Thursday, April 22, 2010

'Earth Day' meet George Carlin. [Earth Day, you lose.]

Dreamt a full season of Friday Night Lights last night. Featuring werewolves, vampires, a PTA football team and a nerve gas attack. Weird night.

Any of that happens the last season, I'll be shocked.  Except for the werewolves.

Using transsexuals to teach the past tense in Japanese JHS.

I kid you not, a Japanese teacher prepped and used a lesson, including photos, teaching the past tense of 'is' using Japanese TV personality, and winner of the "Miss International Queen 2009" transsexual beauty pageant in Thailand - Ms. Ai Haruna.

Target sentences:
"This is Ms. Haruna Ai. She is a girl. She was a boy."
Straight genius. Sometimes I love Japan so much I want to cry.

Today's other discovery, finding a student wearing multiple WWJD bracelets, totally unawares of the meaning, paled in comparison.

The death of the JET Programme VS illegal outsourcing contracts.

As GEOS, another eikaiwa company goes bankrupt, the teaching of English in Japan once again, briefly, gets a slight bit of attention. And while I'm on the last 3 1/2 months of my 5 year odyssey in Japan, it still interests me, the directions in which things are moving. Honestly, I've avoided much of the "big picture" thinking of it all, because honestly I'm just a traveler passing through - even a 5 year traveler - and have preferred to focus on my own little world here in Fukutsu, doing what I can where I can and forging bits and pieces of connections and relationships with my students, teachers and community. I'm fairly well pleased with what I've done there. But still, the broader implications are interesting, trend wise.

Since I've been on the JET Programme in Japan, lo these 4 years 8 months, folks have been postulating on the death of JET as numbers are cut back and there is an increased move towards private companies to provide ALTs for schools in Japan. To some degree, it's certainly true. When I first got here there were three municipal JET Programme ALTs who worked for my Board of Education. Now, there's just me. And when I leave this summer, I'm getting subbed by another private company ALT. I can certainly see why in the world of ever decreasing budgets the straight up cost/benefit analysis doesn't lend itself to JET. Of the six JET Programme ALTs who've come through Fukutsu while I've been here, I've stayed 5 years, another for 4, another for 3, but the remaining three only stayed a year each. Factoring in transport, setup and the time/effort required to acclimatize a new gaijin to the land of the rising sun, you're hard pressed when looking at the numbers.

Plus, where I think JET is superior to company hired guns are all intangibles that don't really lend themselves to the straight up and down spreadsheet analysis of the bean counters. [Things like community participation, fostering authentic relationships and, yes, even the dreaded buzz word of 'internationalization.']

So outsourcing to the private companies looks like a tempting and cheaper alternative while at the same time eliminating the responsibility the BOE has for direct hires or JETs.

But things are slowly bubbling up that due to the complexity of regulations of employment and education in Japan a number of these outsourcing style contracts may be all kinds of illegal.

Let's sums up what they call the 'terrible triangle' pretty effectively:
"It's all slowly coming to a head. Nothing illustrates the situation better than this 2005 letter from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) acknowledging that gyomu itaku (outsourcing contracts) are illegal.

This notice was sent to all prefectural BOEs, and advises that they give preference to JETs, direct hires, and legal dispatch jobs over gyomu itaku with private dispatch companies. It also recommends that skilled ALTs be made permanent employees (正社員)

...This letter is the kind of thing that should lay the foundation for ALT positions to be decent jobs, but instead, what we have is a terrible triangle.

BOEs: Lazy and cheap. They want ALTs in classrooms but don't want any of the hassles that come with having to manage foreigners. They know that dispatch companies can be unscrupulous but use them anyway. They like the steady supply of cheap instructors but aren't smart enough to figure out why the teacher turnover is so high.

MEXT: The letter shows that they are aware of illegal hiring practices, but they aren't doing anything beyond issuing guidance. This particular letter was written in 2005, and clearly nothing has been done in the past 4 years...

ALTs: For some unknown reason, despite the information one can find on the internet about dispatch companies and teaching in Japan, teachers still insist on being taken advantage of by their employers. They work for low pay and no benefits because they'd rather not give up on their dream/fantasy/plan of living in Japan."
And with some ALTs complaining loudly enough, labor boards are getting involved now as well - Labour Bureau Rules On Kashiwa ALT Contracts - fuckedgaijin:
"The Mainichi has an interesting report on how the "ALT scam" is causing new problems for boards of education. Most foreigners are probably aware that one way schools reduced the cost of employing foreign assistant language teachers was to employ them from a staffing agency. This gave them a good deal of contract flexibility but greatly reduced the terms and conditions for the teachers by comparison with direct employment contracts. Increasingly, the Japanese media covered the negative impact this arrangement was having on the teachers and pupils. Unions pointed out that, in some cases, the contracts with teachers broke existing labour laws. seems that in Kashiwa City, Chiba. The Education Board has run into trouble. In short, if you employ someone as a temporary dispatch worker, not on a sub-contract basis, for more than three years, you have an obligation to make that position permanent. You can cancel the contract in time but you are not allowed to fill that position with another temporary employee for at least three months. The term has now started at 61 junior and middle schools and they will have no ALTs until July. The local labour bureau has ruled that the contracts were in fact dispatch arrangements and fall under that provision. Since the Board wants to avoid offering permanent jobs, they have no choice but to delay employing the teachers until they are in the clear. The Mainichi suggests that Kashiwa is unlikely to be alone in facing this issue"
So the cynic in me thinks that the bureaucracies are going to continue their short sighted cutbacks of JET and direct hires in order to save money in the short term. And then, like it apparently has in Chiba, it'll bite them in the ass and the folks who end up paying for it will be the kids who find their education interrupted and the ALTs who suddenly find themselves without work. I can only anticipate this'll get worse in the coming years as the English requirements for elementary schools increase [officially in 2011, though they've slowly been upping the tempo at my schools since last year] and while pretty much all the elementary school teachers I deal with are, without exception, awesomely nice folks and good people, they're kind of woefully unprepared for the new regs and requirements.

I don't know, there's all sorts of arguments to be made about English education in Japan, the usefulness of ALTs in general, and, well, the overall thrust of the test-centric Japanese mode of education - but I have a hard time seeing how any of this ends well without some serious changes in approach, on a systemic level.

"I thought that we could have nice things on the internet..." - The downfall of the Hitler 'Downfall' meme.

This, truly, sucks. Further evidence of the ignorance and obstinacy of corporations to understand the changing business models. They shall go the way of the horse & buggy, not understanding why they're dying the whole while.

First They Came For Hitler... - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine:
"The thousand-year reich of Downfall parodies has ended in ruins. Constantin Films, the German producer of the 2004 film Der Untergang, has compelled YouTube to start taking down the popular Hitler-rants-about-funny-thing-X clips.

If you're unfamiliar with these parodies, first, welcome back from the Russian front. Der Untergang (known to Americans -- and in fact widely known to Americans, solely thanks to the parodies -- as Downfall), features a scene in which a bunker-trapped Hitler harangues his inner circle (in German) as the Russians close in on Berlin. A few years ago, some inspired genius put on new subtitles in which the Fuhrer ranted about getting banned from Xbox Live rather than about the 11th-hour desertion of his generals."

And for when YouTube pussies out and pulls the clip above as well, here's another that explains why it should never happen in the first place.

Hitler, as "Downfall producer" orders a DMCA takedown from Brad Templeton on Vimeo

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Perhaps the final word on Pirates VS Ninjas.

"Ex-military leaders: Young adults 'too fat..." - BAD - "to fight'" - GOOD.

So if the youth are too fat, that's a good thing... that means we can strap a rucksack and some 782 gear on those fat-ass politicians who are more than eager and happy to send other people's children off to war to kill and die without any cost to themselves. Make the politicians fight the wars. They're the jackasses who vote for them.

[Following this recommended policy, I surmise a rapid and completely expected outbreak of peace worldwide.]

Ex-military leaders: Young adults 'too fat to fight' -
"More than a quarter of young adults are unable to meet physical requirements to join the military, creating a potential threat to national security, a group of retired armed forces leaders said Tuesday.

'It's not drug abuse, it's not asthma, it's not flat feet -- by far the leading medical reason is being overweight or obese,' said retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Norman Seip at a news conference."

"I don’t promote government failure, I expect it. And my expectations are met fairly often." - Radley Balko.

A Distinction | The Agitator:
"I don’t promote government failure, I expect it. And my expectations are met fairly often. What I promote is the idea that more people share my expectations, so fewer people are harmed by government failure, and so we can stop this slide toward increasingly large portions of our lives being subject to the whims, interests, and prejudices of politicians.
...When government fails, people like Dinauer and, well, the government claim it’s a sign that we need more government. 
...It’s a nifty trick. The right does it with national security. The fact that we haven’t had a major terrorist attack since September 11, 2001 proves that the Bush administration’s heavy-handed, high-security approach to fighting terrorism worked! But if we had suffered another attack, the same people would have been arguing that we need to surrender moreof our civil liberties to the security state. Two sides. Same coin..."

Good for Amazon, and as a former NC resident, just fuck right off, yes?

Amazon refuses to turn over customers' reading records to North Carolina tax department - Boing Boing:
"North Carolina's tax department wants to ding NC residents for sales tax on purchases from out-of-state etailers like, so they've asked Amazon to cough up a list of everything its NC customers have bought -- books, sex-toys, steaks, CDs, whatever. Amazon's taken the high-road, and has gone to court to protect its customers' privacy. Good on ya, Amazon!"

Sometimes protesting is hilarious.

Via The Funniest Protest Signs Of 2010 (PHOTOS)

Sinfest'll break it down for you.

Via Sinfest: The Webcomic To End all Webcomics

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Guru RIP.

Some of the finest hip-hop ever.

Gang Starr's Guru dies of cancer | News | NME.COM:
"Gang Starr's Guru has died of cancer aged 43.

Guru, real name Keith Elam, passed away yesterday (April 19) after a year-long battle with the disease. The rapper, who formed Gang Starr in 1985, had suffered a heart attack on February 28 then slipped into a coma."

Pop music unimaginative; nevertheless catchy. - "Axis Of Awesome - 4 Four Chord Song."

Why aren't you mad as hell?

Network. 1976. 34 years ago. We've learned nothing.

Damn good - "Dr Dre/Flobots Mashup - Forget About Using Handlebars."

Reason 3 is really the only one that matters. 3 Reasons to Legalize Pot Now! - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine:
"As the United States enters its 72nd year of marijuana prohibition, it's time to consider legalizing pot once and for all, for at least three reasons:
1. The tax revenue and savings in law enforcement costs...
2. It's going to happen anyway, so why delay the inevitable...
3. Keep Your Laws Off Our Bodies."

Cathcart Zen on politics, rock music.

Warren Ellis is insane; funny. I've decided to simply follow him blindly. Easier, that.

Warren Ellis » The Politics Of Cathcart Zen:
"“Politics,” declaimed Cathcart Zen from the battlements, “is the art of doing it to them before they do it to you... They’re all the same. No-one stands for election because they want to make the lives of strangers better. They’re all fucking Nixon — they just hide it better.

...Nixon understood that political power was only ever about screwing the other guy before he found a way to screw you. Voting is about nothing but installing the guy who’s more likely to screw the people you hate before they elect the guy who’s more likely to screw you. The whole point of a two-party system is to polarise entire countries into behaving like football fans. Dulls the thinking. Crushes original thinking. Anti-evolution. Creates herd mentalities. Not me.”"
Warren Ellis » The Rock Of Cathcart Zen:
"“Get this gutless shit out of my ears,” Cathcart Zen growled, smashing the radio with a roasted horse leg.

“Get this gutless shit out of my ears,” Cathcart Zen growled, smashing the radio with a roasted horse leg.

“But it’s popular,” whined Metz, the chef.

“So’s anal sex with schoolgirls. Doesn’t mean I have to listen to it while I eat. Fucking hippies and Seventies queens everywhere. In 1967 John Cale and I would drink a bathtub full of whisky and meth — each — and then go out into Manhattan, hunt hippies, and open up umbrellas in their cocks. This worthless, polite fucking noise offends me. Rock and roll is about sex and anger and declaring that you are alive, not making your fucking grandmother smile while she knits condoms with the Pope’s face on the side. It’s the hymns for the church of booze and pills and cigarettes and orgasms I’m talking about, not some walking colostomy bag in a bad hat singing through his nose about how he’s a waste of a good womb. It’s about being an epic fucking human being..."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Even 11 year olds know fear mongering.

Overheard in New York | Don't Let Your Kids Go to This Site, Dear Reader:
"Mother: Don't be embarrassed if I teach you some internet safety rule.
11- year-old girl: Yeah, by telling me the million and one things they can do to me.

--97th St & 5th Ave

Overheard by: NYC Kid"

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Repeat after me: I am free."

Watched this week.

UFC Fight Night - Florian v Gomi, Blue Mountain State, Doctor Who, Saturday Night Live, The Big Bang Theory [I'll watch any Evil Wil Wheaton eps], The Daily Show, House, The Middle, Modern Family, TUF, Breaking Bad, Justified, Human Target, Stossel

Bugger Her Orgy Port / Brr Get Up Ho. What? They're anagrams for my name.

[Robert Gregory Pugh & Robert Pugh]

Some of these were kooky.

Bro Thuggery Groper
Beer Groggy Hurt Pro
Beg Groper Rough Try
Beg Terror Rough Gyp
Hub Reporter Groggy - [Vic Sage, The Question, was a reporter in Hub City. Everything is comics.]

Anagram maker here -

"I'm the Doctor. Look me up."

Hell of a well done fanvid tribute. You know, I only started watching with Eccleston, and Smith's doing a decent job so far as the 11th Doctor, but I think this is going to be one of those things were Tennant is "my" Doctor Who. So to speak. [Music 'Handlebars' by the Flobots.]

I still say time traveler.

Time traveler caught in 1940 photo? - Boing Boing:
"The above photo was taken in 1940. Some people say the hipster-looking fellow with the sunglasses on the right side of the photo is a time traveler because his hair, shades, clothing, and camera didn't exist at the time. But Forgetomori does a fine job of busting this rumor, complete with photos. Curses!"

Obama administration does good, bad.

President orders more rights for same-sex couples:
"In a move hailed as a step toward fairness for same-sex couples, President Barack Obama is ordering that nearly all hospitals allow patients to say who has visitation rights and who can help make medical decisions, including gay and lesbian partners.

The White House on Thursday, April 15, released a statement by Obama instructing his Health and Human Services secretary to draft rules requiring hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments to grant all patients the right to designate people who can visit and consult with them at crucial moments."
Crime and Punishment in the Intel Community | Cato @ Liberty:
"To be sure, Drake broke the law—just as Daniel Ellsberg did when he leaked the Pentagon Papers. But it’s hard to say how the law here was working to protect national security, as opposed to the agency’s image. In any event, the contrast between the reaction to Drake and the non-reaction to other forms of lawbreaking makes the standard in effect for Bush-era misdeeds clear: If you illegally gathered information on members of the public, Obama’s DOJ would rather let sleeping dogs lie. If you illegally tried to get information to the public, you’d better lawyer up. From Main Justice to Fort Meade, message received."

This looks good - Brian Michael Bendis' new work - "Scarlet."

But I've always liked his earlier work - Torso, Fire, Goldfish, Jinx - more than his mainstream Marvel stuff...

C2E2: Bendis Turns "Scarlet" - Comic Book Resources:
"'Scarlet' is a story that Bendis has been working on for years, inspired, in part, by the film 'Network.' 'With that movie, Paddy Chayefsky was able to put together what was almost a parody story, and when it came out, it was like, 'That's crazy! That would never happen!' And now most of what happened in that movie has actually happened on television,' Bendis told CBR News. 'In that vein, I think, the way the world is, that if we woke up tomorrow to discover that someone started a revolution in this country, I don't think a lot of us would be completely shocked. I started to picture what the world would be like if someone did and how the media would react to it. And there it is. 'Scarlet.''"

World Gone Mad - agreeing [mostly] with Glenn Beck.

 Via Hell Freezes Over — Glenn Beck Makes Sense! - The Legal Satyricon

MD Cops beat student, lie about it, caught on tape.

All public servants should be on video in the performance of their public duties at all times.  Well, at least the ones with guns and arrest powers.

The only thing dumber than EULAs are the legal disclaimers you see on the end of some emails.

Video-game shoppers surrender their immortal souls - Boing Boing:
"On April Fool's day, the online game store added language to its clickthrough license that asked customers to surrender their immortal souls, though it offered a checkbox to opt out if you wanted to keep yours. 7,500 customers did not check the box.

...I'm guessing that a small minority of the customers didn't check the box because they knew it was all a gag, but I believe the majority didn't check it off because they didn't read the agreement. No one reads the agreements.

Because they aren't agreements. The legal fiction that you can create agreement merely by throwing tens of thousands of words' worth of arcane legalese at a customer does incredible violence to the noble institution of agreement. It's truly a plague of idiocy."