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tony silva

June 8, 2014

And seemingly, shazaam, just like that, the semester is half over. We’ve gotten this far without any of the hellish heat and humidity sure to come, though there have been a few uncomfortable days. Necessarily, there’s not a lot to report; life here during the semester is pretty much just work. Very lucky this year in that for all my 17 classes, I have no “bad” ones. Two classes did succumb to the institutional culture of their university, and that’s unfortunate, but they were surprisingly pleasant enough for the first seven weeks. As for the rest…all I can do is be grateful.

Charles and I have pared back the Two Teachers Talking podcast frequency to once per month, and that makes a big difference. We’re better prepared and bring a good bit more enthusiasm to the show, too. And the time it frees up is needed and appreciated.

A couple of weeks and it’ll be - I can’t believe this - a tenth anniversary for Alison and I. We are rewarding ourselves with a  short, fast getaway to Okinawa, first time for each of us.

Outside my self-imposed cocoon, Shinzo Abe continues his Bush act on poor Japan…slashing corporate taxes, devaluing the currency, forcing more and more people from full-time to part-time employment (sans benefits)…almost a direct parallel to the number Bush did on the US from 2001-2008. Of course, the antics of the GOP and the wacko right back home are apparent to all, and nothing I can say can make them look any more insane than their own words and actions.

May 5, 2014

Mid Golden Week. I remember the amazement my first year here in Japan at the number of holidays these “worker ants” were given. No matter, I’ll take all I can get.

So, yeah, spending much of it working, by necessity, but also getting some important business done. Finally got tethering set up on my iPhone, so I can say goodbye to my separate little Mi-Fi gizmo. Failing again at falling in love with Scrivener. Hosted a “ホームパーティー” for a group of students for the first time ever; they deserved it. Helping Alison with some of her projects, laying groundwork for another of my own (wait until September). With luck, I’ll even get to my US income taxes.

Did manage to get out for a mini-celebration of a collective anniversary of various events in our relationship. Explored a restaurant floor in one of the huge new buildings popping up around Umeda in the center of Osaka. Decent ribs, and my first in-the-wild siting of a Google Glass. Woman said she used it mostly to tell the time.

April 4, 2014

Can it be? Can it be the last, absolute last day of the break? Does spring semester really begin tomorrow? Adding to the sadness is not only the usual moving on of favorite students (yes, I admit it) from one year to another, but, also, this being a year in which quite a few of my very favorite students have graduated. Godspeed all, I wish you the best. I will miss you.

But the vacation sure as hell was a good one. Sure, Chicago dealt me a full dose of winter in the two weeks plus I was there, but I also crammed in a traditional road trip with the guys down to Sebring FL for the twelve hour endurance race. A first, and quite an experience. Sadly, it also meant confronting the forgotten reality of what a significant portion of the country is like. Sorry, Lynyrd Skynyrd, old Neil had a point. (But, Johnny Colt…respect for coming clean). Convinced more than ever that Fox News and the red states are a cancer destroying my country. No other way to say it. But, after hightailing it back to Chicago through the crazy Florida drivers, heavy, heavy traffic and white-out rain in Georgia, low thick clouds in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, just missing a late season blizzard in Kentucky and Indiana, and ending in a welcome home Chicago-Gary morning rush hour…the next morning had me flying down to Mexico for five idyllic days in San José del Cabo. Yes, yes. Yes, it was wonderful.

And now I’m back in the Japans, gearing up frantically for the start of a new school year. However, with so few of them left, it’s much, much easier to appreciate and savor each one, if not every day. Yes, the commutes still really suck. Even worse in the summer and rainy season. Some students do manage to find the limits of patience. Still - salary aside - teaching has been a great way to make a living.

To help me a bit, I asked amazon.co.jp to bring me a major league baseball, if only for my desk. The hope is that fingering this totem, tossing it from hand to hand in the rough times will make them a little less rough. As backup, I have my stable of miniature X1/9 models mirroring the real cars of my past, expertly prepared by Bill back in Chicago, as well as my Motown baseball cap hanging next to my rack of headphones. I’ll make it.

Which is maybe more than I can say for Japan. I fear the country is about to come face to face with the ugly reality of the Abenomics scam. Long-term denial of the scale of the Fukushima problems, its increasingly withdrawn and xenophobic attitudes, its lost and directionless younger generation. China and the Koreas. Attempts to re-write its war crime history. The list goes on. Now economic Armageddon? I was first here in 1988 and have lived here since 1991, and the squandered potential of this nation is one of the tragedies of the era. The country so needs a hero, and it is so not Shinzō Abe, or anyone like him.

But, as I am wont to say, I’m just an English teacher. What do I know? 

Still, BUY THE BOOK!

March 12, 2014

Happy Birthday, Word Wide Web! (OK, so I'm a little early...)

March 3, 2014

FINALLY, IT'S OUT: A Quick and Dirty Guide to the Japanese Meeting. So close to completion for so long, I finally found the couple of days to put the finishing touches on the book before leaving Japan. Very useful guide for anyone who'll be involved in Japanese-style meetings.

December 27, 2013

Looking back at 2013, and trying to ignore my country’s (and Japan’s) continued wrong-headedness in clinging to conservative (i.e., radical right wing) ideology, not a total disaster. First and foremost, the year has been almost free of personal loss: the angel of death and his minions have been merciful this year, and for that I am truly grateful.

As for the nation, no matter how the right and media spin it, I see unemployment down, the DOW and NASDAQ at record levels, health care for millions who were previously without coverage, a strong movement to increase the minimum wage and lessen wealth inequality, real trends in both marriage equality and marijuana legalization, and even continued discussion on immigration reform. Chicago’s homicide rate is down (though Rahm is still mucking things up badly else wise). The next year will hopefully bring our men and women home from Afghanistan. Still, our veterans and homeless still need a hand, so help if you can. I’m a fan of the McCormick Foundation’s Chicago Tribune Charities because of its gift-matching and low overhead costs.

Personally, I am failing at keeping work corralled in its proper boundaries, but enjoying the teaching and my students, so it’s not a total wash. Alison is also failing miserably; no consolation there. But, we continue to try. I have managed to make some great sound acquisitions over the year, including a FiiO DAC/amp, and four great pairs of headphones: Grado SR225i and Sony MDR 7506 for full-size listening and UE900 and Sony MDR-EX600 for in-ear listening on the go. Love each. Why four? Addiction, no excuses.

So, now, just year-end cleanup, getting ready for the last month of classes, and girding myself for the big bad birthday about to hit me. しょうがない。

September 26, 2013

The end of the summer break is here. Have had some classes as early as last week, but today is the last scheduled day of the break. Classes tomorrow (Friday) and full on from Monday. Despite some scary wind, it's a nice one - sunny, dry, not too warm. Naturally spending most of the day preparing for classes, though did get some podcast listening in. Even the text is turning brown.

Never got to the Japanese meeting book, and never got to writing any fiction. Have begun talks with Dave Clough about a project revolving around his Empty Bowl Ramen Tour. It'll be an interesting challenge if it comes about. Been feeling the pinch of Twitter's 141 characters of late, and App-dot-net's audience isn't quite developed yet, so toying with the idea of making this page a bit more blog-like. Workflow looks to be a pain, though, so not sure how well that will work out. But that's the explanation for what is likely to be a much higher frequency of rant here.

Speaking of which, lets just make quick mention of the bozos still unable to accept the fact that Apple has another round of hits with the new iPhones and the horror of the US GOP. As for the latter, I can't decide which is their most loathsome aspect - the cynicism, the stupidity, the heartlessness, or the pure evil. Just a venomous infection plaguing the country. Oh, and no, I won't forget the Abe-Ishihara-Hashimoto act from Japan, either; what an amazing feat to lure the Olympics into the radioactive disaster of central Japan. Oh, yes, I'm sure it'll all be fine by 2020. Oh, yes.

But plenty more of that, with choice examples to follow.

September 16, 2013

Reworking words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs so they all hang and flow just right. Massaging images taken with my Nikon P7000, reframing, tweaking. Fiddling forever with audio recording apps, filters, and mics, getting the settings just so for the next podcast. Discovery, learning, mastery, joy. Creation.

Some just see a guy sitting in front of his damn computer. Still. Again.

I'm back in the Japans, by the way, fighting jet lag and missing the dry, cool weather I enjoyed in Chicago for most of the visit back home. (A typhoon is just skulking awayas I type this.) But very happy to be back at a full-size keyboard, staring at a huge Apple display, seated in my Aeron chair. And don't forget Japan's baths and toilets: unmatched anywhere. Have already chowed on some delicious sushi - our local guy may be both visually impaired and in possession of Kansai's dullest knives. Really need to catch a good look at how many fingers he has left. There are some pictures up from the trip: the Detroit Cruise and the Elkhart Lake Vintage Races. Big thanks to everyone who made the trip such a great one, from beginning to end. Just great.

Classes begin on Tuesday, but sporadically, leaving a few days off, still. What's left is to prep for the semester's beginning, get the damn meeting book to amazon and Apple, then attack my blessedly short chore list from Wifus™. Possible? Maybe. But there is, of course, more, as there always is. Following up on complaints of some very sub-par service from the Advantage car rental company, as well as a few bogus credit card charges. I suppose I should finish unpacking, too, at some point. 

If I can, I'll try to get down my thoughts on the 2020 Olympics. Meanwhile, those of you in Japan or anyone interested in the radiation sitiation here, this app that uses user uploaded data to plot radition levels: Safecast.

August 28, 2013

Today ends  Phase 1 of the vacation…the part that I have "to myself." Which means, catching up with work (grades, headphone reviews…never got to finishing the book or getting ready for the upcoming semester, dentist, ophthalmologist, catching up with friends, getting more than five hours of sleep. It's been packed, helping my brother buy his new car, having a hell of weekend at the Dream Cruise in Detroit with some of my very best friends, cranking out a 4000 word six headphone roundup, and just being in America, Chicago, again. For a great change from the Osaka sauna, almost nothing but wonderful weather the whole time I've been here. And central air for those days when it got a little warm.

Now it's a week or so of tour guide until the in-laws leave, which will be a great chance to see my favorite city  with fresh eyes. Great folks, too. The vacation ends with a fast ride up to Road America, Elkhart Lake, for the Vintage Festival for the weekend with the guys - and two of our ladies. If the weather cooperates, it's a guaranteed great weekend. Nothing vintage race cars at speed. Alison will leave for Japan a couple of days before I will, and I'll spend those days shopping and tying what loose ends I can. I imagine even by then there'll be a little chill in the air here, just as I imagine the steamy air that will rich into my lungs when I step off the JAL plane into the jetway at Narita (and again in Osaka). That stop in Narita, by the way, is as close as I'll be to the disaster in Fukushima.

And so my very unusual dual universe life continues.

July 21, 2013

Summer days. Spring semester "winding down." If there ever were a less accurate expression of reality, I haven't heard it. Only the glimmer of the break a couple of weeks ahead lightened the intense workload of these last weeks. Just very lucky so many of my classes and students truly are a joy. Love 'em.

Grilling as I type: brats, burgers, ribs, chicken. Menu for tonight and the week ahead, as there's only time for microwave meals come Mondays. But this shit is GOOD.

Down on the streets below, neighborhood groups are practicing for this Thursday's Tenjin Matsuri…in full dress. They've got their shorts and happi coats, their drums and tong-tinglers, their wheeled danjiri, their goofy chant…local color out the wazoo, and a great background soundtrack to the sizzling heat, supplemented by Japan's cacophonic semi (cicadas). Several years hence, all that will be replaced with Nativity and Crucifixion re-enactments, Quinceañera galas, and Day of the Dead fun. So, yes, appreciating it all. No Alison Fest this year for the matsuri, and while sad for her, I have to say the prospect of coming home from a hot hard day of work toward the end of a hot hard week of work to a house- and balcony-ful of guests is, conservatively, daunting. We'll have dinner and drinks alone together out on the terrace and enjoy the fireworks of one of Japan's Big Three festivals. All I need to do is navigate my home through the hordes clogging the trains, station platforms, and streets. Each year I end up arguing with the police doing traffic control to let me walk home; they keep trying to direct me into the crowds packing the Ogawa (Oh River) banks for the big display. It's something. It's really Japan, or as close as you'll ever get.

Also, just a PSA, if you're looking for headphones, Sony MDR-7506. OK, if you're a golden-ear audiophile, I look forward to discussing that with you, but for 99.9% of the folks out there (and I include myself there), these are as good as you need. Period. Is there better out there? Yeah. More expensive? Yeah. Can one hear the difference? Maybe. Just make these your next cans and enjoy the music. Hate Sony? Try of these: Sennhieser HD280 Pro (best bass), Shure SRH440 Pro (neutral and flat), Grado SR60i (detail and texture at the expense of strong bottom - odd price jump: they were $70 a week or two ago). All under $100. I'll be writing about some of these for Macworld/TechHive soon.

OK, papers and projects to grade, tests to make, and so on. But first, back to the grill, the heat, and the matsuri revelers. Stay cool, all.

And, Happy Birthday, little brother!

July 6, 2013

Belated birthday wishes to my favorite country, which I embrace unabashedly, faults and all, as serious and as numerous as they might be. USA. Here's an up close look at our other First Lady.

Maybe the worst time of the year here (except for the 24 hours that is my birthday): oppressive heat and humidity, the end of semester crunch concurrent with a long spell without a day off, and a perversely demanding teaching load all weigh heavily. While cohabiting with someone under similar strain. And her aging cat. And a mildew-ridden air conditioner.

It will get better.

And it is, even now.

The podcast going strong, and, if I dare to say so, getting better. Health and home doing as well as can be expected given the cumulative workloads. Quest for the sweet spot in sound reproduction paying dividends with some new favorite headphones and in-ear monitors. Maybe drinking less and enjoying it more. Fee like I'm teaching at the top of my game, getting great feedback and feel from the students.

Of course, congratulations to the ice gods, the Chicago Blackhawks.

New look on the page? Yeah, figured why not get on the Jony Ive bandwagon and look like everyone else out there. For a while, anyway.

May 2, 2013

Holey moley, a whole month and change.

Of course, a new semester and academic year is underway, noted because, as do schoolchildren, teachers measure the passage of time by the school term. I benefitted from a lucky draw, with sixteen of eighteen classes being pretty good. One of those two classes is still a herd of deer staring into the headlights of my tutelage going on week four, and the other a bevy of young ladies with terminal sophomoritis. I should also mention the one very sad, extremely shy girl who is not doing very well at all recovering from what must be some unimaginable trauma. Last, I am finally implementing digital submission of student work. Yes, Japan, 2013. And, yes, I am finding myself teaching the subtleties and nuances of such high tech voodoo as email attachments and SUBJECT fields.

So much work. Good thing I love it.

My brake foot has finally recovered from the bizarre kart racing injury I inflicted on myself in Chicago. Weirdest thing. Also, learned that, after much serious deliberation, that, in fact, the difference between a 12mm and a 9mm buzz cut is much less than what you think 3mm looks like, and is invisible to anyone other than the wearer. The podcast going well, and pretty happy with the last few. Just and the chance to configure a slick TextExpander snippet to streamline my biweekly wrestling with the XML feed file.

A cool spring here in Osaka, no complaints. Not happy at all about the largish earthquake a few weeks ago, the biggest I've experienced since what I think of as the big one in 1995. No injury or damage (well, small stuff), but not a nice way to wake up.

Golden Week is here, which means, mostly, a chance to catch up and, hopefully, get ahead with (wait for it) work. One of the projects loaded in the chamber is a pile of headphones to review. No diamonds to reveal, but if you are unafflicted with audiophilism, there is a real bargain to be had with these Monoprice cans. I'll let you be surprised at the price. Your free tip.

March 27, 2013

Procrastinating my taxes makes me so productive. The Detroit Road Trip pics are up, the Japanese Meeting book is ready for proofreading, my next two headphone roundups for Macworld are outlined, and I'm sketching out ideas for the next book, which will most likely be the first of two, maybe three memoir/fictions about growing up on Chicago's south side. Working title: Then and There. Spreadsheets and class plans for the new semester just falling into place. Now I hear my guitar calling me...

March 21, 2013

Happy Vernal Equinox!

Just a bit of shameless self-promotion, as FINALLY, the Us and Them book is available on amazon's Kindle Store, both in the US and in Japan.

Get it here:

Apple iTunes

amazon.com

amazon.co.jp

Lulu

Also, coming later this year will be another book, A Quick and Dirty Guide to the Japanese Business Meeting.

March 16, 2013

Seems just hours ago we were in Studio A of Hitsville, USA, the Motown museum on Grand Blvd. in western Detroit, then barreling toward Chicago through whiteout conditions across Indiana, the tiny Mazda 2 rental, screaming its anemic motor out. Now, those Motown hits are funking me up over Alaska, flying "home" to Japan. Great road trip it was, too. Down and dirty diners with their coney dogs, classic Americana at the Henry Ford Museum, and the sheer awe of the Ford Rouge Plant's complexity and precision. The chance to drive, both Interstate bullet mode as well as stupid parking lot drifting. Way too much beer (for some of us, anyway - and, surprise, I don't mean me), diamond quality camaraderie. The rest of the trip was also just fine; lots of down time, a chance to relax and catch up on work, even enough to wrestle the next book to the mat if not quite finish it off. Cooked well enough to pack the pounds and cholesterol on both my brother and myself. Caught up with more old friends that matter. Really matter. Drove a new BMW 3-series, though gingerly. Got some of the old driving mojo back and managed second in one of the go-kart racing heats, maybe second fastest of our group all day. Felt good - it's been a while. Saw the old hood, smelled the Back of the Yards air, drove its potholed streets, marked the passage of time. Nothing finer.

BTW, this crew on Japan Airlines 009 (3/14) ROCKS. American, United should be ashamed.

OK, Japan, Wifus™, students, here I come, tank full, batteries charged. I'm back.

February 20, 2013 - Sweet home Chicago

OK, got here. It's the coldest day of the season. And the forecast is for more of the same. Until it snows. Nice welcome home, Chicago. No matter, the old family home is toasty, and between the weather and jet lag, I am a virtual productivity nuclear reaction. Witness, the Russia photos.

February 19, 2013 - Goin' home

No net access on this flight, but here I am at 5,000 feet somewhere over the northern Pacific headed home. Always nice. Plenty of work to get done there while "on vacation" but lots of play to look forward to: Detroit with the guys, some kart racing scheduled, real, real Mexican fare with the high school gang, Greektown with friends/colleagues from the UIC days...and driving.

February 13, 2013 - Month two

The classes have finally stopped, and this morning I submitted the last of my grades. The schedule shifts from daily commutes to considerably more keyboard time: proofreading, headphone reviews, work on the books, etc. Finally found the missing link at lulu.com so now I can track sales of my Us and Them; not that there's much to track. Amazon.com's Kindle Store is STILL unable to handle non-Roman characters (my calendar says 2013…) and Apple's iBooks store in Japan isn't due open until later in the year, so I'm effectively blocked from my market. Still, getting an ebook out on my own was a great learning experience, and SOMEDAY that Japanese Meeting book will make it out there.

January 22, 2013 - It begins again

A new year and 6% over already. Even my iPhone battery does better than that. Seems the weather is a bit weird all over the world, but here in Kansai, it's pretty much the usual winter-wanna-be: nothing that would ever be called winter where I come from, but just cold and windy enough to provoke one to bitching about it. I could start on Japanese house construction, but I'll spare you.

As usual, last year's posts are archived at the bottom of the page in case you need to call me out on something you swear I said last year. If you're really bored, you can go back to 2006 and see what life here was like then. Me? Chicken.

Wrapping up another academic year here, so even thought the tick-over rituals are long over for folks outside Japan, I'm still caught up in a second wave of last/next turn over. Some classes and students I'm really going to miss, maybe a lot. To some, of course, I'm happy to say "sayonara." (Because "goodbye" is too good a word, of course.)

Looking back, at the last year, the travel really stands out: Cambodia, Vietnam, Russia, Guam, and, yes, my beloved home, Chicago. Managed to keep all my teaching and proofreading work, which is great. Most outside of Japan don't understand that being a part-time university teacher is very much a freelance/ronin affair; you're pretty much on your own. Labor laws ostensibly passed meant to help folks like me have moved employers to change their "contracts" to exploit gaping loopholes, leaving us bent way over grabbing our ankles in even more pain than before. But that's the nature of war. Don't like it, don't enlist.

Balancing that was the launch of our Two Teachers Talking podcast, which is a hoot. Lots of work? Yes. Revenue? Zero. That may or may not change in the future, but it's still fun.

Coming up soon (I hope) will be the Japanese meeting book, as will a (mandatory) re-release of the Us and Them book. Let's hope amazon figures out how to handle non-roman characters in books in its Kindle Store. I'm not making this up.

How nice to see a sign of life in the Democratic Party in the US, though I might be mistaking that for a death wish among the opposition. I guess the lesson is whether it's national or local (Chicago/Rahm), it never pays to expect too much from your elected officials. Don't fool yourself that it's only the US. Jesus H. F. Christuminus, just look at the Japanese equivalent: Abe as Prime Minister and Hashimoto as Mayor of Osaka. There you go! Load up the expletives, friends. For now, I'll just enjoy the afterglow of the Obama Inauguration.

But, my life right now is tests, scoring, grading, syllabi…keeping FIVE academic institutions happy with their assorted bureaucratic needs that must not be neglected.

 

 

Archive of 2012 entries

Archive of 2011 entries

Archive of 2010 entries

Archive of 2009 entries

Archive of 2008 entries

Archive of 2007 entries

Archive of 2006 entries

 

Projects:

JUST RELEASED: A Quick and Dirty Guide to the Japanese Meeting. Buy two!

Us and Them - Buy my book!

Two Teachers Talking - Podcast with Charles Wiz focusing on teaching English in Japan, and on education and learning in general.

Good morning, Москва. "The Japanese Meeting," and "Topics-Based English Classes in Japanese Universities." Two presentations at The University of Vladimir in Vladimir, Russia. September 2012.

Rita Men Podcast. An ongoing oral history of our days at St. Rita High School, 1967-1971. WAY more interesting than you think. Hope to have the first episodes up in September.

friends' sites (in no particular order):
Irv Pavlik
John Dean Blog

Hirose先輩 /Miura Dojo
David Stepanczuk
Davina Robinson
Kunio Kise
Natsuki Yamamoto
Greg Lowndes

if you were i (just some stuff I find interesting):
a&l daily
dilbert blog

the pour
japanese study
それから、もっと日本語
boing boing
joy of tech
geoffrey chaucer blog
worth1000
tour chicago

on my iPhone (music & words):

Bottle Rockets
Jackson Browne
Guy Clark
Marc CohnRy Cooder
Dengue Fever
Steve Earle
Zoe Keating
Junior Kimbraugh
Robert Earl Kean
Paco de Lucia
Michael McDermott
Low Millions
Muddy Waters
The National
Poco
Rita Men playlist
Leon Russell
Andrés Segovia
The Stax Story (thanks, bro!)
Joe Strummer/Mescaleros/Clash
Them Crooked Vultures
Neil Young
Townes Van Zandt
Wilco


This American Life Podcast
Japanese lessons (wishful thinking)
Lin's Bin WXRT Podcast
MacBreak Weekly Podcast
Mac Observer's Mac Geek Gab Podcast
NPR CarTalk Podcast
Spanish lessons
Slate Podcast
Quicksilver, Neal Stephenson

iTunes
Radio Paradise

books being read or I wished were:
Chronicles Vol. 1,
Bob Dylan
The Coast of Chicago,
Stuart Dybek
Brave New World,
Aldous Huxley
Quicksilver
, Neal Stephenson (yes, still...)
Mind Hacks, Stafford & Webb
Mexico, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides
The Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi
Working, Studs Terkel
Various Historical Chicago Photograph Collections

amazon.com

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SaveTheInternet.com  

 

better in theory

  • Ripping up a parking ticket*
  • Bjork*
  • Riding your bike to work*
  • One more
  • Topless beaches
  • Couscous
  • Forgiveness
  • Revenge. No, I take that back.
  • Martini bars
  • Blue Man Group
  • Quentin Tarantino
  • Crossover vehicles. Including the Cayenne. Please.
  • Low-fat
  • "Mission Accomplished"
  • Harleys
  • Audiobooks
  • Room service
  • Indoor pools
  • Showing him/her/them who's boss....OK, maybe not.
  • Pretty good for the price.

*Stolen from Esquire

 

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noguns