End of Hiatus

2016 was a hard year for me. This is the main reason I haven’t posted. Work became busy. I faced more responsibility and demands with little compensation in return. I matured (more like aged) from the experience. I started seriously thinking about my future and long term goals, e.g.,

  • more rewarding and lucrative ways of teaching
  • where to live
  • Japanese translation projects
  • starting a small business
  • continuing my education
  • taking Japanese carpentry classes
  • becoming proficient in Korean
  • earning more money for—

That sounds like enough, but the real catastrophe of 2016 was a ten year relationship coming to an end. I’ve heard times like these are the best times to write or make art. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the strength or clarity to do so. Well, I’m back now, and my goal is to post monthly.

Self Treat Allergies

Many years ago, after moving to Japan, I developed sinus troubles. This happened after spending some time in a hospital. During my stay, I was prescribed antibiotics for weeks. Antibiotics work like an atomic bomb. They kill indiscriminately. The antibiotics took away my infection, but they also destroyed my gut. Research shows your gut affects your immune system. It also affects your response to stress, cognition, and reaction to allergens. A healthy gut with a variety of bacteria cultures means a strong immune system.

After discharged from the hospital, I felt sensitive to common allergens. I was reacting to pollen, something that never bothered me before. I couldn’t tolerate alcohol. Moments after drinking, my nasal passages became inflamed, especially after beer.

I became dependent on allergy medication and antihistamines for my sinus congestion. I couldn’t breathe through my nose. This persisted for two years. My mouth was always dry from being a mouth breather. I had trouble concentrating. I looked forward to steamy showers because this was the only time I could breath through my nose.

I began to read obsessively about allergies. Eventually, I found my way to research about the gut. I learned antibiotics negatively affect your gut bacteria and wheat can exacerbate this. Certain proteins in wheat irritate your intestinal tract, cause leaky gut, decrease nutrient absorption, and promote growth of problematic gut bacteria. I was skeptical. Then, reading about autoimmune disease was enough to convert me to the gluten free cult. It won’t hurt to try, right?

My findings all pointed to avoiding wheat for at least three weeks. This was the autoimmune trigger. This removed pasta, bread, pastries, sandwiches, and my beloved pizza from my diet. I usually had one or two wheat servings daily, so I would only have to change a few meals and snacks.

Four days. That’s how long it took my sinus tract to clear up. Those first deep breaths of air through my nose felt amazing. After a week, this turned into a cascade of other improvements. I could now taste and smell. I felt like a wild animal. I knew what was cooking in my neighbors’ kitchen. I could tell what ingredients were in my dish blindfolded. I could concentrate and think clearly throughout the day. My brain fog disappeared. I felt relaxed, never moody. I wasn’t bloated after meals. My appetite stabilized, e.g., no more sudden hunger strikes, nor food cravings. My skin, especially the acne on my back, cleared. The random flushed look on my face blended to an even tone. My abs looked more visible than ever. Even my obliques were showing definition. After a month, even my hair texture changed. It was stronger and healthier.

It felt too good to be true. Too many things were improving based this dietary change. I wanted to test it. After a few months of avoiding wheat, I tried to reintroduce a few wheat dishes. My first time eating wheat again was no problem. The next day, I had another serving of wheat. A few days later, I felt sinus congestion, bloating, brain fog, moodiness, random hunger, and food cravings. There was acne on my back again. Every symptom I described earlier was creeping up again. Was it all just a coincidence? I thought it was. I wasn’t ready to believe my findings yet. I stopped eating wheat again. Within a few days, my symptoms improved. It was too simple.

I experimented going on and off wheat for two years. It was clear. I functioned and felt better without it. I found if all conditions were ideal, e.g., sleeping a lot, exercising regularly, getting a lot of sun on my skin, managing stress levels, eating healthy… I could have up to three small servings a week with little drop in performance and clarity.

How often do I eat wheat now? Usually once a week. Ramen, cheese naan, cheesurgers, and pizza are my occasional treats. I don’t crave or miss having daily wheat though. The hardest part is explaining to people at social outings I don’t eat wheat. Most of the time, it’s easier just to say I’m allergic.

Argument Against Kanji

Let’s compare two average people, one Japanese, one American. The task is to handwrite an essay about any social issue. Introduce and present the issue to your readers. Explain why this issue worries you. Suggest what you think should be done. You have one hour to write. You can’t use a dictionary. Points are deducted for spelling and grammar mistakes. In the case of Japanese, points are deducted for making mistakes on the Ministry of Education’s prescribed jouyou kanji, e.g., using hiragana or katakana to write jouyou kanji words, and/or incorrectly writing jouyou kanji.

What do you think? Who would make more mistakes? Who would struggle more to write the essay? Who would finish last? Who would write less words per minute? I think the kanji user would lose, and the alphabet user would win. Why? The biggest factor is difference in ease of expression. Though both speakers could probably voice their ideas equally well in speech, the kanji user would have more trouble trying to write their thoughts on paper. For an alphabet user, e.g., Roman or Korean, there is no such challenge. Alphabets are easier and quicker shortcuts from spoken word to written word. The journey to literacy is years shorter. It’s like comparing a journey across a road, to a journey across an ocean.

Getting iPhone 6s

My wife and I headed to SoftBank to check the new iPhones. It was the day after they were released in Japan. The Twitterers in Japan said stores all over were out of stock. We were both using Galaxies (Note 3 and S4) on Docomo. Both contracts were about to end.

We were SoftBank iPhone users in the past (3Gs and 4s for me; 4 and 5 for her). We had similar experiences after switching to Android two years ago. We liked Samsung’s hardware but were annoyed with Android OS. Common tasks we did in iOS were a headache on Android.

The good? Our Galaxies were light, had removable batteries and even micro SD cards (never used either of the latter two though). They also had big displays with small bezels.

The bad? Samsung and especially Docomo fattened the phones with bloatware. Docomo never bothered offering updates for Android nor TouchWiz, so our devices were always suboptimal for their hardware.

The ugly? TouchWiz… And on top of ugly it was laggy. We wanted to switch back to iOS for the user experience we once enjoyed as iPhone users.

Moments after walking into SoftBank early on a Sunday morning, the staff welcomed us to sit down. They told us they had the iPhone 6s in stock. We later found out this was only for carrier switchers. We both wanted the 6s 64 GB in space grey, but different monthly plans. The plan I wanted would be 6,800 yen a month for ten months; then 7,300 until the end of the two year contract. It would be 7,300 and 7,800 for my wife. You got us.

Return to iPhone

In October 2013, I bought my first Android device, a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Its thin bezels, 5.7 inch 1080p display, and slim size caught my attention months before its release. Many Androids were touting 5 inch screens and 1080p displays. They were bigger and had better resolutions than the iPhone 5 and 5S of the era. The specs were better, but I knew not to care when comparing different OS devices.

I used Macintosh computers at school when I was a kid. I always felt seamlessly connected to them. My Windows experience was blue screens, restarting, freezing, and frustration. In 2013, my mid 2007 MacBook Pro had worse specs than all the new mid to high end Windows PCs. Yet, it was running smooth, fast, and problem free in comparison to my Windows OS user friends. Even now in fall 2015, it’s still running smooth! Can Windows OS users say this about their experience of an eight year old laptop? I don’t think so. Apple devices are optimized for their hardware. Don’t worry about their specs. Try them. Test them. Love them.

Back to iPhones. I felt the same when I recently took out my four year old iPhone 4s. I was comparing it to my Note 3. I bought my 4s in 2011, two years before my Note 3. It’s ancient by modern smartphone life cycles. However, to my surprise, it still looks and works beautifully. I was more surprised that it often works smoother than my Note 3. Taking pictures in iOS is quick and snappy, even on my old 4s. I never missed shots due to OS lag, unresponsive taps, etc. Also, the Android shutter in Japan is embarrassingly loud and sounds terrible. Another headache is switching input languages in Android. In iOS it’s just one click, with a beautiful and uniform interface. With Android, you have to go into the settings and load a third party keyboard.

The iPhone 6s is scheduled for release at the end of September. My Note 3 contract finishes at the end of October. I’ll be using an iPhone 6s before November.

Squatty Potty

Despite knowing the benefits of squatting to do a number two for many years, I usually sit to do my business. When you look at the mechanics of it, you’ll be surprised how inefficient the sitting position is. Yes, it’s more comfortable than squatting, but what’s your goal here? You shouldn’t be getting comfortable to watch a movie on your iPad. Get it done quickly and efficiently. Squatting is the best position for this, and it shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds.

Ever hear of perch pooping? What? I lift up the seat on my home toilet, undress my bottom half, squat down on the seat… you know the rest. Don’t try this at home. You have to balance yourself on a thin surface in a squat position. It’s not so easy.

I’m planning to improve this process. I’m going to make a low platform to place in front of the toilet. I’ll stand on this platform, then squat over the toilet.

Here and here are better articles about this topic.

Fuji TV Propaganda via Subtitles

My rushed translation of this Huffington Post Japan article. There may be errors and I’m willing to stand corrected if necessary.

Japanese netizens have been criticizing Fuji TV for an incident that occurred on IKEGAMI Akira Kinkyuu Special, aired on 5 JUN 2015. The special featured a segment of on-the-street interviews with South Koreans in Seoul. The special was said to be discussing mysteries of South Korea (Shitteiru you de shiranai, Kankoku no nazo).

A segment of the show was dedicated to finding the roots of Korea’s anti-Japan sentiments. “Why does Korea hate Japan so much?” was one of the questions. The third interviewee from the on-the-street interviews was a high school student.  Her subtitles said, “We hate Japan because they did terrible things to us (during the colonial era) .”

The Huffington Post Japan editorial department checked the original clip. KOH Yongi of Daily NK spotted the error and tweeted the correction, i.e., what should have been in the subtitles. The problem was, the interviewee’s statement in the original Korean interview was drastically different from what appeared on the subtitled and dubbed Japanese version . The high school student’s actual statement was, “There is a lot of culture, and there seems to be a lot of foreign people visiting…”

This is quite different from the special’s “We hate Japan…” statement.

This has prompted some in Japan to start a petition and gather signatures against Fuji TV through change.org (see here; J). Commenters on the site are saying “No More Lies,” and “The media is not a tool to promote hate and lies against other countries or people…”

The special discusses a few other issues, e.g., theories about why the two have trouble getting along today, and how the colonial era has affected current attitudes.

It’s sad to see seeds of hatred being planted by the media. Young Japanese and Koreans don’t feel hatred towards one another. Why is the media manipulating our feelings? Many countries were guilty of this at times of war in the past. However, it seems distasteful for a nation’s government to do in modern day, ahem, China, South Korea, North Korea, Japan… I think nationalism, regardless of country, is ugly. Many of the commenters are rightfully bashing Fuji TV. It’s now another channel for me to disable from my TV.