Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Long time no blog

I was too busy posting on forums!!!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

ADD N TO (X)

...are an electronica trio who have been around for a while now. They are pretty cool, here is their band profile page on their label's site (the label is aptly named Labels).

I didn't know about, ahem... their pornographic tendencies however, but they seem to do that with as much style and panache as they make music. Check out the following vids, they are awesomely cool and can be found lower down on that page where it says "LES CLIPS".

Plug Me In: Cute and peppy, woman-on-woman.

Metal Fingers In My Body: Appropriately more industrial-core, topic left to your imagination. Funny as hell.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Eric Smith's blog

Here is a much-needed Liberal Dose.

My friend Eric who runs that blog apparently got more attention than he bargained for. A Washington Post article referred to it and since then he has been getting on average a hit every five seconds!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Can she be the doctor too?

My goodness, ya'll simply have got to take a look at this. But promise to reserve judgement and watch it to the end.

http://www.rachelgetsfruity.com/flash.html

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Mail blog post

This is a test of the mail blog service.

I can send a mail that gets automatically posted here.

So I can be in the middle of nowhere and post a blog with my cell phone!

Pretty nifty, huh?

Ultra-Lifelike Robot Debuts in Japan

A hottie robot for you.

National Geographic article

Casio cell phone

I have had my cell phone for a while now but I haven't realized how much I appreciate it.

I use it for myriad purposes. It is my alarm clock. The alarm sound is a beautiful soothing one that doesn't start my day with a traumatizing cacaphony. I use the camera function in a big way. The photo quality is not as good as my digital camera but I am not such a photo-freak to begin with and this does the job. I extensively use the mail function. In fact I forward mails sent to my usual PC mail address to the cell phone so I usually see them there first.

I use the map and GPS functions sometimes. I extensively use a couple of the train navigation services where you type in your start and destination stations and it tells you the transfer points and times and fares.

Just today it came in handy twice. I was out driving and wanted to park and wasn't sure if a certain stretch on a given large street was OK or not. So I called my wife, who is pro at Tokyo driving, and tried to explain some of the unusual street markings there, but was not able to do so with sufficient clarity. Finally I just took a photo and mailed it to her cell phone and she was able to quickly understand what I was talking about.

Later I was walking by a parking lot that had a terrific discount rate from 6pm on. So I resolved that around 6pm I will move the car over to there. There was no way I would normally remember such a thing though, so with a few key presses I set up an alarm to go off. The alarm settings allow you to add text or pictures. When you specify you want to set a picture you can select an image file in the phone's memory (eg. photos you have taken so far) or you can go directly into camera mode, take your photo and come back out into the alarm setting. In other words you do not have to leave the alarm settings and go to camera mode and take the shot and save the picture and go back to the alarm. The navigation is so much more seamless than that. I am a fiend about navigation between functions in software and devices and I was quite impressed. So without breaking my stride I was able to take the picture of the parking lot sign that would flash on the screen when the alarm goes off.

All in all I was impressed and realized that a blog homage to this phone was long overdue.

Here is it is, in case you are curious.

http://www.mobileburn.com/news.jsp?Id=736

Friday, July 08, 2005

Freaky Forums

Check out the new forum I have set up.

http://www.arkaroy.com/yabb/YaBB.cgi

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Documentary Review: What I've Learned About U.S. Foreign Policy

Just saw this on DVD.

http://www.addictedtowar.com/dorrel.html

A great compilation of CIA-led sordidry since the creation of the agency in 1947.

A lot of this is stuff we have always known about American foreign policy antics around the world. Many of these are very public debacles, such as the Iran-Contra affair. However this compilation puts a lot of clips from different docuementaries into one place for easy viewing.

Some of the segments are narrated by pretty famous people. They included late activist Bill Moyer, perennial hottie Susan Sarandon, and even Kris Kristofferson.

When such stuff does not affect you (at least directly) it is easy to forget that a lot of bad shit going on, and it's important not to get complacent about it. A must-see for that reason alone.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Oh Canada

Hey Bush, why don't you learn from your neighbors up north?

Canadian MPs back bay marriages


Saturday, June 18, 2005

Most Lucrative Movie Franchises


Came upon a very interesting list, both in terms of the entries as well as the immense dollar figures.

Most Lucrative Movie Franchises

Like Hollywood, the game industry also loves sequels. At least the suits do, not so much the developers and designers.


Birthday today...

...actually June 17, just got home after some major celebrating, it being major one milestone-wise.

Still feeling pretty teenage wasteland though

Nothing changes, ever, thank God.


Monday, June 13, 2005

Where are the stoners now?

If you are in the vicinity of my age or a few years older you may recall a subculture during the mid to late 70s called the "stoners".

That word, along with the subculture it described, appears to have vanished in the mists of time.

It was mainly during my period between grades 5 to 8 (1975 to 1978) that I remember being aware of these folks. They were on average five years older than me. I even had a teenage babysitter whose crowd included such people.

So what are stoners you ask? I guess it is about time that I got around to describing them.

Well first of all the name says much of it. Not really hard stuff like heroin. Not fashionable stuff like coke or ecstacy (which didn't really exist then). Some acid. Occasional uppers and downers. But lots and lots of good 'ole fashioned THC, in the familiar forms of hash and grass.

Being from Canada, these guys (and girls) also drank copious quantities of beer. However their most blatant transgression: They smoked. That was probably the one major delineating factor starting around grade 7 or 8 that determined one's future high school clique. To this day at some level I continue view smokers as a different breed - more hidebound, tougher, stronger, scarier.

So what did these people look like? Well the closest thing in the contemporary era might be Axl Rose, at least in certain photos. Kind of plainly dressed, jeans, t-shirt, jean jacket. Long lanky hair. Invariably caucasian, and most likely of Nordic or Anglo-Saxon stock. The guys and girls dressed similarly and both had long (usually blond) hair, but there was no gender-bending. The guys were pretty tough and definitely not androgynous, and the girls were generally quite feminine. Often quite attractive.

The drugs and long hair may invoke the image of hippies, but those were the only hippy factors about them. Their politics were not especially liberal on the most part. The seventies were a selfish and aggressive decade as far as the youth were concerned. Strangely enough, the mid-level establishment (such as teachers and librarians and city councillors) seemed to be getting influenced by the liberalism of the previous decade but teenagers were listening to Led Zeppelin instead of Bob Dylan. Some were driving around in muscle cars. I remember some of them even being a bit racist. But on the whole they were sincere and honourable individuals. If any were racist it stemmed more from simply being a dork than out of principle. The Axl Rose meme just doesn't go away, does it?

Some were quite intelligent and were able to keep up their grades in spite of herbal influences in the opposite direction.

So what happened to them? Well by the time I hit high school in 1979 it was either punk/new wave or preppie. The stoners just vanished.

I sometimes wonder, what became of the stoners? Their age would be around the neighborhood of 45 now. What are they doing for a living? Many are probably working-class and have families and likely continue to drink copious quantities of beer. They are probably pretty mellow. Many others probably wear suits and are climbing the corporate ladder.

So many subcultures are celebrated on the web by people nostalgic for their youth - hippies, punks, new wavers, mods. I have yet to see a stoner website.

Monday, June 06, 2005

80s related

Just when I thought it couldn't get better than the song 1985 by Bowling for Soup, now we get a Breakfast Club reunion at the MTV Movie Awards.

I guess our generation is being remembered after all.

Coincidentally I was wondering only a few weeks ago what Molly Ringworm was up to these days.


Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Zen of Road Rage Management

I have always found driving in Japan very irritating. The narrow streets, the poor visibility of stop signs, the constant maelstrom of cars, bicycles and pedestrians everywhere you go.

At some level I was always cursing the situation. Particularly the poor city planning. I can't believe they allow some of these streets to be used for two-way traffic.

I first started driving here in the late 90s, then for a few years I did not drive. A new law came out whereby long-term residents cannot use an international license to drive here. I did not feel motivated enough to get my Japanese license. But my poor wife always ended up driving everytime we had a car outing and I felt bad so I gave in and got my Japanese license a couple of months ago. The frustration factor came back in full force.

But I finally had my long-awaited epiphany yesterday. I can't really describe it but it was a really deep feeling of just letting go. So what if the streets are narrow? So what if the majority of other drivers out there are dolts? Cursing the situation is like cursing the rain.

I realized that this constant level of irritation was a big drain on my energy and helped nothing. It is better to just accept it and do my part by driving safely.

There is a difference between knowing something in one's head and actually feeling it in one's bones. This was a case of the latter. I am almost entirely a head-oriented person so such moments are rare but precious.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Late night tennis

For the past few months my wife and I have been taking tennis lessons at a huge new indoor tennis complex near our station, around 10 minutes from our house by foot.

So far we were in a Wednesday midday class, starting at 12 noon. It is kind of cool to be freelancing and being able to play tennis at such a time on a weekday, it felt like a bit of a charmed life.

Anyway a new project is going to require me to be at a client site during the day and I had to change the time. Charmed lives are usually temporary. I figured if I am going to make it in the evening I might as well make it really late, since the purpose is that it doesn't clash with anything business-related. It turns out the last lessons are pretty darn late, starting at 10:40 pm and ending at 12 midnight, and I took that time slot. Kasumi has continued with the 12 noon lesson.

I had my first lesson at that new time slot yesterday and the atmosphere was quite different. In the daytime slot the other students were unsurprisingly mostly housewives. It was all pretty genteel and laid back. While very polite, it was also very impersonal.

In the new slot the people are younger and funkier. The girls are hyper and giggly. The guys seem a little more aggressive. There is one guy who looks like a computer otaku. A couple of the guys were just standing around talking when they should have been practicing. I overheard them saying some stuff about some of the girls in the class. I have a feeling things are not going to be just impersonal tennis practice here.

I never thought midnight madness would be a description for a tennis lesson.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Anti-Japan sentiment in China

It seems like our wonderful friends over at the Middle Kingdom are at it again.

For the past few weeks now there have been numerous violent anti-Japanese protests in China. I always knew things would one day come to a head between the two nations and this time it may be it. These protest coincide with a number of other thorny diplomatic issues, the biggest being access to oil.

The main topic of contention firing up the protesters is the latest history textbook approved by the Japanese Education Ministry. It glosses over the death toll of the 1937 Nanking Massacre.

Now admittedly, the Japanese have done a very poor job in acknowledging their WWII atrocities. While it is true they had two atomic bombs dropped on them the fact remains that some of the stunts they pulled outclassed even the Nazis in sheer barbarism. There is a Japanese trait of avoiding that which is unpleasant. I know this is a gross generalization but it is an honest impression I have after having spent the past 14 years here.

However for the current state of bad relations I am placing the blame not on Japan, not even on the protesters, but squarely on the Chinese government. Through their propaganda they have raised an entire generation of Japan-haters. Like all totalitarian systems the Communists have always needed a scapegoat for the ills of the nation. And Japan, with its WWII brutality followed by its emascualated avoidant wimpiness since, is a scapegoater's wet dream.

It is exactly the same way that totalitarian mullahs and kleptocrats in the Middle East have always diverted the attention of their populace with tales of the evil deeds by the U.S. and Israel. Of course the fact that the U.S. and Israel are not exactly innocent makes the job easy for them. But it is a dirty dastardly diversion.

I have seen the Chinese propaganda machine first hand during a trip to Beijing. I was in my hotel room watching the news. It was the English version, basically a voice-over. Anyway, if you were to see that news program in a western country you honestly would think that it was a parody of news in a dictatorship. I have never heard a news program with so many adjectives spewed by the reporters.

One of the news items showed a group of convicted drug dealers blindfolded and handcuffed, being paraded around a public space. The reporter righteously described how the "horrible" drug dealers were then "swifty" executed after the parade.

It is pretty scary when you consider this is the number two economic power in the world.

Japan really has nothing to gain by modifying its textbooks, owning up to WWII atrocities or even trying to negotiate with the Chinese for better relations. They will be scapegoated either way. It similar to the principle that there is no point in negotiating with terrorists. Until they stop whatever crap they are pulling you have to hold fast against them.

Chinese culture has an obsession with the concept of "face". Saving it, not losing it, gaining it, whatever. I sincerely hope to see them with major egg on their face by having most nations boycott their Olympics in 2008.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Did he wear shinpads?

I knew that there simply HAD to be some connection between my blog post about having been a Catholic in a previous life and the one about getting banged up playing street hockey.

Now it all makes sense.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

First all-nighter in ages

I have been a good boy working very hard the past week.

I even did my first all-nighter in something like half a year. To think how common they used to be in my twenties. Scarrrry! Lots of thrills and chills, but larfs and sex are better. Why does that Rocky Horror album cover continue to dictate my vocabulary for almost 25 years now?

Thinking of signing up for Everquest again, but I have too many other damn things to do/study this year, no time even to do those AND earn money.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Terry Schiavo on the way out

I have done further reading of various articles on the Terry Schiavo case. Seppo's comments to my blogs have also been informative and gave me additional perspective on the matter. Perhaps I miscalculate the strength with which Americans insist upon the seperation of the three branches of government, even when the results run counter to their own wishes. I think that kind of consistency is great. This may be why many conservatives have been lukewarm in the effort to keep her alive.

Of course in Canada we also value the seperation of legislators and judges, but there is also a strong notion of legislators working for their constituents. It is not unusual for people when in trouble to call their local MP. Politicians can use the bully pulpit to get results that ordinary people would not be able to, what with work and family commitments and limited resources.

Anyhoo, as much as the decisions about Schiavo make legal and political sense, they are still pretty grisly in their results. An active decision to starve someone to death just seems perverse. As much as people argue that she is effectively dead, the fact is that she is not literally dead (although it might well happen even as I type). May her passing be painless as possible. Not knowing what she is going through adds to the macabre nature of this death.

I am tempted to say something like why not just shoot her in the head and get it over with, but I won't. Or did that count?

Speaking of my siding with the cons now and then, I think I tend to be anti-abortion except in cases where the mother's life is in danger. I admit to have given very little thought to the issue and my opposition is just visceral. Will definitely need to study it more, starting with Roe v Wade. It always seems to be such a barometer between liberalism and conservatism, and I am so unabashedly liberal on most other matters. I am firmly in the lib camp in opposing the death penalty. At the end of the day I just have a problem with any kind of legal killing.

Maybe I was Catholic in a previous life?


Monday, March 28, 2005

Pain-induced procrastination

Monday morning trying to get some work done. Can't freaking focus.

Too many aches and pains from street hockey yesterday. In the past three weeks I have been hit in the shin, in the EXACT SAME goddamned spot, four yes four times! Can't believe it.

Coincidence? Or could it be the way or position that I get in front of someone when they shoot? Or the fact that as bruises get bigger they are more likely to be hit? :D

I'll be freaking forty this year, maybe I need a quieter hobby, like smoking cigars or something.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Abba to Zappa?

So I went and reorganized all my CDs by alphabetical order for the first time.

Until now they were always clumped together by genre in a pretty casual way. But I have been finding it hard to find stuff. So a change was due.

Having interacted with my CD rack from a genre-based viewpoint so far, the new order (including New Order, sorry!) seems kind of funny. Completely unrelated CDs are now next to each other.

Some notable examples:

The Who followed by Wu-Tang Clan

John Lennon followed by Limp Bizkit

The Jam followed by Wyclef Jean

Aerosmith followed by Aqua

Lynard Skynard followed by Bob Marley

Chumbwumba followed by Eric Clapton

Pet Shop Boys followed by Peter Paul and Mary

Simon and Garfunkel followed by Siouxie and the Banshees

The Doors followed by Dream Warriors (not as far removed as one may think)

but the grand prize has to go to....

Fatboy Slim followed by Fats Domino



Sacramento Bee article


A SacBee article about the Terri Schiavo case.

It really describes how I instinctively viewed this case.
In fact I may have even had something like the title
verbatim in my head when I thought of her parents.

Unfortunately you need a SacBee registration to view it
so I had to copy the whole damn thing here.


A joy, not a burden
Yuba family with a teen on feeding tube says: Let Terri Schiavo live

By Blair Anthony Robertson -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PST Friday, March 25, 2005

Her name is Amy Callahan. Three weeks shy of her 14th birthday, she's 4 1/2 feet tall and weighs 47 pounds.

And like Terri Schiavo, Amy survives with the help of a feeding tube, which channels liquid nutrition and distilled water directly into her stomach.

Early Wednesday, Amy's parents drove her 45 miles from their home outside Wheatland to Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento because their only daughter was moaning and writhing for reasons unknown. It has been that way on and off for most of her difficult life.

Amy was born with Edward's syndrome, a rarer and more severe form of mental retardation than Down syndrome. Only 10 percent of babies with the genetic defect survive their first year.

As the debate over Schiavo's right to live or die continues to divide the nation, parents like Lowell and America Callahan have emerged to argue for continuing the Florida woman's life, saying they know better than most what she and her parents are enduring.

"Society thinks these children are a burden. Until you have one yourself, you don't realize it's a labor of love," said America Callahan, whose unusual first name is a family legacy going back generations and continues with Amy, whose real name is America.

"She has taught us so much and she doesn't even speak. She has taught us compassion. She has taught us appreciation. She has taught us unconditional love."

A visit Wednesday to the pediatric intensive care unit found America Callahan alone in the room with her daughter, holding Amy the way she has held her for so many years, whispering to her and telling her how special she is, that the pain she is feeling will go away soon.

"Hey Peanut Butter, Mama's here," she said in a singsong voice. "What's the matter? It's OK. We're going home. Easter's coming Sunday. Mama's here. Mama's right here."

Amy moaned and writhed and fidgeted. The feeding tube connected to her stomach leads to an elevated bag containing a nutritional formula called PediaSure.

"This is what we feed her," America Callahan said, holding up one of the pop-top cans. "She gets five of these a day. If she doesn't get fed, she knows it. She suffers."

The Callahans also have six sons and two adopted children. Amy's medical costs are split between the family's private health insurance and Medi-Cal, the combined federal and state health insurance program for low-income families or individuals.

When Callahan was four months pregnant, doctors told her that the baby she was carrying would be badly deformed and have almost no chance to survive. They urged her to have an abortion.

"I didn't believe in that," she said.

Said Lowell Callahan, "We were told she would die within three days. Doctors don't know everything."

Amy was born down the hall from the hospital room she was admitted to Wednesday. If all goes well, she could be home by the weekend, her mother said. For whatever reason, she has beaten all odds. She is unable to walk or talk or communicate in any traditional way.

But her mother says Amy has known joy often enough, that she perks up when there is music in the room or when someone reads to her. At church, she often tries to sing, letting out an impossibly long, monotone hum.

Regarding Schiavo, America Callahan says, "I think it's terrible what they are doing to her. I have been crying and on my knees for this poor woman."

On the other side of town from the hospital, 70-year-old Pat Brown feels much the same way. His son, Ryan, has survived on a feeding tube for nearly 15 years, since the young man survived a car crash that killed his girlfriend and another woman.

Brown cares for his son, whose medical costs also are covered by private and public insurance, at his Sacramento home, noting that Ryan, now 33, still has plenty of life in him. When the TV is on, for instance, he seems to react to comedians like Sinbad and Eddie Murphy.

Both families say that their children have no more brain function than Schiavo, but to them, that's not the point.

"I know he's in there. He just can't get out right now, maybe never," Brown said.

"I still have a son and I love every single minute I have with him," he said. "He has never had to wonder if his father loves him."

Brown's former wife, Lucy Brown, lives nearby and is also devoted to caring for Ryan.

Pat Brown says the debate over the Schiavo case hasn't focused enough on the plight of her immediate family.

"If you pulled the plug on my son, he wouldn't give a rat's patootie, I'm sure," he said. "But if you pulled the plug, you would pull the plug on me."

Copyright © The Sacramento Bee


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Economic self-interests?

Since the victory of the Bushies in last November I have noticed one question come up in several liberal blogs and editorials: Why do so many Americans vote against their economic self-interest? After all, there are so many poor and lower-middle class voters, in poor and lower-middle class Red States.

As Seppo pointed out in one of his comments to this blog, I think the whole victory-by-moral-values schtick was overdone by the media. I doubt many Americans would put such factors irrelevant to their own lives as gay marriage (as if the Republican position is the moral one in the first place!) at a higher priority than their own economic interests.

I think there is something deeper in our North American culture and mindset at work here.

I once read (forget where) that Europeans were baffled by our North American-ism of taking drives around rich neighborhoods and fantasizing about the big houses. As I kid I sometimes bicycled around rich neighborhoods in the summer, knowing that I would live in them one day. (Needless to say I had no inkling I would end up in Tokyo but that is another issue...)

Somewhere deep down we think we have a shot at the lifestyles of the rich and famous. I think it is an essential part of who we are. Ours is a culture of aspiration.

So voters do not want to help the less fortunate mainly because they can't believe or accept that they may potentially be one of the less fortunate themselves.

I think we have a "chutzpah" tradition, where the little guy acts big. This bluffing stands him in good stead and he gets the job and the girl. We idolize this archetype in our movies, books, folklore and mythology.

On an individual psyochological basis this is a very positive and healthy trait, much more so than thinking of oneself as a victim, needless to say.

However when we collectively think that way there is a risk that the basic social safety net can unravel. The fact is that not everyone is going to be wealthy and successful. Without that safety net many people (possibly a scarily high percentage) will fall through the cracks. It is already happening.

But I am not worried, maybe I can strike gold before it happens to me!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Florida incident kinda sick

Played street hockey in Komazawa koen. Did not hurt myself too badly this time.

Been on the computer all the rest of the day.

That Florida child-abuction rape-murder incident was pretty creepy. I had seen the father on CNN a few weeks back, appealing to the nation to help search for his daughter. He was cautiously optimistic that she would be found.

Kind of depressing to look back at that now, after the end result.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Condi greeted by famous American


I didn't follow the details of her visit with the Japanese Prime Minister, but I wonder if she expected a Hawaiian-style sumo hug from a compatriot.


Thursday, March 10, 2005

Back to square one

PROBLEM SEEMS TO HAVE RETURNED. WILL NEED TO CALL NIFTY.
Uninstalled Yahoo Messenger to see if this changes anything.

Working... for now at least!

  • Internet seems to be working fine.
  • Verified that I can also connect to iNAGO Japan and Canada VPNs and also access the internet simultaneously.
  • Continue to watch out. If things do seem OK then will have to call NTT and report screwy router.

Called Nifty

Problem happening a fair bit, especially in Yahoo! Groups.

Called @nifty光ファイバー専用サポートセンター
0120-539-240
Spoke for a long time with Aihara-san, good guy.

  • Try setting primary and secondary DNS in router.
  • Still getting the problem.
  • He asked if problem is limited to US sites.
  • Confirmed that it also happened on Yahoo! Japan
  • He suggested two possibilities: The router is buggy or there is a problem in some remote server somewhere.
  • To verify the router I disconnected it and connected my PC directly to the modem.
  • Had to add a new Nifty connection in Network Connections of the OS.

NTT Support guys arrive

  • Difficult to reproduce problem.
  • On both phone jacks - office and kitchen - they find something called a condenser.
  • They remove the condensers.
  • Still difficult to reproduce but happens.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Called NTT Support Line

  • The guy said to compare both PCs, mine and Kasumi's.
  • If both machines have the problem then pull the plug on PCs then router then modem, wait at least 10 min, turn on modem then router then PCs, and have a look.
  • If it is still bad then call again.
  • Still bad, so I called again. Scheduled support personnel to visit tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Fascism by Consensus

It is well-known that in Japan, there seems to be an ingrained tendency in society to put the squeeze on people. As someone who has lived here for 14 years now, this blog finally gives me the chance to vent about it. It is not going to be the last time either. I think I will have to keep writing about it and writing about it till I get it right.

If this squeeze was merely a case of the rich oppressing the poor, or the strong oppressing the weak, well, I could intellectually deal with it. It has been the central ebb and flow of Western culture for the past few centuries right now. Colonialism, independence struggles, communism, fascism, wars both cold and hot, politics, philosophy, art, sex, the workplace, relationships, you name it. The struggle between the powerful and the powerless - not to mention struggling to know in which camp you stand from situation to situation - is part of our very life force.

Japan is unique in that it is the common people who are oppressive. It is not the politicians or the greedy corporation. It is the average working person or the average housewife.

You do not hear people talk much about oppression. Instead, typical conversation centers more on clamping down on he who is causing a nuisance. Nuisance is not what we think it is. What we may see as a small transgression or inconvenience is often viewed as a major disturbance.

Some examples: A foreigner in an apartment building puts out his garbage on the wrong day, a male office worker goes home early because his kid has a cold (“Is his wife incompetent?”, they whisper behind his back), a female office worker presses for greater accountability from her managers, a flamboyant wealthy young entrepreneur tries to buy a majority stake in a moribund but famous media company…

Nuisances all. But no worries, the average middle-class paragons of mediocrity who make up the vast majority of this country will put these people in their place, and good!

I hate to use this old saw but nothing describes my current sentiment better – in Japan the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.

Motivational Posters

I hate corporate insincerity. A lot can be written on this. For now let us just focus one obscure little corner of it.

Take those motivational posters and calendars that say have these messages about making great effort in your work, setting goals, and related platitudinous blather. Meanwhile your boss is an incompetent and mean-spirited dunce who doesn’t know his ass from his elbow. Why doesn’t he go all the way and make a fool of himself and tell his staff that cleanliness is godliness? Or make his accounting section squat on the floor chant like the Cub Scouts, “We’ll do our best! We’ll do our best!” Do your best at what? Inflating the balance sheet?

I much prefer the slacker posters saying things like why do it today when you can procrastinate. Or telling you to stop and smell the roses, and if it is fun then just continue smelling the roses.

Companies will bring in some management consultant who will give a stock speech about work-life balance, and cookie-cutter statements on people being the most valuable resource. Then come next Monday management is back at its predatory ways.

I am not knocking a sincere love of excellence. I certainly have it (whether I always achieve it or not is a separate issue!). However, motivational posters and platitudes are just plain annoying if the company does not follow up on its side of the bargain.

Monday, March 07, 2005

B FLET'S connection is touch and go

Sometimes cannot connect to the internet. Sometimes I can but images are not downloaded.
No predictability. Same link, clicked a few seconds later, connects fine. Sometimes have to wait several minutes.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Hockey hurts

Played street hockey at Komazawa koen.

Really banged up my shin, particularly the left one.

I was hit in the same goddamned spot, TWICE, by sticks. And further up that same left shin I took a slapshot.

We have a rule against slapshots. But in the heat of the moment...

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Soft

Went klubbing with Tanaka at a place called Soft, off Roppongi-dori near Shibuya.

Really nice cute peppy little place, all white shiny walls, pretty artsy.

A few performance art pieces and some dub. Then this great DJ comes on, playing all these oldies. I couldn't believe it. Phil Spector, The Crystals, all awesome stuff.

It was a pleasure to hang out with Tanaka that evening, one of the last true intellectuals. A cosmic dude.

All the young dudes, carry the news, boogaloo dudes, carry the news...

Yes, he is one of the few people I know in Japan with whom I can discuss Mott and the Hoople and that whole glam period.

Drank endless gin-and-tonics.

Left the place as dawn was breaking, took an early train from Shibuya to Ikebukuro. Did not want to wait for the train home so I took a taxi back.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Sushi burgers


In Tokyo I often eat at kaiten sushi restaurants.

These are the places where patrons are seated around a large oval-shaped counter and plate of sushi revolve on the counter on a conveyor belt. When you see something that catches your fancy you grab it. You can also shout out your requests and the sushi chefs will musically shout back something like “one freshwater eel coming up!”

My wife, and other Japanese women I have known, have told me that they have never been to a kaiten sushi. Indeed, you don’t see many women there by themselves. The shouting of orders, the repeating of orders by the chefs, and the occasional humorous interactions that follow are perhaps more in tune with a male kind of camaraderie.

Anyway, yesterday I walked past a new HUGE kaiten sushi place. I was looking for a place to have lunch and was curious about this place so I walked it. It was unlike any others I had seen. The counters were very large and there were about four of them in the restaurant. There were entire families there, not just the usual cadre of men by themselves. In such a large place you would have to shout your requests pretty loudly to be heard. With so many customers a veritable cacophony would be the inevitable result. So they got around this problem by placing intercoms in front of each customer!

But the most striking feature was the menu. While the orthodox sushi bar fare was available – and really good, I may add – there were some pretty bizarre items. There were cakes going around on the conveyor belt, a nice-looking chocolate cake, a sedate cheesecake and a gaudy pink strawberry-icing cake. They also took freedoms with the sushi. They actually had strips of roast chicken or roast pork on little beds of rice. But what really took the cake (no pun intended) were the miniature hamburger patties on rice. They were cute and looked good. I was in the mood for the standard fare and put a rain check on the weird stuff.

Needless to say, I will be back.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Conservatives and Racism

A couple of weeks back, Michael Jackson’s parents, Joe and Katherine Jackson, spoke to ITV interviewer Daphne Barak about how they were dealing with the recent travails of their son.

Joe told Barak that he believed that racism played a part in why America had turned against Michael.

Predictably, commentators at Free Republic and various conservative blogs began their knee-jerk diatribes against Joe’s accusations of racism.

A thought occurred to me. Maybe the right wing bashes political correctness because for them such bashing is the next best thing to out-and-out racism. Since the latter no longer works in America, this is the only way they can express their basic intolerant impulses.

These are the people, had they been adults in the early 60’s, who would have voted against integration of schools. In the 30’s, they would have been the ones supporting broad-based Jim Crow segregation. In the 1800s, they would have been the good-ole boys supporting slavery.

I am not saying that every single conservative out there is a racist but I suspect that a large number of them would be in slightly modified circumstances. Conservatism in a nutshell is the worldview is that life is a battlefield and you have to bunker down and look out for number one. You could be a perfectly nice person at heart, and many conservatives I have met are, but as long as you hold this worldview you are going to be more susceptible to racism and xenophobia than someone whose worldview is based on kindness and inclusiveness.

As for Joe Jackson’s comment? I certainly do not believe that racism is to blame for all of Michael’s troubles. He has shown incredibly poor judgment. He may be guilty as charged. But I think it is true that when a black man in America is successful, wealthy and powerful, it helps him to be polite and deferring to the establishment like Colin Powell. If he speaks his own mind, there will often spring up a movement to take him down. So many famous blacks actually end up doing jail time. How many famous white people end up in the big house, besides Martha Stewart?

At the end of the day what really got me was the alacrity with which any accusation of racism gets attacked by the right, without any discussion of the possibility that there may actually have been some racism in the situation.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Flu epidemic

Man, I can't seem to get better.

One thing after another since I returned to Japan in mid-January. For a while I was sick with the flu, a bit of an epidemic going around.

Then as I started feeling better it came back. After shaking that I was OK for a while.

Then last weekend I wanted to see a movie in Ikebukuro. My usual course is to have lunch at this gaudy sparkly restaurant called Milky Way that is packed with high school kids, then go to the movie theater on the Sunshine Dori street. Well I order my food, this really good Italian-style gratin dish, and while I am waiting I feel this quesy feverish sensation come over me. For the rest of my meal I was feeling slightly cold with this subtle stiffness in my muscles and bones. That goddamn flu-like feeling again. So I did the smart thing, skipped my movie and went home to bed.

Then over this past week I started getting this inflammation on my upper right gum. It got worse and worse and now it is really awful. The right side of my head hurts. The dentist gave me medicine and told me to take it easy. I don't know if this has anything to do with the flu but the dentist did say that flus and colds and fevers can make one susceptible to gum infections.

I am getting tired of taking it easy weekend after bloody weekend, I wanna party but I can't.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Gaijin can't aim their wang?

In Japan I find that whenever there is something slightly amiss in a public space and foreigners have been observed in the area, suspicion immediately falls on us.

For example a number of foreigners work in the building where my main client's office is located. I guess the cleaning staff have complained of having to to, well, go beyond the call of duty when cleaning the washrooms. So guess what, warning signs go up in English.

Actually, to their credit the signs are bilingual, but the English portion is definitely more prominently displayed. And I have to say that I am impressed by their command of English, this is way above and beyond the level you normally encounter here.

In fact I doubt I could even have come up with this!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Suez Canal Crisis

One thing I love about working at home is that there are some TV shows that you can only see during the daytime. Stuff that you are not so impassioned over that you will record them, but that you are happy enough to give snippets of attention to as the TV does its thing.



This week on two consecutive mornings I saw bits and pieces of a multi-part program on Discovery Channel on the Suez Canal. It was nothing short of fascinating.



It seems that 50 years ago, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower was France and France was George W. Bush. The British and the French had an evil imperialist agenda in the Middle East and America was the voice of moderation and respect for other nations’ sovereignty.



The British and French, with Israeli cooperation, launched an attack on Egypt with the motive of ousting (“destroying” was a word that was also bandied about) the legendary Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser and take control of the Suez Canal. With Israel initiating the attack, the plan was for the British and the French to follow suite under the pretext of “separating” the opposing armies and establish a presence in the Canal Zone.



The U.S. was highly opposed to the plan. Diplomatic tensions between America and its European allies ratcheted up.



Finally, the day arrived, October 29, 1956 to be precise, and the Israeli invasion began. British and French forces began bombing Egypt on October 31.



The United States then decided to put some teeth behind its rhetoric and threatened to dump its holdings of British currency, which would cause the value of the Sterling to collapse. This threat put the screws on the British economy and the Egyptian operation came to a halt.



I actually knew about this Suez Canal story, I just had not thought about it for many years. However it seems so relevant now. With America transmogrifying from republic to empire, I wonder why it is not brought up more frequently in the media. This lack of interest in history and the resultant collective amnesia may be why humanity seems to progress only to regress, progress again, regress again, ad infinitum ad nauseum.



If only the U.S. could remember its role as a voice of reason in the world.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Tech Tuesday

As usual, useful and interesting news on Yahoo! Tech Tuesday.



Today was the eminently relevant topic of XP tweaking. There were three articles specifically: Tweaking Windows XP, Safely Disabling XP Services and XP Window Dressing.



The first was the main article containing general advice on OS optimization. The second focused on the Service Control Manager and a few services that you may consider disabling. The second was really focused on appearance tweaks to speed up performance.



Now, I have to say I have tweaked and re-tweaked my OS for the past couple of years now, and these articles taught me nary a new thing. Particularly the last was sounded from its title that it might involve some under-the-hood kind of black arts but this was normal documented Windows stuff.



Still if you are one of those people who usually has better things to do than OS optimization I suggest this trio of articles as a quick and easy starting point. It could save you a lot of time in the long run through improved PC performance.



Sunday, February 06, 2005

Cosby going off the deep end?

I spent the entire day inside except for a short walk outside. Never-ending administrivia on the computer and with receipts and bills and such nonsense. It's almost like this kind of stuff piles up faster than you can keep up with it. I'm trying to stay on top of it all as it happens so I don't have to rush at tax time next year. But aren't I admirable, already thinking ahead to tax time of next year!



This is old news but today I was net-surfing Bill Cosby's infamous "Pound Cake Speech" at the NAACP. I had not followed it closely at the time it happened. Among other things he had complained about black kids having names like Shaniqua, Taliqua and Mohammed, and all of them being in jail.



While that speech may have had some good points, I can't help but wince at his griping about people's names. Give me a break, these kids might not even be responsible for their names! And so what if they are? I assume it's the being in jail or getting lousy grades or whatever that is the real problem. What if someone had a name like Mohammed or Kareem or whatever and was a straight-A student?



And worse, what if such a kid were to hear this speech? It's likely that until that point he held up Cosby as a figure of great respect. Then to be berated merely for having this kind of name would doubtless feel like a real poke in the eye.



Wooooweeee!

Friday, January 14, 2005

Movies watched in Canada

Sitting on the plane on the way back Tokyo. Again, economy class hell. Thought I will jot down notes of the movies I watched during my time in Canada. I am forgetting so much about the movies I watch these days, I had better get into the habit of writing them down.

Ararat

Directed by Atom Egoyan

A movie-within-a-movie.

In modern Toronto a group of Armenian-Canadians are making a documentary drama based on the 1915 Armenian massacre by the Turks. Various interpersonal conflicts among the cast members are portrayed, along with the emotions that inevitably rise up during such an exercise.

This movie did not try to preach or propagandize. Its objectives seemed to be rather to inform and to stimulate.

Much of the public is ignorant of the fact that there have been a number of genocides in the 20th century. While the Nazi Holocaust is given a great deal of attention (as it should be) other atrocities are in danger of being forgotten.

The other objective, to stimulate, was achieved by making people think about what it means to be victimizers and victimized. In one memorable scene, the Turkish-Canadian actor Ali (who is playing the part of a Turk in the movie) politely mentions to the young Armenian-Canadian main character Raffi that he was never taught that such awful things happened. There is a tense moment between Ali and Raffi. Ali says something to the effect that hey, this is Canada, our new country, nobody is going to round you up and kill you, let’s enjoy some champagne. Raffi doesn’t go for it. It is up to the viewer to decide who is correct in this case.

Intolerable Cruelty

Directed by Joel Coen

Black comedy in Coen brothers fashion starring George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones about a slick and successful pre-nup lawyer and a gold-digger who serially marries and divorces rich men and cleans up each time.

The Aviator

Directed by Martin Scorsese

I really liked the character of Howard Hughes.

He reminded of myself at work somewhat, trying to make neat stuff, being really picky about details, being vocal and hyper about it, but not really abusing or insulting anyone personally. So if we share this characteristic does this mean I will also be a billionaire?

While fighting against the forces trying to thwart his ambitions he also had to deal with an increasing set of quirks and eccentricities taking over his life. It was remarkable how he could put those away in situations that required him to be lucid and charming.

Ray

Directed by Taylor Hackford

A moving story of Ray Charles’ early struggles with blindness and racism, and his later struggles with heroin addiction.

Another great struggle for Charles was that with audiences and critics (boneheads all, then as now) for whom his crossover artistry was a bit too much to handle.

Charles was lucky to be born with a gift that allowed him to elevate himself out of circumstances that doubtless thousands of others who tried hard were unable to. While you are happy for him this movie also leaves you with a bitter sense of how unjust American society was at one time, and possibly still is in a less blatant way.