WTF Weekly for September 3, 2019

I have good news for podcast lovers: I’m finally working on another project in cooperation with someone I’ve known all my life and who knows how to bring a listener through a narrative to arrive at a point. It’s a slightly different type of podcast than I’ve done so far, but it should be fun.1

This time in WTF Weekly, I’ve tossed in one or two links that aren’t so much news as they are just interesting and informative. I think mixing it up a little is fine, and the goal of this site is not to provoke anxiety in the reader. News can do that.

So with that subtle rule change, let’s get into it.

Shotengai: Exploring the Nostalgic Pulse of Japan’s Local Shopping Streets

One of the virtues of living in Kagoshima in the late 70’s and early 80’s as a boy is that I got to wander aimlessly around a lot of city streets and shopping centers that are now affectionately considered nostalgic and old fashioned.

Much of downtown Kagoshima is covered (literally) by a wonderful shopping district known as Tenmonkan (天文館), an area I spent many a happy hour in as a boy. In Japan, certainly then but even now, children are perfectly safe wandering around by themselves, and take advantage of that fact of life I did.

Combine the security aspect with the excellent reliable transportation systems and you’ll understand why Tenmonkan was to me a wonderland of book stores, record shops, toy stores, and restaurants. Often I spent most of a day downtown by myself before hopping a crowded evening bus and heading back home.

Given my background, this piece really resonates with me. I believe I’d feel right at home in Osaka’s Tenjinbashisuji, for example.

Britain makes Alan Turing, the father of AI, the face of its 50-pound note

I don’t know which is worse, the fact that it took Britain until 2013 to pardon Alan Turing for being gay, or the fact that they pardoned him rather than saying “there’s nothing to pardon – this is not an offense that needs to be pardoned.”

Regardless, Turing’s contributions to society are finally being recognized, even though it’s just a tad bit later than desirable.

I finished reading the abridged version of Alan Turing: The Enigma earlier this year, and much of it was incredibly fascinating. Some of it wasn’t, and even the abridged version felt at times like it would never end, but I highly recommend it for the history of Alan’s early years and his work on the Enigma code breaking.

Walmart to stop some ammo sales, ask to not open carry guns

If any store in the US knows about how problematic our obsession with, nay, our worship of guns is, it’s Walmart. 22 people were killed at a Walmart in just a month ago, in what must surely be the capital of gun worship: Texas.

Naturally the NRA issued a statement decrying Walmart’s move to eliminate certain types of gun and ammo sales, saying it makes no one safer and that Walmart is cowing to “elites” (apparently elites are people who don’t love guns more than humans).

Where was the NRA, exactly, when 22 people were getting pumped full of lead in a Walmart in El Paso? Maybe the people at Walmart aren’t cowing to elites so much as reacting in horror to a massacre that took place in one of their stores. Maybe they reacted as most normal humans would and decided that flesh and blood is more valuable than steel and powder. And maybe they have a vested interest in not putting money into the gun culture that keeps endangering their own employees.

I’d like to see Walmart eliminate their gun and ammo sales entirely, frankly.

Quietly, Japan has established itself as a power in the aerospace industry

SpaceX and Blue Origin get a lot of press, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Japan is active in the aerospace industry. Robotics and automated systems have long been Japan’s forte, something I know from years of experience in the semiconductor industry.

Any company involved in space gets extra credit from me for having the words “Heavy Industry” in its name.

Also not news to me, sadly, is that the aerospace industry in Japan, like almost everything else there, is dominated by men, with almost no serious roles for women at all. Some things don’t change quickly there.

2020 Democrats Will Discuss Climate Change in Prime Time. But Voters Want More Than Talking

In a stunning turn of events, voters in the US are finally waking up to the fact that climate change might be bad for them, and they want their elected officials to recognize this as well.

Although I honestly fear we’ve already reached a tipping point from which there’s no return, we can and must look at behavior modification and mitigation technologies going forward. I don’t know if anything consequential will come of the voting public finally pulling their heads out of the sand, but one can only hope we all quit giving air time to climate deniers (and science deniers in general).

Hit me up on Twitter to yell at me about typos or to talk about anything I’ve included here.


  1. For me anyway; the listeners will have to decide for themselves.