Monthly Archives: October 2015

My Asthma Story Part 2: Bad Medicine

Image credit: WebMD

If you haven’t yet read part 1 of my Asthma Story, you may want to look at that first.

So on Saturday when I woke up and sat up in bed, I felt really tired. I thought that was strange, since I hadn’t drank the night before and had gotten a full night of sleep. I wondered if I was maybe getting a cold. My wife was still sleeping, so I decided I would go downstairs and get some breakfast while I waited for her to wake up.

However, when I got to the stairs of our house and looked down them, I felt like my legs weren’t going to be steady enough for me to walk down the steps, and our staircase didn’t have a railing, so I turned around and crawled down the steps like a baby.

When I got to the bottom of the steps, I was out of breath, and I sat on the steps and recovered before I stood up to walk to the kitchen. On the way to the kitchen, though, I felt tired again and ended up sitting down in my computer chair to catch my breath again. While I was sitting there, I was thinking about how the previous weekend I had cycled about a hundred kilometers into the mountains, but that day I couldn’t even walk down the stairs. I remembered that my father had some trouble with his cholesterol medicine in the past, and he’s an oral surgeon, so might know something about what was going on. Since I was at my computer anyway, I gave him a call on Skype.

I explained how I had started this new cholesterol medicine, and that I was feeling really tired and my muscles were all sore. He asked what the name of the medicine was and I told him it was Crestor. He got really angry and said, “One of the side effects of that medicine is muscle degeneration. Stop it right away!”

So I stopped taking the medicine and went back to see my doctor on Monday, and the blood test confirmed that I was, indeed, suffering from the side effect of muscle degeneration. My muscles were so sore that I couldn’t ride my bicycle again until a month after I stopped the medicine.

However, none of the people I talked to on the day I got my medicine, not my doctor, nor the nurse, nor the pharmacist told me about the side effects of the medicine or any particular symptoms that I should watch out for, even though I specifically told my pharmacist that it was my first time to take the medicine and I asked if there were any specific instructions that they had for me.

Visiting the drug information site for Crestor, it says:

In rare cases, Crestor can cause a condition that results in the breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue, leading to kidney failure. Call your doctor right away if you have unexplained muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness especially if you also have fever, unusual tiredness, and dark colored urine.

I’ve since read that this particular severe side effect is only experienced in 1 / 10,000 patients, although in my experience its been 4 / 4 of the people I know who have taken this medicine; me, my father, one of my aunts (my father’s sister), and my grandmother, which makes for 100%. Unfortunately, I had known my father had a bad reaction to his cholesterol medicine, but my doctor never asked me about my father’s experience of taking cholesterol medicine; he only asked me if my father had type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Should it be my responsibility to look up the side effects of the medicines I’m prescribed or should the doctors and pharmacists who prescribe and dispense these medicines talk about their side effects with their patients? These are the questions I raise with my students when I tell this story in class. I also tell them that I was really lucky I have a doctor father who I could call when I experienced the side effect, and I ask them how many of their patients in the future are going to be in the same lucky position where they can call a doctor relative when something unexpected happens with one of their medicines. My next regular appointment with my doctor was one month later. I hate to think what would have happened if I had waited the full month to go see him again.

The story used to end here, but after I moved to Toyama there was a part 3 added. You can read this newest part of the story here.

The Ramen Story (for students), Part 2

This is part 2 of a simplified version of my Ramen Story for my students. You can read part 1 here or the full story instead if you prefer.

A scream comes from the kitchen, “It’s on fire! It’s on fire!” so I jump up and run into the kitchen.

I find the microwave on and inside, slowly spinning under the lamp, is the ramen cup, bubbling, melting, and smoking. I pushed stop, got the oven mittens, opened the microwave, blew out the last of the fire, put the melted cup in the sink, and turned on the water.

I asked my sister, “Why didn’t you push stop?”

Crying, she replied, “I don’t know!”

So why did the ramen cup melt and burn? Well, in the US we didn’t have a hot water faucet, or a hot water server like many places do in Japan, and so when we made ramen, we would add cold water to the cup and then microwave it for three minutes, but Angela hadn’t added any water to the cup. She just put it in the microwave, empty, and that caused it to melt and smoke.

In the end, I had to make my sister a cup of ramen and so I missed about five minutes of my cartoons. I can’t remember if my parents woke up and whether we got in trouble or not.

The Ramen Story (for students), Part 1

This is part 1 of a simplified version of my Ramen Story for my students. You can read the full story instead if you prefer.

When I was very young, about three years old, my family and I moved to Germany to live for about three years, and while there I couldn’t watch American cartoons because they weren’t on German TV. That meant that when my family and I moved back to the US, one of the things I quickly learned about was that on Saturday mornings there were cartoons, from about 6am until about noon, and since my parents usually slept in on Saturday morning, there wasn’t anyone to tell me to stop watching TV and to do my homework, so I always looked forward to Saturday mornings and my cartoon watching time.

I have two younger sisters, Angela and Mary. My youngest sister, Mary, would wake up with me and I would make some simple breakfast for us, like cereal, and then we would watch cartoons together. However, my middle sister, Angela, liked to sleep in, and I think even today she still likes to sleep in. This meant that she would come downstairs later, after Mary and I had already finished eating. This story is about one of those Saturdays.

I think I was in the second grade, about seven or eight years old, and so Angela would have been five or six and Mary four or five.

Angela woke up late, as usual, and came downstairs hungry. She came into the living room, up next to the couch where Mary and I were watching TV, and said, “Theron, I’m hungry.”

Me, “I see.”

“I want to eat something.”


“I want to eat ramen.”


“I want you to cook me ramen.”


“Why not?”

“You can make your own ramen.”

“I don’t know how.”

“There’s instructions. Read the instructions.”

“I can’t read.”

“There’s pictures. Look at the pictures.”

“Oh.” After this, Angela went into the kitchen and I kept watching television.

About two or three minutes later, Angela came back and asked, “How long do I cook the ramen?”

My reply was “Three minutes.”

Two minutes later a scream comes from the kitchen, “Theron! Theron! It’s on fire! It’s on fire!”

This is the end of Part 1 of the story. I’ll you can read part 2 here or you can read the full story.

An invitation to ignore: Canadian Center of Science and Education’s English Language Teaching (ELT)

I’ve let the questionable publishers part of this site go a bit stagnant, but I’ve continued to receive relatively regular inquiries from friends and concerned colleagues about invitations to join the editorial boards of questionable publishers. Yesterday it was the Canadian Center of Science and Education’s English Language Teaching (ELT). The publisher is listed on Beall’s List of Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers and he also has a post about Canada being a hotbed for questionable predatory publishers, although in it he concentrates on a different publisher (but does mention the Canadian Center of Science and Education).

I should add that English Language Teaching (ELT) shouldn’t be confused with the prestigious and legitimate ELT Journal, which is published by Oxford University Press. The similarity in names should be considered a potential red flag when receiving such petitions and unsolicited invitations.

Another key red flag regarding the journal is its $400 USD publication fee. That’s an astronomical amount to ask for in order to publish in the field of language teaching.:

Author Fees

This journal charges the following author fees.

Article Publication Fee-English Language Teaching: 400.00 (USD)
If the paper is accepted for publication, you will be asked to pay an Article Publication Fee. Please find payment information at:

Here’s the email I have from my inquiring colleague. If you receive such solicitations, I would recommend considering them the equivalent of junk mail and would advise against responding:

Subject: Call for Papers

Dear [full name],

I have had an opportunity to read your paper, [title], and can tell from your work that you are an expert in this field.

English Language Teaching (ELT) is a double-blind peer-reviewed international journal on the subjects of theory and practice in English language teaching and learning, teaching English as a second or foreign language, English language teachers’ training and education. The journal is published monthly in both print and online versions.

ELT has been indexed by CNKI, EBSCOhost, ERIC, ERA, ProQuest, SHERPA/RoMEO and so on.

We are calling for the submission of papers. Please see the journal’s profile at and submit your manuscripts online. If you have any questions, please contact the editorial assistant at

We are recruiting reviewers for the journal. If you are interested in this position of reviewing submissions, we welcome you to apply for. Please find further details at

It is my honor to cooperate with the universities and institutions to publish the special issues in the field of English Language Teaching. If you are interested in it, please contact with me.

We would appreciate it if you could share this information with your colleagues and associates.

Thank you.

Best Regards,

Gavin Yu

English Language Teaching

Canadian Center of Science and Education


Add: 1120 Finch Avenue West, Suite 701-309, Toronto, ON., M3J 3H7, Canada

Tel: 1-416-642-2606 ext.207

Fax: 1-416-642-2608



Call for papers: IATEFL’s English for Specific Purposes Special Interest Group’s (ESP SIG) Professional and Academic English

Professional and Academic English is seeking submissions. I had a really positive experience as an author when I contributed an article on my Medical English classes in 2012. Here’s their call:

Professional and Academic English is a peer-reviewed journal of the IATEFL English for Specific Purposes Special Interest Group (ESP SIG). We now seek articles, conference reports and book reviews for Issue 47 (publication: Spring 2016). Relevant information is available on:

Two specimen recent issues can be accessed on:

Issue 44:

Issue 45:

ELTED Special Issue on Innovative writing in English language teacher education and development

ELTED Journal, English Language Teacher Education and Development, has as call for papers for a special issue on the theme of Innovative writing in English language teacher education and development out, with an extended deadline of October 31. It looks to be a great opportunity for language teachers interested in sharing their experience of their professional practice that doesn’t fit into the format of the more traditional research paper. I can attest that John Adamson and I had a great experience when we submitted a paper to the journal in 2008.

My Asthma Story Part 1: Moving to Japan

Image credit: Mother Jones

I’ve had asthma since I was a child, and so when I moved to Japan in 2000, I needed to make some special arrangements to get my asthma medicine. For a few years, my doctor in the US would write a prescription for me, then my pharmacy in the US would mail the medicine to me in Japan. However, after some time, I realized that my condition was worsening and that I needed to have my medicine adjusted. It was too expensive to travel back to the US to change my asthma medicine, but fortunately my wife is a nurse, and so she knew a number of different doctors where we lived in Nagano. She recommended a pulmonologist to me and so I started seeing my new doctor in Japan. He adjusted my asthma medicine and my condition improved.

After about a year of seeing my new doctor, my condition had stabilized as far as my asthma was concerned, and he decided he wanted to check my cholesterol. He scheduled the blood test and the results came back: amazingly high. So high, in fact, that they couldn’t distinguish between the LDL and HDL cholesterol, which I’m told happens with numbers higher than 500. He was pretty upset and told me I had to change my lifestyle.

Up until that point, I had been driving a 50cc scooter to my various English lessons around Nagano City, and I resolved to switch from driving my scooter to riding my bicycle. That switch meant I started cycling 20km or more each day to and from work. Six months later my doctor said he wanted to check my cholesterol again, and when he did, the levels came back almost half of what they had been. He said that was a good start, but that I needed to keep working to reduce them.

Up until that point, I had mainly been cycling within Nagano City, which is relatively flat, and so I decided that to get more exercise I would start cycling up into the mountains that surround Nagano. At first it was really tough going, and I would cycle for just a little bit before giving up and turning around, but eventually I became able to cycle quite long distances into the mountains.

Me cycling with my son
Me cycling with my son

A year later my doctor scheduled another cholesterol check for a Wednesday morning. The weekend before my check I planned a long ride through the mountains, from Nagano, up to Togakushi, from there to Kinasa and then finally over a pass into Hakuba. It was about a 100km trip, and the change in overall elevation was likely close to if not more than one kilometer of vertical climbing. At the end of the ride I was tired, but I was also proud that I had been able to do it.

My Wednesday appointment came and my blood results came back that my cholesterol was still a bit high. I forget the exact number, but it was in the low 200s. My doctor said that since my cholesterol was still a bit high, he wanted me to take some medicine for it. He wrote out the prescription and then I took it to the hospital pharmacy, who gave me the new medicine. I said it was my first time to take the cholesterol medicine and so wanted to know a bit more about it. Their reply was to take it once a day.

So I did. I took the medicine that night, Thursday night, and Friday night. Then on Saturday morning something happened.

This is the end of Part 1 of this story. Here’s Part 2. Before you read it, why don’t you try to guess the ending to my story in the comments?