What’s Happening!!!


Hey hey hey! I’m still alive, as this post clearly indicates. I just thought I’d give you an update on things and what I’ve been up to.

Learning Japanese. It takes about an hour for the bus to arrive at the office, and I literally catch it across the street from home and stops about 500 steps from work. Why I didn’t think of this before is beyond me.

At any rate, I tried a number of things to pass the time while commuting with the masses: music, podcasts, etc. Then I figured that if I’ve got time to kill, I might as well make it productive so I started using the Lingodeer app to reintroduce myself to Japanese. It’s just the beginning; there are a number of different apps I’ve used in the past but I seem to retain more with this one. We’ll see how it goes.

I’ve Been Sick. Rather than blast constant updates all over Facebook, I’d much rather do it here and go into more detail and fucking cuss if I need to. Basicallly, I was having a hard time swallowing as well as a few other things. A trip to the doctor last Thursday confirmed I had tonsilitis — yes, I still have my tonsils — and I was prescribed a medication called Cefdinir. It’s a pretty strong antibiotic that I had never taken before.

And I had an awful reaction to it. After a nap on Saturday afternoon, I woke up covered in a rash around my neck. (Sorry, no pictures — I’m not my brother who once posted pictures of his heat rash on Instagram. Ew.) Later that evening, the rash had spread to my arms and torso. It was ugly so I stopped taking the medication and broke out the calamine lotion.

The rash was only part of it. Conjuctivitis is another as well as…let’s just say I’ve needed to hydrate a lot. I had all of it.

The doctor has since prescribed me a new antiboitic and so far the breakouts have been minimal and I’m feeling better. I’m never sick and the one time I am I take medicine that makes me worse, but I guess none of us are allergic to any medications until we take them and see what happens.

I’ve Been Drawing on my iPad. Each family member has their own laptop. I don’t, so when we were thinking about buying a PC for home, it only made sense for me to get an iPad so that I can do whatever (like, for example, blogging as I’m doing now). But it’s gone beyond that — I’ve since bought an Apple Pencil in order to broaden my horizons, and here’s the first thing I drew.

It’s not the best and there are a ton of things I can tell you are wrong with it but it was an experiment to see how it would go. So not too bad methinks.

I’m Considering Leaving Instagram. The Powers That Be have determined that all of my accounts have been violating their terms and have shadowbanned all of them. One of them is even blocked on my phone. My only guess is that since I do use the same hashtags on a lot of posts, Instagram thinks I’m spamming. So after nearly 5,000 posts, they think I’m spamming. Thanks, assholes.

Here’s how such a ban works:

  • Users are not told they are banned; they will suddenly see a drop in likes and followers
  • Hashtags are blocked so your account is essentially private (only your followers can see your posts)

Because of this, it’s no longer fun and pretty pointless to keep going. I’ll keep the accounts open in the hopes that the ban is lifted but I’m not very optimistic about it. I will resurrect my photo blog Digital Resolution and start posting there, where I’m the boss and can pretty much say what I need to.

And now you’re caught up. I’ll try to be better about posting here 🙂

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Well, This Sucks


I’ve been listening to a lot of Japanese music lately at work courtesy of J1 Radio, in particular their Gold channel which plays some really, really good oldies. No translation needed; the music alone is fantastic.

Although I have to admit that a lot of words are becoming more familiar to me, like “toki doki” (sometimes), “watashi” (I), and “kawaii” (cute). Anyway…

When I hear a song I really like, I’ve gotten into the habit of copying-and-pasting the artist and song title into an email draft and at the end of the day (or couple of days, depending on how well I can manage the list), sending it to my personal address.

From there, I’ll look them up on the YouTube and add them to a playlist. But therein lies the problem.

The issue I was having is that the songs were presented on J1 in Romaji, or the Romanization of the Japanese syllabary.

Example: searching for Mayuzumi Jun “Tenshi no Yuwaku” — my current song obsession — might only yield a few results because most users would have uploaded the video in its traditional Japanese using the combination of Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji.

In short, this: 使の誘惑 黛ジュン

Here’s the song and oh, it’s a good one. It’s been stuck in my head for a while and the video is so freaking retro it kills me.

But here, finally, was the problem. Many searches returned absolutely nothing when using Romaji and being I’m not fluent in Japanese nor would have any clue on how to translate the title properly, there was no hope for some of the songs I wanted to find and add to my ever-expanding “Japanese Classics” playlist.

What a bummer.

But today at work I accidentally found the solution to my problem. The site has a page where you can request a song and of course with that, you’d have to know the artist and/or title. What I discovered was that they maintain an A-Z database of artists they play on the station. So if I were to request the song above, I’d look up the singer’s name under the M category. All of her songs J1 plays would be listed under her name.

So I did just that. I found her along with her name and the song title in proper Japanese characters. But being I already had it on my playlist, I opted to search for one that I couldn’t find on the YouTube using Romaji.

I picked one I know I couldn’t find with Romaji, copied the Japanese title, and searched for it on the YouTube.

BINGO. Found. Then I tried another. BOOM. Score.

This was becoming all too easy and I was happy. I added those few I had found to my playlist and couldn’t wait to go home when until I finally had some quiet time in the evening to finish up my search.

With the kid to bed at 9pm, it was time to look at those emails and apply my new-found method of searching so that I could a) finally add them and b) have a good ol’ time doing it.

I had just started to read one of the emails and began seaching, adding whichever version of the song(s) I preferred to my playlist since I was now getting multiple results for each song. I would have been there all night doing it if it were my choice.

And it was all going so well…before the site went down for maintenance and, as of this post, is still down.

(UPDATE 5/7/16: it was back this morning. Yay!)

Grrrrr. So just when things were falling into place, I get shot down. Hopefully it goes back online real soon so I can continue my searching.

At least this little unexpected outage gave me time to write and less time on Facebook which I’m trying to avoid again. Less time on Facebook has also given me time in the evening to workout and study Spanish so it’s definitely working out.

And if I keep up all this working out, I’ll have to expand my Workout Playlist. After all, who wouldn’t want to workout to “Sexual Violet No. 1”?

I know I would!

 

Making Progress


domokun
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.

どうもありがとう

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.

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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.

Resurrection


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.

Dad and the Japanese Toilets


There is currently a work stoppage at the Port of Los Angeles, one of the busiest ports on the world. There is what seems like an endless line of cargo ships sitting out in the ocean with nothing to do since the union has some kind of bug up their butt about something.

But when don’t they, right?

Anyway, seeing this brought back a pleasant little memory of my dear old Dad. You see, he worked on that very port unloading ships similar to the ones that have dropped anchor due to the work stoppage. One day, I remember him taking my brother and I aboard one of the cargo ships docked on the port, a ship exporting goods from Japan.

I honestly don’t remember much of anything about that tour since I had to be no more than 5 years old. But there is one thing that sticks in my mind.

Thinking back, I can see Dad looking at us and smiling. He knew what he was up to. He led us down the hall and opened a door — to the restroom.

“Look at those! Look!” he said as he laughed.

I peeked in there and witnessed something that left me stupefied for years: the strangest toilets I had ever seen in my then-short time on this planet, a row of about 8 of them with no walls for privacy between them which made things even more awkward. I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Now before you think “So what’s the big deal?” I’ll save you the trouble of doing an image search or consulting Wikipedia.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the traditional Japanese toilet, as witnessed by me on board that cargo ship (courtesy this blog):

image

And if you think they look strange, just imagine the contortionist flexibility one must possess in order to use them. (If you must know, look up “how to use a Japanese toilet” and be…stupefied like I was for years.)

Thankfully, I hear that the toilets are no longer the norm in Japan where most places have switched to a more modern, sit-down type that would be honored to accept your waste.

This is good because when I vacation in Japan one of these days (or in my case, some lifetime), I want this simple creature comfort from home.

And if I would happen to come across a traditional one, I’m pretty sure I’ll hear Dad laughing hysterically as I stare at it, debating whether to use it or not.