Archive for June, 2008

They Got Him!!!

Better late than never. The Osaka police folk nabbed the former President and CEO of now defunct NOVA Corporation, Nozomu Sahashi. See “Former Nova chief arrested” for all the details.

All I will say is this guy is a crook, and wouldn’t know how to properly manage a sandwich in to a paper bag. I sincerely hope they throw the book at him. I don’t wish him any ill will, I just want him to rot in jail for the rest of his life. That’s how much he owes, fiscally and emotionally. But now the final decisions are up to the Osaka justice system. The Japanese justice system usually has a 99% conviction rate. I hope this guy isn’t in that 1% who get-off.

The Daily Yomuiri Online also has a good write-up if you care to read from more than one source. I pray for his soul. Peace


The Legend of Tiger

There is no doubt, as if there ever was, that we are watching the greatest golfer to ever play the game. I’m not diminishing Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, or the other greats who came before Tiger, but there is always that One who will eclipse the Lords of yesteryear. Tiger is that One. His victory at this year’s U.S. Open was by far the best in modern tournament history, and maybe ever. I’m not making that statement. I’m just repeating what many an expert golf analyst have already said. He’s the best.

At 32, he has 14 majors, 65 tour wins, more money than some countries, and a secure place in golf history. What made his victory at Torrey Pines all the more dramatic, was he wasn’t 100%. His knee was really not helping him. Post surgery/rehab soreness saw Tiger limping around the fairways and greens. He had blown hole after blown hole. Bad starts and stormy bunkers tried encroach on this psyche. Well, with no luck as he found a way to win.

He closed out this event in sudden death fashion against a formidable opponent who at anytime could have taken it, but didn’t. And in true Tiger fashion he was humble and gracious in his moment. He gave kudos to The Rocc, who seemed to come out of nowhere but Tiger thought differently. Like a true warrior he never underestimated his competition. He knew who was out there, and he knew the capabilities of everyone playing. Sometimes I think that is what makes him so dangerous. He knows that these guys can win at any time, so he always has to play with his best, or whatever his best will give him on that day.

So the conversation will now escalate to WHETHER OR NOT Tiger will reach the hallowed ground 18 majors. As far as I’m concerned the conversation should be about WHEN will he reach 18, and how far out of reach will he place the record. Remember, Tiger still wants to do the true Grand Slam – all 4 majors in the same season, in a row. He can’t do that this year, but if he wins another major, or two this year, and then sweeps them all next year. You’re looking at probably 20 majors before the age of 34. Tiger will probably play another 10 years, and with his physical conditioning, no telling how long he will go for. The only stumbling block is his mental capacity and will to stay in the game, and win. Just remember, Jim Brown quit at the top of his game, and so did Barry Sanders, and they were shocks to a lot of people. Will Tiger follow suit? I sure hope not, and by all accounts it looks unlikely. So strap in and prepare yourself for more history making because every time Tiger walks the courses of a major, he’s taking one more step towards eternity.


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Randy Pausch Update

Here is an update to The Randy Pausch Motivational. Click here to get the latest news about Randy. It seems it has been a mix of good and bad times. I hope as time moves forward he has more good times than bad. Here’s to you Randy – Happy Father’s Day!


God Bless Tim Russert

I don’t usually believe in superstition, or good luck and bad luck. Not saying I count it out, but I usually don’t give 100% creedence to such things. That said, this past Friday the 13th was an unlucky day. On this Friday, June 13th, 2008 Tim Russert of Sunday morning’s Meet The Press died of a heart attack. He was only 58. He is carried-on by his wife Maureen Orth, their son Luke, and the countless numbers of viewers whose lives he touched every Sunday morning. Every time there was something political that needed objective analysis and thoughtful insight Tim was there to guide us through the turbulent waters. From primaries to general elections to Congressional races, Tim was there. If I missed Meet The Press one week it would be a week unfulfilled. Thankfully, as I live in Japan I was able to download the webcast and watch it at my convenience, so I didn’t have to go without. For me it was, “If it’s Monday, it’s Meet The Press.”

If you want more insight into Tim and all that he did, you can get a glimpse at MSNBC’s website. There’s a way to leave a personal message if you care to. Here is what I wrote:

I still can’t believe it. My deepest prayers are for the Russerts.

I always loved his little extra shout-outs at the end of the broadcast, especially when he praised his son Luke. Everything Boston College.

I live in Japan and have been listening and watching Meet The Press podcasts and webcasts for the past 5 and a half years. For me, “If it’s Monday, it’s Meet The Press.” I rarely missed an airing.

It’s strange, I feel like a close friend, or even family member has been taken from me. I was just staring out the window wondering, “What is life going to be like from now on, without him?” I was not crying, but my heart and mind were thrown into a vertigo-like state of confusion. “What to make of this?”

The medical facts revealed quite a lot. It is sad to say, but time was not on his side. That said he used his time well. No one can say he didn’t pack as much life into his days on this Earth.

Thank you Tim for always keeping us informed no matter where on the planet we were.

Rest In Peace

Government Catches Up To Business

So it seems that government diplomacy is following behind business diplomacy. According to The New York Times Online article “Taiwan and China Hold Formal Talks, by Edward Wong, and Alan Cowell reporting from Paris,

Representatives of China and Taiwan agreed in a meeting here on Thursday to establish permanent offices in each other’s capital to help coordinate discussions about closer relations. The agreement came on the first day of negotiations over how to strengthen the economic relationship between China and Taiwan…

About time, as according to the same NYTimes Online article, “Taiwan is the biggest investor in China and many Taiwanese businesspeople live on the mainland.” Businesses always seem to a few steps ahead of official government diplomacy. Thankfully, in this situation government policy seems to be really trying to follow businesses lead.

A catch-22 to this whole story is that China still considers Taiwan a “renegade nation,” and has ballistic missiles pointed at them. Still, business finds a way around all that. Another funny catch-22 to this courting relationship is that these two neighbors are just beginning to work out a currency situation that will allow normalization of currency usage in each nation. Taiwan is opening its doors to the Chinese Renminbi for the first time. Imagine the United States and Canada saying, today, “Hey guys maybe we should normalize our currency policies so we can use each others’ currency instead of always having to change money into Euros or Swiss Francs or Japanese Yen.” And still, business finds a way of dealing with these little financial hang-ups. Business is obviously tuned in to something, and are now hampered by a lack of government unity between these two major Asian economies.

I always believed it quite strange that China and Taiwan could never get along, as having an unruly neighbor these days is quite strenuous. If one neighbor is upset they aren’t just going to leave last night’s trash on your doorstep. But if they did, last night’s garbage isn’t the same old ramen noodles it used to be in the 1950’s. These days last night’s trash contains ballistic missiles with a topping of depleted uranium to make things extra nice and ripe when it smacks on your doorstep. Ramen noodles never tasted so good. Not to mention Taiwan has its own big neighbor that although has to stretch some distance can hit with alarming impact. So, who wants all that tension around the neighborhood? Isn’t it easier to just exchange wok recipes and call it a night?

I’m not oblivious to the history of these two nations, nor do I make underplay the inter-cultural tensions and ideologies of these two nations, but something has to be done as human casualties can be at stake. Taiwan and China have an interconnected history, as this tiny island was the main fleeing point for Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist ruling party the Kuomintang, which now heads the Taiwanese government, after defeat at the hands of Mao Zedong and his Communist Party at the end of the Chinese Civil War. Since those days in 1950 China has tried to bring Taiwan back under the delicate fist of “One China Unity.” I believe, if Taiwan had not transformed itself into a prosperous economic power we might not hear so much chest thumping from China about “One China” (a strong connection to the United States and other Western powers probably has something to do with the chest thumping as well). And if China had not taken off on its economic rise Taiwanese business people might not be pushing to normalize relations with the Mainland folk who chased them away. Still though, they are interconnected and no one can deny that. Separated by a stones-throw these two state entities are eternal neighbors, and what affects one will affect the other. They must get along. At least that’s what the business people believe, and are proving. Hopefully the governments follow suit.


Opening Akita City To The World

June 11, 2008 2 comments

I’m not one to preach (well maybe a little), but some things I’ve noticed this week have really set me off in certain directions. One of the major directions I’m traveling in is spreading the English language.

I’m not an English imperialist, but I am an English teacher who sees the value of a language that everyone can use to communicate. I’ve always said that the World needs a language that everyone can speak. I don’t care if it is Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Japanese, Chinese, whatever. Just as long as it is a language that is real, with history, dynamism, and all the things that make a language worth learning. I guess I’m lucky that English seems to be the language that people want to speak. Trust me when I say, I count my blessings. All that said, of course I don’t mean that one language should replace another. I think some people believe that is what learning English means. Not true! I’ve traveled quite a bit and I can safely say that those people who can speak English fluently are the ones who, more often than not, know more about their own history, culture, and language than those who only speak the native tongue. That is one of the many beauties about learning a second language. You become so much closer to your own, and the culture it supports.

It’s interesting though what happens when we approach people about learning English. Quite often people freak out, look shocked and dumbfounded, and often jabber (in English) in self-deprecating commentary that proves they can actually speak English and are capable of taking our classes. Sometimes though I take a step back and wonder if they really are nervous about learning a new language, or are they nervous about being opened to a totally different world? Quite often, in Japanese society, these kinds of educational pursuits are seen as explorations into futility. So the pressure is there not to do things out of the ordinary. And Japan as a whole has not fully grasped the importance of globalization, and language education (English or otherwise). Still I push and try to reach people because in the end people want to use the knowledge they’ve gained throughout their lives. And, I truly believe that everyone has something to say, and they want/need ways to express themselves. It’s my job to give them the tools to complete their life projects, so they can fulfill their hopes and dreams.

With the inspiration and drive from my Japanese wife we’ve been able to set up a small business (Back To The School) that brings English language education to the masses of Akita City, Japan. We want to expand things into a business that also focuses on opportunities in continuing education. Through all this we want to open the World to Akita City, and create a community that reaches its full potential.

What Would You Do?

Fearful of being laid off from your temp/contract job, what would you do? You find out that you are not going to be laid off (that’s a good thing), then one day you come to work to find your uniform not where it should be, what would you do? How about, kill a bunch of people by stabbing them with a knife. Or better yet, run them over then stab them with your knife. That sounds like it will solve your problems right quick, no?

Well unfortunately, the above story actually happened. What was really a misunderstanding turned out to be a bloodbath. I wonder what would have happened if said worker decided to ask his manager, “What happened to my uniform? It’s not where it usually is.” The manager, I bet, would say, “The uniforms are being dry cleaned. Sorry for the inconvenience. You can borrow a temporary one from storage.” Easy and clean. And people aren’t dead.

I sometimes look at incidents like this one and wonder about humanity. That wonderment isn’t very positive. Necessities of life like food are becoming so expensive some people can’t obtain what they need to survive. Water is being polluted, diverted, or drained in order to provide material wealth, greater living space, increased agricultural wealth, etc. Fuel prices are ridiculously high, and those who have the stranglehold on feel the situation should not change. And yes, you have people who decide to take the lives of others just because they were “upset.” I wonder what he would have done if his company openly lied to him while the CEO hung out in his penthouse villa paid for by the company? I dare imagine what would happen.

If this all sounds strange let me put it into firm context. A Japanese man killed people in Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan because he thought he might be laid off from work.

Akihabara is the electronic nerve center of Japan. If it blinks, talks, beeps, or anything else automated you can find it. Needless to say it is always crowded. This upset factory worker picked a ‘good’ place to do what ‘he felt he had to do.’

I can safely say, without a doubt, this guy is a dead man walking. You see the Japanese criminal justice system is not so forgiving in situations like these. From what news papers have said, this is cold-blooded murder. Place your bets, on how long this guy survives. And it really is a gamble because the Japanese criminal justice system will not tell this guys family, or anyone he knows, when he is going to be executed. They don’t want the commotion or emotion. He should just know that when the guard comes and asks him about his final meal, it will all be over soon. Savor that ramen.

To read coverage of this story click here at The New York Times Online, or here at The Japan Times Online.