*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Monday 30 January 2012

Japan, fucking get over it.

You have to learn English, or get left behind by every nation that gets this: S.Korea, China, India...  Doesn't matter if it is 'hard' or 'difficult' or even unfair: English is the de facto international language and is going to be for a couple of generations, no matter what happens to America in the near term.  Just about nobody's going to lean Japanese anymore unless they have family connections... or want to play at making them.

When this many kids don't want to learn English you need to get the birch out and start beating from the Amakudari down to the parents responsible.

More bad news, for Japan.

Sunday 29 January 2012


My masseur is a dude even older than me, but I don't care, because he has the extra strength and weight to crush my tight muscles.  I'm a bit like a Labrador: touch insensitive.  Each time I go he keeps asking if it doesn't hurt.  My Japanese is just good enough to tell him "Yes, but it's fine, and pain means it's working."  I feel sorry for him, as he has to work harder on me than on most, and he usually gives me an extra fifteen minutes on the hour.  Then he tells me "Otsukare-sama" when he's worked over an hour!

I've been running over 10km, which is a long way from the 42km I plan to do in summer, and since my gait is imperfect* an adjustment is a good thing every couple of weeks.  I cannot believe I have not made this a habit before.  If you can afford it and are training, do it.  We spend money on much more stupid shit: booze, gear, travel.  Make sure you find a masseur/masseuse you like.  It costs me about 4000yen/hr, though he gives me more than the hour.  Not that I am made of money, but I do not begrudge someone charging a fair wage for their skills when they are not making any better living at it than me.  I'll steal media, but I pay for real work.

*Rock-climbing damaged joint tends to throw one calf and opposing buttock off of plumb.  Have to run more carefully.

Saturday 28 January 2012

Whither Québec?

Québec's separatist party, 'Le Parti Québécois', has finally got to what I have been saying in my posts linked in this clause: make separation about keeping Québec a state livable for the 99%.  If only it weren't 'too little too late'.  The PQ is finished, and any hope of getting Anglophone and Allophone, or even tolerant Francophone, votes is finished.  No ethnic massacres happened in modern Québéc, and that is a grand success; however, there was once enough nationalism for many of Montréal's Jews to remove themselves to Toronto - for which you cannot blame anyone after an experience of 1940s Europe...  It would also have been a fine thing if bigoted opinions were not easily heard from the areas where the PQ is strongest.

Besides, for the PQ to transition to post-nationalist, but keep the social-democratic flavour, would be disingenuous or impossible.  It was founded more to sustain a Québécois identity than a Francophone one, and that transition looked disingenuous enough: to gain some immigrant votes.  It also didn't work.

For Québec to retain its Francophone identity no longer looks difficult; for it to retain a semi-socialist one in a Neo-Con N.America does.  My fantasy?  A popular and separatist Québec NDP.

Monday 23 January 2012

Quote of the Day: Japanese TV and food.

...colour and brightness turned up to 11, where all the guests have been given amphetamines, the screen is peppered with random subtitles, and every 10 seconds it cuts to a close-up shot of a bowl of noodles for no apparent reason. That's 90% of Japanese TV right there.
Me?  I think Japanese 'talents' act drunk: the only time anyone's allowed to be or to have fun here.

Thursday 19 January 2012

'Stop de Kindermoord.'

'Stop the Child Murder.'
That should be the rallying cry of cyclists.  As the video states, The Netherlands went from a slaughter of 400 innocents in traffic in 1971, to 14 in 2010.  I shudder at how the death rate compares in N.America.  We now not only kill our children in car accidents, or with our cars while they walk or cycle, but also with obesity and diabetes as their misguided parents think there is less risk in sloth than getting around town on their own.  Honest statistics show we misjudge most risks: family members rape more children than strangers, and lifestyle-diseases kill far more than collisions.  Even so, too many die in collisions.  If we demand the streets are safe for children, they are safe for adults, which brings more of both, making them even safer.  Any less: sociopathic.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Tatami Bullshit

Stupid article on modern tatami (found here), is a fine example of the BS Japanese accept in their garden-shed housing.  Everything is always about the 'special conditions' of the Japanese 'four seasons' as an excuse to have neither insulation nor adequate climate control.  The 'Native-Wife', who's lived abroad and should know better, tries to feed me the line on Japanese humidity needing drafty buildings to avoid mold, to which I have a one-word answer: "Vancouver."
Back to the article's idiocy:
Some of these new types of tatami are even washable...
Imagine: a floor you can wash.  It only took two-thousand years on these islands.
Material used for the core part of the tatami is not the usual straw but a plate made of wooden chips.
That would be particle-board.  In Japan: walls, ceilings, roofs, floors, and now broadloom.

...excels at absorbing and retaining moisture as well as offering strong insulation benefits.
Let's see: making mold, and they considered insulation?!
“Kirari” washable tatami... are made entirely of synthetic resin...
'Resin' means plastic, you understand.
Lower-priced Chinese-made rush grass spreading in the market, cultivating rush grass is no longer as profitable for farmers.
Those evil Chinese again, trying to make a living without LDP vote-buying agricultural subsidies.
Consumers are paying closer attention to tatami, which keep rooms cool in summer and warm in winter.
Ha!  Only if you heavily use your heating and air-conditioning, as most comfort escapes out the uninsulated roof, or the single-pane windows.

Saturday 14 January 2012

"Japan Probe, self-appointed lapdog of the Japanese establishment"

Thank you, Ourmani, for that one, and 'Kamo', for reminding me.  I could also go with, Japan Probe: the 'Charisma Man' of Japan-blogs.
The silly gits blocked me from making comments!
"The site has blocked you from posting new comments."
I can't see why.  Well I can, but not for any reason that does them credit.  Instead of jumping onside to defend the 'tradition' of Japanese whaling,* against the Sea Shepherd, I pointed out the latter's tactics were clever, whatever you thought of Sea Shepherd.
This site has become the Japan-apologist site, hasn't it?  It ain't all sakura and maiko, you know.  Look, from the point of view of the Sea Shepherd members, this is pure win.  They don't care what you think; they don't care what I think; they don't care what Japan or Oz thinks; they care what people who will donate to them think, and doing it inside Australian waters was no accident.
To clarify the last part: so they would be subject to Australian laws, not Japanese, and if there is a legal case against them it would be in English, watched by English-language media.
Much was made of it being in international waters, which may be true, but I went with what the reports at the time said: Australian waters.  It has fuck all to do with my point: like them or not, they got the media attention they want, and Japanese whaling doesn't.  You can look up the thread if you want - I won't deign to give them a link - but those are the only two posts I made, and neither can be called flaming or trolling (maybe the part about being apologists, except it's true...).  Because the Probe can only handle a love-in, or because I am moderating comments on this site so the twerp coming from there can't post drivel, I am blocked.

Well Probe, and twerp coming here to troll (who it's a good chance are one and the same), I know you love Japan because you finally got your pole waxed, but never forget:
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. - Proverbs 17:28

'Yen for Living' just posted a great story about how Japanese whaling costs the government more than it earns.  The meat's not popular, it makes you look archaic, it's just pork-barreling: see 'Japanese Razor' at the top of the blog.

*Don't think they were sailing factory-whaling fleets to Antarctica, and selling it to school lunches, pre-Meiji; nor had MacArthur then to organize it.

Quote of the Day: anything by Guthrie

As through this life you travel, you meet some funny men
Some rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen

As through this life you ramble, as through this life you roam
You'll never see an outlaw take a family from their home.
"Pretty Boy Floyd" - Woodie Guthrie

 A good Bill Moyers article, with some good comments in the thread.
Conservatives view with suspicion anyone who doesn't cash in at every opportunity.
Come to think of it, they have the same problem with Christ.
It breaks my heart to see a state that produced Will Rogers and Woody Gutherie become corporatist (nearly every small business in the state is gone, especially local grocery stores)... It's discouraging to watch the state which produced the most astronauts become so anti-science. It's become a state of privileged and spoiled right wing yuppies in the suburbs, resentful racists in the working class parts of cities (the Aryan Youth Movement, Aryan Nation, and several major groups of skinheads all started in OKC and Tulsa), and ignorant know-nothingness and meth addictions in small towns.
Watch out America. Oklahoma is your future.
Something connected from my morning reading: the 'Occupy Movement' has fatally wounded the 'class warfare' taboo, and that is a fine thing.

Thursday 12 January 2012

"I am [Gaijin], God of Sex"

Skip the first 55 seconds, if you choose.

In the movie, it works; in Japan, it works.  Sometimes you are a "God of Sex", "just on the wrong continent, that's all."  You see, nobody is a "God of Sex", until there's someone who makes you one... or a few who do...  Nothing wrong with that, so long as everyone's consenting, and gets what they need.  There are a few things to keep in mind, to keep you honest, whether you are a pale-face in Japan, or a European in N.America (this is especially addressed to the former):

- Japan is not a mystical Kurosawa-chambara wonderland, just because you're finally getting some
- You do not have to defend the factory-ship whaling 'tradition' (reinvigorated by MacArthur during the Occupation), because it's not traditional.  Defend it or attack it on its merits, not because you got lucky last night.
- Don't pretend you love Sumo, Kabuki, or J-Pop (especially J-Pop), unless you really do, just because somebody Japanese got you off.
- If you are into anime, you've swallowed a corporate product, not 'the soul of Japan'.
- If you are into 'cute', and school girls, you are as sick here as there.
- Just because it doesn't take more than two dates here, doesn't mean 'Japan has a healthier attitude towards sex'.  They have their own issues: Google "Japan sex", at your own risk.
- Although you are a "God of Sex" for some, they are not all into Gaijin; not all N.Americans are into Europeans, but enough to annoy me in my youth.  Japanese who are not attracted to you are not '^%$#es' or '*&^%s' or 'racist': they just don't like you.
- Most of all, if you have become unusually sexually satisfied since you came to Japan, be thankful to your partner(s), past and present: you don't have to suck-up to everyone who shares their nationality.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Quote of the Day: National Infantilism

"Mickey, Minnie greet new adults at Tokyo Disneyland"


Let me repeat: Mickey and Minnie fucking Mouse, great new 'adults' at Tokyo Disneyland.  All you needed to know about modern urban Japan.

Poor sweetheart second from the left: her parents should have had her eyes looked at years ago...

Digressing, I figured out what puts me off about young Japanese men's hair.
It's not homophobia, because I'd be less bothered if they were out of the closet... Or I mean, less bothered if they looked like 'twinks' on purpose, not that there's anything wrong with 'twinks'...*  It's not because I think anything more than a minute in front a mirror for a man, unless shaving or getting rid of blackheads, is grievous vanity, because they're as welcome to their vanity as I am to call them sissy.  No, it's because they look like Phil Spector.
Not a look anyone should go for.  (And 'Let it be... Naked' was a huge improvement over that 'Wall of Sound' shite.)

Addendum: more 'cute' alienating robot shite.

*Read it properly: it's not homophobia.  Unfair to extreme 'metrosexuals'?  Probably.

Sunday 8 January 2012

Republican Primaries

Same can be said for members of Canada's 'Conservative Party'.  Hell... all political parties: they have politicians in them.

Friday 6 January 2012

'Do it all' bike: randonneur and dirt

I am going to get, at least, two of three new bikes I want when I return to Canada.  The bike I will get for certain is the one I'll use to commute: a fixed gear that can take fenders, and I may use the Sturmey S3X hub.  The bikes I may have to choose between are a randonneuring bike to replace the road bike I'll leave in Japan, or a fat-tire bike to ride off-road and through winter.  The choice will come down to the time of year I arrive, and if I can accept the stupidity of Ontario drivers while riding road, after several years of far better Japanese drivers.

If I get a road bike, I am going to do it right.  I want one that will not be heavy or sluggish, and fulfill the following, so I can randonneur, light-tour, and dirt-road it (and I can't afford too many bikes...):
- steel frame
- double crank, with low to med-high gearing
- room for 32 mm tires with fenders
- which means cantilever brakes
- indexed/friction switchable bar-con shifters, or Retroshift levers
- 32 spoke wheels
The easy way to get most of this stock is to buy a steel cyclocross bike; the harder way is to get it built up the way I want.  If I did, since I have a budget under $2K, this is what I'd do:
- Velo Orange Rando frame and fork*, without the racks and fussiness of the build in the picture**
- 30/46 crank (Phil Wood VBC or Velo Orange Grand Cru)
- narrowest bottom bracket possible for narrowest 'q-factor' or drive-side offset
- 12-28, 10-speed cassette (12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 24, 28)
- canti-brakes
- bar-con shifters
- 32-spoke wheels
- long fenders (plastic is quieter than prettier steel)
- Brooks saddle: Swallor, B17N or B17N Imperial
- reliable workman components (Tiagra level) but some money in the wheels so not too heavy
- puncture resistant tires that are 'supple' and not too heavy with Kevlar bead

*A Soma Double Cross has 5mm to 10mm less BB drop than the VO Rando, Casseroll,or Steel Wool Rover, and I don't need the clearance...
**Revelate makes a bigger, better, more modern seat trunk; a handlebar bag off a Thorn Accessory bar is lighter, quieter and less fussy - or try the Revelate Handlebar system.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Fuck Keigo

Went to Tesco/Tsurukame to buy milk, coffee, eggs and yoghurt.  Then realized they don't take credit card, and I had little cash.  Fuck.  That Japan's barely joined the civilized world with inconsistent ability to purchase by card is not even what annoyed me most with the clerk's answer:
Usage is not a potentiality...*
I'm a 6' white guy, who mumbled the question to the clerk "can I use this?" in the simplest Japanese, so the way he answers me is to use the arch and vague 'keigo' his managers require him to, because the Japanese find it polite, but a Gaijin has high odds of not understanding?  It's not like there're a lot of Gaijin JSL speakers in my part of Tokyo, or anything?  There are.  He must deal with a dozen in a shift.  Morons who speak 'keigo' to non-fluent Gaijin, politeness is not about honorific speech, it is about putting people at their ease: with second language speakers that is by making yourself easily understood, without patronizing them.  It's this lack of cosmopolitanism that puts me off bothering to learn more Japanese (older post on same).  Maybe it's just a case of something I've read elsewhere:
In Japan the people act like robots, and the robots like people.
Bear in mind this is Tokyo, not 'the sticks'.  I've had better luck in 'the sticks'!  Not with getting English, which I don't need**, but with getting straightforward Japanese.  For the most part people will switch to 'Standard Japanese' for me, which they might scorn doing for a Kanto native, and good for them.

*I know there's no subject or object.  Welcome to Japanese.
**Two years of university Japanese in my twenties, four years in Japan over two decades, level three in the proficiency test, if you must know.  BFD.

Monday 2 January 2012

Wind-Powered Cycling

Who likes to ride against the wind?  That's what I thought.  Hills?  I can live with them and have climbed 1500m passes, which only amounts to an hour or several of effort.  Wind...  Wind never lets up.  That's why you need to hop the train, if you can, or get a spouse to take you upwind to ride back home, or ride across N.America west to east.  This is especially important in Japan, because all of the unimpeded and traffic free routes near cities are along the top of levées, and there is no shelter from wind up there.

In Japan, you need a rinkou-bukuro: 輪行袋.  You must bag a bike to take it by train in Japan, and not in rush hour.  I am partial to the Tioga Cocoon, as this bag is cheap and light.  A hint: on a standard Japanese train, the very front and the very rear of the trains each hold a driver's compartment, and have enough wall-space to lean your bike.  Nowhere else.

However you get upwind, you have to know the wind forecast.  I love surfers and their websites!  The other day I snatched a 30km/hr tailwind and was able to do double the speed downwind than I would have been able to do upwind.  And no, riding into the wind is not exercise, it is an exercise in grinding away knee cartilage.

How the 'yellow-fevered' see Japan

I don't know where this is from, but this is how the 'yellow-fevered' see Japan.
Well buddy, just don't get married...

Sunday 1 January 2012

Kamogawa Sea World: Boso Concrete

It's not possible to write this post without coming off as a précis of a 'Spike Japan' article, so I'll note the debt, and explain it away by the fact that posting about a visit to a Bubble-era resort could have no other outcome.
`Kamogawa Sea World' is not in such bad shape.  It seems to get the trade to pay for upkeep that so many `haikyo' lacked.  Credit has to be given for the location: an aquarium not only placed by the ocean, rather than something more Bubble-icious, but also in a town accessible from Tokyo and already with a summer surfing trade, on the Boso-Hanto.  It makes you think the `business plan' mightn't have been lubricated with maiko gyrating on amakudari laps.

They've had the money to keep up with the paint, but don't let yourself think that everything is not made of reinforced concrete.  This country uses so much, that although I do not know the names of any but the most common varieties of wood in Japanese, and certainly not of tile, gypsum-board, or insulation (does Japan have any?), the construction material I first learned vocabulary for was 鉄筋コンクリート: reinforced concrete.  If most N.Americans should not be trusted with guns or their opinions, most Japanese should never be left unsupervised with concrete or loudspeakers.

PETA members may leave off criticism.  Yes, there were dolphins and orca, penguins and seals, all in smaller environments more bland than I felt comfortable with; have you seen Japanese homes?  Glib?  Perhaps not.  The Native-Wife can't stand-in for the psyche of her entire nation, but she's the most convenient for me to base my heuristics on.  We did not agree on the trip, but with the macro view that my going or not wouldn't change the Japanese attitude to animal confinement, and the micro view that I have to live with this woman or pay far too much, I folded like a cheap newspaper. Though an admitted loser, I learned something from the confrontation: Japanese logic doesn't separate humans from the animal kingdom based on sentience, and often hardly at all.  Pardon me?  I tried to convince the Native-Wife that sentient animals should not be poorly confined, as it amounts to torture for them, as it does for a human.  I do not mind the idea of eating animals for the most part, if not endangered, but confinement is an ongoing horror, and cannot be abided.  She considered that differentiation of the animal kingdom speciesist, and wrapped up her justification at that.  My `staircase wit' that we can also put humans in zoos in Japan would have been funnier, if an American airman had not been put on display, naked, in the Ueno Zoo...

Continuing the animal-confinement tour, we went to `Mother Farm'.  This too gets lots of trade from the city, and has the money for keep-up.  If you asked me why it bothers me less to have farm animals confined than wild, I have justifications that avoid mere custom or cuteness:
- they're long bred for it
- they don't survive wild
- the conditions at `Mother Farm', at least, far exceed those at the aquarium, or our apartment
- the steak was very good
No arguments, but the last, impressed the Native-Wife.  Knowing their target-market, shopkeepers sell whale throughout the Boso-Hanto.

Boso does not get the trade that the other side of Tokyo gets: Hakone and Izu.  It shares many of the Pacific charms of Izu, but has the disadvantage of being on the wrong side of Tokyo.  Tokyo, like most northern hemisphere cities, has its money on its west side, because pollution blows to the hapless poor on its east (where we live).  Hakone and Izu were destined to have more tourist trade, because more people with money could get to them without adding half a day traversing the city with the unwashed.  Perhaps because it is cheaper, but certainly because it has decent breaks, Boso is well frequented by the Japanese surfer.  Other than that it seems to survive by the inshore fishery, Japan's heavily subsidized and aging agricultural sector, and tourist attractions chosen by various Native-Wives.

Do I recommend a visit?  The southern half of Boso is more treed and scenic than most of Kanto, and the eye needs a break from life in Tokyo, to keep any mental health.  So yes, but only for the long-term resident.  However, skip the tourist-attractions, and focus on visiting scenic spots by car, bicycle or motorbike.  The trains stick to the coast, except for a dying streetcar line through the middle; and I know nothing about the buses.  I do recommend the large Buddha at Nokogiriyama, or rather use it as an excuse to get a good view of the whole peninsula, Tokyo Bay, and the Miura-Hanto... on a better day than we had.  The lost view redeemed by a sighting of three inoshishi.