Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Japan has responded to the regular criticism from the UN on their institutionally racist society:
"Japan has taken every conceivable measure to fight against racial discrimination."
So apparently it is inconceivable that Japan in 2008 could consider passing any legislation to outlaw racial discrimination. Well, it's nice to have a definitive statement on the matter (not that I've been holding my breath). But I'm confused as to why they signed up to the UN's Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1998 if it is still inconceivable 10 years later that they should actually take the promised and required action to eliminate and prohibit racial discrimination within their jurisdiction.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Kamakura Hanabi Taikai

It's summer and the smell of gunpowder hangs heavy in the air...just about every night there is a fireworks display somewhere, and last Monday was Kamakura's turn.

Apparently the Japanese tradition of fireworks displays is just for entertaintment purposes with no more specific significance (unlike the UK). But there are worse ways of spending a summer evening than sitting on a beach watching the display...especially as this year was fine and clear, with a gentle breeze clearing the smoke (towards the far end of the beach). Last time we went, a few years ago, the rockets all disappeared into the smoggy cloud. Often we are up in the mountains at this time of year, which is the best place to be now it is hot and sweaty every day.

Not a very exciting video but here it is. I really just wanted an excuse to play with the new iMovie application.

Monday, August 04, 2008

More Swindle stuff from Channel 4

Apparently there will be a short broadcast concerning OFCOM's ruling on Durkin's Swindle, first on Channel 4 tonight (4 August 2008), at 21:00, between 'The Genius of Charles Darwin' and 'Can't Read, Can't Write'; and then (presumably a repeat) on More4 (don't ask me what that means, when I left the UK Richard Whiteley was still presenting Countdown) on the 5th August 2008, at 22:00, between 'Come Dine With Me' and 'True Stories' [The Thin Blue Line]. Someone let me know what they said, please...

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Damned with faint praise

Were I looking for a way to describe a new electric scooter, "to rival the Segway" is not a phrase that I would put on my marketing materials.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The great(?) butter shortage

This story has been rumbling in the press for several months, but it has only affected me personally just in the last couple of weeks. I'm not a big consumer of butter, but last week it was time to get a new pack. However, the shelves were bare...and they were bare again today. (For all I know, they might have been bare for several weeks now.)

Of course butter is not a major staple foodstuff in Japan - indeed "butter-smelling" is a (rather rare) insult to westerners, and I sense a bit of smug satisfaction with a Japanese Agriculture Ministry official saying “Personally, I can happily switch to margarine.” But even so, it seems amazing to me that a developed country can simply run out of a basic foodstuff that is widely used and was readily available until recently. It is fabulously expensive, too, at something like ¥600 for a 200g stick, which is about 4 times the price in the UK. You'd think at that price someone could have managed to import some...but of course protecting the interests of the farming lobby is a higher priority than providing food for the population, so the import tariff is 360% (apparently).

Another good month for Corbyn

July was a good month for Corbyn's monthly forecast - the rainfall of 167% was in his predicted range of 160-250%, and the mean daily max (anomaly) of -0.8C was also in his range of -1 to -0.2 (data here). The various specifics were largely wrong but I can't go cherry-picking what to evaluate after the event. [I did initially say I would use mean, not max, temp but that was before being pointed to the max data on Philip Eden's broken site.]

So now he is up to 6 correct forecasts out of 12 so far this year (temp and precip for 6 months, June being curiously absent). That still represents a p-value of less than 2% based on his claimed 80% accuracy. That is, if his forecasts really had a long-run probability of 80% of validating, then the probability of getting 6 or fewer correct out of 12 is under 2%. On the other hand, it is better than chance, given that his ranges generally cover less than 50% of a reasonable climatological range. (That doesn't mean much, given that he only publishes the forecast a day or two into the month. The very heavy rain at the start of July was easily predicted by everyone at that point. Also, there is the question as to why June's forecast was not released...but there is little point in speculating on that point.)