Anonymous asked: Hello. I read some of your writings about deconstruction dozen and kanji of the day. Your explanation is easy to understand. Do you have a plan to write some more? Thanks :)

Wow, thanks for the kind words. Probably not on “Deconstruction Dozen.” But, Kanji of the Day might get a revival.

Again, thanks.

In the last couple of months, I’ve lived through at least three separate lives. “Gone Girl” takes me to a man in his thirties, somewhere in recent time Midwestern U.S. on a scrutiny of his loved ones, neighbours, media, and authority because of his wife’s disappearance. It sucked me in, as I lived through his eyes, his sorrow, and finally his many feelings as the truth of the matter is finally revealed. Awesome thriller, going to be filmed with David Fincher on the helm and word is, Gillian Flynn, the author of the book is rewriting an entire third act for the film. Can’t wait.

The second one, takes me through a physical training of a Navy seal, getting a rough, albeit simplified version of it, but enough to understand the severity of it, the unmistaken sense of pride and loyalty that came with it, and ultimately, the understanding that at the worst of times, it was this tempered and nurtured pride that keep Marcus Lutrelli alive during the fateful days of Operation Red Wing in the heights of Mountain Hindu Kush, Afghanistan. That, and the pashtunwali. As the film version, however, “Lone Survivor” only works on a surface level. The book, give me the depths that I would never have had from the film even if it were ran for six hours.

The last one, “Pushing Ice,” which I had just finished today, I get to live a life of a woman, Bella Lind. A revered captain of what used to be a commercial spaceship, she was tasked with the journey that would first take her 260 light-years away from Earth. From here out, it gets nasty as relativity theory takes a centre stage, a human scale is no longer applicable, and my understanding of time was distorted severely I had to force my imagination to imagine something just a little bit out of reach. A stimulating read would be an understatement. On the personal level, I also get to experience how it is like to lead (or at least what the author through Bella Lind perceived about leading). How it is like to alienate someone, to make a hard decision, to sacrifice, to quell your emotion for the sake of larger needs of the community. Although one could argue that such experience is not exactly the same with the experience of actually leading in a real life, it would still better than nothing.

To read or not to read is of each choosing. Maybe there are some values I couldn’t understand that could be obtained of doing something else rather than reading. But for me, reading is not just a hobby. It has become a necessity. One book is different from other, it opens a different door, it may not going further than my quick span of interest and thus, extinguished in a matter of seconds, but some, would led to yet another door, or perhaps, of another world.

In the end, looking through my thick glasses, I pity those who don’t read.

Review: Lone Survivor

I’m a reader. Probably an avid by most standards, but I’ve personally known avid readers and my claim of “avid”-ness wouldn’t hold a candle against them. But still, I could say that I read more books than an average thirty years old. I’m also a more-than-average movie goers. In short, I’m a fan of fictions and storytellings that I had went as far to made it my personal due-dilligence of reading first the books that inspired a movie before seeing it.

Thus, “Lone Survivor.”

During the movie, as always, I tried hard to separate it from its source book. I can’t. This is not generally a bad thing as I believe that in the case of “Lone Survivor,” the book experience is augmenting my movie experience, rather than destroying it. I doubted that I would feel the same way about the movie had I seen it with no knowledge of the book beforehand. Further, while I appreciate the edits that left some events out from the book because it made the movie feels more taut, and a bit faster, I feels that the movie doesn’t really capture the bond that keeps the team together. This is where the preamble part of the book was, for me, matters.

“Lone Survivor” re-enact the event around Operation Red Wings in 2005. I would say that if you can’t deduce on what would happened from the obvious title, then, well, you need to see more films. The movie moves in a straightforward manner, with condensed timeline so that the events happened in a matter of hours, or days at most, rather than days at the very least as suggested in the book.

Solely taken as a movie, even if I had said that I had trouble differentiating between the two mediums, I may have to take a cue from my wife who hadn’t read the book. She enjoys the film, although perhaps she just enjoying it on a marginal level of a taut entertainment flick with an agreeable (although in one particular scene, a tad overdramatic one) action sequences. I really love how Peter Berg took care of the mountain side combat. Attention to movements, positioning, gave the directed fire-fight a sense of realism it needed. After all, we are all already full aware of what would happened to the deployed team as the title itself hides nothing so we didn’t have to bother ourself to try to figure the suspense and trying to guess ahead. It was, perhaps, if I didn’t know any better, as close as real modern warfare that I’ve ever seen.

Mark Wahlberg has had a very good year. Although his version of Marcus Lutrelli in this movie left more to be desired, it is passable and likeable. Ben Foster needs to appear in more films. Really. I love the guy.

I could boast that my mind has been tampered, or perhaps conditioned into a rather elevated dose of imagination that I strictly prefer reading and let my mind fills the scenes rather than getting someone else do his reading and shoved his imaginations through my eyeballs. The book provides a background to the story that I didn’t get from the movie. The movie works out of its own, sure, but I feel that it doesn’t capture the nuance, the bond, and the sense of duty that bound the men together. The movie is brutal, but I’m quite sure that many would’ve taken the apparent invincibility of the American soldiers as they took in fire, over and over again as perhaps, a tad above dramatisation. A fiction, if you will. But in the book, this near invincibility is part of the team’s design, something that within the context of a chosen, elite team, would be seen as a normal. Expected even.

And that’s why I love books.

Background

First up, some background. Unless it has been updated, the 2,136 jouyou kanjis are taught to children through the first six years of elementary school for the first 1,000+ or so, and the rest is taught at secondary school (no idea whether it spans three years, or something else). So essentially, what I’m trying to do is cramming seven years worth of education, repetition, into a condensed timespan of just one week.

Okay, I’m cheating for a bit. I’ve already familiar with 1,000 kanjis but that still left another 1,000+ kanjis left to memorise/practice. It was anything but easy.

And, as I wont to do with almost everything else, I had overestimated my ability. But hey, shoot for the Mars, and perhaps you’ll end on the Moon which in itself an accomplishment. So, as I burn through 120 kanjis everyday, I figured out that it was nigh impossible to attain “mastery” as I’ve promised so I made an adjustment to my target into exposed myself to 2,136 jouyou kanjis until at least I could say that I’ve seen every single one of the 2,136 jouyou kanjis. Thus, target achieved.

Learning Path

Everyone has their own preferences in learning. Knows it, built it around your strength. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Auditory, visual, or something like that. I don’t know how to categorise my preference, but I had always prefer to study alone. So I needed a proper incentive to make sure I had enough motivation to pull through learning because as one who prefers to study alone, the biggest factor to make or break the effort is largely depends on my internal self. Therefore, my (sort of) “public” announcement I made a couple of weeks ago. Note: the announcement was made within a private channel.

Of course, if I have enough time and brain power specifically tuned for memorising stuffs, I could go the long hard way to drill every single kanji over and over and over again. But I had neither.

Power of Mnemonics

Essentially, kanjis are pictograph. Each kanji represents a concept, an idea of a thing, visualised, and then simplified into strokes we see as kanjis. Furthermore, each kanji consists of one or more repetitive elements called radicals. Usually, these radicals retains the original, standalone concept and therefore the entire kanji which contains the radical in question would have more-or-less a logical extension of the original meaning. Keyword here, is “usually,” and “more-or-less,” because most of the time, you are going to stretch your imagination for a bit in order to make the connection that makes sense.

It is mandatory to learn and memorise radicals. But as they are relatively few in numbers, it is easier, and much more acceptable to memorise them rather than hard core memorise 2,136. But again, this method works for me, if you think you have the brain capacity to memorise 2,136 items, then please do so. As I’ve said, what works for me doesn’t necessarily works for others.

Radicals

Not sure of the exact numbers of the radicals used in kanji nowadays, but it is definitely way less than 1,000 probably even less than 100. The challenge is, if there’s one, radicals could have several forms depending on where it is located in the kanji. For example, 心, 念, 愛, 慣. Each have 心 (heart) radical as a standalone, a bottom radical, a middle radical, and a left radical. The meaning of each kanji is more-or-less derivable from the word “heart.” They are, respectively, heart, wish (now + heart, my heart desire something now), love (hand + heart + moving slowly, my heart moving slowly so I had to put my hand on top of it to calm it down as my love is passing by), and accustomed (heart + pierce, I need to accustomed my heart at the piercing lady). As you may see, some kanjis are easy to figure out, but most others requires a bit of imagination.

Heisig

I used Heisig method at first, but I would suggest that only use Heisig method as a fallback. Always devise your own mnemonics. Create something personal. Something meaningful as mnemonics. Something shocking. For example, 妬. A kanji that represents jealousy and have two radicals. Woman on the left, and stone on the right. It is easier for me to imagine a woman carrying a stone aimed to bash in the skulls of her spouse because of jealousy. Violent, but I found it way easier to memorise.

Conclusion

- Memorize the radicals. No excuse on this.
- Break down kanjis into its radical components.
- Create a story around it. Use Heisig or Kanji Damage as a base.
- Create your own story to give it a humph and instil into a long-term memory.
- Have a goal. Knowing both Japanese and English is a huge advantage.
- Have fun.

Next plan

I give myself until 17th of January to read all the English entry in my Oxford English-Japanese mini dictionary. Not just read, but thorough read with intention of soaking myself with the knowledge.

My further plan is to breeze through JLPT N1 by the end of March 2014.

Shooting for Jupiter. Banzai.

(Reblogged from tinyheartsyou)

dwr:

12 days…

Can’t hardly wait.

(Reblogged from parislemon)

Some say I was lucky to be given a chance to move to Japan. Yeah, sure, lucky. It’s not that I have waited for almost two years wandering in uncertainty of a startup life and joining a new company solely based on trust (no contract signing or the likes) and then spent most of my waking hours kicking ass, gaining trust, and simply gets noticed by the higher ups. No, the chance was suddenly dropped from the sky unto my lap while I was sleeping in a broad daylight for no particular reason but just being lazy. But hey, whatever floats your boats.

Anyway, I guess in some respect, lucky is perhaps the right word because the company has taking a serious leap of faith by employing a foreigner from a third world country like myself, who has negligible Japanese vocabulary, into a strictly Japanese company whose practices and communications are exclusively revolves around the use of Japanese languages complete with thousands (maybe tens of it, even, I don’t know) of its daunting scripts. In any case, I owe a many good people to have received such rare chance. And loyalty, is perhaps the only thing I could give back to these good people. For now.

So how I get by with minimal Japanese language skills? By working very hard on both the work’s tasks at hand, and learning the language by my own time, while also juggling the responsibility of a husband to provide and taking care of his now unemployed wife. The latter is probably the most difficult but naturally, it was definitely not intended for a public consumption. 

To start off, I am by no means a beginner in Japanese language. Given that people talk to me in a slower Japanese and in a standard dialect, I could get the general nuance and meaning of what (s)he is trying to say. Not always, but enough to know for sure that I am not becoming the object of their conversation. But speaking? Almost zero. I kept stumbling on word order and verb conjugation. Especially hard when I try to be polite as Japanese has quite a different and a daunting polite speech. But for simple situation where casual phrases are acceptable, I get more confidence and in turn able to speak a full sentence. Sometimes. Example, “okane ga nai,” or simply, “I don’t have any money.” That, I could do.

But still, it’s not easy for me to acquire a foreign language. I’ve been trying several methods suggested by many savants but of course, a method that works well for others does not necessarily works as well when applied to self. Thus, I had fall back to one sure method I used when I acquired English language skill. Reading.

Of course, coming from latin characters country, reading English is trivial. Reading Japanese is not. I could read hiragana and katakana with ease. But kanjis? This is where Memrise (memrise.com) comes to play. Memrise combines flashcards and those short term memories thingy. Not interested in details here, but safe to say that Memrise could also help in learning vocabulary as well as those pesky kanjis. And, it’s free. I had solely used Memrise to build my kanji knowledge. Before I left for Japan, I had picking up some Japanese language books to help me learn. This is my choice.

image

Ah, talk about nostalgia. Counting this book, I had this book in three different languages. My mum brought this book from her school library (she is a teacher) when I was still learning to read, and somehow this book has stuck with me over the years. Bought its English version, and now this, its Japanese version. This book is perhaps intended for younger audiences and why it was perfect for me. The words are simple, and only uses kanjis sparingly. But even with those, it took me a while blazing through N4 level kanji on Memrise to be able to at least, leaf through pages without stopping to check my dictionary (which because I have no idea on how to read a character, involves a lot of guesswork and efforts to get them recognised by my iPhone) for every character I stumbled upon.

All in all, it has been my goal to be able to speak with the natives and able to read more complicated novels within three months of living in Japan. One month has gone since. I’ll tell about how my endeavour ends in a couple of months.

Also, this.

Living on a (sort of) Budget in Japan. With Graph!

Stemmed from my obsessions with numbers, I have taken a joy of recording my spending, if more to satisfy the said obsession rather than as a conscious decision to have a healthy finance practice. Although in the end, in this respect, I may have a better finance practice/habit than most of my peers.

July 14th marked our first month living in Japan, and as I have been practically recording every single Yen we had spent on various things, I could pin point exactly on what post we had spent on the most, but more importantly perhaps, our daily intake to meet the minimum requirements of living in a third biggest economy in the world. The conclusion: surprisingly very well balanced. In fact, I was surprised. I had made well above average in Jakarta but could only save a small amount of it, if any. Here, I had a dead average income and yet, I could still pay my mortgages back home, and still have some leftover at the end of the month.

Without further ado, here’s the graphs plotting our spending for the past month. Note that the graph has following properties:

- It only records our basic necessities. Everything that were expendable, either by going into our mouth one way or the other, or provides a basic hygiene needs, are included. This includes but not limited to, soap, shampoo, etc.

- Transports (if applicable) are included.

- Things that are relatively long lasting, such as cooking utensils, eating utensils, broom, bed sheets, etc, are excluded.

- Utilities bills are excluded but it probably costs us around ¥8,000 per month for electricity, water, and gas.

image

There are three colours in the graph. The blue ones are the actual spending for the properties I had determined above. The green ones are the running average from day one, and the yellow ones are running average from the 9th day which is the day we are starting to cook the food ourselves rather than dining out each time. As you could see there’s a remarkable decline in the spending right after we start cooking. Granted, cooking for two will be significantly less than say, cooking for three, or even four but at the rate we are going, it was remarkable given that we don’t limit ourselves for food. Meaning, my wife could still buy ice cream, cakes, milk, fruits and desserts almost every day, and I could satisfy my daily coffee intake (remember, programmers are essentially caffeine and sugar fuelled) as well as some other luxurious amenities. All in all, the final recorded amount of about ¥2,000 per day is loose. If we want to, we may could put the brake all the way to the floor and came out with only ¥500 spent per day.

Also note that there are a couple of marginal spike. Usually this is weekends when we decided to take a short trip or to dine out.

About Health Care System

Like it or not, there will be a day when our body finally fails us, decayed by overuse, and devoured by the merciless time. It is eventual. Which is why that health care has always stuck in my frame of mind. Of why I needed and aimed for a strong financial foundation. All in the dreaded name of health care.

Now from my own’s perspective, as far as the so called financial foundation goes, there was absolutely nothing to speak of. Which is why I got nervous when me or my immediate family has to suffer from some illness that needed to be taken care of. Not to mention that it’s not even a couple of weeks yet since we had decided to hit the reset button on our life, packed our things, and brave the lowest low in Japan. But this is what happened last week when we are finally decided to go to a doctor. In a place where virtually nobody speaks English. Let alone Indonesian.

It was a daunting task, but experience turns out way way better than we had expected it to be.

First of all, the language barrier. I know that it was rather impossible for us to show up at a random hospital with negligible knowledge on Japanese language and hoping that they would have an English-speaking doctors or staffs. Nope. So I have the due diligence on my part to have as much information as I could get on such matters. It might be easier had we were living in Tokyo. But even in Tokyo, I would still have doubts that random hospitals would have an English-speaking doctors or staff.

Long story short, I found an information on English-speaking women’s clinic with an ob/gyn specialist in Tenjin (minutes from our residence) area from the U.S. government embassy web page. Not a fan of the all mighty stars and stripes here, but I wish my own government would provide its citizens living aboard with such vital informations.

So, again, braving the unknown protocols of health care system, we arrived at the clinic’s receptionist desk, immediately asked for an English-speaking staff and proceed with our examinations.

It was a great experience. Had to ask for my office to call the clinic to explain that my wife was also covered by insurance, only that her insurance card was kinda late due to her “dependent” status, but other than that, it shows how much better the health care system here compared to the system I have back home. Can’t really explain it proper, but I don’t ever want to go back to the hospital in Jakarta, while I am actually looking forward to go to the hospital here. We talked for a long time with the nurse and the doctor, and the equipments are blowing the Indonesian hospital’s equipments out of the water (we are comparing it to a certain hospital in Kuningan area, the one that we had visited for similar procedure), learning a lot about our conditions (also something that the Indonesian doctors are not very enthusiastic to do. At least to us), and all the while receiving a five-star service. In my experience, the word “customers are king” has never been truer in its meaning.

The best part is, since my wife is also covered by insurance, we only had to pay 30% of the total costs. And how much for those consultations, examinations, and private discussion with a specialist doctor for about three hours costs us? A measly ¥5,600. By comparison, we went through similar procedure in hospital in Jakarta. A fairly upper middle class hospital if you asked me. The doctor was “busy” (maybe he has another practice to go to), so we had to wait for an hour before receiving a ten minutes attendance with him, not nearly enough to learn about our conditions, and slapped with a Rp 700,000 bill. Comparing apple to apple, it was about ¥7,000.

Granted, we were lucky to immediately found a good doctor who cared about us, and a very lovely English speaking staff to assists us. Browsing the foreigner forum, there are quite a few who had a not-so-pleasant experience with the Japan’s health care system.

All in all, if anyone (from Indonesia) is still on the fence about moving here, believe me this. Go because of its health system. It was worth it.

The above picture is the doctor’s consultation “room.” Looks very comfy and homy, isn’t it?

Bus Rides in Japan

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEO32tc323o

For obvious reasons, I prefer to ride trains and subways in Japan. They are easy to figure out with only a decent amount of map reading skills. Buses are on the other hand, is quite a daunting task. Therefore, only yesterday that I had my first bus ride in Japan after three visits in this country. It turns out quite easy. The video above says it all. I only wanted to add that when you take your bus ticket, they usually had a number printed on it, and you look for your fare to pay when you get off the bus under that number displayed on the panel in front. I used to thought that I would need some way to figure out the destination and departure point from that panel before figuring out my price. It turns out that I only need to see the number printed on the ticket, and look for the fare under that number. Simple.

The hard part is of course, figuring out what bus to take to get to your destination and figuring out the kanji only timetables. Now that, is hard.