Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A "Your Mum" Joke for the masses

More joy from the interwebs

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Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: 0 days
Current media: Farscape - 1x02 - I, E.T.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Today I went to Kyoto for the first time. It's about an hour away on the train if you take the express from Juso. I walked around a few temples and also some just general walking. There's a few photos, but I'd forgotten to recharge my phone so it died halfway through the day. Anyway, here are some of the better photos of the day.

This is a creek going through Kyoto, with some nice sort of dock places for you to sit and enjoy the creek. It was flowing pretty fast (the ducks seemed to be swimming pretty hard just to stay still).

These are from Heian-jingu, the northern-most of the temples I visited (I spent the day in Southeast Kyoto).

A pretty tree I saw along the way.

These are from Chion-in. This is where the battery on my phone went dead.

After this I also visited Kodai-ji and Kiyomizu temples. Kiyomizu was very impressive with some lovely views. It's well worth a visit if you get the chance.

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Writing time: 22 minutes
Time since last post: 3 days
Current media: Kill Bill Vol 2

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Kids Lessons

During November I've had various training for the different kids classes that Nova teaches. The training was OK, but about half the time they wanted you to act like a kid. Learn to teach by being a student. While you can learn some things that way, teaching kids isn't one of them. The actual getting in and trying it for yourself was much more useful in my perspective.

Today I had chibikko training, which is for kids 2-3 years old (the earlier training was for 3-12 year olds). It also had the whole learn by being a student, but the guy doing the training was sensible enough to not force the whole process to be that way.

My big concern with the whole kids classes is that I'm not really that exuberant and energetic person, and so won't be that good as a kids teacher.

I had my first lesson on Wednesday at a different school (I was doing overtime), with two kinders (3-6 years), and I did sort of ramp up the energy to try and keep their attention. From December I'm going to have a regular set of kids classes on Mondays, so we'll see how they go.

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Writing time: 63 minutes (I got distracted with spider solitaire)
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: None

Saturday, November 25, 2006

And the Church House Burned, Burned, Burned

I saw this story the other day but was to busy to write something then, so will do so now. It's about a man who burnt down one church, and is implicated in the arson of another. And why did he burn the church down? Because he thought that they had deviated from the bible and the word of God.

Now I don't know why this man thought he knew better than they did, but this is another example of how absolute certainty can cause violence and danger. This man thought he knew the one true path, and because these other people weren't following that path, it was OK to burn down their church.

I think that the man involved believed he was doing the right thing, which really shows the dangers of believing in something absolutely. Had he taken a moment to think "What if I'm wrong?" he might have taken another moment to consider an alternative course of action.

The good part about this article is the response of the people who had their church burnt down. They have responded with forgiveness rather than vengeance, which is an attitude to be applauded.

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Writing time: 20 minutes
Time since last post: Indeterminate
Current media: Farscape - 1x01 - Premiere

Friday, November 24, 2006

Frankenstein Revealed

Being in Japan, my reading of books has somewhat declined, due to the general lack of availability of books I can read. I have greatly increased my reading of newspapers, but sometimes I just want to read a book.

About a week ago, after being told of its existence by some students, I visited a bookstore near my school. It's one whole floor in a rather large building, and has two whole shelves of English books. After discounting the children's books, romance novels, and books I'd already read, the main category of books that appealed to me were classics. Basically the 19th century stuff everyone knows the name of but few people ever read except when made to in high school.

The volume I picked up is actually three books. Frankenstein, Dracula and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I hadn't realised that Robert Louis Stevenson had written Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde until reading the introduction.

Last night I finished Frankenstein, and was really amazed at the difference between the vague ideas I'd picked up from popular culture about Frankenstein and the actual novel. I already knew that Frankenstein was the name of the professor, not the monster, but that's not the big difference.

The main misconception I had was that the creation of the monster was the main ambition of Frankenstein, and the main plot of the story. There's also the matter of the harnessing of lightning, grave robbing for parts, Igor the assistant, but these are details that flow from the main misconception.

The story actually glosses over the creation of the monster, and looks at the consequences of the creation for both the creator and created. Both are locked into a bitter cycle of reprisal, and each lets their pride cause them to be unwilling to see the others point of view. Frankenstein refuses to see the monsters humanity, and shows it in his cruelty towards it. The monster on it's part is all too ready to harm others so as to hurt Frankenstein, and kills a number of innocents while seeking its revenge against Frankenstein.

I'm still trying to decide if there's a greater moral to the story, something about being wary about one's creations, or if it's just meant to be a story to scare the reader, as is suggested in the introduction by Mary Shelley.

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Writing time: 18 minutes
Time since last post: 30 minutes
Current media: iTunes Shuffle - Muse - Stockholm Syndrome

The Second Great and Bountiful American Empire

So yesterday was rather cold. And at lunch time (about 5pm) I was feeling like a warm drink. Due to my aversion to both coffee and tea, this pretty much leaves me hot chocolate as my beverage of choice (not that I'm complaining, I like hot chocolate).

Now over here, if you like coffee or tea you are spoiled for choice. Hot and cold coffee of different strengths, flavours, varieties, celebrity endorsements, brands and what not, from shops and vending machines. But not much in the way of hot chocolate.

But, I did see one possible source of that which I desired. An organisation I have never really felt much desire to visit, as they concentrate on beverages I don't desire, and in most places there have been alternative sources of warm chocolate drinks. But in this land, I did not see much by way of an alternative, except not having a warm drink.

And so I went to Starbucks. Except for the prices being in yen, and having katakana above the English on the menu, it seemed pretty much identical to the Starbucks I walked past a lot in the Myer Center. At lunch I got a grande premium hot chocolate for 480 yen (I usually pay that much for lunch). It was pretty good, which was a bit of a surprise, as I was expecting something a bit more average. I ended up going back after work finished for a tall one, which I drank on the train (they're a lot less paranoid about that sort of thing over here, although I did get odd looks from one lady).

Anyway, I've just looked and there does seem to be one near my usual work (I was doing overtime in a school far away yesterday), so I may be frequenting the Second Great and Bountiful American Empire a bit from now on.

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Writing time: 13 minutes
Time since last post: 4 days
Current media: iTunes Shuffle - Rasputina - Dig Ophelia

Oh yes, bonus points for whoever identifies the source of the phrase Second Great and Bountiful Empire.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Burqa Ban Bad Move

OK, blogger just screwed me over with a longer version of this (spell checking a link and then clicking on it to change it doesn't quite work as expected), so this is the rough and ready version.

The Dutch government is proposing a ban on wearing burqas in public places just before the election next week.

This is a bad idea for many reasons.

1) it's persecution based on religious beliefs. The law is written to include some non-religious items like covered helmets, but the government's only talking about the burqa and Muslim women when discussing the issue. This is bad in and of itself

2) Such persecution is a bad idea for those who want respect and tolerance for people of all creeds. such persecution leads to marginalisation and division between groups within society.

3) The Dutch immigration minister says that "It is very important that we can see each other and can communicate with each other. Because we are so tolerant we want to respect each other." Respect or lack thereof based upon what someone wears is superficial at best.

4) Most importantly, it's a violation of individual freedom. Everyone should be free to choose what they want to wear. Wearing a burqa, jeans and t-shirt, a suit, or any other garment only affects the person wearing it, and they should be allowed to choose whatever they want. Freedom is easy for the things you like. Your commitment to freedom is tested when you have to stand up for things you don't like.

My position is this: I don't wear or want to wear a burqa, but if anyone else does, they can.

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Writing time: 57 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: None

Saturday, November 18, 2006

OJ Simpson is the biggest idiot ever

OK, so a long time ago, some people got killed, and someone was tried and found not guilty. There was a lot of controversy, perhaps some legal shenanigans. Following the trial where he was found not guilty, a there was a civil suit against the person by the family of the people killed, and due to different standards in civil and criminal suits, some liability was found and he had to pay a lot of money to the families. There was a lot of doubt about the whole thing, and there were many different opinions about his guilt.

Now, more than a decade after all this happened, you'd think this person would be trying to avoid anything related to this unpleasant series of events. But no, O.J. Simpson is about to release a book called "If I Did It", which tells how he would have gone about committing the murder of his wife and another man, if he had done it. He features as the central character, and the book goes into significant detail.

I'm curious if the investigators who worked on the case will read the book, and how close it comes to the way they thought events happened.

While Simpson cannot be tried again for the crime, this does seem a rather foolish and or callous thing to write.

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Writing time: 11 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
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Friday, November 17, 2006

National Chapter Writing Month

So, my partaking in National Novel Writing Month is progressing, but at nowhere near the needed 1667 words per day. So far I'm at just above 2000. I think I'll aim to double that. Today I reached a kind of finishing point for the first chapter. I'm thinking of creating a bit of an interlude before starting chapter two. I'm thinking of a kind of future historical document hinting at what is to come, a bit like the quotations at the start of each chapter in Dune, but I don't know if I can write enough to make it worthwhile without giving away too much of what's to come (which of course would mean I'd have to make it up now as well, instead of as I go). Actually I've just thought of maybe writing something that's a current history book in the story, giving a bit of information as to where the stories set (like the bits and pieces at the end of each chapter of The Watchmen).

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Writing time: 6 minutes
Time since last post: 15 minutes
Current media: iTunes Shuffle - Weird Al - Amish Paradise

Fit to be tied

So, I think most people who know about my job know that I have to wear business clothes every day, and this includes wearing a tie. In previous times I did not wear a tie ofter, and did not relish the prospect. When I started work here, I would take my tie off as soon as I left the building work was in. As time has gone by, this has changed taking the tie off on the train home, to really loosening the tie and undoing the top button, slightly loosening the tie and undoing the top button, to today where I didn't do anything to my tie until I was home and changing my shirt. I guess this is partly just getting used to it.

I also think part of it is that the good outfit I used to wear back in Australia for interviews and other formal events actually included a shirt that was bought for my high school graduation, which while still mostly fitting, it would appear that my neck has somewhat widened since then. So the neck on that shirt is so tight it's hard to do the top button up, whereas the new shirts I bought just before leaving are quite comfortable around the neck. The fact that my shirt doesn't suffocate me has made wearing a tie more bearable.

Anyway, it's just a thought, nothing too significant.

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Writing time: 8 minutes
Time since last post: 12 hours
Current media: iTunes Shuffle - Patty Mardina - Still Life

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More YouTube goodness

Fun with Non-Newtonian Liquids.

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Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: None

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Iran Doesn't Get It

While I was reading over the news this morning I came across this piece about how Iran is unhappy with Google. You might wonder, why would Iran be unhappy with Google. Is it helping faithful Muslims find blasphemous texts, or those cartoons of Muhammad.

No, they're hosting someones video on Google Video. And the video gets some geography mixed up, and says that the city Tabriz which is part of Iran is part of Azerbaijan. Looking at the summaries at Google Video, the video is a bit biased, but Iran is complaining about the wrong people.

Google did not make the video, did not endorse the video, did not fact check the video, or do anything other than let the video's makers express themselves. Don't go shooting the messenger.

I also don't think Iran should be as upset about this as it is. The city in question is quite close to the border with Azerbaijan, has a large population that speaks Azeri, was historically part of Azerbaijan (and they even call it Eastern Azerbaijan). Perhaps the video makers were just trying to make a point, albeit in a tactless way.

Add in the free speech aspect of this and Iran doesn't really have a leg to stand on on this issue. They can complain (freedom of speech cuts both ways), but they shouldn't expect to get anything changed.

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Writing time: 35 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: iTunes shuffle - Capture of Trillian

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The difference between science and blind faith

I found this at The Funniest Thing. It's very insightful.

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Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: a few hours
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Helsinki Complaints Choir

Another fun video from YouTube

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Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: None

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sucks to be in Australia

This to everyone in Australia who's missing bananas because they're so expensive. Yesterday I bought 4 bananas for 138 yen. That's $1.53. The last bananas I bought in Australia was $13 for three bananas.

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Writing time: 3 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: Battlestar Galactica 3x07 A Measure of Salvation

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sore Throat

I woke up yesterday with a really sore throat. It feels like the top of my throat is inflamed, and swallowing aggravates the problem. Fortunately talking doesn't, or work would be really crap right now. I was hoping it would go away overnight, but it didn't. If it's still a problem tomorrow I'll try and find a pharmacy and attempt to make myself understood, and hopefully get something to help the problem.

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Writing time: 5 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: None

Colbert is Awesome

I've just watched Wednesday's Colbert Report, and The Wørd was absolutely awesome. Everyone should watch it.

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Today I had my probation observation, which is where my immediate boss sits and watches me give a lesson. It went pretty well. It was a mid level lesson about the news, and it ran smoothly. I avoided a big conversation at the start, so I had time to actually get through all the activities. After that was a bit of feedback, some advice on how to have the students interact with each other more, and that was about it. I should be off probation at the end of the month. I'm actually lucky in that I arrived near the end of a month, so I'll only be on probation for two months. Most people start early in the month, and so are on probation for almost three months.

I've got a meeting with the area boss on Sunday week, which I gather is a more how are you settling in, are your immediate bosses helping you get into the job, that sort of thing. They call it onboarding, which I think means the people who came up with the idea have been working with Japanese people too long, as it is very engrish.

After that, I'll have another observation lesson at about the 6 month mark, so around my Birthday.

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Writing time: 18 minutes
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: none

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

And don't forget your booties 'cause it's cooooooold out there today

Yesterday and today were significantly colder than the rest of my time in Japan, prompting me to always wear a jacket outside and a second shirt. And this is only the middle of autumn. It was a rather sudden change, which caught me a little surprised. I have heard from those who've been here a bit longer that so far autumn has been very warm, and that winter is usually much colder than I'm used to (not much chance of snow in this area, but still colder than any part of Australia I've lived in).

My strategies for keeping warm are basically limited to wearing a jacket, an extra t-shirt, and in days gone by letting my hair down to cover my ears and neck. I may look at getting some sort of hat soon to keep my head warm, as I noticed last night that my head and face got very cold outside.

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Writing time: 14 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: Battlestar Galactica 3x06 Torn

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

More Photos

Some more photos from my phone.

Christmas has come to Japan, just a few days after Halloween. At least it's better than Australia, where Christmas stuff has been on the shelves for two months already.

Part of the train station/shopping complex at Kobe-Kasuko, where I went for Kids training today. I thought this part looked pretty nice, especially the fountain between the escalators.

Hankyu Umeda, the platform to catch the train to my place.

A fountain in the Hankyu Umeda complex.

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Writing time: 6 minutes
Time since last post: 15 minutes
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National Novel Writing Month

For those who don't know, November is National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRMO for short). While it's a bit late, and I have major doubts about my abilities, I'm giving it a go. Actually a second go. A few days ago I set up a blog to use to write it, and after staring at a blank screen for half an hour, gave up. The next day I saw a notepad at the convenience store near work with some words that go together grammatically but don't mean much, which I bought and started writing in. The words on the cover of the notebook are currently serving as a title, so don't read too much into the title. I've now set up another blog (pretty much the same as the earlier one, to which my writings will be added. This also act as the first stage of editing.

Given that I started 5 days late, I'm currently falling well short of the 2000 words per day I'll need to make it to the target length by the end of the month.

So far it seems to be sci-fi, which isn't really a surprise. A vague and somewhat pretentious prologue came out first. It almost reads like something that would go on my blog, which isn't really that surprising.

I'll probably involve the Extended Kingdom in the setting, but I don't know yet exactly what's going to happen.

So far, the idea I have is that it's some sort of first contact scenario, and the main character is an auditor, who discovers something odds going on on a colony planet, and investigates thinking it's corruption, but finds something more is going on.

Anyway, for those brave enough to read, the story has its own blog here.

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Writing time: 5 minutes
Time since last post: 10 minutes
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Monday, November 06, 2006

Noisy Bars

Not much to report this week. I've worked, gone out a few times, stayed in a few times. Yesterday was a going away party for one of the other teachers at my office/school, which was OK, but the place was so noisy I wasn't really about to follow a conversation, so I mostly just sat around. This actually happens most times I've been to bars and clubs, and is part of the reason I don't really like going to those sort of places. I think that the smaller places I've been to over here are better, because even when they're full, which I haven't seen, you're still able to hear other people without shouting and such.

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Writing time: 5 minutes
Time since last post: 8 days
Current media: None