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I’ve long been an occasional user of the Perapera-kun plug-in for Firefox. It’s pretty handy for quickly looking up Japanese words online.

Once it was installed, you could right-click on any web page, pick “perapera” from the right-click menu, and then hovering the mouse over any word bring up a pop-up display with both the English translation and the pronunciation of the word in question. The Chinese version worked pretty much the same way.

Unfortunately, the developer decided to merge the Chinese and Japanese plugins and abandon the old right click interface and instead add an icon at the bottom right hand corner of the screen (incidentally, the same spot I use for my pinyin plugin). Instead of text, the developer decided to use flags.

Here is the result:

Why a flag?

Using flags is a poor user design choice

Needless to say there are a lot of people in Taiwan who would rather not fly the PRC flag on their desktops. Though I’m not a very political person myself, I felt a bit uncomfortable with this on the computers at my office after the upgrades today. I doubt the secretary would much care for seeing it and while I could explain it to her, it could be more awkward if students see it on the computers.

An icon with the character 中 would be a better choice. Also, from a purely functional standpoint, I miss the right-click interface. It was much quicker than having to go to the lower right-hand corner of my browser and make two clicks.

I’ve been wanting to hear this for years, and Obama said it on my birthday, in my home state. What better present than civil liberties!Reuters- Obama

DENVER – Maybe it’s his background teaching constitutional law.

If elected president, Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama said one of the first things he wants to do is ensure the constitutionality of all the laws and executive orders passed while Republican President George W. Bush has been in office.

Those that don’t pass muster will be overturned, he said.

Reuters: Bush’s laws will be scrutinized if I become president, Obama says

I need to send that guy a donation.

Related Post: Take a Stand

For the last several days, I’ve been woken up by an obnoxious blaring sound coming from just outside my window. A “colorful feature” of Taiwanese life is to blame– trucks with loudspeakers that drive around just to get their message out. Back when I lived in Guishan, these trucks were around all the time. Trucks with loudspeakers telling me to buy their dumplings, trucks with loudspeakers offering to fix my windows, trucks with loudspeakers advertising new products, and trucks with loudspeakers for just about anything else I didn’t want to hear about.

My current residence doesn’t seem to have too many. Maybe it’s because I live near 101 in a more developed area where people don’t tolerate the noise pollution, or maybe it’s because they’re illegal. In any case, they’re rare enough that I decided to go downstairs and check it out this morning. Amazingly, the offending truck in question was campaigning for the political election. It was all decked out in campaign slogans and it was telling everyone who to vote for and why.

This doesn’t amaze me because it’s so obnoxious. What’s amazing is that it must work. They wouldn’t do it otherwise. The thing I have to wonder is, what kind of people would be positively influenced to vote for someone who sends those trucks around?

Decades long defender of digital rights, Stanford Law School professor, Larry Lessig, has released a presentation in support of Barack Obama.

Ron Paul has finally climbed out of his previous obscurity. With more fourth quarter earnings than any other Republican candidate, a fierce independent campaign orchestrated by a former Google employee, and surprising support from a few rank and file GOPers, he’s a bona-fide top-tier candidate.

What’s more impressive to me, though, is that the other guy out there who wants to end the wars, and restore our civil liberties and reign in the military industrial complex is starting to get some attention. That’s right, Dennis Kucinich is actually getting some press. Like Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich voted against the Patriot Act and the invasion of Iraq; in fact, he and Paul co-sponsored a bill (ACLU) to replace it in 2003. Kucinich also wants to end the drug prohibition that’s filling our jails with non-violent drug offenders, and he’s for impeachment, too.

The frustrating thing was, that all through the Democrat debates, he’s basically been laughed off the stage. The Democrat debaters are much more uniform in their views than the Republicans are, and there really wasn’t much dissent tolerated at all. When Guiliani took a swipe at Ron Paul’s stance on Iraq, he got a thunderous applause, but Ron Paul came back strong and got his own applause. When Mike Gravel or Dennis Kucinich tried to attack Hillary Clinton for her vocal support of the war and wiretapping out citizens without a warrant, she just laughed at them. Then the crowd laughed at them, too. It was a painful thing to watch.

Sometime over the last few weeks, something has changed. In poll after poll, mainstream Democrats have been supporting Kucinich’s positions all year. One by one other candidates have had to slide closer to his very views they mocked only months ago. He’s also looking more confident, and people are starting to react. I realize that if Ron Paul’s bid for presidency is like shooting for the moon that Dennis Kucinich’s must be like shooting for Gliese 581 c, but seeing this hit the top of youtube was heartening.

He and his wife are adept at handling the media that try to trivialize them, too.

Kucinich: Well, the most important thing I would tell you, Hannah, as a professional, is it’s important not to trivialize a woman who has worked on international humanitarian matters, you know, helping people in Africa get access to energy and to housing and education, helping poor people and children in India, working with a group connected with Mother Teresa, working with the Mission To Seafarers in London. Here’s a woman of great accomplishment with a Master’s degree in international conflict resolution, and I hope that you’re going to talk about more than a tongue stud.

Well done, Dennis!

Related Posts:
Youtube Fame Propels Ron Paul
Obama: Impeachment is not acceptable
Youtube Promotional Videos: Barack Obama vs. Ron Paul

This, from the BBC:

Mr Rudd will focus on education, environment and the economy
Australia’s Prime Minister-elect, Kevin Rudd, has announced the make-up of his new Labor government.

He appointed Julia Gillard as deputy PM and education minister, and a former rock star, Midnight Oil singer Peter Garrett, as environment minister.

Penny Wong becomes the country’s first Asian-born minister, with responsibility for climate change.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Party has elected a new leader to replace John Howard, defeated in last week’s vote.

BBC: Australia’s Rudd unveils cabinet

That guy, the singer, Peter Garrett, has been chosen to be Australia’s new Environment Minister.

Stupid in America is a 20/20 investigation into the failures of K-12 schooling in the US. John Stossel interviews a variety of teachers, students, parents and administrators in the US and in Belgium. It’s particularly interesting for me because I’ve experienced it from so many sides. I’ve been at all kinds of schools, from public to Catholic, to one that had merit-based admissions. As a teacher, I’ve taught calculus and freshman physics in the US and more recently EFL here in Taiwan. It certainly doesn’t pay as well as my previous programming work, but it is interesting, and I enjoy it enough that I’ve thought about working as a public school teacher in the US after retiring.

I’ve seen some of the policy debates as well. In my high school district, a group of parents actually sued the school system and made them abandon a program called Direction 2000, that many considered an ill-advised attempt at political indoctrination rather than true education. It also turned out that the father of one of my good friends in middle school was the senator who proposed our voucher system. Anyway, it’s an interesting video… despite the Europeans claiming we’re stupid.

One final thought I’d like to share is that I see the school system in Taiwan as one of the biggest reasons to stay here long enough to have my own kids. Despite the complaints I hear from parents about the public schools here, the achievements I see in my nine and ten year-old students are so far ahead of what my peers in the US were doing at that age that it’s almost shocking. Especially in math, art and languages, the difference is stark.

Update: Michael Turton has written a response to this post.

Related Post: The New York Teacher of the Year is Against School

I really don’t know what words to put to these images I’ve been seeing over the last year. The videos speak for themselves.

This happened just this week at the John Kerry speech in Florida. The youtube poster is a bit of a sensationalist, but the MSNBC coverage is good.

I found this one on Amnesty International’s website:

This is possibly the worse of all… from UCLA at the end of last year:

Five times… after saying he had a medical condition.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama laid out list of political shortcomings he sees in the Bush administration but said he opposes impeachment for either President George W. Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney.

“I think you reserve impeachment for grave, grave breaches, and intentional breaches of the president’s authority,” he said.

USA Today.com- Obama: Impeachment is not acceptable

At this point I’m wondering what Bush or Cheney would have to do in order for Obama to consider their actions a “grave breach” or “intentional breach of the president’s authority”. I guess lying to Congress, lying to the UN, breaking the Geneva Conventions, illegally firing federal prosecutors, claiming the authority to declare martial law, revoking habeas corpus and torturing people who haven’t even had a chance to see a lawyer doesn’t cut it. Would Obama draw the line at gas chambers?

Or, is he hoping to inherit those authoritarian powers rather than abolish them?


Thomas Jefferson was already onto this problem nearly 200 years ago. In 1819, he said: “Experience has already shown that the impeachment the Constitution has provided is not even a scarecrow.” Those who seek power are the last to condemn their authoritarian predecessors who extend its reach.

This is great. My favorite Democratic candidate in the primaries, Mike Gravel, made it to the Colbert Report, and absolutely pwned Colbert!

Colbert: Let’s face facts. You’re a little bit behind in the polls. As a matter of fact, The USA Today poll has you running neck-and-neck [at 1%] with Someone else.

Gravel: Yes, but I’m here and I’m going to get the Colbert Bump… if you can get me to double-digits, I would consider you as vice presidential material.


Related post: Mike Gravel: People are dying and they’re interested in the symbolic vote?
Related post: YouTube fame propels Ron Paul to mainstream media coverage