Living without the convenience of a car means that sometimes our eating plans get a little out of whack.

Today, after she got home from work, Kelly took Selah to the grocery store for our twice-weekly shopping run.

Mixon had six classes today so he stayed later than Selah. Once Mixon and I got home, I took him to the school supply store to buy him some much needed new shorts for school. The ones he has been wearing are just too small. He got 'LL', The biggest, baggiest shorts they had. I did not try to convince him otherwise.

When he and I got home, the ladies were still out, but they arrived shortly with their treasures, including supper from the deli. Some of the stuff available from the deli is quite tasty, although nutritionally suspect if not bankrupt. Some of it is rather nasty looking, but possibly quite healthy. I have heard that seaweed is good for preventing baldness...

Some of it is unidentifiable.

Kelly thought that she had identified one particular offering as being ginger beef. A selection that I would wholeheartedly support. I had previously seen this particular gastronomic delight and caught a glimmer of recognition from somewhere in my past anatomy courses.

A brief rabbit trail...

I have previously written about the delicacies available at festivals around here...if you missed it, here is a refresher...

We discovered a new treat at the recent Sakura Festival here in Sunomata. The tent where all the local Grandma's were cooking up a storm had a peculiar smell to it. I chalked it up to the combination of greasy food, rain, too many people and humidity. Then Kelly and I pegged it, it smelled just like a barn. We had found the tent where they sold liver...and Selah liked it!

Back to the story of our supper...

Once the 'ginger beef' made its way into the pan to be heated, Kelly mentioned in a hushed, yet barely concealed panic, I hope this isn't liver! It was then that I mentioned my suspicion that we were dealing with kidneys.

They ended up on the table and the kids helped themselves to rather large helpings. Mixon got one down the hatch, didn't complain but asked what that stuff was. Kelly said that she didn't know. He said that it was really chewy but didn't taste too bad. Selah offered to eat the ones on Kelly's plate. She seemed to like them. She popped one into her mouth and began to chew. It wasn't long before she said that this one was a lot chewier than the others. I told her she didn't have to finish it. She made a beeline for the loo.

I tried to cut one with the edge of my fork...nothing doing. I took a wee bite. It didn't taste all that bad, but it was kinda like chewing on a rubber ball.

I have a sneaking suspicion that some of the little goodies were hearts and livers as well as kidneys.

I'll pass on the organ meats next time.


Ride Report

Last week's commute to Enami Chugakko was very enjoyable. I found a bike path that follows one of the many canals around here. Highly preferable to dodging traffic along rte 50.

The decision to commute in cycling gear rather than work clothes was a good one. It makes a huge difference to even be able to towel off and start the day dry. When you decide to start commuting to work on your bike, get some clothes to make the trip in. You definitely do not need to go all out and get the latest euro-kit for WAY too much money, but some comfy clothes will do you good.

As far as exposed lycra is concerned, I feel that such things are better left private. There are a whole ton of shorts available that have lycra sewn into them with a chamois and everything.

Sunday was warm and rainy. I suppose that is better than cold and rainy like an Abbotsford winter, but it still presents challenges in arriving at your destination dry.

I bought some rain gear that came with the claim that it is water-proof and breathable...for $30. We will see. I have a hunch that the breathability factor will be rather low and I will end up in my own little sauna/steam room.

One moment of sublimity occured on Thursday as I was riding to work in the morning. There was very little wind (that day) and so I was making good time. I noticed a cormorant sitting on the edge of the water watching me. Apparently I got a little too close and he took off. He flew just above the surface of the water, his wingtips would often hit the water, for about 500 metres, watching me all the time. I was going about 20 km/h and he was just a little faster, but I kept up with him until he skidded to a stop.

In the words of Tobymac...

You make me feel so fly!


Good News!

According to the Globe and Mail, the US Supreme Court has upheld the ban on partial birth abortions.

This is a good thing.

Initially, I was not going to comment on this blog, but I think that there is a compelling reason to bring it up.

When people are confronted with what partial birth abortion really is, they are horrified. It is simply a barbaric procedure.

As an aside, the term 'partial birth abortion' is a misnomer. It is infanticide with the child's head covered.

So how is this relevant on a blog that has become more dedicated to a cycling lifestyle than public morality? Here is my rationale...

Many of those who are concerned with environmental crises like global warming, animal cruelty (PETA) and species extinction are curiously also abortion supporters. If you don't fit this generalization, that is great, I am talking to those that do.

My point is that a person cannot support animal rights or environmental protectionism without also being against abortion. Any argument used to support animal rights must also be applied to the rights of pre-born human persons.

If you fall into the category of being a person who supports animal rights, environmental causes AND abortion, please follow your thinking to its logical conclusion.

There are no laws in Canada restricting abortion. That means that abortion is legal in Canada for any reason up until the moment the baby is entirely out of the birth canal.

When a country like Canada has more laws protecting animals than it does protecting babies, then something has gone tragically wrong and it must be fixed.



Communication, it helps the world go round in a figurative sort of way.

Around here, ALTs seem to be on the bottom rung, or sometimes struggling to get to the bottom rung of the communication ladder.

My start time at Enami JHS is 8:15. This morning I was pulling in after a half hour ride into the wind (Thank you for this wind, for it will make me stronger!) at a few minutes after 8. I noticed that the whole staff had gathered outside the main entrance for some reason. They noticed me and the kyoto-sensei (vice principal) ran over to me as I was locking up my car (cleverly disguised as a bike) and invited me to be a part of the official staff picture. So I hurried over in my cycling shorts (no exposed lycra...fortunately), threw on a business shirt over my jersey and tried to hide myself as much as possible behind other staff members.

To his credit, the Principal did apologize to me afterwards for not telling me yesterday.

It is little things like this that really get to some ALTs. I have read rants from livid ALTs about this very thing happening accusing all kinds of people of all kinds of rudeness. I have decided that they are not being rude, that they really like me and when they don't tell me things its because they have heard that I really do know everything.

Flip side of the coin is when I start feeling really good about my skills in japanese (I had a whole conversation yesterday in Japanese...). Today I was talking to a teacher and discovering that we live very close together in Sunomata. I was doing pretty well at understanding her. Unfortunately, one of the kyoto-senseis saw what was going on and assumed that because I could understand some simple directions about my neighbourhood, I must be fluent in Japanese, so he came over and started talking to me...really fast. He got the deer in the headlights.



The commute continues to be a good thing. For the last little while I have been riding to work in my work clothes instead of cycling gear. This is primarily from my trips into Nagoya on Sundays where there are no changing facilities at the office. I have purchased some rain gear that should keep me dry to the train station where I can take it off and pack it away for the rest of the trip.

Riding to school is a little different in that there are changing facilities, although no showers.

I am teaching at 3 different schools this year. I have two main schools that I visit on alternate weeks. One is Kono Elementary School. According to Google Earth, it is about 5 km from my house. It is a nice short ride with plenty of room on the road. It was no problem to ride to school last week in my work clothes.

My ride this morning, to Enami Jr High was a different story. It is a 10 km trip which was enough this morning to get me just a little too sweaty. Not fun to work in sweaty clothes. Tomorrow I will try wearing shorts and a t-shirt under my Gore-tex jacket (unless it is raining, then it will be full rain gear), and get changed there.

My other school, Toan JHS is about a 5 min walk from here...I won't ride.

This is one of the primary obstacles for a lot of people when they consider riding their bike to work. They don't want to work in sweaty clothes, there is nowhere to change out of sweaty clothes and there are no showers. I will keep you posted on what I learn.


Did you feel it?

Probably not...I did. When you are 18 floors up in the air, you feel earthquakes real good. Modern buildings in Japan are designed to sway during an earthquake, at least I hope they are designed thusly because that is what they do in a big way. I didn't get that queasy motion-sick feeling this time but the blinds were shaking and the building was creaking.


Has anything changed?

We have been living as if we do not own a car for a week and a half now. The car is still parked out front, in the parking spot that we pay $30/month for. We did use it once last weekend, but not out of weakness. We used it because we had made a prior committment to pick people up from the train station and transport them to our local castle for hanami.

Japanese people eagerly anticipate spring and the coming of the cherry blossoms, or sakura. It is a very romantic season around here. The sakura really are spectacular, and fleeting. They serve as a reminder that life goes by very quickly.

I have enjoyed my commute to work. There is something immensely gratifying about riding past dozens of cars stuck behind one another, and not having any of them pass me further down the road. My commute takes a little under 15 minutes. It would take about 30 minutes in the car.

Here are some pictures of one of the hazards of riding on Japanese roads.

These monstrous cranes are road legal. This one was hauling stuff to the top of the Ogaki Forum Hotel which is about 10 storeys tall. When one of these bad boys drives past, I get nervous.

Our planning has to be a little more detailed now that we aren't using the car. Shopping trips are more regular and smaller than before. I am finding that I am buying more fresh food and less junk than before. There just isn't room for more stuff when all we have is a couple of panniers and a small back pack.

The weather has been great. Temperatures have been topping out at about 20 C all week, but the rain is coming. The first typhoon of the season has already made its way past us on its way to Alaska. The humidity is starting to climb, soon it will be closer to 30 C, pouring rain and humid as all get out...should be fun!


Our Motivation

Why would a family of 4 reasonably sane individuals embark on this little journey into vehicular independence?

There are a few reasons.

One big reason is that cars are expensive. Our car was far from expensive. We bought it for about 7 grand CAD a year and a half ago. Our monthly payments were $210. It was a 10-year-old Subaru Legacy and it was so cheap because it had high mileage. When we bought it, the odometer was around 50,000km. That is very high for a Japanese car.

Last year, when I was using the car to drive to work (about 80km return), the gas for the car was cheaper than a train pass. Gas here is about $1.20/litre. It hit a low of $1.13 a few weeks back and it looks to be on its way up for the summer. It will likely top out above $1.30.

This year, starting next week, I have a new job teaching in Ogaki. I will be able to bike to work daily!!

What that means is that we were paying $210/mo on payments, $110/mo for insurance, $200ish/mo for gas (granted that would be less this year), plus the fact that we are very unlikely to be able to sell it for anything close to our purchase price. We would be paying a whole wack of cash to be able to drive to the store for groceries. The store is less than 2 km away. And as I said before, our car was not expensive compared to what many people have.

Another reason is that there is a major health crisis looming in North America. People do not move enough, and they eat WAY too much. By selling our car, we are forced to propel ourselves to whatever destination we may be headed for. If more people were to simply drive less and bike more, our government (you and me) would save billions of dollars in Illness Care.

There's more...

Traffic congestion in our cities is costing about 7 billion hours of time worldwide along with several billion litres of gas that is wasted by idling cars stuck in traffic.

Our environment is taking a beating from our dependence on oil. There are a whole lot of people smarter than me who say that the world is heating up and that it is our fault. Riding a bike or walking is a very real way to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

We have all heard about these problems and really want our governments to do something about them. The truth is, no amount of money that the government throws at these problems will make a difference.

The only thing that will make a difference is average Joe people like me, Sans Auto, Minus Car, Tuco and others realize that these problems are for US to solve.

Not just the government.

Not just the academics.

Not just our noble and valiant friends, the treehuggers and whale-savers.

It is up to all of us.


Check it out!