Monday, 28 December 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"hikari" 光 which means light or ray (of light).  And this being the Christmas season, festive lights are everywhere.  Such as the VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver.  It's really a rather nice garden with a huge variety of plant life and every winter many of the plants are draped in lights to celebrate the holiday season.  This year, me and my dad braved the cold to check it out. 

As you can see, a lot of the setups are quite nice- like this tree with "balls" of LED's hanging off them like ornaments.

And then, posted along the various paths, are hot chocolate shacks and some tents with heaters for a brief respite from the cold.

They also had a neat model train display near the gift shop.  And, being a model, it lends itself to some more tilt-shift heh.....

Also, the new Windows Live Photo Gallery that comes with Windows 7 is actually quite good in terms of minor post processing of photos.  I was quite surprised when I fired it up because it really adds a lot of accessibility to a variety of changes you can make to your photos.

Lastly, being a night scene, I shot a few HDR's so when I get around to compiling and tone mapping them, they'll be up here.  Check back soon and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"kumiawase" 組み合わせ which means combination/pairing.  I actually just picked this word up watching Best Motoring, an awesome monthly DVD-zine that has racing drivers testing new cars.  Less awesome is the fact that it's all in Japanese but that's ok, I persevere and get as much as I can out of it.  Like this new word.

But it actually turns out to work quite well because this week, I discovered Mike Stimpson and his site, which specializes in Lego.

Most specifically, he's combined (see how I transitioned there?? heh) Lego with some of the most famous photographs in history to produce recreations, which you can find on his Flickr page.

To give you an idea of what he's done, here's an example that I'm sure everyone will recognize.

The key to making pictures work (as Stimpson so dutifully describes in his Flickr descriptions) is the lighting, which has to be done in such away as to reproduce the lighting found in the original.  Luckily, Stimpson usually provides a picture of the setup to show just how much thought goes into each shot.

In other news, congrats to all those who graded at PSWK's last grading of 2009!

Lastly, I hope everyone has a very happy holiday season and thanks for checking into the blog all this year =)

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"matomeru" まとめる, to compile.  Some of you may remember it was almost a year ago that, for Christmas, I bought myself a new camera.  Then I took it all over taking pictures, the two big ones being my travels around Japan and to Hawaii.

So, to celebrate it's one year, I've put together this compilation of some of my favourites pics from this past year.

I should preface this with a note that it seems like Windows MovieMaker turns up the saturation and it's noticeable in the really deep reds and oranges in the pictures.  I didn't do this and the pictures certainly don't look like that on my computer, but there's not much I can do about that.

Anyways, the song is "Giving Up The Ghost", by DJ Shadow.


Saturday, 5 December 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"yatta" やった which translate roughly into "I did it!/Yes!!".  No really- It's the past tense form of "yaru" やる which means "to do".  It's generally heard in a slightly childish way once you've accomplished something.  Here's some examples of when you can use it.

1- I'm finished first term and am now on holidays to January ____ (I actually don't know the date I'm supposed to go back to school heh)...  Plans for the holidays??  Relaxing haha....  and spend my first Christmas home in two years.

2- In our bio class, we, in groups of 4, had to design an activity that could be used in a high school class.  I helped my group make these cut out flower pieces which the students would label, colour, and assemble.  Then we made a presentation to show the class how we'd run the activity and everyone did it.  Surprisingly, it was quite a hit......  I supposed there's something everyone likes about personalizing and assembling things.

3- I think this one speaks for itself.  I've never done a regular 3x3 Rubik's Cube, let alone a 5x5 Rubik's Cube (aka- Professor's Cube).  It took me 2 days, 3 restarts, and a few Google hints to solve.  A far cry from some of those 2 minute speed-solvers...  but, with time heh.... 

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"keikaku suru" 計画する which means "to plan".  If memory serves me right, this is more about planning projects and "things", as opposed to planning a schedule.  So using this to ask if someone has any "plans" isn't really correct.

In my case, however, it does sort of work since I've been doing a lot of lesson planning for various assignments.  Lesson planning is interesting in that detailed planning is highly encouraged and it's something all teachers do, yet the degree they do it do varies.  Some get away with nothing but a scribble on a napkin while others have every minute of every class figured out.

In some ways, the analogy I was given on my first day of practicum explains it best- it's like learning to drive.  It doesn't matter if everyone you see eats a donut, adjusts the radio, and talks on the phone while make a left turn.  It doesn't even matter that they shouldn't be doing that.  The point is that, as a new driver, you should do everything you're expected to and as thoroughly as possible.  There will come a point when you've proven to yourself that you can handle the task and, from then on, you can adjust it to fit your needs.

Case in point- right now when I plan lessons, I write down approximations for how much time I think it'll take students to do things.  But really, I have no idea how quickly or slowly students will do certain things and it's really easy to over or underestimate them.  And so, I take it easy and err on the side of too much, just in case.  But even during the two weeks, you get a feel for the classes and the students and eventually, you know right away whether one activity will take 15 minutes or 50.

Case 2- I don't really remember what this box held when I took the picture, but from what it says, it looks like bite-size pieces of mochi (gelatinous rice).  Probably given to me some time around New Year's, since that's when mochi's consumed.  Anyway, the point is, maybe they should've planned some time to get the English checked??  Har har =P

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"atsumaru" 集まる which means to gather/collect.  And it can apply to anything- people, coins, stamps...  assignments hah....

Like I said last week, all I've been doing lately is homework but I'm glad to say I'm still alive and the brunt of the work is done.  And whatever I have left should be, compared to what I just did, a walk in the park.

I don't have much else to add cuz I didn't do anything else all week but I will say that since I now have a bit more spare time, I'm collecting something else as we speak.

What exactly I won't say, but you'll see in a few weeks =)

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"shukudai" 宿題 which means homework.  Having taken two weeks off for the practicum and now being in the home stretch before school ends, the homework load is piling up.  Particularly for this week, with 3 presentations and 3 other assignments due.

I'm not complaining though, really...  there certainly is a lot but I'm actually revelling in how technology has transformed how nice I can make my assignments look.  Everything from producing sample worksheets to presentations is now all done in the computer which in some ways takes the mystique out of doing things but also means the quality goes through the roof.

Gone are the days when presenting meant printing paragraphs on paper, attempting to cut them out with straight edges, and gluing them down on construction paper.

In fact, even PowerPoints are being out paced by newer, slicker, and more innovative presentation methods.

One that I learned about two weeks ago is Prezi.

Essentially a giant board, it offers a place to lay out presentations that progress in an organic fashion with views that zoom in or out, pan, and rotate as you move along.  The most amazing thing, however, is that it's incredibly easy to use.  It really is a triumph of design and while it isn't as powerful as PowerPoint or other types of presentation methods in terms of manipulation, it's a got style that very few, if any, other presentation methods can offer.

Check it out; I highly recommend it.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"erabu" 選ぶ which means "to choose".  This week I won't talk much about school or whatnot mostly because school is just a mass of school work.  Instead, I'll talk about my other love...  cars.

Last weekend I was chatting with some friends and we were trying to decide what our perfect 5 car garage would be.  We could pick any car but they'd have to be able to do anything and everything we do in a year, from summer time jaunts to ski trips.

Naturally lists like these change all the time but this is what I've decided.....  for this week.

Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder

This, being a convertible, would be the perfect summer cruiser.  While not as pure of a driver's car as a Ferrari in its hardtop form, the convertible lends itself more to cruising.  It's also unbelievably pretty and sounds amazing.

I'd have one in graphite grey.  Although, this might have to go to make room for the F458 Spyder that's sure to come in a few years...

McLaren MP4-12C

Despite the rather uninteresting name, this is an incredibly significant car not in the least because of its rarity.  McLaren is one of the longest running Formula 1 constructors and, from 1992-1998, produced the McLaren F1 which was one of the most technologically advanced road cars of its time and is still heralded as one of the greatest.

Mercedes and McLaren teamed up to build the SLR a few years ago but that was more Mercedes than McLaren.

With the MP4-12C, McLaren are back with a car designed entirely in-house.  Lightweight carbon fibre, a 600bhp twin turbo V8, and a twin-clutch 7-spd gearbox.

And while Ferrari had just released its brilliant new F458, the McLaren just feels that tad bit more special.

I'd take mine in black.

Range Rover Sport

This one's simple- it goes off road.  It'd be perfect for ski trips or when it snows.  And the Sport has a supercharged V8, so it hustles as well.

Silver, since it's the easiest to clean.

Brabus E V12

This one's a bit neat.  Brabus is a tuning company that specializes in Mercedes' and, more often than not, can be found cramming ridiculously large engines into smaller, lighter models.

This one comes with Mercedes' twin turbo V12 found normally in their bigger sedans.  Then Brabus bump it up to 800bhp.

Being a big comfy sedan this would be perfect for driving friends around and with so much power it would be ideal cross-country road trips.  I'm not ashamed to admit I picked this purely because of the engine.

And since these cars are built to order, I'd be tempted to make it a station wagon just to haul that extra bit of stuff.

Black for the stealth look.

Porsche 911 GT3

The daily driver.  It's all about purity with this one and when the car drives like an extension of your body, it makes even the shortest trips exhilarating.

In white.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"yoku kangaeru" よく考える .  Yoku is actually an adjective in the sense that placing it in front of the verb represents "thoroughly" or "well done".  Kangaeru is the verb "to think" so putting them together sort of means to "really think about" or, in my case, "reflection".

People who have been or are in the B. Ed program may take a moment to laugh and/or gag at the word reflection, which is tossed around all the time in the program but it's a much less trivial thing to do while on practicum.

The first week of my practicum went quite well mostly because there wasn't much to go wrong.  I spent the bulk of the time going to various classes and observing teachers to see how they taught their subject, managed their students and time, and set up their classroom atmosphere.

The second week, however, was different.  Although I only had to teach 4 full classes, the planning took a fair chunk of time because I don't have much experience running a 75-min class of 30 students.  This means I have to consider what I'm doing for every minute as well as gauging how long it would take them to do things.

The hardest thing though was I felt one of my lessons didn't go that well.  The students were great and the majority of them got the material towards the end (and the next day, in the review class, they all aced it which was great) but I wasn't very happy with how I did what I did.  I thought I had rushed through the intro to an activity and that caused a lot of confusion partway through the class whereas what I should've done was eased into it more slowly, trading quantity of work done by some students for quality of work done by all students.

To be honest, I was quite frustrated with myself but the day after, after much careful consideration (note word of the week), I adjusted my approach and it went much better.  And while it's easy now to say that having a bad class is a useful if not necessary part of the learning experience, it was much much harder to dig myself out of that rut while being stuck in it.  And in an evening no less.

Perhaps I was too critical of myself on the day of, but ultimately, it helped me reach the next step.

In the meantime, it's back at UBC until the long practicum.  Also, one of my fellow student teachers took some great pictures of some amazing costumes and artwork around the school so once I get those, I'll throw them up =)

Speaking of costumes, the Halloween Dance went without a hitch.  As for all the teens bumping and grinding, we the chaperones just turned a blind eye heh....

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"arienai" ありえない which, at its most technical, means "couldn't exist" but the way it's used is more like "unbelievable" or "unfathomable".

This week's post comes a bit late because I've been busy at a high school in Richmond doing my 2-week practicum (Oct 19-30).  And while not at the extreme end of unbelievability, it really is quite eye-opening just how much work it is to be a teacher.  It's not that I never knew, I just didn't think it was nearly this much.  The interesting thing is that most of the teachers I work with make it seem easy. 

I used to feel that classroom management would easily be the hardest thing I'd have to deal with but it turns out that lesson planning is the most critical, not in the least because a well planned lesson takes care of many of the classroom management issues that might come up.  And starting out as a teacher means planning many things from scratch as well as having to consider all the possibilities (what might students ask, how might students act/react, what would I need to prepare).

But as time goes on and the same lesson comes up again, the amount of planning drops and just some tweaking might work for the day.  Then there are things like being aware of time and just generally how to run a class which, once I get a feel for, I'm sure I'll be less concerned about.

This is, of course, not to say it's boring.  It's great fun interacting with the students and taking part in a Pro-D Day meeting with the science department.  Next week I'll be teaching 4 classes and chaperoning the Halloween Dance.  =P

As for the unbelievability, how's this-

A Windows 7 Whopper from Burger King in Japan.  7 patties for 777yen.  All served up on 13cm "American-sized buns"....  whatever that means heh....

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Here's something not related to Japanese...

As you might have noticed, I've been getting into photography for the past 8 months and while I was in Hong Kong, I decided to try shooting an HDR image.

HDR (High Dynamic Range) is a method of taking the same picture multiple times, each at a different exposure.  In other words, some of them will turn out way too bright while others will turn out way too dark.  Normally cameras try to balance the light with the dark to get a decent image but when one area is too bright, the other parts show up too dark for the sake of balance.  This can be seen when taking a flash photo even in a decently lit restaurant; the people are really bright while the background may turn out darker than normal.

While the multiple shots are not that interesting on their own, each picture brings with it something special.  The overly bright one also manages to draw out the light in darker spots.  The overly dark one subdues all the bright lights so they don't overwhelm.  Combining them (along with a normal exposure where everything is more or less in balance) creates an image where the darkest of spots can still be seen without the brighter spots drowning out the rest of the photo.  Coupled with tone mapping, the result is an image with almost unbelievable detail.

I tried this back in Hong Kong with some pictures I took while going for a walk outside my hotel.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get the software to work properly on my computer and ended up with something that looked strange.  Luckily, on the eve before my practicum, I think I've figured it out...

All this stuff is still a work in progress, so feedback is welcome.

Also, I don't know why there's a huge dark spot in the crane photo...  it might just be how the software rendered the images...

And I've included the normal exposure versions of each picture so you can see the difference.  Note particularly how HDR is useful in shots with both bright and dark areas, so the final product shows both.


Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"hajimaru" 始まる which means to start.  And indeed it begins because next week, for two weeks (Oct 19-30), I'll be doing my short practicum.

The point of this practicum is mainly for observation but I will get a chance to teach.  It might not be a full 75min period (certainly not in the first week) and it'll probably be something my sponsor teacher has planned out, but it'll be a great experience and I'm quite looking forward to interacting wtih the students.

One thing I'm quite ready to admit, however, is that I'm not looking for a walk in the park.  Obviously I'm not asking to run a gauntlet for two weeks but if nothing ever happened during my practicum, I'd be less ready when I do find a real job in the "real" world.  I really do think that some element of a challenge is necessary to get the most out of it.

Case in point-

This was one of the very first pictures I took when I went to Japan in 2007.  It was the third day of what ended up being a two year journey and while it wasn't easy (especially the first few months), that's what makes it rewarding.  Had I went there and been frolicking in the daisy fields, laughing as I glided through the two years, I wouldn't treasure what I got out of it nearly as much.

Which brings me neatly to one of the things I've been learning about, particularly in my social justice class among many others.  In dealing with students, especially those who underachieve, lowering the bar is never the answer.  More often than not, the successful way of dealing with them is maintain the expectation that they meet the high standard.  The difference, however, comes from the support structure (they used the term scaffolding) set in place for the students.  Simply expecting them to reach the standard is a recipe for failure but outlining goals along the way and then helping them reach each ledge on their way to the top not only provides a system for them to succeed, but also allows them to retrain their self-esteem in that they can look back and see that they did indeed reach the top.  The real top.

I learned that in Japan.  I'm hoping to learn that here too.

So check back next week to see if I'm eaten alive or if I'm still alive =P

Monday, 5 October 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"isogashii" 忙しい which means "busy". Dragging out the last syllable also puts emphasis on the word, just like you would in English ("I'm so busyyyyyy") =P......

Anyway, I really wish I could write about more than just how school and karate are going but, really, nothing else much happens aside from that. So, seeing as I can't help it, I might as well keep on =P...

Right now school's about a 70/30 balance between practical, "let's examine how to properly conduct a class" lessons and more theoretical, "let's discuss some of the issues in the classroom" lectures. The former includes stuff like giving mini-lessons in front of the class (which are video taped) and the latter involves quite a lot of discussion.

One of these discussion classes is a course on social justice and focusses on the topic of discrimination and oppressiveness and how, as teachers, we could or would deal with them, both internally with our own views and externally with our students.

As one might imagine, a class that focusses solely on topics like racism, sexuality, or class often result in some rather heated discussions. But last week we had a guest speaker from Out In Schools, a registered charity and a branch of the Out In Film society (which organizes the annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival) that attempts to educate students about the issues that surround homophobia and discrimination (and the wider theme of bullying, be it due to race, sex, class, etc.) through film.

It was a really interesting look at some of the resources available for victims of bullying as well as a great chance to see some eye openingly short films made by students. Some included a short made by some grade 5's about the still-common usage of the term "That's so gay" and another was about two students in a high school in a very conservative rural town in America who were the victims of bullying due to their sexual orientation.

It's particularly eye opening because not only are many of these issues not given enough exposure (I mean, sometimes you watch it and think "Seriously?? Do people still think like that??"), but that what we might deem as "modernized" or "globalized" thinking isn't nearly as inclusive as we imagine. Coupled with the fact that while many are perfectly happy to nod their head in agreement that certain social values need changing, few are truly comfortable discussing them at length.

Aboriginal issues suffer from the same, if not worse, stigma. The topic of residential schools came up and it's something that's extremely touchy to discuss. What's worse than the actual topic itself is how, in Canada, discussing Aboriginal issues has become such a conversational faux pas that the discussion never even gets off the ground. And how are we supposed to confront the topic if it's nearly impossible to comfortable bring it up in the first place??

So despite the required reading for the class, it's incredibly interesting to have that class foster a space where there is less fear of tackling the truly difficult issues. Of course, the trap is that many end up trying to think of ways to change the world when, in reality, we should be trying to think about these issues and how we interact with them. And, be it as teachers or citizens, move towards changing our daily spaces (work, home, etc.) to be conscious of how we're treating the people around us.

私の友達がブログに日本語の場合がほしかったと言ったけど、全部を翻訳できないかも。。。 =P 少なくとも日本語入ったね haha

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"manabu" 学ぶ which is "to learn (a skill)". And seeing that all I do these days is go to school, come home from school, and do schoolwork, it seems inevitable that it's something I think a lot about.

Learning isn't an easy task in itself, but learning to facilitate learning is a completely different beast. The B. Ed program tries to show the difference between what the commonly held belief of learning was (more or less rote memory) and what the new direction of education is taking (understanding and critical thinking). It isn't, however, to say that one is more important than the other, but that education as a whole is quite caught up in whether or not facts become "known", as opposed to "understood. This was further broken down by famous American educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom into Bloom's Taxonomy of Thinking.

There are two versions, one which is simpler and structured like a ladder in order of increasing difficulty and complexity. There's also this one, known as Bloom's Rose, which doesn't necessarily imply a ranking to them. Either way, it'll be useful as I think about what level I'm getting my students to learn at and how to move them away from the details and into concepts.

Otherwise, things are good here... the weather is typical Vancouver fall, karate is going well with everyone enjoying the classes, and the people in my class are great. Here's us at Science World for a Teacher's Night Out (read: pick up free posters night). =P

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"tsuzukeru" 続ける which means "to continue/go on". It's my second week into school and my first week back at Pacific Spirit Wado Kai and lots have been going on. Probably more than I expected...

The biggest thing that struck me is that this really is a launching point for what I'll be doing for the next few years. More so than any other "transition point" I've ever had in my life. I feel I've got more direction now than ever and that's always a good thing...

But I never noticed it til last week when, in one of my classes, we had to talk about one of our teaching experiences and how it related to us. Try as I might, I always end up referring to my time in Japan (because it's recent and a lot did happen there heh) but this time, it was quite relevant because I noticed just how the process of learning was reinvented within me over time.

I started karate almost 13 years ago and I've been through a lot of phases. It took some time for me to learn the ropes and get my black belt. Then I had to learn how to lead classes and help teach the students. From there we joined the Japan Karatedo Federation Wadokai and I had to again learn some of the subtle differences found in the JKF Wadokai's karate. That lead me to Japan where I had to learn (again) and refine my karate, including some of the most basic aspects.

But while I was there, I also learned what it takes to run a successful dojo, to better teach what I know to students, and even a new language (somewhat =P).

And now I'm again learning at UBC and, being back with PSWK (above), I can continue the process of learning both by helping my students learn and learning myself.

Most importantly for me is how this is continual. At every stage I learned from someone and hopefully helped someone learn. And not only that, I've been learning to help myself and others learn better.

Now it's just about putting all this theory to practice... =P

Friday, 11 September 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"kekkyoku" 結局 which means "after all" or "finally". And after what has technically been a 2 year "delay", I've finally started school.

And by school, I mean UBC. As a student. I'm in the B. Ed (Bachelor's of Education) program for Secondary school teachers, specializing in Biology. This is something I actually planned on doing back in 2007 but I turned it down so I go could to Japan to do the Shiramizu Karate Internship. It was also the very same program I ended up not re-applying to because I chose to stay another year in Japan at Seiritsu Gakuen. I knew both of those experiences would be useful in this program, but it wasn't til I finally started class and listened to what the instructors and other students had to say that I realised just how relevant Japan was to this program.
The program's set up interestingly in that it's broken up into cohorts that learn the B. Ed curriculum in the context of their specialized subject. In my case, I'm in the science cohort and, within that, have a special course that focuses solely on the biology material in official BC-prescribed curriculum. And then there's a general science class so we can brush up on our chemistry and physics as well as other theory of teaching courses, such as social issues in the classroom or working with special needs children.
The most interesting aspect, I've found, is that I see members from my own cohort nearly everyday. It's got a bit of that high school "same class" feel which certainly helps everyone get to known each other and that, in turn, becomes handy considering all the group work that we do. And there are people from all walks of life from freshly graduated UBC biology students to a mother of two with a PhD in biochemistry. It makes for a really dynamic classroom and, with everyone's mind staying open, is a great chance to absorb the experiences of others.
And while not unexpected, the workload's managed to sneak up on me quite quickly. It's not "heavy" per se but relentless. Already I have an assignment to teach a mini-lesson (I'm going to teach everyone how to do a drumroll!), a group project to find out about Prince Edward Island's categorization of children with special needs, a positionality paper, and various readings to finish.
But I'll be fine. It's all about time management and if I'm going to be able to do this as a career, I should....... well, need to be able to handle something like this. So keep checking back to see how it goes!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"kanshin suru" 感心する which means "to be impressed". This past week, I've been meeting with various language exchange people and it never ceases to interest me just how many varied walks of life there are. The path that people have travelled to end up having a coffee with me is really interesting and I really learn a lot......

One of the most impressive things that was shown to me was how to conjugate verbs.

Let's take, for example, "ugoku" 動く which is the verb "to move" .

Taking the last syllable ("ku"), you make a chart with all the characters in the "ku" family.

ka | nai - negative
ki | masu - present/future
ugo ku | - - perfect tense
ke | ru - possibility (ability to)
ko | u - "Let's"

While this wasn't technically "new" information, it was amazing to see it laid out in such a simple and easy to understand manner. In actuality, my friend told me she learned it from a Japanese teacher and that this isn't normally the way it's taught. There are, of course, variations of this chart depending on how a verb needs to be conjugated ("taberu" 食べる or "to eat") but this brings a bit of order to what I thought was just a jumble of grammar rules...

The other thing that's impressed me lately is my friend's new car........ he's also a car nut and we look for similar things in cars, so he ended up buying a pristine 2000 BMW M5. Not only it is fast, it's quite a rare car as well, which means it'll hold its value for longer. Of course, having not yet found my own sporty car to drive, I offered to take some pictures of his and my other friend's car (1974 Datsun 270Z) to celebrate the occasion. Enjoy! The last one is my favourite from the night.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"mizu-umi" 湖 which means lake. However, this is technically the term for "a body of water". In referring to a specific lake, such as the famous Lake Biwa near Kyoto, -ko is actually used thus Lake Biwa is known as biwako 琵琶湖. Don't ask me why, that's just how the Japanese language works heh.....

As such, I suppose that means this past weekend I went to Lost Lake-ko.... uhh...... yeah.... wait, that would be Lost-ko?? And since lost is mayotte 迷って, that means this lake is mayoko 迷湖?? But then that just says lost lake............ and sounds like "lost child".... nevermind heh......

Either way, Lost Lake and the walking trail that goes around it can be found a short walk from the centre of Whistler Village and is an easy, pleasant way to spend a few hours taking in the nature that Whistler has to offer. Including ducks!

The other interesting thing about going to Whistler is that in preparation for the 2010 Olympics, they've expanded and repaved nearly the entire Sea-To-Sky highway. The section from Vancouver to Squamish is entirely new, much wider with a usable hard shoulder, and two-lanes for a large portion of it. Now this is great because the old road used to be a treacherous little bugger with narrow lanes, unforgiving walls, and mid-corner bumps. And then when it got wet and slick it was worse. And then rocks would occasionally fall on people......

The new road, however, is much safer....... but in doing that, it also means it's much easier to go faster without noticing. Which in turns puts that danger element back in. So while the road itself is safer, it can lull drivers into a false sense of security and then it becomes dangerous once again. However, it's not like people didn't speed on the old highway and no road, no matter how good, can protect against uncontrolled drivers. Thus the new highway is indeed a huge improvement. And on a sunny summer day, early in the morning with no traffic, it's a dream to drive on =P......

Anyway, I spent the better half of the day up there with my friend from Japan including that walk, a bit of lunch, and a lot of laughs. A good day all around then =P......

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"sagasu" 捜す which means "to look for" or "search". There's also "mitsukeru" 見つける which means "to find" or "to locate". It seems then, the easiest way to think about them is that "mitsukeru" is more for items to be found whereas "sagasu" is more for larger things, some perhaps intangible.

The thing I've been looking for lately is a language exchange mainly because it's not easy to keep up a language in a city that doesn't speak it on a regular basis. So I put up an ad looking for a language exchange and while I expected 2 or 3 emails, I ended up with surprising 10 (thus far...). I haven't met any of them yet and nor did I really do any formal "language exchanges" in Japan, but we'll see how it works out heh....

In other news, I'm mostly just cruising through the last few weeks before school starts. I'm still doing the whole MWF karate thing and it's really helping me refine how to teach karate. At times, it's easy to get caught up in the details (for me, anyway) and turn it into a science. But what I've found is that I've brought back a lot of timing or "feel" knowledge that can help others build the same foundation by narrowing the range of how each move "feels".

As I've said before, a lot of it is intangible and often times, it takes countless hours of self-aware practice to stumble upon the once or twice when the move just "feels" right. But having done that and then move towards doing it more consistently, it's also important to consider how to explain the feel. From there, the students can watch and try with a much more focussed target on how things should be. It's like being asked to guess a number from 1 to 10, and then being told that the number falls between 2 and 6. It's just that bit easier.....

Other than that, I haven't really been doing anything substantial aside from just hanging out with friends. However, it looks like I'll be headed up to Whistler for a day this weekend, so I'll be sure to bring my camera and grab some pics......

Cuz, y'know, reading pages and pages probably isn't as interesting heh..........

Friday, 14 August 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"sukkiri" すっきり which means "completely" or "thoroughly". I've heard it used as "I completely forgot to do it" so I suppose it could also be applied to these following....

"I'm trying to completely transfer what I learned in Japan to the people in my dojo"

Indeed I am. I've started practicing MWF mornings with the other two instructors of my dojo, Pacific Spirit Wado Kai, and it's been great. It obviously won't be an overnight transformation (as it wasn't for me in Japan either) but they're eager and motivated. The best thing, however, is that they've been telling that training again and being able to learn new things has re-ignited their interest in karate.

And that, to me, is the most important step in helping everyone improve.

We also have lots of plans for PSWK come September and there's lots to look forward to in the near future!

"Tokyo's completely different from Vancouver"

Really it is. It's something I've always known but never really felt. Not even last year as a lot of Shiramizu competitors were here, so I was immersed in a quasi-Japanese culture bubble during the time I spent with them.

But without said bubble, it's quite clear just how different things are. From how people interact to the physical presence of the city, it's the total opposite. Interestingly, however, I find I appreciate Vancouver's attributes more now that I've been away. Things like walking along the SeaWall or just enjoy the multitude of parks and greenery were things I never did or noticed til I stayed in a city where such things were at a premium.

Then again, there are things found in Tokyo not found in Vancouver. But I do concede that a lot of the Tokyo things would be hard to transplant into Vancouver. The transit system, for instance, would never work in Vancouver.

Or this, a life-size Gundam robot built in Odaiba to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Gundam series. I don't think that would happen in Vancouver here either heh....... I'm not sure if I posted this earlier but I wanted to go see this before I left. Unfortunately, I didn't have the chance but enjoy the pics I found on the internet instead heh.....

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"(noun) shika (verb)-nai" ~しか~ない . It sounds really complicated but it's another double negative like this one. This time, however, the shika part can be thought of as "other than" and the nai part is "not".

As an example, futari shika inai 二人しかいない means "Only two people are here" or, technically speaking, "Other than two people, no one else is here".

Likewise watashi wa beeru shika nomenai 私はベールしか飲めない is "I only drink beer" or "Other than beer, I don't drink anything else".

If I'm honest, it makes perfect sense but it's having to wrap your head about the double negative while hearing it said quickly in a conversation that's confusing..... what makes it particularly difficult is that most people learning Japanese soon find that listening for the "nai" at the end of the sentence/verb usually helps them understand that it's a negative verb. However, in this case, the negative modifier has nothing to do with what the sentence means and thus it's very easy to mistake "I only drink beer" with "I don't drink beer".

I bring this up mostly because this is a bit of Japanese I only picked up quite recently (two months ago perhaps) and it's actually used quite often. It comes in handy because a friend of mine from Japan is in Vancouver and every so often, she needs to switch back to Japanese to full express herself, and these bits and pieces show up so..... well, I guess it's quite convenient I figured it out haha......

Besides that, being back in Vancouver is nice.......... for the most part. It's hard to explain because I quite like it here and while there are things to do, they're much less accessible than they are in Tokyo; I have to drive everywhere to do things. And while I love driving, it doesn't change the fact that it's a bit of a hassle considering where to park, paying for parking, decided if going somewhere after is worth the time, etc. But, for now anyway, Vancouver being the novel city that I haven't seen in a long time, it's still nice to be here. And seeing all my old friends again is great...

Of course, culturally it's also different. Vancouver doesn't have, for example, the awesome "Manner Posters" like in the Tokyo Metro. This month's is particularly ridiculous....

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"kazan" 火山 or volcano. Yes indeed, despite having just come back from across the Pacific, on July 17-26, I headed back out across the Pacific to Hawaii for a one week vacation with my family.

We started with a night's stay in Honolulu just up from Waikiki beach. The next morning I tried my hand at surfing and, I must say, it's not really my thing. I dunno if it's just me, but it seems like it's a lot of paddle in exchange for a short ride back. I'll stick to my motorized ski lifts thanks =P... Anyway, later that day, we boarded our boat, the conveniently named "Pride Of America".

NCL is Norwegian Cruise Lines although, since the cruise only goes to American ports, the boat itself is registered as an American vessel. As cruise ships go, it wasn't the best nor was it the worst. The ship was a decent size though a bit lacking in things to do... luckily there were ports of call everyday so that kept the trip interesting.

The first port of call was Maui. We had a rental car book so we headed off to a beach for the morning (Sunday the 18th). I really don't remember the name of the beach but I suppose they all look like this haha......

For the afternoon we headed up the Haleakela, a dormant volcano on the eastern side of Maui. Maui's actually made of up to overlapping volcanos and Haleakela is the taller of the two at 10,000ft. While the upper panoramic shot is a bit small, the second shot does a better job of showing off the iron-rich redness of the crater on Haleakela. It truly is a magnificent place mostly because it looks like nothing else. In fact, it's special enough that NASA uses it to test Mars probes and such.... They also recommend walking slowly at 10,000ft because the air is thin, but I really found no problems up there.....

As might be expected from such a high place, it's a popular vantage to watch the sunset from. It's also popular with the military, universities, and other sky-watchers as near the summit look-out are observatories constantly scanning the skies and beyond. Maui's western mountain, Pu'u Kukui, can be see in the second picture above. It stands a measley 5800ft compared to Haleakela =P...

Our second day of Maui included some other sights on the island such as the Needle (some geological mountainy feature that pales in comparison to Haleakela) and a fruit plantation. The plantation was actually quite neat since it has a flower garden filled with neat flowers and duckies (see above). The neat flower in the first picture is the Bird Of Paradise. Another interesthing plant to note was the Miracle Fruit Tree. This rather unassuming looking plant produces Miracle Fruit, which has the ability to, after eating the seeds, make anything eaten afterwards taste extraordinarily sweet. It's likely to do with something about blocking off the other taste receptors. I tried it in Japan and it made grapefruit (!!) incredibly sweet tasting heh..... water, however, doesn't work =P....

Day 3 of the cruise saw us visit Hilo's Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. As its name suggests, it's a huge park with active volcanoes (unlike Haleakela) as its focal point. Lava flows have and are still occurring and while they're a bit hard to spot (since the volcanoes aren't erupting), the energies involved do manifest themselves in other ways, like this steam vent.

The main road leads through the park and down to sea level with various look-outs and points-of-interest along the way. Some main ones include the road cutting across old lava flows. Interestingly, while the lava had destroyed whatever life it came in contact with and rendered the landscape bare, life has managed to find its way back there as seen in the first picture. Other interesting things include the world's largest Hawaiian petroglyph (rock carving) site in the world (second picture). It's really amazing just how harsh the volcanic activity can be to the landscape and yet how alive it can still be....... nature sure is resilient...

One of the ship's big "events" is the watching of the lava flows at night. As the ship circles around the island to its next port, it slows down near some known lava flows so everyone can admire the burning hot lava pouring into the ocean. Unfortunately, despite how the picture look, there isn't that much to see. I expected rivers of lava like strings of red Christmas lights draped over the mountain side and giant pools of cooling lava in the ocean. Instead, the not-so-active night only showed a couple of lava dribbles. Consistent as they were, I think I built myself up a bit too much haha.......

Day 5 was spent at the port of Kona. Kona is essentially a tourist town and goes to great lengths to play up the importance of whatever buildings it has, including its shopping mall (read: two and a half stores in one building). After a short walk around the town, we decided to turn the day into a boat day, so I just chilled out on the deck, did some karate in the aerobics studio, etc. And also took this shot of the setting sun while the boat was out at sea =).

Day 6 was the final port before returning to Honolulu and we spent it on Kauai. Our main destination was Waimea Canyon but on the way there we stopped at a tiny little town called Hanapepe. It really was one of those "one street" towns and its claim to fame appeared to be this wooden swinging bridge in the picture. Oddly, if you look closely at where the "swinging" section meets the supports, it looks like it doesn't have to swing at all... as if they modified it to let it swing so that it'd be more interesting....

Waimea Canyon itself is very interesting because, like most of Hawaii, it was created by volcanoes but this time its unique looks have been due to Waimea River and the frequent rainfall on the island. Indeed, this is one of the wettest parts of Hawaii and, living up to its reputation, it poured on and off and threateningly hung clouds in the sky for most of the day. But when it did clear up slightly, the canyon was quite the sight to behold.

Overall, the trip was rather interesting mostly because these volcanically derived areas are a bit hard to come by and thus by nature (no pun intended heh) unique to behold. On the other hand, most people go to Hawaii to sit on the beach and relax and we didn't do much of that, so it was quite a tiring trip as well. But in the end, it was a good way for me to see lots of Hawaii on my first trip around it =P.

Stay tuned next week as we return to our regularly scheduled "regular" Canadian programming =P.

Oh, and because of the boat's height or certain craters' depth, I got to take some more tilt-shift pics. Enjoy =).