Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Yellow Sand, a follow-up

The line for the car wash was about an hour long that day...

The dust is fine enough that it gets into everything. What with the sand and the cedar pollen, lots of people in Japan go around wearing what amounts to surgical masks these days.

I'm just happy that the dust hasn't triggered my asthma. Haven't had an episode in at least five or six years. (*knock wood*)


Saturday, February 21, 2009

My Grandfather's Clock

My grandfather, Felino B. Angeles, died last week, after being ill for some time.

I hadn't seen him in a long time, but I have very strong memories of him. He came to visit us in Minnesota several times, and on one occasion he made a clock for me.

Lolo Angeles ran a small business in the Philippines, building electronic equipment. If I recall correctly, the name of the business was Audiomark. I remember puttering around in his workshop behind the house, the one time I was in the Philippines. I was fascinated by how the solder melted and flowed, from the soldering iron to the circuit board.

One time when he was in Minnesota, we ordered a Heathkit alarm clock (pictured above), and Lolo said he'd help me build it. Now at this time I was still in elementary school, I think, and after the third or fourth soldering iron burn to my arms, I kind of lost interest, and began wandering off. (I have only now noticed that the burn scars have faded away completely.) Lolo finished the clock for me anyway, and that clock was SOLID. Loud enough to wake the soundest sleeper (i.e. me). It lasted for something like 15 years, through junior high, high school, college, and my first couple years teaching in St. Paul. Finally, one day something shorted out inside, and I didn't have clue one on how to fix it...but I held on to the clock anyway. It's in one of my boxes in Mom & Dad's basement even now.

Ever since I moved to Japan, Lolo would occasionally ask when I was coming to visit the Philippines again. Alas, I never found the time or the fundage. Something else to regret....

Now, Lolo and Lola are together again. They both had long, full lives. I hope I can do half as well...


Friday, February 20, 2009


The pictures speak for themselves, really.


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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Spring is surely around the corner...the Yellow Sand is here.

In what has become an annual, unwelcome harbinger of spring, 黄砂 has begun to arrive from the Asian mainland. Not sure what I mean? Here, look:
(Picture from 2001)

Starting in the deserts of Mongolia, and blowing all across southeastern Asia, Asian dust brings with it reduced visibility, increased asthma attacks, dirty cars, dirty laundry, and a heck of a lot of annoyance. It makes me wonder why so many people and organizations in Japan have white cars.

The Japanese name for this crud, 黄砂, translates directly as "Yellow sand". In fact, in most of the languages around here the name for it translates the same.

Could be worse. I could still be living in Kagoshima, where the local volcano has been spouting ash a lot lately. Of course, I lived on the other side of a range of hills from Mount Sakurajima, so I was never really affected by that.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What I do in my free time

(click for full size)

I've been practicing Japanese calligraphy for a while now. Not sure if I'm getting any better, but it's marvelously relaxing...

「信じる道」 roughly translates to something like "The way of trust" or some such.

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

The "Coraline" movie

Other Rob says, "Go see it."

Monday, February 02, 2009

Just had an odd experience (and yes, I'm a geek).

One of the ways I spend my copious amounts of free time is by playing video games. Occasionally, I use my Nintendo DS to go online and play complete strangers in MarioKart, or PuyoPuyo.

Today it was MarioKart. Fired up the DS, selected Wi-Fi たいせん, set it to find people on the same level as me. After a few seconds, the Nintendo Wi-Fi service hooked me up with three other players. Two of them were on a similar level as me. One of them...

Warning sign number one: His chosen character was Shy Guy, a character that's normally only playable if you don't have a MarioKart game of your own, and you've downloaded the game from your opponent (who has to be in the same room). Warning sign number 2: His win/loss record was 999999off the screen/1167.

First course was "Rainbow Road," a favorite of mine. I managed to get the rocket start off, and took first place immediately -- only to be hit by two(!) blue shells in succession. This before we get to the first item boxes...

This guy would then race just ahead of the rest of us, give himself an invincibility star, then go back and forth continuously knocking us over until we all fell off the track. Then, during the recovery time, he'd travel a short distance down the track and do it again. If anyone managed to pass him, blue shells until he could catch up.

Apparently, this guy's goal wasn't just to win, but to humiliate us in the process. Some people find that fun, I guess, but not me. I mean, what's the point in playing at all if you hack the game and take all the challenge out of it?

One player dropped out after the first track; I quit halfway through the second. Took a hit on my win/loss record, but so what? I was gonna lose anyway, and if this ShyGuy got his jollies off of me quitting, whatever.

I tried re-connecting right after, and ran into a more common opponent: the Guy who's Mastered the Mini-Turbo. Kicked my ass on the easiest track, 8 Cross. However, I'm the Guy who's Mastered One Track, and when Rainbow Road came up, I returned the ass-kicking.

I lose more than I win online, but I still enjoy playing. (when it's fair, of course.) So, if any of you play Mario Kart DS still, and see someone with the handle ロバート and a StrongBad emblem, that's me.