dorchadas: (Genbaku Park)
At 8:15 a.m., August 6th, 1945, the first atomic weapon exploded in the skies over Hiroshima.

This year is the 72nd anniversary, but the effects still remain. Our Japanese tutor had a black-and-white photo on her kamidana of a young man, maybe in his early teens, and when we asked who he was she said that he was her brother. I met a man in Heiwa Kōen who had seen the bombing with his own eyes, though from the comfortable distance of his parents' house miles outside the city. The mayor of Hiroshima is the president of Mayors for Peace, who work for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

There's a ceremony in the morning with speeches, but what I remember is the evening. People write messages on thousands of paper lanterns and set them adrift in the Otagawa, bearing their hopes and fears down to the sea.

Genbaku Dome ceremony

There are more pictures of this year's ceremony here.


תשעה באב

2017-Aug-01, Tuesday 14:30
dorchadas: (Blue Rose)
By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept,
When we remembered Zion.
Upon the willows in the midst thereof
We hanged up our harps.
For there they that led us captive asked of us words of song,
And our tormentors asked of us mirth:
‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’
How shall we sing the LORD’S song
In a foreign land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
Let my right hand forget her cunning.
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,
If I remember thee not;
If I set not Jerusalem
Above my chiefest joy.
-Psalm 137:1-6
Today is Tisha b'Av, the commemoration of the destruction of both Temples and several other disasters which have befallen the Children of Israel over the millennia, as well as many disasters which almost certainly didn't happen on the Ninth of Av but which get folded into it because it's poetically satisfying. Traditionally, we do not eat or drink from sundown to sundown, do not shave or get haircuts, do not conduct business, do not shower or wash, do not wear leather shoes, and avoid activities that are joyous or hopeful like studying Torah or saying hello.

I'm posting this from work, so I'm only doing middling on following halakhah there. I did fast for much of the day, but I found a group of rabbinic opinions that I really like that suggest fasting until halakhic noon (chatzot, the exact midpoint between sunrise and sunset), and then breaking the fast, thus both mourning the Temples and the loss of their centrality in Jewish life while celebrating the rabbinic sages and the diversity and vivacity of the diaspora. This is a little unusual, as fasts are generally sunrise to sundown, or sundown to sundown for Tisha b'Av and Yom Kippur, but there is some precedent--some people fast on Erev Rosh Hashannah but only until halakhic noon.

Tonight, I'll come home from work and read Eicha together with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd. But for now, I have to keep working.
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
Has it already been six years?

I wasn't affected at all by the Tōhoku earthquake, and neither really was anyone I knew personally. The worst that happened was an acquaintance in Tokyo at the time had to walk the twenty kilometers home in heels after the trains stopped running. In the western part of Japan, we weren't even affected by the power disruptions, because the different halves of Japan use different power standards due to buying equipment from different countries during the modernization of the Meiji Era.

I remember how others were affected, though. I still remember the Japanese word for "buried alive."

On Twitter earlier, I saw this photo of an advertisement of the Sony Building in Ginza.

It's all over Japanese news now, which gave me a clearer transcription of the Japanese, so now I can translate what it says:
3/11, every time that day comes, we think back on the things of that time. From the Great Tōhoku Earthquake, six years have quickly passed. Another such disaster will not happen again. We may think that way every year, but at some point, another disaster will certainly occur.

On that day, in Iwate Prefecture, Ōfunato City, the tsunami was observed at 16.7 meters (55.3 feet). If it came to the center of Ginza, it would be as high as this. Rather than imagine it, you can experience the height. But, rather than only knowing this height, action must change.

We, now, can prepare. We will retain the power of imagining for the victims of the disaster, and we can store up [their] wisdom. We will not forget that day. That is the greatest disaster prevention.
The last line is because it's a Yahoo advertisement, but it works best without that, I think.

dorchadas: (Office Space)
So, I think my motherboard is going bad.

Background--I noticed on Tuesday and Wednesday when I went to use my computer after work that it had restarted sometime in the middle of the night. That's not normal behavior, and at first I thought it might be something weird due to the new mouse I bought and the software to configure it, so on Wednesday I uninstalled that, did some basic tests--sfc, chkdsk, and so on--and all of them came back with no problems. Alright, I thought, let's try to hibernate the computer and see what happens.

Disaster, that's what happened.  photo emot-byodood.gif

The computer hibernated. Then it shut down. Then when I booted it up again and logged into my account, Firefox crashed with an out of memory error as soon as it opened. Then the comptuer froze. Then trying to log in gave me a "something went wrong" message and it dumped me into a temporary profile. I ran MemTest and stopped the testing when it passed 5000 errors because even one was too many. This...was bad.

After removing RAM sticks, swapping them around, and testing with MemTest again, I have one 8 gb stick in slot 2 that works fine and returns no errors. But so far I've tested two sticks in slot 4 and each time I got 7 errors, all of which showed up after hours of testing. I'm going to test another stick tonight, and if it also returns 7 errors, either there are hidden errors in the stick in slot 2 that I thought was safe that only show up when the RAM is running in dual channel mode, or slot 4 is bad. Either of those is not good. My computer is fortunately still under warranty, but if I have to ship the whole thing in, especially over the holidays, it'll probably take three or four weeks to get back to me and I have two weeks of vacation coming up soon.  photo emot-nyoron.gif

My computer current works fine, though it does run noticeably slower with 8 gb of RAM rather than 32 gb. Fortunately, everything I want to do with the computer can easily be accomplished with 8 gb. Editing LiberOffice documents, putting dialogue in my BGII Let's Play, and playing pixel-art games like Stardew Valley and Pokemon Fire Red do not take a lot of RAM. But it is having serious problems, it is under warranty, and if I can't isolate the problem to the RAM, I'll have to send it in eventually. Just hopefully after the New Year.

I have everything backed up now, both in the cloud and locally, so I haven't lost any data other than my browser tabs. My saved games and screenshots are still around. My RPG work is still fine. I nearly had a panic attack for the entire day on Thursday--at elast, it felt like it--but I'm doing better now that my computer is working, even if in a crippled state.

I'm going to update the BIOS today and run another MemTest with the last stick I haven't tried tonight. Hopefully that comes up clean, but if not... Well, I'll deal with that if it happens.

Also, I asked my father to give me some advice, and we had this exchange when I managed to make a new user account and move my old data over after the last one got corrupted:
Me: "I think I got it working thanks to legacy workarounds."
My father: "Good. Now go and sin no more."
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
My paternal grandfather joined the Army Air Force during World War II. He flew bombing missions in Europe, mostly focused on infrastructure--destroying roads, bridges, railway lines, and other things the nazis needed to conduct their war effort. When the war was over and he came back home and married my grandmother, he used the G.I. Bill to go to university and study engineering. He worked for Eastman Oil Well Survey Company, then retired on a generous union pension. Generous enough that for a short time, he had a summer house in Oregon and a winter house in California.

My parents have a display in their house dedicated to him:

He died nearly ten years ago, but I'm almost glad that he didn't live to see what's happened since then. The death of unions, already pretty far advanced by the time he died. Wholesale abandonment of the notion of expertise. Electing a fascist to the presidency. Literal nazis marching in support of the president.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The Fall of Night

2016-Nov-09, Wednesday 09:30
dorchadas: (Nyarlathotep)

I went to bed at eleven, since I knew that staying up and refreshing Twitter would just ruin my mood without actually affecting anything. And though I didn't get much sleep, partially through worry and partially because that dastardly baby is at it again, I did get enough that I didn't hear the results until I woke up at 6 a.m.

Hindsight bias will inevitably corrupt our memories in the future, but I think it's important to remember that while the polls were wrong, they were consistent. They almost all showed Clinton winning, to a greater or lesser degree. Including the internal polling by both candidates. This was legitimately an upset, because for once there actually was a silent majority of white rural voters who turned to support Trump's platform.

I don't see how the Republican Party doesn't become an explicitly white supremacist party after this. After 2012, they had those roundtables and discussions and decided that they needed to appeal more to Latinos, Asians, and other growing minority groups. Then they picked a candidate that said we should build a wall, ban Muslim immigration, consistently insulted women, mocked the disabled...and won probably the greatest coup the Republican Party has had in a hundred years. They will conclude that covert racial appeals are no longer necessary and overt racism works, and they are almost certainly right. White women went for Trump by ten points, white men at 2 to 1.

And they also learned that voter suppression works too, and that whether they explicitly say they want to prevent black people from voting or not, as long as they get they keep their majority, well.  photo cripes.001.gif

Assuming Trump has any intention of keeping his course, this is the end of the post-war economic order. I expect we'll default on our debt now, which will almost certainly kick off Great Depression 2.0, Now With Social Media. It's setting us on the course for the end of industrial civilization. And it has far more immediate effects on anyone who relies on Obamacare for their insurance, or on the marriage equality ruling for their marriage, or what little federal trans rights protections there are.

I saw this on Twitter earlier. It made me laugh, for a moment:

The Chinese government is already saying that this is the problem with democracy, and in despairing moments it's easy to agree. But there's no alternative, is there? And Clinton won the popular vote, so perhaps the problem is with American democracy. Enough brake points that a determined group can seize the levers of power and keep them despite the actually population of the demos. Or maybe a reminder that demos doesn't mean "the people," it means "the body of citizens" and quite a lot of Americans have a less-expansive view of what that should contain.

At the moment, that's all I have.
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
Current mood:

I've been having a pretty bad week, and I've said so before, and people have been very kind when I have. And then, my brain immediately leaps to one of three possible options:

People Who Didn't Say Anything: It's because they didn't care at all, and probably wish they had never met me in the first place so my whining wouldn't assault their ears.
People Who Said Something In Public: They're grandstanding, making sure to demonstrate their compassion publically. It's all performative.
People Who Said Something In Private: They have an ulterior motive, either not wanting to break their friendship with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, not wanting to cause any other rifts among our mutual friends, or it's pity without any actual care behind it.

You can probably see how literally anything anyone says to me can get shunted into one of these three boxes, which makes it pretty difficult for me to hear what's being said. It's like conspiratorial thinking, where evidence proves the conspiracy, unrelated evidence is bent to fit the conspiracy, and lack of evidence just shows how effective the conspiracy is.

I'd like off the conspiracy train, please.
it's that old recurring dream where you're drowning
flailing your arms out, fearful and frantic
and black waves are curling and pounding
down onto your head somewhere in the Atlantic
through the fathoms below you a shadow
is gliding up towards you with singular purpose
and hundreds of thousands of gallons
of ocean froth and foam as it breaks the surface

its black eyes find you almost at once
you can't hide, swim away or take air into your lungs
to scream for help that won't come
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
Something a friend posted on Facebook yesterday made me think a bit about my mental modeling. My view of myself is basically a Cartesian homunculus--there's "me," whatever that means, and then a series of impulses, urges, desires, and other messy emotional stuff produced by the gross matter of my body that "I" have to react to. It's part of why I'm so reserved, because my first response to any strong emotion is generally, "What are you doing to me? Go away!"

But what I realized today is that I think it makes me more vulnerable to depression. Now, as depression goes, I don't have it badly at all. But when it shows up, my self-conception always leads part of me to think that I'm in a more "pure" state. I don't know how it is for other people, but for a long time I didn't think of the episodes I went through as depression, because "depression" is just being sad, right? And I didn't feel sad, I felt hollow. And now I know better, but I end up with the following chain of reasoning:
  1. Emotions are an external influence on my mind.
  2. Depression ends up removing most of my emotions.
  3. In those moments, I'm some kind of bodhisattva undergoing inverted enlightenment
Therefore, that's when I'm truly rational.

This is obviously stupid. Emotion is not actually an external influence--it is literally impossible for humans to make decisions without emotions--and when I'm depressed I have extra cognitive load because I have to run an additional "how would I react to this under other circumstances?" filter. When [ profile] softlykarou talks to me at those times, I have to evaluate all my statements before I say anything so I don't come across like an uncaring machine (Edit: As another example of my mindset, I had to stop myself from writing "perfect, immortal machine"). It's usually not much of a problem otherwise because why should I talk to these other people, which obviously isn't an accurate representation of how I feel about my friends. If I think about for longer than a moment, it clearly just makes everything terrible.

That's not how I feel, though. And it makes it hard to remember sometimes.


2015-Jun-28, Sunday 21:59
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
I'm not sure I've talked about it here--I know I've talked about it before in the book reviews I do--but one of the things that most annoys me about coverage of Japanese culture is the almost worshippful attention paid to the concepts of wabi sabi and mono no aware. Sure, let's talk about the value of wabi sabi while Japanese construction companies seeking fat government contracts cover every mountain, riverbed, and beach they can with concrete, and let's talk about mono no aware in a world of Twitter and Line and Mixi. I've gone on plenty of rants about it before and I won't do so now, but this post was prompted by [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I watching 秒速5センチメーター/5 Centimeters Per Second, which is one of the best examples of mono no aware I've seen in a long time.

I'm not going to recap the plot, since the Wikipedia article does a pretty good job of it. Takaki spends most of the movie fixated on a single event in his past and unable to see what's in front of him, and as a result, he lets life mostly just pass him by while he doesn't really engage with it. He has no close friends, he misses out on romance, all because he's stuck at a single moment without being able to move forward.

Mono no aware is the idea that some things are valuable because they're transitory. Cherry blossoms are so lovely because they bloom and fall in the space of weeks, and the same with our life experiences. Takaki and Akari's relationship was no less valuable for ending as it did, with letters slowly growing less and less frequent until they died out altogether, but Takaki's mistake was dwelling on it to the exclusion of the rest of his life. He always worried about being someone that Akari would be proud of, but he didn't realize that it was holding him back from living. If you're always gazing at the horizon, you'll probably trip and fall.

It's kind of easy to look at this and draw "lol kids" from it, and G-d knows that I've been prone to that myself, but I think the intensity that children and teenagers feel emotions is worth recognizing. I remember those adolescent relationships, where every motion and moment of silence was pregnant with meaning, and every word was written on the sky in fire. We told each other that we'd be together forever, but of course we weren't. Most people aren't. As I wrote in my review of the manga:
We get older, and our hearts fade, just a little, and we call it growing up.
There's something valuable in that kind of fire that's worth recognizing, because even if misguided or silly or outright destructive, those emotions exist and have to be dealt with as any other emotions do. But in the end, eternity isn't attainable for humans and only sorrow comes from not realizing that[1].

(Brief note: If you want a fantasy version of that same concept, read Nightfall in the Scent Garden. It's really good.)

I think that's why I loved 5 Centimeters Per Second so much, because so often media is devoted to the idea of happily ever after or everything turning out for the best, or, if not that, then the polar opposite of tragedy that still allows for happy memories. But life isn't like that. So many things don't end, they just slowly taper off over time. We all have people we've fallen out of contact with, and sometimes we wonder how they're doing, but life gets in the way. It's not neat, and it's not a story for the ages, but it's, well, life. That's just how it is. This movie is one of the only ones I've seen that takes that as its plot rather than one of the tidy endings that's more mainstream, and you might say that I haven't watched many movies and you'd be right, but it's no less good because of that. It's messy, and distasteful, and cringeworthy because you recognize part of yourself in it. Sometimes there is no ending, and there's a part of yourself that's always stuck in a moment, waiting, and all you can do is keep walking and hope it catches up to you.

I really feel like I'm not expressing this very well, but I can't find the words to say what I mean properly, so I'll leave it at that.

[1]: There's probably an entire separate post I could do to tie this in to Utena's desire to find "something eternal," but I haven't seen Shoujo Kakumei Utena recently enough to do so.
dorchadas: (Zombies together!)
When [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd told me about this week's curry, she described it as "Chicken & Onions," and I thought that sounded pretty nice. I used to hate onions, but that's been wrong for half a decade now. I haven't cared about onion content since about halfway through the time we lived in Japan. So I didn't think much of it until Friday, when she told me that it took nine onions. We went shopping as we usually did, bought nine onions, and ended up devoting one of our usual grocery bags in order to contain the onion overflow.
Read more... )
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy dies at 83.

I never watched Star Trek when I was younger, nor did I really watch it when I got older. I've seen a few of the movies (I, IV, and whatever Nemesis was), a few scattered episodes here and there, and part of the first season of Enterprise back in university before we just mutually decided it wasn't worth watching.

Despite that, I still ended up as a second-order Star Trek fan, mostly through library books when we'd go visit my grandmother. I've read dozens of Star Trek novels in addition to spending hours pouring through Memory Alpha and Beta, and my favorite novels were always those of the original series. And of those, my favorite novel is Spock's World. I've been planning to reread it for a while now, but I think I need to push that up to next on my list.

His last tweet seems even more poignant now, in context:

LLAP indeed. ברוך דיין האמת \\//
dorchadas: (Zombies together!)
I had some misgivings about this from the moment I looked at it. I know that's incredibly shallow, but it really didn't look very appetizing. Nonetheless, I recognize that the senses can deceive you, as last week's smell vs. taste discrepancy showed, so I sat down and dug in. Unfortunately, it turned out that my initial impression was the correct one.
Read more... )
dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
I admit, the main reason I'm taking this in stride is because I have an incredibly low opinion of the average person--I mean, the American electorate apparently decided that it wanted minimum wage increases, continued abortion protections, legalized marijuana, and that the Republicans were the best people to provide these things--and I'm already convinced that civilization is doomed from a variety of angles: climate change, water shortages, resource depletion, ocean acidification, the end of the antibiotic window, etc. And this isn't likely to accelerate any of that any more than the Reagan presidency, the 1994 elections, or the Bush years already did, though if the Democrats run screaming from any sort of liberalism again in 2016 I'll be wrong.

I expect two years of BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI, internationally embarrassing impeachment proceedings, and a whole lot of nothing. Though the worst-case scenario on the national level is probably the Democrats deciding they need to "move foward" and "work with the opposition" and getting a bunch of totally-shit bills turned into not-quite-totally-shit bills in the Senate and then passed in the spirit of reconciliation, and our uninterrupted 40-year-long slide into cyberpunk dystopian neo-feudalism will continue apace.

But on the local front, at least we got marriage equality passed already before a bigot got into power. And on the personal front, I only had to wait thirty minutes to vote. It helped that I went literally right as the polls opened and I didn't run into any of the problems that afflicted the judges in some precincts of the city. Not everyone I know was so lucky.
dorchadas: (Awake in the Night)
A week or so ago, I was bored at work and checked in at The Night Land, and I saw a link there to the Night Land blog, which had been updated since in the months since the last time I visited. Curious, I clicked on it, and the first article I saw was this one.

I didn't know Andy Robertson at all. I never spoke with him nor interacted with him in any other fashion, but I found that website in while I was in Japan and I absolutely devoured all the stories on there. Red Giant's Race, The Guild of the Last Migration, The Wreck of the Aetherwing, and An Exhalation of Butterflies caught my imagination and set it on fire with images of the Last Redoubt at the end of history, after the sun has gone out and the powers of Night hold dominion over almost all the earth.

After finding these homages, I read the original story and found it to be incredibly evocative but nearly unreadable with its purposefully archaic language and eschewing of common literary tropes like dialogue (I suggest the rewritten version, which I reviewed here). It's a story about love that survives the ages and endures even in a hostile world, and how love fundamentally has power even against the night, which is an attractive theme even to someone as pessimistic and cynical as me. I can see what Hodgson was trying to do even if I can also recognize that it was a clumsy attempt marred with a bunch of cringe-worthy problems.

But damn, when I scroll down to the bottom of the Night Lands Timeline and see, after the end of history, "All lovers are reunited"...that pulls at my heartstrings. There, love as a force is strong enough to outlast the universe, even with all the perils laid in its way.

The Night Land website is what brought this all to my attention, and it was all started by Andy Robertson, who also wrote two compilations--Eternal Love and Nightmares of the Fall--based on story submissions he received. Some of them are also on the website in full, but others are only in part. I keep being tempted to buy them, but I've been waiting for digital versions to come out. The blog seems to indicate that there's new stuff coming out in the future, and I'd love to actually give some money to the people who contributed so much to my imagination.

Rest in peace, Andy Robertson. Hopefully, your work on Hodgson's legacy will continue for many years to come.

Edit: I almost forgot: I originally heard of this from the Delta Green mailing list, where he was a contributor for many years, early on before I joined. So there's another debt of inspiration I owe to him.


2014-Mar-11, Tuesday 18:12
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
Three years ago, I posted a short blog entry just saying that I was okay. Living in Hiroshima, we didn't know know anything had happened for a while--I learned through the Internet, and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd learned from people at her school. We got a lot of messages from family and friends, too, which led to some confusion until everything was sorted out.

I also posted the following two links:

That water one might be disturbing if you pay attention to the details, but it's not as bad as the cell phone video I remember watching. That one was taken by someone who had gotten to high ground and was looking down the hill at the people climbing after him, and then the water hits and half a dozen people are just...gone.

We were completely unaffected by the whole thing, other than being glued to NHK, where I learned the Japanese word for "to be buried alive." Obviously the people in Tōhoku were affected, but even in Tokyo they had hoarding leading to empty store shelves and people having to queue up for toilet paper or bottled water, as well as rolling blackouts and a lot of voluntary power conservation. As an example, here's Shinjuku before and after 3/11:

(picture originally from Danny Choo, found here)

When my parents and sister came to visit two months later, my father wanted to go visit Ginza to see the lights since he had heard that it was a pretty impressive display. And I imagine that usually, it is, but when we went it looked basically like that post 3/11 picture of Shinjuku. When [personal profile] fiendishfanfares, her husband, and some friends came to visit before that, a month after the accident, basically everywhere we went in Tokyo was half-deserted. We went Tsukiji market for sushi and while [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I had to wait for almost two hours the first time we ever went, that time we walked right up to the door and got seated right away.

In the west, though, we didn't get any of that. Due to Meiji-era shennanigans, the east and west parts of the country run on two different power voltages and frequencies, so all of the power shortages and blackouts in the east didn't affect the west at all. Similarly, the various hoardings and panics never took hold in Hiroshima, so about the only connection we had was the people we saw who were collecting money for relief efforts or in watching TV.

Or the aftershocks when we went to Tokyo, but even then, they're hardly worth mentioning. We didn't have to walk kilometers to get home because the trains stopped or stand in line for hours to buy basic necessities.

Putting this here for posterity, since it only ran for the length of the day in Japan (until 9 a.m. Central), but Yahoo Japan donated for every person who searched for 3.11. Tokyodesu has a list of a few ways to help, though it's a bit focused on volunteering, which you obviously won't be able to do if you don't live in Japan. There's also the Japan Society's Earthquake Fund.

Actually, I think I'm going to go donate right now.
dorchadas: (Teh sex)
So, I had a student named Moeko when I taught at Suzugamine. She was kind of attentive, and at least listened when people talked and tried at her work, but she hung out with a lot of people who absolutely weren't interested in learning English at all.

Well, apparently things changed a lot after I left. She got herself into the special English-focused class, went on a trip to England and stayed with a family for a few weeks, and found me on Facebook where she likes all my photos of food.

Anyway, I wished her a happy birthday a couple days ago, and we started a conversation, and after I told her I was taking a programming class, she said:
Which, if I had to translate into English, I would render as:
Except for studying, [university] is really fun!
Wooooow!! You're doing amazing things! But aren't you teaching Japanese along with that?!
...I only wish.

When people ask me if I know Japanese, my response is never "yes," it's always, "I get by," because, well, that's a lot more accurate. I'm pretty good at reading and writing, but my vocabulary is still lower than I want it to be and I have a lot of trouble speaking because of that. When I'm writing, it's easy enough to look up words, but that's obviously not something I can reasonably do when I'm in the middle of talking to someone without completely breaking the flow of conversation.

I think the big problem is that I'm bad enough at conversation in English, much less in Japanese. I'm happy to sit in silence a lot of the time, and tend to let conversation threads drop, or go to a corner at parties and sit and watch the action--there's a reason I picked a job where I don't have to talk to anyone. :p Add in another language, and even if you take out the worry of making mistakes or looking stupid while searching for the right word, it's still difficult enough for me to find the words to keep the conversation flowing. Unless I were to learn the vocab for talking about RPGs or video games in Japanese, I guess...

The thing is, I'm not sure how she got that impression. We've talked on Facebook, in Japanese or in English, but when I was actually teaching her I'm pretty sure I never spoke Japanese to her ever. She could tell that I understood it somewhat, because when the students asked me questions I'd answer in English whether they asked me in Japanese or English, but was that enough? Maybe she just thought that since I came to Japan to teach English, I'd go back to America and teach Japanese. If I wanted to be a teacher, I suppose it would be a reasonable assumption.

Really, this is just another of the incidents that renews my desire to keep studying Japanese.
dorchadas: (Drop Bear)
There was a forum thread (link provided even though it might be inaccessible) where one of the people in the class mentioned that a lot of the code they were reading was pretty inelegant and clunky, specifically citing the example of using a boolean global variable instead of using the timer.is_running() function to determine whether to award points in the stopwatch game, and that they had provided suggestions of how to improve the person's code while still only grading them on what was in the grading rubric.

Since I already wrote about timer.is_running I won't repeat myself, but I was kind of surprised at the reception the poster got. Even though they specifically said that they didn't take points off for inelegant code, they got downvoted like crazy and some kind of hostile comments, mostly about how this is an introductory course etc. etc. And that's true, but there's no reason to teach bad habits that people will just have to unlearn later. It's easier to learn than it is to unlearn and then learn something different.

I guess it's like the quote goes:
The trouble with most of us is that we'd rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.
-Norman Vincent Peale
Huh. Re-reading the thread, things are better now. When I first looked, the OP's posts were all getting downrated quite heavily. Perhaps I was too quick to judge.
dorchadas: (Ping Kills)
One of the best NES games is called Blaster Master[1]. Jason's pet frog jumps down a hole in the ground after being mutated to enormous size, and he follows it and finds a big metal tank hidden down there, which he immediately gets in and starts driving around because plot (although hey, big metal tank with the keys in the ignition, teenager...). Seeing the giant horde of mutants that live within the bowels of the earth, he decides the logical thing to do is fight them all to get his pet frog back. Of such elements were the stories of NES games made.

Note that the story of the Japanese version was totally different, with nary a frog to be seen.

It was hard. Not because the moment-to-moment gameplay was hard--it was a fairly standard Metroidvania[2] platformer, though with the addition of top-down dungeon segments when Jason left the tank and walked around and shot things--but because the bosses were brutal and there were limited continues and no way to save. A few of the bosses had a special cheaty way to beat them, whereby you could throw a grenade and pause the game and the grenade would continue exploding and doing damage even while the game was paused. The game even looped the hurt sound effect during the pause screen, so I'm not sure how this bug made it into the final game, but nonetheless it did. Not all of the bosses were vulnerable to it either, and one of the bosses that wasn't was the boss of Stage 3.

That boss was a square that teleported around and moved between various avatars while shooting you. As you shot him, he a) started moving faster b) started teleporting at more frequent intervals. That took me a lot of practice before I could reliably beat him, and there were several playthroughs that ended at that boss or not long after due to how many lives I lost trying to kill him.

(Skip forward to 2:00)

Yeah. It's like that.

Okay, now put on this music to set the mood, because it's fantastic and is also relevant to the story:

Stage 5 mostly took place underwater, and when you first get there the tank can't navigate. It can jump higher underwater but can't swim, so the stage is mostly just a continuous process of descending to the bottom of a gigantic underwater trench and fighting the boss at the bottom, who gives you a module to install into the tank that lets it swim, thus allowing you to make the climb all the way back up to the top. On the way down, you have to destroy a barrier using your tank's gun to descend to further depths. This will become important later.

The boss of Stage 5 was a Giant Crab Thing that shot bubbles at you. That sounds ridiculous, but it was actually quite difficult:

Note the "zero gun" challenge bit there. That probably needs some context, so let me explain. You could power up your tank only by killing bosses and getting the enhancements they dropped, but you could power up your character by finding powerups in the dungeons. Obviously there were health replenishing powers, but there were also gun powerups that would power-up your main gun, so it went from shooting tiny bullets about 30 feet to shooting bullets across the screen to shooting bullets that moved in a wave pattern to shooting bullets that moved in a wave pattern and went through walls. If you got hit, your gun lost power, and the scaling was unequal--it depowered faster per increment than it powered up. I'd usually power my gun to max in an early dungeon[3] and try to avoid getting hit for most of the rest of the game, because a fully-powered gun makes the game vastly easier.

Well, it turns out that filling the whole area in front of you with bubbles while having your only weak point being the mouth from which the bubbles are actively shooting out of is a pretty effective counterpoint to a gun that shoots wave bullets through walls. Even assuming that I had managed to maintain my gun level, it was hard. And if I hadn't, or if I died? Forget it. Any game that managed to make it past Stage 3 died at the boss of Stage 5.

Except for one. One game, I was dodging bubbles and throwing grenades and fighting and all of a sudden, the crab started exploding. I think I kept shooting for a couple seconds because I couldn't believe it. I mean, the boss of Stage 5 was unbeatable, right? Well, apparently not. And I grabbed the tank powerup that allows the tank to swim and left the dungeon.

When I got out, I started swimming. See, this time I had left the tank farther behind than I usually did, just to see if I could make it all the way down to the bottom of the chasm without it. I mean, I wasn't going to beat the boss anyway, so I was setting other challenges. But then when Giant Mutant Crab was dead, I had to swim up back to the tank, so I did. I swam up and up and up, halfway up the trench, and that's when I found the wall. I had left the tank on the other side of the barrier that you had to shoot through to progress, and when I went into the boss dungeon, it had regenerated. The tank was there, mere feet away, but may as well have been as far away as the moon. I had one life left, but if I tried to die to restart with my tank, the game would end and I'd lose all my progress.

I stared at the TV for a few moments, turned the game off, and never played it again.

[1]: Though with a much better Japanese title. "Super Planetary War Records: Metafight"? Awesome. It's like how Crystalis is "Godslayer: Sonata of the Far-Away Sky" in Japan.
[2]: Pre-dating the term! It has the same "get powerups, backtrack, now you can go new places" mechanic, though.
[3]: That dungeon had enough powerups to take your gun to max and the enemies were so weak you were highly unlikely to be hit; a combination that was rare to nonexistent in any other dungeon.
dorchadas: (Angst)
So I was on the White Wolf forums, poking around the classic WoD forum they have there, and someone posted a link to The Streets of Necropolis

For anyone who doesn't know what that is, it's White Wolf's old chat-based RP area from the classic World of Darkness era, before the turn of the millennium. I used to spend time there (rarely more than 30 minutes at a time, since we had a 30-hour-a-month internet plan then) when I was in high school. I met a few people I ended up talking to in other contexts for months or years, and though I lost contact with all of them over time, I still remember them.

When I saw the front page, I was hit with a nostalgia hard. I can honestly say that I did not know what nostalgia meant until I clicked that link. I can remember all the time I spent playing there, just chatting and RP with people. It was wildly imbalanced and full of Mary Sues and people who made no sense--4th generation abominations, child mages, child elder vampires, furry superfriends, etc.--but it was a lot of fun. It, along with the Vampire: the Masquerade: Redemption IC forum, are where I got to play the only vampire character I played for any length of time and what really solidified the Salubri as my favorite Clan, even if no one would ever let me play them[1].

I spent a while just wandering around, reading the room descriptions. Shadows Bar, which people frequently referred to as "Shadows Bar and Grill" due to all the childling changelings, 13-year-old archmages, and various other ridiculous characters in there. The State Fairground. The Alleyway, where I spent most of my time. The Necropolis Arms Hotel, where you entered any of the rooms at your own risk due to the possibility of dropped PMs from people cybering.

Most of the rooms have a few statements here and there from random passersby, but occasionally you find something like this:

"You are the only one here. The most recent statement was made forever ago."

Yeah. It's kind of like that. (T^T)

[1]: That was a problem when I did the LARP at Knox college. My favorite Clans are, in order, 1) Salubri 2) Assamite (sorcerer caste) 3) Tzimisce. Not really suitable for a generic Camarilla game.

Well...I'm home.

2011-Aug-01, Monday 22:25
dorchadas: (In America)
Or am I? Do multiple places count as home? I know I had a tendency to use "home" to interchangeably refer to our house in Chiyoda and to Chicago, depending on the exact circumstances of the conversation. Home for different reasons, I guess.

I've had few moments of serious culture shock, but there have been a lot of little things. The way money looks. The trains into and out of Chicago (once every 2 hours? Seriously?). Women's fashion. People having different hair colors. And then, it's hard to tell how much is culture shock and how much is just the standard malaise you get when you move away from a place you've lived a while, leaving your friends and the places you love behind. It hasn't been as difficult to adjust, but the fact that I speak the language fluently here is probably a lot of the reason for that.

Waiting on news on an apartment. If we're turned down, it's back into the city to look again.
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
Tonight was the farewell party for our Chiyoda adult English class.

I'm really going to miss them. A couple weeks after we arrived in Japan, a man showed up outside our house on a bicycle and introduced himself as a representative of community center English class. He was quite surprised to see two people, but he told us about how [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's predecessor had taught the class and asked us if we would be willing to do so. We agreed (it would seem like a total asshole move not to), and at that time, we didn't know what to expect.

And honestly, in the beginning we were pretty bad. We didn't have a good gauge of each other's teaching styles and we didn't really know how to properly make lessons for the class, which wasn't helped by the fact that their English levels were so widely spaced (from one member who had studied English in university and spoken conversational English to a couple who hadn't mastered basic English grammar). A lot of our early lessons were basically lectures, which is precisely the wrong thing to do in a language-learning class that only has 9 students. Nonetheless, they kept coming and over time, we gradually improved our lesson-making.

The thing I feel kind of bad about is that our Japanese got much better over those three years than many students' English did. Though, part of that is the way they treated the class. For some, it was just a chance to speak the English they already knew. For some, it was a diversion--once every two weeks, they learned English for an hour and a half, then didn't think much about it the other times. For others, it was a hobby, and you could tell the effort they put into it outside of class by their progress in class. There's no way to learn a language in an average of 45 minutes' study a week unless you want to study for 75 years, but it doesn't matter. We taught as well as we could.

Along the way, we learned about as much from them as they learned from us. Bits of Japanese, famous places in Japan and bits of Japanese culture, funny stories (I still remember the hairdresser saying he took a special trip to a spring famous for 蘇りの水 [yomigaeri no mizu, lit. "Resurrecting water." "Revitalizing water" is probably more natural] to put it in his hair), food from the places they went, and so on. At the end of the party tonight, we all stood outside and looked up at the full moon, and one of the students said, "When you're in America, you will be looking at the same moon." With all the friends I'll be leaving when we leave Japan, it's a good thought to remember.

Excuse me a moment. I think I have something in my eyes. Both of them.
dorchadas: (Slime)
I'm probably going to make this song my ringtone back in America.

So, first, the sad part--I did not make it all the way to the top, because I got altitude sickness after (somewhat foolishly, obviously) not bringing oxygen along. I got up to one of the 8th stations (there were 4 or 5 of them), started to feel nauseous and hyperventilate a bit, and decided to climb back down to the last of the 7th stations where I had left my climbing partner--after the 5th or 6th climb between stations that was just scrambling over rocks in the dark at a 45 degree angle, she decided that she had had enough.

Yeah, that's another thing. The lower parts of the climb, below the 7th station, are a kind of switchback inclining trail. It's mostly volcanic ash with bits of uneven stones, so it's not really easy climbing, but it's still about what you'd expect. Once you get to the first 7th station (the "7th station" is 5 or 6 separate buildings spread out across maybe 150 meters of vertical distance), everything after that is basically a trail in name only. There's a bunch of rocks, and there are helpful iron spikes about a meter long driven into the rock, placed maybe 2-5 meters apart depending on where you are on the trail. Climbing consists of making your way up the rocks (so, it is actual mountain climbing by the dictionary definition). If you're doing it at night, hopefully you have a good enough flashlight, because otherwise you'll probably slip and break something or nearly fall and kill yourself (which almost happened to me at least a dozen times).

Also, a hint--nuts and beef jerky are excellent ways to get protein back, but they are also usually very salty and water is heavy and/or expensive on the mountain. (-_-)

Sunrise from the place we ended up staying for the night (outside, in the cold).

Was it fun? No, not really. As I said in response to a few other people's comments: "Having climbed Mt. Fuji is really amazing. Climbing Mt. Fuji is awful." Would I go again with better preparation and try to make it all the way up? I might, though I'd probably do it differently--start in the late afternoon, climb up to one of the higher rest stations and sleep there until 1-2 a.m., then keep going and make it up in time for sunrise. I'd also make sure to be in better shape than I am now. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd wants to try climbing together when we come back to Japan, and that might be nice.


2011-Mar-13, Sunday 02:29
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
I could have gone my whole life without learning the Japanese for "to be buried alive."
dorchadas: (Chiyoda)
So, about a week ago, Kaminaka-san asked my help in performing a trick (well, loosely-defined) on his neighborhood. I was to impersonate a US ambassadorial aide with a message from President Obama.

Now, I've lived here for almost two and a half years. I'm pretty sure everyone knows who [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I are, even if they might not know anything else about us, so I knew that they wouldn't actually believe the ruse. Nonetheless, I dressed up in a suit to keep the illusion at least partially intact and, it being a party, they played along with the speech. Here it is, if you want to read it:

In Japanese and English )

The speech went pretty much as I expected it would (I ended up getting complimented on my pronunciation, actually), and then I was given a seat and a bentō and chatted with people for a bit. The most interesting chat was with the 79-year-old man who told me about his daughter living in New Orleans when Katrina hit and how he had skied as a hobby for the past 70 years. He even mentioned one of the teachers who used to work at Chiyoda high school as a good person to go to if I ever wanted to learn how to ski (since I had told him I had never been).

He also asked me if liked living in Japan. Well, literally he asked me how was the Japanese lifestyle, but I knew what he meant. And I said yes, I really liked it, and that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I planned to return when she was done with grad school. And as I said that, I thought: "you know, that's right. I really do like living here." In fact, I'd say that in terms of places I've lived (not people who live there necessarily--I miss you all dearly), Japan is my favorite. I'm not sure I can point to any single reason why, but I can definitely say that on the balance, it's true.

Anyway, moving back is a long-term goal. We'll see how well it works out.

I was also invited to a middle-school children's class at the community center on Saturdays, but I wasn't able to understand exactly what kind of class it was. I wouldn't really feel comfortable going until I knew that. I can ask Kaminaka-san, I guess.

About an hour after I arrived at the party, I judged that I had spent sufficient time at the Itsukaichi New Year's party and told them that I had to get going, since the Yaenishi Tondo festival was the same day. I walked a couple of kilometers over to the festival and arrived late (that's three years in a row I've missed them lighting the bonfire (T_T) ), and was promptly loaded down with food and sake.

The most memorable part was when one of the Tondo organizers gave a brief speech, and then asked [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I to give a speech as well. So I gave a brief line about how everyone was incredibly kind to us, and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd did the same, and then we saw that Santa Miki was crying, and that made [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd cry, and everyone said aww when I gave her a hug.

But, the bigger thing is the reaction in general--someone cried because we're leaving. I know we've been here for years, but we keep a lot to ourselves and don't speak Japanese as well as we should. While we live here, I don't really know that people actually view us as part of the community. Or, at least, I didn't know until today. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised: [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd is the teacher at the local high school (and two others beyond that), and both of us teach English lessons to children and adults. We spend a lot of time in Chiyoda because we're both here--unlike a lot of JETs or other ALTs, we don't need to go elsewhere to avoid loneliness to maintain a support network, so people see us around a lot (well, they see [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd a lot. I'm kind of a cave-dwelling troll). That's going to make leaving even harder than it already was.

It doesn't really have anything to do with living in Japan, per se, it's more living in a rural area. My friends in Hiroshima proper don't get their neighbors bringing them excess vegetables or rice or treats when they're sick, and I know those sorts of things happen in rural American areas. When we lived in an apartment building in America, we didn't know the names of any of our neighbors. We assumed one family was Indian, because we could frequently smell them cooking curry, but they might have just really liked curry. We knew one family had young children, because [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd saw them coming home. But that's it. Here, though, people know us. Even if we're members of a different culture, and sometimes have problems communicating, this is our home.

That's a nice feeling.
dorchadas: (Angst)
I just sent off a job application. A finely crafted one, emphasizing my good qualities and my suitability for the position. Every word was excellently honed towards my goal of getting the job, except for one small problem. I addressed it to "Mr. Hideko Tetsui" instead of "Ms. Hideko Tetsui." I saw the Hide, which is how [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's supervisor's name starts, and assumed it was a male name. The part of my brain that realizes that "ko" means it's 99% probable that it's a woman's name failed to engage for some reason.

Now I'm stuck worrying that it'll be rejected because of that. -_-


dorchadas: (Default)

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