Saturday, January 31, 2009

Visit to Canada

Hahahahaha, I shall be visiting Canada on the same day as President Obama.
I was just listening to CBC and that's what they said the official plan was.
That would be a good topic to bring up at the JET interview if they ask me about the current news headlines in Canada, as they did last year.

Eraser USB Flash Drive

I was just looking for some pictures of erasers online to use for an Anki vocabulary database for my students when I came across this blog post. It really made me laugh. It wasn't so much the actual idea but the reasoning behind it: make an eraser cover for your USB flash drive to prevent people in the office taking your flash drive.

Friday, January 30, 2009


After hearing so much on the news about Obama's decision to close Guantanamo Bay, and various discussions on the subject of the US military using torture to extract information from the prisoners, I finally went and read about what exactly waterboarding was.

(Please take a look at the Wiki link above if you don't know what waterboarding is.)

To say that I am shocked would probably tell you how naive I am about what's going on in the world, and I know I am naive. Truly, it is hard for me to believe that something like this is going on in a democratic country. Not only that, but I am also very bothered with a question: if this is what is going on south of the border, then is Canada really different and we would never do something like this, or are we just the same as our neighbours, and would act exactly as they do, should a similar situation arise? Would our Armed Forces, 'proudly Canadian' as they call themselves, be quite capable of doing the same? Would our citizens stand by and watch something like this happen? Would we, like one of the characters in "Hotel Rwanda" put it, say, "oh, how terrible", and go back to our dinners? Something is telling me we would. But maybe, if those of you reading this already know about the US military using torture in their prisons, if you have gone and read the wiki article, if you have been following the news about the situation, if you vote, and think very carefully before you vote, if you will go and read more once you finish reading this post—then maybe, just maybe, we won't simply stand by. I hope so.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Toronto in February

I am coming to Toronto in the end of February for the JET interview. Sorry I won't be able to meet with everyone, I am only in town for two days because I can't take more time off work. I will be going to kendo practice on February 19th, and of course the interview, but otherwise I'll be spending time with parents. I will see some of you though, I guess :D, and I am really looking forward to that.

"Hotel Rwanda" Part 2

Thanks to a friend who recommended this movie to me, I finally watched "Hotel Rwanda". It's one of those movies that you have to see, if you care about what's going on around you in the world.


I've not been following the news very closely since arriving in Toyohashi in August. Of course I have a general idea, but I didn't read the papers or watch TV regularly, until I got sick of being so ignorant, and started downloading podcasts for BBC, NHK, and CBC, and some other media a few weeks ago. I've been downloading CNN too, but there's a lot more information and there are more perspectives in BBC news, and I've always been a fan anyway. CBC of course keeps me updated on what's going on in Canada, and NHK—on what's going on Japan. I feel so much better now that I've started downloading and listening to those. I commute almost every day, and at work I spend time on a number of tasks that don't require intense thinking, like organizing materials before the lesson, so I actually have a lot of time to listen to podcasts.

It's amazing, I've been discovering just exactly how much time I have in a day.
I remember Dr. Peterson's lecture on conscientiousness, he talked a lot about what the difference is between people who get to the top in their field, like lawyers, politicians, scientists. I remember taking from these lectures that the main difference between these people and regular people is that the ones that reach the top work hard, all the time. Sure, this is trivial, but really, if you think about it, how much of your day do we waste? How much of our day when we could have worked we actually wasted on procrastinating, or not multi-tasking?

So I figured, if I am too tired in the evenings or too sleepy in the mornings to read the papers, then why not use the time while I am making breakfast, or cleaning my house, riding the train home, on listening to the news and other programs? Before I'd listen to the music instead or do nothing. And it really has been working out wonderfully. I have learned many interesting things in just a few weeks.

Really, the money I spent on the iPhone were the best money I've ever spent in my life. I think I've been able to learn so many new interesting things because I have my phone with me, with the dictionary, internet, maps and GPS, podcasts, and other great programs.

TED Talks

Have you heard of TED Talks? If you haven't, they are talks by scientists and other prominent people about various current issues in technology, entertainment, and design (hence the abbreviation TED). You can download them as video podcasts, which has worked really wonderfully for me, for the train rides to and from work. Some of the talks are not as interesting, but a lot of them are quite fascinating. If you commute for at least 20 minutes a day, this is a nice way to occupy your time ;).

Live Shows

This past weekend was very busy. On Friday night after work I met with friends and had dinner, on Saturday I went to a punk rock concert in a small live house, and on Sunday I met with a friend and went to the ocean. All of these were a lot of fun, but I wanted to write about the concert.

A friend from work is a big fan of Japanese punk rock, and last time he took me to one of the shows, since he knew I was interested in Japanese rock music too. I blogged a little about that concert here (scroll down to "Rock Concert").
I really loved one of the bands, Vision, so of course when my friend told me they are playing again, I wanted to go.

There were 7 bands playing that night. The first one was interesting, the ones that followed were not the kind of music I usually listen to, then there was one more that I really enjoyed, and finally it was Vision's turn—they were playing last. I've already been to a similar concert, so I guess at least I wasn't surprised as much, but still, the concerts here are so different than what I imagined. Since I didn't blog so much last time about what the concert was like, I'll write now about my impressions of both.
I've never been to small live houses in Toronto, like that one on Bloor street (whatever it's called), so I really didn't know what to expect, but certainly I didn't expect anything at all like what the concerts turned out to be. The live house was rather small, maybe about the size of the Timmys on Bloor St. next to OISE. Sorry for such a weird comparison, I really couldn't think of a better place to compare it with—the atmosphere was of course completely different. The light inside was pretty dim, and people were smoking a lot, but that's probably pretty normal for live houses around here. There was a stage at the front, and no seats, everyone just stands and watches the show. If the band is particularly...hmmm... what's a good word? particularly energetic, then it's not a good idea to be in the front, unless you want to jump around, because everyone at the front is really excited, and jumps, and the musicians sometimes get down from the stage and into the front of the crowd, and do crazy things (haha, yes, if you want to know more, you will have to wait until my novel is done :P, I am not going to elaborate here).
Depending on the band people would sing along, and jump around, and cheer, but in general it's a very interesting atmosphere—everyone is really excited, and if you like the band, it feels really good to participate.
The first time I went I really didn't expect the concert to be so interactive. Before, after, and even during the concert the musicians would be there together with the people watching, and it's really quite an experience, something completely different from just listening to recordings.
I got to talk to some of the musicians both last time and this time, and they are all very friendly guys and girls. Both this time and last we were invited to come to the after-party, and it was really interesting talking to everyone.

Anyways, I am getting really sleepy, so I'll stop here. I might write more on my private blog, but before I go, I just wanted to say that music-wise I am really glad to be in Japan. Um, there's quite some progress in my research for the novel too, haha ;).

^ ^


Man, mixi is addictive. I think I check the footprints and journal comments as many times during the day as I check my email.

It's really fun, so much more fun than facebook, because it feels more interactive. People leave a lot of comments, and it's interesting to read what they have to say.

My Japanese writing really sucks, but I haven't been practicing much recently so I haven't improved much at all. Since I have started using mixi again I got to write a journal in Japanese almost every day, and while my grammar is not improving too much, it forces me to go look stuff up, both in my textbooks or in the dictionary, so at least there's more improvement than there was before. My friends on mixi sometimes correct my grammar too, which is really sweet of them :D.

I think using online communities is a great way to learn a new language—you get to interact with other people, and it's a very high motivator (can you even say that?).

Friday, January 23, 2009


It's completely random, but I just thought: I miss Hart House and Munk Library. I miss watching snow fall outside Hart House through the Gothic windows, and I miss the smell of books and fireplaces at Munk Library. Next time I am back in Toronto, if I have time I'd like to take some pictures on the UofT campus.

If there is one thing I really miss about Toronto, it's the UofT libraries. Going to one of the libraries to study always calmed me down, there is just something about libraries. Of course I miss all the resources on ESL teaching at OISE, and all the novels and linguistics books in Robarts, and the political science books in the Munk building. I also miss the stack of "Environmental Finance" magazines in the Robarts periodicles section. I miss the Math and Computer Science books in Gerstein, and I miss watching people cram for exams. I miss Renison and St. Jeromes libraries in Waterloo too. Heck, I even miss Dana Porter library, especially the history section, and the DC library with all its books on computational linguistics.

I have my iPhone with me all the time now though, so as long as I am not out of battery, I can have all the internet I want :D, and read anything online... but I still miss the way libraries make me so calm and so excited to study at the same time.

... Maybe I should finally get out of the house and visit my local library. I can't belive I've lived here for half a year and hasn't done it yet...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I was just going through the log for blogger, and found a random hit from google that linked to one of my old cashed posts that have now been archived. That post was about a flash movie "Making Fiends". I love the main character, Vendetta. This cartoon really reminds me of some people I had to work with a while back. Like my favourite Math teacher says, quoting Calving and Hobbs, it's an educational experience, heh.
Anyways, this cartoon is really funny, so if you need a good excuse to procrastinate and waste several hours of your life away, check it out.


Aiiiiaaaa, it's freezing here. I am using my laptop as a heater, haha :P. Well, I think it's not actually all that cold, I am just cold because of my cold. Ok, I know I've overdid it with the world "cold", not cool, not cool.

Maybe I shouldn't be blogging when I am half-asleep.

Anyways, aside from that, I wanted to stay that I am still very excited about all the applications I was able to download for my iPhone after finally setting up my iTunes account properly.

And yes, I know I still haven't blogged about my winter vacation, even though I promised you guys I would. Sorry. It's still on the to-do list.

Green Onions

I think I should really double the amount of green onions and other vitamins that I eat. And exercise more... Maybe that will keep me from getting so many colds. This is the fifth one since August, sigh.

On a separate note, Obama's address was interesting last night. Very different from what I expected, and a lot better than I expected. I am glad I stayed up to watch it live.

While waiting for the speech to start I was browsing the iTunes store for free iPhone applications, and I found a whole bunch of really neat ones, for example plugins for Twitter, or a program called "The Brain Tutor" that is a 3-D tool to learn the names of different parts of the brain. There's even stuff like a catalogue of pictures with different poses for anatomy studies for artists. Of course there are many applications for navigation, like Google Earth or a compass. I downloaded so many because I wanted to try them out.

Ok, time to go to work.


Thanks to a friend I am now watching the footage of the Inauguration ceremony. I should probably be sleeping right now, but watching the speech live I think is worth it, so I am staying up. Of course it's still noon over in Toronto and in Washington DC, but it's 2 AM here. I am really interested in what the speech will be like.

By the way, it looks like it won't start for another few minutes at least, so if you are reading this post you can still catch the live footage here.

This reminds me, in one of my classes every lesson when we practice pronunciation the kids go, "BaRRRRAK Obama!!" :D

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


For some weird reason I have a craving for miso soup, and green onions pancakes. Miso soup is easy, but I have to go buy some more green onions and kimchi if I want to make pancakes. I am actually glad I am awake so early but don't have to start work till later.

Meat Loaf

A long time ago my friend gave me this tape for my birthday. Yes, back when I was a child and the dinosaurs roamed the planet we actually used tapes, not CDs. Anyways, this tape was by an artist I've never heard of, and I don't even know if my friend liked the singer herself, or if she just picked it at random (possible). It was a collection of Meat Loaf's music. I didn't really get too into it back then, except for a few songs, but after many years I found more of his music, and I really liked it. My brother also got some of Meat Loaf's music on iTunes and shared with me. This morning one of the songs was playing on my computer, so I thought I'd share with you all :D.

This song is not Meat Loaf's, I think, I believe it's an old song that many singers like to sing. It's nice though, and I really like the female vocalist.

Here's a song I heard today for the first time, and I like it.

And this one is quite a classic. It's actually quite funny, I think.

"Hotel Rwanda"

I just downloaded "Hotel Rwanda". I've been wanting to see that movie for so long. It's way too late at night to be watching anything, but I will hopefully get to watch it tomorrow night after work.


Still above zero!!!!! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Natsue-san, my manager, was saying today how I always seem so happy at work. Of course I am happy! Here's why:
  • it's above zero degrees
  • I get to practice my Japanese
  • I see mountains every day
  • I can bike to the ocean in just two hours from my house (in fact I am planning to go this Sunday if it's not raining or too windy)
  • I get to eat as much tonkatsu and korokke as I want (haha, ok, I can eat that in Toronto too, but still)
  • I get to see plum trees in bloom in JANUARY
  • I can go to J-Rock concerts (IF I had money, haha)
  • I get to meet really interesting people (although that is true for anywhere on Earth, really)
  • I get to practice kendo in such a wonderful dojo
  • I get to bike every day
  • I get to have the best coffee in the world every Thursday morning (the landlord of our office building owns a small coffee shop and his coffee really is the best I've tried)
  • I finally get to take piano lessons after so many years of wanting to
  • I teach for a living, full-time
  • I have really cute students, who are so smart, they make me really happy
  • and, well, I am in Japan... I've wanted to come here for so long, and I am finally here.
Sure, things could be better, and I am working on making things better, but really, I am happy to be here. Before coming here I didn't really know what I wanted to do later in life, but I would really like to stay here, I think. I don't know if it's possible, logistically, since it's hard to get a job in university here, and it's also hard to keep a job as a foreign lecturer, but I am going to do everything I can to stay here. Unless, of course, my plans change after grad school—who knows, right? But for now though, I know where I want to be, so I am going to give it my all. ^ ^

Wish me luck with my research/studying for now :D.


I have a mixi account but I haven't really been using it much. Yesterday I started using it again, and the thing is worse than facebook, you can waste so much time away on it. It's great for keeping in touch of course, I am glad I have an account, but my plan to study didn't go far tonight. I only got to review my kanji, that's it. I guess I'll be studying tomorrow at work... since my studying is for the benefit of work anyway.

Speaking of work, I have to go find some fun English games that teenagers can enjoy. My junior high school kids could really use some games. Last week I played the entire lesson with them, and I think they had a lot of fun, and so did I... and they probably learned more than they usually do during the no-game lessons.
Man, I am so bad with games... I wasn't into them when I was growing up, I was more into books and drawing, so now it's a little difficult. I can find stuff to do with my older students easily, but teaching 13-year olds are a bit hard in that respect.

Waaaaaaaa, I just had an increadible idea! Not for teaching teenagers, but for finding subjects for my research. Oh man. I can have a really amazing study group, weeee!! I need people whose English level is high, and I just met many people like that yesterday, and some of them will likely be really interested in participating in my project. Now I just have to think it though carefully, in terms of set-up and logistics... Weeee!!!! All right, I guess blogging is useful, I come up with random but surprisingly good ideas sometimes when I blog. WEEEE!!! Ok, now I wonder if I am going to fall asleep easily, I am getting so excited about the project.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Anki: ESL Lesson Plans

So, have you tried Anki yet? No? What are you waiting for?

Hehe, joking, joking. I have developed quite an addiction to Anki in the past few weeks, it's so useful.

In fact, I started using it in class. Some kids think it's ok, but some love it. I have been bringing my laptop to class for my older students to try out Anki. I have not quite worked out the logistics yet, because I only see my students once a week, and also they answer as a group, not individually, so the scheduling is a bit off from individual use. But still, I think it's a pretty good tool to have. I can't wait to see how my Tuesday students do, we've been adding new words that I teach them spontaneously throughout the lesson, so I am really curious to see if they remembered any of those.

I was teaching a 7-year old during a private lesson, and he had trouble for the second week with the same vocabulary for school subjects. Well, today we figured out what the problem was. He doesn't really know what these subjects are about, even in Japanese, because he is too young (grade 2, so they don't start science, or moral education, or social science until later). I always forget how young my students are... they are so smart that they make me forget they are such small kids.

In general, it's really quite amazing how smart kids are. I love teaching for this reason, I can't get over being exciting with how fascinating human brain is. I am so glad I studied Psychology in university, so it helps me understad a little bit about how cognition works. I can't wait to go back to Toronto and get all my Psych books. I really wish now that I shipped them to Japan, and I am going to bring them all back to Toyohashi with me once I go home for a few days in February (IF I am lucky to get a JET interview).

Speaking of JET, still no word. Sigh. I am glad I am too busy with work to have time to think too much about the JET application.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Vacation: Part 1 (very brief)

Since it's already past bedtime, I will post an extremely short account of one of the most exciting adventures of my vacation.

Do you know whose free concert I went to last week (ending up in the first row, right in front of the stage too)?
Toshi from X-Japan. Yes, that's right, you read correctly. And if you know me well or have been following my blog, you will know how much this actually means to me. I still can't believe I was there. He is a legend, and so is X-Japan, and I didn't think it was possible for me to go to any of his concerts any time soon, all things considering, but thanks to a lot of luck and to my friend Jeff who really made it possible, I was there at the concert, and I also got Toshi's autograph. His voice is... hm... I don't really know how to describe it... but it really is astonishing, especially live. I haven't been following his recent work so I didn't know what to expect, and it was very different from the early X-Japan music, but I liked it a lot none the less.

I would really like to write more, but I should go to bed, because if I don't, I will be in a lot of trouble at work tomorrow.

(Image taken from this website.)


Yosh, piano practice for the day: done! :D

Anki: Studying Pays Off, Duh

So if you are studying vocabulary, read my previous post about Anki, and haven't downloaded and tried it out yet, go do it now. I mean NOW. RIGHT NOW. I am serious. Especially if you are actually serious about studying.

Now, I've skipped about 3 days of studying, and I had 40 kanji cards waiting for me to be reviewed when I came back (pretty bad given I only have 50 new words in my vocabulary list right now). For the past few days though I've been reviewing my kanji every day, and man, it's such a satisfying feeling when you actually get the, um, kanji correctly. (I was very tempted to use a swear word there, haha, but hey, you know what I mean anyway.) Really, it feels so good to get the kanji you thought you couldn't remember for the life of you actually written down on paper. What Anki does that you can't do by yourself is that it takes the job of deciding what you are going to review today, so you don't have to worry that you are not studying enough, or that maybe you have studying too much for the day and it's time to stop. Of course trusting the spaced repetition algorithm that Anki uses is up to you, but I know trusting my own sense of what, when, and how much I need to study didn't get me far in the past 4 months. With Anki I am doing my work every day, and it's actually fun too, and satisfying.

Now, if there was Anki for piano practice...

*whips self to get up and practice piano—I've been putting off practicing for 6 hours now*

By the way, Anki can be used for any other type of memorization. Basically whenever you could use flash cards, you can use Anki.

Clearing your vocabulary words is very exciting too, it pretty much makes studying into a game. I am now thinking of the logistics of using Anki with my students, I think I can do it, I just have to think carefully how to integrate it into the lesson. I think if I do it right the kids will have a blast. They are so competitive already. I can even do stuff like who has the best stats across all of my classes of the same level, etc.—so getting the kids compete as a group against other classes.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Vocabulary Review and Memorization Software: Anki

The most difficult thing for me when studying vocabulary is to find motivation to do the work. Anton showed me a program that is designed for studying vocabulary, called Anki. It supports Japanese, but you can adapt it for any language probably. The way it works is you add new words (kanji, etc.) that you want to learn, and during each session the program shows you the vocabulary as flash cards. You see if you know the word, and then check the answer, and finally rank each word based on how difficult you thought it was. If you rank it as "show again", it will show it to you once more during the session, basically until you clear it. Of course you can cheat if you don't feel like studying, and rank it as "hard", so it won't show it to you until the next time, but then that defeats the whole purpose.
There is a limited number of words per session, so if you study every day you will only have about 20. If you don't study for a long time though, you'll end up having to review all of your vocabulary.
Anyways, please see the website above for a proper detailed explanation. And if you are studying vocabulary for any language, check out the program. I've only been using it for 10 days, but I really did learn a number of new kanji, and not just recognition, I can actually write them too.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Other Blog

Since I post so rarely on my other private blog, I might actually post notes here when I update.

I just updated :P. If you don't know what I am talking about, it means you don't have access to that blog, sorry :P.


Sigh, if I want to borrow a book I'd like to read on research in ESL education from a library, the closest library that has it is in Waseda University. In Tokyo...

I miss OISE library so much. I guess technically OISE library was about an hour and a half away from my house on public transit, and Waseda University library is just a bit further, maybe 2 and a half hours... except that's on the shinkansen, so it costs quite a bit of money, and I won't go to Tokyo just for that book, it's easier to buy it on Amazon.

I have to say though, I have not yet gone to a public library here in Japan, except for the one that Steph took me to. I am sure the libraries here are just as good as in Toronto. Guess I just miss having such easy access to a university library system though, and such an enormous one as at UofT.

Oh, actually, I read the website more carefully and it looks like there is a university in Nagoya that has this book too. Maybe I'll actually make a trip there one of the weekends, to check it out. Nagoya is a lot more accessible than Tokyo, and a lot cheaper to get there too. I guess it's pretty much like going downtown Toronto. Distance-wise it's pretty similar too, well a bit further, since it's about 80 km. I'll probably just buy the book on Amazon though, once I get paid, since it's the kind of book I'd like to keep.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Kimura Takuya

I know I am supposed to blog about my vacation and write those emails that I promised, but I'd like to blog about something else instead today. Have you watched any dramas with Kimura Takuya? If you haven't, you should, assuming you like watching dramas. He is quite incredible, in my opinion. I have yet to see a drama with him that I do not like. Granted, I have not seen all of his work, I mostly watched his more recent dramas.

I suppose there is no real constructive value in this post, I guess I just wanted to share how much I enjoy his work. I am sure those of you who watch dramas know about his work already, and those who don't probably won't really bother starting now anyway, just because of this post. I also don't have anything interesting to say either, but I still wanted to share what I think. I was just watching his last drama, "Change", and thinking about how I first got to know about Kimura Takuya. I was in second year in university, and a classmate who I quite worshiped suggested I watch Hero. I remember him saying something along the lines that Kimura Takuya is not just a pretty face, but a good actor. I have to admit, I started watching at first because of the looks, but I really got captivated by the character. I am sure that my classmate would not be reading this blog unless he stumbles across it somehow through google, but still, I'd like to say thank you to him for getting me to watch Hero that day.

Here's a picture of Kimura Takuya, in case you'd like to know what he looks like.

(Picture taken from here.)

Here's him singing "Wonderful Tonight". I just found this video today, and it was nice to hear, I actually like that song a lot.

I was just reading through the Wiki article above, and remembered that Kimura Takuya was the one to voice Howl too. I wonder if the choice for Howl's seiyuu (voice actor) had anything to do with Howl's Moving Castle becoming my favourite Gibli anime...

He was in the kendo club in school too. Not that that has to do with anything *coughyeahrightcough*.

Anyways, if you do want to take a look at any of Kimura Takuya's dramas, here is a list with descriptions (you have to scroll down a bit).

I should get back to work. I've procrastinated long enough. Sorry for no updates. I know some of you are wondering where the heck I have disappeared to, this being my vacation. I am still alive. I have had the most exciting and eventful first week of the year, thanks to my brother, Rie, Jeff who traveled with me, my kendo teachers, and other people who take care of me and give me their kindness here in Toyohashi. I will blog about all of my adventures one of these days, I promise, especially since Jeff let me post pictures too, but today I would like to do something more important while I still have time—that is, work on my writing.