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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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