Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Hugh Cook Info Books Projects Updates

Hugh Cook Info Books Projects Updates

I was amused when I visited on Wednesday 28 February 2007 and saw that someone had cottoned on to the fact that the "Anna Blume" character who crops up in THE WEREWOLF AND THE WORMLORD was inspired by a German poem.

These are the real hard core CHRONICLES fans, and, on the fan site, the text of the poem in question is currently (28th Feb) posted in both English and German versions.

Actually, no, now that I check, they haven't actually posted the text of the poems, but, rather, have provided links to the text in English and German.

For the English:

And for the German:

I read the poem in German.

Although I do not read, write or speak German, I picked my way through some German poems, including KASPAR IST TOT, which you can find, if you are interested, in a German version, at:

Also Paul Celan's TODESFUGE, part of which I have by heart. It is surely one of the twenty most important poems written in the West in the Twentieth Century, and deals with the experience of those who died in Hitler's extermination camps.

A complete rundown of the Paul Celan story, if you're interested, is at:

A full text of the poem, in English, is at:

The poem works by a series of reversals. Milk, we know, is white. But, in the world of the death camps, milk is black.

All the above is by way of preamble, a lead up to what follows, which is information about my books (published and to be published) and current projects.

I wrote the following in response to a query from an American fan of the CHRONICLES who was confused, and legitimately so, by the disorderly nature of the publication of the series, only some of which have so far been published in the States.

It was in the course of checking the links that I was going to send him that I came to visit the CHRONICLES fan site on which I found a reference to the poem about Anna Blume.

Here is the text of the e-mail I sent:


2007 February 28 Wednesday

Dear Adam

A couple of links that will sort out the confusion:

The complete list of the books in the CHRONICLES is at:

This lists all ten books in the CHRONICLES and you can click a link for each book to see the cover.

These are the English editions.

A bibliography of all my novels is at:

A fan site which explains the whole setup of the CHRONICLES is at:

This site will tell you far more about the CHRONICLES than I can.

A direct link to Hugh Cook books via in the USA is:

You may be able to get second-hand copies through this source.

The UK THE WIZARDS AND THE WARRIORS was published by Warner books as WIZARD WAR.



One third of THE WALRUS AND THE WARWOLF was published in the US as LORDS OF THE SWORD. There are now plans for a new edition which will contain the complete WALRUS text in one volume, and this should be on the market in the next couple of years in the US.

Each book can be read independently of any other.

Texts are online, at the moment, for three of the books, and one way of seeing what can be read online would be to go to:


Versions that I self-published via can be purchased online from

The site advertizes PDF downloads for US $5 but the price has now been jumped up to an astronomical amount by changes made by for complicated marketing reasons which are out of my control, so there is no US $5 PDF download available for purchase.

I am currently at work on two projects. One is an SF novel, SINFUL SURVIVAL, and I have some material on the writing of this at:

So far there is only one entry there.

I have details of the tenth volume, THE WITCHLORD AND THE WEAPONMASTER, at:

I have a partial version of a book in progress, a volume of poems to be called GENGHIS LOTUS POETRY COLLECTION, online at

I have uploaded the short poems, school poems and city poems, but still have to upload the nature poems, war poems, cancer poems, death poems and assorted poems.

My regular blog, which I update when I can, is

Thank you for your interest in the CHRONICLES and I hope that you find this response helpful.

Best regards
Hugh Cook

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Photo Interior Japanese Daycare Center

Photo Interior Japanese Daycare Center

My daughter Cornucopia goes to the Christian-run daycare center near where we live, and recently we were able to view a 50-minute DVD showing daycare routines. It was not copy-protected so I burnt a copy and then tried to capture screen shots using the PrintKey program.

Unfortunately, this prove to be a technical no-no, because the screen capture program was blind to the video, and captured the background of the desktop beneath the video.

However, Saturday 10 February 2007 was one of those Saturdays on which Cornucopia goes to the daycare from 0830 to 1230. On these occasions, she ends up in a wooden-floored room with a handful of other kids, not in the usual room, which has tatami mats.

So I took along the digital camera and took some snaps, and, all going well, one of these has uploaded successfully and should be at the top of this blog entry.

I'm not sure how much detail will be visible, but, looking at the picture from the left, it shows a door opening into a toilet room where a couple of potties are visible.

This toilet room also contains proper flush toilets and plastic cases where soiled diapers are stored. A parent puts a clean plastic bag in the case each morning and takes away any soiled nappies in the evening (or, on Saturdays, in the early afternoon) to dispose of them at home.

Moving to the right, we see tatami mats, not the standard mats but mats which are much longer. These are made of rushes and they are hard-wearing, and, with proper care, will last about as long as carpet. In summer, in the hot weather, there is the fragrance of tatami matting in the air, but now, in spring, in the cool weather, the room is odorless, at least as far as my nose can tell. (But, in saying this, I have to concede that I have a very poor sense of smell.)

Against the wall there are pigeon holes containing boxes, and for each child there are two boxes. One is the towels and aprons for use that day, and the other is a stock of paper diapers and, if the child is old enough, cotton underwear.

For each child there is also a third box, this one containing clothes to be changed into after, for example, some dinner table disaster involving a bowl of soup.

There is also a communal box into which coats and jackets are placed, and Cornucopia will often grab hold of this, haul it out of its pigeon hole and upend it, sending the contents tumbling down on top of her. This at the end of the day, when it's time to go home.

The kids typically take off their socks and go barefoot on the tatami. But, if you were in Japan on business, it would be eccentric to go barefoot in a restaurant which had tatami matting, or in a meeting room in a company building which had tatami mats. On such occasions, you should remove your shoes but should keep your socks on.

If you're going to do business in Japan, it's very important to have socks that do not have holes in them, because you never know when you might have to take off your shoes.

At most places of business in Japan you just walk in off the street in your street shoes, but I have been to factories and research centers where you have to shed your shoes in a lobby and change into sandals, which will be provided for you, but which will probably be too small for you. And some of these premises, even the ones where you walk in off the street still wearing your street shoes, do contain tatami rooms which are obviously used for institutional purposes.

Visible in the midst of the pigeon holes in a TV. This is often on, sometimes tuned to a cartoon show on free-to-air television and sometimes showing a video. Last night, Cornucopia wanted to see the video featuring Miffy and the aeroplane, but there is no such video in her limited stock of movies, and so we told her she had probably seen it at the daycare, and she agreed that this was probably the case.

As a rule, when I go to deliver Cornucopia at 0830 in the morning, Monday through Friday, the floor is already awash with toys and little kids, and very noisy. It's the same when I return in the evening for the standard 1800 pickup, and I have to be careful not to step on small kids or their multitude of toys.

In addition to what the photo shows, there is a long sink bench where cups and toothbrushes are kept, and where hands can be washed. There are also hooks for hanging little towels.

Each morning, on a Monday through Friday workday, I put any resupply of cotton underwear and paper diapers into the requisite box, put the day's towels and aprons into the box for them, put a clean plastic bag into Cornucopia's personal box in the toilet room, hang a hand towel on the hook, put a toothbrush in the toothbrush cup and put a drinking cup in the tray for cups.

This sounds simple to say, but it took me an agonizingly long time to master the routine, and I still sometimes fail to complete the reverse process at the end of the day.

My wife and I planned to meet for lunch after her hair appointment today Saturday, but that plan has been canceled because I'm still recovering from the flu.

Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I was almost never sick. And I'm pleased to say that now, in the aftermath of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the same is still true.

I do have stamina issues but, that said, I'm certainly not sickly.

However, this week I spiked a fever and felt lousy, so called in sick and took Thursday off, spending the day in bed. Thursday night I had a bit of a guts ache, and the thought occurred to me that maybe I had a touch of the notorious norovirus, but by Friday morning my stomach felt okay, and I got through my short working day okay.

This Saturday morning, however, I still had a cough and a bit of a sore throat, and my wife suggested that we cancel our lunch date. We were to have met up at the station at 1120 for an early lunch prior to the daycare pickup, but, when she suggested canceling, I listened to my body, and the feedback I got was, yes, that's a good idea.

Although this daycare center is run by a Christian church, there is no religious iconography anywhere in the place. They do hand out occasional pamphlets which are marked with the sign of the fish, an ancient symbol which, I think, goes back to the days when the Christian church was an underground organization, back in the days of the Roman Empire.

But the local church is a branch of the Japanese Protestant church, and the Protestant churches are not big on iconography.

Someone told me that for the Catholic church the important festival is Easter but for the Protestant church the important festival is Christmas. And certainly the daycare center did a full court press on the Christmas festival, with Santa showing up to visit and with a Christmas tree in the hall.

The hall stretches away from the room shown in the photo, with various doors which debouch into the great outdoors, and this is where adults shed their shoes before entering the premises. Immediately outside the room shown in the photo, there is a place for kids to leave their shoes.

And that's it, I think, for the daycare.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Life In Japan Is On Track

Life In Japan Is On Track

The photo shows my daughter, Cornucopia, with a small pig which was part of the zoo which came to visit the local daycare center last Saturday.

I had vaguely thought of getting interior shots of the daycare, but there are obvious appropriacy issues if you're going to start taking shots with the digital camera in an environment where other people's kids are at play.

I thought I had the desired interior shots when we borrowed a 50-minute daycare video from the daycare center. My theory was that I could pause the video and then take screen shots with my trusty screen capture program, PrintKey. But this failed.

I could pause the video and I could capture the screen, but the screen which PrintKey saw was no the paused video but the underlying black of my standard background, so that was the end of that.

Still, we did have the video, and, because it's a home-made DVD, there are no copy protection controls, so I was easily able to burn a couple of copies, one for our household here in Japan and the other for my sister in New Zealand.

Because it's a home-made DVD there is none of this regional encoding nonsense, so the DVD should play just fine in New Zealand. However, the regional encoding issue did raise its ugly head when I was playing the DVD copies to make sure they worked.

The software that comes with my ThinkPad, incidentally, is something called InterVideo WinDVD, very simple to use and does everything I would want it to do.

Anyway, the regional encoding issue:

A dialog box popped up saying my software, which came with my IBM ThinkPad, was set by default for the United States region. I could change it, but, after three plays, further change would be impossible.

This left a nasty taste in my mouth, and I don't think legislators should have permitted manufacturers to inflict regional encoding upon us. My life is split between two regions, the one that contains Japan and the one that contains New Zealand, and, in the natural order of things, I might well want to play DVDs from either region.

Choosing a region was not an enormously important decision, because I can always reset my computer to factory conditions, doing a brain wipe on all my software in the process, and can start over with a new regional selection.

As it was, I opted to choose the region which contains Japan, because we might possibly end up renting some DVDs from the video rental chain Tsuchiya (I think I have the spelling of this right, though I don't guarantee it), a branch of which opened in our neighborhood last year.

Up until we got the daycare DVD I hadn't tried to play any movies on my computer so I didn't know if or how the software would work. In the event, it worked fine, and I found I could fast forward and go back as easily, and that, as indicated already, I could also pause the DVD anywhere.

In lieu of a photo of the interior, all I can say is that it's simple and reasonably roomy.

The daycare is divided into a bunch of rooms, and some of these, for the older kids, have wooden floors, but the area where daughter Cornucopia spends her days has traditional tatami matting, and, in the summer, when you enter the room, the distinctive smell of the matting is in the air.

The daycare video shows the routine of the kids, shows them eating (they all get remarkably quiet during this phase) and playing and having their afternoon nap. I think it's fair to say that my wife and I are very happy with the service that the daycare delivers, and our lives would not really be sustainable without it. The daycare, then, is on track.

Another thing that is on track is my teaching of the tiny tots, the ones in my daughter's age range.

I had my training for the tiny tots classes recently and, on Tuesday 30 January, taught my first actual class. It was with a kid about two and a half years old who I'll called Toku Ieyasu. He showed up with his mum, as mandated by the school's rules.

Because there was just the one of him I had no trouble getting through the forty minute lesson period. Little Ieyasu decided, at one point, that he didn't want to jump like a kangaroo, swing like a monkey, fly like a bird or swim like a fish. The hell with that. He was going to lie down and have a nap. So he lay down on the floor and took his best shot at nap-taking.

What we were taught on the course is that if the kids won't cooperate with the lesson you just gung ho through the curriculum. Which is what I did.

While I did get through that first lesson I realized that I had only a partial recollection of the curriculum. Not my fault. Curriculum materials were distributed during training, but then they were all gathered in again. We were told copies would be at our branches, which they were. But when I asked my trainer if I could photocopy a curriculum sheet, he said, "Yes, but only if I don't know about it." So I decided, well, if that's how it is then I won't make a photocopy.

So my plan for Friday 2 February 2007 was to stay behind after work, get at the curriculum and make notes.

Fortunately, when I showed up for work on Friday, I found I had no students scheduled for the first lesson period. This rarely happens, but it meant I had forty minutes to find the tiny tots curriculum and make extensive notes in a notebook.

I still think it's ridiculous that I was put to this trouble, and I think it's a bit absurd trying to protect the curriculum from the teachers who are supposed to teach it. It's not as if we were in the CIA or the NSA or something like that.

The curriculum is realistic, put together by people who know what they're doing, and, because my daughter has a high tolerance for repetition, I can understand why lesson elements repeat.

For my adult students, however, I try to offer new variants on materials which may be too familiar.

Friday, one lesson focused on tourist advice, so I kicked off with my personal spin on this. Where's your hometown? Okay, student A, you're a tourist, student B, you're a tourist information officer, advise student A about your hometown.

One student's hometown was Aomori, and I learnt that in Aomori they have scallop-based seafood dishes. This got me to thinking about scallops.

Every Friday, as a rule, I go to the conveyor belt sushi restaurant near Waniguchi Gakko and eat sushi, my reward for the week's work. Friday, I had been planning to have the moriawase, the set menu, but the moriawase does not include scallop. So I decided to order my sushi servings one by one, which I did.

It's nice to go someplace where you are both recognized and remembered. In Japan, I stand out. A foreigner gets on the train, something that rarely happens, and I think, "Hey, who's the gaijin?" So Japanese people will be doing that to me, and in spades.

So, obviously, the sushi restaurant staff will recognize me. But also they remember.

The first three or four occasions on which I ordered a moriawase, one of the sushi toppings was uni, which is the egg of sea urchins. In a textbook that I work from it is described as sweet but my Japanese students tell me that it is actually salty. I don't know because it looks like disgusting muck and I don't touch it.

I never made any comment about the uni, but I didn't eat it, and, after the first few times, uni no longer showed up in my moriawase. I don't think this change was accidental. Rather, my take on the situation is that it's an example of Japan's really high-quality service-oriented economy.

The other thing that is on track is toilet training. Friday morning, I was upstairs getting dressed for work when I heard Cornucopia call out "Unchi!" She was about to go potty, not on a potty but on the toilet, so I went down to provide applause and congratulations. Very sincere, believe me.

We then said "Bye bye" to the unchi before it was flushed. She noted, with pride, that it was "Sugoi unchi!" An amazing feat of pooping, "sugoi" meaning "amazing."

Getting through the dinner time ration of rice is not as straightforward as it should be, as Cornucopia tends to drag this out. But I have found it possible to hasten her by using "time out."

Before, when we had the old push chair, she would clip the safety belt harness herself, and to hurry her along I would give her a countdown of ten, and would take over the clipping if she timed out, because I wasn't going to hang around all day for her to try clipping. Now, since our new Silver Cross pushchair has a clip which is far too stiff for her child fingers, I do the clipping, and there is no more timeouting.

But she has evidently been programmed by the timeout experience which took place five days a week for many, many weeks. So when I start counting, "One thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three," she makes a scramble for the spoon (she's too young yet to manage chopsticks) and takes a mouthful.

We're also having some success with good manners.

Friday, Cornucopia had pushed her chair away from the table, and the following dialog ensued as she demanded to be pushed back in:

Cornucopia: "Pushy pushy pushy PUSHY!"

Me: "Magic word?"

Cornucopia: "Pleasy pleasy pleasy PLEASE!!"

Me: "Magic word, softly?"

Cornucopia: " ... please."

She understands English reasonably well, but generally never speaks it, though she can when she wants to.

"Morning banana!" she says, this being the one banana she is permitted to have in the morning, the understanding being that if she gets one in the morning then she does not get a second in the evening.

Thursday, when I came downstairs a little late, my wife cued me to the fact that Cornucopia had already had her morning banana. In fact, Cornucopia was still in the process of eating it, and later put the peel directly into my hand. Later still, she came at me saying, with a great show of confidence, "Morning banana!"

If my daughter is ever going to have a career in a big bad company like Enron, she has some learning to do.

Speaking of big bad companies, the company in the news here in Japan right now is Fujiya, a maker of cakes and confectionery. There has been some scandal about the use of expired ingredients, and, this scandal having broken, employees have, apparently, broken stories about rats in factories and the like.

My wife said at dinner, recently, "Poor Peko-chan!"

Peko-chan being a Fujiya mascot, a doll with a cake-licking tongue running happily over her lips, a doll which I think I've seen on the sidewalk outside Fujiya branches in the past.

My wife then told me that our local branch of Fujiya, from which we have on occasion bought cakes, has closed down.

As a bunch of retailers have chosen to boycott Fujiya products, it's entirely possible that the entire company will follow suite before too long.