Saturday, October 29, 2005

Who you gonna call?

I can’t even remember exactly how I came across the page, but I found this page for a legal firm that specializes in military law. Digging slightly on the site, I found another page that gives examples of all the good work they do. It is a weird page for someone who is not a thief, a rapist, a sodomist, a pedophile, a drug user, a drunk, or a murderer to read. I guess with the number of people in the military there would be some bad apples, but my god! How many pedophiles can there be even among a million-person army? These guys got a least 10 of them off.
I guess that the page wasn’t aimed at me, but at the guys (and I think most of their clients are male) who are guilty as sin and want to get off or get a lighter sentence. Not the stuff of J.A.G. Makes me very slightly more sympathetic to the people of Okinawa, who want our military the hell off their island…

Thursday, October 27, 2005

It's official!

Yes, I got to talk to the 'dizziness specialist' today, and he concluded that I have Menier's disease. If you saw my previous post, you will know that is what I had concluded on my own. It is a relief to have my own diagnosis confirmed. Doctors speak, sometimes sneeringly, of 'self-diagnosis' as a problem with patients who have too much information and not enough knowledge. That is even more the case in Japan, where a patient daring to tell a doctor what he thinks is wrong with himself is treated like an alien. I would say that the biggest problem with Meniere's is that it is idiopathic, meaning that they have to eliminate absolutely everything else before doctors are willing to go out on a limb and diagnose it. So they tell patients 'yes, you have a problem, but we are not willing to put a name to it.' That causes stress, which is actually one of the triggers of Meniere's. A bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So, now that I know what is wrong with me, what is the next course of action? According to Dr. Dizzy, there is none: No medicine will cure it, and there is nothing to really be done about it. He said something like 'you just got born with the wrong body.' There is actually a $3,000 machine being sold in the U.S. (sorry, being prescribed by licensed physicians). It sends 500 Hz pulsewaves into the inner ear, which somehow help the problem. It is not too bad right now, so maybe I won't consider that, but it is nice to know that some doctors somewhere--definitely not here!--are not content to say 'being dizzy is your destiny'. I hope they find a treatment before my next bout...

Ninja in New York...


A couple of years ago my friend J introduced me to a restaurant called Ninja, in the Akasaka Tokyu Plaza hotel. He didn't actually take me there, though, so it wasn't that easy to find, and was rather unobtrusively designed. I went there twice, both times with my son, and he liked it. In fact, last year we went there for his birthday. I didn't have such a good memory of that, as there was a massive earthquake that levelled big parts of Niigata, and shook the hell out of Tokyo. The restaurant is supposed to resemble the dark caves Ninja were rumoured to live in, and being in that atmosphere in an earthquake caused some claustrophobia even in a non-claustrophobic such as myself.
Apparently the restaurant has opened a New York branch. They got reviewed in the New York Times, and I read with some interest the review. Admittedly it was a hokey thing, with a bunch of young wannabe actors playing Ninja roles for diners. The location in Tokyo, however, actually means that a fair number of people in the entertainment world actually patronise the place, and an outstanding Ninja could get noticed, I guess...
Theme restaurants are basically unknown in Japan: No Farrells Ice Cream (do they even have those in the U.S. anymore?), no Chuck E. Cheese, no Rainforest Cafe. So the kind of places that you can take a kid for a birthday party and that are actually fun are rather limited. I will actually say that in our town, the McDonald playland is as good as it gets.
The Ninja restaurant was slightly expensive by Tokyo standards, but not overwhelmingly so. The Ninja were not world class magicians, but they weren't bad. The food was not superlative but it was pretty good, and they did some fun things with dry ice and smoke. Most of all, my son had a good time, which is want you want for a kid's birthday. Even my wife was happy, no mean feat. It is probably not the sort of place that I would take a restaurant critic to, because I would worry that they are too cranky to appreciate the fun parts. And, in comparison to some of the themed resaturants in the U.S., Ninja is a little immature. I think that was the case with the NYT critic. For my part, I give the Tokyo restaurant three smilies out of five. ☻☻☻☺☺

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Tick that one off...

And another one bites the dust. Having interviews in the middle of not being able to stand straight turns out to not be the best idea. The small company that gave me that weird sense of déjà vu sent me an e-mail today saying that they didn’t have anything in my field, and that they would keep me in mind if anything came up. Fine. The issue was that with them I was interested in a field that I am not specifically in right now, that I make a quite good salary, and that they generally don’t like to hire people, but have them work on contract. All fine and dandy, but what they would probably be able to offer me on contract probably wouldn’t be that much more than my current salary. Except I would have no security, fewer benefits than I have right now, and why should I even think about it? Vice versa, why should they think about making an offer? I have slightly more respect for them now.
Like sand in the hourglass, so go the days of our lives…

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Standing...

One of the good things, and there aren’t many, about being sick, is that when you get better, you appreciate things all that much more. I definitely appreciate being able to be a fully functioning human again, without too much worry of being toppled by the honk of a fire engine.
I worked out on Wednesday, and meant to yesterday, but instead met up with my friend Pierre (not, of course, his real name). We had dinner at an izakaya, a kind of Japanese pub (there are many kinds). He had beer, and I didn’t. Despite feeling better, I’m not taking any chances. Actually, in my past experience, beer wasn’t much of a trigger. The absolute worst thing is coffee. And it isn’t simply the caffeine, since I can drink tea and have no problems. So, no coffee or beer, two things that this pub was actually well-known for.
I did not get an offer for one of the jobs, in fact probably the second best of the lot, after the one at my company’s U.K. office. The manager I spoke to wants someone who can write Japanese contracts. While my Japanese is o.k., it isn’t that good. C’est la vie. I don’t feel that bad about it, actually. I am getting busier at my current job, and I would like to work harder on really getting the projects and programs I am responsible for really right.
One of the other jobs, I don’t think I would be interested even if there was an offer: There is too much déjà vu to my last company, the one with the sociopathic boss. It would actually be fun work, I think, but I don’t think I want to be working for that particular company. They are ISO 9001 certified, so they aren’t quite as bad as my last company, but on the other hand, I guess the lack of security is a bit of a turnoff.
So, for the short term, it looks like I stay put, which is fine. My back garden is beautiful, the lawn really coming in well. If I need to dash off to England for a new job, that would be fine, too.
My son turned eight today (technically today, but I still need to sleep and wake up for it to be Sunday for me). It was a very quick eight years. Speaking with Pierre last night, he said something that I have thought—I have made some very big changes in my life in a very short time, and have also been pretty lucky in how things have gone for me. He thinks that I have probably gone as far as I can in Japan career-wise, and that the country as a whole is crazy, and so really my only option to be sane and have a good career, oh, and by the way, to insure that my son grows up sane, is to get out of Japan. He may be right.
I think my sanity is pretty safe, by sheer cussedness: I refuse to do what I am told, or feel how I am supposed to. But I do worry about my son. My wife is a lost cause, and is often the one telling me what to do or how to feel.
It is easy to get, after 12 ½ years here, comfortable in the way things are done here, and uncomfortable with change. I have occasional bouts of that, but generally have gained my sense before long. My mother would disagree, and can’t understand why I am still here. I think, that, at this point, it is clear to me why: I intend to make the most of the opportunities I have here, and then move on, and away.
Every time I travel to Europe, I come back feeling like there is a big lifestyle deficit here in Japan: Holidays are about half those in Europe; Europeans tend to be a lot more active than Japanese in their free time, and there are a lot of activities going on; work is less of an all-encompassing thing in Europe than in Japan; there is a much more family-friendly environment, in terms of education, work, community, and social services.
Oh, and did I mention that my company’s car allowance would allow me to buy a Mini Cooper S?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Back...

My one-week hiatus from blogging was mostly because I didn't have much to talk about: I was doing all I could to get it together enough to get to work and home every day. With the help of earplugs, to block out any loud noises, which made me nauseous and dizzy, an eye mask to keep me from seeing out the windows of the Shinkansen, and fairly slow movements overall, I was able to get to work, plant myself in my chair, which I didn't move from very much, and then pack myself home, mostly.
Though I had been invited to after-work eating and drinking every single day of last week, I didn't attend any, since drinking, especially, is out of the question. As the day progressed, and I got more tired, too, I got dizzier. A night out didn't seem like a good idea.
I spent all day Tuesday at my favorite hospital, Jikkei University Hospital, undergoing a variety of tests. The doctor who first examined me said something like 'hmm...I'm not really sure what the problem is, but if you get a lot of rest for the next week or two, you should be alright.' I told him that wasn't good enough, that I wanted a clear diagnosis. Thus the tests. The diagnosis, however, has to wait until next Thursday, when I get to see a 'dizziness expert'. It is good that I had the tests when I did, though, since I am now feeling better, though not totally recovered.
I spoke with my sister, and she has had similar bouts, though never the can't-stand-up, full-on vertigo.
So, I am back to same old tricks. I am plugging along at work, a little more willing than I have been in awhile to fight with co-workers, if that is what it takes to get progress. Had a good fight last night, in fact. I never would have dreamed this was necessary, but where I work now there is nothing close to a 'can-do' attitude, in terms of achieving shared goals. I am working to change that, but giving someone a good bolloxing is sometimes necessary.
As for the promise-of-a-better-life vultures circling, two sets are still circling, and one other set will probably be in contact with me soon. One are completely lame in their communication, and I have pretty much given up on them.
I will try to be a better blogger, though blogging, in it's personal nature, is by definition when you have something you want to say. When things are spinning, though, and concentration is required just to function, it is not a first priority.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Tokyo Spinning...

I have had attacks of vertigo since I was a kid. They kind of make me feel as if everything is all of the sudden spinning, and I want it to stop, but it doesn’t, and then comes the nausea, and then the wretchedness and vomiting, which continues, sometimes for days.
It has started again. The fact that I can write this is an indication that it isn’t too bad: I can sit upright. But the fear of what it will be is nearly as bad as anything. I have been through this before, and there is no solution, no simple way that this will end tomorrow, all a bad dream. At minimum, I will be dizzy for a week or two, have a hard time riding trains because I will easily get motion sick, and generally be incapacitated. At worst, I will have multiple bouts of completely incapacitating vertigo lasting from six to thirty six hours. Nothing is set in stone, and I suppose that I should be open to the possibility that this time will be different. But why, in my experience as a sufferer of a chronic ailment that has always followed the same patterns, should I believe that?
There is not a name for my ailment. At least not one that boneheaded doctors are willing to give it.  Menieres disease is the one I give it. And, to tell the truth, my diagnosis is probably at least as close to the mark as any that doctors have ever made. Which is to say that doctors have never been willing to go out on any kind of limb, except to say ‘gee, you seem really dizzy.’
My last bout was in 2002. It was really bad, with multiple bouts of completely debilitating vertigo. I went in to an ENT between the bouts, and he gave me all kinds of tests, and then concluded ‘there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with you.’ I told him that there most certainly was, and that not being able to stand and puking for a whole day was not a normal way of life. ‘Well, right now, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with you,’ he corrected, ‘come back when the symptoms return.’ Getting in a car is the last thing one does when the world is spinning around. I did, though, driven by my wife. I was such a mess, that this time the doctor said ‘we can do this at some other time, if you want.’ I told him that I wanted answers, and if I had to come in the state I was to get the answers, he would just have to deal with it if I threw up.
I still didn’t get a clear diagnosis. He sent me off to a neurologist, who did a CT scan, bless his heart, which was more than any of the ENT jerks have ever bothered with. He said that there was nothing that he could see that pointed to it being a brain problem, or a physical problem with my ear canals. I went back to the ENT, with the CT scans in hand, and he then had the temerity, to say ‘what is it that you want from me?’ My god! Is anyone that stupid? I didn’t care even a little about him. I wanted to know what was wrong with me. At university, too, the ENT was an asshole. He seemed to think that there was some reason why I would fake complete hearing loss in my left ear, which had actually returned by that point, but which I wanted an answer for. Did I mention that hearing loss is another symptom of Meniere’s disease? I mentioned it to this ENT, and he pompously said ‘it is not possible to diagnose Meniere’s disease, so I can’t say that’s what you have.’
What he meant was that, medically, when they can’t figure out what is going on, and they have exhausted every other test, then they call it Meniere’s disease. Guess what, though? All of those tests mean squat when you know what it is you are experiencing, and just want it to stop. The reality is that it won’t stop, though.  Movement, loud sounds, and stuff of that ilk make it worse, so the only thing I can do is lock myself in my room and hope that I feel better tomorrow than I do today, and especially that everything doesn’t start to spin out of control. For now, I just want Tokyo to stop spinning…

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Ori Yori Midori

...means that you have your pick, generally used with good-looking boys or girls, who have their pick of mates. I am not so good looking, and I do not know at this point whether I have my pick of anything except nice platitudes for rejection.
By far the most interesting for me has been a possible job opening up within the global arm of my company, in the U.K. I broached the possibility of this position with my wife this weekend, and we frankly couldn't keep our passions in check and the consequent fireworks flew.
Besides my obvious proclivity for digging in when someone tells me I can't do something, and my wife's equally obvious proclivity for telling me I can't do something, the thought of a big move out of the country is reason to pause and consider. Mostly it was me sitting in my back yard, looking at the beautiful little paradise that I had created. A year ago it was just dirt and weeds. Now it is a little paradise, with a beautiful lawn, lush flower beds and trees, a beautiful marble patio, a wooden deck, all courtesy of my hard work. When I started, one of my wife's friends asked 'why are you working so hard on your back yard? No one can see it.' This is a pretty Japanese thing. I told her that it was not for other people, it was purely for our own enjoyment.
My wife doesn't share this with me, and that is hard. I love to barbecue, and I bought a Weber grill about six months ago, which I try to use every weekend. My son is into it, too, but my wife is not, and invents reasons not to barbecue. See, for her it is not the beauty of our home, or it's mini paradise in the back that is important, but the idea of a steady, stable home.
I have thought this over, and come up with the following: My ancestors, only two generations back, were pioneers, giving up the comfort of the midwest and going to Oregon. Ok, maybe not comfort, but the point is that for them that movement was important. And their ancestors came from the east, and before that from Germany, Scotland, and Ireland. The inevitable push to the west is the common thread I have with previous generations, and one of the reasons I ended up in Japan, my sister, father, and mother in Alaska, and the most rebellious one, my brother, ironically, in California. The drive to keep moving is strong in me. Rolling stones gather no moss. Smoothe am I.
My wife has never lived outside of the city she grew up in, save our sojourn to what amounts to the northern suburbs. Movement is not a part of her psyche. Grasping for whatever security she can find, whenever and wherever she can find it is in her psyche, a pretty common thing here, especially in her parents' generation, growing up in the post-war poverty and deprivation. They passed that on to their children, and it has stuck. As a culture it is risk-averse, and change-averse in the extreme. Security, knowing where you will be in 10 years, these are the important things. Or so my wife says. My response is that there is no security in life, that we can't know where we will be in 10 years, unless we are psychotic and only focus on staying in exactly the same place we are now. This type of psychosis seems pretty attractive to her, and not very attractive to me.
I have another interview Thursday, the fifth this week, and another on Friday. It shall be apparent by next week exactly how good looking I am to these guys. Should be fun. But, like the garden that is not visible to others, the beauty that I see is more important.