Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Death penalty chamber (lethal injection)

 

News that the Federal Government in America intends resuming the use of the death penalty in federal cases with the execution of five prisoners in December has caused renewed debate on the use of the ultimate sanction.

It has to be said that the population of many countries are usually in favour of the death penalty for murder, especially when conducted against children, or as a result of terrorist activity. The imposition of the penalty has undeniable democratic validity, and especially so where the guilt of the accused seems certain or is admitted.

But it still raises very troubling questions. These are, to our eyes, the strongest reasons not to impose the death penalty.

It can be a mistake

Posthumous pardons are little recompense for someone being put to death incorrectly. And the records of those killed for doing no wrong are long and repeated. It would be incorrect to assume this is a rare occurrence, or only in cases where the verdict was circumstantial or in the balance.

 

Cameron Todd Willingham

 

Texas man Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in Texas in 2004 for allegedly setting a fire that killed his three daughters. Following his execution, further evidence revealed that Willingham did not set the fire that caused their deaths. But it came too late to save him, even as he consistently protested his innocence.

Other cases that could have involved the death penalty demonstrate the fallibility of the system too. George Allen Jr. was exonerated on January 18, 2013, in St. Louis, Missouri, after serving over 30 years in prison for the murder of a young court reporter. Allen was convicted based in part on a false confession, police “tunnel vision” and blood type evidence that was said to include Allen, but actually eliminated him as a possible contributor. Visiting the Innocence Project website will reveal how often convictions are incorrect.

There was also the notorious case of Troy Davis, which this writer campaigned on for some years where it was perfectly clear an innocent man was to be executed, which duly occurred.

In 2014, a study estimated perhaps 4% of death row inmates in America are innocent. Many of these are people where there is no apparent or yet discovered doubt about their guilt.

In the USA, 130 people sentenced to death have been found innocent since 1973 and released from death row. The average time on death row before these exonerations was 11 years.

The continuous threat of execution makes the ordeal of those wrongly convicted particularly horrible.

Timothy Evans

In March 1950 The British Government hanged Timothy Evans, a 25-year-old man who had the vocabulary of a 14-year-old and the mental age of a ten-year-old.

Evans was arrested for the murder of his wife and daughter at their home, the top floor flat of 10 Rillington Place, London. His statements to the police were contradictory, telling them that he killed her, and also that he was innocent.

He was tried and convicted for the murder of his daughter and subsequently hanged. Three years later Evans’s landlord, John Christie, was arrested for the murder of several women, whose bodies he hid in the house. He subsequently admitted to the murder of Evans’s wife, but not the daughter.

He was hanged in July 1953 in Pentonville Prison, but the case showed Evans’s conviction and hanging had been a miscarriage of justice.

It can be arbitrary

One Supreme Court Justice in the USA even changed from a supporter of the death penalty to an abolitionist due to his experience on America’s highest court. He said: “The death penalty remains fraught with arbitrariness, discrimination, caprice, and mistake … Experience has taught us that the constitutional goal of eliminating arbitrariness and discrimination from the administration of death … can never be achieved without compromising an equally essential component of fundamental fairness – individualised sentencing.”  Justice Harry Blackmun, United States Supreme Court, 1994

There’s much concern in the USA, in particular, that the legal system doesn’t always provide poor accused people with good lawyers. Out of all offenders who are sentenced to death, three quarters of those who are allocated a legal aid lawyer can expect execution, a figure that drops to a quarter if the defendant could afford to pay for a lawyer.

It’s not a deterrent.

There is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than a prison term. In fact, evidence reveals the opposite.

Since abolishing the death penalty in 1976, for example, Canada’s murder rate has steadily declined and as of 2016 was at its lowest since 1966.

There is still the argument that the death penalty is effective retribution, but what does that then say about us, as a society? And as experts agree, revenge is not as healthy for those to whom harm has been done as forgiveness is. It’s argued that retribution is used in a unique way in the case of the death penalty. And crimes other than murder do not receive a punishment that mimics the crime – for example rapists are not punished by sexual assault, and people guilty of assault are not ceremonially beaten up.

Research conducted for the UN has failed to provide scientific proof that executions have a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment. And such proof is unlikely to be forthcoming. The key to real and true deterrence is to increase the likelihood of detection, arrest and conviction.

As Amnesty International commented, “The death penalty is a harsh punishment, but it is not harsh on crime.”

Or as anti-death penalty campaigner Dr Daisy Kouzel commented, “When they used to hang pickpockets in public, more pickpocketing was going on at the site of execution than had been done by the condemned man who was being hanged to set an example. ”

It removes the possibility of rehabilitation

For some murderers, it appears there is never any hope of rehabilitation. But stories abound of people on death row in various countries for long periods of time, decades sometimes, sentenced for horrible crimes, who become “model prisoners”, and make a sustained contribution to the well-being of their fellow prisoners. In the case of one prisoner – Edmund Zagorski – executed in Tennessee in 2018 for murdering two people over a drug deal, he was even credited with having saved the life of a prison warder.

It’s inhumane

Many styles of execution are painful – there are extreme concerns over lethal injection in the United States taking up to 30 minutes to kill the convicted criminal, inflicting feelings of fear, suffocation, and “burning up from the inside”. In Japan, the accused are only informed of their execution moments before it is scheduled. As a result, each day of their life is lived as if it was their last. This is surely mental torture.

It’s applied inconsistently

Some lawyers argue that capital punishment is not really used as retribution for murder, or even consistently for a particular kind of murder. They argue that, in the USA at least, only a small minority of murderers are actually executed, and that imposition of capital punishment on a “capriciously selected random handful” of offenders does not amount to a consistent programme of retribution.

Since capital punishment is not operated retributively, it is therefore inappropriate to use retribution to justify capital punishment. This argument would have no value in a society that applied the death penalty consistently for particular types of murder, of course, but evidence also shows that similar crimes – murder, rape, drug dealing and so forth – produce very different results in court, and that the further down the social scale you are, the more likely you are to have the ultimate penalty imposed. (See ‘arbitrary’, above.)

It brutalises individuals

Statistics show that the death penalty leads to an increase in murder rate. In the USA, for example, more murders take place in states where capital punishment is allowed. In 2010, the murder rate in states where the death penalty has been abolished was 4.01 per cent per 100,000 people. In states where the death penalty is used, the figure was 5.00 per cent. These calculations are based on figures from the FBI. The gap between death penalty states and non-death penalty states rose considerably from 4 per cent difference in 1990 to 25 per cent in 2010. It is also linked to increased number of police officers murdered. The argument seems to be that “If I am going to be killed for one count of murder, why not commit more?”

It should not be applied to the mentally incapable or the insane

This is not an argument against capital punishment itself, but against the fact of its existence leading to it being applied wrongly.

Some countries, including the USA and the UK (in the past), have executed people proven to be insane or to have been so mentally incapacitated as to be, in effect, like little children.

But it’s generally accepted that people should not be punished for their actions unless they have a guilty mind – which requires them to know what they are doing and that it’s wrong. Therefore people who are insane should not be convicted, let alone executed. This doesn’t prevent insane people who have done terrible things being confined in secure mental institutions, but this is done for public safety, not to punish the insane person.

To put it more formally: it is wrong to impose capital punishment on those who have at best a marginal capacity for deliberation and for moral agency.

A more difficult moral problem may arises in the case of offenders who were apparently temporarily insane at the time of their crime and trial but who then recover.

The existence of the death penalty leads to special jury selection

Jurors in many US death penalty cases must be ‘death eligible’. This means the prospective juror must be willing to convict the accused knowing that a sentence of death is a possibility.

This results in a jury biased in favour of the death penalty, since no one who opposes the death penalty is likely to be accepted as a juror. Whether or not that makes them any better or worse at judging guilt is imponderable. But where jurors must recommend a sentence to a judge, or order it, it biases the system in favour of death penalty outcomes regardless of the culpability or profile of the offender.

It arrogates to the ‘State’ the right to do things we might not be prepared to do ourselves.

There is a moral argument against execution if an individual apparently in favour of the death penalty would not, nevertheless, be willing to perform the execution themselves. As one MP put it in Britain, “I would not pull the lever (to hang someone) myself, so I will not instruct others to do it on my behalf.”

It brutalises society, to no purpose

If the authorities will respect life, this attitude filters down to the lowest stratum of society. Far fewer murderers are perpetrated today than when executions were a dime a dozen and gibbets a common sight at crossroads, except of course in countries where the executioner is very active and blood keeps adding to blood. Why? Because humaneness and mercy produce more of the same. As criminal law humanised so there was less crime instead of more, despite the rapid increase in populations. And if state officials carry out a death sentence, they must extinguish all feelings of reverence for life; otherwise they would never be able to carry out their task.

This would seem to be echoed by the most famous executioner in modern history, Albert Pierrepoint, in Britain, who hanged up to 600 people.

In his 1974 autobiography, Pierrepoint changed his view on capital punishment, and wrote that hanging:

… is said to be a deterrent. I cannot agree. There have been murders since the beginning of time, and we shall go on looking for deterrents until the end of time. If death were a deterrent, I might be expected to know. It is I who have faced them last, young lads and girls, working men, grandmothers. I have been amazed to see the courage with which they take that walk into the unknown. It did not deter them then, and it had not deterred them when they committed what they were convicted for. All the men and women whom I have faced at that final moment convince me that in what I have done I have not prevented a single murder.

It can be applied for ‘crimes’ that do not warrant it

Notoriously, up to 9,000 homosexuals were murdered in Nazi Germany for same-sex behaviour … but in Iran, and parts of Nigeria, you can still be executed for being an active homosexual, and some other majority Muslim states. In Saudi Arabia people have been executed for throwing stones at a street demonstration when they were a child, or for cross-dressing, and in the UAE for rape. In China, you can be executed for financial corruption and 53 other non lethal crimes. In a number of countries in Asia you can be executed for relatively minor drug crime.

Most people would argue the ultimate penalty should only be handed down for the ultimate crime.

The debate will, no doubt, continue, in the USA and elsewhere. What do you think, Dear Reader?

 

The world is a big, funny place. Practices and activities that are perfectly normal in one country might be verboten in another.

Even in countries that have had a stable government for centuries, some absolutely archaic laws still stand, even though legislators and citizens alike know that they’re ridiculous.

Try not to break any of these wacky laws on your next trip abroad.

Not in Thailand you don't girl.

Not in Thailand you don’t girl.

Don’t go commando in Thailand

In Thailand, it’s illegal to leave one’s domicile if not wearing underwear. Letting the fresh air sweep round your fundament is a no-go!

A Western mind immediately wonders, “How would the police know?”

But let’s be frank, visible panty lines are preferable to Thai jail.

Please don’t infringe on the property of elves

In Iceland, modern road developments may not encroach on the traditional homes of, er, magical creatures. Actually this is still to be ruled on by Iceland’s Supreme Court.

However, in 2013, an elf advocacy group called Friends of Lava halted the construction of a major highway project due to fears about disturbing the elf habitat.

We kid you not.

Save space for the aliens

Brazil has had its share of bizarre laws. There is a municipal law on the books in the state of Mato Grosso that sets aside land in the town of Barra do Garças for an alien airport.

Just in case, you know, the little green men come calling.

Listen to the ladies

Women make the laws in the all-female town Noiva do Cordeiro, located in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais.

This made international headlines last month when the town issued a public invitation for suitable men to meet and hopefully marry some of the single female population. The important caveat is, men need to abide by the women’s rules.

This makes a lot of sense, considering that Noiva do Cordeiro was founded by a woman who was excommunicated after leaving a forced marriage in the late 19th century, and populated over the generations by women who had nowhere else to go under some of Brazil’s more conservative and chauvinist family laws.

Leave your medication at home

Don’t bring your medication to Japan.

Visitors to Japan may not bring Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks, or asthma “inhalers” into the country. Check your toiletries bag! Nothing with pseudoephedrine or codeine shall pass!

(This is one we have broken personally lol)

Get your pet a passport

In the EU, circus animals need passports to travel between member states. Circus mice can travel under a collective passport. It’s up to the veterinarian in the member state of departure to verify that all animals’ passports are up-to-date.

We imagine that getting stuck behind a travelling circus at airport passport control could be the worst. Especially if the elephants have eaten recently.

Put a nappy on your donkey

In Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais, Brazil, a peculiar piece of legislation requires that horses and burros wear nappies.

Don’t chew gum in Singapore

Pretty much everyone knows about the chewing gum ban in Singapore. (And its concomitantly gum-free streets.) It’s illegal to import it, sell it, or bring it into the country for personal use. Doubtful they’ll jail you for accidentally having a few sticks in your handbag, but better to just leave the bubblegum at home when you travel here.

Leave your suit of armour at home

It is illegal to wear a suit of armour into the Houses of Parliament in London. Presumably in case you are about to launch an armed insurrection.

Don’t eat mince pies at Christmas – phew, this one’s a myth.

In England, it is often claimed to be illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas. This went on the books in the Oliver Cromwell era, is broken en masse by British citizenry every holiday season, and placed near the top of a recent poll of “most ludicrous laws in the UK”. In fact, it’s a nonsense. There is no such law, it was repealed by Charles II after the Restoration. Munch away with gay abandon.

Leave the pink hot pants at home

That's gotta put a man off grilling his shrimp.

That’s gotta put a man off grilling his shrimp.

Visiting us in the Wellthisiswhatithink locale? Allegedly, women may not wear pink hot pants any time afternoon on a Sunday in Victoria, Australia. So as one website said, “Yes, wear those fuchsia Daisy Dukes to church on Sunday morning, but put on something more modest for your afternoon barbecue.”

Except we are sorry to disappoint you, again we can’t find reference to the law anywhere, other than it keeps getting repeated on websites around the world.

If you were to turn up in pink hot pants at an Aussie barbie we’d reckon you’d get chucked in the pool. You have been warned.

Next week: states in the USA that still consider it illegal to engage in oral sex.

We happened across this little article by Michael Gebicki from Fairfax and it reminded us that we have been meaning for a YEAR to whinge about the temperature on planes.

Keeping temperatures at the lower end of the range on a plane can be a better option than having passengers fainting.Keeping temperatures at the lower end of the range on a plane can be a better option than having passengers fainting. Photo: Getty Images

The pilot has overall control within a range of about 20-28 degrees, but within those parameters the actual temperature control is left up to the flight crew, who will generally set is at 22 or 23 degrees.

If the temperature drops to 20 degrees passengers start to shiver and complain, but anecdotal advice from flight crew suggests that more passengers faint when the temperature rises above 24 degrees.

This is supported by a study conducted by a study published by the American Society for Testing and Materials, which concluded “There is evidence that cabin pressure and temperature may contribute to the occurrence of syncope”, the medical term for fainting.

This results from a deficient blood flow to the brain, which might happen when a passenger rises after a prolonged period of inactivity.

Fainting is more likely to occur following a sedentary spell in an aircraft than at home, sitting in front of the TV for example, because air pressure in the cabin at typical cruising altitude is equivalent to the outside air pressure at 1800–2400m above sea level.

At that altitude, less oxygen is available to be transported in the blood stream, which increases the incidence of fainting.

Flight crew also suggest that passengers sitting in the rear of an aircraft are more susceptible, along with overweight males, elderly passengers and those with cardiovascular conditions.

Hmmm. Well we had one experience recently with drove us nuts. We flew from Tokyo to Paris with Japan Airlines, specifically because we wanted to end our brief sojourn in the Land of the Rising Sun with the experience of munching sushi on the way over to France, even though by the time we got there we were actually a bit sushi-d out as we had eaten little else for four days. Well, we had one plate of German ham hock in a first floor Bavarian “BierKeller”, but that’s a long story.

May we suggest an extra serve of green tea ice-cream?

May we suggest an extra serve of green tea ice-cream?

Anyhow the cabin temperature was set to roasting overnight. It was completely impossible to sleep comfortably – or even just endure it watching TV comfortably.

Now admittedly we were sitting towards the rear of the plane (on the basis that very few planes ever reverse into mountains) and your compellingly honest correspondent will admit to being somewhat, er … well let’s just say an Indian tailor once smiled sweetly and said he thought he had something in portly short that would fit us … but it was really ridiculously hot. Even Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink agreed, and she would complain of feeling chilly sitting next to an open blast-furnace.

We pleaded with the cabin staff to turn the heating down, but they simply refused, albeit with lots of bowing and smiling. “No” still means “no”, even when accompanied by traditional Japanese deference. Eventually, one remarked that Asian passengers prefer the cabin kept warmer, or they all complain. As we were amongst very few Europeans on the flight we grumblingly acquiesced to that logic and eventually went to sleep with a tea-towel stuffed with ice behind our neck.

The sushi was pretty crap, too. And the seats were too small. Although to be fair it should be noted that in 2013 JAL was given an award for being the most punctual international carrier, so presumably you arrive at your destination drenched in sweat but on time more often.

In general, we find cabin temperatures are set too high way too often, especially on long-haul overnight flights. One such flight across the Atlantic (Chicago-London) with BA would have been more comfortable if we’d all been in bathing costumes. Admittedly it was seriously cold leaving Chicago, but it’s hard to dismiss the feeling that the cabin was set to uber-warm by the staff to greet the frozen travellers and then just left that way because no one thought to check it. Or maybe they were just having too much fun chatting to yours truly as he drank vodka after vodka in the food prep area, having given up entirely on any hope of getting any sleep.

The point is surely, if they are set at the lower end of the scale, then people who feel chilly can put on another layer, or snuggle under a blanket. Or two. Those who are overheated are limited in their ability to respond. No one wants to see a somewhat corpulent middle aged fellow in his undies fanning himself with a dog-eared in-flight magazine.

So we politely urge pursers and captains to start low and hand out lots of blankies, or at least start low and edge the temp up half a degree at a time, rather than start high and wait for people to start fainting or panting.

Unless your passenger list is mainly Asian, we guess. In which case, Caveat Emptor would seem to apply for fliers. Interestingly, though, we have also flown with South China, Cathay Pacific, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysian, and not noticed the problem to anything like the same degree as we experienced with JAL.

The other hottest planes we have known have been Qantas inside Australia, which are frequently stifling. What is with that?

Apparently taking "selfies" of their beautiful selves is the latest thing with air hostesses, as this recent shot of an Emirates crew shows. Well you try Googling "too hot stewardesses" and see what you come up with.

Apparently taking “selfies” of their beautiful selves is the latest thing with air hostesses, as this recent shot of an Emirates crew shows. Well you try Googling “too hot stewardesses” and see what you come up with.

And just to throw a bunch of flowers as well as a brickbat, we flew back from Dubai to Australia with Emirates and the experience was about as magnificent as flying anywhere cattle-class could be.

Seats were comfortable, food was brilliant, staff were charming and spoke (to our count) 17 different languages – they announce them at the start of the flight – entertainment system was excellent – and above all, blessed be, the cabin was pleasantly temperate.

Still, we guess people from Dubai know a bit about air-conditioning.

The exceptionally comfortable Dubai International airport is enormous – cavernous – yet impeccably cool: quite remarkable, really, although clearing customs was ludicrously slow. That aside, we would recommend Emirates to anyone.

What’s your most recent flying experience – good, bad, indifferent? And what do you think about cabin temperatures? Let us know!

20130524-140842.jpg

I am what you might call a reluctant traveller.

Having traversed much of the known world, finally emigrating to the Antipodes almost on a whim, I never really expected to become so, but I have morphed, in that awful era in our lives euphemistically termed “middle age” (which should more accurately, of course, be characterised as “think like a 25 year old, while carting around a body that appears increasingly to be yearning to be 75”) into something akin to a homebody.

20130524-141055.jpg

I harbour my securities like guilty pleasures, and shamefacedly admit that I now avariciously guard my creature comforts – a chair whose vagaries I understand, knowing where to find a clean shirt, and the reliable, comforting unchanging view of trees with their attendant squawking wattle birds from my living room.

Where once I slept standing up on a train from Biarritz to Ventimiglia overnight – not to mention using a camping gas outfit to make tea at 2am, to the great amusement of the French on the train, who, preconceptions of the British gloriously confirmed, offered to keep an eye open down the carriage for the Controlleur who would not have appreciated our culinary madness – now I find I worry overmuch about the thread count on the sheets on a bed which must never be less than king size, and preferably of a hotel chain’s special design to waft me off to uninterrupted sleep in seconds or less.

20130524-141333.jpg

Unreliable air conditioning can throw me into a frenzy of self pity, where once I slept on the metal luggage racks of stations in 100 degree heat, grateful just for the chance of some shut eye, and contented myself with dreams of the blue, cool Mediterranean just waiting to be plunged into the next day, or the day after that, depending on when the Italian train service, grown reassuringly less efficient since Mussolini, planned to deliver us to her welcome watery embrace.

Sometimes, though, without warning, the wanderlust of old rears its head, whether or not I generate said rearing spontaneously or whether, as in this case, Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink fixes one with a beady eye and insists “It is time you had a holiday.” Which translates, of course, as “It is time I had a holiday, a real one, with planes and ice tea and weird food and more planes, and some trains, and museums and hotels and cathedrals and such, and if you’re not coming I am bloody going anyway …” and even your most habitual homebody, Dear Reader, knows that he has been given his marching orders.

20130524-141516.jpg

Which is how, making the most of the opportunity to break the interminably long trip to Europe, your dutiful correspondent finds himself exploring Tokyo for the first time, and perhaps equally surprisingly finds himself entranced by the experience.

I have loved the last 36 hours. Most of all, I must commend the people we have encountered. It is a cultural stereotype, of course, to mention the famed courtesy of Asian people in general and Japanese people in particular, but it is famed for a reason. Everyone is unfailingly pleasant and cheerful, especially when confronted with the embarrassing but oh-so-typical fact that the entire gamut of our Japanese runs to Good morning, Thank you, and Two Beers Please. A worried expression brings forth immediate bowing, smiling, giggling and pointing at maps and up and down streets, and increasingly, frantic tapping on Google maps on the ubiquitous smart phones. Teenagers here are no different to teenagers anywhere, entirely without guile: when a tiny commuter bus passes us the girls in the back in their sailor uniforms point and giggle at the big white devil on the sidewalk. (In China they have actually asked to poke me in the belly to see if it’s hard or soft. Awkward.) Here I greet their amused curiosity with a solemn bow to the waist, and then a smile. They wave and shout enthusiastically, full of good humour. What I didn’t expect was for the rest of the bus full of company men to join in as well. In one silly incident the barriers of age, culture and history vanish as if they never existed.

20130524-141634.jpg

Our hotel room is laughably small. If swinging a cat, one would have to first quarter the cat, and retract one’s arms. But it is spotlessly clean and perfectly comfortable, so long as you don’t mind the fact that the entire bathroom, vanity and bath area would challenge a small hobbit to turn around, and that there is nowhere to store ones bags except on the only available floor space in the bedroom, which makes moving from the bed, once on it, practically impossible. It is so small that the only acceptable response is to laugh readily and often, which is the reaction we chose, and to drink a little too much of the very tolerable whisky we bought from the supermarket next door for ten bucks a bottle.

We have chosen to stay, deliberately, in an older part of Tokyo, away from the brightest of the bright lights, although we will probably employ the awesomely efficient metro system to go glance at those sometime. Instead, we are wandering around a rabbit warren of homes, tiny restaurants and small workshops, fascinated by the scenes around every corner.

20130524-141746.jpg

What is very obvious is that every property, virtually, post-dates 1945. It is easy to forget that Tokyo suffered more complete damage than even Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the result of a series of night bomber raids using incendiaries that was born as much of a desire to punish the Japanese as it had any strategic military purpose. That such a vast city has reinvented itself is a testament to the remarkable, stoic attitude of the Japanese and their adherence to notions of nationhood and authority. They just, in short, got on with it, rebuilding the city and their lives with a series of American style city grids that are easy to navigate, impeccably clean, and endlessly intriguing.

20130524-141905.jpg

When jotting down impressions I am always reminded at how capacious is my capacity to be fascinated by ephemera, and how impressionistic my attitudes are. When I should be observing the commercial pulse of a city or seeking insights into its people, I fix, instead, on wondering why we have no coins at home with little holes in them – they are just so adorably cute – and how the notion first arose to put plastic models of food outside restaurants, even high class ones, to attract customers from the streets. From there is but a small step to buying some of those little plastic models in a shop which sells nothing but plastic models of food. By the time I am done, I have spent more than our actual food cost us at dinner last night.

Ah, the food. If you are yet to discover the sublime raw fish and sweet, vinegared rice of a sushi and sashimi bar, then you are missing one of the most mouth-wateringly perfect concoctions of humankind.

20130524-142023.jpg

In a fine example of the ubiquitous sushi bars that dot every street, last night we ate our body weight in miraculously massaged morsels of at least four different cuts of tuna, salmon, roe, mackerel, seaweed-encased prawns and pastes made of fish and various vegetables, such as viciously hot peppers, washed down with ice cold beer and many smiles from the artists behind the glass bar.

We ploughed on for hours as if fearing we would never eat again, each dish a little miracle of balance, taste and form. When we left – rolled out would be more accurate – the cheery smiles and nods of the chefs and the waiting staff communicated better than any language that they valued our appreciation of their talents and their cuisine. We had taken on board enough Omega 3 to float a battleship. No wonder everyone in Japan lives to be 110.

20130524-142142.jpg

So. Dear Reader, it is time to browse the shops and stalls that line the ancient streets beside the re-built Sensouji Temple, originally built to honour the Goddess Kannon in the 1600s, but demolished one night by B-52s, and since painstakingly rebuilt and restored to its former glory. It is a place of ethereal peace and beauty. Even the inevitable souvenir hawkers, fortune tellers and fast food stalls conduct themselves with restraint. In fact, on the busiest street no one shouts, the traffic cruises sedately, sirens appear to be banned, and the traffic lights play classical music to you while you wait to cross. Cyclists share the footpaths with pedestrians and never collide and neither side in this complex equation hurls obscenities. Ridiculous, amusing sculptures adorn the buildings, and on one there is a sign that actually exhorts you to smile, because life is wonderful.

It’s all very classy.

Last night, we chatted for a while to a young German tourist who had already visited Japan ten times. She said she just kept getting drawn back. After a day and a half, I am well and truly bitten by the bug as well. I may just have to get off that couch more often. A scary, but rather wonderful discovery.

And yes, our room has a wash your arse toilet. And no, I am not going to talk about it.

At Wellthisiswhatithink we have been quietly issuing opportunities for people to appear on the blog as our guest, and we are delighted that George has taken up our invitation, via the StooshPR Facebook page which is an outpost of the very busy stooshpr.com.

This charming and insightful description of life and love as an expatriate in Japan’s snowy, mountainous, and exquisitely beautiful north is fascinating. Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink and I will visit Tokyo briefly in a  few months, and this lovely article will enrich and inform our visit. Thanks, George! Would you like to be our next Guest Blogger, Dear Reader?

George

George Polley

“This isn’t my first experience with being an expatriate, but it is by far the longest, and will undoubtedly by my last one, as I intend to spend the rest of my life as an expat living in Sapporo, Japan.

Back in late 1973 I went to Mexico City for a little over two months, explored the possibility of moving there, going so far as to check out what I’d need to do to open a counseling practice there.

But the time wasn’t right for me, so I flew back home to Minneapolis. In January. Given the fact that it was 75 degrees above zero (Fahrenheit) in Mexico City and 25 degrees below zero when I arrived in Minneapolis, that was very bad timing. If you want to explore what being really cold is like, try doing what I did. It works in spades.

The two most important things about moving to another country are deciding to move, and knowing why it is that you’re moving.

My “why” was supporting my wife’s desire to move back home after half of her life in America. Would it be a big move? Huge! That’s why the decision has to be a good one, because it’s a lot of work. Suffice it to say that, after two years of planning, three visits to Japan, and having the astonishing good fortune of selling our house days before the real estate bubble popped, I retired from my mental health practice, we flew to Japan, found a condominium to buy, bought it, flew back to Seattle, packed up the rest of our things, and on March 28th 2008, caught a flight to Tokyo, then on to Sapporo and our new home.

“Home” in this instance, was vastly different from the 1200-plus square foot house with a big yard and gardens we had lived in for eighteen years.

Our home in Sapporo is a typical Japanese “mansion” (code for “condominium”), called a “2 LDK” — two small bedrooms, a small living room, and a dining area with a tiny kitchen at one end. The bath, toilet, washing machine and water heater are off the entryway which, in winter, is cold! Then comes the reality of trying to fit everything you own into this tiny space without driving each other mad. Downsizing to something this tiny was, well, a huge challenge once everything we had shipped arrived. We were literally tripping over each other. In our Seattle home my work space was in the basement, and my wife had the first floor all to herself. Here it’s a very different world.

Tall grasses

Tall grasses photographed by George along the Motsukisamu river bank

Japanese families raise their families in places this small, and my wife grew up in one, but after spending half of her life in America, adjusting to this kind of change has been daunting for both of us. We’re still adjusting, but we have reached the stage where we can laugh about it.

The neighborhood is lovely, public transportation stops across the street, the subway station is easy to get to by bus, and there’s the nearby Motsukisamu river (we call anything this small a creek back home) to walk along.

Our condo is ours free and clear, we’re both happy, although we are a bit nostalgic at times for the things we loved about living in America.

Before moving, we had thought that I’d be the one who would find the move the most challenging. After all, I’d spent my life in America, and was going to leave family (a brother and sister-in-law, four children and ten grandchildren) and friends behind to live as a foreigner in an Asian country.

Would I adjust? Would I find it uncomfortable to be among so many strangers I couldn’t communicate with? Would it be easy to meet other expats and establish friendships?

Central Sapporo in summer

Central Sapporo in summer

As it’s turned out, my wife has found it as difficult, and perhaps more difficult, than it has been for me, as she had lived away from Japan for half of her life, had adjusted very nicely to American culture and social norms, and discovered that readjusting to Japanese social and cultural norms was very stressful.

For example, in the US if you don’t want to do something, you say “No thanks,” and that’s it. Here it’s not so simple, as the person is likely to take offense. When you receive a gift from someone back in the States, you thank them for it, and that’s it. Here receiving a gift implies that you will reciprocate, and failing to reciprocate can – and often does – result in hurt feelings, which she finds very stressful, as she is expected to know, whereas I’m forgiven because, after all, I’m an “ignorant” foreigner and I don’t know better. Good for me, not so good for her.

The other difficult thing that’s been hard on my wife is having our roles reversed in the sense that the things I did for both of us back home (obtain medical services when we moved to Seattle, take her to medical appointments, obtain a dentist, go grocery shopping, and so forth), she had to do here, as I don’t read or speak Japanese.

This was tremendously stressful for her, as she had no idea where the good service providers were. The easiest part was getting medical insurance, which a cousin’s husband helped her to do, and getting me an ID card, which he also helped us do. And he helped her pick out utilities for our condo (“mansions” don’t come equipped with them). A friend helped us find a good contractor to redecorate (called “reform” here) our condo, which needed new wall covering, new patio sliding doors and a few other upgrades. Some of these things we’ve both learned to laugh about, but early on laughing about them wasn’t easy to do. Today we can laugh about the fact that our condo looks like a jumble store in the winter when the laundry hangs everywhere; so does everyone else’s “mansion”, which though it gives small comfort, is a lot better than none at all.

The upside is that after nearly five years, we’re both happy here, are able to laugh at the quirks and social gaffes that remain, and go our own way. What we’re not able do is become “Japanese”, which isn’t a problem for us.

Hokkaido

Hokkaido is widely considered one of the most beautiful areas on earth, enriched, of course, by Japanese sensibilities concerning architecture and gardens

What about friendships, you may ask? I’ve found several expats that I’ve become fairly close to, in the sense that we get together for coffee or a meeting of a few local writers once a month, and talk about various things of mutual interest, such as writing, politics back home, Japanese politics and so forth, much as we would do back home.

Generally speaking, I’ve not found the expat community all that open to connecting, which is pretty much the way it is back where I’m from.

We connect with people we have something in common with. I’ve established some good friends online that I sometimes chat with via Skype fairly regularly.

All-in-all I’m a happy camper as an expat living in an Asian country. The benefits have far outweighed the inconveniences for both of us, though it’s taken nearly five years for us to get to the point where we’re both feeling that way.

A wonderful, and unexpected, upside to our move to Sapporo is the way it’s stimulated my writing career. Living where everything is new and challenging is very simulating to my mind and my creativity.

Sapporo is famous for its annual Snow Festival in winter when massive snow sculptures delight visitors and locals alike

Sapporo is famous for its annual Snow Festival in winter when massive snow sculptures delight visitors and locals alike

For me moving here has resulted in writing and publishing two books (“The Old Man and the Monkey” and “Grandfather and the Raven”) both set in Japan; a short story about a Tokyo artist (“Seiji”) published in “A Rainbow Feast: New Asian Short Stories” edited by Mohammad A. Quayum and published in Singapore by Marshall Cavendish Editions; finding my publisher (Taylor Street Publishing, San Francisco, California); publication of a third novel (“Bear”, about a boy and his dog, set in Seattle), and a queue full of other writing projects that are either in process of being written or waiting to be written.

I’m sometimes asked what I would do if my wife died and left me widowed. (Indeed, she has asked me that herself.) I usually say that I’d probably move back to America, though I have no clear idea where, so I’d have to research that.

When asked why, my answer is always the same: I’m not fluent enough in Japanese to live a happy, connected life here.

But that’s mostly a passing thought that I don’t spend a lot of brain time on. Mostly I spend time living each day, enjoying each day, writing, and thinking of things Aiko (that’s my wife) and I can enjoy doing together.

And, in the final analysis, that’s the most important thing there is.”


George Polley is a writer, author and retired mental health professional from Seattle, WA. He and his wife moved to Sapporo, Japan at the end of March 2008, where they now live.

I am indebted to the food section of Yahoo for raising this topic, which is fascinating.

If only because forewarned is forearmed. On the basis of this news, the Wellthisiswhatithink clan is going to start hoarding tins of Stag Chilli and Fray Bentos meat pies forthwith. If our home is suddenly subsumed by some nearby Pompeii-like eruption future archaeologists will surmise the modern Australian diet considered of nothing else. Well, and coffee, of course.

The domesticated cow is going to fart itself to oblivion if it's not careful.

The domesticated cow is going to fart itself to oblivion if it’s not careful.

For all sorts of very good reasons, you see, Dear Reader, meat is going to play a lesser part in our diet moving forward. For one thing, all sorts of domesticated animals, and especially cows, burp and fart a lot.

And we mean, a lot*.

Methane, primarily. From their gut.

As one of the most potent greenhouse gases there is, if we could rid the world of farting cows we could all afford to drive gas guzzling SUVs back and forth to the shops till the, er, well, till the cows come home, and the world wouldn’t be affected much at all.

(One of the great myths of global climate change is that cars are strongly implicated – they aren’t, really, as engines become ever more efficient, and hybrid technology grows. Other factors are much more serious. Cars are just “in our face”: an easy target.)

Plus it takes an awful lot of grass – and water – and time and effort (and more greenhouse gases) – to “grow” meat protein compared to, say, veggies.

And our environment also suffers from the deleterious effect of cloven-hoofed animals wandering pristine grasslands digging up the surface soil so it can blow away to end up in the sea.

All in all, we can expect to see the price of beef and lamb/mutton especially climb to exorbitant levels. It will become an occasional luxury, and an environmentally unsustainable one at that.

Insects will probably play a much more central role in our diet ... like these dung beetles.

Insects will probably play a much more central role in our diet … like these dung beetles. Just don’t think too hard about what they eat.

OK, meat’s out. What next?

So what can we change our diet to? All sorts of yummy items. Not.

Insects are already a common source of protein in some parts of the world less wealthy, and less squeamish, than the West.

With the world’s population predicted to hit 9 billion by 2050, our diet will have to change as food production struggles to keep pace with the boom.

And there are lots of good reasons why we should consider ordering a dung beetle burger next time we’re at the pub.

Not only would insect farming be kinder on the environment than our current agricultural industry with its focus on factory farming large animals such as cattle and sheep (just think of all the methane produced as a side effect of our love affair with beef), insects are surprisingly nutritious too.

According to a BBC report, 100g of ground dung beetle contains 17.2g of protein, 30.9mg of calcium and 7.7mg of iron. A 100g serving of minced beef provided 27.4g of protein, 3.5mg of iron and negligible amounts of calcium.

Deep fried grasshoppers. Well, er. OK. If I must.

Deep fried grasshoppers. Well, er. OK. If I must.

Now we just need someone to tell us they taste just like chicken, and we’re in.

Visiting China (amongst other places) one often sees skewers of deep fried grasshoppers on offer from street stalls, along with a lot of other little beasties that one can’t even identify without a biology manual.

Indeed, over 1000 species of insects are eaten by people around the world, like these Thai deep-fried grasshoppers.

Artificial meat?

Of course, we might not be able to give up our addiction to flipping hamburgers on the BBQ and scientists may have one answer. Artificial meat grown from stem cells could solve the problems caused by the huge amount of water and energy required in traditional animal production.

But while scientists are in theory able to create a lab-grown burger that looks like the real deal, taste is another matter.

The taste of meat is created by blood and fat, and is difficult to recreate in an artificial setting. Not to mention, presumably, the mouth-soothing sensation of fat, which is one of the most obvious reasons that we all love eating marbled meat, ice cream, buttered bread and so forth.

Then again, watching the way clever chefs can use other ingredients to mimic the flavour they are searching for, one supposes that anything’s possible.

There is, presumably, a chemical formula for every type of taste sensation, so if we want to keep chowing down on beef we may have to accept that it means munching bowls of noxious chemicals too.

Don't look in their eyes. Just don't look in their eyes.

Don’t look in their eyes. Just don’t look in their eyes. Awwwwww.

“Here Skippy, here boy …”

Well, in Australia, at least one very obvious opportunity presents itself.

Kangaroo meat is lean (2 per cent fat) and protein-rich, and its harvesting is more sustainable than beef and lamb, requiring less water and emitting far less methane than introduced breeds of livestock.

Selling kangaroo meat for human consumption is a relatively new development in Australia, having only been legalised in 1993.

Yet kangaroo meat is already now exported to 55 countries around the world, and has even given rise to a new diet dubbed ‘kangatarianism’ – an otherwise meat-free diet that permits consumption of kangaroo due to its eco-friendly status.

It’s sometimes hard to explain to non-Australians just how sensible a switch to roo meat would be.

For one thing, they are incredibly common, without any farming whatsoever. No one is quite sure how many roos are out there – it’s a big country, guys, and mainly un-populated – but the 2002 population estimate for the commercially harvested kangaroo species released by the federal government puts their numbers at 58.6 million. This means there are more than twice as many kangaroos in Australia as there are cattle (28.7 million). It also means the total kangaroo population is a little more than half that of the Australian sheep population (113.3 million).

That’s one helluva lot of roo stew waiting to be made. And if you think they’re just too cute to eat, then have you looked in the big brown eye of a calf recently?

Personally, I think we should be exporting breeding pairs of roos all over the world and you can all grown your own. And before you ask, darker than beef, quite a strong gamey flavour which puts some people off, the tail is the part most usually eaten, and in sausages, pates, terrines and pies, where is it “cut” with cereals and other items that reduce the gamey-ness of its flesh, it is truly delicious. “Kanga bangers” (that’s link sausages to our America readers) do really well here; kids love ’em.

Repeat after me: "I love Brussel sprouts. I do. I love Brussel sprouts."

Repeat after me: “I love Brussel sprouts. I do. I love Brussel sprouts.” Hey, this is what they look like growing? Who knew?

Plants scream too, you know

If you don’t want beetles, grasshoppers or kangaroos for tea, then the obvious answer: grow your dreadlocks and slap on the sandals. Let’s all become vegetarians.

Not only are veggies less environmentally harmful to grow (although pesticides and fertilisers need to be used with considerably more regard to the overall safety of the biosphere, with an acceptance of lower yields as a result) but we could all do with learning a lot more about how they can be prepared and presented to be truly delicious.

On the principle that human beings rarely do anything until push comes to shove, maybe rump steak at $200 a pound might be the incentive we need to learn how to make eggplant parmigiana properly.

Because the incentive is obvious. At least one 2012 study, from Sweden, argued that a global water shortage could mean that by 2050 animal production for food, which uses five to 10 times more water than plant-based food farming, could become a distant memory.

And while we are learning to love the lettuce, let’s remember that the plant kingdom offers many opportunities that, as a planet, we don’t make the best of.

How do you like your algae, Sir, braised or baked?

How do you like your algae, Sir, braised or baked?

I am referring, of course, to the harvest of the oceans.

We’ve pretty much eaten all the fish – surely a complete ban on commercial fishing for three years to return stocks to sustainable levels could unite the world? I would gladly pay more taxes to support the fishermen if it meant I could still enjoy a feed of flathead or Atlantic cod before I die – but fish are just the beginning of what’s on offer in the deep blue yonder.

One of the most useful products to come out of the seas are some of the most basic lifeforms yet discovered.

Algae: simple, single-cell organisms, can be cultivated in areas unsuitable for conventional farming, such deserts and the ocean. Algae also offers a cleaner source of energy than plant-derived ethanol, and can be used to feed animals and as a fertiliser for crops.

And if algae doesn’t float your boat (sorry about the dreadful pun, Ed.)then as some societies have known for years common-or-garden seaweed is totally yummy, prepared in all sorts of different ways.

Already a regular on Japanese plates, it is eco-friendly, great for digestive health and is packed full of nutrients, including calcium, iodine, folate and magnesium. (In fact, the current Western craze for sushi is leading to one unexpected problem – a few people are getting iodine overload from eating too many sushi rolls while wandering shopping malls. The best advice is apparently the most obvious – moderation in everything.)

Everything worthwhile in life is free.

Everything worthwhile in life is free.

Deep in the last millennium, I had a mother-in-law who would love to wander the seashore, grabbing scraps of seaweed off the rocks and munching it happily, reminiscent of her childhood in Ireland. “Dillisk”, as she was brought up to call it, is a reddish seaweed from the Atlantic coast of Ireland, collected at full moon, when the tide was lowest, and dried on huge sheets in the garden.

As Wikipedia kindly reveals: Palmaria palmata (Linnaeus) Kuntze, also called dulse, dillisk, dilsk, red dulse, sea lettuce flakes or creathnach, is a red alga (Rhodophyta) previously referred to as Rhodymenia palmata (Linnaeus) Greville. It grows on the northern coasts of both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and is a well-known snack food. In Iceland, where it is known as söl, it has been an important source of fiber throughout the centuries.

is a good source of minerals and vitamins compared with other vegetables, contains all trace elements needed by humans, and has a high protein content.

It is commonly found from June to September and can be picked by hand when the tide is out. When picked, small snails, shell pieces and other small particles can be washed or shaken off and the plant then spread to dry. Some gatherers may turn it once and roll it into large bales to be packaged later. It is also used as fodder for animals in some countries.

It is commonly used in Ireland, Iceland, Atlantic Canada and the Northeast United States both as food and medicine. It can be found in many health food stores or fish markets and can be ordered directly from local distributors. In Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, it is traditionally sold at the Ould Lammas Fair. It is particularly popular along the Causeway Coast. Although a fast-dying tradition in today’s McDonald’s-ridden world,there are many who still gather their own dulse. Along the Ulster coastline from County Antrim to County Donegal, it is eaten dried and uncooked in a manner similar to that in which one would eat snacks at a drinks party. It is also used in cooking. (Its properties are similar to those of a flavour-enhancer). It is commonly referred to as dillisk on the west coast of Ireland. Dillisk is usually dried and sold as a snack food from stalls in seaside towns by periwinkle-sellers.

Fresh dulse can be eaten directly off the rocks before sun-drying. Sun-dried dulse is eaten as is or is ground to flakes or a powder. In Iceland the tradition is to eat it with butter. It can also be pan fried quickly into chips, baked in the oven covered with cheese, with salsa, or simply microwaved briefly. It can also be used in soups, chowders, sandwiches and salads, or added to bread/pizza dough. Finely diced, it can also be used as a flavour enhancer in meat dishes, such as chili, in place of monosodium glutamate.

The earliest record of this species is of St Columba’s monks harvesting it 1,400 years ago.

Or as my old Mum was wont to say, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”.

Well, she would have said it, if she spoke French.

So now you know. Rib-eye and french fries is doomed. Ah well. We all might live a little longer, perhaps.Or as in the famous old joke, it might just seem that way.

And just remember, everyone. “Soylent Green is people!”**

*Much more than you ever wanted to know about belching and farting animals
Agriculture is responsible for an estimated 14 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. A significant portion of these emissions come from methane, which, in terms of its contribution to global warming, is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The U.S. Food and Agriculture Organization says that agricultural methane output could increase by 60 percent by 2030 [Source: Times Online]. The world’s 1.5 billion cows and billions of other grazing animals emit dozens of polluting gases, including lots of methane. Two-thirds of all ammonia comes from cows.Cows emit a massive amount of methane through belching, with a lesser amount through flatulence. Statistics vary regarding how much methane the average dairy cow expels. Some experts say 100 liters to 200 liters a day (or about 26 gallons to about 53 gallons), while others say it’s up to 500 liters (about 132 gallons) a day. In any case, that’s a lot of methane, an amount comparable to the pollution produced by a car in a day.To understand why cows produce methane, it’s important to know a bit more about how they work. Cows, goats, sheep and several other animals belong to a class of animals called ruminants. Ruminants have four stomachs and digest their food in their stomachs instead of in their intestines, as humans do. Ruminants eat food, regurgitate it as cud and eat it again. The stomachs are filled with bacteria that aid in digestion, but also produce methane.With millions of ruminants in Britain, including 10 million cows, a strong push is underway to curb methane emissions there. Cows contribute 3 percent of Britain’s overall greenhouse gas emissions and 25 to 30 percent of its methane. In New Zealand, where cattle and sheep farming are major industries, 34 percent of greenhouse gases come from livestock. A three-year study, begun in April 2007 by Welsh scientists, is examining if adding garlic to cow feed can reduce their methane production. The study is ongoing, but early results indicate that garlic cuts cow flatulence in half by attacking methane-producing microbes living in cows’ stomachs [Source: BBC News]. The researchers are also looking to see if the addition of garlic affects the quality of the meat or milk produced and even if the animals get bad breath.Another study at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, is tracking quantities of methane and nitrogen produced by sheep, which provide a good comparison model for cows because they have similar digestive systems, but are less unruly. The sheep in the study are living in plastic tunnels where their methan­e production is monitored across a variety of diets.Many other efforts are underway to reduce ruminant methane production, such as attempting to breed cows that live longer and have better digestive systems. At the University of Hohenheim in Germany, scientists created a pill to trap gas in a cow’s rumen — its first stomach — and convert the methane into glucose. However, the pill requires a strict diet and structured feeding times, something that may not lend itself well to grazing.In 2003, the government of New Zealand proposed a flatulence tax, which was not adopted because of public protest.

With the development of large-scale agriculture in the mid-20th century, farming became a big business for some companies. Farms became consolidated into large enterprises with many thousands of animals across large acreages.

Initially, grazing areas were filled with a variety of grasses and flowers that grew naturally, offering a diverse diet for cows and other ruminants. However, in order to improve the efficiency of feeding livestock, many of these pastures became reseeded with perennial ryegrass. With the aid of artificial fertilizers, perennial ryegrass grows quickly and in huge quantities. The downside is that it lacks the nutritious content of other grasses and prevents more nutritious plants from growing. One commentator called it the “fast food” of grasses.

This simple diet allows many cows to be fed, but it inhibits digestion. A perennial ryegrass diet also results in a significant number of weak and infertile cows, which have to be killed at a young age. This is where the methane comes in. The difficult-to-digest grass ferments in the cows’ stomachs, where it interacts with microbes and produces gas. The exact details of the process are still being studied, and more information may allow scientists to reduce cows’ methane output.

A study at the University of Bristol compared three types of naturally grown pastures to ryegrass pasture grown with chemical fertilizers. Lambs were fed on each type of pasture. The meat from lambs fed on natural pastures had less saturated fat, more omega-3 fatty acids, more vitamin E and higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a “good fat” that is believed to fight cancer. The meat from these lambs was considered very high quality and scored well in flavor tests.

Because of concerns about ruminant diets, many researchers are investigating ways to alter what livestock eat and to mix the best of old cow pastures – diverse, naturally growing, nutrient rich grasses and plants – with the best of the new – fast-growing and resistant to invasive species. One possibility is to increase the ability of beneficial, nutrient-rich plants and flowers to grow alongside the fast-growing grasses commonly used in pastures. Another branch of research focuses on plants that are high in tannins, which are believed to lower methane levels in ruminants and to boost milk production – although excessively high level of tannins are harmful to a ruminant’s growth.

A study by researchers in New Zealand recommends the use of plants like birdsfoot trefoil that are high in alpha-linoleic acid, which boosts CLA levels. Planting legumes and genetically engineered plants to trap airborne nitrogen will also improve nitrogen levels in the soil, which is important for rich soil and healthy plants.

Some dairy farmers use processing systems to harvest methane from cow manure. The energy is used to power the farm while excess is often sold back to the local electrical grid.

Believers in naturally grown, mixed-species pastures say that the use of them will reduce greenhouse gases, improve animal health and meat quality and reduce the use of artificial fertilizers. Efforts like methane-reducing pills or the addition of garlic may just be stopgap measures that fail to address some of the core problems of livestock, namely ground and air pollution, cutting down of forests, the production of weak animals that later have to be culled and the use of artificial fertilizers and steroids.

Another possibility exists in trapping the methane gas and using it as energy or selling it back to the electrical grid. Some farmers already extract methane from livestock waste, but that does not solve the bigger problem of belched methane. Harnessing that methane would mean trapping it in the air, perhaps by housing cattle indoors or outfitting them with special muzzles that may inhibit eating.

(The above information on the digestive system of ruminants was copied from howstuffworks.com)

**http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soylent_Green

 Uotsuri Island


Uotsuri Island, one of disputed Senkaku islands in the East China Sea Photo credit: AP

(From AFP)

Apple’s new iPhone 5 may have been criticised for its glitch-ridden new maps program, but it may have inadvertently provided a diplomatic solution to China and Japan’s ongoing row over disputed islands.

The new smartphone, which has dumped Google Maps in favour of its own version, has been ridiculed for misplacing major landmarks, shifting towns and even creating a new airport.

But amid a row over an outcrop of islands claimed by both Tokyo and Beijing, Apple’s new iO6 software has provided a resolution of sorts.

Two sets of islands

“Islands for everybody! You want an island? Have an island.”

When a user searches for the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, claimed by Beijing under the name Diaoyu, two sets of the islands appear alongside each other.

“The map has one set of islands for each country. Is this a message from Apple that we civilians must not get engaged in a pointless dispute?” one Japanese blogger wrote.

The new mapping program was released this week as part of Apple’s updated mobile operating system software, which powers the new iPhone 5, released Friday, and can be installed as an upgrade on other Apple devices.

To the chagrin of many, the new operating system replaces Google Maps, which had been the default mapping system in Apple devices until now.

As of yet there is no stand-alone Google Maps app available for the iPhone, although some reports say this is coming.

iPhone 5

We come in peace to help you, earthlings …

The East China Sea islands, strategically coveted outcrops, have been the focus of a territorial dispute between Tokyo and Beijing,with tensions escalating dramatically after the Japanese government bought three of them from their private owners.

Tens of thousands of anti-Japanese demonstrators rallied across China, with some vandalising Japanese shops and factories, forcing firms to shut or scale back production.

Next, Apple develop the interstellar warp drive, beta release, and make it available for $2.99 from the App Store.


Musings by George Polley

Musings by George Polley

matteringsofmind

Wondering how God could have got all this into such a short Tale

Well, This Is What I Think

The name of the blog says it all, really. My take on interesting stuff + useful re-posts :-)

wandering through her soul

"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are" - Anais Nin

The Blurred Line

It's the thin line between reality and fantasy. It's the thin line between sanity and madness. It's the crazy things that make us think, laugh and scream in the dark.

Jenie Yolland Glass Artist

Showcasing the designs of an Australian glass artist

Rosie Waterland

Rosie Waterland is a writer based in Sydney. She finds her own jokes particularly hilarious.

Funnier In Writing

A Humor Blog for Horrible People

READING BETWEEN THE PINES

If life's about the journey, does it matter how many bathroom breaks you take along the way?

Sweet Mother

Where my Old writing lives!

Manage By Walking Around

Aligning Execution With Strategy

Emily L. Hauser - In My Head

Writer, social activist, a lot of Israel/Palestine, and general mental rambling

Mikalee Byerman

Writer Chick | kick-ass speaker | #1 Ranked Google 'Shit Divorce' — 10 years and counting!

Speaker7

speaks to the masses of people not reading this blog

%d bloggers like this: