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June 19, 2009

June 15, 2009
  • One of the characters in this week's Straight Dope, Who made money in the 1929 stock market crash, was one Jesse Lauriston Livermore also known as the Boy Plunger. Both of those mention his marriage to Harriet Metz Noble, whose previous four husbands had all committed suicide... and then, just after Thanksgiving 1940, Livermore joined the club. Found some speculation (how could she get a date even after #2?) but not much else about this woman Cecil called the Black Widow.

  • A new gadget many will find useful -- a USB microwave.

  • If that image previous is unfamiliar, perhaps you've never seen Totoro? Could always check catbus in the wikipedia for more information
  • but it has no illustration. Remember, adults can't see it.

June 12, 2009
Asako Nekobusu photo
Asako took this picture and a few others when I had a little pancake luncheon the other day, the Japanese girls getting the full WaffleMeister experience with the old family sourdough recipe.

June 8, 2009
Spent many hours recently maintaining this site, including long-overdue updates to the top-level Miscellaneous and Prose/Stories pages (which should maybe be combined at some point, but not yet, and maybe never). A major task, now completed, was the addition of a local archive file of my big trip last summer, copied over from blogspot and augemnted with more photos, also implementing my father's suggestion of making it chronological rather than the customary web-log style of last post on top.

Standing around in Borders yesteray reading a report on "The Soul of Japan" in the current issue of Adbusters, #83. Unfortunately that article isn't available online but issue #81 had something else in the same vein, also by Roland Nozomu Kelts: Big In Japan, which concerns a newly-popular 1929 novel by Takaji Kobayashi called Kanikosen (or The Crab-Canning Ship.)

Also reading The Limits of Power by Andrew Bacevich after hearing him on "Forum" last week. No real info at that link except an MP3 of the entire interview, if you're so inclined. He clarifies ideas of my own, about how Reagan screwed up everything (although the mess we're in is really of our own making). We had a chance 30 years ago, but the masses had no interest in President Carter's suggestion that we tighten our belts and live within our means.

June 3, 2009

June 2, 2009

May 29, 2009
class photo
My afternoon class, our last day yesterday. The school year now over, and unlike last year, the financial crisis (especially bad in California) means my position in the Fall semester is currently unknown. I'll be offered something, to be sure, but it's not yet clear exactly what, or if the schedule will be acceptable to me. I could have taught a summer school class, but it was at night (which I dislike) and just one isn't enough to pay the rent, so instead I'm retreating Back East for the duration, repeating the same procedure as last summer -- abandoning the apartment, putting my stuff into storage, and finding a new place upon my NorCal return in late August. Anyway, this class would've been bigger but unfortunately we lost some colorful characters along the way: a French au pair, a gruff but very amusing Chinese guy, and two sweet women who said they'd be back in the Fall, one from Korea and the other from Malaysia. We had a remarkable language connection in this class -- the Chinese girl in black spent eleven years in Sweden because her husband worked there, and she became fairly fluent in that language -- and the woman standing right next to me is Swedish!

The musical frenzy of the past ten weeks is finally winding down -- I've been scouring the local libraries as well as ripping my own CDs, loading the resulting MP3s onto my iPod. According to Andy I'm courting disaster, my primary storage should instead be iTunes on the hard drive of my computer (backed up regularly), but unfortunately my trusty Win98 machine's too old, and much too small for that -- anyway, I've always resisted convergence of my music library with a computer. Instead, I'm using the iTunes on various handy machines at my schools as the intermediaries, culling my CD collection in the process, so it's now down to a manageable few hundred 160 discs. True, this makes the RashPod an incrediably valuable (yes, precious) little unit, which must be guarded very carefully -- reluctant even to take it on to the treadmill, even though the Nano fits perfectly inside the little key pocket of the swim trunks I wear at the gym.

May 26, 2009

May 25, 2009
Very pleasant weekend, the calm before my storm. No classes this summer so I'm retreating to my parents' compound back east, repeating last year's procedure of closing out the apartment and saving rent by stashing my stuff in a storage unit. Sounds simple enough, but a lot of legwork's involved. And nothing's arranged yet.

May 23, 2009

May 19, 2009

May 16, 2009
conversation class
MWF mornings, my conversation class; this is the tenth group I've taught. Some reluctant speakers, some with a lot to say, a different percentage each quarter. My job, to make them all speak.

May 14, 2009

May 10, 2009
  • Although I've been real close to the equator, I have never crossed it into the South, so I have never seen these stars (from a recent APoD).

May 7, 2009 - Odd Day
In the American way of date ordering (mm-dd-yy), today is a very special sequence -- 5 / 7 / 9 which some are celebrating as Odd Day.

May 6, 2009

May 3, 2009
Mallards in the swimming pool Mallards in the swimming pool. I couldn't believe it last fall, when they closed the swimming pool -- it was so East Coast, a swimming season. An interesting benefit of the area's fencing off is how a pair of mallards hang out there, now. Sometimes at night, one of them goes away or something and the fuss the alone one makes is quite loud and irritating. These critters mate for life, right?

Things learned recently:
  • Vinegar as deoderant -- from What can I do about my strong body odor?
    White or apple cider vinegar can be applied to your underarms which changes the pH of the skin so the smelly bacteria can't grow there

  • Later this year Yahoo! will be closing all GeoCities accounts and web sites, wiping out many of the earliest home pages.

  • Amidst all the talk of Pontiac's demise and Chrysler's bankruptcy I didn't realize Amazon bought late last year. Not that I do that much business with abebooks, but this is annoying because they're a way to by-pass Amazon.

  • Also, at the Walrus, don't miss
  • Chop Chop Square -- waiting around in Saudi Arabia in order to witness a beheading.

April 26, 2009

April 25 - Anzac Day

April 23, 2009

April 19, 2009
  • The Dark Side of Dubai. The World is empty. It has been abandoned, its continents unfinshed. You remember this development so extravagant, man-made islands shaped like a world map... just one of many stories in this lengthy article.

  • Everything Heinz -- all 57 varities in a single can, commisioned by the Design Museum London.

  • Guy Walks Into a Bar Car. Riding the rails with David Sedaris.

  • Finally -- Muji online store for the US market.

April 15, 2009
On a bit of a holiday here, a "staycation" during Spring Break (at least for the school which pays my bills -- my college Japanese class at night is ongoing, as they're on a slightly different schedule.) I'd like to drive somewhere but alas, my car's in the shop, awaiting a specially-ordered spring, or coil, for the rear suspension. Note the mighty Tercel just passed its 250K milestone. Relying on friends, public transport and one's bicycle to get around is a drag, even for a few days, but a good reminder of what a blessing it is, and what can be accomplished without your personal motorcar.

Very windy yesterday, and into the evening. Today, the streets are strewn with branches, twigs and large pine cones.

April 10, 2009

March 31, 2009

March 28, 2009

March 22, 2009
ai Pronounced ' ai ', the character for "love" is so basic, it's the same in Japanese and Chinese.
There's a place on the big boulevard dividing Cupertino and west San Jose called i Restaurant. I've never been inside but a former student was a waitress there, and she explained why this character's on their sign -- until then, hadn't given it any consideration, thought the name merely a bit of Silicon Valley foolishness; but unlike Europeans, who always pronouce the vowel "i" like 'ee', we say the long "i" sound 'ai' (making it a two-syllable dipthong). Maybe this is a reason certain Apple products are so popular? As for me, after a week of utilizing my Nano, I can certainly relate to that old Mekka Blue cartoon, My Precious!. (Ironically, myPod is also pink.)

March 18, 2009

March 15, 2009
  • A slide-show at Time magazine, Detroit's Beautiful, Horrible Decline. More at the Fabulous Ruins thereof, including their take on the first Time photo's location, the Michigan Central Station. In his near-future Bridge Trilogy, William Gibson suggests that this once-mighty city will be abandoned, an easy extrapolation to make after reviewing these images.

  • Jorge Colombo's iPhone Art created with the Brushes application.

  • On today's "Le Show" Harry Shearer reported on how the Turkish manufacturer of the shoes hurled at the shrub is now swamped with orders -- more info here.

March 14, 2009
Conversation Class
My morning conversation class; this will be our last week together -- as usual, sorry to see them go.

Speaking of teaching, I had to take a CPR class today, a requirement for my credential. I've been Red Cross certified previously, in the Boy Scouts, but that was at the beginning of the Nixon administration, and of course many new First Aid techniques have been developed since that long-ago time, when Cardio Pulmanary as a Resuscitation method wasn't taught. And as a special bonus, I won the raffle grand prize -- an iPod Nano! (Curiously, I had a premonition that I'd be the winner, immediately this contest was announced, at the beginning of the class; so I wasn't much surprised when my name was called.)

One more personal note -- I aborted my search for a new flat yesterday, retracting my notice of moving out. Yes, it's too expensive where I am now, but its central location can't be beat, and the intolerable humming-buzz which was emanating from downstairs has vanished -- something temporary, associated with a repair to the water heater. However, as the place is far from perfect, I'm just pushing back my move until May or June.

That final sushi YouTube link from the previous post is now unavailable, uunfortunately. I located more videos from cameras placed on restaurant conveyor belts in Japan (1, 2, 3, 4) but they lack the charm of that first one. For some reason here in NoCal the proletarian kaiten-zushi experience is alway tarted up (like some of the older apartments I've been viewing, which have newly-installed, unnecessary appliances like dishwashers and ceiling fans) in order to charge a higher price. Known generically as "sushi boat", here the dishes float by on decorative little rafts.

And speaking of tarted up, what's with the update to Laurie Juspeczyk's costume in the Watchmen movie? I'm a big fan of the original, read it again every few years, but I'm in no hurry to see the film, due to reviews like Who Botched the Watchmen?
Snyder's film is virtually all about grabbing the facile elements of the book and pretending to be much better than it ultimately is, kind of like an eight year old dressing up in Dad's clothes. They don't fit well and the kid can't figure out how to tie a tie, but at least the shirt's on top and the pants aren't backwards...if Snyder wanted to translate a few cool scenes from the comic book onto the big screen, well, he did that. If he wanted to demonstrate why people still read, analyze and adore the comic book 25 years after its debut, he could not have failed more completely.
the Comedian and the Nite-OwlHere, a repost of a couple panels from the original, seen first in these pages back in June 2000.

March 11, 2009

March 7, 2009
Asako and Chie
Let's meet some of my favorite people. This is Asako and Chie, pictured in the Whole Foods café, where we meet for coffee once a week. The tradition began over a year ago, after Chie graduated from my Conversation class, and gradually the circle has expanded. Although she attends English classes at my school, Asako has never actually been my student; yet we call each other sensei (teacher). They both have blogs, as well -- links to Chie (who's also lived in Tokyo, Yokohama, and Thailand), and Asako -- she's from Osaka, and also runs a food blog. Below, another member of our group, Rieko with her adorable infant girl Yui. with Rieko in Whole Foods
Rieko's going back to Japan real soon, so we had a goodbye dinner last night at a restaurant called Rokko, where Chie had reserved a tatami room. So much good food, dishes new to me -- and most of the photographing was of the cuisine. Asako and Mine photographing dessert
Here we see Asako and Mine (her name pronounced with two syllables, "Me-nay") documenting a dessert (wow -- black sesame ice cream! So tasty!) And since I love her soulful gaze, we'll close with a portrait of Yui.
Yui, almost one year old
As usual, pics on these pages are thumbnails -- click for bigger.

March 3, 2009
Do you ever check for restaurant reviews? I dislike it because those I've seen are invariably positive... and now I know why. Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0 explains how they charge an establishment $300 to bury any bad reviews submitted, or if they don't pony up, the bad reviews are all put at the top.

Asthma's New Expense in US News and World Report, of interest to me since I'm a wheezer, when I forget to take my medication. I have two kinds, and hardly ever use the type now unavailable due to its CFC propellent, but still, what a ripoff. Speaking of, Too much TV linked to higher asthma risk in sedentary kids.

In Zombie Financial Ideas, Krugman quotes Tim Duy: For Bernanke and Geithner, there are no bad assets. Only misunderstood assets.

March 2, 2009
The count clock's ticking -- today, I gave notice. By the end of the month, I'll be in a new apartment. Nothing's lined up yet but I've had it with the noise and expense of my current place, so the search is on, once again. Last time, in August, I only had ten days to find adequate housing, since I wanted to be settled by the time school started. Now, I have three times that, and the available selection's much better.
  • You've heard of "submerged" or "underwater" mortgages, those held by real estate buyers whose property's currently worth less than they owe -- maybe, much less. In Italy, there's something called nude sales, not clothing optional but where elderly owners relinquish their title, but are allowed use of the property, until they die.

  • A few weeks ago a pair of British and French nuclear submarines collided in the Atlantic Ocean, but it was just a tap, apparently. For reference, a listing of nuclear sub collisions.

  • Peanuts Meet Marvel

February 27, 2009
Sales of Atlas Shrugged Soar in the Face of Economic Crisis because there are uncanny similarities between the plot-line of the book and the events of our old essay by James Fallows, from the same era when I was reading it, comes close to some of the book's appeal to me -- Liberals and Ayn Rand,

February 22, 2009

February 18, 2009

February 15, 2009

February 8, 2009
Smarter Feller Lamentations from Tom Tomorrow in A Brief Personal History of Alternative Weekly Comics in America. Along the way, he mentions a favorite (among others), Dave Egger's "Smarter Feller" -- the only sample I could locate, his Talking Handbag character. This media has been important to me for decades, the stacks of free newsprint 'rags' which appear on Thursday or Friday, so important for the weekend movie reviews and much more. My local, the Metro, which was running "Smarter Feller" when I first moved to Silicon Valley, is keeping "This Modern World" (placed prominently on the letters page) but their comic page has recently been reduced -- "Life in Hell" is now seen every other week.

February 10, 2009
Toaster Head Yesterday's Toast Girl reminded me of another alt.weekly cartoonist, this panel by Ken Brown -- I only saw him in the LA Weekly but now have his 1985 compilation book, Notes from the Nervous Breakdown Lane.

February 9, 2009
Fortunately, on the radio, caught this week's special Studio 360 in Japan and there's even more on that page. Love the embedded Toast Girl video -- speaking of alt.comics, she's kinda like Too Much Coffee Man except with a shiny toaster on her head 'stead of a coffee cup. She has other videos available on YouTube.

February 3, 2009
Marketplace story from last week -- Miami's homeless inhabit vacant homes, concerning Take Back the Land. This group moves homeless people into people-less homes... in other words, a group which arranges squatting in foreclosed, vacant housing.

January 31, 2009

January 23, 2009
  • The 60s TV show "Lost in Space" had a slightly previous, unrelated incarnation, which was available at the newstand: Space Family Robinson. #3 was one of the first comic books I ever had. The striking thing about Gold Key comics were their painted covers, and every issue of the Space Family is in this cover gallery. Also, who knew at the time that the British had their own version in Lady Penelope, "the comic for girls who love television"?

  • JamsBio does the The Ultimate Countdown -- Playing The Beatles Backwards. their entire catalog of original material ranked, with extensive commentary -- at least a paragraph on each song; "A Day in the Life" is #1. And if you're into everything Beatle, you might want to download Help.txt (176K). Some time ago I compiled all of the Fab Four's lyrics into a single text file. It's ordered chronologically, up-to-date (new "Anthology" stuff included), and even has a transcription of "Revolution #9".

  • In the New Yorker, an article about Atomic John, an independent researcher driven to know the engineering details of the two bombs dropped on Japan.

  • Dark Roast Blend -- Abandoned Amusement Parks in Asia.

January 16, 2009
Follow-up to yesterday, a more substantial Patrick McGoohan obit, Son of a Bitch.

January 15, 2009
Language Lesson
Found Art from 'Tino High School, source location: the boy's room. The index card's reverse just says
...and to be clear, only nichi is a noun ('day'). Kon means 'this' and the expression concludes with the inscruitable, essential 'as-for' wa topic-marking particle.

RIP Patrick McGoohan. Be Seeing You, Number Six.

Everybody's posting about the new Presidential limo dubbed the Obamamobile, It's still a Cadillac; heavily armoured, as one can imagine... but check this concept car from the same outfit, the WTF (really -- the "TF" is Thorium Fuel).

January 8, 2009

January 1 - Happy New Year!
Reviewing the previous twelve months, going through my files, some unposted, leftover News and Knowledge from the Internets and beginning with some Jargon:

Shopdropping is covertly putting merchandise into a store, a form of culture jamming (also, reverse shoplifting, or droplifting). A Busman's Holiday refers to leisure time spent doing the same thing one does during working hours. (Unrelated, but also: the Bus Uncle of Hong Kong. It's not settled!) A Slumper is somebody passed out while seated in a car, and Chimping is the practice of checking your just-taken photos on your camera's LCD screen.

The Rural Purge began in 1971, a series of cancellations of still-popular 'country' shows. At the time, Pat Buttram, who played "Mr. Haney" on Green Acres, said, It was the year CBS killed everything with a tree in it.

Locally, became aware of the Wild Parrots of Sunnyvale, whose call is harsh and unmusical. Found some articles about the small flock dated 1998 and 2003. They're actually mitred conures -- see the wikipedia's Lories and Lorikeets. Also, seems you can crab off municipal piers in San Francisco (more). But only red crabs -- you have to throw back any dungenous you catch.

In the News we learned that the Hells Angels were so angered by Jagger's treatment of them that they decided to kill him. Also, a woman was kicked out of (or not let in to) New Zealand for being Too Fat. New Zealand bars overweight people because of potential burden they pose to the national health care system. Regarding the bailout, some of the most basic details, including the $700 billion figure Treasury would use to buy up bad debt, are fuzzy. It's not based on any particular data point, a Treasury spokeswoman told We just wanted to choose a really large number. Yoga, the latest ban in Malaysia. Some red-state Christian groups don't like it either. But the best headline came right at the end of the year, those Shoes in the News. Prediction: more flying footwear in the shrub's future.

December 30, 2008

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