A Family Update

Andy last week decided that he really wants a dog, and he wants to buy it with 50,000 to 100,000 yen of his own money, made 100-150 yen at a time by helping around the house. He has suddenly become the model son, helping out washing dishes, vacuuming, and housecleaning without being asked, but extorting as much money as he from us afterwards.

We took him to a pet shop on Saturday to look at the dogs, and he really liked a yappy little brown chihuahua that was going for only 50,000 yen. Every time I commented on how much cheaper that one was compared to all the others, my wife turned to me and told me to STFU under her breath. Personally, I’m a fan of much larger dogs, preferably one that could eat a chihuahua for breakfast.

My wife told him (and me) that she’ll think more about getting a dog when Andy’s in the fifth grade, which is a euphemism for “when hell freezes over,” but to Andy that just means he has plenty of time to save up enough money. I’ve suggested a few alternative animals for pets: a penguin, a snake, a poo-flinging monkey, a chicken or a hamster that’ll make his room stink like rodent piss. But for him it’s chihuahua or bust. Mommy’s vote is for the latter.

Tony has been spending every waking moment playing Monster Hunter on his PSP, and he’d even play it in his sleep if we let him. It bothers me to see him wasting his formative years slaying imaginary monsters, so last Monday I very lovingly confiscated his PSP’s battery and told him I’d give it back after he read a book of his choice in English. He chose The Cat in the Hat Beginner Book Dictionary, which he chased me around with every day until we finally finished it together on Saturday afternoon. Immediately he went back to putting his young life on hold to spend hours and hours slashing more monsters and collecting bigger and more deadly weapons, so last night I asked him for the battery again, and he gave it up with barely a whimper. After all, there’s still Smash Brothers on the Wii and Animal Crossing on the Nintendo DS which he can use to waste his life.

This morning I sent a text message in English to his mobile phone: Your PSP battery is in the top drawer of your desk, inside the blue Oreo chocolate candy box. It he can decode the message, he can have the battery back. The messages will get progressively harder from now on, and eventually he’ll have to start answering questions. By the time he reaches junior high school, he’ll be decades ahead of his classmates in English ability, and he’ll thank me for being such a prick.

Four Day Weekend, Day 4

In the morning, Tony and Andy played together. In the afternoon, Tony had soccer practice and Andy played with his loudmouth friends. While watching him and his friends play together, it made me realize that Grand Theft Auto is the adult equivalent of smashing trucks together on the living room floor.

Me, I scanned more photos (Tony’s birth, B&W photos from my time at Penn State), drank beer and reminisced about my college days. Out of the hundreds of people I knew back then, I can probably name about 15 now.

I can’t believe I used to go out in public wearing those enormous Harry Potterish glasses. No wonder I never got laid much back then.

Four Day Weekend, Day 1

It turns out we have a four day weekend, not a three day one. Saturday was Constitution Memorial Day (kenpou kinen-bi), today is Childrens’ Day (kodomo no hi), tomorrow is Greenery Day (midori no hi) and Tuesday is a freebie because two of the holidays were over the weekend. That freebie didn’t show up on the desktop calendar I use at work, but somehow everyone else in Japan but me knew about it. I suspect it’s something genetic.

Yesterday (Saturday) I finally hooked up the flatbed/negative/slide scanner (CanoScan 8400F) that I bought second hand for 8000 yen months and months ago but has been sitting in a corner of my room still in the box. I stayed up till the wee hours of the morning looking through my slides from my year as an exchange student in Ecuador and my black and white negatives from college, and found the negative of the best photo I’ve ever taken:

Here are some of the photos I took while I was in Ecuador in 1985-86. Unfortunately most of my negatives are still at my parents’ house in the US. And really, they don’t seem so special anymore now that it’s possible to search for the most interesting photos on Flickr tagged “Ecuador” and find hundreds of images better than the ones I took.

While I was upstairs in my habitat home office reminiscing and playing with my scanner, Andy was outside playing MTV Jackass with his neighborhood friends:

Holiday Photos

This week is Golden Week, when a slew of national holidays fall within days of each other and the entire country takes off work en masse. Unfortunately, this year next Saturday and Sunday are two of the four holidays, so the only days I have off are yesterday and next Monday. It’s better than nothing, so I’m not complaining.

Yesterday was a beautiful day and Tony, Andy and I were home. There was no way I was going to let the kids stay inside playing video games (Tony: Monster Hunter for the PSP; Andy: Animal Crossing, Super Mario Brothers, Yoshi’s Island, and Bimoji Training on the DS), so I dragged them kicking and screaming to the local park to play catch and wade barefoot in the little man made stream.

There’s nothing like the smile on Tony’s face when we play catch. I need to put more effort into playing outside with him. It sure beats the zombie-like expression he has on his face when he’s under the hypnotic spell of his PSP, and the guilt I feel for letting him zone out like that for far too long. Andy, like me when I was his age, can’t catch a ball to save his life so he either watches from the sidelines or goes off to do his own thing. It doesn’t bother me in the least that Andy isn’t athletic. He likes to make up his own games and enjoys playing with other kids, as long as whatever they’re doing doesn’t involve ball catching.

While they played together, I foraged through the park for things to take pictures of with my new camera. There aren’t too many flowers in the park this time of year, but I did find a few bushes with bees buzzing about. Up a path through the wooded hills in the middle of the park there’s a restored 17th century house called the “Old Nakayama Family Residence,” designated as a cultural treasure by the Ibaraki Prefectural government. I won’t go into details about its history. Basically, it’s a big, old house that people come to see and there’s some old stuff inside it from that era. I waited with my camera on a tripod for about half an hour for a chance to take an HDR shot with nobody getting in the way.

Before heading home, we stopped off at the little restaurant on the park grounds for some overpriced eats. $1200 yen for two soft ice cream cones and three bottled drinks. My fault for not being able to deny my kids their right to ice cream on a spring day. What a racket they’ve got going there.

We went home and I made the boys a late lunch of their favorite spaghetti (Prego sauce out of an industrial sized jar bought at Costco). Tony, when you put food in front of him, has to be reminded a hundred times to shut up and eat. Man, that kid is skinny. Afterwards I fell asleep until 11pm, then stayed up till 3am messing around with Photoshop and uploading photos to Flickr. The end.

In other news, our washer/dryer is broken and laundry is piling up, but the good thing is Sanyo recently announced a defect in that model so we’re getting it fixed replaced for free. As a homeowner, it feels a bit like winning the lotto.

First Pics!

With the money I just received from my parents for last Christmas (we’re a pretty laid back bunch), I bought a Canon EOS Kiss Digital X camera, also known in other countries as the EOS Digital Rebel XTi or the EOS 400D. It’s the most popular model among users of Flickr.com, so choosing it over all the other cameras on the market was a no-brainer. Also, I already own a set of autofocus lenses from my 20 year old 35mm EOS, so upgrading to digital wasn’t too expensive. For over ten years I’ve been looking forward to the day I finally own a digital SLR that takes pictures equal in quality to 35mm film.

Here are the first pics from the new camera. (Click thumbnails to enlarge.) This is how my family spends every night at home before bedtime.

Weekly Saturday ritual


While the boys take swimming lessons, I sit up in the spectator’s area with all the little kids who chase each other around barefoot and their parents who talk amongst themselves, stare into space or read.
I’m killing time by listening to Otofuke on my iPod and reading the Japanese translation of Catcher in Rye. It’s slow and painful to have to look up 4-5 words on every page, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. One day, far, far in the future, I’m going to finish reading this book.

Andy, Oliver, Tony

Oliver, a 19 year old podcast listener from the UK who’s trekking around Japan for a few months, stayed over at our house last night. Our boys were really, really excited to meet him. All three slept on the living room floor, but not before spending at least an hour in the dark making all sorts of noises that only little boys can make. (armpit farts, pig snorts, unexplainable very loud banging, etc.) I’m assuming it was Andy and Tony entertaining their guest. Tony woke up this morning looking very hung over. As long as the walls weren’t splattered with blood and nobody woke up in a pool of their own vomit (or somebody else’s), I’m just glad they enjoyed themselves.

In fact, you’re all invited to visit, just as long as all 4,000 or so of you don’t visit all at the same time.

P.S. My site was down earlier because the database server’s hard drive died and had to be rebuilt from a backup. I’m very surprised they’re not using RAID. Very bad sign. If I weren’t so lazy I’d ditch Dreamhost for a more reliable operation.