Decade in Review

The new year is almost upon us. As we enter 2010, it's time once again to wave goodbye to another decade. To commemorate the occasion, I've comprised a list.
10 Could-Have-Been-Headlines-or-Quotes of the Decade:

• "Totally worth it."
—Nelson Mandela

"Totally not worth it."
—William Jefferson Clinton

• Fans Saddened to See Kurt go Bang

"I've got a really good feeling about this one!"
—Kevin Costner

• Jesus Returns, Passing through TX, CA Leaving a Trail of Bodies in His Wake

• "I've really outdone myself. I don't think anyone will ever top this one!"
—Timothy McVeigh

• "Today is the first day of the rest of my life!"
—Colorado freshman

• "Nice idea, poor execution."
—Osama bin Laden

• "Phew! Glad that's over and done with!"
—George H. W. Bush

• UN on Rowanda: We Won't Make That Mistake Again

Too soon?

Enjoy this likely unrelated quote:

"I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn't wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine."

—Bertrand Russell
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10 Things I Hate about Yule

Stop it. I know you're thinking, "Here we go again. Guy and his atheism—of course he has to bash Christmas." You're so predictable. Before you get all twisted, notice that I wrote similar posts about Father's Day and Independence Day—two entirely secular holidays. And don't forget Halloween.

Truth is I love Christmas. It's right up there somewhere below Thanksgiving in my book. But I love irony more.

So here are my 10 things I hate about Christmas, in no particular order:

• Disrespect of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is the greatest holiday known to mankind. A celebration of food and football. Yet every year Christmas comes along and starts screaming as soon as Halloween is over, completely oblivious to the existence of Thanksgiving. Sorry Xmas, there's no room at this inn for you until after Thanksgiving. Stick to December where you belong.

• Santa
And by Santa I mean my parents for lying to me about Santa. I believed everything these two people told me for 14 years until they dropped that bomb on me.

• People Who Hate Santa
Look. I don't plan to fill my kids' heads with Santa myths either, and I agree that Santa is evil (you'll see from my next entry). But some people are just psycho.

• "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"
Have you listened to the lyrics of this song? He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when your awake. He knows if you've been bad or good. What psycho came up with this? That's terrifying! Why would we sing to our kids about an omniscient stalker?

• "Merry Christmas" Fanatics
Nobody is saying that you can't say it. Some people prefer to say different phrases. Big deal.

• Shopping Malls
The only thing more annoying than shopping malls, are shopping malls during the holidays. Especially the music. It's impossible to spend less than a half hour in your mall during December, so I'm going to hear repeats of your compilation of the worst renditions of Christmas songs CD that you keep on loop.

• Ghost Town
The one day that I absolutely need to shop more than any other day of the year is Christmas Day. This is also the one day when nothing is open. I'm left doing my Christmas shopping and picking up forgotten condiments at Walgreens.

• Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
I realize I'm in the minority here, but I just can't stand this animated special. It's not entertaining, the animation sucks, and it's kinda creepy.

• Decorating the Tree and Hanging Lights
This isn't fun. This is a chore that you've been convinced is a fun event.

• Anti-Xmas-ers.
Come on people, are we just making up reasons to get mad? Sometimes we get lazy. No one is trying to "take the Christ out of Christmas" with this one—the "X" actually means "Christ"!

Enjoy this likely unrelated quote:

"In my country we go to prison first and then become President. "

—Nelson Mandela
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I Want to Ride

So today was a big bicycle day.

While I was walking around town running errands because my bicycle was stolen, I saw two bike significant events take place.

One guy was riding down the sidewalk ahead of me and just biffed, seemingly for no reason, spilling the contents of his basket all over the ground. He quickly got up, shuffled his things back into the basket and rode off as if nothing happened. Everyone around acted like nothing happened. So I acted like nothing happened. This is the normal reaction in Japan.

Another guy was riding through a parking lot gate that has one of those arms that goes up and down. The arm slammed down right on him and broke in half. The guy on the bike started laughing. The city hall employee that I was following to the correct building started laughing. So i started laughing. This is not the normal reaction in Japan.

Enjoy this likely unrelated quote:

“I don’t have any evidence on that. I don’t have any evidence of that.”

—Bill Gates
January 13, 1996 TIME magazine
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Nippowned 2—Tokyo and Beyond

Well, I really took it hard from Japan this past week or so.

I ride my bike to the office on Saturday to finish up some paperwork before my three day vacation in Tokyo. Being at the office on my vacation day is not exactly thrilling. Normally I would have walked here because it's a stone's throw away from my apartment, but I'm planning on making some more stops when I finished. This will tie in later on.

I realized earlier on today that my costly transaction to change some funds over from USD to Yen wouldn't go through until Thursday, after I returned home. This is because it's impossible to do any banking on the weekend or on national holidays in Japan; this Monday-Wed are national holidays. I called up my bank to cancel the transaction, but was told that even though I couldn't get my money because it would not be processed until Thursday, I couldn't cancel the transaction because it had already been processed. But I couldn't get my money. Because it wouldn't be processed until Thursday. Whatever Japan. So I I'll have to make due on a limited budget.

I pack up my Mac Mini and all my adapters so I can access the internet from my hotel room and hop on the bullet train heading for Tokyo ($100 one way).

I realize on the train that I didn't pack my phone charger. No problem—they sell little battery boosters everywhere in Japan. Wrong. Problem. There apparently isn't a single battery booster in all of Japan that fits my phone. Ok. I'll have to take it to a Softbank (my provider) retailer and use one of their super charger machines.

Arriving at the hotel, I immediately take a look at the tv to see if I can use it as a monitor. Jackpot—there's a VGA port right in the back. Uh-oh. I can't figure out how to use the Japanese remote to switch the input. So I call down and they send up a guy to help me. He kindly informs me that the tv had been partially disabled so that it can only be used to watch television. I don't ask why. I just thank him and start plotting.

Surely there is a way to make this work. A-ha! The cable box strapped to the back of the tv is feeding through unsecured RCA cables. All I need to do is find a mini DVI to video adapter. But first to Softbank.

My best friend at guest services informs me that there is one just outside the hotel. Unfortunately it will be closed until Thursday because of the holidays. Ok. Fine. Point me to an electronics shop.

This place looks promising. A Softbank and an Apple location right inside! Let's get this phone charged. The dude takes my phone and starts looking at the four different super charger machines. No dice, he gestures. Really? The place that sold me my phone can't charge it? Apparently I need the little adapter that came with my phone that for some reason is needed to use the charger that came with my phone. That, of course, is attached to my charger at home. So I ask the dude to sell me one. He says that I can only get it from the maker. I look down at the Softbank logo stamped on my phone, up to the Softbank logo hanging above his head, then down to reestablish eye contact. He didn't get it. (>_< )q Deep breath.... Ok. On to Apple.

Apple was my ally in my only victorious battle so far against Nippon by making even their iPods sold in Japan default to English. I can't find a mini DVI to video adapter, 30 bucks will get me a DVI to video adapter, which I can plug into my mini DVI to DVI adapter. HA HA, Japan, I got you this time! Don't underestimate me when it comes to making my computer work the way I want it to it all kinds of unconventional ways!

Now to try it out. You must be fucking joking me. The DVIs seem to have been changed slightly since I bought my computer and the adapters barely don't fit each other. At this point I'm totally dejected, but I'm still convinced that I can win this one by purchasing a new mini DVI to DVI adapter. But perhaps it's not worth wasting more time and money since Japan already has me on a tight budget. Alright, Nippon, you win again—as usual.

So here I am, completely cut of from the entire world—even my Japanese world.

Fast forward to the train station, departure time.

I just realized that I left my shopping bag full of gifts in the train station bathroom. It's been about an hour, but maybe it's still there. Nope. Somebody must have turned it in. Information says they have nothing and that I should check the lost and found at the security office. They don't have it either! This can only mean one thing—somebody found my bag and stole it! In Japan! Must have been a foreigner. Fuck!

I retrace my steps for about two hours, even though I know exactly where I left it. Let me check one more time at the station. Nope. Fine, take my $100 and get me out of this Nippon on steroids!

At least I took another vacation day tomorrow to recover from my repeated pwnage.

Fast forward to tomorrow.

My manager is at another school and the helper teacher that comes on Tuesdays doesn't have a key. I have to go in again on my vacation day to open up.

Fast forward to Monday.

Things are looking up! I have a cute girl in my apartment who just told me to relax while she cooks me a Japanese meal and by the way did I need a beer. No joke.

The meal is delicious, the beer is Budweiser.

Walking out the front gate, she asks me which bike is mine. Shit! I left it at GEOS. Let's stop by and get it. I run back inside my apartment to get my bike key. No key. I must have left it in my bike lock, which I do from time to time.

[Explanation: bikes in Japan all have little locks fixed to the frames that grab around the back tire making it immobile while locked. It's very convenient, but it takes such little thought that sometimes I forget to lock it back up and don't realize it.]

Well bend me over again. It's gone. This is unbelievable. I totally expected my chained up $50 bike to get stolen in Toledo, but I never expected my completely unsecured bike to get stolen in Japan. Like Max says, you can leave your luggage outside a busy airport in Japan with ¥10,000 ($100) bills sprinkled all over it and everything would be exactly the way you left it when you got back. Crime is just not like it is back home. Except when you're me.

Where am I supposed to find another one-speed bicycle with a bent basket and a pink bell? Not an easy question to answer, is it?

Such is my life in Japan.

Enjoy this likely unrelated quote:

“If there was a god, I’d still have both nuts.”

—Lance Armstrong
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It's a Date.

So date number two with Chieko was on Sunday. If you missed date number one, ☜click that.

The idea was to use this date as a cover for what was really an attempt to get free fashion consulting. My wardrobe is severely limited here in Japan and I've found that my only natural sense of style can only be pulled off in Seattle circa 1994. And I'm hitting Tokyo soon.

We decided to go to an Aeon shopping center for the task. But not just any Aeon shopping center. In fact, we ignored the two within Toyota City limits and I pointed at three others as we drove by them. After 2 hours of driving (mind you that conversation between us is turbulent at best) we arrived at a special Aeon—Mozo: Wonder City.
I understand why we chose this place. It was huge. Like five shopping malls stacked on top of one another.

Well, I almost immediately regretted my bright idea. She was no help at all. I kept telling her, "choose something and I'll buy it." But she wouldn't. So I was on my own, but in the end I think I did alright.

When we walked by a Sega playland on the Fifth floor, I was appropriately giddy. Until she told me she doesn't like video games. Not even Mario? Everyone in Japan loves Mario!

We also visited a pet store that had some sort of goat running free, along with a giant swan and some kind of mini kangaroo type thing (only the goat was loose). This is Japan's idea of "pets" I guess. It was there she told me that she hates snakes and lizards but likes "pet" beetles. If only she understood when I said, "double-u tee eff?"

Things got better though when we ventured into some Pacific Sunwear type place that was blasting Muse's "Uprising" days before the album's release. Unfortunately, she couldn't grasp why I was excited and I probably looked like an idiot.

The ride back to Toyota was much better. She popped Eminem into her car's MiniDisc player (apparently MD got popular here. I wonder why it flopped in the States).

"You like Eminem?"
"I like."
"That's because you can't understand him."

So I spent the trip sitting next to the nicest, sweetest girl, listening to a wigger from the Greater Windsor area rap about leftover substance from a part of the female anatomy on part of his anatomy, and about kicking pregnant women in the stomach. Talk about a surreal state of awesome.

Yakiniku was next on the itinerary. No problems there. Oh wait—I might have eaten a lot of pig intestine and definitely ate numerous pieces of pig tongue because she didn't realize it was gross and kept putting more on my plate. Probably the craziest thing I've ever done for a girl.

After that I told her to take me to a cool place, since she knows since she probably knows a lot more than me about Toyotashi. The plan here was to have her say "I don't know where to go" (which was certain to happen) then tell her that I know a place. I had stumbled upon a park way up in the hills that offers a great view of the city when I was exploring on my bike early into my stay. To my surprise, she just said, "ok." Damn.

We started driving to wherever she was taking me, when at one point she leaned forward and squinted before turning on her left blinker. I said "right here?"
"Are you sure?"
"Maybe here."
"Maybe the next one."

We turned there, but I was right about it being the next one. You see, she was taking me to the same spot I found on my bike! It's not like this place was famous. Surely Aphrodite was trying to get us to make out.

Anyway, she was cold so I rubbed her arms twice before we left.

The end.

If you're still reading this, there's no reason why you shouldn't comment. So comment.

Enjoy this somewhat related quote:

"Being impregnated by an alien and giving birth. It'd be awful to give birth to a freak so you'd have to hide it away from everyone but still bring it up as your own."

—Matthew Bellamy of Muse on his worst fear.
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It's a Date?

Normally I'm not one to talk a whole lot about my love life, but trying to date in Japan presents some unusual problems that I thought might be interesting to some of you.

I recently met a girl and her 2 friends (one Japanese girl and one Indian guy who speaks fluent English) and we've all been hanging out bit. The two of us have been emailing (texting) each other a lot over the past few weeks. This is kind of difficult because I don't speak Japanese. Luckily, she's smarter than I am and can understand English, though it's rough at times. Long story short, we are hanging out tonight, but I still don't know if it's a date or who is all coming.

Anyway, here's the long story—our email conversations. Complete with emoji and original grammar ("C" represents her, "G" represents me):

Aug. 16, 7:32 PM

C: come back after sleep get up now

How meny lesson today?

G: Today is my holiday. what are you doing tonight?

C: holiday it good what are you doing?

This trip very tired I'd like to lie down tonight.

G: I think I will just watch a movie tonight

C: What movie is it?

I want to watch a night museum

G: I just watched a dvd. not a famous movie. maybe we can see night at the museum together sometime, what do you think?

C: It o k
I will go this time

(After much contemplating over what the hell that meant, I decided I had no idea if she was saying "yes" or if she already had plans to see it. So I just went with this:)

G: OK. have a good night Chieko!

C: good night
have a nice dream

Aug. 26, 10:23 PM (conversation in progress)

G: That is a hard swim! what are your plans for this weekend?

C: I have no plan.
Sunday is free

G: Did you see Night at the Museum yet?

C: ok
Do you wont to go another place Sunday?

(Thwarted once again! Did she see it or not?)

G: Sure, what do you think?

C: I do not hit
I takes you with a near place

(I finally think I've figured out that she saw the movie and we are making plans to do something else. Whether this is a date or if her friends that normally hang out with us are coming too is still up in the air.)

G: OK. We will think of something. sounds good! its a plan

C: I go to it to meet you Sunday

G: OK Have a good dream tonight, Chieko.

C: you tooGood nightGuy

G: Oyasuminasai

Aug. 28, 8:59 PM (conversation in progress)

G: I will eat soon. shower first.

What time should we meet on Sunday?

C: It is good anytime

G: Do you want to get dinner? maybe 18:30?

C: Yes I want to get dinner

When I watch a movie hungry

( ! So we are seeing a movie after all! Still unsure about the date thing.)

G: Sounds good!

C: ok
I go to your house at18:00

(Ok, I get it! You can drive and I can't!)

It was totally a date (my first legit date since college) and the movie was much funnier than expected. Unfortunately I had to keep myself from laughing the whole time, because no one else was. I don't think American humor translates very well into Japanese subtitles.

Enjoy this likely unrelated quote:

"In science, 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.' I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms."

—Stephen Jay Gould
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My Life in Japan

My conversation with some dude on the street on the way home from the bar:

Dude: USA!
Me: Hai. USA.
Dude: Carifonya?
Me: No. Ohio.
Dude: Ohio! Kentucky?
Me: No. Ohio.
Dude: Parm Springs?
Me: No.
Dude: Green Day!
Me: Hai. Greenday.
Dude: Brinku Eititu
Me: Huh?
Dude: Ichi Hachi
Me: 18?
Dude: No. (pretends to write "1 8 2" on a fence)
Me: Blink 182. Ok. Oyasumi.
Dude: Goodnight!

Enjoy this likely unrelated quote:

"I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."

—HAL, 2001: A Space Odyssey
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