Thursday, October 26, 2006



hen we got remarried back in 2000, M and I were already well into our 40s. In fact, we were both 44 at the time. Now, the Japanese have a relatively long life expectancy; indeed, it is the one of the longest in the world, where men live into the upper 70s and women into their mid-80s.

This is fine for M, but not so relevant for me. I am Japanese heritage, but culturally--diet, health habits--I am strictly American. Hamburgers and potato chips, steak and french fries are foods I can hardly live without. So my life expectancy is likely lower than the average Japanese male. I am hoping, however, that genetics will play a role in my longevity. My father and his siblings all lived long healthy lives. My uncle Frank lived to be 101, my aunt Ichi reached 88 (I think) a full 20 years after she was diagnosed with stomach cancer. My father lived until he was 92. My grandmother on my mothers side also lived into her 90s. My mother, an atom bomb victim, not only survived the blast, she survived two heart bypass surgeries, but finally succumbed non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a disease that may be connected with a-bomb survivors.

Unfortunately, both M and I were smokers. M smoked since her early 20s. I was much worse. I started at 14, stealing Kents from my mother and smoking behind the garage. By the time I was 18, I was a two-packs-a-day Marlboro Red smoker. When K, my daughter, was born in 1987, I cut back significantly to half a pack or less, but just couldn't kick the habit. So the effects of my years of smoking will undoubtedly influence my life expectancy.

But when M and I decided to get married late in our lives, we wanted to live together as long as we could. "It's never too late" sounds cliche and in fact it probably is, but we decided to quit the one thing we could control--smoking. We have been married since June of 2000 and neither of us have smoked since--well, I think I cheated once when I was drunk one night at a bar... which leads me to the next topic in the "Getting to Know Someone" survey.

Getting To Know Someone From A to Z

D - Drink or smoke: Yes, I drink, but only on the weekends, usually Friday, and occasionally Saturday, and often to excess, meaning 5-6 points of beer. No, I don't have the stamina I once had and find that I get drunk much easier than I used to. But it's okay. At least I no longer smoke.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Poetry is My Gig


oday I spoke on Japanese poetry and it made me realize how much I love talking about poetry and how it reflects who we are as humans. I truly believe that we interpret everything in our lives--consciously or not--by associating them with our past experiences. Some may be relevant, some may not, but experience influences how we interpret any given situation we confront. And since we all have different experiences, no two people interpret the same situation in exactly the same way--although they may be similar.

There are those who would argue vehemently against me, and I welcome their input. It would be stupid of me to think I know everything, although there are some I have met--both liberals and conservative--who think they have all the answers. Well, bully for them. I always admire a person who is confident to the max. I just make sure I stay out of their way, and hope they never get elected to office. *ahem*

In any event, poetry requires the reader to respond to the sparse words on a page. The more experience you have--whether you are well-read or simply worldly--allows you to read more into a poem, to get more out of it, to enjoy its many nuances. And this is a direct reflection of the human condition. Every time we are confronted with a situation--a red light, a large credit card balance, or a hot date--we are required to respond and the more experience we have, the better we will respond to the situation--stopping, using either a heavy duty shredder or antiperspirant. Not that I'm trying to justify my profession or the field of literature.

But this is what I do--profess the beauty and relevance of poetry. And I love doing it.

Getting To Know Someone From A to Z

C - Career: Education; specifically, I am a college professor teaching Japanese language and literature. My field of expertise is premodern court poetry, focusing on the intertextual nature of poems of the late-Heian early Kamakura period.


The song I have playing is 48 kbps--I don't want anyone to get hung up loading my page. My own copy is 128 kbps, so if you like it enough to want it, please leave me a message and I will be more than happy to share...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Sorta Eclectic but sorta not...


like to think my taste in music is rather eclectic. I'll listen to some Jimi Hendrix, Billi Holiday, Beethoven, Dave Mathews, Mozart, Oscar Peterson, maybe even some Gershwin. Well, maybe it's not too eclectic. I don't listen to Opera and country music is not really my cup of tea.

But lately, most of the music I listen to is more basic than stylized. I lean toward rock, but the rock I listen to these day seems to have a lot of accoustic. And a great deal of it is J-Pop. Maybe I'm just getting old.

Anyway, this might bore many of you, but here's a song that I listen to and listen to and listen to. It's light and kinda poppy... so sue me. Blame Starberri and her survey.

To hear it, you gotta go to the Comments page. You might leave a comment while you're at it.

Getting To Know Someone From A to Z

B - Band listening to right now: Snorkel--1,000,000 hp.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

How old are you... I mean really...


hen I teach Japanese Literature, I usually have to explain the calendrical issues inherent in Premodern Japanese culture. For those of us in the West, it can sometimes be confusing.

For example, the lunar calendar forces everyone to rethink the months. For most of us, the first month of the year is January and in the dead of winter, but in premodern Japan--as well as most other premodern Asian cultures--the first month is usually around the middle of what we now know as February. So when we translate stuff into English, I alway remind my students that the first month should never be translated as January, the second month is not February, and so on.

Even the season can confuse. The First Month is not only the beginning of the year, it is also the beginning of the seasonal cycle. Therefore, the First Month is the start of Spring, which would explain the great number of spring poems that mention snow; and the strong blast of winds in August are called Fall Winds.

But this is relatively easy compared to counting one's age. In the West, we count the years we have already lived. So if you are 22 years old, I presume that you have been alive for 22 full years plus the time in between your 22nd and 23rd birthday. In other words, your age is based on the time you personally have been alive relative to our space/time continuum. However, in premodern East Asia--and sometimes even now--one's age is determined by the number of years you have lived relative to the calendar.

Let's say I was born on December 15--which I was. At the moment of birth, I was one-year old, because it would be the first calendar year in which I was alive. After 16 days, on January 1, I will be 2 years old because I will have entered the second calendar year of my life. Make sense?

Getting To Know Someone From A to Z

Anyway, I got on this topic because of a A to Z Blog Survey that posted by Starberri. You know, one of those, answer-the-questions-to-let-everyone-know-who-you-are surveys. Well, I decided to answer it, but I will answer them one at a time--which means I will have at least 26 topics for the foreseeable future.

So here's the first one...

A - Age: 50 by western calculations (51 in December); 52 by old Japanese/East Asian calculations.

How old would you be today using the traditional East Asian method of counting age?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

My Football to Beer Equation



ow, we are six weeks into football season and I haven't once posted about my beloved Bruins. Well, they are 4-1 against mediocre teams, and will be tested today against Oregon which only has the best offense in the Pac 10. We'll see if the Bruin defense--the Pac 10's best defense so far--is for real.

Anyway, yesterday I was a bit obsessed with numbers, and the idea of 6s and 12s and 24s is crucial for me because it impacts my beer purchases. You never hear of a 5 pack or a 10 pack. Beer is always sold in 6 packs or 12 bottle cases or 24 can cases. The size of the purchase allows me to calculate how much beer I can drink, a safe way to pace myself as I watch game after game of football on any given Fall Saturday. I have satellite TV and subscribe to both the Fox Sports Network package and ESPN's GamePlan, so I literally have football from 12 noon EST until 12 midnight--those West Coast games can end pretty late.

"Are you in front of the TV for the whole 12 hours?" You might ask, and I would have to reply, "No, silly! I have to go to the bathroom sometimes."

1 Saturday + 24 cans (1 case) of beer / 12 hours of college football = 2.0833 cans per 1 hour.

This is only an average pace, and I tend to drink faster earlier in the day and slow down around, oh... 6-ish? Besides, this is my simple math calculation. The official equation is actually based on a per game calcuation. (NCAA approval pending.)

{(4 quarters x 15 minutes) / 24 cans}Pi x {X [# of toilets] / Y [# in attendance]} = Z [number of beers] / 1 game.
Note: Pi=(11 offense + 11 defense) / (6 touchdown points + 1 extra point kick)

If I'm at home and I can count on one toilet for me to use, that would calculate out to 7.85 beers per 1 game. Since a college game lasts around 3.5 hours, this figure is slightly higher than my lazier, easier calculation of about 7.29 beers per game. But this is a per game calculation and does not take into account any gradual declination of pace with each succeeding game.

Of course, the calculation changes if you watch the game at a bar or at the stadium. The variables are so great that that the calculation would probably require a degree in astrophysics--capacity of venue, number of toilets, size of mug/glass, driving distance from home, the cute cheerleader/waitress to obnoxiously drunk strangers ratio, etc. It is far too complex to explain here.

Anyway, it is time for me to go and watch some pigskin action! Go Bruins!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Unexplained Numbers


oday is Friday the 13th, by all accounts, an unlucky day and number. You never see a 13th floor in any building in the US. Or any room number that ends in 13. Or streets. Or street numbers. Why is 13 so unlucky? I've read that Judas was the thirteenth arrivee to the last supper. I've also heard that the 13th visitor to a coven of witched--12 members--is the devil himself. There are, supposedly, 13 loops in a hangman's noose.

In Japan, the numbers 4 and 9 are inauspicious because their pronunciations mimick the sounds for "death" and "suffering", respectively. This is why you should know that when you give a gift, such as dishes or cups, they can never be in groups of 4s or 9s. This is really difficult in the US because most dishes and cups that you might buy for a wedding gift come in sets of 4s. Not that I'm superstitious, but I will usually make my own set of 5s, as they do in Japan. But even though there is a reason for these inauspicious numbers, every building has a 4th and 9th floor, unlike the unexplained absence of a 13th floor over here.

Now, I've never been good at math and so my distaste for numbers is rather healthy. I mean, I'm truly a simple guy. I have five fingers on each hand and I have two hand which gives me ten fingers. I have two feet with ten toes. If everything were divisible by 2s and 5s, life would be so simple, no?

But noooooooo... our lives are crowded with numbers that are unexplained, or for me, inexplicable. Like, why do we have so many 12s? There are 12 hours in a day which I simply cannot fathom. 12 months in a year I can grasp as there are 12 moon cycles per year, three per season. This, naturally, leads to 7 days in a week--unless you're a Beatle--which was inevitable because there are 28 days in 1 moon cycle, although I'm not sure why they HAD to divide the 28 into 4 groups of 7s. But why 12 hours in a day? I mean, what is it in our time-space continuum that requires 1 revolution of the earth be divded into 12/24 units? What's wrong with 10s and 20s? And let's not forget a baker's dozen. Was this a marketing ploy? Buy 10 get 2 free?

Other numbers I don't get

  • 32 degrees = freezing. Why not 0 as in centigrade? Besides being Sandy Koufax's number, I see no merit in this number
  • 21 years of age to drink. Huh? What is so magical about 21? Except that it's divisible by 7.
  • 18 years of age to vote or smoke cigarettes. Y'know, in Japan you have to be an adult to either smoke or drink or vote. So the age is the same for all these acts requiring responsibility--20. What a nice round number.
  • 11 players per side in a football game? Why 11? Why 6 points per touchdown plus 1 extra point, as well as 3 points for a field goal.
  • For that matter, why 9 players per side in a baseball game. And why 9 innings, 3 outs, 3 strikes but 4 balls? (This is a setup for an inappropriate remark from which I will refrain.)

Oh well, I could go on for ever but I won't bore you.

So what numbers bug you? Are there unlucky numbers in other cultures?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006



n as much as I hate those who don't flush after themselves, I am not very good at keeping my own bathroom very clean. Don't get me wrong--I DO flush at home, but maybe I don't clean the toilet bowl as often as I should. I don't clean up the hair that accumulates on the floor behind the toilet bowl. I don't wipe down the counter around the sink despite the various hair, teeth and contact lens products "arranged" haphazardly in order of frequency of use.

So what does that say about me? Well, I just had to find out, didn't I. Thanks--I think--to Starberri.

What Your Bathroom Habits Say About You
You are a giving soul. Way too giving in fact. You often get stuck doing the dirty work that no one else will do.

Your idea of fashion is jeans and a t-shirt. Clean, if you're lucky.

You are a little shy and easily embarrassed. You often wonder if you are normal.

In relationships, you tend to take care of your needs first. You can only be with someone who's as independent as you are.

I'm not sure if this is me. Maybe some of my students can give me an objective evaluation of these results.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Columbus Day


oday, elementary, junior and senior high schools in the DC area are closed. Today, postsecondary schools are closed. Today, the banks are closed. Today, the post office is closed. Indeed, most government offices are closed, as Columbus Day is recognized as a federal holiday.

But I have a class to teach.

While it bothers me that my students and I have class when virtually everyone else has a day off, it might be worthwhile to consider that Columbus Day--initially celebrated by Italian Americans to stir pride in their heritage--celebrates Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas, and this is seen by some as a celebration of the beginning of the end for many of the indigenous people of the Americas.

Certainly, Europeans brought animals that altered the ecosystem of the Americas. And the disease. Millions of native Americans died from diseases to which they had no resistance, such as smallpox and measles. And let us not forget gonorrhea and alcoholism... although some Native Americans did not need the Europeans to tell them about the effects of peyote.

So celebrating the coming of the Europeans can be viewed negatively by Native Americans and their friends. It is ironic, however, that Christopher Columbus should become the poster boy for all the ills delivered by the Europeans because his celebrated status is misleading.

Columbus was Italian, but actually came to America under the sponsorship of Spain. If "discover" is defined by the finding of something no one else knows about, then Columbus did not discover America, as Native Americans already lived here. Columbus was not even the first European to reach the Americas, as that honor goes to Northern Europeans--Lief Erikson is often given the nod as the figure representing these hardy sailors/pirates.

Actually, Columbus shouldn't even be credited with the disocvery of a "new land". There are accounts that suggest Columbus believed until his death that he had landed in India (or a part of it)--hence the name for islands in the Caribbean--West Indies--and the misplaced referent for Native Americans--Indians.

Further, we do not refer to our country as the United States of Columbia and call ourselves Columbians. Our self-referent is based on the name given by a German cartographer, Martin Waldseemuller, who dubbed these lands after Amerigo Vespucci--Americus being the Latin rendition of the Italian, Amerigo. This merchant sailed and charted much of the coast north and south of the area "discovered" by Columbus and came to the conclusion that the land mass represented by this coast was much too vast to be a part of India, that it was actually a separate and different land mass. For Waldseemuller, presumably, the revelation of "what" was discovered--a new land--outweighed the fact that it had been misunderstood and misrepresented by the first "discoverer".

So, yeah, maybe we shouldn't be celebrating this second day of October, Columbus Day. But it still bugs me that I have to go to work while the rest of America is resting. Hrgrmph!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Holy Frak!


attlestar Galactica is back! (No, I didn't mean to rhyme.) After feeling let down by Lost--but I do have hope for next week's episode--I was wary of the premier of Battlestar Galactica. Man, oh man, oh man. Last season ended with the minions of the 12 colonies settling on a new habitable planet they dubbed New Caprica. Now, BSG is a science fiction story based in space, so last May I found it worrisome that the characters were going to be grounded. Thank the gods of Kobol my worries were unfounded.

Warning: Possible spoilers ahead

What a story! I find it so freakin' interesting that the humans--the good guys--become occupied and act in a way that resembles people whom most would consider extremists: They begin an insurgency. They plant bombs to destabilize the occupiers. There's even a suicide bomber. Col. Tigh Jammer becomes a central figure and a hard ass to boot. But I guess, if I lost an eye, I'd turn into a hard ass too. Man oh man, this story is so hard core. If you didn't get a chance to see it, the SciFi channel usually runs it at least two more times before next Fridays episode--check your cable listing. If you don't have cable or satellite, you should be able to catch Act One of the first episode online at SciFi Pulse. If you did see it, you may also want to go to BSG Webisodes. There are ten short Resistance clips that are not part of the TV episode, but explain why Jammer joins the New Capricorn Police, and why Duck decides to become a suicide bomber. Man oh man, this is just too good.

Oh yeah, there's a funny music video comparing the old BSG with the new one. They sorta make fun of the way they dressed back then and even name Lorne Greene specifically. Grace Park does a Q&A as well. That in itself is worth the visit.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

I'm Lost


s it just me? Last night's episode of Lost--the TV show--was very unfulfilling. After an entire summer of anticipation, all we get are the three--Jack, Kate and Sawyer--locked up in cages. I mean, it started so well when it was revealed that they Others actually have nice houses and a community of sorts in the middle of the Island. Kinda reminded me of some cult camp, something like Jim Jones' camp, except I don't think the Others have Kool-Aid in their pantry, unless they are going to make the survivors of Oceanic Air flight 815 drink it.

Oh well, I'll have to wait and see what happens.

Sammy wrote recently that he watches--among other shows--Heroes on NBC. Onigiri suggested I watch it as well, so I went online to see the most recent episode and have only seen the first 15 minutes or so--a student walked in so I had to turn it off. Okay, so I take it easy at work sometimes. I mean, I was watching it as I was eating my lunch, so no grief please. Anyway, there's a Japanese character named Hiro--Hiro/Hero? Hmmmm... Anyway, he uses Japanese and I think it's the first time a regular in a Japanese role can actually speak passable Japanese. No more Arnold/Mr. Miyagi, thank God. The show online at NBC is the second episode. I want to see the first one. Do any of you Internet / bittorrent brainiacs have a suggestions as to where I might go to see it?

Anyway, Thursday is winding down which means my weekend is starting to kick in. Woo hoo! ...wait a minute. I have a lot of work to do. That presentation--which went rather well, if you were wondering --took up so much of my time last week that I fell behind in class prep and grading. But what else is new...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

4 8 15 16 23 42


have admitted to being a TV junkie on more than one occasion here. I can watch hours of mindless J-dorama relatively guilt-free... unless I have a stack of papers to grade. And one of the reasons why J-dorama--that's Japanese TV drama to the uninitiated--can be easy to watch is that they are short, in terms of number of episodes.

In Japan, production and/or broadcast companies will develop a story, pitch it to potential sponsors and when the money is ready, they will create a series that will run for nine to twelve weeks--the everage show being about eleven. Watching one dorama is like reading a novel. You meet most of the characters in the first chapter, characters develop as the plot unfolds, they reach a climax and the last episode is a kind of denouement. If the story is good, then there is a degree of satisfaction, you put down the "book", and life goes on.

This is not the case here in the US.

We live in a Flash-Gordon, Saturday-matinee kind of world over here, where each episode ends with the main character in a dreadful situation, and every viewer is left hanging there, wondering until the next Saturday, what will happen to our hero. In the world of TV, this has been extended not only to the end of an episode, but to the end of a TV season. Blame Dallas. After "Who Shot J.R." waaaaaaaay too many shows use this hook in the season finale to hold their fans in suspense over the summer.

Well, the summer is over! And tonight is the season premier of "Lost". Woo hoo! I can't wait. What happens when Locke, Mr. Eko and Charlie fail to enter the code and push the button in the computer? What was that eerie light shining on everyone's face? A nuclear explosion? (Well, hardly. That would mean the end of the show.) And what of the "Others"? What will they do with Jack and Kate? Will Michael come back to rescue them? Personally, I have faith that Sayid and Sawyer/James will come through and save the day.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Not Living In the Real World


put absolutely no stock in these Internet quizzes, especially the ones that try to determine you personality or character. I mean, seriously, how can, say, eight to twelve questions avaluate you, grasp you, in your entirety?

That being said, I am still a sucker for tthese quizzes. I found the one below at starberri92's site the other day, and even as I was telling myself how stupid these quizzes are, I've already finshed taking it. What gets me even more, I can almost convince myself that this is very close to the truth.

You Are Surrealism
1. Dreamy and idealistic, you've created a world that is all your own.
2. It's very likely that you've either dabbled in drugs or are naturally trippy.
3. You are always trying to push beyond the boundaries of your culture and society.
4. You believe that art, love, and freedom can change the world.

So let's see now. Am I dreamy? Well, I will often "imagine" various scenarios related to my life, like what would I do if I hit the lottery. No, not just "I'll go to Tahiti" but I will create a scenario that clearly outlines how I will spend and divide the money. Is this creating "a world that is all your own"?

As for 2, I will take the 5th...

I do push the boundaries trying to convince my students to think differently, to challenge and question everything, that they are ACTUALLY smarter than they think. Maybe even smarter than me... well, okay, not "maybe"...

And I do think that art, love and freedom will change the world. I've gotta believe that most of the members of the current administration boycotted finger painting when they were in kindergarden, because they are using war, fear (of terrorists attacks) and torture (including waterboarding and sleep deprivation) to try to change their world.

Peace and love, all...