Sunday, November 6, 2016

English impact Endorses Hillary Clinton

"These are the times that try men's souls." - Thomas Paine, 1776

"These are times that try poor, uneducated, conspiracy-driven white men's souls." - John Munjak, 2016

For the first time in the history of English impact - Ok, I've only been around for three-and-a-half years - I've decided to endorse a presidential candidate. And the honor goes to.... Let's see... Who has the best chance of making sure Donald Trump never becomes President of the USA? - Hillary Clinton.

It's an easy decision to oppose Trump as a nasty, temperamental demagogue (民衆扇動) with no political experience who has whipped poor, uneducated white males into a frenzy by promising to "Make America Great Again at the Expense of Women, Minorities and Immigrants." (I know, you don't often see that full political slogan on his cheap, Chinese-manufactured hats because of a lack of space.)

However, most people fail to see the dictatorship (独裁) side of his political yearning: how he routinely praises ruthless leaders like Vladimir Putin & Kim Jong Un; how he wants to control the free press; how he has attacked the very basis of American democracy by calling into question free elections and the peaceful transfer of power.

Say what you will about Hillary Clinton - and I guess Trump supporters will say her carelessness handling confidential makes her guilty of treason or sprout conspiracy theories about the deaths of her political opponents - but for 30 years she has shown the experience, temperament and leadership to serve as the President of the USA.

For these reasons, English impact supports and endorses Hillary Clinton for President of the USA (and thanks the Japanese government for giving me Permanent Residency just in case Trump happens to win).

John Munjak
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Friday, September 16, 2016

Do you have fish at the movies?

                               (Illustration by Robby Watson. See more of his awesome work on Instagram.)

Do you have fish at the movies?

This is a serious question. I'm asking because I'm personally interested in the snacks you eat at the movie theater. And I'm professionally interested that you answer the question grammatically correct since it's in one of the textbooks (Cambridge's Interchange Fourth Edition) I use in my English impact classes.

If you're reading this blog in the USA, the most common, grammatically correct answer is, "No, I never eat fish at the movies." That's the answer the textbooks most likely expects you to say, too. However, I'm sure most Americans would respond more naturally with, "Heck no! What are you - nuts (気違い) !?! Who eats fish at the movies!?!

And that's where things get interesting. Because I do. "I usually eat fish at the movies," to use the target grammar correctly. My local movie theater is located in the same shopping mall as a supermarket so I can easily buy fresh sushi from the deli and take it into the theater in my backpack. 

I've also been known to eat squid jerky (裂きイカ) and almond fish (アーモンドフィッシュ) - also from the supermarket - when the lights go dark. It's all part of the Japanese movie going experience.

Popcorn might be a universal movie theater snack, but candy isn't quite as popular here in Japan as it is in the USA. Japanese people are more likely to eat sweet snacks like churros or ice cream than candy.

"Do you have beer at the movies?" should be another question in the textbook since movie theater concession stand sell draft beer (生ビール) for your drinking and viewing pleasure while I'm sure most Americans have to settle for Coca-Cola or some other carbonated beverage (炭酸飲料) unless they sneak something in. 

So, loyal English impact blog reader, do you have fish at the movies? I really want to know. And I promise to check that all replies are grammatically correct.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

But Why a Pig-Shaped Mosquito Coil Holder?!?

I recently got this very cool summer greeting card (with sound effects!) from a former kindergarten student in Osaka. Please take a good look at it. If you are Japanese, does it take you back to your childhood (懐かしい)?

I've been in Japan long enough to understand most of the things in the room - from the wind chime (風鈴) moving in the cool night breeze to the the mosquito coil's (蚊取り線香) smoke keeping away mosquitoes.

But why, I wondered, is the mosquito coil holder pig-shaped (かやりき/かやりぶた)? I mean, pigs aren't connected to summer in any way. Not knowing the answer caused me a little stress.

(Illustration by Robby Watson. See more of his awesome work on Instagram.)

So I asked my English impact students. And, surprisingly, no one could tell me, which caused me even more stress.

Fortunately, in this day and age, we have the internet to solve these kinds of mysteries. So a little Google search turned up this answer from wanderlust japan's website.

"The pig incense holder is said to have originated in Aichi prefecture, in a town known for its ceramics, Tokoname. Apparently pigs in this town were getting bothered by mosquitoes, so the villagers would take ceramic pots out to them with the incense inside.  The opening of the pot was too wide and the incense was having little effect. When it was decided to make the opening smaller, the villagers decided to make it into a pig snout. They sold these incense holders as souvenirs and the pig became extremely popular. They now come in other shapes as well."

So now we all know why mosquito coil holders are pig-shaped. And I can enjoy summer even more now without the stress of ignorance. In fact, I think I'll crack open a bottle of beer - like the one in the picture - and... 

Wait a minute.... Why is there a glass next to the bottle of beer?!? That doesn't make any sense. Oh, English impact students, I have another question for you...🎶

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

いきいき(Iki-Iki or Lively) Toyama Marathon

While I'm excited to be participating in my first triathlon, I'm a little bummed out (寂しい) that I couldn't convince any of my English impact students to join me for the いきいきToyama Triathlon on Sunday, July 31.

I heard many excuses for not participating. "Who in their right mind would want to run 10 km after riding a bike for 40 km?," for one. "I swim like a rock" (石みたいな泳ぐ) for another.

I admit it won't be easy to swim 1.5 km, cycle 40 km and run 10 km one after the other without much of a rest. But I actually think the main reason nobody wanted to join me is because it costs a lot of money to do a triathlon.

                                    (Illustration by Robby Watson. See more of his awesome work on Instagram.)

I say this not because I'm a cheapskate (ケチな人) - I am a cheapskate, for sure - but because this is one of the most expensive one-day events I have ever participated in. Actually, I hope to finish it in under three and a half hours, but I'm sure I'll spend the rest of the day sleeping or lying in pain on the floor.

Just to enter the triathlon cost \21,000 ($204).  Then, since the rules state you can't ride a regular bike, I had to buy a new road bike for \43,266 ($421) and a helmet for \1,970 ($19). To make my ride a little easier, I added a water bottle holder for \1650 ($16) and a gel seat cover for \1980 ($19).

For the swimming event, I needed to buy goggles for \882 ($8) and six tickets to practice swimming at my local indoor pool for \2,600 ($25).

So that's already around \73,350 ($713) I have spent, and that's on the cheapskate's budget. There's a long list of things I don't plan to buy that some triathletes would consider foolish. I'm not going to buy a wetsuit or a trisuit. I refuse to buy cycling shoes or shorts or a bike computer.

I'm doing this triathlon to see if I have what it takes to finish all 51.5 km: strength, endurance, stamina and willpower. Oh, and a little money, too, I have saved up.

Wish me luck. And please start saving for next year's いきいきToyama Marathon so you can join me. With no money excuse.

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Monday, May 30, 2016

Do Enemies Make the Most Interesting Friends?

"Enemies make the most interesting friends."

- Sheryl Crow "Sad Sad World"

I'd like to believe this line from a song, but looking back on my worst enemies, it just doesn't seem so.

In particular, I reflect on some self-centered, lazy, good-for-nothing foreign teachers I used to work with in an Osaka international school. While the Japanese teachers and foreign home room teachers were in the classroom teaching all day, they would spend their time in the office chatting about TV shows, movies, video games and how they weren't getting paid enough to sit around all day and talk about TV shows, movies & video games.

Hardly interesting, right?

And since moving to Toyama City, I haven't made any enemies. Everyone here is really laid-back and down-to-earth. And they have more important things to do than watch TV & movies and play video games.

I have noticed some bugs in my vegetable garden that are a constant thorn in my side. I guess I can call them my enemies.

(Illustration by Robby Watson. See more of his awesome work on Instagram)

The first one is the cutworm (寝切虫). As its name suggests in both languages, this nasty bug eats through the stem of plants like green onions so the whole plants dies. Talk about self-centered! Its one meal literally kills the vegetable for everyone.

The second bug I have to contend with is the lazy slug (蛞蝓). It slowly moves across plants leaving a trail of slime as it eats leaves all night.

The third and final pest in my garden is the ladybug or てんとう虫(Actually, it's a ladybug beetle.). It sure looks cute and all, but in reality it's good-for-nothing. It just eats and eats leaves - damaging the whole plant in the process - before flying off in pursuit of its next meal.

Now that I think about it, these bugs remind me a lot of my horrible ex-coworkers. Well, at least the bugs don't constantly complain about money. Or talk non-stop Harry Potter, Angry Birds or other such nonsense while others are trying to work.

Maybe I should write a song with the lyric, "Bugs are more interesting than former enemies," but what word rhymes with good-for-nothing?

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Monday, April 18, 2016

If I Were on a Deserted Island with One Outlet and Three Machines...

Imagine this hypothetical situation (仮定条件): You are on a deserted island with an outlet (コンセント) and three machines of your choice. What machines would you choose?
(Illustration by Robby Watson. See more of his awesome work on Instagram)

You might learn a little more about yourself if you ever had to face this situation.

If it were me, I would choose my GOPAN bread maker, Delonghi bean-to-cup coffee maker and Kindle eBook.

In my daily life, these are the three machines that bring joy to my day. My days start off well with fresh bread from my GOPAN bread machine. It's a machine from Panasonic that can turn rice - with some essential ingredients (成分) like dry yeast, gluten and butter and your own ingredients like bacon, garlic and tomatoes (my most recent creation) - into delicious bread.

And to top off the morning, I enjoy freshly roasted coffee with my Delonghi coffee machine. I'm not a coffee snob by any means, but this machine can make wonderfully strong coffee quickly and easily. I can no longer imagine instant or drip or stick coffee making my mouth water like this bean-to-cup bad boy.

Finally, if I ever have free time during the day, I turn on my Kindle eBook, not the idiot box or TV for intellectual stimulation and enjoyment. With built in Wi-Fi and an endless selection of classics and new books from Amazon, I can literally read anything in the world I want.  And right now, I want to read A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. (I know, I know, it's a popular TV show. Unfortunately, there's no TV on my island.)

How about you? What machines can't you live without? And why?  Please write me a letter, put it in a bottle and throw it out into the ocean.  That's the only way you can can reach me since none of my machines have e-mail or SNS access. And that's just the way I like it.

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Monday, February 8, 2016

How Not to Get Sick. Ever.

My English impact students (and loyal English impact blog reader) are probably as sick of hearing about how I never get sick as I am sick of telling them.

But what I don't often tell them is why I don't get sick. Actually, I don't know exactly why I - and other people like me - never get sick. I haven't been sick for at least three years - no fever, no cough, no runny nose (鼻水), nothing (全然).

And since there is a flu epidemic in Japan right now, let me tell you about some of the things I do on a daily basis that I think keep me so healthy. Then you can decide if you want to try them, too, to never again get sick.

1.) The first thing I drink for breakfast every morning is four teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Two of those teaspoons have a squirt of wasabi on them. I think the combination of green olive oil and wasabi works to purify my blood and make my heart stronger.

2.) I eat a lot of fermented (発酵食品) food. I eat natto, yogurt and kimchee every day. Fermented food keep my stomach healthy.

3.) I drink at least three cups of green tea every day. In fact, I usually carry around a cup of green tea with me during the day. When there is just a little left, I gargle (嗽する) it, which keep my mouth and throat free of germs (ばい菌).

4.) I don't think of "exercise" as something hard or extra to do. For me, exercise is part of my daily routine, just like eating breakfast or going to the bathroom. There are so many ways to exercise - from going for a walk to stretching for five minutes - that, "I'm too busy working to exercise," never enters into my mind.

5.) I stay positive, which includes keeping my life as stress-free as possible. Since I love teaching English and talking with my English impact students, I can honestly say I don't have any job-stress. My interests - from gardening & composting, exercising and playing with my three cats - fill any extra time during the day. A positive mind and body makes a healthy mind and body, too.

I hope you are all staying healthy and positive. If not, please try out some of my ideas. I can't guarantee that you won't get sick again, but you'll definitely feel better and enjoy your life a little more.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

My New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year, loyal English impact blog readers! I hope 2016 is off to a great start for you.

I've been asking all of my English impact students about their New Year's Resolutions (新年.の抱負) I've heard a lot about losing weight (痩せる), becoming more healthy and studying English harder.  That's great! Good luck!

For me, health is really important so there are many things I'm going to avoid consuming in 2016.  Here are five of the most unhealthy foods and drinks:

1.) store-bought white bread (食パン)
2.) cola
3.) sugar
4.) margarine
5.) microwave popcorn

Besides watching more of what I'm eating and drinking, there are many other things I want to do in 2016. I will compost (堆肥する) organic waste for my garden this summer; I will run the whole Toyama Marathon in under four hours; I will practice the piano more; and I will continue to be the best private English teacher in Japan.

So if you are planning to eat more healthy food; if you really want to get into shape; if you love talking about gardening; and if you really want to improve your English, I want to meet you at English impact. We have so much to talk about. And so many ways to help each other this year.

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