Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy Halloween...

...from Strong Sad.

This is my daughter's handiwork (with some finishing work from Dad). I thought I would share it with you.

Don't forget the HomeStar Halloween Fairstival and the "oldtimey" That a Ghost. You won't find these in the newspapper.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Hi Honeys, I'm Home

I am back, but the Minstrel is still in charge for a while. I am having a hernia repaired Monday (just a day surgery unless the Ancient Ones try to invade that portion of my intestines) along with the usual pre-Halloween hoopla before then. So have fun and I will try to post a picture or two of some flowers (including a MEAT eater).

The travelogue will come in due time (if at all) when the pain killers aren't necessary anymore and I get unburied from my real job...

Friday, October 29, 2004

Let's Talk About Flour

Aw, I've already gone and done it: I made a political posting (below). I need to get my worn soles (soul?) back on the path. It's time once again to (nasal voice) talk about flowers (/nasal voice), but I just don't have a particular flower I feel like talking about right now, so how about a homonymous alternative? Let's talk about flour!

I remember Bob's original, old mill. It wasn't so far from where I lived up till my OSU days. I remember when the abandoned, old hulk of a building was purchased, renovated, and put back into action in my junior high school days. I even took the short, informative tour they were offering at the time. I didn't know that the building burned down in 1988...two years before I came to Japan.

I guess it has been reestablished in a different location, and it's very much in full swing.

Fresh-baked bread is truly a wonderful thing. In fact, for those of us that can't get it so often, it seems almost like a treasure. It's even better when it's made with whole-grain flour and better still when that flour is fresh ground.

Fresh-ground, whole-grain flour is definitely far better for you than the hydrolyzed variety common in supermarket white breads. Major bakeries tend to do to their breads the same things that major breweries do to their beer: they take all the character (i.e. the flavor) out of it for the sake of making it easier to consume. It's the old, American "I don't want anything that leaves any lasting impression" syndrome. Just wolf it down and forget about it. Unfortunately, when mills take all the flavor out of the flour, they also take out most of the health benefits. They also tend to add sugar to make it even more "consumable" in a bulging-waisted society.

That's why little, homegrown mills like Bob's can be such a good thing. They give us organically-grown, whole wheat slow-grinded into the fundamental ingredient of one of life's better pleasures. They offer proof that "healthy" and "sucky" don't have to be synonymous. Nothing sugar coated; just a real "gutsy" taste.

No, wait...that's Wheaties...

BTW: I understand that some of you may be on the ever-popular Atkins Diet. It is not my intention to offend or alienate you...though I might laugh and waft my buttered, fresh-baked "hotel bread" in your general direction.

How About a Halloween Spook Story?

(Explosively hysterical laughter break....)

Sorry about that. I just couldn't believe the audacity of this thing.

The nice, convenient, little "October Surprise" the Oregonian managed to pull on Wu was bad enough. Check out this latest timely media revelation. I dunno...maybe there is some degree of truth to it, but considering the documents in question were all written back in the early '70s, it takes a supreme leap of faith (or just plain, simple gullibility) to accept the claim that they just happened to be "recently discovered" on the eve of the election.

Then again, even if you don't already know that particular "news" website's alignment, all you have to do is take a gander at its list of headlines. I'd say it's somewhere in the neighborhood of Lawful Conservative with psychotic tendencies.

Oops.....did I just make a political posting?

Thursday, October 28, 2004

For Halloween: The Scariest D&D Monsters

Imagine a quasit! Type VI Demon?

Actually, neither of those are on this short but very bizarre list. Neither is Mr. Baker, but I digress...

Admit it: we all played this game, some more than others, and we all liked it, some more than others. Now, take a brief trip down (twisted) memory lane and spice up your Halloween with the 4.5 (yes, you read that right) scariest monsters in Dungeons&Dragons. They definitely picked the twisted ones, and the descriptions are good for giving you both nightmares and sideaches.

Most of them never appeared in any campaign that I had anything to do with, but oh, well.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Relaxation Is Always a Good Thing

It's time to (nasal voice) talk about flowers (/nasal voice) once again. This time I'm going to discuss another flower which is technically in the "herb" category and a personal favorite of mine, chamomile.

Chamomile is a very non-descript, mild-mannered sort of flower. It doesn't offer a whole lot to the imagination. Actually, there are two very different varieties, each of which looks like a daisy with the petals pointing the wrong direction. However, as they say, good things often come in very plain packages.

This not-so-decorative plant is actually the first herb in recorded history to have been used for aromatherapy. Specifically, its oil was employed by the ancient Egyptians as a relaxant much the same way as essential oils are used today. Its flowers have been a standard in potpourri for centuries. Its delicate, apple-like fragrance also lends itself well to the culinary world. The so-called Roman chamomile is often used as a very mild spice in such things as dressings or on potatoes. German chamomile is the sort most often used in herbal tea. In fact, it is a favorite and a veritable standard in the herb tea world; it seems like half the blends on the market include it together with mint and/or hibiscus. Any tea or fragrance that includes (German) chamomile is said to be relaxing, even pain-killing. In fact, ointments containing chamomile are even used as a sort of topical anesthetic, albeit a very mild one.

The Roman and German varieties of chamomile are quite different and thus require different treatment, but both are quite easy to grow. They prefer dry, sandy soil to moist. They are fairly hardy plants that grow thickly in the area where they are planted but don't interfere with neighboring plants. This makes them ideal for demarcating areas of gardens or providing a simple, decorative border fringe. As the Roman variety is low, it also makes a good ground cover.

Yes, when it comes to flowers or herbs, chamomile definitely qualifies as one of the simple pleasures in life, but it is one that I definitely enjoy. I hope you will, too.

(nasal voice) Isn't talking about flowers so much nicer than talking about politics? (/nasal voice)

(Snabby is going to kill me...)

How Are We Gonna Score?

If you don't understand the significance of that title, then buzz off. No, don't. I just figured that, since someone was thoughtful enough to share the website of Ye Olde Heckart Lodge (Home of Humanity, Den of Insanity), thus touching off a flurry of e-mail exchange, it would be best to post it here to give us a nice comment thread that everyone can ignore.

Ah, the memories. Heckart was truly an unforgettable place, and it brought me into contact with some very unforgettable people. Many of them have been appearing on this blog.

I actually heard nothing but insults regarding Heckart from the "pretty, plastic" crowd that had hijacked the music department. However, when I finally pulled my head out of my aft shaft, got the Sam Hill out of dorm hell, and moved into that wonderful house of wonders, I finally realized that it was actually possible to enjoy college life and not just be disgusted by it.

Anyway, if you're a Heckart alum or simply curious (or an obnoxious jerk trying to be funny), feel free to drop by the comment thread!

Monday, October 25, 2004

Here's Another Purple Flower to Brighten Your Day

One of the (many) things that has always intrigued me about Japan is the way it has always seemed to be so compartmentalized. It seems that there is a particular location specializing in just about anything you'd want. For example, there is a large street in Tokyo on which almost every store sells sports equipment or sports-related items. Go one block over and you're in Jimbo-Cho, an area filled with new and used book stores. Go up the street a ways, and you're in Ochanomizu, where almost all the shops offer new or used musical intruments, music accessories, music media, music books, music lessons, or music recording studios.

I once visited the town of Naka-Furano in Hokkaido. While I was there, I stood gazing out at several dozen (if not several hundred) square kilometers of purple fields while standing in a store that sold items that were all purple.

Welcome to the lavender capital of Japan...if not the world.

In addition to being beautiful, the lavender is a very useful plant. It contains natural odor absorbers, making it a good natural air-purifier, which is why it has been a standard of potpourri for centuries. Its fragrance, said to have a calming effect, is a standard of the aromatherapy industry. Its oil, in addition to being useful for making natural soaps and candles, can be used to treat insect bites and sores. It is a fragrant and tasty herb that is popular in herbal teas and flavorings. It can be used in a wide variety of cooking as a delightful alternative to a number of established culinary herbs, producing an exotic flavor that is tangy but delicately floral.

It's also purple.

Lavenders are small flowers that are fairly easy to grow, almost like weeds, really, though in my experience they can die off quickly if not given proper treatment. They don't do well in soil that is too moist; they actually seem to prefer sandy or chalky soil as they are actually a mountain herb. They're a good flower to plant in gravelly or dusty areas, such as on the fringes of driveways. They also make a good addition to an herb garden.

Is It Live, or Is It Something We Hope No One Remembers?

As a musician who has long been disgusted by such things as artists that put their lyrics on lesser-known songwriters' music and call it their own songs, poster-child singer/musicians that have "ghost performers" record their albums for them, and singers that lip-synch to digitally enhanced vocal tracks when they are supposedly singing on stage, I take special pleasure in this. This, my friends, is poetic justice.

What's especially ludicrous is the way Ms. Simpson and her handlers are trying...and cover their posteriors. First they said that the errant track was supposed to have been a taped percussion line, but someone accidentally loaded a vocal track. Then Ms. Simpson herself said that it was the band's fault for playing the wrong song (when they had, in fact, already performed the song from which the mistaken vocal track appeared!).

I guess Simpson and Co. thought that their fans would be as gullible as President Bush's supporters. They were mistaken.

Oops....did I just insert a political comment?

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Outta here

The place belongs to Moody for the week. Treat him with the same respect you would treat me...with none.

A Lovely, Morning Face

This is partly due to Ladybug's polite request, but mainly because I was planning to do it anyway. I am continuing our (nasal voice) talk about flowers (/nasal voice) by moving on to the delightful morning glory.

The morning glory is called asagao, or "morning face" in Japanese. It is a very appropriate term, as the vine puts forth its colorful flowers in the morning. Japanese morning glories can range in color from blue to magenta, but most are purple. That is one of the reasons why Asagao is the name of a princess character in The Tale of Genji, the romance novel written in the 9th century by Lady Murasaki Shikibu. After all, purple was a color that only royalty were allowed to wear. Even more appropriately, Genji, the lead character, first catches a glimpse of the beautiful face of the shy princess, who is also his cousin, in the morning. (He then proceeds to rape her that night, which doesn't make her very happy.)

Morning glories can be grown just about anywhere and are very easy to take care of. It can, however, be tough to get rid of them once they've taken hold somewhere. They are quite hardy. They are also very invasive. As the plant is a fast-growing vine, it can spread quickly and become entwined throughout the garden or wherever it is located. If you plant one under a deck, expect it to wind its way throught the floorboards and become an inextricable part of them.

And now......The Larch.

A Scout Is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly...

...unless you are somehow abnormal.

Both Snabby and I did the Boy Scouts thing (in the same troop, no less), and we both made a lot of good memories there. Sharing a campsite near Eagle Creek with a couple of deer. Sitting in an alpine meadow with naught but Mt. Hood behind, naught but forest below, and naught but a wonderful, blue sky above. Huddling in a small "pup tent" during a rainstorm. Watching the scoutmaster trip and slide down a glacier. Playing D&D in an adirondack shelter overlooking the ocean. Memorizing knots. Building fires. All those songs and skits.
Yes, despite its mixed reputation, Scouting could be a very good thing.
However, Snabby and I both learned that it is also an organization that has more than its share of hard-arses and the same sort of self-righteous, sanctimonious "good, old boys" that are responsible for our current administration.
First the B.S.A. was blatant and adamant in its discrimination against gays. Then it went down on atheists. Now, it appears, the knotted stick of judgement is falling on people of lower than average I.Q..
To be fair, the article never says anything specific concerning just how the boy in question was behaving. (Tellingly, the pack leaders that decided to bar him are refusing to give any concrete information.) However, even in my Boy Scout troop, we had a couple of boys whose behavior could only be called disruptive, even violent, but we were told by our leaders that they had just as much right to be there as we did. Learning to deal with them, they said, was part of growing up. They were absolutely right, too. After all, learning to deal with life with your own, two hands on your own, two feet is supposed to be what scouting is all about. WAS supposed to be what scouting is all about.
I guess now it has changed into an exclusive social club for pretty Christian boys.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Let's Talk About Flowers

Mr. Snabby has gone on vacation, and he has just informed me that he has turned the keys to Snabulus over to me for the time being.

By the powers of Snabskull......I HAVE THE POWER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As my first act as Chief President Generalissimo God-By-Proxy, With Portfolio (many honorifics attached), I will take a much-needed break from the ongoing political bile that has continued to ooze from this site.

So.....let's talk about flowers!

The link goes to a very informative article about a very intriguing flower I thought you'd enjoy:
The Lupin.
Have fun!

(Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore, riding through the night...)

I've Heard of Environmental Contempt, But...

If you check the above link, you'll find that the article in question is really not all that much. It's short and to the point. That point is, I think, significant, definitely worth bearing in mind, but it's really not all that new. Definitely nothing to rate as "breaking news" or of "earth-shattering importance" (no pun intended).

With that in mind, it kind of makes me wonder why somebody saw fit to post it on Fark, or why Fark even bothered green-lighting it. However, what I really have to wonder is why the guy that posted it offered the following description:

Environmental group: "Blah blah blah, Earth in danger, blah blah, destruction of natural habitats, blah blah, fossil fuels, blah blah blah, humans to blame, blah blah blah..."

That's pretty callous. It's obvious that the guy posted this not-so-significant link for the sole purpose of insulting people that have any concern about the environment, especially if they attempt to use scientific study to back themselves up. And Fark saw fit to honor him...or at least humor him. Why did they even bother? What made them feel the need? Is environmental concern really so threatening?

This is no different from Rush Limbaugh's immediately dismissing as a "whacko" anyone that dares to mention that pollution is causing problems. The Japanese government, like Bush, inc., is filled with "former" company execs that always manage to swing their policies in such a way as to circumvent (or eliminate) environmental protection laws and favor the corporations, accusing anyone that blows the whistle as "standing in the way of economic development" or "costing people jobs". Every once in a while, the op-ed page in my newspaper carries a letter from a similarly disgruntled conservative complaining that there is "still no proof of global warming", offering one day's cold temperatures as "proof".

As I sit here writing this, there are buildings not far away that have been damaged and low-lying areas that are still flooded as the result of our already having been hit by nearly double the previous record number of typhoons thanks to a freak storm system created by unusually high ocean temperatures. Now they are saying that they've discovered another effect of those typhoons: they suck up all the airborne pollutants in their vicinity, concentrate them, and dump them as extra-concentrated acid rain, meaning all those forests on the Japan Alps hit by those tropical deluges could be turning yellow soon. Fishermen are persistently bringing in record low catches due to both that same ocean warming, increased pollution in the ocean, and simple overfishing. Only now is the government offering reparations to people suffering from birth defects resulting from industrial pollution that occurred decades ago and still has yet to be cleaned up. Yesterday's newspaper carried a story of the discovery of yet another illegal toxic waste dumpsite that was long known about and ignored by the greasy-palmed local town administration. The list goes on and on, and that moron on Fark sees fit to sum it all up as "blah, blah, blah, blah..."

"Blah, blah, blah," indeed.

We only have one Earth, people. It is not a disposable convenience. You may not want to bother listening to that, but the fact remains: once we've screwed up our world, it's screwed up for good. We really have to ask ourselves if it's really worth it wreck our home for the sake of a profit margin. If you want to dismiss me by saying, "blah, blah, blah," and get back to your complacent, consumerist fantasy, well, fine, but do me a favor and do so while dumping all your garbage in your own backyard and your own water supply and see how you like it.

Shake Shake Shake...Shake Shake Shake...

...Shake your booty. Shake your booty.
Shake EVERYTHING, actually.

Now I am seriously beginning to wonder what Mother Gaia is up to. Internet news has already reported that a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck northern Japan. Actually, it struck in Niigata Prefecture, which is about 150 miles away from where I live. However, we're on the same fault line, so we felt it, all right. It was about magnitude 4 here. The biggest problem is that the aftershocks are still going on. Over the past two hours we've had more than half a dozen quakes hit us, all centered in the same spot in Niigata at magnitude 5-6, reaching magnitude 3-4 here.

Oops...we just had another one. This is really getting ridiculous.

The Japanese earthquake scale isn't compatible with the Richter Scale used in the U.S.. The Richter Scale is based on the total energy involved in the quake. The Japanese scale, on the other hand, is based on actual effects on the ground. Basically, the breakdown is like this:

Magnitude 1 = "Did you feel something?"
Magnitude 2 = Drinks ripple, hanging lamps jiggle. People say, "Oh, cool!"
Magnitude 3 = Furniture shakes, dishes clatter along with some people's teeth.
Magnitude 4 = Furniture rocks back and forth. Some things may fall off of shelves. Newcomers to Japan scream and head for the exits. Everyone else just freezes.
Magnitude 5 = Some furniture may topple. Windows may break. Possible damage to more delicate structures.
Magnitude 6 = Catastrophic interior redecoration. Widespread structural damage.
Magnitude 7 = Many buildings and other structures collapse.
Magnitude 8 = All those little, smoldering piles used to be a city.
Magnitude 9 = A mass of churned-up earth is all that remains.
Magnitude 10 = A section of the crustal plate flips upside down.
Magnitude 11 = Earth splits in half.

The Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, which leveled wide swaths of Kobe, was magnitude 7.7. The Great Tokyo Earthquake of 1924 was magnitude 8.1. Tonight, a town in Niigata was hit by a magnitude 6.8 temblor at least three times, and by tremors of magnitude 5.4-6.2 several more times in an among those. At the time of writing, the last time I had the news on, which was half an hour ago, the reporters hadn't yet gotten any word from the town at the epicenter. Apparently its power is down and all routes of communication cut off for the time being. We have no idea what state that poor town is in.
As for us here in Aso, I stood in this room watching the rack for this computer swaying back and forth with my heart in my mouth. The big pantry in the next room was up on two corners. Fortunately, the only casualty was a model of Darth Vader's Imperial Star Destroyer Taiki had made out of Brix blocks (or at least that's what he said it was). I'm really hoping it stays that way. Living next to an active fault line is something that you don't really think about until it suddenly decides to move.

Speaking of which, what has Mt. St. Helens been up to lately?

Friday, October 22, 2004

Not Billions and Billions, Just 6,000... in that is how many years old the universe is as of today according to a 17th century geologist who painstakingly calculated the date using the Bible.

I once participated in a D&D campaign in which the dungeonmaster, a very practical, intellectual type who was a stickler for scientific accuracy, told us the wooden doors of a castle we were exploring were petrified.

Ever the picky sort, I promptly pointed out that it would take hundreds of thousands if not millions of years for wooden doors to become petrified. (I neglected to mention that they'd also have to be buried, but whatever.)

The dungeonmaster immediately put on his "you poor simpleton" face, switched to his "you hopeless ignoramus" tone of voice, and said, "Carbon dating says that, but every scientist worth his salt knowns that carbon dating is highly inaccurate. The Bible says very specifically that the world is only about six thousand years old, and I tend to accept that."

Another "scientifically-minded" Christian fundie I know very well once said something along the same lines, but he (to his error) went so far as to say that carbon dating has an inaccuracy range of around 3,000 years. Okay, but if you're talking about dating of fossils and strata that are millions of years old, that means an error factor of less than a percent. It probably would have made a better argument to be more vague and leave out the numbers.

Religious fundamentalism can be such an intriguing thing...

After seeing that Snabbynews letter sent around with the link to the article telling how the NeoCon administration is subtly encouraging Creationist education in our national parks (e.g. the Grand Canyon was formed by Noah's flood), I'm almost surprised Bush, inc. hasn't declared "Universe Day" a national holiday.

Life in the Land of the Rising Sun: Remote Journalism

I just had the dangedest thing happen to me yesterday (he says, unconsciously revealing his rural Oregon heritage).
I'm not talking about the "drama appreciation" event that took place the same day, though it was pretty interesting, too. Having to walk almost three miles from the school to the Kashima Workers' Culture Hall (Workers of the world, unite and be cultured!) helping shepherd about fourteen dozen 9th-grade monkeys in the waning wind and rains in the wake of typhoon #23 (apparently known as "Tokage" on the other side of the ocean) was definitely an experience, I tell you. The play itself, a modern, Japanese comic opera that drew heavily from Kabuki but employed a lot of modern (read "bathroom") humor, was well made, well executed, and a total blast to watch. (I have to admit, seeing a really cute, cartoonish horse character drop dead after drinking a cup of poisoned sake and then have a large, pink, inflatable penis suddenly pop up from its lower body definitely made my day...week...decade?)(The students told me it was fortunate I could only understand about half of the dialogue. Apparently it was extremely off-color.) The fact that I was even able to (forced to?) go to the thing was amazing. I was supposed to be held up by my 12th grade class in the morning, but, wouldn't you know it, that class wound up being pre-empted by an achievement test. (Personally, I think it was a conspiracy.)
I'm not talking about the hopeless mess of a girl in my homeroom (actually, I'm the assistant homeroom teacher, but the regular teacher was out, so I was in charge), who had skipped school every day for the previous month because she was living with her boyfriend, suddenly showing up at the Culture Hall about halfway through the play. She was actually wearing her uniform properly, too, for a change, though her orange hair stuck out a bit in the crowd. She didn't look very happy.
I'm not talking about my briefly nodding off mid-lecture, mid-sentence, on my feet during my 7th grade Oral English Communication class in the fifth period.
I'm not even talking about the emergency rehearsal I scheduled for the jazz band to make up for the one wiped out by typhoon (Tokage) #23 the day before. Unfortunately, the senior high members wound up showing up really late, and I had to stop it early, so we were able to practice all of two songs. The performance is tomorrow...ecch....
Actually, what REALLY made that totally unusual Day from Purgatory was THE INTERVIEW (major 9th chord fanfare). That's right, I was interviewed by NHK TV.
You see, a program that covers news and events in Ibaraki Prefecture was doing a story about Todd, an American who works at the capital. He is Ibaraki's C.I.R., or Coordinator of International Relations. In other words, he's sort of the "head gaijin" for the area. He is personally involved with any and all official activities that involve foreigners here. He is famous for showing up at festival events in a clown suit. He also plays the sousaphone, and he directs a dixieland jazz combo. I happen to be a member of that combo. The station had asked Todd to bring his band to the studio to play live on the program. Unfortunately, thanks to the "drama appreciation" event, my oh-so-important 5th period class, and my desperately needed (but ill-fated) jazz band rehearsal, I wasn't able to make it. As it turned out, only one other member besides Todd was able to attend.
NHK, being the state TV channel, wasn't going to give up without a fight. When they heard that there was another gaijin in the band, they were determined to get me involved one way or another, so they decided to bring me in live on camera and interview me. Now, tell me...what does a live camera interview usually entail? It usually involves sending a reporter, a camera crew, a sound crew, a couple of technicians (i.e. people who fuss over the equipment before giving up and going with the reporter's idea and claiming it's their own), a couple of people with no use whatsoever, and the guy that drives the van, right?
Come on! This is the 21st century! They conducted the interview via a TV phone. Yes, you read that right. They mailed me a TV cell phone. It looks like a perfectly ordinary cell phone with a camera, which is something everyone but me owns right now. My own cell phone is a relic from the dark ages that existed before 2002, when internet capability was still considered neat, but anyway, this was no ordinary cell phone. It had a TV camera, and it had extra buttons. It had lots, in fact. It had so many that the technician explaining to me how to use it over the phone had no idea whatsoever, so I had to figure it out largely by trial and error. Fortunately, during the practice session, we got it working right.
Anyway, when the program began, the studio called me on the TV phone, whereupon I pushed, not the phone button, but the TV button. I then got to see an image of what my face looked like coming through the camera. I also got to see the TV program in progress. I watched as Todd, in his clown suit, and the other member of the band that had arrived come into the studio and performed. Then they interviewed the members for a while, showed some film clips of Todd in the field, and then interviewed them some more. Then, out of the blue, they announced that there was another amerikajin in the band, and I JUST HAPPENED TO BE THERE!!!
There was a ping, a light came on, and they greeted me. I was on TV!!!!!!!
My hands were a bit cramped from having already had to hold that phone for over twenty minutes, but I held it as steady as possible and proceeded through the on the air chat.
That was when, in the next room, the concert band suddenly started playing the loud, brassy fanfare that kicks off "Disney Fantillusion". And they didn't just play that wonderfully exciting fanfare once, but OVER AND OVER AGAIN BECAUSE THE KIDS COULDN'T GET IT RIGHT.
Thanks to the timely Disney assault, I could no longer hear what the TV announcers were asking me, and I couldn't get up to go into the next room to tell the concert band to shut the fark up. I didn't even have a convenient firearm with which to shoot Mr. Karatsu, who was conducting the thing. (Yes, I had informed them in advance of the interview...which REALLY MAKES ME WONDER...) All I could do was make an educated guess as to what they wanted me to say and improvise. Luckily, my responses seemed to be okay, because they kept me on the air and continued chatting with me for several minutes in a rational, good-natured manner. (Actually, the lead female announcer for the program...who is very cute, by the way...called me today to thank me, and she said that my witty dialogue actually helped carry the program. I responded by saying in all honesty that I really wasn't sure what I'd been talking about.)
After the segment ended, the local news segment started. The engineer came online and told me that they'd go ahead and keep the connection open so I could continue to watch the program. My hands were shaking now, and I really wanted to go throttle somebody in the next room, but I went ahead and watched the news. All those scenes of flooding, overturned trucks, and damaged roofs thanks to typhoon #23 (Tokage) did a lot to calm my more murderous feelings.
(Mr. Karatsu insisted later that he'd had no idea I'd been in the process of the interview just outside the door. He said the students had just come down and asked him to conduct a quick band practice since I had terminated the jazz rehearsal early. Considering I had asked the student band chairwoman to see to it personally that the noise level was kept down until I gave the all clear, I REALLY have to wonder who pulled that one off.)
Well, anyway, that was my nifty experience. I was interviewed by a TV station and appeared live on the air without ever meeting anyone face-to-face. All my communication was via phone, and I received the remote camera by mail to operate myself. The sheer novelty, if not audacity, of the endeavor is amazing enough, but, on the other hand, I can't help seeing this as yet another example of how the internet/cell phone era has led society to be colder and more isolated.
But at least I got to see the face of that cute announcer talking to me on that little screen!

(Okay, the female viewers of this blog, I will stick my head in a bucket...)

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Life in the Land of the Rising Sun: Come Together...Right Now...

Oh, joy, oh, joy! A brand new toy! Something new to play with, at the very least!
Ever since time immemorial (i.e. I can't remember when it started), our school's music department has had on ongoing lease contract with upgrade options for a Mac. As in computer. As in Apple. Over the past eight years, I've seen a modest, little PowerMac evolve clear up to a very imposing G3.
The arrangement made perfect sense at first. All the best professional music composing and sheetmusic design software at the time was for the Mac. The "drooling cyberplegic user" simplicity of the Mac OS was also perfectly suited to Mr. Ogawa, who was and is a notorious technophobe. Even when the school started going Windows all around him, Mr. Ogawa stubbornly stuck to his Apple box for as long as he was able. Still, he was only delaying the inevitable; he was finally forced to surrender to the Empire. There was just no way he could integrate the Mac into the school's rapidly-expanding network (or so he was told).
Gritting his teeth all the way, Mr. Ogawa leased the first NEC laptop and had it wired into the school's network. Getting the hang of it was something he never accomplished (and probably never will in this life), but he actually seemed to enjoy being nursemaided along by me, Mr. Karatsu, or whatever student with cyber-savvy happened to be nearby. As time went by, he and that cantankerous, little machine came to be virtually inseparable. Meanwhile, the Mac came to be used less and less. When he went ahead and upgraded it to the G3, we were wondering what he was thinking. By then, that fancy-looking machine was only being used for duplicating CDs and watching DVDs. Both Mr. Karatsu and I, not to mention several students, all had Windows machines that could do the same thing. It seemed like that G3 was nothing but an expensive waste of space.
Imagine my surprise when the G5 was brought in last week. I've got to hand it to Apple. They really know how to make a computer with stage presence. I mean, there's a typical PC, and there's a Gfrigging5! The main element alone, made of metal that looks like stainless steel (but obviously isn't), would be perfectly at home on a pedestal in an art museum. That nice, wide, flat LCD monitor, set in a transparent frame/pedestal, is beautiful, too. Then there's that OS X system. Talk about a colorful, funky-looking desktop!
I had played around a bit with the G3, which had OS 9. OS X was kind of the same, but totally funkier. Kind of like Windows XP was to 2000, only different. Just looking at it, I could almost hear the animated icons saying, "PLAY WITH ME!!!!!"
Mr. Ogawa also encouraged me to play with the much as possible. Just to drive home the point, he installed Siberius on it. Siberius is the latest professional music composing/publishing software, made by a British firm but marketed by Yamaha. Mr. Ogawa bought a copy last year (and is still afraid to touch it), and I liked it so much I bought my own (thanking Heaven for academic discounts). I then wound up becoming the chief arranger/scorer/composer/sheetmusic maker for both the school music department and the Kashima Philharmonic Orchestra. I use Siberius on my Windows XP-equipped laptop of course, but the program works best on a desktop model. That's why I was intrigued with the idea of it being installed on the wonderful, new Apple toy.
The first thing I noticed was that there was absolutely no difference between the Windows and Mac versions other than the fact that the Mac version, when started, blends directly into the desktop, as all Mac apps do. Also, whereas the Windows button uses "ctrl" button key commands, the Mac uses "command" button commands, but the associated letter is exactly the same. Ctrl-C to copy, ctrl-V to paste, ctrl-"up" to kick it up an octave, ctrl-Z to undo. Replace "ctrl" with "command" (actually with a weird, percent-like symbol on the button) and it's exactly the same.
Then I noticed something else. One of my gripes about Mac in the past was the fact that it didn't allow detailed file management like DOS/Windows, LINUX, or any UNIX-based system. However, I noticed something on OS X when I went to save a new music file. There was a tag on the file name, i.e. a dot followed by three letters. That surprised me, because it was such a DOS/Windows thing. It also surprised me that it was the same tag used by the Windows version. That gave me an idea. I went and got a CD-R that had copies of all my compositions and arrangements made with Siberius (Windows version) to date and popped it into the G5. The computer read the files, formed the program association, and worked normally. Neat! I can use DOS files on OS X without any extra virtual PC software.
I can also use many kinds of DOS files on Lindows, the version of LINUX installed on some of the computers in the English department, and also on the Open-format LINUX that runs on my wife's little pocket assistant. It would appear that the differences between the different OSes in the world are gradually being erased. The file standard is becoming universal, the programming languages compatible, and the operating approach based on the same general idea. The only really noticeable difference between the OSes is becoming the "funk factor", i.e. the personality and level of customization. There are also issues of speed, reliability, and convenience. Even so, it seems like the whole cyber world is being grouped together to form one, big, co-functional family, if a bit dysfunctional at times. I can understand and accept it all from the standpoint of convenience. After all, standardization can be a very good thing. However, it also kind of takes the fun out of it. If the only really noticeable difference between Windows and Mac is the look of the desktop, one has to wonder why we even need to have the choice. Why do we need Lindows, Red Hat, Corel LINUX, whatever, if it just all ends up being another version of DOS? Or is it all really just various incarnations of UNIX? It's kind of a shame, really. Variety is the spice of life, and all this uniformity is making things kind of bland. Easy to use, just like American Budweiser is easy to drink, but lacking in flavor. Too much of a good thing, even togetherness, can't be all that good.
Speaking of which...
At my son's kindergarten's field day last month a surprise announcement was made. Rumors had been bouncing around for quite some time, but now it's official. Next January, our sleepy, little town of Aso (motto: Who needs roads when there are so many kilometers of driveways?) is going to jump on the consolidation bandwagon. Kashima started it several years ago when it digested Ono village and became Kashima City. Then Itako swallowed up the neighboring town of Ushibori a couple of years ago and became Itako City (giving the residents of the former Ushibori a 38% increase in their water and sewer bills...much to their displeasure). Then it was announced that Kamisu and Hasaki are going to merge to become Kamisu City. Well, rumors bounced around here for a while, but now it's official: next January, Aso and the neighboring towns of Tamatsukuri and Kitaura are going to go through anti-mitosis and become Namegata City. I won't even have to move, and I will become a city dweller next year...if only in name.
The progressives are happy, because now they can say they no longer live in a country town. Businesses are happy, because consolidation reduces certain forms of red tape and makes for an easier infrastructure. The general folk, however, are fuming. Some are practically frothing at the mouth. You see, these towns have a long history, and their populations are mostly rather old. They have a lot of local pride which is threatened to some degree by the consolidation. There is also the no small matter that Aso and Tamatsukuri have long disliked each other, as the strange, little "mall war" that occurred here recently attests. These are mostly very simple, down-to-earth people who live in neighborhoods where there are several dozen households but only two or three different last names. They know who they are, where they came from, and what they want for dinner every night of their lives. They also know that "them folks over across the line" are not to be associated with. But now they're told they're going to be living in the same city. Tarnation, but things like that can get under a man's hide!
I don't know why they're worried, though. I couldn't see the city for the tobacco fields and pig pens...
Hmm....I know the Aso town offices use Windows. I wonder if Tamatsukuri or Kitaura use Mac. It doesn't matter. They're all pretty much the same thing now, anyway.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Upward wealth redistribution

Take from the poor:

Donating a clunker won't be as good a deal after Jan. 1

Tucked into the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 - the big corporate tax-break bill that Congress passed this week - is a crackdown on a feel-good practice that has fast become one of America's favorite tax deductions: donating an old car to charity. The bill says that as of Jan. 1, you can take a tax deduction only for what a car sells for at auction after you give it to a charity. Under the old law, you could deduct what you could document as "fair market value."

The result of the change to taxpayers: The amount you can deduct is going to plummet. For instance, a $1,500 clunker likely will sell at auction for about $500. You'll get a letter from the charity after it sells telling you the price. There goes your fat deduction.


Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, author of the provision, said in a statement this week that he hopes the change will shut down "billions of dollars in tax shelters and shady tax practices."

Yes, let us assume everyone is guilty of cheating on their taxes using cars. Screw you, Grassley and the entire Congress (and likely President Bush or Kerry while we're at it 'cuz I am sure one will sign it). This is the same kind of BS deal tax raise they put on us when we bought our 90+% furnace a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to a change passed last year, in order to get our $350 tax credit for energy efficiency, we had to purchase a $1000+ commutating reversible motor with a negligible effect on efficiency. Yeah, that's worth it. Gov. Kulongoski and the state legislature snuck that little tax increase in.

Although it is eliminating a cut, I call it an increase because Republicans tend to call any elimination of cuts against the rich a tax increase so I figure, what the hell, the same should apply to us riff-raff. God, those people are whiny. They are among the most comfortable people living in the free-est country on Earth and they can't stop whining. They have the best that creation has to offer. Their kids seldom do the dying either, so shut up already. Give me a couple million; I'll never whine about money again.

Give to the rich:

Of course, I can't find it now, but the big tech firms (Microsoft, Intel, etc.) claim that they have billions of dollars off-shore because of the high tax rate. This act is supposed to give them a big tax break to claim that money in America, thus bringing the reinvestment here. Critics say that the money can be used for other purposes and that job creation here rather than off shore is a myth. (If someone recalls the article, please send it to me so I don't look as stupid as I do now). Of course there is a loophole and of course there won't be a flood of tech jobs in America, much as I personally would love it since I haven't had a freakin' salary increase since Clinton was President. Heck, I'm one of the lucky ones who never lost his job during that period...most of my colleagues did.

The Minstrel recently made a point to me about our two-party system here. I paraphrase it as Heads they win, Tails you lose.

Since this post isn't about Bush or Iraq, but about corporate shill bipartisanship, I will keep comments open...

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Lava continues oozing out of Mount St. Helens

Fiery, glowing lava continues to ooze out onto the Mount St. Helens crater floor as a new lava dome steadily grows in an area of the crater that has been rapidly uplifting since late September, scientists said Wednesday.

From the right vantage point, volcano-watchers in a helicopter may be able to see the lava at night.

“Incandescence continues to be visible intermittently north of the volcano, depending on weather conditions,” said Tina Neal, a USGS geologist. And overcast skies may prove helpful -- it’s possible clouds could reflect the red glow.

This is just great stuff. What a difference 18 years of volcanic inaction coupled with technological advances makes. Some of the footage of the erupting ash and steam from the local Fox station was just beautiful to watch and KGW got some great glowing lava shots (see above). It all serves to reawaken my own geological past and I am inclined to dust off those books and recall that great story of the evolving planet.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Cartoon Triple Threat!!!

(thanks to DewKid, Viet, and my Monday morning routine)

  1. JibJab sequel
  2. - This sequel to "This Land is Your Land" once again pokes fun at our Presidential candidates.

  3. The D & D song
  4. - This is a video poking fun at people of my generation who, um, played alot of Dungeons & Dragons and missed out on high school sex or something.

  5. Strong Bad Mail #116 - This cartoon pokes fun at, um, well, metal shoes that sound like vacuum cleaners...well, you have to be there.

Assume they are all rated PG-13 or not...I don't care.

What the (expletive) Is THIS About???!?

In a nutshell, the FBI has siezed hard drives related to IndyMedia from a hosting outfit located in the U.K.. That hosting outfit is forbidden from explaining why, even to the affected client:

Rackspace UK complied with a legal order and handed over hard disks without first notifying Indymedia. It's unclear if the raid was executed under extra-territorial provisions of US legislation or the UK's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). Provisions of RIPA make it a criminal offence to discuss warrants, so Rackspace would not be able to discuss the action with its customer Indymedia, or with the media.

In other words, the FBI doesn't need to explain why it is more or less shutting down several websites and a radio streaming service connected with IndyMedia, a non-profit, open media source, and the hosting firm can't do anything about it. It gets better:

Dai Davis, an IT lawyer at London law firm Nabarro Nathanson, said Rackspace's statement fails to clarify the legal basis of the raid. "If it was a RIPA warrant, Rackspace can't refer to it. Most RIPA warrants can be issued by the Home Secretary," he said. "The FBI has no jurisdiction in the UK and would need to act in concert with UK authorities, such as the security services or police," he added.

So we don't even know how the FBI was able to carry out the seizure on foreign soil. There has been speculation that the raid may have been carried out because a French IndyMedia site reportedly posted photos of Swiss undercover agents infiltrating a protest in France. There is no way to confirm this, or whether the said photos even exist on the site, because the hosting servers in question were carted off during the raid, and the FBI isn't talking.

There are an awful lot of "whathef*ks" connected with this. IndyMedia has been saying that the FBI and FCC have been shutting down community media sources right and left recently. Of course, after my personal experiences with IndyMedia, I know that statements like that should be taken with a very large grain of salt. On the other hand, the fact that the FBI has taken such an extreme step with no explanation given (and all explanations by involved parties forcibly preempted) causes that grain of salt to shrink a bit...or something like that.

In other news, Swiss undercover agents are apparently infiltrating protests in France...and the FBI is supporting them...


Thursday, October 07, 2004

More Tiny Cars

Hot Wheels

It's cute, tiny, and plastic. The kids love it (especially in Europe). It also gets 70 miles per gallon, and you can fit three side by side in a standard parking spot. Move over, Mini: The Smart microcar could be the next big thing on America's roads.


Over the past decade, the Mercedes spinoff called Smart has emerged as Europe's most daring car company. It has rolled out a four-wheeled motorcycle. It has introduced a novel interlocking design that allows owners to change the car's color panels as often as they change cell phone faceplates. It has opened the world's first online dealership and sells cars out of towering glass vending machines across Europe. And it has experimented with Bluetooth, offering smartphone and iPod integration before any other carmaker.

All that - plus a sticker price starting at $13,000 - has helped the company snag the youngest average buyer of any global auto manufacturer, a snappy 37. And Smart's buyers are an enviably affluent bunch. Nearly half pay in full and in cash.


What happens if some Detroit-engineered behemoth plows into the featherweight Fortwo? I got a pretty good idea, watching a Smart-sponsored crash test with a Mercedes E-Class: The big sedan crumpled, and the Fortwo ricocheted. In a separate test, by the European New Car Assessment Program, a 40-mph impact with a concrete wall failed to dent the safety cell. They awarded the Smart a three-star crash rating - nothing like a Volvo but better than a Ford Escort, which weighs nearly half a ton more than the Fortwo.

I wish they had this in a hybr...oh, never mind. It looks pretty cool and, of course, pretty expensive considering the size. Nonetheless, I would like two.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Mount Saint Helens Remembered

It is sometimes hard to picture the pre-eruption Mount St. Helens for me. I only went up there once to visit my now deceased brother who worked at the Boy Scout camp at Spirit Lake. What was once a pristine, still lake became a boiling pool of chemicals on May 18, 1980 incinerating and burying an old eccentric along with his cat and a few dozen others.

I remember it as it was and see it as it is, but somehow the difference in years retains the memories in two mental geographies as if there were two Loowits, the Puyallup Indian name for the mountain.

One was a conical dome like Mt. Fuji in Japan. A mountain of pumice so loose that every step forwards slipped you half a step backward. A place so lush and green that tales of Bigfoot were commonplace and the Elven glades of Rivendell were conjured in the minds of the young. I remember an icy blue lake and mossy waterfalls at the first Loowit.

I remember riding with my brother to see gray, scarred hillsides of blown down timber. This was the second Loowit; it was a different land and a different approach to the mountain. Over a thousand feet were knocked off, leaving a jagged-rimmed crater with a dome of lava in the middle like a Klingon sports facility. Seedlings and small trees were growing, but the land still appeared tortured. The lake was a different shape, the roads to it gone and replaced with hiking trails.

I also remember the transition. The deep concussion heard on May 18, 1980 during a Boy Scout flag ceremony. I remember seeing a black, towering cloud that looked like a giant thunderstorm from Hell and realizing by degrees that a monstrous eruption took place. I remember a month later running around the high school track with a dust mask on to limit exposure to the volcanic ash that had fallen around me.

And now we see that the mountain is not asleep. Indeed, even Mt. Hood has answered with a small earthquake of its own. We live in a volatile region indeed and, as gentle as our climate usually is, there are actions going on below our feet which continue to surprise and amaze us.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Max Frisch-Bitingly Funny Germans

Part I-I decided to share some hilarious fun I had in college with a great German class, which was about 20th Century German Theater. The class covered three playwrights, Max, Frisch, Freidrich Durrenmatt, and Bertolt Brecht.

This first part is about Swiss Max Frisch Frisch (1911-'91) and his most famous work, "BIEDERMANN AND THE FIREBUGS", (Die Brandstifter-more properly known as "The Firestarters" in England). Frisch was also a novelist, architect, and journalist; another of his famous works was the novel, "Homo Faber".

Here follows a general synopsis of the above-mentioned play from a 1998 review in Boston; "Although Biedermann was first staged in 1958, it's rooted in the disasters of the '40s, commenting most directly on Europe's (Switzerland's?) complacency during the rise of the Nazis. Set entirely in the bourgeois home of pretenious hair-tonic magnate Gottlieb Biedermann (he defines the expression "shady businessman"); The play explores the spineless protagonist's relationship with a couple of itinerant pyromaniacs who talk/bully their way into his house, use it as a base to terrorize the town, then pack it with explosives, and burn it to the ground with the entire family inside. A piggish ex-wrestler and a foppish waiter who met in prison while doing time for arson, the firebugs distract their host with jokes, bonhomie, and guilt trips but make little effort to hide their intentions. Initially Biedermann denies the obvious; later he tries to placate the firebugs with a lavish meal. In the end, however, he supplies them with the match. The best way to hoodwink people, one of the pyros observes, "is to tell the plain unvarnished truth. Oddly enough, no one believes it."

There are several jokes, some of which don't translate into English quite as well. There is a Greek-like Chorus, which comes on stage from time to time to comment on the action; in one of these bits they say, "Biedermann, Jedermann" (Biedermann, Everyman), which Frisch uses to point out the hypocrisy of the average suburanite. Also, Biedermann is exceedingly polite, to the point of fawning over his "guests", while at the same time treating his wife and employees like doormats.

Finally, I'd like to end with the best discussion of his work by an unknown author (the link has expired-I had saved a copy).

"Recurring themes in his works are identity, guilt and innocence, self-image and the problems that come up when we form images of others and see them only through this narrow channel.

Another issue of Frisch that is one of the leitmotifs of his literary as well as his political writings is his Swiss home. Switzerland's self-image as a respected consensus democracy, a cradle of human-rights and tolerance is thoroughly questioned and revised in Frisch's works. The small alpine country is itself a minature stage wherr problems, struggles, ideologies and pretensions become evident in a focused representation of the modern world.

Yet his position lacks the annoyingly permanent ideological raised finger that is characteristic for other authors such as Bertolt Brecht who has inspired Frisch in the use of his form and style of the so called epic theatre. [Interjection here-one biographer thought all his plays were "borrowed" in style from Brecht and Thornton Wilder!]

Frisch is more of a moralist who lets his readers explore the depths of the human soul and sets the path for him to draw his own conclusions while enjoying a good book or an evening at the theatre. It is self-recognition not promoting an ideology that Frisch is aiming at. In his plays he does not present the reader or the viewer with a version of the world that pretends to be objective - Frisch believes that reality evolves in the mind and imagination of every individual. All that the playwright can thus hope for is to substitute this story that we deem reality. It is only in this sense, as a "change of ideas" that real change is possible."

Saturday, October 02, 2004

1930's-Those were the Days!

Since most of you uncultured males don't seem to appreciate the finer points of historical costume, I will now beat you over the head with actual pictures!

Check this out-"Gay Washable" dresses, er I mean "Frocks". Hey, where's MY 89 cent "Frock" store!

"Ensembles that Stimulate Your Outdoor Personality"; Let's think about that for a moment. Yep, It's the first thing I think of when I want to go campin'. Looking gorgeous for the apres-ski crowd at the lodge....

Actual photo of 1934 dames, wearing the more real "cluttered look" rather than the clean, sporty lines of the above-pictured ladies!

Anyone wishing to donate to Ladybug's "Historical Costume Reconstruction Project" will receive an authentic photo of the costume you've sponsored! Pick from Ren-Faire Garbe, Old Europe, Fur-Trader Era North/Native American, Traditional Japanese Kimono or 20th Century Vintage! You'll be glad you did!

Fart Car

PARIS - Record-high oil prices might seem like bad news for the auto industry. But one European manufacturer plans to make a type of car unaffected by $50-a-barrel crude — cars that run on compressed air.

"It's safe, doesn't pollute, doesn't explode, it's not poisonous and it's not expensive," said Sebastien Braud, a representative for Luxembourg-based Moteur Developpement International.


By consuming much more energy from the power plant than it delivers on the road, Krause said, it could even do as much environmental damage as some gasoline cars.

"You may not have any pollution from the car itself," he said, "but you're just transferring the environmental burden to another place."

Krause's organization pushes a much simpler recipe for cutting greenhouse gas and toxic emissions from vehicles. If consumers ditched their SUVs and other gas guzzlers and chose engine capacities reflecting their real needs, he said, fuel consumption would drop by a third.

And this would be incompatible with the fart car how exactly? I think that Krause is really saying that he would rather make laws to stop people from doing what he doesn't like instead of creating alternatives to encourage them to meet the same objective. Good luck in your battle with multi-national car companies, Mr. Krause. You will need it.

In the mean time, I would be happy to drive the Fart Car...I'm not sure they really want me calling it that though.

Friday, October 01, 2004


Ichiro Suzuki Breaks Record

Ichiro Suzuki set the major league record for hits in a season with 258, breaking George Sisler's 84-year-old mark with a pair of singles Friday night.

The Seattle star chopped a leadoff single in the first inning, then made history with a grounder up the middle in the third.

Fireworks went off at Safeco Field after the ball reached the outfield, and Suzuki's teammates mobbed him at first base as the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Texas first baseman Mark Teixeira shook the Japanese outfielder's hand.

With the fans still cheering, Suzuki ran over to the first-base seats and embraced Sisler's 81-year-old daughter, Frances Sisler Drochelman.

Go Ichiro. I salute you.

Update: Japanese fans celebrate Suzuki's historic hit

Here is more information on what this means to the Japanese. Fortunately, the Minstrel already gave us some of this info in the comments section.

HP Lovecraft Film Festival is this Weekend

This is a reminder to all you people who like chaos, creepiness, the occult, and have an affinity towards 200 foot tall creatures with tentacles for a mouth to click the link above and attend the HP Lovecraft Film Festival (if you are near Portland, that is).

If you don't like that sort of thing...maybe you like Klingons or something.

Folk Costume/Native Dress/Fashion Statement

Almost every nation has some sort of regional costume, which ususally dates from about 1700-1850. Most also have distinct regional styles within each country, The title bar goes to a link with a fascinating discussion of the true German/Bavarian "Tracht" and it's infamous cousin, the pan-germanic "Dirndle/Lederhosen", (most often seen any local Oktoberfest). Like the Norwegian "Bunad", or the Scottish "Kilt", the choice of what you wear usually identifies your ancestry with a particular area. I personally have been very interested in all aspects of textile expression with native dress (especially embroidery & lace), for many years, ever since I worked in a Black Forest hotel in college. For part of the local costume, the young women wore a large wide-brimmmed straw hat with huge red pom-poms on it; if you were married, the pom-poms were black (hmmm, what could that possibly mean....) Here below are some links to other sites, (all are in English, or you can click on the British/American Flag for English).

Site for Normandy, France. (take a look at the hats, they look curiously close to the French Voyageur styles-not surprising, since most of the immigrants to Quebec were from Normandy)

Site for cheap, online ordering of kilts. Link goes to sexy Jacobite version!

Site for Norwegian Bunads, you can click on the map and bring up the Bunads from that region-Cool!