Work it Harder, Make it Better

Gotta start studying harder. Or, study at all. I’ve always been one to just go with the flow, kinda lazy, to just hope for the best; I’ve in the end, been pretty happy with all of my achievements and the outcomes of doing so. That said, I’m trying to motivate myself to work a bit harder. Not for others, not for better grades or what have you, but for me. There’d be a better sense of accomplishment if I were to actually put in some extra effort, even if the outcome isn’t “better” or whatever.

I’ve changed my major at the University of Kentucky, so now I’ll be majoring in both Japanese and Economics. I feel as if my Japanese isn’t up to par, even though I’ve been learning it for the past two years. So, that’s definitely an area I want to put more effort into. The changing in majors is also sort of a self-check on that. While changing it back is just as easy, and I had planed on sticking with learning Japanese for at least four years anyway, this gives me more pressure (incentive? hmm, who knows).

Economics is going all right. I’m taking the second of my required stats classes now, so things are more on the math side of things, which is my strong subject if you will. With switching to the Economics major I’ll have to take another math class, so while I had hoped to be done with math, gonna have to go back and pick up one more; hopefully shouldn’t be too bad. I’m looking forward to moving on to studying more advanced Economics theory over the next few years anyway.

Still not sure what my plans are after school, but with Japanese, Economics and 10 years of experience as a programmer/software developer, I’m sure I can figure something out. In any case, I’m learning Japanese and learning about Economics not with some specific goal in mind, only that it’s something I want to learn. More go with the flow rhetoric, yeah, whatever the outcome, I’ll continue to just follow my interests.

Do it Faster, Makes Us Stronger

So, I’ve been working out for a few months now, slowly increasing the lifting weight and making some pretty decent strength gains; along with that I’ve been walking a few miles to and from school, also riding my bike on occasion. Body recomposition, one can definitely tell that I’ve both gotten bigger and smaller, if that makes sense.

Visually, I’d say I’m still a bit of a teddy bear, tho physically perhaps, a little more intimidating, hmm. Hate to sound too vain… ah, I’m gonna stop myself there, hehe. Feels pretty good and I’m planning to stick to it.

No major fashion changes to round out the overall appearance change, tho I did buy a bunch of new clothes recently. Obviously I am putting some effort into all of this stuff, but to reiterate what I’ve been saying lately, I’ve been doing nothing other than being myself. The same person I’ve always been.

New Tattoos

Ten years ago I got tattooed on my right arm, two Japanese kanji, representing fire and water. This was a symbol of discord, internal conflict; overt vs. covert, I vs. Me. The addition of the Zen symbol, Enso, a simple imperfect circle is a contrast to this discord, a sort of representation of harmony; a show of me, “becoming who I am,” living in the now. Yet all the while, putting forth an image of imperfection. Et cetera, et cetera…

Enso

Now, I’m no Zen practitioner, philosopher or the like, but over the past year I really have connected with it. Or to say it another way, I’ve connected more with myself. There are plenty of words to describe this connection and meaning, but the words aren’t needed, yeah. I’ll just let it speak for itself.

 

On my left arm is a totally new piece. There are a few levels of meaning on this one. For one, it is representative of my relationship with my sister. More than just a sister, she is a friend. A person I am very grateful to have in my life. The colors of the petals (though, the tattoo is in black and white) represent the Orange and Yellow of our childhood. On her right ankle she has a tattoo of a small sunflower; the sunflower on my arm is magnitudes bigger, I am her big brother after all. And finally, the position of the tattoo is opposite hers, this symbolizes the myriad of differences between the two of us.

A second meaning is tied to my travels to Japan and Hawaii this past August. In a way, it doesn’t seem like I’ve been to Japan four times over the past year, and is four times really a lot? Indeed it is. It is amazing that I am able to follow my passions as I have recently. I am very happy that I have been able to do so. My travels to The Land of the Rising Sun and the Sun shining down on the beaches of Hawaii are both represented by this sunflower.

Chinami Photo / Sunflower Drawing

On a last point of significance, as was with the tattoo that is positioned over my heart, this is another picture that was drawn by Chinami. Those two days in Hawaii where I got to meet, talk, and interact with Berryz, the special connections with Chinami were so great. Tho the setting of the meeting was Hawaii, each time I’ve come back from Japan I’ve said that the time spent has been the best time of my life, this is no exception.

 

I’ve got ideas on how I’d like to complete the whole chest / upper arm pieces, but I’m not rushing to get anything done at the moment. For the time being, this is a great point in my life that I will remember forever and always. Memorialized by these tattoos, not to cling to the past or to tell tales of what was, but as a part representation of the whole that I am today.

Solo Style: Shorts and T’s

So, I bought a bunch of t-shirts, similar in style to those that I got before I went to Japan last May. They’re kinda tight, form-fitting, but not overly so. To add, since i’ve been working out, I haven’t really lost (nor gained) any weight, as intended, but I have gotten a bit bigger. The fit of the shirts is a little bit different now; the sleeves fit pretty snugly around my arms for example.

I like the way it looks and I feel kinda cool / confident while still holding the appearance a guy who is friendly and approachable. I won’t call this my “teddy bear style,” but I think I’ll stick with it, until it starts getting cold out anyway.

Another note on confidence is when I was strolling the Hawaiian beaches, wearing the swim trunks I bought a few weeks ago. It’s not what I was wearing really, but it was a mental attitude. The whole style thing isn’t about impressing others or trying to be something that I’m not, consciously anyway, yeah. Me just being me, being comfortable with myself, it just felt right. Not that I worry much at all about what people think of my appearance anyway, but for some reason it bolstered a positive attitude out of me.

On a final point, I still haven’t completed any sort of design for the tattoo(s) I’ve been thinking about getting, but being in Hawaii has sparked an interest again. I really liked some the unique tribalesque styles I saw.

Happy Summer Vacation: Side Story

Wota girl has a little crush on me, it’s cute. Adorable even (^_^) She had been smiling at me and giggling and what not earlier in the day. We were in a line for something later on and she kept on inching towards me, eventually standing next to me a few times, but she never said anything. I was going to say something myself, but I was rather enjoying just watching her in amusement.

Eventually, during a break in the festivities of the day, she and a few of her friends came over to me and started up a little conversation. Anyway, she had recognized me as I have been to Japan, frequently, I guess you could call it, over the past year. She spoke little English, me, little Japanese, but one of her friends acted sort of as a translator for bits of it.

I’m skipping a lot… but eventually she wanted to take a picture with me. She grabbed my arm and put it around her and pulled me close; we posed for a few shots. She told me her name, in a way that it was supposed to be special that she was giving it to me. “My love for you,” she said. It’s a Japanese thing, yeah I could probably describe what I mean better, but whatever. She was saying the stuff I do was cool, she thought I was cute, and yadda, yadda. Perhaps a bit much, but again, I thought it was cute.

Anyway, that’s just a bit of a side story. A lot happened today, I’m gonna write it up for Solo Space sometime over the next few days.

Half Way There

People in Lexington are said to “Bleed Blue,” whether they go to the college or not. I guess now tho, it’s official, as I went to an orientation and registered for my classes today at the University of Kentucky.

My general education requirements are pretty much behind me, so I’ll be taking mostly Japanese/Economics classes from here on out.

Advanced Japanese – I know this one is gonna be tough, going to get a head start and study a bit over the next couple months. Regardless of how good or bad I do, I still want to continue studying Japanese in a classroom environment, barring immersion, this keeps me on track.

Japanese Culture: Meiji to Present – I’ve heard that there’s a lot of reading that needs to be done for this course. R.E.A.D.I.N.G, ugh, lol. Some may have noticed actually, that I’ve read a few books over the past year, hmm. Ha. I don’t think this class will be too bad and Japanese culture holds great interest to me, so I’m sure I’ll put in extra effort on this one.

History: Japan at War – A special class being offered this semester. I’m really looking forward to this. My history class last spring briefly touched on the things that are to be talked about in this class, will be nice to go into more depth. Meiji Restoration, Sino-Japanese, Russo-Japanese and Asia-Pacific wars will be covered. Interesting stuff.

Economics and Business Statistics – I did well in the statistics class I took last year, tho it’s been a while. Not sure how math heavy this will be, hmm. I’m good at math, but as I mention sometimes, it’s not “fun.”

Two years left. It’ll be a challenge, but I’m up for it.

Solo Style

In second grade, at the end of the year they gave out awards and such to all of the students. One of the awards I received was an award for being best dressed. I don’t know, that sounds kind of odd now thinking about it. At that age isn’t it somewhat customary for parents to pick out your clothes, or if not a lonely child, you might be the recipient of your older brother and sisters clothes… being best dressed would be kinda like giving an award to the parent rather than the kid? Anyway, in my case, when I was young my mother made a lot of my clothes.

We’d go to the store together and pick out patterns and cloth, and my mother would sew them up for me. In that sense, not only did I have input into the style of clothes I’d be wearing, I got to pick out unique patterns that created a style that stood out. My clothes would always match and were generally in good condition. No doubt the teachers and faculty who decided to give the award noticed that, and decided it was one defining facet of me that they thought they’d recognize.

Another thing during this time that made me stand out style wise was during Halloween. Again, my mom would sew together costumes for me (and my sister). For a few years we got awards and were recognized for our elaborate costumes. The “Doll and Pet Parade” sticks out for one, where my sister and I were dressed as clowns, and without pets, we had stuffed animals that were dressed in a similar fashion. Costumes crafted by mom and we were featured in the newspaper and given an award for that as well.

When I moved to the southwest, my mom wasn’t making as much of my clothes as we were buying them now, but I still had a lot of input on what I wanted to wear. Being in the southwest, my clothing for a few years was heavily influenced by Mexican/Native American style. A lot of short sleeve button down shirts with shorts, I wasn’t dressing up but it was different from what all of the other kids were wearing. During this time is also when I got glasses for the first time so that added a little bit to things. In addition, for a lot of the time I had my hair permed (straightened), a unique hair style, divergent from the typical mini afro one might see on black people.

From there, I moved over to the east coast and again, my style would change somewhat. By this time we were buying all my clothes and I basically got to pick out whatever it is that I wanted. This would continue and by the age of 13 instead of my parents buying it, I’d actually be buying things with my own money. So yeah, total freedom to define my own style. For about a year my style would be a bit casual, shorts and t-shirts, but I’d eventually move on to something more unique. For one year I wore nothing but black and green. Not sure the reasoning behind it, but it was a style and color combo that I though looked cool. Another year, I adopted somewhat of a hip hop fashion, wearing nothing but a single brand of clothing (BOSS, by I.G. Design). It was really unique and one could tell that I put effort into it.

During high school is when my style pretty much revolved around dressing up. Business casual if you will. Button down shirts, long sleeve or short, never wearing shorts or jeans, nothing but khakis and dress pants. If I was known for anything I was known for my unique fashion sense. Even to this day, when I wear something that is not considered “dressing up,” people notice right away.

Now, beyond clothing, during my time on the east coast also brought some interesting hair styles. First, I grew an afro a couple inches long and had my mother trim it into a high top fade. I think the high top was a bit of a dated style at the time, but that’s part of what made it stand out. What I did next however, made it stand out so much more.

I had been accustom to getting perms, which was unique in it’s own right, but this time I did something different. I dyed my hair bright blond. Note, that with the high top, the sides are buzz cut, I left that black, the top however was now not only straight, but a blond/gold color. A really unique style that caught many eyes when I returned to school after the summer when I had it done.

The next step in the evolution of that hair style was to braid my hair. Whether the braids were cornrows or 20 to 40 varied sized plats, it was really unique. My hair would eventually grow down to my shoulders, keep in mind that the sides were always buzz cut and it was only the top of my hair that was long. An interesting style indeed (sometimes causing me to be confused for a girl, actually), that lasted for about 4 years before I cut it off. From then on out my hair and clothing has been pretty consistent. Dressy, but not overly so, totally different than what both people of my age and what older people would be wearing.

My facial hair didn’t really start growing in until I was around 21. I’ve never really done much with that but shave it off and or have a mustache/goatee. Also at 21 is when my hair started thinning. A mix of heredity and probably, if only slightly due to the bunch of chemicals I had put into it years earlier, heh. I’ve been shaving my hair for the past two and a half years or so, the baldness has taken complete control and I’m too lazy to try and come up with something unique around that nowadays.

Before my trip to Japan last month, I decided to do a slight mix of my style. Shorts and some interesting designed t-shirts. Simple, yeah, but really out of the norm from what I usually wear. The shirts were purposefully a bit tight on me, giving a slight glimpse of the outline to my body. I really liked this and it made me feel kind of, not “sexy,” but confident and cool. More and more recently I’m becoming interested in varying up my style, and hope to look into it more seriously. I’ve even considered cross dressing too, wouldn’t work for work and other such occasions, but who knows, I might like to mix it up every once in a while.

Whether it’s “cool” fashion, or “cute,” or some undefined “solo style,” it’ll be unique that’s for sure, as my style always has been.

Six Years in Kentucky and the History of Asia

What can I say, the past year has been great. Hmm, it’s been more than great actually. Despite some personal annoyances, it’s been pretty smooth sailing.

Work wise, I continue with self-employment. I’ve been working on one project in particular that’s gotten streams of good reviews. I think I’ve mentioned to those involved already, I’m really thankful for all the opportunities Kentucky has offered me, past and present.

I’ve been a contributor over at International Wota since May. Or well, what started off as some consistent contributions has since dropped off significantly. I’m trying to get back into things without forcing myself, you know? Will see how that goes. Even with my inactivity and what not, I’m appreciative of the fact that I was accepted to the team.

Went to Japan twice; once in the summer and once in the fall. This is where the more than great parts of the year come into the picture. The highlight of the trips being the Hello! Project concert experiences, but even beyond that, it’s the whole history of the place, being immersed in the language and culture that I really enjoy.

School has been moving right along; I’m on track to get my AA degree this May and will be full time at the University of Kentucky in August to finish up my last two years. One thing I’ll need to be thinking about is what lies beyond that, what happens when school is done. As right now, I’m not completely sure, but I am confident that something good will come of it, if nothing more than a great learning experience.

Looking forward to the future!

History of Asia, 1800 – Present

I needed a Humanities course to fill my general education requirements and this class fit not only that, but will fit my major as well. Unfortunately BCTC didn’t offer the class and the class offered at UK didn’t fit my schedule, so I ended up taking this one online. I’ve got a little bit of experience with online classes actually, having completed a two year Graphic/Web Design program as well as taking some courses related to site design and e-commerce. I was a bit hesitant to go into online classes, but I wanted to finish up my Associate’s Degree this semester, so I fit it in. In addition to being online, it was also an 8-week course, so yeah, as of now it’s over and done with.

There were tests, readings, movies to watch, research and participation assignments, a lot packed in. The online nature is probably what made it feel less like a half semester course, as I could work at my own pace (waiting until the last minute for most of the things, but hey I got it done). The course was flexible enough also that I could somewhat focus the items I wanted write and learn about. Japan’s economy, Sensoji, Japanese curry, the Tokugawa Shogunate… and as I’ve done the past few semesters, I had to slip in a presentation about “wota” in there. The presentation conjured up a bit of discussion with other students, the teacher as well, which is always interesting to see peoples’ reactions to a subculture they may not be aware of.

Anyway, I ended up with an A in the class. History has always been a favorite subject of mine and I’m looking forward to taking a few more classes with regards to that.

Report Card – Semester Three

Despite a few issues this semester, things turned out pretty well.

First, my microeconomics class was an interesting one. The teacher I had was a bit, hmm, preachy. Anti-government, free-market kind of guy, who didn’t hesitate to point out the flaws of all of the current political and economic issues going on. Because of his teaching style however, I would say that I learned a lot. He really opened my eyes to a variety of different views and changed my ways of thinking a bit (or rather, got me thinking where I was mostly apathetic before). And that perhaps, was his goal.

Now, I say I may have learned a lot, but I’m a bit worried that I might not have learned the things I needed to learn as far as continuing my studies in economics is concerned. He taught practical, real world economics, and not say, academic economics. That’s my feeling anyway.

Though I never received higher than a 65% on any of my tests or quizzes, I managed to get an A in the class. Attendance and class participation was a big factor in that. An enjoyable class, I’m looking forward to continuing with economics.

I’m going to miss Patton-sensei, my Japanese teacher of the past year and a half, tho I’m sure I’ll see her around sometimes. Patton and Slaymaker did a great job with presenting the material and I really enjoyed the class this year. I also learned a lot of new stuff, some of which I got to use during my trip to Japan this past Thanksgiving. While in Tokyo, I had to ask for directions, something we had just gone into detail about days before. Using what I’ve been taught in class, speaking listening and understanding while actually in Japan, it’s a great feeling.

The class, I do not feel was significantly harder than JPN 101 and 102, but I didn’t do as well as I had hoped. I managed to be consistent however, and squeezed out a B for the semester. I’m not going to make any excuses, but I definitely need to push myself harder, study more &c. I feel I need to take this more seriously. As with economics, I’m looking forward to continuing learning not only the Japanese language, but also more about its culture, history and beyond.

Fall 2009 (6)

A – ECO 201 – Principals of Microeconomics
B – JPN 201 – Intermediate Japanese I

Summer I 2008 (3)

A – MA 109 – Algebra

Summer II 2008 (3)

A – MA 123 – Calculus

Fall 2008 (19)

A – ENG 101 – Writing I
A – JPN 101 – Intro Japanese I
P – CIS 105 – Intro Computing
P – CIS 130 – Micro Applications
A – GEO 130 – Earth Science
A – STA 291 – Statistics

Spring 2009 (14)

A – PSY 100 – Intro Psychology
A – ENG 102 – Writing II
A – JPN 102 – Intro Japanese II
A – COM 181 – Public Speaking

Berryz Tattoo

This is my fourth tattoo, and much like the other three, this one has a particular meaning. It’s somewhat obvious if you take a read over at my other blog, or browse trough some of my photos. To keep it short tho, I’m pretty passionate about Japanese culture in general, and Japanese music. Berryz Koubou is a largish part of that and this tatto, aptly positioned is a representation of that. Read more

6 Days in Tokyo

My last 6 days were spent in and around Tokyo. I had some ideas on where I wanted to go and generally kept myself busy, all the while still managing to miss a lot of what Tokyo has to offer.

Akihabara

I’d certainly be broke if I lived close to anything like this. Akihabara, the ever growing Electric Town, has shops full of computers and various electronics, as well as lots of anime, manga and other otaku related goods. A lot of the shops are laid out so that each floor has a specific something that they’re selling. Like on the first floor, they’d have cameras or something, the second they’d have computers and on the seventh they’d have video games, anime and action figures. Really, it was all pretty cool. I visited a couple of arcades which have a similar layout, different types of games on each floor.

There were a couple of maid cafes here, which I was tempted to stop in, lol. But decided against it, until next time when my Japanese is a bit better. It’s just one of those things I have to experience sometime.

I would come back to Akiba once more in my trip in search of some Bakugan figures to bring back as souvenirs. That said, although it originated on Japan, Bakugan apparently isn’t too popular here, so it was hard to find something, though I eventually did so. I also grabbed the latest Weekly Jump magazine, which is a thick book of manga including series like Naruto, One Piece and Bleach. I really wasn’t expecting it to be packed full of so much stuff; I basically got it though because there were some color pages of Naruto featured in it that week, heh.

Shinjuku

Plenty of skyscrapers, shopping and food. Didn’t do much but look around the city portion of it and had planned come back later at night, but ran out of time. From here however, I did take a short trip to Nakano, to Nakano Broadway, which had some interesting shopping and what not to look at.

I visited Shinjuku Gyoen (Gargen), which was pretty large and had some interesting designs and layout of the various trees, bushes and flowers. It was a nice peaceful walk compared to the city side of things.

Shibuya

Busy, busy, busy and lots of cool fashion, and shops, and stuff to do. I did a lot of walking around and throughout the stores, starting at the big 109 shops across the street as you leave the train station. That famous crosswalk was pretty cool too, the cars stop and everyone gets movin’, iconic Tokyo. I missed the famous Hachikou dog, totally forgot about it the couple of times I would come here, oops. Overall this seemed like a cool place to hang, even just during the day time or on the weekends.

I went to the Hello! Project shop here, and bought up a lot of Berryz stuff. There were a few sold out photosets that I would pick up at the some of the other stores, and I saw some stuff on the way out that I had missed. As I mentioned before, if this stuff was more accessible to me, I’d be so broke, lol.

Ueno

Took a walk through Ueno Park which connects to a lot of museums and a zoo. The park was really nice. There’s a lot to do here but I spent most of my time at the Tokyo National Museum. The museum had a lot of artifacts, statues and history to look over. Definitely enjoyed walking thought it all.

Made a trip to the Hello! Project store here to buy some more Berryz stuff. Yeah, I didn’t buy much while in Japan, but I spent a pretty penny on H!P.

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo’s Eiffel Tower, only bigger. At the base looking up this thing is kind of daunting. From the top down, even more so. There were two observatories here, one at 150 meters and another at 250 meters (the tower is 333m). Nice view of the city from both. There is also a small museum inside and some shops to go along with it. One thing that was interesting was when riding the elevator to 250 m. An announcement said something to the effect of, “there will be a cracking noise, this is normal.” I just found that to be a bit amusing, lol. The ride up was a little nerve tingling, but the view is worth it.

Harajuku

Went a couple of times, but made sure one of them was on Sunday, when a lot of people were said to hang out. Another fashion spot similar, but different from Shibuya; and it’s withing walking distance of Shibuya, tho I didn’t walk the whole way, I did walk around a bit. Streets full of young people, in the shops and hanging in the park.

Visited another H!P shop and also stopped in a bunch of the other stores located along Takeshita Dori right outside the train station. The Oriental Bazaar and Kiddy Land were on my list of shopping stops as well.

The Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park were also in the immediate vicinity. A lot of walking, there was a lot to see. Yoyogi Park was huge and bustling with activity. From people playing soccer to cosplayers posing, dancing and acting for crowds, picnicking families and kendo practice/performances. A lot going on and it was great to just sit back and observe.

Odaiba

Spent a whole day here, there was a lot going on. On the ride over I noticed that there was some sort of special Pokemon promotion going on. There were a lot of cute kids and families with Pikachu hats and little booklets packed on the trains over the weekend. They went to the Pokemon Center to get info and apparently each train station had a booth setup where you could get stickers and such. You would also get a pokemon stamp to stamp in your booklet. Got to catch ’em all, haha.

Going to Odiaba I took the unmanned/automated train, the Yurikamome, over the Rainbow Bridge. It was kind of slow, but still cool that no one was driving it so to speak. I sat in the front which offered an awesome view. Coming over, I could see the giant Gundam towering in the park, was really cool.

Spent a lot of time at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. Lots of interactive and informative displays on computers, technology and biology. And an Awesom-O… err an ASIMO demonstration. He was pretty cool, talking and interacting, walking, running and kicking a ball; he drew a large crowd.

Saw the mini Statue of Liberty, which was kinda funny. Apparently France had temporarily brought over a larger one for display. After it was taken back, the mini one was put up in its place. In addition to that, I did a lot of walking around to the ferris wheel, and the shopping and restaurants all that.

Photos are up on Facebook here and here.

Had a great time in Japan and hope to go back soon. The flight home was as uneventful as the flight out, and customs was a breeze; non existent really. There’s more to be said, but I’m going to leave it at that. Fun, fun, fun!