Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Helium Balloons

Helium Balloons

Having uploaded my poem JAPAN, I went to bed in the small hours of the morning, a little puzzled at how abruptly the poem ended. Then, as I was dropping off to sleep, I suddenly realized that I had neglected to transcribe the end from my handwritten notes.

I got out of bed and went to find the notes. I'd run out of paper right at the end, so I'd written some stuff on the back and had then forgotten about it. Here is how the poem is supposed to end:


So there you have it.
Japan in capsule.
Ceremony, stability, hierarchy.
For my next trick,
I will wrap up this thing between the Islam guys and us
In one decisive all-explaining poem.
God will be giftwrapped likewise,
When I get round to him.

In the context of the projected poetry collection, GENGHIS LOTUS POETRY COLLECTION, those lines are intended to form a segue to my Islam versus the West poem, THIS IS A PICTURE OF YOUR GOD, written in 2005 and published that year in the literary miscellany THIS IS A PICTURE OF YOUR GOD, complete with said picture, an apparitional donut with a hint of the turd about it.

Having rescued the missing lines, I went to sleep and slept through until 0745 on the morning of Sunday 18 March 2007, a day which turned out to be uncommonly stress-free and relaxing.

The previous week, we went to a plum blossom festival at Okurayama, where we got two things. One was a tree which my wife had won in a lottery run by the local ward office. I thought there was just one tree and that there was just one winner, us, but it turned out that quite a few people had won trees, and there were still about twenty left when we came to uplift ours.

The second thing we got was a helium balloon, which my wife gave to my daughter Cornucopia.

Unfortunately, the balloon's PIQ (Practical Intelligence Quotient) far exceeded our daughter's, and it took the balloon only about three and a half seconds to escape. It went swooping upwards and was gone forever.

Cornucopia wailed and yammered and demanded it back, but all her wailing was to no avail, because (A) the balloon was beyond our recall and (B) all the balloons had been sold out, so we couldn't buy another one.

By happy coincidence, later in the week my wife dropped by at a newly opened home center, a place called Olympic, and got a free giveaway balloon to take home.

On the Sunday morning, the morning of the 18th, we made a return trip to Olympic, where Cornucopia got yet another helium balloon. On the trip home, the new balloon was firmly tethered to a rubber band on the beloved daughter's wrist.

I have to say that helium balloons don't last very long, at least not as helium balloons: the slippery helium atoms escape and all you have left inside is ordinary air and a somewhat deflated balloon. Although my understanding is that, these days, helium is both abundant and affordable (a by-product of the nuclear power generation business, I believe) presumably it is considerably more expensive than air, so I assume that helium balloons, the ones that are for fun rather than for practical use, are typically filled with an air-helium mix, with just enough helium on board to provide buoyancy.

Although helium atoms were soon gone, the balloons were fun while they floated.

At Olympic, we saw a pet shop, and I was awed at the prices. The cheapest animal was a kitten, and the prices were about 150,000 yen or upwards, ie about US $1,250 or NZ $1,875. I told my wife that in New Zealand you could get a kitten for free. Her response was that, yes, you could get one for free in Japan, too, "But not so brand cat."

There were some very brand animals in the pet shop, but the brandest of all was a poodle for a cool 250,000 yen.

My wife and I were, I'm glad to say, agreed that we would not be getting a dog, but I think I will probably drop by at Olympic from time to time so Cornucopia can visit the dogs and cats, which are all in cages, three tiers of cages, and are a lot more active and interesting than the rabbits and chickens which we sometimes visit at the local elementary school.

At the home center we bought a bunch of stuff, including a very big pot for our tree, which came tagged with a label saying that it should be grown in a shady place. For this purpose we bought what I called a ceramic pot, though the word "ceramic" struck me as being a little too glossy for the item, which was very cheap and basic. On the way home, I surfaced the word "terra cotta," and my wife told me, yes, it was terra cotta. The word, it turns out, is the same in both English and Japanese.

(My spellchecker didn't recognize this as a word, so I ran it past the dictionary I have on my computer, and it turns out that it is two words, not one. And, yes, it is a kind of ceramic.)

After we came home, my wife said that her plans for the afternoon included going out into the garden to plantation our tree. And, when I woke later that day, having taken an afternoon nap, the tree had duly been plantationed.

Cornucopia had been watering the newly planted tree and showed it off to me proudly. I told her that later it would have leaves, but she was strongly resistant to this notion, and said that no leaves should go mess with her tree. But I am confident that they will, though at the moment the tree is in tomin mode, "tomin" being the Japanese for "hibernation."

At the start of this blog entry I write about the work I'm doing on my poems, the plan being to publish, this year, an enlarged collection of my poems, GENGHIS LOTUS POETRY COLLECTION.

This really needs all the spare time that I can give it, so I don't really have the time to spare fighting (probably hopeless) wars against spammers.

On Tuesday 20 March, I got a follow-up e-mail from someone who, earlier, sent me some technical data on spammers. This e-mail was a response detailing the flaws in one of the ideas that I had surfaced about starting the job of tackling the spammers.

The e-mailer concluded by suggesting that my best course of action was probably to just ignore the spammers and content myself with deleting their spam. And, having thought this through, I could see that this was the course of wisdom, so I e-mailed back that thus I would do.

The e-mail address that has been compromised by the spammers is one of the five we have from our cable TV company, Netyou. This company has fiber optic lines strung from the utility poles in our street, and a hybrid wire of some description links from the fiber optic cable to our house, giving us a pretty fast broadband connection, to which we have hooked up a WiFi setup.

At dinner Tuesday, my wife asked me if it would be any problem if I lost the Netyou address that has my name attached, hughcook@ve.netyou. I said that would be no problem at all, because these days I really only use my Yahoo and Gmail accounts.

My wife had asked, it turned out, because she is thinking of canceling the cable TV subscription that we have with Netyou. Our broadband connection and its five e-mail addresses is bundled with the cable TV package.

My wife said there isn't really much point in us paying for cable TV when we never have time to watch it, and I had to agree with that. Before I got ill, there were days when I would watch CNN, particularly during the initial phases of the Iraq war. But, since our return to Japan last year, I haven't watched CNN, or any of the other cable channels, even once.

We have eleven channels of free-to-air TV here in the Tokyo-Yokohama area, and we usually only watch just two of those, NHK 1, the general program, and NHK 3, the arts program. Both of good quality and free of ads. We don't watch NHK 2 because that's an educational program, and the few times that I've clicked to it it's been showing some kind of droning lecture on something of no interest to me.

My wife's tentative plan is, possibly perhaps, to go with an outfit called KDDI, which apparently would give us broadband, but with no cable TV. She still has to research the practicality of this, but, if it comes to pass, then we will get five new e-mail addresses, and I will be keeping mine a secret, and posting it nowhere online.

Regardless of whether we do or do not end up going with KDDI, I will not persist further with my spam wars. Unlike George W. Bush, I have been persuaded that there are times when it is sensible just to give up and declare defeat, rather than hanging in there forever with a view to staying the course.

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