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December 20, 2008
Even Roy Doty has a web site. There's been some recent linkage about his elaborate Christmas cards but I know him best from "Wordless Workshop" in Popular Science. That magazine is among those now with complete archives available online. For example, browsing through the 1960s we find a favorite from 1965 (scroll down): How you'll drive 120mph!

December 19, 2008

December 16, 2008
Fall08 class
Last week with this class, sad to say good-bye.
  • Great Japanese Green Tea Ad. More YouTube: early Disney animation, the Conquest of Space (Part 1 and 2).

  • Scams posted on Rick Steve's site, by sadder-but-wiser Euro-tourists.

December 11, 2008
And finally, a product that for years now I've thought should be common, finally available (and my first sighting was a guy who had one in a coffee shop, a few days ago). Korg is selling small musical keyboards which plug into a laptop's USB port -- instead of Casio-style, stand-alone instruments, the synthesizing software lives on the computer. Seems they have three models: the $99 K25, the bigger K49 and the little one I saw, the $49 Nano, part of a trio which includes a rhythm pad.

December 8, 2008
Kazumi and Michiyo
A great joy this semester has been my young student Kazumi. Every day, after class, she sticks around and helps me with my Japanese, and if she has English questions, naturally I help her, too. Since she also studies Spanish, occasionaly my Mexican student Benjamin hangs around as well, assisting with her homework español. Eventually, her mother Michiyo shows up with the car, and Michiyo has always prepared some food for me, which Kazumi presents at the end of class. Sometimes it's a small bento box; two examples are shown below. These are Japanese lunch boxes; I first got into them when I lived in LA, where I'd visit a small place in Gardena lunchtime whenever possible for their hefty Makanouchi bento, a sampler of many delights. Michiyo always includes an onigiri which is translated as "rice ball" but is actually a triangle of sticky rice wrapped in flat nori seaweed, with something (most often a salty umiboshi plum) embedded in the middle. They're Japanese comfort food, just over ¥100 in the convenience stores there, which always have a selection handy, wrapped in an ingenious cellophane system which keeps the nori separate from the rice until you pull the wrapper off. But Michiyo just wraps hers in aluminum foil, which I removed for these photos. The black mass in the white one is some hijiki seaweed; that box also features some yummy chicken kara-age as well as a wedge of kaki persimmon. Note the apple wedges in the black box carved into little bunny-rabbits. Michiyo always includes a chunk of that tasty tamago-yaki familiar from the sushi bar, the cheapest thing on the menu and one of the safe choices for those squeamish Americans who still can't handle raw fish -- since a bit of sugar's added, Cheryl always orders that last, calling it dessert. These offerings have really come in handy during this busy semester; I'll miss them. One other detail -- when I return the boxes, they're not empty, but always contain some chocolates, returning the favor.

December 2, 2008
I missed it on the radio (these bits are not the reason I tune in to the afternoon NPR news program), but Brian Eno was recently on their revival of Edward R. Murrow's "This I Believe". My only exposure to the original is the best sequence in Walker Percy's otherwise forgetable novel, The Moviegoer, where the narrator submits his own soliloquy:
"Here are the beliefs of John Bickerson Bolling, a moviegoer living in New Orleans," it began, and ended, "I believe in a good kick in the ass. This -- I believe."
Anyway, Eno believes in the power of group singing (and the complete Moviegoer sequence can be found here).

November 30, 2008
A wonderful drag'n'drop game! Test Your Color IQ. Not trying very hard, doing it in the library, I received 55. Zero's perfect, and the worst score for my demographic's over 1500.

November 27 Thanksgiving
Weird contemporary fashion: eyelashes, and shoes. Someone should discuss foot-binding with Victoria Spice, looks like she'd be into it.

Mocking Thomas Kinkaide -- Paintings of Light 2.

Depression 2009: What would it look like? Like many prognosticators (Kunstler being an exception), this one doesn't address the depressing reality of oil running out, sees our current problems as only economic, not logistic, assuming cheap transport will continue keeping the supermarket and 'big box' stores' shelves stocked with goods created far away. Well, we'll see... related, a recent AskMe -- Why is gas so cheap now? Incredibly, regular's sunk to under $2 at the cheapo filling stations here.

November 23, 2008
Win a few, lose a few. Aeon said no; mostly I feel relief. Although they make the transition very easy, I object to their immersion teaching method, and hard-sell tactics; their corporate culture was becoming off-putting after just a couple hours of exposure; and once the novelty wore off, I'da probably felt trapped and bummed out, working for them. On the other hand, the result of a well-written letter to my apartment's management has been a quick elimination of the annoying metallic squeaking I mentioned here on October 14.

Been reading a book by Burkhard Bilger called Noodling for Flatheads. When I first heard of it, around the year 2000, I thought the sub-title was "Clandestine Southron Traditions" but after finally locating a copy, discovered its by-line was instead "Moonshine, Monster Catfish, and Other Southern Comforts." From the chapter on coon hunting:
Genetically, for all intents and purposes, dogs are wolves: they share all but 0.2% mitochondrial DNA (wolves and coyotes are twenty times as genetically distinct). Beyond their appearance, the sole thing separating them is behavior. Although wolf pups whine just as dog pups do, wolves eventually graduate to growls and howls, while dogs never get past barking. A dog's bark, the scientists had said, was midway between a whine and a growl -- a confused, "ComeHereGoAway!" sound indicative of arrested adolescence. Dependent, overly excitable, most dogs are easy to imagine as terminal teenagers.

Rare MP3s from Big O Zine:
a KPFA radio special, Hendrix For Everyone; and a 1972 Joni Mitchell concert, in France.

November 20, 2008
Great Jon Carroll column today, A Penny Saved, concerning advice from affluent bubble-dwellers.

Not fully comprehending this 'human flesh search' news story from China, but "If you believe it, then it is real!"

Some internet video:
  • Thought I'd never see this again, but since everything's available now, on YouTube, from '66, a few minutes (in color!) from the beginning of a T.H.E Cat episode. The murky fisticuffs are forgetable; what I loved was the animated opening title (even in b&w, on the only set we had, at the time).

  • Another discovery -- almost ten years ago, in a green journal post, I ruminated about the 1955 BBC TV serial of "Quatermass 2" -- just finished working my way through all of its segments. In no particular order, their links can be found here (and the program sequence is The Bolts, The Mark, Food, Coming, Frenzy and The Destroyers). Or maybe just view a snappy mash-up of scenes from the first two Quatermass movies, set to Holst's "Mars" (the original series' soundtrack).

  • Pathetic -- at the recent G20 conference, world leaders snub the shrub. Note Chancellor Merkel ignoring him; if I were her I'd still be furious at his massaging her shoulders that time. (My July 18 '06 post has more info.) Scary -- still two months to go until he's ejected from the driver's seat.

November 16, 2008
Just some images for today.

November 11, 2008
Van Gogh's four starry nights
Inspired by Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night, I assembled this montage. It's a new exhibition at the MoMa, and inspecting the show's checklist I see they've got almost everything except the upper-right Cafe Terrace at Night, a favorite painting which I pilgrimaged into the Dutch countryside to see towards the end of my first trip to Europe, 31 years ago. Guess the Kroller-Müller wouldn't loan it; instead they've included his preliminary drawing, which now lives in Dallas. The lower-right Starry Night is of course the Museum of Modern Art's crown jewel. The other two now reside in the newish Musée d'Orsay in Paris which I've yet to visit. Also haven't really been to the updated MoMa (although I have browsed its gift shops) and a jaunt up to NYC is conceivable during my holiday back-East this year, but it'd be a mob scene, and I was just there in June, so no way.

Speaking of the Apple, a Guide to Marvel's Manhattan.

November 9, 2008
Up to the City both yesterday and today for interviews with representatives Henry and Mark from the big English conversation school in Japan. Today, a shorter session, an actual interview, which including a simulated lesson with Mark acting like a taciturn student. Yesterday was more of an orientation and some group Q&A followed by a very simple test, and then a lesson we candidates taught each other. Yesterday's group totaled about thirty people, mostly youngsters right out of school, looking for work. Gotta wonder about kids these days -- the girls go to such trouble to be 'hawt' but the boys are for the most part slobs, even in this critical situation -- many without suitcoats, or even neck-ties, a couple with their shirt-tales hanging out. One guy, envious of my sharp appearance, confessed that he felt under-dressed (but the instructions clearly said to dress for a business interview!) Another told me he wanted to wear a tie but didn't know how to put one on, and couldn't locate any easy instructions online before he fell asleep, the night before. I was complemented on the effort I'd put into my sample lesson, and found the others laughable and even cringe-worthy in comparison. Although my performance could've been better, the recruiters seemed very pleased with me, hence the callback, and I 'spect I'll be getting an offer, stay tuned.

The venue was a hotel in San Francisco's Japantown, which I enjoyed exploring afterward. You'd think I'd know that area well (as I do LA's Little Tokyo and the much smaller Nihonmachi in San Jose), but my few visits are separated by intervals of many years, each time discovering much more than I thought was there.

Speaking of trips to San Francisco, the no-budget documentary Where Have all the Flowers Gone chronicles the journey of three young men from Texas who, inspired by the Summer of Love and discouraged by modern times and their apathetic peers, decided impulsively to move there (but only for a year) to Change The World. (I didn't realize edible crabs could be caught in the bay, with nets cast off the municipal piers.)

November 6, 2008
Been listening recently to more KALW91.7 public radio, which has a much weaker signal than its domineering Bay Area big brother, KQED88.5, but features more interesting programming. Thursday nights I've discovered lectures by Michael Parenti, a great truth-teller like Noam Chomsky. Tonight he was pointing out how main-stream media's now entirely owned by just six corporate entities, which is why the views expressed therein are so narrow and conservative, and reminding me that the Wall Street Journal is now owned by that creepy Rupert Murdoch (hence, no surprise, the laughable extract from its editorial page quoted by Paul Krugman in meanwhile, in an alternative universe). For more Parenti, check an online archive of his lectures.

The Ten Most Expensive Accidents in History -- two of them happened this year.

Ten years ago I quoted the entire "Brief History of the Advanced Automation System" in my first web pages, at GeoCities, after copying it by hand in the back of Tower Books. Closer to the Ideal also has it (along with some additional source-details) in the worst software project failure ever (scroll down). Although my former company played a sub-contracting role in it, I wasn't working on Air Traffic Control systems at the time, but later, when I was, one of the big bosses was an aluminus of that doomed, futile effort. Talking with my former supervisor yesterday, I learned that local funding went to zero last summer and everyone in our tiny branch office had to move on, so I guess my jumping ship two years ago, although premature, was an inevitable departure. And their new logo, mentioned previously? He says it obvioulsy illustrates their corporate philosophy: "We Cut Corners."

November 1, 2008
Yesterday we had some showers, and more last night. This morning, the sky's clouds looked like a watercolor in shades of gray, and the afternoon's rains were heavy, climaxing in a very rare (for coastal California) thunderclap. My favorite season here has begun -- I tolerate the too-hot summer and its too-bright sunlight as the tradeoff for this splendid time, when it's finally cool but only freezing for a day or two, never snowy (except up in the mountains) and often, for days at a time, summer returns. The rains make everything lush, the moss reappears wherever there's no direct sunlight, and towards the end of the season, in March, even the golden hills go green.

Next weekend, up in the City, I have an orientation meeting with representatives from one of the biggest eikaiwa (English language schools) in Japan. It'll be at least six hours, with a possible call-back for more in-depth interviews and teaching demos the following day. If accepted, I'll be signing up for a year's duty abroad, fulfilling a dream I've had for some time. However, the series of posts in The Truth about Aeon has me thinking it could very well turn into a nightmare. If on Tuesday the election goes the wrong way, however, I'll have no hesitations.

Speaking of, a couple short videos:
  • Ron Howard with Andy Griffith and the Fonz (thanks, Kristin!) and
  • a dance-off between the candidates, awesome just for the bit at 0:42 when that guy's rotating on his head.

October 31, 2008
Zeppelin on the Moffet runway
A photo taken by a former co-worker of the Zeppelin on the runway at Moffett Field, with its mobile mooring mast. They park it in Hangar 2, visible in the background, and they back it in. The San Francisco Chronicle has an update about the new airship.

A link for Halloween -- you know how hobos mark doors or entry gates with symbols so their brethren know what to expect? Cockeyed has posted a similar Kids Halloween Candy Code he says they used in Sacramento when he was younger (but I'm skeptical; don't believe trick-or-treat aged children are sophisticated or considerate enough for this).

Details of the "Hard Day's Night" chord revealed at last. Ten years ago, on the internets somewhere, I found a .wav file of this chord, isolated, which I used on my first computer as the "new email" alert. Unfortunately, I've never been able to configure the email program I'm currently using (Netscape Communicator 4.76) to play it, or any sound, although it's "Play sound when messages arrive" setting is toggled on.

At an extensive listing of corporate logo evolution I learn that GoldStar became LG. The original name is familiar because I once had a Goldstar television; now I see their current logo all over Asia. Speaking of logos (as well as former co-workers), my old employer has updated theirs, as well -- the new one can be seen at wikipedia (along with a view of the HQ building near LAX wherein I toiled for four years).

From Naomi Klein's The Bailout: the shrub's Final Pillage:
Every day it becomes clearer that the bailout was sold on false pretenses. It was never about getting loans flowing. It was always about turning the state into a giant insurance agency for Wall Street -- a safety net for the people who need it least, subsidized by the people who need it most.
Last night I heard her on the radio in a Q&A broadcast from Stanford -- refreshing clarity about the situation.

October 28, 2008
In the Triumph of Ignorance, Tom Dyson explains why Americans are so dumb. Related, in the New Yorker: Red Sex, Blue Sex.

Great zero-G photo -- STS-124 mission specialist Karen Nyberg looking through a porthole in the newly installed Kibo laboratory of the ISS.

October 25, 2008
At a UK blog called Homeless Tales, a list of Famous People Who've Been Homeless. Since the contemporary figures have often had spells of living in their vehicles, and hard times are en route for many, possibly even you, some instructions on How to Live in Your Car at wikiHow, a site well worth investigating -- all kinds of useful, interesting info there.

October 24, 2008
Fall08 Conversation Class
My morning conversation class, which had its last session today. A nice little group; sorry to see 'em go.

October 21, 2008
RIP Levi Stubbs -- you all know his voice. What a sound, what a time: the Four Tops' incredible Motown hits from 1965 through 1967. Favorites: "Standing in the Shadows of Love", "You Keep Running Away" and "I'll Turn to Stone", the snappy flip side of the dreadful and inexplicably more popular "7 Rooms of Gloom" (which you never hear now).

The ten most difficult words to translate -- words from languages other than English, some interesting concepts.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports Bay Area firm to offer $500 zeppelin rides. Says the Airship Ventures Zeppelin will be based at Moffett Field. Exciting -- after a 73-year hiatus, rigid airships return to Sunnyvale's skies.

Great design, Super Obama T-Shirt by Alex Ross. Related: the cover of this week's Metro. That image is missing the bold type at the bottom of the print edition: "MESSIAH".

October 18, 2008
Nihongo text illustration Just 'cause I like it, a little scene from my Japanese textbook, an illustration from a kamoshiremasen / komoshirenai exercise (the verb suffix for "perhaps"). The textbook is excellent (even has a reading on John and Yoko) but class itself is another story. I first became acquainted with the teacher early last year when I dropped her class after the first session, realizing I was over my head and immediately switching to the previous class in the sequence. Initial impression was strict, intimidating old dragon lady, and I disliked how she travels with a retinue of not one but three assistants, her apprentices. She calls them the Tutors. Actually, an Argentine classmate in the very first Japanese classes I took (at Palo Alto Adult School) suggested I get a tutor; at the time I wondered how but now fortunately have several -- eager volunteers, former and current students of my own. This older sensei takes up valuable class time going off on verbal tangents (usually in English) about various Japanese issues. The vivacious student teachers sit in the back, unless they're circulating and checking homework or listening and correcting when we pair off. Since the focus of this class is conversation the quizes are entirely oral and even though we're all seated these individual tests of skill remind me of martial arts training in a dojo.

In the Atlantic Jeffrey Goldberg reports on testing airport security with eager accomplice Bruce Schneier.

October 14, 2008
Just spotted a cockroach in my kitchen, a very rare sighting (for me, anyway) in California. Insect troubles I've had here have been either with ants, or when I lived at the beach with an indoor/outdoor cat, fleas. The main annoyance with this new place has become sonic pollution: a periodic squeaking from the swimming pool's pump, handily located directly under my kitchen, and from across the street, the sports sounds of football games and the FHS marching band (which is sometimes pretty good -- they do a great medley of "How the West Was Won" and "The Magnificent Seven").

October 11, 2008
Story from yesterday's conversation class -- the topic was Disasters and I find that, like Californians, most Japanese and Chinese have earthquake stories. Although she's one of those, her tragedy occured during a vacation to Thailand, Phu Ket, and luckily her family was up the mountain that day riding an elephant when the tsunami came. When they finally got back to their hotel room, everything was trashed and smelly, and the waterline was visible, high up on the wall. Lucky again, they found their travel documents safe inside a baggie.

And how about the landslides onto Curry Village? That'd put a damper on your Yosemite vacation. What's a landslide look like, anyway? Check this youTube from a security cam, possibly Turkish.

More links from the newswires:

October 4, 2008
"Cool Hand Luke" changed my life. RIP Paul Newman, a great American.

The teetering economy is generating Y2K-EOTWAWKI flashbacks. If you're a survivalist, you'll want to read about when the SHTF in Argentina a few years back. Remember, streets full of people banging on pots and pans because the banks were closed? Our turn next?

Things learned from my students, part n: many Asian babies are born with the Mongolian Spot just above the butt-crack, and it usually goes away after a few years.

Half-hour video: Route 66: The Neon Road. Restoring signs, making a documentary. What's not to like? Applause!

September 30, 2008
Billy's view from the Cosy
Today's headline: 168 Dead in Jodhpur Stampede. This photo shows where -- that white point at the top-right, sticking up from inside the Mehrangarh Fort, is the temple in question. I was near it once, but didn't go inside. Plenty of room up there with only a few small groups of tourists drifting about; a different scene entirely given a pre-dawn throng of 12,000. This was the view from the roof-top terrace of the guesthouse where I stayed for a week in July. Met Billy there, this is his picture -- jump into his photo set for more views of India. And one street-leval photo of mine, from the blue city of Jodhpur, below. As usual, click for biggery. random blue bldg in Jodhpur

September 26, 2008
That class mentioned previously is at the Cubberly Campus of Foothill rather than DeAnza College. Since I've moved, the latter is now closer than the former (to which I used to commute by bicycle, last year). The final exam, in early December, comes a few days after my participation in the upcoming annual Japanese Proficiency Test, the JLPT. Could've tried the easiest out of the possible four levels, but instead set my sights one notch higher. Coming at the end of the quarter, I should be ready.

September 23, 2008 equinox
Busy, busy so busy now because school has started, I'm back in a community college Japanese class; first session was last night, meets twice a week.

September 20, 2008

September 16, 2008
Jon Carroll's DFW obit, or intro. Haven't read the novels but I liked his shorter pieces. I'm re-reading the one on David Lynch.

September 14, 2008
India street scene Today's photo, from somewhere in Delhi. Has all the usual components of an Indian street scene: pushcart salesman, motorbike, woman in sari, an auto-rickshaw -- and a bull.
Some random links:
  • T-minus-30 on the Hubble upgrade mission launch.

  • Overheard in New York: the united Negro pizza fund. Also in the Big Apple, The Glass Stampede -- recent Then and Now in Manhattan. (long)

  • Senninbari means "thousand person stitches" but it's usually translated to Thousand Stitch Belt -- mentioned in a "Letters From Iwo Jima" scene, and I spotted a reference in the Tokyo-Edo Museum. The link's to a collector's page.

  • In March 1994, a teenager named Peter Eastman from Carpinteria CA legally changed his name to "Trout Fishing in America." He now teaches English in Japan. At around the same time, NPR reported that a young couple had named their baby "Trout Fishing in America" -- from Richard Brautigan's wikipedia entry.
Also in wikipedia, the Monowheel page reports they were used in the Olympic's closing ceremony -- sorry I missed that.

September 11, 2008
Love the concept of the Monowheel, the single-wheeled vehicle with the the operator inside. Seems like every year or so, I have more linkage about them. (Usually, their illustrations aren't photos -- and since I've yet to see one, I'm not entirely sure they're possible.) This time, it's at Dark Roast Blend (and I love the human-powered Chinese military model). Related, the Buzzball -- like the big wheel, but geodesic. Definitely more practical (hope it has AC).

September 8, 2008
Finally got a fix on that mesmerizing video from the banks of the Ganges. Still don't know her name; the title's something like "Har Har Gange". More internet video: 50 great YouTubes.

September 6, 2008
Shibuya KFC At a Tokyo KFC, the out-front statue unremarkable (but always amusing to American visitors, especially during the holidays when he's dressed up as Santa ). If you click the thumbnail to see the big picture, however, you'll see how this branch is also manned by a young attaché to the Colonal -- I thought of him as the Leutenant.

A tragic foot-note concerning a side-effect of yesterday's subject -- just like here, Japan's No Smoking campaign has meant the baskets of matches have disappeared. Formerly available at restaurants & hotels (even banks back in the day; maybe still at bars) and always made a great souvenir.

September 1, 2008
no smoking 1 no smoking 2
I was amazed at how clear the air was in Tokyo -- the once-common cigarette stench wasn't so. I learned about new regulations restricting sales and public smoking, which is now forbidden on some busy streets. The right photo was up on a wall, the other below, on the sidewalk.

Another fascination of my travels was in India -- multi-person pedicabs, for children. Hence a new page on the bicycle rickshaw schoolbus. I took up a position one of my last mornings in Delhi, and watched them arriving at a school near my hotel... snapping the photos with my cell-cam.
Meanwhile, been reading up on the war in The Fire by Jörg Friedrich, about the bombing of Germany, leading back to the required

August 28, 2008
India boys
Suddenly so busy, as I have three classes now 'stead of the usual two. Won't be able to show any trip photos here until the weekend, but here's a taste, a colorful group of boys just after school let out, in Jodhpur. They're just leaving that cart, where they'd bought some snacks.

August 24, 2008
just before shaving it off The fuzzy face, first night in Japan, just before the attack with razor and borrowed scissors. I'd stopped shaving in Germany -- got a little bushy after five weeks.

Finally extracting the trip pics from my cell (Thanks, G!) There's another scary beard photo, on the train in India.

August 22, 2008
Moving-in almost complete. Advantages of the new place:
  • It's upstairs, nobody above me, with a view (partially) of treetops.
  • Mostly very quiet at night; never hear anything from the next-door unit
  • Central location -- very close to one of the schools where I teach
  • Across the street in another direction, the gym I just joined
  • Has a swimming pool (but see below)
  • Great radio reception
  • Nice kitchen cabinets
  • Window-mounted air-conditioner in the bedroom
  • The neighboring complex facing my back windows has a very loud-motored pickup truck but it's started at 7:30AM, an acceptable wake-up time
  • Great sunset views out the front door
  • Nearby neighbor often out on his patio chattering on a cell phone in Arabic -- however, he keeps a cage containing some very melodious songbirds out there as well
  • Too expensive
  • Small bathtub. Window in the bathroom, but the view's of the complex across the way, like at a motel.
  • The swimming pool's lights are dormant (so no evening turquoise glow), it isn't all that clean, and sometimes kids swim noisily there
  • Traffic sounds at all hours from the two main boulevards which intersect nearby
  • Also, that high school. Marching band practice and football games
Why do I have so much stuff? After lugging it all up a flight of stairs, can't help but admire those who've accepted the 100 Thing Challenge.

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