Goals for 2015

Although there were not many posts in 2014, I would still like to post my goals for the year, both for myself and to share with others looking to choose their own goals.

First, let’s take a look at last year. To put it simply, I did not accomplish my goals. This year, I will be more focused so that I can accomplish what I set out to do, instead of having too many things that I don’t focus on any.

In 2014, I did not know what I wanted to focus on. I have goals to finish writing a novel, starting a business, and learn Japanese, among other things. I still want to do all of those things, but this year I am focusing on my writing. My main goal will be to finish my novel, which over the past year+ has progressed glacially slow. I am aiming for a 50,000 word novel, which is a short novel, and I am, as of this writing, slightly past the 33% mark. I didn’t work on it at all for huge chunks of last year, so this year it is becoming my main priority.

I would also like to accomplish a couple of other smaller writing goals. One of them is to update this blog more regularly. I don’t know what form that will take yet, but once I decide on the type of content, I will choose a schedule to help me get in the habit. I already have a few long posts in mind.

I also want to continue my Japanese goal. As demonstrated by the huge amount of Japan-related posts on this blog, I am deeply interested in Japan and its culture. I have a trip back to Japan coming up later this year, so I will be working to refresh on what I have already learned as well as advancing in my speaking ability.

One way to keep myself on task is that I have decided every day I need to work on one of my goals. It doesn’t have to be huge progress every day, and it doesn’t have to be every goal. So an example is that I should either practice Japanese or do some writing. In the past I have aimed very high with my goals for the year, but did not have a great way to keep myself on track throughout the year. This will help with that.

Health Challenge Results

I didn’t make a post that I was doing this, but over a month ago a friend and I started a health challenge where we would not eat junk food for as long as possible until one of us cheated. You can read Lynk’s post about starting the challenge here. It started off because he decided to make a big change in his life with regard to health and eating properly. Since I had been struggling with consistency in eating well, I proposed we make a challenge to hold each other accountable. Since he lives in Australia, it was simply on the honor system.

Well after nearly 30 days, I was the one who failed. It didn’t even occur to me as I had been eating so well that week, I thought I could afford to have French toast for breakfast. But as you can see below, it was definitely against the contest rules. I always struggle with willpower and this time it was my undoing.


A photo posted by Jeff Moeller (@jeffmoeller) on

As far as I know, Lynk has still been going strong with giving up snacking and soda, and has even taken up running. Even though my willpower waned toward the end of the competition, I am glad a positive change has been made for one of us. Now I am focused on making a more positive change in my eating habits since the competition.

Tools I am using for learning beginner Japanese

One of my major goals for this year is to significantly improve my Japanese language ability. I have known extremely basic Japanese for a couple of years but have never put in the time to advance it further. To help with this, I have made my goal more specific this year. I want to be at least N5 level proficient, which includes knowing over 650 vocabulary and 100 kanji characters. Relatively speaking, taking a year to get to N5 is not a very ambitious goal, but I also wanted to be realistic, considering how little I have progressed since originally learning the hiragana. If I can do better than N5, that would be great, but having a realistic goal will keep me on track with studying on a regular basis.

I have done a lot of research on the best ways to study, and thought I should share what I am using. To learn what works best for me, I am using a bunch of different methods. At the end of the year (or whenever I out-learn these study tools) I will post an update on how things went and if I would still recommend everything I used or if I would change anything.

Human Japanese
This software is very cheap compared to something like Rosetta Stone and is designed for beginners. It’s available for PC, Mac, iOS and Android. It is a similar experience you would get from studying out of a textbook, but it is a lot more interesting to read, has audio pronunciations, stroke order animations for writing the kana, and quizzes at the ends of chapters. When I say it’s like a textbook, that is because you can’t solely rely on reading this and doing the quizzes. You also need to practice writing the kana and vocabulary.

The next two tools I am using are called spaced repetition systems or SRS. This means that the interval of time between each time you review something is increased until it is completely memorized. These software tools track this automatically so you do not need to keep track yourself of when you last reviewed each word or character. The important thing is to use these tools every day, because if you go a week between reviews, you will not only find you have an overwhelming amount to study, but you will not remember what you learned from your last session and won’t make progress on learning anything new.

This is a very popular software program you may have heard of that can be used for many purposes, although language learning is its most popular use. It is essentially flashcards with SRS built in. There are many premade decks for Japanese and other topics, and you can also create your own decks. If you are starting Human Japanese and Anki at the same time, you could create decks to correspond to the chapters in Human Japanese.

This was actually the first spaced repetition tool I used for studying Japanese. It is similar to Anki in some ways, but it is web-based and also incorporates “mems”, or visual or text triggers to help you remember words or characters. I am still using Memrise alongside Anki, and there are many Japanese courses available. I recommend starting with Introduction to Japanese and then moving on to JLPT N5 Vocab, which is what I am working on now.


Manga (Japanese Comics)
To make studying a little more fun and because I love comics, I decided to order a few volumes of manga series that were recommended for Japanese beginners. The series I chose were Yotsuba!, Dragonball, and Shirokuma Café, based on these recommendations. You can also find links to purchase these books and other manga recommendations at that link. These series are all appropriate for children, and so have simple grammar and also have what are called furigana, which are small kana drawn above kanji characters to tell you how the character is pronounced. Of course I will need to learn these kanji eventually, but for just starting out, I think using furigana is perfectly fine. In the future I plan to read Akira, one of my favorite comic series that I have read in English.

Super Potato in Tokyo

One of the early reasons I became so interested in Japan was because of video games. It is no secret that I am a lifelong gamer and some of my favorite games came from Japan. There are many games that allow you to play in Japanese, but most would be too advanced for beginners to understand. A series I think is perfect for Japanese study is Pokemon. The series is aimed at children, so everything is written in kana rather than kanji, and when text appears on the screen, you have to press a button to advance the text, so this makes it perfect for stopping to look up words you don’t know. Pokemon X/Y, the latest games in the series, allow you to select Japanese (or other languages) in the English version, so you don’t have to have a Japanese system and game to do this.

With both of the above methods, I will probably have to look up most of the text with where I am at now, but I do not mind. I think it will be a lot more motivating to want to be able to read a comic, or play a game, in Japanese without having to look anything up, than more traditional study methods.

I hope the above resources help you achieve your goals with Japanese study. Let me know how it is going for you in the comments. よろしく!

Goals for 2014

I like to share my goals with others, both for my own motivation and for others if they need ideas for their own goals. I don’t always reach all my yearly goals, but I think it is better to set too ambitious of goals than ones that you know you will reach.

I set goals in several different categories, and they are different from usual new year’s resolutions. The main requirement for my goals is that they have to be measurable in some way, so that I can track my progress and have a specific set of steps that need to be taken to reach them. Also, if I decide I want to change my goals or that one of them isn’t worth pursuing anymore, that’s ok. They are my goals after all.

Here is what I am working on this year:

Finish my novel (first draft)

Make a plan for a new business venture and launch it

Go on a trip with a friend

Learning & Lifestyle:
Read 26 books
Become N5 proficient in Japanese (N5 is the lowest level of proficiency)

Lose 20lbs of fat and maintain throughout the year
Gain at least 10lbs of muscle

I have more goals than these, but I am mostly sharing them to give you an idea of what I am aiming for, and to help you in selecting goals or categories if you want to do something similar.

But setting goals by themselves doesn’t accomplish anything. There are two more steps to make this an effective process: 1) Make them measurable 2) Review your progress throughout the year.

I only set goals that I can measure in some way. To finish my novel, I need to write 1,000 words every day and write 50,000 words total. My health goals are very numbers oriented as that gives me a way I can track my progress every day. For goals that are not able to be focused on numbers, it is important to plan milestones and deadlines. For creating a new business, I need to decide on an idea, test its viability, and promote the business to bring in customers. All of my goals have deadlines, though if I don’t meet those deadlines, it doesn’t mean I will just give up. I think finding a balance between aggressive and realistic is the best way to set a deadline.

I also recommend at least looking over your goals list once a month. This will keep you on track, and also just remind you of any you may have been putting off. You can do a more detailed review of your progress a few times a year. Then, at the end of the year, look over everything you have accomplished in the year, and what you could have done better on. Props to Chris Guillebeau for outlining this whole process.

Several of my goals are things that anyone can do, even if you never thought you could before. I hope you have not already given up on your New Year’s Resolutions, and consider transforming them into more substantial goals.

My Most Anticipated Games of 2014

Now that you know my favorite games of 2013, I thought I should do a post about what games I am looking forward to this year. Unintentionally, these games all have one thing in common: they are all RPGs, mostly developed for PC. RPGs happen to be my favorite type of game, but there hasn’t been a year as stacked with high profile RPG releases as this one in a number of years. If they aren’t your cup of tea, this list might not be for you. But I would be interested in hearing the games you are most excited for in the comments. Continue reading My Most Anticipated Games of 2014

My Top 5 Games of 2013

2013 had some great games, but overall it was a bit of a down year for me. That is not too surprising since many developers had shifted development to next-gen systems. Consequently, I played a lot of games in 2013 that didn’t come out that year. I decided to do a top 5 list instead of top 10 because of this. The game that I played by far the most, and enjoyed more than any other game, was Dark Souls. I am still going back to that game after 100+ hours of play. But for the list below, I limited myself to games released during 2013. Read on and enjoy. Continue reading My Top 5 Games of 2013

Kyoto at Night

After seeing temples and shrines all day around Kyoto, I checked out Gion, which is Kyoto’s most famous Geisha district. I didn’t actually go to any restaurants or teahouses with geisha (or geiko in the local dialect) though.
The downtown areas of Kyoto aren’t busy like Shibuya or Shinjuku, with Kyoto being the sixth most populated city in Japan. Still, there are people everywhere even during a weeknight.
Wonder Tower in Kyoto

Kyoto Marui Building

Kyoto shop at night

Udon Noodles in Kyoto

Continue reading Kyoto at Night

Photos Around Kyoto

It’s hard to say which day of my Japan trip was the busiest, but the full day I spent in Kyoto is definitely up there. After seeing Fushimi Inari the night before, and Kiyomizudera that day already, I had already seen two of Kyoto’s most famous landmarks. But there was still plenty more I managed to pack into the day. This post will go through a few of the temples and shrines I saw as well as some general wandering the streets while going from place to place.

Kyoto shop

Continue reading Photos Around Kyoto

Best Ramen in Kyoto

While I stayed in Kyoto, my hostel had some recommendations for what to do, where to eat, and other recommendations for things in Kyoto. Their number 1 restaurant in Kyoto was a place called Daiichiasahi Ramen. The ramen was delicious and they have English menus available, and the place is so tiny you might even strike up a conversation with a local if you know some Japanese or they know English.

K's House Hostel Recommends

Here are the rest of the recommendations from K’s House Hostel in Kyoto.