I'm living in Kusatsu-shi, Shiga-ken for an undetermined amount of time and teaching English as a second language at a local high school. This journal is to document my experiences, thoughts, and to stay connected with others at home and abroad.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Poisoned Waters: New Frontline Special

Recent PBS Frontline 2-hour special on water problems we're currently facing. I've been reading about these dead zones for years now--please everyone start doing the same and spreading the word. We can't keep pissing in our water supply and expecting to walking away clean-handed.

NPO Musician: 2009: Year of the BEE

NPO musician. Sounds like an oxymoron, but here's the idea:

I've been playing music quite a bit while living here in Japan, actually made my debut as a part-time musician two years ago with another ALT buddy, Mike Bass, I met here. When I'm not teaching and cycling, we play together, and I've written a good number of original tunes over the years. Been recording, mixing, and producing them myself (of course with the expertise help of Mr Bass as well).

I know I'm no where near professional quality at the moment, but I want to share my music and do something good for the world at the same time. I've labeled myself as an NPO musician, because I get pleasure from making music, sharing my ideas and feelings through song, and helping other people. I recognize that my abiility to make music is a privilege, one that many people around the world do not enjoy. Therefore, I am dedicating my earnings to a different NPO every year in order to raise money and awareness for that organization.

As you may have already guessed, 2009 is Year of the BEE (Japan).

If you want to hear my music, and in return don't mind contributing to BEE Japan, please visit look on the sidebar, where you will find out how to download my music and make a donation via Pay Pal (100% of which I will pass on to BEE Japan). I'm using the idea from Radiohead's last album In Rainbows, and opting for the "pay what you want" method. You can download my music for free, but anything you do pledge will go to BEE Japan. The responsibility is on the listener.

Of course, if you want to know more about BEE Japan, just click it.

This is a good chance to listen to my creative ideas and get to know me better through my music as well. And if you want to donate to BEE Japan at the same time, you have until midnight, December 31st, 2009 to do so.

Thanks everyone! Happy listening and happy riding!



Saturday, April 25, 2009

The 60-Minute Team

The 60-Minute Team
60 minutes a week:
Be happy, stay healthy, and keep your neighborhood clean!

The concept is simple enough: combining exercise with community enjoyment mixed with maintenance. I have been organizing and participating in a number of big clean-ups here in Shiga (Japan) over the past year or so. But the trash keeps coming back! Where does it coming from? Are the deer and tanuki playing a nasty trick on us? No, it’s people, us, and it’s our responsibility to keep our home clean.

There are two ends we can meet with this new quasi eco-sport:
1) Exercise! Why spend your hours exercising in a gym, separated from your environment, with an iPod blocking out the world? Thanks to truly marveling technology advancements, we spend less time in our own backyards than ever before. But there’s a stunning world of rice fields and hills, and rivers (concrete bedded perhaps), and edible wildflowers, and so much more than we never see. I’ll bet we can name all of the 7 Dwarves but we couldn’t think of 7 plant varieties that grow just beyond our walls. Please take a walk, a run, a bike-ride at dusk and revel in it. If you want more than just that, work your muscles by curling whatever trash you find along the way, do sit-ups, push-ups, chin-ups on a tree lunges, calisthenics¬¬––the possibilities are endless! In the process of enjoying your neighborhood, you’ll probably realize there’s an obscene amount of garbage floating around…that brings us to point number
2) Take care of your home! Set an example for others to follow or get your neighbors to join you for an evening stroll and bring a couple of plastic bags to pick up whatever junk you see in the process. If you are currently avoiding visiting that park around the corner because of trash problems, this will help create the opportunity to enjoy your home. The trouble is that a polluted sidewalk invites more trash, because no one appears to mind anyway; but a spotless roadside encourages others to keep it unblemished! Best of all, the more people in a community that start working together to protect their shared land, the more effective and beautiful things will be coming. In less than a month there’ll be less garbage to collect, because a more responsible community will trash the place less.

On the surface, the goal for the 60-Minute Team is to get everyone in the world working to take better care of the home on Earth that we all share.

Every person: 60 minutes/week
You can do it at your own pace, whenever you have an hour to spare. Getting a big group together takes a lot of time and energy we could spend better just by getting to work. One day after work, Satruday or Sunday mornings¬¬—best part of joining the 60-Minute Team is that when you participate is completely up to you!

I don’t believe it’s so difficult, and once the ball is rolling will be a force of inertia that drives us to keep things clean for all time. If we get to the point where there’s no trash, we can still benefit from getting outside one hour a week. Doing so will hopefully also spark new ideas of health and community maintenance above and beyond simple exercise and trash collecting. If we want to pass on there beautiful world around us to our children, we can take additional steps: reducing energy & CO2 used by our daily appliances, composting, cutting back on products with packaging or waribashi, switching to organic foods to keep our soil and bodies, engaging more with family, friends, and neighbors¬¬––we can always accomplish more collectively than if we stay looked indoors alone.

Please leave us a comment here and let us know how you’re 60-Minute contributions are going! Let other people know and help them on board too!

You can also join our facebook group for The 60-Minute Team

Friday, April 24, 2009

Inner echos: private musings

Never closer to home, in the Shigaraki mountains

(Looking down at the floor) If guys can't hit this target, what chance to we have of meeting 80% reduction of CO2 emissions by mid-century? Better get used to swimming.

I've got my money on the chestnut...which one's the chestnut (I'm from the US)

pure heart, and she would know best. I'm lucky to be able to hold the hands that created this (drawn by Katie)

Make a wish

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Tanuki Mountain

tanuki.jpgHappy Spring! Now that things are finally warming up, I've been taking some great rides out in the mountains behind my house. I live in Ritto City, Shiga Prefecture, with just a few 600 meter tall hills separating me from Shigaraki, home of the tanuki. Many people know the tanuki well; he stands outside Izukaya's across the country with sake jug in hand, beckoning in customers with his jovial grin (and testicles that reach down to the ground). All of these ceramic tanuki statues originate from Shigaraki.

Despite practically living in the tanuki den, I have yet to see one of these chimerical creatures.

Until today! This morning while riding up to Konshou Temple behind my house, I saw my first elusive racoon dog! (If you look at the map below, I marked the spot with a little dog symbol.)

This was a really special experience, because I've been worried they were endangered didn't exist. Around the world indigenous species have been disappearing in alarming numbers due to human interference. In the past the only stories I've heard of real tanuki was as roadkill, so this morning's encounter gave me a bit of hope that the tanuki are still alive and well.

North Korean Missile Crisis

11:34 am, I'm sitting at my computer when the WWII-era loud speakers in my neighborhood ring and announce that a rocket has just taken off from North Korea.
"We at the Ritto City Hall wish to inform all citizens that a rocket has been launched from North Korea. We advise everyone to please turn on their radios or televisions to follow developments on the event. Repeat..."

A few minutes later on the news it was reported that the rocket/satellite boosters splashed, one in the Sea of Japan and one in the Pacific.

Makes me wonder, if I were about to get hit with a missile from North Korea, would I want the bomb sirens to be the last thing I hear?

How to deal with the pricks who sold America's future

Please understand, this isn't aimed at the people who've unfortunately lost their jobs and homes recently--it's for the Bush and his tax-cutting cronies who ran up a huge national debt for his children (my generation, generation "you got f-ck-d") to pay, the Wall Street, auto execs, oil and drug company lobbyists, investment firm CEO's...succinctly, the A-holes who sold the future of the working classes who keep this country flowing.

More bail-outs are going to nurture their psychosis that money can be created from nothing. Let them go and allow more environmentally sustainable & economically sustainable business take its place. Hell, just letting kudzu take over that hideous Crystler tower would be an improvement--more green space and less energy wasted.

This is the treatment I propose, brought to you by the geniuses Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of South Park: Treatment for the fiscally ADD.