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

Sunday 29 December 2013

Doctor Manhattan's alienation without any powers.

So I was in this Facebook group.  Some members got together to do something once and the two dozen people got along.  New guy joins after this, goes on one event I did not join.  Following that he acts like a complete asshole on the group postings, especially to me after I call him on it with a bit of diplomacy.  In the end I chose to leave the group.  Whatever, but every group has an asshole, right?

Well I have a few problems with that: history.
1. My father was a fucking asshole, and I had to take his shit for nearly two decades.
2. I have one brother who is a complete asshole even when he isn't in one of his bipolar phases, which don't help.
3. I have another brother who is a bit of an asshole, but I put up with him for my mother.
4. Mind you, she was too much of a Catholic martyr to protect her sons from the asshole she married by leaving with us, so she's an asshole too.
5. I lived with a woman who was for a couple years, for what I don't even remember.
6. And all the random assholes we've all dealt with at school, work and in society.

I have a few more problems with assholes: principles and pragmatics.
- I won't put up with their shit silently to keep the peace, because they rely on being able to do that.
- If the moderator of the Facebook group won't say anything to an asshole, he's a coward, or an asshole, so I am better off without both.
- I am not going to enjoy myself going to any event with this asshole, or commenting on the same threads with him, except for the brief satisfaction if I flame him.  With training from an asshole Yorkshire father and this guy a white American, there is no way he could keep up with my bile, except it's beneath my dignity to give him that much attention.
- A shame I will not meet up with the other people in the group again, but odds are they put up with his shit too, so what am I supposed to think of that?

'A majority of one' is lonely though, but integrity ain't supposed to be cheap.

Let me clarify 'asshole'.  Society tells you it's people who rock the boat, and are difficult because they are iconoclasts who won't 'drink the Koolaid'.  Happily guilty.  However, no, that's called a freethinking human.  An asshole uses people as tools, lacks empathy and has an exaggerated sense of their entitlements.

Is your 'half' child going to keep English in Japan?

Having two of my own, I prefer the term 'mixed', as in 'mixed-parentage' not 'mixed race': we all have 'mixed parentage after all, when not inbred.  I use 'hybrid' often too, as it hasn't taken on a pejorative yet.  'Half' is too close to 'half-breed'.  As a smart eight year old I taught once told me: "My father says I am not 'half'.  I am both."  I told him his father was smart.  And let's keep in mind that those of us without DNA from Sub-Saharan Africa only account for a fraction of human genetic diversity.  Put another way, two dudes across a river in Africa are more divergent than my Celtic forbearers from a Papua New Guinean.  'Race' is a bullshit concept.

We're all smart enough to know that, and to know that 'race', language, culture and religion are not coordinated, because we were not taught by the Japanese 'Ministry of Truth'.  I should get back to language, because many of my readers have a Japanese spouse, are Anglos themselves, and live in Japan and have children, like me.  Many of you are 'lifers', whether you know that yet or not.  I am not.  Gone in summer.  This topic would worry me far more if I were.  I may not teach you anything you don't know, but I can confirm it.

I've studied ESL/EFL, taught it, known families of linguistically mixed-parentage in Japan and in Canada of various combinations, both as close friends and as families of students I have taught.  Here are the generalities I am sure of, not that I haven't seen exceptions (exceptions are exceptional):
- it's called 'mother tongue' for a reason
- the primary caregiver in early years, who is more often the mother, gives the child their first language
- the second strongest influences are their school's language and the location's primary language, but which of those two is more important depends on many factors
- any two of those matching up of 'mother-tongue', location and school will overwhelm the third
- if all three line up and the other parent is trying to teach a second language it is a fruitless effort for all but the most motivated and consistent
- you do your kid no favours if you do not speak to them in at least one of the parents' languages, as immigrants used to do to Canada and the US thinking they'd learn English faster

Generalities that apply to Japan are:
- if the primary caregiver's tongue is Japanese, they live in Japan and go to a Japanese school, even if the other parent tries hard to teach them another language, they will lag far behind in the second language
- spending summers abroad helps some in this case, but not as much as you'd hope
- if the primary caregiver's tongue is Japanese, they live in Japan and go to an English school, if the other parent tries hard to teach them another language, they will lag far behind in the Japanese but less so in English
- spending summers abroad helps much in this case
- if the primary caregiver's tongue is English, they live in Japan and go to an English language school, even if the other parent tries hard to teach them another language, they will lag far behind in the second language, but they will do fine in English
- if the both parents' tongue is Japanese, they live in Japan and go to an English language school, they will lag far behind in both English and in Japanese
- if the primary caregiver's tongue is neither Japanese nor English, they live in Japan and go to an English language school, they will lag far behind in their 'first language', in English (even if the other parent is an Anglophone), but most of all in Japanese

So what are you going to do as an Anglophone father, not the primary caregiver, married to a Japanese woman?  Pay for international school at the cost to perfecting their Japanese if you have the coin; or send them to Japanese school at the cost of perfecting their English if you don't.  You may be the exceptional parent, but that doesn't happen often: that's why they're called 'exceptions'.

So what are you going to do as an Anglophone mother, the primary caregiver, married to a Japanese man?  Pay for international school at the cost to perfecting their Japanese if you have the coin; or send them to Japanese school at the cost of perfecting their English if you don't.  Your kids will do better at English than the Anglophone fathers' kids will.

Or you could fucking bail on the place, like me, because the natives will never look at your beautiful 'hybrid' child as one of them, quite apart from the kid's challenges with language, academics and identity.  I'm well aware that a living so the family can eat comes before all of these considerations, and there are work-arounds if stuck here, but don't ever forget that work-arounds is what they are, even if the kid manages to not be traumatized.

Thursday 26 December 2013

Ersatz Japan: import or make #$%&ing do.

I'm getting tired of how everything's a faff living in Japan.  It's been too long since I could just come home with groceries got easily in hand, flip switches, and have things baked, washed, dried, heated or cooled.  Everything I need to do for clothing, food, climate control and more I can't be bothered to think of, takes twice as much work here for half the comfort.

I won't review my last post on getting foreign food.  I'll simply add that I'm getting weary of feckless retail 'bait and switch'.  A short list of things I have seen in local stores only to disappear when I later went to buy them with a meal in mind: clotted cream, sour cream, craft beer, anchovies, and frozen turkey.  Then there are the stores and museums that close random weekdays, or whole months for 'renewal', and bars that close for 'private functions'.  Do I have to check grocery stores before I decide what to cook?  Do I have to check the website before every visit to a store or a museum?  Must I call to reserve a table just to make sure the place isn't booked up, on a Tuesday?  I have a job, young children, and too little time of my own so fuck off.

Something you almost never hear in Japan, except in 'internationalization' contexts:
Oh my god that piece of meat is too huge for me to take!
A Japanese 'oven'.

Let me put this out there right away.  The size of Japan's ovens, bake-ware, and baked goods correspond to dicks.*  The freezers too, and ours filled with my wife's crap, not like she can't go out of the house to get more; whereas I have no room for roasts, birds or links.  This is the best you can do usually for cooking a roast in Japan: "In a little oven in Japan, she produced a Thanksgiving feast for 35".  No way she fed thirty-five red-blooded foreigners on that.

There aren't many ways around cooking a proper roast here, even if you do pick up a bird at an 'international grocer' or a joint from 'the Meat Guy'.  There is Chris' outdoor smoking method, if I lived in a house, not an apartment.  Were I staying in this country any longer I'd get that freezer and another gas oven.  I had a proper gas oven in Japan mid-nineties, two-thirds the size of a N.American oven, and was popular all the holidays I was around because of it.  I got it from a 'sayonara sale' and sold it for as much as I bought it, when I left.  Took a little trouble to get someone to install it, and the gentleman they found who had the skills they brought in from retirement.  Turned out he spoke English with a New Jersey accent from working on-base during the occupation.  Interesting guy.

Cooking utensils are as puny as everything else. In fact, the standard Japanese batterie de cuisine is made of the cheapest grade of aluminum I wouldn't take camping.  Apart from ordering online, good luck finding cookware not covered in horrid teflon, made of stainless steel with a thick bottom, much less anything in cast iron.  Bakeware?  Don't lets go there.  What cookware you do find in department stores is big enough for a Japanese anorexic to make a canapé.

We local JETs nigh twenty years back, when N.Americans still bought Japanese electronics along with the cars, came to a straightforward conclusion:
Japanese consumers are putzes: if it's not for the export market it's shit.
You know it's true that nobody else would pay for any of the shit Japanese do:
- Their plastic washing machines my grandmother would have turned up her nose at are one case.
- Dryers are a rarity in a country too humid half the year to dry clothing outside, another part of the year sunset is too early to get your drying done in time, and the allergy season, so there are about two good months if you ignore the traffic smut.
- Futons are fucking daft.  Here, sleep on this.  It compresses where you lay on it, doesn't rebound, rots from the humidity, and when you put it in the sun to dry it the half of the year this works, it rebounds a fraction.  Also, no bounce back in the missionary position, and others, makes rutting twice the work.
- Sony and the others haven't made an innovative product since the Bubble, and never again will, though still charge a 150% premium for a Japanese brand (assembled offshore).
- The housing.  The fucking housing.  Yeah, it's 'eco': shitty space heaters, bubble wrap on the windows and I'm still cold in a tiny room with two heaters, a 'hot-carpet' and the body heat of my whole family.
- 'Light cars' (軽自動車) and yellow-trash trucks.  These are allowed on the highway?  Are you fucking serious?
- 'Logan's Run' Yankii scooters, because real men ride real bikes.
- Plastic furniture.  Japanese buy Tupperware dressers.
- 'Room air-conditioners', five to a house, none of which successfully condition the air in any one room
- Every room is wall-papered, but nobody in the land knows how to lay it straight.
- Japanese hardware stores.  Sigh.

Welcome to Chibaragi.  We love you long time.

*Never been intimate with any dick but my own, but I've heard complaints and giggles about theirs, and if they correspond to the J-girls'...

Sunday 22 December 2013

Bah humbug, Japan.

I don't care anymore that Christmas Eve's a date night to eat KFC, and I can't get a goose for love or money.

Ho ho ho, my little elf.

I screwed up my order to 'the Meat Guy', so wasn't getting a duck: stuck with turkey.  I found three frozen turkeys at Niku-no-hanamasa last week and was so proud of myself not having to chase one down, downtown.  "Too bad my wife's got our tiny freezer full of Japanese crap, but surely they'll still have one on Saturday."  No.

So, forced to go hunting for fowl today.  Seijo-Ishii was, as expected, entirely a waste of time, but it was where I had to change trains for Hiro-o anyway.  I loathe Hiro-o, and loathe 'international supermarkets' even a little more.  I scorn how 'international' is used in Japan: marketing. 'International' grocer National Azabu is more Japanese than international:
- small (wtf was the point of their renovation?)
- crowded
- expensive
- puny beef roasts poorly labelled
- no goose
- same frozen turkey as Niku-no-hanamasa, but in stock at least
- no Christmas pudding or fruitcake, or Christmas foods section... at Christmas!
- poor beer and spirits selection, and most wines from France (poor value) because that's what Japanese will buy

Fuck Japan.  Meat's not limited to boiling with cabbage, or cut into scraps drowned in salt and scorched.  Fuck the entire fucking archipelago for knowing nothing about roasts, ovens, baking, barbecue...  Umami my ass!

Thursday 19 December 2013

Japanese will never rebel

Off to piss away my life!  Good luck with the American total blockade, son.  If you survive, your height will be stunted at under 5', and your mother may have to sell her ass to the occupiers so you can eat, but Tenno Heike Banzai!
I have no idea of the merits of this film, but the marketing on TV shows a lot of lantern-jawed pilots and their timid wives.  The PR is selling to a population that is ignoring something, which the J-wife didn't like me sumarizing while the commercial was playing:
You do realize your men followed like sheep your 'leaders' who led you into a war you couldn't win, and your women only got political rights from a woman Japan's choice of allies would have turned to soap, translating for the men who wiped the floor with your armed forces, with one hand tied behind their backs in a theatre the other side of the planet, but not before Japan let a quarter of Okinawans be killed to no purpose.
Perhaps I should be more tactful.  What pissed me off is that the Japanese still follow the same people as they did then, and many of its politicians have close family ties to wartime leaders: Abe/Kishi, for one.  Some students rebelled in the sixties, and the 'Red Army Faction' went batshit, and then... nothing.  This is not the movie the Japanese need, unless it is a lot more intelligent than the trailer promises.  No, they need the scene from 'Letters from Iwo Jima' looking out of the Japanese bunker at the hopeless whirlwind their leaders had reaped for them: a foreign armada (2:15-45).

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Asphalt Belly Flop

If you ride, you crash.  If you ride hard, you crash hard; fast, fast; stupid, stupid.  You decide which describes what happened to me last week.

Tokyo's a safer, but more stressful, city to ride than Toronto.  Roads are busier and narrower, corners blind, people pass closer and the 'yankee'-piloted scooters are an abomination, but these are perceived dangers.  Japanese laws punish the heavier vehicle in any collision, right or wrong*, making the Japanese driver more attentive than the Canadian, though arguably more likely to 'hit and run'.  I wonder, but it's possible that accidents happen more often than in Toronto; however, since traffic speeds are much slower the consequences are much less: I'd far rather be hit four times at 15 km/h than once at 60.

I crashed again.  I have gone down on Toronto ice, on Toronto streetcar tracks and on an unpainted Toronto speed-bump; I have gone down on metal plates in Japanese construction zones because I had no lights, and now been taken down by a fucking Borg.  Because of Japanese law* I will not tell you if he went down, but I can tell you that he was unhurt, the bastard.

If you thought the unsightly railings along Japanese sidewalks were to protect pedestrians from drivers, you do not know how fucking stupid Japanese walkers and cyclists** are.  The dick thought I needed reminding by making a right-angled turn from the sidewalk onto the street without turning his head to look, through a gap in the railing.  Have you ever once seen a Japanese person turn their head?  Peripheral vision?  I'll have to test the J-wife.  Through evasion and over-correction I ended up Superman-ing over the handlebars.

It's fine that Aikido taught me to roll; however, when inertia is headed to a railing, options decrease.  I managed to spread out my mass in an improvised belly-flop, keeping my head off the street.***  Apart from bar-tape the bike is fine: more justification for fixed-gear.  I am not badly off: scrapes on knees and forearms, a hyper-extended ring-finger right and mashed thumb-heel left.  Note: ride wearing gloves, and be glad for cold weather gear in a crash.

As I was half of the way to work, I had to dust myself off and continue the other half of the ride through central Tokyo with both hands hurting each time I used the brakes: the left hand on the more important brake hurting more.  Much fun!  Bike remains locked at work until the day I can use brakes properly.  The toddler and infant I cannot abandon.  When they don't blithely pull on one of the damaged fingers I am reminded of the accident by pain when I pick them up.  As ever, thankful against what could have been worse.

*Japanese law and psychology both cannot manage 'spirit of the law'.
**Cyclists on the sidewalk, bien sûr
***Still having never hit my head, determined to keep wearing a helmet against the day I do.

Saturday 14 December 2013

'Pitch Black' Tokyo

Sorry, no Riddick killing spree in Shibuya.  Just another moan about hating dark Tokyo evenings, and bright mornings with early rising Borg.

Hey, instead of changing time twice a year for daylight savings, how about moving the clocks forward one hour permanently. Who needs daylight at 4 am in the summer?  Ever?  Especially in a country where people want to get up before sunrise; I've been to bed later.  Not to mention noise from six.  Truth is they like early dark: boss lets them leave.  I have never been a morning person, avoided marrying a morning person (for Japanese), my eldest is not a morning person, and the jury's still out on the youngest: morning people have a basic character flaw, and I will be ecstatic to be rid of an archipelago of them!

Tokyo daylight: 
- spring equinox, 5:44-17:54 
- summer solstice, 4:26-19:00
- autumn equinox, 5:28-17:40

- winter solstice, 6:46-16:30

Toronto daylight:
- spring equinox, 7:19-19:31

- summer solstice, 5:36-21:03 
- autumn equinox, 7:04-19:16
- winter solstice, 7:47-16:43

In short: Toronto's winter evenings are a bit longer, summer's are two hours longer, and the equinoxes are longer than Tokyo's summer evenings, FFS!  It's not too bright to sleep in the morning, nor noisy until eight weekdays, ten weekends, because civilized.  'Disturbing the peace' laws!

Monday 9 December 2013

Japan, your medicine's great, for 1975.

My son's ear doctor is talking possible myringotomy (tubes in eardrum for inner ear infection), but I am not excited about this: mainly general anaesthetic on a toddler.

I am perfectly happy to have had my two ears done, and kept most of my hearing, because it was the best practice at the time.  I recall my older brother mentioning almost two decades back that his son's doctor had suggested it for the son, and that since I'd read something then that it was becoming obsolete, I'd told my brother he might want a second opinion.  He got one: his boy's ears were cleared up with strong antibiotics.  My boy's just been put on stronger antibiotics for a week to see if that's sufficient.   Japan tends to use weaker antibiotics: if he'd been on stronger sooner this may not have gone as far.  Not good for his ears, but good for helping bacteria to become antibiotic resistant...

In Canada now, I doubt anyone would be suggesting myringotomy at three years old:
- doing it that early has not been shown to help language learning, and he's advanced for his age anyway, in Japanese
- recent guidelines are to wait longer before surgical intervention
- we use stronger antibiotics sooner, rather than what we did and they still do in Japan: weaker, longer

There are problems with Japanese medical culture relevant to this:
- doctors get very offended from asking for a second opinion, because of the deferral they are used to
- doctors are more often not up to date on recent technique, due both to a lack of fluency in the international language (English) and the deferral they are used to
- doctors tend to be very conservative in learning after medical school, from professors who were the same, because of the deferral they are used to
- doctors are among the most uncreative thinkers in the land, as they are the best at passing Japanese style examinations
- we use stronger antibiotics sooner, rather than what we did and they still do in Japan: weaker, longer

I am happy as a Canadian used to public health-care to use Japanese kind-of-public health-care when I need it, even though I've avoided anything serious ('knock knock'), but found Japanese medicine has done little good for things like colds, fevers and allergies.  However, don't fuck around with my kids!  Thank fuck we leave in the summer.