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December 20, 2007
afternoon class last day party
Another bittersweet last-day-of-class party. Except for the creepy guy at the far left there, hiding behind Fernando, a really great group -- I will miss them. Home countries represented here (excluding me) are Thailand, Mexico x3, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Russia, Peru, Spain, Japan x7, Korea x4, and China x4.
  • Just finished The Way of the Traitor, the third of the Inspector Sano mysteries by LJ Rowland...searching on both her and James Melville led me to Steamy East authors; worth a read if you're into such things. (James Melville's Otani series is better, IMO -- Laura Joh gets a little over-the-top at times, and there's never any laughs. Both very interesting tho, to be sure.)

December 13, 2007

December 10, 2007
When I was in Jr.High school my older brother was trying to effect a new placeholder name, "Joe Face". A student asked me about these so naturally I turned to the internets and maybe you're wondering what name they use for Joe Blow, in other languages? You'll find an exhaustive listing under John Doe in the Wikipedia. No Face but look, under Malta: Joe Borg! And how about New Zealand, where Joe Bloggs?

December 8, 2007

December 6, 2007
blue earth I clicked "Ok" today, finally completing negotiations on my RTW tickets, $3325. Am I quite mad? Committed now to spending weeks in India, during the monsoon next July. Also, over a week in Turkey, as well as in Japan (finally, getting there the long way) ending in early August in time for the Nebuta Festival.

December 3, 2007

November 27, 2007
Ho ho ho! The season has begun -- this we know since the Muzak at the gym and in the stores began Christmas Caroling promptly, the day after Thanksgiving. Not the sappy, traditional tunes -- they come later, closer to the day. No, the initial holiday music barrage is the most obnoxious, contemporary treatments of the old favorites, or (more commonly) new songs with holiday lyrics. Are you feeling joyful?

November 22, 2007
Happy Thanksgiving!            
  • No news is good news.      

November 18, 2007
The American absinthe prohibition has been lifted, after nearly a century: ...and check la Fée Verte's Absinthe House for more about the drink.

November 15, 2007

November 13, 2007
  • Too Much Coffee Man on YouTube -- his (very brief) animated commercial for Converse shoes.

  • Also, a photo of your humble narrator at the MeFi meetup Sunday night, snapped by the skilled photographer everybody loves 'cause everyone looks great in his pictures, even in (or because of) the dim illumination of the trendy bars where these events invariably take place.

November 12, 2007
Heard Paul Krugman on the radio the other night giving a speech at the Commonwealth Club which reminded me how the NY Times seems to have abandoned their policy of keeping his columns behind their paid firewall, so you'll be seeing links to his commentary here once again. For example, from the recent Fearing Fear Itself --
There isn't actually any such thing as Islamofascism - it's not an ideology; it's a figment of the neocon imagination. The term came into vogue only because it was a way for Iraq hawks to gloss over the awkward transition from pursuing Osama bin Laden, who attacked America, to Saddam Hussein, who didn't.

November 8, 2007
  • I moved to California twenty years ago, and at the time, this was big. Now that everything's available, you too can enjoy the late-80s fun of Concrete Blonde's Still in Hollywood video (which I think I first saw as filler on Adventures with the Poorman).

  • The Future of the American Idea - David Foster Wallace asks the questions most find unthinkable but I've always thought obvious about Freedom, Security, terrorism and what Benjamin Franklin said (but then, as a child of the bomb growing up in Washington DC, I've never thought true safety possible).

  • Installing a PlayStation's blue laser diode in a Star Trek (TOS) phaser (video how-to).

November 6, 2007
  • In the New Yorker, Running on Fumes is a review of two new books about the Car of the Future.

  • And in The Economist, In God's name is the introductory article in a hefty multi-part report about religion in our time. One of my students recently asked me why so many Koreans are Christian. I didn't know, but the story about mega-churches says they're only 20% or 30% of the population there (depending on whether Catholics are included in the tally) and yet among my Korean students, it seems non-Christians are very rare -- don't know why.

November 4, 2007

November 2, 2007
Relief in my Japanese class -- our harsh, indifferent teacher went into the hospital two weeks ago, possibly never to be seen again. Meanwhile, a semi-permanent substitute has taken her place and not only are her tests not so difficult, she also places a higher emphasis on how to draw kanji, which really interests me. In other news, I've decided to exercise my teacher's prerogative and take off next summer: plans being finalized for my long-delayed RTW trip. Been receiving the tempting email-newsletters from the specialists at Air Treks for years now; they're old hands at arranging the sets of plane tickets required for Round The World journeys. True, summer's not the optimum time to visit India, but I'd really like to be in Japan for the early August o-Bon festivities so why not? Most of my time on the ground will be spent in Turkey and the sub-continent, which should both be quite inexpensive. The quoted ticket price (also including departures from Frankfurt and Singapore) is $3000, complete ('cept I hafta get to JFK on my own... another $20 Chinatown bus-ride?)

October 30, 21:04 PDT
Moderate earthquake in NE San Jose an hour ago, no doubt it'll be in tomorrow's news but alas, I felt nothing. Epicenter maybe 15 miles away from my location, eating in a restaurant, earplugs in, reading. Afterwards I became aware of nearby patrons discussing seismic activity but I didn't even notice vibrations in my ice water, the best detector available for mild tremors.

October 28, 2007

October 26, 2007
Urgh -- illness which began to manifest earlier this week has evolved into influenza! Was I too late, happening into that free Flu Shot situation at school, Tuesday? The nurse rejected me as I was already running a temperature. I've had to postpone the inevitable bed-rest since today was the last day of that class pictured previously, where along with necessary paperwork I couldn't possibly miss this final session, when certificates are awarded as well as students showering me with gratitude and in this case, very generous gifts. So now, finally, to bed. But first,
  • Floating Utopias delves into the fantasy of 'seasteading' a new & improved country, most recently manifest in the vaporware Freedom Ship.

  • Excellent guest Orcinus post about Christianity "jumping the shark."

  • Interesting New Yorker essay on how color's been bleached out of 'indie' rock. (Mentions the Minutemen, an early-80s group I missed then but learned about in a documentary viewing at Cheryl's last February.) But I disagree with the author's assumption that rather than the crucial black ingredients Elvis and others used in early rock'n'roll, the mixture's now lacking without some of the "urban" ethnic's contemporary product, hip-hop. No thanks, anything but that -- with rare exceptions, its rhythmic chanting is a formula not for music, but monotonous, irritating noise. Related, from Slate, last year: If you hate rap, are you a racist?

  • A Minor History of Giant Spheres.

October 23, 2007

October 21, 2007
Fall morning class
My morning conversation class; this will be our last week together. A great group except for that big doof standing next to me, an annoying, even creepy Israeli gym teacher, originally from Chile.

October 20, 2007
  • Here's a mouthful: jidouhanbaiki. Perhaps you're aware of the multitude of vending machines in Japan, as well as the variety of merchandise available therefrom. Japanese Skirt Fear of Crime describes some innovative ideas they're developing to combat a perceived increase in street violence, including a garment designed by Aya Tsukioka which the wearer can swiftly convert into a simulated, concealing Coca-Cola jidouhanbaiki.

  • In their latest post, Damn Interesting tackles the Vela Incident of September 22, 1979. I've always wondered (and remember reading about it at the time, in Aviation Week) but still, no good explanation. Maybe a neutron bomb? Good grief. Note that at 70,000 miles (three times more distant than geosynchronous orbit) Earth's size in the picture's much too large. The bomb-test-sensing Vela satellite, in Wikipedia. Related: an awesome photo of the 1968 French nuclear test Canopus; picture details here.

  • In local news, San Jose teens detained in homemade bomb attacks. Interesting -- first I've heard of a chlorine bomb. Sounds like fun, actually.

October 18, 2007

October 15, 2007
Back from a quick trip East for my niece's wedding; everything was swell including the new non-stop SFO-IAD Virgin America flights. If you go with them, wear red -- you may be welcomed into the first boarding group despite what's printed on your boarding pass, a refreshing change from my usual last-in-queue position due to SOP of ticket purchase far in advance, to acquire the cheapest fare and optimal flying times. Also note that Virgin's special techno theme-music plays while boarding; after landing, en route to the terminal; and throughout the flight in the toilet compartments.

October 7, 2007
I remember coming away from the Hershey tour (when my family visited the factory in the mid-1960s) with some company literature, interesting then for the colorful chocolate history and production info and also about the brand-new factories in Ontario and California...which are closing soon, a new production facility in Mexico to be doing their job. The California Report had a story Friday about the impact of this closure on Oakdale, including some photos. Some personal notes:
  • Just got my car "smogged" -- kinda unnerving, gives one pause, sitting just outside (in a white plastic monobloc) while through the window my car's front end, on metal rollers, is cranked up to 25mph, and then revved even higher. But I got a passing emissions certificate, thankfully.
  • Finally got control over my apartment's heater, which is, incredibly, free as I only pay for electricity on my PG&E bill. Unfortunately, the little natural-gas unit responds somewhat sporadically to the wall-thermostat, especially late at night, and this season, not at all. True, I could bug the landlord and maybe get some action (or could just deploy my electric radiator, his preferred solution) but I just discovered shorting out the thermostat is the trick. Hurray! And this "manual mode" seems to have loosened up the automatic; it finally came on all by itself, this morning.
  • The new Japanese class is taught by a strict dragon-lady. I squeaked through Beginning3, the previous, with a C+ and I'd like to retake that class but it's unavailable so onto this one, which I may fail -- have to keep reminding myself the grade doesn't matter, I'm there for the educational structure, the optimum available here&now. This time, I'm not the only non-Asian, there's some white nerds also; but the two girls from that previous class both dropped this one after only one session.
  • About the phone-cards I use for long distance. Of course the main reason is thrift, 1¢ a minute with the Telespeed, acquired through the vital which allows for easy comparison of them all. No need to buy the (more expensive) physical cards at the convenience store, all you need is the PIN and phone number, which bounces back after you enter your credit card info. The secondary reason, anonymity, has just been withdrawn -- previously, some weird number in South Dakota would show up on your Caller ID, but now y'all can see the number I'm calling from!

October 4, 2007
President Roh and Kim il-Jong
Remarkable news today from Pyongyang, where the leaders of the two Koreas got together and made nice. Coincidentally I just read the graphic novel with the same name by French-Canadian Guy Delisle, his story of a two-month stay in the DPRK capital while supervising an animation project. He reports on a city with no lights at night, except for occasional headlights, and monument illumination... fascinating.

October 1, 2007
  • A question at AskMe about certain ethnic groups' preferences for grape, or orange soda ('stead o' those colas you white folks are drinkin'). I wasn't consciously aware of this stereotype, until now.

September 28, 2007

September 26, 2007
No time for blogging, since The War is getting all my spare time's attention, PBS so no (or any) commercial interuptions, on one of the two channels I can actually receive. Upgraded sound and "new" footage is making this incredible.

September 23 - Equinox
blue bottle tree in Palo Alto Noticed this today, driving by, in Palo Alto -- a tree fashioned from metal rods, bent and welded, and decorated with blue glass bottles.
  • Been getting into Klaus Nomi, who I pretty much missed, at the time. How weird that he's still on the air because Rush Limbaugh plays a snippet of his version of Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me." More at Za Bakdaz.

  • It's been almost a year since I stopped working at the base; last week it was in the local news. Seems Google owns a 767 they call GForce One -- this was revealed Monday when their wide-body airliner was spotted and the Mercury News said Google jet to use Moffett Field (No photo -- check Valleywag for that.) I saw Air Force One there once, on the big runway; and all sorts of military planes, but never anything like that.

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