Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 5 news of 2011

Nisen ichi nen no go dai nyuusu

1. 3/11 Quake, and The Pumpkin Clan battles...um...gasoline and toilet paper shortages and guilt trips about having power and running water the entire time? Pumpkin Daddy leaves Pumpkin Palace for a week to do volunteer work.

The Americans have 9/11, now we have 3/11, I guess. In retrospect we were hardly affected, but at the time I was pretty depressed.

I don't know if I mentioned this, but the Pumpkin Daddy went to one of the severely tsunami-hit areas to do volunteer work for a week, helping to clear out wreckage, shoveling sand out of gutters, that kind of thing. We missed him, but we managed without him, amazingly enough.

2. Department head retires at Pumpkin Mommy's work. My direct supervisor becomes new department head at work, and I get his old job.

I think a lot of people would have been happy with the promotion. Not me. But the alternative would have been leaving the current work environment and going job hunting. I am quite familiar with the positions available to me locally (they all kind of suck in varying aspects and degrees of intensity), and I don't consider moving an option right now, so here I am.

3. I go through, and lapse out of, a fitness phase.

It was a couple weeks long. Maybe I'll go back next year.

4. Tropical vacation in February.

Around the New Year holidays, here in Japan, the A-listers go to Hawaii and the B-listers go to Guam. If the Pumpkin Mommy, Daddy, Prince and Princess go to Guam in February, what does that make us?

5. Disneyland vacation on Halloween.

We are shallow. We are commercial. It was fun. It made us poor.

Even not considering what others had to go through this year, our year was a happy one. Here's to hoping our and your coming year will be as good or better.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Behind the scenes

Butai ura






This doll is supposed to be the Baby Jesus. What it actually is is just plain scary.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Korean cuisine

Kankoku ryouri


Sundubu jjigae is a hot, spicy Korean soup with tofu, seafood, and vegetables. It's served in a hot iron bowl, and you drop a fresh egg in it while it's still boiling.

Japan doesn't do red chili as a condiment to the extent of Korea (we usually do wasabi, and even when we do red chili, it's much sparser than in Korea). Kind of interesting, if you consider the geographic proximity and cultural similarities. That, and the combination of seafood and tofu (both frequently used in Japanese food) makes for an exotic, seriously yummy combination.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Huh?

E? (you can use this one like the Canuks use "eh?")

So now, when you google "Masi Oka Asahi Gakuen," this blog comes up first.

Disclaimer: All this Asahi Gakuen and six degrees of separation between Pumpkin Mommy and Masi Oka is all speculation, albeit educated speculation.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I'd love to meet him (her) once!

Zehi ichido oai shite mitai!

I have very few claims to fame, but I do have some claims to fame by association. One is that my junior high school best friend's dad went to college with Scott Glenn.

My recently discovered claim to fame by association is that I (probably) went to the same school as Masi Oka. Now, this is a very loose association. First, said school is a Japanese language school that Japanese speaking kids attend every Saturday, not the five days a week gig most people think of when someone talks about school. Second, said school has something like three or four campuses, and Masi Oka has never clarified which campus he attended (in fact, as far as I know, he has never actually named the Japanese school he attended for nine years, but it's a pretty safe bet it was one of the campuses of Asahi Gakuen, the only Saturday Japanese school in the Los Angeles area where he grew up). Third, I was only there for three months in 1977 (I moved from the LA suburbs to the Chicago suburbs), while Masi Oka probably didn't start school there until around 1980.

Still, Masi Oka is a pretty cool person to be associated with, even if only distantly, and he doesn't know me from...from...

Amaterasuomikami?

Monday, November 7, 2011

It was the best tasting I've ever had.

Imamade de ichiban oishikatta.

A couple weeks ago, the Pumpkin Princess brought home a notice from the Pumpkin Day Care announcing that her class was going on a picnic to one of the big parks in town. It was going to be a big deal for them, walking to the bus stop and taking the regular commercial bus line to the park. But the part that made me cringe was the part that said the kids needed to bring their own box lunch (bento).

The Pumpkin Princess decided she wanted a Disney Princess lunch. How on earth anyone is supposed to make a Disney Princess lunch is anyone's guess. I managed to talk her out of that one, but she announced she wanted a Melodicci bento. Melodicci is a character in the anime "Tamagocci." Yes, that Tamagocci. Yes, it's a TV show. No, don't ask.

Much web surfing, a trip to the grocery store, and an hour or so of cursing later, I came up with this.


The face is plain sliced cheese, the kind you peel off the wrapper to eat. The hat, eyes (including eyelashes) and feet are nori (dried seaweed). I stacked an additional slice of cheese under the brim of the hat to give it some dimension. The "dress" is a slice of ham I cut with kitchen scissors. I used a straw to cut the tiny circle shapes for the white sparkles in the eyes and her necklace. I had cookie cutters to cut out the shapes of notes from ham and pumpkin.

When the Pumpkin Princess first saw this this morning, her initial response was not that of joy or happy surprise or utter and total amazement at my skill. No, the first thing she said was "where are her earrings?

I think I have created a glass half full person.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

It was like Disneyland

Disneyland mitai datta

My beautiful talented co-worker returned from work stuff in an English city that wasn't London. I asked her how she'd liked it there, and she said, "there wasn't very much touristy stuff going on like London, but the city was pretty to see, especially the older parts. It was kind of like being in Disneyland."





(Pictures taken in Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Sea, and the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Too long, too big

Nagasugi, ookisugi

I'm as much of a fan of loose fitting straight leg pants as the next girl who doesn't like the sensation of belly fat hanging over the waistband. I just don't get why they decided to call them boyfriend jeans.

When I first heard the term "boyfriend jeans," I was really confused because I'd never worn any of my boyfriends' jeans because I couldn't. Well, I could probably put them on, but never wear them. More like swim in them...

Husband is 32 cm taller. When spending weekends at his place became a regular thing, I'd wear his tennis things. Then it got colder and he suggested we go to Uniqlo to buy sweats for me to keep at his place. I knew my bad track record with relationships (nothing had lasted longer than a year until then, and I couldn't seem to stay friends after the breakup) so I bought new sweatpants and a sweatshirt and wore those at my own apartment, while leaving older sweatpants and an older T-shirt at his place (so it would be easier to cut my losses if the relationship ended).

Previous boyfriends have also been a good deal taller and somewhat wider than me. If I borrowed things, it was usually T-shirts and shorts. But I guess "boyfriend shorts" just doesn't have the same ring to it...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Field Day

Undoukai



The Pumpkin Prince is the one in the green striped shirt. Note the enthusiasm with which he applies himself.



The Pumpkin Princess is not to be outdone by her little brother. The Pumpkin Daycare has gym uniforms for kids in the 3 year-old class and older. They're worn about three times a year, so they tell you to buy them in the size they'll be in their last year there.

I didn't get any pictures this year because the Pumpkin Daddy was doing the lines (no, Brit Friends, he is not writing "I will not create a disturbance in class" 100 times, he was drawing the chalk powder lines on the field so the kiddies knew where to start and turn at each event) and I had the video camera. These pictures are swiped from the Pumpkin Daddy blog.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Three day monk

Mikka bouzu

The title is a phrase describing an interest that lasts for a very short time. I am just bringing this up as an example, but if, say, a woman just barely on the right side of forty decided that she was going to make a regular habit of exercising for the first time since university, and only keeps it up for about a month and a half. Of course, said woman would be slightly better off than the original phrase, which means "three day monk." A month and a half is much longer than this woman's previous "I'm going to be an active, fit person" phases. So maybe I'll get back into it soon. I mean, maybe she will. I mean...never mind.

I got the mumps at the end of July. The Pumpkin Princess (but not the Prince) got them earlier in the month (they don't vaccinate for them here unless you ask for it, which I didn't) and that's probably how I got them. I'm pretty sure I was vaccinated for them as a child, but I guess it wore off. Took the week off lying around and fooling around on the internet (but not blogging, as you can see) and doing housework.

In August, I got a promotion I didn't want. I get paid a little more in exchange for a lot of responsibilities I don't particularly care for. I didn't have the choice to not get promoted, it was either get promoted or find another job, and I weighed the two in balance in terms of the hassle of finding said new job, the potential hassle of a potential new work environment, and day care logistics, versus the potential new responsibilities I don't want, and the latter won out. My friends in academics would probably say "but that's GREAT, that's what everyone wants, good for you..." but it's only great when you are a born academic, which I am not.

September brought us Pumpkin Day Care's annual field day, the most adorable display of child development known to mankind. OK, I'm biased since the Pumpkin Prince was in three events and the Pumpkin Princess in four. The Pumpkin Princess's class did a marching band, but she played the bass organ so she didn't march. She said she made two mistakes, but I didn't really notice, so I'm pretty sure no one else did, either. The 5 year-old drum major took his job very seriously, and was really really good. Boy's got rhythm. Or something.

Up for October is presenting an overview of my department's work to some ambassadors from interesting places like Thailand and Vietnam (a job I did want) and going to the reception afterward (a job I did not want), doing my part to cover for my old boss while he gets treatment (a job I am happy to do for him given all he did for us for seven years) and grant writing (as we used to say in the 80s, gag me with a spoon).

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Let's try counting

Kazoete miyou

One
One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Anyone know any good goya (bitter gourd) recipes?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Later than usual

Itsumo yori osoi

Yes, I'm still doing Jillian Michaels, sort of. It's more like 3 or 4 times a week than the 5 or 6 times she recommends, and I end up walking in place with a grimace instead of doing whatever incredibly strenuous move her assistants with 2% body fat do while smiling. I'm doing Week 3, and I am still here. Unfortunately, so is my muffin top. And my weight has essentially stayed the same. To quote Elphaba from "Wicked," "something has changed within me, something is not the same," but it seems to be within me and not something you can really see, subjectively or objectively.

Well, it's the first week of July, and there are only about 3 tomatoes and not a single one is showing so much as a hint of red.


My bitter gourds are thriving, though.


And it's giving me bitter gourds. I've counted at least 4 in various stages of development.


I have also counted at least 5 houses on this block doing this "green curtain" thing, so this neighborhood is going to be up to its neck in bitter gourds. They're not one of those vegetables that are dinner table regulars like tomatoes and cucumbers, so I can already see the bitter gourd crop surplus ending up in the garden trash with the weeds and deadheaded blooms...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

(I) tried matching them

Awasete mita

The Pumpkin Daddy is one of those annoying people who can throw on random articles from the LL Bean (or even Uniqlo) catalog and look smoking hot. He came downstairs this morning dressed in a sweatshirt gray T-shirt and distressed gray jeans, looking good as always.

"I tried matching everything to my hair," he said, pointing to his George Clooney salt and pepper head.

Did Week 2 of "Ripped in 30" yesterday and today. For the first time, the bathroom scale showed a decrease...of 0.2 kilos, which is well within margin of error. Still, that I can get the Week 2 workout without (much) stopping must surely mean something...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Still here

Mada iru

So, still doing Jillian Michaels. You're supposed to do one 20 minute workout 5 or 6 times a week. It was more like 3 or 4 times a week, but I'm still here. Again, I'm not sure I like her persona in the DVD. I am also unsure about running in place type movements for cardio, since I am working barefoot on my hardwood floor. But the idea of doing intense strength training mixed in with cardio makes sense, and so does having different workouts with increasing levels of intensity. I'm doing week 2 (of 4) now.

I feel different, but I do not look different, and I do not weigh different. I take that back. I weigh slightly more than when I started. I have decided to tell myself that this is increased muscle mass. Because attitude is everything.


In other news, see my bitter gourd plants? Remember what they used to look like? I gave them a bit of fertilizer last weekend. I think they really will create a shady green curtain.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Changing the way I do things

Yarikata wo kaeru

June 5
30 min walking

June 7
Pilates
30 crunches
6 pikeups
16 pushups
50 squats (20 with iPad)

June 8
25 min walking, 5 min running

And that is the last bit of walking I have done in a while. I've decided to give Jillian Michaels "Ripped in 30" (according to reviews on Amazon.com and such, it's pretty much the same thing as "30 Day Shred" but since I've never seen "30 Day Shred," this is not a problem in the least) a try. The DVD arrived yesterday, and I tried it last night and tonight. Controversy about her persona and marketing strange things as weight loss supplements aside, the idea of doing cardio and following with strength training and going back to cardio again before your heart rate goes down too far makes sense.

However, you will note the use of the word "try" in the previous paragraph. Yesterday, I did it after the Pumpkin Prince and Princess went to sleep. It went fairly well. Tonight, the Pumpkin Princess announced she wanted to try too. I thought it would be easy enough, having her jump around beside me while I go all out...

No deal. She kept wanting to use the mat (I had only one) and the hand-weights (or rather, the water bottles I was using to see if I could make this a regular thing that would make actual hand-weights worth purchasing) so I ended up just going through the motions of curls and presses.

Still, better than nothing. It still wore me out, and it still made me out of breath.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Use of chopsticks

Hashidukai

Not bad for a 2 year-old, don't you think?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Exercise log

June 1
Pilates
30 crunches
6 pikeups
15 pushups
10 backward pushups
60 squats (last 10 with iPad. I don't have dumbells.)

June 2
25 min walking (with Cross Walker. End heart rate 124)

June 4
Pilates
30 crunches
6 pikeups (getting better at them!)
15 pushups (with hands farther apart)
10 backward pushups

The plan was to go walking this morning, but I ended up sleeping in...Let's see if the weather cooperates.

I was hoping to shrink my muffin top, you know, have an inch hanging from my belt as opposed to two inches, but that hasn't happened. I have lost no weight. Zero. But my abds have got much stronger, and I think my posture stays good until later in the day than before.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I quit!

Yameta!

No, not this blog, not exercising, just trying to come up with cute phrases for every single exercise log entry.

25 minutes or so of walking. The plan was to set the timer on my iPod for 13 minutes and walk, and turn around when the timer went off and walk back. Either the armband was doing something to the iPod, or I touched the screen unintentionally, but it didn't go off. I think I walked a little over 3 km. Forgot to check end heart rate.

My schedule will not let me devote more than half an hour a day to exercise itself, so pretty soon I will have to either do something to make walking more strenuous, or stop walking and start running. Hopefully I will figure out what I want to do by next week. If I want to run, I need decent running shoes. Or I probably could make walking more strenuous by wearing toning shoes like these.

Either way, new shoes are in order. My only pair of sneakers were bought in a different millennium.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Not stopping

Tomaranai

I'm probably going to run out of cute phrases for my exercise logs soon...

Pilates. Apparently a good Pilates session lasts at least half an hour. The one on my DVD is something like 13 minutes...

30 crunches

6 (bad) pikeups

15 pushups

60 squats

I just realized I forgot my backward pushups. Excuse me.

12 backward pushups. There. (And that's the only thing I did more than yesterday...)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Still keeping it up

Mada tsuduiteru

I haven't been out walking because...well, I'm going to blame the weather, even though part of it is lack of motivation. So I got up this morning and I was going to (yeah, that's what they all say) but it was raining, so I stayed in and did

Pilates flow

6 pikeups

30 crunches

15 pushups

60 squats

11 backwards pushups

even though it is supposed to be better to do strength training at night. But strength training at six in the morning is a world apart from no strength training at all. So there.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Boxed lunch

Obento

I make lunch once a year, for the annual Pumpkin Daycare field trip to the Safari Park. I spent the week pondering how I would do this, and got up this morning half an hour earlier than usual to make these.

For the Pumpkin Princess, Sugar Bunnies. She voiced her approval during a sneak preview before breakfast.


For the Pumpkin Prince, Anpanman


The faces are egg, ham, and a carrot slice. For the eyes/ eyebrows/ noses/ mouths, I used special punches to cut nori (dried seaweed sheets).



The egg was a little dry, which meant that nori did not stick to it as well as it did to rice or ham. The Pumpkin Princess burst out laughing when she opened her box at lunchtime because the nose and mouth of the rabbit were stuck to the top...

The grownups just got everything tossed into 3 tupperwares :P

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Keeping it up

Tsudukeru

May 24th
Pilates
20 crunches
6 pikeups
14 pushups
11 backward pushups
55 squats

Note randomness of numbers, and how obvious it is that I just wanted to be able to say I did more than last time...

May 25th

20 min walking (Cross Walker) max HR 124

HR not as high as before, maybe I am getting used to this?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Formal dress

Seisou

The dress code for the party was "formal." So we all compared notes and decided it would be a good time to wear kimonos. As a married woman, for most formal occasions, I wear what is called a "houmongi," or "visiting dress." It's a kimono with standard length sleeves, and a large pattern that is either dyed or embroidered (tradition dictates that formal kimonos have large printed or embroidered patterns. Small printed patterns and woven patterns are considered less formal, even though they sometimes are more expensive. I guess it's like a JCrew cocktail dress being more affordable than a pair of Chanel jeans).

Of course, I do not own a houmongi (or a small print kimono or a woven pattern kimono, or for that matter, a JCrew cocktail dress or Chanel jeans), so I rented one. And I did not know how to dress myself in it, so I went to my trusty hairdresser (some Japanese hairdressers are also licensed kimono dressers). She did my hair and makeup, and then padded me in towels and gauze until I was the right shape (the design of the kimono is such that you want to be as cylindrical as possible) and then proceeded to strangle me dress me in my (OK, the dress shop's) beautiful kimono.


The sash, or obi is just as important, if not more so, than the kimono. The best are pure silk, and are frequently more expensive than the kimono. The way it is tied reflects your age social status. This plain flat tie shows I am an married lady.


Hair is always done up, although these days, most people (including me) get it done the way you would do for evening dresses.

Please don't ask me how I'm supposed to go to the toilet in this thing. Fortunately nor not, I didn't need to.

Move (exercise)

Karada wo ugokasu

Movement log for May 22nd

"Flow" portion of beginners' Pilates DVD

14 pushups

10 backwards pushups (using piano bench)

20 crunches

5 pike-ups (done very poorly, but oh well)

53 squats

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The first step

Hajime no ippo

I don't know if I have done it here, but I have used my hectic schedule as my reason for not getting any exercise. Then I was reminded that a woman I used to work with started running seriously at age 40 and now runs full marathons on a fairly regular basis.

No, I do not have delusions of grandeur of running a full marathon anytime soon, but I started thinking, if she can make time to run 5 km every weekday morning, shouldn't I be able to make time to walk 20 minutes 3 times a week?

So, I tried, and it worked, sort of, when I can get the motivation to do so. Then the Pumpkin Daddy left us for a week (no, we are not separating, he went to do volunteer work in a part of Fukushima hit by the tsunamis. ) and I was wary to leave the house devoid of adults. But he's back now, so I'm out of excuses again.

So...

May 19th: 20 minutes brisk walking, end heart rate 134 bpm

May 21st: Same as above, 130 bpm, wearing "Cross Walker," which is a tummy/ rear/ thigh shaper that claims to work your thighs so that they become toned by just walking throughout the day

Also, not walking, but I did the "flow" part of the beginners Pilates DVD I bought 4 years ago on Tuesday night.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A man's job

Otoko no shigoto

At the Pumpkin Palace, cleaning the bath is a man's job. It's a challenging job which requires years of training to learn to do properly.


.That's why it's best to start early.


You missed a spot...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

(She) doesn't miss much!

Yoku mite iru!
I have conjunctivitis. Viral, bacterial or allergic, I am not sure (and neither is the ophthalmologist I saw this morning. And while Japanese medical care does have its drawbacks, I am not going to complain about how I woke up on a Sunday morning with an eye puffed out so badly and stuck together so tightly it could not be opened without using my fingers, and was seen by an ophthalmologist, prescribed medication, and left the pharmacy with said medication in my hand by 11 a.m. the same morning, and only about 4000 yen, or $50, poorer for my trouble). This morning, I could not get my left eye open without using my fingers. It's slightly better now, after 2 doses of oral antibiotics and eye drops, but not much. I'll figure out what to do next after a good night's sleep. In the meantime, I will not let this get me down. Actually, it is getting me down, but it won't take me down without a fight. Or something. Anyway, I'm going to be bright and cheerful and upbeat for my internet friends, imaginary or otherwise.

We went to the 2 local malls to see the Pumpkin Princess's Mothers' Day pictures.

You may recall this image from last year.

DSC01984

I am still not sure what the pink circle over my head is. I have received suggestions that it is a halo. The artist said it was my ponytail holder.

This year, we have this


and this.


Can you see I'm wearing glasses in both pictures? And can you make out the necklace with white flowers on it the Pumpkin Daddy got me for White Day in the bottom picture?

In (somewhat) quake related news (of course you knew I had to say something about the quake in this post), the Pumpkin Family planted bitter melon in containers


and the Pumpkin Daddy hung gardening net in front of the patio door. The idea is to get the plants to grow in front of the patio door, creating a green curtain that will make shade in summer (and help us put a dent in the amount of electricity used by the AC). We made the choice of bitter melon because of its robust, large leaves (as opposed to something like morning glory) and its disease resistance (as opposed to something like cucumber).

That's all 151 cm (4' 11" 1/2 or thereabouts) of me you see in the photo, so you can see how ambitious (and also potentially effective) this plan is.


There's only one container in the photo, but a couple days later, we added another one just like it on the left hand side of the patio.


Of course, the potential drawback is the possibility of a big bitter melon harvest. Anyone know any good bitter melon recipes (other than Okinawa-style stir fry with tofu and egg?)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Today over yesterday

Kinou yori mo kyou

Today I got up 15 minutes earlier than yesterday and went outside and walked for 15 minutes. Not ran, walked. Not an hour, 15 minutes. Still, this is more movement than yesterday. Or, for that matter, pretty much any given day in the past 4 months.

Monday, April 18, 2011

You haven't changed much!

Zenzen kawatte nai ne!

Life goes on. Seasons change.


This past Saturday evening, I went to a party of sorts for my university's crew (not crew as in group but crew as in rowing team) alumni. Alumni is the key word here, crew in my university is now defunct. The youngest person there was something like 34 or thereabouts. An interesting collection people, all beautiful, but some more self-assured of their beauty than others (a select few obnoxiously so). Youthful dreams broken by realization of one's own limits, disease, divorce, or just good old fashioned circumstance. The "cool" people then are not necessarily the cool people now, and the uncool people then are sometimes today's coolest. Or hottest. Or both.

I was told by my one of my favorite crew members I hadn't changed much. This is somewhat true, but as I have previously mentioned, I'm a plain person. Keeping your youth is not equal to keeping your beauty, if you only had so much beauty to begin with. Still, I can't help but think there must be a point where the "beauty levels" of a plain girl who stays happy and youthful, and a beautiful girl whose sorrows and meanness work their way into her face cross and the tables turn...

One person said "my contribution to the quake relief effort is to party and shop. It creates tax revenue, and it will boost the economy, which will create more tax revenue." The man does have a point.

I came home to an empty house as the Pumpkin Daddy had taken the Prince and Princess to his parents'. I bathed and went to bed, and got up the next morning at around eight. I had breakfast, did laundry, dusted and swiffed, and then set off to declutter one of the hall closets. I tossed two large trash bags of things that hadn't been used for a whole year, tops. It was a really productive time.

About that same time, one of my newer imaginary friends hosted a walk-a-thon for quake relief. I agreed to sponsor her and her sons, and they (especially the sons) out-performed my expectations. I've paid up as agreed, it's all for a good cause.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Do I smell?

Watashi niou?

I had the chance to see "Wicked" quite a while back. It was absolutely wonderful, and I had really great company. But I think I am quite the cynic and spoilsport, because in the scene where Fiyero and Elphaba finally reunite and they sing this beautiful song about how "every moment as long as you're mine, I'll wake up my body and make up for lost time" I was thinking "you know, she's been on the run for quite some time, she's probably not showered in a while..."

(This concern only applies to the musical version, in the original novel, water is dangerous to Elphaba and she won't go near it.)

It's been a whole month since the quake, but there are still something like 150,000 people in the refugee shelters, for whom things like baths and showers or even frequent hand washing are luxuries. I think in the Hanshin-Awaji quake in 1994, a lot of the survivors were in temporary shelters within the month. Of course, the area and number of people affected by the quake is nothing like 1994.

So keep us in your hearts, and please remember, and if you see it in a store or a restaurant, it's safe to eat/ drink/ use, even if it's Japanese.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Quake orphans

Shinsai koji

Foreigners looking to adopt Japanese earthquake orphans need not apply

I wouldn't have chosen this title if I were the one who wrote this article, but the article itself presents an interesting east-meets-west phenomenon. The current head count for children with both parents killed or missing is 82, and this number is expected to grow as the count becomes more complete. The standard issue tragedy is "kids at school, parents at work, kids successfully evacuated, parents didn't." This means that there are very few healthy baby girls less than six months old to begin with, and those who survived when both parents didn't will probably be taken in by aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

There was this news segment on TV the other night, about three kids (a sister and twin brothers) who followed the sad pattern of "kids at school, parents at work". Their uncle (mom's younger brother) and his family helped them look for their parents without success. After a week of waiting and searching, their uncle said to them, "starting today, Uncle and Auntie are going to be your Mom and Dad." Uncle and Auntie already had children, and they themselves were tsunami survivors, but it never so much as even entered their minds to do otherwise.

This is probably what will happen to many of the tsunami orphans. Yes, some of these orphans will end up better off than others, but that is something that can be said for children all over the world. Local and Japanese governments should give the extended family and friends the support (financial and otherwise) they will need to welcome these children to their new families before overseas adoption is considered as a means to find a new home.

The article is right in saying that Japanese emphasize blood ties. Actually, that's an understatement. I once had the chance to visit an infertility clinic (long story, I am not infertile, well, maybe I am now, but with a Pumpkin Prince and Princess to raise my current fertility is not an issue). The doctor there explained to me the various processes, including artificial insemination and IVF, and said that anonymous donors were the norm in the Americas and Europe. He proceeded to say that many Japanese parents-to-be preferred to have some kind of blood connection to their children, and it was pretty common for a brother-in-law or father-in-law to be the sperm donor. It involved a great deal of self control to refrain from running away from the clinic screaming bloody murder at the idea of a father-in-law donating sperm. Having lived in Japan as a Japanese person for two and a half decades, this method of having a child you have a genetic connection with (when the traditional means have failed) now feels much more (but still not entirely) logical.

The "25,000 orphans" in orphanages in Japan as a pre-quake head count are probably not all orphans. Many are probably children with one or more living parents whose immediate or extended family can't (or worse, won't) give them the care they need. This is an educated guess based on how the situation is similar in many developed nations, and how this is the case in the orphanage run by the church that runs the Pumpkin Daycare. Of course, there are those who are orphans consistent with the strictest definition.

If this disaster triggers discussion on how to help these children, it would be one small fragment of good left behind in place of all that has been swept away.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I can't find (his) pants!

Pantsu ga mitsukaranai!

I tried to buy the usual high cost-performance diapers I get for the Pumpkin Prince, but they were sold out. I ended up getting the high end diapers by the same manufacturer (Mammi-Poko vs Moony, for those of you familiar with Japanese diapers). This is obviously part of the sanitary napkin/ Kleenex/ toilet paper shortage that has come about since the quake. The shortage makes sense to a limited extent, as several high output paper mills have shut down because of the quake. No big deal, the Royal Bottom will be wrapped in more expensive stuff than is usual, but it's an interesting phenomenon.

I think this quake will be one of those things that you either remember or you don't, kind of like how the previous generation talks about WWII. "Right after the war, we had sweet potato skins for breakfast, and nothing else. And we were glad to have them." "For a couple weeks after the quake, we had blackouts, sometimes up to 7 hours a day. And we were glad to have them."

I'm an academic, or at least, my job description says that I am. Last week, I got an e-mail from a big American organization in my field, saying that if you live in Japan and were affected by the quake, submission deadlines for this year's big conference will be 2 weeks later for you than everyone else. We had very little quake/ tsunami damage, but we started discussing the definition of "affected by the quake."

1. Not directly hit, but had trouble peeling self away from the TV and news websites until fairly recently

2. Not directly hit, but couldn't get any work done because of blackouts

3. Not directly hit, and could have got work done but was feeling so hopeless and depressed over everything (and the blackouts didn't help)

4. Not directly hit, and did manage to get quite a bit of work done and would have made the original deadline if the lack of heat hadn't caused you to catch a cold

What do you think? Do any of these count as "affected by the quake?" If you were the selection committee, which explanations would you accept as valid and worthy of a deadline extension?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The temperatures are getting milder.

Kion ga odayaka ni natte kimashita.

A whole week blackout free. I guess the warmer weather is helping.

Thursday evening, I pulled into the self-serve gas station I always use. All the pumps were being used, but there were no lines. I was in and out in 10 minutes.

There still are shortages. Buying bottled water in the supermarket is a pipe dream, mostly because of the fear of radioactivity.



"You know, according to this book on statistics, they're totally reporting the radiation levels wrong. The highest reading in and of itself doesn't mean anything. I would go with the mean or the mode..."

The Pumpkin Family has decided to take their chances with the tap water. Milk is in short supply, as are eggs, but if you hit the stores in the morning, you'll probably find what you need. An interesting shortage is yogurt. The milk shortage is an obvious issue, but the bigger problem is the electricity (or rather, lack thereof) needed for temperature control.

Stuff at work completely unrelated to the quake is going on. It's so very political and so very petty. Like, you go home and see this father on TV who lost his wife and his babies, and you get a feel for what is really important in life, and then you go to work to face stuff that seemed important a couple weeks ago, but now could really dig a deep hole and jump in it for all you care, but still has to be dealt with.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A request

Onegai

If you can't help Japan, please at least remember us. If you don't want to help Japan, fine. But please don't say Japan doesn't need help. 170,000 people are still in emergency shelters. There is a nuclear reactor that needs deactivating.

"But what about stuff happening at home?" You are absolutely right. Tell you what, you do your part for an issue happening in your home country while taking a moment to think about what is happening in mine, and we'll say you're good.

Ichiro would need help walking if he had a broken leg. Please don't say Japan doesn't need help, because it's just not true.

"Songs for Japan", the compilation charity album on iTunes, sells for $9 in the USA and 1,500 yen in Japan. I guess I am supposed to feel lucky for the chance to contribute that much more to a worthy cause, but I wonder how the large difference in cost came about...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Karoshi

Karoshi

(I had no idea it had its own English Wikipedia entry...)

This past weekend, I passed a gas station. There was no long line snaking along the road for half a mile. There was a line of 3 or 4 cars for each of the 4 pumps. I saw the 16 cars at the gas station and thought "wow, no wait at all!"

The scheduled blackouts are still scheduled, but they're cancelled with increased frequency. There hasn't been one since Friday, and tomorrow's blackouts have been cancelled, so that will make 6 straight days that Group 5 has been blackout free. This is a good thing, because one of the generators at work died. We have yet to hear repairs have been successful. We've been only half joking that it was karoshi. I'm not an engineer, but I can't help but wonder if that generator was really designed to run four, sometimes eight hours a day for 2 weeks straight.

On Yahoo! (original USA flavor and Australia/ New Zealand) and BBC websites, the direct aftermath of the quake/ tsunami is no longer to be seen on the short list of current news. The Fukushima nuclear reactor remains. Yes, it is important, but I suppose nice people trying to do their very best to keep their wits and trying to figure out what to do to get their lives back isn't nearly as eye catching as something straight out of a disaster movie. In one of the most developed countries on the planet, 2 weeks after the quake and evacuation shelter residents still only get a slice of bread and a rice ball per person. A day. I wish I were making this up, but I saw it on Japanese network TV. I personally find this far more outrageous than me and my family receiving 1/ 100,000 the amount of radiation in a single session of radiation therapy over the past 2 weeks or so.

Heroic workers, government and otherwise, are working around the clock to try to change this (both the food issue and the radiation issue), but people are just not designed to work around the clock. I hope we don't see any karoshi from these people, either. The generator was bad enough.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Getting through it

Norikiru

A couple days ago, I was driving right when the blackout hit. I knew it was coming, but I stayed at work a little longer than I planned. I was driving knowing it could hit at any minute, and it still made me jump in the driver's seat when the green traffic light in front of me suddenly went dark.

Something sad I read in the news: a woman in her 60's was hit by a car at an intersection during a blackout (the traffic light was out, and there was no traffic policeman). So someone dialed 119, and the ambulance came within a reasonable amount of time, and took her to a good-sized hospital because she seemed to have a head injury. Well, the hospital couldn't take a CT because of the blackout, so they had to transfer her to a different hospital that was in a different blackout zone (and had the electricity to get a CT). She is currently in serious condition. Based on the information I have, I don't know who is to blame for how much, but it is probably fair to say that she might not have been hurt at all if the traffic lights were in order.

Otherwise, people are starting to get used to the whole thing, scheduling work and food preparation and baths around blackouts, and finding creative ways to get through them when they hit. My friend got a camping trailer battery and rigged it so that he could charge it while he had electricity and use the stored power during blackouts. He gets enough power to have the lights on while watching TV, which is so much better than total darkness. I have another friend who actually moves operations to his camping trailer parked outside. It would have been a great plan if he'd remembered to clean the stove. He had heat, lights, TV and a working toilet, and it would have been great if it weren't for the smell of a year's worth of dust burning. Another friend has solar cells on his roof, which is fine when it's light out but not when it's dark and you need it most.

Of course, some areas are blackout free. The area around the local Japanese Self Defense Forces base gets power during blackouts (duh, how are they supposed to run quake relief operations if their home base does not have power). And then there is where I live...probably because we're on the same grid as the local train station that gets its fair share of traffic. So when people start talking about iceboxes and rigging camping car batteries and living in trailers, I kind of sheepishly slink off...

They've re-zoned the blackouts so that there are 5 subgroups for each group, and promised to give more precise and detailed blackout schedules. Makes sense, most people can probably handle one or two 3-hour blackouts a week if they know exactly when they are coming.

And I will now sheepishly slink off.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stocking up

Kaidame

Bread, milk, eggs, rice, batteries, toilet paper.

Actually, I think milk will come of this list of things that are hard to find in stores. They found trace radioactivity in milk from Fukushima about two days ago, so you just know people are going to stop buying milk from Hokkaido...

Something to add to the list: diapers (for both babies and adults) and feminine hygiene products. I've got 1 1/2 packs of diapers for the Pumpkin Prince in the closet, and I expect things will have died down by the time I need to get more. I can deal with the lack of feminine hygiene products if that pack of sanitary napkins went to some poor girl sleeping in her school gymnasium, but somehow I think it went to some local lady who tossed it with about 10 other packs of sanitary napkins in her shopping basket because she "doesn't know when she'll be able to find them next".

Monday, March 21, 2011

The spinach is gone!

Hourensou ga nakunatta!

They pulled the spinach off the shelves of my local supermarket, because there was spinach grown in our area found to have trace radioactivity. Why spinach? Probably because of the few vegetables being grown outdoors this time of year (which include but are not limited to broccoli, cabbage, scallions, and various greens including spinach), spinach has a large surface area exposed to the air (so that the radioactive debris has somewhere to fall on, for example, most of a cabbage is not exposed to air, and if it were, you could always peel off the outer leaves and everyone and the Geiger counter would be fine with it), and spinach is the most popular.

I guess milk will be next...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The insects awaken

Keichitsu

When spring comes, the hibernting insects awaken. When there are three blackout free days in a row, the Pumpkin Family goes shopping.

We wanted to get a "spoon set" for the Pumpkin Prince. This is a flatware set consisting of a spoon, fork and a pair of chopsticks in a plastic carrying case. There are all kinds of sets, Pokemon, Hello Kitty, Peanuts, Disney, etc...The Pumpkin Daddy wanted to get the Pumpkin Prince the same kind he got the Pumpkin Princess, so we went to the big department store in the next city.

I take back what I said about the gas station lines not making any sense. There is an actual supply/ demand discrepancy caused by the quake. Actually, quakes. My uncle, who worked for Mobil until his retirement, explained it to me. The oil refineries stop production and run a safety check every time there is a quake. The past week, there have been quite a few aftershocks, so every time they start production, there's a quake, so they've been checking too much and making too little. The story in the oil refinery probably goes something like this..

"Is everyone OK? Production stopped automatically? Good. OK, begin safety check according to safety manual. Check, check, check...double check...great, everything is in order. Ladies and gentlemen, let's get this show on the road, and...(shake, rattle roll) Is everyone OK? That wasn't nearly as big as the last one. Please begin safety check according to the safety manual. Check, check, check, double check...Ladies and gentlemen, let's get (shake rattle roll) Oh drat. Begin safety check, please. Check, check (shake rattle roll) THIS IS DRIVING ME NUCKING FUTS!!!!"

On the way to the department store, we saw a gas station line over a kilometer long.

The parking tower near the department store was really empty. We got to the store at around 11, and only had to go up to the 2nd floor to find parking space, which is a new record (par that time of day is the 3rd or 4th level). The tower is usually packed with shoppers and also people taking the train into Tokyo. The stores were pretty empty for a Sunday morning with nice weather. So much for keichitsu...

Someone made this Scheduled Blackout Calendar. I'd leave them a tip if I knew how. I now have the blackout schedule on my computer and iPad, so I can schedule work stuff and housework around them.

And there is this...the American gentleman, and I call him this in every sense of the word, is Daniel Kahl. He's known for his fluent Yamagata dialect Japanese. I am having problems coming up with a good American equivalent. I think in the UK it would be a lot like a very heavy Welsh accent, but my Brit friends might disagree. Anyway, his American network standard English really threw me off, and I almost didn't know he was. I think most who know of Daniel Kahl would find the lack of accent amusing, whether they share my perspective on the "nuclear disaster" or not.

One thing I would like to add to Mr. Kahl's words is if the international media are guilty of generating and riding the hysteria, the Japanese media are guilty of exactly the same thing.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cancelled tomorrow, too

Ashita mo chuushi

The blackout has been cancelled tomorrow, too. I was thinking "fix lunch by 11:30, blackout at 12:20 until 16:00, start fixing dinner shortly after (but not immediately after) blackout is over..." so so much for that.

Before they cancelled tomorrow's blackout, I suggested we go out to dinner on a day we knew for sure there would be no blackout. The Pumpkin Daddy said he wanted sushi, so we went to the local conveyer belt sushi place. We were in the store at around 6:20 p.m. The belt appeared to have less sushi than usual. The Pumpkin Daddy ordered a plate of salmon sushi, and they brought a single piece (they usually come in sets of two) and told him it was the last piece they had, and since there was only one it was on the house. Good service, but it was concerning that a sushi place would run out of a cut of fish before 7 p.m. Part of the quake/ tsunami shortages...

Apparently, Brits have been advised to consider leaving parts of Japan further north than Tokyo. Just a couple of days ago, the British Embassy had released a transcript of a conference with the Chief Scientific Officer of the UK, so I was kind of surprised, but I guess it's more about shortages and traffic congestion than anything.

On network TV, they are running the same 3 commercials over and over and over again. They are for Advertising Council Japan. They're an organization that advocates the use of advertising to educate the public on things like cancer screening and bullying prevention. The networks are running these AC commercials because no regular corporations will sponsor the programs. The corporations don't want to be associated with quake related news, so the networks have pulled all the regular commercials and replaced them with the AC commercials. AC won't pay for the commercials, and they are usually public service related content, so neither the networks or AC make much money off of the commercials. So you're hearing the nuclear physicist say "NUCLEAR ARMAGEDONN!!!!!" and then they cut to a commercial where a pretty older woman talks about how she tells her pretty young daughter the importance of Pap smears because she doesn't want her daughter to get cervical cancer the way she herself did, and then people think CANCER and think I SO DO NOT NEED TO HEAR THAT RIGHT NOW, and...

...they get angry and complain to AC. Gosh, I wish I were making this stuff up.

The international media are saying how calm and collected the country has been the past week. I guess we are calm by most standards, but the toll does show in things like panic hoarding and lashing out in strange directions.

Blackout cancelled

Teiden chuushi!

I think it's the forecast for warm weather that made TEPCO decide there would be no blackout today. Everyone seems a little happier and a little more energetic...which is kind of dangerous for two reasons.

1. People have been turning to bicycles because of the gas shortages. This is a wonderful idea in theory, but the fact is that some of these bicycles are older models that haven't been ridden in a very long time, and some of these riders are older models that haven't ridden in a while. So you're driving along on a road without a sidewalk, and there's an older model riding an older model, and just as you are about to pass them, they totter in your direction...OK, I made the last part up, but I am sure it is a definite possibility!

2. If you are going to wait in line for gas, you'd want to do it on a warm day, so that you don't end up like the guy who died of carbon monoxide poisoning because he was trying to stay warm using a portable kerosene stove in his car while he was waiting in line for gas. So off you go to the gas station, where the line is already almost a kilometer long at 9:00...and the gas station is scheduled to open at 11:00. So there's cars that end up in line for gas when they thought it was just your garden variety traffic jam, and they suddenly realize it isn't your garden variety traffic jam, but quake/ tsunami-induced panic buying-induced gas shortage-induced long line for gas, and they try to get out of the line without so much as a turn signal. OK, I made the last part up, but only the last part. And I'm sure it has happened, just not in front of me.

I finally understand the hoarding/ panic buying mentality after having made a weekend grocery run. The crowd waiting for the store to open an hour later than usual, the unheated, dark store congested with shopping carts, the occasional empty shelf. The atmosphere of doom almost induced me to buy bread and milk I didn't really need.

I was thinking that the panic-induced (and not actual supply/ demand discrepancy induced) gas shortage would die down by now, but it hasn't. Yesterday, my mom's friend's husband went to the gas station at 6 in the morning. At 10, when my mom's friend delivered sandwiches and coffee to him on her bicycle, he was still in line...

You're finally seeing regular programming on TV. The regular networks were all about the nuclear reactor and the trains in Tokyo stopping. Since TV is all about getting people to watch until the commercials, I guess the marketing choice would be nuclear reactors as opposed to nice people in the refugee shelters trying their very best to keep their cool among blackouts and shortages. So you prop up a nuclear physicist next to your newscaster, ask him (I'm sure there are woman nuclear physicists in this country, they just haven't been shown on TV) if this situation is bad, and he'll say "oh yes, this is very bad, much much worse than Three Mile Island. The radiation level is 20,000 times higher than usual". And people will be glued to the set ("20,000 TIMES!!!") and start to get angry at the government (it's not the government's fault, if it's anyone's fault it would be TEPCO's, and possibly General Electric's) and afraid for their health and start buying Betadine (upon which you would have lost their viewership but not their attention).

Notice how few doctors there are next to the newscasters in these shows? That's probably because all the doctors are too busy dealing with the panic-induced phone calls and hospital visits by people who watched these newscasts in the safety of their living rooms while drinking tea. As opposed to dealing with one of the Fukushima 50. Or, when contacted, will say "meh" which isn't going to get as much attention as someone saying "this is awful this is disaster this is ARMAGEDONN!" (never mind that the nuclear physicist might not actually be Christian...)

The most helpful bit of information I learned this past week is that when you do animal research on the thyroid, you should never, never, never, ever use "iodine-free" animal feed made in Japan because it will skew your lab results. Always use made in USA or EU. Why? Because all food made in Japan contains iodine, no matter what it is. So unless you've lived outside Japan for the past several months and just arrived in Japan during the past week, your thyroid is safe.

Unless you're part of the Fukushima 50. These people are in real danger, and they know it. They are heros worthy of the highest praise. But unless you're actually in the 20km area (in which case you probably should talk to a health care professional in person, and stop checking blogs of people you don't know), don't go out and buy Betadine and take a swig, OK? Have some miso soup or something, it's comforting (and it contains iodine!).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why toilet paper?

Naze toiretto peipaa?

Another gas station generated traffic jam. This time, the gas station hadn't even opened yet. There were lots of cars that had the driver's seat fully reclined. My educated guess is that they'd camped out in their cars to be at the front of the line to get gas when the store opened. I wouldn't do this myself, but I can understand how people would want to. Gas is really hard to get.

One of the drivers in the long gas line got out of his car and opened his trunk for some reason or other, revealing a trunk full of...toilet paper. Yes, toilet paper.

Bread, I understand now. It's something you can eat without heating, which is very practical during blackouts. But toilet paper? Someone needs to explain that one to me. My mom says during the oil shock in 1973 (or thereabouts) there was a shortage of paper, including toilet paper. Maybe he is working off of memories of those days...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Traffic obstruction

Tsukou bougai

Disclaimer: This is a ranty blog entry by someone so far affected by the quake/ tsunami by only scheduled blackouts and a temporary gasoline shortage. If you are looking for actual helpful information, go here.

More working in the cold darkness today. Group 5 had not one but 2 blackouts scheduled today, which meant work did the "backup power" thing Yesterday I found myself getting depressed, so today I made it a point to walk around and talk to people outside my section, jerry-rigging early intervention. I think I left work in better spirits than yesterday.

A new development was that there was an actual blackout in the area around my work. If nothing else, it kept people from asking us why we were the only gig in town running on auxiliary power (we aren't, city hall and the prefecture office do the same thing). My friend said that all the traffic lights were down. There were police officers directing traffic at large intersections, and there, you could pretty much drive/ pedal/ jog as if nothing had ever happened, but at the smaller intersections, things sometimes got a bit scary. I understand there have been car crashes during these blackouts. Drive carefully if you are involved...or do what lots of us at work have been trying to do, which is schedule work so that you don't have to drive during blackout hours, and avoid doing stuff away if it can be done where you are now.

Of course I write this knowing this suggestion is more helpful to some than others...

The Pumpkin Daddy had the morning off (based on the blackout schedule) and went to the store. He found milk and (finally!) bread. The panic buying some people are doing is really annoying. My co-worker reported seeing someone who had something like 6 packs of toilet paper in his cart. I guess he was anticipating a bout with diarrhea...

The food issue has kind of leveled down, mostly because we are a food producing area. The big thing right now is gasoline. My boss has been trying to fill his gas tank at least part-way so that he can drive home to see his wife, but so far, no luck. He has a small, spartan apartment in the area for occasions like this, and he's had to stay there pretty much the entire time since the quake. A popular topic of conversation at work has become the locations of gas stations that still have gas, and how to avoid the gas-station induced traffic jams. My boss armed himself with the information acquired during one of these conversations and headed for the gas station in question. There was a long line in front of the station that stretched a couple blocks, so he knew they were still pumping, and he got in line. So he waited, and waited, and waited some more until about an hour had passed (he came in late, but because of the whole auxiliary power thing, there really wasn't that much to do this morning so we didn't miss him that much), and then...

"A policeman came and told us to go away because we were obstructing traffic."

My boss is probably sleeping in his apartment in town again tonight.

The area surrounding my workplace had a blackout, but the area around my home didn't. I think they'll pick us for tomorrow...which means it will start at 6:20 a.m. Yikes! I should probably turn in early so I can wash with warm water and make coffee before the power gets cut.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Saving electricity

Setsuden

If you are looking for relevant information about the scheduled blackouts in Japan, please try here.
So here we are with the second workweek (of goodness knows how many) saving electricity. Something about community responsibility makes my workplace especially aggressive in this endeavor.

On the way to work, I encountered 2 gas-station induced traffic jams.

Today's blackout schedule threatened to put our area (group 5) in darkness and silence from about noon until 4 in the afternoon or thereabouts. As yesterday, we obeyed instructions to try to save as much electricity as possible, and turned off most of the lights and all of the climate control. We worked in the darkness wearing coats. One of my co-workers showed up with a fluffy fleece cape. The thing is, so far, there hasn't been an actual blackout in our area yet. Work does the voluntary quasi-blackout by choice.

We'd wanted to get as much done as possible by noon, but we made sure to make a trip to the toilet before that time. Being a large building, the water pressure gets too low for the toilet to flush with 100% certainty when the power is out. We called it a morning when the power cut to TEPCO to backup, and had lunch. I ordered a boxed lunch from a local delivery place which was pretty good. The on-premisis convenience store (residents of Japan: it's a Lawson) was swept clean of rice balls but not egg salad sandwiches. I guess stuff that would keep at room temp like rice is being diverted to the areas hardest hit.

We watched the news over lunch, where the news of the moment was the status of the nuclear reactors in the Fukushima power plant. It's frustrating to see awful stuff going on, and not being able to do anything about it. The debate was whether you could prevent the effects of fallout from a power plant with iodine intake (short answer: yes for thyroid cancer, amount needed is something like a 3 cm piece of konbu)

The afternoon was spent again working in the cold darkness. I am finding working in the cold darkness is depressing. Tomorrow, I am going to try roaming around and find places warmer and brighter to work.

I encountered yet another gas-station traffic jam on the way home. That's how you can tell if a gas station has gas, whether or not there's a line in front of it...

Monday, March 14, 2011

No blackout

Teiden nashi

WTF? There are people actually complaining that there wasn't a blackout in most parts of the country? Am I missing something?

I called the Pumpkin Granny this morning to ask her what she wanted to do about the Pumpkin Prince and Princess. Our "turn" for the blackout was scheduled for 3:20 pm to 7:00 pm, and she usually picked them up from day care at 3:30. This would mean driving on streets without traffic lights.

Not only did the Pumpkin Granny not know what time the blackout would be, she had not thought about the whole traffic lights issue.

A short discussion brought us to the conclusion that it would be best if the Pumpkin Granny went to pick them up at 2:00 pm or thereabouts.

So I packed up the Pumpkin Royalty and headed in the direction of work. I dropped the kids off at day care, and headed to work...where the entrance was dark. Only about half of the hall lights were on. They were doing their part to save electricity, I guess. My department had the heat turned off, and everyone was working with their coats on. We have backup generators for times like this, and though the blackout didn't happen as scheduled (in fact, it didn't happen at all in our part of the country), they cut the power we were getting from TEPCO and switched over to the backup power source at 3:20 or thereabouts. Then, at around 5, they cut off all power to "non-essential" departments (including ours...could have sworn we were "essential"...) leaving us no choice but to go home.

The Pumpkin Daddy's work sent everyone home after lunch. I got home to find him vacuuming.

Tomorrow's blackout is scheduled from lunch to 4 pm. I'm hoping that doesn't mean they will keep us until 8 pm to make up for lost time.

The night after the big quake, my friend the Tomato Daddy got a Skype call from a co-worker currently based in the American East Coast. "Hey, you guys OK? That's good to hear. Like I said the other day, they're going to be in stores today. Want one?" And the Tomato Daddy said yes.

Which of the following things do you find most interesting/ amusing?

1. That even when the usual land line and cell phone lines are down, you can get through to your friends if you use Skype

2. That someone would call the evening of the biggest natural disaster in this country's history to ask if you wanted them to buy something for you that was going to hit the stores that day

3. That said person could refer to the object in question in third person pronouns and you would know exactly what they were talking about

4. That the object in question was an iPad

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Planned Blackout

Keikaku teiden

Actual info on scheduled blackouts here.

We're getting one tomorrow. My main concerns are

1) The blackout falls on commuting hours. How many of the traffic lights in my commute have a back up power system?

2) What will become of the contents of my fridge?

I am thankful my concerns are this trivial, but the first has potential to become tricky. Apologies to people who have Googled "planned blackout" or something and found no helpful information on this blog.
My accomplishment for today is having peeled myself away from the TV and internet quake and meltdown coverage long enough to buy diapers and cook dinner, and also not having lost my temper at my kids.

Sometimes, I have really low expectations for myself. Today is one of those days, and I'd say it's allowed.

Neither parent had the emotional resources to play with or pay any sort of attention to the kids, so we just let them watch DVRed programs and rental DVDs. Apparently, the Pumpkin Princess likes Dora the Explorer. She watches it in English, and loves it, which is strange because she doesn't understand English or Spanish.

Why bread?

Naze pan?

I went to the store to get diapers. I had no problem finding them, and there were plenty left after I took my usual 2 packs. There were plenty of other things on the shelves, but two sections were completely empty: bottled water and bread. The water is not hard to understand, but bread seems a strange choice. I doubt people are mailing it to friends and family in the Tohoku area, since transport is essentially gone in that area. Bracing for a power outage by stocking up on food that doesn't require heating or other preparation, I guess...

Maybe I'll start cooking rice early today while there's power.

I hate having the TV on. The Pumpkin Daddy keeps turning it on, but the TV is like a dysfunctional vacuum. I keep getting sucked in and am not getting stuff done like housework and cooking. So I turn it off, but then I get sucked into the internet. I keep reloading news sites like Yahoo! and the big dailies (Asahi, Yomiuri, Mainichi) and checking on my friends on Facebook. Maybe writing about this dysfunction will be the motivation I need to get going.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I won't watch TV.

Terebi ha minai.

I do not understand why the Pumpkin Daddy insists upon having the TV on all day. There is nothing but quake related news. We are confused enough as it is, there is no point in adding to the confusion. If watching TV would get food and water to those hit hard, or will save someone still buried alive under wreckage, I would watch all day. But it won't, so I won't.

I also fail to see the need to cancel children's programming. The Pumpkin Prince and Princess have been watching DVRed cartoons all day. Their parents lack the emotional resources to play with them...

Thank you to everyone who has shown concern (and relief) for my well-being.

I'm OK.

Buji desu

A very short post to let people who check on me here but not Facebook that I and my immediate family are all safe. My house, my parents' house, my sister's apartment, and my brother's house all have electricity, water, gas, and internet. My house is well away from the coast and also the worst of the quake damage.

The devastation, particularly from the tsunamis, is, well, devastating. The TV footage of cars and homes being washed away look like something that I might see if I caught the Pumpkin Prince and Princess playing Legos and Cars in the shower. But it's not, it's real, and there were people in those homes.

Your local Red Cross is probably a good place to start if you want to help out financially.

I was thinking of making a lighthearted post about the nice things my co-workers got me in Vienna. I might later on, but for now, I am thankful for them, my family, and their safety.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Focus today, too

Kyou mo chuumoku

A half dozen of my co-workers are gone for a conference in Vienna. Bastards.

This weekend, I managed to:

Cook dinner both nights (lasagna on Saturday, nikujaga on Sunday)

Purchase and plant flowers in the pots outside the front door

Put away the Hinamatsuri dolls

Change the filter in the goldfish tank

Get the Pumpkin Princess to practice the piano and do her piano homework (I never said she did it well, I just said it got done)

Get 7 hours of sleep both nights

Write a blog entry containing an image



I managed not to:

Eat potato chips or snack food along those lines after 9 pm on Saturday (but not Friday)

Bring on the workweek! And my co-workers come back on Wednesday. I think they should bring me something nice, don't you?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Focus on success

Seikou ni chuumoku

1. Cleared off shoe closet

2. Got the hinamatsuri dolls out

3. Planted hyacinth bulbs, which finished blooming a while back, in the garden

4. Pulled out and bagged the tomato plants

And do not, under any circumstances, focus on how hyacinths had been sitting on top of the shoe closet for about a month, going from fragrant to wilted to dried, or how there had still been tomato plants standing in the garden in late February. The point is not about how having dead tomato plants standing in my garden puts me in the same category as people who still have their Christmas tree out in April. The point is that these things all got done. In about two hours.

It's all about accomplishments, right?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Salty!

Shoppai!

One thing we did in Guam that we could never do in Pumpkin City was go to the beach.



"Yaaaaaaaaaaay!"



"Wait for me!"



The Pumpkin Prince seemed entirely at ease in the water. I later caught him licking the seawater.

Sand in Guam is mostly eroded coral, hence its white color.



By the way, it's swimwear I'm wearing under my microfiber T-shirt. At least, that's what it said in the Land's End catalog.

Actually, we could go to the beach from Pumpkin City, but it would take a few hours just to get there.



And the sand would not be this white.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Landing in America

Amerika jouriku

OK, not the mainland US, but Guam. But it's a US territory.

Come New Year holidays, the A-listers go to Hawaii. The B-listers go to Guam. So if the Pumpkin Clan heads for Guam for some fun in the sun in mid-February, what does that make us?



We went to the mall,



ate at the food court,



went swimming in the pool,



rented a car and drove around the island,





stopping at a store to buy juice.

Which is, when you think about it, is exactly what we do on weekends in Pumpkin City. We probably should have stayed at home :P

While driving around, we found this obelisk, which stood on a small bay.



Check out this inscription.



"Magellan landed here. Or it might have been on the other side of that river. Or closer to the elementary school up there, since the coastline looked a bit different in the 16th century. Anyway, it was near this place. And the island was never the same."

I have always maintained that a simple approximation is often more useful than a complicated accuracy.