mikekchar comments

Posted in: A very Japanese Christmas See in context

I guess my reaction to this article can be summed up: here in Japan, strawberries are not out of season. They are just coming into season (at least where I am in Shizuoka). I'm assuming the author is in Tokyo, which is not so far away...

My point being, if you're getting flavorless strawberries (or flavorless Christmas), then you are looking in the wrong places. The year end season in Japan is wonderful. But it is not a western Christmas. Enjoy your time here for what it is and leave your expectations of Christmas for when you aren't.

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Posted in: Try to get a credit card in Japan See in context

Having worked with bankers before, I can tell you the problem: No credit history.

It seems strange, but even slightly bad credit history is better than no credit history to the credit card industry. They like to see a long history of you having an outstanding balance, but still somehow paying the interest. Even if you miss a few payments, as long as you eventually pay up that's what they're interested in.

Back in Canada, where I'm from, there used to be very strict guidelines about issuing new credit cards in banks. For instance, 20 years ago it was virtually impossible for a new graduate to get a credit card. What they used to do was allow you to make a "deposit" of, say, $500. Then you would get a "credit card" with a $500 limit. After a year or two of showing that you payed you bills you could get your deposit back. It's a way of getting a credit history. Maybe you could do the same in Japan, I don't know.

Actually, since coming to Japan I've stopped using my credit card. I will probably cancel it in a few months. But I do understand the desire to have one while traveling.

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Posted in: Down and out in Tokyo See in context

Yes partisan politics is a huge part of the problem. It's not my fault, I voted democrat. Or (when a democrat has screwed things up royally), It's not my fault, I voted republican.

Have you not noticed how your media polarizes issues - left, right; good, evil? Do you not understand how you are led to accept 4 years of badness so that you can receive righteousness in the next election (regardless of which party you support)? Heads or tails, it's still the same coin.

But what can you do? You can vote! But, I'll put it to you that this is the least you could do. In fact, it's hard to understand when rubbing shoulders with the ultra-mega-rich, but you are, in fact, the rich of the world. The median salary in the world is only a few hundred dollars a year. Just enough to feed yourself -- maybe.

You've got food, clothes, shelter, heat, entertainment, luxury -- all in excess of your needs. So you are rich. And you have freedom. With your wealth you can make choices for your life. Hate your job? Get another. Don't like the scenery? Move.

But with your wealth and freedom you've got power. So why not use it? I don't mean donating money to some far away cause. I simply mean, walking down to the end of your street, noticing something that needs doing and doing it. Find someone who is suffering and help them. Notice something falling apart and fix it.

Do it now while you are rich and free. Now that you have more than you can use, just help the people around you. When things get tight, you'll be glad you did. And don't worry so much about the shining white heroes in the government who are going to save you from the evil men. You have a community right here that needs your help.

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Posted in: A downloaded question See in context

In kind of wish this wasn't a commentary. Because I can't understand how someone gets arrested for sharing a movie on the internet. Yes, it's copyright infringement. But I don't understand how it became criminal copyright infringement. Did money change hands?

I'm sorry that the movie going experience is bad. But that's the way businesses work. If you don't like the service, don't go back. The real story here is how the US is pressuring countries like Japan to adopt draconian laws that even they wouldn't accept. It used to be that copyright was strictly a civil affair. Now the police are getting involved because someone uploaded a file.

Something needs to change, and it isn't the seating policy in the theaters.

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Posted in: How difficult or easy is Japanese to learn, compared to other languages? See in context

Having learned both an intermediate level of French and an intermediate level of Japanese (going for JLPT2) I would say the Japanese is easier. But it is much bigger. Not only do you need to learn kanji, but I think the working vocabulary is quite a bit larger.

However, I have found that learning kanji makes learning vocabulary much easier. In fact, I can learn Japanese vocabulary much faster than French, for instance. Also, the grammar is much easier. I really don't understand the comment about advanced Japanese grammar being complicated. Maybe I haven't gotten there, but I haven't run into anything complicated at all. If it exists, it can't be used much because I can understand pretty much all the grammar people use when talking around me.

One thing I think is important for beginners is to learn plain form first. The grammar can definitely seem more difficult if you start with polite form. You start to think that there are millions of exceptions. But if you get a very solid base of plain form, polite form is simply an extension (and a large amount of new vocabulary).

Also, for reading, I highly recommend reading manga with furigana. It only takes a week or two to learn kana, and then you can read (potentially with perfect pronunciation). Even if you aren't in to comic books, you might be surprised at the variety of stories that you can find even with furigana (which are usually aimed at children).

Finally, I just want to comment on the idea of a Japanese person being able to pronounce a college level paper after 1 year of study. I can tell you that this is next to impossible. Even after many years of study, Japanese students have a very hard time pronouncing English text in a way that is at all understandable. English writing is very difficult to pronounce because of all the haphazard spelling and the variety of different ways to stress syllables. My high school students find it nigh on impossible. Honestly, I'll take kanji to English spelling any day (I regularly feel incredibly happy to have learned English as my native language, thereby sparing me the task of learning it later).

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Posted in: Bush seeks to assure world leaders about bailout plan See in context

Peter Schiff gave a very interesting speech to the Western Regional Mortgage Bankers Association in 2006 (I think there might be a youtube video of it). In this speech he rightly predicted that bad subprime loans would create a financial disaster.

But IIRC, at the end of his speech he indicated that he felt that the government would be forced to bail out the banks (his estimate was 1 trillion dollars, which isn't that far off). But he went on to say that he felt that this would devalue the American dollar. This would then force interest rates to climb, which would force home owner to default on their loans since a large number of them have short-term variable rate mortgages and are stretched to the limit credit-wise. This in turn would lead to real-estate markets plunging.

He was right about the sub-prime loan thing. I'm curious to see if he was right about the rest. It seems plausible to me, so its possible we haven't seen the back of this disaster yet.

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Posted in: Should radio stations have to pay royalties to artists whose music they play? See in context

I think it would be great if they paid the artists, and not the distributors. Not a lot of artists get paid royalties for music played on the radio. Due to their contracts the money goes to the labels (otherwise known as a music distributor). After "expenses" if there is any money left, some (a small portion) goes to the artist. As others have said, sometimes those "expenses" include paying the radio station to play it in the first place. In the music industry, a lot of money changes hands, but surprisingly little of it ends up in the artist's hands.

So, yes, by all means, let's start paying the artists.

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