“the best laid plans…gang aft agley”

OK, Michelle and I were considering our getting-her-installed-at-Penn-State options, and the Road Trip looked like the best option (though she though I should not join a sorority).  A five (maybe six) day drive through Four Corners, across Kansas, stopping at my relatives in Indianapolis, on down into Pennsylvania would be long and tiring but fun.  And we now own just about every Glee CD on the planet, so we could sing across America.  There was the added advantage of being able to shop for all of her stuff here and hauling it rather than cramming what we could onto a plane and joining the mad shopping rush near college.

I didn’t want to make the solo trip home, so the idea of a one-way rental car seemed to fit the bill.  Bill is right.  I looked into it, and by drop-off in State College the car alone would cost me over $1700 (economy model); the one-way luxury adds a lot to the cost.  Factor in gas, hotels, souvenirs from half a dozen Mystery Spots along the way, and this move was looking prohibitively expensive.

The train is a possibility (I love train travel), but if we popped for the cheapest sleeper (and we would; it’s a 57-hour trip), the price is still pretty steep (though we would not have to add gas and hotels).  The downside is the stations are quite where we want them to be, and trains are not always on time.  I’d hate to be stuck in Chicago an extra day and not get to college on time.  Though, honestly, I’m not too worried about that; we could leave early.

Another option (and the one that’s at the head of the list at the moment) is taking the plane to Raleigh and visiting my brother and his family for a couple of  days before getting a car to drive 8 hours up to State College.  This has the one downside of traveling with quite a bit of stuff on the plane there (and I’m not a huge plane fan), but we could manage a couple of checked bags, and we could do the rest of the dorm shopping in Raleigh while my brother and his wife are at work.  We’d have a rental car (relatively cheap because I’d return it to Raleigh airport and take the plane back).

This also gets in the way of my mad desire to shop for all of the stuff on The Definitive Freshman Checklist .  I’m excited to shop for gizmos and gadgets with my daughter.

Pluses and minuses and practice:  figuring out how to pare down here world so that she can have a comfortable, efficient, fun mini-world in her 1/2 of a standard college dorm (and further paring down that list to figure out how to pack necessities for the plane) is good practice as I’m  considering how to pack things Tetris-like into a hiking pack for a long walk down the eastern shore of Japan.


Penn (State), Packs, Palanquins, Planes, and so on

My daughter and I are just back (got in at 2 a.m.) from Penn State where she had orientation and registration and where I (along with about 200 other parents there for one of the many FTCAP days) learned about paying for it all.  The Eastern Seaboard is enjoying a ridiculously-hot spell.  Ironically, when we visited the campus last year there was a freakishly hot spell as well.  I had more free time than Michelle, so I hiked around the campus (big ol’ place), and I was reminded of advice my student Yoshiko gave me:  “Do not do your walk [of the tokaido] during the hottest months or the rainy months.”  It seems there’s about a month’s window of ideal weather; the rest of the year is very hot or very wet in much of Japan, and the heat during the summer is attended by the sort of mugginess we found at Penn State.  It’s draining.  Now I was carrying only a day’s worth of “stuff” on my back (I had my eye on a nifty new day pack at REI, but I settled on an old Easton that is comfortable if a bit funky).  The pack was heavier than normal because the weight of the heat was pressing down on me the whole time.  I thought of Booth’s description of Saigo’s being carted around in a palanquin during his retreat from the imperial forces, but there were no tourist bearers in the land of the Nittany Lion.

So I had two thoughts:  I really need to toughen up to warm weather hiking (chances are my schedule won’t allow me to hike during the one perfect month), and I need to think about packs.  I looked at the Osprey Aether 60 Pack that Matthew (WalkingFool) took on his last major walk, and it looks roomy, sturdy, light.  But there is also something like this award-winning (for being “green,” not necessarily for function) ultralight pack:

  GoLite Jam Pack

I’m curious what the pack-wearers among you think of this and/or other options.

To add to my sense that I need to keep getting into better and better shape there were the four planes (two REAL planes and two miniature flying horrors) we took in two days. Whatever wasn’t sore from walking was certainly sore after having been wedged into economy crunch for the better part of two days. When we go back in August to take Michelle to school for real, I think we are driving.


Thank you Sliloh (Anita)…

I just got this e-mail from Anita:

I came across this link and thought you might really appreciate these photos. They are amazing. 😉


(Amazing Hand-Colored Photographs of Old Japan)

Those ARE amazing.  Thank you.

The pictures show stylized representations of the last samurai (eventually the samurai status was officially abolished following the Meiji Restoration), geishas, artisans, etc. from the period when Westerners were first getting glimpses of “the exotic East.”

I bless the rains down in Africa…

(disclaimer..or whatever: this is NOT my daughter and her school choir)

I went to my daughter’s Spring Concert, and the high school did this amazing version of Toto’s “Africa”; it was so good the audience was stunned into silence and then burst into thunderous applause (not the typical high school choir audience applause).

Choirmaster Ed Archer had the group practicing this since August 2010, and this was the first time he actually allowed them to perform it. They were not ready before this, and he was, this week, confident enough in the group that he actually wore his tails (which he only does if he’s sure the group is going to give an amazing performance). Well, his sartorial instincts were right; this was an amazing performance.

The performance was not original, and that’s a good thing for this post because there is a Vime0 video of Perpetuum Jazile doing this version with hands, jumps, beat box, etc. This is NOT my daughter’s choir; it’s the Perpetuum Jazile, but it’s the same version.


Oooo…this just in:  the high school concert videos are now on YouTube.  Sure, the sound is not as polished, and there were not several professional cameras trained on the kids, but their version was still wonderful (Michelle’s tall, so, unfortunately, she is wayyyyy in the back row, but you can see bits of her from time to time):

I promise, REALLY, I’ll get back to the walkingtokaido theme; M’s graduation is in one week.

Promenades, processions, prelims and (not so much) walking

I need to step up the conditioning. I don’t think grading stacks of research papers and responding to online discussions really counts (too bad, though).

So what have I been up to this past week or so?

Well, the prom is upon us. In fact, as I type this, my daughter went off in one limo, and my son went off in another. Helping to secure tuxedos, corsages, boutonnieres; filing out forms and trying to figure out if I need to drive her, pick up there, is daunting. I suspect the Battle of Midway must have taken about the same amount of planning. And while this was going on there have been banquets (another coming up Monday) and concerts (kudos to the school choir, including Michelle, for an amazing rendition of “Africa”) and football practices, and that keeps on coming.

In fact, I’m not quite sure how Chris will be able to roll in from his prom (late) and get up to compete in the CIF track meet tomorrow morning. Serra typically sweeps the meet; nevertheless, even though Chris’s school is small, but they still have 11 students competing in these divisional prelims (Chris is in the 4X100 relay and the individual 400). If other years are indicators, I’m likely to be the only parent there to cheer the team on. The drive up to Carpenteria is a long one, and I have stacks and stacks of papers to grade, but I’ll drive up.

Add to that the prep that is happening (much of it in my mind, but that doesn’t make it any less real) for Michelle’s move to college. On June 8th we are going to Pennsylvania for her registration and orientation; in August she will be living in her dorm there on the other side of the country. So I’m sorting through e-mail about ID cards, e-billing, football ticket availability, and so on, and all the while the more immediate GRADUATION is looming. I helped out (well, I tried) at the graduation breakfast/lunch, and the next two weeks are crowded with grad rehearsals, a baccalaureate mass, the actual graduation, grad night, transcripts to be sent. I guess it’s not actually my graduation, but it feels more real than my own graduation (last mid-term-graduating class ever, February 1970). The checkoff list counting down to graduation on the 26th of this month is a formidable one.

Things MAY settle a bit after that, but I’m certainly not counting on it. I am intending to add tai chi to my prep workouts. I used to be quite adept at it, but I’ll have to work out a lot of physical and mental kinks to even re-discover the basic long set. All of it’s good though.



Ohgoodgrief, it’s been a busy couple of weeks. Spring Break ended for me, and I’ve been swamped with papers to grade. My daughter’s graduation calendar has an item in nearly every square for May (I’ve volunteered to work at the Senior Breakfast–the last brushes with these kids before they all scatter for colleges…sigh), and my son just got back from a football scouting camp where he placed fourth overall over hundreds of kids AND he’s running two events in the CIF Track Finals in Carpenteria in a couple of weeks. Reports on Student Learning Outcomes are due at school; I’m putting (well, putting-off putting) together a Film & Literature class online for the Fall semester; my daughter and I booked a flight and room to Pennsylvania for her orientation and registration the first week of June.

It’s been a busy time.

But the walk is never far from my thoughts.

So how’m I doing with the Japanese lessons. Uhm…I get distracted. I may have to just take a class with deadlines and directions. I should be spending more time learning useful phrases: “Where is the bathroom?” “Help me I’m hopelessly lost!”–that sort of thing, but I get enamored of less practical words and phrases. I’m tickled by pipuru and shinboru (people and symbol) and other Japanized American words, and I become fascinated with glimmers of recognition (Hinokage, the town, means “shadow of the sun,” and in that I can see the root of the film title Kagemusha, “shadow warrior”). I really need to invoke the Nintendo DS Japanese tutor more. We’re at a year an ticking, and that’s NOT a huge amount of time.

I’m reading snippets of Alan Booth’s Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan, and I love it. In the second section he is following the path of general and samurai Saigo Takamori, and he’s finding himself in some very small, near-inaccessible places. Yes, he does show some of the darker elements of Japan (he’s particularly upset that the move to the cities has left much of the countryside chopped up, industrialized, cemented over with highways, deserted), but he also shares touching moments. In Hinokage, for example, one man spent some time encouraging the author to settle down in the town. He was treated royally in a local bar (not as an odd gaijin but just because the people were friendly and respected the effort he was making to follow Saigo’s tracks) and sent with glowing testimonials to a local ryokan where, after he thinks of songs praising Hinokage’s beauty, homeyness, and charming name, the following exchange with the proprietor took place:

“It’s nice to be staying in a town with a name like that.”
“It’s nice for the town that you’re staying in it….”

As for walking, I’m doing some, though I’m not on the tight regimen I need to work up to yet. Just yesterday I walked about 5k to pick up my daughter’s car from the service station. It was early (about 10 a.m.), but it was unseasonably hot and a bit muggy, and I remember my student saying that in Summer Japan is VERY hot and muggy. Booth is walking (at this point of his book) in August, and it’s uncomfortably hot and tiring for him in spots; he sings great praise for occasional breezes and patches of shade (and stretches of river to jump into). The heat, as I walked to the Honda shop, reflected off the pavement, off retaining walls. And I found that I was relieved with every circle of tree shade I found. The landscape was suburban Santa Monica, 40’s tract homes, contemporary multi-units, a freeway overpass, several for-lease store-and-business fronts. It’s much like I imagine I’ll be passing through on a lot of the Tokaido hike (though there are also the rural, forested, sea-view, mountain passes, reconstructed edo villages). But here’s my point (there was a point), walking on the reflective concrete in the heat was HARD.

Finals are coming soon; I’ll have a little more free time, and I’m just going to have to step things up.