November 07, 2009

Giant Hornet

Andrew had a science lesson today...

"I was taking down laundry, grabbed my sock and... Ouch! It felt somewhat like an injection or someone poking you with a needle, or a jellyfish sting, or something. I went into the house and told dad that I though that I had been stung, but I hadn't seen it. We went back out and found a wasp still in the sock and smacked it with a shoe, but it didn't smash it-- it's really tough. We held it with a clothes pin, since it was only stunned, and sprayed it with poison.

My hand swelled up really big right away. Dad put some medicine on it. Wasps don't leave their stingers, so we didn't have to pull it out, We looked it up on the Internet and found that it's the biggest hornet in the world-- and the most poisonous. More people (in Japan) die from it every year than from any other insect or even poisonous snake."

Here is a Wikipedia article about it.

November 05, 2009

Shizuoka Street Performers Festival

I was happy to find, when I first visited here almost a year ago, that street performing was not only accepted but very well known, since for the past seven years Shizuoka has hosted an international street performers festival and competition.

This year there were over 90 entries. We couldn't perform officially, since entries closed last January, but Andrew and I strolled about in our costumes and both enjoyed the shows-- we saw about fifteen-- only one-sixth of the total. We also performed ourselves, since we couldn't get far without someone stopping us to ask for a balloon or to take a picture of us.

Andrew is pictured here with 'PopEyed', a couple comedic acrobats from Australia. They told us that they love coming every year, as there is nothing in Australia to compare to this event.

I also enjoyed seeing others perform. There were so many ideas that I can stea... er... adapt for myself. Maybe we'll be able to participate more actively next year, since there are various levels or groups of performers-- from big stage to small and from street corner areas to to strolling acts-- like ours.

At the face painting area, we met two talented artists, one from Calgary, Canada and one from Texas--

The photo of a juggler with his audience perhaps gives you an idea of the set up of the 'intermediate', street level performing areas.

The whole event was very well organized and the audiences were fantastic and very appreciative.

Sadly, I missed my favorite-- Pippi, an American who lives in Tokyo, whom I first saw in Fukuoka and who has the most that I like to.. err... emulate. My own show is very similar-- without the make-up or nose and simpler, kind of a scaled-down version.

(photo from:

The view photo was taken on Tuesday, 3 November, the last day of the four-day event. It's looking toward Mount Fuji from where I live, toward the city of Shizuoka, spread out along the coast.

November 01, 2009

Rescued by a Tomato

Not keeping up this blog has frustrated me. Teaching English classes and teaching Andrew at home have almost totally absorbed my attention lately, with the few spare drops of free-time soaked up with reading the news, checking my mail and, recently, Facebook.

The time and energy spent on Facebook has been great for getting better connected with my family. However, I now realize that this motivation to communicate with my loved ones was what kept me blogging faithfully. I really enjoy blogging, so I needed to find a way to do both.

First, I evaluated what has been devouring my hours, munching my minutes and sucking away my seconds. The next big use of my free time was the website 'Lifehacker' and related articles and links-- all in the name of living better and faster and yes, 'saving time'.

'Good, better, best. Never let it rest. 'Til your good is better and your better is best.” St. Jerome

Of course, some of it was work related, but a great deal was just thirsting for knowledge-- information overloading, brain stuffing. As Solomon said, three thousand years ago, “Of the making of many bytes, there is no end; and too much data burns the brain.”-- or something like that. I needed an kind of an informational Noah's ark to save me from the data-flood-- like the round, red one that goes 'brr-ring'... pictured above.

While setting up Andrew's curriculum and schedule, I found and tried a few methods to increase his focus, concentration, self-evaluation and motivation. Simply put, to get more done in less time-- just what I needed too.

One method seemed to be just what we needed, “Pomodoro”, Italian for 'tomato'-- named after the tomato-shaped timer used by the developer of the system. The idea is to set a certain number of set periods of time (25 minutes is suggested and what we use) for uninterrupted work, followed by a short break. There's a lot more to the planning and record-keeping and do's and don't's, but that's basically it.

Forcing myself to schedule all I do will, I hope, limit the attacks of the black hole time gobblers when my will is weak. If I'm at least partially successful, you should see my regular posts come back to life.

Stay tuned. Bruce

If you are interested in how it works, you can find the details here and here -- where you can also get a free PDF of his book.