Hello World From Columbia


Hey everyone, just a quick hello from Columbia. This picture was from a few weeks ago – a party at Sarah’s house to celebrate the fact that we miss our peers so much (in a a good way of course). I’m still completely jealous that everyone is having amazing experiences overseas. I will certain be posting many videos and pictures come March when I arrive in Tokyo to enact my sweet revenge. Muhahahah!

We miss you guys, come back soon!

Nihongo Study Plan


I have a confession to make, I’m really not a fan of the book we are using to study Japanese – “Nissan’s Beginner Japanese – A Complete Beginning Course in Business Japanese”. When I began my self-study, I worked in a structured way to carefully learn the writing system first (sans Kanji), the basic grammar, and then proceeded to build up vocabulary. To me, learning a language is alot like building a house. You start with the foundation and work up – it makes sense with the way I think, in frameworks and structures.

Lacking in any sort of structure for grammar, this book is certainly motivating me to study and I think I have stumbled upon a way to use it’s random nature to my advantage. Though, certainly not for beginners who wish to really get to know the language, this book does have a redeeming value. In attempting to tame the mighty blue monolith, I’ve developed my own Nihongo study plan to sort through what I have been learning. It’s making the Nissan book much more digestable and enjoyable to work through.

So now, the updated nihongo study plan for me includes four aspects:

  • The Vocabulary Study List / Flash Cards – Every time I run into a word I do not know, I place in in a vocabulary list (using iFlash). This list gets reviewed between rounds of Wii tennis and is rewarded with many cups of coffee and sometimes beer.
  • The Kanji Breakdown List / Flash Cards – Starting from the first level of Kanji, I’ve begun storing the meanings, readings, and writing of basic kanji. This is being done independently of the material in the book. I have also added a few that I run into multiple times while plowing through the Nissan book. This is sometimes helpful in decoding what appears in the next list.
  • Superhard Suicide Kanji Recognition List – There are a many kanji our instructor feels are imperative to know for international business, most of which are culled from big blue. My favorite at this point is 再固形責任者 最高経営責任者 (arigtou saya-san) – the Japanese equivalent of CEO. The SSKR list is not meant to help understanding and is brute force memorization brain cycles. I’m not bothering learning any of the meanings of these Kanji individually as they distract from my base list of kanji.
  • Grammar Notes – Lastly, I’ve started keeping notes on verb conjugations and grammer rules which I will be compiling into a notebook for review. Reading this information in a linear fashion is much more helpful than using flashcards.

In addition, I’ve also gone back to later episodes of Yesjapan.com shows I downloaded when I was a member. I’m finding I’m understanding more at this point now, which is very encouraging. Hopefully this helps anyone who is using the Nissan book for their language instruction as well.

And so on that note, I’m off to go watch NHK television on Google Video fall asleep. おやすみなさい!

Finding an Apartment in Japan

Today’s post comes in video podcast form. I explore making finding an apartment in Tokyo easier with Google Earth and Rikaichan. I take a look at the logistical aspect of looking in an unfamiliar area and explore the use of a Firefox plug-in that makes life easier when reading Japanese.

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Show Notes:

Right Place

I could write an entire article about the wonders of the social bookmarking site del.icio.us, but I won’t at this point. Suffice it to say that by subscribing to this search for movies relating to Japan, I am frequently surprised at what arrives automatically in my iTunes. Today was no exception.

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This morning while drinking coffee and reviewing work email, I was treated to an excellent short film by Kosai Sekine called “Right Place“. As a musician, I’ve always loved working with independent filmmakers, but this short 5 minute film really struck a chord with me. Not only because of its Japanese-ness or its simple aesthetic, but because it is truly a great short film in many aspects. The concept is simple yet incredibly powerful, the cinematography stunning, beautifully done colors and editing, and easily digestible in five minutes.

I cannot say that I am any sort of film critic, but it was no surprise to find that “Right Place” won many awards include Young Director / Best Short Film at Cannes 2006, Diesel Film of the Festival at The Raindance Film Festival, and the Best Foreign Film Award at the New York City Short Film Festival.

If you are into indie films, you may really like this film and it’s director. Take a look at Right Place.


Japanese, Day One

I’m writing a quick entry this morning as we wait for our China Business Issues professor to arrive in class. Today is the first “official” day of Japanese language classes for Alex and I (as well as two other classmates who are interested in Japanese). Though I’ve learned some of the language through self-study and online resources, I’m still a bit nervous about learning the language in a classroom environment. It’s been nearly 14 years since I’ve attempted to learn a language in a classroom setting.

The text we are using is Nissan’s Business Japanese. It was written in the early 1990s I believe and its quite a strange way to learn Japanese. Most of the verb forms are introduced to the student in the polite present form, already conjugated. It’s throwing me a bit since I’ve attempted to learn the proper forms to begin with. I will most likely take it upon myself to re-study the three major verb forms and just continue to add to my vocabulary.

Hopefully, this will give me the opportunity to interact with more people on mixi.jp. I’ve missed writing in Japanese since there was not much time available last semester for language focus.

Slow and Meandering

Thank god for work…and get ready for random thoughts.

Having an IM conversation with a few friends this morning, I realized how slowly life is going by at this immediate point in time.

On a macro level, it seems as though life is speeding by. I woke up this morning reflecting on a project that I completed in 2004. 2004! That was nearly three years ago but I can remember as if it were last year.

However, on a micro level, its painfully slow at this point. Last semester was a whirlwind of classes and group work. This semester, in comparison, seems incredibly lacksidasical. I only have 2 classes that meet twice a week and language classes that also meet twice a week. I have been working more for work which is nice, but it still doesn’t fill up all the hours.

In the meantime, I’ve been catching up on small tasks and errands that have been prying at my sanity the last few months. I’ve also managed to, gasp, enjoy myself now and then. I saw Children of Men with Alex yesterday which was cool. Very disturbing yet well done movie. I enjoyed it immensely. I’m not sure what it got for reviews but I’m sure they were quite high. You are also now reading the words of a Wii tennis pro, achieving pro status in the Wii hours of the morning as I could not fall asleep.

This week I will be releasing a video episode on searching for apartments in Japan. Stay tuned…

IMBA 2006 Blogs

Hey everyone. I’m in the process of creating one site for all of the folks in the same program as us. Hopefully I can figure out how to aggregate all the feeds so we do not have to visit a dozen or so sites to keep track of everyone’s travels. More to come.

In the meantime, here are the actual links that I have.

  • Scott – Portuguese Track Class of 2008
  • Anand – Spanish Track Class of 2008
  • David – Global Tracel Class of 2008
  • Alex – Japanese Track Class of 2009
  • Adrian – Chinese Track Class of 2009 (photos)
  • Nanda – French Track Class of 2008
  • Senate Street – Samantha, Kavita, Angus, Dan, Tonisha and Alex
  • Kate – Spanish Track Class of 2008
  • Sara – French Track Class of 2008
  • Samantha – French Track Class of 2008
  • Josh and Kristen – Frenck Track Class of 2008
  • Tara – Spanish Track Class of 2008
  • Christopher – Japanese Track Class of 2008
  • Emily – French Track Class of 2008

If you know of others, please write them below and I’ll add them.

Happy 2007 From Amsterdam

It’s taken me a while to post anything from my recent trip to Europe, but I hope the wait was worth it. I apologize whole-heartedly but blame KLM completely for throwing me off a day. I think the day delay coming back from Europe threw off my entire schedule – the downfall of being organized is that any kinks make you a helpless quivering blob of inactivity. But alas, I digress.



My first impressions of Amsterdam where a bit unnerving. Just the rawness of the city can be a little unsettling. Being an American in Europe doesn’t put me completely at ease given recent events in the world. In addition, Europe in general seems to have a lack of explicit safety precautions. The trams and bikes will run you over if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is your own responsibility as a human to keep yourself alive. If you get crushed, your fault. I somewhat like that. Europe seems to enact a sort of species selection this way – evolution in action.

New Years Eve in Dam Square was incredible. (see video). I’ve experienced the human cattle herding of New York City’s Times Square event and, unlike this event, Amsterdam is completely different. Dam Square is blocked off from traffic and pedestrian traffic is completely unrestricted. You can drink, shoot off fireworks, or just generally cruise around the entire area. People are shooting off fireworks nearly constantly for the 24 preceeding hours up to the countdown. At the countdown, this amount nearly quadruples into explosions of light directly above your head.

After checking out most of the museums, taking a canal tour, and eating way more than I should have we finished our touring of the city after nearly 6 complete days. Though I think that such an extended period of time in this city is a bit overkill, I enjoyed every minute of it and had a great time. Photos are available here.

Bottom line: Amsterdam for the New Year, highly recommended. Enjoy the brief video.

Ready, Set, Abroad

After a long long 48-hour day of travel back home (yes, one day), I’m finally back on the right-coast. I’ve come back to messages, photos, funny voicemails, and great stories from my classmates who are now abroad in various countries – so much so that I can hardly remember where they were all going (sorry Tara). I hope to share mine as soon as I get the pictures and video off of my camera.

In catching up on some blog reading, I ran across an entry from my friend Adrian who summed up the semester quite nicely.

Some interesting facts that speak for our past in the program:
– our class mates total is 95
– unfortunately 4 of them left the class already
– 13 different nationalities: US, India, China, Bosnia, Germany, France, Belgium, Romania, Hungary, Peru, Mexico, Thailand, Barbados
– 9 different tracks that we will all be involved in (calculating Mexican and Spanish as two different ones)
– we took a total of 13 different classes, taught by 16 professors which come from 4+1 distinct countries (Explanation: India, US, Hong Kong, Bulgaria and Boston 🙂
– 25 credits worth of studies
– 9 physical text books, 1 online text book and millions of cases from our friends from Harvard
– attended 4 CEO speeches (Wachovia lectures)
– eat 2 times per week for free at the International House of Students right across the street
– we spent about $70 worth of parking tickets in 5 months
– estimated 264 bottles/cans of beer consumed by us
– estimated 76(Anand) and 23(Adrian) Starbucks caffeine drinks purchased
– 24,000 actual minutes spend together in class, paying attention

To read more from Adrian, visit here. It is amazing to consider what we have accomplished in such a short time. I will see Adrian in a few days but will miss many of the people who I may not see again in the next two years. I predict many trips around the world to satisfy the need to keep the bonds that we’ve created in the last 9 months. Good luck everyone and safe travels.