Monday, October 29, 2007
Now, if you want have the "My kid is an honor roll student..." sticker, fine. Not my style, but I can at least understand people wanting to brag about their smart kids. If you even want to have the "My kid is a student at Weaselchum Middle School," I guess that's fine. I'm not sure why that'd be something you'd advertise on the back of your Excursion, but whatever.
But no one, I repeat, NO ONE, cares where your dog went to school. And maybe I'm the first one to break this to you, but no matter how smart your dog actually is, he can't read the bumper sticker.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
"I played in the kitchen."
"Oh, really? What did you make?"
"Did you make some tea for Daddy?"
"Was it black tea or green tea?"
"What color is meat?"
"Um, well, I guess meat is red."
"I made you red tea."
"You made me meat tea?"
"Yeah, it was disgusting tea."
Friday, October 19, 2007
I've read a couple of books about this subject recently and have become more and more interested in how language and writing have driven events in history, and the way in which they play a fundamental role in how we think. I've become convinced that language itself is a critical element in defining how our brains work.
Here's an example from my own recent experience. In parallel with my readings, I've been on a couple of trips to Japan. The Japanese script is, to put it lightly, completely foreign to me. The combination of Chinese logographs, a native Japanese syllabic script, and a Roman alphabet seems completely obtuse and overly complex to my Western mind. I noticed tons of people texting from their cell phones on the subways in Tokyo (actually talking on your phone in the subways is frowned on), and was interested in how a script that has literally thousands of characters could ever be used on a cell phone. During a dinner, I asked a Japanese counterpart about this and he pulled out his cell phone to show me. He said that when you type, you use the syllabic script, writing the words syllable by syllable - for example, you might write the words "cell phone translation" as "ce-lu-fo-nu-tra-nu-sla-sho-nu", or something like that. So for what in English would be a twenty letter phrase, you'd have a nine-character line of text. That's probably way simplified, but you get the idea. Now here's where it gets weird. He told me that in the syllabic script, the words can be pronounced, but they have no meaning. So at this point, the software on the cell phone takes over and makes a prediction as to what the phrase is in the Chinese logograph text - where each character would represent an entire word. So now you're down to only three characters.
This idea of a script communicating sounds but not meaning is what I had a hard time understanding. Here's my (again very Western) metaphor for comprehending it. Imagine if your cell phone didn't have the capability to input numbers. So if you wanted to write the number "42," you had to type out "f-o-r-t-y-t-w-o." Now imagine that the words "forty-two" don't actually convey the significance of the numerical data, so the text prediction software takes over and makes a guess that what you really want to type is "42."
So here's my point - that's a completely foreign and bizarre concept to me. I've got to think that someone to whom that makes sense thinks on a completely different plane than I do.
Now imagine that, instead of a co-worker sitting next to me in a sushi bar, it's a Mayan who lived 3,000 years ago in the mountains of the Yucatan peninsula. That way of living, way of writing, and way of thinking would have to result in a lifestyle that someone living in the suburbs of Houston could never come close to understanding.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Friday, October 12, 2007
Lunch was at a Korean barbecue restaurant. Korean barbecue is sort of like Mongolian barbecue, but you cook the meat yourself at a little grill at the table. The one I went to last time I was here was better, with a big buffet-style selection of meats and vegetables. This place was a little nicer, but we just ordered steak and there wasn't much of it.
Dinner was really good at a little hole-in-the-wall yakitori restaurant in Tokyo. Yakitori is just little grilled skewers of meat or vegetables. They brought out our chicken selection, which included regular chicken-breast meat, but also had skewers of skin and gristle. The gristle one was especially weird; it was basically just the little part at the end of the bone that no one ever eats. Well, my co-eaters weren't too excited about those skewers, so I ate them myself.
About halfway into the hour-and-a-half train ride back to the hotel, things started to go wrong down south, if you know what I mean. It was a loooong ride back, and an interesting lesson that, just because they serve it to you and you can actually eat it, doesn't mean you should.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
But the highlight of the day, nay, of the week, was dinner tonight. We had a social party at a very traditional Japanese restaurant. We ate sitting on the floor, and the food was amazing. A Korean stew, tempura, sashimi that melted in my mouth, sushi that was SO good, lotus root - you name it, it was out on the table. Oh, and three Japanese beers and a cup of delicious sake (so I'm feeling nice and relaxed right now.
I can't imagine that I've lost a single pound with the way I've been eating, and there are still two days to go.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Monday, October 8, 2007
It was served, interestingly enough, with a side of mayonnaise. It was actually quite good, very salty with a distinct ocean taste. The texture was a little strange, not meaty, but more like a soft cartilage, which I guess is what it is. The mayonnaise went really well with it, offsetting a lot of the overt saltiness.
I did find the last few bites a little tough to muscle down. A little bit of ray-fin goes a long way.
I think I'll end up getting the American breakfast tomorrow morning since it's gonna be a long day. But we may be going to the "I dare you to eat that" restaurant in the evening - that should be an experience.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Monday, October 1, 2007
To keep it interesting I've added a poll out on the sidebar where you can vote on what you think the outcome will be.
One quick story about that. Last time I was in Japan, I got the American-style breakfast most mornings I was there. Eggs, toast, sausage, pretty normal stuff. Towards the middle of the week, I got the Japanese breakfast, thinking that'd be a cool thing to try.
They brought it out and it consisted of a bowl of rice, a small piece of baked fish, a bowl of miso soup, an egg in some form I've never seen (I think it was poached), and some pickled vegetables. Anyone who knows me knows I like my breakfast - this looked like some kind of cruel joke. Needless to say, breakfasts were all-American after that.