Rules, Guidelines, and Idiots


My relationship with rules is a mixed bag. I’ve always had a rebellious streak in me, a character flaw that I blame on my late father, a chronic rule-breaker who liked to say he “didn’t play according to Hoyle.” For better or for worse, I inherited dad’s rule-breaking DNA.

And yet, as someone who once ran a factory and led a large team of employees, I understand the importance and necessity of having rules.

Hence, I am deeply conflicted.

What I really hate are stupid rules. And rules that are detrimental if blindly followed to the letter when conditions don’t apply.

A good example is the speed limit. Near my previous home in Hawaii, the speed limit of the closest highway was 45 mph even at a section of the road that was, at the time, the most dangerous intersection on the island. (Thankfully, they have since replaced it with a roundabout.) So many serious and fatal accidents occurred there over the years due to a poorly designed intersection combined with an inappropriate speed limit. Incompetence and poor judgment can be a deadly combination

So rather than blindly obey the maximum speed limit of 45 mph, I always slowed down to 30 based on the assumption that the “other guy” entering the intersection was an idiot. Saved my ass more than once.

Common sense, as uncommon as it can be, is a beautiful thing.

Truth is I am more of a guidelines kind of guy.  And yet guidelines can be just as dangerous as rules if left to the whims of idiots.

If I were king, I would impose rules on people with no common sense and leave the guidelines to the thinking people. Ah, if only I were king!

Where is this post going? Well, with Japan’s voluntary “state of emergency” officially over – and with lockdowns in the U.S. being lifted as I type this – we are already seeing the common senseless masses acting as if the Covid virus has somehow gotten the government memo and agreed to go into hibernation. How could anyone with half a brain not understand that viruses don’t follow government edicts?

Sure hope I am wrong, but the queen and I are bracing for the next wave of infections.

As the old cliché goes, I will focus on what I can control while incessantly complaining about what I can’t. (The second part of that sentence is not a cliché…yet. 😉 )

Our castle has no king, but thankfully, my queen has decreed that our family will continue to show restraint, maintain proper social distancing,  and dutifully wash our hands.

The queen has also decreed that all my readers must do the same.

Please be safe folks – don’t be a Covidiot, okay?

@ Tim Sullivan 2020

Geisha on a Bridge

As part of my ongoing quest for self-improvement during this lockdown, I’ve been trying to continuously upgrade my skills. So a few days ago, I started studying Photopea, sort of a poor-mans version of Photoshop.

Last year I photographed a cool bridge at a beautiful plum garden park here in Atami. Ever since taking this photo, I envisioned in my mind’s eye a geisha standing on it. So as part of my quest to learn Photopea, I attempted to merge a photo of a geisha with the bridge. (I also created the shadow effect, not perfect, but my first try!)

Below are just two of several versions of the edited image. One is a colored picture of the geisha with a black-and-white bridge backdrop. The other is a completely sepia version. Which one do you like best?


BaienBrdgGshaBW copy

© Tim Sullivan 2020

You USED to be Handsome, Tim!


I’ve mentioned before that whatever you can say about Japanese culture, you can also say the opposite. Sometimes opposites even come in pairs. A case in point: how Japanese can be both direct and indirect at the same time. Directly indirect? Indirectly direct? Not sure which description fits best, but here’s the story…

Yesterday morning at breakfast, Japanese mom randomly said to my wife (in front of me), “Tim was really handsome when he married you.”

Being the pain-in-the-ass American that I am, I couldn’t help but put mom on the spot: “So you’re saying that I WAS handsome, past tense? That I’m not handsome anymore?”

Mom looked me in the eye, cocked her head, and said…nothing, lololol!

And with that, my wife and I burst out laughing.

In mom’s defense, it is absolutely true that I am not handsome. Where she’s wrong is that I never was. (She used to think that all gaijin were handsome until my aging face changed her mind. ;))

Why, Oh Why, Don’t They Know? 🎶

Today we’ll take a vacation from the Intercultural Twilight Zone and journey into the world of music – my world of music.

Note that I am not by any stretch a musician, singer, or songwriter. But I do enjoy playing guitar, trying my best to sing, and occasionally I even write a song (even if it entails just a handful of chords).

When I look around the world and consider the plight and suffering of others, I’d be an ungrateful prick not to consider myself an extremely fortunate person. And yet, like all people, I’ve gone through my share of tough times. During my darkest hours, music kept me spiritually afloat. Here’s a song I wrote (lyrics included) a few years back and had the good fortune to play with some of my favorite people in the world, my “brothers-in-music,” a group of four old white dudes known as “The Smittiots.” This song was a jam, completely unrehearsed. I like how it came out.

Last comment…many people say I sound like Lou Reed. Interesting, since I like Lou Reed but never thought to emulate his style; it just happened to come out that way. (Personally, I think it sounds like me.) At any rate, enjoy!

Learning Animation Video Production While Suspended in Animation…

Been trying to use my time productively during our self-imposed lockdown. So last week I purchased an animation video production software package to acquire a new skill. My first project was to make a short commercial for the new book my friend and I wrote,「すぐに使える診療英語: Simple English for Japanese Medical Professionals.」 Let me know what you think!

© Tim Sullivan 2020

The Dangerous Japanese Beer-Pouring Ritual

The 5th installment of my video blog.

An Inspiring Japanese Concept to Get You Through Tough Times

The 4th installment of Japanese Insight’s video blog series on the art of Kikubari. Enjoy.

© Tim Sullivan 2020