Mystery Fanta

I asked Marty to get me something fizzy to drink when he was out this evening. He came back with mystery fanta. It says on the bottle that it is flavoured with two different fruits and that I’m supposed to guess what they are! I haven’t been able to work out what flavour it is – though I think one of the fruits might be strawberry.

Mystery Fanta

2 Responses to “Mystery Fanta”

  1. Simon Says:

    The clue is in the writing underneath the big question mark – the drink actually contains no fruit whatsoever.

  2. Geoff! Says:

    Prune? Yum!

I am an Irish

There is an English phrase that keeps appearing in my Japanese textbooks that drives me mad. And it came up again today. “I am a Japanese.” The first time I saw this I told my teacher I believed that it was wrong and that it should really be “I am Japanese“. She countered by saying “I am an American“. After a bit of thought, and chatting to some friends, I realised that the word “American” is both a noun and an adjective whereas I believed that the word “Japanese“, used in this context, is an adjective.

When we saw it again today, in a respected textbook, my teacher told me that she believed it was correct and that if a student writes “I am Japanese” in an exam it would be considered a wrong answer.

It is difficult for me to convince my teacher that I am correct about something in English. I don’t have any qualifications in the English Language and although I am well educated I am aware that I speak a dialect of English and that I could indeed be wrong about the use of a particular word. The other problem is that I rarely think of English sentences in grammatical terms and sometimes when I know that something is wrong I find it very hard to articulate why. So, we looked the word up in a dictionary and it said that “Japanese” is both a noun and an adjective. But since I wasn’t on the ball I didn’t quickly realise that the noun form means “the language of Japan” and may not refer to a native of Japan. I told my teacher that I would research it further.

Since I have just started studying for an English degree I have access to the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). What I discovered made me feel much better about the word. Japanese, meaning native of Japan, was formerly a noun but now it is used as an adjective. What I can’t find out is when it changed from being a noun. At least now I know that in modern English it is correct to say “I am Japanese“. What I don’t know is whether it is also correct to say “I am a Japanese“. The OED does not say that the noun is obsolete just that the use has changed and I don’t know the conventions of the dictionary well enough to know how long it takes an entry to move from former use to obsolete use.

However, it is not correct to say “I am an Irish.” as the word meaning native of Ireland is an adjective and I can’t find any reference of it ever having been a noun when used in that context.

2 Responses to “I am an Irish”

  1. Norwin Says:

    “I am an eejit”, if that’s any help 🙂

  2. karen Says:

    Well yes the word “eejit” is a noun so there nothing wrong with your grammar. In addition, you are semantically correct and factually accurate 😉

    “Eejit” appears to be a word in the Anglo-Irish dialect that is derived from “Nidget”.

Floundering In A Sea of Verb Forms and Kanji

There are days when I feel as if I don’t know any Japanese (these are usually Thursdays as that’s when I have my last lesson of the week). I just can’t understand the words that my teacher speaks to me. Having one to one classes means that I can’t hide – there is no getting away from the fact that I can’t think of a single thing in Japanese to say in response to a question. Today, I was expected to conjugate verbs to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. I just smiled and pretended that I didn’t understand English at that point and then said that I wasn’t completely sure about the tune. My teacher doesn’t know the tune and I decided not to tell her that Yodobashi Camera use this as their main jingle.

I think I’m feeling down today as I thought I was nearly finished learning the kanji I need for the exam in December. But no, it seems I have lots more kanji to learn for this as about a third of the kanji I have learned so far won’t be on the test. I know that it’s more important to learn kanji than it is to learn a test syllabus but today that’s just head knowledge. It also explains why, when I tried to do a past paper, I knew so few of the words. I have been taught about nature and the countryside when the exam is full of things about shopping and travelling. I think I am being taught kanji in a similar way to school children and that some of the kanji are there because they’re used in family names. Why else would I need to know a variety of ways to describe fields, trees and rocks?

2 Responses to “Floundering In A Sea of Verb Forms and Kanji”

  1. Geoff! Says:

    Not even sure how you’d go about that… but I’d sure like to hear you try! (^_^)

    Of course, you could always go for a quick chorus of “bi-ccy, biccy-biccy biccy camera” instead!

  2. karen Says:

    Now that terrible jingle is stuck in my head! Mind you nothing is as bad as “Horse it inta ya Cynthia”.

Japanese Milk Men?

When I got back from shopping yesterday there was a Japanese man standing at my door patiently ringing the bell. I said hello and he jumped back startled as if he had just been spoken to by some sort of alien. And really he had. He should have been expecting an alien though as the name plate on the door would strongly indicate that I am not going to be Japanese. I don’t blame him though for looking startled and distressed as I had also considered hiding until he went away as I had spotted him whilst walking up the hill. It turns out that he was trying to sell milk delivery services.

I often joke with my language teacher about the words that have been imported into Japanese as they often seem like things that the Japanese should have their own word for. One of these was “milk”. When I asked my teacher if they hadn’t always had milk she quickly pointed out that they hadn’t. Cow milk wasn’t drank at all in Japan before the second World War.

I really wasn’t expecting there to be milk men in Japan but apparently they have had these for years. I also found it strange and I can’t imagine what milk would be like if you left it sitting outside someone’s house in the heat. But I was told that the Japanese get up really early in the morning and that the milk would just be sitting outside for a few minutes.

5 Responses to “Japanese Milk Men?”

  1. Tony Says:

    I think there’s a difference between “Milkmen” and “Milk Men”. The latter implies some sort of strange superhero types made entirely of milk. I was expecting a much more surreal post from that title 🙂

  2. Geoff Says:

    OK, does this blog handle Japanese characters?

    I presume he was trying to sell you “miruku” [ミルク] as opposed to “gyuunyuu” [牛乳], which is the word I’d come across before.

    Is there a subtle difference in usage or is it simply a case of style/modernity?

  3. karen Says:

    I meant to ask Ohata-sensei today but I forgot. I’m not really sure about the difference. I know, that in the grocery store, cartoons have the word 牛乳 but if you go into a restaurant they may well offer you ミルク for your tea or coffee.

  4. Endrew Says:

    “Cow milk wasn’t drank at all in Japan before the second World War.”

    Shouldn’t this be:

    Cow milk wasn’t drunk at all in Japan before the second World War.


  5. karen Says:

    This should indeed be “drunk” and not “drank” because I used the passive voice.

Virtual / Co-located Team Hybrids: Favouring those you work beside

I have just read another study that suggests yet again that if you work on a team that has members who are co-located and members who are in another geographical location that you will be more inclined to work with the ones who are in the same place as you. Fussell et. al. [1] write about using instant messenger as a means of communicating. They note that it’s much easier for people to schedule tasks when they are together and that, in knowledge based environments, the division of tasks is best done through spontaneous conversation in a co-located environment. However, they wanted to find out if using something like IM would facilitate working and scheduling of work between team mates.

I am not that interested in their observations about IM clients and how these can be improved but rather on the work habits of the teams they observed. Their findings suggested that when workers have multiple tasks to carry out that they will favour the face-to-face ones over the ones that need to be carried out remotely even if all the tasks are equally important. And when given two tasks of equal size and importance, one co-located and one remote, they will spend more than half their time on the co-located one and not leave adequate time to complete the remote one.

I keep reading papers that strongly suggests that it’s better to have a co-located team and if you have to have a virtual team all the members should be in different geographic locations. Hybrids of the two will always lead to divisions between the co-located members and the virtual members. How do you stop people from favouring team members they see and work with everyday over team members who are located in a different place or time zone that they may never have to meet in person? And if you can’t stop them from doing this how do you make it work to your advantage?

[1] I cannot find a copy of this paper that does not require an ACM Digital Library login

Fussell, Kiesler, Setlock, Scupelli. Effects of instant messaging on the management of multiple project trajectories. CHI 2004, 191-198.

Strange Fashions

Dominus wrote about Playboy yesterday. The thing I don’t understand about Playboy is how their logo has become such a huge fashion accessory among teens in the U.K. When I was visiting my mum last week I noticed a strange pink glow coming from an upstairs room. Upon further investigation I discovered that my little sister has had her room redecorated. The walls have been painted a glowing pink with stencilled Playboy logos in black. She has a Playboy bedspread, pillows, lamps and CD player. She wears Playboy jewellery and asked me, when she saw my nail art, if in Japan they can paint Playboy bunnies on your nails! I ran a search on Argos, the sort of place that my sister shops, and they have 109 different products displaying the Playboy logo. Hopefully she won’t have all of these when I next go to visit.

She has no concept of who Playboy are beyond the rabbit head logo and that there is some connection to pretty girls. She’s aware of the music video with Justin Timberlake and Nelly – but again that’s just girls looking pretty. Or at least that’s what she tells me.

I took a quick look at the financial report from the Playboy group and although their revenues are decreasing in some areas their Licensing Group revenues are increasing. In 2004 they reported revenue of $12.4 million for international licensing whereas in 2006 the figure was $22.8 million. So it would seem that it’s more than just my little sister who wants goods that display the Playboy logo.



Technology Still Failing

I don’t know what is going wrong with my computers today. My PC keeps breaking. Something is filling up the disk space causing my applications to all crash in a heap which is making it practically unusable. But I thought that this wouldn’t be too much of a problem as I could use my shiny still quite new Macbook. But no. It’s about as useful as a brick tonight as it no longer connects to the Internet.

I’m going to go and read a book.

Technology Fails Me

I haven’t been having a good day. I tried to do something in Facebook this morning and I kept getting an error message telling me that I had to join a high school network as I was under 18. Well, I’m not under 18 and as my correct date of birth is entered into Facebook I’m not sure why it thinks I am either. So, I sent a message to support and gave up trying to send messages via Facebook.

I then thought I would print out the details of my assignments and the papers I was trying to read today as I really don’t like reading PDFs on computer. But I got some sort of error that stopped my web browser from working and made it crash. After much messing around I eventually worked out that my computer can’t see the printer though it does appear to be on and working. So, no printing either.

Then my aggregator crashed.

I then thought I could try to sort out my October travel plans as I am planning on attending the Pittsburgh Perl Workshop but I keep getting error messages telling me that they can’t get a price for my itinerary and that I need to ring a support desk. After this happened with three separate airlines I just get the feeling that I’m not meant to leave Japan.

I’m not quite sure what I should try to do next but I think it will be something that doesn’t involve a computer.

A Time To Study

I’ve just read through the details of the first assignment for my English Language course. I’m really surprised by it. The assignment is in two halves. In the first half I have to make a post to a university forum about a word that is either an English dialect spoken word, a word that has recently changed meaning or a word that has become extinct. The bit that surprises me is the second half of the assignment. I am expected to post a response to one of the other student’s postings. In doing this I am supposed to display my understanding of the genre of academic online posting of messages including netiquette. I wonder what they’ll make of smileys…

Marty is already campaigning for me to write about the word “hacker”. My first thoughts drift towards the word “spam”. But I do think I’ll be avoiding writing about words in the Northern Irish dialect as I suspect most of my tutor group will do that.

Violent Weather

I’m hoping that Marty will bring dinner home with him tonight as I don’t fancy going out shopping during this storm. The storm is close and the lightning just hit something beside the apartment – not sure what though and I’m not going outside to find out.

The Ants are Winning

I was really impressed by the lack of insects in the apartment when I got back from YAPC. But this morning I discovered that underneath my Japanese books there was an army of them. Little black ants that don’t bother me unless they are on my table, or on my skin, or on my chairs. Actually I think they are bothering me now.

Marty was supposed to get rid of them weeks ago but he thinks that they are cute and talks about them “stomping around the apartment” as if this is a good thing. Today I’ve tried brushing them up, sucking them up with my Dyson, and washing the floor with some smelly detergent in the hope that they won’t like it. But still there seems to be the odd ant here and there.

One Response to “The Ants are Winning”

  1. Ack-ack-ack! - My alien ant farm Says:

    […] has discovered the army of ants rampaging through our apartment. I, for one, welcome our new insect […]

Will I Ever Learn To Cope With Jetlag?

I am in a strange limbo state: too tired to sleep and too tired to do anything useful. I tried reading email but I doubt I could provide anyone with a coherent response. I considered logging into Skype so that I could chat to some people but I can’t get my brain and my mouth to work together. My body is confused and I can’t work out whether I am hungry or thirsty as I just feel queasy.

I am horrified by the thought that within a month I am planning on taking another 12 hour plus flight. Hopefully in the next day or two I will start to forget how dreadful I feel at the minute.

Travelling Home

Watching my Macbook being tossed down a rolling ramp by harassed security staff makes me wish I was anywhere but Heathrow airport. Tony sent me a link to an article that claimed that travellers passing through Heathrow suffer from higher stress levels than fighter pilots, riot police and Formula 1 drivers. Since I travel a lot I try to do everything I can to make sure that I wouldn’t be stressed now. I stayed at an airport hotel last night as I couldn’t bear the thought of transferring through Heathrow. (Virgin had already posted an announcement apologising for the amount of delayed luggage as it sometimes takes up to three days for them to get luggage from connecting planes when they are supposed to have it within an hour.) I never wear clothes that require belts and I no longer carry any make-up or liquids. My shoes have laces and zips so that they are easy to slip on and off. And I make sure that I arrive at the airport at least 3 hours before my flight.

I was in quite good form today as I got up early and had a leisurely breakfast before leaving the hotel. The security queues were long but I wasn’t pulled out of the line for a random search so it didn’t bother me too much. I was stopped last week when travelling to Vienna and was made stand in one of those machines that takes multiple x-rays of your body. If you thought security was annoying before wait until they make you stand on an x of the floor with your hands above your head as you try to understand the instructions required to get into the three positions they want.

I have started paying for internet access at airports as checking my email and being able to write in this blog help me to feel relaxed. And I have also been really lucky since I managed to find a seat to sit on. Terminal 3 is basically a large shopping centre and I can’t imagine that it has anywhere near enough seats for all the people who are walking through it. Now I just need to mentally prepare myself for sitting on a plane for 12 hours…

Making Me Smile

After a conference I like to read blog reactions. I haven’t come across anything about my actual talk but I did come across a comment about myself. And I must admit that being called “utterly lovely” has made my week if not my month.

YAPC::Europe 2007 - Making Announcements

This year, for the first time since Belfast, I had to be at a YAPC conference for the opening. I couldn’t afford to be a late as I had an announcement to make just after it began. I was surprised by how stressful I found this and if I have to do it again I am going to find the conference venue the evening before the event. I was also shocked that it was just as stressful to make a short announcement as it is to give a talk or tutorial. I always feel fine once I start speaking – which is just as well or I would never agree to speak in public again.

I was announcing, on behalf of the YEF Venue Committee, that next year’s conference will be in Copenhagen.