Monday, March 31, 2008

A couple of videos celebrating my return to the blogosphere.

I've been running around for the last two weeks with a couple of rels from the UK - that would be Mrs Gaijin's sister, her husband and their two children. Finding food in Japan that a Brit can eat is only one of that challenges I'll tell you about later on.
In the meantime, did I miss anything? I'm catching up on Joe Loves Crappy Movies. Was there anything else going on in the world? No? Okay here's a video or two then.
Happy Birthday War by Mitch Benn

And a Doctor Who fan who found "God." --  From:  The Eternal Gaijin  Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan  "Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Doesn't that answer a few outstanding questions?

How bloody odd is this?

It's hard to think of two groups that should have a harder time collaborating on anything than Islamic and Christian fundamentalists, but I guess they have more in common with each other than they do with the rest of us.
ISN Security Watch - Turkey's survival of the fittest
Turkey's survival of the fittest The Islamic anti-Darwinism movement in Turkey is being helped by an unlikely source - US Christian conservatives, Dorian Jones writes for ISN Security Watch.
Wow. It's kinda like looking at the fundamentalist Jew-hating Christians and seeing their support for Israel, isn't it?

Creationism advocates from the US traveled to Istanbul May 2007 to meet with their counterparts, seeking to galvanize their link in the fight to bring creationism to schools and universities in their respective countries. The meeting was endorsed by Istanbul mayor Kadir Topbas, a member of the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

"There are outstanding figures within Islamic theology who have participated in this discussion. There is no reason to be surprised, there is a very rich tradition," David Berlinski, keynote speaker for the meeting and an analyst for the US-based Discovery Institute, an organization that opposes what it terms "neo-Darwinism," told ISN Security Watch.

"This is a hot issue. We are in the midst of a worldwide religious revival. Historians 500 years from now will talk about the religious revival of the late 20th century and early 21st century."

The meeting appeared to be well received by the audience of college and high school students, drawn from the city's elite education institutions.
How long before we watch everyone in the big tent starting up the barbeque and eating their own?
HT to Pharyngula.

This takes balls the size of a bean bag chair.

I just can't find the snark to go with this.

Canada unjust in Kazemi case, Iranian official says
An Iranian official leading the latest investigation into the 2003 death of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi is accusing Ottawa of illegal and biased behaviour in the case.

Photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died in Iranian custody in 2003. The latest investigation into her death opened Nov. 27, 2007.Photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died in Iranian custody in 2003. The latest investigation into her death opened Nov. 27, 2007.

Javad Larijani, secretary of Iran's Human Rights Commission, told CBC News that the probe of the Montreal-based freelance journalist's death while in Iranian custody is expected to wrap up in two to three months.

"I think the position of the Canadian government is biased and unjustful and is not legal as well," Larijani said.

His harsh words, over Canada's criticisms over how the case has been handled, are the latest in ongoing accusations traded between Ottawa and Tehran over Kazemi's death.

Kazemi, 54, died in custody nearly three weeks after her arrest for taking photographs outside the infamous Evin prison in Tehran during student protests.

Friday, March 14, 2008


And while you're at it: Leave Gandalf Alone!

Catholic bishop hits out at 'gay conspiracy' to destroy Christianity - News
ONE of Scotland's most senior Catholics has launched an attack on the "gay lobby" in Scotland, claiming there is a "huge and well-orchestrated conspiracy" against Christian values.
The Rt Rev Joseph Devine, Bishop of Motherwell and president of the Catholic Education Commission, said gay rights organisations aligned themselves with minority groups, such as Holocaust survivors, to project an "image of a group of people under persecution".
He warned that the gay lobby – which he labelled "the opposition" – had mounted "a giant conspiracy" to shape public policy.
He singled out the actor Sir Ian McKellen, who was given a New Year honour for services to gay rights, pointing out that Oscar Wilde was locked up only a century ago for homosexual acts. The bishop said he would "not tolerate" the "behaviour" of a child struggling to come to terms with his or her homosexuality. Last night his views were attacked by gay rights groups, which branded them "unChristian" and "deeply out of step" with the views of ordinary Scots.
Emphatic Colour Added.

London Calling. To the dustmen. Time for a pickup.

London's calling. Mostly it's calling for dustmen to make a pickup.No kidding.
Didn't I mention that Hackney is still hanging onto it's Retro London Blitz chic?
London is grubby not dirt cheap, say visitors - Telegraph
London has been voted the dirtiest and most expensive city in Europe, a new survey shows.

The capital edged out Paris in both categories, although it was considered to have the best nightlife and public parks.

I know. It's the big cart, but they can't find it so that's why there's so much rubbish on the street.

People complain about the declining standards of education. For the most part I'm willing to ignore the petty droolings of senile old toffs fantasizing an idealized childhood they didn't actually have. Maybe they heard about it from their great-grandfather.
All that aside, I do have a problem with this.

Magna Carta what? English charter 'a mystery to 45pc of population' - Telegraph
Nearly half of the UK population does not know what the Magna Carta is, according to a YouGov poll.
The survey commissioned by the British Library found 45 per cent of the 2,000 people questioned had no knowledge of the English charter.
And only 32 per cent knew that it set written limits on the authority of the monarch.
Jack Straw MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, said: "British people struggle to put their finger on one of our own defining documents, Magna Carta.
"Magna Carta remains an epochal moment in British history, with a resonance that still lasts today."

So resonant that half of the population doesn't know what it is.
Kids today.
Now get off my lawn.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Another comment on Security Theatre

This is what needs saying more often.
Time to fight security superstition | Technology |
The Met's latest poster campaign urges Londoners who spot "unusual" activity to ring the police and let them know. Examples include someone taking pictures of CCTV cameras or acting out of the ordinary. After all, these are dangerous times, and we all must be vigilant.
Contrast this for a moment with an earlier dangerous time: the Blitz. Bombs rained down upon London on a near-daily basis, killing, maiming and laying waste to whole neighbourhoods (one American friend recently described a trip around east London where his hosts pointed to every car park and said, "Of course, that was bombed in the Blitz" – and came away with the impression that Hitler had dropped car parks on Hackney).
Back then, the government's message to the people wasn't "Take your shoes off" or "place your liquids in this bag". Instead, King George's printer stuck up millions of royal red posters bearing the legend "KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON."

Let's leave aside the fact that I've been to Hackney and I'm convinced that Blitzing it again could only improve the overall look of the place. Seriously. It's over 60 years since the Blitz. Time to get an estimate on repairing some of the damage.
We have to be able to question authority or it's authoritarian. I'm not willing to back anything less.
If terrorists are a danger to London, then the only way to be safe is to talk about real threats and real countermeasures, to question the security around us and shut down the systems that don't work.
We can't rely on the authorities to defend us against attacks that outstrip their capacity to adapt to them. Remember, the same police force that's plastering London with signs exhorting us to "let experienced officers decide what action to take" is the same police force that gunned down a Brazilian for wearing an overcoat, and shut down Soho when a Thai restaurant burned its chilli sauce, releasing spicy smoke.
Real security needs real information. Real information comes from real freedom.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fry and Laurie strike again

HT to Crooks and Liars

Let's talk about sin...

Social sins are in teh Nooz. (I may be the last person who thinks that sort of spelling is cute or edgy. Cute-edgy? Like casting Hello Kitty! in a new Tarantino movie. Key line: I don't need a mouth to knock out your teeth, motherfucker. You watch, it'll happen. I fear I may be digressing a bit.)

So I'm watching the Beeb yesterday and there's a priest talking in an overly affected hip commedian Yankee kind of way about how each time we do something we create multitude of ways to get it wrong. And in a way, he's neatly encapsulated the problem with church-based thinking. He didn't really seem to even consider any number of ways that we can get it right. Or how a couple of ways of getting it right might outway new ways of getting it wrong.

Let's consider this for a moment.

Sin, I'm given to understand is a moral evil, though it is unclear whether it is important for this to involve a transgression of God's will or not. In the popular understanding though, sin is a transgression against the will of God, whether or not it is anti-social or results in moral evil. This has led to some truly interesting interpretations of what is a sin and what is not.

Now, what were the original  sins anyway? Keep in mind it's been a couple of years since I watched Se7en.


1. Pride

2. Envy

3. Gluttony

4. Lust

5. Anger

6. Greed

7. Sloth

The thing with these as sins (especially deadly) is they're great examples of personality traits of people you don't want to sit next to at the bar, ever more so the worse they exhibit the traits. Personal defects, then.

So somehow we need these new seven social sins:

1. ``Bioethical' violations such as birth control

2. ``Morally dubious'' experiments such as stem cell research

3. Drug abuse

4. Polluting the environment

5. Contributing to widening divide between rich and poor

6. Excessive wealth

7. Creating poverty

There we go. While these may (disputedly) be admirable social goals, they don't seem to constitute an actual offense against God and his dignity.

First of all, I don't see how from the conservative point of view the first two are really different. Certainly the bottom 3 are the same fucking thing! Which to my mind gives us a list with 4 actual points spread across seven.

Now, how is it that drug abuse is a sin? It's definitely a shit way to live. It's hard on everyone around you. I'm still unconvinced that it's a moral crime.

Intersting are some of the omissions. Take for example child abuse. For some reason that is a topic that didn't even ping on the radar.

Genocide? Next revision. Send a memo to remind us.

How about affronts to human dignity? Nary a mention. Slavery? Still not on the list. Torture? Jury's still out.

Post scripts:

Reason has a take here.

Philly Chief gives a go here.

Two Takes on Drugs in the Water

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Only in Canada you say?

Ottawa family flees home as snowy roof splits
As I recall they're going for the all time snow fall record this year. Ottawa's around 4 metres and counting.
18 degrees in Kobe today.

Video Parody

FSM Expelled
Case Closed, People. Case Closed.

--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

Paranoia Campaign Strikes Again

FFS, people.

I mentioned the super-paranoid bunch of crap that is the poster campaign in the UK. Well, it's reared its ugly head. Again.

There was a remix done about suspicious beards. (via Boing Boing) Turns out a guy got pulled up for having a suspicious beard. He even got a receipt of the search and posted it. Sweet action. Look for the words big, brown and beard.

Misquoting Jesus speech

I've just started Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman. Below is a quick (about 90 mins incl Q&A) that outlines arguments from the book as well as his lectures on the historical Jesus.

You'll also find the audio of the speech in iTunesU as part of the Stanford lectures.


Finally some candor

Pharyngula points out that this is what they say to each other when they think others can't listen in.

The self-righteous in politics know no bounds of decency and logic. Witness this jerkwad who doesn't acknowledge the existence of modern recording equipment.

Notice it's not just an anti-gay rant. It's inherently intolerant of other religions, races, and to an implied extent democracy itself.

Oh, and just so I'm fair, I'm not that impressed when it's Democrats who talk values and hire hookers. The thing I hate is hypocrisy.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Interesting Contrast

Gaijin by the Numbers

Today is my Japanniversary. As dates with infamy go, it's not likely to live in the same way...

So about the Blogger id:
外人 (がいじん) gaijin. Japanese word meaning 'foreigner' (lit. outside person) diminutive of more formal 外国人 (がいこくじん) lit. outside country person.
永年 (えいねん) einen. long time, many years.
'Eternal' is actually 永遠 (えいえん) ei'en. Still, nobody reading this blog speaks Japanese so I think I can get away with it.

Some Numbers
1 - number of years ago I returned to Japan.
14 - number of years ago I first came to Japan.
10 - number of years I have spent in Japan.
40 - my age
7 1/2 - years I've been married
585 - number of posts before this one.
6075 - Today's rank on the Truth Laid Bare Ecosystem
4 - The number of kilos I'd like to shed.
180 - my height in centimetres. Don't ask me imperial. I don't know.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Canada's oppostion finds its spine

Just kidding. Spineless Liberals bottled it when they were put to the test.
Ethics, people. Fucking ethics. Look it up and do your jobs.

Extra! Extra! Extra-territoriality!

Memo to Treasury Department in the US. STFD, STFU and go do some real work.

Treasury Dept confiscates domain names of Brit travel agent who booked Cuba tours - Boing Boing

Remember I mentioned the paranoia campaign in the UK

Some busy bods have done a remix of that "Suspect all Photographers" poster.
Things of beauty. Makes me wish I didn't suck at Photoshop.
Remixing the London police's anti-photographer terrror posters - Boing Boing

Iraq by the Numbers...and the reactions

First, let's be really clear from the outset. I am not reflexively anti-war. I skew peace over fighting in most cases, but there is a case to be made for war. To paraphrase Gwynne Dyer, being anti-war is tacitly saying that the current global situation is the best of all possible. War can be needed to upset the apple cart and put something better in its place.
That does not mean being a war monger, nor supporting the neo-con agenda and its muscular projection of American power abroad.
It also doesn't mean I can't be reflexively anti- this-war. This was an unnecessary and wasteful distraction from the real issues involved in terrorism and sub-state ideological violence.
So here's a run down of the useless waste during this trip down the rat hole.

Foreign Policy In Focus The Iraq Quagmire
U.S. military killed in Iraq: 3,973
Number of U.S. troops wounded in combat since the war began: 29,203
Iraqi Security Force deaths: 7,924
Iraqi civilians killed: Estimates range from 81,632-1,120,000
Internally displaced refugees in Iraq: 3.4 million
Iraqi refugees living abroad: 2.2-2.4 million
Iraqi refugees admitted to the U.S.: 3,222
Number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq: 155,000
Number of "Coalition of the Willing" soldiers in Iraq:
February 2008: 9,895
September 2006: 18,000
November 2004: 25,595
Army soldiers in Iraq who have served two or more tours: 74%
Number of Private Military Contractors in Iraq: 180,000
Number of Private Military Contractors criminally prosecuted by the U.S. government for violence or abuse in Iraq: 1
Number of contract workers killed: 917 What the Iraq war has created, according to the U.S. National Intelligence Council: "A training and recruitment ground (for terrorists), and an opportunity for terrorists to enhance their technical skills."
Effect on al Qaeda of the Iraq War, according to International Institute for Strategic Studies: "Accelerated recruitment"
The bill so far: $526 billion
Cost per day: $275 million
Cost per household: $4,100
The estimated long-term bill: $3 trillion
What $526 billion could have paid for in the U.S. in one year:
Children with health care: 223 million or
Scholarships for university students: 86 million or
Head Start places for children: 72 million
Cost of 22 days in Iraq could safeguard our nation's ports from attack for ten years.
Cost of 18 hours in Iraq could secure U.S. chemical plants for five years.
Iraqi Unemployment level: 25-40%
*U.S. unemployment during the Great Depression: 25%
70% of the Iraqi population is without access to clean water.
80% is without sanitation.
90% of Iraq's 180 hospitals lack basic medical and surgical supplies.
79% of Iraqis oppose the presence of Coalition Forces.
78% of Iraqis believe things are going badly in Iraq overall.
64% of Americans oppose the war in Iraq.
What the "Declaration of Principles" has set according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates: "A mutually agreed arrangement whereby we have a long and enduring presence."

Three trillion dollars - Nobel winning economist tabulates true cost of Iraq war - Boing Boing
Dispatches from the Culture Wars: The Economic Cost of the War
And predictable:
Think Progress » White House Smears Nobel Economist: ‘Lacks Courage’ For Ignoring ‘Cost Of Failure’ In Iraq
This may be a good time to use the word 'fuck' if I haven't already.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

This has good potential

JURIST - Paper Chase: Canada judge rules emergency wiretap law unconstitutional
[JURIST] British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Barry Davies has ruled [excerpts] that Section 184.4 of the Canadian Criminal Code [text], which allows law enforcement officers to electronically intercept private communications in "exceptional circumstances" without court authorization, is unconstitutional because it violates "the fundamental freedom to be free from unreasonable search and seizure" protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. Davies' ruling, made public Monday, can be appealed to the province's Court of Appeal. Section 184.4 allows police to intercept communications without a judge's approval in certain emergency situations, but Davies said that the provision violates the rights of people whose communications have been intercepted. Section 184.4 is used across Canada, and Davies stayed his ruling for 18 months to allow the Canadian parliament time to amend the law. Canwest News Service has more.

You wanna re-open NAFTA?

I got you NAFTA right here.

Foreign Policy In Focus | The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water
While not likely to lead to armed conflict, stresses are growing along the U.S.-Canadian border over shared boundary waters. In particular, concerns are growing over the future of the Great Lakes, whose waters are becoming increasingly polluted and whose water tables are being steadily drawn down by the huge buildup of population and industry around the basin. A joint commission set up to oversee these waters was recently bypassed by the governors of the American states bordering the Great Lakes, who passed an amendment to the treaty governing the lakes that allows for water diversions to new communities off the basin on the American side. Canadian protests fell on deaf ears in Washington. In 2006, the U.S. government announced plans to have the U.S. coast guard patrol the Great Lakes using machine guns mounted on their vessels and revealed that it had created thirty-four permanent live-fire training zones along the Great Lakes from where it had already conducted a number of automatic weapons drills due to fierce opposition, firing three thousand lead bullets each time into the lakes. The Bush administration has temporarily called off these drills but is clearly asserting U.S. authority over what has in the past been considered joint waters.
Similar trouble is brewing on the U.S.-Mexican border, where a private group of U.S.–based water rights holders is using the North American Free Trade Agreement to challenge the long-term practice by Mexican farmers to divert water from the Rio Grande before it reaches the United States.

Did I mention oil? We got your oil right here.

Last Weekend...

Last weekend I watched two debates between Dinesh D'Souza and a more secular opponent. The first was Christopher Hitchens the other Daniel Dennett. (I have previously watched one between DD and Michael Shermer).
I do this so you don't have to. Trust me, don't.
It was the usual ooh big universe, oooh order, ooh god loves you crud, just at a higher, shriller volume. There's always some version of the cosmological argument (which is never all that convincing); there's some kind of teleological argument (which is less and less convincing). There's a weakly support fine-tuning argument (I seem to remember the Bad Astronomer blog had a bit of a debunk of that. Not verified)
Anyway, here's the debunk of ooh, order as an argument.

ABC News: Orderly Universe: Evidence of God?
Necessarily Some Order

Let me begin by noting that even about the seemingly completely disordered, we can always say something. No universe could be completely random at all levels of analysis.

Right for the Wrong Reasons

The headline and the sub-head are good. The rest of the article is Troofer assertions and debunked crud. Save your brain cells.

Michael Meacher: This war on terrorism is bogus | Politics | The Guardian
This war on terrorism is bogus

The 9/11 attacks gave the US an ideal pretext to use force to secure its global domination

This one's for the Bad Astronomer

Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy fame, is a Doctor Who fan and better poker player at TAM than friend DEG.

Series 4 starts soon.

Marcus Brigstocke on the Recent British Earthquake

If I ever find We Are History, it'll be up here in a flash.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

It is very, very important that you watch these videos.

I was in Japan when Connections 2 came out. I was gutted. For the non-Brit speakers out there gutted means severely disappointed.
I remember watching some of Connections during a History of Science course at Uni. For the non-Brit speakers out there uni means university. The style and accessibility of the show is outstanding, as is the sheer amount of information in each episode.
I watched some of the Connections 2 back in Canada, but never got to see the full run of the show.
So, thanx to the uToobz, here is a playlist.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Have I mentioned Kent Hovind recently?

No, probably not. He hasn't been much fun since he got sent to jail for tax evasion. You know, that just feels good to type out every once in a while.

Anyway, just a little bit from the hit parade.

You have to love the sing-song Irish accented Pwnage here. (this said by a guy with a Newfie dad and all)

Not to forget this classic moment. I call it Pwnage in 3 Acts.

Turns out this guy has a blog. And is a Canuck.

This is also promising...

RIP Jeff Healey

The Canadian Press: Despite long battle with cancer, Jeff Healey's death still shocking, bandmate
Acclaimed jazz and rock guitarist Jeff Healey was remembered Sunday as a musician of rare ability who had a wicked sense of humour and a generous nature as fans and bandmates mourned his death at age 41, following a battle with cancer.

Monday, March 03, 2008

This has potential

BBC NEWS | Europe | Turkey in radical revision of Islamic texts
Turkey is preparing to publish a document that represents a revolutionary reinterpretation of Islam - and a controversial and radical modernisation of the religion.

Monday morning...

... and I'm not particularly pissed off at anything specific, so here's a couple of links
Human evolution | Moral thinking |
Abu Ghraib prison turned soldiers evil by design: researcher - Yahoo! News
And a reminder that I am still in Japan, though sadly not in Tokyo any more.
Top 10 cheap eats in Tokyo | Travel |
I used to live just up the road from number 8 on this izakaya list.
And finally a picture of my dog lying down on the balcony:

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Does this guy have any cred left?

Bush offering advice about invading Iraq. Words fail me, you and 8 out of 10 people on your street.

Turkey should 'move quickly' to end military incursion into Iraq: Bush
"It should not be long-lasting," Bush said, speaking to reporters Thursday at the White House briefing room. "The Turks need to move, move quickly, achieve their objective and get out."

The Ceeb is the only news organization that actually got this right.

The press release on the study did not say that antidepressants are useless, as the Beeb is reporting. It said that they may be over prescribed and only effective for people who are actually depressed.
So if your girlfriend broke up with you, stop listening to the Smiths. You don't need pills.

Antidepressants may only be useful for the severely depressed: study