December 08, 2005


Wow, this blog is very slow lately huh?

I guess the rainy weather here is affecting my blog-writing-activities! Still don’t have much to say actually.
But, an update of things that have been and that will be:

* am waiting to hear back from a job interview. Finally! Some people who recognized my CV as coming from someone who has something good to offer. And it was even fun to do. Yay. To be honest, I’m not sure yet if I want this position, but I do hope I get through to the next round... *fingers crossed*

* the same evening I raced away all my nervousness at the largest indoor cart track of Europe!. Had never been carting before, and I was now one of only two girls in a group of fifteen extremely competitive male engineers... You’ll not be surprised to hear that I was somewhat bruised the next day but this was SO much fun! Unfortunately it appears to be quite an expensive hobby...

* my mum came down for some Christmas shopping and I made some gorgeous food: steamed seawolf (?) wrapped in fennel and a tomatosauce with honey and garlic. Hmmm. I love my new kitchen.

* tomorrownight I’m hanging out in Amsterdam with some friends to go to a jazz evening organized by another friend. Looks like fun. It's been too long since I was in the city, and too long since hearing some live music anyway.

* and for some culture I’ll be going to The Art of News, an exhibition of a photojournalist, on Saturday. It looks quite cool, very curious what the photo’s will be like.

* for some more live music: Saturday night will most likely be spent in Delft at WolPop.

So, a boring rundown of my activities. No wonder I don’t blog. I don’t do anything…

November 21, 2005

Why I love my house: part 2

Kitchen things: Kitty-chan and the Kikkoro&Morizo-duo

November 20, 2005


With my renewed connectivity to the internet I have rediscovered my favourite online radiostream: JungleTrain.
A lot of live drum'n'bass all day. Yay :)

Hopefully this will give me the inspiration I need for my next batch of job applications...

November 16, 2005


I'm bored out of my mind at work, and I decided to start researching a bit about Barcelona. I'm going there in about two months, early January, for just a weekend. Can't wait!
It's raining and getting cold here, I have no money, and well... I just needed something to look forward to.

Barcelona is a city where I have wanted to go for years now. All my friends who've been have come back to tell me that it is a city I will absolutely love. So now I'm off to see for myself.

I'm looking around some of the travelsites but I hadn't expected this much of a difference between them. It's funny to see that some sites (think: Rough Guides) are really really good with the information that they give about destinations but that their interaction with travellers is crap.

Alternatively, others (think: Lonely Planet) have hardly any actual travel information - e.g. about Barcelona art it just mentions that '[it] will beckon you from museums and streetsides'(but exactly from which museums or streets it conveniently forgets to mention). That is corrected though by a travel forum with 'high traffic', so to speak. You want to know what the best pubs in Osaka are? You'll have an answer within hours. What bus you should take when going from A to B in the jungle of Guatamala? Again, you won't have to wait long for this.

It's kind of weird that LP is not able to offer better information on the official part of the site, especially since they are one of the largest travelbook companies around. It would actually also improve the forum as it will not be clogged up with the same easy google-able questions. Maybe the philosophy is that it will decrease guidebook sales? I will now probably look into buying something else than LP more seriously considering the huge differences online, so maybe they should rethink this.

But who knows, maybe there is a place which has both? Suggestions anyone?

November 08, 2005

Warning: [jobrant]

So I just got called back about why I was rejected without even being asked in for an interview for this amazing job. A job with which my cv matches for about 95%. The best match (on paper, and in real life) that I've come across so far. Okay, that sounds too theoretical. Aside from all the theorizing, this is the job I want.
But, it's what I was afraid of: too little work experience. My six months in a highly relevant organisation doing highly relevant work is not enough (they ask one year minimum). I don't have enough experience in a policymaking field/organisation/whatever.

Okay, fine. Can't say it really surprises me - although I was surprised that they wouldn't give me the benefit of the doubt even this early.
But, how am I ever supposed to get this experience if no one is offering junior positions in this type of work? I fear I'll end up being stuck in this dumb administrative job for most of the coming year which will not give me anything extra if I decide to apply for this or similar work again. (Speaking of which, still undecided about a possible formal extension of work here. I don't want it. But, it would be sensible to take it.)

(And of course I forgot to ask the person on the phone if she had any additional tips or suggestions about my application strategies...)

I sooo much hate this jobhunting stuff. I want it to be over. Now.

Okay, I'll shut up now. Don't want to be going on about this but it's difficult to not be bothered about it...

November 07, 2005

I only have one thing to say:

I absolutely love love LOVE my new house!

I hadn't realized how much I missed all my things, after having had them in boxes for nearly a year now. Plus, I have my own kitchen and an actual bedroom and a real living room!
Well, I can go on but I think you can guess that I'm very very happy with my new place. Yay!

November 02, 2005

Happy anniversary!

To my blog!
It's been a year since my first blog post (although that one is incredibly unremarkable). Yay :D

I've got about 85 posts over a year. That sounds like very little, but not too bad really. Better than I was expecting at least!

Some things (I think) I should try to do more:
- pictures! (but I need a digital camera for that, or at least my J-phone which causes technical complications)
- images! (translation: I need to learn more code....)
- either stop the randomness, or find a way of categorizing or something so that it becomes less random
- .... (I'm sure there are plenty more improvements to be thought of...)

October 31, 2005

Japan and China:oil policy in Japan Focus

Japan Focus is definitely paying a lot of attention on energy security issues in East Asia recently. The newsletter contains articles on related issues almost weekly.

In this week's issue two articles on respectively Japan and China are included:
Is China to blame for the rise in oil prices? by Niu Li.
This is the JF introduction:
Many news accounts of surging oil prices have pointed at China, and to a lesser extent India, as culprits given the rising thirst for oil to fuel their high growth economies. This survey of oil demand and consumption by Niu Li challenges these assessments by showingthat China’s oil imports are only one-fourth those of the U.S. Equally important, China is far less dependent on oil for its energy than is the U.S., and in 2005 its oil imports increased only slightly in line with Chinese efforts to conserve energy and favor non-oil energy sources. The problem of spiking, and long-term high oil and energy prices lie above all in two realms. One is the fact that we are fast approaching the tipping point at which world oil production begins to decline, or Hubbard’s Peak in the theory of peak oil explained in several Japan Focus articles. If this is correct, we face long term high and rising oil prices. The other is the failure, above all by U.S. policymakers, to make even token moves toward conservation through the use of tax and other policies to curb the rampant increases in oil consumption that distinguish the U.S. from virtually all other economies. The U.S. is not only by far the world’s largest oil and gas consumer; it is also the largest importer. And in contrast to many other nations, there is no sign of policy-driven efforts to control consumption. Japan Focus.

The second article:
The roots of the Japanese oil victory in Libya by Michael Penn.
This discusses the recent activity of Japanese oil companies in developing Libyan oil fields.

[am at work, so haven't read either of these yet... hope they're interesting]

October 30, 2005


Hmm, I'm not too sure how they got to this result:

Your Blog Should Be Purple

You're an expressive, offbeat blogger who tends to write about anything and everything.
You tend to set blogging trends, and you're the most likely to write your own meme or survey.
You are a bit distant though. Your blog is all about you - not what anyone else has to say.

I think I only agree with the second part of the first sentence... And oh yes, I do love purple. The rest isn't particularly correct I think. Anyone else want to try it and tell me whether or not their colour is more applicable to their blog?

Weekend [updated]

To balance out the nerdy oil/gas talk on this blog:

It's the weekend tomorrow and I'm going here: Amsterdam Dance Event!
Weekends are good. It's been weeks since I have been out dancing so am very excited.

Slight problem: too much choice.
We haven't quite figured out yet what club and/or dj to go to...

We ended up at the Sugar Factory for some 'world grooves', whatever those may be. I think we were there much too early, but by the time we left at about 23:30 there was still nothing going on except a DJ playing fairly relaxed, lounge-like tunes. The stage was packed with instruments, which were mostly decorative. For part of the evening, one guy used some of the various percussion instruments in turn. Nothing actually happened though.
We left to go to the More which was okay, a night of general house-type of music. Good enough to dance to, but nothing too exciting.

Maybe I'm too picky when it comes to good dance music but I hardly ever find anywhere that makes for a fantastic party. If any Amsterdam readers are out there (I know you are...), recommendations please?

All in all it was nevertheless a fun night. It's always fun to catch up with my friend, and as usual we started the evening with good food. It was also some much-needed distraction... I heard back from amazing-job-nr-2; it looks like I'll have to start looking for new fabulous-sounding vacancies again as these guys don't even want me to come in for an interview. Pretty frustrating... my CV is a near-perfect match to the vacancy, but still it's not good enough. I know, I'm way too impatient.... This is not fun though.

Oh well, I will think about that again after this week, which will be packed with painting & wallpapering & unpacking in my new house. Yay :D

October 27, 2005

Oil & gas in the Arctic

BBC News has been doing a series of articles on the effects of global warming and the melting of the ice caps on oil and gas exploration and other new opportunities for the Arctic region.

Arctic exploration creates new alliances - 23/10 - discusses new Norwegian strategies to make more use of the Arctic's resources, and to cooperate with other countries involved.
The Arctic's new gold rush - 25/10 - discusses the issues arising between the five countries bordering the Arctic
Global warming: help or hindrance? - 27/10 - discusses the Arctic's opportunites for energy security

A main point is that as the Arctic ice is melting new opportunities arise to develop the oil fields in the region. Some analysts expect that this area holds up to 25%(!) of the world's undiscovered energy resources (25/10 article). Especially with rising energy prices this is becoming more attractive if current technical difficulties can be overcome.

Some interesting issues are raised in connection to this. There are various territorial disputes between the countries bordering the Artic: the US, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia. This also involves fishing rights, access to shipping routes and so on.

It looks as if this area will become increasingly important. And, with the potential for conflict causing new alliances between countries. Interesting articles about a not very 'visible' part of the world.

October 26, 2005


I saw Wallace & Gromit on the weekend, soooo much fun! I love the humour. It is all so incredibly imaginative and creative. In a review the movie was described as a 'vegetarian horror movie'; yep, that's exactly the genre I suppose!

I am very very behind on movies and there're loads I want to see (think Charlie, Pride and Prejudice and much older ones of course) but this one I definitely don't want to miss:
Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Just had a look at the trailer but it looks like old-fashioned W&G fun. Yay :)

October 16, 2005

Energy Convention Groningen 2005

I just came across an announcement for the Energy Convention in Groningen at the end of this month. It sounds as if they are hosting some interesting workshops on energy and geopolitics. Could be an interesting couple of days.
But, not really something for me to go to, while I'm not professionally involved in any energy issues of course.

However, it gives a long list of participants and so on which is handy for job applications! Finally some more leads on where to send my CV to. I'm really not enjoying this period of jobhunting and getting rejected every time - not surprising, to be honest, as hardly any of the applications so far were to vacancies that matched up well with my CV. So, let's hope this will bring some more success.
(and no, I still haven't heard back from amazing job nr. 2 that I posted about earlier... grrr...)

October 15, 2005

Hmmm... cheese!

Apparently I'm Parmesan cheese:
You are a white, crumbly cheese. You are very social and talkative. You are incredibly friendly to everyone, but also a little lazy.

I can't figure out how to post images... but check it out here

Tag! You're it

So, I've been tagged. Thanks Jules, I think... ;)

Anyway, five random things about me. Let me think…

1) I have lived in 6 different houses over the past 8 years…. That is too many! Let’s hope I can stick with my new house for a while after next month.

2) I seem to have a very selective memory. I love being able to speak different languages but I seem to have forgotten how I get to that stage of being able to speak those relatively fluently! In my new challenge of re-freshing and re-learning French I am completely frustrated by not being able to just, you know, speak. I can’t stand it! But, the years of struggle with English and Japanese have mysteriously disappeared from my memory as I can’t remember how I got through that period with those languages…. Gah.

3) I’m going to Barcelona! Woohoo!
Okay, it’s only for two nights and not until January but: Yay! I’m going to Barcelona!

4) I can’t imagine what my life will be like in a year’s time at all, and I love it. Thinking back, ever since I was 16 or so things have always had a way of working out really well but never in the way I expected. I suppose it started with deciding to go abroad at 16. That is still the best decision I’ve made so far. I have come so much further than I had expected, and it feels as if I’m still just at the beginning! I have no doubt that none of these things in the past years would have happened if I would have stayed home at that time. And I’m confident that that way of having things work itself out will continue on from now, where ever that will take me.

5) My brother and I don’t get along at all. However, there’s a tiny little bit of progress: he’s asked me for advice on his thesis! This was done through chat, and we will have to see how the actual conversation will go but he seemed really happy that I agreed to talk to him about it. Now to get him to do what I will tell him to…

Next up, I’m tagging Daniel, Jeff, aanknopingspunt and Kana. Enjoy guys!

October 14, 2005

More China: Kun Opera

Continuing on from the below post, last night was also spent in the midst of the Amsterdam China Festival. The occasion this time was classical Kun Opera from Shanghai.

Here’s a bit of an introduction. It is over 500 years old but currently only a few groups are left who play this type of Chinese opera.

It was a very very cool evening.
We started off with an introduction into the different types of music and singing that would be used to get an idea of what to expect. Shanghai opera was described as being much more sophisticated and stylized than the more boisterous Beijing Opera (well, the last part is my interpretation after the talk). I immediately started comparing it to Japanese classical theatre: and Kabuki. Well, Chinese opera is definitely different!

The five short pieces that we saw were mostly impressive: acrobatics, expressiveness, costumes, interaction between the actors and the orchestra. Often hilarious with the sounds and singing. But also in movements and so on.
I have to say that the type of ‘sophistication’ was very different from what I was expecting. The stories moved pretty speedy (again, compared with Japanese theatre, not with Western drama), the movements were often haphazard and not very coordinated but it did look very very good.

Now I want to see Beijing Opera. If this was supposed to be ‘sophisticated’ then I’m very curious what Beijing-style will be!

China & space

Here's something that combines my interest in East Asian geopolitics with my much more recent interest in space exploration (I know, I know, very unlike me but I can't help it!)

China launches second manned space mission

Especially this sentence is interesting:
Beijing has attached great importance to its space programme, viewing it as a source of national pride and international prestige.
It confirms what Ian Buruma said in a discussion night on Wednesday evening. As part of the Amsterdam China Festival Buruma and Jan van der Putten (ex-Volkskrant correspondent) discussed the rise of China and what its effects would be in the world, and specifically in relation to the United States. Or so the announcement claimed. Instead the lectures focused mostly on internal issues. Interesting, but not quite what I was expecting.

In any case, one of the major points that Buruma made is that maintaining (political) legitimacy is increasingly important for the Chinese state. One of the most important ways to accomplish this is by sustaining economic growth and realizing the promise of an increasingly wealthy China.

Other ways of maintaining this legitimacy is by emphasizing various national issues. These can be of political nature (think hostility against Taiwan, territorial conflicts with Japan) but also of a very different nature: sports, for example. The Beijing Olympics could have a big effect on increasing national awareness of the Chinese population.* Space exploration is obviously something that is hugely appealing to the imagination of the general public. And with which China could easily ‘score’ in gaining national pride and international prestige as mentioned above.

* Slightly off-topic, I recently heard that some critics are questioning the ability of Beijing to host the Olympics in 2008 due to the severe air pollution. Has anyone else heard this? I haven’t specifically looked for it yet. Apparently the story is that the air in Beijing is so polluted that it would be physically impossible for athletes to run a marathon for example.

October 09, 2005


I'm still a bit stunned.

I was at a launch event for CryoSat yesterday. All looked well for the first hour-and-a-half. Until we switched back to the mission control room, waiting for the first radio signals to come in. Which never came. Later that night it appeared that there had been a problem with the launch sequence and the satellite never fully performed seperation and didn't reach orbit.

A full story is here at the BBC

That's a lot of work and effort and money down the drain.

It makes me wonder how you're supposed to deal with something like this. Obviously not me personally, but the many many people who have worked on this project for years. Some who have thought out the idea of the mission over 10 years ago and now see their concept gone in the Arctic Ocean.
What do you do when something that you've worked so hard and long on ultimately fails? At the moment when you are not really expecting anything to go wrong anymore? Does this also break careers? What will these engineers be doing in the next months? A full commissioning phase had been planned at least until well into 2006, but I guess their work is done now.

And, this obviously brings up questions about the use of space exploration. Is it worth it to put so much money into such a high-risk business? Missions such as CryoSat have a clear economic, scientific, social relevance. To me, it actually seems to be one of the most worthwhile missions in ESA´s Earth Observation missions (others are GOCE, GMES etc).

In comparison, in the short term these missions will most likely be more beneficial to science and so on than research which is being conducted on actual outer space exploration. Technology which will probably only be somewhat useful in several decades, if not more. Should we really be spending millions and millions of Euros on these projects? Especially after the recent NASA problems with their space shuttles as well it will become increasingly difficult to convince the general public but also policy makers and politicians on the usefulness of developing this technology. Interesting issues, and issues which will become more and more important, I think.

October 05, 2005


Quickly on another favourite issue of mine, the previously mentioned Japan Focus has a special issue dedicated to the North Korean issue, following the end of the latest Six Party Talks in China recently. Lots of stuff about the nuclear issue, abductions etc for those interested.

Oil etc!

I'm in the middle of (moving) houses so only a short post on a few things that have caught my attention recently. And yes, we're back on a favourite topic: East Asian energy politics.

This is already a bit older but hopefully still interesting. Japan Focus published an article on Japan, Iran and oil at the end of August: The Battle of Azadegan: Japan, Oil and Independence by Michael Penn. In light of a change in power in Iran before the summer, the ongoing nuclear negotiations and trouble arising from that it will be interesting to see how the countries dependent on Iranian oil will react to this situation (obviously not only Japan, but also China for instance).

Meanwhile, negotiations were held last month between China and Japan about the East China Sea gasfields. Sean has been following this much closer than I have lately. The negotiations apparently didn't bring any other result than to meet again. Obviously it would make sense to cooperate but a lot probably needs to happen before these two countries will do that on such a sensitive issue.

New are reports about Japanese companies having won rights to develop oil fields in Libya. New investment in a politically unstable country....?

The most recent article comes from the Jamestown Foundation. They talk about how new environmental concerns have jeopardized the progress (uhm, what progress?) of negotiations on the Siberian Pacific oil pipeline. This pipeline has been debated for years now and decisions keep switching back and forth to the Nakhodka (Japanese) option and the Daqing (Chinese) option... Japan would benefit from this pipeline as a way of diversification within its range of oil suppliers. The same obviously goes for China. The last sentence in the article is perhaps most telling:
The rejection of the planned route for a Japan-bound pipeline on environmental grounds may be a convenient pretext to switch to a China-bound pipeline.

And lastly, a link to a picture that I found quite entertaining. This is from The Korea Times but somehow I don't think this is how you want to be living, and so this is not the image you should be sending out when talking about saving energy and energy efficiency: Using candles in an effort to promote energy saving.

September 26, 2005

Fingers crossed...

Haven't been around for a while, but the last two weeks or so have been very busy.

Had a bunch of foreign friends visiting last week which was a lot of fun. Exhausting, but great to see them again.

A big day yesterday for one of my best friend's bachelorette party. After initial start-up problems (the workshop-tutor didn't show up!) it was a very very fun day. My whole body aches from the capoeira though... OUCH!

And, maybe most importantly in the long run, I have been quite busy writing some very very important job applications. Two amazing jobs, I've finally sent out the letters&cvs. If I get one of these I'll be a very very happy bunny.

[edit@9/10: heard back from the first amazing job and I'm not even selected for an interview... As expected they're looking for someone with actual work experience. Having lunch later this week with someone to discuss my chances for amazing job nr. 2.]

I'm moving house in the next week, after which I will move permanently at the end of next month but after that I'll be blogging more regularly again (unless my laptop has really really died on me, and all signals point that way....)

September 14, 2005

Five Streets

A cool new blog!

Can someone do Hobart please? Am having a nostalgia moment after seeing a picture of Mt. Wellington ;)

August 31, 2005

Non-existent convenience

I think I actually had culture shock tonight.

The weather here is ab-so-lu-te-ly gorgeous! But, of course I was stuck at the office. So, I decided to have dinner outside. Very easy, nice food. Or so I thought.
Not thinking, I got salad, bread, cheese and was about to walk out of the shop and to the park when I realized "This is not Japan, I need to buy cutlery and stuff."
I ended up with 20 plastic forks and knifes because of course they don't sell that stuff separately. Plus, there were no handy drinks in the shop, no actual nice outdoorsy food.

In summary: I think Lawson/7.11/FamilyMart/random convenience stores should move into the Netherlands.

Another thing that I've noticed is that no one keeps in line on the escalator! I'm always confused on which side I'm supposed to stand until I realize that no one here cares.

August 26, 2005


Something completely different from my usual posts: satellites.

A satellite launch is being prepared for October from Russia (okay, that's nothing special, as there are launches there regularly).
Anyway, the mission itself is quite interesting. The CryoSat mission has as its goal to monitor the polar ice caps for the next three years to get a better idea of how fast (or even if) global warming is preceding. The link in the title gives more technical information.

August 24, 2005

Niger adventures

No, don't worry. It's not me going to Niger. I think that at this time that is a good thing.

I was just thinking that my friends tend to be quite adventurous. Very good of course.

A Japanese friend is currently in Niger for her work. She is by herself and attempting to make a documentary about the famine in the country. It is her first time in a third world country so I'm sure it'll be quite a culture shock!
I had an email from her today saying that she was doing well and adjusting. And she'll be seeing Kofi Annan at a press conference soon!

Anyways, good luck to her! I definitely want to see the final documentary.

On a sidenote, it is good to see that there is actually some interest in Africa among Japanese. It is sometimes shocking to see the lack of knowledge (and interest, for that matter) among the general public. Well, I guess that doesn't only apply to Japan though...

August 16, 2005

A friend is spending the week in Koln, Germany this week. She's doing her work on the outskirts of the World Youth Days there. The Catholic World Youth Days, that is.

Her organisation, YouAct, is working together with various other organisations. Together they are the youth coalition. They've set up a blog to talk about their adventures this week.
As the blog says, their aim is to promote church reform, sexual and reproductive health and rights and youth activism. They've already been in various media so let's hope they get the message across!

Good luck, guys :)

August 11, 2005

The world is becoming predictable ;)

Again, not surprising:
China chided after starting to drill for gas.

It's a bit funny that no one can say for certain whether China is drilling or not. Or if there are pipelines built or not. You would think that those are things that would be relatively easy to figure out, no? I must be missing the problem here.

And of course, even if the Japanese company Teikoku Oil will start drilling in the near future, the question remains how they will get it to shore. I would think that you would need some sort of pipeline network and a liquidification (sp?) terminal on the Japanese coast. I really doubt if it is actually worth the cost seen from the gas point-of-view. Of course, it's more than likely that this issue is about much more than just gas: territory, sovereignty, fishing rights etc etc.

Iran vs. the world

Now, why am I not surprised by this news: China not in favor of referring Iran nuclear issue to UN [Xinhua News]?

Obviously the further escalation of the nuclear issue in Iranian would be very bad.
As a test case for [growing?] Chinese power it could be quite interesting though. Previously, China has not cooperated in the UNSC when it came to Sudan sanctions. I expect the same will happen in the Iran case this time. It would be quite interesting to see how the rest of the UNSC would deal with this. [Let's hope it won't come to this though!]

Anyway, the link?
About 14% of Chinese oil imports come from Iran. And about 9/10% come from Sudan. No need to say that these numbers give the two countries a lot of leverage over Chinese interests! Economic sanctions on Iran will most likely have effects in one way or another on the substantial oil industry and will therefore harm a stable oil delivery to China. Well, if you would think ahead a little bit more it would tighten the oil market further, continuing the rise in world wide oil prices. I think not a day goes by that my daily paper does not report on new record prices for oil.
Oh, and incidentally, Japan is also dependant on oil imports from Iran for about 15%. I wonder how the current crisis is regarded in Japan. The papers (well, the online versions) don't appear to be making it as huge as in Europe, but Japan is probably tied up with its own political problems.
Of course, the Japanese attitude towards Iran could also possibly be of some influence on the Japanese bid for a permanent seat on the UNSC. Considering the Japanese dependence on Iranian oil, sanctions will not be beneficial either to the substantial Japanese investments in Iran.

August 08, 2005

Oh, and...

The weather is still absolutely completely utterly cr*p here!
I really don't like Japanese summers but please guys, can ya send over some of the heat this way?! It's been raining and cold for the past three weeks. I think I've been outside at a cafe maybe three times. Not happy.

It better become nicer before Monday, which is when the introduction week for the local university starts. I would link to the official site, but after just looking over it, it looks horribly boring! Maybe you're better off checking the SSR-link on the left, as that has slightly more imagination at the moment (just slightly though, don't expect too much!).

My point though, the rain needs to stop! It's no fun partying and discovering the city in the rain!

Who wants to take bets..

... on Koizumi's successor?

As most of you will know, the Upper House voted the Japan Post bill down. I haven't been paying enough attention to the issue, but after the bill recently passed the Lower House I was expecting it to pass now as well. As Koizumi has always said he is determined to get the bill through no matter what, he has dissolved the Lower House and has called for new elections in September. I was expecting Koizumi to stay on until the proper elections in 2007 (I think..?) which would have made his term-in-office as PM one of the longest in Japan - if not the longest by then.

In any case, at the moment I don't see it happening anymore. I don't think he is popular enough anymore to gain a majority in the upcoming elections and remain in office as PM. So, who will be next?

I used to think Abe Shinzo stood a pretty good chance, but he was mostly in focus when the North Korean abductions issue was hot news. That has slowly worn off, although he's still quite influential I think. If he can get enough supporters I wouldn't be surprised if he would get quite far.
Kamei also seems to be a strong opposer of Koizumi. I've also heard mention of Aso Taro as someone who could have a shot. Not too sure about that, although the guy himself is hilarious to listen to!

But, before attempting a more serious analysis I'll have to read up on this slighlty more. Will be keeping up with the news from Tokyo though...

[I seem to miss all the exciting stuff in Japanese politics. Everytime something fun happens I'm out of the country!]

Dutchies in the blogospere

The summer has hit media-land and in the absence of proper news on the weekend, there were a couple of articles on blogging in Dutch newspapers.

The Volkskrant-article was pretty interesting (registration necessary), although it refers a lot to Technorati-stats (consistently misspelled... not very impressive for a paper which is supposedly 'quality') so I doubt it is new to the rest of the blogosphere.
Apparently there are somewhere between 250.000 and 750.000 bloggers in the Netherlands. Out of 14.2 million worldwide. It also seems that almost half of new bloggers quit within three months. I seem to be doing relatively well then. Yay.

Another daily Trouw had a similar article on the weekend - although this article mentions 60.000 Dutch bloggers. Quite a difference! Haven't read the rest of the piece yet but it seems fairly interesting.

August 03, 2005

Another ambassador...

It appears that Bolton is not the only controversial ambassadorial nomination coming from the Bush administration at the moment.

At The Washington Note the nominee for the American embassy in the Netherlands also appears to have some shadier sides.

"Last Thursday, Bush nominated Roland Arnall to be the U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands. The same day, Ameriquest Capital Corp., of which Arnall is the chairman and sole owner, announced that it had set aside $325 million for potential settlements with 30 states whose regulatory agencies or attorneys general are investigating its lending practices.Ameriquest, a mortgage company which lends primarily to homeowners with bad credit, has been accused of predatory lending practices.

According to the Washington Post, the company "is facing complaints of wrongdoing from coast to coast, with thousands of customers seeking restitution." Doug Heller, executive director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica, CA, complained that Arnall's "companies have engaged in unfair and deceptive practices too many times to count." "These executives should be headed to the pen, not some diplomat's mansion."

More can be read here:

Secretarial life...

So I've now had three days in my new temp job. Everything is fine so far, it seems like it will be quite interesting.

Had a bit of a realization yesterday though. [At the risk of sounding overly arrogant...]
In every other job that I've had, whether it be part time or full time, I was always confident that my superiors were doing the kind of work that I could definitely do myself, after a few years experience (ranging from hotel management, embassy-work, commercial trading, quality management in different fields etc).

But now... Seriously, pretty much the only thing I can ever be in this organization is a secretary! So weird, but it's just all way beyond anything that I could ever hope to know.

July 31, 2005

To boldly go where no one has gone before

Surprisingly, my temp agency has done their job very well. Meaning that they've got me a job within the week! Hurray :)
Starting tomorrow, and it sounds exciting. It's all about spacey stuff! Well, secretarial spacey stuff.

The jobhunt for a proper and real job continues of course. I'm very happy to actually have a steady income again from this month onwards but still.

The blog will probably stay fairly quiet like it has been over the past two weeks. Instead of finding energy stuff on the internet my time in the Netherlands so far has mostly been spent on the necessary catching up with friends. Very good.

July 27, 2005

Netherlands = rain

As you can see at the updated WeatherPixie, my past week has been one long week of rain and nothing but rain. I think I probably spent a total of 2 hours outside at those much missed open cafe's, even if it is the end of July. Gah... And I'm sure that by the time I've landed a temp job the weather will become nice and warm.

July 22, 2005

People and their quirks...

I think I've decided that complete arrogance is a personal character trait I dislike most in people. It is incredible how some people just believe themselves to be above everyone else, even family.

If anyone has a method of pulling these types out of their own world back into ours and start behaving normally I'd love to know....

July 16, 2005

only 2 more nights...

Wow, after spending the last two evenings surrounded by Japanese, and will be again tomorrow night, I can't quite imagine being 'home' in only two nights.

There still are quite a few things that I want to do but in a way it's not that big a problem that I haven't done them. At least that leaves something for next time, right? Whenever that may be...

Tonight's taiko performance went fairly well. At least, everyone says it did.
I love my new taiko-sticks though. Or rather, I love the new orange taiko-stick-bag that they come in, seeing as the sticks are my third pair already.

Tomorrow will be hectic, the next day I'll be on a plane so the many drafts I have lined up will have to wait for a quiet day in the Netherlands. More news from there!
Byebye :)

July 14, 2005

Book shopping! (but cd non-shopping..)

I was hoping to stock up on Japanesey stuff to last me for the time that I won't be back. Unfortunately my money has run out... Nevertheless, I do have some cool things to keep me busy for the next few weeks/months while I'm jobhunting back home.

BookOff's are great. Just wish I could find stuff a bit easier. But, to increase my collection of Japanese literature I can look forward to the following:
Ryu Murakami - ストレンジ・デイズ
Ryotaro Shiba - 侍はこわい (love the title: Samurai are scary!)
Miyuki Miyabe - 今夜は眠れない (supposedly one of the better Japanese mystery/thriller authors)
Kaori Ekuni - きらきらひかる (noticed an English translation of this book recently, so thought I'd check out the original)
Kenzaburo Oe - 性的人間 (let's just say this one will look good on my bookshelf... Oe sounds like stressful reading!)

And of course another part in the ラブ・コン series! For anyone interested in starting manga, and learning Osaka-ben at the same time, the adventures of 小泉 and 大谷 are hilarious. Hopefully this will keep up my Osaka-ben skills!

One that I am most looking forward to is a recent Murakami book that I blogged about before: 半島を出よ. Hope that this will turn out to be failry readable... I wonder what havoc the North Koreans will wreck in Japan in Murakami's interpretation!

On a different note, music!
I found the 'Plastic Sex' cd in the shops the other day: Here comes SEX education. A pretty weird name, but it seems to be a new project from Nakamura Yoshio (formerly from The Plastics) with interesting collaborations.
The latest Towa Tei (of course of Pizzicatto Five fame) album Flash also sounded quite good. And M-Flo seems to be at work with new stuff. And I want some Orange Range stuff...

Like I said, my money's already gone though :(

中野・チャンプルー・フェスタ - Nakano Chample Festival - July 16/17/18

Some promotion for an upcoming festival (or matsuri) in Nakano-ward, just out of Shinjuku.
On the weekend of 16/17/18 July the Chample Festival will be celebrated (don't ask me what 'Chample' is supposed to mean though...). It will be three days of エイサー (eisa) which seems to be some kind of Okinawan dance.

In any case from 11am to 8pm on Saturday and Sunday, and from 11am to 7pm on Monday Nakano will be filled with music and dance.
There will be an outdoor stage in front of the Nakano Sunplaza square (中野サンプラザ前広場) where there will be performances of 'eisa', Okinawan bands, folkmusic (民謡演奏), taiko performances (!), karate demonstrations, magicians and more. Of course there will be food and drinks sold in the area as well. [just saw that one of the foods sold is 'chample/チャンプルー'. I guess that's the link?]

The flyer says:
What is 'eisa'? Begun as a Nenbutsu (buddhist invocation?) dance for the commemoration of one's ancestors celebrated at O-bon in Okinawa, it has now developed into a spectacular and vibrant dance. In Nakano, young people have been dancing 'eisa' since 35 years ago.

More information on this link about Okinawan rituals and festivals I'd so much love to go there once!

I'll be there on the Saturdayevening, which will hopefully be a proper ending to six months in Tokyo!

And some links:
Heart Beat Nakano re the Festa
Uchikoshi Taiko - performing at 7pm on Saturday, and 5pm (I think) on Monday

I got curious. Chample is apparently a Okinawan dish. Info in JP here. It seems to be a stir-fried dish of goya (Jp vegetable) and tofu. Will have to try that out next week...

July 09, 2005

宇治抹茶 - KitKat adventures

Update: I realized I hadn't told you yet what I thought of this new KitKat. Not bad at all! Surprisingly... You hardly taste the azuki-bean-stuff (which is a good thing) and the rest just mostly tastes like green tea chocolate. So, what else is new... Fact of life in Japan. If you live here, you need to be able to eat anything with green tea flavour!

Speaking of which, I have never really tried the green tea soft icecream. Nor the green tea Haagen Dasz (sp?). The other day I came across a very weird flavour though: soba-flavour soft ice! Bizarre.

Original (02/07)

Another foodpost. KitKat has been trying to be inventive in Japan this year. So far I've seen green-tea-KitKat, white-chocolate-KitKat, cafe-latte-KitKat, and this is the latest: kakikoori-KitKat. KitKat with the taste of kakikori (crushed ice, I think) with green tea, azuki red beans and milk... Without the KitKat, it's a popular summer treat. Haven't tried it yet. I'm a bit hesitant about this particular flavour but will get back to you!

July 08, 2005


Update: a resurrection of a very old post
My friend Kana is currently in the midst of this jobhunting-phenomenon as described below. Today she posts a description of a day at a job market (説明会) (in Japanese only) (the article seems to have disappeared, this is now just the link to her blog).

I particularly like where she describes the jobhunting-uniform.
White shirt, black suit, black bag, black shoes: 自分の個性を消すために -- to delete your individuality ...

Original (21/02)
One of the things that still quite amazes me here is the phenomenon 就職活動 [shushokukatsudo - Job Hunting]

To explain a bit (to any Japanese readers, this is just one of those things that I don't understand. If anything here is incorrect or if you don't agree at all, please let me know!):
In contrast to the Netherlands (which is, admittedly, a relatively unique situation), everyone at university in Japan graduates after four years in March. In April you start your new job. So far so good.

The confusing part starts with the fact that you need to find that job during the holiday between your third and fourth year/beginning of the fourth year. In those few months (say, from February to May~July) you have no time for friends, school, parttime jobs etc. Every day you go to seminars from companies who are recruiting for new staff, jobfairs, discussions and so on. This, with the goal to get to know what companies are out there, and what kind of companies you would like to apply for. But also to let the companies get to know you.
Probably sometime in March (I think...?) the actual application process begins. This usually includes tests (on anything, general knowledge) and interviews. If all goes well, you've landed a job in May or so. If not, this whole jobhunting circus continues.

When you've found a job, you can devote the rest of the year to your graduation thesis, parties, and everything else. Back to a normal life. Middle of March/Early April is when your working life starts, after graduating. Usually with intensive on-the-job training - as it often happens that your new job has nothing whatsoever to do with your academic training.

Now, all of this is in a way fine to do, I suppose. Okay, sure, I can't imagine it would be fun to go to those job seminars, together with hundreds of other jobhunters. Who are all competitors and are aiming for the same job at the same time. But well, I guess it's survivable.
The thing that I don't get, though, is that the selection process doesn't necessarily aim at finding people who have actually studied for that job. Of course, this is also something that the education system does not work towards effectively. I know that. It just seems a waste of valuable years of learning. And of extra necessary on-the-job training, because you need to start all over when people first start working.
Why do you have people study Hindi, if they will not ever use this again? Why do you only take on new 'recruits' once a year, even if this will mean that you have not enough staff at peak times?

Even more non-sensical to me is how the real talent doesn't seem to be appreciated. Why does it not look good on a cv if you have spent a year abroad studying English or something? Does 'taking a break'/休学する really have that bad a reputation? A friend told me how employers will only think that the potential 'recruit' was out partying and getting drunk during the whole year that they were abroad. So what if that is true.... Is it just my naitivity that thinks that even such an experience is good for someone? It doesn't mean that someone will be bad at work. Well, unless that person realizes what the Japanese working system actually entails (but let's not go off on a completely different track here...) I truly believe that going away for a year, or even working in Japan itself while figuring out what to study is good for someone as it will make you more aware of the opportunities out there, and what suits you best.

But maybe Japanese business wants their new employees young and fresh out of school, without any useful experience, so that there is still plenty of potential to shape them into the perfect member of the company? This all sounds a bit too cynical, but I wouldn't be surprised if it actually is one of the motives behind it...

Oh, I don't know... maybe I am just being naive. I mean, what do I know about what kind of person will make a good employee? Just starting off myself :) Well, maybe I should actually take that headhunting-job and find out! Hahaha, as if.... Hmm, maybe that will be a next entry: interviewing in Japan - how companies should NOT go about this... [to be continued]

July 07, 2005

Nerd :)

God, I'm a geek sometimes.
Just finished my notes for the presentation tomorrow and I'm actually looking forward to it! It'll be great!!

Ok, not that I'm so great at speaking in public, but I know exactly what I'm going to be talking about (uhm, the topic has become way too long), love the ppt-lay-out and nothing really depends on it, so I'm quite sure it'll go well. If not, then that will be a good thing to have found out... :s

Anyways, am done in time to head out for drinks in Shinagawa, finish up my revisions in my conclusion of the paper tomorrow, and can spend the whole of the last two days at work next week doing nothing. Yay!

July 06, 2005

Three things

My Pocky Fortune of today!

勉強・仕事運 (work&study) - もう少し (a little bit more...) (ranking: 2 out of 5)
金運 (money) - 絶好調! (in top condition!) (ranking: 5 out of 5!)
恋愛運 (love) - その調子 (good going!) (ranking: 4 out of 5)

My interpretation:
Hmm, work... have a huge presentation coming up so maybe that'll bomb?
Money... my taxrefund is coming in?
Love... hahaha, that one did it, I don't think I should believe this one ;)


Gah, I discovered today that the statistical review on which I have based most of the data in my research paper published an updated 2005 version while I was on holiday. Not good...


In other good news though, my boss loved the first draft of that same research paper! Woohoo! Happyhappy :D
Now let's hope I'll dazzle everyone on Friday with my fab presentation (which still needs to be set up from scratch) and they will offer me a job in Den Haag - or somewhere more exotic of course!

July 04, 2005

China: a threat to American energy security?

Update: Here's another article on CNOOC, Unocal and general energy security issues in the Guardian on July 3

Over on The Oil Drum Ianqui links to the news that the US Congress is in the process of blocking the Chinese CNOOC bid on Unocal. The New York Times (registration required) gives more details.
CNOOC is currently competing with Chevron to take over Unocal. Apparently many members of Congress see this move as a threat to 'national and energy security in the United States'. Funny thing is though that Congress hasn't acted this forcefully to other foreign takeovers in the past years in the American oil industry. And, the current planned take over is not likely to affect American oil and gas supplies all that much. The more interesting parts of Unocal activities are Asian based in for example Indonesia.

It's interesting to see the Congress reaction to something about which most analysts agree on won't make all that much of a difference to the US' energy situation. CNOOC still has a few weeks to get its things in order, and I'm curious to see what will happen.
One of the more interesting parts in the NYT article shows the opposing views:
"We cannot afford to have a major U.S. energy supplier controlled by the Communist Chinese," Mr. Pombo said on the House floor. "If we allow this sale to go forward we are taking a huge risk."

But Representative Jim Moran, a Virginia Republican, said blocking the Chinese bid was a dangerous move. "They are holding a financial guillotine over the neck of our economy, and they will drop that if we do things like this that are not well considered," Mr. Moran said on the House floor. "If we don't let them invest in western firms, what are they going to do? They are going to invest in Iran or Sudan and make those governments much stronger than they are today."

It's very important to realize what the consequences could be of blocking the CNOOC bid. China will want to get its oil from somewhere and already has substantial interests in Iran and Sudan. It will be easy to expand these activities, which will be contrary to American interests.

CNOOC is very much acting out of strategic interests; not surprising as it is state-owned for 70%. This obviously gives it a very different rationale for its activities than other US and Europe-based oil/gas companies. Others have also pointed out the inconsistency of the Congress' actions with the US ideas about free trade.

There are a few more articles on China's hunt for oil here:
China's costly quest for energy control (NYT)
China's global hunt for oil (BBC news)

July 03, 2005

China vs Japan re gas - Yomiuri perspectives

In this weekend of catching up with reading and news, I came across some fairly interesting material in the Japan Focus news briefing. Having been translated from four parts of editorials printed in the Yomiuri Shinbun (which I unfortunately missed), the articles start off with a discussion of the conflict in the East China Sea between China and Japan but continue on to Japan-UAE ties and competition for oil in Central Asia.

In all of the articles it is clear that the authors believe Japan should accord a more strategic and political importance to ensure access to natural resources. Energy policy should focus more on (diplomatic) efforts to make Japan more visible in the international oil market. Personally, I think a failure to do this more openly is one of the reasons behind the wavering support of Russia for the East Siberian pipeline to the port of Nakhodka. If Japan would have responded more enthusiastically to the initial news in December 2004 that the pipeline would be constructed in Japan's favour there might've already have been a decision. At least, I haven't really come across a lot of positive news from Japan about those first reports from Russia. And now it appears to all go back towards the Chinese option again.

In any case, the articles linked to (in the title of the post) refer to several pending issues, and connect the energy issue to other things such as FTA's and so on which is quite interesting.

Edit: I only noticed after posting that there's another recent article on Japan Focus on energy. India-China-US and the energy conondrum Haven't read it myself, but looks interesting.

July 02, 2005


Holidays are good! Too bad I had to be back in the office last Thursday.
In two weeks me and a friend did Tokyo -> Matsumoto -> Takayama -> Kanazawa -> Osaka/Kyoto/Koya-san/Kobe -> Tokyo. A lot of places that I hadn't been to for a long time plus some cool new stuff.

The highlights (in no particular order):
- Matsumoto castle. Stunning, loved it. We got a tour by some goodwill guides which was pretty funny. We were wondering if we should give a tip or not (and thinking that we wouldn't need to, 'cause it's Japan) but before we could even do any such thing both of them got away from us as soon as they could at the exit (and the lady even before that to chase another gaijin for a tour!). Problem solved.

- the 'living room' in Takayama. Imagine a space of at most 14 square meter, a counter with maybe 6 seats, behind that the chef with his complete kitchen (1x2m) and us walking in: ぁ、英語分からない!('don't know English!') was our welcoming greeting. After my reply that that was no problem as I speak Japanese, the cook and his 2 customers seemed quite disappointed... A bit of a change from the usual いらっしゃいませ-callings! Nevertheless, the food was excellent and the cook started warming up to us when he saw that we could eat our food flawlessly with chopsticks!

- Mt. Koya - an overnight stay at the temple Eiko-in, with lovely buddhist vegetarian food (but yes, spongy tofu and seaweed), and a service in the morning. After that an early morning walk across my favourite cemetery which surrounds the Oku-no-in temple... My second time to go there but the whole stay was again amazing.

- Osaka (and the rest of Kansai)... what can I say, it is just a much more comfortable city than this enormous place that is Tokyo.

etc etc... good trip!

So far for the touristy stuff, I'll be coming back with more serious posts later!

A visit to Osaka can not be ended without sampling Japan's best food: okonomiyaki! The above picture shows a couple in progress. The chain Yukari is great! We had cheese-okonomiyaki, kimchi-okonomiyaki, indian curry-okonomiyaki, midosuji-okonomiyaki etc etc...Yummy!

June 11, 2005

Ah... food! A lovely lunch of tempura and zaru-soba (cold buckwheat noodles). Courtesy of our landlord, I think I want him to own my next place to live as well!

A day at Nikko, but unfortunately not a very clear picture of the entrance to the Tosho-gu. The shrine itself is quite impressive. Rather than just being beautiful it is almost pure kitsch; with gold, dragons and red all over the place!

Finally! Out of the city, into the mountains. At least, that's the way it looks. In reality the picture (of the Kegon Waterfall - 華厳滝) is taken from a fully concrete outlook platform from which there is no way to get any closer to the waterfall and the surrounding woods.... *rolls eyes*.... Japanese and nature...

June 10, 2005


The countdown has started. Re-booked my flight today.
Not sure if that's good or bad. A bit of both?


Well, okay, I know I'm being overly dramatic. Still, it's a bit weird. I should start a list on the stuff still to do, maybe.
In the meantime I'm starting to stress [yes, the stress is back] about my research, as I spent the whole day working on a job application. Details on that later; if all goes (very) well this blog will be taking a very different direction in the near future. Then again, that would probably be too good to be true...

June 09, 2005

Chinese energy demand growth - consequences for global energy markets

The Financial Times publishes a Asia Insight series, which is consistently filled with news, interesting perspectives and everything else you would expect from the FT.
The latest (I think) has as its theme China goes global. The articles themselves don't seem to be digitalized, but this links to the actual magazine. See especially the following articles:

- China and America's common energy interests (p.12)
- Increasing trade reveals Beijing's growing profile in resource-rich Latin America (p.8)
- Energy drives Beijing's trade with Tehran (p.6)
- reports on CNOOC, Unocal and more oil sector news (p.20-21)

Am off to read and write!

[edit: another Asia Insight: Asia's emerging giants: China and India; interesting stuff!]

June 08, 2005

HTML query

Ok, a question for those who are reading occasionally and know a bit about html/blog-templates/whatever.

This thing is turning a bit too random, so I'd like to start categorizing. You know research/tokyo/politics/etc, that kind of thing. Can I do that in How? What are the codes to use for that? I can't quite figure it out from all the explanations that I've read so far... Thanks!

A couple of things

# Phones - they're always breaking down at the wrong moment! I had hoped to celebrate Japan's win over North Korea tonight with a lovely pic of my taiko club's chairman's dog - wearing Japan's national soccer shirt. Yep, a dog.
It seems to be a trend (not the soccer shirt, just shirts on dogs in general), as Jo points out today as well...
Alas, my camera refused to work.... :(

# Scary stuff - in case you hadn't realized, I'd love a career which involves living in a lot of different places: in different countries, that is. Possibly a dream job, but it exists. And I want it... But I'll get back to that later. What frightens me about that is the following scenario:
Living in that foreign, far-off country, not speaking the language and as a consequence being stuck in a very, very small world and not knowing the simplest things about the city that you live in.
I suppose that living in Tokyo doesn't quite prepare me for the life that would await me. A friend came along to my taiko practice tonight. Loads of fun (glitter, when are you coming?), but it struck me that even after she's lived here for 7/8 years I couldn't explain to her how to get back to her station as she hardly ever uses the trainsystem. She has no need to, she lives around the corner from everything she might ever need in a very non-Japanese area. I only carry Japanese language maps and so on, but do think it normal to have something like that on you in this city (but then, obviously in English).
It was a bit of a wake-up call. Not the first time actually. Even while working in an expat environment, I suppose it doesn't give me the full picture of the kind of life it entails: I speak the language and know the country so can go all over the place. I don't want to critize my work mates at all for this (even if it might sound like it), they're great and I'll miss them back in the Netherlands. I guess it's a different kind of life. It just makes me wonder how I would be living if I'd be working in say, Malawi all of a sudden ;)

# Immigration - why do they put the local immigration office all the way out of the city in an industrial area, with only trucks and seacontainers and no sign of normal life?! [hope my visa-extension comes through though!]

# Woohoo! Four more days of work until I can start my (hopefully well earned) holiday! Hilde, it's starting to sound like a packed two weeks with lots of fun stuff. Hope you're looking forward to it, I know I am (*^-^*)

# Stress-free - a new experience... because of the above holiday, I want to have my research project written, lay-out-ed (sp?), handed in and sent to all the relevant people before then. Still have a fair bit of work ahead of me, but surprisingly it is not freaking me out. I was expecting a repeat of my final thesis-writing weeks.
What's more: I'm actually quite happy with how it's turning out! This is a totally new sensation. I'm usually completely dissatisfied with anything I write, but the energy security research is turning out to be not bad at all... If I may say so myself ;)
I'll get back to it once I'm finished and can give a proper conclusion and all of that.

# Libraries - don't you just love 'em? As I haven't got the latest Murakami Ryu book yet, I got some of his stuff from the local library and it's turning out quite interesting. As the title says, a bit strange... Strange Days - Murakami Ryu

Hmm, much longer than expected and a bit random. Oh well, that's what blogs are for, aye?

June 04, 2005


I'm not incredibly good with computers.

Well, I suppose I'm not doing that badly considering that I'm working on a Japanese OS (why oh why did I think it was smart to use that!?) and can still handle most things.
But anyway, new digital stuff tends to freak me out. A case in point is the SD/miniSD Card Reader that I bought for my phone some time ago. Actually, almost 3 months ago! The idea was that this would enable me to upload my pictures from my phone onto my computer (and onto here) without buying a digital camera which I would love to have but still can't quite afford! :'( So, that was 3 months ago. Obviously I'm good at putting stuff off, like actually figuring this Card Reader-thingy out .
Tonight, while still recovering from a very fun Friday night, I finally pulled out the (Japanese) manual and tried to discover how to go about using it .... 10 minutes later I was done.

To celebrate, a couple of pics from the last few months! Enjoy :)

One of the major matsuri (festivals) in Tokyo is the Sanja Matsuri at the Asakusa-jinja in Asakusa. From Friday to Sunday there are all kinds of activities, and the main event is the carrying around of the mikoshi ('portable shrines') through the neighbourhood. There are three different routes, with more than 40 mikoshi and at the end of the Sunday they all come back to the shrine again. This is a picture of one of these, with the Senso-ji in the background. As you can see there are huge crowds to watch the festivities.

One of the best parts of these matsuri is the food. This time there were tons of stalls ('yatai') on the temple grounds surrounding the Senso-ji. My favourite is probably takoyaki (small dough balls with octopus inside) but there is loads of other stuff. It was fun to see that these matsuri are also opening up - it was the first time I saw yatai with kebab and taco's. Not bad!
In any case, what you see on the (not very clear) picture is some kind of fish-on-a-stick, being grilled. There are definitely some funny-looking things at these places....
Oh, I'm actually trying to find some interesting matsuri for the end of June (Tokyo-area and Kansai) so would love to hear about it if anyone has any tips!

A bit late, but here's a picture of the sakura-madness in Yoyogi park in early April

Japan vs North Korea --> in fiction

It is interesting to see how some things that happen in East Asia (economic, political, military whatever) get their own place in Japanese domestic society outside of politics. The research that I did on Japan and North Korea was mostly to show that the problems which exist between these countries seem to have grown past international politics and diplomacy and have taken up a firm place in domestic politics. In the case of the North Korean issue it is especially odd because domestic opinion focuses on very different issues than international consensus or what Japanese government policy would like to aim at.
[Oh, hang on... isn't this what happened with last week's EU referendum in the Netherlands also?]

Back to the North Korea story though. I'm the proud owner of several manga detailing the issues at stake; that is, manga showing a crazed Kim Jong Il heading for the red button as he sees US troops taking down Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad, while being entertained by his personal yorokobi-gumi [The yorokobi-gumi or 喜び組 is the name for Kim's personal entertainment squad, made up of pretty Korean girls]. It's a pretty funny read!
Recently a new novel was published which uses the North Korean threat as its main story line. I can't wait to get my hands on it, and actually have time to read it ;)
The book is called "Get Out of the Peninsula" or 半島を出よ(上&下) and is written by well-known author Ryu Murakami. Most of the reviews on Amazon are raving about the book but I hope to get back to you about that when I've actually read it myself!

A recent LA Times article starts off with a description of the book:
One of the hottest-selling books here this spring is Ryu Murakami's "Get Out of the Peninsula," a novel set in 2010 that portrays a Japan in ruins, ravaged by economic and social collapse. Armies of homeless and unemployed have been cast adrift. Japan's alliance with America lies in tatters. Chinese and Indian criminal gangs run amok.
But Murakami's main villains are a group of North Korean commandos. On the opening day of the baseball season, they storm the Fukuoka Dome stadium on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. As incompetent Japanese politicians fail to act, more North Korean troops arrive, sealing Kyushu off from the rest of Japan.

In Japan these days, bad guys just don't come any more sinister than North Koreans.

I'm not sure of the political orientation of Murakami. However, considering this story and the way in which it makes use of negative popular opinion it wouldn't surprise me if he is of similar orientation of people such as Abe Shinzo and Ishihara Shintaro. Then again, he might just be using the emotional content of the issue to ensure himself a bestseller. [Speaking of which, can any Japanese readers point me to listings of bestsellers and so on? I have no clue where to find such information!]
I suppose that in a way it is good that literature is used to discuss issues that not only focus on purely Japanese things. Then again, this doesn't seem to be the best use of this topic either. The North Korean issue is far from resolved and by keeping up domestic opposition to finalize the abductions issue (through these kind of stories), resolution will only remain a far-off hope.

Maybe I'm reading too much into the book. I do think that Japanese domestic politics and the mass media which is fuelling the hysteria need to re-think what they should be devoting their attention to: abductions or nuclear weapons? Although I don't agree with many of the articles and opinions that say that North Korea could strike any time etc etc, I do think there is an explosive situation at hand which needs resolving...

June 02, 2005

Sino-Nippon conflict continues...

From Gen Kanai's weblog I tracked down the following article on cyberwar between Japan and China.

As some of you might know, I find the East Asian region incredibly interesting because of all these states trying to claim their place in the system. For an idea of what I've done, check the thesis in the link listings.
In any case, the above link is pretty interesting as it goes into a new kind of trouble between China and Japan. It seems that quite a few Japanese sites have been hacked by Chinese groups lately. Interesting to read how this animosity is expressed in different ways.

My current research on the region is on its way smoothly. I'm still discovering new things daily though about what China and Japan are up to to get their oil and gas.
An example: there seems to be a vague - pretty unrealistic, if you ask me - plan out there to construct a canal through Thailand to take pressure off the Strait of Malacca. Apparently this was a Chinese project from some time back, and I've now heard rumours about Japanese plans for this... This seems quite absurd though. If it will happen, it is another sign of almost despair on the part of these countries to get their hands on natural resources.
Other issues that come up a lot recently are the East China Sea exploration/development battle and the pipeline from Angarsk to Daqing, no to Nakhodka, no maybe back again to Daqing issue. There should be a bit of progress on the latter issue soon it seems, so I'm very curious what will happen. Russia doesn't seem to be too reliable lately...

Okay, a quick note on other stuff than my weekends. Bye!

As expected....

So, what now? The end of the EU? Will they make us vote indefinitely until there's an 'aye'?

Volkskrant artikel (in Dutch)
and the BBC story


June 01, 2005

Ja of nee?

Goed, ik was niet van plan om hier blog-ruimte aan te spenderen, maar ik kan het niet laten.
Het is in elk geval jammer dat ik in de aanloop naar 1 juni in het buitenland ben. Waarom mis ik dit soort, toch redelijk belangrijke, politieke ontwikkelingen in Nederland toch altijd? Het verbaast me enorm dat er zoveel mensen tegen zullen stemmen bij het referendum over de EU grondwet vandaag - overigens een slechte naam, dit impliceert veel meer dan dat het eigenlijk is! Ik krijg de indruk dat velen tegen zullen stemmen om de verkeerde redenen, om zaken die helemaal niets met het verdrag te maken hebben. Ja, het is niet fijn dat het Nederland economisch gezien even niet voor de wind gaat, maar daar verandert een tegenstem echt niets aan. Ja, misschien wil je Turkije niet bij de EU hebben, maar ook daarover gaat het helemaal niet!
In mijn interpretatie betreft het hier veel bestuurlijke verbeteringen. En, voordat de EU verder wil uitbreiden denk ik dat het noodzakelijk is om eerst binnen de EU orde op zaken te stellen. Het verdrag waar Europa nu over stemt is een belangrijke stap in dat proces.
Ik zal niet alle argumenten voor (of tegen) afgaan, maar in elk geval een paar links:
# De Volkskrant geeft een duidelijke stemwijzer. Stellingen met uitleg wat de zgn. 'grondwet' daarover zegt.
# Een weergave van de mening van een mede-Tokyo-blogger Duidelijk, en ik kan niet anders zeggen dan dat ik het er helemaal mee eens ben.
# Voor een officiele kijk is er natuurlijk ook deze site met weerlegging van mythes, goede argumenten etc

Ik ben benieuwd wat het nieuws zal zijn als ik morgenochtend weer op kantoor kom! Ik hoop maar dat de zwevers op het laatste moment nog wat invloed kunnen hebben.

May 29, 2005

Tokyo discoveries

The frustration of being in a new city for a relatively short time is exactly that: it's short!.
Not that I mind going back to the Netherlands in two months. Not at all, I can't wait. But, there are loads of cool people here as well, and I just keep discovering these really cool places here in Tokyo. It just feels as if I'm running out of time...
A few recent discoveries:
- Pecha Kucha Night, Nr. 23 -- A night of short presentations of artists in the Tokyo area of their work, at SuperDeLuxe Apparently this was not one of their best nights, but I still thought it was a lot of fun to see the very different presentations - from architecture, to, to flowers! Interesting concepts, interesting audience and overall a pretty good night.
- Livehouses! Well, I knew those before but last week I was at a gig of Pierced, the band of flatmate Jeff. Very cool, well done guys!
- Beergardens! Again, a phenomenon I knew about before, but the season has started again. Last night we had a night of all-you-can-eat-and-drink on top of the Parco department store in Ikebukuro. Not bad, not bad at all. Obviously followed by the indispensable karaoke-session :)

And, this week I'll be going to see some Tokyo stand-up comedy in Shibuya. Very curious what that will be like.

One of the best things about being abroad is to be pulled out of the very comfortable life, circle of friends and so on of life as it is back home. Throughout the years (ouch... this makes me sound soooo old!) I've met so many people who are so different from the people that I would normally get a chance to meet.
In 'normal' life it can sometimes be so difficult to get out of the daily routine and go to places that you wouldn't normally think of going to. Here, in Tokyo - or anywhere outside of the safety of 'home', for that matter - you are forced to go to all those places that you don't know because so many things are new. Which makes life here interesting. Absolutely. And, it always reminds me that I really should make an effort to go out and discover new places again when I'm home again.
And, I guess that is also partly what people mean when they say that life abroad can be more interesting, more fascinating, more exciting than life at home.... Just to reassure the Dutch readers though, I'll be back before you even know it!

If someone out there could get me a job and a house, that is ;)

May 16, 2005

Sumo and more

I always seem to start writing here after a good weekend. Which is the occasion again this time. I vaguely remember saying I wouldn’t let this become a touristy blog, but actually discuss ‘serious’ issues. Hahaha. I can’t really find inspiration for intelligent attempts at a useful discussion. The more so because just about everything that I would want to write about is discussed elsewhere (see the blogroll for good sources to start with!)

In any case, the weekend! Aahh.. so nice (*^-^*)
A 3-day-one even, which made it better of course. To quickly recap, Friday was spent on farewell drinks for a colleague and birthday drinks for myself. (Thanks to all for the cards/presents/emails! You've spoiled me to bits!) Obviously followed by a visit to the pub, then to karaoke (懐かしい!A few novices but also a few karaoke-veterans with loads of forgotten Japanese songs!), and then clubbing to Muse. Good club, too bad about the lame music.
On Saturday a good friend from Osaka was in town. Very last minute chaotic planning but we got about 10 people together for food and drinks. Very cool, as always.
The plan for Sunday was for more food. Unfortunately, that plan fell, quite literally, in the water. The Thai Food Festival was on at Yoyogi Park which sounded great. Except for the fact that as soon as I got off the train at Harajuku the rain had slowly started, and by the time I had caught up with my friends it was thundering and pouring down with rain. Just about everyone got soaking wet, although the rush to get to a dry spot amongst tens/hundreds of other visitors was quite hilarious!

(And now for something slightly different, and the reason for writing)
To make up for the lack of cultural and traditional activities lately I figured I would put my Dutch free day to use and spend the afternoon at the Sumo! Had a great afternoon! The May tournament started last week, so the wrestlers are half way now. As always, the Mongolian wrestler Asashoryu is in the lead: undefeated so far (what is more, he is undefeated for the championship 4 times in a row now and going for the 12th championship overall!). Chiyotaikai is closely following though. Today’s bout was pretty spectacular.
Some quick comments:
* security at the Ryogoku Sumo Arena is stricter than at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry! Kind of odd. At the least. At METI I always get the impression that the guards remain too polite and only look into my bag without actually properly opening it. Basically, I could carry in anything and blow up part of Kasumigaseki... At Ryogoku they did actually look through my bag slightly more thoroughly. Apparently the nation’s sumo stars are more important than its economic policymakers?
* I had never realised quite how trendy sumo wrestlers dress! The kesho-mawashi (a kind of apron which the wrestlers wear for the opening ceremony) of Hakuho had blinking lights in it! So cool (*^-^*)
* while wandering about the arena, shopping for omiyage, and having my picture taken with some of the big guys, I noticed a wrestler with his wife: a tiny tiny Japanese girl. Some of these guys have superidol status in Japan (or well, among certain circles that is) and with that comes popularity among (certain circles of) women. I guess. I really don’t see the attraction. They have kids also...
* I absolutely love the whole theater and drama that goes on during these matches! You can’t quite imagine it when just watching this on tv in Europe but the crowd starts cheering and screaming when the new wrestlers come on to the doyo (the ring), the guys start stamping about, throwing salt, slapping legs etc. The last time they go back for the salt (just the preparations take double the time of the match itself!), it becomes clear why certain wrestlers are popular. Toki and Takamisakari got a pretty huge welcome. The reason partly/mostly being the show they put on before the fight itself. Incredibly funny to watch!
In any case, next time I go I’ll be sure to upgrade my seat! I had gotten the cheapest tickets available (at the very very top of the second floor), but the arena was pretty empty. So, after half an hour of wandering about I positioned myself comfortably at some tatami-mats on the first floor, awaiting to be kicked out. Which never happened. Yay. Next time I want the big bag of goodies that goes with the event.

{edit@17/5: A full review of the day's proceedings can be read here! I forgot about it, but like the article says, the bout between Kotonowaka and Aminishiki was pretty amazing: both wrestlers landed on their heads, looked pretty painful! Here's the picture. Good for Kotonowaka to win though.}

Oh, and, just so you guys don't get the wrong impression: I do actually also work! A quick rundown of the stuff I've been busy with:
- marketreports on IT (security/digital content), healthcare, bio-industry, biomass
- continuing research on East Asian energy security (it's time for some interviews and proper writing!)
- seminars on Japanese ODA, government procurement, WTO etc
- trade fairs on IT, fashion
etc etc.
See, I still do other stuff then just eating and drinking...

Sumo is in town! I couldn't resist, had to have this...! Stories will follow soon :)

May 12, 2005

About blogging...

Every day at work I start the day off with my fav newspaper cartoon: Fokke&Sukke.
To keep to the theme of blogging, here are some recent ones (in Dutch though...) - didn't catch 'em earlier as I spent most of last week out of the office and in Osaka, but the paper version just arrived at my desk :)

F&S zijn verwoede bloggers
F&S voelen zich weer helemaal 'toppie'
F&S bekijken de weblog van Carolien
F&S lossen sommige dingen liever F2F op
F&S reageren vol passie en expressie


May 11, 2005

I've said it before probably, but ah... wouldn't life be bliss if I just would have been born to be a supermarket cassiere?


Oh, and I love having birthdays abroad! Instead of just one day, it takes at least a week with the mail bringing in pressies and cards irregularly... Yay! ;)

April 20, 2005

Bolton @ the UN?

The debate in the American Senate about the nomination of John Bolton as Ambassador to the UN is not over yet... The final vote on his appointment is now delayed for three weeks.
Check Steven Clemons at The Washington Note, where he provides very up-to-date information on the proceedings.

April 12, 2005

もんじゃ焼き (read: monjayaki); a Tokyo specialty - Hilde, we'll be eating this in June! - p.s. it isn't nearly as horrible as it looks in the unfinished state that the photo shows!

April 11, 2005

And a last one.... view of Tokyo across the Harbour Bridge; my city for another three months!

It's been a while....

... so I won't bother you all with comments on the political situation in Japan - a few things going on though, but I really can't be bothered to start on the China/Korea vs Japan apology/textbook issue, so you're in luck!

So, what have I been up to?
I've uploaded a few pics from the last few weeks to give an idea. The day in Kamakura ages ago has remained one of the few tourist events I've done here. Although I have some places to check out sometime soon, like the John Lennon Museum! It's supposedly quite fun :) Oh, and I did almost go to the China Food Museum in Yokohama , which I mentioned a while back. But, after wandering around Yokohama all day all we wanted was some good food. So, we didn't really feel like paying extra to see kitschy shows while being in the middle of some excellent Chinese restaurants anyway! Maybe on the next Hama-gourmet trip...
This weekend was spent doing the traditional hanami. The cherry blossoms/sakura were finally out all of last week, so the parks were PACKED with silly Japanese people. Saturday was Yoyogi-park, and Sunday was Yanaka Cemetery. Imagine, a couple of weird gaijin in the middle of a graveyard.... With tons of Japanese of course. Quite a strange sight! We managed to get a spot next to a group who had brought along guitars so we even had live music. And, we almost had pizza delivered! Sometimes the Japanese do come up with smart ideas. A PizzaHut guy was handing out flyers to whoever wanted to order pizza's with him. "Two large pizza's please; we're the group underneath the sakura tree on the right hand side next to Mr. Suzuki's gravestone". Hihi. Have a look here, for some reflections about what hanami (i.e. drinking lots of sake and eating lots under the pretense of enjoying nature!) means to the Japanese people. I especially love the comments about how hanami is the essence of Japanese culture and represents the Japanese soul. I wonder what the Dutch equivalent of this would be... What event or activity represents 'our' soul?
In any case, pictures of sakura coming up soon! After I fix my phone that is. I finally went out to get a memory card and related digi-stuff to be able to upload my photo's but that idea has back-fired. :S Need to get it fixed asap, but at least I'm still connected to the matrix as I can still call and email. :)

Another big thing in the last few weeks was the wedding of Aki and Kinya. An amazing day, but I need a bit more time to write that up properly!

Praying for unborn babies, and giving your very own touch to your individual Jizo-statue!

A touristy day in Kamakura: the Daibutsu.

The view from my office (well, pretty much anyway...): the marvelously ugly Tokyo Tower.

St. Mary's Cathedral in Bunkyo-ku; I'm not much of a church-person, but this place is incredibly impressive!

My Wednesday night entertainment: Uchikoshi Taiko in Nakano!

March 14, 2005

Weekends are nice....

... and in honour of the weekend I was out eating and karaoke-ing. There are even some pictures available of the event!
LP Tokyo Pissup

Not only the Netherlands has had snow recently, but here in Tokyo we were also lucky to have a bit of white stuff on the ground... have a look at Crossfire's pics!

It's been a while since I last posted, what has happened in the meantime...
oh yeah, life is becoming scary: I'm ooh-ing and aah-ing along to Japanese tv. Which would not be so bad in itself, possibly maybe, except for the fact that this was brought on by an explanation of how Japanese pizza got its name in the dreadful program Project X. I mean, seriously!!

I'll try to get some pictures soon of my new taiko-buddies (keitai's are handy, still debating whether or not I can afford a digicam) where I've been spending my Wednesdaynights recently. They're fun :)

I'm also busy with teaching! Yep, am brushing up my English grammar and in the very near future also my Dutch grammar. Quite fun and hey, I'm learning everything all over myself! Plus that it's helping to finance my holiday in the summer which is not unimportant of course ;)

On a final note, this might be funny: weird Japanese in Asia (haven't had a look myself yet, so let me know if this is any good!) A change from hopefully.

Ok, it's late, おやすみ!