Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Warrior's Drink

Chemo-embolism. Been there, not exactly done that. They did the chemo part, but the "tumor" was abnormal, so no embo. Afterwards, you have to lie flat for 6 hours. That gets tedious, they'll you hit with a little morphine to sedate the the rebellion in your back, which wants to move. Later, one nausea pill, one "longer-lasting" morphine.

I've learned to hate morphine. It causes bad constipation next morning, and it wipes out your ability to stay on the mark with what's happening. A little morphine made me ramble and yack up a storm. A little more was like watching your basement fill up with flood water -- when does it all end? Morphine is a sneak. It shuts you down slowly, and keeps you down, one finger on a feather. Celerity, please. I'm glad it's morning. There's always prune juice.


Sunday, June 27, 2010


Now that's esoteric! Five free karma points if you get the pun (><,)

I meet the Masked Man's faithful Indian companion (either Listerine or some sort of chicken vindaloo, as I understand it) tomorrow, 28 June, 7:30 a.m., UIHC.

I was going to utter and publish some kind of rumination about wabi-sabi, the Japanese aesthetic of asymmetry, transience, impermanence and imperfection — entropy, in other words — but then it occurred to me that I've been far too wrapped up in my liver lately.

Labels: , , ,

Fierce Urgency of How

When in trouble
When in doubt
Run in circles
Scream and shout
(With a "Real Sense of Urgency")

When everyone seizes the initiative, it usually means the guy in charge is clueless.

Labels: ,

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Meanwhile, back at the Gulf...

Now that things have gotten so bad there's no hope of EVER sealing off the BP gusher, it's good to see other issues taking up time on cable news. Compassion burnout, time to change the subject to potsherds, I guess.

On the other hand, nearly everyone agrees with Stephen Colbert that we should all make a mental note to send a Terminator back in time to take out BP's CEO, Tony Hayward. Thank God Skynet doesn't need WD-40.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Scuttlebutt is not Mutiny

Generals with serious differences of opinion hang up their uniforms and shoot off their mouths as serious civilians. They're entitled to that, like every other American citizen. Anything less than serious is scuttlebutt, not Seven Days in May, and should be ignored.

Barack Obama had more options than simply firing Stanley McChrystal, including reduction in grade and reassignment. Obvious contempt for the chain of command, especially in a theater of war, is somebody's bad judgment — but scuttlebutt is scuttlebutt and mutiny is mutiny. There's a huge difference. There was room for clarity. But as it stands, all we know is that Obama has a ferociously icy bad temper, and General McChrystal was extraordinarily competent in Afghanistan. His loss is aid and comfort to the Taliban, and on that account, Obama gets my vote of no confidence.

Besides, Rolling Stone hasn't got clean hands on this one, if the story about airport delays caused by ash from Eyjafjallajokul are true. "On the record" is not carte blanche to ruin careers and lose a war; it has limits, obvious limits, and if you were invited along as an embed for two f****ing days, your mark does not have to invoke Miranda rights to get back off the record, especially during an unintentional month-long scheduling delay in the shadow of an Icelandic volcano.

Obama should have been listening to the substance of gripes coming out of McChrystal's camp, not falling for the same old "wimp factor" taunts that got Bush, Sr. into Desert Storm. But there is no indication that the President was even aware of undercurrents or changing conditions. No sense of urgency there at all. He was blindsided by his own stupidly obvious errors, omissions and shortcomings, and that fact has lost him the Presidency in 2012 and the war in Afghanistan starting yesterday.

I'm a civilian. I voted for Obama. I'll vote against him in a couple years. When the movie comes out, the role of Stanley McChrystal will be played by Scott Glenn ("Hunt for Red October"), with Denzel Washington as Barack Obama, Leslie Nielsen as Adolf Hitler and Zap Brannigan as Michael Hastings.

"Embeds"...? What genius thought that one up?


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Okinawa Hospital シーサー

Hey! That's my ponytailed kid on a beach in Okinawa (^^;)
Left female, mouth closed, right male, mouth open... Yup, a matched pair of genuine Okinawa shiisaa. Probably country cousins, from the look of 'em.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Great Ghastly

I don't know why Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea is so unpopular. Bulemics could love it, but without unpopularity, it could not exist at all, except perhaps on the shelves of a few irrelevant academics who find it more approachable than Being and Nothingness. Without pretension, there would be no book, or at most, it could only be as little more than a long and unsatisfactory shaggy dog story. Camus, or Ca-moooo as we call him in dairy country, is the only existentialist read by liberated coeds at the University of Wyoming, in my experience. He had currency. Or rather his publishers did. He failed to exist in 1960, and my correspondent was reading him in 1964. I wonder if he was buried in a hollow tree. Apologies to the artist who pretends that Dorothy Gale was shocked, shocked by Sartre. I don't remember where I found the image, but it strikes me as funny. Mikhail Bulgakov was a thousand times more interesting than Sartre, but I suspect him of mummery as well. The only thing that ever nauseated me about Sartre (aside from his reputation and his companions) was listening to a German physicist demonstrating how to gargle a French R, like Edith Piaf. I understand weariness, and being dead beat: Clarity is tiresome. As I recall "Sartre" is pronounced like the first syllables of "sardine" and "gravel." Americans say "Star Trek" without the first T or last K. Whatever. Sartre makes me tired. If it weren't for Sartre I could rattle off my Castilian R's like a gatling gun. Immiscible phonemes.

You'd think that niche could have been occupied by the promiscuous Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre's death-eating smizmar — in Chantal (1979), she described an unwed friend's 90 day old fetus as "rot" growing in the womb — but so far as I can tell, her effect on American culture was to insist, as a good intellectual Marxist, on the historically redemptive value of good intellectual Marxist labor. She must have been absolutely seminal because at 636 pages Being and Nothingness is HUGE; not to mention, in an interview granted in the Seventies, de Beauvoir denied having any effect at all on women, except maybe Betty Friedan. De Beauvoir failed to exist ten years later. Tres chic!

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Doubts are hard to entertain, like trolls.

I prefer uncertainty to certainty, doubt to authority. Whenever I'm certain about something, I'm usually wrong. I even have doubts about doubt: I'm no atheist.

Even when I'm not wrong, I'm usually redundant. Others have thought these thoughts first. My favorite such admonition comes from the Eqyptian Book of the Dead — "What the gods love best is silence."

On the other hand, I tend to be in-your-face about mystery. Doubt is fine. Unknowns are insufferable. The flip side of doubt is not fear, but curiosity.

Solitary confinement is like trying to play spoons with a slide rule. You bring your demons with you.

"Nothing should tamper with natural ignorance." — Oscar Wilde, in The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Bracknell's interview. Maybe. I'm not sure about that.

Even doubt is too much. Maybe ignorance is better.

Labels: ,

Friday, June 18, 2010

Weird weather we're having...

Just after noon today we had a squall line go through the neighborhood with some intense dark green winds and lightning, so the power was out until about 6 o'clock this evening, when a second squall hit with more high winds.

Although a bit hard to see in the piercing rain and thundering gloom, these gentle June zephyrs wagged an electric wire around in the back yard like a jump rope, and our sixty-year-old silver maple snagged it under a piece of shaggy bark. So the bark caught on fire, sparks, smoke and all. Just a smoulder, as it turned out, but Alliant Energy had to come out again, unsnag the wire and whack at the embers with a 20 foot fiberglass pole until the burn went out.

It's been raining a bit since then, so we'll probably still have our tree in the morning knock on wood.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The other Okinawa

*Ahem*... "Okinawa World". (No cameras, please!)

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I was wondering why Japanese girls invariably flash a peace sign in every photo, and there's a story that it all goes back to Janet Lynn's fall in the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo. Here's a version of it.

Even some Americans pick these little nuances up fairly fast.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Obama's Big Schtick


Labels: , ,

I can only imagine...

When you look for stuff about Okinawa on the web because your 16-year-old is on a nearly silent school trip in Nanjō-shi, you tend to find things. Like, the Battle of Okinawa (1945) killed a quarter of a million Japanese&dagger — more than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

At least the United States and Japan are friends, now, right? Friends? I hope the illusion lasts. I'd like to see the Sapporo Ice Festival someday.

And simultaneously snuffed out the last authentic traces of indigenous Ryukuan culture...

Woot! The trip blogging has begun!


Monday, June 14, 2010

Cowabunga, it's another Japan trip update!

According to an email from Cain-sensei, the kids spent all morning "yesterday" getting measured for school uniforms, but they "were" all exhausted from the long plane trip. "Tomorrow" (i.e., later this evening), school field trips start (and there some fascinating places in Okinawa, not counting U.S. Naval bases). Also, the kids will start adding to the official Washington High School trip blog "today".

Time is a mess. There's only one time zone in Japan, and it's 14 hours off, sort of, relative to Central Daylight Time here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Right now, e.g., its Monday, June 14th at 11:10 AM (about), but in Okinawa, that is Tuesday, June 15th at 1:10 AM. Usually, PM here is AM there, and vice versa, except like right now when it's not. If it weren't for the Ubuntu panel clock, I wouldn't know what time is it in Tokyo.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

More about Koyo High School

向陽高等学校 (Koyo Senior High School) is in Minatogawa, Yaese-Cho, just west of Nanjo-Shi in the lower right corner of Okinawa. Click here for the (Japanese language) International Exchange and English Proficiency page, I think; Koyo Press is the International Club's 2009 English language magazine, and some of you may find this little clip of the Iowa Sister School Exchange (2006) interesting. If the audio doesn't buffer well the first time, hit reload to try again.

Labels: ,

The kids are in Japan!

The plane cut through the International Date Line just west of the Aleutian Islands, where it jogs way left. As soon as that happened, altitude suddenly dropped from 36,000 feet to zero — but the rest of the numbers stopped updating too. Fun. Tracking doesn't work outside of North America, evidently.

Anyway, I talked to Jason this evening and received confirmation that AA 175 finally made it to its arrival gate in Narita. So everyone is in Tokyo, and all is well. The phone tree to notify parents fell by the wayside, because of the lateness of the hour. I've already lost the sleep, I think I'd rather have been called ;-)

The fun begins. I wonder how jetlagged everyone is? It's just after 3 PM in Japan.

[Update, Sunday, 13 June] I had a couple of automatic flight tracker emails this morning. All Nippon Air NH 2159 arrived in Okinawa this morning at 8:38 PM JST, 6:38 AM our time. Hang in there, Tara!!


Friday, June 11, 2010

Total Immersion, WHS Trip to Japan 2010

Churaumi Aquarium (Okinawa) is on my daughter's itinerary. Wow, do parents get nervous about sending a sixteen-year-old girl halfway around the world! On the other hand, what a learning experience. I wish I'd had those kind of opportunities, growing up. I'm not really worried. It's a highly-structured school event, and it's not our sensei's first rodeo. The group leaves Cedar Rapids tomorrow morning, just about sunrise.

タラは日本語を勉強しましてね、けど上手じゃない。 (Not yet, anyway (Me neither ;-))

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Democrats Lose Iowa

Terry Branstad will be Iowa's once and future governor, while our incumbent Democratic guv, Chet Culver, will lose handily in November.

Chuck Grassley will continue to be our irascible, cornfed country lawyer U.S. Senator, while Roxanne Conlin, the Democratic standard bearer for as many Iowa women as she can convince to live in her private vision of the 1980's, goes down in ignominious, yet terribly unfair, flames yet again.

Culver and Conlin, bambi-eyed in the headlights of history, please don your peril-sensitive sunglasses now.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Final Fantasy XIII Agito

これは、一片の物語ではない。 自ら綴る歴史であり、運命である。
Agito is a complete, standalone story in the Final Fantasy XIII universe. These heroes have their own history, their own destiny.”

From the description, sounds kind of like a Japanese Hogwarts to me. (Apologies for the free translation. The meaning is more or less intact, though.)

Not Yet Released.

By the way, check out Handwritten Kanji Search, an online kanji lookup utility which is the best thing I've seen since Sergey Kurkin's JEDict (for Macintosh). You draw your mysterious character on screen, using your mouse (!), and within one or two strokes you have 20 candidates. If the one you're looking for isn't there, just keep drawing and it shows up. This utility is very lenient about bad mouse-drawing skills, and a fit companion to Jim Breen's epochal WWWJdic Japanese-English dictionary.

Labels: ,

Monday, June 07, 2010

Republicans in Paradise

Well, Chuck Grassley always floats a bucket of whistle blowing and watchdog-of-the-budget sludge in years he's up for re-election (and only in years he's up for re-election). He's harder to get rid of than a skinny tick on a fat dog, and Roxanne Conlin is not up to that challenge.

Conlin will be lucky to keep her core in November, maybe 37% of the vote, tops. After the loss in 1982, when she ran for Governor against her own bookkeeping practices and tax records, you'd think she'd have learned. Nothing in her minus column has changed.

Grassley is a slick customer who knows how to manage his own profile. You'll never see the knives, but Conlin's support will bleed away to nothing by Halloween.

[Update June 8 - I voted for Tom Fiegen, but have no hopes for his chances, either.]


DosBox 0.74 in action

Ha! They fixed the sound bug!


Stone Gnome

Adrian Lamo, the hacker's hacker, single handedly brought down the source of the infamous Crazyhorse video that showed U.S. helicopter troops killing civilians, including two Reuters employees and some kids, in Baghdad on July 12, 2007. Lamo turned in 22-year old U.S. military analyst Bradley Manning, the alleged source of the classified Crazyhorse (aka "Collateral Murder") video and hundreds of other documents he allegedly sent to WikiLeaks.

Manning took a chance and shouted DIAJA&dagger in a room full of spooks. Brave soul, or a damn fool. Either way, his call.

Lamo, on the other hand, appears to have been in the game for long, slow, personal strokes. Enjoy the phame, luser.

In Rowlingesque Bog Latin, "Lux!", but in English (heh), "Broad Daylight!" Works more or less like throwing cold H2O on the wicked witch of the West, but beware — every crowd of Munchkins has its Stone Gnome.

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Irish Gaza Humanitarian Aid

"We categorically deny the spurious and offensive accusation that our admirable self-restraint this morning, despite severe provocation, amounts to mere 'halo polishing!' The outlaw vessel MV Rachel Corrie has been legally seized on our own high seas and docked at Ashdod, where it will be unloaded and inspected for contraband, but as the world can plainly see, no one is dead this time! The denizen dogs of Gaza will receive their allegedly 'humanitarian' aid in due course." — Damon Zoss†

My apologies to Damon Zoss or any other Farengi who might have been offended by this tactless and irresponsible satire. It goes without saying, and is in fact flatulently obvious, that the Farengi Rules of Acquisition forbid restraint of trade of any kind, including the inconceivably profitless military blockade against 1.5 million civilians in Gaza who desperately require Walmarts. Fair market value for the goods detained will be determined, as customary, by auction.

[Update, 10 June 10] Hamas can be counted upon to abrade a moral victory on the #10 grit of their own principles. Today, we learn, Hamas rejected "snack foods" in the humanitarian aid finally delivered by the Israelis. It's not clear whether that's a comment on halal (approximately, "kosher") foods only, or whether the IDF slipped a case of Twinkies into the shipment to foul the purity of intent. It makes no sense that Irish blockade runners would deliberately offend strict Muslim food rules, any more than they'd send a nice ham to Benjamin Netanyahu for Christmas.


Friday, June 04, 2010

Koyo High School, in Okinawa

Google street view is pretty limited in Okinawa. This is Koyo High School, Nanjoshi, Okinawa, where my daughter will be exchange studenting for a couple of weeks. Part of her Japanese language courses at Washington High School, here in Cedar Rapids.

This scene reminds me of western Kansas, kind of, maybe around Gardner in 1960.


Thursday, June 03, 2010

Pop Koan

Q. What's the best thing about Lady Gaga?

A. She doesn't wear a single glove.


Wednesday, June 02, 2010


I noticed something about the Bible last night during a long bout of insomnia. Funny I never noticed it before. It's about people.

Is that obvious to you? I thought it was about me.

Pull back. Squint. Notice the frame. All about people. Everyone from charismatic culture heroes to powerful evil dudes and dudettes with brylcreem in their twisted hair, to mediocrities like tax collectors, to carpenters, fishermen, street kids and raging bedevilled women, to centurions and lepers, to harlots and criminals.

To a mildly bent out of shape sociopath like yours truly, a bit of a surprise. Sometimes I think my skull is a prison, the way Time is...

But Time at least is weird. When you sit in your car waiting for a train to cross the tracks very slowly (because you are in a small rural town, and the train has just loaded up with megatons of something good, boring and agricultural), if you are young enough and bored enough, the clacking of the train rolling over its points becomes a bit hypnotic. The train goes left to right, you lick your Dairy Queen, the train goes left to right, you ... start floating in the opposite direction!

Time and space are your own illusion, briefly, until you shake it off. All your life your Bible has been judging you, like a mirror. Now, by seeing the frame that picture is in, and forgetting it, you can see the characters in the story. You can form your own opinions.

It's not quite a jailbreak, it's not satori. But it is suggestive.

People are why I became a Catholic. The billiard ball that knocked me toward the corner pocket was my wife and child, yes. But my spin, my English, is all me. Buddhism has the Sangha, the community of Buddhist monks and lay persons. But there are not a lot of Buddhists around here.

Catholicism has the Church, another big inclusive idea. Potato, potahto, saint or bodhisattva... So, I can ignore the Pope and an extravagance of misguided clergy who pontificate on matters they are plainly ignorant of — evolution and modern biology come to mind for this century, Copernicus and Galileo for centuries past — but I can't ignore the community of believers.

Insomnia... Were you asleep? I was dreaming that the bush is Us. The Burning is something else again.


Casting the First Stone


Cancer, or, What I Did This Summer

Stay frosty, dudes.