Dokodemo Door!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Japan's Economic Slowdown

Lest I give anyone the wrong impression, it's not exactly a land of opportunity I'm headed to at this point in time.

Following the so-called 'lost decade' of the 1990s, Japan's decent (but not remarkable) economic performance of the early 21st century was chiefly export-led. There is, therefore, a great deal of vulnerability to sudden changes in the balance of trade. And not only has global trade been faltering, but the yen has been trading amazingly high over the past year.

The results? The most recent figures show that exports have fallen by a whopping 46% in the first month of 2009 compared with a year earlier. It would be an understatement to say that industrial production has fared poorly in the same period, dropping 10%.

These are kind of like the numbers you'd expect to see coming-out of the Ukraine, circa 1991.

Feh, who cares about the numbers? Here, admire a number of hauntingly beautiful nocturnal pictures of industrial facilities.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Things are gonna be a little bit different from now on

Mari and I are going to make the big move to my new job in Kobe, Japan at the end of this week.

This is going to be quite a trip. Although we've made a number of trans-Pacific voyages before, we're carrying the maximum amount of luggage we're allowed this time. We're also leaving the US very early in the morning and arriving at our destination late at night.

The route, for some twist of fate, requires us to land at Tokyo Narita and change airports, going to Tokyo Haneda via bus or train to reach our connecting flight.

I wish it wasn't so, but that's what the Pope of air-travel has decreed.

But, on a happy note, I hear that the sakura are starting to come-out in Shizuoka due to unseasonably warm weather and they'll hopefully spread around the country over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Thomas v. Obama

I know this comes about 10 days too late, and this is one of those posts that took a back-seat to packing our stuff in preparation for our long-awaited move to Japan.

Mari and I watched Obama's first live presidential news conference about 2 weeks ago. For the most part, I thought he came-off looking as he wanted to. But one bit gave me pause...

The ninth reporter in line, Helen Thomas (so-called "dean" of the Washington press troupe) asked a question regarding nuclear proliferation but worded it very coyly: "Do you know of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons?" I suspect she was trying to test him.

Obama didn't directly answer the question, saying he didn't care to "speculate" and started going off-topic. So great was his desire to avoid the issue that he didn't let her follow-up and he moved right along.

"He dodged the question." I said out loud, causing Mari to peer-back at me through the kitchen door.

Well, yes, presidents do that but this particular instance felt creepy. And if I had been in that room, I would've laughed out loud. That's probably the sole reason I'm not a White House correspondent.

So the answer to Helen Thomas' question was simple: Israel's nuclear stockpile is thought to number around 200 warheads. That is the only country in the Middle East which has nuclear weapons as of 2009.

Everybody knows this. There is no way that Obama could have not known this so there was no need to "speculate" about anything. And, furthermore, I'll bet that almost everybody in the room knew that but kept their mouths shut. That takes some steely discipline, does it not?

Israel has always been ambiguous about its nuclear stockpile and it's understandable. Openly acknowledging them might lead to increased pressure to sign the NPT and open that country's Dimona facilities to nuclear inspectors. Mordechai Vanunu didn't get elaborate restrictions put on his speech and movement for nothing.

Furthermore, acknowledging Israel's nuclear weapons in the U.S. would give rise to questions about why military aid to that country does not comform to 1970s-era restrictions which (theoretically) should be applied to nations which have clandestine nuclear weapons programs.

A better question that Thomas should've asked is: When will American presidents stop lying about this?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Not a good way to wake-up...

Geh. Plane crashes into suburban Buffalo home; 50 killed.

I went to bed early last night, so didn't see this until now.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Apologies for not updating earlier


I feel utterly negligent in updating this space.

You see, a lot has happened in the last 2 months for me.

In December, I not only completed my master in ed (my 2nd master degree, btw) but I also got what could be described as my dream-job in Kobe, Japan(!)

Yup, starting in March, I'll be moving there and teaching.

And, Scouts' honor, I'll be updating this space more regularly to reflect the life of Yours Truly and wifey as we move-in and adust to life in the Kansai region.

2009 could really prove to be a fabulous year for us. In many ways.

So, yeah, from time to time please check-in so as to get periodic updates about what we're doing.