Thursday, September 27, 2007

Vote for Dr Karl

So as most people who read this should know, an election is coming up in Australia in the next few months. So all of the parties are planning who's going to run and negotiating preferences.

I saw today an announcement from a small party I hadn't heard of before that piqued my interest. The Climate Change Coalition (the CCC) (presumably a single issue party) has recruited Dr Karl Kruszelnicki (I copied and pasted his last name from the news article) as their number two candidate for the senate in New South Wales.

I'm not sure I'd otherwise vote for this party (I'm not sure if they'll be running in Queensland), but I would vote for Dr Karl, and would recommend those who can do so. Dr Karl is a reasonably cool guy, although maybe a bit too casual for parliament. OK, maybe don't vote for him. But it would be a bit of a change.

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Writing time: 13 minutes
Time since last post: two days
Current media: World Series of Poker

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Uh-Oh. We Can't Have That Happening

I've just read an interesting little story about an incident that occurred during the most recent sumo tournament. It seems a woman tried to invade the ring just as a fight was about to begin. The woman made it to the raised area, but was stopped by a referee and a fighter (now that's got to be a one sided affair). Fortunately, the woman was stopped before actually entering the ring which is considered a sacred area from which women are prohibited. So much so that when Osaka had a female governor, she was forced to delegate the traditional governor's duty of awarding prizes to a male delegate. And they say men and women are equal in Japan. At least women are allowed to climb mountains nowadays.

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Writing time: 9 minutes
Time since last post: 3 days
Current media: None

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Interesting Times

Since last Friday, work has taken on a sort of despondent feel. The company, which has been in trouble for a long time, seems to have entered a death spiral. It started last Friday when most of the teachers were not paid on time. At around 5 pm (after the banks had closed) a fax was sent out to most branches saying that there was a processing problem that meant that it was impossible to complete the deposit of salaries, and that payments would be made on the following Tuesday or Wednesday (Monday was a public holiday), depending on where in Japan you were. This followed an incident two months ago where the salaries of the Japanese staff (they are on a different cycle for pay. Teachers are paid on the 15th, staff on the 27th) was about 5 days late.

At the same time NOVA is closing a large number of branches (I keep hearing about new branches closing). A lot of the closures seem to be kids schools, which honestly can be nothing but a money sink, but nonetheless I quite liked my kids schools and will miss the kids I have taught there (that reminds me, I have photos from my other kids school to post). Were this just a rationalisation of the business, this wouldn't be so bad. But some of the schools closing are quite large, and some smaller schools are staying open. And of course there is the rumour that the closures are due to NOVA being evicted due to unpaid rent. The fact that the list of closures keeps growing seems to suggest that this isn't part of a master plan.

Pretty much everyone is looking for other jobs. None of the teachers expect to be working next month. No one is optimistic about being paid for this month, let alone next month. No one is really motivated to work. I've heard teachers say that they're just coming in because they have nothing to do and don't want to just sit at home. I think I'm going in out of misplaced loyalty and a significant dose of denial.

I've started looking for other jobs (not that seriously, I've applied for one job working in either China or Russia). I'm also reassured by the fact that I can get unemployment benefits for three months. I could try to live cheaply for three months, try and save what I can before bugging out as soon as I get the final payment. Also handy is the fact that a ticket home for me is a mere 35000 yen (about $350 dollars (a whole fucking lot less than what I paid to get over here, although I'm willing to bet the luggage allowance is a lot less)). Right now I'm aiming to just live as cheap as I can until I either find my new job or bug out.

One thing I haven't really considered is that maybe the announcement on Tuesday is some sort of miracle cure for NOVA's problems. If it is, then I will hang around, until early next year, and save as much as I can. But that would be the easy way out, and the odds are beyond unlikely, and approaching the impossible.

I would like to be able to just hang around and keep cruising through life in Japan, but it looks like I'm going to have to put some effort into this for a little while before resuming my cruising ways.

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Writing time: 39 minutes
Time since last post: 4 days
Current media: Battlestar Galactica 3x07

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Maths Quiz

If I were a Springer-Verlag Graduate Text in Mathematics, I would be Frank Warner's Foundations of Differentiable Manifolds and Lie Groups.

I give a clear, detailed, and careful development of the basic facts on manifold theory and Lie Groups. I include differentiable manifolds, tensors and differentiable forms. Lie groups and homogenous spaces, integration on manifolds, and in addition provide a proof of the de Rham theorem via sheaf cohomology theory, and develop the local theory of elliptic operators culminating in a proof of the Hodge theorem. Those interested in any of the diverse areas of mathematics requiring the notion of a differentiable manifold will find me extremely useful.

Which Springer GTM would you be? The Springer GTM Test

This is a little surprising because for all the maths I've studied, I've never even looked at Lie groups, which looking back seems a little odd given nearly everyone else I knew doing physics knew something about them.

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Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: None

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Someone else does something right

Google has realized that countries other than America have elections, and have put together a number of tools to help people deal with the upcoming Australian Federal election which can be found here. Maps of electorates, searching MPs parliamentary records, youtube channels, and more. Looks like it'll be fun to play with.

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Writing time: 2 minutes
Time since last post: a half hour or so
Current media: None

The Government does something right

Let me just say I fully support the government on this issue.

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Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: 3 days
Current media: African Rundown from the Casino Royale soundtrack

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Closing Down

In the last week Nova has announced that it is closing a bunch of branches all over the country (I've heard the number 300 mentioned (Sparta (sorry, couldn't help myself))(holy nested brackets)). This is impacting me as the two kids schools I go to are being closed. I was told about the one at Nigawa closing last week, but thought the one at Obayashi was safe as on the weekend I got a cover form for that school. Today however, I got a cancellation form and was told that Obayashi is closing too.

So at Obayashi this afternoon in addition to me and Tomiko (the regular staff at the kids school) the Nishikita manager came along in a role I've taken to calling "The Harbinger of Doom" to tell the parents about the closure and what their options are (which schools they can transfer to). I'm not sure as my Japanese isn't good enough, but I think some of the parents asked which classes I teach at Nishikita (some of the parents at Nigawa asked that too).

I got a few photos with the some of the kids today (the kinders and some of the seniors). I'll try and get some photos from Nigawa next week. Anyway, here are the photos.

My kinder class. From left to right: Hoshika's younger brother, Hoshika, Chiemi, Ayumi, Yusaaku (in the grip of Nova Usagi) and Tomiko (the staff at Obayashi)

Me and some of my senior kids. Left to Right: Mizuho, Mio (a former student from before my time who turned up today for some reason), Daiki, Yurina and Yusuuke

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Writing time: 25 minutes
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: The Daily Show

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I'm on the YouTubes

Yesterday I was looking through a hundred yen shop near work looking for some feltpens, and while not finding any at that price point, I found some moderately bouncy balls with lights in them. Since the price seemed reasonable (105 yen each) I bought five of them, as I'm trying to learn to juggle five balls.

Today I was practicing and thought how about trying this in the dark to see what it would be like. Later on I thought it might make a cool video. A bit after that, I remembered my computer had a built in camera, and wondered if I had the software to record video. After finding out yes I do, I decided to give it a try. The result is not too bad. Not great, but not bad.

Here is the video.

There a few technical points. The lights are activated by bouncing, and the usual catching motion is not strong enough to activate them so I have to force the catches to turn the lights back on, and usually revert to a 3-ball cascade as catching dark balls in the dark is not easy.

I'm going to practice some more (I want to get turning the lights back on to the point where I can do it reliably on the first attempt), and may record a few more.

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Writing time: 18 minutes
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: The Daily Show

Sunday, September 09, 2007

New Things

Over the last week and the next few days a few new things have been acquired, or will be. They will be described below in no particular (vaguely chronological) order.

A bit over a week ago, as a consequence of signing my new contract I had to apply for a visa extension. So on the 22nd of August, I went in to the immigration department's office in Osaka and submitted my application. It consisted of a three page form and some other various bits and pieces (a copy of my new contract, a tax certificate, my passport and my gaijin (alien resident) card). Part of the process was I had to write my address on a postcard which they post when your visa is ready for collection. The postcard arrived last week, so tomorrow I'll make an early start and head into Osaka to pick up my new visa. And it will cost a mere 4000 yen. While I'm there I may get myself a re-entry permit, as I'm planning to visit my sister next month and since you get the re-entry permit at the same place as getting a new visa, I may as well kill two birds with one stone.

Speaking of new visas, my new credit card arrived in the post last week. It arrived just after the old one expired, but since it came via Australia, it's not that bad. It's pretty much the same design as the old one. I guess this means I've had 4 years of debt, although I've not owed money for most of that time.

And since it's two years since I got my last credit card, that means it's two years since I bought my iPod. And frankly, it's started showing it's age. For the last month or two the battery has been playing up and not working all the time. It would show as being fully charged, but after less than twenty minutes show as empty and turn off. Because of this I had been pondering acquiring a new iPod. Apple's recent announcement of new iPods changed my thinking from if to when. Last night as I was getting on the train home from work the battery died and I decided to head into Umeda and pick up a new iPod. I still hadn't really decided between a nano or a classic, but when I got to Yodobashi camera they only had silver classic iPods left, so that pretty much made my choice for me. It's not that much bigger than my old mini (now relegated to portable hard drive status once I get some music off of it), a bit wider and taller, but thinner. The display is a lot nicer too, although the cover flow feature is not so great (it treats each album artist combination as a seperate album, while I think it would be more useful if it realised that some albums have several artists involved (movie soundtracks for one, and most annoying, the Triple J Hottest 100s, which end up having about 80-90 separate variants for all the artists involved.) and of course would be better if I had cover art for more of my music. I've spent perhaps too much time since buying the iPod making sure all my music is organised with artist and album information.

Another recent acquisition is Evensong, the final trade paperback collection of Lucifer. Like the final edition of the Sandman, this is also more of a coda than a part of the story, but interesting none the less as it ties up a number of the loose ends in the story. I had already read the final issue, but it was good to fill in some of the gaps between the last issue and the end of the previous trade paperback.

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Writing time: 1 hour 20 minutes (I got distracted)
Time since last post: 11 days
Current media: Samurai Champloo