Thursday, 23 December 2010

Kuwahara KZ-01

I've been meaning to post these photos for a while. They're of my new Kuwahara KZ-01 BMX.

After coming to Japan and living in Aomori for a few weeks I decided I was gonna get a bike. Japan is fairly flat and well suited to bikes, meaning that a lot of people ride them here. But the vast majority of people ride ママチャリ (mama-chari, or mother's chariot) which are big boring bikes with a bell and basket on the front. I wanted something that looked a bit more exciting. I love old things, so searched for some old-school BMXs on Yahoo! Auctions, the Japanese eBay, but I never really found anything I wanted on there for the right price.

Then one day I noticed on the Kuwahara website that they were about to go into production of the KZ-01, a throwback to the KZ series of the 1980s. This was exactly what I wanted, and Kuwahara is a Japanese company, so being here I thought I should be able to get my hands on one pretty easily. Well, it took a bit of searching, as it seems this model has been really popular. I believe there has only been 300 made in this run, 100 of each colour - black, white and chrome. But I managed to find a place called candyrim in Osaka which was still taking orders and I put an order in for the white version.

Kuwahara were the company who made all the BMXs in that scene in E.T., and ever since seeing that I've wanted a BMX. And it's even better that I've been able to get a Kuwahara KZ-01, which is very close to the actual BMX used in E.T. - that model was called the E.T. model, ET-1 or KZ-2.5.

So the bike was delivered around the start of November and just sat in its box for a couple of weeks, but then I finally found some time to put it together.

It's a lot of fun to ride and really light. The snow in Aomori means no-one really rides too much in winter, but this bike is gonna get a lot of use once the snow clears up.

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Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Nick Clegg

So it looks like the rise in student fees will go ahead.  I'm already finished with uni, but that doesn't change the fact that this is a terrible decision.

I started university just over four years ago, paying roughly £3,000 a year for four years, and that was separate from the living expenses I incurred during this time.  This means I've graduated with around £20,000 of student debts.  I had a friend who was in my class but had applied the year before, taken a gap year, then joined our class.  He and all students from the year above me paid half of that £3,000 a year - around £1,500.  And very soon students could be paying as much as £9,000 a year.  That's an increase of 600% in a very short time.

While I accept that the debt isn't something that needs to be repaid immediately - student debts are one of the cheapest loans you can take out - I think even more important is that these kinds of figures will be enough to put a lot of prospective students off going to uni.  University degrees in the UK are becoming less and less valuable, and I think many people will choose to avoid the hassle altogether and not go at all.

But even worse than this is that Nick Clegg has made a complete U-turn on one of the main points of his election manifesto.  I remember the fervour that swept the UK during the last general election as the Lib Dems seemed like they might make an impact on British politics for the first time ever.  One of the points the party emphasised was abolishment of tuition fees.  Nick Clegg was even one of the MPs who signed the National Union of Students' pledge to oppose a rise in tuition fees.  Yet now he is fronting a push to triple them.

I think what makes it even worse is that Clegg built his whole campaign on a policy of honesty.  Well now that he is in power he couldn't have done anything less honest than this U-turn.  And then what makes it even worse is that he's the MP for Sheffield Hallam, which means he was elected by myself and many of my student friends.

At least David Cameron never said he would abolish fees.  Yet Clegg is happy to be the face of this tuition fee hike and try and persuade us it's an absolutely necessary cut. It's not. Cuts are currently being made in various places at an average of 11%, but cuts to university teaching budgets are nearer to 80%.

This is just another move to line the pockets of the universities and those who supply the student loans. It all works out for them in the end, while the students bear the debt in the long term.

This was the year when the Lib Dems finally found themselves with some influence over British politics, and Nick Clegg has made a complete mess of it. He's split his party and pulled them away from their liberal morals in an attempt to side with Cameron and the Conservatives. And he's lied to the British public after building his campaign on a pledge of honesty. All I can say is I think it will take the Liberal Democrats a long time to recover from this once this disaster of a coalition is over, and that I'm glad I'm well and truly finished with university education. And I'm sure Clegg will never win back his seat in Sheffield Hallam again.

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