A Drive In the Woods

I’m home alone with Ray now.  Chieko is having a little momma time, and went out to eat some sushi in peace and quiet.  After numerous trips up and down the stairs and in and out of every room in the house, he has mercifully nodded off, for how long I don’t know.  Chieko spends every day by herself with Ray, and is the one who has to get up in the middle of the night to feed him, so I try to encourage her to get out by herself, even if it’s only to the grocery store or something.

I had a chance to get out of the house by myself for a little while today, and on my way home I took a quick detour up into the mountains.  At lower altitudes all the snow we had 2 weeks ago is long gone.  We’re forecasted to get more next week, but it’s been above freezing and raining for a while now.  The road I took was quite precipitous at times, wet and slick with leaves and remnants of snow, and a steep drop off down to a river one side.  On the opposite side of the river was some of the largest bamboo I have seen.  I love how it sags over under its own weight.  In the spring, after all the snow melts, the forest is a mess of collapsed and dead bamboo.



I’m preparing for a workshop this coming Thursday, where I’ll be putting on an Oasis concert.  I did one last year and dressed up as Neil Young and played some tunes.  I need to figure out how I’m going to bring in some English interaction to give an educational element, and I have a pretty good idea about how to do that.  I also need to practice the songs a bit, and work on a British accent.  Last time, about 160 students showed up, my largest audience by far.  I’m not sure what to expect this time around, since it’s the last workshop (we do them weekly) of the semester, and the students have finals this week.  Most teachers will be finished with classes by Friday, but I have to go a little longer since I cancelled class the day Ray was born and have to make them up.

So as you can see, not a whole lot of excitement going on here.  Ray, of course, woke up while I was writing this post and I had to stop midway through.  Chieko is home now, full of sushi and recharged.  My baby shift is over — off to channel Liam Gallagher.

Not My Best Blog Post

It’s past midnight, and while I have many things I’d hoped to recount on this blog, I lack the energy to do so.  But it’s a full moon tonight (or I suppose this morning, at this point), and the snow-covered mountains glowing in the dark were catching my eye throughout the night…as I drove home from work, as I went to the supermarket, as I wandered into dark rooms with Ray, trying to pacify him.

So while Ray was in the bath with Chieko I set up my tripod and camera on the balcony, aimed towards the mountains, set the shutter at various speeds, and fired away.  I only wish Hakusan was present in the background.  I really like night photography with longer exposures, even though I have no idea what I’m doing when taking them.  Also, my tripod is a wobbly piece of junk and now I fully understand why it was only about $15.


Tonight I sprung for the flickr pro account.  Flickr has a 100 megabyte/month rule if you want to use it free, and that fills up quick.  There are 2 days left in the month and I was at 97% capacity.  I figured it wouldn’t be the last time I barely escaped maxing out the limit, so I sprung the $25/year.

Anyway, I’m starting to go cross-eyed, which means I need to be in a bed.  I’ll try and get some Ray content up over the weekend.  Goodnight.

Ray’s Ear

Today was a long but informative day.  We’ve been looking forward to getting a more detailed analysis of Ray’s ear, and the extent of his potential hearing loss in it.  We arrived at the hospital around 9:30 and did testing until 1 or so.  After a trip to the passport center to apply for Ray’s Japanese passport, and some much need lunch, we were back at the hospital for a 3:30 appointment with the doctor to go over the results of the tests.

I know I’ve mentioned Ray’s funny ear before, but I’ve never shown you a detailed picture of it.  So here you go, with extra crust!


The outer abnormalities are obvious; the ear is small, and he has that extra little hunk of skin that probably should have gone towards forming a normal-size ear.  What we were more concerned with, since Ray failed his initial hearing check at the clinic where he was born, was what was going on (or not going on) inside his ear.  We were also hoping that he would get a clean bill of health on his good ear.

The hospital we went to was huge, and on our floor alone were offices for pediatrics, dental surgery, the ear doctor, a urologist, a dermatologist, and eye doctor, and a psychiatrist.  These were all situated on either side of a long hall, with benches in front of each area.  So it was funny to see how different the patients looked; people with eye patches in front of the eye doctor, a bunch of uncomfortable looking folks in front of the urologist, people with various bandages in front of the dermatologist, and the slightly dishevelled group in front of the psychiatrist.  And there was some OLD, decrepit people lurking around there as well.  It’s unnerving for me to see people that old and frail, knowing that it could be me someday.  Not a big fan of hospitals.

We saw the ear doctor for about 2 minutes, during which time he determined that he couldn’t see inside of Ray’s ear, and we needed some more revealing tests.

First we went to a room where a woman used a small megaphone that played at various low tones.  She used it on both of Ray’s ears and basically confirmed what we already — that he had some difficulty hearing in his little ear.  The next test required that Ray was asleep, so a nurse came in and gave him a few drops of some medicine that made him sleep.  The doctor then hooked up some electrodes below Ray’s ears and to onto his forehead, and put some headphones on him.  The goals was to measure his brain’s response to the frequencies he was hearing.  This gave us a little clearer picture of Ray’s hearing difficulty.  He can hear higher tones in his bad ear, but the lower one give him some difficulty.  The head doctor, when we spoke with him later about the results, cautioned us that since he is still so young the brain’s reaction might be a little slow anyway.  These are estimates of his hearing.

After that we took Ray down to get a CT scan of his ear, since the doctor couldn’t see inside of it with his scope.  It was a little sad seeing him all bound up and tiny on the stretcher (what is that called?) that slides into the scanner.  But it was only a few minutes and he was still pretty out of it, so I think he was OK.

We had to wait a few hours to talk to the doctor again, and just as he started explaining everything Ray took a massive dump and started crying, so I scampered off to the changing table.  By the time I got back the explanation was wrapping up and I had no idea what was wrong with Ray’s ear or what we are going to do about it.  I was relieved when the doctor came out again and proclaimed ‘I will try to explain to you in English.’  He proceeded to talk with us for about 15 minutes, explaining in detail and in good English what was going on with Ray’s ear.

The most important thing, he said, is that Ray can hear out of his good ear, and thus his speech won’t be affected by his little ear’s shortcomings.  The problem, which is clear on the CT scan, is that Ray’s ‘external auditory canal’ is completely blocked.  The canal is open at the outer ear, but shortly thereafter tapers to nothing.  The good news is that beyond the ear drum, all of his other ear components appear to be well-formed and where they should be.

Where do we go from here?  We have to go back when Ray is six months old to get his hearing checked again to make sure it hasn’t gotten worse, since according to the doctor it’s from that age that the ability to hear and mimic sounds/words becomes critical.  He said the operation to excavate (for lack of a better term) the ear canal is pretty rare, and that he himself had never done it.  We wouldn’t be able to get it done around here, but it’s not something we would do anytime soon anyway.

So that’s a bit of a load off of our chests.  We know what is wrong structurally with Ray’s ear, and the potential limitations it will cause him (and that they are minor).  I’m looking forward to following up  in a few more months.  There is a potential for his hearing ability to decrease by that time, but it could also get better.  It’ll be interesting to find out more.

So, my fellow Americans in the heat of health care reform, how much would today’s hospital visit and fancy testing cost you?  Under our Japanese national insurance, we paid about $10.  The hospital will bill the city hall for our CT scan and the other hearing test.  It cost us $2 for parking, too.

Must sleep.

Large and In Charge

I was in and out of the office today, mostly in.  On my way back this evening I took a detour to take some pictures of Hakusan, which had emerged from the clouds after a week or so.


I’ve posted numerous pictures of this mountain, but I’ve never said much about it.  It’s quite a hulking presence around these parts, when you can see it, and has some significance in the Japanese hierarchy of big, special mountains.  It’s one of the three sacred mountains in Japan (along with Mt. Fuji and another mountain that you’ve likely never heard of in neighboring Toyama Prefecture), and is nearly 9,000 feet tall.

It’s a beautiful thing to have lurking in our back yard.  I’d be wise to climb it while I have the chance.

But what is more beautiful than a snow-covered Hakusan is the fact that it’s Sunday night, and my weekend is at its mid-way point.  I’m looking forward to some football/baby coddling in the morning, some gym midday, and some guitar strumming w/ beer in the afternoon.  Good times.

Little Venice

On my way to the gym this afternoon I took the long way, swinging out to the beach, then along the coast before swinging back into the sprawl.  I had the itch to take some pictures, and when none of my beach pics satisfied me I headed for a little neighborhood that I’ve driven through a few times and have always wanted to snap pictures of.  It’s right across the street from the ocean, and full of old wooden houses and barns, along with some old school stone structures that I believe were used for storing rice and other grains back in the day (I could be wrong about that).

I was slightly wary of wandering through this obviously-traditional neighborhood and snapping pictures willy-nilly, but I fell back on my foreigners license to perform non-Japanese behavior, and figured if anyone made a stink I could at least explain my motivations.  Turns out I didn’t see a single person.

I love my space, and the idea of living mere feet from my neighbors is not appealing to me.  Yet, there’s something very endearing about crowded Japanese neighborhoods — the narrow streets, the smell of your neighbor’s dinner seeping out of windows and vents, the sounds of whatever is going inside through the single-pane glass and thin walls.  The coziness of Japanese neighborhoods is interesting to me because the notion of privacy is quite strong here; people don’t ask too many questions, and they don’t openly express their personal aches and pains.  In public, there is a definite wall behind which your personal life exists, but in these tight neighborhoods, there are all sorts of clues.

What I love about this particular neighborhood is the network of canals that weave between the houses and along the roads.  Open drainage canals are common here, but these are especially wide and deep.  Wish I had a canal at my house.

Apologies for the lack of camera angles here; they’re a little redundant.





Here’s one of the boy, post sob last night.  Cuteness resumed.


I’ve got a four-day weekend going on here, but have to head into the office tomorrow to do some work.  Since I’ll have two more days off after, I’m not too cut up about it.  Have a great weekend wherever you may be.