Weill in Japan Jason Weill Web Productions
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a good day

weill in japan: day 27

After our professors opened the floodgates on Friday, today brought some long-awaited relief. Today was a much more bearable day, due largely to the fact that our professors let us work on projects for the whole time.

Summer courses just about anywhere are known for their fast pace: instead of teaching the material twice or three times a week over the course of several months, the material is compressed down to daily lessons for six weeks. One of the side-effects: homework is due the next class day, so assignments have to be completed on just under 24 hours' notice. Today, we were given the assignment of compiling survey data from all groups into one data set, making graphs, and preparing to present them tomorrow in class.

First problem: One of our group members was absent today, due to a planned trip on business. I gave him our data, but we'll need to brief him tomorrow morning on the particulars.

Second problem: Just as before, all groups will be presenting the same material. After the second group goes, it's bedtime for everyone but the third group. Rigid content guidelines mean that creativity is a definite no-no.

Third problem: Many of the students are not familiar with Excel, and yet we were all expected to compile data and make graphs using the native Japanese version of Excel for Mac 2001. Learning a program for the first time is tough enough: I've been using Excel for many years and I have problems trying to remember display elements based on position rather than the tiny characters on the display. Japanese was not meant to be viewed at less than 100 dots per inch.

Fourth problem: We were given a grand total of an hour in the computer lab to complete this task, and I spent most of my time walking around helping my group members out. I don't fault my classmates for this, since the course staff had the poor foresight to expect total proficiency with a program that many students hadn't used in any language. I ended up working after lunch to finish off the work and distribute the compiled workbook to my group by e-mail.

Four problems, and still a good day. My standards have dropped to new lows.

elsewhere around campus

This week marks the second and last week of issei kyuuka (simultaneous vacation) when ICU basically closes up shop for all but the most essential summer course resources. The dining hall and post office are still open, but everything else has sharply reduced hours. All the more reason to spend less time on campus.

I'm on the list to visit Asakusa this Saturday, leaving bright and early at 8:40 AM from the train station nearest ICU. It will be my second visit to that historic district, having first gone there on Saturday to watch the famous Sumida River Festival and its dazzling fireworks display. The trip on Saturday will feature many more activities, including a visit to a shrine.

My host family loves to collect stickers for summer promotions. After collecting my 20th Coke Point and qualifying to win a digital camera/MP3 player, I'm already 7.6 points towards my next entry in that contest. My older brother Kei sent in his six Pepsi stickers and ¥1500 ($12.60) to get some more Star Wars commemorative bottlecaps. I'm sending in a sticker from a half-liter bottle of C.C. Lemon soda to try and win a Simpsons folding chair. I wish they sold those chairs alongside the many other Simpsons character goods in Japan.

The 5000-yen note is hard to come by from what I've seen. With only 1000 and 10,000 yen notes in my pocket, I had to buy a new 5000-yen bus card today. After buying a bottled drink at a kiosk and paying with a 10,000-yen note, I was given my change in coins and nine 1000s. The cashier didn't have any 5000s handy, so I had no choice but to buy a 1000-yen card on the bus. I later changed for a 5000 with a friend, so I'll have an extra card to give away or sell on the cheap.

My Japanese soccer jersey, which I bought yesterday on the cheap in Shibuya, drew many comments from students and teachers. I need to research this Nakata guy, since people expect me to know at least something about the man whose jersey I bought.

I'm beginning to get annoyed at the people who, when hearing that I'm from New York, immediately start asking questions about September 11. I know that they just want to get a perspective from someone who's from the area, but I still don't feel comfortable discussing that day's events even now, 10 months later.

The dollar surged ¥1.70 today to be worth just over ¥119, its highest level in a couple of weeks. Hopefully the rise will continue so I can finish up my gift shopping with a more favorable exchange rate.

More studying, more presentation prep, and more sleep will get me through this week. I'm looking forward to traveling on Friday and Saturday, and possibly more plans beyond that.