Picture time

I am, as the Twitter feed has suggested for a couple of days, back from Japan. (Some of you had no idea I was even over there! Which lead to one of the funniest Foursquare checkins I’ve ever had!) A fuller, more detailed trip report will follow soon — I promise — but I have put some photo galleries up for your perusal and enjoyment:

Please enjoy!

Is the future here yet?

I’m currently sitting in the World’s Tiniest Laundromat on Karasuma-dori in Kyoto, waiting for the wash and dry cycle of the giant incomprehensible machines to complete. This is an interesting down time for us; laundry day while traveling is generally boring, but this trip I’ve tried something new: I rented a pocket wifi hotspot, so amazing between that and Skype my iPhone works more or less just like it does at home. (Also, we seem to have entered an era where cell phones really do work all over the place – despite Japan’s notorious CDMA incompatibility, HSPA seems to have fixed everything. Assuming you’re willing to pay extortionate roaming fees, anyway.)

This has proven to be something of a boon for communications, and I strongly encourage anyone traveling with a smartphone to look into it.

It’s 2011. I am often fond of rhetorically asking whether we are living in the future yet. Sitting in a laundromat on the other side of the planet from home, composing a blog post with a wifi access point in my pocket, while the 70-something obasan next to me sends text messages on her phone, I can safely say that in this department at least, yes, we are living in the future.

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My big fat scandal

The Economist, Tipping Point: Removing the rot from the sport of emperors:

Bout-rigging has been alleged for decades. Retired wrestlers occasionally admit it. In 1996 two former wrestlers about to go public with evidence died of a rare respiratory illness within hours of each other (no wrongdoing was found). A statistical examination of bouts over 11 years by University of Chicago economists clearly identified rigged matches (to let borderline wrestlers retain their rank). Still, the JSA always denied foul play. The body even sued those who dared to disparage the sport of emperors, which traces its lineage back more than a millennium.

Today’s charges will be harder to evade. Evidence is provided by erased but reconstructed text messages on the mobile phones of a dozen wrestlers and stablemasters. These were confiscated by police during an investigation last year over sumo’s links to baseball betting (illegal in Japan) and ties to the yakuza, Japan’s mob. “Who do I owe a win to now?” one wrestler texted another last March. “Will you let me win at the next tournament? If not, I want the 200,000 back,” texted another in May, according to police leaks to the media.

Yomiuri Shimbun, Sumo rigging probe: Long slog ahead:

Getting to the bottom of the sumo match-fixing scandal that has plunged the ancient sport into what could be the biggest crisis in its history is certain to take much longer than expected because of difficulty analyzing evidence and uncooperative wrestlers, a special investigative panel has disclosed. All signs are pointing to a protracted effort to fully reveal the details of the scandal and decide on punitive action against wrestlers and others involved, according to the panel. The independent investigative body headed by Waseda University Prof. Shigeru Ito submitted an interim report Monday to an emergency meeting of the Japan Sumo Association at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Asahi Shimbun, Low-ranked wrestler played a key role in sumo scandal. Looks at the role of a 31 year-old sandanme wrestler named Enatsukasa, who may have been responsible for coordinating a lot of the match rigging. I include this mostly because it is the first time I’ve ever seen the term “dohyo diver” in print.

日本人は奇妙です

(Tech note: This is also a test to see whether the database can handle having unicode as part of the reference key…)

Edited to add: まじで?

素晴らしい製:

Compare and contrast the full-scale version:

The only way these could get any better is if some VW-sized walker tank were to come out and start shooting tennis balls at everyone.