Monday, February 21, 2011

Hands On Tokyo

I volunteered with Hands On Tokyo for the first time yesterday.  We were able to play basketball alongside mentally-handicapped kids.  The kids we were running with were already in their teens.  I was feeling a little nervous because my Japanese isn't so good.  But, I bought new basketball shoes (haven't worn a pair in over 5 years) just for this event.

I arrived at 国立オリンピック記念青少年総合センター (National Olympics Memorial Youth Center) near Sangubashi station an hour earlier because I was unfamiliar with the area in general.  I found the place easily enough and introduced myself to one of the organizers who spoke English really well.  She explained to me the things that I should do or expect while I was volunteering: 1) the kids disabilities vary widely, 2) don't worry about kids who aren't participating, 3) encourage and just have fun.

Shortly afterwards, I met a couple of other volunteers who were also coming to a Hands On Tokyo fundraiser for the first time.  One of them was from California but he had traveled a lot and finally came to Japan to go to school.  Another was this high school girl who could speak three languages because she lived in France before.  Highly jealous, I am.  Another guy was from Poland who has been in Japan for over two years already.  All of them were pretty good at basketball.

For about the first 20-30 minutes, we jogged around the court, did some warm-up drills, and then stretched.  The jogging already wore me out because I haven't worked out in so long.  The drills nearly killed my legs because I was trying to go faster than my body would let me.  All of this was a reminder of how much of a slob I've become over the years.

The next 30-45 minutes was purely basketball drills.  Practicing passing, give-and-gos, and zone defense.  Although these kids had some kind of mental disability, their love for the game and attention to the coaches directions were high.  Our groups skills varied from very low, to very competent.

For example, in the last 30 minutes, we ran scrimmages at 3 minutes a game.  My groups first game was against the girls of the group.  My team wasn't allowed to swipe at the ball or jump, at all.  Even though we were restricted, it was still fun.  The rest of the scrimmages were normal, as the more skilled groups competed very hard.

Afterwards, we all gathered in a circle in the middle to do a small cheer as a group and went our separate ways.

From the small number of volunteers there, I believe I have made a couple new friends already and I hope to see them again at these volunteer events in the future.

In retrospect, all I really did was run around with the kids.  I didn't really do any teaching, that was up to the coaches.  I guess the language barrier is pretty huge for this kind of thing, especially with my low skills.  Still, I hope my presence was helpful in some way.  I had fun.  In fact, I signed up for basketball and bowling next week with this group.

Sorry, no pictures this time, privacy concerns and all.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Shiroi Koibito cookies

Do you like white chocolate?  How about langue de chat?  Then you will love these!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Testing Bloggeroid

Nifty so far

posted from Bloggeroid

Hands On Tokyo

Up late again when I should be asleep; however, it always seems like there is some kind of reason for it anyways.  Tonight's reason:  I was looking for new people to follow on twitter and one user mentioned Hands On Tokyo.

Upon a very brief review, I have signed up and I can't wait to go to my first volunteering event here in Japan.  It's been too long since I've volunteered my time for something fulfilling like this.  I suppose you could say I am able to get some fulfillment at work, similar to volunteering in a way, but I've been itching for something different.

One fun opportunity is teaching/playing basketball with disabled children.  I need to buy some basketball shoes first....crap.

It's Raining Cats and Dogs

Well, at the moment, it's snowing...but anyways.

This idiom is used to describe heavy rain.  Example:
It was really raining cats and dogs yesterday!  (It was raining really heavily yesterday!)
 The image of cats and dogs falling from the sky seems so incredibly ridiculous and crazy.  That's how I used to explain the origin of this idiom, but yea, I didn't really know anything.

A book I read claims that the origin of the idiom came from 17th century Europe.  Then, the drainage systems were inadequate, so after a heavy rainstorm, there would be dead cats and dogs littering the streets.  This is cited in Wikipedia as well.

Enjoy, try to use this when it rains heavily in your area next time.

Wow, wow, wow!

I used to design websites for fun. I was terrible with the graphics and appearance of that kind of stuff, I could code a lot better. I haven't designed or worked on a website in a long time, but every now and then I come across a really great site with something that blows my mind.

Take, for instance, The site is full of images that show notes on mouseovers, and notes can be added as well if you are a user of the site. My googling led me to Flickr where I tried to upload and post an image to a blog and see if the notes showed up that way. Looks like the code is all Danny's though, but I will need to verify this somehow.

Something like that gets me excited about web designing again, but I have absolutely no time to do anything like that with my current work schedule. Still, I'll stay up for a while trying to figure out how stuff like this works anyways.

It's Darn Cold

It's Darn Cold, originally uploaded by cyinnippon.

Testing out Flickr and Blogger. Neat.

Blogger for Android

The interface seems nice enough.

edit: not a bad application. The picture quality is decent, but the IS03's picture quality is lacking anyways. Also, it doesn't seem like this app lists the posts that I make through the website itself, only of the ones that are made through the app. That's kind of a bummer.

Snowboarding was fun!

I haven't snowboarded in many years thanks in part to the concussion I got when I went last time, as well as not having any money or interest in that time.

I'm glad that this time around, I didn't get a concussion.  I hit my head a couple of times, but no memory loss or anything bad like that.

The place that me and my friends went snowboarding was this place in Minami Aizu called Aizu Kogen Takatsue.  The deal seemed pretty decent: ~¥10500 for the train and bus tickets (round-trip), the snowboarding gear (jacket, pants, goggles, board), onsen ticket, and a free breakfast.  This was a one-day trip, so the train was leaving at midnight and we'd be back the next day around 9pm.

After meeting up and loading up on snacks and beer, we were off in the middle of the night.  We played some card games to pass the time but the lights went out, a signal that we should all be sleeping.

After a couple hours, everyone fell asleep and the train stopped.  I watched a couple of video podcasts and noticed that the train still hadn't moved since I started watching.  I walked out to the bathroom frequently because the seal had broken already.  I walked outside of the passenger car wondering why the hell we weren't moving.

Finally, I fell asleep as well, but only when the train started moving again.  A short while later, we arrived at our destination and boarded a bus where we drove in darkness for the next 45 minutes.  The area was covered with snow, with a lot more still coming down from the sky.

At this point, it was time for our free breakfast which consisted of salad, miso soup, and some other stuff I can't remember.  All the while, I was in a daze just watching the snow fall outside.  I detest Japanese winters; being from a part of the world where winters are fairly sunny and the temperature gets to around 40F at night (sometimes below 35F), experiencing the Japanese winter for the first time a couple of years ago was a shock.  To illustrate how naive I was about my situation, I packed mostly t-shirts in my suitcases.  However, I do enjoy the snow quite a lot.

Finally, we got fitted into our snowboarding gear and hit the slopes.  We started at the family slope, or beginner's slope, where we were moved by a people-mover to that lift.  Remembering the time when I suffered a concussion, I was feeling nervous.  The family slope was a good warm-up though and I felt that I was already snowboarding a lot better than ever before.  Out of the 5 of us, I was right in the middle of the group as far as speed goes.  The last two kept falling and eventually retreated into a cafe to rest up a bit.

The faster boarders and I went up to the intermediate slope a couple of times where speed got the best of me.  I can handle myself just fine at a relaxing speed, but get me going and my body freezes up and I ended up clipping the edge and falling over.  Still, I felt I was doing a lot better than before.

Lunch time arrived, but no free lunch.  We relaxed and ate ramen and sat mostly in silence because we were tired.  A couple of my friends were able to sneak a quick nap in before we headed out again.

From here, we went up the intermediate slopes again but took a different route down.  I liked this way a lot better although the slightly slimmer path worried me because a wrong move would take me down a part of the mountain filled with trees.  The part of the slope just before the lift in this area opened up and became very wide and it was very fun to practice carving and going fast where it was so open.  So, we continued to go down this particular path for the remainder of the day.  It wasn't until my second to last run where I finally clipped my back edge a little bit more than I wanted and hit my head.  No concussion though, just slightly banged up.  After hitting my head, fear crept in and affected the rest of the run, hitting my head and falling a few more times.  I went in for a last run and that ended up better.

It was around 3 o'clock when we changed out and headed towards the onsen.  There was a bus at 2 that could have taken us there, but we decided to skip it and do a few more runs instead.  In retrospect, taking the bus might have been better because although the distance to the onsen wasn't that far, the walk there was confusing and we ended up doing a couple loops to retrace our steps.  By the time we got to the onsen, we only had about 40 minutes to fully enjoy it.

I'm still not totally comfortable with the idea of onsen where everyone gets naked together (guys and ladies separate, of course), washes themselves vigorously, then shares the same onsen water.  Does everyone scrub their ass?  I hope so...doesn't seem like it though.  Still, hanging outside in the onsen and watching the snowfall was a nice experience.  Would have rather been there with my naked girlfriend, but private onsens are really pricey.

After the onsen, we loaded up on the bus and train again to go back home.  The train ride back was less comfortable than going there, mainly because we couldn't find seating.  So, we opted to get one of the smaller seats available and make do.

Before everyone went their own ways, we stopped by an izakaya for dinner, drinks, and idle, tired chat.

In short: great company, great trip, cheap, no concussions.

Oh, it seems the snow has followed us back.  It's snowing a lot right now and from what I'm gathering, it hasn't snowed this much in this area in many years.