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Bitu's Diary

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A Weekend Trip To Japan - By Bitu McClintock

October 12th 2008 1:12 pm
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On Friday I hurried with anticipation toward the S.S. Dutchess, flagship of the C And D Cruise Line. A long-anticipated trip to Japan was about to start at last! But in the midst of my excitement, my thoughts flew back to my people. They'd loved to travel when they could afford it, and my younger human had always wanted to go to Japan. So I hoped to bring them back something that would make them happy. On the way into my room I checked in and got the mandatory life jacket. Then when I got to my room, I found a blue kimono with silver embroidery that looked rather like long strands of underwater coral. In contrast was a white obi with a tan-colored streak that curved up on one side. I also found a pair of kitty-size geta which Japanese women wore to keep the hems of their kimonos clean as they walked along the street. After taking a nap to rest up since I'd arrived at the ship rather early, I put my kimono on and tried on the kitty-size geta. It felt strange to have something between my toes as I noticed how the straps were fastened to the geta. Since I'd never walked in geta before, I decided to practice in the hallway where I could grab onto the railings along the wall to keep my balance. When I was confident enough to make my way to the buffet which promised a variety of Japanese food, everybody could hear a "clack-clack...clack-clack" as I took one step at a time until both feet were back on the floor. I heard "oohs" and "aahs" as everybody took in my transformed look. I wasn't sure whether they were admiring my kimono or expressing surprise at finding out that my back feet were white. In any case, I got in line at the buffet and planned to load my plate with sukiyaki and chicken teriyaki. There were puzzled glances among some dogs and cats as they tried to figure out why I wouldn't touch the sushi or sashimi, though most of the cats lined up eagerly for it. How could I explain that I never went near fish, whether cooked or raw? As we made our way to the dining tables, we found pairs of chopsticks of various sizes to accommodate various sizes of paws - small chopsticks to accommodate cats and small dogs, medium-size chopsticks for medium-size dogs, and large chopsticks for large dogs. Despite the accommodation to different sizes of paws, most of the dogs and cats were finding the use of the chopsticks rather tricky. "Perhaps one of you could show us how to use chopsticks so we can feel more at ease among our Japanese hosts," suggested Natalie, the cruise director for the S.S. Dutchess. She looked around for a volunteer. I eagerly jumped at the chance to give a demonstration. "Has anybody else volunteered yet? I'm almost tempted to," I said eagerly. With a nod from Natalie, I went up to where everybody could see me give the demonstration. "Attention, everyone!" Natalie called out. "Bitu has graciously consented to give us a demonstration on how to use chopsticks!" With all eyes on me, I held up one chopstick and began, "First you hold one chopstick like a pencil." When everybody had taken a minute to try it, I held up both my chopsticks and added, "Then you hold both chopsticks like a pencil, but keep the ends together." Then I loosened my grip on the bottom chopstick slightly and let it move a bit, then I added, "Then you keep the top chopstick still while you let the bottom one move a little so you can pick up a piece of food." Then I dipped my chopsticks into a nearby plate of food and added, "Then you pick up a piece of food, making sure you have a chopstick on each side." I held up my chopsticks and turned my paw this way and that to show the piece of food being held by a chopstick on each side. Then I lowered the chopsticks to my mouth, ate the piece of food I'd picked up and said, "Then you eat the bite of food and start all over again." As I made my way back to my table, Natalie called out, "Hey, Bitu! Excellent instructions!" They must have worked because I heard Pumpkin say, "I can use the chopsticks better now that you've shown us how, Bitu." But even with all the step-by-step instructions, some of the younger passengers were still having trouble. "It's not working, Daddy!" complained one. "It's all right, Munchkin, you kids can use a fork," Thumper said consolingly as he traded two pairs of chopsticks for forks. "I'm sure the others will understand." Then he came near my table and commented, "When my people were in South Korea, they learned that it's polite to slurp your soup." Then I added, "I've heard it's polite to slurp your noodles, too, but I don't understand it." But this was too much for Natalie to contemplate. "I couldn't possibly do that!" she exclaimed in a shocked tone. "All that would just be too rude!" I suspected that we would have seen a blush if the color of her fur would have allowed it. Some time later, we heard a voice joyfully cry out, "Guess what, everybody? She said yes!" As a murmur went around the room, Spy exclaimed, "Another engagement and we haven't even pulled out of port yet! Congratulations, you two!" Then we heard another voice say, "Well, you know what happens when we use our angel dust!" Natalie turned and cried, "Grandma! We were hoping you'd come! The trip wouldn't be the same without you!" "I wouldn't have missed this trip for anything, dear," Grandma Dutchess replied as she made herself visible. "I made a special trip from the Rainbow Bridge just to be with you." Then she disappeared from the dining area and reappeared at the buffet counter as she tried to decide what to have after coming such a long way. When dinner was over, one of the cats eagerly suggested, "Let's go have a dance!" While a number of the dogs and cats went off to dance the night away, I was hoping to get away for a while, but I had no such luck. "Hey, Bitu!" called Spinner. "How about a slow dance with me?" I danced with Spinner to oblige him. but that wasn't the kind of dance I had in mind. I was thinking more of the kind of dances more suited to a kimono. So on the way to bed I held my paw as though holding a fan and made the slow and stately steps and turns of a traditional Japanese dance while hearing traditional Japanese music in my head. I didn't care who was watching. I had fried rice for breakfast the next day, getting more practice in with my chopsticks. Then in the afternoon we went on a tour bus with Spy and Thumper both acting as guides. Knowing that we essentially had one day to see the sights, we made our tour in the Dogster and Catster version of the Magic School Bus. That way, we were able to see two castles, some gardens, and some more modern sights. Pumpkin almost missed the bus. "Sorry I'm late!" she exclaimed as she tried to catch her breath. "I got up early to see the auction at the fish market!" When we made a quick stop for food, I had just enough time to have a hamburger from a Japanese McDonald's, though I'd also hoped to have time for a bowl of noodles. "Things are becoming more Westernized here," Thumper explained. "It's termed that because we Americans are from the West, but not the West you hear about in the movies." "I know that," I replied, "but they still adapt some things to local tastes. Squid is a popular topping at Domino's Pizza in Japan." "Squid? Yucky-poo!" exclaimed Pumpkin with a grimace. "I don't even put anchovies on my pizza!" exclaimed another. "I'd just die if I had squid on my Papa John's pizza!" "If you've ever heard of calamari, that's what squid is," I tried to explain. "But I think I'd have it cooked if I had it on a pizza." One of the highlights of the tour was a stop at the statue of Hachiko, a dog famous for his loyalty to his master. "Hachiko waited at the Shibuya Station every day for his master," Spy explained. "Even after his master died, Hachiko would wait for his return. That's an example to us of true loyalty." I gazed at the characters on the front of the statue for awhile, then something clicked. "I know what the characters say on the statue!" I exclaimed eagerly. "They say 'Loyal Dog Hachiko, Male'!" Spy was duly impressed. "Has your family been to Japan before, Bitu?" he asked. "No, but my younger human took Chinese in college," I explained. "She also knew a Japanese exchange student from Nagoya when she was in high school." We even made a stop at a Japanese doughnut shop. "Well, Spy, this is your chance," I said as some of the cats and dogs got off the bus and eagerly formed a line to buy doughnuts. "You wanted to see if you could eat a doughnut with chopsticks, so go for it!" If not for his dark fur, I suspect that Spy would have blushed at being reminded of some speculation he made during the Friday night buffet. "I forgot all about that, Bitu!" he exclaimed as he remembered wondering whether he could eat a doughnut with chopsticks. "I guess I'll have to try it now!" After a drive through the rice paddies of the Japanese countryside, I somehow fell asleep and missed the last couple stops of the tour. I was so tired that I even missed the Saturday night banquet. But I was determined to go shopping and bring something home to my people. I was also hoping to see one of the legendary "beckoning cats". I found my way to the video games section of an electronics store and looked for the Japanese originals of my younger human's favorite games, knowing that they would be prize additions to her collection. I also knew that they would be played as much as the American versions of the games she already had, knowing that she liked the additional linguistic challenge. As I pondered what to get for my older human, I saw a cat batting at the air as he sat by the door of one of the shops. "What are you batting at?" I asked while trying to stay away from his paw as it swished through the air. "I'm batting away the bad luck so the good luck can come in," he explained as he continued batting the air with his paw. "More good luck will mean more prosperity." I'd found one of the legendary "beckoning cats"! "I wish I had a camera with me!" I exclaimed wistfully as he continued batting at the air. "I'd love to take your picture!" I stood there for awhile and took it all in as I tried to form a picture in my mind to take back with me. Then I knew I'd have to get something for my older human before going back. As I hurried to finish my shopping trip, I was hoping that the "beckoning cat" I saw could send some good luck my way so that someday my people would be able to see for themselves at a more leisurely pace the things I'd seen in only one day.


You Learn Something Every Day

December 30th 2008 8:51 pm
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Fun claims that their Daily Quizzes are fun and educational. I don't know how much fun they are when you miss a question, but they do live up to their educational reputation. In a question having to do with sardines, the explanation accompanying the answer said that sardines are actually young pilchard. Then it occurred to me how my older human is a fan of Bob the Builder even though it's all in reruns now. Bob's cat is named Pilchard, and my younger human never understood what it meant. Then when she helped me through some of the Fun Daily Quizzes today (I belong to eight different tournaments), a light went on in her head when she saw that pilchard are related to the sardines she's liked to snack on with olive oil, though my older human likes the kind with tomato sauce in the larger cans. Not that I care for either variety myself, but it's nice to know what Pilchard's name means now. It's too bad I can't get my groups interested in taking the daily quizzes. Are they afraid I'd beat them?


Forward To Self

January 22nd 2009 11:34 pm
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I miss getting my Catster and Dogster Group Mails since the e-mail system has been acting up. It acts up no matter which e-mail address I use. One of my friends said that somebody had to change their e-mail address three times in one day. My people can't do that. But it seems I'm not the only one needing to catch up on things. Somebody in KittyWhiskas For Catsters missed the First Anniversary speech, so I promised to try and find the screenshot I took after I had my younger human write it for me. Fortunately, she found it, converted it to jpg and trimmed off the excess around the sides. Then she sent it through the Earthlink Web Mail box to the Yahoo e-mail address which we'd hoped would solve our e-mail problems. The speech came through fine, even though it went through the Send page twice, but at least we know the Yahoo address works (so does the Earthlink one, but the outgoing mail won't work on Thunderbird. The next time our regular e-mail box opens, we're going to take a screenshot of the outgoing mail server set-up so we can get it right. But in the meantime, my friend will be able to catch up on the first anniversary speech if we know where to send it.


What a Way To Start the Year!

January 26th 2009 6:08 pm
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Though I'm not sure which millennium we're in according to the traditional Chinese calendar, today is the start of the Year of the Ox. That's a tempting proposition to me since I go absolutely nutty for roast beef. One tradition dictates that you start the year with a clean house, which is easier said than done when you consider that my people live in two separate rooms on two separate floors in a building composed of ninety apartments converted from offices where my older human used to work years ago. Then today we got the news that our cleaning man has to go back to Louisiana as a result of losing both a landlord-tenant case and his apartment, so he won't be helping us over long years as we had anticipated. Since my older human used to be a janitor when he had a job - though not during the years that the apartment building was offices - he'll have to take over where our cleaning man left off. I can only hope he can do well enough to keep the front office happy during inspection time. That isn't such good news to be starting Chinese New Year with!


Thank Goodness For the Sent Box!

March 30th 2009 9:14 pm
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Among the many groups I belong to, Pen Paws is the most interesting because of the possibility of getting postcards from all over the world. As a practical matter, I take screenshots of my address lists so they won't get lost in the shuffle of the Catster Mail. But because I seem to have mislaid one after promising a friend in England a postcard of Crater Lake, I was worried about how I might find the address again, especially since it was in the most recent list for the next round. So on a hunch I searched the Sent Box and went back a few pages. It helped that the receipt for the postcards was still around for reference so I could find the right page to look at. Then when I found what I was looking for, I took another screenshot so I wouldn't lose it again. I expect that sometime in the next few days a postcard showing Crater Lake will be on the way to England. If I could be as organized in the rest of my life as I more or less seem to be on the computer, then our building manager and the front office would be off our backs.


No Time Is a Good Time

June 10th 2009 6:52 am
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I was hoping it wouldn't happen so soon, but it has. The games we've been playing on Facebook are going up to Flash 10 and it won't run on Mac X 10.3.9 such as we have now. We'll have to get a Mac Mini next month that runs Mac X 10.5, though it means chipping in together. I was hoping we could wait a few more years, but now even three weeks will be agony. If Flash 10 recognized Motorola chips we might be all right, but it only runs on Intel chips. It beats me what's wrong with a Motorola chip since most Macs have run fine on it. But if we don't stay Mac users, I'd never be able to show my face in the Mac Kitties And Doggies Club again. But no time is a good time for such things to happen, right?


On Top At Last (At Least For a While)

September 1st 2009 6:52 pm
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I'm almost tempted to do what's known around here as a "happy dance". I finally won the monthly tournament at the Yappy Hour quiz which is the hardest of all nine tournaments I'm in. My people celebrated by giving me little pieces of some individual cheese sticks they'd boughten last week for the occasion, though I didn't care for the pepper jack cheese. It took me about a year, but I did it! I don't know when I might be so lucky again.


Finally On Top of the Doghouse

October 1st 2009 11:51 am
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Last month I won the Yappy Hour tournament for the first time. Now I've won the tournament at The Best Lil Doghouse In Dogster. Those are the hardest quizzes of all nine tournaments I'm in at Fun On top of that, I've managed to win the Yappy Hour tournament two months in a row. Move over, Snoopy Brown! Bitu McClintock is on top of the doghouse now!


Not G-Rated?

July 31st 2010 5:13 pm
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Everybody knows a nature show can't run on television without being G-rated. My younger human often watched nature shows with her folks growing up. And my people go to nature-based theatrical releases even though most of them don't draw big crowds or big bucks because of being family-oriented movies.
And now one of the tours at the C & D Cruise Lines has been censored supposedly for not being "G-rated". Was it because of the description used to introduce a form of wildlife on the Galapagos Islands? Even nature shows explain certain words as they go along that ensures the airing of the program. How politically correct do you have to be? My people protest the ban on peanut products in certain places by making a point of having something for dessert containing peanut butter when they go out to eat. Will we have to resort to similar acts to salvage the tours that have been termed informational and educational? What ever happened to the First Amendment?


Cat of the Day

December 19th 2010 8:41 am
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You've heard of being the last one to know, right? Usually it means bad news of some kind. But today I somehow found myself nominated as the Catster Cat of the Day. Friends have been congratulating me left and right, and some have even come down from the Rainbow Bridge to tell me about it. I wonder why it isn't on the front page the way it usually is. Other than that, I shouldn't complain, especially since it persuaded my people to give me a can of Fancy Feast Gravy Lovers. And thanks to all my friends who have taken time to congratulate me, though it beats me how they knew about it before I did.

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