Monday, July 30, 2012

Too Darn Hot

Here are a couple of links, in no particular order, for those of you who still read blogs, in the hot days of Twitter and Face (?) -book and whatnot.

Potentially very expensive Samsung vs. Apple patent lawsuit accidentally reveals that the original design of the iPhone or whatever you call them was influenced by - Sony (back when they where working with Swedish Ericsson).

BoingBoing: Early iPhone mockups show Sony influence

The current iPhone design, it turns out, was in the works since 2006—and was so influenced by Sony that they even put its logo on the mockups. Court filings in the ongoing legal battle between Apple and Samsung reveal an early concept by Apple designer Shin Nishibori which closely resembles the current-gen iPhones, complete with the silver band

The Verge has 754 comments on its article, so obviously this matters to some people...

What really matters? North Korea's News Service (KNS) in Tokyo calls South Korean president Lee "rat-like" and a stooge. When people comment on blogs using such language, the correct reply is "Did you forget to take your medications this morning...?" or just simply "Don't feed the troll!"

Still, I think it can sometimes be worth reading what our neighbours think, from time to time.

Speaking of South Korea, then, I recommend a blog curiously titled And with your help, I'll get that chicken, which provides interesting clues to torture chambers that the South Korean dictators (and their "stooges," one wonders?) employed on their own people back in the 1960s and 1970s:

Many well-known activists and dissidents were tortured and died here. This article from May interviews representative Lim Su-kyung about her experiences, along with providing a great deal of information on how these buildings were used and, typical in a country where modern history is something that nobody wants to discuss, the bid by many organizations to have the entire area turned into a memorial park to human rights.

Personally, if I could, I would build a Park Chung-hee Experience Zone (박정희체험관) to compliment the Park Chung-hee Memorial Hall that already exists next to the Seoul World Cup Stadium (here's a news article on the topic, with the headline quoting an old man who asks why the memorial is so small). The Experience Zone could use one of the buildings left behind by the two intelligence agencies, with exhibits on the first-floor and various torture apparatus to help re-create the era that so many older Koreans remember so fondly.

One of the most unfortunate things about Seoul is that, for a city that has been a capital for over 600 years and a city for 2,000 years, there is not much visible history.

Having said, and quoted, all of that, last year I visited the new-and-recently-enlarged museum in Seoul at the Seodaemun Prison Museum, and was surprised at how bad things were back in the 1930s and early 1940s. We all have a lot to learn.

The museum is dedicated to recording Japanese torture and cruelty towards the “patriotic ancestors” of the independence movement. The prison in question, built by the Japanese just prior to annexation, continued to be used well into the postwar period, but it is now overwhelmingly used as a symbol of colonial atrocities and you will find no mention of its postwar legacy.

Which brings me to a more recent event, namely the shameful way the Korean president Lee has decided to bulldoze over a large part of his own country, in what is called the "multi-purpose green growth project" or the Four Major Rivers Project. At first sight, nice write-up there on Wikipedia, but do check out the Talk page of that Wikipedia article. It throws some light on how controversial the project really has been (while none of us, as far as I can tell, paid any attention).

I have tried to post constructive criticism and more information concerning this article but username Firekim has continuously deleted my posts to only post Korean government propaganda onto this article. As only a few hundred people have visited this site nearly every month I am not too concerned, but I would like to repeat that this article is NOT an accurate portrayal of the Korean 4 Major Rivers Maintenance Project and that the current article as posted by username Firekim is partial to constructionist principles promoted by the Korean government.

Then,  when I check the History page of a Wikipedia article, and notice that there are over 500 edits, I usually consider the entire article unreliable.

I then move on to Ten Thousand Things, a blog that is just the best of the best, 5 stars in my book, if I ever make a guidebook to Japan-related blogs (Kodansha, interested? No? Too bad!!) but if you want to really know what is happening in South Korea, that's the go-to blog these days. Links to TTT tags like Save Jeju Island or Korean Peninsula will take you deep into territory you probably did not know existed here in Far East Asia. Another tag I like is Love which is what it is all about, isn't it? That's the way to blog, ladies and gentlemen of the jury.

And may I just quote in full:

By Pat Cunningham

'The real and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war.' - Buddha.

Sadly preparations underway by the Korean navy in Jeju smack eerily of preparations not for peace on the 'island of peace' but of preparations for war!!

Today 27th July marks the 59th Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Agreement which stopped the fighting in 1953, and has yet to be replaced by a permanent settlement! The lack of a permanent settlement is a fundamental source of insecurity for both Koreas (the unresolved state of war) and the construction of a naval base on Jeju island and the increasing military build up in the region only intensifies a state of heightened insecurity for the people of Gangjeong, the people of the island of Jeju and the whole country!

The construction of the naval base is having a devastating effect on the local community with huge consequences for future peace and stability for the people of Jeju and the entire region! The environmental consequences which have been well documented and are sadly becoming clearly evident are unfortunately lost on or conveniently ignored by the International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) the organizers of the World Conservation Congress (WCC) whose conference this year will be ironically held only 7 km's away from the destruction site! One of the main sponsors of the conference is Samsung which happens to be the lead construction company involved in the 'destruction'! The construction of the naval base and the present land grab being conducted by the navy to provide future accommodation for its personnel and is clearly part of an overall US military strategy of encircling and containment of China and it's growing economic power!

Beginning on Monday July 30 there will be a 'grand march for peace' in Jeju where up to 10,000 people will walk in solidarity with the villagers and peace activists who have struggled against the Navy's plans to build this base for the last 5 years! Today on the anniversary of the Armistice the Campaign to stop the base will have the Official Seoul launch of the grand march by hosting an event here in Jongkak, Seoul!

TTT notes: Please keep the participants of the 'grand march for peace' in your thoughts and prayers next week! After all 'the real and lasting victories are those of peace and not of war'.
See the original publication (and more) at the Gangjeong Village cafe website.

I note with real sadness that this statement refers to international NGOs like the International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) that I recently encountered in Bucharest during the Ramsar Convention conference. Indeed, these international NGOs are doing more harm than good, and ought to be much more carefully audited and held accountable for their actions...

What is really bothering me is that the IUCN is going to hold its next meeting in South Korea, in September 2012 in Jeju Island. And things are not what they seem to be. Coca Cola, Samsung, and a lot of others are sponsoring this event. To "conserve the environment"? You have got to be kidding, big time. What kind of world are they trying to preserve? This is not the bloody Olympics, after all!

As IUCN prepares for their meeting, they  

deleted all about 20 comments from the world who criticized about the IUCN’s passive attitude on the Korean environmental issues including the Jeju naval base project, four river project and nuclear power development etc.

Update: Check out their detailed information about being sucked up by sponsors  - you can find it on the Peacekj website from July 21, 2012. 

It was discovered in the morning of July 21 (Korean time). We need your protests.

We could see those comments last night and we wonder whether the IUCN is afraid of what. Is it because one of the big financial sponsors for the 2012 WCC Jeju is the Samsung Electronics? Please send the IUCN leadership protest messages. 

Yes, it is getting too darn hot, and here is a music video that I used to really like, a long time ago. Ella Fitzgerald, tune by Cole Porter:

(Top photo, hat tip to P)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Japan Merry Project In London

Merry is a Japanese project that involves big smiles from Japan. It has expanded to support local merry farming efforts, and merry music, and anything that makes people happy.

Now, they made a scoop in London as the Olympics are about to begin: Merry London

It has nothing to do with sports, just simple umbrellas that show photos from the Tohoku region north of Tokyo, of smiling children. All good. An attempt to deal with all the bad news, the bad rumours, well, all the good will prevail! Kids are strong and hey, stop the madness!

Designer Paul Smith is a Merry Project fan.

They also get involved in projects to clean up litter and garbage in places like Shibuya, Tokyo (J).

Merry Archives has a huge archive of photographs of people's smiles and their handwritten messages of their responses for a simple question: "What's 'merry' for you?"

You can search and browse the smiles and messages, by time and place, out of more than 20,000 of those from 23 countries of the world. 

Merry Archives will be growing bigger and merrier! Please keep your eyes on Archives News for updates!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Anti-Nuclear Protests In Tokyo - In 1957

I stumbled upon some interesting video footage of a large anti-nuclear protest outside the UK Embassy in Tokyo, held in 1957. While I knew about the early actions by groups of survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, and their supporters, this was news to me. In light of the massive anti-nuclear demonstrations recently in 2012 (see here and here, for example), it is worth noting that 55 years ago, people in this country were already expressing their dissent at mass demonstrations. In fact, seems to me that Japanese activists deserve credit for basically inventing the anti-nuclear protests!

The UK first tested a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean in late 1956. The footage found on Critical Past is in response to the second testing in May, 1957. Unfortunately, the film cannot be embedded, so please watch it on their site:

Critical Past: Protests at British Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, following Britain's second H Bomb test in South Pacific

Description: Large crowd assembled in Japanese student-organized protest at the British Embassy in Tokyo, Japan. They protest against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, following Britain's second test of a Hydrogen Bomb, at Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean. Groups involved include Japanese Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, and the student organization, Sengakuren. Protesters carry signs bearing image of British Prime Minister Anthony Eden, and images of Queen Elizabeth. Numerous Japanese police are seen maintaining order. British diplomatic staff are seen at the entrance to the British Embassy.

A little more searching led me to British Pathe website, that also has footage from large Tokyo demonstrations against the UK Operation Grapple hydrogen bomb testing in 1957 (film starts after advertising): Atom Fear Stirs Japan

(Image of the 1957 demonstration from British Pathe)

Monday, July 09, 2012

Ramsar Convention (Update)

I am in Bucharest, Romania for the Ramsar Convention COP11 meeting, a large conference about wetlands. I'm here for the rice paddies, that also count as important places for migrating birds, frogs, insects, you name it... All kinds of biological diversity depends on them, including humans.

Amazing city, wonderful people.

Photo from Linkages, IISD that provides daily news from the conference.

Update July 26: I meant to blog more about my experiences but it was a very difficult conference. Also my hotmail account was affected by a third party attempt to hijack it (which I think I managed to avoid!) and in addition, it was 35 C and very hot every day. I loved the city and the people, as noted above, and have mostly happy memories.

However, the Ramsar conference was a disaster, as far as I am concerned. The general public could not enter the massive building, and there was zero media exposure. Most of the time was wasted on a convoluted debate about the "hosting" of the secretariat, with some countries wishing for it to be moved away from IUCN in Geneva to UNEP in Nairobi. This debate had been going on for seven years, and was finally concluded, but it really soured the mood. There was also an acrimonious stalemate caused by Brazil regarding a resolution on wetlands and climate change, that was only resolved last minute.

On the bright side, there were lots of NGOs and people with posters and books about their Ramsar Sites. In fact, 1/3 of the NGO delegates came from Japan! There were not many NGOs from Europe, however (none from Sweden) so it was a surreal experience to be surrounded by so many Japanese-speaking wetland enthusiasts. I learnt a lot more about the way wetlands are protected in Japan, and but also share the concerns about "development" that destroys important sites for migratory birds, marine wildlife, and biological diversity.

But what really got under my skin was how certain corporations are making partnership deals with Ramsar. Coca Cola, Danone (Evian), Lafarge and others are rich companies that are spending their way into this Convention, and getting easy PR through their efforts. Yes, I understand that companies can do a lot of good, that is called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and there are certain rules for it, although no real standards. But, for example, during the opening ceremony, the Danone Awards were hyped in a way that was just sickening. A international Convention should protect itself and its good name against such "partnership" efforts. We need to protect water from being commercialized, and I think IUCN is behaving irresponsibly by not taking a strong stand for the independence of the Ramsar Convention, but "sucking up" to the sponsors.

Even worse, Wetlands International held a side event about pesticide use in rice fields that helped promote genetically engineered BT cotton (that indiscriminately kills insects). The staff of the organization handed out flyers claiming that such GM crops can reduce pesticide use, without any concerns about the "rest of the story" such as harmful effects on biological diversity or health problems. Shocking.

With another, independent international NGO that represents many smaller and more alternative groups, World Wetland Network, my collegues and I could work effectively towards change of  Draft Resolution 15 about pesticide use and rice paddies. There is a brief report over at the website of Consumers Union of Japan. I want to thank everyone, especially Ramsar Network Japan (J) for their wonderful attention to details during this conference. I urge everyone to find out about local wetlands in the area where you live, and see what you can do to get involved to help.

CUJ: Ramsar Convention Adopts Anti-GM Rice Resolution

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

I Almost Forgot: Feed In Tariffs From July 1 In Japan

I wish they would come up with a better name than Feed In Tariffs, but ok, we got them, and that is good. It means we are now entering a new era for renewable energy.

Hey, call it whatever you want, a lot of people are going to like this. FIT? No joke. Don't throw a fit!

The system requires utilities to purchase all electricity generated through solar, wind, water and geothermal power, among other eco-friendly sources, at fixed rates for up to 20 years. The costs will be passed onto consumers.
The government's generous tariff rates have created considerable interest in the sector, with companies rushing to build massive solar and other power plants based on renewable energies.
Two large solar installations went online in Kyoto, Gunma, Niigata and Fukuoka prefectures the same day. Meanwhile, Kyocera Corp. plans to construct a 70-megawatt solar facility in Kagoshima Prefecture and is scheduled to establish a special company to oversee the project later this month. Mitsui Chemicals Inc. and other firms also intend to start work on a solar and wind power station later this year.
The government had approved 44 solar or wind power facilities with a combined output of 41,605 kw to join the system as of Thursday, according to an official at the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, part of the industry ministry.

Kyodo/The Japan Times: Feed-in tariff era gets under way

Sounds good to me. At least it is a start. The UK has them, and so does  Germany (calling it the "Stromeinspeisungsgesetz" (StrEG), or its "Law on Feeding Electricity into the Grid") and so does Ontario in Canada (I like their micro FIT program!), and a number of other places.

The Japanese term is 固定価格買い取り制度 (こていかかくかいとりせい, kotei kakaku kaitori seidou) so no wonder they are calling it the FIT here...

Eric Johnston is a little more cautious in his report the other day, noting that "major Japanese and overseas solar energy firms are expected to reap huge profits in the coming years from the new feed-in tariff that goes into effect Sunday, but other energy forms may be slower to take off due to a host of official restrictions, technical limitations and lack of political and financial support."

("Sky high"? Did you write that headline, Eric, LOL?)

"The FIT system will immediately boost demand for solar panels, creating great opportunities for all solar battery manufacturers and related companies. It will lead to cities installing more solar panels, and the development of better energy management systems," Mikio Katayama, head of the Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association, said in late May.

The JPVA predicts that during the first year of the new tariff, solar power demand will double compared with 2011. As of the end of April, total solar capacity in Japan was about 5 gigawatts. The association predicts that by 2030, installed capacity will reach 100 gigawatts.

Top image found at, that notes that 42 yen for solar is very generous. Actually, the image is by Fabio Berti at Shutterstock. You get the picture.

Japan Solar, Wind, & Geothermal Feed-in Tariffs Coming Soon (Potential Rates Unveiled)

japanese solar feed in tariff rate yen
Japan’s about to become the next major economy to implement a solar feed-in tariff, and from the looks of it, it’s going to be a generous one. (I can see a herd of solar companies migrating over to Japan now.) Wind and geothermal feed-in tariffs are also on their way to implementation.

Japan Solar, Wind, & Geothermal Feed-in Tariffs Coming Soon (Potential Rates Unveiled)

japanese solar feed in tariff rate yen
Japan’s about to become the next major economy to implement a solar feed-in tariff, and from the looks of it, it’s going to be a generous one. (I can see a herd of solar companies migrating over to Japan now.) Wind and geothermal feed-in tariffs are also on their way to implementation.

For solar, Reuters is quoting 42 yen (or about $0.52, €0.39, or £0.32) over the course of 20 years. That’s “roughly twice what is currently paid in Europe,” Craig Morris of Renewables International notes before asking: “Will Japan be the next boom and bust market?” (Note: it’s still less than the $0.55 Ontario is planning to pay.)

Monday, July 02, 2012

Oi Reactor Restart Protests Live: Watching History Live

We are watching Oi protests as thousands of demonstrators are dancing, drumming, chanting "Saikado Hantai!" (No Restart!) and making a massive wall of noise outside the Oi nuclear reactors in Osaka. It is after midnight now, and tens of thousands of people from all over the world are watching this on Ustream and other social media. And the protest is still going strong.

It feels a bit like watching the Berlin Wall fall...


Some of the comments in English (there are ten times as many in Japanese!):

Massive respect to the PEOPLE of Japan, wish i could be there in more than spirit

We Japanese are thankful to you who are watching from overseas.

Stop "OI"!!!!!!! No nukes!!

No japanese no cry.

RT if you agree this project. Please save children and moms in Fukushima. They are frightened at 

A heroic deed, saving the whole world. Many thanks from Spain!!


Japan has a heritage of people dancing in protest.

Update (hat tip to Temple Valley Times):

The sound of protesters voicing their opposition to the restart of Japan's Oi nuclear power plant with other notes of hope and inspiration composed and arranged by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Here is the sound track of Japan in July, 2012:

Next big demo is on Friday July 6, outside Prime Minister Noda's residence in Tokyo.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Cleaning AC Muck

We interrupt our regular* programming here at Kurashi for this public announcement:

Time to clean your air conditioner filters!

I just did, and it was easy. I'm not sure I will need the AC or not this summer, but getting the muck out of the filter is important. Both for my own health, as I don't want to breathe the air that has passed through the grime, but also to save electricity. At least I imagine that it will save electricity, since it will be easier to blow the air through a clean filter.

First picture, I opened the top and took out the filter on the right. The left filter is still dirty.

Second picture, wash the filter to get rid of the black thick mucky grime (do not flush it down the drain, better to dry it and throw it in the garbage).

Third picture, enjoy the difference!

* It is the thought that counts, right?

Why I Love Classical Music: Shostakovich 10, A Love Story...

...And a really hot conductor from Venezuela that I briefly introduced last weekend. Now, how do you do a proper blog post about a Soviet era composer, who had been in lots of trouble over the years, and love, and then end up with a Venezuelan conductor that gets his orchestra to play the Mambo to an ecstatic audience at The BBC Proms?


Back in 1953, Joseph Stalin had just died, which meant that for a brief moment, the USSR was having second thoughts about a lot of his policies (It also meant the end of hostilities in Korea as there would be no more military support from Moscow to Pyongyang, and thus a new era for the Far East). Shostakovich, who had been censured and blacklisted by the brutal dictator Stalin who had ruled the Soviet Union for 31 years; now Shostakovich could shine again.

His 10th Symphony was that: about freedom, and love. Specifically, about his Platonic love for a young pianist and composer from Azerbaijan, Elmira Nazirova, who was born in 1928 to an Azerbaijani-Georgian Jewish family.

I just love how this great symphony, the 10th, comes down to Shostakovich's use of the names of the notes of his own name, and the name of Elmira. He admits as much in a string of letters to her, revealed much later by Elmira. Bach did much the same, using the notes B, A, C, and H, but in the case of Shostakovich it turns out asthe notes DSCH. (Thanks wikipedia!)

The third movement is a nocturne built around two musical codes: the DSCH theme representing Shostakovich, and the Elmira theme (About this sound listen ):
The Elmira theme
At concert pitch one fifth lower, the notes spell out "E La Mi Re A" in a combination of French and German notation. This motif is called out twelve times on the horn, representing Elmira Nazirova, a student of the composer's with whom he fell in love. The motif is of ambiguous tonality, giving it an air of uncertainty or hollowness.
In a letter to Nazirova, Shostakovich himself noted the similarity of the motif to the ape call in the first movement of Das Lied von der Erde, a work which he had been listening to around that time:[3] (About this sound listen )
The ape call from the first movement of Das Lied von der Erde
The same notes are used in both motifs, and both are repeatedly played by the horn.

Imagine that. What a story. In late 1953, this great composer is welcomed back on the stage, and he comes up with what is basically a symphony of platonic love. What an inspiration.

Fast forward: Back in 2007, Venezuelan conductor Maestro Dudamel, performed this difficult symphony with the Orquesta Juvenil Simón Bolívar de Venezuela (the youth orchestra of Simon Bolivar from Venezuela) to massive ovations from the crowd at the Prom.

Then, they came back with encore of the Mambo!