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

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
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


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.