Archive for May, 2010

What I’ve been up to.

May 31, 2010

Sorry for dropping off the radar for the past few weeks. I was hit with an impending test covering the first 13 chapters of my book, on the 12th, followed by the instigation of quizzes at the end of each chapter, and another test on the 28th. This has left me with very little free time once weekends are subtracted out for sailing (I know, I’ve been promising a post about that).

The first test didn’t go very well, I ran out of time on the vocabulary section, which kind of sucks because I consider vocabulary to be one of my stronger points. The grammar section was pretty bad for me as well, mostly because I don’t know it as well. I was pretty unhappy with my performance on the test, but at least I didn’t fail it.

The constant barrage of quizzes is killing me. The quizzes are supposedly on vocabulary, but really they cover a lot of grammar. The quizzes are scheduled at the end of class Tuesday, halfway through class Wednesday, and one halfway through class on Friday. This means that in five days we are covering three chapters and that I have to learn an entire chapter on Tuesday night. This has resulted in a lot of cramming to keep up the pace, which in turn means that even more time is spent on retaining the information. The average chapter has about 40 new words, so I’m learning 120 words a week. The flip side to this statistic is that I’m forgetting about 50 of those words.

In an effort to combat the loss of knowledge, I’ve installed a flash card program on my iPhone. I’m using AnkiMini, based on the Anki software, which does spaced repetition. I found the word list from each chapter of the book online, and loaded it into the software. I set this up just before Golden Week, and have been using it daily ever since. The problem is that I have to catch up with my class (currently on chapter 20), so I’ve been studying 80 cards a day (that’s 40 new words front and back). This isn’t as bad as you might think because I already know most of the words (thanks to the quizzes), and I typically end up with about 10 new (unknown) words per day. There is a side effect to this, however, the software will repeat words you don’t know more frequently than words you know, so after a few weeks of this, I was greeted today with a message stating that I will get 80 new words plus 245 reviews. That’s a lot of words, and it takes a lot of time to cover them (about 4 hours). The good news is that soon (in the next two days) I will run out of new cards as I finally catch up to chapter 20. Thus, I’ll only have to learn the new words from each chapter as they come along.

Finally, there was the test this last Friday. It was a similar experience to the last one, I ran out of time halfway through the vocabulary test, I would have made it father along, but I didn’t notice that one of the sections was “select words from a list of possibilities” instead of fill in the blank. That meant that I was wracking my brain trying to think of the correct word instead of just choosing from one of 10 choices. Here’s a tip to test makers: Put your selection box at the top of the question section, not at the bottom on the next page.

I was mostly able to finish the grammar section, though I had to guess the last few answers.

Lucky for me, having a history of running out of time on tests, I have a system. I do all of the high value questions first, and then choose fill in the blanks before multiple guess questions. This way, when I run out of time, I can frantically circle random answers and hope for a few bonus points.

This test had some new parts to it as well, there was a reading section and two listening sections. I figured that I would fail all of these because I’m a slow reader and my listening skills are also really bad. As it turned out, I did really well on the reading (because I read the questions and skimmed for the answers). The listening sections I had decent success at as well.

Going into this test, I was convinced that I was going to fail. During the review the day before my brain locked up and I couldn’t make sense of any of the questions. Consider this exchange between person A and person B:

A:  ____________
B: That sounds good.

Technically you could put anything into the blank, it could be a question or a statement, the options are unlimited. These questions drive me insane because the teacher will not accpet anything in the blank, the question assumes that person A is going to say something out of chapter 15 where the response to B makes sense. This is fine and all, but it drives me crazy because I’m supposed to forget all of the knowledge I have of the language except for what was covered in chapters 14-19. I mean, a native speaker of the language would fail this question unless they happened to guess correctly.

Coming out of the test I actually felt alright, I mean, sure I’m going to get a D on the test but I did better on the listening and reading than I thought, and I would have done better if I had more time.

At least one other student seemed to do as poorly as me. She seemed pretty down after the test. I’m sorry to say that it’s reassuring to me that someone else is also struggling. This reassurance is necessary because the two girls sitting on either side of me get perfect scores on everything. I have no idea how well the rest of the class is doing, I can only assume that they are doing better than me based on their performance when called on for class participation.



May 9, 2010

As requested, today I bring you more photos of the outdoors. These where taken during Golden Week, on two separate hikes.

The first hike was around the local reservoir/lake. This lake was created in 1968 to prevent flooding and to serve as a source of water for the town. The valley floor, now submerged, was used for town meetings, since the town was founded, as well as the home of the town’s sports arena.

According to legend, one of these meetings was to discuss the problem with the local dragon which was terrorizing the village. The black dragon, with reflective eyes, was reportedly causing crops to fail, preventing babies from being born, preventing marriages, and preventing the people from harvesting the crops. It was living on top of the near by mountain, Kurokamiyama (黒髪山), creating dark clouds around it by day and sneaking down into the village at night. The villagers agreed to send a letter to the local lord asking him to send soldiers to come and kill the monster.

Of course I had to go to the mountain to investigate myself, so we mounted a second expedition the next day.

Emi, at the top of the mountain, points to where a dragon may have flown. The lake in the previous photo can be seen in the distance.

The leader of the soldiers came up with a plan, they found an attractive maiden in the village and paid her to bait the dragon out of hiding. Then, when the monster appeared, the leader shot it in the eye with an arrow, killing it.

The name 黒髪山 translates to “black(kuro) hair(kami) mountain(yama)”. The word for god is also pronounced “kami” (though the kanji is different), which leads me to speculate that the origin of the legend comes from the name of the mountain.

The hike to the top of the mountain was fairly easy, although steep, with many stone steps along the trail. The last section of trail becomes quite technical, requiring scaling a rock face. There are ropes and chains installed to aid the climber; though one could pass without them, they give peace of mind to the no-so-surefooted. I wouldn’t recommend this last bit to the inexperienced (there is plenty to see, other than the top, so the hike isn’t a waste if you’re not feeling up for scaling a rocky cliff face), but then again, on our way down we passed a family with an 8 year old who was happily scrambling up the rocks. Maybe I’m just becoming less reckless in my old age. 😉

The hike around the lake was fairly easy, though we took the option of making a loop through another town, making a pretty good hike.

The weather on both days was warm and pleasant.

Golden Week

May 6, 2010

Golden Week has come to a close. This year, Golden Week fell between April 29th and May 5th, however, since the week is made up of individual holidays, not everyone got April 30th off. My school took this day off, but Emi’s company did not. This is probably the biggest holiday in Japan, most businesses close, and the expressways, trains, and airports are jammed up with people leaving town.

I spent the first day with Emi, the second day by myself doing geek stuff (because Emi had to work) two days sailing (more on this in a coming post) and the last three at Emi’s parent’s house. During this time, my iPhone’s blog software managed to lock up in a way that prevented me from posting, and I haven’t been able to get it working. The down side to this is that my photos are all locked up inside the device. So Photos will be forthcoming.

While at Emi’s parent’s house, we went on some fun hikes and explored her home town which was having it’s annual pottery sale. The town was founded long ago, back when the area was ruled by the Saga Clan, as a ceramics production area. Since then, they have produced beautiful plates, dishes, cups, bowels, and tiles with intricate artwork on them. Every year they hold a sale and people flock to the town get a good deal on well made pottery.

The last day of Golden Week was very warm, in fact, the news reported that it was the first tropical day of the year, one day earlier than last year, and that was 12 days earlier than they year before. The temperature and humidity climbed drastically, and being outside has become slightly uncomfortable. The tropical season is marked by lots of rain and really hot and humid weather rolling into the sumer. I’m not looking forward to it.
Anyway, I just wanted everyone to know that I’m alright and doing fine.