Wanted: No Internet

It’s reached the stage with this dissertation writing where drastic action is called for. I need to go on retreat this weekend to write it.

The only problem is finding somewhere that is affordable, quiet, and has no Internet access. Hotels are out on both counts. I’ve found a camp site, but it lacks a desk.

If I hadn’t got Broadband put in at mum and dad’s I could have gone there. Any ideas?

There is another 3-step option, which is looking more and more like the only option:

1) Set up parental controls on my Macbook’s second user account so that it will not allow any Internet access, and will only allow me to use my word-processing application, then…

2) Ask my class mate to reset my Macbook’s admin password, and not tell me the new password until Monday. Then…

3) Spend the weekend in Western bank library, which has very few PCs with Internet access.

Sounds like a plan.

Competition Winners!

I don’t have classes on Wednesdays. It’s useful to have a weekday free, as it gives one a chance to do all those non-academic things that can’t be done at weekends. Like, visit the dentist for the last time here in the UK.

This particular dentist has dealt with my cavities for about 4 years now. He’s a nice guy, friendly, and quick. As I stood up and put my coat on to leave, I felt it important that I thank him for looking after my teeth. But what does one say to a dentist when seeing them for the last time? I was at a loss for words, and ended up blurting out, “It’s been good, thank you”.

It’s been good“? What was I saying? I’d only seen him about 6 times in 3 years, and every time I had seen him he’d stuck a drill or polisher in my mouth, causing me discomfort. As I walked down the corridor back to the reception, I couldn’t help but think I’d given him the impression that I felt as if I was having to regretfully leave a lover. Not say goodbye to my dentist.

Walking back to uni I passed by Starbucks. I’ve always associated Starbucks with Japan, having never seen one until I went to live there. As far as I was concerned it was a Japanese brand with a Western name, and I liked sitting and watching people in that one in Shinjuku South, next to the train tracks. It was a safe haven for me back then, when I didn’t know the place and looked for comfort in familiarity wherever I could find it.

These days, I try not to support the company, as I feel they are like a Tesco of the cafe-industry, causing the loss of privately owned businesses with character, driving up unemployment and destroying diversity. But sometimes, like today, my desire to back in Japan drives me through the door and up to the counter next to the 4 trays of coloured plastic coffee beans.

I took my Flapalatterino (?!) back out into the Spring sunshine, crossed the road and sat in Weston Park, a fairly large public garden that’s now nearing the end of its grand makeover. I watched the boys playing football as they nearly got run over by a dumper truck, a young mother with a child in the pushchair having a tantrum …and then decided to focus upon the cherry trees instead.

Back in the IC (library), I was delighted to read an email from my tutor telling me that she’d just received a phone call from the head of CILASS to let her know that she’d won £2000 worth of ‘stuff’ in a university-run competition, a prize that will help further develop our language course over the next year. This was great news!

Myself and a few classmates had nominated her for the category of “Most effective use of technology for Inquiry Based Learning”, in recognition of the incredible amount of work and effort she’d put in to developing a new approach to teaching Japanese to final year students. It involved videoing interviews with Japanese people in Japan last summer (I remember her talking about it when we met in Tokyo, and wondering what this ‘IBL thing’ was all about), creating a “Virtual Language Laboratory” and devising lesson plans integrating the materials. In a way we have been the guinea pigs, but I don’t see that as any bad thing. It’s good to be out there, beating a path (did it for years at the Steiner School!).

It’s turning out to be a good week for awards!

Anyway, best get on learning my lines for our Japanese drama highlighting the issues involved in euthanasia. It’s been difficult to reach any conclusions as to whether it should or should not be legalised, as there seems to be a valid counter-argument for particular point. However, in line with the stance I’m adopting for the in-class debate and drama, I’m beginning to feel that fundamentally, it should not be legalised. Leave things as they are, that’s what I say.

(I won’t go into the debate here. It would go on forever…)

tarra xxx

Up in smoke

Caw blimey gov it’s been one hell of a day. Just got back form the library (2am) where I’ve spent the last 7 hours trying to finish off this website for my employer. I’m always astonished by how long it takes. It was all working fine in Safari and Firefox, but then I made the mistake of testing it for compatibility with Microsoft Internet Explorer, and it all went horribly wrong…

Still, glad I got it done. Eventually.

It was a funny old day. Started with a chap coming to see my darling 17-year-old Claud Butler mountain bike which I’m selling to hope pay for the move to Japan – every penny counts. He said he’d let me know… Then it was off to uni for a Japanese class. Crikey, my speaking ability really has dived this year. This is through no fault of my course, I don’t see my coursemates experiencing the same thing. If I chose to make the time to speak japanese outside class, and if I chose to put the effort into my course that I know i should, then I’d be improving, but I don’t, and thus I probably only talk japanese for about 30 minutes a week. I feel a little bad about this as I don’t want to let my teacher down, but she knows me well, and I think understands my situation.

My listening is Ok though, and my writing not too hopeless, when I use a keyboard!

It’s reached the stage now where I know that I’ll be back in Japan soon, so I’m not too concerned about this brief interlude of crapness. In the long term I will be fluent. Now though, it’s a matter of just trying to scrape by.

I was delighted yesterday to be presented with three Third Prizes and one First Prize at the Photo Soc Awards ceremony. It almost seemed like one of those Bafta situations where the film of the moment sweeps everything up … which made me feel a little uncomfortable, as it would have been nicer if the prizes had been spread around a bit. Hmm, I left quite quickly after I’d spoken to the judges about my photos (taken in Mongolia last summer).

i received an email today to let me know that one or some of my photos have gone though to the final or another university photo competition. The awards ceremony is Thursday, but unfortunately I’ll be in class at that time.

My Macbook power adapter went up in smoke today, literally! Prolonged wear and tear and over-zealous winding of the cord caused the outer insulation to break, and the thing short-circuited. I didn’t realise though until I actually saw this whiff of smoke cross my screen – I thought it was a feather and tried to grab hold of it!

Off to the Apple Store I went, and was shocked by the cost of the replacement – £60! Just as I was about to pay, one of the staff asked me if my Macbook was under warranty. Yes, it was …and 20 minutes later I was given a new adapter for free. I asked if the battery would have been harmed by the incident – no it should be fine. But how old is the battery? 21 months – Ancient! Did I know that Apple have a free replacement policy for that model? No, i didn’t …but moments later I was delighted to be presented with a brand new battery, which retails at £100!

Oh, then I mentioned the loose screws on the side of my macbook. That prompted the ordering of a new bottom case for it, to be delivered soon.

With this latest incident, in 6 months I would have had the hard drive, optical drive, keyboard, screen, power adapter, battery, bottom case and fan replaced- all ‘free of charge’. I say free, but in fact I paid £50 for a 3-year warranty, which I would strongly recommend to anyone buying an Apple product. That’s not because they break down more often than any other hardware, it’s that the service you get for your money is so superb. Outside of Tokyo, I know of no place where you can just walk in with your computer and get it fixed on the spot, and I’ve never heard of a warranty covering a battery or power adapter before (both of which were victims of wear-and-tear, although apparently my battery was especially crap, not that I ever noticed, thus the new one).

Anyway, I’ve got a meeting with a local web design company tomorrow, er, today, in 6 hours time, to discuss getting our publishing site made (again). Best get some sleep!


p.s. Liking Murakami’s Wind-Up Bird Chronicles. The 24 hour audiobook is about £50 from Amazon – only £7.99 on subscription from Audible!

tied up

But quiet round here lately eh?

Pretty tied up with ‘stuff’.

I can almost smell the freedom though.


Photo fest: International Cultural Evening

I went to the International Cultural Evening tonight to film the Japan Soc dance troupe do their great Soran Bushi routine. I arrived ten minutes before they were due on stage, only to find that the program I had was wrong, and they weren’t to perform for another 90 minutes. 
Initially, I was bit stressed about this, as I have so much on this weekend, but then as the other international societies came on stage one by one, so I began to recall what this whole international cultural evening thing was all about, and I smiled. 
I loved it.
I am always amazed at just how talented the student body is. There were some fantastic performances of traditional songs and dances from all over the world …which led me to forget about the wars and terrorist threats, and instead to feel overwhelmed by how, at the end of the day, no matter where we come from, we are all essentially one and the same, celebrating in much the same way, despite outward appearances.

The outward appearances tonight were stunning, and I took about 400 photos over the course of the evening. It was difficult though. The lighting in the Octagon Centre is truly appalling, with the stage more backlit than anything else. Also, I was standing right at the other side of the room, about 40 foot from the stage. I had no tripod, and my 55-200mm zoom is pretty slow (doesn’t let so much light through).
There was only one thing for it – crank the iso up to 1600. Whilst this did mean I could capture the action on stage, it had the usual downside of making the images so grainy they can’t really be used – unless turned into B&W’s. Which is what I’ve done with some (and put up with the grain on others). 
On with the show.
My friends in Japan Soc do the Soran Bushi

Ali G featured prominently in the Romanian Societies Performance. We never quite figured out why, and he didn’t explain either when I met him outside buying octopus balls.
Along with Ali G in the Romanian presentation was Dracula – a little more logical seeing as he does actually come from Romania. 
But the girl stuck in the wall…?