Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! or Io, Saturnalia! etc.

I'm at my mom's house for Christmas, forgot my camera-battery charger, and find I have much less time for writing than I expected, so there probably won't be a lot of posts here for a few days. But thanks for reading. I appreciate everyone who stops by, especially my regular readers, who I always think of as friends rather than "readers." Hope you are all having happy holidays.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (12/17/2008)

I've always been sceptical of the ability of psychologists to diagnose people they've never met, but you would think that even someone who practices mainly in the media would be able to tell the difference between OCD (obviously) and paranoia (obviously not) without FAIL. You know, like the article's commentators can. Or anyone with access to Wikipedia. FFS.

Speaking of shoe-throwing, to some people it's all just a game.

Obama is Time magazine's "Person of the Year" for 2008. It's the obvious choice, and thus not all that interesting. (As the 2006 winner, I'm qualified to say that.) The most interesting part of the coverage is the uncovering of a series of photos that an aspiring photographer took of him back in 1980 when they were both in college.

Death to the Tinman.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (12/9/2008)

I bet this salsa is really spicy.

One paragraph from Bill Simmons:
Speaking of short yardage, you know Philly is struggling when reader Dan from Fairfax, Va., sends me a long e-mail explaining why Andy Reid should sign a "little person," then have McNabb line up in shotgun formation while holding the "little person," take a shotgun snap, hand the ball to the "little person," then fling him over the offensive and defensive lines into the end zone. And Dan was serious. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2008 Philadelphia Eagles!
I dunno, it sounds like it could work. I'd like to see it, anyway.

Please, Santa, bring me one of these.

Freaky x-rays (nails in head, etc.)

Howlin' Wolf does "Smokestack Lightning"

Saturday, December 06, 2008

I'm reading "Twilight," so you don't have to (ch. 13)

Our Story So Far

Here's my synopsis of Chapter 13 of Twilight, by Stephenie [sic] Meyer.

Chapter 13. Confessions

Edward sparkles, scintillates, glistens, glitters, and shimmers in the sun, and his chest is incandescent. (And that's just in the first five paragraphs. I can't wait to see what other words Stephenie Meyer found in her thesaurus under "shine.") The meadow pales next to his magnificence. (Seriously. ISYN. It says that. "The meadow, so spectacular to me at first, paled next to his magnificence.")

Bella spends a lot of time just staring at Edward and touching his hand. Then they talk. The end. (Just kidding. Unfortunately.) They talk, and Edward breathes in Bella's face with his Beautiful Sparkly Vampire breath, which smells sweet (and not like the animal blood which is the only thing he eats or drinks). This makes her mouth water. (Which sounds like it would be a bit of a problem -- as in ewww -- when they finally get around to kissing. I mean, a little saliva is fine, it's part of the package, but a partner whose mouth waters every time you breathe on her would be a bit, um, what's the word I'm looking for -- disgusting.)

Edward freaks out, apparently because Bella's slobbering makes him want to kill her (but in a good way). He runs in circles around the meadow for a while, showing off his Beautiful Sparkly Vampire super powers and telling Bella how easy it would be to kill her. This scares Bella, but also makes him more beautiful than ever. And it's OK, because afterwards he says he's sorry and he promises he'll never hurt her.

(OK, maybe somebody can explain to me how this relationship is romantic rather than sick. What kind of psycho goes around telling his girlfriend how easy it would be to kill her? And what kind of co-dependent puts up with crap like that? Why doesn't Bella tell Edward to take his Beautiful Sparkly Vampire super powers and go frak himself? I can't believe that some people actually encourage their daughters to read this book. It teaches exactly the opposite of what I want mine to learn about relationships.)

Edward explains all about how irresistible he found Bella's smell when they first met. He was mean to her because he was trying not to kill her and expose himself and his family as Beautiful Sparkly Vampires. He says several more times about how he wants to kill Bella and how easy it would be. His golden eyes scorch from under his lashes, hypnotic and deadly. Bella feels sorry for him because he wants to kill her so bad.

Edward says he'd be really sad if he killed Bella. Bella says she'd rather die than stay away from Edward. They say some cutesy stuff about lions and lambs. They practice touching each other without Edward killing Bella.

Edward puts Bella on his back and carries her through the woods back to her truck by running with his Beautiful Sparkly Vampire super speed. Bella gets motion sickness and almost faints, but unfortunately she doesn't vomit on Edward. That would have been funny.

Edward kisses Bella, and she starts to get her freak on ("Blood boiled under my skin, burned in my lips." Seriously.), but Edward makes her stop so he won't kill her. They argue about who's going to drive the truck. Edward wins, of course.

Man, I hate this book.

(Check the pull-down menu under "Ongoing Series" in the left side-blog for more Twilight chapters.)

Friday, December 05, 2008

YouTube Favorites (December 2008)

A baby preacher makes about as much sense as most other preachers, a toddler leads cheers at the Philadelphia Phillies victory parade, "using the Neti Pot can be as routine as brushing your teeth," now you can take a treadmill outside and go places with it, a man on the British program Nationwide claims he can jump on eggs without breaking them, Sasha "The Machine" Vujacic breaks down, and Spicoli lives!

This baby preacher makes about as much sense as most other preachers.

Will leads cheers at the Phillies victory parade. (Compare and contrast with the Baby Preacher.)

"Using the Neti Pot can be as routine as brushing your teeth."

Haven't you always wanted to take a treadmill outside and go places with it? Now you can! Or, um, you could just get off and walk or something, I guess.

A man on the British program Nationwide claims he can jump on eggs without breaking them. (The host's reaction is classic.)

Sasha "The Machine" Vujacic breaks down.

Spicoli lives!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My spouse's bad habit

Actual conversation tonight with my spouse, H:

H: Did you know your jacket -- [I can't hear the rest because the kids are too noisy].

Me: What?

H: Your jacket.

Me: Arrgh!

We have similar conversations quite often.

H: [Shouted from the kitchen] Tonight's dinner is -- [I can't hear the rest because she's shouting it from the kitchen].

Me: What?

H: Tonight's dinner.

Me: Arrgh!

You see, if H says something and I don't hear it, she doesn't repeat the whole sentence, she just repeats the subject.

H: Your mother -- [something-something-something].

Me: What?

H: Your mother.

Me: Arrgh!

Only the subject.

H: The kids have to -- [something-something-something-something].

Me: What?

H: The kids.

Me: Arrgh!

Nothing else.

H: The car has been -- [something-something].

Me: What?

H: The car.

Me: Arrgh!

We've known each other for 24 years now.

H: Obama -- [something-something-something].

Me: What?

H: Obama.

Me: Arrgh!

She's been doing it as long as I've known her.

H: Your computer is -- [something-something].

Me: What?

H: Your computer.

Me: Arrgh!

I love her with all my heart, but it's driving me crazy.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (12/2/2008)

"There was a little girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead;
And when she was good,
She was very, very good
But when she was bad she was horrid."

Unusual Architecture.

"Tarvuism is one of the oldest and largest religions in the world, with over 1 billion followers in over 150 countries - from afar as Iceland to Timonia - speaking as many languages. As Tarvu said 'Every land is nice, and everyone who lives there is nice too'."

Whoa horsie, whoa!

How Long Could You Survive Chained to a Bunk Bed with a Velociraptor? (I could survive for 1 minute and 22 seconds.)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I'm reading "Twilight," so you don't have to (ch. 12)

Our Story So Far

Here's my synopsis of Chapter 12 of Twilight, by Stephenie [sic] Meyer.

Chapter 12. Balancing

Billy The Old Indian Dude and his son Jacob The Indian visit Bella and her father. Her father invites them in to watch a game on TV. Bella and Jacob The Indian talk in the kitchen while she makes grilled cheese sandwiches. Bella admits she's been going with Edward Cullen. Jacob The Indian says his father is a superstitious old man. Bella is worried that Billy The Old Indian Dude will tell her father that she's hanging around with a Beautiful Vampire. Jacob The Indian doesn't think so.

Bella has lots of homework, but she stays in the living room and pretends to watch the game and listen to Jacob The Indian talk to her, but all she cares about is whether Billy The Old Indian Dude will tell her father about Edward. He doesn't.

After the Indians leave, Bella's father talks to her. She's afraid Billy The Old Indian Dude said something when she wasn't looking, but he didn't; Bella's father just wants to have a conversation with her. He says he's going fishing on Saturday.

The next morning, Edward picks her up in The Silver Volvo again. Bella gets in the car and -- OK, I have to quote this next part verbatim, because otherwise no one will believe it's actually in the a book -- "He grinned his crooked smile at me, stopping my breath and my heart. I couldn't imagine how an angel could be anymore glorious. There was nothing about him that could be improved upon." Edward asks Bella if she slept well.

Edward asks her more questions in the car and at lunch. He's surprised that she never had a boyfriend before, and says more stuff about how awesome she is. He says he's skipping school after lunch to go hunting so he won't be as hungry when they go on their date tomorrow.

Bella realizes that most of the other Beautiful Vampire kids don't much like her. Rosalie The Mean One glares at her. Edward hisses at her to make her stop. He says the other Beautiful Vampires are worried that they'll all get in trouble if Edward kills Bella. Alice The Nice One comes over and meets Bella. Edward and Alice The Nice One leave to go hunting.

Bella wants to ditch also -- apparently there's no point in being at school if your boyfriend isn't there too -- but decides not to because it would be conspicuous and make Edward more likely to get in trouble if he kills her tomorrow. (Seriously. I'm not making that up.)

Bella thinks their date tomorrow will be pivotal, because that's when Edward will decide if they are going to stay together. It's up to him, because nothing is more terrifying and excruciating to Bella than the thought of turning away from him.

Bella has no idea what happened in biology class, because all she could think of was Edward and their date tomorrow. In gym, The Least Annoying Of The Many Annoying Boys Who Like Bella asks her if she's going to the big dance tomorrow and she lies and says she's doing homework and laundry. She hurts his feelings by blowing him off when he asks her, in that case, to come to the dance with their friends.

When Bella gets to the parking lot after school, Edward has delivered her truck. He's left a note that says, "Be safe" (because he won't be around to stalk her for her own good for a few hours).

After she gets home, Bella calls one of the yokels her friends and (just in case she gets killed on her date) tells her that her trip to Seattle with Edward is canceled. Then she tells her father that she won't be going to Seattle after all (she's never mentioned who she was going to go with), but will be hanging around doing laundry and homework and running errands. She's getting good at lying, because that's what true love does to you.

After dinner, Bella's mind has too much free time and she starts to freak out. She fluctuates between anticipation so intense that it is very nearly pain, and an insidious fear that plucks at her resolve. Edward's note means he wants her to be safe, so she hopes he wants that more than he wants to drink her blood. It would be intolerable to cut him out of her life -- her life is "about" him. But she still kinda wonders if getting killed by a Beautiful Vampire hurts a lot.

Bella can't sleep, so she drugs herself with some cough medicine. It works, but when she wakes up in the morning (with no trace of a hangover or anything) she slips back into the same hectic frenzy from the night before. She gets dressed and eats breakfast and keeps looking out the window to see if Edward's there yet.

Edward shows up in clothes that match Bella's. They leave in Bella's truck. She drives, but he tells her where to go. They're going to go to the woods and hike five miles. Bella's sure she can't walk that far in the woods without injuring herself.

Edward gets mad at Bella when he finds out she didn't tell anyone who she'd be with. She says it's because she didn't want him to get in trouble if he kills her. Edward gets even madder but apparently doesn't conclude that she's insane, because they continue the date.

They get to the woods. Bella's afraid to get out of the car because Edward's mad at her, but then she gets out of the car. They take off their sweaters, and Edward's all white and muscley and godlike, which gives Bella a piercing stab of despair because he's too good for her. Edward is bewildered by her tortured expression and can't figure out why she's such a buzz kill all of a sudden.

They walk through the woods. Bella tries not to look at him, because every time she does, his beauty pierces her through with sadness. They don't talk much, except that Edward still keeps asking her questions. They walk all morning. The forest spreads out in a boundless labyrinth of ancient trees, but Edward knows where he's going.

Bella starts to get excited because she's finally going to see Edward in the sun. They come to a beautiful meadow filled with wildflowers, which confuses me because there was an ice storm like a couple of weeks ago. The meadow is so pretty that Bella forgets for a few seconds that they came there to look at Edward in the sun. She turns back to look at him, and he steps into the sunlight, but we have to wait until the next chapter to find out what he looks like. I don't know about you, but my breath is bated.

Halfway done! w00t! This is taking way longer than I expected, but then, the book is way worse than I expected.

(Check the pull-down menu under "Ongoing Series" in the left side-blog for more Twilight chapters.)

Wikidämmerung:The Twilight of Wikipedia

Word count for the Wikipedia article on "Twilight" the natural phenomenon:

Word count for the Wikipedia article on the "Twilight" book series:

(Check out the "I'm reading 'Twilight,' so you don't have to" pull-down menu under "Ongoing Series" in the left side-blog for a chapter-by-chapter synopsis of Twilight.)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Winston Churchill, Head of the Fags

I finished all the library books I have checked out, and I've been too busy to get any new ones, so I've been rereading one of my own books: Winston Churchill's My Early Life.

I won't give a full review here -- I'll simply say that it's Churchill's best book (yes, I've read most of them), interesting and very entertaining and permeated by a marvelous self-deprecating sense of humor, and I highly recommend it -- because I just want to point out one unintentionally funny passage about his school days:

Officially I never got out of the Lower School, so I never had the privilege of having a fag of my own. When in the passage of time I became what was called "a three-yearer," I ceased to have to fag myself, and as I was older than other boys of my standing, I was appointed in my House to the position of Head of the Fags. This was my first responsible office, and the duties, which were honorary, consisted in keeping the roster of all the fags, making out a list of their duties and dates and placing copies of these lists in the rooms of the monitors, football and cricket champions and other members of our aristocracy. I discharged these functions for upwards of a year, and on the whole I was resigned to my lot.

Churchill is often credited with the quotation "Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language" (although G. B. Shaw or Oscar Wilde may actually have said it first). I think the above passage is a good illustration of that principle.

(If you're unfamiliar with "fagging" in the context of English public schools, read this.)

Friday I'm in Love...

...with David Thorne!

Not in a gay way or anything, I just think his website is really funny. Like the way he tried to pay an overdue bill with a drawing of a spider, and why he wishes he had a monkey, and Simon the Web Genius, and his correspondence with Dick the hate mailer.

And lots of other stuff, but you can't access any of it from his front page unless you try very hard, which I guess is supposed to be funny, so I'm pretending I get the joke because I'm cool like that. I'm also looking forward to reading his novel.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, Americans and Resident Aliens!

Happy Thursday, everyone else!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (11/26/2008)

Here's an awesome optical illusion. Drag the black bars across the black-and-white image. It'll take a little trial and error to get the speed right, but drag the bars slowly for best results. H/t: Bad Astronomy

A list of some Actual Quanta of Solace.

A Short History of the Bagel. Mmmm history...

Spider eats bird. Photos ensue.

PX:Direct supplies inmate uniforms, prisoner restraints ,
and detention equipment including modular jail cells, cell furnishings and detention hardware. Customers include Federal, State, County and Military Correctional Facilities, Government and Law Enforcement, the armed forces, hospitals, production companies and the general public.
The general public? Like who -- parents of teenagers, maybe?

What some people don't get about Proposition 8

What people who oppose gay marriage don't get is that in this fight they are the bad guys. They are the Board of Education of Topeka in 1954. They are the State of Virginia in 1967. They are Bob Jones University in 1983.

At least, that's whose heirs they are. That's whose side they're on. Because just like they're certain they have good reasons to oppose gay marriage, eminently respectable people at places like the Board of Education of Topeka, the Government of Virginia, and Bob Jones University were dead certain that they had sound religious, legal, and scientific reasons to oppose racial integration, reasons that they would have strongly denied had anything to do with bigotry.

But who believes those denials today? They're laughable. They've always been laughable. The people making them couldn't see that at the time. But many of them do today, and many, many more of their children and grandchildren do too. I don't know how long it will take -- 10 years, 20 years, 50 years -- but eventually society will come to see the arguments against gay marriage the same way. It's inevitable. No argument can stand against love and equality. It's only a matter of time.

Most of the people against gay rights -- who include some of my family and some of my best friends, people I love -- are good people. They want to be the good guys. They're not used to being the bad guys. They're not used to being on the side of the bullies. Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of history. Everybody wants to be Loving, or Brown, or the United States. Nobody wants to be Virginia, or the Board of Education, or Bob Jones University. But that's who the people against gay marriage are.

And that's something that's impossible for a lot of them to get their heads around. "I'm not a bigot," they'll tell you, and they'll mean it. "I don't hate anyone," they'll tell you, and they'll mean that too. Well, maybe they're not really bigots. Maybe they don't really hate. I don't know. I can't see inside their hearts.

But I can see behavior. I can see history. And I can see that old-time segregationists said much the same things. They said they didn't hate anyone either. They said they weren't bigots. They said segregation was God's will. They said our very civilization would collapse without it. But they were wrong.

And if they didn't hate black people, they might as well have. If they weren't bigots, they might as well have been. It made little real difference. Their arguments were nonsense. Their arguments were lies. Their arguments were evil. Their arguments harmed people.

And if you oppose gay rights, even just gay marriage, you're not much different. You say you're not a bigot? Well, you sure act like one. You say you don't hate anyone? Well, you sure act like you do. You say you're tired of being called a hateful bigot? Stop acting like one.

Because now you're on the side of the bad guys. You're on the side of the people who deny other people equal rights. You're with the people who harm people who want nothing more than the same rights that you already have. If that doesn't fit your self-image, well, too bad, because that's who you've become. You can deny it all you want, but don't expect anyone who doesn't already think like you to take your denials seriously. That's been tried before. It didn't work back then, and it won't work now.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Beat kuri's Quiz Score: Civic Literacy

Civics quiz

Actually, this one should be called "Tie kuri's Quiz Score," since it's impossible to beat it: "You answered 33 out of 33 correctly — 100.00 %"

This is the quiz part of an actual survey. The average score was 49 percent correct (although the average online score is 78 percent -- self-selection in action?). People who have held public office averaged 44 percent correct.

Lets Ecology! 18: That's why I get the big money, Part 2

A couple of days later, Okayama said Soga would take us out to lunch to discuss my contract. At 12:30, the three of us walked over to a nearby seafood place. We went inside and sat on cushions around a low table on a raised tatami mat floor. After ordering and a few polite conversational preliminaries, Soga said, "So, Okayama tells me you'd like to work for us full time."

"Yes, definitely, I hope so."

"Okayama speaks highly of you. We want to hire you full-time. But we have our salary structure, and we have to be careful. If we pay you too much everybody will want raises and the whole organization will be messed up."

Ah, I thought, now it begins. Their whole salary structure will collapse if they pay me a decent wage, will it? That's a crafty ploy. I braced myself for a long back-and-forth struggle over my salary. I was ready to get down and negotiate. I hoped. "I understand," I said.

"We're prepared to offer you about $3,000* per month," Soga said.

I was literally speechless. I suspect that my mouth literally fell open as well. My only previous experience negotiating wages in Japan had been with Mr. Hayashi at Ginza English Conversation School. His first offer, you may recall, was so low that I actually stood up and started to leave. But now Soga was offering exactly what Okayama had said he would tell Soga that I wanted -- more than I had asked Okayama for.

I glanced at Okayama; he smiled and nodded encouragingly. In Japan, matters are often settled behind the scenes, through go-betweens. A meeting is then held only as a formality, to ratify the decision that has already been made. After I recovered from my initial surprise, I realized that this was what was happening. Okayama had acted as my go-between with Soga, and "my" offer of $3,000 had been accepted. I assumed Soga meant $3,000 gross, and decided to accept his offer.

All this took a long silent moment for my Aspergian brain to process, however, and Soga misinterpreted my hesitation. "That's take-home pay, of course," he said. "If you want more than that we'll need to consider it some more, maybe take it up with the Board of Directors."

Gulp. For once, my lack of visible affect stood me in good stead, because if I freely expressed my emotions I would probably have jumped up and down, hugged Soga and Okayama, and shouted "YES! YES! YES!" at the top of my lungs, which might have somewhat compromised my negotiating position. But I kept my cool, and for the briefest moment even thought about trying to get more out of them, since Soga had left that option open. I decided not to press my luck, though. "Uh, yes, well, I guess $3,000 take-home will be adequate," I said.

"Good," Soga said. "You're not a man who quibbles about money. That's one of the things we like about you." Quibble? Do people who die and go to heaven quibble? Soga was offering me way more than what I'd intended to be my opening offer, and maybe 40 percent more than I would have settled for. My income was about to soar, and more importantly, I was finally, finally, getting a Real Job, and not just any Real Job, but one I still thought was interesting and intrinsically important to boot.

That same night, I gave notice to Mr. Hayashi at the English school. Two weeks later, in mid-October of 1990, I became a full-time employee of the Recycle Movement Citizens Association.

*All these negotiations were actually in yen, but I'm using rough equivalents in dollars.

More "Let's Ecology!" posts are here. "Let's Ecology!" is the story of my stint with a Japanese environmental group (or sort of an environmental group -- it's "complicated"). Look for new posts every Monday. The names have been changed to protect me from lawsuits. Everything else really happened.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The "Twilight" movie

Sorry, no review; I won't be watching it. It'll probably make over $500 million in ticket sales, and it might even not be all that bad -- no one would be stupid enough to just copy the book, with its tedious buildup (seriously, I'm only one chapter short of finishing half the book, and I still haven't found the plot that everyone tells me is coming) and ridiculously melodramatic narration -- but no.

I suspect it'll be another Titanic -- overhyped and very popular with teenage girls who don't know any better, but neither a good movie nor a bad enough movie to watch for the lulz. At least with Titanic, you got to see Kate Winslet's boobs. I'm betting that whoever plays Bella keeps her shirt on in this movie.

Now let us cleanse our minds of Twilight with some vampire music.

And here, you can watch a real vampire movie. Hey, it's not great, but it's free.

(Check out the "I'm reading 'Twilight,' so you don't have to" pull-down menu under "Ongoing Series" in the left side-blog for a chapter-by-chapter synopsis of Twilight.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (11/20/2008)

The best, or at least the funniest, post about California's anti–gay marriage Proposition 8 and Mormons.

Now that the election is over, Obama's "terrorist pal" Bill Ayers speaks up.

The End of Wall Street. H/t: Ezra Klein

The Daily Telegraph has a slide show of the 30 greatest conspiracy theories in history. People sure believe some strange things. (I know, I know, I shouldn't talk.) H/t: Bad Astronomy

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I'm reading "Twilight," so you don't have to (ch. 11)

"Our Story So Far" is getting too long, so I'm putting that on a separate page, which I'll update every time I do a new chapter.

Also, remember back in the Chapter 8 synopsis when I said more stuff was happening? False alarm.

Also, too, I'm not using the "this is a direct quote" device much anymore, but anywhere the language seems improbably corny and flowery, it's a safe bet that I'm using Stephenie Meyer's words. OTOH, anywhere the language seems cynical and sarcastic, it's a safe bet that those are all my words.

Here's my synopsis of Chapter 11 of Twilight, by Stephenie [sic] Meyer.

Chapter 11. Complications

Edward and Bella sit close together during biology class (appropriately enough). The teacher shows a video, and they spend the whole time with their fists clenched in their armpits so they don't start groping each other in the darkened classroom.

Edward's eyes manage to smolder even in the dark, Bella has to stop looking at him so she doesn't start hyperventilating, she feels dizzy, she can't concentrate on the movie, the electric current that seems to be originating from somewhere in Edward's body never slackens (I can guess where it originates and why it isn't "slackening," wink-wink, nudge-nudge), and the overpowering craving to touch him never fades.

Edward walks Bella to class. When she turns to say goodbye, Edward's expression is torn, almost pained (Wait -- isn't "torn" worse than "pained"? Shouldn't that be "pained, almost torn"?), and fiercely beautiful. Bella's ache to touch him flares as strong as before. Her goodbye sticks in her throat. (After all, she won't be seeing him until after gym class -- a whole entire hour.)

Edward brushes Bella's cheek with the tips of his icy cold Beautiful Vampire fingers, which leave a warm trail behind (probably because feeling cold when touched by cold fingers is so unromantic). Bella is lightheaded and wobbly when she drifts into the locker room, where she changes clothes in a trancelike state.

The Least-Annoying of The Many Annoying Boys Who Like Bella (or the second-least, if we count Jacob the Indian as one of The Many, but I hear Jacob actually becomes a friend or something later on, so I'm not counting him) helps her out in gym class. Afterward, he asks her about Edward. He says he doesn't like that they're together, because Edward looks at her like she's something to eat. Bella giggles. The Least-Annoying of The Many Annoying Boys Who Like Bella glowers at her.

(OK, time out. I know that in this case Bella giggles because Edward wants to eat her in the vampiric sense, but where I come from, if you say something to a girl about a guy wanting to eat her, and she just giggles in response, that's pretty much a confession that said guy has been playing her harmonica, as they say in Japan.

So under normal circumstances, I'd say, yeah, no wonder The Least-Annoying of The Many Annoying Boys Who Like Bella is jealous/mad, even though it's a misunderstanding, except that I'm 99.44 percent sure that Stephenie Meyer has no idea that she just made a double entendre. Or is all that too advanced for a story about high school students anyway, and I just have a dirty mind? OK, don't answer the second half of that question. Time back in.)

It's time for Bella to change back into her regular clothes and see Edward again, so forget that other boy. Literally. And I quote: "my argument with [The Least-Annoying of The Many Annoying Boys Who Like Bella was] already a distant memory."

Edward is waiting in the parking lot so he can drive Bella home in The Silver Volvo. He says he doesn't like The Least-Annoying of The Many Annoying Boys Who Like Bella. Bella figures out that Edward's been doing the eavesdropping by mind reading thing again and gets mad at him. Edward eventually says he's sorry, and his eyes burn with sincerity for a protracted moment, which plays havoc with the rhythm of Bella's heart.

Edward drives Bella home. He tells her that she can never see him hunt, because he's out of control then, and, he implies, he'd go all vampire on her tasty self. Bella stares into his eyes so she can pretend not to be scared, but then flickers of the electricity she'd felt that afternoon begin to charge the atmosphere as he gazes unrelentingly into her eyes. Bella gets dizzy from holding her breath. She's woozy when she gets out of the car.

That night, Bella dreams about Edward, and the dreams are all full of electricity too, so she has trouble sleeping. In the morning, Edward picks her up in The Silver Volvo as soon as Bella's dad leaves for work. He asks her lots of questions, which Stephenie Meyer has her answer in ways that are supposed to make Bella sound interesting. That goes on all day whenever Bella and Edward see each other in school, but fortunately Bella skips over most of the questions, some of which, of course, make her blush. (No, not because they're that kind of question, just because she's prematurely menopausal [sorry, I couldn't resist] she gets embarrassed whenever one of her answers proves that she likes him. Because that's what "mature" girls do when they have boyfriends, I guess.)

In biology class, the teacher shows another movie, but this time Bella manages to not grope Edward by hanging onto the table instead of sticking her hands into her pits. In gym class, The Least-Annoying of The Many Annoying Boys Who Like Bella doesn't talk to her. Bella kinda-sorta feels bad about that, but he doesn't really matter, because he's not a Beautiful Vampire.

Edward drives Bella home again, and asks her more questions. They talk for hours in front of her house, and Bella gives some more "interesting" answers. Bella's dad is on the way home. Edward notices that it's twilight. He says it's the safest and easiest time of day for them, but also the saddest, because it means the end of another day and the return of the night. (Oh, I get it. Twilight. That's the name of the book.)

Edward rushes Bella out of The Silver Volvo and drives away in a hurry just as another car pulls up. Inside are Jacob the Indian and his father, Billy the Old Indian Dude. Billy the Old Indian Dude has seen Edward and recognized him as a Beautiful Vampire.

(Check the pull-down menu under "Ongoing Series" in the left side-blog for more Twilight chapters.)

I'm reading "Twilight," so you don't have to (Our Story So Far)

Our Story So Far:

Bella is gonna die. (Not really.)

Chapter 1
Bella complains and blushes. Edward has bronze hair. He hates Bella.

Chapter 2
Edward is absent from school. Then he comes back. He has golden eyes. He doesn't hate Bella anymore.

Chapter 3
Edward saves Bella's life with his Beautiful Vampire super powers. He won't explain how three times. He has golden eyes two times. Bella has a crush on Edward.

Chapter 4
Edward ignores Bella. Then he stops ignoring her. Three boys ask Bella to the Sadie Hawkins dance. Edward asks Bella to go to Seattle with him and his golden honey colored gloriously intense eyes and his smoldering voice. She says yes.

Chapter 5
Edward has a crooked smile and ocher-colored/golden eyes that that scorch/smolder/befuddle/burn. Edward ditches biology. Bella faints at the thought of blood. She is like so mature.

Chapter 6
Bella is engulfed in unstoppable gloom because she won't see Edward for three days. She meets an Indian boy named Jacob who (of course) immediately has a thing for her. Bella uses her feminine wiles to get Jacob to tell her that Indians are werewolves and the Beautiful Vampires are vampires who aren't allowed on the Rez.

Chapter 7
Bella decides she wants to be with Edward even if he's a vampire. Edward is absent from school again, so Bella is hit with crippling desolation and spirals downward in misery. He's absent again the next day, which painfully squashes the little sprouts of hope that keep budding in Bella's mind. She leaves on a shopping trip with some girlfriends, which cheers her up exponentially.

Chapter 8
Bella goes shopping with her friends the yokels. She gets lost while looking for a bookstore and wrestling with despair. Four Rapists try to rape her, but Edward rescues her just in the nick of time with his Silver Volvo, because he's been stalking her. But there's nothing creepy about him stalking Bella, because he only does it for her own good.

Chapter 9
Edward and Bella talk in the car. Edward smells good. Bella loves Edward.

Chapter 10
Edward and his muscular chest give Bella a ride to school in The Silver Volvo. He eavesdrops on her conversations by reading her friends' minds. He tells Bella he likes her as much as she likes him. Edward and his Beautiful Vampire family only hunt cool animals.

Chapter 11
Bella and Edward manage to not grope each other in biology class. Edward asks Bella lots of questions, which she answers in ways that are supposed to make her sound interesting. Jacob the Indian's father, Billy the Old Indian Dude, sees Bella with Edward and recognizes him as a Beautiful Vampire.

Chapter 12
Billy the Old Indian Dude doesn't tell Bella's dad that she's hanging out with a Beautiful Vampire. The other Beautiful Vampire kids don't like Bella, except Alice The Nice One. Bella worries that Edward will get in trouble if he kills her, so she lies so nobody will know they're going on a date. Their big date is a walk in the woods.

Chapter 13
Edward is a Beautiful Sparkly Vampire.

Chapter 14
Edward is about 100 years old, but he looks much younger, so it's OK for him to date Bella. Edward and Bella fool Bella's Dad so Edward can spend the night in her room, but no nookie allowed, because Edward would break her.

Chapter 15
Edward takes Bella to his Beautiful Gloomy Mansion. All Edward's Beautiful Sparkly Vampire family likes Bella, except Rosalie The Mean One, who's jealous of her. Edward starts telling the story of how Carlisle The Wise Leader became a Beautiful Sparkly Vampire.

Chapter 16
Carlisle The Wise Leader became a Beautiful Sparkly Vampire in England in the 1650s. Once he figured out that he could eat animals instead of people, he went to Europe and studied to be a doctor for 200 years. When his Beautiful Sparkly Vampire friends in Europe wouldn't stop eating people, Carlisle The Wise Leader left and went to America, where he turned Edward into a Beautiful Sparkly Vampire too. Edward tells Bella that he's always only eaten animals too, except for a little while when he ate people, to which Bella replies, yeah, whatever.

Chapter 17
Edward's Beautiful Sparkly Vampire family plays baseball in a meadow in the woods. In a thunderstorm. With metal bats. Some other Vampires approach, and everyone gets very nervous because they'll probably want to eat Bella.

Since this part has grown too long to put at the beginning of every post, I'm putting it on this separate page. I'll update it every time I finish a new chapter.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hip hop hurray!

I've never been a big fan of hip hop, but this video has made me rethink my entire outlook on music.

Lets Ecology! 17: That's why I get the big money, Part 1

At my job interview, Takahashi, Soga, and I had agreed that I would work part-time on a trial basis for a month. Now five weeks had passed, and nobody said a word about my status. I didn't know how I was being evaluated; I'd gotten almost zero feedback about my work. (This was the case at every Japanese company I worked at. They just weren't big on feedback.) I had spent most of my time working on the CCOF translation, but no one had even looked at it yet -- so much the better for me, probably.

Although I had been given no signs that they were dissatisfied with me, I had also been given no signs that they wanted to take me on full-time. This was a kind of situation I would have struggled with even in America. Speaking up for myself was something I'd never been skilled at. In America, though, I would at least have known that that's what I was supposed to do. (Although in America someone almost certainly would have already spoken to me about it). But in Japan, I wasn't really sure what to do -- was I supposed to wait for them to bring up the subject, or should I do it myself? In light of Japanese culture, I could see it going either way, and I feared making a faux pas at a critical time.

Finally I asked my spouse, H, the sensible one (as well as the Japanese one) in the family, what the proper thing to do was, and she said I should talk to my supervisor. That was Okayama. The next day I approached him. In properly humble form, I reminded him about the agreement at the job interview, and asked him what was going on. He asked me if I wanted to work there full time. I told him that I certainly did.

He nodded in his usual friendly manner. "Good. I'll talk to Mr. Soga about it. You work hard and you're not a furyo gaijin or anything, so I'd be happy to have you working here full time with us." Furyo gaijin was a new one on me. While gaijin, of course, is "foreigner," furyo literally means "not-good," but it's used in words like furyo shonen "not-good youth," which means "juvenile delinquent." So I wasn't a "delinquent foreigner." I supposed that was meant as a compliment.

Okayama asked me how much money I wanted. "At least $2,500* a month take-home," I told him. The going rate for English teachers was about $2,500–$3,000 gross, and most Real Jobs also included big summer and year-end bonuses, so that seemed reasonable to me. Actually, I was very happy with the prospect of a Real Job, and since I liked the idea of working for the environment and would also be getting bonuses twice a year, I wouldn't have turned down as little as $2,500 gross. Asking for "at least $2,500 take-home" was my idea of negotiating to make sure I got at least that much.

Okayama said, "I'll tell Mr. Soga you want $3,000. Give me a couple of days to talk to him, and I'll get back to you."

"Oh, OK. Thanks." If my supervisor wanted to hit up the company for 20 percent more money than I asked for, I wasn't going to complain. I couldn't figure out how I had been evaluated, though. Just showing up for work and not being a furyo gaijin didn't really seem like enough to base a personnel decision on, but maybe they thought it was. I wasn't going to complain about that either.

*All these negotiations were actually in yen, but I'm using rough equivalents in dollars.

More "Let's Ecology!" posts are here. "Let's Ecology!" is the story of my stint with a Japanese environmental group (or sort of an environmental group -- it's "complicated"). Look for new posts every Monday. The names have been changed to protect me from lawsuits. Everything else really happened.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Good reads/random cool sites (11/14/2008)

PhotobucketPaul Lukas of Uni Watch discusses the famous Major League Baseball logo and its not-famous-at-all designer, James Dior.

BTW, is that batter right-handed or left-handed? The answer is... either/both. He's a right-handed batter with his back to you, or a left-handed batter with his front to you. I never noticed that before the article pointed it out -- I always thought he was right-handed. It's kinda trippy, actually.

In Germany they call her "The Woman without a Face" and "The Phantom of Heilbronn." I call her the female Keyser Söze.

"'I didn't want to call or go there. How could I go to a place where women went to get rid of their thriving feti when I was so desperate to hang on to mine? 'Baby killers,' one friend called them. 'You are going to be surrounded by Baby Killers.'"

Prayer and fasting FAIL.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Food, part 2

PhotobucketLast time, I wrote about my strange childhood eating habits. This time, I'd like to talk about how all that changed, and I became a normal (I think) eater.

Looking back from an adult perspective, I think the basic reason I was able to change was that my dietary peculiarities were based mainly on familiarity rather than taste. That is, I didn't restrict my diet because the tastes of other foods were repulsive to me. That was true in only a few cases, cucumbers, pickles, and tomatoes, for example. I didn't even know what many of the foods I rejected tasted like, because I wasn't interested in eating unfamiliar food. Like most Aspergians, I don't like change, and the idea of trying new foods made me nervous. Since I had foods I liked, I saw no need to eat anything else. So I usually didn't.

How did that change? Well, part of it was just getting older. The older I got, the more foods I was exposed to. Some foods I tried because they were like other foods. I liked tortilla chips, so I tried crisp-shelled tacos, and they tasted OK. So I would eat crisp-shelled tacos sometimes (but never burritos or soft-shelled tacos). Some foods I tried because social conditions made it difficult not to. It's nearly impossible to be an American teenager and not eat pizza. Sometimes my friends wanted pizza, so I ate it too. It tasted good, so I started eating pizza (but only pepperoni pizza, if I had a choice).

So I gradually added a few new foods just by osmosis, I suppose one could say. But the big change came when I became a Mormon missionary. Before I went on my mission, I knew that food could be a problem for me no matter where I was sent. Depending on where I went, some of my favorite foods might not be available, and certainly when I visited people in their homes, they were going to often serve me food that I wasn't accustomed to. My mother and sister were quite worried about this, they told me later. Then I was assigned to Japan, where I knew I would be exposed to a whole lot of unfamiliar and even exotic foods.

I felt like I had a choice: I could cling to my dietary peccadilloes, which would probably annoy and offend people, or I could suck it up and represent. I felt like I was on a mission to serve God, my church, and my fellow human beings, so I decided that I wouldn't let food interfere with what I was in Japan to do. I decided that I would try to eat whatever was put in front of me for as long as I was a missionary.

That worked just fine. I discovered that when Japanese people served me food, they didn't expect me to like everything, but they did expect me to try everything. If I liked the food, they were pleased, and if I didn't like it, they were amused, so things worked out either way, just so long as I tried everything.

I also discovered something else: food tastes good. That probably sounds like a strange thing to say, but I'd actually been pretty indifferent to flavor before I went to Japan. That probably comes naturally when you spend your life eating only a narrow range of foods. The idea that it could be enjoyable to try new foods and experience new flavors was something that had simply never occurred to me.

But I found that I liked many of the new foods I was trying. There was sticky white rice, steamed or fried or covered in curry sauce. There were all kinds of different noodles, ramen, udon, soba, and somen, each with a different flavor and texture and served in different ways. There was a tremendous variety of seafood, both cooked and raw. (The only fish I would eat before I went to Japan was cod. I liked fish and chips, and since cod was the usual fish used for that, I accepted it cooked in other ways too.)

I tried all sorts of vegetables for the first time, raw, cooked, in salads, in tempura, and found I actually liked most of them. Japanese cucumbers are so mild, almost sweet, that I found I didn't just tolerate them, I liked them. (We grow them in our garden now, and sometimes I'll just pluck one off the vine and eat it like a carrot.) After I came back to America, I found that I could even stand American cucumbers, although I'll never like them. I discovered new favorite fruits, Mandarin oranges (I ate 30 in a single day once when we were snowed in with nothing to do), Asian pears, and Fuji apples as big as a baby's head.

And thus my eyes were opened....

Where am I now? Well, food still tastes good. If I go to a restaurant, I enjoy trying things I haven't eaten before, or at least haven't eaten at that particular restaurant. I can tell the difference between good food that is well-prepared and over-processed ingredients indifferently prepared, and I truly enjoy only the former.

But I'm not quite a foodie. I retain a certain indifference. I don't think about food very much, I'm not very interested in talking about food (I consider this post more about psychology than about food) or watching cooking shows on TV, and I don't really like to cook. I genuinely enjoy good food, but I much prefer indifferent food with good company to good food with indifferent company. I would never think of going to a restaurant alone. No matter how good the food is, it wouldn't seem worth the trouble.

And I still have my old habits in a couple of areas. If I eat a hot dog, I never put anything but ketchup on it. When I eat fast food, I always get the same thing at the same restaurant. I get the Double Whopper with Cheese, and never the Exotic Burger of the Month (although now I eat everything that comes with the burger except the pickles.)

And I also have traces of my childhood cookie compulsion. I didn't mention this last time, but starting when I was a kid, I would only eat either 3 or 5 cookies. I mean I would only take that many at once. I would never eat 4 cookies, for example. And if I wanted a lot of cookies, I would take 5 and eat them, and then take 3 more or 5 more and eat them. I would never just take 8 cookies or 10 cookies and eat them. It wasn't that I couldn't, exactly, it was just that that was the way I ate cookies. Always. I don't do that anymore, but whenever I eat cookies, I'm conscious that I'm not doing it. I suppose I even make it a semi-point to not eat them 3 or 5 at a time, just so I can prove to myself that I'm not doing it anymore.

Other than that, though, I think I eat pretty normally now.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Good reads/random cool sites (11/11/2008)

On Veteran's Day, Joe Galloway asks, "For what did they die?"

What Olbermann said.

Malcolm Gladwell discusses whether underprivileged outsiders have an advantage in "The Uses of Adversity."

This is probably how I'll tell my grandkids about the election someday.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lets Ecology! 16: How do you say "nematode" in Japanese?

The new project was a certification manual published by an American organization, the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). CCOF was the official certifying organization for organic farming in California. Without their seal of approval, no product in the state could be labeled "organic." Their certification manual was about twenty-five pages of main text, followed by about ten pages of appendices, the largest of which was a list of chemicals and other things that were listed as either "approved," "restricted," or "forbidden" for use on organic farms.

I was told to translate this into Japanese so Recycle could publish it. I wasn't happy about the assignment. Although I was fairly confident in my ability to at least write grammatically correct Japanese, I didn't feel it was good enough to appear in print. Plus, my farming vocabulary was limited. Agriculture was not a subject that came up very often in my everyday conversations, so with the exception of the names of common food crops, I had never learned many of the simplest terms. I was constantly forced to resort to an English-Japanese dictionary not just for terms like "fungicide" and "nematode," but also for words like "plow," "fertilizer," and "crop." I painstakingly looked them up one by one.

This meant that my progress was very slow, and I wasn't confident in the accuracy. Even though the English manual was generally well-written and easy to understand, my ignorance of Japanese agricultural terms meant that I was often guessing at the proper use of the words I looked up in the dictionary. Most of the organization's agricultural expertise was located at Turnip Boy's distribution center way out in the Tokyo suburbs. There was nobody around to answer questions, assuming that they would have had the time anyway. It ended up taking me about five weeks of five-hour days to finish the job. Even as the beginning translator that I was at the time, going from Japanese to English I probably could have finished in less than two weeks.

The CCOF translation constituted the bulk of my work during the "testing period" while I was working part-time. I was a little worried about the quality; what if my bosses thought it was as bad as I did and decided not to hire me full-time? That never came into question, though, because no one ever asked to see the translation until about six months after I had already been hired as a permanent employee. Although I didn't know it at the time, they were more interested in whether I came to the office on time every day and worked hard than whether I was actually good at the task they assigned me. Since putting my head down and working hard without stopping has never been a problem for me when I'm motivated, and since the horrifying thought of losing my Real Job and going back to teaching English was very motivating, I kept plugging away at the translation. My dedication to my work seemed to make a favorable impression.

The first actual feedback I got about the translation came when Soga, who was interested in the CCOF standards for livestock, asked to see it. It had been sitting in a file cabinet for months after I'd finished it. I gave it to him and told him honestly that I didn't feel that the quality of the translation was very high. Since that kind of self-deprecation is good manners in Japan, he just nodded and said don't worry about it, not realizing that I'd really meant what I said -- I really did think it was pretty bad. The next day, though, I got a memo from him saying that he wanted to look at the English original. He was out when I went to deliver it to him, so I just left it on his desk.

The next time I ran into him, he smiled at me and said in his typical frank manner, "You know, that translation you gave me wasn't very good at all. It seemed like you just looked up a lot of words in the dictionary and used them without understanding them, and you chose the wrong words a lot of the time too. Sometimes I had to compare it with the English to understand what you were trying to say."

Well, duh. I wasn't surprised by his comment; that was exactly how I had done a lot of the translation. I was kind of impressed by his perceptiveness. My answer was just as frank. "I know. Generally, you can expect a high-quality translation only into a person's native language, not out of it. I did my best, but it didn't really make sense for me to have been assigned that job in the first place." Soga looked at me searchingly for a moment and then nodded. He seemed to get my point.

Coming next time: "That's why I get the big money."

More "Let's Ecology!" posts are here. "Let's Ecology!" is the story of my stint with a Japanese environmental group (or sort of an environmental group -- it's "complicated"). Look for new posts every Monday. The names have been changed to protect me from lawsuits. Everything else really happened.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Rosa sat

"Rosa sat so Martin could walk.
Martin walked so Obama could run.
Obama ran so our children can fly."

God, I love this country sometimes.

Friday, November 07, 2008

I just can't get enough

November 4, 2008: A Night to Remember

Hope and Change

Check this out. It's from the Obama victory rally in Chicago Obama's final rally before the election. I can't explain why, but it brought tears to my eyes.

Update: a link to the photographer, Nida Vidutis, and the pictures were actually taken at Obama's last rally, in Virginia the night before the election, not at the victory rally in Chicago.

YouTube Favorites (November 2008)

Gore Vidal blows the lid off the Crotchety Old Coot Scale during the BBC's election coverage; don't mess with the Techno Viking; "Take On Me": Literal Version; a Texas Tech bell ringer demonstrates that sometimes when you do one thing, it looks like you're doing something else; "Monkey Jazz" by beatbox champion Beardyman and filmmaker mr_hopkinson; scary British public information commercials from the 1970s; and What Is Comedy?

Gore Vidal blows the lid off the Crotchety Old Coot Scale during the BBC's election coverage

Don't mess with the Techno Viking

"Take On Me": Literal Version

Sometimes when you do one thing, it looks like you're doing something else

"Monkey Jazz" by Beardyman and mr_hopkinson

Scary British public information commercials from the 1970s

What Is Comedy?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I'm reading "Twilight," so you don't have to (ch. 10)

Our Story So Far:
Bella is gonna die. (Not really.)
Chapter 1
Bella complains and blushes. Edward has bronze hair. He hates Bella.
Chapter 2
Edward is absent from school. Then he comes back. He has golden eyes. He doesn't hate Bella anymore.
Chapter 3
Edward saves Bella's life with his Beautiful Vampire super powers. He won't explain how three times. He has golden eyes two times. Bella has a crush on Edward.
Chapter 4
Edward ignores Bella. Then he stops ignoring her. Three boys ask Bella to the Sadie Hawkins dance. Edward asks Bella to go to Seattle with him and his golden honey colored gloriously intense eyes and his smoldering voice. She says yes.
Chapter 5
Edward has a crooked smile and ocher-colored/golden eyes that that scorch/smolder/befuddle/burn. Edward ditches biology. Bella faints at the thought of blood. She is like so mature.
Chapter 6
Bella is engulfed in unstoppable gloom because she won't see Edward for three days. She meets an Indian boy named Jacob who (of course) immediately has a thing for her. Bella uses her feminine wiles to get Jacob to tell her that Indians are werewolves and the Beautiful Vampires are vampires who aren't allowed on the Rez.
Chapter 7
Bella decides she wants to be with Edward even if he's a vampire. Edward is absent from school again, so Bella is hit with crippling desolation and spirals downward in misery. He's absent again the next day, which painfully squashes the little sprouts of hope that keep budding in Bella's mind. She leaves on a shopping trip with some girlfriends, which cheers her up exponentially.
Chapter 8
Bella goes shopping with her friends the yokels. She gets lost while looking for a bookstore and wrestling with despair. Four Rapists try to rape her, but Edward rescues her just in the nick of time with his Silver Volvo, because he's been stalking her. But there's nothing creepy about him stalking Bella, because he only does it for her own good.
Chapter 9
Edward and Bella talk in the car. Edward smells good. Bella loves Edward.

Here's my synopsis of Chapter 10 of Twilight, by Stephenie [sic] Meyer.

Chapter 10. Interrogations

Bella likes the way Edward smelled. She only has a granola bar and milk for breakfast. Edward comes in The Silver Volvo to give her a ride to school. He has a muscley chest, but his face is even prettier, so Bella doesn't look at his chest all that much. She puts on his jacket so she can smell his Beautiful Vampire smell.

One of the yokels Bella's friends wants to gossip about what Bella and Edward did after they were alone. Edward accidentally dazzles her with his irresistible voice. He reads her mind for Bella. He tells Bella he'll eavesdrop on the girls' conversation later by reading the friend's mind some more. But that's not at all creepy because -- um, well, actually I don't know why it isn't creepy.

Bella tells the friend that Edward is more than a pretty face, but of course she can't say that he's a Beautiful Vampire. She says she likes Edward more than Edward likes her.

Bella and Edward eat lunch together. Edward pierces Bella with his golden eyes and says that he likes her as much as she likes him. Bella's heart throbs at his words. Edward's eyes are liquid topaz. Bella doesn't believe him, because he's so awesome and she's so ordinary. Edward says nuh-uh, she's awesome too.

Edward says he doesn't really want to go to Seattle on Saturday. Bella doesn't care where they go as long as they're together. Edward says he'll show Bella what he looks like in the sun. He wants Bella near him, because she's so clumsy it's dangerous for her to be alone. His eyes smolder again.

Edward talks about what he hunts. Turns out, he and his Beautiful Vampire family only hunt cool animals, like grizzly bears and mountain lions, because plain old deer aren't any fun. Bella finds him a little scary when he talks about hunting with his bare hands (and teeth, I suppose). But I guess that's very cool and romantic, because every girl wants a man who scares her sometimes. And eavesdrops on her conversations. And stalks her for her own good. Edward's so dreamy that Bella is almost late to class.

(Check the pull-down menu under "Ongoing Series" in the left side-blog for more Twilight chapters.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Back to your regularly scheduled blogging...

...tomorrow. Today I still want to talk about the election.

First, I'm happy that Obama won, but I'm not gloating that McCain lost. As I've said before, I admired him back in 2000, and would even have considered voting for him back then. Besides being too old, he had a nearly impossible task this year, what with being from the same party as one of the worst presidents in our history. He lost his bearings at times out of the apparent need to pander to the right-wing of his party, but he could have been much worse. His campaign may have blown the occasional "dog whistle," but it never fell into the "Black! Scary! Scary black!" sewer that some Republicans would have preferred. According to Newsweek,

McCain also was reluctant to use Obama's incendiary pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, as a campaign issue. The Republican had set firm boundaries: no Jeremiah Wright; no attacking Michelle Obama; no attacking Obama for not serving in the military. McCain balked at an ad using images of children that suggested that Obama might not protect them from terrorism. Schmidt vetoed ads suggesting that Obama was soft on crime (no Willie Hortons). And before word even got to McCain, Schmidt and Salter scuttled a "celebrity" ad of Obama dancing with talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres (the sight of a black man dancing with a lesbian was deemed too provocative).

Ultimately, McCain kept his soul and his honor, as his concession speech demonstrated.

Second, yesterday was a great day for America. Think about what it's like to live your life in a country where you're sure that some of your aspirations will always be checked because of the color of your skin. Think about what it's like knowing that no one like you will ever lead your country. And think about what it's like when that changes. It's hard to imagine. Here's Colin Powell talking about something like that.

Third, although I won't gloat over McCain, I will gloat over Liddy Dole's loss. She deserved it. Gloat.

Fourth, although Obama's win makes me very happy, a lot of that good feeling is taken away by the passage of Proposition 8 in California. I can't imagine a deeper perversion of constitutional democracy than amending a constitution to take away specific rights from a specific minority. That's the opposite of what constitutions are for. Well, at least the issue isn't going away anytime soon.

Oh, and all you yes-on-8 people out there, just give up on the "We're not bigoted, we simply believe marriage should be between a man and a woman, blah-blah-blah..." nonsense, OK? You're no more credible than the old-time segregationists who used to say, "We're not bigoted, we simply believe that Whites and Negroes should live apart." Just spare us. You're not convincing anyone.

Promised Land


More headlines here and here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Why I care about this stuff

PhotobucketI've written a lot here about politics over the past few months -- too much, probably. This blog even got mis-assigned to the "political blogs" category on some Mormon blog aggregator. Well, whatever.

I care about politics. Some of that care is more abstract, I suppose. I care, for example, when people are tortured in the name of America. I care when the American president, vice-president, secretary of defense, secretary of state, and other officials high and low are involved in war crimes. I care when a presidential administration, with the enthusiastic support of a political party, tramples everything that America stands for into the mud and then has the unmitigated gall to question the patriotism of anyone who opposes them. I care a lot about things like that.

But those things don't really affect me directly. Yes, those events have made me feel ashamed of my country, angry at the perpetrators, and sorry for the victims. But I've never been tortured nor been the victim of a war crime, nor am I ever likely to be. Most likely, there is enough of a remnant of respect for law in this country that they'll never come for me.

But there are aspects of politics that affect me, that change my life. Health care policy is an issue that directly affects my quality of life. I don't have health insurance. In some ways, that's because of my choices. I chose to be self-employed, to make a modest living at something I'm good at, to spend time at home with my children, and to give them the stability of spending their entire childhoods in one small city. I chose that instead of pursuing some big-city corporate career in which I'd never thrive, but which would provide me with some sort of health insurance when I managed to stay employed.

The thing is, though, that's the kind of choice that no other developed country requires its citizens to make. In no other developed country is getting or keeping health insurance a factor in career decisions. Every other developed country has national health insurance. Every single one. If you live there, you can have health insurance. If you get sick, you just go to the doctor. No one has to avoid treatment because he can't afford it. No one in any other developed country goes bankrupt because of medical costs. Never. It's literally impossible.

And I know we can do that here. This is America, FFS. There's no reason not to do it. No reason, that is, except for discredited right-wing ideology, the foolish, often disproved yet never discarded belief in magical markets that can fix every problem. Well, to hell with that, to hell with the political party that promotes that nonsense, and to hell with the candidates it rode in on.

So excuse me for "personalizing" politics, but this is personal for me. This isn't just a game for me. It's not just "My tribe is better than your tribe." It's real life. It's my life: certainly no better and maybe worse with McCain, or possibly better with Obama. It may be the difference between having to move to Canada or back to Japan to have the kind of life I want, or staying in the country I love.

Yes, I know Obama isn't the Messiah. He can be politically opportunistic. He caved on FISA. He kowtowed to AIPAC. His health care plan isn't actually all that great. But it's a start, a step in the right direction. That, and his tax plan, could go a long way towards improving my life.

And one more thing, while I'm on the subject of reasons to vote for Obama. Twenty, 30, 40 years from now, your children or grandchildren may say to you, "Remember back when everyone thought no black person could be president, but then Obama got elected? What was that like?" What will you say to them: "Yes, I voted for Obama, you know..." or "Um, actually, I voted for that other guy..."? Be on the right side of history. Vote for Obama.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

YouTube Favorites (political edition)

These are all politics, but I think we're all pretty tired of the election, so nothing heavy, just the funny stuff.

As you may have heard, Sarah Palin just got prank called by a pair of Canadian radio comedians who pretended to be French President Nikolas Sarkozy (and his aide). No matter how wild the guy's fake accent got and no matter how weird the stuff he said, Palin was completely clueless until "President Sarkozy" said, "This is a prank call." Seriously, she talked to the guy for four or five minutes. (Audio only)

Also: Barack Obama returns in "Baracky II"; eight years later, the "Wassup" boys are back; synchronized presidential debates; Jesus for President; Les Misbarack; and John McCain gets Barack-rolled. Update: Special late addition: Improvised piano accompaniment to Sarah Palin talking to Katie Couric.

Barack Obama returns in "Baracky II."

Wassup 2008

Synchronized presidential debates

Jesus for President

Les Misbarack

John McCain gets Barack-rolled.

Palin piano improvisation

Friday, October 31, 2008

The two best things about Halloween

Best thing about Halloween:
Cute kids in costumes

Second best thing about Halloween:
DAD CANDY! w00t! That's my haul for the night. Next year, when you're giving out candy, remember the dads.

Happy Halloween!

In honor of Halloween, Christopher Walken reads "The Raven," the scariest music ever written, and dropping giant pumpkins on a car.

Christopher Walken reads "The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe.

The scariest music ever written: "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima for 52 Stringed Instruments" by Krzysztof Penderecki. I used a selection in my movie, you may recall. Turn out the lights and turn it up loud. If you dare.

And for a slight change of pace, nothing says "Halloween" like using a crane to drop a pair of giant pumpkins on a car.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Liddy Dole makes vile ad, gets pwned for her trouble

Senator Elizabeth (Liddy) Dole, wife of former senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole, is locked in a tough reelection battle in North Carolina. I don't know much about her, but she seemed an amiable enough person, despite being a Republican. (I voted for her husband in 1996, BTW.) But a couple days ago, she released an ad that will go down in American political history as one of the sleaziest ever.

It seems that her opponent, Kay Hagan, once attended a run-of-the-mill Democratic fundraiser where one of the dozens of co-hosts also happened to be a leader of an athiest lobbying group called the "Godless Americans PAC." Dole got ahold of this vague connection and put out the following commercial.

Now, the truth is, Hagan has no relationship with the group, it had no organizational relationship to the fundraiser, and there was nothing secret about the meeting. It was perfectly ordinary fundraiser, where one of the Democrats listed as a sponsor happened to be an atheist. The money was no more "godless" than at any other fundraiser. (Of course, in Christian theology all money is "godless" anyway. "Render unto Caesar" and all that.)

The secret-camera-looking footage used in the ad has nothing to do with that fundraiser, nor do the people in the footage have anything to do with the Godelss Americans PAC. It was taken elsewhere and manipulated to look ominous. And then, bizarrely, in total WTF territory, that voice at the end saying "There is no God!"? That was a voice actor hired by the Dole campaign to impersonate Hagan. Unbefrakkinlievable.

It shouldn't matter if somebody is an atheist, but of course it still does matter politically, and as it happens, Kay Hagan is a Christian, active in her church, and a former Sunday School teacher. So the ad is completely dishonest from start to finish, vilely, disgustingly so.

And Hagan was not about to stand for that. Watch her in her own ad calling out Dole for "bearing false witness against a fellow Christian."

Pwned. And if there's any justice in the universe, Dole will lose, and lose big.