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No Escape

No, you cannot escape them. I have been looking into taking the birds with me to Sweden as well... I probably wont be able to, but I just thought I should warn you that you should perhaps expect to see just as much of these guys in the future as well.

You can see more bird scratchin' action in the gallery.

Rain

The rainy season ended a few days ago in Japan. I hardly even noticed it this year. Aside from a few days when I just couldn't wake up in the morning (my blood-pressure is slightly higher than that of a dead person, and I have found that low pressure mornings don't help), I actually would have rather had more rain.

Exhibition


Photos from my exhibition a couple weeks ago at sundown. In case anyone is wondering, the photos are still for sale :) I have twenty prints laying around here that I can't really take with me to Sweden... I suppose I should put up a gallery of the photos that I showed. All in all, I was real happy about it. I had never seen my photos anywhere other than my computer screen, and they turned out great (as far as I am concerned)

Overlooking Train Tracks
My Brain Hurts a Little Less

So, despite yesterday's survey being quickly thrown together with little planning and some questions that may be difficult to understand, I found the feedback helpful. In particular:

Something else that was helpful, was Paul's comment, about not reading books, such as the guide, but reading blogs, and that I should put that information in a blog. A while back, as I was reading the World Watch Institutes State of the World 2004. every page would have something I desperately wanted to share with the anyone who reads this blog. I feared though, that in the end, I would be pretty much copying and pasting from the PDf to my blog... that sounds a bit illeagal.

It did make me think however about how if we want to get a point across, breaking it up into bite sized pieces, and feeding it to the audience bit by bit a day at a time is probably a more effective way than simply recommending the book. I am going to see how I can work this into my own blog while remaining leagal.

I also chatted with another reader who mentioned that the missing variable that keeps me from understanding, is that people either don't try to learn, and therefore just don't know. If the case is that people just don't know, I would be sooo frikin happy! It implies that if the people knew, they would care. Teaching someone who doesn't know seems a lot easier than trying to get someone who already knows to care. It would relieve my stress so much, because there is a clear-cut answer that just needs a little action.

He also thought that perhaps people "know in their heads, but not in their hearts". This is a revelation for me. My case is exactly the opposite. For as long as I can remember, I "knew in my heart", meaning, my instincts told me that something isn't right... yet, knowing in my heart was not enough. When I started to research it though, I began to get more concrete information and facts. The more I began to "know in my head", the more difficult it became to live contradictory to logic. It just doesn't make sense.

The point being of course, that I am reminded that different people need to be approached in a different manner. While I need to "know in my head" before I do anything, some people need to "know in their hearts" before they take action. just something for me to think about... small, but very helpful.

Loops That Make My Brain Hurt

Every night, Tomoe comes back from her day out in the real world, and tells me all the unbelievable stories about the waste and apathy she witnesses. I like to believe (though I fear that I am wrong) that people who are good, and want to do the right thing, and when armed with knowledge, will make good choices. Hearing her stories though, I just get sick and depressed and my brain hurts trying to understand what she is telling me. I mean, she is working with well educated people! So, why do they act so contrary to what I would expect from an educated person?

It's like when I look around at the world around me, my brain gets stuck in an infinite loop, trying to rationalize a series of true statements, that seem impossible to be true together, yet they are... "That person is not an evil person. He is educated and informed. He knows the consequences of his actions. He doesn't seem to be considering the consequences when me makes daily decisions. He must be ill-informed or evil... but... that person is not evil. He is educated and ......" And the loop plays on forever in my head.

I know I have a problem empathizing with others, I can't get inside their heads, and their feelings. I don't know how their rational works. The thing that really gets me down, is that there is no-place I can just go for the answer. So, I have made a looongg survey below that lists the questions, which, if I knew how people answered these, I might be more equipped to understand their actions. If you have a minute or two, I would love it if anyone would answer a few. If you have more time, answer them all, and leave some comments letting me know what variable I am missing that is keeping me up at night.

The current results can be seen here

Yes No
1 I automatically tune out when reading something that mentions the word "environment", "sustainability", "consumption" or some other related terminology?
2 I think that global warming is a myth?
3 I am unsure, but willing to risk-it?
4 I have or plan to have children that will still be alive in 2050?
5 I think we consume too much?
6 I have thought seriously about the consequences of our over-consumption?
7 I am aware that population has doubled in the last century and could double again in this century?
8 I have spent some time thinking seriously about what that means in terms of consumption?
9 I think that it is not really a problem, because technology will find ways to fix whatever damage we have done?
10 I think that such technology will be available in the next twenty years?
11 I know how many plant and animal species have become extinct in the last twenty years?
12 I realize that 1.7 billion people - more than a quarter of humanity- have now entered the consumer class, in the past twenty years, the number of "consumer-class" people in China India alone has reached 360 million, and that there are many more eager to join in the next twenty years?
13 I have thought about what this means in terms of the speed with which ecosystems and species are lost in the next twenty years?
14 I think that my children's life will be better than mine?
15 I have faith in human's ingenuity and the ability of the free market to handle problems?
16 I think that if government subsidies for non-sustainable agriculture and development were replaced with extra consumption-taxes, human's ingenuity and a true free-market would fail to provide alternatives, and the economy would be devestated beyond repair?
17 I feel that even if human ingenuity and collective effort were able to provide alternatives, any discomfort felt in the transition would not be worth it?
18 I feel good that I recycle?
19 I feel good that I recycle and I fly more than three times a year?
20 I think about global warming when I take my car, or a taxi instead of the subway?
21 I think about it, but feel that for me, a car or taxi is a necessity, or that in the long-run, the time I saved in the taxi allows me to do more good for the world?
22 I feel that we should "save" the rain-forests?
23 I know how much forest land is cleared to grow feed for cattle?
24 I know, and have cut back on my meat consumption?
25 I know, and would like to cut back, but find it too hard?
26 I know, but don't care because meat just tastes too good?
27 I feel that a meat based diet is part of the natural cycle, our ancestors did it, and that there is no problem with eating meat?
28 I realize that the earths population has doubled in the last century an could double again?
29 I have spent at least five minutes thinking about what that means in regards to comparing ourselves with our ancestors?
30 I think that we are consuming too much, but think there is no point to try changing because it is too late?
31 I think that we are consuming too much, but think that the benefits out-weigh the consequences?
32 I feel like I would like to do something, but don't know what?
33 I don't have time to read Good Stuff? A Behind-the-Scenes Guide to the Things We Buy? (via How to Save the World)
34 I read more than 10 blogs per day?
Fun

Wow. I don't usually post about this or that great photo site I found, but this is great Check out this series "Fun" at Hakan Photography. It makes me a little mad though that I didn't think of this... what a simple, great (simply great) idea.

Themeless

Just a couple of themeless photos to wrap my latest set of uploads to the gallery.

Appalling Conditions at the Cute Pink Thing Factory Farm

Although, they do all look really happy...

What has the world come to?

New Alternative-Fuel SUV Will Deplete World's Hydrogen By 2070

DETROIT—Ford announced a Sept. 3 rollout date for its new Ford Foresight, a hydrogen-powered SUV that, if it reaches sales projections, will deplete the earth's supply of hydrogen by 2070. "America has asked for a car that does not use fossil fuels, and we've delivered," Ford CEO William Ford Jr. said Monday. "With an engine nearly 20 times as powerful as that of our gas-burning SUV, the 11-ton Foresight will be unaffected by the price-gouging whims of OPEC, as it uses water electrolysis to gather fuel from the oceans and the fresh mountain air." Ford acknowledged that, when hydrogen supplies are depleted, the usefulness of the Foresight, as well as life on earth as we know it, will end.

via The Oninon (which I can barely read anymore because it brings my poor 800mhz iBook to it's knees.)

Portraits

I know I have an over-abundance of bird / Tomoe photos on this site. i can't resist just one more though. One thing I am really happy about with the new camera are the portrait shots. I can't really say what is different, but it seems that my people-pictures have been better lately.

I really like this shot of Tomoe, although I may be biased.

The other guy is James from consumptive, who taught my how to use my fancy new camera over beers a while back. He seems happy to stick with the simpler pin-hole... maybe I should upgrade.

I wonder if I'm supposed to ask permission first... If anyone pictured above objects to this, please let me know and I will remove it.

Kevin and the Flying Busses
My Neighbor's Kids

Frightening? Adorable? Frighteningly adorable?

Seifuku

Don't worry mom, seifuku isn't a dirty word... it means uniform (as in school uniform).

Berry
That Bird Again

I have a lot of photos of the birds that I have been neglecting. I'm just going to post them all at once, so I don't have to bother any bird-haters with them for another two weeks.

In other news, I don't usually do a lot of "check out this great article!" type posts, but This American Life's radio program last week was exceptionally interesting. I'm From the Private Sector and I'm Here to Help The narrator follows US civilian workers around Iraq, documenting their daily life.

I'm not sure if everyone has noticed, but quite a while ago I made a minor improvement to the site. If you click on the front page image, you are now taken directly to a much bigger version (750px wide). In the past, you would have been taken to a photo not much bigger than what you see here, and then click one more time to see the bigger version.

Still Saving the World

Last time, I posted some of my reaction to Dave Pollard's list of answers to the question: What Can I Do Now? to save the world. Actually, I had more that I wanted to say, but that post was already getting too long. I hope Dave appreciates the fact that I am writing this all on my own site this time, instead of the usual long rambling comments on his site. ;)

My first comment is actually related to yesterday's voluntary consumption tax. One of Dave's to-dos is:

Volunteer: Rather than sending guilt money, go out and spend time helping those suffering or in need. Pick a charity that you really care about -- the soup kitchen, the animal shelter, whatever. Get involved, and talk to the people you're helping. Don't get talked into fundraising activities -- really get out there and do something with your own two hands. You'll learn a lot, you'll feel better, you'll make a difference, and you just might find out something important about yourself.

And he's right of course. I noticed that I actually wrote before that the percentage of consumption tax actually goes up relative to the social and ecological destruction each item I buy can do. While the purpose is more to get me to pay more attention to the true cost of what I buy, in effect, it is acting as guilt money.

So, after dwelling on this a bit, I came up with another layer to the consumption tax scheme, making it that much more complex and subjective. While I still keep track of the monetary amount of consumption tax, part of this can now be paid off not with cash, but through my imaginary hourly wage as a volunteer. Since I don't have a proper job requiring me to go in from 9-5, and can for the most part pick and choose my projects, why not give up some of those that pay me in hard cash, which will be used to pay the consumption tax anyway, and start spending those hours volunteering? For every hour I volunteer, I get an XX yen voluntary consumption tax break. Not only would I be able to financially justify spending less time on "work" and more time doing something that matters, but I would also be contributing less to a broken system which worships unsustainable growth above all else.

The only problem now is finding something to volunteer at. I've never done anything like that in Tokyo, and to tell you the truth, have never even heard of any organizations where I could put in time. Part of it I guess is because I haven't looked, and part of it is because as a foreigner I am not "in the loop". Basically though, I think it's because I am an "in-activist". Do any of you gaijin in Tokyo do any volunteer work other than that organized by your work-place? If so, what? and where did you learn about the opportunity?

Of course, I'm leaving Tokyo in two months, so not much time to work off my consumption debt left here, but if all else fails, I can always donate some of my web-developing time, and server space to some organization with more noble goals than the average e-commerce site. Which is what Dave mentions as well

Share Your Expertise If you have talents, specialized know-how, or technical or scientific skills and knowledge that could be useful in solving birth control, clean energy, disease prevention, conservation, animal cruelty, pollution and waste, local self-sufficiency, non-animal foods, 'more-with-less' product streamlining, self-organization, collaboration, consumer and citizen awareness and activism, animal communication, conflict resolution, mental illness, and other issues contributing to environmental deterioration, create 'open source' spaces where others can access what you know, contact you, and collaborate with you and with others to solve these problems.

Maybe that would lead to some very welcome changes in my for-pay work as well. As Dave points out, and I ranted about a while back, one thing we can do (and I think this is HUGE... second to Use less stuff) is:

Find or Create a Meaningful Job: Each of us has talents, interests, and time. It's amazing how many of us spend all our time doing work that we find uninteresting, and which doesn't effectively use our talents. We become wage slaves, underemployed and bored because we're convinced or afraid that a better job doesn't exist. And we work so hard at it we have no time left to challenge that conviction or fear. That's what the corporatists are counting on. Don't give them the satisfaction. Find the time to figure out what you really would like to do with your life, how you'd really like to make a living. Then research the possibilities, talk to people who are doing it, find out what's possible, learn what's involved in creating your own business (and don't listen to accountants or MBAs). If we were all doing jobs we loved, with people we love, and in charge of our own careers, the corporatists would have no staff, and their environmentally devastating empires would crumble.
How to Save the World

Dave Pollard from How to Save the World, lists his answers to the question: What Can I Do Now?. Of course you should go there and read all of his and what he says about them, but there is one, I think, which is the key. If everyone did this, so much suffering and grief could be prevented.

Use Less Stuff: Consumerism is doubly addictive -- you get the fleeting pleasure of acquiring something, and then you have to work harder and earn more money for The Man so you can pay off the debt you incurred to buy it. Learn to live a Radically Simple life -- buy better quality stuff that lasts longer, make your own meals instead of using processed foods, think before you buy, don't get into debt (only buy when you have the cash in your account), buy local rather than imported goods (especially stuff from countries that have poor social and environmental standards), complain about excessive packaging, recycle, reuse, buy used, share tools with neighbours, turn off the lights, cover the pool, use energy-efficient lighting, keep your tires inflated, carpool, walk or bike instead of driving -- you know what to do. Make a list, draw up a schedule, and do it.

Or, in other words:

  1. Reduce
  2. Repair and Reuse
  3. Recycle

So simple, and yet for some reason they never teach it in school. Why is that?

Now, I'm not saying everyone should live in a tent, only own three pairs of underwear, and sell their CD collection, but doesn't it make sence to think about what you buy before you buy it and consider a few things:

  1. Do I need this or do I just want it?
  2. If I need it, can I somehow reduce my dependancy on it, so that I don't need it anymore, or at least need less of it?
  3. If I need it, are there options that are less destructive?
  4. If I only want it, why do I want it? Is it something that truly makes me happy, or just something to distract me from the rest of my miserable life? If so, would it be cheaper in the long-run to seek some professional mental help and maybe solve this problem once and for all?
  5. If I only want it, and it will truely make me happy, can I truly justify the damage it will do to the earth? Does purchasing this streangthen an irresponsible company, bent on manipulating all the people of the earth to participate in their own self-destruction? If so, are there alternatives that don't do that?
  6. If I only want it, how many hours am I going to have to prostitute my mind, skills, time and effort to pay for it? Is there something else I would rather do with that time? Do I still want it?
  7. Regardless of if it is want or need, do I already have an older one, or a broken one I can fix? Can I buy it second hand?
  8. When I'm done with it what will happen to it? Can it be recycled, will it sit-in a land-fill, will it be sent to some developing country with less stringent environmental regulations, where they need the money more than a poison-free drinking supply?

If, after thinking about all of these things, you still buy it, I promise I wont complain. I still buy sometimes even though I know the conciqunces. I have a nine-month old computer, and a brand-spanking new digital camera added to my list of environmental crimes. Sometimes we're weak, but when you think about these things, more often than not, it is much easier to be strong.

One method I have started to get me to think more about it, is my voluntary consumption tax. Since politicians don't seem interested in taxing consumption (because they would be crucified by all of us if they did), I have decided to take it upon myself.

For everything I buy, I set aside a certain percentage of the price to donate to some organization or cause that will help to clean-up after the damage I have done.

My system is very imperfect, and quite subjective in many cases, but I am trying to figure out some good guidelines. Basically, there are two main categories.

  1. Need
  2. Don't Need

Those things in the need category get taxed less, if anything. What percentage is based on how much damage the item does. I need soap, but I don't need soap with toxic chemicals in it. If I buy the environmentally friendly soap, I pay less tax. If I am in a hurry, or just lazy, and I buy my soap at the 7-11 (never happens), I pay more tax, because I am contributing more to problems that someone has to clean up, and I am pretty sure it aint going to be the manufacturer.

The things in the want category are taxed higher, based mostly on how much damage I think it is doing. My new camera is terrible, and is taxed accordingly. 100%. A sweet treat from the local co-op is a want, but they are generally good about stocking things that have less impact, and buying from the co-op is doing less damage than buying from Seiyu, the Wal-Mart subsidiary down the street. Therefore, I tax myself less on that, but more than I would if it was something I need to keep myself from starving to death, and less than I would if I had bought the same thing at the Seiyu.

Some things may be needs, but they are only needs because I have been irresponsible. A taxi ride home because I missed the last train? I need it, but if I would have paid more attention to the clock, I could have saved my self the $30 taxi-fare, and the $30 consumption tax to be donated to some worthy agency providing relief to Iraqi citizens whose lives are screwed because of my dependance on their crazy ex-leader's oil supply.

Like I say, it is a very imperfect system, and I have been more or less playing it by ear. I also have not even begun to figure out which are the best organizations to file these "taxes" with. The piggy-bank is getting stuffed up, but more importantly, it forces me to think about everything I buy, and consider not just the sale price on the sticker, but the true cost to the environment. This in turn translates to less consumption, and that's how I can afford to raise my own consumption taxes, and why I have so much time to think this up in the first place.

The Big Idea
Suspicions


A while back I was stopped outside my sleepy little neighborhood train station for being a suspected terrorist. It's strange how some activities, such as unlocking your bike, seem suspicious, but a stranger lurking outside the barbwired fence of the train-yard, snapping photos for fifteen minutes didn't even raise an eyebrow.

Preparation

I've been running around like a cockatiel who just got their toe slammed in the cage door (I imagine it's similar to a chicken with it's head cut off). On top of a fast approaching programming deadline, getting my visa and housing arangements in order for Sweden, and getting ready to move out of here, I am faced with the paralizing idea of having my photos in real-life flesh-and-blood prints on display. What should be as simple as burning a CD, and taking it to the corner camera shop to get the photos printed, has taken hours of my time. When the CD gets burned right, the photos are too large and the prints are terrible quality. When I figure out the right size to make the photos so they fit on the paper, the images can't be read from the CD. When they can be read, the "one hour developing" takes over-night... Then I thought the photos looked a little small, so I decided to go bigger, which took another couple hours to figure out frame sizes and print sizes (because every place I call gives a different answer- I thought these things were standardized).

Anyway, it looks like I am going with the small prints since they fit best at the exhibition space, so that saves me some time, and I found a place (far away) that made prints I was satisfied with. I thought I had found a shop closer to home that I could try, but after dropping the CD off, and asking him to make sure that the CD is readable, he walked down the street to the place with the terrible quality prints from the other day!

Anyway, now I just have to find a theme, and some pictures that fit that theme.

It's interesting how I am so much more stressed out about this than I am about presenting photos on my site, despite the fact that probably more people see the photos on my site than will see them live. What's more, a poorly presented photo on the site is more permanent than the exhibition, which will only run for a week or so. Maybe I should start stressing out about the site too... clean up the design, only post photos that I think are "my best"...

Photo Exhibition Details (lifted from asbCreative)

Date - 6th June ~
Location - Antena Cafe, 2-14-2 Shimokitazawa JOW Building 4F
Map - http://www.sundown.jp/
Time - 5pm to 10pm

Kingyo

galleries

2003.08.04
2003.08.02
2003.04.21
2003.07.21
2003.07.19
2003.07.13
2003.07.08
2003.07.07
2003.07.05
2003.06.23
2003.06.21
2003.06.08