Monday, June 30, 2008


On the news right now, they're talking about how the Ministry of Education has mandated an increase in class hours for elementary schools.

They've read off a list of things that were removed from the curriculum 10 or so years ago when they reduced the number of class hours. Among other things (students must learn about all 47 prefectures, including names and locations, students must learn how to calculate the area of a trapezoid, etc.), they must now use 3.14 as an approximation for pi. Apparently for the last ten years, 3 had been an acceptable estimate.

That's right. For the past ten years, π = 3.




......WHAT THE F^%@?!

Edited to add:
As Derrick rightly pointed out, how many of us Americans learned about pi and geometry in elementary school, anyway?

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Computer woes

I have a seven-year-old iBook, and it's on its last legs...

Every time there's a security update (not as often now, since I can't run the newest version of Mac OS X), and I have to reboot the thing, there's a greater than 50% chance that the reboot will hang at either the grey screen or the blue screen, and I have to do the ol' 3-finger salute to get it to boot up. This runs the risk of hosing the directory on the hard drive...

I have an external HD. The internal HD is only 20GB, and my iTunes music library alone is over 15 gigs. Last month, the external drive crashed so hard the computer wouldn't even recognized that there was a device plugged in...

The original dual-USB iBooks had an interesting design flaw, where the hinge of the unit would after time damage and ultimately sever the power cable running to the LCD backlight. Due to this, I can no longer close my iBook. I got an external monitor last year, which was an acceptable work-around until this morning, when that backlight died unexpectedly...

Plus a host of other annoyances, some small (the c key works intermittently), some large (various bits of the system software don't seem to be working correctly; for example, I no longer have a brightness control. And re-installing the system would run back into the first problem I mentioned.)


Donations for the "Buy Rob a new computer" fund can be sent to....

Meh. I'm off to drown my sorrows in a bad-for-me McDonalds breakfast.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

People should look up more often.

So I went to the big used shop yesterday to look at...stuff. I was browsing the Nintendo DS games. Sometimes they have American games, too -- I don't know where they get them. I hadn't bothered to get any of them until yesterday, when I saw that they had an American copy of Pokemon Diamond for really really cheap. (I have the Japanese version, but still...)

(Yeah, yeah I know, Pokemon?!? It's something to do in my copious amounts of free-time -- and it impresses the elementary schoolers.)

Anyway, I took it up to the front and handed it to the cashier. “これ、お願いします。”*

The clerk, not looking up at me, noticed the stickers on the box proclaiming, “外国版ですから、英語だけありますよ!”** and felt that he had to check with me. “ああ、すみません、これは英語版です。大丈夫ですか。。。?”***

I boggled for a moment, then said “ぼくはアメリカ人だ。日本語版がとても難しい!”**** It was only at this point that he noticed that I wasn't Japanese.

I didn't laugh. His co-workers might have, though.


Oh, right, hang on.

*"This one, please."
***"Ah, excuse me, this is the English version. Is that all right...?"
****"I'm an American. The Japanese-language version is very difficult for me!"


Monday, June 23, 2008

101 Greatest George Carlin Quotes

So, get home, fire up the ol' Firefox, bring up one of the news aggregator sites I often browse, and NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Damn it.

George Carlin, R.I.P.

Here for your amusment, a random list of 101 of theGreatest George Carlin Quotes. I think I may have posted this link before, but it's still funny. Not for the easily offended, of course -- and Carlin went after all sides.

If you’ve got a cat and a leg, you’ve got a happy cat. If you’ve got a cat and two legs, you’ve got a party.

In America, anyone can become president. That’s the problem.

Isn’t it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do “practice”?

May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Special guest on the Colbert Report:


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Sunday, June 15, 2008

...I don't think so.

It's a camera phone picture, so you can't really see the details, but this car is loaded with Ferrari badges. That's right, this joker expects you to believe that Ferrari made a really stupid looking compact car for the Japanese "kei car" market. The marking on the rear says "Ferrari F20", which is in real life a widescreen LCD monitor from Acer.

I mean, really...what's the point?


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Return of the Son of Futility Watch

This month's gas price here in Tottori: About $6.25 a gallon. (Still better than in Europe.) Some localities in Japan, further away from the processing centers, are over 200 yen a liter...that's over $7 a gallon.

The price of gas in Japan includes a ¥30 or so per liter tax, earmarked for road maintenance and construction projects. This is a temporary, provisional tax. Temporary, despite the fact that it was enacted during the "oil shock" back in the '70s.

Due to some sort of governmental mixup, this tax actually expired back on April 1. The government scrambled to re-enact it, but due to procedural requirements, the earliest they could put it back in was May 1. Almost all gas stations in Japan dropped their prices during April, despite the fact that they were still paying for gas bought from wholesalers in March. This caused a few stations to lose money for April, but it was nice for us consumers. (I wonder what American gas stations would have done?)

Other than April, gas prices usually jump at least 10 yen a liter at the beginning of each month. The lines on the last day bring back vague memories of the Carter years....

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Japan fights children's cell phone addiction

This article caught my interest for a couple reasons...

First of all, because I'm actually thinking about buying a new cell phone. Considering how little I use the one I've got, though...

And second, because at work I see elementary schoolers who, when their parents are late picking them up, whip out a cell phone and give them a call.

According to the article, "About a third of Japanese sixth graders have cell phones, while 60 percent of ninth graders have them, according to the education ministry." It's becoming its own little subculture. For example, if kids don't respond to a cell phone e-mail within thirty minutes, they are made fun of at school the next day.

Now it's been the better part of a decade (!) since I've taught in American schools, so I have to ask: Do a large percentage of elementary schoolers in the States have cell phones?

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