Sunday, 31 August 2003

ahoy there, me hearties!

This has to be one of the best ideas to come out of America in years. September 19th this year is world Talk Like a Pirate Day. No really!

Check out the new link at the top right of the screen for all the details, then mark the day in your diary and tell everyone you know about it. Even Hollywood is getting in on the action with the Pirates of the Caribbean flick proving jolly popular this summer. I mean, what could be better than spending a whole day shivering timbers and splicing mainsails? Not much I reckon.


Got a strange email from a lady by the name of Diane Atkinson last week. The general gist was 'thanks for signing up for the course, sseeing as it has now been five months, when are you going to choose what to study and then get going?'. And there was me thinking I had already started...Seems that a piece of paper stipulating which order I want to do the modules in didn't get through to Diane, the mba academic co-ordinator. So she thinks I haven't started yet. Also, they apparently were meant to send me a whole bunch of books when you start each module, but they don't tell you. So there was me, happily buying books from Amazon (and believe me, academic texts are not cheap) and getting down to study whilst the office sat there and wondered when I was going to start...for five months! If it was five weeks I could understand it, but to wait that long, thinking 'wow, this guy has just spent all this money and he's not doing anything, ain't that weird? Well, better let him get on with doing nothing I guess...' And all the while I'm in contact with my tutor, talking about courses and texts and assignments and the like. I makes me wonder. It also makes me wonder about my tutor, who had this document stating the order of the course but didn't pass it onto the academic office. It's enough to make you tear your hair out. Anyway, I am still looking at an end of September submission for my first piece, but they amy not not be expecting it until February. Doh!

And here's a weird thing that I've just remembered but is great. If you remember, back on August 3rd I was holding forth on the old Japanese calender vis-a-vis the western one, with its special days like eel day and the beginning of autumn being August 8th. Anyway, not only do the Japanese use this calender, but, like most things in Japan, why have one when three or four will do? So they also use the Chinese year system when evey year has an animal with it - 1972 year of the rat, that sort of thing. Now, the Japanese are a deeply superstitious people and this manifested itself marvellously in 1966. I was reading an article about the population decline in japan and looking at some of those population/demographic graphs that look like bells (maybe it is a bell graph, who knows? statistics are not my forte, as well you know) and there was a huge blip in 1966 when the birth rate dropped prodigously. 1965 and 1967 were fine, but '66 was a shocker, the reason being that it was year of the horse. "What's wrong with that?" was the question. Well, apparently, female babies born in the year of the horse are guaranteed to grow up as fiery and headstrong and will, and I am not making this up (but someone might be), go mad and murder their husbands. Again, no really.

So the birth rate dropped as couples avoided getting pregnant from early 1965 to mid 1966 to make sure they didn't give birth in that year. Weird. Women born in that year will now be 36, so the time is right for them all to start going off their rockers and chopping up their spouses. I can't wait to see the news reports for the next few years - will it become a defence in court? "Well, it wasn't my fault, blame my parents, they gave birth to me in 1966...". As with most things to do with children in Japan, this terrible fate only happened to girls, boys born in this year are fine, apparently, as boys in Japan can do no wrong (well apart from sexually abusing 4 year olds and then throwing them off the 7th floor of a multistory, but let's not go there).

And oddly enough , it only seem that 1966 was affected by this curse of going mad and killing your husband, subsequent years of the horse, though not really trusted, are much more acceptable in which to give birth, it seems. This was something to do with a third calender being in some sort of dodgy conjunction - being year of the horse you get the headstrong and willful thing (very un-Japanese for a lady) and also a Hinoe year, which is the fiery/husband mudering bit. Add them all together and you get a massive drop in birth. Odd that.

Wednesday, 27 August 2003

just checking in

haven't written anything for a while, so just thought i'd drop everyone a line to say we are still alive over here. it has been a slow couple of weeks for news stories that i can comment on, but a rapid few weeks in terms of work to do and assignments to worry about.

minako's birthday was yesterday, so i'm sure evryone will join me in wishing her a jolly happy day and all that. naturally i was meant to finish work early and meet up so we could do romantic things like go to a concert, but of course i didn't get out until an hour and a half after i was meant to finish and missed everything, oops, but it wasn't really my fault, honest. so anyway we are off to dinner on saturday evening in ebisu, which should be most pleasant.

summer has almost gone, which is good because it means the fantasy football season has stated all over again. check out the CoB website link for all the latest happeneings, but suffice it to say Arakawa Athletic, proudly sponsored by this very blog, is in pole position after the first couple of weeks - long may it continue.

and that is it, except to say all the croiander is dead, last time i try and grow that nonsense herb, but the basil is marvellous and is being regularly consumed by yours truly, the lavender looks quite pukka and the rosemary is still alive. i have also planted a peach tree seed, and this must grow and thrive, mainly because minako has said it won't...

Friday, 15 August 2003

Oh Please...

As if anyone had any doubts left about the recent war in Iraq and motives of Bush and Blair, the newest search and destroy Saddam Hussein mission is code named Operation Ivy Lightning...

So next time Bush is asked if O.I.L is the motivation for being in Iraq, well, yes, he can say, and maybe even keep a straight face as he does it.

Go have a look at
  • ABCNews
  • for the news story.
    the working week

    This week has been a holiday for me. Yes, the office has been closed - well, closed as far as I'm concerned - and I have been able to sit at home...and study. All week, no respite. At it hammer and tongs with Tony bush, Jacky Lumby and Keith Foreman, household names none and all. They do, however, write textbooks on educational management which are mostly dry but sometimes quite interesting. The deadline for this assignmant is getting closer and closer but, after a week of study and numerous emails to my tutor, who is now back after a month swanning around on a real holiday, I think I am a little closer to a title. The rest is easy...

    Except I made the profound and sadly irreversible mistake on Wednesday afternoon of reading a chapter in my Research Methods text about 'analysing quantitative data'. Quantitative data, for those not in the know, is stuff you can count, hence the root 'quantity', as opposed to qualitative data, which is stuff you can't count and therefore have to think about. Anyway, I thought that, at age 16, I had left equations and numbers-with-letters-added-as-well behind in Calthorpe Park, never to return again. Oh boy was I wrong - I've just discovered that things called 'statistics' exist (in a real, 'I've to confront them' sort of sense, I've always known about statistics in the useful 'statistically speaking, BMW owners wash their cars more than other car owners' sort of sense) and that they are quite important for doing things like proving your research is accurate, or even that it is research at all, rather than some jolly ideas you've been having.

    What made the really wry smile (soon followed by much swearing) was that this was classed as 'an introduction' to the 'basics of statistics'. Oh yes, that's right, the basics...Actually, they probably are just the basics and I am in for an extravagantly shit time. I could follow the calculations for their Chi-square, but I didn't really see how that then proved whatever it was they were trying to prove. It says something like 'the calculated figure 4.68 passes the significant critical mass of nuclear reactor number 1, proving that the number of children observed reading books wasn't down to chance and/or community chest unless they have 2 degrees of freedom in 1% of insignificant research' - or something like that. I intimated something like this to my tutor, perhaps without so much detail, and she suggested that maybe a reliance on qualitative data could well be more suited to my research focus. Thank f**k.

    Moving on, it has been suggested by one of the regular readership of this nonsense that there has been little in the way of information regarding the good lady wife, and had I, not to put too fine a point on it, murdered her and buried her under the patio? Well rest assured this is not so as we live on the 7th floor and the patio would in effect be the balcony and even I realise that if I dumped a body on the downstairs balcony, people would talk. So I threw her in the river instead...

    Not at all, true, Minako is alive and well and currently sleeping on the sofa about 2 metres to my left. Poor thing is tired and shagged out after accompianing me to the doctor's today for my obligatory annual medical (clean bill of health, except their instruments were faulty as they seemed to indicate my body fat percentage was slightly above normal, how odd...). As a lady of leisure she doesn't have to move around too much, so an unscheduled trip to the docs can be very tiring, I suspect. Other than that, not much to report - you see, this is why there hasn't been much mention of her as there isn't a lot to mention - anyway, I will keep everyone posted with events if and when they arise.

    Lastly, it is raining here again. Typhoon number 10 last weekend meant it was raining for the whole weekend and whilst sunday, monday and tuesday were quite pleasant, it has been raining since wednesday afternoon and will continue until sunday apparently. Still, better weather in which to attempt to study statistics I guess, statistically speaking.

    Wednesday, 6 August 2003

    back to the plants

    What am I doing to this poor coriander? Now the Percy Thrower stuff is dying as well! It's getting plenty of sunshine, plenty of shade, plenty of water and plenty of loving care and attention with a good regular talking to - and what do I get in return? Well... not a lot really is the only way to answer that one.

    And some little bugs are eating half of my basil! The stuff that I transplanted to the big pot and that we ate some of recently has been attacked by some voracious little bugger that is eating all the new growth. This, coupled with my gardening assistant's patent lack of ability in the please-go-to-the-garden-shop-and-buy-some-bug-killer stakes, is making life decidedly risked for the herbacious [spelt wrongly I suspect] borders of my balcony.

    At least the lavender and olive tree are doing well. I am still undecided about the rosemary. It isn't dead, but it doesn't seem to be doing an awful lot. Then again, it looks healthy in itself, perhaps it is just biding its time.

    Other than that I'm just really panicking about my MBA...

    Sunday, 3 August 2003

    ...summer's here and the time is riiiight, for sweating in the streeet....

    It is hot today. In fact it has been hot and really quite sunny for the past couple of days now. Yeah! The rainy season is over, with its dull, monotonous grey skies and unpleasant humid rain. Now summer is here we can sit around and complain about how hot it is - makes a change from complaining about wet it is. Anyway, I personally think it is a great improvement.

    According to the paper today, the 'Official' end to the rainy season for Tokyo was announced by the Met office on Saturday 2nd August. This was 13 days later than last year and only the third time since records began that the rainy season lasted into August (though not hard as official announcements date from the 1950s). The rainy season this year lasted for 54 days, which by anyone's reckoning is pretty long. So now it is 31 degrees, sunny with 47% humidity (which is quite low really).

    Another thing the article said in the paper, was that there is an internal rule at the Met offoce which states that the end of the rainy season must be announced before the official start of Autumn. All well and good, I hear you say. Well yes, except the official start of Autumn is August 8th...

    I find this strange as the 30+degree days will last well into September and Autumn - red leaves, crisp mornings etc - is a wish away in Novemeber at least. So what is going on? Well, it is all to do with the old Japanese calender.

    Japan adopted the Gregorian Calender, like the rest of the world. But I don't think they really trust it and so kind of acknowledge its existence to the rest of the world, play along with it, but really follow the old Japanese one because, well, it is more Japanese for a start. So you get all these weird things like the start of Autumn is August 8th, palpably not Autumn in the slightest. Then you get special food days. July 27th was Eel day, and all the supermarkets had huge displays of Eel for sale - and the even better thing was that far from pushing up the price on this one day to take advantage, the Eel everywhere was really really cheap. A loss leader, maybe, but good news all the same. This kind of thing also accounts for the 'auspicious' days on which to get married - and conversely there are really bad days to get married as well. Apparently this all comes from the days when Japan was a much more agrarian place and the year was shaped by the seasons (don't even bother trying to tell a Japanese farmer this is the same all over the world - they will not believe you) and therefore the day autumn started was important for rice growing, or eel catching, or perhaps something else. As a result all Japanese have grown up using this calander and not really bothering with the western one. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out that the Gregorian calender was foisted upon the Japanese by the Americans after their defeat in WW2 and the top brass said something along the lines of "yeah, yeah, a calender, fine, whatever" whilst the average chap in what was left of the street said, "okay, will it tell me when Eel Day is? No, well I don't really think I'll be using it too much then. I have to!? Yeah, yeah, fine, whatever".

    Unfortunately the newspapaer article did not say what would happen if the rainy season didn't end before August 8th. Would they declare it over even if it wasn't? Wouldn't this confuse a lot of farmers? Who knows?

    Anyway, I'm off to check my Japanese diary as I have a strong suspicion that Sunday 3rd August may well be beer and yakitori day...