At the party I attended the other night, three out of the five people were smokers. One of the topics was why they had started smoking. One person said that he went to a barber shop run by a man in his 50s when he was growing up. The barber offered cigarettes to customers older than 20. As soon as he finished high school, the barber asked if he was going to college and offered him a cigarette. Another person said that he was working part-time at a construction site when he was in college. The people around him were regular construction workers, and they forced him to smoke.
The New Year’s vacation is over now. How did you spend it? Did you get up early and see the first sunrise of the year? I did! Did you eat any Japanese New Year’s food? I only ate rice cakes, but my students told me that they ate “datemaki” (a rolled sweet omelet), “kurikinton” (sweetened mashed sweet potatoes and chestnuts), and “zoni” (rice cakes in soup). If you were watching TV, you probably saw the Hakone Ekiden, a long-distance relay race from Tokyo to Hakone and back. I saw some highlights. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? My resolution is to read one book a week. (by Professor Douglas Jarrell)
In Japan, most Christmas trees are made of plastic. In the U.S., there are many artificial trees, but there are also many real trees. You can buy them at Christmas tree lots. A real tree cost about 50 dollars in 2015. An artificial tree cost a little more. Which is better, a real one or an artificial one? That depends. You can reuse artificial trees, but you have to throw away real ones. Real ones smell good, but plastic trees don’t have any smell. Real trees don’t use plastic, so they are probably better for the environment. If I lived in the U.S., I would buy a real tree. (by Douglas Jarrell)
How do people keep warm in winter? Many people wear coats, but coats can be inconvenient when you travel by car. You have to take them off when you get in and put them on again when you get out. That’s why many businessmen wear vests under their suit jackets. These days, there are thin vests that are very warm because they are made of down (duck feathers). There is also electric clothing for people who are active outdoors. I met someone who was wearing an electric top (like a thin sweater). It was powered with a battery. He really liked it because it kept him very warm. (by Douglas Jarrell)