Wednesday, 31 August 2011


Haven't been updating much because it's too damned hot and humid. Also, I have a problem with my neck and back that makes my neck hurt sitting at the computer. I am working on rearranging my desk setup to make it more comfortable, but part of the problem with getting it done is that it's too damned hot and my neck hurts.

I just watered the garden. Today I timed it, because I was sure I wasn't spending THAT much time out there, so how come whenever I water the garden I get four mosquito bites? Our garden is small. 

It takes two minutes to water the garden. That means that out in the garden the mosquitoes bite at a rate of two per minute. Perhaps it is worth spraying myself before watering the garden after all. I always think it won't be worth it, because I do it so quickly.

The most enjoyable part of watering the garden is the bit where I spray water around randomly and watch little bits of plants detach themselves and launch skyward. Those little frogs are good at hiding until they get watered. Apparently they don't like it.

Or perhaps they do. Perhaps they're jumping for joy.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Watch he doesn't bite again!

Today I sorted out some academic papers I don't want or need any more (to give to a friend who is likely to be able to use them), then went to the pool (the old one), swam 1000 metres, came home, had dinner, and watched Waking Ned, a 1998 movie I hadn't seen before or even heard of before it was recommended to me.

Being on holiday is brilliant. I have time to sort stuff out and watch movies.

I can't remember who recommended this movie to me, but I'm glad they did, whoever they were. That was a lot of fun. David Kelly is particularly marvelous. What a wonderful face that man has! He gets better with age, I think, although I must admit that since I first saw him 20 years ago or so he has been looking more or less the same.

Also, I think that the nudity was the least gratuitous nudity I have ever seen in a movie. As an additional benefit, I didn't feel quite so scrawny after watching it.

I was going to link to the Wikipedia article for the movie, but it gives away the plot, and if you haven't seen it that would be a shame. It's more fun not knowing what will happen.

(The scene with the teeth was horrible, and made me laugh so hard I almost fell off my chair."Watch he doesn't bite again!")

Sunday, 21 August 2011

What did I do?

I went to a flea market today, and had a lovely time despite, or perhaps because of, the occasional drizzle. It rained quite hard at one point, but that coincided with the time we decided it was time for lunch, so that was perfect. Otherwise the temperatures were perfectly bearable. There was the occasional bit of misty rain, but although it was very humid it was MUCH nicer than the heat we've had recently. In fact it is unusually cool for August.

I haven't been taking many photos in the past couple of years and was never very good, really, at knowing how to use my lovely camera, and today I accidentally hit a button that caused this:

The problem was that I had no idea which button I'd hit, or how to change it back. WHY DID EVERYTHING GO BLUE? And WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT EVERYTHING TO GO BLUE? Why is it so easy for this to happen? Is it an effect people often want?

I took a few more photos and was distressed to see that that it wasn't a one-off thing. All the photos were turning out blue, and I didn't know how to change it back. Was I doomed to take blue photos for the rest of the day? I fiddled. I hit buttons. I didn't understand the menus (or even how to use them) because I hadn't used the camera for so long. I've used it recently a little, but only in auto mode. (Must read the manual again.)

Nothing worked.

Finally I had a clever (i.e. simple) idea and turned off the camera. Then I turned it on again, just in time to take this (in auto mode):

Thank goodness turning off the camera worked! I would have hated to miss this shot. It would have been even better from the front, but I was busy fiddling with the camera when they were coming towards me, and this shot from the rear is good enough. I particularly like the way the head priest (I'm assuming he's the head priest, since he has a minion to carry his umbrella and the others are all getting rained on) has a halo. Yes, I know it's someone's hat, but it looks to me like a halo that slipped slightly.

I like to think it slipped slightly because he'd just had a slightly naughty thought.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Just one more

I have started reading blogs again, when I have a moment.

But I should not have started reading Natalie Bennett's Philobiblon at 11 pm when I wanted to be asleep before midnight. I kept thinking 'just one more,' and it took me until well past one o'clock in the morning to notice that 'just one more' had stopped meaning anything at all.

I should have remembered that would happen.

And I have Pilates class tomorrow.

(Did you know that what is sold as honey in the US can be up to 80% corn syrup? CRIMINAL.)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The fattening diet

This morning I weighed myself and discovered that so far I have lost just over half a kilo. Maybe I should try to LOSE weight, and see what happens?

The hot weather is not helping AT ALL.

Oh, well, my energy levels seem to be normal (for summer here), so I've decided not to worry about it.

Also, I went out to dinner last night and ate a lot. I will be doing the same tonight, and on Thursday night – and I have a good excuse to have two desserts. (Again!)

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Friday, 12 August 2011

Not very clever

Last weekend I went back to the pool I used to use before I joined a sports club. I did not want to join the sports club again. It is more convenient, but it costs too much and you have to join for a year. I use it almost daily during vacations (when I am here) but when semester starts I don't have time, and one day I sat down and calculated how much it cost me each time I went over a year, and almost fainted.

So instead, I went to the swimming school run by the city, where you can pay each time you go instead of on a monthly basis. I hadn't been there for about five or six years, and wasn't sure if it would still be there. It's a ten or fifteen minute bicycle ride away.

If it was there, I hoped it had been upgraded a bit.

It was still there. It had not been upgraded. I think they still have the same shower curtains, actually. I'm pretty sure I recognized some of those mould spots.

But at least I could swim, and I did. I did not swim lengths continuously – my back hurt too much for that (one of the reasons I've started this exercise regime) – so I swam one length, walked one, swam another, walked another, and so on. Occasionally I swam two lengths, just to prove to myself that I could.

In the dressing room afterwards I chatted with a lovely young woman who was there for the first time and was shocked by the showers. (They really are rather grotty.) She told me about another pool that is the same price, the same system (pay as you go), and, I'm pretty sure from looking at a map, a bit further away for me.

But a little more cycling distance wouldn't hurt me, I thought. It sounded ideal, so I decided to try it on Monday.

There is a free bus to this pool from my local train station, but I didn't want to depend on a bus timetable, so I rode my bicycle.

Have i mentioned that it is summer, and very hot? I don't think I have. And have I mentioned that although there is quite a lot of stealth green in my area (pot plants everywhere, stunted trees) there is also quite a lot of unrelenting, heat attracting, asphalt and concrete? Well, there is.

The new pool is located in a very industrial area, nearer to the sea than where I live, on reclaimed land. (One irritating 'feature' of Japanese cities is that often the nearer you get to the sea, the more industrialized and concrete and ugly and polluted everything gets. What a waste of seaside!)

I used the 'Maps' function on my iPhone to figure out how to get to the pool GPS on my shopping bicycle, hooray! I love my fancy gadgets, but I also love my old mamachari.

From what I could tell on the Maps app it would be fastest to go by road, but I thought it would also be hotter, and it would probably be nicer to go the long way and cycle along the Mukogawa river, where i used to take a lot of my bird photos. I had not been there for a long time. Maybe I could even take some pictures. After all, I had two baskets. I could carry my swimming gear and a camera, no problem.

It was sunny on Monday, perfect weather for swimming, less perfect for cycling. I prepared carefully. I slathered on sunscreen (I was planning to use my parasol, but I know from experience that there is often some wind down at the river and that can be awkward), and I prepared a litre of cold tea. One bottle was mugicha (barley tea), and the other was a Chinese herbal blend that is supposed to be good for coping with heat. I also took a bottle of water.

By the time I got to the river I had already gone through one bottle of tea and all the water. I bought another bottle of water at a vending machine, and went down to the riverside. There I stopped to have a little break under a tree.

Even the cormorants looked hot.

It felt a little cooler under the tree, and I relaxed there for a while. There were a few birds, and when I went to take out my camera I found, down the bottom of my bag, a thermometer. I had forgotten it was there. (I had it in my bag so I could measure the temperature in my classrooms at the end of semester. I was pretty sure the air conditioning wasn't working properly, and that it was too hot to study. I was right. 32C is not a suitable temperature for a classroom.)

When I took the thermometer out it told me that the temperature in my bag was 45C. I put it on the ground beside me, in the grass, and waited for it to go down and tell me how relatively comfortable it was under the tree.

I drank some more water, and took a couple of very bad pictures. I was feeling quite flustered and hot despite the shade.

The needle on the thermometer went down. Then it stopped moving. I waited a bit longer, and it continued to not move.

The weather forecast on Monday had told me that the temperature would be 32C. They also said, at the end of the day, that the high had been 32C. Where do they take those measurements? WHY DO THEY LIE?

I set off again along the river, now with a towel draped around my neck (to soak up sweat) and eventually my GPS told me I would need to get back onto the streets. It felt a lot hotter when I was back on asphalt, but I did not take out my thermometer. I thought I would probably get heatstroke just looking at it. I put up my parasol again, instead.

Eventually I got to the pool. (You can find it by copying this into Google Maps: "尼崎スポーツの森, Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan," and see what a desolate, hot, concrete wasteland it is set in.) However, as my informant had told me, the facilities were wonderful. There are several pools and a water park, and lots of space, and nice showers, and so on. But when I was in the changing room I happened to see myself in a mirror and was aghast at how dreadful I looked. My face was flushed, my eyes were bloodshot and I looked as though I were about to collapse.

Actually, I felt like that, too.

I sat down and drank some more water.

Then I went to the pool, and got into the 'walking lane.' I thought I should probably walk a bit and cool off before trying anything energetic, like a slow crawl. (A slow crawl is the only kind of crawl I can do.)

I stayed in the pool for a couple of hours. then cycled home again. It seemed even longer going back, and seemed to take forever.  I felt a bit like this turtle.

I drank another litre or so of water and tea on the way, and also stopped at a coffee shop to have a sandwich and coffee and several glasses of water. I got home around six, and did the washing. I was not hungry yet, and there was a lot of washing to do.

I had dinner quite late, and it wasn't until around nine o'clock that I realized that since I'd left the house at about one o'clock I hadn't peed, or felt the slightest urge to. Also, I had a headache.

Did I really sweat that much? (And if not, where did that two or three litres of water GO?)

I drank mugicha until my bladder started working again, ate dinner, and discovered the headache had disappeared.

That was a good ending to the day. I celebrated with a glass of wine, and promised myself that if I went to the nice pool again I would take the bus.

Riding my bicycle would not be very clever.

Noh by torchlight

This evening I went with a friend to see an outdoor performance of Noh by torchlight.

It was one of those perfect experiences, in the sense that it's something you like to use the present perfect tense to describe. You want to have seen Noh by torchlight. You don't particularly want to be seeing Noh by torchlight, or to see Noh by torchlight again, but to have seen Noh by torchlight is perfect, even if you didn't stay for the whole thing because it was boring, and even if it was by torchlight and fluorescent tube.

It is good to be able to say, "I have seen Noh by torchlight." When you describe things like that, you do not include descriptions of the fluorescent tubes, or the boredom, or the very smelly person sitting beside you (the other side, not your friend) or the even smellier person in front of you (also not your friend). You talk about the fantastic costumes (which you could not see very well because the smelly person in front of you had a very large head and the stage was too low and when you stood up for 2 seconds to take a picture a person behind you said, "SIT DOWN!" so you did even though nobody had moved a muscle on the stage for the last five minutes, and she then proceeded to chat droningly with her friends throughout the entire performance). (Well, as much of the performance as you stayed for before a bizarre combination of hunger (it was past dinner time) and nausea (from the smells) became more interesting than the performance.)

But it's now after 1am, I haven't uploaded the photos yet (and they probably won't be any good anyway because of the large head and the fluorescent tubes), so I'll write about it tomorrow.

Probably. Actually, I think I might have said all I want to say already, parenthetically. I am obviously not a very cultured person.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011


Tonight I was talking to a friend on the phone, and I yawned. I then apologized for yawning, and wondered aloud why it was so contagious.

That reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend towards the end of semester, when we met for breakfast at the beginning of the day, and she could not stop yawning. Which meant that I could not stop yawning.

We sat and yawned for a bit, and then she apologized for having started me off. We wondered why this happened, and she told me that sometimes she did this with her small daughter. They would exchange yawns for a while. My friend would yawn. Her daughter would yawn. My friend. Her daughter. My friend. And then her daughter would stop.

"Hey, where's your yawn?" my friend would ask, and her daughter would reply,

"Sorry Mummy, I don't have any left."

This amazed me. Is this a kid thing? How can anybody possibly have no yawns left? I thought yawns were inexhaustible. I thought EVERYBODY had a bottomless pit of yawns.

Kids don't?

Sunday, 7 August 2011


What I saw today in my local shopping street was some kind of Shinto ritual. Shops got blessed. I do not know what it was all about in detail, though. I didn't even know it was going to happen. I was just going to the supermarket when I got caught up in it. I had been kicking myself for not taking my camera out of my bag before leaving, and then suddenly I was glad I had it.

This photo was taken with my phone, however. I had been taking video with the phone, then the priest started throwing confetti in the air, and I wanted to get a shot of that but didn't have my good camera ready.

What really got me about these priests, though, was the clogs they were wearing. I don't remember having seen them before. Was it just this particular shrine? Then, when I thought about it, I realized I had never seen a Shinto priest dressed for outside before. I have often seen them in shrines, performing their various duties, but inside they do not wear shoes.

They are wonderful clogs. There is something fantastically arty about them. Impractical, but arty.

The beautiful little girl doing the lie-down strike was determined to not respond to anybody. People asked her if she was all right, and she ignored them. Her mother waited patiently. I looked at her, then aimed my camera and clicked. Her expression did not change.

Then I squatted down and showed her the picture on the back of my camera. She stared at it, and one corner of her mouth twitched.

I think I might have been witnessing a quiet tantrum.

Lie-down strike

I will not move. It is too hot. Don't try and make me.

Oh, great Watermelon

Thursday, 4 August 2011


Who gets the royalties from the sale of Bibles?

All right, all right, I know the Bible is out of copyright (probably Paul the Apostle was yelling at scribes in 50 AD about them being late with his cheque), but I prefer to think of God as someone with a really big bank account who worries about what to do with all that money. A yacht, perhaps? A couple of racehorses? That would make an exciting hobby, especially if he didn't cheat and use his supernatural powers to win all the time. Or maybe plastic surgery? He's never liked his nose. Also, which currency should he keep his money in? The dollar seems a bit dodgy these days.

I like to think it keeps him awake at night, unable to concentrate on prayers.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


The summer vacation has started (more or less – I haven't quite finished grading) and in an effort to become a bit fitter and to help my back I have started Pilates classes. They are only twice a month, but the idea is supposed to be that you do it at home and get corrections and feedback when you do it in class.

(This is all a part of my plan to gain five kilos IN MUSCLE this summer vacation. I am flabby and underweight, and do not like it.)

Two weeks ago I had a 'sample' lesson, which I was told at the counter meant that I could watch and then decide whether or not to join the class. The teacher, however, invited me to join in, so I did. It was, I thought, pretty easy, and pretty much my speed. The only real problem I had with it was that the teacher's Japanese was quite fast at times, so I had the odd bit of cognitive overload while trying to understand what she was saying as well as concentrate on what I was supposed to be doing.

The cognitive overload reached tipping point when she told us to breathe in, and then a few seconds later to throw up. I'd been mentally congratulating myself on how well i was keeping up until that point. It was true that I wasn't understanding every word, but I was getting the general idea and didn't seem to be doing anything dramatically differently from the others in the class.

I was balanced rather tenuously on my side with one leg in the air when she told us to throw up, and that was enough to make me glance around, startled, to see whether anyone was actually following this bizarre instruction, and then to lose my balance and roll over, laughing helplessly. This led the teacher to assure me that it happened to everybody, especially at the beginning. She thought I was laughing because I was embarrassed.

I was not laughing because I was embarrassed about rolling over, but I did not tell her that. I was laughing at my terrible Japanese skills (after all these years!) that had led me to think that she had just instructed me to throw up.

Later, when I got home I looked up haku, and discovered it does, indeed, mean to throw up. It also means to breathe out. And to lie. I never knew that!

In today's class I did not lose my balance (or throw up), and I followed the teacher's instructions a little more easily than I did last time.

But I can see that Pilates is not the only thing I am going to be learning in these classes.

(Incidentally, remember I said the class seemed easy to me that first time? The day after the class every muscle in my body hurt. It was WONDERFUL. I had not done any exercise since that first class, though, so I fully expect to feel wonderful again tomorrow.)