Next Time… on Dragonballlllll Zeeeeeee!

Normally my Picture This posts are pictures I actually took myself. This is an exception.

This handsome fellow is Vegeta, Prince of a nearly extinct race of space-faring warriors called the Saiyans. He never bothered to have himself crowned king after his father died during the destruction of his home planet.

And this is his son, Trunks. Well, strictly speaking it’s his son from an alternate future, come back to help keep the Earth from being destroyed by androids.

The other day I realized that Trunks is drawn with Vegeta’s face and purple hair. They even have the same charming scowl. Here, the resemblance is easier to see this way:

At least he has his mother’s eyes.

In Closing: Same Old Story; checking my privilege; yeah, that helps; deserving; and painting a 737.

A Tale of Two Cities

Yesterday, I went on a mini pilgrimage to the site of the old MGM Grand fire — Bally’s.

All traces of the fire itself were erased 34 years and multiple renovations ago. Nevertheless, I could imagine a fireball traversing the long casino floor in seconds, faster than anyone could possibly have run. And yet, if you know what you are looking at, there are vestiges: exit doors prominently marked “EMERGENCY EXIT PUSH TO OPEN”; signage reminding guests where they can and cannot smoke.

In 1980 as today, tourism and hospitality is the largest industry in Las Vegas. Disaster forced changes for the better on businesses that might not otherwise have agreed. Dead tourists and news coverage of dead tourists is bad for business.

However, Vegas is not the worlds most popular tourist destination. France has twice as many annual visitors as Vegas. Paris alone has more annual visitors than Vegas. And remember that dead tourists are bad for business? Yes, Paris has a little problem. Experts swear it’s just a short term problem.


Heck, Paris has survived bigger problems than this.

What I Learned This Semester

The fall semester is over and grades are filed. Let me fill you in on just a few new discoveries! Maybe it will help you impress a friend while watching Jeopardy someday. Ok, probably not.


  • You can always find a place to park on campus for an 8 AM class. The bad news is that it’s still an 8 AM class. 
  • It’s a little shocking how many people will simply stop showing up to class without bothering to drop.
  • Equally amazing is the number of people who plan on taking a hard class twice to get a better grade.
  • Online coursework takes discipline that many people simply don’t possess. “Oh, I don’t have to worry about those 3 assignments until December!” Right. That’s the same December when you have all those finals, remember.
  • You can’t expect people to know how to pronounce words in a language they don’t speak.
  • It seems like every new textbook comes with a DVD or passcode to a website of “helpful” study materials. Most of these are not quite as “helpful” as advertised.


  • I had mistakenly thought the old Lincoln Highway followed the route of US 30 west to Oregon. Turns out it changes route numbers and goes through Northern Nevada.
  • If you tried to turn the events surrounding the Cal Neva in the late 50s and early 60s into a novel, nobody would believe it.
  • It turns out that Nevada voters in 2014 get to decide on a change to our State Constitution to allow greater taxation of the mining industry.
  • Most people don’t think to use hyperlinks in lieu of citations.


  • In a Spanish class, nobody expects you to know Japanese.
  • Flashcards are still important for learning a foreign language.
  • “Textbook/Workbook” is a nice way for a publisher to make everybody buy new books.

Anatomy and Physiology:

  • Reticular connective tissue looks a little like a cherry tree in blossom.
  • There’s an area of your brain that handles a reflex to turn your head and look before you even form the question “What was that streak of orange and roaring noise?” Of course in Vegas it’s a coin flip whether that particular combination is a tiger or a sports car. Likewise about which would be more dangerous to encounter while walking about.
  • Fancy color pictures of cadavers aren’t as useful as you’d think for learning anatomy.
  • Weight training does not produce more muscle cells, just muscle cells with more stuff in them.
  • Beta blockers are great for recovering heart attack patients, but lousy for anybody trying to improve their blood pressure through diet and exercise.

Ok, here’s the In Closing bits: you know I wouldn’t deprive you of a bunch of NSA, privacy, and Edward Snowden links, right?; on wages, fair wages, poverty, homelessness, and related issues; loopholePalestinians; the next big fight in CONgress; worst CEOs; and just in time for Christmas, bad gifts.

Shorties of Chuckie

Ok, let’s start with the NSA data dump: boy howdy and I do mean dump. Big mean dookie here and the administration keeps adding to the pile. Advice to the White House: sunlight is a good disinfectant.

On Republicans: And a possible shutdown of the government (because that worked out so well for the Republicans during the Clinton Administration). But remember, they know better than 97% of scientists about climate change (and for those who are religious? Rush is wrong and if Jesus does come back he’s gonna be honked about what we’ve done with the planet). Oh, and alert the media, I agree with Roger Simon.

On Computer Literacy: Most people aren’t. Even those kids we think are so much better on the computer than their elders. At least many of the elders are aware of the things they don’t know.

An Accidental Invention: The teabag.

On the Labor Force: There is no labor shortage, duh. Alien workers — including the undocumented ones — are sought after because they are easily exploited. Interns are free labor (which means it can be a challenge for young workers to accept the so-called opportunity unless Mummy and Daddy pony up cash). Modern Capitalism looks a whole lot like Feudalism.

Real Life MacGyver: Snakes on a Catapult and 9 other great tricks.

The Truth about Eyeglasses: pupillary distance, and adjusting your frames.

Petroglyphs: Over 10,000 years old.

On a Happier Note: Steinway sold for $512,000,000. Interestingly enough, the C above Middle C should be tuned to 512 hertz.

No Credit isn’t Bad Credit: the unscoreables.

Accurate Title: Yes, Vaccinations Save Lives.

I Question Their Criteria:’s list of “best” cars for short drivers doesn’t even mention adjustable belt points and properly proportioned seats.

Hmmm: Childhood obesity linked to school lunches and TV watching.

Scientists having a pissing contest: On de-extinction.

And finally: Goodnight iPad.

Tokyo does not have 3 syllables

This morning, after listening to a newsman mangle the pronunciation of the current Prime Minister of Japan’s name, I thought it might be polite to give readers a brief guide to how to pronounce all those words you might see in print regarding the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear plant issues.

Thankfully, you don’t need to read any of the three sets of characters used to read and write Japanese; it’s come to you already in “roman” characters called “romanji” or “roomaji” in Japanese. Better yet, every letter always makes the same sound, which is more than you can say for English! So here’s how the vowels work:

  • “a” always makes an “ah” sound, as in “father” or “want”
  • “e” always makes an “eh” sound, as in “lend” or “get”
  • “i” always makes an “eee” sound — just like it does in Italian or Latin. Think “Italiano”. Sometimes, if it would cause emphasis to be given to a syllable, it is almost silent as in “Hiroshima”.
  • “o” always makes an “oh” sound, like in “slow” or “tempo”
  • “u” always makes an “oo” sound, like in “tune” or “rule”. Like “i”, sometimes it is almost silent as in “sukiyaki” or “desu” (which means “is”)
  • Vowels can be doubled up, which results in it being held longer. The most obvious example of this is “Tokyo,” which would be spelled out in Hiragana as something more like “Toukyou”.

And there are a few consonants that seem to give people trouble:

  • “g” is always hard, as in “get” or “give” or “gen mai cha”
  • “j” always makes a j sound, like in “jet” or “jive”
  • “tsu” is said just like it’s written; the t is not silent
  • sometimes an “n” at the end of a syllable has a sound somewhere between an n and an m (in Japanese, it gets its own character when this happens)
  • “y” is a consonant, and in words like Tokyo and Kyoto, it is part of one syllable (written with two characters — it gets complicated)

Sorry if this seems a little pedantic. Now you’ll be able to read all those place names in the news and the items on your local sushi/teppanyaki place like a champ.

Now for a special what the??? edition of In Closing: Etsy child abuse; save the Northwest Tree Octopus (you’ve never seen one because they’re endangered!); secret cat haven; an unlikely charitable organization; duh; war on undesirables drugs; historically hardcore; capture the what??; actually it was a little longer than one decade; complaints; can you pass?; the Gentleman from Ohio; time for some realistic time management (including the use of the word NO); remember; vorpal bunnies in Spain; stupid; not really; worried; poor babies; fear; time poverty; the cat and the crickets; yes, this is real; Mrs. God; and find the unnecessary word in this comic:
PC and Pixel


There has been much wringing of hands over the “Achievement Gap,” which is “observed disparity on a number of educational measures between the performance of groups of students, especially groups defined by gender, race/ethnicity, ability, and socioeconomic status. The achievement gap can be observed on a variety of measures, including standardized test scores, grade point average, dropout rates, and college-enrollment and -completion rates.” [Emphasis mine]. One of the specific goals of NCLB was to measure and close this gap once and for all — a noble goal, even if the methods are questionable.

Now, I am far from the first person to point out that homework can make the gap worse, but let me give you some concrete examples.

Imagine a high school student. He arrives home, and his Mom is waiting for him thanks to a flexible work schedule. He gets a snack — teenage boys are universally always hungry — and sits down to work on homework for several classes. At one point he needs help with his foreign language work; Mom studied that language and certainly knows enough to help him through grammar and vocabulary. Later he uses internet resources to find a news article for another class. At one point he is stumped by a science problem. While Mom doesn’t know the answer, she suggests that it’s a topic that doesn’t change a lot and might be in Dad’s college biology book. When Dad arrives home shortly, he is able to help the student with mnemonics, or clever ways to remember all that information. Later, Mom cooks a healthy dinner, and later still everybody goes to bed at a reasonable hour.

Now let’s look at all the obstacles he did not have:

  • He didn’t worry about getting home from school safely, nor about his safety in his upper-middle class neighborhood
  • There was plenty of nutritious food in the house
  • He did not have to supervise the homework of younger siblings
  • He was not responsible for housework, such as starting dinner before Mom and Dad got home
  • Someone was there to keep him focused on the task at hand when necessary
  • He did not need to be at an after school job to help the family finances
  • He had all the resources to do homework, such as pencils, paper and reference materials
  • His parents were college educated and could in fact help when he had trouble with homework
  • His parents could afford tutoring services if they were necessary
  • He had access to a computer and high-speed internet
  • His parents were both willing and able to see to it that his physical and academic needs were taken care of.

It’s clear to see why homework is sometimes just one more academic obstacle.

In Closing: on the economy; on being ripped off; on Medicaid; on honesty and civility and history; on the free market; on climate change; lost wages; and oops.


That’s one expensive yearbook!

In closing:Maybe we can get Yaphet Kotto to play Captain Picard”; inside Trader Joe’s; a criminally misleading article about what doctors make; investors are nervous; Japanfilter double feature, Space Cruiser Yamato and the truth about Kobe beef; banks still only follow laws that they want to follow; 5 fastest growing occupations (the top two paying jobs reflect a premium for people willing to work the overnight shift); orders for durable goods — things that last longer than a latte — are up a whopping 0.3%; Turn Off Fox; when you start calling the citizenry “a cow with 310 tits [sic]”, you shouldn’t hold down a government position; Direct Instruction is a little more complicated than “nuns in a classroom,” but his point is taken that it in fact works; the smartest thing on unemployment that you’re likely to read this week; “cut government spending… someplace else!”; the next Dalai Lama could be an attractive woman?; you’ve got the time, get out and vote; Righthaven is perfectly willing to go after bloggers, but not a Senate candidate; on American Apparel; mysterious heiress (Clark County, Nevada is named for her father); and finally, The Doctor is In.

Arizona Follies

I hate to put up a “me too” post of “Arizona’s Papers Pleez Law is Bad mmkay,” so I prefer to consider this a roundup post of things others have said. I’ll start by reminding you that just last week I said “By the way, ‘reasonable suspicion’ means the cop doesn’t like you and/or you’re brown. I don’t think most people appreciate that most people don’t carry proof of citizenship in their pockets….”

So I can’t express any real shock that before the Arizona bill even hit the Governor’s desk, an Arizona trucker was asked to present proof of citizenship at a routine weight stop. Hell, I predicted such things would happen, I just didn’t think it would be a matter of days.

So frankly, it seems obvious for conventions to want to meet someplace other than Arizona, particularly if they have a lot of “brown” people who are planning to attend. After all, the last thing you want is for your attendees or speakers to be detained and possibly deported to unknown places for the “crime” of not slipping a birth certificate in their luggage! Boycotts are already underway, and an interesting array of figures have come out against the bill. Even Mexico is warning its citizens against travel to Arizona, despite the fact that surely Mexican tourists would come armed with legitimate passports.

Arizona authorities even have the unmitigated audacity to ask Federal officials for help training cops to harass Americans suspected of being non-Americans. But then again, this is the land of Bully-in-Chief and perennial civil rights defendant Sheriff Arpaio.

Just the same, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that this whole exercise boils down to race. Specifically, they want to discourage “brown” people from showing up to vote in November. Notice that all this came down right after those Census forms went back? Arizona cronies want the Congressional seats and other goodies that come from having all those Hispanic votes with no risk that those Hispanics will show up and vote… Democratic.

In closing: I am embarrassed for my local paper that they printed this “proof” that women prefer Democrats not because of say, policies that support women’s rights and needs but rather because they are “fickle“; speaking of local issues with national implications, don’t lose track of this lawsuit!; more local-is-national news, Harry Reid gets real; Japanfilter comes to you from the continuing controversy of American troops at Okinawa; loopholes in the health insurance reform bill; Haven’t I been telling you for 7 years that we never really had a recovery from the 2001 recession?; after all these years, rubella is a serious but preventable disease; stricter financial reform now; don’t let political adversaries define the problem you are trying to solve!; 30 years of sticky-notes; PowerPoint has its place, just not on the battlefield; I’m not sure I agree with the idea of a top tax bracket at 90% (which it was pre-Reagan), but it’s an interesting argument; and 6 important things humanity forgot.