The blog of jumex - A Dubiously Digital Diglot


Thank you ありがとう

Journal for 2008-5-30 Fri..
Weather: Sunny Plan: Personal Affairs

A big thank you to all the people that have sent me letters, comments, and kind words. I really appreciate you being there for me. Last week was pretty tough. My friend Mike and my uncle were especially caring during my time out in San Jose. In any case, things are getting better here. Of course, there are still many difficult things (like the funeral), and annoying things (like money issues) to take care of, but I think I can do it. Even though this is a short message, I really mean it: Thank you!

天気: 晴 行事: 内事



Today's Kanji
Meaning (意味): deceased; the late; dying; perish

Chinese Reading (音読み):
Reading Romaji
Japanese Reading (訓読み):
Reading Romaji
Vocabulary (単語):
Word Reading Romaji Translation
亡くなるなくなるnakunaruto die
亡くすなくすnakusuto lose something
亡びるほろびるhorobiruto be ruined
亡ぼすほろぼすhorobosuto destroy
亡ぶほろぶhorobuto perish
亡父ぼうふboufumy late father

Trevor Lalish-Menagh

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My Father Passed On 父が亡くなりました

I was working from home today. Thank goodness. That was the only way they could get in touch with me.

This afternoon, a police man knocked on my door and delivered me a message on a pink slip announcing that my father had died in San Jose, CA. The slip had a number on it of a police woman in San Jose. When I called, I was told that my dad died in an apartment fire on Sunday.

Here is the link to a news article on it:

A 4-alarm fire. Wow. I am still in shock. I currently live in Philadelphia, PA on the other side of the USA. I am taking a plane to San Jose, CA tomorrow to get the process started.

I think I will have a memorial service in CA, one in WA (where many of the relatives live), and one to bury him in NE with my mom (15 years passed) and brother (who died at age 3).

Anyway, there it is. I am parentless. It is quite a shocker, let me tell you. I guess you are never really prepared, huh?







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the Trev Report 2007-07-03

Hello all and welcome once again to the Trev Report. Wherein you shall find many a tidbit about the life and goings on of Trevor R. Lalish-Menagh, your humble author. As of late my wife, Signe Rose Lalish-Menagh, and I have been preparing for our grand departure from the land of the rising sun after a four-year stint as English teachers. In little more than a month we will be on a plane heading back to our country of birth and a new future. It has been a long three years since my last visit to the continental United States, and I have to admit I am both nervous and thrilled about my impending homecoming.
But now, without further adieu, on with the report.

Trev's Love Life
Signe and I move forward in our fifth year of wedlock unabated by relational strife. Our daily routines drive us along and the thoughts of being close to my beloved compels my drive throughout the long and tiresome days. I am glad she is at my side, a hearty companion and a caring friend. I would be lost without her.

Trev's ALT Work
My last month at my two elementary schools and two junior high schools here in rural Japan looms close. As I while away my time at my desk, I cannot help but remember all the pleasant times I have had out here. My students are my pride and joy, it is them whom I shall miss the dearest of all. I think back to my teachers as a child and remember how they had the power to change my life, and hope that I have been a positive force for some here as well. I imagine that is the hope of any teacher.
There is one last large event coming up soon at work. The first week of July there are a slew of international day events at elementary and junior high schools around the Miyoshi area, where I work. I will be attending many of them, and one is at a school I teach at. As I mentioned in last month's Trev Report, there will be many ALTs (assistant language teachers) from various parts of the world in attendance. I am nervous about the event, but excited at the same time. Much like planning a large convention, there is a certain rush that accompanies the planning of one of these events. It is a good feeling and I am glad to have the opportunity to leave this job having undertook something so noteworthy before I depart.

Trev's Computer Work
My subsequent employer is busying himself with the details of incorporation, legal issues, and the like as I patiently wait in the sidelines, like a football player waiting for the coach to call him into the game. There is precious little for me to do at the present. I spend my time with a borrowed computer from my employer's intended partner familiarizing myself with the ins and outs of the operating system and various applications our potential clients will have trouble with, but without a client to request our services, my study lacks critical focus. Many a time I have tread down a path of study to find later down the road it will have little to no value to us and our clients. With time, I know, my path will become clear, yet my desire to know now what lies ahead kneads at my very being, and my anxiety sometimes comes out in frustration.
What will be needed of me is as of yet undefined, and with that uncertainty comes my fear that I will not be needed at all, a relic of forgotten computer knowledge plunged into a field I have scant experience in. The faith my employer has in me is heartening, and well beyond the faith I have in myself. With a far bit of luck and a great show of aptitude, I might just make it in the city of brotherly love, where I will be moving with my wife Signe in about 2 months. The support of friends and family will be important, especially in those first few months, I believe. It is a blessing that my employer is a man that I can call a friend and to whom I trust. It puts my mind at ease, but still I will need that support.

Trev and Signe's Diet
Our diet and exercise routine is coming along swimmingly. We have altered our regimen slightly to afford us more time on the evenings. Perviously we had been exercising after work around six or seven in the evening, but that left us to eat dinner at a rather late hour. Not liking this arrangement, Signe suggested that we do our exercising in the mornings, having experimented with the idea last fall at a week-long seminar in the city. So we undertook the task of waking at a bit before five each morning to walk and lift weights everyday. On days with foul weather we stay indoors and use our dance pads and a computer program to exercise with.
Following this pattern I recently achieved my ideal weight of 173 pounds. Although I still have a fair amount of flab around my stomach area waiting to be turned into muscle, I feel good at my current weight. Now I must focus my efforts on not slipping up and reverting to my old eating habits; therein lies my greatest difficulties. I still have a problem controlling what I eat. If it were not for Signe's excellent meals I would never had been able to achieve my goals. Here is to hoping that with my new line of work I will be able to maintain my current diet and exercise situation. I am really worried that having coworkers that work late and eat large quantities of take out and junk food, that I will not have the willpower to resist. I do not deal with peer pressure well. I pray that I can endure.

Trev's Studies
My mind has been ill-focused on studies as of late. I ordered the new Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) Study Guide and intend to return to my studies for that. The test will now be offered four times a year, so I will have many more opportunities to take it. I am sure that I will be able to pass the test given time and study. I just need to apply myself more rigorously to the task. It will be trying for the first few years in Philadelphia, I imagine. I will be preoccupied with not getting laid off from a new and stressful profession while I acclimate myself to the eastern seaboard and its ways. I will make it though. I have resolve, and that is what you need for these things. I think that through the foreign service that I will be able to make a difference in the US and the world; that is what I truly crave. Yet, only time will tell my story in full.
In the times between I envision finding it a necessity to busy myself with the particulars of my new career in the information technology sector. There is much I must learn, and even more that I have forgotten, about the ins and outs of computers. As for the Macintosh computer in particular, which I will be focusing the greater part of my energies becoming a master in, I am not but an educated novice. There is much work ahead of me, but I am up for the task. I am devoted to the success of this business, and I owe it to my friend and soon-to-be padrone to get to a worthy level of competence in the utmost urgency. For his, and my own, livelihood, I will do my best.

Trev's Books
During my daily commute and my morning walks I listen to audiobooks I get from Here are some of my thought on the books I have listened to recently.
_Voyagers_ by Ben Bova is a science fiction novel written in the crux of the cold war and involves the discovering of an alien spacecraft orbiting around Jupiter and the efforts of the US and Russia to make first contact. I honestly did not like many of the characters in the book, many were quite one-dimensional. For example, the head researcher whose jealousy is so great it usurps all logic, or the woman that uses her body to move up in the ranks. Even though the characters were irritating, though, the premise of the story was gripping: first contact. Many science fiction novels have been tackled the subject, but Ben Bova really brings it to life in his detailed telling. The rendezvous does not feel contrived or unreal and the climax is powerful, even thought the background of the story, the Cold War, is long since been made history. This is the first in a trilogy of books, but I doubt I will venture to read the others. I selected _Voyagers_ because of it's nomination as Science Fiction Audiobook of the Year at this year's Audies awards, the audiobook equivalent of the Oscars. It is read well, but I cannot say I would recommend it to the general audience.
_The Kite Runner_ by Khaled Hosseini is a novel detailing the life of an Afghani boy whose family flees the country as the Red Army invaded in 1979 and it follows his life as he moves to the US and eventually returns to Afghanistan to rescue someone he had long tried to forget. It is a deeply moving story about the relationship between a Shia Hazara and a Pashtun Sunni in Afghanistan and the difference in rank that implies, Hazara being of much lower rank than Pashtuns. The first half of the book details the young man's life in pre-war Afghanistan and his dealings with his neighbors and friends, and a prejudgment against the Hazara, and all Shiites, that is imbued in the society. The second half details his return to Afghan soil after the birth and come to power of the Sunni Taliban. Khaled Hosseini paints a vivid picture of the Afghan landscape amidst his travels and the book is an educating about the region as it is engrossing in it's story of adventure and personal discovery. I can recommend this book to any interested in good fiction as well as those wanting to understand a bit more about the conflicts currently occurring in the desert land.
_The Stolen Child_ by Keith Donohue is another book on the Audies Science Fiction Audiobook of the Year list. It is a fantasy novel about a fairy, a changeling, that swaps places with a little boy and lives his life, while, in turn, the stolen child is transformed into a fairy and is forced to live his lie among the forest hobgoblins, forever a child waiting for his chance to one day steal another life. The format of the book is similar to that of _Water for Elephants_ that I reviewed previously, insomuch that the chapters are staggered so that the odd chapters are told from the perspective of the changeling, and the even ones from that of the stolen boy. The book follows their parallel existences for some thirty years and their chance encounters and complex lives. It is an enjoyable listen and the story is moving and well thought out. Donohue creates an intricate fiction that draws the reader in and makes them believe. It was a joy to encounter.
_Hubris_ by Michael Isikoff and David Corn is a detailed after-the-fact telling of the campaign to bring the current Iraq War to life in the White House, and especially in the Vice President's office. The book goes into great detail about the now unclassified documents that were used to convince both Congress and the American people that warring with the Iraqis would be the right thing to do. It describes well the Weapons of Mass Destruction debacle and the Plame affair, as well as the constant blame-shifting after the excreta hit the ventilator. I have to admit, I did not follow the story all that well as it was going on, so this was an interesting retelling of the facts and it was very enlightening. Of course, like all books involving politics, one must take opinions within with a grain of salt. The book certainly leans to the left in its judgments of the events, but it does make sure all the facts are spread out in gross detail so the reader can judge for themselves. It is thick in points and it is the events more than the writing style that makes the tale riveting, but all in all a worthwhile read for anyone that is interested in the goings-on of the White House and the CIA in the days between 9/11 and the start of the war.

That is about it for this installment of the Trev Report. I hope you have enjoyed reading it. I have left out some sections, and I hope that interested parties will, if sections are missed, email me personally and request them added. I will be happy to oblige.
Until next time, I hope you are well, and if you have some free time I would love to hear from you through email, phone, or whatever forms of communication you luxuriate in employing.

Trevor Lalish-Menagh | The mediocre teacher tells. | The good teacher explains. | The superior teacher demonstrates.
+81 (80) 1929-5216 | The great teacher inspires. ~William Arthur Ward

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the Trev Report 2007-06-01

Hello all and welcome once again to the Trev Report, available online []. If you are not part of the Trev Report mailing list, please take a moment to sign up by sending an email to
Many big events have happened in the interval since our last correspondence. I hope here to illuminate you on at least a few of these as well as some of the more trivial details as well. So sit back and enjoy, for you are about to enter the Trev Report:

Trev's Love Life
Signe and I are doing swimmingly. We celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary on May 25th. It has been a great ride so far, and I am looking forward to spending many more happy years with my beautiful bride, who is still as radiant as the day I first met her.

Trev's Work
Work has been keeping me busy as of late. The first week of July, I will be hosting an International Day event at one of the schools I work at, Kimita Junior High School (JHS) []. The all-day event will bring together people from Canada, Egypt, Australia, the US, and New Zealand. Together they will teach the students about their respective countries and interact with them by playing fun educational games.
As the assistant language teacher (ALT) at Kimita JHS, I am in charge of planning the event and preparing the students as well as the guests for the day. The students will be presenting skits and songs in English to the international guests; much work has to be done so that it comes off without a hitch.
Signe organized this event last year, and I have some big shoes to fill to be able to pull it off half as well as she did. In any case, I will do my best.
Other than that, my work life has stayed relatively constant. I spend time at elementary schools and junior high schools entertaining children and making them interested in pursuing English more rigorously. It is a fun job, but I do not envision myself advancing in this career path much farther than I already have. Which brings us to the next section and some big news.

Trev's Career Change
As of May 21, 2007, both Signe and I have given notice of our resignation from our respective jobs here in Japan. We are going to leave the country for good on the weekend of July 28, 2007. This is a huge event that has been months in the making. And herein lies the details.
The town of Iinan [], in which Signe and I live, consists of two distinct sections: Akagi, where we live, and Tonbara. Each of these sections houses an ALT. The former being Signe, and the latter being a man from Philadelphia called Mike. It is with this Mike that our decision was made.
Mike is a fine and upstanding fellow in his early thirties, much like Signe and I, who came to Japan to get a much-needed break from his life of computer consultant work in Philadelphia. For a number of years, Mike had been a self-employed computer consultant specializing in Macintosh computers (Macs), used by many artists and marketing firms. His decision to come to Japan, as I understand it, was due to the fact that he was burned out in his work and wanted to try something completely different.
Signe befriended Mike when I was in Thailand this summer with Mateo [], and upon my return we hit it off together, having much in common with each other, like our shared interest in technology and philosophy to name a few things.
Throughout the year it became clear to Mike, as well, as us, that this life in Japan was not a good fit for him in the long term, and thus he started to make plans to return home after his year-long contract ended in July. In the process of doing this, he tackled the problem of finding a job when he goes home. It turns out that the fellow in Philadelphia that Mike gave all his consulting contracts to a year hence in preparation to coming to Japan, Jeff is his name, is positively swamped with work and desperate for Mike to return and alleviate his workload.
So, Mike and Jeff started to discuss consulting work and decided that they would go into business together and start a consulting firm in the Philadelphia area, instead of being simply two independent consults working together. This will give them the opportunity to grow the business and hopefully add consults and others down the road.
Mike was pleased with this plan, but for one thing. The reason he left Philadelphia in the first place is that he was burned out doing his job alone. With no one to help him with his work, no one to commiserate with, no one to get him through the rough spots, he could not take it anymore. Sometime during the long winter months here in the Japanese countryside, which are naturally the hardest for a new expatriate, while Signe and Mike were discussing the ins and outs of winter depression and the trappings of staying in Japan with no real future, Mike got it in his head that I would be an ideal companion for his new company back in the US. Thus he started courting me on the idea of leaving Japan and becoming employee number one at his yet-to-be-named corporation.
From the start I had my fair share of concerns and trepidations. Not least of which being my blissful ignorance of the Macintosh line of computer in the past ten years. The last Mac I used was a Quadra 650 in 1997 working as an intern at Palm Computing. Apple and its ilk had come a long way since then. Throughout my constant concern of inadequacy, Mike reassured me that for someone with my mindset and background in computing it would only be a matter of time until I understood the details of the platform as well as any other consultant in the field.
His constant encouragement, and the lending of one of Jeff's Macs (a PowerBook G4) to play and learn with eventually eased my trepidations and eliminated my fears of incompetence, which most certainly stem from the shame of being laid off from my first computer programming job after college in San Jose all those many years ago.
My next concern was a financial one. We would be going from two salaries to one, effectively halving our income, at least until Signe can get up on her feet in Philadelphia. This was a hard issue to deal with especially since we would be moving from a financially stable, albeit stagnant, position to a much more volatile, but also more expansive, field. I will not bore the reader with the details of our admittedly private discussions, needless to say that Signe and I were able to come to terms with this situation and accept the risk it lays before us.
Beyond those two larger issues lay mostly emotional barriers to moving: the fear of change, the idea that a return to the US would trap us there, the fright of gaining back the weight we have worked so hard to take off in the past year (Philadelphia being, as we hear it, the stoutest city in all of America), among countless others.
As must be quite apparent to you now, dear reader, we have come to terms with all this and have accepted Mike and Jeff's offer to move to Philadelphia and be their first employee. I am excited about the move, and now that it is official, I find myself ever anxious to start our new life in that foreign land called home.

Trev and Signe's Diet
Signe and I have been on the same online diet plan [] since last summer, and the results are very visible. I can almost fit into a pair of size 34 pants. When I started the diet, I could barely squeeze into a size 40. None of my clothes fit me anymore, not that I am complaining. It is a great feeling. I have not felt this healthy and fit in a long time.
I still have a long way to go, though. I am 15 pounds away from my ideal weight. I think most of it is hovering around my belly, but that last stretch, I imagine, is the toughest to get rid of. I am going to keep at it. I actually feel good about how I look, and that is a great thing.
Signe is looking out of this world as well. It is hard to recall a time that she has looked more vibrant and in good shape. I could not do this without her. We keep each other honest, and the healthy dinners she prepares are fantastic.

Trev's Traffic Accident
Unfortunately, a bit of bad luck and poor judgment came over me a few months ago. Signe's brother and his girlfriend, Em and Katy, were visiting at the time and I had wanted to get to the bank to get money for them for the weekend before the bank closed. A light fluttering of snow had just begun as I came down a hill on a small road preparing to cross a lightless intersection with a busy main road.
In the twilight I looked both ways and, although seeing the large truck in the distance, judged that I would be able to make it across the street in time, so I went for it. As I crossed the street I failed to continue to glance at the oncoming traffic, so I was not aware just how close the 18-wheeler was to me, until I heard a horn honk.
The horn made me instinctively put on my brakes, which in retrospect was not the best of ideas. The driver honked at the precise moment I was in front of him, and when he hit it was a perfect t-bone collision with a vibrating crunch as my car spun off to the side of the road to smash into a guardrail and send a weakly reinforced stop sign flying away.
I would have come away from the accident completely unscathed if it was not for a convenient addition I put on the car. Often here in Japan one will see tricked out cars, and a very common add-on to these cars is an enlarged front mirror. This has the added usefulness to allow you to see a great deal of your back window, instead of just enough. I had installed a particularly large and rectangular one of these in my car about a month beforehand. It was on this that I flew forward and ripped a large gash on my head on.
A lot of blood, a frantic cell phone call, and an ambulance ride later I was at the local hospital with Signe, Em, and Katy at my side as I got 7 stitches sewn into my skull. The upside of this unfortunate series of happenstances is that I finally had a good excuse to change my hairstyle to a buzz cut, which suits my balding head much better than the head of hair I was sporting before with its noticeable hole in the middle.
The downside of it all is that according to Japanese law, since I was found to be ninety percent at fault for the accident, I have to pay for ninety percent of everything out of my own pocket. We did not have comprehensive insurance on the car, very few foreigners in Japan do, and the minimum insurance doesn't cover anything, it seems. I have to pay for the guardrail and signpost I knocked over and the cost to junk my car, of course. And those two were not so expensive. The big expense will be the repairs to the truck, which were slight, but still substantial. That seems manageable if it was not for the fact that I will also have to pay for the commercial truck's estimated lost income while it is in the repair shop. Although I have not received the bill yet from the truck company's insurance company, most Japanese people I have talked to agree that the sum will be quite large indeed.
Fortunately, Signe has stood by me throughout this entire ordeal, a fact that touches me deeply. That she stands by me in my stupidest hour, through such a grand lapse of judgment, is the sign of a true companion. I am beyond grateful for her steadfastness by my side. It means the world to me.

Trev's Studies
Have you ever thought that your brain is rotting away in your skull, as you sit there in your living room watching some mindless dribble on the idiot box, knowing you should be doing something, anything, but this? I do. Do not get me wrong; I love a bit of escapism. As I write later in this letter, I watch a fair bit of television and I like doing so, but I feel, sometimes, that my mind deserves more.
I am in a quandary. I have been reading a lot about Macintosh computers, Philadelphia, etc. But I want to do exercises that flex my brain muscles. Often I will start a project with this goal in mind only to abandon it for lack of interest or what I perceive as lack of utility. My biggest problem is not following a project to its logical conclusion, but instead getting sidetracked by the latest greatest thing I stumble onto. As always, it is focus I lack. One of the reasons I am taking this job in Philadelphia is to help refine that focus.

Trev's Books
I have gotten into the habit of listening to audio books while I drive to and from work, as well as during my daily fifty-minute walk around town. In this way I have had the chance to listen to a great many interesting books. I would like to share some of them with you now.
_The Worst Hard Time_ by Timothy Egan is a nonfiction book documenting the lives of a few select families in the Texas panhandle and dust belt states through the Great American Dust Bowl of the 1930's. Mr. Egan goes to these old farm towns and interviews once hopeful people that, instead of heading west like the Okis in a Steinbeck novel, decided to stay out the dust bowl and hold on to what little they had, even if it was nothing at all. These people's first hand accounts of the black dusters, dust pneumonia, and the great wasting away of the ancient Indian prairie land as prospectors came and tilled land never meant for tilling, is heart-wrenching. I had no idea that the great devastation was a result of man's raping of the land. This was a great listen, and an important documentary of the people the survived one of America's greatest travesties.
_Water for Elephants_ by Sara Gruen is a novel about an old traveling circus worker told from two standpoints: one as a ninety-year-old (or ninety-three, he is not sure) man, and one as a youth in the circus in the 1930's. The circus side of the story if it stood alone would be a wholly unremarkable adventure/love story. What makes this book enchanting is the introspection of the old man self as he trips back and forth between his memories and his life in an old folk's home. It is his impressions of elderly life that is especially touching and powerful. The feeling of being forgotten by the world outside, weekly visits by family he can hardly remember anyway, being trapped in a building where everyone treats him like a child, it is all so moving. In the audio book this is driven home by the fact that the chapters are read by two separate people: a young man for the circus bits, and an older gentleman for the nursing home bits. This is a story that touched my heart. It is a good listen for anyone that expects to grow old. *smile*
_The Iliad & The Odyssey_ by Homer is a twenty-eight hour unabridged audio book that is read is a dry monotone voice. Nonetheless, I found it entertaining. There are so many classics of literature that I never read or missed out on, and it is nice to read (or listen, as the case might be) to them now. Twenty-eight hours of this stuff was hard to take, though. Especially _The Iliad_ since it is just one big battle scene with hardly a plot to be seen. My friend Mateo dislikes the _The Lord of the Rings_ movies because of wanton computer graphics battle scenes. _The Iliad_, with rare exception, felt like just such a scene. _The Odyssey_, on the other hand, was a fun adventure story, and I was largely able to forgive the mundane reader as the story drew me in. In brief, for those not in the know, the plots of the two stories are as follows: _The Iliad_: The Greeks attack Troy; Achilles is a whiny baby; then he is not; Hector bits the dust. _The Odyssey_: Odysseus leaves Troy a winner; he pisses off Poseidon; takes twenty years to get home; adventure ensues; he gets home and Penelope, his faithful wife, is being courted by a bunch of jerks; he kills them all; it's over!
_Empire_ by Orson Scott Card is a speculative fiction novel set in near-future USA and describes a new civil war between the radical left and the radical right. It is a very topical novel, and I imagine that it will lose its freshness in a few years time, but if read within the next few years I think a lot of people would enjoy it. I liked thinking about the concept it laid out: mainly that political polarization in the US is getting more and more radical with no answer in sight for reconciliation. The urban/liberal vs. rural/conservative divide [] in the US is real, and it seems that the news media is not helping the cause. You can either watch Fox News's talking heads throw insults at the left, or watch The Daily Show and its ilk throw insults to the right. I have to admit, I am more to the left, but would not it be better to try to understand the other side's viewpoints instead of bash them for believing what they do? In any case, this book might make you think about these things too, and if it does, I think that is a good thing.
_The Aeneid_ by Virgil is yet another classic piece of literature that I had never read before. The reader for this book, as opposed to the two tales by Homer I mentioned above, was extremely energetic and made the book a delight to listen to. _The Aeneid_ follows the journey of a minor character in _The Iliad_, a Trojan named Aeneas, as he escapes the burning wreckage of Troy after the Greek victory with a group of his cohorts and travels to the land of Italy where he settles and creates the foundation of what will be Rome. Aeneas goes through a lot of the same things Odysseus went through in _The Odyssey_ during the first half of the book as he journeys to Italy, but the second half was just a huge battle scene, and we know how I feel about those. In any case, it was good to listen to this ancient classic.
_On the Road_ by Jack Kerouac is an American epic of drifting and life in the beat culture of the 1950's. The Hollywood movie actor Matt Dillon reads this famous piece of modern literature, and does it well done. Kerouac paints a vivid picture of the American landscape in his journeys across the country and back again many times over. His portrayal of the American underbelly of the pristine 1950's is engaging and well articulated. Although it didn't inspire me to want to wonder the country aimlessly, I think that it is reading this book, in part, that makes me want to travel from Seattle to Philadelphia by car this summer. As far as plot and such go, _On the Road_ is sparse, it is more of a travel log, and reminded me of what would today be a blog, not a book.
_On Intelligence_ by Jeff Hawkins and Sandra Blakeslee is a book outlining a new theory on how the brain works. Writing with the layman in mind, Jeff Hawkins, the inventor of the PalmPilot, introduces the reader to his Memory Prediction Framework model of the mind and its implementations in the field of intelligent machines, if it is proven true. The most interesting leap that I saw in the book was the idea that the mind is not like a computer, but more like a really big database with the ability to guess, or predict, future events from looking at what had happened before. Listening to this got me really excited about the possibilities of this to technology if it were proven true. The field of truly intelligent machines would take off, and there would be a lot of money to be made in it. I will be watching the development of this field with bated breath.
_The Areas of My Expertise_ by John Hodgman is a comedy book about, well, the areas of John Hodgman's expertise. I hear that the print book is full of charts and tables, so since that does not translate well into spoken word, John Hodgman (who read the book himself) improvised for most of the book and recorded it with a guitarist as a comical sidekick throughout audio book. I first heard John Hodgman on National Public Radio's (NPR) _This American Life_, of which I always look forward to listening to on the radio. On the show, he is quite funny, but this audio book was a let down. There were a few good laughs, but for the most part his dry humor did not strike home with me. I really cannot recommend the book, but he is worth checking out on _This American Life_, if you are an NPR listener.
_Lolita_ by Vladimir Nabokov is another modern classic of the 1950's, like _On The Road_. This story about an unabashed pederast is startlingly vivid and frank without being openly perverse. The reader is very convincing as the main character, he sounds like you would imagine a slightly crazed man who has justified their actions in their head to sound. It was a bit disturbing, but very much worth listening to. The story is written like a confession written after the fact by the pedophile himself while in jail as an appeal to a potential jury. He goes into extreme detail about his feelings and emotions, but never delves into the vernacular acts performed with the pubescent Lolita. It is erotic without a hint of erotica; it is uncomforting but at the same time fascinating. It is hard not to recommend _Lolita_, although I do not want to revisit its pages anytime soon.
_World War Z_ by Max Brooks is a book about a massive world war where the dead rose to attack the living. Although this sounds like a boilerplate zombie story, there is a twist: the book is written in the style of a nonfiction report of the aftermath of the war. It is like reading a book about how 9/11 affected the lives of people around the world, but instead of 9/11, it is a zombie war. The author interviews a number of people from all over the world that were involved in the war effort, as well as regular people. What really brings the book to life, though, is the full cast of readers. The interviewer is the author himself, and the people he interviews are all well-known actors and actresses like Alan Alda. In fact, the audio recording has been nominated for audio book of the year at this year's Audies, which are the Oscars of the audio book industry. It was fun and interesting to listen to.

Trev's Comics
Although my literary reviews are all of audio books, I do read printed materials as well, but they are almost all in the form of the funny papers, as my friend Jason calls them. It is not the height of intellectual pursuits, but I do get guilty pleasure reading about the antics of my favorite superheroes. I mostly read comics in the DC Universe, Superman, Batman, and the like. I especially like the Green Arrow. The Green Arrow was invented as a sort of clone of Batman (rich guy learns martial arts to fight for good) with a Robin Hood twist. That is not so impressive, but starting in the 1980's comic book artists took the character and made him a hero of the left wing. In his current incarnation, he is the mayor of Star City, a town with a substantial amount of people under the poverty line. The Green Arrow spends much of his time defending those in need and pushing his liberal political agenda. It is a fun book to read, especially for a left-leaning guy like me.
I also read the Dynamite Comics Battlestar Galactica (BSG) books. It was the BSG comics that first got me interested in getting back into reading comics. I positively love BSG and have listened to the two audio books that are out, watched all the TV series, and I am still reading the comics. Sad, I know, but I am a sucker for good sci-fi. BSG is definitely good sci-fi.

Trev's Games
There are only three games I play a lot these days. There are two for Mac OS X, and one for our XBOX 360. The XBOX 360 game that Signe and I play most often is called _Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion_. It is a fantasy role-playing game (RPG) with lots of long and involved quests and adventures to undertake. Unlike other popular fantasy-based RPGs that are popular these days (like _World of Warcraft_ and _Guild Wars_ to name a few) _Oblivion_ is not a massively multiplayer online RPG (MMORPG). MMORPGs are designed for many players around the world to play at the same time and adventure together. _Oblivion_, on the other hand, is designed to be a one-player experience. I do not really like to socialize while I am playing video games. For me socialization takes a marked effort and I cannot relax when I am forced to do it. That is why I do not like to go to parties or out to bars, it just is not fun for me. So playing one-player RPGs are a perfect fit for my personality, and they are really fun as well, that is a bonus.
While _Oblivion_ is a game I like to really get into, there are sometimes when I just want a small break from what I am doing to clear my head. In those times I turn to a home-brewed shoot-em-up (or shmup) called _rRootage_. _rRootage_ was created by a Japanese shmup enthusiast and is one of my favorite games in the genre. It is a simple game, you have a shoot button and a shield button and you have to destroy a big ship that is shooting endless bullets in ever-more-complex patterns at you. That is it. It is relaxing, but just challenging enough to keep me engaged. _rRootage_ is available for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux.
Finally, I sometimes feel the need to think a little. When those rare moments come upon me and I have nothing better to do I load up _UniSudoku_ on my Macintosh and play some sudoku puzzles. I did not know what sudoku was until recently. Although sudoku is a Japanese word (meaning 'only one number'), it is not well known here under that name, but as 'number place,' which was the original name for the puzzles. I have read that these puzzles were insanely popular here in Japan in 2004, but I never heard of them out here in the backwaters of the Japanese countryside back then. I suppose it takes time to trickle down to out here. My friend Mike introduced me to the puzzles. Once I figured out what to do, they got pretty fun. Basically, you have a 9x9 grid and every row and every column must have every number from 1 to 9 in it exactly once. An added restriction is that each 3x3 box in the 9x9 grid must also contain all numbers 1 to 9 exactly once. That is it. _UniSudoku_ is a nice program because it lets you keep track of your guesses while you figure out the puzzle. It is a good brainteaser for those times you are feeling a bit too brain dead.

Trev's TV
Despite wanting to improve my brainpower, I still like to zone out in front of the boob tube at times. Signe and I don't just watch anything, though. Using digital technology, we can pick and choose exactly what we want to watch and watch only that.
Our favorite show is _Battlestar Galactica_ (BSG). I think I have mentioned this before. *smile* BSG is a wonderfully thought out space opera, and the best sci-fi out there right now. We just found out that the show will officially end in 2008 at its fourth season. Although I am sad to see such a great program go off the air, but they are going out the right way. The creators decided to end the show instead of stretching it out until it gets cancelled. They said that they want a good ending, and I respect that and am looking forward to a great final season of my favorite show on TV.
BSG is our favorite, but _Heroes_ is a close second. _Heroes_ is a show about superheroes and conspiracy. It is really fun to watch and is directed a lot like a comic book is laid out. The first season just finished and was, in my opinion, very well done. The characters are interesting and the plot kept us guessing from week to week. I am looking forward to where they are going to go with it in their second season. It should be good.

I had about four more sections planned out for this edition, but they are all pretty unimportant, like what movies we have watched lately, etc. So I thought I would spare you the details and send this report off.
I am looking forward to getting your reactions to our big move. We are looking forward to going back to America and starting a new life there. Drop me a line if you have a spare moment.

Take care,

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Threatened Miscarriage 切迫流産

Journal for 2006-2-15 Thu..
Weather: Sunny Plan: Kimita JHS

This was the first day of classes for our new English teacher, so we studied self-introductions. The students really enjoied it. I actually met the new teacher at a party for Miyoshi City ALTs one week ago. She just came back from a year-long study course on English teaching in Austrailia, so her English is great and I think she will be a great teacher. The previous English teacher is in the hospital because of a threatened miscarriage. Two months ago, when last she was pregnant, the child was miscarried after about a month, so all the staff are quite concerned for her.

天気: 晴 行事: 君田中学校

今日、新しい英語教師ははじめての授業をしたので、自己紹介のことを勉強された。生徒の皆さんはトテモ楽しんでやった。一週間前、三次市ALTパーティーでその先生とはじめて会った。先生は一年間、オーストラリアで英語教育について勉強したから、英語がうまいし、英語の教え方が良く知っていると思う。前の英語教師は 切迫流産のために入院している。2ヶ月前、前の妊娠のとき、流産をしてしまったので、職員の皆さんは心配する。

Today's Kanji
Meaning (意味): simple

Chinese Reading (音読み):
Reading Romaji
Vocabulary (単語):
Word Reading Romaji Translation
簡易かんいkan'isimplicity, easiness, quasi-
簡潔かんけつkangetsubrevity, conciseness, simplicity
簡便かんべんkanbenhandy, simple and easy
簡明かんめいkanmeiterse, concise, simple and clear
簡略かんりゃくkanryakusimple, simplicity
書簡しょかんshokanletter, note, epistle

Trevor Lalish-Menagh

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Rainy Days 雨の日

Journal for 2006-2-14 Wed..
Weather: Rainy Plan: Kimita JHS

The rain today put a smile on my face. I have always liked rainy days, ever since I was a child. It almost never rains in LA, so on one of those rare days it actually did rain I would run outside and play around until I was soaking wet. Now that I am an adult, I like to snuggle up to a mug of hot chocolate on those days and remember those times long ago. I have felt so busy lately. I am always thinking that I never have enough time. Sitting back and watching the rain trickle down is a welcome relief.

天気: 雨 行事: 君田中学校


Today's Kanji
Meaning (意味): publish

Chinese Reading (音読み):
Reading Romaji
Vocabulary (単語):
Word Reading Romaji Translation
刊行かんこうkankoupublication; issue
季刊きかんkikanquarterly (e.g. magazine)
月刊げっかんgekkanmonthly publication
日刊にっかんnikkandaily issue
週刊誌しゅうかんしshuukanshiweekly publication
朝刊ちょうかんchoukanmorning newspaper
発刊はっかんhakkanpublish; start (new) publication

Trevor Lalish-Menagh

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the Trev Report 2007-01-30

 Welcome to the Trev Report. This is a letter about the goings on
of the life and times of Trevor Lalish-Menagh. Trevor currently lives in a
two-story house in the small mountain town of Iinan in Shimane Prefecture,
Japan about two hours north of Hiroshima City by car. The town's
population is about 6,500 people and Trevor has been living there for over
three years with his wife Signe Rose. Signe has recently taken over an
assistant language teaching (ALT) position at the local elementary and
junior high school that Trevor had held for the past three years. In turn,
Trevor has started employment with a private ALT company, called ALTIA
Central, in neighboring Miyoshi City across the border in Hiroshima
Prefecture, a bustling metropolis of 30,000. There he works at two
elementary schools and two junior high schools motivating children to
learn English in a country still adverse to the foreign tongue.
We enter this life shortly after the winter vacation of the year
of our Lord two-thousand and six, which Trevor and Signe spent in
communist Vietnam aiding a charity group called Ethnic Minority Outreach,
distributing food and supplies to the much ignored minority groups
throughout the Vietnamese coastline. What follows is a brief account of
this experience in the author's own words followed by other assorted
facts about Trevor in the months since his last correspondence.
And now, without further adieu, on with the report!

Trev and Signe's Trip to Vietnam
It all started a while back. This summer, for tax purposes
involved with my switching of jobs in Japan, I had to leave the country
for a period of time. As it so happened, a good friend of mine was
planning to go to Thailand for a month, and as I had a month free until
the start of my new position I approached him about coming along. To my
delight he was ecstatic about having a traveling partner and our plans
were made.
As an aside, Signe had to stay behind, for her new job began much
sooner than mine. So it came to be that I and my friend headed to
Southeast Asia for the first time. I will spare you the details of that
trip, as I wrote an extensive journal about my experiences there and
uploaded it to my Live Journal site which you can read at and if you wish.
The part of that journey that relates to our volunteer trip to
Vietnam is when we went to the Kingdom of Cambodia for the main purpose of
seeing the great ruins of the ancient Angkorian Empire, exemplified by the
main temple of Angkor Wat. The ruins were not the only thing we discovered
in Cambodia. We also saw extraordinary poverty: people living in open
straw huts in muddy marshes with little to no clothes to their name. Many
we saw were extremely malnourished and washed their bodies and clothes in
the same rivers they used as toilets for the lack of proper facilities.
There were others war-torn and dismembered from the bloody wars twenty
years hence wandering the streets of the capital, Phnom Penh, which seemed
to the American eye, poorer than the lowliest shanty town in the deserted
plains of the American frontier. It was this poverty and want that called
me to action on my return to my home in the land of the rising sun.
The group that was organizing the charity trip, Ethnic Minority
Outreach (EMO), was created six years ago by a Vietnamese-American woman
in Shimane Prefecture. This trip was their third in six years and the
first we have been involved in. After returning to Japan, Signe and I
agreed that it might be a good idea to go on a volunteer trip, and we
signed up. I had a very positive experience in Thailand and Cambodia, so I
was looking forward to returning to the region and Signe was excited about
seeing some of the sites in Vietnam, like Halong Bay, during our stay. In
the autumn and early winter EMO put on various fundraisers and charity
events throughout the prefecture as well as securing finds from some
wealthy donors and a truckload of schoolchildren's clothes donated by a
company in Tokyo that were getting rid of their overstock and discontinued
items. As a majority of the locations we intended to visit were
kindergartens, this worked out particularly well for the group. The
clothing was transported to Vietnam as check-in baggage for each of the
group members. We took all of our personal items in carry-on luggage. The
head of the group arranged for each passenger in the group to carry over
the twenty kilogram limit allowed since it was for charity. As a result we
were able to bring hundreds of kilograms of clothes with us to distribute.
The donated funds went mainly towards four items. Firstly, at a
variety of kindergartens for ethnic minorities in and around the costal
city of Phan Rang the money was used to buy toys for the children and
school supplies like radios and fans.
Secondly, in an Ede village in the outskirts of the beachside town
Nha Trang over a ton of rice, noodles, and cooking supplies were bought
and distributed to the poorest of the village families and the local
schools. Extraordinarily, one metric ton of rice in Vietnam costs as much
as one ten-kilogram bag in Japan, yet these families are so impoverished
that they can hardly afford one week of basic foodstuffs at these prices.
It was this fact, more than anything that showed me how simple it is to
help those in need. I was amazed and intrigued at how just a little money
can go a long way if applied correctly.
Thirdly, a large portion of the donations were distributed as cash
to about three-hundred needy families in the Da Nang region that suffered
from a serious flood and tornado earlier in 2006 that ruined many houses
in the area, especially in the poorer neighborhoods where construction is
of a lower quality than in the city proper. Most houses have walls only
one brick thick in these areas.
Finally, much personal funds from the group members, numbering
about twenty, went towards structural improvements to the schools we
visited. For example, one school was badly in need of a proper toilet and
we pooled together the US$400 they needed to have it built; another
project we chose to fund was the building of a sanitary kitchen facility
at a school in the Ede village near Nha Trang we visited. All they
currently have is a dirty fire pit and a pot to serve the school's
one-hundred plus children. Many water pumps and wells were also built with
monies donated by group members throughout the trip.
One especially interesting project the group chose to fund is a
grant we created for minority and impoverished children of high merit to
go to university. This was spurred on by one Ede boy in particular whose
story was moving. When he was a young child, perhaps eight or nine, both
of his parents died and left him with nothing. He lives in a half-exposed
shack on the outskirts of the village and has been working to feed himself
and pay for schooling for the last ten years. Now at age eighteen, he
travels over fifteen kilometers each day over poor terrain to attend the
only high school in the area. He dreams of going to university in Ho Chi
Minh City, but at US$110 a year, the tuition is far beyond his means to
afford. With the financial help of the individuals in the EMO group this
young man will now be able to go to university and give back to the
community that raises him in a way he could never have imagined possible.
Many of us expressed great interest in bringing the gift of higher
education to the peoples in these greatly under-funded regions. So much so
that the organization intends to expand the focus of the group to include
an educational grant program alongside the current relief and support
Although we did do a good deal of philanthropic work, we also
spent some time touring the country and seeing the sites. In particular
there were two places we visited of a strictly tourist nature. One was the
small town of Ho An, about thirty minutes southeast by car of Da Nang,
where we dispersed the aid money to flood victims. Ho An is well-known to
visitors of Vietnam as a place to get extremely inexpensive tailoring
done. Although we only spent a day there, we both had a number of articles
of clothing tailored for ourselves, including a suit for each Signe and
me, as well as winter coats. I also had two pairs of sneakers cobbled for
myself. The quality was not top-notch (I had a suit tailored in Thailand
of much higher quality not six months prior), but for the price one can
hardly complain.
The second tourist destination we went to was Halong Bay, a three-hour
bus ride from the capital city of Ha Noi in the north. The bay is a
striking series of almost 2,000 small rock islands a short distance from
the mainland. As seems to be what is done there, we rented a private
tourist boat and sailed out to a little floating village in the bay. The
village, we were told, is wholly self-sufficient, the inhabitants rarely
going to shore. So complete is their community that they have their own
schoolhouse on floats. We stopped at one of these residents to buy fresh
seafood for lunch on the boat. Although more expensive than on the
mainland, it was nonetheless cheap from a Western standpoint. After lunch
we made landfall at one of the larger islands where it was discovered in
1993 by a Frenchman an extraordinary cavern of such grandeur that one
could easily see the gods feasting there. Stalactites hung like elegant
drapes of flowing cloth from the ceiling, and their brothers rose up
mightily from the ground in ever more complex shapes and sizes.
After touring the caverns for some time we returned to our boat and
sailed back to the port. That evening we headed back to the capital by
bus for one more night before our journey back to Japan. Signe, while in
the capital, had a very fine traditional Vietnamese Ao Dai, or long
dress, made for her at a silk vendor's shop. The craftsmanship was
markedly improved over that of the tailors of Ho An. Most notable is the
detail of the hand-embroidered chrysanthemums on the body and sleeves of
the dress.
The return trip was uneventful. We flew from the north to Ho Chi Minh
City (Saigon), and after meeting up with a part of the group that left
for Cambodia from Nha Trang a week earlier, we flew home via Korea.
This trip left Signe and I excited to do more volunteer work in the
future. There are many opportunities for two to four week tours all over
the world, though I am especially interested in volunteering in Africa.
This was spurred on in large part by another ALT that was traveling in
our volunteer group. She is from Kenya and excitedly taught us all about
her country during our long bus rides throughout Vietnam. We learned
about its geography, peoples, politics, and especially its great poverty.
One comment of hers really made me think. She noted that the village she
grew up in was much poorer than many of the places we visited in Vietnam.
I would like to go there and see with my own eyes, and help with my own
hands these people that want so little but need so much. She recalled one
time when a volunteer group installed a water tower in her village. When
she asked the volunteers who gave them the supplies to build the water
tower, they replied that they bought them. She was astonished at the
wealth of such people, but this trip showed her, and all of us, that a
small amount of money to us can make a world of difference. It is the
feeling that we can make a difference that inspires me to want to do
more. And now I know that we really can.

Trev's Work
In August after returning from Thailand, I started working in nearby
Miyoshi City for an ALT company named ALTIA Central. I teach at two
elementary schools and two junior high schools about thirty to forty
minutes by car from my house in Iinan, with the exception of one
elementary school that is over an hour away that I visit once every two
weeks. Much like my last job, the schools are small and the students are
energetic. ALT work is much the same throughout Japan, I suppose,
especially in these smaller towns and villages throughout the
countryside, which Signe and I work.
I continue to perform on a monthly English conversation class TV show
broadcast in the town I live in and neighboring Unnan City. I also take
part in bimonthly TV recordings in Miyoshi City, doing much the same as
in my town Iinan. It is always a nice break from the ordinary, with the
added advantage of having your friends and students declare to you that
they saw you on television. :)

Trev's Books
Having a thirty to forty minute drive to work each day can be quite
boring. So to relieve my boredom I have started listening to audio books
that I buy from a website and load onto our mp3 player, which is usually
kept in the car. I have gotten through quite a few books. I listen to
fiction half of the time and nonfiction the other half. On the fiction
side I have listened to the first two new Battlestar Galactica (BSG)
novels by Jeffrey Carver and Craig Shaw respectively, The Time
Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and
currently, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein.
The Battlestar Galactica books were, as you might imagine, nothing more
than a guilty pleasure. I really like BSG, but I venture to think that if
they were not BSG-themed, I would not have liked them in the least.
The Time Traveler's Wife, on the other hand, is a very good listen. The
story drew me in and I could hardly wait to get back into the car to
listen each day. The story is a love affair between a girl and a man with
a disorder that makes his body jump backwards and forwards in time
randomly. He has no control over it. So, for example, the first time she
meets him she is eight and he is thirty-three, but the first time he
meets her she is twenty and he is twenty-eight. I have heard that a movie
is being made from the book, so I look forward to watching that.
American Gods was a fun listen. It is about gods that were brought to
America long ago, through the minds and hearts of their believers, and
have been long since forgotten in the modern day, like Easter and Odin.
Most of these defunct gods now live among the people as drifters
scrapping by on whatever they can. The gods seem well researched and the
mystery that entails the main plot of the book is interesting, if not
predictable. Being written by Neil Gaiman, I expected it to be better. I
am currently reading his 1990's comic book series, The Sandman, and it
is of much higher quality in my opinion.
During our trip to Vietnam I read the paperback version of The Life of
Pi. That is an extraordinary book. I understand why it won the Man Booker
Prize. The premise is a boy on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. Go! It is
a pretty wild ride.
Currently I am listening to the Heinlein classic: The Moon is a Harsh
Mistress. IT is really interesting, and for science fiction it is pretty
engaging. He lays out in mo uncertain terms his political philosophy in
the book and delves into many subjects a lot of science fiction and
fantasy books tend to shy away from. It is nice to see my favorite genre
dealing with complicated issues instead of a cookie cutter adventure
I have also gotten through quite a few nonfiction audio books as well: My
Life by Bill Clinton, The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama, Fast Food
Nation by Eric Schlosser, Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky,
Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, The World is Flat
by Thomas L. Friedman, Getting Things Done by David Allen, and I just
finished listening to 1776 by David McCullough.
My Life, read by President Clinton himself, is very interesting. He is
very candid and frank about his presidency, the good and the bad. The
Audacity of Hope, also read by the author, is interesting, but it feels
like a book written by a politician, whatever that means. I came away
liking the book and it makes me think that the senator from Illinois
might just have a fighting chance in 2008.
Fast Food Nation is an insightful book about the effects the
mass-marketing of food is doing to the agricultural industry. Especially
interesting is the vivid and detailed description of cattle processing
plants. The ways that our food is processed and produced have changed so
much in the last one-hundred years, and not all for the better it seems.
Salt: A World History is fourteen hours straight, all about salt. As lame
as that sounds, it was actually pretty interesting. Kurlansky talks about
the importance of salt supplies throughout history. Many of the world's
greatest wars were fought over the right to control salt production and
Freakonomics is an interesting and controversial book by a radical
economist that compares various seemingly unrelated things to rather
shocking results. For example, Levitt concludes that swimming pools are
about one-hundred times more likely to kill a child than a gun in the
house; and a leading factor in the recent reduction of violent urban
crime is the legalization of abortion. Although some chapters are more
interesting than others (the final chapter, on baby names is
gut-wrenchingly dull), it is an overall thought-provoking listen.
The World is Flat, on the other hand, is a tad overrated in my opinion. I
chose the book because of the rave reviews it has received in
international relations journals. It is a book that basically sets out to
explain the process of globalization that is occurring around the world
today. It would have been more interesting if I did not know already most
of the things Friedman presents as revolutionary and novel ideas, like
the Internet. Perhaps this book is more exciting to people that know
nothing of globalization when they start reading it. I would not know.
Getting Things Done (GTD), on the other hand, provided very useful. It
presents a simple system for organizing the many things in one's life.
With the GTD system and my trusty personal digital assistant (PDA) I have
been able to get all the ideas floating around in my head under control.
I liked the abridged audio book so much that I bought the paperback soon
after finishing listening to it and carry it around as a reference book.
I just finished listening to 1776, which is all about (unsurprisingly)
the year 1776 and in particular the beginning of the American Revolution
starting with the Siege of Boston in the winter of 1775, through the many
defeats in New York and New Jersey throughout the year, and finally
ending with the Battle of Trenton, when Washington crossed the Delaware
to overtake the New Jersey town in one fall swoop. The story is unfolded
through letters and official correspondences that have been recovered
from generals, as well as common foot soldiers, from both sides of the
conflict. It creates an interesting and in-depth picture of the
battlefront, much more detailed than the jingoistic version of events
taught in U.S. junior and senior high schools.
I have also read a few nonfiction books in print: Train Man (or Densha
Otoko in Japanese) by Nakano Hitori and No Logo by Naomi Klein. Train Man
is a true love story about a boy that falls in love with a girl and asks
in an anonymous electronic bulletin board (called 2-channel) full of
strangers for advice on what to do. What follows, presented in the
original bulletin board format, is a very touching love story. Although
the English translation is awkward in parts, it is an overall enjoyable
and fast read. In fact, I finished it while riding the bullet train. :)
No Logo, written in 2000, has become something like a bible for the
growing anti-corporate movements around the world. It uncovers the dirty
underbelly of a world that is liberalizing trade relations and advancing
multinational and transnational globalization at too fast a pace to
ensure fair trade, compensation to the disenfranchised, and adherence to
global human rights standards. It also introduces the many grassroots
anti-corporation activist groups that have cropped up to combat what they
perceive as companies and organizations with too much pull in the affairs
of men, with too little regard to their rights and civil liberties.

Trev's Comic Books and Games
On a lighter note, I have been reading quite a few comic books as of
late. It is a guilty pleasure as I have them shipped from a comic book
shop in San Diego, California (The Comic Gallery) bimonthly. As well as
reading Neil Gaiman's 1990's Sandman series, I also follow the DC
Universe and receive their most popular titles such as Batman, Superman,
Action Comics, etc. I also read a few lesser well known titles like
American Splendor and Green Arrow.
I have a stack of Japanese comics that I have yet to read as well,
including Cross Game (by Mitsuru Adachi, the author of the popular
baseball comic Touch) and Death Note by Tsugumi Obara and Takeshi Obata,
which is very popular with the students right now.
One of my good friends from No Name Anime, a San Jose, California-based
Japanese animation viewing society I am a member of, came to visit us a
few months ago and strongly persuaded me to start playing the massively
multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), Guild Wars (GW). So every
other week or so I log onto the fantasy world with my computer and
connect my microphone to Teamspeak, which allows me to talk with the
other players in my guild, or team, and play with my friends in San Jose.
It is very nice to be able to meet up with them in a virtual world and
hang out once in a while. The game itself is enjoyable as well, but the
real reason I play is to meet with friends I cannot otherwise see. The
reason we chose GW as opposed to some of the other popular MMORPGs on the
market is because GW does not have a monthly fee, unlike most. Since I
only log on perhaps once every one to two weeks, a monthly fee is not
worth paying for me.
Speaking of video games, we just got our third XBOX 360 back from the
repair shop. The first two broke down and I am really hoping that this
one goes the distance, although it has already stalled at least once. The
main game both Signe and I have been playing the most is called Elder
Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It is a very fun fantasy role-playing game and hard
to put down. There are endless interesting quests to complete, the
graphics are impressive, and the game play is uncomplicated. Signe and I
take turns playing each night. She is as hooked as I am.
Now that I am using my PDA more regularly I have on occasion been seen
playing the fantastic handheld game, Space Trader. I first heard about
the game when I was working as a PDA software engineer at iambic, Inc. in
San Jose many years ago and it still remains my favorite PDA game. It is
a space trading game based off the old door game, Dope Wars, but with a
space theme and some special missions thrown in here and there.
We haven't just been playing video games though. The last time Signe
went home to the U.S. she played a board game called Carcassonne.
Carcassone is played with tiles. Over the course of the game the players
must strategically place the tiles on the board to build a small town and
lay claim to parts of it as it is built. The player that has claimed the
most wins. It is a simple, but challenging game to play and everyone we
have introduced it to so far have really enjoyed it.
We also like to play a game called Citadels. Signe likes to call it
Magic: The Gathering-lite. It is a non-collectable where the players are,
again, building a town. The thing that makes the game-play stand out as
unique and interesting is that the role each play has changes each round,
and that role determines not only the order of turns, but what each
player can do in their turn. For example, the player who chooses the
thief card goes before the player with the merchant card, thus can steal
from the merchant, etc. As each player does not know who has what card at
the beginning of each round, they have to plan their moves carefully to
win the day.
Another card game we play sometimes is the two-player Lost Cities. It is
an exploration game where the players have to out-explore each other by
playing exploration cards, in order from one to ten, in front of them in
one of five exploration piles, each one representing a trek to go on. If,
by the end of the game, one player did not explore enough they lose
points, but if the player takes the risk of exploration and succeeds it
can pay off big time. It comes down to a counting game, as each
exploration card has a number assigned to it and after a number is placed
on a pile a lower number may not be placed on top of it. For example, a
two card cannot be placed on top of a four-card, etc. Signe is
remarkably good at this game and often beats me hands down.
We have a new neighbor in town. He is the new ALT from Tonbara, a part of
Iinan about ten minutes away from where we live. We see him about once a
week and usually play games with him. He is really into Magic: The
Gathering, the collectable card game, so sometimes he and I get together
to play. I have not played at all since high school, but the rules are
pretty much the same and it is fun, although Signe is less into playing
it, though she might be warming up to it.

Trev's TV Consumption
Embarrassingly, we have been watching a lot of U.S. TV as of late via
Internet downloading. Downloading shows is a great way of watching
programs when we live outside the U.S. Of course we always watch
Battlestar Galactica (BSG) when it comes out. They are in the third
season and we still love it. Besides BSG, the best show we have watched
recently is Heroes, which is about people that start to develop
superpowers. It is very well made and really draws both of us in.
We kept up with the new Doctor Who series and its spin-off Torchwood for
a while, but eventually stopped watching. It got just a little too corny
for Signe's tastes. Even I, who likes most everything, did not care too
much for Torchwood. We have been watching both Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis
as well, but are less and less impressed with each passing season, so we
might stop picking those up.
At the recommendation of multiple friends we started watching the medical
show House M.D. Although Dr. House is a deplorable anti-hero, we still
continue to watch. At the very least there is an entertaining medical
mystery to solve each week, but the main character is trying at best.
We watched the first half-season of Aaron Sorkin's new show, Studio 60
on the Sunset Strip, which is a drama about the behind the scenes of a
Saturday Night Live (SNL)-like show. It feels like West Wing meets SNL.
Although the dialogue is engaging, I do not feel too attached to the
show, so we might cut it for the time being.
We watched the first part of season three of the hit ABC show Lost and
with a three month hiatus I cannot help but think that some higher-ups in
ABC are trying to get the show cancelled for some reason, ala Angel.
Admittedly, season three is not as gripping as the firsttwo, but it still
is not a bad show.I wonder why they had such a long break after only six
Finally, our guiltiest pleasure is watching Desperate Housewives. It is
the definition of a prime-time soap opera. I am just waiting for the
twin-brother to appear and marry the evil doctor that turns out to
actually be a space alien. :P

Trev and Signe's Diet
One big change with us recently is that we are on a diet and exercise
program. While I was vacationing in Thailand, Signe started following a
diet program on the World Wide Web that is designed to administer and
monitor dieting routines. Signe lost about ten kilograms (about
twenty-two pounds) while I was gone and I started the program when I
returned. We have each lost well over thirty pounds so far and have about
twenty more to go until we can say we have reached our ideal weight
according to multiple body mass index calculators.
The program is not a pill diet or a radical diet, like Atkins, but a
sensible one that uses regular store-bought food prepared in ways that
minimize fat and oil content coupled with a practical exercise program
that consists of a daily cardio workout and a thrice weekly toning
The weight comes off slowly, but it is staying off, which is a nice
change. We both look and feel a lot better for it. It is nice to be able
to feel good about how we look. I really started to notice a difference
when I went to school and the kids, usually unabashed about pointing out
any physical flaw, especially obesity, for a good laugh, were shocked to
learn that I am on a diet, stating that they thought I did not need to be
on one. That felt really good.

Trev's Studies (or lack there of)
Ever since my failing of the Foreign Service Written Exam last year
(albeit by a mere ten points), I have not been too motivated to study
much. That coupled with my new job, which keeps me surprisingly busier
than my last one, creating lesson plans, activities, and such, I have not
found the time for much of anything. At my last job I would study
throughout the day at work, but now I do not have time to do that and
what time I have at home I dedicate to exercise, housework, and
relaxation. It is no excuse, really. I just need to get back into the
habit of reading the news more often.
I want to start studying Japanese again as well, seeing that my speaking
skills seem to be slipping away daily, but I do not know of a good
self-study text for my level, wedged awkwardly between intermediate and
advanced. There is at least one person in Miyoshi that teaches Japanese
to foreigners, but it is a ways away and I am not so committed as to seek
them out just yet.

Trev's Computers
The old computer is chugging along quite nicely. Although it is now
several years old, having bought it to go to Japan with, it still serves
our every need. I do not envision needing a new computer for some time
lest an accident occur, even if I sometimes lust after the new technology
out there on the market.

Trev's Love Life

Trev's One Point Japanese Lesson
So you want to learn Japanese, huh? Let's practice a simple
conversation. Try reading this out loud to yourself many times. Some
things to note when reading Japanese:
First, keep your intonation flat. Unlike other Asian languages like
Chinese and Vietnamese, Japanese is not a tonal language. When you are
starting out it is best to try and speak in a flat monotone. Many
foreigners try to add tonal inflections to their speech, but end up
placing their inflections incorrectly. This is known as a gaijin accent,
and it is oft made fun of in Japan (if you are an anime fan, you might
know Pedro from Excel Saga; he speaks in a strong gaijin accent).
Secondly, all syllables (or consonant-vowel pairs) are equally
enunciated. So that ohayou gozaimasu, or good morning, is pronounced:
o-ha-yo-u-go-za-i-ma-su. In English, we tend to blend sounds together,
this is not so in Japanese. Now, let's get on with that conversation:

A short self-introduction:
Matt: Ohayou gozaimasu. (Good morning.)
Ms. Kato: Ohayou gozaimasu.
Matt: Sumimasen, Kato-sensei desuka? (Excuse me, are you Ms. Kato?)
Ms. Kato: Hai, sou desu. (Yes, that's right.)
Matt: Hajimemashite. Matto to moushimasu. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu. (We
haven't met. I am Matt. Nice to meet you.)
Ms. Kato: Yoroshiku. (Nice to meet you, too.)

Key phrases:
Hajimemashite.: Use this when meeting someone for the first time. It
literally means it is beginning.
[your name] to moushimasu.: I am [your name]. Use this phrase to
introduce yourself. Note that to is pronounced with a long o like toe,
not a short o, like to in English.
Yoroshiku onegaisimasu.: This means nice to meet you. Use this to end
your short self-introduction. Note that Ms. Kato answers with a shortened
version since she is of a higher position than Matt, namely a teacher, or

Keep up your studies. Japanese is a fun and interesting language to
learn. I hope you enjoy it!

Well, that is about it for this edition of the Trev Report. If you have a
chance, send me an email, instant message, or call. I always like hearing
from you. Until next time, take care.

Trevor Lalish-Menagh
+81 (80) 1929-5216

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