life overload

Crikey, there’s just so much going on to be excited about I just don’t know how to deal with it all.

You know that kanji study – it seems to be going out of the window. As for the Year Abroad Project due in next week, well, that may not be all that great, if things carry on like this.

My mate Tom came up with a fabulous business idea yesterday, which I’m tremendously excited about – along with all the other business ideas I’m tremendously excited about, but have yet had the time / made the time to put into practice, other than register domain names and point them at Tame Goes Wild for the time being. I had ten at last count!

Then there’s the charity work too – I’m currently waiting for a call from the producer of Tokyo’s most listened to podcast (the one that accompanies Metropolis magazine, which has a weekly print run of 30,000) in order to set up an interview promoting an event we’re holding in early March in aid of Oxfam, the website for which I’ve yet to make.

Then there’s the Sponsored Hike in May – 100km in 48 hours over mountainous terrain. The website’s not complete yet, and it is pretty basic, but it works. We’ve got 7 team members, need one more.

Full launch will be in a couple of weeks.

Had our first training session yesterday, just myself and Tom, boy do I ache today, I never knew I had that many muscles! I have a long way to go before I’m fit for the challenge.

It’s kinda getting to the stage where worrying about finding a job after graduation is just becoming irrelevant. Why work for someone else, when you already have all the tools you need to start up a business?

Wow. This life thing, it’s incredible …ly scary at times! Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway! (I just received my 20th anniversary edition!)

p.s. I almost totally forgot – look what they had in the public loo I visited yesterday – I was so happy, I could use it!

technorati tags:  |  |  |  | 

A major revelation in the bathroom

Wow. I’ve just experienced a major life-changing revelation.

There’s been something that has troubled me for years, as far back as I can remember, something that has made me wonder whether there’s a secret global co-ordinated effort to made me feel like an idiot.

Just a few moments ago, in the toilet here in this pretend Italian family restaurant in north-east Tokyo, years of confusion were blown away, leaving a perfectly clear blue, or in this case, green, sky.

It’s these soap dispensers.

I’ve never been able to get them to work. Why does the soap never come out? And why is it ALWAYS the case, no matter where I am – Switzerland, Japan, the UK, – they just don’t work! How come the public toilet industry still uses them when for years they have been proved, by my multiple soapless-experiences, to be utterly useless?

I’ve spoken with a few friends about this issue over the years, but none of them have ever reported a similar problem.

I don’t know why things were different today, but whereas previously I’d either give up after a few attempts or unscrew the top and dip my fingers in, today I persevered when nothing came out. It just didn’t make sense.

As usual, I’d tried what I thought you’re supposed to do, that is, press the top. Then I thought, “hmm, I wonder what happens if you hold your hand under the nozzle and press up, instead of pressing down on the top of the container…”

And blow me down, if soap didn’t come out of the bottom! For years I’ve been pressing the top down rather than the nozzle up! No wonder every single one I’ve tried to use has been ‘faulty’! Explains quite a lot, about me if nothing else…

Well, what a worthwhile trip this has proved to be. 100 kanji re-learnt, and a major life-discovery made.

That’s quite enough excitement for one day.

technorati tags:  | 

The wireless waves

It’s amazing how quickly Wireless Internet Access has spread. These days, no matter where I go, I find an abundance of wireless networks floating around. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for unprotected wireless networks. It seems that most people have now caught on to the fact that an unsecured Wireless Network is not a good idea, as it means that people can download dinosaurs (should they be collectors of dinosaurs), leaving the person with the transmitter with all the bandwidth to invite 10 ants round for supper, provided they only come by one at a time. Internet dinosaurs take up a lot of bandwidth, due to the density of their bones.

This restaurant is quite typical of the average wireless environment: 5 networks, all protected. I wish people would be more imaginative with the names of their networks though. “137yhdjs873jdjdhd6s8893637494ddkd” is so dull. Next month should see the delivery of our Apple Airmac Extreme, yet to be released (I particularly like the idea of its Wireless USB capability, means I don’t have to use that ridiculously long USB cable for the printer / external hard drives anymore. Constantly falling over it…). Anyway, I was thinking of naming our network something like “try-connecting-to-this-network-and-your-computer-will-explode” or “stealing-your-neighbours-connection-will-result-in-doggy-doos-through-the-letter-box”. That’ll learn ’em.

Incidentally, did you know that all Mac’s with built-in AirPorts can act as wireless base stations, broadcasting as well as receiving? I only discovered that a couple of weeks ago. I may have told you that before, but it’s worth telling you again, if just for the pleasure of pressing this soft keys in that particular sequence once again.

I had a great time with the cappuccino machine earlier. It did its huffing and puffing, lots of nice frothy milk – then it stopped. I thought it was a bit odd, I mean, there was no coffee in my coffee. Oh well, hot milk will do… walking away I heard the sound of hot coffee going down the drain as the machine went into phase two of the cappuccino-making-process. The woman at the table next to mine, who had observed the entire incident, tried not to laugh.

You can see what an uphill struggle it is, this trying to convince myself I’m not a idiot business.

Anyhow, back to the kanji.

technorati tags:  |  | 

The NHK Man Always Rings Thrice

It’s not uncommon for the doorbell to ring here. Visitors include

  • People trying to sell newspaper subscriptions (whilst generously handing out free toilet rolls and washing powder: I gave the latter to the secretary at uni, and the former I wiped my bum with. That’s what I think of that newspaper)
  • the Japanese equivalent of a Jehovah’s Witness
  • A chap trying to sell me a fibre-optic internet connection (he was dismayed when I pointed out the metre-high metal box right behind him containing the fibre optic modem-things that provided all apartments in the building not only with broadband internet but also video-on-demand courtesy of the Windows Media Centre TV things we all have)
  • Delivery men (food parcels from mum in the West of Japan, futons with needles in etc)
  • People from the water board making sure we know how to use the taps (!)
  • Someone who told us not to open the door to strangers as there had been an ‘incident’ in the area recently
  • The man who, upon seeing that I was a foreigner, said, “Oh, you’re a foreigner aren’t you? Sorry for bothering you. Bye.”
  • The NHK Man

Whenever the doorbell rings, I’m the one sent to to answer it. Initially this was done to ward off the salesmen – I could feign ignorance of the language. However, with the passing of time, so I’ve actually come to like answering the door. The thing is, I know full-well that I’m not going to sign up for whatever, thus I can just enjoy the opportunity to practice my Japanese with the stranger, humouring them, trying to make them talk about anything but whatever it is that they’re trying to sell, trying to break down the formal barrier.

In this was, the NHK man has come to be one of my best friends.

NHK, the equivalent of the UK’s BBC, is in the unfortunate position of relying upon subscription fees for a lot of it’s income – the reason this is unfortunate is that the paying of these bloomin’ expensive fees is not actually mandatory.

In order to get people to cough up, NHK has an army of clipboard-wielding Subscription Fee Collectors, a job which requires applicants to be at least 6 foot tall and over 85kg. They spend their days wandering the streets of Japan, knocking on the doors of houses listed as not having paid the NHK fee, asking them to please hand over the money.

The point at which their job gets difficult is when the customer says “No”. There’s no law that states that one must pay, so if you don’t agree to pay, there’s not much they can do. For people like us, who rarely watch TV, it just makes no sense to pay.

The first time he rang the bell I was, I must admit, pretty thrown. Having had no direct experience of A Meeting With The NHK Man, upon seeing his badge I panicked. I knew that I didn’t want to pay, and thus immediately felt guilty.

It was bad. I just couldn’t pull myself together. His speech became a blur in my ears as images of him pressing a ball-pen into my hand filled my mind. I felt sick, I wanted to slam the door, but knew that if I did that he’d stick his foot in the way and I’d be arrested for GBH. But then suddenly, he started to bow, and said goodbye. Quite what had happened I didn’t know.

The second time he rang, I was much more prepared. Hearing the doorbell, I looked up at the little screen on the wall behind the TV (which was off!) to see who it was. Ah, yes, that bald patch, I’d recognise that anywhere. I was feeling daring, ready for a fight.

“Ah, hisashiburi desu ne!” (“Ah, long time no see!”)

My initial greeting threw him off guard. I was off to a good start.

The 15-minute conversation began. We started with his usual spiel, which ended with the line,

“I know that you have a TV because all apartments in this building have them as standard, it’s in the contract you have with the owner”.

ME: “Yes, we do have a TV, but never watch it. Like you say, we have to have it, it’s in the contract, but never use it”.
HIM: “I’m afraid it’s irrelevant whether you use it or not. The fact is that you should pay if you have one.”
ME: “But don’t you think that’s crazy?!”
Him: “That’s how it is in Japan”
ME: “I’m sorry, but I just can’t agree with that. It’s ridiculous”
HIM: “I’m sorry. Please pay.”
ME: “Tell you what, I’d be more that happy for you to take the TV with you, as long as you tell the landlord.
HIM (getting into the spirit of it): “I’m afraid I can’t do that. I came on a bicyle.”

We both laugh.

ME: “You know, I don’t understand why, in Japan, you don’t have TV detector vans like we do in the UK. You know, in the UK, instead of having people like you doing your difficult job, we just have people sitting in magic vans that can see through people’s walls, like superman, to see if they have a TV”.
HIM: (laughing): “Ah, yes, but did you know that the NHK collection rate is higher than that of the BBC in the UK?”
ME: “But the population of Japan is twice that of the UK.”
HIM: “No, not the number, the rate. We’re much more successful in Japan.”

I noted that he was suspiciously knowledgeable about the BBC, something he seemed entirely ignorant of when I mentioned them in our first meeting. It seemed he’d been doing his homework.

The conversation when on. Him babbling away, with me understanding most of what he was saying, adding the odd, “Yes, I understand” at opportune moments. Then he said something I didn’t understand at all. I tried to keep up, but no, it was no good, I’d lost the sense of what he was saying. Thinking he was about to leave, and that this was his romantic farewell speech, I thought it best to feign an understanding, and so continued to say “yes”.

And Then It Happened.

His face lit up. He looked delighted.

I had just inadvertently agreed to paying a ridiculous sum of money for a service I don’t use! What could I do?

It was at that point that fate intervened. As The NHK Man reached into his big, heavy bag, he lost his balance, and almost fell over backwards. It was most unexpected, but I seized the opportunity before he could get his hand on his contract pad.

“No, No, No, I absolutely won’t pay. It’s impossible, I won’t pay”

Had he not lost his balance, he would have been able to assert himself, to tell me that it was too late, I had agreed to pay, but as it was, he was feeling foolish, and was thus in no position to tell me what to do.

He’d lost his confidence. I assured him again that I wouldn’t pay, and perhaps he’d be better off talking to my girlfriend whose name is on the contract, but she works very long hours and is seldom at home.

He knew he’d been beaten this time. Still, we’d both enjoyed the battle.

“Goodbye, see you soon” I told him, although really I wanted to invite him in for a cup of tea and a bit of TV.

Having spoken to a few friends about The NHK Man, I know that our relationship is not yet over – three visits before giving up is standard.

The NHK Man Always Rings Thrice.

technorati tags: | |

To Do list

Hey hey hey so yes indeedy long time no mumble. Been veeeery busy building a mini-website, soon to be launched on the TGW Network. Also been busy not going to exams (I’m so naughty! Well, they are optional after all, what would YOU do?), feeling overwhelmed by all these ideas I have and just not enough time to put them into practice. I need a clone.

So, my first semester is over. The final exams (those that were compulsory) were a mixture of very difficult and very easy. Overall, I’m happy with how I did. Well done me. I am now faced with an 11 week holiday, which may sound like a long time, but it isn’t, especially when you have a list of to do items that looks a bit like this:

  • Learn readings of 2,042 kanji using Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji II, when it finally turns up. I ordered it in November!
  • Record numerous episodes of A Year in Japan
  • Make website for Translation company
  • Read the ten books I really want to read
  • Revise all my grammar in preparation for progression to Japanese Level 5
  • Train for the very exciting event in May (web site already complete, to be launched soon)
  • Finish (or should that be ‘start and finish’?) my Year Abroad Project for Sheffield Uni
  • Go to Osaka and see my friends
  • Go snowboarding with uni friends (already booked. I can ski, but can’t snowboard at all. Thus I will learn next month!)
  • Start to plan my epic voyage home in late August, which will see me travel over land and sea all the way from Tokyo to the West of England. I am VERY excited about that.
  • Possibly launch a little shop on the TGW network

So, as you can see, I have my work cut out!

I am so excited by all the possibilities in life. I’m finally starting to realise that there’s just no point in waiting for things to happen, I’ve got to MAKE it happen!

The start of my holiday is not the only thing to have had a big impact upon our daily routine: *Twinkle* has started work. As she thought, the hours are incredibly long. I’m not exaggerating when I say that yesterday was typical; she left the house at 7.20am, and got back at 11pm. Still, working hours aside, in terms of how it treats its staff, it is a great company, Completely different from my image of a typical Japanese company. I’m really proud of her. her job is not at all easy, and I personally would be shitting myself if it was me.

In three years from now she’ll have completed her contract and be able to retire.

Hurray for life!