Regarding Billiken

Thursday 29 September 2011, 19:50

In my coverage of the Tsutenkaku Tower in Osaka, I mentioned the Billiken shrine at the top. Wikipedia's article on Billiken is of some interest. Note that they refer to him consistently as "the Billiken," although the basis for doing so seems to be flimsy (some sources do it, and Wikipedians think that is the last word). He was always referred to without a "the" in the English-language materials I saw in Osaka, just with "Billiken" used in the normal fashion for a name, so I'm not going to add a "the" here.

Billiken apparently originated in St. Louis, Missouri, with a woman named Florence Pretz, who saw his image in a dream and designed and patented a doll based on it in 1908, predating Kewpies, which came out in December of 1909. Wikipedia claims (with a "citation needed" note) that he "sprang from the height of the \"Mind-Cure\" craze" and links "Mind-Cure" to New Thought, though I'm not sure how legitimate that link is. But it's certainly interesting to know that anybody thinks there's a New Thought connection.

Note that Pretz is also the name of a Japanese snack food made by Glico; it's basically a long pretzel stick, somewhat similar to the popular Pocky but without the frosting and salty instead of sweet.

No room at the inn

Thursday 22 September 2011, 15:10

I'm in Vancouver now. The typhoon aftermath was somewhat nightmarish. Air Canada dumped me and my luggage in the lobby of Narita Airport (which does NOT operate 24 hours a day like pretty much all other major-city airports in the world), telling me to go away and come back the next day. That was the first point at which I really realized that not only were they not planning to pay for my hotel, but they also washed their hands of actually finding me an hotel. And hotel rooms were unobtainable in Narita, because of the large number of other people who had found out much sooner than I did that their flights were cancelled; and the trains out of Narita were about to stop running.


Wednesday 21 September 2011, 04:33

I'm writing this over Narita Airport's atrocious free wireless service, so I won't write much, but: due to Typhoon Roke, my plane out of here is delayed "indefinitely." So far, it has been 80 minutes. I believe there are some planes flying out of here, just at a much lower rate than normal. I've heard that JR has stopped the trains; when I left Tokyo there were a couple of shinkansen lines cancelling service, and my train to the airport was delayed about 15 minutes, but otherwise the trains were running normally.

If everything were on schedule, I would have 3 hours 10 minutes to make my connection in Vancouver for the plane to Winnipeg, so at the moment, I'm in no danger of missing that. But it remains to be seen how long the delay will actually be.

ETA: The flight has been cancelled. That in itself is not the airline's fault. If it's unsafe to land a plane here, I obviously don't want them to try. However, I do think it is the airline's fault that in the hour and a half since the cancellation, there have been no announcements about it whatsoever on the loudspeakers or the departures screens. I had to figure out for myself that my flight was mysteriously no longer listed on the departures screens (not listed at all - not just listed as "cancelled" like other cancelled flights) and then I had to have the wherewithal to get on the Web, check the airline's Web site, see that the flight was cancelled, figure out where to go to ask for more information (which was a gate OTHER than the one that had most recently been listed as the gate for my flight, before it disappeared from the list) and wait in line to be told what to do - and even then I was not REALLY told what to do. There's a failure to provide sufficient information to passengers here, and that's a problem.


Tuesday 20 September 2011, 09:44

I am starting this draft sitting on a bench in the Kyu-Shiba Gardens, near the Hamamatsuchou train station, Tokyo. This is my last full day in Japan - I leave tomorrow morning - and I have no really specific plans for the day, though in the evening I'll be meeting up with some friends who are Westerners living here (one Canadian, one British). This will probably be my last update posted before I leave. It's been quite a trip.

Lots of photo galleries:


Friday 16 September 2011, 07:07

I'm titling this entry "Kanazawa" but in fact that's just my base of operations; much of what I've done in the last few days has been in the surrounding region.

Photos from September 15 and from September 16.

Fast update

Thursday 15 September 2011, 19:34

Full report later, but I had a good time visiting Keta Taisha and the space museum in the Hakui area, and didn't get lost nor abducted by space aliens despite nobody in the town understanding any English at all. I bought a charm labelled 「心むすび」 and am about 95% sure it's the one I wanted, rather than "protection from hemorrhoids" or something, though I'm sure they were selling charms for that too. The food is good in Kanazawa.

My office computer in Winnipeg, which I was using in place of the home computer that crashed, now seems to have crashed also. At least this one has other people with access to the room who can go reboot it if that's what it needs. An email has been sent; and even if that doesn't get fixed, I have further backup options. On the plus side, I tried my debit card in another bank machine and it worked, so maybe it wasn't locked out after all, or they unlocked it.

Lots of photos in the gallery.

More Osaka

Wednesday 14 September 2011, 02:13

I am starting this draft in the Osaka train station, though I'll probably be well on my way to Kanazawa by the time I finish it. Sorry about the delay in posting - I've been too busy having adventures to write about them. I think last update I had made it as far as Abeno Seimei Jinja.

Photo galleries: September 12, September 13.

September 11, Osaka

Sunday 11 September 2011, 06:40

As I sit down to start writing this, it is 8:40pm in Osaka, which is where I am right now. But it's 7:40am in Waterloo, which is where I was at this time ten years ago. I had just arrived a few days earlier in the city where I planned to live for four years while I did my PhD. I'm not sure where I thought I'd be today. If you told me then that on this day in 2011 I'd be writing this from Osaka, that in itself wouldn't have surprised me - it was certainly my expectation that the kind of work I would do would involve occasional travel of this nature. If you told me I'd have finished my PhD by now, I'd have said, of course, that's the plan. If you told me I'd only be three years out of the PhD, having taken seven instead of four to complete it, and in 2011 I'd still be doing "postdocs," that part would have surprised me; it sure wasn't the plan. And neither was still being alone in 2011. Indeed, very much of my life as of this day ten years ago was carefully planned around the fact that my top priority was to not still be alone after even one more year. My plan for my life had already failed because I was still alone in 2001. And my last chance to salvage it, in the early 2000s, failed too.

But just a couple hours from now my ten-years-younger self will (if I can use the future tense for what happened a decade ago) find something else to think about for a while. I found out about the historic events of September 11 sooner than most people around me did because shortly after the first plane struck I tuned into a "talker" MUD where people were discussing it, including one member who was in downtown New York and actually seeing the events first-hand. At the time I found out, I was in a small computer lab on one of the upper floors of the Math and Computer Science building at Waterloo, because I had only just had my computer account activated, I had no computer in my office yet and I didn't yet have my home computer linked to the Net, and so that was where I had to go to get on the Net at all. I remember turning away from the computer and addressing the only other person in the lab: "Listen, there's something important you should probably know about." I told him what I'd just read, and then I went down to the pay phones in the Davis Centre atrium and phoned my parents on the West Coast, even though it was 6:something am for them.

September 11 photo gallery (photos on first page are actually from the afternoon/evening of September 10).


Saturday 10 September 2011, 07:10

Writing this on September 10. I've been working very hard for the last few days, as well as struggling with technology issues (as mentioned, my computer in Canada seems to be kaput), so here are just a few notes.

Gallery of photos from September 8-10.

More fun with technology

Friday 9 September 2011, 07:14

Looks like my home computer has stopped working. Most likely it's some kind of thermal-related hardware flakiness, and it'll be basically okay once rebooted. But since I am literally on the other side of the world from the machine in question, and it's not accepting network connections, there's not really anything that can be done about this situation until I return to Canada almost two weeks from now. Fortunately, I have enough other computing resources elsewhere on the Net that I can still do my email and Web log updates and the other things I really need to do during my trip; and all the data was backed up before I left, so even if the machine is dead in some more spectacular and permanent way, there'll be little if any really permanent damage. Some reference information that would be nice to have access to, is locked up on that computer and inaccessible with it not accepting network connections. Axel, sorry, but it looks unlikely that the astro charts will work until I'm back in Canada.

I sure don't seem to be having good luck with technology these last few days.