tsubame: (wings)
Sunday, October 16th, 2011 02:14 pm
These days it feels as if people have fled LiveJournal en masse, and I don’t know where they’ve gone. Granted I’ve been missing myself for quite some time-- first because of the endless black hole that was my dissertation, and then it was off to Rome, and then I entered the secondary black hole of job searching. You would think that being unemployed would mean I had a great deal of free time, and you would be right. But it also means that I always feel guilty that I’m not doing enough to find a job, which means that even when I’m procrastinating I don’t write, because writing is Not Looking For a Job.

I also accidentally fell into X-Men: First Class fandom, and seeing as this is the first time I’ve been in an overwhelmingly huge fandom, I always have an endless backlog of stories to catch up on. While this has been helpful in getting me through the trials of the past few months, it has also once again brought to my attention that I am absolutely and completely addicted to reading. I’ve been reading books at what has become my customary pace, but the reading that I do online is vast and near-constant. I read until I can’t bear to focus on the computer screen anymore, and then I pick up the nearest book and I read that for a while. If I have no book I read whatever I can get my hands on-- cereal boxes, junk mail, old newspapers. My friends laugh at my inability to get through this or that TV show, but the truth is that unless it really grabs my attention, I would rather read.

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I was talking to my mom on the phone the other day. “I know you’re nostalgic for the Jersey shore as you used to know it,” I said, “bustling, full of people, full of life. But when we went there when I was a kid, everything was run down, boarded up, with grass growing through the cracks and faded graffiti on the walls. And I remember that Dad used to take me by Hoboken on the train, and he would warn me that it wasn’t safe, I had to stay close to him. When I started going myself when I got older it was the same-- a bit run down, a bit seedy, long past the bustling days of the Lakawana rail line bringing vacationers in and out. I would go to the Hoboken Farm Boy and buy this cheap, scented Chinese soap I liked, I would go by the old comic book shop, eat at the Karma Cafe . . . but now Hoboken’s gentrified, and the Hoboken Farmboy is a cell phone shop, and the comic book shop’s long gone, couldn’t afford the rent, and I can’t afford to eat in the Karma Cafe anymore.

“I still like Hoboken, but I loved it as it was-- the Jersey shore, too. I’m nostalgic for them as I knew them: abandoned, run down, dreaming of lost glories.”

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Ghazal, by Dilruba Ahmed )
tsubame: (wings)
Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 02:30 am
A fascinating link regarding a great editor.

Crowd-sourced publishing. An interesting idea, though we’ll have to wait and see how it goes.

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Edinburgh bears the unfortunate label of “not Japan” in my head, and so I tend to give the place short shrift, and easily forget just how lucky I am to be here. Since the culture and language are much closer to that of my native place, I don’t experience the same degree of foreign-ness, and so I don’t appreciate the city as much as I should.

So it’s good for me to go by North Bridge every once and a while, because out of all the places in the city somehow the view from their reminds me of just how lucky I am. And it reminds me that Edinburgh is an incredible place, a vision in buff stone, a place of history and wonders and mysteries if only I dig beneath the everyday to find them.

And it figures that I don’t have any particularly great photos of the view from there. It’s rather difficult to capture such a grand view on a 2D camera-- half the magnificence is the wonders receding further back into space. Carlton Hill with its whimsical structures falling away to the sky and the far-off waters of the ocean, seagulls wheeling in the wind, the impressive sweep of the bridge over the great ravine that holds the train station, the height of the hills on either side, the ornate stone buildings decorated with mythic beasts and reclining gods . . .


Here’s the one shot I do have of Carlton Hill. They hold the Samhain and Beltain celebrations up there-- both of which I missed, alas. But if I were going to pick a likely spot for magic in Edinburgh this’d be it, with the eclectic buildings, the observatory dome, the obelisk, the tower. It would be a great location for a school of wizardry, a part of the town and yet separate, a lofty place between land and sea, sky and rock, looking over both the cultured city and the barren wildness of Arthur’s Seat.

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I wanted to put up more writing for [livejournal.com profile] saiun_challenge’s birthday celebration, but alas it seems this is all I’m going to manage. And I still have one more bit to write before it’s really complete! ::sobs:: Oh, and I haven’t edited it yet, so it’s probably so terrible as to be embarrassing. But I’m too tired to look it over now, and the deadline will be past if I wait to do so until I’ve had some sleep.

This AU makes me nostalgic for high school. How weird.

Dark Jewels Saiunkoku

Roseford's Queen: Part 1
Roseford's Queen: Part 2
Roseford’s Queen: Part 3

Roseford’s Queen: Part 4 )
tsubame: (yue)
Thursday, May 12th, 2011 12:49 am
Osama bin Laden was killed, and across the USA people celebrated. I’m very glad I wasn’t in the USA; the thought of the people cheering in the streets disgusts me. But I thought that I should clarify, somewhere, why.

Some 10 years ago, a man persuaded some other men that they should die, and kill a lot of other people at the same time.

They died, and in the process killed a lot of people.

In the streets, some people celebrated. In the streets, many people mourned.

As a result, two wars began. Many people died. Many people killed other people. And many of those people died.

10 years after 10 years ago, some people killed that man.

In the streets, many people celebrated. In the streets, surely there are many people who mourn. There must be, because thousands upon thousands of people are dead.

Maybe, somewhere, there’s a god who sorts it all out. Maybe all those people will return to the wheel, to make the same mistakes again in another life.

Or maybe they’re all just dead.

And no one has learned anything at all.

Osama bin Laden was killed. How do I feel?

I feel sad.
tsubame: (hey!)
Friday, May 6th, 2011 04:04 pm
As per the excellent [livejournal.com profile] apis_cerana:

Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] heeroluva at "Suspicious comments" and "Spam comments": LJ decision to 'block' spam is a big FAIL!
So I've been noticing in both my own journal and communities that I haven't been able to see some comments even thought it says there are more comments there than are actually showing up. Instead I'm getting a place holder that says (Spam comment) or (Suspicious comment).

Why are these showing up like this you may ask? In their rush to fight spam LJ has created a new filter that're AUTOMATICALLY TURNED ON in ALL journals and communities, which screens comments that are made with 'suspicious links' ie links that are not on their safe whitelist, so pretty much the majority of the internet. There is no noted way to add to the 'whitelist'.

What really gets me is that they didn't inform people that they were doing this until a week after it was done and that it was automatically turned on.

So how do I turn it off you might ask.

That's simple. Go to your Settings, click on the Privacy tab, and half way down where it says Spam Protection uncheck the box next to "Comments containing a link to a non-whitelisted domain will be marked as spam and moved to a special section." This applies to both personal journal and communities and the opinion has to be manually changed in each one.

While I understand how this could be a good idea, I think they went about it in a very backhanded way, and have implemented it poorly. There was no message to anyone that the link has been screened. It's automatically done. This went on for over a week before they said anything about it. There is still nothing in the FAQs about it even. The only way I found out about this way going through the support pages where people were reporting similar issues.

Please share this!

ETA: This link really illustrates the problems.

Man, I'm used to having to do this kind of stupid stuff with Facebook . . . now LJ too?
Thursday, January 20th, 2011 12:54 am

Last spring I was able to go to a huge roller coaster park in Japan with some of my friends. Among the ten coasters in the park they also happen to have the world's largest wooden one; this is a view of it from the nearby Ferris wheel. I rode it once, but found that it gave me a pounding headache. Looks like I've gotten too old for wooden roller coasters. I did fine on the modern ones, though.

I might also have been more prone to headaches at the time, seeing as my parents were visiting. When my parents visited me in Japan I was usually in a state of high stress and constant sleep deprivation/exhaustion.

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Wednesdays are going to be my busy days; biweekly that means class from 9 AM to 9:30 PM, with an hour's break for lunch and dinner/transport each. And then walking 40 minutes home. Today was the first of them, and actually I found myself enjoying it. I like being busy; it makes me feel useful. Which explains why I so mercilessly over-scheduled myself while I lived in Japan; I did in fact enjoy it.

I've actually been rather lazy since coming to Scotland. I think I need to take further steps to remedy this.

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Over the vacation I had a chance for some long talks with my various family members, some of which were quite interesting.

Regarding a conversation with my little brother with attendant thoughts which cover socialism in Sweden, the causes of the American Civil War, rappers, and lottery tickets. )

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I had half an hour during my busiest busy day in which to procure dinner. I wanted to go to the Black Medicine coffee house, because its name is so cool, but I ended up wandering the wrong way. I was thinking thoughts of going into the KFC-- I was running out of time-- it would be easy to order there-- but at the last second I gave in to the terrible yellow plastic beacon of a down-at-the-heels middle eastern place with cheap battered tables and faded posters of deserts on the walls.

And glad I was to have done so. Their baba ganoush was LOVELY. And I found out that the "sh" sound at the end has a bit of a hard "g" sound in it. I am enlightened!

. . . okay, nowhere near. But I get a little closer every day!

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I found some fun and interesting things on the internet recently. Let me share them with you!

A friend who is obsessed with a cartoon show called Phineas and Ferb linked me to this episode which makes reference to Carmell Dansen. At which point I told her that about two years ago Japan discovered this song in its original Swedish. And before long ALL OF JAPAN WAS INFECTED. It caught on so hugely that every anime currently on the air (and many who just have extremely obsessive fans) was making their own version of it (Jack Sparrow's at 2.16, fyi).

The same friend taught me a new French phrase!

déjà moo - the distinct feeling that you've heard this bull before

My stock of French phrases is growing once again! I can now add this gem of wisdom to my recently-acquired "tes moeurs crapuleuses" ("your sordid morals") and "tu cherches à corrompre mon paresseux" ("you are trying to corrupt my sloth"). Thankee, Patrick O'Brian!

This picture is my current desktop walllpaper. About which I said . . . )

To which my adorable sister replied... )

She's so cute! <3

This comic is quite adorable.

Reading through Pandora Hearts led to this string of (mostly) non-spoiler comments on Facebook:

Comments Ahoy! )
tsubame: (reading)
Wednesday, January 12th, 2011 12:03 am
Bach in the D.C. Subway, by David Lee Garrison )

There is a reason why Mozart and Bach and Beethoven are known to this day, and their music played all throughout the world. I bless the technological miracle that lets me have all of them, and all they wrote, great artists and their great art played by great artists, and all for a few minutes' fiddling with search terms.

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An interesting article on one woman's realization of racism in Canada. Because I sadly have had people from various countries-- Canada, Australia, even the US of A (this is just my personal experience, mind)-- try to tell me that racism is a thing of the past in these modern utopias.

. . . yeah, they were white folks. ::le sigh::

I also have a certain familiarity with the feeling of "representing an entire culture," that her boyfriend mentions. Of course it wasn't the same-- even in Japan I was a "favored minority," and furthermore representing my culture was a part of my job-- but it was an incredible amount of pressure, and it did effect my behavior, the way I dressed, the way I expressed myself, and even my thoughts. For the first few weeks, even months, just leaving my apartment was a strain, because I could feel people staring at me wherever I went.

But although Japan became my home, it was not the country of my birth, a place to which I would feel entitled to belong. Although I have experienced my fair amount of abuse over my lifetime for being different, no one ever questioned my right to be in the USA based on how I looked. Which is to say: I can imagine what the feeling is like, but I have never truly experienced it, nor am I likely to.
tsubame: (hey!)
Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 07:54 pm
Tell me that you voted, US o' A-ers!

If you didn't vote, what are you waiting for?!

Come on. If I can vote while living in Japan, and now in Scotland, how hard can it be while still in the States?

Dooooo iiiiiiiiitttttt.

I argued in favor of voting in the comments after this entry. It has some typos, alas, which I noted in the comments below said comment . . . hm. Maybe I should repost it sometime . . .
Saturday, August 7th, 2010 07:45 am
Megaupload link to Within Temptation's "a Final Dream," as quoted in the previous post.

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Even Through the Summer Storm, by Carol Clark Williams

wild geese imagine the moon and
row toward it, writing
lines of poetry.

Against the gothic clouds they sketch
sestinas, every stanza
beginning with the letter "v".

They search the lightning-punctuated sky
for words that rhyme with
"flight" and "night".

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. . . yeah, I wrote more Kingdom Hearts fic. Even more plotless and pointless this time! I blame [livejournal.com profile] majochan, because I think the initial prom-shenanagins idea was hers. She's the one with the truly brilliant ideas about it, too. Had me in stitches.


Title: Dance Lessons
Fandom: Kingdom Hearts

What are we gonna do at prom? )

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I wanna be a member of the Grown-Up Party! With maybe a little humor thrown in, since I don't want to be a part of an organization that lacks a sense of humor.

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The problem with many computers has its roots in a problem with humans-- we don't like to think. We're lazy, and if we can help it we'll take the easy way out. This is why Apple and Windows are more successful then, say, Linux-- they make things easier for people. If something seems to hard, we give up on it fairly easily.

So computers do things for us so that we won't hit that threshold. Which works . . . up to a point. Problems arise when the computer assumes it knows what you're trying to do and starts doing it for you-- but gets it wrong. The subtleties of human purpose in using programs are often lost on the programs themselves, which in trying to help too much end up hindering or even preventing. Ironically, for most of these programs there's no easy way to tell them to stop doing it. No easy way to reassure them that you know what you're doing, however strange that might seem, and you don't need the computer's help to do it.

Which of course leads to the comical situation of me shaking my fist at the computer screen and yelling, "stop assuming you're smarter than me!" I bought my camera for the express reason that, while I can definitely use the help in setting up my shots most of the time, not to mention the convenience of having the balance adjusted for me, I want to be able to tell it to stop and leave me alone, that I can take shots that its tiny computer brain can't conceive the purpose or propriety of.

I just wish I could do that with Word 2007. Maybe if the damn thing was in English rather than Japanese I might have a chance of figuring it out . . .

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There was a full glass coffee pot mostly submerged in a sink-full of water at work today. A moment's thought gave me the answer to why it was there. Still, I spent a minute smiling at the serene ridiculousness of the image, and thought to myself happily, "the world is stranger and more wonderful than I was previously aware."

I love those moments, I really do.

Recently my father sent me a postcard from where he was attending a seminar on radio telescopes in North Carolina. The card read, "I thought you would find this particular postcard funny."

The postcard is a before-and-after sort. The top shows the radio telescope standing proud and lovely, a lacework flower-cup of whitewashed girders. The second picture is from the next day, and shows a pile of white wreckage where once the telescope stood.

It did, indeed, make me laugh. One day-- beautiful functioning high-tech scientific instrument! The next day-- pile of twisted rubble! Aaaah, I can't believe it just collapsed like that-- like a fflan in a cupboard, to quote Eddie Izzard. Just imagine, some poor dude left work, locked the door behind him, everything was fine. He drives up the next morning, and wham! I bet he totally BSODed. Or maybe just sighed and drove off to find the nearest bar.

I'm still laughing about it, yeah. Apparently my father knows me quite well, including my odd sense of humor.

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I don't know what it says about me, but pictures like this one, of the First Family visiting a National Park, make me really really happy. That strange feeling of pride and hope-- I don't know where it comes from, but it's all the more welcome given my generally somewhat depressing news-reading hobby.

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An article written by a hibakusha on her experience in Hiroshima. I am adamantly anti-nuclear weapons, under any and all circumstances. I further believe that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were absolutely wrong and should be a source of national shame to the U.S.A., instead of an oft-ignored, bare paragraph in history textbooks. Considering that WWII is America's last "just" war (or possibly our only one, though I'm reluctant to even go that far), my opinions on the matter are hardly what one would call widespread.
Saturday, December 16th, 2006 11:36 am
Reasons to be happy:

In one week, I get to see my family. One week!

Sensei is back from his trip. I adore Sensei, and Sensei's family. He found some Flemish paintings in Belgium that he really liked, and I was able to tell him a lot about them due to my own interest in religion and having taken my mother's art history course. Not to mention, well, living with my mother. Then spent a half-hour after lesson talking to Sensei, Satoshi, and . . . um, their guest, I forget her name. It was wonderful.

It stopped raining! The sun came out! My laundry might finally dry!

Kuttaro and karaoke tonight!

I'm a millionaire! Well, we'll ignore the fact that it's in yen, that I won't be a millionaire anymore once rent and bills are drawn out, and that I'm about to buy a new computer. But still. There aren't many people who can claim at 23 to have about $10,000 in the bank. $10,000 that they earned themselves, by their own hard work. I think I have a right to be proud of myself. This is the first time in my life that I've ever felt rich, even though comparatively it's not that much money. I should start thinking of investing.

Collaborating on the Saiunkoku AU project with [livejournal.com profile] majochan is a cause for great happiness. I love co-writing. When you have an eager recipient of your ideas, and you get more ideas from your co-writer, and the everything builds with breathless speed-- the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. I can't even begin to say how much I've missed having someone to write with.

Even I have fallen to the fanservice. Saiunkoku episode 29! )

I'm buying a new computer! No more random shutdowns, no more freezes, no more not being able to do just about ANYTHING other than browse on the internet! I will be able to download once again! I will be able to burn CDs and DVDs! I will rock the entire world!

Making cookies with Ashley tomorrow! And then, yet another lesson with Sensei!

My students are wonderful. And nothing but fun Christmas lessons until the time I leave! I get to wear my Santa hat and listen to my favorite Christmas music and a few students might even make me lovely Christmas cards. I get paid to do this? Why yes, yes I do!

Tchaicovsky's Nutcracker ballet.

Baked goods. And speaking of, tons of rye bread to be eaten upon my return! And brie, don't forget the brie! And a grilled cheese sandwich, my mother promised me a grilled cheese sandwich . . .

Now, must get a move on if I'm to go Christmas shopping in Kyoto this afternoon.
Thursday, November 9th, 2006 11:18 am
Democrats take Senate majority.

Rumsfield steps down.

My day has been MADE. Dare I even hope that this means the political climate of the United States will become somewhat less stupid?
Friday, August 25th, 2006 11:38 am
Found while browsing Babylon 5-related information:

The War Prayer, by Mark Twain.

Very worth reading.
Wednesday, August 9th, 2006 04:20 pm
Lifted from Neil Gaiman's blog: Commas are way important, people! So is grammar!

I found this diary on a journalist's life in Baghdad very interesting.

Travel adds relevance to otherwise innocuous news stories. I was at the Chengdu Giant Panda Research Center a mere two weeks ago, so this article has become more than just a moment's random curiosity to me.

Separate italicized paragraphs within the cuts were written currently, not on the date marked.

7月18日06年 )

7月20日06年 )

7月21日06年 )

Photojournalism: Yangshou )
Sunday, July 30th, 2006 06:11 pm
I've gotten fairly good at dealing with livejournal info pages in different languages . . .

And I keep forgetting that I have icons now, and then I have to go back and add them. Because if you have them, you might as well use them.

On Emei Shan, because apparently that's the name of the whole mountain, not just the place I'm in. In Baguo village, just down the street from the lovely, rambling Baguo Monastary, where I'll be staying tonight. Tomorrow a swim, a stop at the supermarket, and then the overnight train to Xi'an.

I do love the internet, by the way. There's nothing like sitting in a room full of Chinese teenagers/young adults all playing online games. Now I know why I never see them kicking around on the streets. And internet cafes are gloriously, gloriously cheap. 2 yuan for an hour? I'd spend all my time in internet cafes, too.

In a strange humour today, though I'm not quite sure why. There are several possibilities, though. For one thing, time seems to have stopped for me. I can't seem to keep track of the day or the date, and continuously have to ask people whenever I want to write a journal entry. Barely a few days into my trip, my watch stopped for no good reason. No problem, thought I, I shall use my cel phone. Except apparently my cel phone is a big Japanese snob, because it refuses to accept Chinese electricity despite my fancy converter. I borrowed the tour leader's watch, because she's just been using her cel phone, and that one stopped this afternoon. I bought myself a wind-up alarm clock, but it has a tendancy to run out of winding at the most hugely inconvenient times.

Travel by it's very nature encompasses a certain sense of displacement, but this just seems a little extreme to me.

Randomly, and fascinatingly, our guide for the last two days was in his youth a Red Gaurd. He was 18 or 19 at the time, he told us today. Listening to his story was tremendously interesting. I had a thousand questions I wanted to ask, but that's a delicate thing to be asking questions about, and so I decided to hold off and eavesdrop on other people's questions instead. If I want to ask mine, I have his email. And I should review a bit of my recent Chinese history to make sure my questions aren't stupid ones. I did ask him when he learned English-- in school before the Cultural Revolution, he said, but at the time he was no good at speaking. Only in the past few years has he been studying spoken English. His speech is certainly understandable, but very fast, which seems to be characteristic of our guides so far. Listening to them switch to Chinese quickly shows you why, because it goes even faster.

I've learned to count to 99, to say hello, good bye, and ask how are you, to say I do and don't want something, and to say please and thank you and you're welcome and I'm sorry. The idea of ever being fast enough in Chinese to actually keep up with what people are saying, though, boggles my mind.

I should go find something to eat, but I don't really want anything to eat. It's too hot, and I'm too tired, and all by myself . . . maybe I'll just head back to the monastary and wander about with my camera, and write, and spend a lot of time sitting still. Sitting still is nice. And I'll take a shower, and I'll go to bed early, that would be nice, too.

I miss talking to people I know, rather. Here I exist as a singular entity, and the people I'm with have no call or need to care about me, beyond the fact that we're on this trip together. Not to say that they're bad people-- actually, I rather like them. Not a one of them is an unpleasant companion on this strange road we're wandering. They're just not mine, and I am not theirs. Sometimes I feel like a burden to the group, and there are few things that I dislike more.

My imagination is working overtime to fill in the gap in companionship and duty. I'm thankful, because it's good to have a distraction when you've spent the past four hours looking just in front of your feet for the next step, and the next step, and the next step, as sweat slides down your face like tears. I never fully understood descriptions of sweat "stinging in his/her eyes" until this trip.

I should head back to the monastary. It closes its gates quite early, and if you arrive late, you're pretty much out of luck.
Tuesday, July 11th, 2006 01:10 pm
Why is it that humor always gets things so right?

A happy tenth birthday to the Onion!
Saturday, June 17th, 2006 12:47 pm
First, a link: this blog has an interesting comic published which sparked off a rather intense discussion of human rights, culture, racism, etc, especially as these topics relate to Japan. Said discussion is very extensive, but it makes for interesting reading. Most of it is also intelligent, which I appreciate. And, as it should be with good debate, you find yourself constantly changing your mind as the discussion continues and those on opposite sides (or even different sides of the same side) answer each other and bring up new points.

Be informed, and make up your mind for yourself. That's my general rule.

* * * * *

I woke up at 5:30 this morning to a loud sound similar to the crunching of an aluminum can, the bizarrely musical tinkle of shattering glass, and a loud electronic wailing that put me in mind of an ignored alarm clock on steroids. The first two sounds lasted a mere second; the third lasted for ten minutes. By the time the policemen who arrived at the scene of the car crash finally managed to shut it off, I was well and truly awake.

As was most of the neighborhood, of course.

After several attempts to go back to sleep, I finally gave it up as a bad job. At 6 AM the weather was still cool, the sky a perfect blue around the perfect white clouds . . . so I decided to go for a run out into the rice fields.

And I decided to take my camera with me. Early Morning Odyssey )
Saturday, April 1st, 2006 02:56 pm
"I know we've made tactical errors, thousands of them, I'm sure," says Rice.

Amusing coming from the Secretary of State for a President who, when asked if he'd made any mistakes, couldn't think of one.
Tuesday, February 7th, 2006 01:33 pm
It's just so completely ridiculous. Is that really the best that Gonzales can come up with? Why is it that questioning anything the administration's doing automatically equates to "helping our enemy?"

Who is my enemy, and why do I have one?

I can almost hear the conversation:

"You're misconstruing the program."

"What am I misconstruing about the program?"

"Can't tell you. Top Secret. National Security. Sorry."

". . . ."

You have to laugh. It's either that or cry. And as usual, the Onion does it best.
Wednesday, January 11th, 2006 12:37 am
An article I read on a Honduran teenager jailed by police has me reading articles on illegal immigration to Canada and the drug trade, the manifold problems faced by the poor of Central America, and other related issues. The reason for my interest is the original article; as soon as I read it a thousand ideas boiled to life in my mind. Suddenly I wanted to create Mage characters and write stories and create a manga; suddenly I was moving the story from Honduras to outer space to feudal Japan; suddenly I was visualizing Serious Novels the length of Tad Williams' To Green Angel Tower, trailing Pullitzers and pretensions in equal measure.

These are, and the last especially, no more than the vague wanderings of an overactive imagination, but they have me sitting here at my computer reading depressing journalistic articles when I ought to be sleeping or at the very least cleaning my apartment. Reading, and wondering at a whole world's worth of misery.

I've never been able to devote myself to any one cause, really. My mother is on a crusade for Venice since her trip there this past summer. Now she studies Italian (and French) with a zealot's passion, uses the internet to hunt down articles about the rising waters of the lagoon where the city is built, and has persuaded my father to add Save-Venice-related charities to the list of donations he makes every year (and carefully enumerates on his tax returns). I helped her to find some of those articles while I was at home (even minimal skills seem impressive to those who lack them entirely), and listened patiently to her rant on the importance of saving Venice, the various things that have caused damage to Venice, and where were the environmentalists when they were dredging the channel and damaging the fragile balance of factors that keeps the city above water level?

"They were there, but no one ever listens to environmentalists, Mom," I said. "Politicians make the decisions. Politicians need money to get elected, so they listen to the people who have money. Environmentalists don't have money, so no one listens to them. They just get to sit around in the aftermath and say 'I told you so,' which doesn't really make anyone happy, least of all them."

And why the hell did environmentalists care so much about a few stupid species of birds or fish, anyway, when the cultural and artistic and architectural treasures of Venice were in such peril? Why weren't they devoting themselves to preserving Venice?

"Different value system, Mom. Environmentalists value life and the natural world over all other things. You value history, art, and the product of human skill and effort."

Not to be insulting my mother, really, she simply wasn't in a mood to be reasonable. And she was, and is, passionately devoted to her cause, which I personally see as admirable. Mostly because I . . . am not.

Venice is in peril, and it's a truly beautiful city, a treasure that belongs to all humankind, a physical reminder of what we can achieve given will and effort and time. Honduras is poor, turbulent, and constantly plagued by gang violence that feasts on the younger generations. Somalia and Ethiopia are experiencing terrible droughts; millions will die of starvation without billions in food and medical aid. In South America, acres of rainforest go up in smoke every minute, and marvelous creatures that no human has ever seen vanish unknown. Racism runs rampant in more countries than I can count, and mini- and not-so-mini Holocausts occur unreported, forgotten. The hole in the ozone layer widens by the day. There is no cure of AIDS, and no vaccine, either. Bird flu is no longer restricted to Asian countries. Every year, the dirty, acidic tears of the sky strip another fine layer from priceless monuments and sculptures around the world. Governments worldwide play fast and loose with the ethical principles their figureheads mouth, and we're no closer to world peace than we ever have been.

Gods, where do I ever start? How can I decide to throw myself, body and soul, into the preservation of the blue whale, or the pyramids of Egypt, or the rebuilding of New Jersey beaches? There's so much need out there, so much to be done, so many causes that demand my attention, my awareness-- that DESERVE it, that NEED it, and not just a little of it. No, they need all of it, every little bit, except every one of them needs it, urgently, right now, yesterday, ten years ago.

Sometimes I feel as if the best thing I can do is simply live my small life and try desperately not to add to any of the manifold problems out there-- an impossible goal, and a luxury that I do not deserve in the least. And certainly not in the face of so much suffering, so much tragedy.

And sometimes I feel as if it's all inevitable, all of it, the suffering and destruction and death, and that no matter what we do it will continue. That indeed it has continued for longer than human history. How much has been lost, over the centuries? How many paintings burned, how many dodos have there been? How many wars have been fought, where afterwards people swore that it would never happen again, that their war was the war to end all wars, so terrible that such a mistake never could be repeated? And yet, and yet, and yet.

Neither attitude is a good one, because they lead to nothing. They lead to people giving up, and that is the one thing we cannot, must not do, not now, not ever. Because if we would end it, or at least if we would stand against the tide, it will not be done by resignation. If there is indeed nothing we can do, is it not all the more beautiful to try? And what if there is a solution, to every problem, what if we can progress, move forward? What if we already have? If so, surely it was not due to willfull ignorance, or pitiful inaction, or people telling themselves that they couldn't change things, the way of the world, such a shame but there you go . . .

Surely not.

Action, inaction . . . they tear at the fragile strength of me from both sides. I despair, and somehow between them I do not despair. I will not hide from it, no. Because sometimes I wonder if in fact the best thing I can do is walk through this crumbling world with my eyes open, and say, "I see you."

And never, ever look away.
Thursday, January 5th, 2006 02:34 pm
I managed to avoid jet lag when I returned to Japan by the simple expedient of never adjusting to New York time in the first place.

And I would absolutely adore having this day end. Not because I'm bored and have nothing to do, but because I've been cold since I arrived and I would like to not be cold anymore.