Men taking their wives' last names is not uncommon in Japan

I find this story in USA Today about more American men taking their wives' last names (via kottke) rather interesting as a snapshot of gender attitudes. My impression of the American Male is that a lot of them are awfully defensive about their masculinity, much more so than men elsewhere, which explains the "sissy juice" comments received by Sam Van Hallgren (who, incidentally, is co-host of the one podcast besides This American Life that I listen to religiously, Filmspotting.)

In Japan, men have been taking their wives' last names for a long time. This may seem surprising in light of the view of Japanese society as being very male dominant. In fact, it's done for practical, usually business, purposes. If the woman's family has a well known business which is run as a family concern, and the man marrying the woman is going to enter, and eventually take over, that business, he is legally adopted by the woman's family and thus takes her surname along with it. This is called becoming a yo-shi. The word and concept is the same as for a child being adopted.

Twitter experiment ended

My Twitter experiment is over. It was sort of useful in tracking what I was doing when I was at a computer. It wasn't that good at tracking away from the computer

But I don't think I can continue to use it. It is so distracting, even if I turn off other twitters. But if I turn off other twitters it is just a little black box sitting there and feels lonely. So, I turn on other twitters...and so on and on.

Starting a Twitter experiment

I am one of the fairly large and vocal minority of people who are skeptical about the usefulness of Twitter. I don't see how it's better at communication with people I know than the phone, email, Skype (Skype IM is a very useful tool for people you are frequently on the phone with), IM, IRC channels, snailmail letters, what have you. And I am not that interested in what people I don't know are eating for dinner. Heck I'm not that interested in what people I do know are having for dinner, unless they can write it up and photograph it beautifully and give me the recipes (yay for food blogs).

My food blog as a blog lab, part 2: Advertising, monetization, ethics and such

Back in early November, I wrote about using my food blog, Just Hungry, as a lab or experimental platform for operating a monetized, sort-of-commercial, blog.

Since then I have put some more effort into deriving an income from Just Hungry. Here are some of my observations and such.

On the other hand, Babel gets it right

Last time I griped about the numerous ways in which the popular U.S. TV series Heroes got Japanese things so totally wrong. Over the weekend we finally got to see Babel. The merits of the movie as a movie aside (I liked it, sort of, though it left me a bit cold), as far as the Tokyo scenes were concerned I thought that they felt absolutely right. There might be some minor quibbles with some details of how Chieko (played by Oscar-nominated Rinko Kikuchi) and her friends act (though, not having been a Japanese teenager for some time, I really don't know how a typical 16-17 year old acts) but the atmosphere, the sets, and the way people generally behaved felt very natural.

The numerous Japanese problems in Heroes

I have been resisting downloading Heroes, the new 'hot' show this season on offer on American television, but since several people whose opinions I respect told me that it was awesome, I succumbed and got the season pass. It is a very good show overall. But the Japanese aspects of it are mind bogglingly wrong - I'm talking Memoirs of a Geisha (the movie, not the book) level wrong - a real shame considering that it's quite obviously influenced by manga, anime and graphic novels. It's also the type of show that would probably do very well in Japan (where Dark Angel had a very strong cult following).

(spoilers below)

Amazon Unbox? Not even if you pay me to use it

Here's a way in which opt-in, almost-everyone-is-allowed web site monetization schemes could skew how people talk about products and web services. When I checked into my Amazon Associates page today, there is a notice saying that I can earn "up to 10% commission" for promoting Amazon Unbox on my site. Since this is 1.5% higher than even the highest tier of regular Amazon commission rates, I'm pretty sure a lot of people will aggressively promote Unbox on their sites now.

I couldn't do this even if they paid me a 100% commission. Unbox is a horrible, horrible product, unlike most of the goods and services that Amazon offers. (Aside from Unbox I'm a very happy long time customer of the Amazon empire.) Its DRM scheme is so terribly restrictive as to be crippling, it's Windows only (and tied to only one machine), and the downloads are, in my experience, extremely slow. And just try uninstalling their mess of a software - it's a huge pain in the ass.

Pretty, pretty Mint v. 2.0

Mint, the highly addictive web site statistics program from Shaun Inman, has been upgraded to version 2.0, and it's prettier than ever. It now has bar graphs that show historical stats and a host of nice original Peppers (the Mint term for plugins). Here are the new features. But perhaps more importantly for the design-conscious, the interface has been injected with doses of black in addition to the shades of pale green, making it much bolder yet sleeker. It's a pure pleasure to behold. Who thought that a stats program could be eye candy?

This is not a post drooling about the iPhone

I have always been an early adopter of non-computer Apple products. I got two (yes, two) Newtons. As soon as I saw the first iPod, I put a pre-order in for one. (Unfortunately that original iPod was lost by someone, not me (cough) on a plane going from Atlanta to Orlando in 2005.) I have owned 3 iPods so far.

While the iPhone is very beautiful, I am not as enamoured of it as many people seem to be. This is partly due to the iPhone itself, and the choices made for it (closed system, grr), and partly due to my reluctance to put so much into a cell phone.

I own a cell phone, of course. It's a necessary evil of modern life. I think my current one is my 6th or 7th - I've lost count. I like it well enough - it is triband, so I can use it in the U.S. as well as Europe, it takes messages, I can text message on it okay, and so on. It even has a Walkman in it if I chose to use it, and I use it quite often as a backup camera. (It's great for sneaking shots in a store that doesn't allow you to shoot pictures.)

Grey, grey Zurich with a slightly rosy hue


I am pretty sure that the ancients started the winter festivals that have evolved into our modern Christmas, New Years and other holidays because winter can be so depressing otherwise. I feel this so much more in Switzerland than I did in New York, even after about a decade or so of living here off and on. Most years, if I had a choice, I'd go somewhere - anywhere but here - during January and February.

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