Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"Getting Tired of Working All the Time...."

Uuuuuuu......  I'm getting tired of working all the time I think!  All the work has brought in some extra money that bought a new camera and I also need a new computer, but I'm getting a bit burned out by working all the time!  I think I need more time off!  That said, I was just reading about some coal miners in China who (the article claimed) only get one day a month off!!  Yikes!!

Uuuuu.... back to work I must (happily?) go then!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Sunday, August 27, 2006

"Iroiro, August 2006 (Ota-ku, Gotanda, & Shibuya)"

I should be focusing on specific areas, but I was testing an SLR camera body (Pentax ist DL2 - with a film lens (50mm f1.2) and I decided to toss some general photos from that camera-lens combination onto the wires.
Iroiro, August 2006 (Ota-ku, Gotanda, & Shibuya)

My assessment of the Pentax 1st DL2? It was cheap - about Y50,000 - and works well in natural lighting, but I'm very disappointed in its performance under artificial light. My compact Ricoh and Olympus cameras do a much better job. The 50mm f1.2 lens I like - I wish it were an Olympus lens instead of Pentax though....

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Monday, August 21, 2006

"Ginza - July 2006"

A page of photos of historically fashionable Ginza:

They were taken at around 6:00 p.m. on a weekday, so most of the people on the streets were women.  Ginza is popular with women anyway, and at many companies, women tend to get off earlier than men.  (Many women work vast amounts of overtime mind you, but still, percentage-wise, more women get off work on time than men overall, so at 6:00 p.m., you see more of them outside, particularly in Ginza!)

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Sunday, August 20, 2006

"Listening Practice"

My technical level of Japanese is pretty sloppy, but I was able to get used to the rythem and feel of the language through a lot of listening practice.  I bought a Y30,000 yen "Professional" Sony recording Walkman in 1985 that I used to make tapes of children's books that I listened to (nearly) endlessly while studying the books.  Typically I would understand very little during the first listenings before having struggled through the book with a dictionary (getting help from Japanese friends for parts I couldn't find in the dictionay on my own), but then the meaning would come through loud and clear after listening to the tape several times after having read the relevant pages in the book.

I made copies of the master tapes that I then listened to with auto-reverse walkmans (walkmen?).  I had an auto-reverse machine for my bag that I listened to all the time while outside - walking down the street, riding the trains, etc., and I had one for when I was sleeping.  Typically, the sleeping model would burn out every four or five months from excessive use, and I went through a small mountain of machines over the few years I was most intensively studying this way.

It's much easier now with MP3 players.  Recently I've gotten ahold of some Japanese audio books that I like.  One by that famous actor Taka... something Ken, that is quite entertaining and interesting to listen to, and Botchan, which is great - particularly after reading two separate English translations of the book (the one by the Japanese translator is vastly superior to the one by the western translator - who overtranslated it, doing stupid things like calling soba noodles "buckwheat noodles") and half of the Japanese original.  Same as back in 1985, I understand the part I read very well, but am missing things in the last half, which I've yet to read.

In the "Why am I doing this?" category, I've obtained recordings of "The Tale of Genji" and "Heike Monogatari" (What's the English title for this?  The Tale of Heike?  The Heike Tale(s)?).  These are useless for modern Japanese, but since everyone here studies them, and even has to memorize part of "Heike Monogatari", they are interesting to listen to in a way (with very low compression!).

Just some random stuff I guess.  But I do have a specific question.  Does anyone have any information on available Japanese audiobooks?  The concept seems to be not nearly as popular as in the US.  I guess people prefer to actually read books (gasp!) than listen to them.  Actually, I prefer reading books too, but I *can't" read things like "Heike Monogatari" and in the sardine trains of the morning rush, I can't even hold a book in front of my face, so audiobooks are the only way to go!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Hakodate, Hokkaido - Yunokawa Onsen

It may have just been in contrast to my long stretch of living in mega-city Tokyo, but Hakodate seemed at the time - and seems still now in memory - a bit like San Francisco to me; cool air slightly damp with a sea breeze, hills with old style houses from the late 1800's, city by a bay, less people density than Tokyo (of course!), clean air, relaxed atmosphere....

I'll try to get more pictures up, but for now, here are a few of part of the waterfront and also of the Yunokawa Onsen (hot springs) area:


Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"Walking in San Francisco & Hakodate"

A friend working in San Francisco wrote this bit:

Re: "My manager let me get off early today, and I took some time to walk all the way down to the Ferry Building, following the concrete ribbon structure along the way.  It was a beautiful day outside, and as I walked I watched the ocean.  I had a great view of Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge.  Along the way, I briefly skimmed the little informational bronze plaques and square towers, read a poem from an Angel Island inhabitant, and walked and walked and walked.  It was fun, but am I tired!"

This reminds me of the two years I lived in San Francisco (mid-1982 to mid-1984).  I would typically go out with three rolls of 36-exposure film (Tri-X B&W) to take pictures of one area or another of San Francisco.  I would walk and walk, and while I did get tired feet, I didn't get overly hot and I didn't get very thirsty in the pleasantly damp ocean scented air.  Walking in Tokyo can be like that, but only for a very limited number of days in the spring and autumn, and on a day after a typhoon or at least a strong wind (to blow away the effects of the fire-breathing automobiles).

On the same line of thinking, I went up to Hakodate in Hokkaido this month, and the port city with its hills, low lying clouds that engulf the tops of the hills, pleasant and clean air, old street cars brought out for the summer tourists, and old brick shipping warehouses converted into shops and restaurants... had me daydreaming about moving up there and settling in.  Before making such a move though, it would be a good idea to visit in the winter and see if I could bear the (according to the taxi driver I talked with) -10 temperatures.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

An Amazing Sky...

This evening in Tokyo, from about 6:00 to 6:15, there was the most amazing sky....  I took a few pictures from a high-rise at about 6:10, and the color of the sky looks very unreal, but it really was that color.  Well - it was stronger and stranger in person - the photo is a very poor substitute for how it really looked (and felt), but it does at least give a small idea of the strange/powerful/wonderful colors that were filling the sky and lighting the land then.  If I hadn't seen it myself, I probably wouldn't have believed it, but maybe I'm just mega-city ruined to beautiful sunsets?  Out in the natural world, that sort of thing is just the way it often is?  I'm not sure, but I don't remember a sky striking me in quite that way before....

What else.  Ah!  An upgrade to a 2GB SD memory card for my camera, which should help out - I sometimes run out of memory in a day of intensive recording.  The whole computer, digital camera, MP3 player thing... I often feel like I'm riding a wave that I wish had come sooner, but still happy to be on the wave and have it carrying me forward.  When my computer's hard drive was filling up, along came larger hard drives!  When I was running out of space for photos on my camera's flash memory card, along came larger flash memory cards!  I'm happy to have this technology, but every once in a while I envy people around sixteen years old - what I could have done if I'd had these tools from when I was sixteen!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

"80-Degree Virtual Assault"

Fun at work.  Just when I was thinking things were going fairly well in the tower, I was virtually assaulted by a raging lunatic in the section kitchen (which is the tea and coffee drinkers version of the proverbial water cooler).  There's a water heater in the room that heats water to about 95 degrees or so, and there's a five-liver electric pot that heats it a few more degrees to 98 from there.  The pot also has settings for 80-degrees and 90-degrees.  (Apparently some kinds of green tea are best prepared with 80-degree water, but - hey - most of the people in the office are drinking coffee or western tea anyway, so the rule of "majority rules" calls for standard nearly boiling water.  There is this one insane monster though - Mr. 80-degree Lunatic - who is constantly going on about 80-degrees being best....)

People tend to let the pot run nearly empty, so I've gotten into the habit of topping it up when I get hot water for tea myself.  The prelude to the virtual assault happened on Thursday last week.  I was filling up the plastic jug that is used to ferry water from the wall-mounted water heater to the electric pot, and since Mr. 80-degree Lunatic was rinsing out his little round special 80-degree teapot on the left side of the sink, I positioned the jug as far to the right as possible, just out of range of the water heater overflow pipe (that never seems to emit anything anyway) and began filling it up.  He reached over and pulled the jug over by his bloody 80-degree teapot, so I pulled it back over to the right and said that it would be better not to have his splashing getting into the drinking water.

Then, as the jug was nearly full, Mr. 80-degree Lunatic reached over and turned off the tap.  I was thinking "Mind your own business you bloody sub-human 80-degree lunatic!" but instead I turned the tap back on, put on a plastic smile and said "It's not full yet" to which Mr. Lunatic started in with a very irritating chant "Achi!-Achi!-Achi!-Achi!-Achi!-Achi!-Achi!-Achi!-Achi!-Achi!-Achi!" (a mutated form of "atsui" - hot) said many more times than I've taken the trouble to write down here.  I poured the hot water into the pot to the continuing "achi!-achi!" chant and went back for more, but Mr. Lunatic had the hot water pouring into his bloody little 80-degree teapot, so I waited until it was full... and then looked on as the hot water was just spilling over the completely full teapot... so I held the plastic jug over the lunatics little pot and put in some more water.

Then - as I filled up the five-liter pot - Mr. 80-degree Lunatic started making faces and noises about the pot being too full.  I was carefully keeping the water below the full mark, so it was a load of nonsense, but (I later surmised) I think the lunatic likes to pour cold water into the pot to drag the temperature down to his beloved 80-degrees.  Being a dishonest and nasty creature though, he would never be straightforward, so instead of saying "Sorry to be an 80-degree pest, but could you leave some space in that?  I would like to pour in some cold water to get my beloved 80-degree water", he instead was acting as though I were about to spill a can of gasoline onto an open flame.  (Incidentally, from time to time the pot is set to 80-degrees... until one of the vast majority of us who like boiling water for our tea or coffee turns it back to 98.)

I came out of that feeling a little odd, but I had fought off each insult, so I didn't feel bad about the outcome and the incident quickly faded to the back of my mind.

Then came Friday.  I was in the section kitchen with the lid open and pouring hot water into the five-liter pot when Mr. 80-degree Lunatic rushed in and said "No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!" - again, said many more times than I've taken the trouble to write down here.  Stupidly falling into the swamp of that lunatic's world, I said "What do you mean 'No!-No!-No!-No!-No!'?".  He then launched into a lecture about how "Water hotter than 80-degrees will hurt the tea leaves!", punctuated with his putting his hot and evil feeling right and left paws on my arms, the way you would with a lover.  I had a strong impulse to throw scalding water onto his face when he did that, but I put on a plastic smile and tried to get out of the swamp in some civilized way.

Mr. 80-degree Lunatic seeing that I wasn't convinced of the leaves being hurt (I pointed out that they're going into the trash anyway and that he was inconveniencing the rest of the office with his selfishness - I was fast losing diplomacy), he then said "The whole world knows that 80-degrees is best for tea!  Only Russia likes boiling water and that's because they're poor!".  I replied that I was poor too, and he - predictably - said "No-no-no-no-no - you're rich!", while putting his filthy stinking paws on me again, once more producing an urge to dump my 98-degree mug of hot water onto his nasty face.

I finally got away from Mr. 80-degree Lunatic feeling like I had been molested and needed to de-tox my arms, but two-minutes later, I went back to the tea-room to check on a hunch.  I saw Mr. 8D Lunatic leaving, so I followed him to find out where his desk is (enemy reconnaissance).  Making a note of where Mr. 8D Lunatic sat down, I went back to the section kitchen and saw that the pot that had been completely full of 95-degree water two minutes before was now working to get the pot past 80... he had obviously poured out some of the hot water and poured in cold water to get his beloved 80-degrees... the rest of the office be damned (there are about 100 people on the floor that use that same area kitchen).  Nasty creature that.

Mind you, I don't actually have a problem with little round teapots and special green tea that likes to be made with 80-degree water, but I believe in majority rule for a communal thing like this and see no reason for everyone to suffer for one bloody lunatic!  Besides, we're not talking about a tea room in Kyoto, with kimono-clad damsels being cultural, we're talking about a glass, steel and aluminum office tower full of working coffee drinkers in Tokyo.  Anyway - the unwanted physical contact is the most upsetting aspect.  If it continues, I'll make a formal complaint.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon