...according to some of my students. I don't know how you mix up vampire and virgin, but they've managed to and it's hilarious.
Also, my supervisor told a story today in which someone was "killed to death". I'm not exactly sure of a time when someone isn't dead when they are killed, but apparently he knows of at least one...or he's being cautious just in case.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
...according to some of my students. I don't know how you mix up vampire and virgin, but they've managed to and it's hilarious.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Fuyuki says they make me look to serious, but I disagree. He said, however, that he is biased because he wears glasses and doesn't like glasses at all.
Planning my Thanksgiving/Christmas vacation to Bangkok (now changed from Bali cause cheap Bali tickets were already sold out). Will post more on what I plan to do and where.
Also, what do you think of me posting video every once and a while? Would you watch?
Posted by tiffinjapan at 10/27/2007 04:56:00 AM
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
We also had okonomiyaki and Genghis Khan (what party is complete without Genghis Khan). All very, very good food!
Chinese style rice. After getting to the camp grounds and getting set up, we realized that everyone (and more) could fit into my gigantic tent, so that's what ended up happening.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
While most of the schools I visit are really great, many of them are out in the middle of no-freaking-where. For the school I visited today, Hobetsu, I have to take a nearly 1 hour train to Mukawa, then take a 1 hour bus to Hobetsu and then walk up this mountain/large hill on top of which the school sits.I teach only 3 classes there and I’m convinced that I spend more time traveling to this location than I do actually working.
It’s been raining up a storm this past week and last weekend. I heard it was a typhoon’s fault. I hope it doesn’t rain for the Southwest camping party thing this weekend. Even if it does, though, my tent is pretty tight. I practiced putting it together last night and it was too big to assemble fully in my comparatively small tatami room. But at least I have a good idea of where things go. The instructions are all in Japanese and no other manual is available online for the thing, so I was kind of worried about my lack of experience with tents.
The Goto’s are planning yet another barbecue on Monday (yet another holiday). Hope I make it back in time to go to this one. They do know how to throw a good, fun party.
Monday, September 17, 2007
My wallet was turned into the police on Monday morning. It had everything in it, including the 32,000 yen in my billfold. A student from Fuyuki’s (one of my very so kind neighbors) former school, Higashi, found it on the sidewalk. I’m imagining that this was probably immediately after I dropped it as I went back along the route after I found it missing and it was not there.
In Japan, when someone finds something you lost, you are required to reward them, so I paid him 3,000 yen, delivered in person to his home. A small price to pay for something so important to me. Would this have happened in America? Losing my wallet, yes. Getting it back with everything in it, nearly impossible.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
So I lost my wallet today. With about $200, my alien registration card, my health insurance card, two debit cards, my cash card, and two credit cards.
I am told that there's a good chance it will turn up tomorrow with all of the stuff in it. I have hope, but I'm not so sure it will turn up. If it doesn't turn up it will be hell trying to replace all of the stuff in the wallet, not to mention that I'm not rich enough to lose $200 without crying about it a little.
Was supposed to go to Sapporo with friends today, but had to cancel because of lost wallet.
In other news, I bought a really nice tent on Saturday in preparation for the South Western camping party next weekend.
Friday, September 14, 2007
The weekend is finally here! Not that I worked to hard this week or anything. There was more preparing for testing, so I didn't have to go to a good portion of the classes I usually do. I must say that this week has been rather good. I really love the kids at Soke, they're bright and sweet and inquisitive. Some of them already speak pretty good English (though the majority of them don't) and they love learning new things about American culture.
Monday is a holiday which is cool because I may be in Sapporo on Sunday. Finally got my web cam today and my first cell phone bill came in the mail. I can't exactly read what the charges are, but I do know how to pay it. Wonderful!
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
So, I finally had my first meeting with members for the Soke High School English Club. They call it International Club, but we only speak English and Japanese so I don't see what's so International about that.
We did introductions all around, which was a relief for me because I have done my self-introduction no fewer than 50 times since I've been here. This time it was the students who had to tell their favorite whatever in whatever category.
Anyway, all was going fine until the president of the club got up to introduce herself. Her english wasn't half-bad, pronunciation was very impressive. However, when asked her favorite things were, she responded my breasts.
I did like a double-take, but with that smile still on my face just in case she was trying to say something else but I heard it wrong. But when the JTE asked her to repeat what she said, she responded "breasts, bust" while pointing at me.
The whole club started laughing at this, but this girl was deadly serious.
As flattering as someone saying that my breasts was one of their favorite things, I was a little disturbed. After all the giggling stopped, the JTE explained that probably most of the girls at the school liked my breasts because, naturally, they were gigantinormous compared to theirs. (I would have to agree) That made sense, however, all this aside, it was still weird being told that. Most people would have answered my favorite thing is "rock music" or "painting".
Also, is it weird that one of the male JTEs said that he wanted to see one of the girl students in his sweet dreams tonight?
He said this in front of the entire class. I'm chalking it up to a translation problem since he said it in English. But still...
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
So, because in Japan they take a month to hook up internet/home phone service and because at my school, there are way too strict blocks on internet access, and because all internet cafes I visit in this country are equipped with the dreaded Japanese keyboard, I have been unable to update the blog lately.
I have been on many whirlwind adventures since my last post and I have so much to say about them. I'll be updating quite frequently, from my first touchdown in Tokyo to my flight to Hokkaido to my first day at school. It's gonna be a sweet tale!
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Woke up early on the last day, got dressed, had breakfast, checked out, and got on the bus back to Narita. Had my first Japanese Coca Cola at the airport and the results were good. Tastes good, if not better than American Coke which is more than I can say for ANY of the European Coke I’ve tasted.
The plane ride to Hokkaido was short, about an hour or so. The wait to get luggage and meet our welcome party took forever, but finally I was introduced to Mr. Oi (supervisor) and Kyoto sensei (vice principal). They drove me directly from the airport to the school where I met much of the office staff. I have heard of people having to meet the town mayor or something ridiculous like that after stepping off the plane, so I feel a bit lucky to only have met 5 people. My shipped luggage was waiting for me at the school. When we got to my apartment a whole bevy of school workers (teachers, office staff) was there to move all of my furniture and stuff into the places I wanted them as well as put my bed together.
The apartment is pretty sweet for only 13,900 yen a month. I have three tatami bedrooms, kitchen, living room, shower, toilet, large foyer. I only use like 1/3 of the apartment. I have also received many electronic goods that I didn’t have to pay for (see earlier post).
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Monday, July 30, 2007
The Japanese are big on ceremonies and speeches by the way.
After the first quarter of the workshop, I found myself slipping off to sleep in the uncomfortable chair and so when we had a break, I trotted on back to my room.
Went to nomihodai that night which was food and all you can drink for 3000 yen (a little less than $30). Even though it was all you can drink I did not get drunk, just slightly buzzed. Tried over 5 different drinks on the menu though and that was interesting. Dinner was good. Something called Genghis Khan that has no relation to the Mongolians.
I came back like the nerd I am and did some homework (midterm actually). Then about 2 hours later some people came carrying my roommate into the room. She was sooooooooo drunk. She passed out for a bit and then I tried to go to bed as well, but she kept getting up in the middle of the night and sleepwalking out of the room and into the other corridor, trying to get into someone else’s room. I had to go get her twice. As amusing as it was, it left me kind of tired for the next day.
Posted by tiffinjapan at 7/30/2007 03:37:00 AM
Sunday, July 29, 2007
We then shipped the majority of our bags to our homes as soon as we got out of the airport then got on a chartered bus and headed to Keio Plaza Hotel. Here I am now, tired as crap. Our handlers at CLAIR keep handing us more things – books, bags, tickets, papers…too much stuff.
No duh, everything is in Japanese (which I can’t read) but I am surprisingly not worried about it. What’s wrong with being illiterate?
Friday, July 20, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
And I'm so happy. I even got up at 8 AM I'm so happy. I must say that I've been completely mentally checked out since last week, but it seems that the week is going by slower as the days go on. It seems almost mind-numbing.
The things I really want to do: see my girlfriend, write the second chapter of my dissertation, make headway on the vampire script, and party with my friends. Oh, and pack. All in that order.
Got some handy dandy business cards made up. These were a nightmare to bring into fruition. First, I wanted to have them printed up by vista print, who has done my cards in the past. But their print and ship times were too slow, because I needed the cards mainly for this week/weekend to give out to people I wouldn't see for a while.
So, then I design my own expertly in Photoshop and see what I can get printed at Kinko's, but they only do their own design...and it's expensive...and they charge even more for front and back cards like I wanted.
So, then I try printing them myself, but realize I can't actually print these cards from Photoshop, even with the business card stock I just bought at Office Depot. Microsoft Word's templates are pure crap and won't center up a picture of the card I made in Photoshop.
So, finally, I go to the website of the people that made my business card stock (Avery) and use their formatter software stuff and mock up a design that looks exactly like my Photoshop design and voila! I now have business cards! Simple, elegant, yet effective.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Just got pictures of some of the stuff I'm getting for free and buying off my predecessor. The bed looks to be in very good condition. Checked the price of buying a bed new from anyplace that would deliver to my location and found it to be much more expensive than the 40,000 yen that she's asking (about $327). Plus, it comes with the mattress, which, as some of you may know, can be as expensive as the bed itself.
Also included in the pictures was the very slick refrigerator, toaster oven, microwave, nearly brand new washing machine, and television. Debating whether or not to buy the DVD player off of her after seeing the television. I was really expecting some rinky dink little thing that I wouldn't watch anything on, but the television she's giving me (for free) is rather good sized. I may want to watch DVDs on it after all and give my poor notebook a rest. :)
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
It's getting closer and closer to that date (the day I leave). I'm trying desperately to wrap up everything, but there is so much to do.
Particularly, it's hard to spend enough time with all the people I care about and now I'm wishing I had started sooner. I guess this is the reality of leaving for a long time.
Maybe I'm a nerd, but I've started making lists of things to buy and lists of things to pack and in which suitcase to pack them in. The plan is to take three suitcases, a toiletries bag, my laptop backpack, and my guitar.
With the airline I'm flying on, you can take two checked bags of 50 lbs each, one small carry-on suitcase, a laptop bag or purse, and an instrument case. I'm planning on putting most of my clothes in the largest suitcase along with my Guitar Hero controller because it's so awkwardly shaped. I will then pack for Tokyo orientation in the medium sized bag inside of which I will also stuff the toiletries bag. These two bags will be the ones I check. I will then take my laptop backpack and put all of my electronics and shoes in the smallest suitcase and have these as carry-ons along with the guitar case.
I'm not sure how much my suitcases will weigh however, though I will try to keep what I bring down to a minimum.
In some ways I am really happy about this move. In others, I'm really stressed out and worried. Not for myself, mind you, because I know where ever I land, I'll be alright, but for the people I love and care for. For various reasons, this is stressing me out just a bit.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Heard even more information from my predecessor. I will not be moving into her apartment, but the new place will be furnished by her stuff. I kind of feel bad having to have them move all of her stuff to my place, but they (whoever 'they' are) seem to be very willing to do it. She even said it would be easier for me to take her stuff.
Granted, I haven't seen any of this stuff so it could all very well be crap, but I have requested pictures of the stuff she actually wants to sell me like her bed and a rice cooker. The rice cooker is only thirty bucks, so I'm not really worried about it, but her bed is 3 years old and she wants to sell it for $400.
From her description of the floor plan, the place sounds pretty big. 2 tatami rooms and a living room (which I assume also houses the kitchen) all totaling at about 94m (squared). I took a look at similar apartments available for rent in Tokyo and they are thousands of US dollars (hundreds of thousands of yen) per month! I feel lucky.
But not too lucky yet. I still haven't seen the "quality" of the place yet.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Finally got all of my paperwork off. Signed contract, visa application (with accompanying passport), and lengthy medical import forms are all on their way to their intended destinations.
And a word about those medical import forms: they are lengthy as HELL. They want to know exactly what you're bringing in (medical name and all), the exact amount, the manufacturer, the country of origin, AND it's intended purpose. There are many medicines that are pretty standard here in the States that are absolutely outlawed in Japan (like Sudafed). I guess they don't want methheads cooking up batches of dangerous narcotics, but too bad for whoever needs those drugs (or anything like them) to feel better. Fortunately for me, I grew out of my sinus allergies when I went to college, though, I still do get some wicked sinus infections every now and again.
So, now, the only thing I'm really waiting on is hearing more information about my housing situation. I'm really anxious about that, because, after all, your home is where you sleep, eat, and live. I'm a firm believer that everything else around you can be falling apart, but as long as you're comfortable where you rest your head, you can make it through just about anything.
Posted by tiffinjapan at 6/21/2007 04:48:00 PM
Monday, June 18, 2007
It sucks and rocks at the same time.
It sucks because it makes you really realize why you would never want to be God, judging every living thing. Just judging one human being is very hard (at least it was for me). Handing down a verdict of guilty is even harder. Fortunately though, the law makes it easy for you by being very clear. There is very little wiggle room with the law and, in my opinion for the cases I sat on, it's very fair.
Jury duty rocks because, while you may have learned a lot about the judicial system from school, nothing can compare to actually being in the court room and seeing how things are run. I suggest that, for those of you thinking of an excuse not to go, actually submit to the summons. You won't regret it.
Well maybe you will if you have other things to do that really are more important money or time wise. Cause they don't pay you much. And it does take all day. And a lot of it can be sitting around in a room with no cell phone or computer with a hundred plus other people bored out of your mind.
So, Aisha and I went to Charleston two weekend ago and had a BLAST! It's so much different going there with her than it is going there with daddy. We did a lot more things and just hung out mainly.
We went to the Aquarium (kind of lame), Folley Beach, good eating places, Sullivan's Island, Isle of Palms, and the covered (former slave) market.
It was a welcome vacation and there are many, many pictures. Just wait for me to post them.
That's where I'll be folks, and considering that I was afraid of being cast to the northernest regions of this most northern prefecture, I am pleasantly surprised to find myself placed not only in a city, but in a southern port city.
Tomakomai-shi is fairly large (about 171,000+ people) and only a short train ride away from the much larger Sapporo.
I have talked to several JETs living there already who rave about the place. My predecessor has also contacted me and given me some great info.
I will apparently NOT need a car and I'm glad for that, because I didn't want to worry about the costs. I'm still waiting to hear more info about what my housing might cost, but the Board of Education told me that I will definitely receive a heater, fridge, and stove in my apartment.
I've heard of people having to get all of these things installed and having to pay for them AS SOON AS THEY GOT THERE which would blow. Who knows, maybe they'll even throw in some furniture and whatnot too. At any rate, I suppose I can buy those things off of my predecessor.
So yeah, I'm psyched to be going to the big, bad Hokk.
Yup, it's been a good, long time since I updated this blog, but I have good reason.
1. I've been out of town almost every weekend except the one that just passed. Doing adventuresome things and hanging out with 1 very special and cool chick.
2. I had jury duty last week -- for the whole week (except Friday) in which I was picked for 2 serious criminal trials. (We found them both guilty). More about that later.
3. I had finals for 3 classes, two of which consisted of very in-depth, time-consuming projects. The remaining class was linear programming, of which I am unbelievably limited in my abilities.
So, all of that came to a head this week/weekend and I almost lost my mind, but now, it is finally over and I can focus on other things like learning Japanese, getting my luggage together, and writing.
I'll post on each of those earlier points separately.
Anyway, I have found out my exact placement finally and received my employment contract in the mail. Go Japan!
Monday, May 21, 2007
Left at around 11:30 AM and got back at around 9:30 PM
Friday, May 18, 2007
Yep. That's where I'll be for an entire year of my life. It's exactly OPPOSITE of any of the places I requested in my JET application, but hey, it could be worst. I could be an alternate...or just a flat out rejection.
Emails came about two days ago and I was all psyched when I saw mine in the inbox. It was such a let down to be saying "no" to sunny Japan and "hello" to snowstorm Japan. That really is the only thing I'm holding against the North. The cold and the snow.
But then I calmed down. I did some reading. I scoured the BD and ITIL message boards for Hokkaido JETs and their opinions and now I'm very cool with my placement. At least I'll be able to learn how to snowboard in one of the best regions in the world for it. And, it has onsens galore apparently and they have nice views of rivers and mountains. Very cool.
Hokkaido, for those who don't know, is the most northerly island of Japan. Its very northern part is very close to Russia. It has mild, dry summers and cold, snowy winters. It is connected to the prefecture of Honshu by an underwater tunnel. It's capital city is Sapporo (yes, the beer).
This is what it looks like from space.
While some of the other people I've talked to have found out exactly WHERE in this large prefecture they will be placed, I have been designated a prefectural JET which basically means that I will be teaching a high school possibly in one of the big cities or a town. While some prefectural JETs find out specifics about their placement only weeks after being notified, I have heard horror stories of people who didn't know where they would be until a week or two before they got on the plane to Tokyo. Yikes! Hope that doesn't happen to me.
The prefectural Board of Education oversees all of the high schools in the region and will be distributing JETs however they see fit. I hope I get placed in or around Hakodate, a large city in the south of Hokkaido. Sapporo would be cool too though.
If you want more info on my placement, visit here.
Posted by tiffinjapan at 5/18/2007 10:32:00 AM
Monday, May 14, 2007
...or wherever I can get rid of it. Since I'll be in Japan in for a year, I really don't see the point in continuing to pay for it and insurance when I'm not driving.
My dad suggested that I try selling it in the Carolina Trader or on Ebay.
I've seen some pretty good cars go for good money on Ebay, so I will first give that a try.
If any of yous want to purchase it, then you can have first dibs. The Ebay listing won't go up until around June because I still need transportation to and from work for a while.
I take really good care of my car and have the maintenance history for anyone who wants to see. I try to wash it about every 2 weeks and wax it once a month. The interior is black leather with heated seats, in-dash CD player with steering wheel controls, and a moon/sun roof. I don't smoke so, it still smells like a new car despite being a 2001. New tires on the front, brand new windshield (old one was cracked by a rock or something), will have brand new tires on back.
It really is a great car and I'm kind of sad to have to give it up.
It's a Volkswagen Jetta by the way.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Nope, I'm not talking about getting a new gilded frame for the giant picture of your grandmother or anything.
I'm talking about people whose sole job it seems is to re-frame important issues to prove themselves right.
Don't get me wrong. I've argued with folks like this before. Heck, I've even done my own re-framing to skew a debate into my corner, but never to extent and disservice or on the scale that these professionals work.
Person in point: Rush Limbaugh.
I don't actually listen to him, but the past few days of scanning the radio, I've passed over the EIB network and was fascinated to actually hear the person that so many of the people I know talk so negatively about.
From what I can tell, Mr. Limbaugh has a pretty stable mode of operation.
He takes an issue (usually a pretty scandalous one where everyone and their mother will have an opinion), he re-frames the debate so that his side (usually the Right) looks sane and the other side (usually the Left) looks crazy, he cracks a few jokes, calls himself a god, then calls it a day.
Every time I've listened to him, it has been the same thing. Maybe you're out there saying, "well duh, why are you surprised?"
Well, maybe I'm naive. I actually expected the man to be, at least, genuine in his arguments. I thought, naively, that he just argued for the side my friends weren't on and that's why they don't like him. Not so apparently.
They don't like him because, not only his he wrong, but he's slick enough to know he's wrong but employs re-framing to look like he's right (and smart).
Don't believe me?
Just today, Mr. Limbaugh re-frames the debate on global warming as such: the liberals (whom for whatever reason can ONLY be Godless heathens) are saying that the Earth's weather has a sinister political agenda.
I can't recall an instance where a serious climatologist has made this statement or even insinuated it. I can't remember when ANYONE has made this claim.
To go further, Mr. Limbaugh even insinuates, if not out right says, that somehow the "stupid liberals", when they argue that the climate is changing in part because of our wastefulness, are saying that tornadoes and hurricanes somehow never happened on a magnanimous scale; that "the liberals" are dumbly saying that natural disasters and hotter temperatures are this surprising phenomena that falls on the sole shoulders of the human population.
If you're a liberal who's concerned about global warming, are you saying that? Is that really your debate? Was that ever the debate?
I didn't think so.
He used as his example of the mass hysteria of all liberals, a hodgepodge mess of clips from various nondescript local and national news programs, particularly their weather segments where some meteorologist is trying to convey the oddness (and possible worry) of subtropical storm Andrea's arrival before the official hurricane season.
Now, I'm not saying that Mr. Limbaugh's characterization of the "drive-by media" (his words) isn't warranted. The MSM has a penchant for taking complex issues, busting them down into their simplest form, and generalizing everything, hoping for better ratings. Plus, they're owned by corporations that expect measurable results and therefore, they are sensational by necessity.
But, I ask, what does the MSM's sensationalization have to do with an everyday politically liberal person who is concerned about global warming? Oh, you guessed it, absolutely nothing. How is that his proof? Plus, how is concern by a meteorologist about the early arrival of a subtropical storm any indication of anything except worry about the early arrival of a subtropical storm?
None of those clips had the meteorologist say, "...and this is because of global warming." These weather people did one thing, their jobs. They looked at previous recorded storms and their times of arrival and said, "hey, this storm is earlier than the majority of storms of this magnitude."
Praytell, they make OBSERVATIONS about the subject of their jobs!
Anyway, none of this really matters. It's just an observation I made when I switched over to the EIB because NPR was playing classical and I only really like radio that talks.
The thing that interests me about this professional re-framing racket is why.
Why would Mr. Limbaugh argue this way? Why would anybody listen and believe him? His logic obviously grasps at straws, making connections where there aren't any, generalizing to a gross degree, taking headlines and sensationalism and attributing it as some sort of credible proof that he is right.
I don't listen to Mr. Limbaugh often. He's not my cup of tea. But from what I have heard of him (about 2 or 3 shows worth), he seems to be a little low on facts and a very full on vague notions. But, why, when I can see it and many others can see it, do people still adamantly listen to him and turn around to reiterate his notions to others?
Because, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Limbaugh offers a selfish man's dream. If you don't acknowledge that your (the human population's) wastefulness is negatively affecting the environment, then you don't have to change your actions. You're not responsible. You can drive your giant SUV, you can have your electricity without wondering what it's costing the planet, and instead of devoting public funds to solving a very real problem, you can have your tax break.
Who wouldn't want to buy into Mr. Limbaugh's plan? It's the easiest choice.
I like to give people the benefit of the doubt in most cases. Maybe they don't have access to libraries or other forms of information. It's possible.
Or, sadly and scarily, maybe people really are that ignorant. Maybe they don't realize when someone is re-framing a debate in order to make their opponents look bad -- not by winning the debate and proving them wrong like a fair and balanced argument would work, but by aligning their opponents with ludicrous ideas and forcing them to argue for them.
It's like those who say if you refuse to fund the President's troop surge, you are against the troops. Quite obviously if you refuse to fund the surge, you're against the idea and implementation of the surge. A professional re-framer would not acknowledge that the President could just not have the surge, that he could rethink his strategy, that he could come up with new ideas about how to extricate the US from this terrible civil war brought on, in no small part, by the US.
A professional re-framer wouldn't acknowledge such an issue as the clash of ideas and stubborness that it is.
No, a professional re-framer would only shape the rules as "us against them" with no in-between.
Sadly, not only do they make a living off of doing this, but their media reach is often so far that their professional re-framing misinforms an already uninformed populace.
But I can't blame Mr. Limbaugh for misleading the people really. He's just doing what he does best. He's earning his money. You can't blame a man for that.
I can only fault an ignorant populace who have no concept of logic, who refuse to do research for themselves. These are the broadest targets of a sports-like opinion market. These are those who are most easily swayed into an "us against them" mentality. Rooted in fear, backed up by lack of knowledge. I don't think there's any more potent a combination than that.
So I can only say...educate yourselves...better yet folks, educate your children. Teach them not to accept ignorance as a state of mind. Because then it wouldn't matter if they're listening to Rush or to any other political pundit, right or left. They'll have enough wherewithal to recognize a re-frame artist when they hear them.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
I am not a criminal.
Posted by tiffinjapan at 5/09/2007 06:15:00 PM
It's a good thing I already made mine.
Atlanta JET puts everyone up in some (unknown) hotel for the night of the 27th (possibly the 26th as well) because (a) they require everyone who interviewed at the Atlanta consulate to depart from Atlanta's hub and (b) they require everyone to attend the pre-departure orientation the day before we fly to Tokyo.
But now, they're saying that they're running out of reservations. I find that amazing, since only the people who are from out of town are supposed to be reserving. I'm coming from SC. I find it a little hard to believe that THAT many of the interviewees (and subsequent shortlisters) are from outside of Atlanta.
Well, maybe many of them are coming from remote places in Georgia.
Anyway, I'm glad I made my reservation early.
I might not even be using it though. I have family in Atlanta and I think I would rather stay with them than with a complete stranger in a hotel room. That means one more out-of-town person can reserve.
Yes. I have joined the technological revolution that takes telephony from the hands of the evil cell phone and telephone giants and puts it into the hands of the consumer.
I had my doubts about Skype. Who wouldn't, really? It's supposedly free (sarcasm) and I've found that anything that's free is free for a (usually bad) reason. But, after trying to figure out different ways in which I might call back home from Japan for as cheaply as possible, I decided it couldn't hurt to at least try out the service.
The software is free. You download it to your computer and install. Took me about 5 minutes, but I also have the slowest affordable DSL that Bellsouth (now AT&T) offers. The install was very simple and, after a few minutes of putting in information, I had my very own Skype name.
It's, tiffinjapan, by the way. Duh.
Because I don't really voice chat over the internets, I didn't have one of those handy-dandy headsets. But I did have a microphone. So, I plugged that in.
I remembered suddenly that I didn't really know anyone else who had Skype, so I had no one to call. Not to mention, that they might not have even been online at the time. But my main reason for getting it had been for the cheap calls to landlines and cell phones, so having no Skype friends didn't matter at the moment.
I saw that I had been credited 14 cents for free to make SkypeOut calls and so I called my mom's cell phone. She had taken a day off work and was downstairs. To my surprise, the call went through...
...as an unrecognizable number. So, she didn't pick up.
I told her it was me calling and called a second time. She picked up and surprisingly, it worked.
The voice came through on my speakers (no headset) and was as clear as ever. My mom said my voice was also clear.
I was impressed.
I next called my girlfriend on her cell phone. It also worked then. What sort of witchcraft is this SKYPE???
It's been less than a day since I installed it and already I've talked for 20 minutes. I purchased $10 worth of Skype credits today and I still have more than 900 talking minutes left. that's better than a cell phone contract deal!
Maybe free isn't so terrible. Expect updates. There are more, even better features for this service to be had.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Why do we make them?
More importantly, why do we make them in private? Like smiles or frowns.
We could very well be happy or sad or upset without smiling or frowning. But we do it. Most of us do it.
If I stub my toe in the shower, there is no need for me to frown, because a frown is just a communication to others that I am unhappy with something. In the shower, I am alone (supposedly), so why do I need to communicate my unhappiness?
I was just curious about this. Perhaps it's just practice for future person-to-person communication. Perhaps it's just habit.
Monday, April 30, 2007
Had a great weekend. Have mid-terms coming up for this next weekend. Wish me luck. Three classes (and hard ones too). So far, I have all A's though and even a 100 average in one class.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
For all you Futurama fans out there, I stumbled across this site a little while ago. It's the show's own Wiki site that, like all wiki sites, you can add your own information to. There's a lot of info there already, but the Futurama universe is so vast, that I'm sure there's something you know that would be useful to note.
I sound like such a fangirl, but I'm not that nerdy. I just really like the show. It was one of those shows that was too brilliant for its time and got canned because of ratings.
Sometimes, I hate the way the system works for television. I, for one, think that television has the potential to beat out the film industry as far as outlets for creative works because of its mandatory churning out of product and the relatively short and cheap nature of the work.
Television has amazed at times, even network television. Some shows that come to mind are Futurama, Arrested Development, Rome, Farscape, Six Feet Under, Deadwood, and many more.
It seems to me that many well known, talented film actors are hanging up their feature film hats and opting for the more stable and flexible fair on television. I think that if the television industry takes the hint (and would stop drowning viewers in reality television crap), they could improve that overall "brand" and knock it up a notch.
I'm starting to think of television as the new theater, though I'm sure there are those that would disagree.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Was a bit sick yesterday. Some kind of cross between a sinus infection and something like the flu. I felt terrible. But then someone sent me the sweetest e-card telling me to get well and, magically, I felt better.
Well, a little better.
I'm feeling half-way better now and I think by tomorrow, I will have kicked this whole thing.
Recently, I got on board with this new acoustic guitar duo, Rodrigo y Gabriela. They are AMAZING! I heard about them while listening to NPR (All Things Considered, I think) and checked them out on itunes. You should check them out too.
It's like rock, acoustic style, and they're very talented. They sound a little Flamenco, but in an interview they said that they can't get the rhythms right for Flamenco, so real Flamenco artists would not call them such. I guess to the untrained ear, any flairy sounding strums are Flamenco. :)
Unfortunately, their US shows are ALL SOLD OUT. How sucky is that?! I would love to see them in concert. Check them out. Their song "Orion" is now on my MYSPACE page.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Friday, April 20, 2007
I'll admit that I didn't want to post anything about Virginia Tech's massacre. I work in news. I have seen enough of it for the eight hours I am here every day. I, honestly, wanted to leave any reference to it completely out of this blog whose purpose is a hopeful one.
But it IS important. The tragedy affected me greatly, so much so that I had to take half of a day off of work on Tuesday simply because I couldn't be inundated with it anymore. I spent that half-day working on this blog -- something that made me happy and took my mind off of how screwed up this world can seem sometimes.
So, in this one short post about Virginia Tech, I lead you to another blog that posted something interesting enough to prompt me to post it here.
It seems that one of the posed pictures Cho sent to NBC resembled (and I totally didn't realize this until someone pointed it out) a still from the Korean film "Oldboy". I saw this movie a few months ago and it was very well done. Kind of sad, very violent, with some pretty sick parts thrown in for color. What struck me about the film personally, is that the ending gave justification to the ill-treatment of the protagonist. Throughout the movie, the lead character exacts revenge for a 15-year, solitary confinement that ruined his life.
In the end, he finds out why the main bad guy did what he did, but (not to ruin anything) the bad guy is portrayed as being completely justified in doing it.
I think, with linking this movie to the Virginia Tech massacre, one might draw some pretty strong associations. Anyway, click on the link. Read the post. And that is all I'm putting up here about that tragic day.
A link to this interesting and insightful post about the human psyche and how one's outlook impacts not only how one sees the world, but how one sees others. The implication is that Cho's view of the world (as evidenced by his ranting multimedia manifesto), whether that perception was accurate or not, does offer a plausible frame of mind that would cause someone to not only commit such an atrocity, but to also feel justified in doing so.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Yesterday, went into the urgent care for the $40 paper transfer (see previous posts). Even the doctor I saw thought the idea was silly. But he certainly didn't hesitate to take my money and do no work for it. Sigh and double sigh.
I'm trying to figure out if I need to get my International Driver's License for the leap across the ocean. Apparently it's really easy to get if you already have a license, which doesn't make much sense to me. Driving rules and norms vary from country to country. What does having an American license have to do with my ability to drive on Japanese roads? They drive on the opposite side for one, not to mention that the road signs will probably be completely foreign to me. I'm sure there will be similarities such as the all-too-ubiquitous stop or yield sign, but still...
The cost is only around $15 and the cost of 2 new passport photos. What they do is translate your American driver's license information into something like 10 or 15 different languages. After using an international license in Japan for a year, you are required to register for a Japanese license.
I don't even know if I really need one. I'm planning on doing the whole bicycle/public transportation thing. But you never know what might come in handy.
Also, this morning I was awakened by Starr calling to tell me that a guy we graduated high school with was stabbed to death in his front yard at 2 AM. I don't even know what to think. I'm really tired of people I know dying violent deaths. What's the point? Sometimes I wonder, what's the point of anything anymore?
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Yesterday, I gave my unofficial resignation to the station manager. It went surprisingly well. He congratulated me on my new position, and, so far, there don't seem to be any problems. I will submit the official resignation letter tomorrow.
That's a weight off of my chest. Now, I can focus on wrapping things up at work and keeping up with the rest of this semester. Taking three 500-level classes and working full time is no walk in the park.
Having many of the loose ends tied up for the coming move makes me feel excited about Japan all over again. See, that's a pic of me being very excited.
Monday, April 16, 2007
$40 just to get a doctor to take a physical form and copy that information to another physical form and sign it.
Posted by tiffinjapan at 4/16/2007 09:38:00 PM
...and decided to grant the makers of Futurama (and their fans) another chance!
Say hello to more episodes!
Oh, my God! Leela, Fry, Bender, and me. The whole gang back together again.
I can finally stop re-watching seasons 1-4.
Got an email this morning from Atlanta JET. Apparently, the instructions they gave us for the FBI form were totally off. The FBI is not legally allowed to send criminal background check information to a third party, unless that party is a relative/guardian or something. I've already sent off my form along with the notarized letter stating that they should release the results to JET.
I don't know if JET's instructions of sending an email and correcting this will work. Let's hope.
Right now, I'm trying to decide if I should be sending winter clothes by sea mail and exactly how much/what clothes I should be sending if I do. A current JET on the message group said that it is really expensive to ship the things back and that she wishes she had not done so. I wonder if I can fit all that I will need for the year within the weight allowance from the airport?
Also having lots of trouble setting up my XE Trade account. They want a photocopy of my passport, but the picture keeps coming out dark because of the security coating. Even though they can read all of the information, they won't accept anything other than a pristine copy. I've tried faxing a copy, scanning, and taking a picture with my digital camera. Haven't heard back about how well the digital camera pics work out for them, but I'm getting really tired of submitting stuff. Maybe I will just go ahead with golloyds for my currency conversion service.
Update: The FBI has already emailed me back and says they will make the necessary changes, although they say it will take a while since they have a backlog of work to do.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
I've been pondering this since before I even got an interview with JET. How do I break the news of leaving to my employer?
The situation is sticky and will require the utmost care.
To illustrate, I will provide an example.
I COULD just tell them I quit at around July 21st. This is seven days before I am scheduled to leave for Japan. I know many people that would do such a thing and not think twice about it. You don't really owe them anything (technically).
My situation is different than this for two reasons:
1. I actually like my co-workers.
2. I am under contract.
The first point relates to my problem in that if I were to up and leave suddenly, I know that my co-workers (who are overworked and under appreciated as it is) will have to shoulder the burden. This may be okay for a few days, but knowing my station, they will not hire another person for my position for 2 years. Don't believe me?
Well, our department has been without a manager for 6 months. No one appeared to be particularly alarmed at this.
I don't want to leave my friends in the lurch.
The second question is a matter of legality. I will be getting out of my contract 4 months early. Theoretically, it's not slave labor. Even with a contract, they really have no hold on whether I can quit or not. I remember a clause in my contract that stated if I terminated early, I would be responsible for the cost of finding my replacement. What is unclear is what these costs actually entail.
Will I have to pay the equivalent of salary for someone? Will I have to pay for the flight and hotel of the candidates they bring in? I think it will be nearly impossible for them to quantify these costs for a court of law. Theoretically, they could add on anything they wished and I could argue that in court should it come down to it.
My contract actually protects me more than them, because it means they must have justification for firing me. They must provide substantial proof that I am unfit for the job.
My opinion is that if I announce in the middle/end of April that I will be having my last day on July 20th, that is ample time for them to bring in someone else and have me train them. That would not constitute leaving them in the lurch.
I have talked to someone who knew someone who jumped out of their contract before it was up. They made her pay back the relocation costs and that's about it. My station didn't pay me any premium for taking my job. No bonus, no relocation. They hired me from my previous part-time job at the station.
My mom is of the mindset that by telling them I am quitting before my contract is up, they will have justification to fire me and I will be out of work for 2 1/2 months. I don't think I agree, but I have been thinking about that possibility.
Another issue is what do I tell the station manager? There are, for instance, certain things that I am unhappy with about the job.
Without having a boss, my job description has changed from being an actively creative one to one where I can't make even a single creative decision without prior approval from a department that has nothing to do with my department. Writing a :30 tease has changed from taking about 20 to 30 minutes to taking nearly 2 hours of my day. I am often pushing it to the last 2 minutes of my deadline to get stuff finished. We don't always make the deadline because of this.
It is literally NOT the job I signed up for and I have brought this up to them on several occasions. No one seems to care.
The stress of this job gets to me in a bad way occasionally and I really do believe is an indirect cause of my IBS and subsequent weight loss.
A friend at work has suggested that I come to them in a positive way, telling them about this amazing opportunity and how hard I worked to get it. I, frankly, don't think they would give a crap about that. They're not in the business of life enrichment. Plus, I'm not asking them to quit, I'm telling them I'm quitting. I think the softer approach won't work.
So, timing, approach -- my latest concerns.
Friday, April 13, 2007
So, after finally hearing that I have the job, I am now going through the tedious process of getting all my eggs in one basket so that I'm legal and okay to leave the country and be hired to a foreign Board of Education.
Really, it does.
So, for those of you who are thinking of ever applying to JET, please know that you shouldn't actually breathe your sigh of relief until AFTER you get your placement request, because the crap you'll have to slug your way through is just painful. Or maybe I'm just aggravated easily. Or maybe I'm just a brat. Who knows? Anyway...
The list of things to do before leaving or even getting a contract for the job are as follows:
FBI Criminal History
IRS Residency Form
They seem innocuous enough, but in the following tale, you will see they're really just a pain in the bum (and kind of expensive, depending on your situation).
The reply form was easy. I basically told them that "yes", I would be accepting the offered position, reaffirmed my permanent address, and sent in two extra passport photos and some passport information. I had already sent in a copy of my passport and diploma when I applied so I didn't have to worry about that portion. I mailed this off in no time (something like two days after receiving word of acceptance).
The FBI Criminal History form was a bit more difficult, as it required fingerprints and notarization and there are not a whole bunch of places that do fingerprints. My mom warned me that the sheriff's office near where she worked charged $10, which may or may not be a reasonable cost. I'm not sure, since I haven't had any other reason to be fingerprinted and do not know how much it costs the police for things (like the card, the ink, blah blah).
However, I was pleasantly surprised to find the Sheriff's office near me (which is so randomly out of the way of regular traffic, it's surprising anyone can find it) didn't charge a thing. They didn't really ask why I needed it or anything. So, I sent that along with a really confusing generic cover letter (that would enable the FBI to send the results to JET), a notarized form, and an $18 processing fee through the mail, regular postage. Easy enough. Not as easy as the reply form, but not too bad.
The IRS Residency form was, like many things dealing with the IRS, hell on earth. For starters, the form was buried very deep into the IRS website. Then, to back up for a second, you are not really filling out the actual form you need to prove to the Japanese government that you are a US citizen (so you don't have to pay Japanese income taxes), you are filling out a form to receive the form you need to prove to the Japanese government that you are a US citizen for tax purposes. The cost for up to 20 different ones is $35, but you can't get multiple copies for the same country. So, you end up paying $35 for what amounts to one sheet of paper, that, in the event your house blows up before you can leave the country, you'll have to pay to have reprocessed.
The instructions for this two-page form are 12 pages long, if that gives you any indication of its difficulty.
I filled out the form three different times, as the IRS had changed its requirements from those provided by JET and there was much confusion on the finer points of the form. I called the IRS myself just to make sure I was filling it out right. At any given time I was unsure of (a) did they actually want a copy of my 2006 tax returns (b) which address to send it to (c) was the IRS really the bureaucratic, earthly equivalent of hell and (d) did I really need to save the thousands of yen on income tax payments?
Finally, I figured it out (I think) and sent it off, but stupidly forgot to enclose payment. Luckily, I found out later that I could just pay for it online -- which I did, and am hoping and praying that the IRS's databases are all in sync or at worst that they won't just FORGET to call and tell me that they can't process my form because they are unaware of any payment being made for it.
Three down, one thing left. As simple sounding as a physical may seem, this was by far the worst.
My foray into the relatively simple physical they wanted me to get answered one of my earlier questions. The IRS, in fact, NOT the bureaucratic, earthly equivalent of hell. The US health care system is. My mistake.
Let's just get a few things out of the way first though. For one, I pay good money every month for health insurance through my job. The coverage is quite good and, until now, I have never had any complaints. I don't use it for much. I haven't been to the emergency room yet. I get something like one physical a year, a tooth cleaning, and one or two visits during bad sinus or flu times. Last year, I had a colonoscopy, but that was preventative, so, no biggie.
So, I make an appointment at my primary care physician, go in and show them the form that JET wants filled out and they completely freak out. They say it's not covered under insurance. I call the insurance company and they say, of course, I'm completely covered for physical exams. After further investigation, I discover that while I am covered for physicals, I cannot get a physical done for JET. So, I ask them, if I can get the physical (like I would get my yearly physical) and bill it as such, if they could just fill out the JET form with that very same information that would be in my file. They say no. I ask how much an out-of-insurance visit of that sort would cost me and they quote almost $300. For a physical!?? A physical I don't even really want or need?!!
I call JET and tell them about this little minor hiccup, thinking that maybe they'll understand. I mean, $300 IS lot of money for an unnecessary medical procedure. I tell them that I can send them the results of my physical in a different format. That way it can be covered under my insurance (because in actuality, it is only the presence of JET's form that's not covered, not the physical or the results). They say no, they need it on that exact form.
So, I'm pissed, but I say okay. I talk to Ted, whose mom is a doctor and she agrees to get take the results my doctor will give me and fill out the form for me. Yay! I found a way! The problem is, the form is supposed to be in by the 20th of April. No later. Despite the fact that the FBI background check won't arrive possibly until I'm already in Japan, despite the fact that the IRS form won't arrive until next month or later, for some unknown reason the medical form (which only substantiates that you were truthful in the initial self-medical assessment in the application) MUST be in by the 20th.
I can't possibly get it in by the 20th since my new doctor's appointment is on the 13th. I have to get the results, mail them to Ted's mom, have her receive and fill it out and mail it to JET from North Carolina. I mean, maybe it will get there, but realistically, I think not.
They wouldn't budge. So, I'm like, do I pay $300 for a physical or $25 bucks for a physical whose form might not make it to Atlanta JET by the 20th and possibly disqualify me from the program I worked so hard to get into? And what if they suddenly decide that I can't go -- such as if the medical results show something they don't like or they can't find a placement for me (highly unlikely)? Am I just out of $300? Too bad? Mind you, I haven't even signed a contract, because in order to get the contract the medical form must be sent in. For $300, they wouldn't have guaranteed me a single thing.
And let me just pose something to you folks, in case you need more convincing that this is just plain stupid:
In any other arena, employers pay for any pre-employment exams for their employees. Drug tests, background checks are all taken care of (monetarily) by the employer, because otherwise you are asking a person to pay to be hired, which may amount to discrimination in hiring. If a person can't pay, do they not get hired? That's taking it to the extreme, but I think you get the point. And worst of all, I wasn't the only one having this problem. Others, many of them still in college (college=broke) were being turned away by their insurance providers and told to pay hundreds for this stupid health check. And to top it all off, JET would not budge to allow these people (myself included) to find a different way that might take a day or two longer.
There were also people, whose insurance or physician didn't mind filling out the JET form that couldn't get appointments with their PCPs until very dangerously close to the form deadline. Totally out of their control, but alas...
So, I emailed JET and stressed to them the cost again and said, hey, this is when it's probably going to be in but, I will try my best to get it there by your deadline. They finally said OK.
So now, after having had my physical, I am about to send this stuff to Ted's mom. Perhaps she can fax it to them to get it there faster...who knows?
All in all, a ridiculous set of hoops to jump through. But I guess it keeps me from worrying about going to another country for a year. Again, maybe these things weren't such a big deal after they were all said and done, but please remember I'm in graduate school full time and I work full time. I'm already stressed, and then to be initially told that perhaps my 6 months of hard work and waiting to get into the program could be totally worthless because of a physical exam -- that's classic.
I'm planning on documenting this whole thing from start to finish. And it's going to be a very frank account, complete with all my little anecdotes.
Sunday, April 8, 2007
So, I have been accepted into the JET program. For those of you who don't know what it is, JET takes American citizens, usually young-fresh-out-of-college American citizens and gives them a job teaching English in Japan. The pay is better than an entry-level job. I applied to JET last year. The application process is long and difficult. I think it takes around six months from the time you turn in your application to the time you are even told you have the job.
Right now, I work at a television news station as a Marketing Producer. It's not EVEN what I want to do with my life, though there are probably people out there that think it's a dream job. It is a good, cushy job, but it's limiting. I work there so that I can afford to finish up graduate school. Now that grad school is almost complete, I don't have to be employed there. Since I'm not married, don't have a house or kids -- why not go to Japan for a year (or 2 or 3 or 4)?
This blog will chronicle my life there -- the people I meet -- the things I do. It is for my friends, my family, and anyone else who happens to stop by.
My name is T. F. McMichael. I'm smart, creative, Christian, and gay. I'm also really happy. We'll see how Japan changes my life, okay?