Japan-Related News
December 13, 2013 Mega Update
Posted on 13 December 2013, 22:00 JST

Here is what you can find in the update:

  • 35 photos taken in November and December, since the last update
  • 2,088 words of text describing the last month or so of my life in Japan

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Japan-Related News
First Computer Graphics for My Upcoming Android Game, The Norge
Posted on 12 November 2013, 23:00 JST


I rendered this in Inkscape. It is the Norge, the airship of Umberto Nobile, which Roald Amundsen led on an expedition to the North Pole (they were the first known people to reach the North Pole—there were previous claims to reaching the North Pole, but these have turned out to be false). Both the airship, rendered meticulously in Inkscape (from photographs from both The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen and Wikipedia) and the background (the sky over the school where I work on a nice day) were made/taken by me.

This is the first major thing I have done on this project (a game for Android smartphones in which the player flies the Norge to the North Pole, dealing with hardships Oregon Trail-style) in a long time (aside from rendering some flags from the period, like the old 48-star American flag). I hope to release The Norge next year.



Japan-Related News
I Finally Beat Final Fantasy USA: Mystic Quest
Posted on 3 November 2013, 9:00 JST

Early this morning, I beat Final Fantasy USA: Mystic Quest (a Super Famicom/Super Nintendo game). I have been playing this game since at least 1999. I played through the entire thing on my Android phone using the SNES9X emulator and defeated the "Dark King" early this morning. Emulation is often illegal, but in this case, it was legal emulation, because I own the cartridge (I got a great deal on it—¥105 at the HardOff store). Screenshots follow.

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Japan-Related News
UMUC Tentative Evaluation (TE)
Posted on 1 November 2013, 19:45 JST

Way back in August, I applied for UMUC (University of Maryland University College), an American college with several mini-campuses all around Japan (in other words, I could attend brick-and-mortar classes right here in Japan, in English, towards a degree in computers). I waited for over two months, and made constant frustrated phone calls, e-mails, etc. in an effort to get some answer to the question of "How many more credits would I need to finish a degree in a computer field with UMUC?" Today, I got my answer, thanks to the adviser Joseph D. Crawford at the Atsugi Naval Air Facility UMUC.

It is much better than I had expected! I will only need 35 more credits, according to his tentative evaluation, which he says is unlikely to vary from the official evaluation since my case is a fairly standard case (someone transferring in who already has a bachelor's degree only needs to complete the major requirements, not the electives or general ed courses).

And here is the best part: that is 35 credit hours more, towards a degree in computer science, not a degree in IT! That is a good thing. Computer science is more closely aligned with my goal (to become a computer programmer in a few years) than a degree in IT would be.

I am not sure whether I should sign up for their program. I have found the service so far (with the notable exception of Mr. Crawford) to be awful. I had to wait two months and make countless phone calls and e-mails before anyone lifted a finger and gave me any information, whatsoever. Maybe, though, once enrolled, I will get better service, I am not sure.



Japan-Related News
The Death's-Head Hawkmoth, Taisō Renshū, and Student Diary Entries on the Norwegian Pancakes Lesson (the latest one, in which the parents visited and watched)
Posted on 25 October 2013, 18:45 JST
This week was quite eventful:
  • On my way home today, I found a death's-head hawkmoth (i.e. the "Silence of the Lambs" moth) on the ground and photographed it. Click on the image to zoom in.
  • Today, I received feedback from the Norwegian pancake lesson that we did yesterday, in which 20 parents came in and watched. The feedback was positive, and some students wrote about it in their diaries; I got copies of some of these diary entries and scanned one of them, and the drawings from another. Read on to see them.
  • On Wednesday, we continued to do taisō renshū, or exercise practice (running laps).
I have photos of all these things in this article. Read on to see them and read about them.

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Japan-Related News
Today, I Went to Tokyo and Passed the DSST Personal Finance Exam
Posted on 19 October 2013, 22:25 JST

Today, I took the train to Yotsuya Station, met Mr. Binder (he has been in Japan since the 1980s, and also served in the Vietnam War, running supply boats during 1969 and 1970, and runs his own test center). We went to his test center, where I took and passed the DSST Personal Finance exam.

The reason I took the exam was because I wanted to learn to manage my personal finances better. Personal finance used to just mean "budget and pinch pennies" back when I was a tuition-battered teen/early 20-something. I will turn 27 this month, signaling the 40-year countdown to what Social Security currently considers "retirement age" (67 for those born after 1959). I read these books cover-to-cover to learn to manage my new-found cash, including investments:

  • Money Matters for All Ages by various authors
  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki
  • Personal Finance for Dummies by Eric Tyson
  • The Wise Owl Guide to...DANTES Subject Standardized Test Personal Finance by Wise Owl Publications LLC
I took extensive notes from all the books except the Wise Owl Guide. For that, I turned all the narrative's bold words into 413 Anki flash cards! I watched YouTube videos on mutual funds and also investing in Japan, and of course, I re-read my notes. In spite of some very unfair questions, I scored 438/500 (pass mark: 400). This test's pass rate is only 47.62%, so I'm proud. Now, I look forward to setting some personal financial goals!



Japan-Related News
Norwegian Pancakes and Other Developments Over the Past Two Weeks
Posted on 17 October 2013, 20:10 JST

Over the last two weeks, I...:

  • ...taught ⅔ of the sixth graders at my elementary school how to make Norwegian pancakes (today).
  • ...hosted my cousin, who was visiting Japan from Hawaii (until today).
  • ...went to Tokyo to meet my cousin and saw Yoyogi Park, ate whale sushi, saw the Tokyo skyline from Tokyo Tower, etc. (Saturday to Monday).
  • ...met Eri A., a friend from back when I attended Hong Kong International (Middle) School (on Saturday).
  • ...received my Northern Virginia Community College Career Studies Certificate in Business Information Technology (NVCC CSC in Business IT), finally (October 6).

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Japan-Related News
Sweet Potato Picking
Posted on 10 October 2013, 20:30 JST

Today, the students and the teachers at the elementary school where I teach here in Utsunomiya went on field trips! Each grade went on a different field trip (so Alan, the other English teacher on duty today, went strawberry picking with one grade, and I went with the second graders). First, we took a bus to Mōka (真岡). In Mōka, we did an obstacle course and then had a picnic next to a lake. Then we took the bus to Mashiko (益子), where we picked sweet potatoes on a farm. Then we took the bus back to Utsunomiya, and along the way, we watched Tom & Jerry on the bus. This article includes 22 photos and captions under the photos. Click "Read More" to read more.

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© 2013 Charles Henry Wetzel