Perl in February

Gabor has been asking for volunteers to help out at a Perl stand at FOSDEM next year.  I attended FOSDEM in 2006 and I can’t remember hearing Perl mentioned at the conference.  This surprised me and I think it’s great that Gabor wants to change this.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend.  I’m going to be in America in January for Perl Oasis and I plan to stay until Frozen Perl, which happens to be the same weekend as FOSDEM.

Disney Hallowe'en

Marty and I spent a day at Disney Land so that we could watch the Hallowe’en parades.  He loves the silly songs and dances that the audience are taught.  I was impressed with the food.  We had a beautifully presented meal at the Blue Bayou restaurant.  My starter had a spider’s web drawn on the plate.  I don’t know what it was drawn with as it was so pretty I didn’t want to make a mess of it by eating it.

Scallop Starter

Scallop Starter

My dessert was shaped like a dragon. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it but the sweet potato cream was lovely, though I still think that food shouldn’t be purple.

Dragon Dessert

Dragon Dessert

2 Responses to “Disney Hallowe’en”

  1. Jessica Marie Says:

    I love the dragon. I don’t get it, but I love it.

  2. karen Says:

    I think it’s supposed to be Maleficent, from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, in her dragon form.

Another Day

After spending yesterday studying I was pleased that it’s still beautiful outside today. I was worried that it would be wet and grey and that I would get stuck inside. Instead I got to go out and cycle along the river. My joints are aching and I feel tired but I still enjoyed it. I love that there are flowers blooming. The air smells sweet and it would pass for spring except for the changing colours of the leaves.

The ride wasn’t completely peaceful.  Being foreign seems to attract strange people or maybe it’s the clothes I wear cycling…  I don’t know what it is, I just wish it would stop happening.  I don’t mind if people stare or if they are friendly and say “Hello”.  I do mind if they get really close to me when I’ve stopped at the traffic lights, leer, and then start asking questions.  I have no idea what the man was trying to say but he made me feel uncomfortable.  I kept saying that I couldn’t understand and wished that the lights would hurry up and change so I could cycle away.  He may have been saying something completely normal but I would have understood had he been trying to chat about the weather or ask me where I was from, which are the most likely things to be said to me by strangers when I’m out cycling.

This odd encounter made me wary of the other men moving towards me when I stopped to rest.  One did get close enough to say “Hello” but I just said “Hello” back and cycled away before he could attempt to engage me in conversation.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like that this area is friendly and that people smile and say “Hello” when I’m out.  It’s just sometimes people can be a bit creepy or invade my personal space.    Today was one of those days when I noticed.  I saw the group of young men who stopped to point and stare at me when I cycled past.  I noticed the man who followed me around the supermarket when I was getting my groceries, probably because I turned and nearly walked into him at one point.

Tokyo is such a packed city that at times you can’t avoid being crushed together with other people.  Today, when I was out along the river, I just wanted to be left alone to enjoy the fact that there are only a handful of people around.

Tuesday Morning

It was really beautiful today. I love the clear skies that follow storms. Just wish I could have gone out cycling instead of having to stay indoors and study Japanese. Hopefully it’s just as beautiful tomorrow.

View towards Mt. Fuji

View towards Mt. Fuji

4 Responses to “Tuesday Morning”

  1. christine hunter Says:

    Well as long as that view looks the same in about 9 months time.

  2. karen Says:

    It’s rare to have such a clear day in the summer. The autumn and winter are much better for seeing Fuji.

  3. Andrew Noble Says:

    I really love that view. Would make a nice photo for my wall – Maybe I’ll get out there some day 🙂

  4. karen Says:

    Yes, you can come and just sit on the balcony and stare at the city. The clear sky meant the views at night were amazing too – just couldn’t be bothered looking for my tripod to take night shots.


I’m fed up today.  I spent the morning at the hospital.  I thought I would feel better when my concerns about my thyroid function were confirmed.  But I don’t.  I now have proof that the tiredness, joint pains, weight gain, and brain fogginess are getting worse because my thyroid function is declining. What I don’t have is a cure.

It’s nearly a year  since I started taking medication for low thyroid function.  At the beginning I was told that it should be an easy thing to correct.  I would just need to take a tablet a day for the rest of my life.  It hasn’t been easy.  The disease appears to be progressing faster than the medication adjustments.

Today’s appointment left me feeling angry.  I was told that although my levels aren’t normal, and are still declining, that they want to wait another four months before changing my medication.  I tried to explain how tired I felt but the Doctor brushed my comments aside.  She had already written the prescription before I entered the room and wasn’t interested at all in my changing condition or symptoms.

I’m going to have to go and see my GP.  He won’t be happy with my current hormone levels.  I don’t know if he can override the hospitals decision but he can maybe do something about the joint pain and other symptoms.

3 Responses to “Sub-Optimal”

  1. Jessica Marie Says:

    Karen, that SUCKS. I’m so sorry you aren’t being helped properly. I’ll make sure to pray about this.

  2. karen Says:

    Thank you. And yes, it does suck. Hopefully I’ll be able to work out something with my GP.

  3. Norwin Says:

    That’s not good news at all. Their approach seems to treat you like a cog in a medical machine rather than a human being.
    I too hope and pray that things improve for you.

Conversation Error

I survived three hours of Japanese conversation classes on Saturday.  I wasn’t particularly good at this but I wasn’t completely terrible either.  My favourite mistake was:

Teacher: Have you ever had the experience of being on a diet?

Me: Yes, I have.

Teacher: Why did you do this?

Me: Because I wanted to get shorter.

Which explains why the only people shorter than me in my family are under the age of 10.

4 Responses to “Conversation Error”

  1. Jessica Marie Says:

    If only eating awful food would make me taller, I would be able to reach the top shelves in my kitchen. I can dream. How is your height compared to the Japanese people you encounter?

  2. karen Says:

    Depending on whose statistics you believe I am just below average height in Japan. I am, however, shorter than all our Japanese friends. I do still see elderly women when I’m out shopping who only come up to my shoulders and some very small elderly men.

    On the other hand I see lots of Japanese school girls who are much taller than me.

    I do think it’s easier being short here as I can easily blend in with a crowd. I have a sister who is 5″9 and she looked really tall when she came to visit. But then she looks really tall in Ireland as well.

  3. Christine Hunter Says:

    hehehe that was so funny…

  4. karen Says:

    I have another class tomorrow. Who knows what ridiculous things I will say at that one.


A week or so ago I watched a local news article about deflation in Japan.  It claimed that prices had dropped by around 10% on all goods except food and that further price cuts were expected. It also said things like “terrible depression”, and “failing economy”.

I hadn’t noticed any price reductions but last week the local bakery put up a sign to say it was cutting all prices by 10%.  Today, when I went to buy sushi, each packet was 280 Yen when two days ago it was 350 Yen – a 20% discount.

So if inflation is bad, and now I’m being told that deflation is bad, what exactly is supposed to happen and what is it called?

One Response to “Flation?”

  1. Andrew Gallagher Says:

    Stability. When prices only change for good reason. Like the price of computers dropping – that’s not deflationary, it’s because technology is improving.

Level Check

I have been trying to find ways to improve my Japanese.  I have lessons twice a week but these are mainly to teach me reading, writing, and grammar.  My conversation skills are terrible and I know I need to find more people to talk to.  I don’t think that private lessons will be that useful for gaining conversation skills so I’ve joined a language school and I start group lessons on Saturday morning.

Before I could sign up for  a class the language school wanted me to take a level check.  I’ve never had a level check before.  As I’m starting a conversation class I imagined it would involve a conversation.  The teacher came into the room, told me her name, looked at a piece of paper, and started to ask questions.  She asked, “Can you eat natto?”.  I looked at her strangely and she asked the question again.  This is not how I expected the conversation to start.  But I answered, “No, I don’t think it tastes good”.  And the teacher sat and looked at me.  I had no idea what she was expecting.  I said in English, “You said, can you eat natto”.  She said in Japanese, “yes, can eat”.  It was then I realised that she wanted me to respond with either “Yes, I can eat natto”, or “No, I can’t eat natto”.

I wasn’t there for a conversation, I was there for a grammar check.  By the time I worked out how I was supposed to be answering questions the check was nearly over.  It didn’t go well.  Not only did I misunderstand about the grammar but I didn’t even have answers to some of the questions in English.  I don’t know what I want for Christmas, I don’t have a favourite type of food, and I can’t explain what I like about Belfast in three simple statements.  I thought it was a conversation.  In a conversation you try to answer truthfully.  In a grammar check you make things up and make sure that you use the correct grammar.  She didn’t want to know what I want for Christmas.  She doesn’t want to be told, “I don’t know” or “I haven’t thought about it yet”.  She just wanted to see if I could say something like, “I want a necklace for Christmas”.  The fact that I really wouldn’t like a necklace isn’t important.  Next time I am having a level check I should really ask which level.

4 Responses to “Level Check”

  1. Jessica Marie Says:

    That sounds frustrating. I have the same problem with conversation skills, but there isn’t really anything for me here, short of taking expensive group lessons.

  2. Norwin Says:

    The irony here is of course that the answers you’ve used as your examples showed more of a grasp of the language than the standard answers she wanted would have!

  3. karen Says:

    Jessica: Group lessons are expensive. I’m only taking them because I need Japanese to make it easier to live here. If it was something I was learning for personal development I don’t think I would want to spend the money – especially as I already have four hours of private lessons a week.

    Norwin: The whole thing maddened me. I’m also too much of a geek to cope with questions like “Can you eat natto”. Of course I *can* eat it but why would I want to? On the bright side it does mean that I should get to review a lot of material I’m supposed to know in the conversation class. My vocab is weak so this should really help.

  4. Jessica Marie Says:

    That’s the problem; I have two hours of private lessons a month, though I try to do something with it every day. I go through phases where I try to think using French, but it fizzles.

Not Only Perl

I worry that I live in a Perl Monger bubble.  That the only things I hear about Perl come from a small group of people that I often refer to as the Perl Community.  To try to change this I have started to attend conferences that cover other topics along with Perl.

In November I will be attending OSDC Australia.  I am giving a modified version of the talk I presented at YAPC::EU.  I had always planned to change some of the words but today I realised that I also need to change some of the pictures.  The talk is about volunteers.  It’s a topic that’s relevant to most Open Source projects.  But the images I use are more suited to the Perl community than they would be to any other.  When I attend a Perl conference I expect nearly everyone in the room to recognise a picture of Larry Wall.  I can put up pictures of Jesse, Ingy, and Matt, and people understand my point.  That’s not going to happen at a general Open Source conference.

I’m certainly not planning on cutting out all references to Perl but I need to spend some time thinking about the audience.

3 Responses to “Not Only Perl”

  1. Jessica Marie Says:

    Actually, I have a LOT to say about Perl, but nobody ever asks me…*sigh* 🙂

  2. Matt S Trout Says:

    Jessica – don’t wait to be asked, tell. Iron Man signup is

    and you’re welcome to sign up even if you haven’t decided if you want to take part in the weekly challenge.

    You say you have a lot to say? Ok. I want to hear it. I read the entire feed every day, even if I don’t comment as often as I might. Say it, and we’ll hear you. Or I will at least, and I give you my word I’ll pay attention to your entries.

    So consider yourself asked. I look forward to seeing you on the planet.

    — mst, out

  3. karen Says:

    I’ll remember to do that the next time I see you 🙂

New Studies

I am finally registered for an MA in Applied Linguistics.  I started this process back in February or March and it was getting to the stage where I thought I’d never get through the administration process.  I did miss the course start date but passed all the hurdles on the last possible day for registration.  I was worried that my enthusiasm had been sucked dry but now that I’ve seen the required book list I’m starting to get interested again.

Here Comes the Sun

The storm has passed.

Calm After the Storm

Calm After the Storm

Sunshine after the Storm

No More Rain

4 Responses to “Here Comes the Sun”

  1. Andrew Noble Says:

    Where are the pictures taken from?

  2. karen Says:

    They were taken from the balcony of our apartment. We have a corner apartment on the 24th floor with fantastic views across the city.

    I could see Fuji yesterday evening as the sun was setting but was too lazy to find the right lens to take a decent picture.

  3. Andrew Noble Says:

    You do appear to be much higher up than anything else.

    It’s a hell of a view.

  4. karen Says:

    The view is great. Almost worth taking the long flight over for 🙂

Weather Warning

I have a sushi addiction that is helped by the fact that I shop for groceries everyday.   Today, on the way out of the apartment building, I noticed a sign in the elevator.  This was a new one printed on A4 paper in multi-coloured ink.  In large red letters it said “Warning”.  It then stated that we had to take everything off the balcony because of a dangerous storm.

When I got outside it reminded me of an early Autumn day in Ireland.  It’s not particularly cold but it’s wet, grey, and miserable.  Not a great day but certainly not a dangerous day.  Nothing much has changed outside but  Typhoon Melor has started to move across Japan and it’s due to hit Tokyo tomorrow.

Learning Kanji

My teacher told me this morning that I need to learn another 52 kanji before the exam in early December.  She believes that I can learn 4 per lesson.  4 doesn’t sound like a lot but today we worked really hard and it took 30 minutes per kanji.  Each kanji can have more than one way to pronounce it and more than one meaning.  As well as understanding it I need to be able to draw it.  Some are simple like “katana 刀”, or complicated like “kazu 数”.

The 4 kanji took up my whole lesson.  This gave me no time to work on the other parts of the exam and, given that kanji is only 25% of what I need to know, this is not going to be a winning strategy.

The other problem with learning Japanese through kanji is that they are not always relevant to my daily life, making them difficult to remember.  Today I spent 30 minutes discussing Japanese swords.  We didn’t have problems when discussing katana, the Japanese swords, but my teacher’s English is not good enough for her to know the difference between daggers, blades, and knifes.  This means getting out dictionaries and trying to find sentences that adequately describe the meaning.  Sometimes these sentences lead us off on strange tangents.  At one point she said, “Robin Hood used this instead of a sword”.  And I’m left trying to work out the connection between Samurai swords and the weapons that Robin Hood might have used.  The word she was looking for was dagger.

We also spent much too long trying to work out what “meitou” means.  The direct translation is “famous sword”.  But what is a famous sword?  I thought it was something like “Excalibur”.  A sword that had a name or was used by a great warrior.  My teacher believes that it is a sword created by a famous sword master.  Whatever it actually is it’s not a word I’m going to be using very often if ever.  I can remember it today, as it irritated me, but I will have forgotten it two weeks from now.

I know I need to learn kanji but I wish that they were taught in a different order.  Today’s lesson reminded me much too much of the Eddie Izzard sketch on how French is taught in UK  schools.  Only the Japanese equivalent of, “the monkey is on the branch” is, “the Budhist monk wore black robes”.

2 Responses to “Learning Kanji”

  1. Jessica Marie Says:

    Reading this makes me grateful that my words are useful, even if I have no language immersion. Though I was getting annoyed at having to talk about my college campus.

  2. karen Says:

    I get fed up with the whole college thing as well. And having to learn the meaning of words like “sophomore” as American English is now being taught in Japan.

    Immersion certainly is useful but given that Japanese has nothing linguistically in common with English it ends up being really frustrating. You hear the sounds and the words all the time and they are meaningless. Eventually you switch off and hear nothing at all.

Conference Swag: YAPC::Asia

For the past few years I have attended a YAPC in North America, Europe, and Asia.  All three conferences are very enjoyable but also very different.  YAPC::Asia has been held in Tokyo for the past few years.  The Japanese culture obviously impacts the conference but I can’t always find ways to express these differences.  This year they have helped me out by adding a couple of items to the conference bag that I can’t imagine being given in America or Europe.

The first is a plastic bag that I assume is an advert for one of the sponsors.  Other conferences have given attendees plastic bags and advertising material but the image on this bag is typically Japanese.

Advertising Plastic Bag

Advertising Plastic Bag

The second item was a fan.  Paper fans are very common in Japan and I have been given one at a number of different events.  The image on this fan is a cartoon of two Japanese authors, one of these is Yukihiro Matsumoto, sitting in a Japanese bath with their laptops.

Japanese Fan

Japanese Fan

I think the image is strange but not as strange as being given a PHP and Ruby advert at a Perl conference.

Time to Study

I need to start studying Japanese again.  I haven’t had that many lessons in the past couple of months but that’s about to change.  I have an exam in December. This isn’t something I want to do but Marty got the application form and filled  it in for me.  My Japanese teacher also thinks it’s a good idea but I’m not convinced.  I only know 50% of the vocabulary and about 60% of the kanji.  I have been too frightened to even look at the required grammar list.  The pass mark for the exam is around 65% and I would fail if I had to sit this tomorrow.  I wish I found it easier to learn Japanese.

2 Responses to “Time to Study”

  1. Shawn M Moore Says:

    Good luck!

    I assume this is the JLPT. Which level are you taking?

  2. karen Says:

    Thank you. I’m taking level 3.

    I’ve spent hours today trying to match my teacher’s two kanji lists. I really wish she had a real JLPT list. I live in the land of technology and my teacher gives me photocopied print-outs. I’ve started to go cross-eyed trying to match the stupid things.

English Instructions

I was in one of the bathrooms in the Mori Tower today.  They had bottles of hand disinfectant beside the soap.  These are new but I imagine they have been added because of the swine flu scare. On the wall was a list of instructions written in multiple languages.  It stated that you shouldn’t use the disinfectant under the following conditions:

If you have a deep cut or burn;
If you are alergic:
If you are under a doctor.

2 Responses to “English Instructions”

  1. Jessica Marie Says:

    When under a doctor, I find it’s best not to do many things…

  2. karen Says:

    Indeed. The sign did make me grin though. I also feel better knowing that I am not the only one who makes language blunders.

November Novel Writing

I would like to write more but instead of writing I spend time thinking about writing.  Or reading books on language and writing.  Last night I started reading a book on Hypnotic Writing.  I get the impression that this is supposed to be about writing that is so good that you are put under a spell by it.  The book, unfortunately, put me to sleep.

To help me find focus I have decided to join the NaNoWriMo writing challenge.  I have no idea if I’ll be able to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November but it might be a fun thing to try.  This will mean writing around 1,700 words a day.  (At the minute this blog post only has 125 or so words in it).  I also have no idea what I would write a novel about but if all else fails I suppose I could write something about a Japanese half-werewolf, half-vampire, that decides to terrorize Ireland… or maybe not.

2 Responses to “November Novel Writing”

  1. Tony Says:

    There’s also the hilarious and heart-breaking tale of the young boy from West Belfast who dreams of becoming a sumo champion when he grows up.

  2. Khaos » Blog Archive » NaNoWriMo Day 1 Says:

    […] some point in October I signed up for the NaNoWriMo writing challenge.   Today, to help me get into the right frame of […]