Saturday, February 27, 2010

Learning about the earthquake in Chile

Today, just as we were leaving for the town of Samaipata and the ancient "fort" there, Rafa got a phone call about the 8.8 degree quake that hit Chile at 3:30 this morning. Obviously, this meant that we immediately started trying to call or get in contact with her friends and family in Chile. I have been trying to call using Skype to some of her family members as we sit in the Lorca cafe (it's a lot easier and nice to call from a cafe instead of a phone booth). This whole thing reminds me of when my brother was in Kobe during the 1997 quake (he was okay - having gone to Kyoto) and during the 9/11 attack on NYC (again, he was okay - not yet having left his house in NJ). I sincerely hope that all of Rafys' family is okay today.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

First impression of La Paz

Flying into La Paz was interesting: many small brick buildings on the outskirts of the city's airport. The flight path brought us in over mountain peaks and flat plains with lots of small fields, green in their summer growing season. Rivers and creek channels dug high-power cuts into the slopes, turning into anastomozing channels once they hit flat land. River geomorphology in action!

As the plane sat on the tarmack in La Paz, passengers going to Santa Cruz were asked to stay on board, and as the plane was serviced by very efficient staff members, I could feel the thick Miami air pressure drain out of the airplane, and even as I was sitting at my seat, each breath became more difficult to take. I had traveled - by the opening of the cabin door - from sea level (Miami) to nearly 12,000ft. in the course of seconds. Maybe I did need to get altitude sickness pills...

It was interesting watching the ground crew, as they were loading and unloading the plane. Every time one of them wanted to enter the plane's cargo hold, the worker would dash up to the female supervisor, stand in front of her with arms open wide, and undergo a pat-down. I had never seen such actions before, and wondered if it is something that American Airlines decided to do at certain airports, if it's a Bolivian law, or something else.

The plane is now out over a plain of clouds, and on its way to humid, warm (maybe rainy) Sta. Cruz.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Sometimes the forecast is just not exactly accurate. Even as late as yesterday afternoon, the forecast was predicting Ann Arbor to get 2-4" of snow overnight and throughout today, with an additional 1-2" tonight. However, it appears to already be more than 4"... Oh well...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Throwing it all on a VAT?

Just reading through some of the things by Tyler Cowen as to why a VAT may be the way to go for the US:
1. The United States is on an unsustainable fiscal path.

2. For whatever reason, long-term interest rates don't reflect this problem.  There will either be a sudden collapse of demand for government securities, or the current market already is figuring we will get a VAT.  Either way it is more revenue for the government or a Greece-like scenario writ large.

3. I would prefer spending cuts, but voters seem too irrational to be willing to cut spending; here the libertarian argument comes back to bite us on the bum.  They might be willing to cut spending once a financial crisis arrives (though maybe not), but then there will be days or only hours for decisive action.

4. We could, for now, wait and postpone fiscal reform.  That means encountering a sudden collapse some number of years from now.  We will then clean up the budget in some way, but under a TARP sort of mood rather than what we might do today.

5. We'll get a better deal, and make wiser decisions, if we do it today rather than in a panic.  Plus another financial crisis would prove deadly to both the budget and to the quality of economic thinking.

6. There exists a credible bipartisan deal which involves at least half the VAT revenue for deficit reduction, combined with cuts, or slower increases, in marginal tax rates on income and perhaps an elimination of the corporate income tax.  Spend some of the rest on health care for the poor, if that is the deal on the Democratic side.
I'm not an economist - micro nor macro - but having lived in countries with a VAT (and subsidized health care, staple foods, etc. to offset the impact of a VAT on lower-income people), I can say that it didn't seem too horrible. Of course, I wasn't earning any real income, nor did I own property of any value, so my recollections are not the best yardstick. However, the idea of shifting revenue streams from income taxes to a VAT is somewhat appealing (doing it in addition to income taxes is not very appealing at all), and would have the additional benefit of making it real easy to determine your cost at the cashier (since all the taxes would be added into the price already; thus the name "Value-Added Tax").

There are, of course, the regular arguments that one may hear about VAT: that it is a greater financial burden on the poor, since a larger percentage of their income would be going to pay for VAT. However, that can be ameliorated by various measures, including subsidies on staple products or VAT-refunds (or something even more clever). If the country shifted to VAT, it would definitely simplify the tax code, creating fewer loopholes, lowering the income tax rate (possibly all the way to 0% for earned-income). This would diminish the size of the GOP-despised Internal Revenue Service, since there would be fewer needs to conduct audits on tax returns (it might even get rolled into a single agency alongside the Security Exchange Commission, so that one agency is in charge of all financial-related policing).

[Disclaimer: I'm writing this while hyped up on coffee and tea, so my mind isn't the clearest at the moment. Still, if you would like to write in to comment, feel free to do so.]

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I hope Sullivan's right.

A recent blog post by Andrew Sullivan:
Isn't it telling that as Cheney spent Sunday morning attacking the president for not being serious about the war on terror (by which he seems to mean solely Obama's refusal to commit war crimes), Biden must have already known about the capture of Mullah Baradar? The administration could have blown Cheney out of the water, but, of course, chose not to.
Because they are serious about national security and do not put domestic political games before it. Unlike Cheney, who never wasted an opportunity to use a war to score political points at home. In the end, I believe this president's calm and sincere and determined efforts to keep this country safe and to defuse the appeal of Islamist terror will be better understood and appreciated. And that he has done so by adhering to American values will go a long way to repair some small part of the damage Cheney inflicted.
Oh, I really hope so. However, the sound of no hands clapping is always such a difficult thing to hear (about as difficult to hear as hands clapping inside a vacuum). True, it's classier to just go and do your job as opposed to playing terrorist-baiting politics. Yet, if the other side doesn't recognize class, then your efforts are all for naught.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Not post-racial, and I can't figure out why anyone thought it might be

Tonight, Keith Olbermann had, what was in my opinion, a very insightful closing piece about racism and the Tea Party. It was something that I commented on almost immediately last year, when I saw the first rally on April 15 and on through the summer: they are almost entirely white people. Now, this doesn't automatically mean that they are racist. However, their signage continued an annoyingly nearly-obvious racism that was conducted through the campaign: that of painting Obama as some "scary black man" out to destroy America.

I heard, time and again, throughout the summer of 2009 about how this wasn't this woman's or that man's America anymore, and that it had been changed beyond all recognition. While I might not be out in the world as much as I would like, I didn't really see any major differences between the time Obama was inaugurated toward the end of January 2009 and the major Tea Party protests of July and August of that year. The only major difference was the man at the top wasn't a Republican, and that the man had a funny sounding name. Oh, and that he was black.

What I did see, though (especially during the summer), was a lot of older (middle-aged or older) white people, usually overweight, yelling at someone (either singly or en masse) about how "Obamacare" would completely destroy this country. And there were also some people making naive calls for a return to a simpler time. On this last topic, the Daily Show did some really insightful reporting:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Even Better Than the Real Thing
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Still, though, no one heard overt racist statements - at least on the national media (well, unless you include the statements made by Glenn Beck about Obama hating "white people" and "white culture"). You heard things like, "he's arrogant" or, "he's uppity" -- terms that I've now come to learn are code words with racist overtones. (True, a person can be arrogant and uppity, but accusing that person of these qualities when he does nothing to deserve it allows this double meaning to peek through more readily.)

More recently, you can hear people saying that the only reason Obama got elected was because of guilty Whites (can we say racial purity tests?) and minorities (why is this not racist?), and at the recent Tea Party Convention, the lead speaker - Tom Tancredo - even called for a "civics literacy test for people to vote in this country" and that "people who could not even spell the word 'vote' or say it in English put ... in the White House ... Barack Hussein Obama). For those of you not familiar with "literacy tests" for the purpose of voting, you can either consult the Oracle of Wiki about the subject, or you can try to answer some questions that were used in such tests in the South during the mid-20th Century (remember that these tests were almost exclusively aimed at black voters). No, the point was not to test the person's literacy (i.e., their ability to read what was on the paper). Nor was it to test the person's knowledge of state and federal civics. It was to test - using the cover of civics and literacy testing - the person's ability to answer such arcane trivia, so as to make it next to impossible for the person to actually vote.

As usual, I have gone in a tangential direction, so let me conclude by jumping back to the point I started with: when a group composed almost entirely of white people say they are not racist, then one might raise an eyebrow; the group you are seeing could be from a predominantly white area, after all. However, when that same group starts to use imagery and statements that target the very first black president, calling him every negative name under the sun (e.g., fascist, communist, socialist, anti-Christ, Nazi, etc.), labeling him with terms that are veiled-racist take-downs, and - when amongst themselves - openly call for things that are tied strongly with a racist past, the credibility of the "we're not racist" response wears ever thinner. When the group of people claim to represent the people of the United States, but actually only represent a very specific portion of the country (in this case the white part), then, when added to the previous evidence, it starts to get a little bit more putrid.

For me, when the Tea Party showed up on my radar, I pegged it as likely being a racist group. True, they might not have actively sought out to be whites-only, but their attitude, their politics, and their purity tests have almost guaranteed that they will remain a nearly pearly-white party that therefore cannot speak to the wider audience that is America; that lives in the real world of international relations and having to work together.

By the way, perhaps it's this last thing that is what many of these pasty-faced American protesters felt they lost: the naive sense that America was the best thing in all ways in the world and would always be so, no matter what anyone in the world did. Perhaps the election of a bi-racial president who lived in other countries and had a foreign national as a father - and an African one at that - who also was able to excel at Harvard Law School and was willing to talk to the rest of the world as if they were significant -- in other words, the working reality of the world -- was what had changed about "their America." If that's the case, I say tough cookies.

Polar bear club

The polar bear mug club Monday 2010
Today was the Grizzly Peak's special "Polar Bear" Mug Club Monday, where the beer was 25 cents each, and the appetizers and pizza were half price. Who could really say no? Well, I wasn't the only one. Officially starting at 4PM, I arrived at 4:05PM to find the entire outdoor seating area completely filled, and a line already starting to form.

Without any open seat at 4:05, I decided to wait for someone in the original group to take off early. Almost an hour later, the first seat opened up, and I jumped at it, not being a member of a group. However, about 30 minutes later, I still hadn't had the opportunity to order anything - much like my recollection from last year's event. As I sat there, slowly cooling down and seated at the brisk and breezy Ashley Street-end of the long table, I thrummed my gloved fingers on the table. Eventually, I got a beer - a warm-up ale - and put in an order for some pizzas. By the time I got some porter, the pizzas came, quickly cooling, in front of me.

Tasty dinner
After finishing my two pizzas and polishing off my ever-colder porter, I walked shakingly into the Peak to warm up with a properly warm beer. Sitting at the bar with feeling slowly trickling into my toes, I ended up chatting with a few older regulars about commuting in town on a bike, and we determined that cycling in Ann Arbor is actually not too bad, since Ann Arbor drivers expect to actually see bikes on the roads, and therefore know to drive slowly around us and - thankfully - not hit us.

Anyway, after finishing up a dark coffee beer, I worked up the warmth to cycle back home.

The problem with "Teach the Controversy"

A nice little animation of the problem of the phrase "Teach the Controversy."

Via Pharyngula

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Local weather versus global climate

According to Treehugger: The Utah House of Representatives just officially called Anthropogenic Climate Change a conspiracy. From their page:

It (obviously) continues further, but it's all in an effort to try and persuade the USEPA to not regulate carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.... because officially calling a duck an eagle - and making laws to ensure that this happens - doesn't change the "duckness" nature of the now-eagle (if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it's an eagle in Utah).

This seems to be a general movement that is taking place on the political "right" - Global Warming isn't happening, and where is Al Gore to eat humble pie? Luckily (and happily for me), MSNBC's Rachel Maddow brought on Bill Nye "the Science Guy" to explain why lots of snow in DC is actually what AGW predicts, and why a local phenomenon cannot be extrapolated to the world:

I like how the usually calm and jovial Bill Nye get's really angry at AGW denialists who (I thinke) he believes are actively and cynically lying to people and calls them unpatriotic and treasonous.

However, if you can't watch the clip, then basically, the science that Bill Nye discusses is that two things are happening this year: 2009 was globally one of the warmest years on record. This means that oceans are warmer (i.e., they have more thermal energy). Due to their higher thermal energy, more water is able to evaporate from the oceans, leading to greater amounts of humidity in the air, which leads to heavier snows. Add to that the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) effect - 2009 was an ENSO year - that normally plays havoc with North American winter weather, and it's not unexpected that the East Coast is suffering from snows. All the calls of "tell your congressman how many inches of global warming you've received" is actually accurate: AGW can cause more snow. If the temperatures during the winter remained above freezing, then it would have been a lot of rain, but guess what? A couple of degrees of warming isn't going to push winter temperatures in DC above freezing all too often, so those storms are gonna (due to phase shift) come down as frozen water: snow!

Interestingly (or maybe strangely), the right-wing zealotry over the message of "it's snowing a shedload over the Eastern United States, therefore AGW doesn't exist" actually got The Daily Show to cover it (well, that an the fact that it's based in NYC, where there was a shedload of snow):

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Unusually Large Snowstorm

Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

I really like how the Best F*cking Weather Team is able to show - through sarcastic satire - how disingenuous is extrapolation of local and short-term conditions (i.e., your weather outside your window) to global and long-term conditions (i.e., global climate). I also wrote about the difference between climate and weather and short-term versus long-term, but not with anywhere near as much pizazz as The Daily Show or Rachel Maddow.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why isn't the IOC studying the impacts of climate change?

I went over to the IOC website and found nothing with the searches of "Global Warming" and "Climate Change". If the IOC wants to actually continue existing (especially wrt the Winter Olympics) they should at minimum be doing some investigations of the impacts that climate change will have on the future of outdoor sports.

Even IF climate change isn't happening, no one can argue that winter and summer weather in the past few years has been "odd" in many places around the world. These "oddities" will have knock-on impacts on how the Olympics will be and can be hosted, and as a sporting organization based on outdoor sports (i.e., only a relatively few number of events are indoor), it is strange that they aren't doing any research into this possible [near-]future issue.

We think about the lack of snow in Vancouver this year, but what about increased summer temperatures? Remember the problems with heat during the past summer Olympic games? Being too hot during the summer can be as detrimental as being too warm in the winter.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Snow on the roads

Lots of snow currently falling - and has been falling throughout the day. Not big flakes, but enough to constantly dust the roads. Happily, people are driving slowly and (appear) to be calm in their driving manner.

Sometimes something comes across your desktop...

that really makes you go... "waitaminute..." Apparently Ben Affleck looks a LOT like a young Boris Yeltsin:

Via CopyRanter

Monday, February 08, 2010

Spray-on glass = glass insulator?

I just read about a new product that is spray-on glass. (Yes, glass that you spray onto a surface.) It supposedly resists heat (among many other things), which makes me wonder if that product will work for effective insulation on existing single-pane windows.


Monday morning. No snow yet, but the forecasts all call for snow starting tomorrow (2-4 inches) followed by more snow tomorrow night (5-7 inches). I saw this following YouTube video on another site, and it made me realize a few things:

1. Keeping the trains going is a hard thing when there's a lot of snow.
2. I never got to see such snowstorms while living in the UK, and
3. Considering the state of British Rail when I was living there, I think that #2 is a good thing.

At times, I really do wish that there was a trolley option to get into town; a trolley going down Liberty Road all the way to the Meijer on Zeeb (or further west) would not be something that I would complain about, especially if it would allow me to get into town with much less fuss on days like Wednesday is likely to become.

Via ScreenOnline:
Snow was Geoffrey Jones' first film for British Transport Films (BTF) but it owes its existence to a happy twist of fate. In September 1962 Jones began his research for a film about design for the British Railways Board. Armed with a 16mm camera, he travelled throughout the country, shooting film 'notes' of anything he found particularly interesting.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Time-lapse of Vancouver

Watch it on the highest definition that you can manage (based on bandwidth or your monitor).

When the Opposite is True

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for posting this video that was sent along to him by "MR".

Response to a post at SocImages

Below is a compiled response to a posting over at SocImages about Barbie and G.I.Joe. In it, gwen outlines an argument made by Attfield that Barbie and G.I.Joe imbues into these two product lines what society feels is proper about male and female roles. Female roles = dressing up and modeling fashion; being passive. Male roles = posable; being active.

My response:

Okay... the argument is a good outline, but what does Attfield say about all those StarWars and He-Man "action figures" that were manufactured in the early 1980s, at the same time as GIJoe? For those of you not familiar with theme, the StarWars and He-Man figures were as "posable" as Barbie - although some of the He-Man figures did have the ability to turn at the waist, or do "special action moves". The StarWars figures of the 1980s were the same scale as the GIJoe figures of the time, and the He-Man figures were larger.

I would argue that the He-Man toys were marketed primarily to boys, and would argue that the StarWars figures were similarly marketed primarily to boys (although I'm less certain on this point). If you take these two points as generally true, then GIJoe could actually be an anomaly: marketing itself as being able to be in "action" whereas all the other figures of the time (up until quite recently) were walking around with as much flexibility as a Legomen.

All I can say to the point of Barbie vs. GIJoe is that as a boy in the early-mid 1980s, I preferred GIJoe over Barbie, not because GIJoe was more "action-posable" but because "Barbie was for girls." (Also, GIJoes were not referred to as "dolls," as in "Barbie-dolls" or "Cabbage Patch dolls", etc.) I probably would have felt the same way about an "action-figure" Barbie, because I definitely didn't buy the Scarlett or The Baroness, because to my 8-year-old boy's mind, these action figures were "girly." (Yes, but we generally do grow up.)

Similarly, although I liked the StarWars movies, and had collections of many StarWars-related things (as many kids did back then), I had only two or three figures, and these were given to me by others, and weren't my choice for purchase. I thought of them as being inferior to the GIJoes, because they didn't have elbow and knee joints and couldn't have backpacks put on them (which GIJoe figures could do). I didn't like the He-Man figures for similar reasons, but also because they were too "comical" for my tastes (to me, the more human-proportioned GIJoe figures were more interesting), stood funny (like they were perpetually bow-legged), and were just too big (you couldn't fit three or four of them in your pocket, like you could with GIJoes).

You say that Attfield asserts that, “while doll lines aimed at boys include “bad” characters that serve as the enemies of the protagonists, those marketed to girls, such as Barbie, have yet to include “bad” characters. There’s no evil Barbie who tries to steal Ken away.”

Just out of curiosity, who were the nemeses of ActionMan? I’ve looked around and couldn’t find any… True, the 1980s GIJoe fought against Cobra, He-Man fought against Skeletor, the Thundercats againt MumRa, etc. But I can’t figure out who was ActionMan’s nemesis/es.

Also, as another person in the comments points out , there were some girls’-doll lines that did have antagonists. Even if these antagonisms were based on (what some of us might now consider) shallow motivations, they do provide “bad girls” as antagonists. Quite likely, though, this wasn’t part of the general trend in girls’ dolls, but I’m not familiar with it. Of course, the lack of a designated “enemy” doesn’t preclude the creation of one, and just because Mattel didn’t make any doll be the one to try and take Ken away from Barbie doesn’t mean that girls didn’t/don’t play with their dolls with this in mind.

One could indeed make the argument that boys’ toys – with their definite “antagonist” groups – limit the breadth of scenarios that can be told between figures; something underlying the reason why, when SnakeEyes switched sides from Cobra to GIJoe, it was AWESOME! I mean who would have even thought that a “bad guy” could even think of doing such a thing? “Bad guys are bad guys. They fight against the good guys. GIJoe are the good guys and don’t work with the bad guys.” See how limiting the storylines are when one forces the presence of always-antagonistic forces?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Musings while seated at the NorthSide

I just picked up a new pair of glasses at the Kellogg Eye Center. They feel great - very light and the prescription works perfectly for my eye sight. They actually feel better on my head than my previous pair of glasses - ones that I have worn for three years.

DestructionOn my way out of the center, I noticed that the building that had been standing between Maiden Lane and Wall Street - a house or apartment with a drive-through driveway that connected the two streets - had been recently torn down; the rubble being slowly removed by digger and bulldozer. My initial reaction was one of interest tinged with regret. Regret because it was such a unique structure - one doesn't normally see a building that straddles two streets that has a driveway that connects the two - and interest because the whole "Lower Town" area seems to be undergoing a major renovation. Truth be told, the actual execution of the project (when it was created) could have been done with a greater amount of grace - the edifice stood like a lump of a building, "elegant" being a word that no one would likely have given it - but the concept of having an apartments (or a house) that sits atop a garage that also acts as a driveway and a pull-through - is an interesting one to me. Still, I am perhaps giving this lost building too much obsessive thought.

Coming up the road to the Northside Grill, I noticed that the doors to an older four-unit apartment building had large "WARNING" signs affixed to the doors. Looking closely, they informed passers-by of the fact that they were closed (and likely sealed) due to asbestos. Now, knowing the little that I do about asbestos law, the only reasons that the building would be shut down due to asbestos are the following:
  • Tearing the building down
  • Massive structural work
  • The owners want to do remediation
  • Change in ownership (and the new owners want to do remediation)
Based on what seems to be going on along Wall Street (Ann Arbor, that is), I placed "tearing the building down" at the top of my list because it seems - to me - to be the most likely based on several trends (in addition to the visible clearing of the above building).
  1. The Kellogg Eye Center likely needs more parking due to its recent expansion, and this property is immediately across the street from the expansion and (other than a storm drain) contiguous with an existing surface parking lot.
  2. The seeming trend of Ann Arbor landlords (aka "slumlords") to do as little as possible to structural issues on student accommodation (until it costs them an armload to actually do repairs), which means that they are unlikely to do anything that would warrant taking care of asbestos (and then may decide to sell the property instead of having to deal with the costs and liability themselves).
  3. The tendency of the University of acquiring more property when they have an opportunity to do so - especially in areas that are contiguous with existing property (and I seem to recall hearing about a "Vision Care Campus" being developed in the future), and the property values around here seem to me to be likely to be lower than next to the Central and Medical Campuses (and likely the North Campus too).
  4. And of course, there is the perceived vision (by myself perhaps) of the entire Lowertown area undergoing a major face-change (I wouldn't say "face-lift" quite yet - things haven't yet been decided) and the (to my point-of-view) relatively fast razing and condemning of older structures in the area.
Yet, all this doesn't necessarily mean what I think it will mean. And who knows? Perhaps the apartment building is undergoing a renovation to get rid of the asbestos. Perhaps the building will eventually make its way onto a list of local historic buildings that - although they look as rundown as Broadway party store - are actually of some important historical worth to mark the heritage of the city. (Still, though, due to the reasons listed above, and multiplied by the inertia of a seemingly ever-expanding university, it seems unlikely that this building will last into the 2020s.)

Remnants of a Northside lunchAs I wrote this entry, I managed to finish the NorthSide's "Morning Eggdition" sandwich - a hearty breakfast sandwich with scrambled egg, Swiss cheese, diced ham & tomatoes, and black-pepper mayonnaise all on multigrain bread - and about half of the hash browns (which just didn't sit well with me today). Immediately after I sat down, two Japanese women came in and sat down at a booth opposite me and started talking. I cannot help but listen to what people say (I don't mean to, but I can't help do mental processing of voices I hear around me, or at least try to), which is part of the reason why I started typing. However, I noticed that they were joined by a third woman, and then moved to the booth behind me in order to ensure that the high-chair was brought out wouldn't block traffic. Then the tree women - minus the one bringing the baby - went through the process of ordering. It seemed to me that they had never been to the NorthSide, and possibly hadn't been to too many American diners, either, since they asked questions about kind of "standard" terminology, like "short stack" vs. "full stack" and "sausage vs. "sausage gravy." Who knows, though, they could have just been going through the process of ordering and felt a need to ask questions instead of just jumping to the order (although this seems more obtuse-than-necessary to even me).

Eventually, they were joined by the fourth woman - with her baby - and they are all now sitting behind me, talking in hushed-followed-by-elevated tones. The interesting thing to me is to listed to the tones and pacing of their voices; the rhythms falling into a pattern that is common of Japanese talk-and-respond and of an age (and possibly maternal) hierarchy into which their tones and interactions fall. The youngest takes on the tones of a girl - higher and tittering - apologizing for showing up after the initial two (older-than-her) women. The mother (although apparently no older than the original two women) was given more social leeway with her 30-minute delay in showing up, and (as far as my passive eavesdropping could tell) was given no behind-her-back disparagement. Too, her baby received a lot of fawning as she put up his and her coats and sat down. Of the four, she seems also to be the most acculturated to the United States - she ordered easily off the menu with no questions and in a more close-to-Midwest accent - and (if this indication is true) may (in addition to her obvious motherhood) be senior to the other in this condition as well.

This whole thing - Japanese social hierarchy - is something that I am sure has been studied through anthropological and sociological lenses in academia. I'm sure, too, that the concepts do not translate into the American English usage and mental framings that so define "everyone's" day-to-day lives, because not would a lexicon be necessary, but also a cultural frame-of-mind, and a grammar and conversational structure that allows (or encourages) such social interactions.

But now - after a fulfilling amount of coffee and a stomach full on breakfast sandwich - I must get to work.