September 30, 2007

Airport Open House

Mountainous Nagano's only airport had a open house today.
There had been a drawing for for rides, but we weren't selected. Nevertheless, we went to explore and, in spite of non-stop rain, we enjoyed it.

Enjoy the photos and Andrew's (10) account with the photos here: Airport Open House

September 26, 2007

Two New Photo Folders: 'Grapes' and 'Rice'

It's harvest time in our valley in the Japanese Alps. When the sun is shining on the grapevines below, the smell of ripening grapes comes even up to my third floor bedroom.

And when riding our bikes though the local fields, it's overpowering-- with the golden fields of ripening rice set against the green mountains having the same effect on our eyes.

I've captured these images all summer with my cell phone camera, fixed 'em up a bit, and posted them on Picasa where you can view them-- two albums, Grapes and Rice. I've added details about our area and how, while cycling, we've watched the cycling of the seasons. Enjoy!

September 11, 2007

Blogging 101: Chapter One-- Learning... Where It's 'Not'

I was asked by several people how I made this blog, so we travel back to when the saga began...

I started when I wanted a website to communicate with my family and friends and for our mission project. I'd made a simple website years ago and learned a bit of computer code to do it, but I'd forgotten most of it. So I prepared for what looked like a long arduous journey by amassing a slew of links in my browser on website creation, and a huge folder on my computer of articles, DIY books, and software. I read. I browsed the Web. I downloaded. I asked experts.

A mentor told me that using programs like Microsoft FrontPage would make a 'bloated, useless' site, so I started learning HTML and CSS (if you don't know, don't ask...) and how to use creation and editing and FTP programs (again, please don't ask). I installed software and started to learn to build a site 'from the ground up'-- and created several versions of my envisioned website.

It was all very good and I still want to do all that some day (don't ask when), but after some time (don't ask how long) I decided to just put something up-- anything. That's when I decided to look into those weird sounding 'blog' things.

I'd become a bit tired of slogging through HTMP, CSS and FTP terminology, so learning yet more made me hesitate, but I was surprised at how simple it was.

Next post: I finally try those 'blog' things

Blogging 101: Chapter Two-- Those Weird 'Blog' Thingies

Breakthrough-- After struggling for a long time to learn all the ins and outs of building, securing, uploading and maintaining my own site, I decided to look into blogging. I read a couple reviews and jumped in. I was surprised to have, not just one, but one blog on Blogger and one on Wordpress-- in less than an hour.

And they looked good. I realized-- duh!- blogs are just websites dedicated to automatically doing what I wanted to do-- to write on line.

I was doubtful. How could anything so easy be good?

I dove into first-- mainly because I'd recently begun using Gmail and liked it-- as well as Google's Picasa for editing and posting my photos on line. They are all part of Google, so I didn't even have to register-- just sign in.

I checked the list of templates, found one that I liked, previewed it and pressed 'save'-- simple, automatic. Next, I found that posting (writing an entry) was as easy as writing an email-- including adding photos and links-- it looked good. Finally I explored the tabbed 'dashboard' control center, and found it easy to understand. And for whatever I couldn't understand, I was able to locate plenty of help pages- including step-by-step tutorials.

Besides changing the template, fonts or colors, 'elements' can be added to customize the page. For example, I added a way for folks to get my updates by email (The small text link that I have on the left of my blog) and a link to allow folks to get my newest updates via a 'feed' to their, in my case, Yahoo home page or news reader (icon at left).

At last I had a fully functioning site and shared it with friends-- who promptly asked me to tell them how...

Next blog: Some Tips to get started

Blogging 101: Chapter Three-- Ready, Set, Blog

Before you go to the site you have chosen-- for example, Blogger, which I described in the previous post, I suggest that you decide on your blog's name and a short line or 'blurb', describing your blog's purpose. Perhaps you should decide and even write something for your profile-- should you want to have one-- about yourself, your family or your group.

You should also decide how much personal information you want to post, remembering that what you write could be used to find out more personal information. See
blogs and privacy.
Also, when you set it up the site, you can determine who can view it, or even password protect it.

You might want to think what digital photos you may use-- as part of your profile or your first posts-- and put them in a 'for my blog' folder. You can even add links to your online photo albums to any photo or story you post . (Like this)

Now, jump in and your blog should be ready to start filling with your news and links in minutes.

To keep people coming to your online journal-- which is the idea, right?-- post as often as possible, and keep the posts small-- bite sized-- and don't forget to spell-check-- that's built in also.

[note: BTW- Please point out any errors on my blog in 'comments' ; )Thanks!]

Now I want to go back to the Wordpress Blog that I started. I have another project that I think would fit better on Wordpress, as they offer website-like pages in addition to the standard blogging format. I'll tell you how it goes and give you a link when it's ready! Happy blogging!

September 05, 2007

Pressure, Boredom, Fear Prompt ‘Refusers’

“Educators are wary about acknowledging this growing phenomenon”... “When school refusers turn 15, principals normally award them graduation certificates regardless of whether they complete their studies. And once children have fallen off the traditional education path, they are left to navigate new territory in the job world”... “That's if they can work at all. Education professor Katsuyuki Hiroki said many refusers become reclusive as adults and can't leave their bedrooms. Hiroki said 1 million adults suffer from this affliction...”

Excerpts from an article By Jessi Hempel writing from Japan for the San Jose Mercury News

Japanese Refusers a Major Issue- by Bruce

A couple of months ago, unexpectedly, an office worker asked me to lunch at her cafeteria. I hardly knew this person-- a foreign national to whom I had previously only given a small pamphlet Somebody Loves You in her own language-- yet soon she was pouring out her heart about her personal life and difficulties.

She first, confidently, told of her many accomplishments at work and of her plans for the future. She then explained that some areas of her personal life had become dysfunctional-- and some of her dissatisfactions and disappointments.

Finally, her greatest frustration-- Her teenage son had become alienated at school and had refused to return. An apparently bright boy, he'd become frustrated, sullen-- hardly leaving his room and, when he did, arguing with his mother.

'What should I do? He's a good boy, smart, but he refuses to try to go back to school.'

After acknowledging how difficult it can be to communicate with teenagers, I sympathized with her son who, like many thousands of other Japanese students, have dropped out due to the school and social pressures.

I asked about her son's interests and abilities, then suggested she give him love, acceptance and encouragement to excel-- perhaps in some area in which he feels capable-- offering a way to gain confidence in himself and for his future. I encouraged her to relax more, to not try so hard-- to make him feel accepted.

Later, I visited again to take some Power Point Presentations on love, forgiveness, bitterness, life's trials and others. These were what she was most excited about on my most recent visit.

'Those pictures and words have helped me so much', she said happily, 'And my son-- I encouraged him and he's responded so much. He apologized for how he's been talking to me and things are going so much better now. May we go to your home to meet your family?'

Since this encouraging development, I feel more motivated than ever to support efforts that have been proposed in our mission community to develop and present material-- drama and songs, for example-- for the Japanese youth that will address common school problems-- like bullying-- and to develop positive attitudes like acceptance and concern for the weak and those in need-- needed counter balances in a world often focused on personal success and measured by personal power and possessions.

Naomi will be going to Tokyo again this month on just such a creative project. They will have several show and also hope to record some original song in Japanese. Please pray for this-- Thanks!

That's Naomi with our 'in-house' drummer and expectant daddy, Tomo-- well, actually it's his wife, Mandy, who is due to have their first next month