*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Japan's 'just in time' culture of societal renovation: to fail

Societal renovation worked well enough in Meiji and the Occupation.  Especially well if you weren't the ruling class, so much as just one step down and got to take over.  Too bad about the cannon fodder...

Too bad 'the third time's [not] the charm'.  Never mind the log-jam that is modern Japanese improvisation to 'outside context problems' of any degree.  The debts of the Bubble have still not spun-out, because "the perverted golf-club" kept them out of play, but they cannot do that for ever.  There's domestic demographics:

The fact that it's an unenviable place for workers to come, even if they were wanted, much less wanted as immigrants: permanent and full members of Japanese society, like many other countries offer to most immigrants.

Japan will change it's attitude, politically and socially, to immigration, and I would guess they will do it within a generation, by the look of those demographic kites.  It's amazing how tolerant mouth-breathers can become once there's a fraction of the people paying into social welfare, a multiple of people drawing on it, and they want a share.  Except, who'd come then?  What's Japan going to have to offer immigrants in ten to twenty years, much less in the 2050 of the third chart?  It already has a great deal less to offer than quite a few other places, not just in the 'First World', but also in some 'Emerging Nations': often the immigrants' home.

I shouldn't take pleasure in this, because it is petty, and I have family and friends here.  For them I am concerned.  But Japan?  Japan's brought it on itself with sight of it from far off.  Japan won't ever accept my children as fully Japanese.  My white ass has had some privilege by it but also a great deal of aggravation.*  Fuck Japan!  I'll enjoy my Schadenfreude.

*I'll thank Japan for giving me some experience of crap visible minorities put up with in my own country.  Enough to have put fair peers of mine in their place in front of the less fair.  You taught me how bigotry feels.  Good job Japan.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Why no wagons? Why the boats?

Yes, I know I've written plenty against cars, but I haven't had to live in Toronto with two kids using the city's crap transit: with one was bad enough.  We'll never get one car per adult!  With two kids in Tokyo there's no call for a vehicle, and driving here's no pleasure and expensive besides (tolls).  I am returning to North America, and that means sprawl, and poor transit or none.  However, if you don't need your car to commute, you're an idiot to own one.

Owning in Canada: an average of $10K/yr all costs in, including gas, maintenance, insurance and depreciation.

Not owning in Canada: an average of $5.5K/yr if you're profligate
- $100/month on transit
- $300/month on car rental, if frequent
- $50/month on taxis

I need a third seat row, though not a luxurious one.  I'm not getting a fucking truck, just because I bred.

I'm in early middle age, but married late enough not to justify mid-life crisis: I ought to get a sedan.  However, I have a mother and MIL I'll need to fit in sometimes, along with a wife, and two child seats, which waste a fuck-tonne of room (the seats).  I'm not getting a van or truck, because besides driving like a building, the premium on buying, running and insuring is going to be an extra 25% or more.  Nobody's making a station wagon, though.  That's what I really need.  It'd also let me carry cycling and camping gear when I get to, or sleep in the back on long drives when the family's in Japan and I am not.

I'm cheap, but too cheap to buy a PITA that will cost me more in repair and poor ride quality, so GM and Chrysler are out (besides, fuck their bail out!), so is Toyota after their lies about their accelerators, and European cars are not worth the premium.  They don't make three row sedan/wagon/van vehicles anyway. There are these, and all come out around $30K new in Canada with options you'd want (less in the US, despite the dollar, as usual) after taxes.


Kia Rondo

Mitsubishi Outlander

Am as partial to Honda as against GM, from owning one of each, but they make nothing in this class.  Nor does Hyundai or Nissan.  Am I missing anything?  Can't be much over $30K CAD, parks, drives and weighs more like a sedan than a truck, and has a third seat row (both second and third rows folding away, ideally flat).

Given the three pictures, I am partial to the Mazda5, but if the recent reliability and build quality of the Kia and Mistubishi are as good I could be swayed.  However, only the Mazda's got the sliding rear door, and my MIL and mother are near opposite sides of seventy years.  What a shame there are so few choices for what's kind of an ideal car for North America.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Obokata: "perverted golf-club" is hammer to her nail

'Japanese culture': afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable.
Japan... is so broken (because of) what I call the “perverted golf-club mentality” — the big corporate networks made up of the banks and insurance companies and the big corporations.
Two months ago, 'Shisaku' had a pair of interesting stories on a Japanese woman scientist whose team published findings in Nature on a simpler, cheaper, way to get stem cells.  It's interesting enough that she is only thirty, conventionally attractive, yet taken at all seriously in this vastly sexist archipelago.

Well that didn't last very long...
The investigative panel, headed by Riken’s Shunsuke Ishii, found fabricated and falsified data in one of the two STAP papers published in Nature, of which Obokata was the lead author. The committee has refused to confirm or refute the existence of STAP cells.
Seems awfully harsh considering all they found was:
The panel labeled as a “fabrication” an image used in one of the papers that “closely resembled” one in her doctoral thesis for Waseda University, though the Riken-sponsored experiments were conducted under different conditions.  The panel also found that her manipulation of an image from a lab test to add contrast was an act of “falsification.”
I am no genetic researcher, but seems to me that's 'slap on the wrist' stuff.  Well, 'that's what she said':
I sincerely apologize for suspicions raised over my research papers and the enormous trouble caused to Riken, co-authors of the papers and many others due to my carelessness, sloppiness and immaturity... I think my mistakes were incredibly (immature) in the eyes of many researchers...  But these mistakes do not affect the conclusions of my paper, and above all, the experiments have been solidly conducted and the data (proving STAP cells) exist.
It's entirely possible her findings are bunkum, but it doesn't make me less suspicious of the unseemly appetite to take her down.  If you're not in Japan, you won't have seen the dismissal of her findings on most networks' news programs, and editorializing by Japan's fuck-wit tarento.  It's almost as if it were orchestrated.  They've even pushed her to a nervous breakdown.

So why the pile on?  'Follow the money'  Cui bono?  Over a billion US dollars of government funding to Shinya Yamanaka and the Kyoto University Center for iPS Cell Research are the issue (whose work becomes obsolete) not the science.  That's enough to buy some media, no?  Especially if you're a connected male, middle aged or better, and have the ear of the PM who's the same, as are the rest of the "perverted golf club".*  "And so it goes..."

I'll wait to make my conclusions on her science once there is news on this from abroad, based on the repeatability of her findings (you know, science), not from a Japanese agency using Japanese 'data'.  The larger point is the lesson for women, though perhaps not quite the one "the perverted golf-club" meant as the take-away: if you're intellectually honest and innovative, leave Japan; if you're something more than a fuck-muppet, the same.  I wouldn't suggest the US or Canada, mind you.

*Read your Wolferen if you want to understand this country at all.  It should be decades out of date, except Japan doesn't do incremental change.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Tokyo Green Walks

Tokyo's no Manhattan or Montréal, each with a green heart, nor is it walkable by its central area being small, contiguous, and lain with a tree-shaded grid* of the ideal urban form: three-story walk-ups.  Nor are many buildings made of warm materials like stone or brick, rather than concrete, toilet tiles or aluminum.

Guess where.

I can love no city that is not better walked than driven or ridden.  It's why I will always love Montréal, abide Tokyo and Toronto, and despise the three Ontario towns I have endured.  Even so, there are some Tokyo walks you can take to stay sane.

I need walks under a tree canopy to stay sane.  Perhaps if I had not been raised in a temperate climate in the northern hemisphere I would not, but most of my readers have been raised in the same.  Without trees, grass and the colour green I despair.  Tokyo is despair.

Rather than add to the Chuocides, I try to make walks part of my commute home, which is hard as there are none suitable where I live in Shitamachi, few enough at all, and fewer that take you anywhere, rather than a loop in a park.  I'm discounting parks that, make you loop back to the same entrance or have inconvenient entrances, aren't on the way to anywhere else, or charge admission.  I do not count walks along the drains that were once rivers.  An issue is many parks close at sunset, and sunset is as stupidly early in Japan as sunrises are.  Winter is hopeless.

Walk the passage through the pond on the south end, through any of the paths in the middle of the park, out to Uguisudani or through Yanaka cemetery to Nippori.

Between Yoyogikoen and Yoyogi stations: through both Yoyikoen (park) and Meijijigu.  For Meijijingu make sure to get to the open glade at the north end, which is less overrun than most of the city.

Inokashira Park
Avoid weekends like the plague.

Imperial Palace East Garden and Kitanomaru-koen (park)
If you are downtown.

Mizumoto-koen (park)
Would be nice if it were on the way to anywhere.

Satomi-koen, Chiba
Not in Tokyo, but along the river near Satomi-koen and the girls'/women's schools at the end of the Edogawa there's a section of the river that is a relief from the wind-blown drains all the other rivers are.

I have been to the park by train and bike, but better to take one of the ferries over from the city, not that they go with any frequency.

*To be honest, Montréal does not have enough trees on its streets.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

'April is the cruelest month': Japan's suicide season?

lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.

The Tokyo trains have had major 'accident resulting in injury or death' three of four mornings this week: suicides, attempted or successful.  Several Japanese I know have said, "Ahh... spring." when I mentioned I was delayed, confirming my suspicions that it's the response of some who failed assimilation to a: 'good' high school, university, or corporate job that happens from the beginning of this month. 
There is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.
Especially if you live the unenviable life of the Japanese:
Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.
Jumping in front of a train, common enough at Shin-Ochanomizu station to have coined the term 'Chuocide', is the done thing.  I am not sure if it is the norm more because trains are such a common part of Japanese life, or as the one gesture that might get noticed in a 'failed' life, passive-aggressive as it is.

Tokyo, if not proper mental health, or another measure for success, there is always this:

In Canada the suicides peak in winter, often the 'holidays', and if you'd lived through our winters and holiday dinners, you'd know why.  I think the dullness and darkness better suits the urban Japanese psyche than spring:
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
I do not know if the suicides peak now in Japan, to be honest, although three massive train delays in one week makes me suspicious.  What makes me more suspicious is my Japanese acquaintances referencing suicides with spring; that they do tells as much about suicides in assimilation season as whatever the true suicide cycle is.