Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I love the way this story just grows and grows:

August 5th
33 possible centenarians 'missing'

August 15th
Missing centenarians climb to 281: survey

September 11
234,000 centenarians listed in registries missing

Give them another couple of months and there'll be nobody left!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What IS it?

I bought one of these today. There are no prizes for guessing what it is, but there should be.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Me! Me! Me!

Wish I'd had something better than a phone camera with me...

Misleading sign

What this sign SHOULD say:

"Flushing will be carried out when you sit down. It will be carried out again when you are having a deeply thoughtful moment, possibly two or three times. It will NOT, however, be carried out as you leave, unless you are having a particularly lucky day, You may as well have that smoke."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mysterious chuckle

Monday, May 31, 2010

Jumping the gnu

Well, my attempt to jump-start the blog again didn't work – all it achieved was that I felt guilty every time I got home from work and didn't have the energy to write anything. However, I have been keeping notes about possible blog entries, and here are the notes:

1. Spear ... spear ...
2. Fewmale
3. Of age
4. Integrity
5. Neighbor foot
6. Never foot
7. Jumping the gnu

I'll take these in order.

1. A class was looking at a picture of the Colosseum in the textbook, and I explained to them that it was a stadium built 2000 years ago. They thought about this for a while, and were wondering who would have used it. One of the students suddenly shouted,

"Spear – spear – !"

We all stared at him.

"Spear?" I said, thinking of Christians and lions and gladiators. I supposed some of them used spears, but wasn't sure.

"Brittney Spears!" he yelled. "No, wait ... "

There was an uproar of derision from the other students.

"SHAKEspeare!" he shouted, and after that the only derision left was mine, carefully concealed

"I don't think Shakespeare was around then," I told him.

2. I was giving a dictation in which the word female appeared. The students puzzled over this until one of them decided that it was spelt fewmale, and informed the others. Everybody else nodded wisely and wrote it down.

3. This one came from listening to podcasts on my way to and from work. Why do people say that someone is '20 years of age' instead of saying that they are '20 years old,' or just 'twenty'? I don't know why, but it always sounds clumsy to me. Or perhaps pretentious, although I'm pretty sure it's not intended that way.

4. Why can we only HAVE integrity? Why is there no adjective for this particular noun? Honesty becomes honest. Honour becomes honourable. Why can't we say, She is integrit, or integrable, or something like that?

5 and 6. These are variations of neighborhood my students came up with in another dictation. Is there a bank in your neighbor foot?

I wonder what they thought it meant?

7. I wrote to one of my bosses to ask about whether it would be all right for me to do something (never mind what, it's not important or interesting), and then before hearing back I actually did it, after which I got a reply telling me not to just yet. In my reply to THAT email, I apologized for jumping the gnu.

Some typos are better than others. That was definitely one of the good ones, and I'm keeping it.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Title dilemma

"Froggy Bottom"? Or "Frogs 'n' Roses"?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Rose progress

Jasmine, too...

Monday, May 03, 2010

Google giggle

Today I typed the word anagram into Google, and got an interesting 'Did you mean...?' suggestion.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Soon there will be roses

There are more buds than last year, but so far only one is showing a little red.

On the other hand, there are plenty of dandelions.

The Man tells me I should get back into blogging, and I will try. I have been terrifically uninspired so far this year. I think this is my longest dry spell yet.

(I will try to do better, even if it just means more photographs taken with my phone.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What I learned yesterday in school

On Sunday a friend told me of her wonderful new method for combatting back pain. It really works, she told me. She did not have back pain any more. And when she went to her acupuncturist on Saturday, and he was giving her a massage, he commented, somewhat surprised, that her body had changed shape and her back was stronger. Because she knew that I suffered from back pain (particularly when I'm working and on my feet all day) she thought she should tell me about it.

I asked her if she learned her new trick from the Internet, but no, she learned it from a book.

"How old-fashioned of you," I said.

The method is not complicated, but is easier to understand if someone is showing you rather than just telling you. It's the ten yen coin trick. I remember reading about it somewhere (probably on the Internet, because I'm a modern person), except that wherever I read it, it was a credit card trick.

You pretend you're trying to hold a ten yen coin (or a credit card) in your buttock crack.

That's not all, though. You also tense the muscles in your upper thighs and stomach, so it's not all about your bottom. You do this while you're standing, sitting, or squatting. And at the same time as you're doing this, you relax your upper back and shoulders.

My friend had only been doing it for three weeks and it has already made a huge difference.

Yesterday I tried it in my classes.

What I learned was that it is impossible to clench an imaginary credit card (or ten yen coin) in your bottom while you are teaching. There are MOMENTS when you can do it, but they are few and far between.

It was the first day of classes for this particular university. (I started back at the other place last week.) I was sitting behind the podium, sorting through class lists and trying to figure out how many of the students in my class were actually supposed to be there, and at the same time trying to clench my bottom and stomach and thighs, and relax my shoulders. I remembered for whole seconds at a time, but then I'd notice that I was doing it the wrong way around – my shoulders were clenched and my bottom was so relaxed it was almost around my knees. Yesterday I had to get rid of a total of about fifteen students who were registered in other teachers' classes but had come to mine because they had assumed they would be in the same class as their friends. I also had even more than that suddenly appearing about thirty minutes into each class, after going to another teacher's class who doesn't check as quickly as I do. (Seven turned up suddenly in my last class. SEVEN!)

These disruptions make it hard to concentrate on bottom clenching.

I thought I might do better when I was standing. I stood up to write on the board, resolving to clench my bottom while I did so. Then I had second thoughts. I imagined what it it might look like from the back if I suddenly clenched my bottom. Students watch teachers very closely on the first day of classes, and I'm fairly sure bottoms do not escape their scrutiny.

Then I thought that MAYBE I could do it, if I did it while I was behind the podium and kept my bottom clenched when I moved sideways away from the podium, That way it would be the same shape all the time.

I stood behind the podium, bottom (and tummy, and thighs) clenched, writing on the board. It was hard to concentrate on clenching and writing, and even harder to keep my shoulders relaxed while I was writing. Then I had to move over to the side because I had run out of board space, and discovered that shuffling over while clenching my bottom AND remembering what I was writing was too much for me. I can multi-task like mad most of the time – that's what teachers DO, after all – but apparently not the bottom-clenching thing.

My bottom sagged.

Bottom clenching requires a lot more concentration than I expected, and I will have to practice a lot harder before I can do it on a regular basis during classes. For now I will have to confine my bottom clenching efforts to when I am on the train, strap-hanging.

That was the other thing I learned yesterday, as I was coming home. Strap-hanging on the train is the PERFECT time for the bottom clenching thing. When you are coming home after being confined in a classroom all day you are past caring what it looks like from the back when your bottom suddenly changes shape as you remember to keep that ten-yen coin gripped tightly. Why should I care? It was just a bunch of random strangers behind me. Most of them were pretending to be asleep anyway, because they were in the seats reserved for the old, the handicapped, and the pregnant. They were too scared to open their eyes in case they were confronted by the sight of a ninety-year-old pregnant, handicapped person hunched reproachfully in front of them, wheezing.

So I am safe from bottom-scrutiny on the train. As long as I stand in the handicapped seat area I will be able to do my bottom-clenching exercise as much as I like.

Today I also tried walking while doing the bottom-clenching thing, and discovered it was a lot harder than I'd expected. The first time I tried it I goose-stepped a few paces until I remembered I was allowed to bend my knees. Also, I had to keep reminding myself to relax my shoulders.

I'll get it right eventually, I'm sure. My friend assured me it gets easier. After two days of it I'm not quite convinced it will ever be automatic, but I think I might eventually be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Saturday, April 03, 2010


Because it's that time of year...

Friday, April 02, 2010

All your hair are belong to me

Today I had a haircut. My hairdresser looked at my hair, picking up strands and running it through her fingers.

"Spring is coming," she said. "I think I'd like it a bit shorter."

"Whatever you like," I said.

I'm not sure whether it is just that she uses English with me and her English has certain idiosyncrasies, or whether she really thinks like this, but I must say I rather enjoy the way she talks as though my hair belongs to her.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Taking the bus

The other day I had to take a bus. I was in a coffee shop beforehand, and asked where the bus stop was. I was pointed in the right direction. As I started walking towards the bus stop, I had to cross a wide and busy road. The light was green, so I started crossing, expecting to pass the old lady in front of me. I usually walk faster than old ladies.

But not this old lady. She was an old lady in a hurry, and she hurtled across the road far quicker than I did, and galloped towards the bus stop. As she approached it I realized why she was running. A bus rounded the corner, stopped at the bus stop, and then took off again, not noticing the old lady waving her umbrella and shouting. The driver should have seen her, but either he didn't, or he did and ignored her.

As I approached she turned back. I caught her eye, and shrugged. She burst into an annoyed speech about missing the bus, apparently not even out of breath. I sympathized, panting slightly.

Then I asked her where that particular bus had been going, and she informed me that it was, in fact, going where I wanted to go, too, and not only that, there was only one bus an hour.

I was a little confused. I thought my bus was on the other side of the road, and going the other way. Had I been turned around again? My internal compass isn't very good, but I thought I knew where I was. I asked her about it, and she told me that yes, the bus went to the same place from the other side of the road too, and in fact that was where she had been waiting when she realized the other bus was coming soon and would be quicker even though it went all round the houses first.

I thought about taking a taxi, but the old lady seemed like good company. We walked together back to the other bus stop, where I discovered that the bus would be coming in twelve minutes, not such a long wait.

The old lady pulled out a cigarette and lit it. Then she told me how much the bus would cost.

"But it's not that much for me," she said, smugly. "I'm old!" She took out her bus pass to show me. It was a senior citizen bus pass, and had her age on it. She was 81.

I had only glanced at it when she took it back, covered the age with her thumb and asked her how old I thought she was.

"Um... seventy, er, something...?" I asked.

She moved her thumb off the card.

"I'm eighty-one!" she said, triumphantly. "See?"

"Really?" I said, and looked suitably impressed. "I thought you must be younger, you were going so fast."

"Oh, I'm pretty healthy," she said, taking another drag of her cigarette.

We stood there for a while in companionable silence. Then she said,

"I have three children. They're all in their fifties, of course. My son is a police officer, like my husband was."

"Really?" I said.

"And so are both my daughters," she said. "Even though they're girls!"

This fact seemed to still amaze her, even after what must have been at least a couple of decades. I congratulated her on her accomplished children.

"That's a lot of police officers for one family," I said.

She looked at me sideways. "I have four grandchildren, too," she said. "And one of them is a police officer as well!"

I was running out of ways to express astonishment in Japanese.

"I'm surrounded by police," she said, with a twinkle in her eye, then delivered her punchline. "I can't do ANYTHING naughty."

I laughed. "But that's probably why you can run so fast!" I said.

Taking the bus is not just cheaper, it can more entertaining as well.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Seen in an electronics store

I think I have been here too long. I knew instantly what they meant, and was not at all surprised to see the black and white keyboard.

(You can also see it at this site.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Monday, March 15, 2010


I have been watching foreign language YouTube videos, inspired by one a friend sent me: this one (although I'm not entirely sure I should call it foreign language). That led me to the original (which is almost as good! I mean bad!), and from there I moved on to a video which contained a mysterious button-pushing woman with a floating chandelier, a lineup of multi-coloured (but uniformly dull) suits, and an amazing portable music player. Aside from the portable music player, that one left me feeling baffled – but also entertained. (In an intellectual way, of course. Everybody knows that if you enjoy foreign videos you must be an intellectual.)

To finish off, I listened to some foreign music, and was surprised.

Yes, surprised is the right word, I think.

Over six million people have seen that last video since it was uploaded four years ago (and I can totally see why) but somehow it had passed me by.

Had you seen it?

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Today I downloaded some (free) photography apps for my iPhone, and played around with them a little. I took some pictures at a local park to see what I could do with them. These are the results. The subject matter is some concrete seats, an upside-down concrete panda, and some shadows. After taking the pictures I played around with them using PS Mobile, which I think will be the most useful, Lofi, which I also enjoyed but which I think is suitable for some pictures but not others, and DashOfColor, which I had fun with but which shrunk the pictures so dramatically they don't really work on the web. I can't find any setting to change that, so my butterfly is very small. It looks good on the iPhone, but less good on the computer.

Also, when I resized a picture in PS Mobile and then tried to do something with it in Lofi, Lofi crashed. It does not like resized pictures, apparently.

What are your favourite iPhone photography apps? I've only just discovered these, and would welcome ideas.

Here are my favourite results: the shadows, in Lofi, the seats, also in Lofi, and the panda, in PS Mobile. The butterfly is at the end, annoyingly small.

I feel all arty, now.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I talked to my lovely sister-in-law today, mother of two young adrenaline junkies. The youngest boy is having a birthday next weekend, and she told me he'd wanted to go to some water park with all his friends, which would have been very expensive. He has been once before, and was particularly enamored of the water slide.

My brother's solution was to buy several cheap inflatable lilos, line them up into a slide (I'm supposing on planks or something similar), throw a big tarpaulin over the whole thing, and stick a hose at the top end. Apparently he's made it quite steep.

The boys have been using this contraption extensively in preparation for the birthday party. They have adapted it so that instead of landing in the grass, the aim is to go so fast they bounce off the fence. The party promises to be very, very messy, and possibly dangerous.

No wonder those kids think their dad is a genius!

Friday, March 05, 2010

I just can't stop being an English teacher

"I installed several of them in one gulp, including AdBlock—a great though dubiously ethical way to keep lots of tabs open without slowing down your computer." (Slate)

Shouldn't that be 'ethically dubious'? 'Dubiously ethical' sounds like how devil-worshippers would feel if they were inadvertently doing something good.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bad hand

This is the cardboard hand that was wearing a pair of gloves when I bought them, a little while ago.

The fingers were not bent when I bought them. That happened later ... somehow.

A reassuring theory

A couple of days ago I had a phone call from a friend who has suddenly found herself very, very busy. Not because of anything that has happened to her, but because of things she has made happen to herself. She has booked herself up for the next two weeks with music performances, a marathon, and goodness knows what else. She also has two small children and a very busy husband.

"I've started talking to myself when I'm alone," she said, worriedly. "Out loud. It's getting quite scary. 'Put the rice on, kiddo,' I tell myself. 'Good girl. Now you can do some practice, but don't forget the sheets are in the washing machine and need to be put in the drier after they finish. And while they're drying, you need to start on the veges. You can go for a run after the kids have eaten.'"

She sighed. "I hope I don't start doing it in public. I think I might be going crazy."

"You are not going crazy," I told her. "You are talking to yourself so that you DON'T go crazy. If you start talking about the weather, THEN you can worry."

"What do you mean?" she said.

"You're slowing yourself down," I said. "Inside your head everything is on fast forward. There is too much going on, and you're trying to think about it all at once. You think faster than you speak, so saying stuff out loud slows it all down."

"Oh, yes!" she exclaimed. "That's it! It keeps me focused!"

"That's right," I said. "You are not going crazy. You are carefully NOT going crazy, by slowing down the babble in your head."

By the time we hung up she was feeling quite reassured, so I decided not to tell her that this was a theory I had just made up.

Besides, I think it's quite a good theory.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Hey, wait a minute!

A few days ago I was sitting in the park enjoying some spring sunshine when a man with a clipboard approached me.

"I'm conducting a survey," he told me. "Do you have time to answer a few questions?"

"I'm very sorry," I replied. "But I don't understand Japanese."

"Oh, I see," he said. "Where are you from?"

"New Zealand," I said.

"I hear it's very beautiful," he said.

"Thank you," I said. "Yes, it is."

"Oh, well. Excuse me." He wandered off to accost someone else.

Today the phone rang, and it was some woman selling something. I responded in much the same way.

"Sorry," I said. "I don't understand Japanese."

"You're a gaijin?" she said, surprised.

"Yes," I said."

"Oh. Sorry. I can't speak English."

"That's too bad," I said.

She excused herself and hung up.

Both of these conversations were held entirely in Japanese. I have had similar conversations so many times that I have stopped expecting the penny to drop. Perhaps, when someone tells you politely that they can't understand while at the same time demonstrating that they understand perfectly adequately, it's just too much to handle. Perhaps it causes a brain freeze. I imagine a little spinning wheel in their heads, like the one on my computer when it gets hung up on something and everything stops working.

But I sometimes wonder if the little ball ever stops spinning. I wonder if any of them ever wake up in the night and say,


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A cheap day out

Yesterday I went to a flea market with a couple of friends. They told me they didn't want to buy anything, and I said that didn't matter, I was mostly just planning to take pictures anyway, although I might buy something if I saw something I couldn't resist. They thought that was a good idea, and both turned up with cameras round their necks.

At the end of the day they were both laden down with packages and excuses ("But it was cheap! But it's so beautiful!") and worries ("Where am I going to put these things?").

What I brought home with me takes up a lot less space. In fact it all fits on my hard drive.

I had a cheap day out.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Down at a little park near the supermarket the crows were making a lot of fuss, and I went to see what was going on. There I discovered that it is nest building time. I also discovered that the crows have progressed in their techniques. They are not only using plastic-coated wire hangers as building material, they are also using the ones make entirely of plastic. They have also included a peg.

I think they put a couple of the plastic hangers and the peg outside the nest so they would have somewhere to hang their washing.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A thousand words

What story do you get from this picture?


Thursday, February 11, 2010


Monday, February 08, 2010

The first sign of spring

Plum blossom

Odd shadows

Today I went for a short bicycle ride (it was too cold to go far) and took a few pictures. This one I took quickly, because the cat was looking purposeful and didn't look like it would stop and pose for me. I didn't expect it to be very good.

On the computer I was surprised to see how unexpectedly lovely the photo turned out, until I noticed what I thought was a smear on the camera lens right across the wall and tree. I looked at my other pictures, and there was nothing. I checked the camera lens, and it looks fine. (I cleaned it anyway.)

The Man and I have been discussing what it might be. We thought it might be a light reflection at first. Then The Man said he thought it was something spray painted along the wall and tree. Then we talked about the shadows going down (on the ground), like the shadows of a fence, and we now wonder whether that line is the shadow of the top of the fence.

I don't remember the fence at all. I was watching the cat. At some point I will have to go back and find out just what was behind me when I took this picture.

In the meantime, what do you think it is?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Tall, blue...

I was marking homework the other day, and one of my students had written about his previous English teacher:

He has tall, blue eyes, and very cool.

Today I spent the entire day at university trying to finish off grading and so on, but I also had one final exam still to do. I finished the grades for all my other classes, but for that one class I will have to go in again, because the exam was at the end of the day and I didn't have time to mark the papers and finalize the grades before the office closed. That was annoying. I wanted today to be my last visit until April. I tried REALLY HARD to finish, but just couldn't make it.

In fact I may have tried too hard. When I came home The Man told me that I looked like a wax dummy of myself.

That was a freaky thought, but not nearly as freaky as tall blue eyes.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dog on wheels

A couple of times recently I have seen woman taking her dog for a walk in a local park. This is not unusual. A lot of people take their dogs for walks. What is unusual about this dog is that it has four legs and two wheels.

When the dog runs, its back legs run, too, only the back feet don't quite touch the ground. They brush the ground sometimes, but there is no weight on them.

The dog doesn't seem to notice this. The dog apparently thinks everything is working just fine.

And so it is.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bribery and corruption (cont)

I meant to tell you what happened with my plan for the naughty Thursday class, but just after it happened I caught a nasty cold and things got tiring and busy for a while. I did write about it, but forgot to post it.

You will be happy to hear that my boss cooperated with my scheme to scare the students. He came into my class fifteen minutes before it was due to end, and bellowed at me.


"Er, no!" I said, and cowered, as per our plan. He turned to the class. The students were suddenly all sitting bolt upright.


There was a pause as the students mentally translated what he'd said.

"NO!" shouted a couple of the quicker ones. They were electrified.

My boss stared at them.

"WELL, SOMEONE HAS BEEN LETTING CLASSES GO EARLY," he shouted. Then he added, with a little less volume, "Maybe not your teacher?"

"NO!" answered some of the students. "YES!" answered others. (Negative questions always confuse them.)

"Maybe BadAunt is a good teacher," suggested my boss.

"YES, SHE IS!" replied my students, fervently. They looked terrifically serious.

The boss stared at the students, who stared back. You could see what they were thinking. He really is a scary boss! He really might fire her!

It was a stalemate.

Then the boss almost ruined it. His face started to twitch. Usually I hate the ridiculously high podium, because when I sit down I disappear from the students' sight, but for once I was glad. I sat down and disappeared from sight.

He tried to hold it back, but that sea of earnest, horrified faces made it hard. His shoulders shook. Trying to keep his face stern made his mouth look like the wrong end of a dog. I huddled down behind the podium, weeping silently into my hands. My boss glanced at me.

"ERM, GOOD!" he shouted, and I suddenly remembered the other thing I'd wanted to do. I stood up.

"It's them!" I said, pointing at the students. "They always want to leave early, and they try to bribe me!"

"Really?" said my boss. I hadn't told him about this bit.

"Yes," I said.

"Did you try to bribe her?" my boss asked the students. "How much?" He sounded interested.

"What?" asked the students.

My boss asked more slowly. The students still didn't get it. They hadn't remembered their new word. My boss asked again, in Japanese.

"No!" said my students, looking fantastically innocent. "We wouldn't do anything like that!" (The sneaky little liars!) The boss glanced at me uncertainly.

"HOW MUCH IS AN A?" I snapped at one of the guys.

"ONE THOUSAND YEN!" he snapped back. "Oh, wait..."

"Is that all?" asked my boss. "Only one thousand yen?"

"Er, One MILLION yen." corrected the student. "No, a hundred ... thousand yen. Maybe?"

The upshot was that the whole farce degenerated into yet another lesson about numbers, and my students were left not QUITE sure whether the boss had been serious or not.

On Thursday the following week the boss was sick and his class was cancelled. My students saw the notice outside the classroom, and when I walked into the classroom they were all excited.

"Sensei, sensei! The boss is absent today! Can we finish early?"

"Really?" I said. "HA! Yes, let's finish early!" I rubbed my hands together.

I made them promise to work really hard so we could get through the day's lesson quickly and finish early. Then, towards the end of class I put a word puzzle up on the board.

"When you get the answer to this, you can go home early!" I said, and they all cheered. Then they focused on the puzzle.

They were still staring at the board when the bell rang.

Saturday, January 09, 2010


Remember the Santa-like things I posted pictures of in December? They are variations (adaptation? parodies?) of Ah and Un, the guardians at shrine gates (except that they were both Un, because both of their mouths were closed). They were guarding a cafe rather than a shrine.

A curious blend of western and eastern happened at the shrine around the corner from our place, too. Shrines are always decorated and spruced up for New Year, and our neighbourhood had an unusually Christmassy New Year.

After going under the decorations we washed our hands in dragon water:

Ah and Un were at our shrine, too. These are shishi, lion dog guardians. (The warrier-type ones are Nioh.)

This is Ah:

And this is Un:

This woman has just bought an omikuji (fortune paper), and is reading it.

This woman and her panda are reading ema, people's wishes for the year.

Happy New Year, everyone!