Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Thar she blows!

A hump like a.. Oh my. Oh my god.

That was the scene last week, according to an article entitled Whale harpooned, hauled in by Japanese boat in front of whale-watching tourists.

SAPPORO -- Eco-tourists on a whale-watching vessel, looking forward to observing the mighty creatures in their natural habitat, were instead greeted by the sight of a harpooned whale being dragged in by a Japanese whaling vessel on Friday.

At about 10:44 a.m. on Friday, a whale was spotted spraying water from its blowhole near a whaling boat, about 3.5 kilometers away from the whale-watching vessel off the coast of Hokkaido's Shiretoko Peninsula. But when the vessel approached, the passengers on board found that the whalers had harpooned the Baird's beaked whale, and it was hauled in by the whaling boat about 20 minutes later.

I'm not really sure why this article gave me such a case of the giggles. Maybe it was because the people on board we referred to as "eco-tourists". Or maybe it was because the article said that "a French woman who was on the vessel with her husband reportedly said the experience made her feel ill".

What's worse than a boatload of eco-tourists? A boatload of French eco-tourists.

Toshifumi Nakamura, the whaling ship's captain, was quoted as saying, "Nothing says 'eco-tourism' like a column of blood and sputum shooting out of a whale's blowhole. The vomit and tears of anguish from the whale watchers also serve as chum for many types of fish, which we catch and eat for lunch."

A baby-seal troller that happened to be in the area snapped a picture of the distraught French woman.

That stuff wasn't in the actual article, but I'm pretty sure that's how it went down.

This part was in the article though:

The 46-year-old captain of the passenger vessel was disappointed by the incident, which took place about 14 kilometers east of Rausu Port in Hokkaido.

"It's my job to show people whales and it's the whalers' job to catch them, but I wonder how this can be avoided," he said.

Here's a tip: Bring binoculars. Or a spyglass, which you should already have if you're the Captain of a Vessel. It said the whale and the whaling ship were 3,500m away when they headed over. That's just over 2 miles - not far. If you're running a whale watching tour with a bunch of crazy French eco-tourists and you see a whaling ship approaching a whale, don't go towards it. I'm just spit-ballin' here, but it also might be better if you didn't run your whale watching tours where whales are harvested.

Another thing that made me chuckle is the fact that I'm sure the whaling captain knew that the whale watchers were there, but just cruised by with a giant whale corpse lashed to his ship. "Oh, was I not supposed to butcher this fellah? I thought you guys wanted a better look. Here's a close up."

Mental note: Don't whale watch in countries that like eating whales. Especially Japan, where when they don't feel like being told what to do, they do what you don't want them to do times a thousand right in front of you.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

"Don't mind him, he's homeschooled"

That's what I said to my friend's girlfriend a few years ago when he was goofing around.

"What's THAT supposed to mean? I was homeschooled", she snarled.

Foot-in-mouth 72347 of 93627.

The reason I bring this up is because for some reason, over the last few days I've heard a couple of people mention homeschooling. I have pretty strong reactions to homeschooling, mainly because I think it's a huge disservice to children. I did a quick little google search on homeschooling and found this written by an advocate of homeschooling. Here are some reasons he thinks it's a good idea, and some of his refutations of commonly held misconceptions.

Let's take a look.

One of the silliest and most annoying comments made to homeschooling parents is, "Aren't you concerned about how your child will be able to socialize with others?". What is being implied here is that the homeschooled child is some kind of introverted misfit who cannot relate to other people, children, and the outside world. In reality, most of the homeschooled children that I have known and met are not only outgoing, but polite and respectful, too. This is a sharp contrast to the public school children that I have known, who can't relate to adults and whose behavior is rude and inconsiderate.

Introverted? No. Misfit? Yes. A child who interacts with mainly children will not interact like an adult, and a child who only interacts with adults will not act like a child and will be, by definition, a mis fit. It's a matter of peer groups.

Who is responsible for creating this "socialization" problem? This myth has been perpetrated by sociologists, psychologists, public school administrators, the NEA (and local teacher's unions), etc., whenever they comment on homeschooling to the news media. These are the same people who give Ritalin (a very strong narcotic) and other drugs to schoolchildren, in place of discipline.

I guess finger pointing and conspiracy theorizing is included in the homeschool curriculum.

Opponents of homeschooling can't complain about average test scores, since homeschooled children consistently outscore public school children, so they instead make a problem that doesn't exist.

Aah the test score. I love it when people cite test scores. While I do agree that there should be a standard, test scores are often more indicative of how well someone studied for a test rather than how much information they actually know or can retain. Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans (and most other people I guess) regularly pwn Americans in the whole test taking thing and like to point to it as some evidence that they are smarter/superior/whatever to us. Suffice it to say that I have yet to see Americans flocking to other countries seeking citizenship and jobs, while the opposite is readily observable. I also like citing test scores because I got a 900 on the SAT and a 21 on the ACT, which has gotten me a lot of laughs. I turned out ok.

In order for children to become assimilated into society properly, it is important to have a variety of experiences and be exposed to differing opinions and views.

Nothing says "differing opinions" than having parents create and teach a curriculum.

Homeschooling allows parents the freedom to associate with other interested parties, visit local businesses, museums, libraries, etc. as part of school, and to interact with people of all ages in the community. For example, my son goes on field trips with other homeschooling families in our community.

Again, I'm sure the range of opinions and outlooks is earth shattering.

My wife and I like to bring our son with us when we are visiting with friends and other adults. How else will he learn to be an adult, if he never has contact with adults?

He's got a point here. When I wasn't associating with children at my public concentrationcampschoolag, I was barred from interacting with adults and locked in a closet. Homeschooling would have been totally awesome because I would have been able to hang out with adults, which is what I really wanted to do when I was a child. Anyway I'll be right back, I made doodie in my pants and need my mom to change it for me, because my public school upbringing never taught me how to be an adult.

Dakota Fanning: Homeschooled

The title of this video clip should be "When Social Maladroits Collide". I can't say that though, because Japan has extremely high test scores compared to the USA.

Some homeschoolers probably find the precociousness of their children charming. Some homeschoolers, like one I met before, wear velcro shoes with suits. I find a lot of this sort of behavior reminiscent of Asberger's syndrome. Being a kid is fun -- Chuck E Cheese rules apply. Let a kid be a kid.

I'm sure homeschooling has its benefits, but it's easy to overlook the "socializing" factor because it's difficult to measure. I've met a lot of mal-socialized products of public school systems. Hell, most would say that I'm malsocialized myself. But the homeschooled people I've met (and their parents) are off the charts and ill equipped to deal with the hardships and cruelty of many social situations. Social interaction is nasty business, and some people have a tough time dealing with it. I did. But having it thrust upon me made me a stronger person, and I'm didn't have to deal with it for the first time at age 18, 20, or 25. I hated school, but what I learned there was more valuable than anything that can be found on a standardized test. Apathetic parents make apathetic students -- if a parent is unconcerned about their kid's progress at school, the kid will be unconcerned, and vice-versa. Denying a child years worth of a shared cultural foundation is, as I said, a disservice, which will be obvious to everyone around them for a very long time.

Disclaimer: I don't have any psychological or sociological data to back any of this up, but this might help my case because according to the author of the page I cited, psychologists and sociologists are responsible for the myth that homeschooled kids are poorly socialized. All opinions are formed based on the personal experiences of me, a social misfit in many ways, having my socks knocked off by the misfit behavior of homeschooled kids I've met.

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