Thursday, March 31, 2005

Inflation Supplies

Yuck. Link not safe for work, or people with any modicum of taste.

Ann, Ann, Ann....

From Ann Coulter: The emperor's new robes:
On the bright side, after two weeks of TV coverage of the Terri Schiavo case, I think we have almost all liberals in America on record saying we can pull the plug on them.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Japan #14 - Yokohama Blues

(At the end of August/beginning of September 2004 I took a pleasure trip to Japan. I meant to have all the blog postings done in the first week, I'm now on track to have it done within 90 days months of the trip.)

The morning on Mount Fuji, we checked out of our hotel rooms and my son and I walked around the lake while my wife went out to find an ATM that would spit out cash for us. Somewhere during the process, I managed to lose my wife. At this point we were also separated from the lone person in our group that could speak Japanese. Sandmich's helpful travel hint: don't get separated from your spouse and your translator at the same time, not a good idea. I eventually met up with the missus and we walked around the lake for a little bit more, grabbed some junk viddles at Lawsons and then met up with the rest of our group for a bus trip down the mountain. Our destination from the Mt. Fuji station was Yokohama. We sat on the bus for some hours and eventually hit the train station and hopped on a train bound for Tokyo proper...on Friday...at night...during rush hour; and talk about a rush.

My tape from my camcorder has me complaining, but I've no idea what about (I guess that's why everyone was ignoring me at this point), However I was eating up the mad rush (Anyway, due to sleep deprivation and generally being an a$$hole, I probably could have been committed at this point).

I may be weird in this aspect, but the rush of the crowds is an example of Japan at it's finest - it combines the sensation of organized chaos with the feeling of belonging to something huge and very much alive. Be it the crowds at the mall or the transit system, there's a certain magic to it, at least for a casual visitor. I'm sure the regular schmos making their 5,000th journey home on a crowded train would be glad to permanently trade the experience for my lonely ten minute commute to work.

Although we started our journey in the early afternoon, we didn't hit our Yokohama hotel room until nine-ish (I want to say). I'm torn at this point between remarking how much of an ass I was at this point or try justifying it. Since my wife recently brought up the fact, in a completely unrelated conversation with my family, that she was ready to kill me and dump me in the ocean at this point, I'm not sure if I'd be able to say anything to sedate my critics. I will note that this was the hotel that demanded a $300 cash payment for the hotel room. (As an informational aside, all the places we stayed at charged rack rates on a per person basis, so if the 'room' was $100 a night, and you had three people, it was $300 a night). Later, after yelling myself course and being the 'ugly American' for an hour, I decided I was going to take a shot at passing out while everyone else went out to scrounge themselves up something to eat. If I have one regret about the whole trip, it was not being able to contain myself and then not going out that night. Below is the only shot I squeezed off in Yokohama, a view from our hotel room in the morning.

(As another aside, I may have mulled sleeping outside were it not for the fact that Japanese homeless had taken up all the good spots!)

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Bento Watch #4


Lessie here. There's some sautéed broiled fish tube and fried fish cake, which is just about devoid of calories. And then we have some 'quick kimchee' and some blanched spinach rolls with sesame seeds. I'll be adding some fruit and yogurt with this one since it probably rings in at 400 calories or less.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Blog Watchin'

Several months ago, in response to this post, Dr. Degenaro requested that I no longer post comments on his site. Well, he actually said this:
I appreciate the thoughtful comments, but in the future please do not leave comments on my blog. While I enjoy reading what you have to say there, family members of mine also read my blog who happen to be Muslim. I fear they'll link up to your own posts and, frankly, they've got plenty of other opportunities to hear anti-Muslim sentiment: from the media, from popular culture, from "morals"-loving "ordinary men," from the tyrannical and fascistic embarrassments of "leaders" (urging us to join their "crusade") we're stuck with, etc, etc. Like I said, I myself enjoy the exchange, but I don't want to put them through reading such garbage. Thanks very much.[emphasis mine]
I'm not going to get into my relationship with the good Doctor, but I still like the guy. I just tend to think he's a little misguided. Although I was rather hurt at the time, I justified his response on the fact that American liberals are generally less civil. As someone who related to me stories of being spat upon by pro-choicers, I'm sure Dr. Degenaro is well familiar with the type of characters that tend to hang out on that side of the aisle. So being the good sport, I kept a link up, but I never read his site because, despite his consternations to the contrary ("A conversation between two individuals of differing opinions opens up possibilities for a free exchange of ideas, for mutual understanding, and perhaps even for finding common ground. "), he wished his dialog to be a one way street.

Of course I'd be lying if I didn't say it had pained me since. Everyone on my blogroll has one thing in common: I like to read their blog. That's why it's so short, I only put up blogs I read. I could care less if those blogs link back as they're already doing a good enough job. Of course Dr. Degenaro's page is the exception. During the election he linked to a page that brought up the 'Jewish conspiracy in the media' and here recently he's put up a post where he equates the effort to get a legitimate government elected in Nicaragua with the disgusting efforts to implement a communist regime run by a known child rapist. He's right, there's no common ground with that kind of baloney, so I'll be putting something else on my sidebar. Apologies to whoever links through to his site from mine, you'll have to get to it through your bookmark. In his stead, I'll be putting in a bookmark to a blog run by a researcher in Costa Rica, fascinating.

Moving on, I've really enjoyed the posts from the woman who runs her Trapped in Japan blog, but the thing hasn't been updated for two months. I'd drop her an e-mail, but it's not like I know her on even a casual basis; but I hope all is right! Alternatively, Greggman updates his blog like, at least once a month and I always seem to forget checking it, so I'll be switching those two around for now.

Lastly, I failed to note that Mr. Kendall has moved his blog and has been doing regular updates, despite the fact that he has way better things he SHOULD BE DOING! Check out his post on how the left has it in for the freedom of speech, interesting stuff.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Weirdest Refer

I've gotten two hits on my site from people who did Google searches looking for "the evil baby who talk in dominican republic". What the hell? (I think the refer is hitting an archive where all the words appear between like twenty posts).

Bento Watch #3


This is a little combo where you snag some sides with the noodles and dip it in the noodle sauce. The somen noodles have a rather high calorie count, and with the egg this bento is pushing 600 calories. Not too healthy, but it'll sit like a brick and make you in the mood for salad for dinner.

Ramen stuffs


I guess, for whatever reason, I never got around to posting this ingredient list from a ramen pack. Most of the ingredients were egregious, but 'FAT', what's that? Pork fat? Cow fat? People fat? It doesn't say, and I suspect that it's best not known.

Waxing Cynical

Those who know me personally have heard both these stories repeatedly, apologies in advance!

When I first got to my current job, there was a programmer there who was known to be a bit weird. He would make 'tick' noises on occasion and if he was concentrating heavily, he would click his tongue and hum. He later described how he was in a horrible automobile accident where he was driving along and the next thing he knew, he woke up a month later in a hospital where they had him hooked to an array of tubes. He'd state that he was different before the accident. I guess in his previous life he was a computer tech, not a programmer. Since he willfully admitted that he had suffered some degree of brain damage in the accident, I used to joke with him that when he was 'normal', he was a computer tech (as I am myself) and after he was brain damaged, he became a programmer. (HA! A computer joke...oh...that's why no one thinks its funny...except for us smart computer people that is!)

Many years later, I was doing involved in a wiring job at a plant where they were hooking up a new quality inspection room. Heading up this project was a man we'll call Roy. Roy was known to be a good worker, and repeated firings and departures had left Roy number two at the plant, despite the fact that he was just a lab tech supervisor. Under his supervision was an attractive, intelligent lady (I'd call 'girl', despite the fact that she was at best, five years younger than I) with whom he was known to be spending a wee bit too much time with, at least for a man who is married and has two kids.

On a particular day, they had moved a piece of equipment over by the inspection room, and I was showing the contractor where to wire the network jacks up. Roy came over to check it out. Roy's obviously a real hard worker, but of course, I know something he doesn't, in about two weeks they were to announce the closing of this very plant. I doubt he would've worked all that hard had he known that particular piece of info. We'll never know for sure of course, because an hour later Roy came to inspect an issue with the moved piece of equipment and in an ensuing accident with this machine, he lost his sight and received an unhygienic frontal lobotomy. To this day (and forever hence from what I've heard), Roy lives in a special care facility where it was marked as great progress when he remembered he was to have visitors. These visitors were his wife and kids, whom he had no knowledge of after the accident since all his memories, and most have his capacity to make memories, were lost.

The last story was an uncomfortable one for my wife and I. Had I scheduled the wiring job an hour later, I would've been about a foot from the broken machine. My wife and I both conceded that we would not want to live in such a situation, but I wonder, is that our call to make. The person Roy is now, is not the person he was before the accident, any more than the person in the first story was the same 'people' before and after his accident. My brother, who works with people who are dependent on feeding tubes offered as much when he said that people in such situations ARE different, but they ARE people, and there ARE people out there who care for them (including himself).

I wouldn't think any less of Roy's wife for divorcing him in this case, but that would take some moxie. It would be easier to live a lie than to convince yourself that the body you see before you no longer contains the person you once loved so dearly, and that you're not just abandoning them because of some 'illness'. In fact...I bet it would be easier to kill that new person as a misguided act of mercy, than to admit the fact that the person you loved so dearly actually died quite some time before.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Miscarriage of Justice

It royally ticks me off that this guy was railroaded:
The defrocked investment banker for Credit Suisse First Boston, a unit of Credit Suisse Group (nyse: CSR - news - people ), testified that he had no corrupt intent when he sent his two-line e-mail on Dec. 5, 2000, endorsing a colleague's advice that bankers in his technology group "clean up" their files and comply with the company's so-called document retention policy, which emphasized the routine destruction of all documents not part of the final "deal file."

Here's the way the rules work boys and girls, if your company has a document retention policy, then it's the job of the company and the people in it to uphold that policy, lest they get in trouble with the law for not retaining stuff long enough and/or getting rid of stuff arbitrarily. That didn't matter to the feds in this case, they needed their pound of flesh and so an idiotic jury gave it to them (he wasn't even convicted of getting rid of anything incriminating). You lefties got to learn your lesson and look to mother Russia for a schooling on what happens when you send all the people you see as undeserving off to the gulag.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Standardized Idiocy

The state of Ohio has a home school charter school where-in the state buys all the school curriculum (which generally runs from one to two thousand dollars) and provides various subsidies for items required to use the service (the Internet subsidy being my favorite). As part of the deal, the child is enrolled in what is essentially a public school, and thus, a couple bare requirements have to met, one being the taking of (GASP!) standardized tests.

I just got back from a presentation on the program, and some of the parents seemed real bent out of shape about this. A couple paraphrased comments follow, and the presenter did a good job of not insulting the parents (which is probably something that should have been done, the insulting that is, not the avoidance there-of) while evading the true crux of their complaint (How do you say that being an idiot is okay?).

Parent1: When the local fourth grade got ready to take its standardized test, they did nothing but have class and homework on the test content for a month, taking time away from everything else, this program doesn't do that does it?
My Thoughts: I've never gotten what some peoples hang ups are about 'teaching to the test'. If the test is testing for reading and math skills, what in the hell is the issue with teaching reading and math? And I don't mean teaching 'non-racist math' or 'look-say reading'; that stuff will be exposed for the crap it is when the test is administered. I must mention that my first thought was to ask the guy where this school was at so that I could enroll my son, that place is obviously on the ball.

Parent2: Is there some other bar for measuring achievement other than the standardized test? My son hasn't passed a standardized test section in his life, but he's a bright kid. He's just not very good at taking tests. Is there some other way that he can prove his knowledge, because he wants to graduate and go on to college, etc.
My Thoughts: Hasn't passed a section in his life? Your son is a dolt woman, and you're a dolt for making dumb excuses for him. "..not good at taking tests" is yet another example of bragging about one's idiocy. Sorry to tell her, but everyone in Ohio has to pass at least one standardized proficiency test in order to get their diploma, may as well get him boning up on that now. I fail to see how he thinks he'll do well in college if he is not a proficient test taker.

Parent1 (again): How is evolution taught?
My thoughts: Whoa! Look at the time, I gotta get back to work!


Mr. Schiavo

This is cruel, nasty and a big bit of bad taste, I've no idea why I found such a disgusting product darkly humorous...


Hat tip SondraK

Monday, March 21, 2005

Bento Watch #2

Because none of my friends believe that I eat healthy on occasion, I'm going to make an effort to photo my bentos that I assemble based on this cookbook that my sis got my for Christmas.

The main dish is a shrimp donburi over rice. (Though the original recipe called for ground chicken. I also switched out the green pepper with a chipotle which is about as Japanese as it gets it right?) The one on the left got packed with a citrus'd cucumber (which is heavy with zest because I'm a zesty type of guy), while the one on the right got packed with vinegar'd cucumbers with sesame seeds. I evened the fruit between the two by putting lightly sugared strawberries in the right-hand dish.

Now that you're bored to tears...

Japanese cooking .101

Believe me, there are many, many people who aren't even remotely Japanese who know a lot more about this than I, but I figured I'd put a primer on my site that I can reference with future posts.

Much of my knowledge is derived from cookbooks on the topic, and you always have to ask yourself if what they are presenting is a reflection of true cooking habits and recipes, or just crap someone made up using a handful of ingredients. I've cross referenced recipes to make the following generalization: traditional Japanese cooking is more like French cooking in that technique is just as, if not more important than the ingredients. My Japanese recipes all have rather exact measurements, ingredients, and techniques that are rather intimidating at times. This contrasts with much of western cuisine, and what I know of Chinese cuisine: get your two spices, mix it in a big pot with the other ingredients, pour over a starch of some sort.

As part of this, I want to hit some common ingredients for Japanese cuisine:
  1. Miso. This brown paste is made from ground up, fermented soy beans. It tastes better than sounds, largely because it is half salt. It has a 'soy saucy' taste, but is a little more pleasant. It's quite handy for making thicker sauces without dumping a bunch of soy sauce and corn starch into the mix.
  2. Mirin. Although defined as a type of rice schnapps, the more affordable cooking ingredient sold in the States is an alcohol and rice flavored corn syrup mix. Mirin has a mild sweetness that is hard to pin down. It is quite handy to be added to anything. I typically add about a half a teaspoon to a teaspoon per serving of rice or scrambled egg. (If nothing else, pick this up and add it to your scrambled eggs, it works wonders on them).
  3. Rice Vinegar. Get the clear version, my current yellow incarnation has a bit of a funk taste to it.
  4. Sake. Can't be added to just anything, but definitely helps out the dishes that call for it.
  5. Sushi/Sweet/Sticky rice. A lttle more pricey than the normal rice. I always thought that any rice would do, but this is the only rice I saw in Japan, and it's the only rice in the recipes.
  6. Soy Sauce. I long hated soy sauce, until I had a fresh bottle and I noticed what a complex flavor it actually has. Turns out what I hate is stale soy sauce, which is what I'd always had up until that point. As with all the ingredients listed here (except the rice), they must be refrigerated to ensure a fresh taste!

Something else to keep in mind is that Japanese cooking can at times be a dish cleaning nightmare. Typically a meal will be made up of a variety of small, time consuming dishes which are prepared separately and put into separate dishes (Japan is by no means the only Asian country guilty of this). As well, some affinity for fish might help. There are a couple ingredients I didn't list because of their fishy nature.

School Bans Peanut Butter Sandmiches

From Pupil's allergy to nuts prompts school ban:
That balancing act is being performed across the country as school districts struggle to meet a federal obligation to provide safe schools for children with disabilities. The number of children with potentially fatal allergies doubled from 1997 to 2002, according to one study.
WTF? Didn't that statistic strike the reporter as being a bit odd? Either it's completely bogus or there is something seriously wrong in the water.

I've always harbored a suspicion that the whole nut allergy thing was cooked up as an excuse for people to be a pain; however, I've seen enough anecdotal evidence for me to be open to convincing. Extreme, unsubstantiated factoids like the one above don't exactly assuage my fears (the reporter didn't even see fit to site the 'study', probably because it came from Centers For Science in the Public Interest or some crackpot outfit like that).

(I do know that if I was allergic to peanut butter, I would've been dead decades ago. Of course, I think my heart is still 'allergic' to a whole jar of peanut butter grease.)

Brazil Nuts

From Slashdot MIT Urges Brazilian Government to Use Linux:
MIT's Media Lab has written to the Brazilian government (who is looking into a method to get its citizens cheap, high quality PCs) and has urged them to use Linux. From the article: 'Free software is far better on the dimensions of cost, power and quality...if the source code is proprietary, it is hidden from the general population. This robs them of a tremendous source for learning.'
My company used to have a Brazilian branch and at one point the plant manager needed a laptop. He purchased one in the States because, due to import duties, it was way cheaper to buy it here (i.e. Cleveland). His fear, of course, was that he would get caught bringing it back into Brazil, which is what happened. The rub? It was still cheaper after the fine than purchasing a system domestically.

So here's a suggestion you brilliant egg heads at MIT can pass along to the Brazilian government: lower your friggin' import duties so that your people can buy something decent!

Students Do Better Without Computers

From Slashdot:
The more access they had to computers at home, the lower they scored in tests, partly because they diverted attention from homework.
Of course this comes as no surprise to me. As a rather skilled computer tech (if I may say so myself), I've long been a advocate in putting forward the notion that computers are a royal waste of time in the classroom, and more broadly, in education in general. Sure, I loved PCs in the classroom because I wanted to learn so programming, etc.; but even when I was in school, I never saw what the benefit was to playing Math Lander, or any of the other educrap that's put out for computers.

It bothers me all the more than many of the people who push PCs in the classroom, have no idea what purpose it's supposed to serve. It's almost as if they hope the 'magic box' (which is actually just a glorified calculator) will divulge knowledge via osmosis just by its very presence. Many educrats also push PCs in the hope that their institution will be viewed as a 'real school'. Parents reinforce this misconception by using the computer-to-student ratio as a rough guide as to how good a school is.

Truth be told, computers are too intricate to make instructing on general knowledge worthwhile. There are people at my work who use Excel religiously, but may have never even opened Word on their system, and vice-versa; and that's just one example of usage.

Does one really think that shoving a bunch of computers into an operation like Cleveland Public would do one lick off good?

Friday, March 18, 2005

Welcome to the Moon

Okay, it's no secret that I'm sick of people (who should no better) complaining about this ANWR oil drilling bit; mostly because they've never taken the time to check it out. FromJonah Goldberg on ANWR on National Review Online:
In this sense the whole area is really just a Rorschach test for the imagination. There's little doubt that for much of human history most reasonable people would have considered this spot the definition of the word 'godforsaken.' You need not look back, for evidence, to the ancient pilgrims who died on the frozen tundra. You could simply read an old copy of the Washington Post from 14 years ago: '[T]hat part of the [ANWR] is one of the bleakest, most remote places on this continent, and there is hardly any other where drilling would have less impact on the surrounding life.'


Why, it's practically friggin' paradise. If you're given to think it's so friggin' great, why don't you move there?
Consider the warble fly, a vicious bumblebee-like insect that is so mean it can cause a whole herd to go berserk, stomping the ground in a panic and eventually stampeding; not even wolf packs can make them do that. The warble fly lays its eggs on the caribou's leg hairs. When the larvae hatch, they march like Germans through Paris-which is to say, unopposed — through the caribou's flesh to its back, where they feed off its skin and fat from the end of summer until the following spring. Starting in late May, the creatures burst out of the caribou's skin and fall to the ground. A biologist's text asserts: "Every caribou hide I've ever examined has had anywhere from 20-350 warbles along its back."
TASTY!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Shaved Pooch!

BEFORE


AFTER

Steyn, Steyn, Steyn....

From Mark Steyn:
I’ve never been to Davos, but I’ve sat next to the hot-looking Eurototty in the Alpine bar and tried to wangle me a little après-ski action and there comes a point in the evening when she says, ‘Zat George Boosh. What an idiot, hein!’ And you start to bristle, but then you realise that America and Old Europe are riven by as deep a divide as the magnificent plunging cleavage beckoning from her low-cut Fahrenheit 9/11 T-shirt and maybe now would be a good time for some transatlantic outreach in a very real sense, so you say, ‘Yeah, Bush. What a chump. Not like that Ruud Lubbers, eh?’ And you stare down her cleavage and catch your creepy sweaty face reflected in her shoes and feel momentarily ashamed, but not for long. My guess is that that’s what Bill Clinton and Eason Jordan were up to when they respectively hailed the progressivism of Iranian politics and defamed the entire US military. You’re with a bunch of foreigners and you want them to like you and it’s easy to get carried away.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

More Cleveland School Fun

For anyone not in the know, the Cleveland public school system is the worst in Ohio, and quite possibly one of the worst in the country (I'm too lazy to look it up). It went into state receivership for several years not too long ago. I remember around the same time that the Cincinnati public school system was threatened with much the same action, but the fired their super and hired a business man to plug the leaks long enough to avoid that coming to pass. I will say that I have heard that some of the Cincinnati schools are okay, I've never heard any similar sentiments about any Cleveland school (apart from many the charter schools, but they don't count now do they?). Not only is the district about to lose money from cooking the books on the number of students they said they serve and loosing students in general, downtown property owners are going to court to get some taxes back:
A state board recently agreed to reduce the market value of the 1.2-acre lot, owned by one of the Richard E. Jacobs Group's companies, from nearly $12.8 million to $6.1 million. As a result, its taxable value drops from nearly $4.5 million to $2.1 million.
That means the loss of about $177,000 a year in property taxes. Most of those taxes, or about $106,000, go to the Cleveland schools.
OUCH! Of course maybe if schools didn't suck so hard, property values wouldn't be going down - HA!
I asked myself, though, why do the owners have to go to court for this reassessment?
'When these cases come up, we fight them because we know the impact is going to hurt students,' said spokesman Alan Seifullah.
Okay, so it's not because the property owners are trying to cheapskates and skip out on their taxes, it's because the city wants to screw them over to cover their incompetence. The destitute city obviously knows that nothing attracts businesses like being a royal pain in the side!

(And yes, I know Cleveland's graduation rate has gone up a bunch, but when you start at 28%, there's no where to go but up (in this case, to 50%)! I looked for evidence in the article that might explain why this happened. Did the number of students drop off in the right areas? Were they cooking the books a couple years back (more than likely, it's pretty hard for a non-existent student to graduate)? What percentage did the private/charter schools account for this? None of this and more is answered, so I'd have to guess the information would put the district back in a bad light; but I guess a win's a win!)

(PSS, I wasn't going to look up the links, but I found them just fine. Here's the one on the shrinking district:

About 2,200 students left district schools between August and January, compared with 680 who left during the same period last school year, according to the district. Researchers at Cleveland State Univer sity recently predicted that, in a worst-case scenario, enrollment could plummet from the current 65,000 students to 51,000 in 10 years.)

As well, how about we run some math, hmmmmm....
According to Cleveland public schools own site, they took in 962.9 million in FY2003, that's
962,900,000
Now I'll be generous and say they had 65,000 students last year, so that would be about 15 grand a student, a year. Now to send a kid to the mildly fancy private Padua High School down the road from me it costs about $6,200, am I missing something here?

Morning music - Deuce

What a thing to wake up to in the morning.
I sheet-u-not; thanks college radio!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Japan #13 - Fuji

(At the end of August/beginning of September 2004 I took a pleasure trip to Japan. I meant to have all the blog postings done in the first week, I'm now on track to have it done within 90 days months of the trip.)

Trip to the Fuji Lakes
For those playing along at home, there is a political map of Japan here.
From Nara, we traveled by regular train to bullet to train to regular train to the most crowded bus I'd ever been on. It would have been one thing if it was an 'American' bus, but everything on this bad boy had been shrunk by at least 10% (on the plus side, it didn't stink like an American bus). Big Americans + sheetload of luggage = crowded drive (but having grown up with five brothers and sisters in a Toyota Tercel, I was conditioned). It being typhoon season, I had low hopes of seeing anything of Mt. Fuji (another map, and another), and I was happy that I did get to see parts of the base.

For those not in the know, Mt. Fuki has five major lakes. From what I read, only one of them is fairly development free. Our hotel was on lake Kawaguchiko. Apart from the beef feast the night we arrived (..oooh baby..), a only couple other things spring to mind about this part of the trip....

There's not a lot to see and do outside, so when we arrived, I went about scoping out where the onsen was in the hotel. While wandering around in the lower levels, I saw various conference rooms full of salarymen doing boring stuff, but then there was one particularly large room with around two to three hundred dudes in it. I saw a guy running around in the fashion of of a cheerleader, and when I looked closely (dammit, can't take it back) I saw it was a short, chubby Japanese MAN in a school girl sailor outfit. That in and of itself was bad enough, but then he was going around to the guys (hopefully) pretending to get fresh and they in turn were eating it up. I ssslllloowwwly backed away from the door in the hope that whatever look I had on my face would not be seen.

One other thing of 'note', the lake Kawaguchiko station, which was the queue area for all bus and train transports out of that immediate area, had the nastiest bathroom I can recall ever being in, and I've used third world outhouses! The stink of urine was enough to knock you on your feet within fifty feet of the place. It was quite crowded and had no soap, no paper towels, and no toilet paper (which in Japan is a mild blessing, take it from me, if you go take your own).



My son guards the luggage for our trip up the mountain.



On one hand I wonder why I don't see these over in the States, but on the other hand, I don't.



This is like a gumball machine, but it's a cotton candy machine where you put a 'quarter' in and collect the cotton candy with a chopstick - super cool.



The view of a hillside in the morning from our hotel room (A pretty nice place, sorry I don't have the name anywhere).



This is the garden that was out in front of the hotel; and of course no Japanese garden would be complete without a statue of a naked woman.



Have I mentioned that the Japanese are experts in sewer lid artistry? It would appear that this lid is even specific to the lake by which it is located.



On a walk around the lake I almost got a facefull of this spider. It's body was almost as long as as a quarter. (I think it's this one).



This view from the departing bus is typical of what I got to see of Mt. Fuji. I was happy since it exceeded my low expectations that had been set due to the weather.

Of all the places we stopped in our trip, this was probably my least favorite (one of them had to be it). It was a long trip in and out, and the area with it's foggy mountain sides and gaudy tourist trap feel had an oddly familiar feel. One of my friends on the trip figured it out and exclaimed that it was a "Japanese Gatlinburg!". Don't get me wrong though, the area was beautiful and at the very least I'm glad I went so that I could say that I had been (did I mention the beef? ohohohoh...).

Gluttons for our Doom

Looks like the only thing between a determined 200lb rapist and a shot up courtroom was a 51 year old grandmother. From Atlanta courthouse shootings:
Fulton County, like almost every (if not every) jurisdiction, has watered down its strength requirements for police and firefighters for fear that they would be considered discriminatory towards women because of the disparate impact of those requirements. Once a plaintiff shows that job qualifications have a disparate impact, the burden falls on the employer to prove that the requirements are bona fide and that no other selection mechanisms can be substituted, regardless of discriminatory intent. San Francisco formerly asked fire recruits to carry a 150-pound sack up a flight of stairs and now lets them drag a 40-pound sack across a smooth floor.
Are people too clueless to realize that these positions (much like the military) are about life and death, and not about making someone feel good about oneself?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

National Review on Shopping

Catherine Seipp on NRO comments about the demise of the department store:
Still, we're losing something as the big stores fade from the scene, even if it's less an efficient or agreeable shopping experience than a collective cultural memory.
Indeed, I'm just old enough to remember the downtown department stores in Cincinnati (Pogues? Shilitos? I date myself, but not as bad as that sales rep I had in who was talking about the '12 Million Dollar Man' or something). For as grand as these stores were, I'm sure the Cincinnati version paled in comparison to those in other cities; however, they were grand.

Of course they were done in by the poor imitations of themselves in the suburbs. The suburbian stores featured many of the same products, at about the same price (albeit closer location). These stores would even cram in some sort of nice restaurant to try and mimic the downtown experience. Unfortunately, even the poor imitators, who have already changed considerably, are going by the wayside from the assaults of the big box retailers.

These big boxers are the end of this devolution: stripped of all class, originality, and most customer service. I'm not a big Walmart basher and I do shop there on occasion, but lets be honest, if you go to a Walmart you're looking for crap, and you're looking to buy it and get the hell out. I don't mind the existence of stores that specialize in selling cheap crap, but little did I know that the 'cheap crap' would win and that it would become increasingly difficult to buy anything decent anymore without getting gouged.

This is the true lament of the end of the big department stores: it used to be common to be able to go someplace that wasn't completely drained of class and buy something at a decent price that was real. Also, the reason I and many other people have, at the very least, a love/hate relationship with Walmart is that it seems to be the physical manifestation of everything we dislike about American society today: crass attitude (poor service), live for today (cheap crap that you might as well buy a subscription to it lasts such a short time), utilitarianism (a complete lack of beauty).

Solution? No solution, I'm just venting. And the fact that there is no solution makes those of us that remember all the more nostalgic for the good old days.

(I'm full of it, I know. I loved going to the department stores in Japan which hearken back to the days of old. My first thought when I went in was "this place is absolutely cool". My second thought, upon seeing the prices, was "I would never shop here". It was a Sogo and I read that they had gone through a bankruptcy fairly recently, so I guess Japanese don't shop there too much either).

Dilbetspeak 101

From Next Xbox Starts to Take Shape:
'In the HD era, the platform is bigger than the professor,' he said in a corporate statement. 'New technology and emerging consumer forces will come together to enable the rock stars of game development to shake up the old establishment and redefine entertainment as we know it.'
That's...um... great! Whatever you mean...
(I can't believe that it made sense to the speaker, it would be terrifying if it did.)

Friday, March 11, 2005

Get what you pay for

Blogger has been sucking the last couple of days; can't leave comments, can't pull up pages, hard to add posts, etc. If I wanted maintenance headaches like this I'd have my own server. Now what's the name of that OS they use....?

Some of my best 'Friends'...

On the way in this morning, I heard an add for the 9th season DVD collection of Friends. Here's the funny bit they're using to push it (paraphrased):
Girl 1: Joe asked me to marry him!
Girl 2: Ohmagawd! But you're having Russ's baby!
Girl 1: I said yes.
Girl 2: Ohmagawd! But you're having Russ's baby!
OHMAGAWD! F#$%ING HILARIOUS!!!!!
Lordy, I tried to get into that show. I had a job where I could either stare at the wall or watch friends. After a couple weeks I choose the wall, completely befuddled as to what anyone saw in that show.

However, I was a little more befuddled when I realized this ad was being played on an...er...'urban' radio station. I listen to this station a lot because, like Friends, much of mainstream 'white people' entertainment is crap. There's a reason why so many R&B/Hip Hop acts got Grammy nominations: the stuff is flat out better produced. Even if you don't care for it, even on a technical level one would have to acknowledge that is put together way better than crap being spewed on the other side of the dial.

But 'Friends'? Are black Americans letting me down? Did they honestly watch that stuff? It would seem to be the antithesis of everything a decent ethnic group would find entertaining (i.e., white people sitting around bellyaching). I thought I could always take refuge in the fact that at least large tracts of America didn't care for that kind of thing. Of course, I guess I wouldn't be completely amazed since the radio play on the urban station in Cincinnati in the early nineties featured Michael Jackson and George Michael, two acts that couldn't get one tune played on the local pop station if their lives depended on it.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Goldberg Strikes

What a great line. From The Corner:
Conflicts are manufactured like those on a college campus where the tensions are high but the stakes are low.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Liquored up!

From NewsNet5.com:
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- One person is dead and three are gravely ill after a tequila-drinking competition in Santo Domingo.

The winner of the contest died. Ricardo Ivan Garcia drank more than 50 shots of tequila Sunday night at Santo Domingo's Blanc, Dance and Lounge discotheque to win the prize of $330 -- 10,000 pesos -- at a Mexican night celebration.

A prosecutor said the man died of apparent heart failure brought on by alcohol poisoning [NAH!]. Three other contestants remain in serious condition in a hospital.
This reminds me of one of my favorite stories from my trip to the Dominican Republic.

A danger is that many of the hotels down there have free booze. It is so friggin' hot, if you are outdoors you can't even drink enough water to stay hydrated. So, needless to say, the handful of times I drank alcohol during the day resulted in an instant hangover. Somehow or another though, the many Europeans there had no problem sucking down alcohol.

Then, on one of our travels in the countryside, the guide related the story of a recent European visitor. I guess an older German gentleman got a hold of a bottle of 151 Rum (which is 151 proof, or 75% alcohol) and walked around with it all day like it was his best friend. The tourists hit the beach (one of the stops for the tour) and the German took shelter under an umbrella with his bottle of booze. When the tour was wrapping up, they went to collect everyone and though they thought the German was asleep, he was in fact, very much dead.

Here's a picture of the beach where I heard the story, I can't help but imagine a dead kraut on the beach whenever I see the picture:


School Blues

Looks like nasty kids are up to no good again, from Cleveland.com:
Back in the fall, the teacher came home to find her house vandalized. Her landscape was ripped up. A hose was put into a dryer vent flooding her basement. Her garage door was also damaged.
The teacher and her family lived in fear, not knowing who was targeting them.
Who was partaking in these nasty acts and what was their punishment?
Two 8th grade students at Whittier ended up expelled: one for 80 days one for 40.
Whoa! Now that's harsh!
I have to ask myself, though, where is the friggin' teachers union? Is that the best they can get to protect their clients? A forty day suspension? Maybe if they spent more time looking out for the people who paid the dues, and less time screwin' around with liberal advocacy, teachers would feel safe to go into work every day.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Hibachi Meat!

The family had Mr. Kendall over this past weekend for a little indoor hibachi action. Knowing everyone's love of cow meat, I decided too much wasn't enough!


Mmmm...'cooked' just like I like it.

Unfortunately, I (personally) got a hankering for shrimp, so 'too much' wound up being twice as much as I needed. Looks like it's time for some beef okonomiyaki!

Pruden's Cheap Cow Shot

From Wesley Pruden in the Washington Times:
Cows form genuine friendships, and a couple of cows who like a good gossip with their cuds will freeze out another cow they don't like, such as an old bossy who appears to be the bull's fave date. Cows, the Bristol researchers found, can even bear grudges for years, just like a dumped human girlfriend. (Or a Democratic voter who can't get over Al Gore or John Kerry. [or to be fair, a Republican over Ross Perot])
...
Donald Broom, a professor of animal welfare at Cambridge University, says his research has persuaded him that cows can be become excited by solving intellectual challenges. (Larry Summers, please note.)

Monday, March 07, 2005

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Academic Freedom in Ohio

(Update 3/10/2005: Alan Reynolds thinks I'm full of crap on Sarbanes-Oxley. I think he might be right)

I was kinda ambivalent back when Sarbanes-Oxley passed. Yeah, it was another layer of government regulation being piled onto American business, but I didn't care much since 90% of the new regulations were items that businesses should have been doing anyways. Many of the regulations came right out of security best practices that are written up for businesses. So although I sympathized with businesses complaining about the compliance costs, it puzzled me in a way since it wasn't in their best interests to not follow them.

Much the same can be said of David Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights. Every state in which it has come up, liberal faculty squeal like stuck pigs about how unfair an encroachment it is on their jobs. I must admit to mildly sympathizing; they go in and do their job everyday and then some legislative busy bodies come in and tell them they aren't doing their jobs 'right enough'.

This has recently become an issue in Ohio, but again, my sympathies fall short since these are things universities should be doing anyway. The ABR basically only states that students and faculty won't be discriminated against because of ideology. What am I missing about this that makes it bad? In previous efforts to implement the ABR, I've found it interesting that liberals are the first to complain; but of course they stress that there is no problem. Well, if there is no problem, then the ABR shouldn't be an issue no? I would think that what is good for a business is also good for a university.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Japan #12 - J-viddles #2

(At the end of August/beginning of September 2004 I took a pleasure trip to Japan. I meant to have all the blog postings done in the first week, I'm now on track to have it done within 90 days months of the trip.)

  1. I can say that our Japanese friend ate every thing that was put in front of her, with one exception. Being the gentleman that I am (ha!), I didn't want to insult our hosts, so I made an extra effort to eat everything as well. In one meal, we had a small little roll, about the size of a couple pencil erasers stuck end to end. I took one bite of that bad boy and my sodium levels shot up about 10,000%. I'd never had anything that salty in my mouth, and I've eaten road salt! I felt bad that I didn't eat it, but when I got up, I noticed our host hadn't touched hers, next time, I figured, I'll only eat something after I see her consume it.

  2. A little story with this one. I'd heard a story in high school that the school I was at had a Japanese exchange student years earlier (so this would've been the late eighties) who had packed her bags full of American junk food because the stuff was unobtainable over there. Fully expecting that things wouldn't have changed (and that is giving a lot of credit to the fact that the story was true to begin with), I was expecting that I would get an unfulfillable junk food jonesin' while I was over there. However while we were staying by one of the Fuji lakes, I found myself in a Lawsons (a convenience store that is, with very few exceptions, exactly like an American convenience store). I saw they had Doritos, of all things. "Well", I thought, "the size must be smaller than the American size". Nope, it was about the same. "Well then, it must be much more expensive". Nope again, it was every bit as overpriced as it is in Cleveland. "Okay, there's no way they have all those funky Doritos' flavors no one buys in the States". No again, they had a different flavor right next to it. Oh well, so much for my high feeling of American superiority! This is, of course, not to take away from the junk food mastery that has been achieved in Japan.

  3. Speaking of which, here were some goodies which could be had a Lawsons and other fine retailers:


Onigiri is essentially a rice ball wrapped in a sheet of roasted seaweed (and sometimes not even that). The ones I had eaten had some filling in them as well (salmon was one, can't remember the others). They fill you up fast, but they pack less flavor than a jar of Elmers paste. If there was a free breakfast at the hotel, it was usually these. To be sure, I liked them, but unlike Japanese, it's nothing I can eat all the time.


These were a series of sandwiches (SANDMICHES!) sold in the stores. They consisted of extra moist, crustless bread, pressed around a tasty filling. The one pictured is my favorite - the whipped peanut butter sandwich (which has a filling that has the same taste as that Amish peanut butter which is just marshmallow cream whipped with peanut butter). The other notable ones were the 'pretty good whipped chocolate' and the 'tolerable whipped butter'.


OMG, these are so friggin' tasty! They're habanero flavored chow mein rings. Spicy hot with a great taste; I have no idea why they can't find someone to manufacture these and resell them in the States. As a warning, the web site for the product contains a monster flash file (it took like a minute or so to download over DSL). The company seems obsessive over this product since they change the flash content like once month or so.

One final note for this installment. Most Japanese stuff was lightly sweetened, and thankfully so. American stuff seems to be sweet beyond compare. However, while on the train one time, my wife bought a bag of ginger snaps, which turned out to be deep fried ginger flavored sugar that was then coated with sugar and then frosted with another sweet mixture for good measure. These were much like the Japanese deep fried yam fries my buddy had gotten me a year or two earlier, which were so sweet that you couldn't eat more than one or two an hour without going into shock from all the fat and sugar. What's up with that?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Anti-speech Morons

Looks like a judge, one Colleen Kollar-Kotelly (whose name shows up like an ass rash on it Internet), has ordered the FEC to regulate political speech on the Internet.
If Congress doesn't change the law, what kind of activities will the FEC have to target?
We're talking about any decision by an individual to put a link (to a political candidate) on their home page, set up a blog, send out mass e-mails, any kind of activity that can be done on the Internet.
Hmm, well one guess which president appointed Kollar-Kotelly to the federal bench. How about a helpful hint!
Smith and the other two Republican commissioners wanted to appeal the Internet-related sections. But because they couldn't get the three Democrats to go along with them, what Smith describes as a "bizarre" regulatory process now is under way.
It puzzles me that the party that belches every time someone protests about having to pay to subsidize a kiddie cartoon that promotes homosexuality has a HUGE problem with someone linking to George Bush's website from their blog. Well, it doesn't puzzle me as much as reaffirm my disappointment in the lunacy of the American left.

Looks like it's time to stick it to the man a find a foreign blogging service! If friggin' Saudi Arabia can't keep people from blogging about what they please, then I don't have any idea what the idiots in Washington are thinking when they think they can stop speech here.

(And I wonder what the fate will be for the domestic blogging concerns when everyone jumps ship? Hmmmmm......)

Taxing the Net

A pretty good outing for Dvorak
Taxing the Internet is an extremely dangerous idea to promote. This is because some boneheads in Washington and elsewhere will read these assertions uncritically, and the next thing you know, we're being taxed, once again. So instead of paying $29 a month for Net service, it will be $34.95. Then someone will come along, and it will go higher until it's like gasoline - where an average of 62 cents in state and local taxes is collected per gallon of gas. For what?
For what? Why for government unions of course John!
He also makes mention of the VAT tax idea floating around. The Bush trial balloon is to replace income taxes with a VAT (value added tax) on items, essentially a federal sales tax. Of course it didn't take too long for some genius to propose a gradual migration to such a setup, where the vat is steadily increased over the years as income taxes get lowered. Of course we all know how that would work: it would get stuck halfway and then they'd both up! I personally loathe the VAT tax, and I've always been confused as to why the VAT zealots don't just propose raising the gas tax to $20 a gallon since it would accomplish much the same thing. One more quote:
In California, we pay almost 10 percent for sales tax, 10 percent for personal income tax, and high property taxes, and get little in the way of government services to show for it. This tells me that the American public will put up with a lot of taxation-so pile it on, boys!

Yucky

It's one of my worst nightmares come to life, make your own peeps! From Williams-Sonoma, resellers of many a worthless kitchen item:

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Proud PC idiots

It seems the Sandmich will never be able to quit giving lessons in IT lunacy. I've always heard that math and computers are the only things that people will willfully admit to being idiots about, but it looks like not enough people are admitting their idiocy. From eweek:
Scott Rafer, CEO of Feedster Inc., a San Francisco-based search engine company and syndicator of XML Web content, agreed. 'We buy white-box servers, pay less for them and get support from the actual people who put those systems together for us,' Rafer said.
Ugh, it's people like this that make the jobs of techs miserable. Those white-box (i.e. generic, unbranded, home brew) systems look good when you get them in, but in a couple years, you'll need to upgrade. At that time, you'll bring some tech in who will see your setup and groan (while saying "cheap dumbass" to himself). What's inside this box of mystery? Since the company that made the thing has no doubt gone out of business, who will you call? What rev is the firmware of all the components in the box? How much support overhead are you going to be billed for on that crappy box? What a nightmare, what in the hell does a CEO of a company know about computers anyway? That's the last person in the company who should be making those kinds of decisions! (And don't tell me "he's technical", either he's a CEO who's an IT idiot, or he's a tech dweeb who's an incompetent CEO (or, even more possibly, he's incompetent in both endeavors)). Continuing on:
While that strategy might not be attractive to a large corporate user who insists on brand names, it makes sense for smaller companies and startups with limited budgets...
WRONG WRONG WRONG!
Small companies are the last people who should be buying this unsupported crap. With no IT department to speak of, they will be wholly dependent on outside resources to provide service and support; buying a white-box is insane in this situation since no real outside resources exist. Unfortunately though, that is all too common and idiotic articles like this in technical trade mags don't help.