Mayuki’s Make-up

Yesterday, I got home rather late (the same as tonight), but Mayuki was still awake (the same as tonight). However, yesterday she was sitting quietly in a corner of the living room, doing something. I started to go to see what it was, but she said “Don’t look!”, so I left her alone.

A bit later, she showed us what she had been doing.

She’d given herself nail varnish with a pink felt tip, and eyeshadow with a blue one. She’d done a really good job of it, as well.

Of course, this led to an explanation of the fact that felt tip pens are not good for your skin, and really hurt if they get in your eyes, but Mayuki had managed to do both her upper eyelids without poking herself once. The eyeshadow was well done, as well; we were quite impressed. She probably won’t do it with felt pens again now that we’ve told her it’s dangerous, but we’ll have to look for some children’s eyeshadow for her.

The mystery is why she wants to do this. Yuriko doesn’t use much make-up, and neither do her friends at kindergarten. If nothing else, Mayuki is making it obvious that she is her own person…

Hallowe’en Tree

A Hallowe'en Tree. Like a Christmas Tree, only darker and with more pumpkins.I don’t know. It’s only the middle of September, and the shopping centres already have their Hallowe’en Trees up.

Hang on a minute…

This is the first one I’ve seen in Japan, but for all I know they’re really common.

In other news, I continue to be really busy, which is why there are still very few blog entries from me.

Published in Japanese

Well, it’s been a while since I wrote anything here. I’m not dead; I’m just busy at work, and I’ve managed to sustain daily posts to my Japanese blog, so this one has been a bit (OK, a lot) neglected. I wouldn’t put any money on this post being the start of a trend, either.

The point of this post is to brag.

There is a magazine for English teachers in Japan called 英語教育, which means “English Education”. It has run for years, and apparently can be found in virtually every school in the country. Thanks to an introduction from one of my students, I was asked to write a short article for it, and the article was published in the September issue. It introduces my favourite teaching materials, and I talked about the Guardian Weekly’s Learning English supplement, and the book that the Japan Institute of Logic has coming out from Kenkyusha (a Japanese publisher) later this year. I will be paid a proper rate for this article. (I may in fact have been paid already; I haven’t checked the relevant bank account for a few days.)

The thing that makes this not just another professional publication is the fact that I wrote the article in Japanese. It has been edited, and I need a lot more editing in Japanese than I do in English, but it has not been rewritten or translated. This is my first professional publication in Japanese.

Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about finding my next goal in improving my Japanese. I still need far too much editing.

Annular Eclipse

We saw the annular eclipse this morning. The centre went right over Tokyo, so all we had to do was go outside the flat. Given that, there were surprisingly few people there.

We bought three viewing glasses, so we could all watch together. It’s a bit cloudy, but the clouds were thin, and the clouds over the sun were thin exactly when it was a ring.

It was really, really good.

Obedience

I’m off work with flu today (with a direct instruction not to go in), and after spending the morning in bed I’ve just got up for a bit. I think I might go back to bed fairly soon, though.

But, since I have a bit of time, I want to write a bit about Mayuki.

On Tuesday, Yuriko went to the parent-teacher interview at Mayuki’s kindergarten. I was in work, so I couldn’t go, but that doesn’t seem to have been a problem. Apparently, Mayuki’s teacher started off by saying “I don’t have any concerns, and I don’t really have anything to discuss”. Mayuki is, apparently, enthusiastic about the activities, doesn’t demand the teacher’s attention all the time, does as she is told, and loves pretend play.

And then there was the restaurant visit a little while ago where Mayuki finished up by announcing, “I’ve had enough dessert now. I want more broccoli!”.

Of course, Mayuki isn’t perfect. I’d like her to realise how much it upsets Yuriko when she doesn’t eat the food cooked for her, and participate a bit more enthusiastically in video chats with the rest of my family, but I think those will get better as she gets older.

Talking of eating, there was an incident a little while ago that made me very happy.

Mayuki wanted to eat pancakes for breakfast, and Yuriko was making them. I also wanted to eat breakfast, but Mayuki was sitting in my chair.

“Mayuki, can you move to your chair so I can sit down?”

“But I want to sit here!”

“I can’t sit down if you do.”

“I sat here last time.”

“Daddy wasn’t here then,” Yuriko reminded her.

“You can sit in my chair,” Mayuki suggested.

“No, I can’t. It’s too small. Please move to your chair.”

“No, I want to sit here.”

At this point, the pancake was ready, and got served. Mayuki ate in silence for a little while.

“I’ve just had an idea!” she suddenly said. “Why don’t you bring the chair your students sit on?”

So, we moved Mayuki’s chair out of the way and brought one of the folding chairs I use for my students, and we all ate breakfast at the table.

The reason I was so happy about this was that Mayuki thought about the problem and came up with a solution that got everyone what they wanted. I didn’t particularly want to sit in my chair (I’m a grown adult, I don’t have “special chairs” any more), I just wanted to sit at the table to eat. Mayuki did want to sit in that chair, though, and her solution solved the problem. It also involved thinking about things that were not immediately in front of her, and doing proper problem solving, which is an important skill.

I think this sort of negotiated solution to disagreements is much better than Mayuki simply doing as she is told. It’s a technique that she can use as an adult, and that I can use when she grows up. It also teaches Mayuki to think about what other people want, and how she can make that happen. So, I like the fact that she talks back and makes alternative suggestions.

Basically, I don’t want her to be obedient, I want her to be considerate.

The report from kindergarten is very reassuring in this respect, because it suggests that the way we are raising her is actually working.

Blog Move

I’ve moved my blog from a subdirectory to be the main page of my website. I’ve done this because I only really update the blog these days.

There should be links to all parts of my website in the right-hand sidebar, under the adverts, and any old links to my blog should be automatically redirected to the new location. It seems to be working for now.

All I need now is time to update a bit more.

(We’re all fine.)

Merry Christmas!

It’s 8am, and Mayuki is still asleep. There’s no snow on the ground, but looking out of the window I have a beautiful view of the snow on Mt Fuji. In Japan, where almost no-one is a Christian, everyone wishes you a Merry Christmas (but it’s a normal working day).

So, Merry Christmas!

New Job

At the beginning of this month, I started a new job. Actually, I started working on it some time before that, but I started getting paid, and going into the office, at the beginning of this month. Yes, I have an office and a salary. Yet another piece of irrefutable evidence that I have entered middle age.

The job is at The Japan Institute of Logic. The homepage is all in Japanese at the moment, because producing an English version is on my list of jobs to do. It’s not very high on that list, however.

The Institute’s main purpose is to set and administer tests in logical thinking. The Japanese like these kinds of examinations, so there is a possible market. It also provides training related to those tests, both directly and indirectly. That is, we have seminars that will train you to take the test, and we have seminars to train people to train people to take the test. I’ve been hired to run the English section. Actually, at the moment, I’ve been hired to be the English section; we use freelancers for some things, but I’m the only real employee. That’s because we’re only just getting started.

As a result, I’m very busy. I’m in the office two days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, but they’re ten to twelve hour days, leaving the flat at 6:30 (before Yuriko is awake, and usually before Mayuki is awake, too), and getting back around 9:00 at night, at which point Mayuki is not normally asleep, although Yuriko is saying “Come on Mayuki, time for bed”. I don’t get paid overtime; the days are so long because, as we’re just starting, I can’t actually fit everything I have to do into two eight hour days.

So, what am I doing right now? First, I’m setting the first round of English-based logic tests. These are multiple choice tests, because those are the easiest to scale up, so I’m having to be quite creative to find ways to test the ability to create arguments in such a setting. I also need to set two levels, one that high school students can cope with, and one for the general public. Getting the level right is, as you might imagine, one of the hardest parts.

Second, I’m writing and giving the lectures on English-based logic. These are three hour sessions, with a bit more than half of the time devoted to practice questions, and we’re holding one every other week. That means writing a ninety minute lecture every two weeks.

In Japanese.

You see, although the lectures are about logic in English, they aim to provide useful techniques for people whose English is not very good. If I were to explain that in English, the level of English required to understand the lectures would be far higher than the level needed to use the content, which would be a problem. So, I have to write them in Japanese, and that is rather harder than doing it in English. Fortunately, keeping a daily blog in Japanese for the last five and a half years means that I have had quite a lot of practice at writing in Japanese, so I’m not finding it impossible, but I still haven’t had as much practice in Japanese as I have in English.

My approach to the problem, and what I am trying to teach in the classes and test in the exams, is that you do not need to speak perfect, or even roughly correct, English in order to communicate your ideas. If your ideas are well organised, and you make the individual points clearly and separately, then the people you are speaking to will be able to extract your meaning despite mistakes. Similarly, with practice you can pick out the important points from what people are saying, and understand their argument even if you don’t understand all of the words.

This is important, because it just takes too long to get a high level of proficiency in a foreign language. Even though I can write lectures on logic in Japanese, I am informed that I use a number of, how shall I put it, highly idiosyncratic expressions. Or possibly highly idiotic expressions. And that’s after eighteen months of full time study and a total of eight years living in Japan. Most Japanese people are not going to be able to put that much time and effort into English, so I’m hoping to offer a framework that will give them something useful for international communication in a much shorter package. As an added bonus, thinking clearly about arguments is very useful in Japanese as well, so they’ll get some benefit in their native language too.

Mr Hayashi, the director of the Institute, is very enthusiastic, which is good, and also has a lot of good contacts in various companies, which means I’ve been going to business lunches with the presidents of the Japanese branches of multinationals. They’ve all been very positive about what we’re offering, as they can see the need for more effective communication, and know from experience that studying the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs doesn’t help a lot. So, it’s not certain that the Institute will succeed, but the early signs are very promising. I certainly believe that this is a good approach to English, and to communication in general, which is why I took the job and am working long days, when I’m in the office.

This may well prove to be a major turning point in my life, on a similar scale to choosing to move to Japan (but not quite on the level of getting married or having Mayuki). At the very least, I’m getting to do something that I think is important in a completely different environment to the ones I’m used to, so what I learn will be valuable even if this project fails for some unaccountable reason. I’ve already had the experience of being on Tokyo trains at the height of the rush hour.

That’s another reason why I leave home at 6:30…

Proposals on Surveys and Pensions

Oh dear, it really has been too long since I posted to this blog. I’ve just started a new job, at the Japan Institute of Logic, so I’ve been extremely busy. I may have to start tweeting, since they’re supposed to be really short.

Anyway, today we had another meeting of the Kawasaki Representative Assembly for Foreign Residents. There are only two more left, so it was quite important that the process of drafting our proposals for the mayor move forward. While getting a couple of dozen foreign residents together to discuss life in Kawasaki is one of the purposes of the Assembly, its main purpose is to produce concrete proposals for the city government to act on and make life better for the foreign, and Japanese, people who live there. So getting the proposals together is very important.

Obviously, they have to be in Japanese, but fortunately the secretariat does the detailed drafting for us. We decide on the content, they draft something, and then we look at the draft and ask for changes. Last time, we decided on the content of the proposal for a survey concerning the foreign residents of Kawasaki. This would cover such things as experiences of discrimination, problems with services, education, or housing, the distribution of information, and the ways in which foreign residents were participating in civic life. Kawasaki did do a similar survey, in 1993, but nothing large scale has been done since, so knowledge of the current situation is a bit limited. We’re asking for the survey to be done every five years, and to have questions that overlap with similar surveys in other countries (the EU did a big one a few years ago) so that the situation in Japan can be objectively compared with other places. We are, of course, asking that the results be public. The hope is that this data will help the Representative Assembly to address the most important issues, as well as helping other organs of the city government.

Today, we looked at the draft that had been prepared, and asked for a number of changes. Some of them were because we’d changed our minds since last time (the first draft said once every two years, which is a bit much), but most were because we wanted a slightly different emphasis from the way the proposal had been drafted. The changes are pretty straightforward, and all were agreed unanimously, so I think the revised draft will be very close to what we want.

We also discussed the pension problem. As I’ve mentioned before, the Japanese pension system is not very good if you come from a country without a pension treaty with Japan and stay for more than three years, but go home before you retire. This is obviously a problem for people who are working here, and the Assembly addressed it before, in 2003, asking for the amount of money paid back when you leave the country to be increased.

That hasn’t happened, so we agreed to ask again, but also to encourage the conclusion of more treaties with foreign countries, so that more people can take advantage of that and sort out their pensions that way. In addition, since those two points are things that only the national government can do, we agreed to ask the city to prepare multi-lingual and easy-to-understand explanations of the system.

We’ll have the draft to look at next time, so we can get a revised version made before the final meeting. Thus, we’re in good shape to meet the deadline. In fact, we have a rather nice problem, in that it’s not clear that we will need all the time we have for discussion at the next meeting; we finished about 15 minutes early today. The other subcommittee don’t have this problem, shall we say, so it’s going to be a bit tricky to balance the overall running of the final meetings, but I’m sure we’ll manage.

Personally, I don’t expect too much from the pension proposal, although we’ll probably get the multi-lingual explanations. Japan is in the process of reforming the whole pension system anyway, so these problems might well go away and be replaced by different ones. It’s important to remind the decision-makers of the foreign residents, but we’re still a very small group. On the other hand, I very much hope that the survey will happen every five years, because it would provide immensely useful information. If that happens, I’ll feel that my time on the Assembly was very well spent.

Flash Player 11 EULA MIA

So, the Flash plugin for Safari is telling me that there is a new version available, Flash 11. When I download the software and launch the installer, the first screen, naturally, tells me to click to say that I’ve read the EULA, and provides a link to the EULA. At the moment, that link is http://www.adobe.com/products/eulas/#flash_player, which, as of this writing, looks like this:

The list of available EULAs for Flash, which only goes up to 10.3

You will see that there is no EULA listed for Flash Player 11. Googling it turns up some supplementary third-party licensing information, and a license for the beta version, but no EULA for the release of version 11.

I think I can state with a fair degree of confidence that anyone who has installed version 11 has not read the EULA, although they have said that they have. I’m not sure what the legal position on that is. I’m even more interested in whether the courts will be ready to assume that someone has read and understood an EULA that Adobe appears not to have published. Personally, I’m not going to lie on the installer, so until the EULA for Flash 11 is available somewhere online, I’ll be running with an earlier version of the plugin.

The bizarre thing is that the plugin has been out for a week or so, and nobody seems to have mentioned this online. I would have expected someone, somewhere to have noticed. (The contact form on the Adobe web site doesn’t include an option for “you have forgotten to publish your license.”) Maybe it is somewhere obvious, and I’m just being particularly blind. Actually, that seems the most likely option (I mean, there are people on the net who are really, really anal about licensing). But really, I can’t see it. Of course, I do expect it to appear in the near future… So, feel free to point out where I’m missing it.