Tips On Ear Popping

I suspect I will be using one of these techniques on the long flight back.
TIP FOR ALL DIVERS: Practice clearing the night before the first dive of your trip, and immediately before your first dive. It will loosen “things” up.
EAR-CLEARING TECHNIQUES
Valsalva Maneuver: The most common ear-clearing technique, this maneuver involves holdnig the nose, closing the mouth and blowing gently. This raises the pressure in the pharynx, forcing air up the Eustacian tubes into the middle ear. Avoid forcefully performing this maneuver since it can damage the inner ear.
Toynbee Maneuver: Performed by holding the nose and swallowing simultaneously. The Eustacian tubes open momentarily, allowing air to enter the middle ear. This technique will also releive reverse squeezes.
Frenzel Maneuver: This atraumatic method of adding air to the middle ear is accomplished by closing the nose, mouth and glottis voluntarily, then driving the tongue backward, which acts as a piston to compress air into the nasal cavities and through the Eustacian tubes.
Yawn and Swallow: Thrusting the lower jaw forward and slightly opening the jaw, while keeping the lips pursed around the regulator and swallowing accomplish this maneuver.
Head Tilt: Many divers find that one ear clears more easily than the other. By tilting the head so the “bad” ear points upward, the stretchig of the Eustacian tube opening may make it easier to equalize.

I Love The Onsen

I have been going quite frequently as of late. Today, I went with Joe and Azumi to an onsen in Kikuchi.
Its too bad that onsens will never catch on in America. Sitting in the sauna helps to sweat out a hangover, and to get rid of all the toxins. You can smell a night’s worth of booze leaking out of the pores, and it feels great. Sitting under a column of pounding water really drives into stiff muscles. I am lucky to live in Kumamoto, because I enjoy going to the onsen.
I also love to switch between the hot baths (or rooms) and the ice cold pool. It feels great to be uncomfortably hot, after soaking up heat for a while, and then to plunge your whole body under the cold blue shock of spring water. The marine mamalian response immediately kicks in, slowing down the heart rate, shutting the eyes closed tight, and locking a hastily drawn breath into frozen lungs. Your senses are heightened, and after sitting in the pool for a while, it starts to feel like your skin has a polar bear-thick layer of blubber underneath. Then when you return to the hot tub, the heat pierces through your body like acupuncture needles. I like to do this several times, and by the end, I am buzzing, a purer and gentler energy than Lipovitan.
The only thing that I don’t really enjoy doing is going into the electrically charged water. Some people enjoy sitting next to electrodes and getting a mild electrical shock, but it just feels like an unpleasant stim-flex machine. It is fun to see your dumbass friends see what it feels like to put body parts of their choosing close to the plates.

Good Day!

I just finished an epic sandwitch, it’s less than a week until I take off for the U.S.
and oh, by the way,
WE CAPTURED SADDAM HUSSEIN (according to the DNA tests, as of now)!!!
What a great Christmas bonus for our troops in Iraq!

Let’s Enjoy Christmas Shopping

music cues, a panicked, whiplash-inducing glance for the exit. sinking feeling of impending doom. hands stiffen, drop the can of corn nibblets and smack over ears with vice-grip of death. a futile gesture of resistance “Aaaaaaughhhhh!!! Make it stop! Must…get…away…from…Wham…”
Last Christmas I gave you my heart…
complete sense of pure unfiltered dread momentarily drowns out all sensory input and cognitive processes, auto-pilot violently, abruptly overrides manual control. interfacing, specifically and most importantly control of motor functions, is shanghaid, limited to only sensory input. bashing head against the steel extrusion of the shopping isle, chikkabwaayayayang-ing, a diving board, and canned Green Giant creamed-corn jumps down, a bludgeoning rain. this is strictly a base level reaction of the nervous system to a powerful stimulus
…And the very next day, you gave it away…
optic sensors spot the massive, carefully crafted ziggarut of bread down the lane, legs start building up speed toward the objective
…This year to save me from tears…
continuing to build up momentum… targeting system locks onto dead center of pyramid, dives in with hands tucked at side for optimal aerodynamics, flying vertical with face leading first. slightly distorted greyscale stock footage of a tomohawk missle, from its POV, converging on an iraqi bunker jacks into the optical feed and
…I’ll give it to some one special…
tactile senses slice their way to the front of the line. face feels the soft give of opaque plastic bag and 5 fat slices of japanese white bread for 1/100th of a second, followed by the unexpected solid, unyeilding corner of the green ABS plastic milk bins, the hidden foundation, braced by the L intersection of the white-washed concrete wall and freshly waxed linoleum floor. the sizzling electric fuzzy hazed crunch of nose being coerced into the nasal cavity completely drowns out the bouncy thud of the body hitting the black and white checkered linoleum
…Special!
all signals lost for an infinite, unending moment, drowning in an infinite crimson tempest of noise. slowly, easing back into control of the totaled hulk of wreckage… a wave breaks, an uncontrollable urge to go sing Wham at karaoke crashes over, and recedes just as quickly. adrenaline buzz burns away, but endorphins start to kick in… ah, Christmas in Japan has come again, the slightly muted, warm, salty, excruciating pain helps bring into focus the original objective of a visit to the supermarket: now where are those blasted chocolate-strawberry Hello Kitty Christmas cakes?

Screaming Trees

I just wrote this for my village’s newspaper. It will be interested to see what people think of it when I come back from Christmas break.
Americans are generally very impressed at the Japanese traditional arts and their complex sense of aesthetics (or they pretend to be in order to appear “cultured”). Many people marvel at how a simple tree can be transformed into a graceful, highly stylized caricature through tireless pruning, shaping, and nurturing. Ah, the bonsai tree lives a tragic life. It?s branches are endlessly broken and set, cut off and cast aside, and it?s roots are confined by a small vessel to keep it stunted as long as it lives. Can you imagine if someone constantly broke your arms and legs, or kept you in a small box (because they thought that it made you look beautiful) in order to make you look different from what you naturally should become? I think that bonsai is a beautiful form of art, and I have nothing against the practice. But what if trees can feel pain, and can suffer (which I don?t believe, after all trees and humans are completely different)? I think that they might choose death as a Christmas trees instead of life as a bonsai.
In America, the average family celebrates Christmas (Chaunakkah and Kwanzaa are for a whole different article). The tree is the most important symbol of Christmas because everyone has one in their house, and more importantly it serves as shelter for the presents. The tree is what everyone sits around on Christmas morning to open their gifts. The tree is where all of the torn wrapping paper, opened boxes, and Christmas cards sit waiting to be cleaned up. The scent of pine always reminds me of Christmas.
Usually, families go to pick out a Christmas tree from a Christmas tree farm or vendor. The characteristics of the Christmas trees are given much consideration, for example: is it the right height? Does it look good from every angle? Is it big (small) enough to fit all of the presents, or to make it look like there are a lot of presents, underneath? Is it too dry? Is it too expensive? Is it the right species of tree? Is that guy about to buy the Christmas tree that I want? These are just a few of the thoughts that we consider before making a decision. Once the decision is made, the defenseless tree is sawed down and carried home on top of the car (another good scenario to anthropomorphisize and ponder).
Inside the house, the tree is carefully groomed, placed in a stand with plenty of water, and then it is decorated. It can take up to a day to fully decorate a regular tree, in order to get it looking just right. Lights, ornaments, and streamers are hung with great care, and are constantly adjusted to make it look good from all angles (like ikebana). I feel a great sense of relief and satisfaction when we finish with the tree (or any other pain-in-the-ass activity).
So why do I think that trees would prefer to be Christmas trees instead of Bonsai? The Christmas tree dies quickly, so although its life is shorter its death is also less painful. The bonsai tree often lives a long life full of being cut, cracked, and deformed, while the Christmas tree is cut just once (and slowly dies of thirst). If you feel sad for the trees, then my suggestion is to buy a fake Christmas tree or bonsai. I don?t feel sad for the tree (because it is a tree!), but I still say ?thanks? to it for being an important part of my Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone, and have a happy New Year!

Phosphorescence

There are two types of bioluminescence that I know of. One form is created by the mixing of the chemicals luciferin and luciferase. Animals such as fireflies and anglerfish either have organs that produce luciferin and luciferase (both internally and externally) or support colonies of bioluminescent bacteria who produce these chemicals in their bodies, living in symbiosis in special organs called photophores.
The other kind is called phosphorescence. Phytoplankton, specifically dinoflagellates, use phosphorous to construct their shells and when they strike eachother, their shells emit light. I wonder if this phenomena is related to sodium particle emissions (turning a pickle into a crackling yellowish green lamp, with a load of lethal electrical current running through it).
Okay, let’s pretend we’re not nerds and get on with the story.
Two weekends ago I took a trip down to Ashikita and shared a cabin on the coastline with some friends. During the course of the night, we decided to go for a swim in the calm waters of the channel. The night was cold, but there was no wind and water was not much colder than that of the Pacific Ocean in Huntington Beach.
After contemplating the serene beauty of the moonlight rippling off of the wavelets, I led the initial solo banzai charge into the black water and belly-flopped with a Ker-Smack! An electric blue donut lived and died in a flash, circling me. Thrashing around, I was surprised to see a myriad of tiny blue lights, the same color as blue glow sticks but about the size of a grain of sand, flashing with the chaos of water within my sphere of influence. Everyone quickly joined in the melee,and the tiny dinoflagellates collectively gave off enough light to clearly see eachother underlighted by a ghostly blue. I dove beneath, and breaststroked (the best stroke of all), astounded at watching the lights illuminate my hands, arms, and even air bubbles. Someone else did this afterward, and from above it looked unreal- a fully illuminated glow-stick person doing the breaststroke. After twenty minutes the cold finally started to set in, and it was time to return to warmth brought by beer and heat of the cabins.
The next morning was as spectacular. Ashikita is a really beautiful coastal town, and there is an onsen at the top of a hill that looks over the channel. The onsen has a large panel of glass that offers a spectacular view, and there was a group of about 10 seahawks dive bombing out in front, trying to rob eachother of whatever they were eating. So, as we soaked and let the deep heat cleanse us of our weariness and hangovers, we were further invigorated by a perfect sunny/partly cloudy day and our airborne entertainment.
Being in the mountains, I really miss the sea. All of the trips that I have been on to the coast have been great, not just good. I am ready for another beach vacation right about now, as I contemplate the congealed bottle of olive oil. This weekend, I think thats where I will spend it.