The little town of Gori an hour outside the Georgian capital of Tbilisi is mostly known for one thing today. It is the birthplace of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. To most outsiders today, Stalin is known mostly for his unpredictable political purges and disastrous collectivization efforts, leaving hundreds of senior Soviet leaders and millions of its citizens dead. But in his hometown, Stalin is still celebrated, not least for his contribution to defeating Nazism and turning the USSR into an industrial power within a generation.
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Friday, February 9, 2018
at 2:38 PM
One of the lectures the author took at the University of Tokyo makes a great point about the idea of rich countries hiring foreign laborers from poor countries to fulfill supposed shortages in labor. The lecture argues that the supposed shortages are socially constructed, where the mentality of the general populace changes to one of complete dependence after they taste the ease of paying relatively little money to foreigners to do their dirty unwanted jobs. Society has become used to having foreigners fill the very bottom of employment hierarchy.
Monday, January 29, 2018
at 5:09 AM
Even for someone who does not follow Chinese popular culture too closely, the author cannot escape the recent news of the government banning any display of hip-hop culture on television. After the CCP decided that the subculture of underground rap that is gaining some mainstream popularity in the past months can supposedly instigate crime, take youths away from proper, healthy values as citizens, often based on so-called vulgar lyrics of rap songs, international news outlets have ensured that lovers of hip-hop and rap music, especially in the US, deepen their already steep hatred for the Chinese government and society.
Monday, January 22, 2018
at 6:00 AM
After years of working in an ecommerce startup, the author has come to miss one thing that dominates the office landscape of tech startups: the high-rising stool chair. In lieu of cubicles with their low desks and chairs that characterize established corporations, tech startups prefer a much more flexible arrangement where people are always on the move, working wherever they can find space to put down their laptops. To facilitate the mobile nature of fast-moving employees, startups employ a series of these high-rising chairs, alongside equally high small tables.
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
at 1:00 PM
Japanese salarymen are a hardworking bunch. After hours of toiling away in the corporate cubicles, they often have to put up with hours more of semi-mandatory drinking after work "officially" ends just to build necessary (?) camaraderie with coworkers to make sure work goes smoothly. With sleep time taken away by the drinking and the drunken stupor afterwards, it is no wonder that many salarymen feel exhausted during the day, at their corporate cubicles. Thankfully, corporate Japan is also highly forgiving of its workers' tiredness during the day, allowing them to openly take naps at their workspaces.
Thursday, January 4, 2018
at 5:21 AM
As a Master's student, the author did not consider himself to be the intellectual type. The days of "studying" in London was spent mostly on the road, "studying" by observing Europe and its sociocultural realities on the ground firsthand. That only new year spent in Europe, for instance, for instance, happened to be in Sarajevo, far from the libraries and study rooms of LSE where he was supposedly preparing for exams. He felt that the greatest opportunity granted to students is having plenty of free time, useful for personal explorations that need not to be immersion in books.
Saturday, December 9, 2017
at 12:33 PM
Today was the final exam for graduating medical school students at the University of Tokyo. The final exam took the form of individual clinical simulations, where each student separately, in designated time periods, perform certain required medical checkup procedures in front of their professors. Students from other departments were called up to perform as mock patients for the final exam, and the author was luckily selected as one of the privileged (?) few who had the opportunity to witness firsthand the final examination process.
Sunday, November 19, 2017
at 7:37 AM
When the author was attending elementary school in Japan as a child, the concept of catering for foreigners within both the school environment and community was practically unheard of. While foreigners have already been not rare even in a provincial city like Kanazawa by the early 1990s, the general mainstream society basically pretended that if the foreigners are treated not any differently from the Japanese, they will assimilate into Japanese culture in no time. As much as many foreign residents treated to go along with such idealistic wishes of the Japanese majority, to accept a new culture while abandoning an old is difficult.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
at 8:27 AM
One of the favorite tools for teachers in American high schools is the Scantron. These machine-readable little slips are the key to automating multiple choice tests. Teachers enter the correct answers in the scanning machine before the multiple-choice test even happens. And then students color in the bubbles that correspond to what they think are the right answers on the Scantron slip. Immediately after the test, the teacher gathers all the slips and shove them into the scanning machine. The machine automatically grades everyone's test, and the teacher is saved from having to manually check all the answers.
Wednesday, November 8, 2017
at 12:45 PM
A few months ago during a trip back to San Diego, the author heard about an initiative ran by PhD students and postdocs at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). The initiative involves a weekly trip by a few science researchers to the nearby drinking holes, where they will mark themselves as people doing scientific research and take questions from other, normal customers. By taking the time to appeal to the laymen's curiosity about science, they are hoping to reduce the distance between scientists and normal people, and make more people understand the necessity of scientific research for their own daily lives.
Sunday, October 29, 2017
at 9:09 AM
When a restaurant or a retail shop advertises itself topic to the general public, one of more common method used is to emphasize its long tradition of operations. The term "Since (insert year of founding here)" is frequently placed right next to the company name and logo. The logic goes that if customers recognize just how long the company has been in operation, with no change in business or name, they can have the assurance that the products being sold are of high quality. After all, those same products have been satisfying generations of customers, and if there were not satisfied, there is no reason the company still exists.
Thursday, September 21, 2017
at 12:27 PM
In any university, often the cafeteria becomes a sort of the student body's microcosm. The cheap and hearty fare of the speedy provided lunch menu is a godsend for poor students with tight class schedules. Even for those with time to spare, cafeterias are perfect places to meet up with friends within the college, as they are usually centrally located, easily reached from offices and classrooms scattered around the school campus. It is over the busy lunch hours when student life at its most basic social aspect becomes apparent. Gossip, stories, and laughs fly across food halls unusually loud by Japanese standards.
Monday, September 11, 2017
at 9:39 AM
The author is often asked why he chose to study in Japan when there are so many more reputable schools in the US. Surely, even though he was flatly rejected by several of the country's best, if applications to slightly lesser known schools are submitted, there would have been a fairly good chance he would receive admission and scholarship to study. In response, he would often cite the cheaper tuition and shorter time needed to complete studies in Japan, along with familiarity, convenience, and even lower living expenses in Tokyo. But in using such mundane reasons, he declines to state one of the biggest reasons for not studying in America.
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
at 11:09 PM
Despite having done my degrees at Yale and LSE, I am rather hesitant to consider myself academically inclined. A year in London was mostly spent traveling around Europe and drinking in pubs, with pitifully little time spent on actual reading and writing as stipulated by the courses. Having graduated with low grades that is unenviable for anyone pursuing career academic jobs or further studies, I took off to the business world even before the final grades were finalized and the diplomas passed out. For the next five years, apart from a short six-month stint in Taiwan doing political search, there has been nothing academic in my resume.
Sunday, July 23, 2017
at 3:43 AM
There is a weird phenomenon at the hostel that I am currently staying in. Many of the guests are long-term residents. And by "long-term," I mean not weeks or months, but years after years. Some of the residents are foreign students at local universities doing their proper college degrees. And they tell me that for some reason, it is cheaper for them to stay in a hostel, even with their inflated daily rates, than it would be to find a shared apartment in a decent part of Buenos Aires.
Friday, June 30, 2017
at 10:56 PM
In the novel Beloved, Toni Morrison follows the life experience of several freed slaves before and after the Civil War, as they struggle with the harshness of present economic realities and continued discrimination against blacks, while they seek out family and friends from the days as slaves. The novel transcends different time periods and voices of different characters, creating a highly diverse portrait of how individual African-Americans and the black society as a whole cope with constant and permanent coming and going of people due to slave sales and botched/successful attempts at escapes from southern plantations.
Monday, June 26, 2017
at 10:00 PM
In the novel Blindness, Portuguese author Jose Saramago describes a world where a sudden epidemic of unexplainable blindness that struck an entire population led to sudden collapse of human civilization. Amidst the disorder of a post-apocalyptic world where everyone is reduced to blind savages only concerned about procuring enough food for survival, the lone woman who can still see witnesses how quickly human morals can fall apart, just as quickly as physical infrastructures and institutions. Yet, the stories of camaraderie among strangers in distress also speak to the power of human bonds in collectively overcoming difficulties.
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Comparative History of Human Development Can Provide New Clues for Explorations of Extraterrestrial Life
at 1:45 AM
In his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, Prof. Jared Diamond argues that the different levels of development among modern human societies, in terms of institutions, wealth, and technology, are ultimately due to different environmental conditions faced by their historical predecessors. The availability of wild plants/animals for domestication and fertile climates/soil for food production enabled some societies, more than others, to adopt agriculture, explode in overall population, and create non-food producing specialists that enable innovations and complex society-building.
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
at 10:57 PM
I write after two years in the depth of rural Tanzania, where I have worked for an NGO. Our clients, a group of farmers scattered across a series of remote villages, struggles to make ends meet as changing rain patterns and dearth of high-quality fertilizers keep their farms unproductive. It was a tough two years working to reverse these struggles. Idealism turned into cynicism, hope into disillusionment. For failures, I found myself becoming too quick to blame others, whether it be government absence, unmotivated staff, or refusal for organizations, including ours, to prioritize projects that are realistically feasible rather than glamorous for publicity.
at 2:14 AM
What is the most visual sign of an intellectual? For many people, the answer may be an obvious one. The person must be well-read. And what better proof is there of a person being well-read than having a study full of bookshelves, completely filled up with good books? It is unsurprising than, whenever the average media outlet go conduct a face-to-face interview with scholars, professors, and experts, they are often conducted in their offices, flanked by bookshelves full of books related to the topics at hand and the person's field of expertise. Having many books has become equated with knowledge.