Sunday, May 29, 2011

Suicide by Train in Japan

A sad reality about life in Japan is that it is quite bleak for some. I suppose that is the case for people throughout the world. Japan however does have one of the highest suicide rates in the world.

After 3 plus years living in Japan and traveling on trains, I have grown accustomed to trains being late for various reasons. Sadly, the most common reason is suicide. Many people chose to end their lives by jumping in front of trains as they are pulling into the station.

The JR (Japan Railway), the rail line I use most often in the Kansai area deals with this problem a lot. Some stations have digital information signs that explain to you why a train delay has occurred and what lines are affected. I took this picture in Akashi Station with my phone.

Human Damage Accident = Suicide

My Ten Big Adventures

I think everyone has a little inner adventurer in them. For some people, that adventure might be as simple as getting on an airplane for the first time. That adventure might be gathering the courage to quit a job they dislike and move on to something new and more rewarding. For others, that adventure might be in the classic, “Indiana Jones” style, bush whacking through the jungles of South America or seeking treasure in the West Africa.

Everyone has a different concept of adventure and everyone has a little bit of adventure somewhere in the back of his or her minds.

I suppose I have an adventure bucket list so to speak. There are certain adventures I’ve dreamed about taking one. These are various things I’ve thought about throughout my adult life. These are the things I hope I can do before I’m too old to do them!
Here they are, the adventures I hope to someday have (I only chose 10 and they are randomly ordered):

1. Mt. Fuji – about 300,000 people hike this mountain every year. I would like to be one of them. It’s not that far away from here and it is very doable!

2. The Dempster Highway – the most northern highway in Canada. 736km from Dawson City, Yukon (about 40km from there) to Inuvik. I want to drive this highway in September.

3. Appalachian Trail – 3510km hiking trail in the United States. It goes from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine. This trail is famous for the number of hikers who hit it every year and its thru-hikers (what I would want to do), hike the entire trail in a single season. I have been reading about this hike for years. I especially loved Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods.”

4. Marathon Des Sables – 243km ultra marathon across the Sahara desert in Morocco. It is a 6 day staged race in which you must carry your own food, water and supplies! Wow! I get hot and steamy just thinking about this one!

5. Cross Canada Drive – St. John’s, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia. If we had a nice comfy ride, this would also be a great family trip (my wife might want to kill me half way through though…I’d probably drive her nuts!).

6. Sail on a tall ship – lots of tall ships would stop by my hometown of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia when I was a kid. I always imagined spending a few weeks on one. I know that you can actually drop some coin and often join the crew for a week or two. I would love to sail around on a tall ship. I could throw up over the side of a ship the old fashioned way!

7. Spend a month on an archeological dig – I realize that this would mostly entail me moving wheelbarrows filled with dirt, sweating and being eaten alive by bugs (or freezing my backside off depending on the time of year), but it would be interesting. I suppose a lot of that might have to do with what type of site we were excavating.

8. Cycling Ireland – I would love to spend a summer slowly cruising around rural Ireland by bicycle. I’d love to sleep in tents, pubs and country inns. The whole time, Guinness would fuel my ride. This would be a great family trip!

9. TGO Challenge (Hiking across Scotland) – this is an annual, non-competitive coast-to-coast hike across Scotland. The walk is between 288-320km and you have 15 days to complete it. Coming from Nova Scotia (New Scotland) I suppose I have always had an interest in the history and geography of Scotland.

10. Cycle Across Canada – I’m not a big cyclist, but I like bicycles and I like camping. Why not!

Do you have some adventures planned or still in the dream stage?

Follow my daydreams and adventures on Twitter: @jlandkev

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rainy season in Japan: A Survival Guide

How to Keep Upbeat and Happy During the Rainy Season in Japan: A Survival Guide

The rainy season has begun here in Japan and anyone who lives here or is thinking of moving here should know that every year, for a few weeks, we are locked in a world of constant rain and general wet misery. This bleak and dreary weather can often lead some to become depressed. If you follow my quick and easy tips though, you’ll never feel gloomy again during Japan’s rainy season!

1. Wear Hawaiian shirts everyday. It may be gloomy outside, but it will be a party everywhere you go!

2. Have loads of electric fans stationed throughout your apartment to dry the clothes you have to hang inside (no dryers here).

3. Install a large inflatable palm tree in the corner of your living room. It will give you that tropical feeling you so long for. My wife doesn’t know I plan to do this and she probably won’t like it too much, but I know my son sure will!

4. Booze! Lots of booze may help you forget this dreary period of the year. Go on a bender until rainy season is over. You’ll be just like a beautiful butterfly emerging from your drunken cocoon in the summer!

5. Quite your job and move to a desert region. Once the rainy season is over, move back to Japan and beg for your job back (it might just work).

6. If you are a runner like me, don’t let the rain discourage you. People in Japan may not run in the rain, but you sure did back home in Canada, America, U.K etc. Don’t forget your soaking wet running past!

7. Wear sunglasses everywhere you go and complain about how bright it always is! Convince yourself that it isn’t cloudy! Young women all around Japan wear large sunglasses inside, outside, during the daytime and'll blend right in!

8. Always keep the lights on in your apartment and buy several extra lamps. Make your apartment as bright as possible. Sure, it won’t be good for your power bill, but you’ll feel more cheery!

9. Drink heavily….ah wait…I already mentioned that one.

10. Only eat food from India, Jamaica, Korea and Mexico. Spicy food will warm you up. With that increased body temperature you might be fooled into believing it isn’t so damp and crappy outside.

Follow these tips and you’re sure to have a far more enjoyable rainy season here in Japan.

Also, don’t forget to take them with a grain of salt ;)

You can follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev

Friday, May 27, 2011

Why I need to watch more television

Popular culture is in a way like food. We consume it on a daily basis and often we need an understanding of it, at some level, in order to carry on conversations with our peers, colleagues, friends and random people we meet. We don’t necessarily have to consume an inordinate amount, but we must eat a little for fear of being left out of the conversation. These days, I feel a little left out!

During my childhood and teenage years, there were specific television programs I eagerly anticipated all week long, shows that were special events on certain nights of the week. Like most children/teens in Canada, I spent a fair amount of time propped up in front of the ole boob tube.

As I got older and moved on to university, I found that I was spending more time away from home or at least a television. Instead of watching TV, I was socializing with friends at coffee shops and later bars. We would sit around and listen to music and talk as opposed to watching television.

In my early twenties, post-university, I became a college student, studying 3D graphics and design. I spent every free moment I had creating 3D models and learning about game development. There was no time or even interest in watching television (Aside from season one of “Survivor” which I loved!).

Post-college life involved me working very long hours at a game development studio. I worked a lot and did freelance 3D design on the side. I did have some time for television, but by that time had become a full-fledged tech geek! My roommate had a satellite dish and we would spend evenings, when not working, drinking beer and watching Tech TV (I loved the show “The Screen Savers”.).

Soon after that I found myself living in South Korea, working as an English teacher. I had cable television, but most channels were of course Korean. I did however start watching more television again. I didn’t have a computer during my first year in Korea so had little Internet access (after years as a tech-gek I was purposely going “anti-tech”). I would watch AFN (American Forces Network) a television channel run by the American military for U.S. service personnel in Korea. I was able to watch American sitcoms (Fraiser seemed to be on at least three times a night, seven nights a week) and shows like David Letterman. It was sort of refreshing.

Soon enough I was busier and busier at night with my social life, Tae Kwon Do classes and travel that I would rarely watch TV. That continued for the rest of my time in Korea.

I made the move back to Canada and then to Japan with my wife. By the time I was in Japan I was a full-fledged, hard-core You Tube video blogger. I ate, breathed and lived You Tube. I was having so much fun making videos, watching others’ videos and communicating with the hundreds of people emailing me and commenting on my videos. I simply had no time for watching Canadian/American or any other television! When I got home from work or had any free time, I was plunked down in front of You Tube. I really loved it, but I wasn’t consuming the culture that so many others were.

I started to notice over time that I was missing certain cultural references. I am a massive fan of the daily radio show from Canada called Q. It is a culture and arts show. Often they would make references to shows such as Mad Men, Dexter, or 30 Rock and I had never seen any of these shows.

Although I’ve never been a big television viewer, missing these cultural references is a little troubling for me. I realize that I don’t want to consume too much pop culture that way, but some would be good for me I think. By consuming a modest amount of popular culture from Canada or America I would at least feel a little more included in some conversations. I would feel a little more “with it” I suppose.

Now on the other hand, I think it is a healthy thing that I’ve never been faced with an episode of Jersey Shore or some of the crappier fare, pop culture has to offer back home. I honestly can’t afford to lose any more brain cells, the kind that might face extinction by having too much reality TV pointed in their direction.

When people ask me, “Do you watch TV?” I can honestly say “No.” Do I say that because I am a cultural elitist? There’s not chance of me ever being that! I am pretty damn blue-collar when it comes to most things. I’ll take a cold beer in a pub any day over a glass of wine in a fine restaurant. I am a meat and potatoes guy in the true sense of the term. I haven’t watched TV for years because I have been doing other things. Now, I can honestly sit back and say that I would like to watch some television. I would like to at least know a little more about contemporary pop culture.

The irony is that I have been so wired into social media for the past few years that you would think I would know more about the cultural landscape than many. I find myself in quite the opposite position though.

Time to watch some TV.

I need to eat a little more pop culture!

You can follow more of my thoughts on TWITTER: @jlandkev (Japan-Land Kevin)

Monday, May 23, 2011

5 things to do when you're sick

I am sick. It’s official. It came out of nowhere. Some coworkers couldn’t make it into work today because of illness, but I felt great. I suppose I did have some minor “blahs” to the heavy rain all day, but aside from that, was ready to teach and excited about hitting the road early in the morning for my first training run in several days (looks doubtful that run will happen).

I am feeling worse with every passing minute and will crawl into my cocoon (aka…bed) soon. I was however able to construct one piece of (out of 2) IKEA furniture that was delivered to our place this evening.

I decided to come up with a list of things to do when you suddenly become sick, but definitely have to go to the work in the morning:

1. Drink boat loads of water, herb tea and other hydrating fluids.

2. Take some over the counter cold medicine (not sick enough to necessitate a trip to the emergency room). Unfortuantely, cold medecine in Japan is pretty weak compared to what I am used to in Canada and really doesn’t help much. I suppose the placebo affect might be worth something.

3. Build IKEA furniture (but then realize you are too weak to finish the second book shelf).

4. Feel sorry for yourself (I’m really good at this one)!

5. Go to bed….night folks….

DOWN with being sick....especially on cold rainy nights!

You can follow me and my sick self on Twiter: @jlandkev

Sunday, May 22, 2011

You deserve to be angry when...

It recently dawned on me that it has been more than nine years since I left my life as a 3D modeler in the games industry, moved to Asia and became a teacher. There was of course, time for teacher’s college back in Canada thrown in there as well, but I have been in Asia for a long time.

The entire time I have been here I’ve worked in education. I’ve worked in both South Korea and Japan and as a teacher in private language schools and private international schools. I have dealt with many types of employers, students, parents and colleagues. I have had wonderful experiences and some that have been anything but wonderful!

While out for a walk this evening (a beautiful spring going on summer evening here in Kobe, Japan) I was thinking of my own experiences, those of former coworkers and stories I have heard from the hundreds of teachers I have met over the years.

Often I have met “angry” teachers in Asia. At times I have been an “angry” teacher. Sometimes I think you have every right to be angry. Others times, not so much!

As a teacher in Asia…

You DESERVE to be angry if:

1. Your school doesn’t pay you on payday! I have met too many people (including my wife) who have worked for a school that only paid them part of their salary or none at all come payday. There are many fly-by-night organizations in both Korea and Japan.

2. Your school hires you to work a certain schedule or teach certain grades and when you arrive in the country, they change everything at the last minute!

3. The company that hired you seems to be (or just is) completely disorganized.

4. Your coworkers are more concerned with partying than teaching (therefore coming into work every morning, hung over or possibly, still drunk!).

5. Your boss (often in Korea) pressures you to drink on a regular basis and when you explain to him that you don’t like drinking very much, you are mocked!

6. You have to deal with pushy mothers (of students) who have no background as educators, but think they know everything and want to dictate your teaching style.

7. Your school doesn’t support you when pushy mothers are pressuring you.

8. You’re told not to teach too much because the students might become bored. Just play with them and make them happy.

9. Your school has no curriculum.

10. Your school has no training mechanism in place for teachers (it sucks to learn under fire!).

11. Your school tries to convince you that it is perfectly ok for you to work there on a tourist visa (very illegal).

12. Your school fires you in the 11th month of your contract so they don’t have to pay your severance pay or give you a return airplane ticket. This happens from time to time in Korea. Often the school gives some bogus reason to fire you like, “The children were scared of you.” Or “ You weren’t kind.”

You DON’T deserve to be angry if…

1. Your school expects you to actually work! Your school is a business and they have spent a lot of money for you to come to Korea/Japan to work for them and help them earn money. They didn’t hire you so you could “have an amazing adventure and travel experience”!

2. Your school expects you to show up 10 minutes before work! Welcome to a job. Teachers in Canada/America/Australia or wherever definitely show up long before classes begin in the morning and leave long after those classes are over.

3. You don’t get paid for prep (preparation) time. Welcome to reality! The entire time you were in school as a students, your teachers didn’t get paid for prep time either. Teaching is a salaried gig.

4. You come to work hung over on a regular basis and your manager/head teacher gets angry with you. You are being paid a salary to teach. That means you are now a professional teacher. Act professional.

5. Your manager/head teacher is angry cause you came to work drunk. If you did that in a Canadian/American/British school you’d be fired faster than you can imagine. Your license would be revoked as well!

6. Your school expects you to work hard and teach.

7. You have singed your contract, come to Korea/Japan and then realize other teachers you meet earn more than you. Hey, you should have done more research! If your school offered you a certain salary and you accepted, you don’t really have the right to complain about it. Finish your contract and then move on to something else.

8. Your school doesn’t ant you to speak Korean or Japanese in the classroom. They did hire you after all to teach English. They are not paying your salary to practice the language of the country you are in!

Sometimes, teachers in Korea and Japan can have a reputation of being complainers. Sometimes those complaints are completely justified. Other times, not at all.

You can follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev

Sweating in Japan

Growing up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, I faced a varied climate. There were some distinct seasons. We of course were faced with damp, slushy and cold winters. Those were followed by muddy and damp springs. After spring was the shortest season of them all, summer. Summer lasted from about the second week of July until the end of August. The temperatures were arm and relatively dry. We would deal with average temperatures of about 25C, comfortable and warm. After that came my favorite season, fall. The air was crisp and the fall colours throughout Cape Breton’s forests were simply breathtaking.

Fast forward many years and I find myself living in the Kansai region of Japan. The climate is far different from what I grew up with and people deal with the elements in a very different way.

How do the seasons here in Kobe compare with those I dealt with while growing up? Well, there isn’t a lot in common!

In Kobe, there are certainly distinct seasons. Winter is mild and very easy to cope with. I like to refer to winters here as “winter lite”! We basically have no snow at all and the temperatures hover around 5C. Winter in Kobe is like mid-fall back home. I like it, but I occasionally miss the “white stuff.” Spring comes along and temperatures skyrocket very quickly. By mid-May, temperatures are I the mid to high 20’s. Then comes a bonus season! Rainy Season.

Rainy Season is basically a month of wet and a whole lot of not fun. As I am writing this post, the rainy season is beginning.

This is a month of having to hang your laundry inside your house (although clothes dryers are standard in Canadian households, they don’t exist in Japan). It is a month of your clothes not drying, getting moldy and not smelling so fresh. This is a season of testing the strength and durability of a variety of umbrellas and hoping someone doesn’t steal your umbrella when you leave it in the umbrella stand outside your office. It is wet!

Rainy season passes and we are immediately thrown into the “Japanese sauna”!

Summer in this area of Japan is brutal. It is hot and very humid. Often, with the humidex, temperatures reach the high 30’s and at times the low 40’s. You sweat from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. Then you sweat in bed!

Summer in Japan is all about having high power bills in your house because of the air conditioner (even though many Japanese people refuse to use the air conditioners they have) and pointing fans in every direction you can think of.

During my first summer here, I was often self-conscience about the amount I was sweating. I was embarrassed about the fact that the underarms of my shirt were often wet. I was embarrassed about constantly having to wipe the endless waterfall of sweat from my brow. Then I began to look around and noticed that I wasn’t alone. Most of the people around me were sharing the same misery! Most men were also soaking through their shirts and I realized most people carried “sweat towels.” Small towels used to wipe their brows, necks and faces. Both men and women would constantly use these towels. Construction workers normally just tie a white towel around their heads like a bandana to soak up the moisture (I’ve even seen a few dorky foreigners do the same).

Once the sweltering nastiness of summer passes, we have fall in Japan. Fall here is much like mid-summer where I grew up in Canada. It is still pretty warm, but at least the sweating pretty much stops.

Then we’re back to winter and the cycle continues.

Conclusion: Weather here is a lot different than what I grew up with and summer here REALLY sucks!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Beautiful Japanese Pond

Although I wasn't able to write a proper post this evening, I wanted to leave something for everyone to enjoy. My son has been feeling under the weather the past few days and that coupled with my Running to Help Japan training hasn't left a lot of time for writing.

I took these pictures today of a wonderful little pond not far from my school.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Becoming a Superhero

Am I a superhero? Of course not! I’m nothing at all like a superhero. I’m not particularly strong. I can’t see through walls. I can’t morph into an animal. I can’t fly and I’m definitely not the bravest guy you’ll ever meet. I’m certainly not a superhero.

I’m not Superman or the Green Lantern, but I do find a definite appeal in doing things others can’t or simply don’t want to try. Like most people out there (not everyone), I do want to be noticed. If I were happy blending into the woodwork I probably wouldn’t have dedicated years to making hundreds of You Tube video blogs and writing hundreds of posts on blogs now defunct and still in existence. I’m not a superhero, but I do enjoy some amount of attention. That’s a natural thing!

Over the years I’ve done a lot of things to “get noticed.” Growing up I was definitely the class clown. In university I got into acting and had parts in several plays and made “interesting” music as a drummer in several indie bands. I then went on to be a professional dinner theatre, improv comedy performer and bar band drummer.

Now I am a teacher and I suppose that to is a way to perform. Everyday I get on a small stage for a captive audience and it is very important that I both educate and entertain them!

I suppose in a small way though, part of me does romanticize about the “superhero” aspect of existence. In a small, yet rather realistic way, I have been trying to achieve my own personal “superhero” status. In early 2008, when I first moved to Japan from Canada I promised myself I would run a full marathon that same year. I had never run a race distance over 10k, but vowed to do it. I suppose it was something to check off on my “things to do in life” list (My list is long and varied. Some other goals involve going to the North Pole and spending a summer drinking and camping my way around the countryside of Ireland!)!

I ran my first full marathon that Fall (2008). It was a slow time, but I did it! That was my goal. I realized I had completed something most people would never try to do. It felt good. I ran more races over the next few years and consistently made much better times with everyone.

Now I find myself in the position of running a 60k run to raise money for a charity (Running to Help Japan). I will also run the Osaka Marathon and maybe the Kobe Marathon (if I get into that race) this autumn. This particular goal feels good in many ways. Some reasons are selfless and some are selfish!

I realize that by running practically a marathon and a half is something most people will never do. Many marathoners would never do this. I also realize that there are many others who have run MUCH further distances. In the world of athletics, what I am doing is nothing outstanding. In the world of runners, I am no superhero. I’m just a guy running 60k.

In my little world though, amongst my family, friends and coworkers, it is special though. I suppose within my community of You Tube viewers and blog readers it is special. It is special because those who know me well; know that I am not really an athlete. I’m a regular guy, realizing a little later in life that I have become an athlete (sort of). I’ve come to realize a new potential.

I can also do something I have never done before; I can raise a lot of money for a good cause. At the time of writing this post, I have raised almost $2700 for Save the Children Japan and their relief efforts in the areas of Japan hit hardest by the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. I am happy that this amount of money will make a real difference in the lives of Japanese children, but also have to admit that it makes me feel good about myself that I can do this for others. I suppose I am a little selfish in that regard.

This whole running thing has also captured my imagination in other ways. I am curious to see what I can make my body do. I know I have some intense stubbornness and mental fortitude, but once I lay down the base of physical training, I think I will be able to do some pretty amazing things. Again, not necessarily amazing compared to great athletes, but for me. I run for me.
I suppose now, I run for my son as well. He is only 10 months old, but I do run for him in many ways. I want to be more fit. When he starts running and playing outside I want to be able to keep up with him. I want to be healthier and fit to live a long and energetic life as his father. Also, I want him, when he is a little older to come to my races and look up to me. I want my little boy to see me as a “superhero” I suppose.

I have dreams in my own little running life. Next year I plan to run my first 100k race. I hope to someday run the Marathon Des Sables in Morocco (running in the Sahara Desert just seems so badassed!). I would love to run a big 100-mile race in America like the Western States 100. I would love to hike the Appalachian Trail and the Trans Canada Trail.

I have many dreams.

I am not a superhero.

In a small way I would like to be one though.

You can Follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev

A Contest for Runners

Check out my "Running to Help Japan" blog for more information.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Annoying and Dumb = Annoying and Dumb

As someone who has been a blogger and video blogger for about seven years, I have dealt with ten of thousands of comments and emails about my videos, blog posts and general questions about life in Asia. Most of the comments are supportive and kind. Some are rude and mean-spirited and some are simply annoying and dumb!

Supportive and kind comments = good!

Rude and mean-spirited comments = no worries (been online a long time and have a thick skin/don’t even notice them).

Annoying and dumb = annoying and dumb!

I want to take a look at some of the most annoying and repetitive comments I have found on my You Tube channel over the years. One of the most annoying and reoccurring problems is when people send you an email with a question that they could have easily found an answer to if they had just done a Google search!

A variety of annoying (so you all know, I have worked as an English teacher, elementary school teacher international school teacher in South Korea, Canada and Japan):

1. How do I get a job as a teacher in Korea and/or Japan? (Google it!)

2. How do I get a job in Asia? (What? What kind of job? Where are you from? What is your skill set? What? Be more specific and then Google it!)

3. I think Korean/Japanese girls are hot. How do I get one? (Come to Asia and try not to be a loser…then maybe you can get one!)

4. Can you recommend a recruiter? (No!....they are all scumbags!)

5. I know you said you don’t know anything about recruiter in you video/blog, but can you recommend a recruiter? (Drop dead!)

6. Which country did you like more, Korea or Japan? (Japan…my wife is from here…I’m biased.)

7. You shouldn’t make so many cuts in your video edits…it’s annoying. (I go to commenter’s channel and they have no videos, which means they know nothing and therefore I dismiss their opinion!)

8. Your walking videos are too shaky and they make me nauseas. (I go to commenter’s channel and they have no videos, which means they know nothing and therefore I dismiss their opinion!)

9. You suck! (…and I have more than 18,000 subscribers on You Tube so apparently I don’t suck as much as you!!!...that was smug…hehe…sticking my tongue out like a 4 year old!)

10. Get out of Korea! (I did many years ago….obviously you really didn’t pay attention to the part of my video where I aid I am not in Korea).

11. I hear English teachers in Korea/Japan make a lot of money. Is that true? (No it isn’t! Teacher often make very little. In Korea they make a low middle class income at best…Japan; not much better).

12. Promote my channel please. (Show me you have the goods and maybe I will. You better have at least two-dozen cool vids or a lot of great blog posts!)

13. Please make videos about anime/manga/otaku culture. (Sorry….none of these are interesting to me…I know nothing about them)

14. Make videos more like –other blogger’s name—(No! I’m not them.)

There are many more annoying and weird comments. These are some basic and very general ones. If you are a blogger or a vlogger you probably commiserate with this post.

Follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why is Twitter So Much Fun?

Twitter is fun. It’s just that simple. Well, that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it! . I think it’s great. I use this app everyday. I use it when I wake up in the morning to see how my twitter friends (tweeps) are doing. I use it to pass the time on my commute to and from work. I use it to follow the latest in breaking news. I use it to spread the word about my blogs, videos and charity I’m working on. I also use it to ramble about the silliness of day-to-day life and the strange things I observe while wandering the streets and train stations of Japan.

My Twitter Story:

I began using Twitter about a year and a half ago. I was by no mans an early adopter. I had of course heard of it a lot and knew many people using it. I just hadn’t caught up. I started using the Twitter page itself when I opened my @jlandkev account. Then I installed Tweetdeck on my desktop. It was interesting to use, but not particularly fun. I could only use it a little at night when I got home and missed most of what people where tweeting about throughout the day when I wasn’t in front of my computer.

A little more than a year ago, I got my first smartphone. I bought an iPhone and that was the Twitter “game changer” so to speak. On the advice of some folks I installed Twittelator on my phone. It was so much fun. I could tweet and read tweets from others wherever I was. Although cool to me, I think my wife was thoroughly annoyed that my face was always buried in my iPhone, laughing about something that someone, somewhere had written.

I realized that Twitter was a great way to promote my videos on You Tube. It was even more useful in promoting my blog posts. It seems that the people who are really engaged by Twitter are more “text oriented” people such as bloggers. Many who are into “visuals” such as video blogs, don’t seem to have such a strong interest in Twitter (my observation).

On May 11, 2011, when the massive earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan, Twitter was the fastest way to get news. I followed more than a dozen news sources and what stood out more than anything were the blogggers. Japan-based bloggers throughout the country stepped up to the plate and were tweeting news much faster than traditional news organizations could churn it out. By following some good people, you could be way ahead of most when it came to news of the disaster. News organizations such as BBC, ABC, Fox, CNN, etc., were following the same bloggers I was and simply reporting what those bloggers were saying!

I was on vacation the day after the disaster happened and for almost three weeks I was constantly tweeting about the disaster and retweeting amazing bits of news from so many sources. Many friends back in Canada commented that they appreciated me keeping them updated in such an instantaneous fashion. The number of people following me jumped very quickly and I was even contacted by some news organizations in Canada about the disaster. Since I was of course nowhere close to the affected areas, I just referred them to solid bloggers who were.

Since the news cycles around the world have changed and even domestic news about the disaster has waned, I don’t use Twitter as ferociously as before, but I still use it everyday. With my job, I don’t check it throughout the day while I am teaching, but I do check my feed at break time and after work of course. It is a lot of fun!

Now who do I follow on Twitter? I follow a pretty broad spectrum of people and organizations. I follow news agencies, reporters, charities, bloggers, runners, teachers, friends, family, etc. I don’t tend to follow big celebrities such as singers and actors. I find that they normally have little to say, yet speak a lot!

Twitter Integration:

Twitter can be even more fun when it is integrated into other iPhone apps.

I recently started using the Runmeter iPhone app while training for an upcoming marathon. A great twitter feature is that once I begin a run, it sends a tweet informing everyone I am now running. Then, when someone sends me a message on twitter, the app reads it to me as I am running (in a pretty decent voice). It is great for motivation! On June 12, 2011, when I am running my ultra marathon for Save the Children Japan, please tweet me a lot! I will hear them all as my running app reads them to me.

Instagram is another fun way to use Twitter. It is a free app for the iPhone and it allows me to take pictures, add really cool filters and share them within the Instagram social network. It also posts them to Twitter and Facebook so I can share them with my friends there.

Am I addicted to Twitter? Maybe a little. I have to admit that I don’t use it as much as I did a few months ago.

Is it a useful tool? As a blogger and aspiring “writer-guy” it certainly is for me. I currently have more than a thousand followers on Twitter and it is a great way to share my blogs and other projects with a wider audience.

In my previous post I mentioned how I am moving away from one form of media (You Tube), but I am not moving away from media altogether. I am still an avid Twitter user and blogger.

Am I a bit of a Twitter fanboy? I suppose so. If you think that’s a really bad thing; I stick my tongue out at you and say, “ blah blah waggle blarg blaaaaaaahh!!!” in my best four-year-old voice!

You can follow me on Twitter here: @jlandkev

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Social Media Burnout

Things haven’t been good lately. A self-admitted social media addict, I have been involved in it, (social media) in one way or another for many years. I wrote my first blog in the late 1990’s while a student in Canada (all html in Notepad). I was studying 3D graphics and later worked in the game development industry during and post “Internet Bubble” breaking.

I left tech completely and set off for Asia. I quit my job as a 3D artist at a company and gave up my freelance contracts and became a teacher. My first year in Korea was a complete about face from technology. I had loved it so much, but it quickly led to my “burn out” in 2001. That was my first tech melt down so to speak.

That first year in Korea I didn’t even have a computer or even a cell phone. I would email my parents once or twice a week from a computer in the staff room at school. I would occasionally call people on the telephone, but normally, I would just “pop” by my friends’ apartments to see what they were up to and vice versa. That year was filled with work, martial arts training, drinking with friends, travel and general adventure.

Fast forward to 2006. That's the year I discovered You Tube. I had a Japanese girlfriend in Korea (now my wife) and we would watch videos about Japan. I opened up an account so I could email people like tokyocooney with questions about Japan.

Soon after that I purchased my first video camera. I bought a Sony Handycam at Emart in Busan, South Korea. I started making crappy videos and editing them in Windows Moviemaker. Months later I would move back to Canada, but the You Tube hobby continued.

By the time I moved to Japan a little more than three years ago, I was downright obsessed with You Tube and vlogging. I was all about building community, socializing and interacting with fellow bloggers and having a great time. Things got to the point where I had thousands of subscribers, received dozens of emails every week (often asking the same questions continuously) and started to find it hard to keep up with things.

My love of You Tube continued and in early 2009 I became a You Tube partner. In 2010 I had a chance to visit the Google campus in Tokyo when I was there for the Tokyo Marathon and met many amazing fellow vloggers.

By 2010 I was juggling several blogs, two You Tube channels, had become very active on Twitter and was doing numerous collaboration videos. It was a lot to handle. Did I mention I had a full time and very demanding job as a teacher and was a husband?

By mid 2010 I was a new father and things changed a lot more. I had far less time to sit in front of a computer maintaining my “social media empire.”

My interest in You Tube began to diminish a lot during 2010 and more so this year. The simple amount of time needed to maintain what I had created was simply too much. I was spending up to and above twenty hours a week parked in front of my computer working on You Tube and the community around it (that was before my son came along). I was no longer watching movies or television shows. I was no longer reading books. Everything was about maintaining my community and working on my You Tube success. I was taking things far too seriously.

Recently, I have also started to explore other areas of interest. I am now more interested in writing than shooting and editing videos. I realize I will never be a “superstar” or “professional” You Tuber and would rather channel my energy into more traditional blogging and writing. I also have some other literary projects I am interested in starting this year. My marathon running and charity work have also eaten into that “You Tube time.”

For the first time, I notice that You Tube causes me more anxiety than joy. I have met some incredible people through this social media network over the years, made a little money and have had a lot of fun, but it is now time to take a little break. I will of course pop videos up from time to time about my charity work, projects I am involved in and when I have vacation time, maybe a little more. My involvement won’t in any way what it once was.

I’m not disappearing by any means of course. I am still alive and very well on Twitter and I plan to focus a lot more on my blogging. I will be writing more than before and trying my hat at more traditional writing as well.

Long story short, when something you do stops being fun, it’s time to start doing something else.

I’m still going to be around and in a big way. I’ll just be around in a different way!

You can follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev

Saturday, May 7, 2011

8 Ways to Make a Successful Blog

A constant for me in the previous two or three years are emails of a common theme. People from around the world have often emailed me asking how they can get more people watching their You Tube videos or reading their blog. I have spent about 6 years regularly, and more often irregularly, blogging and vlogging about life in Korea and Japan, about being an educator, about my views on a wide range of other topics.

I have spent more time than I can count chatting and discussing strategies with other bloggers. How can we get more traffic coming to our sites? How can we get more subscribers? How can we become professional bloggers? How can we become successful?

I think I have learned a great deal in my years of blogging. I do understand how you can create a successful blog or You Tube channel (the latter becoming harder these days since You Tube no longer seems to support new talent or even mid-pack partners such as myself). Now I have learned a great many things, but have often not put them into practice. I suppose I have learned how I "could" be more successful, but haven't taken many of the appropriate steps in that direction.

How can I become a successful blogger?

1. Choose a theme and stick to it! Most people who have successful vlogs or blogs have a specific theme and rarely, if ever deviate from it. If your blog is a random mishmash of ideas and topics, it will be hard to draw in a specific following. People with a narrow focus tend to find more success. A great example of narrowing a blog/vlog’s focus is the Korea-based You Tube vloggers, Simon and Martina. They used to make videos only about Korea and being a teacher. They were good and finding some success on You Tube. Once they zeroed in on making K-pop (Korean pop music) videos and created their K-Pop Mondays series, they blew up as You Tubers and are now VERY successful. Their blog is also hugely successful.

Although I know that I myself should be more narrow and focused, I tend not to be. In a way, I am shooting myself in the metaphoric foot!

2. Consistency pays off. If you want people to notice you, you must create a body of work. In order to do this, you must write or shot video consistently. People tend to not pay attention to or simply forget those who only post a new blog a few times a month. A few times a week or more is always better. Once you start building a following, those who really like you will crave content!

I personally have a great deal of trouble producing regular content. With a demanding job, wife and infant son, as well as a marathon running hobby, I have very little time to sit in front of a computer these days.

3. Interact with your readers/viewers. Followers love it when you interact with them by replying to emails and responding to their comments. This gives your readers a more personal connection. They begin to feel like you care about them and they in turn will support you even more. I suppose it is about community building. Unfortunately, as your following grows, this will become more difficult to do.

4. Build and maintain your community. Use other complimentary social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to promote your writing or videos.

5. Toughen up. If you can’t take criticism or rude comments from the occasional Internet troll or someone who disagrees with your point, blogging isn’t for you. The Internet is full of people who have strong opinions and many may be the opposite of yours. There are also a lot of idiots with too much time on their hands. From time to time they may target you. This is part of online life. Don’t take it personally!

6. It takes time. To many impatient people send me emails (which I normally delete and never respond too) about how they have made one or two videos and now they are ready for Internet fame. If you are a blogger or vlogger seeking success, it can take a very long time and a lot of hard work! The now famous You Tube star Wheezy Waiter, who now has hundreds of thousands of subscribers still only had about 200 followers after he had made 100 videos! He was doing it for years before he broke out!

7. Accept failure when it happens. Not every idea for a blog or video channel will work. Sometimes, after trying for a long time, it might be better to just call it a day and move on to a new theme or project!

8. Build a network. Make friends and connect with other bloggers and vloggers. If you have a great online network, they will help you and promote your content. Building a network takes time. You must regularly comment on people’s blogs, interact with them on Twitter and Facebook.

These are all very good pieces of advice. If you follow them, you may achieve success. There is also of course an element of luck involved. Sometimes someone accidentally notices you big and they promote you. Other times, your luck may not be so good.

You mustn’t only produce good regular content; you must also spend a great deal of time promoting yourself. Your blog is a product and you want people to buy in.

I know these rules, but I am often guilty of not following them. I am sometimes scatter-brained so making videos or blog posts on a consistent theme is difficult for me. I also have a lot of trouble producing consistent content and interacting with followers. This is due to a lack of time.

Would I like to be a super-duper successful blogger someday? Of course I would! Will I? Probably not, but you never know (Any famous bloggers out there waiting to notice me?).

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

10 Goals to Shoot For

Although this is not the beginning of a new year I thought I would map out a few of my goals for the rest of this year. I suppose like so many out there, I have goals, large and small that I often think about, but am also guilty of “only” thinking about as opposed to seeing them through.

1. Get back in the habit of posting on this blog more often. I really like writing here and earlier this year, when I was writing consistently, the number of readers here was constantly growing. Time to jump back in a keep developing this great readership!

2. Continue my charity work. As of writing this blog, my Running to Help Japan project is at 52% of my goal. I have raised more than $2500 for Save the Children Japan. Although this charity project I started has been time consuming (spreading the word through social networking) and the training itself, it has been beyond satisfying! I plan to keep it going throughout the year.

3. Learn more about being a good father and husband. I’m just an average guy who can always make room for improvement! I think I am already a good family man, but I know I can focus more on spending quality and meaningful time with the two greatest people in my life; my wife and son!

4. Kick butt in this years’ Osaka Marathon. I was lucky to land a slot in the first Osaka Marathon on October 30, 2011. I am excited to run in another major event. My best marathon time is 3hrs 59mins. I plan to run this one n 3hrs 40mins!

5. To write honest and interesting pieces on this blog (excluding this one of course…hehe).

6. I plan to write my first children’s novel/storybook. I have been a teacher for almost 10 years now. For the past 3 years I have been teaching young learners. I have read hundreds of children’s storybooks. I have my own personal collection of children’s literature here at home. I love storybooks and fun novels for young readers. I’ve been thinking about writing my own for several years now. I realize I have the ability and think I know a fair amount about children’s tastes. This year, I’m going to stop thinking about and get around to doing it! I plan to use my class as a great resource. They’ll be perfect for running my ideas buy and testing material on.

7. Begin re-growing my hair. Never mind…that one isn’t achievable!

8. Refocus my creative energies away from You Tube (I’ve lost the joy for video blogging and it’s no longer rewarding or me) to writing, blogging and possibly podcasting.

9. Focus on life after Japan. Time to seriously begin my teaching career in Canada. Research (where to live) and job hunting will begin this year. I will not limit myself by geography. There is a teacher surplus in many parts of Canada so we will go to an area that has a need.

10. Spend an amazing Christmas holiday in Canada. I’m looking forward to introducing my son to his grandparents and family in Canada, in person. Also, Canadian pizza, Tim Hortons breakfast sandwiches and Sleeman’s Honey Brown Ale are high on my list of priorities!