Thursday, February 24, 2011

Japanese TV: FAIL

Stymied by Sports News on CNN, I finally watched some Japanese news coverage. I endured 20 minutes, during which the death toll, or total number of missing was not mentioned once. The whole time, discussion was only of the missing Japanese. Even Amy noticed, and asked why they only care about the Japanese people! They didn't even mention that there are other people trapped in the same building, probably kids from all over the world in the same language class. You get the impression from Japanese TV that only Japanese students were in that building.

And now I read in the news this morning that the Japanese team being sent over are being set to work at that site - somehow I just don't like that. While it's a practical decision on the one hand, as they'll be able to communicate, and it would be nice for any saved person from Japan to be brought out by someone from their own country, I can't help but think it's going to give the impression to Japanese that no-one cared about the Japanese students, and they had to send their own team over to get them out. Especially with the blanket coverage of missing Japanese, and little if any mention of casualties from New Zealand or other countries.

I'm not attacking real Japanese people here, I've had nothing but concern from every person I've met in the last few days who knows I am from New Zealand. Kanji's had dozens of inquiries and the kids were inundated with questions when they went to school. Everyone asks if MY family and friends are okay.

I think I know what's going on at the TV HQ - this is actually the downside of the Japanese worker's ability to put 110% into everything they do. They've been asked to report on the missing Japanese, and by golly that's what they're going to do! The goal is set, the blinkers are on! This means finding out every minute detail about the missing, their names, families, life histories, the school and organizations that arranged their travel. And if it means skipping reports on the actual event, the lives and experiences of non-Japanese humans caught up in this tragedy in exchange for televising blurry, intrusive shots of a relative's hand clutching a passport application, so be it. No-one questions the focus on only Japanese, as this is the 'way it's done'. Another Emperor's New Clothes moment in Japan!

But it has a trickle-down effect too - a Japanese friend just posted on facebook about how awful a tragedy it was, 27 Japanese people missing. Yes, I saw red and commented, but I think I kept it civil, just a reminder that dozens of others from other countries, including New Zealanders of course, were hurt and killed too, not to mention out of house and home, lost all their belongings, their sense of security, and seen their beautiful home city reduced to rubble.

Christchurch Destroyed by Earthquake

That phrase keeps going through my head, as though if I say it enough times it'll finally make sense to me. I don't know if it ever will. Driving around yesterday, I couldn't help but think of it as I saw the diggers at construction sites in my neighborhood. Even eating a licorice allsort which got a bit squashed in the post, I was reminded of the compacted floors of the the PG building.

Destroyed? I keep seeing the pictures and video and can't believe it. They will re-build though!

Christchurch? Even after the last one, that's what people were asking. Everyone expected it to be Wellington. It seems so illogical now to think that, after all, the whole country is prone to earthquakes, and some of the biggest have been in the South Island. Why were we so concerned about Wellington? Probably because of the the 8.2 earthquake in the Wairarapa in 1855 that helped along the process of land reclamation at Wellington Harbor, and turned Basin lake into a cricket ground. Then there was a 7.2 quake there in 1942, and these quakes plus concern about the hilly terrain and risk of landslides made people focus on the scale of destruction that seemed due if 'the big one' hit Wellington.

But the South Island has had its share of big ones too, including the 7.8 Fiordland quake in 2009, and several on the West Coast including a 7.0 in 1968 (Inangahua) and the Murchison quake of 1929 (7.8). Biggies in the North Island include Gisborne in 2007 (6.8), Edgecumbe in 1987 (6.3) and of course, our greatest natural disaster to date, the Napier earthquake of 1931 (7.9) with a death toll of 256.

You'll note ALL of these are larger than Tuesday's quake in Christchurch. We can blame the depth, the distance (very close to the CBD) and the type of soil, and also Tuesday's quake was just the biggest in a long series of after-shocks from last September's 7.1 quake in Christchurch, and a lot of the building collapses can be put down to weakening from that quake, and all the others that followed. I was so proud of us, as a country, with the zero death toll from that huge quake, of our earthquake-proofing, and disaster response. It's such a blow to realize that we are indeed vulnerable as well; Mother Nature won.

Today will be a tough day, I think, as the death toll mounts, and as names are released, and faces and histories become known.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


It's difficult to post about anything in my mundane life without first acknowledging the awful events going on in NZ with the big earthquake that hit Christchurch yesterday. In fact, I can't much think of anything else, and I'm glad I have a light work week. From CNN to the computers, live news streaming on one, web updates on another, and tracking down friends on facebook, it's all I've been thinking about.

I'm sure I don't have to provide a report, it's all there, google it. TV One and TV Three in NZ, the website and you can trawl through the reams of trivial updates on twitter if that's your thing.

I've avoided the Japanese news because I know I'll want to throw something at the screen if they go on and on about the Japanese people there, as if no-one else mattered. I know it's not just Japan who does this - it first bugged me when I lived in New Zealand, really started to annoy me when I lived in Australia, as it seemed so much worse then (probably mainly because I am not Australian). I remember being incensed at how they kept going on about finding updates about the ONE Australian who died in Kobe, and ignoring the other 4999 Japanese and others who died. It's not as if Australians ONLY know other Australians. Or Japanese ONLY know, or care about, other Japanese. So I just don't want to go there, I'll stick to international sources that acknowledge that it's no longer a simple case of people only knowing, or caring about, people from their own country.

So, stuck to the TV yesterday, and felt teary a few times, and sickened by the horrific war-zone-like devastation, even though I've never even been to Christchurch.

With the glass repairman coming to fix the glass. Yes, I chose yesterday to get that corner of the kitchen cleaned up so he could come and fix the cracked panes on the kitchen doors, and had started that job when I turned off the computer and turned on CNN for some 'background noise' while I cleaned, as my little side-kick Erica was away at kindy for the day. Seemed a little surreal somehow getting my glass fixed, and the hours before he returned with my doors with the cool winter air rushing into the kitchen.

Still have my fingers crossed for people trapped, and watching vigilantly to see some saved. I've seen this before, but it seems so much more real, when I can imagine the people, the places; imagine it happening in places and to people I know. Good luck Christchurch!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Grrrr.... computers!

If I had just sat down and written the test myself, I would have finished hours ago. But I decided it would be easier to use the fancy 'test generator' on the special CD I got with the Teacher's Text.

I have four computers, none of which is perfect, which is why I still have them all. Just in case.

Computer No. 1: No go. My main machine, dual language system, internet home. The CD drive won't even open.

Computer No. 2: The AFWJ Journal Editor computer. Nope. Wrong system - it's a Mac, and the CD only works with Windows. Grrr. Who makes software for just Windows anymore! Madness!

Computer No. 3: The old one. I keep it around because I still haven't got around to getting everything off it that I want, and besides, Amy often uses it to practice drawing or writing. It crashes a lot. I managed to get it out of DOS and get Windows running this time by pressing F1 and F2 at the same time. I got the CD loaded, selected the test I want, saved it to the desktop then went to print.


Neither of my current printers are installed. I can't connect to the internet because this computer is a free copy of Windows that I 'borrowed' off a friend when I was desperate for an English OS, and just before I disconnected it I was getting suspicious messages from Microsoft asking me to verify my Windows, so I am afraid that if I connect again, it'll crash for good. So I hunted high and low for a installation CD, and voila! I actually found one. But no, even with the CD it looks like you have to connect to the internet anyway. 'looks like' I say, because with the OS in English and the CD in Japanese, all I got was window after window full of questions marks.

Took a break and went to work to rest after that fail.

Compter No. 4: the clunky old laptop, which I got the English OS to replace, as I felt it was on the verge of meltdown. Computing tip: if you ever feel your computer is going to crash for good some time soon, simply fork out some cash for a replacement - it practically guarantees the dinosaur will stay alive forever. The dinosaur is incredibly, phenomenally slow-moving. You have to go away, make a cup of tea, and read a magazine (cover to cover) after clicking anything while it thinks about what to do next. So it took me the better part of the afternoon, in-between fiddling with photos on another computer and checking email on a third, before I managed to actually install the printer. Then I slipped in the Text CD and wow! Success! I got the test and saved it. I have now pressed the 'print' button and am patiently waiting for the computer to realize it has a job to do and send the info to the printer. Which may be some time in the middle of next week.

2/22 Edited to add: It did not take quite until the middle of next week - it finally printed Saturday afternoon

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Van Gogh

Here we are at the Van Gogh exhibition last weekend. I didn't know about it until a friend commented on facebook that she'd been - I always tell myself I'm going to check the museum schedules, then I never get around to it! It was a public holiday and therefore VERY crowded! The sign said the wait was 120 min., but since I'd already driven two hours, I wasn't going to give up! It ended up being a much more manageable one hour, and we spend most of that time literally moving up the line, so we felt busy. Even inside the exhibition, crowds in front of the pictures were 3-4 people deep, jammed together slowly inching past, with museum staff holding up signs and occasionally calling out to people to keep moving slowly, keep moving. We were in there for about an hour, then made our escape, and the line was just as long when we exited! Following is a collage of queues and cute kids:

Lessons learned: 1) don't go anywhere on a public holiday
2) It really was a good idea to bring an obento! We ate in the car after finally finding a carpark - after queueing in traffic for half an hour, we were barred from entering the museum grounds, and had to drive round to find a park around Dazaifu shrine. Luckily it's a really popular shrine, so there are lots of paid parking areas around it. We stopped, had lunch in the car, and were ready for the next marathon - queueing!
Amy learned: you have to draw something over and over again to get good at it. The sketches impressed her more than the paintings
Lena learned: nothing. I asked her the next day what she remembered, and she couldn't think of anything. (just now she looked over my shoulder, saw the picture, and said "goho!" (Japanese pronunciation), so I guess she picked something up after all.
Erica learned: "pictures!" "flowers!"

Highlights: The Bedroom at Arles:

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Echoism is a project by artist Julian Wolkenstein.

He sums it up pretty nicely on his website:

"There is a myth, some say a science, suggesting people who have more symmetrical faces are considered more "attractive"...

"Echoism" plays with the notion of your own identity. What do you look like? What are the things that make you look like you - your identifying features? If you are made symmetrical, do you consider yourself more beautiful, less so, or is it just weird? Or is it you at all? Do you have a best side? What is to be said of left and right brain dominance?"

Hmm indeed! We figured out that:

Kanji's right side is older than his left side, but more manly too I think

My right side is much bigger! So THAT'S why I always part my hair on the left...

Amy is more heart-shaped on her left side, but I also messed this one up a bit, as you can see by the double hair part - so her nose is wider than it should be.

Lena is more heart-shaped on her right side, and I messed up her nose too! She does a great terrified look!

Erica is just plain hilarious!

Friday, February 04, 2011

Lost and Found

Welcome home pearls!

Here's the gorgeous bracelet Mum made me and gave me for Christmas. My sisters got matching bracelets with different coloured stones, but all with the natural fresh-water pearls. It's beautiful, so I was of course THRILLED when it came back to me after getting lost recently. I wore it out to dinner at a restaurant nearby, but when we called them, they said they didn't have it. I also called the taxi company and reported it to the police in case someone picked it up on the street. I was just telling Kanji that yesterday morning when he suddenly remembered that the restaurant had called him, as they had found it! (There was something else really important that he had to tell, but he couldn't remember that one, and I still don't know!)

The same bracelet, showing the fateful catch at the bottom left - it's a magnet, which makes it SO easy to get on... but very, very easy to fall off. I won't be wearing it again until I get Mum to put a safety chain or a new catch on it. On Christmas Day, we were debating who would be the first to lose theirs... now have that dubious honour. Mum told us not to wear it to the supermarket, as the magnets stick to the trolley, but mine just fell off when I removed my jacket. DON'T WEAR YOUR BRACELET SISTERS!

This all got me thinking about things I've lost, and found again, and things that have remained lost. As time passes and you give up on the item, you think you'll get over it and forget about it, after all, it's only an object, right? But I've found I don't forget, and I still recall several things I've lost over the years, including where and how!

Signet Ring No.1: I was about 13-14, stupidly shaking my hand, and it flew off, into the gutter outside Forsbergs' house on Glover Rd. We searched, but couldn't find it.

Signet Ring No.2: on a plane to Japan. I think it must have slipped off my finger and rolled backwards away from me under the seats, or else it fell in the toilet (ouch!). The cabin crew very kindly helped me search the plane after everyone had left, but the ring was gone by then.

Engagement Ring No.2: A sapphire and diamond ring that looked just like Lady Di's. Last I saw it was on the cabinet above the TV, back in 2001 or something. Most likely explanation is that it got swept up with rubbish and thrown away, though I am still hoping that one day, when we finally get the tatami mats changed, it'll just pop out at me.

Green G-shock watch: the first birthday present Kanji got me, and I LOVED it. So why don't I know where it is?

All of Kanji's long-sleeved tops: left in a drawer in a London hotel.

My camera!! Left/stolen in a toilet in Hong Kong Disneyland. I was so annoyed because I was back at the toilets not ten minutes after leaving it there, but by then it had gone. I often wonder how the person justifies keeping that sort of thing - congratulating themselves on their luck? Berating me for my stupidity - "serves her right"? Did they not feel even the slightest twinge of guilt when they saw my photos? Or did they know they would and threw away my memory card before even turning it on? Or did they just sell it, leaving some unsuspecting buyer in possession of some VERY cute Disneyland shots? They could at least have handed in the memory card...

There are also things that came back:

LV wallet, genuine, blue leather, no logo : Kanji bought me this after Amy was born. I lost it, or rather it was stolen out of my handbag while I played with Amy at a baby playpen in a mall. It was found, gutted of all content, and grubby from the elements, about six months later in some bushes, and returned to the police, where I had earlier registered the theft. I still think this is a pretty amazing return story!

LV wallet, fake, white leather with logo: bought for me by Kanji on a club trip to Korea. Suspect it's not the genuine article. Lost in New Zealand, and a policeman brought it to my door! I had left it in a dairy, so they had obviously taken it to the police station. He said he was on his way home and brought it... it was around the time of my Dad's funeral, and a friend of the family worked out of the police station with Victim Support, so I wonder if it wasn't her idea.

Phone chargers: left in the Disneyland Hollywood Hotel in Hong Kong. I called from New Zealand a week later, found out they had it, and they took my name and room number and assigned the cords an ID number. They said they would only send it to a HK address, so I had to go back there on our way back to Japan. Luckily we had an 18-hour layover and nothing much else to do, so after breakfast, and before hitting the hotel pool, we took a leisurely taxi ride over to Disneyland and picked them up!

I'm not the only one who leaves her phone chargers at the hotel, it seems:

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Bed, Back and my Big To-Do List

This being the bed. It's lovely, isn't it? It's been some time in the making. I first saw it on Ezibuy a year and a half ago. At the time, it was winter in NZ, but summer in Japan, so I didn't need it yet, and thought I could wait until it went on sale at the end of the season, just in time for Japanese winter. But when that time came, it had sold out. By then, I really wanted it! I actually searched the world looking for another set with just the right jewel tone of burgundy, and in cotton, and not too expensive; I found a lot of wonderful things, but nothing that ticked all those boxes. So when it returned last NZ winter/Japanese summer, I quickly snapped it up, and had it sent to my mother's, as they don't send interior goods overseas. And there it waited until Christmas, when I got Kanji to bring it back in his luggage. That was a month ago - I spent last month spending every spare minute on the Journal, and didn't have time to make this bed. Plus it was too cold! I've been sleeping in the other, heated room!

My back: ouch! Not sure what I did, it hurts by the right shoulder blade when I look over the left shoulder (ie, backing the car!). I did this the first time when I was pregnant with Lena, bloody loose ligaments. And once again a year or two ago. It'll go away soon.

This morning at work, a co-worker was asking me what I was planning to do with the rest of my day after I finished work, so I checked and counted and told him I had 22 things on my to-do list! I forged ahead and got numbers 23 - 26 done. Yep, I found more stuff that needed doing in the few minutes between talking to him and heading home! 23 being shopping for dinner, 24 was laundry, 25 was tidying the bedroom and making up the above bed, and 26 - cleaning honey off my stuff. Another packaging failure, this time, a plastic carton of clover honey spilled all through my box, luckily not on the books, mostly on the other foodstuffs. I cleaned some things, re-packaged others, wrapped some in glad-wrap. I don't know if it was customs opening it or if it just sprung open itself, but honey from now on will be added to the list of things that MUST be taped shut, wrapped in glad-wrap and sealed in a ziplock bag before packing!