Saturday, July 28, 2007

Japanese life expectancy climbs for both women and men

Hot on the heels of the doctor expectancy climbs for Japanese women and men.

As the report mentions, eating habits are getting worse. But smoking rates are also falling.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Breaking news - smoking is bad for you!

Only 50 years or so behind the rest of the world:

The heavier a man smokes, the shorter his life expectancy. The figure was 0.9 years shorter for men smoking at least two packs of cigarettes a day than for those smoking less than a pack a day, the study by a group at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry showed.

Of course the reluctance to study this subject (the cited research only started in 1980) has nothing to do with the fact that the Govt here owns much of the tobacco industry and gets a lot of income from it (indeed that is explicitly the purpose of maintaining ownership).

Fortunately, attitudes towards smoking are changing rapidly here. When we first arrived, no-smoking areas were few and far between (and pretty meaningless, given the absence of any sort of separation from smoking areas). Now they are more and more common, and there are increasingly restrictions on smoking in public. It's been quite a turnaround, in fact. Who says the Japanese are conservative and cannot change?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Doctors are bad for you...

...and here's the proof:

OECD report indicates serious physician shortage in Japan

I've heard some horror stories about the Japanese healthcare system, but there are of course horror stories everywhere. The Japanese problems seem mostly to spring from authoritarian and old-fashioned attitudes among the medical profession, together with a large dose of cover-up and closing ranks after malpractice. In contrast, UK horror stories tend to be about people who cannot get treatment until it is too late.

My own limited experience is that the facilities are excellent and there does not appear to be any shortage of staff. When I had a slipped disk a few years ago and eventually went to see a doctor, he apologised for the wait for the MRI scan...because it was being used for hips that day, I would have to come back next week to get my back scanned. Seriously.

(Pause for UK residents to pick their jaws up off the floor).

Anyway, Japan has the highest life expectancy, and just about the fewest doctors and the lowest spend on health care. Obviously we can clearly see in these figures the malign influence of the medical profession on human health. OK, maybe I exaggerate - it is merely useless.

Oddly, Japan has the highest number of doctor consultations per capita, more than one per person per month! How on earth do people find the time? But obviously the doctors are too busy consulting to actually do any treatment, so that's ok. Anyway, I don't hear of people unable to get doctors' appointments.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Wet wet wet

This is the 4th typhoon of the year, but the first to aim anywhere near here. In anticipation, we've had more than a day of solid rain (well, wet rain), and the typhoon hasn't even got here yet. 400mm of rain is a full rainy season's worth in one day, something like a quarter of the annual average. The winds are fading rapidly, so it's not exciting, just wet.

Most of southern and western Japan has been thoroughly soaked over the weekend, which should go some way to allaying the recent fears about water shortages. Closing swimming pools may be sensible, but the decision of some schools to switch to bread rather than rice smacks of gesture politics rather than serious policy. The proportion of water used in steaming some rice is utterly trivial, but what better way to persuade people that there is a problem than by preventing their precious children from having their daily entitlement of rice, which holds a quite religious place as the centrepiece of every Japanese meal.

Not that long ago, we were being told that water supply was too high relative to consumption. There's no pleasing some people.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Tipping Point: The Movie

Just when you thought it was safe to come out from behind the sofa...a little birdie in my in-box tells me that there yet another climate change horror film in the works. Don't all yawn at once.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Live Earth

I'm going to take the cynical side on this, and wonder why pop stars whose entire lifestyle is based around conspicuous consumption think they have a leg to stand on with regard to climate change (or indeed just about any environmental problem), especially when their "contribution" is just more jetting around to mega-concerts. What is "awareness" supposed to achieve anyway? Climate change is hardly a secret (denial is a river that's drying up pretty fast even in the USA).

Jules is always complaining that I take her ideas without attribution, so I'll credit her for this one: they might as well be having an orgy to promote AIDS awareness.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


So, after a year and a half, and having sucked up more than 60 bloggers, Seed(y) magazine is so desperate to expand its evil empire that they have even resorted to asking me if I want to join them at Is the barrel really that bare?

Just joking, guys and girls. There's a lot of interesting reading there, even if it does sometimes veer too much towards the politically-correct anti-Repuglicanism and evolution wars stuff (yawn) for my tastes.

So, the question du jour is: To blorg, or not to blorg? Lining up on the Pro side, there is the promise of more readers (probably). Lining up on the Con side, there is the promise of more readers (probably) :-) It's all very well having a select few discerning readers who pop by occasionally, but I'm not sure I want too many people to stumble across this drivel by accident, or even worse, get pointed this way in expectation of thoughtful, provocative analysis...I happen to be a scientist, and it influences what I write about, but I'm not really a "science blogger".

They also promise to pay me. Well, as a Japanese public servant subject to a strict ethics policy, I would have to apologise humbly to my boss for the embarrassment I have caused, fly over to the USA and return the "gift" in person, on my knees. No, that's a joke. I wouldn't really have to kneel.

You can probably guess I'm presently minded to come down on the side of not joining any club that would have me as a member. There are some other advantages of shifting: I would like to be able to edit comments properly (eg reply in-line, and selectively edit the critical ones to make them look silly) and although the Blogger approach to trackbacks seems better than the standard approach to me, the incompatibility is a little tedious. OTOH I could have got that by moving to and I never bothered (in fact I never even bothered to check that I really could have got that, I'm just guessing).

Any advice (especially from those who have been there and done that) is welcome.