Job Hunting Part 2 - Music

Current Listening: Mozart Piano Concerto No. 27 K595- Allegro
Mitsuko Uchida with Jeffrey Tate and the English Chamber Orchestra

I saw this performed live in Sapporo, although it was Mitsuko Uchida performing and conducting with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. Absolutely gorgeous, by far the best concert I have ever attended. I feel, hearing Mozart live really shows the depth of how Mozart wanted to present his music. The layering of different sounds and instruments is something a recording just can't match. Not to mention Mitsuko Uchida is the undisputed queen of Mozart piano works. Her latest recordings of Mozart's piano concerti Nos. 23 and 24 won this year's grammy. Although I am more preferential to her recording of Nos. 20 and 27, I am glad she won either way.

Concerti is the haughty plural. O ho ho ho!

I can go for hours of why Mozart is the driving force in my life, but that will come near the bottom.

The situation in Japan has gotten better. I feel that the initial shock has worn off and people are able to assess the damage and begin rebuilding. The temporary shelters in the hardest hit prefectures are soon to be finished and they are taking applications for residents.

The Fukushima nuclear power plant is still a crisis, though less than it was a week ago. The Tokyo Electric Power Company has made quite a few mistakes when it came to reporting different facts and figures so things are a bit muddled, but the general trend is that things are getting better.

Thank you to the people who read the last entry. Indeed, if you write it

and post it on facebook

people will read it.

Since things are starting to get back to normal, my break from job hunting has come to an end and I am back in the game. The job hunt progresses. For lack of a better term, it's going. Forwards, backwards, in circles, I don't know. But at least it's moving. I have a phone consultation scheduled with another recruiting company next week. This time it'll all be in Japanese which makes me a little nervous.

Although I keep tabs of all the sites I'm using, I've decided to move on to a different job hunting site, called careercross.com that also specializes in bilingual jobs but it seems the layout is better and I can post a picture to attach to my resume. I have a typical Japanese resume pic (head shot, no smiling) that I scanned, applied liberal amounts of photoshop to and uploaded.

Also, I created a linkin account, because that's what the cool kids are doing. Also the rich people.



Shameless plug.

As for the actual hunting, I have shot my arrows at:

1. Helpdesk Support

Appeal: Computers! I like computers! Also, I am the tech support at home (which I am sure many of my younger brethren are) and I have set up a wireless printer network and that took balls. I'm not sure I could do it again. Um, I am also a team player, a fish out of water, a lemming at sea, and have excellent communication skills, honed by talking to children in English and getting blank stares and talking to Japanese English teachers in English and getting blank stares. At least we all understand Japanese.

2. Bilingual Desktop Engineer

Appeal: see above.

3. Internal IT Support

Appeal: see above above.

I think I can point out a trend. Essentially, these are all the same job, packaged a little differently and sent off to different companies. Like before, there was also a bonus job! And by bonus I mean one I didn't apply to through the site, but applied through direct means via the company webpage or was scouted / headhunted for.

Like going out of your way to save the little animals trapped in Zebes at the end of Super Metroid.

Bonus Job 3: I was contacted by a company that originally expressed interest in my IT background and wanted to set up a phone interview. I of course said yes, although I was surprised by being called 5 minutes late. Japanese are on time about everything, and it was really strange. Of course, the interviewer wasn't Japanese, so perhaps the culture is a little different.

The interview went well, and after the initial getting to know you / how much have you researched our company part, she stated her true intent, like a Buffy vampire changing from hot into demonic, but still a little attractive.

She asked if I wanted to work for her company itself, which was a bit of a surprise. But apparently some background in science and speaking a few languages is helpful when it comes to networking with clients and potential candidates. Unfortunately, she wanted me to start in May, and my contract doesn't end till August. She also hinted at wanting me to jump ship from my current job, but that wouldn't have been the best move. All in all, I noticed that I'm actually starting the job hunt a little too early.

I like the traditional job path. Working in a large company as a salaried full time employee would be fine. While I continue on that route, I am also starting to branch out into other, riskier occupations, since I have time before companies are really looking to hire for August/September.

Something that I have had an itch to do for a long time is make music. My inspirations are many but most importantly the Rebecca Black song "Friday", which really pushed me into seriously considering it.

Really, if something with such horrible singing, godawful lyrics, and shitty ass production can make money, then having a cat walk across my music program should produce something at least twice as good.

Maybe three times.

Let's talk about music. This is going to get technical, so if that doesn't appeal to you, please feel free to stop here. If you would like to see a little more in depth analysis of classical vs. modern music, please read on. I'm using the term classical loosely, but anything from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern periods I include for simplicity's sake.

Most people like music. I like music. I play music. My background is in classical piano, which I have about 18 years of. I don't do jazz, I don't improvise. I only play clearly written sheet music from long dead composers. But the depth of the writing of these composers is beyond anything I've seen in recent years. The average Mozart piano concerto is 30 minutes or longer, but each movement complements the other to create a wonderful complete piece. Beethoven's 9th symphony takes over an hour. Wagner's Ring cycle takes a week to complete in its entirety. And these are brilliant pieces with layers and layers of harmony that seem unfathomable to create, written over a century ago. Their complexity is unrivaled, and some have said understanding the genius behind some of these works is like touching upon God. The advancement of "classical" music stopped, I believe sometime in the mid 20th century, when John Cage decided that four minutes of silence equates to music.

Rebecca Black's Friday is 3 minutes 48 seconds. I lose attention and brain cells everytime I listen to it.

I like pop. I really do. But it's something light and fluffy. Catchy and short, and for the most part forgettable. To see their interchangeability, please refer to the Axis of Evil 4 Chord song:


The staple of my musical tastes has always been classical. However, techno is the one genre of modern music I feel connected to. The length is indeterminate, and one piece can flow seemlessly into another, provided the DJ is good. What techno does is create a beat, and layer things on top of it, until it attains a degree a complexity, and then each layer is removed or changed as the composer sees fit for different effects. The note harmonies aren't necessarily complex, but I believe it is the layering of different patterns that gives techno its appeal. Which isn't too different from a theme and variation piece from classical. The beat is steady, and once there's a main theme the importance lies in differentiating each section, yet creating a coherent whole.

Of course, playing music and writing it are two different things, just as reading and writing are. I may be able to follow instructions when given the music, but creating the music is a whole other ballgame. I have this nifty music making program, and after 3 hours of learning how to use it, I had about 11 seconds of drums leading to a shitty beat. Hopefully my efficiency will improve. But I hope that the important thing will be my years of music theory, and that it will help whatever I decide to churn out. And the other important thing is that for the first time, in a long time, I felt like it was something I really wanted to do. I find such joy in Mozart, and have always felt it was a pity nobody else appreciated it. If I can remix some of his melodies into something people want to listen to, perhaps that will lead to classical appreciation. It also helps me because I don't have to make up stuff by myself.

On a final note, the great similarity between classical and techno is that words aren't necessarily required. The music is strong enough by itself. It doesn't need words to impart extra meaning or to make an impression. And that is something I respect in both genres.

I will be damned if I have to sing. And if I have to, I can reverb, synth, distort and mutate my voice to the point where I sound like Lady Gaga.

So, dear readership, I have two questions. If there is anyone out there with techno composition experience, please give me whatever tips you have. To the extent that I know the program, it's like photoshop for music. Any help would be appreciated.

And the second question which everyone can answer: what should my DJ name be?

DJ Awesome is probably already taken :(

Second final note, Britney Spears is making some kind of comeback. I love toilet (literally) humor.




I had another blog completely prepared and about to be published, but considering all the news surrounding this earthquake, I thought I might write about it, for you, my dear readership, and for my own memory.

First, thank you to everyone who called, or tried to call, or left a message. Thank you for checking up on me. I’m fine, and nothing serious has happened in this part of the prefecture. Although Aomori prefecture is lumped into the earthquake origin disaster zone, it’s no different than saying Wyoming and Montana are close. The land area of each prefecture in the region of Tohoku (lit. east north) is quite large, and though we may be bordering, not that many people live here to begin with. However, though we might have escaped the direct effects of the earthquake, that doesn’t lessen the damage caused by the tsunami which hit the eastern side of the prefecture hard.

Following is a map that helps explain things. Also the resulting waves from the earthquake:

I was playing piano at the time, namely the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21. For those of you familiar with the piece, it’s basically a giant exercise in scales, chromatic scales, chromatic octave scales, arpeggios, and tricky but fun intervals. As I concentrated hard on hitting the right notes, I swayed my body to the music and really enjoyed the rise and fall of the melody. Not surprisingly, at a place with opposing arpeggios in both hands, I was really moved and felt like I was floating.

Man, this is awesome.

I continued to play and flow, and was surprised at how in touch I was with the music. It normally takes me much more practice to get so into the music, but hey, I’ll take it.

Chromatic octave scale passage!

As the lights suddenly cut off and I was plunged into darkness, but still moving, I finally realized it wasn’t the music that was moving me; it was the floor.

I was always the smart one.

So I sat in darkness at the piano, considered playing more, but since I didn’t have it memorized, I went out to check what was up. Apparently there was a giant earthquake.

Some other students and I all evacuated outside. It really is an interesting feeling. The earth that we all take for granted to be stable was trembling underneath, and I don’t believe we as humans are used to it. Even after it stopped, I felt like I was still shifting around, as if I were on a ship at sea, despite it all being my imagination.

After the initial tremors stopped, I rushed back inside to grab my stuff I left near the piano. Luckily, I normally wander around the area in darkness so getting back wasn’t an issue. I quickly grabbed my stuff and sheet music and started to close the piano lid, when I quickly pushed it back up, sat back down, and played Clair De Lune from memory.

Playing in darkness is fun. I should consider it more often.

As the aftershocks started hitting, I decided to pack up for real and got my ass out of there.

I work at the board of education, which has its own fuel powered generator. The rest of the town had no electricity, and from what I could gather, all of northern Japan had no power. Having the electricity off was good for a couple of reasons. First was to prevent further damage when the tsunamis came. And the other reason is just that there simply wasn’t enough power to supply the country with the nuclear power plants shut down.

It was Friday, and Friday is always hot spring / sushi day. Regardless of the national disaster, I wanted to get my fresh fish on and decided to drive to the nearby bigger town (Goshogawara) for their 100 yen sushi plates. With the stoplights out, traffic rules were reduced to dashing out into the intersection and hoping the other side would stop. I originally approached each stoplight as if it were a stop sign, but when I noticed no one else gave a shit, I took advantage of the police being busy with everything else and sped / overtook my way into Goshogawara in record time.

All was for naught however, when the mall, hot spring, and sushi place were closed. I death raced back home and resigned myself to a night of darkness.

To be frank, my evening was nothing more than a glorified camping trip with aftershocks. My house still had running water and gas, and since I never bought a flashlight, I decided to resort to candles.

I wish they were scented.

I luckily bought groceries earlier in the day before the earthquake, and made chicken soup and a green salad and ate it in candlelight. It was actually quite pleasant and the mood was romantic.

At this point, it was 7PM, completely dark, and I had two very tall and unstable candles as my only source of light and heat. I tried to read a little, but couldn’t make out half the words. With nothing else to do, I decided to go to bed early and see what I could do the next day to help out. Of course it was only 7 and I had trouble falling asleep, so I tried something I had always wanted to do, but never had the chance to.

Bending over and looking at the lit candles, I pulled my pants down and tried to light my farts on fire. My no-carb diet has more than enough fiber for an evening filled with fun.

Unfortunately, it never worked, although I did manage to blow a candle over and spill hot wax all over the place.

I blew out the candles (with my mouth thank you very much) and decided to sleep.

Of course, without heating, the night turned out to one of the longest ever. My house is large and frozen, and being bundled up in layers and blankets still couldn’t keep the chill away. I opened a couple packages of hand warmers (normally used for skiing) and it got a little better.

The next day, I went to see if I could help and went to the board of education. The generator electricity only serves a couple rooms, and the ventilation system for the building wasn’t working, and when I entered, it smelled as if the people who had kept vigil tried to light their farts on fire through the night as well.

I took the chance to charge all of my electronics. Getting used to the stench, I noticed many of the elderly decided to spend the night to escape the chill. As the supermarkets were closed, food was scarce, so I was sent to go make onigiri, or rice balls for everyone.

In the kitchen with other housewives and government workers, we spent the day making salt flavored rice balls for the evacuees. Throughout the day there were updates as power was being restored to all the larger cities in the prefecture. In the afternoon, they said there wasn’t enough power to spread around, so the majority of my town got shafted, and was to spend another night in the non-heated dark.

My luck is amazing.

However! I guess the energy fairy decided to pull some overtime or something, because by early evening our town was back online and I was able to get on facebook and send emails to everyone. Which also means everyone can cook and basically my whole day making rice balls was for naught. However, it has been a long time since I actually felt something. My life here seemed to be in stasis, and the rush was something I haven’t experienced in a while.

Now that the boring part of the post is over, I’d like to expand the scope of this post to encompass the crisis facing the country as a whole.

From this link, you can see before and after of the places that were most damaged by the quake:

I feel the media everywhere is reporting on it at length so you can get the pictures from everyone else. To get a comparison of the different approaches of the media, between Japan and the USA and other countries, you can read this link.

While the American news may be sensationalist and have a tendency of overinflating numbers and saying the next Chernobyl will be tomorrow; coming from Japan, we’re all trying to keep our heads up. Understanding the damage and hoping for the best.

All things considered, I am proud of Japan. Even though it has suffered one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded, the damage has been relatively limited. Despite the mounting death toll and missing persons, if the infrastructure and earthquake building reinforcements were any less, we would be in a much worse situation than we are in now. The reduced strength of the earthquake also hit Tokyo and the surrounding areas, but the capital is safe from most damage it would appear. No high rises have fallen, and the bullet trains were still running last I heard.

You can read more about Japanese buildings and structural integrity and tsunami preparation here:

Buildings can be protected from vibrations, but the tsunamis are a whole other issue. The devastation, I believe, judging from preliminary reports, has been mostly caused by the waves, with coastal towns and prefectures being hit the hardest. The news plays footage nonstop of whole houses being ripped away from their foundations, giant tankers capsized and lying in a field of debris a kilometer inland, survivors picking through the wreckage and families being reunited.

While I sit here and ignite my flatulence, a prefecture south of me has for the most part been annihilated. I do feel a little shameful. I offered to help, but all trains and transportation for the most part has come to a standstill. The rescues are all being conducted by helicopter as I’m typing this.

I’m going to sound like an asshole for saying this, but I am glad Sapporo, Tokyo, Osaka and Kansai were spared. The north, northeastern part of Japan where I live and where the damage hit hardest is mostly agricultural and relies on farming and fishing for its livelihood. Food and other resources can be provided by aid. However, the foundations of the government, and Japan’s powerful business and manufacturing sectors (and in my selfishness, the culture) all lie in Tokyo and to the west. If those cities were destroyed, Japan would have a much harder time coordinating relief efforts and rebuilding itself after.

Undoubtedly, the crisis is going to cost a huge sum of money to clean up. I was reading articles by analysts suggesting that Japan cannot burden the cost of it, considering the state of its economy and the massive public debt before the events.

I take a different view. The Japanese are a hardy people that recover quickly. They are level-headed and efficient. After the atomic bombings of WWII, they immediately gathered their resources and set to rebuild. Within 40 years they were at the top of the electronics and car manufacturing divisions, and that was before they had a stable government, in between the Occupation and the reclamation or relinquishing of different territories.

However, ever since the 90’s bubble burst, Japan’s economic decline has been the norm. The stagnating economy, borne from a lack of consumer spending, a government hesitant to increase tax rates and an aging consumer base has led to a massive national debt (though largely financed by the country itself). In addition, the young population is lost and not knowing what to do, burdened by the social welfare system that they increasingly need to pay into to support the ailing elderly.

It has always been my belief that trauma is the fastest way to maturation. People who go through a lot, whether it’s through the circumstances they were born into, or after suffering an event like the earthquake and tsunami, realize, whether they want to or not, the important things in life. That the things we all considered so important the day before pales in comparison to what really matters when we are faced with our own mortality.

Snookie eat your heart out. And that bitch on My Sweet 15 who complained / broke down after receiving a Lexus SC430 3 days before her birthday instead of the day of.

It is my sincere hope that within 1-5 years, the Japanese government will use the tragedy to unite the nation and justify a raise in taxes to not only fund the relief and cleanup effort but also to rectify the economic situation before the earthquake.

Also for the young people to realize how short life is and go at it like rabbits so we can lower the average population age.

Any disaster is horrible, but if we can take the positive from it, in one way Japan was jolted awake.

No pun intended.

The populace is united in grief, shock and rebuilding, and the question of deciding between the Hello Kitty or Doraemon cell phone strap has been replaced with being thankful that we have working cell phones to begin with.

I would never get a Hello Kitty phone strap. How tacky. Maybe Totoro.

Of course, this is still far off into the future. For the time being, all the roads leading into Aomori have for the most part been decimated, so people are running low on gas, both for their cars and the kerosene used to heat their homes and water. Luckily Spring seems to have finally come so I’ll bundle up and tough through what I can. We don’t know when we’ll get fresh supplies, but hopefully the people here will be ok until then.

When I went to the supermarket yesterday, much of the premade food was gone, including the bread and rice balls. Naturally, the salad was untouched, and because that’s what I live off of, I basically cleaned them out of leafy vegetables and cherry tomatoes.

All this wishful talk is only important if Japan survives. The nuclear reactors are looking to be a problem, with a second explosion, but from what I’ve seen and read, the explosions aren’t nuclear in nature, but caused by waste hydrogen buildup. If anything does happen, be assured I will be in my fridge a la Indiana Jones. Hopefully the blast will propel me to Taiwan.

Knowing my luck, it’ll probably be North Korea

I have faith in Japan, and believe that we can come out of this even stronger than we were before this all happened.



Job Hunting Part 1

Let's admit it, I have no creative writing skills. I'll try to stick to essays from now on.

I am in the midst of job hunting. My current job as English teacher / seat warmer / pianist in rural northern Japan will end come August, and within the next 5 months, I intend to find a job. In Tokyo.

Yesterday, I was semi-interviewed by a nice man I was introduced to by a mutual friend. I had originally thought it was a get to know you thing, but after the sudden change into testing how well I could speak and understand Japanese, there was a slight hint of interview, like strong cheese. Stinky but delicious at the same time.

During our 30 minute chat, I received a lot of good tips on how to network. And one of them was to write a blog, documenting the shit I went through, and the shit I'll go through on the road to finding a job. If I ever find one.

So let's start. I don't know if anyone will read it, but in our economy, perhaps there are those who sympathize with what I am going through and can write about their own experiences here. And I will learn or laugh, probably both. I will be candid, and I will document what I do and how it turns out. Hopefully you, readership, will get something out of it. But after I get the job. Because you know, I hate competition.

The whole reason I'm even doing this is because I was rejected from Kyoto University (ref. Entry 1). It was a rather large blow. I was confident I could at least get a trial period as a graduate student, but I wasn't even close to being admitted.

I just spaced out for a moment and thought about how I could make money by creating or discovering the next internet meme, like lolcatz, and selling T-shirts of funny pictures of animals with captions.

The professor said she was really moved by the fact that I actually attempted, but really, my Japanese level is so unbelievably rank that she didn't bother to edit my essay on what I thought of her essay on Heian, Kamakura and Muromachi era female spirit possession in literature.

After writing that sentence, I am a little happy I got rejected. Even though it's something I want to study, I don't see much of a future in it. I just like studying I guess.

I also think I have ADD.

After getting angry at myself for an evening, I channeled it into some ball of hatred/determination and fully dedicated myself to finding a job. Which I had to do again after I learned I failed the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) a few days later. It's been about 2 weeks since then, and the motivation borne from hate is finally wearing off and I'm a little sleepy.

You know who I can network with here? Cabbage. And rice. Maybe they'll give me jobs.

The failure is completely my responsibility. I was off passing by 10 points, which is around 3 or 4 questions. If I had just gotten a few more right, if my luck was just a little better...

My luck has always been shitty. Remember when you tried to smuggle apples past gate security and they thought they were bombs? Yeah. Apple bombs. Who the hell even makes bombs in round shapes anymore? In conclusion, your luck is fucking awesome.

But I am looking forward

Totally backward and eternally regretting my endless string of failures

and I've applied to 7 or 8 positions since then. I spruced up my resume, wrote some new stuff about my job and dreams and why I love puppies but am willing to exploit 3rd world workers for additional profit, and sent it off.

I really do love puppies.

And! I've been rejected by all of them. For the sake of professionality, I won't post their names, just what field they were involved in.

1. Making executive office spaces both in real life high rises and digital spaces

Appeal: (A Japanese term for making myself appealing to the company) I'm pretty, and like fashionable things (which is true if I had enough money for plastic surgery and enough left over to buy a new wardrobe). I also understand Feng Shui, and man, if you're going build something in China, you better make sure it doesn't have mountains to the front and has enough water elements to counteract the fire properties in the kitchen and naturally associated with business.

Result: Rejection

2. Overseas Opportunity! Business establishment and opportunity!

Appeal: They wanted somebody with knowledge of the game industry and somebody who speaks English, Japanese and Chinese.

Result: Rejection. I either lack logical and efficient thinking, or I'm not 33-38 years old.

3. Medical Science Interpreter

Appeal: I studied it in university. I also looked up all the acronyms you used, including KOL, TA, IIS.

Result: Rejection. I don't have more than 3 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. I asked to be a part of their team instead of the manager, but it didn't work :(

4. Haneda Airport Desktop support

Appeal: Bilingual. Basic work experience with computer systems and I like airplanes.

I really do like airplanes.

Result: No response. I sent in my resume and other things separately. I will consider this a rejection. Like a date who decides not to pick up the phone, I have been dumped by this recruitment company.

5. Warehouse inventory manager

Appeal: Has worked with inventory: check. OCD personality: check. Considers timeliness extremely important: check. Fluent in 3 languages: check. Also the job posting had rather atrocious spelling, so hey if that's the level of quality they expect, I should be a shoo-in.

Result: Rejection. Thank you for not putting this on the job description, but in case somebody else applies, please write that the applicant should have 10 years in supply distribution, and at least 5 years of management experience. Which means I should have started working when I was 8. And write it before I waste a morning on the cover letter.

Of course, it's possible that I was an idiot and missed it or just didn't read it. Or it was edited after I applied. Because it's written there now. In which case, my bad.

6. Bilingual assistant to recruitment assistant exec.

Appeal: I speak multiple languages and have OCD and blah blah blah (ref. 1-5). Also, I would make a great office trophy wife. Look pretty and arrange flowers to liven up the workplace. Also willing to wear skimpy clothing if that is part of the gig. Did I mention I'm flexible? Not only in terms of available work time, but if you give me a pole, I can show you...

Result: I applied yesterday, they haven't gotten back to me yet.

In addition, there are two hidden job applications I did. Like the warp pipes in 1-1 in Super Mario Bros.!

Hidden Job 1: Serve coffee at a supposedly upscale boutique to Chinese customers.

Appeal: I can be decent looking (ref. plastic surgery above). I like upscale things. I speak multiple languages. I will give you sexual favors in exchange for that Prada purse.

Result: Rejected. They never told me why, but they probably were looking for a woman to be honest.

Hidden Job 2: Desktop support

Appeal: I was actually scouted (or head hunted) and it seemed like they really wanted me. I sent a response back saying I was interested a couple days later.

Result: No response (and it's been 2 weeks but still...), but this is the kind of love I hold onto forever. Baby, don't leave me!

And so ends the first part of my 就職活動 or job hunting.

I am so hungry right now.