September 28, 2014: I Beat Diablo Again
I'm sure getting my ¥105's worth out of that Diablo game I bought at HardOff! I just finished my second playthrough this evening (I originally beat it on July 21, 2014, then played through the entire game again over the last week or so).

Diablo is famous for its replayability. It has randomly-generated levels that are different every playthrough, different items, different enemies, and different quests. Therefore, I was expecting an experience that was quite a bit different from the first one. Unfortunately, as you can see above, my equipment didn't change at all from the first playthrough to the second playthrough! I didn't find a single weapon or piece of armor that was definitely better than what I already had. One thing that I did discover this playthrough, though, was how to bank items. Before, I had only carried what I could fit in my inventory. This playthrough, I realized that I could stow items in the town of Tristram by just throwing them out on the ground (nobody steals them).

The first row of items is Griswold's Edge (a weak sword made on an anvil from the depths of hell), Nai's Light Plate (good for boosting total mana), and Obsidian Plate of the Lion (+60 HP is nice, but its armor class was lower than my Jade Plate armor from the first playthrough). The ring is an Empyrean Band, which I only kept because it is a unique item. From the next row all the way to the right, these are special items I accumulated so that I could cast Apocalypse, the most powerful spell in the game. One's Magic stat has to be 117 to cast Apocalypse, and I maxed my innate Magic stat out at only 50, so lots of equipment is necessary to boost it beyond that. The Blade of Sorcery, Armor of the Stars, Shield of Brilliance, and Amulet of Brilliance all add significantly to the Magic stat, meaning that I had enough Magic to be able to cast Apocalypse if I equipped all these things. However, I didn't end up casting Apocalypse because I didn't find a single Apocalypse scroll this playthrough (only the two from the first playthrough), and didn't want to waste such valuable scrolls frivolously. On the far right are the two Apocalypse scrolls that I got from the first playthrough.

Above are my stats at the end of the game. One thing that really irritated me about the second playthrough was that my Level 25 character didn't gain a single experience point until nearly halfway through the labyrinth on the second playthrough (because of a rule I don't like—enemies more than 10 levels lower than Aidan's level don't give even 1 point of experience). I started gaining experience again around Level 8 of the labyrinth. I only gained two levels before the end of the game, because at this point, gaining levels requires so many experience points. However, note that my stats are significantly enhanced versus the first playthrough thanks to Elixirs of Strength, Magic, and Dexterity. My Strength stat increased from 96 to 130, and my Dexterity stat increased from 35 to 60. Vitality went up from 60 to 72 (mostly without elixirs), and HP went up from 274 to 300.

As a result of all this stat building, this playthrough was much, much easier. I only died once the whole time (and that was when fighting Diablo and his minions).

Above is Diablo spraying blood. I have just killed Diablo! And below is the ending screen. My opinion is that the game was lots of fun on the first playthrough, but on the second playthrough, there were many annoyances (in other words, I think the replay value is vastly overrated). The quests were mostly the same (for example, I got Gharbad the Weak again). A few of the enemies were different (I fought Snow Witches this time), but they were just palette-swapped versions of other enemies I had already fought during the first playthrough. I didn't get any new equipment that was better than my old equipment. I might play through this game again someday, but I would want to try it on a different class, not Warrior. Although honestly, I would rather spend my time playing through Diablo II or III than playing through this again.

Tomorrow, I plan to do two important things. First of all, I plan to go to the immigration office and ask some visa questions. Second of all, I plan to go to a hospital and get a checkup.

I also need to start playing more Japanese games. Recently, all I do, gaming-wise, pretty much, is play Tetris and Diablo. Tetris is Russian. Diablo is American. Why did I move to Japan only to play ancient Russian and American games?



September 12, 2014: EasyKana
I recently received an e-mail from a Dutchman by the name of Rick Gaatjenixaan (a pseudonym). He informed me that he had taken my TI-83 Plus NihonGO! Japanese Kana Learning Program, which I released publicly in 2009, and created his own program, called EasyKana (I allow this—the documentation in NihonGO! specifically says it is in the public domain, but people who modify the program have to credit me, which he did, quite prominently). Basically, he left the HIRAGANA and KATAKANA font programs untouched as far as I can tell, but heavily modified the NIHONGO program (the quiz program), adding about 75% more code to the main program overall and a ton of new features, and then renamed it EASYKANA.

Of course, I had to try his program—in the open-source community, there are few sincerer forms of flattery than having someone take the source code that you wrote, spend considerable time and effort on his or her part, and fork it into a new project. Here are some screenshots where I will detail the new features of EasyKana.


This is the new main menu. It is now more Spartan than the old main menu (he may have done this to cut down the file size—even with the simpler main menu, the program is 7K versus 4K for my original NihonGO! program).

One of the ways in which EasyKana really shines and enhances my original program is that he has added support within the quiz program for dakuten and handakuten. These are modifiers which modify the pronunciation of a given kana. For example, the syllable "ha" can be modified into "ba" with dakuten or "pa" with handakuten. This can be turned on or off.

The other main way in which this program really shines is the addition of youon. Youon is when multiple kana are stuck together and a different sound is achieved. For example, combining 'u' and a small 'e' yields "we." My original program did not quiz the user on combinations like this, only a single kana at a time.

Here is an example of Mr. Gaatjenixaan's handakuten code in action. The program is quizzing the user on "pa." In my original program, the program could not quiz the user on this sound (the user could reference the rule in another part of the program, but it was not available in "QUIZ" mode). Another enhancement that Mr. Gaatjenixaan made is that he added an assembly program that turns alpha lock on, so the user does not have to press "2ND" and "ALPHA" for every quiz rep. This is very convenient when using it on an actual calculator.

Similarly, here is his dakuten code in action, for the syllable "ba" that was previously not available in my single-symbol-at-a-time-only quiz mode.

This is almost imperceptible, but since I created the original program, I noticed this—he has taken the word PERCENT and replaced it with an actual % sign. This sign is difficult to enter on a TI-83 Plus, but I guess he got around that by using an assembly program or something.

Here is his youon code in action—"chi" + "ya" = "cha."

He also made sure to credit me, not only as a member of the project, but at the very top of the credits, both within the program and on ticalc.org.
Anyways, I am really proud to have had someone fork my code. I really believe that this program is a significant enhancement over my original program. It cuts out a few minor features like the fancy main menu and graphical credits screen and the four archaic kana within the quiz program (plus a few notes), but adds so much more—dakuten, handakuten, and youon support within the quiz program, which quite frankly are much more important. I would actually recommend this program above my own original program (though I will note, it is possible to have both programs on one's calculator sharing the exact same prgmHIRAGANA and prgmKATAKANA font files, because those appear to be unmodified). :-)

As for other news, this morning at 12:56 AM, my girlfriend and I broke up. It was sad. Thanks, Mr. Gaatjenixaan, for giving me something to be positive about today.

August 26, 2014: I Failed the JLPT N2 By Just One Point

Today, I was finally able to check my JLPT N2 test scores online. I failed. Basically, my overall score was 119/180. It's possible to pass with just 90/180, so my overall score was passing. Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar) was good: 51/60. The pass mark for this section is 19, so I passed that section by a wide margin.

The same story applies to Listening—I got 50/60 (pass mark: 19), and therefore passed by a wide margin. In real life, my listening comprehension is terrible, but I generally do relatively well on listening tests, for some reason.

Reading was where I failed. I got 18/60 (the pass mark is 19). In the old days, when there weren't individual section pass marks, I would have passed this test, but I took the new version, which has individual section pass marks. Because I failed reading, I failed the whole thing, even though my overall score was okay.

Of course it's a disappointment to fail by one point. However, I'll point out, I'm much, much closer to passing than I'd previously thought. If I can repeat this performance but bring up my Reading score by one point, I can pass this exam in December.


Now that I realize that there's a very strong chance that I might pass N2 in December, it's time to start planning what I'll do in March. My contract ends in March. UEC may recontract with me, or they may not. What if I don't get recontracted with UEC? Well, here are the two possibilities:
  1. If I pass the JLPT N2, I should go job hunting. At that point, I'll have two new weapons in my arsenal: JLPT N2 and an Associate of Science degree in Information Technology from NVCC. With those two qualifications, plus the ones I already have, I think I might be able to find an interesting, unique job that uses my Japanese, hopefully something technology-related.
  2. If I fail the JLPT N2 again, I should probably go back to language school, because without JLPT N2, my job prospects won't be very good. If I go back to language school, I'll probably give up English teaching entirely and just do jobs that use Japanese, to get the full immersion experience. If I do any jobs at all, they'll be Japanese-using jobs like convenience store clerk or something. Once I've studied Japanese intensively for a year, I'll almost certainly have passed JLPT N2, or maybe even N1 with luck, and my job prospects will be much, much better.
In case #2 happens, I did some face-to-face research today. I visited Kokusai Jōhō Bijinesu Senmon Gakkō (International Information Business College) and spent well over an hour talking with Toshihiko Nakayama and Rie Ishinabe, an executive office section chief and a teacher at that college. I don't know whether I actually want to go there, but I had to start my research somewhere, and they're close by. Here's what I learned about studying Japanese in Japan:
  • I'm very concerned about the timing of a language program (I don't want the language program to go too far into March 2016, because that's job hunting season). Fortunately, the graduation for that program will be on March 4, 2016, so I'll have the remaining 27 days of March to attend job interviews. There're also vacations: about a month for spring break, and a winter vacation that is from the middle of December to the first week of January. The summer vacation is from the latter half of July to the latter half of August.
  • The program consists of Japanese language only. There're no other subjects that we're required to study.
  • There's a maximum number of students—80. When this quota fills up, they don't accept anymore students. Therefore, there's a competition rate (unlike Yonsei and Sogang back in Korea that were open-admission). Generally, the earlier someone applies and the higher that person's Japanese level is already, the more likely that person is to get into the college.
  • The times are 9:00 AM~12:30 PM for the morning students, and 1:00 PM~4:30 PM for the afternoon students.
  • The teachers are qualified with the Nihongo Kyōiku Nōryoku Kentei, or the Examination of Japanese Language Education Proficiency, except for one teacher. The one teacher that doesn't have this qualification has 30 years of experience teaching Japanese as a second language.
  • There are three levels: shokyū (elementary), shokyū no kōhan (the second half of elementary), and chūkyū (intermediate). People entering for elementary take two years to finish the program. People entering for the second half of elementary take 1.5 years to finish the program. People who enter in the intermediate program finish the program in just one year. I would be the latter case, because I have JLPT N3, which is the minimum requirement to enter intermediate directly. So basically, I saved myself ¥700,000 by self-studying Japanese up to this level. :)
  • The lower levels use Minna no Nihongo textbooks. The intermediate textbooks vary depending on the year and the needs of the students overall. This year, it's Chūkyū he Ikkō!, but last year, it was a different textbook.
  • Everyone goes through the same sequence of classes (though people entering the intermediate level skip the first year of classes). There is no bifurcation of classes like there was at Yonsei University Korean Language Institute, with a fast program and a slow program. Chinese students and Western students all attend the same program (honestly, I'm not sure how this school handles kanji when most Chinese students know thousands of them and most Western students know at most a few hundred).
  • Chinese students are the most numerous. However, they are not the majority. There are not very many Korean students; most of them already know Japanese on arrival and just skip to the regular college, not bothering with the Japanese as a second language program (with JLPT N2, it's possible to just enter ordinary college classes at this college).
  • They didn't have any official statistics on JLPT N2/N1 passes.
  • Upon graduation, students receive a graduation certificate, similar to Yonsei University Korean Language Institute. This is more or less the equivalent of JLPT N1 in the eyes of employers, allegedly, but doesn't permit students to skip the JLPT and EJU tests for entrance to a post-secondary educational institution.
  • Usually, students receive two-year or one-year-three-month visas. It's very rare for students to only receive a one-year visa. She said that the immigration office usually processes all the visa applications for this school as a batch and just gives all the students the same length (two years). This is good for job hunting later on, after I graduate.
  • I can be my own guarantor if I have at least ¥2,000,000 in the bank (which I currently do); this ¥2,000,000 can be from before tuition was paid. The requirement for ¥3,000,000 yen is only for people from poor countries and/or people who don't already have a job in Japan (the immigration office relaxes the student visa requirements for guys like me because we've already proven that we're able to earn an income here).
  • At visa renewal time, should I choose to continue studying, I'll either need ~¥2,000,000 in the bank, or, if I'm making a part-time income of at least ¥80,000 per month, this won't be necessary.
  • If I want to attend this school, I'd need to apply by 10/31 if I were applying from outside of Japan. However, since I'm in Japan with a visa already, I can apply as late as February. This is good because it'll give me lots of time to take the JLPT N2, see how I do, and then decide what to do.
  • For someone in my situation (with a visa already), it takes from two weeks to three months to process the student visa. I can stay in Japan during the processing time.
Now, this was good research. I'm starting to understand this studying abroad in Japan stuff, now. However, I shouldn't stop here. I should have chats like these with other schools, too. I think that before the term starts at the junior high school at which I'm teaching, I should do two more informational sessions like this in Tokyo (because to be honest, I'd prefer to study Japanese in Tokyo rather than Utsunomiya—the cost of living is barely higher, and the job opportunities are so much better).

Tomorrow starts the seven-week countdown to two major events: the start of my Applied Calculus I course (MTH 271) and the start of my Sumitomo Denso corporate class, both of which start on October 15. Before then, these are my goals (I need to be able to keep this up for exactly 50 calendar days):

  • 1 hour per day: Keep up with my Anki reps
  • 1 hour per day: Catch up on stuff that I fell behind in
  • 2 hours per day: Review pre-calc
  • 1.5 hours per day: ITE 170 (Multimedia Software)
That's a shocking 5.5 hours of study per day. It's going to be a crucible, but if I get through it, I'll finish the year with an AS in IT and JLPT N2.

August 16, 2014: Torimune no Amasuni
Today, my wonderful girlfriend, Miss M., taught me step-by-step how to make "Torimune no Amasuni" (鶏むねの甘酢煮, Boiled Sweet and Sour Chicken). I took about two pages of notes in my memo pad to make sure I had the process down, and now, I have one solo cook under my belt (see photos). I was pleased with the results. I think we're at 95%. Thanks, Miss M.

My best bowl so far of Torimune no Amasuni, cooked with ginger and garlic and with sesame seeds sprinkled on it, with mayonnaise on top (my third cook, click on the image to enlarge):

Basic Torimune no Amasuni cooking in the frying pan:

Here's the recipe (ingredients will be in red):

First Bowl: The Chicken (use two bowls):


Start with ~200 g of chicken. Cut it into ~24 pieces. Put in ~22.5 cc of ryōrishu (料理酒, cooking sake) and leave the chicken with the ryōrishu for at least five minutes. [After the chicken has soaked in the ryōrishu for at least five minutes, a]dd three tablespoons of flour to the chicken and mix.

Second Bowl: The Sauce:


Put in two tablespoons of sugar. Add two tablespoons of soy sauce and 50 mL of water. Add ½ tablespoon of vinegar. Add one tablespoon of mirin (みりん, type of sweet rice wine used in cooking) and one tablespoon of ryōrishu.

In the Frying Pan:


Oil the pan and put the stove on setting 3. Cook the chicken until it is white, then add the sauce and boil the chicken with the sauce (with a cover) until golden brown.
Torimune no Amasuni without the optional ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, and mayonnaise (from the first cook):
It turned out well if I do say so myself. Definitely worthy of the chicken restaurant Los Pollos Hermanos.

Notes


  • Optionally, ginger and garlic can be added when cooking.
  • Dashijiru (だし汁, broth/stock) can be used instead of water in this recipe.
  • After cooking, sprinkling sesame seeds on it and adding some mayonnaise can make it even more delicious.

August 10, 2014: I Just Registered for the Final Two Courses Towards my AS in IT
With the successful completion of CMIS 320 (Relational Database Concepts and Applications) at UMUC, I have now completed 56 of the necessary 62 credit hours towards my AS in IT (Associate of Science in Information Technology). That means there are just two more classes remaining: ITE 170 (Multimedia Software) and MTH 271 (Applied Calculus I). If I can complete these courses successfully, and transfer CMIS 102 and CMIS 320 from UMUC to NOVA (pre-approved for transfer credit by NOVA), then I should finish my AS in IT this year. Today, I added ITE 170 and MTH 271 to my schedule and paid for them. I will start ITE 170 on August 20. I will start MTH 271 on October 15 (it will be an eight-week intensive course). Basically, this is how my studies will break down:

  • Japanese: Do not worry about Japanese right now, because I may go to language school next year, and it is likely that any Japanese study I do now will just be duplicated next year. Just keep up with my Anki reps.
  • August 10-August 20: Catch up.
  • August 20-October 15: Teach, review pre-calculus, and try to complete ITE 170 using the optional eight-week (intensive) completion plan.
  • October 15-December 9: Teach and complete MTH 271.
  • December 10-December 31: Teach, and sit back and revel in having just finished my AS in IT, something I have been working on at NOVA since I took my first class there in 2007, over seven years ago.

August 1, 2014: A in Relational Database Concepts and Applications, Job News
First of all, I got an A in Relational Database Concepts and Applications:

And second of all, I signed a new contract with Utsunomiya English Center (UEC). It is until March 31, 2015, which follows the school year, which ends in March. This was a little bit of a surprise because I am used to working with one-year contracts, but actually, I think it is okay. I had previously modified my contract schedule (last year) so that I was going from September-August on one-year contracts, but actually, that was not very good, because August/September is not the part of the year with the most jobs. This way, I am both better in sync with the Japanese hiring season, and with the Japanese academic year (because if either my school or I decide not to recontract, I might want to go to Japanese language school and study Japanese intensively for a year). Overall, I see this new contract as a positive and not a negative.

Finally, I am thinking of opening up a private, password-protected blog on this site that is just for family and friends. I spent the last five days doing something that was interesting, but probably should not be on this main blog.

July 21, 2014:

I WENT THROUGH HELL TODAY

Yes, that's right, I went through Hell today. All four levels of it. I started and finished Levels 13, 14, 15, Lazarus' special level, and Level 16, killing Diablo and sealing him in a soulstone, all today, in the game Diablo. I have never beaten this game before, nor even a game from its series, so it felt like an accomplishment. Here are some screenshots that I took near the end of the game:

Fighting Diablo, the Last Boss


The Best Equipment I Was Able to Find, Just Before Fighting Diablo

Diablo is, of course, a classic that virtually every PC gamer knows about. I found it at the HardOff store for ¥105 including tax, which I thought was a great deal. This wasn't a budget re-release either, this was the original game from 1996 (Version 1.0). It even says inside the CD case "COMING IN 1997: STARCRAFT™." It was the American version (not sure how that got there—did an English teacher sell his or her copy to HardOff, or did a Japanese person import it from America?

Anyways, it is a great game. It is very addictive, and the randomly-generated levels, random selection of enemies, randomly-generated items, etc. ensure that the experience is different every playthrough, and that the player will be immersed in the game instead of immersed in walkthroughs. I played through all of Hell while eating a large pizza that I got for a mere ¥480 from the grocery store, that was half price because it was "old." So that's what I did for the third day of my summer vacation.

I have decided that near the end of this summer vacation, I want to take the DSST World Religions exam. I am studying for that from a study guide.

That's about it, really. I need to start working on reviewing precalculus. As of tomorrow, I will have only 30 days until my calculus class starts (online), so I'd better get cracking on the review.

I think that for my next game, I'm going to try to finish Lunar: Harmony of the Silver Star on PS Vita. I also plan to take some trips, like one to Chūzenji Lake, maybe. The summer vacation has just started, so the possibilities still seem endless!

Click here to read old news. | Click here to read a brief explanation of what I do in Japan, and why I chose Japan.