Tag Archives: world

Another year gone.

Well, if that was 2011, then I guess we’re done with that. Nothing like another year flying by to make you feel that little bit older, eh? And it’s strange too, because 2011 was a jam packed year. I made up something facetious and irreverent (who me?) for the New Year and my Facebook update, but it really is weird.

So what does this year bring? If the Mayans are right (And they were so right about everything else that they MUST be…) then this year is the last one. Ever. The end of everything, the spinning down of the universe and the final establishment of entropy over this universe and every other. What is it with humans and numbers? There is something about calendars clicking over that makes us go all fuzzy and stupid.

Remember Y2K? Remember the Y2K bug and how basically everything was going to collapse in a giant technological black-out? How we were going to be reduced to savagery and eating beans out of tins? (Assuming that we weren’t reliant on electric can openers, of course.) Well, I am not sure about you, but there always seemed to be something vaguely fishy about the Y2K scenario. I mean, I am not trying to be funny, but when my Windows calendar goes out of whack, it prompts me to reset the date and time, but still lets me listen to music while I do it.

Last year was a big year for doom prophets. Well, just the one notable one really, but he did successfully predict the end of the world TWICE. In the same year. To my recollection, neither of them happened. I may be wrong though, I don’t get out much. (Although I do think that I might have noticed a lack of new content on YouTube. Not immediately, you realise, but certainly by now.) Yes, I am talking about Harold Camping, a man who has finally given up on his day job of doom-mongering, and has retired to a (hopefully) quiet dotage of disappointed living.

It’s not a religious thing, either. It seems to be a human condition. It is as though we feel that the entire universe needs to recognise in some spectacular fashion the ability of just one planetary species to count very slowly to 2000ish. And you may be scoffing, along with me, at the millions of morons that whole-heartedly fall for this crud every time. And then, well… you have to answer a few questions. Do you observe your birthday? Do you celebrate in some fashion a relatively arbitrary count of 365 rotations of our planet? Do you count anniversaries? Did you make New Year resolutions? It’s stupid really. Why 365 days? Because it represents a complete orbit of our sun? But it doesn’t, not really. 365.25 (Or thereabouts) is a much better measurement of an entire Earth orbit. And really, who cares about Earth and our piffling little Sun? What about our galaxy? Or our galactic rotation? Or the celebration of shifting another standard galactic unit of distance from our neighbouring galaxies? Nope. These will not do. Intelligent apes that we are, everything revolves around our ability to count steadily upwards.

But I digress… So how was your 2011? Did it bring you everything that you wished? Is there any chance of 2012 treating you any differently? Or are you relying on the fact that the calendar has clicked over to bring you a change of fate? My guess is that like me, you’re going to complacently sit back and allow the world to happen around you. It’s no big deal, we all do it. Or do we? We live in a world of plastic celebrities and sentiment. We watch our plastic TV shows, all stamped from the same mold, all relying on the same plastic jokes, gimmicks and situations. We live our plastic lives, in our plastic worlds, with all our plastic friends. And the only good thing about plastic is that it is cheaply recycled. Aren’t you getting tired of the same rubbish on TV? The same tired repeats and reboots of classic movies? Honestly… is there any real difference between X-Factor and something like Britain’s Got Talent? Is there any need to film another ‘Transformers’ movie? Are you satisfied with what you are watching? Are you satisfied with what you are paying for? Are you satisfied?

This year, I am celebrating the counting ability of my race by making one final resolution. I am going to make a change. Not to the world, hell… probably not even to the people around me… but I am going to make a change for myself. If nothing else, the start of this year marks a decision for me to improve myself. Lots of little things that I have been ignoring and putting off are going to be dealt with. I’m going to get into shape. I am going to write. I want to study something. I am going to make the time in my day to devote a portion of my energies to the pursuit of my dreams.

Will I succeed? Will I make a difference? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But without trying, the answer is a certainty.

One of my favourite movie quotes is from the Terminator series. It was one of those things that I heard as a kid, remembered, and somehow still has meaning.

“No fate but what we make.” It’s true, you know?

So my question to you is this. How are you planning to live this year?


Ah… the boob tube.


One of the <ahem>  benefits of being a jobseeker and being around the house a bit is that one gets a fair exposure to the television. And whilst Britain may embody the very best of culture and history, its television is fleetingly brilliant. Fleetingly, you say?

Indeed. Fleetingly. There are channels… endless channels where the entire daily schedule is comprised of rerun shows. Now, these shows are being rerun for a reason. They are all great shows.  But they are made, and then they are run and rerun over and over and over and over…  It is as though the television-makers are only fleetingly creative. They make one or two good shows, and then they show it over and over again.

Weirdly, the British channels seems singularly unable to run any show in sequence. Not only do they show shows so amazingly out of sequence that you can watch the final episode of FRIENDS (Season 10 filmed in 2004 – So SEVEN years ago.) followed directly by an episode from Season 4 (filmed in 1998), but they quite often show reruns of shows that are still being shown too. For example, I enjoy watching Top Gear. (Yes, Clarkson is a pillock , but the cars are great.) Top Gear is still being made, still being shown and still being enjoyed by a massive audience. And yet it is possible to watch back to back episodes of Top Gear filmed YEARS apart. Back to a time where Clarkson had hair, and could see his belt buckle.

Today I watched a TV show called Antique Restoration Roadshow. Yes, its a reality TV show in the strictest sense, but there is no drama beyond the explanation of each item and its history, and as someone that considers himself something of a history buff (or at least a fan) it is a great show. My mother mentioned to me halfway through that the show was a rerun. “From probably 15 years ago.” I was a little dubious until she indicated the male presenter and told me who he was. The middle-aged man on the screen was definitely someone that I recognised…. as an older antique show presenter. And yes, there was definitely at least 15 years between the way he looked then and the way he looked now.

Now, whilst I can appreciate that certain shows are considered classics, and therefore NEED to be dragged out on the silver screen at least once a year, there is a certain lazy stupidity to dragging out shows that nobody really cares about year after year. I am relatively certain that there is no groupie fandom associated with the Antique Restoration Roadshow. Likewise, I fail to see the point of having the Top Gear boys extolling the virtues of the “new” 2005 Suzuki Swift, much less the listed prices that they mention. It’s stupid. It’s retarded. It makes watching TV a complete lottery. Each show is advertised, but there is no way to know WHICH episode you’re going to be watching before you actually sit down to it.

The best way to solve the problem, and indeed a possible way of forcing TV executives off of their lazy backsides, is to have a little disclaimer in the corner of the screen testifying to the fact that the show was “first aired in September 1997.” That way, the occasional viewer like myself is not going to be surprised when the talk show they are watching suddenly introduces a celebrity that is four years dead, or mentions that the new phenomenon called the internet is something worth watching.

As things that need getting used to in the UK, the TV is something that I am still irritated with. About the only thing current on the TV is the sport coverage, and well… I never have given a shit about sport. It is a strange axiom of being a man that one is supposed to know details of all sporting events, be able to comment intelligently on referee decisions, speculate on upcoming games and one should always ALWAYS have a sport and a team. Football fan? (That’s soccer to you Yanks.) You should have at least one favourite team. Weirdly, many of the women here also follow sport, also have a team. I have discovered more than once that I am regarded as something of an oddity for being utterly unable to give a shit about organised sports.

Apparently, the World Cup rugby is on again. This is something that happens every four or five years, a lot like the Olympics. Like the Olympics, the event draws thousands of on-site supporters and billions of TV viewers. Like the Olympics, it is something that I don’t watch. I have a father and brother-in-law that are avid viewers and supporters and have already met people in my day that have demanded (quite aggressively, I might add) to know who I support and why. I think there is some scope for choice given that whilst I was born in South Africa, I travel on an Irish passport, am resident in England, and lived most of the last decade in Taiwan. Unfortunately, the last World Cup game I watched was in 1995, the final between South Africa and someone else. I was there with a group of university friends, attracted by the deal offered by the bar… which involved free drinks and massive discounts every time someone scored a try and scored in some other way. I recall (hazily) that South Africa won without scoring any tries… a disappointment in that I drank no free beers that night.

A story like that never scored points in South Africa, and doesn’t score points here either. Sometimes, I miss Taiwan… with its fanatical devotion to American sports, and utter negligence of everything else. I score even less points when I discuss my interests with my disbelieving audience, interests that include writing, reading and learning how to do things. Even in a country that reruns 15 year old TV shows about antiques, an interest in predominantly academic pursuits is a little strange. LUckily for this Blog, I have no intention of changing myself to conform to public expectation… especially when you consider that that self-same public are too sheeplike to have complained about their TV schedule.

Nonetheless, my blog for the day is done.

See you need time!



It’s the end of my world…

It may be that there are a host of changes staring me in the face. It may be the coming emigration, and all the paperwork involved with that. It may be the quitting of a perfectly good job in a perfectly good job market and heading into a struggling market to find work. It may be that the end of the world is nigh. But I’ve been a little more introspective and reflective than usual.

Wait… what? The end is nigh?

<sigh> Yes. Of course. I am not going to denigrate my blog by linking to the garbage, but you can Google it for yourself. It is the considered opinion of some (Not all) Christians that the world ends on May 21st. (Just four more shopping days until the end of the world!) There seems to be some contention as to whether it is actually the END of the planet, or if it is just the so-called “Rapture”… a religio-cosmological removal of true believers and a subsequent hell-on-earth scenario for the rest of us until the TRUE end of the world. Some sites say that the phenomenon will begin at 6pm in every city in the world on May 21st. That’s right… 6pm. A sort of “rolling Armageddon” if you will. God will obviously take into account daylight savings time and political boundaries during his razing of the planet. Which I think is pretty damned decent of him, given that planet-wide demolition would seem to be his goal.

At the end of it all, Harold Camping, the man behind the prediction, and member of a religious radio station has certainly drummed up PLENTY of celebrity for his show, and most likely secured lucrative advertising rights too. We’re going to have to ignore that the same Harold Camping predicted the SAME end of the world on September 4th, 1994. (A day I remember as being a lazy Sunday notable only for its complete lack of world-ending events, Rapture or Satanic power struggles for the dominion of Man. I believe we had hotdogs for lunch.)

There is speculation that Harold Camping is only making these predictions to further his own ends. But that would mean that a religious man was lying for personal gain. And that would be wrong…. right?

Actually… there have been a few predictions of disaster aimed at the end of this year.

As a recent survivor of a magnitude 14 earthquake and a 170 metre (170 METRES!!!) Tsunami, I feel honoured to be able to still type without having to hold my breath. Oh… and my internet connection is pretty good considering that Taiwan was meant to have been torn in half. For those of you in the western hemisphere who perhaps have no idea of what I am talking about… well…  Here in the East, we have our fair share of religious crackpots too. Enter Master Wang. (Seriously… his name in Romanised English is “Wang”. ) Master Wang is/was a Feng Shui “master”. Now, in Taiwan, Feng Shui is far more than a practical and mystic way to orient your furniture. (No pun intended) Feng Shui comprises a system of beliefs that has commentary on life, the universe and everything. Feng Shui (Pronounced “FONG SHWAY” for those of you who are still botching it!) is a big deal here. People consult their Feng Shui teachers in the way that priests used to be approached with life and family problems in the past in the west. Anyways, Master Wang upped and burbled to his followers a prediction of a magnitude 14 earthquake that would strike Taiwan at 10:42 and 37 seconds on May 11th. Yes, that’s right. Magnitude FOURTEEN. Because exceeding the maximum recorded quake in known history by a factor of 5 on an exponential scale is nothing when you have spiritualism on your side. Anyway… the resulting tsunami was set to return at 170 metres in height. Weirdly, it would take a further 6 days for the tsunami to hit Taiwan. (Apparently, Master Wang isn’t strong in geography or geology skills.) To survive the tsunami, many of his loyal dupes followers purchased converted shipping containers for a princely NT$ 160k each. (That’s about 4000 Euro in real money.) (I used to quote real money in US Dollars… but… they’re about to exceed their national debt cap, which raises some concerns as to the liquidity of their government. Euros it is.) There is speculation that Wang was involved in some way with the production of these containers. But that would mean that a religious man was lying for personal gain. And that would be wrong…. right?

Probably my favourite Doomsday prediction is the: Y2K Global Collapse. No wait, I prefer the…

The Mormon belief in the Return of Christ in 1891.  No wait, I prefer the…

The Jehovah’s Witness END OF THE WORLD and SECOND COMING of  1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975, 1994! No wait, I prefer the…

The conjunction of the major planets and our subsequent magnetic destruction of December 17th, 1919.  No wait, I prefer the…

Miller’s End of the World March 21st 1843 October 22nd 1844. No wait… I prefer the…

Mayan Calendar End of the World in 2012!

Oh yes… we have a winner. This Doomsday belief comes from a heady mix of ignorance and gross stupidity, mixed in with a dash of fervour and absolutely no common sense whatsoever.

See, there were these Indian types, right….  Sorry… make that MesoAmericans. (Because calling a Mayan an “American” is more politically correct than calling him “Indian”.) Anyways, these guys used great big stones to mark their calendars. And according to some arbitrary measurement, they had “Ages” of the world. (Not really arbitrary, it is just that they used Base 20 and Base 18 mathematics, and that makes my head hurt.) Given that they all died out thanks to greedy white people that discovered their land and killed anything that they couldn’t steal natural causes, they only carved stones for a little way into the future. Living in their third world, they made calendars for every day until the end of their fourth world. Which is pretty industrious considering most of US can’t program a VCR three days in advance. Anyways, someone got hold of this, saw that their calender was marked until 2012, and made the logical leap that that meant that the world ended in 2012. Which is tantamount to you reaching the end of the fourth chapter in a book and simply throwing it away because the book is “done”. Irrespective of the fact that the Mayans had already lived through three Ages… suggesting that they were comfortable with the concept of a new Age beginning, and irrespective of the fact that the Mayans celebrated the end of each Age with MASSIVE parties… suggesting that they approached it in the way teachers approach the end of term, well.. irrespective of all this, we have a remarkably popular Doomsday event. And a Hollywood movie. (Which makes it real… of course. The same way Ben Afleck made Pearl Harbour real… the way that the only people who ever shot Nazis were American soldiers… and how if aliens ever did land, they would of course gravitate to Washington DC… not anywhere in Europe. )

Ah well. It amuses me that people have been falling for the same scientific or religious hyperbole for thousands of years. It saddens me that the liars often get to make more than one Doomsday prediction, an occurrence that I simply cannot fathom. It disgusts me that money is made off of fear and ignorance by those who would abuse the trust that they have been given. It angers me that the media play their part in whipping up public furore. But then… stupid is as stupid does.

Me? I’ll plan for the future. One where nothing is going to absolve me of accountability tomorrow for my actions today.

Yeti out.

The Japanese Disasters – The Silver Lining.

It’s the end of March 2011, and like millions of others around the world, I have been watching the Japanese struggling under the burden of an earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear disaster. I am very happy that the disasters happened to Japan, and not someone else. And you should be too. Fair warning, this blog posting is likely to be quite racist, disturbingly discriminatory and decidedly biased.

In a good way.

A fair number of disasters and tragedies have beset the planet in the last few years. And in every case, there has been the attendent media circus, the associated finger-pointing and panic. Our global superpower will serve for comparitive purposes. America is the foremost nation on the planet. (Just ask an American.) They have the biggest and best everything, the newest and shiniest everything else. And yet, when Hurrican Katrina dumped meters of rain on New Orleans, they collapsed. Disaster relief was negligent and almost criminally slow. It transpired that the National Guard wasn’t in the correct country at the time. Looting was rife, police retaliation was brutal and the loss of life and property paled in comparison with the game of Pass-The-Blame that erupted shortly after the first levee failed. Absolutely everyone that held even the slightest authority of levees, rain, river management and disaster response was held up to public scrutiny and inevitably crucified in public opinion. Six years later, disaster relief operations are still at work, and the damage Katrina left in her wake stands testament to a nation that has failed utterly to protect its own.

Let’s take a look at the Japanese, shall we?

It starts with an earthquake. One of the top five largest earthquakes in recorded history. It scores a 7 out of 7 on the Japanese earthquake scale, and a whopping 9.0 on the Magnitude Scale. It shakes Tokyo and its surrounds for an utterly obscene SIX minutes. Six minutes! Jump up and down on your bed for a full six minutes. It’s a LONG time. It triggers tsunamis of up to ten meters in height. Coastal areas are basically washed away, and there is nothing that anyone can do to stop it. Nuclear reactors that have peacefully run for forty years are stricken, bereft of cooling, back-up power and containment, they suffer explosions and threaten meltdown.

It’s a cataclysm. A disaster styled on Old Testament purges.

And look at the reaction of the Japanese. Over ten thousand dead, almost twenty thousand missing. Two hundred thousand evacuated from already devastated areas to avoid nuclear risk. There was no blame. There was no finger-pointing. The Japanese shook themselves free of building dust, kicked the water from their boots, and got down to work. There are individual stories of heroism, but I would like to focus on just two stories that I believe sum up the Japanese spirit.

The nuclear situation at the Fukushima plants remains lethal. Thanks to the massive damage of the quake, and then the actions of the tsunami, carefully prepared back-up and emergency protocols were rendered null. The reactors went critical, cooling rods became exposed and fissionable material tasted freedom. One hundred and sixty technicians stood their ground. They kept to their posts and did their jobs. It is without doubt that they received doses of radiation. At the Fukushima 1 plant, fifty low-level and mid-level managers, anonymous and faceless, stood their posts. They prevented a full-scale nuclear event. It is without doubt that they did so while in the full knowledge that they were sustaining potentially lethal doses of radiation. Two workers had to be emergency air-lifted from the plant. Why? They stood in ankle-deep radioactive water in the basement of the number 3 reactor. They were trying to lay cables that would allow for the restoration of power to the cooling mechanism to the reactor. Their personal instrumentation registered dosages of 180 millisieverts. (Enough to give them radiation burns on their legs. The Japanese safety guides allow for only a dosage of 50 millisieverts over the course of a year.) They had not been issued with the correct safety wear. And yet there they stood. Preventing a total meltdown.

The situation remains dire, and it is likely that there will be longer-reaching impacts of the radiation leaks. Japan was saved more damage by a fortunate wind that shifted vented Cesium 137 into the ocean, and not over the land.

The second story is more light-hearted. In the wake of the tsunami (pardon the pun), government relief was stretched and in some areas regarded as being slow. The response? The Japanese crime syndicate… The Yakuza. (They’re the Japanese equivalent of the mafia.) Stating in the press that they could not stand by while their people were suffering, the Yakuza sent seventy trucks into some of the worst-hit areas, filled with a half million US dollars worth of food and water. They stated when asked that their code of honour would not allow them to ignore the situation, not when they were capable of aiding. They did it because they could, and because it was needed.

In what other country are we likely to see this? In what other country are we going to see the same selfless brand of heroism? In what other country are we going to see anonymous sacrifice, and anonymous humanity?In my opinion (and it’s my blog, so that’s presumably what you are here to see) there is no country to rival the Japanese. They responded to the multiple disasters, the massive loss of life, the crippling loss of infrastructure and networks with the same aplomb and single-mindedness that has defined their society. This is the country that birthed the concept of the “quest for zero defect” and I am proud of them that their work ethos extends to their society as well. There has been no looting. Instead, neighbourhoods have made anonymous donations of food and water to those in need. They have pointed no fingers, they have indulged in no political grand-standing. Under intense international scrutiny they have gotten on with the job at hand. Not a day after the nuclear incidents, world media was already debating the wisdom of nuclear power, was already deciding that the Japanese were somehow “tempting fate” by building reactors so close to the coast, was somehow negligent in their usage of nuclear power. This is the same media run on nuclear powered server farms, enjoying electronic communication on a global scale, much of which is nuclear-supplied. This while two men stood ankle-deep in radioactive water, their skin burning while they saved lives at the expense of their own.

Through it all, the rescue operations continue, the clean ups are underway, and the Japanese are walking the road to recovery.

I am thankful that it was Japan that was hit, and not some lesser country.

I am saddened by the sacrifice and the loss.

And I am humbled by their spirit.