How Much Did You Know About the United States?

320px-Flag_of_the_United_States.svgI did another quiz, this time about the United States. Well, here are the answers.

1. What’s the capital of the United States?

It’s Washington, D.C.

2. What are the three largest cities in the US by metropolitan area population?

According to the 2012 estimate, they are: New York City (23,462,099), Los Angeles (18,238,998), and Chicago (9,899,902).

3. What’s the population of the US?

The 2015 estimate is 321,163,157 people.

4. How many states are there?

There are 50, but I’m not going to list them all!

5. What is the largest state by area?

That would be Alaska with an area of 1,477,950 square kilometres.

6. Which state has the smallest population?

According to the 2013 estimate, that would be Wyoming with 582,658 people.

7. If you go directly south from Detroit, where do you end up?

I should’ve been a bit more clear with this question. I meant immediately south, like as soon as you leave Detroit, where are you? I will accept any of the following answers:

  • Canada
  • Windsor, Ontario
  • Ontario
  • Detroit River

So, how did you do? You’ll learn more when I begin Geography Quick Facts, including each state individually. Thanks for participating in the quiz!

Life in Japan on Video?

To get my YouTube channel out of its rather quiet state, I thought I needed something to give it a weekly video series. And then it hit me, Life in Japan!

I will be taking your questions and my answers (including my previous answers) and recording videos. I won’t be reading out what I said, but I’ll give the same answers and expand on it, maybe telling a story or two. If it’s at all possible, I may record parts of the videos in locations that are appropriate. So, if you haven’t done so, I recommend going over to my channel and subscribing to it. You can also watch some of the videos that are already there.

So, who’s interested?

Do You Know Anything About the United States?

320px-Flag_of_the_United_States.svgWith the successful response about Canada, I thought I’d ask about the United States. It seemed not many people were very knowledgeable about Canada, unless they lived there. Of course, most of my readers are Americans, so why not see what they know about their own country? And what do other people know about the USA? So, without looking up the information, I’d like you to answer the following questions. No cheating, please!

  1. What’s the capital of the United States?
  2. What are the three largest cities in the US by metropolitan area population?
  3. What’s the population of the US?
  4. How many states are there?
  5. What is the largest state by area?
  6. Which state has the smallest population?
  7. If you go directly south from Detroit, where do you end up?

I will be marking your answers, just like I’ll be marking the Canada answers. If you don’t do well, then you can learn a lot about the United States with Geography Quick Facts, coming soon!

Life in Japan: Fitting In or Giving Up?

Japan has a far different culture than what I grew up with in Canada. There are so many things that are interesting, yet not always easy to understand or deal with. This week’s question comes from barnraised:

Do you ever find yourself just “tired”? Of trying to fit in, to please?

Occasionally. It’s not often, though. There are times that I get frustrated with procedures, but who doesn’t? That happened in Canada (government procedures, long wait times). But remarkably, I found it rather easy to fit in in many ways. My personality type is a good match for Japan, as I am an introvert who tends to enjoy being quiet. On the train, apart from being a foreigner, I look like everyone else with my nose in a book or looking at my phone. I have no trouble shopping, no trouble with work, and I even have no trouble getting my annual health checkup (I know the procedure). I can’t say I’ve become tired of much of anything, except for a few small things.

One is the politeness level in shops. I find the constant “Irasshaimase (welcome)” kind of tiring. But what I was used in Canada was that everyone said thank you, including the customer. In Japan, customers treat the employees without any kind of respect. No thank yous at all. The staff are incredibly polite, but the customers are not. They’re just totally indifferent.

On the trains, I get tired of how some people can be so impatient that they’ll push people out of the way or stand in the middle of an open train door while many others are trying to get out. And then there are the people who hog the priority seats and don’t give them up to pregnant or elderly passengers. This is not Japanese culture, this is commute-induced laziness and rudeness.

Although this is nothing about fitting in, I find it somewhat baffling how so many people in Japan seem to think only Japan has four seasons. And the “We Japanese” phrase that many people use give the Japanese culture a kind of Borg hive mind mentality that I just can’t get myself into. I’m an individual, and I don’t think or even want to say “We Canadians.”  And I actually find that most Japanese are very individual. It’s part of their education that they’re told to just go with what the majority say and don’t think for yourselves.  Creativity and innovation are suffering in Japan because of this.

But there’s one thing I have to say about living in Japan. No matter how long I live here, or even if I became a citizen, I would never actually fit in. Japanese culture won’t allow me to. Everyone will always say I’m just a visitor, and I’ll never understand what it’s like to be Japanese, or that I’ll never understand anything about Japan or Japanese culture. I could become the greatest expert of Japan, know the language and culture better than anyone else, live it exactly how the Japanese do, and yet, I will still be called an outsider who doesn’t understand anything. Also, my daughter, a Japanese citizen, will never be fully accepted by Japan as Japanese. She’ll always be considered a foreigner, even though she is Japanese! Miss Universe Japan Ariana Miyamoto has the same difficulties.

I hope that answers your question. It wasn’t easy to think of how I was tired of anything in Japan, but there were some things I just would not be able to do to fit in.

Have a question about life in Japan? Go here and ask in the comments.

How Much Did You Know About Canada?

320px-Flag_of_Canada.svgI asked some questions about Canada earlier today, and now it’s time to give the answers.  How did you do?

1. What’s the capital of Canada?

This is a pretty simple one. It’s Ottawa. It seems Montreal was a common answer, but the correct answer is Ottawa.

2. What are the three largest cities in Canada by metropolitan area population?

The common answers were Toronto and Montreal, but I also saw Quebec, Ontario (which is a province, not a city), Vancouver, and Calgary. Well, here are the answers, as of the 2011 census:

First is Toronto with 5,583,064. Second is Montreal with 3,824,221. Third is Vancouver with 2,313,328.

3. What’s the population of Canada?

We got some widely varying answers from as low as 5 million to as high as 80 million. Well, the official estimated population as of 2015 is 35,749,600. Were you close?

4. How many provinces are there?

There are 10 provinces and 3 territories. The provinces from west to east are: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. The territories are: Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.

5. What’s the most widely spoken language in Canada?

It looks like most people got this one. English, of course. 56.9% of Canadians speak English as a first language, while 21.3% speak French as a first language.  16.1% speak both languages (bilingual).

How did you do? I hope you learned a bit about Canada. In the future, I’ll be covering all of the countries in the world, including Canada, with the Geography Quick Facts series. You’ll be able to learn about countries in a quick and easy way. Thanks for answering the questions.

Do You Know Anything About Canada?

320px-Flag_of_Canada.svgWhat do you know about Canada? I’m sure you know the flag has a maple leaf. But what else do you know? I’m going to give you a simple geography quiz. Please answer the questions in the comments without looking up the answer. This will be quick, I promise. But I’d also like you to say where you’re from. Let’s see how well the Canadians and the non-Canadians do.  Ready?

  1. What’s the capital of Canada?
  2. What are the three largest cities in Canada by metropolitan area population?
  3. What’s the population of Canada?
  4. How many provinces are there?
  5. What’s the most widely spoken language in Canada?

I will be marking your answers. If you didn’t do well, then my upcoming series Geography Quick Facts will definitely help!

What to Do With a Dormant Blog

Many of you may know that I run several blogs. This one is the most active, while my Japan blog has only occasional updates at the moment (I will get back to work on it, though).  But there’s one I haven’t updated in quite some time that I’d like to give new life to.

That blog is 365 Rotations. Originally, it was an experiment to take a photo in the same locations every day (or every week) for a year to keep track of the seasonal changes, and eventually make videos to show this. I haven’t actually done that. I’ve taken all the photos, I just haven’t organised them yet. Another thing I’d been doing is keeping track of the daily weather. And that’s where my idea comes in.

You see, I’ve been keeping track of the weather on my phone since my last post. I’ll eventually post them all, and do monthly stats, comparing them from year to year.  I’ll have three years of weather stats by the time we move to Canada, where I’ll start taking weather stats as well.  But my idea is to also do a photo of the day. I’d focus on the day’s weather, like clouds, sunset, storm, lightning, snow, and so on. I’d like to get it started in July, but first, I need to clear up the memory on my phone. Too many photos and videos! So, look forward to more updates coming on that blog soon!

Congratulations America on Joining the Gay Marriage Club

320px-Gay_flag.svgThe Supreme Court of the United States of America has voted 5-4 in favour of making gay marriage legal in all fifty states. States cannot ban gay marriage now.  As a Canadian, I’d like to say to the US, welcome to the club.

I’m not gay (I have a wife and a daughter), but I fully support the right of same-sex couples to marry.  And now they can in the US. That’s some of the best news to come from the US in quite some time.

You know, my marriage would’ve been looked down on several decades ago. I’m in an interracial marriage and my daughter is biracial. Interracial couples also had a struggle in the past, but is quite accepted now. I’m happy to see that same-sex marriage is completely legal in the United States now. Congratulations!

Of course, this is going to piss a lot of people off. A lot of conservative and strongly religious people will be very upset. They view it as a threat to traditional marriage. I don’t understand how it is a threat. Their ability to marry in exactly the same way as before is not affected. Their marriages are not affected in any way whatsoever. So why the fuss? Please inform me why this could be so bad.

Again, congratulations United States!

Authors Answer 34 – Writing Software

Authors have to write, and how they write is usually on a computer these days.  Gone are the days of writing entire books with pen and paper or with typewriter (though some people still do these). There’s a lot of software out there for writing.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 34: What software do you recommend for writing books?

S. R. Carrillo

I don’t really use anything other than good old Microsoft Word and Adobe. All that fancy stuff – Calibre, Scrivener, (Scrivebre?) – just throws me off. The simpler the program, the more streamlined my thoughts can be when I’m trying to get everything down onto the page.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

There are so many options out there that, really, you just have to try a bunch of things out and see what works for you. One that I used to use was a free program called yWriter, and it worked for me for a time, but it didn’t have a whole lot of options for someone trying to turn a bunch of words into a manuscript. What I eventually ended up sticking with was Scrivener, when they finally released their Windows version. I have a definite love-hate relationship with it, but it’s more love than hate. The trick is that it can do so many things that you have to really sit down and play with it and figure out exactly what you want it to do. If you can manage that you can wind up with a beautifully organized workstation for your novel, set up exactly how you like it. And when everything is said and done, Scrivener has all the available options to turn your book into whatever kind of file you want. Using this software I was able to create both a print version and e-book version of “Nowhere to Hide” with only a minimal amount of bashing my head off the keyboard. 🙂

Paul B. Spence

A good word processing program like Microsoft Word? I use Excel for spreadsheets and databases of character and setting information. I use Adobe Illustrator for personal star maps. What more do you need?

Linda G. Hill

Up until last year I wrote on whatever I could get my hands on. I actually started NaNoWriMo in 2006 and my computer crapped out on me – I ended up writing all but the first chapter of 50,000 words in a notebook. (Yes, I counted every single word in my notebook to make sure I had 50K words.) After that, any word processing program would do, as long as I could see my word count. Most recently I was using Open Office, which is free to download. But then I downloaded Scrivener and I haven’t looked back. There’s nothing better out there that I know of for organizing a manuscript. Everything is there at a glance, which I love. I’d highly recommend it. The trial is free for 30 days – that’s thirty days, counted in hours, of actual use. So if you download it and forget about it for two months like I did, you haven’t lost the chance to try it out.

Jean Davis

MS Word. Use the software you know and don’t have to think about. I don’t need spiffy features, I need a software that disappears so I can focus on getting the words out of my head. I set up a template with standard submission ready formatting and write everything in that so when a story eventually edited, it’s ready to go.

H. Anthe Davis

I’ve never used anything fancy.  For years I just used the Write program (.wri).  Eventually I forced myself to upgrade to a proper word-processing program, and now I use LibreOffice Writer, and….that’s it.  I occasionally use spreadsheets to hold some information, but no specialized software.

Elizabeth Rhodes

I love Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die app.  When it comes to getting words on the page, that program will force you to crank them out.  For saving files, I’ve been using MS Word, but I’m lukewarm about the program at best and am open to new suggestions.

D. T. Nova

Either Microsoft Word or a cheaper alternative that works similarly. The difference between different versions of Word doesn’t matter because the more “advanced” features aren’t anything you need. I’ve been using TextMaker and the only disadvantage compared to Word that I’ve noticed is how many words aren’t in the spellchecker.

Caren Rich

I don’t use anything other than Word, so I can’t answer this.

Gregory S. Close

Word still works for shorter projects, but I prefer Scrivener for novels.  Scrivener lets me save all sorts of information within the project for easy reference, including character sketches, place descriptions, and links to online references and/or images.  It let me move chapters around for easy re-structuring, and then export all or part of the product to the file format of my choice.  In Siege of Daylight was about 244 thousand words, so I needed that freedom to drag and drop chapters in order to adjust the narrative flow on a whim and keep it or put it back the way it was.  Word couldn’t handle the abuse.  Scrivener took it stoically and then asked for more.

There are also templates included with Scrivener to help with appropriate set up – getting the Title Page, Copyright Page etc. all in the right place.

Eric Wood

I’ve only ever written short stories, haven’t tackled a whole book yet. I’ve only ever used Microsoft Word because that’s what’s been available and I’m familiar with it. It’s easy enough to delete, rearrange, highlight, and do what I need it do it. It’s simple… a lot like me!

Allen Tiffany

Besides Word, I don’t use any software for the writing, though I’m about to explore Scrinver. I am, though, a big fan of style checkers. I think they are hugely helpful when it comes to fine-tuning your prose. I’ve actually played with a number of them. Here is my quick summary:

HemingwayApp: Free, simple, powerful. Very effective at highlighting awkward or troublesome sentences. Light on diagnosing the issue, which is fine. Just reports that something is not working, so I know where to focus when I edit. Try it.

Ginger: Works in Word, but can be a bit onry at times because of various conflicts it has with Micorosoft. Helpful at spotting some grammar issues, but can often be incorrect. I do very much like the built in Text-To-Speech function. TTS is a powerful tool to help you “proof” your work. In fact, I wrote an entire blog on it.

ProWritingAid: Exhaustive “syle” analysis. Great tool. Works inside Word. Sophisticated and can be customized. Will provide a detailed analysis of your work: Adverbs, sentence length, pronoun use, repeated phrases, etc. The list is long. Very powerful tool. PWA provides so much feedback that it can be overwhelming. You have to learn what to respond to and what to ignore. But if you want a detailed review, this is it.

AutoCrit: Very similar to PWA, but a slicker interface. The downside? Does not work in Word, which kills it for me.

Jay Dee Archer

Up until last year, I was using Open Office to write. I didn’t have anything fancy at all. But that changed when my old computer’s hard drive started failing. I’ve since moved on to Microsoft Word, which is far more versatile, I think. I’ve looked into Scrivener, but until I decide to pay for it, I’m not getting it. Word is working for me for now.

I’ve also used Excel to keep track of data for my world. Lots of stats for each country. But I like keeping things very organised for worldbuilding.

How about you?

If you write, what software do you use? Let us know in the comments below.