Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Sorry, but I’m not here…

July 20, 2006

I’ve been trying do delete this blog for a couple of weeks now, but wordpress seems to be ignoring me. If you’re interested in anything you see here, please come over to this site, which is regularly updated. I won’t likely be updating this site again.


Clash of the Titans

May 1, 2006

This recent headline caught my eye: Ice Hockey: Japan powers past Israel in Group A. Not exactly the Olympics or the NHL Playoffs, but it is Division 1 of the International Ice Hockey Federation, which means that the winners of this tournament will move up (however briefly) to play against traditional powerhouses like Canada, Sweden and Russia at World Championships next year. I had no idea that they played hockey in Israel, prompting me to dig a bit deeper into this story. The Israel Ice Hockey Federation was established in 1989 by emigres from the Soviet Union and Canada (my heart is beginning to swell…). It joined the International Ice Hockey Federation in 1991. There are three skating rinks in Israel–one Olympic facility and two smaller rinks, one of them at the Canada Center in Metula (my heart is bursting with pride…). The current head coach of Team Israel is none other than Jean Perron, who coached Team canada in the 1984 Olympics and led the Montreal Canadiens to a Stanley Cup championship in 1986. It’s fair to say that, given the short amount of time Israel has had a hockey program, it’s quite remarkable that they are now playing competitively in Division 1. I started this post thinking to make some kind of joke (as the title might suggest), but it lead me to an unexpected place. Good luck to Israel and Japan at this year’s tournament!

Daily Smile

April 25, 2006

Mmm… I wonder what my buddies over at the Korean Central News Agency of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are up to these days (from April 24)…

Ahh, apparently some South Koreans like America: “It is a disgrace and tragedy that there are such traitors within the nation who hit upon the abominable idea, after licking the boots of the aggressors, running the whole gamut of flattery.”

On whether or not US sanctions against North Korea are linked to resumption of the six-party talks: “The hypocritical nature of the U.S. oft-repeated assertion has thus been fully revealed by its self-contradictory statements.”

The headline says DPRK Will Never Allow U.S. to Dare Provoke It:“They are grossly mistaken if they calculate they can wrest any concession and compromise from the DPRK by whiling away the time through sanctions and pressure.”

Take that, America!!: “If they ignite a new war despite our repeated warnings, the army and people of the DPRK will mobilize all potentials to wipe out them to the last one so that they may not be able to go back home safe.”

Drive-By Truckers

April 24, 2006

As if my simple recommendation weren’t enough to bestow greatness upon them, my friend Pierre over at Loser’s Guide has asked me what it is that I like about the music of Drive-By Truckers…
Umm, well, they have a cool name, don’t you think? And they’re from the South (Alabama, I think), and boys from down there have always made some good shit-kickin’ rock ‘n’ roll. These guys make some damn good rock ‘n’ roll, too, but there’s a little more going on than simple shit-kickin’, Old Glory-waving southern rock. It took me a few listens over a few years to realize it (actually I had an epiphany a couple of weeks ago while listening to the album Decoration Day after drinking about 10 beers), but Drive-By Truckers have a lot of interesting things to say about being from and living in the South and about life in general. I don’t usually pay too much attention to song lyrics unless they’re really good or really bad. These guys have very good, intelligent and thoughtful lyrics. They sing about, for example, the “duality of the ‘southern thing'” (pride and shame), economic hardship and the divide between rich and poor, and personal relationships. Their lyrics, I think, are always life-affirming and heavy with themes of reconciliation and redemption. (Note to self: don’t mention Faulkner or readers will think you’re showing off…) Musically, Drive-By Truckers sound like a hybrid of Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd spiced with some Stones and a bit of punk.
As a young guy growing up in a small town in Nova Scotia, me and my buddies listened to a lot of southern rock bands. The Allman Brothers Band, The Marshall Tucker Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd saw us through many a drunken evening. We paid for our beer with hard-earned unemployment cheques. The Atlantic provinces are the ‘poor’ part of Canada. But it wasn’t always like that. The Maritimes used to be the ‘civilized’ part of Canada. I wouldn’t go so far as to make a direct comparison to the American South (for many obvious reasons), but it’s no mystery to me if the songs of some good southern rock bands somehow resonate within me.


April 8, 2006

Please go buy any and all albums by Drive-By Truckers.

Not in My Backyard

March 31, 2006

This from the CBC: Minuteman volunteers to patrol Canada-U.S. border for illegal migrants. I guess things are falling apart in Canada, forcing some sort of mass refugee-like exodus. According to one of the Minutemen volunteers,

“Where I live, there are six adults living in houses. There’s more and more garbage. The hospital is losing money. We are trying to help stem the tide, but what we really need is the National Guard along the southern border and at key spots along the northern one.”

This guy must live in Los Angeles or Florida where, so I’ve heard, filthy, uneducated, lazy Canadians clutter the scenery like cigarette butts in a gin joint urinal.

Is There a Zealotry-Enhancing Steroid?

February 18, 2006

There’s nothing more obnoxious than a zealot, and new types seem to be springing up daily. Take IOC anti-doping czar Dick Pound, for example. He’s made it his personal mission to sniff the piss of anyone involved in any sport anywhere in the world. Yes, he’s on a mission. Today the first athlete was tossed out of the current Winter Olympics in Torino (this NY Times link will likely soon go stale). Olga Pyleva, a biathlete from Russia, was banished from the games for testing positive for the banned stimulant carphedon. Russian team officials claimed that the substance was in an over-the-counter medication Pyleva had taken for an ankle injury, but that the banned substance was not listed in the ingredients.
Before we continue, I’d just like to say that, personally, I’m not very sympathetic to cheaters, and I think intentionally taking drugs to enhance one’s performance in a sporting event is cheating (taking them to get wasted is another thing altogether…). We’ve heard excuses like Pyleva’s a hundred times before, but Dick Pound can’t even accept the possibilty that someone might have ingested a banned substance by accident. Pound said he was skeptical of this excuse:

I should start a collection of the different excuses I hear, like, ‘I got it from sitting on a toilet,’ or, ‘My evil twin gave it to me’ […] We don’t want to hear any of that. We just want the word to get out that if you’re cheating, you’re not welcome here.

Yeah, Dick, like anyone has ever given one of those excuses. It’s probably more verifiable that Dick Pound is more of a liar than many of the athletes he’s banished to obscurity. But then empirical evidence is not exactly the province of the zealot. Later in the same article Pound talks about the 12 cross-country skiers he suspended for having high levels of hemoglobin in their blood.

I think everybody would have a gut feeling that the odds of this happening in this size of a population are about one in three million […] So we do suspect something going on there.

Talk about pulling numbers out of your ass. According to the Times article, while high levels of hemoglobin may indicate doping, they could also be caused by dehydration or training at high altitudes (or using hyperbaric tents to simulate high altitudes). It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me that skiers might train at high altitudes, in which case the only surprise might be that all skiers didn’t test for high levels of hemoglobin. I don’t mean to suggest that nobody’s cheating. I do mean to suggest that ‘signs’ of cheating do not neceesarily mean that someone is, in fact, cheating.
Pound’s tendency to ignore empirical evidence probably first became manifest a few months ago when he claimed that up to a third of National Hockey League players were taking some form of performance enhancing drugs. Again, did Pound offer any evidence for this claim? Not that I’m aware of. Perhaps he was thinking of Montreal Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore, who recently failed a drug test because he uses a hair-growth stimulant? This is almost a joke to anyone who watches hockey. Do NHLers look like they use steroids? What exactly would be the benefits of using steroids for a hockey player? Hockey players look like soccer and basketball players. Compare players of these sports with baseball and football players (for general size and ‘bulkiness’). Sometimes, Dick, all you have to do is use your eyes. But then just eyeballing something is a form of empiricism, isn’t it?

Compare and Contrast

December 26, 2005

Jeremy Roenick, 35 year-old NHL veteran, on not being named to the American men’s Olympic hockey team:

“It would be a travesty if I’m not [selected …] I know they want a youth movement, and they need to have one, but it’d be disrespectful of the guys who have gotten Team USA to this point internationally. [Team USA] “better hope that I don’t get a job as a commentator on NBC for [the Games], or it’d be ‘Go Canada’ all the way, and I don’t want that.”

“I know nobody on that team has more points in the National Hockey League than me […] So if (USA Hockey) wants to go that way, good luck.”

“To not have the opportunity to go back one more time and try and win the gold is, obviously, in my opinion, very disrespectful. They can beat me down and say I’m over the hill or say that I don’t have it anymore, but, to me, I know that I do.”

“If they want to leave me off because of my numbers this year, that’s well and fine […]
“They didn’t invite me to camp in September and they’ve been blackballing me anyways […] I know I can play this game at a high level. My stats aren’t indicative of the way I’ve played this year. I think my career, the way I’ve worked, speaks for itself. If that’s the way they want to be, it’s fine. I’ll accept it.”

Sydney Crosby, 18 year-old NHL rookie, on not being named to the Canadian men’s Olympic Hockey team:

“There are a lot of great hockey players from Canada and I realize that […] you’re not making an All-Star team, you’re not choosing the guys who are the best scorers or who have the most points or the top 20 point-getters in the NHL, you’re making a team to go and win. That includes guys who have to be defensive forwards, guys who have some different roles. Either I didn’t fit that role or I didn’t earn a place to be there.”

“It’s important for me to move on […]I try to go out and give myself an opportunity to play there and if not, I’m not second-guessing any guy there because they all deserve to be there. It’s tough because I thought I had a chance, but it’s not tough because I think I should replace someone else, it’s not like that at all.”

“I knew there were a group of guys in the mix for so many spots — I don’t know how many it was, but I think I was right in there […] It’s special to play in the Olympics and when you’re that close, it’s a little bit tough because you don’t know what’s going to happen when you’re 22 or 26.”

Blue Sky

December 22, 2005

The lovely young woman on the left is none other than (following Japanese name forms) Aoi Sora (link NSFW), which means “Blue Sky”. She’s a popular “AV idol” (Adult Video star) here in Japan. She’s starred in such films as Let’s Go Blue in the Sky, Virgin Sky, 50/50, Sexy Fruit and Soap Heaven, to name but a few.
So why am talking about Aoi Sora and posting her picture here? Is it a cheap ploy to suck traffic in to my boring blog? Do I harbor some secret dream to be a porn king? Hell, yeah! But I digress…
In my classes today I asked my students (working in groups) to write down any words or phrases they associated with the term “the sky”. (Note to the ESL/EFL uninitiated: Damned if I know whether or not this type of activity is of any use to the students, but it usually gives me an idea of what they do or don’t know. We’ve been reading articles this month with weather-related content… please don’t ask…). As the students were doing the activity I was walking around the room checking what they’d written, offering suggestions, getting clarifications, etc. Most everyone had written words commonly associated with “the sky”–clouds, rain, stars, UFOs, and the like. In one of my classes today, however, there was a group of four guys I noticed chuckling and whispering to each other, like they had some funny secret. There are no rules against having fun in my classes, and they were busy writing stuff down, so I didn’t pay them much mind. Eventually I made my way over to them and took a look at what they had written. Pretty much the same as everyone else, but the first item on their paper was the phrase “Aoi Sora”…
Now, as fate would have it, and totally unbeknownst to my students, I know who Aoi Sora is. Yes, I admit it, I have gazed upon Japanese (and countless other types of) porn. Further, I have sought it out on the web. I suppose there are a few (straight) guys out there who don’t like to look at pictures of naked women, but I’m not one of them. I can only imagine what goes on in their sick, twisted minds. The only creature lower on the evolutionary scale would be someone who likes to look at beautiful, naked women, but denies doing it (liars are worse than retards, although they probably live longer, proving irrevocably that evolution isn’t always fair or sensible).
Anyway, playing dumb, I look at what these guys have written and say, “This is Japanese, what does it mean?” “Blue Sky”, one of them says, with darting glances at, and shared smirks with, his partners. I ask, “Is she the most popular AV idol in Japan?” Their jaws drop. After some hushed consultation another one answers, “well, she’s one of the most popular.” Not willing to pass up the opportunity, I say, “ok, make me a list, will you?”
They did. They gave it to me after class, and lingered a bit to chat. It may sound strange, but this is how to teach English in Japan.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to check out this list…

Meanwhile, in Iraq…

December 5, 2005

… we’ve been hearing about kidnappers threatening to kill their peace activist hostages, more US marines killed by roadside bombs, and an ambush by militants that killed 19 Iraqi soldiers. Not so widely reported was the broken mirror on a Japanese Ground Defense Force vehicle, inflicted by stone-throwing protesters in Samawah on Sunday. How are these events connected and what does it all mean? I leave that to you, dear reader…