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Archive for August, 2010

The year that forgot the electorate

I have always thought that Parliamentary systems of government are interesting.  Rather than the time-based deadlines for elections, the party in power can dissolve Parliament when it sees fit, perhaps trying to make a grab for more seats when possible.  The government can have a very short got at if they call the wrong shots.  Amongst the major parliamentary systems, the Japanese system never ceases to surprise me–I am referring to Ozawa and his latest routine.

This Ozawa guy is quite something, he is symbol of backroom politics, dirty money, and everything that that so many Japanese have voiced disgust over.  Yet through the other MPs, he manages to retain a large support base and hold onto his power.  Should Ozawa gain the PM seat, I have to wonder about the DPJ.  Other than increasing the child allowances, I can’t tell a difference between the LDP and the DPJ.  He would also be the third prime minister within a year, surely driving foreign ministries around the world further up the wall.  I just can’t imagine how so many of these MPs can ignore the electorate. I suppose it is a result of the voter apathy issues.

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Out and About in Charleston

My niece is visiting from Japan and we are trying to show her Charleston.  At her age she is not much interested in the old historical houses and history of the city, so we’ve been looking for alternative sites.  We first took her to Charleston County’s Water Park in North Charleston.  It has a wave pool, four different water tube slides, a kiddie pool with fountains, and a few other small attractions.  Admission was around USD 60 for the three of us, and while it was enjoyable at the end of the day, I still feel it is rather over-priced for such a small water park.

We also took her to the South Carolina Aquarium, which is located in the Charleston harbor and is always the talk of the town amongst those with children. I’ll go ahead and admit that for the price of admission I was disappointed with the number of exhibitions.  The exhibitions cover the four major areas of South Carolina: mountainous west, hills country in the center, marshlands in the east, and the coastal areas.  I had hoped to see more exhibits in the marshland area, but the aquarium area made up for it in the end.

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The atrium with artificial rivers and steam to simulate the western part of South Carolina – the “rivers” had trout species and there were various birds up in the atrium trees

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A rare albino American alligator – due to their color, they are unable to hunt well as they cannot hide themselves in the muddy swamp waters of eastern South Carolina.  An albino alligator also suffers from sunburn, and sadly most never make it to adulthood.  Normally such a large alligator would not be kept in captivity in the aquarium, but because it would not survive in the wild, perhaps it should feel lucky?  It is a beautiful creature though.

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A crustacean commonly found off of the cost of South Carolina – he seemed upset about being stuck in an exhibition

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The most impressive exhibition is a large salt water take with many different kinds of fish species, including moray eels and small shark species.  Some of the fish were over 100 cm in length yet they could turn instantly in the water to avoid collisions.  It is hard to believe such large fish could be so nimble.

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A proud-looking bald eagle – this one was injured or rescued from captivity if I remember correctly

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Of all of the animals, my son enjoyed watching the skunks run circles around their exhibition area…I fear for the day when I have to take him camping…

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This barn owl was as curious about me as I was him – I love the broad, flat face of the barn owl.  And yes, he is standing on one leg, his other leg is tucked up into his feathers.  What a show off!

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Part of the port of Charleston…no ships…no containers…Charleston is losing out to Savannah (GA) these days.  Unless the aerospace research center takes off here, there will be little industry in Charleston outside of tourism.

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White Hot Summer

Posting has been sparse this summer.  I haven’t had the energy to do much, and since July it all feels like quite a blur.  Work has been insanely busy (though thankfully I haven’t had to work insane hours like in I used to in Japan), and I guess that coupled with the intense heat and I just don’t have the energy to do much.  I have not been reading, watching my favorite TV programs, riding my bicycle, or really doing much of anything. It’s been quite warm since mid-April, and it’s been downright nasty since June.  It won’t be cooler until November, but by then it will rain and rain and rain and rain…

Charleston is the hottest place I’ve ever lived.  I break out in a big sweat after just a minute in this intense humidity.  Five minutes in the midday sun and I can already feel my skin burning.  The only time I have feel comfortable in this humid mess is after a run.  At that point nothing will cool me down and the breeze from the river–though humid–has a nice cooling effect.

Why is it that I just keep ending up in hotter and hotter climates?  I hated Virginia’s climate, and then I ended up in Saitama, which was much hotter than Virginia.  Then I ended up in that sinkhole Hachioji, much warmer than Saitama due to the hills all around the city.  And now Charleston…if I have to be in this humid mess at least let it be in a decent city like Miami or Singapore!

I do have some things to post about finally, but I need some time to compile my photos.  If I can find more than 10 minutes to spare, I’ll get at them.

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Propaganda in Chinese Learning Materials

The majority of my Chinese language resources and learning materials were published in Taiwan or North America.  When I started my online Mandarin tutoring back in March, I decided to go with an advanced text published by Peking University Press.  The reasoning for the change is that the texts are cheaper in China and it is also easier for my tutor to obtain texts published in China.  Overall I really like the text, it is the first in a two part series with the first book mostly covering traditional and modern Chinese culture.  Two things about the text, however, seem to set it apart from all other learning materials I have used.

  1. There is an implicit assumption that the learner is from the Western hemisphere and understands things better when compared with the West
  2. The author likes to take a swing at Japan when given the chance

On the Japan issue, one chapter is titled “從皇帝到戰犯到公民”–“From Emperor to War Criminals to Citizens”.  The chapter explores the fall of Imperial China, but does not mention anything about Sun Yat Sen, Chiang Kai Shek, and the early Republic before the Japanese invasion.  And while the Japanese did commit war crimes in China, I find it interesting that instead of saying “Japanese Invaders” as one might say in a more neutral text, the author explicitly chooses to use “War Criminals”.

So it may not be propaganda, but I surely am able to discover how the author feels on the subject.

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