Sunday, April 27, 2008

Showcasing My Work

Mayu & CAI could spend hours and hours using some of the Apple software included in iWorks and iLife. In fact I do! I've made several slideshows for use in the classroom (of trips I've made or of pictures on the topic we're discussing). I also enjoy making Keynote presentations (far simpler than using Microsoft's PowerPoint and with much better effects).

Some of it is self-taught, but I've also been taking lessons from Mayu Aoki at the Apple Store in Sapporo. (See her with me in the photo on the right.)

Today there was a Showcase for those who have been taking similar one-on-one lessons, and I showed the slideshow I made of the Beppu onsen (hot springs) from my trip to Kyushu. Imagine the following photo dissolving into the devil's hot springs and others to Stravinsky's Le “Sacre du printemps” (or “Rite of Spring”).
Beppu Hot SpringsThe other work I showcased was a Keynote presentation on how to use Keynote (or PowerPoint) effectively. It was made with the help of Mac & Tippy (as you can see in the example).
There were 7 people (pictured below with the Apple store staff), including me, who showcased their work. One was an older man who composed a short symphony using GarageBand! Another was a graphic artist who illustrates posters. I had been expecting somewhat childish, amateurish uses of the software, but the ones shown today were all topnotch. Perhaps it's that Apple software can turn anyone into a professional!
One-on-One Showcase Presenters

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Scrabble at CA's Academy

Scrabble at CA's Academy
I’ve been enjoying playing Scrabulous so much on (currently have at least 5 games going) that I told my private classes about it. One of the students had brought back a Scrabble board from the U.S., so we (the 4 students in the photo above and I) played a game. The final scores were really close. I think I taught them the game a little too well!

Completed Scrabble Game

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Scrabulous Help!

I have about 5 Scrabulous games going on Facebook. I'm winning some, very close in one, but sorely losing one by. In fact, I've already lost by about 60 points, but I have such great letters I want to play them if it's in any way possible.

I've tried every move I can come up with, but none of the words are accepted. I need help! If you see a way to use any of my letters, please let me know!

Scrabulous Game

Scrabulous Letters

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tippy Speaks English!

My cats are both bilingual - well, make that trilingual. However, their listening - in English and Japanese - far exceeds their speaking.

Probably the first word they learned was “No!” They quickly understood that “no” meant stopping whatever they were doing. If I say, “Watch out” or “Abunai,” they're a bit more confused by what to do or not to do, so there's still a bit of learning to take place there.

Occasionally I'll teach them some big words, such as “rambunctious” (when I was explaining their behavior to them). However, those words don't stick as well.

Their favorite word is “din din,” which stands not just for “dinner” but for any meal. Just hearing “din din” is enough to get them excited, and they immediately head for their bowls in the kitchen.

Recently Tippy's speaking has gotten almost as good as his listening. (I can't say the same for Mac, who has only 2 sounds in his vocabulary - a whine or a bark, the latter saved for crows outside the window.)

Quite some time ago, Tippy could say “Ma” when he saw me. Now he's added 2 more words. He was pushing against the handle of the front door the other day (and probably would have opened it if it hadn't been locked). I asked him where he was going, and he replied, “Out.” Later I asked him when he wanted his “din din,” and he replied, “Now.”

It could be he's so literate because, nearly every night when I'm reading before going to sleep, he comes over to my futon for his bedtime story. He likes to curl up on my tummy, with his butt in my face, so he can look at the book - even though it has no pictures. Of course, my stroking him may have something to do with his enjoying reading with me. If I read more material in Japanese, I wonder if Tippy's spoken Japanese would get better.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Organizing from the Inside Out

In my continuing efforts at “clutterbusting” and creating more space in my life, a book suggested by a friend, Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern, has gotten me well on my way to at least the first of the 3 steps she advises: analyze, strategize, and attack.

Morgenstern suggests that the actual causes of clutter occur on 3 levels:
LEVEL 1: Technical Errors
LEVEL 2: External Realities
LEVEL 3: Psychological Obstacles

She lists the six most common Technical Errors (pp. 16-17) as being:
Error #1: Items Have No Home
Error #2: Inconvenient Storage
Error #3: More Stuff than Storage Space
Error #4: Complex, Confusing System
Error #5: “Out of Sight, Out of Mind”
Error #6: Organizing Is Boring

In that final area, “the problem is, very few people put much thought into the aesthetics of their organizing system. They view storage as purely utilitarian, and buy any old container whether it appeals to them or not, saying, 'Gee, no one will see this stuff but me. Who cares what it looks like?' As a result, their organizing system is boring, uninspiring, and ugly to use. . . . Don't underestimate the power of pizzazz!” (pp. 17-18)

The areas of External Realities (pp. 19-22) to consider are:
#1: Unrealistic Workload
#2: Speed of Life/Technology
#3: In Transition (including such areas as moving, marriage, new baby, starting school, graduating from school, retirement, illness or death of a loved one, job search, business merger, business growth spurt, career change – and if you’re going through one or more of these, “it may be best to wait until you have a clearer picture of your new priorities and needs before starting to organize . . . or set up a temporary system.” p. 21)
#4: Uncooperative Partners
#5: Limited Space [a serious problem for those of us who live in Japan]

In the area on Psychological Obstacles, Morgenstern has a set of yes/no questions “to find out if you have some hidden investment in staying disorganized,” (p. 23) as follows:

1. Does the idea of a spare, clutter-free environment make you feel anxious or uncomfortable?
2. Are you a highly visual person?
3. Do you habitually buy things in large quantities?
4. Does the prospect of getting rid of anything disturb you?
5. Do you love displaying everything you collect so you can look at it?
6. Are you constantly buying more and more cubbies, containers, and baskets to hold everything?
7. Do you harass yourself all day long with the mantra, “I’ve got to get organized, I’ve got to get organized?”
8. Do you spend more time organizing and reorganizing than working or having fun?
9. Do you frequently turn down social activities to stay home and get organized?
10. Are you constantly rearranging your stuff, never satisfied with the system you set up?
11. Are you afraid getting organized might squelch your activity?
12. Does the prospect of being truly organized fill you with simultaneous feelings of excitement and an accompanying dread?
13. Do you think disorganization has always been your primary obstacle to reaching your full potential?
14. Were you more organized at an earlier time in your life?
15. Does your disorganization keep you from delegating work to others?
16. Does the cluttered state of your home or office keep you from letting people visit?
17. Did you grow up in extremely chaotic household?
18. Did you grow up in an extremely orderly household?
19. Did you have a traumatic childhood?
20. Does your accumulated clutter go back fifteen years or more?
21. Are you a high achiever who must do everything perfectly?

Morgenstern suggested that “If you answered ”yes“ to three or more questions, a psychological obstacle is likely working against you.” (p. 24) [Yikes! I answered “Yes” to EIGHT of these!]

Here are what she lists as major Psychological Obstacles (pp. 24-33):

#1: Need for Abundance
#2: Conquistador of Chaos
#3: Unclear Goals and Priorities
#4: Fear of Success/Fear of Failure
#5: Need to Retreat
#6: Fear of Losing Creativity
#7: Need for Distraction
#8: Dislike the Space
#9: Sentimental Attachment
#10: Need for Perfection

As I embark on my year of decluttering and creating space in my life, I'm ready for a serious look at some of the psychological obstacles I've been facing. In my “need for perfection” (#10), at the moment I'm experiencing a foreboding “fear of failure” (#4). However, I have no fear of losing creativity, but rather expect that changing how I use my time and space will open the way for even more creativity that now lies buried under clutter (in both my head and my apartment).

Anyone wanna become my (de)Clutter Buddy?

Note: Oprah's site on Home Organizing Tips contains links to discussions and articles by Julie Morgenstern and numerous other authors/broadcasters. More advice from Julie Morgenstern can be found at: Get Organized Now with Julie Morgenstern.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

iTunes Won't Let Me Buy “Imagine”

Perhaps the best performance on this season's American Idol (in Japan) so far has been “Imagine” by David Archuleto, who will most likely go right to the top (especially now with Michael Johns out of the running - sob!). I've favorited it on my YouTube list:

Then I wanted to buy the performance on iTunes. (I already have Melinda Doolittle's amazing rendition of “My Funny Valentine.”) The only problem is, David's “Imagine” not available on the Japanese iTunes store. Can you imagine?!

Since I have an American credit card, I bopped over to the American iTunes store. However, it wouldn't accept my credit card because it's billed to a Japanese address. (;_;)

Hey, iTunes in Japan, how long is it gonna take for you to get up to date?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Hashika Outbreak!

I ended up with more time than I expected this morning. My first 2 classes at Hokkaido University of Education were canceled because of an outbreak of measles (hashika in Japanese). It had already hit another university earlier this year, but just after my classes had ended.

I still had to go in for my afternoon classes, which had 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year students. How the measles epidemic ended up confining itself to 1st year students is something of a mystery to me. I also wonder how many students were actually infected.

The poor freshmen - their first week of college, an exciting time in anyone's life - and they're not allowed on campus! Well, we'll have a lot to talk about next week plus a new word to add to our vocabulary. (Hashika got added to mine!)

Is It Really ADD?

So many people these days are being diagnosed, or are self-diagnosing themselves, with Attention Deficit Disorder. While there are some who truly suffer from the disorder and need to develop special coping skills, I have a hunch that most of us are simply being overwhelmed by environmental overload.

In the November 2007 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, there's an excellent article by Martha Beck entitled “Wait! Stop! It's All Too Much! Her premise is that, “For the vast majority of world history, human life—both culture and biology—was shaped by scarcity.” Yet these days, the opposite is true and we're faced with a surfeit of attention-grabbing information, activity, and even friends. What this can result in is what Beck calls “attentional blindness.”

Think about how many people you are in contact with in one day, especially via email and cyberspace networks. Compare that with the number of people your grandparents may have encountered in a single day, particularly if they lived in a small town or rural area. I probably interact with more people the first hour of my day (which is when I generally check my email) than my grandparents did in a week!

Beck continues, “Handling overwhelm . . . is not for the fainthearted. It means resisting deep instinctive and cultural tendencies.” We need to learn how to focus on what is truly important for our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, and to weed out the unnecessary and the unwanted from our lives. As I embark on my year of decluttering, the first and perhaps biggest step will be
most likely be merely learning to identify what is truly important as opposed to unnecessary and unwanted in my life.

The next biggie will be some serious prioritizing and honing my skills of saying “NO” and pushing the “REJECT” button. Those terms have such a negative ring to them that it will help to remind myself of Beck's admonition: “The reality of the 21st century is that you simply can't fit in every social obligation you think [my emphasis] you absolutely have to.”

With all the demands on our attention in our daily lives, it's no wonder that so many people (most people?) have deficits in their ability to pay attention. Once more, in Beck's words, “Guarding against surfeit is as essential for us as guarding against scarcity was for our ancestors.”

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Year for Decluttering

As many of you know, the year for schools, businesses and, often, life in general begins in the spring in April in Japan, and spring is here! (In fact, crocuses are already in bloom, around 2 weeks earlier than usual.) That being the case, it is also the beginning of this year's annual project, which is DECLUTTERING.

Decluttering is a word that is so new, it still isn't accepted by my spell checker. However, a Google search of the word turns up over 500,000 sites, which indicates it's become part of the vernacular.

Actually, my international women's group is also focusing on decluttering this year - clearing out mentally and spiritually as well as physically. We're starting with our homes. As moderator of our discussion this month, I have compiled a list of websites as places to start, which I share here.

Clutterbusting - I love this term. Although clutterbusting is a commercial site by Vicky White, it spells out areas in our lives that may be dragging us down (and then offers consulting for a fee).

At the same site are a few freebies, including a Feng Shui makeover questionnaire. You can also sign up for a free ebook - “The 5 Biggest Attraction Mistakes: and how to avoid them” - and a weekly “Design Your Life Newsletter” which focuses on how to incorporate Feng Shui, intention and law of attraction strategies to create a life of passion, purpose and meaning.

If you want a FREE online "coach, cheerleader, and fairy-godmother for decluttering and organizing your home and life," then Fly Lady is the person you're looking for. She has changed the lives of thousands of women with her advice about hot spots, starting with a sparkling kitchen sink, the 27 Fling Boogie and other tricks for developing clutter-free habits. Lots to explore on this website. A good place to start is with the Beginner Baby Steps. The only warning is that, if you sign up for the free newsletter, you may find your mailbox cluttered with messages initially.

Another place to check out is 10 Tips for Getting Rid of Excess Clutter by Holly Tashian.

Do you have disposophobia? For a good laugh, see rather tongue-in-cheek (I hope) before and after photos, and a video of people with serious disposophobia. Warning, if you are a pack rat, it could be rather painful to watch.

As I was accumulating this list, the newsletter from my yoga center in Massachusetts, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, happened to include some thoughts on spring cleaning for the body and the soul.

Well, it's time for me to check around my apartment for my next 15-minute decluttering task. If you have suggestions or other websites to recommend, please let me know!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

American Idol Fans in Japan

Only one of my friends in Japan is as nuts as I am about American Idol. In fact, when the first show for the top 12 was broadcast, we got together for an A.I. evening, complete with American popcorn and homemade scorecards.

Amanda, my British neighbor, and I sometimes Skype each other during the show with our predictions. Since she's the only person I can talk to about the program in Japan (there is at least a 2-week delay from the American broadcast), it's sometimes rather frustrating. We want to expand our network of fans so have created American Idol Fans in Japan on Facebook.

If you're an American Idol fan in Japan, please join us! The only stipulation is that you must vow never to give the smallest hint about what is happening stateside, or you are voted off the group!

Meanwhile, enjoy Jason Castro singing, “Hallelujah!”