Earthquake Update Day 43

People are uneasy here. The aftershocks continue unabated, now more than 1,000 since the big one March 11. We had 3 in one night, strong enough to wake us up. The epicenters are moving south, near Chiba, which is about 30 miles to the east of us. Fortunately, no significant damage has been reported. Our house, about 35 years old, is holding up all right. The spring rains have also come, and the school year has started up in most places. Julia spends a lot of time watching TV and reading.

One thing I do note, is that people are talking about their situation on the day of the quake. The topic of conversation quickly moves there, much like the “where were you when Kennedy was shot” kind of conversation. People are now making the before/after distinction, and although there are no big changes here in Tokyo, there are a lot of small changes. The streets are no longer lit by neon signs as much, and many of the escalators in the public transportation are turned off, all to save electricity. Right now there is enough power to go around, but come summer, with the load air conditioning puts on, it means there may be new blackouts. Tokyo Electric is ramping up their production, taking old coal-burners out of mothballs, and (more seriously) postponing scheduled maintenance on some nuclear powered plants. There is a small movement to try to shut down all the vending machines, which would reduce usage to manageable levels. Here is a before and after of downtown Shibuya near where I work.

Hawaii pictures

Ruka's Wedding
Ruka's Wedding

Maki and Julia had a wonderful time in Hawaii for our niece Ruka’s wedding. They spent 5 days at the Moana Surfrider hotel with Ginger and Anri, in from Colorado. Maki’s sister, her daughter-in-law Jazelle and her son were also enjoying the meet. Ginger rented a van and got people beyond the confines of Waikiki. I’ve only heard a few stories, Julia and Anri fell asleep about 9PM. More later.

Earthquake Day 31

It’s been a month since the earthquake. Maki and Julia just returned from their trip to our niece’s wedding in Hawaii. About 2 hours after their return, we got a 7.1 shaker, pretty significant. I had time to get to the front door and open it (good), and Julia looked for the cat (bad). Just had another shaker, not quite as big. We have been getting them more regularly, but this is an increase in the frequency and intensity.

As rescue efforts get organized and more effective, the body count is rising more rapidly. We are still discouraged from travel to the area, and there seems to be a large government effort at restoration beginning. The construction industry, long the most corrupt part of the economy, have lined up to make sure that they are included in these relief effort. Very few outside companies are being considered.

Classes Day 1

I started school today. For my third-year students I have an activity where we look at how much each class session costs them. We divide tuition (about ¥1.2 million, or US$14,000) by the number of classes in a year (usually around 400, each 90 minutes). They usually guess pretty closely to the ¥3,000 ($35) price for each session. But then we add room and board (another ¥1 million) and lost opportunity costs. We define those as if they could work their part-time jobs 40 hours a week, instead of studying. That adds another ¥2.4 million, more than tripling the per-class cost to a total of more than ¥11,000. That is about $130 per 90-minute session. For each student. Sure, I explain they also get the office staff, the library, our Boston Campus, and 3 other retreat centers, the Career Advisory staff, etc, etc,. But they get the idea.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last too long. At the end of the class, I gave the students the option of using their laptop computers in class with our new wireless system, or the other option of a paper-only class. I told them web-based activities would be more  interesting, and that they could learn much more, and more quickly. Most thought that carrying their laptop into school was too much of a burden. So we are using paper. (I have 3 classes where they don’t get the option, they HAVE to bring their laptops. At least they will get some muscle tone.)

Because of the electric situation, we will be finishing our semester 2 weeks early, just ast he really hot weather kicks in, and the air conditioner usage surges, causing rolling blackouts (but not in our area). I think it may have been that the university saw everyone else getting a late start, and wanted to get in on the inaction. The students cheered when they heard the news. So we have both administration and students working the system to get something for nothing, or, more accurately, less for the same.

I find it so hard not to just go along.

Showa’s Seven Seeds

Showa Women’s University has a new set of goals for general pedagogy called The Seven Seeds. These are the first goals here in my 20 years which I can really endorse wholeheartedly. Let me list them. I may talk about them in more detail later on. (Japanese in parentheses). I’ve added some notes to each to show how we do each seed in my classes.

The Seven Seeds in Ryan’s Classes (ゆめをじつげんする七つの力: ライアンの授業)

1. Live a Global Life (グロバルに生きる力)
We study using the Internet, and make contacts with people outside of Japan to give you a global viewpoint.

2. Use a Foreign Language (外国語を使う力)
English, of course.

3. Use IT Effectively (ITを使えこなす力)
We use IT tools in almost every class. That is why you should bring your laptop to every class.

4. Communicate (コミュニケーションをとる力)
To learn a language you have to use a language. You have to communicate with it in real situations that are important to you. Follow Ryan’s SMAT system:

Speak English: You can’t learn if you are quiet. It’s uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier.
Make Mistakes: If you are perfect, you are not learning anything.
Ask Questions: This means you have to be an active learner. Always thinking.
Take Notes: This helps by combining listening with reading, speaking with writing.

5. Be a Critical Thinker and Problem Solver (問題を発見し目標を設定する力)
Don’t believe everything you read. If it is to good to believe, it probably is. Solving Problems is the best way to learn. We have many task-based activities in class.

6. Be Active, keep one step ahead (一歩踏み出して行動する力)
Always keep busy. Fill up those little 3-4 minute gaps with small learning activities. Manage your own learning. Classroom time management because we have so many activities.

7. Be Yourself: Understand your priorities (自分を大切にする力)
Understand what you want to do. Understand what you CAN do. Set some goals. Long term goals and short-term goals. Make a list and check it off. We do a needs analysis for each class in the first session.