Just when you’ve bought a new computer, it immediately finds a way to annoy you. Firefox crashing and not saving what tags I had open to blog about is today’s masterpiece… Oh well. Let’s start over, shall we?

I started a new blog to build on the theme of things that make me smile about Japan, and to save the vitriol for here.

So let’s unload a bit.

It looks like the volcano next to Eyjafjallajökull (that’s the one that erupted recently and which caused all the kerfuffle around Europe), thankfully called Katla, is showing signs of erupting. Any decent news story about the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull would have made some reference to the fact that when it erupts, Katla is often the next to go. The last time this tandem of volcanoes erupted, it caused havoc across Iceland and affected the climate in Europe. What are the governments of Europe doing to get ready? Very little, it seems, although the current president of Iceland is on record saying at least they are prepared. The glacier field that sits on top of the caldera has the capacity to produce flooding equivilent to the combined discharge of the Amazon, Mississippi, Nile and Yangtze rivers and the last eruption in 1918 extended the Icelandic coast by 5km due to deposits of material caused by the flooding (thanks wikipedia).

I might have to put that trip to Norway on hold…

So Australia is taking Japan to court over the ‘scientific research’ that takes place in the Southern Ocean. I fail to see what use this will really have in the long term. It could be interpreted as cynical politicking in an election year. While some legal opinions say that Australia has a strong case, since it is an open secret that the whale meat ends up being used for food (although why anyone would want to eat meat that is rich in cadmium and mercury is beyond me…). They’d be much better off suing Japan for its interference in the recent Atlantic tuna debacle, since that’s really going to have an impact on everyone’s dinner table before too long.

My mind is still not made up about acquiring an iPad. I’m always suspicious of first generation technology, since it’s often expensive and buggy. (And, I must confess, the Microsoft Surface format is much, much sexier… but also AUD$21,000 a pop…) However, the tech landscape is changing and the advent of cheap, tablet computers looks set to change the way we consume media. Media companies are investing in apps for the new format, and seeking to be the first to pay tham pay. Some are looking forward further to a (news)paperless world, where print is truly superseded by the screen. For example, a cursory google search shows a lot of interest in using iPads in the medical world, as part of streamlining and integrating medical data to help medical professionals treat their patients. The data sea is getting bigger…

I’m always interested in the way language keeps changing and evolving. A few years ago, when I went back to Australia for a holiday, I went out for dinner with my mother and brother. We went to a ‘nice’ restaurant and as we walked in, our (perky) waitress/greeter said, “Hey guys! How many people in your group?” I turned to my brother and mouthed, “GUYS!?” He said, “Yeah, ‘guys’ is the new ‘sir’ these days.” I’m glad to say I haven’t had a ‘guys’ experience since then, but it was interested to be talked to like a friend by a complete stranger. There was this piece about the casualisation of the word, ‘shit’ that is currently going on in Australia. By the time I get back for another visit, this trend may well be over, but it’s interesting to read about from afar.

Meanwhile we have the USA gunning for another war – this time with Iran. There’s also North Korea shaking its tiny fists at everyone around them, not realising (perhaps) that starting an actual war will destroy them. We have the Euro – and hence the European economy – and hence the rest of us – on the brink of collapse. The hole in the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico is set to ruin the entire Caribbean region, as well as the east coast of the USA. It’s getting entertaining (in the Carlin-esque sense of the word).

My Firefox crash pales into insignificance at thought of several simultaneous apocalypses unloading on us all…

Hey reader,

It’s been a historic week in Japan with the change of government and all. To be honest I never really thought I’d see it, but since the LDP has spent the past few years changing prime ministers more often than their underwear, and each one being steadily more uncharismatic and prone to foot-in-mouth disease than the previous one, I guess it was only a matter of time. That and the economy is not getting any better and simply the LDP ran out of ideas.

So there are a lot of expectations for the new mob, except that most of them are rich old men like the like lot, and also inherited their seats from relatives – like the last lot. Heck, even the new PM was a member of the LDP until the 1990s – and his grandfather was the first LDP PM. You just can’t escape a shadow like that so easily. The bureaucrats certainly don’t seem to be panicking. The important thing is going to have to be patience on the part of the public, and for the DPJ to actually make good on some of their big promises.

Newsweek had a series of three interesting articles about Japan which were written before the election, but they’re a good primer for what’s been ailing Japan politically and economically in recent years as well as what needs to happen to make Japan a prosperous nation again.

The NY Times has a a look at the hostessing culture in Japan. What’s going to be interesting to see is how the continuing economic malaise is going to affect this particular part of Japan’s economy. The clubs and hostesses (and hosts) rely on a steady stream of cashed-up clients and as the cash dries up it remains to be seen how these young people are going to make their money. In a worst case scenario, Japan could end up like Thailand, but things would have to get much worse for it to happen to that extent. Currently Japan’s GDP is about 18 times that of Thailand’s.

Adbusters looks at Japan’s malaise in psychological, rather than economic, politcal or cultural terms.

And this driver represented Japan’s malaise on a highway by driving 47km in the wrong direction.

This article brings a lot of Japan’s quieter and more sinister aspects out for an airing.

The Return of Charisma Man!? One can hope! (Probably the best comic ever about foreign life in Japan)

Oh yeah, and my corrupt, company-destroying former boss is in prison. Yay!