$700 billion is nothing

Woah.


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Keynote presentation, and my note-taking system

(Photo credit: Sequence: Gene of my life, by Hawkexpress on Flickr)

I’m now working on my keynote speech for the Nara JET Mid-year seminar. I made a draft handout on Google Docs, so that I can access it from work and school. I already sent the handout to the Institute where the seminar will be held, and am now using the Google Doc as my notes for the presentation, adding to it as I think of things. I use Google Docs a fair bit following a tip by UK History teacher and web 2.0 wizard, Doug Belshaw (another useful Belshaw article on Google tools here). The digital format makes it so easy to add things at any point or make other editions and changes.

I used Google Docs “publish” facility, so that others, e.g. the seminar participants, could access the document. Feel free to steal from it.

I keep index cards and a pen handy at all times, even in the bath. I use a system called PoIC, short for Pile of Index Cards(!), developed by a Japanese guy. I admire this guy hugely, because he put his ideas up in Japanese and English, despite the fact that English is not his native language and it must take him alot of time and trouble to put all his pages up in English as well. (I’ve always been a sucker for non-native-speakers English pronunciation – my first girlfriend was Swiss – and I find Hawkexpress’s English charming.) He’s put some photos of his system up on Flickr, too. I’ve been using his system now for nearly 18 months, and find it better than GTDGetting Things Done (tho I still subscribe to certain GTD principles, such as the weekly review, and making files for everything. One of David Allen’s tips for packing is to leave your suitcase open in your room well in advance of your trip, and every time you think of something to put in, just throw it in; rather than leaving the whole packing until the very last minute. I’m using the same principle for my Keynote talk).

I get ideas at the oddest moments, and cannot rely on my memory. Also, I value David Allen’s suggestion of  getting everything out of your head and onto paper, and relying on memory as little as possible.


I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Paranoid but prescient: compliment or put-down?

MarketWatch writer Peter Brimelow wrote an article entitled Paranoid but prescient which mentioned a financial newsletter I have sometimes read: Harry Schultz. Basically, Brimelow was giving Schultz some credit, albeit grudgingly.

So Schultz and his ilk (definitely a minority) have been proved right. But how did they know? Brimelow gives us just two choices, both irrational ones: paranoid or prescient. Paranoid – spinning “conspiracy” theories out of purely irrational fears; or prescient – having foreknowledge of events, also strongly suggestive of non-rational means, e.g. magic or crystal-ball-gazing.

Brimelow thus cleverly avoids having to consider, and discuss, the fact that Schultz may actually have been able to foresee what was going to happen thanks to his rational faculties; i.e. he drew conclusions and made projections based on factual knowledge and information, e.g. examination of who exactly is profiting from the current turmoil:

Schultz is rightly drawing attention to the underreported question of who exactly is profiting from the bailout bonanza.

Brimelow gives Schultz credit, but fails to follow up on this “underreported question”, thereby adding his own bit to the “underreporting”. Yet on the whole, Brimelow prefers to ascribe Schultz’s accurate prognostication to magic or irrational fears. Why would he do this? Is the alternative, namely, that Schultz might actually be onto something, too disturbing to consider?

Perhaps Schultz is some lone nutcase. If so, then all these are nutcases, too!

But these are all, all, nutcases, who, as one commenter put it referring to Schultz, are like stopped clocks: if they repeat their nonsense often enough, they will eventually be right some time.

    And this is just scratching the surface, the result of 20-30 minutes searching online.


    I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
    Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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    Sex education in UK schools… and sex on the beach in Dubai

    (Cartoon by mac at the UK’s (Daily) Mail Online, from Google Images ).

    The recent announcement from the British government that “lessons about personal, social and health matters including sex and relationships will be compulsory in all England’s schools from ages five to 16”, which I blogged about yesterday, has created many ripples. Here’s an article today on the School Gate blog: it focusses on how this difficult subject will be taught, and by whom, pointing out that there are not enough, trained and competent teachers. A  couple of comments wonder how this was taught at Hogwarts (perhaps Severus Snape just popped in a video?)

    AlphaMummy also discusses the issue, but merely points out how important this kind of education is, without asking why the government is getting involved in this and whether that is a good thing or not.

    The comments list is very long, but almost all of them miss the point. The point is not whether sex education is good or bad, but who has the right to decide, and whether that person or group then has the right to decide for others and force them to accept it. Is this freedom or statism?

    Out of the great many comments, I only came across one that said “This isn’t for the government or schools to decide – THE PARENT DECIDES! Each child is different, some may need the discussion earlier than others and vice versa. I’m fed up with the government – they can’t get right the tasks they are hired to handle, and butt in on the tasks they have no right to!!!!!!!!!” Interestingly, the commenter is name “Yank”; Americans were amongst the first to state the individual is sovereign and no-one has the right to force anyone to do something.

    Sex is also in the headlines (the media must just be loving this) because of a British couple who were caught in Dubai having sex on the beach, and whose trial has just finished. Here’s a Time columnist’s view: they got what they deserved, and brought shame on Britain, the filthy perverts! The comments are fun.


    I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
    Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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    Japanese version of “The Office” and other Japan news

    Thanks to Japan Probe, I discovered that the British comedy series The Office had a Japanese inspiration. Like The Office itself, people seem to either love it or not find it funny at all.

    And speaking of Japan news, those foreigners living in Japan may be glad to know that the term “gaijin” has been officially banned and replaced with a longer (and hence more respectful), erm, replacement. Thanks to Japan Probe and The Outside World News for this tidbit.

    One commenter to the above notes that he discourages his students from using the word “foreigner” because

    I mean, it can sound a bit silly when people say “I want to live in London and make friends with foreigners.” I ask them if they want to make friends with Japanese people in London? and they say no, of course not….

    My other reason for discouraging “foreign” is that the word does have the implication of “something that does not belong/should not be there”. Think about “foreign object”, “foreign ideas”, etc. There are many other much nicer words that can be used.

    Not sure about the “nicer words”; “more specific” perhaps, and why not point out that “should not be there” is not an intrinsic characteristic of things non-Japanese? It may well be the first time Japanese students of English have been made aware of this.


    I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
    Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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    Sub-prime and financial meltdown explained

    A highly respectable and knowledgable British invesment banker is interviewed by another highly respectable British interviewer to give you the basics of the recent upheavals in the financial markets. Short, sweet, brilliantly funny.

    Hat-tip to Tim Ferriss for the video. Ferriss, author of the phenomenal book The Four-Hour Workweek, uses this video to head the start of a series of blog posts about investing, based on his recent experiments and experiences.


    I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
    Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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    Japan’s food statistics


    A friend’s shared Google Reader feed alerted me to this video created for the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). It contains some interesting statistics, and begs some interesting questions. E.g.:

    Japan only produces about 40% of the food it consumes. This is the lowest among all major developed nations. This is the result of the significant change in the Japanese people’s diet

    and goes on to describe, and lament, the gradual change from a diet of fish, rice and vegetables (“a nutritionally balanced diet”) to consuming more meat, fat and oil.

    1. Why has this change happened? The video makes it sound as if those stupid, unenlightened, unpatriotic and selfish Japanese consumers made this change happen by their intransigent demands and their refusal to listen to the wisdom of their elders and betters. However, consumers cannot buy what is either not for sale or what is priced beyond their budget. In addition, I recall a short podcast by Dr Andrew Weil (A Toxic World), in which he says, “how can the [U.S.] government say it is innocent… when, if you go into a supermarket in this country, the most expensive calories you can buy are fruit and vegetables, and the cheapest calories you can buy are all the low-quality carbohydrate foods, and the reason those are cheap is because the Federal Government subsidizes those crops and artificially drives down prices. The corporations take the position that, it has nothing to do with them, they are just giving people what they want.”
    2. Why is the government putting out this propaganda? The aim of the video is, what, exactly? To protect and improve the health of the Japanese people? To protect and improve the prospects of the Japanese farmers? To prepare the public to accept tariffs on and higher prices for meat, oil and fats? To prepare everyone for higher food prices all round? (And that this acceptance will be patriotic, therefore objections may be considered unpatriotic?).

    Lots of soy and cereal grains are needed to make oil and feed, so they are being imported in large quantities.

    • This gives us a clue: a diet rich in meat, oil and fat is more capital intensive, less efficient, and therefore provides more profits for more people.

    Although Japan imports a lot of food, it also disposes of more edible food than the entire world food aid.

    • Woah!

    My overall question is why market forces, combined with an informed populace, cannot be left to work their magic on their own? Why stay on the road towards more control and more manipulation? The Japanese government, and much of the population, seems to take the following attitude unquestioningly; as an artist put it, “Millions and millions and billions of people becoming artists? Are you out of your mind? People are herd animals. They need dogs to move them around into the right places.”

    In other words, does the MAFF video represent a step towards greater freedom, or towards less freedom and more of the same, centralised, “Daddy Government knows best” statism?


    I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
    Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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    Compulsory sex education in UK

    Startling statistics in this BBC article about sex and relationship education in schools in the UK.

    Lessons about personal, social and health matters including sex and relationships will be compulsory in all England’s schools from ages five to 16…

    A BBC poll of more than 1,000 people found two thirds would support sex lessons from the age of 11…

    A UK-wide poll commissioned by the BBC from NOP found that the majority of those questioned believed sex and relationship lessons should be compulsory in schools. 87% say sex and relationship lessons should be compulsory.

    Of those, 64% believed lessons should not start until children are at least 11 years old.

    Just over a third (36%) said they did not think children should learn about contraception until they were at least 13.

    However, some people have concerns! Who are these idiots? Don’t they trust the govmint? But, fortunately, it’s not mistrust of the govmint that motivates them:

    The national director of Christian Voice, Stephen Green, said the proposals would only encourage experimentation and contribute to the rise in teenage pregnancy and infertility.

    He said the idea of teaching young children about sex is “a wickedness” from a government that wants to see “a whole generation fornicating”.

    You’d think they’d be pleased, considering the future holds a drop in UK students.

    Another foot-dragger:

    The head of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), John Dunford, has written to the government complaining that secondary schools have only just begun implementing major changes to the curriculum including highly regarded but non-statutory material on PSHE… “It should not be the subject to further central prescription and certainly not compulsion.”

    What a Luddite, eh?


    I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
    Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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    The nail that sticks out…

    I teach a writing class, for which I have the students create blogs. I have the same group of students as in the first semester. There’s one student who showed up for a few classes, but then stopped. In a brief conversation, this student said it was difficult to “join” the class, as it was now a tightly-knit group. I was sad to hear this (creating a strong group consciousness seems important to Japanese students, even more important than actually learning anything), but I had to agree that it was so.

    This same student showed up to the first few classes in the second semester, then again stopped coming. Last week, we created our blogs, but this student has not shown up for the last 2 weeks. Today, I found an email from this student, giving me her blog address. Here it is.

    Despite the fact that my writing class is an English writing class, many students create a Japanese name for their blog without a second thought, and express surprise when I express surprise “Ooohhhhh! You mean, we have to use an ENGLISH blog name??” (with the unspoken suggestion of “well, why the heck didn’t you say so to begin with!”). This student has not only used a French title, but the title itself is highly significant. Do you recognize it? (It’s the title of a novel).

    If not, the student’s profile will give you a hint. When I first saw the profile, I thought: Wow! Here is a kid who actually READS!! If she has really read any of those authors (even in Japanese), no wonder she feels out of place. I had a similar student a couple of years ago who read Dostoevsky, and who also felt a little out of place. I would be surprised if even one of the other students had even heard of Sade (“Yeah! I know! Sad, right? Like, unhappy!”)

    Several such students appear each year. Unfortunately, many of them seem to suffer from depression and are on medication or receiving medical treatment. I wonder if there is a connection between these two facts. It doesn’t seem far-fetched to surmise that students who are unusual or not like the others will be under considerable psychological stress in this collectivist society.

    (“The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” is a Japanese proverb. Also here. And a blog post and a movie on the subject. “zainichi (resident-in-Japan) Korean hero exudes the kind of spunk and soul most of his Japanese age-mates have either lost or never had to begin with”. Wow. That rings true! I want to see this movie. Have you seen it?)


    I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
    Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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    The wonders of modern science

    Darpa wants to see inside your house, from Wired. Your tax dollars at work.


    I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
    Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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