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    Hexed

    Posted by Sean at 10:54, August 10th, 2005

    Joe e-mailed to ask whether I’d heard about this story from the Lehigh Valley, where I grew up and he has a lot of relatives. I had not. Now that I have, I’m appalled:

    KUTZTOWN, Pennsylvania — They’re being called the Kutztown 13 — a group of high schoolers charged with felonies for bypassing security with school-issued laptops, downloading forbidden internet goodies and using monitoring software to spy on district administrators.

    The students, their families and outraged supporters say authorities are overreacting, punishing the kids not for any heinous behavior — no malicious acts are alleged — but rather because they outsmarted the district’s technology workers.

    In Pennsylvania alone, more than a dozen school districts have reported student misuse of computers to police, and in some cases students have been expelled, according to Jeffrey Tucker, a lawyer for the district.

    The students “fully knew it was wrong and they kept doing it,” Tucker said. “Parents thought we should reward them for being creative. We don’t accept that.”

    A hearing is set for Aug. 24 in Berks County juvenile court, where the 13 have been charged with computer trespass, an offense state law defines as altering computer data, programs or software without permission.

    “Reward them for being creative”? I know that a lot of hard-working school administrators have to deal with parents who are lax disciplinarians and make every excuse imaginable not to find fault with their own little snoogums, but that didn’t ring very true to me. (The felony the kids are charged with, BTW, is computer trespassing.) There’s a website to support the thirteen students who are being charged, and on its comments board, the parents of a few of them have posted. There are a lot of questions raised: information and support to the parents about the laptop program was slack from the beginning, parents were not alerted that the district considered their children’s conduct serious infractions, and the students who have been charged may have been selected because their parents don’t have connections. Of course, none of this is corroborated–I’m only going by what’s posted there.

    Looking for reasons to sympathize with the school district requires major effort, though, because the facts that do appear undisputed make it look like a warren of dumb bunnies:

    The computers were loaded with a filtering program that limited internet access. They also had software that let administrators see what students were viewing on their screens.

    But those barriers proved easily surmountable: The administrative password that allowed students to reconfigure computers and obtain unrestricted internet access was easy to obtain. A shortened version of the school’s street address, the password was taped to the backs of the computers.

    The password got passed around and students began downloading such forbidden programs as the popular iChat instant-messaging tool.

    The students were clearly breaking rules and deserve punishment. It does seem reasonable to expect, though, that administrators help encourage students in the direction of obedience by not making the rules ridiculously easy to break. Of course, if they don’t know how computers work, that may be hard to manage. Maybe sticking to programs that they themselves understand would have helped.


    Nagasaki bombing anniversary

    Posted by Sean at 10:37, August 9th, 2005

    The anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing gets less attention, I think, in the Western media than that of the Hiroshima bombing, which precedes it. The speeches on 9 August tend to contain harsher soundbites, though. Part of that is that the mayor of Nagasaki is outspoken about nuclear disarmament; given that he’s not responsible for defending the nation, he can afford to be. A few months ago, he stated that the US has not made serious efforts toward nuclear disarmament. His sentiments were, as always, echoed by speakers today:

    A representative of the survivors of the bombing, [Ms.] Fumie Sakamoto (74), read the “Peace Pledge,” calling for the abolishment of nuclear weapons: “I have managed to live 60 years since that day; no one else must be allowed to taste this kind of suffering.”

    Prime Minister Koizumi also made the usual bland statements in support of worldwide nuclear disarmament. However, with due respect to Ms. Sakamoto and her fellow survivors’ truly awesome fortitude, it is simply not possible for rich nations not to arm themselves with the best offensive and defensive military technology available.

    Well, I guess it would be possible in the short term, but it would also be foolish. Practically the entirety of world history consists of the building up of material and intellectual riches by imaginative and hard-working peoples, followed by attempts by other peoples to grab those resources by force. Life is strife, unless we want to return to subsistence farming in isolated hamlets. The best way any free country can honor its war dead in deed is to allow its citizens to better their lives without impediment and to protect them, unwaveringly, when when others go after the fruits of their labor.

    Added on 10 August: I saw this a week or so ago and forgot to mention it when posting on 6 August: Romeo Mike likes to take pictures of stupid-lefty political posters and stapled-up handbills around town. Last week, there was one about Hiroshima in the middle of this post.

    I can’t tell whether the pattern on the woman’s obi is supposed to be origami doves of peace or, you know, lotuses of enlightenment or something. I can say that the first time I read the main message of “No more US wars / Abolish all nuclear weapons / Troops home from Iraq now,” I thought, For crying out loud, is that a flippin’ haiku? Please tell me they didn’t…oh, sweet Amaterasu, they couldn’t have…. Luckily, they hadn’t–I was faked out by that five-syllable first line. That was where the relief ended, of course. (You have to read the “What will socialism look like?” one, too, which pushes the time-dishonored line that real socialism would lead to paradise on Earth; the problem is that no one’s done it right yet. And at the risk of cramming too many topics in here, you might want to read RM’s thoughts on the push for same-sex marriage in Australia, which appears to be prey to the same problems as it is in the States: disagreement among advocacy groups about both strategies and goals, contempt for dissenting gays and thoughtful opponents. The sun never sets on lefty stupidity.)

    Added on 11 August: I don’t want to beat this topic to death, but Michael and Daily Pundit have noted the way reports about the bombings land in La-la Land non-reality. Michael questions a Globe and Mail headline, and Bill Quick–well, if you want to know why I never cite The Japan Times here, it’s because I don’t read it. Check this out:

    The U.S. actions arose not from any rage but from cool, calculated thinking. The intent was to deliver a crippling psychological blow to Japan by obliterating two of its important cities. No warning was given to the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki before unleashing the nuclear holocaust.

    Before dropping the second bomb, shouldn’t the U.S. have given Japan a reasonable and firm deadline to surrender? In rushing into a second nuclear attack before Japan could grasp the strategic significance of the first bombing, Truman achieved little more than showing that a tested implosion-type bomb worked.

    No warning? A reasonable and firm deadline? You’d think we were talking about that employee in cubicle A7 who never submits his paperwork on time.


    Japan Post privatization voted down

    Posted by Sean at 02:35, August 8th, 2005

    The Japan Post privatization bill has been voted down by the upper house of the Diet; Koizumi pledges to dissolve the lower house and call new elections on 11 September. There were 22 LDP votes against the bill, 4 more than the 18 required for it not to pass. The final total was 108 for, 125 against. It’s the only thing NHK is talking about right now, naturally, but there’s nothing really enlightening being said. The main noise in the House of Councillors’ chamber after the tally was announced sounded like cheering, naturally.

    Given the pressure the party leadership had put on LDP legislators to vote in favor, I’m sure some of those who weren’t cheering were still feeling inward relief. There had not been much effort to get voters behind the bill, and those constituents that did voice opinions–such as, you know, the postal workers’ unions–didn’t support it. Ditto, of course, for the unelected officials in the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which oversee the current semi-governmental Japan Post corporation. Japan Post privatization has been presented in public all along as an example of the rifts in the LDP; it fulfilled that role to the end. The next month or so promises to be interesting.

    Added at 16:00: As Atsushi just remarked to me while NHK’s camera panned the assembled cabinet, the Prime Minister decided against cool biz today (though Heizo Takenaka and another minister or two are tie-less), and man, were they wearing some sour expressions.

    Added at 11:59: Much hot air emitted since this afternoon. Few surprises. Koizumi has vowed that the lower house members who voted against the Japan Post privatization bill will not be supported by the LDP in the upcoming snap election. Otherwise, mostly a reaffirmation of positions by those whose talking heads have appeared for months.

    BTW, it’s worth noting in all the brouhaha that the point to which Japan had progressed before todays set of documents was formulated represented no small feat. The 2001 reorganization of the federal ministries involved the dissolution of the Trust Fund Agency of the Ministry of Finance, to which all Postal Savings deposits had theretofore been required to be routed. Granted, the creation of the Japan Post semi-governmental corporation didn’t solve the spending problems, either on pork-barrel public works projects or on government bonds, but at least it let some light and air into the shadow budget. These things take time.


    Word for the summer: 石綿 (sekimen: “rock” + “cotton” –> “asbestos”)

    Posted by Sean at 22:55, August 7th, 2005

    The asbestos scandal has been expanding so rapidly that it seemed wise to wait to say anything about it–there have been new and disheartening revelations just about daily for the last several weeks. The story actually began, of course, decades ago:

    The Environment Agency, predecessor of the Environment Ministry, failed to measure asbestos fiber particle concentration in the air near asbestos-processing factories between 1979 and 1986, despite fears of health risks to residents, sources said.

    Though the agency conducted research for two years starting in 1977 at 14 factories, it did not conduct measurements until an emergency study was made in 1987, when the use of asbestos in school buildings attracted attention as a health problem.

    The agency introduced regulations on use of asbestos in 1989 by revising the Air Pollution Control Law.

    It was known since the 1960s that many residents near asbestos-processing factories overseas had suffered from health problems.

    The agency’s study team urged in 1980 that research near asbestos-processing factories should be done as soon as possible because residents there had inhaled large concentrations of asbestos.

    This is not like the asbestos hysteria in the States twenty years ago, when schools and other public buildings with contained asbestos were subjected to removal programs that actually risked ejecting it into the air at higher levels. Most of the problems that have been recently discovered in Japan involve either workers who handled asbestos of residents of areas near asbestos-using plants. There has been a shopworker whose mesothelioma has been linked to his work in a shop insulated with blue asbestos, but it was in a confined space that he spent a great deal of time in and often cleaned. To my knowledge, no other similar cases have been publicized, but as I say, there have been so many new announcements over the last month and a half that it would be easy to miss one.

    There have been some concerns raised over asbestos in building materials–the latest involved Pacific Materials, a maker of building materials for public works projects, used asbestos in fire-retardant coverings (including what seems to be spray-on foam insulation) up to 1989. Japan tears down and rebuilds facilities at a much higher rate than the US, and that increased turnover makes it more important to know where each fiber in use is. Walls and ceilings do not sit unmolested for long here.  Additionally, Japan has a track record of playing fast and loose with the use and disposal of hazardous materials. Despite Japan’s image as a safety-conscious society with a tightly-controlled economy, safety regulations are often sketchy and slackly enforced. Nuclear screw-ups are the most well-known problem. Americans who arrive in Tokyo get a window on this attitude at seeing construction sites, which are separated from pedestrian pass-throughs by nothing more than traffic cones and plastic tubes; the walkways are often surfaced with pieces of old plywood. Unless there’s a crane swinging I-beams overhead, it is extremely rare for a sidewalk to be entirely closed off for construction.

    Most of the newly publicized cases of illness involve workers who came into repeated high-risk contact with uncontained fibers. The government has been slow to move on this problem, which has been known for decades; and as so often happens, its laxity is coming back to bite it all at one time. Multiple big-name companies have revealed that employees have been known to die of mesothelioma, the cancer most commonly linked with repeated airborne asbestos exposure (and, indeed, not known to be caused by anything else). The problem has invaded public consciousness to the point that fraudulent contractors are coming, uh, out of the woodwork to offer bogus asbestos containment or removal.

    For those who want a run-down on the vocabulary used in the Japanese coverage of the scandal, this Yomiuri article hits most of them in the process of giving a description of the properties of asbestos. One thing that article doesn’t point out is that the blue and brown fibers are considered more carcinogenic than the white fibers; use of new blue and brown asbestos was outlawed in Japan in 1995, and white asbestos wasn’t banned until last year. Remember, though, that if a manufacturer or contractor can argue convincingly that no alternative material is suitable, use of asbestos is still permitted. The statute of limitations on wrongful death claims is also very short–within five years from the day after the victim’s death. Given that asbestos inhalation has been a problem for decades but was largely unpublicized, the government is looking into extending it. Unsurprisingly, victims’ advocates say the move is too little, too late.

    One of the sad things about this recent spate of revelations is that it doesn’t appear to be the result of the usual collusion and cover-ups. Not that I’m a fan of corruption, but there will always be opportunistic and evil people in the world, and if we can’t always prevent them from gaining power, it’s a good thing when we can discover them and address their wrongs as best we can. Regarding asbestos, the problem appears to have been sheer complacency. The companies involved were doing work to keep the Japan, Inc., machine going at relatively low cost, and no one noticeable was dropping dead right at the moment, so…well, even if studies had repeatedly shown that asbestos is a carcinogen, there were other things to worry about.


    地震が・・・

    Posted by Sean at 12:07, August 6th, 2005

    Hello, earthquake! Seems to be dying down…yup. Atsushi hasn’t bolted out of the shower, so I guess we’re okay in Tokyo. Hope it wasn’t higher magnitude elsewhere.


    Just go away

    Posted by Sean at 19:19, August 5th, 2005

    Okay, we all knew this was coming and how it was going to be pitched. That doesn’t make it any less vile:

    A tell-all book by the nation’s first openly gay governor is in the works, a New York publisher said Thursday.
    The as-yet-untitled memoir by former New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey will be published by ReganBooks, an imprint of publishing house HarperCollins.

    “Jim McGreevey has a rare opportunity, and the courage, to tell the whole truth about his life,” Regan wrote. “In this deeply honest and revealing book, he will describe how he wrestled with his sexuality and his faith–from the expectations he faced as a young man to the divided persona he created in order to meet them.”

    Courage, my white faggot ass! For one thing, calling McGreevey “the nation’s first openly gay governor” is misleading, since he announced his sexuality as a lead-in to announcing his resignation. He didn’t serve a single openly gay day that he wasn’t already committed to leaving office (when it was most convenient for his party) and thus never risked taking political hits for his homosexuality when it might have mattered. And give me a break–gays serving in Iraq under “Don’t ask, don’t tell” are showing courage. Gays who are willing to go on talk radio and defend our way of life to callers who tell them they’re a pox on society are showing courage. McGreevey isn’t showing the slightest bit of courage by adding to the already bloated genre of gay coming-of-age stories.

    He could, however, do so by being up-front about how his mishandling of his own sexuality affected his performance as governor. As a lifelong Pennsylvanian, I blithely make New Jersey jokes all the time, but that’s all in jest. The fact is that 10 million Americans were depending on his administration to protect them against terrorism as best it could, and he went and hired an incompetent cutie as security head who, being an Israeli citizen, apparently couldn’t even get adequate security clearance to do his job. And that’s not the only act of corruption of which McGreevey’s of. I’d gladly pay money–I’d pre-order–a book in which he decided to get all “deeply honest and revealing” about that.


    Japan Post really at t – 3

    Posted by Sean at 10:07, August 5th, 2005

    The Japan Post privatization bill has made it through committee in the House of Councillors and will go to the floor at the Monday plenary meeting. Every legislator and his grandmother has been interviewed on NHK today; no one said anything enlightening or new.

    It’s helpful to remember, BTW, that the bill that the upper house is getting is different in a lot of significant ways from the original proposal–and from what you’d normally think of as privatization. There will be a semi-governmental holding company (essentially the existing Japan Post central organization) and four individual companies for counter services, actual mail transport and delivery, savings accounts, and insurance.

    The government will not be required to sell its shares in the provider companies by 2017 as had originally been proposed, which allows plenty of time for chummy relationships between officials and top managers to form. In fact, they’ll be there from the get-go. Additionally, the ability for companies to engage in mutual shareholding has not been precluded.

    There’s also a government fund of ¥2 trillion that’s to be used to insulate the service providers against losses from the providing of deliveries and financial services to rural areas. The official line is that it can only be used to bail out local providers that are going under, and that probably is the intention; but critics say it could be used to allow Japan Post spinoff companies to undercut private providers. (Is it time for a reference to the California energy fiasco? I think it is.)

    Furthermore, the idea that Ministry of Finance officials who have depended on the money in postal savings–all ¥250 trillion of it–as part of the shadow budget are just going to sit back and watch while it disappears is hard to swallow; and then there’s the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, which more directly controls the post-ier part of Japan Post.

    Of course, the privatization bill has meaning as a symbolic gesture as well as a concrete move to reform a given set of public services. We’ll have to wait and see whether it ends up being more symbolic than concrete. Well, we’ll have to wait and see whether the bill passes at all.


    Hiroshima bombing anniversary

    Posted by Sean at 09:55, August 5th, 2005

    Tomorrow morning is the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. I can’t really think of anything better to say about the attack itself than what I said last year. I’m not big on self-quoting, but if you don’t feel like clicking through:

    When I think of people immediately after the bombings, their faces obliterated by heat, expending their little remaining energy to bow in gratitude for the water volunteers brought to their lips (one of the most famous A-bomb memorials is inscribed with 水, the character for “water,” because that’s what so many victims cried out for), my heart aches. The same when…you know, bodies of water feature very prominently in Japanese literature, as they do the world over, as sources of refreshment and sustenance. Imagining people set afire, stampeding into rivers and lakes to cool themselves, only to find the water boiling hot, makes me cry. As an American who places the highest value on individuals, I wish we hadn’t had to cause such suffering to anyone at all who wasn’t irredeemably evil.

    But we did have to. Emperor Hirohito was ready to surrender, but he had military leaders who were plotting to intercept his proclamation, and no one on the American side could be sure how long rank-and-file Japanese soldiers and citizens would keep fighting. That there were other, more unsavory motivations for dropping the atom bomb (such as scientific curiosity about its effects) is hard to dispute. There probably isn’t any such thing as a guileless decision during wartime, for that matter. I wish the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs a peaceful eternal rest as much as anyone. But I’m glad America did what it took to win.

    I do think that, given the political controversies over Japan’s attitudes toward its wartime conduct, there are one or two additional general points that might be made. Dean links to a post by Riding Sun about the history textbook debate that presents a good overview of the teaching content and the back-and-forth of the debate. Something that’s worth bearing in mind, though, is this: the teachers’ unions, especially the Japan Teachers’ Union, are leftist. While their rank-and-file members tend to be not so extreme as the labor leadership, the average public school teacher is hardly a raving nationalist. When it’s the teachers who express political views, you often get stories like this one.

    It’s those teachers through whom whatever is said in the textbook is mediated in the classroom. Among the Japanese friends with whom I frequently have frank political discussions, many (including Atsushi) say that their teachers tended to skip the chapters in their history books about the period after the Russo-Japanese War. I mean, you figure, it would have been discussed at the end of the year, and it shouldn’t be hard to pace the class so that it runs out of time before uncomfortable subjects come up. I’m not sure how cram schools treat World War II; it seems unlikely that the entrance exams contain many questions about the period. The Japanese way of dealing with awkwardness is to ignore it, after all.

    I certainly do not condone this. A balanced view of one’s culture must include the bad with the good, and the way a civilization becomes world-class is by doing extreme things on a grand scale, so there’s going to be plenty of bad to discuss. That’s no less true of Japan than of any other country, including the former colonial powers of the West. I think, however, that when only the nationalist textbooks are discussed, there’s a danger of leaving the impression that millions of students across Japan are actually sitting in rows being harangued: “How did our troops get into Manchuria, class?” “By advancing into it, Sensei!” The missing part of that picture is that the lefties in the JTU favored the hard-pacifist line pretty uncritically for years–including not only acceptance of responsibility for wrong-doing doing the occupation of Asia but also the advocating of monetary restitution for individual Asian war victims. I’m not happy to see ultra-nationalists clamoring to swing the pendulum all the way to the opposite side, but it’s not as if they’d just awakened one morning and decided to do so unprovoked. Unfortunately, people with more moderate views and a pride in their country tempered by realism tend to keep silent when the topic comes up in public.

    Added on 6 August: I edited the above a bit for clarity–I’d originally not planned to post it before this morning, but I clicked on the button before I realized what I was doing.

    While I’m at it, one more point about liberal arts education: it isn’t the goal of the Japanese educational system. While I’m happy to join Riding Sun in saying that’s a problem, I don’t think that the nature of the problem is that the Japanese public education machine is aiming for an American-style liberal arts system and misfiring because the far right is getting in the way. Just about everyone wants to tell the students what to think–not just the nationalists but also the teachers’ unions and the Ministry of Education. (Well, now it’s the Ministry of [deep breath] Culture, Education, Sports, Science and Technology. Plans to have a partridge in a pear tree added remain unconfirmed as I post this, perhaps because they’re already under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.) There are education researchers and policy makers who favor a liberal arts curriculum as we would understand it, but the majority only disagree on what the students should be fed, not whether they should be force-fed ideas at all. The education establishment has mouthed things about liberal arts models because of the US occupation after the war, but like everything else that gets imported, they have been transformed according to the perceived needs of Japanese society.

    Added at 7 a.m.: Okay, one more thought. This is a passage from the end of Ruth Benedict’s The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, written soon after the end of the war:

    What the United States cannot do–what no outside nation could do–is to create by fiat a free, democratic Japan. It has never worked in any dominated country. No foreigner can decree, for a people who have not his own habits and assumptions, a manner of life after his own image. The Japanese cannot be legislated into accepting the authority of elected persons and ignoring ‘proper station’ as it is set up in their hierarchical system. They cannot be legislated into adopting the free and easy human contacts to which we are accustomed in the United States, the imperative demand to be independent, the passion each individual has to choose his own mate, his own job, the house he will live in and the obligations he will assume. The Japanese themselves, however, are quite articulate about changes in this direction which they regard as necessary. Their public men have said since V-J-Day that Japan must encourage its men and women to live their own lives and to trust their own consciences. They do not say so, of course, but any Japanese understands that they are questioning the role of ‘shame’ (haji) in Japan, and that they hope for a new growth of freedom among their countrymen: freedom from fear of the criticism and ostracism of ‘the world.’

    Benedict has taken a drubbing in succeeding decades, often justifiably, for her generalizations about the rigidity of Japanese society, which were excessive even then. But she was right about a great deal, too. We bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki because we had to, but once Japan knew it had been crushed, it responded as it always does by adapting. Like any living civilization, Japan is a work in progress, but the overall progression over the last 60 years has been toward more liberty, and it has mostly been the Japanese themselves who have accomplished that.


    Once I had a love / And it was a gas

    Posted by Sean at 23:54, August 3rd, 2005

    Is there some kind of rule that, now that the word ass is permitted on network television, you have to have characters say it all the time? Like, there’s a backlog from all that “ass” that went unsaid until the 90s, and it has to be cleared out? I mean, look–I’m a man who just loves ass, even in expletive form. It’s just that it seems so forced.

    In a more wide-ranging discussion, Dean has himself and a few others worked into a froth over naughty words. It’s interesting to read, but his own take on the issue (that people who chafe at hearing them are just being self-righteous) shows a surprising lack of imagination.

    Sophisticated cultures need arbitrary boundaries. In a society in which people move about freely and make agreements by contract rather than blood ties, we need as many ways to establish trust as possible; and it’s important that some of them be content-free, or at least symbolic. You can’t operate if you have to wait until after you’ve entrusted your life or property to someone to find out whether he’s reliable. The risk is too great.

    That’s one of the reasons we have all kinds of little rules about how to serve and eat food, how to format certain kinds of letters, and how to express yourself in public. The behaviors themselves don’t matter. What matters is that you’re showing respect for the prevailing customs of your own culture, which indicates that you can be expected to respect weightier rules when they’re operative.

    Now, of course, it isn’t necessarily true that he who is faithful in little will also be faithful in much. There are plenty of swindlers and sluts with impeccable manners socially. Etiquette has to be supplemented by reputation and credentials if we actually want to draw conclusions, as certainly as we can, about what kinds of people we’re dealing with. But I maintain that it’s a valuable starting point. A willingness to avoid vulgar expression in public is a signal that you understand the difference between public and private spheres and that you are capable of at least a modicum of self-discipline. Neither quality is to be taken for granted these days.

    BTW, my upbringing was as working-class as Dean’s was, and there was no cursing allowed in my parents’ house. There was no self-righteousness about it–my mother never tsk-tsked over the neighbors’ language or anything–and most of it was for religious reasons. I suspect they still matter to more people than Dean thinks. And conversely, if he thinks class-conscious types are the ones who avoid cursing, he hasn’t spent any time with social-climby lawyers or bankers in their off hours.

    One final point: you won’t see me use extreme swear words here, but (as Dean himself…and Connie, and Michael, and a few others who’ve become friends through the blog here…can attest) I deploy them freely and unblushingly in private correspondence. One of the pleasures of having friends is being able to let your guard down around and say what you think in raw form, and it gets lost if you talk the same way all the time. That may not be the most important consideration related to the issue, but I don’t think it’s a negligible one.


    I’m gonna do my best to hook ya / After all is said and done

    Posted by Sean at 22:50, August 2nd, 2005

    A conversation I had a few days ago reminded me that it must have been pretty close to exactly five years ago this week that Atsushi and I met for the first time. Sounds like an excuse for a celebration when he’s home this weekend. (You knew he was coming home by the fact that there was just an air-traffic screw-up this week, right? Happens every time. Of course, as Atsushi points out, it’s probably just that there’s an air-traffic screw-up every few weeks lately.)