December 27, 2010

Again, surprising me as I'm sure it has millions, 2010 presents its end at my doorstep. Well.

There's no real reason that this Fall should have been any more hectic than any other, but it certainly felt so. The downward spiral of the economy here in Japan is now making itself felt in academia, with various schools paring back classes under the guise of "curriculum changes." It also creates a buyers market for them, forcing teachers to swallow policies that were once unthinkable. Luckily, I find myself just high enough (for the moment) on the food chain to be able to avoid most of the trouble, but that, to is changing. 2011 won't be as nearly as comfortable as years that have gone before. Was speaking with some ed admins the other day and they managed to misinterpret almost everything I said about traditional CALL and the failure to integrate tech into the ordinary classroom (vs. CALL classrooms). No surprise that even Alan Kay is despairing. The teaching won't get any easier, either, and that seems to matter little on geography, as true in the US as it is here in Japan...and for reasons one would think are obvious. Less obvious are the inner workings of the brain/mind, still a delicious mystery that the very fortunate will continue to enjoy exploring and unraveling. More down to earth, here's a fun look courtesy of the TED conferences at how man (and that's man) interacts with his personal space: Sam Martin on "manspaces."

The kerfuffle over the new TSA pat-downs and scanners has subsided a bit, but the problem will continue until people steering policy decide to confront the real problem: terrorists. Seems there's something to be learned here, though I understand how conditions at Ben Gurion are different from any airport in the US.

I suppose we need to wait and see when it comes to the political winds, as well. While the elections results certainly seemed hopeless, Obama seems to be ending 2010 with some success...yes, that can be argued, but so far the world hasn't ended, DADT has been ended, START has been approved, and...well, I guess we all wait and see. As for the tax cut, here's a humorous take on it from Larry David. Suckers. Not long ago, there was an obscene and revolting attempt by many to whitewash the Reagan years and portray Reagan as some kind of folk hero. Shameful. Horsehit. I've recently come across similar attempts to re-write the history of the first eight years of this century. No, assholes. Bush WAS that bad. No questions, no reservations, no qualifications. Never forget.

Bigger picture, or rather pictures, some fantastic imagery of 2010 from Newsweek. Careful - some of the shots very strong.

Big rumors of the v2 iPad abound, and I'll be among those first in line, er, online, to order one; my only decisions will be whether to kowtow to Softbank's usurious anal plug, or opt for a contract-free 3G iPad from the US. Or, be "reasonable" and settle for a WiFi only version. You know the chances of that, even with a tightened budget. But, saying goodbye to old tech, fond adieus to Technic turntables and the Walkman.

While you enjoy the holiday season, I'm sure alcohol will be a big part of it. Here are some interesting uses for vodka, but why anyone would waste perfectly good vodka in any of these ways instead of drinking it is beyond me. Knowledge is power, so here's some info on exactly what alcohol is doing to you. Enjoy knowledgeably. As for knowledgeable, William Gibson is one of my favorite sci-fi authors after Neal Stephenson (the label doesn't do either justice). Like many Westerners (ahem), the siren call of the mysterious Orient can blind one to the full reality of how totally weird Japan can be. Too. (I mean, Sarah Palin...I have no stones to throw from my glass house.) But you decide: birthers, tea part, Palin vs. THIS. Your verdict?

Of course, no winter complete without Calvin & Hobbes and their snowmen.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Sayonara 2010, bring it on 2011.

BTW, anyone telling you I'm turning 50 this week is a god-damned liar.


October 31, 2010

No surprise that these updates get more and more widely spaced as the semester drags on. Actually quite amazing, the volume of work that gets churned out of here, itself a testament to how hard teaching can be if you want to do it right.

Hope everyone had a ball at the Sanity Rallies this weekend. Especially living abroad, tangible evidence that we're not all wacko is always welcome. Hopefully there'll be more evidence after the election results are in, but I'm not optimistic.

The only other newsworthy item is the shitload of money Steve and Company have sucked out of my pockets this fall. iPhone, MacBook Pro, and an Air...but it's nice, very nice, to have the toys. No, no iPad yet; I think I need a bit more free time before I can accommodate another device into the tech life. In any event, I've already prepped my old 13" MacBook for it's new home and am busy pondering sync strategies for the arrival of my new 11" Air later this week. Pretty excited about it.

Speaking of tech, we watch a couple of old tech friends sail into the sunset: the Sony Walkman and the Technics turntable.

Lots of shame to dole out in this post, lots of it really deserved, but I'll try to make it brief. First, the Chicago Public Schools. How can anyone think the schools can afford to play these bullshit games? Right behind, step right up, Messers. Zell and Michaels, and fuck you for what you did to my city's newspaper. Very disturbing (really, I'm not kidding) signs of the deep racism still plaguing our country; we share the shame in allowing this to exist. And shame on you if you don't vote.

Of course, gotta get my kicks in on my adoptive country. First, here's the explanation for the "ladies only" train car "solution" foisted upon us, and then, well, enjoy as much as you can stand of the REALLY weird side of Japan.

The fall weather has gotten here a little early this year; I can usually make it just about to Thanksgiving without a jacket, but had to wear one every day this week. Even had the little floor heater in the office going a bit already. Also, aside from my residual winter aversion from a lifetime of Chicago winters, this time of the year also means the anniversary of the deaths of some special people: my mom, my dad, and karate sempai Harry.

On the positive side, fall here is an incredibly beautiful season, and we sometimes get to enjoy a little of it because of s couple of national holidays and some class cancelations because of school festivals and such. Just had one of those on Friday, giving me a three-day weekend, and it was fantastic.

Oh, and have a Happy Samhain, er, Halloween.

October 3, 2010

It may or may not be "fall" wherever you are or however you define that, but it sure is still summer here…but it may be winter before I get a chance to update this page again. So, here are the fall colors. A sure sign of fall is election time (in the US), and the political waters there churn as they rarely do; I only hope all you god-forsaken elites make the effort to get to the polls and do vote. It matters more than ever. Requested my absentee ballot this morning. There's a fun aspect to politics, too, and I for one, am giddy in anticipation of a Mayor Emanuel in Chicago; can't think of another more worthy Daley successor. What fun it will be.

Less fun are the increasing polarizations going on back home (US): political, technological, economic. None of it good. As evidence, this story about the hardships of getting by on $250,000 a year. Equally disturbing and even less comprehensible is the bullshit happening in the Chicago Public Schools. What a new Chicago mayor needs to do is fix this AND the Police Department. Richie has failed here, period. More evidence of madness? Got it. First, look at this joker running for office. Second, look a some of the assholes who WILL be voting on November 9. Here's another analysis of the radical right.

Any sign of reason out there? Yes, if you look hard enough. Thank you President Obama - and Dave in Nishinomiya for the point.

Not much cheer in this post, I'm afraid. The time of year, perhaps. Shorter days, browning of the green, the chill in the morning air, the passage of time and intimations of our own mortality. Luckily, my job won't let me luxuriate in depression or pessimism for long; most of the kids in my classes haven't drunk much of life's bitterness yet. They're starting their lives and need learning. That's my job, and I can't do it standing there wringing my hands. They deserve better, and I strive to give that to them.

Self-indulgence time. This past semester, I received more plagiarized papers than ever. Many reasons for it, explained better than I can here, here, and here, along with the decline of civilization, entropy, etc., etc. After long, hard, contemplation, as well as consultation with respected colleagues, gave them a second chance. Glad I did. Here's some of what resulted. What this student wrote has made me a better teacher - and I told her so and thanked her.

Sometimes you get it right. Let's drink to that.

September 13, 2010

Back now in the sweltering heat of Kansai summer after three weeks of glorious weather in Chicago. The trip included a lot. Of course, there was the tuck-pointing and painting, along with loading the brother up with plenty of cholesterol…bacon and eggs, Gibson's steak…aaahhhh. Then, there was one monster proofreading job I needed to get out. But I digress. There was also plenty of fun. First, the car stuff. The annual Corvair Club Orphan's picnic was a goodie, and even managed to get my brother to come along. Perfect weather, free beer, cars…come on. Bill, Jerry, and I also lucked out by participating in a grossly under-attended Corvette Club event at the Autobahn Country Club. This included riding along on Bill's touring session, a few runs on a very, very tight autocross track, and a 20-minute session on some respectably fast karts. Plenty of video was shot, too, not only on Bill's personal camera, but some very cool high-tech stuff courtesy of Jake Roth, owner of Miracle Video. We even managed to get all the way to John's place near Warsaw, Indiana. Finally, dug up the old issues of Auto-X magazine from the eighties and posted the Rusty Nutz Archive. Read and enjoy.

Something special this trip was attending the Chicago Apple User Group meeting with Ron, Andy Ihnatko presenting. Great pres, great fete after, all-around great time. And, yeah, MUGs are the same everywhere!

Of course, no summer Chicago sojourn without a blast up to the Dells. The rental Focus (leather, sunroof, wheels, Sync) got us up there quickly, but for the first time ever - no karts! Weather and some track maintenance kept us from renting a real stock car for ten-lap rides. There was the miniature golf, and there were visits to train museums and Circus World, and of course, the ritual feast at The Embers (ribs and a spinach salad with the best dressing ever - of course I brought some back to Japan)…after which we three wild and crazy guys just crapped out and went to bed. Getting old.

Yes, there should be links to the photos...maybe someday... In the meantime, Bill has lots of pics up on his Facebook site. While I'm at it, thanks Dave, Bill, Jerry, Shihan, Ron, Rich, and Den, and everyone else for a great trip. As great as it was, it's still ice to get back to my 50 Mbps download speeds and the best wife in the world. (OOPS. Forgot. There are pics. Here are mine from the Orpan Picnic.)

Also, some pretty sad news about friends getting on, getting sick, and having some hard times and rough luck. Hang in there, Susan, Dee, Don, Cindy, and Sensei Tony.

For information and entertainment, just thrown together all hodgepodge, let's start off with Meat-Man Parfait. Can't believe this wasn't conceived in Japan. Besides it being meat. Anyway, speaking of Japan, James Fallows knows the place, and here's his take on the country's situation. Back to another era of hard times, some great photos here of Chicago rails and railway workers, and an illustrated guide to how my favorite city raised itself from the muck. Soooo glad I don't have kids. Chicagoans and other folks who received the WGN signal back in the 60s will remember Bozo the Clown, but not like this. And, FWIW, this year's world university rankings - I attended #48 and now teach at #49, interestingly.

Finally, the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks has just passed. While we still recover, or try to, here are some wise words from the late Dr.Hunter Thompson that called it right, better than whole books of Chomsky drivel. A very sad moment for the world it was, and still is.

August 11, 2010

OK, two months. And, believe it or not, the semester's paper work isn't yet over, and I'm already knee-deep in a big proofreading job…and watching the dream of getting my textbook revised, converted to epub format, and getting it on and the Apple iBooks store fade away. The relentless heat and humidity of the Kansai summer laughs from outside these air-conditioned walls. I take a break to bring this update...

Speaking of that textbook (and other work that may follow), no I do not have an iPad. Doesn't fill any open slots in my life, but the move from paper to digital is firmly underway. Enjoy any local bookstores you still have around you, as their number is about to go way down, I fear. Me? I really welcome the move to digital for all kinds of content - but don't think (or want) paper books to go the way of the dodo. Books are and will be special…special, as in, no longer the norm. Here is an original essay and analysis of it that remind us that change is constant, and it's rarely all bad. Speaking of change, here's another interesting look at the present (no, not the future, folks, it's now).

Looking back, though, here's a great peak at a world we're used to seeing only in black and white (STRONG recommend), and another at some old storefronts in my favorite city.

With all attention focused on the now (hopefully) sealed oil leak in the gulf and the limp economy, other matters potentially as serious closer to home can get overlooked. For example, the cost of football, and one might surmise, other sports involving lots of, ahem, head contact.

Happy that the President managed to save some teaching, firefighting, and police jobs, yeah, great, but contrasted with what we need (and will never get), well…

Bastards. That is all.

Korean tacos? Really?

Getting back to that oil spill…take a look at how one outlet is "reporting" the news. I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the dramatic increase in plagiarism and cheating I've see this term.

Among the interesting things making comebacks, what abut Roller Derby? A look at what it was then.

Quickly, for your amusement:

Bruce Lee screen test

Dennis Hopper and Johnny Cash - how can you not watch? What memories (and close calls) do you think were flashing for each of them? Here's a bit more on Dennis Hopper, especially his photographs (and mug shot!).

Hate or love the iPhone, for whatever reasons, you'll enjoy this. (I get mine in September.)

Japan news:

Free internet at Narita (Tokyo International Airport); I'll believe it when I see the little black bars. Why would I say that? Ha.

Old-timers here know Charisma Man from the past, but here's an honest cop from the other gender on how easy it was for all of us here once upon a time if we wanted it to be.

Solarphobia. kick back, relax, and enjoy.

May 30, 2010

Not much good news this week. The Gulf is covered in oil, North and South Korea are engaged in a very dangerous stare-down, the wars drag on, and the economy remains flaccid. Lucky not to have any personal woes to that list beyond the usual exhaustion. But the sun is shining and I'll be having a faux-Mex lunch (but among the best one can find here) at El Pancho with a very good old friend.

The iPad made its debut here in Japan this week, and I haven't checked to see of they were sold out yet. I confess that I am hedging a bit on my previous "I don't need one" stance. After all, if I'm expected to create content (my books) for that medium shouldn't I at least have one? Right?

In the money department, a few tidbits. Many of us are at the stage in life where we're spending the last few years with our parents still around. As hard as it is, there are some things you should think about and do. (Thanks to Gary.) While the immigration reform debate goes on, it might be a good idea to look at what the actual impact of the illegal workforce is on our economy. You may be surprised. No surprise here, though: a look at the (monetary) cost of our current wars. (Of course, there are other costs, as well.) Of course, you will be boycotting BP from now on, but be aware of their other brands, as well.

Also, so long, Dennis Hopper, rest in peace. Roger Ebert's eulogy. Also, a very interesting video essay on his career, which I linked to before.

Here's an interesting look back at the earlier years of some of the actors that logged time at Second City. Also, a different kind of looking back, I'm glad this one is back online after some kerfuffle with the author's blog host. Teachers will like it. And what's not to like about summer and Q?

Have a happy Memorial Day weekend. Drive carefully - or not at all. After watching this video, you may not ever want to get behind the wheel again.

Take a moment to remember those who gave their lives in service to our country, and support those now serving, as well.

May 9, 2010

What was apparently a full Golden Week has flown by and the teaching is up to full steam again, luckily with very good (but numerous) classes this year. Improvements in classroom facilities are finally making integration of the net and the teaching more practical, though it's meaning more preparation, too. If you have any doubt how fast time passes - and the changes it brings, have a good laugh. (Thanks Irv, Wayne, & Timothy) And just imagine how the Thin White Duke feels. (Check out the pther photo collections, too.) Maybe the biggest mistakes were the predictions we were making about what the present day would look like.

The biggest target in the world is the Tea Klan mentality, so I can hardly not give it at least one shot per post. Meanwhile we watch our socialist President lead us down the path to economic ruin…oh, wait a minute. OK, three. Stupidity is one thing, however, this is quite something else. My a man's enemies shall ye know him, I guess.

Even those gosh-dern New York liberals make mistakes, though. Here's a New York-themed audio book attractively presented with…a picture of Chicago. Speaking of mistakes…exactly what ARE the lyrics to "Louie Louie"?

OK, so the human race has its problems. The beginning of those problems may be farther in the past than we thought. And none of them are getting solved here or now…so it's back to class prep for me. Enjoy spring.

April 18, 2010

This has been a long time coming. I know. I could blame the beginning of the school year, but, to be honest, the thought of having in some way to address the madness that is the Tea Klan has made my blood pressure rise each time to real danger levels. I do believe it is immoral to be or fail to act when conditions warrant speaking out and action, as they do now, so "just ignoring it" is not an option. And it's wrong.

So here, briefly…

What health reform really means. What rational American can be against it?

A comical context for REAL WORDS of the wacko right. Tea Party Jesus. Just as humorous…two collections (one - two) of Tea Klan signs in their own charming teabonic dialect.

Here, a little journalistic help for wackos to help turn truth upside down. Twisted though it may be, at least this one shows evidence of a brain. Be sure to send him some love.

Here, I will let the site and the Tea Klan's own words speak for themselves. Look at this.

OK, but not EVERYTHING is getting worse. Perspective time. Take a look at how things really were…Chicago in the 50's. A bittersweet glance back at the Ringling's Circus: portraits of clowns from ca 1905.

Now, put down that salad and order that cheeseburger. Or, better than a cheeseburger. To your health! And lo, look what's happening at O'Hare…one of those socialist plots to suck jobs and dollars into the area!

If you're a fan of the movie Chinatown, this will blow you away. Leave yourself some time. Dennis Hopper is another favorite, and I offer you this video essay of his movie career. Both of those from fellow Chicagoan Roger Ebert.

If you've flown or in any way had to deal with an airport lately, you know what's happened to flying. If I knew who to blame, I'd kill 'em You're welcome. But this article poses an interesting question - does the scarcity of "incidents" mean that the security measures are a waste of money, or, does it mean that they're working. Think about it.

Of course, my adoptive country always provides plenty of grist for amusement. This bit is from China, but it doesn't sound any different than the plaints from the foreign women here in Japan. Won't presume to speak for them, but I'll just add that the women here (like the men) are hardly a representative sample of their counterparts back home. (Full disclosure: my wife is an American woman that I met here in Japan.) Another thing we know about here in Japan is commuting, and it's effect on happiness is no surprise to us. Thank you Steve for the iPod and the iPhone, and thank you Japan for letting us drink on the trains! Oh, and Etymotic and Comply props, as well.

No politics, no BS. If you just want to do something good for people who deserve our support. Thank you all for your service and sacrifice. Here's another new way to give and make a difference.

OK, here's some levity from a surprising place - the India-Pakistan border.

What? Me? Just working, way too much, of course, but also blissfully aware of what a wonderful job I have and how much I enjoy it. I'd love to load pics of all of this year's students to share with you along with some videos of their conversations and samples of their work, but…just take my word for it. Teaching rocks. Or it's the bomb. Or whatever people say these days.

Finally a bit of awe…not of dropping bombs or Tea Klan stupidity, but a reminder of the wonder of this universe we're in. Enjoy!

March 24, 2010



March 22, 2010

Lots happening as I write. Most importantly, the health care reform bill is finally making its way into law, if in a weakened, almost neutered form, stripped of its public option. From what passes for the rational end of the wacko right spectrum, the conservative criticism of the LIMITATIONS of the current health care reform bill and what it won't change simply reeks of hypocrisy, seeing as how hard conservatives fought to castrate the bill with exactly those limitations. But, what else would one expect? As for the less, rational end...look and try not to vomit. No one likes taxes, but who in their right mind would choose to live in the resulting dystopia without them? For your perusal: Elgin, Illinois and Colorado Springs, Colorado. Elsewhere in the world, however, outside the influence of Tea Klan disinformation and Fox News, our President is helping repair the damage done to our country's image in the first eight years of the century. Yes, this is a President I am proud of.

Back in the midwest, we'd always blame our weather on those nasty cold fronts from Canada. Here in western Japan, the outside influence is worse and more poignant. This week finds us under attack from the yellow sands from China…really strong winds are swirling overhead and laying a choking blanket of muck over this part of the country. Like a cloudy day, it literally blocks out the sun, and it has a palpable effect on breathing. And, yes, everything outside or near an open window gets coated. I guess this is payback for karaoke. The windstorm itself was cause for concern, as we had about 24 hours of 40+ mph winds…and living on the 12th floor with a veranda full o' stuff, you can see where we'd have our hands full. All OK, though.

Trying to stay positive, spring is here, and millions more Americans will be getting some health care coverage. Alison's leg continues to improve, and she's able to get around unassisted very nicely, if for limited distances.

Thoughts out to the survivors and victims of the Chilean earthquake (let's not forget Haiti, as well). Here is a fascinating graphic depicting how the energy released by the earthquake would be released as tsunami over the Pacific Basin.

A dead horse that won't die, sadly: another example of how the right is trying to sell out this country. Not to say that government is the ultimate answer. Here's a great example of where we SHOULD be fight back for less government infringement - on our civil rights. Even more heinous is what Texas has done to textbook publishing with its demands for rewriting history. For a much lighter editorial, this one is hilarious if you're in the right frame of mind. Helps if you're heading to the airport. (Thanks to John in Indiana.)

Want to really know what's happening in the world? Really? Take a look. Worthy of the word "awesome". Another view of our planet…from space. Much closer to home, thanks to Hawaii Gary for something really useful - the scoop on which batteries last longest.

Glancing toward my country of residence, Dave in Esaka shared this great photo essay of Japan's economic ups and downs of the last 20 or 30 years, while here's a verbal analysis of the same. But before you shed a tear for the land of the rising, sun, get one hard kick in for it's baby, Toyota...not for the unintended acceleration debacle, but for the screwing it gave its NUMMI employees in California. I've always preferred Hondas and Mazdas, anyway.

Finally, a study indicating something that should be obvious!

Random thoughts (this is what happens with sufficient sleep, less than 12 hours of work per day, no illness, and no jet lag… one starts thinking again):

February 22, 2010

First the wonderful report of a very successful operation to remove the hardware from Alison's once broken leg. Minimal cutting, not much pain reported, and less than a week after, she's able to move around a bit. That's a big one. Also, Alison, her mother, and I all survived my short stay there in Boise to assist in the caregiving. (And car and appliance purchasing...) We all remain on friendly terms AFAIK. Now back in Chicago and its wonderful winter weather until Alison stops by in a week or so before we head to Mexico for a little well-needed and well-deserved R&R. These spring greens may be a bit premature, but what the hell.

While Boise was actually quite a bit more picturesque than I'd imagined, winter still means a dearth of sunshine, which means more to some of us than others. Not everyone knows Walt Mossberg, tech pundit for the NYT, but everyone knows Steve Jobs; here's a hilarious interview parody. (Obscenity warning.) For an even bigger laugh, Billy Corgan, raising self-embarrassment to the level of art.

Doing a bit of housework reminds us of the many uses for duct tape, and here are a few more. A little late for Valentine's Day, but if you're not lucky enough to have someone special in your life, these stats will come as no surprise to you.

On a more serious note, some never released photos of the World Trade Center on 9/11. Not as dramatic, but equally sobering - and doubly confounding, a look at the depth of delusion plaguing our country. Some folks scratch their heads when trying to "get" Twitter, and, no it's not for everybody, but it brings you this great shot of moonrise over Australia by Astronaut Shoichi.

Also, while I appreciate that so many of you find my dredgings amusing, I'd appreciate attribution when they get shared; just common courtesy. Finally, in my post of February 10, I linked to a Japan Times article about attitudes toward capital punishment in Japan. The article apparently has been pulled, but I snagged a copy for my students while it was up, and a PDF of the article can be seen here.

OK, now go back to the damn ice dancing.

February 10, 2010

Whew. As far as ends of semesters go, it wasn’t the worst. Second worst, maybe. Then, when I’m on my way to Sweet Home Chicago, they get not only 14“ of snow, but a frikkin’ earthquake, as well. Damn. But eyes forward, we have a week of Wifus™ recovery with MIL in Boise, and a week in Chicago after that for my recovery, followed by a few days in Cancun for mutual recovery with Wifus™ before we head back to Japan for what may be another hard year. I know it won’t be as bad as last year...or I’ll need to make some, er, adjustments. BTW, here's a surprise for my fellow midwesterners who know we don't get earthquakes here as well as some good general information about earthquakes.

Meanwhile, with a no-hard-feelings gesture to the students I deservedly failed, here’s a recognition of how things might look from the other side. Who dat was? Yes, big congrats to the New Orleans Saints, and thank you Sean Payton and Drew Brees for a very entertaining game, and a wonderful gift to a city that needed one. Now if only this had happened while W2 was still President so he’d have to look these bad-asses in the eyes when they visited the White House.

Zooming back and forth between Japan and Chicago can do some strange and wonderful things to one’s perspective...but some stuff is just plain weird. For example, the next time you're on the throne, contemplate this item, complete with observations by an expert on toilet culture. Also, might you guess what the pacifist Japanese nation thinks about capital punishment? Reading the news and op-ed pieces, I sometimes wonder what happened to my country of self-reliance and individual responsibility...but leave it to Japan to catch up, with a plaint that ranks up there with suing Ronald for coffee that’s too hot.

Proving that no country has a monopoly on embarrassing stupidity, I offer you former Governor Palin, apparently off her meds again, and her tea bag minions. Who could be stupid enough to follow her? Take a wild guess. And, as popular as it is to blame gummint, Washington, and the politicians for our woes, take a look in the mirror and own up, friend. Think politics don’t make a difference? LOOK AT THIS. Yes, Palin, you sad thing, this is how the hopey changey thing is going. Oh, did I get personal and mean? Good.

In tech, here’s a double scoop from the Pogue about data rot and thoughts about preserving our pasts. The first Apple-less Macworld just kicking off in SF, and it’ll be interesting to watch it develop into something new. And, no, Steve has not sent me my iPad yet, but with the weather and all, maybe tomorrow. I already have an older-generation version of this, but wish I’d waited, as this Bamboo Fun doubles as a pen-input tablet AND a monster touchpad. For my technophobe friends, food for thought, channeling Plato’s cave via Jason Snell - Celebrating the new: ”The moment any of us stop trying new things because we’re satisfied with what we’ve got, we cut ourselves off from the possibility of something better.“

And if none of that is enough to convince you that you don’t have it so bad, read what made a cabbie appreciate his lot. Recommended. Now do something nice for someone serving in the the Mid east or for someone close to them. Let’s get those folks home.

I just realized that in flying from Japan to Chicago, February 10 has become 39 hours long. No, it's not over, and yes, it feels like it, too, especially not having slept the night of the ninth. Hey, what are vacations for, anyway?

January 24, 2010

Winter drags on, though I can hardly call the weather here "winter". Even at that, there have been some teasers of spring, with some days here getting close to 60 deg F. Before we say goodbye, though, here are some interesting real-life versions of the Calvin & Hobbs snowmen.

Still dark times for B and us in Washington, though, what with the loss of the Massachusetts seat and the saber-rattling of the big money shits. All I can say to the Dems is GROW A PAIR. No better example than our old friend Mr. Dennis Hopper, still raising hell in his final chapter. Go down swinging, my friend. Also from the Testosterone Lounge, some interesting observations from Dick Cavett on…the Duke, aka Marion Mitchell Morrison, aka John Wayne. Scribe William Shakespeare had Dick the butcher suggest that the lawyers be the first to go, but it seems this week they have some rivals. Shameful.

In the tech corner, while we wait until Tuesday for Steve and Apple to revolutionize media again, an interesting look at text input speeds: handwriting, keyboard, stylus, Palm, Newton, iPhone…who knows what we'll be doing using next week. Also worth another look is the Knowledge Navigator from 1987. Yes, 1987. Too old school? OK, take a look at the world of quantum computing.

Good luck you folks down in Haiti.

January 17, 2010

houseHowever bad your week was, it could only have been worse for those stuck in Haiti. Remember to help if you can. The earthquake there reminds us here in Kansai of the Great Hanshin Earthquake that struck here the morning of January 17,1995. Yes, I was here then and survived with only scraped knees, some semi-serious post-traumatic stress, and nominal loss of personal property. My account of it is here, and, yes, I consider myself very lucky. A collection of photos here gives a good look at what it was like, and I think the quaintness of the presentation will really help take you back to 1995. There are a A LOT of pictures; if you're looking for a smaller bite, the first section of pictures from Nishinomiya and Ashiya perhaps delivers the best distillation of the experience. I've scanned some of the pictures I took as I was trying to salvage what I could with the help of David Wright. The building continued to tilt more over the street and was razed a day or two after these pictures were taken.

I don't know what all of you outside Japan will make of it, but the Japan Times had an interesting bit about the deterioration of etiquette. One point to keep in mind is that here, "manners" are much more closely equated with morality or ethics than you imagine. Speaking of ethics, I don't drive a Prius; hell, I don't even have a car. However, I am the last person to lecture anyone who enjoys burning some dinosaurs in sport behind the wheel. No I don't get driving a big ol' SUV around the city, but I certainly do get throwing a small, efficient sports car around corners and running it's engine into the red. And I plan on doing so a lot as soon as I get out of this country that makes driving so…hard. At least I won't feel guilty about trading my ICOCA card (train pass) for the keys to a hot little scoot. Here's why.

Finally, a great big old Happy Birthday to Dave in Nishinomiya.

January 11, 2010

Classes back in session for a final gasp until the "vacation" begins. Watch this space for the irony. A great piece here from Roger Ebert that will not only make you feel good about all that you have (and not in that usual macabre way), but hopefully help you get more out of each day of your life. Sounds sappy, but trust me. To cut any lingering sweetness, he also does a nice collection of Chicago slang. Read it in the frunchroom. But, Roger, I still say it's "sangwich" and not "sammich." Chicagoans?

Now from a time of Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and vampires…a look back at a time, when…well…you'll figure it out. Paul Newman. Hell, yeah. Not that our times are totally bereft of folks too cowed to stray from the PC highway, here's a lingerie ad that will likely get a few firecrackers lit, if not a bomb or two. Here's the English language version of the site where the ad appears.. Get it before it gets pulled. I've avoided posting the link to Facebook or Twitter to give you all a fair shot at it. Now, from the some people have WAY too much time on their hands file…at least they're entertaining us. For any Tea Party folks reading, at least in this regard, I am glad that none of your tax dollars are spent on this nonsense.

Lest you think I've gone all wacko Republican, let me share this moving photo essay of the homeless here in Japan. Thegreggoimages speak more eloquently than I ever could. Again, count your blessings. Help those less blessed.

Finally, ending on a very sad note, a big goodbye to friend Greg Lowndes, who passed on last Saturday here in Osaka. A good man. The world is a poorer place without him. (Clicking on the pic will get you a full-size version.)


January 3, 2010

So far things not a whole lot different from 2009, and that's too bad. Limbaugh is still here, it's cold, and the days are still short. And, though too many years have taught me there's little cause for it, I struggle to hang on to at least slivers of optimism and hope for the new year. Though not exactly a font of optimism, Steve Goodman is a great hero of the (Midwestern? Chicagoan? American?) human spirit and one of my favorite singer-songwriters. Roger Ebert shares my enthusiasm and has a page dedicate to Steve. Worth a look, just as his his music definitely worth a listen.

Staying with the look forward theme, here are some old technologies Macworld would like to leave behind, and I agree with most of them. I especially like their directness: "Bad, redundant and obsolete technologies make life needlessly complex, expensive, irritating and ugly. Let’s get rid of them." Speaking of technologies old and new, I've linked to this before, but it bears another mention. Apple's 1987 "Knowledge Navigator" concept video. Nineteen eighty seven. Worth another look when the new Apple tablet device is announced in a few weeks.

Of course, I can't make an entry here with something about Chicago, so here's a nice collection of people's photographs meant to capture something about living in Chicago in 2009. A lot less snow than you're expecting. I know the holidays have left you neglectful of basic housekeeping, so here's a little help with keeping your display screen nice and clean.

OK, conserving some energy for what this year will be throwing at me, so making this short. Entries from 2009 and previous years archived at the links below. Wishing you all the best in 2010.