Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New school year

1178059007124 This is technically the start of my third school year in Japan. I can’t believe how fast time has gone by and this time I think I have a lot to show for it. For one, my improved Japanese language skill which is the main reason I decided to return to Japan. Oh and game hobby too…
Up till now my teaching experience has been limited to junior high school level and a very small mountainside elementary school. But this time around I’m 100 percent elementary school. Although the teaching approaches are different, a lot of the behind the scenes stuff remains the same. The most valuable thing I picked up from working at my others schools was how to work with the faculty and make sure everybody is happy with what I’m doing. I think my Japanese communication skill has a lot to do with that. And for that I am incredibly grateful.
This school year I was assigned to just two elementary schools, which happen to be fairly close to my current residence. These new schools are located in the richest town in my city. Because my schools are located in the richest town, they also get the best treatment compared to most Japanese schools. My new schools are about 4 years old and very modern compared to the typical drab, dank, dark, and visually unappealing traditional Japanese public school buildings.
My new schools are not as big as I was told but they are still bigger in size compared to my last couple of schools. The real downside of the transfer is that my workday extended its self from ending around 2 in the afternoon to now ending around 5pm. Since 90 percent of elementary school teachers have a very limited to non existent handle on the Enlgish language, I am forced to plan with the teachers in Japanese. I could see how other teachers like me who can’t speak Japanese would get burnt out quickly. Yay for 4 years of Japanese at SDSU.
Depending on how well received I am at my new schools, if I can pass the 2nd level Japanese national exam, and other unfinished things in my life, this may be my last school year as an ALT in Japan. This doesn’t mean that I would immediately move back to the US though. I may move to a different field of work within Japan if a reasonable offer presents its self in the electronics, game software, or media fields doing some kind of translation work.
I’ll upload some pictures of my new schools soon. I keep forgetting my camera, so for now you’ll have to wait till I take a picture.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Some more gadgets and games for my collection.

DSC00005I love tinkering with old electronics and playing old games. Japan really helps my addictive hobby along by providing an over abundance of recycle shops and game stores within driving distance of me.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been on a “spending spree” of sorts. But my kind of spending spree has limits, and I tend to spend no more than 1000-4000 yen a shot, usually averaging about 500 yen on impulse game and hardware buys. This week has been no exception, I’ve purchased four games, a laptop, and a progressive scan DVD player.
DSC00006 For my game collection I picked up a complete limited-edition copy of Hideo Kojima’s “PoliceNauts” for Sega Saturn for only 600 yen. I also picked up pristine copies of Sega Rally Championship and Daytona USA Netlink Edition for only 100 yen a piece.
DSC00008 My coolest purchase was an original complete copy of Sonic the Hedgehog for Megadrive (SEGA Genesis.) I don’t even own a Megadrive but I really liked the box art and couldn’t pass it up for 100 yen. Sonic the Hedgehog is a big part of my childhood and it’s nice having a little piece of nostalgia. Maybe I’ll pick up a Megadrive just to play it eventually.
DSC00009
My biggest purchases were between a Panasonic up scaling 720p/1080i HDMI DVD player and a Dell Inspiron 1000. I found the Panasonic DVD player for 300 yen at my local HardOff recycle shop. I immediately hacked it to play my America DVDs. Now I have a region free up scaling DVD player to play my large collection of DVDs. Of course, the DVD player came with it’s drawbacks, it was missing its remote control. So I had to order one from Panasonic Japan and it set me back an additional 2000 yen after shipping. But hey, a 2300 yen up scaling region free DVD player is pretty good.
DSC00012My most recent and most expensive purchase was from my friend Erica. I gave her 4000 yen for an old and tired Dell Inspiron 1000. The laptop came with a somewhat decent Mobile Celeron 2.2ghz processor but the rest of the system was pretty sad. The video processor can’t even handle directx9, the onboard memory was locked at 512mb but only one SODIMM RAM chip could be removed during an upgrade, a wireless G PCMCIA card, a 5400 RPM 40gb IDE HDD, and a water stained LCD screen. I might have given less if I knew more about it, but since it was a friend, I felt it was a fair deal.
DSC00004The first thing I did when I took the laptop home was fully break it down to its components. After cleaning everything, inside and out, I put it back together. Unfortunately, the LCD stain problem was something beyond my technical level. The stain was under the first layer of screen which would have required me to fully dismantle the LCD display panel. I wasn’t ready to go into that without the proper tools, and I just don’t want to risk it since the laptop isn’t worth the trouble. So I’m stuck with an off color halo around the screen, which is OK with me since its not my primary system.
I dual partitioned the laptop to boot XP SP3 and the Beta version of Windows 7. To my surprise 7 ran decently after I took out 256mb of ram and replaced it with a 3000 yen 1gb strip of RAM. So it turned out being about 7000 yen which isn’t so bad for a system I only plan to tinker with and read the occasional PDF file while playing games. I may swap out the hard drive for a bigger and faster one, but only if I can find a used one for under 1000 yen. I’m sure it can be done, I just don’t expect to happen anytime soon. I’m completely satisfied with its capacity since its networked with my primary computer and 1TB external hard drive.
So, that’s it for my impulse buys. I got a lot of stuff for not so much cash. Yay!