29 February 2008

Oppose teason, oppose Obama!

The RNC is opening up its line of attack against Obama based namely on trying to scare stupid people. This is going to be so fun to watch. I heard Bush was criticizing Obama the other day. Is there any fund I can give money to which will support putting Bush on the campaign trail.
Look. You want a complete break from all the things I've been doing in the last eight years, then Obama is your guy. All the progress we're making in Iraq, our several trillion dollar investment just thrown away! I hear in the e-mails he's an Islam, too, and I have also heard that we are fighting the Islams and other extremists all over the world. Seems to me, electing one of them would be sort of like letting them win.'
Yes, we wouldn't want to throw away all the good things that have happened in the last eight years. We wouldn't want to have a complete disaster of a Presidency. Certainly not.

Moving on Up Tour, Day -1

The packers came and went and now almost everything we own is in boxes. Today is the kind of day that I always enjoyed in this apartment. It's warm and I have windows open in all the rooms. Sun comes in on three sides of this apartment and from here, I have a clear view of the river. When I first moved in, I had the feeling that I would have a wife at some point. It's been three and a half years, and I guess it's time to move on.

We aren't going that far, I shouldn't get too sentimental, but I will miss this little part of the world.

28 February 2008

Moving On Up Tour, Day -2

We are moving in two days and so far, not a whole lot has been done. Kind of like our preparations for traveling and here I am, writing. We went up to the new apartment today and it is pretty nice. They moved out some of the garbage that was left over from the last person, and what was left was space — lots and lots of space. The baby was beside herself and crawled around in circles and circles, laughing. I sat down at the kitchen table (as we have a kitchen table now) and thought, I could get used to this — especially the bathroom sink. We have a bathroom sink now.

My third article will be coming out in April in "The English Teacher". This is actually the first article that was accepted to be published, but it has been waiting its turn for about 15 months as this is a rather popular albeit not particularly distinctive publication. Unfortunately, I wrote it about a project I eventually gave up on, my ill-fated English school, Helter Skelter. You win some, you lose some. The proof doesn't represent my current, slightly more illustrious affiliation.

Who would Jesus preemptively strike?

Oh shit.
Senator John McCain got support on Wednesday from an important corner of evangelical Texas when the pastor of a San Antonio mega-church, Rev. John C. Hagee, endorsed Mr. McCain for president. Mr. Hagee, who argues that the United States must join Israel in a preemptive, biblically prophesized military strike against Iran that will lead to the second coming of Christ, praised Mr. McCain for his pro-Israel views.

“John McCain has publicly stated his support of the state of Israel, pledging that his administration will not permit Iran to have nuclear weapons to fulfill the evil dreams of President Ahmadinejad to wipe Israel off the map,'’ Mr. Hagee said at a news conference at the Omni
Hotel in San Antonio.

The return of Jesus now includes high-fiving John McCain.

What's in a name

A really stunning post here by Juan Cole. As with all of these things, a little education does wonders.

27 February 2008

Obama and whats-her-face

Some of you may have noticed that I have been a little lacking on the Obama news the past couple of days. Well, it's more-or-less clear to me that the race is going to be over pretty soon and Hillary Clinton is really a better parody of herself lately than anything else. Making fun of her just doesn't seem right. It's like making fun of the Minnesota Vikings when they're 6-8 in the middle of the season.

Larry Norman is dead II

Larry Norman said this the day before he died:
I feel like a prize in a box of cracker jacks with God's hand reaching down to pick me up.

26 February 2008


My thoughts on Rome after the jump (nothing to do with religion in either the video or comments, don't worry):

Yoko and I went to Rome in the Fall of 2006 as part of our honeymoon. We had put off our honeymoon until the Fall because we were able to get more time off and the weather was supposed to be more suitable. Yoko, however, famously became pregnant much earlier than we had planned and subsequently fell terribly, terribly ill. This happened, of course, after we had made our plans to go, so faced with losing several thousand dollars in reservations, I chose to soldier on and drag Yoko out. The honeymoon, I thought, would not be ruined if I had the sheer force of my will behind us. And the sheer force of my will was something to be reckoned with.

I suppose it's better that I learned this lesson earlier rather than later, but forcing anything in a marriage by the sheer force of one person's will is a recipe for disaster and will lead to, among other things, several days of wandering around Rome by oneself, feeling sorry for oneself. Learning life lessons is never easy.

Wandering around Rome alone, however, is something in and of itself and if it hadn't happened at the cost of my honeymoon, my memories would be largely positive. Actually, my memories of it are largely positive — of walking from the Vatican to the Termini without a map, and following backroads with huge trees lining them. Of the blue sky and St. Peter's. Of all that weight — the city, the unborn child, the future.

Larry Norman is dead

I saw Larry Norman play three times. Two of the shows were the best that I have ever been to.

25 February 2008

English teaching post

As I prepare for my new college teaching post, I'm just about to finish up a rather significant part of my career teaching conversational English at conversational English schools and high school. It's made me think back on the time I've spent over the last four and half years of my life and what it is I have learned as a hired dancing bear. It took me about a year and a half to realize that teaching English in Japan has nothing to do with English and even less to do with teaching. Education is really not a part of it at all. What English education in Japan really stands for is a chance at safe multicultural entertainment. Sort of like an American in a big city going to a French restaurant run by an actual French person every month. You can then tell your friends that you know a French person and like French food and everyone thinks you're international and intelligent.

English conversation school is sort of French restaurant here. It's a chance for middle-aged people to get away from whatever they're doing in their regular life and be international for an hour with a real live American. Actually learning any English, as far as I can tell, is not really essential.

At high school, it's a little more complicated, but has the same root — a school gets some international points for having a couple of foreigners on staff. We, the foreign staff, however, end up feeling a little bit more like well paid furniture than teachers. And learning to accept that is part of being a successful teacher in Japan.

I don't have a problem with any of this in theory, as long as people understand what it is that they're doing and English teachers understand that they are entertainers, not teachers. From next month, I will be venturing more into the real world of education, I suppose, with credit-bearing course in which I give grades and pass and fail real students without some Japanese person looking over my shoulder or telling me what to teach or making money off of me specifically as a foreigner. But I'm not sure if I am actually going to be good at this or if I will find myself in an more elaborate marionette'd world, where the strings and puppet masters are just harder to see.

I'm a pretty good English conversation teacher because I am pretty good at bullshitting and being agreeable. I'm good at pretending to be interested in what people are saying and acting like I'm teaching when I'm not. I'm sad in a way to be leaving this work because I've been pretty good at it and part of me really enjoys it. Still, when it's time to move on, you should move on.

21 February 2008

John McCain

I can't wait for the John McCain press conference today. 'I want to say unequivocally, I have never cheated on my second wife. This hack job report claiming that I cheated on my second wife is simply not true. Ever since I began my relationship with my second wife, I have never strayed, not even one day, from my second wife. My second wife is my rock.' Hillary Clinton and John McCain are now in a dead heat to see who can take the Rudy Gulliani mantle. And it's Clinton by a half a length going into the home stretch.

Cheat once, cheat twice, cheat thrice... And, James Dobson reminds us all, John McCain is known to use bad language, too.

Mark Penn

2) Obama fails to win key demographics. Once again, Obama has not broken into the key demographic of voters who have been on a casino junket in the last thirty days. He also failed to win voters who had never heard of him, Wiccans, members of more than one bowling league, mourning dove hunters, white voters with "strongly negative" views of African Americans, and Vatican II-rejecting Catholics. These groups will only become more significant as the primary campaign shifts to Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

20 February 2008

Tax refund and my bike

I guess I have been supposed to have been getting a tax refund the last three years. A big tax return every year. And I guess you can apply for returns up to five years after you were supposed to have filed. I will believe it when I see it. But, if it's true, I think we are going to be able to drink champagne every six months.

Some people know it is Spring when they hear calls of birds. Some people know it is Spring because they have the urge to merge. I know it is Spring when I hear the calls of my bicycle to merge with it. Stay tuned.

Family time

I believe it is important to build your children up in song.

Noah gets reasonable

After all the budfuttering about Noah and the assault on logic that ensured, I think I finally heard something reasonable from the infamous and famous GH, leader of the free world in Niigata. GH appeals to both reason and truth, arguing that perhaps the flood may well have occurred in the limited world of the text, matching up with the Mesopotamian flood myth. The possibility of a flood occurring in the limited context of the writer and even the building of a boat is reasonable. You allow that the size of the boat is probably embellished and that 'all' the animals in the world includes only the limited world of the writer, then you start to see how this story might have begun to take shape. So rather than having some dumb questions about how a man got a bunch of rhinos and tigers in a boat, we appreciate it for what it is.

This sort of explanation suits me because it doesn't duck the question with some elaborate 'What is truth anyway' gymnastics, and it also doesn't throw away the story. It allows for a marriage of faith and marriage without attacking either. My Fundamentalist friends might not like it as much, but they are hard to please anyway.

19 February 2008

Fossil fuels

As many of you know, my main mode of transport is the wonderful Honda Cub. I have heard that it is the most popular motorbike in the world, but I don't know for sure. Anyway, the Cub has a three litre tank and can go about 170 klicks on that. This is a wonderful way to get around, and ends up costing me about $5 every 9 days for gasoline.

Unfortunately, in the winter, I can't really get around on the scooter because of the snow. This leaves me in my wife's car, which is a two door version of the Nissan March. The March is the awful, namely because it has only two doors and it is small but not the smallest class in Japan so the tax is awful. There are any number of other things I hate about it like if you pop the trunk then shut the driver's side door too hard, the trunk closes, but it's okay.

Anyway, so on to fossil fuels. If I drive my scooter I pay about $5 every 8 days. In the March? It's about $50 every eight days. Which I think is ridiculously expensive for such a small car, but also got me thinking about how much money I have saved using the scooter when I have. I think it's somewhere around $3000 or $4000. Once I move, I won't use a car or the scooter everyday as I am close enough to walk to school. I suspect this will be very good for my heart, in just about every meaning of that word.

Plans for attacks

The RNC, after observing the radical success of the Clinton campaign, has decided to hit Obama on... wait for it... experience and present votes in the IL Senate. Oh, this will be great. Great! I also hear they may be going after how he's all talk and no substance.

18 February 2008

Flat champagne

As we are getting ready to move, I am going through things in the closet, mostly a lot of wedding gifts that we got, but don't use because I am too clumsy to be trusted with nice flatware. Well, I found a bottle of champagne. Which I drank about half of in a half an hour last night. If you have ever drank half a bottle of champagne in a half an hour, there is only one way to describe how you feel: silly. You feel very, very silly.  So tonight, I am drinking flat champagne, only much, much less volume and feeling much, much less silly.

16 February 2008

'Grandma is in the trunk.'

My parents are driving home now after putting my Grandmother's things in order and picking up her remains. She is still speaking from the dead, in letters she saved, in all of her things. The weight of difficult person is still felt after they are gone. As my parents drive home, I imagine aspects of 'As I Lay Dying' will be present. The truth is always more true in my head than it is in reality.

I was up all night

As you can tell from the last post, I was up for most of the night with my new EeePC, trying to get it to use a higher resolution. I'm not sure if I succeeded or not and having a Windows operating system in Japanese when I have been using a Mac operating system in English for most of my life is a little confusing. But I think I'm getting the hang of it and with all the programs in English, I think I'm going to be okay. It seems like it was a really, really good buy and if you can get the same thing in the states for under $300, I would encourage you to consider it if you want the good life.

15 February 2008

My new EeePC

The EeePC is so fucking cool. Video from it coming soon.

Valentine's Day victories

If you saw my post yesterday, you may have sensed the enormous optimism that has swept over me, given the joy of being able to see Johnny Cash daily and maybe ask him for some advice now and then. The baby too is optimistic, and after several attempts at re-writing 'Rehab' so it would be acceptable to sing to the baby, I have chosen to sing, 'They tried-a-make me go to preschool, but I said no no no.' This seems much more pertinent to the baby and she loves it.

Well, my day after Cash only got better when the computer store called to tell me that the EeePC (black) had finally arrived. Soon, I will have it in my hands and all over my body.

Then, I went to survey our new apartment which is just about twice as big as our current place, with a (gasp) bathroom sink AND a place to put the washing machine that is not in the kitchen. No more standing naked in the kitchen toweling off with the baby laughing at me. It also has a veranda and still, great location. I was also told that the rent is being negotiated, but at a minimum, it will be about $250 less than what we're paying now, and could be closer to $300 less. Pictures coming soon, I'm sure.

Later I was given chocolate by several of my students, only all the chocolate was in fact filled with alcohol. Imagine!

I imagine this: Sitting out on the veranda, smoking my pipe, listening to mellow tunes, and typing away the future on my tiny, tiny computer while the world spins uncontrollably.

14 February 2008

Make Johnny Cash, not war

Valentine's Day in Japan means chocolate for boys. I will have to return the favor in underwear come White Day in March (underwear or jewelry), but Valentine's is all me. Yoko, being wonderfully tuned into my deepest desires, got me a Johnny Cash calender and I taught the baby about Johnny Cash, while briefly messing up the months.

13 February 2008

Good news for Clinton supporters

Hey, don't worry. Lousiana, Washington State, Virginia, Maryland, DC, The Virgin Islands, and Nebraska don't count. It's kind of complicated, but they all favored Obama anyway. No the only states that really matter are Flordia and Michigan (go Hillary!) and Texas and Ohio. So make sure to donate today!

Great eyes/ haircut

They tried to get me to take a picture of my haircut in better light, but I said, 'No, no, no.'

12 February 2008

I'm with Yglesias

Yeah, why are we assuming Clinton is leading in Ohio and Texas?

A respectable haircut

I think, for once in my life, I got a haircut that I am proud of. Getting a haircut that I can be proud of for once in my life is just metaphorical icing on the metaphorical cake of the last few days. More later.

Oh man

11 February 2008

Acceptance of Application to Pursue a PhD Degree

I got into the University of Leeds:
The process of considering your application to pursue a research degree has now been completed by the School of Education and I am writing to tell you that we are recommending your acceptance as a part-time provisional PhD student.

Believe in what you want

What follows is a strong, patronizing post about Fundamentalist Christians who believe in a literal reading of the Bible. You've been warned:

Last night, against my better judgement  I went to a Bible Study. I say against my better judgement because I know that when I go, I'll end up having an argument with someone about literal readings of the Bible. I think there is probably a better place to have an argument about that and I always feel bad for bringing up something that really has no baring on how a Christian might be a better Christian for reading whatever it is we are reading.

As far as I can see it, if you are going to be logical about it, the story of Noah's Ark can be read a couple of ways. First , as a story, an allegory, about God and salvation or as a real story of a miracle. What I don't think you can argue is, If you think about some aspects of the story of Noah's Ark, they could have been accomplished without a miracle. No, the story of Noah's Ark is completely illogical, unrealistic, and impossible. I don't think I need to go into why this is. It doesn't make any sense at all and if you want to argue that it happened, the burden of proof lies with you.

I can't digest cherry picking facts to support what you believe. If science is on the Christian's side, like if Noah's Ark had been found, as some people claimed last night, it can prove the Bible is right. If science doesn't side with Christians in the case of the world being several billion years old, then it gets tossed out because it contradicts the text. And then Christians start to equate faith and science and say, Well, everyone is just having faith in something different, you in your cell phone and me in my Ark.

Someone asked me, Well if you have to choose between the Bible and logic, what do you choose? The answer, which I thought is clear enough, is logic. Since when did faith become believing illogical things because you think God said them. I don't accept that sort of faith. Is that really what it takes to be a Christian?

If you want to throw out science entirely, that's much more acceptable, I think. At least you are being fair. You can't have it both ways though.

09 February 2008

I don't think pimp means what you think it means

Indulge me in some politics. The Clintons are barking up the wrong tree with this story about some guy at MSNBC saying they were pimping out Chelsea. Not the people to be attacking right now. I don't know how this helps her cause at all. She fights with NBC, Obama campaigns.

Blog reader and good friend Scott made the comment that this wait for Texas and Ohio strategy is the same one that Rudy Giuliani employed regarding Florida. It ignores the fact that momentum and being perceived as a winner is important. We all know that Rudy Giuliani, instead of being the Republican candidate, is now selling hot dogs for John McCain.

I solved a problem that I have had for about a year now. I got these sunglasses (prescription ones because I'm blind as a bat) after I got back from Italy where all the cool people wore sunglasses on the subway, but the sunglasses weren't quite as dark as I wanted. In fact, I had the lens changed once on the shop's dime because they didn't do it right. Well, after a year of not being satisfied, I finally went back to get darker lenses. We'll see if the problem is actually solved in ten days, but the woman who helped me, the same woman who helped me a year ago, still kept insisting that I don't really want dark lenses. It will be hard to drive, she said. They're sunglasses, I said, they're supposed to be dark. To which she answered, Oh you want sunglasses?

Love — and especially love for your spouse — is something that gets clearer with time. I think back to when me and Yoko were dating and all the things I thought I made me love her at that time (which were all good things, don't get me wrong) pale in comparison to the things I know now. I suppose this will continue to happen as we move on — I will continue to look back and think, Five years ago I totally didn't get it like I get it now.

08 February 2008

Leads to Leeds?

I got an e-mail from my potential supervisor at Leeds and it's looking good. Just being accepted would be pretty cool, even if I don't go. I'm trying to tamp down my hopes.

07 February 2008

Another good cup of tea

I made another very good cup of tea and it is now cooling.

The baby has been grunting to show her emotions recently. They are mostly happy grunts. I think she thinks that I understand her. She smiles when I grunt back at her. She really likes being grunted back at and so do I, I guess.

There are some people very gifted in being stylish, like they are comfortable in their own skin. I was getting my cup of perfect tea a moment ago and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I thought, that guy is not comfortable with himself at all. He is the epitome of everything he dislikes.  He's wearing slacks even.

All this focus on the election is probably not good for me. I drove to school listening to David Bazan. There were three seasons on the way to school, winter first, then spring then fall. It's back to the heart of winter.

We are moving in a couple of weeks. Three weeks from Saturday. Everything will change suddenly. I have lived in this apartment for three years. More than three years. When I moved in, I put up Christmas lights and pictures of sumo wrestlers.  Now I have a baby and a wife. Explain that. Oh wait, I can. One day I went to church and saw the most beautiful, bookish woman that I thought was out of my league. And here we are.

Obama is in a good place

It's hard to not feel optimistic today as an Obama supporter. First of all, Obama has a ton of money from people like me giving him $25 here and there. Hillary has nothing and she's supplementing it with her own money. This spells disaster and should remind us of Mitt Romney. Mark Penn is not getting paid, and this should remind us of  Louisiana, Washington, Nebraska, Maine, DC, Maryland, Virgina, Hawaii, Wisconsin. Those are the rest of the primaries and caucuses in February. I think Obama will win a majority of them, fairly easily. Mo' money, mo' delegates and momentum.

06 February 2008

This is hilarious, I guess.

Pensive Baby

The baby has been having these very pensive moments, where she seems very deep in some troubling thought. Yoko says it's because she's my baby — in that my children, like me, are bound to be overcome with troubling thoughts of life and death. I'm not sure about that.

Amazing baby!


Money and momentum. It's a tough road ahead, but let's not forget: Obama has really, really incredible teeth.

Exit Polls

say that Obama won big. Not in California though, but even California looks close. They have him winning in New Jersey and Massachusetts and Delaware and Arizona and Missouri, all that were really close earlier last week. Let's not get too excited yet, though.

05 February 2008

Now let's go out and change the world

Bi-monthly Japanese complaint post

I'm not one of those foreigners who is really down on Japan. There are some things I dislike, but by and large, I accept them as paling in comparison to what I might experience as a foreigner in the States. I think Japanese culture is rich and interesting, Japanese people kind and considerate, and Japanese life fulfilling and peaceful. But sometimes, I go a bit mad with the fixed structures like today, in what has been my worst class this year. We started with the homeroom teacher reading aloud for 20 minutes — this, to a group of terribly out of control kids who don't give a shit about anything and are already demoralized by learning. Luckily, for this portion of the class, I could just watch. Then, I was called up to, again, read outloud and have the kids repeat after me. This, I promised myself, I would not get frustrated with, even though everyone was talking and one kid continued to sleep after the homeroom teacher tried in vain to wake him up. I managed to get frustrated. Yelled at a kid, made everyone stand up. The kicker was when some kid may fun of how I accented his name, and I nearly hit him.

These students have been already given up on. They are in the first year of high school, they are grouped together to stay out of the way of the other kids and then given incredibly inept and boring teachers to further frustrate them. And I would feel much more sympathetic to their cause, but they are all spoiled rich kids whose arrogance is only matched my their ignorance. Unfortunately, I have to see them three more times. Only 14 days of high school left altogether.

I also want to take a swing at the news, which has been reporting for days and days about this gyoza (or dumplings) from China. Apparently, some food from one factory had some pesticide in it and some people in Japan got sick. No one died. A couple of people were hospitalized, but you can be hospitalized for anything here. And still, wall-to-wall news coverage.

This all goes back to my theory about the Japanese obsession with safety and that the most important thing in the life of an average Japanese person is to feel safe. Even if it means relying on an old form of education that doesn't meet the challenges of 2008 or even 1994 for that matter. Even if it means ignoring real problems of safety in the society like mental health issues or an unjust criminal justice system, to wring our hands about the Chinese. No, no, forget all that. Instead, let's all take out our books and listen to Stephen Sensei read page 122 aloud.

Kos gets it right

If she can't put this thing away tomorrow, and it's hard to see how she could absent an unlikely rout, her fundraising will continue to suffer vis-a-vis Obama, and that would prove deadly in a protracted campaign. Her best ally at this point is the ridiculous expectations Obama supporters have for tomorrow. Clinton is going to win the day. The key is to limit her margin of victory and keep it close enough for Obama to catch up later in the month and into March and April. But if Obama supporters build themselves up to the point they actually think they can win tomorrow (by citing bogus polls by Zogby, for example, and cherry picking the best of the other polls), then anything but a victory will be a demoralizing letdown.


People from other countries sometimes can't understand why we have a President like George Bush or why US policy is so fucked up. Well, this is the answer:


03 February 2008

Oh, snap

Zogby has Obama at 45 in California. And Clinton at 41. Holy-effing-cow.

02 February 2008


Look, if the Republicans are going to run John McCain, can I make a slightly better suggestion?

Rather important

I just had the most amazing cup of milk tea. Really, top seven or eight.

Good news, bad news

This is good:
Having received the reports from the Scientific Committee, we are pleased to inform you that your submission, "Metaphor and the Vlog: A Case Study of YouTube Discourse", has been accepted for a PAPER presentation at the "Seventh International Conference on Researching and Applying Metaphor: Metaphor in Cross-Cultural Communication" to be held at the University of Extremadura from 29th to 31st May 2008.

This is bad:

Send money.

01 February 2008

Asus EeePC

Yoko is trying to talk to me about a lot of different things, from her friends having babies to our baby's latest poop to some mutual fund issue to dinner plans, but I'll be honest, I can't focus on any of it because I know, one of these days, my phone is going to ring and on the other end will be a very polite Japanese man telling me that finally, after weeks of waiting, my Eee PC has come and I can pick it up. 中旬 is a vague Japanese word meaning the middle of the month — that's when it should be coming.

My father-in-law is a man after my own heart. He called today and was talking to Yoko and she was getting annoyed and finally hung up. When I asked what it was about, she said that my in-laws have acquired a new TV and her father wanted to talk about it. Yoko, as I have learned, is not interested in talking about big TVs or laptops for more than five minutes, but I was excited to hear about it.