First video entry

This week I'm going to start experimenting in Youtube-hosted videos on this blog. In other words, transforming Foreign Prophecies into a Vlog ("video blog").

Today's introductory video does look very amateur, since I videotaped the entire thing myself.

Firstly I would focus on making monologues, but I may post videos of other stuff I find interesting in the future too. Please do let me know what you think.


Steve Jobs: A Legacy (1955-2011)

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.
- Jobs

Born in 1955, he was a Computer entrepreneur and inventor. Having founded Apple Inc. and cofounded Pixar Animation Studios, he helped made Silicon Valley the capital of technological innovation and related venture capital fortunes. His creation of iTunes had reformed the music industry. His invention of iPod helped weaned mankind of the big ol' bulky Walkman Cassettes and CD Players. And he brought Macintosh (now known as Mac) as a viable alternative to the relatively slower-paced Windows Operating System.

Yet Steven Paul Jobs was a humble man. In most of his public appearances, he donned black turtleneck and a dark blue denim.

Simple, yet smart.

This is exactly why, for a lot of us teenagers and young adults coming from all walks of life, he is seen as someone we can all aspire to.

We admire him for the simple products he created. We adore him for the way he kept us waiting in the dark for the next new iPod or iPhone or Mac products...only to be delightfully surprised with those sleek, minimalist, and elegant designs of his Apple products.

He reminded the world that the phrase "hi-tech" does not have to be synonymous with the word "complicated".

Some of us even aspire to become a person like him, even though we may not be a fan of Apple ourselves.

He left behind a legacy that had inspired young people everywhere, and though he is now gone, the future he created is in our hands.

When Jobs first came on the scene, it wasn't cool to be in business... Through the 1970s, the Dow hardly moved. Being in business was seen as being a total sellout. But Jobs was young and glamorous, and gave business that image. Now, young people aspire to be in business
- Alan Deutschman (author of The Second Coming of Steve Jobs)

Succinctly said.


Why A Revolution in North Korea is Unlikely to Occur

written by kansai2kansas as a "Cause-Effect" topic for his English 101 class in Spring 2011 semester

Unlike the recent uprisings which have recently happened in several Muslim countries in Northern Africa and Middle East, it is futile to wish that a revolution in the North Korea will ever happen. Apart from the lack of unity amongst its people, the citizens of North Korea are also not united by any thread whatsoever. Nobody dares to revolt against Kim Jong-il, the Dear Leader who enjoys foreign lobsters and French wine everyday while his citizens starved to death (Lankov 233). In this piece I will discuss the main causes and roots as to answer why a revolution in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is unlikely to take place.

First of all, in order to even ignite the idea of inciting a revolution, there has to be some sort of unity amongst the North Korean citizens. In most dictatorships today, the primary reason the citizens can unite themselves on an underground form with little fear of persecution is because they have a reliable telecommunication network. Mubarak was toppled by college students who coordinated themselves with Twitter. And the world gets to know about the evils of Gaddafi and Ahmadinejad through videos posted by their populace in Youtube. However, in North Korea internet and mobile phones are practically nonexistent to the common population (Lankov 244). It is against the law for most of the ordinary North Koreans –who number to about 22 million people—to access the broadband or mobile network. The only ones who have free access to the internet and mobile phones in North Korean territory are the elite officials of the sole party in North Korea, the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and diplomats from the embassy of the People’s Republic of China, which is the only country in the world that has harmonious ties with North Korea. Even then, the rates for internet access are exorbitant (up to US$2/minute). Hence the people of North Korea are almost entirely blocked out of this 21st century technology.

Secondly, most citizens of North Korea have virtually no knowledge of what the outside world looks like. Despite having the permission to own tellies and radios, the only channel broadcasts allowed in the country are government-run stations, which continuously show movies and newscasts glorifying the self-reliant Juche ideology and the ideals of having a great leader like Kim Jong-il (Butler). Due to the difference between North Korea’s NTSC system and South Korea’s PAL system, it is impossible to receive South Korean channel broadcast in the regions bordering South Korea. The only ones who can ever watch foreign broadcast stations are those in the regions bordering China. Even then, the television stations are constantly checked by government officials. Anyone found watching/listening to foreign broadcasts can risk being sent to prison camp without trials. Therefore, most people of North Korea have no idea that people outside the country are living lives with relative freedom to voice out their opinions and physically emigrate from the country.

In North Korea, there is also an extensive network of WPK loyalists and spies, who are willing to report any dissenting opinions or mere japes against anyone in Kim Jong-il’s administration. Anyone caught voicing such opinions can risk being sent to one of the several labour camps without possibility of trial or worse, get a death penalty (Sang-Hun). Those who report such dissents will be rewarded money and/or protection by the Party, hence a lot of North Koreans can see that it is much better off for them not to rebel against the government. After all, if one makes fun of the government, what are the chances that one of your neighbours will simply let go of it without reporting to the authorities? Moreover, if one gets arrested and sent into the labour camp and yet is able to escape, the Kim Jong-il administration will in turn arrest several of his/her kins with similarly no possibility of trial. It is thus quite evident how risky it is to speak against the government.

In North Korea, Kim il-Sung –the deceased father of the incumbent leader Kim Jong-il— has a God-like status. With an official title of the “Eternal President”, it is compulsory for all citizens to display a picture of Kim il-Sung and Kim Jong-il side by side on their respective walls (Kristof). This is akin to the near-religious fervour displayed by citizens of Germany towards Adolph Hitler during the Nazi era. Due to the deified status of North Korean leaders, religious freedom is suppressed. Out of a population of 22 million, the true adherents of Christianity and Buddhism –which are the two largest religions in the country— number in the thousands. Even then, not all of them have the freedom to worship as they like, as all of the places of worship are government-monitored. Hence, it is evident that the true “deity” of North Korea for most North Korean people are its leaders. The propaganda even says that Kim Jong-il can control the rain and has the power to make sun rise or set. With your own leader’s family as deities, it struck people’s conscience that they may be monitored from their own souls regardless of physical surveillance. This in turn makes them afraid of rebelling against Kim Jong-il (or members of his Party thereof) at all.

All in all, the economy of North Korea, which is heavily centralised toward the Pyongyang government, is arranged in such a way that whether one gets constant food and electricity supply or not heavily depends on one’s loyalty to the government (North). If one is loyal, one will get a full stomach and constant electricity all year-long. If one is just an ordinary citizen who shows neither extraordinary loyalty nor disloyalty, one will get limited food rations and limited electricity supply (which can be cut off on certain days). Pitiably, this is the best paradigm of a supposedly utopian Stalinist society: direct control of the citizens by the government in their way of life, communication, and financial means. In contrast to the communist regimes of China and Cuba (which have in recent decades opened up to certain outside technologies which symbolise “freedom” such as mobile phone and internet), citizens of North Korea has no freedom at all: no internet, no mobile phone, no passport (with the exception of diplomats), and limited knowledge of the outside world. Hence, it is evident that it is much more beneficial if one shows loyalty to the government. After all, why risk danger for one’s entire family for a labour camp if there is a political system that can be so rewarding when one shows one’s fealty?

Works cited

Butler, Rhett. "North Korea: TRANSPORTATION AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS." Rainforest - Web. 10 May 2011. .

Kristof, Nicholas D. "Death Doesn't End Rule of Kim Il Sung, 'Eternal President' - New York Times." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. Web. 10 May 2011. .

Lankov, Andrei. "(233) Famine: A Disaster Waiting to Happen." The Korea Times. Web. 10 May 2011. .
Lankov, Andrei. "(244) Surfing Net in North Korea." The Korea Times. Web. 10 May 2011. .

"North Korea Economy." Expedited Visas, Visa Applications, Rush Passport, Passports, Travel. Web. 10 May 2011. .

Sang-Hun, Choe. "An Escapee Tells of Life and Death in North Korea's Labor Camps - The New York Times." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. Web. 10 May 2011. .


It's too late for swimming

The iPhone's weather app is showing a temperature of 13°C , which means it's too late for swimming now. It's a pity that none of us had the chance (nor the wills) to swim when it was still warm outside.

A friend suggested going to Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, OH if we want to have an indoor waterpark experience. I guess I'll check the place out after the bills are paid for the month.

I have been blogwalking on some Indonesian blogs lately, and seeing some snapshots of Indonesian cuisine made my mouth water. Especially when it comes to my fave Indonesian meal of Martabak and Pempek Palembang (I blame this on Kimi! Oh by the way, I've put your link in my blogroll! ^^).

An Indonesian friend in California told me that even Indonesian restaurants in the country (which mostly converge in California, NY, and Texas) don't taste as original as the ones back in the tropics, particularly since their respective owners want to comfort more of the American people's tastebuds.

Shucks. I should make it a target to have an annual pilgrimage back to Singapore or Indonesia or even Netherlands to taste Indonesian food every once in a while.


"You Don't Know Jack" movie review

Jack Kevorkian, whom the media oftly refer to as "Doctor Death", gained notoriety in the medical world for audaciously promoted a peaceful termination to agonising lives of people struck with incurable diseases. You Don't Know Jack is a biographical movie of his dealings with the issue of mercy-killing, starring the legendary actor Al Pacino as the lead role.

The intro started with Kevorkian regretting to have seen his own mother dying in such pain during the last days of her life. Partially blaming himself for not taking action, he henceforth intended to give peace to those people who no longer have any satisfying or fulfilling lives, such as those sentenced with Lou Gehrig's disease, pancreatic cancer, and other terminal illnesses. However, he was not the Grim Reaper as some cult fiction portrays him to be. For one, he does not even charge those patients. Also, before he could end a patient's life (painlessly) with a gas device, he always made sure that he videotaped one last interview with the patients and their family, in order to ensure the legal system in the future that he did not just murder those patients on a whim. He even dissuaded most patients from ending their lives when there was still hope. Such a case was shown when Kevorkian asked a patient whose body was slightly scarred from a fire accident to refrain from suicidal wills. Kevorkian told him that the real problem was not the fire burns but clinical depression, which was curable. Eventually, that patient decided to choose life, which Kevorkian happily obliged.

The latter half of the movie deals with Kevorkian's legal battles against the state of Michigan, which sparked a ferocious nationwide debate on the issue of mercy-killing.

I personally find the movie highly amusing due to the fact that it is well-produced. Al Pacino plays Kevorkian so well that he even adopts Kevorkian's Detroit accent. The movie also carries a sardonic, comical undertone by showing Kevorkian's genius outside the medical field (he sold some surrealistic paintings to art galleries) and the soundtrack of Bach played throughout the duration(who is Kevorkian's favourite musician).

In the end, it does not matter whether you are a conservative religious or an is highly likely that you will find this movie as amusing as I did. You Don't Know Jack does not attempt to argue on whether physician-assisted suicide is right or wrong. It is, simply put, a movie about Kevorkian's dealings with euthanasia, his patients, and the consequences he would face later on in public.

The morality behind euthanasia is for yourself to decide.

Rating: 8 stars out of 10


American Sign Language

I registered for the classes of ASL 101 and ASL 102 back-to-back as a foreign language requirement to complete my Associates. And in contrary to what most other people say, I think this is among the hardest languages I've studied, especially since I'm not adept in facial expressions.

As a result, I would have dropped my ASL 102 at the completion of 101 next month....if not for the highly-attractive young female professor who is teaching the class.

I love coming to this class. It is probably the first course where I have a perfect attendance (i.e., no skiving off classes).

Seriously, I do think that more universities should have a professor like her.

A slightly tall brunette-haired lady in her mid-20s, with a lithe figure, sweet complexion and always wears nice cardigans... ASL is probably the only class in my campus where male students don't doze at all throughout the lecture, not even for one minute. We just stare at those beautiful eyes, even if we don't understand one bit what the hell she's talking about.

So why did I decide to register for the class anyway?

(FYI, I had no knowledge of who the teacher was until the first day of class)

Because of the movie Orphan. Yes, that psycho-thriller movie about the adopted girl who ended up almost killing the entire family.

I rated the movie 4.0/5.0 in Flixster, and it was indeed one of the best movies in 2009. The movie has one of the characters, Max, who is a deaf-mute girl who communicates with her family using ASL.

It got me saying: Oh my, what a cute language!

I always have an adjective for different languages. While German is coarse, English is practical, Japanese is awesome, French is lovely and Chinese Mandarin is complicated, I'd say that ASL is cute.

I didn't know if I ended up liking ASL because I thought that the kid Max expressed the ASL well, or simply because I liked ASL for what it looks like. Anyway I ended up registering for these classes.

Little did I know that I would change my opinion of ASL later on. I should've known it.

But I don't regret taking this class. Why should I?

'post~script The professor unfortunately is happily married and has a toddler. Which kinda shucks, but that does not discourage males from looking at her anyway! Tsk tsk.. Shame on them! Haha.


(499th) day of Summer

While signs of autumn seemed to have arrived on early September (it dropped from 28 C to 12 C in less than 24 hours, how annoying is that?), some people just can't wait to have autumn back on the doorstep.

Ah, autumn!

The most romantic month of the year in Kentucky is not February.

It's October, when the rustic charm resonates in the surroundings with early steps of autumn. Autumn in Kentucky also tends to have more rain than any other time of the year, which gives the impression of living in the outskirts of Oregon.

Calm, peaceful, and slightly cool. Makes you want to cuddle with your lover.

When I get married, I'd probably have the ceremony outdoors in autumn. Winter would be freezing while summer would be too sweltering.

Spring would confuse people as to what dress code one should wear, since the cold days and hot days come alternately.

Not that I have anyone in mind though.


A decision (not) to delete Facebook

Facebook's policy on account deletion requires its users to deactivate for a period of 14 days without any logging whatsoever. Those who are tepid hence could always decide to log back in and reactivate their accounts.

Take me, as an example.

After mulling it over, I have decided not to delete my account. There are simply some whose main avenue of communication with me is thru Facebook, and should I delete my account, there is a good chance I may never see them again.

I shall be deactivating it temporarily though, until I sort some personal matters out.


Why old movies are not worth watching

In deciding whether a movie is worth watching, I tend to have several aspects in mind. I favour movies that are:

  1. Hollywood, French, German, or Japanese produced

  2. Produced after year 1999

It's not about BWs or silent movies, really (though I have to admit, I am not knowledgeable in that aspect since I have not watched any BW or silent before).

Despite being a young film aficionado, I am not biased against indie movies. Just because a movie is indie does not mean that it is going to suck (though I admit around 50% to 60% of indie movies have a poorly-written script).

Here are several reasons why think that any movies produced before 1999 are not worth watching:

1. Movies of those era (especially Westerns and dramas produced between 1950 to 1989), tend to have a loud, blaring classical soundtrack that eats up the first 10 minutes of the movie intro.

I find that very annoying, especially when that soundtrack has almost the same decibel loudness as the characters speaking in the movie. I'd rather watch something where I can hear the characters speaking...I'm not deaf, I don't need soundtracks that loud and that long.

2. Older movies tend to have poorer CGI (this should be obvious).

I am not a fan of CGI-heavy movies like the The Transformers or Chronicles of Narnia franchises, but I personally think that if you have to have CGI in your movie, you gotta do it right, baby! There is nothing more painful than having to be entertained with a good storyline in the beginning, only to have your eyes hurt having to watch poor attempts at CGI by prehistoric people.

3. That classical soundtrack I mentioned above in No.1 would be played in endless loop throughout 80% of the movie duration.

with the same loud, blaring decibels.


Of course, exceptions do exist. I find both The Sound of Music (1965) and Heidi (1993) highly likable.

But such exceptions are rare. Until this day, I still cannot get myself to watch highly-recommended oldies such as Scarface, The Godfather franchise, or Lawrence of Arabia. I just haven't got the willpower to watch them yet.


Do you know that there is no undergrad thesis in USA?

"Liberal Arts"

That's what I tell people when they ask me what I major in college.

Liberal Arts? What's that?

Oh, I study some stuff like history, politics, maths, geology, English...


(It is a fancy name for "Undecided", really. I take the General Education requirements during the first three semesters, which is why I am allowed to declare myself as a Lib Arts major)

So....I am in the middle of a predicament here. My third semester is coming and by the middle of spring 2012 (or latest by May 2012), I should have declared a major already.

Some folks suggested not to fret about it, saying "you'll know it when the time comes", but I should know better.

Declaring a major is like getting a girlfriend. If you declare the wrong one, you can still break it up and take a major in another, but then you're stuck with wasted credits and may have to repeat a semester or two.

And if I didn't find the most suitable major for me, I would graduate with a degree that provides me a pathway to jobs that I disdain. By then it would be akin to having a annoying, bossy, jealous, hen-pecking wife.

Therefore, following my mother's advice, I explored several majors and their possible career choices...

1. French. I know I would love and savour every minute of studying this in college, but admittedly the career prospects are pretty dim. My family would have spent at least US$35,000 in university tuitions by the time I graduate in 2014, and the starting average pay for French grads is not even half that. Hence, no.

2. European History. I can't take this major know, for the same reasons as above. However, it would be a great major to take a Master's thesis in.

3. English. Oh please, this is America. They don't even speak (proper) English here.

4. Finance/Business. Dad suggested this one, due to my preference in not dealing with customer service in my jobs. I can become a financial analyst, accountant, economist, and the likes with this major. I am still not too keen on studying Economics though (it has always been my weakest forte amongst all Social Science subjects), hence I am putting this as a second-in-line.

5. Computer Science/Information Technology. True, I have neither experience nor knowledge in this subject. But so does most CS/IT students I know of. The one that allures me most is the very fact that people in this major end up graduating to take high-paying jobs (ranked No.5 most lucrative university discipline by CNN money). So I am thinking...what the hell, why not?

6. Business Informatics. This actually combines the two majors I mentioned above: Business and CS/IT. I would reckon that it would be more sought after than the last two, since it combines the financial acumen of its graduates with their fluency in programming language and software cognition. But I also would reckon that the level of difficulty would be high, since two different disciplines are meshed together to make a fiendishly tough stuff to study.

What about the final thesis? Do you think you can do the final thesis of CS/IT or Business or whatever tough stuff that you're gonna study? I bet it's gonna be a tough, tough one

Thesis? Art thou jesting me?

There are no such thing as thesis for undergrad students in USA, darling. In most Asian countries, yes, there is a thesis examination (or dissertation or "skripsi" in Indonesian language in case there is a term confusion here). On Asian undergraduate thesis, you have to write a 50-100 page research paper which has to be defended in front of a committee.

But not in USA. Thesis/dissertation in USA is only for those taking Graduate school or Doctoral schools.

There is a final paper for some US majors, yes. But even then, it is only practised at some private colleges and does not normally have to be defended in front of any committees whatsoever. Your paper is to be graded by one or more university instructors, but still, you don't have to defend it.

That's the best part of it, I guess. I would very much prefer making a speech in front of a podium. Defending a thesis in front of a committee, where four years of toil and sweats and $35,000 student loan sits on it, would make me (or anyone, for that matter) very, very nervous.


Eid musings

Every year during the month of Ramadhan, I always fast for one whole day of my choice.

It was a ritual I started during my late years of primary school (10 or 11 years ago). I stayed at Uncle A's residence for a prolonged two-week Ramadhan vacation. His entire family is Muslim and hence, they fasted for every single day I stayed there. There were, however, no qualms about making my meals. Since I was the only one who was a non-Muslim, Uncle A and his wife made sure that the housemaids cook breakfast and lunch for me anytime I wanted to eat.

Until one particular day, I decided to take up fasting with them just for the sake of trying it out. I was struck with hunger pangs for every single minute of it. But I decided to wait it out until sunset, indulging myself in PlayStation until the mosque drum rolls came thru the telly.

Yes, I did it. It was my first day of Ramadhan fasting, and I decided to do it again the next year.

And again. And again. Until it finally became an annual ritual.

There had only been three occasions that I failed to fast, namely 2006 (due to final exams), 2008 (I got lazy and complacent), and this year.

Yes, I know that today is not Eid yet, but I don't think I am able to stand it out this year due to my overwhelming schedule. Plus, it's in the middle of summer which means that the sun sets at 9 p.m. everyday.

Until next year, I guess!


Borders Liquidation in the era of e-book

It is safe to assume that the US public in general have mixed feelings about the recent announcement that Borders Group is liquidating its stores all around the country.

At least that's what I feel. With the ascent of Amazon's online store, together with those offered by Kinokuniya and Barnes&Noble, rolling heads would not only be expected, it is also anticipated.

Experience tells us that most people don't read a book more than once in their lifetime. Once they finish the book, they hardly ever open it again (unless it's a textbook, dictionary, Atlas, Road guides, or Holy scriptures). So what's the point of purchasing a book if you can get them for next-to-nothing or even free in online stores?

Some would argue that they still prefer to hold the physical book in their hands instead of reading e-book from a Nook or Kindle. Well fine, go to the library and check out a title. It costs nothing and it's that simple.

However, even though we have anticipated this shutdown of bookstores for a long time, I would like to ponder for a moment here. Of all the three bookstore behemoths I have visited, Borders is usually the one that provides the best convenience of all. They're generally smaller than either Barnes&Noble or Kinokuniya, but the atmosphere of Borders is the most welcoming to customers. You can even sleep and lay down on the hundreds of available couches while browsing magazines and comic books.

I gotta admit I'd miss that when the last store finally closes.



Sometimes I wish I could go back to that life in the tropics, to Indonesia.

In the tropics:

  • Life was much slower-paced,

  • I had more close friends I could hang out with,

  • It was much easier to get a date,

  • I had my entire family (including cousins, aunts, etc) reachable within a short bus ride, and

  • Martabak vendors are just a short motorcycle ride away.

Here in the Midwest:

  • I barely get enough sleep,

  • It's a nonstop cycle between my full-time work shifts and my full-time college,

  • I have nigh no time to even meet any close friends,

  • so far, the last girl I asked bailed out on me,

  • I only have my Mom and my sis (in August), and

  • TacoBell sucks. Really sucks.

I mean, I do admit that we have Skyline Chilli here, but it does not diminish the very fact that TacoBell sucks.

Moreover, despite the fact that Kentucky is the origin of Kentucky Fried Chicken, I tell you the truth here: Kentucky restaurants in Southeast Asia have better-tasting chicken meals than KFC in Kentucky.


However, anybody were to ask me if I'm interested to visit Indonesia now, I would answer NO wholeheartedly.

I am not interested in that whole "new life, everybody has changed" thing that my friends and family members are gonna display in their faces when I meet with them.

I love the old them in 2009. I prefer the old them in 2009. I am totally not interested into those new changes they have in their lives.

If only I could go back and revisit those Indonesians of 2009 (as opposed to the Indonesians of 2011, who mostly sucks like hell), that would be heaven for me.



Missing the very concept of "holiday", and "hanging out with buddies"

To be honest, sometimes I do miss being back in the tropics, in Indonesia. Such as sitting around and lazing around for several days in a stretch on a hammock at home, which would somehow be my very definition of nirvana at this very moment.

Prior to going back to continue my education in college in Northern Kentucky, I had the very impression that college life would be just "an extension of high school", where I can meet people around my age (i.e., late teens or early 20s) and perhaps, somehow, pick up a date.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I took a random sampling of student age of two classes I attended, which are American Government (Pol 101) and Human Geography (Geo 160). Out of 20-plus number of individuals who attend those classes, a staggering percentage of approx. 85% to 90% of them are above the age of 26.

Admittedly, there are certain classes in campus which are filled with mostly younger group of people, but for me to join those classes, I would have to switch my major (or declare those classes as electives, which in the end could very likely die off as non-transferable course credits).

I have nothing against befriending older people, because as a matter of fact, having people who are much older than me as me friends does help me to have a more mature outlook on things I face in life. I could even confidently say that I am a more mature person today than I was before I even met those people.

But I still somehow could not deny the fact that there is still this hollow, this void, that needs to be filled by hanging out with people my own age. Veritably I tell you, I have even forgotten the last time I went to the mall or theatre with somebody else my own age.

So it gets quite lonely for me most of the time, and going to college does not necessarily changes that.

As a matter of fact, with my back-to-back schedule of working in the office for 40 hours a week and attending classes of 15-20 hours a week (Yes, I do attend summer classes), I hardly have any chance to have a recess at all, let alone finding time to socialise with people. The two days that I am granted leave from office every week are only used for sleeping long hours. Or, if I'm fortunate, try out some Wii games and watch DVDs before the slumber.

I haven't had a stretch of week-long holiday for nigh two years now. I have no life. It's summer yet I have no social life.

I just wish it's Canada already.


Plans for Searing Summer: Canada or South?

I've always wanted to go to Canada. There are a lot of gorgeous looking ladies up there. And now that it's searing hot outside, I probably will.

Or not.

It sucks when you live on a limited budget.

I plan on getting a new Smartphone sometime later this month, but I'm still undecided whether I should get an iPhone 4 (which is gonna suck when you see a new version of iPhone 5 next year) or a Samsung Infuse (which is one of the very first Droids in the country that runs on a 4G platform).

My sister and father's upcoming arrival (which is going to be their first visit to the country after more than 10 years in Southeast Asia) is very much awaited too. I will not write anything about the exact dates until everything is confirmed, but let it be made known that their visit here will be very much anticipated. Can't wait.

Anyway, now I know what I want for Christmas: a Prius. Or Nissan Leaf.

Do you know that Nissan Leaf can run very low mileage (up to 99 Miles per Gallon!). With the gasoline price so steep these days, I wish for nothing else other than saving on weekly fuel purchases.

It would not be so prudent to actually buy a hybrid vehicle this year (such an idea is per se, impossible since I have not got a pay raise yet). Hence, probably sometime next year I hand over/inherit my Subaru to Sis M or Mom or whoever wants the car after I'm done with the payments.

Back to the earlier topic, the family (i.e.: the whole package of Me, Sis M, Mom & Dad) might be able to travel to somewhere closer to home, like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina or Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

I always wonder what the South actually looks like, and I've always wanted to go there too. Let's just hope everyone will find such a summer vacation delightful to look forward to.


Bullet Trains in USA

written by kansai2kansas as a term paper for his Geography 160 class

High-speed rail, or bullet train as it is more commonly known, is a method of transportation more commonly found among advanced countries in the world. According to the standard directive used by European Union, High-speed rail is generally defined as any railway service with a minimum speed of 250 km/h (for the newly built ones) and a lower threshold of minimum speed of 200 km/h (for the upgraded conventional ones) [Source 1].

Among European and Eastern Asian countries, the technology of bullet train, and the lack of interest of American people for its use in USA thereof, has somewhat become a global laughingstock. So far, there is only one bullet train service that is already fully operational in USA, namely the Acela Express (owned by Amtrak) that runs from Boston to Washington DC.

It is a sad fact indeed. Despite being the most economically and militarily advanced country in the world, there had only been limited interest in developing or funding this particular method of transportation in America.

It was only in February 2011 that Vice President Biden proposed to improve passenger rail in the United States with a cost of $53 billion over six years. This would include separate high-speed rail corridors in the state of California, Texas, Southeast region, Midwest region, and Pacific Northwest region. This plan unsurprisingly became a hot issue for the Republicans in the House of Representatives, who are usually reluctant to adopt this technology in the first place [Source 2].

However, it has become evident that with Barack Obama, a Democrat, holding the presidency, slightly more liberal values of adopting this bullet train technology has become more and more accepted these days. 70% of Democrats and 34% of Republicans (which total to around 48% of Americans) are in full support of Biden’s plan [Source 3].

Now let us explore this question: why was it from 1900 to 2000 Americans were always reluctant to adopt this brilliant technology?

This caters to the human-environment interaction theme of Geography. It is not that USA lacked the ability to adopt it. As a matter of fact, believe it or not, USA was the country that invented bullet train technology in the first place! Called high-speed interurban, it enabled people to travel in a relatively shorter time than cars [Source 4].

However, due to various reasons, starting from the Great Depression which left the maintenance of interurbans to be too expensive to the scandal involving General Motors’ plan of killing off the existence of interurbans so that Americans would use more of GM’s vehicles instead (which some people these days cite as a conspiracy theory) [Source 5], Americans stopped using interurbans at all.

Conspiracy theories aside, the very idea of having a competition in ground transportation is found in the main enemy of bullet trains, which are the airline companies. This is the economic factor of geography. One commonly known example was when Southwest Airlines, with the help of lobbyists, tried and (successfully) blocked the financing of Texas High Speed Rail Authority in the Texas Triangle (which consists of Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, and San Antonio) in year 1994 [Source 6].

For the people in Southwest USA (around Nevada, Utah, and Arizona), having a high-speed train service also would not be to their best interest. This caters to the movement theme of geography. They have a mountainous geography (where it would cost more pricey to build rail service) with relatively less people to use the trains in the first place [Source 7].

It also somehow caters to the culture of American people itself. The very culture of USA, that it is much more delightful if you can drive from East Coast to West Coast (and vice versa) in the comfort of your own SUV, truck, or convertibles has been popularised in pop culture scenes, such as the song Country Road (by John Denver), the movie Crossroads (starring Britney Spears), or the movie Road Trip. Americans see it as much more “fun” if you can travel while stopping at certain favourite towns on your car drive instead of having to abide by such strict predetermined stops of train travel [No source, this is from author’s personal knowledge].
These days, if you do not live in the states of New York, Massachusetts, or Maryland, there is no chance that you can ever ride in a bullet train.

The limited availability of bullet train is about to change within the next 5-15 years though. The earliest (tentative) completion date for more bullet trains can be as early as 2017 for Florida’s Corridor (which would run from Orlando to Miami) to 2025 for California Corridor (which would run from Sacramento to San Diego) and Midwest Corridor (which would run from Chicago to St Louis and Cincinnati) [Source 8].

So far, Obama’s administration has got a head start with $8 billion of federal funding, with the main test bed is in California (which already has voter-approved funding).

Personally speaking, I am delighted that a widespread adaptation of bullet train for other states (outside of Northeast) is coming soon. It is only a matter of time before us people in the Midwest regions also get a share of this excellent method of transportation, which could connect us from Cincinnati to Chicago (which is 410 km, or 254 miles apart) in two to three hours. [Source 9]

Some naysayers may argue that two to three hours for such a short distance is too long...airplanes can travel in much less time. For example, they would question why would we want to sit on a train for three hours from Chicago to Cincinnati when it only takes one hour by plane? [Source 10]

In asking such a question, they also seem to have forgotten that when they travel by plane, unless they actually own the plane (or it is a chartered private plane), they have to go through the painstaking process of checking-in their luggage, going thru security checks, waiting for the taxiing of the plane in the runway, and later on taking your suitcases from the conveyor belt which could altogether add up to another three to four hours total! Moreover, airports all around the world tend to be located quite far from the downtown of the city (such as O’Hare International Airport which is located in the northernmost corner of Chicago, JFK International Aiport which is located in Long Island, and even Greater Cincinnati CVG International Airport which is not located in Ohio but in Hebron, Kentucky!). Being located so far from the downtown would prove to add another travel time by road, thus the average time for someone travelling from Cincinnati to Chicago by taking an aeroplane would altogether add up to five hours total!

On the other hand, when you travel by train, you do not need to go thru so much hassle. You can simply go to your nearest train station (which would most of the time be located in the downtown, thus enhancing its reachability), buy a ticket, board the train, and alight in your next stop in the train station of city of destination (which would also most likely be located in the downtown). Thus, the average (tentative) time for someone travelling from Cincinnati to Chicago by bullet train would altogether add up to three hours total (As of today, this is still a mere estimate since such a Midwest corridor has been completed yet).

In terms of dreams, there have also been visions for a quite distant future to build an underwater train from New York to London, with a speed totalling 6000 km/h and would enable a travel time of only five hours. It is possible, and it might happen someday. Alas, such a plan is not economically feasible yet, since its skyrocketing costs can add up to $175 billion [Source 11]. As of today, the American government has more priorities it can spend on, such as improving the quality of education and creating more jobs. But it never hurts to dream, does it not? Especially since we have already got this dream of having more bullet trains in USA which is about to come true in the near future.


[Source 1] = "General Definitions of Highspeed - UIC - International Union of Railways." UIC - International Union of Railways - The Worldwide Organisation of Cooperation for Railway Companies. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.
[Source 2] = "Vice President Biden Announces Six Year Plan to Build National High-Speed Rail Network." The White House. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.
[Source 3] = Web.
[Source 4] = "Houston Streetcars - Galveston-Houston Interurban." Web. 25 Apr. 2011.
[Source 5] = Adams, Cecil. "The Straight Dope: Did General Motors Destroy the LA Mass Transit System?" The Straight Dope - Fighting Ignorance Since 1973. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.
[Source 6] = "TGVweb - Texas TGV." Web. 25 Apr. 2011.
[Source 7] = "Don't Jump aboard High-speed Rail | Deseret News." Salt Lake City and Utah Breaking News, Sports, Entertainment and News Headlines - Deseret News. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.
[Source 8] = Glave, James, and Rachel Swaby. "Superfast Bullet Trains Are Finally Coming to the U.S. | Magazine |" Web. 25 Apr. 2011.
[Source 9] = "City Distance Tool - Find the Distance between 2 Cities." Geobytes Home Page. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.
[Source 10] = "How Long to Fly from Cincinnati to Chicago? - True Knowledge." True Knowledge - the Internet Answer Engine. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.
[Source 11] = "Trans-Atlantic MagLev | Popular Science." Popular Science | New Technology, Science News, The Future Now. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.


Expat health insurance in North Korea? You gotta be kidding me.

This is probably the worst advertisement ever. Not only does it copy-paste country names inappropriately to a certain search phrase, it also provides....well, nothing. As of today, it is even illegal for ordinary American citizens to enter the country of North Korea (punishable by prison time without trial). The only Americans allowed to enter the country are foreign emissaries and members of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (on certain invitations by Kim Jong-il).

click on image to see larger

You can die if you want to, be my guest.


Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot: Epitomes of Evil

written by kansai2kansas as a "Compare/Contrast" topic for his English 101 class

Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Party and Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge were among the most calamitous legacies of the 21st century. Although their reigns were a generation apart, both men carried ordinary childhoods before they took turn for the worst. Each had inflicted a very deep lesion on the lives of millions of families. Their lives and legacies are therefore an agonising lesson for the humanity that we hope will never be repeated.

Both of these leaders had fine basic educations before they failed their secondary educations, which led them to look up to their surrounding environments as sources of their convoluted mythoi. Little Adolf had had excellent grades in primary school. However, due to disruptive behaviours during high school, he got expelled. After his father’s death, he tried applying to an art academy in Vienna twice. He was rejected on both attempts. He was thus forced to live constantly under indigence. During his time there, he took note of the stark contrast between his life and the lives of the elite Jewish Austrians. It became the cornerstone of what was to be his ardent Anti-Semitism, which he personalised in his controversial book Mein Kampf and the subsequent founding of Nazi Party. Saloth Sar, more popularly known as Pol Pot, attended Catholic school in Phnom Penh. Winning a scholarship, he went to an engineering school in Paris, where he ended up joining an underground communist cell. Due to his poor academic records, he gained popularity as an exemplary proletariat where he also became a member the French Communist Party. Together with his fellow party members, his flames to revolutionise against monarchist Cambodia enkindled after seeing the successes of various Soviet-inspired movements throughout the world.

Both these potentates target the most influential groups of their respective territories. For Hitler’s administration, the less Jewish people there were, the better it would be for his Third Reich ideals. Therefore, he instituted various policies which tried to reduce the number of Jews, starting from the bigger-scale gassing in the concentration camps to the smaller-scale eugenics policy. Similarly, Pol Pot’s administration instituted various policies which mainly aimed at one group that he hated most: the intellectuals and occidentalists. Daily purges were conducted toward eliminating the remnants of intellectualism in Cambodia: the affluent, the educated, Buddhist clergy, foreign nationals, teachers, former government officials were polished off.

During his entire reign, the Führer of Germany did not just order deaths out of hatred. The Final Solution, which came out as a culmination of years of sporadic racism, came about as a prerequisite to promote his purity of Aryan race and superiority of Germany. As a result, a significant population of Europe perished. From the start of his tyranny in 1933 until his eventual suicide in 1945, more than 21 million civilian Europeans died, which amounted to 6% of Europe’s population. Human costs were likewise high for Cambodia. During the Secretary General’s relatively short term from 1975 to 1979, the Democratic Party of Kampuchea eliminated around two million people, which was equal to 25% of Cambodia’s population.

Nevertheless, there were also manifest differences between Hitler’s and Pol Pot. For one, they are both in the opposite extremes of ideology. Hitler was a far-right. He drew inspiration from Romanticism, eugenic interpretation of Nietzsche’s idea of “breeding upwards”, and Lutheran text On the Jews and Their Lies which was published in the 16th century. Pol Pot, on the other hand, was a far-left. He drew inspiration from Marxism, Leninism, and Mao Zedong’s theories of ideal society.

Despite being a fervent anti-Communist, Hitler carried a vast Stalinist cult of personality surrounding him. He was a true narcissist. The common greeting of Hallo or Guten Morgen were replaced by Heil Hitler, which means “Praised be Hitler”, followed by the extending of right arm to the air as a Nazi salute. Disrespectful behaviour towards the flag of Nazi Party, the showing of defeatist attitude toward the war against the Allies, or simply making japes about Hitler’s Chaplin-style moustache would be tantamount to treason. When a German was about to host a neighbour, he/she also had to make sure that a picture of the Führer was hanging on the living room wall. Otherwise, he/she could risk being reported to the Gestapo (secret police) and being sent to the extermination camps outside Germany. In contrast, Pol Pot instituted none of those Orwellian Big Brother figures. Apart from party members, almost no Cambodian ever knew his name. Being so secretive, he (or his party thereof) came to be called angkar, which means “the organisation”. Pictures bearing his image were so rare that even Pol Pot’s own brother, Suong, only found out about angkar’s true identity nearing the end of his term.

These tyrants were also dissimilar in the aspect of granting exceptions. In spite of Hitler’s hatred toward the Jews, he spared certain people to whom he found exceptions. He was in favour of some Jewish intellectuals, especially artists, architects, and money counterfeiters. The first two was due to his fondness of art and architecture, while the third was for helping to fill the coffers of the Nazi Party. On most of these cases he had even signed “pure Aryan” identity cards to them, albeit with the full knowledge that they were a fourth, half, or even full-blooded Jew. In contrast, Pol Pot did not grant any favour to any intellectual whatsoever. He considered it an absolute necessity that all capitalists and members of intellectual must perish, so that the Cambodian society could be rid of all Western influences.

Pol Pot came to power in 1975, exactly 30 years after Hitler’s despotism ended. Nevertheless, the rest of the world somehow managed to let the purge of Khmer Rouge happen in front of their nose. Even though it was the Allies who forced the Nazis into surrender, USA was never involved in removing the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge was taken down by the Vietnamese forces. By the time his regime was toppled, it was already too late for the two million Cambodians who had died under the unhinged regime. Lest we forget, Khmer Rouge and Nazism were not the only ones who conducted killings on such astronomic scales. Rwandan genocide, Stalin’s purge, Japanese militarism, and China’s Zedong communism also carried fatal results for millions of lives around the world. Only one question remains: How could such a barbaric capacity happen repeatedly in the same century?

Tout ensemble, it should be our priority to learn from the past and make sure that these painful lessons would never have to occur again. Being the most powerful military in the world, we Americans wield one of the biggest powers to prevent them. Recently, we have removed absolutists such as Nicaragua’s Manuel Noriega and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. The least that we could do now is support our troop forces and pray that if Iran’s Ahmadinejad and North Korea’s Kim Jong-il would start systematically killing its people, God would grant us the required economic strength and military might to remove those autocrats from power.

Works cited

"Cambodia's Holocaust." Cambodian Communities out of Crisis. Web. 05 Apr. 2011. .

"Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity | Pol Pot." ENotes - Literature Study Guides, Lesson Plans, and More. 2000. Web. 05 Apr. 2011. .

"Genocide in the 20th Century: Pol Pot in Cambodia 1975-1979." The History Place. 1999. Web. 05 Apr. 2011. .

"Genocide in the 20th Century: The Nazi Holocaust 1938-45." The History Place. 2000. Web. 05 Apr. 2011. .

Rigg, Bryan Mark. Hitler's Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Man of Jewish Descent in The German Military. Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2002. Print.

Rummel, R. J. "Nazi Genocide and Mass Murder." University of Hawaii System. Web. 05 Apr. 2011. .


"The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg" by Helen Rappaport

This is the best historical biography of any individual(s) I have ever read so far.

Even if you are not into Russian life and culture, this book would provide a fetchingly detailed, gripping, and harrowing account into the very last days of this Russian monarchy which is still revered by its people until this very day.

reviewed by kansai2kansas
Verdict: 4.5 stars out of 5


The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

authored by Allison Hoover Bartlett
reviewed by kansai2kansas

Readers are welcomed to the rustic cover displaying a plethora of (presumably) ancient tomes, which serves as an excellent overture to the monde of rare books and its collectors. Despite the factual account of the story, the book tends to unfold in a fiction-like pace.

Regardless what one thinks of the alleged book thief (whether he is truly cultured or simply cunning), one could delve into how actual, physical books can still hold dear values for us, even in this world of iPad and Nook and Kindle. The monde brings not only their stories per se, but also quaint memories of their significance to us (such as, how old were you when you read your first Harry Potter book? Who gave it to you?).

A highly recommended reading for proponents of the theory of existentialism and Nietzsche's idea of rationalisation (for they will be sated with the thief's alleged justifications of his larcenies), as well as philologists and bibliomaniacs alike.

Verdict: 7.5 stars out of 10



If you are a regular visitor of my blog, you might have noticed that sometime earlier this month, my blog was rendered inaccessible for a week.

I was making amends.

In the past, I had made several faux pas by saying some hateful or spiteful comments towards some of you (or several individuals you may be acquainted with).

They were merely fleeting opinions. I had not truly meant to say those things.

They also do not necessarily summarize my opinion of any individuals whatsoever. I have come to realise that such remarks were unnecessary, unjustified, and immature.

As for now, I would like to personally apologise to whomever amongst you readers who had been personally hurt by those writings of mine.

However, you might have noticed that I have not cleaned up my "bad posts" archives entirely. I have had nearly 900 blog posts from a diverse array of themes over the last six years, hence discarding those contemptful remarks of mine would have to take quite more of my time.

Be rest assured though, I will withdraw those "bad posts" in due time.


Spring equinox 2011

I finally understood what St Patrick's Day was created for. Spring has arrived!

One of my half-semester class has finally started last week, and with my full enrollment in all the required classes this semester, together with me having full-time 40 hours in the office every week... Man, college life is not lackadaisical after all.

As a matter of fact, it's going a bit too fast now.

I need some sleep, seriously.


Be strong, Japan!

American prayers are with you.


Decision Points

authored by George W. Bush
reviewed by kansai2kansas

Every chapter of this memoir, which provides a glimpse on the human side of Bush Jr., also deals with the major themes in his presidency.

I have to be honest here: the main reason I decided I want to read this book is because I would like to see what he has to say about his war in Iraq; and how his initial expectations of finding S. Hussein's nonexistent Weapon of Mass Destruction turned into one of his biggest flops.

He had his justifications that S. Hussein's was a dangerous regime, of course. However, one could not help but wonder why the American military had not similarly liberated Iran and North Korea from their respective tyrannies, two dangerous countries equally capable of inciting discord and endangering American lives. Only several pages were dedicated to the Iran and North Korea issue. I only wished he had elaborated more; at the very least he could have defined what kind of framework does USA have to build in the future to defuse the threats of those two rogue entities.

The financial crisis which most of the public dub as the main 'failure' of his presidency was also one of the main discourse of this book. Before the September 11 hit, he had foreseen the internet bubble burst , when he introduced tax cuts to ordinary Americans. It did hit him hard before he even had his one-year anniversary as a president though: Soon after the September 11 tragedy, "the Dow Jones plunged 684 points, the biggest single-day drop in history at that point". Which is why he could not stress the importance even better: the less success the terrorist organizations could achieve in threatening the world stability, the better. And somehow he does quite a convincing job in explaining how the victories of kicking Taliban out of the Afghan throne make the Middle East a more stable place.

Nonetheless, he also highlighted some of his (less publicized) legacies, such as signing the No Child Left Behind policy, modernizing the Medicare system, fighting the global AIDS, and helping secure the framework for the admission of several Eastern European nations into NATO.

Some of his accounts, which at times can be quite subjective, could turn out to be poignant stories too. Regardless of what you think of his presidency, it can be assured that this book will not be a disappointing read, especially for American history buffs.

Verdict: 8 stars out of 10


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