Archive for August, 2009

New School

August 31, 2009 Leave a comment

My current job is teaching English to Japanese elementary students. For the past year I’ve worked every day at the same school of about 650 students, grades 1 thru 6. Due to two English teachers leaving this summer, the remaining teachers got shuffled around to fill in the gaps. So now on Mondays I go to a second school, of 28 students. The entire student body is less than one third of one year at my other school. The classes are so small that grades 3-4 and 5-6 are combined.

I love my main school, the kids are mostly great (a few rascals) and all the teachers are easy to work with. Being big means nice facilities and lots of friends, but it also means bigger (noisier and harder to manage) classes and more visitors. Having people come to observe class doesn’t bother me too much, but it stresses the teachers out, which stresses me out by proxy. My new school is the opposite end of the spectrum. The students are few enough that you never have to worry about them being to loud, everybody knows each other, and I had most of the children’s names memorized by the end of the first day. It’s the rural slow life in its purest form, and the relaxed atmosphere ought to make starting each week a lot easier.

Categories: True Story Tags:

A Few Thoughts on Anime and Manga in Japan

August 28, 2009 1 comment

Since moving to Japan, I’ve noticed ┬áseveral differences between how I imagined Japanese otaku culture and how things really work. The extent of anime and manga’s popularity is much more difficult to describe than in the West. Here are a few things I’ve come across: Read more…

Thank You Notes

August 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Got an email today from Hemisphere games thanking me for putting up my thoughts about Osmos. Awfully nice of them to do so.

Categories: Games, Site News Tags:

Light Music

August 26, 2009 8 comments

I just finished watching K-On!, an anime about high school girls who start a band. The show is well produced, and the songs the girls play stick in your head almost immediately. Most of the characters are based on common anime stereotypes (clumsy and air-headed, rich but sheltered), but are generally fleshed out enough by the story to escape being mere cookie cutter characters. The artists have taken the time to give each of the girls a real instrument, which is always a nice touch. The anime is based on a 4-panel manga, so the story is primarily character driven, with a handful of the 13 episodes that directly connect to each other.

I enjoyed K-On! and hope that the anime will continue with a second or third season to finish out the girl’s journey through high school. It seems to be pretty popular as well, I’ve seen several bags and t-shirts on the trains and the K-On CDs have been at the front of music stores for several months now. I’d like to buy a few, but I just can’t justify paying $12 for two tracks per CD.

Categories: Anime Tags: ,

Now Playing: Osmos

August 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Osmos is an interesting game. You play as a small sphere that propels itself by ejecting a little of its mass in the opposite direction of the one you want it to go. The basics are simple, small motes are absorbed by you, and bigger motes will absorb you instead. Because propelling yourself reduces your size, you have to be careful not to overextend yourself and wind up devoured. Combined with a subtle ambient soundtrack, the game can be pretty relaxing to play.

There are three main brances of the game:

– Ambient levels are usually the most sedate, and are made up of normal motes and antimatter motes. Antimatter motes absorb other antimatter like normal, but when they collide with normal motes both are reduced leaving only the remainder of the biggest mote behind.

– Sentient levels focus on motes that move on their own. Some will only run away from you, while others will try to eat you if they have the advantage. The extra motion and race for food makes these level significantly more frantic that the others.

– Force levels add two new motes, the repulser (pushes other motes away) and the attractor (pulls motes towards it, can absorb motes bigger than itself). Many force levels start with you orbiting a large attractor, forcing you to mind your velocity lest you be pulled into the “sun”. Helpfully, the game allows you to see a projection of your current orbit which turns red if you are headed towards danger. I found the force levels to be the hardest of the three, but also the most enjoyable.

In all levels after the tutorial, you are allowed to slow down or speed up time. This is great for situations that require split second timing or for shortening the wait for your mote to make its way around a long orbit. Also, if you feel that a certain level is impossible, you can randomize the starting positions and hopefully improve your odds. This also adds to the replay value, keeping levels from being the exact same set of steps every time.

Overall, I would highly recommend the game. It’s simple, deep, and relaxing. There is a sizable demo and a trailer on the main site here.

Osmos is available on PC for $10. I bought it on Steam. It’s also available from Direct2Drive and the Hemisphere Games site.

Categories: Games Tags: , ,

Up and running

August 26, 2009 1 comment

Well, there’s gotta be a first post so here it is. This blog is mostly an exercise to force me to write more, but I’ll do my best to create something of at least marginal value. I’m aiming to stick to posts about games and Japanese culture, we’ll see how well that works.

Goal #1: Get writing!

Goal #2: Reduce the oppressive amounts of suck currently plauging this site.

Categories: Site News