Saturday, March 31, 2007

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan MRI In A Nutshell

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan MRI In A Nutshell

By this stage, I've had so many MRIs that I can't remember how many I've had. But my concept of the process has always been vague. It's a magnet that takes a photo of what's inside the body, okay? And you'd better not have any metal inside your body when the magnet gets to work, because other people in the neighborhood may get killed or seriously injured as the magnet rips the metal out of you.

And that, up until now, has been all I've know about the MRI process. I gave up, long ago, on researching issues that I don't really need to know about. I never knew how the tooth fairy did his stuff, but I knew that the money was always sure to arrive, so what more did I need to know?

However, in an issue of the INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE, the issue of Thursday 29 March. On page 6 of the IHT, as published in Japan, I found an article headlined PAUL LAUTERBUR, CHEMIST WHO DEVELOPED IMAGING. It's an obituary.

Lauterbur is one of the three people who share the responsibility for the genesis of MRI technology, the others being his fellow Nobel laureate, Peter Mansfield, and a guy whose work inspired Lauterbur's research, Raymond Damadian, who published a paper back in 1971 about how the response of some cancerous tissue to magnetic fields was not the same as the response of normal tissue.

In the article I found a simple paragraph which puts MRI technology in a nutshell and gives me a much clearer idea of the process, at least down at the atomic level:

"The nuclei of most atoms act as tiny magnets that line up when placed in a magnetic field, and if the field is set at a specific strength, the atoms can absorb and emit radio waves."

The article goes into more technical detail than that, but I didn't understand the added data, so I won't supply it.

When I was working on my cancer memoir CANCER PATIENT I realized that I could very easily sound erudite by paraphrasing globs of technical data that I was, in fact, totally incapable of understanding. But I didn't take that approach. So I'll follow a similar policy here, and stick to repeating the stuff that I actually think I understand.

On the same page was an article about how MRI technology is now being recommended for women who have an unusually high risk of breast cancer. My consciousness of breast cancer had been tweaked by perusing the pages of the breast cancer memoir CANCER VIXEN, so I read the article through from start to finish, and was astonished to find that, in the United States, the average lifetime risk of developing breast cancer for a woman is about 12 or 13 percent. That strikes me as really high. If you'd asked me to guess, I'd've guessed much, much lower.

I actually wasn't scheduled to buy a paper that day, as I hadn't finished the one I'd bought earlier in the week, but I got the paper because all the teachers had been talking about the British woman recently murdered in Japan, Lindsay Ann Hawker.

There was an article, in THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, which is bundled with the IHT when it hits the newsstands here in Japan. But it wasn't much of an article. The key facts were there, but the teachers who had been talking about the case at Waniguchi Gakko, where I teach, had learnt details about the alleged killer which had been covered, apparently, by the British press, but not by the Asahi.

The British media, I gather, has been making a real meal out of this case, but it's not such big news here in Japan. It was one of the items that made the TV headline news, at least initially, but by Friday 30 March it was no longer in the NHK TV news lineup.

The thing is that Japan, like any other nation state, year by year delivers the public a series of gruesome murders, and this latest killing of a teacher is one of a number that have made the news in recent months.

Because I live here, I know that Japan is not a crime-free experience. I have personally experienced crime in Japan, as, this year, one of the teachers who works for the same company as I do went and stole my second-best umbrella right out of the teacher's room. (I'd gone home and had forgotten to take the umbrella with me, and the teachers had exited the teacher's room at the end of their shift in the middle of a cloudburt.)

And I knew, from watching TV, that people are murdered in Japan just as they are in other countries.

Out of curiosity, I Googled for data, and arrived at:

Here I found that India has 37,170 murders (in a year, I think), far more than the USA, which has only 12,658. Thailand, land of smiles, has 5,140.

The UK has 850 and Japan has 637. Germany outdoes both of these with 960. New Zealand has 45 and Ireland 38.

I did a wrap-around search of the page for "Iraq" but got no result. My surmise, however, is that Iraq would be far and away the leader in the world's murder stakes.

With hundreds of murders every year in Japan, it's understandable why the English teacher's murder soon dropped out of the TV headlines. But I was interested enough to set up a Google alert for her name, setting up Google alerts being something I've only just learnt how to do.

These are free, and very easy to set up. Having Googled your way to the appropriate page, you enter the search term you want plus your e-mail address. To activate the alert, you have to click on an activating link contained in an e-mail which will be sent to you.

Having discovered how to use this neat toy, I went and set up a bunch of them.

I was told by one of my e-mail correspondents that spammers had managed to contaminate the Google alerts system, and I found that this was true after I set up an alert for SINFUL SURVIVAL, my novel in progress.

I got three items in the alert for this, two from material I had posted online and the third the following:

""free video gay men sample - CHANNEL
Granitic free video gay men sample vanilla orchid vomit the sinful survival with bankrupt myiasis. Photochemical hobbler consubstantiate free video gay men ...""

Some busy person, or maybe some machine, is making text files aimed at capturing as many combinations as possible, the word "granitic," which I've never before associated with homosexual activity, plugged into a text aimed at people who are wowed by "Photochemical hobbler consubstantiate," whatever the hell that is. I resisted the temptation to click on the link. I'm just not that curious (just not that curious, I mean, about what else is in that text block).

While the newspaper didn't deliver what I wanted on the murder case, it did give me the MRI article, and also a couple of other things which I was particularly interested in.

One was an opinion piece in the Asahi section of the paper about how there is a move in Thailand to make Buddhism the national religion. The writer thinks that this would be a bad agree, and I totally agree. Given that there is already an Islamic insurgency in the south of Thailand, declaring Buddhism the state religion would be like throwing petrol on the flames.

Back in the main IHT section, a headline which caught my eye was on reading "We were torturing people for no reason." Now, is there a prize for guessing what that is about, or is the answer too easy? I checked it out and, yes, the answer was far too easy to be worth a prize.

It's our happy American allies at work again, details provided by one of the guys who did some of the dirty work and saw a lot more of it being done, his name being Tony Lagouranis.

I punched his name into the search box on the Google News page and got ten hits. Here is one of the Google snippets:

"TV torture scenes torment activists
The Age, Australia - Mar 12, 2007
During his time in Iraq, military interrogators were told "to be creative", says Tony Lagouranis, a veteran US Army interrogator who worked at the Abu ..."

Meantime, the big news here in Japan is that the cherry blossom season is in full swing. If you wanted to see cherry blossom in Japan this year, you really should have been on the plane yesterday. Right now, here in Japan it's Saturday 31 March, and, in Tokyo, all the cherry blossom is out. And that stuff definitely doesn't last long.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Saddam Hussein Execution Video Described

Saddam Hussein Execution Video Described

An anonymous person posted a link to the Saddam Hussein execution video at the foot of a blog page on which I said I had not, so far, been able to find the video online.

Tuesday 30 January 2007 I found a couple of minutes to go have a look at the video. In the video, you get to see Saddam Hussein with the noose round his neck. The video also covers the moment at which the trapdoor falls away and Saddam drops to his death, a shock of noise accompanying this.

The link to the video was working okay as of January 2007 and is as follows:

This is an extremely murky video, in which we see Saddam intermittently swimming into focus. Much of the video shows a world as cryptic and as hard to interpret as the world which I typically see, when the light is poor, with my damaged eyesight.

I had to watch it a couple of times to figure out the situation, by which time I had figured out that the guy who is making the unauthorized cellphone video is standing below the scaffold. He is looking up at Saddam and is trying to focus in on him. It's not easy, so, a lot of the time, we're looking at stairs, presumably the stairs which lead up to the scaffold. Meantime, we can hear what's going on in the background.

While the video quality is wretched, the sound quality is pretty good, and it is the sound which really takes you there. Considered as radio drama, this is not a bad video.

In the lead up to the moment of execution, there is a certain amount of shouting, and I believe that what is being shouted out is the name of one of Saddam's enemies, the name being used to mock Saddam as he confront his death. However, though there is some shouting, the crowd is not really raucous until, with a crashing sound, Saddam abruptly drops to his death, at which point the crowd roars with a huge excitement and gets much, much noisier.

Whenever Saddam is in view, he is seen minus a hood, true to the soundtrack of an earlier video I saw, apparently some kind of official execution video, one with no noise in the background, a video which claimed, in an English-language voiceover, that Saddam had refused to wear a hood.

The first Saddam execution video that I saw was a kind of Ministry of Truth version posted on a French website. It tells us that Saddam is going to be executed "with one camera rolling." The Ministry of Truth, which moves fast when it wants to, has already elided the cellphone's truthtelling video from the historical record.

In the world of lies, there is no shouting in the background. Also, we do not see the actual moment of the execution itself, therefore we get no sense of the annihilating brutality of an execution.

In the uncensored world of the cellphone video, we definitely hear the background shouting, but then it dies down. Everyone is waiting for the moment of the execution, and now they are silent.

Then Saddam crashes into his eternity with all the violence of a train wreck, and it at that point at which the crowd really starts sounding like a mob, a rabble. It is as if Saddam's achieved death had made them angrier rather than appeasing them, and, across the language barrier, rage can be detected.

The video quality is too poor for me to be sure of Saddam's emotional state, but my own take on what I've seen, viewing it three times, Saddam, seen with the hangman's noose round his neck, betrays no particular expression.

To recap, then, in the build-up to the drop, there is some semi-orchestrated shouting, then the shouting dies down, and then, abruptly, Saddam drops, snatched downward with cartoonish suddenness, his death a convulsive annihilation. Saddam positively explodes into death, and that is when the audience really goes ape.

Watching this video was the first time in my life that I've seen a hanging, and this is one piece of video that I won't forget in a hurry.

I wrote the above notes to accompany the poem THE DEATH OF SADDAM HUSSEIN, which is going to be part of my new book of poems, GENGHIS LOTUS POETRY COLLECTION.

I finished the notes on 28 March 2007, some weeks after the last time I had seen the video. So, wanting to check my recollections, I decided to see if the link to the video still worked, and to see Saddam's departure one last time.

The link clicked through to the site okay, and there was the graphic that you click to play. This was the first time that I'd taken the time to study the graphic properly, and I realized that it shows, pretty clearly, the stairs going up to the scaffold.

I clicked the graphic to see if the video would play.

On this viewing I noticed, for the first time, a certain number of flashes. People were taking souvenir pics, I guess.

The last part shows Saddam hanging, his face upwards, the rope round his neck.

I realized I didn't quite remember the sound as exactly as I thought I did. The shouting does quieten down just before the hanging, but not to the point of silence.

So I'll probably go back and tweak the video execution text at least one more time, and maybe more than once.

What surprises me most about the Saddam video is just how many watchings were required to take in all the detail. And, even now, I guess there are still some things that I'm not picking up on.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Review of CANCER VIXEN by Marisa Acocella Marchetto

Review of CANCER VIXEN by Marisa Acocella Marchetto: A Strong Sense of Girl

Some time back, I got an e-mail alerting me to the existence of a graphic novel called CANCER VIXEN. I say "graphic novel" but that's a slip, because it's actually a memoir rather than a novel. A memoir in comic book form. A breast cancer memoir.

Think of MAUS, the Holocaust cartoon featuring the genocidal Germans as cats and the victim Jews as mice, and you get an idea of the quality.

What soon struck me, as I began leafing through the pages, was the strong sense of girl which came through to me. It's a cartoon book which is very much about a woman's situation, facing breast cancer, a potentially fatal disease, when she's 43 years old and is scheduled to get married, and to get married for the very first time, real soon now.

I can't draw at all, so I was really mind-boggled as I thought of how much work must have gone into all this, page after page after page of stuff.

I personally do not expect to find myself ever facing breast cancer, though it is a fact that men sometimes do, since the breasts of a male replicate, in large measure, the physiology of the female.

What is really interesting is the peek it gives me into the world of a woman. This, after all, is a woman who is very much focused on self-assessment, wargaming her situation and, constantly, assessing the people around her.

The book opens like this, putting you in the picture (no pun intended):

"What happens when a shoe-crazy, lipstick-obsessed, wine-swilling, pasta-slurping, fashion-fanatic, single-forever, about-to-get-married big-city girl cartoonist (me, Marisa Acocella) with a fabulous life finds A LUMP IN HER BREAST?"

After that text, we see a picture of her swimming. This is how the cancer showed up: she was swimming and started to wonder why her arm was hurting as she swam.

Already we're into a different world, wildly remote from mine. My one and only lipstick experience involves accompanying my sister and one of her friends to a lipstick shop near the Devonport cafe where we had been having a coffee break. I was staggered by the price these women thought reasonable to pay for a tube of lipstick. I mean, we're just talking about crayons for the lips, right? And how does someone get away with charging that much for what's really just a skin crayon?

Hence, right at the start, there's a strong sense of girl.

Marisa is an intense observer, really cued in to the social dynamics of her situation, much more than I am in situations where I'm the patient. She comes up with stuff like this:

"100,000-watt smiles #2 and #3, now I KNOW I'm in deep ..."

A little later on she comes out with this:

"When a doctor turns his back to you, it's never a good sign."

She's been watching, mapping, picking up on the secret signals. By contrast, I went through my own cancer experience as a sleepwalker.

The laconic wit of this exchange appeals to me:

Very loud friend: "You've NEVER had a mammogram? I'm going to kill you!"

Embattled cartoonist: "Thanks, but I'm doing quite well in that department."

And now, quite early into her graphic memoir, she's into a dialog with her disease, a hooded figure holding what looks like a sickle, hooded but showing enough of the face so that we can see that there is no face.

And she says:

"Listen, Cancer, ya sick bastard ..."

The capital C for "Cancer" is my choice, since the cartoon text at this particular point is hand-lettered in capitals.

In the next frame we see her marriage thoughts:

"I want a dress that's simple and white and kinda tight."

That's something I've never thought about, not once, in the whole fifty years of my life. What kind of wedding dress do I want? Thought never crossed my mind. Not even once. Even though I did end up getting married, twice.

Now she's facing up to the fact that she has to tell the guy she's going to marry that she has this problem. It's very much a girl moment, a behavioral pattern beyond the imagination of the average man:

"I put on 'brave' lipstick by M.A.C. I needed something, anything, that would help me face God willing my future husband ..."

The lipstick, hugely pink, dominates the left side of the frame.

When I began reading CANCER VIXEN, I had one brain-damaged moment when I hit the problem of what an s-mother might be (written "S-MOTHER"). Then I realized that this is her mother who smothers her, so it's a pun, mother/smother.

In one of the early frames, the smother says to her daughter "And you'd better not draw me on the throne." The smother is phoning from the toilet, as we see in the frame a decorative sign saying "LA TOILETTE," so the daughter is flirting with the attractions of insolence, though we don't see her seated on the throne, but, rather, just see the extreme edge of one side of the toilet.

This cartoonist, it emerges, sometimes draws real people into the cartoons that she has published in (I think I have this right) THE NEW YORKER.

She includes what I think is one of her New Yorker cartoons in CANCER VIXEN, and it's drawn a lot smoother. Her own CANCER VIXEN frames have a lot more jerky energy, and she's an energetic innovator when it comes to the business of finding different things to do with the frames.

All in all, quite a good read, and, as indicated above, there were some parts that I found fascinating.

As we take the trip through Marisa's life, we get little glimpses of the people she meets and works with, and little insights into her life. For example, an artist NEVER has a pen that works. Drew, one of her editors, "EATS GUMMI BEARS FOR LUNCH." (I've left the text in the original caps because we don't have GBs here in Japan, so I don't know whether they are or not a brand name and therefore don't know whether "G" and "B" should or should not be capitalized.)

More detail on Drew: when it comes to GBs, "He prefers cherry."

This kind of details builds the reality of a New York life, taking us through the postcard images (Empire State Building, World Trade Center) to the lived life where your pen can't be found in the wretchedly black interior of the handbag (why do they make the insides that color?) and your editor is a GB junkie.

Girl talk, three girls together at a restaurant table, no males in earshot:

"Well, I was thinking of getting my nasal labials done."

Reaction of non-cued-in male reader:


... and then, after the girl stuff, the gossip life, the ravishing restaurant, suddenly we're into 9/11, and she has just been woken up at 0847 by a LOUD plane ...

And, as the day evolves, she's sent lurching right into Ground Zero, at her editor's behest.

She's been blasted out of the fashion bubble and right into the heart of Deep Seriousness.

And was being at Ground Zero why she got breast cancer? Well, that question launches her into the cancer guessing game, and here her story becomes familiar. Yeah, you get cancer, you wonder why. You want a reason.

In due course, after we're done with her love life, we get to her course of treatment. We follow the treatment, step by step, and finally arrive at the penultimate page, page 135 of 136, where she gives a statistical sum-up of what she went through and what it cost her.

What it cost, in financial terms, was US $192,720.04. My own medical expenses in the New Zealand state-funded system were more modest. All up, I think I ended up forking out about NZ $5,000, rather less than five grand American, split between one for-profit MRI scan and one for-profit cataract operation. When it comes to money, I can't compete.

In this situation, I shouldn't be having competitive thoughts anyway, but it's my nature, and I can't help it.

Needles, though, I can definitely compete. She's kept track of how many needles she had, and they added up to 29. That struck me as amusing, that she had undergone so few needles that she could keep track of them all.

How many needles did I have? I have no idea. I don't even know if I can add up all the places where I had needles.

The very first needle would have been at the Tokyo Medical Center where, eyesight trouble having cued me to the fact that I had something which needed a diagnosis, I had the first needle as part of a test for diabetes, which proved negative. And, over the next couple of years, I had more needles at that clinic, though I can't remember how many.

My first Japanese hospital was next, in a part of Tokyo called Mitaka, and there I had more needles than I can count, including one to inject me with iodine, one to inject a radioactive isotope of gallium, and one, to inject steroids, into each eye. When they start sticking needles into your eyes then you know you really are in serious needle trouble.

What I didn't have, but should have had, was a needle to inject the rare earth gadolinium on the occasion of my first ever MRI scan of the brain. No contrasting dye was used, and, if you're looking for lymphoma, which the doctor was, an MRI is useless without it.

The next place where I had a needle was the for-profit MRI center down at street level at Auckland Hospital, where they did inject gadolinium.

Then, at the oncology ward, I had a needle into the theca, the sheath of the spinal cord. My first lumbar puncture (or, if you prefer, spinal tap). As with the eyes, when they're probing needles into the area which holds your body's all-important broadband connection, you know you are in very, very serious needle territory.

Later, when I had neurosurgery, there were more needles, including one to put me under and another, given while I was out, to give me morphine to kill the pain.

There was also another needle to the eye when I had my first vitrectomy, a jelly-removal operation on the left eye which was carried out in the extremely ancient eye clinic section of Auckland Hospital, which I think is now no longer used, at least not as an eye clinic.

The diagnostic process having been completed by brain biopsy, I had six cycles of high dosage methotrexate in the hematology ward, and each of those involved a bunch of needles. I also attended the hematology daycare ward for more lumbar punctures.

In between times, I showed up at a medical laboratory in Devonport for more needles, each to do pre-chemo tests.

Later, there was another needle into the eye for my first cataract operation at the Northern Clinic, and this needle, into the left eye, required a lot of effort on the part of the anesthetist, who had to shove the needle through scar tissue left by the vitrectomy. He described this process as "challenging." Fortunately, because a topical anaesthetic had been administered first, it didn't hurt.

Another needle into the eye followed at the Greenland Clinical Center, where I had a combined vitrectomy and cataract operation on the right eye.

Remission having been achieved, I went back to the dentist who had put in a temporary filling some months previously, after I broke a tooth while eating spaghetti, and did a crown (or, if you prefer, a cap) which had been deferred until I was done with chemo and radiotherapy.

For this, he needed to use a needle to inject anaesthetic. He commented on the fact that I showed absolutely no reaction to having my gum probed with a needle. I asked, well, do people usually react?

"They usually show some kind of reaction," he said.

With cancer seeming to have returned, I went back to the oncology ward. Another MRI, another needle. And then one more lumbar puncture.

When I was told, okay, relax, it's not cancer back again, it's just your eyesight has been trashed, tough about that, no undoing it, get used to it.

With that helpful news having been delivered, I returned to Japan and had my next needle at the hospital in Yokohama that I'm calling Meijin Hospital, one needle to draw about six vials of blood.

That hospital's MRI facility was booked months in advance, so I was sent to a private MRI center, the procedure done under the Japanese national health scheme, and there was another needle for contrast.

Back at Meijin Hospital, I had more needles for repeat blood tests and yet another CT scan, my third CT scan with injected iodine, as there had been one of these in New Zealand.

Yeah, I think I can out-compete on needles.

I can't remember, then, how many needles I had. I'm not even sure that I can accurately remember all the different places where I had needles. Some went into my spine, so I couldn't observe them. But the ones that I could watch I did, finding it interesting to see the steel slide into my veins, which were pretty good veins when I started out, but which were pretty much junkie territory by the time I was done.

One guy who read my medical memoir CANCER PATIENT e-mailed me and asked why, during my treatment, I had a ghoulish desire for photos (or, ideally, video) (neither of which I ever got) of medical procedures, such as my lumbar punctures and eye operations.

The answer is that being a patient is, above all else, as boring as all hell. Boredom trumps terror ten times over. And so, when something is actually happening for once, like a needle being stuck into you, it has an entertainment value which most of the process lacks.

My own experience is reflective of my character, which is introverted, and, during the whole cancer process, I became more and more self-focused, losing interest in the wider world.

For Marisa, who evidently has a sunnier temperament than mine, having cancer seems to have turned her thoughts outward into the wider world, as, in the course of her breast cancer memoir, she considers wider issues, with one page of the book highlighting this fact:

"Women without medical insurance have a 49% greater risk of dying from breast cancer."

Welcome to the United States of America, land of the free, beacon of liberty for the nations of a world not so fortunate.

Working my way through this graphic novel (yeah, I think it qualifies as a novel, even though it's technically non-fiction) I catch small signs that it's written out of a specific culture, that of the USA.

Marisa draws a picture in which her inamorata, Sylvano, honors her by having one of the precious tables in his upmarket restaurant (the kind of place where, if you want a table, it helps to be Madonna) marked with three cards. One says MARISA, one says SILVANO, and the third says RISERVATO. Marisa pens an orange cartoon bubble pointing at the foreign word to explain it: ""That's "reserved" in Italian"". Yes, we're definitely in the famously monolingual United States.

When she finally moves into his apartment, which takes her two months, she discovers something that surprises her: shoes. Bubble: "He's the only straight man on the planet who has more shoes than I do!"

While there's a little bit, here and there, which reveals fractional insights into America, there's lots and lots and lots and lots about World Girl, the foreign planet that I will never visit.

Once she's got her paws on the most desirable man in New York city, the grapevines is alive with the chatter of the sour grapes. Not all of this behind her back. One woman comes right up to her, confrontationally:

"I'm a model. How did YOU get him?"

In the realms of her imagination, Marisa goes hypermuscled superhero and trashes the importunate model. In the real world, she behaves herself. This peek into a girl's mind suggests that sometimes the mind of a nice girl can be every bit as violent as mine.

New York adult-to-adult exchange, when he proposes:

Sylvano: "There's the ring."

(He's already told her it's an engagement ring.)

Marisa: "You won't get on your knees?"

Sylvano: "C'mon, open the box."

I could go on quoting, but I think I've said enough. To sum up, this is a pretty cool book, a peek into the life of a big city girl in New York city, a venture into the realms of breast cancer, and, above all else, access to the mysterious world of Planet Girl. I recommend it.

There's a link to the read-for-free-online version of the book on this web page, on the right. Also a link to the short promo video at, worth twenty seconds or so of your time, if you have that much time to spare.

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.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Poem about Japan - Expert Analysis at Last!

Poem about Japan - Expert Analysis at Last!


Japan is a land of speeches,
Many far too long.
Soon, when the daycare renews its year,
There will be a ceremony,
With speeches, of course.
On earthquake training day
The assembled politicians
Were commanding generals
Exhorting battle troops
Far beyond the point of boredom.
Liberated, at last, for action,
We trained obediently,
But with hearts much lighter than the apocalypse.
The world-ending earthquake that will come
Is a reality that we lullaby to sleep.
Japan is a land where,
On the average day,
Nobody lies dead in the street.
Our concept of reality
Is predicated on that fact.
Life is a serious business, yes,
But open wounds are unknown outside hospital.
With the bland complacency of those
Who have never seen anyone shot dead before their eyes,
We playgame our cataclysm,
Our tectonic downfall.
On exhibition at the local elementary school,
The earthquake experts
Sterilize water,
Green at the intake from the dirty swimming pool
But potable at the finish.
The Japanese armed forces,
Rallying to the historic moment in Iraq,
Sterilized water with military precision
For months.
They were trained for it.
Trained for it for weeks in Hokkaido
Before they went forth to do it warzone real.
Helpless in the face of the Japanese war machine,
The Iraqi civilians put up no resistance,
And meekly submitted to hygiene.
Waging war with an eye to absolute safety,
The samurai of the twenty-first century
Came home victorious,
But without casualties.
Their parades were wholehearted,
But the victors of that year's high school baseball tournament
Outparaded them.
Japan is a country of the vanilla bland,
Tessellating poorly with the carnage grounds
Of a catastrophe planet.
I give you Japan in three words:
Ceremony, stability and hierarchy.
Everything is ranked.
The strict hierarchy
Constitutes the nation.
Of the many formal gardens in Japan,
Three are deemed the best.
My Kiwi brother
Set up in business with his buddy.
The two of them, without dissent,
Opted to be directors,
Equals at the table.
In New Zealand, two is insufficient for a pyramid.
In Japan, my student of business English,
And early-twenties guy,
Committed his financial future similarly,
In business with a friend.
Friends, but one must,
Of necessity,
Be the president.
My student, subordinated to the lesser role,
Found his presidential friend
Expected the deference appropriate to his rank.
Even to him,
A Japanese born in Japan,
Raised in the culture,
This struck a note of oddity.
But he went along with it.

Footnote #1: Having talked about earthquakes with many Japanese students of English, I finally met one, a high-level business executive working in the heart of
Tokyo, who took the long-promised Great Tokyo Earthquake seriously. But it took me a number of years of asking to come up with him.

Personally, if an earthquake rocks through, which it sometimes does, I don't go and dive under the table. I content myself by telling my daughter Cornucopia that, hey, kid, if we thought this was for real, that's what we should be doing, you know.

Footnote #2: Earthquakes, even worst case earthquakes, are generally survivable. The gung ho Israelis I met some years back who never bothered to think about earthquake aftermath because "if there's an earthquake we'll all die" were over-optimistic. If you are in Japan, and there is an earthquake, in all probability you will survive. And then you'd better know what to do when you find yourself alive and still breathing amidst the debris of the resulting mess.

Footnote #3: Officially, Japan has no expeditionary war force, only something called the Japanese self-defense force. This had 239,439 members as of 2005, with the troops in the Ground Self-Defense Force (ie the army) numbering 147,737, rather more than we have in New Zealand.

Japan has a well-developed armaments industry, with branches of companies such as Mitsubishi making useful items such as missiles, and it is often described as "a virtual nuclear state," ie a state which possesses everything requisite for a functioning nuclear bomb except the will to put it together.

The current prime minister, Shinzo Abe, currently in the news because he is in deep denial on the World War Two sex slaves issue, is one of those on the right wing of Japanese politics who seem to have a nostalgic hankering for the days of the Co-Prosperity Sphere, ie the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere established by Hideki Tojo and his buddies back in the World War II era.

Seriously, this guy Abe seems to want blood on the tracks, Japanese forces going off to get themselves killed in American adventures which involve more than merely hunkering down in the safest possible patch of desert and resolutely sterilizing water. This, he apparently thinks, would make Japan a "normal" nation.

This poem is part of an ongoing project, the GENGHIS LOTUS POETRY COLLECTION, already online in partial form at, and tentatively scheduled for publication as a paperback book round about November 2007 (or earlier, if I can get A into gear).

Poem celebrating America, Beacon of Liberty

Poem celebrating America, Beacon of Liberty


It is a federation
Of mismatched identities.
At the Alamo, the heroes died
In defiance or for the hell of it.
"Live free or die."
The Mayflower pilgrims
Desired to be free to oppress.
The Puritan ethic was the rigor
Of the Salem witch trials.
From these contrasting strands,
Libertarian pride and a punitive God,
America was woven.
At first it was a struggle.
But, right near the outset,
The one necessary thing was supplied:
And consolidating genocide,
Gave the newcomers their tenure on the land.
Granted imperial confidence
By the blood of Africa,
By the bones of a billion dead injuns,
America confirmed its divine mission
To be a beacon of liberty for the world.
The huddled masses came.
Fed into the cloth,
The skeins of Ellis Island.
Poland spoke to China
While Lithuania looked on.
Yiddish yattered to Vikings
In three different variants of Norse.
For Babel to communicate, it needed
One single language:
Simplified by the efficiency of a common idiom,
The eagles marched.
Which, give or take a baseball game or two,
Sums up Yankland.
America is a world
Which knows how to find its own toenails
With absolute confidence.
But knows, of the larger world,
Only that it's nowhere on the road map.
Examples could be quoted, endlessly,
But the one that sticks in mind
Is the well-meaning Americans
Innocently parading the proud flag of the distant land of Canada
Upside down.
"When elephants fight, the grass is trampled."
And America, largest of the elephants,
Scarcely remembers the fact that grass exists.

Footnote #1: the poem's take on Hollywood as the answer to the problem of cultural multiplicity is standard received wisdom, and is not original to the poet.

Footnote #2: I checked my vague recollection of the Canadian flag incident, and Googled my way to, where I found the following:

"On October 18th, during the pre-game ceremony for the second game of the 1992 World Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Atlanta Braves, a U.S. Marine Corps colour guard mistakenly presented the Canadian flag upside-down."

The source, apparently, was Yahoo News, which apparently posted this factoid on the 18th of October in the year 2002.

This poem is part of an ongoing project, the GENGHIS LOTUS POETRY COLLECTION, already online in partial form at, and tentatively scheduled for publication as a paperback book round about November 2007 (or earlier, if I can get A into gear).

Madonna, David Banda, Malawi - Poem about Political Correctness

Madonna, David Banda, Malawi - Poem about Political Correctness


It is in Africa,
Madonna has been there, but I
Was not invited.
For me, it is a part of Africa
Which I cannot place on the map.
Went there to get an orphaned child,
David Banda,
Mother dead,
Father indigent.
The outcome was fallout,
All negative.
Rich white woman with a country house in England
Cherry-picking choice black genes
From an orphanage lineup.
Not politically correct.
Politically correct would be
To make the ritual noises,
To do the standard hand-wringing,
And then do nothing.
I, regarding Malawi,
Have certainly done nothing,
Not even clicking it to ground
On Wikipedia.
My dead tree almanac
Would answer, if I asked,
The many questions that nobody ever asks.
Certainly never me.
If quiz show accident cued me to the facts,
I'd lack the talent or the time
(One or both)
To gaud them to my poetry.
Sight unseen, the data unresearched,
I'd guess that Malawi belongs
To the majority nations where most of life gets by
On two bucks a day or less.
And how can I make poetry out of that?
Is not central to my aesthetic.
My omphalos
Is a closer source of thought.
In the world of diatribe,
We must attend to the uniqueness
Of each and every portion of the planet.
But I give up.
In the state of Bihar,
North in the north of India,
I got on the train and got off
In a different language.
Immune to the magic of my fragments
Of phrasebook Hindi.
India is not a nation but a world,
A world that I will never plan to master,
And could not master even if I tried.
India is a diamond with facets
Far too many for me to chemograph.
But at least I've been there.
Malawi, by contrast,
Lies in the void of the unvisited beyond,
The oubliette of the Great Unknown
Where your hemorrhoids,
The missing pieces of the jigsaw set
And the cinders of the star which shone on Bethlehem,
All coexist in one big limbo nowhere.
I will do nothing
To compromise the survival of Malawi,
But to intervene,
I'll leave that to Madonna,
The backfire from her decision to contribute
That no good deed goes unpunished.

Footnote #1: The phrases "India is not a nation but a world" and "No good deed goes unpunished" are part of my culture's collective wisdom, and are not original to the poet.

Footnote #2: I, personally, in the course of the last ten years, have given precisely five American dollars to a worthy cause, and that five dollars cost me nothing. The outfit from which I buy domain names,, e-mailed saying they would kick in five bucks for charity if I would take what they billed as a "less than one minute" survey on how customers would like to pay (eg in Canadian dollars, and would PayPal be nice?) I took the survey, which, as advertised, required less than sixty seconds, and at the end I had a choice between a human-friendly charity, something for animals or one of the environment's defenders. I took the human option and sent my five dollars in the direction of UNICEF, after first clarifying my UNICEF concept with a Google check.

Footnote #3: As of 2007 March 17, a Google News search for "David Banda" got "about 89" hits, with the Google snippet for the top one being "Madonna Nanny loses publishing deal Irish Examiner, Ireland - 5 hours ago
... for the Material Girl and her husband Guy Ritchie from 2005-2006, which included their controversial adoption of Malawian baby David Banda in October. ... Former Madonna Nanny Pitching Tell-All Memoir Bosh".

The second snippet is from something called THE TIDE, based in Nigeria, at last an African country I can place on the map, on the west coast and about half way down. Clicking on the link got a "service unavailable" response, which confirmed my stereotype regarding Africa and Internet access.

The Google snippet for the temporarily inaccessible article ends with the words "But Madona [sic: this is what I copied and pasted, and, when my spellchecker protested, I went back and checked, and, yep, that's what was on the screen. I feel that this is not doing anything to cure me of my stereotype.] told the authorities that her application were fast tracked and stated that she adopted the 13-month Malawian David Banda, so he “could escape ..."

Escape what? Presumably not Japanese whale hunters.

Whoops! Next snippet down indicates that Madonna was seen with the kid (now 17 months old) ... well, see what the snippet says:

"The 'Hung Up' singer was pictured on March 2 in her Escalade ESV holding 17-month-old David on her lap. There was no child seat in the vehicle which is ..."

I confess that, while Japanese law mandates compulsory child seats, back in the days when we were transporting our daughter in my mother-in-law's vehicle ("back in the days" because the mother-in-law now drives no further than the local shops) there was no car seat in the vehicle.

The last snippet is tagged as being sourced as follows:

" (Pressemitteilung), Austria - Mar 9, 2007"

This poem is part of an ongoing project, the GENGHIS LOTUS POETRY COLLECTION, already online in partial form at, and tentatively scheduled for publication as a paperback book round about November 2007 (or earlier, if I can get A into gear).

Poem About Africa

Poem About Africa


Are central to my concept of planet Africa,
A world found nowhere on my subway map.
Africa has elephants
And the elephants of Africa
Are elephants of color,
Not white.
Regarding Africa,
My concept is deficient
But sufficient.
Nowhere on my schedule is a roadblock
Where I must prove my knowledge or be denounced.
I can skate by on stereotypes,
Complacently ignorant,
With nobody shooting in my direction.
In my experience,
Never yet damaged the succulence of the peach.
Was never yet improved
By either fact replete or theory perfect.
My stereotypes are ignoble
But do me no damage
Down at the cholesterol level.
Ignorance is not fattening,
And does not cause insomnia.
Kidney stones
Are never the consequence
Of pure dumb indifference to the facts.
To stage a festival of the stereotypes,
My concept of Africa is that Africa
And elephants,
And interesting entertainments like Ebola.
It has machetes,
Diamond wars,
And a mountain called Kilimanjaro
Which is definitely worth a visit,
Though seeing Annapurna
Was quite enough for me.
Lots of things in Africa
Are in short supply.
Food, water, money, socks,
Ice hockey,
Irish jokes,
And beluga caviar.
This list is not exhaustive.
Guns and ammunition,By contrast,
Are a drug on the market.
Familiar aspects of Africa,
Things I would recognize,
Would include rice,
Airline tickets
And ballpoint pens.
I believe that Africa
Is not devoid of ice cream,
But this is supposition,
Just a guess.
When it comes to expert knowledge,
I'm a zero.
By way of pardon,
I plead my case:
My data damage
Is symptomatic of a brain disease
Called culture.
I have, then, a medical excuse.
And, on the level of reciprocality,
While I know, at least,
That Africa exists,
Africa knows substantially less than zero
About me.

Footnote: my spellchecker, which has never been to Africa, prefers "Iola" to "Ebola." But I, having at least read THE HOT ZONE, overrule it.

This poem is part of an ongoing project, the GENGHIS LOTUS POETRY COLLECTION, already online in partial form at, and tentatively scheduled for publication as a paperback book round about November 2007 (or earlier, if I can get A into gear).

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Having Cancer is Not a Path to Self-Improvement

Having Cancer is Not a Path to Self-Improvement

2007 March 16 Friday

I have been continuing work on the GENGHIS LOTUS POETRY COLLECTION, and have just finished a revised version of a poem first published in the literary miscellany THIS IS A PICTURE OF YOUR GOD.

The poem is called THIS WAR IN IRAQ, and, by way of introduction, I supply the following notes:

"THIS WAR IN IRAQ is a cancer poem which deals with the fact that having cancer is not a path to self-improvement. It is entirely possible that having a severe disease will result in a self-centered attitude, a prioritization of the self. Maybe an absolute prioritization of the self. In this case, the speaker of the poem is entirely self-centered, selfish, self-obsessed and indifferent to the wider world."

This reflects my own experience. Cancer did not create a better Hugh. The skillset that I improved during my siege of illness was, above all else, the ability to complain. Improving on this is better than nothing, and an ability to complain helped me when I first started work at Waniguchi Gakko, where ready complains brought prompt rectification of a couple of problems that I initially encountered, though not of all.

The fact that having cancer is not the royal road to virtues is something that I dealt with in my alternative reality novel, BAMBOO HORSES, in which we find the following:

"" "You didn't come to visit me during my latest chemotherapy," says Aunt Chariot, glaring at me accusingly.

"" "I know," I say. "I'm sorry."

""Actually, as I'm sure Aunt Chariot knows, while she was staying in hospital for her last chemotherapy session, the five days from Monday April 17th through Friday 21st inclusive, I was up north, in Bakufueki. Why was I in the capital? Because Tanto and Helena had their school trip, and I was one of the parents who got roped into going along to supervise. But there's no point in venturing an exercise in self-exculpation. Whatever my excuse, it'll be twisted into something negative. Aunt Chariot loves conflict whereas I hate it: that's the problem.

""Aunt Chariot has lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, and at her age — we have to remember that she's eighty — the prognosis is not good. For some months (six months, isn't it?) she's been in and out of hospital having chemotherapy, and the impression I get is that it has not been going well. Iola follows the details and so, although the subject makes me queasy, I end up hearing about the deteriorating demerits of Aunt Chariot's innards, including nuggets of unpalatable information about her bone marrow, neutrophil count and potassium levels.

""What annoys me about Aunt Chariot is the unpleasantly aggressive energy with which she tackles what's left of her life. She's mentally intact, one of these crossword puzzle experts whose synapses are still hectically active even in old age, so she has the intellectual resources to sustain the verbal aggression she's so fond of. Since she's disposed to be actively unpleasant, it would be nicer if she could master the role of the supine and failing invalid. Unfortunately, tackling such a role has never seemed to be on her agenda.""

With that by way of preamble, here's the revised draft of the cancer poem THIS WAR IN IRAQ:


A public man.
His suicide was broadband.
Where was my Lotto win from that?
The delights of the future
Include water wars, global warming
And the heat death of the universe.
But this,
As yet,
This panoply of glory,
Is prospect only,
No ice cream offered upfront with the nuts.
Promises, promises:
All I get is promises.
The revision of the United Nations,
The Kyoto Protocol,
The Guantanamo tribunals,
How does that better my case?
Oh, and that Treaty of Versailles thing,
What was my payoff from that?
In the atrocity exhibition,
There have been many, many shows,
But if I was supposed to get a payoff from any of them,
It got lost in the mail.
My carnage files are missing.
In consequence of this,
I cannot decrypt my benefits.
I cannot find the reason why
The shark's extinction, the electric execution,
Could be construed as being personally therapeutic.
The corpse gone hard in the morgue
Must signify a better world for me.
This war in Iraq, too,
Precisely what
Is its utility to me?
Your baby,
Dead or alive, an octopus or a bathmat,
How does that
Improve the flavor of my tea?
Where is my coup from the genocide?
In the big bowl of the world's red blindness
Where is my edible hummingbird?
In the ashes of the bushfire
Where is my portion of the human heart?

The GENGHIS LOTUS collection is the project that I'm focused on at the moment but another project I have underway is SINFUL SURVIVAL, an SF novel in which the protagonist, Mavinda Cruft, is, as a consequence of her criminal misbehavior, exiled from society.

She falls all the way to the bottom, and ends up working for an outfit called Smegma Sputum Incorporated, a Delaware-based company which was, ostensibly, in the business of making extremely perverted porn, their unique sales point being, supposedly, "We take your kink and twist it bigtime."

Actually, Mavinda is doing nothing as innocent as making porn. She's mixed up in something far darker, as the text explains:

""However, while this company was, theoretically, in the porn business, in fact it was engaged in a totally illegal activity to which the courts, the legislature, the administration and the citizens of society were unanimously opposed.

""That sin was one which had been formally denounced by each of the last three popes, including the present incumbent, Madelaine Bonaparte.

""It was a sin that had been ecumenically denounced, even by the Amish, despite the fact that it formed no part of the Amish universe.

""The sin?

""It was a sin for which you could burn in hell for real, no computer emulation required. It was a sin which did not dare to speak its name, at least not out loud, and which masqueraded under various noms de guerre.

""It was spamming.""

In the real world, I now have the spammers in my gunsights. These people are bugging me and I want to take them down. I realize that this outfit,, is sending me repeat spam messages every 24 hours.

How long they've been doing this I have no idea because, for months, I've just been glancing at my spam then deleting it, maybe 30 messages at a time, without bothering my head about who it was from or why they sent it.

I've already reported them to SpamCop, but maybe I can go a step further. I think I will, if I can find the time. Do a little research project. Their CEO has his smiling face on their website, boasting of the charity work they do, linking their name with the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, so presumably he's based somewhere in the United States, and presumably he's subject to US law, and presumably there are neighbors and newspapers in his world, and maybe, if I put in a little effort, I can at least upload the details of whatever it is that I find out about this outfit.

If I can find the time.

Work first, play later!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Using Spam Cop

Using Spam Cop

2007 March 15 Thursday

Having signed up for SpamCop, I lost enthusiasm about the idea of actually reporting the junk mail that I had received from After all, I'm busy. I have an ongoing stream of problems with which I am confronted, such as the question of how, efficiently, to rectify this:

"I'm afraid of cockroaches since ever I was an elementary school children."

So, I thought, hey, I'll let this thing slide.

But today, when I opened up my Japan-based e-mail box again, there was a second spam message from the same bloody outfit, inviting me to join up with them and have my message spammed to over ten million victims scattered around planet Earth.

Well, that did it!

I logged in to SpamCop for the first time, not sure if I would persevere if it proved to be wretchedly technical. But I found the whole thing straightforward and effortless.

First, they allow you to copy and paste your user name and password, which is what I like to do. Then they give you three options for reporting, and the one I took was to paste the entire text of the e-mail, including headers, into a box.

I pasted and clicked, and their software decrypted the technical gobbledygook and confirmed my surmise, which was that the source was

They had a box in which you could add an optional additional comment, and mine was that these guys had just gone and spammed me a second time in twenty-four hours.

Now I know the process is this easy, I'll make a point of sending the blatantly fraudulent e-mails that I receive, the ones purporting to be from my American bank (which, routinely, sends flyers with statements warning that they never initiate contact by e-mail) or purporting to be from PayPal about my PayPal account. (I don't have one!)

So, given that it's so easy, I'll do it. A fraudulent PayPal e-mail was one that was cunningly designed enough to slip past Gmail's spam filter.

So, yeah, as far as I'm concerned, the war on spam is on.

Apart from getting tempted into the spam war mudfight, I've been pushing ahead steadily with the book of poems I have in progress, GENGHIS LOTUS POETRY COLLECTION. Here is a sample, a revised version of a poem first published in the literary miscellany THIS IS A PICTURE OF YOUR GOD, back in 2005, which seems an enormously long time ago now:


The active child is, for our purposes,
Death's refutation,
Chaos rebutting entropy.
She is flamboyant with invention,
With starbursts of astonishment.
Her creation is blamsplam,
Bursting from her seamlets,
Going forth to conquer.
From her ninety-nine infinities
She diasporas,
Populating her planet,
Phantasmal demographics,
Sherbet cosmologies.
The active child is a crowd, a contingent,
A mob scene in action.
One and none makes ninety.
My lethal conditions,
My unappeased fingernail syndrome,
My afabricated blotting paper psychosis,
My case of turnip's scurf and lugwump's mound,
Fall off their get-well-soon cards
And forget themselves.
She cleos her patras and is empress,
Commanding, demanding,
Coming, like it or not.
She is life at the crescendo,
Her own firebird suite,
Her own exultant fanfare for herself.
Energy in excess is her personal trademark,
Her patent the burning moment,
Her logo the living sun.
If you want the use of the four wild winds,
She requires your royalties.
She is her own one-woman motorbike gang,
Marauding flowers
On her titchy little three-wheeled plastic bike.
She is Miss Trophy Triumph,
Miss Tomato Thief,
Mistress of the flower-stealing grin.
She is someone's daughter,
The one who continues,
The one who does not die.
She is mine.
She is the intolerable demand, the no-can-cope,
Forcing a larger existence,
Like it or not.
She is life beyond cancer.
Caught in the incandescence of her expanding star
I have not the option to be cinders.
Fortunately, there is help.
Grinding up the steak was a great idea
For the delinquent daughter.
For this and many more —
You know the score —
A truly thank you.

The active daughter continues to be active, in the manner of her agegroup. The other day I delivered daughter Cornucopia to the daycare and found a whole mob of demonic infants storming the new playstructure on the grounds.
It looked like the mob that stormed the Bastille.

Today a daycare teacher handed me a letter to deliver to my wife, and it turned out to be about the decision reached by the daycare's principal. He will grant my wife's request that Cornucopia's boxes, the places where I will have to deposit her stuff, will be in easy-to-find places. And all the teachers will be briefed on my eyesight issues.

Cornucopia has by now recovered from her bout of flu, and the week spent at home seems to have reset her clock. She had gotten into the habit of waking up inconveniently early, at 0630, but now she sleeps snoozily through until her mother rouses her at about 0715.

I thought that if we changed our departure routine then she might protest at not seeing her daily dose of the NHK television novel, so, to circumvent that, I decided that we would switch to NHK's channel three, the arts program, before the novel, which starts at 0815, just five minutes before my new departure time of 0820.

I thought the arts program would at least offer us something other than demented robot wars or raucous commercials. What it did in fact offer was high-quality early morning TV, which Cornucopia, who usually ignores morning TV (genocide in Darfur, those pesky North Koreans with their nuclear jockstrap fetish, all that boring adult stuff) went and sat herself down in front of the TV and watched with fascination.

And, arriving as I now do ten minutes earlier at Waniguchi Gakko, I have time to sort out my files, plan my lessons, and sort out any problems the Japanese staff have made for me. Yesterday it was that the room numbers were missing from the day's schedule, and the day before it was that the previous day's schedule had been reprinted, masquerading as new.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Death Penalty For Spammers - Now!

Death Penalty For Spammers - Now!

I have more or less abandoned the e-mail address that I used to use courtesy of our local internet provider here in Japan. The address is, and got captured by spammers when I displayed it online.

I later moved to a Yahoo address, which has some spam filtering, and my plan for the future is to stick to the Gmail address, because this has an EXTREMELY aggressive spam filter.

Unfortunately, a few people still use my Netyou address, so I can't just abandon it. So, at least once a week, I open Outlook Express to the deluge. The usual stuff, counterfeit watches, priapic drugs, free money by the millions, and so on and so forth.

One sender caught my eye because it was, allegedly, me. When I opened it up, it said "From: hughcook@ve.netyoujp To:"

And what it was was a bloody ad for spammers, "we email your charity web site to 7,500,000 people. free".

(My spellchecker doesn't like that "was was," but I think the grammar here is legitimate.)

The perpetrators of this identity theft (if you go around masquerading as me then it's definitely identity theft) give their website as

Experimentally, I pasted that URL into my browser. The banner says "BROADCAST EMAIL SERVICE" and boasts that "We Send Your Email Ad to 10,000 People Daily."

I'm not good at basic arithmetic, but they do the math for me. If only one in 100,000 people respond to your ad, you will get 100 orders a day.

They have a CHARITY INFO button which you can click to see their charity face, which I'm sure Jack the Ripper would be happy to borrow for a night out on the town, sneaking around looking innocent.

Innocent people, however, don't steal your own identity to spam you with uninvited e-mail.

I went to FILE -> SAVE AS and saved a copy of the *.eml file, then opened it with one of my text editors to see how these hellspawn miscreants delivered this junk to my e-mail account.

Here is the gobbledygood from the head of the *.eml file in its entirity:

Received: from by (8.9.3/3.7W)
id LAA20294; Wed, 14 Mar 2007 11:12:45 +0900 (JST)
Received: by (8.13.7/v6062100) with ESMTP id l2E2Cjr6005011
for ; Wed, 14 Mar 2007 11:12:45 +0900 (JST)
Received: from ROBCOMP-557F873 ([])
by (8.13.7/v6062000) with SMTP id l2E2CcDH002279
for ; Wed, 14 Mar 2007 11:12:43 +0900 (JST)
Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2007 11:12:38 +0900 (JST)
Message-Id: <>
Content-Type: text
X-UIDL: e460d63733eb792ed9746cd2384c4128

The bit that sticks out as the odd man out is this:

""Received: from ROBCOMP-557F873 ([]) by""

That is the one bit that sticks out, that does not seem to have originated locally, ie in Japan. Presumably "" is some kind of Internet address. Experimentally, I pasted it into my browser.

The response from Mozilla was that the operation timed out when contact was attempted. I tried using Internet Explorer, but it didn't seem to know what to do with the string of numbers. So I tried to Google the string as "" to catch that precise sequence.

But I got zero results.

So I googled to see what would pop up.

The second Google snippet is this:

""Comments for
I also have seen the url for I've been getting this. They are apparently guessing at addresses based on domain names. ... - 28k - 12 Mar 2007 - Cached - Similar pages""

I then tried searching for the URL with the word "spam" to see what would pop up.

""Another Spam E-mail Source Identified: ...
If I categorize them as SPAM, then my own e-mail address goes on the blocked list. ... I also have seen the url for najiba Says: ... - 47k - Cached - Similar pages

""Comments on: Another Spam E-mail Source Identified ...
I just got a spam to the new address. What this means is that they are roboting WhoIs sites to ... I also have seen the url for ... - 42k - Cached - Similar pages
[ More results from ]""

The above gives me a new twist on the spamming business. If you have the ability to denounce the e-mail as spam, you end up denouncing your own e-mail identity.

I think petitioning for the instituion of the death penalty for spammers is the way to handle this problem. But that's probably not a workable solution in the longterm. What can I do right now?

I searched for "FBI spam" and the first Google snippet was:

""Spam: Where to Complain About Frauds & Scams on the Internet
Spam Cop - A very quick and easy way to complain to a spammer's service provider ... Affiliated with the FBI, U.S. Customs, U.S.P.S (Funded by U.S. Gov. ... - 14k - Cached - Similar pages""

I went to the URL.

They give you a whole bunch of links to complain. The top one is SPAM COP, a way to complain to the spammer's service provider.

Let's check it out ...

""SpamCop is the premier service for reporting spam. SpamCop determines the origin of unwanted email and reports it to the relevant Internet service providers. By reporting spam, you have a positive impact on the problem. Reporting unsolicited email also helps feed spam filtering systems, including, but not limited to, SpamCop's own service.""

You have to register to report spam, but I think I'm angry enough to do this. I have a busy life, and spammers trashing one of my e-mail accounts to the point where it is becoming progressively unworkable is something I could do without.

You punch in a name (a real name or an alias, as you wish) plus an e-mail address and they send you a password.

Okay, I gave them my Gmail account, and G. has, as I thought it might, trashed the e-mail into the spam folder, where it gets deleted if you don't NOT SPAM it in 30 days.

They provide a password plus these options:

""Cookie log-in:;returnurl=%2F

""HTTP authentication (no cookies required):

""If you have questions or problems, please visit:""

It's now one in the morning and I have to get up and work before not too many years. So I'm bookmarking SpamCop for future reference, and I'll get onto the reporting business when next I have the time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

My Daughter Is Going To Die Tomorrow

2007 March 13 Tuesday

My daughter is going to die tomorrow. She delivered this news to my wife and I when the three of us were dining together. She made her announcement in a matter of fact tone, delivering the message in just two words:

"Ashita shinjatta."

Despite having spent most of the past decade living in Japan, my grasp of Japanese is still shaky, and I wasn't entirely sure that I understood this statement. My working hypothesis was that "shinjatta" was a form of the verb "shinu," meaning "to die," and that the "jatta" conjugation conveyed the meaning "unfortunately."

(When I ran my spellchecker over this piece, it protested at one of the Japanese words, which weren't in its dictionary, and I realized that instead of writing "shinu" I had written "suru," which means "to do." That's how shaky my Japanese is.)

If so, then daughter Cornucopia's two-word statement means, literally, "Tomorrow I'm going to die."

The first word, "ashita," is definitely "tomorrow," and "shinjatta" means "going to die, unfortunately."

Cornucopia does not supply a pronoun to go with this statement, since one of the basic rules of Japanese grammar is that anything can be omitted, even the verb, providing the result is clear. The reverse rule applies in English, where it is illegal to delete any item. For example, the statement "Tomorrow I'm going to enter dead parrot mode" may not be legitimately reduced to "Tomorrow going to go dead parrot."

Cornucopia almost always deletes the first person singular, and, in fact, as far as I can remember I have only ever heard her use the word "watashi," the commonest option for supplying the meaning "I." When she has occasion to refer to herself, it is always as "Cornucopia-chan," ie "Cornucopia the Cute."

Puzzled as to why my daughter thought she was going to die, I asked her a question: "Why?"

The answer came without hesitation:

"Tomorrow it's going to be cold."

I looked at my wife.

"I think she said she's going to die tomorrow because it's cold," I said.

My wife affirmed that this was the case. We were both of us suitably amused.

It is highly unlikely that Cornucopia is on the verge of surcease, because my wife took her to see the doctor before dinner, the daycare having reported that Cornucopia had an earache. The doctor reported that the ear was just fine, and he certainly didn't suggest that our daughter was on the verge of the Ultimate Precipice.

Dinner tonight was very good, hamburger with assorted other stuff, including baked potatoes.

Our basic cooking equipment is a standard Japanese gas stove which, typical of the breed, features three gas burners and a sardine-sized grilling unit. However, additionally, we have a rice cooker and a microwave oven.

The microwave oven is a two-in-one unit, able to function either as a conventional microwave or, if the built-in heating elements are thrown into play, as an actual oven in which you can bake things such as sweet potatoes, cakes, and, of course, baked potatoes.

The baked potatoes are on the menu because, when I last saw my hematologist, he reported that my magnesium levels were low, and indicated that this was not a good thing. And the skins of potatoes are one of the things that can supply the body with magnesium.

At the time when I got the bad news, I didn't really take it seriously. My idea has always been that obsessing about your blood chemistry ("How are you cholesterol levels today?") is a cultural habit practiced, at least in the realms of my imagination, by effete Americans. Or, at least, by Californians.

But, after a photocopied medical fact sheet arrived in the mail from my mother, I started taking my magnesium deficiency extremely seriously.

Magnesium deficiency can really trash you big time, causing, amongst other things, insomnia, depression, and, most forbidding of all, kidney stones. If you were going to torture me by inflicting a horrible disease on me, then kidney stones is the one that I would run from the fastest.

In addition to potato skins, there are many other things that can supply magnesium, including almonds, cashew nuts, brazil nuts and peanuts. So, today, after work, I dropped by at the local convenience store, where I found packs of nuts containing three of the four, the missing item being brazil nuts.

There are also nuts in the Alara-brand deluxe muesli that my wife and I both eat for breakfast, but, as I've been eating this stuff daily for months, the nut quotient is obviously not magnesium-optimal.

Over dinner, my wife and I discussed a number of issues, Cornucopia's Cassandra-like prediction not being one of them.

One of the things we discussed was what present we might ask a relative for to celebrate the occasion of Cornucopia's upcoming third birthday, which will be next month. How time flies!

We are not, then, convinced by Cornucopia's prognostications. Rather, we expect that she will still be alive and kicking, and sufficiently flu-recovered by then to enjoy her new toy, a tricycle, which she has not seen yet, but which is waiting for her in the garage.

Ever since our return to Japan, Cornucopia has been using tricycles housed locally, thanks to the kind permission of two of our neighbors. This has worked out pretty well, but now she is going to have one of her own.

When my wife went to the daycare center this evening to pick up Cornucopia to take her to the doctor's, she saw the new play set in the daycare grounds, and was suitably impressed.

My wife took the opportunity to discuss my condition with one of the daycare teachers. I have trouble learning new things, and there will be new things to learn once Cornucopia moves into a new class and a new room in April. So my wife asked if the box for Cornucopia's things could be placed in an easily identifiable place, such as top left at the end of a row, rather than being placed in Japanese a-i-u-e-o alphabetical order.

The teacher thought this would be doable, and she said she would discuss it with the principal and the teacher who will be the bosslord of Cornucopia's new class.

Today I asked the head teacher of Waniguchi Gakko if my holiday request for April 2, the day scheduled for the daycare's start-of-the-new-year ceremony, had been granted or not. He said he would have the answer for me tomorrow, and I hope the answer is yes, because the daycare is a very important part of our household ecology, and I want to do anything I can to consolidate that relationship.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Changing My Schedule

Changing My Schedule

Usually, our lives here in Japan follow a standard pattern, with routine very much the order of the day. Occasionally, however, we do something different, such as going to the Niigata festival which was staged recently in Yokohama.

The photo above is a souvenir of the festival. It was taken at Minato Mirai, a spectacularly modern part of Yokohama, with extremely un-Japanese streets, wide and uncluttered and spacious.

The photo shows, I think, today's Japan, a mix of the modern and the traditional, with taiko drums seen against a background of skyscrapers.

What the photo doesn't show was the wind, which was biting, and I think we were glad when we all got home again.

Maybe on account of the expedition, or the park-going on the following day, Cornucopia came down with the flu. My wife took three days off work, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, to care for Cornucopia. Then, on Thursday, my wife having come down with the flu herself, I took a day off to help out at home.

Saturday we ended up going to a local hospital, Great Mouth Hospital, which is at Great Mouth station, on the Yokohama line. Here we were seen quickly and cornucopia got more medicine.

We had planned to visit Meijin Hospital, but that hospital is shut on weekends, apart from emergencies. By contrast, Great Mouth is open, and Cornucopia was already a registered patient with her own hospital card, having been there on an earlier occasion because she tore a fingernail off and her mother wondered if perhaps a finger had been broken.

In fact, my wife tells me that Cornucopia has an entire collection of hospital cards, though precisely how many I do not know.

At the hospital, my wife had me help by waiting for Cornucopia's name to be called while wife and daughter went off to forage for food. I was not at all confident that I would hear the announcement. But when the long of my daughter's name started sounding over the intercom, "Nishikawa Aiko Cornucopia Boadicea," I had no trouble at all on picking up on it.

If Cornucopia has some future need to go to hospital, then it is entirely possible that I will be the one to take her. Fortunately, it's a simple journey. Take the east gate, exit the station, cross the pedestrian crossing, turn right at the first traffic light, and the hospital is on the right.

On account of the fact that Cornucopia was not going to the daycare, on three separate days I left home early and ended up going to work on an earlier train.

Since I started working at Waniguchi Gakko, my ongoing problem has been a lack of time. I don't have time to find files and prepare for lessons, so I'm always under stress.

The obvious solution would be to show up at work earlier, but I never seriously considered doing any such thing, since the Japanese staffers who are the key holders are erratic, and, sometimes, do not arrive until it's almost time for lessons to start.

However, on the three days on which I arrived early, I found that a staffer had opened up before 0930, and I was able to get into the teacher's room, find my files and prepare my lessons.

I discussed this with my wife and she suggested that I make it a regular habit to leave a quarter of an hour early. We can drop Cornucopia off at 0830, and usually that is the hour at which I leave home.

So, today, Monday 12 March 2007, I decided to give it a shot.

Cornucopia usually watches the morning NHK television novel from 0815 to 0830, but I switched off the TV before the program came on, and she made no protest when we left earlier. Today her temperature was normal but she was still a bit subdued.

Because of brain damage, I find it best to keep my life running on tracks. I have extreme difficulty in learning new routines, so I am not keen on change. But, when I leave early, I get on the same slow train, which, like the one I previously caught, leaves from our home station, which means that there are always plenty of seats.

So I anticipate, from now on, a more orderly life.

Cornucopia will go to a different class and a different room from the start of the new academic year, which begins on April 2, so I will have a slightly different routine to learn, and my wife, who understands my learning difficulties, believes that leaving earlier will help me cope with those changes, and I think she's right.

Today I found another change when we exited the daycare center in the evening, me and daughter Cornucopia. Just before we exited, I saw a model in the hallway. I took it to be a model of the playground equipment in the small park near the supermarket. But, no, not at all. Rather, it was a model of equipment which is now actually in the daycare grounds: a platform to which you ascend by a set of steps then descend by way of a slide.

The little kids, Cornucopia included, were set alight by this new toy, and were going crazy. I noticed that those of them who were running around like maniacs, which was most of them, were running in a clockwise direction, and I recalled that the kids in my tiny tots class also went clockwise when they did their steam demon racetrack thing.

And that's pretty much all my news for the moment, except that I should correct one thing. I indicated that, in New Zealand, if a kid gets a prescription from the doctor then you have to pay the pharmacist for this. But my wife, who, as a tourist to New Zealand, has done more research on the country than I have, informs me that most prescriptions are free for the very young. I believe, if I remember correctly, she said that they're free until age six.

In other news, I got a letter from my mother going into the ins and outs of magnesium deficiency. One of the things which can hit your magnesium levels, which probably accounts for the fact that, when we last saw my hematologist, Dr Gunma, he inquired into our drinking habits. My wife answered, truthfully, that we are abstemiously, and only indulge, and never to excess, just once a week. (Well, sometimes once or twice.)

Magnesium deficiency can do a whole bunch of horrible things to you, including cause kidney stones. These have the reputation for being the most painful medical condition going, so the last thing I want is to have my own collection of these little gems. Dietary advice came with the letter, and eating raisins and various kinds of nuts seems to be part of the answer. I think some of the nuts mentioned are in our deluxe muesli, which comes from England and which we buy from the Seijo Ishi food shop here in Japan, but I'll have to check that out when I have the time.

Other news from my mother was that Alex, my younger brother, was recently flown from the North Island of New Zealand to the South Island. A film company flew him there to help out with the making of the latest film in the Narnia series. He was down in the south for a weekend, during which time they provided him with a car to run around him and put on a barbecue for him.

My brother's role was to exterminate, if he could, the mosquitos which have been plaguing the location shoot.

As it happened, rain made spraying impossible for most of that time, so his working hours were limited to one single morning.

My brother is currently an exterminator, and his stories of extermination were one of the things which fed into my most recent published novel, TO FIND AND WAKE THE DREAMER. I needed a profession for the protagonist, Ibrahim Chess, and the profession of exterminator (his previous job, before he went for his yacht chartering dream) came naturally to mind.

Here in Japan, the really big news right at the moment is that today the grand sumo champion, the Mongolian yokozuna (top ranker) Asashoryu, lost. Now he has lost two days in a row, which is unheard of. Up until now, he has looked pretty much invincible.

It was only yesterday that my wife informed me that the spring sumo tournament has gotten underway. We have been so busy with medical turmoil that the outside world, the sport of sumo included, has largely slipped our attention.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Hugh Goes to the Hospital Again Maybe

Hugh Goes to the Hospital Again Maybe

Daughter Cornucopia was down with a fever Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so my wife stayed home for those three days to look after her. As a busy civil servant, she can't be away from the office indefinitely, so on Wednesday evening we agreed that I would stay home Thursday to liberate my wife for life at the office.

Thursday, however, our plan changed. My wife had come down with a fever in the night, and was in no condition but to drag herself off to the doctor.

I phoned the head office of the chain of schools I teach at. This was the second time I'd phoned to say I wouldn't be at work. The first time, I was the one who was sick, and the guy who took the call was grumpy and not very pleased with me.

This time it was the same guy, but, when I told him my wife and daughter were both sick, and that I had to stay home on that account, his attitude was completely different, and he was all sympathy.

Once the clinic that my wife attends in the neighborhood had opened up, my wife ventured out of the house to seek medical attention.

She discussed with her doctor-for-adults what the doctor-for-children had prescribed, and the doctor-for-adults didn't think much of the prescribing.

So, provisionally, the three of us - me, my wife and daughter Cornucopia - are all going to Meijin Hospital tomorrow, because they have a children's ward on the second floor, and maybe they can do something other than prescribe penicillin and whatever it was that sent my daughter high as a kite.

My daughter was Miss Manic Excitement in the morning but crashed hard in the afternoon, and went to sleep and slept and slept and slept and slept.

If I've remembered to upload the photo, there should be a pic of a penguin at the top of this blog entry.

Recently, Niigata Prefecture publicized itself by bringing snow to Yokohama, plus a penguin, taiko drums and the makings of a festival, so we went along to watch.

There were two penguins, both shown in the photo, standing in a very small enclosure. A security guard was standing close by, invigilating everyone, in case anyone suddenly had a hankering for penguin sashimi.

There was snow sufficient for Cornucopia to play with, and a good time was had by all.

Today, with wife and child in slumberland, I pushed ahead with work on GENGHIS LOTUS POETRY COLLECTION, the project which is closest to completion, though I still have some desired poems still to write.

When I wrote the piece about going to three parks with Cornucopia, I forgot one thing, which was that Cornucopia showed me another area in which I am brain-damaged. She wanted me to walk heel to toe round the narrow rim of a circular sandpit. And, though I could do it, I found it really hard, so my gymnastic ability has, evidently, taken a hit.

Cornucopia did not walk heel to toe herself, for two reasons. First, kids not yet three are not developmentally capable of doing heel-to-toe walking. Second, for her small feet the rim was wide enough for her to walk normally.

She has great feet, the very image of mine, good serviceable feet. I'm sure these feet will be very useful to her if she ends up, at some date in the future, fighting with Japanese ground forces in Syria, helping America bring democracy to that benighted land.

Both my daughter and I are capable of spreading our toes apart and then closing them. This is very useful if you want to pick up a pencil from the floor without bending down. Once upon a time I thought everyone could do this, and it was only after the birth of my daughter that I discovered that a lot of people can't. Two who can't are my wife and my father.

In compensation, my father is able to wiggle his ears. This, regrettably, is a talent that I have not inherited.

On the three days that Cornucopia was sick, I left home earlier, because I didn't have to go to the daycare. I arrived at Waniguchi Gakko fifteen minutes earlier than usual, and, because a Japanese staffer had opened up very early (which is not always the case) I was able to find all my files and choose all my lessons before teaching got underway for the day.

My wife has suggested that I make it a regular habit to leave a quarter of an hour earlier. Apparently the daycare center will accept Cornucopia at that hour, and I'm now thinking about it.