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    Friday, March 31, 2006

    Cold as Ice

    ...was thankfully not how you could describe my arse after a trip to Ice Sheffield with Japan Soc yesterday. I didn't fall over ONCE! Mind you, I wasn't actually on the ice for very long - I've decided that I don't like ice skating. I mean, all you can do is go round and round in circles, whilst trying to not get knocked over by annoying brats who, by the age of about 7 months, seem to have mastered all the tecniques required for speed skating and cutting people up in order to make them fall over. I try to console myself by thinking that outside of the rink they probably wear Burberry.

    Incidentally, the reason why half of me is missing in the above photo is that the photorapher incorrectly assumed that I was skating at a pace that would not see the coming of the next ice-age before I'd managed to complete one circuit.

    Other news: Having scratched the screen of my beautiful new iPod, I decided to invest in a screen protector. Yes, i KNOW I shouldn't have removed the original protector, it was very silly of me. Anyway, so I buy another on eBay thinking it would come from the UK and arrive next day, then realise it's actually going to come from Hong Kong and will set me back a fortune in postage. Ok, so it arrives this morning, and I try to apply the microfilm to the iPod. I just about manage it, with a couple of unfortunate wrinkles, then bother to read what it says on that plastic tab attached to the microfilm:

    "Please remove before application".

    I try to remove it post-application. This results in it kind of tearing the newly-applied film, which then has to consigned to the dustbin...

    Oh well, Glenn Hook (Conteporary Japanese Culture lecturer) will just have to be content with having his nose scratched a bit more.

    So, it's the holidays! Hooray! 3 weeks of, er, essays and revision! Hurray! I'm very happy with my performance so far this semester (as is *cough* fnar fnar). Two presentations that went well (one of which was a 69, brought down by my ability to shut up after 15 mins, and, rather bizarrely, a reference to badgers in Japan). Weekly assessed homework has been very rewarding, and I've got top marks throughout. Yesterday's presentation in Japanese was fun too, if somewhat nerve-wracking.

    Oooh, I do believe I have a clip of it available for you - 1.28MB, 20 seconds, .wmv format, very gaijinpoi.

    The national strike by University lecturers doesn't look like it will affect us - unlike in some parts of the country. A close friend of mine in Bristol has found herself in a situation where none of her work is being assessed, and it looks like exams won't be set this year either, meaning that her and her coursemates cannot progress to level 3. Those in their final year can't graduate either.

    So yes, all in all, uni is ggggggrrreeeaaaaaaat! in a Tony the Tiger type way.

    *Cough* and I are off to Liverpool on Sunday. Never been there before. We'll be checking into what looks like a rather nice four-start hotel in the city centre, exploring and what not. From there it's bye bye for a little while as she heads off to Italy to sample some delicious food, amazing shops and astonishing architecture, and I go to Wales, where it will probably be raining.

    A week in my retreat penning an article on Wwoofing in Japan for a pretend magazine in Australia will be followed by two weeks back up here studying. Speaking of magazine articles, watch out for the July issue of Organic Life which will feature a mini-article and photos of me talking about Wwoofing in Japan and so forth. No doubt I shall draw your attention to it again nearer the time. Knowing magazines these days, if it's the July 2006 issue then it wil probably be published 2 years ago.

    Anyway my darlings, isn't life wonderful? Remember to be thankful for your good health (if you have it), and be grateful that you are not the girl who I saw yesterday taking a tremendous fall yesterday on the ice, which resulted in a rather ugly broken wrist.

    Much love and happiness this springtime


    Our Class

    hey hey hey it's all good this LIFE business, I just love it.

    Woke up this morning, and as usual, felt very happy. Mind you, I was a bit surprised to find my girlfriend here. Two days apart and I'd got used to the bachelour lifestyle again. Forgotten how nice it is to be trodden on first thing in the morning (the futon fills the entire floor of the broom cupboard) tee hee. Anyway, she's off to uni now, leaving me here to sort out the pile of crap I've accumulated over the past week or so, a weeek that has been monumental in its business.

    Must clean that spot off the screen. I keep on thinking it's a full-stop.

    Anyway, so I woke up, and as *cough* was busy getting ready for uni, eating organic Swiss Style muesli (ahh, natsukashii... When I worked on that dairy farm near Luzern, we had Burche Muesli (sp?) every morning, with milk straight from the udder [ok, so it went via a sucky thing, some pipes and a bucket), thanks to the herd of cows out the back of the chalet. Mix the muesli with fresh fruit and yoghurt ...ah, the smell. Hmm, wow, brings a tear to my eye thinking of those days. I really must write to Fredi and Antonio, the farming couple who so kindly helped me through those post-marriage months), erm, I digress.

    Yes, so anyway, whilst thinking about how cute *cough* was, I decided to listen to the end of the BBC's "Digital World" podcast that I'd been listening to last night. They were talking about the potential for development in technology over the next couple of decades. Basically, they were saying that everything until now has just been the kind of mundane foundations. We've reached the limit of relatively inflexible silicon chips and 'fixed' hardware - with the new developments in optical processing power we are going to see HUGE developments.

    One thing that really brought it home to me, just how far we've come, was when one of the presenters was talking about the cost of memory when he entered the business about 20 years back.

    Take a bog-standard 20mb memory stick (although actually you can't buy a 20mb card because it's on odd size and really rather small to be of any practical use, but anyway, if you could, it would probably cost about 5 quid, right?) He was saying that 20 years ago, that would have cost 100,000 pounds!!

    Ok, so amazing fact of the day out of the way, we move on.

    Recently, there has been a lot of complaining going on in our year at uni regarding the workload - indeed, my voice has been amongst those expressing arrrrgh-ness (see here)

    HOWEVER, I do think that a few people need to open their eyes, and their minds to see the situation for what it really is.

    One complaint that has been continuously voiced has been regarding the weighting of our weekly Japanese essay, which despite taking up to about 10 hours to complete (depending on the individual - I usually spend about two days on mine!), is worth' a minute percentage of the whole module. The argument here being that X number of hours should equal X percentage points towards our degree.

    I must say, I do think that this is an absolutely ridiculous argument. I mean, come on, this is LEARNING we're talking about here, not only that, but the learning of a LANGUAGE. I wonder how many people have heard of acccumulative knowledge, step by step? The idea that one can apply a rigid framework to the assessment of the accumulation of knowledge is, in my opinion, just silly.

    Imagine if we weren't required to carry out such an asignment every week. I am sure that I am not alone in thinking that if that were the case, I would probably put the grammar sheets to one side following the class (in favour of other more 'pressing' matters such as a translation piece that needed to be done etc), and not look at them again until it was time for revision. Then promptly forget all said grammar once the exams were over.

    This way, we are required to pull the grammar out of our memories on a regular basis, until it makes its way into our long-term memories. Therefore, the weekly sakubun is an absolutely vital part of the learning process. So what if it's only worth x% - this is a degree we're doing, not GCSE maths - I wonder if it has occured to anyone who complains so bitterly about this percentage how much lower their results would be in the final exam (which in itself is worth 70% of the entire module grade) if we didn't do the exercise.

    I was really heartened yesterday to find quite a few like-minded classmates during our impromptu drinking session, which followed our last class of this 8-week segment of term.

    I must admit, my mindset on this matter has only crystalised in the last week, as before now I have given it very little thought, as I have not considered it to be an issue at all. It was only following vocal complaints from one or two people in class that I was (reluctantly) propelled into playing an active role in negotiations on this issue.

    What really annoys me is how ungrateful people are. They are so obsessed with what a hard time they are having that they have very little consideration for others. If they think THEY have a lot to do, they should consider what pressure our teachers are under. One might say that that is not our problem, we are the paying customer etc (oh, is that Matthew back to haunt us?!!), but the fact is that they are human too. The disprespect that I know to have been shown to them is really very upsetting.

    One such example would be the posting of messages on the university-moderated message board by one student stating, when referring to what I think is the bloomin good idea of us embarking upon a project to create a Japanese website which tells people all about Sheffield: (and I quote)

    "And I DEFINETELY don't see the point in US ADVERTISING FOR THE DEPARTMENT! I mean, we write our sakubun each week...because the department don't want to spend money, or get off their lazy asses and do it themselves! And, just to rub it in...we are actually PAYING for it! It's rediculous! I'm so sick of it!"

    Naturally, this came to the attention of the tutors, and naturally they were very hurt. To write something like the above on a departmental message-board is just bang out-of-order. Not only that, but this kind of attitude has really dragged the whole class down, and I think that's really sad.

    Incidentally, regarding the website thing: basically, we're posting all our weekly Japanese esays online, blog-style. Mine can be found here. It really is rewarding to see all that Japanese up there - I can't quite believe it's all mine!

    It seems that current attitudes are an unfortunate by-product of an education system that is obsessed with league tables. Schools, in a bid to up their ranking, do all they can to produce students with high 'A' level results. How do they do this? Spoon feeding. Thus, when these students enter uni they are unprepared for a world where they have to look after themselves in an academic sense. This has manifested itself in our year in complaints that we don't get enough feedback on our work - when we all know for a fact that the door of room AT6.02 is always open - even at weekends! I recall that there was one complaint that we don't enough 'Well done'-type gold stars on our work. In a direct response to this, our teacher then reintroduced some rather groovy (graded) stamps with monkeys on, like this one

    However, this then resulted in complaints that the marking system was not clear - thus Sensei has this week reverted to the A+, A, B, C etc marking system. I think you get my point.

    Within our year there is generally a very good sense of community. Unfortunatley, the side effect of this is that a great deal of mutual wound-licking goes on, meaning that problems soon become universal of their own accord - they just take on a life of their own.

    So anyway, it's been tiring, all this politics, playing go-between and all that, but I must say, that having heard both sides of the argument, I think that a lot of the claims made against Sensei (as essentially that's where they are directed, despite students claiming otherwise - it should be kept in mind who designed our course) stand on distinctly wobbly ground, and I really hope that in our last four weeks following the Easter break people just get on with it.

    As I've stated before, I think it's incredible what we have achieved. Many of us started off with no knowledge of Japanese, and yet here we are, 18 months later, able to communicate with Japanese people in everyday situations. This has only been as a result of superb teaching, combined with our own hard graft - It's really been worth it.

    Thursday, March 30, 2006


    Thanks to Morris for the following.


    (p.s. real life coming soon! Once presentations etc are out of the way...)

    Sunday, March 26, 2006

    New version of Windows

    I note that Windows have just released their latest operating system,

    "Windows Really Good".

    It has all those features we know and love... try creating a document in Word...

    Saturday, March 25, 2006


    So here I am sitting in the library trying to write my weekly Japanese essay (this week's topic is the possible causes of the declining birth rate) ...being distracted by the guy opposite me.

    He's a 'sukebe', that is, someone constantly thinking about sex. That sort of person just disgusts me... (hmm, I wonder when *cough* will be coming round tonight...) Whenever anything looking remotely feminine walks by he looks up from his laptop and fixes his eyes on them, before seemingly making some conscious judgement, and giving either an approving grunt and a smile, or a dismissive frown.

    This is inbetween shaking his head and swearing, loudly. He's been trying to watch a DVD, but it appears that his laptop is not co-operating. Not only that, but he has actually shaken his fists at the screen 3 times. Well, if you will buy a pretend computer (it's a Mac). Oh, and there's the connnnnstant throat-clearing as well. I've a good mind to go and buy a bottle of sodium chloride and offer him a cupful of granules disolved in 200ml of creosote.

    Must say I'm loving this essay. It's so exciting to see how my Japanese has improved since last year. Mmm I really love this course, tough though it is. I have a lot more to say on this topic actually, but shall have to resist the temptation to talk about it here for reasons of national security.

    Oooh I think I'm going to start a podcast later this year. I have it all set up - dedicated podcast account, appropriate software and hardware - it's just a matter of time. I really love the convenience of podcasts, the way they all download and transfer to my iPod automatically. Anyway, watch this space.

    I've also finally managed to shift the TGW videos off my own server (thanks to the launch of Google's website service) - this should cut down on my bandwidth usage by about 25%, leaving more available for everyone doing searches on horse cocks. They still top the ratings.

    Anyway, Mr.Sukebe is really getting to me now, so I think I shall have to move.

    I'll leave you with a photo I took earlier today of someone with no clothes on riding the paternoster-lift in the arts tower. tee hee. (apologies for the poor quality. My phone's camera uses 35mm, and isn't very good at naked-men-in-motion shots.

    Friday, March 24, 2006

    Outlook Knows Best

    Whenever I post a blog, a copy is sent to my email inbox for my records (for the movie etc).

    However, when the entry that I posted two days ago arrived, it seems that Outlook's filter was able to detect the high volume of winey crap it contained, and automatically took appropriate action...

    Thursday, March 23, 2006

    just a little bit longer

    Really really struggling to keep up now. It's kind of crunch time, what with it being 7 weeks into the semester (i.e. all those little things I've left till later are now meeting their laters), and I've got two presentations to give next week. Thankfully one of them is pretty much sorted, did it last week. Now it's just a case of writing a script for the other one that's to be given in Japanese next Thursday. I'm not particularly worried about it, it's just all the hassle of having to 'learn my lines' etc. Have got the actual Powerpoint done, took a few hours this afternoon; I'm pleased with the result. Will hopefully take everyone's minds off my appalling grammatical errors etc.

    Nearing the last leg of my stint as Japan Soc secretary, thank god, as I spend endless hours sorting through emails and attempting to come up with some voting system for this years committee election. It's been a right headache, I can tell you, and I am so glad that in a few weeks I can remove that imap email account from Outlook! (Or can I? Will I be able to let go? Will my replacement check the account once every 60 seconds all hours of the day as I have done since October 2004?) (sadly that is not an exaggeration!)

    Don't get me wrong, it's been great, and I am so so glad I took the post about 18 months back. I've gained so much through Japan Soc - uni life without it would have been in a completely different league, in an incredibly dull sense. Being part of the organising committee has really helped me feel absolutely at home here, made me feel like a member of uni staff in a way, which is what I always wanted - I loathe staff/student type barriers, and one of my goals before I started at uni was to get on the other side of the fence as quickly as possible. This policy has been a remarkable success, benefitting a great deal too from the approachable nature of (nearly) all staff at SEAS. Being a 'mature' student helps too, ridiculous though it is to apply that term to someone with a libido like mine. I'm sooooooo glad I didn't 'do uni' when I was young and insecure!

    ooohh in one of those moods are we?

    Yes, well, you'd be too if you'd just superglued your fingers to your favourite bowl , your favourite bowl that was given to you for your brithday by a precious friend two years ago. Dropped it in the bathroom, hairline fracture. Tried to eat porridge in it - it leaked. There was only one thing to be done - break it completely so it could be glued back together. No problems there, until I forgot that superglue has a habit of welding itself to almost any surface - thus the nice patch of skin now attached to the outer surface of afore-mentioned bowl.

    *Cough* has been an angel, despite having had a very hard time herself lately.

    I'll be so glad when this semester is over. I'm still enjoying it, but it's just starting to reach the stage when the workload is such that the enjoyment is being pushed to the back of the shelf. It's true, we have a 3-week Easter 'holiday' as of 1st April - but in that time I have two essays for uni to write, a story for the Austalian mag I write for to pen, and all those bloomin kanji to learn for the test that follows right after that. Oh, and a deep bed to make (I'm looking forward to that bit!)

    Ok, enough winging, best get on.


    Sunday, March 19, 2006


    The 20-storey monstrosity that houses my departmen at uni, that being the infamous 'Arts Tower' (which sadly cannot be knocked down due to the fact that it is on the governments database of listed buildings), has turned into a daffodil.

    Exactly what a bunch of daffodils were doing 20 years ago in Sheffield I don't know, but anyway, it looks mighty pretty, even if it does turn all of our classrooms various shades of blue, green and yellow.


    Where does it go?

    I've spent two whole days just doing homework for the language part of my course (that's 30% of the total) We're talkin normal weekly homework here, no special coursework. It was my intention to start working on one of my two forthcoming presentions yesterday, and yet here we are, 2pm on Sunday, yet to even start the weekly reading for my two non-language modules, which I was to do before I started on the presentation preperation...

    My application for Rikkyo University (provisional deadline Wednesday) has taken up quite a bit of time. I really appreciate the fact that the person running the international course over there is very well organised, and despuite it being Sunday, and despite them curently being in the US on business, they have already replied to my email that I sent just a few hours ago requesting further explanation of what I was supposed to write in answer to the question regarding the department to which I wish to be affiliated.

    The deal is this: if my Japanese is good enough, I can take virtually any module at Rikkyo. Naturally, I veered towards the Social Relations faculty website (here in Sheffield, SEAS is regarded as being a Social Science dept, as opposed to language), and located a number of modules that I'm really interested in. We're talking environmental movements and the such like. In addition to that, I'll be taking about 5 hours of language classes a week, and a few modules that pretty much mirror the kind of culture/history/politics classes that I will have already done here. I note a few of the lecturers are American - if they start harping on about Reischauer there will be trouble.

    I'll be so glad when this semester is over. Mind you, if I really do intend to take these classes in Japanese I'm going to have a lot of work to do over the summer.

    Hokey dokey, must go and have a listen to a lecture about the Japanese 'Quality of Life'. I started listening to it last night in a bid to get to sleep. It worked.


    Whipped Cream

    Despite what the title of this entry may suggest, there is not a tongue in sight as I type, nor any naked flesh.

    However, what there is is an empty jam jar with a splattering of whipped cream coating its glacial inner surface.

    You see, I learnt something about cream-whipping today, and I was so stunned I just had to share it with you.

    If you are in desperate need of a portion of stiff dairy produce, but are lacking in a whisk (as *cough* and I were about 30 minutes ago), do not despair! Locate an empty jam jar, and pour unwhipped whipping cream into it until it is about 1/3 full. Then, ensuring that the lid is firmly secured, proceed to shake the jam-jar as fast as you possibly can.

    45 seconds later you will have the stiffest whipping cream you could ever wish to encounter. If you carry out the procedure using a jar that until recently contained hot-chocolate, you will find, when the time comes to partake in its consumption, that there is the added benefit of the cream tasting like chocolate (surprisingly).

    It is then up to you to decide what to do with the slippery substance...

    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    Sheer Unadulterated Beauty

    God is a DJ an iPod designer.

    I don't think I have ever owned such a sexy bit of kit. It really is just pure sex-in-a-sleek-white/metallic-case.

    Who to sleep with tonight?



    It's a tricky one. 30GB of sheer lickable gorgeousness vs. gorgeous Japanese babe. Hmmm..

    I particularly like the fact that I can store thousands of photos on it too - the screen resolution is just fantastic, so damn clear. I love photography; it's such a pleasure to have a peek at the fruits of my toil now and then.

    I can also store a ridiculous number of full-length films on it too should I ever want to - unfortunately it will not be used much for such purposes (although I have put quite a few home movies on it) (no, not THOSE ones...)

    No, instead, it will be playing those files titled "Contemporary Japanese Culture, Week 6 Seminar" and "Kanji Compounds Week 7".

    I tell you, if you feel in need of a reward, go buy one of these. They are stunning, and a world away from any MP3 player type thing I've ever come across before.

    Hmm, now, bedtime.

    Which do I choose...?


    Ahhh, it's a tough one eh, this conflict between being 'Gadget Boy' whilst simultaneously believing in ethical consumerism. Fair Trade iPods are a long way off yet, (mine having been assembled in China, with the production line workers no doubt being paid an absolute pittance for their labour). I know I've been very hypocritical by making this purchase, but I hope I can make it up through my actions in other areas such as volunteering with WWOOF and the such like.

    Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    Sony Walks No More

    I received my beautiful Sony Walkman this afternoon.

    Two hours after I'd unwrapped it I came to the conclusion that the software that accompanied it was indeed crap, in fact so crap that despite the sexy nature of the beast I'd be better off without it in my life, crashing my PC etc.

    Thus, I popped over to Amazon, advertised it there and within half an hour had sold it for 15 quid more than I'd bought it for!

    Friday, March 10, 2006

    Joseph: 1, Bank: 0

    Another wonderful thing happened today.

    6000 pounds appeared in my bank account.

    Ok, so sadly not really mine, just sort of leant to me so I can apply for a Student Visa for Japan (my real funding doesn't come through until September).

    Ok, so all I needed was a letter from the bank stating that yes, Mr. Joseph Tame has 6000 pounds in his account.

    Could I get one? Could I hell! The bank said that they didn't have any headed paper on site, and all they could do was give me the equivilent of a post-it note, with the date and the amount of money in my account written on by hand. It wouldn't even have my name (or account number) on.

    The ATM couldn't help either - it only does on-screen balances.

    I was advised that the only options I had were to (a) wait a month for my next statement (not possible, the money has to be returned asap) or (b) write to (not email, fax or phone) Head Office and request an official statement of funds. This could take a couple of weeks.


    Then I had an idea... I went round the corner into another bank, whom I don't hold an account with. "If I was to bring 6000 pounds cash in tomorrow morning could you open an account for me and then give me a letter stating that I have an account with you containing 6000 pounds?"

    "Sure, no problem".

    I then came home and called my current bank's customer service department again, and told them that if they didn't provide me with a letter immidiately I'd be forced to withdraw all my funds that day, close the account and move to the Nationwide Building Society.

    "Oh, Mr. Tame, don't worry! I'll write the letter you need myself, immidiately, and send it out to you by first-class post tonight!"

    Ha! Victory!

    Thursday, March 09, 2006

    Results are in

    Oohh I have been a naughty boy! The discovery of 600 pounds yesterday coincided with a) exam results and b) an email from Sony detailing some factory-reconditioned HDD Walkmans, you know, those damn sexy purple ones with the hidden screen, at half price. I gave them a ring and discovered that they're not actually factory-refurbished - they're brand new, but are being sold under a 'refurbished' banner to skirt around some contractual obstacle that prevents them from putting them 'on sale'.

    They haven't done as well as expected due to competition from the iPod, and due to the crappy PC software that they come with (which Sony themselves admits is rather rubbish). Thankfully, there is alternative software available ...and as long as I am able to listen to the soothing sounds of Professor G. (who provides copies of his lectures in MP3 format for revision purposes) whilst walking to uni, I'm happy.

    You can have a play with one of the sexy purple 20GB beasts here

    At 100 pounds, they are half the rrp, 30 quid cheaper than anywhere else online and even cheaper than if I bought one at my favourite electronics store in the whole wide world, Yodobashi Kamera, with my Gold Point Card!

    I've wanted one for ages. Since my crappy cheapo MP3 player packed up late last year (returned to manufacturer who simply posted it back saying that there was nothing wrong with it), I haven't been able to listen to my Kanji collection, recorded by yours truly with the assitance of a certain *Cough*. The listening-to-vocab tecnique really has worked in the past, ever since I first started doing it whilst cutting the grass around the tennis courts at the infamous Milky House, Hokkaido. It helped me endure endless hours of slipping down impossibly-steep and slushy grassy banks... (incidentally, do you like their website? Designed by yours truly, with the exception of those additions bottom right. Check out those groovy rollover images!

    OH MY GOD!! They've got a live webcam!!! I just saw my old boss! Crikey makes me want to phone him up and say hello!

    (if you can't see anything, I guess they've all gone to bed!)

    Mind you, I found another of my old haunts under live-webcam scrutiny earlier this week - the hotel in Switzerland. I lived in the little shack you can just make out in the centre - to the right of the big hotel where I worked. Of course if it's night time I guess you won't be able to see much except for a railway-station light or something. Have another look in the morning, the scenery really is quite spectacular.

    Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, exam results! So, yes, what had I forcast for myself? Erm, based on preliminary results of my two non-language modules, and on the feeling of utter sickness I had when I turned over the language module exam paper in January, I predicted that I would get around 60% overall, for all the work I had done between September and December 2005.

    I really was convinced that I had completely flunked my language module. Ok, so my coursework was of a consistently high standard, but I failed my kanji test (I think I managed to get 2 out of 30 for that) and the exam was, as mentioned above, a nightmare. Thus, I was thinking maybe 53% for that (why fifty three I don't knowm but there you go), thus dragging my overall score down to the low 60's.

    Imagine my surprise then when this morning I discover that I had actually done quite well on my language module, and thus my overall mark was ...69.7%!


    Whilst delighted that I had got far more than I had dared to hope for, I couldn't believe that if I had just got 0.3% more (we're talking maybe two more correct kanji in that test or, in the written exam, the identification of the name of that blasted Japanese girl who went to America in the second ice age and then returned to Japan to start a school), if I'd just got a weeny weeny bit more my results would have slipped into the 'First" category as opposed to that of II:1 (not to say that II:1 is not a perfectly decent result). Still, you get my point.

    My anguish was soon relieved however, when I was informed that anything over .5% gets rounded up, and thus, my final result is effectively 70%!

    I'm well chuffed. Can't quite believe I managed it considering *Cough* and I were on honeymoon too, and all that that involves...


    I'd debated whether or not to post these results online, being aware that some of my course mates have been known to drop by and comment on things like contraceptives. It's never very appealing to read some big-headed twat's "Owed to Myself" sonnet, but then I thought, buggar that, these results mean a lot to me, they are conformation for me that it's worth it. I'm not talking about percentages here, but what those perecntages represent - the fact that my Japanese is improving, along with my knowledge of the mad mad theme park world that is Nihon. The fact that I'm really enjoying working towards achieving my goals is also something that I should be very grateful for.

    Anyway, so I thought I deserved a reward. I mean, my weekly budget is 60 quid, but on average I only spend 40, thus, in five weeks I save enough to cover the cost of today's purchase - which I clearly deserve anyway - so I needn't feel guilty, right?

    The Power of the Zoom

    You know that Digital SLR I mentioned yesterday, you know, the one I've always wanted ever since they were first invented - well, I dreamt about it last night.

    The power of the zoom lens was quite extraordinary. Looking across the English Channel from southern England I could actually see Paris, quite clearly in fact.

    But it doesn't stop there. This zoom lens not only made France SEEM closer, but when we got on a bus, we found that now, having looked through the viewfinder of my beautiful camera, it only took 15 mins to reach mainland Europe, and that was entirely over land! The lens had actually pulled mainland Europe closer, it was that powerful.

    I shall have to be careful not to look at France when I finally DO get my digital SLR. The prospect of there not being 26 miles of water seperating them from us is, I'm sure you'll agree, rather worrying.


    as an aside - what is the difference between 'dreamed' and 'dreamt'?
    answers on a postcard to the usual address please

    Flat 'mates'

    I was thinking today, I still don't know the names of 2 of the 4 people I share this tiny flat with.

    Wonder if I could get into the Guiness Book of Records with that claim?

    Student Fridge

    I must admit, it's puzzled me for a while now as to why we have so many tubs of margerine and Philadelphia Cream cheese in our student fridge. I know for a fact that one flat-mate only EVER eats microwave ready meals, whilst another lives on a diet of Marks and Sparks Oven-Ready meals, never touching anything else.

    So how come there were 8 tubs of marg and cream cheese in the fridge when there were only two possible candidates for ownership?

    Today, I thought I'd investigate, by checking to see if there was a name tag inside inside any of the tubs.

    No name tags, but instead, the most impressive displays of mould I have EVER SEEN!


    Just check out that Philadelphia! And the Utterly Butterly - Utterly not tempting I should say!

    I think they warrant a closer look.



    I am partcularly impressed by the beauty of the Philadelphia - check out that red splodge, and the rich texture of the green. Quite unlike anything I've ever seen before, let alone anything I've seen in a fridge in which I keep all my salad items etc. Mmm, nice bit of cross contamination.

    Ah, the joys of student living...

    Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    money money money

    Gosh that was a nice surprise!

    A conversation with my mother today led me to check my annual budget spreadsheet, which I haven't looked at for quite a while.

    IMAGINE MY SURPRISE when I discovered that I'd completely forgotten that student loans are paid in THREE installments, rather than two (which I'd been thinking they were). I've been thinking that the money I currently have in the bank (400 quid) had to last me until the end of the year (not a problem when one lives on sunflower seeds and raindrops like me). Anyway, the forgotten payment minus the forgotten 3rd rent installment leaves me with 600 pounds - 600 pounds which, to be honest, I don't actually need.

    I think the fact that this is the second year in a row in which I will finish my studies with about 600 quid of my student loan left over WITHOUT having done any paid work during term-time demonstrates what a tragic social life I have.

    Of course the tricky thing now is not spending it all. The new laptop can wait till September, so much cheaper in Akihabara, no tax and all that. Likewise with the digital SLR that I have been dreaming about for years.

    The fact is is that next year will be expensive, what with my rent looking set to be around 300 quid a month. Ok, so I could go for a cheaper shoebox, but the Asagaya experience has led me to desire something bigger than the inside of a pencil sharpener, and somewhere a little more comfortable than a box full of rotten cabbages. I think the view from the window provides you with a clear idea of the atmosphere of the place.

    I think I'll go Virgin Atlantic this time, only 600 quid for a 12 month return flight, free socks and no charge for changing the return date. Oh, and paid for my Local Education Authority, which is handy. Likewise with medical insurance.

    If I work over the summer, I should be able to save a sizeable amount to enable me to not fret about finances next year - what a change that will make to my last two trips to Japan - the first resulting in an 18,000 pound bankruptcy and the latter, when I was deprived of the ability to obtain credit or debit cards, seeing me having to borrow 10 quid off a friend in order to get the train back to the airport!

    (Incidentally, should my regular employers be reading this, fret not, I am not relying entirely on your combined pensions to fund my year abroad. I have other gardens to run around in should the need arise - we can negotiate at Easter!)

    Oh, and of course I can work in Japan too...

    Anyway, I must be off. Have a billion and three things to do, such as go down to PC world and but the latest Sony Vaio Laptop with built in Digital SLR study.

    la di da

    Me? Obsessed?

    Monday, March 06, 2006

    What's happening to me?

    A few hours spent reading about the mad mad world that is the Japanese economy and I find myself actually getting interested in economics!

    I'm sure this university thing is bad for my health.

    Sunday, March 05, 2006

    Snow (and restaurants with dodgy names)

    Living in Student accomodation means that even if you were to never leave your room and always kept the curtains shut, you would ALWAYS know when it was snowing. This is due to the screeches of Malaysian, Thai and Greek students who have never seen snow before (don't get me wrong, I'm not mocking them for the fact. After all, one of my course mates (age 20ish) has never been to London. I know a japanese girl who once, when on a train with me, suddenly started pointing out the window, shouting, "Look, look! That cow, it's SITTING DOWN! Having only seen them on TV or in photos before (and always standing up) she was not aware that they had this ability. Some of my classmates (in their second year of Japanese Studies) were saying the other day that they have never spoken Japanese to a Japanese person (other than Sensei). "Is it a real language? Does it actually work?" they asked, taking the piss out of themselves. They did make me laugh...!)

    Such was the case last night then, when we had our first proper snow of the season. Initially I felt a bit bah-humbug ish, as they were disturbing my work, but then I decided to cheer up, and walk over to *Cough's* to pick her up for the weekend.

    It was still snowing heavily; this made me smile.

    Having dropped *Cough's* 13 suitcases off at my place, we went to the park where she rolled a jolly big snowball. Too tired to roll another for the head, I volunteered my own atama, as shown below.


    Following our frollicking in the snow, and having watched *cough* munch her way through a kilo of pack ice, I began to feel a bit peckish. Coupled with this was a desire to take a romantic stroll through the snow-covered city centre, and another somewhat stronger inclination to avoid doing any more study.

    We finally chose to eat at the all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant 'Jumbo', which I'd never been to before. Must admit I think I had more cheesecake and grapes than noodles and rice.

    Incidentally, the Chinese characters for 'Jumbo' literally mean 'rare treasure'. However, pronounce those same kanji in Japanese (Japanese using at least 3000 'borrowed' Chinese characters) and it comes out at 'chinpou', which means, somewhat inappropriately for a restaurant, 'penis'.


    Nasty chemicals and cheesy moons


    After the snow last night the sky cleared, revealing this rather lovely moon that was rather moon-like in appearance, I'm sure you'll agree.

    Well, in Shower News, I am delighted to tell you that I have cleared the blockage, with the shower-equivilent of an enema, that is, a rather potent Caustic Soda solution. Bloomin powerful stuff. Add a few granuals to a bit of cold water and it heats it up within seconds. God knows what it actually does to the plumbing. Anyway, yes, half a litre of that poured into the sump and left for 20 minutes, followed by 3 litres of boiling water, and hey presto! a drain that runs like there's no tomorrow.

    I did a bit of research on Caustic Soda whilst it was digesting the rather tempting mix of congealed soap and Japanese hair, and discovered a couple of disturbing uses that it is put to on a regular basis:

    1) the chemical peeling of fruit (what?!! Chemical peeling??! And there was me thinking that the man from Del Monte had an army of aunties armed with potato peelers in some shed in the Carribean)

    2) coating mini-pretzal snacks to make them shiney. That's the last time I eat them then, having seen what the stuff can do to my piping.

    So yes, I must say I am mighty glad to be blockage free once again. I think the Body Shop soap I bought recently is partly to blame actually - it sort of melts when it comes into contact with the tiniest drop of water, and then obviously sits around in the drain. I wonder if The Body Shop has a deal going with Dow Ltd, the world's largest producer of the Caustic Soda.

    Oh crikey! Take a look at their website! Look what those two folks on the front page are clasping in their hands... Are they suicidal??!

    Friday, March 03, 2006

    I Love My Professor

    He may be renowned for giving lectures in a manner that is sure to send even the most hyperactive smarty-filled 5-year-old fast alseep for 15 years, he may be distinctly offish with students in a way that makes you feel that his mind is on another planet entirely (i.e. he is not concerned in the slightest with us mere mortals), but today, I Love Professor T.

    You see, in a bid to avoid a last minute panic, back in January I took a careful look at the module outline for his classes, to see when the essay was due and all that. The deadline given was (academic) Week 6, Week 6 being the week after next.

    Ok, so that means I should get most of it done by the beginning of Week 5, that now being only 4 days away.

    I had it all planned out. This afternoon, after classes had finished and my 95-hour weekend had begun (and being only too keenly aware that I was working to a tight deadline), I completed the preperation necessary for facing the mammouth task ahead of me:

    - Managed to get hold of copies of all 17 texts on the reading list for my chosen topic.

    - Stayed up until 2.30 this morning completing my weekly Japanese homework that will be due in next Monday (thus enabling me to devote myself to the essay)

    - Switched my phone's SIM card to the secret secret one to avoid being disturbed

    - Arranged for my lady to not come round until the evenings at the weekend

    - Cancelled ALL social arrangements (didn't take too long as I didn't have any)

    - Did the laundry

    - Washed the sink

    - Cleaned the fridge inside and out

    - Watched the second half of Star Wars Episode 4 (never seen it before)

    - Had a shower to check if the drain had miraculously loosened its bowels (it hadn't)

    - Finally learn the secret behind Japan's plastic food (link)

    - Remembered that my clothes had to go in the Tumble drier...

    Of course, it was vital that all of these tasks were carried out before I set about writing my essay.

    Anyway, so I'm just about the put index-fingers to keyboard, when I think, hmm, maybe I'd better check to see if the deadline has changed since last year.

    Imagine my delight when, on penetrating the depths of the departmental web site I find that it's now not due until May!!! In my delight I inadvertantly locate my professor's extension number and declare my love for him.

    Well, no time to waste, I suppose I'd better watch Star Wars episodes five & six...

    Thursday, March 02, 2006

    No socks or pants

    It's getting to that time of year again when I have to do my laundry.

    20p coins can be deposited in the comments section below.

    Thank you.

    Drainage Dilemma

    I don't know what the cause is, but lately my shower has been distinctly reluctant to get rid of the water deposited in its base having gushed forth from the spout above and bathed my baby skin in warm droplets of freshness (and chlorine probably).

    Ok, so on the face of it this is perfectly understandable, I mean, who or what wouldn't want to cling onto any substance that has been in contact with my naked flesh? It's perfectly reasonable, I can hear you all nodding your heads in audible agreement. I mean, we've all seen that famous Alpine photo have we not. Oh, maybe not, that's on the Special Edition DVD yet to be released.

    Er, where was I?

    Oh yes, my BL**DY SHOWER!! I really don't enjoy standing in a puddle of luke-warm dirty soapy water, and having to turn what is a mighty powerful shower down to it's 1-drip-per-minute setting in order to let the water drain away.

    Thus, this evening I spent a whole hour carrying out an investigation into my drainage system. What fun, I just love slime, mould, and all that stuff. Yum Yum scrape it out the drain and have it with my yoghurt for breakfast.

    Ok, so reverse the above and you have how I feel about drains generally. You see, despite what most people think I am actually normal. At least when it comes to drains. (The less said about life-size inflatable dolls the better.)

    To cut a long story short, my shower does not have a normal U-bend drain arrangement to catch hair etc. No, it has some bizzare entrapment set up which makes it utterly impossible to clean. It was only after I had broken my prize pair of scissors and a coathanger that I realised this (the former actually snapped at the hinge thing when trying to cut the plastic latter).

    Having found that physical coat-hanger style manipulation was not going to work, I decided to go for the high-pressure water method. Now, as mentioned above my shower is actually very very powerful, coming straight from the immersion heater and all that. Thus, when one turns it on full blast it is strong enough to create a sizeable indent in one's cheek (should one choose to wash one's face in that manner). Problem was, the head of the shower was bigger than the drain, thus, I had to come up with some way of funneling the flow into the smaller hole, making sure it was watertight (otherwise the water would simply pop back up into the shower tray).



    This astonishing device was constructed from a shower head, a shampoo bottle and a Japanese contact-lens fluid bottle, which had been skilfully carved into an appropriate shape. The whole gubbins was then wrapped in waterproof parcel tape.

    Well, it sort of worked, in that it was watertight (i.e the drain recieved the full power of the shower).

    There was one tiny problem though, in that after treatment had been brought to a close the wretched drain was just as blocked as it had been before I started attacking it with contact-lens cleaning fluid bottles.


    Tomorrow I am going to that cleaning specialist up the road to get some nasty eat-everything liquid, despite this being against my better environmental judgement. If that fails, I will have to report the problem to Maintenance, who will then have to deconstruct my whole bathroom (it's all sealed in). Thing is, I really don't want to do that because they might wonder why I have a double futon in my strictly single accomodation. Oh, and they may be a bit surprised to find that the cause of the blockage is hair, black hair that is about 30cm longer than mine...

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    A Sign of Spring


    Oh yes mama, it may just look like any old sun-through-dirty-window-photo, but it ain't. You see, what this symolises is hope, freshness, new life, running naked through the park in a bid to express one's joy that winter is over and then getting arrested for showing off your willy wongy. Daffodils, warmth, a lawn to be mown - all these can be found in this simple image taken at 3.28pm today in this here room where I sit now.

    Due to the strategic location of the building on the other side of the courtyard, and the exterior wall you see to the left, the sun has not been able to steal a glance at my beautiful room ever since last Autumn. Until Now.

    I love Spring. It's my favourite season by far - except on rainy days of course.

    Makes me feel very happy and shiney, and, well, I think I will go for that run in the park after all.