Friday, December 02, 2005

What the heck is a BlackBerry?

And why do people actually use it?

Ai and I have been discussing this. What exactly is a BlackBerry. As far as I can tell, it's just a wireless handheld device that can send and receive emails. That's it? All Japanese cell phones can do that, and the last cell phone I had in the US could also. So what's the big fuss? Why do I need a blackberry if my cellphone can do email? Granted, my last cell phone didn't come with it's own email address like the ones in Japan did but that only meant that I could use any account I wanted to. Why don't he cell phone companies add that feature for five bucks so that people don't have to spend the extra forty to fifty bucks a month(?!) and take the business away from the company that makes BlackBerry devices? I guess I just don't get it.


This sunday I have my Japanese Proficiency Test Level 2. I've been studying for it for a while. I'd originally planned on taking it in Japan, but since it's only offered once a year, on the same date all around the world, I signed up to take it in Seattle. The level 2 test is the second highest, and tests reading, listening, and about 1000 kanji.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

New toys

Ever since dad went to Randy's race back in September, dad's been wanting to get a motorcycle that he can fix up and race. His goal would be to not be lapped by the person in first place. So for the last few weeks, dad's spent his Wednesday, through Friday nights on looking for pre-70's Honda's. So every Thursday morning that I don't have chemo, dad's been waking me up to be a carpool dummy on his way up to look at bikes that he's called on. This Thursday, he woke me up at 9 am and said "we gotta leave quick". The add that he called on just said that it was a 63 Honda Dream. He really didn't know what it was, but it was old, so he called, found out that he was the first one to contact the seller, and that the bike had a title. When we got there, we saw it under an awning at the apartment complex that the guy lived at, and almost turned around without getting out. The guy had torn a bunch of it apart, so it looked like a bunch of it was missing. But I said "You might as well take a look at it", so we got out just as the owner set down the box of parts. He was just taking his fourth call of the morning as we approached the bike. Once we got a closer look at it, we realized that it was pretty neat looking. After seeing that the tank was in almost perfect condition besides the paint, and that most of the body parts were there, dad handed him the cash and we went in to get the key and title. Once inside, the seller could find neither the key, nor the title. The key had been a victim of "organization" by his girlfriend, and what he though was the title turned out to be the title to a 38 Harley that was mistakenly given to him by the original owner... He said he would track down the key and the title. His girlfriend should know where the first is, and he knows where the original owner lives and works. Even if that doesn't work, I'm sure we'll be able to track down the registered owner through the state listening dept.

Once we got it home, we started to track down what it actually is. It turns out that it's not a Honda Dream. This seems to be a common misidentification. I found the engine serial number, and from that found out that it's a Honda CA95 Benly Touring, a street bike that did only okay in the US, but quite well in Europe and Asia. It has a distinctive frame stamped out of sheet metal, forming a solid frame from the head to the tip of the fender. It's no racing bike, but it's such a cool little thing that dad and I are going to restore it. We've already found quite a number of parts for it. Obviously, at least once we got it home and started looking at it, we'll have to find the correct seat. The one that's there is in pretty good shape for an original seat, but we don't know what bike it's actually for. We should be able to sell it and buy the correct seat. It's also missing the tool kit and battery covers, and the head light. One thing that we have that's probably very rare to have is the frame mounted tire pump, in working condition. I think this is going to be a fun project, and I hope that it's not going to be too hard to tack down the title.

First is a picture of the bike sitting in the garage. Most of the body parts are in the plastic bin on the left. The body had been painted white, by brush, and the guy we bought it from started to sand it down and primer it.

The next picture shows what it looks like in original condition. Ours was originally white, but they came in black, red, or blue (And in rare cases, pink).

Here is another example of the Benly in white, the original color of ours.
In other news, Ai just got back from a trip to Hong Kong with her mom. You can see her Hong Kong pics at her page.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The night before Halloween...

Last Sunday, Kelsey picked me up from Bonney Lake and brought me to Bellingham for a few days. I'd kept saying that I'd be going up there, but didn't have a way to get up there until last week. The first night, I slept on Kelsey's couch, but it's way to small and uncomfortable, so I found a real bed for the next two nights. Lyle, from Tokyo was also in town, and he'd just bought a new bike, which he let me ride around the block. Very fast!

I also met Rick and Susan from my old job at ATUS, and went out to lunch with them. I also spent a good part of two days in the computer labs scanning negatives. Later that night, I was going out to Korean food with a friend, and we hit a road biker. He was okay, but his bike was bent up pretty bad, and it was scary watching him do a cartwheel through the air into a hedge. Now my friend, who hasn't really ever ridden a bike, hates bikes, so I want to buy her a bike. I think she needs it.

That kid in the picture moves too fast. He's hard to get a picture of.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Working in Wood

For my warmup to building a 4x5 view camera project, I've started building a pinhole camera. Dad's got tons of scrap plywood out in the shop, so I designed a camera to work around my 4x5 film holder. Last weekend I researched how to make a box joint, and after a few practice runs yesterday, got a working jig. Today, I adjusted it a bit to make it cut accurate 1/4 inch cuts, cut out the frame of my camera. The picture shows the box before I glued it, with the film holder in it to test the fit. Sitting next to it is a piece of coke can with a .23mm hole in it. Once the glue dries, I will mount the front and figure out how I'm going to hold the film holder in place.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Okay, I'll post...

I haven't posted for a while because I was feeling crappy right after chemo #3, and after that, I've been keeping myself busy. I'm finally on the way to emptying out my apartment in Tokyo. Hopefully, that will happen in the next week or two. Since about a week before my last chemo, my hair started slowly falling out, but not enough that I wasn't going to have any any time soon, or even that anyone else would notice it probably. But it was annoying to shedding hair everywhere, ( although Ellie does it all the time) so I cut it all off.

I've also been working in my darkroom, but I don't have enough film to keep up with my printing, and I left my two favorite cameras in Japan, so I started playing with a 95 year old Kodak Brownie that we've had forever. The pictures it takes are in what was called the "postcard" format, about 4x6 inches, and no film company has made film for this format for a long time. So I took a piece of photo paper and cut in down to 4x6 and put it into the camera. This way I can make negatives on a sheet of paper, then contact print them onto another sheet of paper.

Playing around with this inspired a few more projects. First, I need a contact printing frame, which is for printing negatives directly onto a sheet of paper without using an enlarger. This is pretty simple to build once I find a piece of glass I can use. The second project is a view camera. Typically, they use either 4x5 or 10x12 inch film, and many are made fairly simply out of wood. To buy a new one often costs over $1000, but a fairly nice one can be built much cheaper. The first project, is one that many home builders don't make on their own, the bellows. By studying a few websites and the Brownie, I was able to make a small paper model. After a few attempts, I was able to make a symetrical tapering bellows, but it's rectangular rather than square as I'd hoped. It makes sense that it's rectangular, but I still need to figure out how to make it square.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


My darkroom is running! On tuesday, I finally settled on a layout and got it approved with the Boss. I put a board across the washer and dryer for the developing trays, set up a small table for the enlarger directly across from the toilet. Tuesday night I mixed up all my chemicals. Last night when dad got home from work, we went to the hardware store for some weather stripping and plumbing hardware, and I made my first prints last night. I was lucky that the guy who sold me the equipment had some boxes of paper and some paper developer that wasn't too old. I think today I will get out the negitives of Kelsey and I that I wasn't able to finish printing before I graduated and left for Japan last year.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Chemo Part 2

I had my second dose of chemo on Thursday, and it was worse, like I've been told it would. This time, the nurse hit a valve in my vein, so it took two tries to get the IV in me, but the infusion went okay. Nausea has been worse this time though. The thing that's really bothering me though is my insurance company. They've restricted my nausea medication to 12 pills in a 23 day period. The instruction say to take it 3 times daily as needed, so you can see the problem here. I haven't really needed it too much, but I currently have only 3 pills left, and if I needed them, I wouldn't be able to get more without paying $45 a pill. Luckily, there's a process that the doctor and pharmacy can start to get me more. The insurance company just doesn't like paying $45 per pill if they don't absolutely have to.

I got my darkroom stuff on Wednesday! I'm very happy with what I got. I'm sure that it's worth far more that what I bought it for, and everything is in great condition. Now I've got to figure out where it's all going to go. It will be pretty easy to black out a room, but right now, I can't figure out how to fit it into the utility room with the tables I've got. I don't want to have developer chemicals in my room obviously, so I'll have to get a few brains together, and maybe some wood, a drill and some screws together to work on it. I think I can have my first prints made in a week.

Ai and I have bee talking about when she's going to come here again. She's going to Austria and Germany for 2 weeks at the end of September, and she's got another break in October, but I think it'd be nice for her to come in December. She's worried about if other people will mind. You wont will you?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Darkroom coming

It looks like I've found a dark room. I my room. I found what I think will be a nice setup for only $125 including the enlarger, two lenses, a color head, and everything I need for developing prints and film. The enlarger is a nice model, though kind of old, and will be able to do both my 35mm and medium format films. I've convinced mom that I need something like this in order to not die of boredom, and that I'll be a really good son if she finances the purchase. So she's at the ATM now getting the cash. I'll go to the guy's house today to take a look at it and make sure that everything is in working order, and if so, probably buy it.

Tomorrow is my second dose of chemotherapy. I'll go in at 8 am with dad again. I've been feeling completely fine since about 4 days after the last dose. I don't know how the cumulative affects are, but I don't think I should expect anything worse than last time. I've noticed that since before I started treatment, I have a lot more energy, which is not what you'd expect. But before I started treatment, I was in pretty bad shape. Just a short walk was very slow, and left me huffing and puffing, especially if it was up hill. Last weekend I was in Seattle, and I stopped at the SCCA for a second, and when walking up the hill, I was at my normal fast speed, and wasn't huffing and puffing when I was done. However, last week I decided to go on a bike ride, and only made it a mile before I was exhausted. If I didn't have two dogs to look after right now, I'd take a ride and see how I am.

Ai Ai Ai Ai Ai.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Gotta love Adult Swim

Adult Swim, Cartoon Network's late night, always has little text blurbs in their commercial breaks. Tonight it was:

Netherlands: $6.63
UK: $6.21

Try to keep in mind what the rest of the world is paying before you all start going "Road Warrior" on each other.

And just a little graph I found that's sort of related.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Affecting me

The day after that last post, I started to feel why chemo isn't much fun. I woke up the day after writing my last post, and threw up before I was able to take my anti-nausia medicine. After that, I was more careful about listening to my stomach and taking my medicine when I felt problems coming on. It's been a few days now since I've had any problems with nausea, but my weekend at the cabin was anything but relaxing, and I was exhausted when I got home. There were so many people down there this weekend, that I had to escape to Annette's house a few times for some peace and quiet. I helped her get her internet hooked up, and brought my wireless router over and got her addicted to it. That night and the next morning were enough to get her addicted to sitting on the couch with a laptop, and she went out and bought a wireless router the next day. My work was done, and I was able to take mine back home.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Chemo Update

Hey, I survived my first chemo session! Actually, it was pretty anti-climatic. Dad and I got there at 8 am and were shown around the infusion floor. There are about 50 rooms, each with a bed, comfy looking chair, and a TV. There are also heated cabinets filled with warm blankets, and a couple of food rooms that we can raid for juice, water, cookies and other things.

The chemo itself was pretty much like Marcia said. First they hooked up an IV with a drip which made me cold as the stuff entered my veins, and injected me with one of the drugs to make sure that I wasn't allergic to it. After waiting for me to not be allergic to it for an hour, they started with the other drugs, and just let them drip into me. I was there for 4 hours thursday, but only because it was my first time. I think it should take only 1 or 2 hours from now on.

After all the bad things I've heard about chemo, so far this is a piece of cake. They gave me some anti-nausia drugs that cost $425 for 10 pills, and some anti-anxiousness drugs that they said was basically strong Valium, and would also work really well if I was having trouble sleeping. So far, I haven't felt sick or anything at all, but I guess it will be the second dose in two weeks that will do me in. I think it builds up to be worse the second time. We'll see.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

This is the Day!

It's 5:55am, and I'm having breakfast and getting ready to go in for Chemo. I have to be in Seattle by 8:00, but since trafffic around here is so unpredictable, we will leave at 6. We'll probably get to Seattle way too early, but there's always the chance that traffic will be really bad, and we'd be late if we didn't leave this early.

I talked to the nurse that is in charge of my treatment yesterday, about what will be happening. For the last week, I've had a pain in my shoulder and neck that is probably caused by the tumor in my neck, so I got a pain killer prescription from her for that. She says that once chemo starts, the tumors will probably dissolve so quickly that not only will the pain in the neck go away, but I will probably have a strange feeling in my chest from all the organs and my lung moving back into their proper places. They will be giving me some medication to counter the effects of all that broken down tumor tissue entering my bloodstream to prevent it from becoming toxic. Also in the coming weeks, I will have to start watching how and what I eat to prevent bacteria that would normally not effect me, from making me sick as my white blood cell count lowers.

That's all for now. I'll try to post when I come back.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

After spending the week reading over medical journals on Hodgkin's treatments, I've decided to go with ABVD for my treatment. It was quite hard to make the decision based only on the affects of the treatment, because each negative seemed to have some positive that outweighed it. Going through the medical journal articles, I was able find some that compared the overall success of ABVD and Stanford V directly. Some of the earlier studies only showed that Stanford V was an effective treatment, but the later studies showed that Stanford V was not as effective as ABVD. Over all, rate of reoccurrence of disease seems to be higher with Stanford V, and the long term cure and survivability rates of ABVD are much higher.

The possibility of lung and heart damage still worries me, but I have found some information on the Nation Cancer Institute website about supplements that seem to make the heart and lungs resist damage while taking the drugs that cause it, so I will ask my doctor about that. I still have one more appointment at the UW hospital next tuesday (relating to Meg's concern of not having any little Aarons running around) so I will be starting my chemo next thursday. I've just called them up and let them know, so they will be arranging things and calling me in the next few days to get things set up. I kind of wish I could just start it today though. I'm not as impatient as I was before, but it'd still be nice to get it going.

So doing nothing this weekend. Maybe I'll be able to get my film developed. One is going to be hard. I'll either have to trick them into thinking it's regular film, convince them that developing this non-regular film will not cause their machines to blow up, or take it somewhere that understands ( and charges $20 per roll...)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Choices, Choices, Choices

Last friday, I had my second appointment with my doctors, and they discussed their findings and the two treatment options. The CT-scan and PET-scan both showed that nothing has gotten worse since my scans in Tokyo, and also that it has not spread beyond my lymph system and spleen. Therefore, there are two ways they can treat me. ABVD, named for the four toxic chemicals they will pump through my body, or Stanford V, named for the five toxic chemicals they will pump through my body, and the institution that developed it.

ABVD is what has been used for Hodgkin's for the last 20 or more years, and is pretty tried and true. It will be 6 courses, lasting a month each, injected every 2 weeks. The side affects are hair loss, nausea, general crappieness, etc. in the short term, and possible heart and lung scarring in the long term.

Stanford V is a newer treatment developed by stanford, but it too has been around for a while. But because of the relative rarity of Hodgkin's, it's still in trails. The main benefit of Stanford V is that it takes only half the time of ABVD. It would be 3 months, with injections every week. The short term side affects are about the same as ABVD, but one of the ingredients is something called nitrogen mustard, a derivative of mustard gas. It was one of the first chemicals used for cancer treatment, but has long since been replaced with others. Now it is back, but in much lower doses. Some of the side affects are sterility and a possible reassurance of other forms of cancer. In the old days, this would be about a 15% chance. With the Standford V, my doctors have said that it's probably 1 to 2%, and sterility is also uncommon. Also, with Stanford V, less of the chemicals that could cause heart and lung scarring are used in lower doses.

The nitrogen mustards sound pretty ugly, but really, it's a pretty close call. ABVD has been successfully used for a long time, but its 6 months and has a risk of scarring, while Stanford V is much quicker and has a lower risk of heart and lung scarring, but has a tiny chance of causing a secondary cancer.

I am worried about the possible heart or lung problems, and I like the 3 months vs. 6 months of the Stanford V, but I don't like the 1 to 2% re-occurance rate vs. .1% of ABVD. So right now I'm still trying to decide between the two. Treatment will probably start friday.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Seeing People

I finally went to see some doctors last friday. I am going to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, which is a building on the corner of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center on Lake Union in Seattle. I have two doctors, one who is staff at the Cancer Care Alliance, and the head doctor, Stephen Petersdorf, who is a professor of Oncology at the UW. Last friday, we talked about the disease, treatment, and got some more tests and a CT-scan done.

This week, I will have 3 appointment, including a PET-scan at he UW Medical Center, and an appointment to finalize the treatment plans. Probably, I will start treatment by next week. I'm happy about deciding to come here because I think its the best possible place I could choose to have treatment. I don't like how long its going to take, but I have no other choice but to stay and finish everything before I get my life back on track.

I have a bunch of film sitting in the fridge, so if anyone knows someone with a negative scanner, let me know. I had to leave mine in my apartment in Tokyo.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Going somewhere

I haven't updated in a while, because there's really been nothing happening since Ai left a weeks ago. I've been hung up on trying to get copies of the biopsy slides from my hospital in Tokyo. The oncologist here said it would be much quicker to wait for them than start over here, but I was starting to have doubts. My doctor here emailed the doctor in Tokyo asking him to FedEx them, but when Ai called last week, she found out that he was on vacation, but was assured that he'd send them as soon as possible. The really frustrating thing is that I asked him for all this stuff weeks ago, but he said some of it would take too long. Apparently he only did the stuff that he could have done the next day for me to pick up before I left for Seattle. So he's finally sent them, and they arrived at my oncologist today, so I finally have an appointment this friday. Hopefully, I'll be able to start my treatment next week.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Results

I know, you've been waiting for the results of the biopsy for a few weeks longer than I have. But Kelsey complained and make a stink about me telling everyone that I was in the hospital via my blog, so even though that wasn't the case, I decided to wait a bit longer. What they pulled out of my neck was a bit of Hodgkin's Lymphoma, so after thinking it through for a bit, I bought a round trip ticket to Seattle, and left Thursday and arrived in Seattle a few hours before I left.

For the last three days, I've been waiting for my doctors here to get everything together. Ma had been searching for a doctor that speaks Japanese to translate my medical records, but was unsuccessful until we found out that the local doctor that I was seeing for a referral was a Japanese major in college and had lived in Osaka. So he translated the stuff that needed to be done and faxed it to the clinic that I'm going to.

Ai has to go home tomorrow morning, and hopefully, I will get into the clinic tomorrow or monday.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Weather Maps and Beer

You can, of course drink beer at any time of the year, but summer, when it's hot and muggy, is the best. So leave it to Japan to make the next logical connection: use beer to indicate weather conditions. This map on Yahoo!'s weather site shows apparently how much beer you will need at the end of a hot, muggy day. (Tokyo's currently at 4 beers, while Okinawa is the highest, at 5 beers.) They also offer other ways to gauge the weather, by UV rays , heat syndrome (heat stroke?), and sweat . Now you all need to call your local TV stations and ask them to provide such a helpful reference. You don't want to end up with too few beers on a killer day.

Insurance and Thailand

One thing I didn't tell last week was how much my hospital stay cost me. I thought that I wouldn't be much since the day that I had 3 blood tests, a CT Scan, X-ray and Ultrasound cost only $20, but it ended up costing me about $900. It turns out that the insurance wouldn't cover any of the hospital stay since I was in a two person room. If I was in a dormitory style cheapo bed, then they would have covered it. But when I was asked what kind of room I wanted, I said that I didn't have much money, so I wanted the cheapest they had, so I don't know what else I could have done. In addition, the handbook that they gave me when I signed up for insurance said nothing about not paying for hospitalization in the section called "Treatment not covered by insurance" It's kind of ridiculous that they will cover the cheapest room, but not any part of a more expensive room at all. I spent some time today pestering the health insurance guy at the city hall about it, but he didn't budge, so Ai's mom said she'd call for me. Apparently, she's good at stuff like that.

This huge expense is really bad because I'm going to Thailand in just over a week. I really can't afford it until after I get my paycheck for this month, but the problems is that I don't get this months pay until the day after I leave. Anyway, we've planned out our trip, and made hotel reservations for the nights that weren't covered by the travel agency, and Ai's very excited. I'm still working and stuff, so I haven't really had any time to think about it. My last day of work for summer is July 22nd.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


This is me at the hospital! Why am I in the hospital? I have a papaya sized lump (that's a Brazilian sized papaya) in my chest. So I was in surgery yesterday afternoon to have part of the lymph in my neck removed. It felt like they were pulling a lot more out of that, but anyway, I'm fine now. I'm taking a day off work tomorrow, but I'll be back at work on Thursday. I'll hear what the stuff they pulled out was made of on the 15th.

Kyle's still here. He never really left my apartment because he couldn't find his way to the station, and yesterday it rained the whole time. So today when I got home from the hospital, Ai and I took him to Shibuya, Harajuku and Shinjuku, then went out for dinner at a sushi place. We got him a ticket for the bullet train to Osaka tomorrow, so I'm taking him to Tokyo station in the morning.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Hey, forgot about Kay!

This photo is of Ai and a little pond in a pot. There are lillies and little baby fish swimming.
Mrs. Jones, my high school Japanese teacher landed in Tokyo last night, and I was able to get ahold of her this evening. We're meeting tomorrow afternoon after I get off work, and going out to Tachikawa. The father of one her students was staying at this guys house 30 years ago or something like that. Don't remember exactly what she said, but we'll hang out tomorrow.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Living in a Sauna

Summer in Tokyo. It's not pleasant. I guess like Florida, hot and very humid, sort of like living in a sauna or walking to a bathroom right after someone's taken a hot shower, only it happens when ever you walk outside. My apartment has an air-conditioner, but I try not to use it too much, because I don't want to get used to it, and I don't want to see the bill at the end of the month. One of my students said that her brother is married to an American, and that she goes back to the US for two months ever July and August to avoid the humidity.

My cousin Kyle is in China right now. He says that it's hot an humid there too. He'll be visiting my in Tokyo for a few days starting next Friday. It's been more than a year since I got here, and including my year in College here, he's only the second person who's visited me here. Even my parents haven't. Kelsey was in Tokyo once, but she was lost in the red light district, and didn't visit me. Mom says that she's applying for a passport though, so maybe I'll see them this fall.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Rugs and spray-on hair

Japan seems to have a bit bigger problem with balding than the US. It's not that more people are bald, actually there are quite a bit fewer bald men here I think. But those that are bald seem to have a bigger problem with it. Comb-overs are very common, they are called "bar codes" here. And occasionally you will even see the classic "blown off comb-over" where it's sticking straight up in the air, or in the opposite direction than it's supposed to.

But bar codes are not the worst of it. There are also many people with rugs, most of which are pretty bad. Usually the giveaway is the sudden transition from normal black hair to black mixed with grey, or straight hair to slightly wavy. Today's rug of the day though was pretty bad. In addition to the two above giveaways, the wig and real hair were slightly different colors, and you could see the netting!

Japan's also got a large array of hair enhancing products like the powders and sprays that could be seen advertised on TV 10 or so years ago in the US. I actually saw one of them in use the other day. There was a man who's head was spray-painted black, and since it was a hot day, a drip of paint mixed sweat was running down his fore-head.

It may just be that I notice these things since I'm packed like a sardine into a train every morning, but it does provide some entertainment for the otherwise dull ride to work and back.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Ai and I have just about finalized plans to go to Thailand this summer. Yea! It will be my first trip abroad (Japan doesn't count since it's my home). It's 5 days including airfare and hotel for $438. I tried to find just airfare for a lower price, but I couldn't. Thailand is really cheap, so I was thinking about staying in some cool guest houses or something, which would be less than $10 a night, but since I can't find airfare alone for cheaper than the package, I guess I wont.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Bike shopping

I've been to a few bike shops over the last week. I spend most of Saturday and Sunday shopping with Lyle, but still unsuccessful. First, it's very hard to find a decent bike shop around here. Some shops that I've found might have used to carry good bikes, but they have gotten so buried in unsold parts that you can't find anything, and everything is covered in a layer of dust. One shop I found yesterday had one good Specialized Stumpjumper, their top-of-the-line model, but it was a few years old and buried under piles of other things. Most of these shops seem to have turned to bicycle maintenance to make their money.

But I didn't give up finding a good shop, and after asking a few shops that sold only shopping bikes (single speed, step-through frame with a drum brake in back and baskets) I was directed to a shop in Asagaya, one station from mine, and about 10 minutes by bike. This shop was excellent! I really think it's the biggest shop that I've seen anywhere. There are 5 floors of bikes! The second basement floor is all parts, components, tools and bags; the first basement floor is shoes, clothes, and helmets; the second floor is lower end mountain, city and road bikes; third floor is upper end US bikes; and the fourth floor is upper end European bikes. But all this bike heaven in one building and they still didn't have a frame that fits me. I though I'd try out a 56cm felt, but it seems like there aren't any left in Japan unless some shop is hoarding them. So it's online for me I think.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Beer at 3:30

Today was a pretty stressful day at work for all of us. We are all getting used to the students, and they are getting used to us, which has started to cause problems. I have this class of second year students that are the lowest level in the school, and the reason is evident. They don't do anything. Three of them rarely come to class, and the other two are 20 minutes late every day. On tuesday, the two late ones really pissed me off. First off, they both were exceptionally late. They bring slips from the station master saying that their train was late, and so I am supposed to mark them as present. But they do it every day, and I'm sure that their train is not always late. I chewed them out the day before about it. Because seriously, if it was a job, they would be expected to be on time everyday, regardless of if their train was late or not. So on tuesday, they were 20 minutes late again, and I was tired and wanted to sleep, and didn't feel that I should have to wait for them to show up to school. So after struggling with them for 45 minutes, trying to get some education into their pea sized brains, they girl, (who, by the way, has been at this two year school for four and a half years) asked me if they could have a ten minute break since all the other teachers give their classes ten minute breaks. First, I told her, none of the teachers give ten minute breaks, and even if they did, I wouldn't give one to her since she had come in twenty minutes late. (this, by the way, is the same girl who, when I said she could go get something to drink, went all the way to the connivence store) She really has a pea sized brain.

So today seemed to be the same kind of day that I had on tuesday, so after our last class at 3:30, I was saying that I needed to spend a few ours in a cafe before my 6:30 class, and Vannia said she needed a beer. I thought that was a good idea, so Matt, Vania and I decided to go have a couple beers and bitch about students. It was a great stress reliever, and left me refreshed for my night time class.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bike bug

I've been bitten by the bike bug again. My bike was sent to me by my wonderful parents late last year, and that satisfied by bike desires for a while, but now I want a fast bike again. My friend Lyle, who is also into cameras photography, was talking about buying a bike last week, and we ended up talking about bikes. It's amazing how much some bikes cost here, like the Specialized Allez, a aluminum frame with carbon chain stays and fork. It's $1800 in the US, but it sells for ¥280000 here. Their Japanese distributor must be taking a huge cut. Plus, they don't sell frames larger than 52 cm in Japan, so they are ruled out even though the bike looks good. A few bikes that I'm interested. The Giant OCR Composite 2, is a full carbon frame with Ultegra components which I've seen for ¥220000. Not really sure how they can sell a full composite frame for that cheap though. The Felt F55 however is $1800 in the US, and ¥190000 here. Basically the same price when you adjust for the exchange rate. This bike is basically the same type frame as the specialized, Trek, and a lot of the other bikes, but it's got full Dura Ace components, nice wheels, and carbon cranks.

There are just so many to choose from. I'll probably be limited somewhat by availability of frames in my size, and I've heard that ordering one can take quite a while. It seems that Lance Armstrong has fueled quite a resurgence in the popularity of road biking in the US, and component makers like Shimano can't keep up with demand. It will probably take me quite a while to locate the bikes I'm looking at in my size, and the get them all test ridden. Buy that time, maybe I'll actually be able to afford one.

The other consideration of buying a new bike, is where to put it. You can't exactly leave a $2000 bike out side. It will be in my room, hopefully on a rack that I will design to hold it above my TV.

My boss asked to see one of the catalogues that I had yesterday. He said that he used to do a lot of touring, like riding across Kyushu when he was 19. A lot of things have changed since then. I guess that he figured that technology had improved since the time when he had a 15 speed bike, with a 5 speed rear cassette, because he asked me if it has a 6 speed rear. When I told him that it was 10 speed, he was pretty shocked. That all that most bikes had in total when he was riding.

Even if I don't get a new bike for a while, I'm having fun shopping for it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Missing Post

Yea, I deleted a post. I was requested to make some changes by the editor, but I couldn't make them satisfactory enough, so I just deleted it. But I'll forward Marcia's comment onto the editor. She was asking me if I could ask my HR aunt.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Keeping a job

I don't know what's so hard about keeping a job, but this week, 1 person at my language college job, and 2 people at my part time job quit without notice. I don't know what's going on, but is it really that hard? Shouldn't you know what your getting into before you start? Shouldn't you know whether or not you have the time for it?

The guy at my college job, I'll call him J, no.. how about -eremy? What the hell... His name is Jeremy, and he's from Eugene Oregon, and if you know him, tell him I said he has no spine. He told the administration that he would be gone for 2 weeks starting in Golden Week, but after one week, he called (or probably sent an email, it takes less spine) and said that he was not coming back. Is it just my misunderstanding or does signing a one year contract not mean that you intend to work somewhere for one year? Both the contract (and I think national law) say that you have to give 30 days notice before you quit a job. So now we're left one teacher short, which is requiring some classes to be doubled up, and some teachers to take on extra classes. Now I know he was just a Nova teacher, but it's really not a hard job, and he students are really pretty fun. What's up with leaving 3 weeks into the school year? Too bad work history doesn't add up like a credit history, he wouldn't be able to get a good job for a long time after this one. Apparently, after being home for a week, he decided he didn't want to go back. I don't know how he's going to get all his stuff back, and even if he does, he's going to loose half the property and savings he has.

At my other job, teaching a high school class two afternoons a week, two teachers quit after the first day. There was one girl from Australia who I didn't like from the start after she was bitching about having to walk up and down an extra flight of stairs or two when the head teacher was lost in the new building. She could use the extra exercise anyway. The other guy seemed okay, but when I came for the second day of class last week, they had both left the country, and there were two replacement teachers (one of whom they seemed to already be having problems with). The other guy seems pretty cool though. He's half Japanese, born in the US and has been living in Japan for the last eight years. He's been working for this company for seven years, more than just about everyone at the company.

Today I spent a few hours at the immigration office. It's always an interesting experience. The immigration offices are never air-conditioned, and they have what seems like the old furniture from other government offices that was taken out in the last remodel. It's always pretty dirty, and there are always screaming kids wandering around destroying things.

The purpose of my visit was to renew my residence permit. I got a one year work permit when I came here last year, and that expires May 28th. This time, I'm trying to get a 3 year one, mostly so I wont have to worry about visa deadlines and stuff for two more years. That was one of the main reasons I couldn't spend more time looking for a non-teaching job this year. The renewal process isn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. You don't actually need a company to sponsor your visa anymore. All you need is a contract or two showing that you will be making over a certain amount, and papers showing that you have paid your taxes for the previous year. In two weeks or so, they will send a post card saying that your papers are ready, and you come back to get a sticker in your passport. Even if you have he work permit, you can't leave the country since it's not a visa, so you have to get a re-entry permit too. So next time I go, I will have to pay about $40 for my new residence permit, and $60 for a multiple re-entry permit. So hopefully, I'll soon be a new legal three year resident.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Survived Golden week!

I've only had to work two days since last friday because it is golden week. Beginning with last friday, was green day, Emperor Showa's birthday. Tuesday was Constitution Day (or National Foundation Day, maybe both) , and Thursday was Children's Day. Back to work tomorrow for one day, before the weekend. Most people are taking both Monday and Friday off and making a 9 day holiday of it. Therefore, Tokyo is empty. Not sure where they all went, but somewhere, there are 10 million too many people.

The week started off bad, (don't ask) then I almost make a emergency trip with Ai to Fukui, on the other side of Japan, but there were no seats on any form or transportation that would get us there. On Saturday, we are having a party at a bar near my house with my coworkers, and I might try to go sailing on Sunday.

Still no internet, so I've been eating at McDonald's far too much. I hope they come to set it up sometime soon.

That's it. Boring week. Happy Mother's Day to my mother and the other mothers.

Monday, April 25, 2005

My Apartment

Originally uploaded by noexit.

Originally uploaded by noexit.

Here are some pictures of the inside of my new apartment finally. I don't have internet yet, so right now I'm at Ai's school using the computer lab while she's in class. I just got hte bed in hte loft last night. My bed was about 5mm too wide to fit up there, so I had to borrow a plane from Ai's uncle and shave a bit off.

I really like the location of this new apartment. It isn't at close to the station as the last place was, but the station itself is closer to everything. My monthly train pass from home to work is only 5600 yen, and on the way is Shinjuku. It's also on the way home from school for Ai, so it's much eaiser to see eachother. Very close to my house is a great import and specialty food shop that has rootbeer and tons of other things.

I'd write more but this computer is driving me nuts. Everything I type appears on the screen about ten seconds after I hit the keys. I can type at a normal speed, but I can't see what I'm typing, so there's going to be some mistakes.

So now mom and dad need to get their passports, because I know they haven't yet, and start planning their trip this summer.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

I'm all moved in! I went back to my old apartment yesterday and cleaned it. I only have to go back down there one more time to return the key on Sunday. It's so far! Now I have a train pass that lets me get on or off at any station between my home and work, and half way between home and work is Shinjuku, the hub of Tokyo. This means that the train is pretty crowded in the morning, when the doors of the train open, there's no where to put your feet, but you have to get on anyway. But I live only four stops for work, two stops on one line, then a transfer and two more stops. It's a pretty great area, but I'm still exploring. I just found the grocery store yesterday.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Moving in

Taking a quick dinner break from packing now.

This morning I went to Shinjuku at 10am to meet my real estate agent. Not really sure why since all he did is give me a map to the agency that manages the property. So then I headed off to that agency and spent an hour going through papers and signing and stamping them with my seal. At about 12 I got my key and headed off to my apartment. I didn't have anything but my brief case with me so I only stuck around long enough to turn the power on and call the gas company to turn on the gas tomorrow so I'll be able to have a hot shower.

Yesterday, after contacting everyone I knew to see if someone would drive for me, I decided to stop by the police station to ask if I could use my international driver's permit. I'd read that the law was changed and that it was only valid for 90 days after you enter Japan, but the cop said I was fine to drive until the 23rd, so I stopped by the car rental place and reserved a large van.

I also needed a navigator, and Ai might be busy tomorrow, so I called my friend Keiko, who lives at the next station. Turns out she was planning on meeting her friends in Tokyo tomorrow afternoon, so I offered to drive her up there and buy lunch in exchange for her help navigating.

So tomorrow I pick up the van at 9am, and hope to have it loaded and be off to Koenji by 11am. Lot of packing to go...

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I'm approved

My Apartment
Originally uploaded by noexit.
I got a call from my real estate agent today, so I met I for coffee after work, and went to the agents office. I got it! Now all I have to do is wait for the paperwork from the dentist to get to the agent, then I can go to the contract signing. I think that the land lord will also be there for a sort of interview or something. Most landlords are very very careful about renting to foreigners. There is a reputation or fear that foreigners will leave the country without paying their rent or something. But I really think that it's an unfounded reputation. I'm sure there are more pad Japanese renters in Japan than bad foreign renters.

So now I'm trying to find someone who can drive for me. I can rent a truck that is big enough for about $65, but I don't think I'm legal to drive it.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

I found an apartment!!!

Apartment hunting is really crazy here. Basically, you have to go to a real estate agent to even find what's on the market. Landlords almost ever rent directly, they always go through a real estate company. So you go to a real estate company, usually chosen by the sampling of apartment floor plans they have out front, although one agent said that some agencies will put our fake ones to attract customers, so pretty much any big one will do. There are two types of agencies; small local ones that the landlords list with, and then other agencies that collect thousands of floor plans from the smaller agencies. Since it's usually harder for the smaller agencies to find tenants, and harder for prospective tenants to find the apartment they are looking for, the secondary agencies are more convenient.

The thing that delayed me from looking before was that I didn't have a guarantor. In Japan, everyone has to have someone to cosign the lease. There are not background or credit checks that can exempt you from this requirement in japan, though there are a few, very rare landlords that will rent to someone without a guarantor, but the rents are generally higher.

Last week, while at my last lesson with the Dentist and his daughter, I told them about my new job, and and how I needed to start looking for an apartment, but that I didn't have a guarantor, and he agreed to be my guarantor. (Yeah!) So on Thursday, the very next day, I headed up to Kitijoji to start apartment hunting. I spent a few hours in one place, whose site I had searched on the web, and flipped through their books. I had expected them to be different; since I was able to search through what they had on the web, I expected that they'd have everything organized electronically, but they were no different from the rest. When you walk in, someone will sit you down, have you fill out a registration sheet with details about yourself and what you are looking for in an apartment. Then they pull out a book of copies of floor plans and you start flipping. I probably flipped through an entire box of paper in the three agencies that I went to. Meanwhile, the agent uses some other resources that they have to find other apartments that fit your description that they don't have in their files yet. If you find some that you are interested in, then they will take you to see them. The agency in Kichijoji had a car, so they drove me to each place, but the Shnjuku agency didn't have a car, (after all, it's Shinjuku, so it would have taken 2 hours to navigate the traffic to where the apartments were) so we took the train (20 minutes).

The first agency I went to was able to find one apartment that I was looking for, and it was really great except that it was a half hour walk to the train station. The second agency hadn't found anything as of yesterday afternoon, but the Shinjuku agency was really on the ball, and found a couple by yesterday morning, so I canceled my appointments with the first two and went to look at apartments.

The ones were not to my liking and I was about ready to lower my standards when we hit the last one. This is the one I decided to get. It was about $20 a month over the budget I had set for myself, but I think it will be worth it. It's in a reinforced concrete building which will be less susceptible to earth quake damage than the wood construction that most buildings are made of. It also has the bath and toilet separate, which was one of my main requirements, and the biggest obstacle to finding an apartment in my price range. People who haven't been to Japan may not understand the "bath toilet separate concept. Basically, the bathroom is just that; a bathroom. The toilet is in a separate room. You may not understand unless you see it, but it's just so much better. The apartment also has a large loft, which was the other difficult requirement I had. My image was to put my bed in the loft, and use the main room for living. This loft may just be just too small for my bed though; my bed it 120cm wide, and the loft is 119.5 cm wide. The difference is so small that I'm just going to shave that much off the side of my be to make it work. I think that from about 5cm off the floor, it's a full 120cm, so I'll just bevel the feet and it should work.

The apartment is also in a great town. Koenji is only 20 minutes from work, and 160yen! Where I live now, it costs at least 190 yen to get to a station that is even half the size of Koenji. I'll also have a train pass that will take me to Shinjuku to work and Shinjuku for free since my school will pay for it. Yea!!!

It's going to be much different living up there. I wont have cherry blossom petals falling past my window for a week during the spring (as they are now), but the apartment is far enough from the station that I wont hear trains all day. I'll also be much closer to shops and food (lots of food!) and spend so much less on transportation that it will probably pay for itself.

I'll get a floor plan up as soon as I can get them to fax it to me.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Apartment Hunting

Heading off to see a couple apartments. Hopefully I'll get the one good one that I saw last night. More later.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Giving up on Driving

I had the third attempt at the driving test today, and I have given up.
This is just ridiculous. The first time, I made a clear mistake, and
failing was plainly my fault. The second time was picky, and I can
understand one of the things that I did wrong, not why I lost more than
30 points, but I accepted that I would have to do it at least one more
time. But this time, I was stopped half way through the test after
flawlessly navigating a narrow hair pin curve, and told that I had
failed. The explained to me after I returned what I had done. She said
that I need to drive slowly enough around a certain corner so that I
can stop immediately if necessary, which I believe I was doing. She did
not explain to me what I had done wrong any where else, or where the 30
points were lost. It's plainly ridiculous. I've had a driver's license
for about 8 years, and there is no reason that I should have to take a
test like that more than once. They apparently don't fail people
because they don't drive well, otherwise I would have passed on the
second time. Maybe they want money, maybe they just want to make it as
hard as possible just to mess with us.

English, Australians, Germans, Canadians, and a few others don't even
have to take a driving test. Each of these countries have provided
Japan with statistics of their drivers, including things such as
accident rates as requested by the Japanese government, so license
holders from these countries are exempt from taking the driving test.
But when the US tried to submit these statistics, the Japanese
government said that they had to get separate statistics from each
state, effectively treating each state as a separate country. This
doesn't mean that people from states who have completely the necessary
requirements can be exempt however, because it still all has to go
through the national government.

So for right now, I'm giving up. Possibly, after I move to Tokyo, I
will try again. I have to have time though. Lots of it... I've already
used almost 4 full days trying it in Kanagawa. I have heard that
Kanagawa's test is the worst, so hopefully Tokyo will be better. In the
mean time I will go to a local police station to find out if I am legal
to drive with my international drivers license so that I can move.
Otherwise I might have to pay for some professional movers to do it...

Off to another Job interview. I only have 4 more this week. Ugh!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Another Job Update

The last update I wrote was posted a few days after I wrote it, so this one will appear to be close, but there are actually a few days in between.

Today I had interview #2 at the Foreign Language College. This time, I had a sample lesson for 30 minutes (The longest sample I've ever had to do) with 5 students while the head of the school observed. I think it went really well, and the students were great. After the lesson, I had an interview with the school head, and the head english teacher. I think everything went well, so I'll hear from them soon. I think I'll get a part time job with them, but hopefully they'll offer me the full time job.

I also had an interview with the Japanese tech support company that I found at the employment office. It went okay I guess, but I'm sure I made a bunch of mistakes in etiquette.

I also got a call from Bloomberg today for an interview on Wednesday, which is exciting.

Saturday's interview with the dot com was terrible. Admittedly, I wasn't as prepared as I should have been, but neither was the interviewer, (the president of the company) but he was a jerk even before he really started asking questions. Even if I was better prepared for the interview, I wouldn't want to work for him.

After that on Saturday, I met Ai and her mom for dinner. Ai's mom was the one who really convinced me that I could find a non-teaching job, and now I don't want to stop until I find something. But I'm kind of on a short time limit. My current visa expires at the end of May, so I'll have to renew it, and I have to move out of my apartment by April 25th, so I have to find a company that will sponsor my visa, and cosign my apartment lease pretty soon. I hope I wont have to settle for something less that I want to get a visa and apartment.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Gland Canyon

Gland Canyon
They probably should have
checked the spelling before they
had it set in stone.

I know, I know. You've all been refreshing your browser windows every 30 minutes to see if I've updated my bolg. At least those of you who are still reading.

Well, I've been pretty busy. I don't know if I've mentioned it yet, but that job that I thought I had, well, I don't. I'm too young. Apparently, some schools set an arbitrary age limit, under or over which they are reluctant to hire even qualified teachers. So these last two weeks I've been applying to everything I see. The result of this is that I've had 6 interviews in the last week, and I have at least 5 more next week. The exciting thing is that there are some pretty neat jobs in this bunch, including some non-teaching positions.

First, I have been applying to some ALT positions, kind of like what I've been doing for the last year, except for private schools, which pay much better. Generally $2800 to $3500 a month. Most public school positions pay $2200 or less, averaged over 12 months.

The next step up is a position as the head teacher for a small foreign language college. The current head teacher is really trying to sell me to the management, but he's concerned that my age (again, too young) will be a setback in terms of the management's ideals. If I don't get full time with them, I should get part time, paying about as much as my full-time position did.

The most exciting for me potentally, are two interview I have set up, one Saturday, and one Monday, which are not teaching positions. The first is for what I guess would be a DotCom, which has a variety of online business, mostly to english education, as a sales person. I don't know much about the position itself, but it doesn't include teaching.

The second is a result of a tip that my friend Sunny gave me. She was an exchange student from Korea at Asia University, the school that I studied at 4 years ago. She currently has a job working with Korean trading company in Tokyo, which she found by using the government employment agency. Yep! The unemployment office! There is actually one in Tokyo that is specifically for foreign residents. I was a little apprehensive at first. I'm not too confident in my Japanese skills, and the information on the web said it was for foreign residents of Japanese ancestry. But I decided to check it out (Since Sunny doesn't have Japanese ancestry) and found that they are really quite good.

After a quick registration, I sat down with an employment councilor and an english translator, and they asked me some question, mostly in Japanese about what I wanted to do and about my work history. After that, they searched through a huge database of employment requests sent in by companies. We picked out about 7 or 8 of them, looked them over more throughly and called two of them. One manager asked to talk directly to me, and in Japanese, he told me a little about the position and asked about my computer background. Mostly he was concerned that I understood Japanese and Unix. I have done some tinkering with Linux, and Mac OS, beneath the surface is basically a kind of Unix, so I think he was satisfied enough to schedule an interview for Monday. The other one we called, didn't want to talk to me. They just wanted me to write a Japanese resume and send it to them so they could check my Japanese ability that way.

Some other jobs that we found were sales positions, and a position at a real-estate company that works with foreign residents finding monthly apartments and stuff, which could be interesting.

So I have a full schedule of interview, plus my third attempt at the drivers test next week. Don't stop reading!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Driver's License Getting pt. 2

Driving course
Here's the course for the driving test. There is a practice time for an hour before the testing starts where you can walk through the course. The place that I failed at is right behind me.

Today was part 2 of my driver's license getting adventure: the driving test.

I knew it would be difficult, but after talking to a girl who had tried it 3 times already, and attended a practice session last weekend, I got the full picture of the difficulty. Errors that would be one point off on the Washington State driver's test, like running over a curb, are immediate failure on this test, and things that they wouldn't even care about, like staying close to the left curb while making a left turn, are points off.

So, out of the 15 people that tried today, 12 people failed, (including me) and none of the first time people passed. The mistake that I made that failed me immediately was made as the tester was explaining a small error that I was making, so my concentration of other things was broken. But he did say that my shifting was very good (even though it was the first time to drive a stick shift in Japan, which is on the opposite side of US cars, and even though I haven't driven a stick since we sold the Subaru about 4 years ago.) But driving a stick, kept me from making the mistake of turning the wipers on when I tried to use the turn signal, and I didn't make the serious mistake driving on the right side of the road like the person before and after me.

I did meet some cool people this time though. One guy who was trying to get his license had lived in the US for the last 5 years, first at Evergreen State for an English language program, then at Ohio State for college. The girl that had taken it three times is from Shanghai, and just finished a masters degree at the university right on the other side of the hill from my apartment. So I'll be seeing them next time, and maybe for practice this weekend.

My next attempt will be next wednesday.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Driver's License getting

This week I decided to use my copious amounts of spare time to get a driver's license. I have an international driver's license, which until about a year ago, would have allowed me to drive in Japan for as long as I had a current one. Last year however, the law was changed so that after a certain period, you can't use an international driver's license even if it's valid. None of the descriptions of these changes that I have read have been entirely clear, but it seems that you can't use an international driver's license after 90 days of living in Japan, and you must leave the country for more than 90 days before you can use or renew an international driver's license.

So the only option is to get a Japanese driver's license. Unfortunately, laws governing exchanging a foreign license for a Japanese license have changed recently too. It use to be that all you had to do was show up with a Japanese translation of your license, take a simple written test, probably in your own language, and they'd issue you a Japanese license. The laws have changed however, so that now only citizens of a few countries are eligible for a direct license exchange. In order to be eligible for a license no questions asked (well, ten questions actually...), your country must pass certain overall standards for traffic safety, and give licenses to people who are licensed in their own country. The problem for the US is that the national government does not maintain records of the type that Japan needs, plus each state has its own licensing policies, making it very difficult to meet Japan's licensing department's requests. Since the US doesn't meet Japan's qualifications, we have to take two simplified tests of our knowledge and driving skill.

So begins my process. I started by getting my Washington State Driver's License translated into Japanese by the Japan Automobile Federation (Like the AAA in the US) in the middle of last week. I planned on going to the licensing center last friday, but when I woke up, if was very cold and snowing, so I went back to sleep. On monday however, I did wake up, at half past seven, and headed for the licensing center. Unlike in Washington, where it's usually located in an old strip mall or something, this licensing center was a huge complex of buildings, with a large driving corse. I arrived at 9:30, just before the application period closed at 10am. After submitting my paper work, waited for about an hour and a half until I was finally called to the window for a few questions. About 10 minutes later, I was given back some paper work, and told where to go to pay the fees, and have my picture taken. At 11:30, two hours after arriving, everyone was finally called in for the written exam. It was a ten question true/false exam, in any language you wanted to take it in, (I choose English) and we were given 30 minutes to complete it. There were questions like "If you are traveling through an intersection, and an emergency vehicle is approaching behind you, it's okay continue traveling because you were in a hurry" and "If you approach a pedestrian or bicycle crossing, and there are people crossing, you must stop and wait until they have crossed the street", and "If the traffic light is red, but there are no cars coming, it it okay to go trough it". I was the first to complete the test -- about three minutes after we started...

After everyone was done with the test, we went into another building to get our tests graded. In the same lobby, there were another 800 or so people (told you it was a big place), who were taking the full test, waiting for their test scores to appear on a large screen. When the scores appeared on the screen, about two-thirds of the crowd screamed happily, and the other third stormed out angrily, often being chased after by a friend who had just finished screaming and jumping up and down. It was interesting to see how everyone else has to do it, kind of funny to watch, since passing the written test in Washington isn't much harder than the one I had just taken, and also relieving that I didn't have to take the same test that they were all taking.

A few minutes later, someone came out and told the ten of us that we'd all passed. No one was screaming and jumping up and down this time. They handed us all a a map and certificate that we'd passed the written exam, and a date and time to show up for the skills test.

It was now 12, and the driving corse was open for walking, so I too a walk around it. There are stoplights, traffic signs, fake railroad crossings, and two small hills, and some narrow streets to simulate many of the small neighborhood streets in Japan. Most of the corse is apparently done at a pretty slow speed until the last section, were you must speed up to 40kph (25mph). So basically, if I don't run any signs, hit any curbs, or forget to use my turn signals, I should be all right. Oh, and I have to drive on the left side of the road, and the stick shift will be in my left hand, and the turn signal in my left. But other than that, I should be fine.

I'll let ya'll know on Thursday if I pass.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Welcome to March

Today was my first day of nothing. I started by doing a little job hunting, and then went up to Tokyo to meet Ai. I bought another suit, which I'll have to pick up later this week, and went to Ai's university to go to an interviewing and entry sheeting seminar. (I had to sneak into the library with a fake student number though.) I bought a couple job hunting weekly magazines that Ai's mom recommended, but didn't see much in either one, but we met her at the station on our way home, and in 30 seconds of looking through it, she found a few more. Wow, she's good. I did a little favor for her so she owes me a bit, but she'd help me anyway.

That's it for my short stupid random post that says nothing. You can tell I didn't work today huh? I'm not to tired to write! I have no milk, and it's too late to get some. No 24 hour groceries nearby.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Job offer, but do I want it?

The original position that I was offered by the company I've been talking with didn't work out. This school thought that I was too young. They said that they wanted someone that was at least 25. Whatever, that's not a big difference. But the whole thing was starting to frustrate me. The company (I wont name it, since it would be really easy for it to be picked up in Google) said that they'd call me back soon with another position. Late last week, I didn't much care if they did or not, since I was frustrated with them. I whipped off a bunch of applications to some other companies that were advertising, and got a few bites, but today, the company (which will not be named) called me back with another offer. I don't have the details yet, except that it's at a private high school teaching 10th and 11th graders, with a total of 18 teaching hours a week. (That's full time)

But now I'm not sure if I want it. I had given up on my project to find a real job a few months ago because I couldn't find anything that I thought I could do. Everything I saw was a mid career position and/or required almost native level Japanese. But last night I talked to Ai's mom for a while about real jobs, and she's convinced me that there are plenty of jobs out there that require little more than me being young, capable of learning, and being a good english speaker. So I was looking forward to having a lot of time this month to look for a real job, but with the call today, I'm being forced to make the decision between a pretty good job now, but with little or no future, or starving for a bit while I look for a real job.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Train Gropers (and Job Update!)

Laurie (disguised as Steve) sent me a question about an article Tokyo's 2004 record of 2,201 reported gropings on Tokyo trains.

No, I have never been a groper nor a gropie, but it is commonly know to be a problem. The Yamanote line, making a 45 minute loop around Tokyo, is the busiest line in Japan, and during the morning rush, thousands of people cram into each train. The trains are so packed in that if you didn't have your hands free when you got on the train, it can be very difficult to get them above your head to grab a handle, especially without inadvertently groping someone. I suppose it is the hope of gropers that their groping will be assumed to be accidental, or just ignored. From what I've ready, most gropings probably go unreported, because it is thought to be too troublesome to peruse it, or no benefit will come out of pursuing it anyway. Anecdotal stories suggest that many get away with anything from a slap or kick somewhere important, to a shout of "pervert" by the gropie. For those that are actually drug out of the train to a police box, a fine usually awaits.

Job Update

I got an update on my job Saturday afternoon. I passed the test that I had last weekend, and the sales people were quite happy with it, so this tuesday, they plan on selling me to the school. It sounds as if they feel confident that the school will want to meet me, so probably the following week I will go meet the school in person.

I still haven't decided when I will cancel my apartment contract. Since I have to cancel it 30 days in advance of my move-out day, I'd like to cancel it soon, (I hoped to do this yesterday) but the start and end dates of rental agreements are more flexible in Japan, so I may arrange it so that I have a few days to a week of overlap between the two to give me time to move my stuff. I might try to rent a truck, but I don't have a drivers license, and your can't use and international drivers license if you've been a resident for over 90 days, so I'd have to get a Japanese license in the next few weeks. Ai wont drive a truck either.

The last day of my job is Feb 28th, so I'll have a 3 week break. Maybe I'll try getting a driver's license.

Friday, February 18, 2005

To (a)Part(ment) or Not

Well, it seems like my job is getting closer, but it's only inching, or maybe even creeping. It's been over a month since I first sent in my resume, and I've had two interviews with the company so far. Last Saturday was a kind of test, after which I was told that there were two other people being considered for the position, and that they'd give me an update by the end of this week after the other two people had their second interview. Today I found out that the sales staff will be having a meeting on Tuesday, and that they'd be trying to sell me to the school sometime soon after that.

My biggest problem is that if I'm moving out of my apartment, I have to give one month notice to the landlord. (much better than in Washington, where you pretty much can't get out of a lease before it's over) But I would have to start my new job on or around April 1, which means that I have to know by the end of next week. So my big dilemma is whether or not to cancel my lease this weekend so I will move out by March 20th, or to wait until I hear something. I suppose It might be nice to have a day or three of overlap between the two apartments so I can move my stuff more easily. I wonder if I could rent a truck. (I've still never driven here...)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


I'm expecting news about my job within two days. I'm not going to say anything before that time, other than that I have been shopping for apartments in Tokyo. Here's a random photo for your enjoyment.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

6 Dollar Apple

6 Dollar Apple
Originally uploaded by noexit.
Ever wondered what I $6 apple tasted like?

No? Me neither.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Not in Stone, But Close

or Getting Pimped

I talked with my contact person at the company I'm trying to get hired at today, and it sounds like it's pretty much a sure bet that they will hire me. They got one of my recommendation letters two days ago (Thanks Dean!) and were very impressed. The sales people were also very impressed. (They basically have to sell me to a school to get me a job. Like pimps.) So basically I just have to wait for the curriculum people and the sales people to decide where to pimp me, and I go in for a contract signing. Talking on the phone to them today, it sounded like it was almost a sure thing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


I had an interview on Saturday for an ALT position. This company seems fundamentally different from my current employer. My current company's business plan focuses on getting as many contracts with as many schools as possible, and then spending as little on training and teaching materials as they can while paying their instructors (they don't call us teachers) as little as possible. The company I had an interview with seems to pay more attention to the quality of their teachers. They required recommendation letters in addition to a resume and cover letter, and seemed really interested in my teaching experience. My current company didn't really care if I had any experience or not, and probably would have hired me even if I didn't have TESOL certification. I think the fact that the average employee at my current company stays 2 years, compared to an average stay of 7 years at the company I went to this weekend is pretty significant.

My current job was good because they hired me right when I wanted to start, and I didn't have to work in an English conversation school like AEON or NOVA. It also got me a visa to work here. The bad thing is that there are two full months in a year when I am not under contract so I'm not getting payed, and two other months that I don't get payed a full months salary because they don't want to pay me while I'm on vacation. My hopeful future job will have a full 12 months a year paid (which seems quite normal and reasonable) as well as a higher starting salary. My current company pay the same low amount no matter how many qualifications you have, and no matter how long you've worked there. I'd rather work somewhere that will reward me for my hard work.

So hopefully after the read my wonderful recommendation letters, they'll give me a call back to get me a school and work out a contract.

Friday, January 21, 2005

This is how the picture below turned out when it was printed. I really like how the colors turned out. This is how unpredictable this stuff can turn out.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Survey Results

Thank you to the people who responded to my survey. Here are the results:

The most expensive total monthly cost was $825, but with company reimbursement, the price was down to $275 per month.
This leaves my mother, with a total cost per person in the top place for highest monthly cost at $283 per car-pooling person.
The least expensive was around $140 per month, including what her mechanic doesn't do for free.

Among the non-car owners, the highest total amount spent for transportation per month is me, at roughly $300, but commuting costs are paid for by my company, so I only spend about $65 per month on transportation out of my own pocket.
This leaves Trench at the top spot, at about $100 a month.
Dansen in Korean, if he uses the train an average of twice a day, would spend about $46 per month.

My commute, at only 10 to 15 miles each way is probably the most expensive for the distance traveled. I pay about $1.90 to $2.30 each way, and sometimes a bus ride at $1.70 to $4.50 each way. If I wasn't being reimbursed for my travel expenses, I would be paying more than someone who's car is payed off or carpoolers with a relatively cheap car that they are still making payments on, but less than someone with an older car that is payed off. Since most companies in Japan pay for their employee's commute, train transportation here is much cheaper than driving a car in the US.

In other news

I have an interview for a teaching job in Tokyo this Saturday. It's the same kind of thing that I'm doing now, but the company has a good reputation among its employees and I think they'll pay better. I'll let you know how it goes as soon as I know.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I really liked a couple of the shots from the last roll of film, so I picked 3 to have prints made of and went back to the lab. But what I got back was not quite what I expected.

What I did with this roll of film was use 100 asa slide film with my camera set to 50 asa, then have it put through the chemicals used to develop negative film rather than slide film chemicals. The effect is that rather than becoming positive slides, they become negatives with a very high contrast in some areas, with bolder greens and blues and weaker reds. It's technically very simple to do, but it's notoriously hard to find a processor that will do it for you. Most labs will either tell you that it wont work; you wont get usable film back, or that it will ruin their chemicals. From what I know, neither is true.

I was lucky that I found a processor that would develop my film on only the third try. The first two shops first told me that it can't be done. Once they figured out that I knew better than that, they told me that they wouldn't do it because it would ruin their chemicals. The third shop was half portrait studio, half 30 minute processing shop, and since the owner himself is a photographer, I assume that he was intrigued by this process, and he agreed to do it.

Now I have a shop, and I have to keep him happy. The first set he made was mostly too dark. He was just trying to make as good of a print as he could from what would normally be very messed up negatives. So today, I brought the prints back along with my computer to show him what I had in mind for the prints.

Once I get them back, I'll replace this picture with the print version, since that one turned really well. The other two will also hopefully print well, and I'll have something to decorate my wall with.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

New Pics

A park in Yokohama
From my Lomohomes album

I started work again yesterday after a few weeks off. I decided to cancel my meeting with the head hunter because it sounded like he was more interested in turning me into a headhunter than helping me to find a job. (which,, if you look at their website is what they claim to do) I tried to set up an interview with a school that emailed me on Monday, but they didn't call me until Tuesday evening. Instead, what I decided to take a walk in Tokyo with my cameras.

I went in search of old Tokyo, which is rarely seen, but I've heard still exists in some places. These are the areas of Tokyo that escaped the fires caused by the 1923 earthquake, the air raids of WWII, and modernization and development ever since. I got off at a station that sounded good to me, but since I was in the subway, I couldn't see anything. Instead what I found was one of the highest concentrations of new shiny glass skyscrapers in Tokyo, Shinbashi.

From Shinbashi, I started walking generally in a westerly direction, intending to meet Ai at her campus. I ended up not meeting Ai because she got out of class early and went home before she knew I was there, so I continued toward Shibuya.

I did find some vestiges of old Tokyo down a little alley, but my camera jammed up right there, and I lost all of the shots that I took, and about a third of my roll of film. Click on the picture above to go to my photo page, go to Public Albums and open the Big Tokyo Walk album.

All the pictures in that album have high contrast and bright colors. I meant to do that. It's slide film developed with negative chemicals.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Job Search Continues...

I just got off the phone with a recruiter whom I sent my resume to earlier today. It doesn't seem very likely that I'll be able to get anything outside of teaching right now. I wish I'd studied something technical. He is trying to convince me to join his company though.

Head Hunting is something that I haven't heard any good things about, and when I told him this, and what company I had heard about, he wasn't at all surprised. He spend a long time telling me about how his company is much better than this other company because they care about their clients and try to help their employees to be successful. Salary is 100% commission based, but there is a base salary which until income from commission equals that. It really doesn't sound like a secure job if I end up not being good at it, but if I do end up being good, it has high earning potential.

I'd better just do on online tech degree... Ugh, I hate job hunting. Oh, I do have an interview with an english school though...