gone for most of the day, too. She's volunteering at an gathering of senior citizens. She's going to lead them in a light aerobics workwout. I hope no one croaks.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Mom's Birthday


here is a Japanese proverb, which is probably derived from a Chinese one--which goes something like, "Like counting the age of a dead child." The meaning would be similar to "Crying over spilt milk" but perhaps a bit more morbid. Well, I will take the expression a bit more literally: Today is my mother's birthday and she would have been 75 years old.

Which reminds me... I haven't finished "A Bright Light." If you haven't read the first few installments yet, I've put it all together in the post just below--don't wanna have anyone searching for it.

As for the rest of the story, I'll work on it this weekend.

A Bright Light--recap


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


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.


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. Nonetheless, she began to pray very hard in the darkness of the fallen building.

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...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A 2nd First Kiss


while back, I read a first kiss story by California Girl. I thought it was rather cute and a really good topic, so I have decided to borrow it. Thanks girl. But when I think about it, I have already written about my first kiss which was with DKLA. Still, I have another "first kiss" story. Okay, it's not officially a first kiss, but in my memories--as faded as the photographs that conjure them up--the second one feels like my first real kiss, DKLA notwithstanding

As I have explained here ad naseum, I come from a generation that was not as promiscuous as the current generation of young Asians, so my first kiss may not seem so extraordinary. In 1973, I was seventeen and playing piano with guys who were trying to get a band together. We were not particularly good, but we had dreams of grandeur--well, as grand as a group of JAs could have back then. Our goal was to play at the popular Asian dances in LA of the 1970s, mostly JAs, some ABCs.* The guys in the band seemed to know a bunch of cute young ladies and I was dying to get to know them as well. Virtually all these girls, however, were eastsiders, and the problem with them was that they were rather stuck up--they were cute and they knew it. They were kind enough to actually give me the time of day, but it seemed to be because I was potentialy going to be in the band. This did not sit well with me.

Sailor and me on the corner of 1st and San Pedro in J-town

Fortunately, I often hung out with Diddly, our drummer, and he was developing a relationship with Dori, a Chinese girl from South Central, who had a friend named Sailor from the westside. Now westsiders were just as cute as eastsiders, but reputedly friendlier. And this was certainly the case with Sailor. It was late summer and by then our band had begun to play gigs more frequently on the weekends, sometimes Fridays, usually Saturdays, and Sailor would tag along with Dori--who was always with Diddly--to watch us play. On nights when we didn't have a gig, we'd go to other dances to check out the competition.

One Friday, we went to a dance at a nameless hall in Monterey Park. Diddly was with Dori, and with her, Sailor. Now, I had talked to Sailor on a few of occasions--usually after we had played a gig and were hanging around for the rest of the dance. We seemed to get along fairly well. but it was mostly small talk--you know, chit chat about the latest song we played--American Band by Grand Funk--dance steps, gossip of mutual friends who were getting together or breaking up. But on this evening in MP, Sailor looked particularly cute in her short-sleeved yellow blouse and denim bell-bottom pants, good enough to eat... so to speak.

Click to hear "Cotton-eyed Joe" and get a taste of the kind of music JAs listened to back then. Personally, I love this song. Or maybe it's the memories it conjures up?

We started our familiar --and increasingly comfortable--chats, dancing to a few song in between. Although underaged, buying drinks at thes dances was not difficult if you knew the right person--being in a band really had its perks. I bought her a couple of Singapore Slings and I drank Harvey Wallbangers. I tried to be as sophisticated as I could be as we drank, as we talked, as we danced. Then the band, Free Flight, played "Cotton-Eyed Joe" by Jo Mama, a slow song. I couldn't resist, and pulled Sailor onto the dance floor. She put her arms around my neck and I hugged her loosely at the waist. As the song continued, she placed her cheek to my shoulder as we swayed slowly back and forth.

I could easily blame it on the Harvey Wallbangers, but I found the courage to hug her just a bit tighter than I usually would. I could feel the contours of her body against mine, and I was getting... horny? No, that's not it. It wasn't about the sex. But I didn't really know how to explain it. Today, I suppose, I would say that I wanted to explore a relationship. But back then, all I remember thinking was that I wanted to get to know Sailor better, as a person, as someone whom I might enjoy being with more often in settings besides dances or band practice, away from crowds and prying eyes. I suppose she felt the same, because she clung to my neck a little tighter as well, as if she welcomed the closeness of our bodies.

Suddenly, I sensed eyes were on us. I looked around and saw that everyone had dispersed. We were the only ones on the dance floor still dancing. Crap, we were so much into ourselves that we hadn't noticed that the song had ended! A guy I knew pointed at us and bent over in laughter. We looked at each other, embarrassed, but then we burst out laughing. It felt so natural, so wonderful, so... right. Then, without thinking, I reached for her and pulled her closer and kissed her. It was one of the strongest impulses I've ever had. It was something I just had to do. It wasn't long or deep, but it was firm and meaningful--or so it seemed at the time--it certainly wasn't a peck on the cheek. Then I grabbed her hand and we hurried off the dance floor, laughing again. There was a slight buzz around us, but I didn't pay attention to it--I didn't care if it was about us or not. All I wanted to do was take Sailor outside, escape the heat of the dance hall and, um, talk some more. But before I could do so, Dori came up to us abruptly and said, "We have to leave." She looked quite upset. We asked her what was wrong, but she just shook her head, grabbed Sailor, and led her away to the parking lot.

I followed them to Dori's car and insisted on going with them, but Dori kept shaking her head. "No, stay here with HIM." Sailor looked and me with eyes that revealed her concern for her friend. I took it as a cue to step back and let them go.

It had been so perfect up until five minutes earlier...

I went home to call her, only to realize "I don't have her fucking number." Frustrated, I was left to wonder what had happened. Around 2AM, after the dance had ended, I decided to go to our local late-night hang-out, the IHOP on Atlantic Boulevard. Di and El were sitting by themselves and I joined their table. They couldn't wait to tell me what had happened. Apparently, Diddly had been checking out another girl and Dori got really pissed off. They had had a loud argument in the lobby of the hall, and she had been screaming that she was leaving him. All I could do was shrug a shoulder and sigh my eyes closed. Then El reached over and poked me in the rib. "You little heifer."

"What?" I asked.

"We saw you and Sailor on the dance floor, dancing by yourselves," she said accusingly.

"Yeah," chimed Di. "And then you kissed her. Right in front of everyone."

"Man, that was too much, you sly dog." El added and they giggled as they recalled the evening.

I laughed with them rather uneasily as my thoughts were still with Sailor. The next day, Diddly wouldn't give me Dori's number and I didn't know anyone who might know either of their numbers, but I eventually got to see her at the next dance. By then, Diddly and Dori were back together again--if only for a few more weeks. Sailor and I talked about the previous week, rather awkwardly, as I recall, but I asked her out on a date and we ended up staying togther for most of my senior year of high school.

We had other memorable moments--and fights--but none of them will compare to that night 32 years ago. I can close my eyes right now and still envision the moment, the song, her clothes, the smell of her hair... and that first kiss.

* I think most will recognize JA as an acronym for Japanese American, but just to be clear, ABC stands for American Born Chinese.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Labor Day


oday is the last day of summer. Well, school has already started so I suppose it's no big deal butMaurice Drew on a punt return TD it is sad to think that many of us have to get back to the grind. I had to teach over the summer, so it wouldn't seem like I had time off, but as I have mentioned before, the summer students were motivated and very easy to teach. No complaining, no wisecracks, no lip. Just a bunch of good kids study very hard. So it was actually a very easy job for me to teach them. Basically I just pointed them in the right direction. So, yeah, I'm kinda sad that summer is over since fall semester brings with it the other students, those whom I am "privileged" to teach. *ahem*

Bruins Win

#21, Maurice Drew, only ran for 194 all-purpose yards. He had three TDs, one a 64 yard run from scrimmage, another on a 72 yard punt return. This guy is like a bowling ball. He's listed at 5'9"--I need to use whatever measuring stick he's using--and he bounces off would-be tacklers like it's nobody's business. Thanks to his efforts, my Bruins won 44-21 against San Diego State. Right, SD State is no football powerhouse, but I'll take a "W" anyway I can. And the way he played Saturday night, I almost want to give him a kiss, dreadlocks and all... almost...

Next week we face another "powerhouse", Rice. Hahahhahahaah. No offense. But it will be a nice tune up for what we thought was the second toughest game of the year--after $C--Oklahoma. But after OU lost to TCU, they ain't lookin' so invincible anymore. they are no longer reloading but rebuiliding. I just hope they aren't too fired up and take it out on us....

Anyway, hope all of ya' are having a nice Labor Day. We're having a BBQ. Steak! I am such the carnivore....

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Kat's Aftermath


his post was originally going to be on the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The images on TV of people without food and water, of dead people left on wheel chairs, of young men looting out of necessity or greed. But what stands out is the slow response of the government, local and federal. Some talking heads suggest that the people are getting what they deserve, that they had a chance to leave but chose not to. This, indeed, may be true. But what of those who couldn't leave? Where was the help for those in hospitals? What of the elderly? And the poor who had no where to evacuate to? Are they supposed to be shown the same disdain?

President Bush was on the air a number of times today. He said that the response was "inadequate". I couldn't agree more. But who is responsible? Bill O'Reilly was trying to foist responsibility on the governor of Louisianna, because she lacked foresight. This is a pathetic attempt to deflect responsibility away those who are actually responsible for this debacle: The President. The National Guard is under represented in both Louisianna and Mississippi. Why? Because 40% of Mississippi's Guard and 35% of Louisianna's are not at home. They are in Iraq. So where was Bush's foresight? And now billions and billions of dollars are going to be spent to help rebuild New Orleans. This is a burden we must bear as fellow US citizens. But the burden might have been lighter had we not already spent almost $200 billion dollars on the Iraq war--I don't have to mention the cost to American lives. Again, where was the foresight? And did I mention gasoline? One of the side effects of the war is the rising cost of fuel coming out of the Middle East. With Katrina, prices that were already pushing $3 a gallon have broken that ceiling with a vengeance. The $2.79 of two weeks ago suddenly seems mighty reasonable. So where was the foresight?

Oh wait, I get it. There WAS foresight. Companies like Halliburton Co., a Texas construction and engineering outfit that services oil companies--Vice President Dick Cheney's former company--will make out like bandits. Duh! Stupid me. Cheney is no idiot...

But this is too depressing for me, so I won't dwell on it. Instead...

College Football

The TV is full of bad news and I am afraid to watch it. Thankfully, football season has begun. Oregon beat up Houston on Thursday, Arizona lost to the Utes last night. And today, TODAY! My favorite team, my alma mater kicks off its season with a game against San Diego State. As my regular readers know, I live and die with the Bruins. And this year, we might have a chance to win maybe 8 games? *sigh* There will be those who will laugh, "Only 8?" Well, we all can't be Seminoles or Sooners or Trojans. But then again, who'd want to be a condom?

Be that as it may, I will ease my anxiety over the problems of our country and its leadership by immersing myself once again into college football. Yes, I am, perhaps, a simpleton, but that's okay. Sometimes, life needs to get simple.

Friday, September 02, 2005



while ago, I read a post by cjones80 who talked about bats in his house. What a scary thought--bats in the belfry. This past summer we have had other wildlife at our place. But first, concerning the post I wrote wireless during the information session at our language lab...

aznquarter: wireless is cool! *lol* did you get caught, such a short post..keke.

Hahahhaha, no I didn't get caught, but I did have colleagues in the same session who were asking me questions like, "What are you typing? We know this stuff, right? Did I miss something?" I had to reassure her that she missed nothing and that I was taking notes just for the heck of it. Yes, I am bad...

jerjonji: think they were toughing out the class and then planning to transfer out as soon as the class was over... you didn't hear a collective sigh of relief when you switched to english? :)

Alas, no. that is exactly what I was waiting to hear, but heard none. I was totally bummed.

HattoriHanzo: haha in other were OWNED!

Thanks a lot, dude. Hope Katrina didn't affect you too much... Speaking of which, lets be sure to say a short prayer for those suffering along the gulf coast. I cannot even begin to imagine how I would react in such a situation.

SunJun: I swore that whenever I taught my first college section, I would lay down the thickest FOB accent possible, just to scare the crap out of my students and see who I could weed out. Alas, I guess that wouldn't work.

You're right; it won't work. I tell my class how hard ass my class is, that they will get quizzes EVERY class, there are not make ups and late papers are never acceptable. But they won't drop the class. Still, the temporary thick accent will at least let your students know that you are a fun and crazy guy and they'll feel more comfortable in class.

fuafuahamu: Onigiriman in a tie is way more entertaining than that joke

Will you get outa here already!?! *sigh*

Anyway, back to the original point.

So, cjones' post reminded me of the problems we had this summer with mice. I live in one of the most rapidly developing areas in the country, northern Virginia. Houses are springing up like mushroom after a autumn shower. Everytime I look around, there are new tracts of homes. Many of the homes are built on old existing residential lots--but denser, to get the most value out of the property, I suppose. But they are also taking away a lot of the woodland that made northern Virginia so attractive in the first place. There was a good sized wooded areas across the street from the Vienna station--a couple of blocks from the sensei pad--but it was all taken away for condominiums that started at $350K--which is like one third more than what I paid for my touwnhouse. Behind the community where I live is Nottoway Park, a Fairfax County public park that not only has five baseball diamonds, four tennis courts, four basketball courts and a soccer field. It also has wooded area for people who are walkers. We can stroll around the park as if we were a hundred miles from civilization. It's really pretty amazing.

Wooded nature path

But that is partially coming down because of furher development. Now this wouldn't be such a bad thing I suppose. More people, more taxes, better local services--and Fairfax County is one of the better counties in the country--go ahead look it up. But the problem is the wildlife. These wooded ares are teaming--well, maybe not teaming, but it has its share of animals. From squirrels to moles to raccoons to the occasional deer, there is enough evidence of there existence in our midst. But with all the development going on, these animals no longer have a place to live, and so they are moving into residential areas.

Now, squirrels are one thing, but when field mice start taking up residence in you backyard, that could cause a problem. Especially if your wife is squeemish about mice, as M is. At first these mice were small and sorta cute, and in fact M gave one particularly cute one a name, Chutaro. But in a week or so they were growing big and we realized they had built a nest in a plastic tube that drains water away from our house. This is a problem. If the tube gets blocked and the water can't drain, rain water will pool around the house, causing a muddy base at our foundation. So we decided to call pest control.

They told us the best thing was to poison them. What the pest people told us was that the poison would literally cause their stomach and other internal organs to dissolve. This seemed like a particularly evil method, but they told us that any physical trap that would cause the mouse to die instantly but perhaps bloodily would attract other unwanted pests. I told them to let me think about it--this was not my idea of pest "control." For a week I tried to shoo theim away, hitting the tube where they nested. I tried to block the passage with rocks and bricks. I even sprayed water into the tube and actually flushed out their nest, hoping they would not come back.

But they did, leaving me with no choice. I called the pest control people and they set up bait traps. For two or three days, the mice pranced around as they had been for the past few weeks, burrowing, gnawing at our fence, but one morning one was dead in the backyard, and the others were noticeably missing. Later that day, we found another and another.

It was awful. I had to pick up and dispose of the dead mice--except Chutaro which M buried in the area near a boulder on the other side of our fence, a place he seemed to like the most. I'm not sure about the health issues of burying a dead, poisoned mice, but I couldn't say no.

I kinda wish they'd stop all this development so wildlife can remain wildlife....