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

Sunday 27 January 2013

787 of the other 'black flowers of civilization'*

Thanks to 'Earth Denizen' for the impetus for this post.

And as ever, thanks to the most clear-eyed witness to politics of the abominable 20th century, George Orwell.
By ‘Fascism’ they mean, roughly speaking, something cruel, unscrupulous, arrogant, obscurantist, anti-liberal and anti-working-class. Except for the relatively small number of Fascist sympathizers, almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’.** That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come.
What else do you need to know?
Let me put it this way: we knew the Japanese market would be Boeing’s in return for our selecting these Japanese partners. It was a silent understanding, and there was nothing in writing.... in Japan there’s a unique relationship between the airlines, the suppliers and the government... It’s cultural. The officials all went to the same schools and have close personal relationships. The government supported the airlines and the industries and they developed together. The government has enormous influence. They all work together.
 A little context:
...a large and perverted golf club in which the overwhelming priority is to protect the club’s members.
The book everyone needs to read on modern Japan.  I rather like the Japanese title better: 'Japan - the culture which doesn't do human happiness.'  Written in 'the Bubble', I read it five years later while on JET; work and living conditions for the droids have only gotten worse (bringing back the six-day school and work-week?), but the apparatchiks driving the bus don't seem to have suffered for their sins.

Lest anyone think I am only picking on Japan's "perverted golf club"***, there was no little collusion on the US side.  Its ruling class resembles Japan's more all the time.  My views on the US' governance are not hard to discover on this blog.

*These would be corruption, collusion... supply 785 of your own to go along with the most well known: torture/prisons.
** Fascist=bully: puts Japan's ijime culture in perspective...
***I love this definition!

Saturday 26 January 2013

Japan Fail: Skiing

The following is a guide on how to alienate your foreign guests.  Guess I'll be taking my business elsewhere.  Well, good thing the 'Bubble' is still going strong, and you have lots of young Japanese flush with cash to fill the lifts, so you do not have to trouble yourselves accommodating anyone but 'ware-ware nihonjin', he says with condescension (one wonders why you'd make an English web-page).  Read below.  Does anyone want to go there now?  Japan: circling the fucking drain.



Be polite and respect the local culture... Unfortunately in some other resorts, like Niseko and Hakuba, some foreign skiers show scant respect for local culture and ways while they are there. This can do some irreparable damage that may result in some establishments shying away from allowing foreigners in.


Don’t expect to use your credit card with considerable ease in Myoko. Although Japan may be technologically advanced in many areas, the financial services area is not one of them. So be prepared and bring at least some cash if you get stuck...


Soap and shampoo are normally provided. Use it! Some locals might watch you suspiciously, assuming that you might make the water dirty, so use plenty of soap and shampoo!


Unlike the typical green, blue, red, black system used by resorts elsewhere in the world to grade runs Japanese resorts, including those in Myoko, have not adopted a consistent grading methodology. So beware before you head off down a blue run that may turn out to be a double black.
This is why I don't care about learning Japanese anymore. I'm not invited in. Well then...  fuck you too.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Ontario School-Board Nepotism Addressed?

We'll see...
"But it’s not just a South Asian issue or even a racial issue — we had some white males say, ‘I’m not schmoozing with the right people, so I can’t get a permanent job,’” said company president Tana Turner.
This lady did her job!
Among the changes to start immediately:
- At least two people must conduct a job interview — the principal and someone else...
No. You have an HR department, who as bad as they are, is one central organization which can be audited for hiring-behaviour, and which 'doesn't have a horse in the race' of staffing a particular school. Assign teachers to schools from the central office.  Also doesn't let a principal control their little fief and opens a school to a wider variety of skills than one principal can conceive of in their bureaucratic mind.

'Aren't principals the best judge of their school's needs?'  No, quite otherwise.  They can judge their own needs, as they perceive them, which as for most people is someone who kisses ass.  I have had six principals in my school-board.  One I got along with well, but though it suited me, I do not think he was professional.  One was entirely fair and not overly friendly with me, and entirely professional.  The other four were all significantly unprofessional, and two were a problem for me - because I have a penis and because I don't kiss ass.  Everyone knows that many principals did the minimum number of years in the classroom and all the other steps to principal, and will do so in the position too, chasing the most perks and pay.  These types more often come from parents who did the same, of course.

Principals have been hiring each others' kids for ever. I only got an interview in an Ontario, Canada, school-board*, because there was a dire teacher shortage, AND my mother had a friend who'd been a principal. That connection wouldn't have been sufficient even two years later.

*And the job only because there was a dire shortage of teachers.

Monday 21 January 2013

'Infill' is one thing, but...

The green-roofed isosceles, map-centre. Rough estimate is 100 square feet, over two floors! Not a random Internet find: I walked past it yesterday. I am not sure if I am more impressed or dumbfounded that the owner fit trees on the property.  Note the car in the picture, and the aerial view.  If single just just buy a camper:
- bigger
- better designed
- better insulated than a Japanese home
- more privacy
- easier to 'move house'
- cheaper...

For long-term use you'd need at least electrical hook-up for your heating and a/c, etc.  Otherwise find a place to park cheaply and use your engine to recharge, without disturbing the neighbours (who you know would complain because of your nonconformity, never mind the ambient noise and pollution of the factories next door).  Also a reasonable place for septic dump and filling water. When you compare it to housing in Japan, this kind of life begins to look enviable...


Someone got there already!  Hey, even paid-parking in the picture is only 800y for a good night's sleep.  Love that the dude in the furo is Japanese enough to have a towel on his head.  You could do the same more discretely with skylights on top, and one-way glass on the sides, and maybe skip the hydraulic second-floor.

Saturday 19 January 2013

Heuristic-hostile Japanese culture.

Heuristic (pron.: /hjʉˈrɪstɨk/; or /hyoo-ris-tik/; Greek: "Εὑρίσκω", "find" or "discover") refers to experience-based techniques for problem solving, learning, and discovery. Where the exhaustive search is impractical, heuristic methods are used to speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution; mental short cuts to ease the cognitive load of making a decision. Examples of this method include using a rule of thumb, an educated guess, an intuitive judgment, or common sense.
The Japanese don't much do this.  It's about all you need to know.

What frustrates 'Chris', and 'Timothy Takamoto' and myself, I have summarized my analysis of in a comment following the latter's hilarious rant on 'Useless Japanese Services':
Some would say it is an over-engineered service culture. Some would say that it is a make-work programme so, even though their women are underemployed, they can employ more people than this economy can really justify. I think I know the real reason: to kill heuristics.

If you babysit all ages all of the time, and never teach anyone in school to do their own thinking or research, none of the population will have heuristic skills. Put another way: nobody can rock the boat by thinking for themselves. Scary how much sense it makes...
It's not just the 'meeting for the meeting', or the long hours at work doing nothing to show 'dedication', or the 'process over product' in even something as physical as martial arts: even on foot or bicycle many Japanese have ridiculous target-fixation.  And using any kind of sense when among a crowd of commuters?  No, just as a box of cockroaches.

But even cockroaches know the lights are too damned bright.

Things change...

If it wasn't the several weeks lost to chest colds, she is the end of my marathon plans.  Well, I was not that excited about running 42km on the flats of the Arakawa, after not getting a place at the Tokyo Marathon.  Next year!

The J-wife thinks she's a clone of her newborn brother, but I see differences: she's born with darker pupils and narrower eyes.  Both of these things I won't tell the Japanese relations, though I see no problem the locals only want to hear big eyes and fair.  Oh, and she looks way different when you change her diaper, but at least she can't spray you.

Man, I am glad my first was a boy!  Changing a tiny human is stressful enough, but changing a tiny female as my first would have done me in.  What do you wipe?  What do you leave alone?  Too embarrassed to ask, so I only took cake of the meconium (can't talk about infants without descending to poo-talk).  I'll watch my wife sometime, she ought to know.  And babies are not to scale.  I didn't think about it with the boy, or maybe I was just proud for him, but you know how a baby's head is too large for their body?  Well...

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Japanese Crisis management: snowfall edition.

The 'Sky-Tree' has now had five incidents of snow falling and damaging other structures.  Since I also make fun of Vancouver I can point out that, surrounded by a warren of shitamachi shacks, someone might have thought about ice forming on a 634m tower in a maritime winter climate...

Almost a week later, yet there's still snow on the roofs.  Odd?  In Canada, where it is at least 10C colder, the snow would have melted off by now...  Oh... In Canada there is heat produced inside the homes...

Original Post:
Hey 'ware-ware Nihonjin', we live with a winter climate, in a city of thirty million, so we'd better make sure the highways that bring in product for our low-inventory 'just in time' system, and droids from Chibaragi, don't have to stay closed because they're all privitized and don't keep their own graders and sanders, nor seem to be able to figure out a way to lease them from anywhere.  So let's use the same technique we brought to 'taking a knife to a gunfight', attending to overheating nuclear reactors, our birth-rate, getting our economic asses kicked by China and S. Korea, and English education: everyone look elsewhere and hope the problem disappears by itself.
Tonight on the news, more than two days after the snowfall, the announcer-bot asked: "How much longer will the snow stay?"  Accompanied by shots of a warren street of uninsulated 'eco' Tokyo shacks middle-class homes, with a road of uncleared snow trammeled into boilerplate ice.  Honey, the answer is a week if you do nothing about it, or five minutes if you get your ass out there with a shovel and some sand or salt.  How long could it take to clear an alleyway Tokyo street in front of your three meter wide rabbit-hutch home?

I'll tell you how long far more snow would stay in the following cities:
- in Toronto, with a snowier winter - half a day
- in Montreal, with a far snowier winter and a poorer tax base - half a day

Oh, but that's Canada...  Yeah, so is Vancouver, and it gets little more snow than Tokyo, and is no colder in the winter (well, I am certain it is warmer inside the homes).  How long?  A half day.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Lieber Award?

I don't really get what this is, but 'Sarahf' was kind enough to include me in it.  What it's all about is available at the link on her name.  What the hell, it's a good idea for a post.  Thanks, 'Sarahf'.

As requested,  11 random facts about me (some themes borrowed from Sarahf):
1. I am immune to caffeine.  I drink more cups with caffeine in them than any other beverage.  I can drink a pot of coffee and go to bed.  It does not make me wired at any point of the day.  Not even a double-espresso.  I am unable to act human in the morning without it, or to void (sorry).
2. I am not a morning person, would not and did not marry a morning person, and consider it a personal flaw akin to chewing with one's mouth open.  This is one more cross-cultural sore point I have with Japan: get daylight saving, and shut-up your elderly, loudspeakers and futon-thumping till noon.
3. I am mildly claustrophobic, both to small spaces and crowds: crowds more so.  Less fear than extreme irritation with the latter.
4. I have never had a pet, and do not believe in having them.  I do like most dogs more than most people, and in my dreams would herd sheep with a border collie, but cannot abide keeping a dog inside, on a leash, or in a city.  Similar thinking on birds.  Do not see rodents as pets.  Fish are for eating.  I am allergic to cats, and glad of it.
5. I am fed up with shoyu Used to like Japanese food, but am coming to think it all tastes the damn same.
6. I have a thing against plastic surgery.  This with the exception of reconstructive surgery, of course.  Not sure what I think of gender reassignment, except in the end it is their business, not mine.  That issue aside, especially hate fake breasts and lips.  Even the most subtle work looks horrid, and neither the lips nor chest moves anything like reality.  Besides, speaking as a 'straight' man, what's wrong with a petite chest?!  And botox... (shudder).  Maybe I am oversensitive to the 'uncanny valley'.
7. Cannot abide self-delusion.  Whether it is another obese N.American blaming everything else, or conservatives born into money, or religious idiots voting against their class interests, I cut them out of my life.  Used to try to reason with such people, until I realized that reason is not a game they play.  I don't mind honest stupidity.
8. I have never been in a proper fight.  Childhood scraps count for nothing.  Done martial arts.  Shoved a salaryman cock or two out of trains for being bad drunks, and another from hitting a mentally challenged homeless guy for no good reason (him trying to impress his date?), and helped a friend and some wee Japanese bouncers subdue an out of control marine the last time I went to Roppongi - long ago.  None of these are real fights.
9. Am never going to be fluent in another language.  Not happy.  Should have studied French better when younger.  Same with Japanese, before I realized it isn't worth the effort for the results.  Yes, opinion may differ on that.
10. Have a thing about knives.  Not a fetish, but between childhood Scouts and taking Iaido, anything with an edge is always kept sharp, always passed edge up and point away from the receiver.  Never less than 6" from the edge of a counter, and blade facing to the wall.  I get cross when people are careless.  Wife thinks I'm a loon.
11. Know my J-stroke.  Nobody is really a Canadian if they don't.

Sarahf's 11 Questions

What's the best thing you've ever done?
A toss up between: getting married and having children, against my better nature; and being so against getting married I did it late, and avoided extending the couplings which would have ended in divorce.

Where is your favourite place to go?
Somewhere without roads and with trees.  In Ontario, that's by canoe.  In Japan, on foot in the mountains.

If you had to choose between sweet snacks and salty snacks, which one would it be?
Unfair: sugar with caffeine; salt with alcohol.

Do you think you'd make a good spy? Why do you think so?
Yes.  I disassociate easily.  I became excellent at lying and manipulating people as a teen, for various fucked-up reasons.  I had an existential moment when I decided that is not who I would be: beneath me.

Who is the most intelligent person you know?
First person?  Maybe I move in the wrong crowds.  I know many people with better computational power, and a very few with better memory, but judgement... Not so much.

If you had a super power, what would it be?

What is your favourite item of clothing?
Anything in a 'medium tall', when I can get it, which I usually can't in Japan or Canada.

If you were being sent to a desert island, what would you take with you?

What kind of student were you at school?
Idealistic.  So much for that.
Ah youth... What halcyon days them was.
I wan't much of a hand in the boudoirs
I was usually to be found where the food was.
- Ogden Nash
Who could you spend all day with and never get bored?
Takigawa Crystal.  Brains and beauty.  But I'd rather have her for the evening...

What do you cook to impress people?
A joint of meat.

Since I am not sure who wants to continue this challenge, I invite you to if you are on the blogroll to the right.  Your questions come from my random facts:
- What's your poison?
- What's your weakness?
- What irritates you?
- What convention can't you abide?
- What flavour are you done with?
- What kitsch can't you take?
- What characteristic have you got no patience for?
- What test have you avoided?
- List one regret.
- List a quirk.
- List something random that justifies an identity.

Sunday 13 January 2013

Cognitive Assonance

There are things you should not read when living among the humans: anything which reinforces what you think is contemptible about them.

I made the mistake of first reading about 'Unit 731' at my desk as a JET among the droids in a Japanese junior high school and thought: "Yeah, they'd do it to me."

I read Orwell's 'Animal Farm' in elementary (I have older brothers) and '1984' in high school, and have never trusted humans in the face of authority since.  That is a fine thing.

And just recently, I have been reading Yevgeny Zamyatin's 'We' on the Tokyo train commute.  Much too close to home.  Think I need to start riding my bike to work again...

Wednesday 9 January 2013

"Foreign nurse success story has message for Japan: Open up"

"Indonesian who passed test cites snail's pace of reform"

Forget it, Japan. Nurses who go to 'Western' countries, don't have to learn kanji, do get better benefits (including for maternity) more holidays, and they and their children get accepted as locals by the majority, not called 'Gaijin' for generations. Unless you fix those terms, Japan, the best won't be going to you, if many do at all.  You need these nurses desperately, as only these other Asian countries have enough young to become nurses, unlike Japan, and only someone from a poorer country might consider taking the shit a nurse does in a Japanese workplace for the money offered.  God knows most Japanese won't: those I knew were out by thirty, either by marriage or burn-out.
Of course, what Japanese society still expects is to poach the skills and labour of their foreigners, which we do in 'the West' too, certainly.  The difference, of which these foreign labourers cannot be unaware, is the Japanese want us all to fuck off and go home once their use for us is done.  Should they go to one of the 'Western' countries, they can stay as long as they are employed, and longer than that once they get a permanent visa* and then citizenship, collect retirement benefits they paid into, among other benefits, and otherwise get as rewarded for their work and sacrifices as anyone else, locally born or not.  Which would you choose?  Doesn't take too long to figure out.
Not to mention Japan has no economic future to speak of to come to start a family in.
*Just how do you get one of these in Japan, unless you're a media personality who tells the Japanese how unique they are?  Does even marriage give me permanent residency?  Rather doubt.  And citizenship?  Ha!  Who would I have to fuck?  Certainly someone other than my wife, and certainly not as aged as I am now...

Friday 4 January 2013

Japan is a cycling society

But it doesn't mean they know shit.  I saw this proper mountain bike today, with a kickstand and a mamachari basket off the front.  Dude, do what you like, but it's harnessing a Clydesdale to pull a chaise.
Then of course there are all the singlespeeds set up to look like fixed-gear messenger bikes, which I could put up with well enough, but dudes, kickstands?
That and the men's hair-care product section is as big as the women's.  I am shocked your women give you as many children as the few they do, or that you are able to make even as few as this.

Man up!

Wednesday 2 January 2013

2013 Self-amatums

I find the notion of 'resolutions' precious.  However, I do respect that made by 'kamo' as ambitious, and those by 'Ourmani Nabiko' as eminently healthy.  I will make none on how to be a decent father and husband: doing right by that is part of the job, and to attend to it poorly and make up for it with a resolution would be no achievement at all.  No, the things I determine to do are to the purpose of bettering myself beyond the baseline.  I will not achieve all, but will achieve most.  Thank god the J-wife is happy to be rid of me a weekend or two a month.

1. Run that marathon
I am three weeks behind where I should be, but I might make it up for the one I have already registered for at the end of March.  If not, I can run my own route alone any time after that and before mid-May, when it starts to get too hot and humid.

2. Brevets
At least while in Japan.  I keep spending money on my road bike, so I might as well get the use of it.  Maybe a couple of 200s, a 300, and if I do not bone-up too badly, a 400 and a 600.  No 1200 in Japan this year, and I am not flying to Paris to ride, so that distance will wait till next year, or not happen.  Also, need to ride from Nikko over the Irohazaka past Chuzenji-ko and Yumoto.  Sadly, I doubt I will keep this up near Toronto as I want to live to see my children become adults.  After I do one of the 200s, I am going to reward myself with switching the wide Q-factor triple (165mm) for a narrower double (145mm) that takes mountain climbing chainrings.  This is a hilly country, and I don't juice.

3. Hikes
Knock off some more of the overnight hikes long on my list in Japan:
- Minami Alps: Akaishi and Hijiri, Kai-Koma and Houou
- Kita Alps: Hodaka and Kasagatake
- Tohoku: something of Bandai, Azuma or Adatara, but the latter is unlikely even though I do not plan on more kids - hit by Fukishima Dai-Ichi fallout, so surface water is not the best idea...

4. Plan and flesh out what I will write
No way as a father of two I am going to finish a novel this year, but I am going to determine what I will, and assemble the pieces.  Essential to it is that I may get no audience, so I'll write it to the kids at least.  Hey, I just thought of that...  I may be going the way of essays, and do not think any will be suitable until the kids start swearing themselves.  May start with one of my rules for each, and then split each theme along who and what is worth your time, and who and what isn't, and where and why your obligations lie.  Not that I expect the kids will listen enough.  Fiction... it would be a false choice for me for many reasons, and if the writer can't believe in his characters...

5.  Same amount of reading, but less online
After all, I bought a fucking Kindle.

6. Find a cause whose members don't appall me, and there's some point aiding
There are many things worth contributing to, and just as many organizations filled with the self-serving.  Also not into ameliorative charity, when the real social and ecological problems on Earth are rooted in economic and political disparity.  I am aware of a certain elegance to the starfish metaphor, but it would be nice to believe my efforts don't evaporate the moment I stop pushing the rock back up the hill.  Cumulative sociopolitical solutions I'd hope to be involved in, but such things come when a society is ready for them, which ours is not.  In the absence of that hope there is no point making a martyr of myself when I have mouths to feed.