Saturday, May 30, 2009

Matt Taibbi on Obama and the Democrats - "He's kind of running out of time to rescue his all-important first impression."

Great article, worth reading in full.

The End of the Obama Honeymoon, Part II | The Smirking Chimp:
"The recent haggling over Guantanamo Bay is such classic Democratic Party politics, it almost makes you want to laugh. Almost, except that it's, you know, revolting. Eight years of Clintonian squirming was bad enough, but now we have Barack Obama, smoking Habeas Corpus and not inhaling it.

Why is the Gitmo decision classic Democratic Party thinking? Because when certain of us said we wanted Gitmo closed, we sort of meant a change in policy - we didn't mean just physically closing the plant, moving the prisoners elsewhere, and leaving the policies essentially unchanged. This is what this generation of Democrats does every time: every time they come to a fork in the road, they try to take it.

There's always some sort of semantic twist involved with their policies, an asterisk, some kind of leprechaun trick to get around doing the simple right thing. They're all for gay rights, and then once the lights come on, they've basically codified the closet by ushering in Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

They campaign against the war in Iraq, promise to get us out, and say they were against it all along -- and then once they get in power, they start using words like eventually and in 4-6 years and once the situation stabilizes. Later it turns out that what they meant by being against the war all along was their conviction that we should have invaded on a Thursday instead of a Tuesday, or some such bullshit..."

The Internet amuses me awesomely again.

"...and the lord god said unto him "Thou shalt finish cleaning out your file of amusing pictures." And it was good." - Book of Ridiculum, Chapter 3.

Training 341.

NEPA - 30m Rutten MMA wkout/boxing.

Been doing the 30m or so walk for NEPA, weather permitting, these last 3 weeks or so. Mostly because that's the primary "recommended" activity in my current regimen. But it's so freaking booooring. I'm not really a "go for a walk" kind of person right now, and I hate feeling bound by the weather, especially as that's happened a couple times this week. Frustrating. So I'm going to invoke the "and activities" portion of their "NEPA walks and activities" recommendation.

For the next 3 weeks of the program I'm going to do the Bas Rutten MMA Workout as my NEPA. Normally the Rutten wkout is an extreme ass-kicker, but if I just dial down the intensity and don't throw the techniques hard like usual, it'll qualify. Ratchet down the intensity/speed of the punches and kicks to about 25% and don't focus on power and snap as much as quickness, coordination and movement. Did it that way today and felt pretty good.

The Internet - awesomely defying expectations since 1977.

Fine moral lessons all around!

Curious about the Bible? Want to know more about Christianity? No better start than right here.

Eddie Izzard animation/LEGO mashups - the internet has found its purpose.

Creative, funny stuff.

"So Jesus walks into a dinosaur bar..."

I am not looking forward to getting my license redone at VA DMV this summer.

This doesn't help.

Hit & Run > Smiles Outlawed: DMV Makes Life Even More Miserable - Reason Magazine:
"This week the Virginia DMV announced that it's going to outlaw smiling in driver's license photos. Thought life at the DMV couldn't get any worse? Wrong again, America."

[btw this new rule has been put in place for a computer facial recognition system that isn't even in use yet.]

"The police often question him... just because they find him interesting."

Funny, clever.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Training 339-40... let's call it halfway to acceptable, shall we?

339 - inclement weather NEPA - 30m light shadowboxing/movement
340 - DB DL, Atlas Pushups, Lat pulldowns, Hand walkouts - NEPA 30m shadowboxing

So, onwards to the embarrassing stats and #'s...

Worth noting as both yesterday and today [2x just to make sure it's not a fluke] I weighed in at 92kg, which is only meriting a mention in that it's the lightest I've been in while I've lived in Japan, and that means for about the last 4 years or so. Honestly, it's probably closer to 5-5 1/2 years, as I was in pretty piss poor shape when I was in DC as well.

Previously, on two occasions in Japan, I'd only managed to get down to 93kg. The first time was probably about a year or so after I first got back to Japan, fall '06 or so, after about 9-10 months of hitting the dojo upwards of 2x a week. Of course, injuries from training at the dojo [neck/hip] in about January of the following year were what sent me into a downwards spiral of lethargy, laziness and junk food, until, a little over a year later, I had ballooned up to an all time worst - a depressingly obese, soul crushing and disgusting 103kg in the spring of '08.

So by the beginning of April last year I'd finally had enough and started to kick myself in the ass again. Training and trying to get my shit together.

...then fast forward to about the beginning of February of this year, and at the end of month 2 of the P90X program - that I burned out/punked out on - I had hit 93kg again. Burnout, then the Mrs leaving for the states and the associated psychological trauma :) then a series of beginning of year enkais and parties ended up pushing me back up to 97kg about a month ago. So that was a bit of a backslide.

[Which hasn't been my only one. Between backsliding, vacations and other nonsense - and if you do the math - working out since last April works out to about 390 days, but I'm only on training day 340... which ends up being, what? About 2 months of wasted time since I started? Not good enough...]

But then, 4 weeks ago I started to get back on track... and I'm down to 5kg and a new low. So, you know... good.

So why "halfway to acceptable?" Because, well, it is. As much as I know it's less what the scale says as what your body comp is [body fat %, lean mass, etc] - at this stage of the game the scale is a good general gauge.

So now 82kg is the new goal. Which puts me 10kg away. Which now seems entirely doable, since 92kg is 11kg down from my worst condition. 82kg is a decent # in that it's about what I was walking around at when I was in shape and in the military. [Weird, now that I think about it, that's still a bit heavier than I was in college... I'm pretty sure I boxed a couple times at 76kg... maybe it was 78kg? My memory is crap.]

I've got another 3 weeks on my current regimen... and then 4 weeks before I head back to the US for 3 weeks... so I'm already thinking what program to do and about how I'm gonna structure both that 4 weeks and "vacation." And what I'm gonna hit when I get back from that. [I'm thinking that'll be another run at P90X maybe... this time, you know, without quitting like a little bitch.]

So yeah, let's say a solid 82kg by Jan 2010. Let's go.

Hitler "Downfall" parody remix goes metatextual. It's genius.

EFF chairman makes a Downfall remix - Boing Boing:
"Hugh from the Electronic Frontier Foundation sez, 'EFF Board Chair Brad Templeton has made a brilliant Downfall remix. The video is interesting not just for being funny, but also for the troubles Brad had creating it. In order to avoid any DMCA violations, he had to make it without circumventing encryption, which naturally led to multiple headaches. We have a short post on the EFF blog about what this says about the need for DMCA exemptions for remix artists'"

Obama administration opposes protection for the blind in favor of corporate copyright holders.

USA, Canada and the EU attempt to kill treaty to protect blind people's access to written material - Boing Boing:
"At issue is a treaty to protect the rights of blind people and people with other disabilities that affect reading (people with dyslexia, people who are paralyzed or lack arms or hands for turning pages). This should be a slam dunk: who wouldn't want a harmonized system of copyright exceptions that ensure that it's possible for disabled people to get access to the written word?

The USA, that's who. The Obama administration's negotiators have joined with a rogue's gallery of rich country trade representatives to oppose protection for blind people. Other nations and regions opposing the rights of blind people include Canada and the EU.

...Here's where you come in: this has to get wide exposure, to get cast as broadly as possible, so that it will find its way into the ears of the obscure power-brokers who control national trade-negotiators.

I don't often ask readers to do things like this, but please, forward this post to people you know in the US, Canada and the EU, and ask them to reblog, tweet, and spread the word, especially to government officials and activists who work on disabled rights. We know that WIPO negotiations can be overwhelmed by citizen activists -- that's how we killed the Broadcast Treaty negotiation a few years back -- and with your help, we can make history, and create a world where copyright law protects the public interest."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Welcome to the Real World" at The Art of Nonconformity.

Brilliant essay. Worth reading in full at the link.

The Art of Nonconformity » Welcome to the Real World:
"Please note: the real world is not reality. It is not defined by facts. It is determined by the collective perception of unremarkably average people.

...Yes, I know it sucks to realize that everything you’ve been told is a lie, but consider the alternative – would you rather spend your whole life believing the lie? Don’t get me wrong, I know there are plenty of people who would choose the lie. They are the ones who say your ideas are unrealistic and you aren’t living in the real world."

Remember when Nazi Germany used to use kids to turn in their parents and neighbors?

Yeah, Godwin's... whatever. When it applies, it applies.

Daily Brickbats > Spy Kids - Reason Magazine:
"Local governments across Great Britain are using children as young as 7 years old, to spy on residents. The programs, which go by names such as Junior Eyes and Junior Street Champions, teach children to snitch on neighbors who put their garbage out on the wrong day or who don't follow recycling rules."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Almost like I work for a living.

Had an open class earlier this week, attended by a bunch of other teachers and a member of the Board of Ed. Pretty cool, as I really enjoy working with the teacher I taught with. He's always uber-organized and nice as hell. Plus, the kids are way cool. And honestly, I kind of get a kick out of showing that I do earn my keep here on JET. Swung by the BOE yesterday for something unrelated, and saw my mug plastered on some kind of after action paper that was distributed, so I snagged a copy for the nostalgia files, for when I'm old and can't do anything but reminisce.
From 2009-05-27

I don't know what the hell I'm doing with my hands here though. The lesson of the day was kakoshinkoke [ironically, I know what this verb tense is called in Japanese - it's the was + ing form - but I've no idea what that is in English... past progressive, maybe?]... but anyways, I don't know how that would require weird hand gestures. Don't even remember that.

Looks like I might be trying to foment an insurrection, which would be cool, but wildly innapropriate. Good times.
From 2009-05-27

Training 337-8.

337 - NEPA 34m walk
338 - Step Ups, DB Rows, Push Presses, Curls, RV Crunch, NEPA 32m walk

"...this year China will become the world's largest English speaking country."

Of interest to anyone who's ever taught English overseas, or those interested in internationalism, language or China. Pretty fascinating.

Jay Walker on the World's English Mania - "Jay Walker explains why two billion people around the world are trying to learn English. He shares photos and spine-tingling audio of Chinese students rehearsing English -- "the world's second language" -- by the thousands."

Though those chants by the Chinese are pretty creepy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Which is more evil?

The Agitator » Blog Archive » Morning Links:
"Cardinal who presided over Ireland scandal in which Catholic priests were show to have sexually abused young boys going back decades declares that atheism is the “greatest of all evils.”

"Off-duty Chicago cop who struck and killed a boy on a bicycle was allowed by other cops to sober up for four hours before they gave him a breath test."



Internet, is there no end to your happy fun times? - [the internet is still awesome.]

Urban Dictionary: Rule 34:
"Rule 34 - Generally accepted internet rule that states that pornography or sexually related material exists for any conceivable subject."

Where were they when I was in high school?

Overheard Everywhere | Dear Skanky Girl-- Call Me -- Love, Dave:
"Skanky girl sitting at outdoor lunch table: I wanna have sex on the bleachers, I wanna have sex in the classrooms, I wanna have sex in the principal's office, I wanna have sex in the teacher's lounge...

High School

Overheard by: Jacob"

Monday, May 25, 2009

Asians are geniuses.

Overheard Everywhere | It Makes Up for My Lack Of Boobs.:
"Short Asian chick to tall white guy: Oh my gawd, I've got it! So, heat rises, right? So it's probably all warm up there where you are, and down here with the normal people it's cold, and that's why you don't think it's cold, even though it's freaking freezing! Gawd, I love being an Asian! I come up with the most genius shit!

Muirlands Middle School
La Jolla, California"

It's all about insulin and carbohydrates... with a side side of incestous and tenuous public health science.

Interview with Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health. Much more at the link. | Eat Your Lungs Out While Getting Leaner:
" ...It makes absolutely no sense that your fat tissue wouldn't be regulated, and yet these people believe that obesity is all about calories.

TM: That's never been controversial?


TM: That carbohydrates make you fat?


TM: People don't just put those two ideas together?


These guys would also host the conferences, and then they would write up the conference proceedings. So they would take what was presented in the conference and they would filter it into what they believed was true.

The intersection of politics, diet and science.

Words of widsom. Full post at the link well worth reading. Funny too.

Fat Head » Calorie-Count Menu Laws - A Load Of Bologna:
"...As a libertarian, I believe government’s primary function – one of its few legitimate functions – is to prevent people from harming each other, whether by force or by fraud. (This was also the clearly-stated belief of The Founders, by the way.) But in the past century, this beautiful, freedom-promoting concept has become so mangled, people now believe government’s job is to force other people to give them what they want.

If a restaurant doesn’t share nutrition information with you, you are not being harmed – you’re just not getting what you want. If you believe you can’t make healthy choices without that information, you are free to take your business elsewhere. The restaurants know this, so it’s in their interest to keep you happy. That’s why nutrition information is easily available online and in pamphlets – because enough customers demanded it, not because politicians did.

But most customers are not clamoring to have the calorie counts shoved in their faces when they visit McDonald’s … and that’s exactly the problem: the nutrition nannies have realized that – gosh darn it! – many people don’t care about calorie counts and don’t bother to look at them, no matter how little effort it takes. So now the politicians want to force you to view the calorie counts, whether you like it or not.

...Fat people don’t eat “too much” because they’re unaware of how many calories they’re consuming, nor because they’re gluttons. They eat “too much” because if they don’t, their bodies run out of fuel and begin to starve at the cellular level. In fact, from an energy-balance standpoint, they’re not eating too much at all – they’re eating exactly the right amount.

Most fat people are insulin-resistant, so their bodies have to produce a higher level of insulin to keep their blood sugar down. Unfortunately, the elevated insulin also commands their bodies to store calories as fat, which means those calories are not available as fuel for the muscles and organs.

As a result, fat people have to eat more to avoid running out of fuel. If they simply eat less, their cells begin to starve. The urge to eat eventually becomes overwhelming...

So how can the restaurants help us lose weight? They can’t, and it’s not their job anyway. It’s ours..."

"Pause for a moment and consider: the US government. In America. Imprisoning Americans. Who might or might not have committed a crime. Forever."

Summing up succinctly and profoundly everything disappointing thus far in the Obama administration... he's not leading, or following through on what he promised, he's playing to the baser instincts of the populace. More fleshed out and detailed, at the link. Worth reading.

The Heart of the Matter: Our Warden-in-Chief:
"...But when a politician reverses himself repeatedly on core campaign promises and rhetoric immediately after taking office, as Obama has done, it's hard not to wonder what's driving him... in understanding what could cause Obama to make such a liar of himself regarding transparency, the rule of law, and civil liberties, we might learn something not just about the man, but about the system in which he operates.

The list of Obama's reversals is long, but in brief: amnesty for telecom companies that violated eavesdropping laws; abuse of the state secrets privilege; not releasing photos of torture at US-run prisons; continuing the Bush administration's plans to establish "military commissions" with lower levels of due process. Most outrageously of all, Obama now proposes that the government should be able to imprison people indefinitely without trial.

Pause for a moment and consider: the US government. In America. Imprisoning Americans. Who might or might not have committed a crime. Forever. Without trial.

...So now we come to why. Why would a guy who campaigned on promises of open government, the rule of law, and the importance of civil liberties and all that, a guy who actually taught Constitutional Law, suddenly position himself to become Warden-in-Chief?

I think it comes down to fear.

Americans have become so fearful of being Attacked by the Terrorists that the fear is increasingly distorting our politics. President Bush claimed his most important responsibility was to keep the American people safe -- despite the lack of any such provision in the Constitution. Dick Cheney distorts his oath of office to invent a responsibility to protect America rather than to defend the Constitution. Obama apes Bush in claiming to wake in the morning and fall asleep at night worrying about how to keep us all safe. Wouldn't it be great if these guys would read their job descriptions, as provided for in the Constitution, and try to govern accordingly?

So Americans are afraid. The fear is fed by demagogues, mostly on the right, who either share the fear or cynically exploit it. As the fear worsens, the level of safety the populace expects and demands from the government increases to unreasonable levels. But because perfect safety is impossible in life, politicians know that, like other forms of crime, terrorist incidents are inevitable. Faced with the impossible demands of the citizenry, what's a politician to do?

Well, basically you do every batshit crazy, extremist thing you can think of: torture (sold for consumer comfort as "enhanced interrogation techniques"); secret prisons ("detention facilities"); preventive wars ("self-defense against mushroom-cloud smoking guns"); warrantless eavesdropping (the "Protect America Act of 2007"); secret laws ("Our Playbook"); show trials and kangaroo courts ("military commissions"); pre-crime prisons ("preventive detention"). Then, when the inevitable happens, the politician can say to the angry, frightened public, "Look what I did to protect you. No one could possibly have done more."

If Americans have become insane with fear, even otherwise responsible politicians might conceive of their job as just managing the insanity.

And that's my take on Obama. I could be wrong, of course...

But what's an honest politician to do?

...Oh, wait a minute. A politician could, you know, lead.

...if Obama did actually want to lead, he could try something like this:
"My fellow Americans, there's no such thing as complete safety in this world. And that's always been okay for Americans. We're risk takers and we love liberty -- a combination perfectly summed up in Patrick Henry's 'Give me liberty or give me death.' There was a man who knew there were things in life more precious than safety.

"...Generations of Americans have fought and died to protect the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution. Are we really prepared to barter away the freedom they bequeathed us with their blood?

"No, we won't break faith with those previous generations of brave Americans. We won't allow the government to spy on us without warrants, or to govern under secret laws, or to imprison people without trial, or to torture. And if any of that puts us at some additional risk, that's fine. We're Americans. We embrace risk and we love freedom, and we'll be damned if we'll allow a bunch of medieval cave-dwellers to call our tune.""

Training 336.

DB Front Squat, Chinups, DB Bench, Ab Wheel
NEPA - 35m walk

Missed a protein shake today... poor planning. Averaging one missed a week [2 in 14 days...] Given I'm having 5-6 a day [so that's two out of 76] so I'm not gonna beat myself up, but I can't drop the ball too much. Defeats the whole purpose.

"Green Lantern Trailer" - Fanmade trailers are rarely any good, but this one was extremely well done.

I'd pay money to see this. But again, Nathan Fillion is good in damn near anything...

Tsuyazaki Jr High School Sports Day Festival '09.

There's always a plan. An entirely too comprehensive plan with a manga inspired cover.
From 2009-05-18

Logistically iffy up until the morning of, due to rain and winds, the decision was made to push through, in spite of the inclement weather. Japan, a contradiction in terms. No second thoughts about having kids stand outside in the cold rain all day, but god forbid at the slightest sign of hay fever pollen or, heaven forfend, swine flu and the whole nation becomes a nation of surgical mask wearing panic victims.
From 2009-05-18

Unfriendly skies.
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The band tries, in vain, to warm up while keeping their instruments dry.
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They maintain, of course, their genki cheerfulness. WITH umbrella, natch.
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March on of this year's teams.
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Students pledging to do their best [it IS Japan, after all.]
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Synchronized warmups. In Japan, if it's not synchronized, it's not worth doing.
From 2009-05-18

So many relays and running it is not to be believed. All day long.
From 2009-05-18

The thrill of victory...
From 2009-05-18

And the agony of defeat.
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Obstacle course time... [Sandy, that's Tominaga-sensei's nephew... great, great kid.]
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Cheering on their team. [The kids make these flags. It's pretty awesome.]
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Children huddling for warmth from the rain and wind. [It cleared up some in the afternoon, thank god...]
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3 legged race shenanigans...
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Group jump rope, par excellance.
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Two of my favorite kids. They are awesome.
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Tug of war prep...
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Rodeo! At least that's what I call it. The best part is the country shitkicker music they play during it. Brilliant.
From 2009-05-18

Returning alumni. Some I really miss, some... not so much.
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Soooo much running. But I dug this pic.
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The sports teams march on...
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Including the uber-cool/my favorite Judo club...
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...and kendo club.
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Then the sports team relay...
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...the boys in particular, are cool to see, because they make the Judo team lug that damn tatami mat all around the track. Awesome to watch.
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They're always dead fucking last, of course... but in Japan it's not about where you finish, it's about how you finish. And these kids rock so hard it's not even funny.
From 2009-05-18

The centipede race...
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...the winners celebrate.
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The girls charge for the "rope pull" event...
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...which gets surprisingly brutal. [Or not, depending on your view of the female of the species...]
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And then... KIBASEN! [Horse/Rider] Hands down, Japan's greatest contribution to dangerous Jr High School activities. It is brilliant.
From 2009-05-18

Combatants take the field...
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...and attack! You win by knocking the other guy off his "horse" and onto his ass.
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Pretty good pics, if I do say so myself, considering I snapped 'em all rapid-fire-one-handed while trying to make sure none of the kids landed on their heads.

And finally, teams White and Red prepare for their final sing/dance off. Seriously.

I really dig this taiko pic as White preps.
From 2009-05-18

White takes the field!
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And from there proceed choreographed chants, songs, dances, signage and psuedo karate.
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And then, team Red. Which actually won this year's Red/White battle...
From 2009-05-18

...mostly due, I think, to the force of personality, cheerfulness and enthusiasm of their team captain this year... who, as you can see, spared no effort.
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Little off with the camera, sadly missing the flying jump kick. Which was awesome.
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You have to check out the other post to catch their ripping dance number, complete with booty-shaking and pom-poms, I kid you not. It was cool.

End of the day.
From 2009-05-18

The spoils of victory.
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The farewell.
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And even the sun tried to peek through, at the end.
From 2009-05-18

Great day. I love the sports days... I took something like 600 pics that day. Managed to cull them down to something like 250. And then these are the best of the best, I thought. Though there's still a lot here. Gluttons for punishment can see them all here -