Thursday, January 15, 2015

Working in Japan: The creme de la creme of contracts.

I'm down to two months left before moving back to Seattle and am anxious about working in the states again after 2 years of quite the setup. This post isn't designed to create envy, though I'm not going to deny that it's delicious to feed off every once in a while. It's more for ESL teachers who are tired of getting financially jacked around, and wonder if it's possible to make a decent living as a teacher. Given my last 2 years of financial discipline, I would now argue that a 'decent living' can be had on my old wages (part-time teaching at roughly $20 per hour). But I digress. Here are the deets of this contract:

There are 365 days in a year, and I work Monday through Friday, and one or two Saturdays per year. Summer break is 5 weeks, Winter break is 2 weeks, and Spring break is 2 weeks. Ohh yeah, these are paid. (365 - 104 - 35 - 14 - 14) = 198 work days, but let's not forgot about the holidays!

There are 16 holidays in Japan. However, for the paid-days-off calculation, a few of those fall during holidays, so we'll count it as 12. What's often done is that if a holiday falls on a Sunday, it's moved to a holiday Monday. This is a Japanese law. 186 work days.

But wait! It's a Japanese school and their education system undulates students in 1-2 monthly tests if you factor in the 5 days of finals each term. Let's call that 15 days where I administer a test or take early leave because I'm not needed. 171 days. Finally are preparation days: the week before, after and during finals, the workday generally ends 3 hours early, which works out to almost 7 days of no classes. Not only that, but for Sports Day, classes are stopped for 2 days to prepare. 177. The contract is an annual salary. I work 48.5% of the year and receive the same paycheck every 15th.

Oops, I forgot that there are 10 paid personal holidays, which are basically used via going home or to appointments after classes are finished. It is also customary for Japanese companies to reimburse you for transportation, which is a big deal.

As if this wasn't all good enough, the salary itself is roughly what a public school teacher makes, with probably twice the work burden I have, under the current exchange rate. However, 2 years ago, the yen traded very favorably with the dollar, and I was making more like a programmer or someone in the IT field. However, this salary is by no means simply handed over.

Get dat contract!
I knew the right person, I speak and read Japanese in a limited capacity, and I am good at what I do in the classroom. My talent is imported because Japan needs native speakers to teach English, in a more useful way than rote rehearsal. The contract I have is generally signed inside of Japan, and is rare, but not completely impossible to find. Ohayo Sensei is a great place to start, and you'll either find the salary or workload that I've mentioned. Look for 'international school.' Finding both is a little harder, but you can make your money go pretty far by coming to teach English in Japan.

Games in 2015: Winter

January

deez graffix! (Halo 4)
To finish off The Master Chief Collection, Zack and I have started Halo 4. In single player, I'm tackling the Final Fantasy X-2 platinum trophy. The second week of January revealed that DuckTales - Remastered is on Playstation Plus for free!

This game rules. Of course they overhauled the graphics, and there's now a story that's integrated via cutscenes with voice overs (most of which are done by the original voice actors.) The music has been redone, and of course there's a NES-style digitized theme song at the title. All the great level music is there, as well as the level select music (which is REALLY well done.) The awesome part is that when you beat the game, you get treated to the TV show's theme song, totally extended, which then goes into a medley of all the level themes, and finally lands on a piano version of the medley. Everyone knows the moon had the best music, though this version's McDuck Mansion / level select theme is amazing.


February

He hit it in the middle of the night like a crook!
Sly Cooper Collection: Sucker Punch studios' PS2-era platform game. These 3 games are solid in terms of gameplay, with simple-but-fully-used mechanics, and cheeky humor. The era had some really healthy competition with (Naughty Dog's) Jak and Daxter, and (Insomniac's) Ratchet and Clank games, which spawned more than 10 decent titles. I beat the first game over 2 days, some time ago, with some challenging-but-not-super-frustrating parts. Trophy-wise, the games are a walk in the park with minimal collectible-hunting.

March

While preparing to move back to Seattle, writing student finals and hosting my mom and a friend or two, I still had time to hold a controller and push a button. This month, I started over my quest on Bravely Default - it's just too much of a challenge to keep a story intact over 6 months or so. I always do that with RPGs. I also played Sly Cooper 3: Honor Among Thieves. The Sly games build upon each other, in terms of story and gameplay, and nail it every time. There is a lot more than skulking and merc-ing the occasional buff guard who cracks wise to the wrong bandit.

There are at least 15 different play modes that are integrated into the story. In one level, you control an RC car that has to collect data that's being broadcast from broken explosive satellites. Another level has you flying a helicopter that drops a hook into enemies, and you have to tug them off of the ground, using directions, rockets and momentum. A new character has fireworks strapped to his back and constantly loads rockets to be fired at just about anything on your screen. Be careful...if you pack too many explosives, they will blow up and you lose hecka life. My favorite addition is that the second to last episode of the game puts you on the sea with your very own ship. Sea battles are all about positioning your ship to line up your cannons on the enemy before they do the same. After you blow their main mast down, you can finish them off or board their ship and brawl with the enemy captain and crew to capture more treasure. Also notable is the Crouching-Tiger, Hidden-Dragon fight sequence with General Tsao, a Chinese war boss.



The bosses all feel different and the voice acting is a little better than the average game. Sly Cooper 3 was an unexpected pleasure and I look forward to the 4th and 5th titles.



Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Grammar Pimps is here!

When I'm not playing games, reading fantasy novels, or pulling out chest hair, I teach English. The only problem is the huge difference between what I'd like to teach and what my students or school allow me to teach. Luckily, there's a creative solution.



For the last year, I've put a lot of time into building a website called Grammar Pimps and learning a lot as time goes by. Making content has been divided between me and two other fantastic ESL teachers I met a few years back. However, the technical responsibility has fallen on me, and the responsiveness of entering something into Wordpress, and seeing it appear on a webpage instantly makes me pretty giddy. I used to be a lot more tech-savvy than my friends and classmates, but dropped out of that race when I got to university. I think I bought my first new PC and saw how it worked without a lot of errors.


Anyway, the 10 year since that fall out with technology has been spent studying, learning, making, and teaching English as a Second Language in all aspects. I've used movies, pictures, games and a ton of gestures to teach probably 1000 students in my 10 years. These students have been from at least 20 countries, and have been all ages. Currently, I'm in Japan with 16-18 year old students, in a speaking class. Despite the very-focused, single culture and age group nature of my classes, I can't stop the flood of ideas. This isn't how Grammar Pimps was born, but you can think of this as the breastmilk of the newborn. You're welcome for that analogy. Continue to read my blog, but also please visit Grammarpimps.com, just to see something different!


Friday, January 2, 2015

Why, Google?



Web browser. Search Engine. Operating system. Solar panel investor. Self-driving automobiles. Blogger, pictures, Youtube. Google is the shit. Google has been my go-to for so many things for most of my life on this planet. However, 2014 was a rough patch for me and the company products.

ugh...shut up!
In 2013, Google had Asus release the Nexus 7, a sleek and sexy, well-built tablet that ran the most hardcore, least-altered version of its Android operating system. Not to mention it cost 1/3rd the cost of an iPad!! Back then, I wanted one so bad I almost killed a man. Then I got one, and sold my HP THRiVE, which was a shame because THAT device had both an SD slot AND a regular-sized HDMI slot. I was happy with my purchase for a solid 2 years. Awesome device for the gallery, which interacts with your Google Photos and Picasa and makes the device awesome for showing off your galleries, synchs notes with the Notepad application, Gmail works flawlessly, and the case I got was a cover, stand, and also power-saver. Long battery life, snappy applications. And then, in November 2014, Android rolled out with the Lollipop upgrade, and everything went to shit.
...but it WORKS!

This update, in my experience, is worse than the notorious Windows 8.1 migration, and probably the worst operating system update ever released. Lollipop is so bad that I've deleted all data and reset to factory settings 3 times now in the 2 months this shit upgrade has been released. Lollipop has tons of known issues, such as battery life (no problem for me) and wi-fi issues (random drops) to just overall sucking really badly. My biggest issue is that when an app doesn't know what to do, it just crashes and resets my tablet. I was lost in Yokohama, trying to make it to a meeting, and connecting to a free wifi connection and BAM! Google Maps had had enough. Sitting on the train, using the Notes application, writing a checklist of what I'd do with my mother when she came to visit? BAM! Forget that shit, we're gonna reset on you! I've kept the tablet in pristine condition, and deleted apps I don't use, in addition to doing 3 factory resets, yet this device still crashes. This is worse than the most unstable PC I've ever used. Convenience is completely ruined when you have to wait for your dysfunctional device to reset every other use. My 5 year old Windows 8.1 laptop has been in a sleep/wake cycle for almost 2 months now, with no hard resets or shutdowns, and it's fine.

it was SUCH a sexy device...what the hell did you do to it?

The Nexus 7's Lollipop (Androi 5.0) performance is so bad that I'm selling my Google stock and buying an iPad. I'm done with this. Don't release the 'upgrade' unless you're finished, Google. I will still enjoy using you search engine, blogging service, and Youtube of course, but my Android days are over. I will save the extra 300% to buy an Apple device because my iPod has outperformed my tablet, despite being 2 years older.

Update: They released the latest, much-needed Lollipop update, which reminds me of something: updates. I have about 30 apps, after constant grooming to remove unused ones like games. I also turn the tablet to airplane mode to save battery power. At the end of the day when I turn back on my device, I'm greeted by usually 2-3 updates. Per day. I've been lost in Tokyo, finally managed to find a wifi connection only to to wait 2 minutes for the updates to download before anything becomes usable.

This sounds like first world problem griping, but I just wasn't having these issues before that damned Lollipop. I'll get back after some time about how the January 2015 Lollipop update treats me. Is anyone else disappointed?

February update: Apps still update and bog down the system before anything useful. This operating system still sucks. iPad works great!


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