18 July, 2007

T minus...

Browser fails. Typing this the second time...actually, changed my mind. Once was enough. Stupid blogger... this is why I'm making my OWN program to handle this: that way, the only one I can blame is myself :)

17 days left. It's coming quickly.

I'll see you guys all in a couple weeks!

11 July, 2007


Hey guys - I've been back from Osaka for a day. The Aquarium I hit on Monday was absolutely awesome. It had better have been though - admission was 2000 yen ($18). I had a fun trip. I'd write more, but I'm within both memorizing a speech for later this week, and working on a presentation for class tomorrow. As Laura pointed out in her comment on the last post, there are new pictures up. Go look at them - they tell my Osaka story better than I can.

One minor parting thought: You can't order a foot-long sub at Subway in Japan. Not that they're too long, just that the Japanese have no concept of how long 12 inches is. Go figure.

Talk later.

07 July, 2007

Adventures in Osaka, part I

Hey everyone - made it safely to Osaka this morning at 7AM (for those not paying attention, it's currently ~11:00PM).

What a day! Hopped on the night bus at 9:00 the previous night. The bus was amazingly comfortable - I had leg room and everything(which is a surprise, considering my legs are a good 5 inches more than the regular here). I even managed to get some sleep on the bus - it was a good ride.

The bus pulled up to the Osaka station. Now, if any of you have ever ridden a bus/train/plane to a large city, and weren't sure where everything was, I had the same feeling, but increased because I can only read about 10% of what's available. Since Japan doesn't really start anything until around 10:00AM, I had three hours to kill. I spent the time walking around the station area, where there were only a few shops open providing breakfast. I managed to grab a muffin (humorously spelled maffen) sandwich, which was not only edible, but quite filling for its size.

At 10:00, I headed over to what I thought was a mall - it wasn't marked too well. I stepped inside, and then was home: the place, called yodobashi camera, was an electronics store. Now, when I say electronics store, you guys think, "Oh, like best buy or something." Nope. This was separated by floor - with each type of item on each floor. Oh, that and the fact that it was as big as Clarke's campus. And when I say that, I mean each floor stretched from the apartments to Eliza Kelly - so imagine Clarke stacked above itself 6 times, and you get the general idea.

11:30 rolled around, and I was starting to get hungry. Now, like a good student, I had already created a loose itinerary (basically a list of what I wanted to hit while I was here), so I started following that. Ended up going to Hep Five, which is a huge mall in the middle of Umeda (one of Osaka's inner machi).

Speaking of machi, FACTOID: Japan doesn't have street names/numbers. It has areas, or machi, to designate where things are. For addresses, they list by city, machi, house number. For example: my apartment in Nagasaki is listed as Nagasaki-shi Hanaoka-machi 13-15 Mine's Bldg. II Apt. 602. Unfortunately, it makes it a bit harder to navigate by road sign (an art of which I'm very accustomed to). It also makes it harder to find things, like your hotel(read on for more info).

Hep Five. AKA: Mall on steroids. This place was bigger than the electronics store, by quite a bit. It housed:
  • 9 Floors of clothing stores, Food establishments, and an arcade the size of SouthPark Mall.
  • A 106 meter ferris wheel, protruding from the top floor.
  • Two lifesize whale sculptures, hanging between floors 2 and 6.
  • A sea of people - supposedly for the whales to swim in.
  • Loud shop callers - people who stand outside the store saying, "hey - come here! Lots of stuff on sale!"
  • A movie theater complex(I don't know how many screens)

Quite big, but a blast to be in. Especially since everything, and I mean everything, was on sale. I managed to by a long-sleeved striped t-shirt (that actually looks good, but we'll see what people think when I get home) for 60% off. That was cool. I would have gotten more, but I figured I have only so much budget left, I need to be a bit careful.

After lunch, I started my hunt for my hotel. This turned out to be much more difficult than I thought it would. Apparently, it's down by the more seedy side of town, surrounded by bars, strip clubs, and what-else-have-you. Not the place I would end up looking for on the first try - it fact, I had to ask directions six or seven times before actually figuring out where it was. But, it's got a comfortable bed, a good tv, and (the clincher) Internet access. and for $80 for two nights, I can't complain.

I'll try to update tomorrow, with the rest of the stuff I'll be doing in Osaka. I'll see you guys later.

27 June, 2007

News for the end of June

Hey everyone. Sorry for not being here for quite a while. However, there's a lot to catch up on, and even more that might be coming. Anyway, here's the last couple weeks in a nutshell:

16th - 17th: Kyushoren(Whose kanji, my mistake, should be 九唱蓮). Bunny ears. A seriously twisted version of Alice in Wonderland. Rapid-fire choir songs. Two Six-hour bus rides with the most fun group this side of the International Date Line. Meeting choirs from all over Kyushu. In short: Pure win. Check flickr for related pictures.

18th - 22nd: School week. Normal boredom and crap. Putting off doing my work until the latest I can (and I have witnesses). Choir rehearsals - All first-years (me included) are thrown through a quick conducting class, to direct the group in a week and a half. I get to direct a drinking song - たのしい。 (trans: fun)

23rd - 24th: Not much for the weekend. Skype marathon - 3 and a half hours in total. For those that don't have it yet, I'll give you the name, so we can talk too. Big news: I was accepted to my first big programming project. Yes, even when I'm not studying CS, I'm still programming. So there. I'll be working on a library for inter-process communication between a client and the Google Data API. More info (for those who've understood what I meant by that): linky.

25th - 今(now): Presentations: 日本語の文学(Japanese Lit.), and 日本語の強化(Japanese Culture). Culture presentation turned out a bit short, but there's only so much you can do on Idioms and Proverbs without getting too boring. Posted code to Subversion for the Gdata-ruby package. Started work on the frontend for Blogger (Which I'm planning on using for my Software Engineering project).

Coming up: I just checked my bank account: still above $900. That means: TRIP! To where, I'm not sure yet. Many places have been mentioned: Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto, Kobe, Kumamoto, Sendai, and of course, who could forget Tokyo. Make a vote of it: where should I go next?

There you are: the quick rundown. If you want more detail, I'll have to be persuaded for it. Right now, I've had a pretty long day, and have been out of it for the most part. Not quite 100% right now - I have a bit of a cold(or, in Japanese: 少しの風邪ある).

Talk to you all later. Hope to see some comments.

15 June, 2007

そのひとがうたうとき (When the people sing)

久しぶり. It's been a while.

Well then, everyone, what's been going on at home? It's been a while since I've posted anything that really has any weight.

First off, Happy birthday everyone. Seems that more birthdays happen at the beginning of June than the entire rest of the year. So: Happy birthday:

Mom, Melissa Schultz (1st)
Alice/Emily Schmidt, Sean Wilfong (3rd)
Scott Jacobs (6th)
Aaron Allison (7th), Myself (7th)
Calvin (8th)
Laura (10th)

And Happy 25th Anniversary to my parents (4th)


Whew. That took a bit of effort. Continuing right along.

Things have been pretty good in the world. Still procrastinating my class projects, but what college student doesn't do that? Had the choir concert last Saturday/Sunday, which was an absolute blast. Had they told me that the venue we were singing at (Namely, the Nagasaki Brick Hall) was the size that it was, I would have been a bit nervous. But no... Stepping out for the first time onto a stage that was roughly the size of the Adler without prior knowledge... didn't give me enough time to realize that that was the largest performance hall I've ever worked in. Hooray for bonus points. Yes, all you people I can already hear complaining: I do have pictures. Not only that, I have our choir's homepage, where there are more pictures (apologies for the japanese page encoding, they kinda use that over here):linky. (hint: if you look right at the middle of the choir, second row, the only one with white skin and red hair... that's me.)

I'm headed to the 九州連 (read: kyushoren, meaning: kyushu party) with the choir this weekend, and be sure, there will be more pictures, possibly some that might be embarrassing to me. Enjoy :)

Until next time!

05 June, 2007

New Photos

Sorry for the shortness. New pictures are up on Flickr - I'd had them for a while, but I forgot to put them up. That's it, really - concert on Saturday and Sunday, trip to Kagoshima next weekend, and working on papers. Woo-hoo.

Talk to you guys later.

27 May, 2007

Downs only Bring Ups

Well, after Friday's little mental breakdown (which is exactly what it turned out to be: overreacting solely because of culture shock - I feel much better now), I took Saturday to go out and explore the city. Partly because I needed something to do on a Saturday. Partly because I didn't want to stay in my room all day, and partly because, frankly, I wanted to go.

That being said, most of my time was spent at the three shopping districts. Picture Nagasaki like the letter J, but with a line crossing the bottom hook. It also is easy to picture a fishing hook with a worm on it (for those of you that like fishing). The the area that consists of the worm-hook apparatus is the lively part of town. The three big districts are (by area name): Amu Plaza (Nagasaki Eki-Mae - literally "in front of Nagasaki Station," even though it is the station...), You-Me Saito (doesn't have a translation... weird. It's about 5 blocks South...ish of Amu), and Hamanomachi (literally "Seashore Town", because when the land wasn't filled in a mile east of it, it used to be by the shore...). Much of it turned out to be window-shopping, but I did end up getting a few items: a notebook of blank music score, so I can write down whatever pops into my mind (currently, an arrangement of The Carpenter's "This Masquerade") and a 2-ring binder (three rings don't exist here - I'm in the land of A4 and B5 paper, not 8.5"x11" here) to put my choir music in.

Yeah, I know... Music geek to the end, huh? It was the only thing that really caught my eye at the time, and I didn't have anyone there to say, "Don't by that shirt, it'll look horrible on you!", so I played it safe. Started transcribing "This Masquerade" at around 9:15 that night, after dinner had passed.

Sunday. Morning was pretty much blah. Nothing really to do - I put out my laundry to dry, and read the rest of the last Murakami book I have to read for Lit class (they're good books, mind you, but I tire of the same author 3 books in a row). Then, in a fit of nothing to do (again), I headed out back to Amu Plaza. Ate at McDonald's along the way - and there's a story in and of itself. Getting the food was easy enough - they taught us how to order things during class, and it's something you pick up as you live here. When you think of the Golden Arches (*takes time to look around to see that there are now lawyers around calling copyright infringment*), you imagine a typical US fast food restaurant. Not here. First of all, the staff is (dare I say it) friendly - they have smiles on and everything. Dare you to find that at your next Mickey D's visit. Next, I looked at the menu, and, being one of always-daring culinary sense, I chose the Teryaki MacBurger (pronounced in Japanese as "Teryaki ma-ku-ba-a-ga-a"). My god, if anyone who works at McDonalds HQ in the US... GET THEM TO PUT THIS ON THE MENU BACK HOME! The sandwich, while a bit small in comparison to US standards, is the most delicious thing ever rolled up into wax paper and served to a customer. Finally, (and this applies in all of Nagasaki, and actually all of Japan) you sort out your garbage in the available 3 bins - combustibles, non-combustibles, and plastic bottles. Hooray for countries that care for the environment.

Anyway, where was I... Oh right - headed to Eki-Mae. I managed to wander into the area just as they were setting up a free concert, so I thought, "eh.. What the hell. Choir practice isn't until 6 anyway." (it was currently around 2:30, and the concert was to take place at 3:00) Needless to say, as concerts go, this one lacked everything except for an audience. I swear, 13 - 25 year olds from the entire city were packed into this area about the size of the Kehl Center (for the Clarke people) or Wharton Field House (for the home people). The concert attendance, I would guess, hit around 4,000. I'll give you a moment to figure out how crammed we were in there.

Yeah... pretty uncomfortabe, except that my Gaijin Bubble power apparently still worked. I had this nice 1-foot radius around me, and, with the added height advantage, I was pretty well off. The concert itself, however, didn't go too well. Besides starting 45 minutes late, it only lasted a total of a half-hour. So much for killing time. I had heard the group on the radio before ("Funky Monkey Babys", by name) and so I enjoyed what I heard, but was left feeling a bit lacking. What can you expect from a free concert though?

So, afterwards, dinner. Or should I say a snack that turned into dinner? In Japan, there is a chain restaurant that exists, which is made only to sell doughnuts. That's right: doughnuts. It's called (cue creativity slap) Mr. Doughnut. It was tasty, but Japanese doughnuts taste chewier than US doughnuts. I can't quite say which I like better, but I'll have to defer that to a later time (and more doughnuts...).

Then, I went to choir practice. This practice was a bit different from the one on Friday, in that everything that went wrong then, went exactly right today. Instead of being just the Cho-dai students, we were sitting in on a practice of the Nagasaki City Choir (the concert is kind of a big deal, i guess). The director (same one as Friday's), as we were singing, made a point that everyone should make sure to get their consonants out clearly (a personal win on that one...). She also, at another point in the rehearsal, pointed out the fact that my vowel shapes while singing were correct. As the first singing compliment I had heard since joining the choir, that felt really good. The practice was LONG though: Three hours later, we adjourn, all of us tired, a bit sweaty (the room was warm), and ready for the night to be done.

Takahiro (one of my closer friends, and my DDR partner) asked me afterwards if I wanted to go and play a round, which I gladly agreed to. We played at an arcade different from the one we normally go to, and the machine here was in excellent condition. My timing registered better than normal, the music was much louder (which only helped my playing that much), and it was overall a much better experience playing there. A couple of downfalls though: the machine is a little more expensive - 100 yen (around $.83 - I figured it out in my head this morning while I battled boredom) gets you three songs instead of four; and the arcade in that area is not smoke-free, which makes it a little stinky and difficult to play for long sessions.

I then came home and took a nice, long, lukewarm bath. I didn't want to take a hot bath, so it felt great. And then I went about writing on this. And so here we are. I'm glad Friday turned out like it did though - it made today feel that much more awesome. Ja, ne? (translation: "later.")