Saturday, December 01, 2007

Project Not-Mayhem, apparently.

How very cool.

Guerrilla clockmakers fix famous Paris clock - Boing Boing:
"'It seems a team of clockmakers broke into the Pantheon in Paris in September 2005 and spent a year fixing the historic and neglected clock, which had been abandoned by the authorities. They were prosecuted for breaking in, but have just been cleared of the charges in court. The group, 'Untergunther' have a catalogue of subterranean lo-jinks to their name.'"

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

Well, don't call 911.

DHS to firefighters: snoop on emergency victims for evidence of terrorism - Boing Boing:
"The Department of Homeland Security is asking firefighters to snoop around in homes they're called to for emergencies. The DHS likes the idea because firefighters aren't bound by pesky warrants and probable cause... they've also asked meter-readers to peer into our windows and sheds to find evidence of bad-guy-ery. This stuff doesn't work and won't work: amateur pecksniffs snitching on their neighbors just flood cops with bad intel, and turn the country into East Germany, a land where everyone is on alert lest they say the wrong thing and get turned in to the secret police"

It's almost as if Religion is full of ignorant hypocrisy!

Nah, can't be... right?

Sweatshops + Lies! But hey, as long as they accept Jesus as their lord and savior, it's all okay! Or in the Catholic's case, have the guy in the dress say it's okay...

Crooks and Liars » Crucifixes Made in Chinese Sweatshops:
"A new report by the National Labor Committee reveals that crucifixes for sale at major religious institutions such as St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Trinity Church in New York City were made in Chinese sweatshops. Distributed by the Association for Christian Retail, the items are not labeled “Made in China.” In fact, they sometimes seems to be labeled “Made in Italy,” according to National Labor Committee Director Charles Kernaghan."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"The Model of a Psychopharmacologist."

I don't know what it is with techno-pagan-singularitarian-psychopharmological geeks and Gilbert and Sullivan, but I dug this.

"Stephen M Stahl, MD, PhD, of Neurosciences Education Institute singing in prose lyrical about psychopharmacology. Music by Gilbert & Sullivan."

Fingerprinting the Gaijin.

Japan, following in America's increasingly retarded and paranoid footsteps.

If I was a permanent resident... or second/third generation who don't "get" to be Japanese, despite, you know, being born and raised here... this kinda stupidity would really piss me off.

As it stands, the foreigner-fear nonsense, combined with the terrorism-fear nonsense, just makes me sad for Japan. » NYT on Fingerprinting: “Disaster for J business”:
"Japan has tried hard in recent years to shake its image as an overly insular society and offer a warmer welcome to foreign investors and tourists. But the country is about to impose strict immigration controls that many fear could deter visitors and discourage businesses from locating here.

On Tuesday, Japan will put in place one of the toughest systems in the developed world for monitoring foreign visitors. Modeled on the United States’ controversial U.S.-Visit program, it will require foreign citizens to be fingerprinted, photographed and questioned every time they enter Japan.

The screening will extend even to Japan’s 2.1 million foreign residents, many of whom fear they will soon face clogged immigration lines whenever they enter the country. People exempted from the checks include children under 16, diplomats and “special permanent residents,” a euphemism for Koreans and other Asians brought to Japan as slave laborers during World War II and their descendants.

The authorities say such thorough screening is needed to protect Japan from attacks by foreign terrorists, which many fear here because of Japan’s support for the United States in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But the measures, part of an immigration law enacted last year, have been criticized by civil rights groups and foreign residents’ associations as too sweeping and unnecessarily burdensome to foreigners. They note that the only significant terrorist attack in Japan in recent decades was carried out by a domestic religious sect, which released sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway in 1995, killing 12 people..."

Mainichi: MOJ will force NJ refusers to be incarcerated, fingerprinted:
"As an anti-terrorism etc. measure under the new Immigration inspection system, requiring fingerprints from all foreigners coming to Japan [sic], the Mainichi has learned that The Ministry of Justice’s Immigration Bureau has issued a directive (tsuuchi) to all regional divisions, saying that foreigners who refuse fingerprinting and rejection at the border [sic] are to be forced to be fingerprinted.

Although the Ministry of Justice originally explained this system as an “offering” (teikyou) of fingerprints without coercion, they have now indicated that they will impliment this measure with the option of compulsion (kyouseiryoku) against anyone who refuses. It is anticipated that this will strengthen criticisms that “this system is treating foreigners as criminals”."

Protesters 'flip the bird' at Justice Ministry over forced fingerprinting - Mainichi Daily News:
"Representatives of human rights groups, labor unions, foreigners' groups and individuals spoke out against the system -- similar to the US-VISIT policy operating in the United States since 2004, but also targeting residents and not just tourists -- calling it, among other things, "racist," "xenophobic," "retrogressive" and "an invasion of human rights and privacy."

"It's an expression of Japanese xenophobia. Japan is using this system as a tool to control foreigners. For the past few years, the government has been associating foreigners with things like crime and terrorism," said Sonoko Kawakami, campaign coordinator for Amnesty International Japan, which organized Tuesday's demonstration."

But the best response to the ever increasing goofiness of Japan towards the gaijin has been this tongue in cheek send up of police prep for this year's Tokyo Marathon.

Brilliant, it is.

Keeping Pace in Japan:
"..."We thought an international race like this one would be the perfect opportunity to perform routine checks (ルーティンチェック)," said one official who chose to remain anonymous. "With so many dangerous gaijin penetrating some of the most valued residential and commercial areas, we must look out for the welfare of our citizens."

In response to how such actions might sit with permanent residents and those who have lived in Japan long enough to obtain citizenship, he countered with a small laugh:

"This is Japan. They are not Japanese. With so many gaijin running and carrying nothing but energy gel packs, we have the chance to detain those who can't present their passports or gaikokujin torokusho (外国人登録証, "gaijin cards", which foreign residents of Japan are required by law to have with them at all times)...

The police in Japan are within their rights to request proof of residence from any non-Japanese citizen, but only "if based on a reasonable judgment of a situation where the policeman sees some strange conduct and some crime is being committed...."

"We are allowed to stop gaijin based on suspicious behavior. What could be more suspicious than running from the police at full speed? What are they trying to hide?""

"Crazy Good."

[Emphasize the positive.]

I'm clearly a child of the Starbucks generation.

Cause when there's leftover whipped cream, from all the pie Sandy made, I seem to think it goes in coffee.

To my credit, we were outta milk, and I gotta have something dilute the taste of... ummm... coffee... in my coffee.

Man, I wish there were just a way to inject the caffeine straight into my veins I'd be good to go.

[Shoot, that's how people get hooked on meth... they're just looking for a good caffeine substitute.

That's my theory and I'm sticking with it.]

Turkey Day '07.

The compactedness [it could be a word] of Japanese architecture and kitchen space leads Sandy to very clever and utilitarian solutions.

How anyone eats that disgusting cranberry stuff is beyond me. Sandy's love for it knows no bounds, however. Madness, I say.

We had company! Fellow ALT Kathy spent her holiday evening slumming with us. Having company in our apt is reason enough for photos, as uncommon as it is.

Sandy and Kathy prepare to dig in! [Minus the turkey, which needed 20 more minutes in our tiny Japanese oven.]

Kathy gives the big thumbs up to buttery, salty, American-style gluttony!

The Aftermath.

Incredibly, we all had at least 2 heaping plates, and looking around after, there was so much food left it was like we hadn't eaten anything.

Much like the miracle of loaves and fishes. Which would make me Jesus, and Sandy and Kathy two of the twelve Apostles. Or something like that.

Kathy enjoys the spoils of victory. Over turkey.

Sandy Versus Pie, Round 2.

[Sandy won, btw.]

Being an ALT is, as the kids say, "teh" awesome.


My 3rd graders had to write a short "essay" on their midterm tests about somebody they respect.

So I'm helping grade countless essays about Ichiro [yes, he is as popular as you think], and Matsuzaka, as they're worshipped here. And about Edison, Mother Theresa and Alexander Graham Bell, as they were subjects of English lessons this year. And the occasional essay about mom, dad, big brother or big sister...

And then...

And then I get to grade two essays about... me?

Yeah, actually.


I have to say, I don't think I've felt quite that good about... well... anything?


Well, that's a bit much, but it's for goddamned sure the best I've ever felt about anything work related. Yeah, ever.

"...So I like English classes. I have never spoken to foreigners before. I want to be a teacher abroad."

"...His classes are very enjoyable... I want to be like him."

Seriously, how are those not the mostest bestest thing of all time?

"Well, in Whoville they say that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day."

Winter is upon us.


Kotatsu, down.
Sandy, covered.

btw, for anyone who doesn't know - Kotatsu - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
"A kotatsu (炬燵,) is a low, wooden table frame covered by a futon, or heavy blanket, upon which a table top sits. Underneath is a heat source, often built into the table itself."

And it is the best Japanese invention ever.

I cannot express the love I have...

...for a country that celebrates the birth of the baby Jesus* with copious servings of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Even with the powers of the internet, I still haven't been able to crack the code of HOW exactly KFC came to be an Xmas tradition here in Japan, but it is. Wikipedia even namechecks it in the KFC article.

However they did it, that's some good marketing there... cause Xmas=KFC in Japan.

Praise Jesus.

*yes, it's a myth... pagan Saturnalia... Germanic geol... winter solstice. But it's what the crazy people believe, so we give the lip service to it, okay?

Tsuyazaki Jr High Speech Contest.

So there's an English speech contest for a bunch of area schools on Dec 1st. My Jr High can only send three competitors, but we had 10 kids who wanted to try for it. So, for the last month or so, the kids have been crafting, translating and practicing their speeches every day.

It. Has. Been. Awesome.

Like I told some of the other teachers... I really like my job, but like any school, not all the kids are actually into studying. Great kids nonetheless, and I have pretty good rapport with most of them, even with the language barrier. But not everybody digs English, and not everybody is academically inclined. [Nor should they be.]

But spending a lot of time working with the smart kids? Who try hard? Who like English? It has been an outstanding experience.

So last Monday we had to have our in-school competition to cull our ten candidates down to three.

They all did sooooo well. I was really proud of them. It was both difficult and painful to be able to only choose three.

Here's a video sample, short, of the kids prepping before the contest. The cacophany is one of joy, at least for me to hear, let me tell you.

Katsuura Elementary Marukatsu Festival.

So last weekend was a festival at the smaller of the two elementary schools I help teach at. It's a little school, with not a lot of students, and the area is kind of inaka/country. But because it's so small, there's this real sense of community at events there. It's very cool.

So to start off the day, all the classes designed games and activities for people to play. Pretty fun stuff.

Plus, anytime you can have official school events where you're smacking kids about with makeshift hammers, that's a good time.

The kid's choir/chorus/vocal group had been practicing their songs for a few weeks. I dug this one the best. It's only about thirty of the students, but that's actually a good 2/3rds of the whole school population. They pretty much rock out.

I don't know what they put in the food and the water out there, but they have some adorable little kids at Katsuura.

Among the entertainment was a harmonica group, which included harmonicas larger than the heads of the women that played them. Till you've seen 5 older Japanese ladies working in harmonica unison, you haven't really lived.

They had a magician perform as well. I've dug magic since I was a kid... the magician wasn't bad, but a lot of his tricks were trick-prop tricks, and a couple didn't execute quite right. I felt a little bad for him, but he marched on and did pretty well.

The official throwing of the mochi. You can't have a festival in Japan without something rice related.

Zenzai - it's like hot liquid daifuku. Good stuff.

"Cock O' the Walk" indeed. [Cool jacket.]

They also had a band called, wait for it... The Wonderful Band. And they kinda were. Mainly because they sang in both English and Japanese. And they were pretty good. Rocking old standards from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Sandy and I both agreed they'd be a great bar band. Check out their Blue Suede Shoes cover.

They also ripped a good version of Johnny B Goode and, oddly enough, Paul Anka's Diana.

Sandy particularly dug the drummer, mainly for his handlebar mustache and ponytail... which you can kinda make out here.

That cotton candy is bigger than that child's head.

That adorable little girl in the middle, mouth wide open has a future in sales. The kids were selling breads and pastries. In Japan, tradition is when you enter a shop, salespeople yell out "Irrashaimase!" in welcome. That little child, with that tiny little body, had a big ol' voice that carried clear over to the next building.


Sandy and I play games. And we are awesome.

Check out that form!

You know, if you count the fallen bottles in my pictures, and then you count the bottles that fell in Sandy's picture, you can work out which one of us is the superior bowler.

Just sayin'.

Sandy is her father's daughter, and the fishing is her cup o' tea.

Whereas I simply appear confused.

Above, empirical evidence of Sandy's fishing superiority.

Games, Games, Games!

Sandy excelled. Except at frisbee, where she nearly decapitated the poor game attendant.

Not kidding.

Dance Gaijin Monkey! Dance!

No one is really sure what Sandy is up to in these pictures.

I love her though!

The ever adorable kids of the English teacher who takes care of me out at Katsuura.

Rest of the photos here: