December 30, 2009

Watching and waiting for the odometer kick over again, both for the world and yours truly, today being the birthday. < Insert your favorite lament for the increasing speed of the passage of time here. > So, no better time to take a look back before heading into what I hope will be a better year for all of us. Wait let me say that another way. Fuck you, 2009, and your old friend 2008, too. There, now I feel better.

The past always looks better with distance, and for those of you of a certain age will very definitely enjoy this peek back at the fifties, again, courtesy of Roger Ebert. Older still is the Billy Goat Tavern, celebrating its 75th Anniversary. OK, it's burgers aren't the greatest, but it's customers over the years are the real Chicago. John Belushi and Dan Akroyd immortalized the Billy Goat on SNL, and Mike Royko was a regular. And just for the hell of it, here are Mike and Studs Terkel together. Some good stuff to end the year. Finally, for everyone still in Chicago, a last 2009 kick in the pants for Richie.

Alison's leg has healed well enough to make her annual New Year Eve hatsumode visit to Kyoto possible, and, as is becoming common, cool temps and snow are predicted. It's nice that a steady stream of alcohol is part of the ritual…including freshly blessed sake at the shrine itself. The rough equivalent of a Japanese midnight mass - without the mass and plus the sake.

A Happy New Year to all.

December 24, 2009

I don't know the current politically correct word for "retarded," but of the shoe (the inability to learn from mistakes one) fits, then I gots a nice new pair. Once again, I find myself on Christmas Eve, not with my feet up, music playing, lights twinkling, eggnog in hand, full of Christmas spirit, but rushing around madly with 10 hours left and 18 hours of tasks left to do. Ho. Ho. Ho.

If I had the time, some would be spent reminiscing not only of the past year, but also hometown Chicago, and changes and losses there over the years. One sad change nationwide is the increasing need for food stamps. Things changing here in Osaka, as well, or, maybe we're just becoming more aware of the homeless problem. Assessing the year, here's one analysis of President Obama's first year. I'm biting my tongue about what lobbyists, the insurance industry, and the R folks have done to the health bill. I'll just add that one of the concepts I had a hard time explaining to one of my classes was "concern about affordable health care"; affordable health care is such part of life here that they can't imagine a world without it.

Out in the real world, so to speak, seems evidence of dark matter has turned up.

In the laugh department, here's a guy who trained some monkeys in kung fu…too bad they missed the lesson on restraint and judgement. Take that, Grasshopper.

This IS the season to take care of those who need it, and with the gutting government service have suffered over the years, there are more people in need than ever. You may have your own favorite charity, but if not, this is one of mine. If your heart has room for our animal friends, look here. Hoping the season finds you in a position to help and share. Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and may we all have a much better year next year than what we're used to.

November 29, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving all. I hope getting together with your family wasn’t as weird as this, and that at least someone tried this great stuffing recipe. Just as unusually, here we have the New York Times serving up culinary kudos to Chicago. Seriously, I hope you can be thankful for you and yours being whole, healthy, and home among loved ones. Please remember those away from home in Iraq and Afghanistan, and do for them what you can. A whole lot to be thankful for here (if not a four-day weekend), including a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s in Nara. Thank you David, Sadako, Asia-Miho...and Jerry. We even got to toss the football around in the rain. And, what Thanksgiving is complete without a trip to Alice’s Restaurant?

Lots of folks not so lucky, of course, and it seems people in both Chicago and Japan are having a hard time finding jobs. Bob Herbert also has some thoughts on what needs to get done that might make the younger generation a bit more to be thankful for in the future.

A few weeks ago I posted a little sayonara to newspapers (see below, November 7), but here’s a site (irony noted) that might indicate my eulogy was a bit premature. Check it out. Another gem from Roger Ebert, this a collection of magazine and comic book covers from his youth. Thanks again, Roger.

Thinking...Dobbs and Palin are both in it mostly for the money, so I wonder what the number is that will make them just GO AWAY. Ordinarily all these mentally challenged folk would be happy at Walmart or in front of their TVs, but now they’re getting all political...stupid political, but still. No good can come of this. Sadly, they’re so stupid, they don’t even know that they are. Don’t believe me? Look and listen, if you dare.

Now how long do we have to wait for this? (Thanks to Chris in Senri.) No doubt the Kindle 2 will be getting plenty of followers soon, and hopefully one of them will be the long-rumored tablet from Apple. Can’t wait. For some good old fashioned fun, enjoy the work of a true master. Speaking of masters, heer's the father-in-law, Lee Kitzman giving a very impressive demonstration of his art. Finally, for some modern laughs, anyone who has worked for clients will love this. Laugh warning: no fluids in mouth. And if all this seems a bit rushed...well, you can't imagine...

November 15, 2009

Hope all of you survived another Friday the 13th, and that at least some of you marked the day by walking under a ladder, or at least stepping on a crack. Me, I just managed to come down with the mother of all colds, so apologies if these links lead nowhere or to places otherwise unintended. Speaking of superstitions...

How far do you have to stretch for an angle on a story. I’m usually close to the front of the line to dump on the mental illness masquerading as organized religion, but singling out Christianity is really pushing. Come to think of it, calling the people described in these articles Christians is itself quite a reach. Wonderful foot in mouth display/exhibition by Ichiro Ozawa, calling Christians and Muslims “exclusive and self-righteous.” That one should be in the dictionary as the example sentence for irony. Nice job, Mr. O!

First item from the fun drawer is a longish, but great, animation short, Pigeon: Impossible. Great fun. An opportunity for a darker kind of fun comes to the strong when they (we) get handed a pink slip. Being one with a refined palate for revenge, I offer you a masterpiece by a former (?) editor of the Toronto Star. Go down swinging, with élan. And, for a big thumb in the eye of propriety and PC-think, let's all go to jail.

As a service to US friends, I point you to this week’s David Pogue article on some of Verizon’s nastier billing practices. Useful if you’re contemplating changing providers - or postponing that iPhone purchase because of AT&T issues.

So long, Dobbs, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Too bad this doesn’t mean he is going to just GO AWAY. Rumors hint that he’ll soon be stinking up the airwaves a la Limbaugh. Sigh. (No, no way I'm linking to those douchebags.)

Finally, of special interest to teachers, but fun for anyone, a couple of interesting word-related sites. The first is a picture dictionary (better than it sounds - and link fixed) and another is an online graphical dictionary and thesaurus. Enjoy. Now I'm going to go back to being sick.

November 7, 2009

Today we start off with a good laugh from our friends at the Onion. Comedy, tragedy, you decide. And why the hell don't bad things happen to bad people, anyway? As for the good stuff our technology keeps brining us...I keep telling you... Here's a great tidbit courtesy of Roger Ebert about celebrity computer Hal, and his singing repertoire. In fact, if you have some spare moments, I strongly recommend spending them exploring the blogs of Roger Ebert. Most widely known as a movie critic (and a Chicagoan, fuck, yeah), he has found a new vitality, voice, and power in a forceful presence on the web via his blogs and most recently, Twitter. A keen eye for discoveries and analysis, absolute highest recommendation.

No surprise that much of my reality involves the dance and fight of foreign languages, and James Fallows give some very good insight why some languages - and cultures - present more of a problem than do others.

Also, a sad goodbye to Soupy Sales, and an excellent reading of a goodbye poem by Bukowsky ("The Japanese Wife"). And finally, please remember those who have served for their country on Veterans' Day, November 11. Put politics aside,remember the personal sacrificesand the freedoms we still enjoy and those we hope to regain that they fought for. Regardless of your politics, these men and women deserve our respect and gratitude.

Special entry: A Time for Goodbyes

The November issue of Harper’s arrived today - one I won’t get to until the winter holidays (Christmas to those outside Japan), if then. One of the cover stories is entitled Final Edition: Twilight of the American Newspaper. (You can read it before I do here. There’s no bigger fan boy of modern technology than yours truly, but I also keep one foot firmly planted on tradition and the past, and this passing of the newspapers is a sad time for me. Oh, there’ll still be the news, and hopefully what we now call the newspaper companies will finally find a way to adapt to modern media and digital delivery systems. Or they’ll be replaced by something better.

But the newspaper itself will be remembered fondly for the companionship it provided in various stages in my life. In college, I felt like a real grown up buying my own Trib, reading it, then zooming through the crossword puzzle with a friend or two in the Pier Room at UIC’s Chicago Circle Center. Remember, please that this was the early seventies, and our altered mental states made that more of a challenge, and a lot more fun, than it sounds. I remember at home my mother and father working on the puzzles off and on through the days, teasing each other when one got a word the other couldn’t. Later, when I worked at UIC, I’d get to the office early to let the coffee wake me up while I pored over the morning’s news. Later in the day, one or more of the cheap professors inevitable would drop by to borrow my paper rather than buy their own. (Hi, Steve Cohen.)

The Sunday paper was always special. As a child, of course, there were the comics, then a whole section of their own: Dick Tracy, Snoopy, Scamp, Beetle Bailey, and later, the “moderns”: Calvin & Hobbes, Hagar, Broom Hilda, Doonesbury. Finally, Dilbert and , OK, I’ll admit it Cathy. Getting up just as the paper hit the front stoop (and assuming there was no snow to be shoveled) I’d sit with my mother over morning coffee, and we’d divide the paper sections between the two of us. We were the early risers. At some point she’d ask if I was hungry, and there would come the bacon and eggs, the wonderful breakfast smells filling the house and eventually rousing my father and brother.

Later, the Sunday paper would mean either a shared relaxing post-Saturday night idyll - if I was involved with a woman at the time - or an equally relaxing morning of solitude if I happened to be unattached. The women came and went, but it was always the Trib in front of me. It always irritated the first wife that I told the paperboy it was OK if he rang our doorbell so I could buzz him into the building. After I moved to Japan, my mother would save the comics from the Trib and mail them to me, along with other tidbits she thought I might be interested in. Seeing the brown paper package stuffed in the mailbox was an incredibly happy rush at a time when adapting to this very different and often strange new world meant new challenges every day. I’ve kept the last one she sent, unread, now more than a couple of years old.

I was one of the early adapters here to the internet (surprise) and managed to get my used PowerBook 180 hooked up with an external 28.8 Kbps Global Village modem (they had just replaced the 14.4 Kbps models) to AOL here in Japan when no one I knew here had any idea what the internet was. That was probably 1993. The phone line in the house I was renting (now a parking lot) couldn’t make international telephone calls, requiring me to use a public phone at the train station to call home. One of the first things I did after marveling at the gurgling chimes, knocks, and static of the modem connection was access the Chicago Tribune.

And there it was, the pivotal moment. Brave new world, indeed, reading my beloved Trib, live, from 6000 miles away on a computer screen. Yet, looking in wonder at the grayscale facsimile of the Chicago Tribune masthead on the PowerBook’s screen...there, in black and white, was the beginning of the end for the newspapers.

So, so long old friend. Thank you for all you’ve given me, taught me, introduced me to over the years. When my generation joins you, no one may remember your glory or what you were capable of. While we’re still here, however, you’ll be missed.

November 1, 2009

Halloween is over, but there's still time left for some fun. Bugs is always a sure bet, and if scary is what you want, look at What Roger Ebert has collected: overheard Halloween snippets. As for the best trick of the year, a good one on President Obama's favorite jackass. If you're trick or treating in LA, check with the weather as reported by David Lynch. Now, granted LA weather doesn't change much, but...

There's a whole weeks worth of entertainment here. The Harper's Weekly Review is always a treasure-trove, but this week's is amazing. As far as classics go, here's a rather sad look at the waning years of one of the major forces of the 2oth century, Mr. Hugh Hefner.

I guess the lesson of the day is if you want to get smart, get on the web and forget about football - or at least about playing pro. A price to be paid for money and glory. One of the things you can learn, on the web, or at least on Twitter, is where to score some free music. Enjoy.

October 24, 2009

Interesting contrast, illustrating the gulf between reality and our American self-image. Wealthy Germans asking for higher taxes to help out while in the US, the trend is criminalizing homelessness. Meanwhile, signs that at whatever level the economy may be improving, that improvement has yet to reach the man or woman on the street. Not a pretty picture in that mirror, America. The great socialist Obama juggernaut rolls on (LOL), with the US ordering companies that received bailout money to cut executive compensation; nice gesture, but maybe too little to late. My guess is that those most culpable for the debacle have long since packed their bags and skipped town.

Of course, how can I go a week without a swipe at the vermin at Fox News? Here’s a look at some of their more egregious distortions. Naturally the GOP earns their raspberry as well, and Jon Stewart delivers nicely. Thank you Sen. Franken and Mr. Stewart. Of course, the US has no monopoly on cluelessness. Even though many of my students believe abortion is illegal in Japan (!), it is still considered, sit down, a form of birth control.

On the lighter side, take a moment to go back to when men were men, dammit, and some men, well...they don’t make them like this anymore! Imagine Mighty Atom Joseph Greenstein on steroids! And for some real mindless fun (really), enjoy the stupidity of the stupid sharing their stupidity. (No, that's not a Fox News link.) Ah, technology.

Like Neil Young? Hear this: Irv's YouTube Channell. In the Chicago area? Hear him live, too.

I want to put a plug in here to help out an old friend. The economy is hitting lots of businesses hard, lots of people have no money, and those that do are just holding onto it. If you’re in the Chicago area and have any interest in martial arts and have toyed with the idea of acting on it, there’s no better place for it than the karate dojo run by Shihan M. Miura. Word-class(really) practitioner and excellent teacher, possibly the best out there. Great for kids, of course, adults, and there are even classes for the over-50 crowd. Good for mind, body, and soul. Highest recommendation.

Finally, thanks to Roger Ebert for pointing to this reading of Gerontion. Whoa.

October 18, 2009

Not much to report this week; no typhoons, earthquakes, revolutions, sagas of economic collapse or such. Not even a major software update. But the weather has been good, classes better, and aside from having altogether too much work to do, not a complaint in the world. If there’s anything mention-worthy, it’s getting two (2!) cases of direct thanks/positive feedback from students in one week - a hug for an improved TOEIC score and an email thank you. Sweet.

Things not so good for the beer industry in Japan, though, who, inexplicably, are watching beer sales in Japan decline. I’m certainly helping them out as much as I can, but there’s only so much one man can do. Luckily, some studies, however suspect, assure me that this is a healthy thing, suggesting that it’s healthier to be fat at 40 than thin. OK, so I’m way past 40, but being young at heart must count for something. Uno más, por favor, もう一本ください.

Gotta smile thinking of the fun the editor had with this one. Japan Times byline: Emperor’s ducks sick with bird flu. Is your duck sick?And, for all the Luddites making things harder for all of us by draaaaaagging those heels, and explanation of your namesakes.

Finally just a short message to Mom (d. October 17, 2006), wherever she may be: Your boys both doing fine, giving as good as they’re getting, taking shit from no one. No need to worry.

Oh, and you, too, Bruce - haven't forgotten you, either. Keep the revs up.

October 11, 2009

First of all, congratulations to President Obama for being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Left scratching my head a bit, along with a lot of other folks, but it's fun just to watch how this has gotten the wacko right frothing. Why? Very sad, sobering summation of the ugly underbelly of the country.

Perhaps part of why he deserves it, though unbeknownst to the committee in Norway, was finding the magic words for John Roos when dealing with Japan's new administration. Because you need to watch these guys. First, it was karaoke, and now...“U.S. search engine giant Google Inc. said Tuesday it has concluded license agreements with commercial broadcasters TV Asahi and TBS to stream their news and other programs through its YouTube video sharing site.” Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Speaking of extreme shit, look at the speeds of stuff coming down Osaka University’s pipe.

Some studies are suggesting that "nonsense sharpens the intellect." I guess this means Fox News and the Republicans are making us all smarter?

Just noting again, those luckiest in their careers are the last ones to credit luck for their success?

Whoa: “The world’s most popular ebook sharing community.” More free ebooks than you'll ever be able to read in your lifetime. Even if you're just learning to read. (And if you are, go read something more age-appropriate.) With international access and a price drop coming to the Kindle, this is good news.

For lovers of the English language, take a look at this great collection of folksy expressions - and learn what a toad strangler is. And, just because it's so frikkin' cool, some ultra-slow motion video of bullets ripping through steel.

Last, and certainly not least, a moment to remember Sempai Harry Fassl, who passed one year ago. Osu, Harry.

September 28, 2009

A new semester beginning today, but I obviously have one eye in the rear-view mirror. How about some nostalgia? First, here’s a look at some of the controversial magazine covers of our times. How many do you remember?

There’s nothing to bring out the nostalgia like drinkers (don’t call us drunks unless you’re a really good friend - and preferably one yourself) reminiscing about their old bars. Here’s Roger Ebert on O’Rourkes - and here’s the current reincarnation of its spirit, The Old Town Ale House.

And, for you to listen to as your sip the little drink you just poured yourself and that tear rolls down your cheek, Mary Hopkin, Those Were the Days (with lyrics).

Here’s to the good old days...

September 26, 2009

Now, if you needed even more reason to respect one of the great musical artists of our times, Zimmy delivers. Bob Dylan, protector of wife and trash.

Go Katie. Too bad more news folks don’t have her balls. Couric’s masterful interview with Glenn Beck.

Hey, remember way back in, oh, 2006, 2007, when criticizing the President was un-American? Remember what was in the Oval Office?

September 22, 2009

Fall is here, and a great big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Wifus™.

Two good videos illustrating what's wrong with our current health coverage situation in the US, as if you didn't already know. Video 1. Video 2. And more.

Amazingly, sanity comes to Japan. Yes, I have seen $100 melons.

Got a son? Mentoring a younger guy? Want some wisdom for yourself? Or maybe just some thoughtful laughs? Great blog, probably a great book. Make a nice addition to someone’s Christmas list, I bet. And, of course, you can follow “rules” on Twitter. Rules for My Unborn Son.

September 19, 2009

If you haven’t been here for a while, maybe take a fast look at the 8/20 post below.

Here's a bracing blast of reality amidst all the propaganda we're subjected to these days. A stark assessment of the Bush legacy. "On every major measurement, the Census Bureau report shows that the country lost ground during Bush's two terms. While Bush was in office, the median household income declined, poverty increased, childhood poverty increased even more, and the number of Americans without health insurance spiked. By contrast, the country's condition improved on each of those measures during Bill Clinton's two terms, often substantially." Of course, the sane and rational among us knows this. Read more.

September 17, 2009

Back in Japan, and, miraculously, the heat dissipated on arrival, leaving us with one strangely comfortable day after another. Unfortunately the political madness back home continues. And the Bears, well...they’re a Chicago team, so what do you expect?

Happy Independence Day Mexico! Ring the bells - and pass the frijoles.

Here’s a pretty startling look at changes in Japan over the past 20 years or so. Since that pretty much parallels my time here, I can say, “Yup.” A soft spot for the good old/bad old Showa days, by Kaori Shoji.

Consider. Despite the damage done by Bush in his eight year reign, imagine the good he could do by coming out from under his rock, calling the crazies on their madness, and just say, “Grow the fuck up. Support the President.”

OK, so I’m an idealist.

Of course, you have it marked on your calendar, but just in case not, this Saturday, 9/19, is Talk Like a Pirate Day. So, with Google Translate letting us down, who do you ask for those key phrases in Somali?

September 7, 2009

Happy Labor Day. "For most of us, Labor Day means backyard barbecues, weekend sales, and a last carefree day before school starts. But the laid-back holiday has some seriously sad history, including chaos, riots, and even death." Thanks to Rich for reminding us of its origins.

September 6, 2009

Finally looking at cloudy skies here in Chicago after three weeks off almost steady perfect weather as the vacation winds down. On a Sunday morning run for tamales from one of the vendors on 47th St., had to finesse the vendor’s and my way out of a situation with an obvously very disturbed young man, cackling and toting a chunk of concrete just smaller than a basketball - and treating it like one...feinting either a pass to me or a basket attempt at the vendor’s head. Smiles and “No!” got us out of it. Which left me with my tamale order. How bad is my Spanish pronunciation that I couldn’t communicate that I wanted twenty-four (veinticuatro), and not four tamales? Buenos días.

Is there anything more ridiculous than parents trying to stop their children from hearing the President’s address because it’s socialist propaganda? Sadly, yes, but this is bad enough. How long until these people stop embarrassing themselves and our nation?

“...and let’s face it, in a country of 300 million people, there are a lot of stupid people too, because if you believe that it’s somehow unhealthy for kids, for the president to say "work hard and stay in school," you’re stupid.” Thank you for having the courage to say iit.

"We see 8-year-olds telling Mom not to worry, don’t cry." -Bill Murdock, New York Timse. Read Story.

September 3, 2009

People were unhappy with Hillary? She has nothing on this new first lady of Japan. Yeow.

NYT: "Japan’s landmark election presents the Obama administration with an untested government, creating a new set of imponderables for the White House." A new set of imponderables. Old hands in Japan smile and nod.

This will be totally understandable only if you have some rudimentary knowledge of the Japanese language, but even if you don’t, the humor comes through. “How bureaucrats spell logic in Romanized Japanese.” (That would be roziku, if I’m not mistaken, and no I’m not kidding.)

On a much sadder note, let me extend my sympathy if anyone close to you is afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. It’s a chronic and progressive illness involving a loss of dopamine-producing brain cells, resulting in tremors and loss of muscle control, but the clinical description falls short of the tragic devastation it wreaks on the victim. Absolutely heartbreaking what is doing to a good friend who not so long ago was strong, vital, witty, knowledgeable, and full of piss and vinegar, always a high point of my visits home to Chicago.

Travelers in and out of Japan should be aware of more rule changes to be implemented for your displeasure and inconvenience.

August 25, 2009

If you haven’t been here for a while, maybe take a fast look at the 8/20 post below.

Looks like the swine flu fun isn’t over for us just yet. Return of the Pig, or Babe vs. Godzilla. Round two for the swine flu in Japan.

Now we’re talking. One of the areas in which science has let us down is in chemistry - where are our 21st century recreational drugs? There’re at least a few liquor companies with our interests at heart. Here’s the buzz on new drinks that blend alcohol and stimulants, and even a bit of wormwood. Not soma, but a step closer.

Mmm, squirrel melts. Probably works with rats, cats, as well. Something to offend everyone! (Seriously, not for the squeamish, anti-hunters, animal know.)

Chicago wasn’t always the idyllic garden of tranquility that we know and love today. Here are some great shots of Chicago’s past criminal hijinks, with an emphasis on prohibition and vice. We’ll save the politicos for another day.

Like Neil Young? St. Rita alum Irv Pavlik has been honing his Neil Young tribute act in the western ‘burbs of late. Rich and I grabbed a gig of his recently at Borders Bookstore in Oakbrook, and had a great time. Take a look & listen.

August 20, 2009

Welcome to the new way. Maybe you’ll welcome a mailbox with one less piece of crap in there, or maybe you’ll resent me making you do an extra click to get to the goodies. In brief, my blurbs will be going to the web page rather than email; I suspect people enjoy having my political views forced on them as much as I do theirs being forced on me. During a transition period, I’ll continue the email lists, but with reminders that the content is on the web page. (The Mac and Teacher lists will continue as before - just let me know at any time if you want to be added or deleted from either of those.)

On the lower left part of web page is a widget where you can enter an email address if you’d like to be notified of when the web page is changed or updated. If that doesn’t work as expected, please let me know.

Yeah, the horse looks pretty dead, but another whack won’t hurt it. When folks are first struck by the irony of contemporary Christianity, they sometimes come up with good observations. Here’s one of those cases.

GREAT STUFF here - the Museum of Online Museums. So much there, Enjoy.

A MUST for ESL/EFL teachers and their serious students, a collection of English accents from all over the world, with sound files, phonetic transcriptions, and details about the speakers. They are remiss only in their exclusion of the classic Chicago accent.

You can find out what the biggest one is, but here’s s great look at the SECOND largest aquarium tank in the world. Nice fantasy fodder if you can’t get away for a vacation.

Can't help it - you know me - here's a sickening look at what Fox "News" does with the truth.

Finally, an interesting collection of Chicago photography; not the usual tourist shots, but attempts to capture the soul of the city for an upcoming book. You can vote on the pics. It’d make me homesick if I weren’t here at the moment.

August 16, 2009

OK, seriously. Thinking hard about how to make this useful. Have already eliminated one step in the posting process, so as to make posting more likely. Will also be making this a second stop for Twitter and Facebook posts, too. May also have many more emails to friends and groups just send people here. Being realistic on my quotes/aphorisms plan - not going to happen, at least, not without an extended convalescence. Oh, well. Thoughts for the day.

Yeah, it's hot here.

And all you students I just failed? You deserve it and you know it.

June 30, 2009

Time flying, saying goodbye to the official rainy season just as the rain arrives - along with the usual heat and humidity that makes Kansai a living hell in the late summer months. We survive only by believing that someday, perhaps around October 1, we will be dry again.

Just remembering when "attitude" was a problem, and when ignorance wasn't something to be proud of. Too, musing on the rants of various "pro-pedestrian anti-automobile" types...who do they think is inside those cars, Borgs? Does getting behind the wheel make one a second class citizen? Oh, and BTW, dying doesn't make one a better person.

May 25, 2009

To those who have served and those who still serve, we salute you. Our thanks.

May 21, 2009

While one hates to find joy in he misfortunes of others (well...there are cases...), the arrival of pork pox in Kansai translates to a solid week of canceled classes and V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N for yours truly, and I can’t help but be ecstatic. It’s also amusing to see the proliferation of face masks brought out to ward off the dread foreign scourge - this in a place where a hand placed over a cough or sneeze is rare, and barehand snot mining is common. I wish I were exaggerating.

Every minute of the week off is being used well, especially the few stolen moments quaffing cocktails on the balcony with the Wifus™. Catching up on classes, trying to get a step ahead, housework...but it doesn’t look as if I’m going to be getting to my U.S. taxes just yet. The time is flying by, though, and as much as I love my job (and I do), it will be a long haul from here to the end of the semester.

Meanwhile, it's time for steaks on the grill.

May 4, 2009

Happy Golden Week - and by some fluke, I'm actually having a full one. Or, would, if it weren't for the care-taking duties taking up most of my time. But, the weather has been OK; more clouds and wind than ideal, but so much better than what will follow later in the season.

Managed to finish a (first) article for Macworld, a review of ten in-ear-canal type headphones. It was difficult writing - keeping the details of all ten phones had me questioning my own ears and sanity, but the writing discipline was good exercise, and the entire experience quite educational. I have rewarded myself by pre-spending the proceeds on a VERY nice pair of phones my own use. Had I been able to keep the test headphones, I’d have kept the Westone UM2s for myself, given the Klipsch Image X10s to Wifus™, and divvied up the rest among friends. As it is, the phones will be shipped back to Macworld - and later today I will take delivery of what promise to be an exquisite pair of Westone 3s. Google a search for reviews of these phones. The UM2s were great, and these promise to be even better. Looking for some good music to pump through them, and Rita Man '71 Irv Pavlik has already sent some of his fine Neil Young covers, so I’m building my own Irv playlist already.

Trying to put off school work for the remainder of the break, and hope to get to a little story I started back in February: two bakeries, two grandma’ houses, two cultures...more tales from the ‘hood, growing up.

Friends and acquaintances from the wacko end of the political spectrum continue to confound and perplex with some of the stuff they say and write, but I derive some comfort from watching the country slowly start to correct its course from the madness of the past eight years. Too old and cynical to expect miracles, but there is something definitely wrong anyone who doesn’t feel better with Barack Obama at the wheel than with the previous head of state. There.

OK, I’m going to grab something nice to drink and audition these Westone phones the KuroNeko man was nice enough to deliver, holiday or no.

April 3, 2009

Happy birthday Apple, 33 years old. No April Fool pranks this year, as the universe has been playing some havoc of its own with me/us. Got back to Japan a bit earlier than expected in order to begin my stint as Wifus™ Caregiver. Seems Alison managed to place her left tibia in the direct path of a flying cobblestone, shot from a wheel of a speeding ambulance passing by. On her first day of vacation in Milan. An ambulance of her own then whisked her to a primitive mystery hospital that required the assistance of the American consulate in Milan to locate. She has a metal plate holding the bone together that will need removal in a year or so. No fun. We're both home in Japan now, and, aside from her obvious discomfort and the inconvenience of immobility, settling into a new, fortunately temporary lifestyle.

Otherwise, the Chicago visit was a gas, seeing lots of old friends, enjoying good food, and helping the bro with odds and ends on his house. Didn't need to shovel any snow until the very last day, when 5 inches threatened to delay my flight back. Got off only 40 minutes late or so. The rental Prius was a big disappointment – a fine gas-saving appliance, but as a car, um, no. If gas economy is your big priority, it's a solid, comfortable conveyance, but it's quirky, no fun at all to drive, and I'm not sold on the overall environmental or economic benefits. Great trips to Indiana to see old X1/9 (now THERE'S a car!) buddy John and his family and to Wisconsin for a great auto museum. Connected with old friends that I haven't spoken with in 20 years or more. Great to see Marianne recovering nicely from surgery despite some new drama of the sort that seems always to find her, as well as hearing travel tales from Linda (Caribbean) and Susan (Uruguay). Got the entire dojjo crowd together, a real rarity, and great time...minus, of course, our recently departed Sempai Harry. Auditioned some great speakers and had some real (i.e., Chicago) hot dogs with Rick, too.

Highlight for me, and pardon me while I pat myself on the back, is being chosen to do a review of in-ear headphones (canalbuds?) for Macworld. Yes, that Macworld. Very pleasantly surprised that, despite this being my first assignment, the ten pairs sent to me were not the bargain basement stuff I'd expected, but real near-audiophile level goodies. The article probably won't be out until summer, but I'll post the link here when available, obviously.

This is being written on NeoOffice Writer, part of the free (donation requested) MSOffice alternative suite. First one I've tried that I can recommend as a real alternative. Lots of interesting features – just missing the editing/proofreading tools many of us depend on. Not ready to become my one word processor – but, then neither is Word, Nisus, or Pages, either. Your input welcome.

OK, break's over.

February 27, 2009

New Student English Portal up at .

February 26, 2009

Truly savoring the satisfaction of having a real President, capital P, again. Wonderful address, Mr. President. I love ya. I hope your boyz got their numbers right, though.

Another academic year down, grades in, and preliminary planning for 2009-2010 begun. Only the big clean-up remains to put the year to rest. Funny typing that 2010; I remember as a kid wondering what I’d be like when 1999 became 2000, and now it’s almost ten years after that. And I’m still wondering what it’ll be like when I get old. Ain’t that sweet?

Odd calendar glitch, courtesy of the Wifus™ and the MIL™, puts me in Chicago later than usual, and that’s not a bad thing, as my absence from the Chicago winter has not made the heart grow fonder. Hoping I can maybe soak up some of the Chicago appreciation of the coming of spring. That’ll be nice. But it is ALWAYS nice to get back home among real people, misguided anachronistic Republicans notwithstanding.

Digging the shit out of Twitter. Selective with folks I follow, and the near-real-time reporting of critical events from various news outlets is wonderful, especially when away from home via the iPhone. Cooking up a storm - red beans and rice for Fat Tuesday, plus some cheater gumbo on the next day (still Fat Tuesday in the US...)...and pics on TwitPic.

Mac users: Safari 4 = yes.

Happy belated birthday Steve Jobs.

To all my ailing & recovering friends, so sadly increasing in number, hang tough, get well, beat this shit. No excuses.

BIG recommendation for this one, don’t pass it up.

February 1,2009

One month, and so much has happened. Of course, the biggest change is obvious. Goodbye W and welcome Barack, we've never needed you more than now, and we look forward to you repairing the damage done to our country and the world in the last eight years.

Another school year winding down for us here in Japan, and that little smudge of #333 in the distance has got to be the light at the end of the tunnel. I've landed a pretty fat proofreading job and already spent most of the proceeds on a new Apple Display; yes, it's beautiful. aiting for custom-fit ear buds for my M-Audio IE-30s while my warranty-replaced Klipsch Cstom 3s wait for me at friend Bill's in Chicago. No matter what kind of i-ear phones you listn to, I ighly recommend these sound-isolating tips; a good seal is everything when it comes to bass response, and the less noise coming into your ears, the less you'll need to crank it up to hear your music. New iLife and iWork out, but no time to play, yet. Adobe CS4 looks pretty interesting, too, but yes, I'll say it - with the prices Adobe charges, no one can be blamed for pirating their stuff. The suite costs more than many people's computers. Yet, having said that, Photoshop Elements is a very good deal.

Spending and enjoying more and more time on Twitter, both on the Mac and on the iPhone. Once you get your balance of appropriate followers and followees, it's really a nice addition to your computer life. Have cooked some KILLER meals in the last week; nothing special, just very lucky with the results. Good eatin'. Of course, can't lay claim to a Bacon Explosion. Yet. Looking fiorward to revamping and combining some of my student sites over the break. Haven't locked on any must-have new toys, though. Ideas?

In spite of it being the home of our new President, Illinois continues to embarrass itself with the likes of Blagojevich, Petersen, and self-parody John Kass. Looks like I need to back there and kick some ass. When it wams up a bit, of course.

Meanwhile, happy 25th birthday, Macintosh.

January 5, 2009

Another year begins. Five days into it, seemingly weeks behind already. The weather back home has been pretty rough this winter, but nothing here to complain about. You’ll find new pictures of trips to Miyajima/Hiroshima and Koya-san on the photo page.

Have scrubbed a semi-planned trip to Cambodia in February, and trying hard to justify using that money on a new Apple 24” LED display. Not doing as well as I’d hoped, though. With some luck, the 20” Samsung display will help with a timely demise. Have the brightness up at 100% just to help the cause.

Incredibly busy (what else is new?) with the end of the academic year, the beginning of a new one looming, and all the incredible work that means for me. On the plus side, I have so far been relatively unscathed by the world-wide economic meltdown. Some stock losses, sure, but am heading into the 2009-2010 (2010?!) academic year with the same number of classes as last year. Fortunate and grateful. But not undeserving, if I do say so myself.

By the way, you’ll find previous years posts linked below. Obvious now, but not so as the year goes on. Speaking of looking back, the Mac will turn 25 on January 24 this year. Treat your Mac to something special - clear the logs, delete the caches, maybe even get the crumbs out from the keyboard.

Macworld Expo beginning really soon, and I hope we have some new toys to dream and argue about. Sorry to on like this, but the freedom from the 140 character Twitter limit is quite exhilarating!

Congrats to brother Dave, who seems to be successfully quitting smoking, and good luck to Dave in Nishinomiya, who will soon again be spending more time with his surgeon than he'd like. Finally, let us all celebrate the end of a very dark era on January 20.

Best wishes for a wonderful 2009.