Monday, July 30, 2007

土用の丑の日

Ah yes, it's my favorite holiday again:



This year, the beef industry tried to make a move on the market. I don't really see this working out for them, though:

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I Just Work Here

During a recent brown bag lunch, one of the mission's summer interns asked the CG how he handled representing and espousing government policies with which he might not necessarily agree. It's a pretty common question, and I suppose we all struggle with it (in fact, when you do visas, you are occasionally required to actually implement government laws with which you might not agree). But sometimes I wonder if the underlying assumption of the question itself is not flawed.

Why is it that we assume only those people employed by the government are responsible for the government's actions? It's a strange idea, really; you wouldn't hold the lowest ranking member of a ship responsible for the actions of its captain. In the strictest sense, I didn't choose to work for George Bush; I chose to work for America. In my capacity as a public employee, I think I'm probably the least culpable for what any administration does. Katie the visa officer is not often solicited for her opinions on policy by the powers that be.

Which brings me to the more important point: while Katie the visa officer is never asked to give input to the government, Katie the private citizen is constantly provided avenues to influence decision making in DC. The United States is a democracy; the administration is not in charge, we are! The question the intern posed to the CG ought to be a question he asks himself. It ought to be a question all Americans ask themselves. I don't wonder how I can allow myself to work for a government administration; I wonder why I allow them to keep working for me.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Plastic Torpedo Tube of Imminent Death

Is it undiplomatic of me to say that I think Japan's medical establishment sucks? Here is an actual question from a form my most recent MRI-giving hospital had me fill out before the doctor would see me:

If your condition is serious, would you like to be informed?
a. yes
b. no
c. not if it's malignant
d. please discuss things with my family instead of with me

How do people who check anything but a. on this questionnaire sleep at night?! Even if there was truly nothing wrong with you, wouldn't you always wonder whether or not the reassurance from your physician that 'you just need a little rest' was the medical equivalent of 'time to arrange your will'? I'm not sure the standard ignorance is bliss equation holds in this particular regard.

With that comforting introduction, I embarked on what was my 5th or 6th MRI; like snowflakes, each one is unique and special. This hospital's MRI tech wanted to cover me up with a blanket, and just before sliding my prone form into the machine, concluded the normal litany of instructions with "Oh, and try not to swallow." What? For 20 minutes? As my mouth filled with gag-inducing saliva and the heat of the blanket began to make my arms go numb and twitchy, I realized I was beginning to panic. Feeling I had to move some part of my body to prevent an embarrassing vomiting and/or bed-wetting scene, I opened my eyes. Very clearly I could see a set of long, parallel scratches on the 'ceiling' above me: claw marks. You know that scene from 'Silence of the Lambs' where the senator's daughter discovers a red-painted fingernail embedded in the side of the pit's rock wall..? Wow. I had to ask for a five minute break before going back in the tube for round two.

Next disease I get, it's gonna be from hard living.