Thursday, January 31, 2013


Sometimes "we" at The Temple Valley Times turn to other Times' to make sure we are keeping pace with the times and other Times'. Recently we turned to the pages of The Japan Times and this time we were a little puzzled by what we read, but we love puzzles! 

Here's a puzzle embedded in a January 25, 2013 Kyodo news story ("Tepco plans to dump 'cleaned' Fukushima No. 1 water")published in the Japan Times.

Maybe they shouldn't put the puzzles inside the news stories.

Even More Puzzling

What's even more puzzling in this article, about plans on the drawing board at the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco)to dump radioactive water stored at its crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima into the sea (phew!), is the next and last sentence which reads:

"But as the new facility is not capable of removing radioactive tritium, an official said Tepco will consider diluting the processed water before releasing it to the sea."
I'm not the only one who is puzzled either. One reader, dubbed "Crank Dub," writes in the comment section beneath the article on The Japan Times website: 
"So, forgive me if I've misunderstood this: they are going to dilute the contaminated water before putting it in the ocean. And what magic substance will they use to dilute this water? Perhaps water? Before putting it into the sea water? Genius. Whatever they're being paid, double it."
On second thought Crank Dub doesn't seem puzzled at all. He/she seems to get it and asks all the right questions. I'm just puzzled why the Kyodo reporter didn't do the same.

Related post: Times Mistaken 

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Picture of Evil

If you want to lay your eyes on the picture of pure evil, just visit my mother-in-law. That lady will show it you for sure. She has it stowed away in one of her jam-packed closets. It's a seventeenth, or maybe eighteenth, century calligraphy scroll depicting the Japanese kanji character for "evil." There used to be a second scroll, depicting the character for good, but it burned to a crisp in a terrible raging inferno over a century ago. Meant to hang beside each other in perfect balance, the works of art came with a stern warning. The caretakers of the scrolls were never to display one without the other, especially "evil," lest something awful befall those who gazed upon it. 

Now all my mother-in-law is left with is "evil," so she keeps it hidden away in a dark dank closet where nobody can find it unless they know exactly where to look. I've never seen it unfurled but I know exactly where it lies. It's buried under a huge pile of other useless crap and fortunately for me and everybody else my mother-in-law never displays it. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Oldies but Goodies

Here's an oldie but a goodie, Donguri Koro Koro (The Rolling Acorn), as performed by a couple of sorta oldies but goodies (Lisa Loeb and Elizabeth Mitchell) just a few years ago.

  Catch the Moon, a compilation of children's classics from around the globe, sung by Lisa Loeb and Elizabeth Mitchell for kids of all ages

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Times Mistaken

The Japan Times (my other paper, when I buy it) is a great periodical featuring some excellent writing and in-depth reporting that may go above and beyond what most newspapers of equal size would dare attempt these days. Most of the time it's on target but sometimes it's off. The other day I stumbled across this  example of one of those times - times that The Japan Times could have done better.

I believe the writer meant "hordes of people"  not "hoards of people" but I could be wrong.

Hoards of Errors

Is it hordes of hoards, or is it the other way around? I'm confused and so is The Japan Times apparently when it comes to these two homophones. 

The Times must have a hoard of dictionaries squirreled away somewhere around the office to help them figure this word problem out. They are most likely in a pile of dust covered tomes that were used by the hordes of proofreaders who probably once quietly toiled away there under green tinted visors until they were replaced by spell check and eventually all went the way of the dinosaur. 

If someone did stumble upon one of these  volumes and cracked the spine open they might find that hoard, as my Webster's dictionary notes, is "a supply or fund stored up and often hidden away" while horde, according to the same volume, is "a teeming crowd or throng." 

Here is a hoard of Japan Times articles I recently uncovered that feature the word "hoards" where the writer probably meant "hordes." I hope the Times sorts these words out soon. It's enough to make hordes of angry grammarians stand up and cancel their newspaper subscriptions!

Click to enlarge.


The Japan Times isn't the only news organization susceptible to this kind of goof up. Regret the Error, an award winning book on media mistakes and more by Craig Silverman tells about an identical mix up occurring at another venerable newspaper. I wondered if the Japan Times was immune to making the very same blunder and was surprised to learn that it was decidedly not.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Slippery Slope

Teahouse at Koishikawa the morning 
after a snowfall*
I couldn't just sit there and wallow in the agony of defeat. If she could do it so could I! If that old lady could shovel the snow off my walkway, I could shovel the snow off everybody else's walkway. Then I would be remembered forever as the foreigner who saved Temple Valley from being buried alive. Fame and glory would be mine! So that's exactly what I did. 

Concealed by the cover of darkness I ran my shiny new snow shovel up and down the entire length of the paved hill that leads up to my walkway and a little beyond. When I was finished I was dripping wet with sweat and on the brink of exhaustion but at least there would now be enough room between the mounds of fresh fallen snow to wheel an ambulance gurney through if I needed one. In other words, I felt satisfied with the job I did and walked down the slope that led to the street below to admire my work from a distance. 

Trekking back up the hill toward home I spied old man Yoshida picking away at the edges of the path I had just finished shoveling. I couldn't figure out why he needed to make the path any wider. I imagine he was trying to clear a space broad enough for two ambulance gurneys to be wheeled through in case he needed one as well. 

Then traffic really started to pick up along the slope. Just as I was nearing Mr. Yoshida, down the hill barreled Mrs. Naka at an almost breakneck pace but not in so much of a hurry that she didn't have time to stop and chit chat with Mr. Y for a second or two. "That's pretty hard work, huh," she said. While Y's reply seemed totally incomprehensible through the wool muffler wrapped around his mouth, by the nodding motion of his head he appeared to be in agreement.

"NOOOO! What do you mean?! I did all that work!!!" I screamed inside my head as I smiled and passed them both by. I couldn't believe it! That old geezer had stolen all my glory. Not only that, I had purposely left some snow on either side of the shoveled sidewalk as part of my grand master snow removal plan. 

I don't just go out there and start flinging snow all around willy-nilly. I think about it before I do anything, for years in this case. In the event the sidewalk iced over during the night I thought it best to leave a little white powder on either side to provide some traction for people descending the hill on their morning commute to work. Now that plan was all for nothing. 

I returned home feeling more defeated than ever. All through the night I could hear the sound of metal scraping cement as everybody who lives along the lane came out one by one to expand on the perfectly fine route I had already carved out. The racket continued almost until midnight when I finally succumbed to the spell of the sandman.

By the time morning's light had illuminated our valley, I had completely forgotten about the previous day's deprivation (i.e. the stolen glory). That is until that hideous sound once again penetrated the confines of my mind. They were at it again! What were they shoveling now? I had to see for myself what they were up to.

As I headed out the door, Em (my wife) handed me a bag full of trash. I imagined is was meant to serve as a cushion in the event I slipped on a patch of ice. She thinks of everything like that. Sure enough the sloping walkway was a solid sheet of glass from top to bottom. As I navigated my way down the frost covered hill I stumbled upon Mr. Wada who advised me to stick to the snow on the edges of the path for better traction. "I know! That was my whole idea in the first place," I said inside my head as I nodded and thanked him for his guidance. 

After climbing down the treacherous path and depositing my garbage for pickup at the bottom of the hill, I took a long sweeping look back up at that icy hump I had just miraculously descended. I realized then I would need the aid of a Sherpa mountain guide to get back up. As I cooled my heels and waited for the noonday sun to turn the sidewalk into a more navigable flowing creek, I wondered where this slippery slope all began?

*Image of woodblock print by Hokusai from the Library of Congress 

The path I shoveled looked something like this:




Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Sky Has Fallen

Staring out in silence at this pure white snowy scene, I should have been filled with a supreme sense of serenity. All I could feel was that terrible weight on those poor snow encrusted boughs. 

Limbs that once reached for the heavens, were now saddled with a heavy burden and forced to bow to the ground. I watched in horror as they snapped one by one and came crashing to the earth with a terrific thud. That’s when something suddenly snapped inside of me. Then I realized there was one thing that had to be done. 

This snow storm would be different from all others that had ever befallen Temple Valley. This time I would shovel my walkway, instead of letting my neighbors do it for me like I usually do. Responsibility had come knocking, in the form of branches top-heavy with crystallized vapors fallen from the sky, and I would answer shovel in hand. 

Curiously or not, the opportunity to assume this responsibility as an adult member of the community had fallen on the Japanese national holiday known as Coming of Age Day. That’s the day when twenty-year-olds in Japan celebrate becoming an adult. Sure, maybe I was late to the party by a couple of decades but the important thing was I had arrived. All I needed now was a shovel. 

As any adult knows, the road to responsibility isn't always smooth. Since it was a national holiday, the local hardware store was shuttered for the day. That meant the mega do-it-yourself center located two miles away across the frozen tundra was the closest place I could get my hands on a shovel. 

Yes it was tough going but the prize waiting at the end of the arduous journey was well worth the hardships faced along the way. Upon entering the front door of the huge lumber and hardware emporium, my eyes were met by a silvery flash of light reflected from what was everything anyone could want in a snow shovel.  

Attached to the shiny metal alloy scoop was a beautifully varnished wooden stick topped off with a bright red handle that screamed “I want to hold your hand.” So I did and after forking over fourteen hundred yen (about 16 bucks) to the cashier, I dashed home through the snow and slush with all deliberate speed. I was up to my knees in frozen muck but all I could think of was putting the metal to the macadam and letting that little shovel plow a path that people in Temple Valley would be talking about forever. 

Then I heard a sound more hideous than fingernails across a chalkboard. It was the sound of broom bristles against bone dry concrete. That’s when I looked up and saw her. Most people here call her “the lady that lives behind the Tanaka’s” but to me she is the Snow Queen of Temple Valley. 

Using nothing but a small potting trowel and whisk broom she had cleared the entire walkway around my home and beyond, making a swath wide enough for a small parade to pass through. Standing there with my shiny new shovel in hand, I watched what I was afraid were the last vapors of breathe leave my lungs in huge panting puffs against the backdrop of the Snow Queen's ever mounting piles of pure white crystals. Then, as if that huge weight had descended upon my shoulders and forced me to bow toward the ground, I thanked the queen for all her hard work and looked for a place to rest my broken spirit. After depositing my unused shovel by the front door, I entered the warmth of home and, exhausted, fell on the living room couch with a terrific thud.

From the Twitterverse:

For more cool snowmen (aren't they all?) from the Internet and beyond click here.

Unrelated post with a similar title: The Sky is Falling

Monday, January 7, 2013

Recipe for Revival

Jan. 7 - They say that eating a bowl of rice porridge laden with these seven herbs on the seventh day of the first month will bring you good health throughout the year. The Wikipedia entry for Nanakusa-no-sekku (the "Festival of Seven Herbs")states that "since there is little green at... [this] time of the year, the young green herbs bring color to the table and eating them suits the spirit of the New Year." For those who have feasted and imbibed perhaps more than they should have over the New Year's holiday, the simple dish is the exact medicine they need to revive the body and spirit.

Reviving Recipes

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Short of It

Here is a viral video gem that was recently uploaded to Youtube and then uncovered by Digg.


Can't wait to journey to this escalator adventure yourself? Take the shortest route possible:


BTW, the maker of the train video above, also noticed the escalator at More's Department Store in Kawasaki but very few viewers noticed the video on the Henteko Youtube channel. Lots of viewers did notice the train video however, including some folks working at an NHK TV news program who wondered if it was real or not. If you're wondering too, just take a look at the NHK program (in Japanese) yourself. The short of it is... it's not.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Never Bitten

Today is the day the shishimai, that is the lion or to be more exact the lion dancer, and the kingly beast's retinue of musicians and money collectors make the rounds across Temple Valley. For a small donation they will stop by your house or place of business and do a little jig that will help usher in a happy and healthy New Year. They say if you let the lion bite your head you will gain wisdom beyond compare. I wouldn't know for sure though, I've never been so much as nibbled.

Related post: Danger Lurks in the Year of the Tiger

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Still Life

Yesterday this shopping arcade lying on the outskirts of Temple Valley was wall-to-wall people, all doing last-minute shopping in preparation for their New Year's celebrations. Today the stores are all temporarily shuttered for this, the biggest holiday of the year in Japan. 

The street is now as quiet as a church and will be that way for the next three days or so. Practically every store that lines this lane will remain closed for a few days of rest just as they have at the beginning of every new year for as long as anyone living in this valley can remember. 

Walk just down the street though and it seems like your almost a world away. There the Walmart-owned Sieyu department store, like the new glitzy shopping mall only a five-minute train ride away, is wide open for business this January first and it's bustling. 

I wonder if this plain covered lane of mom and pop shops will soon wither away in the shadow of its giant competitors and rest in peace forever. Let's hope it doesn't and that all who take this path of relative peace and quiet find it paved with prosperity this coming year.