Human Rights? About as healthy as Fatty Butter!

Japanese politicians are not known for choosing their words carefully when speaking in public. Last month we had the “birth-giving machines” scandal involving the Health Minister.

Speaking about the problem that is Japan’s declining birth rate, the minister said “Because the number of birth-giving machines and devices is fixed, all we can ask for is for them to do their best per head”.

Well, I’m sure that will encourage women to make some more.

Today’s demonstration of how to promote the idea that all Japanese politicians are unaware that human beings actually have value beyond their ability to build televisions, comes from the Education Minister.

Education minister slammed for comparing human rights to fatty butter:
“Education minister slammed for comparing human rights to fatty butter

An advocacy group slammed Japan’s education minister on Tuesday for comparing human rights to fatty butter and saying too much would give Japan ‘human rights metabolic syndrome.’

‘No matter how nutritious it is, if one ate only butter every single day, one would get metabolic syndrome,’ Education Minister Bunmei Ibuki reportedly said at a speech in south Japan on Sunday. ‘Human rights are important, but if we respect them too much, Japanese society will end up having human rights metabolic syndrome.'”

I suppose this shouldn’t be all that surprising in a country that not only still has the death penalty, but has actually been making increased use of it since 2000. The number of people killed by the Japanese state in this way reached 100 last week.

Nobody has the right to take another person’s life.

Still, in a country where human rights are considered as good for the nation’s health as fatty butter, it’s hardly surprising that Japan remains a fan of this unjust form of ‘justice’.

In other news, the Japanese whaling fleet has called an end to the whaling season and is heading back home. Not that this is any gesture of goodwill on their part – it’s the result of an engine fire that crippled their one whale-carcass processing ship, the Nisshin Maru. A ship that, by drifting for several days around the Ross sea posed a considerable threat to the environment: a fuel leak would have spelled disaster for one of the most pristine areas on the planet.

“New Zealand’s Conservation Minister Chris Carter said he had spoken to the Japanese authorities about the need for urgent action, calling the ship “dead in the water”.

He pointed out that the ship is just 60 miles (100 km) from the world’s biggest Adelie penguin colony at Cape Adare.

“It is imperative the Nisshin Maru is towed further away from the pristine Antarctic coast, the neighbouring penguin colony and the perilous ice floes,” he told reporters.

Mr Carter said the most immediate solution was to use the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, a converted Soviet tug, or a US icebreaker.

Greenpeace urged Japan to accept its offer. “This is not a time to play politics from behind a desk in Tokyo,” said Karli Thomas, from on board the Esperanza. [BBC]

Mind you, having seen how little respect they have for their own environment, it’s hardly surprising they couldn’t care about some big block of ice down south.

down time

Ah, it’s really hard at times like this. Times when you just feel totally disinterested in doing anything at all. When you just want to sort of mope in front of the TV, watch some film, ignore the pile of stuff you need to do. Ignore all the emails demanding your attention.

I nearly did just that. It was a cliff-edge type thing, as I stood in front of the washing machine slapping marmalade on a slice of bread…

Then decided, no, better tackle this head on. Better not ignore this whiff of depression. I’ll read my happy book. After I’ve listened to The Food Program on BBC Radio 4 – a great report about organic food being embraced at Celtic Football Club.

This is a photo of three chairs that I saw today, stacked together.

It’s called ‘3 Chairs’.

I want to make films

The music that accompanies this entry is Moby: ‘Signs of Love’, from his album ’18’. If you have it, please put it on.

I yearn to make films.

One of my dreams is to be a film maker. Productions that are arty, informative, challenging, beautiful, moving.

This feeling has been growing for a long time. Many years. The past 5 months or so though have seen this desire to create a beautiful collage of moving images and sound really take off. Think back to what happened then and you can probably guess what the influence has been.

I have taken the first steps.

The first is my Audio-visual podcast, which although not in the least bit professional, is something I am absolutely delighted to be producing. It’s fun. I like it.

I’ve also had my first photo-book professionally printed: a Valentine’s Day present for *Twinkle*. It’s only a little paperback, but nonetheless, I love it (and so does she!). I think it’s the possibilities that it symbolises more than anything else that I love.

I will make films. It won’t happen for a while yet – I can’t afford another (higher-spec) Mac at the moment! – but in the meantime I’ll experiment, continue to learn, play around, and soak up the pure magic that so many people around me are conjuring up on the screen, across the airwaves, before my very eyes.

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Review: Apple Airport Extreme

Those who are bored stiffless by computer talk, look away now.

Those of you who aren’t interested in the AirPort but who do own Macs, see the second half of this entry.

So, yesterday, I finally picked up my Airport Extreme wireless base station, which has just been released.
As with most Apple products, it’s damn sexy (which is why I named it “Aiport Extremely Sexy” when setting it up). A sheek white box, with an apple on. No buttons, no annoying neon lights to keep you awake at night; just the single LED on the front.

Setting it up for use with my MacBook was so easy even my dad could have done it. The installation software walks you through a few screens which require you to enter a couple of passwords to stop the neighbours from fiddling with its settings, using all your bandwidth or stealing your porn essays on Japanese history, and once that’s done, flazang, you’re connected.

After that, it’s simply a matter of plugging your USB printer / external hard drives into its rear end.

Now, I can:

  • Use the internet anywhere in our huge cupboard
  • Listen to my 70GB of music (which for obvious reasons I keep on an external HDD) without having USB cables trailing all over the place. Until now I have been unable to listen to music / radio / podcasts in the Kitchen or the loft – now the sounds just stream magically over the airwaves.
  • Print stuff wirelessly. Once again, no USB cables to plug in. Instead, all the letters on that PDF document go flying through the air in an invisible cloud. Amazing.

There’s no notable loss in speed when it comes to the internet either. I clocked 17mb/s on a download this morning.

When it came to configuring it for Windows I did run into a bit of trouble, although I think that this was because I first set it up on a Mac. The thing is, when initially setting it up using a Mac, it will default to channel 13, which computers running Windows XP SP2 cannot detect. Thus, the network wasn’t showing up at all in Windows’ list of wireless possibilities. The problem is easily solved however: open Airport Utility on your Mac, and on the Base Station tab choose “Manual Setup”. Under Summary, where it says “Channel: Automatic”, simply select another channel. Anything under 10 will do.

Once the base station has restarted it will appear in Windows’ list of available wireless networks.


  • You can’t sync your iPod via the Airport Extreme. If you plug your iPod into the Airport, it will show up on your desktop as a mass storage device. You can access the stuff on it, but it won’t play ball with iTunes (it’s not a fault as such – it’s not designed to do it). Fingers crossed this issue will be addressed in the future with a software / firmware update.
  • Likewise with my digital camera – Image Capture won’t recognise it as a camera when it’s connected via the Airport (nor is it supposed to)
  • One final thing to note is that the widely publicised advanced speed capabilities of the Airport Extreme, you know, 2.5 times that of the old 802.11g standard (due to its use of the new 802.11n standard), are only available to you if you have a wireless receiver that it 802.11n enabled. My MacBook, being not-quite the latest model, has just missed out there. Not that I’m fussed, I’m happy with the speed I get.

Overall though, I like it a lot, and will finally bring our broadband wars to an end. There’s been an unexpected bonus too: whereas in the past it has taken a good five minutes for *Twinkle’s* XP laptop to connect to the internet via LAN, now it connects via wireless almost instantaneously, and without the need to enter the bloomin username and password that the Windows Media Centre cable box thing demands.



Software for Macs

I remember last year, in the month before I bought my first Mac, worrying about the ‘fact’ that there wasn’t that much software out there for the Windows rival.

Five months later I feel just the opposite – how could I work on a PC when there just isn’t the software available that I use everyday? I now have programs for the Mac that do everything any of my Windows programs could do, only now they often do them better, and of course, in a far sexier manner.

My recommendations include:
(and I apologise for the lack of links, but I’m sure you can find them)

  • TextExpander – a great shortcut tool
  • Growl – notification service
  • QuickSilver (what did I ever do without it?)
  • Renamer4Mac – does what it says on the box
  • Popcorn – DVD / iPod / PSP burning software
  • Photobooth (part of MacOSX) – We’ve had a lot of fun with this…
  • The book function in iPhoto (part of MacOSX)
  • Garageband – Podcasts with chapters and photos etc
  • SuperDuper – Super backup software!
  • Stellar Phoenix – recovery software – that works!
  • JEdict for Mac – A fantastic Japanese – English dictionary
  • iCal (part of OSX) – love the way it syncs with my iPod
  • Mac The Ripper – for backing up your DVDs
  • Cyberduck – FTP tool
  • Comic Life – haven’t had time to play with this yet, but it looks great!
  • Automator (Part of OSX) – wow, what a tool!
  • Little Snitch – very handy
  • Dreamweaver, Office, Photoshop, all great on the Mac.
  • Newsfire (RSS Reader)

Biggest reccomendation though is to subscribe to MacBreak, MacBreak Weekly, and TWiT. That’s where all the hottest tips are!


Just Banana It

Today’s shopping trip saw another shop added to the list of “Places to go to get free food”. It was our local butcher. I needed some bacon, but only had 85 yen (about 40p) on me. I was advised that I couldn’t make a decent meal with the amount of bacon that that would buy me, and thus was given some extra, for free.

A couple of minutes later, at our local Tofu shop, I was the happy receipient of two extra pieces of aburage – thin, deep-fried tofu, love the stuff. He always slips them in to the bag without me seeing, the cunning chap.

When paying for my bananas next door at the greengrocers, I was handed a huge apple , the kind that would sell in the supermarkets for about 300 yen (£1.40). “No-one’s buying them today”, he said.

I do enjoy shopping in Japan. Unlike in the UK, the small, family-run businesses have yet to be driven out of town by the huge supermarkets – at least in central Tokyo where many people don’t own cars. It may be a different story out of town, where there is both the land available for new supermarkets, and increased car ownership (due to the comparitively low density of railway stations).

Anyhow, once home, I unpacked my bags, and found this banana on the bottom of the bunch. It’s a sign. There must be some business opportunity just waiting for me, something banana shaped, something that will take the world by storm.

Any ideas what it could be?

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