Friday, 28 May 2010

It's over

I had my one and only exam of the semester yesterday, and assuming I passed, I'm now done with uni forever. Of course I still have my graduation ceremony to attend in July, but no more classes, homework or exams from here on out.

The exam was at the Sheffield Wednesday stadium in the Sheridan Suite, and after attending numerous home games this season, being at Hillsborough for me is usually associated with some kind of disappointment or defeat. The exam was on Japanese language, and although it was 1 hour shorter than the 3 hour exams we're used to, it was fairly difficult. However, I was inspired by the pictures of John Sheridan (Wednesday player from the 80s and 90s) all over the walls, and I'm pretty sure I did enough to pass. It's still a long wait to find out for sure whether I've got my degree and what class it is though.

When the exam had finished our year group all caught the tram back to the university and grabbed a bit of lunch and a beer in the Union. After that, a couple of staff from the School of East Asian Studies had arranged to take photos of us all in Weston Park. And when that had finished I headed home and let it finally sink in that uni is over. My 18 year journey of education ends here, and I'm now entering the world of work. I do have two months of respite, and I'm gonna enjoy chilling with my folks back at home, working at Pizza Hut and watching the World Cup. I am really looking forward to starting my job as a CIR in Aomori though, so August can't come soon enough to be honest.

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Tuesday, 25 May 2010

青森市

So I found out where I'm going to be working from August, and it's a place called Aomori City in Aomori Prefecture. It literally means 'Blue Forest City' and reminds me of something out of Pokémon. It's not somewhere I know much about. I only knew that it was in the north of Honshu when I opened the letter, but since then I've done a lot of research, and I'm well excited to be going now.

The letter of notification along with the handbook was delivered to my parents' house on Saturday. I'd spoken to the JET office the day before and knew the letter would be coming, so I phoned my dad up in the morning and asked if he'd seen any packages. Turns out my mum was working at Pizza Hut at the same time as me later that day so she had taken it into work. When my shift had finished I picked up the package and went home without opening it. It was a weird feeling knowing that my future was inside this envelope, but after grabbing a shower I opened it up and saw the words 'You have been placed in Aomori Prefecture, Aomori City'. I then quickly jumped on the internet and tried to find out as much as possible about the place.

As I said, it's not a place I knew anything about really. I didn't put it down as one of my choices, although I did say in the interview I'd be willing to go anywhere. It's a shame I didn't get placed in Kansai, as that's where all my mates are, but I wasn't expecting to get placed there anyway. I'm pleased with Aomori City. It's a whole new region and culture for me, and it sounds like I've landed the best of both worlds, as the prefecture as a whole is fairly rural, but Aomori City is the most urban place within the prefecture.

Next I'm waiting to hear from my predecessor, then attending a pre-departure orientation in London in about a month, then in about two months I'll be in Japan. Today though I have to print off and hand in my final ever assignment. I'm off to the library then.

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Friday, 21 May 2010

The Last Bell I Will Ever Hear

So today was the last day of the twelfth week of the second semester of my final year at Sheffield University. I'll never take another class again, unless I do another degree or a masters course or something similar, but I can't see that happening any time soon. Starting Japanese four years ago seems like a distant memory, and to be honest, four years is a long time, but we've all come a long way, most of the class going from knowing no Japanese to knowing quite a lot in that time. Today we had a listening assessment, listening to a short lecture on Japan and then making a summary of it. Over the weekend I have a translation assignment to complete, and then there's just my exam next Thursday left.

I'm thinking of moving back to parents' house soon after I finish. I could stay at my house in Crookesmoor until the end of June, but the allure of my mum's cooking and a massive TV screen to watch the World Cup on is too strong. I'll stay there until the end of July when I'll be flying out to Japan to work. And I should be finding out where I'll be working soon. I called the JET office today and they said they were sending out notifications today.


Have you been to the Google homepage today? You know how Google often change their logo to reflect national holidays or anniversaries, well today it's Pac-Man's 30th anniversary and they've gone one step further - you can actually play a full working game of Pac-Man on the Google homepage, complete with SFX.

I've played Pac-Man quite a bit over the years and still have a copy for my GBA SP which I bought when the NES Classics series came out a while back. I bought a board game version when I was younger, and I've even studied the relatively simple physics that govern the game in order to improve my strategy. And it nearly all paid off when I was in the university bar one night last semester. Sony Ericsson were running a promotion where they had a big screen set up and you could play Pac-Man on it using the buttons on your mobile phone. You phoned this special number and once connected you used your dial pad to control Pac-Man - 2 to go up, 4 to go left, 6 to go right and 8 to go down. As you'd expect, there was quite a bit of lag, meaning you'd have to estimate your turn way before you actually wanted to make it. I ended up coming second by 10 points and missing out on winning a free Sony Ericsson phone, settling for a Pac-Man t-shirt instead.

It's pretty strange playing around the shape of the Google logo and with five power-pills instead of four, but the physics all seem to be intact - I even managed to perform the pass-through bug a couple of times.

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Friday, 14 May 2010

Dissertation done and dusted

I handed in my dissertation earlier today and I'm pleased with how it turned out in the end. In fact, I enjoyed writing it for the most part. It was something I hadn't been looking forward to since starting this course four years ago, but after doing all the appropriate reading and research in the Easter break this year, actually writing it was a breeze. I wrote it on the dialect of the region where I went to study in Japan last year, and it was titled "The Kansai dialect: its place in Japan and as part of the curriculum for JFL learners". It's something I'm genuinely interested in, so it wasn't much of a chore and the words flowed pretty freely.

My year was the first in our department to write a 15,000 word dissertation, as previous years had written a 7,500 one, but they'd complained to the department that 7,500 wasn't enough space for a dissertation, which it isn't. And when they knocked dissertations up to 15,000 it meant we had to take one less class this year, which was great. I didn't reach the 15,000 mark, ending up close to 14,000, but I could have written far more if I'd needed to, and when you have to limit yourself rather than pushing yourself to fill the limit, you know you've done a good job. It all looked pretty sick when I'd printed it out and got it bound and I'm proud of it as a piece of work. We're all going out to celebrate at a sushi restaurant later this evening. Now I just have my presentation to do, the translation assignment and an exam and we're done.

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Thursday, 13 May 2010

Underoath gets new drummer

One of my fave bands, Underoath just got a new drummer, for a while at least. They announced on Facebook this week that a guy called Daniel Davison is gonna be filling in behind the kit as the band write new material, record their next album and tour. But apparently he's not officially a band member yet.


When Aaron announced he was leaving Underoath a few weeks ago some thought the band's best days could be behind them. So often you see a band member leave and get replaced by someone with no personality who brings nothing new to the band, but Underoath's choice in Daniel Davison couldn't be better. Davison was the former drummer for Norma Jean, a band who I managed to catch at Corporation in 2007 on the Southern Blood Tour, which, by the way, had an amazing lineup and ranks as one of the best shows I've been to - Norma Jean, He Is Legend, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster and The Showdown. Having recorded the seminal, Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child and a couple of other decent albums with Norma Jean, Davison left in 2007, and hasn't been playing drums for anyone since, but I'm excited to see how his collaborations with Underoath work out. Whilst Davison is a massively heavy hitter, much like Aaron, I find the two's drumming styles to be quite dissimilar on the whole. Whereas Aaron has quite a precise, repetitive style with a tight production sound, Davison's style is more loose, with heavy use of the toms and a more organic, natural production sound. But the thing I'm most pleased about is that Davison has bags of personality in his playing, and will surely bring something positive to Underoath's sound. In fact, Davison did actually help out Underoath on their last album, recording additional drums on one of the tracks, "Desperate Times, Desperate Measures", so he's no stranger to the band. I'm looking forward to seeing how Underoath continue their progression as a band now that they have no original members left, but Davison on board, and I wouldn't bet against him sticking around for the long term. The band are scheduled to be recording a follow up to 2008's Lost in the Sound of Separation soon.

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Monday, 10 May 2010

Work yesterday

Working at Pizza Hut yesterday was a lot of fun. I ended up working a 7 hour shift, which is longer than usual, and I find the longer the shift, the better, not to mention you're earning more money, obviously. It just feels a bit pointless going to work for a 3 hour shift.

When I was waiting at the tram stop after work this old guy came over and asked me when the next one was coming. I told him they come every twenty minutes, and then he told me how he usually catches the bus, but on a Sunday they sometimes don't come, which he described as "dodgy". That turned into a rant at the price of bus/tram fares from the both of us and then we got onto the subject of politics when he started complaining about Labour and the state the country was now in because of them. We talked about how he vaguely remembered Britain's last hung parliament in 1974, and then how he'd served in the forces all his life and been all over to Somalia, West Germany and Northern Ireland. He showed me the army badge he carried around in his wallet as well.

Talking to old people is like getting a glimpse into the past and the way this country used to be. It's gotta be strange and disorientating for the old people now to be living in a society where things are completely different to what they grew up with. They've seen a lot of changes, and a breakdown in the social fabric of Britain (chatting to a stranger in public would have been commonplace 30 years ago, but I wonder if in another 30 years time it'll still happen), and whilst there've also been a lot of positive changes as well, these are often disregarded because "things aren't like they used to be". Growing old is a funny thing but we've all gotta do it.

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Friday, 7 May 2010

そろそろ

As this week draws to an end, I only have two more weeks of uni left now. Before the end of May I have to complete my dissertation (deadline is next Friday), perform a 15 minute presentation in Japanese, do a translation for my Japanese literature class and take an exam, but then I'll be done, completely. And I'll also have found out where I'll be placed in Japan by the end of the month, so it's a time of great change and anticipation right now. Can't wait to graduate and get back out to Japan to be honest though.

Last week it was my grandparents' golden wedding anniversary, so that whole side of our family went out for a carvery meal in the afternoon.  It was great to see everyone, as it's not something that happens very often these days.  When you're a kid you're always hanging out with your cousins and aunties and uncles, but it becomes a rare occasion as your grow older.  It'll definitely be the last time I see some of those guys before leaving for Japan, and I was talking to one of my younger cousins who's gonna join the army, so who knows when we'll see each other next.  It's always good to see my grandparents (from my mum's side) as well.  They've always been supportive of everything their grandkids have done and you couldn't wish for better grandparents.  They're pretty inspirational, especially when you think they've been married 50 years now.  We all had fun looking through their wedding photos from 50 years ago - they looked right different, all young and dressed in their 1960s clothes. It's weird as well, because there was a photo that included one of my best mate's grandfathers - he was good friends with my grandparents back then.  How strange that they were friends 50 years ago, and then two of their grandchildren ended up becoming mates and playing in a band together.

Yesterday I went to vote in the general elections.  The results are in now, and this year is pretty historic as it's the first 'hung parliament' for more than 30 years.  Now everyone's waiting to see if any of the parties will buddy up and form government together.  Everyone thought that this year might have been a bit more of a three horse race with the Liberal Democrats being more involved.  I even heard about some pre-election opinion polls which put the Lib Dems as the most popular party, and this was all basically because of the televised debates between the three party leaders that took place recently.  It's the first time these American-style debates have ever taken place in the UK, and the Lib Dem leader performed especially well on them, leading many to think this could be the year when the Lib Dems really made an impact.  But it turns out they were wrong, as they've ended up getting even less seats than in the last election.  Right now there's a possibility they'll go on to form a coalition with the Conservatives though.

But all these changes might not affect me as much as the next person, as I'm not even gonna be here for the next few years.  Also, I'm quite apathetic towards politics in general, but nevertheless, this year's election has been an interesting one, and marks the first time I've voted in a general election.

Politics on my blog?  What next?...

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