So the world economy is not going to collapse at the hands of a few rich, power-hungry, self-serving minions of the powerful? Or maybe not. Moody’s doesn’t seem to think so. Watch this space. Actually, watch some others.

China would be a good example. This article explains why China’s economy may be more precarious than previously believed, and its demise may be a lot worse than the past few years’ American-led event.

Oh, and did the rich get even a small part of the bill? Did the politicians address the trillions being spent on useless wars in Asia? Was there any consideration for the real financial hardship faced by so many American people? Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous.

The euro is still in danger.

The revolutions that swept the Middle East are going nowhere, fast.

I’m eating Aussie beef here, just in case you were wondering.

As I’ve noted before, the conflicts of the future will be over access to water, not oil.

Another quiet, but scary crisis is devolping over the world’s missing women. Increasing sex selection in favour of males has possibly led to as much as 163 million fewer women being born. That’s like erasing the entire female population of the United States, the entire population of Japan (and then some) or six Australias.

It’s no secret that Australia’s tourism industry is struggling. The number of incoming visitors has been falling some time due, in part, to the stronger Aussie dollar, a fall in hospitality standards and the increase in attractiveness of other destinations. Why the Australian government seeks to make the situation worse by cutting the number of customs and immigration staff is a mystery to many. Now incoming passengers will be expected to stand in line for around an hour – at least. Shooting itself in the foot? Think higher…

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Greetings and salutations.

So the huge controversy in Australia seems to be over this thing called ‘planking’. It’s when you pose like a plank in photos. The more unusual the setting, the better. I first read about it in ‘The Age’ since it’s about the only major newspaper in Australia that’s not Murdoch-owned. The initial article (which has since disappeared from the website) played up the fun aspect while the moderators of the associated Facebook page made sure to mention that saftey was a priority. Naturally, within three days, there has been an arrest for planking on a police car, and the first death involving a plunge from a – wait for it – balcony. I bet there was alcohol involved.

The slow panic sweeping Japan is continuing with the government evacuating two towns outside the so-called ‘exclusion zone’ around the Fukushima nuclear facility. The interesting thing is that all this uncertainlty over nuclear power could be causing something of a sea-change (pun!) in Japan’s attitude to power generation. Other nuclear power stations are being closed and renewable options are being sought.

You know that debate that’s been going on for a millenium about the English language suffering and dying from the influx of new words and corruption from people who can’t speak it properly? Yep – still going strong.

Hey did you hear Osama Bin Laden died? In 2001? From a Fox News article?

A very well-considered article comparing the U.S. / Middle Eastern wars to World War One. It only goes to show that history moves in cycles,  we really don’t learn from our past mistakes and self-interest always wins the day. Yes, I am repeating myself too. But like the voice in the wilderness, maybe someone will listen one day…

I’m currently reading a book called “100 Mistakes That Changed History”. It only affirms the preceding paragraph, but I did read about quite a few incidents I either didn’t know know anything about, or didn’t know much about. The auther does a very good job of placing the events into context in as short a space as possible. The short chapters also make it a good book for traveling or pondering over. Recommended.

I enjoyed this read about 25 manners every kids should know by age 9, but enjoyed reading the comments even more.

I also enjoyed this article about hunting for old Parisian brothels using a century-old guidebook. Mind you, anything with ‘perverts’ in the title is going to be read by yours truly…

There’s more but it’ll have to wait for now. Tired…

Just when the world went and got itself a dose of healthy optimism with a royal wedding (despite what you think about it, at least it was a positive news story), it had to turn back to darkness with the death of Osama Bin Laden. There was a Martin Luther King misquote that got started on Twitter and made its way to Facebook very quickly. Although I agreed with the sentiment expressed in the (mis)quote, it’s worth reading through this article on science hoaxes to put it into context.

Of course the conspiracy theories began swirling around, almost before Bin Laden’s body met the inky depths of the ocean. One word that has been used a fair bit by the US Government, as well as bandied about on the internet is ‘justice’. This old-world, wild west notion of justice concerns me, as it does a number of people. Despite Bin Laden’s alleged links to 9/11, extrajudicial killings are illegal under international law. The US government is shimming and shamming its way out of it by saying he tried to defend himself but reports are coming out (from sources such as Bin Laden’s daughter who was present during the raid) that Bin Laden was unarmed, taken alive, then executed by the special forces. They’re also claiming that he was an enemy combatant, so it was justified, but he was an international criminal, not a soldier. The legal linguistic gymnastics look set to continue for while to come. The sea of information and disinformation also looks set to widen and deepen, so what truth there is to the situation looks set to be lost anyway. I am not confident we will ever really know the truth about this.

One thing is certain, Bin Laden is going to be very much a prescence in US foreign policy for a long time to come. His assassination certainly played into his hands, and his legacy is certain to continue into the future. Geoffrey Robertson hit it right on the head, as usual, and Tom Engelhardt is always good to read for an insight into the bigger picture.

Oh, and it’s worth repeating, but you you’re really interested to know what the US government thinks about truth and free speech, then look at what happened to Ray McGovern. He was arrested and beaten up by security thugs for staging a silent protest at a Hillary Clinton speech – the one where she defended the right to free speech in Egypt, but obviously not to Americans – especially in a plutocracy. Oh, and Mr. McGovern used to work for the CIA.

That whole Libya thing is looking dodgier and dodgier by the day. Not so much about bringing peace and democracy and about getting their hands on (surprise!) oil, Libya’s sovereign funds as well as those funds to rebuild the pulverized country.

How’s that Guantanamo place going? Still a bastion of degradation and ongoing torture? Good… nothing to see here. Oh, and how’s Bradley Manning, by the way? Being treated as a citizen of the US..? No? Oh, how about as a human bei…. No? How about as an animal? No? Worse than that? Oh – nothing’s changed then. Congrats Obama, you’re a monster in my book. If they can’t schedule a war crimes trial for George W., maybe they will for you.

And since the next US election isn’t until next November, it’s time for the pundits to start lining up. One thing for sure is that the Republicans are going to make American Decline their theme, somehow trying to avoid bringing up that it happened on the watch of the last Republican president. How are they going to do that? Well, for a start, by bringing up as many crazy early candidates as they can, so by the time they get around to choosing someone seriously, they’ll look quite sane in comparison. Johann Hari’s excellent article in The Independent sums up the situation most elegantly. I love the opening paragraph, so I’ll quote it in full for you:

Since the election of Barack Obama, the Republican Party has proved that one of its central intellectual arguments was right all along. It has long claimed that evolution is a myth believed in only by whiny liberals – and it turns out it was on to something. Every six months, the party venerates a new hero, and each time it is somebody further back on the evolutionary scale.

Fatsen your seatbelts, it’s going to be a looong ride – maybe not so bumpy, but hopefully entertaining.

The last combat veteran of World War One has passed away. Claude Choules served with the Royal Navy in WW1 then for Australia in WW2. He passed away aged 110. There is one more veteran of the war left, a British woman, Florence Green, who served in a non-combat capacity. She is also 110. We shall remember them.

Of course the idea of ANZAC Day is remember the fallen and to hope for no more wars. It is not to continue Australia’s role as a supplicant to the USA. Australia’s current prime minister, who is starting to look more and more like John Howard as the days pass, may well have been installed to continue US interests. Just who are we serving?

Not each other, according to this article. It made me sad to think of returning to Australia…

Australia’s not the only country joining the ranks of the Bush copycats. I see Canada has now joined the ranks.

As the situation in Fukushima continues, it’s worthwhile remembering the world’s worst nuclear reactor disaster in Chernobyl. Here’s a piece about one of the photographers who went in to document the disaster in the midst of deadly radiation.

Skynet is with us, but don’t worry, those HD cameras are great for taking footage of surfing….

China’s economy is still growing strong, and it looks set to overtake the US in as soon as 2016 according to the IMF.

But, we’re running out of stuff. Not only are we running out of manual typewriters, we’re also running out of oil; not only the black stuff, but the oil we need to eat. We’re also running short of food, fresh water, helium, chocolate, medical isotopes, tequila and phosphorus. Stuff like tequila and chocolate we could probably reluctantly get used to, but no medical istopes means no cancer treatments, no phosphorus means no food, and no water, well, that’s pretty obvious.

With the buzzword being ‘cloud computing’ these days, it’s worthwhile thinking about the possibility of hackers having a field day, or perhaps they already are, right Sony?

An English teacher working in Australia won a case against unfair dismissal recently. That’s a good thing, especially when you consider his ‘crime’ was to teach a class of adults on the correct use of the ‘F’ word. In my opinion, if you’re going to participate fully in Australian society, a comprehensive knowledge of when to use – and not use – that word should be mandatory! 

Yahoo calls out the ten most overrated tourist destinations and, more importantly, gives alternatives. Some of  these I had absolutely no intention at all of going to, but it’s good to learn about other places that are equally awesome. You might also want to check out the site at Angkor Wat before it disappears under the heels of a million tourists. I went there a couple of years ago and aside from the central complex and Angkor, I’d recommend you take a few days and see the other temples around the area; there are far fewer tourists, fewer pedlars, often better preserved architecture, and a chance to help the locals more by shopping where they shop.

So when is a kilo not a kilo?

Einstein’s theories have been proved, yet again.

A list of names for things you knew had a name but didn’t know what they were.

One of the interesting things about living in an information age is that one simply doesn’t have to die. It is the stuff of science fiction to transpose one’s personality into a computer and to continue ‘living’ as a machine, but in the past, in order to achieve immortality one had to be a Hemingway or a Shakespeare, a Monroe or a Dean, a Warhol or a Picasso. Now, thanks to the available technology, our writings, videos, music and musings can live as long as the server permits. I came across this blog post, of one Derek Miller, who recently died from cancer. It is a marvellous, poignant and inspiring piece of prose. Even though the man is dead, his work can live forever, and thereby so can he. What an age we live in!

Enjoy it while you can.

A few bits and pieces to clean out the browser and to share with you, dear reader.

This was a really inspiring story about some girls in Afghanistan who still go to school, despite the harrassment and assault by (supposed) Taleban. I hope these kids will be OK.

The Vietnamese government is rallying against official corruption by jailing anyone who reports or publicises it. Way to go Vietnam!

A sad and disturbing story about an Australian Christian charity taking government money to supposedly help  women with mental illnesses or drug problems, but actually just providing untrained counsellors and exorcisms. The government response? Nothing to see here, move along…

The strong yen in Japan is having an effect on the number of tourists coming here, as well as on the major exporters. Why is the Japanese government allowing this to happen – and when will they step in? This article goes some way to explaining why and when.

One of the latest fitness fads sweeping Japan is workouts with swords… I’m simultaneously turned on and a little scared.

A recent travel trend has been to visit obscure and rarely-visited train stations. That Seishin-18 Kippu may come in handy next holidays.

A bizarre commercial from Japan (is there any other kind?) of a crazy gaijin (foreigner) who braves the oceans to come to Japan and …. smoke.

A village in the countryside of Japan is providing cheap housing to its singles in the hope they’ll be fruitful and multiply.

Want to visit the new Tsujiki fish markets when they open? Don’t worry about the cancer-causing benzo(a)pyrene in the soil. Yeah, that stuff which the government has admitted withholding reports about. But don’t worry, there’s no official environmental standard for it, so it must be safe. Want some sushi?

I was trying to find this before when I was writing about how the youth of Japan-land are being encouraged to work in the fields. It’s otaku (geek) meets desperate marketing ploy to keep rice farmers in the cash. And it seems to be working…

International geeks can now get help in English when they visit Akihabara. I want to know if this campaign extends to the Maid Cafes….

An interesting read about black culture and hip hop.

Some really great pictures of the Earth, New York City, as well as Obama’s inauguration.

My buddy and occasional travelling companion, Sheree, sent these pictures of a cutaway Nikon D3. Her blog is a riot too.

I think I posted some of this guys pictures before, but I saw some here that I hadn’t seen before, so I’ll post them again!

An interesting idea: it’s possible to review a restaurant within the first seven seconds of arriving. It goes to show that at least in the hospitality industry, first impressions count for a lot.

More coffee good news: it can beat Alzheimer’s AND increase your chance of having hallucinations! Some people may say that the hallucinations may be a bad thing, but not I. I just just won’t try operating heavy machinery after consuming a double espresso, that’s all.

A great story about how rock and roll excess has fed thousands of hungry people.

So where did the Hokey Pokey come from anyway? Who knew I was teaching Japanese children all about the effects of cocaine use? Hard drugs were never so much (innocent) fun!

I always enjoy Helen Razer’s rants, and this one taking on the upcoming internet firewall surrounding Australia is a doozy.

Another reason why biofuels are bad – they congeal in cold weather.

Researchers have linked fat teenagers to a lack of Vitamin D. It’s also called a lack of OUTDOOR EXERCISE – or just a lack of exercise, period. Go for a walk. Me too.

Related to health – if you’re feeling sick, just go and drink some water from an Indian river. It’s likely to contain the medicine for whatever’s ailing you – as well as everything else imaginable. Then you’ll die.

The Monarto Zoo near Adelaide is set to expand, and they’ll be offering punters a chance to sleep under the stars WITH the animals! Excuse me if the idea of sleeping in the same field as lions, elephants and rhinoceros does not appeal…

And that does it for now. Sayonara!

Scientists are predicting that this year will be the coldest year of the decade. It has been friggin’ cold up here in the Northern Hemisphere for my southern-dwelling friend. Got news for youno sunspots. Not a one. Remember the last time that happened? Well, not unless you’re 400 or something, but it got cold – for years. Buy stocks in a fleece company.

A woman has spent a year doing everything Oprah says to do  in the name of ‘art’, and by ‘art’ we mean getting her face in the media and getting a book deal. At the end of the year she’s become an Oprah Drone without realising it. You know who wins in the name of Oprah vs. ironic post-feminist art? Oprah, baby, that’s who.

Here’s an interview of Ed Benedict done by John Kricfalusi. Who’s Ed Benedict? The guy who invented The Flintstones (as well as Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Huckleberry Hound….). Who’s John Kricfalusi? The guy who invented Ren and Stimpy. Read on.

Someone at Burger King needs to read up on Orientalism and Colonialism. Bleah. Someone needs to do a Festival Of The Chicken on these guys. (I’m not making that up!)

That economic rescue package thingy has grown to $8.5 trillion. That’s eight and a half trillion dollars, or a crap-load of money. So what happens when you extrapolate the eventual cost of something else the Bush administration is responsible for, such as the Iraq War, onto the bailout? $595 TRILLION. One piece of good news is that it now costs peanuts to hire a cargo ship…. errrmmm…

Don’t worry, the CEOs got paid

Greenland’s not the only place where storm clouds are gathering. Try Italy, where education cutbacks are threatening the future of society. Try Europe as a whole, where immigration policy threatens to destabilize the region. Try Thailand where violent protests are just a moment away – still. Try Pakistan, where violence and chaos are growing day by day. It threatens the whole region. Try my sunny homeland, Australia, where the government is really going to bring in Internet filtering. Thankfully people aren’t going to take it lying down.

So, a year on from the Nova collapse. Wow, a lot has happened!

In Tokyo, tourists have been barred from the famous Tsujiki fish markets for a month. They can’t keep their greasy mits off the merchandise, or their camera flashes off apparently.

I remember back in the late 80s when mildly rascist commentators went berzerk over how the Japanese were going to buy everything – and it didn’t happen. Now it’s the turn of the Chinese.

I don’t agree with the Catholic church about most things, but I can agree with them about this; Disney is evil and should be wiped from the Earth.

Steve McQueen has been dead for nearly thirty years and is still cooler than anyone – except perhaps Stephen Colbert.