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Tony Silva
Totally Unprofessional

September 26, 2021

Travel in the After Times

The Alison sendoff should have tipped me off. Actually, it did, but nothing could have prepared me for the strangeness of this trip.

When I saw her off, we were surprised by how few people were at the airport. No lines, airline staff seemingly hungry for human contact. She reported her planes were not full, but not really empty, either.

Hold that thought.

I spent a pretty rough three weeks after she left: the big ongoing condo empty, prepping the place for its 6-week closing, prepping for both my trip and the following two-week quarantine. Stress levels way up there.

I’d made a special trip to the airport to get my PCR test a day early, giving me a margin in case things didn’t work out. 

I spent the night before departure in a hotel at the airport since my flight left at 7:10 the next morning. Tiny, but new, clean, and inexpensive. When I asked, I was told the Terminal Buildings opened at 5:30. OK.

5:30 am. Two others and I arrive just as the doors unlock. Otherwise, ghost town. Ah. The buildings OPEN at 5:30. OPERATION begins at 6. OK. That explains the emptiness.

At about 5:50 the JAL staff do their little ceremony to start the day, line up and silently bow to the waiting passengers, but there are no passengers. It's just me. Minutes later, a staff member comes over to where I’m sitting, inviting me to check in.

As with Alison’s check-in, the staff is delighted to have a customer, and conversation is casual and friendly. But when my negative PCR test results are reviewed, there is discussion. I’m told that while they will let me ON the plane, I may have a problem in Chicago. My passport number does not appear on the certificate, nor does any other ID info. Silently, I notice for the first time that my name is written only in Japanese characters, not Roman letters. Pretty sure I only need proof to get ON the plane, I assure them I will handle what comes in Chicago.

On the plane, about half-full, an odd seat assignment I won’t bother explaining, and we’re off to Haneda, one of two main Tokyo airports. From there, I need to take a 70-minute bus ride to Narita, the other airport.

There are some people here and there at Haneda. Shops are closed. Some vending machines are "on." If you want ice cream, you're covered. Bottle of water, sorry. Chu-hai? Those were the good old days, friend.

One of the old codgers (probably my age) managing the bus lines shoos me away from the stop where my bus will arrive because I’m too early. I move about 40 feet away, stand behind a remaining public telephone booth, and watch a crow across the way pick his way through the crow-proofing trash netting and create a proper crow mess.

At a “proper” time closer to my bus departure, I wheel my suitcase to the bus stop. An older female agent (again, about my age) checks my ticket, tells me where to wheel my bag, tells me where to stand. Because there is no line. It seems I will be her only passenger on this bus, so we start to talk…the usual…Kanto vs. Kansai, US vs. Japan, and then I throw her the Mexico curveball. Before the bus arrives I’m giving her a lesson on prepositions and transportation conveyances, and she’s taking notes.

I am the only person getting ON the bus.

The bus arrives at Narita, on time, and again, ghost town. There are no lines. I walk directly to the check-in counter and a row of faces do their best “choose me.” I make an “I’m sorry” face and go to the first class counter. I’m told I’m the only first-class passenger. We laugh about how I could have saved points and chosen business; only one passenger there, too. They repeat the warning I’d gotten in Osaka about my PCR test certificate. 

Security, no line. But I do get patted down…by a female agent. Well.

Immigration. No line. The “traffic director” is disappointed that I already have my embarkation/disembarkation card, correctly filled out, depriving him of his chance to be officious. The immigration agent is…friendly. “It’s like this every day!” I thank her for working on a holiday.

My watch tells me that I have time for a fast Bloody Mary in the First Class lounge. Yeah, well…no. Food can be ordered by using the QR code on your table, but sorry, no alcohol. Emergency lockdown. I drink my glass of water, then head to my gate. 

The departure gates are often among the less pleasant parts of a trip, and can be almost Fellini-esque, with characters from all corners of the globe just being themselves in this order-obsessed society. Usually 300-400 people, tired, just waiting, waiting. But the Twilight Zone vibe persists. The gate area is almost empty. I check my watch, my ticket, the gate number. I look around. I take a seat. I count heads.

At the gate, about eight JAL staff. In the passenger area, I count 10 plus myself, but it’s hard because there’s a Chinese family whose members are manically scurrying in and out of the area.

Boarding for Group One is announced, without irony. I board and find my seat, 1A.

Another headcount, I get 11+1. You can almost hear the money hemorrhaging from the plane. This plane is designed to carry 300-400 people. And I’m paying with miles. From the looks of him, so is the one guy in Business.

So many attendants come up and introduce themselves I can’t remember how many, let alone any of their names. Fortunately, one also brings the champagne.

Take-off is a little odd. Very lumpy runway (and maybe I remember that), but also an odd fish-like shimmy in the plane as it gains speed. Whatever, we’re in the air. I have champagne, great earphones, and 13 hours between cultures to zen out. I’m drained, hungry.

The food comes early. I’ve chosen the Japanese full meal - a mistake. Oh, it was exquisite: delicious and beautifully presented. But, the food just kept coming. My request to pass on the last course was duly ignored, but I did manage to stave off the dessert, and pleaded with the attendant to eat it herself instead.

Next, across the aisle in the adjacent pod, they are preparing my bed. For the mattress, do you prefer hard or soft? Do you wish to change into “relax clothes” (provided)? I defer on the clothes, but in the interest of being a good sport - and the enormous meal - I concede to a little lie-down.

And I do doze off.

Until the turbulence.

Now, I call it turbulence, but as experienced fliers know, turbulence is random. With varying severity, it will pitch the plane vertically, laterally, rotationally. What was occurring now was something I had already experienced at least once since the plane left Tokyo, plus during the odd take-off. The plane was shimmying, an almost 100% horizontal, fish-like shimmy. Like a 500,000 lb. guppy. The shimmy periods could last 3-4 minutes, or on and off for up to 40 minutes. These shimmies were strong, or maybe they felt so because I was horizontal myself. Lying on my back, the shimmies were strong enough to cause that great big meal to heave left and right out of sync with the rest of me. Back to my pod and a little reading. (As usual, the wifi was mostly no-fi, but that's less of an irritant when there’s no extra charge for it. It got better over Canada.)

But those shimmy periods persisted throughout the trip. People who should know have suggested it might have been an odd interaction between the tailwind and autopilot, but my theory of a worn or damaged damping mechanism was not ruled out. Owners of old VW Beetles whose steering dampers were dying know what I mean.

We approach Chicago, and there are goodbyes, and gifts. Exiting the plane the attendants from Economy want to meet. The fact that I speak Japanese seems to earn me some mysterious plane status, but my Japanese is truly awful and many, many, many foreigners in Japan put me to shame. But, on request, I give them some Kansai-ben (Osaka dialect) and they are tickled.

O’Hare. The gates get farther from Immigration every flight. Next time in, I’m measuring. Think it’s at least a half-mile now. But, true to pattern, Immigration is empty. It’s the twelve of us. No line, welcome home. As I approach the baggage carousel, one of the handlers is placing my suitcase on the ground in front of me.

I won’t make you read any more. I got a nice silver Ford Focus as my rental. A week of meeting friends and doctors followed. 

Codicil:

American Airlines canceled the second leg of my return to Japan - actually a JAL flight. There is no availability on planes originating in the US and landing in Osaka (their wording). “So, what do you suggest?” <silence> I should add that it took FOUR HOURS on the phone - mostly on hold - to get that news. I did manage to find a United flight that almost mirrors my original plan - ORD-SFO-KIX - and grabbed it despite a crazy fare and a no-cancellation policy. And United. Ah, well.

No matter, as those United flights were canceled within 30 hours of purchase. The Travelocity agent was happy that I could get a 100% refund…

While I was still in online chat with the agent, I managed to find other flights that will get me to KIX while avoiding Tokyo (quarantine details). It’s an extra connection (Seoul) and a combination of United and Asiana flights. It arrives a day later and causes all kinds of other logistical problems (PCR test, mail delivery, etc.) Fingers crossed none of those flights get canceled.


For an idea of what awaits me: “How do you get back into Japan” https://maido-bob.osaka/en/2021/09/06/so-how-do-you-get-back-in-returning-to-japan-from-overseas-during-covid/



August 21, 2021

I’ve been putting off updates because each time I start, it soon devolves to a litany of negatives. That hasn’t changed.

We’ve got the collapse of Afghanistan, record-high COVID-19 numbers in Japan, the US, and most of the rest of the world. Hospitals are full. Performative irrationality of the anti-mask/anti-vax simples continues. 

There are climate change related meteorological catastrophes…hurricanes, mudslides and landslides, forest fires…119°F in Sicily, Lake Meade is almost dry

And when indulging in a little louder than usual listening to Dave Matthews, POP, one of my favorite pairs of headphones died: right channel silence. Out of warranty. I did manage to negotiate a heavily discounted replacement with the maker, but who would have thought it would take a full day to find a way to ship them from Japan to Hong Kong?

The bedroom headboard lamp is disintegrating…crumbling to the touch. The small fan in the office where I spend lots of my time has gotten so loud I can’t bear to turn it on. 

Japan’s re-entry procedures have gotten even crazier, and with the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, pre-flight testing and quarantine on arrival are becoming even more of a challenge. 

Got the picture?

It’s all just too sad.

July 31, 2021

Two Moderna jabs plus two weeks, so all should be cool, but all that’s just in time for the rise of the Delta variant, its transmissibility, its virulence, and the ill-timed decisions by leaders to “open up.” In Japan, that’s forced many areas, including Tokyo and Osaka, to return to emergency lockdown. What this will mean for fall travel plans is anyone’s guess. 

But things are crazy all over. Just look at what Chicago Cubs management is up to

It’s not all bleak, though. The commission to study the January 6 attack is underway, Trump is being forced to release his taxes, and a memo from Trump to Justice Department officials that in other times would guarantee prison time has been made public. I’ve fallen in love again with my Shure SE846 earphones (if not the awful Shure Bluetooth cable), but I’m not leaving my Grado GH-1s or my Anandas, either. Son Volt has a new album out, but I want 60 seconds in the ring with the audio engineer. And, it’s an Apple Digital Master, no less. It sounds like shit vinyl. The new Jackson Browne (Downhill From Everywhere) is a little better. 

Colleagues and former students are struggling to survive the last weeks of the semester, and I certainly feel for them, but I can’t help but enjoy the remove from the hardship. 

A real find was the Rickie Lee Jones’ autobiography, Last Chance Texaco. While some of the stories are not easy to get through, the writing itself is a nice surprise. The woman can write. Almost a direct contemporary, it’s interesting to read her account of her formative years, see the difference gender, geography, and fearlessness can make.

For now, it’s just endure, endure the Kansai summer. Everything else subsides. It’s just the heat and humidity. Here’s hoping it’s the last time for me.

Queretaro forecast.

June 26, 2021

In 2020, COVID-19 arguably caught most countries off-guard. (Yes, they should have a, b, c, …) Eventually most wised up, those that could got on track (many countries just couldn’t), and are now starting to enjoy a semi-opened up summer.

And then, there’s Japan

The second year of the pandemic has given not only the Universities, not only those involved with the Olympics, but the entire governing machine the opportunity to display their utter incompetence. 

Last year wasn’t so bad. As leadership was paralyzed staring into the headlights, the people, the teachers, did what had to be done. Small businesses were hit very hard, of course, but, overall things went much better than could be expected. With a year to gear up for 2021, the universities, the Olympics committees, and the government are now showing us what they are best at: mucking it up. 

I feel for the students and teachers having to cope with all the top-down craziness in the constant shifting from on-demand, real-time, face-to-face, hybrid, and high-flex classes. Just awful.

Alison received her first shot this week. For about three weeks things were going full speed, with needles and vaccine everywhere. Yesterday, we were told that the government was “having trouble delivering” vaccine to the many vaccines nation sites and that reservations for vaccination were being suspended. 

The Olympics are less than a month away. Tokyo daily infection rates are 600+, and a fourth wave of infection is expected. More and more athletes expecting to compete are being tested positive for COVID-19 either on departure for or on arrival in Japan. <LOOK>

I will get my second shot on July 13. We assume. Yet, so far, there has been no adjustment made in Japan’s departure/re-entry policies to accommodate travelers. This is especially important for non-Japanese because they/we are subject to more severe re-entry restrictions, including a two-week quarantine, vaccination be damned.

OTHERWISE…all is good. It’s still not too hot or humid, though some days hint at what’s to come. The next six or seventh months seem to be coming into focus, but that might just be a mirage, as we know. 

That’s about it. If you’re a student, check out the student counterpart to this site  <http://tonysensei.net>  and if you’re a teacher, be sure to take a look (and listen) to this <http://twoteacherstalking.com>. 

Stay cool, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 16, 2021 - Shot #1

I’ve gotten my first vaccination. Though I had to travel an hour to the vaccination site (INTEX Osaka), the proceedings were well-organized and efficient. I arrived 20 minutes early, but was admitted without delay, and an hour later I was on my way home. I was amused to observe that on the train home, all six people seated around me were enjoying drinks/cocktails of one kind or another. A result of bar/restaurant closings and restrictions, I guess. (No, alcohol does not interfere with the vaccine - Moderna, in my case.)

Sadly, the vaccination doesn’t seem to make any difference regarding departure from or re-entry to Japan. Non-Japanese entering or returning to Japan are subject to an extreme quarantine protocol that makes re-entry impractical. 

Everything you need to know about quarantining in Japan http://bit.ly/j-re-entry

I don’t know what more I can say.

May 27, 2021  - The 2021 Entropic Games

It’s all just a slow entropic slide here. 

The IOC keeps insisting the Olympics will go on. 83% of the people here are opposed to going on with the Olympics. An executive of Toyota, one, if not key sponsor pdf the Olympics publicly expressed reservations about holding the games during the emergency. That’s strong for this culture. More, The Asahi (major Japanese newspaper) published its recommendation that the games be canceled. OK, then. Next?

Of course, the vaccination progress is slow. Very, very slow. Now it seems my age group will be lucky to get jabbed before the end of July. Not directly related, travel in and out of Japan is becoming even more difficult. Not really related, since Japan seems to make no distinction between those who have been vaccinated and those who haven’t. Either way, if you’re a foreigner, it’s weeks of quarantine on your return. You read that right: if you’re a foreigner. Then,  there are friends and acquaintances warning me to make sure I get information “on both sides” before getting vaccinated. (Not only from US, BTW.) Like getting on a motorcycle with or without a helmet, I guess.

All that is getting to me.

Trying to wean myself from the shopping therapy that would sometimes help at times like these.  Passed on the JDS Atom amplifier and Atom+ DAC, and even on a new space gray Magic Mouse. (For now, Hahaha.) Didn’t even look at a pair of headphones. One thing I do look forward to is someday actually getting my real wheels.

For the time being, it’s just dream and wait.

May 8, 2021  - Easy Spring

Things here inside in Nakanocho are as peaceful and orderly as things are chaotic and entropic outside: IOC and LDP in the Olympic death spiral, the GOP hell-bent on destroying US democracy, Israel (& maybe Hamas) in the eastern Mediterranean, Japan’s COVID-19 vaccination debacle, etc.

Online meeting software. Had occasion to use Skype this week for a good discussion with the Rita Men, my buds from high school. What a painful experience. I can’t justify Zoom’s $150/year buy-in for the little I use it this year. A year ago, when I knew I’d be using it for most, if not all of my classes, it was a no-brainer. I’ve been trying to wrangle a senior/educator discount out of them, but that’s a story of its own. All of us agreed that the Zoom imposed half-time (40 min. limit) was better than the awfulness of Skype. 

A rainy morning morphed into a beautiful late spring day here with blue skies and plenty of sunshine. After taming the podcast RSS feed to Apple’s changing requirements (often in contradiction to its own published best practices), I rewarded myself with an afternoon cocktail and the next few audiobook chapters of the Keith Richards autobiography. Balancing my blood pressure with the many grains of salt, but a good listen nevertheless.

May 3, 2021 - It’s Golden Week

The COVID-19 Vaccine Show continues here in Japan, and the Suga administration is going full bore to get to the 2% vaccination point. 🍿 We received word yesterday that the first of our acquaintances here in Japan has an appointment for his first vaccination on May 19. I haven’t received even the notification that I’ll get an appointment someday.

Golden Week is here, so lots of folks are enjoying a few days off. We’ll see what kinds of hoops the universities will fabricate for my teaching friends to jump through once classes resume. Until then, it’ll be a little McD in the park today and a virtual happy hour scheduled for what is predicted to be a rainy Wednesday.

On a sadder note, long time Kyoto man about town, Gordon MacClaren has left us. A long and somber Zoom wake was held on Monday evening. Many wonderful stories shared. His passing is a true loss. 

Also, a reminder, especially for those who teach, we’re still cranking out the Two Teachers Talking podcast. The first episode dropped in 2012. We’ve learned a lot since then (about teaching and podcasting!) and we share whatever learn. If you do listen, please give us some feedback and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. http://twoteacherstalking.com 

It’s a glorious 10/10 weather today here in Osaka, and I fell asleep in the sun on the terrace about 5 minutes into the podcast I was listening to. Now it’s catch-up time before I have to make meatballs for dinner later.

Stay healthy and safe everybody.

April 24, 2021 - なんでこれ?(WTF?)

Japan’s government, the IOC, and the universities are providing a quite amazing spectacle as they take denial to new levels with their handling of the COVID-19 crisis. I wonder if, when they do eventually cancel the Olympics, the reported numbers of cases will suddenly increase, as they did last year when the postponement was announced. Maybe then the universities will be freed by MEXT to shift to remote classes, too. 

Meanwhile, less than 1% of the population has been vaccinated. No real explanation is offered beyond “time was required to approve the vaccines” and “foreign manufacturers something something.”

So, our own plans are left on hold, not only for the Mexico landing, but also things like routine medical checkups, license renewals, familial assistance, etc. Not to mention gyros, hot dogs, and Italian beef sandwiches. 

Maybe my next read should be Robinson Crusoe.

April 10, 2021 - Rites of Spring

April is here, the cherry blossoms have mostly floated down to their demise, and a new school year begins. Without me. 

That’s just fine.

A few schools are having some startup glitches. (As Charles and I predicted, E135: http://twoteacherstalking.com). Concurrent with a strong and irrational push to lure students and teachers into classrooms, COVID-19 case numbers have skyrocketed, and some schools have needed to go to a Plan B after just a day or two of classes. No one other than SOME medical workers her have been vaccinated, infection numbers are near all-time highs, and the virus has mutated into several more contagious and virulent forms. Why is ANYONE traveling to sit in a classroom? Olympics? ¥? 

But the weather is wonderful, and walks out to the nearby river (Ogawa) and adjacent park areas are very pleasant…especially with primo earphones and a couple of chu-hai. (Some of my grammar has been assaulted, but I wrote most of this long ago: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chūhai) Being a Chicago native, the memories of those first warm days (+40°F) breaking the winter hell are forever etched in the brain, a euphoric release and a tsunami of hope for the spring and summer ahead.

And more. This has become a special time of year for me, marking the anniversary of my arrival (2nd time) in Japan (4/18/91) and the beginning of a new school year. It is also the time of year, when, in 1989, I returned to Chicago after my first year in Japan, and buffeted by the first waves of reverse culture shock, sought solace in the one place I knew I could find it, the shores of Lake Michigan. I sat there on what was then the Planetarium peninsula, enjoyed the Chicago skyline, and contemplated my future.

At that point, I was feeling as if I had been yanked out of Japan just as I was getting into the groove of it all. I remember sitting on the JAL plane taxiing on the Itami runway away from the terminal. I was listening to saccharine J-pop (Yumi Matsutoya, Izumi Tachibana) on a Sony Walkman, wondering what I was doing, how life would unfold. Never understood, even then,  that it was up to me.

Here, today, back in Japan, it has become my practice to take advantage of one of the good weather April days, grab a bento and a few beers or chu-hai, and head to some nearby spot conducive to contemplation. In Nishinomiya, it was Omaehama (Omaehama Beach), in Asashiobashi it was Osaka-ko (Osaka Port). This week, here in Miyakojima, it was the Ogawa (Oh River). No school year beginning for me anymore, but certainly a new chapter unfolding, and plenty to think about. Like every year, it’s nice to sit back, take stock, and appreciate all that I have to be grateful for.

A fine ritual.

April 3, 2021 - No turning back. Hammer down.

Mile markers just whizzing past the windows and I’m not lifting. 

Enjoyed a LUNCH IN A RESTAURANT last week, treated by Alison and her very generous dad. (Thanks, Lee!) It was outdoors, on the restaurant’s terrace, only one other couple out there, far away, though we were on elevators going up and down. That was five days ago. The event? Celebrating one day early the expiration of my teaching contracts (3/31). No foolin’. I’m retired.

Saw this sad/inspiring article about how the pandemic may (or may not) be affecting young people’s thinking about teaching careers.:

  • As Pandemic Upends Teaching, Fewer Students Want to Pursue It: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/27/us/covid-school-teaching.html Ms. Ízunza Barba said she realized then that there was no other career path that could prove as meaningful. “Seeing her make her students laugh made me realize how much a teacher can impact someone’s day,” she said. “I was like, whoa, that’s something I want to do.”

Otherwise, the usual household chores, less usual tech irritants, and what I have to come to call “sharpening knives”: sorting out the writing applications I will use from here on in to get my words onto disk. Harder than you’d think. 

Also had a nice lunch with friend and podcast partner Charles (ごちそうさまでした, Charles) after a headphone listening extravaganza at one of Osaka’s headphone emporia. (I’m going to miss those.) Yes, there is an audible difference between $4K headphones and $3.5K headphones. I didn’t buy anything. Feel free to hit me up if you want/need audio advice. 

Touched base with the X1/9 Club friends, planning the next Rita Men online gathering. Meeting occasionally with students from last year who want to talk. Brother Dave doing well back in Chicago, though he hasn’t gotten his shots yet. On that front, stuck in Japan, we’re screwed. (USA ~30%, Japan 0.69%) https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations

Rowing, weights, walking, reading, guitar, the chores mentioned above, but mostly waiting for a project to step forward and volunteer for attention. 

We’ll see.

March 24, 2021 - From Zoom Room to real life

Yesterday I visited one of the universities where I have been teaching to clear out things from the office. Alison was with me, the weather was great, so we stopped for a fast snack and drink in one of the campus’s greener areas.

In a bit of true serendipity, I locked eyes with a young man from about 60 feet away in a shock of recognition. Yes, it was one of my students from last year, someone that, until that moment, I had only interacted with online: email, Zoom, etc. In a true anomaly, he bounds across the lawn and shouts, “Tony!” 

(NOTE: Students often, especially in this university’s culture, will avoid eye contact with a teacher outside of class if at all possible. Nice, huh? Of course, at some of the other schools, the smiles and hugs make up for it.)

We had a brief, but very warm talk about the break, next year, etc. He was nice enough to thank me for the last year, express regret that I wouldn’t be teaching him next year, and apologize for his English. It’s true, Ryo was not a scholar, but he was always gung ho, was never intimidated by mistakes, and never afraid to ask for help. He’s the ONLY student from last year that I’ve met in real life, and I’m very happy it was him. Gambatte, Ryo!

March 15, 2021 - DST, COVID-19, No shots for you 

Folks back home switching to Daylight Saving Time this weekend. The only thing worse than dealing with Daylight Saving Time is living without it. Imagine June 21, longest day of the year, 7:30 pm, and it’s dark. No joke, there must be a connection to the suicide rate. Oh, and did you consider that on that day, sunrise in Osaka is at 4:45 am? 

This would also be the time each year that I’d be packing up in Chicago, getting ready for my return to Japan. While they had some nice spring weather last week, another major storm is on its way to the midwest, and don’t miss that, though it’s one of those things you just learn to live with. It has been hard not being back there for more than a year.

In  2020, I just made it back to Japan before everything started getting shut down. I managed a last dinner out with friends Bill and Sue, but things were already changing. We weren’t even sure what risks we were or weren’t taking. Things haven’t been the same since. The normally packed plane back was  only about 50% full, and most of us were maskless - none were available. 

It’s been hard on the adults, but unquestionably harder on the kids, maybe even on the ones too young to know how weird their world has become. CNN has a good piece on it

Big picture, I have very little to complain about.

But I will anyway. Japan has dropped the ball with vaccinations and keeps fumbling  trying to recover. Embarrassing, really, but the personal reaction is outrage. Not a joke:

"The populous Tokyo, Osaka, and Kanagawa prefectures will receive enough vaccines for around 2,000 people, with others scheduled for 1,000 people in the first batch."  https://japantoday.com/category/national/vaccinations-for-elderly-to-begin-in-populous-areas-in-limited-supply? 

USA? As of today, 2,000,000 shots per day. (No typos in this or preceding paragraph.)

Ah, well. Like I said, in the big picture, pretty damn lucky.

March 10, 2021 - A return to Kyoto

One day flows into the next. 

Finished a book I’d begun long before classes ended. A re-read, actually. Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s The Makioka Sisters (細雪). Different than I’d remembered, more quirky, with the sisters coming off much less appealing than before. I guess after so long here, I see more.

Also, enjoyed a rare out-of-home experience: a trip to Kyoto. We started northwest, at Ginkaku-ji (銀閣寺), headed a bit south to the Hōnen-in  法然院 . A big bonus is that the cemetery next door is home to the memorial stone for the above-mentioned Jun’ichirō  Tanizaki. Westward to a cluster of previously unknown temples, then south to a spot with special memories for both Alison and I: the bridge over Shijo with its excellent view of the northern hills of Kyoto. Stopped for dinner at the Cafe Kiev, a favorite Russian restaurant of Alison’s. I think it’s only the third time I’ve eaten at a restaurant in the last twelve months.

Vaccination seems to be going well in the US, though it also seems many are moving too quickly to “open up.” Stupid. And tragic if it botches chances for a sure recovery that could be so close. Japan is not doing so well, as prospects for the shots and chances for international travel in and out of Japan get pushed farther and farther into the future. 

March 5, 2021 - Sturgeon’s Law / The Dan of Steel 

Long ago in a land far away, I had a “discussion” with a lady friend regarding our existence in this vale of tears. I held that 90% of “stuff” was crap. She disagreed. I didn’t know then that it was a thing. Sturgeon’s Law: https://effectiviology.com/sturgeons-law/

On the other hand, if this is what retirement is going to be like, oh, man: https://youtu.be/vjRisxOHAE4   In the other 10%, no spoilers.

Happy birthday, Chicago.

February 19, 2021 - I made it

My last scheduled class (can’t get too technical on that!) ended at 4:55 pm, February 10, 2021. Now, I am a former teacher. Retired. De-professionalized.  

Yes, it has been a long, strange trip.  “Oh, wow,” is a bit premature.

So, transitions aplenty ahead, complicated by additional navigational difficulties posed by the COVID-19 plague. What most people don’t know is that this retirement is already a year behind schedule. I expected the previous year (2019-2020) to be my last full year of teaching, with much of 2020 spent scoping out and preparing the way for our move to Mexico. Miraculously, I didn’t lose work, and the benefit of the extra year’s salary outweighed the advantages of an early departure.  In the other 10%, no spoilers.

Of course, I considered the possibility of soldiering on for yet another year, or maybe just one more semester, but somehow, I knew it was time. 

I have zero regrets having hung on for this last, bizarre year of remote teaching, though. I learned much from a great crop of students, and enjoyed learning the tech involved in teaching from home. I thank my students for making it a great, if crazy, experience. We accepted each other, trusted each other, and leaned on each other, just as it should be. Not a bad last year in any way. Thanks, guys. 

But. A new adventure beckons. A new chapter begins. I’m stuck in Japan for a while longer, but what’s so bad about that? No work, free to savor the last sights, sounds, smells, and flavors of this place that pulled so hard at me 35 years ago and insisted I make it my home.

Then, vamos a México. After a million hurdles getting out of Japan and into Mexico, that is. It’s OK. It will happen. It will be good.


Entries from years past

2016-2020 entries

2013-2015 entries

2012 entries

2011 entries

2010 entries

2009 entries

2008 entries

2007  entries

2006  entries


























The links to the old web pages work (see links at the top of the page) and will continue to work, but they will not be updated. For students and teachers, the Portal link will get you to where you need to go: the download page, the Impact study guides, Why English, etc. BUT…please look at I Used to Teach for current items of interest for students. If you encounter problems, let me know <tonysilva at me dot com>. (The old “sensei” address will work, too.)

The little slide show above is a collection of a few images from the Queretaro/Bernal area of Mexico, where I hope to settle before too long. 

Listen to: Chicago, “Beginnings.” Talk about long strange trips. This song was a huge hit in the high school days, got over-played, went dormant, then, among us old folks, resurrected itself as something as an anthem. I’ve used it in “last classes” over the years with great success with music majors. Now, on the cusp of retirement, I can only revel in how, like great literature, the work resonates differently at various ages in one’s life. High school dances, graduations, weddings, relocations, retirement.

Us and Them: An Intercultural Communication Textbook for Japanese University Students and Their Teachers. http://tony-silva.com/usandthem/usandthem.html 

A Quick and Dirty Guide to the Japanese Business Meeting. http://tony-silva.com/japanesemeeting.html