Friday, December 30, 2005

Attached by a pack of, um, dogs

The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reported:
"A police officer escorting a teenager home from a traffic stop Thursday morning was attacked by a pack of Chihuahuas at the front door of the boy's home. The officer suffered bite wounds to his ankles, was treated at Washington Hospital and returned to work within two hours, Fremont police Detective Bill Veteran said."

This seems a bit funny. I have trouble seeing how a pack of Chihuahuas could be that dangerous...

San Francisco Chronicle新聞によるとカリフォルニア州のフリモントという町の警官が犬の群れに襲われたそうだ。でも犬はチワワだった。足首だけを噛んだ。アイフルのチワワはあぶなそうだか?ちょっと可笑しいだね。

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Education and politics


Today, the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper is reporting that Governor Schwarzenegger has decided to cancel fee increases for college students. This is the first good news in American education that I can think of for a long time, and definitely is different that the recent budget proposal at the Federal (national) level which cut student aid.

I am glad that Governor Schwarzenegger has decided to not raise the tuition for California schools, as this is preventing a move in the wrong direction. But overall I think our country is still going in the wrong direction with its education policy.

Economics talks about something called comparative advantage. A country's comparative advantage is what it does better than other countries. For America, that has been in areas related to education, such as sciences, developing new products, commercializing products, etc. These are area strongly affected by education. So for us to stay on top of our game, we need to make sure we have a great education system.

But recently, there have been a lot of changes affecting education. For one, the budget deficit run up over the last 4 or 5 years has gotten so out of hand that spending cuts need to be made. Yet we can't cut spending on the war in Iraq or on the larger government that has been put in place (even though Republicans for some reason still say that Democrats are the party of big government...), nor roll back the tax cuts given (which I think were stupid, given we had such bad deficits), so instead they are cutting aid to students (along with some other cuts). I think this is the wrong direction - instead we should be funding education even more than we are.

Secondly, our fight against terrorism has made it a lot harder for foreign students to get Visas to come study here. Foreign students were cash cows for schools, as they pay the full fare rate. This money sure was needed by schools. Added to this, these foreign students are still going to get educations, so now go to other countries like Australia and in Europe. These other countries have stepped up to fill in the needs for these students, and have been vastly improving, reducing the difference between foreign schools and American schools. We have had the best colleges in the world, but that probably won't last long. Yes, we should be vigilant in screening people who apply for student Visas and in making sure they really are students, but we should also ensure that legitimate students can get here without undue difficulty.

And our immigration policy also doesn't help (Ok, this isn't really an education policy, but is related). Our immigration policy favors allowing family members of those who are already here to enter the country. These family members are often uneducated and older. At the same time, those students who do get here to study are forced to leave if they can't find a job shortly after graduating. Studies have shown that young, educated people add a lot to the economy (while not drawing a lot from social services), while uneducated people don't make a lot (so don't pay much taxes) and can draw a lot from social services. Instead we should allow those students who graduate from here (especially those with advanced degrees or degrees in areas where we are short of workers, like in the sciences) to stay longer.

Of course funding education is expensive, but I don't think our country can afford not to do it. We aren't competitive in manufacturing or in areas that can be automated or offshored, but we are still the leader in entrepreneuership and sciences. If a country like China (whose education system spits out many more scientists than we do) improves to a point where they teach more than just rote learning, we are in trouble. Our only chance is to maintain our leadership in education, as that feeds the rest of our economy.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Segway - gift or weapon?

The Japanese newspaper, Mainichi Daily, reported that Prime Minister Koizumi was riding around on a Segway scooter which George Bush gave him. See the Mainichi article here.
毎日新聞によると小泉首相はブッシュ米大統領からプレゼントされたセグウェイスクーターに乗ったそうだ。 日本語の記事はここだ

Now, if you remember the experience that George Bush had when he was riding the Segway (see picture to the left), you have to wonder if he wants to be friends with Japan, of the Segway is a WMD to be used against the prime minister...

Saturday, December 10, 2005

10 hard English words

Do you know the meaning of the following 10 words?

1. Integrity
2. Refugee
3. Contempt
4. Filibuster
5. Insipid
6. Tsunami
7. Pandemic
8. Conclave
9. Levee
10: Inept

If you don't, that shouldn't be a surprise. These are the words which were most looked up on the on-line version of the Merriam-Webster's dictionary.

It is interesting to see what words are most looked up. They almost all relate to current events from the last year (Tsunami in Asia, new Pope, American politics, etc.).

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Effect of Memoirs of a Geisha


The movie Memoirs of a Geisha, based on the Arthur Golden's bestselling novel of the same name, is coming out this week. I have heard that here were some concerns within Japan about how the movie portrays geishas.

Many people have thought that geishas were just high class prostitutes (and some of what was done in the past, like mizuage, or wealthy patrons bidding for the right to deflower a young geisha, could be consider prostitution).

That may have been how it was in the past, but current geishas are supposed to be just performers, so there has been some concern that this movie will negatively portray current geishas.

Now a new challenge has come out, and this one from China. Seems that some in China think the main actresses (who are Chinese, not Japanese) are selling out their people. They are accused of evoking humiliating memories of Japan's wartime atrocities in China by portraying a Japanese geisha.
See this Mainichi Daily article for info

I guess this is a reflection of how strained relations are between China and Japan right now.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Bias in the media


I found it interesting to see the headlines listed today in regards to the charges against Congressman Tom DeLay of Texas.

Background - DeLay and 2 others have been charged with a few charges related to possibly using money in an election campaign illegally. He has been trying to get the charges dropped. Today, some of the charges were dropped, but others upheld (so he will have to go to trial).

Whether you agree with the charges or not, some charges were dropped and others upheld today, so it is interesting to see how news media report about this. DeLay is one of the leaders of the Republican party, so someone who wants to promote the issues from a right-leaning (conservative) slant would focus on the charges being dropped, and someone who wanted to promote left-leaning (liberal) slant would focus on the charges which were upheld.

The headlines as listed on the websites of major news media:
"Some Charges Dropped, Judge throws out conspiracy counts against DeLay"
"Judge dismisses some, but not all, charges against DeLay"
"DeLay's money laundering charges upheld"

Jusst going by these headlines, you would get a much different impression about what has happened. The first sounds like a wrongfully accused man is getting cleared of charges, while the last make it sound like a bad man is one step closer to being punished.

The first one was published on Fox News' web site. Fox is known as being right- leaning media, and this headline could support that. The headline makes little mention of the charges which are being upheld (which are considered to be the more important charges).

The second was published by CNN. Seems reasonably balanced to me - it talks about both charges.

The last one was found on both the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News web sites. The Chronicle is known as being a left-leaning newspaper, and this headline supports this. The headline doesn't even mention the charges which were thrown out. But I was surprised to find the San Jose Mercury News running the same headline, as I didn't think the Merc was left leaning.

Interesting, the articles used all seemed very close to the same, so probably came from the same news wire service. The main thing that varied was the articles headline.

I checked and the International newspapers (Mainichi Daily in Japan, Straits Times in Singapore, International Herald Tribune, etc.) don't have articles on this right now.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Online Xmas Newsletter

Every year, I write a short newsletter to update people on what I have been up to. This year's is on my web site at

Prior year's newsletters are at:
2004 -
2003 -
2002 -

友だちとか家族のために毎年クリスマスのニュースレターを書く。 今年のはだ。英語だけ書いた。

2004年 -
2003年 -
2002年 -

Browsing Magazines in Japan

In Japan, it is very common to see people browsing magazines at convenience stores. Many of the magazines, even the comics, would be categorized as adult magazines (because they contain nudity) in the States. Now a rule is being put into place that seals these magazines to try to prevent people from reading them in the stores. Read about it in this article from Mainichi Daily Newspaper.

Interesting, there has been an unexpected consequence. I would have expected that this rule would cause the sales to increase, as the people who used to browse the magazines in stores would now have to pay to be able to read them. But instead, the article reports that they have had an increase in people willing to model for these magazines.

Of course, sealing them to prevent someone from reading the magazine in a store won't stop another potential problem - people reading these magazines in public places (like on the train) where anyone can see the content.

Japan has different standards of morality than America, and that is fine. But I would not be comfortable looking at magazines like these in public.