Ahh! Toronto, my home!

July 12, 2010

Ok, so I’ve been home for over a month now. So many things to update anyone who’s interested on.

Leaving Japan was rough.

Saying goodbye to my office and co-workers was so sad! I didn’t expect it to be so emotional, but it was embarrassingly so. Everyone in the office helped make my transition and life there that much easier. Sure, it was difficult to conversate with them at first, but afterwards, I had so much fun. My Japanese is still terrible (and only getting worse), but being able to still have basic conversations makes me really happy.

One week before I left, I shipped two boxes of *stuff* and packed my suitcase full of everything else I could fit. I was rather peeved, when customs opened one of my boxes. I wouldn’t have been if they had managed to re-pack it so that my things were not destroyed, but they could not. I came home one day to find that my box had been opened, and poorly retaped with clothes bursting out of the seems. They managed to bend several of my books ways that they should not be bent! (I like to keep my books in pristine condition, and they were not longer that).

My last days in Matsumoto were great. I finally realized that I truly enjoy being outgoing and meeting new people. One night I managed to encounter a traveller passing through Matsumoto. We talked a lot about his travels and adventures around the world and I offered to try and show him around the city the next day. Apparently I’m a terrible tour guide, since I really didn’t know much of Matsumoto regretably. At any rate, his travels should take him to North America sometime, and perhaps I can show off Toronto a lot better!

Travelling to the airport was rather easy. I shipped my larger luggage to the airport the day before so I wouldn’t have to carry it on the train and around Tokyo with me (why don’t we have services like this in Toronto? If we do, why is it so unknown?) I spent my last weekend in Tokyo with my friends, Megumi and Maya. It was a very relaxing weekend. We went to some nice restaurants, met with Isaac, and went clubbing. No more shopping (I had no space to carry anything else home). At the airport, Maya and I had some farewell sushi and then I left.

I was incredibly excited to go home and eat everything in sight. That is exactly what happened too. Being home now, though, I miss Japan terribly! It was much more relaxing there. This is partly due to my freedom and lack of resposibilities and obligations. Living alone was a big plus as well. There are also so many little things that made living there that much easier.

Everyone asks me if I’ll ever go back to live and I seriously want to, but I’m not sure if I could live and work there forever. Job opportunities and work environment might drive me crazy. I enjoy living in a country of ‘equal’-er opportunities for women.

After seeing friends and family again, I’ve realized how much I’ve changed. Someone once told me that the friendships I make in Japan are only temporary, but I really don’t think so. I intend to make them last and I miss them dearly.

Summer plans:

  • ROM – Terra Cotta Warrior exhibit
  • Summerlicious
  • Luminato
  • AGO
  • Wonderland
  • The Ex – Must go shopping
  • Jersey Boys
  • Rain the Beatles Experience
  • Miss Saigon
  • New York/Boston/California – anywhere really…I want a *real* vacation
  • Taste of the Danforth

Some ongoing things for the summer:

  • Going to the beach
  • Golfing
  • Working out
  • Work (still at EPSON)
  • Summer school – Intro to Psychology
  • Spend time with friends and family
  • Trying new restaurants in and around the city

I’m Alive!

March 30, 2010

Okay, it’s definitely been a while since my last post. Tons have happened since then though! This is just an update on what I’ve been up to.

  • Christmas with Yukari at her church. Met some JETs from Shiojiri and American missionaries.
  • Skiing at Gala Yuzawa with Isaac and friends. Most convenient ski resort I’d ever been to followed by first Onsen experience. Very relaxing.
  • New Years in Tokyo with Megumi and Yuuka. Went to a Shinto shrine for wishes and fortunes. New years shopping in Shibuya and Harajuku (Crazy Madness!). Of course no trip with them is complete without at least one night on the town in Roppongi.
  • Tokyo Disney Land and Disney Sea with Aoyagi-san and her family. Made me feel like a kid again. It was so much fun! I LOVE Disney!
  • Skiing around Nagano-ken with Aoyagi-san and her family. Watching kids ski is the cutest thing ever!
  • Skiing in Niseko, Hokkaido and a bit of the Snow festival. Back country and tree skiing in the best powder ever. Skiing followed by outdoor Onsen is blissful.
  • Skiing in Hakuba. More relaxing, more nice weather.
  • Sake Festival in Niigata. Drank so much sake and met english teachers from Niigata. Partied with them until around 2 in the morning, then woke up and drank more sake the next day. I bought a grape flavoured sake and Amazake infused with Sakura. They are both delicious.
  • More trips to Tokyo, this time with new English teaching friends, Andy and Rachel. Stayed at a strange friend’s place. Went to cool art show where I met a Torontonian who used to draw for Marvel (secretly admired him) and another Torontonian who used to dance on Electric Circus (Who remembers that?). Saw a closed Tsukiji Market (Boo).

Work is chugging along. Only 2 months left and it feels like there’s still so much to do. Not just finishing up things here and taking care of logistic things, but also so many festivals and things to do! My weekends are booked for April and probably May.

  • April 2-3: Onbashira bringing down of the log (Yamadashi). This is where crazy Japanese people ride logs down a mountain. There are reports of people dying and many people getting injured in the past. This festival only happens once every 6 years. So I’m so excited!
  • April 10-17: Osaka, Himeji, and Hiroshima with Jen. It’s going to be fun times and lots of eating.
  • April 24-25: Clam picking in Nagoya with Aoyagi-san, her family, and her family friends. That’s going to be interesting.

As of yet, I have no plans for Golden Week. Not many vacation days, so probably can’t go too far. Maybe Tokyo, or Nagoya. This is also the time for the second part of Onbashira, Satobiki, which is the raising of the pillars at the shrines. Definitely must see the Cherry Blossoms in the Kiso Valley. It’s supposed to be famous. I’m going to try and see if I can arrange to go to Shiga-ken to see Akina (my Japanese exchange partner from high school).

I hope I can survive the rest of the craziness here in Japan. It’s going to be a busy couple of months.

They’re addicted to the Work-ahol!

December 7, 2009

It’s no surprise that Japanese people are workaholics. They do try to take measures to keep it to a minimum. At my office, they have “no overtime” days. Just two days a week, but I suppose it is something. I happened to be working late one of these nights. At precisely six o’clock they start playing very loud music. I happened to notice they were playing a version of “Mr. Lonely”. I thought this was funny and let out a little chuckle. What is sad, though, is it’s very likely that someone working overtime is not going to be alone…

The music isn’t just something that my office does though. While studying at the library, 10 minutes before they close, they begin playing very loud classical music. It is their way to encourage you to leave without actually telling you to. I took the hint and just packed up to leave. I wonder if they would approach you and tell you to leave if you didn’t.

A Whole New Christmas

December 2, 2009

December is upon us and so comes Christmas. I’m not a religious person, but I always enjoyed the holiday season. Sure it’s incredibly over commercialized but I still think that people are put in a more giving mood than usual. At any rate, I decided to start the Christmas music in my apartment. Grooveshark is awesome for putting on random music at the drop of a hat. So I was listening to music and doing some laundry. While hanging up my clothes I felt like I should be putting up Christmas decorations. The thought was mostly just to make my apartment more homely (though we don’t decorate much back at home). I probably won’t though.

For my entire life I’ve always been with family for Christmas. My parents may not have been there every year, but with the large family that I had, it was always lots of fun with lots of noise. My aunt and uncle would graciously host Christmas dinner for upwards of 40 people (at least 15 being kiddies) in their modest home. Recently the number grows since we’re all growing up and bringing home our girlfriends and boyfriends. In the end, it’s just always a good company, good food, and good conversation. When I started working, I got to buy presents! I loved that! Trying to find a reasonably priced gift that was useful. That can’t be stressed enough. My family is all about getting useful things. When my parents finally moved home. I got to buy them presents. This was always hard. What do you buy the two people who have everything they ever wanted? They didn’t like knowing that my siblings and I spent money on them. They would rather us save it. I don’t think they realize that we know we don’t have to, but we want to. Well I do anyways.

Last year I had 2 families for Christmas. This year I’m halfway around the earth. Number of families: 0. This won’t stop me from buying gifts for my family back home though. (Going shopping on Sunday after my test.) They probably won’t be very extravagant, but something small for everyone. In all honesty though, I’m not sure how this Christmas is going to be. I’ll probably stay in Matsumoto and work that day. I’m going to find people to spend Christmas dinner with though. There is NO way I’m spending it alone in my apartment. I probably be busy with work and whatnot.

For now I’ll just worry about what I need to send home. Just made my list. 33 gifts to send home. Now that that’s done, I’m excited to go shopping. I wonder what I’m going to get them. ; )

Single Sex Schools

December 1, 2009

Single sex education is supposed to help focus the students. Keep the distractions of the opposite sex out of the classroom. I’m beginning to think that this is not the way girls should be educated. After reading Unlocking the Clubhouse, i have realized that there are trends and stages of acceptance that girls go through during high school. I don’t think that I have ever questioned my capabilities until I reached university. The book said that girls in computer science courses in high school often question their ability because they compare themselves to the boys. In an all girl environment, I was at the top of my computer science class and enjoyed it. I used my peers as a reference of accomplishment. Then i got to university and realized just how intense the men in my program were about computer science. Many did in fact live and breath programming. It WAS/IS their hobby. For some that’s all they do. I found that incredibly intimidating. I felt like (and still do) I was way behind in what I was supposed to know. Yet curiously, I still did fairly well in my first year courses.

I know the advantages of single sex education. yes, there are no boys to distract in class. Girls don’t worry about their appearance. For the most part, most of the girls are outspoken and not as afraid of looking foolish or too smart. Great. I truly did enjoy that environment. I could be whoever i wanted to be without trying to impress anyone. However, it did not prepare me for what would happen in university. i can only remember one class where gender was discussed in high school. That was physics. Our physics teacher felt passionately about the gender divide among the sciences because she was exposed to it. However, at the same time it didn’t hit home that hard. Most of us didn’t concern ourselves with those issues because it didn’t seem prevailent in today’s world (since our teacher was slightly older). I still naively believed that things were fairly equal and that men knew how to behave around women. I wasn’t completely wrong, but i think that it would have been useful to have been more forewarned about the environment in which i was entering. This is where single sex environment did not help me.

Right from the first week of classes I realized that I did not know as much as other students. This scared me. I knew that I was going to be a relative nobody and I was prepared for that. I knew that there were going to be smarter student than me. But I didn’t know how common it was to have already written and hosted several websites, and written numerous useful applications outside of high school assignments. My high school education did prepare me for what I was going to learn and was able to maintain a decent mark. But, I still remember one of my first tutorials from a theory class that was supposed to be taken in the second semester (i thought I was smart enough to do it in the first). The first exercise we were supposed to pair up, so i paired up with the guy behind me and we started the exercise. Truth tables. In high school I had NEVER seen a truth table or any logical reasoning in those forms before. However, he knew exactly what to do and essentially did the whole thing. This was the first time I felt inferior and questioned my place. But I worked hard to understand that course, went to see the professor during office hours and managed to pass. At the time I thought this guy was really smart. He had confidence, and knew what he was doing. I’ve learned now, that he isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. Second year was a little bit rough for me. I continued to push myself and take third year courses. I worked hard in all my courses, but my marks dropped. Some of my friends (guys) struggled with me but, I knew that there were others managing just fine.

So did single-sex education help me in realizing what being a woman in computer science would be like? No. It may have led me to that path, but then once on it I think I had a more difficult time than I would have, had I been in a co-ed computer science classroom. I think that if my high school offered a course in gender equality, many girls would take it since I think it’s important to know and be aware of. Teaching a course like that would be beneficial to the girls as long as it doesn’t become a man-bashing course. It could even just involve reading important research done in the field and discussing it. It sure would have been useful to me to have read Unlocking the Clubhouse before entering university.

This is of course just a personal opinion full of my own anecdotes, but I think it’s something that should be considered. Especially for single-sex schools that are held on high prestige.

Drug of Choice

November 27, 2009

So I feel like almost everyone I know has a drug of choice. You know, something that just takes you away and lets you forget your problems. For some people it’s music, others actual drugs. Mine: Hugs. Not the kind you get when you’re saying goodbye to an acquaintance. You know, those kinds that are like hugging someone who smells really bad. You usually get those out of formality and it’s become part of modern culture to hug as you say hello or goodbye. I’m not interested in those. I want a good solid hug. The kind that makes you feel safe, as if nothing in the world could harm you because you are wrapped around this other person.

Anyways, I bring this up because I realized that I could *really* use a good hug. The lack of human contact is troubling to me. I would go out with a sign for free hugs only I’m sure everyone would stare at me funny or not get their hug because I might have Swine Flu.

The last person I hugged was a friend. She was cold.

I need to get my hug fix.

Canvas For One Note

November 21, 2009

Just installed office and thought I’d look into Canvas for One Note. I know it’s still in development stages but I must say the interactions are just not agreeing with me.

There is an invisible wall on the upper and left sides of your canvas. Sure, you can grow your canvas out to be as large as you need, but you can only do so and navigate to the right and down. I thought that was a little irking especially because there are no visual clues that you can’t pan above or to the left. A canvas border would be useful here. I then managed to grow my canvas so large, all my content was tiny in the upper left corner when I zoom out. Looking for a “shrink” option, there isn’t one. You have to restart canvas. Sections and pages themselves are also only expandable in the right and bottom directions. I definitely think you should be able to expand and explore everything in all directions and pan and zoom so that your content is framed and centered. Or have canvas view automatically detect where content is and zoom out framing all the content. I don’t need to know that my canvas is gigantic, but only the top left corner is being used.

One click zoom in and out is also sometimes frustrating. If I have many pages in a section without much open space, it’s difficult to zoom in to the section and not a specific page. I think that there needs to be a stage of zoom. So if I click anywhere within a section, then it will zoom into the section and I have to click again to get a specific page. Or have the user double click on the page that they want to see from any level of zoom to zoom into that page.

I think the idea behind this software is really cool and I can see myself using it since I’m a very visual person. However, it has to work out the navigation kinks.