Monday, May 29, 2006

Random thoughts: 28-May-2006

So, apparently, there's a problem with viewing this blog on IE. I switched to Firefox a long time ago, when something got into the system that now forces IE to allow all pop-ups, regardless of whether I have the blocker turned on or not. My instinct tells me to tell all of you to switch to a more reasonable browser, but netiquette (an old-school word, I know) compels me to try and find the error, and as a last resort change the template to something that may work better.

I'll be heading home in a few hours, after I teach my last panel, due to end at 3:30PM. I'm ready to sleep in my own bed; I know it's only been two days. You try fighting jet lag for a week, see how flexible you are.

Saturday morning classes when I worked in Japan were perhaps the most demanding of the week, as students were invariably drinking and/or partying the night before to celebrate the end of the work week for them. This morning's Japanese class had a similar feeling. I think the point got across, and some people had fun, no doubt. And it was not boring, I hope. I was concerned, however, with the ambience. After the Saturday night dance and masquerade at Anime Boston, those can only make you not want to get out of bed until noon or so. Maybe the next one will be livelier.

(I will emphasize again: this morning's class was not bad, it was just lacking the spirit of the two classes prior)

I'm so fishing for a commissioned self-portrait of myself, something I can use to advertise my services, as some people have requested during the convention. In Japan, a teacher can get away with teaching English privately at $100 an hour. Here in America, Japanese is in low demand, but teachers, I imagine, seem to be in short supply too. (here belonged a sentence where I suggested a price, but I'm gonna hold back until I get a better idea of what I want to do) Anyways, you're always free to email me if you're interested in instruction and live in the New York area.

Crooks and Liars has an entry on Goldberg and Klein going on about Gore here: I thought the cotton candy ephemera doesn't come out until one month before Election Day. I didn't know that the former VP learned French. If he did, that's great. If he didn't, I don't really care. This is a non-story.

Train's at 6:30. Definitely catching some sleep then. Maybe I'll miss my stop and end up in Grand Central. Then I'll get really uptight.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Lesson Four

As promised, Lesson Four, tomorrow at 2:30PM. These are posted just in the event of a full room, as I will not be printing enough for a room of 70 (I will order 50 copies at Kinko's, as I have other literature to produce for the convention).

Accost me at the con anytime today or tomorrow! I should dress up soon.

Sodium bicarbonate

It's amazing how a Cheesecake Factory-sized Caesar salad can cause so much indigestion. OK, there was also the Amtrak up to Boston, the couple of hours walking around with forty pounds of luggage in weather not fit for wearing a jacket, and the continued jet lag that continues to haunt my sleep cycle.

Otherwise, I'm having lots of fun up here.

No, seriously, Anime Boston is great. Haven't seen nearly enough of what I wanted to in the first day, but those video games look pretty cool (the game center that I went to in Hiyoshi was torn down in favor of developers wanting to drop another apartment building into the area, so I've been out of it). There are some titles on the schedule I've been meaning to watch, too. Wish I could be more specific than that; some of the time was spent walking around downtown, and get a feel for the place, as it's only been my third time in Boston.

The rest of the time was devoted to the Japanese Language Basics panel. Preparation, execution, that sort of thing. The overview and final thoughts were received very well (and if you missed it or missed the chance to get your question answered, I'll be here through the convention all weekend; I'm wearing my NYU t-shirt with denim jacket and private investigator's hat), but it is no surprise that the most difficult thing about teaching a language is the teaching. Training is invariably several times easier than class time, when theory goes out the window along with students' confidence. The former is alright to throw out, as is the latter in the beginner's stages. It's perfectly fine to feel dazed and confused when an immersion environment is being attempted. This is the time when you're not analyzing language and just trying to figure out through context just what is being said. Students often forget how to do that at the upper levels, and it should be enforced as often as possible.

For me, it was a lot of fun, and I know it was for many. There may be a few who thought there was a better way to deliver the panel, and for those and others, you can always email me at Please tell me how I can make the panel better for future conventions, I hope I can grab a few suggestions before the last class is taught.

So, I've uploaded all of my documents so far, and I'm still planning Lesson Four for tomorrow. I'll have that uploaded sometime tonight. In the meantime, here are the links: - handout for main panel w/ Lesson One - Lesson 2, today @ 9PM - Lesson 3, tomorrow @ 10AM

Some of my former students have said my Japanese blog doesn't show up for them. It works fine for me, so if it doesn't work for you and you know the problem, please let me know. I always wish I could design and run my own blog on my own website, but I'd go crazy doing that, so I have to depend on Blogger. Which has been good to me so far, but on this one important thing...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Tangible Hopes

So, I'm eating an honest-to-God cheeseburger for the first time in forever at some diner near the Village, when a person who is somewhere between homeless and barely stable, upon first impression, walks in and asks for a glass of water. Much to my surprise, the owner gives it him without question, knowing full well he'll never get a cent out of this non-customer. After seeing people at Burger King get scolded for sneaking in and using the bathroom without ordering, and being in places in Japan where niceties are only assured when there is the possibility that the cash register will get rung up, I never expected such a thing, and it's nice to see it when it happens.

Yes, I saw "An Inconvenient Truth" earlier today. There was so much of Al Gore in it that you can't think he's not at least thinking about the White House (and he should be thinking about it, if you ask me - he is one of the few who could win, given the right circumstances), but that's not what I want to write about.

Republicans love to throw up words like doomsday and extreme - ironically, to tout their own worst-case scenarios about terrorism and, at the same time, dismiss the urgency of addressing global warming. When it's on the former, 9/11 gave the right wing free license to paint an extremely vague future that still sent fearful voters into the arms of an uncurious, simple-minded President. Without the World Trade Center, terrorism would have been just something that people ought to keep their eyes out for just in case. Now, it is their object example of what terrorism was capable of. They will never need another in this generation. Americans are convinced because a very distinct and relevant part of it is now so specific. The rest of the blanks need not be filled in.

Liberals, however, aim to be a more meticulous bunch. Not just at the think tank level, where conservatives may very well outshine in ambition but are hopefully matched in effort, but at the ground level where the voters are. Al Gore, with his PowerPoint presentation, invited the President to learn something new or at least hear a different perspective and was refused in the process. Undeterred, he goes to the people. He says he must have done this presentation "thousands of times." Let's be safe and say hundreds, or just a hundred. That's still a lot of people.

That's the width of the effort. The depth is the detail into which Gore goes into global warming and its consequences. I was convinced since elementary school that cars cause pollution cause greenhouse effects cause the melting of the ice caps causes flooding. But through correlation, logic, and deduction, Gore put on such a convincing argument, that even if it were only half true, it was still very frightening.

And it was a movie that yielded frightening prospects. It could have ended there, leave it to viewers to figure out for themselves whether or not they have the motivation to make the necessary changes to avert crisis. Like conservatives' nightmares of terrorism, the movie could have offered up no solutions and only fears.

The last ten minutes, however, saw a positive shift in the tone of the movie. Not only are people capable of reversing climate change, not only have people made inroads toward such a reversal, but they are also capable of undoing nearly two centuries of damage in only a fraction of that time. Given renewable energies, alternate forms of transport, etc., and the scope through which ordinary people can influence the growth of those new tools and technologies, carbon emissions could be eliminated completely in the most ideal case. As a sweetener, America could lead this effort and make a ton of money out of other countries following behind. With economic infeasibilities gone, the only ingredient missing, then, is the will to do it.

I believe that could be true, but it is harder than a dream scenario proposes. The point is, on the other hand, that it is a hopeful scenario. "An Inconvenient Truth" could have still been very convincing if Al Gore were to end his presentation at the point where the melting of the Antarctic sinks major parts of New York. Yet, it continued and ended on a note of optimism of a future that isn't written yet. Conservatives are often incapable of doing the same thing, as a conservative ideology always evolves (or flip-flops) based on their idea at the time of a simpler, worry-free, imagined past. The future for Republicans is always too uncertain for it to yield a positive result. So you have gay marriage bans and corporate subsidies and feel-good bombs, all to reclaim what is supposedly lost.

Clinton Democrats (whether centrist or leftist) try to steer clear of that instinct, instead opting to try and create something new based on a hope for the future they possess. Since 9/11, it's been very difficult to get that feeling, especially in these times. But Al Gore endeavored to show that very Democratic ideal. He succeeded, and in my book, that is what makes his warnings all the more convincing.

EDIT - my mistake; the AP article says Gore has, in fact, given the presentation more than a thousand times.

Sixty cents a day

I'm at the web2zone in Union Square, just planning lessons for later this week and waiting on my advisement appointment at NYU. Just saw "An Inconvenient Truth" at the theater, and I'll offer up my thoughts on that later. It will not be a review, though, I'll leave that to other people.

But on the way here, I was approached by someone named Venus (at least I think so, I had an earphone in one ear listening to music), who is working/volunteering for Children International. <-- you will now click on this link, just as I have looked it up the moment I got here to fulfill a promise

She was very persuasive, and even for me without a job, I felt really bad refusing to sign-up to sponsor a child. Our family used to sponsor a girl from South America when I was in elementary school, and I can't tell you to put aside any doubts you may have, but I have always thought it was worthwhile. It's just something I haven't given much thought since then. So, do one for me and go to the link, think about it and see if you have the desire to take those next steps after that.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The local time is 9:55AM

To my ex-students: yes, I will get to the emails very soon.

Just got back, and boy did I bring home a lot of stuff.

The Japanese Language Basics panel at Anime Boston has been moved to Friday at 6PM (from 1:30PM). Which is great, because now all the boys and girls don't have to skip school. Also, the supplementary class at Saturday at 10PM has been moved up to 9PM. Sunday classes stay the same.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

"Yo, that's awesome" literally what I said at the end of watching the video clip in question.

So, one Guy Goma, mistaken for Guy Kewney, an IT expert called upon by the BBC to give his take on the recent Apple trademark nonsense (despite how much I love my iPod, I will always be a PC guy, and can't help but not take it seriously as I read about it), gets to go on television and offer some keen insight into the inevitability of media downloading.

Mr. Kewney, who was waiting in reception at the BBC, watching the television as his double ("double", that's funny; compare the white, bearded IT professional to the Congolese IT jobseeker) steals his lines, wrote about it on his own blog.

It is true; anyone can make the big time.

Monday, May 15, 2006


(no need to translate, there's no special meaning that you'll want to recite like some animated hero from Gundam executing his attack as if his opponent cares what he's saying)

So, I will be at Anime Boston four days after I return to America. Prepare for jet lag.

If you will be there, please stop by Panels 101 at the Hynes Convention Center, where I will give the panel titled "Japanese Language Basics" on Friday at 1:30PM. It is two hours and will entail a model lesson in the middle, so you'll definitely want to stick through the entire panel.

But wait, there's more!

Jackie Lavanche, my new best friend and panel coordinator at the convention, has generously given me three more spots during the weekend to give additional one-hour Japanese classes. Like the main panel, they will be for elementary students. Please look me up on Saturday at 10PM, and Sunday at 10AM and 2PM, either in Panels 101 or in the Workshop room.

Rest assured, I will be promoting these panels during the convention, so if you are not certain, information will be abundant at convention time.

Of course, the natural tendency will be to ask what Japan is like; so track me down while in Boston, I can go on and on about life over here.

No Need For Panic

Seriously, there isn't. But what does that mean, exactly?

After getting to see Al Gore's Saturday Night Live performance, it got me to dive deeper into what he's been up to all this time (because, honestly, I haven't paid that much attention). Yeah, I heard about the movie he's promoting, "An Inconvenient Truth," but it was little more than a passing interest for me. Everyone knows about global warming and how bad it can really get. When the planet itself and most living organisms are mostly composed of water, you shouldn't be surprised that it would nearly engulf what little land does remain dry at this point.

America doesn't really worry about global warming because we are the fourth biggest nation in the world - or so it was in my children's encyclopedia growing up, so I guess the breakup of the USSR changes things, but whether or not it does is beside the point. But I watched the millennium celebrations on television, and the first place in the world to experience 2000 - Kiribati - is a small island in the Pacific, and according to the late Peter Jennings and the ABC News crew, it would be swallowed up by the oceans because of rising temperatures and the melting of the ice caps.

Let's be honest: no one really connected climate change to hurricanes until Katrina. The destruction of both Apollo 1 and Columbia was a failure of imagination. Yeah, I'm sure it's possible that terrorists ram a few airplanes into innocent people - I watched Ben Hur - but no one ever prepared for it. No one sees a disaster happening until it happens, actually.

So whether or not you believe the three or four ultra-conservative, reactionary bloggers and the oil companies that pay them, and insist that global warming did not drown New Orleans with a Cat 4 hurricane, is not important. Half of those bloggers acknowledge global warming exists in the first place anyways, and everyone who acknowledges it exists says that sea levels will rise because of it, a gradual concern that is seperate from the immediacy of crises like big freaking storms.

Al Gore's nightmare scenario is the oceans rising by twenty feet, should entire pieces of the Arctic disappear from the map. Let's say it was only a quarter of that within our generation. Not entirely out of the question, if we're just going to peel away the outer layer of the ice caps. I'm not even going to give you an example. Go to the beach this summer, stand right at the point where your feet just gets wet. Then extend your arms out at shoulder length. Then eyeball the distance where the elevation reaches the level of your arms. That's where the new shore will be. Chances are a big piece of the beach will be gone by the time your children come back there for spring break. That's a lot of water.

And if you live on the beach, like that house in Road to Perdition where Tom Hanks finally goes to die, may God help you.

Everyone is arguing like the point of contention in global warming is now going to be the hurricanes. It's not. I can say this because I didn't see that movie. I'm not sure I ever liked Dennis Quaid.

Gradual climate change within a generation is not as thrilling as sudden, unannounced-as-if-the-government-didn't-have-a-clue-about-them natural disasters, but it is as important to worry about, if not more.

And if that's the case, there is still no need for panic. Doomsday scenarios are not on the horizon just yet (though you can probably hear it in the distance).

But that doesn't mean everything is five-by-five. The conservative defense has been, on the rare blog or article that does defend against the notion of global warming's effects, the following:
Climate change has been exaggerated: the truth has been stretched so that Hollywood can sell movies. Even if it is exaggerated, you have to submit that the term "exaggeration" implies an origin of a fundamental truth that has to be reckoned with. Even a small fraction of the worst case is that much worse than your current way of life right now. If we, as Americans, are determined to protect our lifestyle, we must still be interested in protecting our lifestyle against global warming.

Climate change is a product of very long stretches of time and not of human nature: surely if you believe in evolution, and we conservatives do not, then the world is billions of years old and humans have only been around a fraction of that time, so there's no way we could've done that much damage in so short a time frame. Even if that were true, go to Arizona and drive a car. Eventually, a small pebble will be kicked up in the road and hit your windshield, causing it to crack. It will break in time. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not even soon. But it will. Most drivers who can afford it (I've seen taxi drivers put up with the nuisance) will go to the shop and have it fixed like yesterday, because putting it off will lead to a much larger bill once your windshield does shatter into a hundred blunt fragments. For a state that's red, you have to admit that that's quite the liberal behavior. You know, not compounding the error for future generations.

Climate change has not been proven or has not been proven to be bad: like tobacco, its effects either don't exist or may actually be good for you; it just hasn't been proven so there's no need to be alarmist about it. Let's put aside that it is interesting that the faith and beliefs end of the political spectrum in America has decided to be inconsistent about their faith and beliefs about global warming, demanding hard evidence beyond rational scientific thought instead. I will say this: except on television and in movies, where the stuntmen are trained to do stupid things, I've never seen a person hit by a moving vehicle. That does not mean I want to see proof that it could be really bad. I'm convinced already. Even in a situation where common sense could fail, such as the controversy over global warming, I'm convinced already that there's ice at the poles, and we shouldn't actually be rooting for them to melt. If anything, we should at least not be doing nothing to prevent whatever threatens them.
To me, it seems that any defense of the conservative position on the environment is a vote for the status quo. Nothing is wrong now, and no matter what happens in the future, we should do nothing until it, in fact, happens. If you don't believe that, then you can only look at the people in power now and blame their lack of foresight for the crises that could have turned out differently under their watch.

No, on global warming, panic is not necessary just yet. But that does not mean we ought to pat ourselves on the back and call it a day. We can all agree, that whatever the level of concern is, from tone-deaf muted to "It's the End of the World As We Know It" bellowing, in order to protect ourselves from it we ought to work to turn it back now.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Parallel Universes

You must absolutely see this. Gives you the perspective that conservatives usually have: a feeling of nostalgia for a brighter past that never really existed in the first place.

McCain resorts to platitudes

McCain said Americans have more that unite than divide them.

"We need only to look to the enemy who now confronts us, and the benighted ideals to which Islamic extremists pledge allegiance -- their disdain for the rights of man, their contempt for innocent human life -- to appreciate how much unites us," he said.

You know, living here in Japan for almost two years, you'll get no argument from me. But you would think someone as loved and as brilliant as Senator McCain would take the time out to explain exactly what are those things that are common among Americans, because I don't have a clue. I believe it's there, just like I believe there's a place people go after car crashes and old age. Unlike the latter, though, the former ought to be pointed out in much more detail than what would fit in soundbites and thirty-second spots. I guess I expected more from the senator.

Monday, May 08, 2006

All The Way Out Here

As I said, Democrats Abroad launched a new website for all overseas voters to help them register to vote and apply for absentee ballots - which you have to do for every election; I got dumb and didn't apply to vote last year, so that's one vote that didn't help to blunt Bloomberg's ridiculously one-sided victory.

The website is, and should give you all the relevant state information you need to apply. If nothing else, the website makes it all a lot easier to go through the process.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Wild Finish

About two weeks and change before I leave Japan to go back to America (at first, I typed "home", but it isn't, really - I'm coming right back anyways after I graduate).

Still, work is never done. I got an email from a Ruth McCreery, a Democrat Abroad here in Japan, and she wants as many as possible to come out to a voter assistance event on Friday, in the hopes of getting more people overseas to vote despite the difficulties. You know, except for military personnel (actually, wouldn't know too much about them either, since the only soldiers I see are at the clubs, taking all the women away from us English teachers), I've never really met a Republican in Japan, so if we can produce voters in big numbers here in Japan and in other countries, I figure America would be a whole lot more blue than red. The event will be at the Yokohama Country and Athletic Club (, which is near Yamate Station on the Keihin-Tohoku Line. Drop by on Friday from 11AM if you have time - it IS Golden Week, after all.

The weekend I get back, and if you live in or near Boston, I will be taking up teaching Japanese at the anime cons again. We'll start with Anime Boston ( ; I will hold a two-hour class on Friday, May 26th from 1:30PM. I can only hope this one will be a lot more improved from the one I gave at Anime Central.

And hey, I'm gonna need a job when I get home, so if you're in the New York area and want to study and practice Japanese...