March 25, 2015: Just Got Back from Fukushima Yesterday
There is lots of news to report. Here is a quick preview:
  • My new job in Fukushima
  • My calculus midterm and third quiz
  • An explanation for the picture below:

First of all, yesterday, I got back from Fukushima. Why did I go to Fukushima? The answer is to tour the city and the school where I will be working starting April 15. Starting April 15, I will be training in Aizuwakamatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture (the one with the nuclear meltdown, but my city is ~100 kilometers away from that). Starting May 1, I will be teaching full-time at an English school there. I spent three days and two nights in Aizuwakamatsu. The city is a pretty ordinary Japanese city, with many of the familiar chain stores (HardOff, a large thrift store chain, is my favorite, and they have that), but a little bit more scenic than average. The mountains are very close and the trees are visible; Mt. Bandai is also visible.

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.


Mt. Bandai, Close to Aizuwakamatsu


Heavy Snow Between Mt. Bandai and Aizuwakamatsu

Snowy View with Mt. Bandai in the Distance

Taken at Bandaimachi Station

Someone Who Will Remain Nameless Will Appreciate This

Me Looking Ridiculous After It Started Snowing on March 23, at My Minshuku (Japanese-style inn—only ¥2,500 a night thanks to the very kind elderly couple who run it and gave me a discount [and also offered to drive me shopping])

The View Out of My Minshuku of the Local High School (March 24)

The Yard of my Minshuku (March 24)

As for MTH 271 (Applied Calculus I, the last course I need towards my AS in IT), I took the midterm exam on Saturday and got 88%, which was a little bit less than I had expected, but still decent. Then, on Monday, I took Quiz 3 and got 81.5% on that (once again, a little bit less than I had expected, but still decent). My average is now 89.74%. At this point, I will almost certainly pass this course; I only need a 30.26% average on my future assignments, which is almost guaranteed. I will finish at Utsunomiya English Center and have almost three weeks with no work. During that time, I will have plenty of time to study calculus and hopefully come close to finishing the course. This is a personal triumph for me, because I have always been bad at math.

My course in XML at UMUC is also underway. That should be interesting.

And finally, an explanation for the bloody picture at the top of this article. here it is, one more time:

That's Clary pretending to be dead at the end of a trail of blood—real blood! You see, he asked me to carry a big 40 kilogram bag of wild boar meat from an inoshishi (wild boar) he and a farmer in Motegi slaughtered this morning, and it started leaking and formed a trail of blood from the car to the house. He gave me ~2 kilograms of wild boar meat which is sitting in my freezer (he says this kills the parasites which are sometimes present in wild boar). I will make sure to cook it thoroughly, but I am looking forward to eating this wild boar meat. :-)

Last of all in this post, I want to make some new plans—as of yesterday, the meeting-the-calculus-withdrawal-date-requirements/job-hunting/submitting-first-XML-assignments "trial by fire" was finished. Finally, today, I can breath a sigh of relief. Starting tomorrow, though, I should get serious again (to avoid another "trial by fire"). Here is what I plan to do between now and May 11 (or May 10 in Virginia):

  • Start my job in Aizuwakamatsu. Do a good job. Be professional and study what they are teaching me in the training. The boss seems like a real professional who has been teaching for upwards of 30 years in multiple countries including Japan, Indonesia, Portugal, and Colombia, and used to work at the British Council, so maybe I can really learn something about teaching.
  • Pack up the stuff in my apartment and move it to Aizuwakamatsu.
  • Keep studying calculus. In the beginning, there were 68 steps to be completed in 119 days (1.75 days per step). Now, I have 23 steps left to complete in 47 calendar days; that is 2.04 days per step. I am winning, but this battle can still be lost by getting lazy.
  • Keep studying XML for my CMIS 170 course. One of my first steps tomorrow needs to be to create a new Anki deck for SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language)—HTML and XML are both included under the umbrella of SGML markup languages. I should feed in HTML tags and XML elements/attributes.
  • Study (lightly) for the JLPT. The JLPT is just 101 days away.
  • Catch up on various subjects I have fallen behind in (I got A's in these subjects, but would still like to master them better, especially SQL).
  • Work out at the gym. The past two weeks, I have only done half as many workouts as I should have. This needs to change! I should not lose muscle mass or gain fat.


When I was in Tokyo, I took pictures of this wonderful Engrish. This shop sells uniforms, such as work clothes and lab coats. I think it is meant to be "Kurt," not "Cult" (the Japanese is Kuruto, which is usually translated to "Kurt," whereas "cult" is karuto in Japanese).
March 21, 2015: Passed the Calculus Midterm Exam
Today, I went to Tokyo and took my calculus midterm exam. I got 88%. My average in the class is now a little bit more than 91%. This is good. I will almost certainly pass the class, the last thing standing between me and my Associate of Science degree in Information Technology. Dirk Binder (the CEO of The Center for Advanced Studies, who proctored my exam at his test center, and who is heading off to Myanmar tomorrow) and I have scheduled the final exam tentatively for 5/10.

Tomorrow, I am going to go to Aizuwakamatsu City, Fukushima (the prefecture with the nuclear reactor in meltdown—but do not worry, this is ~100 kilometers away from that). I am going there to look at my potential future city, my potential future apartment, and my potential future English school. The probability that I will sign a contract if these things look good is high. I will be gone until at least Monday.


My 4th Fitness Report from Big Tree

March 11, 2015: A Powerhouse of a Last Week
This last week has been an absolute powerhouse. I have been insanely busy, but have the following good news to report, in order of "meh, whatever" to "OH MY GOD, THAT'S AWESOME!"
  1. 3/7 was my 4th anniversary of moving to Japan. I have been here for four years now. I am now "only" six years away from being able to apply for permanent residency (or one year away from applying for actual Japanese citizenship—which would be stupid because I would have to give up my American passport, probably not likely to do that). Oh, and I should mention a sad note, today is also the fourth anniversary of the Great Tōhoku Earthquake. :-(
  2. I had myself analyzed by the machine at Big Tree yesterday. My fitness score is up to 73 (from 70 a month before). I have packed on 0.5 kilograms of muscle and lost 1.9 kilograms of fat!
  3. CMIS 242 (Intermediate Programming [with Java]) is now finished. I know I got at least 94.67% (an A), but I think that might go up a little bit (my professor only gave me that as a provisional grade until she gets a non-corrupted version of the Final Project documentation; I sent her that earlier today). My Bachelor of Science in Computer & Information Science is now 87.5% complete! And my Career Studies Certificate in Application Programming is 100% complete!
  4. I finished my calculus quiz this evening. My score was 100%!
  5. I found out this week that there will be a change in visa regulations next month. The Specialist in Humanities/International Services visa (the visa I have) will be merged with the Engineer visa (the visa I want)! This means I can start applying for so-called "Engineer" jobs (mostly actually computer programming) this year instead of next year! So I did. I have already applied to two of them.
  6. And now, drum roll—one of those two companies contacted me and will interview me the day after tomorrow, meeting me in Takadanobaba Station in Tokyo!
So basically, it has been a powerhouse of a last week. I am extremely busy and have almost no free time. Many basic things are just not getting done right now, and calculus is the culprit. One of the other students taking MTH 271 from this professor estimates that each step takes 5~7 hours (I agree with this figure). There are 69 steps, so that is about 414 hours of calculus shoehorned into just four months. It's insane. I'm barely keeping up. Over the next few days, I need to make as much time as possible to put effort into my job hunt, because my visa expires in less than two months (though this will not be necessary if I pass the upcoming interview—let's keep our fingers crossed).

March 1, 2015: San-dai Busu (The Three Great [Places] with the Ugliest Women) in Japan
Japanese people like to make numbered lists of things, like the most beautiful mountains, and the places with the most beautiful women. Well, it turns out, they also have a list of the three prefectures with the ugliest women, called the Sandai Busu (三大醜女).

This morning, I brought up the topic of Akita Bijin (Beauties of Akita [Prefecture]) with my advanced students, Mr. Sasaki and Mr. Nishimiya. Women from Akita Prefecture (as I have noticed), tend to be tall, light-skinned, big-eyed, and just all around "maybe her grandfather was European"-looking. I should know, because two of my students and also one of the gym staff members at my gym are all from Akita, and all have those traits.

Mr. Nishimiya and Mr. Sasaki told me of the Three Great Beauties. They are: Akita Prefecture, Kyōto, and Hakata.

Women in Kyōto are beautiful, probably because of the large number of maiko-san (geisha-in-training) recruited from other parts of Japan, historically, who had to be beautiful.

Hakata women apparently have big eyes and noses (remember, in East Asia, a big nose is not considered a bad thing—back when I lived in Korea, I actually heard of people having nose enlargement surgery because their noses were too small to hold a pair of glasses). But what of Akita? Why are Akita women so beautiful?

The answer, according to my students, is this. It was the Edo Period (a period of time when Japan was closed to the outside world and under the Bakufu (幕府, Curtain Government). A feudal lord was going to be dispatched by the government to Akita Prefecture. Worried that there would not be any beautiful women, he took numerous beautiful women from Ibaraki Prefecture with him to Akita Prefecture—and as a result, Akita women are beautiful to this day.

Which brings me to the topic of this blog post—the ugliest women in Japan. According to my students, the Sandai Busu are: Ibaraki (maybe because the beautiful women were taken by that feudal lord to Akita), Sendai, and Nagoya. In my class, I told them about the term "brain drain," and we were soon using the term "beauty drain" in our discussion. :-)

That said, I have seen many beautiful women in the Nagoya Metropolitan Area during the 2+ years that I lived there, and can also attest to at least one attractive women from Ibaraki. I have never been to Sendai, though.

February 15, 2015: Update on This Week, and Part I of the 2015 Job Hunt Will Begin Today

↑ On Wednesday, I ate at Cocos. I had previously thought that Cocos and Coco Ichibanya, a cheap curry restaurant, were the same, but boy was I wrong! Cocos is relatively high-class and has lots of Spanish food, like this seafood paella that I ate.

↓ And This Boiled Spear Squid Ink Dish with Bread for Dipping and Chunks of Squid in It


↑ Another breakthrough this week was creating a form application in Java using the Swing GUI. I already knew (at least roughly) how to use most of these GUI components, but the breakthrough was getting a save/load system working. The program can import/export the forms from/to files. This is a little bit complicated in Java compared to other programming languages.
Now, I have decided that today is going to be my first day of of the 2015 job hunt, my first job hunt since 2013. As planned, I will spend the first three weeks applying only to appealing jobs, to avoid "settling" too quickly. Here are my job hunt goals for today:
  • Update my resume. Create two two-page versions—one that emphasizes my English teaching and language skills, and another that emphasizes my IT skills and my computer & information science skills.
  • Apply to at least one job before midnight tonight. For the next three weeks, I am only going to apply to jobs that are either:
    • Jobs that will enhance my experience: Jobs where I can use my foreign language skills or IT/computer & information science skills

      or

    • High-end English teaching jobs (¥300,000+ per month)
Today, I also want to make it a priority to go to the gym (I want to see bigger gains this month) and catch up completely on my CMIS 242 (Intermediate Programming) reading and video watching.

February 10, 2015: A Little Bit of Good News from Big Tree Fitness
I got my muscle and fat measured at Big Tree Fitness today, for the first time in two months. Here are the results:

  • Fat: I lost 0.5 kilograms of fat.
  • Muscle:
    • I gained 0.15 kilograms of arm muscle.
    • I gained 0.5 kilograms of core muscle.
    • I gained 0.61 kilograms of leg muscle—a major victory, because before, my leg muscle had actually been decreasing. Not only did I reverse the trend, I completely recovered all the muscle I lost, plus an extra 0.01 kilograms. :-)
  • My new Fitness Score is 70 (up from 69). 70 is the threshold for "ordinary" (I had been "not enough exercise" before).
Overall, that was many small victories, especially with the leg muscles. I think the reason that the leg muscles had been decreasing before was because I was working them out very hard, then not resting the next day (instead, I was jogging to work). This was preventing them from regenerating. I had also probably not been eating enough protein. In response to this, I started taking the bus instead of walking on rest days, and started drinking protein shakes. This seems to have worked wonders. Instead of losing 0.6 kilograms like last time, I gained 0.61 kilograms in my legs. :-)

Here are my long-term fitness goals:

  • Get down to 10% body fat, then maintain it at 10-11%. A trainer at Big Tree says abs show at 10%. Internet research yields 11%, on average.
  • Get my bench pressing up to 81% of my body weight, or 81% of my body weight plus 20 kilograms on the Smith Machine.
I am improving, but the improvements are very, very small right now. Of course I should continue to "level up" the weights I am lifting, but here are some other things I think I can do to improve my muscle gains and fat loss:
  1. Cut down on alcohol.
  2. Start bringing protein shakes to the gym instead of waiting until I get home. The effect, according to the Gold Trainer Mr. Nihei, is greatest within 30 minutes of the end of the workout (I assume he means the weight lifting and not the stretching). By the time I get home, usually more than 30 minutes have passed.
  3. Get at least eight hours of sleep after working out, not six or seven hours.
  4. Increase protein shakes after working out to two after or near the end of each workout session.
  5. Go to the gym three times a week—I usually went three times a week, but not always (holidays and lack of planning conspired to reduce my workout days per week below three).
  6. Eat better. Eat according to The Abs Diet Power 12, plenty of protein, and eat at a slight caloric deficit to lose weight. However, do not eat at too much of a deficit, or it will interfere with muscle growth.
The direction I am going is good. I just need to accelerate it. If I keep up with this routine, I will eventually have a good body—but I do not want to wait until I am 35. The last two months have yielded a 2.35% increase in the muscles I am working out—I would like to see greater than or equal to this amount of increase every month, not every two months, and I think it is possible if I am strict about the above.

February 9, 2015: My Plans for the Remainder of the Winter 2015
Today, I took my first Applied Calculus I quiz. I got 93.33%. I consider this a major victory, because twice before, I have been enrolled in a calculus course but either withdrawn or dropped it because I was overwhelmed before getting to the first quiz, but this time is different—I have completed the first quiz! Whether I am ahead in the course, or behind in it, is debatable.

The Applied Calculus I course is composed of 69 steps, with 118 days in the course (January 12-May 10). This means I should be completing an average of one step every ~1.71 days. Using this, I am exactly where I should be in this course—I need to have completed 16 steps by today, and I have.

Using the professor's recommendations (16 steps in the first two weeks), I am very behind, though. The professor seems to expect a very large volume of homework in the first two weeks, and I took four weeks to do it—this course is very, very demanding for me. I might not take a UMUC course in Spring Semester 2 if Applied Calculus I keeps being this intensive. In that scenario, I would have to double up on UMUC courses at some other time this year.

Another reason to skip Spring Semester 2 at UMUC is my upcoming job hunt. I plan to start my job hunt on February 15. I work at UEC right now, but because I have gone to part-time, my income is no longer enough to keep extending my visa unless I can raise my income above ¥180,000 per month, so I will probably need to hunt for a new job.

This is my strategy:

  • February 15:
    • Start applying to jobs. I have been in Japan for over three and a half years and have over five and a half years of teaching experience now. This, combined with the extremely weak yen and the low 4% unemployment rate mean that there has possibly never been a better time to job hunt.

      Therefore, I should start by only applying to appealing jobs. I should hold off on applying to regular, run-of-the-mill, entry-level gaijin English teaching jobs until later when I am desperate, so I do not accidentally undersell myself for the next year in the job market. What does "appealing" mean, here?

      • English teaching jobs paying at least ¥300,000 yen per month
      • Jobs outside of English teaching that take advantage of my three languages and let me use my Japanese more than English teaching usually does (ideas: a foreign trading company, a hotel, etc.)
      • Jobs that are at least somewhat related to computers: I am not yet eligible for a Gijutsu (技術, "Engineer" or, a more accurate translation and description, "Technology") visa, but maybe I can get a job that is at least somewhat related to computers, such as a proofreading job proofreading technical manuals or something like that.
      • The job should be in the Kantō (関東) Region in Tokyo or one of the nearby prefectures.
    • Start cleaning my apartment and packing things up into boxes.
  • March 7, Early Morning: If I still have not found anything, start applying for all jobs for which I am eligible, including entry-level gaijin English teaching jobs.
  • April 1 or so: Complete my move and start my next job.

January 30, 2015: Utsunomiya Snow Day: Futaarasan Shintō Shrine, Utsunomiya-jō (Castle), etc.
I taught two lessons today at the UEC main office, one in the morning, and one in the evening. Between those two lessons, I took a little walk. I took and uploaded 16 pictures today of various snow scenes in Utsunomiya.

Utsunomiya-jō (Castle), Near City Hall:

The View from the Bridge Over the Ta River, Near UEC:

More Views of the Ta River, This Time from Out a Window in UEC:

Futaarasan Shintō Shrine:

This is a building in Futaarasan Shintō Shrine with Utsunomiya Tower in the background. Utsunomiya Tower broadcasts radio and television waves, and my students say it has been there for 20~30 years.

More Futaarasan Shintō Shrine Images:

Another Utsunomiya Castle Image:

Snow Covered Trees Right Next to my LeoPalace Apartment:

These are little tiny snowmen outside the hair salon near UEC. Note that in Japan, snowmen have two snowballs, as opposed to western snowmen, which have three balls.

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