Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Who is Esonlinji?

Today I finished reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. The end was not really a surprise after reading through the book, given that the grand plan was announced about two thirds the way through the book, and the rest of the book was the fulfilment of that plan.

The philosophy Rand puts forth agrees a fair bit with mine, and I can see myself incorporating some more of it into my own ideals. The main agreement is in the fundamental basis of the philosophy: the existence of a external, independent, consistent reality which man lives in. This is to me the only place to start thinking about the world we live in. To think the world is as we think it to be instead of the way it is is plain delusional. To think that you can change the world just by thinking it so without taking action to achieve such a change is to ignore the true nature of the world we live in.

Rand also points out the dangers of collectivism in the novel. The idea of taking from the rich, the skilled, the creative, and giving to the poor, the unmotivated, the leeches is not the one that socialists put forward, but is definitely a result that could happen when such a system is put in place. I think that the idea "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" should be supplemented with "From each according to his need, to each according to his ability." Each person should give their best and should be rewarded accordingly. Each person should pay their own way, pay for the resources they use in their endeavours. I'm having a little trouble fitting "to each according to his need" into this, so, except for the fact that it ruins the symmetry of the statements, I'd suggest dropping it.

I don't agree quite so strongly with Rand's ideal of laissez-faire capitalism as the ultimate form of guiding societies production. I think the problem with such systems is that once the means of production sufficiently outweigh the means of consumption, the scarcity that underpins capitalism of all forms falls away. Combine this with the reduction in physical labour due to technologies such as automation, and Rand's idea of production as the greatest of tasks seems a bit empty.

The contrast I've got in my head with the world of John Galt is that of Iain M Banks' The Culture, a post scarcity, anarcho-socialist mish mash. I think Rand would despise the hedonistic human citizens of The Culture as looters of the worst kind, having created greater beings (the Minds of the Culture) hamstrung into acting as willing victims who give their sanction to those who live off their power and ability. I think the Culture is a much better long term goal society wise, but Ayn Rand's ideas are an important step in getting there.

I'll write some more later, but will stop here since I'm rather tired.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Japanese Lessons

Today I went on a quest to find myself somewhere to take Japanese lessons. My first stop was the Toyonaka International Center. I had previously looked at their lesson schedule but it had not fit in with my work schedule. However, starting this Thursday my Thursday shift starts at 10:00 instead of 1:20, and ends at 5:40 instead of 9:00. This means that I can make the lesson at 7:00.

This is good as I've been meaning to start taking lessons for most of the time I've been here. Hopefully it won't be too hard. One thing that has really emphasised my lack of Japanese is my kids classes. There have been some cases where an accident has happened or someone has got upset and I haven't been able to do much too help as I can't find out what the problem is.

Anyway, I'll see how the lessons go.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Oh Dear

I've just finished reading this article about the latest consequence of the Palm Island incident. The Queensland Police Union apparently feels that certain aboriginal groups should be left to themselves under tribal law.

This of course neglects the fact that one of the guiding principles of a modern democracy is that all people are equal when it comes to the law. All people follow the same laws and those laws treat all people the in an equal fashion. All people should receive equal protection from those who break the laws. The idea of letting some people live under a different set of laws undermines all this.

Then there is the nature of the groups that the QPU wants to abandon. Telling aboriginal groups that they are separate from the rest of Australian society only works to increase the divides in our country.

The Palm Island incident has highlighted some of the problems that still exist in Australia. It should not be used as an excuse to move backwards.

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Writing time: 15 minutes
Time since last post: not sure
Current media: Dilbert season 1 - The Knack

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wikipedia 1, Japanese sales staff 0

As part of my acquiring Opera for the DS, I had to decide how much I trusted Wikipedia. The sales staff at the store told me that any DS game acquired in Japan would not work on my DS from Australia. On my first visit I took their word for it, as I didn't know any better.

The next day I read up on the DS at Wikipedia to see if I could maybe at least use US games on mine, and found out that any DS will play a cartridge from any country (there is an exception with China, but that doesn't affect me).

So now I had to decide how much I trusted Wikipedia. As most people know, I am a big fan of Wikipedia, have contributed a bit, use it for most basic fact checking, and more. But this was the first time my money was on the line. I decided that I trusted Wikipedia with ¥3410, and bought the DS Browser, which as you can see is working in my Australian DS.

So, final score, Wikipedia 1, Japanese sales staff 0.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Browsing on a DS

Today I bought Nintendo DS Browser. I made this purchase to offset my lack of a computer for another few weeks. So far the browser is OK. It's rendering is a bit iffy, but that is a factor of the screen size.

Input is a little slow, and the handwriting recognition is almost painfully so. I think I'll stick with the keyboard on the screen, which I don't have to wait while it decides which letter I've just written.

Blogger doesn't seem to want to let me log on with the DS, so I'm using the feature that lets you email your entries in, since I can use gmail.

There's a few more sites I need to try to see if I can get by without visiting an internet cafe every day or two (it doesn't show all the pictures on a page, so I'll have a backlog of comics to read).

Anyway, I want to play around a bit more, so I'll wrap up now.


I'm no going to put much details here right now, but recently I've been feeling quite at peace with the universe.

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Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: ?
Current media: iPod

Thursday, January 18, 2007

New Toy

So after three months my new toy has arrived. Three months ago it arrived at my old house in Brisbane, about one month after I'd left. Today I picked up my Nintendo DS from the post office here in Japan and having been playing with it nearly every chance I've had since. I got one game with it, Super Mario DS, which is pretty fun. It doesn't use the stylus and touch screen much, but I'm sure other games will.

Anyway, since this has taken me about 16 minutes to write (I decided to play another level of Mario), I'm going to stop typing and start playing.

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Writing time: 16 minutes
Time since last post: 25 minutes or so
Current media: Super Mario DS


I've decided to help Chris in spreading the message that Nostromo Sucks. This is not a decision I haven't taken lightly, just for the entertainment.

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Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: Geeknights


Yesterday and today I spent in Hiroshima sightseeing with Mum. We went there by shinkansen (bullet train) which was a first for both of us. It was a little pricey, but very quick. However a large amount of the travel time is going through tunnels, so I didn't miss too much by taking naps while in transit.

Hiroshima was cold and damp (not raining, but you wouldn't be surprised if it did actually start raining). Yesterday we had a look at part of the Peace Park and a look through the museum. It is quite a somber experience.

Today we explored the rest of the Peace Park and then went over to Miyajima to see the Itsukushima shrine. Very pretty, but likely to be more so at high tide. Anyway here are some photos from the trip. More can be found here.

The A-Bomb Dome: One of the buildings closest to the detonation

Looking up at the hypocenter. The A-bomb exploded about 600 meters above where I was standing when I took this photo.

Probably one of the few rare pieces of photographic evidence that I am actually in Japan and not just stealing someone's photos. Thanks to the Japanese guy who offered to take the photo for us.

The great torii.

A shinkansen

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Writing time: 13 minutes
Time since last post: 4 days
Current media: None

Monday, January 15, 2007

Kevin Shrugged

Inspired by recent adventures in book-wankery of others, and lacking other reading material, I decided today to buy a new book and make it one that one reads more for the sake of saying one has read it than for the book itself. The book I chose was Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

So far I've read about 50 pages and my main response so far is that she's really laying it on thick. You have no doubts which characters she sympathises which and which she despises. 50 pages is more than enough to get the general idea underlying the novel (I don't foresee a major change in this, just exploration of the idea). I'm not sure where the story will go, but the general themes are well established.

I sort of agree with some of the ideas Rand is espousing here, but dislike the extremes she takes them too. As I have said before, any idea, no matter how good or noble, when taken to extremes becomes a source of bad.

Anyway, I will post a longer and more thought out statement when I finish the book.

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Writing time: 8 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: None

Saturday, January 13, 2007


On the way home tonight I saw something and just thought "awesome". Just outside my apartment building is a beer vending machine. And as I was walking up to my building a guy on a scooter pulled up at the vending machine and proceeded to acquire some beer (given he was using a note, maybe several beers). Anyway, I can only hope he had the patience to wait until he got home to start drinking.

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Writing time: 2 minutes
Time since last post: about 13 hours
Current media: None

War With Iran

It seems that America may be going to war with Iran sooner than expected. It seems that American forces have already raided Iranian territory, as reported on wikinews (they cite several other sources so this appears reliable. Interestingly, none are American.). The territory in question is the Iranian Consulate General in Erbil, Iraq. Under international treaties, place such as this are considered the territory of the nation, so this action by American troops is an attack on Iran, and could be construed as an act of war.

And in a strange reversal of roles (almost a Russian Reversal you could say) Russia is condemning America and expressing shock and dismay with America's actions.

I'm interested to see what the American explanation for this action will be. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has asked for an explanation from Condoleezza Rice.

I'm not quite shocked and dismayed by this action, but someone was asleep behind the wheel on this one. Iran is a sensitive issue at the moment and this won't help. Surely someone along the way knew that it is not OK to attack another countries consulate.

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Writing time: 9 minutes
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: none

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Preparing for Isolation

In a little over a weeks time I have to return the laptop I've been using to Mum. This is only fair as it is her laptop and I've been using it since late September. I had initially planned to have bought a new computer before this time, but due to various circumstances this has not happened. I could afford a cheap one in a few days time after pay day, but I'm currently planning on waiting until February. At this time I'd have plenty of cash. February will be my first pay that doesn't have a repayment for my advance taken out of it, so will be a fair bit more generous than previous pays. Plus by splitting the purchase over 3 months, I will have more overall and won't have to skimp as much in the meantime.

At the moment I'm preparing for the lack of a computer for a month. This will be the first time since the first year of university I haven't had access to a computer of my own. I'm burning a lot of stuff to DVD (my diminished music collection and videos from recent months) and removing a lot of the programs I've installed during the time I've been using this computer (I doubt Mum is a fan of Starcraft or Wizardry).

During the time that I don't have a computer, I think I'll be visiting an Internet cafe on a regular (daily) basis. There is one on the way to work, so I may just head into work an hour earlier each day (I'm not sure about days off, we'll see).

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Writing time: 17 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: Stargate 10x11

Exploring Okamachi

Tonight on the way back from the convenience store to buy some razor blades I came to a street veering off the main arcade mall type thing that all the shops are along. I haven't been down that street before, but it sort of cuts a diagonal between the convenience store I went to and my place. I walked past it thinking "I should go down that street some time". Then I thought "Fuck it, I'll do it now." And with that I went down the side street. It wasn't quite as straight as I thought it was, but it nonetheless got me back to my apartment. Anyway, I just wanted to commemorate this small spirit of exploration I exhibited tonight.

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Writing time: 5 minutes
Time since last post: half a day or so
Current media: None

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Podcasts I Listen To

This is mainly so I can find the list of podcasts I listen to for when I acquire a new computer in the next month or so. A list of the podcasts I listen to can be downloaded from here.
The list is
A Brobdingnagian Minute, Jedi drinking songs and more.
Ask A Ninja, the only ninja who could beat a robot pirate monkey.
Battlestar Galactica commentary by Ron Moore.
Digital Debates, some American politics.
Galactica Sitrep, Battlestar Galactica news.
Galacticast, scifi comedy
Geeknights, late night talk show for geeks.
Hope is Emo, Emo kids are funny.
Mathgrad Maths is cool.
Media Watch, the best news show in Oz.
Military History Podcast, a little history about fights.
Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! Americans lame ass attempt at a show like Good News Week. They have some success.
Penn Radio, the home of Monkey Tuesday.
Point of Inquiry, Yay secular humanists.
Briefly Patriotic, these are very scary people.
Slate Explainer, find out the stuff that you don't think to find out until you really have to.
The Chaser's War on Everything (here's hoping it comes back this year)
The Combat Information Center, more Battlestar Galactica talk.
The Onion Radio News
The Signal, after early cancellation several years ago, people are still talking about Firefly.
Sunday Night Safran, as the show says, late night discussion of religion, politics and hoochies.

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Writing time: 21 minutes
Time since last post: 3 days
Current media: Ask A Ninja

Sunday, January 07, 2007

It's Snowing

The title says it all.

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Writing time: 10 seconds
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: none

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Ashley Treatment

I first saw this in the International Herald Tribune today and it's popped up on several of the Internet news sites I read. The longest article is on Wikinews here, and more information straight from the source is here.

The matter is a rather tricky ethical matter. A family has a child who is severally mentally handicapped, but not physically. The child, Ashley, is now around nine years old. The family after much consultation with doctors, has had Ashley undergo several forms of medical treatment to prevent her further physical development. Hormone treatment has stunted her growth so she won't grow much more than her current 4 foot 5 inches (already relatively small), and has had her uterus and breast buds removed, preventing her from developing breasts or menstruating later on. She also had her appendix removed

There are a number of aspects to consider while debating the merits of this course of action. From a practical standpoint, someone the size of a small child is a lot easier to look after, move around and so on. Preventing menstruation also avoids further means of Ashley making a mess of herself. However taking such extreme actions on a person just to make your life easier is not so palatable.

The reason that has been put forward by her family is that by preventing further growth and development it will make Ashley's life better. She won't have to be manhandled as much when older, she can stay with her family, she won't suffer menstrual pains that she would not understand, she'll be less likely to endure bed sores and other problems associated with those who spend large amounts of time still. Having her appendix removed now removes the risk of it developing problems which she can't tell other about if she experienced them, and could only otherwise be detected at the last minute.

I think Ashley's family has mostly thought of things from this second viewpoint, but I'm sure ideas from the practical standpoint have crept into their thoughts.

I'm still not sure where I stand on this. I'm not sure I approve of such massive stifling of someone's development, even someone who may not be able to make use of a full grown body. Perhaps a treatment to her problem may be developed in 10 years time, leaving her to grow old in the body of a young child.

It's a murky issue, and it's probably just as well I didn't have to make it, as I'd still be thinking until the child was grown up.

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Writing time: 27 minutes
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: none

Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Years on a Bus

This New Year's Eve was spent in a manner both different and similar to previous years. This year I spent New Year's Eve travelling on a bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane in Laos. The bus left at 7:30 at night and got into Vientiane bus depot at 5am. I didn't get any sleep during the night, but luckily it was almost a full moon, so I could see a silhouette of the mountains in varying shades of gray which was quite pretty. Not quite as good as during the day, but still quite nice. Some photos of the trip are here, but none of the night trip (I doubt they would have turned out, and the battery on my phone was flat in any case).

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Writing time: 5 minutes
Time since last post: a few hours
Current media: Get Shorty

Food Poisoning

Here's a warning. Avoid the fancy Japanese restaurant at the Bangkok airport. I think it was called KinRamen. I'm pretty sure it was their horrible katsudon that gave me food poisoning that caused me to be quite sick on the flight from Bangkok back to Japan, and has made life unpleasant for me since then. Today was the first time I've managed to get down a full meal since then. And given that I hadn't eaten much in the 24 or so hours preceding that, I've been quite peckish. Anyway, don't eat there.

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Writing time: 2 minutes
Time since last post: an hour or so
Current media: iTunes shuffle of all the track 3s - currently Wrong Number by GUD

200 Posts

I wasn't sure which of a few things I was going to write about here, but most of them got put by the wayside when I noticed that this will be the 200th post to this blog. An arbitrary round number for sure, but it still represents a fair amount of time and thought. A fair bit has changed since I started this blog, but many things are still the same.

When I started I was about halfway through a PhD, and trying to decide if I wanted to keep going. The blog was an outlet for me to try and get my thoughts out in a somewhat coherent way. The posts were a lot more introspective, philosophical and emotional. Part of this was because I didn't really expect anyone to read it. It was a journal that just happened to be available to anyone who randomly came across it. It probably says something about me that I felt more comfortable opening up to random strangers than to friends and family, but given how unlikely it was that anyone actually read it at that stage, it was more a theoretical point than a practical one.

Since then I dropped out of my PhD and left academia, worked in a call center for about a year, spent about 6 months unemployed, done a little IT contracting of various levels of respectability, tutored and am now working in another country. I've visited Thailand, and just now Laos. I've gone from relative affluence to living paycheck to paycheck, and am on the way back to relative affluence (once my advance is paid off this month).

There has been one death in my immediate family, and two more in the second degree of separation. I went to two of the funerals, but due to distance and timing I didn't attend the third. These deaths have all been in the one family which has made them so much more devastating for those involved that just three randomly distributed deaths would have been.

Internally, not that much has changed. I'm still uncommunicative with a lot of people, take a long time to open up to new people, etc, etc. I get along well with the people I work with, but don't do much outside of work with them. I spend a bit of time with my housemates, but not a lot. All of the touristy stuff I've done around the place has been on my own. Sometimes I look at the people who came here around the same time or later and how much more involved with other people they are and wonder how the hell they do it.

Well, I'm going to finish this one here, as I seem to have quite distracted myself (I started to check if I was the first or zeroth degree of separation from me and have ended up about to read a maths paper by the actress who played Winnie Cooper in the Wonder Years. The chain goes something like this Six degrees of separation -> Bacon number -> Erdos-Bacon number -> Danica McKellar. Four degrees, how easy is that.).

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Writing time: 1 hour 23 minutes (less distractions previously mentioned)
Time since last post: 10 days
Current media: iTunes shuffle of all the track 3s - currently Synaesthetic by the Blue Man Group