August 31, 2009

Quick Musings on Japan Election Results

Someone asked me for my take on the results of the recent national election in Japan in which the opposition DPJ was victorious over the long-standing rule of the LDP. I haven't lived in Japan for some ten years and had not been following the election very closely, but here goes:

While in a sense the results are dramatic, I wonder how much change there will really be.

Many of the head honchos of the victorious DPJ are former LDP members who jumped ship over the years, hoping to get a shot at leadership. Many of the elite in both parties come from long political and even former aristocratic lineages.

Plus with the Japanese penchant for consensus and compromise, it's really hard to implement radical change. You also have the entrenched bureaucracy run by another fiercely traditional oligarchy from a very small coterie of elite universities and old boy's networks, and they're not going to be easy to move either.

Perhaps the DPJ victory is psychologically dramatic, but whether or not the party will be able to accomplish much is questionable. From what little I've read of their platform, it sounds like they plan to continue the long tradition of economic stimulus that hasn't worked much for the last couple of decades. While the LDP is viewed as being toward the right, and the DPJ moderately toward the left, I think in essence they're both of the "let's spend our way out of trouble" bent, and at this point that's like pushing on a string.

Some of the issues the J govt faces are intractable -- the rapidly aging population, massive underfunding of the government pension system, etc. I don't think there's much wiggle room for any party.

I think one of the main things that's kept Japan afloat is the massive cumulative personal savings squirreled away, for most part, in low-interest Japan Post accounts. Cheap money for the govt!

On our last trip to Japan about two years ago I was blown away by all the massive commercial/office tower developments recently completed or underway all over Tokyo. You'd never think the economy had been in a terrible slowdown for decades, or that the population had actually begun to shrink! I wonder who the heck is going to occupy all that space. Is it all really economically justifiable, or is much of it stimulus and cheap money gone mad? I suppose much of this Class 1 office space is being taken by firms upgrading from older buildings, but still.... I have this uneasy vision of huge, empty towers dominating a Tokyo with a shrinking population like some dystopic manga movie.... The lights are burning, but is anyone home?

But then again perhaps those towers have all been filled in the two years since our last visit and are happily humming away with life. I haven't read any Tokyo real-estate articles in ages.

Posted by Paul at 12:26 PM

August 27, 2009

Streamkeepers Invited to Adera Green Opening

Adera Development Corp. invited the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers to talk to new and prospective owners at the new Green development in southeast Burnaby this evening. The idea was to introduce residents to the neighbourhood and start developing a sense of community.

It was the first time I'd been inside Green, and it was visually impressive, as well as being "Built Green" according to an industry developed multiple-unit residential standard. In addition to streamkeepers, there was also a representative from the Cooperative Auto Network signing people up for the new complex's shared cars.

We brought our 3D topo map of the Byrne Creek watershed and got to talk to lots of people and tell them about the beautiful, salmon-bearing creek in their "back yard." Many were eager to explore the trails in the protected ravine park, and to try to spot spawning salmon when they return this autumn. Quite a few were also surprised to hear that all drains on roads and in parking lots lead directly to local creeks!

The Green concierge will be taking residents on a walking tour of their new neighborhood in September, and has asked streamkeepers to add a creek tour to the event.

Posted by Paul at 09:20 PM

August 26, 2009

Buy, Eat Local, Support Canadian Farmers

Well-done :-) video on buying, eating local. Do you know where your food comes from? Sobering statistics on how much food we import, and how far it travels.

Hellmann's - It's Time for Real from CRUSH on Vimeo.

Posted by Paul at 03:33 PM

Silty Discharge Hits Byrne Creek

A "slug" of silty water hit Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby overnight or early this morning. As no dead fish have been spotted, it appears it was not toxic; however, any discharge into street drains is illegal, and City of Burnaby staff are checking for the source.

As streamkeepers repeat again, and again, all drains on streets and in parking lots lead to fish habitat.

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Water in the sediment pond in the spawning habitat was still opaque many hours after the discharge, though the water running into the pond (at the lower end of the photo) is clear.

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Water discharging downstream of the artificial spawning habitat was also still very murky early in the afternoon.

Posted by Paul at 02:30 PM

August 24, 2009

Foreshore Park Pond Provides Wildlife for Long Lens

I headed down to Burnaby's Foreshore Park over lunch today to do some shooting with my new AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm 4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR zoom lens. The pond near Nokia is a great place for dragonflies, damselflies, bees, tadpoles, frogs, and other wildlife.

First off, some bees on various flowers.

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And a white butterfly/moth hiding in refracted light.

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Next up several shots of dragonflies.

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Some huge tadpoles, a couple of which were munching on a dead fish.

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And some frogs. Close, hidden, and submarine surfacing :-).

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And a lonely cattail among the reeds.

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Posted by Paul at 03:22 PM

August 21, 2009

Amazing Performance by Ukrainian ‘Sand Artist’

Check out this moving, powerful performance by Ukrainian 'sand artist' Kseniya Simonova - real-time art - along with a review by the Guardian UK. I've never seen anything like this before and I'm impressed.

Posted by Paul at 06:28 PM

August 20, 2009

Long Time No Write

Yikes, it's been over a month since I've updated this blog. I was on holidays for nearly three weeks, much of that without Internet access, and it's taken me a couple of weeks just to get caught up after I got home.

I find that if I let the blog go for a couple of weeks, as times passes it becomes increasingly difficult to regain momentum. Now with a nearly six-week hiatus, it's like lifting boulders by hand to get my fingers back on the keyboard.

I've got lots to write about, and thousands of photos to sort through and post. I need to get back in the groove and do a couple of posts a day, going back in time, until I get caught up.

Posted by Paul at 06:35 PM

August 15, 2009

Cute Frogs, Ugly Trash in Deer Lake

We took some friends for a walk at Burnaby's beautiful Deer Lake this afternoon and were greeted by dozens of little frogs. Unfortunately, there were also some of those water bottles that supposedly rarely end up in the landfill because they are recycled. Hm. This doesn't look like a recycling centre to me!

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There are at least four frogs hiding in this photo - the Dasani bottle is not so well camouflaged!

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As the clouds rolled in over Metrotown up on the hill, we decided to call it a day.

Posted by Paul at 02:49 PM