Monday, January 30, 2006

Greenspan and borrowing


Alan Greenspan is retiring after almost 20 years of what has been considered by most a successful run as head of the Federal Reserve Bank. The Federal Reserve Bank has a lot of powers to try to manage the economy to keep it healthy. On the whole, Greenspan kept the recessions short and the growth periods long, which is all good.

But there are a few areas where he seems to have not done as well. Particularly, his low interest rate policy has made it so that we currently have the lowest rate of personal savings and the highest rate of government debt.

I found a web site that tracks the U.S. national debt. The current national debt of the US. Government is over $8 trillion dollars, or over $27,500 per each U.S. citizen. That is a lot of debt.

Just paying the interest on the debt will cost us over $320 billion dollars, or about $1100 per U.S. Citizen. This is almost one-and-a-half times as much as we are paying for the war on Iraq!

For those few people (if there is anyone) who have been reading my posts for a while, you will know that I have posted on the US Budget Deficit as a problem before, and probably will again. I thought we had learned the lessons when Reaganomics did not pan out like they had hoped, yet now we are on the second term of another President who is trying the same thing (but without the push for a smaller government that Reagan had).

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Happy Lunar New Year

Happy Lunar New Year. Tomorrow (January 29) is the start of the new year, based on the lunar calendar. It will be the year of the dog.
旧正月おめでとうございます。 明日(1月29日)は陰暦の元日だ。戌年だ。

You maybe have noticed that I called it "Lunar New Year", not "Chinese New Year". Most people I know do call it "Chinese New Year", but I annoyed some of my coworkers when I was living in Korea by calling it that. Korea, along with China, Viet Nam, Thailand, and other countries in the region all follow the lunar calendar. Understandably, someone from Korea won't want to hear a name that makes it sound like the calendar belongs to China.
「中国の春節」と言わないが、「旧正月」と言ったよ。 アメリカにはよく「中国の春節」と言っている。韓国に住んだ時の前、私も「中国の春節」と言った。「中国の春節」と言うのは中国のカレンダーの意味なので、韓国人の共同者は「だめだ」と言った。韓国やベトナムやタイ国も陰暦を使う。

My girlfriend was born in Hong Kong. Today we went to San Francisco's Chinatown for a dim sum lunch. It was delicious.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Bike Shop investor


Last summer, I saw an advertisement on Craigslist for a local bicycle shop that wanted to sell its business. The price listed for the business surprised me, as it wasn't that high. I emailed the ad to my friend Charles, who has worked in bike shops for over 20 years and struck me as someone who would do great with his own shop.

He looked into it, decided that the business for sale wasn't a good deal. But the whole process made him think seriously about opening a bike shop himself. He and his wife started researching things, found a good location, wrote up a business plan, etc., and have now opened under the name Passion Trail Bikes.

Passion Trail Bikes is specializing in high end mountain bikes. To the average person, the bikes are very expensive. But for people who have a passion for mountain biking, the brands that he carries (Intense, Maverick, Turner, Specialized S-Works, Giant, etc.) are the types of bikes they would buy. And the service level they provide matches the quality of the bikes. Last August, he wrote a Blog posting about his vision for the shop.

Funding for any start up is hard, particularly for a guy who has worked in bike shops for his whole life. But he found that many people believe in him and his vision and was able to come up with money. I also believe in him enough that I am now actually a part-owner (a minority stake - just a little piece) of the business.

I am excited. In many ways this is going better than I expected - I knew Charles would be great. But I found that he and his wife complement each other amazingly well business-wise (along with marriage-wise). She is managing the books, along with doing many of the artistic things like designing the logo. And they hired another very good friend of mine, and an avid cyclist, Berry, to work in the shop, and his skills in construction have been instrumental in turning an empty building into a bike shop (all well above and beyond what a bike shop employee would normally do), helping keep the start-up costs low.

As with any new business, there is always a risk that it won't make it. But they have made great progress and things are looking good so far.

去年の夏にCraigslistによると売り自転車屋のアドだそうだ。 希望価格は安いと思ったので、びっくりした。そのアドをチャールズさんという友だちにメールした。 チャールズさんは20年以上自転車屋で働いているし、いい自転車屋の持ち主になると思う。

チャールズさんは調べたが、その店はちょっと。でも新しい店を始めることにした。奥さんと場所を調べたり、経営計画を書いたり、して、Passion Trail Bikesという自転車屋を始めた。ハイエンドのマウンテン・バイクの販売とリペアを専門とする。


色めき立っている。予想以上に良い。 勿論チャールズさんはいいだろう。でもチャールズさんと奥さんは互いに助け合い補い合う。 奥さんは帳付けしたり、芸術活動したり、する。私のいい友だち、ベルイさん、を雇った。ベルイさんは店の建設工事しながら自転車社員する。建設労働者を雇わなくてもよいので、建設費は安かった。



Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Memoirs of a Geisha

I went to see the movie Memoirs of a Geisha last night. I have read the book before, and have done some research on Geishas, including having seen some perform at a special exhibit from a Kyoto Geiko (a geisha trainee) and Maiko (a full geisha) once, so I was interested to see how the movie would hold up. On the whole, I found it very entertaining and was happily surprised to see that it followed the book very closely.
昨日の晩「Memoirs of a Geisha」(さゆり)と言う映画を見た。本を読んだことがある。 芸者の事を少しい研究した。芸子一人と舞妓一人の音曲を見たことがある。全体的に見ると、映画は楽しく本と大体同じである。

The part where she did the dance as the lead dancer didn't feel kind of right. It was not like any Japanese dance I had ever seen before. The dance she did seemed more like a modern dance than a traditional Japanese dance.

Also, after the war when Sayuri was entertaining the soldiers, it was strange how either she and the other Japanese suddenly could speak in English, or that the soldiers could speak in Japanese. Learning a foriegn language is very difficult. I guess movies are allowed to take some liberties.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Photos from Chemelex Alumni get together

Click on the photos to see large size.

If there are any Chemelex alumni who find there way here, but are not on the Yahoo email list for Chemelex alumni (which is the primary way of announcing this event), please go to this web site or drop me an email to sign up.

I am using my Blog to post the photos, as this is an easy way for me to do it (rather than sticking them on my web site, which would require some HTML coding). For those that aren't from Chemelex - these are photos from the annual gathering of people who used to work at the Chemelex division of Raychem Corporation (which I did for some 9 years).

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Super Foods

The San Francisco Chronicle listed 'Super Foods' - foods that are especially good for your health. These foods are high in antioxidants or good fats. The article can be found here.

San Francisco Chronicle新聞によると素晴らしい体にいい食べ物のリストがあるそうだ。 その食べ物は酸化防止剤や体にいい油脂が沢山ある。英語の記事はここにだ。

Apples / 林檎
Avocados / アボカド
Beans / 豆
Blueberries / ブルーベリー
Dark chocolate / ダーク・チョコレート
Kiwis / キーウィ
Oats / からす麦
Spinach, kale, chard / 法蓮草と葉牡丹と不断草
Walnuts / ウォールナット
Yogurt / ヨーグルト

I try to eat these foods often.

Monday, January 09, 2006

US Citizenship Test

The following web site has sample questions that would be found on the test required of people trying to become US citizens. Could you pass? Click here for sample Test Questions.
アメリカの市民権を取るために試験に合格しなければならない。合格できる? ここに市民の例題の問題がある

I only got 6 correct out of 10, so I failed. Good thing I am already a citizen.
私は10点満点の6点を取る。だから合格しなかった。 幸いなことに私はもうアメリカ市民だ。

Thursday, January 05, 2006

New 7 Wonders of the World


In the second century BC (some 2200 years ago), scholars came up with a list of the 7 Wonders of the World (世界の七不思議). This list includes:
- The Great Pyramid of Giza (エジプトのピラミッド=金字塔)
- The Hanging Gardens of Babylon (バビロンの空中庭園)
- The Statue of Zeus at Olympia (オリンピアのゼウス神像)
- The Colossus of Rhodes (ローデス島のアポロ巨像)
- The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (エフェソスのアルテミス神殿)
- The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (ハリカルナッソスの霊廟)
- The Pharos of Alexandria (The Lighthouse of Alexandria) (アレキサンドリアの灯台)

An organization called New 7 Wonders of the World is trying to come up a list of the current 7 wonders of the world (新しい世界の七不思議). They have taken various sites nominated by people throughout the world, and then a "panel of expert" whittled the list down to 21 finalists. Now they have a phone in voting system to allow people to vote for the winners, which will be announced on New Year's Day 2007.

The 21 finalists which can be voted for are:
01 Acropolis, Athens, Greece (アテネのアクロポリス)
02 Alhambra, Granada, Spain (スペイン・グラナダのアルハンブラ宮殿)
03 Angkor, Cambodia (カンボジアのアンコール朝)
04 Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico (メキシコのチチェン・イツァ)
05 Christ Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (ブラジル、リオデジャネイロのキリストの像)
06 Colosseum, Rome, Italy (ロームのコロシアム)
07 Easter Island Statues, Chile (イースター島の像)
08 Eiffel Tower, Paris, France (パリのエッフェル塔)
09 Great Wall, China (チャイニーズ・ウオール)
10 Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey (イスタンブール・トルコの??)
11 Kyomizu Temple, Kyoto, Japan (京都の居水寺)
12 Kremlin/St.Basil, Moscow, Russia (ロシア・モスクワのクレムリン)
13 Machu Picchu, Peru (ペルーの??)
14 Neuschwanstein Castle, Fassen, Germany (ドイツのノイ・シュバン・シュタインカストレ)
15 Petra, Jordan (ジョーダンのペトラ)
16 Pyramids of Giza, Egypt (エジプトのピラミッド=金字塔)
17 Statue of Liberty, New York, USA (ユネスコの自由の女神)
18 Stonehenge, Amesbury, United Kingdom (イギリスのストーンヘンジ)
19 Sydney Opera House, Australia (オーストラリア・シドニーのオペラ劇場)
20 Taj Mahal, Agra, India (インドのタージマハル)
21 Timbuktu, Mali (マリのティンブクトゥ)

I am a little surprised that Kyomizudera is listed for Japan. Japan has many amazing temples, castles, etc. Kyomizu Temple is definitely impressive, but I would have thought something like Todaiji Temple in Nara (you can photos on both sites from one of the times I visited them by clicking here).

Delicious chocolates

A friend of mine gave me a box of Joseph Schmidt Chocolate truffles for Christmas. They were totally delicious! I think they may be the best chocolates I have ever eaten! I wish there were more in the box...

友だちは私にJoseph Schmidtのトリュフチョコレートをくれた。クリスマス・プレゼントだった。とても美味しかったよ。食べたチョコレートの中に一番美味しいと思う。もう少しあればいいだろう。

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Power corrupts


There is a saying "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely", attributed to British Historian Lord Acton. Based on the current U.S. Government, it appears to still hold true.

The Republican party has been in control of all 3 parts of the US government (president, senate, and congress) for a few years now. And there are a lot of legal indictments which are affecting politicians. The most recent is the whole Jack Abramoff affair. Mr. Abramoff is a lobbyist, which means he tries to get politicians to vote in the direction his clients want. In theory, a lobbyist provides information to politicians which help them make a decision. But in practice, it appears he was exchanging money for favorable laws - which is illegal. It will be interesting to see if any politicians will be forced to resign. Already some leading Republican congressmen are being rumored to be in trouble due to this.

But this is not the first. There have been a variety of other problems for politicians, including:

- earlier this year, Congressman Duke Cunningham resigned after admitting to accepting bribes

- Tom Delay had to step down from his post as leader of the Congress (but not as a Congressman) because he was indicted for illegally funneling money into a political campaign. Seems Delay's name has also been talked about in relations to Jack Abramoff.

- Senate leader Bill Frist is under investigation for insider trading of shares he owned of his family company's stock. Basically he (along with other senior people at the company) sold stock just before it dropped significantly in price.

- Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff (his main advisor) was indicted in the Plame Affair, where the name of an undercover CIA operative was leaked to the press. CIA operatives need their secrecy, so leaking a name intentionally is a federal crime. It seems that someone in the administration leaked the name as a way to get back at Valerie Plame's husband, who not only didn't find links to WMDs in Iraq, but had the guts (or as the President probably feels, the gall) to come out and say there are not any just as we were gearing up for war.

I am still a firm believer that there no one political party should hold all 3 parts of government. This way we will have checks and balances. Not only would that prevent either party from pushing very partisan rules into place, but it will also ensure that if certain party leaders are illegally influenced by money, the other party can stop the laws from going into affect (a law has to be approved by all 3 parts of the government).