Saturday, March 15, 2008

Caught in a serious YouTube loop - Rhymefest has mad, mad skills.

He's a baaaaad man. In other news, I need to start paying more attention again to hiphop. [Cause a buncha this is like a year old.] A lot of the blingbling nonsense is fallin' off and things are getting back to tight rhymes and beats. Common, Mos, Jay and Kanye are bringing back some old school feel of late...

feat. Kanye West - Brand New


Wanted [from the movie Half Nelson.]


Eminem, Kanye & Common on Rhymefest


More


Rhymefest and Citizen Cope (Live) - Bullet and a Target


Rhymefest vs. Mexicano [battle - Rhymefest just lays waste to this dude. As brutal a battle beatdown as I've seen. Just rips him.]


eminem vs rhymefest [battle]


Rhymefest Vs Swann [battle]

The 70s were a magical, magical time.

Chuck Norris in: "Slaughter In San Francisco"

"...people can have the fun of sex without the side effect of parenthood." - Now that's funny.

Aging populations and lower and lower birthrates.

Considered one of the "huge" societal problems here in Japan as well. Of course, here in Japan they don't have the same recourse the US does... [well, they do, but... you know. Xenophobia, and all that.] in that immigration picks up the slack.

Many more details at the link.

Reason Magazine - Why are People Having Fewer Kids?:
"...total fertility rates (TFRs) are plummeting around the world. Population stability is achieved when each woman bears an average of 2.1 kids over the course of her lifetime—one for her, one for her male partner, and a little overage to make up to childhood deaths. Today, there are sixty countries in which TFRs are below 2.1.

...Japan's from 2.0 to 1.3... The U.S. TFR dropped from 2.55 in 1970 to around 2.1 today, largely because of the influx of higher fertility immigrants. However, the fertility of second generation Americans drops to the level of longer established Americans.

...instead ask why people are choosing to have fewer children? After all, voluntary childlessness seems to violate the Darwinian premise that our genes dispose us, like all other creatures, to try to reproduce.

...Modern societies offer people many other satisfactions and choices outside of the family. In particular women find that their time becomes more highly valued in occupations outside the home. There are no iron laws of demography, but one that comes pretty close is that the more educated women are, the fewer children they tend to have... And finally, the most profound event of the 20th century may have been the sexual revolution's drive toward gender equality, enabled by modern contraception. Unlike other creatures, people can have the fun of sex without the side effect of parenthood.

...the problem—according to happiness researchers, people don't really enjoy rearing children.

"Economists have modeled the impact of many variables on people's overall happiness and have consistently found that children have only a small impact. A small negative impact," reports Harvard psychologist and happiness researcher Daniel Gilbert.

...researchers have found that people derive more satisfaction from eating, exercising, shopping, napping, or watching television than taking care of their kids.

...Of course, that's not what most parents say when asked. For instance, in a 2007 Pew Research Center survey people insisted that their relationships with their little darlings are of the greatest importance to their personal happiness and fulfillment. However, the same survey also found "by a margin of nearly three-to-one, Americans say that the main purpose of marriage is the 'mutual happiness and fulfillment' of adults rather than the 'bearing and raising of children.'"

Gilbert suggests that people claim their kids are their chief source of happiness largely because it's what they are expected to say. In addition, Gilbert observes that the more people pay for an item, the more highly they tend to value it and children are expensive, even if you don't throw in piano lessons, soccer camps, orthodonture, and college tuitions..."

Now THAT is how you study English!

In Japan, hobbies are a serious business.

Making English Work / Study a 'hobby' for Shin-Idemitsu boss : The Language Connection : Features : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE:
"Company Chairman Yutaka Idemitsu starts his day by studying English for an hour after rising at 5 a.m.--a practice that he has maintained for nearly two decades.

Using textbooks for NHK's English-learning radio programs, he copies the dialogues and their translations into notebooks and adds notes on featured words and idiomatic expressions. He then records his notes onto cassette tapes, and listens to his own "programs" before retiring at night or while taking a bath.

When his favorite programs weren't aired during his morning study time, Idemitsu used to listen to the CDs that accompanied the books. However, he gradually became dissatisfied with what the CDs offered.

...Now Idemitsu refers to the study of English as one of his hobbies. "It's just fun for me to study English as I always find something new," he said. "That's become part of my life. It doesn't even feel like I'm studying, really."

At the link you can read, basically, about his entire life history studying English, from NHK radio programs after WWII to the present day. It's pretty fascinating.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Weekend activities and amazing kid boxing.

Well, this weekend was taken up with a head cold, spring cleaning, and getting caught in several hours-long YouTube loops.

Graduation pictures, hopefully, up early in the week.

Until then, I give you this amazingly talented child boxer. Mad skills. Just ludicrously good.

Objective/Subjective evidence of affection for this year's graduating class...

My first Jr High Graduation, about 6 months after I first got here - 18 pictures.

The next year - 33 pictures.

This year's class, who graduated today - 100+ pictures. And 3 videos.

So, that's the "objective."

The subjective?

Well, towards the end of the ceremony, when the waterworks started to flow from some of the kids as they "gambaremasu-ed" through their farewell song [and it may sound mean, but a crying Jr High School girl, fighting through tears while smiling and singing = massively adorable] - but towards the end there, I do believe I was getting a little choked up myself. I could feel the tear ducts starting to sting a little bit.

No real tears, of course, because... you know... I'm not a big girl. [Or Japanese.]

But still.

I am really, really going to miss this group of kids. Just an awesome bunch of students.

Pics up this weekend.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Currently causing a [semi-official] panic at my elementary schools and Board of Education.

Maybe "panic" is too strong a word, but everybody is "concerned," and it is a topic of discussion.

Teachers prepare for new curriculum : The Language Connection : Features : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE (The Daily Yomiuri):
"Under current national curriculum regulations, primary schools may offer English lessons at their discretion as part of a general studies class, but the upcoming revision of the curriculum, whose draft was unveiled last week, makes English compulsory for fifth- and sixth-year students--about one class hour per week.

...At primary schools, homeroom teachers teach all the subjects to the students for whom they are responsible. However, primary school teachers do not get training in English teaching when acquiring their teaching licenses. For this reason, the question of who should offer such lessons has become a major issue.

...The upcoming revision will require primary schools to offer fifth- and sixth-year students at least one class hour of lessons per week..."

And they are, of course, doing this while cutting funding for the JET Programme. So... yeah, okay... maybe not thought out the best, there.

Well, that explains a lot.

Why we're powerless to resist grazing on endless web data - Boing Boing:
"Lee Gomes of the Wall Street Journal writes that recent research shows that a brain rewards itself with a squirt of natural opiates when it comes across new information that requires interpretation. That's why, he concludes, people stay on the Web for long periods of time."

What I've Read - Queen & Country: The Definitive Edition, Vol. 1.



Great series, great collected edition. Despite having read the individual trades before, re-reading them in this edition was worthwhile and a lot of fun. Rucka is easily one of my favorite authors. He writes fascinatingly damaged characters exceedingly well.

Queen & Country: The Definitive Edition, Vol. 1: Greg Rucka,Steve Rolston,Brian Hurtt,Leandro Fernandez: Books:
"Queen & Country, the Eisner Award-winning and critically lauded espionage series from acclaimed novelist and comic book author Greg Rucka, is back in a new series of definitive editions collecting the entire classic series in just four affordable soft covers. In this first collection, readers are introduced to the thrilling and often-times devastating world of international espionage as SIS field agent Tara Chase is sent all over the world in service to her Queen & Country all the while Director of Operations Paul Crocker walks a narrow tightrope between his loyalty to his people and the political masters that must be served!"

"I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind."

village voice > news > David Mamet: Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal' by David Mamet:
"As a child of the '60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.

...this worldview with which I now found myself disenchanted: that everything is always wrong.

But in my life, a brief review revealed, everything was not always wrong, and neither was nor is always wrong in the community in which I live, or in my country...

And, I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.

I'd observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day...

...I found not only that I didn't trust the current government (that, to me, was no surprise), but that an impartial review revealed that the faults of this president—whom I, a good liberal, considered a monster—were little different from those of a president whom I revered.

Bush got us into Iraq, JFK into Vietnam. Bush stole the election in Florida; Kennedy stole his in Chicago. Bush outed a CIA agent; Kennedy left hundreds of them to die in the surf at the Bay of Pigs. Bush lied about his military service; Kennedy accepted a Pulitzer Prize for a book written by Ted Sorenson. Bush was in bed with the Saudis, Kennedy with the Mafia. Oh.

And I began to question my hatred for "the Corporations"—the hatred of which, I found, was but the flip side of my hunger for those goods and services they provide and without which we could not live.

...What about the role of government? Well, in the abstract, coming from my time and background, I thought it was a rather good thing, but tallying up the ledger in those things which affect me and in those things I observe, I am hard-pressed to see an instance where the intervention of the government led to much beyond sorrow.

But if the government is not to intervene, how will we, mere human beings, work it all out?

I wondered and read, and it occurred to me that I knew the answer, and here it is: We just seem to. How do I know? From experience..."

"...there are always..."

...something I need to remember.

John Stone Fitness -:
"...there are always people in your life who want to see you fail. Misery loves company. The people I'm talking about are the ones who make light of what you are doing. They try to convince you to eat junk food with them. They roll their eyes when you talk about your fitness program. Some of these kinds of people are more subtle than that, and some are more outspoken, but you always know exactly who they are. Maybe some of them are your friends, and perhaps some of them are people you have to put up with at your office or in your neighborhood...

Keep in mind that you are basically at war with your own mind, and you must do what you have to do in order to get the job done. Each time you're faced with a workout or a food temptation you'll either do the right thing or you'll allow your mind to convince you that you have a good reason not to. Ultimately excuses don't matter one bit--excuses never get you any closer to your goals, so always remember that."

Inspiring and funny.

Humbling too. Via Joe Rogan.

Much more at the link... well worth checking out.

The Joe Rogan Blog » Conduit to the Gaian Mind » I’m giving away my isolation tank.:
"...how we often live our lives on the momentum of the past, constantly defining ourselves by how we have already behaved, constantly cycling through a pattern of pre-determined thoughts moving around on these pre-arranged tracks, instead of running our time on this planet through a well considered, best-case scenario approach.

"I want to live my life in a way that, were I not me, and I saw that behavior, it would inspire me to be a better person.”

I know that sounds like some hippy, trippy horseshit, but isn’t it possible to live like that? Wouldn’t it make the world a far nicer place to live if everyone came to the true realization that the only way to truly be happy in this life is if you’re nice to other people?

Because truly, that is the only way, and if you ask basically anyone in the world what he or she wants most in life, it’s to be happy. Happy and in love, that’s the best feelings life has to offer, and the only people that want anything other than that, are the kind of people that need happiness and love the most.

...The real problem with that kind of thinking, of course, is that the world is infested with morons and douche bags.


...Every fucking day I get a hundred or so links sent to me in the email, and 80% of them involve either a story, a picture, or a video of a douche bag in action.

Douche bags from all over the world. There’s soldiers throwing a puppy off a cliff, men stoning a young girl to death because she was in love with a boy from the wrong religion, a guy shits on his friend’s head while he’s sleeping – you can SEE all these things...

...The average 15 year old of today has a better idea of what horrors people are capable of than a prison guard from the 1940’s.

...But what I’ve found in my life though, is that the nicer I am the less assholes I meet, and that my time in the tank has made me nicer.

The more I make a concerted effort to be positive, the happier I am. To me it’s like a much less annoying form of “The Secret.”


...Mystical visions have been a part of the growth of humans forever, but a lot of so-called “no nonsense” people may tell you that the pursuit of such visions are just a self indulgent waste of time. They will tell you that serious men and women of science have no use for seeing things that aren’t really there.

What’s hilarious about that, is that a visionary experience was the motivation behind the work of the man who invented modern analytical thinking, René Descartes.

He had a series of dreams in 1619 where the angel of truth came to him and explained to him how he was going to measure and define the laws of thought with mathematics.

It’s one of the main foundations of modern scientific thinking, and it came to him from an angel in a dream.


...I think we may have to learn to accept the idea that there may very well be something that we’re all a part of that we’re not completely aware of - that we really are just a part of this huge, gigantic oneness of everything that we can’t really detect under normal circumstances because of our ego and our physical limitations.

Just because we can’t sense something doesn’t mean it’s not there.

...The bottom line about this life is that as of right now, it’s confirmed that it’s temporary.

You’re going to die, and no one knows what the fuck is going to happen when that moment occurs. There’s a lot of speculation, but until you cross over to the great beyond and come back to talk about it, I’ve got nothing to go on.

And if you DO cross over and come back, then you’re a fucking zombie, and I’m gonna hit you in the head with a shovel before you can steal my brains..."

Overheard in...

But the Question Was...

Guy: ... Because the pope touches himself. That's my answer for the first question. That's my answer to any question, really.

History class
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Overheard by: Kaiti
via Overheard Everywhere, Mar 12, 2008

[Works for me.

And now, on relationships...]


Wednesday One-Liners Were "Working Late"

Guy: So, he's pissed off because he's dating this fucking hot stripper -- she's, like, West of freaky -- and he can't tell anybody because they're all friends with his fiancé and would tell her.

--Brooklyn-bound D train, Atlantic Ave stop
Overheard by: just visiting

German girl, after breaking kiss with another chick: Don't worry about my husband too much...

--Frost St, Greenpoint
Overheard by: jayloo

Black man on cell: ... So I put my hand between her legs... Nah, she wasn't wearing any panties... She's mad cool, but she's married...

--Q46 bus
Overheard by: Izabela

Ghetto mama: ... And I said to her, 'No, I did not fuck yo' husband. But I did let him eat my pussy!'

--Nostrand Ave
Overheard by: Kris S.
via Overheard in New York, Mar 12, 2008

Thoughts on "Thoughts on Thoughts on Spitzer."

I thought this particularly apropos the sexual politics of the Spitzer debacle, especially as mainstream US views on female sexuality are deeply rooted in a body-hating Puritanical ethos and fear of female sexual power. IMHO.

Reason Magazine - Hit & Run > Thoughts on Thoughts on Spitzer:
"...Of course sexism restricts autonomy in all sorts of ways that deserve consideration when discussing the prevalence of prostitution or the choice to enter sex work. Of course it’s deplorable that sexually adventurous young women are constantly told they are “degrading themselves” by seeking out various experiences, that every bit of enjoyment eats away at some secret store of purity. This whole tradition–the idea that women need be preserved in glass so as not to “ruin” themselves, lest they diminish their sexual value by “giving it away”–restricts the lived autonomy of women in ways I can’t even begin to articulate. None of the slut-shaming makes sense unless you assume women live to give themselves to men in their purest possible form.

If you find all of these cultural pathologies unfortunate, what is the public policy you should prefer? It seems to me that it is not the policy that deems it a crime against the American people to open your legs. Anti-prostitution laws add a layer of legal sanction to all of our worst intuitions about the treatment of sexually independent women; they strengthen and validate the idea that women who bed men with any frequency are sick, marginal, pariahs. Even decriminalization, which treats Johns as outlaws and sex workers as victims, assumes that all sex workers are damaged, that no woman would ever love sex enough to make a career out of it. And why not? Well, because every woman knows that she is her sexual purity rating. No sane woman would ever choose to mess that up.

In sum: If we are ever going to introduce a conceptual distinction between the moral character of individual women and the integrity of their hymens, it seems extremely important not to criminalize aberrant sexual behaviors."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

And now, on a lighter note...

As apparently everything in the world is pissing me off today and I'm starting to hate everyone - except, unsurprisingly, the actual people and things around me. Damn you, Internet!

[And now I understand that sometimes "ignorance is bliss."]

Ah, well.

First, I give you what might be the finest martial arts film of our generation.

I give you - The Foot Fist Way!

[Keep an eye out for the NC references you NC folks... the wife spotted 'em.]



And finally, the best "father-sons" moment on the internet. Totally awesome and the only conceivable reason to have kids :)

We've become nations of fearful sheep. And our leadership encourages it.

Time to fight security superstition | Technology | guardian.co.uk:
"The Met's latest poster campaign urges Londoners who spot "unusual" activity to ring the police and let them know. Examples include someone taking pictures of CCTV cameras or acting out of the ordinary. After all, these are dangerous times, and we all must be vigilant.

Contrast this for a moment with an earlier dangerous time: the Blitz. Bombs rained down upon London on a near-daily basis, killing, maiming and laying waste to whole neighbourhoods (one American friend recently described a trip around east London where his hosts pointed to every car park and said, "Of course, that was bombed in the Blitz" – and came away with the impression that Hitler had dropped car parks on Hackney).

Back then, the government's message to the people wasn't "Take your shoes off" or "place your liquids in this bag". Instead, King George's printer stuck up millions of royal red posters bearing the legend "KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON."

The approaches are markedly different - eternal (even fearful) vigilance, versus a reassured, Zen-like calm. "

Shocking.

No, wait. The opposite of that.

Reason Magazine - Hit & Run > Dick Cheney Wins World Fantasy Award:
"An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network.

The Pentagon-sponsored study, scheduled for release later this week, did confirm that Saddam's regime provided some support to other terrorist groups, particularly in the Middle East, U.S. officials told McClatchy. However, his security services were directed primarily against Iraqi exiles, Shiite Muslims, Kurds and others he considered enemies of his regime."

Catholicism's desperate bid for relevance - "...a new list of Seven Sins."

They are, as to be expected, bullshit.

Vatican comes up with a new list of Seven Sins - Boing Boing:
"In the sixth century, Pope Gregory handed down a list of "seven cardinal vices." Now the Vatican has issued an additional seven "social sins."
"You offend God not only by stealing, taking the Lord's name in vain or coveting your neighbor's wife, but also by wrecking the environment, carrying out morally debatable experiments that manipulate DNA or harm embryos," said [Bishop Gianfranco] Girotti, who is responsible for the body that oversees confessions.

The seven social sins are:

1. "Bioethical" violations such as birth control 2. "Morally dubious" experiments such as stem cell research 3. Drug abuse 4. Polluting the environment 5. Contributing to widening divide between rich and poor 6. Excessive wealth 7. Creating poverty

The original deadly sins: 1. Pride 2. Envy 3. Gluttony 4. Lust 5. Anger 6. Greed 7. Sloth"

The sheer irony of one of the world's wealthiest organizations decrying "excessive wealth" is almost too much to take. Especially as they continue to tell the poor people of the world that God said they should be tithing 10% of their income for the church. So that would be #s 5, 6 and 7.

You know, this would all be more humorous if I didn't spend part of the day reading [today is High School Entrance Exam day, there's a paucity of classes] excerpts from the Report of the Philadelphia Grand Jury on sexual abuse in that diocese of the Catholic Church.

It's in the recent anthology I picked up Everything You Know About God Is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Religion. You can find a lot of the same info online here and here, via BishopAccountability.org and The Memory Hole.

Including depressingly sobering, sickening and infuriating highlights as:
"• A girl, 11 years old, was raped by her priest and became pregnant. The Father took her in for an abortion.

• A 5th-grader was molested by her priest inside the confessional booth.

• A teenage girl was groped by her priest while she lay immobilized in traction in a hospital bed. The priest stopped only when the girl was able to ring for a nurse.

• The Archdiocese official in charge of abuse investigations described one abusive priest as “one of the sickest people I ever knew.” Yet Cardinal Bevilacqua allowed him to continue in ministry, with full access to children – until the priest scandal broke in 2002.

• On at least one occasion Cardinal Bevilacqua agreed to harbor a known abuser from another diocese, giving him a cover story and a neighborhood parish here because the priest’s arrest for child abuse had aroused too much controversy there. Officials referred to this sort of practice as “bishops helping bishops.”

• A nun who complained about a priest who was still ministering to children – even after he was convicted of receiving child pornography – was fired from her position as director of religious education.

• When the Archdiocese did purport to seek psychological evaluation of a priest, the primary tool for diagnosis was “self reporting” – in other words, whether the abuser was willing to admit that he was a pedophile. Absent such a “diagnosis,” the Archdiocese declined to treat any priest as a pedophile, no matter how compelling the evidence.

• Even when admitted, the abuse was excused: an Archdiocese official comforted one sexually abusive priest by suggesting that the priest had been “seduced” by his 11-year-old victim.

• When one priest showed signs of seeking penance from his victims, the church-run “treatment” facility urged Archdiocese officials to move him to another assignment away from the victims – in other words, transfer him before he apologizes again."

And in one case, in the aftermath of boy reporting being raped by a priest at his school, one of his teachers - a nun - began referring to him by a girl's name in front of all the other students.

When he asked her to stop, he was given demerits.

They are, as an organization, fucking evil.

Period.

Monday, March 10, 2008

What I've Read - "When killing activists, never shoot for the head, always aim for the heart." - The Nightly News by Jonathan Hickman


Outstandingly innovative graphic design. Rich with ideas and concepts. A plot that zigs when I thought it was going to zag. Really, really entertaining. Interesting thoughts on media, entertainment, education, information, religion, violence, cults and... well... life. Highly Recommended.

The Nightly News by Jonathan Hickman:
"As an act of violence spirals out of control to encompass the entirety of the news media, a cult has emerged from the errors and retractions that have ruined careers, marriages and even lives. Under direction from his cult master, The Hand leads an army of followers committed to revolution, willing to die for their cause.

"...NETWORK meets FIGHT CLUB..." - Andy Diggle"

From the book notes/references [which are almost as interesting as the narrative,] by Hickman -
"...this idea that being a protestor is not just a noble activity but is a righteous work done by the enlightened is some type of reality-warped, romanticized notion of the sixties. For the most part, this is nothing more than public therapy by part-timers. Their focus isn't actually on changing the world; it's on making a public display, a cathartic offering, out of the guilt they live in an opulent society. There is nothing more pussy than sitting around and doing chants and singing songs pretending like that is going to change the world. Nothing. It's an embarrassing charade by the wealthy."

...and this one I particularly liked:
"The idea of an established persona - that you are the sum of all your experiences, decisions and feelings - is false. We are, in fact, quite malleable to new experiences, peer influence and tragedy. Adaptability, humanity's evolutionary strength, is also one of its greatest weaknesses."

Spitzer - Arrogance and Hypocrisy.

Leaving aside the issue of whether or not prostitution should even be illegal [to paraphrase the Great Carlin - if sex is legal, and selling is legal, why isn't selling sex legal?] remember this was Mr Hard-Nosed-Prosecutor-Super-Cop. Mr Law-and-Order.

Always remember they will lock you up and throw away the key, not give you a second thought, and then high five over a round of drinks at the bar while waxing philosophically about how you brought it on yourself and the importance of the rule of law in society.

But the laws only apply to you. Not to them. They're special. The laws are only for the little people. Or whoever they don't like. They don't care about the law, they care about power and their personal agenda.

Yeah, fuck them. Schadenfreude all around... it's on me.

The Spitzer Scandal: Lust Plus Pride - TIME:
"On a day of heavy ironies for one of America's most prominent and promising politicians, there was this: the prostitution ring that New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer allegedly patronized was called the Emperors Club VIP. It was the governor's own imperial mien, after all, that will make this fall from grace particularly bruising.

...The allegations could be particularly damaging to Spitzer, a former hard-nosed prosecutor who had made ferreting out corporate malfeasance and cracking down on corruption centerpieces of his political platform."

Wow, do I feel dumb.

Brazilian boy, 8, passes law school entrance exam | World news | The Guardian:
"Brazil's lawyers have been shocked to find that a boy aged eight has managed to pass the entrance exam to law school.

...Joao Victor is still in fifth grade, two levels ahead of normal for his age, but his mother says he is not a cloistered genius. "He is a regular boy," she told the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper. "He is very dedicated, likes to read and study, but he has fun and makes friends."

..."My dream is to be a federal judge," the boy said, according to Globo TV's Web site. "So I decided to take the test to see how I would do ... it was easy. I studied a week before the test.""

What I've Read - [since Oct 07]

Well, I think I can say the "monthly reading list" post has been an unqualified failure. I'd inevitably get hung up at the end of the month when I'd be in the middle of a book or two. Thinking "as soon as I get through this book I'll post up." Of course, by the time I was through that one, I'd be in the middle of another, or two. [Let's see... book on the desk at work, another by the computer at home, another in the bathroom [tmi], another in my messenger bag... one day I'll stop reading so much and get a life. Though the 1000 or so books/CDs/DVDs on my Amazon wishlist dispute that assertion.]

So anyways, the "monthly reading list" is now "what I've read" and that takes the whole time constraint bit off it, thereby reducing my feelings of failure, guilt and shame. [I was raised Catholic. That's what happens.]

Here we go again, catching up...

[All descriptions from their Amazon.com blurbs or a [fair use] selection from an Amazon.com review.]

Zero Limits: The Secret Hawaiian System for Wealth, Health, Peace, and More by Joe Vitale, Ihaleakala Hew, Ph.D -
...Imagine wiping your mind's slate clean and starting over without preconceived notions, so you can live in a world of daily wonder. Imagine if anything and everything were possible. In fact, everything is possible when you look at the world free of mental constraints. This book is a key that opens your life to a new universe of possibility and accomplishment——a universe with Zero Limits.

Positive psych. Worthwhile read. Needs re-reading. Cause I'm slow like that.

Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs -
A superb new writer introduces her intrepid heroine to crime fiction. Dr. Tempe Brennan, a trowel-packing forensic anthropologist from North Carolina, works in Montreal's Laboratoire de Medecine Legale examining recovered bodies to help police solve missing-persons cases and murders.

Still searching for a replacement for the early, good, Kay Scarpetta novels... before Cornwell shot them all to hell. This wasn't bad, but didn't really hook me.

Already Dead: A Novel, No Dominion: A Novel, and Half the Blood of Brooklyn: A Novel by Charlie Huston -
Huston does an irresistible and fiendishly original take on the vampire myth. Manhattan is teeming with the undead, the island divided into often-warring vampire clans such as the Society, the Hood and the Enclave. The most powerful is the Coalition, whose goal is to protect its members from public scrutiny and persecution. Rogue PI Joe Pitt (aka Simon), who like all vampires is infected with a virus that requires him to drink blood regularly... Huston has fun playing with the conventions of the genre, creating his own hip update that will appeal to fans of Quentin Tarantino and Buffy the Vampire Slayer alike.

...The second Joe Pitt casebook finds Greenwich Village's favorite undead shamus caught in a nasty power struggle between competing vampire clans.

...Huston's third Joe Pitt vampire novel takes his Manhattan-based hard-boiled hero on a dangerous trip into the undead communities across the bridge in Brooklyn.

My new fave series of books. Vampire Noir. Bloody Philip Marlowe. Awesome.

Brimstone (Pendergast, Book 5)by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child -
As FBI Special Agent Pendergast immerses himself in the investigation of an art critic's bizarre murder, he conjures up clues pointing to the Devil as the culprit.

Wanted to love this, as Pendergrast is an Holmes homage. Plus, lots of potential blasphemy. It was only okay.

Reflex (Jumper) by Steven Gould -
In this delightful SF thriller, the long-anticipated sequel to the critically acclaimed Jumper (1992), Gould puts a fresh spin on the classic plot device of human teleportation. Once a teen struggling to escape an abusive father, Davy Rice is now a covert operative for the National Security Agency and happily married to Oklahoma psychologist Millie Harrison-Rice. Enter sudden marital discord over starting a family, and Davy, eager to avoid the issue, jumps from their remote West Texas hideaway to a meeting in Washington, D.C., only to be snatched by an evil organization intent upon forcing "the asset" to work for them.

Really enjoyed this... as I did the first one - Jumper.

The Blue-Eyed Salaryman: From World Traveller to Lifer at Mitsubishi by Niall Murtagh -
A rare inside look at corporate life in Japan—one that is worth more than a dozen business-school studies.

I dug the book, and it was an interesting read, though I ended up not liking the author so much. Odd, that.

The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell, Dustin Thomason -
Caldwell and Thomason's intriguing intellectual suspense novel stars four brainy roommates at Princeton, two of whom have links to a mysterious 15th-century manuscript, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. This rare text (a real book) contains embedded codes revealing the location of a buried Roman treasure.

Great premise, but not as good as I hoped. Parts dragged. Interesting, but not exceptional.

Choke Hold (The New Destroyer) by Warren Murphy, James Mullaney -
Pity poor tobacco tycoon Edgar Rawly.Thanks to lawsuits, government meddling and the inexplicable deaths of many of his best customers, his megabucks industry is gasping its last breath.That is, until the introduction of the Cheyenne Smooths, Rawly's latest product.Not quite tobacco, not quite legal, more addictive than crystal meth... Enter Remo Williams, the Destroyer, and Chiun, the deadly Master of Sinanju.They've been sent to kick some butt, but wind up in danger of being snuffed out themselves. Turns out Edgar Rawly is not the only shady character to recognize the value of the Cheyenne Smooths, and things really start to heat up when Remo bumps into a cult of ancient Chinese assassins, an Asian crime lord, and a worldwide addiction that just might send civilization up in smoke...

Fun, funny and politically incorrect. Classic Remo Williams fare... and that's a good thing.

Secret Dead Men by Duane Swierczynski -
Del Farmer isn't your ordinary hardboiled private eye. Instead of collecting fingerprints or clues, he collects souls of the recently dead.

The best premise for a book I've read in a long time. Kind of disappointing. Finished it up with what felt like too many unanswered and unasked questions and a sense of not really having gone anywhere. Like life, I guess.

Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart by Ian Ayres -
Yale Law School professor and econometrician Ayres argues in this lively and enjoyable book that the recent creation of huge data sets allows knowledgeable individuals to make previously impossible predictions.

Interesting, in the same way Freakonomics was, with the same failings. Reducing everything to numbers, math and statistics crushes individuality and paints a picture of small, circumscribed lives devoid of passion and humanity. Plus, and the same caveat with the other, is that it all depends on whether you can "control for sufficient variables." You can't. That's why it's called life.

Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie -
Is someone else's problem your problem? If, like so many others, you've lost sight of your own life in the drama of tending to someone else's, you may be codependent-and you may find yourself in this book.

Yeah, I did. I do. Work in progress.

Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life
by Susan Forward, Craig Buck -
All parents fall short from time to time. But Susan Forward pulls no punches when it comes to those whose deficiencies cripple their children emotionally. Her brisk, unreserved guide to overcoming the stultifying agony of parental manipulation--from power trips to guilt trips and all other killers of self worth--will help deal with the pain of childhood and move beyond the frustrating relationship patterns learned at home.

This actually reinforced and validated a lot of things I've had to come to on my own over the last 5 or 6 years. Wish I'd have read it way earlier. Would have helped.

Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II
by John W. Dower -
Embracing Defeat tells the story of the transformation of Japan under American occupation after World War II.

Best history book I've read in some time. Helps to decode a lot of modern day Japanese idiosyncrasies. Most disturbing bit of info - a popular children's game in the post war occupation was panpan asobi - pretending to be a GI and prostitute.

American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China by Matthew Polly -
...Polly's quest for manhood leads this guy from Topeka, Kans., to the Shaolin Temple, ancient home of the fighting monks and setting for 10,000 chop-socky movies. As much a student of Chinese culture as he is a martial artist, Polly derives a great deal of humor from the misunderstandings that follow a six-foot-three laowai (white foreigner) in a China taking its first awkward steps into capitalism after Tiananmen Square.

Outstanding book. Lots of fun, well written, culturally revealing. Highly recommended.

Steroid Nation: Juiced Home Run Totals, Anti-aging Miracles, and a Hercules in Every High School: The Secret History of America's True Drug Addiction by Shaun Assael -
"With Steroid Nation, Shaun Assael has brilliantly anatomized the American obsession with performance -- and physique -- enhancing drugs. If you are interested in the truth about todayÕs sports world -- the unvarnished but juiced-up, muscle-bound truth -- Steroid Nation is required reading." --Jeremy Schaap, author of Cinderella Man: James J.Braddock, Max Baer and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History and Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics

Extremely well written. Inadvertently reveals the inanity of this particular aspect of the Drug War, but perpetuates dumb myths regarding steroid use. The most obvious was the way the author lets the implication endure that Lyle Alzado's brain cancer could have anything to do with his steroid use. No medical evidence for that anywhere at all.

Comics, TPBs and Graphic Novels

Checkmate, Vol. 2 : Pawn Breaks by Greg Rucka, Jesus Saiz -
...Greg Rucka's Checkmate continues to impress with Pawn Breaks, the second TPB of the series. Amanda Waller, always seeming to be one step ahead in the game, has big plans in store, and the way that writer Greg Rucka weaves everything together is simply fantastic.

Espionage in the DCUniverse of superheroes by one of the best suspense/thriller/espionage writers today.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus, Vol. 2 by Various -
This second volume of our Buffy omnibus series collects many of the best Buffy comics to see print. As we follow the newly-chosen slayer from Los Angeles to Sunnydale and through her parents' divorce - with Dawn in tow - the souled vampire Angel makes his first appearance and the not-so-souled Spike and Drusilla cleave a bloody path towards the West Coast.

Pleasant and diverting. BTVS fans only, probably.

Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Daniel Acuna -
The classic super-hero team known as the Freedom Fighters isback in a new configuration for a new generation!Meet the all-new PhantomLady, Doll Man, Human Bomb and the Ray -- members of the government taskforce known as SHADE, the country's first line of defense against super-powered threats and terrorists. When the government becomes corrupt, how far will SHADE have to go to protect the country? And what of Uncle Sam? Has the embodiment of thespirit of America really been forced underground?

Fun, crazy ideas. Great art. Wild visuals.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Volume 1: The Long Way Home
by Joss Whedon, Andy Owens, Georges Jeanty, Jo Chen -
The newest incarnation of the Buffy comic, written by series creator Whedon, is effectively the new season of the TV series... The Long Way Home establishes the season 8 status quo: demon-killing heroine Buffy Summers is now commanding an army of hundreds of Slayers (and her little sister, Dawn, has been turned into a giant by Whedon's favorite transformative force, sex). Still, there's some creepy unfinished business from the TV show to deal with, and the U.S. Army is coming after her, too.

Season 8 of BTVS with the return of Joss Whedon as "show runner," writer and dialogue god. It is AWESOME. With a capital A.

The Boys Vol. 1: The Name of the Game by Garth Ennis , Darick Robertson -
THIS IS GOING TO HURT! In a world where costumed heroes soar through the sky and masked vigilantes prowl the night, someone's got to make sure the "supes" don't get out of line. And someone will... A CIA backed team of very dangerous people, each one dedicated to the struggle against the most dangerous force on Earth-superpower. Some superheores have to be watched. Some have to be controlled. And some of them-sometimes-need to be taken out of the picture That's when you call in THE BOYS

Wicked humor by Ennis and great art by Robertson.

Phonogram: Rue Britannia by Kieron Gillen, Jamie Mckelvie -
Britannia is ten years dead. Phonomancer David Kohl hadn't spared his old patron a thought for almost as long... at which point his mind starts to unravel. Can he discover what's happened to the Mod-Goddess of Britpop while there's still something of himself left? Dark modern-fantasy in a world where music is magic, where a song can save your life or end it.

Fascinating, but most all of the music references - 90s Britpop - were lost on me. Clearly not the intended audience. Cool read though.

Blue Beetle: Road Trip
by John Rogers, Cully Hammer -
Since the inception of Spider-Man, the young superhero learning about his power and responsibility has been an effective platform for examining the trials and tribulations of growing up. The Blue Beetle character's legacy reaches back into comicdom's golden age, but his latest incarnation is Jaime Reyes. A young man of Latin American descent living in El Paso, Jaime deals with the mysterious scarab that has melded with his body, manifesting as armor that gives him astonishing capabilities.

Best young superhero book out there, bar none.

52: The Companion by Various -
The super-powered stars of 52, DC Comics' acclaimed weekly comics series, are featured in this graphic novel collecting the best oftheir solo stories.Classic tales of Adam Strange, The Metal Men, Booster Gold, Steel, BlackAdam, The Question and others from the 1960s to today...

Great classic comics.

Doctor 13: Architecture and Morality by Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang -
...collects the Doctor 13 back up stories that appeared in the most recent Spectre mini series. This is a very fun collection with great artwork that tackles and gives new life to some old minor DC characters. It's a trippy adventure tale laced with bits of humor...

Funny as hell. Metatextual. For lovers of comics, and comics history.

Rex Libris Volume One: I, Librarian
by James Turner -
At no time does Rex Libris seem pretentious. It's smart, yes, but it is accessible all the same because its core concept of a librarian charged with retrieving overdue library books reads like a tale of high adventure.

The tales of a librarian retrieving overdue books from interstellar despots, with a bird for a sidekick and a boss who is the ancient Egyptian god Horus. Extremely well written, really funny.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang -
Indie graphic novelist Gene Yang's intelligent and emotionally challenging American Born Chinese is made up of three individual plotlines: the determined efforts of the Chinese folk hero Monkey King to shed his humble roots and be revered as a god; the struggles faced by Jin Wang, a lonely Asian American middle school student who would do anything to fit in with his white classmates; and the sitcom plight of Danny, an All-American teen so shamed by his Chinese cousin Chin-Kee (a purposefully painful ethnic stereotype) that he is forced to change schools.

Well crafted and worth reading.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

I continue to be astounded at the level of ignorance of people.

You'd think I'd be dissillusioned by now, that I'd learn, but everytime I come across one of these mouth breathing idiots, I'm still shocked. Even moreso when you've still got the underlying assumption [public school indoctrination rears its ugly head] that elected officials have some semblance of something superior going on in their brain pan.

Sadly, no.

Idiot.

Crooks and Liars » Oklahoma State Rep. Goes On Anti-Gay Tirade:
"We nominate to the patheon of homo hate Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern (sallykern@okhouse.gov). She didn’t know that she was being recorded in a meeting, so we get the a nice insight about what she thinks of her gay and lesbian constituents. Perhaps she doesn’t think she has any.

About 30 seconds into this homobigoted, fact-free, BS screed, Rep. Kern actually says how she doesn’t hate gays (of course not!), then proceeds to continue on her tirade..."

I did not know that.

Did He Know That?

Clerk: Hitler was a black man. Did you know that?

Long's Drugs
Oakland, California


via Overheard Everywhere, Mar 9, 2008

Every weekend brings another dinner.

Quite the social calendar of late... [for me, anyways.]


True love is matching hats.


Jon and his best friend.


I meant the alcohol. Not Anton.

[Just playin' dude!]

A typical Junior High School pencil case.


You might think that in Japan, with its extremely harsh marijuana laws, that a pencil case within the halls of public education celebrating the ganja would be verboten.

You would be wrong.

This, and many others like them are EVERYWHERE in school. I can't speak to whether the kids actually know the meaning, but [at least some] of the teachers do not. I had to explain marijuana leaves and rastafari culture to one of the English teachers, and he was quite surprised.

I figure some of the kids know what it is, but probably for the majority it's just another cool gaijin fashion accessory.

Much like seeing Jr High School and High School girls with their sweaters and socks and scarves embroidered with the Playboy logo.

Or my all time favorite, the 3 year old toddler who was wearing BITCH brand sneakers.

It's all relative.

I'm not a teacher, but I play one in Japan - Part 2, Junior High School.

Been meaning to do something like this for a bit now, and the video from the Elementary school class a couple weeks ago reminded me... but since my old camera crashed, I've been waiting to get a new one and get back up to speed. Plus I needed to wait until I rotated through to teaching the 3rd graders again. So, finally, all the stars aligned and everything worked out and I got a chance to video the start of a typical Jr High School class. Runs just a little longer than normal, since I ran through two versions of the warm up activity/game.

This group of kids in the vid are probably some of the absolute best I've taught. Just an amazingly well rounded, smart, participatory, genki [enthusiastic] group. I can't ever remember having a bad class with this group.

video

Honestly though, the entire 3rd grade class this year has been awesome. It's been really a fascinating experience. They are, as a class, and as a group, just an outstanding group of kids. Great attitudes, personable, polite... even the kids who don't like to study and goof off in class do so in an almost endearing way.

When I first came to Japan, they were all halfway through their 1st grade year [the school year runs April to March.] Just little kids, really.

And now, almost three years later they're all grown up and getting ready to graduate this week. They've changed from children to young adults, and it's been extremely cool to see.

I've really grown a lot more attached to, and fond of, them than I ever really expected to when I started the JET Programme.

I present to you the graduating class of 2008. I am really gonna miss them.



Internet Dragons are Coming to Destroy Your [Japanese] Children.


Lately, in the media in Japan, like the media in America, the evil Internet and its corrupting and dangerous effect on children [you know, by exposing them to the world] is getting the hard sell.

And I can only decipher a bit of the Japanese in the morning meetings at school, but the dangers of the 'net are getting play there as well.

The poster to the right went up a couple weeks ago, and you can clearly see how the Internet leads to guns and drugs.

But the other day, this ended up on my desk.

The "Moral Guidebook" for dealing with the Internet.

[How very Mao.]

But take careful note, in the upper left corner, on the cover, of the Internet Dragons that are coming for your children.

I love Japan so much sometimes.



Translated version of http://www.kayoo.org/moral-guidebook/:
"...progress of the information society, such as the Internet and mobile phones have spread rapidly in the students is worth the trouble to get involved in multiple incidents. Moreover, in recent years, Internet message boards and mobile phone bullying by mail ( "Net bullying") occurs, new problems also occurred. Based on these circumstances, the school of information is required to enhance moral education, the Education, Science and Technology Ministry, so far, the information about various moral and implementation of our efforts.

...This guidebook is the moral guidance information "model curriculum" with a commentary about demystify the first teacher can easily understandable introduction to a number of practical examples, and information on educational practice moral guidance..."

"Monk stole porno films."

Of course he did. But only because of the Church's healthy views on human sexuality. Because repression and celibacy are what Jesus wants.

Monk stole porno films - Scotsman.com News:
"A MONK has been arrested for stealing dozens of blue movies from a sex shop. Brother Niklaus, 49, of the Benedictine order Maria Laach, pilfered nearly 40 raunchy videos, which he stored in his cell at the abbey in Germany.

Police were called after a sex-shop assistant saw him stuffing films up his habit in the town of Wuerzburg some 150 miles away, where he was often sent on church business.

He was chased through the town and tried to ditch a haul of four films – among them such classics as Nuns in Heat and Ladyboys do Bangkok – in a wastepaper bin."

Reading About the Fight Against Racism = Racism.

Kafka would be proud. Bizarro, too. More insanity at the link.

Reason Magazine - Hit & Run > Put Down the Book and Step Away From Your Co-Workers:
"At Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis (IUPUI), the image to the right is considered Not Safe for Work. Can you guess why? ...I'll let IUPUI Affirmative Action Officer Lillian Charleston explain:
The Affirmative Action Office has completed its investigation of [redacted]'s allegation that you racially harassed her by repeatedly reading the book, Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan by Todd Tucker in the presence of Black employees...

We conclude that your conduct constitutes racial harassment in that you demonstrated disdain and insensitivity to your co-workers who repeatedly requested that you refrain from reading the book which has such an inflammatory and offensive topic in their presence... Furthermore, employing the legal "reasonable person standard," a majority of adults are aware of and understand how repugnant the KKK is to African Americans, their reactions to the Klan, and the reasonableness of the request that you not read the book in their presence. "

Hidden Depths - Mike M, English Teacher, Gourmand.



Fellow Fukutsu ALT Mike M has been a whirlwind of culinary excellence of late, blogging all sorts of tasty dishes and making me hungry. Lasagnas and Pies and Salads and Salmon... Check it out.

Adventures in the Not-so-Orient: What's for dinner?

Hope for the Future - Students Kicking Ass.

Awesomely Civilly Disobedient.

Reason Magazine - Daily Brickbats > Penny For Your Thoughts:
"When officials at New Jersey's Readington Middle School cut the lunch period to 30 minutes, students got upset. Some of them showed their displeasure by paying the $2 cost of their lunches in pennies. Twenty-nine eighth graders received detention for their payments."

Arizona students stage hug-a-thon to protest 2-second hug rule detentions - Boing Boing:
"Shepherd Junior High School in east Mesa, Arizona has begun vigorously enforcing its rule prohibiting hugs of more than two seconds' length, and students have responded with a 'hug-a-thon'...

[From the comments, and too true.]

Wow... we are becoming more alienated from each other all the time. When I was a kid, campers hugged camp counselors, students hugged teachers, we hugged each other, there was AFFECTION all around and no PDA, pedophile, stalker, etc PARANOIA... Then we wonder why we have so many psychos and serial killers now. We've become a cold, paranoid country where "don't talk to strangers" has turned into almost "everyone is a sexmaniac, pervert, pedophile, stalker, and lunatic unless proven otherwise." This is horrible."

The right to keep and bear arms... but only sometimes.

Reason Magazine - Hit & Run > Are Guns on Campus Uniquely Dangerous?:
"As I said after the Virginia Tech murders, I am sympathetic to the idea that students and faculty members who are licensed to carry guns should be allowed to carry them on campus. "Gun-free zones" clearly do not protect people from gun-wielding maniacs (or ordinary criminals or scary ex-boyfriends) and may well attract them to places where they know their victims will be unarmed. Guns in the right hands can deter attacks or at least cut them short.

The downside of letting people carry weapons on campus is the same as the downside of letting them carry weapons anywhere else: Everyday arguments might escalate into deadly violence, accidents might happen, police (assuming they ever arrived in time) might mistake a law-abiding gun owner for an attacker, drunken gun owners could start whooping it up by wildly firing shots into the air, etc. These are the same arguments that gun controllers deployed in opposing the liberalization of concealed carry laws across the country, and the nightmare scenarios never materialized, even though 39 states now have nondiscretionary permit policies. On the whole, permit holders turned out to be remarkably well-behaved, committing crimes at a lower rate than the general population and rarely doing anything bad enough to lose their permits."

Look everybody! Torture! Yay!

Unbelievable. Just unbelievable.

Balloon Juice:
"A supervisor at a motivational coaching business in Provo is accused of waterboarding an employee in front of his sales team to demonstrate that they should work as hard on sales as the employee had worked to breathe.

In a lawsuit filed last month, former Prosper, Inc. salesman Chad Hudgens alleges his managers also allowed the supervisor to draw mustaches on employees’ faces, take away their chairs and beat on their desks with a wooden paddle “because it resulted in increased revenues for the company.”

Dear wingnuttia – torture isn’t about who they are, it’s about who we are. It’s about who we become. It’s about how torture eats away at a country’s soul. Take notes next time."

More victory in the War on Terror!

Balloon Juice:
"[Another reason not to torture] Because the evidence is inadmissible (unless you run a kangaroo court in Gitmo- then it is kosher!) in civilized societies:
The Canadian government is no longer using evidence gained from CIA interrogations of a top Al Qaeda detainee who was waterboarded.

According to documents obtained by NEWSWEEK, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the country’s national-security agency, last month quietly withdrew statements by alleged Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah from public papers outlining the case against two alleged terror “sleeper” operatives in Ottawa and Montreal."

"How to abandon your God."

How to abandon your God / Is it OK to switch religions, change denominations, even split from God entirely? Jesus says: Sure!:
"...maybe you go even further, as you realize that it's actually quite dangerous and small-minded to hew too closely to one narrow way of seeing/feeling/tasting the divine as you perhaps come to the slippery conclusion that it's all about co-creating God in your own way and, therefore, any religion that contains more than one person (that is to say, you) is deviously suspicious and apocryphal at best, unhealthy and destructive at worst. Or maybe that's just me."

Oh no, that's me, too. Well said.

And this bit had me cracking up...

"...Speaking of marketing, should we try to muster some pity for the Catholic Church? I mean, for so many reasons, but this time for how this study reveals that, were it not for a massive influx of immigrant families into America, its numbers would be not merely wavering and faltering, but tanking fast? Fact is, more people split from the Catholic Church than any other, so many that it turns out a whopping 10 percent of Americans are former (i.e. recovering) Catholics, and it's certainly easy to see why. Hell, even Christian megachurches have become more fluid and modern in their perspectives on love and sex and human evolution than the House That Dogma Built."

Holy Jesus, is NC retarded.

Reason Magazine - Daily Brickbats > If This Had Been a Real Emergency...:
"Jingbin Wang was teaching a foreign policy class at North Carolina's Elizabeth City State University when a man entered the classroom and pointed a gun at him. The gunman told him to close the door and ordered seven students to line up along a wall. The man said he had been kicked out of the school and threatened to kill one of the students. After about 10 minutes, campus police rushed in and subdued the man. Only later did Wang and his students learn that it was all just a drill to test the school's preparedness for a real gunman."