The Nobel Peace Prize Watch

February 24, 2015 Leave a comment

The Nobel Peace Prize Watch.

The Nobel Peace Prize has become tainted over the past 25 years as it is being awarded over and over to people and organizations that have repeatedly acted against the tenets of the will in which Alfred Nobel stated his intention. The will is a legal instrument, with a binding obligation of its stewards. When the stewards act against its stipulations and fail to honor its purpose, then the committee is breaking the law.

This has become a matter being taken up in both the Swedish and Norwegian parliaments. If the challenge is successful, the Nobel Committee may yet be stripped of its authority.

I think this will still take 10 years longer to become a reality. But the people who are demanding a faithful and legal obligation to the Nobel testament will ultimately prevail. It is my hope that it will be before the escalating militarism in the world and the rising destructive powers of the world’s weapons makes life next to impossible in much of the region of eastern Europe, north Africa, and west Asia uninhabitable.

Emoji Everywhere 🎃

November 7, 2014 Leave a comment


I am not a huge fan of “Emoji,” at least not to the extent that many of my Japanese friends are. Actually, it is not so much that I’m not a fan, but I just don’t have the capacity or inclination to become as adept in using them as many of the people I know who use them as comfortably as words. I’m not a Luddite, but I did learn to type on a typewriter, not a keyboard, let alone a touch screen on a “sumafo”!

But it is somewhat nice to know that we can now use Emoji in our WordPress posts. 😄

I doubt I will ever become as adept at using these (😔) or these (*_*) as my very capable one-thumb typist friends, but it is still good to know that they are available on my still favorite (and largely ignored) blogging platform. For those of you who take greater care to nurture your literary children, please enjoy this new-found ability!

Originally posted on News:

Emoji? What are they?

“Emoji” is a japanese term meaning “picture character.” It’s a standard for showing smileys and other little symbols inside text. But unlike traditional smileys that are made up of a sequence of letters like :), every emoji has its own letter.

🌷 🌹 🌺 🌻 🌼

Emoji blossomed on smartphones, where quickly picking out an emoji is often faster than typing out a long sentence.

Today we’re rolling out hundreds and hundreds of emoji across — 872 to be exact.


Do they look familiar? That’s because Twitter has graciously decided to open-source their entire set, allowing anyone to use them. We’re already busy preparing to add these to Jetpack, so users can join in the fun too.

Before today, emoji you inserted into your posts on the go wouldn’t always show properly for all your visitors. While the nice little bunny…

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Important Infrequently Used Words To Know

November 6, 2014 Leave a comment

Originally posted on Just English:

Paul V. Hartman

(The Capitalized syllable gets the emphasis)


alacrity       a-LACK-ra-tee      cheerful willingness and promptness
anathema       a-NATH-a-ma      a thing or person cursed, banned, or reviled
anodyne       AN-a-dine      not likely to cause offence or disagreement and somewhat dull//anything that sooths or comforts
aphorism      AFF-oar-ism      a short, witty saying or concise principle
apostate       ah-POSS-tate       (also:  apostasy)      person who has left the fold or deserted the faith.
arrogate      ARROW-gate      to make an unreasonable claim
atavistic     at-a-VIS-tic      reverting to a primitive type
avuncular      a-VUNC-you-lar      “like an uncle”; benevolent

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April 4, 2014 Leave a comment


A very well thought out and written review of conservative (the real meaning) actions by a good friend, Jonathon Walsh.

Originally posted on Japan Urban Farming:

free stuff text on blackboard

Saving the planet can seem like a near impossible task at the best of times but it doesn’t have to be that way. Every step toward creating a healthier more sustainable planet counts, but only if they are actually taken.
The great thing is that with a few simple ideas, it’s easy to not only take steps to protect the environment but also to save money, access services for free, forge new friendships, improve our health, and strengthen communities at the same time.

Jonathon Walsh outlines 7 ways we can do it quickly, easily and cheaply.


Let’s face it: the core of economics revolves around people handing over round pieces of metal and bits of paper (with pictures on them) to others. It’s farcical, and yet the only reason our currency-based economies actually continue to function is because enough of us unquestioningly buy into…

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Pictures: Ultra-Nationalist Demonstrators Overwhelmed by Anti-Racist Counter-Protest

March 18, 2014 1 comment


Wonderful post about anti-racist protestors in Tokyo.

Originally posted on Tokyo Desu:

Lately, it seems like every time we psych ourselves up to go back to writing our usual knob gags (that we stay up all night coming up with for you), some serious and/or groundbreaking news comes along that demands our attention and, alas, knob gag restraint:

Yesterday, a hard right, ultra-nationalist group known as the Zaitokukai (roughly translated as: “Citizens Against the Special Privileges of Koreans in Japan”) held a meeting of around 100 members in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district, with a demonstration march planned directly after.

Much to the surprise and chagrin of the Zaitokukai, however, they found themselves outnumbered three to one by a huge cluster of counter-protesters holding anti-racist signs and shouting down the right wingers as they marched. Taken together with the momentous J-League punishment of the Urawa Reds for racist fan behavior doled out last week, this clash falls just shy of marking a new trend…

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Divide and Prosper: An Asian Model for Successful Business Growth

November 6, 2013 Leave a comment

I recently read Divide and Prosper, by Kuniyasu Sakai and Hiroshi Sekiyama, and posted a review in Goodreads.  My full review is linked here.

The book is, ostensibly, a business book.  It is written as an inspirational management guide.  As such, Divide and Prosper is extremely useful, providing a wealth of practical information for a successful business manager.  But this is only one tiny fraction of the book’s value.  The greatest merits of the book come from its attempt to inspire and motivate younger people to aspire to more than is offered by the status quo.

In my review, I wrote about the author’s detailed description of the subcontractor system in Japan in the section, “Big Business, Small Companies.” In this section, Sakai and Sekiyama describe carefully how the major corporations enslave the majority of the nation’s companies and people.

To Sakai and Sekiyama, the status quo does not provide redeeming lives to the majority of people.  This goes against the conventional “wisdom,” which says that Japan has achieved a higher standard of living than most of the nations of the world.  While it may have severe limitations in space and cost of living, the standard of wealth, safety, and convenience make Japan a mark of success, not failure.  But rather than spreading wealth thinly and evenly across the majority of the nation – as is the “common knowledge” explanation goes – the subcontracting system enslaves the majority of people. The big companies are not much more that a system of installing a small cadre of mediocre administrators to threaten, cajole, and pacify the masses, while pooling the wealth into the hands of a few wealthy and powerful elites, who hide anonymously behind the veils of their organizations.

First, the authors describe how the system is integral to the Japanese economy as a whole.  “The shitauke system is in one sense the very foundation of our modern business and industrial structure, the base upon which our giant commercial structure has been built.”  They continue to say that,”large corporations in a wide variety of fields act merely as “trading companies,” farming out jobs to their affiliates at cut-rate prices while charging their clients for the prestige of dealing with a top-notch Japanese firm.”

This structure is possible because the major, publicly traded, international corporations only comprise a small minority of the Japanese economy.  Sakai and Sekiyama write that, “90% of Japanese economy is minor industry.  Relatively few companies have more than three hundred employees, and more than three-quarters of all Japanese companies are very small, employing only a handful of people.  The real backbone of the Japanese industry is not the Toyotas and Nissans, the Matsushitas and Sonys, the Fujitsus and NECs, but rather, the thousands upon thousands of small firms that allow these behemoths to exist in the first place.”  Here, we start to see that the heart of their story is not just a positive guide to successful business, but a scathing war cry, aiming to defeat the massive corporate giants that cripple Japan and, ultimately, our world.

“In Japan, most small firms (and nearly all small manufacturing firms) exist in the shadow of a few dozen giant corporations which completely control their destinies. The master firm completely controls both its subcontractors’ production levels and unit costs, and this is the reason the giant industrial combines so jealously guard this system.”  Of course.  If a big company can control the production level and unit costs, it can offload most of its risks and take most of the returns from manufacturing.  It automatically inflates the big companies at the expense of the smaller subcontractors.

“What many people, even here in Japan, would find surprising is the astounding quantity of goods the firm purchases rather than manufactures.”  Again, this should not come as a surprise.  Manufacturing themselves would create a large number of “risks”, namely the human resources, facilities, and capital necessary to produce products.  Instead, the big corporations merely farm out the production, waiting “to put its name on the outer case and send the products through its international marketing and distribution system.”

This structure, Sakai and Sekiyama say, is an “industrial shock absorber.”  “The advantages of this system for the parent firm are just as obvious as the disadvantages for the smaller firms.  If the giant corporation falls on hard times, it will take a very long time (as we saw in the 90s) before it needs to lay off employees or radically alter any part of its own corporate structure.  It battens down the hatches and rides out the storm, keeping its own inconvenience to a minimum.”

“Having served as one of these “slave” companies for many years, I believe very strongly that a situation in which one must produce at another’s beck and call is ultimately destructive. ”

Men are not lemmings.  Of course, the “mass suicide” popular story about lemmings is a misconception, but the metaphor that we frequently behave unquestioningly as popular opinion dictates, with potentially fatal or dangerous consequences is, I think, quite valid.  Our fetish with big things – especially BIG business, BIG companies, and BIG data – may, in fact doom us.  I hope not.

We Make the World as We Imagine

October 30, 2013 Leave a comment

Often, we think that the world is as it is because of external forces; most of these forces are uncontrollable and often random.  Since we do not like to think of ourselves as powerless, we tend to attribute the forces of nature and the physical world to a higher order.

While I, too believe in God, I don’t believe in predetermination, nor that God controls our world.  Rather, I believe that my sense of good, morality, and the sanctity of our existence, the magical forces that seem to permeate every aspect of our world, how cells form, interact, and provide energy and life, that how I think and feel and that I am capable of communicating my thoughts and beliefs through words and deeds come from a mystical, magical, wonderful, spectacular, fantastic, supercalifragilisticexpialidociously delicious thing/unthing that I think of as God.

While I don’t really like a lot of what we humans are doing to our world, I do think that it is being created and destroyed in our own image.  That is, we are making it the way we think of ourselves.  If we think of ourselves as being power-hungry, dirty, insatiable animals, competing and fighting each other for domination of others and for resources, putting self-gratification above nearly everything else, then that is how we create our world.  I like to think of humans as being intelligent, cooperative, curious, fun-seeking, adventurous, self-depreciating, humorous, amusing, and loving, caring entities, so I hope to create a different world than what I see in my local and global environment.

But of course there are natural and other disasters that we cannot directly predict or control. I don’t deny that.  But there is so much that we CAN do, to mitigate the most disastrous effects of natural catastrophes and to engage in programs and policies that reduce the likelihood of large scale human-induced calamities.  What I am saying is that we are making choices to mitigate or exacerbate the effects of natural and human-induced disasters.

We also make our world in our image in how we deal with disaster.  In the aftermath of calamity, how we deal with people, property, and environment directly reflects our image of ourselves and the priorities of our communities.  I’ve read recently a variety of news articles about the relief efforts in the aftermath one year after Hurricane Sandy.  With nearly half a trillion dollars of relief funds raised publicly and privately, apparently less than half of it has been distributed to date.  In particular, small business and housing loans and grants have been particularly slow to deliver.

In Syria yesterday, I heard that around 2000 people trapped in Moadamiyeh, a suburb of Damascus, were evacuated after being trapped for months without food, medical supplies, or assistance, after being surrounded for months by government forces.  This has been reported in many western news sources, including this report in the Huffington Post.  There seems to me to be much wrong with how the world is dealing with such humanitarian crises such as these.

However, I think that there is more in our world that gives hope, rather than despair.  I try to find the things that we create that are good and expand on these, rather than to focus on the bad and regret them.

In the aftermath of Japan’s 3.11.2011 triple disaster, more than 15,000 people were killed, thousands were injured, more than a million buildings were damaged or destroyed, 340,000 people were displaced, and an estimated US$235B in damages ravaged the nation.  The effects of the disaster continue 2 and 1/2 years on, particularly with the continuing nuclear crisis at Fukushima Daiichi Reactor.  We continue to receive occasional word of radiation leaks, stoppage of cooling facilities, and failing words of reassurance that everything is under control.

But the efforts of a violin craftsman in Tokyo to make instruments from wood recovered from homes and other debris discarded after the disaster are particularly reassuring.  Nakazawa Muneyuki is the 72 year old master craftsman, who started to make instruments using this wood less than a year after the disaster.  In particular, the sound post – sometimes referred to as the âme, meaning “soul” in French – is made from the wood of the single miracle pine tree that remained standing in Rikuzen Takata in Iwate Prefecture, that became a strong symbol of strength and perseverance for the victims of the disaster.  In addition to violins, Nakazawa most recently also made a cello, which was played yesterday, October 29, 2013, at Suntory Hall in Akasaka by the renowned cellist, Yo Yo Ma.

This is a perfect example of how I think we make our world in our image.  If we imagine our world to be a kind, beautiful, and loving place, we can create it.  I think that Nakazawa, Yo Yo Ma, and J.S. Bach all have a lot to say about creating a better world.  Thanks!

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