2013-11-01

Guys Learning Japanese Podcast

Nick and I started working together about six months ago. Soon after meeting, we both noticed one of the ways we relate is our devotion and commitment to learning Japanese. Since we’re both students of the language and often talk about our study experience, we thought it may be useful to make a podcast of our guided conversations. The Guys Learning Japanese podcast is available via RSSiTunes, and YouTube. Search results should appear directly in your iOS Podcast app if you search GLJ.


We’re planning to do at least ten episodes on various topics. So far we’ve talked about study tools, motivation, leveling up, kanji, frustration, etc. In the future we hope to be doing Q&A, i.e., answering the questions that listeners send to us here, and answering them on the show.

This podcast may be useful for you if you’re a beginner, but it’ll probably be more entertaining if you’re intermediate or advanced. We will not be teaching you how to introduce yourself in Japanese, nor how to order in a restaurant. This podcast is literally two guys talking about learning Japanese. If you’re learning Japanese, think of it as a conversation that you may benefit from overhearing. Listen to the podcast while you’re folding your laundry, commuting, or doing something that permits multitasking. The same episodes are also available on YouTube, so you can play them as background noise while you’re browsing the web.

Subscribe, like, rate, and share. Email us your questions at gljpodcast@gmail.com.

2013-07-30

Mismanagement

Disclaimer: Written off the top of my head. No sources, nor direction, nor objectivity. Sounds like good journalism!

NOVA

Long ago, I was an instructor at the biggest eikaiwa school in Japan. My branch, as well as many other branches, were full of students. The students paid a hefty tuition. The teachers were underpaid. The Japanese staff were overworked and especially underpaid. Yet, this seemingly lucrative company went bankrupt. I could never understand this.

Square

During my grade school years, Square, also know as Squaresoft, was like the dream team of video game companies. Just about any game published by Square in the 90s was guaranteed to be a hit. Square put out a lot of story driven and life changing games. I was not alone in feeling this way. Friends in my neighborhood, friends that were born and raised in Japan, Taiwan, the USA, and Australia have all felt this way.
In 2003 Square merged with Enix. At this time, possibly a bit earlier (Final Fantasy Spirits Within…), the production of this newly merged company seemed greatly inferior to its past productions (e.g. Final Fanstasy X-2, Final Fantasy XI) SE showed some financial success with remakes of their previous games, but I think they did very little in terms of making new games. One thing that a lot of people complained about was,
Why no remake Final Fantasy VII?
Despite many fans begging for this, SE basically answered, "It would use up too much of our resources to remake a game like FF7…" Yet SE has been investing resources in developing new games, spinoffs, and remakes of other games (from Square's past). However, if there were a FF7 remake, it would definitely get the sales, not only from retro gamers, but also from newer gamers that never touched the older systems. I feel the Final Fantasy franchise has been tarnished since the merger. In my opinion, Final Fantasy XII was their only decent game made after the merger.

Atlus

This is the company that made the Persona series, the game with a cult-like following. Atlus was bought out by another company, then (its parent company) declares bankruptcy. Yes, maybe their games were maybe a little too niche, and it's been said that the parent company was suspected of improper accounting. How unfortunate. Another Japanese game bites the dust. It's sad when this happens to seemingly good companies.

Olympus

Here is story of financial fraud. When a newly hired foreign CEO was following up on what seemed like financial losses, the trail led him to being sacked. You see, the CEO was just a facade. According to several sources, he was appointed to the position because he could be easily controlled. The real power was in the company's corporate governance. The board of members fired the new CEO because he discovered the company's losses were being hidden by the investors in a tobashi scheme. The Olympus share prices have dropped greatly since the scandal.

2013-06-19

Updates

I got a PS3. I'm looking forward to replaying some classic PlayStation games made by Square. I've already bought and started FF6. MGS4 is on my list of actual PS3 games to play. Any other suggestions?

I started surfing. A student that became my friend invited me and lent me a board and a wetsuit. I managed to ride some really tough waves on my first day at it. I want to get my own board and go at least once a week during this summer—I won't be neglecting skateboarding either.

I got the details for my JLPT N1 exam. I'll be taking it at Seijoh University, which is in Tōkai City (about one hour from Nagoya). I've barely studied since my previous post. I'm not expecting a high grade, maybe not even a pass. Work has been busier than ever, so it's hard to focus on studying recently.

After wanting a power drill for a few years, I've finally decided to splurge and buy a proper one. I'll be using it to make shelves, tables, cabinets, etc. I'm also planning to buy a power saw within the next few weeks. I should probably get it after the N1 exam.

2013-04-23

JLPT N1

I've decided to take the Japanese N1 exam this summer—ready or not. I have three friends that passed N1. In chronological order they are a Chinese guy, a fluent in English German guy, and a Taiwanese-American girl. They've all told me, "You'll be fine," and "It'll be easy for you." I hope that's not tatemae.

Recently I put my Anki RtK1 study (jōyō kanji) on hold, and I started a new Anki deck for N1 vocabulary. So far the studying has been going really well and quite quickly, much more enjoyable than RtK1. The only time consuming part is adding the data to the decks. I'm really glad for Anki's Japanese Support. I also added show furigana on rollover, so I won't be able to see the reading of the kanji unless I put my cursor on them. This should force me to remember the compounds, rather than use furigana as a crutch.

After I become proficient in my N1 vocabulary, I'll take a mock test. I bought a few mock tests in late winter 2012, but I haven't looked at them since… The last thing I plan to study is grammar. I may skip it if I do well on the mock tests.

2013-03-26

Retrospective Virtual Gaming

I just recently got a Wii. My wife and I had originally bought it for her mother to exercise and increase her range of motion with Wii Fit and Wii Resort. Unfortunately she never used it.

She had the Wii for about three years. She used it no more than five times. I suggested to my wife, "If your mother's not using it, we might as well take it. I'd like to try some Wii games." My wife agreed, and her mother was happy to give it to us. I guess she didn't like her birthday present…

My wife and I have been playing it for a few months now. We currently own Wii Resort and Wii Fit (bought for her mother) and New Super Mario Bros. Wii which I bought last month for my wife (she loves Mario). She's playing it more than I am.

One thing that just recently caught my attention is the Wii's Virtual Console. I never knew we could purchase older games for NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, and Nintendo 64. This greatly increased the Wii's value! When I finish FF4 on DS, I'd really like to replay these NES classics:
  • River City Ransom
  • Final Fantasy
  • Final Fantasy II
  • Final Fantasy III
  • Megaman 2
  • Ninja Gaiden
  • Double Dragon II
  • Bionic Commando
  • Metroid
The SNES list will come at a later time. 

I've loved video games since the late 80's, but I only really got into gaming on the original PlayStation, especially during Square's golden era of RPGs. For this reason, I'm planning to buy a PlayStation 3. Because just like Wii's Virtual Console, PlayStation 3 has a PlayStation Network with a library of all the original PlayStation games. There are so many games I would like to replay—especially in Japanese. It'll be a new experience. I'm really looking forward to playing Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy VI.

2013-01-20

My Supplementation Saga

Intro

I used to be a supplement junkie. I used to have nearly all letters of the alphabet and all minerals of the periodic table in my supplement box. I also used to take protein, creatine, and occasionally glutamine, too. I took this combo for increasing athletic performance and increasing speed of recovery.

I never took all my supplements at the same time, and I never took them all every day, but my main reason for having so many was for self-experimentation. I won't go into the details of it, but after years of self-experimentation, I've come to a conclusion:

The majority of supplements are unnecessary; some supplementation could even be harmful. Minor tweeks to your diet and lifestyle will give you much better results.   
But, in my case, there are some supplements I think are worth taking. These are the ones that I am currently taking:

Vitamin D

This is the only one I take regularly. I take 1000–3000 IUs a day in winter. Ideally I would like to get all of it from the sun, but in winter I don't have many chances to get outside when the sun is at peak hours. When I'm not supplementing with vitamin D in winter, I get sick more often and I feel depressed. SAD? I think so. I feel worse in every possible way without vitamin D. I get plenty of vitamin D from the sun in the sunny months, so no supplementation is necessary for me in summer.

Here is an amazing presentation, “Vitamin D and Prevention of Chronic Diseases.” It's a captivating and occasionally hilarious 60 min. video—seriously.

Fish Oil

If you're living in an industrialized nation you should probably worry about your omega 3/6 ratio. A 1:1 ratio is said to dramatically reduce markers of inflammation. Unfortunately Omega 6s are everywhere. They're in vegetable oils, food at restaurants, soy, and grain fed livestock. Being exposed to these are going to throw off your natural omega 3/6 ratio. I eat fish, rich in omega 3s, at least three times a week, but this is still not enough for me to get near a 1:1 ratio. Ideally I'd like to remove the inflammatory omega 6s, but it's quite hard. So to balance the scale I have to supplement.

When I was younger and skateboarding, I put lots of pressure and impact on my joints. I used to always have trouble with inflammation. I was sore for days after a session. Now, much older, I can skateboard for longer and not feel any pain from inflammation the next day. Is this thanks to fish oil supplementation and trying to avoid omega 6s? Perhaps.

Another reason I take fish oil is because I believe it helps with cognition. Maybe it's a placebo effect, but when I'm supplementing with it, I do feel an increase in my concentration ability. It also has many other benefits. See here.

Creatine

It gets you jacked, it gives you explosive athletic performance, and it has almost no negative side-effects. I've been taking it intermittently since high school. I've always felt better and stronger when I have creatine in me.

Protein Powder

For building muscle mass and speeding up recovery. I bought a 3 kg bag about a year ago. I stopped taking it regularly because I don't like the bloated feeling from getting calories in liquid form. Also, I'd rather get my protein from natural food, rich in vitamins and minerals, too. I'll take it only on physically strenuous days I'm desperate for time, protein, and calories.

Conclusion

If you're following a Paleo template or Primal diet, you probably won't have to supplement. However, vitamin D supplementation is recommended in winter if you work indoors during the day and/or live far away from the equator. You should be able to get 10 min. of sun a day, during the sunny months, right?

Eat well, supplement less.

2013-01-02

Fav 5 Podcasts


This is without a doubt my favorite. Robb and Greg give you a perfect blend of health and humor. They are both pretty detailed, clear, and occasionally snarky with their explanations of optimizing health and fitness. I started listening to it only a few months ago. I've already caught up to episode 103. Yes, I like it.


I started listening to this one about two years ago. I have probably listened to over a few hundred of its episodes. Josh and Chuck are not experts in the subjects they present. They research and write articles for howstuffworks.com. They podcast on the articles written by howstuffworks.com's researchers.


I started listening to this one over two years ago. This was one of the first podcasts I began listening to regularly. Some of the episodes hit me deeply. Some of my favorite episodes were Lucy, Sleep, and Words. I could easily list many more.

This is a science heavy podcast about optimizing health and nutrition. It may not be for everyone, but if you're a health and nutrition geek, or into Paleo, you'll like it. I've only been listening to it for a few months, but I'm enjoying it.


This is another notable mention. It's easily digestible by all kinds of people. You won't be overwhelmed by it being too science heavy, it has smooth transitions, and it has clips from all kinds of different people. The host, Angelo, likes to think about health and nutrition issues from many different angles. He's quite objective and logical.

2012-05-13

High Intensity Training | The Big 5

This post will be off-topic from my usual blog posts. I want to tell you about how I train.

Equipment
-dumbbells
-pull up bar (local park)
-ankle weights

"The Big 5" | Free Weights & Calisthenics Version 
-1 vertical push (dumbbell overhead press)
-1 horizontal push (push ups; ankle weights on back)
-1 vertical pull (pull ups)
-1 horizontal pull (dumbbell bent over rows)
-1 compound leg exercise (squats; dumbbells on shoulders)

Methodology
One set to failure. Muscular failure is often described as the "held at gunpoint scenario." Imagine someone has a gun to your head, demanding you to do another rep, but your muscle has reached its limit. You're trying but you can't. Bang. You've reached muscular failure.

5 sec. up; 5 sec. down cadence. (I use this to help me stay on track, and it counts my reps for me) This is a constant, slow, controlled movement—no swinging. This cadence is the optimal way to break down muscle and build strength. 

Never let the muscle rest during sets, e.g., locking your arms at the top of push ups; locking your legs by standing up straight during squats. 

If you can do 10 reps, add more weight. Ideally you want to do more than 6. But more importantly, time/form should be your focus. You want to put full strain on the muscle, in motion, for 60–90 sec. in good form.

HGH levels spike best if you keep your breaks short between sets. Catch your breath, but your heart rate should not drop to its resting rate. Try to keep it under 30 sec. I think less is better. Yeah, that's right. It's not only anaerobic, it's also aerobic. Kill two birds with one stone.

Frequency
Do this no more than once a week to ensure complete recovery. 

Log Everything
Most importantly weight used, reps and order. Train your weakest muscle first and strongest last. As your reps increase/decrease, change the order. Look at your previous week's least performed reps; do that one first. If you're allocating appropriately, you shouldn't have to adjust your weights too much. Near the end of your training, your strongest muscle should be weakened, so you don't have to use heavy weights. This is my data.

Sprints
Light jog for about 50 m to warm up, then sprint for 50 m. That's 1. Do it 5 times. Do this once or twice a week.

Recommended
Read more from Doug McGuff, co-author of Body by Science. Search for videos of him on YouTube, too.

For diet, head over to Mark Sisson's blog, Mark's Daily Apple.

2012-02-14

Valentine's Day Transcendence

Origin of the Meme
In North America it may be customary for the pants of a relationship to get the skirt something nice on Valentine's Day. Roses, dinner and chocolates, in that order, is the typical pattern but some men are more creative.

What do I think of this? It's commercial bullshit. If you really love your partner, you should show them every day. You don't have to necessarily buy them anything but little gestures of kindness go a long way. And if you give them occasional gifts and surprises, you're tasting peaches and cream, right? Well … just as long as you get them a gift for Valentine's Day.

You've probably thought, "I don't have to get her anything. I'm romantic and I buy her stuff all the time. I'm a great boyfriend!" WRONG, my friend!

If your partner is materialistic (which they probably are, but then again so are you), regardless if you buy them stuff all year around and treat them all the time, they're going to be expecting something for V-Day. It's not their fault though. V-Day was created exactly for this purpose, to put consumers in a "must spend" situation. How did it come about? It was created, marketed, and it caught on. Now economists are rolling in money and laughing, "I told you it'd work! They're so stupid!"

It is expected that you spend because it is a custom (or should we say, it became one).

Think about it. How will your partner feel when friends ask,
A: "What did you get for Valentine's Day?"
B: "Nothing."
A: "Oh, that's too bad."   
Your girlfriend then has to make excuses to her friends, e.g., "We don't do V-Day," or "I told him not to get me anything." Even if she is set on her beliefs that V-Day is BS, she will probably experience cognitive dissonance. That's the power of culture.

I have no idea what Valentine's Day is currently like in North America. I don't think it's changed much though. If anything, I suspect it's got worse.

Valentine's Day in Japan
What does this have to do with Japan? Well, it's basically the same BS in a different place. Japanese economists saw the value in Valentine's Day, and of course marketed it to locals. The main difference is V-Day gender roles are reversed in Japan, i.e., women treat men.


Japanese V-Day is even less romantic though, because women are not only treating their lover, they have to treat their whole office and male friends with a few chocolates. These obligatory giri choco were once encouraged, but luckily now many places have policies forbidding this practice. As you can imagine, many women complained about this costly custom. It doesn't end there though. If women were in a relationship or wanted to confess their love, they were also expected to give honmei choco.

Don't get excited. It's just giri choco.

If men were treated to chocolate on V-Day, they were expected to return the gesture one month later on White Day (3/14). Any gift would suffice, but it has to be white, hence, White Day. Clever Japanese economists, eh? You've herded the sheeple right where you want them.

Times have changed though. Giri choco have pretty much died out with younger generations but honmei choco are still around. The recent trend is gyaku choco. In this case, men treat women to chocolates. This one probably emerged because some men felt it was unfair for women to be obligated to buy chocolates for male friends, co-workers and lovers. Or perhaps, Japanese were surprised when they found out the rest of the world was doing V-Day differently, then readjusted accordingly.

Transcendence
I wonder how these holidays will evolve. I hate to think I've grown (more) misanthropic, but some calendar events, e.g., Christmas and Valentine's Day, or at least the economics of them, are bringing out the worst in people.

2011-12-07

Advice for Teaching Adults EFL

When I first started private teaching, I did not prepare for lessons beforehand. I simply showed up to the lesson to "shoot the shit" with my students. We talked about current events, every day life and experiences. While discussing, I taught them new expressions, corrected their grammar (to improve clarity) and helped with pronunciation. This was in 2006–7.

I recently started teaching privately again. I think my current lessons are better than the "general conversation" ones I used to do. Now my lessons seem to pass by smoothly and the students seem more satisfied. Though it may seem like common sense to veteran private EFL teachers, here is some advice for teaching adults.

Get Students' Expectations
Are they studying for TOEIC? For work? For school? For travel? As a hobby? If you know your students' goals, it's a lot easier to guide them in the right direction. Be explicit about what you will/won't teach. In my experience, students who are studying English as a hobby can be harder to teach, because they are not as motivated as students with a specific purpose. Though it's not always like this, it's something to consider. A motivated student is a pleasure (and easy) to teach.

Make Contract
Though not necessary, this can simplify the details, e.g., payment, time, place, cancellation deadlines. I prefer direct deposit to my bank account by the end of the month. No penalty for cancellation if lesson is cancelled a day in advance. Clarity is something both the teacher and the students can benefit from.

Visuals for Weaker Students
Bring props, e.g., magazines with lots of pictures, and practice describing what you see. Level up and discuss more abstract topics.

Select & Assign Materials in Advance
Get your students' email addresses! Assign homework and link them to articles and essays this way. I always try to assign at least one reading task for homework then follow up the next lesson. For reading assignments I very rarely use hardcopies, i.e., handouts. Email is the way to go.

Diversify Tasks
A good combination of listening, speaking, reading and writing. Only conversation is not good. I've had positive feedback from students with writing assignments. This is the best way to teach grammar and improve your students' sentence structure. Reading assignments for homework that you discuss the following lesson work well, too. The next lesson you can check their general comprehension then do Q & A, written or orally.

Establish Routine
Having a routine gives structure to your lessons, and a familiar environment can facilitate the learning process for your students. Proceeding randomly is not the way to go. With most of my students, I always show them my lesson plan before we start. My 60 min. lesson plan usually looks something like this:
  • warm up (catch up & small talk) [5 min.]
  • quickly review last week's main points (if necessary) [1–2 min.]
  • check writing assignment [10 min.]
  • review, Q & A and discussion of reading assignment [15 min.]
  • new topic; teach and practice new language [20 min.]
  • assign and explain homework [5 min.]
  • wrap up [5 min.]
I hope this helps you in your teaching. If you have any advice you'd like to add for teaching EFL to adults, please comment.