Saturday, December 22, 2007

Burn. Out. [Yeah, I know it's one word. Quiet down, you rabble.]

If, by any chance you're swinging by the blog to see pictures I said I'd have up by now... or, if you've attended any of the vast variety of events I've been to these past 3 weeks or so... sorry no pics, and it is sooo not gonna happen, at least till Sandy and I get back from China at the end of this week.

Been battling a case of burnout the last week and a half or so. Exhausted... bad sleep... blah, blah... cry me a river, yeah? Last weekend was four events in a little over 2 days. Gaijin dinner and drinking [far too much drinking, resulting in drunken martial arts. Never a good idea, a lesson I've failed to learn on at least 4 separate, distinct occasions], elementary school mochitsuki the next morning [slightly hungover], a Christmas party for Sandy's Kokusai Spirit group after that, helping out a friend at an English eikaiwa/kid's Xmas lesson/party...

Then a full day of six classes at elementary school the next day, 4-6 classes a day the rest of the week, makeup English tests, closing ceremonies, bonenkai [more drinking... shochu = evil], [faux] Xmas celebrations today... and tomorrow we leave for China.

Then 3 cities/6 days in China, back to Japan, Cindi's in from America, family and oshogatsu on the 1st over in the city. And just like that, there's no real "vacation" in my vacation. No time in my time off.

So yeah, kinda burned out. Tired, grumpy, yadda yadda.

And yes, from the outside looking in, a vast # of social functions wouldn't wipe out the normal person, but as I've explained to the Mrs, social gatherings beyond one or two folks are always a source of stress for me. Yes, I'm damaged and have issues. Shut it.

[Natural introversion + child of divorce = every occasion/family gathering/special event for a good 20+ years is one awful smorgasbord of drama, peacekeeping and making, people unhappy with one another, all around hatefulness and discontent. And overly developed, thoroughly draining coping mechanisms. Ah, childhood... I don't miss you even a little bit.]

Nevertheless, gatherings = stress, regardless of whether I end up having a good time. [Which I do, actually. That being the only reason I keep getting myself to go.] But it wears on a man's soul, it does.

So anyway, swing by around the beginning of January, after Oshogatsu, and [hopefully] I'll have caught up on the pictures on the blog. Fingers crossed, knock wood, etc, etc.

Till then, have a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year! [From Japan.]


[This is pretty damn funny. In the geeky way, of course.]


Three nerds turn a nativity scene into a LARP [Live Action Role Playing Game] battle; sacrilege ensues.


Hoping for a better, more free, at least a more constitutional 2008. - Government Power Grabs: 'Predicting' 2008 - Opinion:
"As the end of the year approaches, it's time for another column of government overreach predictions for the New Year. What outrageous, beyond-parody grabs at power and erosions of civil liberties will transpire in 2008? My predictions:

— The Bush administration will claim it has the power to kidnap citizens of foreign countries for violating U.S. law, and extradite them to the U.S. for trial and imprisonment—even for white collar crimes unrelated to terrorism, and even for acts that aren't illegal in the countries where the target is a citizen.

— Police will take enforcement of prostitution laws to a new level, by arresting and seizing the cars of anyone who merely talks to an undercover cop posing as a sex worker. Good samaritans, beware.

— The war on prescription painkillers will also reach new absurdities, as people will begin to be arrested and convicted of possessing painkillers for which they have a prescription . Prosecutors will weirdly argue that there is no "prescription defense" to possessing prescribed medication...

— Public schools will teach not just reading, writing, and arithmetic, they'll start teaching students to spy on their parents , and to report their parents to local authorities for minor violations of city codes, such as failing to recycle, or failing to keep their lawn trimmed.

— Pressed for revenue, at least one state in the country will pass draconian new traffic laws mandating fines of $1,000 or more for routine traffic violations, in a bald attempt to fill state treasury coffers. The bill will be sponsored by a lawmaker who, conveniently enough, also has a law practice that specializes in defending people accused of traffic violations. He will not disclose during the debate that the bill will almost certainly benefit him financially. He'll be reelected, anyway.

— A state governor will propose legislation calling for two-year prison terms for people who play online poker . Rather shamelessly, the proposal will come in the same bill that calls for allowing the construction of three new casinos in the same state...

— Standing on the sidewalk will become a crime.

— Cities will begin seizing the cars of people who play their stereos too loud . In fact, they'll seize the cars based on the word of someone else that the car's owner was playing his stereo too loud.

— Two years after banning traffic cameras in the name of "liberty," the Virginia legislature will decide that revenue is more important than liberty, and will revoke the ban .

—The FBI will imply to Congress that sometimes it has to let it's undercover informants get away with murdering American citizens so as not to disrupt drug investigations.

— Following up on the enormous "success" (that's sarcasm) of laws putting cold medicine behind the drug store counters because they can be used to make meth, legislators will propose putting baking soda behind the counter, too, because it can be used to make crack.

Too over-the top? Too paranoid? As you may have guessed... none of the bullet points above were actual predictions. Each of the above already happened in the past 12 months, in 2007."

More, sadly, and links to all the stories, at the above link.

Friday, December 21, 2007

If I had a kid, I'd totally make them do this stuff.

And then I'd make them fight a bear.

Seriously, I think I've done/did when I was a kid, maybe 3 or 5 of the five.

TED | Talks | Gever Tulley: 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do (video):
"Gever Tulley, founder of the Tinkering School, talks about our new wave of overprotected kids -- and spells out 5 (and really, he's got 6) dangerous things you should let your kids do. Allowing kids the freedom to explore, he says, will make them stronger and smarter and actually safer.

This talk comes from TED University 2007, a pre-conference program where TEDsters share ideas.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

But canned coffee REALLY IS good!


These are pretty funny.

All 100 at the link.

[I've courteously selected the ones I've done/agree with.]

100 Reasons Why You've Lived in Japan Too Long:
"You've Been In Japan Too Long When... rush onto an escalator, and just stand there. find yourself bowing while you talk on the phone. think US$17 isn't such a bad price for a new paperback. don't hesitate to put a $10 note into a vending machine.

...when you are talking on the telephone to your parents and your father says, "Why are you interrupting my explanation with grunts?" see a gaijin get on the train and think "Wow, it's a gaijin!" start thinking can coffee tastes good. have trouble figuring out how many syllables there really are in words like 'building'. don't think it unusual for a truck to play "It's a Small World" when backing up. think the opposite of red is white. get blasted by a political speaker truck and think "sho ga nai.." think the best part of TV are the commercials. have mastered the art of simultaneous bowing and hand- shaking.

...when you find nothing unusual in a television commercial for candy in which a model dressed in a high school girl's uniform comes up behind another model dressed in a high school girl's uniform, grabs her left breast, gives a devilish grin, and skips away. think the natural location for a beer garden is on a roof. think "white pills, blue pills, and pink powder" is an adequate answer to the question "What are you giving me, doctor?". have discovered the sexual attraction of high school navy uniforms.
[It makes sense, people. Guys hit puberty surrounded by these uniforms. Of course they're a fetish. - Rob.] think the meaning of a red traffic light is: "Hurry up! 10 cars now in quick succession, and then we'll think about slowing down."
...when you get on a train with a number of gaijin on it and you feel uneasy because the harmony is broken. think curry rice is food.

...when in the middle of nowhere, totally surrounded by rice fields and abundant nature, you aren't surprised to find a drink vending machine with no visible means of a power supply...

...when having gaijin around you is a source of stress.

. ..when getting ready for a trip you automatically calculate for omiyage and you leave just the right amount of space in your suitcase for them.

..."natsukashii" comes out of your mouth instead of "what you're saying makes me so nostalgic that I must look like one of those wide- eyed manga characters with a tear rolling out of my eye." buy a Christmas cake on Christmas eve.

...when you accompany your "no" by the famous waving hand-in- front-of-nose. use the "slasher hand" and continuous bowing to make your way through a crowd. put eleven 10 yen coins in the vending machine before you notice it's sold out."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sometimes people are assholes because they really don't think someone will whup their ass.

It's true.

Funny essay out of Esquire.

In Defense of the Fistfight - Esquire:
"This whole thing started -- or maybe it ended -- with these guys engaging in some ritualistic, Hare Krishna clapping shit. They were sitting at a table across the bar from my buddy Phil and me. We were trying to enjoy a quiet pint in our quiet local on a quiet evening, but these hippies wouldn't quit with their clapping. Swear to God, they might as well have been crashing cymbals in my ears.

I asked them politely to stop. "Make us," they said, and then they clapped louder, smiling their dirty-toothed smiles at us, twisting our nipples. One of them was named Jericho, I picked up. He was a skinny bearded guy who looked as though he'd wear Guatemalan mittens in winter. "Jerry," I said when they finally took a break, "come on over here, have a chat." He did, and shortly thereafter, he loosed a throat pony into my face. It was Jerry's bad luck that I had resolved to start punching people again.

It wasn't a snap decision. I'd reached the end of the road after what seemed like a perpetual assault from life's Jerichos -- the sorts of assholes who not only act like assholes but celebrate their assholedom: the grease spot who gave me the forearm shiver in our recreational soccer league and said, "It's a man's game, bitch"; the walnut-headed midlife crisis in his convertible who cut me off and then gave me the finger. It felt like they had me surrounded, clapping in concentric circles. I mean, Jesus, a skinny bearded hippie named after a biblical city had just spit in my face.

How'd we get here? Blogs are part of it, along with the incessant frothing of TV pundits and reality-show contestants, especially that lippy midget from The Amazing Race: Everybody thinks they're above being edited. And the saddest part is, the Jerichos are right to feel bulletproof. Somewhere along the way, we've evolved into a culture without consequence, taught so much hokum about the bigger man walking away. Yet to appease us, we've also been told that what goes around comes around. What kind of contradictory horseshit is that -- that one day, accounts will be settled, but by the universe? I like karma as much as the next guy, but lately, watching my city behave more and more like an Internet comments thread in the midst of a flame war, I've grown tired of waiting for the planets to balance the ledger...

...constrained by fear of cops, by fear of lawyers, by fear of the wife, all of our judges. Not anymore. I would submit, Your Honor, that if someone is doing something demonstrably asinine, and I ask them to stop it, please, and they say, "Make us," they've entered a binding oral contract whereby I am permitted, even obligated, to try to make them.

And so, before I wiped his spit off my face, I grabbed Jericho by his beard and dragged him outside. By the time I had him squared up, I saw all that I needed to see to know that I'd found a new habit: the regret on his once-smiling face. I was surprised by how good it felt, and I stopped for a second, frozen under the streetlights, satisfied that Jericho was about to make like the walls of that bitch city, and that I was about to settle my own accounts."

Somehow I keep thinking that Cindi should be scrambling her private jet and epi team to handle this.

But I may have read Preston's The Hot Zone too much.

BBC NEWS | Africa | Hunt on for escaped TB patients:
"Twenty-three patients with incurable, highly infectious and drug-resistant tuberculosis have escaped from a South African hospital, local media report.

A total of 49 patients have absconded from Jose Pearson hospital near Port Elizabeth this week, officials said.

Although 26 have since returned to the wards, police are now primed to join door-to-door searches for the rest..."

Sensitivity Training remains as effective as when I had to take it, clearly.

Overheard in the Office | So, "My Face, Ma'am." - Quote this entry!: "11AM So, 'My Face, Ma'am.'

Office girl arriving in meeting: Is there anywhere I can sit?
Manager: My face, but I can't say that because I just got out of sensitivity training.

North Hollywood, California

Overheard by: I have a face too

via Overheard in the Office, Dec 19, 2007"

You gotta wonder how exactly that happened.

Balloon Juice:
"Modern-day conservatives wholeheartedly support domestic surveillance, torture, detention without a habeas corpus hearing, unchecked executive power, international influence through armed belligerence and pseudo-religious leader cultism. But liberals are sometimes vegetarian, just like Hitler. So we know who carries the fascist flag around here."

“The man who listens to reason is lost: reason enslaves all whose minds are not strong enough to master her.” — George Bernard Shaw

Man, I better not ever get in trouble for saying "oriental" again.

1PM Likewise.

Office lady #1: It's so cold in here. Oooh! The hair on my arm is sticking up -- I didn't even know I had hair.
Office lady #2: Of course you do! You're a mammal...
Office lady #1: No, I'm Chinese! Oriental!
Male coworker: I have got to write this down.

185 Cambridge Street
Boston, Massachusetts

via Overheard in the Office, Dec 18, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Note to self; do not visit Chicago.

Reason Magazine - Hit & Run > Want to Get Away With Murder in Chicago?:
"Join the Chicago Police Department.

...The Tribune found that even when information is later made public that contradicts the findings of internal investigations, the police refuse to reopen a case.
..."Once a case is closed, it's closed," said Sylvia VanWitzenburg.

"Your testimony is, once you close out a [police shooting] case, no matter what new information comes in, you're not going to go back and review it?" asked the attorney representing Ware's family.

"Correct," she replied.

The paper also found that even on those rare occasions when investigators find a shooting to be unjustified, the officer in question isn't disciplined.

Officer David Rodriguez asserted that he shot Herbert McCarter in the abdomen in a struggle over the officer's gun in December 1999. But Smith concluded Rodriguez lied and recommended his firing, according to Smith and a lawsuit filed by McCarter.

Key to that recommendation: medical records showing that McCarter actually had been shot in the back, and gunshot residue tests on his clothes indicating he had not been shot at close range.

Rodriguez, who declined to comment, remains a police officer. According to McCarter's lawsuit, no disciplinary action was taken despite the OPS chief investigator's conclusion.

McCarter, however, was charged with aggravated battery of a police officer. He was found guilty and sentenced to 5 years in prison.

In his 2006 lawsuit, McCarter alleged that city officials hid the OPS conclusions and recommendation from his lawyer in his criminal trial. The city settled McCarter's lawsuit for $90,000 this year.

The same officer was later sued in another questionable shooting. That suit resulted in a $4 million settlement from the city.

Finally, the paper found that this incredible deference to police officers extends also to officers who shoot people while off-duty. Cops who've shot people after drinking at bars, in road rage incidents, and during domestic disputes are given the same administrative privileges (privileges not given to you or I) as cops who shoot someone while on duty."

You know, this is the only interpretation of this I've ever heard that makes sense.

Of course it all loses translation and meaning and grammatical structure and whatnot going from the Hebrew to the English...

And it certainly makes more sense than any of the official explanations.

...a nifty little thought experiment.

"Inner Game Tricks" | ideaGasms:
"...The Truth is that We Are All One.

...Every time you see something outside yourself, don’t separate yourself from it. Merge with it. Don’t encourage your mind into thinking thoughts of separation.

Look at that bum and say, “There I am, being a drunk.”
Look at the movie star and say, “There I am, being famous.”
Look at the grass and say, “There I am, being the grass.”

Just keep seeing yourself everywhere. Just look and say, “I am that.”

Next thing you know, you’ll be walking down the street with a friend. He’ll more than likely notice the way you’re looking at things in such a deep way and ask you “What are you thinking?”

The conversation might flow something like this:

“Well, I was thinking about that I am that.”

“You are that? What are you talking about?”

So you start pointing to things all around you and say “I am that. I am that. I am that.”

He’ll counter, “No you’re not. You’re you.”

“Not really. Not in ultimate reality. In this world of illusion, I am ‘me’ over here, but in ultimate reality, I am ‘me’ over here, and I am that.”


“Really. I am that… I am.”

All of the sudden, you realize you’ve merged with God himself. You’re now pointing to different things, telling people, “I am that, I am.”"

The Jehovah's Witnesses were right all along!

You know it's true.

While most Christians embrace Christmas, a few recall a more complex history --
"As Christmas draws near, Pastor John Foster won't be decorating a tree...

He's one of very few American Christians who follow what used to be the norm in many Protestant denominations--rejecting the celebration of Christmas on religious grounds.

'People don't think of it this way, but it's really a secular holiday,' said Foster...

In researching his book, "Christmas: A Candid History," Forbes discovered that major American denominations--Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, Methodists and Congregationalists--either ignored the holiday or actively discouraged it until the late 19th century.

That rejection was rooted in the lack of biblical sanction for Dec. 25 as the date of Jesus' birth, as well as suspicion toward traditions that developed after the earliest days of Christianity. In colonial New England, this disapproval extended to actually making the holiday illegal, with celebration punishable by a fine.

...Christmas became acceptable as a family-centered holiday, Restad said, once it lost its overtly religious significance.

At the same time, aspects of the holiday like decorated trees and gift-giving became status symbols for an aspirant middle class. When Christmas began its march toward dominance among holidays, it was because of a change in the culture, not theology.

..."It's common knowledge that Christmas and its customs have nothing to do with the Bible," said Clyde Kilough, president of the United Church of God, which has branches all over the world. "The theological question is quite simple: Is it acceptable to God for humans to choose to worship him by adopting paganism's most popular celebrations and calling them Christian?""

Monday, December 17, 2007

You know, this actually makes a lot more sense than the bible.

, as per usual, rocks it hard.

"The Death Clock - When Am I Going To Die?"

Curiousity killed the... well, you know.

The Death Clock - When Am I Going To Die?

"Your Personal Day of Death is...

Sunday, July 30, 2045"

So... 38 more years it is.

Barring the apocalypse/singularity in 2012, that is.

We've got some sharp minds in charge of the criminal element.

Reason Magazine - Hit & Run > Dept. of Rounding Errors:
"...So it comes as both a surprise, and no surprise at all, that as many as 33,000 prisoners are serving sentences that actually expired, but went unnoticed due to clerical error..."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

If you're bitterly cynical, like I am at times, this comes as no surprise.

Bureacratic Battle Royale.

Reason Magazine - Hit & Run > Trapping the Entrappers:
"So remember the story about New York City police leaving wallets and bags around, then arresting people who picked them up and walked by a cop without turning the found goods over?

I suggested someone do a "reverse sting," to see how much stuff turned over to authorities actually makes it back to its rightful owner.

...Well, turns out the city's Metropolitan Transit conducted just such an experiment. They had subway riders turn 26 personal items to transit authorities, then tracked how many of the items made it back to the rightful owners. It didn't turn out so well. Only three of the 26 were properly returned.

...Maybe NYC authorities should spend less time trying to bait city residents into committing crimes, and do a better job keeping their own employees in line."

"...there was no massacre at Nanjing. We don’t want our children to grow up thinking Japan is a barbarian country.”

Holy moley, that's some Holocaust-denial level of bullshit going on there.

Nanjing Massacre. . . Fact or fiction?:
"A new movie out of Japan named The Truth About Nanjing attempts to claim that the Nanjing Massacre never happened.

According to Satoru Mizushima, the film’s director, “There is one indisputable fact: there was no massacre at Nanjing. We don’t want our children to grow up thinking Japan is a barbarian country.”

...The film is based on the writings of Shudo Higashinakano, who asserts that the Nanking Massacre story as invented by Americans and Europeans who were living in Nanjing at the time.

Director Mizushima is also on record claiming that Japanese war criminals martyrs sacrificed to atone for the sins of Japan, making them similar to Jesus Christ.
"They resemble Jesus Christ who was nailed to the cross in order to bear the sins of the world. They died bearing all of old Japan’s good and bad parts and headed for the gallows.", you just don't know where to begin with this one, do you? Do you start with the far right's obsession with appearance over substance in this case? [Appearance over substance, of course, de rigeur all too often in Japan.] Cause god forbid anyone ever have the wrong impression of the Japanese. As barbarians, no less.

Or do you go with the inanely fuckedupitness of the religious allegory there at the end?

Choose your crazy and just go with it, I guess.

I'm going to China in less than a week...

...maybe I can pick up a fake Mao.

Fake Mao antique, Shanghai "antiques" market - Boing Boing:
"...this artfully aged Chairman Mao statue stood about a meter high, on sale at an 'antiques' stall in Shanghai. The street market was filled with cheerfully fake pieces (I found a nice fake Omega antique brooch clock and when the vendor argued for a few more RMB on the price, he said, 'Omega, Omega!' and I countered, 'Fake Omega!' and he said, 'Chinese Omega!' and we both cracked up). At the next stall over a man was working with sandpaper and some kind of chemical to age a revolutionary-era plaque.

The revolution-kitsch antiques were in great supply, each of them [artificially] weathered..."

Photo of the fake at the link.

Hypocrisy, thy name is politics.

They live in a world of blind denial.

Alternatively, they're simply just lying... all the time.

Reason Magazine - Hit & Run > Scenes from the Revolution:
"From Reuters, the tale of a stammering representative of the bolibourgeoise who treated reporters to a stinging denunciation of capitalism...while wearing a $180 Louis Vuitton tie and $500 Gucci shoes:
A video of a Gucci- and Louis Vuitton-clad politician attacking capitalism then struggling to explain how his luxurious clothes square with his socialist beliefs has become an instant YouTube hit in Venezuela.

Venezuelan Interior Minister Pedro Carreno was momentarily at a loss for words when a journalist interrupted his speech and asked if it was not contradictory to criticize capitalism while wearing Gucci shoes and a tie made by Parisian luxury goods maker Louis Vuitton.

"I don't, uh ... I ... of course," stammered Carreno on Tuesday before regaining his composure. "It's not contradictory because I would like Venezuela to produce all this so I could buy stuff produced here instead of 95 percent of what we consume being imported." The video clip ( had been viewed more than 15,000 times on Thursday, a day after it was posted on the YouTube Web site.