Contributing to family and society

I’m currently in Japan. Here, I’m trying to spend time especially with my grandmother. Given that I’ll have a vehicle next semester, I need money to pay for insurance and gas, so found a job through a friend. It was full-time, and despite me thinking I could balance family with work, I couldn’t. Because it was physical labor and it took one hour each way to commute to work, I’d barely have enough time to shower and eat before hitting the hay.

After four days of work, I quit and realized I couldn’t contribute to society properly without first contributing to my family. In the mean time, what am I going to do with the rest of my summer?

I want to spend time with family, of course, but when I can I want to see friends in Japan. What I can do to contribute to society is work on open-source projects. I’m reading up on how to do that now. Even though I won’t be paid to do so, it’s a good resume-builder since I want to go into programming as a career. Also, even with some brief reading, I’ve learned a lot about software architecture, not just programming.

My summer classes end this week. Even though I didn’t spend too much time on the classes anyway, it’ll be another requirement off my list for the summer.

If I’m going to be doing open-source development, it’s time for me to put some flavor of Linux on my machine (which I’ve been putting off for a while… shh)

The Challenges of Cooking in Japan

Living in Japan, you have to make many lifestyle adjustments; cooking and baking is one of them.

The other day, my dad made an amazing poppy seed lemon cake using a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Problem was, it used eight egg yolks and I didn’t really have a recipe to use up the egg whites. A few days later my dad made macaroons using two of the egg whites, and I just was given some peppermint candies, so I used a recipe from Simply Recipes to make peppermint meringue cookies. It requires that you cook the cookies for just one minute at 300°F/150°C, using the residual heat overnight to make the cookies nice and fluffy.

The first problem, though minor, is the units, especially for temperature. Most recipes use imperial units for baking, yet most of the world uses metric units and you have to refer to an external source for converting units. Maybe I’m just really lazy.

Second is the ovens. Most homes in Japan don’t have gas ovens, and if you do, you pay through the nose for one. Often, it’s a combination electric oven/microwave (if even that). The size is smaller, AND most models have fans to cool down the oven after it’s used. That means I couldn’t use the residual heat overnight… but I overcame that by simply unplugging the ovens so the fans couldn’t spin 😀

The final and most frustrating problem with this recipe was the recommendation to make it on a dry day. Too bad—Japan, being an island country, can be considered relatively humid almost every day. I should have realized that the recipe would fail when the crushed peppermint candies started to stick to each other, but I pushed on to see if the recipe would work. It didn’t. Everything was gooey in the morning, so I continued to bake them for 10 minutes at 100°C to dry them out, to almost no avail.

End result: the meringues tasted good, but were more of a chewy/icky candy mixture in your mouth, like melted marshmallows sans third-degree tongue burns.

There are issues with cooking in Japan, most of which can be overcome, but with recipes that are humidity-sensitive, it may be best to leave those untested (unless you have a dry room in your home that’s artificially adjusted to have ultra-low humidity).

MLA Basics for a Bible Student at CAJ Using Apple’s Pages

I’m writing this post for a friend who isn’t familiar with MLA format for Bible classes at CAJ, due to the fact that he entered his Junior year in a school where we’ve been practicing MLA since at least middle school, if not earlier.

A template for Pages that has everything of Part One to Four set up. Just open the file and Pages should recognize it as a template.

Part One: Page Setup

First, you need to set up your paper to use A4 so that it doesn’t get fudged up when it’s printed on A4 when your computer’s assuming that it’s printing in US Letter. In Pages, do a (command-shift-p) to bring up this dialog:

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 12.13.07To keep it in A4, go to System Preferences, Print & Scan, then change the default paper size:

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 12.17.56That was fun… maybe. Last step for this part: page margins. The MLA standard has rules for margin sizes, with enforcement of the standard depending on the teacher. Might as well play it safe. Bring up the Inspector dialog by either clicking “Inspector” in the toolbar or hitting (command-option-i):

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 12.22.01Then change the margin settings to 1 inch all over, with half an inch for headers and footers.

Part Two: Name Block and Header

The second part consists of making your paper identifiable by the teacher. This includes your name, teacher’s name, class, and due date. In the header would be your last name and page number of the paper. We can even have Pages set up your date automatically, but I like the control I have manually, so I don’t do that. This is my header:

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 12.32.37


I have Pages set up to automatically insert page numbers for every page of my paper.

The date standard is (day month year), with the month being spelled out in its entirety, while the date and year are typed out in numbers. Set up the header’s automatic page number insertion like so:

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 12.41.52


Under the “Insert” menu item, select “Auto Page Numbers.” The following dialog should show up:

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 12.42.56


Change the settings to account for the MLA standard, with the position being in the header, aligned to the right, then click the big blue “Insert” button.

Part Three: Body

In your paper’s content, the MLA standard wants you to use 12pt Times New Roman. If your paper isn’t already so, change this now. Do the same for the header, as Pages doesn’t adjust the font of your header unless you explicitly tell it to do so.

MLA papers are all double-spaced, meaning that there are huge margins between two lines of text, often so there is space to write notes. Do this in the format bar, where there is a double-arrow line pushing vertically against two parallel lines:

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 12.49.08


Finally, using the blue sliders in the ruler right below the format bar, move the horizontal bar to the half-inch position—this makes it so that you have a half-inch indentation with each new paragraph.

Part Four: Works Cited

The MLA standard wants you to cite where you get your information on a separate page—which makes sense, as the MLA standard is for academic papers.

Insert a page break, then center the title as “Works Cited.” The indentation style for the works cited page is a bit different—it’s a “hanging indent” where the first line of your citation isn’t indented, while every line after the first is. Do this simply by reversing the sliders from Part Three:

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 12.55.37


Part Five: Actually Citing the Bible

The most confusing thing about MLA is the citation style, as how you need to cite an article or passage of the Bible changes depending on the context of the article or your paper. For now, let’s stick to citing the Bible.

If you paraphrase a part of the Bible, you don’t need to say the version, only the passage it came from. This, too, is tricky, because you have to

  1. Find the correct abbreviation for the book of the Bible you’re citing
  2. Use periods instead of semicolons for chapter and verse separation

If you’re quoting directly from the Bible and it’s the first time doing so from that version in your paper, you have to cite which version the passage is from in full, which should be italicized. For the second time and onwards, if you’re using the same edition, there is no need to cite the edition, only the book, chapter, and verse(s).

The final product should look something like this:

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 13.00.57That’s it for citing the Bible. Good luck with your paper!


Stream of Consciousness Piece: “Snow”

Preface: in our English class today, we read Emerson’s “Nature.” This is just an exercise that we did that didn’t need to be publicized, but I’m doing it anyway.

It snowed today. Rare in Tokyo. Because of its rarity, the city goes into a seemingly tranquil panic—panicking because it may mess up the orderly life of the city, tranquil because of the beauty of the fluffy snow.

“Take the bus,” says my mother, looking at the snow outside. It is less than an inch thick. The small road leading into our residential area is covered in snow—packed down, threatening to form slippery, potentially life-threatening ice. My father wakes up, takes a look out the window and casually says “there’s no need to take public transportation; just take your bike like usual.” Cautiously, I strap my boots on and test the ground… an inch of snow, it’s nothing. Unlock my bike, and head down the hill in front of our neighbourhood.

The repeated passing of cars’ wheels have melted and pushed aside the snow and now it’s just water. An inch of snow, it’s nothing.

Down to another minor-traffic road and my wheels slip, but I regain balance without my feet contacting the ground. However, a man on his trike falls over. I get off my bike to help him up, yet he says he can take care of himself. Very well, I go on my way.

The rest of the trip was peaceful; the now-slush snow crunching under my tires, the occasional still-snow patch of snow painting my tires white. The melting snow falling off of branches in eraser-sized clumps. 2:30 PM, there is no trace of the snow from this morning.

The Stress of Dealing with a GPA

Oh, how time passes.

A year ago, I finished my first semester of Sophomore year. I took the year lightly, and although I cared a bit about my grade, I wasn’t necessarily stressed out about my GPA, nor was I striving to turn a B into a B+.

With Junior year already halfway done, I was doing some more research on what kind of grades I need to get in order to be eligible for competition in my desired school’s full scholarship program. Here are the requirements:

  • 1260 or more combined on the math and reading section of the SAT (I already have 1340)
  • GPA of 3.6 or more (they are unclear about weighted or not)

I’ve passed the SAT requirements, but need to show consistency in my schoolwork and since I’m taking the SAT again this weekend, should definitely focus on improving my critical reading and math scores. Currently, my weighted GPA is at a 3.5 or 3.6.

On another note, I’m taking Graphic Design class this semester. It fulfills my fine arts requirement for graduation and it seems like it’d be a class I sincerely enjoy.

Now that I’m stressing out about my GPA, I need to start organizing my time. Working is out of the question if I want to even compete for a full scholarship (which has a less than 10% acceptance rate). Since this school is the only one I’m planning on applying to, I’d have to be accepted (though I’m fairly confident that I’ll be accepted).

To sum it up, I’ll need to step up my game a notch because I’ve been just scooting along, manage my time better, but also live life to the fullest by finding enjoyment in everything I do.

There is something seriously flawed with our educational model.

In Japan where I live, there are two kinds of students: “maths-sciences” types and “language-history [liberal arts]” types. When asked about what I intend to study, these two phrases commonly fly around.

The problem is, as each individual is unique, it’s hard to fit into a set model of study. While I consider myself to be more maths-sciences leaning, I definitely have a gift for language from God. And I have a terrible time with math, although the sciences I’m taking and intending to take rely heavily on math, like Chemistry and Physics.

Moreover, the class I struggle in most is history or social studies. I just can’t memorize facts. I apply concepts rather than spit out what I memorize onto paper. I guess it also has to do with my more programmer-like nature.

All in all, since each person is unique, so is their learning style, and I”m not talking about interpersonal vs. intrapersonal here.

For me, I can successfully have a passion to learn subjects that I’m not too fond of when science is integrated. For example, take this video:

It integrates the study of numbers with neurology and/or psychology. It’s fascinating. I’d love to be able to rapidly see the connections of numbers, including their factors, by just reading a number. Alas, it comes with practice, which I do not do enough of.

What about history, then? I haven’t found a very viable method of integrating science with history, no matter how interweaved they are. The date of a scientific discovery is often irrelevant, and even more so compared to the order of discoveries. As the saying goes, one “stands on the shoulders of giants.” Dates do not matter as long as the order of said discoveries allow for greater application.

Still, I’m pressing myself to study history. I do not want to become part of

“Those who cannot remember the past [who] are condemned to repeat it.”—George Santayana

and it’s not because of all the terrible things that have happened in the past. It’s because it’s a repeating cycle without any progress, much like an Ouroboros:

Endlessly creating and eating its tail, the sad Ouroboros.

If you can come up with a way for me to enjoy learning history and myself integrating other subjects into it, leave me a comment.

If God is good and He is all-powerful, why does evil still exist?

I have believed for a while that by writing, I straighten out my thought process. Recently, I’ve been assigned a project in Bible class that involves the post title. So here goes nothing that is possibly everything.

The question “If God is all-powerful and all-good, why is evil allowed to exist in the world?” has been asked countless times throughout history. The question is typically answered so:


a. God is all-powerful but not all-good, allowing evil to occur. 


b. God is all-good but powerless to stop evil. Therefore, He is not all-powerful.

This argument actually seems plausible. Our assurance of God’s all-everything (minus evil 😛 ) is not so assured any more.

Now, there’s an easy counter-argument to the above statements. The account of Noah and his ark show that God cannot tolerate evil—He actually wiped out everything but animals (which are assumed to be sinless) and the “best in His eyes” Noah and his family. After the Flood, God vowed to never destroy the earth in a flood again. That’s when the rainbow was born. Now, that would mean that the nature of water changed to account for the splitting of the visible spectrum, but that’s for another post. What’s important is that God has proven that He can’t stand evil and has the power to wipe it out—although, sadly, it surfaced again soon after the Flood.

Fast forward to Jesus. Jesus came to remove enslavement from sin, yet even the most committed Christians sin. The whole concept of enslavement to sin is still another post, but the point of this is that Jesus didn’t remove man’s sinful nature.

Revelation tells of the coming judgement from God to purge all evil, this time with various things like disease, earthquakes, and fire. Hey, the promise about floods is still kept ;)… am I supposed to be winking?

Alright, so what are we supposed to do in this in-between time? There are humans whose hearts beat for the sole purpose of causing others suffering. It is a natural result of the availability of free choice. Ever since Adam and Eve, free choice has been a factor in every person’s downfall (be it their own choice or another’s). So, if God really wanted to remove all sin, He’d take away man’s ability of free will. Free will, however, also comes with something else: willful worship and love of God. God is completely capable of removing our free will; He’d be left with robots, though, speaking empty words of praise and love with empty, automated acts of service. And unless you’re really messed up in your head, even humans don’t want robot-like love. How much higher would be God’s standards?

The question about the existence of evil and God encompasses so many theological concepts widely and deeply, requiring much more than a simple (is it?) blog post, or even large book, to explain. All I know is that God, who’s been pretty faithful pertaining to His own promises, will eventually purge all evil, but just not yet. It doesn’t help those who are in need and being oppressed by evil, so that’s why Christians are needed in such an in-between period; we are to be God’s agents of prevention of evil and restoration of harmony while spreading His Gospel.

Honestly, the answers seem so simple that I’m lost as to the validity of what I’ve come up with. How easily will a skeptic dismantle my counter-argument, as the whole point of this project is to provide counter-arguments to skeptics?

Music is not one of my talents

I, like many other humans, enjoy music. I just don’t have any skills in reproducing it in any way, shape, or form.

So, the reason why I decided to pick up a guitar last year was simple: the ladies. My school, populated with highly musical and attractive females, presented a perfect chance to test the waters with music! I convinced my parents to buy this nice guitar.

Thus began my evil plan to use music as bait for my very altruistic personality… *coughcough* NOT.

And that quest has been unsuccessful. The evil conspiring thing isn’t me, and it didn’t take off.

Now that I’m a JAM leader and actively participate in my high school youth group, I’ve decided to do something else: rededicate my guitar and fingers to God.

It’s interesting how being a part of these groups has forced me, in some ways, to take on roles I’ve never thought of doing before.

Hopefully by this time next year, I’ll be able to play a majority of JAM worship songs 🙂

And why did I write about this? Because if I make something public, I try to make a commitment to it.



I’m desensitized.

I’m sick and disgusted with myself.

Today on my way home from a summer ministry trip planning meeting (wow that’s a long title), the trains stopped. It was a 人身事故, or, directly translated, a “human body accident.”

In Japan, this is used whenever a train collides with a person, more often than not a suicide. In fact, whenever I hear 人身事故 at a train station or on the news, I automatically assume that someone attempted or committed suicide.

Tonight was such a night. Walking back from the meeting, I see that a train is stopped right before the railroad crossing. Trains don’t usually do that for more than a couple minutes—it looked like it had been there for ages. I knew something wasn’t right. I had come to a conclusion—it was a 人身事故, or in my mind, a suicide. Soon, an ambulance and firetruck came to the station, sirens full blast. I am ashamed to admit that I was thrilled that my conclusion was correct—I had predicted something from deduction!—I was actually jumping up and down.

“Awesome! It’s a suicide! Now since we know that the trains won’t be running for about an hour, let’s go kill some time!” is basically what I said to the people that were with me. We wound up going to the station to see what was up, because one of our friends was already at the station to head home.

Now, keep in mind that were were a group of 20-30 people. Here we are, a majority of us foreigners, huddled together waiting at the train station so the trains could resume.

What was going through my mind and others’ as well, was “Great. This person just HAD to commit suicide and now I’m getting home late.” Not once did I think about the person or their family. But, being a group of Christians, we began praying by an adult leader’s suggestion.

Of course, we had all assumed that it was a suicide. Later we heard that the person just fell in. Two girls in our group saw the body—the tarps that were used to shield our eyes had draped down and they saw it. Needless to say, they were traumatized… I heard an EKG while the paramedics were carrying the victim away, so I knew that at least at that point the person was alive.

What is it with us, especially myself, that we’re so used to a suicide that we don’t even blink about it? This has to be said of the entire Japanese community. Instead of sympathizing with the family members and friends of lost ones, we shun the victim’s method of exit from this world. This is completely and utterly wrong, and I’m a part of the problem.

The whole thing that changed my perspective and made me realize how sick I am was the Christian community of those 20-30 people. People were breaking down crying. People were on their knees praying for the darkness in Japan to disappear, specifically the darkness in the form of suicide.

I need to change my mindset about suicide and right now I’m so disgusted with myself that I don’t know if I can sleep. And I have Spanish and Advanced Algebra finals tomorrow.

If I can get back to it, I will, but for now I’ll leave you with this: every 15 minutes, someone in Japan commits suicide.

Pessimism—we all have it.

What is there to be thankful for around you?

I can list a few:

  1. Tap water
  2. Internet access
  3. Friends
  4. The fact that I woke up today
  5. …the list goes on…

When was the last time you were thankful for these things? We, as humans, tend to always look on the darker side of things.

The most common jokes about pessimists is that they always see a half-full cup as half-empty.

There is this interesting theory called “Murphy’s law.” It states that “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

With so many variables involved, crossing the street has multiple outcomes. One could collide with a car without looking both directions, cross safely without looking both directions, et cetera.

There is this thing called hindsight. You’ve probably heard it and also thought of it at least once. “Looking back on it, x was a bad idea” is the general format of hindsight.

Through hindsight bias, when something goes wrong, we tend to remember the event. Not so if everything goes fine. Murphy’s law exploits hindsight bias and makes people (even more?) pessimistic.

We, as humans, are a collective hunk of pessimism. We can always find something to complain about, especially in the “first world.”

I’ll try to do this also, so I encourage my readers to come up with 10 things as soon as we wake up to list and start our day off with optimism. It’s a depression-killer too!