Friday, July 30, 2010

Almost there!

Ahhh! It's my last night here in the U.S. before I go to Japan! I'll only be getting a few hours of sleep tonight, seeing as how I have to be at the airport by 7:15 AM. Guh. And I also need to buy a few small gifts (read: key chains) at the airport.

Today was filled with JET orientation fun. It was really long, but very informative. And it's kind of pointless to post about my day today. So I'll briefly mention a few topics that were covered: etiquette, omiyage, culture shock.

Anyway! Gotta prepare for tomorrow morning and get to bed. Next time I post, I'll be in Japan! Wooh!

Word of the day: 出発 「しゅっぱつ」 "shuppatsu," which means "departure." Literally, "exit" and "departure" (the concept, as opposed to the word, which is the compound here). Another compound word, 発着 「はっちゃく」 "hacchaku" (or hatchaku; or hattyaku; many romanizations) means "departures and arrivals." You can guess which one is arrivals. :-)

Really should be going to sleep

The title of this post speaks the truth. I really should be going to sleep right now. So I'll keep this one short. Well, sorta.

But anyway, I'm here in Washington, D.C., at a good friend's place. It's technically the morning of Friday, but let's just pretend it's still Thursday night, 'cause it's only 1 AM-ish. So anyway, I stayed up incredibly late last night finishing up packing. Well, almost finishing up packing, 'cause really, I finished it up this morning. I got all of my last shopping finished. But I can't help but think that a small token from the U.S. in the form of my favorite candy bar will serve as a sufficient form of omiyage (gift). Let's hope so. Maybe I'll be able to find a few keychains or something for the VIPs.

Yesterday was quite hectic. I recycled three old computers, a CRT monitor, two keyboards, and two mice. Or is it mouses ('cause it's referring to the computer peripheral rather than the animal)? In any case, it was quite tiresome. And the dude in the store, an older-than-middle-aged man didn't seem very happy with his job. If I owned a store and was surrounded with computer eye candy all day, I don't think I'd be as apathetic as he was. But then again, maybe he's got a lot of stuff to deal with at the moment of which I'm simply not aware.

Afterward, I wanted to stop by Barnes & Noble to pick up a book called Essential Kanji. It's quite useful. Many learners of Japanese have this book, including my girlfriend; and she's not the only one who has recommended it to me. That said, GO BUY A COPY! There's an alternative book I found at the store as well called Japanese Kanji & Kana. Both of these books contain the 2000 kanji (1945 actually) that Japanese high school graduates are expected to know, as well as another couple hundred of kanji found in names. Both introduce kanji in a similar manner, teaching compound words using only kanji previously introduced in the book. Very clever. And it includes the stroke order so that you can learn to properly write the word as well. Nice! The biggest difference was that they were arranged in a different order, and the second book seems to have more of a history about where the characters came from; not 100% sure on this 'cause I only spent a few minutes in the store looking at it. And even less time on the book that I actually bought (the first one). I only meant to spend a few minutes there...I ended up spending two hours there! It's so fun to just go around to each section that you like and peruse the books there.

Today was...actually kind of sad. It was filled with a lot of lifting and reweighing of the bags to insure that they upheld the 50 lb restriction. And with my lack of sleep (only about 4 hours), I was incredibly tired. Pair the physical exhaustion with stress, and my emotions were heightened. I got kind of emotional as the time approached for me to leave. It started when my brother, his wife, and I were having lunch with my grandparents at a local country buffet. Because it was the last time we would eat a meal together for a long time. When we got home, I quickly grabbed the last bit of my stuff, and my brother and I proceeded to load the vehicle. Saying goodbye to my grandparents was the hardest part. My grandmother was telling me good luck and God bless and some really emotional words. I'll leave them out of this post; it's too sad to type. I gave them hugs and then entered the car with my brother and his wife. When we pulled away, I had to hold back the emotion as I waved goodbye.

Tomorrow is my last full day in the U.S. until I go to Japan. Pre-Departure Orientation. Am I excited? I think anxiety is a better word to describe it. But tomorrow is the easy part. It's time to look ahead.

Word of the day: 祖父母 「そふぼ」 "sofubo," which means "grandparents." Literally, the characters mean "ancestor father mother".

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Comic-Con is going on right now, and two amazingly awesome announcements have been made! 1) Capcom is currently collaborating with Namco to develop a game called Street Fighter X Tekken [note: the X is pronounced "cross"] which uses the Street Fighter IV engine!!! and 2) Namco is making Tekken X Street Fighter which will run on the Tekken 6 (or 7) game engine!!! AHHHH!!! I've been waiting over a decade for something like this to happen! I've been a huge fan of the Street Fighter series since I was 5 years old. Yes, five. I still recall trying to teach my classmates in Kindergarten how to throw a Hadoken (fireball) with Ryu. They didn't seem to understand. :-) And I've been playing Tekken since 1998, when Tekken 3 was released on the PSX [for you young'uns, that's the original abbreviation for the PS1]. Ahh, good times, good times.


It's interesting because Capcom is currently working on Marvel VS Capcom 3, which I've been waiting for literally a decade, since MVC2 was released in the arcades. This only means that we won't see SFXT until probably at least a year after MVC3's release, which is scheduled for Spring 2011. Namco is currently working on Tekken 7, but I'm expecting TXSF to be released before that, to be honest. Though, they should be working on Tekken Tag 2, if anything. Tekken Tag Tournament is the favorite of many hard-core Tekken gamers, simply because the tag feature was just that fun!

And apparently the guy who played Human Torch in the Fantastic 4 movie, Chris Evans, has been cast to play as Captain America in the upcoming Captain America and The Avengers movies. For me, that's a big no-no. Both characters he portrays are Marvel characters! That means they can't ever have a movie with both characters in it 'cause it would just be too unbelievable! Unless they recast Human Torch of course. I have the same feelings about Ryan Reynolds playing Deadpool and Green Lantern. Sure, the two characters belong in different universes/companies (Lantern is DC, while Deadpool is Marvel), but it's just...weird. It'd be like if Christian Bale also played Superman. Or Wolverine. It just wouldn't work out.

Anyway, not too much on my end. Finishing up packing, bought the last of my stuff (except postcards, which I might buy at Pitt if I visit one last time), and trying to take care of a few familial errands here and there. Like renewing my AAA membership! Sure, it's the American Automobile Association, but they apparently also have international services! Hopefully I won't be needing them, but just in case! And this weekend was nice because I got to spend time with my best friends from high school. We're all moving on in life, but I'm glad that we've managed to meet up and share stories before the next step. I mentioned at dinner that in 10 years, we'll be just like the guys in the movie "Grown Ups".

Anyway, gotta go! So much to do, so little time!

Word of the day: 大人 「おとな」 "otona," which means "adult." It literally says "big person." It can also be pronounced 「だいにん」 "dainin" for the same meaning. Note, however, that if you pronounce it 「だいじん」 "daijin," it means "man of substance or virtue; gentleman" or "giant."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's been one week since you looked at me

It's been a week already!??!?!?!?! Where'd the time go???? And there's a week left!??! Holy crap!!!

Okay, so I got all my shopping done. Well, 99% of it anyway. I might pick up some post cards and perhaps load up on deodorant. Oh, and contact lense solution. Speaking of which, I just bought a year's worth of contact lenses to bring over, but I'm worried about my prescription having changed slightly from when I requested my Yakken Shoumei and now. Hopefully, they won't care...I also had to update my glasses. Luckily, I was able to keep my sexy frames, but unfortunately, they centered the clearest part of the lenses in the middle of the lense! For most glasses, this wouldn't be a problem, but the way that these glasses sit on my nose, I'm usually looking through the upper half of the lenses rather than directly in the center. Now I'll have to push up the glasses closer to my face and hope that they don't drop down my nose. No glasses-falling-down-my-nose sophisticate look for me!

So what's left? You guessed it. Actually packing. That doesn't mean I haven't started. Oh, I've started. It's just a matter of getting the things you want into the bags they need to be in. I will be able to take a total of four bags: two pieces of luggage, one carry-on luggage, and a laptop messenger bag. That said, I'll be stuffing everything I can into my lap top bag that fits! Probably all my electronics stuff (read: PSP). I will reserve my largest suitcase for clothes that I won't need for the first few days, as I will be in Tokyo for orientation and am planning on using my carry-on suitcase for the duration of my stay there (three days or so). I should be able to fit a suit or two and daily necessities into it. But "clothes for five days" as they recommended? Maybe I'll throw a few shirts into my laptop bag, haha!

As for as for slightly smaller of the two check-in suitcases, I will stuff my toiletries and other daily necessities into it, and any remaining clothes. Not really sure about all the things I need to bring, to be honest. I mean, really, I should be able to buy anything I need while I'm there. So, just bring clothes, shoes, bathroom stuff to last a couple months, gift items, money, JET stuff, Yakkan Shoumei, International Driving Permit, emergency medical stuff, laptop, cell phone, and personal stuff like a book or two, contacts/glasses, writing utensils, sketchbook, artwork by my girlfriend...what am I forgetting?

Since time is winding down, I've been trying to plan how to see my best friend and my girlfriend one last time before I head off to the Land of the Rising Sun. This weekend will hopefully be spent seeing both (separately of course, in different cities), filled with games (Metal Gear!) and movies (Inception!).

Speaking of games, it was leaked that Thor (Marvel) and Amaterasu (Capcom) will be in MVC3. That's pretty awesomesauce. A friend of mine was saying, though, that to have them in the game is a bit of a stretch, seeing as how they are both gods, and everyone else is a mere mortal. "It's easier to suspend disbelief," he said, for fights between, say, Deadpool and Ryu, but Deadpool would never go against someone as powerful as Thor. But hey, who said you can't make fights even, right? It's unusual for someone like The Hulk to lose against some flat-top in the military (Guile) with no particular abilities except to shoot slow-moving Sonic Booms from his hands [does that even make any sense?], but it can happen in these games! I can't wait.

Word of the day: 一週間 「いっしゅうかん」 "isshuukan," or "one week." Literally, the characters are "one," "week," and "interval". The "interval" character can also be pronounced 「あいだ」 "aida", and it implies a duration of time. But it can be used as a suffix (pronounced 「かん」 "kan") to a time word to change the meaning to specify an amount of time rather than the time itself. For example, 1時 means "1 o'clock", but 1時間 means "1 hour."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Two weeks too late

Hah! When I said "tomorrow," what I really meant was "in two weeks." Musta been a typo. :-P But remember what I said about not being good at updating blogs? Yeah. Exactly.

SO! Today is July 15. Today marks the official "holy crap it's halfway through the month of July which means I'll be in Japan in about two weeks" day. Today is also the release of the Motorola Droid X; fitting, since I've spent a lot of time yesterday and today trying to decipher the various cell phone plans in Japan. None of the three companies seem to agree on how phone plans are laid out. That, or I just don't understand them (quite likely). In the beginning, I was leaning towards Docomo. For two reasons: 1) my girlfriend and I each got a $50 off coupon for them from Kinokuniya Bookstore in NYC, and 2) they have this phone called the docomo PRIME series F-06B. And hoooooooollllllyyyyyyy crap this phone is sexy. LOOK! THE SCREEN TURNS SIDEWAYS AFTER IT SLIDES OPEN! But Docomo's plans are all really expensive, and they don't seem to have an affordable "free/unlimited texting" plan. To make things more difficult, texting in Japan is apparently called e-mail. At least, SMS messaging with SoftBank is called e-mail. Or S! Mail. Or something. Anyway, I'll try to work it all out tomorrow. While I finish unpacking. Ugh.

I've been so busy over the past two weeks. I've had to pack up my stuff from my old apartment and move back into my parent's place temporarily until Japan. But this means packing, unpacking, and packing again! Ugh, and packing is my #1 least favorite activity. At least for activities that seemingly have to be done at least once a year.

One of the very important things I've had to take care of was purchasing Japanese money. Yes, I said purchasing. BECAUSE IT'S NOT FREE. I was under the impression that my bank would never charge me a fee, and therefore, converting money into foreign currency doesn't cost any more than the current exchange rate. And right, they don't charge a fee. Instead, they mess with the exchange rate that's used. Those punks! I checked the exchange rate on 20 minutes before I got to the bank. According to XE, I should have been given 88 JPY for every 1 USD. But with the exchange rate the bank gave me, I only got 81 JPY for 1 USD! That's 8% less!!! What a ripoff! Ugh, but 仕方がない as they say in Japan. Apparently, getting ripped off by your local bank is still cheaper than getting ripped off at the airport. That said, I'll try to make a note of what the exchange rate is at both the departing and arrival airport.

These past two weeks have been really hectic. I have been busy packing and moving, yes. But most of all, I've been trying to meet up with old friends to say our last goodbyes. Well not really; I'm sure I'll see them again. :-) Still, I'm finally spending more than three months away from Pittsburgh in over seven years. It's heartwrenching. And I'm glad I was able to see some of my friends before I left. I should try and make a trip out to my dojo and see my martial arts master.

While I've been at home, I've spent some time with my family. We've also done a lot of pre-flight shopping. You know, like new pieces of luggage, travel goodies, and whatnot. I even got bright neon-green tags so that I can easily differentiate my luggage from the thousands of others traveling with me to Japan! Fantastic idea. I hope. And I must say, there have been some really annoying restrictions for carryon luggage. I have been limited to a size that most luggage brands (like Samsonite) don't make! What a hassle. But anyway, I should be grateful that I found any bag about that size at all.

Now on to games. There have been some new Marvel VS Capcom 3 exhibition match videos from this year's EVO. Here they are, 'cause they're awesomely, fantastically amazing:
Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
I also finally beat MGS: Peace Walker! Wonderful game! Absolutely great! Highly recommended for any PSP owner, and a good reason to get one. What's amusing is that new missions are unlocked after beating the game, and certain things (items, weapons, and epilogue) are unavailable until you "beat" the game. Though really, maybe I never beat the game at all, and there's another, better ending? We'll find out. And I look forward to playing the missions in co-op mode with my brother and best friend.

I was thinking about making a vlog (video log), and maybe doing it not unlike sxephil. (Watch him, he's hilarious!) What do you guys think? All two of you? Just kidding, I know I have more readers than that. All five of you. :-)

Phrase of the day: 仕方がない 「しかたがない」 "shikata ga nai." It means, basically, "it can't be helped."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

One month left!!!

July 1st! Holy crap! In exactly one month, I'll be in Japan!

So much to do so little time. Preparations have been underway and I've been doing what I can to minimize the stuff I'll have to bring back home before I go to Japan. Like sell my 35" TV. So far, two friends are interested! In just a couple hours! Yay social networking. :-)

Also, The Last Airbender, M. Night Shyamalan's latest film, was released today. And it's worse than I actually thought it'd be. Anyway, this article has a bit of Shyamalan addressing the racism issue. But personally, he completely fails to see what the issue *actually* is. He keeps saying that the movie isn't racist because of the diverse cast and the fact that *he* directed it; that *his* name and Dev Patel's name and Noah Ringer's name are on the movie. But that isn't the point. The point is that a movie based on Asian culture (mostly Chinese, but also Japanese, Inuit, Tibetan) features non-Asians as the stars. To make matters worse, he cast most of the antagonists as Indian. Great, so now all of the dark-skinned people in the movie are bad-guys. This movie should have been a chance for Asian American actors to take steps in Hollywood. But it looks like things haven't really changed. It's "Kung Fu" all over again.

The movie was sub-par at best. The things that ruined the movie, even if the actors were Asian, were the bad acting, terrible dialogue/script, and atrocious pacing. The only saving graces were its special effects and okay martial arts. So, if you can get passed the bad acting part, it might be a decent movie. Or just disregard the acting by reminding yourself that it's just a kid's movie (which isn't a good excuse for bad acting).


Anyway, so yeah. Moving along...

I've been discussing the meaning of people's names with my friends over the past few days. "Harold" means basically "leader of an army." My most favorite translation was "heroic leader." So how would I translate this into kanji to be used as my name (as a friend had suggested for my name stamp)? "Hero"?

More updates tomorrow. It's late! G'night!

Word of the day: 英雄 「えいゆう」 "eiyuu" which means "hero" or "great man".