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Comments on aspects of designs, from shared links to techniques. This is more about opinion than hard-and-fast facts.

Graphic of the outline of Major Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell

Subbed, dubbed and the wider question of what gets lost in translation

October 19, 2021

Subbed or dubbed? It’s an important question for those of us who enjoy “Foreign Films”. On the one hand, dubbed is easier to watch as the audio is in a familiar language. On the other, dubbing often sounds forced and lacks the nuance of the actor’s delivery in their native tongue.

My first encounter with foreign media was through dubbed translations. I saw many films, from classic Godzilla to Das Boot, with English voice actors speaking the dialogue. Sometimes it felt stilted, but I accepted this as a small price to pay for enjoying a well-made piece of entertainment.

Photograph of a USB charger with various cables, beside an Apple power block

I have dozens of cables. Forcing a common standard won’t stop me getting more.

October 1, 2021

If the EU gets its way, there will be a common charging port on your mobile devices soon. Plans are afoot to standardise and do away with the pesky variety of cables and chargers clogging up our lives. The justification is to reduce waste. A noble cause.

Yet I'm not convinced plans to "force" phone companies to adopt a single port technology is the right answer. Over the past 3 years I've bought several mobile devices for testing and personal reasons, and the charging ports all fall into 3 camps:

Graphic showing a comparison of 2019-21

A reminder: we’re on the path to recovery, not at the end

September 28, 2021

Regular readers may recall I keep an eye on trade between Japan and the UK. After a few rumbles about "dramatic" growth in trade, I went back to my (official) sources.

Needless to say, things were a bit weird in 2020. Japan's Covid slump was already in full flow when the UK's kicked off in the Spring of '20. The rapid growth in '21 is against that backdrop.

Photograph of a river plain with tall green grassed in the foreground, a ridge with houses in the midground and mountains looming in the background

A walk along the river plain

September 22, 2021

This is where I live. If you squint hard, you can see my house.

I’ve been looking out across the valley every morning for the past 9 months. My ambition has been to walk around along the river that winds its way from a lake up in the mountains to meet the Myohoji river. I tried it once, only to find my way blocked by Japan’s obsession with turning every riverbank into concrete.

Can Japan’s Digital Agency overcome a lacklustre start and transform a nation?

September 6, 2021

Japan's digital agency has launched to much fanfare. The agency is tasked with transforming the country's archaic bureaucracy into a streamline, fit-for-the-21st-century administration. It should make participating in society and doing business far easier than the current world of paper and hanko stamps.

The launch was less than inspiring. Digital is renowned for being bright and energetic. The press conference was a dry, dull and dreary affair. It wasn't helped by the distinct lack of digital inclusion. No fancy launch for this digital agency: the minister held up a card with a text logo, looking distinctly 20th Century in the process.

Graphic showing squares of an image of a boy by a sales bin in a supermarket

A Walmart candy bin, a meme and a big lie

August 27, 2021

"A lady took her son to the supermarket..." starts the post. I'm sure you've seen it, and variations of it, as it does the rounds. It explains how the son organised a messy candy bin, and how better companies could be if they hired people with "Asperger's Syndrome".

A noble cause. Perhaps. Only there is a small problem.

Photograph of the cruise ship Diamond Princess taken in August 2016 at Yokohama pier

Diamond Princess: august 2016

August 24, 2021

How was I to know the subject of this holiday snap would become international news? It's August of 2016 and my wife and I are enjoying a walk around Yokohama's docks. In the distance is a cruise ship far larger than any I'd seen before. I took a couple of photos as we chatted about it and then moved on. Lunch awaited, if I remember correctly.

Roll forward to early 2020 and the "plague ship" headlines. Thousands of passengers and crew were trapped aboard a cruise ship as an outbreak of the new "Coronavirus" was reported. Passengers were confined to their cabins to contain the outbreak. Many complained about the "poor service" they received, blind to the same disease running through the crew. And as they endured, Japanese Health Officials struggled to contain the outbreak. This was before Covid-19 became a pandemic, and information about how the disease was spread and evolved was in short supply.

Graphic showing euro notes moving towards a rising sun representing foreign direct investment in Japan

Is Japan ripe for foreign investment?

August 17, 2021

While working on a commission I came across a snippet of data that caught my interest. Japan's inward foreign direct investment (FDI) is shockingly low.

The dollar amounts barely register: $10.3 billion in Covid hit 2020, $13.7bn the year before. Amongst the G20 countries the mean was $33.7bn and $45.7bn. At no point in the past decade has Japan managed to attract more than $20 billion annually in inward FDI.

Graphic showing a Honda E electric vehicle amidst bright colours

A smaller workforce: the inevitable consequence of EVs

August 10, 2021

Roughly 5% of Honda Japan's workforce opted for early retirement. This isn't about Coronavirus, it's about the growing realization car manufacturers need far fewer people in an electrified future.

Electric Vehicles have far fewer moving parts than their fossil fuelled counterparts. Simpler to build, they need fewer people on the production line. How much smaller the workforce needs to be is still open to debate, although 30-50% seems to be the consensus.

Viet Nam’s lockdown is a global shipping problem

August 4, 2021

Viet Nam is having a tough time. Early success in containing Covid-19 has been undone by a surge of cases. Ho Chi Minh City is under lockdown and numerous production lines are suspended or scaled back significantly.

If you think this means you'll see fewer Nike trainers or Samsung phones in the shops you're half-right. In recent years, Hanoi has worked hard to turn the country away from being a sweatshop for fast fashion. Increasingly it's seen as a destination of choice for high-tech manufacturing and R&D.

Constructivism inspired illustration about unfollowing inactive Twitter accounts

Lessons from unfollowing inactive Twitter accounts

July 27, 2021

Over the past few days I’ve been cleaning up my Twitter profile. One change is a clear-out of the people I follow: I’ve been unfollowing accounts that are no longer active. What’s the point of following someone who said nothing in the past 3 months? Or five years?

Long ago Twitter blocked tools that would automatically unfollow, so I’ve been going through the 700+ inactive accounts by hand. Thankfully there’s Circleboom to do the heavy lifting for me and pick out the potentially dead accounts. This is what I found.

Photograph of Thank You banners for NHS staff hanging from Regent Street during London Lockdown

“Freedom Day” : an experiment in common sense from those without it

July 20, 2021

An important scientific experiment is taking place right now. Run by a former banker with an Ayn Rand fixation, England is experimenting with trusting people’s common sense in the middle of a global pandemic. Already the results are high on the irony scale, with the vaccinated architect falling ill with the virus, and anti-lockdown protests on the day the lockdown was lifted.

The parameters for this pseudo-experiment haven’t been published. Perhaps the aim is to boost UK exports with new variants of the virus. Maybe it’s helping lift an ailing economy with a temporary boost to consumer spending. It could be to stress test the NHS again, because it’s been a few hours since that last happened.

Photograph of laptop on a table with a mug of coffee and TV remote nearby

Working from home: here we go again

July 12, 2021

Where we work has become another source of division in our splintered society. On the one hand, we have those proclaiming the pandemic is over and we must now return to our offices. Facing them are the “work from home” advocates who point to improved personal productivity and the desire to find a healthy balance between work and home.

Some of us have seen this before, albeit not in the same splintered, factional fashion. In the mid-90s groupware such as Lotus Notes tried to normalise remote working. Then we had the “Internet” in the mid-2000s. Now our greatest driver of change is an invisible virus.

Photograph of abandoned white goods in Kobe, with plants growing up and around it

Fly tipping in Japan

July 4, 2021

Japan has a much-deserved reputation for being clean and tidy. Although there are few bins, little litter is seen on the streets. A walk in the local park isn't accompanied by the usual plastic bottles and bags I was used to in the UK. All of this without bins on every street corner.

We just take our rubbish home.

KLM airplane at the stand in Kansai airport

A flight to Japan: my experience emigrating in the middle of a pandemic

June 21, 2021

In October 2020 we finally realised our long-term plans and moved to Japan. This is peak pandemic, Japan was closed off to most of the world, and there was no vaccine to speak of.

At the time I tweeted my experience, which a couple of people found helpful. Things have moved on a little, although my understanding is much of what we experienced is still in place today. I hope these notes are helpful.

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