Monday, 21 November 2005

The end starts here

Just got the bumpf through from the university for the resumption of my mba – uh oh... Up to now the 4 modules I have done were, apparently, ‘content’ modules, which seems to me to ones where they tell you what to study, like hr or something, and give you materials in order to do so. The new one is called research methods and is, as far as I can tell, an extended introduction and literature review for the dissertation – this wouldn’t be too bad if I had an idea as to what I want to study for the dissertation. But I don’t. Not even an inkling at the moment. I’ve spent the last six months letting my brain atrophy slowly and consequently all the knowledge gleaned from the first two years has seeped out of my ears, having a bay can do that to you. This could make life tricky for the next year or so. Bugger.

But on the plus side I now have a desk. This may not seem much but, and...well, ok, it isn’t much, but it is better than not having a desk. Up to now, when I have been studying, I have used the kitchen and shut the Guru in the living room with the tv and the video. This worked quite well as she got to relax and do not very much whilst pregnant (not that she was pregnant for two years, you understand) and I got to study in reasonable quiet. But this would not work with the youngster as well as he does not know how to be quiet, so I will need to need to be at the other end of the apartment with at least two closed doors between us. This has now been achieved as his room, which is still basically the storage room, is now ‘his room that is a storage room but now has a desk in it that I will use for the next year as he won’t need it yet’ room. Or something. Anyway it is a desk I can finally call my own for a year – I even have my books on it, as well as the (now) dreaded dissertation study guide.

Still, could be worse, I could have bought am apartment design by a slack arsed architect by the name of Aneha. For those of you not in Japan, this has been the big news of the weekend and has got not a few worried. As you might be aware, Tokyo is built on some slightly unstable land, prone to all manner of natural disasters, especially earthquakes. With this in mind there are some fairly stringent rules and laws regarding the building of apartment blocks and public buildings, with what are supposed to be reasonably good back ups to check blueprints and what not. This works fine until the architect of a building, for reasons I’m not quite sure if yet, decides to falsify the data on the buildings he has designed. These buildings are not some pokey little dives that no one really cares about, but big blocks with supposed state of the art construction to withstand all but the mightiest of tremblors, also Mr Aneha was a apparently a top notch architect who had all the right bits of paper issued by the construction boffins to say he was legit. Having now checked why he did it, it is safe to say that he is a lazy bugger, by the look of it, but don’t take my word for it, as he says, "I had many complicated jobs. I wanted to make those jobs less complicated," he said. "I falsified data for the first time in 2002." Oh, that’s ok then.

What makes it just a little bit worse is that all plans for these things have to be scrutinised by a government approved scrutinist to make sure no is mucking up the calculations and therefore indulging in sloppy practices. And the Aneha design consultancy sent off their plans to be checked. And they were. And they were returned with the stamp of approval. Oops. So these buildings got built and all the happy purchasers moved in and began their lives as owner-occupiers.

For some reason, then, some bod at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure & Transport decided to go over the structural strength calculations for one of these buildings and discovered, alarmingly, that it would fall down in a magnitude 5 earthquake. Now a magnitude 5 is a pretty strong one, but not quite up there with, for example, the Niigata earthquake of last year or the Hanshin quake of ’95, so not small but not a real biggy, certainly one that an apartment building built in the last 5 years should be able to withstand. So this bod, obviously committed to his work, checked a few more of Aneha’s buildings and found that 13 of them (12 apartment blocks and a hotel) are structurally unsafe.

No one seems to be sure at the moment quite what the comeback for the people who bought these apartments is. If they all try to sure Mr Aneha then he will go bankrupt and no one will get a penny. The government would seem to be somewhat liable as they should have checked all the data thoroughly before giving the go ahead – but they seem to be blaming the architects. What about the construction firms that built the places, surely they must have realised that these buildings didn’t meet the usual standards? Possibly, and here the owners might have a way in as there is a law stating that any building found to have structural defects within 10 years of being built must be repaired by the builder. But here I fear that the builders will argue that they followed the plans and therefore there is a problem with the plans, not the building.

Anyway this one looks like it will run and run and has certainly got the apartment buying public just a little worried.

On a lighter note, George Dubya was in town recently for a pow wow with the Kool Kid before they both jetted off to Korea for an APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation gang(I think)) summit. Two things made me smile about this. First, as Bush arrived at the airport he was met not by the Kool Kid but by the Foreign Minister (ok there), but also by the owner of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks baseball team (uh huh...) and Bobby Valentine, the manager of the Japan series baseball champions Chiba Lotte Marines (wha?). Most powerful man in the world, defender of democracy, leader of the free world, met by a baseball manager. Riiiight. (OK, fair do’s, they knew each other from when Bush, after proving useless as an oilman and before proving useless as a President was proving himself to be not that effective as a baseball club owner – but come on).

Secondly, after this summit a statement was issued that, amongst other things included a thinly veiled attack on the EU for its protectionist agricultural policies. They have a point, obviously, as the CAP (or whatever it is called now) does its job pretty well in protecting French farmers (and no doubt those of the UK, Germany and elsewhere, I suspect). But what made me raise my eyebrows and smirk was that Japan should be one of the authors of this statement – Japanese rice kept at artificially high prices so the Japanese farmers don’t go out of business? Not protectionist, as such, more facilitating a livelihood that is part of the culture of the country.

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