Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Burning Heart

"We cannot kindle when we will
The Fire which in the heart resides,
The spirit bloweth and is still,
In mystery our soul abides;
But tasks in hours of insight will'd
Can be through hours of gloom fulfill'd."

-Matthew Arnold (as taken from My Utmost For His Highest, by Oswald Chambers)

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B-moment commence. HOORAY!

Well, close enough, anyway.

I'm roughly 1/3 of the way through my life-expectancy, give or take a few years, and I've officially entered my 30s. My dad said his thirties were the best years of his life (though I'd wager he has a few more of those best years still ahead of him)—so, I assume he meant physically, mentally, and socially speaking. Here's hoping he's right!

And now, for the second verse of my foolishly-hopeful-though-highly-unlikely perennial birthday song.

"[Blankety-blank] Years Young" contin'd… [Verse 2]
(sung to the tune of Camptown Races)

Dance all night, gonna ride that hoss, boo yah, boo yah
Might fly off track till my wires cross, oh the boo yah hey!
Let my joy carry me outta dis hole, boo yah, boo yah
Can't touch sadness wid a ten-foot pole, oh the boo yah hey!
Ha-vin' fun all night!
Ha-vin' fun all day!
Here's some money in a fold-out card
That, and you don't have to pay.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Random Thought of the Day: What's the matter with doctors?

I just got back from the hospital today, having gotten my cast removed from a snowboarding accident last month, and I was again struck by how odd some doctors are. No, not some doctors—all doctors! Some are odd in how they appear: be it their hairstyle (or lack thereof), the way their eyes are set (or the glasses they wear over them), the clothes they wear (or wear badly), or the slightly off-kilter or far too erect posture they display. Others are strange in how they do things: whether it be the way they talk, or the way they walk, or the way they write their name (okay, so they're all guilty of that one). Still there's an indelible … strangeness … nay, oddity—no wait, queer factor!—that's it, there's an indelible queer factor (QF) about doctors that makes them simultaneously funny and confounding. Could it have something to do with the exorbitantly long periods of required education and certification they go through? Is it from prolonged exposure to formaldehyde? Something about the lab coat and stethoscope? What exactly?

Take a moment to consider all the ones you've dealt with in the past, and see if you can come up with what's to explain for your MD's QF?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sapporo Yuki-matsuri

Amid the tumult of events that are still playing out regarding Japan's recent earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster (boy, that's the trifecta from hell if there ever was one!), I've managed to arrange some positive memories of a trip friends and I took to Hokkaido last month to see the Sapporo Snow Festival. It was really quite a sight to see so much ice sculpted into amazing works of art, and I was equally impressed at how long the sculptures where built to last (something like 3 or 4 weeks)! Upon coming to Japan, I was told that seeing the famous yuki-matsuri in Hokkaido was one of the most-dos during my stay. I can safely second that notion, now that I've crossed that off my list.

Here we (Tom, Vanessa, and I) listen to Rianna (off-camera) as we start off on the train from Aomori City to Hakodate, then Sapporo (4-5 hours total). Or? Here we are being threatened by pen-wielding Rianna while I do my best Dave Grohl impression.
A winter scene in Sapporo, leading to the festival grounds.
"No me molestes!"
Wildest. Karaoke. Banner. Ever!
When we got to the festival, we heard rock music playing and "Ooh"s and "Aah"s emitting from the crowd. Here's why:

"God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaur … ice sculptures."
(Wanna see 'em move? Okay, maybe not. But the camera does!)

Dimetrodon! (Yup. I'm a big dinosaur geek :p)
And further down along the evolutionary chain.
Right around lunch time we caught an interesting Disney-inspired performance:

Chow time!
After lunch, Tom eagerly volunteered for a taste test. Hope you like shishamo, Tom!

My favorite scene. A Chinese temple stretches into the background, full of depth and detail. Looks like you could really go there.
Closer up, showing the detail of the steps and owl's wing.
Wolves with the Great Wall running up the hill behind them.
So intricate…

A massive scene populated with cartoon-style characters.
Reminds me of the Transamerica Pyramid in SF.
Mother and child! (Shh! Not so loud. He's crying, I think…?)
The observation and radio tower overlooking the festival grounds.
How pleasant!
The whole gang relaxes in a great little American-style pub we ran into. (left to right) Boku, Rianna, Vanessa, Valerie, James, and Tom (while Courtney, always too shy for a picture, takes the shot. Way to go Court!).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

And—the flowers are still standing!

And so am I.

There are no words or pictures I can post to fully express the awful reality of what's happened here in Japan. (The international news media has done that well enough.) Being so close to the worst of it—the difference between being where I am and where so many are suffering a mere matter of miles—I can't help but feel a sense of survivor's guilt. All I can do is keep on doing what I do the best that I can, making myself available when the time comes to rebuild, getting the word out and keeping those I care about informed, and clinging to my sense of humor, if nothing else, to stay sane. And so I shall.

Food, fuel, and supplies are in increasing demand now, and while getting those things to Japan may be difficult, one can always donate, even if it's just a little. Anything helps. Here are some options to consider:

1) Global Giving

2) Habitat for Humanity

3) Red Cross of Japan

4) Crash Japan

5) Direct Relief

Of course, prayers and thoughts are always welcome, and don't cost a thing! Keep 'em comin'!

Because it's all right…

And we'll fix you!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Set to defrost and wait

According to the Japanese calendar, we're a month into Spring already. You'd be hard pressed to convince these folks of anything-other-than a couple weeks ago, when a troupe of local performers and school children came to our office to usher in the thaw and a change to the seasons. (Of course it's snowing now, so I blame Punxsutawney Phil—it's in his name after all!)

And here's the tiered hina doll set that was put up in Oirase Library, commemorating hina matsuri (March 3), a national day of celebration in honor of girls.