Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year

My car has it's very own set of ice teeth.

To those people still reading this webpage, may you all have a good 2005. I've little to talk about these days because I've done little apart from ski. Actually, I've been spending more time boarding than I have on my skis, but it'll soon change as the snow builds up and more backcountry becomes accessible. There have been huge snowfalls at Hakkouda the last few nights, each leaving around 40 - 50 cm of fresh snow, and I've been there each morning doing my best to make a mess of it. For a change, today we're going to a small local resort called Owani to see what the conditions are like there.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Just some spam I received recently.

You try and make sense of it because I can't. It was titled 'Reply: Nveer Seen Big Sized Dnlwooadable ...  and it came from Papooses E. Planed, whoever that is.


Man is a substance clad in shadows.

The reign of imagology begins where history ends.

There is always a chance that he who sets himself up as his brother's keeper will end up by being his jail-keeper.

There is no growth without discontent.

Inquiry is fatal to certainty.

Love is blind.
No man is more unhappy than the one who is never in adversity and the greatest affliction of life is never to be afflicted.Competition is the spice of sports but if you make spice of the whole meal you'll be sick.

Early civilizations complained about still earlier ones, much as we do about both. There are few people so stubborn in their atheism who when danger is pressing in will not acknowledge the divine power.

I always thought I could play pro ball. I had confidence in my ability, you have to. If you don't who will?

Education is the ability to meet life's situations. Hope is nature's veil for hiding truth's nakedness.

It is part of a poor spirit to undervalue himself and blush.

Let us not forget who we are. Drug abuse is a repudiation of everything America is.

I have made mistakes, but I never made the mistake of claiming that I never made one.
Be not the fourth friend of him who had three before and lost them.
Hope is the golden thread that should be woven into every experience of life.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Sugoi yuki

While I officially donned my skis for the first time on Sunday, until now I haven't felt too optimistic about when exactly I'm going to get some good use out of them. Today saw what the natives refer to as 'sugoi yuki'.

My quiver, propped against the boot of my car. The little road that I skiied on is just in the background.

This is the little road with barely 20 centimetres of snow. It was a sad little affair, trying to get turns on a concrete road with such a pathetic spread of snow. But all the same I enjoyed myself.

This is today's sugoi yuki (heavy snow). When it comes down heavy in town, it'll sure as you like be coming down heavy on the mountain.

And it's still coming down, so I'm kind of looking forward to thursday when me and my fellow badass Hugh Je are going to check out the mountain.

And I got paid today! It just keeps getting better.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Saturday, what can I say?

Yeah, these days my life is so boring the only thing I can find to talk about is my weekend hike. And I seem to repeat myself every weekend when I talk about that.

Fantastic solitude, though, is what I achieved today. The feeling of desolation that I need once a week in this tight little country. Desolation has long been a spiritual need for me, and one of the biggest problems of my life has been getting my spiritual hands on it.

When I worked at the kids home in Shrewsbury there was this one young lad who'd go up to his bedroom and re-arrange the furniture after moments of aggression and confused emotions. He'd get angry about something or other, which usually ended in a restraint, and it'd take a while to calm him down. The reason he used to shift his bed and bedside table about the room, according to his therapist, was to put things back into order. His physical environment would have a big impact on his mental environment, you see, and it would make him feel better once everything was in a differrent order than how it was before.

I don't know for sure, but when I go onto the mountain I suppose I do get similar feelings. It feels a bit like I'm wiping dirt off my back - dirt that's been accumulating there all week. But also, in addition to the cleansing process, I know that I've long had inside me an obsession with finding desolate parts of the world. I wonder whether there are parts of the world that exist where I could satisfy my need for desolation, or whether it's like a religion or something that I need. Who knows?

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The truth about ipod

Lately I've noticed a lot of websites praising the ipod as the best thing since sliced bread. I don't agree. Last night my ipod decided to pack in right on the moment. It just freezed up and I couldn't get anything out of it. I tried connecting it to my laptop but it wouldn't locate. For some reason the damn thing has died on me without warning. I have the receipt though, and I'm going to head back to the place that I bought it from straight after school tonight.

Besides the fact that mine gave up just like that, there is also the general issue of a horrendously short battery life that never seems to get mentioned in commercial reviews. I knew the battery was going to be lame because I'd read user reviews before I bought it, but recent lifespans on a full battery have lasted a maximum of three hours, which is plainly not enough.

I read the Guardian website and they're always banging on about the ipod for some reason. I think they must be on the Apple payroll because nothing the Guardian has to say about them ever mentions the battery problem. In my mind the battery problem warrants a recall, but I know that people who have tried to send theirs back on that basis have had no luck at all.

So will I have any luck when I take mine back to K's denki tonight? Who knows? I have my warranty so maybe I'll be lucky and get a brand new one as a replacement. I doubt it though.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Bears and their footprints

Got a bit freaked out today when I saw loads of these footprints all the way up the mountain path.

I'd thought that by know the bears would be well into their hibernation period, but obviously not. I didn't see one though, thankfully. I'd love to see a bear on Iwaki mountain, and I know that there are a few in the area where I hike. I just wouldn't want to get too close to it. It's a difficult desire to satisfy, really.

Last night I went out with the boys for an unexpected round of beers. It was the first time that I'd had a good few drinks all in one sitting for long time. I felt it this morning on the mountain. Hangovers are no better in sub-zero temperatures.

The lager louts Marc and Monte:

Monte's the one with the long golden hair. It was Marc's birthday get-together last night so it felt a bit like a special occasion.

Grinning, as ever.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The last two days

I'm sick of trying to put something catchy into the title field of my post page, so I settled for something informative this time instead. Anyway, first of all, I happened to have my camera with me last night at English club, and, coincidentally, all four members turned up. Yes, all four of them. Here they are, for you pleasure.

From left to right we have - Nao-chan the rose farmer, Saori the house wife, Taeko the English teacher and Miho the medical professor. It's a rare occasion to get them altogether, sometimes only two show up at a time. Besides, the discussion last night was an article that I picked up from Jamie's website.

I went to Owani high school today to teach some of the country bumpkins out there. I did just as much loitering about in the staff office at Owani as I do at my main school in Hirosaki. I managed to keep out of everyones way though. On the way home I took advantage of the spotless, crystal clear blue sky, and took some more mountain shots.

I'm strapping up on saturday for what might turn into an early end to the season for me. That is, if I go flying into a shallow rock or something like that. I'm going to strap my board onto my back using this fancy new apparatus that Aki bought me for my birthday, and then I'm going to hike right the way to Akakura dake, even further if the weather holds out. The first four metre stretch of snow I see is game as far as I'm concerned. And if I'm still in one piece after that I'm off to Hakkoda on the sunday.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Another rant about global temperature changes.

Chart showing the increase in global temperature over the last half century.

I don't know what to make of it, so I side with the people who are kicking up a fuss. There's no point being one of those who'd rather not face up to facts just because it means dealing with change. Governments are the ones who are most to blame. Those bastards know we're no better than sheep, but they still don't give us any direction. They leave it to the NGOs, who are the ones governments are always trying hardest to discredit.

If you've never taken the time to find out about the warming of the planet then Wikipedia's articles on the subject are a pretty good place to start.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is also a good website if you want to know more about what's happening to the world. But, the real question is - does anyone really care?

Maybe a few do, but do the majority of people in the world really care about what could happen to a place where they won't even be in 60, 70, 80 years time? Haven't we got better things to spend our time worrying about, and hell to some nonsense about a one degree rise in global temperatures over the next fifty years?

Monday, December 06, 2004

Sendai weekend

Hugh-kun says - "If I don't pass this lousy exam, somebody's going to pay bigtime", holding his pencil in a very threatening manner.

I went to Sendai this past weekend to take the Japanese exam that I've been studying for recently. Overall, the test seemed to go slightly better than I expected it to. I felt really good about the kanji section and the grammar section at the end. But the listening section went really badly, and I think I'll be lucky to get anything over 50 percent for it. I'm not too worried though, because the listening section only carries 25 per cent of the final grade.

It's always been the same. I just can't hold my concentration down for any more than five seconds without it going slightly astray - even when I know so much depends upon it. I reckon if I had the concentration I'd be one of the best darts players in the world!

I went to an onsen with these two girls. I spent about an hour in the mens side, which had access to only two baths, and then I had to wait another hour and a half for the girls to finish. Apparently the women's side had ten baths that were all really fantastic...

This is a photo from the hotel where the onsen was:

...and this is the MacDonalds where we had lunch on the way down:

I know, God, I ate MacDonalds. But I promise I won't do it again. I promise.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

This is what I've been looking for over the last three weeks. It gives you a good idea of when on average the winter in this region starts and how unpredictable the snowfalls can be. Interesting stuff if you're really, really, really itching to put your skis on again. This is the website I got it from. Scroll down and take a look at the rest of the quicktime files they've got.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Mad in Margate

Today I was supposed to have three classes, but I was told just before the first of them that I wasn't needed. The teacher told me, with a childish smile on her face, just at the minute when we usually get up and walk silently down the hall to the classrooms together, that she had changed today's teaching plan. She was sat right next to me from eight o'clock this morning, and could have quite easily informed me before hand, but she decided to drop me at the last minute. She's a single fifty five year old woman, which I think explains some of her childishness. Reminds me of the old Smiths song, I Don't Owe You Anything:

You should not go to them,
Let them come to you,
Just like I do,
Just like I do.

(I Don't Owe You Anything : Smiths)

And maybe she'd taken a leaf out of Morrisey's book.

She's not all that bad, it's Morrisey who's bad.

Anyway, I decided to trash school for the morning and take a bike ride instead. If they don't need me, I don't need them. While I was away I stumbled across this old style Japanese place.

It's an open house for tourists to have a snoot around, up by Apple Park in Hirosaki. I had a snoot around.

Traditional fireplace, and traditional straw mats.

And in all her beauty,

Hakkouda mountain range, from the library in my school where I spent the afternoon today.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Yesterday and today

This is a photo I took on the way home from school yesterday. It shows a place that looks like a church, but I've never seen or heard of services being offered there so I've no idea what the building's used for these days.

Today I went back to Dai Ni Yougo Gakkou (school for kids with disabilities) for some of the craziness they've got on offer there. Boy was it crazy. We played a whole array of different games and sang songs and such like. I told them about christmas in England and how it's not the same these days as it was when I was their age. When it was time to leave they sang me another classic from the Dai Ni repertoire. According to the melody of Happy Birthday to You, they sang this little number:

Little Kenta could hardly contain himself we were having that much fun:

I don't know about Kenta, but I could hardly contain myself:

Dai Ni rocks gold!!

After my visit to Dai Ni I decided to drive up to Ajigasawa ski resort to see how the snow was coming along. I was quite surprised to see that there was so much of the stuff on the sides of the road. The slopes, however, are still lacking a good couple of feet. Although the top ends are looking very white indeed.

Ajigasawa ski car park, with the wonderfully designed Prince hotel in the background.