2009年5月8日金曜日

How to make really good miso soup from scratch!

The article is available, at the new site:

http://www.alexelkholy.com (or for the article directly: http://alexelkholy.com/2009/05/08/miso-soup-from-scratch/)

Misc. info:

The 'killer url' I was going to use was "touchofalex.com", but I ultimately decided against it, for obvious reasons.

I ended up going with hostingrails for the hosting (that's an affiliate link, so use it if you're considering it yourself; they're the best hosting I could find and I recommend them).

It cost me a total of 50 dollars to put it all up.

Expect lots of good content, I have two packed pages of article ideas that I'm itching to write.

And give me feedback on the theme, what I can do to improve it.

2009年5月2日土曜日

Website almost online!

Hey everybody, thought I was dead? Well you're wrong. I've got Wordpress installed on my server and have everything up and running. I even have a killer URL, but I haven't registered it, so I can't tell you guys.

I've been messing with Wordpress, and it is so much better than Blogspot. I'll have the site name registered soon, get the URL to point to the site, tweak everything a little, and bam!

It'll be done by Tuesday at the latest, so if not you can bug me.

2009年4月18日土曜日

Suggestions for a domain name?

So 'rant.com' and 'ranting.com' are taken, and I don't want to use something stupid like .net. Anybody got any suggestions?

2009年4月13日月曜日

Coming soon to a computer near you

So I've been trying to put together something recently. I'm going to be turning Rant into its very own standalone website.

That's right, a fully fledged website. I'm going to try an move away from Japanese specifically and focus on being more broad, to appeal to a bigger audience. That means when I grace the masses with unveiling of it, you'll have to make it your new homepage. All of you, and you don't have a choice here. You'll all have to tell as many people as you can and refer your friends to articles I write. Can you dig it?

Right now I have the webserver lined up, and a basic outline of the site put together. It's just a matter of staying sober for long enough to finish the stupid thing. Updates to follow.

2009年3月28日土曜日

Why are you learning Japanese?

You have to know this question. A large part of the reason people get so lost and off point, is because they look at Japanese learning as a goal unto itself. If you want to get past your hump, to do more than the minimum everyday, to step up from mediocrity, you really need to get your goals in order.

Many of us follow AJATT method. A good amount of people who follow the AJATT method also like to be apart of online forums, twitter groups, etc. And it's in the community that they further their learning.

There are enough people who say 24/h listening to Japanese isn't that effective, and not a lot of evidence to say it is.
So in the interest of efficiency, we don't have to do that.
There are enough sentence lists and people talking about the efficiency of learning them. They're such great learning resources.
So in the interest of efficiency, it's a good idea to worth through them in order to enjoy fun things more.

I can understand, even empathize with the thinking here. It's just about creating the more efficient method, to make it better. It is here that the point of learning the language becomes itself.

This isn't to argue how people are doing the AJATT method wrong. But rather, I see people take a method originally created with the intense desire to learn Japanese based around enjoyment. A process where the author would refuse to accept defeat of any kind, constantly putting himself in situations where he was forced to get better. And we will take this beautiful method and turn it into a lifeless process. A lifeless process where we consider enjoyment a worthless investment. Where there isn't a point in trying for the difficult, if it's above your level. Where success is met with spite and mediocrity is condoned.

"I spent every waking minute when I wasn't at my day job reading, studying, and learning. I picked out 'enemies' and did everything I could to defeat them, which meant being bigger than them. I refused to accept defeat of any kind." And the money comes rolling in

This man had goals. This man wanted to create the most efficient website he could, among other things. And if you bother to read the article you'll find that once he achieved his goals, the most he amounts to is playing war games all day or pulling pranks. Content to wallow in sloth.

Tell me your goals.

2009年3月13日金曜日

Rant: I don't work well with others

Here's the very first "Rant" article. It's about time, too. Basically, I'm not trying to help anybody, give advice, or even be rational. I'm not even going for a central theme. Just a pure, maddox-style, good old fashioned rant.
Before I go any further, I'm just going to put some things out for the world to see:

I tend to think "learning styles" and "personal preferences" are just hippie things to say when you're a wimp.

I don't believe you can motivate or teach anyone anything. The most you can do is give somebody a light and say "walk". They have to get there themselves.

I am a heavy believer in minimalism. In extension I believe that a single consistent, clear pathway with a lot of patience will get you far.

_
So I don't like the "community". I think it's ridiculous how everybody and their mother has a twitter thing. Honestly? I don't give a _damn_ how you need to get you've been slacking off from your reviews.

Why? Why do we need community? It's a waste of time. "Let me update my twitter... Somebody put up a link to a list of top ten Japanese resources... Oh I didn't know about that guy's blog... Those are some pretty pictures of Japan... So Goddess Charie has a new textbook she's into... hehe, let's put up a new twitter about how I'm wasting time reading Japanese blogs..."

How many people go from textbook to textbook, website to website trying to find the perfect resource to jump start them back into their Japanese study? My god, this is an epidemic. When you spend a large amount of time trying to put the Kanji Odyssy book into digital format, complete and ignore it for a year, then decide that iKnow sentences are better and put together a group collaboration for the iKnow sentences, you've gotten a little off point. When you spend more time thinking about how to learn Japanese than you do actually being exposed to said language, you've gotten a little off point.

And you know what really irritates me the most? When people sit around and make excuses. It's just one excuse after another. "It's too hard", "It's above my level", "But iKnow is so convenient". If I hear one more "that's just the way I am..." I am going to vomit.

You want to know the real reason I hate that phrase? The real reason is because I've spent a majority of my life fighting the "way I am" and facing up to my faults rather than sit around making excuses for the "way I am". Without going into details, let me tell you that I would not be able to function as a person today (a very charismatic one, at that) had I not seriously changed "the way I was". Over the course of years I taught myself how to be better. Facing ridicule, humiliation, and discouragement, I trudged the most difficult path and came out better because of it. Whereas others in my position eventually ended up needing mental care for the rest of their life, I came out on top.

So do not sit there and rationalize your pathetic decisions to me. I refuse to talk with anybody who chooses to accept mediocrity because it's easy.

2009年3月12日木曜日

Adventure games anyone?

I "acquired" Final Fantasy 7 last week. It's so much fun, going on big adventures and fighting against the evil Sephiroth, among other things...

Do you know how many useful verbs are used in a game like FF7? It's one thing to read a sentence and look up all the verbs to get an idea, but it's an entirely different thing when the sentence is from a strategy guide: "岩が転がってくる通路では、岩の隙間に入れるように進む。" and then you actually make your character do what it says here.

You know that feeling where you know what the words mean, but you don't know what the words mean? Like, you haven't gotten that deep connection to it yet? You say rough and it sounds like it has a very rough and scratchy sound associated with it, obviously. But have you ever said a word over and over again to the point where it sounded completely unfamiliar with you? Like sponge, say sponge over and over again:

sponge
sponge
sponge
sponge

After a while, it gets really weird. "This is a word? What the hell?". Right, so what about with Japanese? Have you ever said a word over and over to memorize it?

転がる
転がる
転がる
転がる

It really doesn't make it sound more familiar. Actually, just the opposite. You know what does give us that familiar sound with a word? Experience. Or, more specifically to us, video games. Play more video games. What could be better than video games, man? They're fun, they have stories, characters, lots of words, all sorts of great stuff. They're a great substitute for the life in Japanese you haven't lived yet.

I'm close to finishing FF7 and I started playing ゼルダの伝説 - ムジュラの仮面 (Note: I do not own an N64). This is addicting, and is in Japanese. Mentat also recommends Persona 4 to me, which I might check out.

One last note: use a strategy guide. They're so great for further Japanese learning. Search 攻略.

One more last note: Give me an Ikebukuro Jingle Key-Chain please. (http://www.michaeljohngrist.com/)

2009年3月10日火曜日

There will be a new updates soon

Life sucks. Life sucks badly, you know what I mean? So I neglected my blog, didn't have the time (or I was just too busy playing Japanese games). That, and I normally got my topics by reading what people said on kanji koohii forum, and now that I've broken that addiction...

Anyway, I got some topics written down that I want to write about that I will get to soon.

2009年2月18日水曜日

Don't freak out

So you slipped up. How long as it been since you last read or heard Japanese? Have you been watching the non-Japanese TV in gratuitous amounts? Work catching up to you? School grades slipping? Had to take care of life? So what you lost a couple days. Big deal. Shit happens.

Everybody screws up. I did. Between my studying, school, finishing my recent favorite manga series and getting accidentally hooked on Boston Legal, I've totally blown off Japanese for the past six days total for the first time.


What's the solution? Don't try to force yourself into "doing more Japanese". That's not a valid solution. The best way to handle it is to simply let your interests drift. Drift back to Japanese, to be specific. Today was the first day I started getting back into the groove. I still slaked off a lot and watched Boston Legal, studied for my biology class, ate out, etc. But between all that I was listening to some really good 陰陽座 songs I hadn't listened to before. About an hour before now I got the idea to search for some backgrounds for the band (of which I was unsuccessful, by the way, Japan sucks at the internet). When I was searching I ran into the singer's blog, singer's wiki page, the lyrics for songs, etc.

And down the rabbit hole I went. Tomorrow I have a light amount of work and I've run out of Boston Legal for now, I have no doubt I'll be looking up the cool demonic words in their songs tomorrow.

See what I mean? Never force yourself. Let your interest guide you.

2009年2月14日土曜日

特別進学計画 progress report - 9 days

Well, it has been nine days so far since I started my little project.

Sleeping - So I've gotten into the habit of waking up everyday at seven am. I actually found it surprisingly easy. Steve Pavlina's advice was tremendously helpful here. One of the reasons I found it easy to suddenly start it, was because I had already been in the habit of getting up when my alarm went off. Instead of having a traditional noisy alarm, I have one that will literally vibrate under my bed when it goes off. It works so much better because it doesn't make me freak out desperate to turn it off. Waking up without some intruding noise makes it so much easier.

Forum - I've successfully cut out my forum use entirely. I've reclaimed so much time, it's not even funny. If you visit a forum more than once a couple days, I highly suggest you quit for a while and find out how much more time you gain.

Meat - Unfortunately, it turned out that I wasn't able to maintain this one for personal reasons. I'd still like to try it someday, but I can't really now.

Study - This has been interesting. Since I've basically eliminated memory as a problem, I'm really seeing now how much I can turn my study into a memory game.

Chemistry
Chemistry is no problem. The only problem really is remembering the details of what it teaches you. The biggest problem people have with big scary subjects like chemistry is the high volume of new information. People are content to have a term explained once and think they've "learned it". But that's simply not true. A textbook will introduce you to a term and then immediately use it and expect you to know it. The reason people find it easier to learn from instructors and explanations from people is probably because they take it easy on you with the language.

But guess what? SRS takes care of that perfectly. Chemistry is cake.

Math
Math was the only subject which I was a bit worried about. It's kinda hard to make flashcards for math, and it can also be a bit confusing at times. Why do the parenthesis make so much a difference with exponents? Why can you just move around numbers to change them being +/-? Negative x Positive = Negative or Negative / Positive = Negative, why?It's a confusing mess. But I don't care, I don't learn that stuff.

The way I see it, math is like language. Doing math problems, reading how to simplify problems, the point isn't to learn exactly how things work. You simply cannot learn the extremely low level reason explaining why certain things work and then apply it immediately to higher level stuff.

The approach I take is that I simply accept it. The book tells you that you have to put a parenthesis in this situation, so I do it. I imitate. I see problems as exercising my math skills in imitating what the book says to do in a specific situation. I suppose I'll eventually reach a point where I'll have seen enough math to be able to say "You do it this way, not that way". I'm not sure I'll be able to explain exactly why, but I think that's best left for after I've gotten decent at algebra. Knowing why I do something after I can already do it, is so much easier then trying to figure it out beforehand.

Which what sparked the original idea of the 30 minutes a day for two subjects: My rules are,
a)I don't have to SRS anything if I don't want to.
b)Don't have to try and do anything more than the most simplest of task, as long as I'm getting exposure to the subject.

You see what I'm getting at? Decrease perfectionism, remove the causes of procrastination, and increase exposure. The idea is that I need to be doing it everyday and without forcing myself to. And I've found my productivity and time spent to be much higher this way, less headaches and less stress.

Physics
I'm finding that the math is holding me back here, unfortunately. It's not that it's not entirely impossible to understand without the math, just that I miss things. They build up, and fast. So I'll work on my algebra a while before I get into calculus and physics.

I guess that's it. I'm busy, but having fun. So much to learn.

2009年2月7日土曜日

How I use Anki

Anki is an awesome program. It basically takes memory out of the equation when learning. The problem is that there's a bit of a learning curve to using it. Anki is unique from other spaced repitition programs because it uses models and distinguishes between a 'fact' and a 'card' for data organization. Many cards can be generated from a single fact. Then there's also the question on how to use it effectively, what you should put it, how you should put data in, etc. Here I'll start off with how I've setup my models and card generation in Anki and move to how I put data in it.

Models and cards
Starting of with my Japanese, I've created a model to put in sentences:

Japanese Sentence Recognition:
%(Expression)
A:
%(Reading)s
%(Context)s [font color set to white in display properties]
%(Japanese notes)s

In my normal everyday Japanese sentence model, it quizzes me from the sentence to the readings. In theory I only need the "Expression" field and "Reading" field. However, I use the context and notes field in case I forget something. Context is there to remind me of the context and situation of where the sentence was, including the surrounding sentences, while Japanese notes are where I put definitions from my dictionary.

When I want to remember things other than Japanese, I use a Knowledge model and created some card models. In the first model, Question Quizzing, I take a sentence using cloze deletion and quiz on the term I want to remember in the Info answers field. In this model, the image will show what is being defined to aid memory.

Question Quizzing:
Q:
Answer the question or fill in the blank:
%(Info question)s
%(Images)s
A:
%(Info answer)s
%(Anecdotes & Notes)s
Source & Context:
%(Source & Context)s

Here you can see the result of this:


In the opposite model, Definition Quizzing, it shows the word and I have to define it. The image is showed on the opposite side, because that would give it away. Sometimes, like when I'm quizzed on remembering things like what a Methyl group (CH3) is, I'll draw out the picture.

Definition Quizzing:
Q:
Define or explain:
%(Info answer)s
A:
%(Info question)s
%(Images)s
%(Anecdotes & Notes)s
Source & Context:
%(Source & Context)s

Result:


Card creation
This is all good and well, but probably more important than this is how I convert text into cards.



"Protons, neutrons, and a host of other exotic particles are now known to be composed of six different varieties of particles called quarks, which have been given the names of up, down, strange, charm, bottom, and top."

This is a perfect example because it shows the source, an image, a simple definition, and the creation of both cards. You can see how the original sentence was long and weighty, not suitable for card creation. Here's the thought process of how I trimmed it down:

", which have been given the names of up, down, strange, charm, bottom, and top." - Too much information. I don't want to have to remember what a quark is, AND remember a six item list to associate with it. I also won't make a separate card for this, as I don't know what they are. I'd just be memorizing useless data without learning about them.

"and a host of other exotic particles" - 'Etc.' will do much better until I learn about these exotic particles.

" are now known to be" - No shit? Delete.

Each card has a single purpose. Make sure you always know what that purpose is.

Selecting information
Now, getting going to an even lower (or higher?) level, selecting information to make cards out of. In textbooks, often information will be built on what was presented earlier. For example, in my Biology textbook it started with a basic introduction to atoms, protons, electrons, neutrons, covalent bonds, etc. The next chapter it went into more detail and presented hydrocarbons, carbon skeletons, molecules, isomers, etc. At the end it presented a chart showing six functional groups and their structers which I memorized (Hydroxide - -OH, Carboxyl - carbonyl with hydroxide, that sort of thing).

As I gradually learned and understood the above concepts presented, the more important it became to have mastered the previous material. Recently I learned that a fatty acid is a carboxylic acid with a carbon skeleton attached to it. That a tryacylglycerol has three fatty acids esterified to a glycerol molecule.

Unlike my classmates, who had to look up these terms or forfeit understanding, I understood it immediatly. I don't need to tell you how much more effective it is for learning to have a concrete understanding without the trouble of memory.

Here are some tips on how to convert data to cards

-Be selective:
From my Physics book:
"A new era in physics, usually referred to as modern physics, began near the end of the 19th century."

Is this a fact you could make a card out of? Sure. Am I reading a physics book for a history lesson? No.

I used to SRS every little fact that came along. But it was useless. I don't need to know a term's Latin word it came from. I was spending too much time reviewing useless information when I could have been spending time learning new things that are important.

-SRS hard facts, not conclusions:
This rule is a continuation from the last, but not so clear cut. For example:
"The existence of neutrons was verified conclusively in 1932. A neutron has no charge and a mass that is about equal to that of a proton. One of its primary purposes is to act as a “glue” that holds the nucleus together. If neutrons were not present in the nucleus, the repulsive force between the positively charged particles would cause the nucleus to come apart."

The only piece of information in this that was new to me was how neutrons prevent the protons from coming apart in a nucleus. However, since I am already very familiar with atom's protons/neutrons and their nuclear charges, this immediately made sense to me. I debated putting it in, but I really don't think I'll forget this for a long time. It's a result of facts I already have memorized.

2009年2月4日水曜日

特別進学計画

March 1st will be my birthday. Incidentally, March 1st 2010 will be the end of my 18 month Japanese run where I'll hopefully be fluent. Not only that, but shortly thereafter I will get my 2 year degree. At the end of this 18 month trial I want to go to Japan, get accepted into a good college, and pursue study in the subjects I'm truly interested in.

Here are the subjects I've determined I'll need to be well versed in by the end of that year:

Biology
Chemistry
Organic chemistry
Algebra
Calculus
Physics

Just by looking at this list, if I want to accomplish this in a year I'm going to have to be extremely organized and disciplined. To facilitate this, I'm going to have make my body and mind work its best. That means I'll be incorporating the following:

I'll become an early riser. I'm going to aim at getting up everyday at seven o'clock every morning, eating a healthy breakfast (along with some Anki reps), and exercising.

For exercising I don't plan on doing anything more than a simple walk, at least at first. When my pool is warm enough to swim in, I'll go swimming every morning instead.

I hope to have a slightly better diet. I consider my diet now to be far better than most Americans, but it could still use some improvement. I'll try a thirty day challenge removing red meat from my diet. Fish and chicken are OK (I've never really eaten fish, but I want to start, see what it's like).

Kill the forum. I'm going to completely stop visiting the kanji.koohii.com forum for thirty days. It's a total and complete waste of time. Plus I can't stand the negativity there.

Scheduling. I'm going to have to make sure I have some way of making sure I do a daily amount of studying. At first I considered treating it the same way as it would in school by studying in blocked amounts of time everyday, but that has never worked before and I don't see any reason for it to work now. Instead I'm going to go for a much more liberal policy. What I'll do is instead organize it something like this:

Chemistry textbook
Math practice
Biology textbook

Where I'll have all the subjects I'm working on listed, and in a given day I'll only have to work on two of them each day. And for each subject I'll only hold myself obligated to 30 (timeboxed) minutes a day. After I've completed my obligatory 30 minutes, I can continue working on the subject as long as I want until I don't feel like it. This allows me to prevent burnout and procrastination. I figure that doing 30 minutes a day is much better then procrastinating and accomplishing only an hour a week.

Keep in mind that this is not going to be kept in my mind. I have a whiteboard that I hung up in my working area with thirty checkboxs for my challenges, and the details of everything I'm working on and to track my progress.

To be honest, I don't think I could do this, college, and Japanese without my favorite program, Anki. This program really is amazing. It basically ensures that I don't forget what I learn. I put everything in there, and I can reduce the time I spend memorizing and worrying about if I learned something enough. One thing I'm going to have to stop is waiting until right before bed to do my reps. Right now I'm in the habit of doing it the last hour before bed. This is bad because if I don't finish in an hour, I stay up later taking longer from drowsiness to finish it. It's also bad because doing challenging mental tasks right before bed is probably inefficient for review, and also doesn't help when I want to sleep.

So I have four thirty day challenges I'm undertaking tomorrow: morning routine, cut out meat/eat fish, kill forum, study everyday. On top of this, I'll be maintaining a Japanese immersion environment, life, college, etc. Fun!

(It's とくべつしんがくけいかく)

2009年2月1日日曜日

Sucky beginner advice 2

Ok, so maybe my last post for beginners wasn't enough. It's not easy to communicate this, because it makes sense to me, even when it doesn't make sense to others.

So first of all let me say, I understand what you're going through. I know what your feeling. Let me tell you something, everybody feels it. I still feel it from time to time, my friends do, Khatzumoto does, everybody does. It's the feeling that you just don't get it. The feeling where you want to pick up that manga, that book, that series, and just read it and enjoy it, but you can't. You're wondering "When will I get past this crappy beginner stage?", "When can I start learning from things I like!?", etc. Let me tell you, you will get there. It will happen, but very slowly.

Like- you ever go to a restaurant and they still have the old fashioned Heinz ketchup glass bottle? You just want some ketchup for your fries, because fries suck without some ketchup. But the damn ketchup won't come out. What do you do? You shake the ketchup until the tomatoe goodness falls to the opening. It takes a lot of shaking, but it eventually gets there. Your arm may be tired, but it was totally worth it. After all, french fries and ketchup rock.

But I'm getting off topic. The point is that Japanese takes a lot of time and a lot of shaking to get anywhere.

So I can understand your feelings completely when you tell me you want to learn some vocab. Do some Kanji Odyssey, some iKnow or textbook. It's perfectly innocent to say that the more you learn from these sources the more you're able to understand from, and in turn enjoy, authentic Japanese sources.

But I have to ask, why not just learn from authentic sources anyway? It seems if you're spending all this time learning how people say “Please rewrite this document.” or some such thing, why not just switch over to an authentic source and study from that?

I can think of several reasons, but the most important one is that people hold themselves to a much higher standard when approaching authentic sources. It suddenly becomes something that if you don't understand things, it's at too high a level, and it's not fun because you can't understand all of the story. But let me ask you something, how can you tell me that it's not fun to not understand a lot of the story when you feel nice and safe to be understanding sentences that essentially tell you nothing? Why would you feel content to learn from sentences like “兄は音楽を聞きながら寝るのが一番好きです。” when you could give a flying about some guy's brother?

When you read, you cannot hold yourself to a high standard. In fact, you cannot hold yourself to any standard at all. You need to open that book, that manga, and not see a list of words for each sentence you need to look up. You need to look at that book and find the little bits you do understand, the little bits you genuinely want to look up. You may not understand anything at first, but that's ok. Just skip anything that's too hard. Got it? 'Cause this is important. Skip everything that's not easy, and look up stuff you really want to look up. Totally lost on a sentence? Skip it. But does that sentence have a kanji you want to know the reading for (like 闇 or something badass like that)? Look it up and get a sentence.

Here's a little trick I like to do. I like to think as my Japanese ability 'upgrading'. Everyday my Japanese ability will be just a little bit better. What I like to do is everyday think “I wonder how much more Japanese I'll be able to understand with my new abilities today?”. And it does happen. Words I learned yesterday show up the very next morning in a completely different place. Then I'll think “Good thing I found that word yesterday.” with a smile on my face.

2009年1月30日金曜日

I believe in Khatzumoto

No matter what the guy does, he just can't get a break. Khatzumoto posts in very good Japanese on his site, and people doubt him. He posts a video of himself, and yet people still give him shit. He gets comments like this one:
"I'm glad something else said this - I was afraid to. (I fear I'm becoming the resident grouch :)).The fellow still isn't "fluent" after 5 years, so hopefully this 18 month stuff can be put to rest and people won't be frustrated by unrealizable expectations. The amusing thing is...his grammar could use some improvement. Khatz recommends acting like you're Japanese. But without lines, not all actors can adlib eloquently."
or this:
"Impressive, but not proof of fluency in other fields - he's a computer guy who studied his computers using japanese textbooks - so he could probably converse about that quite well, and with good computer skills then landing a job is not so surprising. That's a long haul from what most of us would consider fluent - not to diminish what he did, and certainly his blog and ideas have inspired lots of us here to try new methods, and often successfully at that. Not a shot at the guy, just a dash of realism."

And I am sick and tired of this bullshit. We can argue over his politeness level, we can present all the analyses we want, we can squabble over what fluency means. But I'm not going to. I simply can't stomach it anymore. There's a difference between skepticism and being so blindly negative about everything it becomes impossible to find merit in anything.

I say that Japanese is learned when you're deep in a story, from experience. I, along with Khatzumoto, advocate a method of enjoyment over learning the rules of grammar. And yet, they won't have it. I'm just "learning utterances" and such. I try again to tell them, it's more than that. I tell them that's not true and I won't have it. Bollocks, they say, it's obvious that my method must be slower then theirs. Yet here I am, at JLPT2 level after four months. Where does it end?

And I can't stand it, this negativity. It's a pile of fucking negativity that only holds us back.
Right here, right now I declare that I believe in Khatzumoto. I don't care what people say. I believe that he's fluent, and I believe that I can be fluent too. I won't have anybody tell me otherwise. I encourage everybody else to do the same. Don't let people put you down.

I believe in Khatzumoto. Do you?

2009年1月28日水曜日

How do we get self-discipline?

When you look at my Japanese, you could say that it requires a lot of self-discipline to avoid English or to do my reps everyday. In college I take several very difficult classes that require a lot of hard work, it could be said that it takes self-discipline to do the homework and study on my own time everyday.

I personally don't like to believe that self-discipline is a skill that you train. From what I've read of people who actively try to improve their self-discipline, they make it seem like it's is a skill in beating yourself up. Why would you want to train yourself in self-mutilation?

The most common path to building self-discipline seems to be pain. No pain no gain. But that's not what I believe. In my experience I've built up my self-discipline through a different way entirely. The way I've done this is based on two things: goals and positivity.

Goals
Let me tell you about my classmate who sits near me in biology. She's an average girl who finished high school, went to college, got a job. She thinks she might to go cosmetic school and get a license soon with the vague idea of starting a cosmetics business. She's taking biology because it's a required class, but decided to take the higher level biology because she might decide to be a nurse someday. She thinks the class is hard and honestly doesn't give a crap why hydrogen bonds in water allow certain bugs to walk on water, but it's a required course. She's doing terribly.

When people float through life aimlessly without any real tangible goals, they stagnate. Why should they go the extra mile when it won't pay off? Making tangible goals lays the groundwork for self-discipline. It's your reason for taking the extra time to study. It's the life of everything you do.

Throwing yourself to something higher, something better than what you have is what gives your life meaning. It's in this meaning that you gain the motivation and will to carry out your goals.

The first thing you must do is define a long term goal and the short steps needed to propel you in that direction. For me, this is going to a college in Japan. It's a tangible goal where going to this biology class is a step, even if it's a small step. Every time I go to the class or pick up the textbook I think about how it's getting me slowly closer to Japan.

For this girl, it could be her cosmetics. If she really wanted to create a business around cosmetics, she would have to seriously define specifically what she wanted to do. Spend everyday learning and using cosmetics. Learn the chemistry behind it, and study the business aspects of it. She would probably have to find a different school to attend. And all of this would lead down to the first step she would have to take. Take these courses next semester, submit an application for cosmetic school, etc.

Positivity
A while ago I had joined a study group for a different class. I met a guy through it and he asked me what I was using to take notes on my computer, so I explained what Anki was. The second time we met, he told me that he had tried Anki but didn't like it. That it wasn't "his thing". I asked why, to which he responded he didn't think it was worth the effort, he didn't care about the subject the class was teaching.

A few minutes later we both took a practice test. I scored 100%, he scored 80%.

Positivity plays a big role in self-discipline. It means instead of fighting what you have to do, you should learn to take part and find the enjoyment in what you do. Take pride in your work and find the best in your situation. I like to think that I have exceptionally good discipline in school largely because I can develop an interest in any subject. From the most boring math class to the sleeping pill of world history, I will see the positive in everything and be able to develop an interest in it.

If goal setting is the life in what you do, positivity is the blood that sustains.

In Japanese staying to the positive means developing interest. Instead of thinking of Japanese as a task to overcome as fast as possible, it means finding the positive and fun in the journey. Every English temptation you pull yourself away from means an awesome Japanese temptation to reward you.

Staying to the positive in doing my reps meant looking at it as a way to revisit what I've learned. By extension, this meant limiting what I put in to things I would want to revisit. It means that when I look at Anki, I think about how I get to review that really awesome kanji I learned the other day.

I imagine people who are successful with diets or vegetarianism are people who didn't train themselves to eat food they hated, but instead looked and found things they liked.

So in short
Goals without positivity leads to burnout and dwelling on the future instead of the present. Positivity without a goal ends with mediocrity and stagnation. Learn to apply both equally in your life and you will gain tremendous self-discipline.

Check out Attitude Is Everything for more on positivity. Here's some stuff on goals: How To Will Yourself To Success Goal Setting for Dummies.

2009年1月20日火曜日

Starting out? Suck really bad? Here's some advice.

After four months I spit at JLPT grammar points and read books like a mad man. I can read an entire manga series without once opening a dictionary and understand the entire thing. But I wasn't always this awesome, when I started out I sucked. I sucked really bad.

Why'd I get so good? Because I busted tale and exposed myself to more Japanese than English everyday. But what I consider unique about my experience, is that I didn't know I was busting tale. I didn't 'study', I didn't think "I want to learn Japanese, better break out the flashcards, dictionary, and get the best guide to grammar I can and slog through it". In my day we didn't even know what an 'iknow' was!

But even then, there was a time before when I thought textbooks were the answer. That you had to get the right sentences in to Anki and study everyday. And for a month after completing the Movie Method, that's exactly what I did. For that month, I sucked badly. I didn't learn shit about Japanese during my first month, everything confused me.

But eventually, I began to realize that didn't work. I began to change my approach. When I finally stopped being a sucky beginner who didn't know anything and started to put things together was when I dropped the mindset of 'study'. I threw away the sentence spreadsheets I had collected from the forum and found some manga that I really enjoyed. And you know what? I STILL SUCKED. I didn't know shit about Japanese, of course I wasn't going to understand crap from what I was reading. For all the Japanese I had 'studied', I still sucked badly. Because study does not equal real life.

But that was the best decision I made. I was no longer 'slogging' or 'plowing' or 'mining' my way through something, I was reading! And it wasn't boring crap, it was fun. (In fact, I hate those words. I hate it when people say they're going to 'mine' a game or something for sentences. It's like saying "I'm going to mine sentences from 'cool game x'" translates to "I'm going to take away the fun from 'cool game x'".) I learned more from a week of reading a manga I got totally addicted to then in my entire month of 'study'.

But still, people tell me I'm a 'genius', or that I have a unique 'mindset'. The only unique thing about me is that I rejected perfectionism. I didn't assume that I had to 'slog' my way through something to learn from it.

To go back to Stephen Krashen, when the learner focuses on what they can understand, and not fight with what they don't understand, in communicative input, i+1 items will be found in little bits and knowledge will expand, and expand in a natural, predictable order.

So that's my advice to you beginners out there. Dump the 'study', get on board with the play and exploration. Trust me, it's so much better.

2009年1月18日日曜日

Listening and watching tips

It's only been recently that I've really started watching Japanese for enjoyment. Motivated by other people's efforts on learning through listening, I've begun to watch more Japanese stuff. The following are some helpful tips based on my experiences so far.

Tip #1 - Listen to a lot of Japanese to get good at listening to Japanese
Tobberoth's problem with listening to Japanese. From here:
"My first problem: I simply can't hear what they are saying. They say a line and I hear the Japanese sounds and I hear the particles, I hear some words... but some words just jump into a rumble which I can't really make out. This is probably based a lot on my second problem...
My second problem: I don't know tons of the words used! One could say "that's no problem, just listen to the word and look it up". The problem is, when I don't know a word, I get the above problem: They jumble together. Sometimes I can't tell if it's one or two words. Sometimes I can't tell if it's a long or a short o sound. Usually, I can listen to the sentence a few times and look it up, but then we have the other problem: Japanese is filled with homonyms! Which one did they say? Did they actually say one of them or did I make a mistake on one of the kana??"

My response in this thread was basically "focus on what you do understand and watch a lot". But this idea doesn't seem to be popular with a lot of people. People don't think that listening to raw Japanese without trying to lookup and understand things (dictionary/script) will help your Japanese. I disagree completely.

If you expose yourself to hours of spoken Japanese, things repeat. Words, patterns, accents, all will show up again and again given enough time, common words especially. Words will begin to differentiate simply because hearing them over and over will accustom you to the differences.

Thus, because you have to listen a lot, you can't be worried about trying to understand everything the first time. You have to get used to the idea that you're not going to understand everything. In fact, you'll probably understand very little. But does that mean you should give up and wait until you're better? No. That means listen more. Which leads me to the next tip:

Tip #2 Do not worry about perfection. Perfection is your enemy.
Do not put off watching/listening to something in Japanese because you want to parse it carefully looking up words and wearing out your rewind button.

This is a problem I was having recently. I have a series that I really like. But it turned out that because I really liked it, I avoided watching it. I wanted to try and go through it perfectly really carefully looking up words for understanding.

So don't do what I did and put off watching something cool. Watch it anyway.

Tip #3 Loop Japanese audio, but only interesting audio.
Listening passively to Japanese throughout your day is a great way to get audio input. I look at it as trying to push Japanese into active listening all the time. I'll listen to Japanese all day and try to listen carefully when I have free time or when I hear a certain part coming up. The repetition helps a lot here. Throughout the day you'll hear people say certain phrases or patterns and you basically get to the point where you memorize them, even if it's gibberish. Then you encounter the words somewhere else and make the connection and it's unforgettable.

One thing though, only listen to what you enjoyed listening to the first time. Things that were interesting that you liked. That means don't just download a bunch of audio or rip streams of Japanese and listen to it. There's no point when you haven't listened to it before, you'll just push it out and won't pay attention. But things you enjoyed you'll want to listen to and will naturally actively listen to more.

Tip #4 Use KeyHoleTV for the win.
KeyHoleTV(don't you dare push that English button) is awesome. It's a program that streams live TV to your computer for free. Like I set my favorite Japanese page (read=something I'll actually read) to be my homepage, I set the drama streams going and leave it on my computer all day. Even when I'm not watching it or listening to something else, the program is still on my computer really easy to just hit 'play' to watch. It's become a temptation.

Also, check out this article on how listening a lot, even if you don't understand it, helps.

2009年1月15日木曜日

Learning a language? Here's Stephen Krashen.

Stephen Krashen is a well known and respected linguist who's theories have influenced All Japanese All The Time and Antimoon.

Stephen Krashen's Theory of Second Language Acquisition:

Acquisition-Learning hypothesis
The Acquisition-Learning hypothesis basically states that there's a difference between learning a language and acquiring a language. Learning a language is to learn about the language, to be aware of grammar rules and consciously think about the language. Whereas language acquisition is a subconscious process similar to the way children learn and requires learning in the form of meaningful communication. Krashen argues that acquisition is more important that learning.

Monitor hypothesis
The Monitor hypothesis tells us that what is learned 'about' the language will only be useful when the learner has time to carefully edit and parse what they've said or written. In a sense, what's learned because they're 'monitor' when it can. Krashen notes two different types of learners, those who are "under-users" and those who are "over-users".

Natural Order hypothesis
The Natural Order hypothesis states that there is a 'natural' order in which grammar structures are acquired. That means despite how grammar is introduced to the learner, they're only going to be acquired in their 'natural' order (remember that there is a difference between acquisition and learning).

Input hypothesis
The Input hypothesis concerns itself purely with the acquisition process. It states that the learner will only learn 'i+1'. That is, if the learner is at level 'i', they will only learn when they are exposed to comprehensible input that is slightly beyond they're level.

Affective Filter hypothesis
The Affective Filter basically says that negative emotions such as self-doubt, anxiety, boredom, all serve to get between the learner and the language. When the learner is plagued with negative feelings, they tend to either prevent effective learning, or prevent time spent with the language.

These five hypotheses make up Krashen's theory on second language acquisition. Most of my conclusions about acquiring Japanese are drawn from his theories.

I believe reaching fluency is only going to be accomplished when the language has been acquired. Because of this I try to acquire the language as much as possible through meaningful communication and experience. (See: Getting addicted to reading, Role models in language learning, An English explanation)

I believe that grammar will be acquired in a natural order (which I've experienced myself here: Grammar points? Don't make me laugh.) and as such don't bother trying to learn grammar and focus on exposure.

And through exposure, I try and focus on what I do know and go from there. (See: Read and watch anyway) Because when you focus on what you do know and maintain constant exposure you're going to inevitably encounter i+1 items that will expand your knowledge. Little bits of understanding will become larger chucks, which will become whole paragraphs, which will be whole pages, which will become whole books. There's always i+1 material to be found in everything.

But why not stick to i+1 material in the first place? Stick to books that are at your level? Well, for one it's very hard to find reading and listening material that's at the level to give you +1. Life and language is not organized in to neat little steps. Second, any method that relies on the learner's level is eventually going to run against the interest of the learner, which is not conducive to language acquisition. You will always learn more when you are engaged and interested. (Also, I'm not learning Japanese)

Everything else is just icing. I use an SRS+sentences because it's the most effective way to maintain what I've acquired. I use a monolingual dictionary because removing the English makes me feel closer to the language and boosted my understanding of the language significantly.

Sources and further reading:
http://www.sk.com.br/sk-krash.html
http://www.languageimpact.com/articles/rw/krashenbk.htm

2009年1月14日水曜日

Learning how to type - 4

I'm getting much better at typing, even with typing normal English. My fingers are moving much, much faster while making fewer mistakes. For my Japanese typing, I'm seeing much improvement. I no longer feel like a helpless kid who has to finger type everything.

As much as I'm improving, however, I can't seem to score better than E and D. Even on the easy first level. I suppose that's just a matter of time and practice.

I think the main difference between my ability to type English and Japanese is that the Japanese are just raw keys. The words that I see that I have to type in the game are much easier and much faster to type. It seems that typing is a skill that isn't just in my muscles and nervous system. But that doesn't mean I can't still improve. With the words, there are a limited set of combinations that my fingers just haven't gotten used to with Japanese. There are a lot of these that even when I do know the word, they're hard to type.

2009年1月13日火曜日

Grammar points? Don't make me laugh.

Today for shits and giggles I went online and found the Unicom JLPT 2 grammar points (海賊版) to look through. It definitely looked like a lot of effort. One hundred and ninety one different grammar points. Man, that's a whole 191 different things the learner is going to have to force into their heads. For each grammar point, it has long and complicated example sentences, the meaning in Japanese (if you can understand it), the meaning in English, notes, and usage (conjugations, grammar type stuff). I have to wonder just how long it would take the learner to get through this mess.

For me, if I wanted to do it (which I don't), it would take about an hour.

This is simply because there is not a whole lot of new information. I'm reading through this document most of the information is either completely stupidly obvious from reading the example sentences (限り:学生である限り、勉強を第一にしなければならない。かけだ:作文は、今日中に書かなければならないのに、まだ書きかけだ。ことだ:上手になるためには、繰り返して練習をすることだ。), impossible not to figure out if you've read any Japanese AT ALL (~ように, ~おかげで), or already known. There's very little there which is completely unknown to me.

All I've done for the past four months of Japanese is sit around and do fun Japanese stuff. Manga, books, websites, movies, shows, etc. and stick the interesting sentences in Anki. That's it. As a result when I look at this it's very easy. The example sentences are simple to me, the Japanese explanations are easy to understand, and I already know a good deal of what's in there anyway. I'm not studying grammar points to understand Japanese, I'm understanding Japanese by exposing myself to massive amounts of the language on a daily basis.

But this seems to be a foreign concept to other language learners. They seem to be trapped in the limited thinking that you need to be at a certain level before you can understand things. "Oh I'm not at the level where I can read manga" or "What reading material would you recommend for me? I'm at JLPT3 level grammar". Saying things like this bothers me. It makes me want to tell them to screw the level they're at, do it anyway and you'll get good. Screw the grammar points and the study, you don't need them.

2009年1月12日月曜日

Manga, movie, anime recommendations

I never watch or read any kind of media without a recommendation first, because unfortunately unlike browsing the web, you can't just hop from site to site without any investment. So this post will be my first post where I recommend things to watch or read. I plan to do more of these in the future, but it won't be for a long while because it takes a while to build up enough things where you can write reviews like this.

I will give each a rating based on 6 stars (ten is way too much, five is one too few).
5 and 6 stars are a class of their own.
4 stars are worth the effort.
3 stars are things you watch/read if you're bored.

Manga

ぱられる(パラレル)***
This was an ok manga. It's about a this kid who likes a girl. But when he confesses his love for her, she rejects him. Not only that, but he goes home to find that his dad is remarrying... to the mother of the girl he confessed to. The series is about them living together for a year while their parents leave them to go on a rather long vacation. 4 volumes long. I was bored and this was recommend to me, so I thought, what the hell. I guess it was worth it. A good beginner's manga.
ぱられる cover

スクールデイズ ***
This was actually a very mediocre manga that was very short. It's about a kid who likes a girl, but is too much of a wimp to do anything about it. So he enlists the help of his friend (girl) to get them together and succeeds. The only problem is the friend also likes him. Very simple language, a bit funny, two volumes long. The only reason I mention this manga here is because of the ending. It has probably the best endings I've read in a long time and is completely unexpected for this type of story. Trust me, read this one for the ending, it'll only take you a day or two to finish it.

Also, if you're a sucky beginner to Japanese and you want a good but simple manga to start you off on, I recommend this one.


ラブひな ******
This one is a classic that probably doesn't need an introduction. It's about a guy named 景太郎 who moves into a girls dormitory. He acts like an idiot, then he gets punched into the sky. Actually as the story progresses, it gets a little lighter on the slapstick humor and focuses on the underlying story, which is 東大, archeology, and the relationships. 14 volumes of probably the best manga I've ever read.
ラブひな cover

涼風(すずか) *****
This is actually the first manga I read. Before starting Japanese, I never read manga. But when it was recommended to me I decided to try it, and I was hooked. I have fond memories staying up late and reading this.

It's about a high school transfer student 大和(やまと) going to live in his aunt's apartment building. From there he falls completely for the girl named 涼風 living next door. But because of unforeseen problems/drama, the first half of the series is driven by him trying to get her. The second half of the series is devoted to him trying to keep her as a girlfriend. Neither of these are easy tasks.

This manga has exceptionally good art. Practically every single frame had a well drawn background to it and the character art was extremely good. It's also not a "goofy" manga with the plot maintaining a realistic sense. 18 volumes long.
涼風 cover

あいこら(Love and collage) ****
This one is about a high school kid who has a "parts fetish". He likes specific types of "parts" (such as blue eyes, 新幹線200系オッパイ, a type of legs, etc.) and the story is about him living with girls who all have one type of part he likes. The plot is mostly driven by him getting in trouble over his fetish and him protecting the woman who hold his parts. I'm going to be honest, the chapters where it just got over the top with his fetish I skipped. But outside of that there was a decent plot. But don't read this and expect a very deep story, it's mostly a comedy. 12 volumes.
あいこら cover

Movies

修羅雪姫(しゅらゆきひめ)******
This movie is so over the top with blood and gore, it's where Tarantino got his inspiration for Kill Bill. It's about a woman who is born solely for the purpose of carrying out her mother's vengeance, and oh what a good job she does. This movie, after a bit of back story, is about after she has grown up and goes off to find the people who screwed over her mother. A very entertaining movie that is one of my personal favorites.
修羅雪姫 poster

タンポポ *****
This movie was brilliant in that the plot managed to be entirely about food and still be incredibly entertaining. To say this has a story would be going far, it's mostly a (comedic) documentary about Japan's obsession with food. It was made in 1985, also.

With that said, the basic plot is a woman named タンポポ who after enlisting the help of a cowboy trucker (A Japanese John Wayne look a like trucker) , goes to find the perfect ラメン recipe. Hilarity ensures.

クワイエットルームにようこそ *****
This film was recommended to be by a friend, and I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical. But it ended up being a very good film. It's about a normal woman who wakes up strapped to a bed in a mental hospital. The how and why don't come until a little later when her boyfriend comes and tells her she overdosed on pills. From that she's forced to stay in the mental hospital surrounded by crazies until she's released, where we find how just how normal she is.

If you liked One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, you'll like this. It's similar, but without the angst and bad ending. It has a good ending.

転々(てんてん)******
This movie is brilliant. The movie is about these two guys. 福原(ふくはら), who's a debt collector, is offering to pay the failing college student who's in debt 百万円 to go on a 東京散歩 with him. Along the way you find out more about the two guys and how they failed at life.

This movie is so good in that it has so many real life shots of Japan. It really made me feel like what I was watching is what Japan is really like, how people are formal/informal, what the city is like, what people are like, etc. If you love a big, cold city like I do, you'll love this movie.

You can watch the trailer here.


Anime

ラーゼフォン(RahXEphon) ******
This is a mecha anime. It's about a kid named 神名綾人(かみなあやと), which is a pretty badass name. We're told that after a catastrophic something happened, the only habitable place left to live is 東京. But the female protagonist finds him during the chaos of fighting in the first episode and takes him out of 東京 to the outside world where apparently time is years ahead there and 東京 is surrounded by a red barrier. The rest of the story is about him living in the outside word, operating a giant mecha to fight other mechas off, and trying to find out just what the hell is going on and who's pulling the strings. To top it all off, it has a decent love mystery behind it. Very highly recommended, action, romance, drama, robots, I don't think it can get any better.
RahXephon title

ギルガメッシュ(Gilgamesh)****
This anime is something else. It takes place after a major terrorist attack that covered the sky with a mirror and makes normal technology useless. The story follows the two children, a brother and sister, of the man who caused the disaster. With both parents dead and people after them for their mother's huge debt, they're brought to live with a woman who also has adopted several other children. But they're not normal, they have some sort of telekinesis and go around fighting these "Gilgamesh" monster things. It also turns out that the brother has the same abilities. The story is drivin by the mystery of it all. Why they have their powers, why the kid's father did what he did, what the Gilgamesh are, and most of all, which side to take.

This anime was a bit weird, but in a good way. It's something that not everybody would like, but I found it an enjoyable mystery.

Serial Experiments Lain ****
If you like computer "hacker" things, you'll like this. It's about a recluse girl who starts browsing the "Wired", which is a sort of futuristicy internet. Eventually she starts developing multiple personalities, among other things. It's very abstract and very out there. At only 13 episodes, it's definitely worth watching. Japanese beginners can probably enjoy this without too much trouble.
Serial Experiments Lain screenshot
Serial Experiments Lain Screen 2

Witchblade *****
This anime is very exciting to watch. It's also worth seeing. It's about a single mother who lands a job working for the head of a huge super corporation to kill their defunct cyborg killing machines that got loose during a huge earthquake years ago. But what could a single mother do to take care of them? She wields the witchblade. Normally an ordinary bracelet, but when it activates it turns her into a sexy killing machine with blades. Don't let that get in the way, though. I has a decent story with some very likable characters in it, that as the story progresses, the fighting gets less so and the history behind the characters (the single mom's memory is gone) takes hold. Ends up being a very good anime.
Witchblade title

Samurai Champloo *****
Do you like hip hop? Do you like samurai? Well how convenient, this anime has both. From the creator of Cowboy Bebop 渡辺 信一郎 (わたなべしんじろう), this anime does to hip hop what Cowboy Bebop did to Jazz. It's a story about a couple of expert samurai who hate each other traveling with a cute little girl trying to find a samurai who smells like sunflowers. This story doesn't need a deep plot simply because their adventures through Japan are enough to entertain. Very random and off the wall, I love it.

ノワール(Noir)******
This anime is brilliant. The music, the characters, the setting, all top notch. It follows the story of Mireille Bouquet, an assasin, after she finds 夕叢霧香(ゆうむらきりか) in the first episode. Both of them are extremely skilled killers, and it follows the story of them trying to find out about an evil kind of organization named Les Soldats who seems to be trying to kill them on occasion.

A very good plot with a lot of very good action scenes set to good music. It also is not bloody or gory at all, but they do kill a lot of people.

Noir poster

2009年1月11日日曜日

Learning how to type - 3

The game as logged me as having 3 hours cumulative play time on the game. Here are my scores:
Chapter 1: D
Chapter 2: D
Chapter 3: E
Chapter 4: E
(No game overs!)

I'm definitely getting better at this. And not just because my scores are slightly better. I'm starting to bust out mad combos and long strings of words without flinching. When I first started, I was terrible at longer words. I'd make mistakes, get lost and forget my place, etc. But now I can regularly kick ass with the long words. I am also no longer afraid of the - for long katakana words. I can just bust that out whenever I want to now using my ring finger.

Another thing I've been enjoying in this game are the "Drill Maniax" games. There are games for durability, speed, accuracy, reflex, and special keys. My biggest weakness? Accuracy.


恋するゾンビ, a game to test your endurance.

Posture
When I sit at my computer to play this game, I maintain a good posture. I sit upright with my back in alignment and my feet on the floor straight down. I also don't lean my body in to look at the screen. I don't know why, but this seems to help.

2009年1月10日土曜日

Finding cool Japanese websites

Evil_Dragon on RevTK asked me this in response to a comment I made on how I found interesting Japanese websites for immersion:
"Could you share some of these? I consider it really hard to find interesting Japanese webpages. So far I'm only reading mixi, 2ch and the Japanese Wikipedia. Which is not all that much for someone who spent hours on the net beforehand. ;)"

I considered giving him some of the sites I have bookmarked, but I didn't think that would be too helpful. Where would that get him? He'd simply end up with a bunch of websites he knows nothing about that would be a hassle to sort through. They're all my websites that I found. I know them all, and I know that I enjoy reading them all. One of the blogs I have bookmarked is a even a Japanese friend's blog.

Simply looking for a super list of cool websites isn't going to cut it. You have to discover things you like on your own. I used to have a bunch of bookmarks that were just website recommendations from the All Japanese All The Time site, but I never looked at them. I didn't know what they were, and I didn't feel trying to read something I had no interest in.

When we try to create a Japanese immersion environment, we tend to think of it as a "task". It's something that must be done to improve our Japanese. We have to read Japanese websites everyday and abscond with the English. But it's hard, and a lot of people don't even try. Going straight from having a bunch of websites you like in your native language that you can waste hours on to having one, maybe two websites that you look at as a challenge to get through.

The problem simply lies in interest. You need to go out and explore the web and find interesting things that you genuinely enjoy reading. Explore like you just discovered the internet.

Ever wonder why you can just waste hours away on Wikipedia? You decide to read up on something, and the article links you to another article, and that links you to another article until you end up reading about Houdini when you only went up to find out what tenpura is.

So do the same thing. I like reading Slashdot, and when I read this article I saw that it was from a website called TechCrunch. I click on it and it seems like a decent site. Bam, I have another bookmarked site to read.

I go up to Tae Kim's blog and see a couple of links for Japanese stuff:
Nihongo day by day
シットコムで笑え!
実録鬼嫁日記
日本語教師日記
眞鍋かをりのポッドキャスト

I look at the first one, Nihongo day by day, and read a post. Read another post, I love it and bookmark it.

I read the second one, doesn't even look worth reading.

Look at the third and read the first post, boring.

Look at the forth, 日本語教師日記, and it looks interesting. A blog about teaching Japanese. But it doesn't look like it has updated for a long time. So I put it on my watched blogs for now. But I decide to peek at the "bookmarks" tab. I look at some, skip most of them, but click on 日本語教師@ブログ. I read a little bit and it looks awesome. I decide to bookmark it to read later.

See where I'm getting at with this? Out of those five pages that Tae Kim likes, I found one, maybe two that were interesting. But just by browsing I found another site that looked really interesting that I'm definitely going to be reading further.

Just go with the flow. Your curiosity and interests will take care of the rest.