I just ordered a book from Amazon US; Amazon Japan didn’t have it in stock, and, with the weak dollar right now, it was actually cheaper to order it from the US, even including the shipping. Today, I got the ship confirmation email from Amazon; that was expected, as it was in stock when I placed the order, and they estimated that they would ship on March 14th, which it still was in the USA.

The estimated delivery date is March 16th.

I will be very impressed if that turns out to be correct.

Mayuki is Fine

Certain People have complained about the lack of Mayuki content in recent blogs. My apologies for that; I’ve been very busy for the last couple of weeks, and I haven’t had time to write things up properly. Things we’ve been busy with include Mayuki’s Kuizome (ritual first meal) and first Christmas, so I have plenty to write about. Just no time to do it. However, I should be on holiday for the New Year very soon, so I’ll write about everything then.

In the meantime, Mayuki is fine, growing all the time, and a very smiley and happy baby.

As Others See Us

So, John Amaechi’s autobiography has arrived, and I’ve read the first couple of chapters. I am in it, briefly. I will quote (fair use covers it, because it’s really brief).

“In primary school I had but one friend, David, who was similarly nerdy only smaller, slight, and pale. We were united as powerless outcasts, so we spent our time together imagining ourselves as various superheroes, destined for glory and the redemption of revenge.”

Can’t argue with that. I remember the imagining ourselves as superheroes bit very well. I don’t actually remember the incident he relates afterwards, of defending me from people throwing snowballs, but I do remember that sort of thing going on. Given how selective memories of early youth are, I strongly suspect that it did happen pretty much as he describes it. His account of his lurking father neatly explains why I seem to have exactly one memory of him being round at my house, a memory that, I think, must have taken place after his eleventh birthday, because I remember having my ZX81, which I got for Christmas in 1981.

OK, next quote.

“Not long after the snowball incident, Mum threw me a 10th birthday party. Only one kid showed up. As a reward for my loyalty and protective instinct, David had dumped me, apparently not wanting to associate with school whale any longer.

“Because he was a year younger, he had declared that he needed to “move on”, since I would be graduating and he needed to find new friends anyway. I sent him a sorrowful “but we were friends, I trusted you, you lied to me” note. He mailed it back with no comment other than having corrected my spelling mistakes in red ink.”

Ouch. I don’t remember correcting his spelling mistakes in red ink. Unfortunately, it’s entirely plausible that I did. My social skills were a little lacking. Actually, I think he must have conflated several events here, because I’m pretty sure we were friends until he left our primary school, which was nine months after his eleventh birthday. So, here’s what I remember. My details are just as likely to be wrong as his, of course. (Mum, if you remember any of the incidents around here, feel free to email me to let me know what actually happened.)

It is entirely plausible that I missed his tenth birthday party. He might have been dreaming of becoming a psychologist at that point, but I was seeing one. I remember one birthday of mine from around that time going spectacularly wrong, although I think it must have been a bit later. My birthday is very close to his, and slightly before. If we’d had an argument at my party, I could well have still been sulking when his rolled round. I was also asthmatic, and prone to attacks from over-excitement (which meant that I could never be told in advance that my father was coming to visit, and was often ill on my birthday). So I might have missed his party because I was looking forward to it.

However, I distinctly remember us still being friends in the summer of 1982, before he left primary school. I remember this because I remember us getting into trouble for playing kind-of tennis off at one end of the playground and losing a couple of balls over the fence. Also, our primary school only did swimming lessons in the final year at that point, so the “whale” incident can’t have happened until almost a year after his tenth birthday. (The year I was in the top class, they started giving the next class down one term of lessons. I remember being annoyed at losing a term of swimming; I enjoyed it. Hated the moment of actually getting into the water, mind you.)

I do remember writing to him to say “look, we’re never going to become superheroes”, and getting a reply back saying “I think we both knew that really”. (He’s come a lot closer to it than I’ve managed, that’s for sure.) I have a feeling that that letter was an attempt to somehow reconfigure the friendship, and that it happened after he had left primary school (and thus, when he was around 12).

The critical point was that we went to different private schools after leaving primary school, schools about six miles apart. John had wanted me to go to the same school as him, which, if I really was his only friend, makes sense.  In the end, I’d opted for another one.

I also remember feeling a bit guilty about the end of the friendship for years. I remember feeling that I had, somehow, handled things badly and made him angry with me. It looks like I was right about that. I didn’t know how to patch things up, or what to patch them up to, and by the time I had enough social nous that I could probably have managed it, it was five or six years later, which is a bit late.

I am, however, sure that it was nothing to do with him being the “whale”, or being picked on by his peers. I don’t think I ever noticed that he was picked on.

Had we both been mature, confident adults, I have no doubt we would have worked through the problems, and might still be in touch now. But, of course, we weren’t. And now we have twenty five years of completely different life history behind us, so fixing it is unlikely. Plus he’s a millionaire basketball star and I’m… not.

So yes, basically, this is a bit painful, and not because I feel slandered. Rather, it’s because, although I think he must have details wrong (maybe that was the ghost writer, though), the broad sweep fits my memory. We were good friends at primary school. I messed up and spoiled the friendship at the end.


John Amaechi

Back when I was in primary school, my best friend was a boy a year older than me, and taller than most of the teachers. After primary school, we went to different secondary schools, and lost touch.

A few years ago I discovered that he had become a basketball player, and was playing for the NBA in the USA. This was one of those “Oh, yes, that makes sense…” moments. I mean, he really was taller than almost all the teachers at age 11; that’s not hyperbole.

Today, I find that he’s the subject of a long article on the Guardian website. John Amaechi has come out as gay. He’s also written an autobiography, which I will have to read. (The link on here is to Amazon US, but Amazon Japan also have it, so I’ll get it from them.) From the bits of information mentioned on various websites, he had a lot of problems I didn’t know about at the time. But then, I was ten. Given the nature of the problems, it’s not surprising I didn’t know about them.

OK, yes, part of the reason for reading the autobiography is to see whether I’m in it. I suspect not, as we were only friends at primary school, and, judging from the material online, most of the important things in his life happened later. Come to that, the most important things in most people’s lives happen after they turn eleven. But hey, I lost touch with my best friend from primary school, and now I get to read his autobiography. I mean, how cool is that?


Something over twenty years ago, I bought a book of exercises. It includes graded exercises, divided into ten weeks. I am currently on week seven.

I feel that the overall plan may have been a little optimistic.

It is true, I must confess, that I have not managed to keep up daily exercises for the whole of the last twenty years. I have, however, been pretty much keeping them up for the last nine months, more or less since last year’s asthma attack cleared up. And yet, while I am on week seven, I am not even fully doing that.

The problem is the press ups. The exercises require twenty press ups, followed by five hand-clap press ups, where you push yourself up off the floor, clap your hands, and then return to the front-support position.

This morning, for the first time in my life, I managed twenty full press ups in one go. Adding the hand claps is, as yet, utterly beyond me.

I don’t know whether my arms are naturally very weak, but the press ups have always been the most difficult part of the exercise set. If I leave it for too long between exercises (like, a couple of years, which is what happened when I came to Japan) the number I can do falls to zero. For a full press up, the whole body remains tensed with the torso roughly parallel to the ground, the torso touches the ground lightly and the legs not at all, and the arms do not relax at the bottom. For quite a while I couldn’t even keep my legs locked for long enough to do twenty press ups, never mind the complete failure of my arms.

I’ve been on week seven, doing the exercises six days a week, since I got over my New Year illness. At the current rate, I might get up to the 20+5 in another month or so.

I believe I have already mentioned my scepticism about the rate of progress proposed in the book.

Still, I have finally got to the point of feeling the benefits of exercise; the middle age spread has virtually disappeared, climbing four flights of stairs to our flat is no problem at all, and I can carry Yuriko around the flat if necessary. (Fortunately, that is not generally necessary.) I also have a feeling that I need less sleep than I used to; I seem to be coping on 8-9 hours a night, rather than 9-10.

So, on balance, I think that the exercises are effective. They’ve just taken rather longer than the advertisment promised. I’d ask for my money back, but twenty years of inflation mean that’s not worth the bother.