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    Friday, March 30, 2007

    BIG shoes, and a recommended radio station

    I record this here for my own reference and for other gaijin in Japan who suffer from the BIG feet problem - with the average Japanese foot being only 17cm in length it's tricky to get shoes in your size.

    Thankfully, Hikari Shoes, with branches in Shinjuku, Okachimachi and Kawasaki (I think), have shoes up to 35cm in length, so you will never need to cut the ends of your toes off again.

    I got myself a decent pair of shoes for the long hike as my walking boots are just too heavy. A bargain at 3000 yen.

    Whilst we're on the subject of recommendations, I'd like to mention a radio station that I came across thanks to an afternoon spent with Tom and Miyu. It has become my favourite music radio station ever, overnight.

    Groove Salad is a streaming station that you can easily listen to via iTunes - go to Radio > Ambient > Groove Salad on SomaFM. It's broadcast from a basement in San Francisco by a small group of dedicated DJs and producers. It's mainly funded by listener donations.

    Their homepage can be found at

    First semester results

    I've just received a postcard with my first semester results on from Rikkyo University. I'm happy to say, that out of 5 subjects, I scored between 90% and 100% for 3 of them, and between 80% and 89% for the other 2.

    Hurrah! Now there's just next week's level-placement test to deal with.

    Thursday, March 29, 2007


    The cherry blossom has arrived in Tokyo.

    Spot the train floating in the midst of the sakura

    Wednesday, March 28, 2007

    A very important song

    I think everyone should buy it.

    Best viewed here: Moon song

    But a shortened, low-quality version for people with external-link phobia, can be viewed here:

    Oh, the follow up to that reveals some terrible truths about the moon:

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007

    Student Loan


    Time taken to apply for next years student loan (worth almost £6000): 5 minutes, requiring no keys to be pressed, just 20 or so mouse clicks. All done.

    I love my LEA.

    Monday, March 26, 2007

    Proud to be No.1

    It was pointed out to me today that if you put the words "runny" "nose" and "sticky" into Google, you get about 107,000 results.

    And what comes in at Number One? Why, The Daily Mumble of course!

    Google search results for 'Runny Nose Sticky'

    Long Journey Home

    *Twinkle* and I are now on our way back to Tokyo from Kobe - by local train. We left our friend's apartment 3 hours ago. We'll arrive at home in about 8 hours time.

    We're not the only ones to have chosen this incredibly slow, but incredibly cheap way to back to the capital. At 1300 yen (£6) each, it costs a fraction of the price of a ticket on the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) - the cheapest ticket on that costing over 10 times what we've paid for this. This explains why this little three-carriage train is packed full to bursting , like the Yamanote line at rush hour, full of commuters making their way around central Tokyo. The man standing in just to the side of my seat has, over the past 20 minutes, moved further towards assuming the position of sitting on my lap backwards than is comfortable, but there's not much I can do about it. I find it ironic that, in a country where there respect for others is supposed to be highly valued, people are forced into playing twister in public every time they want to go somewhere on a train.

    Anyway, this train has reached the end of its short run. Changing trains at the next station, someone might be lucky enough to have my crotch in their face then...

    Saturday, March 24, 2007

    Osaka cafe

    I'm in the "new reborned Cafe Break", where they request that you "please enjoy your time in the pocket park in a city" (note that the cafe is not situated in a park. It's in an underground shopping mall). The sandwich menu lists all sorts of treats, including the "Daily Dog". I think I'll give that one a miss.

    Friday, March 23, 2007

    Back on track


    I'm back in the rounge again. Lots of naked legs around me, poking out from between the folds of their Yukatas.

    The HUGE TV at the front of the room is showing what I first thought was a second-rate imitation of Jurassic Park. However, having just caught a glimpse of the face of the main character, I realise that I was right, it is Jurassic Park - part 56. A dinosaur using a mobile phone? You have to be kidding! And hang on, why is this dinosaur that just smashed through a 4-metre high triple-reinforced dinosaur-proof fence now having problems getting into a wooden barn? And why are these Americans speaking Japanese? Surely, in such a stressful situation the last thing they'd be thinking about is practicing what they learned during last Monday night's Japanese language course.

    Yesterday I was on a real downer. It wasn't just yesterday though, it's been coming for a week or two. I was starting to get into that space where all I want to do is watch films, try and lose myself in other people's tragedies. Whilst films arewonderful, when it reaches the stage that one wants to watch a video every day, I believe one needs to take a step back and think why it is that one would rather live the lives of others rather than one's own.

    Luckily, I have with me Susan Jeffers' classic, "Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway", and this evening have devoured over half of it.

    It is tremendously empowering, and contains some great quotes.
    "Ships in harbor are safe - but that’s not what ships are built for."
    - John Shedd

    “The best way out is always through”
    - Helen Keller

    "Not a shred of evidence exists that life is serious!"
    - Jan Marshall
    I particularly like that final one. Brings it all back into perspective.

    The right to choose

    Capsule hotels, red umbrellas and green tea

    Maybe I'm becoming intolerant. Smoking, it really gets to me these days. I used to think of it as everyone's right to smoke if they wished to, and would just move out of a smokey environment if it was getting to me. But these days, sitting in the path of someone's clouds of exhaled smoke makes me feel like I'm lying on the pavement being vomited on. I actually get angry and give them dirty looks, like I do when people talk on the phone on the train. Perhaps I've been in Japan too long. I'm starting to live my whole life in "Manner Mode" ("Manner Mode" is the Japanese equivilent of 'silent mode' when talking about mobile phones in the UK).

    It's 1.34am and I'm in a fairly small room with 9 Japanese men. They're all smoking. It's all a case of what's more important - clean lungs tonight, or a keyboard to help me empty my head. I'm staying in Japan's oldest capsule hotel - established the year before I was born, 1977, and not refurbished since. There's hundreds of us packed in like sardines. Apart from the sick in the sink (which I bet is the remains of what I saw that completely drunk guy eating earlier) it's pretty clean and comfy. I'll tell you all about it on my next podcast.

    Despite being told at reception that there was no wireless network in the hotel, I have found one in the lounge, suitably named "rounge", as is the Japanese custom. There's another in the capsule corridor, named "rest". No spare powerpoints round here though, so I went down to Yodobashi Camera this afternoon and bought an extension lead. Cunningly connected it to the socket that the air-con was plugged into before - no-one seems to have noticed. Apart from the man who tripped over it that is.

    I watched the film "Babel" in my capsule this evening. The end theme tune makes me what to take a hold of this red umbrella that I sat below yesterday, and spin, spin, spin..

    There's the people from the Moroccon dessert looking on as the air ambulance flies in to their remote village, blasting sand in all directions. It's a different world.

    I recommend watching it without subtitles. And with a red umbrella.

    Spin, Spin, Spin.

    I'm in Osaka. I came here to visit my good friend Sadako. She's the friend who I first met in passing (for about 10 seconds, literally) in Switzerland, and then at tourist information office, and a train in Japan. It was only on that 3rd occasion that we realised we'd met twice before.

    Yesterday we went on a day trip to Uji, the home of Japanese green tea. There, I experienced my first ever proper tea-ceremony. Very formal, almost silent, kimono's, kettle over the fire that is sunk in a hold in the tatami floor. The most delicious green tea I have ever tasted. We met Japan's master tea-taster; he's often been in the news, on TV, in airline magazines etc, sharing his secrets on how to spot the perfect cuppa. He was a funny chap. I may include an extract of our conversation on a future podcast.

    Uji is also home to Byodoin temple, as seen on the back of every 10 yen coin. It was very impressive. The museum, which was constructed a few years back and cunningly buried in a big lump of soil so as to not interfere with the general feel of the 1000+ year old place-a-la-history, was also a delight to behold. Fantastic architecture.

    That umbrella is still spinning.

    It's telling me 'no'.

    I don't like Osaka much. It means disappointment. Disillusionment. The first time I came here, 7 years ago, I spent 2 days in a capsule hotel reading a book, only to be devastated at the end by the postscript - it had all been a work of fiction!

    Once again, I have spent the day reading in a capsule hotel (albeit one without used condoms under the mattress), and once again, I have had my dreams shattered.

    The initial shock was enough to see me wandering the streets pretty aimlessly, feeling lonely and depressed, as I was 7 years ago. Feeling that the ground had been pulled from beneath me. I went to the same places I went to before in search of comfort, and now, as then, I found none. I ate crap. I drank coca-cola. I could not understand what was being said around me. I felt nauseous in the crowd. I was not excited by Yodobashi Camera. I wanted to take the bullet train right back to Tokyo. I didn't want to be here.

    Things improved as the hours passed. I thought things through. I talked things through, and I found that perhaps it was not time yet to bury my dream.

    I'm tired now. The smokers have retired to their capsules. Its time I retired to mine.

    Sunday, March 18, 2007

    A Year in Japan - Episode 7 out now!

    In episode 7 of the Oscar-nominated A Year in Japan, Joseph brings to you the sounds of Japan. It's election time, so anyone who thinks they can enjoy a quiet day in the office has another thing coming. We also hear some sound-bytes from my favourite shoe-shop workers, and a Mac and PC battle it out in pursuit of the title "Worst Japanese language speaker".

    Theres some groovy feedback, and more tips for your life as a student in Japan.

    All this and more on the tremendously exciting 7th episode of A Year in Japan.

    Links to stuff I mention in the show:

    TBS News

    Hyperdia Train Timetable

    Mainichi News

    Japan Times

    Download Episode 07 now (it's 40 minutes of pure oooooohhh give me MORE!!)

    Advanced version (suitable for most computers and iPods etc. Features chapter markers, lots of photos, and hyperlinks)

    Basic MP3 version (suitable for wind-up gramaphones and other devices that refuse to play the advanced version. Audio only).

    More listening options here

    Feedback welcome: joseph[at-mark] (mp3 messages / videos also ok)
    Skype: josephtame

    Intrusive massage

    You can't walk more than 50 yards in Tokyo without being accosted by a masseur. They lurk under bridges, in alleyways, behind public toilet doors. I've had a few run-ins with them, the most memorable being in the gaijin districted of Roppongi. She was very cunning, fooling me into thinking that I was being led to a nice cheap restaurant, not a Tokyo-style massage parlour where they get up to all sorts.

    Anyway, there's now a whole new style of massage spreading like wildfire across Japan. It's potentially lethal; only suitable for masochists. However, if you're a foreigner, unable to read the warning signs on the front door, you're in for a shock.

    Everything will seem fine at first. You know, a good shoulder rub and all that.

    And then suddenly, you won't know what's hit you. The pain will be intense as the masseur forces her fingers deep into your flesh, right up to her knuckles. Wiggles them around inside your body - you want to scream, but the pain is too much.

    It can be lethal. You have been warned.

    As can be seen from this photo, there is also a risk that you'll lose your head.

    Blue Tokyo Skies

    I'm quite fond of these two photos. They're quite Tokyo-esque.

    The first is taken from the bridge outside Shinjuku south, looking down the road towards Government Building number 5 (or is it number 2?).

    The second is the 54-ish storey towers of Government Building number one, as reflected in the glass of Takashimaya Times Square.

    The kind of buildings that make you want to say RAAAAAAA and fly like an eagle.

    Where to sit in Japan

    Coming on a business trip to Japan? Here's some vital info for you.

    One must always position oneself according to one's rank when with a group of fellow business folks.

    From the top left, the following situations are described:

    1) In a meeting

    2) In an elevator

    3) In a train

    4) In a taxi

    5) In a car when the boss is driving

    Make sure you learn them all before you get here so you don't offend anyone.

    Thursday, March 15, 2007

    9.5 hours in the office

    Like a proper little salary man me. I spent 9.5 hours in the office today.

    Thankfully, I was assigned a task I quite like (making a website), and I was given free reign to do it however I liked (I opted for Dreamweaver 8 on my MacBook!).

    It was pretty satisfying really - basically a case of creating an English version of a section of the Oxfam Trailwalker website. It's a basic design - functional - but nonetheless I ran into some real problems with some fiddly bits of formatting which kept on screwing it all up.

    At the beginning of the day I was working from rough translations done by other staff - but by the end of the day, when everyone was running around trying to get everything done for tomorrow's deadline, it was a case of "Here's a Japanese document, can you translate it into English and upload it please?" Thus, today I did my first bit of paid translation. In the past I've always been the proofreader - it was nice to be able to do it all myself without any problems with the language (although admittedly it was very simple stuff, and context told me a lot of what I needed to know).

    I'm glad to be able to help out - everyone's running round like headless chickens at the mo, there's so much preparation to do. And they're very nice people too, encouraging me to shout out the office window at the election candidates on the street below to tell them to shut up!

    If I was to put to one side the fact that I was working for Oxfam (for a worthwhile cause in a nice environment), I would have found my day as a salaryman incredibly depressing...

    *Twinkle* and I have a goal: to make £1500 a month in passive income by June 2008. This would mean that we can effectively "retire", as that's all we need to live on. Of course, in reality we won't retire, we'll just put our time into creating more business for our businesses, but it will be nice to know that we don't actually have to get up the next day if we don't want to. We can lie in bed all day and read about how to make amazing videos with Final Cut Pro, and what legal hoops we have to jump through to set up a charity organisation.

    Our current passive income, excluding interest on savings, is only about £300 per year (mainly advertising on TGW), so we have a fair way to go! But we'll get there. As long as we don't spend too much time in the office.

    Anyway, my head is pazazzed, so I'd better shut down. *Twinkle*'s away for a couple of nights with her work colleagues (soon to be EX-work colleagues!), so it's mightily quiet round here!


    P.s. Father update: The doctors can't seem to make their minds up what to do. They couldn't complete yesterday's test as the thing they stuck in him to investigate his innards started to damage the artery wall! They say it'll repair itself in a couple of weeks... In the meantime they might try and go in through his arm. Ouch.

    I've been learning about free radicals lately. Scary stuff. I didn't know that doing sports actually increases your free-radical production - not that that's an excuse not to exercise! I've also been noticing how many people smoke in Japan. And they say suicide is painless. Not when it comes in the form of a long, drawn-out case of death by cancer.

    Hmm, what a jolly thought.

    Tuesday, March 13, 2007

    Hit me up!!

    I just got the following message via a university mailing list that the international circle I'm a member of uses.
    "Now, im planning to go bowling on 3/22. tha fee is about\1000. Can you join me?
    if you are interested in, hit me up!!"

    "Hit me up"?! Suggestions on what they want me to do to them welcome.

    Almost as good as these gems from the menu of a restaurant we dined at on Sunday.

    I've never thought about being ramen (Japanese noodles), but I suppose it would make a change from this human thing...

    Emergency Landing

    Wow, I just saw a video that almost made me cry.

    It happened this just a few hours ago when a plane bound for Kochi (Japan) had to make an emergency landing without its front landing gear. The incident was broadcast live on Japanese TV: Real Player Video

    (If that link doesn't work, go to and check the box below the picture of the plane, then scroll to bottom, select your preferred player, and then click on the button next to "3". This will only be there for a matter of hours.


    Those of you who know my father would I'm sure appreciate being informed that he is currently enjoying the amazing menu they have at the Hereford General Hospital. It seems his unstable angina has returned, and thus has been taken in for an angiogram thingy where they inject radioactive dye into his veins and watch it make its way around his body, the idea being that it shows up which artery is blocked.

    Of course it depends on the results (which should be known by Wednesday evening GMT), but the most likely outcome is that he will have a stent fitted - a thing to open up the blocked artery. It's not that serious an operation when compared with the quad bypass he had a few years back, but none the less, a bit more serious than, say, a day at Disneyland.

    So yes, your thoughts would be appreciated, directed towards Hereford General County Hospital, which is about 3 hours West of London and north a bit.

    I thank you.

    Sunday, March 11, 2007

    Which Edition Would You Like Sir?


    Wow. What a weekend.

    You know what, I went to a talk tonight by Robert Kiyosaki's interpreter (Robert Kiyosaki being the author of the No.1 Best Sellers Rich Dad Poor Dad (1 & 2), and I understood almost everything that was said. Bloody hell I thought, this university thing is really working. My speaking can be technically classified as shite, but my listening is really improving. Hhm, the gulf between the two is unbelievable. It's only natural. Just look at Japanese people who teach English in Japan. They can't speak a bloomin word. The acquisition of the new mic has encouraged me to commit more vocab and grammar to iPod, and I've met soooooo many people recently, it's really been great.

    I'm really trying so damn hard to overcome my fears. It's a desperate fight. Whether it's kanji, grammar, or business, if I don't beat these bastards inside me I will not achieve all I want to achieve. I do still want to graduate with a First, no matter how many other things I want to do this year.

    I think finding the right balance is possibly the most difficult challenge I face, and that's something that I really want to work on. Time management, I will study it. I believe it's a skill that can be learnt. As soon as I've finished all the other damn books.


    Thursday, March 08, 2007

    Another part time job!

    Caw blimey gov I've got another part time job! Totally flexible, in that I can work pretty much whatever hours I want, pay not that bad, but most importantly, in a nice environment and for a good cause: in the Oxfam Japan Office, helping with the preparation for the 100km Trailwalker hike!

    This is jolly good news, as money has been somewhat problematic of late. Although, having said that, I sold a book on Amazon today for £60! Mind you, it is a fantastic book, and currently out of print, so not all that surprising. And I provide excellent service, what with international delivery guaranteed within 7 days of the order being placed. Certainly beats the 3-6 weeks Amazon offer.

    I note that someone in Sheffield has put their copy of Heisig's Remembering the Kanji Vol 1 on Amazon for £70. A month ago I would have said they wouldn't have a chance, but having seen several books by that author being sold for astronomical prices of late I wouldn't be all that surprised.

    We're getting a food processor tomorrow. I've missed having one, used to use it a lot in Sheffield. Very handy for soup, and cakes - I can now make light banana cakes, not just ones that have lead weights embedded in them.

    I made the silly mistake of leaning my head forward in the Oxfam office tonight (post one-day Oxfam shop meeting) - out came the fluid! There was me thinking I'd drained the lot. Most embarrassing.

    *Twinkle* made a serious decision at the weekend. Today she's acted on it. I am nervously awaiting the results. No messages, no phone calls. No news is good news?

    Anyway, we're about to arrive at my station now, so I'd best be off.


    There's no escaping the bastards. Tesco Jam in my local supermarket.

    Choosing to Opt Out

    Today, *Twinkle* is handing in her notice at the company she's been working at since January. It's one of Japan's largest advertising companies, and its name looks great on a CV.

    There's just one problem with this company: it overworks its employees. Yesterday was not atypical: she left the house at 8am, and got home just after midnight. It's not surprising then that incidents of karoushi (death through overwork) have occurred there.

    Whilst the rat-race mentality is strong in much of the Western world, it is even stronger in Japan. University students spend much of their final two years looking for post-grad jobs, neglecting their studies for the sake of their future careers. It's no wonder they put so little effort into their studies - university offers them the vital break that they need from the stress that is pre-uni entrance exams and post-uni work hell. It seems that the majority of my Japanese university friends simply take it as a given that the thing to do, post-graduation, is to get a job with a respected company (any will do, although international corporations seem to be favoured), and work their arses off until they can afford the down payment on a rabbit hutch.

    Whilst the 'job for life' is now pretty much a thing of the past, there is still a strong desire amongst young people to work for a 'good' (a.k.a. large) company, a company that will become their family, to the extent that they will all go on holiday together, staying in the holiday homes owned by the company.

    When they begin work their wage is normally pretty shoddy, but if they stay there ten years or so they might be able to make a living. Thankfully, this seniority wage system is on the way out as competition from abroad chisels away at the power of industry cartels. There's annual bonuses too, which people tend to think of as just that, 'bonuses', whereas in fact they are nothing more than withheld pay. Look at *Twinkle*'s company and you might think they are very generous: her salary is about 20% higher than the average starting wage. She gets all her expenses paid, is able to take quite a bit of paid holiday ...and is given £50 to buy a new bag!

    Who would resign from a job like that? Someone who's figured out that when one adds all of this up and divides it by the ridiculous number of hours they have to work, they get little more than the shift-manager at a fast food restaurant, for a job that is far harder, and physically absolutely exhausting.

    Ok, so what if she stayed there for a few more years? Let's look at her boss as an example. Does he work fewer hours? Certainly not. Does he earn more money? Yes, he does, but is he getting his fair share for the amount of work he's putting in? Well, our figures show that he generates £800,000 of business for his company every year. His share of that? £30,000. Doesn't that strike you as slightly odd?

    I look at that situation, and I think, "Why is he selling his time at such a low rate when he is clearly worth much more?" Imagine if he put all his energy and expertise into his own business! Ok, so he might not be able to generate £800,000, but I'm sure he'd be better off than he is at present. Not just financially, (and of course at the end of the day if money was all he was concerned about he'd be destined for failure), but in terms of satisfaction, in terms of his sense of achievement, in terms of the emotional rewards that achieving one's dreams brings.

    *Twinkle* and I very much want to become business owners, in order that we may have a passive income that will enable us to achieve our other goals. The list includes my using photos, videos, words and technology to make a positive impact upon people's lives, to generate a lot of money for charity, to have the ability to make large numbers of people aware of their impact upon the environment and the necessity for change, to have the ability to empower people to make the changes that they wish to make, and to improve people's health, both here, and in places where they lack even clean drinking water.

    In order to achieve these dreams (in the words of Jim Rohn), "You've got to work harder on yourself than you do on your job!"

    *Twinkle*'s current job is not allowing her to work on herself as much as she would like to. It is so exhausting that at the end of the day she has so little energy that she can barely talk, let alone read a book, or work on our own businesses. Yes, she has learned quite a lot these past few months, but the price has been sky high. It is simply not worth it. The rat race mentality would tell her to keep at it for a few years, until she's promoted, until her salary goes up - then she'll be happy as we'll be able to move into a bigger house bla bla bla. The rat race mentality would tell her that quitting her job is a sign of failure, that she hasn't been able to keep up with the big boys, that this will look very bad on her CV.

    But these are industry-generated beliefs whose sole purpose is to ensure that the masses do not wake up to the reality of the poor treatment they are receiving. It's the Matrix all over again.

    If we are to succeed in life, success in this case being defined as the achievement of dreams, then it is vital that we take control. We must take the red pill. The system *Twinkle* bought into at the beginning of this year is detrimental to our progress, thus, she is opting out.

    I must say I'm so happy to have found someone so like-minded. I don't recall debating any of this in the few weeks of negotiations leading up to our first kiss (!), so it's all come as a very nice surprise.

    Now, if I can just get this university degree out of the way I can get on with things.


    Wednesday, March 07, 2007

    A runny nose

    I'm currently enjoying a bizarre 'medical condition'. It all started about four days ago. I was in bed, almost asleep, but still in that phase of trying to find a comfy position.

    It was whilst I was turning over that I felt a bizarre sensation in my back of my nose. It felt a bit like I was underwater, most odd.

    Still, I thought nothing of it until the following day when I went to bed. I lay down, and turned my head to the side. All of a sudden, a great torrent of fluid came pouring out of my nose, completely unexpected. I didn't have a cold, and this was too runny to be snot - it was just a kind of very sticky yellow water.

    The same thing has now happened for the past three nights. When I go to bed, lye down, and turn my head to the left, this sticky water comes pouring out of my nose. It doesn't smell of anything, it's just sticky, and yellow, but really doesn't fit into conventional definitions of snot.

    I was wondering if maybe this is cerebral fluid that has escaped from my forever-expanding brain - after all, it always happens at bed time, just after I've been reading my book.

    Where on earth is this stuff coming from, and what is it?

    Any suggestions warmly welcomed.

    p.s. mother and baby doing very well.

    [EDIT 2 (has replaced previous edit)]

    Having consulted with my GP in Sheffield, and spoken to NHS direct, it seems unlikely that this is a case of a CSF leak, as I have no other symptoms. Whilst the stuff coming out of my nose does fit the description of Cerebralspinal fluid, (very runny, and straw-coloured), I don't have a headache, I have not sustained any blows to the 'ed of late, and overall I feel pretty well.

    So that's all jolly good.

    I love Skype. I don't know what I'd do without it.

    [EDIT 3]

    It's great when one of your best friends is a GP. Thing is, the folks at NHS Direct and all that are too busy trying not to get sued to give you honest advice. Far better to call someone who you know cares about you, and who is very clever. I'm so glad she decided to do 7 years of training on my behalf.

    She reminded me of those occasions when you go swimming in the sea, and then have about 2 liters pouring out of your nose every day for a few days. Well, apart from the sea bit, this is entirely consistent with that. Basically a big build-up of fluid in the sinuses. Must stop snorting hot-water bottles.

    Tuesday, March 06, 2007

    I'm an uncle again!!

    CONGRATS to my clever little sis and her fella on the birth of their third little boy, this one also born in the bathroom at home, just like the first two.

    Dad is delighted, as this means he can now use his "Royal Flush" joke!

    Typical of Jessie, when I phoned her a few minutes ago, less than three hours after the birth, she wasn't at home - she'd gone out shopping!!!

    Monday, March 05, 2007

    A Year in Japan - Episode 06 out now!

    In Episode 6 of the podcast that has just won the Joseph Tame Award for the Joseph in Japan who has done the most podcasts today, we hear all about volunteering in Japan, and why it is such a good idea for students on their year abroad.

    There's also the latest gossip from the Ministry elevators, (or not as the case may be), and a story about a seatbelt. I know, I can hardly contain my excitement either.

    Download Episode 06 now (it's 28 minutes of pure sex-in-a-voice)

    Advanced version (suitable for most computers and iPods etc. Features chapter markers, lots of photos, and hyperlinks)

    Basic MP3 version (suitable for wind-up gramaphones and other devices that refuse to play the advanced version. Audio only).

    More listening options here

    Feedback welcome: joseph[at-mark] (mp3 messages / videos also ok)
    Skype: josephtame

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    Sunday, March 04, 2007

    One Day Oxfam Shop - A Great Success!

    Wow! What a great day, it was REALLY successful! Thank you so much to everyone who volunteered, and to all of you who came a long and bought something!

    Special thanks to Paul, owner of Heaven's Door, for making it all possible.

    I'm not sure how much we raised yet - watch this space for more info!

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    Friday, March 02, 2007

    One Day Oxfam Shop - Saturday 3rd March

    Hey folks, a bit late notice, but we have our fabulous One Day Oxfam Shop TOMORROW, from 1pm to 5pm at Heaven's Door, Shimo Kitazawa (10 mins on the Inokashira line from Shibuya / Kichijoji, OR the Odakyu line from Shinjuku).

    Check out our amazing website for directions and all.

    All money raised will be going to Oxfam Japan to help with their work in the Philippines where millions of people are still suffering from the devastating typhoon Durian that struck last November.


    Thursday, March 01, 2007

    Bums in the air chaps - It's Springtime!

    Oh yeah, smiley season tis on its way.

    The latest variety of plum to be developed, Symetriculus Photoshopius, has been specially bred to appear completely symetrical - a mirror reflection of itself. As you can see, the designers have done pretty well.

    Amazing what they can do with technology these days.

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    The most beautiful stairwell

    I saw this, and gasped.

    If you'd like to visit it, you'll find it on the 2nd mezzanine floor of Seibu Department store, Ikebukuro.

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    Technological Advances at Sheffield University

    That uni of ours in the UK seems to be undergoing a technological revolution this year.

    In 2004, the housing application process was fairly slow, full of forms to sign and useless bumph I didn't really want.

    This year, it has taken the form of two online forms, and two confirmation emails. I've paid my deposit, and set up my direct debit.

    I'm very happy in that I got my first choice of accommodation - Broad Lane Court, the very place I lived in my first year. I also spent quite a bit of time there last year, as that's where *Twinkle* was based. Judging by the flat and room number, I'm in the room directly below hers. This means that thankfully I'm not on the ground floor, so a repeat of 2005's burglary is unlikely. It does, however, mean that my window opens onto prostitute alley. Last year we could clearly hear negotiations taking place on the street below.

    The location is great, being just minutes from the Arts Tower, and, once it's opened (next month) the new library, or rather "Information Commons" (which I note from the webcam is actually looking quite complete, unlike on the map below where it's still a car park!)

    Note the Arts Tower, which contains the School of East Asian Studies, has now been modelled in 3D and added to Google Earth. Great stuff!

    Speaking of the Information Commons takes me onto my next surprise re. Sheffield Uni and technology - the new CILASS enterprise, which has been awarded government funding to further Inquiry Based Learning - including what I consider to be a fairly decent grant to my department to enable it to buy a bit of technology which will help it hop out of the 18th century. It also (hopefully) means the end to everyone fighting over the single OHP, and might even result in a heater for the teacher's office. The newspapers soaked in animal fat that they currently use really stink our classrooms out.

    Despite my being in Japan, I too am being brought into this project - we're going to use the latest Wiggy Wiggy Software to enable me to be present at a symposium held in the brand new Information Commons next month. I think I have to talk about podcasts and Mumbles or something (the quality of which will have to increase significantly if I'm not to be too embarrassed to talk about it on the day). Basically, the idea is, is that you can't get more Inquiry Based Learning than through a Year Abroad! Also, despite the technology having been around for donkeys years, symposiums at which people are present via live Wiggy Wiggy link from the other side of the world still sound quite exciting for us mere mortals.

    Ah, but there's more! Look what they have in store for future Year Abroad students!

    Another amazing happening for the School of East Asian Studies this year has been the successful bid for £4 million of government funding, which has resulted in the establishment of the White Rose East Asia Centre in partnership with Leeds Uni. And there was me getting the impression that our department was suffering from a lack of investment. Ok, so from what I understand the WREAC is a separate entity from SEAS itself, but no doubt SEAS will benefit from the golden glow of its rich sister. Who knows, the lecturers might even be able to stop having to work in bars at weekends to supplement their incomes.

    Oh, one other bit of news from Sheffield which I may have already mentioned, *Twinkle* and I put in a successful bid for a bit of money to help us start up a little business. It's not much, but it'll pay our basic expenses for the first year, which is great! Thank you Sheffield University!

    Anyway, best get on.

    xxx love joseph