Yesterday we had the first thunderstorm of the summer.

Storms in Japan tend to fall into the classic tropical thunderstorm category. Huge black clouds seem to form out of nowhere, accompanied by the deep rumble of distant thunder. Suddenly it all explodes about you; wind, heavy rain, lightning, thunder, the occasional blackout… very exciting stuff! What’s quite funny is that a lot of Japanese have an irrational fear of thunderstorms, which I don’t share at all. I find them rather comforting actually!!

Yesterday I was doing my English thing at the old folks’ daycare centre when it all went down. The lights flickered a few times and the oldies (as well as the nurses) were getting jittery. I was sitting there grinning like an idiot, having the time of my life. I tried to explain the best I could that we were in no danger at all and that it was quite exciting actually. Etsuko, my assistant for these hospital visits (she’s a young and energetic nurse from the hospital) translated what she could and I think the others calmed down a bit as a result. Every time another bolt of lightning went off and the accompanying surge of noise hit the room, they would flinch again, but I just laughed it off.

Even as I type now there’s that distant sound of thunder coming across from the mountains to the north. Combined with the sounds of cicadas in the trees across the rice field it makes for a truly ‘Japanese’ moment. One to be savoured, not feared.

Speaking of Japanese things, if you’re up in Shibukawa, north of Tokyo, then they have a belly button festival. They dress up and paint their bellies in festive colours, emphasizing the navel, since Shibukawa is known as the ‘belly button of Japan’. Shame that it seems only men do this though! All I get is visions of Homer Simpson…

Another day, another random knife attack in Japan.

With the Olympics getting closer, the skies above Beijing show no sign of clearing up, despite the draconian measures being imposed by the Chinese government. They’re even considering even stricter measures to ensure the skies will be blue. Better pray for some wind. The thing is, with all these workers being unable to work due to the factories being closed down, and unable to drive due to their cars being impounded, what are they going to do the whole time? Watch the Olympics on TV!? A bored, immobile population is a restless population… could get interesting by the second week, regardless of the threat of terrorist attacks.

Oh, and guess what, they’re also building walls to hide the slums. Wow, gee, what a surprise!

They’re also charging an arm and a leg for foreign journalists to use the internet.

Only 100 days until we have a new president to complain about. Can we survive? Also the USA is going to a heightened terrorist alert – for the next year. I think I’ll avoid that part of the world for a while.

Georgia and Russia are facing off. Looks nasty.

Nothing new but a good look at the priorities in the media, if you’re not familiar with them. If you’re white, female and good looking they’ll give a lot of coverage. If you’re poor, Middle Eastern and not good looking, you’re barely worth a mention.

Another good analysis of the food crisis situation.

Wanna come to Australia to study? So does everyone else, by the looks of things.

Girls, your self confidence all comes down to how you dress and wear make up, thereby enabling you to look better than other people and find a nice husband. This message is brought to you by the Hillsong Church and the 1950s.

The slow death of Australian journalism continues with Channel Nine axing two of its flagship programs, Nightline and Sunday.

The Rudd Government is looking more and more like a juggernaut, stubbornly following its own ideas of what constitutes sound policy without considering other ideas or proposals or taking criticism of its ideas. Take the current notion of carbon trading. The Rudd Government wants it, and it will get it, despite growing concern over its viability and economic impact. There are other ways to make an impact for the benefit of the environment. The Rudd carbon trading model favours the use of cars and other motor transportation to work. That’s hardly a green notion, is it? Formulating policy that targets the growth of rail services, as well as other methods of public transportation such as buses and light rail would be seen as much more responsible to the environment. If the Rudd government did that as well as fix up Australia’s antiquated rail network then they could rightly claim to be progressive and environmentally sound, instead of steering one-eyed onto the rocks.

More proof that marriage is, a) all about the women, b) is just a fashion show, c) costs way too much money, and, d) is the leading cause of brain drain in single women. Give me a girl who wants a barbecue at the beach, please!

The forced recruitment of child soldiers is continuing in Africa.

The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is getting bigger.

The newest developing country is the USA?!?

Hey George, Iraq is like Vietnam in another way now; they both cost the same.

I’m re-reading ‘Air Babylon’ at the moment, and the news is doing it’s thing with adding more and more incidents to add to the legend. Take these two drunken female idiots for example, let alone more Qantas planes falling apart… (and getting Adelaide a mention in the international news)

The creator of the electric guitar, Les Paul, is in Australia. He’s 93, can only play with two fingers, regularly sells out the clubs where he’s playing, and gave rock ‘n’ roll to you. The guy sweats cool.