December 28, 2008


Hey, did you know this is my 993rd post? Let's hear it for wasting my time online! And yours as well, come to think of it.
Any ideas/requests for my 1000 post? Maybe I will finally start my new video series with that one... speaking of which, people on the tubes really seem to panic when one speaks in a different language. Also, I broke the viewfinder on my camera, so I need a new one of those if I ever want to take a decent picture or video again. I wonder if I could buy the parts myself...

December 25, 2008

Loney Chrimmas

Well, I guess it's Christmas. I don't have any plans for it it really. On Monday, I went to the school to give the teachers Christmas apples and they roped me into cleaning high places. But then I got to sit in on their end of year cleaning new years party thing. Then they gave me a huge thing of left over sushi and told me I had to eat it by the next morning. I did my best; right now I am trying out frying the expired sushi to see if it will kill me or not. That's how I roll. I spent the next day at a mochi-smashing event of a student, and the night at a Christmas party with some other students. At two separate events, I mentioned the waitress at each respective place was cute and so with some conspiritorial J friend help, I got two email addresses. I don't know how that will play out, but I bet I won't get any dates for me.
So tonight I will teach a group class and probably come home and remember it's Christmas again and be a little lonely.
Miss you, everyone.

December 12, 2008

Game Nanpaing

Yesterday a private student told me that I was the best teacher she has had. Let me lay out my system: Each month, I choose an article. It gets discussed on the third week, but the first week is discussion questions about the same topic, and the second week is vocabulary that comes out in the article. The last week is more discussion, and in the case of a big class, a possible debate or something.

There are two classes where I just do free talk with beginners. They are obviously not made to do articles. But I am considering starting homework, because the teacher in me can't stand to see people not make progress.
I have been stopping foreigners in the street to ask them if they game. It's not like in America where you can go to any old hobby store and get ten willing nerds, who have lots of free time because they live with their mothers, to join you just by mumbling "THAC0". I am considering going to a web sight named something like "Japan Friends" where I met people before and asking if anyone wants to polish their English via D&D. They can learn useful words like eldritch, arcane, and ichor!

This game nanpaing has netted me a couple friends (and a fridge!), so I don't regret it. It is a lot like asking a stranger for a date though, which kind of reminds me of my college days. The people on my floor in the dorms, because they were totally awesome, started "The Pimpin' Club" to build strategies to meet girls. The first assignment was to ask a girl out. I was the only one that went through with it, and the club broke up soon afterwards.

Around that time I started sitting with girls I didn't know in the cafeteria. It was so awkward, but I did get a friend out of that too. Even fell for her for a while; it changed my life. But this post is too long and pointless now, so I'll just recommend: Don't be afraid to meet people.

December 10, 2008

Anaphylactic Infringement

Hmm, the guy on my peanut cream looks familiar...

Stop Getting Poor on Me!

I am worried that as the world's economy goes down the drain, my students are going to start eyeing me and say, "do we really need this guy? Let's just have get-togethers for free." Yes, the deep, dark secret of free-lance group teaching in Japan is it is just a social event. Did anybody do the homework? Read the article? Do you study English everyday in order to actually improve? No?... Well, time's up, can you all still afford to pay me? I work hard for the money, buy some of them don't work so hard to give it to me. Oh well, their prerogative.

Speaking of financial matters, my electric bill shot up from 20 to 70 bucks. I may invest in slippers and more blankets. I thought of building my own kotatsu, but realized that as this is not much of a do it yourself nation, I would have trouble finding the heating elements on their own.

Also, I am trying to diet a bit, which means I have to cut myself off from dollar store chips. Oh, kimchee Cheetos, I will miss you so, and your cheapness most of all.

Well, all this money talk is a good enough intro to show you an article on frugal shoppers at Reuters. How they managed to spend only about 100 bucks in a month on food fascinates me.

Cute Little Nazis

Oh dear. I've blogged before about how Japanese people sometimes don't get that what they are doing is incredibly offensive, especially when it comes to the Nazi thing. I remember one time going into the "weird-cool foreign stuff" store and seeing a display of Mein Kampf complete with a flag that had a swastika, skull, and S.S. lightning bolts, as if it was just one more cool thing you could get into.
So the girls in this video, well they don't really surprise me when they show ignorance, or cheerfully do a Hitler impression at the end.
The hair pin was classic too; only a Japanese girl would think of making Hitler into another cute character.

[tanks to TokyoCooney]
EDIT: The girls had to appologize, or at least their company did.
ALSO EDIT: Here are some cute cosplay Nazi photos. What? Yeah.

December 7, 2008

It's Done, Time to Prepare for the Next One

Today the JLPT came and went, and it was worse in some areas, and easier in others, than I was expecting. Didn't pass I imagine, but as I didn't expect to, I don't feel too let down. I've seen that the Chinese intarwebs already has copies of the questions online. And let me complain that the katakana question this year was a cruel trick on us.

Anyways, how did you do? I have seen certain friends' blogs go silent or erratic in the last month or so, and I imagine the test has something to do with it. My 対策 for the next few months is to read a lot to build up my reading speed and maybe check out to get better at hearing the words I mostly already know in a written context; I am still waiting for the internet man to finally come and hook me up before I can use such a site.

December 4, 2008

Sentence of the Day: ましてや

Least of all, could it have been that my fancy, shaken from its half-slumber, had mistaken the head for that of a living person.

I didn't make this one up, ALC and Edgar Poe did. At first I was confused, but I think this is kind of like the さらに sense of まして... but it's a little odd. And Edgar, use a question mark next time. Sheesh.

Bonus note:や makes it stronger.

The American Akira (Coming 2011)

This is what would happen indeed. I think this actually a reference to the upcoming live action movie
Oh yeah, You forgot CANADA!
[tanks to Brett]

Surprise Squid

I guess I didn't look hard enough at what I was buying. I just thought, hey 2 bucks for a few octopuses. Then I found the beaks. And the extra limbs. And the tendency to pop out purple slime.
I guess even I, epicure of weird foods, can still be taken by surprise pretty regularly in this country. Raw squid is something I've somehow not had yet; it seems different from the white ones at restaurants that still move. Perhaps one is a cuttlefish and the other a squid?

Needless to say, I ended up throwing away a lot of too-gross-to-eat bits.

December 3, 2008

Life is Good in Japan

As I walk down to the little market (such cheap food!) I encounter many little treasures. An old woman with a poodle in a baby satchel on her back. Two other dogs of a breed I forget (boxer?) that go crazy when they see me. My little clothes washing place. A small garden/tea house. The woman comes out, wondering if I am a customer. "Oh, it's just that it's beautiful, so..." I say bashfully. I notice on my way back that there is a small basin out in front of the soba shop, and little silver fish are swimming within.
A simple walk to get a drink, and all these reminders: I'm glad I moved here.

Stray Cat

It hasn't come back

December 1, 2008

Umeboshi-tuna Sandwich (Weird Japanese Foods Series)

Just so you know, I totally fixed the spelling errors 30 seconds after I posted the previous entry, but for whatever reason it didn't take. I'm just saying, I may not be able to spell, but give me credit for using a spellchecker!

Well, I Can Still Laugh at Least

The results of the last school-run fake test are in, and unsurprisingly, I am not going to pass this year. I am getting between 50 and 60 percent on everything. My American upbringing wants to call this total failure (though an "F" still passes 2kyu), but I do have to concede, well, I came this far at least.

If I can't pass during the special test session in July, I will be bummed. I wish I had gone for 2kyu this year, having been in the 2kyu-1kyu class for the last few months, I know I could pass it without any problems, and at least have that on my record, but I had to make the decision on which to take very shortly after coming, and was foolishly optimistic at the time to boot. There is just so much in 1kyu: Kanji, synonyms, homonyms, spoken language, written language, nuance, trick questions (I'm looking at you, listening test) etc. Too much for me.

Anyhoo, perhaps unwisely, but then again, perhaps to some effect, I often have some Japanese shows playing in a little window while I study. Lately it has been Jubei Chan 2, Gyagu Manga Biyori, and what ever movies* I pop in to spice it up, all on infinite loop. I think it may be good listening practice; I am picking up more things all the time that I didn't notice before.
But recently, because it came with a friend's USB drive which he sold me, I watched Age of Heroes. Some pretty CG visuals, great intro song, but the queen or whatever she is, has a bit of a wardrobe issue for me:
Those spikes are... And your henchman's eyes are way too small for his face...
and she is not the only one. Hey lady, you are, uh, missing something...
You may have to zoom...

In the end of the series, the leader woman finally changes outfits, but...
Overall, kinda teh suck anime. I want to make a list of anime that are good for people not into anime (I could arguably be such people), so maybe in a future post you will see that.
*The Keep and The Flight of Dragons both seem to be movies I can watch repeatedly, I think because the voice of James Earl Jones and the synthesizers of Tangerine Dream auditorily sooth me.

November 26, 2008


My friend has PDA device with a slick dictionary program. He can transfer files to his computer and auto-generate ANKI cards and he wants with it. He can also save words in various lists, one of which is called HARD MOFOs.
I have my own list kind of like this, made of my daily class mistakes, which I will blog about more in the future, but have mentioned a couple of times recently. There are many words that I have no problem with after input, and they are easily recalled when they show up. Then there are the sticklers. Really basic words that have been haunting me for as long as I have studied Japanese (about 3.5 years now). They show up every day in the deck. Sometimes I finally get over them with Heisig mnemonics (I remember things better when I have the kanji down) or other odd memory stories.
Alex shared some good ideas lately. I find his sentence thing works well, when I have the time to do it.

November 25, 2008

Guy Punished by Company, Has to Apologize at a Train Station

I am having a hard time hearing it here (I am in the school computer lab once again), but I gather that this guy was late to work ("I overslept" he admits), so he was ordered to go to a train station, get permission to apologize in public from the station attendants, and then loudly proclaim what was wrong with what he did.
I can imagine the conversation with the train attendant.
"You want to what now?"
"I need to do a public apology."
"For being late to work."
"Huh. Knock yourself out. I'll be over here, snickering, if you need me again."

November 23, 2008

When Fan Collaboration Goes Bad

There are many great fan works out there. But for ever one of those, there are ten works on*. Recently I ran across some a PDF of Spelljammer D&D characters converted to 3rd edition by fans. And then I knew I had to share the pictures...

Look out! Space crocodiles love to feast on those who have nonchalant poses!

Prepare to fight!

One distinguishing feature of the colossus race is their tendency to leave their pants unbuttoned to show off their waxed abs.

Click to zoom if you dare.
*Yes, I am indicating that everything on is bad.

November 22, 2008

Sentence of the Day

One possible translation:
While pounding mochi in a loincloth, I regrettably showed off my milky-smooth skin to everybody.

November 19, 2008

The Scottish Play Becomes The Japanese Play

Note on the title: It is bad luck for actors to mention the play MacBeth by name, so "The Scottish Play" is what they use instead. People who have perused my wishlist may have noticed that I like the Immortal Bard, and I have fond memories of seeing Romeo and Juliet adapted to an early American Spanish colony setting, so I was happy to hear that MacBeth has gotten the Japanese treatment:

All of the story and most of the original language are present, although John R. Briggs' adaptation throws in generous amounts of Japanese references that prove only occasionally jarring. (A handy glossary of words and place names is provided in the program.)

The three witches have thus become three "yojos," whose incantations are delivered in kabuki-like fashion. And when Shogun Macbeth (Kaipo Schwab) sends his assassins to murder Banquo (Ariel Estrada), they are, of course, samurai warriors.

Pretty cool. More info at the original article. Also, info on the theater/production group here.

[via One Big Japan]

So, about those decks

A couple people have pointed out recently that old decks I was offering were no longer online. Hosting services have a tendency to drop content if long periods go between downloads. I was going to upload again, but the thought struck me, and I have to say the thought has a valid point, that it is best to make flashcards your own. So, I am going to have to ask you to go here if you need a basic deck with all the JLPT words you need, and then customize it yourself.

Besides that issue, my decks are increasingly filled with my individualistic shorthand, especially now that I have switched to just studying the mistakes/words I didn't know in all my schoolwork. And what I don't know is quite a lot! I made this video, where I mentioned making 800 cards in one week. It has doubled since then. A large part of my cards go like this: "~ r". This means I just wanted to study the reading/spelling. Others go "f ~" or "~ f", which are questions about what usually goes in front, or follows a specific word, grammar point, or phrase. I also do "~ nu" to indicate that I just need the nuance of something, usually a grammar point. I haven't used my JLPT decks in weeks; they were just getting in the way of what I really need to study, i.e. my mistakes and sticky points.

So in conclusion, make a deck that works for you.

November 13, 2008

Operating Without a Brain

It's probably painfully obvious to you readers, but my brain doesn't work anymore. Since I came here, I've noticed my mind wanders at the slightest provocation, often into reminiscence land. This is a bit of a problem during the daily listening schoolwork. Also of late, I ran a few games of D&D and noticed that my brain could not recall ongoing conditions of the game (for which the players were not happy). Also, my simple subtraction speed is down; maybe I need to get a hold of Brain Training DS again.

As for my job, I've noticed my odd tendency to write the end of a word's letters before they are supposed to come has only gotten worse. This is quite annoying, as I am constantly erasing what I wrote a second before while the students look at me and probably roll their eyes. Do we pay this guy? Oddly enough, this writing problem doesn't extend to when I am typing, but in any case I think it is related to my concentration problem. I am not living in the now when I write; I am living in the future of the words and sentences.

The only thing I do seem to remember is Japanese (perhaps my brain has shifted all of its priorities to language acquisition), but like I said, those listening tests are worrying me. I think my mind may wander during the actual JLPT.

I'm going to try to find some ginkgo biloba and see if that helps my concentration and memory. Also, I have to give meditation a more serious try. I do it occasionally on the train when I have nothing else to do, but I think I need to make a point to do it each morning. For that matter, I need to bite the bullet and wake up around and hour earlier than I have been. The world is never going to adjust to my circadian rhythms.

Speaking of the brain and sleep, I recently heard on the Sixty Second Science podcast that our brains shut down in stages, and neuron clusters give up when they have worked hard. This may explain why reading Japanese makes me so sleepy. It may also explain why I am so groggy in the mornings; only part of me is awake, and begrudgingly at that. This morning, I tried something to wake up. I started counting to wake up a few extra brain cells. Then I started singing to wake up another section. Oddly enough, I chose the The Sound of Music song.

You know, I can't remember what comes after "Tea, a drink with jam and bread..." But I did wake up.

Weird Japanese Foods #2 Kouraikoujin

After drinking this, I lost all hair on my body.

November 10, 2008

Oh yeah

Occasionally, I will look around my surroundings and realize that I am the only white person in the room, and on top of that, a fairly stereotypical blond-haired blue-eyed one at that. It's a weird sensation, this remembering I'm a little different business, but it passes after a few seconds...

In other situations, I have started to feel that maybe I am blending in a little too well. Recently, I went to an izakaya and had the odd experience of being called onii-san (brother/mister) by a fellow customer. Then I was almost ignored when I got on the karaoke. What, no Oh! Look at what the foreigner can do!s? Outside of the usual interview,* and the master's fake American accent used to talk to me, I almost felt like one of the gang.

One of the reasons I had an interest in Japan is that I thought it was a country for and of quiet people, but that is another post.
* the interview: Where are you from? No, I mean which country? What part of America? I've never heard of that state, where is it? What? How do you say it? How long in Japan? Do you teach English? What do you think of Japanese girls? How's your sex life? Please give details. Do you know a foreigner I met 5 years back in Hokkaido? Do you speak Japanese? It's hard, don't you think?

If I am missing any, make a comment.

November 9, 2008

Asobi Seksu

Everyone who is down with romaji probably thinks this is going to be a scandalous post, but let me assure you, Asobi Seksu is merely the name of a really great band whose singer does both English and Japanese lyrics. I thought I would introduce them to you, so here is a video to that effect (actually just a fan video, but the song is golden):

November 6, 2008

Yes We Can

I want to come out with a message of support for our new president. I admire people with vision, as you may have been able to ascertain from my obsession with romanticism. I have never found Obama's words to have any hint of patronizing attitude nor condescension; he will work to make the USA better, and so should all its citizens.

If you haven't seen it yet, here his victory speech, complete with a transcription.

I am proud to be an American.

November 5, 2008

Rude-Polite Language

I've been watching Gyagu Manga Biyori a lot lately; It's fun to have in the corner of the screen while I study.
I've found the language in this episode pretty interesting; I started to notice that the rude disciple always uses "polite" language, while the master says things using sometimes rude terms, yet in a tone rather weak and beaten-sounding. I guess more than politeness, their language reflects their standing in relation to each other.

Anyways, you may recall my theory that in the future all keigo will become sarcastically used. Also of interest is the scene in Battle Royal when the girls realize that a poisoner is among them and their language goes from polite/casual to gangster in the space of a minute.

November 4, 2008

A couple new series

Here's life in Japan:

And my other new series, where I try strange new foods:

My Japanese is worse than I though; realized that as I watched it. Oh well.

October 31, 2008

Okay, that was Stupid/Nostalgia Vid

There were many little annoyances with the whole "I'm gonna be doing only Japanese for a month" thing. Actually, the talking is still good. But I have to communicate with people, and a lot of my readers just aren't down with it. I had people trying to read and comment using machine translators. Ug. And there were many times where I was like, that story won't be as good in Japanese. Many people tried to correct my Japanese, and while I appreciate it in a sense, it's not the kind of comment a post should generate in a blog setting. So, Japanese posts may come sporadically from here on out, but really, Lang-8 is where I will turn to for corrections.
Also, let me put this out there again: my links are almost all powered by Google Reader tags. If I tag something as "Japanese Bloggers" for my own benefit when reading, it automatically goes up in the sidebar too. If I stop reading, the link goes away immediately. I mention this because some people actually miss getting 1 hit from me a month. But I gotta stress, don't take links personally, especially when I am not actually going to the trouble of linking to you by hand, as it were, in the first place.
Here are I rub your brog and Tokyo Cowgirl. I stopped reading for whatever reason, but you may enjoy them. In fact, you probably will.
Here's me on youtube again. Obviously I had to use English for this too, but I have a Japanese video coming up for you to feel better with, in the sense that anyone who hears my Japanese feels a smug sense of superiority by comparison, even if they've never spoken a word of it.

October 23, 2008

Only Japanese from here on out

Yesterday we had a mock 1kyu test. I was not happy, mostly due to the fact that I have the supernatural ability to hear a dog lick itself five blocks away when I am trying to listen to the test. Anyways, if I want even a meager prayer of passing, I've got to give up English for a while. So consider yourself forewarned and forealienated.

October 21, 2008


Hey I have some rare pirated internet time, so I'll tell you how I broke the law yesterday.

I was arriving at the station on my bike when a young, trendy looking man approached me. I thought I was gonna get ganpaed*. "Excuse me, police," he said (in Japanese). I thought he was mad that I was parking next to the station, but he was suspicious because A) I was a foreigner (no this is not an incident I mentioned on Alex's blog), and B) had a modified lock, instead of the cheap one the bike comes with. The bike was legit, but for about the first time in all the time I've been here, I actually didn't have my ID on me (I've recently switched backpacks, so the cards slipped my mind). It is illegal to be without a passport or foreign person card here, or so they reminded me. Because... well I don't really know why. Like, even if I was, say, over my visa limit, would I really be stealing jobs from hard working natives? The only thing I can really do here is teach English. They actually discriminate against foreign day laborers here. On the way to get the ID, we passed a couple of minors smoking (and riding double on a bike while using a cellphone). This, I think, is an actual crime**, but he let them go because he had me, the big fish.
Anyways, I sorted that out pretty quick, and the guy was polite enough about it. But there is one more illegal thing I am doing: I am so poor that I have not yet bought medical insurance. I'm wondering if I will get kicked out of this country one day for that. Maybe there is a plain-clothes reader waiting to bust me for that... and one count of pirated internet signal.

*ganpa: gay nanpa. Or gay grandpa. Or gay grandpa nanpa. I have no idea if such nanpaing actually exists.
**: I think he may have called in the fashion police to deal with their yankee hair though, which is a crime in itself.

October 14, 2008

Creating a Story Primitive

As I said before, I want to create a primitive together with you, the reader. What? No readers? Well I'll push on anyways. So, as far as I've looked, Heiseg never assigned a primitive mnemonic keyword for 品 over 木, as in the following kanji I generated thanks to the previously blogged super tool that is JEDict:

髞 譟 躁 藻 燥 操 噪 懆 澡
髞 (高) ソウ, N: たかし hurry, high
譟 (言) ソウ, さわ.ぐ shout, be noisy
躁 (足) ソウ, さわ.ぐ noisy
藻 (艾) ソウ, も seaweed, duckweed
燥 (火) ソウ, はしゃ.ぐ parch, dry up
操 (才) ソウ, サン, みさお, あやつ.る, N: さお, みさ maneuver, manipulate, operate, steer, chastity, virginity, fidelity
噪 (口) ソウ, さわ.ぐ be noisy
懆 (心) ソウ unease
澡 (水) ソウ, あら.う wash

So as you can see, this "product over tree" primitive always provides an on'yomi of ソウ. This has tempted me thus far to try to call it "SOme things", so I could get the reading in there too. But I also noticed while looking at the list that loudness may be a good meaning to get in there somehow. So, if you can rise to the challenge, please leave your idea in the comments: what can we call this primitive? Wild images are good too; I've been thinking about a loud tree with many mouths (product=three mouths), but what would we call it?.

October 8, 2008

How the Blogger Party Did Go: a Love Story

Sorry, I dids make the mistakes when auto-scheduling this post. Here it finally is. You can stop cutting your wrist.

October 7, 2008

Heisig-Anki Mashup and One More Really Good Tool

The desktop of a Japanese-studyaholic.
Non-Japanese studiers, my apologies. Hey, we'll have a youtube video up for you tomorrow to satisify your watch-Clay-be-dumb needs. But right now I need to show my ignorance to the world in my usual linguistic-related manner...
I've become a big supporter of the Heisig method recently. I have a friend here at the school that complains it is too late to try the Heisig meathod. But I've found it to not be a problem to throw away my old mnemonics, or keep them, depending on how useful they are. It's quite easy. There are plenty of little things that I don't agree with about the books (mostly the adherence to Jyouyou of the first book, but occasionally mnemonic-wise too), but overall I find his methods to be best for memorizing, differentiating and being able to actually write kanji by hand. For instance, take 又, the kanji for "again". Now, conventional mnemonic making wisdom would have us use it as "again" in other kanjis and try to make our stories that way. But Heisig came up with a clever thing: he gives lots of kanji a different meaning when they appear as radicals. In this case, 又 becomes a crotch. As you can imagine (literally), this works much better for making outrageous stories. Outrageous or odd=easy to remember. Let me give another example: 池 is pond. The right part is given the arbitrary meaning of scorpion whenever it appears as a radical. But Heisig cautions to not come up with a dull story about how scorpions live in ponds. He suggested a pond being created, drip by drip, from a scorpion's stinger. Now that is an image that sticks. Here's one I thought up for alms (施):
Some people go to the four corners of the compass and recline in the streets to get pity money and alms. If you ignore these loafs, they may slip a scorpion under your door. Such is the price to pay if you scorn a beggar.
I doubled up on meaning for 方 in this one, and added a clue as to the placement of the scorpion radical. In fact, I try to make my story follow the drawing order when possible. In addition, I am sure to picture a gap-toothed miscreant pulling a scorpion out of his dirty coat. For more on the usefulness of vivid mnemonics, I recommend the Derren Brown book Tricks of the Mind. He's the guy that did the zombie-related hypnosis vid that was all over the net a while back, BTW, FTW, ROFL, A*.

Anyways, as the title promised, here is a link to an Anki decks one of which you can use to study kanji, using Heisig's keywords. It is tagged throughout according to JLPT level. I of course am using it to get the 1kyu kanji down pat. I'm studying 50 a day (via the settings I chose). My study method is as follows: read the "English reading", recall the story, draw the kanji, check and circle, with a red pen, parts that are sticklers for my memory (this circling-thing is not part of the Heisig method, but actually another method developed by a Japanese professor and made into a DS game I happen to own). If I can't recall anything, I use the Heisig number (shown automatically at answer time) to do a search in my PDF version of the books (really, a fast process with OS X).
There is only one side to these cards; if you can reproduce the kanji, you haven't much need to check the other; try reading afterwards and the kanji you have mastered should be salient. Also, I have tagged a few kanji with "p" for "primitive" (to which the deck is schedualed to give priority), but this deck was not originally made by me, and so there are tons of kanji that could potentially get this treatment (there are also a lot of annoying commas where spaces should be; I got rid of some). I also tag kanji that I don't want to bother with at this point in my kanji career due my suspicion that I won't see them on the test. If you download the deck, keep in mind x cards are automatically suspended from the schedules.
Feel free to modify those cards, especially if you feel, as I do, that the readings can be a bit off. I often check the kanji in the program that I am going to mention in a second:

On to that second tool I put in the title: a program which is, as far as I know, only for Macs. It's called JEDict. Recently, Deas mentioned a Mac app to help one see kanji better and thus illuminate stroke order, but I feel this is vastly superior (sorry Deas). For one thing, it will show you the stroke order and animate said strokes. It will show you the radicals that make up a kanji. It will let you grab those radicals and copy them or put them in the creation boxes to see related kanji. And that is just a small part to JEDict, because it is a dictionary. It's been invaluable during these internet-less days (heck, faster than a WWWJDIC search). It keeps track of your clipboard, so if you copy text anywhere on your computer, it is ready to search those words for you. JEDict is so dreamy... sigh... why haven't you downloaded it yet? I really like the feature that allows me to save terms. I save tons of yojijukugos. Gotta keep up with the neighbors.
There are other things that have helped me with kanji a lot over the last year. I got used to drawing them in the first place thanks to Kakitorikun and my DS dictionary, which is still super-useful--I haven't felt the need to upgrade to a "real" denshijisho. I also find my kanji textbook to be useful, but only because of the daily quizzes in class are on it, and I also have to write down all the definitions on a worksheet. So what can I say except, go to Japanese school. :/
Next time: We'll make our own primitive!
*:A stands for acronym
Pics in case you missed the links to them in the text:

September 30, 2008

It's All About Me Me Me

Hey there, I'm going to a bloggers' party tonight, on the invitation of the virally net-famous Danny Choo (he's the dancing stormtrooper). So I thought this would be a good time to post this screen grab from a website that compiles a multimedia wall of youtube content based on keywords, in order to have something to present tonight. My keyword was, of course, Claytonian. Have a look:

I do pleading eyebrows quite often, don't I. And to think, I laughed at the same eyebrows on Natalie Portman when she said, "You're breaking my heart, Anakin!" Hey, back on Starwars already. Annnnd... off it.

I make cheap copies at a local bookstore for my freelancing. I think the owner doesn't like foreigners or something; I've seen her talk nicely to other customers but she treats me like dirt and avoids polite language beyond the bare minimum of masu-form when I have a problem with the machine, which is often (it's an odd machine). Now, it's a bit late in the game for me to realize this, having just turned 28, but I've come to feel that I get really stressed when I don't have a good relationship with someone (I am also a perverse blend of instigator and peace maker--what a meddler I be). So I am trying to get this lady to warm up, for my own sake if nothing else. "Hello," I say each time I come (in Japanese of course). She has yet to change, so I get more stressed and try to be more friendly. And I could probably--nay should-- take my business elsewhere, but this odd thing of a Japanese person being rude really gets to me and I have to try...
Along the same vein, some of the members of the English club I work for have complained that my lessons are a bit too hard. I really stress out when I hear that sort of thing, thought it shall be a simple matter to change things (my plans are already in motion, and my simpler reading materials arranged). So I am worried. While I know what is like to not get things in a language learning situation (boy do I ever know), I am a little unsure of what a retiree wants out of an English club. It seems they are in it more for something fun to do than to improve their skills, and who am I to dis that idea? When you retire, you wanna take it easy right? My instigator-side isn't happy with complacency though...
Oh, one more thing about the copy lady. She sells magazines with little girls in bikinis on the cover (work safe link, I swear) in her store, so at the end of the day, if I can't charm her, I can at least feel superior. And that, folks, is, in a nutshell, how to lead a successful lifestyle in a foreign land! a cha cha!

September 19, 2008

Finally Passed 2kyu (In School)

Hey I finally passed 2kyu. We took the test (using 1996 problems) the other day. Not bad, considering a couple months back (one which was of break time without class) I only got a 50% on the 2kyu-based assessment test. If I pass 1kyu this year, it will be thanks to the school--and I hope I do this year; it changes format next year!. I have to do a lot of vocabulary studying on my own time, but really, this place helps.

So speaking of which, I've decided to re-release some anki decks. Before, I've used a mega deck (like 9000 words), but recently I split off the 1kyu and 2kyu words and grammar. Another thing that is new is that I have modified a ton of the entries. Mostly, it's me putting suru (in romaji) next to suru verbs to help me remember and identify in context, but I corrected some definitions that I didn't like. I also put na, teki, and the occasional sei in romaji where appropriate too. Also, under some words I put, in italics, phrases or larger words that incorporate the head word. My goal is just to be familiar with these supplemental phrases; I don't count them for or against my judgment of how well I memorized the card.

I can't guarantee that all the cards are modified at this point (I think I've seen them all once, but...), and I will continue to modify cards, especially grammar cards. My understanding of grammar points gets a little better all the time. I may re-release again some day, but you should make decks your own. And perhaps most importantly, I deleted a lot of words I thought were too simple/knew by heart, so keep that in mind. Also, I understand there are a lot of decks to be found on the anki site; I am using a names deck now.

After the test in December, I think I will start converting definitions to Japanese, and maybe even start using a vocabulary technique in one of my many books. It goes like this: when memorizing a word, memorize the plain definition, the antonym, a simile, and an exaggeration. the plain def is the only one in English (or even not, if you are gung-ho). If you forget the plain definition, you have the others to rely on.

Also, when I was condensing knowledge from the JET translation books (and putting it here), I discovered I learned a lot from using comparative statements, like, "what is the difference between くれる and くださる", or, "what is a more polite way to say ~?" So I think I will start doing that with grammar points. I may make questions like, "what does 極めて follow?" or "What particle is needed before たえない?"
Aoi Yu is one of the most モエ girls in Japan. Here's an article she wrote.

September 16, 2008

Book Reviews

Just in case you missed them on Japan Probe, I did a couple book reviews in a video. It has so few comments that I am afraid people have finally realized what I knew all along...
People's comments last post were interesting. Some thoughts of mine: Why stop at one dream, especially if you feel you can focus sufficiently on the important ones? My underlying dream of dreams seems to be to live in a house in a bamboo covered, mossy mountain in Japan somewhere. With that in mind, I don't have much to stress about; there are many paths. I also still believe that the universe helps me out, and there will be a way of some sort. I got to Japan in the first place, after all. That said, I feel I have some side projects to attend to, and maybe some networking to do too.

September 12, 2008

Tell Me How to do People Stuff

In this post I turn to you, the readers, because you have common sense and I don't.--case in point: Today I finally decided figure out how to pay the rent in this country. That's right, for three years, stuff just happened for me and I didn't really know how, because I had kind keepers. I guess I've done 振込みs before, but this was the first time to pay rent by them for me. End digression with double hyphen in 3, 2,...-- So, my question for you, gentle reader, is:

How do I realize my dream to work in the Japanese book industry and design book covers and layouts? Should I break down and go to grad school some where? Should I just teach Eikaiwa after I finish at this little language school, and hope an opportunity comes to me somehow? Should I get a job in the mail room at a Japanese publisher and work my way up? Should I dust off my old graphic design portfolio and hope no one asks why the only thing I've designed in the last 4 years is a blogspot layout (yes this one). I'm not sure.

Seeing the principal advising all the students here each day, who are much younger than me on average and just looking to begin their college careers in earnest, has me thinking about my future. I am, though poorish, debt free at this point in my life, and I didn't like academia the first time around. Don't get me wrong, learning and studying are some of my favorite things, but I draw to much attention to myself in a classroom environment, and that can cause teachers to polarize towards or against me. And then these very human people control my fate and wrack me with stress and emphasize things they care about over what I want to learn. Messy. But I guess that's part of life, eh? Dealing with people and their highs and lows. It can be beautiful, but...

This post reads like I am autistic, doesn't it.
Then I have the other dreams to do something involving the Japanese movie industry too. And even a dream to just work in a rice field somewhere, like this guy. Or own a bookstore. There are tons of things I want to do in Japan. I have a friend thinking about coming back to Japan and marrying his girlfriend, then owning a restaurant. That would be awesome.

September 9, 2008

Because You Asked

What, you didn't ask? That's odd. No, really, someone was having trouble finding my wishlist, during this, the crucial month of my birthening. Try going here. I'd like some books with the Power Japanese sumo wrestler on them please. Or 1 yen Trick books (on the first page of the wishlist).

Shameless, but I've always considered blogging a job that one can tip on, if so inclined, via comments or what have you. The internet is one giant coffee shop.

September 8, 2008

Super JLPT site

EDIT: Hmm, it looks like there may be a few mistakes on the site I recommend here, so proceed with caution. For instance, I just got:
Wherein the correct answer is listed as "早いが", but I am pretty sure they mean か, not が. Unless I am mistaken. Also, I think ラベル is supposed to be just ベル. I guess you get what you pay for. And now on with the post that is for some reason still offering the link to this site:

If you are not subbed to my shared RSS bits, you may have missed this, but it's so impressive thus far that I could not just relegate it to there. Lucky you, Mr. too lazy to sub to my rss bits feed man. So I give those of us slaving away at JLPT studies this link. Seriously, click it.

So far, it serves as a grim confirmation of what I have been predicting. I am not ready. Last night I whittled my Anki deck down to just 1kyu terms (the others still exist somewhere). Anyways, I've improved it quite a bit from when it was simply a list I found on a website and converted it to an Anki deck. I will offer it for download here soon, as I have in the past. My advice to you is never be satisfied with fishy definitions, even from me.

I had more thoughts on the last post, and made a fancy picture-thingy to explain the ideas I had to help fix what I was rambling about, but forgot to bring it with me on the thumb drive. Perhaps next time as well. You might want to consider my RSS feed for this blog for your update needs. In fact, I have tons of RSS feeds for you. But putting the topic back to last post, someone was wondering agog about what the heck I was talking about. The problem is it would take a long time to describe it to you, and to study in the manner I outlined would take a textbook that only exists in my head as a book-amoeba. It may mitosisize soon too. Anyways, my advice at this stage, besides take all my advice with a grain of salt, is to buy (or torrent for the evil among us) the Remembering the Kanji books. Master the first two volumes. Well, actually, I think just getting familiar with volume 2 is enough at first, but master 1. Then read Tae Kim's guide all the way through. That's the best Claytonian system-substitution I can offer at this time. Anyways, I've revised my thoughts into a more holistic, staggered system-amoeba in my head zone. And there is always the approach that people mentioned in the comments last time: All Japanese All the Time. Thing is, there seem to be some gaps in his system I've never gotten to figure out. I am sure the problem lies with me. I just want to know where he got 10,000 example sentences, and how he made sure they are good and full of a variety of words. It sounds intriguing though. Maybe he should make a textbook.

Geeze, another long post about something only a few lingistics nerds care about. And my tone is odd; no doubt because I have been reading John Hodgeman's blog.

September 5, 2008

If You Want to Learn Japanese

Long post is looooong. And tautology cat is tautological.
If I could go back to the beginning and learn Japanese again... well, a number of things could have been better. No class I have ever heard of really teaches things in the right order. I'm not even sure what the right order is, but I think it might be something like this:

Though I know it would make Tae Kim bristle, I think learning the kanji by the Heisig method (assigning English readings to, and memorizing out of context (at first) all the kanji, plus learning to write them via mnemonic stories) would be best for a beginner of Japanese. It would probably take up a whole semester; a really intense one. However, I wouldn't adhere strictly to the "daily use" kanji, since we all know that list is a bit off; on that point I break a bit with Heisig, but as per Heisig, delaying the Asian readings a bit bring us to the next phase/semester:
Then the kana comes. After that, the onyomi and katakana words. Then lots of 2-character words (finally, context of how kanji work together!), maybe as many as 500 (I would write their readings, at this point in the game, in katakana to subconsciously emphasize the difference from what is to come later). But not one-kanji words, because most don't use a Chinese reading and we don't want to worry about that and conjugation yet, so only onyomi readings, no tricky words with kunyomi reading at this point (no okurigana!), to be followed by longer, multiple-kanji words and 4-character words/idioms (gotta have idioms for fun and a little history helps make things interesting). At this time, だ can be taught to let the students finally be able to make a sentence.*
Following all these onyomi (kango) words would be the one-kanji kunyomi words complete with okurigana and conjugation(also *--you'll see why when you get to the footnotes). Towards the end of all this (at the same time): the beginnings of grammar instruction.
And when I talk grammar, I think the order should be important too. First, the concept that a verb is a complete sentence (and that a copula is a very special verb with limited conjugations!); I wouldn't emphasize the pronouns for a long time (though they may know the kanji and readings for them, students wouldn't get the grammar to use them for a while). I want to make subject-less language seem natural to them. I would cover almost all the verb conjugations (this is during the kunyomi stage of instruction); really show how agglutinative this language is. At the same time, the suru verb concept gets good play.
Following right along should be na-adjectives, because of the special role that copulas play with them, letting you make adjectives (na is da). Then no-adjectives, which should be a short section. After that, i-adjectives, because if we learn them after other adjectives, we are less likely to get na-adjectives that sound like i-adjectives mixed up in our heads when we conjugate (so master those na-adjective+copula conjugations first! Not 綺麗くない!綺麗じゃない).

At each step, I would make efforts to master all conjugation forms (て comes latter though). Anyways, most of the other grammar would come after the base-work had been established. Things like te-form would probably come later in the game; I would incorporate it into keigo instruction because of how often it comes up there (ex: ~てください or ~てあげる etc.), but I would probably introduce the so-called masu-stem shortly after furigana comes around (since it is used for a lot more than just masu). Yes, that sounds good; pretend I wrote that in the appropriate place above. After furigana comes verb stems and kunyomi combo-words.

*: I might let the copula だ loose here, just so they can make a simple sentence, but desu comes much later (note that I don't believe だ is merely a plain です; Tae Kim wouldn't bristle at that). In fact, I would always teach the plain and/or dictionary form of everything first, and maybe even delay masu's introduction (it's a special verb IMHO) . Polite language may be, well, polite, but it's instruction too early is a major problem that 99% of teachers make. Most people learn masu form before anything else; it's a little silly.

The main problem with my curriculum is that it would be long before people had the tools to converse, and the majority of people that take it in college (anime nerds) would probably not be patient enough for it. However, part of the reason why Japanese is hard to learn despite being so simple is because we learn it in a pretty mixed up manner. With the kanji and kana, it can feel like learning 4 languages at once; and they all get crammed in your head, delaying those important realizations that help you through a language. If you master being able to read, however, then encounter how to conjugate and link words in an orderly manner, I think it will be a series of simple concepts building upon each other. Another problem with my system in this post is memorizing words without context could be a bit hard to do, so an earlier introduction of some grammar elements may be necessary to make sentences. But really, no sentences until after the kanji are mastered on the singular level.
A lot of people learn phrasal Japanese ("my name is x, it is nice to meet you"), and while that may get you through a brief business meeting where you have a translator at your side, it will never teach you Japanese. Avoid phrases until you have mastered everything I say. Phrases are the icing that make you sound good and teach you about culture, but you can't adapt them unless you understand them.

So, anybody interested in learning this way? I would like to know how it works. I can't go back and relearn (well, in a way, that's what I often have to do, come to think of it) in real life; I can only speculate from my proverbial armchair. Sometimes I get the crazy idea to write a series of textbooks, but I am far from that stage... The more I look at this post, the more doubts I get about it, but...

August 29, 2008

First Private English Lesson

I just taught my first lesson. I could tell from the English used in emails what the woman would be like. It's kind of scary that I can tell someone's background this way just by what kind of broken English they use. Anyways, as I thought, it was a woman retiree who has a habit of learning English just cause, and not really to improve it. But I hope to change that; I would feel pretty guilty if our lessons have no impact on her abilities. She has studied for 7 years at a community center, and is still a bare beginner. Her latest teacher is a Peruvian that speaks English as a second language. So, as you can imagine, we have a long ways to go. I tried to have her read a small section of text (you can see what kind of site I found it on in my shared items today). That didn't work so well; she could hardly read the normal size font, and the words were a few syllables too long for her. I'll have to plan for that sort of thing in the future. She seemed resistant to this kind of book learnin' over all; being at a rather content stage that is probably no different than 7 years ago. I want to see if I can coax her out of her shell.
This is all pretty fascinating to me so far. Next week, I start group classes of old people, half of whom will be like this.
Oh yeah, and I don't know if it will happen every time, but she bought me lunch. Nice! Speaking of food, I bought a convection stove (just one burner but I have an American electric water boiler too so...) and it is fast! I cooked an egg in about 45 seconds this morning (faster than my gas range ever was). Glad I bought it. Maybe with a little more money, I can think about a fridge...

August 27, 2008


So as a typical WASP, I grew up with the stereotype that Asians are with the smarts. But I think what they are really with is the studying. Well, not Japanese kids so much these days, but my fellow language school students, most of whom are Chinese, have been impressing me with their studious natures.
During the summer break, I came in each day to use the nets to find a job (found one by the way! Gonna teach the brains out of those retirees). The other students would come in, but they didn't really use the computers; they just went into the empty classes and studied. And they have been studying ever day after class since we started again on Monday. I'm fairly impressed.
One thing about it, though: they do almost as much talking as studying. In loud voices. I'm thinking maybe studying is a bit of a social activity for them. Well, I guess people of every nationality occasionally make study groups. I remember in college, the beginning Japanese class students made a study group. I wasn't interested, but I was somehow good at Japanese in those days. Should I digress? Okay: I approached the first lesson of that college class in horror, because I could not get it. But we had a video in the language lab that matched the textbook's dialog. I replayed the simple dialog about 40 times. Then it clicked. And I was good at Japanese for a whole semester (at least at regurgitating it--I never thought about grammar in those days). So I didn't need the study group. Then a class conflict left me without Japanese for a whole year and I came into the second class as the worst student of the bunch.
So there is my secret to learning a language: Grock it early. Grock it often. Don't let time elapse between grockings. Or you will be stuck in remedial 1kyu (oxymoron) class, like me, years later.
Or, study like a Chinese person.
Also, I want to learn to read Chinese someday. I don't care to speak it though. Same goes with French. German, I might be able to wrap my tongue around.

August 26, 2008

Adventures in Ignorance

So far, youtubers seem to think I am making a Dragon Ball reference with the pillow. No. You sad, sad people... I thought it was only the Japanese that were unaware of the resemblence of some of their characters to something else, but anime nerds dissapoint me now as well. Irony on top of my satire.
BTW, the pillow didn't stay that way for longer than a satirical skit.

August 20, 2008

Tricky Challenge

Can you read all the writing in this Trick screenshot? I'm taking my fandom to obsessive levels here...
Had a good interview with a group of old folks today. They even payed for my train fare to come, but they still aren't decided about who gets the job. I can't help but wonder if when I sit in on a class this Saturday, I will be next to the competition. That would be awkward.
As awkward as a few minutes ago when the school office lady brought me a laptop to fix. A Korean laptop. I did the F8 trick, but that's about the limit of my powers.

August 19, 2008

"I hate Japan" Days

I was hating Japan yesterday. Because my new bike was stolen. In broad daylight. What the hell, Japan?

August 18, 2008

Still Alive

I'm not one to go long without poppin' out a post, but no nets makes for a lack of inspiration. Well, there is inspiration, but I forget it by the time (day) that I can actually make it to a computer. One of the thoughts that has been swimming around in my head is that the universe conspires to help me, but not necessarily all that hard. Lazy universe. I may have found the perfect job; the interview went great. But I wasn't interviewed by the people who are actually in charge of the money. So I have a good recommendation versus someone else's face time. Nobody has tried to be my student through the teaching website I joined. I lower my fees each day in desperation.

There was some jerky guy that tried to leave a comment on my last post, where I asked for donations if people felt like it. He said that everyone in Japan is rich and that food is cheap. "300 yen ramen in the streets of Tokyo". Let this pauper redress you, friend: People without jobs, people paying tuition, are not rich. This isn't the bubble economy. Second, this weird thing about ramen. First, I have never seen ramen that cheap that wasn't freeze-dried and waiting to be cooked by me. Second, what kind of person lives off ramen? Eating healthy takes a little cash.

But there are tons of little expenses in Japan. For instance, the trains are more expensive here. It doesn't make any sense; a hundred people jammed into the car, and it costs twice as much as the countryside to get anywhere.They must be raking in the profits here to distribute their losses in rural areas is all I can figure. Taken right from the government model, that. And I should know. I'm the engineer on the crazy train to poor town.

August 5, 2008

In for a few million pennies

Finally got a visa yesterday. Had to pay tuition today. "Installments," they said, "why would we do that. All money now please."
I can't get an official job until I have some work permission document. In Fukuoka, there was an international office/library thing with a bulletin board that teachers would use to find students. I haven't seen a place like that yet around here... I would like to charge 3,500 an hour, less 500 if students bring food. 2,000 yen for two peeps at the same time, 1,500 yen for 3. Sound reasonable? Know any potential students? Send them to my town!

filed under: ド貧乏

August 1, 2008

My New Shwanky Bachelor Pad

A notice that I can now buy a 4000 yen stamp for my special foreigner stamp book has arrived. Soon I will be legal Morlock again.

July 26, 2008

Yes, we have no nets

The free internet bubble burst. Maybe the guy noticed a drag in speed and cut me off. Oh well, have to get my own connection anyways; leaching is no fun. I've been looking for a hardware store so I can build my own desk. After all, the nook I want to put it in has a rather unique shape. Studying on the floor is quite mendok'sai as we say here.
Tons of homework to do this weekend, possible job on Thursdays: couple hours for 7000 yen. That would cover the basic cost of the appartment. Yes, that means I have a really cheap and small (but clean!) place. I was planning on vloging it for y'all, but the internets is gone and such.

July 24, 2008

Free internet?

Seems to good to be true, but once I messed with my settings for a few minutes, I found some YahooBB wireless bandwith lying around. Who knows how long it will last.
Double yabai, for the net is a distraction to my much-needed studying. I got put in the "special" 1kyu-2kyu class. This was based on my score on a test, which was all 2kyu. But I haven't been studying 2kyu since last year! Oh well, best to be a well-rounded lingual monkey, but my chances of passing 1kyu this year look grim. Gotta pay for the sign up tomorrow anyways.
Speaking of everything costing tons, the apartment downpayment and first couple months came to over $1,000, and I keep making trips to the dollar store, which is, let's face it, barely a dollar store. Today a friend took me to look at used furniture. It's expensive, but not as much as new. Still. I may buy this new couch-bed anyways, but I am pretty nervous about money. Haven't even payed tuition yet.
Here is my attempt to be friendly to the shoe-saleswoman

July 22, 2008

July 20, 2008

Wish Me Luck

Tons of it. I'm packing the computer now, so no idea when communications will resume, but the internet is everywhere, so, from the bottom of my heart, smell ya later.
p.s. I'll have to approve comments at some point, which requires the net, but I will see them if you write em!

July 18, 2008

Killing Me with Kindness

I'm not one for long goodbyes (I like a good goodbye hug though), so this week has been a bit torturous for me. On Tuesday, I gave my first goodbye speech at an assembly in my honor. The students gave me a huge bouquet, as I mentioned, then had me sit while they all sang one of their 1000-times-practiced songs to me. Then they parted, and I walked down the middle of them while they continued to hum. It was downright cinematic. Good ceremony, as one would expect of this society, but totally made me feel like I was going off to fight in a war or something.

Besides the assemblies, there is the goodbye meeting, where everyone in the office stands and you have to make remarks. I had one at each school. I'm not sure how appropriate it is, but I tried to put in a little critique into each one (to the elementarys: for the love of all that is holy, help the students study when I'm not here. Actually teach something. To the JHs: Do something, to keep your English skills from degrading now that I, your free practice dummy, am gone, not to be replaced. Man this is a sucky thing to have happen to a town). There was also the goodbye to the education director, the mayor ("Lets sit and have awkward chit-chat for five minutes about nothing.") and the vice-mayor ("I'm in a meeting. Hello, goodbye.").
I planned to give my super speech to the remaining elementary today too, but it was hot so I was just like, this has been fun! I'll remember you! Then a boy stood before everyone, handed me a flower, and expressed how fun it was that I had the class draw monsters with "multiple heads and only one body" (no really, it was an English lesson, and he did summarize it that way). And I got a paper medal.

Then off to the JH. The principal was in rare form; I'm pretty sure he was a Baptist preacher in a past life. He gave the end of period speech, shouting his 全くs and such the whole time. Then it was time to introduce me. He gave another speech, this time about Americans in Iraq and world peace and the importance of English and "that liar, Clinton" (ha ha I love him--during the office goodbye he accidentally said 嘘つきクレイトン (that liar, Clayton) We all about fell down). I gave my speech, same as on Tuesday.
Let me just conclude that if you use idioms and proverbs, you will impress people in Japan. 一心不乱 came in handy, as well as 虎穴に入らずんば、虎子を得ず (you have to go into the tiger's den to get the tiger cub).
I'm glad I am done with speeches, at least until the next part of my Japanese life. Not because I am afraid of public speaking, but because I abhor the banal predictability of ceremony. Guess I chose the wrong country. On the other hand, thanks to all the studying I've done in the last week or so, my ceremonial Japanese is at an all-time high.
The cats are okay; I bought some cat food and checked on them. The lady had tried to feed cucumber to Poe. Cat food, lady. How many times do I have to tell you.

I should be cleaning.

July 17, 2008

My babies is gone

I've been dealing with a woman who is, near as I can tell, descended from people that were a bit related, if you catch my drift, because she certainly can't. But she was willing to adopt the cats. Kinda. Some emails and verbals from her over the course of a week included: " I no have cats." "Okay, I have cat" "Do you have cat? I don't have the cats now. I live alone" "I cannot have cats" "Okay, please give me one cat" "My brother told me have the cat" "The excrete my tatatmi, I no you have cat" "Do you like croquet?" "I change mind" "When do you come back moving to Saitama?" "You give cat to friend here." "Please give me not cat."

Finally, she showed up yesterday and agreed to take the cats today. Then she showed up today to refuse the cats yet again. I started to load the cat things into the car. "Time to go," I said, controlling my anger as much as possible. So I forced the cats upon her, ignoring her protests before, during, and after the transfer. "They are crying. I don't have cat if it cries" Of course they are crying lady, they have moved via scary car ride to an alien environment. "How do you use this?" It's a kitty litter box. This is kitty litter. It goes in the box. In the box. Yes, in. If you ask me again-- "what is this? They sleep here?" Kitty litter! I will commit homicide today, so help me. "I can't to keep cat." Shut. Up. "My father had a dog. He walked cat. Will you walk cat now?" Stab! Stab! Stab!
She seems to still think that the cats are somehow evil polluters that will stain her precious (read: 5 year old, brown as poop) tatami, so I created temporary harnesses to keep them outside in one place long enough to get used to the new house's neighborhood. They are used to sleeping out side, so no biggie there. Lord Poopington was an ass about it, so I just cut him loose. He's not gonna go anywhere without Poe. Poe was pretty fine when I came back a couple hours later to check on things. Lo Pan was crying in the alley, still too stupid to come get food. I'm so done with that cat. Look at what it gave me as a parting gift:
That's right: a giant hand. What am I gonna do with a giant hand, cat? Oh, and there is a gash on it. You didn't think this gift through. I cannot have hand. You take hand to Saitama? No? Please give hand someone else.

July 16, 2008

Goodbye messages

Oh and goodbye to Cassie, who left this morning. Words failed me at our last parting; you've been cool.


July 11, 2008

Shame on all

Shame on all who thought that I was the least bit attractive in 2005 or earlier. I just found a few pictures of me on the school computer (while looking for documents I want to save for future English teaching blunders endeavors*), and I looked so... weird. Giant shoulders that spanned the entire room, a somehow-small head, and hair that looked really greasy and didn't work for me at all. Plus a goofy grin as usual. Somehow I've changed, at least I hope so. And I at least look better than the other ALT, whose pictures were in the same folder. I deleted mine, lest my many political enemies use them to pull an Obama on me.
ALT before me, it will require a fee to have your's deleted. Can you take the risk or having these things seen? Can you take... the tee hees? I'll send you my swiss account number.
*: If you are interested, I am collecting the pages in this Google document. You will soon realize one thing if you go there: I always made things way too complicated.

July 10, 2008

This is my goodbye speech for the schools

It's loooooong if you RSSing it, otherwise I'll have you expand it to torture yourself.

I come to you today very humbled by my experiences in Japan.

I would like to extend my thanks to the Tara Board of Education for making my presence here possible.

Even though I have a hard time saying 教育委員会, I love the people there.

I would like to thank the principal and the rest of the school staff for always treating me warmly.

I would especially like to thank the English teachers for everything they have done to make teaching interesting and fun.

Somebody tell Ms. Seto and Ms. Imoto that I appreciated them when they were here.
そして、どなたか、Ms. Seto と Ms. Imoto にわたくしが彼女達に感謝していると伝えてくださいますか。

And of course, I want to thank those students who tried to speak to me, whether it was in English or Japanese.

I would like to share with you some things I've learned, and dispense a little advice.

First, be brave! Being shy will only cause you to stagnate.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as the saying goes.

You have to try.

No, more than that, you have to do things with all of your effort, as if your happiness depends upon it.

Too often have I seen children give up on English or themselves.

If you have no confidence, your life will be miserable.

If you don't make mistakes, you can never learn.

If you think, "I don't understand English," you won't.

Speaking a foreign language will probably take you more effort than any other subject in school,

but it is so fun once you understand even a little bit.

If a fool like me can learn Japanese, you can learn English no problem.

Before I came to Japan, I was under the impression that it was a super-advanced society where everyone was a computer genius or something.

Well that's not true, but it doesn't reflect badly on you if it's not.

Japan needs farmers and fishermen.

It needs people to do jobs that don't require genius.

However, I think if you study hard, and not for the purpose of taking some entrance exam but for your own needs, your life will be enriched.

Above that, in the future skills like using computers, communication, and English will become more and more important.

Your country depends on you for the oncoming environmental, economic, and population crises.

So you have to have a broad mind.

You have to become more international, because let me tell you, as a foreigner I feel Japan has a long way to go.

You have to stop seeing foreigners as criminals or items of curiosity to be stared at or weirdos, and start seeing them as your fellow human beings.

These are not ominous warnings though; I feel your lives will be happier if you do these things.

Each morning you have a choice: you can walk through the day like a zombie and put in the bare minimum effort, watch TV, zone out, and go to bed only to repeat the cycle the next day ad nazeum.

Or, you can choose to do your best each day.

I submit that if you don't do everything as perfectly as possible, you are not really living.

And if you aren't living, you'll grow old without having accomplished anything.

I hope someday that you can have ALTs in Tara again.

I think they are an important tool for internationalization and lingual practice.

But in any case, I cannot continue here.

It makes me sad to go, but I want to keep testing myself, so I will move to Saitama and study Japanese.

I hope you continue to learn throughout your lives and not just to get jobs or enter college.

Japan's education system will have to change to compete, so you have to change with it and be ready for a different system for your children.

Thank you for three interesting years in Tara.

July 5, 2008

The Leaver's Party

Yesterday I had tons of visa drama. Let me just say I will be cutting things close, people. I have an intricate tourist-backup-visa plan, but at that point I am probably just going to ask for a ticket home, because maybe no country is worth this many loop-jumpings.
Anyways, our JETs got together en-mass one last time at a hotel buffet. I realized that this year I know people not much at all. My location is an excuse for some of that, but I think it is mostly the effect of three years of new people coming in and forming their own mini communities and kind of going under this veteran's radar. So as for all the people I really, really want to see one last time, well, I think that we will get together. Someone mentioned their high school ten year reunion coming up. I wonder if I'd even want to go to mine...
One complaint: nobody voted for me for the karaoke freak awards. Have they not seen the playlist? Oh wait, I just outlined above that these people and I don't really see each other. Speaking of singing, all the Americans got together at the flags and sang the star-spangled banner. I actually felt patriotic. I bet the other JETs wished that they could be an American.
I had a dream about a past relationship today; no doubt triggered by thoughts of what has happened over the last three years. It had an interesting, happy ending, but then I woke, and, well... reality is not the dream.

July 3, 2008

Not a Calendar Per-- OH CRAP

My time left here is ridiculously short. Today was spent with that fact rearing it's head. And my future situation is painfully unsettled. Will I get my Passport back? Will it have a visa attached? When do I pay for tuition? Where do I keep my money? Will I have a place to stay? Will I get the info I want from my JET translation course books recorded before I leave them behind? Will I convince the BOE that paying for my train ticket is an honoring of their agreement made three years ago? Will I be beat to crap by this move? Stay tuned.
Filed under: Panic! Why aren't you panicing?! This is Panic-con Alpha!