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Japan trip 2009: The otaku experience August 9, 2009

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Film, Friends, Gunpla, Japan, Personal, Travel.
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Gundam and I, Odaiba, July 2009

Gundam and I, Odaiba, July 2009

So, I’ve written all about my Japan trip. But given the nature of this blog, it’s the geeky things you want to hear about right? ^^

Otaku highlights include the 1/1 scale Gundam in Odaiba, seeing Evangelion 2.0 in a Shibuya cinema (review to come in a later post) and discovering the ‘Akihabara of Osaka’ Den Den Town. (more…)

Japan trip 2009 August 9, 2009

Posted by ayasawada in Japan, Personal, Travel.
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As mentioned a few weeks ago I was soon to take my third trip to Japan. Well those two weeks came and went in a flash, and boy what a time I had.

It was fantastic and probably the best holiday I’ve ever had. Not only did I do almost every single thing I would ever have wanted to do on a trip to Japan (which is as exhausting as it sounds), but I got to share it with my friends who share my Japanophilia.

For me that’s what really made this trip special. I went with friends with whom I had began Japanese lessons all those years ago, as well as  friends met through various London conversation clubs. On top of that there was the happy coincidence of several others having either just moved out to Japan or travelling at the same time. And we had many old friends and sensei to visit, with plenty of new friends made too.

You can see all the photos from the trip over on Flickr.

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Paris April 1, 2009

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Yes, this is in Paris. I can spot a Totoro anywhere in a 5 mile radius.

Yes, this is in Paris. I can spot a Totoro anywhere in a 5 mile radius.

I just had a long weekend in Paris. Free Eurostar tickets courtesy of a day spent last year testing St Pancras station and the links to Ebbsfleet. Woo hoo!

Paris photoset on Flickr

This was actually my third time to Paris, though my first ‘as an adult’. Last time I went was when I was 15 on our then traditional family camping holiday to France. As such, spent a lot of time wandering into places and realising I’d been there before. Kind of wish I’d been less ignorant as a kid and soaked up more detail and history. Funny the things you notice when older though. Hadn’t realised the New York and Paris metros were so alike. Also disturbed by the sheer number of Dragonball Evolution advertising posters.

Anyway, it was a fairly easy going holiday since neither myself or my best friend had too much cash to spend. Walked to the Eiffel Tower on Friday (supposedly “near” to our hotel). Spent Saturday in Amelie-land of Montmatre walking past Moulin Rouge, Montmatre cemetery and the Sacre Couer. Really enjoyed it, although I realised I’d been to a couple of the places before ^^; Walked along the Seine from Notre Dame to the Louvre on Sunday before heading back. Overall, a pleasantly relaxing weekend with considerably more walking than expected.

Ate a ton of crepe’s and not enough cake from the patisserie. Best mate also refused to partake in bread wars, somewhat disappointingly. And I bought a whole baguette too….

My French remains crap, but was pleasantly surprised at how much I retained, despite having not spoken it for 15 years. Especially pleased with “Ou est le chat?”

London snow February 2, 2009

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Snow on the roof at work

Snow on the roof at work

Snow gripped the UK in its icy grasp today, grinding much of the UK to a halt.

It could have been hell been hell, but it actually made for quite a good day for me. All London buses were suspended because of the dangerous roads, so I left work extra early to get the tube. It was inevitably packed, but managed to get into work relatively easily. And the Northern line was one of the few to sort itself out over the course of the day, so by the time I headed home (early as it turned out) I was treated to a really stress free ride home ^^.

Most people couldn’t make it into work (as I imagine was the case for many workplaces) so the Trust was quite sparse today. Made for quite the snow day feeling, a bonus since those of us who had committedly made it in missed out on skiving off working from home. :p On the plus side, we did get a free lunch and it was quiet enough to get on with a lot of things (though to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t that productive. I blame all the people on social networking sites talking about how fun their snow day’s were).

Anyhow, it was very beautiful to see really thick blankets of snow all over the place for a change. I haven’t seen it this good since I was five years old. And everyone seemed so happy: families in the park, Facebook pics of friends making snowmen, snowball fights organised on Twitter.

Pics of my uneventful London snow experience on Flickr.

Christmas in London December 23, 2008

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I have nothing but terrible drunken pics of my Xmas activities. So here's a festive pic of the lovely Yumi Sugimoto. Aishiteru Yumi! ^^

I have nothing but terrible drunken pics of my Xmas activities. So here's a festive pic of the lovely Yumi Sugimoto. Aishiteru Yumi! ^^

It’s Christmas time, and London’s entered its familiar festive vibe. Credit-crunch or no, the streets have been full of people rushing around for last minute gifts and office workers willing away the final two, largely redundant (no credit crunch pun intended) final days before the hols. (more…)

Learning Japanese December 4, 2008

Posted by ayasawada in Japan, Personal.
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I had my final Japanese lesson of term this evening. We’re now up to lesson 47 of Minna no Nihongo II and had a test on the kanji from lesson 34 of the blue Basic Kanji book Vol.2.

It’s been a good term overall and definitely good to get back in the saddle after six months out. I do regret somewhat the gap, though I really was flagging badly back in March. I’ve had to redo Term 2 at SOAS this term to catch up again, but that’s no bad thing considering I didn’t really take in much between January and March!

I was really surprised at how much I lost in the downtime. Simple vocabulary and, most distressingly, kanji just fell out of my head. The other week I couldn’t remember the kanji for 車 and got 車 and 東 mixed up. >_< I also forgot the word for black (黒い). It’s true, with languages you use it or lose it.

I’ve been studying nihongo for four years on and off. The last break I took was two years ago when I stopped lessons to concentrate on my MSc. However, half that year I spent cramming for the JLPT and still watching a hefty bit of anime and dorama, so I kept up some practice. I guess it got really bad in March when I was totally exhausted from other parts of my life and stopped doing all those things. I was even questioning my whole love of all things Japanese. How could I? T_T

I tend to keep up my knowledge through regular lessons, conversation clubs (at various times I try and get to three different meet ups in London), JapanesePod101 podcasts, and my daily doses of anime, dorama and Jpop ^^; I also have  bunch of kanji programmes on my iPod Touch, which are good for random practice whilst waiting for the bus/train, but I use them so rarely I wonder if I was just procrastinating by downloading when I should have been studying. ^^;

I can’t say I really apply all my newfound grammatical knowledge. For instance, I often forget to use things like 〜とか and 〜し. Tonight we learnt all about 〜そうです and 〜ようです to say when things look/seem like X to you. These are really useful grammar to know, but I tend to forget to make use of them when I’m speaking Japanese with someone and just speak in simple broken sentences >_<

Having said that, I do notice the grammar when watching anime/dorama, which I enjoy. It’s great to get that extra level of understaning, particularly of teinei, which adds to the context of the story. Moreover, when I think about it, I am amazed at how far I’ve come. Four years ago I knew nothing of Japanese. Now I can read hiragana and katakana without thinking and can easily conjugate (admittedly far from perfect) sentences in a general conversation.

I read a blog post that reminds students not to lose their reason for learning in the first place and to stop  obsessing over levels and measures of ability. Certainly I wouldn’t want to rest on my laurels, content with only a little advance, but the little progress made shouldn’t be sniffed at. It’s something to be proud of. That and the 3kyu JLPT certificate I have hanging at home. ^^

Of course, it’s a long long way from 2kyu and any kind of fluency. I doubt I’ll ever be fluent without actually living in Japan (something I may still do sometime). But when people ask me why I’m learning Japanese, I still state my original aim: to deepen my understanding and enjoyment of Japanese media — particularly watching stuff without subtitles! And it still applies today.

First feature November 24, 2008

Posted by ayasawada in Personal, Science.
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I had my first feature article for Wellcome published on the site on Friday. It’s only based on one interview, but the subject is pretty interesting and in keeping with my previous experience on developing country science ^^

Overall, I’m reasonably pleased with it. Am working up to doing something more in depth with a bit more research and a range of opinions. Will be good to have a topic to really sink my teeth into, though I’m sure it’ll be pretty difficult to piece together.

Otherwise, I continue to contribute regular news to the site. We don’t currently put bylines on the news stories (T_T) but this one and this one are all me. And this one was my first news article in the job. Most of the time I tend to re-edit press releases on stuff we’ve funded: for example this, this and this. Editing is bread and butter stuff for me, so I don’t mind doing it. It can be a bit challenging sometimes too if ther press release really sucks or I have to dig out the Wellcome angle. Of course, nothing beats writing and interviewing for your own article.

Where it gets a bit boring is when I have to do slightly promotional ‘announcement‘ news. It’s a great project, don’t get me wrong, but a follow up call like this isn’t exactly groundbreaking news.

Other than that, I’ve been doing bits and pieces for our various brochures, magazines and reports. I’ve even ghostwritten for the Director twice. So plenty of variety keeping me occupied. ^^

Plagiarised! November 19, 2008

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Here’s an article on a Kenyan researcher doing good work on malaria using geospatial modelling. It reads really well, but….

“By Henry Neondo” my arse. I (re)wrote that, based on something the Kenya Medical Research Institute had put together and asked me to help with before they sent out to local publications for publicity. The article is word for word what I edited and rewrote.

Of course, the main thing is that the info gets out there. But it’s another example of the plagiarism that is rife in African journalism and which used to drive me insane as an editor.

A more original feature coming up on the Wellcome Trust website this Friday.

Prague memories October 19, 2008

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The Tyn Church, Stade Mesto, Prague

The Tyn Church, Stade Mesto, Prague

I had an enjoyable four day stint in Prague during the week. It’s as far east as I’ve gone in Europe, very reasonable to fly to and stay in and generally a lovely place to visit. I’d highly recommend it. Full set of photos on Flickr.

For once, I wanted just a totally random, unplanned, relaxing holiday, with no pressure to see sights etc. I picked Prague on a whim and did practically no prep bar purchasing a Rough Guide and booking a random hostel. Much of my time was spent wandering around the various quarters, and thankfully, Prague is a wonderful city to lose yourself in.

My favourite memories: (more…)

Old job, new job October 11, 2008

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I finished up at my old job yesterday. I’m officially no longer the news editor at SciDev.Net. In a week’s time I’ll be a science writer for The Wellcome Trust.

It’s a real change for me. I still very much want to be an Editor, but I’ve always thought it hard to get people to take me seriously if I haven’t had the writing experience and portfolio. I have gained a hell of a lot through my editorship at I,Science and SciDev.Net, but I’m sure people would look at my CV and ask, how did he get so far so fast without ‘doing time’ as a writer/journalist? Besides, I’ve always lacked confidence about my writing, and I think it’s time to get out of my comfort zone, stop hiding behind editing other people’s work and start writing for myself! I am a decent writer, and it’s got me this job, so I can only improve from here.

It is weird to leave a place I really like and people I really get on with. Things weren’t perfect, and I had my fair number of stresses and situations. As such, moving on is probably a good move at this time, particularly for a better salary :p Besides, having spent the majority of my working life at two small-sized places, working for a big one will be a good experience. I am a little scared — I never like change — but it’s time to sit up and step up. In the meantime, one week off (woo-hoo!) and a short break in Prague. Then we’ll see about that future.