Saturday, January 05, 2008

"You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself."

From "Men's Rules."

The rest here.

[But this one is my favorite.]

'No Excuses'

Watch till the end.

JFK Speech on Secret Societies and Freedom of the Press.


BTW, how strange to have an eloquent and erudite speech by a President.

I've forgotten what that's like.

Miller Center of Public Affairs - John F. Kennedy Speeches:
"The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.

...Perhaps there is no answer to the dilemma faced by a free and open society in a cold and secret war. In times of peace, any discussion of this subject, and any action that results, are both painful and without precedent. But this is a time of peace and peril which knows no precedent in history.

It is the unprecedented nature of this challenge that also gives rise to your second obligation--an obligation which I share. And that is our obligation to inform and alert the American people--to make certain that they possess all the facts that they need, and understand them as well--the perils, the prospects, the purposes of our program and the choices that we face.

No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary. I am not asking your newspapers to support the Administration, but I .am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.

I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers--I welcome it. This Administration intends to be candid about its errors; for, as a wise man once said: "An error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it." We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors; and we expect you to point them out when we miss them.

Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed-and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian law-maker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment--the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution--not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply "give the public what it wants"--but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion."

Street Fighter: The Later Years.

You know, I have never even played this game. But! I know why this is funny. [And it is funny.]

I can only thank Marv, JM and Chuck for their obsessive playing of it every Saturday night in high school at Putter's Palace. With me shooting games of pool and watching them "Shoryuken!" over their shoulders.

[High school wasn't really an exciting time for me, no.]

The first two episodes -

More episodes at this link - Street Fighter: The Later Years.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Camera Shenanigans.

That's right.

I said "shenanigans."

Live long... and prosper.

10AM ... In a Cardboard Box Labeled "Sports Equipment"

40-ish cube dweller #1: Hey, do you have a Star Trek costume I can borrow?
40-ish cube dweller #2: Why are you asking me? Why didn't you ask Kevin*? What makes you think that I have one?
40-ish cube dweller #1: Well, do you?
40-ish cube dweller #2: Yes. [Very long pause.] But only the shirt. It's a blue one like Spock wore. I also have the tricorder and the gold sash from the 'Mirror, Mirror' episode. I'll bring it in tomorrow.

Lexington Street
Baltimore, Maryland

via Overheard in the Office, Jan 3, 2008


In other Star Trek randomness, over vacation I ended up watching a couple episodes of the fan film series Star Trek: The New Voyages.

"To Serve All My Days" was good, but "The World Enough and Time" really knocked it outta the park. As good, if not better, than some of the "real" Trek. Any fan won't go wrong checking them out.


When Klingons threaten the Enterprise, Captain Kirk needs his best weapons officer on the bridge, but Lt. Chekov is incapacitated with a debilitating disease that is causing him to age rapidly... a disease for which Dr. McCoy can find no cure. In this story by veteran Star Trek writer D. C. Fontana, actor Walter Koenig returns as Pavel Chekov, reprising the role he made famous. Guest starring Mary Linda Rapelye, from the Original Series episode "The Way to Eden." Written by D. C. Fontana.


A Romulan weapons test goes awry and snares the Enterprise in an inter-dimensional trap. Lt. Commander Sulu returns to find himself 30 years out of place and the key to saving the crew of the Enterprise as the precarious grasp on their own dimension begins to slip. Guest starring George Takei, who returns to the role of Hikaru Sulu, which he played on television in Star Trek (TOS) and in Star Trek: Voyager, as well as in the six feature Star Trek films. Written by Michael Reaves and Marc Scott Zicree. Directed by Marc Scott Zicree.

Episodes Page Link.

Sandy, Cindi and Bachan in Beppu.

Just the day before yesterday Sandy, Cindi and Bachan went to Beppu in Oita for a day trip. [I stayed home in order to, in vain, try to catch up on blogging and other assorted nonsense. Works in progress.]

Beppu, via the Wikipedia link:
"Beppu is Japan's onsen capital with the largest volume of hot water in the world aside from Yellowstone in the USA and the largest number of hot spring sources in Japan. Beppu contains nine major geothermal hot spots, which are sometimes referred to as the "nine hells of Beppu"."

So they went visiting the "nine hells." I don't really know exactly where or what the places are, but the pics are cool.

These are my favorites, here on the blog, from Sandy, and all the pics she had are here:

New Year's Day.

New Year's Day was quieter than anticipated. Both the Snider girls were feeling a bit under the weather, so we didn't head over to Grandma's/Bachan's for the day.

Cindi got the worst of it I think, but Sandy put on a brave face despite not feeling her best either.

As for me?

I believe the term is "Big Pimpin'."

[Props to Cindi for the new sweater.]

China - Day 6.

So on day 6 I was feeling a bit under the weather, and it was our "free" day to do whatever we wanted. So we slept in late, Sandy getting over the worst of her illness, me coming out of mine. Then we went shopping on Nanjing Road picking up omiyage and gifts and whatnot for everybody. Well, she went shopping. I ditched her early - in order to preserve both her and my sanity - and parked myself with a cup of coffee and a magazine while she went and fulfilled her shopping agenda. Then we were driven back to the airport and flew home. Where I did truly appreciate the wonder and joy and efficiency and cleanliness that is Japan.

So. Overall... China?

I think that I think about China the way I think about the Naval Academy. It was a good experience, and I'm glad I did it, but I don't think I'd do it again.

The history? Very cool. The food? Excellent. The Shanghai Circus? Worth the trip almost by itself.


Man, did I hate the pollution. The air quality alone, just horrible. Not seeing the sun for six straight days [except from an airplane, above the smog layer]? Man, did that suck. The haze and dirt gets in your eyes, your lungs, your clothes. I don't think I took a really deep breath until I came back to Japan.

And the other other thing I really didn't like? Well, first, a disclaimer... I am absolutely positive there are hundreds of millions [literally] of fine, considerate, upstanding, consciousness and kind folks in China. That being said, 90% of the people you meet as a tourist [at least that I met] were loud, pushy, aggressive and rude. I mean, really, really rude. Peddlers constantly yelling at you, grabbing your clothes, standing in your way, making you walk around them...

Think of [what I imagine] New York, Times Square circa 1983 was like - and the classic "Hey man, you want a watch? I said, hey man, you want a watch! A watch motherfucker! Do you want one?! Well fuck you then!"

Yeah, kinda like that.

And everywhere. Even on the Great Wall of China.

I kid you not, in Xi'an, there was an old lady - had to be pushing 80 - who hit me... yes, that's right, HIT me [hard on the arm, too]... because I didn't want to check out whatever trinkets she was selling. I turned around and looked at her and just thought WTF? And then laughed. I mean, what else was I gonna do? Drive her into the pavement?

And not just street peddlers either. In the shops you couldn't browse, pick up or look at something without having some salesperson attach themselves to your elbow and follow you around the store the rest of the time you were there, constantly try to sell [or if you were already buying something - upsell] you something.

Gotta say, it got pretty damn annoying and more than a little draining.

Maybe it's a cultural thing - and probably is, to be fair it was worse up north in Beijing and Xi'an than down south in Shanghai. There's some supposed stereotypical differences between northern and southern Chinese that might account for some of it, but mostly I think they were less aggressive in the south because, well, Shanghai isn't as desperate to make a buck. Their economy is a lot stronger, and they don't have as many people who are having to scrape by peddling stuff on the street. Maybe.

But between the really bad pollution and the way they treat tourists... the Beijing Olympics in August have huge "crash and burn" potential.

So, anyways... package touring was a mixed bag. It was awesome to have someone else taking care of the headaches of logistics and driving and flights and whatnot. But on the other hand, your schedule is at someone else's discretion. And they are definitely trying to separate you from that tourist dollar. Every cool thing you see - museums, making jade, ceramics, silk, etc - is accompanied with the requisite high pressure salesmanship in the conveniently located gift shop.

Random thought - Chinese TV is a trip.

I saw Jackie Chan selling gyoza, so now I can die happy.

Basketball is huge in China. Just huge. Always on.

As was table tennis, going to show that stereotypes aren't always wrong.

But the funniest bit was "Chinese Oprah." Yang Lan is known as the Chinese Oprah and catching bits and pieces of her show - her sets, intro, video, layouts, style and everything else are ripped straight from the "How Oprah Does It" manual. That was kind of surreal to see.

But I think, ultimately, what's most important to take from China, is that I now have a tshirt that has a panda doing taichi on it.

Which, I'm pretty sure, if you look up "awesome" in the dictionary, there's a picture of my shirt there.

If you've any kind of masochistic desire, you can find all 300+ pics from China here:

China - Day 5.

So, between days 4 and 5, Sandy experienced what we'll call... gastric discomfort. And since it hit me the next night, figure we both caught a mild case of food poisoning from something or another. So day 5 was a bit of a struggle for the lass, and on day 6 I pretty much was... well, not a ray of sunshine.

So we started off the day at the Shanghai Museum.

It was... museum-y.

Sculptures, paintings, calligraphy... all the traditional museum accoutrements.

Though I can't, for the life of me figure out why the Heavenly Guardian has to stand on that baby's head. We'll chalk it up to cultural differences. The baby was probably asking for it.

Then on to Nanjing Road, Shanghai's main shopping street and supposedly one of the busiest shopping areas in the world.

Sandy, above, with our Shanghai tour guide.

This one's for you, JM - The Superman Store.

You have to go to Shanghai now.

Yuyuan Garden, supposedly one of China's four finest gardens.

Probably much nicer in Spring.

And when it isn't raining.

Still, some cool stuff.

After the park we went to a tea shop, above, where they prepared us a variety of Chinese teas. Which was pretty cool.

On the right is the road where Sandy engaged in some right proper Chinese haggling.

From 185 yuan down to 40 yuan. Full of win, my wife.

Above is a shopping area called [I think] Shintechi. All decked out in European cafe style. Including the architecture, which was cool.

On the right, I'm contributing to the increased homogenization of world culture.

I don't care, I needed caffeine and it tasted good.

Sandy, gangsta eatin'. On the Down Low.

Hands down my favorite thing in China was the Shanghai Circus.

Acrobats, Musclemen, Motorcyle Riders, Jugglers, Magicians... just awesomeness.

We weren't allowed to take photos, so... umm... these are the photos I wasn't supposed to take... low light, no flash.