Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Phasing out web page, phasing in Facebook

I've had two web pages, one personal and one for work, for several years now, but for the last few years, I haven't been updating them much at all. My work page used to contain lots of stuff-related to my classes, but that has pretty much been taken over by the university's in-house class management system. I still have that page for links and announcements about office hours and such, but it only gets updated a few times a semester.

My personal web page is even more neglected! I stopped updating the news section, and moved to this blog (which doesn't get updated enough, but I will try to get better!) And then I started using Facebook...so much easier just to write a quick status update. Is it convenience? Laziness? Or something else? I don't think anyone was looking at my web page anyway...

Something you'd never see in the U.S...

In early December, Masashi ran in the Naha Marathon in Okinawa. (He finished in 5 hours, 55 minutes, 55 seconds...) More than 27,000 people started the race, and about 19,000 finished. So 27,000 people, most of the running for more than 4 hours...and where do they put their stuff when they are running? They just leave it, scattered all around the starting/ending point. These photos just show a few views of the area around the starting point. Yep, people leave backpacks and tents, totally unattended, with no security guards in sight, for several hours, with total confidence that all their stuff will be there when they get back! (The tents and blue tarps are no for security--they are just to keep things dry in case it starts to rain.) Masashi's friends did the same. I think that they left their wallets back at the hotel, but they left backpacks with their jackets and long pants and even their cell phones right there on the ground! I just can't imagine this happening in the U.S.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

YouTube Favorites

These days, I am enjoying YouTube. It's good to see SHORT clips in between other work. I was happy to find that I could find clips of British comedy, like AbFab and A Bit of Fry and Laurie (the latter is recommended for American fans of House who have no idea of what Hugh Laurie used to do!

I also like some of the YouTube stars, like HappySlip and KevJumba. And music is great too! I search for all the old Japanese folk songs that Masashi's friends sing at Karaoke, like this song Kokoro no tabi. I LOVE this song, and the video is fun too (great hairdos!)

end of the year

I haven't posted anything for a LONG, LONG time. These days, I am too busy even for blogging, it seems, although I can kind of keep up with e-mail. The very short updates on Facebook seem to be all I can handle!
Anyway, maybe my resolution for 2009 should be to update my blog regularly.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My Cat

This is a picture of my 13-year-old cat, Tora-chan(also known as Tiger). I posted his picture here in class, just to demonstrate how to upload a photo, but he's pretty cute so I guess I'll leave it here.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Golden Hokkaido

I'll follow up the photo of the golden buildings in Tokyo with one of the golden rice in Hokkaido, just at harvest time.

I took a bunch of my seminar students up to Masashi's hometown of Biei, in the third week of September. It was the first time I had been there at that season, and it was wonderful to see the golden fields of rice, and to see Masashi's family harvesting them. Late summer/early autumn is a great season in Wisconsin, and it feels the same in Hokkaido--warm afternoons, but cool mornings, with heavy dew and even fog.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Golden Tokyo

I took this photo from our roof balcony last month, on a Sunday in mid-July. Masashi and I took advantage of a cloudy and not-too-not afternoon to ride our bikes to Shinjuku Gyoen park. On the way back, it rained just a bit, and then when we got home and went out on the roof (which we often do on nice summer evenings, with the cats), the setting sun under the rain clouds made the city glow!

Now, we are into the season of insanely hot weather. Today the high is expected to be 36 degrees (about 96 F); that's bad enough, but at night it sometimes only gets down to 27 or so (81F), so there's no chance to really cool down, except with the air-conditioner, which I hate...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Have you lost weight?

For the longest time, this question was bothering me...I had stayed at more-or-less the same weight for quite a while, and in fact, it was the most I had ever weighed, but whenever I would get my hair cut or get new glasses, people would look at me and say, "Have you lost weight?"

I realized that the real meaning of this question was something like, "Vicky looks a little different. Maybe it's her weight. She's still a little fat, but not as much as I thought."

The funny thing is that recently, I have lost some weight, and almost no one has noticed! (I haven't had my haircut recently, and I am still wearing the same glasses!) I have lost 6 kilograms (15 pounds) since my all-time high last September (at my yearly physical, the doctor for once did NOT say that because I was an American, it was O.K. that I weighed a little more than the average for Japanese women. He simply said "You have gained almost three kilograms since last year. That's not good.")

Anyway, some of the reason for the weight loss is probably the Wii Fit (see last posting), in that I can use it to do a little exercising on days when I otherwise wouldn't (because the gym is closed, or because I have to go to work and it's raining so I can't ride my bike). Another reason is probably because Masashi and I are both eating less, especially at dinner. I've just cut down on the amount I cook, or we just order a little less than usual. We are still full, but not stuffed. (The owner of our favorite Italian restaurant actually noticed this and said something to us the last time we were in there!)

Masashi has starting running, usually three or four times a week, and he has lost quite a bit of weight too. We are both able to fit into clothes we haven't worn for awhile! (But it also means that a few of my favorite articles of clothing,one skirt and one pair of pants, are just too big.) The strange thing is, though, when we got together with his friends a few weeks back, they didn't notice that he has lost weight either. Weird...

Anyway, many of the people in this circle of friends have been running for a few years. One couple is planning to get married in Okinawa this December, and the next day, they and many of the guests will run in the Okinawa Marathon. Masashi is probably going to try it too. But I am not planning to take up running--I don't like the bouncing-up-and-down part. I will just stick to my bicycle, the gym, and taikyokuken (TaiChi), oh, and the Wii Fit aerobic boxing and hulahoops!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Wii Fit!

Back in early April, we bought a Wii game set, together with the Wii Sports and Wii Fit software. I had seen some commercials for Wii Fit, and somehow, it seemed fun, especially the balance games.

Well, I LOVE it! It turned out to be much more interesting than I expected. I like the balance games, but also the yoga, muscle exercises, and especially the aerobics. Before we got it, I was sceptical about the muscles exercises (what can you do
I guess some Wii games have been available in the U.S. for awhwithout weights) andthe aerobics (what can you really do in the living room, with than small board), but it turns out that you can do quite a lot. I still will go to the gym to lift weights, but the Wii is good for days when I don't have time to go to the gym. The balance games can also be a way to relax in-between stints of working at the computer.
I guess some Wii games have been available in the U.S. for awhile, but Wii Fit is just going on sale there now. The New York Times has an article about it.

I'm surprised to find that one of my favorites is the boxing aerobics. Somehow, it is really fun to punch at the screen, and it works up a sweat.I set it at the advanced level, which is a 10 minute workout, but it is so fun that sometimes I take a short break--drink some water, and do a balance game--and tehn come back and do it again. (Note: Wii Fit is set up like many video games--when you first start, you can't try all the activities. You only get to have some of them after you have spent some time with it. You don't get to do the boxing until after you have done some of the other aerobics first.)

Probably the funniest thing is the "zazen". I guess that it is probably called Zen Meditation or something like that in the English version. It's offered as one of the balance games, and I guess it's meant to be more silly than anything else. You sit on the board without moving, looking at the candle on the screen, while your hear noises in the background meant to distract you. If you move, you get whacked! I've tried it a few times, and once I was really distracted, by a friendly cat rubbing up against me to be petted. I had to laugh, and I got whacked!

Anyway, I love Wii Fit, and I am hoping that in a few months or so, there will be a second edition with more exercises and games.

There are lots of Wii Fit videos on YouTube, including this parody. It's not quite doing nothing; "Leaning-side-to-side" and "sticking-out-you-leg" are not at all as easy as this suggests!

The Wii Sports is kinda fun too. It has bowling, baseball, tennis, golf, and boxing. Masashi has used this a lot more than I have, but we recently bought a second control so that we can play against each other. We've just done the bowling so far, but I have teased him about wanting to try boxing!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Typhoon and Earthquake

The news both from Myanmar and China is hard to imagine. But at least in China, we know what is going on, and we can see that the government is doing something.

I always donate money after big earthquakes, in Japan and in other countries. It's a kind of superstition--if I donate the money, the big earthquake won't hit here. And of course, I donate for other reasons...tsunamis, and this time, typhoons. But this is the first time I have made so many donations in such a short time. First, because of the sudden rise in food prices, then for typhoon and earthquake victims.

For international situations, I usually donate through Mercy Corps, because they have partnership with local NGOs in many countries, and they are also rated very highly as a charity for which a relatively low percentage goes to overhead and a high percentage to actual aid.

For donating to disasters within Japan, there is always something set up through the post office (actually, for big international disasters too). Almost no one has checking accounts here, so postal money orders are a common way to send money. They always announce the postal accounts to send money to on the news, both for domestic an international emergencies; I used to try to quickly write them down, but I them discovered that the post office has a list of them. All you have to do is go there and say "I want to send money to X", and they'll show you the list of organizations collecting money.

It's really depressing to have so many natural disasters in such a short time...and the situation in Sudan getting even worse, with a possible war between Sudan and Chad.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Starting again...

I stopped updating this blog for awhile, and when I went back to it, I discovered that the photos had disappeared... (There is an explanation, but not interesting enough to write about here.) So I lost motivation to blog. But then I got an e-mail from a friend I hadn't heard from for awhile, and he mentioned that he had read the blog, so I've decided to start it back up again.

The first thing is writing this message. The next thing will be to put a few pictures back up.