Election Endorsement for Washington State

It's time for election in the US. As usual, there are plenty of referendum and ballot initiatives in Washington State. Please don't read into this blog post if you are not a voter in Washington State.

If you are a Washington resident, I urge you to vote against I-1125. This initiative is aimed at preventing the state to implement variable toll on freeways such as SR-520 and I-90 bridge over Lake Washington. The toll is not only a critical source of funding to replace the 520 bridge but also a very effective tool to reduce congestion and air pollution. Although the court is likely to rule this ballot initiative as unconstitutional, it is critical as a voter to support variable toll to maintain existing infrastructure, to reduce traffic congestion, and to improve air quality. In addition, there is a secret clause in the initiative to prevent light rail from reaching Bellevue and Redmond. The expected population increase in the entire Metro area necessitates mass transit, and light rail is also an effective tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector. If you think any of these are important for you, please vote no on I-1125.

In addition, for residents of Seattle, I recommend "yes" vote on Prop 1. This proposition is to enact additional vehicle license fee to fix streets of Seattle and to provide more funding to build sidewalks, bike lanes, and transit improvements. Anyone who believes Seattle needs better transportation infrastructure, ranging from pavements to sidewalks, should vote for this proposition. Critics argue that a fixed vehicle license fee like this is regressive, meaning low income residents must dedicate greater proportion of income. Although I acknowledge that it is not an ideal source of funding, it is the only funding authority given to a local municipality in Washington State. Furthermore, low-income residents typically don't have a car to start with, so they should be protected from this tax increase. This proposition is probably more like a bridge measure to fund transportation projects in Seattle until Washington State drafts a comprehensive transportation package, likely in 2012. Until then, I hope the successful passage of Prop 1 would help Seattle build better streets for every road users.


Moving to Ginza!

I just finished up the second week at my new job. The training program is quite intense, and I am doing fine, but some of my colleagues already started falling behind. They look really stressed out, and I have to wonder how long they will last...

Anyhow, I just got an apartment near my work place! It's in Ginza, which is about 15 min walk from my office. This is a great location, and it is just three blocks away from the main street of Ginza, which is like the 5th Avenue of New York. There will be shopping temptations...

The apartment itself is actually a part of a condominium. It is not large but high quality, and I am really glad that I found it at this price. I am moving to the apartment in November, so I might be able to provide a place to stay if you are visiting Tokyo, get too drunk, or miss the last train of the day!


New Job

There were lots of things in the past week, both personally (relationship problem) and professionally. I wondered which one I should write about, but I think my new job would interest you more.

My new job is at a large consulting firm. I cannot say which company I work for on a public blog, but some of you already know it. My job hasn't started in a meaning way because I am undergoing a six-week training, which I already feel too much and too dense. But, I've already found a bunch of unique stuff about this company, so let me list these.

  • Security: This company deals with lots of secretive information, so the security is somewhat tight. There are also sections of the company I cannot access to. This is really odd to me who have been working for very open NGOs and government.
  • Desk: There is no assigned desk, and there are a bunch of work stations. Yes, this is like a college library, and I think this is pretty unique. This means that I can stay away from my boss all day!
  • Stock: For legal issues, I cannot own stocks of companies that my company has a relationship with. I really did not know this, and this is going to create a lot of problems. Since my company has a LOT of clients, many of my stocks would have to be dealt with in coming months. Given the stock market plunge, this is the last thing I need right now... Hopefully, my company will compensate for the loss or allow me to keep them.
  • Marriage: This company pays a lot to the employees but also expects them to work a lot. It's pretty routine for many employees to work till very late at night. A rumor I heard this week is that if you don't have a girlfriend when you join the company, you cannot get married unless you leave the company. This is the last thing I need, and I really want to get married in a couple of years... Hopefully this is a bad joke.


Visiting Miyako

I visited the city of Miyako, which was heavily damaged by the March tsunami. My mother is from Morioka, an inland city near Miyako, but I also have a few relatives who lost their lives from the tsunami. The purpose of the trip was to see the recovery efforts with my eyes and spend some cash for the tourist industry there.

I got to Morioka first, and I was actually surprised by the fact that everything seemed pretty normal. Most buildings damaged by the earthquake were already repaired, except the one across my grandparents' home. My grandparents are 88 and 86, and they also looked perfectly healthy, still riding bicycle and taking care of themselves.

On the next day, I made a day trip to Miyako. I was trying to take a train to get there from Morioka but took a 2-hour bus for schedule reason. I think it was the longest bus ride on a fixed-route local bus. Anyhow, when I got to the city, I was glad to see the city center looking perfectly normal. I almost thought it was one of those media's exaggerations to draw more viewers and readers.

But I was of course wrong. I took another bus, short one this time, to see the coastal area and visit a sightseeing spot by the area. The scene was quite horrifying, even after seeing pictures and videos of these areas. The residential area was completely wiped, and there weren't any construction workers in the area to rebuilt this area. And then, I recalled that the government is restricting the redevelopment of this area because some argue that they should rather relocate the whole community to higher ground. What do you think? I would actually disagree; it was one-in-one-thousand-year disaster. These residents are mostly fisher men (some women too) and they can't live that far away from their livelihood. The better solution in my view is to have mandatory evacuation drill frequently and make people used to such situation.

After going through such thought, I took a tiny boat to see the area from the sea. The picture shown above is the ticket for it; it is not just a ticket but the one who survived the tsunami. The whole administration building was swallowed by the tsunami, but the tickets somehow remained usable. All the boats at the dock were taken by the tsunami, but the owner/navigator said these tickets gave him determination to rebuild his business. I talked to the owner/navigator a lot, and it was actually scary to see him talking as if the town is really fine now. Maybe, that's the only way to keep going every day.

Through this trip, I realized that TVs and the Internet can tell so little things. It was great to talk to the owner/navigator of the little boating business and see his determination to rebuild everything from his town to little business. I would urge you to visit the town if you have a chance.