To my left: Official University Anniversary International Reception, free food, free drinks.
To my right: Thunderstorm, lightning, pouring rain and… wait for it… hail (yes, it is the 16th of June and it is hailing in Kansai).

Only a dozen kilometers on bike, walk and train between the two.

Today, at a lecture centered on SNPs, the wonderful world of statistical genetics and the myriad holy wars waged amongst its main proponents, the lecturer brought up the work of Karl Pearson (of eponymous correlation coefficient’s fame).

Under all the math formulae, the slide featured a small box with Pearson’s full name, photography, dates and, in an even smaller font, this sole additional comment:

He was a marxist.

Only in Japan.

Am I the only one absolutely befuddled that a multi-billion dollar company that has had over two decades to iron out the details of its poor excuse for a enterprise-standard word processor, has never managed to come up with one single passable built-in template for business letters?

And I am not talking about their “Fantasy” or even “Elegant” letter templates, which would make my niece’s MySpace page seem sober and sophisticated by comparison. No: I am referring to their most basic, no-frills, “Business modern” template, which still manages to look like the caricature of a “don’t” example in a primer on business etiquette and communication (pro tip: the fact that your monitor has colours, and possibly so does your printer, doesn’t mean you should try to stuff the entire rainbow in your official print documents).

Time to start writing my mail with LaTeX.

When I first arrived to Tokyo, I noticed that, come the end of winter, weather forecast screens (in trains, on TV, wherever…) would start adding an extra line under the main sun/cloud/water-drop pictograms. Since the new icons usually depicted lovely little pink flowers or trees blowing in the wind, I naively assumed that this had something to do with upcoming sakura blossom (which wasn’t completely far off, considering most local newscast do have an official daily progress report around sakura season).

It is only a couple years later that I finally understood what this seasonal indicator actually referred to. The infinitely less enjoyable season of eye-puffing, nostril-irritating, headache-inducing, Japanese hay fever. The main reason behind these infamous surgical masks you see people wearing in every damn last “Nippon culture” TV reports.

However, it wasn’t until I moved to the Kansai countryside last month, that I started experiencing for myself what it might feel like. Apparently, my city-dwelling organism was sufficiently immune to Tokyo’s own brand of pollution-laden pollen to go through Kafunshō season unharmed, but much less happy about living in the middle of the woods. Woods no doubt entirely planted with deadly cypress and cedar.

If you happen to be walking in the hilly area surrounding Kyodai’s research campus in Ōbaku, these days, and spot a gaijin with puffy red eyes on the verge of tears, rest assured it does not [yet] have anything to do with feelings of sadness or elation at living more than 20 minutes away from the closest place selling proper balsamic vinegar or non-ersatz chocolate, it’s just the damn neighbouring conifers trying to copulate with my mucous membranes.

In the original Lost season, the producers had gone the cheap way and cast a rather poor Frenchwoman knock-off who could barely read her lines phonetically.

In the last season, the bunch of French castaways is actually played by real French-speaking actors. Except this time one of them has a very thick Quebecois accent (for a vague English equivalent, try to imagine something like a Californian character played with a strong accent from Ontario).