Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I'm just stuck

Some of you may not know about my latest project: I'm building my first gaming computer. Originally I just wanted to buy one, but that idea was dashed when I saw the shipping estimate. Ouch. And so I started the process of familiarizing myself with all of the current parts and equipment on the internet.

And now I have reached the point of TMI. I have read so many things about some of the pieces that I'm completely stuck. I can't choose! It's at the point where I know all the pros and cons, but I'm just stuck. I guess I'm afraid of making the 'wrong' choice. Or maybe not the wrong choice, but that I'll regret it later.

I've managed to get everything except the graphics cards.

Well, recently I've also been questioning my PSU, but I'm focusing more on the graphics cards.

Here's what I've chosen thus far.

Coolermaster 932 AMD edition
Intel i7 960
ASUS x58 rampage iii
Corsair 1000w HX
WD 1tb @ 7200 rpm

Now don't go all medieval on me about putting an intel chip in an AMD box. I wanted the Coolermaster HAF X, but guess what??? It's not available in Japan. Shocker. This was the biggest case I could find here, with a side window. No I wasn't going to install my own window. I've been thinking I might try and change the badge on the front of the case.

I haven't chosen the ram either, mostly because I'll probably place the order on a website other than amazon.co.jp due to limited selection on that site.

And so the graphics cards are:

Geforce GTX 480 & ATI Radeon HD5870

(Whichever graphics card I pick, I will get two for my system.)

From what I've read, the GTX is more powerful, and NVIDIA has a good rep on making up to date drivers for their products that work well with games. However, this card runs much hotter (is designed to withstand the heat as well), and is supposedly noisier. It also chews up more power than the ATI.

The ATI isn't as powerful, but it holds a cooler temp, is quieter, and still holds it's own against the GTX. Also, this family of cards has gotten really good reviews since they came out, and because of the heat etc, some still think the ATI is a better choice if you're not over clocking it.

To make matters worse, in Japan the prices on these cards are within $50 of each other.

If I was living in the US, I'd probably just buy the GTX. But power here is a big thing. My electric bill is no joke, and to be honest, I'm a little scared that this new computer will blow fuses all over the place at my old house. And since I don't *technically* have access to my breaker box, it's kind of a pain unless I want to ultimately move. Which, is an option, but would suck.

Also, air conditioning here is just not on the same level as in the states. Houses are made to fit loosely together and pretty much leak like a sieve. When I told some of my teachers how houses in the US are built tight with good insulation, their response was, 'It must be so hot in the summer!' I tried to explain that we use central air in the summer and that since it's so tight this works quiet well, but they weren't buying it.

Thus any heating or cooling ends when you turn off the aircon and that's not central air my friends. To finish it off, my apartment is on the 2nd floor (and no basements here - hello earthquakes).

So for me living here, heat is a bigger consideration than in the states. Of course, on the plus side, I could use the help keeping my room warm in the winter...

You are now up to speed on my current conundrum. It's like comparing apples and oranges. They are close enough that either will work well I think, but would I like the quieter card or the more powerful card in the long run? Which would work better for my current situation? Why couldn't one of the cards have been the obvious choice???

Perhaps in this case simply buying the most recent isn't the right move. That goes against everything I believe in as an American.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Into Summer

It's summer here in Nankan. Well, it's the time of year I consider summer. I consider there to be six seasons here. Fall, winter, spring, summer, the rainy season, and then hell.

Yes, it's coming close to the last two; neither of which will bring comfort of any kind.

The fireflies are coming out, and as soon as they leave us, I expect the rainy season to come. It's muggy and it just rains. But not in a fun way like in MN. No, it just rains. Straight down. FOREVER. Last year I started to get pissed off from the continuous noise that never changed and never stopped. I'm hoping this year I will have a higher tolerance.

And of course with the hot and steamy the bugs will mutate and just like in the movie Mimic, will hunt us down. It's hard to say what scares me the most, the spiders the size of grapefruit (bodies the size of a lime), 8-10 inch centipedes, cockroaches that fly, killer bees 3-4 inches long, or mosquitoes that are fast and small and rob you of the chance to have your revenge.

After that, we enter into the really HOT season. I just call it hell. I mean, let's get serious. You don't need some fancy name. I know that places in the US are just as hot or hotter. Do it in the US without air-conditioning and we'll talk. Until then, eat me.

Moreover, this year has a special sad tang to it: many of my friends here are returning to the US (or home country). We'll get new people, and it will be nice to meet them, but it doesn't change the fact that the friends I've made here will leave. It's the way things go, but it still sucks.


Surprisingly, despite this, I'm in good spirits.

I have a new gold fish. His name is Tomo; as in 'tomodachi'. I was going to name him buddy, then thought this would be the Japanese version and liked it. I still call him Buddy half the time. Poor fish. Doesn't even know his own name.

I was unable to find a suitable computer to buy online from America and have sent over here. Shipping plus tariff just cost too much. And so I get to do something I've always wanted to do: build my own. To make things even better, Kat said we'll build it together. So I get the experience, I'll be hanging out with her despite all the demands on her her last months here, and I'll get an awesome computer.

I'm finally going to England this summer, after delaying last year when I found out Joe was going to live there (right after my Summer vacation ended - thanks Joe).

Deborah will come to see me for a bit too, which will be lots of fun. Lots of Okonomiyaki and onsen.

And of course, over the summer I can justify eating ice cream almost every day.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Hello Everyone!

Today is my favorite kind of weather: a little cool, warm in the afternoon, and sunny.

Lots of things have happened since my last post. A teacher I'm not fond of stayed around another year (even though we all thought she'd leave), I had two encounters of the Shelob kind, and have picked up some projects I'd left unfinished.

And of course, through it all, WOW.

You know, I've been stuck recently.
But in the last few days, I've been in my life, as TANK.

I know that doesn't mean anything to you.
Ok, it might mean something if you play WOW.

I'm gonna talk as if you've spoken to me in the last three months. If you have, you've had a basic intro to some of the things in this game. If you have no idea..schedule your next chat time with me now!

When you go in a dungeon, you go in with four other people. The tank gets all the bad guys to hit him/her, the healer heals the tank, and the other three pick off the monsters hitting the tank. The tank is sort of the leader. If the tank doesn't go, the group doesn't go. When something goes wrong, it's up to the tank to control it as best they can.

I love to tank. I really enjoy it. When I play and I don't tank, I think about tanking. I read about it online, and I watch other people tank for ideas. And when things weren't going how I wanted in the rest of my life, a friend told me, 'What about being tank in your life?' Having that same attitude in my life that I do when I tank. Sometimes, no matter how much you try or practice or prepare, it doesn't matter. You just have to go! Give it a shot. And deal with the crap that happens when it happens.

I really liked this idea because it let me play my life as a game. It's not so serious that I can't mess up. You just read the situation and go. Don't think too much about it or your group will get bored, just like I was this past month. I just thought too much about it. Just go and deal with the problems when they come. If you wipe, run back and go again.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Where am I?

I've got a lot of things going for me. And I'm finally out of the cold weather, and rain. But there seems to be something bugging me. There seems to be something off. I can tell you the things that led me down this road, but I can't tell you where it goes from here, or where the road I was on before went.

I just feel like something is off. Something isn't right. And I just can't put my finger on it. I just want to know, so that I can breathe a sigh of relief and move on. Go back to the road I should be on. The road I was on before it all went downhill. Where'd that road go? Where'd that hope and determination and energy get to?

I don't know. I don't even know where I am anymore. It doesn't feel right. I know I need something. Something basic. But my mind won't work and it's like walking in sand. How do you let go of this sad feeling and move forward? What if you don't know where forward leads anymore? What if forwards has become backwards somewhere along the way, and every step you take leads you back to where you were before? Isn't it better to just stand still?

Monday, March 15, 2010


Today is graduation day. My 3rd year students (9th graders) are leaving. They've done well. I'm proud of them. It's difficult to be responsible for your own future. Many of them still don't understand exactly what that means, and are just going on to the next step, the next place. They don't know that they can go anywhere they want to go or do anything they want to do. They are so many things to see. I wonder what they will see.

Of course, they will go places I will never go. They will do things I will never do. And yet, our lives will be the same. We will all be people and we're the same.

Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I didn't want to live abroad. If I didn't have any interest in foreign language. If all I wanted was the house the kids and the husband. An office job and a dog. I'll never know. Because although those things are nice, I want something different.

Before I felt sad for my friends and other people I knew who were 'trapped' in that life. I thought that they were just as upset as I was when I lived that life. Eventually I realized that they didn't feel that way. They might not like everything about their lives, but overall, they liked it. I tried to be happy with that life, and I failed. All I wanted was to come here. And any commitment that could interfere with that wish made me uncontrollably sad, and I ran away from it.

So now I don't feel sorry for my friends back home, and I don't feel sorry for my students and the lives they will have. Even if they work at a gas station or someplace I would find inadequate, perhaps they like it. Or perhaps it allows them the life they want. Or maybe it's just a stop on their way someplace else.

In the past few months, I've come to some peace with myself and my life. I am who I am. I can't be anyone else. Sometimes I might wish I could see life from someone else's perspective. I think it would be interesting. Especially to be at ease in places that I feel uncomfortable in in my life. Or to be a part of a group I was never a part of.

Deborah used to tell me that just because I'm choosing one thing, doesn't mean that I need to feel like I'm missing out. If I choose to do something, it doesn't mean there is something better happening and I'm excluding myself from it. I used to always be upset that I couldn't do everything I wanted every day. Now I realize it just means I can be happy everyday, no matter what I choose to do.

I know that although I could have done different things with the students, I impacted them. I can see it. I also received a letter from a student. She asked me not to let anyone else read it. I promised I wouldn't. She's not the best at English. But she just shines. I know that I connected with her. I know that for the rest of her life, she won't be the same person. And I know how special she is. I hope she continues to be the beautiful person I see. There are many fun and funny students in my classes. She was always a bit quiet. Didn't raise her hand much, didn't join the English speech contest. But I would have to say she is my favorite student. We connected in a profound way. I'll never forget her. I'll always think of her. I'll always wonder where she is and what she's doing. I'll always be proud of her.

It's really true what they say in the landmark advanced course. You have a possibility. Great. Good for you. But where the real power is, is sharing that possibility; is having someone else get it too. If there's nothing happening over there [with the other person] then it's just you. The real power is in inspiring others.

And so I'm sad to see my students go. But I'm so excited at the same time. I can't wait for them to leave. Whether they know it or not, or want to or not, they'll take the rest of us with them.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Olympics! But only for REAL Americans.

Brought to you by A Certain News Conglomerate Scrooge

I'm not going to say their name out loud. But I have recently been thwarted by a certain news company and what follows is a rant about the recent restrictions about access to information for those of us living in a foreign country.

It sucked when I couldn't watch House.
It was terrible when they took down videos of ANTM.
It completely blew when I couldn't get Medium.

But generally speaking, I could watch the news. I could stay in touch, just a little. I could find out what was happening in MY country. In my home. And with the Olympics happening, I was really excited. The time difference makes it almost impossible for me to watch anything real time. How would you like to wake up at 3 am on a work night so you could watch your favorite event? Yeah right. So I did what any person of my generation would do: I went on the web.

I wanted to check out the moguls. Those have always been a personal favorite. I found an add for a certain news conglomerate and followed the link. I located a very nice schedule of all the events, and lo! There was a link to complete event coverage, even if the event had ended.

Thinking myself incredibly luck, I clicked it, only to have a message appear. In essence, it said "You cannot access this video because you live in a foreign country. Click here for the videos we will let you watch. Niiner Niiner HaHa."

And I became so incensed that I went to their feedback page (which I always think about but never do) and wrote them a message that it's terrible that they will deny Americans in a foreign country from watching their own country's Olympians from competing. On their page it tells us to look for 'our own country's' website and Olympic coverage. I don't know about you, but America is my country, dammit. I am American! I'm not in America, but I'm AMERICAN.

So I told them in my message I'd start looking for this country's Olympic coverage just as soon as I learned how to read the damn thing. I also said that they edit their Olympic footage here too - Guess who they cut out? Yeah that's right; they favor their own athletes here too, and I don't have any idea where to see footage of Americans. They won't show all the events I want to see either. I'm sorry, but in Japan, their best sports are not the same as America's best sports. So who do you think they cut? One guess. No take-backs.

Adding to the insult, after I'd sent the message, a screen popped up and told me that due to the mass amounts of feedback I might not get a reply message but that I should feel secure that someone had read my message. All I have to say to that is: Riight. I've sent detailed questions to sights before about a problem I was having with their page, and I've received reply messages which were obviously sent by someone who did not read my email. They sent me links to information I had not requested or told them I had tried and it had not worked. And this is when I get a reply. And yet this site is now telling me I should feel certain that my feedback has impacted things somehow. Sure.

Thus to all the News Companies out there; and I say Companies, because lets face it, people don't make the news anymore. I'd like to say Screw You. Who do you think is going to steal your crappy video over here? They don't care about your footage. They don't even like the same events we do. Do you think they can understand your crappy commentary?

I can understand why you won't show sitcoms and dramas to foreign countries. I don't like it, I don't agree with it, but I can understand why in your little mind you need to do this. But the news? The Olympic coverage? That's just low. That's pond scum low. Thanks Scrooge. When the ghost of Christmas past comes to get you I hope he takes everything from you and leaves you in a small town, in the middle of no where, in the opposite time zone and no way to contact anyone. See how long you last.

All these companies (and one in particular) care about is just saying 'It's mine! It's mine! Don't touch it! You can't have it! I only let my friends see it from time to time!' Is that really what the web is about? That's all our society is about anymore. I have it and I'm so afraid that I'll lose it that I have to protect it with stupid rules and tricks. I'll be as petty as I want because I have it and you don't.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Beginning

The Beginning

Before these challenges even began, I started working out. It was fairly slow going at first, but I was able to start weights within a couple weeks. I was in a nice routine when disaster struck - I got a nasty cold. I was out, sleeping 18 hours a day and being exhausted when I was awake. I managed to do my classes at school and then go home. It was like that for three full days, and then on the fourth it started to get better. I was completely bummed. It seemed like every time I had a good rythm with my workouts something came in to sabotage me. But I wouldn’t give up this time. I told myself, it’s not just about the work outs. Its about being healthy. It’s about the whole package. I could deny I was sick, and I’d just go on with everything and slowly get sicker and sicker and sicker until I wouldn’t be able to work or do anything. And if I did that, I wouldn’t be well enough to work out for weeks. So I didn’t wait - I stopped everything and took care of myself for a week. Then I was well enough to do some low intensity workouts.
I still have my ups and downs, but it’s about continuing. It is about losing weight, but it’s more about being healthy in all ways - physically, spiritually, and emotionally. If one is out of wack it throws the rest off too.

The weeks of Chocolate

Now, I’m not going to mess with you. This was two weeks of no chocolate - not two weeks of dieting or watching my calories. It was simply a test to see life without choclate for two weeks. I didn’t do this as a way to lose weight. I didn’t do it as a way to break an ‘addiction’. I just wanted to try and see how it was. I was shocked to realize how often I eat chocolate and how when I’m hungry or just bored I reach for choclate and I don’t want another kind of snack.
As the days passed I found myself more and more turning to peanut butter as a poor subsitute. It didn’t satisfy though. And so I was stuck sticking it out. I did find at the end of the challenge that my body felt a lot better. It didn’t like all that chocolate. It liked the tomatoes I’d started eating after school. And this led to my second challenge.

The week of 1500 Calories

In retrospect, this week was probably a mistake. 1500 calories is not much at all. And at the time, I was working out on a regular basis. It wasn’t too intense yet, but it was more than my body was used to. I made it the first three days - barely. And then the weekend came. Along with my gaming friends.
We set up shop in my tatami room, and started the fun. I did an admirable job of limiting the snacks I ate, but then we ordered pizza. Uh-oh. I even did okay with that. But what I found is 1500 calories is tough to stretch much past pizza and snacks, even if you’re careful. After the pizza, I wanted to give up and just eat. But I didn’t. I’d eaten what I’d eaten, but I wouldn’t just say, ‘Okay, I didn’t really expect you to manage it anyway, so go ahead and gorge yourself.’ Instead I continued with my plan, even though the little voice in my head was screaming I wouldn’t meet my goal the next day either.
I just refused to give up. I refused to blame myself for what I’d eaten, and simply go on. The challenge wasn’t over. And it wasn’t about ‘winning’ the challenge or ‘losing’. It was about continuing and completing. Even once I found out that the calories per day was a bit low, I wanted to complete it.
In the end, those first three days were the only ones that I was successful. But I started looking at calories. I started watching what I eat. I started looking for veggies and fruit and my food pyramid stopped being top heavy. I also realized I could eat chocolate in small amounts and work it into my eating schedule.

The week of the Work Out

And that brings us to the week of the workout. I have had the most fun this week. It hasn’t been easy. Two weeks ago, I was feeling really low. I was feeling really sad. And I’d spent all day Saturday hanging out, barely moving. I talked to Dad on skype.
He said, ‘Why do you have to feel good in order to work out? Just do it anyway.’ For those of you with landmark experience, I’d fallen into the do-have-be routine. If I work out, I’ll have the good feeling and then eventually I’ll be healthy.
Since that was two weeks ago, I’d pretty much gotten out of that rut. Originally, when I started the week, I made the challenge 30 minutes of cardio a day. I also wanted some of the cardio to be in the morning and some in the evenings. My right knee never completely came back after the surgery two years ago. Stretching was always fine, but I never kept up with the strengthing trainning, and it was still weak after 30 minutes on the bike. So doing one workout in the morning and one in the evening made sense.
As the week came, my knee started to adjust to the new schedule. I started to do more. Now my dail goal is to have 600 calories of cardio each day. That’s about 20 minutes in the morning and 30 in the evening. But even that is being leveled up to 30 - 30. I’m also going to add in weights starting today.

And so that brings us to present day. It’s Feb 10th and I’ve been working out steadily since Jan 3rd. I’ve had my ups and downs. I’ve learned you just can’t focus on one thing. To make this work, I’ve made time for my personal life, my spiritual life, and myself. I’ve made a time and a space for everything.
The best part has really been playing around with my life and my time. I always used to get upset, or mad at myself and others if I didn’t have time to do the things I want to do. During the last few months, I’ve realized that I want to do almost EVERYTHING! At any given time, I want to do so many things. I’m so happy about this! Before, everything was wrapped up in guilt and ‘I should’s and frustration that I couldn’t do all that I wanted. Now I’m excited that I want to everything. I know that no matter what I do I’ll be happy; I’ll be doing something I want to. Since I’ve also been focusing on balance, I make time for things. There’s no ‘I can’t do that I have to work out’. It’s just a choice, and sometimes I don’t do the work out. When I had my gaming friends over I got up on Sunday and went in to church before they were awake.

Next is the week of Sleeping. My challenge is to get eight hours of sleep every night.

Monday, February 1, 2010


We're about to have another morning meeting. It's Monday. And I didn't get to bed early enough last night. I had some complaint about not getting enough free time to myself. I spent several hours playing a game, but it wasn't enough. Despite that I made it hear earlier than I have all year; I have no idea how I managed that. I with I could rewind and compare to other days, because I got hear at 8 am on the dot. And I wasn't even rushing. Yeah, time-warp mystery.

It's a rainy day today. And unseasonably warm. I drove the loaner car from my mechanic's today. Can we say Happy Car? I just about died when I say this car. It's brand new, it's compact, cute, and it's orange. It matches the radio transmitter I have for my ipod for crying out loud. It's also low to the ground so it can take the curves on the roads really fast. Only bad thing is - two speakers. That's why my car is in the shop now - the rear speakers never worked and then the front driver's side started going in and out. I can't live with one speaker so I took it in to the shop.

I told them I don't know what the issue is - electrical wiring, the TAPE player being old, or the speakers themselves. I didn't consider a fourth option. Shortly after they took my car to the shop, still on Friday just before I left work, I got a call on my cell phone. They asked if I could come down on my way home. No problem.

I stop by, and they tell me that they think I just need a new CD player. I asked, "Really, but what about the rear speakers? Are you sure it isn't the wiring?" The husband talked to his wife for a minute and she came up to me and let me down as gently as she could. There were no rear speakers. The car has spaces reserved for rear speakers, but they aren't included in the basic model. They didn't know if the wiring was done for the speakers. I busted out laughing and couldn't stop for five minutes. It had never occurred to me that rear speakers were an option people would upgrade to! When I think of all the times I swore at the rear speakers wishing they worked.

Now they're looking for some speakers to fit the spaces and checking on the wiring. I should know today about how much it'll all cost. I didn't want to invest the money before, but there is no way I'm living with just one speaker in my car. I'll just go as economically as I can and do it. For my birthday this year I'm giving myself a trip to an onsen and rear speakers in my car.

Happy Monday!