I woke up this morning to find that it was snowing. It's not a lot, and it pretty much melts as soon as it hits the ground in most places (creating that dreadful slush everywhere), but it's snow nonetheless.
Seeing is believing, so here's two pictures.
We've been talking about it pretty much since I arrived in Japan, and the original plan was to do it last autumn but obviously that didn't happen, but now it's finally going to happen: we're going to Okinawa in the beginning of March.
Okinawa, for those who don't know, is a group of islands south of Japan. They're quite far from the main four islands of Japan (so far that they're actually closer to Taiwan and the Phillipines). It's in the tropics, which is why it's a bad idea to go there in the summer.
Today I've booked the flights. On February 28th we'll fly to Ishigaki, an island to the southwest of Okinawa Honto (the main Okinawa island) and the southermost city in Japan. At some point we'll go by boat to Naha (the capital of Okinawa prefecture) on Okinawa Honto, and from there we'll fly back March 11th.
Should be a lot of fun!
After another uneventful flight I'm back in Japan. I had a lot of fun in the Netherlands, seeing my family and friends again, but tomorrow it's back to work.
Because I can't really sleep in moving vehicles (aircraft, cars, trains, etc.) unless I'm extremely tired I once again didn't get any sleep on the plane, but since we had personal screens with interactive entertainment on this flight it wasn't so bad. I saw various stuff including The Simpsons Movie, which was okay but not spectacular, but the real surprise was the movie Stardust, which I had never heard of and only picked because the name sounded interesting and because it listed Ian McKellen among the actors (who as it turns out didn't really have a part but only narrates). It was a genuinely fun fantasy movie which I'll probably want to see again sometime (but then not on a 5" screen and without engine noise in the background). If you haven't seen it and like lighthearted fantasy movies (e.g. The Princess Bride) I can definitely recommend Stardust.
Or nearly, anyway.
And it's been quite a year for me. A year in which I found out I would go to Japan, went there, and passed the exams so I could stay. Eight months I spent outside the Netherlands, beating my previous record of six weeks by a large margin.
I left behind friends and family, but made a lot of new friends, visited some great places, and generally had a great time. And I got to see my family again in the past week, and tonight I'm having a new years party with a lot of my old friends which is bound to be lots of fun too.
And there was work, dominated first by the Tokyo University entrance exams, then by lectures and the Rinko, and a lot of reading throughout. Looking forward I hope to get a more solid grasp on my research topic soon, and finish the lectures so I can concentrate on research. Work also meant learning Japanese, which I'm still nowhere near as good at as I would like. I have my moments, in which I construct compex sentences that surprise even me, but most of the time I'm still struggling, mainly lacking the necessary vocabulary to express myself, and the experience in building Japanese sentences on the fly.
What will 2008 bring? I can't say. More good times in Japan, I'm sure. Good progress towards my PhD would be nice too. :)
As I post this, 2008 is only 15 minutes away in Japan. Here I have another eight hours to go. But no matter in which time zone you are: happy new year! あけましておめでとうございます！ (akemashite omedetou gozaimasu)
Every semester, the Graduate School of Information and Communication Engineering at the University of Tokyo holds a special seminar (in Japanese: 輪講 rinko) where the various students give a presentation on a topic that will likely be related to their research (although people switching subject entirely afterwards is not unheard of :P ). Basically you do a survey of some recent papers in your field. Since I'm a new student, I had to give a presentation as well (in the future I will need to attend this seminar but I won't need to do another presentation myself).
This presentation is taken rather seriously. Although it is only 25 minutes long, everybody makes an aweful fuss about it. I don't think there was this much to do about even my final presentation for my Master's degree. :)
They even made me do two rehearsals beforehand with some members from my lab. Although I'm not particularly fond of doing that, one positive result was that this is the first presentation in years where I didn't go over time. I had 25 minutes, and I did it in 23.
Now I've passed this particular hurdle, I should really start looking into what exactly I want to do for my research (I have a general idea, but nothing fixed yet). Not that I won't still be busy in the mean time: next week I've got another paper to do for the Web Engineering lecture, and I also have a presentation coming up for Distributed Systems. Neither of which should be anywhere near as time-consuming as the Rinko stuff, though.
On top of which, I seem to have cought a cold somewhere. :( It doesn't look like it's going to be too bad though.