Saturday, December 29, 2007

going home

Where you're in the world at this moment makes very little difference. You're either going to rush home (or to a getaway) for the holiday, or you've already been there.

Watching the Japanese desperately trying to make the trip got me strangely nostalgic. I have moved around the world a dozen times I don't know where to call home.

We'll be going to a couple of places of our own. I know I'm home, wherever my wife is.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Season Greetings

To quote the Japanese:

Having been lax on these posts, I wish you all a
Merry belated Xmas and a Happy New Year!

So, to conclude, 2007 has been:
a good year,
a committing year,
and, last but not least, great!

2008 should be:
a continuation of current conditions,
a hard-working year,
rid of procrastination.

This is the Christmas tree in our school.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

the hard truth

We're manipulated as a society because it's too convenient to buy into bullshit. It's like ordering a set lunch, you'll only have to point to it. The menu is arranged by someone else. Our short attention span also hinders the pursuit of the truth. Here, allow me to demonstrate:

People being murdered... HEY BOOBIES...
Basic human rights... WATCH! HUNDRED DOLLAR BURGER, YUMMY...
Social inequality... MY SOFA IS SO COMFY AND WARM...

Don't get me wrong, the distractions are not all bad but the lack of priority is overwhelming. Common sense ceases to be common if the people are too lazy to think critically. When we fear our government, they can do anything to us. Government is kept honest only if they know they're closely watched and criticized.

Politics is a business with a price tag that neither you nor I can afford, regardless we help fund the people who make it a business to begin with. Going about your regular day pretending nothing has happened after a terrorist's attack doesn't help for the long run. We have become a mob of mindless shopping zombies.

Here is an example of how something can be deceiving:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thursday, November 22, 2007

gobble gobble

Hard to find a bird around here. Happy Gobble gobble...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

breaking out

Wanting to break out of every room I've been in the last week never seems so necessary until I started watching Prison Break. I spent a lot of my free time looking vigilantly around finding every possible way to sneak out, emotionally tired, trying not to get caught meanwhile.

I will not cram one season-ful of TV drama in 3 days again.
I will not cram one season-ful of TV drama in 3 days again.
I will not cram one season-ful of TV drama in 3 days again.
I will not cram one season-ful of TV drama in 3 days again.
I will not cram one season-ful of TV drama in 3 days again.
I will not cram one season-ful of TV drama in 3 days again.

fan video

After season 1, there is just too much killing, and a lot less brain. I'll give it the benefit of a doubt and hang on to the end to see if there are any reasonable explanations.

US TV series takes a long time to land in Japan. People are starting to watch Grey's Anatomy, Lost, and Prison Break this year. 24 has only been around for about two years. And the DVD rental is anything but cheap (300 yen each), averaging 2-3 episodes per DVD. You do the math.

If they wouldn't use Fox News on the show...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

not unelectable

Educate yourself:
Project Vote Smart
On the Issues

Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul are the two names that scream unelectablity - a concept conveyed through your local and national media.

But your news media don't vote and you do - you, the people, collectively, can do the undoable and penetrate the impenetrable. (OK get your mind...)

I'm sick and tired of hearing how news reports want us to vote. Instead just listen to the candidates, research their voting history, their stands on issues, and hello? integrity, etc.

Steer clear of sound bites, talking points, appearance, ridicules, etc.

Or, maybe the US deserves its slow crawl to a tragic end. Your call.

Keep an open mind, give Ron Paul a chance:
key issues
voting records

Monday, October 29, 2007

Happy Halloween 07

Wishing all a Happy Halloween!

More respect to pumpkins and other vegetables, indeed!

decoration from our school

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

NOVA's teachers on strike

Latest development:
A labor union representing teachers from scandal-plagued NOVA Corp. went on strike Tuesday demanding the English conversation school chain pay unpaid wages and agree to collective negotiations.

The Nova teachers' branch of the National Union of General Workers Nambu also joined with other unions from western Japan to ask Labor Standards Supervision Offices in Tokyo and Osaka to pursue a criminal case against NOVA and its president, Nozomu Sahashi.
mainichi news

According to the union, salary payments due in mid-September were delayed for some 4,000 foreign teachers and Nova notified them that the payment scheduled for the middle of this month will be postponed until Friday.

Pay was also delayed for some 2,000 Japanese staff in July and August, and they have yet to receive payments that were due in late September, the union said.

The union submitted a report to the Osaka labor office Sept. 27 claiming Nova is falling behind on paying employees in violation of the Labor Standards Law. The office has repeatedly called on Nova to pay its workers as scheduled.
Japan Times

Monday, October 15, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007

Please hear me out!

Would you spare 5 minutes to watch this, dear sir and madam?

I am against preaching. I don't want to advocate any one candidate. I'm ready to watch America rot. Let me tell you, in the US of A, individual Americans are wonderful people. As a country, it sucks and runs a trend of not only destroying itself but a chunk of the world with it.

I'm taking my risk with Ron Paul as our last hope for a better (modern) USA.

Political positions of Ron Paul

Foreign policy
leave Iraq
leave Iran alone
free trade

minimize federal interference
income tax resistance

Civil liberties
Habeas corpus a must
against domestic surveillance
non federal involvement of stem cell research

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

little things that made our wedding extra special

Every wedding is more or less the same. It's the little things that add up to an unforgettable day. We put a lot of thoughts into the wedding and its preparation. Here are some of the things that you, if planning for one in the future, might find useful. Following are what worked for us:

shinto ceremony

If you're in Japan, don't do a western ceremony. All the churches in Japan have a tiny teeny chapel. The scene is unspectacular at best. I understand why the Japanese tend to do that because they like all things Western. We had a fantastic experience at a local shrine (luckily a proper one). Its total size is at least 20 times of a typical church here. The ceremony hall is so majestic it commands our respect.

a slide show
Mix your pictures with music and video clips from your family and friends who can't make it. Use a projector or a large TV in the lobby so everyone can see it. And when the guests are waiting to go inside, they have something to talk about.

a dessert buffet

Why have one dessert? have a few, in fact have 10. When your guests stand up and walk around, they have a chance to mingle with everybody else.

candle lighting

The atmosphere is great. We go to all the tables to light their candles so to greet everybody individually. After all the candles are lit, the guests stand and blow them out on a count of three, wishing the couple good luck. Then the room goes very dark for a moment.


My wife says I suck at surprises. I bought a black diamond ring (They're less expensive than other diamonds and are not coal.) but insisted we won't waste more money on gift for each other. Boy was she touched when I proposed to her at the end of the wedding! No one proposes to his bride at the wedding, EVER. That's exactly why I did it. I didn't ask her to marry me. That would be silly. Instead it's more like a vow but the rest is pretty much the same... down on my knee. The first time I proposed to her, (with a proper diamond ring) it didn't quite work out the way I planned it.

We had a surprise fireworks display show. It was at the end when everybody is drunk and fed. They step outside expecting a present but they got an eyeful of colors exploded in the night sky. A pyrotechnic team costs quite a bit but certainly worth it if you can arrange one. Our photo cameras didn't catch the high-flying ones. Its entirety is on video but it hard to stick cameras out when it rains.


Don't wait until they're seated to start pouring their glasses. Start the first moment they set foot in the premises. Of course all you can drink and arranged transports would be a plus. The quicker they're drunk, the more fun they'll have. (for most people)

a personal touch

(image: flickr)
In Japan they give out "petite" gifts when the guests leave to thank them for coming. Kazumi and I roasted our coffee beans for that purpose. My father-in-law is a coffee roaster and I help out sometimes so we have access to a coffee roasting machine.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Aurora, Stars, Meteor, Lake, Alaska

Explanation: Sometimes, after your eyes adapt to the dark, a spectacular sky appears. In this case, a picturesque lake lies in front of you, beautiful green aurora flap high above you, brilliant stars shine far in the distance, and, for a brief moment, a bright meteor streaks by. This digitally fused breathtaking panorama was captured late last month across one of the Chena Lakes in North Pole, Alaska, USA, and includes the Pleiades open cluster of stars on the image right. The shot is unusual not only for the many wonders it has aptured simultaneously, but because lakes this far north tend to freeze and become non-reflecting before a sky this dark can be photographed.
Nasa astronomy

wedding photos!

I have literally a billion pictures that need to be sorted out. Here are some of those I could post while it's underway. We had the time of our lives. It was a pretty luxurious wedding. I'm still drunk from the champaign on that day. I'm very grateful to everyone, especially Kazumi's and my families!

Welcome board made with cookies (Kazumi made it) a little larger than my laptop computer.

the front door of the wedding hall; picture with our parents

Kazumi and I made our first official appearance in the banquet hall; beautiful looking guests

our traditional Japanese Shinto ceremony; us looking thrilled and photo perfect ^_^

guests making their way into the wedding ceremony shrine; "It's rainnnnnnnnn on your wedding day"

us happily signing our freedom away; the atmosphere is serious and formal

the mothers; my family

equivalent to walking down the aisle; damn good looking couple

still making our way to the stage; and already they can't stop snapping a few

brother-in-law (cameraman of the day); and his wife and cute kids (our flower girls)

guests came a long way to celebrate us

sisters snap-happy (great pictures)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

wedding report

We had a pretty spectacular wedding!

Here is what happened chronologically:

7am wake up
8 leave house
9 arrive at our guests' hotel
hand over their lunch
10 arrive at Espoir (wedding reception hall)
11 make-up, dress up in traditional wedding kimono
12pm en route to the shrine
1 wedding portrait, family photo, w/ friends
2 Shinto's wedding briefing
3 Shinto ceremony (unforgettable, serious, special)
4 a little late for our scheduled return to Espoir
5 greetings, cake cutting (in gown and tux)
6 banquet, speeches (in kimono)
7 finale, I propose to her again, surprise black diamond ring
8 return to hotel, drink w/ friends til 12am

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Will NOVA be no more?

Latest (Sept 20)
NOVA looks to shut down schools amid financial crisis

Major English language teaching chain NOVA is considering shutting down a large number of schools, it emerged on Thursday.

NOVA's income from lesson fees has decreased since the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry issued the language school a partial business suspension order over its practices. Because of this, the school is apparently pushing for a turnaround, hoping to cut costs by trimming and merging unprofitable schools.

NOVA currently operates more than 900 schools, but problems with efficiency have emerged.

Officials close to the group said NOVA has already been trimming and merging schools, focusing on unprofitable schools with low student numbers, but in the future the chain will also apply the move to major schools in cities where rents are high and there is more than one school in the same area. As many as 100 schools could be affected.

The language school will reportedly make considerations for students, allowing them to take lessons at other nearby schools. (Mainichi)
What started as a rumor (late pay checks) has become bad reality added to the assaults of NOVA's recent woes. NOVA is a direct competitor (I know my school is not even David against NOVA's Goliath) of mine and it has not been good to foreigners who come to Japan to teach. Here are some observable signs that NOVA is seriously in trouble:
  • slapped with business restrictions
  • no more TV commercials
  • no more street campaigns
  • closing of a number of schools (kids division)
  • delayed payment to creditors
  • late pay (Japanese staff and now foreign)
No pay today. They say it will go though on the 18th but who knows. Gee I’m really starting to get a sore throat right about now. Maybe I’ll have to call in sick tomorrow. I might be better off using that time to look for another job. Everyone heard about how the Japanese Staff didn’t get paid on time last month, but I thought that NOVA couldn’t possibly be stupid enough to do it to their foreign staff. We will just leave!!! I urge all NOVA staff to contact their embassy and make an official complaint. If NOVA does go bust, this will have very bad repercussions for Japans image abroad. Surely the government cannot just let this happen?!?!?!?!?! (a comment on

A recent decline in the stock price following the release of Nova's 2008 fiscal year first quarter financial[15] was preceded by news of a delay in payment of wages and bonuses to some employees.[16] Nova explained that the delay in the monthly wages was due to change in its payment system and personnel management and accounting sections that had not been completed on time and that the summer bonus delay until October was a business necessity that required employee co-operation. [17] Indications of an impending financial crisis stemmed from a rapid increase in refund claims that total nearly 5,000,000,000 Yen nationwide.[17] An Aug. 21st article in the Tokyo Kezai, Nova was described as repeatedly delaying payment to business partners and banks, falling into arrears for printing costs at the end of July, asking an ad agency to defer a payment.[18] Nova's 2008 first quarter financial showed a loss of 4,300,000,000 Yen, and a %19 decrease in sales compared to the previous year period and overall %19 decrease in reoccurring profit.[15] Nova cited a decrease in the number of students and deterioration of its image as an explanation.[19][20] taken from wikipedia

Thursday, September 06, 2007

U.S. bases scramble as Typhoon Fitow blows into Japan

Above is an animated gif of near-real time cloud movement in Japan, constantly updated by

U.S. military officials secured planes and ships, canceled or shortened school days and told some nonessential base personnel to stay home Thursday in preparation for Typhoon Fitow. The storm was expected to bring powerful winds and heavy rain to the Kanto Plain later in the day before moving toward Misawa Air Base in northern Japan. Stars and Stripes
Typhoon #9 (as known in Japan) is headed straight for Tokyo. I'm some 50 miles from the capital so we'll probably be under the full force of the tropical cyclone. It will make landfall approximately 9:00pm local time on Sept 6, 2007.

I'm still working but I don't expect anyone to show up. So it's a semi-day-off for me . I went to the supermarket earlier to stock up on water and instant noddles. I hardly ever drink bottled water and the last time I had a cup noddle was years ago. But heck with it coming head on, god only knows.
A typhoon is reportedly approaching the Japanese capital, Tokyo, sparking fears of flooding, landslides and high winds.

Japan's Meteorological Agency says at last report, Typhoon Fitow, was about 500-kilometres south of Tokyo, with wind gusts to 180 kilometres an hour.

The agency has warned of possible flooding in a number of areas, including western Tokyo, and issued landslide warnings for regions north of the capital.

The typhoon is forecast to strengthen before making landfall near the capital on Friday.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Colorful Clouds of Rho Ophiuchi

The many spectacular colors of the Rho Ophiuchi (oh'-fee-yu-kee) clouds highlight the many processes that occur there. The blue regions shine primarily by reflected light. Blue light from the star Rho Ophiuchi and nearby stars reflects more efficiently off this portion of the nebula than red light. The Earth's daytime sky appears blue for the same reason. The red and yellow regions shine primarily because of emission from the nebula's atomic and molecular gas. Light from nearby blue stars - more energetic than the bright star Antares - knocks electrons away from the gas, which then shines when the electrons recombine with the gas. The dark regions are caused by dust grains - orn in young stellar atmospheres - which effectively block light emitted behind them. The Rho Ophiuchi star clouds, well in front of the globular cluster M4 visible above on far lower left, are even more colorful than humans can see - the clouds emits light in every wavelength and from the radio to the gamma-ray.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Japan's Pop Power

In the decades after World War II, Japan famously pulled off an economic miracle, turning itself into the world's second richest country by the 1980s.

The Japanese achieved that miracle by making quality products that you can hold in your hand or ride around in: electronics and cars.

Manufacturing is still big business in Japan, but it's not the future.

In the new century, Japan is betting that economic growth will come from another sector: What's been called Japan's Gross National Cool.

In the past decade, Japan's exports of games, toys, and pop culture have soared with no slowdown in sight.

For young people in the US and much of the world, Japan is a brand that stands not for the quality machines but for the best in entertainment and storytelling.

Increasingly the world economy is based less on selling physical objects and more on selling content: media images, games, and stories to while away our free time.
read more - American Radioworks

Thursday, August 16, 2007

hottest day on record

It's official.
TOKYO (AFP) - The temperature hit a record high in Japan on Thursday, with the extreme summer heat killing at least 13 people across the nation this week, officials said.

The mercury shot up to a record 40.9 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit) in Tajimi city in the central prefecture of Gifu on Thursday afternoon, according to the weather agency.

The reading eclipsed the previous highest temperature recorded in Japan of 40.8 degrees set in northern Yamagata prefecture in 1933. via Yahoo! news
So I spend half a day in front of the computer in this slightly A/C-cooled office. Students are mostly out for the Obon holidays. Besides going outside is no fun really. Dehydration kills.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Occupation 101

See clips on official website
For decades many Americans have been deceived about the Palestinian-Israeli issue that appears to be locked in a never-ending conflict. 'Occupation 101' is a film that exposes the root-cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Addition it explains the reality of the situation through the voices of the silent majority of Israeli, Jewish, Christian, and Americans that are silenced through the mainstream media. -taken from IMDb
download torrent for the complete documetary here. You owe it to yourself to learn a bit more about the truth.

The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it's the illusion of knowledge.
(written on movie's poster)

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Trifid Nebula in Stars and Dust

Unspeakable beauty and unimaginable bedlam can be found together in the Trifid Nebula Also known as M20, this photogenic nebula is visible with good binoculars towards the constellation of Sagittarius. The energetic processes of star formation create not only the colors but the chaos. The red-glowing gas results from high-energy starlight striking interstellar hydrogen gas. The dark dust filaments that lace M20 were created in the atmospheres of cool giant stars and in the debris from supernovae explosions. Which bright young stars light up the blue reflection nebula is still being investigated. The light from M20 we see today left perhaps 3000 years ago, although the exact distance remains unknown. Light takes about 50 years to cross M20.

Credit & Copyright: R. Jay GaBany ( NASA

a light, inexpensive RWD Toyota coming soon?

Rumor has it Toyota is bringing back a sure-win sports car formula to its current boring lineup that doesn't spot a single one.

This time a magazine article puts a little bit more weight on the rumor. With this picture published:

Of course teenagers and a couple of older guys all over the world are screaming AE86. Indeed, light, rear wheel drive, sporty, coupe, very affordable, with good balance it'll sell like hot cakes. Fingers crossed and unlike most out there I hope they will stick to an NA engine.

What? A fun RWD sporty coupe with a good balance, precise control plus an easy price tag.

So what? That means car enthusiasts who aren't exactly well-off can still have a piece of the action.

And? Some kids will eventually introduce the front end of this car to numerous mountain pass guardrails, while others tune it to near-perfection and outrun a much more expensive factory Lotus.

When? End of 2009 but don't hold your breath for it.

A comeback of the comics-famed Trueno AE86? Sort of, the idea is similar but AE86 is a type of engine which production has been halted years ago, dead along with any decent driver's cars under the Toyota's emblem. It leaves me wondering how the new car's exhaust note would measure up.

Early specs:
price: 1,500,000 yen
length: 3959 mm
width: 1650 mm
height: 1350 mm
wheelbase: 2300 mm
engine: 2NZ-FE
exhaust: 1498 cc
horsepower (ps/rpm): 120/6500
torque: (kgm/rpm): 14.8/3800
transmission: 5MT
weight: 1000 kg

source: autoblog

Monday, August 06, 2007

unpopular opinion

If the Earth's lifespan up until now is compared to a 24-hour day, the entire human existence is merely the last two seconds.

A saying goes something like this- If everyone tells you to conform to the main stream, you're already on the right track. While I don't know how often this saying is correct, I've had a few unpopular opinions of my own. Among them is that global warming, man-made or otherwise, is beneficial overall.

With humans activities damaging our home planet, it's for the greater good if they'll eventually stop, or some drastic changes will take care of it. As a species we're short-sighted and selfish. As long as a temporary well-being can be maintained, we're willing to both actively and passively destroy the environment and lives in it, including ours. So who is to say that we don't deserve the consequences?

Being a little bit of a perfectionist, I'm prone to choose a darker solution. That doesn't mean we'll have to all go extinct, but it would take a significantly smaller population. The world is crowded as is. It's not equipped to accommodate these many. Humanitarian efforts hinder our progress as a whole. Feeding starving African children seems like a noble cause. But stamping the origins would help them sustain a self-efficient society. These would include but not exclusively involve:
  • fixing corrupt governments that take charity money and deliberately keep its citizens hungry,
  • deregulation-induced free trades,
  • plans that will inform parents, who have no means to feed their children, make educated decisions,
  • schools that provide basic skills as well as in financial survival.
It's no use crying over spilled milk.

However that's not to say the problem lies only at those areas. Developed countries, like the USA that consumes a large portion of the world's resources, should curb their appetite for consumption hence productions, despite where the actual assembly lines are at. With 20/20 hindsight, one can say a economy-wide voluntary effort is at best unlikely. The guys sitting in the throne, corporate or political, simply don't have the mental capacity to do the "right" thing.

OK, I'll help you take this leap of faith. Think of yourself as a gamer. You're playing a game of Simcity. In your created city there are poverty, rise of wars between nations and ideologies, lack of natural resources, major worldwide pollutions, corresponding climate changes, well, you think of the rest.

The surface is yet to be scratched. I for one would want to see the Planet doing what it does- regulates the elements to achieve equilibriums. Yeah I know I won't be there because I'll be long dead.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Mt. Haruna

For the summer holiday (I took three days off being the boss), we visited Mt Haruna (榛名山) and its mystical mountaintop lake (榛名湖). It's located in the middle of Gunma prefecture (群馬県), and a well-known place for illegal downhill races (no longer tolerated) thanks to Initial D's fame. In the anime the name is mysteriously changed to Mt. Akina (秋名山).

So I took my Mazda Roadster for a moderate downhill run (by run, I mean stroll) with lots of precaution since it'd been raining pretty hard, and my wife feeling car sick.

Here are some pictures of the beautiful lake.

Ikaho onsen (伊香保温泉) at the foothill; foggy

morning; from the submit (榛名富士), a stratovolcano

The lake view from our room's balcony. The entire hotel is inches from the lake and all the rooms face the lake. We saw a large fish (near human size) swimming by in the early morning.