Those who have known me a while will know that I just about kept my body shape in control (mainly in Okinawa through sweating generally due to the heat and humidity) or because of walking so much with my car dying. It definitely wasn’t due to exercise though! But after a couple of months of being back in England […]
Archive for December, 2011
Can’t believe another year has flown by. I’m sure as you get older time seems to go by more quickly, but it seems only yesterday since I was setting out my goals for 2011 and now here we are with, most likely, none of this year’s goals completed! But before I jump into what I hope for the forthcoming year, let’s have a look where I am now compared to where I was 12 months ago.
Work: this time last year I was making the rather bold decision to turn down an additional year’s contract at my last workplace. It was a bit of a risk, with work not completely confirmed for the next academic year, but once I’d made the decision I was happy with it. And I think it was the right decision. I feel much more comfortable with where I am now. My salary is better (despite my employer at one point trying to mess me out of quite a bit of work and money) and I’m enjoying teaching the older kids much more. I would still love to go back to a high school (or even university) environment, but where I am now is a pretty nice place to be. Some of my students have done pretty well: I coached 2 out of 4 students to win places on a short homestay in England in the Chatan English Speech & Conversation Contest; and I coached one student to sixth place in an all-Japan English speech contest.
When I hear from my old students, some of whom now are in their mid-twenties, I remember that I was in a pretty special place for 5 years, with some really special people. For those five years, everything seemed to fall into place as far as work was concerned, and I’m happy I had that time. People still don’t believe me when I said that for five years I never had a bad day at work. Looking too far back though… this is supposed to be a review and look forward!
So I’ll move onto the other big part of my life: cars. Bit of a strange one here. At the end of 2010 I had my black Suzuki Alto Works as a daily driver, and then a very nice looking, sounding and driving red Mazda RX-7 (pictured left). The latter had been brought back from the grave and given a whole new lease of life. The situation is a little different at the end of this year. Two cars have turned into one, both the Alto and the RX-7 being sold, and me going back into a black 1995 Evo III (now non-running due to big upgrade). So I’ve gone from 2 running cars to one non-running one… that’s about right for me!
Love life. 2010 – all quiet on the Western Front. 2011 – ditto!
Travel – Well at the end of last year I was freezing to death in England, experiencing one of the coldest winters on record. 2010 was fairly travel-free up until that point though, due to lack of time off from work. While this year has been fairly similar, I did have a very enjoyable trip to Kyushu, taking in Fukuoka, Beppu and Kumamoto on a long weekend. And even before this year is out, I’ve got 2 trips already in the pipeline for 2012 (Tokyo in February and Kyoto or Tokyo again in April)
Well, 4 hours to go until a new year dawns so I should end this very brief review. I’ll be back next year though (more accurately, tomorrow) and will be writing about my thoughts for the year ahead. Until then, have a fun and safe New Years Eve, and Happy New Year to you when the clock turns 12.
Just saw a BBC headline flash up on my computer that Kim Jong Il is being reported as dead. Confirmed it and had to write some thoughts about it, as this is going to have huge consequences for the country, the Korean peninsula and beyond.
On State TV it was said that he died at age 69 from “physical and mental over-work” (see video at the bottom). I’m going to read between the lines and say that it was either another stroke or a heart attack. The hows and whys though are immaterial, the fact is that he’s died and it is the end of an era for the DPRK. Born in 1941, the “General” took over as leader of the DPRK from his father, Kim Il Sung (the “Great Leader”) after his death in 1994. Il Sung’s death was followed by mass mourning in the country for days and no doubt his son’s death will be followed by similar. His passing was reported by an emotional announcer dressed in black on DPRK state television.
As one of a relatively small number of people who have visited the country, a huge number of questions came into my mind when I saw the headline. Firstly, KJI was seen as a god in DPRK, more so than the emperor used to be in Japan and probably only second to his father in terms of world stature in the country. The number of statues, monuments and murals dedicated to Sung was uncountable. Whether DPRK has the available money, resources and willpower to do the same for KJI is to be seen. I suppose it all depends on what happens following the power transition.
The likely successor is going to be KJI’s 3rd son, Kim Jong Un (pictured right). Reportedly 27 years old (unconfirmed), he became Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’s Party of Korea last year, and was reported as being groomed for the role of leader when his father passed away. It seems like that might have come a little earlier than expected though. But with his rising to power there is a lot to talk about. He will assume power a month before his 28th birthday and straight away will have pressure from all sides. South Korea and Japan will try to exert their political and militaristic muscles and test the water with him (expect Japan to again ask about abductions of Japanese citizens from a time before Un was even born). China will be panicking somewhat as they were the ones before who were thought to be able to keep DPRK in check somewhat and stop them causing too much trouble. Will the new leader respect China in the same way?
A lot will come down to Un’s policies, both domestic and foreign, for the country. From what has been reported (which, to be fair, is relatively little) he is expected to have a similar outlook to his father and grandfather. That being one of isolation for the country and to continue their ideology of Juche, or independence. This would seem the logical route to continue down from his point of view. It would probably keep the generals and upper echelons of the military happy in the country, and would probably be supported by the majority of the people. However, there would be a lot of pressure from the West for him to open up the country to the outside world. And it’s possible that a lot of the people, who have been held down for a long time now, may see this as a chance for an uprising against the government. If they could get the support of some of the military then there could be something of a revolution there, and potential civil war. The problem is that a lot of the people there simply don’t know that they are being held down by the government. They see it as just the way it is, and don’t have any access to the outside world to know any different.
The other option that Un could go for would be a radical change from previous leadership, and finally the opening up of the DPRK to Asia, South Korea and the world. This is unlikely but possible, if Un thought it was in his best interests. The consequences of this could be huge: DPRK joining the global community, a possible unified Korea etc. The latter point is definitely something that the South should worry about to be honest. People think of it as just being like when East and West Germany reunited. The truth is that the differences between the countries are so much bigger than that: financial, political and sociological. While the outside world would love this to be the result, it’s likely that a lot of people in positions of power in the government and military would not want this. As the country opens, people will see what the outside world has, and how it compares to what they have been told over the years. Truths will come out and plenty of people are not going to want that. It’s possible that the military could stage some sort of coup if it looked like Un was going to adopt this policy.
Not sure which one it’s going to be at the moment, but it certainly destabilizes the Korean peninsula, and could cause big changes in 2012. A lot of people might be jumping for joy around the world at the moment but whether it turns out to be a case of “Better the devil you know” remains to be seen…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XugO4Fafdeo
Have had a few people ask me about this over the past few days so I’m happy to pass on the info. The UFC is coming to Japan in February of 2012 with a stacked fightcard to take place at the Saitama Super Arena. Plenty of people are getting tickets (reports are 7,000 tickets sold in the first 4 days of sales), but quite a few have no idea where they are actually sitting! The picture below should give you a bit of an idea to start off with as to what priced tickets are where:
For a more accurate look, the Saitama Super Arena has a seating plan so you can see exactly where you’re going to be. If you’re heading to the event, let me know where you’ll be sitting!
Tickets went on sale for UFC Japan (aka UFC 144) on Saturday and I was online as soon as they became available, grabbing myself a pair. The event will be on February 26th at the Saitama Super Dome and I’ve got myself some reasonably prices tickets. The main event will be Frankie Edgar vs Benson Henderson for the UFC Lightweight Championship belt, with a stacked fight card all the way down to be honest. This will be the first time I’ve been to an event like this and I have to say I’m stoked about it!
Since late 2007, I’ve been getting in MMA fighting and the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) in particular. Now for the uninitiated, they might hear the words “fighting”, “cage” and “octogon” and think of some free-for-all brawl with no rules and no referees. And that’s pretty much how it started back in 1993 with UFC 1, when nobody knew what to expect. Back then it was a bit of a freak show: no weight classes, one fighter coming in wearing one boxing glove, jiu-jitsu fighters having no idea how to strike, and vice versa. Since then it has evolved so much, and needed to in order to survive and become more mainstream. Rules introduced, sponsorship secured and vigorous drug testing, as you’d expect from any large professional sporting organization.
Pride was the UFC’s main competitor, and was based in Japan, although they folded in 2007 and left Japan without a strong mixed martial arts presence. The better Pride fighters who hadn’t already moved to the UFC started to do so, increasing the strengths in their various weight classes. I’ve watched quite a few Pride fights and had mixed feelings about them. some of the fights were very exciting, but they did sometimes have a “freak show” element to them that the UFC had grown out of, which usually incorporated either exceptionally tall or heavy fighters, who were not very skilled, but chosen to fight because of their “freakiness” (no disrespect meant at all to those fighters). I’m not aware of any Japanese fighters who I’d put in this class; I’m guessing because to do they wanted to show all Japanese fighters as having much more honour and fighting spirit than that. Plus there were a fair few controversies, especially when Japanese fighters were facing non-Japanese opponents in Japan (I never did trust those referees with the earpieces wired up to… someone).
Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, the UFC. Well since 2007 it’s gone from strength to strength and since then has absorbed the WEC and Strikeforce into its ranks, making it even stronger. You’ve now got people who are no longer specialists in one thing and dabllers in another; they are extremely well-rounded fighters, skilled in all aspects of the game.
Have a little look at what UFC is all about below:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHDgdWNVbaw
Anyway, as I said at the top, the card for this event is huge, and the crowd hopefully will be too. Here is the main card:
Frankie Edgar vs Benson Henderson
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs Ryan Bader
Mark Hunt vs Cheick Kongo
Yoshihiro Akiyama vs Jake Shields
Anthony Pettis vs Joe Lauzon
I’ll be writing more about the event as it gets closer, but am pretty excited about it already. Roll on February!
Got some more progress on the project to turn my 1995 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III into a drag car to report. although my turbo is now 68 days since it has been shipped and there’s still no sign of it. Getting more than a little worried about it but I can’t start to file a claim or anything on it until 90 days have passed. But there’s plenty still to do before the turbo bolts on so no point dwelling on it at the moment.
To start with, even though that radiator I bought was going to fit, it would be very touch and go whether it would cool well enough, and when I’m making the power I’m aiming to, “touch and go” isn’t very reassuring. I was looking all over for someone that would do the radiator that I wanted (a very specific size and thickness) at a half-decent price. I was getting crazy quotes of $500-1000 for a custom built radiator which I just couldn’t justify, but then I came across an Ebay seller called Winner Racing. They said they made custom-built radiators so I got in touch with them and they couldn’t have been more knowledgeable and helpful. $280 got me a radiator made exactly to my specifications, including shipping to me, and it was 7 days exactly from me confirming the order to receiving it. I can highly recommend the seller if anyone is looking for something custom and doesn’t want to mortgage the house to buy it. Gotta love “Made in China” 😉
And as well as some other little bits coming through I also got hold of some AeroCatch bonnet latches. As the front bonnet catch was going to be cut out, I had to have a way of holding the bonnet down. The traditional latches are ok, although they are not lockable in general, and they are actually banned on some circuits in the world for being unsafe (although we don’t have a circuit in Okinawa anyway so not a huge issue for me!). But they look good being flush to the bonnet so I decided to get them. They should be a nice finishing touch too on the body.
Now with all that out of the way, onto a little work done on the car. With the tight clearances between things in the engine bay, I can’t afford to have any engine movement, especially when shifting at high rpm. Ralliart have ufortunately stopped their competition-spec rubber engine mounts so I had to get a bit creative here. So I got one front engine mount, like so…
And I added some caulking from the local DIY shop for very little money…
Put it into the gaps between the rubber in the engine mount and then left it 48 hours to try. Ended up with this…
Lots more work done, but this post is getting long so expect another update in the next day or so telling more about what I’ve been up to.