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I threw my back out last week and I've been
hobbling around the house like an octogenarian
with a pickle up his ass ever since. For
a few days there I couldn't even put my own
socks on. I'm starting to get a bit better
now, but the whole incapacitation thing got
me to thinking.
The funny thing about it, to me at least,
is that my back problems coincided with the
great North American blackout of 2003. What
do the two have in common? They both illustrate
how utterly dependant we are on such simple
things that we take for granted: One being
a constant electricity supply, the other
being a young man's obedient body.
It's sadly comic that one of the most widely
made comments regarding this blackout was
that there weren't any riots or looting.
I guess everyone was expecting them. I was
anyway. Maybe we're making progress as a
society. That's my positive spin on it in
these negative times.
But it all makes you think just how close
to the edge we really live. How if there
was some kind of major, major catastrophe,
that society as we know it would unravel
at the seams. We go through life thinking
that we're so invulnerable, and that the
condition of the world is essentially static,
but of course neither is true.
I remember one time when I was a kid in Ontario
and the power went out in the middle of winter.
It was night time, bitterly cold outside,
and we were all walking around the house
with these enormous comforters (fluffy blankets)
draped over us. For some reason there was
no heat. I remember trying to make a cup
of cocoa from the last of the hot water in
the pipes from the kitchen sink. How pathetic
Well, I guess there's not much that we can
do about our dependance and the electrical
grid. But I think that it's about time for
me to do something about my incredibly sedentary
lifestyle and try to get back into decent
shape. This whole 'slave-to-back-flexibility'
thing is really a suckers game.
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We saw a sweet thing the other night on the
way home from the hanabi (fireworks) party. We were on the Yamanote
train and there was this young guy who was
so drunk that he had fallen off his seat
and was sleeping in the aisle, all curled
up in the fetal position.
Two young girls dressed in summer kimonos
standing nearby, on their way home from their
own hanabi party, felt bad for the young guy, so they
woke him up and helped him back into his
seat. He staggered off the train at the next
stop, I'm not sure if he had the presence
of mind to thank them or not.
It seems like a lame ass little story on
the surface, but it's something that I've
never seen before in a big city, and at the
time it struck me as very poignant.
Usually, people are afraid of drunks,
this young guy wasn't really in any
It would have been easy enough to leave
there until one of the conductors found
and got him off the train (which is
usually happens). The fact that it
girls who helped him kind of made it
much more sweet. You'd think that a
of young girls would be more afraid
Anyway, just a little pleasant anecdote to
get you through your day.
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Yesterday we went to a hanabi (fireworks viewing) party at Toshi and Denise's,
a couple of old colleagues of mine. They
have an apartment in Odaiba, the location
of Tokyo Big Site, a convention centre and
amusement park area. It seems a bit odd to
live there because it's not really a residential
area, but it's a great location nonetheless,
and you can't beat it for the annual Odaiba
All throughout the summer, pretty much every
weekend, there are fireworks shows going
on somewhere in Tokyo. They usually put on
a great show -- dynamic and creative. They
seem to take their fireworks seriously here.
They're popular events, people often wear
traditional summer kimono for the viewing,
and you see a lot of young couples going
As expected, last night's show was mind blowing.
Some of the bursts were so huge that they
seemed to tower over the entire city, turning
the buildings all hot cherry red and jack-o-lantern
orange. Somehow they were able to make shapes
and figures out of the fireworks. There were
stars and swirls, happy faces with different
colours for the eyes, mouth, and circle,
and even Saturn with its rings.
We were watching from the external hallway
of the apartment building, right up above
the beach shown in today's pictures. There
was a huge crowd on the beach. One interesting
thing that Karen pointed out was that there
were hundreds of little blue lights scattered
throughout the crowd. It took us a minute
to realize that they were the LCD screens
from digital cameras and mobile phone cameras.
I guess you could say that these devices
are ubiquitous these days.
So, if you're ever in Tokyo in the summer,
try to keep one weekend free for a hanabi party.
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About twenty years ago when I was a kid going
to Catholic school in Mississauga, Ontario,
I had an Italian friend by the name a Patty
Barbiaro. I remember that Patty once told
me a story that at the time I thought was
Patty's grandmother was visiting from Italy.
Being an older woman, and not well traveled,
I guess that she couldn't speak English very
well. One morning while the family was eating
breakfast the grandmother came running out
of the bathroom spitting and cursing, frantically
fanning off her stuck-out tongue. She had
just brushed her teeth with hair cream thinking
that it was toothpaste. She couldn't read
For ten-year-old Mike that story was
height of humour. What a stupid old
I thought to myself with a chuckle.
she tell the difference between toothpaste
and hair cream?
So here I am now, twenty years later and
living in Tokyo, Japan. Karen and Jack, my
wife and son, are vacationing in Canada,
and I find that it's come time to do some
laundry. Karen usually does this, but I figured
that I could handle it. So, away I went.
I sorted the colours from the whites, filled
the washer with water, added the liquid soap,
and after about twenty minutes the first
load was done. 'That was piece of cake',
I thought to myself.
While I was hanging the laundry to dry I
noticed something strange. My t-shirts still
stank of body odour, but now with a hint
of flowery smelling chemical. I couldn't
figure it out. I had put in a ton of soap.
And then it hit me: Was it really soap? I
think that I washed two loads of laundry
in fabric softener instead of detergent because
I couldn't read the label. I felt like such
Adult illiteracy is a trying thing, especially
being an educated person. Just one of the
pitfalls of living abroad I suppose.
Anyway, I hope that Patty's grandmother somehow
managed to get a kick out of my misfortune
In other news, Karen and Jack got back
Yay! Not much to report about that
both went to bed really early, jet