mikekchar comments

Posted in: Gemba says Japan will spend a year drafting new roadmap on energy policy See in context

I really hope these plans will include geothermal energy generation. There is more than enough geothermal energy in Japan to completely cover base load generation, so theoretically you could be 100% renewable power. I think the problem is that geothermal is extremely expensive upfront (finding wells is expensive). But trading off price for energy security would be well worth it as far as I can tell. Up until now, though, I haven't heard anyone even mention it which makes me think that I'm overlooking something obvious...

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Posted in: How can workplace bullying be eradicated? See in context

There are bullies everywhere. But from my experience, the vast majority of bullies feel that for them, technical performance at work is not enough to advance in their job. Some of them have low confidence in their ability at their job (often with good reason). Some of them are just used to getting ahead through political maneuvering or intimidation. The easiest way to get rid of bullies from the work place is to be very careful to reward people only for technical competence in their job. This is difficult, though, because bullies are often very successful at moving up the ladder (being politically adept) and they will intentionally implement policies that discourage technical prowess. As much as possible, it is important to increase visibility of the direct work that people do, and subject everything to peer review within the team. Although this initially gives opportunities for intimidation, bullies generally try to hide their work. As it becomes harder and harder to do that, they start to look for other places to work.

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Posted in: IAEA says nuclear safety must be improved; criticizes Japan for being lax See in context

The article mentions that the report criticises Japan for failing to implement safety standards, but doesn't mention what safety standards weren't implemented. Does anyone have a link to the report?

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Posted in: Taiji meeting on dolphin hunt set for Nov 2; public to be barred See in context

I think this is a good start. I think it is wise for the meeting to be closed as it is the first meeting. Such a meeting is meant only to try to understand each other's perspective, not to come to a resolution. If the public attend I think that it will be difficult to speak without getting shouted down. Personally I don't see the need for the media to attend, and in fact it leads me to believe that the intent is simply to show a willingness to listen on the part of the town rather than a willingness to change. If they were willing to change then they could delay inclusion of the media until there was some resolution pending.

Having said all that I don't think meetings will lead to the end of dolphin/whale hunting. The easiest way to stop the hunt is to convince people to stop buying the meat. Activists are using techniques that work well in the west, but I fear that it will be completely ineffective in Japan. It may even end up increasing consumption based on the Streisand effect. Activists need to be much more aware of Japanese culture and how change happens in Japan. Right now they are trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

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Posted in: Celebrating Japan's vegan and vegetarian traditions See in context

Japan has had a long history of vegetarianism. Or more correctly pescatarian. Due to buddhist culture people were forbidden to eat meat, but were allowed to eat fish (for reasons I can't understand). Also shoujin ryouri has existed for a very long time and is a completely vegan cuisine. While the temples rarely follow a strict shoujin ryouri diet now, I believe it was much more common in the past. Of all traditional vegan diets that I have tried, shoujin ryouri is by far my favorite. If this book can build on that basis it is definitely something I want to read.

I used to be vegan for a long time, but I am not any longer. To be fair, I was never rabid about it. If someone gave me food, I generally accepted it gratefully no matter what it was. I still eat vegetarian at home (I have added yogurt, though, since I want calcium for high blood pressure). Since I came to Japan, though, I have completely given up eating vegetarian outside of the home. It's just too difficult.

I'm sorry that some people have had trouble with "evangelical" vegans. Not everyone is like that. The thing is, you probably only really notice the loud ones. I'm sure only my close friends knew I was vegan since I never told anyone else (why should I?) However, whenever anyone found out they invariably asked why. I hated answering that question because I knew that I would have a fight every time I did. Vegans are not the only ones who try to force their opinions on people, believe me. And none of my reasons were moral in nature. I can only imagine how hard it is for people who eat a vegan diet for moral reasons.

Finally, I find it sad that there is a large group of people who believe that we evolved to eat a specific diet. There are many healthy things that we can eat that were not part of our diet in the past. There are many unhealthy things that were part of our diet which we can avoid now that we know about them. Evolution doesn't optimize. I believe our extremely poor science education is to blame for the general population's inability to understand evolution. Pop diet books are even more to blame for terrible (and even dangerous) misunderstandings of nutrition. However, vegetarian books are not immune from this lack of quality.

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Posted in: KDDI unveils new models in au smartphone IS series See in context

My guess is that since these are Android phones, the "handy-sized smartphone for female customers" means that it has a smaller screen. Some of the Android phones are really wide compared to normal Japanese phones. However, my guess is this is all marketing (i.e., how do we sell a phone with a smaller screen).

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Posted in: Microsoft bets big on new phone software See in context

To be fair, Windows mobile has been around for a very long time. I was programming apps for it something like 5 years ago. And the reason it failed (from a programmer's perspective -- I think they sold a hefty number of licenses) is because it was truly horrible. I'm no longer programming for a living so I don't know anything about Windows phone 7, but I assume apps will be developed on .NET, which is a reasonable platform (as long as it is equivalent to the desktop version). It's not my favorite platform, but then neither is the Objective C platform on the iPhone or the modified Java platform on the Android.

I suspect there will be no shortage of apps. The real test is whether or not people buy them. Android is gaining a lot of momentum. It will certainly be interesting to see who wins out in the end.

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Posted in: Why is politics, which could and should be a noble profession, conducted so badly? See in context

Politics is politics. You know how there are some companies where office politics seems to be what gets you to the top rather than skill at your job? Well, in politics the skill you need is politics. I don't think it is surprising that a job whose entire skill set revolves around manipulating people in order to get your way attracts mostly selfish people. Not all politicians are that way, but I suspect that there must be at least a little bit of that feeling for you to succeed at the job.

No I reject the thesis that politics is conducted badly. I think people just have the wrong expectations from politicians. On average a politician is in it for whatever he can get out of it. That being said, if the politician has a common interest with you they can be useful. But it is stupid to abdicate responsibility for running the world to these people. We must each work hard to make our own areas good.

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Posted in: Former principal rearrested for committing lewd acts with primary school girls See in context

Not that I know anything about this case, but if the guy is 71 years old he is not working in the public school system. Mandatory retirement is 60. So I guess he is working as a private shodo instructor. Still, it seems strange to get bail after admitting to child molestation charges (I assume he was on bail).

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Posted in: Japan weighs up whether to give foreign residents the vote See in context

I've only lived in Japan for 3 years. I'm not sure if I want to get citizenship eventually or not, but I plan to stay indefinitely. I don't particularly feel I should get to vote. Yes, I pay taxes and health insurance, etc. And yes, local government affects me directly. But without citizenship, it could hardly be said that I have made a commitment to the country. Because I retain my old citizenship I can leave any time I want. I'm not sure it makes sense to cater to a special interest group like mine (being a foreigner). If they make an effort to accomodate us and we just leave, it kind of sucks for them.

In reality giving foreigners the vote would do almost nothing, given that there are so few of us. But I am sympathetic to the idea that without a commitment such as citizenship perhaps we shouldn't be entitled to this privilege. If not citizenship, perhaps stating that someone who has resided in a certain location for 5 years or something would be OK.

It is very unfortunate that some of the politicians are also making not-so-veiled racist comments. This only complicates an issue that doesn't really have to be complicated (IMHO).

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Posted in: How long to learn Japanese? See in context

I just wanted to say this was a very well written article. Usually I shy away from commentaries in Japan Today, but if there were more like this I would read more.

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Posted in: 3-in-1 fry-up See in context

Well, if you were making tamagoyaki every morning (as some people do), I suppose I could see the point. But really, the sausages and veggies can easily be cooked in another pan together. Everyone has 2 burners... Also, tamagoyaki takes about 30 seconds to make and cleanup of the pan is about as long, so I think this gadget is really designed to save you 1 minute of your morning. I can't say I've ever thought to myself "I wish I could do this all in one pan".

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Posted in: The flip side of metabolic syndrome - being too skinny See in context

According to the article, 20% of women are underweight. Also according to the article "only" 20% of women are obese. These are the same percentages and yet the article implies that there is some kind of epidemic of being underweight. In fact, assuming that the term "obese" is being used correctly, there are still those who are overweight and not obese. In other words, the population has a larger problem with being overweight than being underweight.

I'm not saying that anorexia isn't a problem, but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. Most people in Japan are actually a healthy weight. When I contrast that to my home country, Canada, the difference is startling. Even my own perceptions have changed. I realize now that what I considered healthy and normal back in Canada is actually quite fat.

I'm all for helping people with eating disorders, but let's not impose a distorted view on something that is generally healthy. And no, I don't fit into Japanese clothes either -- my bone structure is different (a jacket that fits my waist has no chance of being broad enough in the shoulders).

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Posted in: Greek court acquits Japanese ex-diplomat for murdering daughter; jails wife See in context

HeyLars: Wounds bleed differently after the heart stops pumping blood. So cuts and even bruises look completely different if they are inflicted after death. There are other issues as well, for instance as the body cools the tissues react differently to the cuts. Also, with respect the the angle of the cuts, by looking at the tissues you can determine which direction the blade was travelling and also the angle of the blade (not just the angle of the cut). So for instance, while it is not impossible for someone to cut their wrists with the blade angling so the edge is up towards the fingertips, it's kind of awkward and nobody would really do it that way.

As you mentioned, the details in the press are not enough to know whether or not the evidence was good. But a proper investigation can determine a surprising amount of evidence which can be used to build a case.

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Posted in: Law may be changed to reduce number of long holiday weekends See in context

It's interesting. In my jobs (computer programmer) in Canada I never got more than 10 days paid vacation. Granted, sick days were never a problem. If we put aside the issue of sick days for a moment, a lot of people here have 20 days of paid vacation. If they take, on average, 46 percent of them, that's very close to the 10 days I had for the 20 years I worked as a programmer.

Now there a a lot of national holidays here. And it makes sense to me that the holidays are concocted to force companies into actually granting days off. The biggest problem I've run into here is being able to take a long vacation. Even 2 weeks is virtually impossible. But it's fairly easy to take a few days here and there if there is down time.

Personally, I think grouping holidays together and decentralizing them is a great idea. It makes travel much easier, and it makes taking a longish vacation doable. And since the national holidays are obvious to companies, it allows them to plan for downtime at the appropriate time.

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Posted in: Apple queen See in context

A little while ago I had dinner with some friends and they asked me if I liked Japanese apples (this is in Japan, obviously). I had to admit that I liked them, but that I hadn't eaten any that were as good as some of the apples I like in Canada. The apples I've bought at the supermarket all seem to lack flavour. Well, after dinner my friends brought out some apples which a customer of their store had given them (his family has an orchard). They were Fuji apples. I have never had a better apple in my life. It was incredibly sweet and juicy. And the texture was nice and crisp. Near the core of the apple, the flesh was yellow and semi-transparent. I had a flavour of pineapple more than anything else -- really intensely flavoured.

Since then I've tried to find Fuji apples that tasted as good, but I can't find them. I'm cheap so I'm not willing to pay the ridiculous amounts for those apples that people give as gifts. But now I wonder if there really is a difference...

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Posted in: The state of the language school industry See in context

guest: I learned English from my mother and father. Probably most people did. By the time a child enters school they are already far more fluent than the vast majority of students taking eikaiwa. My personal opinion is that a degree in education is not particularly useful in the average eikaiwa situation. A degree in english as a second (or foreign) language would be very useful, though.

Before I came to Japan, I worked for 20 years as a computer programmer. Many of the most successful programmers I worked with did not have a degree in computer science. Some didn't have a degree at all. One didn't even have a high school diploma. An accredited university is not the only place where you can pick up skills. In fact if I think of the people I know who have degrees in the Japanese language, most of them don't even have the fluency of the aforementioned 5 year old when then graduate from college. Does the piece of paper make them better qualified to be a Japanese speaker?

As far as I know there is no industry protection for the word "teacher" like there might be for the word "doctor". In Japan you must have a degree (any degree) and pass the teacher's exam to work in a public school. To work in a private school you don't even need to take the exam. There is no such expectation on the title.

Certainly it would be great if more English teachers were qualified to do their job. But a degree in education is definitely not a guarantee of this for eikaiwa. As it is a private industry, caveat emptor is the rule and students should ask tough questions about the qualifications of their teachers.

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Posted in: LED bulbs See in context

LED lights are about as efficient as the best compact flourescents. A 3.8 watt bulb will be about the same light (or possibly even less) than the same wattage of compact flourescent (i.e., very dim). You're going to want 15-20 watts for most applications. Where you gain is in longevity. Compact flourescents are not good in situations where you turn them off and on often. They really have to be on for 20 minutes a stretch otherwise they will burn out prematurely. So an LED is good in the bathroom or closet or hall. LEDs last for 100,000 hours of operating time. Probably you won't have to change them until you're just sick of it and want something else. The light doesn't drop off over time either. It makes sense in places that are really inaccessible and you only want to change the light every 20 years. Finally, because there is no need for a ballast, you don't need the mercury.

Eventually, everyone will move over to LEDs for everything. But for now, most of your needs are still better met with compact flourescents. Having said that, I now of at least 2 places in my house that would be better served with LED lighting. But I won't be buying these ones as they are too dim.

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Posted in: Early blossoms See in context

Actually, it's been a cold winter here in Shizuoka. In fact it snowed twice, which is extremely strange. Not sure why Atami is so early. But I have to admit, the plums are just starting to bloom where I am (just south of Shizuoka city), which is a couple of weeks early. Looking at the cherry buds, they aren't even close...

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Posted in: Man arrested for punching 6-yr-old girl on Hyogo street See in context

Northlondon, I work for the Shizuoka BOE, so perhaps you'll think I'm biased. Things happen similarly to what LFR mentioned around here. At the high school where I work it can be a bit lax at times. Students are supposed to go to and from school by certain routes. Teachers occasionally go and check that they do it (though admittedly probably not often enough). The PTA also goes out and checks from time to time. There is a neighbourhood watch in my area as well. Elementary and Junior high school students definitely have routes they follow (they look like ants all in a line walking to school). Adults are always out watching over them.

That's in my area. However, in another part of the city I was quite surprised to find elementary students queuing up for city buses on the way to school with no adult supervision. I know there is supposed to be some kind of supervision, but I have no idea why it wasn't there.

So it seems there's a mixed bag. I have no doubt that what LFR is saying is true for them. I also have no doubt that you are telling the truth for you. It seems like somebody in your area is dropping the ball. How common that is, I don't know. But it isn't everywhere.

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Posted in: Five 9/11 defendants want platform for views See in context

I'm sure I'm unique in my view of this one, but I will look forward to hearing what they have to say. It's one thing to condemn the actions of these people. I think most people would agree that what they did was unacceptable regardless of the circumstances. There is no justification for it.

But I think we can also agree that certain environments tend to foster unacceptable behavior. For example, we all realize that slums in cities can lead to crime. Without excusing criminal behavior we can try to avoid the circumstances that lead to crime. All modern city planning has techniques for avoiding slum-like areas.

Without excusing their behavior, can we not listen to their claim that American foreign policy helped create an environment in which they felt their actions were justified? Are we so sure that there is nothing we can do to improve the environment to make these actions less probable (as wrong-headed as they are)? As abhorrent as we find the attitude of these people, are they not best placed to give us insight into what we can do better?

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Posted in: Hatoyama pledges on world stage 25% emissions cut by 2020 See in context

Actually, societymike, shipping is a ridiculously efficient mode delivering goods. Shipping does account for 4% of world CO2 emissions, which is twice that of aviation (2%). But shipping also accounts for much more volume. Air cargo costs about 1.8 lbs of CO2 per ton per mile. Shipping costs less than 0.01 lbs of CO2 per ton per mile (about 200 times less than air freight). Shipping a bottle of beer from half way around the world will use less CO2 than it will cost to make a special trip to the store in your car.

No, if you compare shipping to manufacturing (steel and concrete especially), you will find that manufacturing weighs in at 36% of world CO2 emissions. If you wish to make a large dent in CO2 emissions, one of the best ways is to not own a car. This reduces the demand for steel, and also reduces the need to resurface roads.

I haven't included links to references since I don't want to make this message too long, but everything I've listed is easy to find using your favorite search engine. I heartily recommend that people look up these kinds of facts so they can find ways to help.

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Posted in: SLAPP-happy: Freedom of speech under threat in Japan See in context

I've never been sued in Japan, but I have been sued in Canada. Often (as was my case) an accuser doesn't have any realistic expectation of winning at all. Their intent is intimidation. In my case an ex-employer (from whom I had quit) sued me for breach of contract. They said that I had agreed not to work for one of their customers. Such a thing was never in my contract, nor had we ever discussed it. Nevertheless they sued me for $30,000. Then they said they could make the lawsuit go away for a smaller amount.

You see, defending yourself in a lawsuit is expensive and time consuming. Often while you are being sued, you are unable to find a job, since you are considered "risky". The accuser is thus able to extort money, or whatever else they want. You simply can't afford to defend yourself (or the extortion money is cheaper than defending yourself). Luckily, in my case, my new employer was a large multi-national with a huge team of lawyers. They made the accuser go away without the need to pay them...

With SLAPP the idea is to intimidate people into making certain statements, or refraining from making statements. Anti-SLAPP legislation is there to ensure that frivolous lawsuits can't be brought against people merely to silence them. Defending yourself from a frivolous lawsuit is nearly as expensive as defending yourself from a reasonable lawsuit, and so it is usually in your best interest to shut up, or say whatever the accuser wants you to say, or pay them money, or give them a lapdance... whatever.

Having said all that, there are two things that confuse me. First, I fail to see how this was a SLAPP case. The author claims not to have made the comments in the first place. He doesn't claim that he was being silenced, or that the comments weren't libelous. Thus I really don't think anti-SLAPP legislation in the US would have helped him.

Second, while anti-SLAPP is a good thing, the whole civil lawsuit situation is screwed up. The ability to use a lawsuit to extort things from people who have no protection is wrong. SLAPP is a tiny piece of the problem (anti-SLAPP wouldn't have helped me, for instance). Why focus on such an insignificant thing?

Anyway, none of this amounts to legal advice. I am not a lawyer. Etc, etc...

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Posted in: Club host held for giving drinks to woman who caused fatal accident See in context

This may be redundant, but just to make it clear, the legal amount of alcohol in your blood when driving in Japan is 0. Everybody here knows this. The law is also perfectly clear about one other thing. If you knowingly allow others to drive when they have been drinking, you are also responsible. This is a good law in the context of Japanese culture. If your senior insists on driving home drunk, normally you wouldn't socially be able to say anything. But since the law insists it allows you the opportunity to do something (in fact, you must try).

So in this case the host is clearly responsible. As I said, everyone in Japan knows this law. It's not a surprise.

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Posted in: There are plenty of people who want a change in lifestyle, even to quit their jobs and head into the countryside to start again, but it isn't part of Japan's corporate culture to just leave in mid-car See in context

I've done it, so I'll be happy to share what I know. I did 20 years as a successful software developer working insane hours, but getting paid pretty big bucks. I had the big house, the fancy car, the big flat screen TV, the works. I chucked it all and moved to rural Japan to teach English. I make enough money to live. My living arrangements have been described as "containing the essential elements to sustain life". I gave up all my friends, all my possessions and my family.

But when you take something away, something will always come to fill in the void. Despite "having everything" I wasn't happy with my life(style). So I left it. It was very painful. Even now, more than 2 years later, it can still be painful. But I'm happy too -- something I wasn't before.

So to those who want to start again, here is my advice: just let go. That's all you need to do. And go with all your heart towards whatever comes to fill the void.

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Posted in: One zoo to avoid See in context

Generally, I have not been happy with the zoos in Japan. I went to the aquarium in Osaka recently and it, too, was really over stocked. It's too bad because if they decreased the number of animals and created better habitats the zoos would be vastly more interesting. I think zoos in Japan (which generally don't have much space) should specialize, only keeping a few different animals.

Culturally, I have to agree that people here have less empathy with animals. But there is still a lot of interest. I think people shouldn't underestimate the "kawaii" factor. It's a short step from there to actually caring about the well being of the animals. When I go to zoos or aquariums with my Japanese friends I point out problems with the enclosures and health issue with the animals. I find that they are usually surprised that they didn't notice it before and become very animated that it should change. Little by little it can.

I want point out that not all zoos are bad here. I have a friend who works in an excellent bird park. The animals are all in very good condition and their needs are well looked after. So if you can, be sure to help your Japanese friends learn the difference between a good zoo and a bad one. One thing about Japanese culture is when a general consensus is reached, things can change very quickly (unfortunately, nothing happens until that point). So if you open somebody's eyes, it will make a difference eventually.

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Posted in: Alcohol-free Kirin beer See in context

I have to agree with some of the points above. I like near beer mainly because I like the taste of hops. Sometimes I want to ride my bike or study, so it's a good idea for those occasions. However, mixing it 50-50 with ginger ale also makes a really nice drink. It's very similar in taste to a real ginger ale shandy.

Most of the near beer here in Japan isn't that great IMHO, but there's a fairly decent one called Hoppy. I've had the Holsten near bear and it's by far my favorite (haven't seen it here, though). I'll look forward to trying the Kirin. I wish someone would make a near beer with British hops sometime, though... I think fuggles hops would make a really nice near beer.

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Posted in: Temp workers bear brunt of recession in Japan See in context

Perhaps a counter point to the discussion. I am teaching English, and no, I don't have a teaching degree. I came out of computer programming. I was making over $100K per anum, but working pretty much every waking second. Now, here I am working on a year to year contract for a lot less money (and I'm not young, alas). I could be let go at any time (and, frankly I expect too eventually), meaning that I'll be kicked out of the country.

But, I live in the inaka. I'm frugal. I get subsidized housing (which I'll be kicked out of if I lose my job). I have absolutely no trouble saving lots and lots of money. And I'm enjoying myself here enormously. In fact, I spend quite a lot of my time studying Japanese and my employer is quite happy to allow me to spend part of my working time doing that. I have to remind myself that I'm getting paid to do this...

I don't worry about foreigners like myself in this situation. All jobs have advantages and disadvantages. There are plenty of advantages to outweigh the disadvantages of lower pay and insecurity. If you don't think so, then this job isn't for you.

I worry about the Japanese people who will not be able to find another job. I'm sure very few of them chose to be a temp worker like I did. It wasn't a matter of tradeoffs, it was a matter of survival. I expect nothing from the Japanese government for myself. They should concentrate on the people who are from here, IMHO.

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Posted in: Aso says world religions can learn from Japan See in context

Coming from the IT industry in North American, when I first got here I didn't think that Japanese people worked that much. Definitely for the first 5 years or so of my career 100+ hour weeks were totally normal. Now, granted I'm working in a school now, but I don't see people working more than 60 hours a week. I considered that pretty slacker hours back in the day.

I'm not saying it's healthy, but certainly Japan doesn't have a monopoly on hard work ethic. What's funny is that I'm only supposed to work 35 hours a week at my current job and given my background I can't manage to work less than 40. I don't know what to do with myself! But luckily I absolutely love my job, and I can't wait to get back to it every day.

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Posted in: Japanese recession: A time for panic or change? See in context

I'm not a big fan of the gold standard, as it puts an unreasonable value on what is, after all, simply a commodity (and a fairly useless one at that). However 30061015 is correct that a sustainable economy must start with a rethinking of currency.

At the moment, money is created through debt. A bank is empowered to create cash (provided they have about 10% fractional reserve) when someone takes out a loan. But since the loan must be repaid with interest, and money is only created through debt, the end result is that we must have growth equal to or greater than the interest rate to avoid inflation.

When growth stops (or credit is limited, forcing growth to stop), the money supply shortens and there is no money to pay people. So people stop working -- leading to a downward cycle of negative growth. This means we must rethink the definition of money in our society. Either that or we can agree to work without being paid. These are the only ways to have a sustainable economy.

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