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    Don’t you give up so soon

    Posted by Sean at 22:44, August 29th, 2004

    I’ve just discovered that, when making pan gravy while bopping around the kitchen to Taylor Dayne, it helps to pay more attention to the gravy than to the music. I had a good quarter-cup of drippings–and this week, there were lots of gorgeous little crackly bits, too. You just never know what the quality of the deglazings is going to be until you go ahead and bake your chicken parts, so I was very excited that I won the jackpot this time. Perhaps a bit too excited, because before I thought of it, I scooped up about twice as much flour as I had fat in the pan and threw it in. 1 second, 2 seconds…realization! Dammit! Of course, if I’d had the presence of mind, I would have just scooped some of the dry flour out of the pan and thrown it away. But my mind was elsewhere, so in my moronic haze, I figured I’d put in enough more butter to make the paste the usual consistency. I’m from Pennsylvania Dutch country, after all. “Add more butter” is stored somewhere in my brain near “Look both ways before you cross the street.”

    Well, suffice it to say, I had enough thickener for a good quart of gravy by the time all was said and done, but I decided to brazen it out with just 3-odd cups of milk. You can see the results here:


    Note the eggshell finish, not the usual meat-juice shimmer, on the gravy. That’s courtesy of flour overload, though of course I had the sense to keep cooking it until it didn’t taste raw anymore. It stood up like soft whipped cream, too, rather than running lasciviously down the chicken and potatoes the way gravy’s supposed to. Tasty, though. You can’t beat butter, chicken fat, and crackly bits. Of course, even after I flooded the extra chicken leg with as much as seemed defensible before putting it away, I had a good cup of gravy left. I have this feeling that when it’s chilled, I’ll be able to slice it and eat it like aspic. Maybe on a baked potato?

    Added 15 minutes later: I know what you’re thinking. You’re panicking and saying to yourself, Does he realize that that extra butter has cost him some of his discretionary calories?! Rest assured that I’m not about to contravene the wisdom of our bureaucratic betters and have allotted myself exactly three-eighths of a Hydrox cookie for dessert.

    And did I forget to mention / That I’ve found a new direction

    Posted by Sean at 19:30, August 29th, 2004

    The Washington Blade has an editorial from NY Blade editor Steve Weinstein, effusing to Jim McGreevey about the lovely new life he’s about to embark on. It’s annoying as hell–the editorial, I mean. How annoying McGreevey’s life is going to be, I don’t know. Things don’t look to be smooth in the short-term, though, and he’s got the potential to stick around and annoy us for a while yet.

    Weinstein does give the obligatory acknowledgement that not all gays are rich and effete…

    Coming out is never easy. Whether you

    I’m just burnin’ doin’ the neutron dance

    Posted by Sean at 14:17, August 29th, 2004

    (Susanna and Toren, you’ll like this one.)

    With fantastic timing, another nuclear power plant has developed a water leak. Good thing no one is, like, spooked from any other such recent incident, or anything. And this time it’s not Reuters but the Mainichi that has the misleading headline. It reads, “Nuclear Water Leak Delays Plant Reopening,” which sounds to me like a problem with radioactive water (though would you call that “nuclear water”?). In any case, the article says:

    A water leak found at a nuclear power station has forced Tohoku Electric Power Co. to delay the scheduled reopening of the plant, officials at the firm said.

    The leaked water was not radioactive and there was no chance of radiation leaking outside the plant, officials said.

    These things are important because worries that radioactive water actually will leak from a power plant are more than just theoretical. This past spring (the same day Atsushi and I found out he was being transferred to Kyushu, actually), the Ikata nuclear power plant disgorged one and a half tons of radioactive coolant water in Ehime Prefecture. And then–I can’t believe that in my previous posts on the subject, I forgot to mention this–there’s the fact that TEPCO (the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which as you might guess serves us here in Tokyo) falsified years of inspection reports, including those pertaining to the presence of cracks in its containers and equipment.


    Posted by Sean at 13:19, August 29th, 2004

    Wow. You usually don’t see these lefty types being quite this up-front:

    Leslie Cagan, national coordinator for United for Peace and Justice, said the message revolves around the word “no.”

    “We are saying ‘no’ to the Bush agenda, ‘no’ to the war in Iraq, ‘no’ to the regime change by our government, ‘no’ to pre-emptive war, ‘no’ to the economic policies,” Cagan said.

    There are times when defining things by negatives is a good thing. If, for example, you think of rights as being based on non-interference by the government while you freely go about your business, that in effect affirms your ability to pursue your own ends your own way. But Cagan unintentionally summarizes why even a lot of us “social liberals” and registered Democrats feel such frank post-9/11 revulsion for these groups. All they do is bitch about what the Republicans are doing, which is as easy as falling off a log. About as useful, too.

    But it goes deeper than that. Americans know the value of restraint and self-discipline. But we also think of life as full–full of possibility, full of color, and full of worthwhile business to get on with. A message that “revolves around ‘no'” in its entirety doesn’t jibe with reality as Americans perceive it. It just sounds cranky and out of touch, which is unfortunate. There are plenty of legitimate questions to raise about Bush administration policies; associating them in the minds of a nationwide television audience with naysaying petulance makes it less likely that ordinary voters will take them seriously.

    Perspectives on the RNC platform

    Posted by Sean at 16:57, August 28th, 2004

    A question from a friend reminded me that I started a post about this Nikkei report on the RNC platform that I then didn’t finish. The daily exposure to the things foreign media (mostly Japanese, in my case) think are important about goings-on in the US is one of the most fascinating things about living abroad, as you might imagine. The Nikkei starts with the part about terrorism and ends with economic proposals to increase house ownership and private asset holdings, but it’s clear that the important stuff to the audience is in the middle:


    In terms of international relations, [the RNC platform] positioned Japan as a “vital partner” and stated, “We support Japan in the ongoing project of building for itself a leading role in regional and global security.” On the other hand, with respect to China, it proposed a check: “We have lagged behind in strengthening our military preparedness. This behavior could have the effect of interfering with national prosperity.”

    I’m not entirely sure I’m parsing that correctly, though I don’t see how else it could be interpreted. It sounds kind of cryptic to me out of context, and I can’t seem to connect to the gop.com text of the platform to see the original English. In any case, it cannot be construed as displaying warmth toward the PRC. Since the Japanese don’t care about actual party politics–That’s not a criticism. Why should they?–the article says nothing about gay marriage or respecting differences.

    Still more on Japanese child violence

    Posted by Sean at 14:26, August 27th, 2004

    The Asahi reports today that child violence in schools increased dramatically in the last fiscal year:

    The number of violent acts committed by children at public elementary schools reached a record 1,600 in fiscal 2003, up 27.7 percent from the previous year, education ministry officials said Friday.

    When the elementary school figure is added to the number of violence acts committed by students at public junior and senior high schools, the total stands at 31,278, up 6.2 percent from fiscal 2002.

    It is the first time in three years that the total number has risen, according to the ministry.

    “It is a serious situation,” a ministry official said. “We must strengthen our instructions on how to control emotions.”

    The ministry official here is exactly the type that I was talking about earlier when Susanna Cornett asked about this: More children are flipping out violently on classmates and teachers? Obviously, the solution is to wind ’em up tighter.

    Again, I don’t want to act as if the problem here isn’t real. The relationship between childrearing at home and education at school is changing in ways that no planners are in control of, and the transition is not going to be easy. But these new figures from the Ministry of Education and Culture show a troubling rise in violence, predictable based on the economic and social changes over the last decade, not a descent into chaos. Japan is a nation of 125 million, after all. What could ensure that it does become a permanent problem is dogged pursuit of policies that no longer work but everyone is used to.

    Strange bedfellows

    Posted by Sean at 12:51, August 27th, 2004

    Now, that’s something. It’s one thing for the Cheneys to talk about gay issues at a campaign stop–everyone knows their daughter is a lesbian, even if they don’t make a big deal out of it. But Cheney’s apparently going to appear in an HRC ad:

    The ad will air next week during the convention in New York media.

    It features portions of Cheney’s remarks on gay marriage and ends with an announcer saying “He spoke from the heart for millions of parents. Discrimination is wrong. What if it was your child, Mr. President?”

    There’s a link to the ad in Windows Media format (which I can’t get to work, even when I open it in IE instead of Firefox). This is weird timing, to say the least. It makes me wonder whether those people who’ve been suggesting that Cheney will be gently pushed aside for another nominee are on to something.

    PS: Couldn’t they get some gay guy who works in education or publishing to proofread that final, climactic, and errant use of the counterfactual? Sheesh.

    One mistake’s / All it takes

    Posted by Sean at 14:10, August 26th, 2004

    Ooh, this is just too perfect:

    A cleaner at London’s Tate Britain modern art gallery threw out a bag of garbage which formed part of an artwork because it was thought to be trash, British newspapers reported on Friday.

    This is aesthetics in modern life: It’s possible to be a janitor who mistakes a bag of garbage for trash.

    Like a lot of other people, I thought Peter Bagge’s cartoon about modern art was pretty accurate, entertainingly raising points that one would have hoped were self-evident but unfortunately are not.

    One of the reasons disturbing, unattractive art can be powerful is that it also seduces you with form, line, and color. It makes you weigh the degree to which you can trust sensory appeal over content, and that can be edifying in and of itself. Maybe I’m just fusty, but I find it hard to imagine looking at a bag of garbage on a table and thinking anything other than, Hey, that reminds me. Did I replace the bag in the little pail by the vanity? I always forget that one, and then I’m standing there with a tissue in my hand, and…. I mean, making art that forces us to look at everyday objects in a new way is a truly valuable undertaking, but we don’t seem to be talking about Louise Nevelson here.

    In any case, we can all rest easy. A new bag of trash garbage has been substituted:

    The newspapers said the spokesman would not reveal how much the bag had cost to replace.

    I should say not. If I recall correctly, the Tate is at least partially publicly funded.

    Added after a bracing cup of tea: I’ve corrected the reference to a “bag of trash” toward the end of the post; as the article made clear, it was a bag of garbage that was thought in error to be trash. Nothing like exposing my philistinism to the world!

    More quick news about Japanese youth crime

    Posted by Sean at 23:08, August 25th, 2004

    Given my skepticism about the CHILD CRIME WASHES OVER JAPAN LIKE TIDAL WAVE! motif on its upcycle in the media, it’s only fair to point out this story:

    Under current law, three courses of action can be taken against juvenile delinquents: They can be sent to a reformatory, placed in less restrictive “protective institutions,” or based at home and required to meet regularly with government-appointed supervisors.

    However, at the moment, only those 14 or older can be sent to a reformatory.

    The planned revisions would abolish the age restriction, opening the reformatory door to virtually any minor.

    The revisions would also expand the scope of police powers in investigating minors under the age of 14.

    Under current Juvenile Law, police are not permitted to:

    *Seize evidence;

    *Search for evidence;

    *Inspect the sites of the incidents; or

    *Request the opinions of experts regarding possible evidence.

    Because of these restrictions, police are often hamstrung in their efforts to make a detailed analysis of alleged criminal acts.

    The revisions are designed to sweep away these restrictions, allowing police to deal with cases more quickly and effectively.

    The Asahi article doesn’t say that there’s been any pressure, from the public or from the Diet, on the Ministry of Justice to toughen things up. That makes it hard to assess how much effect the recent high-profile crimes may have had on the proposed new policy. It’s possible that the Ministry of Justice has been reviewing these things for years and is only now ready to submit changes to the Diet for passage, or that the review of search-and-seizure and sentencing laws spurred by the War on Terrorism has broadened to include all categories of offenders.

    It’s interesting that police powers are so delimited in the case of juvenile offenders. (I do realize, BTW, that sentencing guidelines affect judicial powers, not police powers, but I’m not really all that surprised about the way the institutional system is set up.) The Japanese police are famous for their liberal use of pressure tactics on suspects and, naturally and not unrelatedly, a confession rate that’s about as high as the purity of Ivory soap. I suppose minors under 14 are treated differently, or at least the law is different.

    23 at 25

    Posted by Sean at 22:02, August 25th, 2004

    Eight years ago today, I landed in Japan for the first time for a year-long program.

    And I’ve lived here ever since. You just never know how things are going to work out, do you?