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.