# 07 Sep 2004, 04:31AM: Sumimasen, Gomen Nasai:
That's "Pardon me, I'm sorry" in Japanese. Probably the first phrases I learned here. Just back from Hiroshima, where I used them and felt them more strongly.
The typhoon cancelled my train and rerouted me so I didn't get to see some famous castle. But I am fine.
Leonard's grandfather Dalton has died. I grieve for him.
# 10 Sep 2004, 05:19AM: Fast Facts:
- 13 Going On 30 is actually a fun movie. I cried several times during the 3 or 4 times I watched it over the Pacific. Man, I am so dehydrated.
- The mayor of Hiroshima has sent a telegram of protest every time some country has performed an official nuclear test for the past 50 or 60 years. It is hard to avoid repeating yourself in that sort of situation.
- Kappabashi, the district in Tokyo best known for fake food (got a fake daikon and an octopus keychain for Leonard), also sells chef's hats (got one for Leonard), stoves, dishes, signs, basically everything you need for a restaurant in Tokyo aside from the U-Bribe form pad. Maybe I did not look hard enough.
- During my two weeks in Tokyo, I received two separate emails from people who are virtual strangers to me and yet read this journal. Hello, Laura and Dara! I had to explain to Steve that this frequency was highly anomalous. Steve gets these kinds of emails every week, but then again he writes about Japanese fetish punk clothes and gets linked by BoingBoing.
# 13 Sep 2004, 06:22PM: No Coins With Holes In The Middle?:
Oh yeah, back in the US you tip at restaurants.
# 14 Sep 2004, 02:42PM: Imagine The Duet:
I'll post about various depressing world events/phenomena soon. If anyone who reads this journal would care to cheer my day by posting some entertaining Zell Miller/Alan Keyes quotes in their own weblog, I'd be much obliged.
# 16 Sep 2004, 02:46PM: TV Misguide:
I flipped through TV recently.
The Oreck vacuum guy is badmouthing bagless vacuums (by extension this is a negative ad against Dyson) (extension! ha!) as "unsanitary" since dust comes back into the room when you dump the dirt receptacle into your trash. Infomercials hawk speed-reading software that would not materially increase my reading speed (as far as I can tell from the demo video) and a tri-wheeled Razor-like scooter that slaloms around the street. You don't have to pedal or push, just rock side-to-side to move the "Trikke" forward. How does it work? Handwaving about the conservation of angular momentum. The guy actually said "it's not really important for you or me to understand exactly how it works, just that it does." Gah!
Oprah's new Book is Pearl S. Buck's depressing and very good The Good Earth, which I almost typed as The Good Eats.
I watched about two minutes of Gilmore Girls and Leonard heard it from the next room, where he was reading Nabokov or Iain Pears or some thing, like he's Jeeves or something with those improving books. He asked whether I was watching a talk show. I tried to explain that aficionados of Gilmore Girls love the fast-paced and prolific dialogue, and ended up saying, "It's like The West Wing about life."
# 16 Sep 2004, 04:29PM: World Phenomena Worry Me:
Despite my pro-Democrat tendencies, I can see how US citizens who don't follow politics very closely could think the two major parties are "two houses both alike in dignity" and therefore write them off equally with "a plague on both your houses."
Topic for pondering: are Republicans more like the Montagues or the Capulets? Can you somehow shoehorn into this question the weird fiasco that leads the Illinois Republican Party to ask its members to vote for Alan Keyes instead of Barack Obama?
Anyway. So I take a break from depressing US news to survey some depressing world news.
Russia. I remember when I thought "Putin might not be so bad; maybe they need economic improvements more/sooner than the freedom stuff." I am ashamed that I ever thought that. Russia under Tsar Vladimir is a ratchet, occasionally tightening and never loosening government control of public and private life. And it makes me sad that I wouldn't feel safe going back to that country that I liked a lot.
India and the subcontinent in general. The far-right network of Hindu fundie organizations, including the RSS (darn them for taking such a nice abbreviation), gets money from the Indian diaspora in, say, Silicon Valley. Oh, we're just collecting money for charities, for international friendship, that sort of thing, don't mind us. As maddening as it is to see anyone using religion as a pretext for violence and oppression, I find it even more maddening when it's my religion. (Yes, when I'm religious at all, I'm a Hindu.)
Meanwhile, Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf has survived three assassination attempts in the past 12 months. He's one of those "pro-US strongmen" and evidently he doesn't just kill everyone who opposes him, so I kind of hope the assassins don't succeed. I should do more research to figure out whether I should be rooting for anyone at all.
Darfur. Yes, it is so ghoulish that I can't think about it. I am a small speck of a human.
North Korea. I wish I could just laugh at Kim Jong Il, since he is so ridiculous, instead of worrying about whether his arsenal could reach the West Coast, and wondering whether that mysterious explosion portends doom. To further this goal I shall watch Team America: World Police.
Hong Kong. The LegCo elections went okay but not great. (I keep thinking the Hong Kong legislature is the LEGO.)
In a political science and/or recursion sense my intellect likes the weird meta-electionness. Back in my UCB days I learnt about a three-level model:
- The actual set of people elected/appointed to run the country on any given day have particular ideas and policies and try to get certain things done.
- More deeply and less ephemerally, the general worldview of the people who have power and influence indicates what's desirable and what's possible in the long term.
- As a foundation, the rules of the game (how and when we choose leaders, for example) confer legitimacy on the whole process. Breaking these rules is heresy. (For best results, make the rules of the game very hard to change. By the way, the US has a very demanding procedure for amending the Constitution. India doesn't. The US has had 27 amendments in 205 years; India, 92 in 58 years. So cluttered!)
Here in the US we supposedly believe that a government derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed (Jefferson got it from Locke). I've been rereading Cryptonomicon so the legitimacy of governments reminds me of the viability of currency. If following the rules of the game is like putting gold into a vault to back your currency, then breaking the rules is like removing that gold and converting to a fiat money system, but since many currencies today are fiat money I'll have to work on my analogy.
Anyway, Hong Kong uses simple elections (ordinarily the province of the most superficial level of governance) to decide on the rules of the game and whether the Red control of Hong Kong has any legitimacy, not to mention the intermediate "what is desirable in general" ideology battle. Imagine a Hong Kong sample ballot:
Referendum A: Resolved that The People's Republic should just get off our backs, man. Don't make us act like Taiwan!
Referendum B: Shall the city increase the number of antiphone booths from 4 per square kilometer to 6 within that same area? (ed: an antiphone booth is a booth where phones don't work)
Referendum C: Tapioca pearl tea: passé or retro trendy?
Referendum D: Instead of making noise about those silly "rights," could we all sit down to a nice orderly cup of green tea?
For LegCo MucketyMuck (please vote for only one):
Ling "IndyMedia" Li
Wei "Jiang Zemin (Or Whoever It Is Now) Has The Mandate of Heaven I Mean The Nth Party Congress" Lo
Anyway, it's meta. Leonard was on the right track; The international channel in SF should carry a West Wing ripoff set in Hong Kong and its name should translate as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."
# 17 Sep 2004, 09:25AM: Spicy ---} Endorphins:
I have been gobbling the Herdez hot salsa like this for the past two days.
# 17 Sep 2004, 06:13PM: "Majors was laughing like a fool":
"It would be impossible for me to really describe a headman's house, but I'll try.....I was awakened during the night by a baby crying, and I thought to myself how much alike we all were, for there in the dark I might have been any place in the world. I could not tell the difference between that little savage's cry and the cry of any baby that I heard in any other part of the world."
-- "Behind Japanese Lines in Burma"
# 20 Sep 2004, 09:52AM GMT+5:30: Media:
Read Y: The Last Man, Volume I: quite entertaining. I need more! Finished Morrow's depressing This Is The Way The World Ends. Yeah, he is obsessed with submarines and silly names and big show trials. Still reading the better Blameless In Abaddon.
Have now (deep breath) actually started Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson. (If I were incredibly hardcore, I could finish that and The Confusion by the time The System of the World went on sale tomorrow.) I was afraid to start Quicksilver and vaguely thought that I had to study the history of currency and the Enlightenment to prepare before reading it. Well, I'm fifty pages in and enjoying it, and of course Stephenson is exfoliating, I mean expositioning enough to keep me not-too-confused (i.e., it's not the cursèd Name of the Rose which is nigh-impossible to read without annotation if you didn't grow up Christian (I said nigh-impossible so you don't have to write me with exceptions)). I did say "gah" at the same thing that annoyed Leonard, but he assures me that it gets better.
I must admit that the Stanford college radio station is pretty good and, unlike the UC Berkeley station, has an MP3 stream as well as a RealPlayer stream.
# 21 Sep 2004, 10:50AM: Just Observing:
If you are Fortinbras then you do not have a weblog. To the extent that you have a weblog, you are Hamlet.
# 22 Sep 2004, 03:45PM GMT+5:30: Lots Of Puns And Theodicy:
Done with Blameless in Abaddon, thus 2/3 of the way through The Godhead Trilogy. Enjoyable enough. Alexei, I think you'd like it.
# 23 Sep 2004, 04:10PM: Twice In Two Weeks = Every Week:
When a subscriber says "days" where the truth is "weeks" or otherwise mangles time, that makes me feel better about having once showed up to a party a day late. And almost showing up to a different party a week late. Zed, Mr. Shipman, you can back me up on this.
# 23 Sep 2004, 04:30PM: Will Franken, Today and Tomorrow:
Will Franken plays The Dark Room on September 23 and 24, 2004. 2263 Mission Street, San Francisco (between 18th and 19th). Shows start at 10pm both nights. $7 admission. I plan on going both nights. Feel free to come with!
# 24 Sep 2004, 05:22PM: My Secret Leonard's Family Weapon:
My Leonard's Family Weblog Aggregator. Lots of updating today!
Also, it is not every day that I get to squeal excitedly, "Daniel Davies posted a new entry about health insurance!"
# 26 Sep 2004, 06:08PM: Listening To Jonathan Richman:
I've now watched lots and lots of Will Franken and still love his stuff. Sarah, Damien, and Susan also seemed to enjoy his work on Friday night. Today: Alexei and I visited SF's celebration of World Vegetarian Day. Golden Gate Park, a stroll through the Haight, dessert and political ranting at Ben and Jerry's. Maybe the only reason I do things I regret is to get out of the rut, to stop feeling so predictable.
# 27 Sep 2004, 03:03PM: Seth, Don't Read This Till Tomorrow!:
Years ago, I helped give Seth his Selfish Socks and a shirt with a Dawkins quote upon it. Tonight I give him a neat lawyer-joke shirt.
# 28 Sep 2004, 09:20AM: He Likes The Shirt:
Went to Seth's birthday party. Met Annalee Newitz and made mock of Aaron Swartz, then felt bad upon discovering that he also enjoyed 13 Going On 30. Nice Riana gave ride home. I dreamt of Alton Brown.
# 29 Sep 2004, 08:26AM: Happy:
Leonard made cheese puffs last night and filled them with douxchelle (sp?), a mushroom thing. We ate them and green beans with garlic and pine nuts, and watched some Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It was as happy as I can remember being. Thanks, Leonard.
# 29 Sep 2004, 10:09AM: MacArthur Beefcake:
Vamsi Mootha is HOT. *fanning self with handkerchief*
# 29 Sep 2004, 04:47PM: No Endless Recursion? Darn:
I didn't even know LiveJournal had a "read the most recent posts by friends of your friends" feature until I saw a clickthrough from one such page in my referrer logs. I see I can't extend it forever.
# 30 Sep 2004, 04:33PM: Meera, Toll-Free: (888) 311-2FLY:
Instead of trawling online, I am actually using a travel agency to arrange a domestic flight. How decadent!
# 30 Sep 2004, 04:48PM: Vegan Yum Or Blech Review:
Every once in a while I order snacks from VeganEssentials. A recent selection:
- Sharkies fruit chews. Yum! Not as substantial-feeling as, say, preservative-pumped generic supermarket fruit chews, but more than adequate at the fruitiness and snackiness.
- Let's Do ... Organic Gummi Bears got quite the approval rating in this corner of the Salon office. "Wheat Free" in French is evidently "Sans Blé", and you can probably translate "Oursons aux Fruits Biologique Bonbons Jujubes" yourself.
- Tubi's Organic Black Licorice proves a fine licorice, the equal of any other.
- Pumpkorn: I just could not stop eating this, even though it was sort of overseasoned and a little bitter. So why did I keep eating it? Because I was working and didn't want to get up.
- Do not order nor eat Audrey's Raw Food Bars. Several tasters and I agree on this. Crumbly, bitter, fake-tasting, overall shiver-producing in a bad way. Ech!
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