Wednesday, August 30, 2006


John KeatsI guess it could be argued that a site like Find A Grave probably has some utility as a reference source ("Millions of Cemetery Records and Online Memorials"), but personally I think it's more interested in pandering to a morbid fascination with celebrity. The most popular searches at the time of this writing include some unsurprising results:
Number One: JonBenet Ramsey (I refuse to link to this because, well, I like to think that I have some sense of decency. If I seem a trifle self-important, too fucking bad...)
Other 'Celebrities' in the Top 20: Ingrid Bergman (2); Hedy Lamarr (3); Lee Marvin (!) (5); Jim Morrison (15); Diana Spencer (16);
Surprisingly (to me, at least) coming in at number 6 is Saint John the Baptist.
The photo (click for larger view) is from the gravesite of my favorite poet, John Keats (this is a good place to start if you're unfamiliar with Keats' life and poetry). The inscription at the bottom of the gravestone reads, "Here lies one whose name was writ in water". This was what Keats requested shortly before his death, at the age of 25. The words above this were written after Keats' death by a friend who was bitter about how the young poet's life turned out.
This Living Hand

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calmed—see here it is—
I hold it towards you.

--John Keats 1819

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dork with a Camera

Dork with a CameraThis is a picture of a dork with a camera, taken in the parking area outside the condo said dork lives in. Like the Delphic Oracle, Socrates, et al, I've always felt that self-awareness is the key to knowledge. I know I'm a dork, so it's ok...


I haven't really felt like writing much the past couple of weeks, so I thought I'd post a photo. I don't post many of my own photos because I'm not much of a photographer, but once and a while I get lucky and spot something interesting like the cloud formation in this Miyazaki sunset. Not the highest quality pic because it was taken with my cell phone.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I'll be back soon...

To the few friends who regularly drop by my humble blog: I've been really busy lately and just returned from a conference in beautiful Fukuoka. Now I'm going away for a couple of days with my family to a nearby resort area in Kirishima. The time away from my pc and my blog is taking it's toll, but like Arnold says in The Terminator: "I'll be back."

Monday, August 14, 2006

These are a few of the things I like about...

... living in Miyazaki, Japan.
I like that I don't have to worry about some idiot stealing anything I don't nail to the wall or keep under 24-hour surveillance. A bicycle is safe with a simple wheel lock; my wife can go to the washroom and leave her purse on the table (which I still discourage); I have forgotten my camera somewhere and gone back to find it was still there.
I like that I don't have to pay an arm and a leg for a pack of smokes and/or a beer.
I like that, in eight years here, I have never heard one negative racial comment directed my way (well, except for being mistaken for American...heh!); my half-euro/Japanese daughter is accepted and treated like the future queen of Japan.
I like that I don't have to argue with anyone about Quebec.
I like that I don't have to argue with anyone about religion (Japan is a good place for atheists, although skeptics (like me) may have a harder time--there will be a more serious post about this in the future...).
I like (and I might as well be honest about it) that the simple fact that I'm an educated English-speaking person has allowed me to get good jobs here.
I like that I have a great wife and a beautiful daughter; I like that they have made me (I think) a better man.
Japan has been good to me...

Friday, August 11, 2006

Keystone Kops

I guess that people around the world all have different ideas about what makes a 'good cop'. Probably for most of us a good cop is one who protects the innocent and catches the bad guys. In North America people are becoming quite used to seeing examples of police brutality on TV. Stories of police corruption also seem to be more common these days. I'm not really sure how the average Japanese feels about the police here.
In the video below is the most shocking spectacle of bad police behaviour I have ever seen. North Americans in particular may not be able to believe what they are seeing. The following video is from a Japanese news broadcast and is in Japanese, so let me set it up a little (details in English here): a car has left the road and smashed into some sort of structure; rescue workers are trying to help the driver, who seems to be a bit unhinged; the driver seems to go a bit crazy and starts smashing up the inside of his car; the police arrive; the man gets out of his car and moves toward the police brandishing some sort of club... What follows will shock and astound you...

I couldn't quite believe my eyes when I first saw this...

Comment Verification

Well, I guess it had to happen sooner or later. There's been a spike in the number of spam messages in the comments section, so I've enabled the "Comment Verification" device (it's not like I get a gajillion comments anyway, but this week I got more spam than real comments...). Anyway, sorry for the inconvenience.
[And please, no "I told you so"s from the wordpress crowd, or I'll have to start moderating comments as well!]

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Go and sin no more...

Whether you're religious or not, whether you have kids or not, you will probably be amused (and you may even laugh out loud) when you read Old Testament Parenting: 'Lamentations of the Father'. Some excerpts:
Laws When at Table

Eat your food only; do not eat that which is not food; neither seize the table between your jaws, nor use the raiment of the table to wipe your lips. I say again to you, do not touch it, but leave it as it is.

And though your stick of carrot does indeed resemble a marker, draw not with it upon the table, even in pretend, for we do not do that, that is why. And though the pieces of broccoli are very like small trees, do not stand them upright to make a forest, because we do not do that,that is why.

Sit just as I have told you, and do not lean to one side or the other, nor slide down until you are nearly slid away. Heed me; for if you sit like that, your hair will go into the syrup. And now behold, even as I have said, it has come to pass.

Laws Pertaining to Dessert

But of the unclean plate, the laws are these: If you have eaten most of your meat, and two bites of your peas with each bite consisting of not less than three peas each, or in total six peas, eaten where I can see, and you have also eaten enough of your potatoes to fill two forks, both forkfuls eaten where I can see, then you shall have dessert.

On Screaming

[...] if you receive a portion of fish from which every piece of herbal seasoning has not been scraped off, and the herbal seasoning is loathsome to you and steeped in vileness, again I say, refrain from screaming. Though the vileness overwhelm you, and cause you a faint unto death, make not that sound from within your throat, neither cover your face, nor press your fingers to your nose. For even I have made the fish as it should be; behold, I eat it myself, yet shall not surely die.

Various Other Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances

Bite not, lest you be also bitten again. Neither drink of your own bath water, nor of the bath water of any kind; nor rub your feet on bread, even if it be in the package; nor rub yourself against cars, not against any building; nor eat sand.

[Hat tip: God of the Machine; via: Volokh Conspiracy]

[Addendum: My daughter has been free of her father's "lamentations" these past two weeks because she's been away at her grandparents' place having the time of her life playing with her cousin (whom she has a huge crush on--she's not quite 4, he's 9 and has the patience of Job...). I realized while chuckling over this piece that I was actually laughing at myself...]

Monday, August 07, 2006

Mutually Assured Drunk Driving

Maybe it's exhaustion from grading end of term tests and papers (terms here run April-July, October-January). Maybe it's the heat. Maybe it's a 'dog days' combination of the two. I dunno. I've started several interesting, informative and insightful (heh) articles on various topics related to Japan but, for now at least, they're languishing as 'drafts'. I don't have the mental energy right now to do a proper job on them (and I'm working a deadline to finish a presentation I have to give next week). Sunday was the 61st anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and I had planned to write something about it. I guess it'll wait until next year... While researching said article, however, I came upon a rather amusing quote.
In an article attempting to justify American use of the atomic bomb, the writer refers to Japan's attempt to make atomic bombs during the war, and then makes the following rather comical comment:
Had we [the US] tried the invasion route, it is entirely possible that Japan might have been able to complete a bomb and use it on us. MADD would not have sufficed to prevent it because Japan had absolutely nothing to loose by using it.
[I haven't altered this quote, and if you check the link, you'll see that there's an 'editorial' note informing us that the article was originally posted to the site one year ago...]

Now, clearly Mothers Against Drunk Driving could not have prevented the Japanese from loosing their atomic bombs. But they didn't have any, so yes, "Japan had absolutely nothing to loose". (Right about now I feel like my brain is turning into a Moebius strip.) In fact, MADD, as an organization, didn't even exist that long ago (although it must be granted that an early form of MAD did).
So, clearly, Japan had everything to lose by having nothing to loose, and America was the winner because it was the looser. And that's the story of Hiroshima...

Friday, August 04, 2006

One a these days... to tha Moon!

I'm all for the exploration of space and stuff, but it seems a bit odd to me that a rapidly de-populating country like Japan is seriously planning to build a crewed lunar base by 2030. Now what could they be up to...

God of the Machine

Wow. And I mean, wow.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Smokin' Fool

yummyYes, I'm a smoker. I've tried many times to give up cigarettes, but I can't do it. I'm weak. I'm a slave to an evil, filthy habit. Living in Japan, it's even more difficult to quit, because Japan is, well, smoker's heaven! A pack of smokes costs just 320 yen (about 3-4 dollars, depending on where you live), and that's after a recent tax hike, which resulted in Japan Tobacco, the world's third largest cigarette company, recording a 60 percent rise in profits in the most recent quarter. Of course the government (like all governments) pays careful lip service to educating people about the dangers of smoking, but the fact is that smokes are a major money cow for governments. Heh, the Japanese government is actually the biggest shareholder in Japan Tobacco (it holds 67.77 percent of issued stock).
Anyway, the Japanese are nothing if not polite, so I've included a couple of nifty graphics from a series sponsored by Japan Tobacco on smoking etiquette. [Very odd. I originally had a link to the Japan Tobacco site here, but just after posting this it went down...]

love me

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The 'Audio-Lingual' Method: Survival English

I think the video below is meant as a parody, but it's so close to the reality of teaching English at many conversation schools here in Japan (and elsewhere) that I can't really be sure. It actually looks like a lot of 'learn English' TV shows I've seen here.
[Courtesy Harry at Chase Me, Ladies; (via Dog Bones)]

Yes, in many places that would constitute an English lesson: 'useful' expressions, 'realistic' situataions, singing, dancing...