Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pirate Booty

I want to go back and read over this more carefully but it is provocative stuff. It isn't the first time I have heard a call to look at Somali piracy in a different light. Interesting.


I apologize to lifting Atrios's post in its entirety, but it is brief enough that summarizing it would just be the same thing.

The Skimmer Economy
Some day I hope more people realize that large segments of our economy don't actually do anything (health insurance, much of finance/real estate), they simply position themselves in the middle of transactions and take their cut. That isn't to say there are no transactions which legitimately require skilled middlemen, or that there is no legitimate function for the finance and banking industries, but to a great degree the skimmers just don't do anything productive at all. Except take our money.

I agree 900%. I wish that people would understand this. That people get rich doing this is seen as validation of the profession, or of their skill, but the odds are that some people are going to get lucky in this field while doing little skillful and contributing nothing to society. That is why I have no problem saying nationalize health care as insurance companies are useless middlemen. Worse then useless they are harmful. As are many positions in the banking industry. All they do is move paper around and think of more and more ludicrous ways to do that while attempting to devalue the real to boost the fake, making or societal priorities take a backseat to fantasy in the process.

What Makes Me Nuts, Education.

I wish I had a scanner at work because I want to show you an example lesson that I made versus one that was made by another teacher here. I should state from the beginning that I like the teachers that I work with, I have always been somewhat lucky in that respect, and I don't think any of them are bad teachers. I just think that the system has never pointed them in the right direction as to teaching English.

If you have never taught in Japan, it is probably hard to imagine the type of mistakes that people make when trying to use English. Everyone knows the stereotype of the bad spellings and misused words. Those exist, but that isn't the main issue. I don't have any of the English essays from last year sitting around but...wait...let me see what I can find. I'm back. The papers I graded are already gone. Sorry. A typical essay will have a theme, but the writer will be at a complete loss to implement it. Writing a basic sentence; subject, verb, object, will be beyond them. This is after three years of daily English study. Most will struggle to reproduce a sentence or phrase that they read and remember. Many will over think and try to include too much. An example sentence might be: I like much play baseball. But that sentence would have the advantage of having a subject. What you need to understand is that, in Japanese, most conversations drops the subject entirely. For example the following conversation is not only possible, it happens almost every day:

The store.
No lettuce.
Give buy lettuce?
Take care.

Now in English that sounds absurd, but if you were used to speaking that way everyday of your life then why would you think of communicating some other way?

Step one in my system: Tell every student all the time that Japanese and English are not even closely related as languages. It is best to not try to think about English using reasoning based on Japanese. Think about it as something completely different.

Japanese system: Translate everything into Japanese and then translate what you want to say back.

That is cumbersome, time consuming and taxing, in my opinion. Added to this is the fact that a lot of things just don't translate well. Take the conversation above.

So, as I didn't change schools this year I developed an initial lesson to set out my goals. For 1st and 2nd graders the lesson looked like this:

I am__________________________.
I am__________________________.
I am__________________________.
I am__________________________.
I am__________________________.

We first discussed what "I" is. Then we talked about "am" and how it can be viewed as an equal sign for "I." First I had them write their name.
I am Ken Watanabe.

I made sure everyone could write their name. Lots of people can't. On the worksheet there are four boxes. The first box is labeled "Feelings." This is all set up as a game. If a team answers questions, they get points. I asked what "feelings" meant. Then I went through the list of feelings from the box, checking the meaning. Then they chose one and wrote it.
I am tired.

Next was nationality. I do this to try and get them to purge "gaikokujin" from their vocabulary. I tell them that it isn't practical in English. I also give them the option of "human."
I am human.

Next is a quality about themselves.
I am tall.

Last is age.

I am thirteen.

That finished, I tell them that their team has a chance to make a comeback. If they come to the front and read their list to the class, they will get three points. Other teams can earn one point if they listen carefully and then tell one thing about the person. For example, "He is tall." Now, what I have done there is tricked them into learning "He is/She is" in about a minute. Nobody has had a big problem with it, but first year teachers go into absolute fits spending a week or so teaching it and saying it is the hardest lesson of the year. It is for them because they try to explain it like a math problem instead of just getting people to say it over and over again in a realish setting.

That is it. That is a lesson that sets up "I am _____" and "He is/She is______" I see these as being the underpinnings of all of their future work and the most commonly misused. It also gives them some new vocabulary that they might forget, but they might remember. It also gives them the ability to introduce themselves or someone else. The first chapter of the textbook isn't terrible in this respect, but I don't think it is great either.

For the 3rd year students I included two extra sentences: "I am interested in _________." and "I am worried about____________." What I want is to make sure that most every sentence starts this way. I have had third year students who use "Me" to begin a sentence. It isn't rare. It is almost common for people to say "Her is _____" instead of "She is________." I think this is mainly the fault of teachers who have a loose handle on English and have no idea what elements are important.

Let's look at the first lesson in the third years textbook. This comes from the New Crown English Series New Edition.

I'll show you a trick. Let's do it together. First, make two rings with the paper. Then, paste them to each other like this. They're pasted at one point. Are you with me? Good. Finally, cut along the rings. Start here and keep cutting. What will happen to the rings?

The picture accompanying the dialogue is one of the main characters, Wang Ming, doing this ring cutting. Now, if all of the students were competent in the basics, then I could see making an OK lesson out of this. There are some useful elements in the reading. But if "I am" and "He is" are still problems, then why are we putting so much extra, non-essential stuff in their brains? What makes it worse is that the teachers have no way of editing what is important and what isn't, so that "cut along the rings" is given equal value as "Finally."

There is one new third year teacher who I am not crazy about and who doesn't like working with ALTs. She insisted on doing this lesson first and skipping my "I am" lesson all together. Towards the end of the year when everyone has to write English essays and do high school interviews in English, which will come in more handy? I think I know, but no one really seems to care. They will just shake their heads and say "We don't know why the scores are so low."


Does anyone else read these on Dailykos. If not, and I don't want to be too serious here, I really think you should. You meaning everyone. At least everyone who is American. They keep track of the servicemen and service women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan everyday and try to say something about who they were and how they came to be in the military. It is terrible and sad everytime.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I made the 45 minute bus ride up to Ohara this Sunday.


Spring was mid springing.


Flowers were flowering.


Wooden ladies carried sticks on their heads.


A good reason not to start forest fires is that they traumatize cartoon animals. Especially ones wearing underwear.


Otonashi Taki is a hoax! Otoari yade, Oto ARI!


Is it spring or not. Make up your mind.


Sakura hangs on for the longest season in years in front of the ancient stone wall of Sanzenji.


Sanzenji interior.


Trees reflected in the pond.


Gremlin playing cute to avoid suspicion.




Legions of tiny dead people.


Little dead person.


Linked in life, linked in death.


See above.


You can't take it with you.


We, who are not yet dead...

I Still Say No

When I was in high school the EPA- I think- held hearings in Pensacola about oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. I remember going. The officials were all seated at a long table on the stage at the Saenger. Various members of the community pleaded with them. I remember coming away with one impression; that it didn't matter, their minds were already made up. Of course I had the right impression because the minds in power are still made up. They get to where they are by being good short term thinkers and fabulous leeches on the system. It must be very hard to stand up in a meeting and say, "We are going to run out of oil at some point so we might as well suck it up and take the hit now." No. They all see the short term dollars and the overwhelming relief of not having to solve a problem. This applies to President Obama as well. What they never factor in to thinking about oil is what huge, huge externalities it forces. For example the picture above. Do you know what this satellite image says to me? It says "Fuck you." In no uncertain terms. It says that where you grew up and what you find important are not. Not important at all. That as long as the profits made with help from public infrastructure cover airfare to the Bahamas, we will drill in the Gulf. As long as the public helps foot the bill and the effort for the clean-up then, hey, accidents happen. As long as the people killed were just people, we will move on. Fuck you. Do you think a wind spill would be this bad? What about a solar spill? I guarantee you that it wouldn't. Imagine one person being killed in a wind power accident. They would try to shut down the whole thing. Add up all of the public money that will go into cleaning this up. Now imagine proposing to spend that on solar. "What a waste in this economy." They will say. "Don't you care about the deficit?"
People will complain that using this spill and the terrible coal mine "accident" as reasons to change policy will be politicizing them. But they were political accidents made possible by political decisions. We all know that coal and oil are finite. To say so is not to insult the people who work in those fields. To use those workers as buffers while writing off their deaths and knowing you will dispose of them as soon as the resource runs out is despicable. "No Blood for Oil" isn't just an outdated protest to the first Gulf War, it is a real and sensible demand. None for coal either. These are dying industries who are worked by people I associate with very much. People I am related to by blood and class. But they are controlled by sociopaths whose only moral code lies in Steve Miller lyrics, "Go on take the money and run." That is a problem. I say fuck you back.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Something is Blocking the Sun!!!

Have I posted a link to this before? If not I will now because it is so rad. How awesome is that picture? How little do I care about Earth Day? Shit like this exists and we were able to do it. That is so bad-ass. I remember the first Earth Day that I can remember. We bought plants and T-shirts at Wal-Mart and planted them in the front yard. The plants, not the T-shirts. It rained and we felt that that had something to do with the environment. Shopping at Wal-Mart. No, wait, shopping really in general negates whatever plants we plant. Now, I am not a survivalist, but maybe I am a priority-ist. We exist on a little spaceship in front of the Sun, just like this one and we have to think about things in those contexts. The ingenuity of Apollo 13 being rescued from disaster is an American folk-legend. Advocating to fix the leak in our spaceship is dubious. I don't care about Earth Day. It will be very hard to role back the clock on consumerism and a World economy. I hope we can generate creative solution so that we can still enjoy the best parts of the society we have now and still maintain. I am skeptical though. We will see.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wedding at Kibune Shrine

Here is a short story I wrote before Christmas. I forgot to post it.

Wedding at Kibune Shrine

Captain Tanaka was getting married at Kibune Jinja as a bee clung to a purple flower that bobbed slowly in front of two stone horses. Cameramen, one for photos one for video moved around to gain position, wearing suits, as an old bald man, who seemed to be in charge of things, tried to make the couple smile. They weren’t unhappy. Yumiko was the friend that always got everyone together for coffee and giggled because it was such an event to take the train and at home they only got instant. Her face was usually white anyway. White and round. But today it was more so under the makeup and the white hood with the white dress. Her teeth were awkward and long and stuck out a little when she smiled with her small mouth in her round face. Her mother stood to the side in a brown kimono looking stern and put upon.

Mr. Tatsumi in the river that ran beside the street below, cleaned the stones with a pressurized hose as the first week of October was the transition between the summer restaurant season with the yuka decks placed over the river, and the fall koyo season when the tourists flocked to the small town in the mountains above Kyoto to experience the changing colors. Down stream people would wonder why the river looked murky today. “Maybe it is a sandy river, and, even though it is pretty, it can look a little clouded.” They speculated and nodded and kept walking. Mr. Tatsumi had a few hundred more rocks to go as he waved at Mr. Kitatatsumi, who was no relation and actually from somewhere to the south-Osaka maybe- drive by in his blue kei-truck, crossing the river on the gravel road to unload some more wooden decks he had taken from over the river to dry.

Captain Tanaka was older than Yumiko by ten years or so. He didn’t particularly like her. This wasn’t meant to be dramatic. He didn’t think he had to like her very much to get married to her. He thought she giggled a little too much and spent too much time with her friends. But he also liked it when she wasn’t around, as long as she had the laundry done and his lunch made. Captain Tanaka had joined the self-defense forces as an extension of his love for replica air-guns. In college, a small college in the city that you might have heard the name of but wouldn’t know where it was, Tanaka and two other friends had often climbed to the roof of the club-kan and shot cats that ran around the cemetery next door with their air-rifles. They could have shot rats and been useful. They could have shot squirrels and been adventurous. But they shot cats and indulged a petty kind of cruelty common in the weak.
Upon entering the Self-Defence Forces, Tanaka found his obsession with guns diminish. Not with air-guns, but with real ones. They were heavy and loud and you had to take them apart and clean them. Once he had to carry one around in the woods and dig a hole and sit in it. A tank parked over his head and he was stuck in the hole with a guy who smoked for the whole night. He decided to move to an office job and order parts for cars that broke down. Tanaka was good enough at tests to get into to the Self-Defence Forces, but he was never considered smart, not even by himself, but it wasn’t something he thought about or would have felt bad about. He liked to watch TV at night and read manga. He like kimchi with his rice and he wanted to buy a van. He passed the years that way until he was captain and his parents told him to get married and someone introduced him to Yumiko but he doesn’t remember who as it really isn’t that important because theirs isn’t a love story. It isn’t a sad story either. It is just boring in the satisfying way that life is when two people who don’t want that much find it and keep it.

Captain Tanaka’s jaw wasn’t square but it wasn’t weak. He didn’t look young or striking but he looked competent and appropriate. The man holding the large video camera was 40 with a young man’s hairstyle and large white teeth. His legs were skinny and strong. The night before he had gone out drinking with his friends and paid for sex in Kiyamachi. He took a shower and went home and slept in the futon his wife had laid out for him. He woke up early and they ate breakfast together. He had a good laugh that made people feel comfortable. His daughter wore pink pajamas and watched cartoons. His other daughter had died in the hospital as an infant and he and his wife still cried about it some nights, but usually seperately. After he had eaten breakfast with is wife in their small, but nice apartment, the man with the still camera picked him up at the station and they drove thirty minutes north into the mountains.

The wood the shrine was made out of looked more white then brown. It shone amid the tall, dark cedar trees which glowed slightly red on a warm fall morning. It was the same color on the outside as the new tatami on the inside as the girls in white and red robes rearranged cushions. People threw coins into the bin and clapped their hands twice and prayed but there was no bell to ring. A group from the college who volunteered with handicapped children had gone on a hike together and now bought mikuji at the stand by the hill. You could lay the paper on the water that ran down from the mountain and pooled on the stones and your fortune would appear. One of the young men was consciously trying to project that he liked hiking all the time. He had a North Face backpack. He really did like hiking, it was just that he never went but he tried to buy North Face when he had the money. He was trying to figure out if any of the girls in the group would go hiking with him some other time and then they could stop at an onsen and maybe they would fall in love. He couldn’t figure out where to buy the mikuji and someone had to tell him.

The mother of the groom stood off to the side, looking uncomfortable. She didn’t have any other children and she didn’t really care for this one. He wasn’t bad. She didn’t hate him. It had just turned out that she was one of those people who wasn’t crazy about children, even her own. She didn’t really like her husband either but she assumed that was the way it was supposed to be. His white tie had been expensive but it looked nice with his suit. He had a small camera and bent over the railing to see if there was anything worth looking at. The cameramen would take care of all of the wedding stuff. That’s what they had paid them for. He hadn’t figured out yet if he was trying to avoid Yumiko’s mother or if she just wasn’t that approachable. She wasn’t approachable. She looked older than she was and didn’t like people in general. If she could have made sense out of not approving of this wedding she wouldn’t have just to keep herself entertained. But Captain Tanaka had a steady salary. He was boring and would take care of Yumiko. Yumiko’s mom hadn’t always been seen like this. 30 years before she had loved to go to discos and was known amongst her friends, which she still had back then, for going home with younger men. She had loved to drink until her friends had to hold her up and she was strong enough to make it to work the next day. But somewhere between marriage and kids she had become a jerk and decided to stay that way. She new people didn’t like her, but she really didn’t like people so it worked out. She looked like a brown twig that someone had tossed into a parking lot and there it had dried out.

Mr. Iwafuji began climbing the stairs to Kibune. He often came here on the weekends from his home in Kyoto. As a young man he had traveled the world training as a boxer and working on cargo ships as an engineer. In his thirties he settled in Kyoto and ran a medical parts business. He didn’t watch boxing much anymore but he was glad he had tried it. He didn’t go to the sea but he liked walking in the woods where he could hear the murmur of water and his wife was glad to have him out of the house on Sundays even though she was happy when he came back. He was small and thin with a big smile and a wide, floppy hat. His clothes were hiking clothes but they were an old man’s hiking clothes. Climbing stairs didn’t hurt him and his knees were still good. His skin was a dark brown and had been as long as he could remember.

At the top of the stairs a girl in her twenties remembered promising her mother that she wouldn’t get pregnant before she got married but she had felt sick all morning and was almost convinced she was going to have a girl. Her boyfriend was from America and was trying to disguise the fact that he was taking pictures of the wedding party. The mother looked lonely and he framed her standing in the gate. As they passed by on the stairs, he wanted to say “Omedetou!” But everything seemed so cold and heavy. A breeze blew up the old, stone stairs on this warm, fall morning.

Yumiko’s father died almost two years before her wedding. He had been a company man and drank too much and smoked too much and his heart gave out in his early sixties. Yumiko sat in her room and cried and cried. Her mother told her she was childish and that it was time to move on with her life. Yumiko used the money she had saved to get a small apartment outside of Osaka. She worked in a medium sized auto parts office answering the telephone and making tea. When she and Captain Tanaka had a kid, he would turn out chubby and not well liked at school. He would see that there was a tape of his parents wedding but he would never watch it. They all lived in an apartment in Uji and Yumiko was happy. Captain Tanaka would have beers after work with his friends and not get that drunk. He would buy a van and buy air-rifles and never show them to his son. He wouldn’t have any affairs but he would sit in the parking lot and watch porn on the TV on the dash of his van. The van was white and had a big sliding door. They got it new with a loan. But, that was still in the future.

Mr. Iwafuji got to the top of the stone stairwell, just at the gate. He saw the mother of Captain Tanaka standing by herself. “Which one is yours?” he asked. “The groom.” Mrs. Tanaka answered smiling for the first time that day. “He’s in the army then?” “Yes.” “You must be very proud.” As Mr. Iwafuji said this, his eyes danced under his broad hat and his slightly crooked teeth seemed brighter in the shade of the cedars. Mrs. Tanaka stood by herself as her husband snooped around the railing. She looked down the stone stairwell at her son in his uniform and her new daughter in law in her white, hooded dress. Mrs. Tanaka wore a tan dress, like a business suit with a corsage. She turned to Mr. Iwafuji and said, “Yes, so very proud.”

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Stikeforce: Nashville

It is refreshing to see that Strikeforce has taken to naming its events after Robert Altman films. I can't wait for Popeye. The great thing about this card is that I don't have much to discuss about the undercard as it is complete grabage unless you are from Nashville and your friends are on it.

Miller vs. Stout

Who is Tim Stout? I don't know. All I can say is that he is going to be Mayhem's sparring dummy for as long as Miller feels like getting his work out. If they were going to do this kind of things, they could have just done an exhibition. Miller will probably use this as a good opportunity to work on is stand-up to get ready for the Lawler fight. I imagine he can submit Stout pretty much any time he wants. Of course, in MMA, anyone can beat anyone. But the odds are against it. Miller by whatever whenever.

Melendez vs. Aoki

This fight interests me greatly. We will finally be able to answer the question, "How many times can a very simple name be mispronounced in one telecast?" I am guessing over 20. "Ow" like as in "Ow that hurts." Plus "Key" As in "I lost my key." It isn't hard. Nevertheless.... Aoki is such a phenom as a grappler that his skills are like a striker with absurd knock-out power, he can win the fight given the slightest opportunity. Melendez, who like to scramble, needs to be careful to never leave himself open when he establishes contact. Given that Melendez's striking is miles beyond Aoki, who will never be that good standing, Melendez would be better served using his wrestling to keep Aoki off of him and making contact as seldom as he can. That isn't his instinct, but it would be a good strategy. I don't know that Aoki's lack of tights in this fight make any difference, I do think the cage will. Melendez is solid and powerful. Aoki is known for being fragile. I can see Melendez just putting him in a corner of the cage and working on him until he breaks. However, as I stated earlier, all it takes is one small mistake, one wrong position or placement of a hand or foot and AOki can blow out a knee or wrench an arm. It is a very interesting fights and I want both fighters to do well. I think the cage and the 5x5 rounds bends the advantage towards Melendez and that he can hurt Aoki for a 4th round TKO. I would be just as stoked to see an Aoki sub though. They are both solid fighters. I should mention that I think Melendez training with the Diaz brothers prepares him for a lot that Aoki can do on the ground. A lot, but not all. Look for Melendez to establish the jab early.

Mousasi vs. Lawal

Another great, great fight. Has there been anyone else like Lawal who has come into the sport with such ridiculous talent paired with a great mind for fighting? I can't think of any. He is a rare talent both physically and mentally. I can't think of anyone who talks strategy and approach with as much knowledge and objectivity. Mousasi is also preternatural. He has the in-fight composure that we have only seen out of Fedor. I don't know how to call this fight and that makes me excited to watch it. Mousasi is such a technical striker with very good defense, which is rare in MMA. Lawal is also a gifted striker, although he has a bit less clean approach to punching. They both have real power. Mousasi has been impressive off the ground, however Sokudjo was able to take him down a little too easily. I have to think that Lawal will be able to get him on the ground. If he can threaten from their or stand back up, I think he can take the fight with movement and econmocial striking. I Lawal is routinely successful at take-downs and positions he will be able to get a TKO sometime in the later rounds. Do I have to call it? The only dividing line I can see is Mousasi's big fight experience. errrr... I think it is a great fight either way. Mousasi by decision.

Henderson vs. Shields

This is the easiest fight for me to call. I have said before every Henderson fight that I feel that he might be the best athlete in the sport. I also have said that while not being dumb, he fights dumb. He gets into the other guys fights. Why? To get into Jake Shields fight, he would have to throw himself on the ground and let Shields crawl on top of him. I doubt that will happen. Shields is too small at this weight and has no striking to back up his off the charts grappling. Shields is good with take-downs but not great. Henderson has absurd punching power, can't be knocked out and is very hard to submit. The lack of a striking threat from Shields will mean that Henderson won't have to put that much energy into the stand-up and can fight off sub attempts. If Shields can set a manic grappling pace then he might be able to wear Henderson down, but when has he ever set a manic pace? I like Shields a lot, and feel that he is one of the best fighters in the sport, but this is a terrible, terrible style match-up for him. Henderson by epic KO in the 3rd.

This is a great main card, enjoy it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

New Teachers

There is a new teacher at my school. She is an older lady. She teaches English. This year before classes started I typed up a list of things I wanted to discuss with the other English teachers before we began teaching classes. The meeting was brief and not as productive as I would have liked but most of the teachers were willing to talk about the points that I had brought up and how we should conduct class. This new teacher didn't come. The first time I spoke to her, even though her desk is a few feet away from mine, was the morning before we had to teach our first class together. I had assumed we would be doing the lesson that I had planned and was doing for every other class. No. She informed me we would be doing the ridiculous "Magic Rings" lesson from the first page of the book. She even told me what to say. "You will say 'Today we have a special lesson: A trick show." "I don't think 'trick show' is English." I told her. Not any kind of English we want to teach. I did this lesson last year and I think it is a terrible first lesson for 3rd year students. It contains nothing of value and is about a Chinese guy doing a magic trick with paper. The good parts of it are that all of the students can participate in doing something. I like that, but I would rather them being trying to speak English. Also, it wastes tons of papers. One student called me over, "Wesley, why are we doing this?" "I don't know. Let's just play along." "Ok, but it is kind of boring." "I think so too."

Today, the new head of English at school, who I believe got the post off of my recommendation to the principal asked me what I thought of the new teacher. "She seems like a teacher. She isn't bad, but I don't know if she can teach English." "Well, to put it frankly, she hates working with ALTs. (my job) She had some bad experiences in the past. Some of them quit. So she is not interested in working with you."

I think that anyone who has worked as an ALT, or maybe any foreigner in Japan knows this story. I hear it all of the time when I say that we shouldn't have to work as temps with no job security. "Well, there was some trouble in the past." But this is where the arguments about phasing out the concept of gaijin comes into full effect in my life. Let me demonstrate. My counterargument goes like this: A lot of teachers in my position have had problems with Japanese English teachers too. Does that mean we can dismiss working with them? Now, if this argument was met with "I see your point but...." or "I disagree, you aren't a real teacher." Then I could pose another line of discussion, but it is met with that odd gap of silence in which you can firmly see nothing happen that is hard to explain to someone who hasn't lived here. The thought actually cannot be processed. We have to be seen as a quantifiable group with common traits and qualities, not a diverse group of people whose only commonality is a language and a career path. Another ALTs troubles are conferred on to me. I can never have autonomy as a teacher and will always be a representative of a falsely constructed group. If the discussion ever goes deeper, and it usually only does amongst non-Japanese, I bring up the Japanese teachers who have been caught with girls in the pool after dark. Or the teacher this month busted molesting a boy on the train. Not to mention the drunks and washouts and morons who manage to get jobs as professional teachers. No. They fail on their own merits. We, falsely constructed we, have to dwell in the subjective reminiscences of myopic racists.

As a brief end note I must add that I think it goes without saying that the reason people quit jobs like mine is that they don't pay enough, there is no job security, and the only repsect you get is the little bit you work hard to make for yourself. I love lots of elements of my job, but people shouldn't be looked down on for leaving a job that is of no real benefit to them. It isn't a career and you get fired on a whim. Then, the excuse for not providing you with stability is that you aren't stable. I would be if I was paid a living wage and given a contract.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Job Well Done

I had missed out on the story that famed educator Jamie Escalante had passed away. I never saw the move about him, as tough school teachers struggling against the odds weren't really my cup of tea back then. Now? Haha. Yet I feel like he represents all of us in a way. In fact, reading some of the criticism of him I felt like he represents us even more. I can't find the exact website where I read the critique of his methods but the gist of it was that his students just learned by rote and didn't understand the concepts of calculus. I feel like this is an argument that I might have listened to at some point but certainly not in the last two years. Now all I wonder is whether his students made it into college or not. The answer seems to be that they did at a much higher rate then their peers. Good. Whether they did it by rote or by skill or by computer chips implanted in their brain, I don't care. The important part is that they got out of somewhere and got into somewhere else. Having taught in several schools known for being bad, I have to say that that is pretty much the most that I can hope for some of my students, even though it will never happen for a lot of them. I wish I could communicate to the person who wrote "But they don't understand the concepts" how little I care. Do you think that getting into college made them have less opportunities in life? Did their high test scores not enable them to find another field they were interested in? Furthermore, how many people who do understand the concepts don't understand other things in other fields? Are they crippled in their effectiveness as humans somehow? I doubt it. I am telling you now, I will teach my students any tricks and any methods that I think will give them a chance to have a choice about how their lives turn out. Would I rather give them a solid liberal arts education? Sure. Is that the system most of us find ourselves in? No. Congrats Jamie. Job well done.

End note: I am also attracted to this as it says something very positive about America that a man from Bolivia was able to become an esteemed teacher. I am not saying anything. I am just saying.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Numbers are In

I realize that very few of you who read this care that much about the inner workings of MMA fights, but this seemed really interesting to me. In the fight this weekend between (my favorite fighter) BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar, BJ Penn lost his championship belt on, what seemed to me among many others, a dubious decision. Soon after the fight was finsihed, the FightMetric numbers came in. Here they are. I had the bout pretty much as they have it scored in the right-hand column. Douglas Crosby's now notorius 50-45 has Edgar winning every round. Now, how does someone who does this for a living and is sitting ringside (not that that is an improvement over TV) perceive something so opposed to reality? Maybe there could be an argument that Edgar hits much harder than Penn and Penn was just throwing pitty-pat strikes, but we know pretty much the opposite to be true. Here is a more elaborate breakdown. Crosby insits that he has rewatched the fight and is still correct. Strange things are afoot. Absurd.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Perplexing Case of Ms. Kubota

My school is so large that it gets two ALTs. ALT being a native speaker of English assigned to a school. I am here every day, the other person on Mondays and Fridays. Last year we had an intelligent young lad whose Japanese was exceptional. He left because we are only on a two month contract right now. Understandable. His replacement is a very nice lady with no bad intent in her, I think, which makes me hope that she never reads this. Is her name really Ms. Kubota? Close enough. Should I begin the mystery from the deep end or start into it slowly? When everyone who works for my company went to the board of education to do our greetings, she was very concerned about how much Japanese we would have to speak. She struggled to make it through her meagre two sentence introduction. I felt bad for her. Not everyone has to come to Japan speaking Japanese. I didn't find out until a little later that her last name was Kubota. Curious. Not crazy though as there are plenty of Japanese men in America. When we broke up into independent meetings with our schools she went over her resume. She has been teaching in Japan for over twenty years and has two junior high school age children. Indignation. Indignation but not condemnation. True I have a bias against non-Japanese in Japan rolling over and playing dead, but we all have different priorities in life. I postulated theories. It could be that her husband is a great English speaker, so too are her daughters and everyone gets by fine and her focus is on her family. So I broached the topic at school:

"Your husband must speak English well."
"No. He tried to study for a little bit, but...."
"Really? How do you guys communicate?"
"Well you talk about the same thing every day anyway right?"
"Hmmm. Your daughters must be very good at English."
"That is very kind of you, but no, they can't speak English."
"So how do you talk to them?"
"Oh, you know, it is pretty much the same thing every day."

But I don't know that at all. That is crazy. Is it not? What is your life? Don't you at least get curious and wonder, "What are these people who I live with saying?" Even if you were set on the laziest mode possible, wouldn't twenty years of living somewhere penetrate your brain? Am I wrong to find this perplexing? Realize that I am not being that demanding here. If I were to say it in English, her level would correspond to someone who couldn't say "This is a table." or "How's the weather?" This is beyond odd. There is also the- inevitable with me- political aspect. I have put in a long time yelling that people who aren't Japanese shouldn't be treated like tourists or part-timers and here is someone who has dedicated themselves to being completely comfortable with being non-functional. Can't play with it. Can't win with it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

UFC 112: Undisputed King of Nothing

Commissioner Dana White cocked his arms like machine guns and chomped on an invisible cigar. "Baaaaa! Baaaaaaa!" He barked, "I'm gonna kill y'all just like that. Just like Pearl Harbor. Baaaa! Baaaa! That's what you get for bringing your kids to a battle." He chuckled. "Just playin'" As Joe Rogan in a Burqa took a drag from his wheeled hookah.

Madsen vs. Al-Turk

Al-Turk has the experience and I think the technical superiority, but his in the cage luck seems to be all dried up. Madsen hasn't lost yet, but he hasn't fought anybody. I don't really care who wins this. It is more of a test to see who belongs at the fringes of the division. Either can take it. I will go against the momentum and pick Al-Turk by a split decision if he figures out how to parry a jab.

Kelly vs. Veach

Either guy can take this too. Kelly has been a surprise and is better than I ever thought he would be. In my mind he was destined to be UK card fish food, but he has got a bit of an energetic game. Veach has also shown a lot of aggressiveness in the cage. I am also undecided on this but I see Kelly being game and getting a 3rd round TKO. A tossup.

Blackburn vs. Johnson

Again, neither fighter is someone that I am sold on. And rightfully so, that is why they are on the undercard, so we can figure out what game they really have. This match-up is more interesting to me than the previous two, however. Blackburn can strike and Johnson can choke. I don't know how they match up together, but I think Blackburn's knees are a real danger. If Johnson's take-downs are effective, he can wrap things up pretty quickly. That will be where this is contested; take-down defense vs. take-downs. Seeing as Blackburn trains with some good grapplers, I think he has enough to escape. Until I am sold on Johnson's wrestling ability, I go with Blackburn by KO in the 2nd.

Story vs. Osipzak

Osipzak has been very impressive in his improvement through his short career. He has made the switch from kung-fu dude to real fighter, a rough transition. Story, however has subbed someone through arm-triangle while in his card. That is real man strength that cannot be messed with. I see that being the deciding factor. Story by sub in the 3rd.

Davis vs. Gustafsson

Davis beats Gustafsson to death with Dwight Howard's shoulders which he somehow hijacked and implanted on his own body. Davis's wrestling is way too much here. Davis by TKO in the 1st.

Gunderson vs. Taylor

I like Gunderson's sub record, but Taylor is more proven on the big stage. I like Taylor's kick-boxing, but I am not sure if the drop in weight really helps him. I think Taylor can smack him around for a 3rd round KO.

Etim vs. dos Anjos

I like both of these guys a whole lot. Etim is a slick grappler whose kickboxing has really come on. I think he does a very good job with distance and angles. He also fights with some degree of solid strategy. Somewhat of a rarity unfortunately. dos Anjos also has some sweet stand-up with painful, painful leg kicks. I really love watching both of these guys fight and I don't care which one gets the win. I think the deciding factor will be that dos Anjosis a good enough grappler to not fall prey to Etim and his stand-up is a little more rugged. I see dos Anjos earning a decision.

(Well shit, I went out to drink and I came home and the fights had started. It had only been three Guinness and some sake and umeshu and whatever else was forced down my gullet. Now I could just check some of the results and retype everything like the Washington press corps. Will I finish anyway? Yes we can! With a house full of three drunk Japanese birds, one who has just broken this plastic thing attached to my window and knocked over the mirror.)

Munoz Vs. Grove

I really like Kendall Grove. The skills he possesses are impressive and intriguing. However, he has the beard of a 12 year-old girl. He has less chin than a recessive gene royal. It is a real liability and one that can't be trusted to the grown man world of 4 ounce gloves. Now, that being the case, can one not say pretty much the same of Mark Munoz? Well, maybe he has the beard of a pre-teen trailer park resident. But he also has very good wrestling. I hesitate to say "world-class." But he hasn't been able to put his stamp on MMA wrestling. Kendall Grove has a better total package but a more overwhelming liability. That is why I have no trouble seeing Grove win with slick grappling or aggressive striking, but I can't pick him. His chin is too weak for me to give him that credit, even though I like his game much more. Munoz by TKO in the 2nd.

Gracie vs. Hughes

Has anyone grown to be more respected in the sport, and deservedly so, than Renzo Gracie. He is a fighter to love and to be treasured. He was literally stabbed in the back during a fight in Brazil. He was a complete package as a fighter when the packages were never complete. Of course those days have passed him by and he is left being a clever grappler on the seniors circuit with an interesting pass and a plethora of students who hail his name. Again, deservedly so. Matt Hughes, the dilettante farmer, the faux redneck, the scion of mediocrity and the upper middle-class, is a true high-level black belt with out the cloth strip to wear. His guard passing is phenomenal, his top control is undeniable. He has been the best at his sport for a long time. That long time endde a year or so ago. What is Hughes now? What is he without Militech? What is he without a belt? Does he have any drive left? Even though I don't like him, I find it hard to pick against him. However, I am a child of mid-90s MMA and nothing would make me happier than to see Renzo pull it out. I am betting on Hughes getting lazy. I am betting on Hughes not caring. Has any of these things ever been true? No. Hail Mary full of Grace. Renzo by arm bar. 1st round.

Penn vs. Edgar

It is no secret that Penn is my favorite fighter of all time. He shouldn't be. He is the baby son of a wealthy family who never had to work and was able to indulge his outrageous talent in private BJJ lessons wherever he felt like traveling. Why? Why/ Because not only is his talent preternatural so is his application of his skills. He is a grappling champ who has become, perhaps, the best boxer in the sport. He is a submission machine who uses an effective jab. He can wrestle and he won't be taken down. BJ Penn is a very smart fighter. In MMA, everybody has a chance to win. That is why it is interesting, but Frankie Edgar has no real chance. He is a very good wrestler and boxer but he has none of the tools to beat Penn who has never showed signs of a weak chin or easily cut able skin. This might go to decision if Edgar keeps moving, but I doubt it. KO 4th round for Penn.

Silva vs. Maia

I have always said that if anyone can beat Silva it is Maia. But then again, I said the same thing about Dan Henderson. As unbearably good as Silva is as a striker, Maia is every bit that good as a grappler. The real issue is that Anderson Silva can grapple too. Not nearly on the same level as Maia, buit his defense is outstanding. Maia has underrated wrestling and Silva not great take-down defense. The further the fight goes on, the more chance that SIlca plants and fist or a knee on Maia. I don't think this fight make sit much past the second. If Maia wins, it will be very quick on a hell hook or knee-bar in the 1st. Maybe a choke, but I don't think so. Reality says that Silva wins by KO in the 2nd, but I will be happy either way. Two great fighters.

The fights are happening right now Arash!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tough Notebook

When I was in high school I used to tell Summer that I was on the hunt for a "tough-looking notebook" but I could never quite define what that was. I pictured it easily accommodating archeological digs and drunken poetry rambling like a thermos or a flask. I found one at Urban Outfitters somewhere and I kept notes in it my whole first year of college until a chunk fell out of the middle. I am sure that chunk was the most genius work I will ever produce. I still have the remnants. Sometime in the last few years Moleskine has risen from its grave, thankfully but ubiquitously. I am a fan. Here are some things you can do with them.


I ran across this recently and although it is not really up my alley I am putting it out there for two reasons.

1: This guy's use of pedals, especially the digital delay, is pretty remarkable but still this side of a gimmick.

2: Rush, who he is covering, is an odd case. On paper they suck, in reality they often suck( not as technical musicians of course, but in theme and flavor) but occasionally, musically and lyrically they stop singing about bad fantasy novellas and lame abstract half-ass philosophy bullshit and get it exactly right. For my money "Spirit of Radio" is one of the best songs ever. Impossible, but true. And subdivisions ain't bad either.

D'oh and D'oh

You know, sometimes doing things the easy way is the way you should do them because they are easier that way.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Here is a good list of fish to eat...and not. Good news for me; U.S. shrimp are good for every9one. Bad news for me; I don't live in the U.S.

Happy Easter

I always forget the Christian holidays thee days. Sorry.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Florida Panthers

Yes, I am here to talk hockey. Wait. No. Check this out. Florida panthers are living in an abandoned reclaimed Everglades subdivision. What really interest me about this is the notion of shutting down failed subdivisions and turning them back into actual pieces of the world. That is another huge benefit to lowering population growth that America refuses to think about, and Japan gets entirely wrong. Due to Kyoto's declining population lots of unused elementary schools are turned into public theaters and museums. Very nice.

Pair that with this piece that I put up on Facebook (pointed out by Alana) last week. Think of how much better Florida would be if people's beach front vacation homes were rendered back into nothing. Not to mention all of the go-kart tracks, t-shirt shops and strip malls that accompany them. I could go on about this article forever but I don't feel like sorting out all of my issues with the issue. I would have to say that, given that it is a barrier island, nothing should be done to save any home built on Holiday isle. Buying there is stupid. Building there is stupid. Telling people not to use the beach is stupid. Having buildings south of 98 is stupid, conceptually. Any further building in Destin is stupid and has been for a long time. While part of me saying this is out of gross sentimentality it also comes from more disciplined places. I think Destin, seeing cheap money is only putting itself in a downward spiral that will only be arrested by global climate change and the natural course of nature. How do I rectify this with my view that people shouldn't have trespassed on my grandmother's beach? Good question. I am sure I have an answer.

(Update: Here are some good links on the topic.)

I am trying to find a study on specifically what I was talking about but I am having trouble. "Aspenization" is mentioned heavily and is slightly different but also applicable. Aspenization is when an area becomes suddenly popular and wealthy people move in to build lavish second homes and land prices and property taxes shoot up forcing the middle class out to surrounding cities, commuting in by car while other people move in to take low-paying service jobs and live in cheap rentals, thus destroying the middle class base of a city.

Friday, April 2, 2010


This was also kind of cool and made me miss my major. I think we have a great poverty of ideas and initiative right now. Drug store lighting sucks out my soul through my eyeballs.


I worry that future generations will forget this video.


There is some really good information in this article. I am a big fan of the weighting mistake. Wait, that came out wrong. I am a big fan of people being aware of the weighting mistake. I am wondering where this research leaves me. I commute almost 2 hours, each way, to work. That is awful. But it is on a very nice train. That is good. I can read. I can study. I listen to the radio. I look out the window. I drink tea. On the whole though, it is terrible. I, however, didn't fall prey to the weighting mistake. I made a choice about where I wanted to live and have been slowly transferred away from it. That being said, I live in probably the most livable neighborhood in one of the most livable cities in the world. I think my happiness index is a file cabinet in reverse alphabetical order.

To further comment on the article, I like where I lve because:

My apartment is small but not tiny. It doesn't have a great view and the windows could be larger. That being said, it is very open and next to a long covered market that sells fresh produce and seafood. Beyond that market is the river and the greenbelt that stretches north/south the length of Kyoto. Right now it is covered in cherry blossoms. The rivers merge in a park directly down the street from my house. From the bridge you can see Daimonji-yama, the mountain that hovers above the city. Two minutes in the opposite direction of the river is the old Imperial castle grounds, which are now a giant park and also covered in cherry blossoms. All of things where taken into account when I decided on this house. Studying economics and psychology can pay off for you. If only in little fleeting bits. I had a planning book in college that supposed that American notions of grand living came from images of Greek temples, raised and solitary. Japan can be cramped and squalid but the public green-space available in Kyoto is remarkable. This is all what I was going to be being paid to study right now, by the way. Good thing they gave money to somebody else.

I wonder if that happiness study factored in people who commute a long way because they really love their jobs? Hmmm.

attempting to silence the voices in my head.