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September 20, 2007

September 18, 2007
I was given an apple today, a perfect Red Delicious. Also for the first time this past week, rode my bike to class, 'stead of driving. This isn't remarkable just 'cause school's a little beyond my peddling comfort zone, but because I was going to teach, not learn. And in an email, a student from Spain addressed me as "Professor."

September 16, 2007
An excerpt from the new Gibson where the protagonist is on her mobile talking with her mother:
She said that [her] father was fine, except for having contracted, in his late 70s, a fierce and uncharacteristic interest in politics. Which her mother didn't like, she said, because it only made him angry. "He says it's because it's never been this bad" her mother said, "but I tell him it's only because he never paid it this much attention before. And it's the Internet. People used to have to wait for the paper, or the news on TV. Now it's like a tap running. He sits down with that thing at any time of the day or night, and starts reading. I tell him it's not like there's anything he can do about any of it anyway."
"It gives him something to think about. You know it's good for people your age to have interests."
"You aren't the one who has to listen to him."

September 10, 2007
Marching as to War Been reading a great little US history, a bilingual volume, English on the left pages, Japanese on the right -- but the illustrated sidebars appear only in nihongo, and some of the pictures are unfamiliar, for example. The caption's something like 'advancing Northern soldiers turn to the South' but even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these top-hatted warriors -- I dub them, the Uncle Sam Regiment. (As usual, click for bigger.) It's a happier, more intense time than usual with the books now as I'm alternating between an Iain Banks Culture novel and the new Gibson, Spook Country.

September 6, 2007

September 4, 2007

September 3, 2007
Labor Day and the end of Summer, many days of leisure, come to an end -- this schedule one of the payoffs for being a teacher. Already though, both my classes are now begun, so many new people to know. Japanese is on hiatus until the end of this month, meanwhile must endure an all-day teacher-teaching class September Saturdays to maintain my credential -- that tedium begins this coming weekend. The classes are taught by an old guy who lost his voice somehow but still speaks unaided, you just have to strain to hear him -- but when he teaches, he uses a throat mic with a special PA setting that amplifies and distorts his voice such that he sounds very like an Ebonite in that first season Outer Limits, Nightmare (the episode with Martin Sheen as Private Dix).

For this holiday weekend, some tidying up at home, including a harsh cull of audio cassettes, slipped into the dumpster along with some excess VHS -- magnetic tape is no longer welcome in the 21st century, but the weaning, so difficult. A quick inventory shows I've reduced my total to about 250, excluding the Joe Frank archive.

Once so essential, now obsolete: a newspaper story says the phone company's discontinuing their automated time service as of September 19th since nobody uses it anymore. Dammit, I use it, to set my inside clocks; although my 'watch' is the clock in my car's dash which I set according to what they say on the radio.

The first book I read (more details about that under April 19, 2002 in the archives) but it wasn't until now that I saw the Kon-Tiki documentary. I'm flabbergasted -- you mean, Thor H. took a movie camera with? Incredible, what an adventure, in glorious black&white.


August 29, 2007

August 28, 2007

August 26, 2007
truckin Japanese A student loaned me a Japanese etiquitte book and this is a detail which looks to me like, Truckin' (See Crumb, R) or strutting. Select the thumbnail to view all the complete trio; their captions are currently beyond me but the title's "Examples of Bad Walking."
Update: the verb for this guy is "swagger."
  • Asperger's, with more etiquette plus Steve Reich in Parallel Play by Tim Page in last week's New Yorker. I identify strongly with about 50% of his story; the other half I'm thinking, what a weirdness!

  • Shuttle launch photos, taken from the air -- 1 and 2, at the ever-fascinating

  • Historical WTF: Oklahoma City sonic boom tests of 1964.

  • Latest school outrage: Youth suspended over sketch of a gun. More news: city-wide drug testing proposed, EPA to "flush out the details."

August 19, 2007
Melon Guy Tomorrow, the first day of a new class; today, the melon man at the Mountain View farmer's market. Way more varieties are available here, in contrast to the usual back-East choices of cantelope, honeydew and watermelon. For example I was recently enjoying a Crenshaw melon but this guy doesn't grow those, says they're too much hassle. I get Rocky Sweets from him, those are on the left in the photo -- they're like a cantelope on the outside, colored like a honeydew inside but with a different flavor, creamy even. Sampled the Anana next to it which was like ambrosia -- will return next week for one of those.

August 17, 2007

August 15, 2007
Sundial Bridge looking north Sundial Bridge, south
Just back from a trip up north, three views therefrom. Two of the new Santiago Calatrava bridge in Redding and below, the amazing Burney Falls.
Burney Falls

August 8, 2007
Krakow bus logo Japanese final tomorrow, then a month's break from the nihongo. Apropos nothing, today's thumbnail, not a flag but the logo I photographed on a bus I rode in Krakow, Poland -- that was almost two years ago, now.
  • In the news, Scientists reveal secret of levitation (by reversing the 'Casimir Force'). Air bags, WTF? Also, an update on the chocolate definition struggle (no change, yet).

  • Scary: the Losing War on Junk email, by Michael Specter, in the New Yorker. Given the magnitudes, I'm surprised it still works at all.

  • Saw a picture of a big old building I didn't know, and there was no caption! So I asked the hive mind and an hour later discovered it's Schloss Johannisburg, outside Frankfurt.

August 1, 2007
Although I'm currently on the summer break from teaching, I'm very busy now with the final sessions of this sophmore-level Japanese class. It meets four times a week and requires what seems like an inordinate amount of time every day studying at the library, as well. They've handy dictionaries as well as the internet diversion, with limited free printing, and I've learned how wearing earplugs makes this environment tolerable for extended periods. All together I'm in an ideal zone for language learning now, since I've got the time, the resources and the inclination. And it's so hard to believe I'm being taught kanji in an academic setting -- practicing all these new characters and adding them to my pictoral vocab is a joy.

July 30, 2007

July 26, 2007
summer school party, the Japanese: 
Yukiko (cropped in the thumbnail), Sachie, Kaoru, 
Hiroko, Ako, and Yumi
Two parties today, marking the end of summer school -- the first, in the morning, the class I shared with another teacher; plus my 'real' class, in the afternoon. This picture shows me with the Japanese students from the later.

July 19, 2007
Oy I'll be glad when summer school ends next week. Just too much going on now what with the additional burden of Japanese, which is way more intense this quarter. (And archaic -- instead of the usual white-, blackboards. Actually, the even worse green blackboards.) My previous class at Foothill began in January with a diverse class of around 35 students. By June, at the end of the second quarter, attrition had reduced our number to six, none of us Asian and only one of college age. At my new school, De Anza (with its ancient furnishings), I'm the only white person in an all-Asian class of college kids, the ethnic shift due to the different demographics of Cupertino vs. Palo Alto. I'm handicapped ('cause for most of 'em, this is just review of stuff they had in junior high) but the teacher cuts me major slack. She's okay, not bad but makes no effort to utilze any recorded media, her traditional methods matching the chalk in her hand -- for example, she makes us memorize dialogs. In my own morning class, one of my favorite students has returned from last fall, a Korean with the sweetest disposition but in tears yesterday, she was describing her predicament: they have a 'vacation home' on a lake somewhere near Victorville (eh? that's the desert, down there between Vegas & LA) and they'd loaned it to a friend with family of three children, one an infant. Crisis: the key she gave them is not opening the lock and she was imploring me: "But I just used it last week!" Until that morning the travel-weary family apparently slept in their car, as the house is remote, far from anything like a motel and yet on old Route 66. (No Bahgdad Cafe?) She was contemplating driving down there immediately (an 8-hour trip) but another cellphonecall during class, the family's given up, on its way back, defeated. Oh the shame.

July 15, 2007
  • Follow-up on toilet hovering, from an enthusiastic proponent: The Art of Hover-Pissing. Want to read more, see the metaFilter response.

  • Recent Jon Carroll column on astronauts, New York City, bottled water, and more.

  • NPR's Nina Totenberg annoys me because of her lock on the Supreme Court report -- she's always the voice I hear quoting the judges, and I wonder, why her? Why always her? (I wish they'd get someone in there who'd imitate each of their individual mannerisms.) But she has her fans, obviously -- over in the NPR Shop a special version of that cliche public broadcasting premium is now available -- the (sold out) Nina Totin' Bag!

July 11, 2007

July 10, 2007 (updated)
Heard on the radio how Doug Marlette died today. I don't read him anymore but his editorial cartoons and "Kudzu" comic strip were a definite part of my 1980s. In a rainy car crash, similar to what happened out here recently with author David Halber-something -- as a passenger, honored guest, being driven to/from an engagement (in this case, a high school musical production of "Kudzu" -- the mind reels. Nasal doing a rap song?) To be sure, the South will mourn his passing.
Washington Post obit

July 9, 2007
  • From last week's New Yorker Postscript for their cartoonist, J.B.Handelsman:
    "Sometimes something historical gives you a better perspective," he said in a 1980 interview. "You can see the latest dumbness as just the end of a long line of dumbnesses that have been taking place for thousands of years."

  • Hollywood in need of Japanese, and Japan goes Koo-Koo for Kit Kat Choco Bars. One of my students recently gave me one of those green tea variants, which was quite tasty (although I generally eschew Kit Kats, 'cause they always taste kinda stale, to me). Another one of my current students is in a band, MegaBabe (first time I've posted a MySpace link.) My own nihongo studies have ratcheted up; I'm taking the third class at the other school now, which uses a different textbook. Among my new classmates, ironically, is one of my former students.

  • In Psychology Today, Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature.

July 7, 2007
Heinlein at 100 by Ted Gioia. Thinking about the famous author reminds me of the sample scans from the kids' books compiled at Dreams of Space.

July 4, 2007
  • Like the guys in "Breaking Away" we swam at an abandoned quarry, in my youth. Imagine a hotel there, like in China -- looks like waterfall. I'll probably never stay at that one, but the Ostel in East Berlin is another story -- see some pictures in a photo gallery and this Forbes article claims it's 'budget' but I couldn't locate any rate information online (and I doubt that Forbes' definiton of budget matches my own).

  • Speaking of trips to Germany, on my first I paid a memorable visit to the Deutsches Museum in Munich. Back home in DC it seems I'll be missing the Modernism Show at the Corcoran, which only lasts through the end of this month. The connection is a neat Czech car from the 1930s called the Tatra. That Dark Roast Blend post describes it in detail, and mentions another unusual car on display at the D-Museum, the Rumpler Tropfenwagen (but the one I liked best was their early-70s Porsche 911 with a stainless-steel body, polished to a mirror finish). These vehicles may have been relocated to their new Traffic Museum across town but back to the Corcoran, for the time being their visitor info page has a photo of the Tatra on display there.

July 1, 2007
water bottle litter There's another one!

I became so annoyed with these plastic water pods people litter everywhere I started picking 'em up and putting 'em into the recycle bin. Recently I learned the local Recycling Center's less'n a mile away and gives cash payout, which just doubled this year (the CA CRV). Therefore, my hunting/gathering activities have escalated, aggressively, and now include "Dumpster diving."

Although I use a Brita filter now, for several years I'd keep a special bottled water in the fridge, but never in that most common one-pint size -- just too much plastic waste. More on the water racket in the current Fast Company, Message in a Bottle by Charles Fishman. Quotes:
  • At Whole Foods, the upscale emporium of the organic and exotic, bottled water is the number-one item by units sold.
  • Americans have never wanted water in cans, which suggest a tinny aftertaste before you take a sip. The plastic bottle, in fact, did for water what the pop-top can had done for soda: It turned water into an anywhere, anytime beverage, at just the moment when we decided we wanted a beverage, everywhere, all the time.
  • 38 billion water bottles are pitched into landfills every year--in excess of $1 billion worth of plastic.
  • Americans went through about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year, 167 for each person.
Says soft drinks still sell more units than waters but the H20s are gaining. In my scavaging for #1 plastic I encounter way more waters than soft drinks. And I'm wondering, do you think we'll ever see beer in plastic bottles with twist-off tops?

June 27, 2007

June 24, 2007
The radio session was fun. Haven't been to a college station since the mid-80s at WMUC. The old tape carts have been replaced partially by Minidiscs. The time went by way too quick; maybe I'll have to do a Part 2 next year.

June 21 - Solstice
I'll be on the radio this Saturday. A part of my usual weekend routine involves tuning in to Robert Emmett's soundtrack show on KFJC. For the first hour of the upcoming program we'll be spinning some platters together, and you can catch it all on their netcast at 9AM Pacific time, noon Eastern.

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