Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Team-Sport Spirit

Is Japan a group-oriented society? Does a bear shit in the woods? Eh-hm, sorry...

Judge for yourself. They have taken a "character building" free-for-all where "big kiDs knOck other kiDs silly in a GamE of Be ALL you can be", - you know, DODGEBALL (or "school-SPOnsoRed Terrorism", as the smaller kids called it), and made a team sport of it.

I gotta confess. As a runty 7th grader, I hated the game. Then in 8th or 9th grade, the teenager's love of stupid risk came to my aid, and I learned to revel in dodging near misses moving at light speed, and wanted to brain the bigger guys who'd kick my scrawny little ass if I had ever done such a thing out in the real world, but offered me grudging respect as they writhed on the ground from a well-placed (aka lucky) groin shot. In other words, I embraced sado-masochism. We should have all been wearing spray-on latex, we were such sadists.

And rules? 'We don' need no stinkin' rules!" If you get hit, you're out. If you catch the ball, the other guy's out. If you could draw blood, like Mr. Hokanson sometimes did, leaving little red bloody welts on someone's leg or chest, you scored "man points". Add anything to that and you take away from the Cro-Magnonism of it all.

But in Japan, dodgeball is a whole 'nuther critter.

Take a volleyball court (remove the net, please, before someone sections their face into little bloody squares, skittering across the floor). Now put 7 members of each team inside their respective sides. Then take the remaining 3 members of each team and put them outside the other three lines of the opponents court (draw another line 10 ft behind them - this is the out-zone). This game just became a lot more complex. Toss the ball to another player on a different sideline, and watch the whole team pivot in response. Do this a few times, then nail the one who turns slowest. Oh, and if you are a center player who has been knocked out, you can get back in by knocking someone out from the sidelines. Only the 3 original 'out' players can't get back in. Catching someone's throw, while ensuring that you aren't out, doesn't knock out the thrower.

This makes for a game which needs an Ender Wiggin to plan properly. Neighborhood teams practice for months before our town tourney, then meet in May at each elementary school to pick the school champions. Elementary school, guys, when we could barely handle our rules in junior high!

Then last weekend was the town championship. The top 3 teams in each age group (1st-2nd grade, 3rd-4th grade, 5th-6th grade) from each school met at the town gymnasium and duked it out. My son's team (5th-6th) took 3rd prize.

Check out a few photos:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Retail Aromatherapy

During my recent trip Stateside, I found myself ecstatic whenever I encountered familiar smells.

-sniff- "Ooh, what's that? Aah, cinnamon rolls. Green chilies. Bleu cheese. Zest!"

Maybe that's why I got so full so easily. I was already sated by the virtual smorgasbord of scents around me (or maybe it had to do with the gi-normous American-sized portions* - whaddaya think?")

So I've decided to engage in what I've named "Retail Aromatherapy" (can I copyright stupid names? Why not - someone copyrighted "teabaggers"...).

I went out and bought soaps, shampoos and deodorants with scents I remember from my pre-Japan life. You know, manly scents like Irish Spring, Zest, Dial for Men (if I bought the ladies', would it give me an identity crisis?). Got me some Right Guard, too!
--No, I'm not receiving any compensation from these brands - more's the pity. [If you would like shameless product placement in exchange for indecent sums of money, give me a call. Please!]

Now every shower is like a blast from the past. I even catch myself sniffing my arm throughout the day (I said arm; stop at the 'm').

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the Japanese smell; quite the contrary, actually. I'm just saying that the scents used in many of their toiletries are different. Milder, for one. Flowery. Even the men's.

*more on that in a later post

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

"I don't think that means what you think it means..."

Check out the spam from an online pharmacy which I found waiting in my inbox when I got home from the States last night (seems like the sender has used too much of his own merchandise...):

Appel's oriented, Klab, of to mcuh are proiritize, Some spoke custmoers professor Ira at wihch of USC "erluctance" of they how clinical technically thsee effcet ebmrace VaAnmburg moer lot has compaines. the of taht on marketing well-regarded said approach the may

A that orienetd School than sizbale Bsuiness.

to a csutomer to Mrashall roots donw cmoe

The Long Voyage Home

Well, I'm on the way home... again. Talk about a short trip - 5 days in Denver, with a full day of travel pasted on each end.

I can gladly say that Denver's security went smoothly and professionally. It probably helped that it was before 6am, so the staff was rested and not yet pissed off at the world. Got through in less than 5 minutes at the head of the early-flight crowds.

San Fran was socked in with fog, so we were delayed in Denver for 30 odd minutes before loading and pushing away from the gate to wait 20 more in what the pilot called "The Penalty Box". The only hitch was when I boarded late and had to check my carryon at the aircraft doors. Thankfully, the new quilt my sister gave me was in my hand.

I still had enough time to walk quickly to my next gate without running and directly board, then back in the air.

I gotta say, Thank God for Economy Plus! If you fly international, sitting for 10-12 hours at a stretch, spring for the extra $80-100. Don't spend hours as Spam-in-the-can when the person in front of you reclines and falls asleep 10 minutes into the flight. (Hint: if you fly across multiple time zones and aren't going directly into meetings upon arrival, sleep as little as possible on the flight. It will help lessen the time/jet lag.)

After an additional 11 and a half hours, we finally hit Kansai. Had a bit of a scare when the drug-sniffing dog took an interest in my leg, sniffing me from ankle to crotch, before I realized his tail was wagging and he was probably smelling my sister's and mom's dogs and welcoming me to the pack. Gotta tell you, the TSA has nothing on a curious dog when it comes to handling your junk!

2 more hours on the train, then I'll be home.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Driving in America

I'm back in the US for the 1st time in a few years and the reverse culture shock is negligible this time. But now I'm doing something fraught with fear and danger... I'm (cue Vincent Price voice) Driving In America.

What's the big deal, you say. You do it all the time. Well, so do I. I drive nearly every day in Japan. On the other side of the road! It can be quite hard when you instinctively pull into the same lane as always, and realize rather abruptly that you're driving against traffic right outside the Santa Monica mall (1995), up County Line Road in Denver (1997) or on the wrong side of the aisle in the parking lot (every f---ing time!).

Time to turn left, flip the switch. wee-wah-wee-wah, the wipers skitter across the windshield, hissing in their high-pitched little plastic voices, "Hey, Ahsehole, wrong switch. Ahse...hole. Wrong switch. Wrong switch. Ahse-HOLE."

It's starting to rain? "Left turn, get it right. Left turn, get it right."
Sigh again.

And every time I park the stupid car, I set the hand brake and then find myself lifting my left leg (No, I'm not a dog!) and searching for the brake lever on the floor.

Thank God the pedals aren't reversed....

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Home again

Oh, boy...

I'm back in the US for the first time in 3 years, visiting family, and I've gotta tell 'ya, I was not looking forward to going through airport security in the States.

It's easy in Japan. They're invariably polite, quick, and speak at least 2 languages each. Show checks are conducted randomly, and they even let you go through domestic security with your drink bottles, which they just set on this special scanner to make sure it really is a drink, not another thing.

But I'd heard and read so many bad stories on the net about security in the US that I was really worried. I expected to have some gorilla with ham hands checking my junk, making sure there warn't nuttin' there that I warn't born with.

I came in to LAX at 11:00 in the morning, pretty much a peak time, on a plane half full of military (which made me feel particularly pear-shaped). Another plane came in from Sydney and God knows how many other planes came in at the same time. But the citizen line was busy.

Yet I was so pleasantly surprised: the CBP personnel were very polite, even more than shop clerks in the US. Then I had to recheck my bag and go back through security to reach my connection. The folks at the security line were very polite. They were actually much more polite than the folks going through security. The two blondes in front of me were really rude, actually, acting holier-than-thou and entitled, and the TSA personnel didn't even flinch. They just processed them through (although I did see a little grin on one lady's face when the metal detector went off on the second bitch, and she called another person to do a personal scan).

I just popped off my slip-on shoes (anyone who wears laceup shoes when flying is sputid), put my electronics and little bag with liquids in a tray, and stepped through. When I forgot to take the towel from around my neck, the lady processing asked me very nicely to put it on the x-ray machine belt, and sent me on my way.

Good job, TSA (no snarky comment here, I turned off my snarky smart-ass button this morning).

I just hope it's as easy when I head back out next week...

(turn snarky smart-ass back on now)