Archive for February 2006

On Long Commutes

February 28, 2006

O

n Saturday, when I went to M’s friend’s house for dinner, we talked about riding the train home from work. One person said that he noticed that very few passengers do what the Japanese do–read a book or listen to music. I don’t really agree. I have seen my share of those who read novels, work on their laptops or listen to their iPods, although many also seem to be content to just stare out the window and be involved in their own thoughts. But I didn’t say anything because I didn’t really want to get into a discussion about something as inane as Metro passenger behavior. However, there is one thing that I have rarely seen an American commuter do that all Japanese commuter’s will do more than just occasionally: Sleep.

I don’t make it a habit to “check out” the other passengers–well, not unless they are… y’know, exceptionally good looking?–but there are very few who fall asleep. But this is a habit that I have adopted whole-heartedly, being the good student of Japanese culture that I am. And I’m not just talking about being drunk and falling asleep, although I have done that, too, on more than a few occasions. Indeed, once M and I were fast asleep in the train–after having imbibed on 5 or 6 beers at the Red Lion next to campus–when we were awakened by a loud clap of the hand right in front of our faces. We snapped our heads up only to see this huge mug of a Metro police officer staring at us. My first thought was, Woah, what’s up dude? Do we look like terrorists to be accorded such a rude awakening? But he just said:

“Vienna, last station.”

Oh, thanks. And we sheepishly got off the train. I guess we were pretty much wasted by the beer, but still I was surprised that M had not awakened on her own accord. You see, the Japanese have this uncanny ability to wake up at their own station. I’m pretty sure it’s not a genetic thing for I was not able to develop this ability fully; but when I lived in Japan, I was slowly getting the knack of waking up right when I reached my station in Tama. I’ve never been able to figure out why, but it seems that the body develops a sense of “train-ride time”. That is, the body–or subconscious mind–knows how long you been on the train and you wake up when you’ve been on it for X minutes. Of course, this is my unproven and unscientific theory which, of course, is another way of saying it’s bullshit. But I have not other way of explaining that sense of “knowing” when to wake up.

Naturally, this sense can be dulled by extraneous factors, the most obvious being alcohol. Many Japanese share the same story of sleeping on the train after a night of drinking, then waking up just as the door is closing at their station, or like me ending up at the last station on the line–I’ve walked home from Tama Center to Nagayama twice, having missed my station on the last train of the night. So, I guess it wasn’t so odd to be awakened at Vienna by the Metro cop. Thankfully, I live off of Vienna so I didn’t have to walk to another station.

Interestingly, the dulling of these senses seems to have conversely triggered the genius of some. Look at the photo. It is a woman wearing a brand new invention–the “Wake Me Up” hat. Besides preventing her from resting her head on the shoulders of a neighboring passenger–and this DOES happen in Japan–the hat has a sign on it. It’s hard to read from our camera angle except for the bottom, which happens to read, Nishi-Ogikubo. Since this is the name of a train station on the Chuo-line, I can easily guess the message that precedes it: “If I’m sleeping when the train reaches the station named below–begging your indulgence–please wake me up.”

Only in Japan…

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On Long Commutes

February 28, 2006

O

n Saturday, when I went to M’s friend’s house for dinner, we talked about riding the train home from work. One person said that he noticed that very few passengers do what the Japanese do–read a book or listen to music. I don’t really agree. I have seen my share of those who read novels, work on their laptops or listen to their iPods, although many also seem to be content to just stare out the window and be involved in their own thoughts. But I didn’t say anything because I didn’t really want to get into a discussion about something as inane as Metro passenger behavior. However, there is one thing that I have rarely seen an American commuter do that all Japanese commuter’s will do more than just occasionally: Sleep.

I don’t make it a habit to “check out” the other passengers–well, not unless they are… y’know, exceptionally good looking?–but there are very few who fall asleep. But this is a habit that I have adopted whole-heartedly, being the good student of Japanese culture that I am. And I’m not just talking about being drunk and falling asleep, although I have done that, too, on more than a few occasions. Indeed, once M and I were fast asleep in the train–after having imbibed on 5 or 6 beers at the Red Lion next to campus–when we were awakened by a loud clap of the hand right in front of our faces. We snapped our heads up only to see this huge mug of a Metro police officer staring at us. My first thought was, Woah, what’s up dude? Do we look like terrorists to be accorded such a rude awakening? But he just said:

“Vienna, last station.”

Oh, thanks. And we sheepishly got off the train. I guess we were pretty much wasted by the beer, but still I was surprised that M had not awakened on her own accord. You see, the Japanese have this uncanny ability to wake up at their own station. I’m pretty sure it’s not a genetic thing for I was not able to develop this ability fully; but when I lived in Japan, I was slowly getting the knack of waking up right when I reached my station in Tama. I’ve never been able to figure out why, but it seems that the body develops a sense of “train-ride time”. That is, the body–or subconscious mind–knows how long you been on the train and you wake up when you’ve been on it for X minutes. Of course, this is my unproven and unscientific theory which, of course, is another way of saying it’s bullshit. But I have not other way of explaining that sense of “knowing” when to wake up.

Naturally, this sense can be dulled by extraneous factors, the most obvious being alcohol. Many Japanese share the same story of sleeping on the train after a night of drinking, then waking up just as the door is closing at their station, or like me ending up at the last station on the line–I’ve walked home from Tama Center to Nagayama twice, having missed my station on the last train of the night. So, I guess it wasn’t so odd to be awakened at Vienna by the Metro cop. Thankfully, I live off of Vienna so I didn’t have to walk to another station.

Interestingly, the dulling of these senses seems to have conversely triggered the genius of some. Look at the photo. It is a woman wearing a brand new invention–the “Wake Me Up” hat. Besides preventing her from resting her head on the shoulders of a neighboring passenger–and this DOES happen in Japan–the hat has a sign on it. It’s hard to read from our camera angle except for the bottom, which happens to read, Nishi-Ogikubo. Since this is the name of a train station on the Chuo-line, I can easily guess the message that precedes it: “If I’m sleeping when the train reaches the station named below–begging your indulgence–please wake me up.”

Only in Japan…

Grading, grading, grading

February 26, 2006

I

spent most of the weekend working on material for class. I intended to spend most of Saturday night grading… well, at least I wanted to get started on the grading, but I forgot that I had to go to a dinner party at one of M’s friend’s house. Like the good little husband, I do as she bids. As a result, unfortunately, I will spend all of Sunday grading my little heart out. Hope I can finish it. I hate returning papers back late. Besides, I’d rather spend my time here on my blog.

Hope all you cats in blog-land are having a more relaxed weekend that I.

Grading, grading, grading

February 26, 2006

I

spent most of the weekend working on material for class. I intended to spend most of Saturday night grading… well, at least I wanted to get started on the grading, but I forgot that I had to go to a dinner party at one of M’s friend’s house. Like the good little husband, I do as she bids. As a result, unfortunately, I will spend all of Sunday grading my little heart out. Hope I can finish it. I hate returning papers back late. Besides, I’d rather spend my time here on my blog.

Hope all you cats in blog-land are having a more relaxed weekend that I.

Work Weekend

February 23, 2006

I

had an interesting day today. No, nothing spectacular happened. I did not hit the Lotto. There was no major scandal DC. I just taught my one Thursday. But, on the way to work, I met a former student. I was on the Metro, incognito, as usual–I have sensitive eyes and so I wear my sunglasses even on cloudy days, and I don’t usually take them off even on the subway. Anyway, the car is half empty but someone gets on at Ballston and plops right down next to me. Yes, she didn’t sit, she plopped. I’m sitting there trying to focus on my Sudoku–yes the O-man is addicted too–when I realize she is staring me from the side.

What the f…

It was a former student of mine, Triphox. I knew it was you, sensei. The sunglasses don’t fool me. She is currently a law student at a local university and seems to be doing quite fine, thank you. She wrote an article for a journal that she and her colleagues put out at school. The title is “Deconstructing the Politics of Being Yellow.” I don’t know how much Derridian deconstruction will be going on in the article, but is sounds interesting enough and when it comes out, I will let you guys know about it. It is a contrast of the success of the Latino community to get together politically and the coughs and wheezes of the Asian community to do the same. Sounds interesting to me.

About an hour ago, another former students pops his head in my door and hands me a letter. Sensei, I’m getting married. It’s in Hawaii. I love my students, but I’m not sure I can go to Hawaii for a wedding. But the invite was very nice and makes me feel special. The point, however, is that it is nice to know that my students remember me, and that they are growing and being successful along the way. It is nice to know.

There are other good things about a college teacher, like having the luxury of making my own time schedule. It is now Thursday evening and the weekend will begin after I sign off of Xanga and start for home–yes, I will sometimes write a little at school after I’ve finished my work. But “weekend” is a relative term for me. While the week has come to an end, in that I do not have classes to teach, I have plenty of work. Mostly I must do the following.

  • Grade 31 J-literature papers
  • Grade 50 J-film papers
  • Prepare readings for Classical Japanese–we’re doing Heike monogatari and I need to put together Yumi nagashi–stray bow.

So it looks like another work weekend for me. The Spring semester has finally started.

Work Weekend

February 23, 2006

I

had an interesting day today. No, nothing spectacular happened. I did not hit the Lotto. There was no major scandal DC. I just taught my one Thursday. But, on the way to work, I met a former student. I was on the Metro, incognito, as usual–I have sensitive eyes and so I wear my sunglasses even on cloudy days, and I don’t usually take them off even on the subway. Anyway, the car is half empty but someone gets on at Ballston and plops right down next to me. Yes, she didn’t sit, she plopped. I’m sitting there trying to focus on my Sudoku–yes the O-man is addicted too–when I realize she is staring me from the side.

What the f…

It was a former student of mine, Triphox. I knew it was you, sensei. The sunglasses don’t fool me. She is currently a law student at a local university and seems to be doing quite fine, thank you. She wrote an article for a journal that she and her colleagues put out at school. The title is “Deconstructing the Politics of Being Yellow.” I don’t know how much Derridian deconstruction will be going on in the article, but is sounds interesting enough and when it comes out, I will let you guys know about it. It is a contrast of the success of the Latino community to get together politically and the coughs and wheezes of the Asian community to do the same. Sounds interesting to me.

About an hour ago, another former students pops his head in my door and hands me a letter. Sensei, I’m getting married. It’s in Hawaii. I love my students, but I’m not sure I can go to Hawaii for a wedding. But the invite was very nice and makes me feel special. The point, however, is that it is nice to know that my students remember me, and that they are growing and being successful along the way. It is nice to know.

There are other good things about a college teacher, like having the luxury of making my own time schedule. It is now Thursday evening and the weekend will begin after I sign off of Xanga and start for home–yes, I will sometimes write a little at school after I’ve finished my work. But “weekend” is a relative term for me. While the week has come to an end, in that I do not have classes to teach, I have plenty of work. Mostly I must do the following.

  • Grade 31 J-literature papers
  • Grade 50 J-film papers
  • Prepare readings for Classical Japanese–we’re doing Heike monogatari and I need to put together Yumi nagashi–stray bow.

So it looks like another work weekend for me. The Spring semester has finally started.

Say What?!?

February 22, 2006

E

veryone has already heard the jokes about Vice President Dick Cheney. He’s a Republican, so he hates lawyers and supports the NRA. Of course, this is not really a laughing matter. Shooting a friend by accident–and I am pretty sure that it was an accident–is no laughing matter. But worse than making jokes of it, some are taking the matter lightly.

In a recent poll by TIME Magazine, 1001 people were asked “Has the shooting accident made you more negative about the Vice President, more positive, or has it had no effect.” I would have said “No effect” but astonishingly, 4% said that the accident has made them more positive about the Vice President. More positive? How does shooting a friend in the face effect a favorable image? Either these respondents are right-wing sociopaths (I wouldn’t be surprised if Ann Coulter was one of the 40) or they are taking the matter far too lightly with a flippant response.

Of course, this could be a response to the media brouhaha over Cheney’s timeliness in relating the event to the press. Personally, I think it has been blown out of proportion. Should he have reported it right away? Surely. Is it another link in a long chain of events that indicate his secretiveness? Probably. I don’t get it. I agree with virtually nothing he represents, but I have never thought of him as stupid. Doesn’t he realize that being secretive conveys a bad impression? Of course, he does. He has to. He’s not stupid. But he doesn’t care, and that is what scares me. He doesn’t give a shit about what others think of him and this allows him to do whatever he wants. Haliburton gets a huge contract without competetive bidding and everyone bitches? So what, let them bitch? He says on one show that it’s been “pretty well confirmed” that Atta met with Iraqi people before 9/11, but more recently on another show he says with a straight face that he had “never said that”, all video evidence to the contrary. But so what? He could care less that people catch him talking out of both sides of his mouth. What are they gonna do? Pull the troops out of Iraq? As long as he can continue doing what he wants to do, he seems perfectly content.

One-thousand-sixty plus days left in this presidency. Am I the only one counting?