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June 16, 2007

June 12, 2007
When Comrad Stalin visited Berlin, a YouTube sample from the restored Soviet epic of WWII, Padeniye Berlina or the Fall of Berlin, now available on DVD. Click around for more fun -- their anthem is so stirring, and among the variety of propaganda films made into videos is even a techno version.

June 8, 2007
Esthers Brotchen What the World Eats is a slideshow from the new Peter Menzel project, Hungry Planet. His previous Material World featured family portraits from thirty countries, each with all of their possesions, arranged just outside their houses. This new one shows families in the kitchen or dining room, along with all of their food, for a week. Note the central pile of brotchen in the final image, from Germany -- so thankful now for Esther's Bakery, a local source with no storefront -- instead, I must arrive early at the Saturday morning Sunnyvale Farmers Market to score these rolls, which are one of the best things about Europe -- now, fresh, and in California. A miracle!

Three blogs I've been into recently, unrelated:
  1. Jeffrey Friedl, who lives in Kyoto -- photoblog, friend of a classmate.
  2. Love from California posts entries in both English and her native Japanese. She was in my conversation class (in the photo, next to Yuke).
  3. Evan Dorkin -- been reading his comic book "Dork" again since there's a new 'ish' out now, #11, after a five year interval.
Also, Geoff's now doing a comic strip.

June 4, 2007
No Squatting Inside a stall of a public restroom at my school's office, one observes this unusual prohibition. It's to prevent what's known in the Ladies as "hovering" but you may not be aware that some of our more recent imports are standing on the seats, being familiar only with squat toilets (or due to fears of disease). I can only wonder why it's also posted in the Mens; I've always thought Cecil's column, What diseases can you catch from toilet seats? to be the last word on that subject. It suggests that the tissue paper 'ass gasket' is useless. And how do you like those who arrange their paper boundary just so and then, as a courtesy, leave it in place for the next consumer?
  • Also at the Straight Dope, a current column, Why are the bees disappearing? Or are they? Something I noted in his report was it's only affecting European honeybees -- and just recently, I heard a beekeeper expressing his pleasure with the results from his colonies of African (yes, the more aggresive and so-called killer) bees.

  • How I Spent the War -- Günter Grass' experiences as a recruit in the Waffen SS. He was drafted in the last months, and never fired a shot.

  • In Business Week, Japan's Lost Generation.

June 1, 2007
my afternoon class
My afternoon class. Many of us have known each other since January, very sorry to see them go. This photo was presented to me in a very nice frame, quite touching. Some of the people pictured here will continue on, in my summer school class, which will be a whole new deal -- actually there'll be two of them, or 1.5, since I'll be splitting the AM session's time with another teacher. But for now, a short break.

May 31, 2007
The end of this busy time with school is finally in sight, hours away instead of days. Unfortunately, the situation now complicated with illness -- I've come down with a bug many call the 'stomache flu' but I'm preferring the term abbreviated from gastroenteritis, which sounds like one of the Marx Bros: "Gastro."

May 25, 2007 (link corrected)
2nd conversation class
Another group photo, with teacher. This is my morning class, just conversation except for their final project, which is to give a presentation lasting at least three minutes. At the far left are my two favorite students, Yuka and Yuke. The former is from Kobe (where she lost friends in the '95 earthquake), and the latter is from Beijing -- she's the one I characterized previously as "shrill" and in the usual way, the person I initially find the most off-putting turns out to be the one I like best. Today, Yuka was one of the presenters, and she blew us all away with her violin discussion and virtuoso performance -- she's been playing since age 3. Unfortunately missing from this picture is my exuberant young African, who's from Cameroon -- she was off failing her driving test the day of this photo-op.

From the class where I'm a student, you can see my cool Japanese teacher performing both roles in a video he made us where he simulates a telephone dialog between him and the police, investigating a robbery which occurred at the Y, while he was swimming there.

May 23, 2007
  • The MetaFilter crew addresses the perenial question about the toilet paper roll: Over or Under?

  • And it may have been discussed there, I didn't check; but elsewhere, good answers to What's the difference between a Sport Coat, a Blazer, and a Suit Jacket? (Here's more about that for you well-dressed men.)

  • Interesting discussion about postage and inflation, in Slate -- Should I Invest in "Forever" Stamps? Of course, the "no" argument pertains only to those whose asset values and incomes are regularly adjusted upwards, in step with inflation; if yours aren't, laying in a supply of these æsthetically unappealing Liberty Bells is a good idea, 'specially given the USPS' recent penchant for ever-more-frequent rate increases.

May 19, 2007
  • Although I was a big fan of "Star Trek" in the late 1960s, when it was new, and afterwards, "The Next Generation" didn't trigger much interest until it'd been on a couple years, and even then its hinkier elements prevented full-on enthusiasm. A TNG Endings YouTube compiles the last ten seconds of each first season episode, where you can get a taste of what I mean. The IMDb has trivia lists for both TOS (The Original Series) as well as TNG, where we learn that Geordi's Visual Instrument and Sensory Organ Replacement (VISOR) was improvised on the first day of shooting using chiefly an automobile air filter, confirming a long-time hunch I've had.

  • Since I've been havin trouble with Wikipedia (not) loading over my slowww dial-up, I've been seeking out alternatives to their main page. Seems that a wide variety is available -- I'm now using either the Simple Search or the text-only, until I figure out how to add their search form to my links page.

May 16, 2007
  • Just watched the 2-hour version of "Shogun" which provoked some online research, discovering an out-of-print book called Learning From Shogun. It's a reaction to the novel, and the entire text is available there as a PDF. Fascinating stuff, if you're curious about the history behind the story, and/or Western perceptions of the Oriental Other.

  • First class postage went up 2¢ Monday -- and that's not all. Size matters, as does shape, under new postal rates.

  • Finally, because I was listening to an audiobook of Farmer in the Sky during last month's road-trip to LA, an essay on the Heinlein Juveniles by C.W. Sullivan.

May 13, 2007

May 10, 2007
In the News:
  • Microwave Popcorn Flavoring Suspected in Illness. Don't know if this 'diacetyl' pseudo-butter flavoring is the reason, but I find the odor of that stuff annoying, disagreeable, unpleasant, nauseating -- almost as bad as that black-tar roofer smell. Thankfully I liberated myself from the office environment, where that foul stench lingers in the hallways.

  • Tomorrow's Pioneers: Militant 'Mickey Mouse' pulled off the air, in Palestine.

  • Photos of the Griffith Park fire, on flickr. The observatory is one of my favorite places, for the view at night, looking down upon the lights of LA.

  • Finally, I don't have a link, but the radio said GM's profits are down 90%. That's gotta hurt, but just from a visual POV, given the Big Three's offerings today, if I had to take one I'd get a Chrysler. Or a new Mustang.

May 8, 2007
at the Cantor And how did my field trip go, you may be wondering? All who made it had a great time, but I probably won't take a class there again since parking's problematic. (The only hitch was one of the women got a $35 parking ticket -- next time, she'll read the sign!) This museum has been featured previously, in these pages -- scroll down on this '99 journal entry for more info. (And click the thumbnail to see us all posing with The Thinker.)

May 6, 2007

May 2, 2007
Frustration this morning: a last-minute classroom change, in the rain, and then in the afternoon, a fire drill. Plus I hollered at our doofus of a sysadmin -- a tiring day, made longer due to an hour-long test review tacked onto my last class. Tomorrow, my first field trip -- we're going to the Stanford Art Museum (and I'm somehow reminded of Randle McMurphy's fishing trip in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest).

April 28, 2007

April 27, 2007
Busy times, and nothing to post. Yesterday, had to return to work in the evening, to do Testing, the first time I'd been unable to avoid this part of my new job. Candidates with varying levels of English proficiency assemble for a preliminary test and interview, in order for placement at the proper level. This happens monthly, followed by fresh faces appearing in my classes -- it's sort of nerve-wracking, but a prime modus of our operation -- students come and go regularly. So anyway there I was, at the head of a large, institutional roomful of immigrants, slowly working their way forward to the few bureauocrats, sitting at folding tables, filling out forms. After taking their tests they'd queue up in a line of folding chairs along the wall, awaiting my non-verbal gesture to approach. Even with all the ambient chatter the proceedings were rather quiet, muffled, so I stifled my urge to bellow out "Next!" After each brief interogation, I'd judge and then dismiss them. After awhile, I kinda got into it.

April 20, 2007 (link updated)

April 18, 2007 (link corrected)
Whenever I go back to LA, part of the journey's about revisiting my old haunts. Among other places, I hit the following, this time.
  • Hi De Ho Comics in Santa Monica

  • Record Surplus, the "last record store"

  • The Book Baron in Anaheim, and

  • For a meal on the go, on my way out, half a Zankou Chicken from the branch in the Valley (which I delayed feasting upon until a scenic Pacific overlook past Santa Barbara, where the 101 runs right along the ocean). Wasn't until this trip that I realized the LA-only chain of Zankou is Armenien.

  • And this last was new, only the second time I've been to a Penzey's Spices, although I'm a long-time mail-order customer. Their only California store (so far) is located in Torrance, across from Del Amo, and unlike the St Louis branch, each spice display features a handy wide-mouth sample bottle, so you can smell them all -- an olfactory trip.
    Note to my back-East readers -- their latest store just opened on Rockville Pike.

April 17, 2007
mural in Long Beach Just returned from a quick weekend loop through the Southland where I spotted this mural on the side of a big Goodwill facility in a sketchy part of east Long Beach:
(click fer bigger)

April 12, 2007

April 10, 2007
A first for me at the dentist today -- replacement of a crown is indicated, so he removed the old, by cutting it off. I've got five gold teeth now, four the end phase of root canals; and this one, my first, has always been suspect. I think of the guy who made it as Dr. Quack -- should've backed out immediately I spotted all that tacky Redskin paraphernalia decorating his office. This was shortly after I'd moved back to the DC area in the mid-90s and a few months later I ended up having a different (and exceptionally competent) dentist tap off this crown (using a hammer and chisel!), doing the necessary root canal underneath, then gluing Dr Quack's crown back into position. My LA dentist didn't approve of that crown, because it had an ill-fitting 'ledge' which has led to the problems my NoCal dentist is correcting now, 13 years later.

Also today, first session of the next Japanese class. Instead of the native women I've had previously, this time the teacher's a young American guy who parks his bicycle in the front corner of the classroom. Born and spent his first 18 years there and then came back to New York, so he's bilingual. Only been here a couple years.

Some YouTube video:

April 7, 2007
Incredibly, my records show today's the ten-year anniversary of operating this, my first (and still "driven daily") computer, the Monorail 7245 running the original Windows95. Although I've been ready for years to transfer primary operation to the Tecra (running Win98), the ol' original keeps plugging away so why switch? All I use it for now is temporary storage and website uploads, plus email and occasionally, Internet News for Usenet access, those tools being the main reason I resist upgrade. The mail program, bundled with Win95 and so fundamental its name is simply "Internet Mail," has fatally crashed my machine thrice now, requiring a total rebuild (the mailbox queues get unexpectedly large is my guess, and then other memory gets stepped on). I keep expecting the Monorail's decade-old 1 gigabyte disk to fail, but so far, only the floppy does, rarely, unseriously. And I give that hardware a real workout, using the swivel-chair interface for data transfer.

But its time to get serious about a new laptop and retire the ol' Monorail (which has been with me right from the start, my first month back in California, living in the Oakwood; meaning I'm ten years in Silicon Valley now, as well.

April 5, 2007
Fresh Rash
A recent scan of an old photo Jeff unearthed somewhere. 'Tis I, at two months.

March 30, 2007
The other of my classes which just ended was the Japanese, very positive experience compared to the previous AdultEd situation (described 3-16-6) which had homework but no tests. The community college, actually a satellite campus formerly a high scool, has an unexpected benefit of great internet in a student lab&lounge which and is more convenient (and adjacent to a Peets). Only drawback is it's closed Friday-Sunday and always now, during the break between winter and spring quarters which unfortunately isn't in sync with my teaching schedule, or I'd leave town. Also, there's some question as to whether the next class in the sequence will be offered, maybe not enough students... stay tuned.

March 29, 2007
The old morning class gone, a new one takes its place. Initially, twice the size of its predecessor, which was overwhelmingly Chinese -- this one's more mixed. Only three guys: an amusing old codger from Shanghai plus two Korean engineers, one of whom worked Jesus into his introductory remark. The rest: a couple of Koreans, two engineers from Beijing, two (maybe three) women from India, same number from Kanzai, and another Japanese who's a veterinarian but not licensed here yet; a dentist from Mexico, same status; from a remote Chinese village a PhD in Statistics, and finally, a stylish girl from Taiwan. One of the Beijing engineers wouldn't shut up about her specialty, heat transfer -- she's got a shrill nature which I find, shall we say, challenging.
  • If you've forgotten how to fold the origami crane, Evil Mad Scientist Lab demonstrates the technique with wonton wrappers (then cooked into a nummy treat!)

  • Brand New reports on the new DQ logo.

  • In the News, yesterday (moved up due to a format problem): Puppies for Peace.

March 25, 2007
  • Excellent "This American Life" last week, What I Learned from TV. Their site's just undegone a major re-do; worth exploring. I haven't seen most of the TV show but don't miss the segment animated by Chris Ware, archived elsewhere.

  • Images of the Soviet Union. Also their huge trucks to transport ICBMs, even mobile missle-launchers. Thrilling Wonders may get a spot on my blogroll.

  • Incredible graffiti in Queens, all over a five-story cube of an abandoned industrial building.

  • Five common exercises you should never do. At some point I've incorporated all but the second into my routines, but not recently, having learned better. The safe alternatives of the third -- preacher curls, or the E-Z Bar -- are actually the hardest thing I'm doing at the gym now. Y'all oughta hear me grunt, during. Or probably not

March 22, 2007
first conversation class
  • This is my morning class, and tomorrow is our last session -- next week I'll be getting a new batch. The women were all great (especially the old one, who had some fascinating stories from her youth in Red China and just the sweetest disposition) but I won't be sorry to see the last of those three guys from Taiwan, each of whom had annoying mannerisms. The fourth man, Andy, is a rather amusing Korean, and we traded places as you can see in the bigger image here.

  • At Neatorama, the Ten Most Magnificent Trees in the World.

March 20, 2007
  • Not So Punk -- Jen theorizes about why some of 'em are jerks.

March 18, 2007
On "le Show" this morning Harry Shearer read of some group's ideas to reverse climate change by reflecting away or blocking a small percentage of the sun's radiation, via large-scale "geo-engineering" -- some were interplanetary (installing a shade at the LaGrange Point) but there was a more down-to-earth notion of increasing the planet's albedo by sprinkling somethng shiny in the air, across the earth surface -- or maybe, scattering something white on the ocean. I'm visualizing ocean swells covered with styrofoam packing material -- could it be possible to litter our way out of global warming?

March 17, 2007

March 16, 2007
  • Snapped this seasonal cherry tree last week; now, its petals have fallen. Life is fleeting, Grasshopper. One of the first words of Japanese I ever knew, from the tiresome song... in an evening musical performance in the 7th grade (this would've been early '67), Allen and I were tasked with providing the chime-like accompaniment, ringing out the song's two chords with triplets of individual glockenspiel bells, while a chorus of our peers sang along. Now when I sing about cherry blossoms, I prefer replacing 'Mosura' with that word while doing the musical theme of Mothra -- the tribal, Island version, with its Malay lyrics:
    Sakura ya Sakura
    Dongan kasakuyan Indo moo
    Rusuto uiraadoa, hanba hanbamuyan...
    Seems the original's out of print -- many thanks to whoever taped it for me off cable, back during the first Bush administration.

  • Giant Pool of Water Ice at Mars' South Pole -- I'm reminded of William Mulholland's words of November 5, 1913, at the opening ceremony of the Los Angeles Aqueduct in the San Fernando Valley: "There it is. Take it."

  • Pseudo Sushi update -- some scoff at this, and it is ultimately futile; but as one who's been forced to endure bad 'Japanese' food I'm all for this labeling.

March 15, 2007

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