Archive for September, 2007

Mystery Fanta

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

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

I am an Irish

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

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 The OED does not say that the noun is obsolete just that the use has changed and I don’t know the conventions of the dictionary well enough to know how long it takes an entry to move from former use to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.

Floundering In A Sea of Verb Forms and Kanji

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

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?

Japanese Milk Men?

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

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.

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

Friday, September 14th, 2007

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

Friday, September 14th, 2007

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.


Thursday, September 13th, 2007


Technology Still Failing

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

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

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

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

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

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.