Making Progress

どーも くん!

Note: I am still learning and this post covers very basic stuff. If any of this is wrong, please let me know. I’d love to hear feedback.

It’s been about a week since I took it upon myself to start learning Japanese through the use of iPad apps and so far, it’s been interesting and even fun. As such, I thought I’d share a little about what I’ve learned as well as a few insights about the language which will show that isn’t as difficult as you might think. Well, for Hiragana at least.

But before I begin I need to say that it’s not only apps that have been helping. Over the last couple of years, I’ve subjected myself to a ton of things Japanese including listening to Jpop (music), watching Japanese TV shows including some anime and NHK World, and spending crazy money at a certain store. I believe that all of these things have most definitely given me the upper hand in understanding or at least raising my interest in the language. Now let’s begin.

First, Japanese is comprised of sounds or syllabaries, not actual letters. Of course there are vowels but all characters are a combination of a consonant and vowel sound except ん which is the N sound all on its own.

Second, much like Spanish totally unlike English, each vowel sound is pronounced the same no matter what.

  • A = ah
  • I = ee
  • U = ooh
  • E = eh (as in “met”)
  • O = oh

There is no deviation from this unless the O sound from any syllabary is followed by う which extends the O sound or in some cases gives it a U sound at the end. After all, that character is a U. Oh, and in case you didn’t notice, the vowels are in a different order than English.

Now let’s learn a Japanese word by using an example that most everybody knows, thanks to Styx.


First, we have ど which is “do” (pronounced “doe”). This is actually a diacritic (dakuten) of the と (“to” pronounced “toe”) sound. Those little lines are above the first one are what give it the softer D sound. There is also another dakuten – it’s a little circle instead of two lines – that turns the “ha” sound of は into the harder “pa” sound of ぱ. There are many more; that’s just one example.

After ど we have う which is the aforementioned U and extends the O sound.

Then there’s も which is the “mo” sound. Now we have “domo.”

あ is the vowel A (“ah”), and then we learn something else: the “ri” sound of り. In Japanese, the R does not sound like it does in English, which is why a native Japanese person would have difficulty learning to pronounce it because it’s not part of their vocabulary. It’s like when the chef on Kodos and Kang’s flying saucer told Homer, “To pronounce it correctly, I would have to pull out your tongue.” It’s native to one part of the universe but not another; what exists in English doesn’t in Hiragana.

Anyway, all R sounds are pronounced using a slight D sound instead, which means that the way we Americans say “karaoke” as “carry oaky” is completely wrong. Well, at least it would be in Japan where it’s pronounced “ka-da-o-kee.” Phonetically, the R sounds are pronounced:

  • ら = da
  • り = dee
  • る = doo
  • れ = deh
  • ろ = doe

Hmm. Kinda sounds familiar.

Okay, that’s that. Now there’s が which is “ka” but with the dakuten changes to “ga.” Then we wrap it up with と for “to” and the vowel U or う, which lengthens the “do” sound.

So put it all together and you have どうもありがとう or “domo arigato” or as the Styx sang to us, “thank you very much (Mr. Roboto).”

So it’s that simple, right? Ha! Not exactly. Hiragana – 46 characters total – is based on native Japanese and is only one part of the three writing systems. There’s also Katakana which has about the same number of characters as Hiragana and is derived from Kanji. And guess what? Kanji is the third part of the writing system so it’s not uncommon to see all of them used at the same time.

Did I mention that there are over 2,000 Kanji characters?

Then there’s the whole learning words and stuff plus grammar. I’m just learning syllabaries right now. And I forgot to mention combining sounds which is a whole different chart of characters which are pronounced differently when not combined with vowels:

ぎ (gi or “gee”) + あ (a or “ah”) =  ぎあ (gya)

Also, の is the “no” sound but also possessive as in ねこのて (nekonote). So ねこ (neko or “cat”) combined with の (“belonging to”) て (“hand”) means “the cat’s hand.” By the way, the て or “te” sound also means “hand” in some cases. In fact, as you saw here, a few Hiragana by themselves are entire words or numbers. A few examples are:

  • く (ku or “koo”) = number 9
  • め (me) = eye
  • ひ (hi or “he”) = day

Oh, and there are no spaces in Japanese, and sometimes the U sound in some syllabaries isn’t pronounced, as in なつかしい (natsukashi or “sweet memory”) because なつ (natsu) means “summer.” It is pronounced natskashi.

Easy, right?

But in the end, if you look at the charts long enough as I have been, the characters and their sounds begin to make sense. It’s just a matter of deciphering them. In fact the first word I conquered after familiarizing myself with most of Hiragana was “sushi.” Go ahead and look up the syllabaries on the chart and see if you can guess how to spell it.


Did you get it?

  • す = su
  • し = shi

Therefore, すし is “sushi.”

Yeah. I know what I’ve gotten myself into but I’m having a lot of fun with it and really enjoying the challenge! The goal here is to someday know enough to get by so when I do eventually take a vacation in Japan (and by gum, I will), I’ll have a better idea of everything which will make the trip much more enjoyable as well as mingle with people a little better as well as understand the culture and customs.

Plus, it will look great on the resume under “Languages Spoken.”

In the meantime I need to find a new job. That trip isn’t cheap and there’s no way to afford it on my salary.

Baby steps, yo.


It was about 10 days ago when I decided that I was going to give up blogging for a number of reasons, namely that I believed it to be a lost cause and I didn’t want to “disappear” as I so plainly put it.

That was 10 days ago and I’ve had some time to think about it, and I think I was wrong. There’d be no way my late Uncle Lou would want me to stop writing regardless of the format, topic, anything. And as someone who has always had a knack for writing (not always necessarily good writing), I’d probably be cheating myself by giving it all up.

It doesn’t matter how many readers I have. The traffic means nothing because I’m not getting paid to write nor am I concerned with SEOs and the like. This little space in the once-named blogosphere is mine to vent as I feel the need to do so. It’s therapy. It’s comedy. It’s someplace where I can smear whatever is on my mind even if others may not agree with it. And I’m okay with that.

By the way, this isn’t the first time I’ve chosen to quit blogging. I’m funny that way, I guess.

The fact of the matter is that in my choosing to quit blogging, I was reaching out. It was a kind of cry for help. When I wrote that post I was feeling really down about a number of things, namely my current job situation and a myriad of other stuff that’s been happening on the other side of the monitor that you can’t see. It’s all big and somewhat scary, and it almost swallowed me whole. That was also the case with my lack of Facebook posts: I just didn’t want to engage in any social media activity at the time. I’m now slowly getting back into it but still not very active with my posts.

There is, in fact, a lot happening that I will indeed share when the time is right and not because anyone will be particularly interested in it but because writing is my therapy. Some of it good news, some of it bad news. But hey, that’s how life is, right?

One of the things that’s been going on is, believe it or not, my learning Japanese. I’m using a free app called Kae Tim’s Guide to Learning Japanese and it’s pretty comprehensive. Unlike other free apps that cover simple conversational/travel phrases like “Where is the restroom?” this one goes deep into the language and covers it in full detail. I realize that it will take quite some time to master it as well as understand all the characters and writing systems (katakana, hiragana, and kanji) but you know what? I’m getting it and pretty excited about it. This will no doubt make learning languages like Spanish and French much easier, even if I know just enough of both — and it helps when I watch the occasional NHK shows and anime on Crunchyroll. Learning this language will no doubt come in handy when I do finally make a trip to Japan, a trip that has been on my nonexistent Bucket List for years.

That trip is going to happen. Just watch. It may take a few years or longer but when it does, you can bet I’ll be writing about it.

So with all that said, I’m back – whether you like it or not.

The End.

Over the years and on several platforms (blogging or social media), I’ve witnessed people/contributors disappear without an explanation. And even though I never knew them personally it still seemed rather strange and somewhat sad to find out that they’ve just “disappeared” without any kind of notice.

I don’t want to be that person.

This is my final blog post.

After much consideration and not a lot of debating, I’ve decided that with the advent of social media, personal blogging is a dying platform. There’s nothing I can tell you here that I can’t post on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (provided you’re connected to me) and can’t get out to a larger group of people in no time flat. I can now even carry on a live chat with Meerkat if I wished.

Over the years it seemed that most of my posts just got written and seldom read. Traffic was never spectacular so it seemed most of my writing was done in vain. Feedback was rare. In short, it reached a point to where it didn’t make sense to even post anymore. I no longer care to put any effort into posts that will just take up space on the WordPress server and offer very little to the reader — if anyone even bothered to read them. The reach from the blog’s Facebook page (which I will be closing as well) was also embarrassing.

Sharing personal aspects of your life is what social media is for and it’s doubtful anyone gave two shits about anything I wrote here recently. I’m not a world-traveling, jet-setting dynamo. I haven’t taken a vacation in years. I can barely afford to make ends meet with my pittance, all of which adds up to one really boring life that I don’t care to write about or share with others anymore at least in an expanded format. Blogging once brought me happiness. It doesn’t anymore and hasn’t for some time now.

We all have opinions. I have mine but I’m done blathering about them here.

However, I still believe that topical blogging is very much alive. That’s why I will continue to keep the following blogs going as they are focused on particular topics and have a much wider following than my personal blog.

I’m going to concentrate on those blogs. I’m done here.

This page will be a Sticky and remain a such. Eventually it will go private so soak up all that’s here for now because it won’t be here much longer.

If you’re a longtime reader, thanks for being a part of my blog. I’ve been at it since 2004 and feel it’s time to lay it to rest.

If you just started reading, well, thanks for stopping by but I don’t think you missed anything.


I’m on Bing Maps

About two months ago, I saw a Bing Maps surveyor and decided to follow it for a bit because I thought it would be funny to eventually see myself on the street maps.

Well, tonight I checked the maps to see if they had updated them. They did.

But first, take a gander at the video I shot and posted on Instagram. I always have my camera going when I’m on my scooter because you never know.

Now here I am behind the Toyota RAV4, sitting at the stop sign.


I guess I should have waved at it for maximum effect but I didn’t even think about it. Oh well.

To see the precise location, click here. Note that you will probably need to view it in IE since Bing is Microsoft, Silverlight, blah blah blah.

Run the Runway

Okay folks, first things first. My wrist is feeling a whole lot better which means I can use a computer keyboard to write again. Granted, I would prefer to be in my corner of the den with my laptop but ah, it shuffled off this mortal coil months ago.

Secondly, my new glasses arrived today and I can see much better. Call that a two-fer. They will come in especially handy when…well, I’ll talk about that when (and if) it happens. So with all of that out of the way, let’s go.

I was at a loss as to what I should write about but in reality dang it, I had plenty going on but just got lazy. I let my social media sharing tell the brief story instead of giving a full report here. Case in point: the Run the Runway event on March 31, 2015.

The event was just as its name implied: you ran on a runway. It may not sound exciting if you aren’t a runner but you didn’t have to be one. Participants could walk or even skip if they so desired.

The whole point of this event was to celebrate the Grand Re-Opening of Runway R25 at Long Beach Airport which had gone thought a major renovation. And let’s face it: should you ever find yourself running the length of a runway, there’s a good chance you’ll either be pursued by authorities or be run over by an incoming plane.

But not at this event, which is why I thought it would be fun to attend. When else would I get this chance? Without being shot at or splattered?

The run itself was not very long. From the Start/Finish line to where the airport fire truck was parked only measured a half-mile and once you reached that point, you had to run back to the Start/Finish line. A solid mile for fun on a totally flat course – for free. Not bad. But even at free, there was still a line where participants – limited to 1,200 invitees – had to turn in their waivers and get their free t-shirt.


There were also a few cool planes on display, including this one that flies to beautiful Catalina Island (a mere 26 miles away).


And yes, there was even a sheriff helicopter that I soon discovered didn’t have a lot interior room. (This, by the way, will probably be the only time I’m ever in ANY helicopter. I’m not good at heights or small, enclosed areas.)


Then there’s the runway itself, all shiny and pretty. Just imagine how it looks now only a few weeks later.


It’s also not every day that you can get some interesting camera angles on a runway.


Waiting for the event to start. This is when you get in some stretching and your preferred exercise tracking app ready.


Once everything was cleared and the horn blasted, we all took off and being it was only a mile, it was almost over as soon as it began. I finished at my usual mile pace of 10 minutes which is by no means fast but definitely steady. There were no medals, only a commemorative shirt to take home and the bragging rights that come along with running across a tarmac with 1,200 other people.

All in all it was definitely a memorable event and one that we won’t likely see again in the near future. Thanks to all involved for making it spectacular!


I’m smiling here, but I had to work the midnight shift later that night. Ugh.

Now What?

Whenever I’m absent from blogging for an extended period of time, I always feel the need to explain myself. Here’s my excuse this time. Okay, several excuses.

First, my only pair of glasses broke. Not only are they my backup pair but they are also an old prescription that no longer really help my eyes to see much better. They broke on the hinge and while I sort of temporarily fixed them (and wearing them now), they are nowhere near as good as my previous pair which suffered a similar fate. Both of them are old so I’m not really shocked that either broke but still, viewing any device or looking at a monitor for an extended period of time with my backup pair causes eye strain and not wearing them only makes it worse.

Second, I’m suffering from a case of tendinitis in my right hand which makes using a full-size keyboard somewhat painful. The pain starts in my thumb and goes past my wrist and hurts like a mother when bent in certain directions, most of which I try and avoid. I’m also wearing a compression sleeve around my wrist per my doctor’s directions. There’s very little I can do about it to make it better and all I know is that having it in my dominant hand really stinks. I can’t even throw a baseball. I’m trying to do most of my work using my left hand to carry and lift but favoring that side causes fatigue by the end of the day. To make matters worse, my hand is in unbearable pain when I wake up in the morning. I can’t seem to win this battle.

And in case you’re wondering, I’m writing this post on my iPad using the WordPress app and SwiftKey keyboard which utilities Swype. I just swipe across the keyboard and it (fairly accurately) predicts the words for me. And despite its ease of use, my hand still hurts.

So there you have it. My absence was caused by things I can can’t really control. More posts will come when my wrist starts to feel better and I get new glasses but until then, don’t count on any regular posts.

For some, that’s actually a good thing…

Finders Keepers, Part IV

Whether I’m running or riding, I tend to find personal items that the owners would probably want returned to them. I find so many of these things that I’ve decided to create a subject that will be dedicated to the topic of my findings, herein titled Finders Keepers. This is the third installment in what will probably be an ongoing series of blog posts.

But before I go into the few details about yesterday’s find, let me refresh your memory on the three previous incidents:

  • First incident, date unknown (not blogged): I found a small pouch containing a phone and money. I was able to get in touch with the owner who then picked it up and rewarded me with a gift card a week later.
  • March 2012: I found a Blackberry and returned it to its owner.
  • January 2014: I found a wallet that a local branch of law enforcement refused to accept.

And now, yesterday’s find.

I was scooting along on my way to work when I happened to see something lying in the middle of a residential street. If it were a busy street I wouldn’t have risked trying to retrieve it since, well, California drivers. The good thing about being on two wheels is maneuverability: you’re small enough to lane-split (which I love more than I can express) and you can pretty much turn on a dime. That was the case here when I saw the wallet.

Once I spotted it, I turned around quickly and picked it up. It was all documented by my trusty HTC Re Camera which I attach to my helmet in case something bad happens and I need evidence. (As of now, nothing has and I delete all the videos later.)


Granted, there was a chance that the wallet would be empty because hey, people throw stuff out and who knows where it will end up. But after I picked it up I looked inside in the hopes of coming across something that would indicate ownership. In this case, there was about $60 and two movie vouchers but no form of identification.

Bordering on being late to work, I picked a house that was adjacent to where the wallet was found and knocked on the door. No answer.

At that point I figured I’d hold onto it and figure out things later like posting signs around the neighborhood.

I threw the wallet in the storage compartment under my seat and shut it. Just as I started up the scooter, I noticed a girl – she may have been around 11 or 12 – frantically looking around her property while her dad was crawling down the street in his car.

If this was her wallet, it would have explained the absence of an ID inside. I opened my “trunk” and grabbed the wallet. As she darted across the street to her dad’s car, I looked over at him and held up the wallet. Their faces of concern turned to relief when they realized I had found it.

Dad opened up a dialog with me, thanking me for finding it and returning it. The girl ran over, thanked me, grabbed her wallet and got in the car, smirking and hanging her head in embarrassment. She would have had one bummer of a weekend without her sixty bucks and movie tickets so I was happy she got them back. I told them it was my pleasure; no thanks needed.

An aside: remember when $60 and movie tickets were all it took to make you happy?

Anyway, I once again did the right thing because it’s in me to do this type of thing. If I ever lose my wallet or anything else of personal value, I would hope that the finder would do the same for me. That’s just how it should be because the universe sort of has a way of paying you back for making it a better place. Yeah, it’s that karma thing again. But I’ve learned my lesson with finding money: just keep it.

So I was feeling very satisfied with myself knowing I helped brighten someone’s day. No doubt they will have a story to tell at school tomorrow when they explain that some scooter-riding dork wearing a helmet with the Flying Tiger livery found their wallet.

Still feeling high, I arrived at work where that buzz was shot down quicker than (I can’t think of anything so use your imagination). Not cool, universe. Not cool at all. As for what happened at work, let’s just say it’s been an ongoing issue and I’m making a call to my union representative in the morning to go over it.

In the meantime, it’s off to scour the usual job sites after I finish up this week’s Coursera lesson which I’m happy to say I’m sticking with.