Word Macros I Have Loved and Almost Lost

I’ve recently had to convert MS Word files with tons of zenkaku English text in them to all hankaku so I could forward them to people on non-Japanese language-enabled systems. Luckily, I happen to have written a macro during my salaryman days that does just that.
Looking at the code, it seems I could never figure out how to get a few symbols working (such as the “degrees Celsius” symbol), but other than that it works very well.
If you have the need for such a macro, drop me an email.

New Years in the Fields

As promised, here’s the whole story:
On the second day of the new year, our nanny invited us to her village for the bi-annual emptying of a communal fishpond. We piled into our trusty ’71 Crown, picked up a Japanese teacher who wanted to experience village life, and headed out deep into the rice fields. Actually, we first stopped at our nanny’s village so we could follow a pickup out to the final destination. I always carry rubber mats, wooden planks, and a shovel in the back of my car to get out of mudholes and sandy spots encountered in the back country, but with the family along for the ride it was comforting to have an escort (also, you never know when a feral Brahmin cow will decide to play cape buffalo and it’s nice to have a pickup to play decoy in such situations). The road was non-existent in places and we simply drove over drained and harvested rice fields along the paths of least resistance; I only scraped bottom once when I misjudged the far side of a steep bump. Several times, the pickup driver stopped an got out to warn me about a particularly rough patch ahead and asked if I just wanted to stop and park, but choosing the right lines is something of an obsession when I’m driving and I was lucky enough to choose correctly that day.
We eventually arrived to within walking distance (perhaps half a kilo) of the pond, which was being drained with a pump attachment hooked up to an iron buffalo (large roto-tiller or walking tractor). While waiting for the pond to drain, most of the hunters were out looking for field rats. This is where I started photo documenting the day.

A typical fish pond/holding pond used for irrigation of the adjacent rice fields.


The iron buffalo. This invention single-handedly (-footedly? -tiredly?) caused a farming revolution across the land and led to the modern lazy-ass lifestyle of real water buffalo.


Just for comparison, this is what the pond looked like at the end of the day.


Fresh unagi was one of the catches of the day. As the water level drops, they hide in the mud and must be probed for with long metal rods (actually it’s the same for some kinds of catfish as well).


Overseer Max didn’t want to show too much emotion, but ultimately approved of the way the draining and fishing stages were carried out.

////////////////// EXTREME GNARLINESS WARNING!! ////////////////////
The method employed for catching rice field rats on this day was simple and effective. Rats make their tunnels in berms that separate rice fields. A fire is built at the entrance of a rat hole and inside the tunnels, the rats only dig deeper to escape the smoke. Some time after, the tunnels are dug out, and the asphyxiated rats are pulled out by hand.

Digging out the bounty.


The bounty.

(As it turned out, most of my photos that day were of preparing the rats for eating. The actual reason why we went, draining the fishpond, I mostly recorded with a camcorder. Some of the footage is pretty interesting but I don’t have time to process it yet.)

First, the fur was charred and scraped off.


Ready to be gutted.


Gutted and beheaded.


Ready to be grilled.


Here the intestines are being cleaned with a grass stem. These are also grilled, and eaten of course.


A photo of everyone standing on the edge of the pond taken from the direction the rats were caught.


Max says what up.

All in all, it was an extremely educational day. It’s always nice to be able to hang out with the locals and see how they really live. It’s even nicer when they are willing to show you exactly how they do what they do. On this day, we learned how to empty a fish pond, catch and cook rats, and as a bonus, I learned just how rough a road the old Crown can handle.


Nam was trying to sleep in this morning as Max has been keeping her up at night for the past few weeks, but the funniest thing happened: A man selling jugs of distilled water drove his pickup by the front of the house yelling, “nam na krup! nam na krup!” (water! water!), so Nam came running out of the bedroom a couple minutes later rubbing her eyes and asking who was here…
When she saw the guy selling water down the street she asked me to please kill him.

tako face


Maxie and daddy performing synchronized upper lip balancing.

This is the only photo we took of him during the period he has been afflicted with the rash from roseola. Even so, this is a couple days before the rash peaked and my anti-noise filter (Noise Ninja) actually wiped it quite effectively.
One of the only tricks I could perform as a kid was to curl my upper lip up far enough to block my nostrils. This was extremely handy when playing underwater and I considered it a kind of superpower (hey, when you’re a kid having even the lamest of supernormal abilities is pretty cool). Hopefully I can pass this great gift on to Max.