Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Erring on the side of semantics

The Home Office refused to apologise yesterday for wrongly labelling 1,500 innocent people as criminals because of errors in the bureau which identifies whether individuals have convictions...
It emerged yesterday that errors in the cross-checking of names had resulted in 1,500 innocent people being wrongly labelled as pornographers, thieves or violent robbers, in some cases resulting in their being turned down for jobs or university places.

"We make no apology for erring on the side of caution. We are talking about the protection of children and vulnerable adults."

Officials falsely labelled 1,500 as criminals
The Guardian, Monday May 22, 2006


Well, I suppose it depends on what you think it means: "to err on the side of caution." To the best of my knowledge, there are currently two definitions in circulation; I leave it to the reader of this page to decide which is the more valid.

Definition provided by an actual dictionary
"If you err on the side of caution when you are deciding what to do, you do the thing that is safe instead of taking a risk."

Definition provided by those tosspots at the Home Office
Delegating tasks of a highly sensitive nature and of potentially significant consequence to a collection of bungling, disinterested cretins from Office Angels or similar.


Dictionary definition obtained from
Although one must allow for some differences in wording, I believe it would be fair to say that this definition corresponds in general intent to most idiomatic dictionaries.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006


The constitution and the law of diminishing returns

Having exhausted all other potential topics of conversation, Dan brings up the issue of Japanese constitutional reform in a last desperate bid to squander the remaining three minutes of lesson time with uninspired High Level Students (hereafter HLS), with what success may be seen in the following dialogue:

HLS: ...So I think article 9 needs to change. We should have our own army, not just always do what America say.

(The bell for the end of lesson starts ringing in the background.)

Dan: You should attack America.

HLS: Ahahaha... but how can we win?!

Dan: Didn't stop you last time.

(There is a terrible ghastly silence.)

Dan: Oh come off it, you lot; the bell was already ringing. I said that in my own time.


Dreaming down the drain

Received wisdom: if one happens to cut off a cockroach's head, the body will continue to scuttle around until it dies of starvation (not being able to feed with no mouth.)

How is the cause of death proven, I wonder? Is it not possible that the cockroach expires from pneumonia, unaccustomed as it is to the cool breeze on its exposed neck? Could it be that, disillusioned with continually bumping into things, the headless cockroach does not die but simply gives up and decides to procrastinate instead?

Entertain, if you will, the notion that the cockroach is, like Dan, one of nature's daydreamers. With a body capable of doing pretty much everything on autopilot, the brain of the idealistic young cockroach- scarcely bigger than an ant- is free to wander where it will.

What does the bug dream of as it scuttles across the kitchen floor? Perhaps it dreams of travelling to some truly grimy place, where it can frolic all day with its cockroach brethren; or maybe it yearns to infiltrate some ostensibly clean and sanitary place, to the great chagrin of all humans present: an operating theatre or suchlike.

Either way, its dreams are brought to an untimely halt by the intervention of Dan, a piece of tissue paper and a quick trip to the lavatory for a crash course in swimming / holding one's breath.


I shake my head as I watch the young cockroach disappearing around the u-bend, taking with it a lifetime's worth of unfulfilled potential: so much skulking left unskulked. But I am meant to be looking after Andrew's apartment while he's out of the country, chasing white elephants of his own.

Thus far, I've managed to set fire to a frying pan, set fire to my own foot and now I can add cockroaches to the list of entomological delights; a list previously dominated by the ravenous mosquitoes.

At least none of the plants are dead yet, although I really will have to make a few improvements before my erstwhile benefactor returns from China.

Monday, May 22, 2006


Hole in one foot

Transferring the flaming pan to the bathroom, I am a little too slow: some element of burning matter falls on my foot, scorching a hole into the flesh that looks like a nasty cigarette burn.

Pretty foul.

The next day, I show the teachers at school. Hey everybody, I enthuse; who wants to touch my hole?

There is a general wailing and vomiting from the teaching staff, but no takers. Evidently, I was giving them too much credit.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


A stab in the dark

I quite enjoy teaching at other schools: it gives me more of an opportunity to experiment with my (already laudable) educational style.

Today I was out in a school I haven't visited in around two years. I was teaching speculation to high-level students (hereafter HLS).

This is the picture task I started them off with:

From the hand of DanYou arrived at the classroom today to find the entire place covered with what appears to be blood, and a series of bloody handprints down the wall. I want you to discuss the following question with your partner: "what on earth happened here?"
I'll give you two minutes.

Key speculative language:

There must have been (some kind of murder)

It looks like (he was trying to escape)

I guess (we won't be able to take a lesson after all)


HLS: What should we do?

Dan: It might be an idea to request a different classroom: this one's kind of messy.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Beware the swordsman of Shinsaibashi

image by Dan

(I finally got round to mentioning this to my employers, so I suppose I ought to let the rest of you know...)

Monday, May 15, 2006


Keihan line, 12:36

He sits down next to me and stares grinning until I grudgingly take out my headphones, whereupon he asks me where is my from. Wearily, I reply Coventry and, returning the question, elicit the answer China.

Despite my relative ignorance of the People's Republic of Phlegm-ridden Communists I ask which part and, of course, he goes and answers Nanking in a loud voice.

Personal discomfort =
(weight of history * accusing glares from other passengers)
indifference to cultural taboos

He repeats it in a loud voice and asks if I know where it is and I respond that I do although it doesn't generally come up so much in conversation for some reason.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Cashing the chips

Productive day: went to visit the cloistered Nazis in the accommodation department to hand back the keys to 602 Yoshida.

Having got the ball rolling despite paucity of sleep, I resolved to bleed the day dry. I called in my travel expenses and was pleasantly surprised to discover that I still had stuff owed from February (don't ask, don't get, I guess.)

Finally, got home and got to work on the penny jar for paying into the bank tomorrow. Last time I emptied this little bunny was almost a year and a half ago, so it was getting pretty heavy.

The mighty jar yielded the following:

- Enough Japanese currency to beat a Whale to death with.

- Enough Canadian currency to buy a small coffee.

- Enough Vietnamese currency to merit an old-fashioned look from a mango vendor.

- Enough contraceptives to kit out a minibus full of drug mules.

- Enough body hair to knit my own yak.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Settling in

I made an important discovery the other night, concerning my new pad. My discovery was this: the insect screen on the window isn't capable of keeping out anything smaller than a vampire bat.

So, to summarise: vampire bats are not a problem. Mosquitoes are.


Pavlovian Draconian

Dan is experiencing problems in the kids room with an IMP (ill-mannered punk)

Dan: Oi, I said put your workbook away!

Imp: Matte kure!

With a motion so smooth you might almost think he's done it before, Dan whips the workbook from under the Imp's nose and deals him a sharp rap to the head with it.

Imp: Eh?

Dan: You say "kudasai" to me; I'm your teacher, bitch.

Monday, May 08, 2006


The unwitting complicity of Mrs Meleady

There was a huge package for me in the Yoshida Building. It didn't appear to be a birthday present, largely because the writing on it was none other than my own.

I realised it was the rice cooker I'd bought in the Joshin sale and sent to my cousin Sarah as a wedding gift some months ago.

Returned to sender.

And I do need a rice cooker.

I think Mike's words said it best: "Hello Providence!"

So, I'll have to come up with some other wedding gift for cousin Sarah, but, for the time being, I went out and bought a 5-kilo bag of rice.

Whatever else comes to pass between now and payday, at least I won't starve to death.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Semai detached

I can hear the birds singing outside
talk to cats for a while
I try so hard to turn a life inside out
everyone knows when to smile

but I don't see to much these days
'cause I don't want to

"Let me go," she said;
"and I'll find it".

-Tuner by Mogwai

The new pad!

The new pad wasn't quite as I'd remembered it from looking around with the estate agent: it had been- and remained- a one-room affair, but the window seemed to have disappeared (although this was offset by the sunlight filtering through the straw roof and pouring through the doorway of the hovel, the tanned hide that served as a curtain having been pulled aside) and looking around I now noticed a stone fireplace in the centre of the floor which would provide me with the means of cooking, not to mention valuable warmth in the bleak Winter months.

Had this been Britain, the dwelling would certainly have pre-dated the Roman invasion.

A stone's throw from the hut was an aged wooden stable for the animals, although I recall thinking that at least one stall would have to be emptied in order to provide space for my beer fridge.


Then my eyes opened and even in the black silence I knew instantly where I was: I was back in Shinsaibashi, in the heart of the city, and the people who had once lived in the unruly, sunlit fields across the old river bridge were no more than a fading memory of things best not spoken of.

Monday, May 01, 2006


Check it out, tossers

And Mike, with characteristic generosity, gave me this for my birthday:

250 gigs of mayhem, coming to a computer near you.

Seriously, this is such a plus, because I'll be able to stack up on AVIs and suchlike before I move Deep Blue to do-or-die Shinsai.

I've lived with Mike longer than anyone who wasn't family, but this time he's truly surpassed himself.

Thanks a million dude.

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