Monday, December 31, 2007

Fundamentalists Making the World a Better Place

Here are two recent examples of fundamentalists making the world a little less good for the rest of us.

First are the Christians. A Texan higher education panel has recommended the Institute for Creation Research be allowed to offer masters degrees in science education. While it's not yet final, this is not Texas' first dalliance with creationist leanings in recent times. This is troubling, but unfortunately not surprising. I should not have to explain to readers why this is a bad thing.

Next up are the Muslims. Al-Azhar, one of Islam's highest seats of learning located in Cairo, has come out and said that any woman who becomes pregnant due to rape must have an abortion. While it's nice to see someone religious supporting abortion, my quarrel is with the must part. This is taking freedom away from the woman to make the decision. Most may want to do so, but such a decision should never be forced. I also don't like the reason why raped women must have an abortion: to maintain social stability. Social stability is not a participant in deciding to have an abortion. It is a matter for the mother, usually the father (but not in this case), possibly a doctor in the case of medical issues, and anyone else they want involved. The state should not require or prevent an abortion in any situation as it is a matter for the individuals concerned.

Writing time: 1 hour 13 minutes (this does include time for other non-computer activities)
Time since last post: 1 week
Current media: The soundtrack to Grosse Point Blank

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Today, for the first time I went skiing. Before going into much detail, let me just say, I sucked. And now, onto the narrative.

The story really starts last night when, knowing I had to wake at 5am, I attempted to get an early night. I don't think I could have failed at this more if I had tried. I lay in bed for about an hour trying to go to sleep before I came to the conclusion that I was getting to sleep anytime soon. So I went back to the computer and did some writing and played some Starcraft (when in Rome). At any rate I was still going strong when my alarm clock went off at 5am.

I got prepared (and opened one of my Christmas presents early, since I thought a beanie would be useful today. My family need to be less descriptive on the customs declaration forms.) and met up with the other teachers who were going. For the first time in Korea I got to say "Good Morning" to someone. We caught a taxi to where the bus to the ski resort was picking us up.

The bus trip was about two hours, and I did manage to get a little bit of sleep on the bus up there. Once we arrived, the tour organisers distributed ski clothes and boots. This mostly went without a hitch, although my boots were a little too small, but they quickly found a pair that did fit. The ski clothes fit and were pretty warm. I wouldn't have minded keeping the jacket actually.

So after getting kitted up and putting on my skis, I started trying to move. Good arm exercise to say the least. A little bit of time at this, and I thought I might try the slope that was front and center. There was a small travelator that would take you up a little way, so up I went. I fell over getting off the travelator. Then after the guy manning the top of the travelator helped me up, I went about a meter and fell again. After I got up I tried going down the hill sideways, but almost ran into a little girl being taught by her father. He pushed me out of the way and a little bit away. I slowly slid down the hill sideways, but would sometimes get some forward momentum and would then end up falling over. After one fall where my ski came off, I was unable to get the ski back on properly and decided to walk down the hill. An inauspicious start.

After that I took a break for a while with a fellow Australian teacher who was doing about as badly as I was. After this, some of the other teachers who were more familiar with skiing (a Canadian and an American) who took us all the way up the same slope and taught us a little. I got a little control. But not enough to turn or slow my descent if I went more then a little more than moving perpendicular to the slope.After a number of falls, including one where I was stuck bent over with my legs spread and my hands on the ground in such a position such that if I moved a hand or foot I would start sliding down the hill and I couldn't just fall over because the boots were attached to the skis and I couldn't bend my ankles enough to put my body on the ground. After some more sideways sliding and falling over, I took a longer walk down the hill. On the way down I noticed a large very flat area behind one of the buildings that turned out to be the very beginners area.

After another break we went over there and were much more able to control ourselves than on an actual slope. After some practise stopping we tried the small slope from the beginner lift. I managed to get all the way to the bottom and only fell down once, and managed to repeat the feat a second time. After this the day was getting on and those of us who were newer to skiing called it a day, while those from the American continent kept skiing a bit longer.

That was not the last piece of excitement for the day. On the bus trip back our bus driver caused a three car accident. He rear-ended a car into the back of another car and destroyed the rear window of the car it hit. Apparently his driving had been reckless for most of the trip, but I hadn't noticed as I was half asleep and listening to my iPod. Anyway, no one on the bus was hurt, although several were really pissed off at the driver.

And that is my skiing trip

End Post
Writing time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: Deep Space Nine 1x01 The Emissary

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Another good move

Following up on my previous post, I'd like to present another example of political foolishness. The Lakota people, one of the tribes of native Americans, has decided it is withdrawing from their treaties with the United States of America, and wishes to be independent and reclaim its territories that cover 5 states.

Let me make a prediction here. It's not going to happen. There will be no Independent Nation of the Lakota (I don't know what sort of formal name for the country they would choose, but United States of Lakota just sounds silly and copycatish, and the Commonwealth of Lakota is a bit to British, and God forbid they go with the People's Republic of Lakota.). America will not give up the territory. Sure it's the middle of nowhere, but still, it's not going to happen.

Even if they did, they will allow people living there to become citizens if they renounce there US citizenship. Brilliant. So the Lakota, who a minority, give a bunch of United Statesian citizenship in their new country, are thus outnumbered and lose any sensible democratic election, and the new government rejoins the United States in a much less revocable way.

Now, I'm not denying that Native Americans, like most natives outside of Europe, have been treated pretty shit. Australia has its own appalling history with that. But, this action at best will garner publicity, but there will be no independent government, there will be no Independent Nation of the Lakota.

End Post
Writing time: 18 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: None

Shooting Themselves in the Foot

Among the many news stories that turn up on everyday was a little gem the other day about how a Nationals Queensland MP suggested that the possible merger of the conservative parties in Queensland should include those some might consider a little extreme, namely Family First and One Nation. The rational seems to be that those parties draw voters away from the Nationals and Liberals, so to avoid splitting the vote they should be included.

This seems stupid because the fringe parties get only a small share of the votes (although this is Queensland where One Nation actually did pretty well for itself), and preferences would then flow to the larger conservative party. Also, including these parties into a large combined conservative party would possibly scare away those close to the middle who while preferring the coalition to Labor, don't want to support those on the far right.

I can only hope that they do do this, and suffer as a consequence (I'm not exactly a fan of the conservative parties).

End Post
Writing time: 49 minutes (I got distracted)
Time since last post: two days
Current media: The Office (US version) season 3

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Brief Trip to Thailand

Before making my permanent departure from Japan (not that the Japanese government has been informed. I figure they'll work it out when they never get any response to the letters about city tax. At any rate, I wasn't about to surrender my Gaijin card, so we'll see what happens when I return to Japan to get my money) I made a short trip to Thailand. Very brief. I left Japan at 1:30am on Monday and returned at 7pm the following Friday.

The purpose of this trip was to visit my sister. I had originally planned to go to Thailand earlier and for longer. I had organised four shift swaps and my sole paid vacation to get nine consecutive days off in October, and was all set to buy my tickets after payday in September. However, this was not to be. That was the payday when we were paid late. So on my day off instead of going forth and buying tickets, I went forth and checked my bank balance. The money was there, but I didn't want to spend the money on tickets until I was sure about next months pay.

Being sure about the next months pay never happened. Well, we bacame sure we weren't going to get it. So I never made the trip. My nine days off become eight as a coworker left before our swap happened. I spent most of the time playing online poker.

As the situation in Japan got worse, going to Thailand became more likely. Not as a destination, but as a stop on the way somewhere else (originally Australia, but it turned out to be Korea), but planning obviously rested on deciding what I was going to do.

Once I got my second (and lasting) job offer in Korea, and the visa was sorted out and all that, I got my tickets to Thailand. My plan was to leave Japan, spend a week or so in Thailand and then fly from Thailand to Korea. This seemed to be the ideal travel plan with a minimum of hassle. I'd checked out the website of the travel agent I planned to go to and they had advertised flights to Bangkok for 20,000 yen and flights to Korea for 15,000 to Seoul, so I was expecting a cheap set of tickets.

I was to be disappointed. The advertised prices werefor one leg of a return ticket, and did not include taxes, etc. More frustrating was the fact that the travel agent would only book flights with one end of the flight in Japan, so Osaka to Bangkok to Seoul was not something they would organise. In fact, they refused to do so. I got their quotes for flights to Bangkok and Korea, and then went hunting for a better deal.

By looking at the Thai Airways website I was able to get flights on my ideal days, but the cost was about $3000, which is significantly more than my credit card could handle (when it looked like NOVA was about to hit the wall, I should have asked my bank for a limit increase to give myself more room to breathe (or get into bigger trouble)). AFter examining my options, the travel agent I started with was still the best deal, but the schedule was not exactly what I wanted.

The final travel plan was to leave Japan stupidly early on Monday, arrive in Bangkok at a merely early hour on Monday, spend a few days in Thailand, have a return flight that left Bangkok Friday morning, went via Manila, and arrived back in Japan at 7pm Friday night. My flight to Korea left at 3pm Saturday afternoon, which gave me just enough time to get through customs to get to the B-Trip for a sayonara party at 9pm on Friday night adn afterwards get some sleep.

So now to the important part, the actual trip to Thailand. After a few hassles with immigration, I got into the country. I met my sister at the airport, and then we caught the bus to her place. I spent some time recuperating after the flight and then headed to her office to meet up for lunch. Then I wandered back to her apartment. I was going to do some sightseeing, but by the time I got to the train station I was so exhausted I just went back to the apartment.

On Tuesday we caught the bus up to Mae Sot, which is up near the border with Burma. The trip took most of the day, and I spent most of the trip reading and watching Family Guy on my iPod. We stayed with a friend and coworker of my sisters who has what is probably one of the nicest places in all of Mae Sot, but it still didn't have hot water.

Wednesday was spent sight seeing. My sister and I rented a motorbike, then went to a a temple or two, and then down to the river which is the border. Then we wandered through a market next to the river. After lunch she had to work, so I had a look at one of the other markets in town. It's the first time I've seen live toads for sale.

Dinner was a party at my sister's office as it was both hers and a coworker's birthday. The pary consisted of cake, prawns, fruit and beer. A good time was had by all.

On Thursday I went exploring by myself, and got to ride the motorbike by myself. My main problem was that all my imagining from watching TV and such was that you rolled the handle forwards to go faster, which is in actual fact the opposite of the way it works. This is a problem when it means that your instictive reaction to slow down makes the bike go faster. Once I felt like I had some control over the bike, I headed back to the border. I parked the bike and then went to the bridge across the river which is the border crossing.

There was a small queue at the crossing, but after I joined the line, they waved me over to what turned out to be a foreigners (non-Thai or Burmese) line. I then walked across the bridge and entered Burma. It was much like Thailand but dirtier and even more run down. I wandered around for an hour or two before heading back to reclaim my passport (the Burmese immigration office kept it. Foreigners aren't allowed to stay overnight in Burma when they enter via Mae Sot.) and returning to Thailand. I had dinner and then caught an overnight bus back to Bangkok.

The bus trip was back was quicker than the bus trip up (they speed more at night or something). I got in at around 4am, and then got a taxi to the airport. It is just as well my sister had told me how much such a taxi ride should cost, cause the guy wanted to charge me more than it should have cost, so I knew enough to haggle with him over it. The taxi driver than drove somewhat like a maniac (I think he got up to at least 140 km/h). Once at the airport, the waiting began, and then after a long time I finally returned to Japan, where I was fingerprinted as part of a new paranoid security scheme.

Anyway, you can check out the photos here.

End Post
Writing time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: Season two of My Name is Earl

Monday, December 17, 2007

Would a student by any other name learn as well?

One of the notable differences between teaching in Japan and Korea has to do with names. In Japan, students used their own names. This was not surprising, and indeed I had never considered the possibility of doing otherwise. This caused some problems at first, because I was unfamiliar with Japanese name, and mangled more than a few pronunciations, but I learnt at least the more frequent students names, and learnt to dread a few.

Over here students all have English names. Sometimes the students already have previously acquired an English name, but sometimes new students to the school need a name, and their foreign teacher gets that privilege. They can and sometimes do change their English name at whim later on though. The Korean teachers and staff also have English names, although they have significantly more freedom to choose and change names.

To me it seems a bit weird and undignified doing this. I know I would be reluctant to give up my name if I moved to a different country (even most of the names I've gone by on the internet are somehow related to my real name, although in some cases the connection is quite convoluted).

There seem to be two main arguments for this. The first is to familiarize the students with English names, which while true, is probably just as effective as the kids watching American TV and calling foreign teachers by their real name.

The second is that Korean names are difficult for the foreign teachers to pronounce, which right now is true because 1) I don't know the language very much and aren't familiar with the sounds used, and 2) the only names I've seen have been written in Hangul, so I've had the extra burden of deciphering the alphabet as well as the pronunciation (try pronouncing and English word correctly while reading at a rate of one letter per second). I am sure that just as with Japanese names, in time any teacher would become competent with Korean names if given the opportunity.

Ultimately it is a matter of respect. I know how I'd feel if someone said to me "It's too hard to pronounce your name, so I'm going to call you Bob instead." Not impressed.

End Post
Writing time: 13 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: iTunes shuffle, currently Miami International from the Casino Royale soundtrack

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Empty Room

In the course of my life I have moved a lot. My current abode is my 18th home, the fourth without family. Many of these moves have not really had much significance. A number occurred before I was old enough to really know what was going on. A few were just moving a short distance from one company house to a better company house. After that a few moves in and around the same city that had little effect on life. Then the move away from home for university, later moving out on my own, then to Japan and now to Korea.

The last two moves have been different to the rest, and have been the source of some sadness. The last two moves have involved saying a much more significant goodbye to people I have grown fond of. Moves before these last two have not entailed such major goodbyes.

A significant point in moving is the empty room. It has a finality to it that brings home that a part of your life is ending. That you really are leaving. A room with nothing in it any more is irrevocable. The move is definite, the end is nigh.

The significance of the empty room is almost entirely symbolic. The decision to move has long been made, the departure yet to come. But the empty room is a significant milestone. It means there is nothing material holding you back. No longer can you say "but all my stuff is here." Your stuff is gone. If anything, it is drawing you to your new destination.

The lack of material connection to a place also reinforces the immaterial connections. My apartment in Japan was just a place. I spent a lot of time there, but still it was just a place. What saddened me upon seeing the empty room was knowing that it will be a long time before I see anyone from Japan again, if ever.

That is the real sadness of the empty room.

End Post
Writing time:
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Current media:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Aqsa Parvez

I'm sure most people have heard of the unfortunate fate of Aqsa Parvez. Her claim to fame us quite unpleasant, and definitely somethings should did not want or expect.

Aqsa Parvez was killed a few days ago by her father. And what drove her father to such an act? She decided to stop wearing the hijab, to better fit in with her friends and society.

Many have commented on this incident. I have read many, and I agree with some and disagree with others.

What I don't get is just how someone can care so much about a scarf that they would be willing to kill their daughter over it. Is fashion that important? How can any symbol mean more than flesh and blood?

This is the problem with causes. They let people transform mere things into symbols, and then elevate those symbols into a matter of life and death. No piece of clothing is worth killing over.

End Post
Writing time: 40 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: Reaper

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The enemy of my enemies

They say you can tell the quality of a man by the enemies he makes. If this is true, the Olsen twins have just stepped up a few rungs.

I mean seriously, how immature is this?

End Post
Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: an hour
Current media: None

Back Online

After several bureaucratic hassles, I've finally got an internet connection at home. The guy came around at 9:15 this morning, and after about half an hour of fiddling around with the modem, phone line and other stuff, it was all set up. Since then I have managed to download around 4 gigabytes of stuff, and am not even half way through the queue.

At any rate, I now have internet, and plenty of free time, so expect plenty of blogging goodness to come.

End Post
Writing time: 3 minutes
Time since last post: 13 days
Current media: None (in between)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

We are not dead yet

As has been pointed out in private communications, I have been somewhat silent on this blog as of late. This is mainly due to the fact that the 18th of November was the last day that I resided in an abode that had an internet connection, and before then I was somewhat busy with plans for moving country and visiting family and what not.

There are many matters that have arisen in the intervening days that I wish to pontificate upon through this medium, and shall do so once I have an internet connection in my new somewhat small home (This should be the 4th of December). Until then I shall be making a written record of some of the things I shall end up posting, and when I do post I shall probably write up one or two a day so as not to create a sudden surge of content.

Until then, chilax.

End Post
Writing time: 6 minutes
Time since last post: 16 days
Current media: the noises of a Korean internet cafe

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Today I shaved for the first time since October 25th. That was the last day I actually worked, as opposed to intended to work, since NOVA closed all branches the following day. I had grown somewhat of a beard, although I can't really grow much of one, and it was getting itchy. I had stopped shaving mainly because I didn't want to pay for razor blades. However today I had cause to look presentable. Today I got my visa number for a new job in Korea and intended to visit the embassy to collect my visa. The process involved submitting a passport sized photo, so I didn't want to go in looking like a deadbeat.

Anyway, it looks like I wasn't meant to get the visa today, as I had a few mishaps on the way. First I had to go in to print out the application form. As I was filling in the form, I realized I had left my passport at home. Then once I reached the station near the embassy with my passport and other documents, I got lost and wandered around Namba. When I finally got to the embassy it was about 45 minutes after they stopped accepting applications for the day.

Anyway, I shall probably wait until I the day I start my new job before I shave again.

End Post
Writing time: 23 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: Harvey Birdman

Jesus and Mo

Today I found an interesting comic entitled Jesus and Mo. The formula is essentially Jesus and Muhammad (and sometimes an atheist barmaid that is only ever heard) discussing something about religion that sets up a joke. I've liked what I've read so far, although in my case it is somewhat preaching to the choir. Anyway, check it out.

End Post
Writing time: 8 minutes
Time since last post: 11ish hours
Current media: Harvey Birdman

Monday, November 12, 2007

There is a lesson to be learnt here

Over the past week or so I've noticed a toy coming up in the news a lot. Unfortunately it has not been for a good reason. Bindeez, or Aquadots as the seppos call them were until recently the toy to have. As a one use item I can see there appeal to retailers and manufacturers, but I think lego beats them hands down.

The reason these things are in the news is because of what they're made of. These things are coated in a chemical that when digested turns into a rather nasty drug that has some rather nasty effects and is known colloquially as Grievious Bodily Harm (the actual name has the initials GHB, which in my glossing over of articles had always read as GBH).

The lesson here is don't make toys that are essentially a collection of small dots out of chemicals that will react in an adverse way with the human body when ingested. Ideally, pick something that is either completely non-toxic or completely inert.

And another lesson. If you are going to build a business that involves customers paying a large amount of cash upfront for a service that may last many months, do not spend all that money straight away. Have some sort of investment fund that provides a moderate return, and invest a part of the money they pay. That way, if customers do dry up for a while, you won't be completely fucked trying to pay for everything your still obliged to provide.

I'm sure I could come up with numerous other quite obvious ideas that a business should use if they do not desire to become a synonym for disaster, but I will save them for another time

End Post
Writing time: 15 minutes
Time since last post: 5 days
Current media: None

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


It's starting to get cold. Last night I busted out the heater for the first time. Of course it seems likely I won't have to endure much of the Japanese winter (although it looks like I still might get to enjoy the delights of a Korean winter). So far the cool has been mostly felt in the extremities (I have cold feet, so I'm thinking it's not really that cold, but a combination of the cold and me not eating too much (in my experience on the days that I haven't eaten a lot, I feel the cold a lot more).

The reason I'm not eating so much is not a fad diet or a desire to have cold feet. It's the result of a rather limited food budget, and indeed a rather limited budget on the whole. Which is the result of the whole cluster-fuck that NOVA has become. The company is almost down the tubes, hopefully liquidation and government payouts for unpaid wages come soon, and if anyone ever finds the former CEO (he was deposed at a board meeting which he failed to attend, and no-one has seen him for months) it looks like he's going to be in a lot of legal trouble.

Times are looking to be lean for a while yet. I have a job in the works in Korea but even then my first paycheck won't be until the middle of January, so I'm going to have to last a while longer on what I've got. Hopefully Korea isn't too cold. I'm also looking forward to being able to afford some more variety in my diet.

End Post
Writing time: 33 minutes
Time since last post: 6 days
Current media: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 7 episode 21 - End of Days

Thursday, November 01, 2007

November is here again

November is here again. Which means National Novel Writing Month is here again. Which means I with my now copious amount of free time and going to again attempt to produce 50,000 words of fiction (proudly displayed here). I have no ideas for a story yet, but like the idea of using site swap notation as a linking element and or chapter titles (as events in the story got more complicated, so too would the patterns used). We'll see if I can make this work.

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Blasted Koreans. On Thursday I sent a bunch of documents to the school that had offered me the job, and sent them an email letting them know the tracking number and letting them know my uncle would be sending stuff as soon as possible from Australia. So on Tuesday my uncle sends the stuff and emails me the details so I can let them know, which I do so. Then I get a reply back saying they were worried things were taking too long and that they'd given the position to someone already in Korea.

God damn it.

I do not believe that this was an unreasonable period of time. The documents needed to be collected from the university to ensure that they met the requirements for the visa (I checked with the university and that was the only way they'd guarantee it met the requirements). My uncle works so can't just go in on the spur of the moment. The documents were sent yesterday should arrive in Korea tomorrow, and given a processing time of one week for the visa in Korea, that still left one week for me to organise my flights and shipping stuff to Korea and home.

Now the recruitment company have organised another interview with a different school, this time in Seoul, but it's advertised for a mid December start. With what I've got now, I could probably have made it to the middle of December when I would of got my first paycheck. The middle of January is a lot further away. If I get my pay from NOVA in any form (actual pay or 80% from the government due to bankruptcy) I could make it.

But this is shit. I thought I was all set up and now I've had the rug pulled out from underneath me.


End Post
Writing time: 11 minutes
Time since last post: 5 days
Current media: iTunes shuffle, currently Beethoven's 5th as performed by Shenzo's Electric Stunt Orchestra

Friday, October 26, 2007


verb throw through or out of the window; "The rebels stormed the palace and defenestrated the President"

I don't know exactly what I thought this word meant, but I thought it was something a lot worse than that.

End Post
Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: 2 day
Current media: iTunes shuffle, currently Lovin' Ain't So Easy by Velvet Chain

postscript: related to my previous post script about iTunes not being a word, it appears that part of the improvements for the new version of OS X is the addition of Apple words to the dictionary. I'm not sure this is worth paying $129 for though.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

For Posterity

The following was found while doing the first stage of preparing to move. It is a song written during an honours solid state lecture. It is intended to be in the genre of heavy metal/punk. I'm putting here to preserve it for future generations and so I can get rid of one more bit of paper.

Semiconductor by the Conduction Band

I'm above the forbidden gap
Apply a potential and I'll move in a snap
Those in the valence band are caught in a trap
About them no one gives a crap

chorus: I'm an electron in a semiconductor
I don't drive a real big truck
Computers and such they all need me
But I don't give a flying duck

In an intrinsic semiconductor
Currents due to temperature
My motion is a complete blur
I'll put your head into a whirl


For everyone in the conduction band
A hole remains in the valence band
If we all went back to our home land
We'd all be colder than a bear in Iceland


Guitar solo, lots (I mean lots) of distortion

Some semiconductors are full of dope
Without them you don't have a hope
Around disruptions electrons have to grope
They're more impure than the pope

End Post
Typing time: 7 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: iTunes Shuffle, currently Drop the Hate by Fatboy Slim

Postscript: I found it rather amusing that iTunes is considered a misspelling of tunes by the apple spellchecker

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Moving Again

It looks like I'm going to be moving again. The phone interview with the school in Korea went pretty good. About an hour after the interview, I got an email with a job offer and a contract, and instructions for applying for the visa. The job is in a city called Suwon, which is about 40k south of Seoul. The pay seems pretty good, and the job looks a bit easier than here in Japan, although there will probably be more preparation involved and the classes will be bigger.

End Post
Writing time: 5 minutes
Time since last post: a few hours
Current media: None

Stupid Expensive

The other day I was wandering around a bookshop and saw something quite shocking. Among a display of Harry Potter books was an audio book version of the final book. The first thing that shocked me was the size of the thing. It was 20 CDs long. A slight shock, but nothing too major. The thing that made me exclaim out loud and get some funny looks from one of the other customers was the price tag. 18000 yen. That's around A$180. This seems to be a stupidly high amount to pay for something like this. It makes me wonder just why the price is so high. The materials are obviously not that expensive. Blank CDs are a buck a piece retail if you want to pay a lot, so I'm sure they can get them for a lot cheaper than that. There's no extra time in writing it, so the author doesn't need to get a larger cut. That I guess leaves the reader and production costs. Harry Potter does have a big name reader, Stephen Fry, but surely he's not getting all of the extra cash. Production and studio time could add more, but surely not a huge amount. It's not like the producer has to do much, just edit out any coughing fits or hiccups.

Anyway, in conclusion, I believe that audio books are ridiculously overpriced.

End Post
Writing time: 53 minutes (I got distracted)
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: None

Monday, October 22, 2007

Tokyo Round 2

Last week I went to Tokyo for the second time. This was a much briefer trip with a lot less done. The main reason for the trip was a job interview on the 15th, which I have previously discussed, so I'll talk about the rest of what I did in Tokyo here.

I caught the night bus on Saturday night, and arrived in Tokyo at about 6:30 am on Sunday. My first order of business was to get some breakfast, which ended up being MacDonalds (I like their breakfast menu). I stayed in MacDonalds reading until about 8, at which time I went across the corridor to Starbucks, which had comfier chairs. I ended up staying in Starbucks until 1, in which time I read, watched some Futurama, updated my Japanese dictionary, and practiced writing Japanese sentences.

After I left Starbucks I went to Tokyo Tower (東京タワー) via Zojoji temple. It's a nice place with some gardens around it. I actually went into the main temple and sat for a little while, because some sort of ceremony was going on and there were some monks chanting, so I watched and listened. Then onto Tokyo Tower itself. I only went up to the main viewing platform, about 150m or so up. The view was not bad, but the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building has a much better view. Also nice was the trick art gallery, a collection of works by a guy in which all the pictures are optical illusion types of things. They were pretty interesting.

After that I met up with Tyrone, who quite kindly allowed me to stay at his place for the night, thus saving me the expense of a hostel. I got to sleep on a real bed for the first time since I went to Okinawa, and had a very good night sleep. He also knows a shop that sells TimTams, so when I ate my first TimTam for I don't know how many months, I was in heaven.

Monday was the day of the interview. The interview was at 10 in Ginza, and I got there with plenty of time. The interview lasted about 25 minutes, so at half past I was free for the day. Nearby was a kabuki theater, at which a show was starting at 11. After finding out prices and deciding it was cheap enough (700 yen) I got a ticket for the first act. My seat was in the very back row, but what do you expect for 700 yen. I couldn't really pay attention because I couldn't understand what they were saying and may have nodded off during the show. After the show finished I wandered around Ginza looking for the Godzilla statue that apparently exists. Unfortunately I didn't find it. I spent an hour or so in another Starbucks, and then headed back to Tyrone's place to collect my stuff.

Then began the long wait for the bus back, which left at 10pm. This was filled with some time in an internet cafe, a bookshop (I picked up starship troopers, and managed to read most of it on the bus), dinner at MacDonalds (noticing a trend here), then about 20 minutes waiting at the bus stop. Then on the bus and heading home.

A quick tiring trip that didn't get me a new job, but the rest of what happens made it a worthwhile trip.

End Post
Writing time: 27 minutes
Time since last post: an hour or so
Current media: The Samurai Champloo soundtrack

Recent Events

Lately, life has not been so good. Or more specifically, work has not been so good. Even more specifically, the pay has been not so good. Well, not not so good, but absent, non-existent, late, yet to be paid, etc, etc.

The company is going down the tubes. Last month the teachers pay was 4 days late for most teachers. The Japanese staff are still waiting for their pay from last month. I don't really believe the promise that we'll be paid on the 25th, because that promise came after they failed to pay us on the 19th as they promised.

The actual work is not so bad. Most days have been pretty light of late. This is because the staff have been anticipating teachers not turning up and not filling the schedule, so when everyone does turn up, we all get free lessons.

Yesterday was a different story. There were meant to be five teachers working, but only two turned up. Guess who was one of those two. Yup. Me. My schedule for the day was almost completely full. The maximum size of a class is four students. My first class had three students, my last class was a man to man class where the student pays extra to be the only student, and the rest were four student classes. A few students didn't turn up, so that made it a little easier but it was a daunting schedule to look at. The staff have said they'll try and give me an easy schedule today if it's possible, so that's something to look forward to.

The Japanese staff are having a really rough time. Branches are closing all the time, teachers are not coming in and quitting at massive rates, and students are trying to get as many lessons as they can before it all comes crashing down. Combined with no real leadership from above, it seems that the branch level staff are all working together to try and keep things going. On Friday I ended up going to three different schools, as other schools were so desperate for teachers that they were willing to have someone come out to teach just one lesson, then travel to the next school for one lesson, then back to my regular branch for the rest of the day. I have to say they're doing a good job, but eventually they're going to run out of options.

Another issue is the rate at which branches are being closed. At first it was just some kids schools and small schools, but now more and more schools are closing, and it's more and more obvious that there is no planning going on. Last month some schools closed and the students were offered a transfer to another school. Then early this month they announced that school would close at the end of the month. So now the students have to transfer again, or more likely are going to quit. My school has yet to close, and word is the owner of the building is out of the country so doesn't know what's going on. We've been getting lots of transfer students, and hopefully we'll be getting some teachers from the schools that are closing, but there's no information so far. Apparently there's meant to be training for new teachers at my school today, but the head teacher hasn't got any information about the new guys, so it's pretty likely there not coming. I know I wouldn't come over now if I knew what was going on.

My reaction to all of this was at the beginning denial, but in the last month has gone to a fatalistic panic. After last months late pay, I initially thought they wouldn't be late twice, because they knew it would piss of the teachers, and with no teachers there's no business. But late the pay is, and now I'm looking for other work. I had an interview in Tokyo last week which was good and bad. Good in that they were willing to let me start training straight away, bad in that the training is unpaid, the pay is purely on a commission basis, and although the work is investment based, you have to get your own clients whose money you invest. This is not the sort of thing I can uproot and move to Tokyo for. I've also had a phone interview for teaching in China, but the pay is again good and bad. It's about what a manager in China receives, so you can live like a king over there, but it works out to about $1000 a month, so you can't really save any money. Tomorrow I have a phone interview for a job in South Korea, which is a lot better. I'd also much rather live in Korea than in China. No Great Firewall to start with, and the pay is a lot better (actually a bit better than what I get in Japan. It's about the same amount of money, but they also pay your rent and half your health insurance, plus pay for a return airfare, so that would be pretty good). We'll see how that goes.

This has also had a detrimental effect on my limited social life. The usual Monday night outing has been postponed indefinitely, pending getting some money. My diet is also suffering. For most of the last three weeks, dinner has been instant ramen. Breakfast is a pastry and some juice, or if I'm feeling luxurious, MacDonalds. The activities I've taken to fill the gap are online poker and watching the entirety of the original series of Star Trek.

End Post
Writing time: 41 minutes
Time since last post: 12 days
Current media: Newstopia

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A New Decoration

I just thought I'd put up a picture of the latest decoration in my room. Well actually, the only decoration in my room. I don't quite know exactly what it says, although two of the small kanji on the left are the name of the suburb I live in (岡町), but I like it and it will definitely make the trip back to Australia as a souvenir. Just don't ask where I got it until after I'm out of Japan.

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Writing time: 5 minutes
Time since last post: a few hours
Current media: None

Let's have some sense of scale here

Yet again American conservatives dismay me with the overreaction to something trivial. Storm in teacup is putting it mildly. The issue? Google's habit of changing their logo to commemorate certain events. A little while ago was the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik. Google produced this new logo to commemorate the event.And now conservatives are complaining that Google is not patriotic enough. They're saying because a bunch of geeks celebrated the launch of the first satellite, they are a bunch of dirty commies who hate America (I may be adding a little hyperbole here).

Really. I mean just what is their problem? Do conservatives have nothing better to do than bitch about the pictures a company puts up on their website for a day or so? Have they solved all the other problems facing society? They should get some perspective, some sense of scale. This is not a big deal, it shouldn't be a problem. And yet, they get worked up about it. I wish I knew why.

End Post
Writing time: 23 minutes (I haven't been focusing the whole time)
Time since last post: 9 days
Current media: Star Trek: The Original Series - Charlie X

Monday, October 01, 2007

Too Successful

For a while now I haven't been spending as much time on Wikipedia as I used to. Back when I was procrastinating on a PhD I would spend a lot of time just reading articles on Wikipedia. Now, not so much.

Sure, part of the reason is I have less free time. But another big contributor is that Wikipedia is almost too successful. Back in the day, I'd just click on the Random Article link, and most of the time something interesting came up. Now, I'm deluged with articles about soccer players from Iceland, census designated locations in America, obscure albums in genres I don't know by artists I don't know, and other things that make me click for the next article instead of reading the one I got.

This overabundance of uninteresting (to me) articles is a by product of Wikipedia's success. As Wikipedia get's more articles, the fraction that are interesting to a given person will tend to go down, and the Random Article link will bring up more and more stuff that's not of interest.

Ah well, nothing stays good forever.

End Post
Writing time: 9 minutes
Time since last post: 15 or so minutes
Current media: iTunes shuffle, currently Fatal by RZA

Some New Online Activities

Recently I've started doing two new things on the internet.

First, I've started playing internet poker. This started after a proposed poker night fell through due to lack of players, and a general increase in awareness of poker through playing in a few poker nights over here and watching the World Series of Poker. So far I'm only playing with play money, but after a little bit of getting used to things I'm doing OK. I've only got chips 5 or 6 times (you can get 1000 chips every 5 minutes if you need it, but if you have more than 1000 chips, you can't get more except by winning games), and currently have about 15k in chips, so I've been winning more than I've been losing. I'm thinking about starting to use real money if this trend continues, but right now I'm not sure that's a wise move to make with my money. Maybe if I get up to about 50000 chips of play money, I'll give it a go.

Secondly, I've caved and joined a social networking site. Not the infamous MySpace (lord have mercy on my soul if I ever do), instead I have joined Facebook. I joined mainly because a number of people I know over here have accounts, and as everything seems to be going to hell and the whole NOVA teacher community is being torn asunder, I thought it would be a good way to have at least one way of keeping in touch. So far though, I've had more communication with people from back in Australia than people in Japan through Facebook.

End Post
Writing time: 10 minutes
Time since last post: 10 hours
Current media: iTunes shuffle, currently Cry Baby by Janis Joplin

My Little Contribution to Burma

Today I was talking to my sister who lives in Thailand, and since it's related to her work the current Burma (Myanmar to be correct, but I'm still going to call it Burma) situation was discussed. My position is that I support the Burmese people in opposing the ruling junta, but am unwilling to make a contribution that either a) risks injury to myself, or b) costs money. The contribution I came up with follows

Received: by with HTTP; Sun, 30 Sep 2007 03:24:05 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <>
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2007 19:24:05 +0900
From: "EsonLinji"
Subject: You suck
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
Content-Disposition: inline

You Suck. Let the people be free.


I will point out that on the real email I used my real name. I probably won't be able to get another visa to visit Burma anytime soon.

So, I'm no Martin Luther King Jr or Gandhi, but some low grade official in the Burmese embassy in Tokyo knows how I feel. I encourage you all to do the same.

End Post
Writing time: 4 minutes
Time since last post: 10 minutes
Current media: iTunes shuffle, currently Thank You by Sly & the Family Stone

China's no fun

In addition to it's controversial censoring of the internet, China is paving the way in prohibiting more of the things that make life good. TV channels in China are no longer allowed to show ads for push-up bras or figure hugging underwear. If Chinese TV is anything like Australian TV, these are probably the only thing worth watching in China.

I think China is going to lose on this one. TV advertising is a bastion of human sexuality. It is foolish to think anyone, even the Communist Party of China, can beat that undeniable fact.

End Post
Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: 3 days
Current media: iTunes shuffle, currently Ten Days by Missy Higgins

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Vote for Dr Karl

So as most people who read this should know, an election is coming up in Australia in the next few months. So all of the parties are planning who's going to run and negotiating preferences.

I saw today an announcement from a small party I hadn't heard of before that piqued my interest. The Climate Change Coalition (the CCC) (presumably a single issue party) has recruited Dr Karl Kruszelnicki (I copied and pasted his last name from the news article) as their number two candidate for the senate in New South Wales.

I'm not sure I'd otherwise vote for this party (I'm not sure if they'll be running in Queensland), but I would vote for Dr Karl, and would recommend those who can do so. Dr Karl is a reasonably cool guy, although maybe a bit too casual for parliament. OK, maybe don't vote for him. But it would be a bit of a change.

End Post
Writing time: 13 minutes
Time since last post: two days
Current media: World Series of Poker

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Uh-Oh. We Can't Have That Happening

I've just read an interesting little story about an incident that occurred during the most recent sumo tournament. It seems a woman tried to invade the ring just as a fight was about to begin. The woman made it to the raised area, but was stopped by a referee and a fighter (now that's got to be a one sided affair). Fortunately, the woman was stopped before actually entering the ring which is considered a sacred area from which women are prohibited. So much so that when Osaka had a female governor, she was forced to delegate the traditional governor's duty of awarding prizes to a male delegate. And they say men and women are equal in Japan. At least women are allowed to climb mountains nowadays.

End Post
Writing time: 9 minutes
Time since last post: 3 days
Current media: None

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Interesting Times

Since last Friday, work has taken on a sort of despondent feel. The company, which has been in trouble for a long time, seems to have entered a death spiral. It started last Friday when most of the teachers were not paid on time. At around 5 pm (after the banks had closed) a fax was sent out to most branches saying that there was a processing problem that meant that it was impossible to complete the deposit of salaries, and that payments would be made on the following Tuesday or Wednesday (Monday was a public holiday), depending on where in Japan you were. This followed an incident two months ago where the salaries of the Japanese staff (they are on a different cycle for pay. Teachers are paid on the 15th, staff on the 27th) was about 5 days late.

At the same time NOVA is closing a large number of branches (I keep hearing about new branches closing). A lot of the closures seem to be kids schools, which honestly can be nothing but a money sink, but nonetheless I quite liked my kids schools and will miss the kids I have taught there (that reminds me, I have photos from my other kids school to post). Were this just a rationalisation of the business, this wouldn't be so bad. But some of the schools closing are quite large, and some smaller schools are staying open. And of course there is the rumour that the closures are due to NOVA being evicted due to unpaid rent. The fact that the list of closures keeps growing seems to suggest that this isn't part of a master plan.

Pretty much everyone is looking for other jobs. None of the teachers expect to be working next month. No one is optimistic about being paid for this month, let alone next month. No one is really motivated to work. I've heard teachers say that they're just coming in because they have nothing to do and don't want to just sit at home. I think I'm going in out of misplaced loyalty and a significant dose of denial.

I've started looking for other jobs (not that seriously, I've applied for one job working in either China or Russia). I'm also reassured by the fact that I can get unemployment benefits for three months. I could try to live cheaply for three months, try and save what I can before bugging out as soon as I get the final payment. Also handy is the fact that a ticket home for me is a mere 35000 yen (about $350 dollars (a whole fucking lot less than what I paid to get over here, although I'm willing to bet the luggage allowance is a lot less)). Right now I'm aiming to just live as cheap as I can until I either find my new job or bug out.

One thing I haven't really considered is that maybe the announcement on Tuesday is some sort of miracle cure for NOVA's problems. If it is, then I will hang around, until early next year, and save as much as I can. But that would be the easy way out, and the odds are beyond unlikely, and approaching the impossible.

I would like to be able to just hang around and keep cruising through life in Japan, but it looks like I'm going to have to put some effort into this for a little while before resuming my cruising ways.

End Post
Writing time: 39 minutes
Time since last post: 4 days
Current media: Battlestar Galactica 3x07

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Maths Quiz

If I were a Springer-Verlag Graduate Text in Mathematics, I would be Frank Warner's Foundations of Differentiable Manifolds and Lie Groups.

I give a clear, detailed, and careful development of the basic facts on manifold theory and Lie Groups. I include differentiable manifolds, tensors and differentiable forms. Lie groups and homogenous spaces, integration on manifolds, and in addition provide a proof of the de Rham theorem via sheaf cohomology theory, and develop the local theory of elliptic operators culminating in a proof of the Hodge theorem. Those interested in any of the diverse areas of mathematics requiring the notion of a differentiable manifold will find me extremely useful.

Which Springer GTM would you be? The Springer GTM Test

This is a little surprising because for all the maths I've studied, I've never even looked at Lie groups, which looking back seems a little odd given nearly everyone else I knew doing physics knew something about them.

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

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Someone else does something right

Google has realized that countries other than America have elections, and have put together a number of tools to help people deal with the upcoming Australian Federal election which can be found here. Maps of electorates, searching MPs parliamentary records, youtube channels, and more. Looks like it'll be fun to play with.

End Post
Writing time: 2 minutes
Time since last post: a half hour or so
Current media: None

The Government does something right

Let me just say I fully support the government on this issue.

End Post
Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: 3 days
Current media: African Rundown from the Casino Royale soundtrack

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Closing Down

In the last week Nova has announced that it is closing a bunch of branches all over the country (I've heard the number 300 mentioned (Sparta (sorry, couldn't help myself))(holy nested brackets)). This is impacting me as the two kids schools I go to are being closed. I was told about the one at Nigawa closing last week, but thought the one at Obayashi was safe as on the weekend I got a cover form for that school. Today however, I got a cancellation form and was told that Obayashi is closing too.

So at Obayashi this afternoon in addition to me and Tomiko (the regular staff at the kids school) the Nishikita manager came along in a role I've taken to calling "The Harbinger of Doom" to tell the parents about the closure and what their options are (which schools they can transfer to). I'm not sure as my Japanese isn't good enough, but I think some of the parents asked which classes I teach at Nishikita (some of the parents at Nigawa asked that too).

I got a few photos with the some of the kids today (the kinders and some of the seniors). I'll try and get some photos from Nigawa next week. Anyway, here are the photos.

My kinder class. From left to right: Hoshika's younger brother, Hoshika, Chiemi, Ayumi, Yusaaku (in the grip of Nova Usagi) and Tomiko (the staff at Obayashi)

Me and some of my senior kids. Left to Right: Mizuho, Mio (a former student from before my time who turned up today for some reason), Daiki, Yurina and Yusuuke

End Post
Writing time: 25 minutes
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: The Daily Show

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I'm on the YouTubes

Yesterday I was looking through a hundred yen shop near work looking for some feltpens, and while not finding any at that price point, I found some moderately bouncy balls with lights in them. Since the price seemed reasonable (105 yen each) I bought five of them, as I'm trying to learn to juggle five balls.

Today I was practicing and thought how about trying this in the dark to see what it would be like. Later on I thought it might make a cool video. A bit after that, I remembered my computer had a built in camera, and wondered if I had the software to record video. After finding out yes I do, I decided to give it a try. The result is not too bad. Not great, but not bad.

Here is the video.

There a few technical points. The lights are activated by bouncing, and the usual catching motion is not strong enough to activate them so I have to force the catches to turn the lights back on, and usually revert to a 3-ball cascade as catching dark balls in the dark is not easy.

I'm going to practice some more (I want to get turning the lights back on to the point where I can do it reliably on the first attempt), and may record a few more.

End Post
Writing time: 18 minutes
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: The Daily Show

Sunday, September 09, 2007

New Things

Over the last week and the next few days a few new things have been acquired, or will be. They will be described below in no particular (vaguely chronological) order.

A bit over a week ago, as a consequence of signing my new contract I had to apply for a visa extension. So on the 22nd of August, I went in to the immigration department's office in Osaka and submitted my application. It consisted of a three page form and some other various bits and pieces (a copy of my new contract, a tax certificate, my passport and my gaijin (alien resident) card). Part of the process was I had to write my address on a postcard which they post when your visa is ready for collection. The postcard arrived last week, so tomorrow I'll make an early start and head into Osaka to pick up my new visa. And it will cost a mere 4000 yen. While I'm there I may get myself a re-entry permit, as I'm planning to visit my sister next month and since you get the re-entry permit at the same place as getting a new visa, I may as well kill two birds with one stone.

Speaking of new visas, my new credit card arrived in the post last week. It arrived just after the old one expired, but since it came via Australia, it's not that bad. It's pretty much the same design as the old one. I guess this means I've had 4 years of debt, although I've not owed money for most of that time.

And since it's two years since I got my last credit card, that means it's two years since I bought my iPod. And frankly, it's started showing it's age. For the last month or two the battery has been playing up and not working all the time. It would show as being fully charged, but after less than twenty minutes show as empty and turn off. Because of this I had been pondering acquiring a new iPod. Apple's recent announcement of new iPods changed my thinking from if to when. Last night as I was getting on the train home from work the battery died and I decided to head into Umeda and pick up a new iPod. I still hadn't really decided between a nano or a classic, but when I got to Yodobashi camera they only had silver classic iPods left, so that pretty much made my choice for me. It's not that much bigger than my old mini (now relegated to portable hard drive status once I get some music off of it), a bit wider and taller, but thinner. The display is a lot nicer too, although the cover flow feature is not so great (it treats each album artist combination as a seperate album, while I think it would be more useful if it realised that some albums have several artists involved (movie soundtracks for one, and most annoying, the Triple J Hottest 100s, which end up having about 80-90 separate variants for all the artists involved.) and of course would be better if I had cover art for more of my music. I've spent perhaps too much time since buying the iPod making sure all my music is organised with artist and album information.

Another recent acquisition is Evensong, the final trade paperback collection of Lucifer. Like the final edition of the Sandman, this is also more of a coda than a part of the story, but interesting none the less as it ties up a number of the loose ends in the story. I had already read the final issue, but it was good to fill in some of the gaps between the last issue and the end of the previous trade paperback.

End Post
Writing time: 1 hour 20 minutes (I got distracted)
Time since last post: 11 days
Current media: Samurai Champloo

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

This is Bullshit

I've just read today's Crikey, and was quite appalled at the top story about a government plan to seize Aboriginal assets. It appears the government wishes to take control of all Aboriginal assets worth more than $400,00, manage them, and in some cases rent them back to the former owners. This is bullshit. This is theft.

This appears to be part of the series of changes the government is introducing as a response to the Little Children are Sacred report. The legislation the government introduced was a massive 568 pages long and the government used it's numbers in the senate to limit the committee inquiry to one working day (the senate referred the 5 bills to the committee on Thursday the 9th, public hearings were on Friday the 10th and a report was due on Monday the 13th) which is plenty of time to read, discuss, contemplate, suggest amendments (although the government refused to consider any of those too). A final vote in the senate was held on 17th. Apparently, the authors of the report were not consulted by those drafting the legislation in response to the report, and were only spoke to the committee during the lunch break. This process is also bullshit.

The government has used this situation to grab a lot of power it didn't and shouldn't have or deserve, and appears ready to abuse, and has used it's numbers in both houses to limit debate and scrutiny of the bill. 10 days from introduction in the House of Representatives to final passing in the Senate for 568 pages of legislation. The bills seem to be lists of amendments which are meaningless without considering the bills they're altering (more pages to be read), long lists of restrictions on what people can do and how they use money (although I guess that is what laws are, but these seem to be very micromanagerial rules). The laws even attempt to be retroactive in some of their applicability. I quote now from the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Payment Reform) Bill 2007 "For the purposes of this Part, it is immaterial whether an unsatisfactory school attendance situation exists or has existed before or after the commencement of this section."

Imposing penalties or restrictions based on actions before the law was introduced is unjust. The restriction imposed by the small fraction of the one bill I read is heavy handed and seems unnecessary. Taking almost complete control of individuals finances reeks of the bad old days when Aboriginal wages were previously managed by government entities (and we all know how fair and well-managed that scheme was). I can only imagine what other horrors lurk in the 568 pages of bullshit.

On a more general note, I wonder just how many of our 150 MPs and 76 senators have read the full text of these bills. I wonder how many had a member of their staff read the whole thing. I wonder how many read the whole thing before voting on it. I wonder how many have given serious thoughts to the consequences of this bill. 10 days is not that much time for such deliberations. I think there should be a certain minimum amount of time for debate of bills, to prevent the government limiting debate in the manner that it has. Maybe something whereby you need a supermajority (e.g. two thirds of the house) to call for a final vote on a matter.

End Post
Writing time: 1 hour 16 minutes (includes some research time)
Time since last post: about 6 hours
Current media: None

I see your 50, and raise you another

Last night I went to a poker game at a friends house. All round it was a pretty good night. The poker was good, the conversation was good, etc, etc. I had a slow start and sat out the first half dozen or so hands, but once I got a good hand played it a bit too strong but ended up winning. Overall, I had a conservative style that meant I ended up with a bit more money than I started with. I didn't think I'd done as well as the last time I played, as last time I gave out chips for a few buy ins but this time I didn't, but in the end the payout was about the same.

After the poker there was a bit more drinking and talking where I was a bit of the odd one out neither drinking nor smoking, but I can handle being the odd one out for those reasons.

End Post
Writing time: 11 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: The Brobdingnagian Bards

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

It's About Time

After way too much time making an ass out of himself and the country he works for, Alberto Gonzales is resigning. I can think of no more fitting tribute than if in the future when people mention his name, the only response will be "I don't recall".

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Writing time: 5 minutes
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: None

Monday, August 27, 2007

Thought for the day

Paragraphs seem longer when handwritten in a notebook than when they are typed.

End Post
Writing time: 30 seconds
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: None

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A quotation from The Deeply Unfortunate Doings Of An Ill-fated Life

So as mentioned, here is the depressing introspective text that I wrote in a notebook. The harsh light of reality is not always pleasant. Anyway, here goes.

The Deeply Unfortunate Doings Of An Ill-fated Life is perhaps a little melancholic, but none the less has an echo of truth to it.

Life recently has not seemed to positive. The events themselves do not necessarily warrant such an extreme reaction, but they have acted as a catalyst of sorts, bringing back doubts and uncertainties I had not exorcised but had put to one side.

One of the big doubts I have is what I want to do with life. When I left high school I had a definite plan: get a degree, do honours, get a PhD, enter academia, do research, become a professor, etc, etc.

This plan has been abandoned, and as yet has not been replaced by a new plan. I have floated along in life since then, going where life takes me.

The other big doubt that eats at me is my inability to relate to, to interact with other people. Sometimes talking to people is a challenge. Sometimes in a conversation I will have nothing to say, and so I will just stay silent. In a group this means I mostly listen, while in a one on one situation means I cause an awkward silence. I know it would be proper to say something, but either I don't know what to say, have nothing to say, or don't know what I want to say, or whatever, I still go mute. Sometimes the other person fills in the gap, but often the silence prevails, and the longer it lasts, the harder it is to break. I know this is not the normal way of things.

On this aspect I have been improving, albeit very slowly, but I'm still sub-par at this. And because of this I feel like I'm missing out on parts of life. Most parts of life, actually. It took me 25 years before I had a romantic relationship. I've been in Japan 11 months and have no friends who are not connected to work. I keep in regular contact with only two friends from university, and irregular contact with a few others. In every group I'm a part of, I'm an outsider, an extra. Stuff happens with the group, and sometimes I'm included, sometimes I'm not. Sometimes I don't hear about an event until after it happens. Sometimes I'll know somethings going to happen, but not when or where or who else, and am afraid to ask if I can be a part of it for fear of a) looking presumptuous by barging in and b) out right rejection or otherwise being told no. My basis for this fear is the assumption that if my presence was wanted and/or desired I'd already be invited/informed.

At any rate, a few weeks ago an incident occurred of which I'm not proud, regret and which threw these issues into a harsh light. I'm not going to go into details of what happened, but at any rate it was not my finest hour.

the consequences of that night still endure. There is now a second member of the "EsonLinji has done terribly wrong by you" club. Since then I've been feeling more morose than ever. On a positive note I have a stronger desire to take action to change the way things are going.

Last Saturday I visited a counselor in Kyoto. This is not the first time I've visited a counselor, but it is the first time I went with a definite intention to continue. I went once before, around the time I quit my PhD.

This time was a bit different. Partly because I was going of my own volition, rather than to appease a scorned master.

Mostly while I was at the counselor I just talked. On some topics once I stop talking I can keep going and going. It seems to be the small everyday talking I'm not good at, which unfortunately is the much more common and useful type of talking.

I talked about a lot of different things. The recent past, my PhD, my family, my lack of purpose in life, lots of stuff.

It's weird that I'm more comfortable talking to a counselor about some of this stuff than friends (with I think maybe 3 exceptions). Perhaps because with most friends and acquaintances it's a very casual relationship and these are serious matters. Perhaps it's because most conversations don't last long enough to get to serious matters. Yet another sign of and problem caused by my lack of social skills.

I think some of what the counselor is useful but some I'm not so sure of. This may be my cynicism showing through, although lately I think I'm too cynical. I was not too receptive to the idea of contrasting the head and the heart (intellect vs emotion). To me they are one and the same. The heart as the source of emotion is a symbol, not a fact. As a fact, the heart is a pump, nothing more. Symbolism has its uses, but reality should not be ignored to support it.

I'm also not sure of the idea of having a cynical person inside of me holding me back. My point of view is that it's just me. Perhaps this is again symbolism. I'm much more open to the ideas of facets of myself vs the idea of several different people up in my head.

This railing against symbolism brings to mind one of my favorite works, "The Sandman". In "The Sandman" the main character is Dream, the embodiment of symbols and stories, and where reality is defined by them. Maybe I'm attracted to such stories because in this and most other media I enjoy there is usually a thread of something greater going on either behind the scenes or less often right up front. I think this reflects on my general lack of purpose or meaning in life, and my desire for such things.

I've lost the sense of how to continue writing from here, so I'm going to stop. More is likely to follow.

End Post
Writing time: 34 minutes typing, several hours writing over a few days
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: Firefly - Disc 4

Thursday, August 23, 2007

This is Sparta

Well, not really, but since this is post 301, the title seemed somewhat suitably topical. Anyway, in commemoration of a big round number in a base ten counting system (300 in binary is 100101100, octal 454, hexadecimal 12C, Japanese 三百 (still a round number, but a bit different)) I'm going to get a bit meta on you all.

It has taken a mere 35 months to reach the 300 post mark. The rate of posting has generally been going up. My first month had a mere three entries, while the lowest count this year for a month is nine.

The rate of posting has tended to oscillate up and down. Not surprisingly, there was a jump in the rate of posting when I moved to Japan, although the peak rate has not been sustained. Without doing any actual analysis, I'd say that there are 5 more posts on average in Japan. Most of the posts are to do with everyday life, and this year there have been less on politics and news (a lot of those were written while unemployed, and I had more time to pontificate on things).

The use of tags has varied, and I haven't really kept to the intention of only having a half dozen or so in the displayed list, mainly because to do that would require some simple but time consuming changes to the template, and also I want to keep some of the lower number tags on the list. A look at the rate of use of various tags would also entail more work than I'm willing to do, so won't be appearing.

Readership is broader than my original intentions, but that is not unwelcome, as my intention changed when I moved to Japan, so that now I want readers. Again in something that is not surprising, most readers are from Australia (35.38%). Japan is second (15.54%), America third (14.93%), and Thailand a strong fourth (11.04%, good job Sis) (these and other percentages are based on the last 500 visitors). On a tech side 58.2% of readers use a variant of Firefox or Mozilla, while 40.2% use Internet Explorer. Not that it really matters, since Blogger shows up pretty much the same for users of both (although if you start using more fancy templates the differences between the two become troublesome. Thank you Microsoft for trying to alter the standards).

Since I've just reached a big round number, another depressing introspective post is upcoming (I've written it a book, but I'm still not sure how much I want to put up online). Plus there is some other writing I'm pondering that may or may not show up here (again, likely to be a bit depressing (for me at least)). Lately in general I've been a bit depressive, mainly issues that have been around for a few years, and have sort of bubbled back up to the surface in recent months, but that's for another post.

End Post
Writing time: 47 minutes
Time since last post: about an hour
Current media: Still Firefly (fourth and last episode for the night)

Rational Thought Expelled

I found out about a rather disturbing film the other day. The movie is called Expelled, and is about the whole creationism in schools and science controversy. The reason I don't like this movie is that it is presenting the creationism side of the story. Unfortunately, going by the trailer it is an extremist piece that misrepresents both sides in an attempt to make their side seem more valid.

Others have already pontificated at length on this topic, and I don't really have much to add except to warn people about this piece of dren, and to say that I'm rather disappointed in Ben Stein (the narrator/host guy) for being associated with this.

End Post
Writing time: 11 minutes
Time since last post: a little bit
Current media: Still Firefly

Japan: Exporting 70% of the World's Crazy Shit Since 1960

In some ways, Japan is like many countries. Reliable electricity, hot water, internet (my 3 basic requirements for somewhere to live), tall buildings, roads, cars, commercialism, etc. But it also includes a lot of crazy stuff. People who wear long gloves while riding a bike. People who have umbrellas attached to their bike. Kids who get homework during summer vacation, and do it. Green tea kit kats, orange kit kats (OK, this one is actually nice), kiwi kit kats, and others I'm not quite sure of.

At any rate, there's a lot of crazy over here. And in the news today I saw another example of the crazy. A man has sent his finger to the Prime Minister as a protest to his decision not to visit Yasukuni shrine (Yasukuni is where the war dead of Japan are enshrined, including 14 war criminals, making official visits by the Prime Minister a touchy subject with neighbouring countries). Accompanying the finger was a DVD containing pictures of the man cutting off his finger, and he has been charged with intimidating a government official.

This I must say is all in rather poor taste. This man is obviously taking things way to seriously, and this is what has led him to this rather unpleasant situation.

Anyway, that's today dose of crazy from Japan

End Post
Writing time: 17 minutes
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: Firefly

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Not How I Want To Go

In the news lately is this unusual story of a woman who was killed by her pet camel when it tried to mate with her.

There is no way someone can keep their dignity after this. And it's not going to be forgotten. It doesn't matter what else the woman did during her life, she'll be remembered as the lady who got killed by a randy camel. And imagine what it will be like explaining this one to St Peter.

St Peter: And how did you die?
Lady: My pet camel tried to mate with me
St Peter: What the fuck?

So here's sympathy to the woman's family and hope that this never happens to me (if it does, I want a postmortem name change).

End Post
Writing time: 6 minutes
Time since last post: two days
Current media: none (it's too early for music)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

New Contract

Last Tuesday I signed my new contract with NOVA. Pretty much what I expected, although I was a bit disappointed by the raise I got. The raise I got was 2k yen per month, which is a bit less than what most people I know received (4k per month). There are a few reasons floating around in my head as to why, which are in order of likeliness: the company is in financial troubles and so is being stingy with increases, I'm not as good a teacher as others (I don't really like that one), and the fact that I was late twice (once by about 5 minutes, once by one lesson) not because I was sick or any other external reason, but I just forgot or lost track of time. Probably a combination of all three.

At any rate, a small increment is a bit shit because after one year I have to start paying city tax, which apparently is a fair bit bigger than the increment (by at least a factor of 2-4, maybe more). Ah well, most people don't bother paying, or at least not until the government gets serious about asking about it, although I have heard it can cause problems if you try and visit Japan again later on. But, since I am the type of person I am, I will probably pay the tax.

I'm going to try and sort out renewing my visa tomorrow, but that will mean heading into work early and hoping the copy of my contract for the immigration office has arrived. It wasn't anywhere Friday, but the area manager said it would be at the office by Thursday, so we'll see in the morning. Then I'll have to go into Osaka, and hand in some forms and stuff. Hopefully it won't take too long, as I have to start work at 2:15, so that gives me about 4 hours to pick up the contract, go into Osaka, deal with the bureaucracy, and get back out to Nishinomiya for work.

End Post
Writing time: a while (I started on Tuesday, but didn't get back to it until tonight)
Time since last post: 5 days
Current media: alex gaudino - destination calabria

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Yet another reason why Lego is awesome

It's been circulating round various news sources that a giant (8 foot) Lego man washed up on the shores of the Netherlands. All I can say is awesome.

End Post
Writing time: 5 minutes
Time since last post: 11 days
Current media: iTunes shuffle - currently Half Moon by Janis Joplin

Friday, August 03, 2007

A Hat Full of Media

I've got a few different bits of media from the last few weeks that I have a little bit to say about, so I'm going to collect them all here in no specific order.

The Okinawa Reading List.
The books I read on my trip to Okinawa were as follows: Foundation and Empire, Freakonomics, The Little Prince, and Absurdistan.

Foundation and Empire is an oldy and a goody, although I prefer the first of the Foundation novels. From the second book onward, it concentrates more on the individuals whereas the first had a feeling of more impersonal, grandiose history unraveling as you read. Although to be honest, I'm not sure that could be kept up over the course of a thousand years with the same level of quality.

Freakonomics was interesting, but unfulfilling. It lacked a certain amount of depth. I think I expected it to be a weightier, more serious and academic tome than it really was.

The Little Prince I added to the list since John Paul showed me the French copy he was carrying around with him on his travels. An interesting tale which definitely made me think about things (some of which I may be better of not thinking about).

I'm still reading Absurdistan, which is about a fat Russian guy who gets mixed up in a civil war in the former soviet republic of Absurdistan. It's not bad, but I'm not sure what point the author is trying to make.

Also in Okinawa I started playing Phoenix Wright. This is a lawyer RPG type game. The game play has two sections, investigation where you talk to witnesses and look for evidence, and the courtroom where you cross examine witnesses and present evidence to show the holes in the witnesses' testimony. An interesting game, although it is quite linear in play, sometimes the evidence to present and when is quite arbitrary, and now that I've finished it I doubt I'll play it again any time soon. That said, I will probably buy Phoenix Wright 2 after payday.

I've already talked about Die Hard 4 and Pirates 3, so I won't do so further. I am going to try and see Transformers and Harry Potter 5 in the near future while they are still showing in the cinemas.

Today I got my hands on the final Harry Potter book, and am already 100 pages in. I don't expect to get much sleep tonight, as I'll probably get to around 2 am and think, damn, I should get some sleep. I'll probably comment a bit more when I finish it.

Lastly, I found a link to this on Neil Gaiman's blog, Peanuts by Charles Bukowski. This appeals to my fondness for the reinterpretation of stories with a different, more twisted perspective. This is very different to the original, but very good.

End Post
Writing time: 28 minutes
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: Apocalyptica - Faraway

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Another Evaluation

On Monday the 9th of July I had a short talk with my BT (head teacher at the school) saying if I wanted a new contract I should put in a request pretty soon. I was a bit surprised as I hadn't expected this for another month or so, but they need time to make sure everything gets sorted before my current contract expires so I guess it's not too soon. As it turns out, he had already scheduled the observation for the next Sunday. Since I was planning on staying past the initial one year contract, I filled out the general request form with the following elaborate request: I would like to request a new contract. Nothing to onerous, and pretty much the standard wording.

Anyway, with that obstacle overcome, the path was clear for my observation. On Sunday, only one thing could stand in the way. The lesson I was scheduled to be observed on was a one student lesson, and the student had a history of not turning up to the lessons she'd booked. Five minutes in, we conceded that this was a temporary defeat and looked to see how it could be rescheduled to fit in with other lessons and the few frees that existed on the schedule for the day. After some switching of regular lessons and voice lessons that involved altering two other peoples schedules, we had me a lesson I could be watched on, and since the student had booked the lesson today, was a pretty good bet to show up, and indeed she did. The lesson went pretty well, even though it wasn't a lesson I'd taught many times before. The feedback session felt a lot better than my mid contract evaluation, which I think is partly to do with the different styles of the BT and the AT.

My main concern now with getting a new contract is if the company is still around by the end of September.

End Post
Writing time: 12 minutes
Time since last post: 5 days
Current media: Rasputina - How We Quit the Forest (the album just finished)

Saturday, July 28, 2007


So, a few days after getting back from Okinawa, where there was a decided lack of time spent on the beach, on Tuesday (24/7/07) I caught the bus to Shirahama with a group of friends from around here. Here we spent 3 days on the beach. We camped out on the beach at night, and left only to find somewhere for meals, and to visit the convenience stores for supplies.

Generally it was a good and stress free time. We all got a bit sunburnt in different places depending on what individuals wore and where they put sunscreen. On Wednesday night we lit a bunch of fireworks we bought at the local convenience store. One we weren't sure which was up, and got it wrong, sending it flying along the beach, passing only a few meters away from another group of people.

We were most active on the first day. The second day was mostly spent sitting in the shade, trying to avoid getting more sunburnt. Day three was similar, but we weren't quite so scared of the sun, although we were getting a bit tired of not sleeping on a futon and having access to a hot shower. We had lunch and hung around the cafe for a while, then went to a hotel bar and mooched around for about an hour or so on one drink.

The bus ride back was slower than the ride to the beach, due to some traffic issues on the way.

I got sunburnt worst on my feet, so much so that wearing shoes to work today was quite uncomfortable

End Post
Writing time: 19 minutes
Time since last post: 8 days
Current media: Rasputina - How We Quit the Forest

Friday, July 20, 2007

Okinawa Day 4

Day 4 in Okinawa was mostly relaxed, but there were a few events of note. The usual breakfast (MacDonalds bacon & egg muffin meal), then I checked out of the hostel, but was able to leave my bag there for the day.

First on the agenda was to buy a yukata (a Japanese summer style kimono) as work was planning a yukata party on Sunday, and I wouldn't really have time to buy one back in Osaka before then. After wandering around a little I found a shop that had a bunch of kimono looking things, and in my poor Japanese first asked "kore wa yukata desuka?" (is this a yukata?), and getting an "iie" in response, followed with "yukata wa arimasuka?" (are there yukatas?) whereupon I was led to a different section of the shop. They gave me one to try on, a large (yukatas don't come in many sizes, and since the average foreigner is bigger than the average Japanese person, large was realistically the only one that would fit. The length is about right, but the sleeves are a little shorter than they should be. After some confusion over the name of some colours I finally picked out a yukata that is dark blue in colour, with some sort of pattern on it (it looks like some sort of lamp thingy). As later events would show, this purchase would be very fortunate.

After this I went to one of the parks to relax for a while. I did a bit of reading, played some more Phoenix Wright, and then decided to do some juggling. I did this for a while, practising some routines, then 3 balls in one hand (I can kind of do this now, but I have too move a lot). The juggling ended when I lunged to catch the balls and heard a rip. I looked down and the inside right leg of my shorts was torn from where the legs meet in the middle to the hem. I quickly sat down on the bench and considered my options. Walking down the streets in my shorts like this was not an option. The solution to how to get back to the hostel to my bag and a new pair of shorts: the yukata. I put on the yukata and headed back to the hostel. I got a few odd looks on my way, and learnt I couldn't really use my normal stride in a yukata (I'm sure you can work out why). Anyway, I got back to the hostel, changed pants and then went back out into the world, sans yukata. I had lunch, and decided to head over to the Naha museum to kill some time. Unfortunately, the museum was closed, so I got some icecream at the Hageen Daas that was below the museum. After that I decided to call it a day and go to the airport.

My flight arrived in Kobe on time at 8:25, and I was home between 9:30 and 10.

End Post
Writing time: 17 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: Rasputina - How We Quit the Forest

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Okinawa Day 3

Day 3 in Okinawa was a little different. I decided that rather than trying the beach again and getting drenched, I'd do some sightseeing and then catch another movie. I was delayed in leaving the hostel though because while I was doing some after breakfast reading I started watching one of the other guests making a string bracelet, and ended up making one of my own. In hindsight, the rough black twine I though would look macho and manly just ended up looking a bit ratty and was harder to make.

For my sightseeing I headed over to Ryuku Castle. The castle has been built and rebuilt many times, most recently after WWII. There are some parts that are still being restored but it was a good visit. Just before going into the main castle part, in the courtyard there was a performance of traditional dance which I hung around and watched. A bit different to the dancing I'm used to, but no-one can do fancy footwork in a kimono. Overall, the dancing was quite sedate, and the use of props was more interesting than the footwork. The inside of the castle was pretty interesting, and had a lot of English signs. You did have to take of your shoes off at the entrance though. After the castle I wandered around the lake just below the castle, and headed to the cinemas around 4:45ish.

The movie I saw was Pirates of the Caribbean 3. My advice is if you haven't already seen it, don't. During the movie I was thinking "this is bad". The story made little sense, and the humour of the original is sorely lacking. The few moments of comedy with Johnny Depp were the only positive things in the movie. I did however stick around for the little coda after the credits.

Dinner was KFC, and then I went back to the hostel for the night.

End Post
Writing time: 15 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: None