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!

July 1, 2008

The Post Where I fix Japanese AND English Over a Mug of Cocoa

If you could fix a language, what would you do to make it better? Here are some whimsical thoughts of mine:

English: Get rid of the plural forms of nouns. Trust me, we are already halfway there. Consider: I like cheesecake vs. I like cheesecakes. Which is correct, and which do you use? Let's face it, we use and drop the plural at random. And don't even get me started on uncountable nouns. I'm looking at you, rice. Also, most of our loanwords can't decide if they have a plural form. Moai. Moais.
"But Clay, we need our plural(s)", I hear you say, your monocles popping out of your eyes in horror. Bah. Plural nouns are as redundant as your extra monocle. We can tell everything from be-verbs and pronouns. "I curled two cat. They were light." Totally clear; we don't need an s.

We could try using plurals whenever the context somehow isn't clear if you're gonna whine about it. "Cats," he grunted as he curled another... Or, we could take a page from Japanese and use grouping suffixes (Japanese has no real plurals! Discuss amongst yourselves because I am a little verklempt): "Cat-kind," he grunted...
I still feel like keeping plural forms of pronouns and the singular "a" though, to keep things clear. "It was pretty cat" is too weird (my students would disagree though). As long as we're on pronouns, let's get a proper plural you. "Yous" sounds too gangster, so let's all agree that "guys" is ripe for losing all of it's political-incorrectness and being a valid word.
Regardless of these suggestions, the internets stays as the internets. Cause I loves the internets.

So long and thanks for all the fish(es). Oh wait, gotta fix Japanese too...

Japanese: The moon-speak characters kanji can stay, but with caveats: 1) We simplify how to write them, and 2) we simplify their readings.
I don't like a lot of simplified Chinese characters because they get stripped to meaningless squiggles, especially when you consider them from a Japanese perspective. For instance 廣 → 广 makes sense until you consider how many other kanji use that radical, and 寧 → 宁 makes even less sense considering the meanings. Moreover, むしろ should just be in hiragana anyways and 寧日 means peaceful day which matches the simple kanji while having nothing to do with the usual 寧 meaning, so use the simple one instead! Sheesh.
So yeah, simplified Chinese characters aren't my cup of china, but Japanese lingual-finaglers did a good job of simplifying a few kanji about a hundred years back and it's time to finish the job. For instance 虫 used to be 蟲 and 国 used to be 國. Those are simplifications that work for us mnemonic-makers. More of that, please.

As for readings, we can keep all the kunyomi you want, as long as we have okurigana to remind us. For instance 前売 should always be 前売り(a real word that I suspect exists because someone, a genius of my ownmold, realized the bother too), and 前え売り would be even better. Let's just get as many okurigana on the outside of a kanji as possible. Why do we still use kanji, besides the fact that they look pretty, if they are so troublesome? I'll remind you: a language swimming in homophones. We need kanji.

The onyomi, meanwhile, should be congealed down to just one for each kanji. This will mean 生 is only read せい for instance (and all compounds that have it as a main element should be pronounced the same). But 生 reminds me, it's a real jerky kanji. I want some radicals added to it depending on what kind of 生 we are talking about. ナマ? キ? Use a radical or okurigana to give us a clue!

It would be nice if we could get all particles to live in hiragana land too.

That's all for now, but what bugs yous about English/Japanese? Oh, one more: Don't say オッス at night, punks. Just kidding, by that logic I could no longer say howdy.

Weird foods I have eaten in the last 8 months

This is one long and straight video.