木曜日, 10月 20, 2005


    I am weary of blogging, so I'm going to take most of this blog offline. It was too much work to maintain both this and my livejournal site, and I decided I like lj better, so I'm keeping that one. If you want to know how I am, just send me an e-mail. I don't want to lose touch with anyone, but I've got to be realistic about my time management. I'm not spending hours every day on the Internet anymore, which is a good thing. I will continue to write and post in other places (mixi and livejournal) when I have time. Thanks for reading, and goodbye!

火曜日, 4月 26, 2005

Weekend, Golden Week, etc

    Last Saturday, N. and I took a drive in his car, a tiny Honda convertible, with the top open. We went to Rinkuu town, an American shopping plaza near Kansai airport. We did a little shopping and had lunch at a delicious Chinese restaurant there called 紅虎餃子房. After we returned to Osaka, I took the train back to Kobe alone and went straight to Akashi for Homodachi's takoyaki party.
    At the party we made takoyaki and then played "takoyaki roulette," which means that one or more of the takoyaki are filled with wasabi or karashi (hot mustard), and everyone stands in a circle and takes one each by turns, and you have to eat the one that you take. Mine was safe. The people who got the wasabi ones actually seemed to kind of like them, but the karashi was a different matter entirely. The ones who got those won a takoyaki-ki (a takoyaki maker, kind of like a waffle iron). It was a fun party.
    On Sunday, N. and I went to Osaka again. A few weeks ago, I joined a board game community on mixi, which meets at a family restaurant in Osaka about once every two months. It was my first time, so I had never met any of the people before. The group founder's favorite game is Clue, so we played Clue twice and Yatzhee once, both very natsukashii for me since I played those games a lot as a child. Then we played two games that another group member brought. The first was "Tom and Jerry," a Japanese board game by Bandai based on the cartoon of the same name. Each person gets two "Tom" counters and two "Jerry" counters. Jerry moves twice as fast as Tom, and it's a race to get all your pieces to the finish first. It seemed like a simple "sugoroku" or race game at first, but then it got more complicated and fun because of the way you can jump on other people's pieces for extra turns, so there was actually a fair amount of strategy. Then we played another game he brought, Einfach Tierisch, which is called 珍獣動物園 (Zoo of Rare Animals) in Japanese, or High Society in English. It's an auction-type German card game by Reiner Knizia, and it was very enjoyable and simple to play.
    I don't remember rock-paper-scissors being a feature of Clue when I played it as a kid, but here somehow janken has become part of the game dynamic. If two or more players have cards that are part of a player's guess, they raise their hands, and they have to janken to see who has to show their card to the player who guessed it. As for playing Yahtzee in Japanese, 3 of a kind is called スリーダイス (three dice), 4 of a kind is フォーダイス (four dice), and the rest of the rolls are pretty much the same as English.
    It's a good thing I didn't make any plans to travel during Golden Week (next week), because a lot is going on here in Kobe. My school's Bunkasai (Cultural Festival) is on Friday and Saturday. It sucks because N. has Fri and Sat off and I had originally made plans with him before I remembered I had to go to school. But my school's Bunkasai was really good last year, and I can't miss it, so we changed our plans. N's going back to visit his hometown on Monday, but my friend Sophia is coming to visit me on Tuesday. She's staying one night, and then I'm going to a Cinco de Mayo party Thursday. So I don't think I'll be bored at all.
    There was an awful train accident in Amagasaki yesterday morning around 9:20 a.m. They turned the TV on in the teachers' room so we could watch the coverage. We all knew people who COULD have been on that train had it been just a little earlier, since it's not far from here, on the route from here to Kyoto or Osaka. They haven't found the driver yet. It's the worst train accident in a long time, a terrible tragedy.

水曜日, 4月 20, 2005

Love Exists

...beyond all my expectations.
I'm so happy.
Words fail me.

木曜日, 4月 14, 2005

First Day of School

    Today was my first day of teaching the new first-years. Ah, I am so blessed to have such great students. I hear other ALTs complain about "bad kids" and "behavior problems", but I never have to deal with anything like that. The JET program's main flaw is that most ALTs are underutilized. I just spent 6 weeks without teaching at all, and where is the sense in that? But when I have the chance to teach, everything is good. My memories in the classroom are all happy ones.
    Usually the class is split in half, but today we had the whole class. First we three teachers introduced ourselves. One of the JTEs likes to put these outrageous statements in her self-introduction. I don't know why she puts down her own English ability in front of the students. She wants them to respect her, doesn't she? Then she told them she likes to go to a tavern (izakaya) and drink shochu (sweet-potato wine). I'm not sure why she thinks this is a good thing to say to a group of 15-year-olds she's meeting for the first time. What kind of first impression is she trying to cultivate? If a high school teacher of mine told me she liked to drink, my opinion of her would surely change for the worse. But whatever they were thinking, the students listened respectfully like angels until we were done.
    In the first term I like to do some TPR in every class. So today I used some commands like jump, clap, step, stomp, turn around, raise your right hand, etc. Then I make it more complicated like "jump on your right foot while turning in a circle with your left hand on your head," or something silly like that. I also tried "Smile!", and noticed that most of them were already smiling. Then I said "Frown!" and they tried to look all serious. It was the cutest thing.
    We also did a short activity which I found in the JET lesson plan booklet we got recently. Most of the sample lessons were not so usable because the theme this year was grammar. However, there was one that I thought was really cute. There's a picture of a crying baby, a ringing telephone, a knock at the door, water running in the sink, and clothes on a clothesline outside while it starts to rain. You have to imagine that all of these things are happening at the same time, and decide what to do first. Your answer tells what kind of person you are, that is, what is most important to you in life. So we had the students do that (writing their answer and a reason) and then we told them the meaning (the baby means family, the clothes means love live, the tap means money, the door means friends, and the phone means career). It takes longer to explain than to do. We still had time left at the end of class, so we had them all stand up and face their partner in the next row and introduce themseleves in English, and have a simple conversation. Most of them were pretty genki about this. I think it was a good start to the year.

火曜日, 4月 12, 2005

There is now a video game about everything

    D3 recently came out with a lot of new Simple 2100 Series games for the PlayStation 2. There are now seventy-some different titles, and they seem to cover every major or minor facet of life, real or imagined, from learning to speak Korean to encountering a gigantic beautiful woman to performing surgery. It surprised me to see how they are mining specific careers for ideas for games, like The Surgeon and The Forensic Investigator. The one I bought the other day, though, was The Kanji Quiz Challenge - Kanji Kentei, and it's the best thing ever! Recommended to all you kanken-crazy folks out there. You can take real tests from level 10 all the way to level 2, and if you take them more than once, the questions will change, keeping the challenge fresh. Of course, the questions are all multiple choice, making them that much easier than the actual tests. The study value lies mostly in perfecting your kanji-reading skills, though some of the stroke order and radical questions can be challenging. This is the game most likely to have you writing kanji in the air with your finger while you play. Yes, it's lots of fun with 5 mini-games you can play on one-player or two-player mode, including a decent 四字熟語 game (the best of the mini-games, I think).

Some other amusing titles - check out the first two especially-

The Let's Speak English Journey
The Let's Speak Korean Journey
The Romance with a Prince "Riburu's Egg" - For Girls
The Fantasy Romance Adventure - Her Legend, My Stone, Version
The Catfight
There's also one called "The Defender of the Weak" - or The 任侠、which Reading Tutor translates as "a man of chivalrous spirit". And the meaning of that is...what, exactly? The people on the cover all look pretty worried.

Good stuff. I wonder when I'll be able to learn to manicure my nails or fix my washing machine by playing PlayStation. Games are getting so practical. I love how the covers of the English conversation and Korean conversation games look practically the same except for the girl's huge hair clips.

土曜日, 4月 09, 2005

6 Ways to Tell if a Book is Readable

    In a second language, that is.
    Friends who are learning English as a second language sometimes ask me to recommend/pick out for them/lend them English books. My own literary tastes can cause me to misstep and give them something much too difficult. Likewise, when I pick books for myself to read in Japanese, I often choose something too ambitious, then give up as soon as I feel discouraged. The problem is I really love science fiction and fantasy, long books, obscure books, and literary classics. However, I've come to realize that buying books I never read in Japanese is a real waste of money and time for me. Even worse, it's discouraging. In the interest of making more reasonable choices, I offer for your comment this list of guidelines for choosing a novel to read in a second language.

1) Pick a short book.
    The most important, but oft-neglected first rule. It can be very motivating to read a short novel and realize you can finish it in just a couple of days.

2) Don't choose a book that is more than 20 years old.
Languages change with each generation.

3) Read a bestseller.
Bestsellers have something to appeal to the popular taste, and that something can help you to finish it.

4) Novelizations are easier to read than novels.
Sometimes after a successful movie, someone will write a novelization of it. Because it's based on a movie, it will probably be driven by a strong plot and be easy to follow. Also, reading a book that was made into a movie can be nice because you can see the movie afterwards. However, bear in mind that books that were made into movies are generally more difficult to read than books that were written after the movie.

5) Pick mystery, horror or romance over fantasy and science fiction.
Mystery, horror and romance feature everyday situations in the real world. Some science fiction and fantasy books CAN be easy to read (Examples in Japanese are anything by Hoshi Shinichi, and Ono Fuyumi's 月の陰陰の海, which was the first book I finished reading in Japanese after coming on JET) but more often they're not, and you have the added burden of wondering whether the words you don't know really exist or if they were just made up by the author. Plus, it can be hard to figure out what's going on if literally ANYTHING can happen. Once you figure out the rules of the alternative world you're reading about, you will probably be able to read it as well as any other genre, but getting into a new series without knowing the rules can be confusing.

6) Choose a book that was written in your target language, and is famous among native speakers.
Don't read a translation. It should also not be a book you've read before in translation, since you won't have the motivation of wanting to know what happened. If in doubt about whether or not it's well-known, ask a couple of native speakers if they've heard of the book before reading it. A good book will create a splash when it comes out that should be remembered.

By the way, why isn't there a way to search Amazon, or any other book database, for "easy-to-read", either as a key word in the reviews or as some kind of independent search criteria? I am seriously going to write Amazon about that one of these days. Sometimes I don't care about anything else, I'm just looking for something "読みやすい".

Books that are easy to read in English:

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Janet Evanovich, One for the Money
Marilyn Sachs, Hello, Wrong Number or Class Pictures
Torey Hayden, One Child

Books that are easy to read in Japanese:

Yoshimoto Banana's Kitchen 吉本ばなな  キッチン
The novelizations of movies like Ju-on, 呪怨 Ju-on 2, and Old Boy オールド・ボーイ by 大石圭; in the same series(角川ホラー文庫), there's one of Saw (ソウ) by 行川渉。    
Nishi no Majo ga Shinda, by Nashiki Kaho
梨木香歩  西の魔女が死んだ
Natsu no Niwa - The Friends, by Yumoto Kazumi
湯本 香樹実 夏の庭―The Friends (translated as The Friends in English)

Others...? Please comment.

水曜日, 4月 06, 2005


    I finished reading George R.R. Martin's A Storm of Swords - wow.
    I also just watched Saw - wow.
    Both were so good, both impressive for what they were.

This just in: I reserved tickets to go home (for the first time in 2 years) for nearly 4 weeks this summer. If all goes as planned, I'll be there from July 15 - August 11.