Monthly Archives: March 2017

Such Haste to Messiness

The girls have been gone only a few hours and the apartment is already mess. Except for the speed this is normal. In my defense, the dishes were dirty before they left.

I, of course, agreed that I would wash them, and will, eventually. First, though, I confirmed what day the girls would return so that I can plan what day to wash the dishes.

As I’ve written before, this is the old normal. I’ll also have a couple days to do some running around–I did some today, but more on that in a future post.

The trick, of course, is to revert to primeval only those rooms that were already kind of messy. That way I only have to return them to the state they were in. If I can improve them, and quite frankly, there’s little incentive to do so, then I earn bonus points.

Any other room that gets messy, though, is work that has to be done. The rooms that were nearly pristine before the girls left have to be returned to their nearly pristine state.

On a good day, I can do this quickly.

I could do that on a bad day, too, I suppose, but just can’t be bothered usually.

Worst and Worser

I should have quit after five.

Actually, I did quit after five, but then I came back for five more.

In the game I still manage to play a few times a week I have have accounts on both the Asian and North American servers. Because of a better connection, I’ve been more successful on the Asian server than on the North American.

That said, the game seems to be programmed to make you play in alternating streaks of success and abject failure. Because of this, I’ve learned to follow the advice of a more successful player who recommended playing five games and then deciding if you should stay in or not. His rule is that if you reach five games and have less than three wins, you should quit playing for a while and come back later.

After finishing five matches and losing all five in brutal, horrible, very bad, no good ways. I took a short break.

When I came back, though, I went 0-5 again. I played better but couldn’t get any wins, but it was time to quit.

Then I went to the North American server for a few matches and played much better. However, even though I was winning, I thought it best to quit while I was ahead.

I might play again tomorrow, but it’s probably best I don’t.

Playing with the Numbers

I’m beginning to understand corrupt accountants.

I’ve mentioned before how Japan has made me a minor currency speculator but today I was playing with a program and moving numbers around.

For my minor business/hobby, I’ve finally decided to keep more formal notes of my expenses and earnings and setting aside a small chunk of money to be used solely for the business/gambling.

That involved opening an account book on Gnucash (because free). However, because it is a double entry bookkeeping system I also had to learn to make the mental leap about balance and every income is an expense gets a line where it gets spent and, well, it gets.

At that point I started having fun manipulating the numbers in order to make the bottom line look exactly the way I wanted it to. I also experimented with different types of entries to make it do exactly what I wanted it to do.

I think I’ve finally figured it all out, but now it’s time to make an actual inventory database. That will lead to other problems, but I’ll worry about those later.


Almost Less Than Worthless

We are taking over our in-laws’ automobile and have to get rid of our old one. It’s not worth much but it’s worth more than simply dumping it, even though that option is quite tempting.

Every now and then, here in Japan you see news about illegal garbage dumps. Usually the dumps consist of cars and large appliances.

This is partly a problem because the government now charges you for getting rid of old stuff. Because of this used-goods stores will offer pathetic amounts for your electronics and electrical goods. You may only make a few hundred yen for your refrigerator–which will be sold for 8,000-10,000 yen depending on its size–but it saves you money because you don’t have to pay the recycling tax. On the other hand, if you live in an area with no used-goods stores, the only way to avoid the tax is to use your stuff until it dies once and for all forever and then illegally dump your stuff in the woods somewhere.

In the case of automobiles it’s worse. The government has mandatory inspections that get more frequent the older the car gets. Because of this, the car depreciates quickly. Once a car reaches age ten it is almost worthless and you can’t even coax college kids into buying it as the maintenance will be more than the car is worth. (Note: the primary market for decade old cars in Japan seems to be foreign teachers living in rural areas.) The only selling points of a car that old are the condition of the car, if the car has a low-powered (aka, a more “fuel efficient”) engine and the length of time left before the mandatory inspection.

In our case, our car has a couple strikes: 1) it is a 2004 model which means several sales companies wouldn’t even give us a price; and 2) it only has a couple months left before its mandatory inspection which mean it will soon require a few hundred dollars in expenses. As such, it is almost worthless (unless we can find an English teacher in a rural area and want to pay tax on the sale). That said, because we live in a suburbanish area (long story) it’s not worth our energy to drive to a rural area and dump it.

We will sell it though, because we need to get the new car before the next mandatory inspection. If we miss that deadline, then we probably will dump it somewhere.

Old and Dusty

They are out of date, but I’ll eat them anyway, because it if it doesn’t kill me, it will give me a writing topic.

I was cleaning out the earthquake kit because it’s time to replace and upgrade the perishable components. As I was digging, I found a few items I’d forgotten about. Two of them are only two years past their “best by” date. One is approaching three years.

Many of the things around them are also past their “best by” date, but if they pass a visual test and a smell test (performed by someone else) I’ll go ahead and consume them.

All this gives me data I can use when I restock the kit. What holds up well? What was a waste of money? Why is the afterlife more full of fire and brimstone than I was expecting?

If I have any doubts, I will throw stuff out. A few years ago an entire bag of beef jerky looked suspicious even though it wasn’t past its “best by” date yet and it ended up in the trash.

I’ve also eaten ancient ramen soup and tried to use ancient instant coffee (the former was okay; the latter wasted water and time as it was one block that didn’t dissolve).

I also have to update the other bags and try to make better notes about the contents.

Or, I’ll just wait a few years and see what’s still edible.



Walking the Cozy Streets

The bus was going to take too long so I decided we should walk. It turned out to be a good idea.

Because it was nice weather and because I was “working” I took our youngest one station away to the main town to visit a street dedicated to sweets and candy.

After lunch, we walked up to a bus stop, but quickly figured out that a bus to where we wanted to go probably wouldn’t arrive in our lifetime. Even if it did, because it was Saturday and the streets were going to be crowded, the bus wouldn’t get us where we wanted to go in our lifetime.

As such, I decided we should walk. About a third of the way to the candy street, we suddenly ran into barricades. The streets had been blocked off for a special event (we’re still not sure what it was) and that let us walk comfortably down the center of the street. usually this section is crowded because it’s two busy lanes of traffic flanked by small sidewalks full of tourists.

Eventually we got to the candy street, which is an ally full of small candy stores and sweets factories.  We quickly raided our favorite candy shops for our favorite sweets. Two of mine came with warnings (more on that in a future post) and then we had taiyaki. I had the sweet potato version (sweet potatoes are a local delicacy) and our youngest had a custard version. (Note: I only allowed her to do this because the purple sweet potato version was unavailable.)

Then we walked back. The most interesting things to see were an abundance of people in edo era clothing who were apparently part of the festival, and an abundance of police, who’ve been put on high alert after recent attacks and before cherry blossom season.

We returned home to eat even more sweets, which was probably a bad idea, even if it was a delicious one.

Close But Not Closed

Today was a mishmash of regular work and side projects and some sifting but not much was actually accomplished.

I was at home all day because I was babysitting and although I managed to finish my “work” for the day, it took a while as I attempted to organize and sort pens and ink.

I have customer with a large order and a hefty stack of ink to put up for sale. I also have a bunch of pens that are in the “no, really, use it one more time” phase of sales.

Somewhere in there I cooked lunch for our youngest.

Tomorrow (today actually) we will go to a candy street where I will pretend that I’m not going to buy the cinnamon candy and ginger candy, but in the end I will walk about with both. I will also be “working” by taking pictures of the area to use for “work” next week.

It is all as silly as it sounds, and it left me feeling annoyed and off-kilter enough that I didn’t actually finish much.

My follow-through was shot and except as a topic, I didn’t care much. Just one of those days.

Farewell Parties

They were generous with the booze, but not with the food, which is not usually how I like school parties.

Tonight was a farewell party for two English teachers at the school where I work. One is moving to Tibet (long story) and the other has found a full time job and will, within a few months, wish he was in Tibet.

The event started with booze, which was unusual because they usually start with random appetizers of questionable content and origin. After a while we got salad, tuna, tofu, and raw vegetables. After that was more booze.

After enough booze I found myself looking around for a menu. Food hadn’t arrived in a long time and I thought we were expected to order it. During a school party, food is usually a form of self-defense. It provides something to do other than drink and it helps slow down the impact of the booze.

It turned out I was wrong, though. We didn’t have to order because after a while more food arrived.

The trouble is, by the end of the evening, a lot more booze than food had arrived, which magnified the power of the booze. (In defense of the restaurant, they served bourbon neat, even though it wasn’t on the menu and were generous with the amount.)

On the other hand, they were generous with the amount, which means I’ll soon have regrets. Especially as there wasn’t much food.


Bad Holiday Habits

I’m in the middle of a holiday, which means I’m pretty much back in university.

My schedule has started to reverse from normal working man daylight hours to vampire hours. I stay up later than I could and get up later than I could and do less writing than I could. That said, it’s mostly relaxing.

I manage to do the work that’s not work that the company I work for requires. I do that even though today’s “work” required lots of disc searches until I realized that I’d probably lost the text I was searching for in a memory stick crash a few years ago. I’d managed to recover the photos after the crash (which involved Linux and lots of swearing) but I’d lost all the other documents.

This means I’ll actually have to write some stuff–or more accurately, write it again–but I get to count trips downtown, even if I’m only shopping, as research.

I’ll do some of that tomorrow (more accurately, later today) when I take some pictures before having lunch.

Bond, James Bond and On and On and On

Because I believe in setting a bad example for my kids, I always have some sort of television show or movie on in the background while I mark exams. In theory it provides a mild distraction, but in reality it’s just that it’s usually more interesting than actually marking exams.

(Note: this does not prevent me from telling the girls to turn off the television when they study. Yes, I am THAT kind of dad.)

For last term’s marking season, as it was rather stretched out, I decided to watch all the James Bond films (Eon Productions only) starting with Doctor No and ending with Spectre.

It was an interesting trip.

First, I should acknowledge “My” Bond. Everyone has a Bond who is “their” bond. He’s the first Bond they remember seeing and everyone else is “Who the HELL is that?” when you see reruns or the next Bond is announced. (There is a similar phenomenon with Doctor Who: there is Tom Baker, David Tennant, and “Who the HELL is that?”.) In my case “My” Bond is Roger Moore and that effects the way I view all the other Bonds.

I also find with Bond movies it’s necessary to rephrase a line from My Favorite Year: “With Bond, you forgive a lot, you know?”

The Sean Connery movies started out strong then got crappy as he became more detached from the part and less and less cool. George Lazenby’s movie was excellent but it’s probably best he only did one.

Roger Moore’s movies start out average then get better and, with a couple exceptions, are less campy than I remembered. Moonraker was better than I remembered, although I’ll never forgive them for ruining Jaws: His name’s Jaws, he kills people; unless he sees impressive cleavage and then he’s just a horny, heterosexual male incapable of maintaining focus on the task at hand.”

In other words, they turned Jaws into James Bond.

Timothy Dalton’s movies are also better than I remembered, although I always remember liking him in the part. Pierce Brosnan’s movies are much more campy–and him a lot more lifeless–than I remembered (and I’ll never forgive the switch to BMW). Daniel Craig is awesome, but only has 2.5 good movies. (Skyfall was good but its plot relied on the London train system running precisely on time which is the most unbelievable thing done in any of the movies; even less believable than Sean Connery passing as Japanese in You Only Live Twice.)

I also came away having a hard time picking a favorite, although if you stick a golden gun to my head I’ll have to say Goldfinger, which may be the quintessential Bond as it’s full of gadgets, funny lines, a henchman with a killer hat, the Aston Martin DB5, and Honor Blackman. After that is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Spy Who Loved Me, and Casino Royale (the Daniel Craig version). I also have a soft spot for For Your Eyes Only, which has one of my favorite movie car moments.

The worst movies are You Only Live Twice, A View to a Kill, Quantam of Solace, which also wins the award for worst title (yes, it even beats out grab her by the Octopussy. Um, too soon?), Tomorrow Never Dies, and The Man With the Golden Gun, which even Saruman couldn’t save.

It’s harder to rank the Bond Girls, although I tend to favor the ones who show some sort of capability or competence. Honor Blackman is a favorite despite having the worst character name (Pussy Galore); Barbara Bach as Anya Amasova aka Agent Triple X in The Spy Who Loved Me; Michelle Yeoh as the best part of Tomorrow Never Dies; Lois Chiles as Holly Goodhead (yeah, well, okay) in Moonraker;  Carole Bouquet in For Your Eyes Only; Sophie Marceau, who serves as both Bond Girl and villain in The World is Not Enough (which may be my favorite Brosnan Bond film); and Eva Green as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale.

Grace Jones was a good villain, but was mostly wasted in A View to a Kill. 

I also kind of like Mie Hama as Kissy Suzuki in You Only Live Twice as she’s one of the first Bond Girls to remind Bond that “this is business” and that business comes before “honeymoon”. (Other than that, she was mostly useless in the movie except as a bikini model who looks beautiful in the sunset.)

I also have to give credit to Dame Judi Dench for playing two different versions of M. The M in the Brosnan movies is different in many ways than the M in the Daniel Craig movies.

(The treatment of women in the movies is another post entirely, but as historical moments it is interesting to see how the treatment changes over the years. With Bond, you forgive a lot, you know?)

The stunts also change a lot from the days when they actually dropped stunt men down cliffs in For Your Eyes Only to crappy CGI surfing in later movies.

One does tire of gun battles on ski slopes. However, that seems to be as much a right of passage as boat chases and saying the line “Bond. James Bond.” The ski slope battles, though, are more interesting than the endless underwater battles in Thunderball and For Your Eyes Only.  (During the former, I spent part of the time looking up what type of knife the divers were using just to have something interesting to do. Yes, I was still, technically, supposed to be marking exams.)

The first obvious product placement is Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize ) taking a bottle of Tabasco sauce to Scaramanga on a silver platter in The Man With the Golden Gun.

As for the future, I’ll be interested to see where they take the movies once Daniel Craig leaves. I like his anti-hero portrayal of 007, and the realistic style of his movies and think he will be hard to follow. As much as I’d like to see Idris Elba in the part, he may be approaching his expiration date (I feel his pain). Tom Hiddleston would also be good, but there’s that Marvel Extended Universe thing to contend with. Tom Hardy would also be an interesting choice as he keeps the Daniel Craig physicality.

I just hope they don’t do another reboot. I’d happily adopt the “James Bond is a codename, not a person” theory so long as they make new movies and not just remake old ones.

That said, even if they do another reboot, I’ll still watch the next Bond movie. With Bond, you forgive a lot. You know?

I know.