Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hongkie Town: Ancient History

Hongkie Town: Ancient History

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Moving day......

Well the new "house" is up-still have a lot of interior work to do, but the big pieces are in place and I am sort of comfortable enough with Word Press to go on ahead and make This Place the "real" blog.

If I could just figure out how to make WP see the plug ins I loaded-for some reason it won't. Anyone got any ideas?

Whatever come on over. With a tinge of sadness, like leaving a familiar apartment-WE ARE MOVING UPTOWN!


See you there. All posts will be posted there from now on.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11 th post.

Can be found here!

Monday, September 10, 2007

People Watching..........

And a lunch time restaurant recommendation for Spike!

On Saturday the S.O. and I sent out for Tokyo. She had tickets for an exhibition in Ginza. It was the perfect antidote for having 2 days rained out by the typhoon. I insisted though that we take the trains through Shibuya so we could walk around a bit, then change over to the Ginza subway line. After some negotiating-she agreed. Follow me!

Normally, the S.O. avoids Shibuya like the plague-she says its too crowded and the stores are too expensive. Now it is crowded all the time, but that is the fun part-for me. Oh the stories I could tell from my first couple of years over here!

So could the S.O. apparently. Now she denies it vehemently, but she has let it slip more than a couple of times that in younger days: her short skirt wrapped legs and pointy toed, high heel shoe wearing feet traversed Shibuya crossing and a few of the back streets to the good clubs………….

In one of God’s little ironies, I’ve never got to see the mini-skirt part-sigh. Here by the way is a picture of Shibuya crossing at night-I’m not kidding about the crowds. This scene by the way is a familar one from the movie “Lost in Translation”:


What makes it so interesting is the people. All kinds of people. Walking through the station-riding on the train-moving through the streets. The girls: young and not so young are always a treat. Name a fashion trend in Japan and you will see it here. Shopping, shopping, and sending messages on their cell phones. On the train up I was lucky enough to get a seat, so while I was reading my book-I kept glancing over at the girl (woman really) wearing a blue silk dress. Not exactly young any more, but not over the hill either, she kept glancing pensively at her watch. Late for a date? A wedding? A one afternoon stand? Who knows-but there was a story there-if only I could have followed her to figure it out. That kind of thing is repeated in Shibuya 1000 fold.

We of course stopped at Hachiko’s statue. Hachiko as many know, was the Akita dog who waited faithfully for his master at Shibuay station for 9 years-even though his owner, one Professor Ueno has passed away in 1925. The statue is the pooch’s monument. Its also THE place to meet your date. Ergo, it too makes for some great girl people watching. Rumor has it that Richard Gere wants to make a movie about this story-I’m not sure how you turn it into a 90 minute screen play, but hey, if they can do it for a Disneyland ride-they can do it for the dog!

My tactic to get the S.O. down there was one of pure greed. The TV show she watched on Mondays always runs a bit about good inexpensive restaurants. She had seen the TV bit about Shibuya Dining pun-raku. ???? They a Japanese tabehodai ( or all you can eat for a set period of time-this case its 30 minutes) from 10:30-3:00pm. Last customer is seated at 2:30. Its only 980 yen-which is cheap for a place that gives you that much food. Considering Shibuya prices-its a good deal. The buffet is a mix of Japanese salads, soba, chiken, fish and curry-coupled with Miso soup. rice and Japanese pickles. All I can say is we got our money’s worth.

So Spike, ( or anyone else for that matter) if you want a good inexpensive lunch during your sojurn in Tokyo this week. Head across the street from Shibuay station, Hachiko exit, to the Tsutaya building. Its the one with the REALLY big Starbucks sign and Starbucks inside. Tsutaya is a book and CD/DVD store and to get to the resteraunt you will need to meander through the first 6 floors by escalator then take the elevator up to the 8th floor and the resteraunt. I suspect its like a casino, they designed it so you have to pass all the good stuff including all the books on the 6th floor. (There is an elevator that goes straight up on the back side of the store-but where is the fun in that?). You will probably have to wait a while-they have been having a lot of business since the TV program. That’s ok-lots of people to watch while you wait.

And if you are lucky you will get seated like we did, next to two guys with Sumo wanna be haircuts and by my count at least 11 studs in their ears and face. ( No lie, the one guy had four on each ear, one through his bottom lip, and one on his nose. I did not look to see if there was one on the tongue as well…..I don’t want to know.) On the other side were two young girls. One of them at the end of the meal, while straightening her skirt and tugging on her blouse, broke out the big mirror and the whole make up kit-right there at the table. After which she proceeding to type on her phone intently.

It was all downhill from there. Over in Ginza we went to an art exhibition in the Matsuya store-the S.O. got free tickets from her credit card company. It was a display of fabric art and dolls. I think I was literally the only man there. Which would have been nice-except its not young ladies who are at the things. It was Oba san central.

It was a day out though-and those are never bad. I can’t wait to go back!

UNRELATED NOTE: Quintin Tarantino is being interviewed on TV right now by Tomoko Fujita. Now that is some great people watching in and of itself. Pat-kun with a sheep?fujita_tomoko.jpg

No post yesterday!

Whoever said, "Code is poetry", should be shot!

And thus you know what I was doing last night. Golf game sucked too!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Under construction....

A new "house" for this blog. For reasons I'm not too sure of, I have obtained a host and am working on getting a bigger and better version of the blog up. ( Maybe then my readership numbers will increase-its either that or resort to porn!). For the time being this will be the "real" blog, but all posts here will be cross posted over at http://fareastcynic.com . Word Press is proving more complex than I thought it would be. I have a place holder template in residence while I tinker. Probably by November I'll have the "real" site moved over there.

In the meantime, feel free to wander over and laugh at me and the work in progress- or better yet offer helpful suggestions.

And please keep coming back here. For my commentary. AND

Beer and babes! (It's been a while...I know!)

Blogging the old fashioned way..........

Norika Says:

Just hurry up and get it over with!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Old dog-same tricks.

You just got to love this. All the Navy readers of this little blog can say, "I told you so!" now. Seems you can take the boy out of the Pentagon, but you can't take the Pentagon (and the black shoe attitude) out of the boy:

Now, in running his congressional office, Sestak has imported a measure of military toughness; he is battling a “misguided” culture in Washington, said William Walsh, Sestak’s district director: Aides are expected to work seven days a week, including holidays, often 14 hours each day, going for months without a day off. These are very long hours even by Capitol Hill standards.

After more than nine years on Capitol Hill and only six months as chief of staff, Brian Branton announced on Aug. 17 that he would be leaving Sestak to become vice president for Congressional affairs at USA Funds, a nonprofit corporation that guarantees student loans. Sestak also has seen three press secretaries come and go.

Military toughness? Excuse me while I sneeze-horseshit!

If there is that much work, then hire two shifts. I have never understood this pre-occupation of some folks in very senior leadership positions that somehow working longer means that you are working better. It never did and especially in today's Internet connected age it does not make any sense. Life is too short to spend it at the office all day. I'm sure Brian Branton came to the same conclusion a whole bunch of retired O-6's who worked for Sestak in the Pentagon came to as well. "Nothing is worth this amount of bullshit. I've wasted a year (or more) of my life that I will never get back. Screw this! "

Plenty of people tried to warn you about this particular psychopath. There was a reason he got fired. He took the culture of personal abuse to new heights even in a career field that is well known for eating its young.

He's even offering the same lame excuses that he did while he was in the Pentagon:
But Sestak does not attribute staff resignations to problems of his own making. “Some had other opportunities, some were not the perfect fit,” he said when asked about the 13 departures, adding, “I have had wonderful people working for me. I have asked a lot of my staff.”........

The environment was so difficult for some aides that they quit without having found a new job.

Five former staffers who spoke to The Hill on the condition that they not be quoted cited excessive work hours and Sestak’s temper as reasons for their departure.

Yea Joe, whatever helps you sleep at night.

Which drawer do you keep the silver balls in Rep. Queeg? Lots of us have worked for guys like you-I did back during Desert Storm. That guy was the biggest boost to reserve aviation recruiting that had come along in years. I can still remember being in the ready room when I heard this particular conversation:

Skipper Queeg: "JO's are just tools that we use to further our careers." (Insincere laugh follows).

Skipper Queeg's predecessor: "That may be, but when I use my tools-I clean em up and take care of them!"

If it walks like a dick duck, and it quacks like a duck.......................

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Weather report....

Here it comes!

Hunkering down......

Spike picked the wrong week to come to Tokyo.

After a cloudy day of intermittent rain and then no rain, but no wind-with near 90% humidity-the wind she be blowing. Typhoon 9 号is coming to town.

No complaints on my end-I got a free day off out of it. Inside the gates pretty much everything shut down. Out side, it was business as usual. There is none of that "day of preparation nonsense over here. You go to work, the stores stay open, and the trains keep running till the wind says they can't. It is actually a good system. I stayed in and paid bills and caught up on my correspondence today while the S.O. went out to by yet another 3 or 4 dishes. How one person can need so much china is totally beyond me. To each his or her own though.

I also used the time to study my Japanese since I got the results of my test back. Not as bad as I though-not as good as I had hoped. In 6 months I will try it again.

Over at the Japan Times there is a great article pointing out one of the great difficulties of learning this interesting and complex language. To sound natural and to be able to function in both business and society, one has to know how to use Keigo (敬語) properly. Thomas Dillon is very correct when he points out, " one of the finer mysteries of life in Japan is the proper use of polite speech, teneigo or — worse — its more honorific cousin, keigo. Let's make this simple and wrap these two together in a single package — the word keigo."

The problem with keigo is that it takes words and sentence patterns that you have struggled to learn and throws them out the window for new verbs and pre-fixes and suffixes that make no logical sense. What English accomplishes with inflection, Japanese accomplishes with word play.

Of course, Japanese will tell you keigo is a mystery to them as well. Especially younger Japanese, who — like learning to ride a bike — have to scrape their knees a few times before they can pedal away on just the right verb choices. As for me, my knees are so badly scarred, I am afraid to get anywhere near the keigo bicycle.

This may depend on how one first learned Japanese. If you acquired your skills in a classroom with a patient instructor — or one that was not so tolerant but carried a whip — you might have a handle on polite speech. If you learned your Japanese in a bar, arguing politics, sports, and whatnot with other imbibers, you may be more colorful and even more effective in your expressions. But you may not be so polite.

The advantage of bar language is that it is practical. Keigo, meanwhile, is as artificial as the classroom. But harmony-obsessed Japan is full of artificial settings and sooner or later every learner trips over the rules for respectful speech.

Besides providing me with yet another excuse to go to my favorite bars, the author is right. Its also the case when you learn tidbits of the language between the sheets with your favorite ( or at least current) J-Girl.

Some sensei's are better than others!

Japanese will know it right away, that you don't know it at all, and while they may be outwardly polite to you, they will walk away with that secret satisfaction Japanese is only meant to be spoken by other Japanese.

And you wonder why the rest of Asia hates them so much..................

Winds getting stronger. I think I'll stop now and have a beer! Speaking of being ready for a disaster:

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

They can be taught..............

Whoo boy! You know something is wrong with the world when Geraldo Rivera is channeling yours truly.

“Michelle Malkin is the most vile, hateful commentator I’ve ever met in my life,” he says. “She actually believes that neighbors should start snitching out neighbors, and we should be deporting people.

“It’s good she’s in D.C. and I’m in New York,” Rivera sneers. “I’d spit on her if I saw her.”

Except of course one has to wonder. Is this another one of those, "Lets trash each other on air, improve our ratings and walk laughing, hand in hand, to the nearest Citibank" type of gimmicks that more than one Fox broadcasting team has pulled off?

And secondly, would the man be just as upset if his name was Geraldo Jones?

Enquiring minds really want to know.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Retail Therapy........

"Don't increase my job."

I hear this line every time after I come back from one of my extended sojourns into la-la land and have to re-invade the perfectly sterile environment the S.O. creates in our place. Its a reference to the fact that I have tendency to drop things, spill coffee while pouring it, leave the toilet seat up, spread papers across my computer desk ( which is on the off-limits list to her, as far as I am concerned), eat in front of the TV and other such things. In other words, behave like a normal man.

Now most folks would see this as the shallow whining that it is, and a natural result of the fact that I spend these protracted periods on the road where we both get to revel in the joy of being answerable only to ourselves. Accordingly, re-adjustment takes a little bit of effort. As "the cup is half full" kind of guy I am though, I am pleased with her statement. First, it reveals one of the fundamental truths of the universe- that it is her (or any woman's) job to clean up after me. It also reinforces the fact that when I need to I can simply dial up or dial down the messy quotient depending on my need to establish that the man of the house is back. All is well with the universe.

It was also a nice day today because I had the day off today in compensation for 3 weeks of mind numbing closeness with the buffoonery that is today's Air Force. Which of course brings pointedly to mind that this fall I will need to make some decisions for the coming year. Since I despise change for the most part, the combination of these factors led me to need to blow off steam.

Normally that would involve a bar and pint glasses, but today the S.O. had lots to do and needed me to run errands. Which I did gladly, after teasing her that I was going to pour coffee all over the floor. With her sufficiently ticked off, I set out to accomplish my tasks.

Car needed gas-no surprise there. The S.O. is a real woman in that she does not pump gas if she can in any way avoid it.

Who is increasing who's job?

Then off to the stores. I needed to replace my watch since my old one was slowly falling apart after 7 years. New G-shock-90 dollars.

Decided I needed some new shoes-24 dollars. ( Wari biki or discounts are nice!).

Golf shorts- Also on sale 3 for 25 dollars.

Then, in an unnatural move for me, I bought a new suit. Nice color, good fit, jacket was a nice mid summer to fall weight, and it had a nice "distinguished look" about it. Knowing full well the perils and cautions about buying a suit "off the rack" I plunged in and bought it.-250 dollars. ( I did have the paints hemmed, does that count as tailoring?).

2 hours and 500 dollars gone. Worst part is not one book to show for it. Sigh.......


Regarding books its just as well I did not buy any. I'm still struggling with the two I am taking turns reading:

I'm about 2/3 of the way through the Hitchens book-he needs to be read in digestable doses-and only 70 or so pages into the Korean book- which I bought on a whim- hoping to understand them better. Or why the S.O. gets so lathered up when I mention the idea of taking a job in Seoul. ( Another way to get her fired up).

The other Skippy has a pretty good take on Karl Rove's departure and his love letter to his patron saint:

I would suggest that contemporary observers aren't always wrong. The same journalists who disparaged Truman, Eisenhower and Reagan also described President Carter as a "moralistic prick and an inconsequential president were it not for his diasterous impact on everything he touched that wasn't the White House tennis court schedule." The press also described Presidents Johnson and Nixon as "broken" and "disgraced" respectively. The contemporary judgement of Herbert Hoover seems to have stood the test of time as well.

Which is a perfect point / counterpoint to Bush's dreams of being the next Truman. My Canadian namesake also makes some good jabs on Rove's appeal to history:

Folks, every political period is "highly polarized." Being for or against giving a specific person the power to declare war on countries populated by brown people and illegally intercept the communications of the citizenry tends to polarize folks in ways that few other things that aren't TRL can't:

However, I believe history will provide a more clear-eyed verdict on this president’s leadership than the anger of current critics would suggest.

President Bush will be viewed as a far-sighted leader who confronted the key test of the 21st century.

Oooohhhhhhhhhh, this should be good!

He will be judged as a man of moral clarity who put America on wartime footing in the dangerous struggle against radical Islamic terrorism.

Actually, no he didn't. Since Mr. Rove is pointing to history for justification, so will I. And historically, a "wartime footing" usually means something. Among the things it includes is shared sacrifice. The Global War on Terror is almost singular in American wars that doesn't involve things like conscription and massive government interference in the domestic economy to divert needed resources to said war.

President Bush took what he himself described in the 2000 campaign as an "unprepared and unequipped" military and sent them far away for an indeterminate period of time. As for everyone else, they were urged to show their support by shopping and enjoying the pork that he and Congress were sending their way. If you can rationalize a way that Bloomingdales is a front on the War on terror, you're smarter than I. am.

Read the whole thing here!

Skippy's closing quote should be the watchword for the 2008 election campaign and a caution to every Republican zealot getting out the grass roots of so called values voters:

When Karl Rove first started going to work for George Bush in 1993, Bush forced him to give up the consulting business that made him rich. For fourteen years, George W. Bush has been Karl Rove's only client. Their fates are bound together forever, so it is in Rove's interest that history treat them well.

Unfortunately, the legacy of Karl Rove and George Bush involves most of the rest of the world, so it is in everyone's interest that they not be allowed to write the first draft of that history.


Monday, September 03, 2007

See you in September

Gen Petreaus and Ambassador Crocker that is.

Finally, after 7 long months of hearing the song, "All we are saying, is give war a chance.", the most awaited report since the Revelation to John is about to hit the streets. A like the final book of the bible, its pretty clear that it will have a similar message. Remain faithful in the gospel of the surge, and eventually the Lord will bestow victory on his long suffering people.

Unlike Revelation though, the General will be trying to back up his report with facts and figures and down playing the violent imagery. He'll avoid the talk about rivers turned to blood. After all, one can see that just by turning on the TV.

The real question at this point is: Why are they even bothering to come back?

The contents of the assessment are pretty well lined out, because the administration has been slowly, but surely, plowing the ground in hope that the seeds of its ideas will take root. Hell, Fred Kagan was probably writing the heart the report back in March when proclaimed the surge was working even then. (That was at the same time he was taking credit for singlehandely "saving" the administration from actually making concessions to its critics).

The surge will be declared as "working". However it will need more time. We've been hearing that once a month, every month, since Fred "the large one" convinced the President to go down this path. The Petraeus report will be held as yet another Iraqi "turning point".

In case you are keeping score at home, and the folks over at Foreign Policy magazine are, it will be the 31'st turning point in the conflict.

American troops will remain at current levels at least until spring when the deployment schedule will force a reduction in the numbers, lest the Administration have to deal with the mother all train wrecks in the middle of an election year. A train wreck of our own making by the way, because the gang that got off scot free with no accountability for their mistakes thought somehow cutting end strength in the middle of a war was a good idea.

There will of course, be some inconvenient truths that will need to be danced around:

Annoying fact #1: The Iraqi government is still worthless. Its not just me that is saying it, its the administration itself. A subsequent GAO report will undergo some editing to be sure, but it will still contain one hard fact, the Iraqi government has not met the majority of its so called benchmarks.

And its not likely to any time soon.

Annoying fact #2: Violence in all of Iraq is not reduced as it is supposed to be. Most people, including administration critic John Cole, do concede that " True, violence in Baghdad has been wrestled back down to the levels of summer, 2006 (hint: it wasn't paradise), but violence levels are up in the rest of the country. " . There are several sources that verify this, including the disputed GAO report. On average Iraqis deaths are up in 2007 over 2006 across the country. Furthermore, in one of the most under reported events in Iraq, the number of displaced persons has doubled and there is a real threat of a cholera outbreak in certain parts of the country.

Annoying fact #3 (and the only one that should matter to Americans): US casualties are up this year.

This is where the argument will come in this was to be expected because the US was taking the fight to the enemy. And the enemy was going to go out of his way to launch attack after attack hoping to play on public opinion at home since it was clear he could not win in the field. The US may not be losing, but it still has a lot to show how this cost in precious American lives is somehow making a difference for America in the long term.

Then, I will immediately be directed to the "Miracle of Anbar". This western province has seen dramatic improvement over where it was two years ago, mainly because of the cooperation of Sunni tribal leaders with the US. That was something the US spurned in 2005, but now embraces and it is, by all accounts paying some results. It also may very well be unique to Anbar province and in trying to replicate it in the more populated parts of the country may actually create more problems.

Two issues that I see. One, the solution to Anbar started about 6 months before the surge, in the summer of 2006 when it became apparent to many Sunnis that the insurgency was going to far. Second, on the surface it seems that success of the province actually is at odds with professed reasons for keeping more troops in Iraq. If anything it might prove that left to themselves, without the crutch of American force, the Iraqis might just figure out things themselves-or at the least hunker down into their own enclaves. The main reason professed for troops to stay is to buy time for the Iraqis to gain stability. Which in the current context equals victory.

Stability though, means different things to different people. It won't mean an Iraq with out violence-the normal gauge of whether a nation is normal- for more than a few years to come. Victory will also not mean Iraq as a shining beacon for democracy,or capitalism, in the middle east. Nobody smokes that weed anymore. Not even the Neo-cons. Nor will the so-called success of the surge lead to the real victory for the US, whose interests are the only ones that matter to this observer, namely the ability to reduce the American troop presence to a significantly smaller number (e.g. say 40,000 or so.-even I don't hope for them all to go home anymore. That won't happen any time soon even if the most pole smoking liberal wins the 2008 election.).

There is a real possibilty that a "stable" Iraq will actually make the rest of the region less democratic, not more. Arab dictators will use Iraq as an example of what not to happen to them.

In reality, I think the Bush strategy is a lot simpler. Having decided to keep the escalation going as long as he can, all he needs Petreaus to do is to give him enough sound bites to hopelessly divide his opposition. Its worked before and thanks to the buffoonery of the Democrats, it will probably work again. In the remaining months between now and January 20, 2009, he will simply hope for a miracle; or the rise of a strongman who will drive the country into submission along pro-American lines.

What Bush will gain though by keeping the escalated numbers, is a force in being that will keep Iran distracted. The administration does not need the forces in Iraq to launch any attack against Iran, but for Akmawhat's-his-name in Tehran the reverse is not true. He will have to watch his Western flank the whole time.

Perhaps General Petraeus could quote Winston Churchill when he gives his report:

Surveying all the above, I think I must ask you for
definite guidance at this stage as to what you wish and what you are prepared to do. The victories of
the Turks will increase our difficulties throughout the Mohammedan world. At present we are paying eight millions a year for the privilege of living on an ungrateful volcano out of which we are in no circumstances to get anything
worth having.

Winston knew how to keep his eye on the long game-and he knew that the fate of the British Empire was not going to rise or fall in Iraq. Pity he is not here to teach his American cousins the same lesson.

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