Saturday, April 23, 2005

italian switcheroo

the associated press is reporting today that berlusconi, the italian prime minister who resigned a couple of days ago, was just sworn in as prime minister. what? well, it turns out that a common trick for unpopular governments is for the p.m. to "resign", at which point the "president" (mostly a figure-head position) appoints the just-resigned prime minister to form a coalition government. he then appoints different people to leadership roles, hoping that these more popular people can keep him in power. it's all very strange, if you ask me, especially since berlusconi re-appointed virtually all of his old ministers to their old posts. consequence: not a single prime minister has served out a full five-year term in italy in the post-wwii period.

Friday, April 22, 2005

mouse hunting

this is a strange thing, and i'm not sure what to think of it. there is a website through which one can hunt various animals. yes, actually aim and shoot a rifle mounted on a motorized arm by pointing and clicking. a bunch of lawmakers are trying to outlaw the practice, but what of mr. hagberg, a quadriplegic with dreams of hunting? why should we prevent him from achieving his goal? the whole thing is kind of creepy, but when i separate it from my general aversion to killing anything, i don't know where i end up.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

shiny happy cows

salon.com has an interesting feature on the organic milk industry (you have to click through a commercial to see the full article). the gist is that much of the organic milk you see at whole foods or your local grocery is produced with less-than-organic methods, but that lax enforcement of already vague guidelines allows this to continue. targeted most is horizon - the red carton with the happy flying cows - which is accused of using some big-farm methods to cut costs and gain market share. horizon has found that consumers want milk with no hormones (which they provide) and don't care that the cows are stuck in pens and not allowed to graze (which is supposed to be part of what "organic" means).

as christie pointed out to me, consuming local products is not just good from the point of view of the local economy - it also serves a health role. local foods such as milk, honey, and other agricultural products are embued with the stuff of the local ecosystem. as long as the local ecosystem isn't polluted to high heaven, consuming those products can help keep one's body in "sync" with its daily environment - presumably giving it an edge in the fight against illness.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

japan

ok, i'll break it down for you, finally. it was a great trip. i'm glad i got to stay there as long as i did. a week wasn't enough, but it was a lot better than four nights.

the truth is, i didn't really see all that much of the city, despite being out and about quite a bit. it's just so huge. what makes it seem bigger than cairo, which contains approximately the same number of persons, is that every part of it is interesting. in cairo, there was a lot of stuff, but much of it looked the same. get out of a metro stop in tokyo and you'll see or hear something unique. so, it's really not possible to get any comprehensive snapshot in such a short time.

otherwise, i'll leave you with a few short over-all observations and let the photos do the story-telling. these are not necessarily differences - just observations. here goes:
  1. people are more polite than you'd expect a stranger to be (although usually not absurdly so).
  2. few japanese people speak intelligible english.
  3. most foreigners in japan spend a lot of time considering how different the japanese culture is from their home cultures.
  4. darts is a popular pub game.
  5. cars drive on the left, and pedestrians pass each other on the left when walking on the sidewalk.
  6. self-expression with clothing is zealous in either its conformity or its eccentricity. other forms of self-expression were difficult for me to identify.
  7. driving is a luxury for the very-wealthy.
  8. many people drink heavily.

photos from my trip (the descriptions will become more descriptive soon...) are available here: japan photos.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

things i've done today because of jetlag-induced fatigue

  1. dropped an empty tray in the cafeteria
  2. unintentionally punched an unknown man in the gut
  3. made a fool of myself by forgetting certain social details
  4. did not write about my trip to japan