Random Thoughts

Posted March 15, 2009 by Onigiriman
Categories: Miscellany

I am still adjusting to tweeting on Twitter. Most seem to write about their everyday life–I going to lunch, I worked out today, I’m meeting a friend for drinks tonight. I started to do something similar, but I am unsure if other people want to know or even care about the minutiae of my everyday life. So instead I’ve been tweeting things that don’t necessarily deal with specific activities of my everyday life, but express more about what I’m thinking or feeling.

In the past few days, this is what I’ve written (some editing was involved):

  • Anyone know what is “pi day”? Is it about “pies” or the ratio between a circle’s circumference and its diameter?
  • Onigiriman is really digging the original UK version of Life on Mars, although the slang is sometimes a pain in the jacksie.
  • Onigiriman needs a bolt of energy to get his butt moving forward, but a ponderous, cloudy DC Sunday is not helping.
  • Onigiriman wants to know: What is OpenDNS? Can someone explain this to me?

Can anyone answe some of these questions? I’m not getting much of a response from these tweets, but then what can you say in 140 characters or less?

Happy Spring

Posted March 10, 2009 by Onigiriman
Categories: Miscellany

My thoughts for today:

  • Dear Mr. President. Hah! So there! UCLA 65, VCU 64… okay, so it was close…
  • I am even more livid with AIG and the economic crisis after reading an article on Rolling Stone Magazine that outlines how it started, how we got here, what the mind set of Wall Street is, and ultimately how screwed we all are. Must read The Big Takeover.
  • Today is the Vernal Equinox–actually it was 7:44 this morning. Happy First Day of Spring everyone! Well, as happy as one can be given our current situation.

I’m such a Twit

Posted March 2, 2009 by Onigiriman
Categories: Miscellany

I had heard of Twitter quite a while ago when the people at RBJ began tweeting–I think that’s the verb–with each other. I resisted. I swore that I have enough sites to my name at places like Blogger, Hotmail, Aim, RBJ, LiveJournal, WordPress, Nutang, CafePress (yes! buy Onigiriman goods!), Flickr, Shutterfly, YouTube, MySpace, Flickster, Technorati, just to name a few. (Just so you know, I don’t even deal with many of these sites anymore, I just want to hold onto my name. ) I figure that it was enough. I even have a Jaiku account which is I think similar to Twitter, so I thought, “Why bother?”

Well, it seems that everyone on TV is talking about Twitter. It’s like the Facebook for 2009. So what did I do today? I registered.

Unfortunately…. Someone already is using my screen name. I mean seriously, my name is so unique, why would anyone want to steal it? Worse, I don’t think this person is using it because s/he has no updates, no followings, no followers. What’s up with that?

Oh well, I don’t own a cell phone so I don’t know when I’ll be tweeting, but I will try to do what everyone else seems to be doing–Exposing every facet of his/her life. Sheesh. What is this world coming to?

Obama’s (non) State of the Union Address

Posted February 25, 2009 by Onigiriman
Categories: Miscellany

It is customary for a president to be seated for a year before he gives a State of the Union Address, so Obama’s speech last night was not really a State of the Union. Even though the talking heads on TV treated it as such–my poison is MSNBC–it wasn’t. It was more like the Hopeful State of the Union, the way Obama envisions how his stimulus package will work out when implemented. There were a few promising moments, but he grabbed my attention when he got to education. This is the first time I can remember any president speak so publicly about the necessity of HIGHER education–education beyond high school–and how it will hold a place of prominence in his policy.

It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship.

But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country — and this country needs and values the talents of every American. That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

I’m a college professor, and I’m not embarrassed to admit that I got misty eyed when I heard this.

25 Random Things

Posted February 17, 2009 by Onigiriman
Categories: Miscellany

There’s this list going around Facebook and I’ve been tagged a couple of times to do it. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a list so I thought I’d comply. Many may already know the contents of the list below, but I will try to include new facts without being too gross.

“Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people, then click publish.)”

  1. I love dark chocolate and rarely eat milk chocolate. This is not a result of being lactose intolerant, which I am, but there is something about the bitterness of chocolate that I crave.
  2. I love dark leafy vegetables. This may be related to dark chocolate in that dark leafy vegetables have a tendency to be bitter as well: spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, shungiku (chrysanthemum leaves), etc.
  3. I feel really old these days. While some of this is physiological, a lot of it is situational. I just don’t understand what my students are talking about sometimes, and it really makes me feel out of it.
  4. I need to write and submit at least one article during my sabbatical, if not two or three.
  5. If I wasn’t a teacher, I’d be a cook–successful or not.
  6. When I retire, I plan to move to Japan.
  7. But I don’t plan to retire for a long time so plans can change.
  8. I got a D+ in Modern Japanese History when I was an undergrad.
  9. It took me five years to graduate from a two-year community college–I was working full time most of that time, and had a lot of Ws.
  10. I wanted to be a professional musician but realized that the chances of an Asian American becoming a rock star were pretty slim back in the 70s. The reality, of course, is that I was never very good.
  11. I tell my students to stop cracking their knuckles, but I crack my own when they are not around.
  12. I can do an imitation of Golum. The voice, not the face.
  13. I am ambidextrous. I can drink beer with either my left hand or my right.
  14. I never cut my fingernails at night because this will bring misfortune to parents–(sub)urban myth in Japan. My parents have been gone for a few years now, but Musubichan’s mother is still around.
  15. I can burp and fart at the same time–Just kidding. I’ve actually never done this, but I bet I can if I tried… Anyway, I always feel like these kinds of lists require something stupid and gross, so I feel obliged to put in at least one gross item, true or not.
  16. I used to be a Republican and I actually voted for Ronald Reagan. As a teenager too young to vote, I even worked briefly at the Asian Americans for Nixon campaign office in LA. I’m now an Independent. My argument, however, is that I have changed very little over the years. The country around me has shifted to the right, leaving me in the middle–fiscally conservative (basically), socially liberal (mostly).
  17. The scar on my right cornea is getting worse, and I think allergies exacerbate the condition. It tears up constantly and it looks like I am crying. Indeed, my right eye often looks puffy.
  18. I dream of having a 31 inch waist again.
  19. I’m not a liar, I’m a storyteller. I will embellish stories to the point that after telling the same story a hundred times, it sorta becomes the truth and I don’t remember exactly what actually happened. Some might call this lying, and so be it. But I prefer storyteller. I once caught a fish THIS BIG….
  20. I used to be a congenital flirt. I love the opposite sex so much–much to the chagrin of Musubichan–that I couldn’t help myself. I have absolutely no ulterior motive–certainly not now at my advanced age (what could I possibly do?)–but I used to love the give and take, the innuendo, and double entendre. The urge is now mostly gone, but sometimes creeps to the surface when I go drinking–it takes a bit of will power to keep my mouth zipped, my hands in my pockets and my eyes looking only at my wife or the beer in front of me. (FYI: Never at work and never with students. Duh!)
  21. I want a large flatscreen TV and HD satellite service.
  22. Everyone already knows this but I am a J-drama addict.
  23. I want to see my daughter in Japan.
  24. I love carbs but its a one-sided affair because carbs seem to hate me. Every time I eat carbs, I gain weight exponentially. If there were carb free potato chips, bread, chewy spree, or even cereal, I’d be in heaven.
  25. I wish I had a salary commensurate with my background, level of education and dedication to my work. I had my taxes done by H&R Block a couple of years back and the person doing my taxes expressed surprise, referring to my W2 as a “workman’s salary”. Indeed, I found out I make less than my plumber–granted he owns his own business…

I’m tagging the following: Dawn-109, Jerjonji, Kenshiro, Kyzer, La Mangust, Onigiri, SunJun, Takunishi, Whonose, The Greatest Pip. That’s 10. The other 15 I will tag on Facebook.

Speaking Japanese

Posted February 4, 2009 by Onigiriman
Categories: Miscellany

When speaking Japanese, non-native speakers need to remember to be polite.

Most languages have at last two levels of speech. In general, they are formal and informal. In the US, this is especially true in business. You call people Mister, unless told otherwise. You speak and act politely, unless you become very familiar with your superior. Do you slap you boss’s back and tell him “Good job, dude”?

In Japanese, the line is even more pronounced. Unfortunately for most Japanese learners, a Japanese speaker will not correct a non-native speaker when they speak informally. Many Americans will come back from Japan thinking their Japanese is all that. I certainly have many students like that as well. And for the most part, their confidence is well founded. Their Japanese is relatively fluent and unobstructed by the fear of using the wrong word.

However, if they are too informal with me, I will always correct them. I don’t mean to be a hard-ass, but someone needs to correct them because if and when they return to Japan for work or graduate study, they cannot talk informally when talking to a business colleague or professor. They have to learn to turn the formality switch on and off in any given situation. And the level familiarity rarely has anything to do with it. I worked at a Research Center for two years in Japan and became very familiar with my bucho (division chief). We often drank together, and he is the one who dubbed me the “American who speaks English“. But one night while drinking, I spoke to him a bit too familiarly. Now, in Japan, drinking often excuses an error in judgment, and most will laugh it off the next day. But my error in being too familiar with my bucho put me in his doghouse for two weeks. He literally did not speak to me during that time, relaying messages to me through others.

The bottom line is–been there, done that. So I tell my students to speak to me formally whenever they decide to speak to me in Japanese. If they think I am a hardcase, then so be it. I take it upon myself to be their practice partner, their opportunity to learn how to turn that formality switch on and off.

The Year in Review

Posted December 27, 2008 by Onigiriman
Categories: Miscellany

It’s been a pretty interesting year with a cat-and-dog Democratic primary with Hilary and Barack, the ultimate election of Obama, $4 gasoline that fell to under $2 in the blink of an eye, and an economic disaster brought on by deregulators like McCain (economy is fundamentally sound) and his economic adviser Phil Gramm (nation of whiners). I’m not sure I could have guessed in January that we’d be where we are right now. It’s been a pretty crazy year.

In comparison, my year has been pretty mundane, just busy.

  • During the spring semester, besides the four courses I taught, I judged haiku written by K-12 students for Mid Atlantic Association of Teachers of Japanese (MAATJ). This sounds pretty hard–most of my colleagues would never even touch something like this. But I find it invigorating that there is such interest in young students in the DC area. I hope they come to study at my school when they graduate.
  • At the end of the spring semester, I gave a lecture at the Foreign Service Institute–a branch of the State Department–on Japanese literature. Mostly its to provide cultural background for those going to Japan, so I positioned the lecture as a lesson on Context and Intertext. That is, how text in Japanese literary history is used intentionally to influence each other over the centuries.
  • In Fall, I taught my usual four courses again. I was also the keynote speaker at the MAATJ group at the Foreign Language Association of Virginia held in Richmond, VA. I talked about haiku and how to incorporate it into class. Perhaps more significant was the reassignment of a colleague of mine. Finding a replacement was not so hard as both she and I were planning to take successive sabbaticals this academic year and we already had someone lined up to replace us both. What I wasn’t prepared for was the workload of program coordinator. Usually, a coordinator teaches two classes, but I did not get any course release and taught my normal load. I would have at least appreciated a bonus, but as it turned out, all I got was a pat on the back for university “service.”

Amazingly, with all this work, I still had time for J-Drama. My students laugh, convinced that I must not be that busy. It’s probably the only thing that kept me from going crazy. I allowed myself the luxury of totally escaping work for a few hours a week, thereby preventing a mental breakdown. We gotta do what we gotta do, y’know?

The saddest thing for me this years was the totally inept UCLA football team. *sigh* Will I ever live to see them win a National Championship? Go Bruins! (please?)