A Blizzard in Juso

A big green 0 was the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes this morning. Within 10 minutes I was to the door. Snow blasted my face, and I ran through the blizzard, taking the time to snap a few pictures on my cell phone:
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Osho, in Higashi Juso, is starting to accumulate a mantle of snow.
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A shot of Juso Eki between the Eastern Mr. Donut and the entrance to Hankyu railway station
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The train tracks and the area around the Yodogawa quickly accumulated a layer of snow. I wonder how the insulation of the residences of the homeless population, who live in the shanty town along the length of the Yodogawa river, compares to the average Japanese apartment.
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I usually ride on the first car from track number 6 on my way to Osaka. This morning was the first time I remember being able to hear the conductor talking on his radio. Though muffled through the barrier that separates the cockpit from the cabin, I was able to make out the words ?concerned?, ?dangerous?, and ?please check?. A maintenance crew quickly entered the locomotive, as the passengers disembarked.
I?m glad nothing went wrong. Riding in the first car is the most dangerous place in a train to be in case of an accident. After the train crash on the JR line in Amagasaki, I remember reading in The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Travel that if you know that a crash is imminent, it is a good idea to get to the rear of the train. Most of the casualties in Amagasaki were riding in the first two cars. Well, I didn?t start running to the back of the train when I heard the conductor?s concerned exchange on the radio. It would have been impossible to maneuver my way through, as all of the cars were packed like sardine tins.

A Better Typhoon

I’ve been using this game in my classes since I first started teaching English close to three years ago. Over time, I have modded it into its present version.
Typhoon is a great game to use when you want to review materials from previous lessons, but the traditional way of writing points up on the board and covering them up with individual sheets of paper is time consuming and laborious.
I first got around this problem by making my own deck of customized Typhoon cards with point values and special cards, which worked really well. However, I have come up with a way that anyone can play this game with a standard deck of playing cards.
First, divide the class into 3 or more teams. Any student may raise their hand after you ask a question, but a different student must answer every time. The fastest team to raise their hands gets to answer the question. I usually allow the team to help each other if they don?t know the answer.
If a student gives a correct answer, they pick a card from the deck. Here are the values for the cards:
Point Cards:
*Cards 2-10 are worth their number in points
*Aces ? Diamonds, Clubs, and Hearts are worth 30 points. The Spade is worth 100.
Typhoon Cards:
*Jacks ? They reduce the points of the teams who draws it to 0
*Queens ? If a team draws a Queen, they choose a team and that team?s points are reduced to zero. A team can pick themselves as the target (as teams can accrue negative points).
*Kings ? This card is Armageddon. All points are reduced to zero.
*Joker ? After the Joker comes into play, all point values from this point for everybody become negative points. For example, after the Joker is pulled, the 10 card would subtract 10 points from the total points of the team who draws it.
If the second Joker is drawn, scoring returns to normal.
I used to put the cards up on the board as a grid, and had vocabulary words set up on the x and y axis so that the students would have to use that week?s vocabulary in order to get in some extra practice:

Alpha Beta Niner Delta
Tourettes x x x x
Arachibutyrophobia x x x x
Narcolepsy x x x x
A.D.D. x x x x
Necrophilia x x x x
Pica x x x x

(“x” denotes a card, face down. In the case of a deck of 54 cards, I would probably set up the board in a 6 x 9 grid.)
But for the sake of speed, I now just shuffle the deck and let the students pick one out. The team with the most points at the end wins.
This game can be used repeatedly with the same class. The key is to not over use it, and to keep the durations shorter, rather than longer, otherwise they may tire of it prematurely.

The Burnt Finger Teacheth

When I was three, I touched the barbecue even though I was told it was hot and it would hurt. This is the first incident in which I can remember thinking about linguistics, for the pain seared the memory into my young mind. Barbecue, I reasoned, is a compound word made up of “Barbie” and the letter Q (to check out the etymology of the word barbecue, click here).
For some inexplicable reason, perhaps related to my fascination with the thing that was cooking our dinner, I desired to touch the side of the barbecue, and so I burned my finger and learned my lesson. This is not the first time that I got burnt, and it certainly wasn’t to be the last.
A few contusions on my elbows and a small chunk missing out of the base of my back are part of the price I paid for wiping out, while foolishly tearing down the debris covered road to Minoo Falls. I was going too fast and rapidly approaching a sharp, blind corner, and then I ate it while attempting to break. Apparently, I tumbled violently enough to fling my glasses 20 feet away from where I hit the ground.
Luckily, God looks after fools like me, so I have been let off with just a few contusions and abrasions to show. I am sad to say that my Timberland backpack got a bit ripped up as I skidded across the pavement, but its sacrifice literally saved my ass from being torn into hamburger.
So from now on, there will be no more tearing down hills unless they are first deemed to be safe to myself and to others. I can’t rightly say why I did it in the first place, especially after hearing about what happened to a student at my high school.
Apparently, last week one of the ichinensei was riding in the rain and lost control, hitting a wall with such force that he died of the injuries. I don’t want to ever put anyone through the pain that his family must be feeling right now.

Auto-formatting is now my Bitch (kind of)

I finally found an easy way to get rid of auto-formatting in Word (and I would have saved myself much frustration had I taken the time to look up an answer before). I hate how Word automatically changes things automatically, like adding indentations, bullets, capitalizing letters, and makes other adjustments when I’m trying to get the lay out looking exactly as I want it to. Sometimes it makes the change exactly how I want for a split second before making another automatic change, as if it were mocking me. Well, I have found the hammer with which to smite this cunning foe down with:
All you have to do is to select the part of the document that you want to work on and then hit “Ctrl + Shift + n” and it will get rid of all of the nonsense. It’s so simple, but it is going to save me a lot of wasted time because, even if you turn off auto-formatting, Word sometimes will auto-format anyways. Now when that happens, I can strip the document down to no formatting in seconds.
The feeling that I got when I discovered “Ctrl + Shift + n” reminds me of the time that I found out the reason that my typing in the middle of a body of text was eating the other letters in front of it was the result of the insert function being switched on. Prior to learning about how ?insert? worked, I had to type any corrections on another document and paste them into the body of the text.
Yet despite how much I think I know about Word, I still find it a tedious process to get the layout of some pages just the way I want it to look.

Little Coral Fish

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When I lived deep in the country side I longed to live in the big city. Now that I’m here, I can’t wait to get back out into nature. Isolation is a good thing in the right dose, as is being around people. This is not to say that I want to live in suburbia. The best situation would be to live in the country within a reasonable commute to civilization. Pretty much anything other than Ubuyama, I can hack.
I think the ideal set up would be to have a house in Hokkaido, one in Okinawa, and one in Nara so that I could alternate between being able to hike, eat good food, ski, fish, and snowboard with the changing of the seasons. If I ever get really rich and end up living over here, that’s what I’m going to do.