Let me make a small confession here. As the countdown dwindles, I find myself more and more excited to see xXx (August 9th, in a theatre near you). Because I love action movies, I love Vin Diesel with all of my horny heart, and I absolutely live my LIFE for Rammstein, who make an appearance in the movie. I'm planning a PARTY for opening night for God's sake, and I'm having a henna tattoo applied to my neck in the style of Vin Diesel's character. I am aware that this is an eye candy movie, with no possible redeeming value or indeed Oscar possibility. But that's just the sort of thing I need in August.

But with all this planning I must keep one movie in mind...and that movie is Backdraft. I waited for Backdraft for MONTHS, with the anticipation that only a fourteen year old girl with a crush on Billy Baldwin can have...and it turned out to be an O.K. movie, but nothing near to the hype I'd built up in my mind. It's similar to my excitement about Christmas, which gets me sick, physically sick, almost every single year because I get so worked up and excited about it.

So yes, I'll be there, at xXx on opening night, with my tattoo and my lust for big dumb oafs...but I'm going to try and put it out of my mind until then. Let this serve as a purging. Done.

I just read in Sunday's paper that Martin Amis recently declared religious belief to be "without reason and without dignity, and its record is near-universally dreadful." By an amazing coincidence, I too am unreasonable and undignified, and my own record is near-universally dreadful. It is well, then, that I became a Christian.

graceness tells me that she and her husband attended a buck and doe party over the weekend. It seems like this Northern mating ritual is something Canadians are doing all the time, and involves conveying money to couples engaged to be wed. I picture something like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, with lumberjack-sized men vaulting fences and stomping the floor with their boots in time with the fiddler and washboard player, while the women dance a reel with their gingham skirts all a-swirl.

Angela and I went out on Saturday night with her father and half-sisters, and her half-sisters' boyfriends. Sarah's returned from studying in Manchester to finish up at UCSD, and brought her English boyfriend J.P. (who reminds me a bit of panamaus) back with her for the summer. Janis is being all entreprenurial in Long Beach -- I think she's making skirts now and selling them to clothing shops, in addition to her design work -- and has hooked up with a musician who looks like a young Tim Robbins and sounds like Christian Slater. We went for Mexican food and then to Farrell's for ice cream. J.P. was astounded -- he'd assumed that American movies were just making up places like Farrell's, where they bang drums and crank sirens as they announce that a diner has just finished a Pig Trough Sundae all by himself.

My father-in-law Ron gave me a Barnes and Noble gift card as a belated birthday present so on Sunday I bicycled over and picked up the CD I, Jonathan by Jonathan Richman and a nice B&N Classics hardcover edition of The Three Musketeers. I love the CD and I feel a great weight lifted from my shoulders now that I've finally replaced my old, dirty, depressing hideous paperback edition of the Dumas novel with this swanky new volume.

My wife called me at work today as she left the doctor's office.

"I have bad news, worse news, and good news. Which do you want first?"
"Just let me have it all honey."
"My kidneys are failing. If they get any worse, they're going to have to do an emergency C-Section and take the baby. They've moved the delivery date up to 28 weeks."
I didn't know what else to say. There was a crushing, sinking silence filling my chest, like my heart stopped and I couldn’t breathe all at once. Heather filled the gap "They said the baby's doing fine, very healthy. It's just my kidneys. They can't handle the pressure. I have to go on bed rest. The doctor doesn't want me to do anything anymore..." She spoke so strongly, a soldier reporting from the front line. My strong soldier that broke down into hysterical sobs when the doctor first confirmed she was pregnant.

She had been so happy when she finally returned to college for the spring semester. She was finally where she felt she belonged, finally studying what she wanted. Then came the kidney infection, the Cipro, and it counteracted her birth control. She took 5 home pregnancy tests because she didn’t want to believe the results.
We both knew that when she got pregnant her diabetes might make things complicated, but this problem with the kidneys, this is new. And now a new due date! 28 weeks. That’s so early. How many months would she spend in the NICU? My daughter might die if she's delivered that early. My wife might not pull through. She might not heal right after the C-Section and we can never have kids again. A million and one things could go wrong, might go wrong. It's hard to think they won’t go wrong.

I mourn for my wife stuck at home with nothing to do but lie on the couch and face the prospects of losing a kidney, or dying to have this baby, a baby we didn't plan, a baby we weren't ready to have, but started to welcome and look forward to.

I'm scared. I can’t concentrate on work. I want to fall on my knees and pray to God to please spare both their lives, and to bring Heather through okay. I want to run into every church on Front Street and beg the assembled faithful to pray for my family. I don’t want to lose either one of them.
I'm going to make a new mix CD. The theme? Ass-kicking.

Yup, that's right. I'm going to make an entire CD dedicated to either kicking someone's ass or having your ass kicked. That is, if I can find enough songs. The playlist so far:

I have a few others that I am going to listen to after I download them and see if they are "ass-kicking" songs, but beyond that, I need ideas. Anyone got a song about kicking ass? I'd appreciate suggestions.

In other news, I saw a recipe for apple pie in a cookbook and now I am being persecuted by apple pie. I think the gods are conspiring to force me to make an apple pie. From scratch. No complaints here.

My EVIL manager has transferred to another store. Which makes my day much better.

I have left some old files I need on a computer that is no longer hooked up.

I am up to page 150 in the new book I'm writing.

I'm tired.

And pissed.

a good day

weill in japan: day 27

After our professors opened the floodgates on Friday, today brought some long-awaited relief. Today was a much more bearable day, due largely to the fact that our professors let us work on projects for the whole time.

Summer courses just about anywhere are known for their fast pace: instead of teaching the material twice or three times a week over the course of several months, the material is compressed down to daily lessons for six weeks. One of the side-effects: homework is due the next class day, so assignments have to be completed on just under 24 hours' notice. Today, we were given the assignment of compiling survey data from all groups into one data set, making graphs, and preparing to present them tomorrow in class.

First problem: One of our group members was absent today, due to a planned trip on business. I gave him our data, but we'll need to brief him tomorrow morning on the particulars.

Second problem: Just as before, all groups will be presenting the same material. After the second group goes, it's bedtime for everyone but the third group. Rigid content guidelines mean that creativity is a definite no-no.

Third problem: Many of the students are not familiar with Excel, and yet we were all expected to compile data and make graphs using the native Japanese version of Excel for Mac 2001. Learning a program for the first time is tough enough: I've been using Excel for many years and I have problems trying to remember display elements based on position rather than the tiny characters on the display. Japanese was not meant to be viewed at less than 100 dots per inch.

Fourth problem: We were given a grand total of an hour in the computer lab to complete this task, and I spent most of my time walking around helping my group members out. I don't fault my classmates for this, since the course staff had the poor foresight to expect total proficiency with a program that many students hadn't used in any language. I ended up working after lunch to finish off the work and distribute the compiled workbook to my group by e-mail.

Four problems, and still a good day. My standards have dropped to new lows.

elsewhere around campus

This week marks the second and last week of issei kyuuka (simultaneous vacation) when ICU basically closes up shop for all but the most essential summer course resources. The dining hall and post office are still open, but everything else has sharply reduced hours. All the more reason to spend less time on campus.

I'm on the list to visit Asakusa this Saturday, leaving bright and early at 8:40 AM from the train station nearest ICU. It will be my second visit to that historic district, having first gone there on Saturday to watch the famous Sumida River Festival and its dazzling fireworks display. The trip on Saturday will feature many more activities, including a visit to a shrine.

My host family loves to collect stickers for summer promotions. After collecting my 20th Coke Point and qualifying to win a digital camera/MP3 player, I'm already 7.6 points towards my next entry in that contest. My older brother Kei sent in his six Pepsi stickers and ¥1500 ($12.60) to get some more Star Wars commemorative bottlecaps. I'm sending in a sticker from a half-liter bottle of C.C. Lemon soda to try and win a Simpsons folding chair. I wish they sold those chairs alongside the many other Simpsons character goods in Japan.

The 5000-yen note is hard to come by from what I've seen. With only 1000 and 10,000 yen notes in my pocket, I had to buy a new 5000-yen bus card today. After buying a bottled drink at a kiosk and paying with a 10,000-yen note, I was given my change in coins and nine 1000s. The cashier didn't have any 5000s handy, so I had no choice but to buy a 1000-yen card on the bus. I later changed for a 5000 with a friend, so I'll have an extra card to give away or sell on the cheap.

My Japanese soccer jersey, which I bought yesterday on the cheap in Shibuya, drew many comments from students and teachers. I need to research this Nakata guy, since people expect me to know at least something about the man whose jersey I bought.

I'm beginning to get annoyed at the people who, when hearing that I'm from New York, immediately start asking questions about September 11. I know that they just want to get a perspective from someone who's from the area, but I still don't feel comfortable discussing that day's events even now, 10 months later.

The dollar surged ¥1.70 today to be worth just over ¥119, its highest level in a couple of weeks. Hopefully the rise will continue so I can finish up my gift shopping with a more favorable exchange rate.

More studying, more presentation prep, and more sleep will get me through this week. I'm looking forward to traveling on Friday and Saturday, and possibly more plans beyond that.

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