Archive for June 2007

MacBook Pro

June 29, 2007

Okay, I got my MacBook from school over a month ago, but I haven’t written anything about it because I wanted to see if I could get used to it, get a feel for it. I don’t want to make any rash or uninformed comments.

Firstly, I have to admit that this Mac looks freakin’ cool. And the 3D-like movement of windows and icons was rather mind-boggling at first: Deleted icons or files disappear in a puff of smoke… literally. Push F12 and a transparent Dashboard appears with clock, calendar, weather and calculator. Push F11 for Desktop and all the windows I have open scatter and disappear into the closest screen margin. So in terms of the visuals, this is a pretty slick machine. And it is fast. I can have a number of different applications running at the same time and none of them slow down, at least not that I can tell on the screen.

The screen itself is another story. I have a Toshiba with a Trubrite screen and it is nicer and sharper, I believe. But my eyes are so bad that, perhaps, I am not the best judge. Also, the results I am getting from burning DVDs are not the best. iDVD will burn DVDs that you can play on any DVD player and when I first saw it I was floored. Some of the menu options are out of this world–they move, play music, and all you have to do is drag and drop photo or video files into the drop zone and you’re done. Very simple. But I soon learned there were some serious limitations to this “ease of use”. On my PC, I use Nero to burn my DVDs–in case you’re wondering, not everyone in my family can use a computer with ease, so I burn DVDs of the J drama they want to see. Anyway, on Nero I can custom control bitrate–that is the number of bytes per second to be played. On the Mac, I have only two options: Best performance and best quality. The lower the bitrate, the worse the video image, but I can see that the finished product on the Mac is not as good as what I have been doing on the PC even at a lower bitrate. I suppose it has to do with .avi files, because it seems that it doesn’t handle interlacing very well, even though I have the apporpriate DivX codec. Hmmmm…

Another thing is my reliance on Windows terminology. I mean, what’s a Dock? It took me a while to figure out that there is a row of icons of certain applications as well as specific projects and files currently in use. But why did they make the Dock default “hidden”? I was playing around with the machine for a good 3 hours before I finally realized how to reveal applications and files: Okay, iTunes… where did you go… um, Safari? Firefox? how do I see you again… When I was looking through the Help, they were talking about clicking on the icon in the Dock. The what? WTF is a Dock… I must have yelled at least 17 times…I finally figured out that if I drag the cursor toward the bottom edge of the screen, the Dock will pop up… They should NOT make the default hidden. They should show it so idiots like me now what to look for. And what is the function of Finder. What will it find for me? Is it like a search? I finally figured out it was just a jazzed up window where I can view my files. f I want to do a search, I have to use a completely different application, Spotlight. I was very confused at first.

Another big thing for me is the lack of Japanese fonts for word processing. As a Japanese teacher I like to use a lot of different fonts and there a quite a few for PC, from newpaper type to brush strokes. but there are virtually none for the Mac, about three basic fonts. Very boring.

Oh well, It’s taken me over a month, but I think I’ve gotten used to it. I enlisted the help of a former student who helped me with a few things via e-mail, but I did most of the stuff myself. All guys are Tim Taylor at heart, right? And my conclusion is still inconclusive. But I have decided to try Boot Camp. It is an application that will split my hard drive in a way that will allow me to load Windows and use this machine as I would a PC, with the exception that I will have a lot more power: 2.16 Ghz cpu and 2 Gb memory. I’m installing it tomorrow. I giggle at the thought of doing my PC work with this kind of power!

If I reach Nirvana (I was going to say orgasm but I changed my mind), I will let you guys know.

P.S. Thanks to those of you who kicked my ass in my last post. I think it got my juices going.

Time out

June 28, 2007

A little break from TY and UCLA.

You know, I decided not to teach this summer. I could always use the money–especially with a 26 year-old step-son who still can’t figure out what to do with his life, so he quits his job, moves out of his current living arrangement and comes from Japan for some R & R. When he returns in September he will be jobless and homeless. I’m waiting for him to ask me for a hand, but he probably won’t ask. He’ll probably wait for mommy to ask for him….

As I said, I could have used the extra cash, but a colleague of mine needs money more than me, so I decided to let her have the gig, and focus on my research. Getting a book out or even an article in a academic journal could lead to a raise. So this should be just as good… but I think I’ve already wasted all of June. WTF am I doing?!?

Can you tell me to get my butt in gear? Like give me a swift kick in the ass? I can take it… Right here—–>

An old friend (3): Making new friends

June 26, 2007

Continued from the last post…

TY came over my house for a BBQ on Sunday and I met him and one of his other friends for dinner on Monday. We had a very pleasant time reminiscing again, and I was happy to make a new acquaintance who seems to speak better Japanese than me. In any event, I know that TY is reading this, so I thought I should put in a disclaimer: Memory is subjective and fallible. Definitely fallible. Everything I write here is filtered through the prism of my memories and is not necessarily an exact representation of the past. In fact, if you ask me, it is virtually impossible for anyone to represent the past perfectly from memory. But it is the past as recorded in my mind and I present it as such.

Anyway, where was I….

It became pretty clear to me that PW did not see me as anything but a classmate and perhaps a friend. We got along well enough talking about class and common interests. I would still offer her a ride to her car at the parking lot, and sometimes took her home to her parents house on those occasions when she went home for the weekend, as they lived on the east side of town, where I lived. I held no illusions. To have someone as cute as PW as a friend was amazing enough for me.

In the meantime, I had more or less placed TY in a back drawer of my brain. He was neither a threat nor a rival. Just another hurdle in my quest for an A; I just had to work harder. By the Winter quarter, he had virtually vanished from my consciousness. I was taking a heavy load–18 credit units–and TY was not in any of my classes. I had little time to develop friendships–let alone relationships–and was content with the casual acquaintances I had made in my various classes. Study, study, study. In the Spring quarter, I took another 16 credit units and even made the Dean’s list. I had arrived! I thought as I looked forward to a pleasant SoCal summer.

And pleasant it was. Blue skies, moderate heat–for LA anyway. And the beginning of a variety of friendships.

Over the Winter and Spring quarters, I had become acquaintances with a number of people but I didn’t really have a chance to get to know them until the summer. I had enjoyed my year at UCLA so much, that I decided to take a couple of classes over the summer. Although the classes were daily, they were mostly in the morning; in the afternoon, I would spend it with these acquaintances at North Campus, the local coffee shop/cafeteria. Every morning, JK–a girl I had met through a mutual friend–would find a table and squat. After class, a variety of people would come by and take a seat to eat lunch, have coffee, or just chat. We would come and go during the day, but there was always someone there, so when we driffted back, we knew we would have a place to sit no matter how crowded it was. We became a very close knit group of friends. Including TY.

One early afternoon, as we sat down to eat lunch, PW suddenly giggled uncontrollably. There’s TY! I looked over my shoulder behind me and couldn’t help but yelp in amusement. There was TY striding into North Campus wearing what I first thought was his pajamas. In reality, is was a jinbei, cotton summer wear in Japan, usually worn around the house (see right). I have to admit that I had never seen anyone wear one outside–well maybe except when going to the local convenience store. But not to college or for some other away-from-home event, unless it was something special like a summer festival or fireworks display when people often turned “traditional”. But there was TY, on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles, approaching our North Campus table in his jinbei.

Did you wear that on the bus? PW asked in wonder.

No, I rode my moped to school, he responded in Japanese.

As you might imagine, this elicited another round of laughter. But TY simply smiled as if nothing in the world was wrong. From that moment on, I felt something special for this native-speaking, curve-screwing spirit. And we had a grand summer.

It seemed like each day was filled with laughter. On some days, TY would bring his mahjong set and we’d play mahjong, clacking our tiles loudly right there on a North Campus table. On other days, TY would try to figure out what J-pop songs would suit me–he introduced me to Memory Glass by Horie Jun. One day, I saw my first Walkman and was simply amazed at the quality of sound emitted by these tiny tape players. I think I spent two hours listening and marvelling at this piece of technology, much to the chagrin of HY, my new friend from Tokyo University. But mostly we just chatted and enjoyed out summer afternoons, as I made new friends, many of whom I still keep in touch with.

Unfortunately, all this chatting did not serve me well in my Modern Japanese history course. I’m lucky I passed, just barely. On the other hand, the anthro class I took was a joke. The professor literally lectured from the textbook he assigned us. I guess since he wrote the textbook, it did not constitute plagiarism, but it did mean that I didn’t have to go to class. All I had to do was read the text book, take the midterm and final and get a B for taking what amounted to a correspondence course. TY also took this class, but he was enjoying the summer as much as I did, maybe more so. On the day of the Final, a couple of guys sitting behind me were whispering outloud. Look at that guy. He hasn’t come the whole quarter and he’s now trying get the professor to sign a permission to withdraw form. What? I thought and looked up, only to see TY talking to the professor, then leaving the classroom with a piece of paper in hand. When I think about it, I never did ask him if that was really a permision to withdraw slip. Hmmmm…

To be continued…

An old friend (2): You again?

June 25, 2007

…Continued from yesterday

I’ve always considered myself a rather naive guy when it comes to women. I am forever infatuated with them. Up until the 9th or 10th grade, I would be convinced I was in love if a cute girl gave me the time of day. Of course, I could not fall for every girl, and the more women I met, the more I realized how many different kind of women there were. Good, bad, indifferent. Still, I cannot deny that I often found myself easily infatuated with women.

Take PW. I met her in Intermediate Japanese class my first quarter at UCLA. Now I had met a number of young ladies during my band days in high school. Being a band member always attracted a pool of girls and I got to know many of them–not necessarily in the Biblical sense. But I had never met a girl like PW. She was a “half”, as they say in Japanese: Half white, half Japanese. And I think she was the cutest girl I had ever met up until that moment. It was one thing to have her in the same class, but to have her talk to me from time to time. Were you able to understand the whole passage? Did you get this sentence? Did she just ask me a question? Man, I now had a tangible reason to study and be prepared for class.

Of course, I was the new guy in class, and she had friends with whom she was far more familiar, and anything she had to say to me was limited to polite and generic conversation. But this changed in the Fall quarter, when I found her not only in Advanced Japanese, but also a Japanese literature course on the I-novelist Mushakoji Saneatsu. When I saw her on campus, I made sure to chat with her about class–Do you like the new teacher, Akatsuka sensei? What do you think of Mushakoji? When I think about it now, my conversation probably bored her to death. But she was a nice girl who was willing to talk to a dork.

Anyway, we would bump into each other at the University Research Library in North campus, sometimes at night after seven or eight. We had coffee a couple of times and I would offer her a ride to her car when it was dark. One night, after we had studied near each other at URL, I got up the nerve to ask her if she wanted to get some dinner. Her first reaction was positive, but as we walked toward my car, she asked me if she could bring a friend. Of course, I said. How could I refuse? She called her friend from a pay phone and we went to a restaurant they go to periodically, a place called Sushi King on Wilshire in Santa Monica.

I was infatuated with PW. Indeed, she mesmerized me. On our way there, I’m sure we had a nice convesation, but I don’t remember a thing. My thoughts were on having dinner with PW and wondering who this friend was. But as we walked into the sushi bar, my infatuation was in danger of fading… quickly. PW called out: Hey, there’s TY. Hi! You know Onigiriman, right?

It was the second time TY–Mr. Native Speaker from Advanced Japanese–made his presence felt, rudely and unwelcomed.

To be continued…

An old friend

June 24, 2007

sensei, have you disappeared from xanga? =(
Posted 6/22/2007 10:57 PM by EnderSatomi

No, dear, I haven’t disappeared from Xanga. Actually, I’ve been trying to do a number of things this summer, but I might be trying to do too many things at once, because I don’t think I’ve accomplished anything yet. And June is soon coming to a close…

Actually, I haven’t written much on Xanga for the past year or so, especially when you consider I used to write almost every day for almost three years. I thought maybe it was writer’s block, but I don’t even know what that is. I could–as I have previously–write about the mundane occurancs of my life. But that would be too boring to write, and even more boring to read. I want to tell a story, something that will make me think and laugh and maybe even act. But as one student reminded me this year–Writing is a daily act. To perfect it, to thrive at it, you have to do it everyday, even if it is just a regurgitation of everyday mundane occurances. So maybe that is what I’ll try to do.

Fortunately for me–at least today–there is something out of the oridnary to write about. Yesterday, I met with an old college buddy from my UCLA days, TY. He’s here in the DC area to participate in a workshop for English language education in foreign countries. He heads a company that advises and directs aspiring Japanese students to appropriate colleges and graduate schools abroad, mostly in the US–I think. It was very nice to see him again, although looking at him reminded me how old we are getting. But it also aroused fond memories of my salad days at UCLA.

In the Fall Quarter of 1981, I had started my second term at UCLA and was full of excitement. Indeed, since I had matriculated the previous spring, I anticipated being in classes with people I might already know. It felt like I belonged. Unfortunately, there were not too many people I knew, and those I did know were chatting with those they seemed more familiar with. Oh well….

At least, I felt a bit more comfortable in a UCLA classroom. Or perhaps I should say, better prepared. I was shocked during my first quarter. The demands and expectations were far greater than I had anticipated–by leaps and bounds greater than at the community college I attended the previous few years–and it took me hours of studying just to keep up with my classmates, let alone the class. Indeed, I was surprised at having a full class from the very first day, caught embarrassingly unprepared. But not this Fall quarter. My notebook was open, my pencils were sharpened, I had previewed the first chapter of the textbook and looked up the kanji I didn’t know. I was sitting in Akatsuka sensei’s Advanced Japanese class in Bunche Hall at the ready. Sensei outlined her expectations of the course, and immediately directed us to the first chapter of the text book, just as I had anticipated. She pointed to one student, then another, both of whom struggled through the sentence they had to read. C’mon, sensei, call on me. I’m ready. But she called on someone in the back of the room. In a low baritone, this student proceeded to read one, two, three sentences in flawless Japanese.

What the fuck? Who the hell is this native speaker? Doesn’t he realize he’ll screw up the curve?

This was my first encounter with TY.

To be continued…

Keeping in touch

June 9, 2007

A couple of years ago, I went to a class reunion for my elementary/middle school class at Maryknoll, the former all -Japanese private school in Los Angeles. It was a pleasant get-together. I exchanged niceties with many of my former classmates and we exchanged email addreses and other miscellaneous contact info–including this blog–through a booklet of information distributed to everyone in computer file form.

But seriously, it had been decades, literally, since I had seen or even talked to virtually any of them. So imagine my surprise when I received an email from a girl… um, a woman… I used to sit next to in the First Grade. What makes it noteworthy is that I was just thinking about her the other day–in fact it was the very same day she sent me the email!

I was cleaning the area around my desk–finally–and came across the original invitation/announcement to the reunion… Yes, my desk is THAT messy. I looked at the return address on the envelope–DH–and my mind kinda floated back to the First Grade. I’m not sure if I’ve written about this before–I think I am manifesting the early signs of Alzheimer as I have very poor memory retention these days–but I recall having DH as a deskmate back then. If memory serves, each vertical row of desks in class were made up of two desks horizontally aligned with each other. Bolted down onto wooden rails, these sturdy desks with solid wood desktops and ink wells (!) were presumably our first line of defense in case of an atomic bomb attack–the ridiculousness of duck and cover drills can only be appreciated in hindsight.

Anyway, back then, DH and I often chit-chatted, but I think our teacher, Sister Angela Maureen, finally had it with us and decided to put an end to our chatter by closing our mouths with an “X” of two strips of Scotch tape. Amazingly, it worked, at least for me. Obviously, cellophane tape is not strong enough to keep my mouth closed, but the embarrassment of Scotch tape X’ed over my mouth from upperlip to chin was enough to quiet me down for the rest of the afternoon. I still remember the bottom part of the X coming loose and the cellophane tape dangling from my upper lip, but still I could not bring myself to say a peep.

In any event, you can imagine my surprise at receiving an email from my first grade conversation partner on the same day I was recalling our experience. It makes me wonder if we Maryknollers–or perhaps anyone who basically lived with each other day to day for almost ten years during their formative years–are connected in some cosmic way…