As I am about to permanently disassemble this computer and bring only the hard drives with me to Japan, where I will then assemble a new system after finding a place to live, I figure it would be a good time to post the various things that had been sitting around my desktop in case I ever found the time and motivation to write something about them.
- Genetic tests have shown that the Taiwanese aborigines are likely to be the ancestors of the entire Polynesian and Micronesian population, which also includes the Malay group, comprising the majority population of the three large countries of Malaysia, Indonesia and The Philippines. While study of archeology and linguistic variation, as well as phenotype analysis of modern populations, had led some researchers to suspect that the ancestors of most Pacific islanders were descended from the ancestors of the pre-Chinese Taiwanese aboriginal population (who themselves migrated across the Taiwan Strait thousands of years ago, when the Han Chinese probably still lived far to the north) but this genetic study provides the strongest evidence yet for the theory.
- Although Japan may be the only country in which a unique word exists for “chikan”, the phenomenon is hardly unique. I once linked to a New York Times article on the prolificicity of flashers or “bumpers” in the NYC subway, which likely occurs with frequency in any city with a crowded public transit system. Another place famous for it- Mexico City. Apparently the problem is bad enough so they have introduced women only buses, perhaps inspired by Japan’s women-only commuter train cars.
- U.S. anti-terrorism special operations forces assisting the Philippines military have contracted a Manila-based marketing firm to create comic books with an anti-terrorism message. American style superhero comics are extremely popular in the Philippines, but I am very skeptical that a marketing firm would be able to create a comic with a genuinely compelling story, regardless of how slickly produced the graphics and printing may be. I would love to actually see the comics though, which sound like a prime example of the force that American cultural products still carry in the country, over 60 years after colonialism officially ended there.
- Korean’s Chosun newspaper has a truly hysterical article entitled Manhattanites Served Korean Food as Japanese. Just read and laugh.
- “Samurai-Sword Maker’s Reactor Monopoly May Cool Nuclear Revival”. An amazing headline and a pretty amazing article. Apparently, Hokkaido’s Japan Steel Works Ltd. is the world’s largest-and virtually only-supplier of steel-cast nuclear reactor containment chambers, which naturally must be built to VERY exacting standards. Despite an apparently massive surge in demand for these massive products, the company is skeptical how many plants will actually be built in the end, and are therefore reluctant to make the capital investments required to raise their output above the current level of 4 pieces per year. Yes, FOUR. The fact that this single plant is a bottleneck for the global nuclear power industry seems to be the result of some past failure in strategic planning, but the solution is unclear. And yes, they really were a maker of samurai swords- and apparently still are!
“They’re made in a traditional Japanese wooden hut, up a steep hill from the rest of the Muroran factory. It’s decorated with white zigzag papers called “shide” used in Shinto shrines, creating a sense of sanctity in the workshop.Inside, as the factory clangs and hisses below, Tanetada Horii hand-forges broad swords from 1 kilogram (2.2 pound) lumps of Tamahagane steel.”
- Suriname, the tiny South American nation which was formerly a Dutch colony has been searching for an appropriate national language. Currently this is Dutch-which is also used in government and law- but English has surpassed it for international business, and Sranan-a local language derived from an English creole-has surpassed it as the language of the street. The language situation gets even more complex:
“Slip into one of the Indonesian eateries known as warungs to hear Javanese, spoken by about 15 percent of the population. Choose a roti shop, with its traditional Indian bread, to listen to Surinamese Hindi, spoken by the descendants of 19th-century Indian immigrants, who make up more than a third of the population. And merchants throughout Paramaribo speak Chinese, even though the numbers of Chinese immigrants are small.Venture into the jungly interior, where indigenous languages like Arawak and Carib are still heard with languages like Saramaccan, a Portuguese and English-inspired Creole spoken by descendants of runaway slaves who worked on plantations once owned by Sephardic Jews.”
What is an appropriate common tongue in a country like this? When deciding on a common language, what weight is given to the linguistic history of the state itself, the background of the people, ability to communicate with (much larger) neighboring countries or international business?