Sketchy Logic: Many Hands Mean Sports Are Evil

I just read the statement, “Many hands make light work,” and I feel like it was probably interpreted correctly in the past, and as a saying it still is. But when I read it, I thought, “Many hands make light work… each,” which to me implied that each extra hand increased the work load by a small amount (which is true, from a project management perspective). I suspect that the original phrase came from an older time when English was a bit more flexible in where you could put words versus what they meant/implied in those locations (what does “make” imply is an important distinction here), or possibly also from back when “work” literally meant “labor” (as in physical exertion) and so making something “light” was very literal in this case.

It is, of course, also true the intent of the phrase as “more hands make work lighter.” In fact, both interpretations of the phrase are true. It is another “known” axiom of project management that any given project has a theoretical optimum number of “hands,” and any hands beyond that optimum actually takes it back to creating MORE work (at worst) or just… idle hands (at best).

This phrase is used frequently in Mormon circles for topics like setting up for an activity (or, more importantly, cleaning up after one), moving someone in or out of a house, volunteer work at a park, etc… Typically, there is ample work for however-many people show up, but on occasion I have observed too many people showing up. In these cases, since there is rarely any overarching organization built up to ensure that no hands go idle (as there is so painfully often in the workplace), hands will tend to go idle after a while. This is when basketballs start bouncing in the gymnasium, or footballs start getting thrown around by these “idle hands.”

Finally, assuming truth in another phrase — “idle hands are the Devil’s plaything” — allows me to conclude quite tangentially that sports are evil activities; a point that I will defend right up until someone suggests that these idle hands may also engage in activities that I enjoy, at which time I suspect that I may just concede my hobbies are also evil. That way I get to still claim that sports are evil, and all it costs me is the comfort of claiming my own hobbies aren’t.

Wait, where was I going with this?

The Trainwreck Typo

Sometimes, when I write a long word, I’ll hit a typo early on (swap letters, usually) but my brain refuses to accept it and instead of stepping back to correct the unfinished word, my fingers seem to stumble around the keyboard for a second or two.

Fingers: “Wait, I’m lost.”

Brain: “No, it’s cool, we still got this.”

Fingers: “Okay, so there was a… ‘p’ in that word? And an ‘o’ we think…”

Me: “Wait, what the crap am I even typing?”

It’s like typing a train wreck in slow motion. Some part of me knows that nothing salvageable will come of this, but I can’t… stop… typing… letter…

As I Stand, Packing

Yes, packing.  It sucks.  It sucks muchly...  PS:  Love this photo.

Yes, packing. It sucks. It sucks muchly… PS: Love this photo.

I packed all my bags this evening.  This makes me sad.  Not because my bags are packed, leaving me nothing to worry about not getting done for the next day and a half, certainly, but because it means that I’m really basically finished here in Japan.

While packing I thought about a lot of things.  How I’m not the same person I once was.  How my sphere of friends has now expanded (ironically) to include most of the US, and almost none of Japan. ^_^  But the friends I made here have become like family to me.  I have my family, and I have friends back home who are like family, and now I have a third family that met up in Japan, and almost all of us are returning home to our respective states…  Washington, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Wisconsin…  All over the map.

Also I will miss a lot of the simpler things – smaller proportions, some of the stupid things Japan does, trains, yen, having a reason to speak Japanese to people around me…  Don’t get me wrong, I miss my home in Colorado very much, and I love everyone there and miss them all dearly… but I love my home here, too, with my friends here.  So it is a bittersweet thought, packing.

Leaving home for Japan wasn’t bad at all, because I knew that I would be returning within a year’s time, and that all would be well.  But I don’t know when I can come back here to Japan.  I don’t know when I will be with ALL of my new friends again.  Sure, we’re going to conventions together, but perhaps not all of us to them.  Sure, we have Skype for chatting, but you can’t get the energy from being AROUND them and able to move amongst each other.

On the one hand I have changed a great deal.  On the other, I am still the same person that everyone knows and loves.  I confuse even myself with this.  It’s just… not fun.

Tomorrow we head out to Disney Sea, a neighboring theme park to Tokyo Disneyland, which we went to two weeks ago.  We’re going to have a blast, and then we’re doing a final all-night karaoke marathon that will kick major ass.  Then at around 5 in the morning we head home, get a few final precious hours of sleep, followed by hiking our baggage out to the airport and awaiting flights.  There’s no time left.  Anything else we wanted to do will not get done, and any savoring we wish we could have more of will have to be left unsatisfied.  The week before finals’ week time couldn’t move fast enough and we all wished we were home already.  Now that finals are over, time is moving entirely too quickly, and freaking us all out.  A funny thing, Time.  ^_^  Don’t even get me started on my plans for when I get back to America.

Here’s a preview:

  1. Wash clothes.
  2. Sit down.
  3. Cry.
  4. Wash clothes. (Yes, again!)
  5. Call friends from home.
  6. Eat food with friends, and try to feel happy.
  7. Sleep in the presence of central air-conditioning.

And then I take things as they come…  ^_^

Mortality Complex

Okay, so this one isn’t DIRECTLY related to Japan, per se; but it was INSPIRED by things that I’ve seen and experienced here thus far.  ^_^  Also back home, but it becomes more prominent here as you’ll see.

Okay, so this one isn’t DIRECTLY related to Japan, per se; but it was INSPIRED by things that I’ve seen and experienced here thus far. ^_^ Also back home, but it becomes more prominent here as you’ll see.

So, I’ve had this thing about me for a while now, my brothers and I have talked about it before, and I thought for a while that it was a kind of… universal human trait that we all shared.  And while I’m not sure how universal it may be anymore, I have come somewhat to understand to a greater extent what it is, if not why.

So here’s an example:  You’re driving down the road.  It’s pretty late at night, and there really aren’t any cars around.  In fact, you’re pretty sure that you’re alone as far as you can see.  You start looking around you and notice a gigantic lamp post, and you feel the force of the vehicle around you, and you start wondering, What if the two forces met up, what would happen?  Sure you know you would crash, and probably die… but I mean…  What would actually happen?  Then your mind starts playing through these strange scenarios of what you might do to cause this, and what you might imagine would happen were it to happen, until you eventually start double-checking yourself to make sure that you aren’t ACTUALLY turning the wheel to steer you into the light post.

This is what I call the “Mortality Complex,” where you somehow feel a drive to explore the fringes of living…  (Okay, this sounds really creepy, and entirely too serious for how I take it, myself.)  It’s not necessarily a strong urge, either.  In fact, in most cases, it’s the easiest thing in the world to just brush off and ignore! ^_^  So don’t worry about me!  *is looking at you, you know who you are*  So yeah.  This thing happens to people.

But what’s very interesting is how I can see things in Japan and, perhaps because their idea of “safe” is so different that it starts my mind wandering thinking about what “safe” actually means, I find myself more frequently thinking along these lines.  See, they have things like, lots of trains that you ride everywhere, and stories of people killing themselves by jumping in front of trains – these spark questions like, “If I were down there, could I actually survive being hit by a train?  How fast is fast enough to kill me?  Could I perhaps run across the tracks to the neighboring platform?  How close to me could a train be when I started running before I couldn’t make it anymore…?  I bet you could duck down in the area under the platform and be pretty safe from the train…” and the like.

Also, they have these… roof things.  You can just go out and, without much trouble at all, dangle your legs 9 stories above the ground.  The windows in the schools don’t have SCREENS, and they open a fair amount, such that anyone wanting to could potentially just open one up and jump!

My friends and I look at things like this and ask ourselves, “Are they ASKING people to kill themselves?!?”  Descending the stairs in a game store, they have relatively little blocking you from, say, jumping the 6 stories down unto an active construction side next door, for instance, and we just stopped for a moment and said, “Man…  They REALLY make it easy in this country…”  And we paused.  We were both just kind of feeling the tension of how easy it would be to jump.

Naturally, neither of us DID, I mean, that would be just… STUPID! ^_^  There’s just that… Mortality Complex that makes you think about it for just a little while before you decide to move on.

And I guess the sum of it is this:  Japan tries to get people to kill themselves.  Who knew? ^_^

Also, now that summer has finally started to hit (80-something temperatures in Fahrenheit), I bemoan even further the lack of double-paned glass in this confounded country!  Double-paned glass would allow me to run my air conditioner for a couple hours in the evening, turn it off, go to sleep, and not wake up 4 hours later feeling hot and sticky again! >.<  Why, Japan?  Why?!?  Don’t you know that it saves energy – just like you’re always going on about – and ALSO lets you stay more comfortable?  For less money, even!!  Come ON, Japan!  I love you, but you gotta start being SMART about these things…  V__V

Dating Difficulties

This is not a personal entry, I promise!  It’s totally about Japan!  ;P (Translation: We ask men to refrain from entering the hot tob. Please understand.)

This is not a personal entry, I promise! It’s totally about Japan! ;P (Translation: We ask men to refrain from entering the hot tob. Please understand.)

So, I’ve talked about this on my personal blog site a lot lately (lately being in the last few weeks), but I have recently gotten myself into a relationship here in Japan.  (Yes, it’s awesome, okay, fine, moving on to more pertinent things in this blog.  Thanks.  ^_^)  I want to talk just for a moment about why I am now completely amazed that anything ever gets done in Japan with regard to relationships and dating IN GENERAL, as I have now seen some rather unusual things from the inside (of having a relationship).

First off, how do people ever get to know each other well at all?  There is nowhere in this city (Tokyo) that you can go to be alone together with someone, even just to talk or whatever.  Unless the last train has already left (more on that later), there’s going to be SOMEBODY walking nearby to SOMEWHERE, no matter where you try to run.  Societally, I suppose, this could function a bit like having a 24/7 chaperone, but when you hear statistics about the average 12-14 year old having had a sexual experience, you start to wonder where they go to DO it?  This isn’t me being frustrated, since I’m not looking for that sort of thing as you might imagine, but purely from a standpoint where I would like our personal discussions to ACTUALLY be personal and not having dozens of people walking by all the time, it’s a bit strange to think that ANYONE could be at ALL sexually active before they can afford a large apartment on their own (meaning after university)…

…and suddenly, it makes sense why nobody ever gets married or dates seriously here until well into college life or even an established career.  That makes me kind of sad.

Second, what’s the deal with purikura?  It’s a contraction of the English words “print club,” into Japanese, and it talks about the crazy photo booths they have here.  The picture atop this post is from a sign that I saw when my girlfriend and I went to take pictures at a purikura place in an upper floor of an arcade (they call them game centers here, though).  If you can’t figure it out, men are not allowed to be on the purikura floor by themselves.  If a man is present, he must be accompanying a woman.  I will freely admit that I felt freaking WEIRD going into that floor, hand-in-hand with my new girlfriend, ready to affix our newfound attraction into the annals of history with crazy backgrounds, bright shiny stars, and crazy glittery things dotted throughout the photos.  Was I adventuring into a forbidden realm?  Was there some hidden secret that only girls and boys-with-girlfriends were allowed to know?  (Pro-tip:  there wasn’t.)  What happened if she wandered around the corner to look at another booth without me noticing and some girl came up and saw me just standing by myself?!?  Were ninjas (girl ninjas) going to appear from the ceiling tiles and slice me in half for being a perverted monster, when really I just hadn’t stayed close enough to my girlfriend to be kept safe from the purikura ninjas?  o.o  I feared for my life.

[ed. note: Males are totally, technically allowed. I just never saw any nearby where the purikura stuff.]

I feared for my life muchly.

Lastly, what the hell, Japan, is with your trains?  Last trains leaving at 12:15?  But if you want to make the transfer that takes you all the way to your home station you gotta leave by 11:45?  And this is even on the weekend!  So we’re both in home-stays, and that kind of makes it impossible to meet up and just watch TV or a movie or play games at one of our houses, which means we have to meet up somewhere (usually the station nearest the school) to talk, as young lovers often will, into the not-so-wee hours of the night.  That’s right.  No staying up forever talking because you gotta catch your last train!  No cuddling together because, let’s face it, sitting down is generally frowned upon by THE ENTIRETY OF THE JAPANESE POPULATION…

…I once saw a few benches somewhere… >.>  I think.  Truth be told, there are benches, but they’re usually in places like, right out front of a train station.  You want to sit down on a curb?  Prepare to be stared at, and that’s before they realize you’re a gaijin and holding hands (in public) with a girl. *big sigh*

Anyway.  So things are… interesting.  We’re managing to have a lot of fun despite Japan’s seeming paranoia about letting two people have any amount of quality time together.  Meh, perhaps it’s for the best.  It will teach us to treasure the time that we CAN be together, perhaps?  (Pro-tip: On weekdays, you can get a karaoke room, up to 3 hours, for less than $4 per person.  And you can… sing songs… in the karaoke room.)

Well, peace from this side of the pond.

[ed. note: Now that I'm much older and "wiser," I would be very much interested in returning and trying to observe more of local custom surrounding couples. Now to figure out how to sustain myself if I went, and how to not look totally creepy following couples around Tokyo... A safari hat probably wouldn't help in this regard...]

What Have You Done to Me, Japan?!?

There are some times when you just go crazy, and others when you see that you have gone crazy.  Judging by the fact that I have no idea what relation this image has to what I’m writing, I deem that it must be the former of those two options.

There are some times when you just go crazy, and others when you see that you have gone crazy. Judging by the fact that I have no idea what relation this image has to what I’m writing, I deem that it must be the former of those two options.

I have a friend who helps me sometimes put my life into perspective.  That is, he’s a crazy, crazy guy, and that helps me to remember that I maybe am not as crazy as I sometimes fear.  Sometimes, I’m more crazy, but not usually. ^_^  This guy, by the way, is going to get murdered when he goes back to America, because he says a lot of things based around the fact that, if you speak fast, slur your speech, or use incredibly formal/informal English, nobody around you actually understands what you’re saying.  And he gets rather vocally frustrated at various things from time to time.  And sometime after returning to America, we just KNOW he’s going to let lose with one of these vocal tirades, and, well, see, in America, most everyone DOES understand English, which is going to get him into trouble.  A lot of trouble.

I present this anecdote not to berate him, because the things he says are often funny beyond belief, but rather as an example of one of the things that Japan does to you. ^_^;;

You see, when in a country where nobody REALLY understands your native language unless you use simple, common words and speak extra-clearly, you sometimes get into bad habits.  You have the liberty of saying things whenever you want, which is refreshing in a culture which limits the things you are allowed to DO, but sometimes a little disturbing when you realize that you’ve been swearing like a sailor in front of a mom and her 5-year-old at a crosswalk, and then a little refreshing again when you realize, Oh, right, they didn’t understand me.

Among some of the stranger things, I have always known dance instructors to be rather touchy-feely about instruction, and necessarily so in order that you can feel where your hips SHOULD be.  But in Japan, well, it’s worse than I could have imagined.  The other day at practice, they decided that everyone needed to stand up straighter, and in order to accomplish this, they deemed it necessary to stab each of the lower-classmen in the ass with their pointer fingers.  Now, I’m well aware of ‘kancho,’ but I’m also aware that this sort of thing is supposed to be limited to elementary and younger middle school students!  Not college seniors! >.<

And then, just to top off the whole, This is f*cking weird theme, at the NEXT practice, they took down one of the senpai, removed his shoes and pants and unbuttoned his shirt (forcefully, I might add) and then tossed him up into an overhead lamp a few times before dropping him back down to the ground.

One of the girls tried to be kind and stick her hand up, as if to touch the lamp, indicating that that was the lamp he was destined to hit.  I dunno, MAYBE she was trying to keep him from hitting it or something, but since girls can’t touch boys in this country (unless you’re dancing with them or teaching them to dance, in which case shoving your fingers up their patootie is totally fine), it’s a little hard to tell which was her true goal.

Seriously, Japan, what the crap?

Something that bugs me a lot here is the idea of “kimeta”, literally, “it’s been decided.”  This is one of the prime reasons for being a jerk-off in Japan.  Well, let me rephrase that.  If anyone is forced to do something stupid or is not allowed to do something intelligent and you ask those in charge “Why?” the answer will more often than not come back, “Kimeta kara.”  “Because it’s been decided.”  There need be no reason other than that.  I gotta say, I pretty much hated (with the firey passion of a thousand suns and all that) the reason “because I said so,” and this whole “kimeta” bullcrap is nothing more than the grown-up version of the same, perhaps with a little “my grand-pappy did it this way, and my father did it this way, and I did it this way, so you’re gonna’ do it this way, too” thrown in.  Y’know, for flavor. ~_^

I used to try to be a “good little gaijin,” when I first came here.  You know, I used to try to learn all of the customs, and to execute them all to the best of my ability, but now that I have been here for somewhat longer, I’ve learned that the Japanese people don’t really notice or care if you try hard to execute things the same way that they do.  In fact, I think it kind of throws them off their A-game to see a foreigner doing things as well as they do.  There’s this ‘sense’ here that Japanese people are “different” or “special” compared to the other nationals of the world, that they’re more naturally… “in tune” to some sense of Japanese… sensibilities.  While I believe this (and have OBSERVED this) not to be the case, you can’t really convince the average-Kenji on the street of this.  And so I have, partially out of increasing laze, partly out of rebellion, and partly because it makes me feel more like I’m filling in my rightful place in this society, I have begun to not care so much about some of the little details.  Things like eating food while walking someplace?  Whatever, I want to do it, I’m in an hurry, and besides, I’m a GAIJIN, so they expect me to do it wrong.  Talking on the train to friends?  Whatever, GAIJIN are always loud and obnoxious.  I think they are less thrown off when I ACT like a foreigner than when I don’t.  I think they prefer to have to struggle themselves and try to speak my VERY hard English for me than to have to endure the shame of my speaking their Japanese to them as fluently as the next guy.

…And sometimes I think I even start to believe that.  Just a little bit.

Oh, Japan, what have you done to me? ^_^;;;

“Sick?”

More unrelated photos.  Yay. [Ed.: Does this count as a "selfie"?]

More unrelated photos. Yay. [Ed.: Does this count as a "selfie"?]

As I write this, I am sick.  It’s just a cold, and I think I’m mostly through it (it’s been on for a few days now and I have been sick enough to generally know what the dying throes* of a cold are like), but I’ve experienced some interesting things that come out through being sick over here.

*Thanks to my anal family members I get to look less like an idiot now!  The word is “throes,” not “throws,” and I should have known that.  I guess when you’re in the dying throes of being sick it’s hard to remember such things.  Thanks!

First of all, there’s the words.  You have a word for “cold” (as in the thing you catch, not as in the temperature), and you have a word for “sick.”  “Sick” is a very strong word.  I heard from one of the other kids over here that they once told their host parents they were “sick” rather than they had caught a “cold,” and they host parents were like, “Well, then we have to get you to the doctor!”  And created a big scene.  In America, you tell someone you’re sick, and they’re like, “Oh that sucks,” because being sick just means you don’t feel well, and it’s due to something beyond normal fatigue or whatever.  In Japan, it seems, “sick” is what justifies missing school/work, etc…

Second, they go to the doctor (actually, everything is just a hospital here, they just have lots of them and they each specialize in different things) for pretty much anything.  They would probably go to the doctor for a cold, and the doctors, I hear, will give you drugs for it.  I’d rather not drop $20 on a bum doctor’s visit and drugs that I don’t actually need, so I’ve just been trying to play the whole thing pretty low-key.

Third, apparently whenever someone gets sick here, they get a fever.  I’m not sure why, but it seems to be assumed.  I used the word for “cold” with my host parents here, and a little while later, when I was up to get some food (being sick doesn’t mean you don’t want to eat, I mean… jeez!) my host father was like, “Has your fever gone down at all?”  And I’m like, “Um… fever?”  I never said anything about a fever.  And besides, how would I know?  Did YOU guys give me a thermometer?  No?  What?

I think that the term may have some kind of usage whereby you talk about things like “feeling” hot… or cold…  But I’m really not sure, and I don’t much care to know if it does.  I’m sick, and I rather like the words that we have in America, where “fever” means your body’s temperature is elevated to generally around or above 100ªF, thanks.  I’d rather not have to play a game of “What do YOU think this means?” right now, because that takes energy, and well…  screw that.

I also had a girl in class ask me if I had a fever, too, the other day ‘cause I was really tired (it was also a morning class, but the cold was starting to get underway) and I’d told her I think I was getting a cold.  Here’s something about my physiology:  I don’t get fevers.  If I did, then I probably SHOULD go see a doctor, because it means I’m about to die.  My body temperature never elevates over about 99.6.  I know.  I remember being a child and trying to convince my mom to let me stay home from school, and I could never QUITE make the cutoff of 100˚F.  It made me very sad, and also pretty miserable just in class during the day.

They also have this weird idea here that if you’re ill, but you feel like getting up, then you’re a) getting better, or b) need to go lie back down.  Sick people shouldn’t do ANYTHING.  Now, what I generally remember from my health class back in high school was something along the lines of, “Even if you’re sick, but you feel like going out for a jog, or playing basketball, or whatever, then you should go ahead and do it.”  Something about getting the blood flowing and making your body work more, which can help it to flush out the affected areas, I think.  Okay, you don’t want to push yourself like WAY too hard (which is kind of what I did yesterday… >.>) but it’s not bad to be active even if you’re sick.  So, Mom, which idea is best, medically speaking?  I’m going to trust the western nurse’s perspective on this, because while Japan has thousands of years of traditions dealing with disease, the west has done the most EMPIRICAL study of disease and its effect on the human body, etc, to help weed out the more unnecessary wives’ tales about dealing with a cold.

Oh, and that’s another thing.  In America, when you have a cold, even your best friends will be like, “That sucks, hope you get better soon,” and then they’ll stay the hell away from you, because they don’t want to catch it.  Here, I’ve found (especially among girls – maybe it means something I’m missing?) that those who are your better friends won’t stay away from you, but will instead keep closer tabs on you, and ask if you’re okay, and work to try and help you feel better.  Not that there’s really a lot you can do, but people don’t seem to be as affected by the fact that you’re sick and they MIGHT CATCH IT from you.  It’s not a universal thing, but one I plan to adopt in the future amongst my friends and family.  If I’m gonna get sick, I’m gonna get sick.  Period.  Why ruin time with someone who’s currently suffering but the time could be enjoyed just because you’re afraid you might get it, too?

AREN’T WE ALL STILL PEOPLE?!?

The answer is “yes.”  ^_^

Except for one guy I know.  He claims not to be a ‘people.’