Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Google plus

Google+ is here!! Eventually a social networking site from Google, as expected!!

I am on facebook. Not that I am going to move to Google+ immediately but I certainly want to have a look at what GOOGLE has come up with.

I immediately took a demo. Here are 2 features I found interesting.

Google Plus tour screen

Circles (You can group your contacts using circles)
Well this is exactly I found Facebook lacked in clarity during its initial days. In real life, you don’t share everything about you with everyone you know. There are circles and circles within circles! With facebook, you can do that eventually by using groups but it wasn’t intuitive took me little time figuring it out.

Huddle (You can start a SMS conversation with a group)
Although many smart phones allow you to do it already, I haven’t seen this functionality in any social networking yet.

On the contrary “Hangouts” is something I felt not good from a point of view of keeping your users interested. I said that because as in real life, if these hangouts are public, and someone you really don’t want in, tries to jump in then the spirit of hangout gets killed. I am really interested in how this feature is received.

Although the site is not open it for everyone yet, you can register your email address to be kept posted.

Facebook is certainly picking up in Japan against some local social networking sites. Will be interesting to see how Google plus performs here.

I am looking forward to it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Longest summer ever for Japan

Because of the March Tohoku earthquake and loss of Fukushima nuclear reactor and damage to its supply lines, Tokyo Electricity Power Company (TEPCO) is in very difficult situation this year.

And so are most of its customers.

It has asked all it's customers to cut 15% electricity consumption this summer. If you have been to Japan during peak summer (July, August) you know that how much torture it is to be here during this period. Maximum temperature rises up to 40 degree Celsius and humidity never allows you to go anywhere.

Companies and businesses already have started saving electricity from March. They are undertaking many steps including

  • Dimmed lighting. Removing tube lights and bulbs from their sockets.
  • Stopping some of the elevators.
  • No overtime policy.
  • Merging their staff on single floor and shutting off empty floors entirely.
  • Work from home.
  • Less or no electric displays for advertising.
  • Shortened business hours.
And the most painful...
  • Setting air conditioner temperatures at around  26 to 28 degrees.

My own company is following most of the above and has decided to shut down entire offices across Tokyo region for couple of weeks by giving extended summer vacation to the employees.

Yahoo and many major news sites have live feeds for electricity consumption monitoring like below.

Live feeds on electricity consumption (Actual and projection). Source:
Upper part of the graph is the graph for today and projected peak for coming week.
Lower part is the actual and projected peak timings for entire week.

As you can see, today (28th June) maximum usage peaked at 99%. Today's maximum temperature was ONLY 31 degrees and yet consumption reached 99% of TEPCO capacity!! Imagine what will happen when the temperatures cross 35 or reaches near to 40 degrees. If this graph crosses 100% then there are certain blackouts!!

Everything is not bleak for everyone though. Many companies are making good business on this too. Like Toshiba. LED bulbs similar as shown here which consume up to 90% less electricity than conventional bulbs are making sales like never before.

We started switching off lights, stop using AC and use the fan instead since April this year. Our reduced electricity bill was the only "consolation prize". But it seems clear now that even all these steps are not going to be sufficient to provide stable electricity supply in Tokyo region this year.

Hospitals, nursing homes, families with newborns, sick or disabled people in their homes are going to be at the highest risk. For a city once ranked 3rd in the world for its livability, this summer is going to test limits of some of its capabilities. It has been a year of strange weather in Japan since winter. Let's hope the summer is also *strange* and does not cross 35 degrees.

I am really praying that TEPCO succeeds in avoiding blackouts. But I am not going to take risk and preparing for darker nights and hotter days is what I am going to do this weekend!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tokyo is safe

There has been lot of misinformation spreading in and outside Japan.

People who are already afraid and want to justify their fears are simply looking for reasons to support their beliefs and calling on so called conspiracies to hide the facts from people. Recently some of the people around me became illogical enough to claim that Fukushima nuclear waste is being treated in Tokyo.

To stay or to leave is individual decision. Just let it be an informed one not a *contracted* one.

Independent Geiger counter readings from across the Japan:

Data from government labs taking daily readings on fallout and water radiation levels:

Updates from IAEA:

By the way, before you decide that you are taking too much radiation (which you are not if you are outside Fukushima prefecture) consider following.

  • Anywhere on earth, there is a constant  radiation called as natural background radiation. It differs from place to place. My home country has a place called Kerla where radiation is higher than even Fukushima surroundings. Japan is among those places where natural radiation is half of global average. So you are taking less radiation anyway by living here.
  • Even in your daily life if you use old PC monitors, if you have a smoke detector right above your head where you work, if you work in hospitals, labs or near electronics shop you take high radiation anyway.
  • If you smoke, drink too much, follow a unhealthy life style you may as well lose one of these habits and still able to avoid *ill* effects of this radiation whatsoever.
  • Despite all this if you decide to leave, consider where you are going. If the place you are going has more natural pollution, social or economic factors causing overall health degradation then you are achieving nothing.
Again, Tokyo is safe from radiation and the situation is not worsening. So spread the correct information not the fear.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Who is next?

Japan has had 5 prime ministers in last 5 years. And the current PM seems to be his way out too.

I first came to Japan just when PM Mori Yoshiro was about to leave. Looking back now, only Koizumi Junichiro seemed capable of driving this country with his charismatic influence.

My wife generally is quite blasé about politics unlike me. But the other day she asked me “How long does Japanese parliament is supposed to last? 2 Years” with very straight face. Since she is only here from the last term of Koizumi, it was obvious for a person not following politics to imagine that 2 years is the maximum for any Japanese prime minister.

In fact last 4 prime ministers could barely complete their 1st year in the office. One of them did not manage even that.

First from this list is Shinzo Abe.

His tenure as PM was uneventful overall and troubled by his agricultural ministers. His first agricultural minister committed suicide, second and third were center of financial scandals. He eventually passed his reign to Yasuo Fukuda after falling popularity. But before he left one important thing he started was opening active diplomacy with India which has continued till today.

Yasuo Fukuda

As suddenly as he became the prime minister, he left the office in a flash too. Especially after his tenure I started to get a feeling that why do all these high ranking politicians lack a simple common sense of staying out of controversy. After series of failures at parliament and controversies, again he decided to resign out of the blue.

Taro Aso

Born in the family of politicians and related to royal family it seemed that there is finally someone who can complete his tenure in the office. But was in the office when his party, Liberal Democratic Party was already loosing popularity. Their ousting was unavoidable.

Yukio Hatoyama

Well. He was the last person I thought would be PM of Japan. In fact even he himself had a look on face as if the surprise of becoming PM never went away. He became PM on the loads of high promises made by his party, Democratic Party of Japan, which obviously were too much to deliver. In Japan this was unforgivable.
His fashion sense was impeccable!! I mean a PM can wear THAT?? And nobody even advised him against it?

Hatoyama with his amazing fashion sense
Naoto Kan

As his predecessors, he also looked promising until the disaster struck. He made the disaster look lot worse. He even cried on live broadcast. He has been anything but inspiration for people suffering under such a great disaster.


I would certainly want to see Yukio Edano. He has been the face of defiance in the event of great Tohoku earthquake and while PM Kan was never to be seen, Edano was alone handling everything, including angry press, incompetent TEPCO and the relief operations. In my opinion, no one other than Koizumi has shown such a promise.

Anyway, whoever it may be, he/she (am I expecting too much?) should just complete the term!!