Archive for the ‘learning Japanese’ Category


4 June 2010

As part of my training for the 3-Day in October, in addition to doing lots of walking I am supposed to be cross-training.  In other words, doing some non-walking form of exercise.  I have re-started doing Dance Dance Revolution, which I have not done very much at all lately.  I prefer one of the older versions, DDR MAX2.

This version has what is called “Endless” mode, though it does end as soon as you fail a song.  What it does is play a prescribed sequence of songs in batches of 5, without much pause between songs.  In the usual game mode, you play a song and dance to it, then you get a grade/score, and then you choose another song yourself.  In Endless mode, there is no choosing.  That is done for you.  Today I made it all the way to song 25 before failing.  Why have I had trouble getting that far, when I used to be super-good at this?  Well, not as good at it as my husband, but pretty darn good at the level I was used to.

It’s all in reading the moving arrows fast enough to put your feet in the right place at the right time, and knowing the music well enough so that it is obvious to you when the right time is.  And the arrows can move pretty darned fast.  You need to have a neural connection that allows your feet to move to the correct location on the dance pad without having to parse it out in your mind first.

I have some connections like that in other situations.  Reading English, certainly.  And in the past few years I discovered that I have a connection like that for doing jigsaw puzzles.  When I am doing a jigsaw puzzle I feel as though I am not even thinking, my eyes see the puzzle piece and my hand puts it in the place it belongs.  Touch typing is like this too.  You know what words you want to come out onto the page or screen, and your fingers go to the right places to form those words.  You may even find that if you DO start thinking about it, you start hitting incorrect keys.

Anyway, I’m having difficulty with getting my groove back in DDR because I haven’t been keeping up the neural connection that lets my feet go to the right place at the right time, and I haven’t been listening to the songs to keep the rhythms in my mind.

I was thinking that I really want to get to this stage with the hiragana and katakana in Japanese. Every so often I play a little game on the computer to match the symbols to their sounds, and I can generally match all of them in under 2 minutes, but I still take what feels like forever to sound out a word.  I remember sounding out words when learning to read, as a child, but I don’t remember how long it took me to be able to just read.  This process feels agonizingly slow, and I need to get it done so I can start learning kanji (the more complicated symbols that are usually used in place of spelling out entire words.)  Meanwhile I plod my way along, kana by kana, through words that usually turn out to be something like “com-pyu-ta” (computer) and I feel both proud that I got it and sad that it is a word borrowed from English instead of a “real” Japanese word that I might know.  Oh well, the words I know are most likely to be written as kanji instead of hiragana or katakana anyway.

I gotta go back to those flash cards.  Maybe after a walk.


12 July 2009


Grasshopper (creme de menthe and creme de cacao) chocolate chip black-bottom ice cream pie for my husband’s birthday.

Crust: chocolate wafers, sugar, butter.

Ganache (spread on crust before adding ice cream): heavy cream, sugar, butter, chocolate.

Ice cream: heavy cream, half-and-half, sugar, vanilla, mini chocolate chips, two tablespoons each creme de menthe and creme de cacao added when ice cream is at “soft-serve” stage.

Chocolate shavings added before placing pie in freezer to set.

Candles: “congratulations” in Japanese, ordered in advance from


11 April 2009

Every year, Subaru sponsors a cherry-blossom festival in Philadelphia.  Jenny invited me to join her and her brother, sister-in-law, and two nephews in enjoying Sakura Sunday, in Fairmount Park.  Since I am trying to learn Japanese, it seemed like an excellent idea, and fortuitously it was a beautiful day and the beginning of Spring Break, so I felt no pressure and had no agenda.  Whee!

Jenny and I stopped at the H-mart to pick up some sesame- and nut-free snacks (one of her nephews has allergies) and some green tea, and parked a pleasant walk away from the festivities.  We found a place to park our picnic supplies, and had time to enjoy some drumming by the Swarthmore College taiko drummers and some dancers doing traditional dances before taking the tour of the Japanese House, Shofuso.


It is especially nice to see these things with Jenny, who has lived in Japan and knows Japanese and about the culture.  She was able to explain that the artist who painted the sliding screen-walls of Shofuso, Hiroshi Senju,  lives part time in New York and part time in Tokyo and painted the screens with a sort of spraypainting technique.  Also, the pond in the garden is in the shape of the kanji for “heart” (you can’t tell that from my photos, though—see my flickr set) and the roof is thatched in an old technique that is dying out even in Japan.

After lunch, I wandered around the festival and caught a glimpse of the Cherry Blossom Queen (Erisa Kazui, in the US to visit Philadelphia’s and Washington DC’s cherry blossom festivals).  I entered a drawing to win a trip to Japan (I won a t-shirt, which I have not received yet), looked over the go games, the carp windsock making table (nobody over the age of 8 seemed to be participating, so I just watched), and the origami tables.  In addition, I found out that the “Dr. Robot” sumo robot wrestling people do children’s parties and school visits, and took some pictures of the calligraphy.  I also bought some kimono fabric: two swatches of silk and one of cotton.


Sakura Sunday was an ideal way to kick off my break, which started out fairly productively (I sewed, I accomplished some schoolwork and some housework, I bought a Japanese textbook (again with help from Jenny, THANK YOU!), but which has since tapered off into procrastination.  Ah well, I will remember the fun I had as I sit at my desk trying to finish up the grading I left for the last day of vacation.


French toast, Japanese vocabulary

2 March 2009

We’re having another snow day today.  And it is still snowing.

This morning I made French toast for breakfast.  Where I live, every time there is a snow storm in the immediate forecast, people crowd into grocery stores en masse.  It’s amazing!  The joke is that everyone has to buy bread and milk and eggs before the snowstorm…but why?  Clearly the food of choice during a snowstorm is French toast!  So I made some this morning:


Mmmmmm, with New York grade A medium amber pure maple syrup from the Edwards’ farm.

I was going to just wait until it stops snowing to shovel, but the shoveling guy who has been here before came back asking another $10 to shovel.  I figure sure, and I will shovel again this afternoon (only it will be less work) once it’s over.  I’m a sucker for stimulating the economy these days.  Over the weekend I spent a bunch of money (well, less than $100) at, where you can buy all sorts of Japanese items.  I bought some flash cards for learning nouns and greetings, and some notebooks with red and green transparent overlays and some red and green pens and highlighters which are study aids.  You write your vocabulary words with red and green and then you can quiz yourself by blacking out either the English words or the Japanese words with the overlays.  The asian markets aren’t doing well either, and stimulating the world economy can only be good for our economy, right?

I’m up to lesson 15 in the My Japanese Coach program, and I can put together a few simple sentences.  I almost had the opportunity to practice when I was in Chicago–as I was going through security in O’Hare, there were a couple of Japanese women ahead of me.  They were having a lot of trouble understanding the TSA person’s instructions, particularly when the TSA person told them they had to have their boarding passes in their hands when they walked through the metal detector.  Luckily, I had my boarding pass in my hand, and I was able to point at it, helping the Japanese women understand what they needed.  At that point I could have said “Kyou wa getsuyoubi desu” or “Watashi wa onna no hito desu” but to say “Today is Monday” and “I am a woman” seemed pretty lame, so I kept quiet and just pointed at stuff.

By now I can tell you in Japanese that Buzz is a cat and Buzz isn’t energetic.  Here he is in a typical non-energetic pose:


Buzz-san wa genki dewa arimasen. Kare wa neko desu. Buzz-san wa doko desu ka?

One of these days I will figure out how to put the kiragana in on the computer, but for now all I can do is scan.

Keep warm!