Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sorry Lance....don't think so.

Thursday January 31, 5:05 p.m.

I was watching CTV News at 6 pm last night as I usually do, and of course, at around 6:45, the avuncular sportscaster Lance Brown popped up to do his report. One of the features was about this proposed huge arena out north in Markham. The mayor of the growing city, Frank Scarpitti, and the other supporters behind the project just barely passed the gauntlet in the wee hours of the morning a few days ago, which means the consternation will continue about the financial feasibility of this project and the local popularity. One of the carrots on the stick where this arena is concerned is the attraction of an NHL franchise in the supposedly not-so-distant future.

Brown feels that it's just a matter of time before the NHL comes knocking. In his words, "....not tomorrow, but soon". And here I thought he was one of the more cynical local broadcasters, especially when it came to the fortunes of the Maple Leafs. Heck, I'm still not sure whether this arena is even gonna get built, and Brown thinks the Phoenix Coyotes or the Tampa Bay Lightning are gonna migrate upwards? I don't think so....I heard that there were a few more possible candidate cities before Markham even gets a first glance....namely, Quebec City. Personally, it would be nice to see the Nordiques-Canadiens rivalry again. Brown is right in that any team that would come up to Markham will most likely have to pay tribute money to the Leafs to encroach on their turf, but I think for that very reason among others, the GTA becoming a 2-team city is hard to imagine. I don't think it's impossible to see a second team here; I just don't agree with Lance's truncated timeline.

And it seems like the group trying to keep the Coyotes in Arizona has run into another financial snag. So, the team may be moving after this season, but it won't be anywhere by Toronto. I hope the players can learn French and love poutine..

Topsy-Turvy Temperatures of Toronto

Wednesday Jan 30 at +14 C
Thursday January 31, 4:47 p.m.

Gotta say that the picture on the left doesn't really do the weather yesterday justice. But after last week's deep freeze where the average temperature was hovering around -12 C, to experience a temp that was 26 degrees higher was almost overwhelmingly giddy. Toronto weather has always been a bit on the weird side no matter what time of the year, but even yesterday was cause for Torontonians to scratch their heads....or just walk to work in T-shirts and shorts. Taking a walk around the neighbourhood meant that the only obstacle was mud and not ice.

Thursday Jan 31 at -3 C
Then, this morning when I went outside, I was buffeted by some high winds and some major flurries....and a temperature of -3 C! Talk about getting the runaround. I wouldn't have believed that there were less than 24 hours between the two pictures if I hadn't actually experienced the two scenes.

Of course, all this extreme weather has meant consequences on the city's aging infrastructure. Water pipes burst and giant sinkholes emerged out of nowhere. And Toronto City Hall is trying to figure out where to get the funds to do all this repair.

Well, in any case, I'm feeling a bit antsy since I handed in the big translation project last night, and have got not all that much to do right now. Mind you, I do have that small financial statement translation to hand in for Cozy, but I got the basic translation done this morning. I just have to ask him a few questions on some vocab, and I should be OK to give the final draft.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Snow, Rain, Fog....Next, Locusts?

Tuesday January 29, 4:08 p.m.

Back in my Japan days, I often told students about the wacky nature of Toronto weather, and sometimes I did tend to embellish things a bit, although it wasn't by much. But I gotta say that yesterday was an exaggeration come true. Snow in the overnight hours, followed by sleet in the morning, full-blown rain in the afternoon and then fog last night. I can now honestly say that weather is indeed certifiably insane in this city. And it ain't over by a longshot. It's absolutely balmy today at +9 C, but we're getting even hotter tomorrow with a double-digit high of +12 C! Of course, Thursday will have a high of just -2....the temperature will plummet faster than Wile E. Coyote off a cliff.

I've finally got another epic translation done, and this time with more than 24 hours on the clock before deadline, so I've got a chance to give it a very decent going-over before the hand-in. And I got a good deal of practice on TRADOS. Still not too crazy about it but I feel I've got a fairly good bearing on it now. And at least, I can get a good start on Cozy's annual translation of his statements.

I received a couple of contacts from friends yesterday. One was from Sam who wanted to see if I were interested in having a Winterlicious meal with him sometime this week. Not sure if it's lunch or dinner. Winterlicious is one-half of that annual Toronto foodie festival, along with Summerlicious, that was borne from the SARS scare of a decade ago when restaurants were struggling to survive from lack of customers; so fairly high-falutin' restaurants decided to have weeklong specials at reasonable prix fixe to attract the skittish but culinarily curious hordes. It was a good way to get the food business back into the swing of things, but I wonder if it should've just stayed a one-shot injection into the arm instead of the chronic care it has become. People have been complaining that these currently healthy restaurants have been serving sub-standard fare at those fixed prices in a crazily crowded environment. I didn't bother going to any of the designated restaurants since even at prix fixe, I really couldn't see myself paying the prices they still demanded. I'm still not even sure now, but I did ask Sam what he was interested in trying out.

The other contact was the bi-weekly phone call from The Anime King. Had a good talk on the Precure franchise, since the current series in the franchise finished its run a couple of days ago. According to my friend, it was fine but nothing too awe-inspiring. But the new series starts on the ground running from this Sunday. Told him that I wasn't too sure about meeting him this coming Sunday since it's possible that my brother's family may be coming over, but I'm keeping Saturday open as an option since the two of us have wanted to head on out to The Olde York Fish N' Chips shop; it's open on Saturday but not on Sunday. It'll have to be a truncated outing with him, though, since I also have my Skype student on that night. Speaking of which, I got some souvenirs from him via the mail yesterday from his Holiday trip to Taiwan.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Leafs Lose, Ontario Wynne!

Sunday January 27, 12:14 a.m.

Well, it was another day spent figuring out Japanese into English, although I did use my "parole" to walk around the block in the last day of deep freeze before another thaw comes our way. Heading up to 12 degrees by Tuesday! With this pattern of alternating freezing and heating up since the year began, all of us may end up truly tempered by Spring. Didn't make a whole lot of headway in the translation since I got caught in a spate of tricky vocab and tangled sentence structure, unfortunately. At this rate, by tomorrow night, I'll probably have to inform the boss that I will need to pass off the final parts of it to others since I now have Cozy's translation requests to handle as well.

The overarching theme on TV was via CP24 with that Ontario Liberal Party leadership convention finishing up today at the old Maple Leaf Gardens (I heard the Leafs used to actually win Stanley Cups there once). I just popped in on the channel once every few hours to see how the voting was going; unless I were the most ardent of political animals, I wouldn't last 10 hours to watch who was going to win one of those. But at the end of the day, literally and figuratively, Kathleen Wynne got the nod to become the new Liberal leader and, therefore, received the keys to the Premiership of Ontario....for as however long as she can keep them before a Spring election. It may all end up being a short internship for her since the Liberals are not a well-loved group outside of the Gardens.

It was a slight surprise since in the last few days, it seemed that her closest competitor, Sandra Pupatello, was about ready to take over in the media's eyes, but on the third ballot, Wynne won. So, she now not only has become the province's first female premier, but she is the first openly gay premier in the history of Canada. And the wonderful thing is that, although that latter fact was mentioned a fair bit during the coverage, jaws didn't drop or eyes boggle out as in a Warner Bros. cartoon at the news.

But it could be interesting for Mayor Rob Ford. He's never said it openly, but it's generally assumed that he's no fan of the LGBT community. I just wonder how a first meeting is gonna be like.

As for the Leafs, I think I'm detecting a pattern. They take a lead for two-thirds of a game and then lose it all in the end. It's kinda like that Las Vegas sucker who supposedly wins big at poker before the Ocean's Eleven gang wipes him out at the stroke of midnight. Maybe it's time for Coach Carlyle to put his Loonies where his mouth is and start benching a few players.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Week of Translation

Friday January 25, 11:13 p.m.

It's been another week of slogging through translation work. But at least it's steady work. I've not only gotten a major assignment right now from the current company I'm working for, but I've also got my first of my annual translation requests from my old student, Cozy, back in Tokyo. It's the first of the financial statements. It doesn't look too, too difficult and it won't be due until next weekend.

I think aside from the Sunday foodie-and-anime outing last weekend, I've basically been staying in my neighbourhood for the past 3 weeks. Haven't even been downtown since the year began. Not that I'm going stir-crazy or anything, and it's always better to earn more money than spend it. Certainly, I'm not too thrilled about paying more for the TTC.

Weatherwise, as I always liked to say to my students in Japan, Toronto is always predictably unpredictable, especially in the Winter. We've just gone through a major deep freeze this week; in a slightly masochistic way, it was nice to have felt -22-degree wind chills. However, by early next week, we may be soaring into the double the plus zone....for a day or so....before we get back down to Earth once more.

As for the Leafs.....I think it's gonna be another one of those rocky (though truncated) seasons. They've won 2 on the road and lost 2 at home. Sometimes the Leafs want to play, sometimes they don't.....not exactly the right frame of mind for a team that wants to get into the playoffs for the first time in almost a decade.

Toronto's Political Fun and Games

Friday January 25, 10:55 p.m.

Well, let's see. Ontario's losing a Premier under a cloud, Toronto's keeping a Mayor under a cloud. Enjoy the symmetry! For those folks who are completely outside of the Ontario sphere of influence, Premier Dalton McGuinty has probably spent his last few hours in the big chair down at old Maple Leaf Gardens where he's getting his final lionization by the Liberal Party hordes before his replacement is chosen at a good ol' brokered convention tomorrow. Supposedly, the mild-mannered fellow had a pretty good decade at the helm before things fell apart for him in the last 12-18 months in terms of a teachers' strike, and a fiasco involving the very wrong person as the top guy for the province's air ambulance service, ORNGE (as ORNGE you sorry you hired the dummy?), among other things. And I believe there are quite a few protesters outside the Gardens who plan to give him a sendoff of their own.

As for Mayor Rob Ford, I don't think I've seen local media so hyped up for a single political figure in this city in, let me change ever. CP24, CTV, CBC, City....all of their talking heads were up early this morning to find out if Ford was gonna lose his appeal against the original decision to have him turfed out of office for violating conflict-of-interest laws. But he got the happy ending he wanted....he won the appeal, media just went nuts, and of course, the citizenry got split down the middle in their reaction. I'm just happy it's over (I don't think that counter-appeal by the lawyer and his client who had brought all this down on Ford in the first place will go anywhere); I'm not a huge fan of Ford's but I think it's time for City Hall to return to a relative sense of normalcy....which just means the political brawls are taking place inside chambers instead of outside.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Charlie and Wayne

courtesy of maurisico
from Flickr

courtesy of M. D'Evreux
from Flickr
Wednesday January 23, 2:43 p.m.

Yesterday was a marathon session to get that mammoth translation assignment in on time. Gave myself some virtually permanent katakori by tapping away at the keyboard for hours. And sure enough, I have another big assignment due next week. But ain't touching that today....nope, gonna give myself a bit of a break. Mind you, if I had to be cocooned in the apartment, it would've been and should've been yesterday. It was rather cold out there with a high of only -12 C

But I couldn't just stay at home all day today....would've gone stir crazy. And so with it being -18 C this morning, I had my first experience of really cold weather for the first time in decades. It was bracing out there although I was fully equipped, tonsorially speaking. Had the scarf and longjohns on. It was rather nice, though, walking through that cold. Felt positively Canadian again.

Now, as for the title today. I heard and saw a couple of which is true, one which is not (at least not for now or the near future). First, the true one. Apparently the voice actor behind Charlie Brown was nabbed by police....for stalking, of all things. This is probably gonna be a dream target for the late night show hosts. And strangely enough, couldn't you see perpetually depressed Charlie Brown growing up to become a stalker? His obsession with the Little Red-Haired Girl going to extremes? In any case, I can imagine if some reporter were able to stick a microphone in the actor-turned-jailbird's face, the first thing he probably would say, "RATS"! That is, after he got nabbed by the cops when he exclaimed, "AAAAAAUUUUUGGGGGGH!"

The other story that got Toronto going crazy like a fox was the rumour that The Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky, could become the next President of the Maple Leafs, occupying the place left by ousted Brian Burke. Not sure how this one got started, but it was probably a reporter who just decided to throw something into the mix when he/she was interviewing one of the new powers-that-be of the hockey team. I was too busy and stressed out yesterday to catch TV but apparently the media was having a field day with it. But can you imagine Gretzky, the best hockey player in NHL history and with his record as a businessman in the sport, coming to this town....the so-called Mecca of Hockey? Just hard for me to imagine a guy like him leaving the sunny confines of California in happy retirement, though. But then again, if someone finally gets him that money from the Phoenix Coyotes, perhaps he could see Toronto as the ultimate challenge worthy of his talents and time.

Monday, January 21, 2013

First Anime-and-Foodie Outing of the Year

Monday January 21, 7:58 p.m.

Met up with the Anime King yesterday for the first time this year. He'd spent the past month traveling through Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam before getting back last Saturday. He was in remarkably alert shape on Sunday considering the long voyage back home. We did the usual brunch/lunch thing at a Chinese restaurant that we'd gone to before....had the Chicken A La King with Rice; it's been a while since I had that....pretty good. The sauce was good and rich. Then, it was off to the Second Cup down on Finch for coffee. I got some nice anime goodies and that CD by the late Miki Matsubara that I'd requested.

The King took tons of photos from his trip. He spent Xmas and New Year's in Tokyo; some of the shots were of my old haunts like Asakusa, Nakano and Akihabara. Seeing them was like just being there yesterday. He also took that pilgrimage all the way to the small town of Oarai in Ibaraki Prefecture since it is the place where the anime "Girls and Panzers" is based. The town has embraced its inner tank since the city basically had an exhibit set up in the main train station paying tribute to the show. There was even a map of Oarai pointing out which areas were animatized. The King remarked that outside of the show, there was pretty much nothing else to see there. He did have dinner at a sleepy anglerfish restaurant....the anglerfish dance is a bit of a rallying point in the series.

The anime of the day was focused on the Precure franchise since the current series will be finishing up this Sunday. It was the one that I got started on, thanks to The King. It'll be kinda sad to see the girls go, although I've already started watching some of the earlier entries such as the very first one in 2003 and the one immediately preceding the current series, "Suite Precure". You always remember your first.

Before the King got back home on Saturday, I'd sent out a summons of sorts to see which of the Anime Court would be available for dinner on Sunday, since we hadn't gotten together as a group over the Holidays (outside of The Anime Bishop and I getting together at Kinton Ramen back on Boxing Day). Well, I was happy to hear that both him and The Iconoclast were able to show up. The two of them came over to The King's house and after a bit of chit-chat, we all made our way up to Wild Wings in Markham. Kinda engorged ourselves on the chicken while the Ravens-Patriots game was playing on the screens, although I was the only one who had the least bit interest. It was good to have the group together again.

It really is feeling like a Toronto Winter again. The temps will be plummeting tonight and then we will only have a high of -12 C tomorrow and then the possibility of 5 cm of snow later on this week. Plus, the Leafs are back in town. Strike? What strike?

Different News Fronts

Monday January 21, 7:51 p.m.

Well, it's been a varied day in terms of news. Down in the States, the main story was the second inauguration of Barack Obama, over in Japan, NHK led with the sad news that 7 Japanese nationals have been confirmed killed due to the hostage incident in Algeria, and over here, the big story was the return of the Leafs to action tonight. It was nice to see and hear the Leafs win the first game in Montreal....and a low-scoring one, at that. Saw the first few minutes of tonight's Buffalo-Toronto game....pretty spirited although the Leaf defence still needs a bit of enhancing, but our own buzzsaw, Colton Orr, managed to knock a 6'8" fellow down to his knees in the first fight at the ACC this year. Always great for morale to see that.

I managed to fairly sprint through another 50 pages of translation this afternoon since there wasn't all that much text. Just have another 50 or so to go and then the final check before hand-in.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

From Coast to Coast, It's Back!

Saturday January 19, 7:37 p.m.

Well, the countdown is over.....professional hockey is back on the map as of today. I saw a bit of the Winnipeg-Ottawa game earlier this afternoon...."Hockey Night in Canada" will basically be taking over the entire CBC schedule for the rest of the day and night. It started at about 3 p.m. today, and except for a dinner break of 30 minutes, HNIC will have a total of over 12 hours of broadcast. Talk about engorging desperately starving hockey fans! Right now, the Habs-Leafs game is on in Montreal, but I'm keeping things closed off for now (although I did catch the Olympic-like torch passing amongst the former captains of the Canadiens, and about a few seconds of the actual game), since I will have Mr. Moriya in about 20 minutes for his very first lesson of the year. And I need some down time to get myself prepared for it. I'm sure there will be a bit more free talk in the first several minutes of the lesson since it's been a month since our last lesson, and he and his wife had gone off for a week in Taiwan.

Speaking of Taiwan, The Anime King should be back in town after almost a month of traveling in Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam. He should have quite a few tall tales to tell since he was hinting as much in his e-mails from Asia. He did go off to the small town of Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture since the anime "Girls And Panzers"takes place there. The Anglerfish Dance has become a small phenomenon of note for a small segment of YouTube watchers although Psy won't have to worry too much about being usurped. I should be seeing him tomorrow since he did say that he will make himself available for the first Anime-And-Foodie outing of 2013; apparently, jet lag doesn't affect him at all. I also sent out a mass e-mail to the rest of the Anime Court but only The Iconoclast has even acknowledged reading it, although he said to keep him informed of developments. Don't know what's gonna happen for sure but The King should be calling me after my lesson with my student.

Much of the day before dinner was spent on that mammoth translation assignment....not finished by any stretch of the imagination but I am over the halfway point, and I did make a lot of progress. Still, I'll be taking the day off tomorrow before getting back to the grindstone on Monday.

Anyways, maybe I'll check the telly and see if Randy Carlyle's "Defence First"philosophy is finally rubbing off on the Leafs.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Anxieties Everywhere

Thursday January 17, 9:36 a.m.

The latest translation is coming along slowly but steadily. However, I'm not a huge fan of TRADOS or at least the learning curve for me seems to be a right angle. I tried to send over a sample file to the boss only to be told that the file didn't have any translation along with the source. Well, I have 16 hours of solid work to prove that I was working on it! Something similar happened to me when I did my first translation on the software, so using another trick, it was able to pull through. I'm hoping that the same thing did the trick this time. In any case, the deadline for this one seems to be rather distant and amorphous so neither the boss nor I are particularly in panic mode. But I'm still unsure.

Japan has been having to deal with a couple of crises in the last few days. The new old Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, would only have had to deal with the usual economic woes infiltrating his country if these situations hadn't happened. But both ANA and JAL have grounded their Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleets like itinerant teens since the batteries on some of the planes have been turning into (smoke) bombs at the very least. Of course, Boeing stock has been going boing at the news....and that is in the bad way. And then there is the ongoing hostage incident in Algeria in which some Japanese nationals have also been taken, although I may have heard that some of them have been released.

Buried within all that is the 18th anniversary of the Kobe Earthquake. Some events will always be remembered....the people in Kobe and the surrounding region certainly haven't forgotten. And as someone who had felt a fraction of the Tohoku Earthquake a couple of years ago in Tokyo (and that fraction was enough to sear itself into my memory forever), I can attest to that.

At the end of this, I also have to mention that Conrad Bain from "Diff'rent Strokes" has passed away. To be honest, I hadn't heard anything about him for years so that I thought he had already left this mortal coil, but he was able to live a good long life. I had no idea that he was actually born in Lethbridge, Alberta. I used to watch the show with him, Gary Coleman, Dana Plato and Todd Bridges on Thursday or Friday on NBC. It's a pity that Bridges is the only surviving member now from that series.

Now that I know Bain's connection with Canada, I can understand a bit more about his brother, Hank, being brought into that old "SCTV" sketch involving the station and alien cabbages.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Learning How to Slide/Nagisa Oshima

Tuesday January 15, 10:15 p.m.

Well, it's been about a couple of days since the big snow hit the Kanto Region. And the consequences are starting to befall commuters. Yup, the traffic on the major highways has been snarled up....kinda like looks like the Gardiner Expressway here on a bad day...which is usually everyday. But the NHK report also told of over 1,500 incidents of people falling over on the sidewalks or floors since Sunday. Looks like it's not just cars that need the chains....and yep, tires in Japan often get the chains for snow driving. I haven't seen chains here on car tires since the 1960s....and that was through ancient Canadian Tire catalogs. Anyways, I'm not laughing....we may be getting some of the white stuff as well in a few days. It would be appropriate, though....NHL season is coming back on Saturday.

As soon as I entered the living room this morning, I caught the news on NHK that director Nagisa Oshima had passed away from pneumonia at the age of 80. His name is not particularly a household one on this side of the Pacific. But for some of the veteran cineasts out there, he was the auteur who had directed the controversial "In the Realm of the Senses" back in the 1970s and "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" with David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto in 1983. Never saw the latter one, but I remember it making news for the fact that Bowie was in it, and at the time, he was hitting another peak in his career in his incarnation as MTV-friendly pop star. Sakamoto was also cruising fine as one-third of the Yellow Magic Orchestra back in Japan. Actually for me, the theme song, also created and performed by Sakamoto, is the most well-known part of the movie for me.

Not sure how long this video will stay up on YouTube, but here is a series of commercials that the director actually appeared in. Some of them match the image of zaniness that Japanese commercials have cultivated. But that was the thing about Oshima. As one of his friends pointed out today on the news, Oshima had no taboos about anything. He showed that in his movies, his interviews (his friend also remarked that Oshima would fight with anybody anywhere anytime), and even the commercials. He may have been an intimidating high-level director but his ego wasn't so big that he would pooh-pooh the idea of appearing in a TV ad.

I used to see him in my early years in Japan on TV shows regularly. At the time, I hadn't even known it was Nagisa Oshima. I saw this cheerful, talkative old guy as a panelist on a number of game shows, not realizing that this was THE Nagisa Oshima. Still, when I finally did see him at work in some documentary footage, he was the scariest sumbitch. He probably had the power to reduce yakuza to tears if they didn't act like he ordered. People did not cross this man intentionally.

There was a Saturday night program called "Hammer Price" which was hosted by the comedy duo, Tunnels (one of whom is Takaaki Ishibashi, who had his brief 15 minutes of Hollywood by playing the insane baseball import in the last few movies of the "Major League"franchise). It was an auction comedy game show of sorts where the studio audience could bid on some crazed piece of pop culture whether it be a sample of bathwater that a buxom actress had sat in or Robert DeNiro's attempt at calligraphy (both true). Well, one night, someone bid and won the opportunity for his child's graduation ceremony to be filmed by Oshima himself. And Oshima actually did it....with crane shots and all of the energy and anger that he brought to all of his other projects. It was quite the pun intended.

Anyways, I leave you with the theme from "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" which is one of the de rigueur Xmas tunes heard everywhere in Japan during the Holidays.

And this is "Ai no Corrida", the Quincy Jones disco tune from "The Dude". It's one of my favourite songs from that era of R&B, and the original version was written by Chaz Jankel and Kenny Young. "Ai no Corrida"was the original Japanese title from Oshima's "In The Realm of the Senses", and according to Jankel in his first album, he decided to adopt the title for the song.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Facebook, Face Music?

Monday January 14, 10:46 p.m.

I've been getting some reports and more photos of the Snow That Swallowed Tokyo via Facebook. It looks like the trains have been reporting some delays but things are moving surprisingly well. Good to hear. Still, one of my old buddies over there has been reporting that certain drivers have deigned not to switch over to chains or snow tires under the circumstances, so accidents are probably occurring. Y'know, guys....the trains are still really good there.

I read an article in "The Toronto Star" about how some people are trying to quit social networking sites such as the aforementioned FB and Twitter because they're suffering some form of fatigue or they want to show the world that, yes, they no longer want to act as if they were beholden to a digital god. And so they do so....and come sneaking back when they have those Internet withdrawal symptoms. For me, I have no problems with FB or Twitter. Facebook has been my public plaza of sorts with all the pictures and all of the FB friends showing up en masse, and since the vast majority of them are in far-flung places, it's nice to be able to keep in touch with them, even digitally. There is of course some of the personal security issues that Mark Zuckerberg seems to have some problems with, but again in my case, I don't particularly put up photos of people too much, and if any photos of me end up anywhere, I would actually take that as a long as the site isn't some fat fetish page. For a guy who still needs to know about what's been happening in Japan (such as yesterday's storm), FB has been OK by me.

Snow in Tokyo

Monday January 14, 8:16 p.m.

Well, my Facebook was all a-flutter with photos from the buddies back in Japan concerning the big snow in the northern half of Honshu....which includes Tokyo. And YouTube seems to have had quite a few videos get uploaded of the atypical blizzard which swamped the region in white. The video above was taken in the tony neighbourhood of Den'en-Chofu...the home of my Skype student and former Prime Minister Hatoyama; it oughta be interesting talking with him for his first lesson of the year this coming Saturday night. In any case, Tokyo got hit with 7 cm....which is an enormous amount for the Japanese capital. Apparently, the JR is running; the joke about them was that if a single snowflake hit any of the rails, the entire network would come crashing down.

In my years there, I remember perhaps one Winter in which the Kanto region got anything comparable to what happened on Sunday. Basically, Tokyo is snow-free most of the time, and what snow does come down is in the form of pleasant flurries. If there is accumulation, usually it's gone by the next morning. I don't think that will be the case today and perhaps for the next couple of days. Tokyoites may even experience that horrendous sight of watching the snow gradually going various shades of gray and black....and perhaps yellow, in pet-friendly areas.

Meanwhile, over here in Toronto, the grounds are bare once more but perhaps just for a few days. Apparently, 4 cm will be on the way later this week. The cold has returned, though. There was that distinctive below-freezing snap in the air. Spent the afternoon on this new translation assignment....not too difficult but had to download a free PowerPoint viewer on the new computer which was aggravating, plus I got the usual feedback from the editors about my work. I'm never gonna be too thrilled to see that although I am aware that they're trying to improve me as a translator. Let's say taking criticism....constructive or destructive....will never be my strong suit. In any case, it seems that I will be on this assignment for this week so I'm just focusing on that.

The Anime King has gotten in contact with me. He managed to miss the big snowstorm in Tokyo by a couple of weeks, and is now enjoying the hustle and bustle in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. He'll be back on the 19th after his long flight from Southeast Asia back to Canada; was surprised to say that he wants to meet up the next day for our first outing. He may want to re-consider considering the potential for extreme jet lag.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

January Thaw

Sunday January 13, 9:13 p.m.

As was the case yesterday, I couldn't complain about the weather today. Was downright boiling at 12 degrees....too bad the sun refused to cooperate. It was pretty dreary all day. However, things will get back to normal as of tonight as we dip down to -2. Strangely enough, according to a photo put up by my Facebook friend in Japan, it looks like Tokyo is getting bombed with the white stuff. But as I've said before, snow isn't exactly an everyyear phenomenon in that area, so I'm sure a lot of kids...and my friend (she's in her mid-thirties but she's got the heart and energy of someone a sixth her age)...are taking full advantage of having snow.

Well, the NHL training camps are in full swing as of today. As would be the case in this city, the press conferences of both the General Manager and the Coach of the Maple Leafs were Breaking News. Haven't heard any news of major trades and I figure if GM Nonis is gonna be pulling the trigger, it will be within the next 24 hours....otherwise, he'll be making some major disruptions to his team. But then considering the boneheaded timing behind the ousting of his predecessor a few days ago, anything can happen.

Got my latest translation assignment in, and I'll probably be getting another multi-day one tomorrow. I'm definitely getting busier....the money coming in will be helpful, especially when tax time comes around. I also helped out a friend of my sister-in-law who'll be coming back to Japan from overseas life; she needed some advice on the Customs stuff. Basically, if she's having goods follow her, she should be prepared for some extra time conversing with the folks in another section of Pearson.

Speaking of which, my sister-in-law and the rest of my extended family came over for dinner tonight. My niece was as cheerful and running off at the mouth as usual. Unfortunately, she was one of the hundreds (thousands?) of kids who got caught in the middle of that Friday morning kerfuffle involving the Ontario government and the teachers' union, not that it bothered her too much.

Was looking at some photos from my time in Tokyo. I took this one back in 2009 as I was walking through the Park Avenue (Koen Dori) area of Shibuya. Sometimes when I look through the shots, I can't believe it's been over a year since I made my return from my second home. I do miss the place at times. Shibuya can be grungy at times but this shot certainly makes the neighbourhood a little more sophisticated.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Translating Saturday

Saturday January 12, 10:48 p.m.

It's been a quiet start to the weekend with most of today being spent doing some translation work. It wasn't too difficult but somewhat arduous since there wasn't much of a translation memory to work with. Gotta say that the weather has been gorgeous at least when it comes to temperature. The mid-January thaw has done its job....the snow is completely gone and it feels more like Spring out there. We should have one more day like this since we'll be heading up to 12 degrees tomorrow but then we return with a huge thud back to Winter as the high temperature is only going up to 0 degrees on Monday. We may even have some of that snow back by this time next week.

Well, the players have ratified the CBA, so hockey is back on. Training camps should be launching tomorrow and the first games will be hitting the screen and the arenas next Saturday. I'm gonna be really interested in seeing how the general managers will be parlaying the next few days before game time. The big question here in Toronto is whether the new guy, Dave Nonis, will be getting Roberto Luongo as the new goalie. Even if he does don his mask here at the ACC, I think he will just be a band-aid until one of the youngsters finally gets up to speed and skill. But the guy who won't be involved in any of this: Brian Burke. He had his final press conference with the media he mostly despises. He was relatively cordial, though, as he apologized for his failure to bring any sort of winning team to the masses, but he still brought out plenty of stick to certain members of the press....namely Steve Simmons. Most of those reporters won't admit it, but I bet some of them would like to use a stick on him. In any case, he's gone....let's see what the new guy does.

But on the 19th, I've got my Skype student back on-line for this lesson, so I won't be seeing too much of the game. It's a Habs-Buds lineup but it's over in Montreal, and this matchup is rather far from the classic level from yesteryear. Both the Canadiens and the Leafs have seen far better days. And another old friend from Japan is visiting....I was invited for a big reunion dinner on that night but had to decline because of the lesson, but hopefully I may be able to make it for the dim sum the next day, although I know that The Anime King should be coming back home on the 18th so he may come calling for our first Anime-and-Foodie outing of the year.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mission Completed

Thursday January 10, 11:53 a.m.

Well, got the initial translation done for that assignment. Took about 3 days but I got it done more than 24 hours before the deadline. I still have to give it a good once-over for any errors or mis-translations so that will probably be what will take up my day tomorrow. It wasn't supremely difficult but there were quite a few pages to go through. Had a bit of a scare last night when, for some reason, the Internet wasn't coming through as the router was having conniptions I couldn't control. I wasn't translating in the evening but was worried that the problems could have gone into today.

Looks like we're in the middle of a January thaw. It's really warm for a Toronto Winter at 4 degrees today, but things should get utterly boiling by the weekend when we hit the double digits as a high. I think people will be in the mood to break out the T-shirts and windsails. But of course, in Tokyo, that still means wrapping the scarves and buttoning up the wool coats. Still, it seems as if half of Japan is undergoing a major deep-freeze this year. Tokyo has been hovering at about the freezing point as a low for several days....something that doesn't happen all too often in The Big Sushi. It's gonna be interesting getting The Anime King's account of the weather there when he gets back from his vacation in a couple of weeks. For me, the winters in Tokyo were great for me although I often missed the snow. We sometimes got socked in by the white stuff every few years or so but basically the capital was free and clear. It was cold....for a Japanese city....and clear, though, which made Mt. Fuji sightings a lot easier from the Tozai Line subways.

Anyways, getting back to Toronto that I've completed the translation, I'll have lunch and finally get a good hour's walk in for the first time in 3 days.

Pikachu greeting me on top of the Ueno Matsuzakaya
Department Store back in November 2009.
What's life without a little whimsy?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

So Long, Burkie!

Wednesday January 9, 8:35 p.m.

Well, I'll tell ya....I was just going to start up lunch after a few hours of translation work in my bedroom, and I decide to turn on good ol' CP24. As soon as the TV goes on, the dramatic tones of "Breaking News" flies out of the speaker, and I get the info that Leafs GM Brian Burke is out the door. Yes, the guy who made the word "truculent" more than a cool move in Scrabble was fired after 4 years on the job.

It's been an interesting several weeks for Toronto sports teams and media. We have two teams, the Blue Jays and the Leafs, who used to have glory years but now don't....both teams stunk out the joint in their previous seasons, and now both teams have pulled off more excitement in the off-season than they did on active status. For a day in which the only exciting news about ice hockey was to have been the official ratification on the NHL owners' side of the new CBA between them and the NHLPA, everyone got blindsided into furious action. TSN and Sportsnet pretty much threw out the schedule for the rest of the afternoon, and only spoke about Burke....with a momentary interruption for the official announcement of the ratification. The news first broke in the middle of lunch hour, so I assume that the gaggle time around the watercooler in a lot of companies got extended by 15 minutes. Probably the gang at all of the restaurants suddenly went quiet for a few minutes before the ambient level of chatter increased tenfold.

I was only back for one year of the reign of Brian Burke, but quickly picked up how prickly he could be with the media....and Don Cherry. I saw the 1:45 press conference of the announcement of Burke's sudden ouster and the introduction of the "new" guy, David Nonis, an old friend and colleague of Burke's and his No. 2. Nonis said that he had gotten the news this morning, but he looked as if he had gotten the news a minute before the press conference. I think probably all of us were caught off-guard by the timing of the news but not of the news itself. Burke had promised that he would bring glory to Toronto once again when he arrived back in late 2008; of course, he brought nothing close to that, so he should be fired. But the question everyone is asking: why now? The weekend should be interesting once the NHLPA ratifies the CBA. The content of those last two statements could be linked.

Well, at least I now know a word that rhymes with "succulent".

Monday, January 7, 2013

System Progressive Protection

Monday January 7, 7:36 p.m.

Feeling somewhat exhausted right now. I went toe-to-toe with my first computer virus/malware in several years earlier this afternoon. Someone once coined the phrase "Evil is banal." Well, you couldn't get more evil than "System Progressive Protection". Somehow, somewhere....despite having all of my defenses up, I got smacked in between the eyes with this sudden outburst of a fake-looking screen scanning my computer and informing me that I've got tons of viruses and that I should be paying bucks for this fake anti-virus software. I didn't visit any weird sites or download anything, but then again, anytime I'm online, there is always a chance of getting hit with a virus.

And SPP is one truculent piece of malware. Its icon is a lock and it insinuated itself with the proverbial claws. It held fast, and every few minutes, it kept haranguing me with messages about these problems and that I should get the solution....all the while preventing me from accessing any of the other legit antiviral remedies in my hard drive, as well as Hotmail. Every other site I tried to access got me a page warning me about not accessing it before it let me through. Despite my annoyance, I read enough about how insidious SPP is and then checked out YouTube to see if I could find any remedies there. There were a lot of videos and they sounded useful but every time I tried to download the needed software, the malware stopped me at every turn until I found a Trojan Killer at one site and was able to get that past the guards and kill the entire process. Glad that I could do it by myself and am better protected now. I guess it's true what they say: whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Old Black & Whites

Still catching those old movies on Turner Movie Classics from time to time. Saw one movie from the Torchy Blane series....apparently, the sassy reporter character was the inspiration for one Lois Lane later on. "Fly Away, Baby" was barely 75 minutes and even for a movie from those days, it was done on a shoe-aglet budget. But what was interesting about this one was the last third of the movie was about this worldwide race between two very rich fellows of which one leg was by zeppelin. Considering that this flick was released in 1937, I guess the production must've happened before the Hindenburg disaster. Also, one of the stops was Frankfurt, Germany and one scene showed one zepp with the Nazi emblem on the tail. Otherwise, the movie was a pretty fluffy amuser with the characters just hamming it up with no care about an Oscar...basically what anyone would imagine a 1930s comedy-adventure movie would sound like.

Then, just today I found out from Wikipedia that a lot of the original radio broadcasts and perhaps even the original TV broadcasts of "Dragnet"in the 1950s were out in the public domain, so people can download them to their hearts' content. I didn't bother doing so but I did watch the very first episode of the first season of the Jack Webb police classic, complete with the legendary theme song, right from YouTube.

He's Joe Friday...he's a cop....partner's Ben Romero...he's a Joe is....Chief of Detectives is Thad Brown (played by Raymond Burr!)....and this is the pilot!

The pilot is indeed interesting....just for the fact that the episode takes place within only two rooms, and the guys get their hands very dirty.

NHL's Back and First Party of the Year

Sunday January 6, 12:08 p.m.

Well, I heard it first thing this morning on CP24....the National Hockey League is apparently going back into business. Saw Donald Fehr and Gary Bettmann together....on the same a relieved, if not particularly happy, declaration that a deal has tentatively been struck between the owners and the players, so that if everything goes well (and they should), professional ice hockey could be back as early as next Tuesday.

Now, the thing is how will the fans react? Some will start singing "Happy Days Are Here Again?" and will be clawing at the doors of arenas all over North America to get into their seats; others will make a warp-speed turn-away from the players and owners in the same way as a girlfriend might do when her beau grovels up to her in apology after a major screwup. The point is what the ratio will be. In Canada, I think it'll be more of the is just too ingrained into our psyche for us to un-forgive it for long. As for me, although a lot of my love for the sport has been leached away due to years away in Japan and, frankly, the Leafs' past season....I would just be interested in tuning into the first telecast to see how the media handles the opening. Certainly, Sportsnet and TSN were giving full court press by devoting hours to this news. Maybe the equivalent in Japan would be that match-fixing scandal in sumo a couple of years ago.

Strangely enough, several hours earlier yesterday, my friend and I were talking about that subject. I went over to his apartment's party room for a New Year's party of sorts in Mississauga. It was nice and got to talk with a few people. Realized some hard truths about myself and one other person but that's the way it goes. My friend was wondering about getting a group together for a trip to Japan sometime in the future....perhaps next year....feasibly speaking, that would be the easiest way for me to go about it. But that's all very much in the future.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Back to the Mill

Thursday January 3, 9:17 p.m.

Well, the Holidays are finally over. To be honest, they weren't particularly all that festive for me since most of my time is actually spent at home as a translator, in any case. Plus, I didn't put on all those Xmas albums; just a few of them and plus the J-Xmas songs I profiled on my other blog. Mind you, Toronto, and the rest of the hockey-loving nation, may get a very belated Xmas present in the form of the return of the NHL...maybe.

I'm definitely back to work. Since yesterday, I've gotten daily assignments for translation, and my old student, Swank, has been sending me drafts of her application letter to one of the universities in Tokyo for a course that she would like to study. I already got paid for that...pretty generous. It's good to have that feeling of regular work even though I don't have to leave home. The rise in TTC fares doesn't bother me too much since I only go downtown when I want to, not when I have to.

Mind you, Saturday will be a crossover trip for me. I'm heading out to the wilds of Mississauga for a New Year's party of sorts at my friend's place. It's potluck and games; I think I can handle the latter but not sure what I can bring for food.

Kom Jug Yuen

Thursday January 3, 8:53 p.m.

I did mention a few entries ago in the last year that I was going to meet my old Japan buddy, The Satyr, for lunch last Saturday. And I did. The snow was coming down to the extent that any memories of the Winter That Never Was the previous year disappeared completely. Before I met up with him, I took temporary refuge in that anime/manga store just down Spadina for about 15 minutes or so. Of course, it's nothing compared to some of the emporia in Tokyo, but saw a respectable number of translated manga, CDs and figures. If I were on more secure financial ground, I would probably be investing some of my cash into these things, especially on the "Haruhi Suzumiya"series, but I'm gonna have to wait somewhat longer.

Anyways, I met The Satyr at about 12:30 in front of Kom Jug Yuen. It'd been over a year since I saw the lad with the rest of my old Movie Gang back in Tokyo. The last time was when we had that dinner at the Akasaka Hooters (deep-fried pickles....well, a work in progress). We got in, sat down and started catching up on friends and movies. It'd been a very long time since I was in ol' KJY. Another friend of mine, The Entrepreneur, and I often hit this place in the early 90s. I was happy to see that the place hasn't changed all that much. The wooden tables, the Chinese lanterns and the hanging meat at the front were all there. I guess the reunion wasn't just for The Satyr and was also a re-meeting with an old culinary haunt.

We both ordered what we had wanted for years there. Meat on Rice. In The Satyr's case, it was just the char-siu on rice, but I splurged to have BBQ duck crammed in with the BBQ pork as well. Splurge, of course, is a relative term with Kom Jug Yuen. I think it just cost me $6. And there was that lovely simple soup with chicken, stock, slices of ginger and some greens. Good meal for a cold day.

The chatting continued on as we made our way around the corner and to the Second Cup on College St. just across from U of T. That place was also one of memories for us. The Satyr used to work part-time there while I went there on Saturdays with the oft-huge crowd of Language Exchange members from the JCSA. The Second Cup was the transition point between the Exchange site at the International Student Centre and the various restaurants that the Japanese/Canadian crowd headed for. The Satyr told me that he and the staff behind the counter had to get their battle gear up and ready to handle the sudden influx. It certainly wasn't that way on the 28th. For one thing, the JCSA wasn't in session over the Holidays, and for another, I heard that the even larger group now is more or less heading to the closer Starbucks. So, it was nice and quiet and empty when the two of us had another reunion with an old place. It was good seeing The Satyr. Hopefully, perhaps someday, maybe some of the others might come and visit, although Movie Buddy will probably be not one of them since he became a father for the first time last year.

At this point, I would think that The Satyr will be getting ready to head on back to Japan in a couple of more days. In a way, I envy him since he's going back to the city where I had lived a pretty happy life for many, many years. But I'm settled back into life in Toronto, enjoying a proper Winter this time around. And perhaps making more trips over to Kom Jug Yuen.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Day

Tuesday January 1, 9:51 a.m.

Well, Happy New Year to you. Woke up with only 5 hours of sleep since I knew Mom would be early up in the kitchen making the annual o-zoni: miso soup with rice cakes inside. Plus, there was the usual blobby stewed konnyaku and black beans. No problems with eating them (although a few people in Japan leave this mortal coil due to choking on the rice cakes) but I sometimes feel that eating this stuff is more of an obligation than a desire.

Didn't take too long before the shots rang out here in Toronto. There were a couple of shootings downtown overnight, and apparently there has been some sort of incident near Vic Park Station according to the TTC reports. Life in the big city, I guess.

No particular plans but my brother's family will be coming over later today for dinner. Of course, right now in Japan, it's much later into the evening over there, but I assume that a lot of extended families are still reveling in the party atmosphere of O-Shogatsu. This will continue for a couple of more days at least. Over here in the Great White North, it will be straight back to the grindstone as of tomorrow. Of course for me, this will probably entail me walking just a few metres from my bed.