Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Economic Forecast

2011年 9月 15日

Teaching elementary age students is a lot of fun. They have a lot more energy than older students and most of them haven’t learned to hate learning yet. As an educator, there is nothing tougher than trying to work with students who have decided not to learn; particularly if I only see them twice a month, leaving little opportunity to gradually restore their desire.

As enjoyable as the children are, I find I need to talk to learners at higher levels as well. Fortunately, I have a few friends who are working hard on their English skills and I sometimes check in on their progress. One friend has intense interest in business, financial, investing, and political news from around the world. I think he is studying articles everyday in the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, Stratfor, Financial Times, and several other respected sites.

Looking over a couple articles he was studying today, I spotted something of amusement:

Perhaps the best sign of how difficult it is to know the economy’s direction is that, as a group, the nation’s professional forecasters have failed to predict all the recessions since the 1970s, according to data kept by the Philadelphia Fed. In the last 30 years, the average probability they put on the economy lapsing into recession has never risen above 50 percent – until the economy was already in a recession.

Picturing someone bumping the likelihood numbers from 40% to 60% after a recession has already commenced, makes me think about all the drivers who turn on their turn signal after they have already entered your lane.

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Educational History

2011年 9月 1日

Yesterday we had a change in plans. Monday we drove up the Central Expressway to Niigata and were aiming to return by the Hokuriku Expressway for a change of scenery and, presumably, less traffic. As we passed through Matsumoto on our way north, my father-in-law started going on about Kaichi Elementary school and its history. When we stopped in a rest area for bathroom break and stretching our legs, he tracked down a book about Matsumoto and bought it. By the next day, he had thoroughly studied the book and decided we must see it.

You may wonder what would draw him to see the school, so perhaps a little school history and personal history are in order. My father-in-law became a principal in the later part of his career: at age 50 he was the youngest to achieve such position in our prefecture. Although he, like me, bemoans a number of frustrating points in the education system (and likely retired early because of them); he still feels an unbreakable bond to the education system.

In 1872, during the Meiji Restoration, there were major education reforms taking place and the lord of Matsumoto Castle felt the importance of good education. With that motivation he opened the Kaichi school in 1873 and it is still continuing its history today, making it the oldest existing school in Japan. Of course it has been housed in different buildings and has been physically relocated; however, it continued from its original charter. The building we went to see is apparently the front portion of the second school building (c. 1876) and is used as a museum and historic site today.

One point about this school and other historical schools I have visited which bothers me is the student artwork displays. There are 140 years of school history to choose from; however, the large display of student artwork is from 1942 and, let us say, it is fairly hateful overall. When I was in Iga-Ueno I had the same experience. Why there is a conscious decision to focus on this element is beyond me. It is definitely not the focus of persons in general society, so the focus is coming from education historians or someone related to these projects. On the other hand, furniture, textbooks, and other historic materials are displayed from various periods.

Since we were in the area, we also stopped by Matsumoto Castle.

Cold Turkey Commute

2011年 6月 9日

When the current majority party wrested control from the LDP they did it by promising just about everything to everybody. Naturally this won’t work with the current budget problems. One of their promises was to make toll on the expressroads free. Personally I don’t like this idea, because these roads are expensive to maintain and the funds will have to come from somewhere. Rather I would prefer that they try to adjust the tolls in different areas to maximize income and keep traffic flowing on these roads. But, I digress.

The free tolls didn’t appear for awhile and everyone was wondering what would happen. Then about a year ago, they announced a trial program in limited areas. One of the areas was between my house and work… convenient for me, I guess. The program had approximately a 9 month window. When that was expiring, I was expecting to have to cough up money; but, just before the period ended they masked out the end date on all the signs. Here we are, almost 3 months later, filled with assumptions that it will go on and on…

This morning I was reading the announcement boards as I whizzed under them on my way to school. 無料化終了 appeared in lights. June 19th, they will end the free program. Short notice indeed. Now I will have to make some tough choices.

I wonder if going back on this promise will sting the Democratic Party’s support.

Something for Nothing

2010年 2月 8日

Last year the government in Japan changed hands. It was decades in coming, but it was earned at the cost of numerous promises to about every demographic group (with suffrage) imaginable. Some of the promises – like public education through high school – seem reasonable to me. Well educated citizens are more easily employed which generates revenue to pay back for this cost. Additional benefits of this path are not difficult to imagine. Other promises; however, don’t meet with my approval (not that my non-voting opinion carries much weight.)

Free toll on the expressways was a strong promise made. Most people were ecstatic about this because everybody wants something for nothing. Prices for the toll roads are quite high which means people often choose alternate routes resulting in nearly vacant sections of roadway. From an optimization perspective, lowering the tolls enough to make a dramatic increase in usage seems like the best approach. If dropping the price by a third, doubles the number of users, then revenues would increase by 33%. Of course, dropping the fare to free would also drop revenue generation to zero, but maintenance fees would increase dramatically with the increased usage. In many areas, the increased usage would also cause traffic jams, negating the purpose of these roads.

We have automated toll-paying machines in cars which give us a 30% discount on fares and 50% discount during rush hour. I ordered up a card to use in my “ETC” machine. The price is still a little high for my commute, but gets in that range where I’ll use it a couple times a week depending on my schedule.

Last week we got the news announcement that from June to December, low-usage areas will be free on a trial basis. Guess what? My stretch of road is on the list. Although I am opposed to free toll as a system, you can be I’ll be trying it out. My commute on the days I go by car is trouble free… I wonder how many cars will be on the road in June…

That’ll Stick to Your Ribs

2008年 9月 24日

Last week we had a little governmental shake-up. One of our Ministers had to step down from his position because of a rice-related scandal. China has been selling inedible rice to Japan. Now, when I first saw this I wanted to blame China for the trouble based on their bad track record with food and product safety; however, the rice was indeed not meant to be eaten. It was actually a mixture of rice and glue. The problem arose when the rice was being washed and used by food manufacturers in Japan.

Apparently the Minister denied the problem initially, which never goes over well when the facts come to light.

My response to this was, “Just one more reason to buy locally grown organic foods.” I’ve never found glue residue in the rice from our area.

New President

2008年 9月 22日

Aso Taro (麻生太郎・あそうたろう), the 68 year old Secretary General of the current administration, was selected as the JDP (自民党) President today. Aso had tried to become the Prime Minister in both of the last two selection processes, but striking many as right-wing, militaristic, and slippery, he failed to get the position. I don’t know much about what a party President does, but it might be like when Dean was made the Democratic Party Chairman in America.

Happy Terrorist Day

2008年 9月 11日

Have we given a name to September 11th yet? If we expect everyone to remember it, perhaps we should name it. I was thinking Terrorist Day would get the point across. But that got me thinking: would it be in poor taste to wish someone a Happy Terrorist Day?

My feeling is that, if we all have to walk around sullen and somber on this day, then the terrorists have indeed won. However, if we try to enjoy this day and encourage others around us, then the terrorists have lost. Of course there was a lot of suffering that day, but mourning and being terrified should be two separate things.

I’m hoping to see my sweetheart for about 15 minutes tonight before she heads back to work, so I’ll be happy this Terrorist Day.

Sunday Soundcheck 27

2008年 9月 7日

The second sound in the ‘T’ column is chi. It’s written in another system as ‘ti’, but the sound to an English speakers ear usually sounds more like chi. The tongue is generally placed close to the same location as it would for an ordinary ‘t’ sound, but the tongue doesn’t strike the pallet so much. Also, always keep in mind that in Japanese the lips aren’t moved so much. Chi is written in hiragana as ち and in katakana as チ.

Chibetto (チベット) was in the news a lot leading up to the Olympics, but I don’t know that I hear it so much now. This the Japanese way to say Tibet.

Chaashuu (チャーシュー) is a favorite of mine. It is a Chinese style of cooking pork. First the pork is treated with sugar and spice, soy sauce and sake, then it is roasted and sliced. Often you can find it floating atop very tasty ramen. This certainly meets my criteria for being a word which can be used regularly in conversation. Yum!

Conversation with my girlfriend covers a tremendous range of topics and, whenever it is time for the Soundcheck, never fails to leave me with a new word that matches the needs of the week. Chiryou (ちりょう) means treatment, cure, remedy, or therapy. It can be written in kanji as 治療. This has come up twice in the last week, and here it is time for chi words.