~/.diary schedule

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Priorities - A: high, B: medium, C: low; Status - _: unfinished, X: finished, C: cancelled, P: pending, o: in progress, >: delegated. Covey quadrants - Q1 & Q3: urgent, Q1 & Q2: important
B1XNote JM's snail mail address from E-Mail from Jan Michael Ibanez (TaskPool)
B2XReply from E-Mail from Joe Steeve (TaskPool)
B3XReply from E-Mail from Chiba Tomoko (TaskPool)
B4XReply from E-Mail from Federico Sevilla III (TaskPool)
B5XReply about Japanese from E-Mail from Damien Elmes (TaskPool)
B6XReply from E-Mail from Joseph Kiniry (PlannerModeMaintenance)
B7XWork on PlannerModeMaintenance from 2004.09.05
B8XReply to Sean from E-Mail from Sean Uy (SocialInteraction)
A1CWork on FurtherStudies from 2004.09.05
B9CCheck out EmacsWiki#RecentChanges from 2004.09.05
C1CCheck out Slashdot from 2004.09.07

3. prime-el

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(require 'prime-init)

2. Internet still on and off

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Internet access is still a little unreliable. I really think it's a misconfigured computer somewhere on the network. It's probably trying to act as a DHCP server. Next time Internet works, I should very quickly take down the network settings.

Today's morning session was all right. We talked about our dreams. Here's mine in Japanese (kanji version first, then kana):

私の将来の夢は教師になります。いつも教える予定です。28歳になったら、 博士になりたいです。そして本を書いたいです。コンピューターの教育をよく するつもりです。結婚しないかもしれません。仕事がたくさんあるんです。

わたし の しゅうらい の ゆめ は きょうし に なります。 いつも おしえる よてい です。 28さい に なったら、 はかせ に なりたい です。 そして ほん を かきたい です。 コンピューター の きょうきく を よく する つも り です。 けっこん しない かも しれません。 しごと が たくさん あるん です。

My dream is to become a teacher. I plan to teach forever. I'd like to have earned my doctorate and written a book by the time I turn 28. I want to improve computer science education. Because there's so much work to do, I might not get married. <laugh> (I included that bit because everyone else gave the age at which they'd like to be married, except for Phuc-san, as he already was.)

In the afternoon, we listed to a very informative lecture on Japan from a foreigner's point of view. I took copious notes.

After the lecture, I went to Jusco to buy laundry soap and a few other things.

Now I'm sorta done with my homework, although I haven't done the WBT yet.

flashcard.el rocks my world. I find I learn vocabulary much more effectively when I have electronic, randomized flashcards than when I just read through it on my own.

In other news, Michael Olson volunteered to maintain emacs-wiki. YAY! =D I know it's in capable hands, and I'm looking forward to seeing the cool things he'll do with it.

It's surprisingly early. Am I forgetting to do something? Hmm. No Internet yet, so I'll just organize my pictures.

Un. I burned myself a bit, ironing yesterday. It looks like one of Kathy's poi burns. Very small, on my upper arm...

Uh oh. My USB drive won't load. This isn't very good. No, this is not good at all. I guess I need to buy a flash drive in Akihabara as well...

1. Lecture on Japan from a foreigner's point of view (JapanTraining#2)

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The speaker has lived in Japan for 30 years, and can give us many valuable tips.

The first thing of going abroad is forget the negative things. It's very easy to say "don't do this" but to be able to appreciate the good is the most important thing. If you learn to appreciate the good of another country, it helps you improve. Always be positive. Always look for the good in a person. There is no 100% bad country or person. There's no 100% bad thing. If you look for the good thing, you'll be able to enjoy it.

Similar Asian customs. Example: taking shoes off. Not in Philippines, because of the Spanish influence, but in most Asian countries, they take their shoes off when they enter a house. Learn about the country. Learn how they think and behave. Then it's easy to ask them to train you.

Japanese people are very shy people. It's not that they don't trust you, but they just don't know how to react to you yet. When they don't know how to react to you, they put up a barrier. But once you get to know them, they're very very friendly and polite. The language itself is very polite. It's only when Japanese get angry or really don't like someone will they use impolite language or not say "please" or "thank you". Even within their own families, they are very polite.

If you're lost and you ask someone for directions and they don't know, they'll say they don't know. If they do know, they'll give you exact directions. If you don't understand, they'll take you there because they'd rather not feel guilty about you getting lost.

Japanese people have a complex for foreginers. If you talk to them in English and they don't understand or don't want to give you the wrong information, they'll just say "Wakarimasen, wakarimasen", and walk away. 30 years ago very few things were in English, so if you didn't know how to read or speak Japanese, you just got lost. Now more people speak English and the signs are in English. Young people are also going abread more. Foreigner-friendly. More used to foreigners in Japan.

They don't study English as a regular language. It's something they learn later on in school. Two years of kindergarten, 6 years of elementary school, 3 years of middle school, 3 years of high school. They don't learn English until after elementary school. Now there are television programs and parents want their kids to be bilingual, but basically most Japanese don't have any experience with English until middle school. In one week, they have four lessons. Many of the teachers aren't really used to English either. A lot of Japanese can read English, but if you talk to them, they don't have much practice for listening to English, and they aren't used to speaking. A lot of schools are trying to take native speakers as teachers, but that's still only a tiny fraction.

Japanese people like to do things perfectly. Either they do it well or they do not do it at all. They don't like to make mistakes, so they don't speak. High school students don't have conversation skills because they don't practice it in school. Best thing to do is to write down your question. Their reading ability is better than their speaking ability.

Japanese people love to go to foreign countries. It's a craze nowadays because it's cheaper to go abroad than to travel in Japan. They like to eat different kinds of food. They find it difficult to learn other languages. Japan is an island country. People on mainlands have an easier time picking up foreign languages because of the influx of people.

Japanese people love to eat. If you go to Tokyo, you'll find restaurants from each and every country. There's even a Ghana restaurant. Ethiopia, too! You can eat food from all over the world. But Japanese people's knowledge of the countries whose food they're eating is very little. It's not that they don't like it, but they learn very little about other countries in school. You talk to them about a foreign country, and they'll probably talk about the food. If you give them less well-known food, they get confused. One thing rather sad about Japan is that they're so progressive and they learn so much, but their ideas of other countries are so limited.

Japan is very systematically organized. The system of education is very nice. As soon as a baby is three months old, you'll get a card reminding you about injections, teeth examinations, and things like that. They're very thorough. They'll even tell you what kindergartens are in your locality. They make sure that all the children are well-education. Compulsory education is up to middle school. Free education to each and every Japanese child. 99% literacy. Practically everyone in Japan can read and write at least until middle school level. They make sure you go through middle school. When you register, automatically the information is sent to the ward office. They get all the information because the schools tie up with the ward office to keep track. So suppose someone decides not to go to school, one of the teachers will get in touch with that child's parent. And when the parent says no, someone from the ward office will get in touch with the family. They make sure all the children go to school. Education plays an important part.

But the education is very limited. We have a much wider general knowledge about different countries. In Japan, though, they're very... focused. Tunnelized. No exams, either. Shock, shock. Someone who's not studying can go from 1st grade to 6th grade with bad marks. You only have entrance exams for middle, high school and university, but no other exams. In other educational systems, the constant exams force us to remember. But in Japan, they study and forget, study and forget, study and forget. They're very good at cramming. They're good at concentrated study. They can remember really well, but only for a short while. This is the only thing I find a problem with the Japanese educational system, which is why I put my daughter in an international school.

Anayway, in the Japanese educational system, they teach discipline. They also teach a lot of things. For example, swimming. Every year they learn a new instrument. They're very musically oriented. They're also very nature-oriented. They can identify species. They're very well-focused on that kind of thing. They get educated in quite a lot of different things. On the whole, they know what they're taught, but they don't learn a lot of things on their own.

Japanese schools don't ask you for opinions. They don't have debates. Japanese people don't like arguments. We have our own opinions and we know how to express them. Japanese schools don't have debates or bantering. If you ask for an opinion, you won't get a straight answer. Forget about debating with a Japanese person. Japan moves because of strong leaders. People don't disagree. That's why Japan progresses quickly. If one person is in power, everyone just cooperates. They don't fight back. Connective way of thinking. They learn this from school days. That's why they work better collectively than individually. If you take a single Japanese person, he doesn't work very well. But if you take five in a team, they'll work very quickly.

There lies the difference, you know, with the Japanese way of thinking. I think they're the only nation with this kind of thinking. Even China is a bit individualistic. Today, if you don't give your own opinion in other countries, the teacher scolds you. In other countries, parents, teachers, other people ask us our opinions. In Japan, that's not the case. Whatever is in fashion, they prefer to do that. Of course, there are many Japanese who are very individualistic, and they're the ones who usually go abroad.

Private schools are almost 3x to 7x more expensive than public schools. Japan is a very expensive country. Housing is _very_ expensive in Japan. Fresh graduates get around 180,000 yen. Almost half of that would go to housing. (Places are usually measured by mats.) A tiny room with only a toilet, a small kitchen and some place to sleep (6-mat room) can cost anywhere from 70k to 100k. So that's why most fresh grads stay with their parents and save money so that they can go abroad or get married or do other things.

In Japan, you have to pay 2 months refundable deposit, 2 months non-refundable deposit, and 1 month estate fees. Then you pay the rent of one month. Which means you need 6 months rent cash on hand. After two years (or the termination of your contract), you have to pay one month for transaction fees. Any repairs that need to be made are subtracted from your deposit, so don't count on getting it back.

Food is also very expensive. 70% of the food is imported. Because it's imported, the prices are quite high. More than half of your salary goes into food. Eating out is expensive, too.

Transportation is very good. In Japan, the trains always work on time. Suppose a train is late. On the radio and the television, there'll be newsflashes. If the train is late, ticket collectors will silently give you a slip saying how late the train was. No stupid excuses. Traffic jams is something Japan is famous for, though. That's why Japanese people prefer to travel by train.

Punctuality is a very important aspect of Japanese people. They are very very particular about time. Make sure you're on time. That's very important. A man filed a case against the Shinkansen because he was there at exactly 6 and he couldn't board the train that was supposed to leave at 6. The court ruled that in order to leave at exactly 6, the train had to close its doors by 5:59, so the man lost the case. (Another anecdote about a train being delayed and an extra connecting train being available.)

Japanese people are very afraid to show their feelings. Be very careful about what you say.

Family: Tending toward nuclear. ... present generation are pretty lax. Behavior is also becoming very Westernized. Inside, they're still very Japanese.

When you have everything, then there's a sense of dissatisfaction. Things don't work very well. There are a lot more school dropouts now. A lot more juvenile delinquents now. Life is just handed to them on a platter. The juvenile rate has gone up, but not as much as in America. That's still a frightening thing for the teachers, as if that increases, that could destroy the Japan atmosphere. More and more Japanese people are divorcing. There are more and more single-parent families. That is again another problem that has brought on more juvenile delinquency.

In other countries, we have religion as a major part of our daily lives. In Japan, religion has no place in an ordinary person's life. It's only when they're born or when they die will they deal with religion. The latest trend is to get married in a church and in a white wedding gown. Even the churches will let you get married even if you're not Christian. It's a fashion to get married. Japanese girls dream about wearing white wedding gowns and being June brides and stuff like that. Fewer youngsters are choosing traditional-style weddings. After they get married, they might wear a kimono to the reception.

If you ask Japanese people what their religion is, a lot will say that they don't have a religion as such. Their holidays tend to be not religion-oriented. Nowadays, Japan is flooded with festivals from all over the world. For example, Halloween. Only 10-12% are Christian, but Christmas is a big money-making holiday. On Valentine's Day, The guys don't have the guts to tell the girls they like them, so the girls are the ones who give chocolates. Obligatory chocolates.

Japanese people can't just accept a gift and keep quiet about it. So if I receive gifts, I have to give something back. Okaishi. Not the same amount. Maybe around half. Very very common thing. Whenever you go to visit someone's house, you have to bring a gift. Very important. Take something to compensate for the cost of your dinner.

Last thing before we go for a break. In Japan, you have to be very careful about how you talk to people. Always use the title when you're speaking in Japanese. Honorific. Even for children. (-chan is an affectionate form of -san used for children and close people.) Never call people just by name. But superiors don't call you -san. They'll call you -kun. It's an affectionate way to say that I depend on you and you're part of the family of this office. In the workplace, -kun is okay for females too.

But if you're talking to someone outside your group, you don't use the honorific to refer to people in your group. When you're part of the family and you're addressing outsiders, you don't use -san. If you don't want to make a mistake, just always use -san. First impressions are very important.

*10 minutes break*

The second half of the lecture is about office. Today, I don't think many of you are going to be going out and dealing with so many families. The most important thing is the workplace. When you're working with people, how do you behave with people? You'll be there from around 8 in the morning to 5, 6, 7 in the evening. So you have to make sure that your behavior at work is very good.

The Japanese are not difficult. They have their way of thinking. It's also difficult for them to understand what we are doing as well. How do you work in Japan? Make sure you don't offend the people. You've come here to learn something. Someone is putting in effort to teach you something. Learn how to do things properly.

Japanese people at work are very punctual. If you have to be in your office by 9:00, most people will be in by 8:50 or 8:55. They will be in five to ten minutes before they have to be there for work. If you're late five minutes, sometimes you'll be considered half an hour late, depending on the company. Be very very careful. If you're working in a company where you have to change your clothes, be there at least fifteen minutes ahead so that you have enough time to change. This is one thing Japanese people are very very careful about. The biggest complaint Japanese have about Asian people is that they're very loose about time. You are the face they know. You have to make sure you don't leave a bad impression. Your behavior always has impact.

If my boss comes up to me and corrects my mistake, I might defend what I've done. In Japan, people will first say sorry. They'll put a stop to the complaint first, and then explore the reasons for the error. They're very quick to apologize. Saying sorry doesn't mean you're wrong. You're apologizing for the inconvenience that has been caused and the time wasted. That's a very important factor.

When you're here, what you do in your country doesn't matter. You're here to learn the Japanese way of doing things. If you want to share how you do it in your country, do that afterwards. When you say right away how it's done in your company, it's as if you're not listening. When you're here, keep both of your ears open. A lot of them won't really be able to speak English. Many of them will use interpreters. You'll have double the time wasted because the same thing is said over and over again. Learn, and then tell them what you can do and what you can't do. Listening is the most important part in Japan.

Attitude in the office. Japanese people are very reserved in the office. Japanese people will never sit on people's desks or look at other people's computers or touch other people's papers without permission. No no no no. People don't like it in Japan. They're very close about their own things. They don't like having people interfere in their personal lives.

In other countries, you might know a lot about your colleagues. But in Japan, business and family are separate. Very often, a wife might not have met her husband's colleagues. Office is office, house is house. Very distinctly separated. They don't have company picnics or family days. Very often people won't call up their spouses at the office, either. (Funny anecdote about being the only wife to call up the office.) Most people use the handphone (mobile phone) instead.

Japanese people work very late. After that, many go drinking with friends. People are hardly at home. Japanese families are losing out on all that. In our countries, families are a very important part, but in Japan... Salaryman mostly just work very late and then go eating and drinking afterwards.

Japanese people eat everything. They like to eat and they like to drink. If you don't eat something, warn them in advance. It's very embarrassing for them if they make a mistake. Japanese people love to drink, and they're very good drinkers. They can drink all these things and still not get drunk. If you're not used to drinking a lot, don't try to compete with them. Please be careful.

The other thing is that if you go out with Japanese... "Let's go for lunch." Japanese people are very particular about the way they spend money. You pay for your share. They will not borrow money from each other. It's very rare. If you're going out with people, make sure you buy your own ticket. At least make an effort.

Let's say you're going out. People eat different amounts of food and drink different totals. The bill is evenly divided. It doesn't matter if you only had very little, or someone else had a lot. This is a very common practice in Japan. Girls, boys, it doesn't matter. If you're invited out for dinner, they'll just divide it by the number of people. What you're paying for is that evening, enjoying the evening together... Please be careful about that.

If someone invites you and you don't really want to go, you should always have an excuse. Don't try to compete with them. You don't always have to go. You're here on training. You don't have to spoil your health or waste your money. If you fall sick here, insurance and all is very high. Hospital rates are very expensive. You are here to learn something. Enjoy yourself, but don't get carried away. Take care of your health. A lot of foreigners come here and go overboard, and they wind up sick. Please be careful about that.

In the offices, you'll learn a lot of things. You just have to be careful. Their English is not very good. But don't get angry. Sometimes the words they use aren't quite right. All of you are better at English than they are, so just overlook a lot of things. For example, they put "my" in front of everything. The word "my" means "your own". Whenever they want to say a possessive about something, they use "my". Don't get mixed up. Just be careful. A lot of foreigners get surprised by this "my" thing. In Japanese, it's very interesting. This is a very tricky thing.

Suppose I'm working with a company and I don't like my supervisor, what do I do? Usually, you'll talk to another colleague. You'd tell them you're having a problem. But you can never go above the person. Don't give the senior person a bad impression of your supervisor. Talk to some of your colleagues and find out how to make the situation better. If you go above your supervisor, the senior person will have to take a stern step. You've given that person a bad impression. Try to resolve things with people around you.

Anecdote about a person who was too intelligent for the person who was teaching him. He was ostracized by his colleagues. Don't show off. Be humble. Don't be overconfident. Remember that you're here to learn. Once you put them down, they will stop teaching you. Japanese people lose confidence very quickly.

You have to be very careful about how you behave on the streets. Japanese people are very coordinated. You will not find someone going the wrong way. You will not find people arguing or fighting either. They don't like to sit and argue, or doubt you. If you say something is bad, they take you at face value.

No one likes disturbances here. You can't argue or make a scene on the streets. Don't make anyone 'lose face'. You try not to show anyone you have a problem. Other people are very expressive, but in Japan, body language is kept to a minimum. We all show our emotions very easily. The Japanese people always have poker faces. You never know what they are thinking inside. They'd never show their true emotions.

It's very difficult to get close to Japanese people. They always keep a barrier. They're very reluctant. Be very careful about that.

Another problem a lot of foreigners have are their expections of house stays. Japanese people don't like to invite people to their house. They don't like their private lives exposed to people. They don't want you to meet their family or see their house because they don't want you to judge them. It's very common if they don't invite you over. Their houses are very small and cramped. Japanese people like to keep their friends and family separate. Don't be surprised if they don't take you home. If they invite you for dinner, please make sure you bring a small present.

If you don't really drink, tell them you can't drink before you go out. Very common practice is to pour other people's drinks. If you don't want to drink more, keep your glass full. You can pretend to sip.

If you have to leave a party early, give more than is necessary, and then just get your change the next day.

They'll ask you where you're from and how old you are, because their knowledge of English is limited. They'll also ask lots of questions about your country.

Taboo topics: where one lives, how old one is, opinions, politics, personal lives, religion...

Good topics: weather, food... Pho is a big thing in Tokyo. Suddenly Vietnamese noodles are in fashion.

Staple food: rice and fish. Fish is a big thing. After the war, more and more Japanese people started eating meat. Fish consumption is going down. Roasted, raw, whatever. Try it. It's not very hot or spicy, but it's quite delicious. They have a number of good dishes that you should try. Some people don't like the thought of eating raw fish, but don't think about it, and just eat it. Shabushabu and sukiyaki are alse very popular. Japanese food is very good. It's very healthy. You don't put on much weight, too.

Difference between "Let's go out someday" and "Let's go out tomorrow".

Look at the eyes of a person.

... Japan is a country that doesn't want foreigners to have its nationality.

They don't like bargaining.

Meetings have very little interaction. Very slow decision-makers because they have to reach consensus and they aren't used to thinking by themselves.

"Hai" also means "Yes, I understand what you're saying."

You have to learn white lies.

Over here, girls are much bolder than guys.

If people start talking to you first, it's all right.

Homestay: important thing: take a small present for the person you are going to stay with. It breaks the ice.

They're very particular about their kitchens. Don't overinsist. Try to find a balance.

Don't mix garbage. Segregate.

... Thank you!