Saturday, October 27, 2007

Disheartening science.

Reason Magazine - Breaking Up the Forensics Monopoly:
"The most recent comprehensive study of crime lab proficiency, published by the Journal of Forensic Sciences in 1995, analyzed the tests administered by the Forensic Sciences Foundation and Collaborative Testing Services as a part of the accreditation process.

...The best-performing group of disciplines, which included “finger and palm prints, metals, firearms, and footwear,” had error rates at or above 2 percent. The first item on that list is especially important: False fingerprint identification usually leads to a false conviction, because of the prestige of fingerprint evidence and its undeserved reputation for infallibility. With 238,135 requests for latent fingerprint comparisons in 2002 alone, a false positive error rate of 2 percent implies up to 4,800 false convictions or guilty pleas made in hopes of a lighter sentence each year in the U.S., 1,700 of them in felony cases. (The number of improperly matched fingerprints is not completely clear. A 2005 study of fingerprint analysis suggests that the false positive rate may now be as low as 0.8 percent. But another recent study suggests it could exceed 4 percent.)"

Friday, October 26, 2007

Sandy's Halloween getup.

Sandy, on the right, in her costume at her Halloween party at work.

She's a Sand-witch. Get it? Sandy - witch! Sandwich! She's witty, my wife.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gary Kasparov - "Are you seriously relying on the polling results in a police state?"

Gasparov applies that big chess brain to politics. Totally rocks the interview.

Do you know how your brain works?

"In a wide-ranging talk, Vilayanur Ramachandran explores how brain damage can reveal the connection between the internal structures of the brain and the corresponding functions of the mind. He talks about phantom limb pain, synesthesia (when people hear color or smell sounds), and the Capgras delusion, when brain-damaged people believe their closest friends and family have been replaced with imposters."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Yeah, I totally get it.

Lord, do I get it.

"What planet are we on?"

The planet of fear and bullshit, apparently.

Crooks and Liars » Bush, Iran, and reality:
"Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland’s and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?"

"...the government does not have the facts; it has fear."

Crooks and Liars » Courtroom Drama, Mistrial, in Terror Case:
"Reason why we aren’t trying more terror cases? The jury comes back to courtroom with verdict of not guilty and three jurors allegedly jump up and say “that is not the verdict!”"

Judge Declares Mistrial For Most Defendants In Muslim Charity Trial - News Story - KXAS | Dallas:
"The jury found one former Holy Land leader, Mohammed El-Mezain, not guilty on 31 of 32 counts. Two other defendants were initially acquitted on most or all charges, but in a confusing courtroom scene, three jurors disputed the verdict.

...The mistrial came after two months of testimony in the biggest terror-financing trial since Sept. 11. President Bush personally announced the seizure of Holy Land's assets in December 2001, calling the action "another step in the war on terrorism."

...Lawyers for Holy Land said the Texas-based group was a legitimate charity that helped Muslim children and families left homeless or poor by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A juror told The Associated Press that the panel found little evidence against three of the defendants and was evenly split on charges against Baker and former Holy Land chairman Ghassan Elashi, who were seen as the principal leaders of the charity.

"I thought they were not guilty across the board," said the juror, William Neal, a 33-year-old art director from Dallas. The case "was strung together with macaroni noodles. There was so little evidence."

...The Holy Land case followed terror-financing trials in Chicago and Florida that also ended without convictions on the major counts.

The government "failed in Chicago, it failed in Florida, it failed in Texas," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations -- one of those unindicted co-conspirators. "The reason it failed is the government does not have the facts; it has fear.""

More physics humor, I say.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Pimp Named Slickback. Slickback Lipton, that is.

That's just too damn funny.

Actors Studio host Lipton was a pimp in France - ABC Action News:
"James Lipton, the host of U.S. talk show, Inside the Actors' Studio, once worked as a pimp in Paris, France.

The revered TV presenter, who has sat down with Hollywood's biggest names for in-depth chats about their life and work over the last 13 years, has revealed he once procured clients for French hookers."

Monday, October 22, 2007


10AM Sorry, Feminist Theory Is Down the Hall

Professor: So, you see how within Foucault's understanding power always returns, because it is in the very organization of our thoughts?
Student in back row: Those sons of bitches!

2001 Main Street
Buffalo, New York

via Overheard in the Office, Oct 22, 2007

Jr High School Bunkasai.

Last weekend was Tsuyazaki's Bunkasai, or cultural festival. It's my third now, and, it's not they get better, but I understand more Japanese, so I can appreciate them to a greater degree. And I do think this year's 3rd graders were stronger, performance wise, than the last couple years. Really good group of kids this year. The 3rd graders put on plays, while the 2nd graders make displays about the week they spent out in the real world - at "job training" a couple weeks ago, and the 1st graders make displays about nature and the environment. Plus everybody makes paintings in Art class. Cool stuff.

The kids opened with the best student performed taiko performance I've seen since I've been in Japan. I was actually kind of surprised they were as good as they were. They rocked pretty damn hard.

Sadly, I couldn't get any decent pics of them performing. Even this shot right after is pretty "eh." I snapped in total about 250 that day, but between my camera quality, low light and zoom, I only got about a hundred decent shots.

The 3rd grade plays are always kinda interesting. The last couple years there's always been one or two fractured fairy tales. They resemble the stories we grow up with in the US, but are always a biiiiiiit different.

This, for example, was a version of Little Red Riding Hood, featuring, if I understood correctly, not just wolves but a coven of demons, witches and midgets.

And every year there's at least one "serious" play. Last year there was a play set on a bridge where a girl debated jumping to her death. This year the play was set in the afterlife, where the souls of folks were examined to determine whether or not they were reincarnated or "deleted."

You can see the "birth" door there on the left in the 2nd pic. Always a game show vibe here in the land of the rising sun.

Then came a version of Pinochio unlike any I have ever seen. A version that featured, not only, a dude drawing down with a rifle on our little wooden boy, but then puppet-lad turning the tables on his captor and then blowing a hole in him - complete with requisite graphic overacting and special effects.

Now take a second. Think about all the ways this would not fly in America. You can start with guns in school and go from there.

Man do I dig Japan sometimes.

And also, though I can't swear to it given my paltry Japanese, at the end I'm pretty sure our little wooden boy sacrifices himself to become a cord of firewood to help the old man, his wife and their cat through the cold winter.


The last play was about puppets come to life, and therefore is actually the least odd of the day.

A few weeks ago the 2nd graders spent a week at various places out in town in the "real world" and their Bunkasai contributions were posters detailing their experience. Everything from firefighting training to nursing to working in the old folks home... really cool stuff.

The 1st graders do a series of presentations, sculptures and painting about nature, the ocean and all sorts of that kind of thing. The Japanese love of nature made visible and what not.

Most of the rest of the pics are random shots of the kids throughout the day, being kids. But I couldn't not mention that this young lady is easily one of my favorite students. 1st grader, nice as all get out, smart, and to top it all off, a great little judo player.

I'm really lucky to meet some really nice kids in this job.

And, top it all off, I got a bag of genuine Kona Hawaiian coffee at the school bazaar for a buck/100 yen. Can't beat that.

Bonus points for having the elementary school kids work as the cashiers... they start 'em young here in Japan.

Rest of the pics here:

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The regular commute.

The regular bike ride. Or most of it anyways. Playing with the camera, trying not to crash while snapping with one hand.

Rice harvesting going on... Definitely starting to be fall...


Homemade birthday cake and Saturday morning cartoons on DVD. Apparently, once you hit your mid-30s you can appreciate the same stuff you did when you were 7 years old.

"Banded together from remote galaxies, are 13 of the most sinister villains of all time - the Legion of Doom! Dedicated to a single objective, the conquest of the universe! Only one group dares to challenge this intergalactic threat - The Superfriends!"

YouTube - The Perfect Girl

Too funny.

The Union: The Business Behind Getting High - Trailer

Suspended priest has Vatican "gay list."

This story just keeps getting better and better, I swear.

Suspended Catholic cleric has Vatican gay list -- report -, Philippine News for Filipinos:
"Father Tommaso Stenico, 60, had 'a detailed dossier' of all the homosexual clerics at Vatican 'with a list of names and circumstances implicating a certain number of priests and even bishops working at the Curia,' Ignazio Ingrao, reporter for the conservative news weekly said."