Thursday, October 26, 2006

Blue Mountain Big Band

I managed to get roped into singing in a band. There's a Charity Concert going on in my town about a month from now, and one of my friends had asked me to form a band with him. I guess I'm just *that* good at karaoke. Or people are being waaaay too nice to me. Quite possibly the latter -- after you get commended for you pro-star chopstick usage for about the ten-thousandth time, you don't take compliements from your Japanese friends so seriously anymore.


The band has turned out to be just me and my friend "Boss", who plays a kick-ass guitar. We do covers, because I am not a real singer, and I'm really just in the band for my excellent English pronounciation. And the children -- won't someone please think of the children? My lounge singer act is going to kick ass when I get back.

Lots of Beatles, some Cream and even Queen. Hey -- I make a better Freddie Mercury than
Paul Rogers. Full disclosure; I haven't actually heard him fronting for Queen, but come on! There is no replacement for Freddie Mercury! Unless it's me.

And I was able to get out of singing any Carpenters. Please -- there's no way I'm singing "Top of the World" unless my life depends on it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

now with more paper

Just got back from a super fun trip to the cheap paper store. Okay, so it wasn't really that fun. But I did get to buy enough paper to fill up the back of my Minica. Six boxes, and ready for action. Photocopier action that is...

I've got a brand new manuscript and another one on the way. Actually, if I play my cards right (or something) I could have a third new manuscript ready to go by April. Oh wait, I mean a fourth -- I forgot I had a previous manuscript produced during my unholy reign of bookbinding. Or bibliopegy (which sounds a lot cooler than plain old book binding).

From A Word A Day,
bibliopegy (bib-lee-OP-uh-jee) noun

The art and craft of binding books.

[From Greek biblio- (book) + pegnynai (to fasten).]

-Anu Garg (garg

A unexpectedly appropriate word that appeared in my inbox recenty. I'm a subscriber to the daily word from this site. Not only is it entertaining and educational, it's also free! Yay fun!

Monday, October 23, 2006

there and back again

This past weekend was the HAJET Fall (or Autumn if you prefer) Meeting. This year it was held in Obihiro, a city about two hours to the south of me. I drove out with a couple of other people to enjoy getting out of town, speaking some English at near-native speeds, and of course, participate in the Halloween costume contest. This year there was a bowl-a-thon too, where I sponsored myself, because my friends in town do enough to help me out, and I don't like hitting other people up for money.

It was a good weekend.

Friday night I sampled the specialty of Obihiro -- butadon. It's basically a bowl of rice topped with pork, but damn, was there some good butadon to be had. I ended up at a hole in the wall place that is apparently famous, and supposed to have a constant line-up. Well, there was no line-up, but I can see why their butadon is famous. Oishikatta!

The rest of the evening was actually spent collating. It seems I can't escape it, even when I go away for the weekend. I got the very special task of putting together the HAJET Directory.

After that, I hit the theater and saw Black Dahlia. It wasn't as good as L.A. Confidential, but I enjoyed it. Then again, the last movie I saw in theatres was Superman. Which I also thought was entertaining. And before that was MI:3, which sucked, but was in English and they blew stuff up. I think. It was a few months ago. The longer I spend in Japan, the less snobby I am about movies. I'd love to hear what other people thought of the Black Dahlia. Hint: That means you should be posting comments or sending me an email. Subtle, ne?

The remainder of the evening was at a host bar called Harry's Rod. A really nice, upscale kind of joint with lots of cute waiters. Because is was a host bar. Where the waiters are supposed to come and flirt with the female clientele. And it was all girls in the place except for our group. We played cribbage and pick the cutest waiter late into the night, until it was decided that we should head back so we would be functional for the PC Board meeting in the morning.

Meetings were held, things were discussed, and stuff was voted on. Wheee!

In the afternoon I hopped a bus down to the bowling alley where I wowed everyone with my complete lack of bowling skills. I won a very special prize: not only the prize of shame for being beaten by a four-year-old, but also for having the lowest score out of everyone there. I choose to believe it is due to my much greater skills at 5 pin bowling, the great Canadian sport, which nobody else has ever heard of. Yes, I was playing with a bunch of Americans. You know how it is. A lot of ins, a lot of outs, and dude -- the kid and his lane-mates had the bumpers on! I should have been playing with them! Maybe a White Russian would have helped...

Ah well, it was fun anyways.

The evening was the great Halloween costume enkai. I recycled my birthday party costume, because how often will I get to dress up as a pink power ranger with extra penis powers? Well I guess I could dress like that every day, but it would cause me to seriously question my sanity. Even more than usual. I got a few votes, but I didn't win. Maybe people were afraid of the penis? Or they just thought I was a standard issue power ranger...

Best Overall Costume: Luke as a full on geisha. Looked good because you couldn't see his legs ;)
Most Original Costume: Jaime as Strawberry Shortcake. Is this an original costume? Discuss.
Most Half-Assed: Shane as a Black Eyed Pea. I liked Chuck Norris better. Mostly because he was a blond dude who was dressed vaguely Chuck Norris (a la Walker: Texas Ranger). How much more half assed can you get?

I guess I should have voted...

Sunday morning, after the party (always the best time for a singing try-out) auditions for the musical were held. Next, next weekend is the first rehersal. All the way in Toya-ko. Like Muroran, somewhere I thought I wouldn't be going again this year... Yay! Musical!

After some omiyage buying, it was back home through the mountains. Where there was the unexpected bonus of snow. Good thing I've already (or still) got my winter tires on as there was enough that it was actually staying on the road. Gross. Within a week or two it will have made it's way down the mountains to where I'll be huddled next to my kerosene heater.

Only 8 months of winter to go!

Monday, October 16, 2006

procrastination boogaloo

Here I am, supposed to be finishing work on the 300 pound gorilla sitting in my living room, but so far I'm successfully avoiding the beast. So far this evening, I have:

- stayed late at work to bind books (one hundred more copies to go on this title! Only three more titles of 200-250 copies each to go!)

- made lovely dinner: rice, spinach with garlic and lemon and onions, and grilled hoke -- some kind of fish that is best served cut in half and grilled.

- found a lovely new blog site here, because I really don't want to touch the pile of dishes making dinner has created.

- thought about taking some self portraits after finding a super-cool group on

- fielded phone calls from fellow HAJET editors (and soon to be musical directors -- musical auditions are this weekend! Yay!)

- written this post.

And since I'm not finished procrastinating yet, and maybe neither are you -- here's some other links to keep you busy...

I'm trying to figure out the fastest route to the HAJET Fall Meeting this weekend, and so far my usually favorite Hokkaido Road Navigation Website is letting me down. Just because I don't live on a completed expressway (or because my town has less than 5000 people), doesn't mean I don't deserve love too! Lots of fun stuff, including live webcams to Hokkaido roads, and a map of accident-prone locations in Sapporo!

Also good for travelling here in Hokkaido, the amazingly thorough Yahoo Japan Weather Forecast (yes, this site is in Japanese). And you know what? It's usually unbelievably accurate. My theory as to the excessiveness of Japanese weather forecasts? In a society where asking questions about one's personal life are usually considered rude, talking about the weather is often one of the few safe topics.

And something just for fun (okay, maybe just fun for me), this page: the guy that brought us dancing lessons now has a video blog! Right. I like it, and you are bound to be able to find something fun to occupy your time here.

Okay. I have procrastinated for long enough. For now...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

first of the season

I had some people stop over last night on their way across Hokkaido for a shopping expedition to Sapporo. And so, with much sadness, wailing and gnashing of teeth, I decided that since it was dropping below freezing I would make the move and turn on the heater. Really, it was for the good of my guests.

Ah, the smell of kerosene.

I hate the smell of kerosene.

Oh summer, how you will be missed.

Friday, October 13, 2006

siberian lifestyles of the cold and caffeinated

Ugh. It's cold and rainy today, and I'm sitting in the teacher's room feeling useless and bored. I only have one class this afternoon, and it's been planned since Tuesday.

Not that I don't have plenty I could be doing -- studying for the JLPT 3 (won't someone please tell me why I signed up for that?), finishing up the new HAJET Elementary Teaching Guide so I can start printing it, improving my teaching methods, yadda, yadda, yadda... But it's cold, I've been doing very little aside from drinking coffee since I got to school this morning, and I haven't updated the old blog-ness in almost two weeks! What's up with that?

I'm sure it's all part and parcel with acclimatization to living in middle-of-nowhere Japan, and the imminent onset of the snowy season. I've been here over a year, so every day no longer brings interesting surprises. It's all settled into routine -- even more exciting things like fighting with my post office about being able to send packages via COD is not such a big deal. It's still a challenge making myself understood, and frustrating being misunderstood. Or not understanding the way things work in the system.

Okay, okay, you caught me. A day in the staff room with nothing to do but shiver and drink more coffee has brought out the "grr, this job sucks" side of things in me. I'm sure when I go home I'll lament the loss of hours on end of free time, a job where I can do whatever I want at my desk including posting to my blog, heavily subsidised rent, the opportunity to get paid for doing next to nothing and the experience of living in another culture where I get to try things I wouldn't get a chance to try otherwise. Not to mention 20 paid days of holiday time every year. Speaking of which, plans for my trip home this Christmas are almost finalized. I arrive in Edmonton December 23rd, assuming I can get a flight from inaka to Tokyo to catch my international flight -- domestic flights in Japan don't open until two months ahead of the departure date. Why? I don't know. That's just the way things work in Japan. It's best not to ask too many questions. Your head could explode (and it would probably be a very rude thing to do).

This weekend, plans include studying for the above mentioned JLPT -- Japanese Language Proficiency Test, finishing editing that never-ending book, and treating myself to a weekend at home. Read: indulging in sleeping in and spending the day in my pajamas. Hooray for self-indulgence!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

lovely weekend, a shame about the liver

At long last, a weekend at home. And I'm not sick anymore so I took near-full advantage. I ran into one of my good friends after work one day this week, and it turned out that her band and a few of my other mates' bands were having a charity concert. She gave me a ticket and we were off to the races.

That was Saturday night. The concert was fun, or as much fun as a Japanese audience made up of retirees and preschoolers can be. Lots of sitting still. Not so much my style. Ah well. The singing was good, the playing was excellent, and I knew most of the people on stage. 楽しかった、ね!

From there it was dinner at the conbini -- Seicomarto for those of you who are keeping score at home, and then a right bender at the local bar. I didn't stumble home until sometime in the vicinity of 4am... I had a ridiculous amount of fun -- especially singing requests for Mama-san, Ai-chan and Yoko at the end of the night.

This morning I was up early (because who needs more than four hours of sleep?) with plenty of time to continue the great weekend telephone challenge:

Call everyone you know and catch up within the limited amount of time presented in one weekend when timezones come into alignment. It was great to talk to everyone I got ahold of, and for anyone I missed, I'm sorry.

This afternoon I went out again with the Romance crew for more eating and drinking. Hey -- after a 10 hour drinking break, it's time to start again, right?

We headed for the hills to the local cattle farm for an all you can eat/all you can drink two hour set. Less than nutritious, but delicious nonetheless. Gorgeous weather, gorgeous setting, fabulous peoples.

I thought that was all, but then I remembered I was in Japan, and a ni-jikai was in effect. So we trundled off to town fireman's housing to continue the afternoon at my friend Keiji's house. Japanese single men seem to be much tidier than single guys back home, although there was still the moment of "wait a minute while I make sure the toilet is clean...". It's pretty rare to be invited into a Japanese person's home it seems (I can count on one hand the number of non-gaijin homes I've entered), but this is a super chill group. And they are doing their best to convince me to stay in Japan another year.

Towards the end of the evening, someone pulled out a foot pressure point board which told everyone that there were problem with their reproductive organs and their livers.

My liver was not surprised and continued to threaten abdicating. I told it to shut up, seeing as I've been on a break this month, and besides, enkai season doesn't start until nearer the end of the year. Right?