Friday, January 19, 2007

new congress and its 100hr promises

Ideal would be non-partisanship. But when all failed the left still makes more sense, even if it means not doing anything at all sometimes. Yeah, what a sad view of the world although here is a glimpse of humanity:
The bills passed by the House as part of the 100-hour agenda would:

_Slap a "conservation fee" on oil and gas taken from deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico; scrap nearly $6 billion worth of oil industry tax breaks enacted by Congress in recent years; and seek to recoup royalties lost to the government because of an Interior Department error in leases issued in the late 1990s. Passed Thursday.

_Lower interest rates on federally subsidized student loans from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent in stages over five years at a cost to taxpayers of $6 billion. About 5.5 million students get the loans each year. Passed Wednesday.

_Make the government bargain directly with drug companies with the aim of reducing prices of prescriptions for Medicare beneficiaries. Passed Jan. 12.

_Expand government-financed embryonic stem cell research. Passed Jan. 11.

_Raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over 26 months. Passed Jan. 10.

_Bolster terrorism-fighting efforts with more cargo inspections. Passed Jan. 9. via Yahoo!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

my job

Here are my responses to questions asked related to new recruitment in replacement of my position. I thought it might be a good idea to post them as it's almost time to conclude: (two more months, fingers crossed)

1) In addition to a pretty busy eikaiwa schedule, I go to a kindergarten (in town) on Weds (10:30-12:00), and used to go to an elementary school (next town) every Thurs (10:30-12:30) but gave it to another teacher when he came on board.

2) My apartment is quite new. I'm guessing 5 years. It includes a living\bed room, a kitchen, a toilet, and a bathroom. Size-wise it's OK for Japan. It's certainly bigger than my last place near my station. Amenities and furniture are all available in alright condition as far as the school apartment check-list is concerned.

3) My neighborhood is also pretty new, in fact all the houses here are no more than 10 years old. My pad is more or less like a mini-townhouse. I got a parking space in front and a small garden to look at, as well as a tiny alleyway for a backyard. The area is a quiet and safe. To some people it might be a little too quiet. Not much traffic at all since it's tucked away from the "main" street. It takes 10 minutes to drive to the city center, if it could be considered one.

4) There are some 10 English-speaking foreigners from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and England. So I'll go ahead and say it's not exactly the easiest place to make friends if those are the only options. I haven't been hanging out much with fellow gaijin because I'd done a lot of that first two years in Japan. But I'm able to make great friends with the locals. For someone who doesn't speak Japanese or a first-time "Japaner", I imagine it would be quite tough. A little resourcefulness would go a long way here.

5) Day trips to these cities are quite reasonable:
Choshi (30min by car or train) kujukuri beaches, a marina, a college, a light house, the first sunrise of Japan, good seafood
Narita (40min by car, forever train) bar hoping and shopping
Kamisu (50min by car) shopping
Kashima (70min by car) baseball games
Yotsukaido (90min by car, 70min train, but who really wants to go there ^_^)
Chiba (100min by car or train)
Tokyo (2hr+ by car or train)

Night life in Asahi is virtually non-existence. There are a bunch of izakaiya, two borderline proper bars but no one hardly goes there, well and your run-of-the-mill karaoke.

6) My position is best for people who have a retirement attitude. By now you must have suspected that there is nothing here, and rest assure, you're right. I've lasted this long for one reason only - I like quiet middle-of-nowheres. Well of course the rest comes with it, to name a few, the nature, nice people, and a cheaper standard of living. Surfing is a pretty big thing here as well. Last but not least it's a great place for some money-saving.

7) In addition to what's been said, one might find my schedule pretty hectic. There aren't enough breaks between classes. I kind of brought this upon myself. I basically let them cramp as many classes as possible because initially I wanted to make some overtime money. I'd worked 6 days plus two public schools for (school owner), averaging 350 minutes of teaching a day, for 18 months.

8) I work in A school on Mon, and B school Tue - Fri. The staff are great. I have no complaints whatsoever. They're very helpful and I have a good relationship with all of them. The A school itself is a little awkward. It's in a tiny mall right next to a bathroom so sometimes it smells funny and a couple of bugs would join the class in session since the room partitions don't go all the way up. Otherwise it's quite alright.

9) You are right about the car. I do think it makes sense in a place like this to have access to a vehicle, although it doesn't have to be a car, some scooter would do, and last time I checked (school owner) has one.

celebrating 30

30 years has gone in a flash. My birthday was a couple of days ago. I'm glad that it's over so I can get on with my life. Not that I didn't have a great time. I had two cakes which is more than usual. My girlfriend made me breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They were delicious. Congratulatory emails were sent and received. There was moderate drinking involved. My friends and a couple of students bought me cute presents. Everything is fine but I'm just glad I'm done walking across that line.

Friday, January 05, 2007

sayonara, S2000

Reading upon one of my favorite vehicles - the Honda S2000, I found a couple of articles about its fateful departure. It will be a sad one.

Honda is considering replacing it with a 4-seater. Ok, I guess they're not really replacing it with it but the comparisons are there.
Behind firmly closed doors in Japan, Honda continues to work on a possible S2000 successor. But with a twist: the new version, if approved, will have four seats and shift upmarket toward a more affluent SLK-type audience.

While the S2000 has had its fans, and that brilliant 2.0-liter screamer of a four-cylinder is almost worth the price of admission alone, overall it’s been too raw and hardcore of a package to deliver the kind of sales that Honda originally hoped for. (link)
The S2000 has been commented on as non-profitable by Honda or otherwise a steal for the car enthusiasts. With the new Solstice GXP "packing a punch," alongside the similar-looking Miata, even though they aren't direct competitors, S2000 is further driven down a tougher road allowing little maneuverability as an old dog.
Already a big hit just as it was, the Pontiac Solstice has gotten even better for 2007 with the addition of a high-performance version known as the GXP.

And for those who've already had a hard time finding the base Solstice, be prepared to wait even longer for the GXP, which will be even more limited in supply. GM plans to built only a fraction as many GXP models as the regular Solstice during 2007. (link)
On Mazda MX-5 Miata:
The affordable two-seat roadster is the new black. It's also the old black. And, frankly, it's likely to be the next new black, too. So goes fashion in the auto industry. The cheap-but-fun sports car has been a perennial favorite since the late 1980s as a low-volume, high-energy image maker that can cast a zippy aura on less exciting but more practical models on the same lot. (link)
My opinions: While the new Solstice GXP and Miata look the part, they are not in the same leauge as S2k performance-wise. They're cheap, fun, and "zippy", but what's underneath the S2000's hood are the ideals of young engineers putting together a driver's car, which did exactly that. Kudos, indeed.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

2 documentaries

Today I saw two really inspiring documentaries.

1) Human 2.0
Meet the scientific prophets who claim we are on the verge of creating a new type of human - a human v2.0.

It's predicted that by 2029 computer intelligence will equal the power of the human brain. Some believe this will revolutionise humanity - we will be able to download our minds to computers extending our lives indefinitely. Others fear this will lead to oblivion by giving rise to destructive ultra intelligent machines.

One thing they all agree on is that the coming of this moment - and whatever it brings - is inevitable.

2) Monster of the Milky Way
Astronomers are closing in on the proof they've sought for years that one of the most destructive objects in the universe—a supermassive black hole—lurks at the center of our own galaxy. Could it flare up and consume our entire galactic neighborhood? Join NOVA on a mind-bending investigation into one of the most bizarre corners of cosmological science: black hole research. From event horizon to singularity, the elusive secrets of supermassive black holes are revealed through stunning computer-generated imagery, including an extraordinary simulation of what it might look like to fall into the belly of such an all-devouring beast.