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October 30, 2002

BLOGGER, Clogged?

One of the typical dreams I have is that I wake up late in the morning and find it's too late to be in time for an important event. Scary. Funny thing is, I always wake up just at that instant, relieved to know that was a dream. So I never know the story after that. It's good that I have a job where I don't have to get up early now, though I'm usually an early bird.

Speaking of a scary thing, I'm surprised to know that BLOGGER was hacked. My first encounter with the world of blogs was through BLOGGER, and I started blogging with the application. (Nobody may know this but the name of my first blog was "KEC Diary.") At first I hesitated to use the system, because I had to upload my blog files to my server via the BLOGGER site, wondering if my FTP login information was secured. But because the application seemed to have gained much popularity, I gave it a go. I still have an account there -- seems like there is no concept of canceling the membership once an account was granted there. I don't have any negative impressions of them, though.

Anyway, it's good that no significant damage seemed to be done this time. Oh, it's thanks to BLOGGER that I came to know tatroyer by chance. ;)

October 29, 2002

Field Of Dreams

I'm not a big pro baseball fan now, which I used to be, and not always willing to see games on TV even when I have time. But I'm still interested enough to know what's going on in the Japan League, and the Major League baseball - there are, however, so many teams in MLB that I can't (or don't wanna) catch up with them. Yeah, I know Barry Bonds is a great home-run hitter and Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling are outstanding pitchers, all of whom must be listed among the greatest ball players ever. I know the Yankees, Diamondbucks, and Braves have been the favorites in recent seasons.

So it came as a great surprise that the World Series this year was played between the Angels and Giants, right? It was big news in Japan too because the happy-go-lucky-looking Tsuyoshi Shinjo was among the players. The dude has become the first Japanese player ever to "hit a single," "succeed in a sacrifice bunt," and "cross the home plate" in the World Series. Hey, isn't it awesome?

Seems like the games were dramatic this time. I hear the Angels performed a series of "comeback specials." It's always fun for me to hear this kind of stories. I wish I had been there to share the excitement.

Meanwhile, the less-exciting Japan Series has started here. The powerful Giants have already won two easy games over the Lions. Any dramas?

October 28, 2002


If you read my "Puncture-al" entry, you may have the impression that I'm a punctual guy. Sure...I...am....

Well, I have to confess that, in high school, I would often be late for school. In fact, I was among the "notable" three in my class. Since that was so long ago, I can't remember why I was such a latecomer. I was not a rebel-without-a-cause type of student, nor did I hate to go to school. Perhaps I was mysteriously late only when going to school. Oh, come to think of it, I was two hours late for a date, once in those days. Hmmm...I may have been an unpunctual kid.

So it's funny I've become a stickler for punctuality in class now. I tell my students never to be late for class unless they have some particular reasons, and the kids can follow the rule. Yes, they can. On the contrary, adults here can't. That's the very reason I gave up teaching them so far.

October 26, 2002


Writing the previous entry, I wondered if I was robbing you of your precious time. I'm not writing this blog to entertain visitors, which I don't think I can even if I wanted to. All I can do is write what I want in the way I like. At the same time, this is, in a sense, a process of learning -whatever it is- for me. That said, as long as I expose my writing on the Net, I think it would be nice if my tiny written pieces could give you some fun, in any way.

By the way, is it a season to change designs in the blogging world? I've seen a number of bloggers redesign their sites recently. Jason has drastically changed his blog design and surprised me a lot. To tell the truth, I'm a bit envious. Simplicity and elegance. I like it, really. Also, Ken Loo has been trying to redesign his site, shouting "Whoa!" Seems like the width of the layout is too extended, which I often see in other sites too and makes me wonder why. But, sure, he will make it right. The previous design was so good. He has great taste in choosing colors. Meanwhile, Eri wanted to change the design when she started blogging, but, for some reason or other, has left it as it is, the default template provided by MovableType. Interestingly, I feel the design goes very well with the content now, as if it were her original one.

I have no taste in design. When I started this blog, I tried to make the page as simple and light as possible. For one thing, as I have no choice but to use a narrow-band connection in my area (ISDN - hey, where the heck is "high-tech" Japan?), I didn't want a heavy-to-load page for myself. And, because I'm not confident enough to try to make cool design, instead, I tried to make an easy-to-read page, using sound fonts and colors. Coloring was actually a great headache. So, anyway, here is what I did. Though there is a possibility that this page looks this weird, I think the current design is not too bad. The only problem may be ... content! Now, I'm learning. ;)

October 25, 2002


In Japan, trains come and go on time. Buses run on time. So do subways and planes. The public transportation system here is super punctual and reliable. We take that for granted. If there is a significant delay, you will find someone shouting at staff members. Then, what about people in Japan? It highly depends on the person, to be sure. I hear there are such college seniors these days who are bold enough to be late for their job interviews -- They are simply stupid and sloppy. In general, the Japanese are punctual.

Things are, however, different in my town, or in Hokkaido on the whole. It is generally said in Japan that people in Hokkaido are open and natural, like its broad area. That may be so, but in other words they could be just...sloppy. If someone calls you and says he will come over at 2 o'clock, chances are he will show up at around 2:20 or later. He may say, "I'm sorry I'm late," if you are lucky enough, but actually he is not sorry at all given the situation normally seen here. If you find there is something wrong with your toilet and call a fix-it company, chances are they will never show up, forever. It turns out later that they have simply forgotten the call. That's the way things go in my town. I hate it. I hate it because making someone wait is robbing the person of her/his own time, meaninglessly or worse. Though it's my hometown, I'm in no way proud of that.

October 24, 2002


100SHIKI (written in Japanese) searches for fun and interesting dot-com websites on the Net and lets us know about those sites daily by email, and, come on, here came another toilet-related stuff! Oh, don't get me wrong - It's not that I get a kick out of toilet stories, really, but, uh, you know, it's become kind of my duty to report when I come across such stuff even though nobody asked me to do so.

So, Peeball. It's a game to destroy a biodegradable ball placed in a urinal. But is it really true the game has a long history? For most men, aiming at something when doing that business could be fun. Oh, I remember someone (...yes you, Jennifer!) wrote about an aiming idea practiced in a European country. Also, I would often see ball-shaped soluble deodorizers placed in urinals, whose name I forgot. When there is something in the urinal, I would aim at it for fun, but don't want to compete. ;)

October 23, 2002


Have you ever heard of "spyware"? Spyware, aka adware, is a hidden program that collects your personal information in the background via your Internet connection. These programs, in most cases, come with freeware or shareware programs and are installed in your computer without your knowledge. Some will also come disguising themselves as cookies on the Net.

It seems, however, that spyware is not always a malicious kind of software. Providers of such software say the information collected is used only for advertisement purposes and in no way does it carry your personally identifiable information. Some applications do state in the licence agreement section that they are using that kind of programs, which I suppose most users, including me, won't read through, though.

Still, there is no guarantee that the information is used in a sound way. Besides, even if they were no malicious, I wouldn't be comfortable at all with, say, my Internet browsing habits monitored by a weird stuff hidden somewhere in my PC.

I, at one time, was shocked to know that GetRight, a download manager program I had long used, was listed among the programs that were using spyware/adware. So I haven't installed it in my new computer. Today, thinking of blogging about spyware, I visited its website to see if they had done anything for it. To my joy, they have published detailed explanations about the adware they have used, and ensured that they no longer contain that kind of stuff in their newer versions. I think I'll start using it again.

For those who have privacy and security concerns, there are some programs on the Net that are kind enough to detect spyware agents on your system. I downloaded a free program called Ad-Aware (thanks, roba-san) and scanned my PC with it. Oh my, six weird agents were found. So I removed them. Feel secured. But I wonder how they got into my machine. I think I'll have to run this spy-buster once in a while.

October 22, 2002

Johnny Be Good

Well, well, another toilet device made in USA. Hey, how could I resist blogging about this: Johnny-light (link via 100SHIKI) is a device that lights the toilet bowl when you open the lid at night. The nice green illumination would make your "toilet life" more comfortable, eh? They say it's also good for your son's potty training. Good. By the way, do you have such a fierce "seat-up/seat-down" debate at home?

Well, I'm off.

October 21, 2002

Japanese English 3

Nicolas Cage is a cool actor. I enjoy watching his movies. But why does he pronounce "accept" like "except"? Does he do it on purpose?

OK, folks, the first chapter of "How To Speak English Like A Japanese" is over. The second chapter may come in the near future, or not. Stay (un)tuned, guys.

There seem to be a number of sites on the Net focusing on Japanese English, or Engrish. I don't know what they are actually getting at, but it means a lot to know what native English speakers think about the way Japanese people speak or write English.

As M pointed out in her comment, by examining the patterns of mistakes made by non-native speakers, you can see the characteristics that must have a lot to do with their mother tongues and cultures. In this sense, I'm interested to know what kind of errors people from other countries, and native speakers as well, tend to make in speaking and writing English.

For the Japanese, learning English is harder than you might think. The same thing can be said to native English speakers learning Japanese. I'll discuss it in my blog every now and then. So, well, stay (un)tuned.

October 20, 2002

Japanese English 2

OK, let's go on to the next step. But before that, be sure to review the introductory course. Now, correct this sentence: Is he going to enjoy the party very much? Don't care about the context and meaning. Just be brave.

Courtesy is the name of the game in the Japanese culture. You have to make as many proper sounds as possible, in a conversation, to show that you are listening to the person attentively - in appearance at least.

"Uh huh."
"Uh huh."
"Uh huh."
"Uh huh."
"Uh huh."
"Are you..."
"Uh huh."
"Uh huh."

--- Many Japanese seem to think "Uh huh" is a cool expression because it sounds very English. There is even such a stupid newscaster who use "Uh huh" very frequently even when interviewing a person in Japanese. So, master the art of "Uh huh."

Also, it is very important to nod as often as possible when listening to someone, and that a few nods at a time. Master the art.

Well, I'm a bit tired. It's Sunday. So much for today's lesson (Who asked?). Please note that practice makes perfect. Uh huh.

October 19, 2002

Japanese English

Ever want to speak English like a Japanese? It's easy. Here, I'll show you some tips.

Never care about the usage of nouns

Correct usage of the articles (a, an, the) , singular forms, and plural forms would make your English sound like a native speaker's. By all means avoid this. Always use nouns as they are, without adding anything. "I like dog" sounds perfect. "I enjoy dog." "I eat lunch with three dog every day." "Dog is friend!" You can sometimes use "the" before nouns, if you feel like doing so. "I'm from the Japan." "Stop the Ichiro!" Cool.

"To be" rules

Frequently use "to be." When you order a cup of coffee, simply say, "I am coffee." Don't care about other verbs: "I am drink coffee." You can even say "I am like dog." Never mind, the conversation partner will understand what you mean, maybe.

Tense, what?

You don't have to be sensible to verb tense. Context speaks. "He go to school every day." "He go to school yesterday." "He go to school tomorrow." You have only to be consistent. If you can say "Are you go to the Japan next year?", you are an advanced speaker. Are you understand?

Use "very" very much

"Very" is a nice word. If you use "very" in front of verbs, that would sound much better. "I very like book." Oh, to be an advanced speaker, you should say, "I am very like book."

Use "enjoy" freely

Don't you know that "enjoy" is a versatile word? If you say "Watching football is fun," you are an amateur. Instead, you have to say, "Football watch is enjoy." And, you know, don't forget to add "very" - "Football watch is very enjoy!" Wow!

Now, these are only in the introductory level. But knowing them would make your English sound much like Japanese. Let's English!

October 16, 2002

I used to believe...

"i used to believe" (via 100SHIKI) collects funny stories of childhood beliefs.

Yeah, I think I have a lot of things I used to believe but turned out to be not true later. It's hard to recollect all of them now, but:

I used to believe everyone would take off their underpants before they pee or poo.

I used to believe there's always something sweet to drink in a cute plastic mug. One day when I was 4 or 5, a neighborhood girl was drinking something with a cute mug and I asked her what's in it. She said, "Take a guess!" and I said, "Juice!" She began to giggle and showed the cup to me. It was water. I thought something was wrong. -- But why do I remember this, anyway?

I used to believe junior high students had to study extremely hard and had no time to play. Every time I saw them hanging around, I worried for them if they would be all right. So just before entering junior high, I was fired up and went so far as doing a voluntary "training camp" at my grandparents' house. And... Life is fun. Now I think I should have studied harder in junior high.

October 15, 2002

Virtual University

About eight months ago, I happened to enroll for an HTML class at Virtual University, an online learning community on the World Wide Web. There I learned the basics of HTML. It was fun and instructive. Actually, the homepage of this web site is what I hand-coded while studying there, so I've left it as it is. And yes, it is thanks to the class that I got to start this blog. I made the homepage, but had no idea as to what to do with the site, when I learned the existence of "blogs." I took it in as one of the contents of this site. I didn't have the slightest idea at that time that it would eventually be THE content here.

Since the end of the HTML course, however, I haven't participated in any classes. In Virtual University, you can enroll for up to three classes at each seasonal semester. So, with the beginning of the fall classes, I decided to take some. What I've chosen this time are -- "Writing Effective E-Mail," "Writing for the World Wide Web," and "Languages of the World." They all sound interesting, don't they?

By the way, do I have time to study?

October 14, 2002


Oh yeah? Ken Loo has successfully sent a ping to my "UPGRADE" entry. Thanks, Ken Loo. Perfect timing! I've been blog-hopping here and there this morning to see how and how much the TrackBack system is used, and working on my template and stylesheet things. OK, now it's my turn to send a ping to his "Trackback" entry. I hope it will work out well.

It's a holiday today. A national holiday...let's see...I'm in the holiday mode as usual...aha, Health-Sports Day! Do you participate in any sports? I was a member of the soft-ball tennis team in high school. Perhaps you don't know what "soft-ball tennis" is. It's just as the name shows: You play tennis using a soft rubber ball, not an ordinary hard ball. I think the game was invented in Japan.

Anyway, lack of exercise these days!

October 13, 2002


Ever since we watched a featured program on the Galapagos Islands on TV, my wife's had a liking for iguanas there. It's not that she likes iguanas, or reptiles in general, but somehow she got to like the ones on the Galapagos. Yes, on the Galapagos. The iguanas on the Ga-la-pa-gos! She insists we go there to meet them. Hm...it's not bad, perhaps, but I'd rather see Tama-chan.

Where are the Galapagos Islands anyway? ... Oh, they belong to Ecuador?! Hola! Speaking of South America, I want to visit Easter Island some day and see the mysterious giant statues. Easter Island sounds so remote and isolated to me that I can't feel it is there as a real one. Exotic and mysterious and, in a sense, extraterrestrial.

So, visiting the Galapagos Islands and Easter Island has been in our future, kinda, would-be, *uncertain* travel plans anyway.

October 12, 2002


Phew. I have upgraded to the new version of MovableType. This kind of work always makes me feel okey-dokey, no, doki-doki (nervous) for fear of overwriting wrong files or something and messing things up. Like driving a car, I don't fully understand the basic mechanisms. It's funny, but when it comes to things around computers, I'm not the type to read through manuals before doing something new. So I often make stupid mistakes. Hope I have done it right this time.

Oh, and I've set up TrackBack. I haven't got a clear idea of the system yet, but anyway here it is.

October 11, 2002

Nobel Prize

It's cool, man! A company worker who is practically unknown in the academic world won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Good news! I saw an interview on TV and that was terrific. He said because he really never dreamed of winning the Nobel Prize, when he got an English phone call notifying him of the Prize, he thought the "Nobel something" that he heard from the other end of the line was one of those different awards. This episode explains his personality well. In fact, he looks like an unassuming, likable man -- not the type who knows how to get ahead. So it's all the more valuable that his work itself was evaluated. It's surprising that his major in college was not chemistry but electrical engineering. It's also surprising that he is the same age as me. Wow. He gave us hope.

On a language note: He said the news that he won the Prize was "nemimi ni mizu." This tongue-twisteric (makes sense?) Japanese phrase means like "a bolt out of the blue," literally "water pouring into your ears while you're asleep."

October 10, 2002

Laugh Lab

"The joke that received higher ratings than any other gag."

Hmm...it's funny, to be sure, but tell me, Watson, is it really so funny as to be No.1?

October 9, 2002


How distasteful is it to blow your nose in public? Darren (Hey, if only we had TrackBack!) wonders about this because he's heard before that in Japan it's bad manners to do so. Yes, it is, in general. Then what do we do? Find a place where you can blow your nose in private. If not, then do the job as quietly as possible. Or simply sniff - which would be most unfavorable in other cultures. It used to be like that, I think. Actually, how nose blowing in public is regarded in Japan may depend on the situation and person now.

I asked a ninth grade class about it yesterday (Hey, blogs promote international understanding!). I asked them if nose blowing in public is bad manners in Japan. At first they didn't seem to get what I was asking about, but, after a brief interval, most of them answered "Yes." I asked them why. One of the students said, "Because it's hashitanai." Hashitanai! I was surprised to hear this, not because of the meaning of this word, but because of the expression itself that I didn't expect them to utter. Well, it's a challenging job to explain the meaning and connotations that this adjective gives. It means like -- of bad form, distasteful, inelegant, rude, improper, not modest, not maiden-like ... anyway, a beautiful old word. It's not altogether a rare word to be heard, but I was kind of impressed that this elegant word lives in ninth-graders' vocabulary. Hm, a little exaggeration, maybe. So, anyway, yeah, it would be hashitanai. Why hashitanai? Hmm...well, at least it's not something you're willing to see, is it? Others said, "Dirty!", "The noise!" Yes, we wouldn't want to draw attention by making a loud trumpeting sound especially in a quiet place. Interestingly, a boy student exhibited an evident aversion to the practice, while a girl said she doesn't care a bit about it.

So, all in all, nose blowing in public is not at all a taboo-like thing here, but something we'd like to avoid if possible. I think things have been changing. Because of the recent spreading allergies like hay fever, people seem to have less distaste for nose blowing than before. In fact, some of my students carry a box of tissue with them at times, and play the trumpet frequently during class. After all, some people care, others don't.

October 8, 2002


Oops, I haven't blogged for two days. Well, come to think of it, I wrote in my journal every three days at first. So it's back to normal ... No, no, I've just sabotteta.

"Saboru" is a casual expression in Japanese, meaning "not to do what you are supposed to do" generally out of laziness. It's one of those borrowed from foreign words and changed drastically into Japanese word forms and meanings. Guess what "saboru" is from? It's origin is "sabotage". As you can see, "saboru" has lost its original meaning here, which is one of those things.

You can coin verb expressions by adding "suru" or "ru" to nouns, if you want to. Usually they don't sound good, but relatively popular instances are toraburu (from "trouble"), panikuru (panic), hamoru (harmony), and so on. They are often heard in everyday speech. Some people may think they sound too casual or dasai (uncool).

In (American?) English, many nouns are being used as verbs and they are accepted as they are, which I find funny but interesting. Oh, "blog" can be one of such instances, right?

October 5, 2002


It's been six years since I made Saturdays off. Since I'm self-employed, I can make holidays as I like, given that I could secure enough students to carry on business by doing so - things wouldn't go that easy, huh? In fact, it took me much courage to carry it out. Though it has definitely nothing to do with the Saturday-holiday setting, the number of students has coincidentally increased since then. It's kind of ironic, isn't it?

So it's Saturday today. But, alas, seems like my wife and I have caught cold. Coughing!

October 4, 2002


I've been waiting for the new version of MovableType to be released. The official announcement on the homepage put it that it would be released later in September. Man, it's already October. No, I mean no offence. It's just a matter of common occurrence. I'm thankful for this fabulous application. Actually, had it not been for this program, I would have given up blogging long before. The reason I've been awaiting is that I'm thinking of using the TrackBack feature.

The feature itself was built in in the last version. I didn't upgrade to it because I was completely satisfied with the previous version and didn't see any positive reason to use the new features then. Translation: Upgrading work was simply mendokusai. But since there had been very interesting posts found in other blogs, especially Japanese-related ones, I was beginning to think it might be convenient to use the TrackBack feature to blog about the topics posted on other blog sites, when the upgrading schedule was announced. So I decided to use the feature in the coming newest version.

That said, I don't know much about the TrackBack mechanism yet. To be more precise, almost nothing. I have to read the description.

October 3, 2002


Wow, M of nipponDAZE has started a Japanese blog! It's great and cool, isn't it? I admire her energy to put things into practice. (I'm proud to say I was the first to post a comment there. haha.)

What I find interesting about her new blog is that she seems to intend to not only keep a Japanese journal, but also develop views on linguistic and cultural aspects of both languages (This is done in English. Good read!). It must have a lot to offer to Japanese learners of English as well. (So you can't stop blogging, Melissa-san. ;)) I'm looking forward to the future development of the blog.

As someone who shares a common interest, language learning, I think it's great to be able to exchange views on languages and inspire each other.

And fellow Japanese, though I'm not sure how many Japanese visitors I have here, why not go and visit her blog and join the discussion!

October 2, 2002


So it's October. Fall. Autumn. Aki. The calm and poetic season. But, for me, it's the bland season that comes after bright summer, going toward terrible winter. Maybe I feel so because I live in Hokkaido, the coldest part of Japan. I don't hate the feel of autumn itself, or rather I love it. It's the chill that gets me down. Why I hate the cold in spite of living in Hokkaido is a mystery.

So October is the month that reminds me of winter. Other than that ... the 3rd of this month is my wife's birthday. Oh, it's tomorrow. Along with the wedding anniversary, I'm busy this time of year, kind of. Aha.

Typhoon Higos (what does it mean?) has landed in Hokkaido this morning and is heading north now. There's been a heavy rain and wind since last night. Before hitting Japan, the typhoon was reported to be the most powerful ever. Typhoon in October! What the hell. I used to think Hokkaido was free from typhoons. Anything can happen in this day and age, eh?

October 1, 2002

I, My, Me

The Japanese language has a variety of first person pronouns that correspond to "I" -- watashi, ore, boku, atashi, washi, to name a few. Those words are to be used properly depending on the situations and your gender. In my case, I usually have to choose between watashi, ore, and boku. "Watashi" will be a decent choice for my age. It sounds a little polite and formal, and not necessarily gender-specific. On the other hand, "ore" and "boku" are almost exclusively used by males - (there are always exceptions in this kind of things though). When I was a kid, I used to think watashi was used by girls and women only. Actually, boys would never refer to themselves as watashi, while it sounds quite natural for girls of any ages to call themselves watashi in any situations. So I felt funny at first when the English teacher translated "I am Jack." as "Watashi wa Jack desu (desu is am)." in the 7th grade English class. "I" is traditionally translated as "watashi" in school English here, for better or worse, regardless of the context or who the "I" actually is. Because it's kind of innocuous, and much more so if context is not given.

When talking with my wife or friends, however, I never use watashi. It sounds out of place. "Ore" is the choice. It sounds casual, colloquial and rough. So if used in a formal situation, it can sound rude and offensive. Boku is milder than ore. I would often use it at adult classes. Although it can sound somewhat sophisticated, depending on how you say it and possibly how you look, it could give a childish impression. If you refer to yourself as "boku-chan", it's a disaster...

As a native Japanese speaker, I usually use those words without effort. However, there are times when I'm embarrassed about how to refer to myself. That's especially when I'm talking to my students in Japanese. I feel watashi sounds a little pretentious, and ore sounds rough and rude. Boku is out of the question. Fortunately, the Japanese language can frequently leave out the subjects of sentences, so mostly there's no problem with me in talking with them. But there sure are cases where I'd better use or feel like using a first person pronoun. "Sensei (teacher)" could be a possible choice. But personally I don't like to use it as the first person pronoun (oops, it's actually a noun) for myself. Hmmm...Do you have any good idea? Haha!