Sunday, February 25, 2007

Idea for making someone millions (maybe thousands)

It occurs to me, thinking further about my previous post, that there is nothing nicer than having a meal cooked for you. Then I got to thinking why it was relatively rare for people to have business meetings over meals they have cooked rather than at posh restaurants? It would establish so much more close a relationship with the person being entertained.

There are plenty of reasons why not, of course. People in big cities live miles and miles from the business districts, making it very difficult to travel there for the client. Also, inviting someone to a home requires a degree of prior intimacy in most cases. Many people will be living in messy, not particularly posh environments and would not want to invite a client in their smart business life to their not-so-smart home reality. If the client is a woman and the host is a man there is another whole range of issues: there are beds in homes and uncomfortably close beds in bedsits. All in all, the wrong messages might be being sent and received.

Which brings me to my idea. Posh restaurants have been invented and reinvented a million times in places like London and New York. Everybody is looking for the coming thing and will pay any amount to take their business clients to it. So what about an eating place that was nothing more than a series of very swish private kitchen-diners, with all ingredients ready and waiting for the customers (and perhaps sly evening classes to help incompetents like me to prepare for their role as the chef)? Surely there could be no better way to cement a close business relationship than by cooking a succulent roast for the boss of the other company and chatting over the kitchen top with a glass of red wine in hand as you burn the pudding.

(Not a bad way to cement a more personal relationship either, so long as there are no purple potatoes involved!)

Purple tatties!

I must admit I thought our relationship was going very well until I discovered she was trying to poison me.

I was blissfully unaware until I cut into the potatoes in the delicious feast of pork and apple sauce with all the trimmings that A. cooked for me the other day. It was all so English, so homely. Then: purple! PURPLE SPUDS! I could only conclude there must have been some chemical reaction with the strychnine or whatever it was she was trying to use.

Oh well, what the hell, if the one you love has decided you need doing away with then perhaps the only honourable thing to do is to dig in. They were very nice. Purple but otherwise very potatoey, with nice firm purple flesh and great with a glob of butter (at least that wasn't purple).

No pole-axing stomach aches yet.

Remember Comical Ali?

Few people can have had such an ignominious 15 minutes of fame as that clown who acted as Saddam's press spokesman during the invasion of Iraq. "Comical Ali" was what they called him. It was his unquenchable optimism in the face of grim reality that made his name, like claiming there were no American troops in Baghdad when US tanks were only a few hundred meters from where he was holding the press conference. There were other ramblings too:
"Do not be hasty because your disappointment will be huge.You will reap nothing from this aggressive war, which you launched on Iraq, except for disgrace and defeat."

"We will embroil them, confuse them, and keep them in the quagmire...they cannot just enter a country of 26 million people and lay besiege to them! They are the ones who will find themselves under siege."
Crazy old loon! Imagine what would happen if our own leaders had such a semi detached connection with reality. A scary thought.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Tokai University intensive Japanese course

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Times Higher Educational Supplement (THES) 2006 university rankings have assessed Tokai University as the third best private university in Japan. I have just completed a pretty good intensive Japanese course at Tokai but have to admit I was a little taken aback by Tokai's elite status.

Tokai is not considered a particularly prestigious university in Japan. Many other private universities like Sophia University, the International Christian University, Rikkyo, Meiji, Aoyama Gakuin and Tokyo University of Science would take it for granted that they would be ranked well ahead of Tokai. Isn't it refreshing to have university rankings that are not hidebound by snobbery and received wisdom and instead strike out on their own with new and original views of the the university scene? Certainly refreshing if you have a newly minted certificate from one of the newly elevated! Hooray!

The style of my "bekka", which was a one-year pre-entry intensive Japanese course and was not at degree level, was quite school-ish rather than university-ish. I mean by that that there was a lot of rote learning and not a lot of thinking or broadening of the horizons of the students. That was a reflection of the nature of the course as a pre-entry preparation for university study and I cannot judge the quality of the degree level education. The staff ratio on the Japanese Language Course for Foreign Students was pretty good, about 8 to 15 students in the classes and the teachers were all professional. About half of my teachers were really first rate at what they did.

While I am at it, I might as well mention that Tokai's massive advantage over any of the often more prestigious Tokyo institutions is the extreme cheapness of some of its accommodation. Many of the bekka students were paying something like 10,000 yen per month for admittedly very basic rooms. That is unimaginably cheap for these parts. There is a good deal of this kind of accommodation at the Hiratsuka campus at least. It is within fairly easy striking distance of Tokyo and is a nice enough environment itself.