Sunday, August 29, 2010

Just a little while longer...

I was just informed that my connection date for Internet will be September 8th. I was hoping it would be sooner, but oh well.

I decided that I would re-do the video of the apartment after that gets set up.

In other news, I went to Sofmap in Kobe yesterday and bought a printer/scanner, an HP Touchsmart. It has wireless capabilities, but unfortunately it doesn't have 802.11n, which is currently the fastest speed. That doesn't matter to me though, because the printer's price was slashed from 12800 yen to about 6900 yen, which is a great deal. I like that I can change the touchscreen's language. Even though I'm pretty sure I can understand the Japanese, if I ever give it so someone else I can change the language to English of whatever language they may need.

Next will be to buy an Airport Express, which I'm very excited about. I'll be able to connect my speakers to it and use AirTunes.

And if my budget allows it, I'll buy an Xbox 360 Slim (which has built-in wi-fi) and have my brother send it to me.

It's only been a week since I got paid and I'm already waiting for the next pay day...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm not paying THAT much for Windows 7.

The cost is mainly attributed to convenience.

For certain reasons, I'm thinking of installing Windows 7 on my MacBook Pro. I had Windows on my old MacBook so that I could use a Windows-formatted iPod Classic, which would make it compatible with any system using Windows. Since I don't have my iPod Classic anymore, I don't have a reason to get Windows 7 except for extra compatibility, since the computers at my two schools use Windows 7.

In order for me to get a FULL, retail version of Windows 7 Professional, I have to pay about $300, depending on where I look. When I did a search on Google, I found that $300 could also get me a 5-user family pack of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, which isn't even the latest version. The 10.6 Snow Leopard upgrade is about $25 to $30. After my experiences with OEM versions of Windows, I know I need a retail version so I can move the installation from one computer to another when necessary.

Windows advocates could make the argument that "Snow Leopard is a service pack," and that Windows service packs are free, so the two aren't comparable. True, the two might not be comparable. But I would much rather deal with [very] occasional updates--most of which do not require me to restart my computer--than to be given a new update after I've JUST rebooted from installing another update, and have this happen at least three times, and if I don't want it to update yet, it won't leave me alone until I stop everything I'm doing and click "Install and Restart."

This makes me think back to when I was helping my mom set up her new laptop, which was actually my brother's old one. It runs Vista, and when it asked to install updates, it ended up installing over 100 items...understandable, since Vista is old. When I rebooted, it still had about 30 more items to install. Seriously?

I've had friends tell me they wish they could get a Mac, "but it's too expensive." They are expensive, I'll admit that. However, they are worth the cost when you know how to take advantage of their simplicity and flexibility. I kind of hate seeing people with Macs and NOT using them to their full potential. They're probably people who "grew up using Macs," but Windows is not that hard to use--they could save a lot of money if they just learn how to use them.

I suppose Windows OS software is so expensive in order to make it fair for other OS makers. A large percentage of computer users in the world use Windows, so to make the software more affordable would only increase the ratio between Windows/OSX/Linux users in favor of Microsoft. Also, it's expensive because people are simply willing to pay that much. If they need it, they need it. And they will pay what it's worth to them. I could build a computer and get a Linux OS for free, but from previous conflicts I've had with Linux, I'm willing to pay for the convenience of a somewhat simpler operating system.

Believe it or not, I'm actually very frugal with my money. Whatever it is I buy, I want to spend the least amount possible, and if I can't find an ideal price, I will wait as long as possible until either the price goes down or I have more money in my pocket. It's a challenge to do this in Japan, where nearly everything is extremely overpriced. I guess that's why I buy so many things at 100 yen shops.

Stupid bike key...

Of all days to end up late for school, it had to be on a day when I had a staff meeting at one of my schools.

I rarely misplace my keys, but it's always my bike key that ends up elsewhere. Here's how my bike lock works:

When I need to unlock my bike, I put the key in, push it to the side, and the lock pops open. The key can't be removed as long as it's like that. When I need to lock the bike, I simply push the latch down all the way, and then the key pops out.

When I lock my bike, I try to attach my bike key to the same keychain with my apartment key and so on, but somehow things are a little hectic when I have to carry bags and stuff, so I lock the bike and put the key in some random place. Because of this, my key usually ends up in my bag, on the dining area table, on the table in front of the TV, etc.

Today, I had to get to school for a staff meeting at 9:00. No problem, since I usually come in at that time anyway. At 8:40 I was on my way out, when I discovered that my key was missing. I checked to see if I forgot to pull it out of the bike lock, but no luck. I went back to my apartment and started pushing stuff around, lifting things, trying to find that stupid key. At 8:55 I gave up and called my supervisor to tell her what happened. She had another staff member come pick me up at 9:20 so I could get there at 9:30. After I got off the phone, I kept looking. At around 9, I finally found my key, stuffed between the armrest and a cushion of my sofa. Maybe I need a bike lock where I don't have to detach my bike key from my regular keys.

I was really angry, but relieved that no one stole it or anything. But since I didn't take my bike to school, I have to figure out how I'm getting home today. I could walk, but I'm sure no one would let me.

Fortunately, none of the staff (particularly the principal and vice principal) seemed angry or anything. I got there, listened to some stuff that I couldn't understand well, and then introduced myself as the vice principal asked me to do yesterday. I think my perapera nihongo ('fluent Japanese') made them forgive me.

Anyway, I guess it's good that this happened early and not later when I had to teach a class or something. I'll spend the last few days of summer break trying to "loss-proof" my bike key.

Food for the day:

Scrambled egg with green peppers, a salad, and toast with butter and apple jelly.

Monday, August 23, 2010

New Suitcase

I bought a small carry-on suitcase for shopping expeditions. At 7190 yen, it's considered to be pretty expensive compared to those in the U.S., but the price was better than almost all of the other hardshell suitcases I saw at Saty. I had to choose between black and silver, and I chose the silver one. I like all of the compartments inside, and I think my favorite feature is the built-in TSA lock.

It looks pretty business-y right if it should either carry a bomb or 10 million dollars. But I put a cute keychain on it that I bought from claire's in Kobe, so it looks a little more like what I want it to. I'm going to order some stickers to put on it as well.

I would upload my video but for some reason I can't get iMovie to connect to YouTube, so I'll have to wait for later.

Food time:

Gyuudon (beef donburi). There are all kinds of donburi, which is basically something served over rice in a bowl. My favorite is oyakodonburi (chicken and egg over rice) but lately I've been enjoying beef. Donburi is really quick to make when you have rice left in the rice cooker and aren't sure what to do with it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

EDIT: Forgot food pics!

I forgot to put the photos of recent food that I made in my last post, so I'll add two here.

Okonomiyaki, with kiri-mochi inside (which you can't see)

I grilled some beef in the small grill under the stovetop.

A Hectic Weekend.

I was going to make a video just now, but I have some shopping to do so and Ono Matsuri is today so I'm going to wait until Sunday.

My Thursday consisted of work and attending an 'enkai' with teachers from my two elementary schools and another ALT's middle school. They had a meeting about the English curriculum, which I couldn't attend because I had to pick up my Alien Registration Card (also known as a Gaijin Card) from the Board of Education.

The enkai was great. We had some good food (I tried beef tongue which is actually much more delicious than it sounds). I also dared to sing karaoke, but the song selection was really small. I ended up singing Utada Hikaru's "Flavor of Life," and some of the young male teachers started backup dancing and supporting me, which was really funny. Afterwards, a small group of us went to a snack bar which is in my neighborhood. Snack bars are prevalent in this area, apparently. It was a nice, humble environment. We all had some drinks and snacks and sang a lot of songs. I got a lot of compliments, though my voice wasn't at its best. One of the teachers said I was "umasugiru" (like saying "extremely good," literally "too good") and said I shouldn't give up on being a singer if I want to. I'm not sure if I'm THAT good, but after hearing some of the performers in the industry now, I think I have a chance.

I'll talk about my Friday and my Saturday as well in the video. On a side note, I can't stand AKB48. I thought Johnny's was bad...but I'd rather listen to them instead.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Food made in the Apartment

I've never considered cooking something I enjoy doing; I prefer the eating part. But if I want to eat well and save money, cooking is necessary.

It takes time to upload these photos, so I'm going to post one every time I make a new blog.

Today's photo is of a delicious chicken doria I made during my first week. I've made this before in Tokyo but This time I have a gratin dish instead of that little pot. Inside is chicken, eggplant, okra, and green peppers. The sauce is my favorite Hello Kitty doria sauce from the 100 yen shop :D

Saturday, August 14, 2010

My YouTube Channel

For anyone who may not have noticed, I have a YouTube Channel. There are four episodes so far, and I'm also working on two other small projects. I've taken a few videos of my apartment but I haven't had time to compile them into one.

So for now, here's my latest video.

Daily Life as a Gaijin, Episode 3: About Cockroaches

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Words of Wisdom from a 5th year ALT

At the ALT Panel during Tokyo Orientation, a question was asked about inappropriate touching at schools (from both adults and children) and how to deal with it. One of the panelists got into his experience at an elementary school and offered the greatest advice in regards to 30 5-year old kids running towards you:

"I just let them touch me."

This caused everyone in the audience to laugh really hard. He laughed as well, realizing the awkwardness of his statement, and then continued his story by saying, "After class..." which just made the audience laugh harder and start applauding.

During my first few days in Ono, I've been paying more attention to the elementary school-aged kids here, and some even younger. While I was getting my cell phone at the au shop (pictures later) There were three little girls sitting at a table playing with some toys. The toddler dropped one of them and it rolled under my chair and hit my foot. I reached under and held it out to her, and she took it while the other two girls were staring at me. I smiled, waved and said "konnichiwa," and they just waved back. The other ALT and I had to go to our dorm quickly to pick up documentation required for our phones, and on the way out I said "bye bye," and they answered back and smiled.

Interaction with them is no problem, since Japanese kids are so incredibly cute, but the teaching is what makes me a little nervous. I just want to make sure they're learning and having fun.

So what does that have to do with touching? Absolutely nothing. If anything I think my hair would be the most curious thing about me.

Friday, August 6, 2010

In Ono

I'm finally in Ono. It's not as rural as I thought it would be, so that's great. It reminds me of some suburbs in Maryland, i.e. driving is the most convenient. I have a bicycle so I have to get used to that.

I'm using someone else's internet so I won't say much, but I will say that:

1. I'm nervous about starting work.
2. I finally got a cell phone :)
3. The view in Ono is WONDERFUL.

Monday, August 2, 2010

In Tokyo Again

I arrived in Tokyo yesterday evening, greeted by the worst humidity I've felt in a long time--even worse than back home. Soon after arriving, I put my stuff down, freshened up, and went out to explore Shinjuku.

It felt like a dream, and at the same time it felt like I had never left. A few paces and turns and I could see Kabukicho, an area I visited many times. I understand the warnings from the JET advisors about the area, which mainly apply to those who have never visited Kabukicho or know what's there. But I felt no hesitation going back there. I didn't visit a host club, but I did some observing. Some things have changed, but much of the area is the same.

After a long first day of orientation today (Monday), I went out again. I just stopped by two 100 yen stores, and then went to Shibuya to BOOK-OFF to buy a few cheap CDs and magazines. On my way back to the station and before the large crossing, There was a group of people standing around. As I got closer, I heard a saxophone, and then a bass guitar and drums. I was listening to some of the most awesome music. There they were, these three guys jamming for a crowd.

Neither all day nor since I arrived at the airport did I smile as much as I did after hearing their music. Believe it or not, I hadn't been all that excited since I've been here, and that band really cheered me up a lot.

I bought their CD and have some short videos that I took of them. I'll post their flyer info later, but right now I should get some rest.