University of Pennsylvania (Robert)

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    By Hasselhoff
    Jul 26, '06 12:04 PM EST


    Work is still mostly the same. I just sit around playing with 3ds Max because they have nothing for me to do. I've just been practicing lighting and modeling tricks, doing online tutorials and such. It's good though because I wanted to practice, but never had the motivation to put the time into it.

    First I have a super nerd observation about how Nintendo DS is pure genius. Most shops are sold out of DS with no sign of restock while they are fully loaded with Sony PSP. I took mine on the commute to work a few times and its brilliance became perfectly clear when used in its natural environment, Japan. #1 The DS Lite is roughly the size of a Japanese novel and opens like a book. So this is a form factor already familiar to Japanese commuters. Also, the device protects itself with its clam shell design. Nintendo also opted for putting its software on cards, roughly the size of an SD card, but more robust. Unlike the PSP UMDs, they have no access time and are less prone to damage. #2 The system has one function (well, there is a web browser coming out) and that function is to play games. Simple, uncluttered. A large portion of the games are puzzle games and turn based strategy games. These types of games are perfect for shortening the perceived length of the daily commute and zoning out during ones lunch break. PSP is more focused on in depth games comparable to home consoles. Also popular on the DS are various brain challenge programs, language training, and cookbooks, all made possible through the addition of touch screen and voice recognition interfaces. #3 Ingenious is the sleep mode. Perfect! Simply close the shell and the system goes into sleep for up to a week. You open it again and you are right where you left off. When you use it on the train, the usefulness becomes so clear. You get to your stop, close the system and stick it in your pocket. Unlike PSP, you don't have to shut down, worry about hitting buttons while transferring trains, etc.

    Last Friday I ate at McDonalds for the first time. I simply couldn't get myself to go in, even though I wanted to see if there was a difference. The taste was nearly identical, just more fresh tasting. No freezer burn and the bun wasn't smashed. But really, the same, Made in a New Jersey factory flavor. The interesting part was ordering. I expected to struggle through for five minutes to get my crappy meal (I will explain the language thing later). I went to the counter and “Go kudasai” that's gaijin for “Number five please.” The girl looks back at the menu, then responds in flawless, accent-free English, “Do you want the set?” The rest of the process continued in that fashion. I imagine she grew up in the States at some point because her English was absolutely perfect. You run into English speakers in the strangest places. CEO of a company can't even say “nice to meet you”, but the guy at the convenience store is fluent...weird.

    On Saturday I went to Nara. Last year I went to see particular sites like Tōdai-ji, which houses one of the largest Buddhas in the world. This year I just went to see what I could see and had no particular goal in mind. The day was perfect. Not too hot and sunny. I found some cool back allies in the town, then made my way to Nara park. I just walked through the woods. There were beautiful moss covered lanterns and vermillion shrines all over the place. The deer were out in force wandering looking for hand outs. I eventually made it to Tōdai-ji, but it was closed by the time I got there. It was still impressive because its absolutely massive. I took about 260 photos.

    On Sunday I went to Engyo-ji atop Shosha-san. You take the JR Kobe line to Himeji, then a bus to the Mt. Shosha Ropeway which is a gondola that ascends the mountain. En route a woman said a bunch of stuff, of which all I could understand was “Toma Curusu” and “Rasata Samurai.” There were a few scenes of the movie filmed at the temple complex. When we got to the top, there was a light drizzle, but nothing to worry about. I began up the long path which is lined with small Buddhas, trees, rocks, moss, and other things not-Ōsaka. Along the way there were some minor buildings that were still cool. Then I came out of the trees and there is a temple on pillars rising from the side of the mountain, similar to Kyomizu-dera in Kyoto. Some 8 year-old kid came up and started talking to me. HewasborninJapanandlivedthereuntilhewasthree,butthenhemovedtoConnecticut. He'svisitingJapanforhissummervacation. The drizzle began to intensify, so I headed up to the temple. I took of my shoes and went inside. A few minutes later, the sky opened up and the rain came down like I haven't seen in a long time. But it was awesome. The rain cascaded of the tiled roof and echoed in the temple as it pounded the roof. The fog hung in the trees and everything looked so green against the grey of the sky.

    I attempted to wait out the rain for a while, but it was not letting up, so I made a run for it. After stopping in a small pavilion, I made it to the main temple/Tom Cruise temple. This was also very impressive. The rain only added to the whole experience with waterfalls forming all around the grounds. Although I had an umbrella I was soaked, but didn't care. It was truly worth it. The unfortunate side, is without a tripod and an assistant to hold my umbrella, I missed out on a lot of good photos, but still took almost 200.

    As I learn more about Japanese language thanks to Yamamori and Kumi, I start to notice the weird backwards incompatibility between English and Japanese. There are many books you can read on this stuff, so I'm just going to talk about some of my experiences. I think one of the biggest challenges with trying to learn Japanese is I can't read it. I can't increase my vocabulary by reading signs, and menus, etc like you can with French, German, or Spanish. I mean, I can pretty much read and understand the Spanish in El Croquis even though I haven't studied Spanish for 8+ years. There are three sets of Japanese characters, katakana, hiragana, and kanji. Katakana and hiragana make the individual sounds like ga ge, gi, go, gu etc. There are about 60 of these sounds, hiragana used for Japanese words, and katakana used for foreign words. So, if I just needed to learn these characters, ok, I can manage 120 characters. But oh no, then comes kanji, the Chinese characters which can have upwards of strokes. In order to read a newspaper, you need to know all of the kana, plus 2000-3000 kanji. I know crap like cat, dog, woman, person, mountain, mouth, river, forest. The result of these sort of definitive sounds is really an inability to learn and make new sounds. And in general, all consonants are followed by a vowel. It's a little more complicated, but you get the idea. Like I said, a character means a sound, you can't make new sounds. In English, as messy as it is, we can fairly easily add words from other languages. So words like coffee become koohhee, iced is aisu, CD is shidi, game is gemu and the list just goes on. But the thing is, no one can pronounce my name. It's either Bobu or Robaato. Omar is either Oma or Omaru. The funny thing is, Robato means “after the donkey.” Worse is Omaru means “bedpan.” Now this also becomes a very strange problem. The other day I was in a coffee shop and I ordered chocolate cake. The girl looked at me with total confusion. So I pointed to the cake in the case which also contained a sandwich and some lemon bars. She makes an expression of understanding and says “Chokoreto Keki.” Ok, so the word is 95% the same, and there was nothing else in the case that could be confused with “chocolate cake.” And this happens ALL the time. I think it's because so few Japanese have ever actually spoken to an English speaker, that when they encounter a gaijin, they really can't understand us. It's really, very strange, and never ceases to amuse me.

    It does drive me insane though how many gaijin MUTILATE Japanese words. Because Japanese words are for the most part very easy to pronounce (at least relatively accurately). The “kyo” in Kyoto and Tokyo is a single “syllable” so it's Kyo-to (hard to type). “O” in Osaka is an extended “Oh” and the “As” are both the same soft “A” sound. I heard people that have been here for extended amounts of time still saying “Key-yo-toe” “Toe-key-yo” “O-sack-a” “gee-sha/guy-sha” “Nair-ra.” It's like nails on a chalk board.

    I think I need to write a book because this is way too long and I have so much more that I was planning on writing about. Topics that didn't make it from this week's notes:
    -Yamamori procrastinating, eating “Crunky” (a candy) and me introducing her to crunk, Lil' Jon, and Dave Chappelle
    -Japanese excessive packaging
    -Crappy Muzak in Japanese shopping centers
    -How bad the driers in Japan suck. They have no vents, so they just super heat the water in your clothes, but nothing dries.
    -Infiltration of Chinatsu's social circle
    -Why I'm always tired
    -Japanese armored car guys.
    -Mushroom head lady at Lawson
    -Japanese marijuana culture
    -Proposal for a social science research study/simulation of Japanese patterns of movement in public transportation settings. Not some stupid emergent flocking crap like architects talk about, but a real actual study. That would just result in a translucent blob train station that is ever less efficient.
    -American and Japanese family name vs. given name usage. In my quadrant of floor 5, there are 84 employees, of which, 4 are Ikeda, 2 Kurita, 3 Maeda, 2 Tanaka, and I know 2 Kojyo, 2 Yamaguchi, and 2 Hiraoka.

    You'll just have to imagine what else I was going to say about each of these topics.



    • so where does Slayer tie into all this?

      Jul 26, 06 8:58 pm  · 

      It was raining really hard. All I could think about for some strange reason when the rain was pouring down was "RAINING BLOOOOOOOOD, FROM A LACERATED SKY!" And besides, when ISN'T Slayer appropriate?

      Jul 26, 06 10:10 pm  · 

      you are correct: Slayer is always appropriate, hence my Raining Blood ringtone.

      Jul 26, 06 10:21 pm  · 

      sounds familiar, robaato. went through all the same stuff, especially the language. it never realy gets much better. after you get past the basic kanji you suddenly realise that every character has 2 pronunciations, on e from the chinese, and the other from the original Japanese word that the Chinese got added onto. So then realise you can understand a tonne of words but have no idea how to pronounce them.

      and writing? forgetaboutit. i am completely and utterly lost without my computer to do the writing for me. which is totally embarassing.

      btw, the driers in the flats my partner and i are doing are all vented. and we import the equipment from germany. rent starts at about $5,000 a month though, and they are mostly intended for my own home we hang everything out to dry after a super spin-dry cycle. works beautifully, and saves enormous sums of money on the electric bill.

      Jul 27, 06 6:38 am  · 

      Yeah, I know most people hang dry. In the dorm it's tough because if it rains while you're at work or what have you, you're screwed. The apartments that we are designing at work all have a balcony.

      Yeah, like 本 which is hon or moto. That seems to be an easy one since it's either hon (book) or niHON, but in most other cases it's moto. But yeah, I know when you look at a list and one character has like five pronunciations.

      You might like this Jump. So I'm eating dinner with Kumi and showing off my mad hiragana skills and I wrote あいす. I know, it should be アイス but I only know some characters at this point. She leans over, and adds る to make あいする. I'm totally in trouble!

      Jul 27, 06 7:02 am  · 

      i know there was something funny in that last paragraph, but to me that reads: "scribbledy-scribble-scribbly-scribblethingy"

      my mother-in-law used to laugh at my lame attempts to learn korean.

      Jul 27, 06 2:48 pm  · 

      Ok, I'll let you in on the secret. It's not that good. I wrote aisu which is iced as in iced coffee. Adding -ru makes it aisuru which is the verb form of love. Ai is "love", suru is like... "to do."

      Jul 27, 06 8:51 pm  · 

      or 愛する。  愛=love.

      yup, big trouble.

      Jul 27, 06 8:55 pm  · 

      Yeah, if she's writing aisuru -> get out of the country!

      Jul 27, 06 10:32 pm  · 

      Hahaha. Thanks guys.
      I think maybe we are engaged. She sends me text messages in Japanese and sometimes I can:t read them.

      On another note, today at lunch, my miso soup had a shrimp in it. You didn:t eat the shrimp, it was just there for flavor or atmosphere. I don:t know, but it was sick looking. Made my skin crawl as if there were a giant roach in my food. It wasn't pink like a regular cooked shrimp, it was ochre brown and looked filthy. Needless to say, I didn:t eat my miso.

      Jul 28, 06 12:14 am  · 


      you should see the wee baked/dried shrimp my wife puts in the rise, the yakisoba, well just about anything, for her it is like pepper. no taste though, so am used to it. but looking at it sometimes it seems just plain wrong. i mean, i don't think i even SAW a shrimp til i moved to the east coast after high school.

      Jul 28, 06 12:34 am  · 

      If I'm thinking of the same thing as you, I've had those before. They are ok. Like you said, nothing really. I like shrimp, but I can't eat it if it has legs because I hate bugs and then they look like bugs. Well, basically they are ocean bugs, but yeah. If we ever have shrimp with legs at my parents' house, I make my mom remove them. If I touch them, I won't be able to eat it. Just a weird quirk.

      Jul 28, 06 12:41 am  · 

      hahahaha oh my, funny entry, and the comments also are great, i've been laughing for 15 mins at the office :D

      Jul 28, 06 6:40 am  · 

      so, how much am I going to have to pay you to import some DS games with you? I've heard great things about Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan!...

      Jul 28, 06 8:59 am  · 

      i'm a little behind on replying, but thanks for shedding some light on the joke 'Hoff. btw, i'm with jump and Appleseed...check your luggage before you come home.

      Keep up the great posts!

      Jul 28, 06 11:51 am  · 

      Can you play regular Nintendo games on the DS Lite? I lust after Double Dash and want to relive my Mario Bros glory days. I like the idea that it opens and closes like a book, smart smart, Nintendo! My laptop has that instant sleep function and I LOVE it--it makes an enormous difference in the ease of use.

      Also, my boyfriend is from Louisiana and utterly refuses to eat crawfish. He says they are nothing but cockroaches that live underwater. Once I had that mental image I could never go back.

      I love your analysis of language learning--it is fascinating. I never thought of how ass-backwards it would be to be attempting to learn a language you can't guess at either visually or verbally. Yikes!

      Jul 28, 06 2:56 pm  · 
      the cellardoor whore

      warrawaste of cyberspace

      '...a lifeless subject'

      also: Slayer, Lorca reversed: lacerated sky/asesinado por el cielo

      Jul 28, 06 4:09 pm  · 

      YOu can play GBA games on DS Lite. I think there are actually some "Vintage NES" GBA carts. I don't know. I have "New Super Mario Brothers." It's pretty old school with some new twists better graphics. It's fun.

      Jul 28, 06 9:21 pm  · 

      they also make pass through setups that let you load whatever software you want onto a flash-based GBA cart (which could be an emulator with all the old NES roms), which is then looped through to the DS port. according to the internet there is a decent homegrown DS scene.

      Jul 29, 06 9:29 am  · 

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