Archive for the ‘Main’ Category

Gimme a Job

November 18th, 2008 5 comments

I have always taken job hunting seriously. I feel that it’s something you have to take on whole-heartedly, not half-assed. Me, I hunt down all job resources I can find, weed and sort, schedule interviews (schedule a few throwaways first so you can get some practice in), research the job and the company as well as you can, dress up and arrive a few minutes early (not too early), so forth and so on. In the end, if you’ve done it right, then you will have a few good job offers at least, and can take your pick.

But nowadays I am on the other end of the process. Like I was ten years ago, I now find myself making, not reading, the classifieds listings and sorting through resumes. Between then and now were the blissful years of only working, but recently I was called back in for a spell to manage again for a while. And it is depressing to see what comes forth when you list a job.

I mean, seriously. Far more than half the applicants do not have the basic, bottom-of-the-barrel, “must-have” qualifications for the job. Okay, maybe they think that they’ll get lucky, maybe they hope that the employer is aiming too high. But some of these people clearly just shoot out resumes to everyone in sight–the scattershot approach. Clumsy. Messy. Maybe even desperate. But hey, at the very least, take the trouble to send a separate email to every employer instead of lumping them all together in the Cc list for all to see.

You wouldn’t believe how sloppily some people put together these things. This time around, we needed several different positions filled, and included several in the same ad. Very few specified which position they were applying for, even though the positions were widely variant; I wound up having to read the resumes closely and guessing which position the person is applying for. Sometimes I have to read really close, because the information is often muddled. Education histories don’t specify what major the person’s degree was in. Employment histories leave out vital details. Heck, one person didn’t even bother to add which city he lived in.

Reading these things, it really makes me want to write down a primer on how to write a good resume. So here goes. Note that this is for an average job calling for moderate experience and qualifications–if it’s a minimum-wage job, just send a one-pager; if it’s for Rocket Science, then maybe send a tome. But most times, it’s in between. Points to consider:

  • Format Counts: as superficial as it may seem, careful attention to formatting makes a difference. Don’t use templates–anyone who reads resumes for a living has seen them all and can spot the people who use the standard forms. Use a good font–Optima for sans serif, Garamond for serif. I can’t explain why, but many outstanding applicants I have interviewed had Garamond resumes. Use character spacing, small caps, regular tab settings, the works. Try to make it look neat, organized, and elegant. How your resume looks tells the employer how important this is to you.
  • (If by email) Save your resume as a PDF: send both MS Word and PDF formats if you must, but PDF preserves formatting perfectly, and is a universal format.
  • Use a cover letter: a cover letter is like a thesis statement–it explains very quickly to the employer why they should hire you. Explain what position you are applying for, and list the basics as to why you’re qualified. The cover letter should be three medium-length paragraphs–not too brief, not too long. If you’re sending your resume by email, then give a truncated cover letter in the email, and a full one in the cover page of your resume.
  • Avoid the clichés: don’t say that you’re a “team player,” or that you “want to make a positive contribution to the company.” (Yes, I actually get those.) Be a bit more original than that. Sculpt your patter to fit the position. Don’t go too far or else you’ll make your interviewer gag. Reign it in.
  • Cover the basics: Put your name, full address, telephone number(s), email address, and all vital information on the resume. Sounds basic, but you’d be surprised at how many people mess up this stuff.
  • Customize: don’t use the same resume for every application. Research each job you apply for. Find out something about the company and the job you are applying for, and rewrite that specific resume to match it. Several times I have gotten resumes that were obviously intended for a different job, and it makes the applicant seem like they don’t give a damn. Generalized resumes usually give a weaker impression.
  • Make it easy for the employer to be impressed: I can’t tell you how many times I have had to scour resumes for any indication that the person has the qualifications for the job. It should all be apparent, right up front. Education first–be brief but informative. Degree, major, university, years, honors. Then employment history–but here’s where you have to be careful. Don’t just go listing every job you’ve ever had. Do you think I care if you were a waiter at a pizza joint if you are applying for a job as a graphic designer? Okay, if you leave all of that out then there will be big holes and the employer will wonder why. So categorize: list the positions relevant to the job you are applying for first, then list other positions later, under a different heading. But don’t make the employer sift through every part-time and temp job you’ve had in order to find the few jobs that show you have the experience they want.
  • Be specific where it counts: When you list qualifications specifically relevant to the position, then you go into detail. Make sure they’re aware that you know how to do the job in question. If you are applying for a job managing a bookstore, then mention the specific duties you had when you worked for Barnes & Noble, but leave out the details of how you were the personal fitness trainer to that country & western singer, no matter how cool that was.
  • Be thorough but brief: Don’t take 30 pages to list the stunning array of publications you’ve authored and seminars you’ve given. Keep it to 2 pages, maybe 3. One page is too short, often not giving me enough reason to be impressed; more than three is showing off. If you’ve got so much, list only the most impressive stuff, and then add a note that there’s more where that came from “upon request.” If they’re interested, they’ll request. If you absolutely must, then send a brief resume and an “extended” resume–don’t force them to read a novel.
  • Add references: most jobs will want them, and they will check them. List them in your resume. If you have letters of reference, okay–but make sure to give email addresses and telephone numbers for them to check, and alert your reference people that they may be contacted.
  • Have everything ready, on request: anticipate what the employer might ask for. Have copies of every degree, every college transcript, every letter of reference, every supporting document you can think of, ready to fax/email/carry in upon request. They will ask for it; “I’ll have to look into getting that for you” is less impressive than “here, if you want the originals let me know and I’ll get them for you as soon as I can.”
  • Spell check: nothing says “don’t hire me” more than spelling errors on your resume. Don’t just check for the squiggly red lines, actually read the thing, several times, and look for any errors, in spelling, wording, style, etc.

That’s everything that comes to mind right now. Follow these rules and your resume should be in the top 5 percent at least. As depressing as these resumes sometimes get, I always have the assurance that if I ever need to look for a job, I will most definitely stand out amongst the applicants.

Categories: Main, Tutorials Tags:

Intelligent Design

October 25th, 2008 Comments off

This morning we did a redesign of the office where I work. Previously, the office had been designed purely on paper–we (Okay, I) had no sense in advance of the physical space save for speculation based on measurements alone, and had to create the layout halfway blind. Because of this, requests for equipment such as more office computers won out over spacing. We all thought it looked good on paper, but in practice, it was way too crowded. The spaces between desks were underestimated as people tended to naturally push away from their desks far more than I had guessed; additionally, I had not taken into account the constant conferencing of teachers with their students, who would grab nearby chairs and cluster in an area. As a result, the office was far too crowded, and avenues of movement were constantly being blocked, in addition to other problems.

Today’s redesign was a vast improvement; by getting rid of two cabinets and two computer desks we really did not need, we were able to move more desks to the wall areas and instead of two desk islands, reduced it to one–and now the office looks hugely improved. One tall partition that used to be in an island in the middle of the room is now removed, making the room seem larger and more open. It looks a hell of a lot better and should work a lot better as well.

There is also one feature of the room which I have always liked: the allowance for wiring under the floor. The room’s carpet is laid down in squares about a foot and a half to the side; they adhere to the sticky of small wood panels beneath. The wood panels cover an array of styrofoam blocks with channels in them, and this allows for wires to pass beneath the floor. Electric and computer network cables can be run to anywhere in the room, popping up to serve any desk or station.


The same is true in the computer lab I work in. I have to assume that this is a standard design in a lot of offices and other rooms, but I had never seen it before I started working at my college–few people realize these floors are here or how they work–and always thought it was a very clever and useful design.

Categories: Main Tags:

It’s All in the Details

September 18th, 2008 5 comments

Via Andrew Sullivan’s site, here are the two candidates’ messages on how to fix the economy:

Quite a difference. Obama’s plan:

1. Reform tax system with $1000 tax break to middle-class families, not the rich;
2. Real regulation that protects your investments and pensions;
3. Fast track “energy made in America plan” to end dependence on Middle East oil;
4. Crack down on lobbyists;
5. Bring a responsible end to war in Iraq so money can be spent on America.

McCain’s Plan:

1. Reform Wall Street
2. Fix Washington

This is better than Obama’s plan because:

1. His “opponent’s” solutions are only “talk and taxes.”

How stark can it get? One lays out a 5-point plan (with a link to a web site with a great many details on how this will be accomplished), and the other says he’ll “fix things” without saying how, while bragging that he’s “taken on tougher guys” than Obama.

I’m sorry, but if you’re voting for John McCain to reform the economy better than Barack Obama, then you’re a complete idiot.

Me, I’ve seen my stock price fall a lot chiefly because of market pressures due to Bush/McCain deregulation. No more, thanks. The economy has gone far better under Democrats than under Republicans for a very long time. Let’s stop the BS and turn the economy around, something possible under Obama but not under McCain.

Categories: Economics, Election 2008, Main Tags:

Running a Corporation

September 17th, 2008 Comments off

Carly Fiorina, CEO of HP, recently got into trouble when she said that Sarah Palin couldn’t run a corporation. She quickly amended that to say that she was talking about specific business credentials, and that John McCain (who was responsible for the BlackBerry, don’t you know), Barack Obama, and Joe Biden were similarly unqualified.

That brought me to think about exactly that question–how would each of the four perform as a chief executive of a corporation? Having no experience in or knowledge of the job or the environment, let me give my completely unqualified assessment, and see if you agree.

McCain would be the closest thing to a pointy-haired boss; especially in a tech corporation, he would likely not understand what he was selling. He would probably lead by whim more than by far-sighted planning, and would probably be easily influenced by those around him, doing either the last thing someone told him was a good idea, or the thing that the most people on his senior staff thought was a good idea. His mercurial temper would not help. He might have a few priorities and directions he would want to go in, but these would be limited in scope and importance. He would be uninspiring overall–workers would be less than impressed with grampaw’s war stories, and more affected by his poor speaking style. His health would spark concerns that would dampen (or, I suppose, spark) stock prices, and people would always be asking about who’s next in line to take over.

Palin would be the usurper, the lightweight that shot up to the top for a variety of reasons not having much to do with actual talent. Though sharp and ambitious, she would not be the productive type; she would have gotten to where she was over the backs of others she tore down along the way, or by the helping hand of those above who favored her. There would be widespread concern about how capably she would govern, and while she might win over the PR crowd, the professionals would have strong doubts. The social pages of the newspapers might herald her self-proclaimed accomplishments, but those in the know would laugh at the claims and understand her for the lightweight she is; look to the boring columns in the financial sections to read far-less-optimistic reviews. Those working for the company would be unhappy–people in any management position would be in constant fear of being fired (except for the neophytes, cronies, and kiss-ups), and those below would be wondering what draconian edicts would restrict their working conditions next. She would bring light to the company, but not progress, efficiency, or productivity.

Biden would be the college-professor type of CEO–a good deal of knowledge and experience, but otherwise uninspiring. He might miss the big picture for the details, and some would see him as ineffectual. While some workers would be comfortable with the low-key professional, others would be worried about whether or not this leader could take the business where it needs to go, and whether the big boss had what it takes to sell the company and make it thrive. Biden would have connections, but not necessarily the power to bring the company to the heights expected of it. He would be far preferable to McCain or Palin, but would just not be the type who would make a company a great one. The corporation he ran would be as low-key as he is–getting by, doing OK, but never in the big leagues.

Obama, while a new face, would be the only one who would really do well as a CEO. While relatively inexperienced, he would have two necessary things that any of the other three would not: the charisma to drive the company and sell the product, and the intellect to grasp what the company needs to do and how to do it. While Obama technically has no executive experience, he did start from virtually nothing and build a multi-hundred-million-dollar organization which took on and took down one of the biggest, if not the biggest political dynasty around. Obama is, in fact, closer to a self-made dotcom startup that offers a great new product that everyone wants to try. It might be heavy on flash and style, and it will have bugs, but still has the substance to sell. There is the same effect in both cases–people who like the product say it’s really great, and the naysayers quickly tire of the fans, exaggerate the expectations, and then try to shoot down the company for not being 100% perfect and delivering a product of god-like perfection. But the product is still solid and sells well. Obama is similar to Steve Jobs–someone with very good business intuition and the public persona to sell it. Everyone working for him might wonder if he could take on Microsoft after leaving Dell in the dust, but they’d be optimistic about the stock options and excited about the person leading their corporation.


Categories: Corporate World, Election 2008, Main Tags:

Radio Road Birds

September 15th, 2008 Comments off

Went on a quick-stop birdwatching trip today, amongst a variety of other tasks that had to be done to prepare for the wedding. We visited the Radio Road lake by the water treatment plant in Foster City, it being a quick and sure way to see lots of birds in the very little time we had budgeted for this. I offer most of these without comment…

I was surprised to find a Killdeer in among the other sandpiper-types.

These are probably just Barn Swallows. I didn’t have a bird book today, nor would I have had the time to use one to look all of these up…

Here are a whole bunch of birds in flight; the first, a virtual cacophony of birds, is available in a larger version.

Finally, Sachi spotted this unusually large visitor to the Radio Road Lake–a Pelican.

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McCain Campaign Sinks to Such Disgusting, Amoral Lows That Even I’M Surprised

September 10th, 2008 1 comment

Here’s what Obama said on the campaign trail recently, something that he’s been saying for months:

“That’s not change. That’s just calling something that’s the same thing something different. You can put lipstick on a pig. It’s still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper and call it change. It’s still going to stink, after eight years. We’ve had enough of the same old thing.”

No problem, right? Been saying this for months. Talking about McCain and his policies. On the attack, but nothing untoward. Even Republicans regularly use this expression.

Well, get a load of how the McCain campaign reacted:

“Senator Obama uttered what I can only describe to be disgusting comments, comparing our vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, to a pig.”

Are. You. Kidding. Me.

The claim is that Palin is “the only one of the four — the presidential and vice presidential candidates — who wears lipstick,” according to the spokesperson for the Palin camp.

This comes just days after the McCain campaign cried “sexism” after the Obama campaign did nothing more than criticize policies and judgment by the McCain campaign. It is also reminiscent of an attempt by McCain to play the Age Card–when Obama noted that McCain was straying from his promises and doing things that were not above board, he used the expression “losing his bearings,” which the McCain campaign then angrily denounced as a slur against McCain’s advanced years.

Essentially, they are doing nothing more than using every single opportunity to take an Obama statement and stretch it to incredibly ludicrous extremes so they can then take angry offense at what a cad he is.

If that’s all there was for the day, that would be one thing. But look at the visual the McCain campaign is now using to attack Obama:

They’re claiming that Obama’s “one accomplishment” in Illinois was to teach kindergarten kids about sex, making him out to be some kind of pedophile. Of course, the legislation–aside from not being the only thing Obama did in Illinois–was about pre-existing sex education classes that already exist in K-12 education, a generic category referring to any pre-college material–in this case, clearly referring to teens. To say that this is “teaching comprehensive sex education to kindergartners” is outrageously false. Not to mention, the bill in question was to take existing sex ed classes for teens and focus them more on STDs, on warning teens about the dangers of sex. McCain’s not just making egregious lies here, he’s making perverse ones at that. Note the images of kindergartners in the ad–how utterly obscene can you get?

Anybody who supports McCain should be ashamed and disgusted. These people are scum.

Categories: Main Tags:

The 700-Mile Rule

September 4th, 2008 6 comments

First Fox’s Steve Doocy said it, then Cindy McCain. Now, John McCain himself is backing up the claim.

What is the claim? That Sarah Palin has foreign policy experience because Alaska is not that far away from Russia. I swear to god, I am not kidding, I did not make that up, I am not exaggerating this one tiny little bit, McCain actually said exactly that:

GIBSON: But as you know, the questions revolve really around foreign policy experience.

Can you honestly say you feel confident having someone who hasn’t traveled outside the United States until last year, dealing with an insurgent Russia, with an Iran with nuclear ambitions, with an unstable Pakistan, not to mention the war on terror?

MCCAIN: Sure. And one of the key elements of America’s national security requirements are energy. She understands the energy issues better than anybody I know in Washington, D.C., and she understands.

Alaska is right next to Russia. She understands that. Look, Sen. Obama’s never visited south of our border. I mean, please.

So she is experienced.

Again, I swear to you by all I believe, I did not make that quote up. It’s 100% real. It is fully in context, I didn’t cut anything out in the middle or change any of the words. Check out the transcript yourself.

Wasilla is 700 miles from the closest part of Russia, Juneau is 1220. When you change that to any relevant part of Russia, then we’re talking thousands of miles. But let’s be generous and call it 700 miles. Just living that distance away from Russia apparently gave Sarah Palin all the experience and knowledge she needs to become president of the United States.

Just by the 700-mile rule, I am a “foreign policy expert” on not only Russia, but on North Korea, South Korea, and China. I am much more qualified that Palin! Plus, I have executive experience–I have run the branch campus of my college. So I have “run something,” as Giuliani just defined as also a necessary part of the presidential package.

In any case, it looks pretty certain now that they have no intention of dumping Palin, they are running with what they’ve got. They have their talking points, stupid as they are. They are leading with the “small-town soccer mom” personal appeal, and they are going with the laughable “executive experience” charge and are trying to make it real through big-lie tactics–repeat the lie often with a serious demeanor and get upset when anyone calls you on it–and now they have a defense set up, namely that any criticism against Palin is sexist. They’re suited up and ready to go. All that remains is to see how unabashedly the media plays along with their incredible line of BS.

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Now THAT Was a Bicycle Ride

August 21st, 2008 4 comments

Sachi and I both now suffer from sore butts, but we had a very nice day. We got to have our bike ride from Ikebukuro to Shakuji Park, planned for last weekend but canceled due to bad weather. And today turned out to be a perfect day for it; sunny, but not too much; hot at first, but with good breezes, and halfway to the park, the temperature dropped to a much more comfortable level. And we needed that: the ride, one way, was 8.4 miles (13.5 km), or over sixteen and a half miles (27 km), equivalent of riding a bicycle from Shinjuku to Tachikawa, or (in San Francisco terms) from Stanford University to SFO.

It was also a perfect example of the iPhone to the rescue. Without it, I would have had to lug around a giant map book, or at least make copies of the relevant pages, fishing them out of my pockets and unfolding and refolding them, trying to figure out what sheet was which. The iPhone and its GPS worked great to guide us there and back, allowing us to take the optimal route but change our path if we wanted to. I could easily just pull it out of my shirt pocket and turn it on with one hand, checking our route to make sure we stayed on the right roads.

But the iPhone really came to the rescue when we realized that Sachi’s tire was deflating again and again. She had not used her bike in almost a year, and the tires were flat, naturally we thought. So we pumped up at a gas station–but 10 minutes into our trip, they were deflated again. So we pumped up again at another gas station–but again, they started deflating. This would have been a big thing normally–we probably would have had to cancel the trip and head back. But the iPhone’s Map app showed us the nearest bicycle shop just a few hundred meters away–which we never would have found otherwise–and a few minutes and 700 yen later, Sachi’s bike was fixed, and we were on our way again. The little gadget is very much earning its keep.

The ride one-way took an hour on the way back, though a bit longer on the way in due to the bike issues. But we got to the park just fine, and I got treated to some very nice birdwatching. No new species or anything, but some nice birding nonetheless. The first event was the best, a family of Common Moorhens. At first, it was just the one bird, or so I thought at the time, and with such a lovely bird, that would have been good enough. (Some of the following images enlarge to 1200 x 800 versions on click.)



But then the Moorhen pushed out into the water and started doing something strange: it circled around and started making repeated calls. We didn’t understand why until a minute later, when we noticed a little fuzzball emerge from the reeds:



Still not completely covered with feathers (though its beak showed the distinctive red-and-yellow Moorhen trademark) and eyes looking like they were only recently opened, a tiny Moorhen chick tentatively waded out, but only so far.


Mama had to come in and encourage the little fellow. And then another chick came ambling out:




The hen then led the chicks out into the water for a little swim, followed by sunbathing (or whatever) on stumps a little farther out. But that wasn’t all of the Moorhen family; apparently, last season’s chicks had grown up, and were still milling around. What’s interesting is that these birds lose their red-and-yellow bill colors, but only in their “teenager” phase–then they get those colors back when they mature.



Soon after that, we were chasing some Little Grebes…



…when Sachi just happened to spot a Kingfisher nearby.



For a public park, there were a good many interesting birds to be found. We also spotted the usual crows, sparrows, and Spot-billed ducks, in addition to a Little Egret and a Grey Heron. So, not bad birdwatching for a non-birdwatching venue.

But birds were not all that were there; some domestic animals also came into view.


But the real pleasure of the day came when we spotted a couple with a little Shiba Inu puppy. Now, Sachi just loves Shiba Inus, can’t get enough of ’em (she’s always tuning into YouTube on her iPhone to check out the latest Shiba puppy videos), and puppies are the best of all. Whenever we see a Shiba when we are out and about, we consider it a good result for the day. So when we passed the seated couple with the puppy, I just had to ask if Sachi could pet it–she was too shy to ask herself.


(The string is intended to train the pup not to bark too much, so we were told.)

Well, Sachi got a bonus–not only did they let us pet the puppy, but she got to hold it, too. Her idea of heaven.


So, it was a good day.

Categories: Birdwatching, iPhone, Main, Nature Tags:

Designer Keys

July 23rd, 2008 Comments off

I saw these keys at a stand underground on Shinjuku this afternoon. Had never seen anything like this before, but in Japan’s cute-conscious market, this kind of product definitely makes sense.


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Before Your Cooked Right Eye

June 8th, 2008 1 comment

Sachi and I just now got back from the Teppan-yaki place (cooking “right before your eyes,” as the famous Engrish misquoted) Sachi took me to for my birthday. Wow, that stuff is good! We ordered filet steaks–I got the “special” (read: extra-fatty) version, and the entire course was fantastic. The appetizer was high-quality roast beef, followed by a fish course of cooked scallop (though I got a replacement dish of nama-hamu and fruit), followed by the main course. Like Benihana in the U.S., the cook prepares the whole meal in front of you. He started by cooking garlic slices (delicious–just like garlic crisps!), then prepared the filet steaks (medium-rare), slicing them into bite-sized pieces as he cooked them, followed by asparagus and sprouts, everything garnished with delicious onions, garnished with rock salt. There were three tasty sauces–apple-flavored, tomato sauce, and soy sauce with an original wasabi garnish, all to dip it into before eating.

We were served a bottle of wine (after three beers between us), so we got appreciably high during the meal. The problem was, they seemed to be waiting for us to finish our wine before they served dessert, and we were saving the last of our wine to have with dessert. So it was a good 40 minutes or so of waiting before we finally got the idea and told them to take the wine to the dessert table–where they had a nice birthday cake (white layer cake topped with whipped cream, laden with cherries, orange slice and kiwi-fruit) waiting for us.

The place is local (to Ikebukuro) and pretty expensive, but man that was good! We splurged on a taxi home (all of seven dollars and worth every penny, in our state), and somehow made it back in the door.

Would every birthday be so delicious and fun.

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My Birthday Suit

June 8th, 2008 5 comments

Sachi got me a very nice Ralph Lauren suit for my birthday, and topped it off with a nice cotton shirt and matching tie this morning.


Why, what were you thinking the title meant?

Seriously though, I look like I’m running for office or something….

Categories: Ikebukuro, Main Tags:

Bit & Pieces, May 21, 2008

May 21st, 2008 1 comment

If you’re in the mood for sleaze, check out a political ad run by a Republican candidate (and incumbent) for Congress. Basically, it attacks the Democratic candidate’s “San Francisco values,” demonstrating that by having three slutty-looking swingers partying it up, bumping and grinding. I’ve lived in San Francisco and grew up in the area, and this doesn’t come any closer to representing the values of the area than a seedy strip club in Missouri represents theirs. But apparently, this passes for kosher in conservative Missouri politics.

I reflected on how people would react if, say, a Massachusetts liberal were to put out an ad representing rural/heartland values by showing gun-toting redneck hicks drinking beer and picking their noses in front of a pickup truck with a Confederate flag on the side. Such a politician would instantly be excoriated, blasted out of the water as an “elitist.”

What it comes down to is the fact that not just ads showing such “San Francisco” values, but pretty much all criticisms of the same sort–attacking either urban/coastal or liberal values as “elitist”–this is in fact the true “elitism.” The same people who claim that liberals are prancing around thinking they are better than everyone else are themselves the ones with the superiority complex; they think that their values are better than those of others. The values I remember from the San Francisco area were pretty much respectful of a wide variety of views and beliefs; it is an accepting, big-tent culture, with “tolerance” being a major theme. I don’t see much tolerance or acceptance among the brand of people who complain about “San Francisco values.”

A new study:
In the “first nationally representative survey of teachers concerning the teaching of evolution,” the authors show that one in eight high school biology teachers present creationism as a scientifically valid alternative to Darwinian evolution. While this number does not reflect public demand–38% of Americans would prefer that creationism to be taught instead of evolution–it does represent a disconnect between legal rulings, scientific consensus, and classroom education.

Before you think that one in eight is not bad, or even, “what’s wrong with introducing creationism alongside evolution,” consider that this is similar to one in eight Medical School teachers telling their students to consider prayer as a scientifically valid alternative to antibiotics. And then consider whether or not you’d want to be treated at the hospital staffed by graduates of those classes.

Finally! Rumors of the iPhone coming out in Japan. The carrier: NTT DoCoMo, as I predicted. Apparently, all the attention crashed the Apple Insider web site, which I could not access as of this time. However, the rumors only say that Apple is “close to signing deals” with the Japanese and Korean carriers, and has no specifics about when the iPhone will be available–and Japan is rather infamous for getting stuff late.

Uh oh. Conservatives are starting to talk about “character” again. I guess, after eight years, they must miss being able to use the word in public when referring to their candidate for president.

From Virginia:
A federal appeals court panel in Richmond, Va., on Tuesday struck down a Virginia law that made it a crime for doctors to perform what the law called “partial birth infanticide.”

Good. “Partial birth abortion,” a political (not medical) term in this case escalated to “infanticide,” is nothing more than a manufactured straw man intended to stand in for abortion in general. The idea is to vilify the entire practice by choosing the least-commonly practiced (less than one-fifth of one percent of all abortions) but most-easily vilified form of abortion, and making a campaign of it, completely ignoring the medicine or the ethics involved in the process.

Ewww. An off-duty Japanese railway worker was arrested for forcibly kissing a woman on a train right here in Ikebukuro. Reportedly, he was so drunk that he doesn’t remember what happened, which only makes the image worse. Imagine that guy sticking his tongue down your throat–or your wife’s. From the article:
His employer was apologetic about the incident. “We’re sorry about the case. We’ll improve our guidance of employees,” said a spokesman for Seibu Railway.

Yeah. Be sure to give those employee seminars about not to get completely smashed and sexually assault women. That oughta do it. I mean, such “guidance” is stupid: any employee who doesn’t know better shouldn’t be working there in the first place.

No word in the article about whether or not the guy would be fired.

I Wonder When It Will Hit Land

May 20th, 2008 Comments off

Right now, there’s one hell of a rain and wind storm out there. I have my exercise equipment on the balcony, and bought a motorcycle cover to protect it from the rain. Last night I draped it over my elliptical trainer, tied it down tight, and until a few minutes ago, it was doing just fine. Then I heard a few loud thunks during one of the wind howls, and saw that the machine was tipped over (it had been firmly set against a wall) and the cover gone.

It’s probably somewhere over Saitama Prefecture by now. I just hope the trainer is more resistant to rust than I imagine.

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April 30th, 2008 2 comments

Oldb04It was almost exactly ten years ago that I first started working at Lakeland College, in our building on Shokuan Boulevard in north-eastern Shinjuku. The school had been there only a few years when I arrived; it was a building with a very small footprint, albeit nine stories tall, and served us well for those years.

But we found it necessary to move, and that process has just begun to end. After months of planning and working things out, the move was completed today; the new building stands full of bare-bones furniture nearly swamped in boxes that will have to be unpacked over the next week, as we make the new building home.

I had to do a lot of work on this myself, mostly in the form of planning the layout. Using Adobe InDesign, I made a to-scale map of the building and every component to be in it–I measured every nook and cranny of every room, along with every piece of furniture to bring it all together. Then I had to figure out other stuff, like how much room should each seat comfortably have for the occupants to work and still be able to push out from the desk, and have people walk behind them, while not taking up so much space as to fill up the building too soon. The color of flooring at the entrance, which furniture would go to which room, how to deal with a mold problem in the basement, and dozens of other issues had to be dealt with. Walls torn down, walls installed, wiring completed–it’s been a huge headache.

But it’s almost finished. We have worked on a tight budget, so we were not able to completely re-outfit everything; as raw as some parts of the building must be, we are getting it done. Our first semester may not look pretty, but it’ll work, while we get everything filled in and fixed up over time.

When I went in to work today, the old building was just an empty shell:



Since our old phone number remains active until tomorrow, we have had to keep a staff member in the empty room, answering phones left on a trolley cart. For some unknown reason, we were not able to keep our long-held phone numbers, despite only moving a kilometer away, and still in the same area code–hell, even the same neighborhood. But that’s the phone company for you.


I’d love to show off the new building, but it’s little more than a sea of boxes right now. Here are a few shots of the new faculty room.


A wider composite shot–I need to get a wider-angle lens for my camera… :


Tomorrow I go in to test computer networks and unpack boxes. Wheee!!

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Arthur C. Clarke

March 20th, 2008 Comments off

Unless you’ve been living incommunicado for the past 24 hours, you likely know by now that author Arthur C. Clarke has passed away at the age of 90 in his home in Sri Lanka. The first to visualize geosynchronous satellites forming a world-spanning relay for communication, Clarke was a scientist with a flair for exquisitely elegant prose, authoring Childhood’s End, Songs of Distant Earth, and the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. While the concepts in his stories were deeper than the characters he crafted, the beauty of his words appealed to me the most. His death is a loss, but his life has been a wonderful gain for us all.

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Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2008 1 comment

Here we are, caught between the years. It’s not quite 2008 yet here in Menlo Park, but it’s already well into the afternoon of January 1st in Japan now.

Either way… Happy New Year!

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December 29th, 2007 17 comments

By this time, it was pretty much inevitable that I’d pop the question to Sachi. We’ve both been waiting for it for a while; I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity, and Sachi has been waiting for me to get around to it.

Actually, I have been planning this for a little while now, trying to get things set up–getting the ring selection lined up and doing my research in that area, getting the timing right so the event would be special, that kind of thing. I wanted to do it at Christmas, but Sachi’s work kept her from joining us for Christmas by a day, and because she would be too jet-lagged the first night, we arranged for a special family Christmas dinner on the 27th.

Certain coincidences have been happening lately as well. When Sachi’s flight was an hour from taking off from Narita, I wondered if maybe she had her cell phone with her, and decided to call her. When I started looking for for her cell number on my computer, just at that moment an email came in from her via her cell–she was asking what my family’s address in the U.S. was, as she had to put it on some form for the flight. The timing was within seconds.

When her plane arrived, I picked her up at the airport. Doing this is always a difficult affair–since parking both costs money but more importantly, represents a long walk with luggage, my family always tries to time the pickup at the arrivals lobby. But the timing is difficult–you never know how long immigration, baggage unloading, and customs checks will take. The person picking up always gets there x number of minutes early or late, and somebody has to wait. Usually we do it so the arriving person calls the driver from a public phone; if the person picking up gets there early, they loop around the airport until the call comes.

So I monitored her flight (three hours late! Poor Sachi!), and just after it arrived, I took off for the airport. Just as I pulled up to the arrivals lobby door, my cell phone rang–it was Sachi, and she had just come out to the lobby that moment. Again, spooky timing.

Then, the day I planned to propose to her, we were up in San Francisco doing some shopping. We visited several herbal shops (Sachi is into herbs now, and we got a ton for good prices here), and at one that had a new-age theme, Sachi found some tarot-like decks. One was called “Messages from Your Angels,” and Sachi shuffled the deck and pulled one card out at random. It read: “Daniel: I am the angel of Marriage, and I am assisting you right now.” She showed it to me, in our usual, “Hey, when are you gonna pop the question?” joshing manner. I thought, “Dangit, Daniel, you’re spoiling the surprise!” Of course, it didn’t spoil anything, but wrapped up a rather interesting string of timing coincidences.

So we came back from the city and picked up the presents we’d collected, went to the place where we’re staying (a family friend who very kindly allows us to stay in her home while she visits family for the holidays) and wrapped the presents, then returned to my folks’ home for Sachi’s Christmas dinner (goose with stuffing and various fixings–really good). After that, we exchanged gifts (I got Sachi a MacBook, natch), and then things settled down so it was just Sachi and I and my parents. I made an excuse via noting the songs I should put on Sachi’s new computer to start playing our favorite song (When You Taught Me How to Dance, from the Miss Potter soundtrack), and then I took the ring in its case out of hiding, and proposed.

Sachi Prop1

Sachi Prop2

Sachi Prop3

When I asked Sachi if she would marry me, her response was priceless: as she cried and reached out to hug me, she said, “Why not?” We all loved that line—to me, it sounded like a line from a movie–but it was not exactly what she meant to say. She wanted to say, “Why would I not want to marry you?” as she later explained.

The ring I gave her, however, was not the actual engagement ring, as I explained as I gave it to her. In order to both have the ring be a surprise and to allow her to pick out her own, my sister kindly lent us her own engagement ring to use as a stand-in. Before Sachi came, I did some research with the help of a family friend who is also a gemologist to pick out a number of possible ring mountings and diamonds to go with it. We then went through the assortment, and Sachi chose the one that she liked best. We probably won’t be able to have it finished before we leave–New Year’s coming and all–but we’ll get it soon enough after we get back.

Sachi Ring 1

Sachi Macbook

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The Perils of the Third-Party Purchase

December 27th, 2007 10 comments

I’ve been having a wee bit of trouble making some third-party purchases via Amazon this holiday season. The worst was in attempting to buy some SterlingTek batteries for the Rebel XTi. The low-priced ($10 vs. Canon’s $40) batteries come highly recommended by Canon users in a variety of forums, and I have noticed no enthusiasm for any other specific brand or seller.

So I decided to buy some, and instead of going through SterlingTek themselves, I tried to save a few bucks and instead go through the online store at the top of Amazon’s list, probably because of the low price. What happened was that I was most likely the victim of a little scam, else I was the victim of very poor services.

What I did not know at the time was that “SterlingTek” is not a brand name of battery per se, but rather a company that sells batteries of a certain quality. How other dealers sell “SterlingTek” batteries is somewhat of a mystery to me still–they’re probably just trying to feed off the name recognition.

But the seller Amazon had at the top of their list was a place run out of Oregon, called “TheMemStore.” I ordered the batteries and paid extra for “expedited” shipping, supposedly 1-3 days. The order was placed on December 17, the order processed December 18. The batteries were delivered on the 22nd. Not very expedited, if you ask me.

But that’s not the worst part. The order was for SterlingTek batteries. They sent me some other brand I’d never heard of, a brand which I could barely find on the Internet, and when I did, got poor reviews. (The brand is “MaximalPower,” and the SterlingTek guy said that that’s not a brand they use.) So, they sent me the wrong product, despite both my order and the packing list that came with the batteries clearly indicating “SterlingTek” products.

Worse, the store is closed weekends, so I was unable to get ahold of them until Monday. Then it all seemed fixed, when the sweet-talking operator kindly sympathized, apologized, and told me that she’d make sure the product I ordered would be sent off right away, with a package that I could send the wrong items back with. I emphasized that time was of the essence as I was leaving for Japan soon, and any delay could cause a delivery to arrive after I’d departed.

Today, two days later, instead of getting what I originally ordered, I got an email from TheMemStore, informing me that they did not have any of the item I originally ordered (it took them two days to check if an item was in stock?), and while I could return the batteries they sent me, everybody is happy with the other brand… making me think that probably they didn’t have it at all when I first ordered, and instead of postponing or canceling the order, they hoped I would just accept whatever they sent me. I have to wonder, how many people do that? Probably enough so they would do this kind of thing.

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Up Again

November 16th, 2007 5 comments


Okay, I got the web site I was working on back up and running. As it turns out, the failure of the site was not as completely disastrous as I had feared, but it was still bad enough. It took more than two hours to get everything back up and running.

Here’s what it is: I teach a Computer Science class, a basic survey course entitled “Introduction to Computers.” For some time, I have used this site design, on my namesake domain, It was good for my needs at the time, but I have been looking to redesign it for a few years now.

I had not planned on implementing the site until next semester, but a planned outage on which would hit smack in the middle of a lesson prompted me to open the site early. So far, only the main page and one section have been adapted to the new design; the rest of the site is simply the old web pages, grafted on to the new domain. You can check out the site at this address.

My main interest in creating the new site was to include a blog into the main page, as a way of contacting students at any time. As it is RSS and WordPress-powered, students can be contacted via an RSS reader or by email whenever there is a new message in the blog.

The blog is minimally viewable on a 1024-pixel-wide monitor as of this time (it can be viewed at lower resolutions, but the blog gets really squished), but is better suited for larger resolutions. The class sections are the big black buttons on the right (I have to size the buttons down, soon); only the section on Hardware (9 chapters) has been adapted to the new site design.

I have also changed things in that the old site was simply a directory on a site I use for various things, but the new site–, a domain closely named after my college campus, is now to be dedicated to this one site for this course. I got the domain name for this site years ago, but never did much with it until now.

This is also why I have not been blogging on too much else; aside from my regular teaching duties, this has been taking up literally all of my time recently. I hope to get back to other things this weekend. Still, I need to update the Excel section of the web site to focus on the 2007 version; the current pages (not visible because they are out of date) focus on Excel 2000.

If you have any comments or suggestions for the site, please let me know.

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Video Prep

November 4th, 2007 1 comment

I’ve been a bit light on blogging today, for a good reason: it’s Arts Day Video time. Tomorrow, Monday, is the festival, and today was the deadline for getting everything done. And that’s what I got done: everything. The final video is a few seconds under 19 minutes long, and features bits on every performance group except one (I can’t edit in what my students don’t videotape….).

I’m very happy with this one. The opening parody bits came out better than I had hoped, and the opening and ending music pieces fell into place better than I thought they would. The pace of the whole piece is better than we’ve accomplished before; it flows pretty easily, and at the end, you don’t feel like 19 minutes has passed.

That said, as with past videos, if you’re not familiar with the school, some of the gags will pass right over your head. Nevertheless, I plan to post this video–and the past two years’ videos–on YouTube as soon as I find the time, probably by mid-this-week. My only concern is that they utilize copyrighted music pieces in some parts. I figure that if I password-protect the videos, as YouTube allows, that may keep that element from being a problem. I can make all non-copyrighted portions available generally.

But for now, with only hours to go before the festival begins, I have the video backed up enough. The original iMovie project, a raw Digital-Video version (as a QuickTime file), a disk image of the DVD, and three hard copies of the DVD, all ready to go.

My only worry: without the software having been re-installed in one and a half years, playback on my laptop is choppy at best. Should I risk installing Leopard on it tomorrow morning?

I’m too tired out from tonight’s effort to decide.

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