Welcome to the first post of 2013 on this blog. This year is the year of the snake, and I will be 36 at some point, so apparently it’s my time to shine. Looking forward to learning and experiencing a lot this year.
This week for the first time I have finally got around to doing an annual review of last year and a plan for this one. I found the experience very interesting and useful.
I’m not going to go into the details of what I ended up writing, but I thought I would share the process in case someone else might find it useful.
I started off with three broad categories (work, personal, and relationships), then wrote a brief description for each based on what happened in 2012. Each category was broken down into multiple sub-categories. The descriptions were short and contained my impressions. It probably took me a couple of hours to write everything out as this was the first time I have done this.
The next part was even more time-consuming, but also a lot of fun: planning out 2013. I took the same categories and sub-categories and wrote out what I wanted to get done this year. For this document, I was as specific as possible with regards to numbers, dates, etc.
Finally I made a simple spreadsheet with monthly goals to be ticked off. I’m going to tape this to my computer monitor to make sure I don’t forget about the plan.
Next December when I come to do my 2013 review, I’ll be able to measure my results against the specific goals I set.
If you have a free day or so, I really recommend this exercise. I found it extremely useful as it forced me to think about what exactly I want to accomplish in the short-, medium-, and long-term.
I have a slightly different post for you today, one I have been meaning to write for months now. In February this year (2012), I flew to New Zealand to meet up with my friend Paul for a week in Queenstown on the South Island.
One thing we decided to do was a bungee jump. It’s something I had always wanted to do, and it seemed like the perfect place to do it -after all, commercial bungee jumping started in Queenstown.
I started doing some research on the internet about what it was like, but didn’t find anything detailed about the process, or the feelings, so I decided to write something and try to fill that gap.
So this post will try to answer the question of what doing a bungee jump for the first time feels like.
A lot of my experience was shaped by the extremely professional operation that A.J. Hackett runs in Queenstown as their whole operations is designed to manipulate you into successfully completing your jump.
1. Signing up and pre-paying
We signed up for our jump and paid in advance at a city centre location. This is important, because the photos do nothing to prepare you for how high up the actual jump feels when you’re standing on something looking down into space. Once you’ve paid your non-refundable fee, you have a significant stake in actually doing your jump.
2. Arriving at the centre
Our first reaction was ‘that is so high up, there is no way I am going to be able to jump off that bridge’. The check-in process is very quick though: go to the desk, sign in, get weighed, go to the toilet for one last time, then walk out onto the bridge. Luckily we didn’t have to wait at all.
3. Preparing for the jump
My number was first, so I was asked to sit down and they immediately started harnessing me up. First I put on a harness, then the bridge guys (jump masters?) wrapped a towel around and between my ankles, then they attached the rope. They also asked how wet I wanted to get (one of the benefits of jumping above a river is that you have some flexibility with regards to hitting the surface).
4. Out on the ledge
Then very quickly I was walked out onto the ledge. It’s just like walking the plank in old pirate films, a short platform over the void. The guy with me was very matter of fact, and I can only describe my feelings as controlled terror. I was terrified, but functional. It took me a really long time to let go of the bridge (as you can see in the video below).
5. The mind game
Now this is where they get very clever with the mind-control techniques. First of all, the bungee centre is a tourist attraction: coaches arrive regularly and large numbers of tour groups watch the bungee jumps. As I was doing mine there were probably about thirty people watching from the side. What the staff do is make you look over and see just what kind of an audience you have (where he tells me to wave at the other camera, that is where the people are standing). Now on top of the financial commitment you also have a serious pride commitment -there is no way you are going to back out in public. The final thing is that it is all very quick: you look at one camera, wave at another, then have a five, four, three, two, one countdown and jump.
6. Stepping off
This was slightly surreal. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to do it until I actually did it. At first, it felt like time stopped (like those cartoons where the characters hang in the air before looking down and dropping). Then it was just falling through the air. The thing that surprised me is that there is no jerk at all, the whole motion is very smooth as the bands take up the slack and stretch. Once you are bouncing around it is exhilarating.
7. Back to earth
I was collected by two guys in an inflatable boat, as you can see in the video. After my jump, I ran up the steps at the side of the river to see my mate Paul jump after me. We then spent another 30 minutes or so there drinking coffee and enthusing about how amazing the whole experience had been.
Doing a bungee jump was a great experience and I am very glad I did it. It is a completely artificial experience, but at the same time one of the few in modern life where you have the chance to do something that feels incredibly dangerous -to face mortal fear and push through it- while at the same time remaining almost completely safe.
The stunning location was a huge bonus, and doing it with a close friend just cemented the experience.
If you have the chance, I would recommend doing a bungee jump at least once. I may do it again, but I don’t think it would have the same primal effect on me: having done it once, I now know it is safe.
eikaiwa iPhone kids Language learning materials online resources personal Review school management technology
The Nexus 7 tablet by Google and Asus was finally released in Japan last month. I am a huge Google fan and am looking for alternatives to the iPad for the classroom. It was too good an excuse, so I went ahead and ordered one.
My wife has an iPad 2, and I will be comparing the Nexus 7 to that, as well as to my iPhone 4S. This is my first Android device.
In brief: it’s great. I really like the 7″ form factor. It feels much lighter and easier to hold than the iPad, and at just under 20,000 yen, it is less than half the price of the new retina iPad.
- size and weight are much more user-friendly than the iPad
- screen is good with internet, ebooks, and movies
- Android OS is fast and fairly intuitive
- 2000 yen credit for the Google Play Store
- One movie and three books included
- Lots of Japanese content on the Play store, including ebooks
- E-reader includes an easy to use J-E/E-J dictionary
- Skype is really easy to use
- Not as many apps as iOS
- No Flash support! This is huge, as most of the websites I want students to use with this (WordEngine, Starfall) are flash-based
- Not as intuitive as iOS in terms of navigation, etc.
I love this tablet. For reading ebooks, watching movies, carrying around with me, reading PDFs, accessing the Google online world (gmail, reader, drive, etc.) it is wonderful. I’m really glad I got it, and it will supplement my iPhone 4S for most of these tasks.
However, unless I can get around the lack of Flash support (there seem to be workarounds for it, but they are not official and involve some risks) we won’t be buying these for students to use in class. It’s a shame, as the smaller and lighter form factor would make them easier to use for children than iPads.
Basically, if you use Google sites like gmail, drive, and reader, if you read ebooks and need a tablet to take movies and music on the road with you, this could be ideal. As a classroom tool it is crippled by the lack of Flash support.
Anyone else tried the Nexus 7?
…it does. Research shows that over a certain amount (depending on your personal circumstances), more money does not make you happier, but not having enough is definitely going to put a dent in your quality of life.
I’ve been thinking about investing for a while now, but only recently did I start reading up on it. It’s a huge and fascinating subject.
For teachers, saving and investment may not seem so important, but at least for those of us in Japan, the safety and dependability of our future pensions has some quite large question marks hanging over them. Are we even going to receive a pension? If we do, is it going to be enough to live on?
Employment stability is another concern. A few years ago, I took a job where I was initially assured that I would be able to stay there indefinitely. Somewhat predictably, four years later I was abruptly given five months notice.
After I got over the shock (and it is a shock, even if you suspect it is coming) I was lucky enough to find enough part-time work through friends and contacts to keep my family housed and fed until I found another job.
However, I decided I never wanted to be put in that situation again.
Part of financial resiliency is having savings and alternate forms of income. I’m going to address both of those today.
From my reading over the last six months or so, the following key points emerged:
- until you have a substantial nest egg, how much you save is more important than how well you invest
- costs (fees, etc.) are incredibly important in the long run
- educating yourself in financial matters has a huge return on investment
I recommend the following resources as good places to start:
Andrew Hallam’s blog
Andrew is a teacher in Singapore who has amassed a seven figure portfolio while working as a teacher. He gives very simple, practical advice on how to approach investing.
Also his book, the Millionaire Teacher, is very readable.
Mr Money Mustache
Writes about early retirement, saving money and purposeful living. Extremely enjoyable read.
A Random Walk Down Wall Street does a great job of explaining investing in the stock market.
The Millionaire Fastlane is an interesting book about becoming rich quickly.
I would probably read them in that order. The blogs in particular provide lots of links to extra resources.
In Japan, one easy way to invest in international trackers and ETFs is through Rakuten Securities. Once you have managed to set up an account, you can trade online relatively cheaply.
How about you? What is your investment strategy? I’ll be posting about mine later in the month if people are interested.
After the storm of grading comes the calm of sorting papers, clearing up the office, and throwing things away.
This year I have more than usual as I am continuing my journey towards minimalism. I have hundreds of novels in my office that I am slowly disposing of, re-reading where necessary. It’s slow but enjoyable.
After last year’s earthquake, I had to move my office twice: once to temporary quarters, then to the prefabricated building we’re in now. Our actual offices are being fixed up and reinforced, and we should be able to move back by sometime next year (I say sometime because the actual date they’re supposed to be finished has already been moved back severa times).
My goal is to have very few things to move back, so that my office ends up being a peaceful and tidy place where I can work.
As you can see from the picture above, I have a long way to go.