The Witless Clunkery of a Third-Rate Mind

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Ahhh, Beppu

Spring has truly sprung; the weather is beautiful, and Beppu is lovely. Ahhhh. We probably have about a month of nice weather to look forward to before it turns mega-humid and the rainy season begins.

I did my iaido 5th-dan grading today (passed - yay) and then, exhausted, trudged up to the Beppu landmark called "Global Tower". I've always been meaning to go up the tower, but for whatever reason have always put it off, until today. I was in the area, the weather was nice, you know.

The tower was constructed at God-only-knows-what-cost and stands 125 meters tall. There's an observation deck at 100 meters or so. You'd think it would be a pretty popular tourist spot, but for whatever reason, it's not. Maybe because it's just dwarfed by the surrounding mountains. In any case, it's pretty cheap to go up: about 3 dollars. (At that rate, the thing will pay for itself in about 150 years or so.)

Hideously ugly or kind of cool? I think cool.

The thing is essentially two tubes and a sheet of metal with a bunch of struts between them. One of the tubes contains an elevator, the other tube contains a staircase (for emergencies) and the sheet of metal is there for support. The design is rather high-concept. The sheet of metal is not straight but is actually an arc, representing the surface of the earth. The observation deck is located in such a place that it mirrors Beppu's latitude on the earth, if the ground level were the earth's equator. So the whole thing is kind of like a diagram of the globe with Beppu's location represented by the box at the top. I think.

Just to scare people more, the whole damn observation deck is cantilevered out into space. No glass floors, thank God.

It was a nice view, but it's basically an acrophobe's nightmare. Fortunately, it wasn't swaying in the wind or anything silly like that. I could just imagine being up there in an earthquake.

Here's a nice view of Mount Takasaki, which is known for being infested with monkeys. Oita city is off in the distance around the curve of Beppu bay. Much-loved Beppu park is in the foreground.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Rainy days

It's grey and rainy today, and will probably continue for a few days. I'm holed up with a couple bad DVDs, but I still feel restless on the weekend. I always feel like I should actively "recreate" somehow. Hmm ... maybe I should take a trip into Oita city for the day. In any case, I don't think I want to stick around the apartment all day; it's election time, and the Japanese idea of election campaigning is for each candidate to get in a car, put a big sign with their name on the side, and then top the whole thing off with a big set of loudspeakers. Then you drive around the neighbourhood repeating something like this:

"Ito Hiroshi! I am Ito Hiroshi. I am Ito Hiroshi. I've been doing my best. Let's look forward to a great future together. Please vote for me. Ito Hiroshi! I am Ito Hiroshi..."

They drive really slowly, and their loudspeakers are quite loud. Plus, there are at least 50 people campaigning for municipal office here in Beppu, so everywhere you go, there's some dolt with a loudspeaker spouting pointless noise. It grets pretty annoying.

What else is going on? Not much, to be honest. School is going well, my classes are okay, and I'm keeping busy, but not too busy. I have an iaido grading next week (for 5th dan) but I suspect I will fail it because I didn't practice much for the last two months in Tokyo, and there haven't been any practices here this past month. I've been doing a bit on my own, but I really need some pointers from the teachers who will be on the grading panel. Speaking of inactivity, I have put back on most if not all of the weight I lost last term ... argh! ... so I am feeling a bit anxious to get back into jogging or cycling or swimming or something. I don't live very close to the park anymore, so maybe I will try cycling for 30 minutes every night; it's probably much better on my knees, too.

Well, that's about all I've got. Quite an un-eventful week, really.

Friday, April 20, 2007


Everything is going well here in Beppu. Well, almost everything. I had some problems at my apartment: no hot water, then no water at all; also, we are supposed to receive a box of supplies from our company but due to some oversight I didn't get anything, so for the first little while I had no toilet paper, no dishes, no garbage bags, etc. Anyway, it's all been ironed out now. Mistakes happen, I guess.

Here is a link to some pictures taken by Michelle, my co-worker. I'm too lazy to post my own pictures just now, and hers are really good, so please enjoy her pictures of Beppu.

In the meantime, here's a funny (well, laughable; is that the same thing?) story from the last faculty meeting here. (I manage to avoid these things by virtue of being a part-timer.)

Dean: So, are there any more concerns that need to be raised?
Professor: Yes, I have a concern I would like you to address.
Dean: Go ahead.
Professor: Does APU have a contingency plan in place in the event of an earthquake?
Dean: Yes, I believe we do; we have designated evacuation areas, emergency response plans, first aid supplies, and so on.
Professor: But aren't there lions nearby, in the African Safari Park?
Dean: Errr... yes, there is a Safari theme park a few kilometers away, and I believe they do have lions there, but ...
Professor: Well, what if there was an earthquake, and the cages broke open, and the lions were released? Does the university have tranquilizer guns on hand in the event of a lion attack?
Dean: A lion attack?
Professor: Yes, an earthquake, and then a subsequent lion attack. We need to have tranquilizer guns on hand!
Dean: I'm not sure if that's really necessary...
Professor: You should be prepared for any eventuality, and I believe a lion attack is a very real possibility, given that there are lions in the vicinity.
Dean: We will consider your recommendation, professor.

I'm not sure if the professor is aware of this, but there is also an Aquarium down near the seaside; if there were an earthquake, there could also be subsequent tsunamis, which might rupture the tanks at the aquarium, releasing sharks and other dangerous fishes; this tsunami might continue right up the side of the mountain, bringing said sharks into contact with discombobulated students and rescue personnel. One could even conceive of the possibility, however unlikely, that lions might escape from the safari park, and then get swept up by the ensuing tsunami -- the result would almost certainly be waves of lions riding sharks, both attacking unsuspecting earthquake survivors willy-nilly. Scary stuff indeed. I'm glad people are thinking about these things.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sorry, More Soon

Sorry, I've been busy; I moved to Beppu, and started a new term here at APU. I will do a better post soon, with some pictures. I got a lot of nice shots of the cherry blossoms in Tokyo a few weeks ago. Stay tuned!