Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Chinese Fire Drill - Part I

Japan to the USA via Beijing

What's the difference between China and Kanye West?

Kanye has grown fantastically wealthy by dressing flashy and unabashedly promoting a shitty product. He likens his escapades to "the highest form of contribution to society" while attacking others and then pleading not guilty. He says to Kim "your ass is mine". He's "a proud non-reader of books" and considers the drive to go and find someone to screw "valuable".

China on the other hand never said "your ass is mine" to Kim. They only said it to Tibet.

I'd sworn before that I would never again fly with a Chinese airline. But once again they offered the cheapest fares, and when you're buying five tickets to the other side of the globe and back you can't afford to be too picky (unless you're Kanye West, who can afford two tickets for Kim's ass and three for him and his ego on any airline he wants).

The China Air flight we found also went from Haneda to Newark, a geographical and logistical bonus for the trains across both Tokyo and New York City that we wouldn't have to take. But the kicker was the overnight layover in Beijing. Call me a masochist for getting excited about the journey taking an additional twelve hours, but as far as I'm concerned injecting a mini-vacation into your trip, even if it's just one night, is a satisfying extra.

Unless of course you're dealing with a shitty product.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Guest Post - 'Overnight Delivery in Vietnam'

With my good-intentioned bus master and friend. (You owe me, girl!)
My clearest memories of Vietnam revolve not around the famous sights and the guidebook-prescribed places but the unexpected, unpredictable moments of during and in between. Hoi An was wonderful, but it was the old woman with the leprous hands who peeled my mango for me that I can't forget, as much as I'd like to. Our trip to the hills up north was nice, but the brick that came flying and crashing through the window of our berth on the overnight train as we slept kind of heads the highlight reel.

Even on that boat tour around Vietnam's crown jewel of Ha Long Bay, the indescribable scenery, the captivating karsts take a back seat in the caravan of memories in my head. The grumbling, almost resentful attitude of the people working on the boat; the overload of French Fries at every meal; my gastrointestinal bout with some expired pineapple juice I drank; these are what stick in my mind, for better or for worse.

After a month it seemed Vietnam was entirely incapable of providing a dull moment. I couldn't even take a bus without having another memorable moment pounded into me. One bus ride in particular is the subject of 'Overnight Delivery in Vietnam', a recent guest post written exclusively for Manouk Bob's travel-inspired BunchOfBackpackers site.

Manouk has a lot of good stuff going on over at BunchOfBackpackers, so take a few moments to poke around. And check out 'Where These Roads Went', the travelogue that shows you in fantastic detail how not to travel through Cambodia. (Print version coming soon, for those of you who prefer paper to plug-in.)

p.s. - every detail of the story is true, even the part about the flying mangosteen.

Travel on!


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Indonesia Takes China & Japan For A Ride

Q: How do you get the second and third largest economies in the world to kiss your ass?

A: Tell them you want to spend $5 billion on a train that goes really fast.

Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation in the world so you're bound to find a few clever characters hanging around, has been stringing China and Japan along for months with talk of wanting to build a high-speed railway linking Jakarta and Bandung. China and Japan, blinded by the amount of cash to be made - mainly by the politicians bucking for the deal - have been going totally ga-ga over the idea.

It's a scientific fact that you can't think straight when you are going totally ga-ga.

"Thanks for dinner know, we're just not ready for a $5 billion train..."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Pope Francis Brings His Climate Change Game

Conservatives Respond by Whining About His Eligibility to Play

"See you at the Big Dance, boys..."
Back in April the Christian Science Monitor reported that “on Tuesday, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and other organizations hosted a summit at the Vatican called “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development,” billed as a meeting to help strengthen “the global consensus” on the issue.” One intended effect of this meeting is, we are told, “to influence this year’s United Nation’s Climate Change Conference.”

In their own press conference on Monday, before even hearing what Pope Francis had to say, conservative groups held a press conference to denounce the Pope’s stance on the environment. In doing so, certain conservatives did a fine job exposing the truth: that they are contradictory, hypocritical and unwitting masters of irony.
NOTE: I said ‘certain’ conservatives, not all. Because labeling someone does not give you the right to decry them. You have to wait until they say something stupid.

You can check out the Christian Science Monitor article on the subject here. Or keep reading for the two-minute breakdown of some grown men whining about a guy in a white robe.

"No, no, you're not going to Hell if you become a climate scientist, don't listen to those guys..."

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Don't Miss This Chance to Alter History!

~ There might be something in it for you ~

Dear Friends,

In Cambodia they let you use your mug shot
for your day pass to Angkor.
It's been 12 years since I made it out of Cambodia alive. 12 years since I made it through some hard
and harrowing days, replete with uncertainty and confusion and a lot of really weird smells. Now, after more than a decade of turmoil and strife (none of which has to do with Cambodia), the stories of these days are ready to be told.

But only with your help will these stories make it to the masses who are, unbeknownst to them, dying to hear them.

Do you like to make people happy?

Awesome. Before you now lies a golden opportunity to help bring happiness to millions of people.

Do you like to give your opinion?

Who doesn't, right? Here's a rare chance to give yours to someone who is actually asking for it.

Come on my friend! Tell me what you think!
And you may even get something in return!

Take a moment to check out the first few pages of the upcoming travelogue 'Take This Guidebook & Shove It' and, at the bottom, let us know what you think, like:

  • Do you feel compelled to keep reading?
  • What do you expect from the rest of the book?
  • Do you prefer e-books or print books?

Answers to the first two questions will help me.

Answering the third will help you as I will be giving copies of the book to those who leave the most helpful and most creative comments.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Jeb Bush Speaks Volumes

But There Are Problems with the Con-Text

“Jeb Bush sought to cast himself as a political outsider during his first big speech as a presidential candidate on Monday…”

So begins the guardian’s take on Jeb Bush and his brand spanking new campaign. The sub-headline of the article, by the way, refers to Jeb’s touting of his “re-invention of his brother’s compassionate conservatism”.

Look, little brother. To use big brother’s words, either you are with him or you are against him. None of this re-inventing BS.
My name's Jeb, ya see, so I'm kind of like an outsider.

The guardian (they don’t capitalize their name, why should I?) goes on to tell us that ole Jeb is trying to “counter criticism that he represents the establishment wing of the Republican party.”

Let’s try to take his word for it, shall we?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Those Moving Piles of Water Are Called Waves

And Other Helpful Hints for Rowing Your Boat Across the Ocean

You need a few things if you’re going to try to row a boat 6,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean. A decent boat. A light on your decent boat. A bit of fortitude. A clue.

Sonya Baumstein had none of these. But she went for it anyway.

Gotta love the enthusiasm.

"...and I've even got extra oars in case my arms get tired..."

 The Orange County Register had by far the best account of Sonya’s poorly-planned adventure on the high seas I've seen. In other words, it gave the most detail. And the details are so flipping funny it would be rude not to share them.

30-year-old Sonya wanted to be the first woman to row solo across the Pacific.

That takes some guts. So far so good. But we learn from the we-don’t-color-our-news OC Register that after departing on June 7th “she spent several days after her departure relatively close to shore as she waited for her sea sickness to subside.”


If Sonya was allergic to cats she would have wanted to become a lion tamer.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

In Honor of National Moving Month

Paying Tribute to Our Founding Fathers

Note: The following bit of history-based humor recently appeared on the HireAHelper blog. A lot of the facts you'll read here are true. The rest have been sanctioned by secret revisionist government committee. Except for the bad word etymology bits. Those parts are just common sense.

Moving Day circa 1887.
Crazy Tuesday (the Tuesday after Memorial Day) ushers in the moving industry’s officially crazy season. With that you’ll likely be way too busy taking care of today and tomorrow to think about yesterday and yesteryear and everything that happened to bring us all to this point in moving history.

That’s okay. We’ve got some historical highlights to make us all appreciate how good we have it now. Seriously. Really. We don’t have to scour the land for fuel. We don’t need a protective convoy. In the grand scheme of things, despite all the paperwork and all the headaches and all the sneaky folks running around, we are living in the Golden Age of Moving.

Now that, my friends, is crazy.

It all started long long ago…

For thousands of years man survived without the services of HireAHelper. It’s true. Ever since man first decided to up and leave Africa he had to rely on his own devices to move himself, his family and everything he owned across the vast land masses to all corners of the Earth.

The fact that man, for most of history, owned nothing more than a few animal skins and a handful of hunting implements made the task bearable. In fact, right on through the entire hunter-gatherer era man was constantly on the move, so he had to live simple and travel light. Otherwise he’d have to hire movers pretty much every day, even on Sunday. And who would be able to afford that? Funny how the time when man moved the most was also the time when a moving company just wasn’t going to make any money.

With the dawn of agriculture man began putting down roots, so to speak. And with this switch to settling in one place for a while came the trend of making bigger homes and finding more stuff to put in them. Unfortunately the time was still not right for the moving industry since no one had invented the wheel yet.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Categorical Bullshit! On...Jeopardy!

Playing the Pro

And now...Back...To…Jeopardy!

Trebek: I believe it's Kevin's turn to go first?
Contestant: I’ll take Bullshit Writers for $200, Alex.
Normally we don't allow swearing on our show, but considering the category, let's sling some shit, shall we?
Trebek: Okay, here’s your answer. ‘It’s how 95% of today’s travel writers do their travel research.’

Contestant; What is…Google?

Trebek: Right you are, Kevin. You pick again.

Contestant: I think I’ll stick with Bullshit for $400, Alex.

Contestant: Who is Jean Folger?

Trebek: Right again! You’re on a roll.

Contestant: Gotta go with what I know. Bullshit Writers for $600 please.

Trebek: For $600 and a share of the lead. This city was recently ranked by a writer who has never been there as one of Japan’s best places to retire, despite the snot-freezing winters that last six months and the biggest attractions being skiing, getting drunk in Susukino and, in February, battling the 2 million people who descend on the annual Snow Festival.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Johnny Manziel, Firing Away

Don’t Mind My Poolside Manners

"All right, that's it you annoying little autograph seeker!"

Observation: ESPN and Jim Basquil need to lay off the how’s-this-for-a-story sauce.

Consider the opening line in the video accompanying this article: “JOHNny ManZIEL, harASSED by a FAN at the AT&T Byron Nelson Golf Tournament.”

Seriously? All that emphasis because someone was bothering someone next to a pool? So what if one of the someones was a professional quarterback? Is this really a reason to put on a striped shirt-striped tie combo and get all worked up?

Jimmy baby, save your serotonin for the part about what color his girlfriend’s bikini was.

A close and properly journalistic look at the situation, however, is worth a peek. That, my friends, is why we are here.

FIRST, the HIGH lights.”

Friday, May 29, 2015

Blowing Smoke: Today's Eruption of Mount Shindake

And the Government's Hot-Air Response

The footage of this morning’s eruption of Mount Shindake, on tiny Kuchinoerabu Island in Japan’s far southwest, is awesome and terrifying and fascinating – and probably very bad for the local tourism industry. In case you missed it, the article accompanying the footage is prettyterrifying in its own way.
Below are a few excerpts in quotation marks.
The keen insights in italics are mine.

“More than 100 people have been ordered to evacuate after a volcano erupted on the tiny southern Japanese island of Kuchinoerabu on Friday morning.”
Ordered to evacuate. Huge volcanic eruption on a tiny island and the authorities think they need to tell people to get the hell out of Dodge? This is what a government selfie looks like.

“Spectacular TV footage captured the moment Mount Shindake exploded, sending columns of thick, black smoke high into the air.”
Guys, the smoke in that ‘spectacular’ footage is medium gray. At best.

“Japan’s meteorological agency raised the alert level to five – the highest on its scale…”
A massive eruption ranks a five. Wow. Tricky algorithm there.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Shakespearean Tragedy in Yoshikawa Park

To Ignore or Not To Ignore

Children were swarming all over Yoshikawa Park in Matsumoto today. A bunch of animals, they were. Cheetahs and gazelles, racing in circles across the wide open grassy spaces. Monkeys running and climbing all over the bars and rope ladders while lions and tigers growled their way through tunnels and up and down ramps in the expansive playground. Quacking ducks splashed around in the brick-lined river flowing down from the place where young colts in t-shirts and colorful birds in summer dresses brayed and chirped as they danced around on the smooth stone ground, cool water shooting and spraying them from the fountains underneath.

And on a bench in the shade I saw these three kids.

What a shameful, pathetic waste of a beautiful day, we righteous parents mutter. Kids with their noses stuck in their video games like that.

Friday, May 15, 2015

7 Silly Quotes From Obama's Gulf Allies Summit

And What They Really Mean

"I was told this was a six-nation summit, why are there eight of us here?"
Reuters reports that Barack Obama held a summit this Thursday at Camp David for the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. (Okay, everyone reports it but Reuters gets the nod for the most usable quotes.) Why the US is hosting such an event let alone attending one is bizarre enough. What was said makes the event a true oil slick of political bilge.

To wit:

"President Barack Obama vowed on Thursday to back Gulf allies against any external attack."
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the only external attacks on the Middle East I can recall were by the US.

"Obama pledged that the United States would consider using military force to defend them."
So the promise is to BACK our Gulf Allies (is that oxymoronic or just moronic?), while the pledge is to CONSIDER military force. 'Guys, we got your back. You know...from back here.'

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My Advice To You Is To Start Drinking Heavily

The Benefits of Solid Research

Raise your income by drinking a whooooole lot of this.

Coffee or green tea?

The question used to make that angel-devil combo pop up on my shoulders.

"Green tea is sooooo much healthier," my angel would coo. "AND it's traditional." She'd drag out that last word in her sweet sarcasm that makes me want to punch her in her cherub.

"The coffee," my devil would growl, like he already knew he was going to win. "Coffee milk coffee sugar coffee coffee coffee!!"

I used to listen to my angel much more often. I blame the kids.

Thanks to the findings of this new study the sides of my conscience don't have to argue anymore.

Drinking Coffee, Green Tea Lowers Health Risks, Study Suggests

Yes, according to Japan’s National Cancer Center, "a study of about 90,000 people aged between 40 and 69 suggests that regularly drinking the beverages may lower health risks including death from heart and cerebrovascular diseases."

Wow, 90,000 subjects. That's a pretty reliable sample size.

The article goes on to explain how "the cancer center and the University of Tokyo followed the drinking habits and health of the people for an average period of 19 years in the study, which started in 1990."

Hot dog, 19 years! These people are mighty patient and thorough. And we can assume, nicely funded.

"The participants only supplied their coffee and green tea drinking habits at the beginning of the study."

WHAT?? Chotto matte, patient and thorough National Cancer Center people. You asked 90,000 people what they drank the day before, checked in on them 19 years later and now you proudly "suggest" my angel-devil team can just turn in their wings and their pitchforks?

If this is what passes for research then allow me to proudly suggest a few of my own findings.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Putting a Lid on California's Drought

In A Nutshell

If you aren’t in tune with California’s ongoing drought you are either (a) steadfastly oblivious to the news or (b) you have zero regard for the welfare of California.

I fall into both (a) and (b) so imagine my surprise when, after clicking on a picture of a woman in a bikini (because the caption said I might get rich if I did) I was presented with the following headline:

My shock, as you can well imagine, reverberated on several levels of perception.

My first thought as a writer was “Shouldn’t every word in a headline be capitalized?”

My next thought was something like “God this instant coffee tastes like crap.”

Then after one final fleeting thought of my days as a rich man in a bikini I decided that Starbucks must be one fine organization. ‘Ethos’ water? Sounds like they’ve really got their moral elements all in a row, contributing to the health of all their non-coffee-drinking customers by way of a mass manufacturing of plastic bottles.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ichiro Suzuki in Miami

Why Does He Look So Happy?

I’ll bet I became a fan of Ichiro Suzuki at the same time most other people did. Namely, on April 11th 2001 when he fired a screamer from right field to nail Terrence Long at third base. Since that day, whether on the ESPN highlight reel or in the occasional game I’d catch on TV, watching Ichiro has always been a supreme pleasure, for his artistry as well as his level-headed attitude. (Notice the non-reaction after that throw?)

And while his play amazed, his demeanor intrigued, to the point I where wondered if the guy even cared about winning.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Tokyo Sushi Joint Owner Tells Foreigners To "Fish Off"

And He Has No Reservations About It

"So what can I get for you to - Hey! How did you gaijin get in here?!"
With everyone caught up in the racial tension exploding all over the streets of Baltimore many seem to have missed what is going on across the globe in Japan. While people share videos and trade commentary on rioting and looting and an empty baseball stadium there's barely been a whisper about the injustices happening right in the heart of the ritziest section of Tokyo.

According to this article in the Japan Times there's some guy with a sharp knife and fingers that reek of tuna refusing to play nice with certain non-Japanese people. His heinous crime? Maintaining a policy of not accepting reservations by foreign would-be patrons of his fancy-schmancy sushi bar.

All hell broke loose recently when a Chinese man, who has been a resident of Japan for 30 years, was unable to snag a dinner reservation at Sushi Mizutani because his name wasn't Japanese, even though he had his Japanese secretary call and make the reservation. Mizutani-san offers the simple explanation that “Non-Japanese customers may not show up for their reservations.” Apparently his Japanese customers always do.

But let's set aside this powderkeg for a second and highlight a couple other bits.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My Two World Leaders

And Their Few Words

President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Abe
(pronounced AH-beh or, alternatively, SEN-sah-za-MEE-dee-ah)
offered some telling remarks this past Tuesday
to open Herr Kimigayo’s visit to the US.

(The full transcript can be found here but the following summary is really all you need.)
"Come on, we agreed we'd say nothing about the new military bases. Now shake on it."

Obama went first since the Japanese are polite like that.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

When the Coffee Machine Breaks

Idiotic Advice From An Unexpected Source

The editors over at are a bunch of god damn geniuses. Day after day they crank out new articles, many of them with numbered lists in the titles, all on the subject of how to succeed in business. And day after day people gobble this stuff up, in the same way those insatiable housewives read every issue of Cosmo for their fix of 10 New Ways to Drive Their Man Wild in Bed.

Sarcasm aside – a rarity around here – Entrepreneur’s cadre of contributors regularly come through with some quality advice. The only thing that is usually lacking is the electric shock reinforcement therapy for a certain unnamed person around here who forgets the advice faster than it takes to read the article. 

So when an article like the one I just read gets published I have to call it out. 18 Unusual Habits That Boost Your Energy More Than Coffee reads like an internal moral struggle on the part of the writer who can’t decide if he should give real advice or just go for the affiliate clicks. As most of us do when our conscience is at odds with itself, the guy tries to do both, hoping the good stuff will in the long run make up for the instant gratification of the bad stuff. Come on, I’ll make you breakfast in bed.

Question: Why 18 Unusual Habits?

Couldn’t think of two more for an even 20? Didn’t want to miss out on any affiliate clicks by rounding down to 10 or 12 or even 15?

Here’s what the author – and Co-Founder of Empact – had to say: “To understand unique and healthy ways to consistently and quickly boost energy daily, I interviewed the country’s top ambitious young entrepreneurs, honorees of the Empact Showcase…”

Nice self-promo there.

OK, let’s see what advice the 18 Empact Showcase honorees have for us in exchange for a link.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Matsumoto’s Kōbō-yama

The Life & Times of a Non-Descript Mountain

Kōbō-yama does not draw much attention from the tourist and backpacker crowd. Visitors to Matsumoto, once they turn their eyes from the castle and the easy bustle of downtown, are drawn to the serrated alpine skyline across the valley to the west. Even to the natives Kōbō-yama goes largely unnoticed. And this is not surprising. Standing barely 50 meters above the traffic rolling up and down nearby Route 19, Mt. Kōbō can hardly be called a mountain at all.

Yet there is something very interesting about this very non-descript place. Two very interesting things, actually. One floats overhead and all around, as fantastic as it is fleeting. The other lies underfoot, old and unmoving and fantastically understated. One requires perfect timing. The other is constant as time itself.

Come in mid-April if you want to see both.

Read more at Taiken Japan...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Rush of a Run Through the Woods

Chasing Down Time

The first thing I realized, chugging up through the woods, was that I miss this feeling. I miss the exertion, the adrenalin. The rush that only comes when the physical meets the emotional in a drawn-out moment that we wish could last forever. When gasping breath and pounding heart are forced to share one’s attention with the love of something as simple and elemental as the forested side of a mountain.

It seems frivolous from a distance, this urge to go run up a trail. And from a distance the feeling is easy to forget. Life gets in the way, in the form of kids and play, of work and self-ascribed responsibilities, and over time the pursuits that give us pleasure get pushed to the side.

We realize it. We mean to lace up those old sneakers and go recapture that feeling. I’ll get out this weekend. Or the week after that. When things slow down enough to justify the frivolity of a run up a mountain.

Steadily, the months pass. Then so do the years, if we let them.

And I saw that I was letting them, even as I said I would not.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Jogging in the rain

Cherry blossom petals fall

And I slip on them.

(Based on a true story.)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Tazawa-ko: Akita’s Deep Blue Jewel

Facts, Logistics & Fun

Photo: Agustin Rafael Reyes on Flickr
Tazawa Lake in Akita Prefecture is a near-perfect circle – and a perfect representation of Akita itself: unassuming, unspoiled and sublimely spectacular. Surrounded by mountains and laced with legend, this million-year-old volcanic crater offers the comfortable beauty of natural Japan without all the crowds.

Upon closer examination, we also see that unassuming Tazawa is quietly decorated with quirky details. But first…

A Few Facts

Initially thought by some to be an impact crater from a meteorite, research into the lake’s depths uncovered geological evidence of a tremendous volcanic eruption 1.4 million years ago that led to the lake’s present form. With no natural inflow or outflow, Tazawa’s waters consist entirely of eons of rain and snow.

With a surface area of roughly 10 square miles (26km2) Tazawa-ko sits well down the list of Japan’s largest lakes. But at 423 meters (1,388ft) she is Japan’s deepest. Drop Tokyo Tower into the lake and the top would still be 90 meters below the surface. Lake Tazawa sits at 249 meters above sea level, which means the deepest parts of the lake reach down lower than the waves crashing into the shores of Honshu. This translates into the lake never freezing over, no matter how harsh the Tohoku winter.

Read more at Taiken Japan...

Monday, April 6, 2015

Salaryman No More

Yen Pro Quo

There's a real good reason this is my first post since last Fall.
It has to do with that picture - more specifically, what's in it.

I moved my family back to Japan in July 2014. During our month in Fukushima, during which we did our best to decompress while simultaneously gearing up for our intended move to Nagano, I managed to land an interview for a teaching gig.

I don't know why I keep doing this. It is an undeniable fact that me and full-time jobs are about as compatible as Binyamin Netanyahu and any randomly-chosen sane person. I guess it's the idea that as a husband and father I'm supposed to do shit like this.

I enjoy teaching people, don't get me wrong. I get a kick out of it actually. As long as my students are all okay with having a good time first and are willing to consider any real learning a bonus they I'd say we're golden.

The downside is that my students - and my bosses too - expect me to show up every day. And on their schedule. No negotiating, no deal-making. Evening class means evening class, no switching to the morning so I can go home and eat dinner with my family like a real husband and father. Can't even move class across the street to the yakitori bar.

So while I liked my bosses, enjoyed my students and looked forward to seeing the other teachers at our weekly chat which everyone had a habit of callling a 'staff meeting', the immovable object that was the sum of demands of the job met with the irresistable force of my need for self-determination and I decided to return the keys to the company roadster you see in the picture.

So once again I am the master of my own schedule. I can use each hour of my day as I see fit. I can leave those neckties in the closet, stash the attache and settle down to dinner with my family.

Of course, now I have to figure out just who's going to pay for all that food on the table.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Japanofiles Interview with Dave Carlson

In January I had the pleasure of sitting down with media master and long-time Matsumoto resident Dave Carlson. Dave, among his various involvements in the academic and social community, is also the producer of Japanofiles, a series of podcast interviews with local expats who share their broad range of experiences working and living in Japan.

Since I was living in Fukushima City at the time of the Great Tohoku Earthquake of March 2011 I expected Dave to spend a lot of our time talking on that. But that was just one aspect of our chat, which took several turns I didn't expect but thoroughly enjoyed.

At the time of this writing Dave is working on his 70th podcast. You can find them all at his site, The Japanofiles Broadcast. Our talk checks in at Number 69, which went live just a few days before the fourth anniversary of the quake.

And for those who do want to know more about what it was like to be there, on the ground, among the beautiful, resilient people of Japan during one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded, please check out my short memoir For Now: After the Quake - A Father's Journey.

NOTE: This past Saturday a Magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal, triggering avalanches in the Himalayas that have taken over 2,000 lives according to early counts. This New York Times article from a woman who has lived in Kathmandu for two years and was with her son in their car when the quake hit offers a heart-wrenching yet hope-inspiring account of what it has been like to be in the capital of Nepal during this tragedy. Please read. Please take a moment to ponder the images. And please, count your blessings.