To James, My Newly-Married Friend: Don’t Change

 

Dear James,

As I attended your wedding celebration last week, so many thoughts came rushing through my head.

I thought about our friendship and how it is a reminder that friendships take many forms. You and I attended high school together, yet it was our geographic proximity during graduate school and the discovery then that we shared a wide range of common interests that really deepened our friendship.

I thought about all the fun we had together doing the small things that added up to a lot, like going out to movies, eating full course meals, attending Boston College football games, agreeing on politics and debating law.

I thought about who you are as a person and values you hold most important, like loyalty, love and kindness. Those are the qualities I treasure most about our friendship and are the reason I consider you one of my closest confidants when I need to talk to someone about life.

I thought about how there is so much you’ve taught me about life. While I tend to live my life by the motto “Que cera, cera,” your methodical and thoughtful approach reminds me that there is something to be said for contemplating about the future, planning for it and succeeding through diligence and perseverance.

2016 Was the Year of Changes

 
This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Christmas Letter

If I were to pick one phrase to describe the past year, it would be “The Year of Changes.”

On the professional front, I left Shearman & Sterling in May after seven and a half years at the firm in order to join Amazon in Japan. The jump from being an experienced lawyer at a mega law firm to a first-time in-house lawyer at an IT company has brought major changes to my life, the most obvious manifestation of which is an improved work-life balance. On the personal front, I lost a family member when my grandmother died at the age of 92 in October, but I will soon have two family members living much closer to me as my mother and sister decided to move back to Japan after all the years living in the U.S.

As I look back on the eventful past year, I’m reminded of the old saying, “All good things must come to an end.”

Why Donald Trump Won: Decade-Long Struggle of the Democratic Party with White Voters, and Other Unexplainable Factors

 
This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series United States Presidential Election of 2016

I, like most others, thought that Hillary Clinton will defeat Donald J. Trump with a comfortable margin on election night.

I was clearly wrong, but before getting into the why, permit me to start with what I got right.

In the footnote to my pre-election perspective, I noted how the conventional wisdom focusing on the Democratic Party’s advantage in the changing demographics of America is an incomplete story because of the party’s loss of the white vote.

I thought a good way to start the discussion in this post was to revisit the four states I mentioned in that earlier post–West Virginia, Missouri, Montana and South Dakota, all of which have a predominantly white electorate yet are outside of the South–and see how Hillary Clinton ended up performing there.

Donald Trump’s Election Requires All of Us to Listen, and Have Faith in the U.S. System of Government

 
This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series United States Presidential Election of 2016

Donald J. Trump is president-elect.

Much like me, you are probably stunned with this statement and are still unable to comprehend how this is so.

One thing is for certain, though. What you witnessed last night was fury in ways previously unseen.

Consider: only 37% of the voters believed that Donald Trump was qualified for the presidency and only 34 % believed that he had the temperament for the office. This is a stunning statistic. In effect, many voters said they knew Donald Trump wasn’t fit for the office of the most powerful man in the world–and they didn’t care.

This can only be called a “scorched earth” philosophy of voting: just throw a grenade into Washington, D.C. and see what happens, results be damned. People were that angry with the status quo.

“Independence Day: Resurgence” (2016) is a Whole Lot of Nothing

 

The premise of “Resurgence” is that the aliens from the original had sent a distress call to its home planet and it took only 20 years for the aliens to get their act together to counter-attack.

In those 20 years, humans have advanced quite a bit. There is no longer inter-country warfare, with humanity united in defending itself against extraterrestrial attack through a global defense program called Earth Space Defense (although somehow, United States president still seems to be in charge of the world). There is a space station on the moon that is the earth’s first line of defense, and people are able to travel from the moon to the earth on spaceships as easily as they travel between continents on planes.

With humanity so much more advanced, the invasion on the scale of the original just wouldn’t have gotten the job done for the aliens. And so it is that aliens in “Resurgence” are twice as unattractive, thrice as big and a hundred times more numerous than in the original.

The Amazingly Different Remarkableness of Japanese and Americans

 

The Japanese excel in order and discipline.

My favorite example to illustrate this is the shugaku ryokou, which is like a field trip for an entire grade over a couple nights at some exotic location like the historical city of Kyoto or Tokyo Disneyland. There, the students are divided up into small groups of four to five who are told to explore the locale without adult supervision and return to their lodging by a certain hour.

If you`re an American, there are so many things that are remarkable about the shugaku ryokou. For starters, it’s hard to imagine four American high school teenagers collectively having enough maturity to study the travel guide and coming up with a two-day plan to explore the city.

But what is really mind-blowing is that the shugaku ryoko occurs every year in middle and high schools across Japan without a single incident that makes newspaper headlines. This means that unsupervised teenagers roaming the streets for an entire day manage to avoid having a brush with the police and return in time for dinner.

This is unthinkable in the United States, where the thinking would go “of course teenagers are going to be reckless and irresponsible and expecting them to act any other way would defy common sense.” Any American school that lets something like a shugaku ryoko happen will be rightfully sued for negligence.

“Finding Dory” (2016), While Falling Short of the Original, Still Delivers

 

“Finding Dory” does one thing really right, and it’s taking the most memorable character from “Finding Nemo,” the lovable regal blue tang Dory, and giving her the top billing. Ellen DeGeneres, who stole the spotlight in the original, returns as the voice of Dory and brings the same charm and humor. It’s a testament to DeGeneres’ performance that Dory’s quirkiness doesn’t wear thin even as Dory moves into the central role.

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