Some thoughts on Hiroshima, the city of peace

Some thoughts on Hiroshima, the city of peace
HONG KONG — Even before Donald Trump (R-Blowhard) won the election, I had planned to visit Hiroshima during my Japan tour. Now that he’s president, visiting this city is especially poignant. During the campaign, both Trump and his rival for the nomination, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), spoke casually of using nuclear weapons on ISIS and our other enemies, as if dropping them would solve all our problems. [See notes below for details.] Their comments made me cringe, as neither man seems to comprehend the horrors of nuclear weapons. If they did, they would never suggest using them in such an off-the-cuff manner. I wanted to visit Hiroshima to see how the city has rebounded from its utter destruction in 1945. Now, you would hardly know the city was once a pile of rubble. Ground zero is now occupied by a peace park, which is surrounded by high rise buildings. Hiroshima is a vibrant testimony to the strength of the human spirit. Rather than be depressed by my brief visit, I was uplifted. Hiroshima has moved on, choosing to stand for peace and reconciliation, not hate and retribution, despite the horrors the A-bomb brought on.. Everyone should read John Hersey’s Hiroshima. ...

A teacher grades Donald Trump’s remarks about Black History Month, gives speech an F

A teacher grades Donald Trump's remarks about Black History Month, gives speech an F
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN — Donald Trump (R-Blowhard) made some remarks Wednesday about Black History Month and (the bust of) Martin Luther King Jr. that have left many puzzled. For one thing, Trump appeared to believe Frederick Douglass (at left) was still alive, though he died 122 years ago. Less puzzling was the extent to which Trump took the opportunity to talk about himself and his campaign. In a speech of less than 800 words, he managed to address the topic of Black History Month and notable African-Americans less than half the time. To demonstrate what I mean, I’ve highlighted in red anything pertinent to the subject of Black History Month and struck out anything relating to Trump and his campaign and election. If this had been a homework assignment for a class of mine, I would have failed it, and required the student to rewrite it. It barely addresses the topic at hand, and the general tone is so casual and flip that it would lead one to believe the speaker not only knows very little about black history but that he doesn’t even care to. In my professional judgment, Trump barely spent five minutes preparing this talk. “Just a few ...

America safe for Chinese visitors now? I had no convincing answer 2

America safe for Chinese visitors now? I had no convincing answer
JISHOU, HUNAN — Yesterday we had English Corner, a regular event to give students a chance to practice their spoken English. During a lull in the activities, one student came over to ask me questions about the election of Donald Trump (R-Blowhard) as president. I’ll start with the last one, which floored me. “You know, I would like to study in the United States after I graduate. Will I as a Chinese be safe there?” Before Tuesday, I could answer this fairly confidently, “Yes, of course.” For the most part, students asking that question were not worried about prejudice against Asians, but about Americans toting guns everywhere. This time, though, the reason for the question was different, and not easy to address. Since Trump won, there have been scores of reports from across the USA about whites deliberately attacking African-Americans, Hispanics, Muslims, Asians, immigrants — anyone not obviously a white “American” — and telling them to die or leave. The worst incidents end up on the news, and that news finds it way around the world. Once perceived as a country of tolerance which welcomed people from all over the world, the United States now is perceived as a dangerous ...

The romantic and exciting life of an actor

I like following actors’ Instagram feeds, because they provide a glimpse into the ever romantic and exciting lives of the stars. For example, here is Emilia Clarke, who plays the Mother of Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones. Rain?! One is not amused…. now where are ones waterproof dragons when one needs them. #thiswigneedsalilmorecrownsandalillesswaterproofplasticheadgear #goodthingthiskweenknowshowtoposeintheraineh? 😎🙆👍 A photo posted by @emilia_clarke on Oct 7, 2016 at 10:29am PDT When we last left Daenerys, she, her dragons and a huge fleet were sailing to Westeros. They must have run into some bad weather.

Anonymous 3rd grade pizza math question drives Internet crazy

Anonymous 3rd grade pizza math question drives Internet crazy
JISHOU, HUNAN — It seems every few months or so the Internet is in turmoil about some silly “controversy” or another. The latest is the “Marty and Luis” pizza question. An image of the question, supposedly marked in green by a teacher, ended up on reddit two months ago, apparently as a criticism of American education, or teachers, or math. Who knows? Well, I’m a skeptic, so I went digging around the Internet trying to find the origin of the question and the image. The source of the question was easy to find: Pearson Education’s EnVision math series for 3rd Grade Common Core. The source of the image was a different matter. Using, I used the image as a search parameter. It’s earliest appearance was, oddly enough, on a German image collection site,, and it was posted there in March 2015! The account of the original poster, gelöscht-20111221-112645, has since been locked, and his new account, gelöscht-20120516-162657, is not visible to the public, though the images are searchable. Go figure. After this mysterious German appearance, the same image ended up on about a week later, where it began to attract the usual assortment of comments, ranging from ...

Queen calls Chinese delegation to UK ‘rude,’ comments blocked in China

Queen calls Chinese delegation to UK 'rude,' comments blocked in China
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II made some blunt comments about the behavior of a Chinese diplomatic delegation to the United Kingdom, which has apparently hurt Chinese feelings. In a conversation with the London police commander in charge of the delegation’s security, Queen Elizabeth was overheard saying the Chinese diplomats were “rude” to the British ambassador. China has bleeped BBC TV and radio reports about the comments, but has not blocked the BBC wholesale. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the UK in October to bolster trade between the two countries. Security was handled by Metropolitan Police Commander Lucy D’Orsi, who met the Queen at a Buckingham Palace garden party Tuesday. Their conversation was caught on camera. As reported by the BBC, it went like this: The Queen’s remarks were caught on tape as she was introduced to Metropolitan Police Commander Lucy D’Orsi, who the monarch is told had overseen security during President Xi’s visit to the UK in October. She is heard to respond: “Oh, bad luck.” An official went on to tell the Queen that Commander D’Orsi had been “seriously, seriously undermined by the Chinese, but she managed to hold her own and remain in command”. Commander D’Orsi told the ...

In which I recall the wise words, ‘Never assume’ 3

In which I recall the wise words, 'Never assume'
JISHOU, HUNAN — Journalists are often reminded to “never assume” they know the truth, or in fact if anyone knows the truth. Teachers need to follow the same advice, as I found out a few weeks ago in class. One of the activities in our Oral English textbook, which is published in the UK, asks the students to pair up and tell each other about a book they read as a child. Easy enough, right? Well, that’s what I assumed. In fact, it was not an easy task, because for a fair number of my students, the only books they had as kids were their textbooks in primary school. For these students hailing from the countryside, their first real chance to read a book for pleasure didn’t come until they boarded out to middle school. When I give my students this kind of assignment, I usually let them talk among themselves. If the hubbub seems to be winding down, I’ll ask a few of them to tell the class what they’d been discussing with their partner. Other times, I’ll join a group, or a student will ask me a question and I’ll stay and chat for bit. On this occasion, ...

Another Malaysia trip SIDEBAR: North Borneo Railway videos

Another Malaysia trip SIDEBAR: North Borneo Railway videos
There are the videos I took on the North Borneo Railway steam excursion Feb 13. I was trying to capture the sounds of the experience, as well as the operation of the locomotive. I have omitted the rather long video of the locomotive on the turntable, as it’s fairly easy to imagine what it looks like. The engine backs in, get turned around 180 degrees, backs out. I took the first video with my cellphone, and the others with my camera, a Nikon D3300. YouTube did the conversions. Looking out the window as the scenery passes by. You can hear the engine’s whistle as we approach road crossings. A view of the Vulcan Foundry 2-6-2 as we prepare to leave. The crew has been stoking the firebox to build up steam for the last few hours. On arrival at Papar, the final destination, passengers disembark, while the engine crew disconnect the locomotive from the front of the train, pull onto a siding, and back the engine onto the turntable. With the locomotive facing the other way, the crew has filled it up with water and is now ready to move it to the other end of the train for the ...

Global warming could cut my old neighborhood off from the rest of Long Island

Global warming could cut my old neighborhood off from the rest of Long Island
The image above comes from You can put in your zip code or city name, and see how rising sea levels would affect that area. So, I put in 11743 (Huntington, Long Island, NY) and scrolled over to the Causeway. People from Lloyd Harbor and Lloyd Neck know what it is, but for everyone else, it’s a narrow strip of land, barely wide enough for a two-laner, connecting Lloyd Neck at the top to the rest of Long Island at the bottom. Judging from the predicted sea levels, the Causeway would be under water, as would parts of Lloyd Harbor Road, and Lloyd Neck could become an island. Of course, local government and homeowners could afford to raise the road, or build a retaining wall to keep Oyster Bay and Huntington Bay from surrounding the Neck. It would be expensive, but feasible. Now consider what happens in other parts of the world where people don’t have the capital to protect their homes from rising sea levels. They will lose their homes and will need to relocate inland. If you scroll northward, some homes in Fiddlers Green would be underwater, too. Global warming is happening, whether you want to believe ...

VIDEO: The 1960s-style cartoon promo for China’s latest 5-year plan

So, either someone with a wry sense of humor, or with no sense of cultural relevance, produced this English-language cartoon to promote China’s latest five-year economic plan (十三五 shisanwu, the Thirteenth Five-Year Plan). Here it is on Here it is on YouTube. As Shanghaiist points out, no groovy cartoon can make any five-year economic plan at all interesting, especially to teenage bands cruising a Peter Max China on top of VW Combis.

This week in Republican scientific ignorance

This week in Republican scientific ignorance
Stupid or ignorant? You be the judge. On Monday, a state senator in Idaho, Rep. Vito Barbieri (above, left) showed some confusion about human anatomy. He asked if doctors could send a small camera into a woman’s stomach to conduct a remote gynecological examination. The question Monday from Republican state Rep. Vito Barbieri came as the House State Affairs Committee heard nearly three hours of testimony on a bill that would ban doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing medication through telemedicine. Dr. Julie Madsen was testifying in opposition to the bill when Barbieri asked the question. Madsen replied that would be impossible because swallowed pills do not end up in the vagina. “Fascinating. That makes sense,” Barbieri said, amid the crowd’s laughter. Link. A few days later, Nevada assemblywoman Michele Fiore — also a Republican — declared on a radio program that cancer is a fungus, and can be flushed out of the body with intravenous injections of salt and baking soda. “If you have cancer, which I believe is a fungus,” she began, citing a widely debunked theory that the American Cancer Society warns about, “and we can put a pic line into your body and we’re flushing with, say, salt ...

This week in America’s drive for excellence: Oklahoma to defund AP US History

This week in America's drive for excellence: Oklahoma to defund AP US History
Once again, the College Board AP program is under attack, this time in Oklahoma. Legislators there think the AP US History program is just like the Common Core — a pernicious influence on tender young American minds who will not learn that America is The Greatest Nation of All Time. So, state Rep. Dan Fisher (R-Nutjob) wants to defund the AP US History program. It’s another great step in making American exceptional, but in the wrong way. The Tulsa World has this report of a committee hearing about education funding: During discussion and debate, however, it was suggested that AP courses are similar to Common Core, in that they could be construed as an attempt to impose a national curriculum on American schools. It was also suggested that AP courses violate the legislation approved last year that repealed Common Core, with state Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, saying she has asked the state Attorney General’s Office for a ruling on the matter. That legislation gives sole control of curriculum and assessment to the state, although it was not immediately clear whether the requirement applies to all courses or only to required courses. Last year, conservative educators in Colorado also attacked ...
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