Empty Words, &c

Even I feel the need to rant at times. Of course, being a nerd, and a language geek, this had to happen sooner or later. Prepare yourself... this won't be pretty.

Obscene profits - This is such an open-ended term... Frankly, it's open-ended to the point of meaninglessness. There's no marker on the map that says "beyond here, there be obscene profits". While the term is certainly descriptive, application of it is based entirely on feelings, as far as I can tell... Not exactly the best choice when dealing with something expressed in hard numbers.

Decimate - I almost cried when I looked this up on Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary and found that they've included the misuse of the word (3 a : to reduce drastically especially in number b : to cause great destruction or harm to) as an entry. It shouldn't come as any surprise, then, that I'm rather a fan of the portion of the Wikipedia entry on current usage of the term... that being, "In current English use, the word decimation has been bastardized through misuse to such an extent that many people now believe that it refers to an extreme reduction in the number of a population or force, usually greater than the one tenth specified above." Besides, there's already a perfectly acceptable word beginning with D that suits the purpose of describing "great destruction or harm", though the technical definition of it includes "by violent action". (Then again, the original decimations would suit that point right down to their shoes.) That word, of course, is devastate.

Funding cuts - In reference to government programs, nine times out of ten (and that's probably underestimating it), this actually means reduction in the amount of money the program would have received over what it gets currently. To put it more simply, if it gets 100$ this year, and was going to get 150$ next year, but instead gets slated to get 140$ next year instead, that's a cut... even though it's getting more money.

I'm sure there are plenty more of these out there, but if I keep going right now, my blood pressure is going to reach dangerous levels. Being rather explosion-averse, we're calling it for today... Though, I'll probably pick it back up later.

Benjamin Rush On Patriotism

"Patriotism is as much a virtue as justice, and is as necessary for the support of societies as natural affection is for the support of families." - Benjamin Rush


Jefferson On Spending

"The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying our own money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the dispensation of the public moneys." - Thomas Jefferson

You know, I've done a handful of these quotes so far, and the majority of them are from Jefferson. Would that we had more people in the halls of power with his good sense and restraint now.

Apprehensions Versus Crossings

The obligatory link: Guard Presence Drops Illegal Crossings 62 Percent

My first thought, on reading the headline, was, "Wow, that's not bad at all." Upon reading the article, though, I had to question the math. The actual quote is, "Apprehensions of illegal immigrants in the Yuma sector – one of the busiest for the past two years and a top target for the operation – have dropped 62 percent in the last four months compared with the same period a year ago."

Now, obviously, on the face of it, if less people are crossing the border, there are thusly less people to apprehend for crossing the border. The alternatives, of course, have to do with the crossers being more evasive and simply being caught less often. We can certainly hope that it's the former, of course...

Well down the article from there, there is a comment about how armed violence is increasing, as might be expected if the operation was working, and we were drying up the flow of people entering the country (along with various drugs). It's a simple enough statement by itself, and while it certainly could mean that the previous concept of fewer people and fewer drugs getting in is accurate, that doesn't make it necessarily true. (For instance, there could be mitigating factors in Mexico driving the violence along the border which the writer of the article either does not mention, or is not aware of. Not saying that's the case at all, just giving an example.)

In the end, I'd like to believe I'm just nitpicking language here, but time will prove it out, one way or another.


A Simple Celebration

Happy Singles' Awareness Day! Okay, yes, I'm being a bit facetious with the exclamation and all. Have a good one, everybody... Real posts below.

Be Equipped If The Following Should Happen

The obligatory link: What To Do In An Emergency

The link is the important one here. And remember, "If you spot terrorism, blow your anti-terrorism whistle. If you are Vin Diesel, yell really loud."

Beer In Japan Is Worth Federal Action Here?

The obligatory link: Feds Continue To Assert World Jurisdiction

This is the kind of story that I would've normally missed. Small mercies, going in to work late due to the snow, I suppose. Anyway, the upshot of it is that the Japanese pitcher the Red Sox signed shot a TV commercial in Japan wherein he actually drank a beer. Now, supposedly that's against the rules on this side of the Pacific (for whatever reason...), but, as you can see in the commercial if you follow the link above and let it load up, it's obviously a Japanese-market CM. The post that got Mr. Balko at reason going, over at tothepeople.com, says it best: "If some little-known, nannying arm of the U.S. Treasury Department has any claim to jurisdiction over Japanese advertising that airs only in Japan, that's probably news to the Japanese."

Taking it further, from the Boston Herald article, "Asahi’s beer is No. 1 in overall sales in Japan and the ad campaign, which also features the Yankees’ Hideki Matsui, is nothing unusual for Japan, where athletes are often used in beer endorsements and can be seen drinking on camera. But in the United States, beer cannot be consumed in TV ads and Major League Baseball does not allow its players to endorse alcohol domestically. Those rules do not apply to international markets, however." Seems pretty straightforward to me. Clear, as it were.

It's actually not entirely goofy, for a TV spot out of Japan, I suppose. If you don't know what I mean, try this one on for size... it may well be the most amusing commercial I've ever seen outside of "herding cats".

Japanese of the Week, &c

There's a commentary that goes with this one, but you can still have the word first.

上手 (jouzu) adj,n. - skill; skillful; dexterity

Used to comment on someone's ability at doing something, as in 日本語が上手ですね (Nihongo ga jouzu desu ne), or "You're good at speaking Japanese." A common rejoinder to such a compliment would be, いいえ まだまだです (Iie, madamada desu), or "No, I still have a long way to go." (See how I worked in that old word of the week in there? Heheh...) The opposite of jouzu is heta (下手), used in exactly the same way, just meaning unskilled instead of skillful.

Therein, of course, lies the story. I certainly do have a long way to go, and as nice as it would be to be fluent in the language, as Andrea put it, I'm not there yet. If I had to put a grade level on it, I could probably function at about a 3rd grade level of Japanese, in a pinch... and that might be overestimating it. (I don't know exactly how it works out, after all... it's not like there's an easy-to-find test laying around that I can take for such things. At least, not that I know of.)


Brushing Up On The Constitution (part 2)

Welcome back to the Constitution. We're going to deal with the Senate this time, primarily, as well as the rules regarding how often congress must meet.

Sect. 3. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.

Immediately after they shall be assembled in consequence of the first election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three classes. The seats of the Senators of the first class shall be vacated at the expiration of the second year, of the second class at the expiration of the fourth year, and of the third class at the expiration of the sixth year; so that one third may be chosen every second year; and if vacancies happen, by resignation or otherwise, during the recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary appointments until the next meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such vacancies.

No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, ae an inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.

The Vice-President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided. The Senate shall choose their other officers, and also a President pro tempore, in a the absence of the Vice-President, or
when he shall exercise the office of President of the United States.

The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall by on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United State is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside; and no person shall be convicted without the concurence of two thirds of the members present.

Judgement, in cases of impeachment, shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honour, trust or profit, under the United States; but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgement and punishment, according to law.

A1.S3.C1 - Senators get to serve six years and are elected by the legislators of the state they represent. Each state gets two senators, regardless of size.

A1.S3.C2 - The senators terms will be split up so that approximately a third of the total number of senators is up for reelection every two years. If there is a vacancy in a state's senate representation, and that state's legislature is not in session, the state's governor can appoint a temporary replacement.

A1.S3.C3 - To be a senator, you must be at least 30 years old, a citizen of the United States for nine years, and live in the state which you would be representing.

A1.S3.C4 - The Vice President of the United States will be considered the president of the senate. He has no vote except in the case of a tie. If he is currently fulfilling the duties of the President of the United States, or otherwise absent, the role of president of the senate will be filled by the president pro-tempore of the senate, who is chosen by the senators.

A1.S3.C5 - The senate, like the house, will also choose their other officers as they desire.

A1.S3.C6 - As the house calls impeachment proceedings, the senate tries them. The matter of sitting "by oath or affirmation" is as opposed to, as Wiki has it, "unlike the (house of) lords who voted upon their honor." If the senate is trying the impeachment of the President, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will preside instead of the Vice President. (But, what happens if they're impeaching the VP?)

A1.S3.C7 - The punishments that the senate may inflict for a party being impeached cannot exceed removal from office, and a further ban against holding another office. However, this does not mean that the person in question cannot then be tried in a conventional court under other charges related to their impeachment.

Sect. 4. The times, places and manner, of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time, by law, make or alter such regulations, except as to the place of choosing Senators. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.

A1.S4 - Each state can choose when, where, and how they go about electing their senators and representatives, but congress has the power to alter all of those possibilities except where senators are chosen. Congress must meet once a year at a minimum, on the first Monday of December, unless they pass a law changing the date. (Oh, if only they'd only meet one day a year outside of emergencies now...)

Next time, we'll be looking into procedure, and the proscriptions regarding holding public office.

Until We've Naught Else To Give

The obligatory link: BofA aims new credit card at illegal immigrants

Sure, they're a company, and they're welcome to extend credit to whoever they think they can hook for it, and drag money out of. At the same time, though, why can't they be troubled to just take care of this in Mexico in the first place, and see if they can solve the illegal immigration problem on that end? Sorry, I'm just not seeing what good comes from making life easier for illegal immigrants here...

Now, on the plus side, if they have to register anything like a permanent address so BoA can get ahold of them, the government could then request those records to get a lock on the illegals... Of course, given the current policies as to such people already in the country, that wouldn't really do any good....

Sorry, I'm trying to find an upside to this, and I'm failing. Anybody else want to give it a shot?

TWD's also got a post on this at his site.

I, Thankfully, Am Not A Vermont College Student

The obligatory link: Vermont college says history students may not cite Wikipedia as a source

Okay, I can understand why they did this. With a source as thorough as Wikipedia, both in its fact-checking, and its anti-vandalism efforts, if you don't write it out somewhere, it ends up being the only source you need, in many cases. In most cases, I'll trust it before I'll trust any other source of information on the web. That doesn't mean it's always right, of course, or that "doing your homework" on a topic shouldn't include a broader search of information, but Wiki has a solid reputation for a reason.

Well, they haven't written it off entirely. To wit, " History professor Neil Waters says Wikipedia is an ideal place to start research but an unacceptable way to end it. "

That said, I love my hive mind, and you're sure to see more of it in use here.

More Progress For Iraq?

The obligatory link: Iraq says to close borders with Syria, Iran

Well, it's about time. They've known this long where so many of the supplies and personnel for the attacks have been coming from, and now they're actually planning to do something about it. Lump this in with the surge, and we ought to be seeing some very solid progress in the very near future.


Geoff Reviews - Many Manga

I went on something of a reading binge over the weekend. Of course, having done so, that means I have plenty of things to talk about, as far as series go.

Title: Nodame Cantabile (volumes 3-8)
Media: Manga
Text: English (translated)
Story: Ninomiya Tomoko
Art: Ninomiya Tomoko
Publisher: Del Rey (originally Kodansha)

Overall: I'm not sure it's possible for me to talk this series up enough. After reading the first two volumes, I had to put the series on hold for a few days, since volumes three and four didn't ship with 1-2 and 5-8. Needless to say, as soon as I got hold of the volumes missing from the middle, I went through the rest of it in one shot. The comedy and character interactions are still as much on track as they were for the first two volumes. Put simply, Nodame keeps delivering on the promise it displayed at the beginning.

I did have a bizarre realization hit me somewhere around volume seven. As Chiaki was putting together his new orchestra, I noticed that it was almost "shounen action with musical instruments", where most of the characters from early on in the story kept falling into the background as more powerful characters (better musicians, in this case) came up to take their place, as the series moved outside of the school for more of its action. Not that it doesn't make sense that better musicians would be found outside a single school, of course, far from it... just an odd realization that got me thinking of how to classify shounen action as a genre. I mean, beyond fighting, it's been done with organized sports, shogi and go, and even bread-baking. So, why not music, too?


Title: Rurouni Kenshin (volumes 21-28)
Media: Manga
Text: English (translated)
Story: Watsuki Nobuhiro
Art: Watsuki Nobuhiro
Publisher: Tokyopop (originally Shounen Jump Japan, Shueisha)

Overall: Compared to the character dramas and comedies and first volumes recently, Kenshin is a relative snap to comment on. This is one of those series that has been around for quite some time, and I can only blame myself for only now getting around to reading the end of it. (Well, volume 28 is actually the end of it, but even I have to go to bed at some point, right?)

A very condensed Kenshin: Himura Kenshin is a wandering swordsman, 10 years after the end of the war that brought about the Meiji restoration in Japan. Unfortunately for him, all sorts of nasty folk are gunning for him because of his part in that revolution, and so, in the traditional shounen action manner, the fights are on.

Anyway, the 21st through 28th volumes comprise the final arc of the Rurouni Kenshin story, the Revenge Arc. It is primarily the story of Yukishiro Enishi, who wants to kill Kenshin because Kenshin killed Enishi's older sister, though almost none of the story is told from Enishi's side. Kenshin's our hero, after all, and there were certain mitigating circumstances surrounding the woman's death (which I'm certainly not going to spoil for you here). The fights are the highlights, naturally, though they actually tend quite a bit to the short side, particularly in the later volumes, where the plot puts the squeeze on page space - a good thing, in my estimation, but fans of fight sequences will probably be a bit put off.

Being by Tokyopop, definitely not my favorite people in the world (quit squatting on the Spiral manga, dang it, it has been two years!), I was pleasantly surprised by the quality. I didn't notice any of the ticky-tack errors they've been prone to in the past, such as text falling off the sides of the page, or overrunning the speech bubbles. I still wish they'd take a little more care in text positioning, but as long as it's readable, that's only worth a minor, passing gripe.

Kind of a postscript, since I saved this as a draft yesterday, and then finished volume 28 last night... The final volume puts a very nice cap on the story, showing what happened to all the characters after the end, as it were.


Title: Loveless (volume 4)
Media: Manga
Text: English (translated)
Story: Kouga Yun
Art: Kouga Yun
Publisher: Tokyopop (originally Ichijinsha)

Overall: Now I have to wait three more months to get my next fix of Loveless. Yes, I think it's that good, that I'll wait impatiently for three months, after reading a volume that's only been out a week (and only delivered today). There are definite hints of Spiral here, if you can substitute in spell battles in place of elaborate death traps. Granted that the main character, Ritsuka, isn't anywhere near the genius level of Narumi Ayumu, but that's certainly not stopping Loveless from being a good mystery.

Many people have written many words about Loveless as a shounen-ai story. That's fine, since it is, after all... but that's not what keeps me turning the pages. I'm more curious about... oh... Why did Ritsuka suddenly change two years ago, and why does he retain no memory of such simple things as his likes and dislikes up to that point? Who killed his older brother, and why? Or, for that matter, is his older brother really even dead? There've been some hints that things couldn't turn out as they have been so far in the story if he wasn't still alive somewhere, after all. And who all comprises Septimal Moon (Nanatsu no Tsuki is the original term, "The Seven Moons" is probably a better translation, but "Septimal Moon" does sound pretty cool...), and what is their actual purpose?


Title: Hitsuji-chan in the Dark (ch.1-3)
Media: Manga monthly
Text: Japanese
Story: Nagakura Hiromaru
Art: Nagakura Hiromaru
Publisher: Dragon Age Magazine (Fujimi Shobo, Kadokawa Shoten)

Overall: The story of a witch hunter and the witch who falls in love with him because she likes unusual (read: creepy) things. I was pretty much sold on giving this one an extended shot when Kokurou-kun (the witch hunter) broke the teacher's desk during his self-introduction to the class. It's difficult to say too much about it yet, since three chapters is roughly half a volume of manga, for a manga that comes out of a monthly publication, but the art suits the supernatural/horror vibe that it strives for, and the characters have interesting beginnings.

I still have several more chapters of this laying around in more recent Dragon Age volumes, so I'll get back to it with a firmer opinion later on.


Title: Shingetsutan Tsukihime
Media: Video
Audio: English, or Japanese (subtitles optional)
Story: Tokita Hiroko (script), Nasu Hinoko (original work)
Publisher: Geneon Entertainment

Overall: Having finally played through the game, I wanted to watch back through this and see why so many people who had played the game disliked the series. Well, I have to say, I'm not entirely certain what their complaints were. The story was primarily Arcueid's storyline, with a touch of the Dark Side of the Moon storylines tied in, and a few bits of originality for good measure. Now, I can understand why the purists might have wanted to see some specific things that didn't happen due to time restrictions (there's only so much room in twelve ~23-minute episodes, after all), but there's nothing there to ruin the enjoyment of what is still, even on a second watch through, and enjoyable vampire series.


Technology That Talks Back

The obligatory link: Talking Urinal Cakes Offer Drinking And Driving Advice

Well, why not? Our cars can talk to us. Our computers can talk to us. Why not talking urinal cakes? Is the fact that the government in New Mexico is wasting taxpayer money on this, compared to people spending their own money on something they want a good enough reason for you? ... Because it sure is for me.

Y'know, I suppose I could try to go the nice road and say that NM is trying an interesting technological solution to the problem of drinking and driving... but I won't. The only people this will stop are the people who still have enough reasoning left after their time drinking to summon up a cab, or other mode of transportation that they don't have to pilot personally. Pretty expensive way to spend 10K$, isn't it... as a back-up for the people who know better?

Another Challenge To The Climate-Change Establishment

The obligatory link: An experiment that hints we are wrong on climate change

The article really stands by itself, but it is interesting that a lot of people are choosing now to bring up their opposition to what some are calling the "settled" science of climate change. I just wonder how long it will take people to get the hint that the research side of this isn't nearly so over and done with as some would like them to believe.