*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Friday 29 June 2012

Mannered ≠ Polite: Fuck-off Japan redux

More posters!

I've told Japan to fuck-off before, complained about selfishness and passive-aggression on the trains, and pointed out my low opinion of keigo.  I'll try not to rehash that, but tell you a story, and draw my generalizations from it, and years of living here.

I'm one station from home and an older couple get on my car.  He's not less than eighty, bent over and looks in some pain, nothing holding him up but his walker and the arm of his seventy-odd year-old wife.  Guess how many Japanese get up.  Go ahead.  Guess how many Japanese look away.  You got it: none and all.  I get up, for which I deserve little credit: as I've run a half-marathon a few months ago, am half the age of that gentleman, and actually do it more for the sake of 'Gaijin bash'.  As usual the Gaijin upstaging gets a few people to do the right thing.  Someone gave the wife a seat.

It's not as if everyone in my Toronto gets up when they should, doesn't smash through smaller women in order to get on a train, and the like; however, you can depend on someone doing the right thing.  Sure, in both Tokyo and Toronto a lot of people are dicks.  On the other hand, if in Toronto just one in five people would have given that man a seat, and in Tokyo that is just one in twenty (and fewer if Gaijin are absent...), that is a difference of 400%.

The most important thing to know about Japanese culture is very simple: they are not more polite than Anglophones.  They may even be less so.  They are certainly more mannered, but that is no virtue.  Being mannered means following the rules that are in place in society.  It does not mean they are good rules, and it does not mean having any empathy.  Of course just as many Japanese people have empathy as Anglos, but the rigidity of their culture makes it harder, and less rewarding, for them to express it, especially to 'strangers'.  It's also worth noting that we might even get up ruefully, with little empathy, because our ethics do not allow us to indulge our selfishness.  Fine, but the person who needs it more still gets a seat, right?  If you are in even the most tangential of relationships with a random Japanese person, be assured that you will likely be better taken care of than at home; if you are not, you're on your own, chump.

Monday 18 June 2012

Stupid Japan Tricks II

I fought all last summer with my wife about the cost to our family, and Tepco's power grid, of having a livable temperature in one six-mat room of our home, last summer.  I had a 'stroke of genius':
"Honey, I'm not going to complain about the apartment being too hot this year.  I'll just rub my sweaty arm on your face when I'm hot."

This summer should be comfortable.

Sunday 17 June 2012

Saturday 16 June 2012

Stupid Japan Tricks

Japanese don't all look alike.

But they don't look as unalike as a crowd at home, in Toronto.

Not to mention, they don't look like me.

So meeting friends in the usual Tokyo spots, Hachiko, Studio Alta... , I kept getting found before I could find my Japanese friends.*  But Arististhenes likes a challenge: I try to find my Japanese friends before they can find me.
(How long before you noted the other Gaijin having a laugh?)

My record of wins recently is higher than my losses, but stealth is a Nordic Ninja's secret.

*And by the way, Japan, meeting just where the other thirty-million people plan to meet their friends is a STUPID idea!

Sunday 10 June 2012

Faux-Randonnuer: final set-up?

Ther first rule of set-ups is: there is no 'final set-up'. Now that I have all summer in too much heat to run, I need to put the miles on this machine it deserves.

There are three older posts which trace the development of my road bike, a 2006 Lemond Croix de Fer Triple, into a working randonneuring/credit-card-touring machine.  It's not the ideal machine for either, but I've worked within its limitations, because I don't have the coin to replace it, and when I leave Japan I can keep it at the in-laws so I have it here to ride on visits.  These are the three posts I draw from: 'Road Bike: Randonneuring Bike', 'Choosing a road, randonneur or touring bike', 'Club-Racer to Randonneur/Credit-Card-Touring Hack'.  What follows is the final version.

The principle behind this set-up is to take the bike that I have, which is a great light road steel-framed 2006 Lemond Croix de Fer Triple, and make it useful for the long distance rides that I plan to be doing in Japan.  It has been hard to get a link to the original specifications, because Trek blacklisted Greg LeMond for pointing out the obvious about Trek's advertisement-whore, Armstrong: nobody wins honestly in that field of dopers.  Here is the best link that I could find.

The carbon fork has caused me no end of headache, but in the end I came up with many solutions:
- no racks, but a better/lower way to hold a handlebar bag (explained below)
- strap-on fenders
- put the O-ring mounted Gemini Olympia right on the fork, sideways.  With a bit of a bump built up with electrical tape it doesn't slide down past it.

To make it the bike that I can best use here, I took to heart what Bicycle Quarterly wrote about the rides that completed Paris-Brest-Paris, and altered my ride accordingly: add as little weight as possible, get some fenders on, keep luggage as low and centred as possible for the sake of handling, and reduce rotating mass (rims, tires and tubes) but run puncture-resistant tires.  Here is the what and the why of the alterations that I have made, with caveats:
- shellacked bar-tape, because it is gorgeous and indestructible (only leather and palms do not slip, though)
- a titanium Brooks Swallow saddle (extravagant but wonderful, and bought at half-price)
- the smallest chainring is still 30 teeth, for long climbs
- the largest chainring is now 48 teeth, because I do not juice enough to use 52
- the new middle ring is still 42, and in use 90% of the time
- the cassette has been altered to 12-28 (12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 22, 25, 28) for a deep low end, without sacrificing the middle or top
- Shimano PD A600 pedals: high end road pedals with mountain cleats, because you walk like an @$$hat-roadie in road cleats
- Maxxis Detonator 700x28 tires, which are really 25mm

The removable bits are as follows:
- Planet Bike SpeedEZ road fenders (a third one behind the seat tube!) with road mudflaps attached by me (both ends of the fender, also to quieten them against the frame).  I'd run full fenders if I had the clearance...
- a pair of Klean Kanteen water bottles, because plastic tastes like cancer (never use plastic cages: they break in the cold)
- Arundel Stainless Cages in the usual spot, which besides looking sweet, are also silent on stainless bottles - which took some finding!  I have a basic Planet Bike Button Cage cage hose-clamped under the down tube as low as I can, and offset to the non-drive side, so it does not interfere with the derailleur, or front fender.  It can take a short bottle, but usually holds my tool kit.
- the toolkit I detail: here 
- I have an old version of a Topeak Road Morph pump: no point having a pump that won't take your tires to the pressure you ride'em.  It has a q/r clip, but is also taped to the top tube (I hate rattle!)
- a Revelate Designs 'Viscacha' Saddle Bag.  It's the shit!
- an MEC handlebar bag, attached to a Thorn Accessory Bar rather than the handlebar, to keep it lower and more to the centre of the steering axis.  Ghetto, but works.
- a Montbell top tube bag
- a Garmin Oregon 450 GPS, chosen because it takes AA batteries, which I can replace easily (an iPhone mount might have been a better choice, as I carry my cell anyway...)
- a bell on the accessory bar, to wake-up doddering Japanese pedestrians in the wrong place

My lighting is not randonneuring-standard, but a mix of what is practical, affordable and what I owned from hiking:
- I usually use rechargeables, but can use standard batteries on tour, or lithium for long or cold weather rides.
- Superflash Turbo, rear bright enough for daytime use
- and the back-up is a regular 'Superflash'
- Planet Bike Sport Spot headlight (because I can also use it as a headlamp: both Pl-B lights run AAA)
- I have a rebuilt Petzl Duo helmet lamp that puts out 350 lumens off four AA!  The battery pack can be kept warm inside a jacket or jersey.  I like that the lamp shines right where I am looking, such as into a driver's face to get his witless attention.
- Just bought the Gemini Olympia system, 6-cell.  Bright!  "3 x CREE XM-L U2 LED emitters", 1700 lumens-bright.  I got it in an introductory sale for $200, which is a steal.  Remember halogen?  A fraction of the light for a multiple of that cost, and weight.

A lot of these items can and will be switched from bike to bike, or to other sports.  I do not believe in the perfect randonneuring machine, as Bicycle Quarterly would have you do, because roads differ as does weather.  However, this bike stays in Japan.  The bike that will replace it will be like one of these, unless I decide I am not doing long-distance road cycling in Canada, because the drivers cannot be trusted.

Japan Brevet Schedule

I put aside the notion of randonneuring while I trained for my half-marathon.  Still have to do the full, but I missed my chance in June when I did not have the miles, so that will come around in November: Tsukuba.

I have been futzing with my road bike to make it work.  Now I have to go out and put in the miles!  I have been getting commuting miles in on the fixed-gear all year in Tokyo, but that's not the same thing.  Meant to do 100km this weekend, but laziness and the thought of leaving the wife with the two-year old during her morning sickness...  A bit selfish.  I have done 160km over mountains long in the past.  I have run a half marathon.  I need to do better than rely on that to do a 200km brevet.

A translation of Audax Japan's 2012 Japanese schedule. The commercial site for paying/registering.

Late start for this year, so maybe one or two 200kms and a 300 km.  If I were crazy, I can do my:
- 200 in July or August
- 300 in September
- 400 in September (this is where it gets very unlikely!)
- 600 in October

I need to get that full-marathon run before wife's January birthing (don't lecture me on priorities - this blog is not about my family life!).  Two 200s and a 300 are plenty for year one, no?

Saturday 2 June 2012

Japan: a little bit kindergarten, a little bit prison camp.

Play both videos full volume at the same time to feel the true wabi-sabi of the Japanese city.

I ran home along the Sumidagawa, Friday: training, not fleeing earthquake, tsunami, American bombs, Godzilla, 'Japanese Gonorrhea' or any of the other plagues of Japan.  Some assholes in an uyoku van were playing their Vogon 'music' at the usual volume: '11'.  (Few Japanese should be trusted with either the volume or concrete).  I could not locate these losers, since I wasn't near the entrance to any train station...  I finally triangulated them to the scenic concrete and steel expressway roaring above the east bank of the Sumida.  I was on the other side of the river, yet the noise followed me all the way north from Asakusa to where the expressway turns east to 'Chibaragi'.  The punchline is that someone on the expressway was as pissed off as me but better armed, he played 'duelling banjos' using the Anpanman song at '11'.  That's a dude I'd buy a few rounds for.

Anpanman no March 投稿者 saigo_takamori

Japan: a little bit kindergarten, a little bit prison camp.


Don't uyoku know how fucked they look to Gaijin, and how little threat?  My favourite story about uyoku has them too afraid to come out of their burning van after they tried to take on a whole housing-estate of Japanese-Brazilians. Badly played.  Just as badly played was the empire you are nostalgic for: Yamamoto told you not to start a fight you could not finish.
Your military now?  Who are you going to take on in your neighbourhood?  A grudge-match with the country that owns you?  Expand back into China?  Please, they both have nukes.
Korea?  They've each armed against existential threat for better than half a century, while your boys learned to dress like your women.  No, not even Taiwan.  The existential threat thing again.