Saturday, April 29, 2006

Message in a Bottle II

To all my former students, current one's too...


re you a former student of mine? Current one? Were you/are you a Japanese major? Well, please keep in touch by clicking here for more info.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Hunters and Gatherers, Part One

Or Why Women Are Smarter Than Men...


n these Xanga pages, I often complain about the amount of work I am assigned. I am not trying to elicit your sympathy--although a few pats on the back go a long way in alleviating my frustrations, such as they are. But the reason why I complain so much here is because I cannot complain elsewhere.

As a post-secondary instructor, there are a lot of demands placed on me/us. Despite what the President may say about how strong our economy is--he's so full of it--education is suffering from lack of funds and budget cuts. As a result, colleges demand professors to teach more classes with greater enrollment. There was a time when the powers that be would encourage courses with only 6 or more students for an advanced upper division course to grow a little larger, but now anything under 10 student is red-flagged as under-enrolled and immediately under threat of being cut from the curriculum. We are not like Spanish or Calculus or Bio--fields of studies in which students seemingly enroll automatically--so we must constantly do our best to make our courses interesting and challenging at all times. This semester, I taught:

  1. Classical Japanese--8 students, six quizzes, midterm, final.
  2. J-Lit in Translation--31 students, weekly quizzes, 5 short papers, final
  3. J-culture through Film--50 students, weekly quizzes, 4 short papers, final.
  4. Proseminar--3 students, one senior thesis (25-30 pages).
  5. Internship advisor--1 student, one final paper (25-30 pages).

That is 93 students I am responsible for, and a hell of a lot of grading. Many have suggested that I cut down on the number of assignments--not surprisingly, many students make this suggestion--but I insist that if they don't do the assignments, they will learn nothing, and I refuse to have any of my students finish my course without having learned something. So I do what I do.

But the powers that be will come up to me and ask, "So why aren't you doing research? Why aren't you publishing anything?" As if I had that kind of time...

So frustration builds up and I wanna scream bloody hell, but I can't... because I have a colleague who is under the same pressure as me, the some workload as me... but still manages to publish. I wonder all the time, How the hell does she do it? She's making me look pretty bad... I once talked to a colleague from another department and he explained it thusly: She's a woman...

to be continued...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Message in a Bottle I


have been on Xanga for almost three years and the number of people I have come in contact with is rather staggering. I don't think I can put a number on it, but there are more than a handful I have communicated with through Planet Xanga. I mean, I have probably met more people through Xanga than I have through my regular dealings at school--well, except for students of course...

In a very real way, it is a way of breaking away from the monotony of work. Of course, one of the greatest satisfactions of being on Xanga was interacting with many of you through comments. Unfortunately, I have been kept very busy at work as of late, and I barely have time to update my own site, let alone visit other sites to leave a comment or even to just say "hello". So this is my message in a bottle to you guys.

Hello guys! How are things? Going well? Work keeping you busy? School getting harder? How was your vacation? Still walking your dog? How's married life? Still looking for a girl/boy friend? Anyway, I'm fine, albeit beat, but I will drop by soonest. Love ya'.
--the O-man

Okay, I admit that was pretty pathetic. But I am beat these days. Enough that I've kinda decided to not teach this summer. *horrors!* I haven't taken a break since 1999, teaching Fall semester, then Spring semester, starting the summer session the day after graduation and going on until the second second week of August, only to start the cycle all over again with the Fall semester. I'm bushed.

Deja vu Alert!--I just had a bad case of deja vu! I could swear I wrote the above paragraph elsewhere. Not wanting to repeat myself, I checked here and my other sites to see where, but I can't seem to find it... If anyone knows, please let me know...

Anway, I've already commited to teaching this summer, but I think a colleague of mine may want to teach in my place, and I will gladly hand over the reins. It will mean less money for me--were talking a significant amount--but I think my health is more important.

Of course, this might mean more time spent on Xanga.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

I Swear, I'm Normal... Sorta


eally. I am not abnormal. I am not some Cleanliness-Is-Next-to-Godliness Nazi trying to sterilize the world (see yesterday's entry). If anyone one of you were to come to my office, you'd notice it is a mess. I have been know to go showerless over the weekend, if I don't leave the house. I'll wear the same clothes from Friday to Sunday, much to M's chagrin... Wait, did I just say I was not abnormal? Okay, maybe I am a little, but not because I'm a clean freak...

All my life, I've lived under non-sterile conditions. I grew up in a time when playing outside in the mud or the local lake or the public sand box was the norm. I remember that we used to wash our pots and dishes with sand when we went camping--as if detergent would pollute the environment but cooking oils and other human food stuffs wouldn't. I practiced the 5 second rule before it became popular. Brush it off if its dry or rinse it with water if its wet, then pop it in the mouth. Although I don't do this anymore, I am not so queasy about most conditions--whether physiologically or mentally.

Sharing food with other is no big deal either. I'm sure many of my Asian brothers and sisters--okay, nephews and nieces--were taught to use the back side of the chopsticks when picking food from a communal plate. Well, not in my family, and even with a lot of my friends in Japan. No need to flip them over--we're all family, y'know? I've shared many a pop bottle and later beer cans with friends without even thinking of wiping it clean. Although I draw the line with those who string out saliva as they pull the drink away from their mouths. I must admit that looks pretty gross, don't you think? But still, when I'm among friends, we are family without a doubt.

But even among family members, there are limits. When I used to change my daughters diapers, I always washed my hands afterwards. If a family member forgot to flush the toilet, they would get dressed down at the dinner table. When preparing food, we must all wash our hands first, and when we prepare chicken or fish, the plastic cutting board always gets a thorough cleaning before any vegetables come in contact with it. It's the unknown foreign bacteria that I am afraid of these days. Salmonella, E coli. Yes, these and whatever other bacteria may be lurking around public restrooms.

So I hope I have convinced some of you that I am not overly anal (no pun intended) about cleanliness, but certain situations must be addressed with cleanliness in mind...

Truth AND Dare

Caz, one of the sites I read, used to play Truth or Dare pretty regularly with her readers. I have participated once or twice, but I was wondering if maybe some of you would like to try some Truth AND Dare. For those of you who sometimes forget--or forgo--flushing the public urinal (I have to believe that you all wash your hands, right?) and think its no big deal, I dare you to admit this to your girlfriend or mother or sister, and report their reactions here or on your own site. Any takers?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

I Won't Be Shaking His Hands


reviously, I have written about the bad urinal habit of some men at school. I hate the idea of toilet plumes filling the air with little droplets of urine. I hate to piss even more into someone else's piss--because he lacked the courtesy to flush his own--splattering our mixed piss onto my clothes--If you think splatter doesn't get onto you to some degree, you're fooling yourself. So I will flush before I piss, but the thought of the pluming droplets being someone else's urine is enough to make me want to hold it until I get home.

Anyway, not flushing after yourself is a pretty disgusting habit. But I sometimes gave these guys the benefit of the doubt: Public toilets are pretty filthy and no one really wants to touch anything not attached to their own body. So the other day, I walk into the head to take a leak and there's a guy who is just finishing. Of course, he doesn't flush. But I figure he's one of those clean freaks, unwilling to touch anything in the restroom. Still, I would think that you would have to at least touch the water faucet to wash your hands, right? Well, out of the corner of my eye, I watch this dude stop in front of the mirror, fix his hair a bit, pick his nose, and leave... WITHOUT WASHING HIS HANDS!

Oh my freakin' God!

I'm kinda stunned as I try to figure out what I just witnessed. The toilet handle is too dirty to flush his own piss, but his dick--and of course the very fingers he was just holding them with--were clean enough to touch up his hair and pick his nose. Where do these guys come from? I think our school should make a hygiene class a part of the General Curriculum Requirement. No one should graduate a university without realizing how discourteous it is to not flush after one's self, and how FILTHY it is to not wash hands.

But at that moment, all I could think of was: Omigod! Where is he going? To class? Is he going hand in a paper to his professor with fingers filmy with his urine and snot? Will he sit at a desk, leaving his germs for the next student to wipe up? Will he put his arms around his girl friend's bare shoulder? Will he shake your hand? Will you then shake mine? Oh crap, this is disgusting! Do any of my students practice these very same habits? Handing in papers to me? Coming into my office? Sitting in my chairs? Touching my books? OooOoOoooOoh!

The thoughts were swirling around my brain so fast, that I got dizzy and almost missed the urinal myself. O-toh-toh-toh. Nice save. After I finished and flushed, I washed my hands extra vigorously, seemingly to wash enough for him and me. But in reality I was probably trying to wash the images out of my mind vicariously through my hands.

Anyway, not to put too fine a point on it--When you're in a public toilet, please flush after yourself, and definitely wash your hands after you use the toilet.

This has been an unpaid public service announcement.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

If It's Not One Emergency...


have to admit that I really suck at organizing my life. I put off my taxes to the very last moment but luckily get them in on time. Now its back to real work. I know that I have a lot of grading to do. So what do I do? Have a curry party with my students. Go out to dinner with M. I have a PhD in Japanese Lit and in Procrastination Sciences.

At school today, I'm at my desk with a mountain of papers in front of me--47 to be exact. I start to grade the first paper on top and am immediately bored. Out of the corner of my eyes, I catch a glimpse of a book that looks unfamiliar to me on my shelf. Naturally, I reach for it. It's a collection of stories from the Showa era that were, over the years, published in the journal, Chuo koron. The name of one author catches my eyes. Akutagawa Ryunosuke--Shunkinsho (Portrait of Shunkin). Of course, I open to that page and start reading it. In fact, I read the first section, before getting bored and noticing another author. Enchi Fumiko--Onnazaka (The Waiting Years). Hmmm, this is interesting....

I then hit myself in the noggin with my knuckles to wake myself up. What the shit are you doing? I ask myself, rather stupidly. I return to the mountain and all I can do is sigh. Whooo... I'm glad there were no students outside my door to see me act like a wierdo.

I'm now home, eager to get this grading done, but of course, I have to check my e-mail, something I rarely do. I click on my browser and "accidentally" click on the link to Xanga, and voila! Here I am, procrastinating even more.

Okay, okay, I will not bore you any more with this drivel. It is pointless and a total waste of your time and mine.

Do you ever feel like just not doing something?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Have You Filed?


t is 11:20 PM, April 15, 2006. I have just sent in my Federal Income Tax Return electronically. Since the 15th falls on a weekend this year, the filing date is actually Monday, the 17th. But there is something about getting it out on April 15th. I am getting a return--admittedly a modest one--so I should have filed earlier so i could get my money earlier, but there is just something about April 15th.

In any event, it's out in the Internet ether making its way to the Internal Revenue Service.

Have you file yet?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

April Showers...


ay bring May flowers to some, but to me they bring on the start of allergy season. I sucks, I tell ya', totally sucks. The pollen in the air is thick and every orifice in my body is a waiting receptacle for these nasty things. It is killing me...

In March, when some of the tree pollen was increasing, I was deal with it. But Since the April showers of a week ago, the grass pollen has flourished and it is attacking me without mercy. My eyes itch, my nose is stuffed up and my throat is soar. I am losing sleep... literally. I can't breathe so I wake up from lack of oxygen. Since I am forced to breathe through my mouth, my throat is dry and irritable and I am convinced that the pollen is having a picnic somewhere past my tonsils. I suppose my body is reacting to this infestation of pollen and I have had a slight fever for the past few days. And probably as an additional freebie, I have a headache. I am living in hell, right now. I had all these papers to grade this past weekend--82 to be exact--but couldn't focus because my body was going bonkers.

Will someone shoot me? No wait, that was E's line I think...

I've tried over the counter medicines, but they either make me drowsy or they make my heart race. I guess the non-drowsy meds like Claritin contain some kind of stimulant, but my body is super-sensitive to such drugs. My heart beat rises and my fingertips get numb. Kinda scary. This happens I have one too many cups of coffee. It would probably happen if I took those diet drugs as well. No stimulants for me...

Anyway, each morning I check to see the pollen levels for my area and groan to see that both tree and grass pollen are present now. Yesterday, I went to school thinking I could tough it out, but I was wrong. By the time I got home, I was a mess. Couldn't breathe. Couldn't see. Nothing. So today, I came to school in my mask. I also wear a baseball cap. People are staring at me, and I wonder if they think I just robbed a bank. M laughs, saying I look like the Morinaga Man, the guy who poisoned some caramel candy in Japan. He too wore sunglasses, a baseball cap and a mask.


But I know this will allow me to breathe better when I get home. So I will put up with (the perceived) slights. I swear, this is killing me.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Don't You Think?


eing old(er) suggests more experience. And at 50, I have had my share of experiences. Some of it good, lots of it bad, all of it learning. Of course, that doesn't mean I've learned my lesson well. I have bumbled my way through a number of bad experiences, some I have repeated a few times. As you might imagine, all these experiences fall within the very narrow scope of an Asian American male, so I should be the last guy to give anyone advice, don't you think?

Still, some people come to me for advice. I have to tell them that I don't know the answer, as most of the issues fall within the very narrow scope of their individual lives. The best thing I do is ask questions. As an academic, this is one of the few things I do well. So when a student comes to me with a question--What should I do when I graduate? How do I tell this girl I like her? How do I get this boy off my back?--I usually start by asking questions about their concerns: How do you really feel about it? How badly do you want to do whatever it is you want to do? Fortunately for me, the person will usually come up with his own answer, and I will look like a genius... which I'm not. Well, maybe just a little, not because I give advice, but because I don't. People really have to take care of their own shit, don't you think?

Advice seekers are not limited to my students. I get a few inquiries here as well, such as the following

Hey Onigiriman, could you please advise me on the old-fashioned (proper) form/method of dating. I recently went on a blind date with a girl and am interested in getting to know her better. I was brought up in a conservative household but with the dynamic area of dating I forget what is and should be proper? Thanks!

Posted 7/26/2005 at 11:36 PM by Cboy918

First, sorry to be so late, like eight months after your blind date. I meant to write this earlier, but i never got around to it. And besides, what the heck do you mean by old-fashioned? Are you suggesting I'm an old fart? Hrumph! Well, perhaps I am--ok, ok, I know that I am. Anyway, what was the question? Oh yeah... The proper form of dating...

I didn't know if there is a proper" form. I presume you mean how to act, right? Some gys will take flowers, go to the best restaurants, whatever. These are nice, but behavior, I think, is more crucial. But we are all different. What one guy can do, another guy can't. What one girl will accept as funny, another would consider an insult. The variables are too great. For example... hmm... let's see... um... I was actually quite a flirt. I might be considered a flirt even now by some, but it has nothing to do with the words or the lines. It's the attitude... and practice. I've been doing it for a long time, and so what I can get away with may not be so easy for others. But this is a topic for another post, I think.

There is one principle, however, that I try to abide by--I emphasize that this is something I TRY to do, because I am such a dork sometimes that I forget my own principle. Be that as it may, the one thing I always try to do is show respect. I respect her opinion, her ideas, her words, her values, and of course her body. I like to talk--God knows I like to talk--but I also listen. If she offers an opinion, I don't toss it off, even if--particularly if--I don't agree with it. I mean, it's okay to disagree, but I don't treat it as if it were useless discourse. I will ask her about it, probe her more, ask her to explain her position--politely, of course. I don't force my opinion or values onto her, and I don't talk about it so much either, unless she actually asks me. I sometimes catch myself talking too much when it's too late--she's either rolling her eyes already or looking right through me at the wall behind me.

Finally, I don't touch her unless I am absolutely positive it's okay to do so. I won't hold her hands, unless she extends it for me to grab, like when we're getting out of a cab. If she doesn't mind my touch, she'll squeeze my hand or arm a bit when she wants to emphasize a point; she'll lean into me when she laughs, she'll make an effort to sit next to me when we are in a group. She'll signal something. The exception, of course, is "the handshake." To me, this has always been the kiss of death. Been great talking to ya'. Please understand that this is the most intimate you'll ever get with me. Brrrrrrrr.

One other thing. I always try to be a gentleman. Yes, this is the age of equality. Men and women are equal. But since you asked me, and I AM old-fashioned, I will tell you that while men and women are equals, we are not the same, we are not identical. I hold open doors for the woman I am with. For M, I will open and shut the car door for her. She often opens the door herself once I park the car, but I will make every effort to shoot to the other side and open it for her. At restaurants, movie theaters, when we enter the house, it is always ladies first. Once, we were in DC on New Year's Eve, and it was frosty. M wore a coat, but it wasn't warm enough for her, so I pealed off mine to cover her. She looked nice and toasty. Unfortunately, certain parts of my anatomy still do not function properly to this day... just kidding. The bottom line is that you must be willing to do ANYTHING for her. And it starts with the dating and continues for as long as you are with her. I REFUSE to have someone talk behind my back about what a lout I was. I mean, holding a door open. How hard is that? I think I would look pretty pathetic if I complained that it was too much trouble. I'm sure to get a lot of crap from "Today's women", but I'm sorry, I'm old fashioned. So sue me.

In any event, these are the principles I try to follow even today. But these are my values, and I would never suggest that you should do the same. But there are worse things you could do than being respectful and gentlemanly toward your date, don't you think?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Hoot, Hoot


have turned my life cycle upside down. I should be sleeping with the rest of the world, but I have been grading papers for so long at night that this is a part of my day now. I will go to sleep at 4 AM, 5 AM... sometimes 8 AM, then wake up anywhere between 10:30 AM and 12 noon, depending on the day.

I am living with less sleep than I ever had, and I worry sometimes that I might be shortening my life. I read somewhere--and this might all be a bunch of bull--that everyone has a limited number of heartbeats in a life, maybe something like 2.5 billion beats? If I average 60 beats a minute, I should live to be almost 80 years old, barring any other life threatening disease or accident.

2,500,000,000 / 60 beats/min = 41.666 million minutes
41.666 million minutes / 60 min. = 694,444 hours
694,444 hours / 24 hrs. = 28,935 days
28,935 days / 365 days = 79.2 years

However, if my average heartbeat goes up, then the number of minutes I have to live go down. This logic seems to fit when regarding athletes. They are well conditioned and their heartbeats slow down to a crawl when they are not exercising, but they train hardcore and often raise their heartbeats to ridiculous levels--200 bpm is not unheard of--and they stress out their hearts. Track and field athletes who perhaps train the hardest rarely grow to ripe old ages. The same can be said for football players and marathon runners. When I think of really old athletes, I think of baseball players. Obesity is another example. The heart has to pump blood to fatty tissue as well as the normal tissues and so the heart works extra hard, and beats per minute go up. Obese people seem to die young as well.

Of course, I am not an athlete; neither am I morbidly obes--although I do admit to more fat than i should have--so I don't really worry about this kind of stuff. But the heart beats faster when one is awake than asleep, so the less I sleep, the more my hearts pumps, raising my average to maybe 70 bpm. This could shorten my life by as much as 10 years.

Of course, this could all be a bunch of bull, as I said. And besides, there are all kinds of mitigating issues to complicate the calculation: amount of sleep and exercise at a younger age, amount of stress during the teen years, blah, blah, blah. So I could be fretting over something that I really have not control over...

But I do have control over some of it--if this theory is not all bunk. So instead of writing this entry on Xanga at 3:00 AM, I should be asleep... well, actually, I should be grading, but maybe I should not worry about it and go to sleep anyway.

Just another useless post of useless (non-)information.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

One Win Away...


ell, we climbed the mountain, but we couldn't get over the top. Congratulations to the Flordia Gators. They were definitely the better team tonight as they just whooped our butts royally. I don't even remember the score. Still it was a good run for our team. They played injured throughout most of the season, few gave them a chance to do anything and they ended up in the finals, one win away from an NCAA championship.


Well, 10-2 in football and a win away from a basketball championship. All in all, it's been a good year for Bruin spors fans. Just allow me to reiterate an old Dodger saying: Wait 'til next year....

Monday, April 03, 2006

NCAA Finals, Baby


e have climbed the mountain. All season, we were injured. We were under-rated. No one gave us a shot of being REALLY good. But, last week, the Bruins held 80-points-a-game Memphis to 45 points. Yesterday, Saturday night, they held the LSU Tiger and Glenn "Big Baby" Davis--another 80-points-a-game team--to 45 points. What is with this defense?!? They are awesome!

We won by a healthy margin, 59-45. The scary things is that it wasn't even THAT close. The bench played almost as many minutes as the starters. So they were well rested to start off the second half and blow out LSU. We were up by as many as 23 points, and they were dominating. Big Baby Davis got 14 points--he averages more than 20--but most of them came in the last half of the second half when the game was pretty much decided. Man, oh man, oh man. They were sizzlin'.

Now it's on to the NCAA finals against Florida! Woo hoo!

Go Bruins!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Don't Get Fooled Today


ast year, as a gag, I posted an entry that suggested that our school was downsizing and Japanese was one of the sacrificial lambs on the altar of practicality. Our school had already eliminated the TESL program, Peace Studies and Environmental Studies. With the outsourcing of American jobs, the Iraq war and global warming, what student would need to learn English, conflict resolution and environmental protection?

So getting rid of Japanese sounded, oh, so convincing.

But, man, did I take some flack for that April's Fool prankd! Here is a sample of the responses I got, mostly from MY OWN students.

Rargh! You suck! I was all, "Oh sad...=(," until the very end. Man, I forgot it was April Fool's. Or, I knew, but it wasn't at the front of my mind. aish...
Posted 4/1/2005 at 2:25 PM by enygma81

Posted 4/1/2005 at 6:14 PM by LaMangust

You're a poopy head
Posted 4/2/2005 at 3:35 AM by shi

I hate you man.(sensei)
Posted 4/2/2005 at 7:52 AM by gt_nin

Shaun still believes it true, he can't grasp the fact that it was an April Fool's prank...he is crying right now.
Posted 4/2/2005 at 1:49 PM by Grom

"TOTAL ASS"? "poopy had"? "I hate you"? As you might imagine, I don't want to be subjected to such violent rhetoric, so I will not even consider writing an April Fool's prank. Instead, as a public service, I remind all of you not get fooled by anyone...

So anyway, this weekend I have plenty of work to do, even though I consciously did not assign any papers for this past week. I needed to make sure that I could relax and watch my beloved Bruins play LSU in the NCAA semifinals...

But nooooooooooooooooo!

I gave a midterm on Thursday and so I should at least make an effort to grade some of it. But I'd rather spend my time on Xanga. Worse, I have to judge the haiku of middle and high school students in the DC metro area. Yes, I had forgotten that I had promised to do so. Well there aren't too many--just SEVENTY of them--so it's okay, I suppose. And it is a pleasure to contribute to the community in any modest fashion.

So I have my work cut out for me and will be unable to enjoy the excitement of the Final Four. I bet that Glory Days is filled to the brim with Mason fans. It's fun to be in that kind of sports environment, where everyone goes bonkers and has a great time rooting for there team. I swear, it is like being in the stadium itself. Indeed, last night, we dropped by GD for a night cap and they were doing preparations for today's crowd. Aaaargh! I wanna go!

But I like to consider myself--whenever appropriate and feasible--a responsible person, so it is back to judging the haiku of 14-year olds...


And if you believe that, you ARE gullible. April Fool's! But then, this in not really a prank, so no harm no foul... In any case, I'll fit in the grading and judging somewhere, but it is now time to get ready for some Final Four partying! Party! Party! Party!