Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Yellow Sand

My mother-in-law came back home from the hospital today. Actually, I drove down to Tokyo and picked her up. The doctors at that small but famous gastrointestinal specialist hospital still insist that her recent problems have less to do with any worsening of her cancer than her attitude. Attitude was definitely something she had plenty of. Her leaving the hospital was by her own insistence, mainly for the stated reason that she was sick to death of hospital food and wanted some "real" meals.

Anyway, I had to go to Ye Olde Academy for a little while in the morning because my grade was hosting a guest lecturer whose presentation was open to the public. Donning a suit and tie for the first time in ages (not counting stage performances), I helped usher in the guests. Once that was done I rushed home, changed, loaded up my BLUE RAV4 together with my son and my father-in-law, and set my course southwest.

There was a nasty west wind blowing the whole time. My BLUE RAV4 has a high profile and isn't particularly heavy, so it's a bit sensitive to crosswinds. That made driving tricky at times, so I kept my speed down to a nice, easy cruise in fortunately light traffic. That wasn't the worst of it. You see, every winter when the wind blows from the west we get a nice gift from the Gobi Desert. When we left Namegata and got on the expressway there was just a faint, brownish tint on the horizon. When we got to Tokyo, however, the city was virtually gone. About all we could see as we crossed the Rainbow Bridge was a wall of filthy ochre.

(Image borrowed from The Times Online, but this was very much the sight that greeted us.)

Traffic was eerily light today, so even at a leisurely pace we made it to the hospital in record time (about an hour instead of the usual two and a half). MIL was still in the middle of her last I.V., however, so we hung around for a bit...and patiently endured her whining. Meanwhile the wind picked up even more. When I started taking her luggage out to the car there wasn't as much sand suspended in the air, but the wind-driven dust was murder on my face and especially in my eyes. I could barely see as I loaded up the car. The wind was shrieking when we finally got MIL into the car and headed out into the Tokyo streets...

...and found them backed up. We proceeded at a snail's crawl for about a block and around a corner until we found the cause. The wind had torn a whole, massive sign post off of a building together with several signs and some of the bricks from the wall and deposited the mass right in the middle of my side of a very busy intersection. The police were in the process of giving up trying to reroute traffic. I was in the inside lane, and suddenly the line of cars in the outside lane all started U-turning right in front of me, cutting me off and trapping me. I remained stuck there, cursing crowded city life and human beings in general, for a number of minutes until a police officer finally stepped in, made the assholes people in the other lane stop, and waved me through so I could make my own U-turn. I then headed into totally unfamiliar territory, thankful as could be that I had Ms. Navi to guide me to another expressway on-ramp.

By now the wind had subsided, the yellow sand had gone, and we had a beautiful view going back across the Rainbow Bridge. It was easy driving all the way home. MIL was thankful to be back and overjoyed to find that my wife and daughter had spent all day cleaning her house in preparation for her arrival. (Considering my in-laws NEVER clean their house, it had been a frightening task!) Unfortunately, MIL didn't hesitate to show the attitude we're probably going to have to deal with for some time. She told my wife what she wanted for dinner, changed her mind after my wife had already gone to the store and bought it, and then, after my wife had gone back to the store to get the requested item and spent more than an hour preparing it, she started moaning about her stomach and refused to eat a bite. Needless to say, my wife was less than thrilled. We know full well that MIL's problems have far more to do with her state of mind than her state of body, so she's probably not going to get much sympathy.

And now the wind is shrieking outside. But that's okay; Japanese and Chinese researchers are apparently saying that the yellow sand helps combat global warming. What's a little damaged car finish and respiratory illness among friends? }:-P

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A New One for the Weirdness Book

Last night I had a truly bizarre and troubling nightmare. I dreamed that my wife had left me and married someone else, taking the kids with her, but her new husband had freaked out and attacked them before disappearing. Both of the kids had been beaten to death, and my wife was seriously injured. I was cooperating with investigators in trying to piece together just what had happened. I recall that we found the new husband had been drunk and had caused some kind of accident (If I remember correctly, he'd rammed a bridge with a yacht he'd been piloting, wrecking them both and killing lots of people), but he'd tried to cover it up. Apparently the kids had then reported him to the police. Feeling betrayed and also trying to blame them for the accident, the new husband had then flown into a rage and tortured the two kids before beating them to death with a tire iron. When my wife had come home from work after that and had seen what had happened, he'd beaten her unconscious with a frying pan. He had then run off.

I was told that investigators had pieced together most of what had happened and had even located the felon, but they didn't want to tell me all the details for some reason and became strangely hesitant to speak to me at all. Then my wife, who had survived, said she wanted us to get back together again. I was happy about that, but then something strange happened. I went back to my apartment to find a group of women living there...and it looked like they had been there for some time. My arrival interrupted a party, and my demands for an explanation only elicited a warning that the police would be called if I didn't leave immediately. That was when a massive, whiskery man reminding me of Hagrid in Harry Potter suddenly appeared and told me to go with him if I valued my life. Getting in his car, I was taken to a large cabin up in the mountains. There was a really strange group of people living there, basically goths, mystics, and eccentric artist types, and they told me I'd have to stay with them for a while for my own safety.

That was when I woke 4:30 a.m.. But that was also when the real weirdness started.

I'd been wearing an antihistamine mask to help me breathe, since I've been fighting a cold. I figured that was what had caused the dream, so I sat up and took the mask off. That's when I heard my name called.

I'm serious. It was plain as day, clear as a bell. No mistake about it. A voice said my name. It sounded very much like my wife's voice, but I knew it couldn't be. Recently, because she gets up earlier than I do (and has been rather stressed out and unmotivated lately), my wife has tended to spend her working weeknights sleeping downstairs on the sofa. Last night was no different. I even got up and went downstairs to double-check. Sure enough, my wife was downstairs on the sofa, peacefully snoring.

All along I had a nagging feeling like I was being watched.

It was still only about 4:30 a.m., so I decided to make a quick pit stop and go back upstairs to bed. When I went into the bathroom, however, R2-Dtoilet immediately started malfunctioning in a way I've never seen before. The lid raised when I walked in, as it's supposed to, and the music started playing, but then it suddenly closed and went silent again. It did that twice before finally settling into the open position. Then, when I raised the seat, it suddenly went into a manually-triggered cleaning cycle. I waited for the thing to stop tweaking on me and calm down. Then I did my thing and got out of there.

R2-Dtoilet dutifully flushed itself, closed its lid, and went into the deodorizing cycle. But then, as soon as I stepped out of the bathroom, the lid suddenly raised and the music started playing again. A few seconds later it flushed and went into the deodorizing cycle again. That is odd. It should only do that if someone is standing in front of it.

I washed up and went back to bed with definite haste. The feeling that I was being watched was gone, though, and nothing unusual happened after that.

Who was in there with me?

The Greatest Eyes in the Oce....OUCH!!!!

Japan is proud of her five Aegis destroyers, and rightly so. Based on the U.S. Arleigh Burke class, they are among the most sophisticated and capable military (er, sorry...non-military) vessels in the world. With their highly advanced detection and scanning equipment they can locate, identify, and track multiple targets on or under the surface of the ocean or in the air as well as guide weapons to them.

However, as it turns out, they may not be so good at spotting small vessels under their very noses.

JDS Atago. This image as well as many other excellent views of the ship may be found on this Chosun website. Note that it is a Korean-language site.

JDS Atago is the first vessel and namesake of the brand-new Atago class. An improvement over the four-vessel Kongo class, she is currently the only one of her kind and will remain so until her sister ship, the Ashigara, enters service next month. She is less than a year old and, though commissioned, is still very much in the process of being broken in. Last November she headed off to Hawaii for a few months of live-fire exercises involving her SM-2 missile launchers. The exercises had been completed, and she was returning to her home port in Japan.

Apparently, while powering toward Tokyo Bay late at night, she failed to notice the Seitoku Maru, a small fishing boat. The Aegis destroyer came out of it with only a few scars. The fishing boat, however, was sheared in half, and its two crew members are still missing.

There are many international laws in place, most of them ancient, to help ships at sea avoid colliding. Japan has also added a few additional rules to account for local conditions. Basically, ships approaching each other at night are supposed to take note of the color and position of the running lights of the other vessel and adjust course so that they always pass on the right. One exception, however, is operating fishing vessels; since adjusting course could affect their catch, they are given automatic right of way. Apparently the officer on bridge duty on the Atago failed to realize that and just assumed any smaller craft in the area would get out of his path. At the same time, however, it has also been suggested, though not officially admitted, that the fishing boat may not have had its lights on. After all, other fishing vessels in the area apparently radioed in that they could see a military vessel (i.e. the Atago) approaching, but no one knew the position of the Seitoku Maru until after the collision. At the very least, the officer of the watch on Atago insists they never saw the smaller vessel until they were virtually on top of it, and by then it was too late.

Even more mind-boggling, apparently the Atago didn't report the accident to the Japanese Coast Guard (JCG) until some fifteen minutes had passed. The Defense Ministry wasn't notified until almost two hours later. Needless to say, the captain has a lot of explaining to do.

I guess the bottom line is that, no matter how sophisticated the equipment at one's disposal, it's still no better than the judgment of the person or persons using it. Human fallibility is still human fallibility. I only hope Al Qaeda isn't taking notes...

Monday, February 18, 2008

This Is Plain Discrimination

I was happy when my little Neochat box finally reappeared on this blog after several months' absence due to "lack of server space". However, some of the comments I was getting weren't making a bit of sense. People kept talking about those silly, dancing bananas that had always been a (nauseatingly) regular feature of the box, but yet there were no images. All this time I just assumed that people were pulling my leg.

But then I made a discovery.

The animated emoticons, including the dancing bananas, work just fine when I view this site using Internet Explorer. However, if I view it in Firefox, as I always do here at home, then the emoticons are gone. I mean, there is no sign of them, even in the tool bar. Does that mean that the emoticons are restricted to servants of the Empire?

That sucks...

Friday, February 15, 2008

How Sweet It Is

Another year, another Valentine's Day...

I repeat this every year, but for the sake of those who are new to this site and don't know much about Japan, here in the Land of the Rising Sun Valentine's Day is celebrated by girls' giving chocolate to boys. The boys then reciprocate on the corporate-contrived festive day known as "White Day" (March 14th) by giving candy or lacy lingerie to the girls. Yes, it's both consumerist and sexist, but it's kind of fun.

Most if not all of the public schools in my area have banned the practice of Valentine's Day gift-giving, at least on campus. However, Ye Olde Academy, being a private school, doesn't have such restrictions. The amount of chocolate I get serves as a sort of barometer of my current popularity, though it's rarely what I expect. Last year I seemed to be getting along with the students really well, and I got almost nothing. This year my relationship with the students has seemed a bit on the iffy side, but I got enough to fill my briefcase! Nothing from any of my coworkers, though...except a healthy dose of ice from certain individuals.

As usual, my family was very good to me. I only hope my waistline doesn't force me to replace all my trousers again.

In other news:

There have been many points of contention between Japan and China. Things such as disputed ownership of uninhabited rocks in the ocean (which probably sit over major gas fields), the content of Japanese history textbooks, Chinese military deployments, and trade disputes have helped keep a certain amount of tension between the two nations. However, the latest sticking point is...

...gyoza (known as jiaozi in China).

It seems that, as China has both industrialized and commercialized, an unexpected problem has developed. Government control in China isn't anywhere near as centralized as we'd probably believe. The fact is that, though Beijing sets official policy, how (and if) that policy is implemented and enforced is entirely up to local officials. There are many areas of the country that are virtually autonomous. The rapid growth of big business in China has led to the development of a new class of rich and powerful entrepreneurs. Some of them have learned that it is a simple matter to cozy up to bureaucrats in the more remote, rural parts of the country and turn them into corporate feudal states. The result is industry built on ultra-cheap property, immune from government control, and run more or less by slave labor. I think you can guess what that means.

The overwhelming majority of tainted Chinese product scandals in the U.S., Japan, and elsewhere can be traced to these remote "serf factory-states". The Chinese government itself has said so, and though it is trying to crack down on such things it is a decidedly uphill battle. And unfortunately, it has also put a blight on the reputation of Chinese industry that may take a long time to heal.

Consider the latest incident. Apparently frozen gyoza made by one factory in China and imported by a subsidiary of Japan Tobacco, inc. was tainted with a type of organic pesticide that is illegal in both Japan and the U.S.. It was determined that the toxin was originally in the packaging rather than the gyoza itself, i.e. it was probably sprayed on the bags, but it apparently leaked through. It was also discovered that some (but not all) of the bags of contaminated gyoza had small puncture holes in them, leading some to speculate it was deliberate sabotage.

Investigations showed that only a few dozen packages, all part of the same batch manufactured and shipped the same day, had been contaminated. The government also concluded that only ten people in three families had been poisoned by the gyoza, none of them seriously. However, at the peak of the resulting wave of hysteria it was reported that hundreds had been sickened all over the country. There was even a quickly-refuted report of a death. Basically, anybody that ate imported Chinese gyoza and then felt ill after hearing the news (most likely due to hysteria) went to the hospital claiming to have been poisoned.

Then, of course, there was the media reaction. The gyoza case has been headlining the news every day for more than a week. Chinese products in general have been under attack. China itself has been subjected to increasingly bile-dripping criticism. Even Chinese restaurants and famous chinatown districts have seen both a sharp drop in their clientele and vitriolic attacks from disgruntled fear-mongers. On the other hand, both the Chinese government and the main Chinese media sources have been both very rational and very cooperative about the whole affair, but, perhaps inevitably, some local Chinese media sources are accusing Japan of having staged the attack to vilify China. A lot of similar accusations, as well as an anti-Japanese backlash, have been appearing on the internet.

You have to understand that China's industrial and mercantile capacity is enormous. It is also pervasive. A very large and still-growing percentage of the products we use in everyday life are made in China. The overwhelming majority of those products are properly made and perfectly safe. It is ridiculous to try to embark on some anti-Chinese hate campaign and insist on boycotting all Chinese products on account of one contaminated batch of frozen food or a few lines of toys painted with lead paint. That's like going on a hate campaign against water because the swig you took from a rusty rest room faucet tasted bad. It just doesn't make sense. Unfortunately, human nature often doesn't make sense, and I've been hearing an awful lot of pure stupidity coming from the people around me.

General Update (tikatikatikatikatika...)
My mother-in-law is still in the hospital, but will be coming home soon. The doctors said she was well enough to leave several days ago, but she was too demoralized to move. Now she says she's sick of hospital food and wants to eat "real" food. That is great news, though it also means my poor wife will be under even more pressure. I guess it's up to me to support everyone as much as possible...and not go insane in the process.

Otherwise, the kids are fine, the cats are fine, the good students are getting better, the not-so-good students are getting worse, the workplace politics are getting even more annoying, but the school year is very near it's end, so it just doesn't matter...for the time being. And there's still my music and my writing to keep me distracted, so I guess it's all okay.

P.S. Blogger tried VERY hard to eat this post, but I sensed trouble and used a backup. Ha ha ha ha ha, you FAILED!!!!!!!!

And now a poem:

How is it that a simple desk can be
An enigmatic thing like a black hole?
A force is there, so strong, though one can't see,
That somehow swallows vital papers whole.
Your memo I did not misplace!
It's somewhere hyperspace...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Gong Xi Fa Chai!

I just looked at the Star Wars calendar (one of my birthday presents last January) on the wall next to this computer and realized that today is the Chinese New Year! I guess the Year of the Rat has now really, truly begun.

Best seasonal wishes to all, and especially to my many wonderful Chinese friends...not one of whom lives in China (unless you count either Macao or Taiwan)...

(picture courtesy of

My Father Is With Grass(...?)

Actually, I think the student who wrote that really meant to say, "My father wears glasses," but it's hard to say, though. I've been having my 7th grade classes write more English compositions recently, and some of the things they write are just plain surreal. Consider the following:

"My grandfather is no hair." [THAT'S certainly a relief!]
"My mother is a house." [NOW you have a problem...]
"My uncle works in a dentist." [I'd hate to see the poor dentist...or does your uncle have a shrink-ray?]
"My little brother is a junior high school student. He is thirty years old." [B-b-but you're a twelve-year-old 7th grader! Is your little brother a reincarnation or a time traveler??!?]
"My brothers are a college." [Oh, really? How much do they charge for tuition? I'm afraid to ask what major courses they offer...]
"I wash my faith every morning." [Bless you, my child!]

Needless to say, I have a great time reading those compositions...except for the occasional ache in my sides.

Speaking of surreal, this has been quite a day. It basically went as follows:

6:20 a.m. - I got up feeling seriously worried. We'd had rain and even a little snowfall the night before, and it was bloody FREEZING. I was seriously afraid the rain-slicked pavement was going to freeze solid. It didn't. It actually warmed up a bit, or so it felt. Reassured, I helped my wife hang up the laundry and get breakfast ready.

7:30 a.m. - I managed to get out of the house more or less on time, something that has proven difficult recently. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a lot of people afraid of ice on the streets, so traffic was moving at a crawl. I quickly got off the main road and onto the back roads, found them beautifully empty, and managed to get to Ye Olde Academy with time to spare...for a change.
As soon as I rolled into the campus it started to of those light, pervasive, misty rains that are one of nature's ways of making you hate life. Seasoned Oregonian that I am, I didn't even bother getting out my umbrella.
The morning meeting was dominated by events surrounding the recently-deceased teacher, and the whole atmosphere was rather grim. Actually, the whole school seemed darker than usual, and it was easy to understand why.
After the morning meeting the deputy principal handed me a copy of an e-mail he'd just gotten from a school in Australia (not our existing sister-school, a different one) with an indication he wanted me to translate it for him. We'd been in contact with that school discussing the possibility of an exchange, but we hadn't heard from them for more than six months and had assumed the project was dead. Apparently it revived itself. (Zombie sister school!?!) I set to work translating the e-mail, but I was kind of confused. After all, I'd tendered my resignation from the International Committee and had been told (a bit too quickly and easily for my liking...almost as if they'd been waiting for it all along) that my resignation had been understood and accepted. Apparently not. At this point I have no idea what's going on.

My two morning classes both went better than usual.

12:40 a.m. - Wednesdays are usually only a half day for me since Saturday morning is my "training/prep time" (i.e. I'm "on call"). Most of the time I at least wait until the start of 5th period before taking off so as to avoid awkward encounters with students (or getting grabbed for some extra work). Today, however, I had an important errand to run. The English user's manual for my new Roland SonicCell had arrived at the music store in Narita, and today was a perfect chance for me to go and get it. Unfortunately, I got stuck with some important business later in the afternoon, so that meant timing was critical. As soon as my 4th period class ended, I jumped into my BLUE RAV4 and headed out. Naturally, it started raining harder as soon as I got on the Higashi Kanto Expressway headed south. That meant driving slow, making my schedule even more insanely tight than it already was.
When I'd made it as far as Taiei, about halfway to Narita, the driving rain gradually turned into driving snow. It was then that I started to wonder if going to Narita had been a seriously bad idea. Fortunately, the snow didn't accumulate.

1:30 p.m. - Even with the snow and fraying nerves, I managed to get to the Aeon Shopping Mall in Narita in reasonable time. I went straight to the music store and asked about my order.
It took a while for the young woman at the counter to get her act together, but when she did I found I'd been given good service by that shop yet again. Roland has always been really good about making English-language manuals easily obtainable for its products, but they also charge extra for them. I know this because I've ordered such things from them before. However, this time I was given a loose-leaf, ring-note copy of the English manual for free! That was bizarre, and I can only think that it was a sample copy the shop had had lying around in its back room. (Either that or they downloaded it off the internet and printed it up for me using good-quality paper and a laser printer. Roland apparently made the English version of the manual available for free download in pdf format that very day! Sneaky. When I checked their website myself the week before it was definitely NOT free!) I won't complain, though. Free is a very reasonable price. It's not the first time that shop has done something like that for me, either. I have come wanting to buy tools for my instruments only to have them hand me a spare one they had lying around and say, "Here. Keep it!" That's why I keep going to that shop.
I had hoped to do some other shopping both at the music store and a couple other shops at the mall, but mindful as I was of both the time and the snow, I decided to cut my visit short. I hopped in my car again. Even despite the still-falling snow, I didn't get far before I wound up deciding to take a not-so-little detour.

Snow on Aeon
View atop Aeon Shopping Mall looking toward Narita Temple. It's hard to see in this cellphone pic, but it was snowing at the time.

1:50 p.m. - Instead of going straight back to the Narita interchange, I headed a few kilometers further south to the sleepy town of Tomisato. Not far from the Tomisato interchange is a store called P.C. Depot, a chain of computer stores that is sadly lacking in this part of Japan. I popped in there to see if I could find anything useful I hadn't found in my local electronics shops. After a bit of stewing I picked up a copy of the latest version of "Finale" (music-writing and MIDI performance software) and a few useful widgets. Then I got back in the BLUE RAV4 and headed back to Ye Olde Academy. By now the snow had stopped, so I ignored the rain and pushed my speed a bit.

3:00 p.m. - I got back to the school and immediately went to work translating that e-mail from Australia. It wasn't long before the time came for a meeting I had to attend. You see, today was the day for the otsuya (usually translated as "wake" or "vigil" the day before the actual funeral) for the teacher that died last weekend. I was one of the teachers that had volunteered to help, and the meeting was the planning session. The meeting didn't last long, so I immediately went back and immersed myself in the translation job. With only minutes left before I was due to help with the wake, I rushed the finished translation to the deputy principal, who expressed his surprise at my quickness...and then said I hadn't really needed to do it in the first place. Apparently he'd only wanted me to read it and understand what was going on. Whatever...

5:00 p.m. - My job at the wake was directing traffic. Specifically, I was posted at the exit from a hospital parking lot that was to be borrowed for the wake. I was stationed there from 5:00 to 5:30, which was early enough that I really didn't have to do much. Mainly I just stood there shivering under my umbrella gripping one of those flickering traffic-signal flashlights. It was bloody COLD out there, and I was thankful I was told I could do it in my regular "civvies". When my relief showed up at about 5:40 I ran to my nearby BLUE RAV4, climbed into the back seat, and proceeded to change into my false tuxedo so I could attend the wake.
I'd changed into formal wear in my car before, but this time it was BLOODY COLD!!!! So was the walk to the house where the wake would be held.

5:50 p.m. - I attended the wake for the deceased coworker. Be careful with the terminology; a Japanese "wake" is nothing like its Irish counterpart. It is a very solemn affair in which each individual attendee bows before the bereaved family members and then offers a prayer and incense before the (thankfully closed) casket, which is decked out in flowers, gifts, a photo of the deceased, and the urn that his ashes will later occupy. They asked the teachers to come before the official starting time of 6:00, so there wasn't much of a wait. As it turned out, I was the last one to pay my respects before the actual wake started. It was a good thing, too; there were a LOT of guests waiting outside the house, most of them students. I threaded my way through the gathering throng, got back in my car, and went straight home.

6:45 p.m. - I forgot to throw salt over myself before going into my house. My wife had a fit. In Japan people are very squeamish about taking proper precautions to avoid being haunted or possessed. (It's probably already too late in my case, but anyway...) Luckily I'd gone no further than Tora's kitty potty box. If a spirit did latch on to me and hitch a ride into my home, I'm sure that smell drove it away! A far bigger problem was the fact that I'd come home far earlier than my family had thought, so my father-in-law was sitting at my place at the table, and there was no food for me. The situation was eventually rectified. Feeling in a strange mood, I drank sake (rice wine) with my dinner instead of my usual beer, wine, or cocktail. Sake is a bit stronger than regular wine and a lot stronger than beer. I only had one cup, but it put me right to sleep after dinner. I wound up sleeping through two of the few TV programs I actually like. Oh, well. It's not like I don't have enough other things to play with my new studio toys! :-)

What a day. What a positively surreal day. Hopefully I'll have a crack at reality over the next week or two.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Just to Feed My Moody Ego

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Sir Moody the Winsome of St Winifred by Winchelsea
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

(with thanks to San...)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

(Feeling) Down, (But Not Up) Set, Hike (ooh!)!!!!


kochi samusa [The coldness of the East Wind]
noronoro kuruma [A car creeps along]
mugon rei [A mute salute]

I can't really say that we were friends. We rarely spoke. We weren't in the same department, and we were never assigned to the same grade. His sudden loss was still a shock. True, his reputation was kind of mixed, and a lot of students made fun of him, but they always did so in an affectionate way. The fact was that he was widely loved. His habit of giving a screaming gift of kiai (life energy), karate-style, to students that had trouble solving his math problems was one of the more colorful features of life at Ye Olde Academy. Hearing that howl from down the hall in the middle of a lesson period brought both a smile and a sense that an ancient spirit was somehow dwelling within these winding corridors. Now that howl is silent as the mass of students and teachers standing in mute respect as the hearse does a slow drive-by through the campus.

Cancer is such a horrible thing.

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