Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Garbage Day, Again!

It's garbage day in my neighborhood, again.

As a very small, ve-e-e-ry crowded island country, Japan has a big problem. Garbage. Mounds and mounds and mounds of it. Millions of metric tons of it. There certainly isn't room enough to landfill it all.

So they divide and conquer. There is burnable garbage, and unburnable garbage. Big garbage, cans, bottles. Burnable garbage is divided into plastic, paper and other. The plastic is sent to local manufacturers to be burned as fuel in their power plants. Cardboard is recycled into thinner board like tissue and cereal or other food boxes, which will later be recycled into paper towels and toilet paper. That, at least, isn't recycled...

Any more...

Unburnable is divided into landfill waste, recyclable solid state and appliances, batteries and fluorescent lights. Large waste like furniture, old bicycles or rolled carpets has its own day. Cans are divided between steel and aluminum, including drink and spray cans; glass bottles split into clear, brown and other colors. These all need to be rinsed and labels removed. There's a PET bottle day.

My head's spinning, and I often forget various garbage days (as well as my anniversary, my children's names...) You have to figure out where you'll keep all this stuff until the next garbage day, too.

Here's my garbage schedule for May 2013:
May 1 - Paper, Clothing
May 3 - Burnable Garbage, Plastic PET bottles
May 6 - Plastic
May 7 - Burnable Garbage
May 8 - Unburnable Garbage, Fluorescent Lights
May 10 - Burnable Garbage
May 13 - Plastic
May 14 - Burnable Garbage
May 17 - Burnable Garbage
May 20 - Plastic, Bottles
May 21 - Burnable Garbage
May 22 - Large Items, Cooking Oils
May 23 - Steel and Aluminum Cans
May 24 - Burnable Garbage
May 27 - Plastic
May 28 - Burnable Garbage
May 31 - Burnable Garbage

17 days out of 31, with 22 categories.

Paper Day, May 1st

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I've been watching the madness in Boston with a sinking heart. And with a hope and pride for Americans.

The fact that anyone can justify putting a bomb in the midst of a crowd just baffles me. What philosophy, what religion or political doctrine, can condone the slaughter of innocents in the name of whatever cause?

Whether they be foreign or domestic, terrorists or freedom fighters, there is no military value to such an act. Were they to have attacked a police station, or a government facility, I would still be angry, don't get me wrong. But I could at least understand it.

But an act such as this just strengthens resolve. I've never seen such a bombing, whether it be by the IRA in a London pub or the financial district, Libya in a Berlin disco or a jumbo jet over Lockerbie, or even Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City, that did anything other than convince their "opponent" to do anything other than to band together against the threat. Governments don't run from things which scare them, they stomp them into the ground so they won't threaten them again.

It also highlighted for the world something I've always loved about my country. While video showed half the people streaming away in panic from the smoke and carnage, it also showed so many people sprinting directly into the maelstrom, heedless of personal danger, in order to help the wounded. Not just the trained professionals, but also runners stripping off their shirts after running 26 miles and using those shirts to apply tourniquets or compresses. People in the crowd, some injured themselves, helping those around them.

My thoughts go out to all injured in the bombing, and especially to those who lost members of their family.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The way you speak, confused I am.

One of the things I noticed very soon upon entering Japan, other than my blonde head in a sea of black, was how they measure things differently. Not just that Japan, like every country other than the US (or Great Britain with their pints), uses the metric system (see this post), but that they measure it all backwards!

Signs in English proclaim "SALE! 70 - 30% OFF". My snail-mail address starts with Japan, then the prefecture, city, town and neighborhood, finally ending with the house number.

And the traffic report on the radio this morning said that the traffic jam was eastbound from Akashi West interchange to Takasago North. Sounds like you'll start to hit the traffic around Akashi, with things letting up in Takasago, doesn't it? But, NO-o-o! Akashi is on the east side, and that is where the cause of the slowdown is. I'm already in the stop-and-go in Takasago. Makes sense, actually, but I had a minor brain fart until my mind switched to Japanese mode.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Firearms Fight

I have been trying to put my thoughts together about the gun control issue, and every time I try to write about it, I end up deleting half and starting over. I just can't order my thoughts, put them into any kind of coherent whole.

I grew up with guns in the home. Like many of my contemporaries, each of us boys had a 22 cal semi-automatic rifle, which we often dragged out to take potshots at ceramic conductors on top of telephone poles (sorry about your lost phone service...), or to bag a porcupine or two. My dad had a 20-gauge shotgun which would definitely have ruined your day. We boys found his old navy 38 hidden in the speaker, and would sneak it out sometimes when our parents weren't home.

So I know guns. I'm not averse to hunting, I don't hold candlelight vigils for an elk. I know that most gun owners are responsible folk. I think shooting is fun.

But I have seen the other side of the coin, as well. In junior high, one of my friends killed his little brother when playing with an unfamiliar gun which he thought was empty. Another friend's father was shot and killed in a bar fight. And I found the body when one of my best friends used an Enfield to shuffle off this mortal coil. I had to sit there while the cops checked to see if the brain matter under my car was also on the car.

The one thing I am sure of is my anger over some of the lies, distortions and fear-mongering I've seen over the last couple of months. It's an issue in which people have invested a lot of emotion, sure. This is understandable, perhaps, and can even be admirable at times. At times....

But some of these Internet jugheads sound like they couldn't find their way out of a wet paper bag. Unfortunately or otherwise, most of these numbnuts are on the NRA side of the argument, and the thought of some of these dickheads running around with high-powered weaponry scares the bejeezus out of me.
{see this video} http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-v1UXFMzl0

I'm not picking sides. Really, I'm not. Nor am I attempting to belittle the pain felt by the families of the victims of Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Columbine or other mass shootings, or the genuine concerns of people on both sides of the issue.

OK, where to begin....

"It's a semi-automatic!"
Semi-autos have been around for a long time. All of our 22s when I was a kid were semi-autos. That just means that you don't have to jack the next bullet into the chamber; the expanding gas of the previous shot expels the casing and allows a new cartridge to slip into place. Any pistol that isn't a revolver uses the same system.

"It doesn't matter how large the clip is."
Well, actually, in the context of these school shootings, it kinda does. Being able to shoot 35, 50, or even 100 shots with hardly a pause makes it much harder for anyone to rush the shooter. And really, is it so hard to reload if you're target shooting or hunting? Frankly, if you can't hit it within 10 shots, maybe you shouldn't be shooting in the first place....

"Arm all the teachers."
Oh, man, this is wrong to me on so many levels. I'm a teacher, and I want to focus on teaching. I don't want a pistol banging against my hip as I reach out to write on the board, and I certainly don't want teachers leaving guns in desks, where students could possibly get their hands on them. Not to mention the danger if a teacher ever went postal. I'd rather see locking steel-reinforced doors with bullet-proof glass installed. Nor do I want to see armed guards standing by the doors or patrolling the halls. This adds to the stress of most students, and is not conducive to a relaxed learning environment.

"Ban all assault rifles, and confiscate all in circulation now."
Have you any idea how many weapons there are in the US now? I don't know how many of them are assault rifle style, but good luck finding them all. Banning any further sales is doable, confiscation really isn't.

Regarding universal background checks, the NRA says "If you take away our guns, only the criminal will have guns." This one doesn't even make sense: universal background check doesn't equal confiscation. It does, however, make it more difficult for convicted felons or people too pissed off to wait a week to easily buy any weapon they want by merely going to a gun show. Key word - easily. Why make it easier for them?

Speaking of waiting, why is a one-week cooling-off period such a problem? This is a major purchase, with a lot of responsibility attached. I would hope you've planned out the purchase of a firearm and didn't just decide that you have to have a gun right now.

Speaking of the NRA, did somebody hand out idiot pills down there? The inflammatory rhetoric, the off-base comments, the callous insensitivity, the pick-any-out-of-context-statistic-you-want. If I didn't know better, I'd swear they were trying to help the President by pushing away any middle-of-the-roaders who can think:
"Are the President's kids more important than yours?" "When his kids are protected by armed guards at their (school)"
Wow, are you kidding me? My kids aren't high-profile targets for every terrorist/fruitcake out there. The president's are. I can guarantee that first kids have been watched over very, very carefully indeed since 9-11 (since Lindbergh).

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." - the 2nd Amendment
I like this amendment, truly I do. But the key phrase is " well regulated". I remember when the NRA taught gun safety classes, and most owners either took them or taught their own family members. Many can't be bothered today. There certainly isn't any drilling on the village common.
Nor is this 1776, where the colonists had access to firepower equal to the British. Times and weaponry have changed. The difference between what any person could get and the weaponry available to the military ensures that any insurrection without the support of the military would be outgunned, indeed. And the thought of private ownership of M1A1/2 main battle tanks or Cobra gunships, as one pundit opined, is frankly horrifying.
The 2nd Amendment ensures our right to bear arms, which we may use for self-protection and to hunt, but without a total collapse of the US government or defection of a majority of the military, I don't see how it could overthrow tyranny.

One final thing:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
This means that whether you agree with them or not, both the gun nuts and the peaceniks, the conservatives and liberals, the religious of any denomination and those who are not have the right to state their opinions or to "petition the Congress". Shouting over others with differing opinions, insulting, flaming and even threatening them goes against the very Constitution many use as support for or against their opponents arguments.

And the people's Representatives do have the right to amend the Constitution, if a majority of Americans so desire.

Some statistics, most of which I gleaned from the FBI.

*Privately owned firearms in the U.S. - 270 million
88.8 guns per 100 people
*Government owned firearms - 3,055,000 (firearms only, this doesn't include grenades, artillery, tanks, Aegis destroyers,etc)
*Police owned firearms - 897,000
*15,240 homicides in 2009, 9150 of which used firearms
32,560 suicides in 2005, 17,000 of those by gun
*AK47 market price in the US - $500
AR15 - $1300 and up, depending on the bells and whistles
*The annual value of small arms and ammunition imports to the United States is reported to be US$1,585,242,738 (2009).


(This is a repost of something I put on my Facebook page)

I have been reading some of the posts on Facebook regarding comments by Melissa Harris-Perry, and end up just shaking my head.

The prevailing opinion seems to be that "the gubmint's gunna took our kidz, 'n put 'em in "Lib'ral Edjuka-tion camps, cuz that's wut Hitler done did."


" "Ms." Perry doesn't have any kids, I'd wager (Bet she's had several abortions, though)."

Double wow. What happened to "Compassionate Conservatism"?

Not everyone who is concerned is a whack job like these two, but nearly every comment I've seen has left me shaking my head.

In the first place, I read this as her saying that we need to invest in the education of all our kids, especially the disadvantaged who would most benefit from a good education. She doesn't want to take your kids away, she wants them treated as a community resource, because the community as a whole benefits when kids get good educations.

I received a public education from a district which was properly funded (our teachers certainly didn't have to use their own money to buy basic classroom supplies) and which was ranked in the top 1% of the nation. My county's public schools were ranked in the top 1% on the ACT and SATs as well. the percentage of high school graduates who went on to further training or higher education was also greatly above the national average. I certainly don't regret that education.

Yet since just about the time that I graduated, education budgets have been cut again and again (and again, and again). Small, short-sighted savings which lead to greater costs down the road. This is what Ms Harris-Perry means when she talks about children belonging to the community, and the government leaving kids to the family. Not their moral educations, not some imagined indoctrination; simply the need for the community as a whole to ensure that the resources exist for all children to receive a proper education.

Our generation (those of us who received good educations at least) have by-and-large been pretty successful. Don't you think it would benefit all of us if all kids were as lucky as we were?