As we get into bed for the evening she beckons me over and says "lets talk". I can't remember how we got onto the subject but it seems like a good time and I broach the subject of how 2 1/2 years ago I slept with a guy, my best friend, while I was away on holiday. This was in retrospect a bad thing to do as although it gets her off my back about me being a boy virgin, her being such a wonderful fag hag and all. Now I’m going to have to put up with weeks of sighs ,tears and bad communication from her.

Note to myself, when she asks “How are you”
She really means “Ask me how I am”

What I cannot get over is how this matters so much when it’s over, it’s done. We were barely going out at the time. Its so long ago, yet somehow it matters. In the face of unrelenting love, respect and togetherness since. I should have known that it would matter, as she is the left side of our collective brain, the side that has feelings about things when I am the logical right half. Always thinking, evaluating, knowing, or not knowing it seems. Later I may look upon this as the straw that broke the camels back but really Im not sure what the rest of the load was.

“You never talk to me”
I think it’s the other way round

Again, for those of you that don’t know me, I don’t make a habit of doing daylogs – only when I feel the occasion warrants it. Today seems to be one of those occasions.

My personal “Cheers” is gone. At about 5:45 last night, a 35 ton fire truck, trying to negotiate a turn, slammed into the side of my local watering hole. Luckily, all patrons and firefighters escaped with only minor injuries and nobody was seriously hurt. . The building, well, she doesn’t look so good.

This “local establishment “ was the kind of place that was safe haven for me during times of crisis. It was also the place where people (locals, mostly) gathered to entertain each other. Where births, marriages, and graduations were celebrated. Where deaths and other assorted tragedies were mourned. Where major sporting events and world news were watched and details pored over. Where people acquired nicknames such as “Chud”, “One Eyed John”, “Bad Back Jim”, Professor Paul”, “Drunk Ass Laurie”, “Old Man Bob”, “Bobblehead Marty” and “ First and Third” (so named because his eyes point in different directions). I’m sure there are probably many more that if given the time, I could think of, but I think you get the idea.

You see, this “local establishment” wasn’t one of those chain type restaurants/bars that profess to be interested in you and have people running around in all sorts of trendy costumes. When people asked “How you doin?”, it was out a of genuine concern that probably comes with familiarity. The familiarity that comes with sharing a couple of drinks and moments of conversation with people who have the same neighborhood concerns as you do. A place where you could run a tab for a couple of days if you were short or float a check if the need arose. A place where, on occasion, drinks were bought on the house by some of the long-term bartenders for their favorite patrons. A place with Irish trappings that employed Mexican and Greek immigrants, where college students came to wait tables and make enough tips to get them through to the next semester.

For some reason, I was just too tired to stop in last night. I left work around 4:00, drove past the place, saw the usual cars in the parking lot, and just kept going. At around 7:00, my phone rings and I decide to let my machine pick –up. I hear my ex-wives voice and immediately start to cringe but then I hear the tone in her voice. “ I just hope your not where I think you probably are” (or something to that effect) and I pick up the receiver. “Turn on the local news”. I do so and am immediately shocked at what I see. What used to be the side of the building is now replaced with a gaping hole. At this point, I jump in my car and head down to the bar to see if any of my friends were hurt. Luckily, besides a few scrapes, scratches and bruises, all are intact.

.A few hours later, the crowd outside has grown to over 500 people. All seem to be waiting to see how they are going to extricate the fire truck and get it right side up. My friends and I, we gather off to the side to contemplate how lucky we were and what’s to become of our watering hole. Hopefully, the building is sound enough to be saved. Structural engineers have to make that determination over the next couple of days. My friends and I, we wonder where we can go to find the same atmosphere that we found there.

I suppose that in the grand scheme of things, this is a relatively small blip on the radar, but to some of of us locals and regulars, it has taken on a rather large degree of importance.

Today is a pseudo-monday.

It surprises me that still, after all these working years, it's hard to adjust to being back in the office after even a brief sojourn. So, after taking Friday and Monday off, I'm back, and trying to get into the groove. Actually, not really trying.

Naturally, the first thing I did was speed-read and delete the 100 or so new emails in my inbox. Once that was out of the way (in other words, several hours later), I set about rearranging my objets de desk; an A1 priority task, as it had been at least four weeks since I last did it, and on that occasion I'd failed to solve dual mouse and keyboard issues. So, now I have to my left; snowstorm, coffee, effervescent vitamin C, calendar, misc books and junk. Down the middle; one clunky PC. To my right; laptop. And hurrah! I have achieved full mouse separation.

Maybe you're wondering where I've been.

Oh go on then, I'll tell you. I was in Paris, and having jolly good fun there too, visiting catacombs, eating, drinking, wandering, and taking photographs of people taking photographs of La Jaconde. However, I have the following caveat for any future travellers to Paris. Do not, on any account, rely on the RER to get you from A to B if you are pressed for time. In fact, try not to rely on it at all if you can. I did, and paid the price. 62 Euros to be precise, to change my flight from morning to afternoon, having arrived, breathless and overheated, at the check-in desk five minutes too late.

I know, I know, I should have left myself more margin for error, but I hadn't counted on my train being cancelled at two minutes notice - at least I think it was cancelled. In truth it sort of disappeared from the departures board, silently. And I should really have been more wary after the debacle on my arrival at Charles De Gaulle airport; all RER cancelled exactly one minute after I'd finally reached the front of the queue and purchased my ticket, passengers travelling to Paris - of which there were many, unsurprisingly - directed to the bus stop, no buses. Whatsoever. Gah! And I still haven't worked out why the woman at the bureau de change refused to serve me.

I will never learn.

And all this negotiated under the strict rules of NIRP. (Day 13, and still going strong, for those cheering on my efforts.)

Bisous to all.

Warning: this may sound like I'm absolutely full of myself. I'm sorry. I'm just trying to come to terms with something kinda complicated, and it didn't come out too well here. It sounds like I'm a conceited bitch, but most of these things that sound conceited I've never said outloud. Never even wrote about them before.

It sucks when you wake up and you realize that people don't really like you as much as you thought they did. As a young female Leo, this is especially difficult to assimilate. Not that that happened to me this morning, it was actually a couple of weeks ago, but I haven't talked about it. Well, I tried to address the issue with my boyfriend, but he was in that limbo between being awake and sound asleep.

"Hey, hon, do I ever annoy you?"
"It's impossible for two people to be together for any significant amount of time and not get on each other's nerves. I know I get on yours sometimes."
"Yeah, but you know, and I know you know..." I paused for a couple of seconds. "You see, I'm beginning to see a trend in my life... and I realized that I've been misreading people for the longest time, and people have never really liked me as much as I thought they did."
"Honey, I don't think that's the case at all..."
"What do you mean?"

Then he paused for a second and said, "What were we talking about? I'm sorry, I'm almost asleep."

I sighed and said: "Nothing important, don't worry. Good night."

Then he kissed me and less than a minute later, he was snoring placidly.

I've come to this realization once or twice before in my life, whenever a situation has turned around and slapped me across the face. But I always thought that it was a freak incident, that I was really as well-liked as I thought I was. I mean, I'm not ugly, and I'm not mean, and I'm not stupid (though sometimes I do/say stupid things). There was a time when I was ugly (really, it takes a very gorgeous person to look good in his/her early teenage years and pre-teens, and I've never claimed to be gorgeous). Even then, though I was aware that I was less than attractive, I thought guys still thought I was pretty, and that I was just having self-esteem issues. I remember this one time, I must've been 13, and I had to walk straight across a group of older boys (they were maybe 15). Now, you see, back home in Puerto Rico, this can be very stressful, guys say lewd comments and that kind of thing to every halfway decent-looking female that crosses their field of vision. Well, I held my books tight against my chest, pushed my glasses up my nose, and walked quickly. Instead of something lewd, or maybe flattering (they're known to do that every once in a while too), they started laughing about my messed up curly hair and my uni-brow. What a blow to my ego.

Maybe it was that same year, or the next year, I wore a nice outfit to school. Or at least I thought it was nice. A long, flowery, flowing skirt (lots of blue and purple), and a white tank top. I let my hair down, I had two clearly defined eyebrows by then (though I still had glasses and a mouthful of metal). I thought I'd get compliments.

I got laughed at.

Since then, I've stuck to boot-cut jeans.

In 9th grade, I got contacts. My orthodontic treatment was over and done with. And I got asked out for the first time in 10th grade, (by someone not in school with me, those guys wouldn't even look at me until my ugliness was well in the past, by my senior year). I fell madly in love, like one can only fall in love when one is 15 and no one has ever paid attention to you, and suddenly there's a guy comparing your eyes to the stars and your voice to a siren's. He turned out to be a real dickhead, but still, we were together for 20 months. I dumped him because he was an obsessive psycho, even if he had threatened to kill himself, because he just couldn't live without me.

A month later, he was with someone else. They're still together from what I hear. I pity her.

But I, no, I was REALLY in love. I mourned for over a year, and it wasn't until the end of my freshman year in college that I started feeling attracted to anyone again. And, what was better, he was attracted to me too. We had been friends for a while, and things suddenly escalated to friends who fuck. After a couple of months of this, I was in love. He wasn't. But I thought he was. I really believed that he was, but he was scared of commitment and didn't realize that he really was, indeed, in love with me. He wasn't. It took me a couple of months to realize it.

Then I got to thinking... How many times will this happen to me? How many people have I thought really thought I was The Shit (in the figurative sense), but really just thought I was "eeeeeh... all right, I guess"?

Most people. I'm pretty certain about this now.

I used to walk around thinking guys were checking me out. I never looked, because I didn't want them to know that I knew. I've started looking, and I realize that hardly anyone ever gives me a second look.

I never stuck with any group in my life. I was the cheerleader that jammed with the metalheads in high school. Teacher's pet, Student of the Year for two years in a row. The only group I sorta stuck with was the geeks.

I've been an outcast all of my life, and I never really noticed. I was too busy thinking that people being just generically nice to me because I was nice to them, was people thinking I was awesome.

I'm glad I realized this. I don't know what to do about this new knowledge yet, I certainly do hope somehow I internalize it this time, and start to build up my self-esteem again. You know, years and years of rejection when you expect to be received with cheers just because you are not a bad person really put someone down. I'm nice, but I'm not exceptional in any way. People won't like me just for being me. I'm gonna have to work on it.

It sucks when you realize that no one really likes you, and no one thinks you're awesome, just because you were born with some talents doesn't mean you don't have to cultivate them. I didn't cultivate mine, became mediocre, and didn't realize it until now.

Okay, this is getting repetitive. My brain hurts.

I need coffee.

Yesterday I daylogged about a job I was hoping to receive. Well, I finally called back Human Resources and spoke with my contact there. Seems like they had already asked someone for that position.

"The person we hired had more experience directly relating to more of a system that we use here."
Whatever that means.....

Oh well, I guess some place there is a full-time waiting for me. Hopefully it is sooner then later.

So, recently, the US House of Representatives passed a bill making it possible to sentence people of convicted of computer crimes to life imprisonment.

I will never ever understand why corporations and government fail to understand the potential of the Internet as relates to their own goals, whatever those goals may be. Neither entity understands what it is that's been unleashed upon us all, and rather than try to understand it, they generally want to kill it and/or legislate it out of existence, making the free flow of information ... and all that that implies ... difficult and even criminal.

The one thing that convinces me that there is no CONSPIRACY amongst big government and big business to manipulate the masses is the fact that they haven't yet used the Internet in their alleged schemes and villanous plans to control us all. That one fact gives me hope for the future.

However, I can also envision a future wherein a rising star working for some corporation will be the apple of some executive's eye. That exec will listen to the star when the star says something like "If we kill the 'net, we can't make any money off of it. If, instead, we do (insert some radical new idea on how to attain control of the internet while making it easier than ever for the general public to entertain themselves here) we can give them their bread and their circuses and do whatever we like. We don't need to kill the Internet ... we need to use it... this."

...and all that that implies.

For information on the bill that was passed in the House, see

I was thinking the other day about everything people use leather for. Even a small strip of it can support an immense amout of weight (high tensile strength) and it has incredible flexibility.

My question is this: Is there actually some sufficient force generated inside a cow somewhere to merit this super-tough skin? If it were less tough would cows split apart at the seams?


weill in japan: day 14

Typhoon 7 blew through Tokyo without much effect, professors are turning up the homework heat, and the cost of this trip continues to rise.

where'd the rain go?

Today was supposed to be a very stressful day, weather-wise. Typhoon 7 was predicted to hit Tokyo in the mid-morning, dumping lots of rain and producing dangerous wind gusts. These facts were discussed at length yesterday and last week, when Typhoon 6 struck while most students were asleep.

At around 9:00 AM local time, the rain suddenly began to fall from pitch-dark clouds. It lasted no more than three minutes, after which it became eerily dark and calm. Normally, at that hour, the sky is about as bright as it gets. I thought that the three minutes of downpours was just the first wave, but eventually the skies lightened up without any further rain. Tokyo was spared from nearly all of the typhoon's destruction, with northern and western areas getting far more rain.

Typhoon 7 was a non-event for me, which is fine. The trains and buses in the area were not disrupted at all. The situation is crowded enough at full operating capacity, and I don't really want to think about what would happen if the same number of travelers had to smash into fewer vehicles.

Typhoon 9 is the next one on radar, with Typhoon 8 already gone before getting near Japan. Typhoon 9 is not expected to hit Tokyo, but meteorologists have not ruled out the possibility of more typhoons hitting soon. The reason? El Ni&ntlide;o. I'm not kidding.

train talk

As I heard in a lecture on Japanese non-verbal communication today, the rail system in Japan is something of an oddity when it comes to communication strategies. Often, people are so tightly packed into cars that they must literally push passengers into the train. At the same time, verbal communication between strangers is considered unacceptable behavior. Even the expectedly polite Japanese people will not apologize for pushing others around on trains. All of this physical contact has made some female passengers uneasy, and special women-only cars are sometimes used in Tokyo and Osaka.

As in New York and just about any other major city, the Tokyo trains are riddled with people using mobile phones. Phones in Japan are outstandingly advanced; all but the most outdated phones have color screens. Some have cameras for videophone capabilities, some can record short video clips to send over a high-speed 144 kbps network, and some have lightweight Java Virtual Machines for playing on-line games. However, the most common usage of phones on trains is not any of these advanced features, or even talking; instead, people use them for e-mail and web browsing right on that tiny color screen. Untold thousands of web pages are available in lightweight mode for view on phones, and the compact structure of the Japanese language enables more information to fit in fewer character cells than most Western languages. The high-resolution screens can render Kanji characters legibly, and the built-in translation software translates keyed-in readings to characters in much the same way as full-scale computers do. By remaining silent but still being able to communicate on the Internet, the railways demonstrate a fascinating mix of traditional values with bleeding-edge technology.

Speaking of mobile phones, many phones have ditched the common beep-like ring tones that irritate much of the Western world and have lightweight MIDI synthesizers to play full multi-channel songs. This doesn't surprise me too much, as musical chimes accompany things like doorbells, oncoming train notifications, and "walk" signs at street crossings. Instead of the mundane beeps and other simple sounds that I'm used to in the U.S., distinct melodies accompany many prompts and notifications here. It's very pleasant-sounding, although most people here don't notice it anyway.

quakes galore

Earthquakes are a fairly common occurrence in Japan, but I had no idea how common they were until I came here and felt one for myself. When a low-magnitude earthquake rumbled through Tokyo on Saturday evening, I expected the radio to break into a special news bulletin as if it were an important news event. Nothing of the sort happened. In the past few days, I've seen earthquakes mentioned on the news, but not by newscasters. When an earthquake happens, as one did in Kyoto at 8:10 PM this evening, a brief announcement to that effect appears briefly at the top of the TV screen, accompanied by a musical chime. Regular programming is not interrupted. Similar treatment occurs for typhoons, where the screen is shrunken slightly to allow for a larger ticker of location-specific information and rain forecasts.

incoming people

Tomorrow, my older brother Nori returns from working in Kyoto to spend at least a little time at home. My parents want me to speak English with him so that his English doesn't become rusty. I'll do my best.

I may actually have plans for much of this weekend. On Friday, one of the other Carnegie Mellon students at ICU tells me that we can meet up with the Carnegie Mellon students over at IES, a different summer study abroad program which is also located in Tokyo. I'm inclined to accept. On Saturday, the national holiday Umi no Hi (Ocean Day), I plan on touring a few more areas in and around Tokyo with at least a couple of fellow students. One of my classmates is planning to stay up all night on Thursday partying in Tokyo's club neighborhood of Roppongi, but I don't think I'll be able to function the next day on zero sleep. The amount of homework has been growing, but I don't intend to let it interfere with my fun.

class matters

My bullshit detector is going off the charts.

Lately, we've been doing an awful lot of busy work in class: repetitively reciting script after script, pointlessly asking the same questions to expect the same answers. Much like at Carnegie Mellon, the students here at ICU don't take well to such activities, quickly becoming distracted in their independent groups. Conversation quickly turns from the pre-selected topic to things of personal interest, often in languages other than Japanese. When the professor comes by, we pretend to be carrying on a Japanese-language conversation to humor her, but I'm pretty sure she knows what's up.

Our most recent homework assignment: copy an entire passage onto a separate piece of paper and answer some questions about how Japanese is handwritten onto grid paper. That's it. It's just two hours of terrible, terrible busy work. Did I do it? You better believe it.

land of the seventeen-dollar plum

You'd think that with the dollar falling to about ¥116, people would be watching what they buy a little more closely.

Right now, Japan is in the middle of the chuugen mid-year gift season, when people give each other gifts that nearly always consist of food and drinks. Fruits are very popular, even though they can be extremely expensive and are not purchased with the hope that the recipient will want to eat them. Instead of buying oranges, for example, one might give a gift of imported Valencia oranges that cost substantially more and are presented in an attractive case. Beverage makers repackage their products in decorative bottles and fancy tins, increasing the price accordingly. Plenty of folks have seen pictures of those cube-shaped watermelons, grown in plastic containers and engineered to fit in Japanese refrigerators. These watermelons cost ¥10,000 ($86) each and are not even edible, according to one fellow student. From what I've been able to tell, they don't revert to normal shape once picked up, as "The Simpsons" would have us believe.

Regular fruits are fairly expensive, but those that are in season are delicious. However, sometimes there are special varieties that sell for particularly high prices. One student told us about how he saw a special white variety of plum being sold in packages of two for ¥4000 ($34.50). He bought a pack, thinking that they must be the best plums in the world for that price. He got hosed. Big-time. Two crappy-tasting gift plums later, he learned a lesson the hard way. Around gift-giving time, more expensive does not necessarily mean that something is better quality.


Annoyance: Since I presumably won't understand the advertisements on the package, the people handing out free packets of tissues at train stations often do not offer them to foreign-looking people. I've all but snatched the tissues from these presumptuous drones. I will not be denied free stuff.

Game notes: Super Mario Sunshine is on display at many stores. I haven't waited long enough to get to play it yet, but it looks like a much more expansive edition of the fantastic Super Mario 64. It comes out on July 19 in Japan.

More game notes: Soul Calibur II is in the arcades. As with many other fighting games, two-player combat is done by players sitting at opposite machines. I didn't realize this before putting my ¥100 into the Soul Calibur II machine for the first time. I ended up challenging the player across me, interrupting his game in progress. He did not appreciate this. I got whipped. HARD. When I got up in defeat, I noticed that this gentleman had a crowd gathering around him. D'oh.

I'm still staying up late and getting up later. This will cause a big problem sometime soon.

My first C5-level quizzes are on Thursday. I didn't realize this until late Tuesday evening. Problem.

And on we go...

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