My Best Teaching Is One-on-One


Of course, I team teach and do special lessons, etc.


But my best work in the classroom is after the lesson is over --
going one-on-one,
helping individual students with their assignments.


It's kind of like with computer programs, walking the client through hands-on.
The job isn't really done until the customer is using the program.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Japan's Public TV -- NHK Pseudo-Tax? 日本公共テレビ〜日本放送協会の偽税?

Had a couple of visits from an NHK collector recently. First visit, I informed him we don't have a TV. Second visit, he mumbled something about everybody really has an obligation, and did I have 1Seg on my cell phone, and on and on.

After something of a hiatus, they seem to be twisting arms again.
You are "really morally obligated" to join in the ranks of NHK supporters! Even if you don't have a TV, you MUST get yourself registered as a non-TV owner!
... along with all my reasons for refusing to make a contract to pay like a good little boy.

It's like they want to be able to charge me with perjury if they can prove we ever watch NHK TV. Or something like that.

I have to beg them for an exception, which means I have to tell them all sorts of personal information, like how much I make a year.
And you should have a TV, of course. Sumo wrestling, Noh and Kabuki, the children's programs and all the traditional stuff. You have to support this so they don't have to beg for advertisers! And the true news about what's happening in the government and the world can only be protected if we do it this way. If a broadcast company has advertisers, HORRORS! THEY MIGHT LIE!!!!
And what was that news recently about the corruption in NHK management? Something about using NHK money to hire a car for some private business or something? I'm supposed to assume that, by forcing me to pay a hidden tax on owning a TV, NHK purifies itself somehow from the tendency to present biased news?

My son doesn't have to register for the draft, but I have to register for the hidden TV tax.

Why does this make me think of North Korea and the party-line news?

Is there more than a coincidental correlation between the number of people refusing to contract to pay the hidden TV tax and the ascendancy of alternative political parties?

I did not put pen to paper, said I would do some research.

Don't get me wrong. If I had the money, and if it weren't presented as a legal obligation, I'd be willing to just donate straight out, no bothering with the pledge process or whatever. I was a supporter of public TV in the States when I had the money, and, what I have seen of NHK, it's worth supporting.

I'm not quite ccomfortable with the current director general, Katsuto Momii, saying he's going to toe the government line on certain controversial news (, but NHK was generally pretty good when we had a TV fifteen years ago.

As long as there are alternate news sources.

If supporting NHK is not by force.

(If you are interested in Momii's views, you'll want to check out the Japanese wikipedia page on Momii:井勝人. Scan down to 「就任記者会見での質疑応答」。 Unfortunately, some of the links seem to be stale, but the sports news pages still seem to be there.)

So I checked this out on the web.

According to wikipedia (受信料), Japanese law says that any household that is equipped to receive NHK TV broadcasts has an obligation to contract with NHK to pay for the privilege. In other words, there would seem to be a hidden tax on owning a TV of any sort, including the "1seg" receivers ( that come built-in with most Japanese cell phones these days and allow them to become tiny TVs.

Now, there is currently no punishment specified for failing to make such a contract. In fact, the nature of the obligation is not specified, leading me to think that the only reason that law passed was the assumption at the time that it would be read as a moral obligation, not a legal one. (And if that's not the case, why the social pressure to just pay up and be done with it? Why the hard-sell tactics that, seriously, are a breach of the law in any other case?)

If you read the NHK site ( on the contract, they do not want you to think so, however. IT'S THE LAW!

You have a moral obligation to make the pledge to support state TV, and if you make the pledge, you have to pay. You can be punished if you make the pledge and fail to pay.

The latter part of that makes sense. A pledge is a contract.

The former part, no.

TV is an imposition on our daily lives. It is not an unmixed service. We have no obbligation to support any TV station purely out of taxes, whether acknowledged tax or hidden tax.

News about natural disasters does not an obligation make, and the rest, noble as the cause is, must be optional or it amounts to state religion and state media.

The fact that NHK is technically separated from the government does not solve the problem. Because it is specified in the law and implied to be required of everyone, it is state media.

According to this article ( in Nikkan Gendai (日刊ゲンダイ) a court has ruled that there is no enforcement for failing to make the contract, only for failing to pay if you do make the contract. That might be good news.

Peer pressure was once considered anything but pure goodness.

Technically speaking, if this hidden tax on owning a TV is supposed to have the full weight of law, they should not hide it. It should either be part of the price of a TV, or there should be big notices and reminders at the appliances stores and the cell phone stores that owning a TV imposes an obligation to pay the tax.

The fact that it is hidden makes it clear that some of those responsible understand what they are doing is not going to stand exposure to the light of day.

Radio was separated from this law in the '60s, and internet is currently outside the law. Areas where reception is difficult because of the terrain, or because they are near airports get some sort of exception. This indicates to me that NHK's hard sell was not part of what was originally envisioned for the law.

There are many people among NHK management, and some politicians, who think that the internet should be brought into the fold, as it were. And there are some that say everyone should pay this hidden tax, whether they have a TV or not. Momii has been reported to say, "It would be wonderful if everyone had to pay!"

(On wikipedia's NHK fees page,受信料, scroll down to 「籾井会長の「(受信料の支払いを)義務化できればすばらしい」発言」。 Asahi reports this at at this point in time. Hopefully, a search on 「義務化できればすばらしい」will still find some full quotes when that link goes stale.)

Sure. And it would be wonderful if I had guaranteed income, too.

No, it would not be wonderful. I'd get lazy. I want to think I would know better, but my work history shows me that I would get lazy. I'd quit doing things that contribute to society. Guaranteed income is like that. It makes you lazy, makes you willing to toe the party line. That whole line about keeping the news clean from government or other interference is pure conceit.

The Japanese government owes it to it's own citizens to give the people control over NHK by making them go to the people for contributions, not tax payments, like any self-respecting public TV station.

For reference:

The NHK page on the amount of the current tax: Current charge is about JPY 14,000 a year for over-the-air, almost double for cable. That would be about USD 140, plus or minus, depending on the valleys and peaks in the exchange rate. At any rate, it's asking my family to go without food about two weeks a year.

Following links around there will show additional information, such as, if you are living in a dorm and have a TV there, you are not covered by your parents' payments, and if your household is a two or three generation household, each generation is expected to pay, etc.

Here's the law, itself:

(I'm not looking forward to translating this into Japanese, but I think I'd better. It'll probably take me three good days' work that I don't have.)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

What Is Magic?

Yesterday, I stopped by Kinokuniya (紀伊国屋) on the way home to look at books and materials to use to teach my son the basics of digital electronics. He has some theory, but I think he needs actual experimental results to get real understanding of what's going on in digital communications.

I stopped by the English books section on my way out and Rachel Hawkins's Miss Mayham caught my eye. Not sure why. Ended up reading the whole book in a three-hour tachi-yomi (立ち読み) session.

(What is the English idiom for standing at the rack and reading at the book store? I think there is one that I'm forgetting.)

I was somewhat impressed that the author has the protagonists boyfie (erk) split when he realizes that the way things are going if he is around leads to destroying both himself and her. Also impressed that magic was presented as something that doesn't help people.

So I decided to buy it for my kids. They seem to like stories about teenagers with powers they don't know how to control. (My daughter is into Harry Potter and such, my son is more into Rail Gun, Kino no Tabi, and Psycho-pass and the like. To me, they are much the same story, with varying degrees of violence and being out of control.)

Whatever the reason, I bought it, got home, showed it to the kids. (They were unimpressed. It's still English.)

Noticed and read the sneak preview of the next book in the series. Now I'm de-impressed. What a way to undo a potential good plot direction.

The protagonist is a pushy little teenager who enjoys running things, but has nothing to guide her. She'd make a great politician, I suppose.

And she is also magically endowed with superpowers.

This seems to paint a picture of an empowered girl.

But now it looks like she is entirely dependent on her Oracle. Without him, she is just spinning her wheels. This is not what a truly empowered woman looks like. It's just the same old misogynistic picture -- man in charge, woman doing the hard work. Woman lost without man.

(Sorry to be so critical, Ms. Hawkins.)

I think I would have had Harper and her friends reading David's books and learning to control the power they have been introduced to while David is out of the loop. So much for my ideas.

Well, maybe, when the next book in the series actually comes out in a few months, I'll find that the resolution is not so bad after all. Maybe I'll find that she has the friends discover a way to escape being slaves to deception.

But, magic. Something needs to be said about magic. Too many of our children misunderstand it, and the result is too many books like this series also seems to be.

A famous science fiction author once said, "Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." or some such.

No. It may appear to be magic, when the technological gap is large, but technology and magic are completely different things.

There are three things that are generally referred to as magic, connected by fatal principle.

There are two things which are often confused with magic. Both excel magic, although one is but a part of the path to the other, which is the preferred.

The three magicks are these:
  • The lift of the card,
  • The ability to track the almost perfect shuffle, and 
  • The sense of performance which distracts the audience.
That's technique, observation, and charisma, in the service of illusion.

Magic is illusion -- deception, the promotion of the lie for the magician's advantage.

Technology is often confused with magic. When it is used in the service of deception, it might as well be magic.

Faith is also often confused with magic, but it is the complete opposite.

Unfortunately, many magicians have professed great faith and attempted to use it in the service of deception, causing wars, bloodshed, and much destruction.

This false faith is the false religion which is the target of many scientists derision.

But faith, itself is the motivating force behind any good thing man or mankind has ever accomplished.

It is the faith in the ability to understand that moves scientists to experiment, record, analyze, and share.

And it is the lack of faith in our ability to understand that keeps us enslaved to magic and to false religion.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Printing from SD or USB on Brother DCP-J957N Printer

Printing directly from some persistent memory device has always seemed to me to be a guaranteed exercise in frustration.

I guess I'm the kind of person who doesn't want to waste paper and ink getting it right, if I can help it.

But my Epson all-in-one just quit on me last year, and we did without a printer for a few months, but my daughter wanted to be able to copy stuff at home, so I went to the Sofmap in Umeda and got this Brother printer at less than half the price I paid for the Epson. The ink is also cheaper.

But we don't use MSWindows or Apple Mac in my house. Friends don't let friends use Microsoft software or something like that. (Things are much more nuanced now, and I should sometime rant about that. But I'm talking about a printer here.)

And there is no lowest-end Mac. (And I'm not in love with the Mac OS or iOS any more. They've changed.)

So we use open source software.

This computer is running debian wheezy. I'm waiting for the dust to settle on systemd's incursion into Linux to upgrade. My netbook is running openBSD. But I plan to give it to my daughter, and I guess it will probably get an Ubuntu makeover then.

My son's netbook is running Ubuntu. (And his PS4 is running Sony's whatever, that appears to contain a lot of open source software that is not being used according to the license. If you don't publish the source, Sony, and you punish people for looking at the object, no one really -- legally -- knows. We have to judge by sense of smell. And it smells. Some of it smells good, some smells nice, some not-so-nice and not-so-good.)

And our tablets run Android.

Brother used to be big on supporting open source software. They did it the right way, supplying source code for their Linux drivers. That meant that converting the source for the *BSDs was somewhere in the realm of possible.

Brother now supports MSWindows (Of course, snubbing Microsoft is tantamount to suicide, right?), Mac OS, and Android.

And there is a semi-supported binary blob of drivers for Linux.

It only runs on Jessie and above in the debian infrastructure. Wheezy is too old, apparently. You can't backport it because there's no source. You can't customize it. You can't convert it for *BSD.

(And the important thing is that you can't look at the source to debug it or to check that it is actually safe to use with your customized kernel, even if one should assume the manufacturer is not taking bribes from the NSA, the SVR, the drug cartels, etc.)

You might think that the Android drivers should be useable on a Linux OS, but Android, while it still uses a Linux kernel, has significantly diverged from Linux in immportant ways. And, without the source, we can't even try anyway.

Actually, I'm sure that, if I had the time to dig into the tarballs Brother makes available, I'd find the pieces I need and could use the printer through CUPS. I'll have to refresh and update my greyware memory on the subject of postscript device descriptors, etc.

Anyway, I haven't been able to print from any of the computers in the house. I can only print from the tablets.

That actually works out somewhat okay. Print to PDF on the computer, ship it to the tablet, and actually print from the tablet. It's a little time-consuming, but we don't print that much any more. This is more of a scanner-copier in practical use.

I'm working for Ohtemon Ohtemae Jr. High & High School this year on a one-year renewable contract. (And, because of the current staffing laws that are supposed to protect me as an independent worker, I can only be hired three years in a row. I suppose I should rant about that, sometime, too.)

So I need to give them a current résumé every year. Japanese résumés require a current photograph. So I need to print a résumé photo, which is something like a passport or ID photo.

Take the picture with a digital camera, crop it with the GIMP. Use libre office to put four copies of it on a snapshot (L) sized document for printing. Print it to PDF and transfer it to the tablet with USB flash.

And Brother's printer app refuses to allow me to print a PDF document onto photograph (L) sized paper. When I try to print it to an A4 page, it helpfully and automagically re-sizes the images for me.

I have a friend who, when playng Uno, loves to say, "Let me help you. LET ME HELP YOU!" when she drops a draw-four card on you. It can be fun when you know in advance that you're not playing to win.

All the software vendors want to help you these days.

They don't want you to do stuff by yourself because then they can't be part of your workflow. They can't wangle you to feed their revenue stream. That's really short-sighted market engineering -- "enhancing" your market by getting your hands around the customers' necks.

Wasted a good day getting around their help yesterday.

After eating dinner and going to a church meeting, I remembered the printer had the direct-from-persistent-store theoretical feature -- Print from USB and SD flash devices.

It doesn't recognize the PDF at all. But, while I was mucking around looking for the PDF in the printer's thumbnail listings, I discovered that the printer does ID photo-style image repeats if it can recognize and render the file as an image.

So I converted the image to JPEG with the GIMP and saved it to the SD. No joy. It actually sees the JPEG extension on the file name and recognizes it, but it shows just a big question mark instead of a thumbnail.

Reduced the resolution to 300 DPI. (It was originally an odd resolution -- 1107 or something like that, the result of the cropping job on the original image.) Still no joy, just the question mark instead of the image.

My son said he had a similar problem when he was printing something. He converted the file on an on-line image services site and got it to go.

So I washed my dishes and thought some more. Back to GIMP. Unset all the optional features in the GIMP's JPEG conversion dialog:
  • EXIF
  • XMP
  • thumbnail
  • progressive display
  • optimization
I don't know, yet, which feature was the culprit.

But, with as plain a JPEG as possible, the printer saw the image. And I was able to print four of the image repeated on a sheet of photo (L) sized photograph stock using the ID print function. At midnight.

Computers are not fun any more.