Saturday, August 05, 2006

Problems and Solutions

Problems and Solutions

2006 August 6 Sunday

At work, at Waniguchi Gakko, I solved a translation problem for a student who is a professional translator. Her task was to translate an English-language romance novel into Japanese. (There is, it seems, quite a market for such translations.)

Her problem was how to transliterate the heroine's name into Japanese. It was "Kat," a short form of something like "Katrina." Should it be transliterated as "cat" or "cut?" Without hesitation, I advised in favor of "cat."

On the personal level, I had to confront, this week, the problem of how to find my wife and child at the circus. The circus was scheduled for Friday afternoon in a big stadium at Kannai, just down the line from Yokohama Station. I would have to find my way to the stadium and then, because I would be arriving late, somehow locate wife and child.

This problem vaporized when I realized that we had numbered seats.

Thursday, Cornucopia watched one of her Miffy videos, one showing a trip to the circus, and we were able to tell her that, on the following day, she would go to a circus for real.

My wife asked me if I had ever been to a circus, and I reminded her, that, yes, I had, because we went together, some years back, to the Bolshoi circus when it came to Tokyo. We went out to a station on the Yurikamone line and saw the circus there.

That was a long, long time ago, sometime way back in history, back in the years BC. Maybe the year 5 BC, Before Cornucopia.

Friday, I faced the problem of getting to the circus without arriving impossibly late. I scampered out of Waniguchi Gakko just after 1310 and was on the 1314 train out of Waniguchi Station. Shortly before 1400 I arrived at Kannai.

At Kannai I had the problem of getting down the steps to the gents' toilet, badly lit steps lit as if they were part of a sewer system rather than a public toilet. I lost my footing and fell, but, fortunately, recovered my balance before I slammed face first into the concrete.

I don't know what it is but every time I try to get down those stairs at Kannai I always slip and fall.

My excuse is that I've only ever been to Kannai the one time in my life. Still. Is that excuse sufficient? After all, I have made that same dumb mistake every time I've gone down those steps.

Once having exited Kannai station I promptly got lost. Every time I go to Kannai I get lost. Once again, I've only been to Kannai on the one single occasion. Even so, is brain damage really an excuse for getting lost EVERY time with such monotonous regularity?

I bounced off various people, showing my map, which I'd photocopied from the street atlas, blowing it up to A3 size, and asking my way to the Bunka Taikukan. I arrived at the stadium just a few minutes after the circus got underway and presented my ticket.

"Daitai mienai mono desu," I said. "Me wa waruku narimashita."

Which communicates, in Japanese which is probably a bit broken, the meaning "I'm someone who mostly can't see. My eyes are trashed."

This was understood, and a friendly guy escorted me into the dark of the cavernous interior, where I was pretty much totally blind. He had no idea how to guide a blind person and my efforts to get him to let me take his arm were only momentarily successful, so we ended up walking through the darkness hand in hand.

He went through three different doorways into the dark before he finally found the right one, and at last I heard my wife calling my name, and there I was, safe with wife and daughter.

Once my eyes had adjusted to the gloom I could see the interior. The sign over the stage said BOLSHOI CIRCUS, and featured the flags of Japan and Russia. Every time I go to a circus it's the Bolshoi. That said, to the best of my recollection, I've only been to the circus two times in my life.

The two-hour circus show rather exceeded daughter Cornucopia's stamina and concentration span, but she did enjoy the bear.

My wife was a bit disappointed. She remembered the Bolshoi as having had motorbikes and tigers on the previous occasion, although I, for my part, had no recollection of tigers or motorbikes.

What I did remember from my first Bolshoi was the climactic finish of the trapeze act, in which a guy took a plunge, head first, right down to the net. I wondered if they would do the same thing again this time, and they did.

I also remembered that some of the dogs at my first Bolshoi were small and not properly trained, and were being chastised by trainers during the act, kept going in the right direction by what I recall as sticks. This dogs this time were bigger, sheared into topiary shapes as if they were poodles, but they were huge, really big dogs, not my idea of a poodle at all, so presumably they were some other kind of breed.

After the circus we went out to dine. Every time we have taken Cornucopia to a restaurant, her behavior has been within the limits of the acceptable. That said, it must be admitted that we have only ever taken her to a restaurant once before.

On this second occasion, her behavior was impeccable, for the simple reason that she was asleep before we got in through the door and remained so throughout the meal. My wife bought Cornucopia some food from the supermarket while I went on ahead to open up the house and let the hot air of the Japanese summer circulate out of the rooms.

So my navigational problems, my problems of getting to Kannai, finding the stadium and making contact with wife and child, got sorted out.

On an entirely different note, another problem I tried to tackle recently was the business of finding free mp3s online. I had though, wrongly, that I could force Google search to throw up pages which included a link to an actual mp3 file. But this proved not to be the case.

Whether you search for "mp3" or ".mp3" you get the same result, so asking for ".mp3" is a waste of time, since you will not find your way to an actual mp3 file.

Either search throws up "about" 762,000,000 results, and the first few that I tried all seemed to be duplicates of exactly the same mp3 site from hell, masquerading under different names.

These sites advertized access to free mp3s but, instead, delivered a flurry of pop-up ads offering, for example, the opportunity to install a casino on your computer. I had not set my browser to deny pop-ups but usually never encounter them, because I do not, as a rule, cruise the murkier areas of the Internet.

I was, initially, defeated by the problem of sifting through well over seven hundred million sites to look for one which really had free mp3s. I went to Winamp's site and soon found out how to download free skins, great if I'd wanted to do that. They had an ad for something called AOL Music, so I found that online, but it seemed to be a site that had mp3s that you had to pay for.

Or maybe I have this wrong. If memory serves, there seemed to be a page where you could sign up and get 30 days free access to the AOL music collection, but, when I clicked on the link, the page that came up was blank, another unsolved mystery of the Internet.

Then I remembered that, earlier, while looking for mp3s online, I had seen something for free mp3 downloads from

So I searched for " free download mp3" and got to a site where you could actually download up to 200 tracks, albeit one at a time rather than in groups. You had to give an e-mail address and register a password, but, that done, you had free access to all the tracks that amazon had on offer, which are, presumably, all squeaky clean and legal.

I had time to download a couple before it was time to go to the daycare center to pick up my daughter, and the sound quality seemed impeccable.

The page I started downloading tracks from was:

I fired up my copy of the screen capture program PrintKey and captured pictures of the album covers that go with the tracks.

Presumably there are other sources of good-quality mp3s somewhere online, and, presumably, it is only a matter of looking.

One problem that I have so far failed to solve is the competitive panda mauling which the widgets at the daycare center have started to indulge in. Now that I am a familiar entity it seems that they think they can attack me with impunity, me, of course, being cast in the role of panda.

My daughter is the ringleader in these widget assaults.

Nice sunny weather here in the Tokyo-Yokohama area, the rainy season over and daytime temperatures warm and balmy at about 35 degrees celsius. My weight is currently 68.6 kilograms, down just a little but not enough to alarm me.


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