Thursday, September 03, 2015

"My Number" Becomes Law In Japan

Today, rather suddenly, Japan's government enacted a law that will give everyone living in Japan an ID number, and that means a lot of changes for our tax system here, as well as the social security/health insurance coverage/plus alpha*

It also means Japan joins the ranks of nations where the government and its agencies can get much more data on its citizens. This includes the right to access our bank account information. Employers will be a big part of this system, as people working for firms will get their "My Number" through the company they work for.

There is no opt-out, like in the US system (from 1936), or the Swedish system (from (1947) - back in that northern European bastion of civil rights (right...) you can get a temporary ID number if you need it, say for a sensitive medical examination or if you have other special reasons. Something for Japan to consider, as I point out in my September essay for the Japanese magazine we publish over at Consumers Union of Japan (E).

Subscribe to Consumers Report thru this page (J)

The Mainichi/Kyodo goes further in wondering if this really will be possible to implement, without a lot of pain, for example due to data leaks, and for all the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions here, who do not have a permanent address:

Japan enacts law to allow gov't access to personal bank data

(...) Following massive personal data leaks from the Japan Pension Service following cyberattacks in May, deliberation of the bill was stopped for three months after it cleared the House of Representatives and only resumed last week. The legislation was modified to delay linking the ID numbers with people's pension data until November 2017 at the latest.
The government also aims to use the ID numbers to identify victims of disasters and smoothly deliver assistance funds.
With the numbering scheme set to launch in January, concerns are growing over slow preparations by municipalities as well as small and medium-sized companies to update data systems and boost security.
Companies will be required to manage all of their employees' ID numbers and include them in tax-related documents.
A government survey also showed that of the 55 million households across Japan scheduled to receive the ID numbers by mail, at least 2.75 million, or 5 percent, may not be able to get them as they reside away from their registered addresses. Those people include senior citizens in hospitals and nursing homes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How To Think About TPP, And Celebrate - Updated With Links

The last TPP Ministerial in Hawaii did not get the results that governments and corporations wanted. I think we need to celebrate.

We do not want more trade in cars, more trade in milk and meat. We don't want extended patents that will make medicines more expensive. And why should copyrights benefit Disney forever?

If we really care, the lack of results at the last TPP round actually mean that the amazing movement of citizens and consumers and environmental and labour activists - we won. We fought the system and it lost.


East Asia Forum: Will the TPP endgame get tangled in old spaghetti?

Huffington Post: TPP Threatens Access to Affordable Medications for People Around the World

Washington Post: Why NAFTA passed and the Trans-Pacific Partnership failed

The Sydney Morning Herald: Should Australia be wary of the TPP? Yes, Minister.

The Mainichi: Japan's TPP benefits limited as U.S. mulls taking 20 years to remove vehicle tariffs


LAHAINA, Hawaii -- The United States, Canada and Vietnam plan to remove import tariffs on Japanese automobiles over a period of 10 to 20 years under current Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, it has been learned. The United States, the largest importer of Japanese cars, would take around 20 years to remove tariffs, meaning that for Japanese manufacturers of finished vehicles, benefits from the Pacific Rim free trade agreement would be limited for the time being. (...)

South Korea, a rival to Japan in trade, has already reached a free-trade agreement with the United States, under which the U.S. will eliminate tariffs on vehicle imports from South Korea in 2016. When the TPP comes into effect, it therefore seems unlikely that the Pacific Rim agreement will immediately boost Japan's competitiveness in exports to the U.S. 

The United States accounts for over 30 percent of Japan's exports of finished vehicles.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Guest Post Over At Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

Guest post over at Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) about copyright issues and the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations – did Japan move closer to the US positions during the recent Maui talks in July, 2015? With Jeremy Malcolm, formerly at Consumers International:

Japan’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will see a wide range of changes sweeping the economy and the community, in areas as diverse as food safety/food security, country of origin labeling rules, and copyright. As a staff member of Consumers Union of Japan, I am concerned about all of these issues—but I’m writing here about the copyright changes, which unlike in many other TPP countries have sparked national attention.
Copyright has been a sticking point for Japan in its trading relationship with the United States dating all the way back to 1945, when Japan was required to award the victors of the Second World War with 10 years of additional copyright protection. The U.S., Australia, and New Zealand are still benefiting from that even now, and Japan has asked for this to be rolled back in the TPP.
But the U.S. negotiators are demanding the opposite: like five other TPP countries, Japan is being asked to extend its copyright term by another 20 years, from life of the author plus 50 years as the Berne Convention requires, to life plus 70 years, and even longer for corporate-owned works. This is a proposal that Japan has considered repeatedly and rejected on the grounds that it would not benefit Japanese creators. Yet the U.S. will not take no for an answer.
In addition, Japan is being asked to adopt stricter copyright enforcement rules, including sky-high statutory damages awards, and the ability for police to take criminal action against alleged copyright infringers, even if the copyright owner does not file a complaint.

Japanese Creative Sector Speaks Out

The Japan Playwrights Association, the Japan Theatrical Producers Association, and the Japan Theatre Arts Association jointly issued an appeal, opposing the Japanese government’s participation in the TPP negotiations. Their appeal expresses strong concern that controversial issues on intellectual property rights are negotiated without any prior public debate in Japan.

Read the rest at EFF

Friday, July 31, 2015

Kyoto Journal 83: Food Issue (With An Interview With Me!)

Just published is the 83rd issue of KJ, as it is known among fans. I have some old print issues that I hope will become really valuable at some point (just kidding) from when I first lived in Japan 1988-1993.

This time, KJ is all digital, the topic is food, and what could be more timely?

Japan, Asia and the world face a number of huge challenges, including food safety, food security, seed/genetic/biodiversity concerns, not to speak of water and agro-chemical/fertilizer related concerns. Climate change is already causing havoc.

Fuel? It will not stay cheap forever, and then how do we keep supermarkets and convenience stores up-to-the-last-minute with the latest "fresh" goods? Fertilizers? Not up for grabs forever, either. Add to that land ownership legal battles, and the fact that in many places, farmers are aging and not enough young people are prepared to take over. Plus trade related issues like WTO/TPP and a "spaghetti bowl" of bilateral trade agreements (I refuse to call them "free trade" agreements because they have nothing to do with that).

Go to the KJ website, where you can read much more, and even order the real thing:

Food pervades every area of our existence. It sustains us. It inspires us. It enslaves us. It educates us. It may kill us. It allows us to communicate with the Gods.
Your food is not mine, nor mine yours, but we may share it, and in so doing, what joy.
Few remain silent on Food. And why would one? What a natural topic for discussion, discourse, eulogy, outrage, comedy, reflection, prayer, ire, poetry, love.
Food is simultaneously universal and particular, literal and metaphoric. It is edible, incredible fun, a celebration of life itself. And so many of its greatest exponents and proponents live here in Asia. 
  Kyoto Journal is a non-profit Kyoto-based magazine founded in 1987. Its 8th digital issue and 83rd issue—FOOD!—explores the essence of what we eat, in all of the above aspects.
Guest Editor John F. Ashburne, long-time Kyoto resident, has written for the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Japan Times, Louis Vuitton City Guide Kyoto Nara 2011 and Wall Street Journal Asia, and authored the Lonely Planet Food Guide Japan. He is an ‘undercover judge’ for a famed global culinary award that must remain unnamed.
FOOD!—a delectable feast of articles, essays, interviews, poetry, and fine photography, painstakingly prepared by our all-volunteer international kitchen crew—will be released on August 1st, 2015 (and available for download from Newsstand). Our launch party (a potluck, naturally) will be on July 25th at Impact HUB Kyoto (contact us for more information). 

Oh, and there's an interview with me in this issue. I speak on what we do over at Consumers Union of Japan, and the challenges of working at a small NGO/NPO, and the joys too. Here are two questions and my replies:

How does CUJ view the current attempts to fast-track the controversial and largely undisclosed TPP agreement? How do you see the TPP affecting food producers and consumers in Japan?
As I noted earlier, TPP (and before that, the World Trade Organization*) is a major concern. CUJ went to Seattle in 1999 to the infamous "Battle of Seattle" ministerial, and also particpated in the Hong Kong ministerial. And more recently, we went to Brunei for the 19th negotiation round of the TPP. Let me explain - we participate as "stakeholders" which is a funny name, but that's what we get. CUJ is a member of Consumers International, that has a seat at the table as an observer at such events, if we are lucky. Which means we can try to lobby governments, and other participants. We can also sit in on the Japanese government's meetings each day, so called "briefings" and we can actually ask questions and - complain. While there, we also talk to media. Before and after, we usually have meetings in Tokyo and explain what went on - or what didn't happen. TPP has been particularly frustrating, and yes, there will be a lot of adverse effects on Japan's farming community, should the TPP be imposed on us here. Hokkaido in particular will be hit very hard.

Do you see the aging of Japan's population having any significant impact on production or consumption? Japan prides itself on the uniqueness of washoku, in various forms. Will this country's traditional food culture require any kind of special protection, to be maintained successfully into the future?
Yes and no. As we all grow older, won't we all want to eat better? Maybe we will grow more of our own veggies. Teaching the kids about washoku and the joys of simple life may turn into a growth industry for those elderly with a sunburn and a wonderful smile, as they proudly show off their amazing farming skills! Slow food, local food, organic (yuuki) and no additives/pesticides (mutenka) - so much of that was a reality here until the 1960s, and there are so many people who remember that it can be done. Small scale agriculture has a lot of advantages too.

The traditional cuisine, like kaiseki, will probably prevail, but what's more important is what we will all eat on a regular basis, day-to-day. Soba of course, from buckwheat, but what about ramen (from imported wheat)? Sushi may get increasingly expensive and rare, if ocean resources are not carefully protected (and they are not). Again, I think we will have to go back to a diet of more wholesome grains like genmai (whole rice), and many more seasonal vegetables and fresh fruit. And, you know what, I'm actually looking forward to it!

Top image from Organic Kyoto, and here's a link to Ten Thousand Things, one of my favourite blogs!

*Update: Just today (Friday), Wikileaks revealed that the US NSA has been spying on Japan, especially to find out its stance on trade issues, and it is huge news here...

Wikileaks: Target Tokyo

New files released by Wikileaks show that the US has been spying on Japan, especially trade related issues (and climate change). Very embarrassing for Abe's government, as the TPP negotiations are at a crucial point in Maui, Hawaii this weekend. (Image from July 29, 2015 Maui Protest)

Wikileaks: Target Tokyo

Today, Friday 31 July 2015, 9am CEST, WikiLeaks publishes "Target Tokyo", 35 Top Secret NSA targets in Japan including the Japanese cabinet and Japanese companies such as Mitsubishi, together with intercepts relating to US-Japan relations, trade negotiations and sensitive climate change strategy.
The list indicates that NSA spying on Japanese conglomerates, government officials, ministries and senior advisers extends back at least as far as the first administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which lasted from September 2006 until September 2007. The telephone interception target list includes the switchboard for the Japanese Cabinet Office; the executive secretary to the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga; a line described as "Government VIP Line"; numerous officials within the Japanese Central Bank, including Governor Haruhiko Kuroda; the home phone number of at least one Central Bank official; numerous numbers within the Japanese Finance Ministry; the Japanese Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Yoichi Miyazawa; the Natural Gas Division of Mitsubishi; and the Petroleum Division of Mitsui.
Today's publication also contains NSA reports from intercepts of senior Japanese government officials. Four of the reports are classified TOP SECRET. One of the reports is marked "REL TO USA, AUS, CAN, GBR, NZL", meaning it has been formally authorised to be released to the United States' "Five Eyes" intelligence partners: Australia, Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand.
The reports demonstrate the depth of US surveillance of the Japanese government, indicating that intelligence was gathered and processed from numerous Japanese government ministries and offices. The documents demonstrate intimate knowledge of internal Japanese deliberations on such issues as: agricultural imports and trade disputes; negotiating positions in the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization; Japanese technical development plans, climate change policy, nuclear and energy policy and carbon emissions schemes; correspondence with international bodies such as the International Energy Agency (IEA); strategy planning and draft talking points memoranda concerning the management of diplomatic relations with the United States and the European Union; and the content of a confidential Prime Ministerial briefing that took place at Shinzo Abe's official residence.
Julian Assange, WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief, said: "In these documents we see the Japanese government worrying in private about how much or how little to tell the United States, in order to prevent undermining of its climate change proposal or its diplomatic relationship. And yet we now know that the United States heard everything and read everything, and was passing around the deliberations of Japanese leadership to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. The lesson for Japan is this: do not expect a global surveillance superpower to act with honour or respect. There is only one rule: there are no rules."

Big news at every media outlet here on Friday, including The Mainichi:

WikiLeaks says U.S. spied on Japanese government, companies

TOKYO (AP) -- The WikiLeaks website published documents Friday that it said shows the U.S. government spied on Japanese officials and companies.
The documents include what appear to be five U.S. National Security Agency reports, four of which are marked top-secret, that provide intelligence on Japanese positions on international trade and climate change. They date from 2007 to 2009.
WikiLeaks also posted what it says is an NSA list of 35 Japanese targets for telephone intercepts including the Japanese Cabinet office, Bank of Japan officials, Finance and Trade Ministry numbers, the natural gas division at Mitsubishi and the petroleum division at Mitsui.
The validity of the documents could not be independently verified, though WikiLeaks has released U.S. government documents many times in the past.
Japanese Foreign Ministry press secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura said Japan and the United States are in communication about the issue of NSA "information collection" but declined to provide details. He added that "Japan will continue to employ all the necessary measures to protect (its) information."
The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said it was aware of the report but wouldn't say anything further. Mitsui also declined comment, and Mitsubishi did not return a call.
Three of the apparent NSA reports deal with climate change, and the other two with agricultural trade issues, including U.S. cherry exports to Japan.
A notation on one of the top-secret reports on climate change before the 2008 G-8 summit is marked for sharing with Australia, Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand, according to WikiLeaks. It's not clear if it was actually shared.
WikiLeaks has released similar documents in recent weeks that it said show NSA spying on Germany, France and Brazil.
U.S. spying on its allies became an issue in 2013, when WikiLeaks released documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that showed the NSA had been eavesdropping on the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

July 31, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Smart TV? Not So Clever...

The UK consumer organization Which? has recently revealed that so-called "Smart TV" from Samsung and other makers are in fact able to listen in on conversations you may be having in your living room in front of their sets. The "Smart TVs" come with microphones and thus you are not supposed to need a remote control anymore, just tell your telly what you want to watch! How clever is that? Panasonic, meanwhile, says it "advises users not to include any personal information in the voice commands"...

Tracking sounds like something out of Twelve Monkeys or a Tom Clancy novel, but it is real, and not only that, the companies use your every day conversation to listen in for key words. Samsung even sent data about the names of children of one owner, on an open network. It is also used to control the ads you may get - from your TV. Directly into your home.

LG, Sony, Panasonic and Toshiba and others have similar versions of similar or the same systems, but Samsung seems to lead the pack in terms of trying to hide stuff from its customers. Which? notes that you can turn off such services, but since the whole point of a "Smart TV" is that it is connected to the internet, and to servers connected to these corporations, you then can't use the "smart" applications and so on.

"T&Cs" means terms and conditions, which are not always easy to understand.

Makes me wonder how much data we share anyway when online, but that is another issue. Who thought that while watching TV, conversations you are having with friends or family end up being recorded real time, and sent to corporate headquarters for careful analysis. All for the sake of making a profit. Here is how Which? found out about the tracking, with the help of Jason Huntley, who first alerted the general public about it back in 2013:

Your smart TV is listening to you and hackers might be, too

However, some clever folks recently discovered that Samsung’s voice search feature – known as ‘automatic speech recognition’ (ASR) – was transmitting and receiving data to a third party provider (Nuance Mobility) on TCP port 443. This port usually carries encrypted data, but in this case the data wasn’t actually encrypted by Samsung.

Could someone listen to what you say to your TV?

With the help of Jason Huntley – who broke the original story about smart TV tracking back in 2013 – we went back to our original data and confirmed that unencrypted voice searches were being transmitted by Samsung. We ran a voice search for ‘panama hats’ and you can see this term unencrypted in the data below.

panama hats copy 

We found that not only was the above practice occurring on Samsung smart TVs (both 2013 and 2014 models), but also on Panasonic sets. Only LG smart TVs we tested actually encrypted the voice searches on TCP port 443 (the Sony TVs we looked at did not have voice control).

 Which? has more:

Smart TV tracking

As we reported in September 2014, smart-TV makers - including those listed above - are able to track and monitor the way you use your television like never before, including what you watch, what buttons you press on the remote and the websites you visit on the TV's browser.
This can have benefits, such as more personalised recommendations of things to watch, but there are also potential downsides. In theory, the TV brands can gather vast quantities of data on you and, in some cases, use that information to make money through posting targeted adverts on your smart-TV service.
You give permission for this to happen by agreeing to your TV's T&Cs. You can decline them and still watch TV. In many cases, however, that results in you losing access to some smart functionality of the TV.
We're calling on the TV manufacturers to be more upfront about what they're tracking, and why, plus give you clearer options to opt out if you want to.  Here's a brand-by-brand breakdown of how to turn any tracking off, and what you lose if you do:
  • Samsung: Samsung tracks you if you agree to its T&Cs. If you decline, you can’t access the smart-TV service. If you do agree you can still turn off tracking of your viewing habits by declining the ‘recommendations privacy notice’ in the smart hub settings menu.
  • LG: As LG has stopped tracking (as of September 2014), it has removed options for you to block it. LG's T&Cs still permit it to track you, and if you decline them you can’t access any apps or the LG Store, although you can still use the web browser.
  • Panasonic: If you don’t accept Panasonic's T&Cs, you lose access to all apps, the web browser and content recommendations. If you accept them, you can turn off tracking of your viewing habits via ‘Menu > Network > My Home Cloud settings > Notice > Stop collecting information’.
  • Sony: Sony tracks you like the rest of the brands, but doesn't do so to provide advertising on your smart-TV service - just to provide you with recommendations of things to watch. You can opt out of tracking by ticking ‘Disable Upload Data’ at the setup stage, however you'll lose the recommendations.
  • Toshiba: You can’t access any of the smart-TV services, including the apps and web browser, unless you agree to the T&Cs. Once you do, you can go to ‘Smart hub Settings - Log Upload agreement - and then click ‘disagree’. This should stop tracking. You lose features such as personalised recommendations and the MediaGuide EPG, but can still use the apps and web browser.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Scooter Trip Videos (1)

Hanno chum Spencer is going to Edinburgh for a theatre job for the festival, but before that, he decided to take his orange Suzuki scooter for a ride north. Amazing images.

He set his camera to take one image every ten seconds, thus the madness, but he is getting better at stopping at cool places.

My music. Using GarageBand, and other tricks of the trade. All rights reserved, 2015.

Love how that works with his videos.

And if you post the videos on your blog can you put a link to ?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Et Tu, Toshiba...?

Amazing how such corrupt practices happen at the highest echelons of companies, that are supposed to provide us with safe nuclear reactors, secure memory chips, and what not.

Toshiba chief steps down over accounting scandal

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Toshiba Corp. said Tuesday that President Hisao Tanaka has resigned to take responsibility for an accounting scandal that a third-party investigation panel has found involved the Japanese electronics maker's top executives.
His predecessors Norio Sasaki and Atsutoshi Nishida also stepped down as vice chairman and adviser, respectively, the company said following a board meeting. Chairman Masashi Muromatchi will double as president.
"I apologize to all stakeholders, including shareholders," Tanaka told a packed press conference after his resignation was announced.
"I don't think there is anything wrong with (a company) pursuing profits," he said. "But it should be based on strict and proper accounting practices."
Tanaka said the company will take the findings of the investigation seriously and create a new Toshiba as its brand has been seriously hurt.
Pressure had been mounting on the conglomerate that makes products ranging from computer chips to nuclear reactors over the improper accounting. The panel said Monday led Toshiba to overstate profits by 151.8 billion yen ($1.2 billion) over seven years in a "systematic" manner.
Sasaki, who serves on various government panels, will quit from all of them, Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Akira Amari told reporters.
The Japan Business Federation said Tuesday that Sasaki had also resigned as vice chairman of the business lobby, commonly known as Keidanren, effective Tuesday. (...)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Seed Saving in Japan, Taiwan, UK

No activity can be more important than saving seeds of the plants we all need for sustenance - but we have mostly forgotten that art, or science.

People here have not given up on traditional ways of seed saving, according to Imaizumi and Akitsu.

What are the moral codes for seed-saving? From the interviews with practitioners in Japan: (pdf)

2015 Food Security and Food Safety for the Twenty-first Century Proceedings of APSAFE2013

ISBN: 978-981-287-416-0 (Print) 978-981-287-417-7 has more:

Seedsavers Reunion in Japan 
Seedsavers as a movement has expanded in Japan beyond belief in the last 12 years. Today the quest for clean food in Japan is linked to varietal diversity. old varieties of fruit and vegetables are a sine qua non of quality. Many organizations are supporting the ideas of local varieties for Japanese health food. Former interns Masami san, Masako san and Taiji san join in a meeting of seedsavers friends in Mie Prefecture near Ise shrine for food, seed, shelter and clothing.

Photo available on facebook page of the seed savers network.

Learn to save seeds: it’s a winner!

Locally adapted high quality seeds are a rare commodity and cost nothing but patience. Then you avoid spraying pesticides that are necessary for over-bred, highly-strung varieties of fruits and vegetables. Moreover, your efforts may become the start of a seed swap adventure with other gardeners (or in your local seed network), whether with neighbours, family and friends, in a community gardens or in a school.
Having met farmers and gardeners in more than forty countries Jude and Michel Fanton, the directors of The Seed Savers’ Network, appreciate that it is gardeners and small land-holders who caretake the food diversity of the world. They are leaving us the living legacy of home-saved seeds that ultimately belong to all of us, and are the responsibility of all of us.
Seed saving peasants, rural and urban gardeners worldwide keep their seed within a friendly active network, and regrow them in their fields and gardens as a living seed bank evolving within culture, and within climate. Institutionalised frozen gene-banks are inaccessible to gardeners and farmers. Increasingly even small seed companies are relying on large corporations for their seed supply.

To remain independent of Big Seed, an increasing number of gardeners and peasant farmers, urban gardeners, small rural landholders are saving their own and gifting and exchanging their seeds with other who also do. No amount of rethoric will change anything. However educating ourselves with other seedsavers in Local Seed Networks do.

In the News

Southern Taiwan forestry expert mulls seed museum

Southern Taiwan forestry expert mulls seed museumSouthern Taiwan forestry expert Chang Wen-ting displays her extensive seed collection at a recent educational event held by Pingtung Forest District Office. (UDN)

A southern Taiwan forestry expert is looking to establish a seed museum and help educate the public on the mysteries of life embedded in embryonic plants.
Chang Wen-ting, a technical specialist with Pingtung Forest District Office at the Council of Agriculture’s Forestry Bureau, is known by the nickname Sister Seed for her extensive field knowledge and 1,000 samples collected since 1997.
Discovering a passion for seeds when a forestry student at National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, Chang said she credits a chance encounter with the seed of Cassia grandis, or pink shower tree, for the lifelong pastime. 

From the UK:

Some useful references
"Back Garden Seedsaving" by Sue Stickland (ISBN 1899233091) is an excellent reference with a good intro to seedsaving plus details about each individual crop.
"Seed to Seed" by Suzanne Ashworth.(ISBN 1882424581) tells you simply and clearly what you need to do to save seed of any veg you care to mention using materials you have at home.
"The Seed Savers Handbook" Jeremy Cherfas, (Grover Books, 1996) is also good and also talks in more detail about the reasons that you might want to save your own seeds.
"Breed your own Vegetable Varieties" by Carol Deppe ( Chelsea Green Pub Co; ISBN: 1890132721) is a good introduction to vegetable breeding for the interested amateur. Until 50 years ago, all gardeners were plant breeders - it's not difficult, you just need to know how to do it, and the tradition has been lost. This book will give you the basics, and then if you're interested, the nitty-gritty too.

The Real Seed Catalogue has this advice:

Seed-saving is easy. You'll get better seed than you can buy, even from us. And you can keep your own varieties going for future years. But .. . just as with growing the plants, there are a few key bits of information you need to know to keep varieties pure. It's not hard, you just need to know how to do it. One key thing before you start - you can't save seed from F1 (hybrid) varieties. You need real, open-pollinated seed, like ours. We don't have any hybrid seed at all, for this very reason.

Later, do remember to dry your seed properly, or it will not survive storage. Don't use heat though to dry it - we have a whole info sheet on drying your seed, so read that when you've got it harvested. For now all you need to do is start with non-hybrid seed, & read on to find out how many plants you need to grow, and what to bear in mind to get good seed that is true to type.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Deep River By Hikaru Utada, 2002

Hikaru Utada

I wonder where this wonderful video was made. Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean...

Friday, July 03, 2015

Moomin Valley Coming To Hanno, Saitama!?

Well, actually, Hanno City already has a small theme park for kids, centered on the wonderful world of Tove Jansson, the Finnish writer who created the Moomin "trolls" and their special valley, the Akebo-Children-Forest-Park.

But now, Seibu Railways will sell their land at Lake Miyazawa and let a company develop the beautiful area around my favourite spot for walking and getting some forest time - a must for a Swede!

The theme park will have a public space and a theme park space - and I really hope they will continue to allow free access around the entire lake. I also hope the plan to attract visitors using the "Nordic" theme will not just be PR, but a sincere effort. Hanno City has some great Eco-Tourism initiatives and the amount of people showing up to do long hikes and walks through the Oku-Musashi hills around here is encouraging... Recently the Yama-Osusume anime also helped introduce people to Hanno, Saitama.

A theme park at my favourite lake... Well, trust me, I have mixed feelings but at least it's better than yet another golf course. The investment company bought some 187,000 sq m from Seibu Railways, and thankfully, they only plan to build on 307 sq m. Clearly, keeping the forest around Lake Miyazawa must be a priority. Here is their business plan (E, pdf). This is the first Moomin Theme Park in the world, outside of Finland.

Interesting drone video from Lake Miyazawa (actually a dam, built in the 1930s):

News about the development from Tokyo Keizai Online (J): ムーミンパークが"埼玉の奥地"を選んだワケ

I like how they emphasize that you can get here without using a car!

The theme park will be called Metsä, which is Finnish for "forest" - actually Tove Jansson was Swedish-speaking, and the books about the Moomins were initially published in that language. Actually, while alive, she was very antagonistic to attempts to commercialize the characters she created... I wonder what she would have thought about the "official Moomin page" here in Japan!

More about Hanno's links to Moomin (J).

Bonus video - if you can't wait for the above, do bring the kids to Hanno City's Abebo no Kodomo no Mori Koen, and the amazing Moomin Houses here!

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Russia To Impose Drift Net Ban North Of Hokkaido

Excellent news: Russia has imposed a drift net ban in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) north of Hokkaido, Japan. Drift nets are the most devastating ways of fishing - if it can be called that. Stretching as far as 32 km, a single net is literally catching everything along that stretch - between just two boats. Large fish and even seals or dolphins get caught too. Seabirds that get in the way are other victims of this indiscriminate way of cheaply and indiscriminately serving the fishing industry with raw materials.

Japan's response? Not a word about how the ban will help to protect the oceans. Not a word about the need to curb over-fishing. Not a word about the need for saving precious marine life. (Read more below about Sustainable Seafood Week!)

The Russian ban will take effect January 1, 2016 according to NHK World:

Hokkaido fishermen seek help over drift-net ban

Fishermen in Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido have visited Tokyo to ask for government help over Russia's ban on drift-net fishing for salmon and trout in its exclusive economic zone.

A law stipulating the ban was officially announced on Wednesday after it was passed by Russia's parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin.

When the law takes effect in January, Japanese drift-net fishing boats will be unable to operate in Russia's exclusive economic zone.

Hokkaido fishermen and their supporters visited the fisheries ministry on Thursday and handed a letter of appeal to Hidemichi Sato, a parliamentary vice-minister.

The letter says the ban will deal a heavy blow to the economy of the entire prefecture as a large number of firms are involved in processing and distributing the catches.

It calls on the government to extend sufficient support not only to fishermen but also to related local industries.

Sato replied that the government will do all it can to help them. He promised to visit Hokkaido and listen to the views of relevant parties.

After the meeting, Hokkaido's Vice Governor Hiroki Arakawa said prefectural officials will quickly work out what kind of assistance is needed by consulting with locals and will submit requests to the central government.

Speaking to reporters, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he is concerned that the ban will have a great impact on local industries, mainly in the eastern region of Hokkaido.

Read more: notes that there are 35 Japanese and 16 Russian driftnet fishing vessels in the Russian Far East. Each vessel can deploy 32 kilometers of drifting nets a day. This means more than 1,600 kilometers of nets can be set each day, which is comparable to the length of the eastern shore of Kamchatka.

Driftnet fishing maybe banned in Russia next year

Sergey Korostelev, the Marine Program Coordinator of the Kamchatka/Bering Sea ecoregional Office WWF-Russia says:

Driftnet fishing is devastating. No other type of fishing results in such considerable mortality of non-target species, including seabirds and marine mammals. Even worse, it can hardly be regulated. According to independent observers and officials, driftnet fishing vessels either don’t report bycatch of non-targeted species, or downplay such data significantly – usually the reports contain numbers, which are 11 times lower than the actual amount of bycatch. If legislators pass the law, it will boost on-shore fishing, save millions of species, and put Russia in line with other advanced countries, which have already banned driftnet fishing in their waters.

This is not a new debate, and there is no excuse for Japan not to be better prepared for the Russian ban. Already in 1991, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution against driftnet fishing, proposed by Russia, Canada and the United States. Japan obliged by stopping driftnet fishing in the northern Pacific Ocean:

In 1991, United Nations General Assembly adopted another Driftnet
Resolution (46/215) which called for "a global moratorium on large-
scale high-seas drifrnet fishing effective December 31, 1992.25 In
line with the UN Resolution 46/215, Japan has completely halted
large-scale high-seas driftnet fisheries, including those in North
Pacific Ocean.
Source: Ted Case Studies 

Top image: WWF and the Co-op movement was promoting "Sustainable Seafood Week" in June at Co-op shops and AEON supermarkets. Too little too late? WWF Japan has more (J). AEON, for example, promotes ASC in its CSR/Environment Report (2014), but does not mention anything about driftnet fishing.

There are currently two independent efforts to certify fish and fish products that are more "sustainably" produced than others, one from the oceans ("Marine") and one from fish farms ("Aquaculture"):

Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)
Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Eco Links For June, 2015

June has been an interesting month with some wonderful rain and not-too-hot temperatures, mostly. I thought I should try to revive this "Eco Links of the Month" idea I foolishly started a while back. Do suggest news or blog posts that you think I should cover here on Kurashi - 10 years of blogging, no less!

WNN: Plan sets out Japan's energy mix for 2030

A plan setting a share of 20% to 22% for nuclear power in Japan's energy mix by 2030 has been approved by a consultative committee. While scaling back fossil fuel use, the plan also calls for an expansion of renewable energy sources.
The long-term energy supply and demand outlook subcommittee of the Advisory Committee on Energy and Natural Resources approved the draft report on 1 June.
The report, by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), says that total energy demand in Japan will increase from 940 TWh in 2013 to 980.8 TWh in 2030.
In 2013, LNG accounted for 43.2% of Japan's power generation, with 30.3% coming from coal and 14.9% from oil. Nuclear accounted for just 1.7%, with the remainder coming from renewable sources, according to figures from the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF).

Friends of the Earth Japan and many other NGOs are strongly opposed to the continued reliance on nuclear power:

June 8, 2015
While Japan’s Prime Minister Abe joins the meeting of the world top seven richest countries and presents his climate target at Schloss Elmau in Germany, his government continues financing large coal power plants in Japan and overseas and recklessly pursuing nuclear power claiming to be climate finance.

The government draft policy for climate change, unveiled formally on June 2 and will be finalized by the end of July, assumes more than a quarter of Japan’s electricity in 2030 coming from coal fired power, and one fifth from nuclear power despite Fukushima disaster and strong oppositions throughout the nation *1). PM Abe’s policy has also created a coal-power-frenzy as 43 plans have been announced so far *2) to build new coal fired power plants (some of them touted to power the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.) His government also pushes for exporting Japan’s “highly efficient and clean” coal and nuclear technologies - a main pillar of his economic recovery plan called “Three Arrows” - as climate friendly finance. (...)

As most of my readers here probably know, I work for Consumers Union of Japan, and we held the 42nd Annual Meeting on June 20, adopting 4 resolutions, including this one about nuclear energy:

2) We oppose the continued reliance on nuclear power

After the March 11, 2011 nuclear disaster at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, it became clear that relying on nuclear power is a dead end for society. In spite of this, the Abe Cabinet announced its new energy policy in April, 2015, stating that Japan should continue to rely on nuclear power, defining it as an “important base-load power source,” and sticking to its policy of promoting the nuclear fuel cycle. The government is already set to approve the restart of the Sendai and Takahama Nuclear Plants, and is making efforts to export nuclear power technology to other countries.

Meanwhile, in Fukushima Prefecture, some 120,000 people are still unable to return to their homes near the site of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. We note that it was a man-made disaster, and that the melted-down reactors still emit over 320 tons of radioactive water every day as they must be kept cool. Efforts to create a frozen wall around the complex failed. Also, workers on the site are being exposed to radiation in a perfunctory and careless way by the management. This is a clear human rights violation. In January, the government and TEPCO suggested that radioactive water should be disposed of into the ocean, something we cannot accept.

The Japanese archipelago with its active volcanos and many frequent earthquakes is particularly unsuitable for nuclear power. When accidents occur, radioactive substances will be released into the environment, with radioactive fallout including plutonium. Spent nuclear fuel also cannot be reprocessed without creating plutonium, and so far Japan has created 47 tons of this extremely dangerous radioactive material which can be used in nuclear weapons. The “deathly ash” (highly radioactive waste) has a half-life of 10,000 years. Also, mining for uranium is fraught with danger. All this points to a collusion of lies and cover-ups to make continued operation possible, as the basic truth is that radioactive substances can never coexist with living beings.

At the moment, not a single nuclear reactor is in operation in Japan. Even so, we basically have sufficient electricity. Higher costs for electricity seem to be the only reason to restart the currently idle nuclear power plants. We support independent efforts to save energy and reduce energy consumption for a peaceful livelihood for everyone, including for future generations. We look forward to a society that wisely relies on natural, renewable energy based on the “local production, local consumption” principle for all the people in the world, with zero reliance on nuclear power.

Do follow the ongoing commentary about Okinawa over at Ten Thousand Things:

70th anniversary of the official (not actual) end of the US-Japan Battle of Okinawa

Greenpeace Japan: 「2015辺野古:それぞれの思い」People’s voices from Henoko, Okinawa, 2015 戦後70年沖縄県民大会前日 @沖縄・名護市辺野古

Greenpeace: Okinawa, Henoko Bay, Save the Dugongs 2015

The Sense of Sacred: Mauna Kea, Hawai'i and Oura Bay, Okinawa


This interview is from China Dialogue, a blog with news in both English and Chinese about the environmental crisis in China, and what is being done to combat it:

Peng Gong: The health impacts of the use of coal and transport fuels have been well documented, although perhaps more so in prosperous cities than the poorer, mainly rural hinterlands where many coal-fired power stations and mines are built. The consequences of fossil fuel use on the climate will mean increasing extremes in weather, which will mainly be felt in poor rural areas. China’s leadership is fully aware of the health aspects and comments from the country’s top meteorologist earlier this year warned of serious impacts on natural resources. Climate change could mean that scarce water supplies dwindle more rapidly, while searing heat and increased likelihood of floods will impact crop yields and the productivity of rural workers. Climate change could also speed up the huge wave of rural migration to cities, many of which are increasingly vulnerable to rising sea levels. Although it should be said, in the event of a warmer world, rural China  with its own risks of flooding and is less equipped to deal with extremes of temperatures  may be more a dangerous place to be than urban areas. (...)        

Speaking of China, did you know they put plans for new nuclear plants on hold after the Fukushima disaster in 2011? Now, it seems they are about to change their collective minds again. But one critic, who is 88 years old, thinks differently:

The Guardian: China warned over 'insane' plans for new nuclear power plant

He Zuoxiu, a leading Chinese scientist, says the country is not investing enough in safety controls after lifting of post-Fukushima disaster reactor ban

China’s plans for a rapid expansion of nuclear power plants are “insane” because the country is not investing enough in safety controls, a leading Chinese scientist has warned.
Proposals to build plants inland, as China ends a moratorium on new generators imposed after the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, are particularly risky, the physicist He Zuoxiu said, because if there was an accident it could contaminate rivers that hundreds of millions of people rely on for water and taint groundwater supplies to vast swathes of important farmlands. China halted the approval of new reactors in 2011 in order to review its safety standards, but gave the go-ahead in March for two units, part of an attempt to surpass Japan’s nuclear-generating capacity by 2020 and become the world’s biggest user of nuclear power a decade later. (...)

(Image of proposed Chinese nuclear power plants as of 2008, from World Nuclear Association. June 26, 2015 - a more realistic view from IAEA here)

Thursday, June 18, 2015


The very word "drought" should be a clarion call for change - we cannot live on this planet and just rely on minerals and fossil fuels - we need water more than anything else.

Japan has plenty of rains - this time of year we have the tsuyu, rainy season - and it comes with abundant wonderful storms, and the rice paddies do well, and my veggies are (mostly) happy.

Not so great in North Korea, or parts of Australia, or California...

What about California?

From Earth Justice:

The historic drought has dredged up old feuds over who can lay claim to water in a thirsty state. As the powerful lobby for the agricultural industry—which currently consumes 80% of California's water supply—cries for more water to be pumped to their farms in the arid regions of the Central Valley, just who would be left high and dry? (And don't miss the latest drought news at the Thirsty Thursdays blog series.)


California's Drought

Homes with boathouses built around an artificial lake are seen in Indio, California, April 13, 2015.
California's cities and towns would be required to cut their water usage by up to 35 percent or face steep fines under proposed new rules, the state's first-ever mandatory cutbacks in urban water use as the state enters its fourth year of severe drought.

  • California's Drought

    California is entering the fourth year of a record-breaking drought creating an extremely parched landscape. Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought State of Emergency in January 2015 and imposed strict conservation measures statewide.
    In this photo, a tractor collects golf balls on a driving range in the Palm Springs area, California, April 13, 2015.
    The average daily water usage per person in Palm Springs is 201 gallons, more than double California average. Communities where residential customers use more than 165 gallons of water per person per day would have to cut back by 35 percent.

If that doesn't open, do the search... 59 images.

And there is the official data, too:

U.S. Drought Monitor

So, how bad is it really?


In this five-part series by CBS13’s Nick Janes, he explores a few of the many severe changes happening in California as a result of the years-long drought.
Part 1: A Sinking Feeling In The San Joaquin Valley
A problem caused by the drought is literally causing thousands of square miles of land to sink, and it will affect all of us permanently. This problem is happening out of sight, but hardly out of mind.
Read the full story
Part 2: People Without Water In Tulare County
There are plenty of us worried about us saving our lawns in this drought. But for hundreds of Californians, the situation is much more dire. They have no water at all. We track a little farther south of Merced to Tulare County, where we find the hardest-hit area in the entire state.
Read the full story
Part 3: Farmers Coming Up Dry In Costly Search For Water
Drilling for water, farmers are racing to find ways to save their crops in the face of severe water-delivery cutbacks. Some farmers say this is the toughest challenge of their lives. In Butte County, we meet a farmer whose family has been in the business since the 1800s. He says he is doing every thing he can to save every last drop of water — and in the process, save his family farm.
Read the full story
Part 4: Bay Area Company Pulls Water From Thin Air
It’s drought-busting technology that sounds so futuristic, it’s right out of Star Wars. Luke Skywalker’s aunt and uncle in “Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope” ran a moisture farm where they would draw moisture from the arid climate of Tatooine with moisture vaporators. Nearly 40 years after that movie was released, a Bay Area company is making something similar called atmospheric water generators.
Read the full story
Part 5: Lessons Learned From The Land Down Under
High above the suffering Sierra snowpack, Rich DeHaven captured an eye-opening perspective in California’s drought. Where snow that makes up one-third of California’s water should be just isn’t there. Karelene Maywald, the chair of the Australia National Water Commission, spoke to CBS13 about the devastating millennium drought. California’s four-year drought looks small compared to Australia’s, which stretched from 1995 to 2012.
Read the full story

And Australia?

Again, official data:

Updated on 3 June 2015

Victorian situation worsens

May rainfall was below average for most of northern Australia except the Top End, the south of Western Australia, southern New South Wales and parts of northern and eastern Victoria, as well as an area of South Australia around and inland of Ceduna and other smaller pockets. Rainfall was above average roughly following the path of a northwest cloudband extending from the Pilbara into the interior and northern South Australia, where moderate falls brought some relief of deficiencies. Northwestern New South Wales, much of Tasmania, a region of the east coast in northern New South Wales and southeastern Queensland, and the Top End also received above-average rainfall.
Monthly rainfall over the southeast of South Australia through western Victoria, and across western Tasmania has been below average from August last year (apart from well-above-average January rainfall, and above-average March and May rainfall in Tasmania). Serious or severe rainfall deficiencies have been observed in parts of these regions for various medium-term periods since late 2013. Longer-term deficiencies are also evident for various periods under 2 years duration in much of this region, and deficiencies are also evident over large areas of eastern Australia for periods of about 3 years duration. 

11-month rainfall deficiencies

Above-average rainfall during May has alleviated deficiencies in northern parts of South Australia and along the west coast of Tasmania, although local deficiencies remain. Below-average May rainfall for an area of northern to central Victoria has seen deficiencies expand in this region, compared to the 10-month period in the previous Drought Statement. The spatial extent and severity of rainfall deficiencies has also increased slightly in central Queensland, whilst severe or serious deficiencies (lowest 5% or lowest 10% of records) persist with little change in coastal South Australia covering the central West Coast District of South Australia and the York and Fleurieu peninsulas, a region spanning southeastern South Australia and much of western to central Victoria, and areas of northern Queensland near Townsville, the central to western Cape York Peninsula, and along the southern coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

But that's just another sunny place that can engage in trade and import food from all over...

Not everyone is so lucky.

North Korea says it has been hit by worst drought in 100 years


North Korea says it has been hit by its worst drought in a century, resulting in extensive damage to agriculture.
The official Korean Central News Agency said the drought has caused about 30 percent of its rice paddies to dry up. Rice plants normally need to be partially submerged in water during the early summer.
“Water level of reservoirs stands at the lowest, while rivers and streams (are) getting dry,” it said in a report Tuesday, adding that the drought was the country’s worst in 100 years.
An official from South Korea’s Unification Ministry, who asked not to be identified because of office rules, said precipitation in North Korea was abnormally low in May. Its production of rice and potatoes could decline by as much as 20 percent compared to average years if the shortage of rainfall extends to early July, he said.
KCNA said other crops were being planted in paddy fields in an attempt to reduce the agricultural shortfall.
North Korea suffered a devastating famine during the 1990s that is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of people. The famine is also believed to have loosened the communist state’s control over the economy by damaging its public food distribution system and paving the way for private economic activity in unofficial markets.

I know I have readers from all kinds of countries and languages - do you have a word for "drought" - as in Swedish there is no such concept.

Japanese, however, has a lot of expressions:

"Drought" Japanese translation

Results: 1-26 of 26

drought {noun}

drought {noun} (also: water shortage)
渇水 [かっすい] {noun}
drought {noun} (also: dry weather)
日照り [ひでり] {noun}
drought {noun}
干ばつ [かんばつ] {noun}
drought {noun} (also: water shortage)
水飢饉 [みずききん] {noun}
drought {noun} (also: famine, shortage, crop failure)
饑饉 [ききん] {noun}
drought {noun} (also: poorness, famine, want, shortage)
欠乏 [けつぼう] {noun}
drought {noun} (also: long spell of dry weather)
旱魃 [かんばつ] {noun}
drought {noun} (also: famine)
飢きん [ききん] {noun}
drought {noun} (also: dry weather)
旱天 [かんてん] {noun}
welcome rain in a drought

drought {noun} (also: crop failure, shortage, famine)
飢饉 [ききん] {noun}
drought {noun} (also: lack of rainfall)
無降水 [むこうすい] {noun}

Monday, June 15, 2015

Kurashi Review: Children Of The Tsunami By Patrick Sherriff

It's not journalism, not fiction, and certainly not your usual travel book. Patrick Sherriff has written an acute account of his recent trip to the coastal areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Add watercolours and you have a great little book that helped me remember that there is still a world up there, a couple of hours north of the comfort zone that is Tokyo, that hasn't recovered, but the people are doing their very best to cope.

Children of the Tsunami is an e-book, easy to order for $0.99 or an oversize paperback at $6.99 from all Amazon sites including here at and, or get the paperback directly from CreateSpace. You can also sign up for Patrick's mailinglist (details below).

Background - Patrick drove up in 2011 with emergency supplies, like many of us did, trying to help wherever we had contacts or the need was the greatest. Now, he went back on a more leisurely trip, with wife and two daughters, to reconnect with some of those people. Some are gone, some going (young people getting jobs or scholarships to universities elsewhere).  Children of the Tsunami is not adding a lot of emotional baggage, no dwelling on the pain. Casually, with a lot of respect, Patrick notes how husbands who lost their wives carry on, and others make do with the housing provided, or wondering how their old towns may one day emerge, again. If this is prose, it is almost poetry, at least if you have been up there. His style kind of reminds me of the rocks out there in the Pacific... Again, the watercolours help me remember how amazingly beautiful the Tohoku coastline is. And why some people elect to stay.

Much recommended, Kurashi readers (some of you who helped by donating to my own 2011 trips - again, thanks).

I asked Patrick Sherriff a couple of questions, and here is the conversation:

Q1: In my case, nothing prepared me for the devastation. You mention WW2 and for most of us, that may be the only real sense of the scale of destruction. Could you say a little bit more about that first trip you did?

Patrick: Yes, it was quite shocking, wasn't it? I think it was the contrast between the comfort levels of us here in the Tokyo area compared to the destruction all around the coasts of Iwate and Miyagi was perhaps the most jarring. But at the same time what is in front of you seems unreal; everything has been interpreted for you ahead of time by endless TV coverage, so when you actually meet ordinary people they have achieved mythic status as plucky, stoic "survivors". It takes a while to realise that they are normal and ordinary, as are we all, just having to deal with more shit than most of us ever have to.

Q2: I heard a Japanese lady in Miyagi prefecture say, in a very philosophical way, “We took a lot from the ocean over the years, fishing and the like, and of course the ocean took a lot from us…” Did you get any sense of that? Do you think the high school kids that you describe in the book have gotten any support, in the psychological, clinical sense? Is there any therapy available? Or is everyone just left to their own devices?

Patrick: I've heard anecdotally of support, my wife knows a counsellor who has devoted her free time to offering support to survivors, but I'm not in a position to say how widespread that help might be. I don't think any of the teenagers I met received formal psychological help, but I didn't ask. Some received generous scholarships based on their status as survivors. Philosophically, it's hard to generalize on how people cope with disaster. One thing I was surprised about was two teens talking about wanting to go surfing. I'd have thought the sea would have been ruined forever as a source of joy, but for them, evidently not.

Q3: Your book is more about the tsunami than the nuclear disaster. Fukushima gets a lot of attention, meanwhile, the entire coastal area is mostly ignored (except maybe by NHK). Do people talk about that? 4 years later, is there any sense that the tsunami is the “forgotten” crisis?

Patrick: I did detect a little bitterness from one chap I met over the attention and money that the Tokyo Olympics is attracting compared to reconstruction of Kesennuma. I don't think any of the survivors I met begrudge the attention Fukushima has garnered, but I didn't ask that specifically.

Q4: Any thoughts about e-publishing and the merits/demerits? How could the web get better at helping authors publish? What do you think is the future of this way of getting independent voices heard (and seen) and - any cautionary tales?

Patrick: I'm a bit of a ideologue when it comes to e-publishing and self-publishing (they are related but different animals). In a nutshell, there are no gatekeepers in publishing anymore. If you want to publish a book, you can, on almost your own terms. E-books democratize the process by removing the cost barrier and distribution problem. I recommend Let's Get Digital by David Guaghran if anyone want to know the basics of e-publishing. The difficulty is getting your book noticed, but that is true of traditionally published work too. The bottom line is that there has never been a better time to be a writer. You have a story to tell? Tell it. Nobody is stopping you but yourself. As far as cautionary tales go, get yourself an email subscription list, it's slow-growing but the best way to forge an independent link with readers. Mine is here:

Q5: Anything else you wish you had mentioned in the book? Anything you left out, last minute? Anything your wife told you to leave out…?

Patrick: I said an awful lot that I ended up cutting out because it was my own opinionated bullshit, the classic too much "tell", not enough "show", that fiction writers are always warned about. I'm happy with the final product. It is an accurate version of what I know and want to say. And I've received a fair bit of praise for my ink and watercolour sketches which I was on two minds about including. My wife said she liked the book, so I chalk it up as a success.