Friday, May 29, 2015

Blowing Smoke: Today's Eruption of Mount Shindake

And the Government's Hot-Air Response


The footage of this morning’s eruption of Mount Shindake, on tiny Kuchinoerabu Island in Japan’s far southwest, is awesome and terrifying and fascinating – and probably very bad for the local tourism industry. In case you missed it, the article accompanying the footage is prettyterrifying in its own way.
 
 
 
Below are a few excerpts in quotation marks.
The keen insights in italics are mine.

“More than 100 people have been ordered to evacuate after a volcano erupted on the tiny southern Japanese island of Kuchinoerabu on Friday morning.”
Ordered to evacuate. Huge volcanic eruption on a tiny island and the authorities think they need to tell people to get the hell out of Dodge? This is what a government selfie looks like.

“Spectacular TV footage captured the moment Mount Shindake exploded, sending columns of thick, black smoke high into the air.”
Guys, the smoke in that ‘spectacular’ footage is medium gray. At best.

“Japan’s meteorological agency raised the alert level to five – the highest on its scale…”
A massive eruption ranks a five. Wow. Tricky algorithm there.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Shakespearean Tragedy in Yoshikawa Park

To Ignore or Not To Ignore

Children were swarming all over Yoshikawa Park in Matsumoto today. A bunch of animals, they were. Cheetahs and gazelles, racing in circles across the wide open grassy spaces. Monkeys running and climbing all over the bars and rope ladders while lions and tigers growled their way through tunnels and up and down ramps in the expansive playground. Quacking ducks splashed around in the brick-lined river flowing down from the place where young colts in t-shirts and colorful birds in summer dresses brayed and chirped as they danced around on the smooth stone ground, cool water shooting and spraying them from the fountains underneath.

And on a bench in the shade I saw these three kids.

 
What a shameful, pathetic waste of a beautiful day, we righteous parents mutter. Kids with their noses stuck in their video games like that.

Friday, May 15, 2015

7 Silly Quotes From Obama's Gulf Allies Summit

And What They Really Mean

"I was told this was a six-nation summit, why are there eight of us here?"
Reuters reports that Barack Obama held a summit this Thursday at Camp David for the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. (Okay, everyone reports it but Reuters gets the nod for the most usable quotes.) Why the US is hosting such an event let alone attending one is bizarre enough. What was said makes the event a true oil slick of political bilge.

To wit:


"President Barack Obama vowed on Thursday to back Gulf allies against any external attack."
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the only external attacks on the Middle East I can recall were by the US.

"Obama pledged that the United States would consider using military force to defend them."
So the promise is to BACK our Gulf Allies (is that oxymoronic or just moronic?), while the pledge is to CONSIDER military force. 'Guys, we got your back. You know...from back here.'

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My Advice To You Is To Start Drinking Heavily

The Benefits of Solid Research

Raise your income by drinking a whooooole lot of this.

Coffee or green tea?

The question used to make that angel-devil combo pop up on my shoulders.

"Green tea is sooooo much healthier," my angel would coo. "AND it's traditional." She'd drag out that last word in her sweet sarcasm that makes me want to punch her in her cherub.

"The coffee," my devil would growl, like he already knew he was going to win. "Coffee milk coffee sugar coffee coffee coffee!!"

I used to listen to my angel much more often. I blame the kids.

Thanks to the findings of this new study the sides of my conscience don't have to argue anymore.





Drinking Coffee, Green Tea Lowers Health Risks, Study Suggests


Yes, according to Japan’s National Cancer Center, "a study of about 90,000 people aged between 40 and 69 suggests that regularly drinking the beverages may lower health risks including death from heart and cerebrovascular diseases."

Wow, 90,000 subjects. That's a pretty reliable sample size.

The article goes on to explain how "the cancer center and the University of Tokyo followed the drinking habits and health of the people for an average period of 19 years in the study, which started in 1990."

Hot dog, 19 years! These people are mighty patient and thorough. And we can assume, nicely funded.

"The participants only supplied their coffee and green tea drinking habits at the beginning of the study."

WHAT?? Chotto matte, patient and thorough National Cancer Center people. You asked 90,000 people what they drank the day before, checked in on them 19 years later and now you proudly "suggest" my angel-devil team can just turn in their wings and their pitchforks?

If this is what passes for research then allow me to proudly suggest a few of my own findings.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Putting a Lid on California's Drought

In A Nutshell



If you aren’t in tune with California’s ongoing drought you are either (a) steadfastly oblivious to the news or (b) you have zero regard for the welfare of California.

I fall into both (a) and (b) so imagine my surprise when, after clicking on a picture of a woman in a bikini (because the caption said I might get rich if I did) I was presented with the following headline:


My shock, as you can well imagine, reverberated on several levels of perception.

My first thought as a writer was “Shouldn’t every word in a headline be capitalized?”

My next thought was something like “God this instant coffee tastes like crap.”

Then after one final fleeting thought of my days as a rich man in a bikini I decided that Starbucks must be one fine organization. ‘Ethos’ water? Sounds like they’ve really got their moral elements all in a row, contributing to the health of all their non-coffee-drinking customers by way of a mass manufacturing of plastic bottles.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ichiro Suzuki in Miami

Why Does He Look So Happy?


 
I’ll bet I became a fan of Ichiro Suzuki at the same time most other people did. Namely, on April 11th 2001 when he fired a screamer from right field to nail Terrence Long at third base. Since that day, whether on the ESPN highlight reel or in the occasional game I’d catch on TV, watching Ichiro has always been a supreme pleasure, for his artistry as well as his level-headed attitude. (Notice the non-reaction after that throw?)

And while his play amazed, his demeanor intrigued, to the point I where wondered if the guy even cared about winning.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Tokyo Sushi Joint Owner Tells Foreigners To "Fish Off"

And He Has No Reservations About It

"So what can I get for you to - Hey! How did you gaijin get in here?!"
With everyone caught up in the racial tension exploding all over the streets of Baltimore many seem to have missed what is going on across the globe in Japan. While people share videos and trade commentary on rioting and looting and an empty baseball stadium there's barely been a whisper about the injustices happening right in the heart of the ritziest section of Tokyo.

According to this article in the Japan Times there's some guy with a sharp knife and fingers that reek of tuna refusing to play nice with certain non-Japanese people. His heinous crime? Maintaining a policy of not accepting reservations by foreign would-be patrons of his fancy-schmancy sushi bar.

All hell broke loose recently when a Chinese man, who has been a resident of Japan for 30 years, was unable to snag a dinner reservation at Sushi Mizutani because his name wasn't Japanese, even though he had his Japanese secretary call and make the reservation. Mizutani-san offers the simple explanation that “Non-Japanese customers may not show up for their reservations.” Apparently his Japanese customers always do.

But let's set aside this powderkeg for a second and highlight a couple other bits.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My Two World Leaders

And Their Few Words

President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Abe
(pronounced AH-beh or, alternatively, SEN-sah-za-MEE-dee-ah)
offered some telling remarks this past Tuesday
to open Herr Kimigayo’s visit to the US.

(The full transcript can be found here but the following summary is really all you need.)
 
"Come on, we agreed we'd say nothing about the new military bases. Now shake on it."


Obama went first since the Japanese are polite like that.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

When the Coffee Machine Breaks

Idiotic Advice From An Unexpected Source

The editors over at Entrepreneur.com are a bunch of god damn geniuses. Day after day they crank out new articles, many of them with numbered lists in the titles, all on the subject of how to succeed in business. And day after day people gobble this stuff up, in the same way those insatiable housewives read every issue of Cosmo for their fix of 10 New Ways to Drive Their Man Wild in Bed.

Sarcasm aside – a rarity around here – Entrepreneur’s cadre of contributors regularly come through with some quality advice. The only thing that is usually lacking is the electric shock reinforcement therapy for a certain unnamed person around here who forgets the advice faster than it takes to read the article. 

So when an article like the one I just read gets published I have to call it out. 18 Unusual Habits That Boost Your Energy More Than Coffee reads like an internal moral struggle on the part of the writer who can’t decide if he should give real advice or just go for the affiliate clicks. As most of us do when our conscience is at odds with itself, the guy tries to do both, hoping the good stuff will in the long run make up for the instant gratification of the bad stuff. Come on, I’ll make you breakfast in bed.

Question: Why 18 Unusual Habits?

Couldn’t think of two more for an even 20? Didn’t want to miss out on any affiliate clicks by rounding down to 10 or 12 or even 15?

Here’s what the author – and Co-Founder of Empact – had to say: “To understand unique and healthy ways to consistently and quickly boost energy daily, I interviewed the country’s top ambitious young entrepreneurs, honorees of the Empact Showcase…”

Nice self-promo there.

OK, let’s see what advice the 18 Empact Showcase honorees have for us in exchange for a link.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Matsumoto’s Kōbō-yama

The Life & Times of a Non-Descript Mountain


Kōbō-yama does not draw much attention from the tourist and backpacker crowd. Visitors to Matsumoto, once they turn their eyes from the castle and the easy bustle of downtown, are drawn to the serrated alpine skyline across the valley to the west. Even to the natives Kōbō-yama goes largely unnoticed. And this is not surprising. Standing barely 50 meters above the traffic rolling up and down nearby Route 19, Mt. Kōbō can hardly be called a mountain at all.

Yet there is something very interesting about this very non-descript place. Two very interesting things, actually. One floats overhead and all around, as fantastic as it is fleeting. The other lies underfoot, old and unmoving and fantastically understated. One requires perfect timing. The other is constant as time itself.

Come in mid-April if you want to see both.

Read more at Taiken Japan...