Thursday, July 31, 2008

Videos from Japan

Here are some more random videos from Japan. This first one is water art in a place called canal city in Fukuoka Japan.

Canal city is a famous mall in Fukuoka. I don't know if I would go all that way just to see water art, but I got to say that it is damn cool. It is amazing what people can do with computer and the knowledge that things fall at 9.8 meters a second.

The second and last video contains some Japanese music.

That is the taiko and, as you can see, it is a big and impressive drum. I once got a chance to play one, but after a while it just ended up hurting my head. I think that I will stick with shamisen.

That's it for today, but I am sure I will be back again before I have to head to English camp on Tuesday. Until next time!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I hope that I spelled that right. Any way, I am going to take a little time off form the blog while I get things in my life back together. I know that seems serious, but it's not really. I just got to find time to do things like clean my apartment and hobble around town. I am going to take the rest of this week off. Also, next week I have English camp so I will have no computer access.

Well, the camp week will totally be off, but I will throw up random small things throughout this week. Nothing that will be following the format that I put forth a couple a weeks ago. It's only been a couple of weeks but I am already breaking it out. But, fear not dear readers, I will be back to the planned format after English camp.

Any way... something random.

It explains itself really. A lot of the English used in Japan is just funny. Enjoy.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Day July 28th, 2008

As you have probably guess by looking at the title of this post, I will not be doing any news tonight. The reason is because I had an extremely long and trying day.

Actually everything started last night. You see, yesterday I had a shamisen practice with a lot of other shamisen students. This is a rare thing so a party was planned for after the practice. That would normally be a good thing, right? Well in this case that's not true. It was a good party, but about halfway though the evening people started singing karaoke. Since everyone was drunk people were dancing. I was told to go dance, so I did. In the middle of a perfect rendition of a cancan something bad happened. I put my right leg down on the ground and slipped. I ended up putting all of my weight on the right knee. That was followed by a lot of snapping noises and pain.

Let me tell you, there is no better way to get sober really quick than a lot of pain. I stumbled off the dance floor and went to sit down. I found that I couldn't really walk at all. I had to get around by dragging my ass on the tatami. Not a convenient way to get around, bit it worked. After the party someone was kind enough to give me a ride home. When I got home I crawled my way up the stairs and fell asleep with my right hand on my right knee.

During the middle of the night I had to go downstairs and I found that there was no easy way to do that. I ended up going down stairs on my ass as well. Now that was painful. I ended up sleeping on my first first just because I didn't want to go back upstairs.

In the morning I took time off from work to go to the hospital. I couldn't find the place my teacher suggested so I went to the closest one. It was one hell of a long wait but I got some cold patches for my knees and some pain killers (yay for pain killers).

Any way so today had a major meeting. I was told it would be at 2:30 but my boss ran in panicking around 1:45 and said that he was wrong and it actually started at 1:30. I never felt like smacking someone so much in my life. Any way it took me about 10 minutes to limp to the building that the meeting was in. I had to limp from group to group to make sure everything was going smoothly for everyone.

After that I saw the teacher that recommended the hospital that I should have went to. She drew me a map and I was off to the hospital again. I get to the hospital and I filled out a lot of forms and waited yet again. I wish I could add up all that time I waited today and use it for something good. I see the doctor and he takes some x-rays. All I can hear him say in the other room is "this is not good." That is not something you want to hear your doctor say!

He comes back to me and tells me I have osteoarthritis of my right knee. Arthritis at 30! What the hell! He showed me the x-ray of my knee and it was very pointy where it was suppose to be very smooth. They said I should use the cold patches and pain killers from the other doctor. They were going to give me a brace, but there was no brace there that would have fit my legs. Damn the Japanese and their tiny legs!

I just got to take it easy and let it heal up a little. Osteoarthritis never really heals, but if there is no pain than it really is the same thing as being healed in my book. If all goes well I will be back on my feet and walking straight in about a week. I hope.

I guess since it is science day I will talk about Osteoarthritis a little bit. Osteoarthritis is actually the most common form of arthritis. It is caused when the cushions between two bones in a joint get worn down and the bones start rubbing on each other. The cushion is actually made from a slippery version of cartilage. Osteoarthritis is a common cause of water on the knee. This happens when liquid such as blood or any other body fluid starts building up in the knee. It can severely limit the motion of the knee joint.

Any way I really don't want to talk any more about it.

Talk to you all later.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

JJNN Sunday: Leftovers - 03

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday July 27th, 2008. Today we will be taking about and old Japanese comic book artist.

This year is the 80th anniversary of the birth of a man called Tezuka Osamu. Tezuka Osamu is a Japanese animator and comic book artist who created many famous characters. His most famous character is probably Astro Boy (The Mighty Atom or tetsuwan atom). You might not know the name, but you have probably seen the character around. Here is a picture.

Every year in the beginning of August in Nara (a city in southern Japan) an event called Nara Toukae. This year it will go on from August 5th to 14th. The point of the event is making giant art with candles. They set up the candles and than light them at night to create pictures with the fire. This is a picture of what it looks like from the ground.

So, what does this have to do with Tezuka Osamu? Well as a test for this years Nara Toukae they decided to created fire art as a tribute to Tezuka Osamu. They made giant candle art featuring a character from one of his stories called "Hi no Tori." The name of that work literally means "Fire Bird." I can't think of anything better to make out of the light from the candle fire. You can see a picture of the art below.

It is made with just about 3500 candles. In the background you can see two famous Nara landmarks: Todaiji and Nandaimon. The art itself is in Nara Park. Beautiful, isn't it?

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 火の鳥(ひのとり). It is pronounced Hi no Tori and means Fire Bird. I don't really know a lot about the comic book, but I would assume that the "fire bird" is actually a phoenix. That is the English name of that comic book. If you are interested you can check it out here.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

JJNN Saturday: Pseudoscience - 03

Welcome again to JJNN for Saturday July 26th, 2008. Today we will be taking about belts made of photons and the end of the world.

Do any of you remember when I talked about joining that class on dowsing? Well, every so often I talk with them just for a kick. In the end it always makes me a little depressed to realize that people actually think in the way they do, but they always give me something to talk about on Saturday.

Earlier this week the leader of the dowsing group sent me an email containing a report on some wacky topic. I didn't bother to read the report, but I figured the least I could do was click the link. I was promptly greeted with this website. I thought that it didn't look that bad so I kept reading only to find out that there is a chance that all of humanity will be wiped out in 2012!

What's a man to do!? I only have just over 4 years to live! Should I be running around and panicking in the streets? Should I dress up like a superhero of some sort and try to get rid of all the evil people in the world so that the rest might be saved? Or maybe I should look into why we all might die.

I randomly decided on the last option. So, why do you think that we are all going to die? Do you think it will be a 4 horse man apocalypse? Do you think a giant comet will hit the earth? Well, apparently, this does have something to do with space. According to these people on December 23rd of the year 2012 the Earth will enter a doughnut shaped belt of photons.

Oh man! Photons! Those little buggers are deadly. I saw a man get hit in the eye with one of those one time and you do not want to know what happened to him. Wait a sec... Photon... That's light! Well, actually, more than just visible light can be made up of photons. Things such as gamma rays, microwaves and radio waves are also made up of photons.

So how are these photons suppose to wipe out humanity? Apparently, a huge belt of photons are in orbit around the Pleiades (a star cluster in the constellation of Taurus). Every 11000 years the earth enters the belt and it takes 2000 years to get to the other side. When the Earth enters the photon belt all electronic equipment will be fried and the Earth will go though a couple of days of either total darkness or total light. The energy from the photons is suppose to change our DNA and evolve us into something different (or wipe us out).

Sounds plausible, right? Not hardly. Sure photons like gamma rays have the power to mess with our DNA and cause mutations. I will give them that. But, the major problem with their argument is the fact that there is a static belt of photon energy hanging out there that the Earth rams into every so often. If we were talking space debris I would say that that is possible but we are talking about photons here.

Why can't there be a belt of photon radiation? Well, for one thing, there are photons everywhere. It would have to be more of a blanket than a belt. But, lets say that the photons in the photon belt are special somehow. They have the magic power to change humans (and I would suppose other animals and plants) every time we venture close to them. Even with that assumption (yes, I did just make an ass out of u and mption) if you look at there claims you would notice that something else is really really wrong with this. The Earth hits this belt every 11000 years. That means that those photons are motionless out there and we careen into them. Well than, it seems they have named the belt wrong because photons move at the speed of light. The speed of light is very fast. A photon can go from the Earth to the moon in about a second or from the Earth to the sun in about 7 minutes. This all means that there can not be a static belt of photons.

Let's say that instead of a static belt that the Pleiades release a burst of radiation in the form of photons every 11000 years and that lasts for 2000 years. It would take a long time for that radiation to reach the Earth (about 440 years because the Pleiades are 440 light years away). Let's say that about 440 years ago the Pleiades did release that burst of radiation and is still releasing it now. So, what happens? Well nothing. The radiation will be in the form of visible light, microwaves, radio waves and the like. Nothing that can really harm us. In fact the Pleiades have been releasing radiation in this form for the last 100 million years or so.

But, what if the Pleiades gets it into its mind to be evil for a little while and release a lot of very bad things? Well, first of all, I don't see any reason it would suddenly change the way it is releasing its photon energy. But, if it did most of the bad stuff (along with most of the visible light) will be scattered off the dust that surrounds the Pleiades and not do anything here on Earth. All in all, I think 2012 will be a normal year.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 星(ほし). It is pronounced hoshi and means star. I always liked looking up at the starts when I was a kid in Maine. It is really too bad that I live in a city now where I really can't do that. I have to drive out to the country to see the starts now. Maybe I will go out tonight if it is not cloudy and see what I can see up there.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN

Friday, July 25, 2008

JJNN Friday: Technology - 03

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday July 25th, 2008. Today we will be taking fatigue.

You know, lately I have been tired. If I am not running around for work I am running around in my personal life. Also, I spend a lot of time in the office next to the air conditioner so I think that I might be coming down with some sort of summer cold. But, enough about me. I want to talk about this.

It seems that there is a device to measure just about everything in Japan. The one in that article measures the amount of fatigue a person is currently experiencing. How do you think a device can measure fatigue? Well according to the article the device can figure out how tired you are just by listening to you talk. Cool huh?

The device was originally built for truck drivers and bus drivers. Basically the device will be used to see if a driver is actually fit to be behind the wheel. Probably a good thing to decrease the number of crashes caused by sleeping drivers.

The device seems to be simple to use. All you have to do is input information like how tired you are currently feeling, what time you went to bed last night, what time you woke up this morning, what time you started work and what time you ended work. After that you just have to talk into the microphone. The computer will than be able to tell how active your brain is by the way that you talk.

Well, what about this? You are a trucker that has been driving all day. You stop at a truck stop to fill up and some guy from your company or the government comes up to you with one of these devices. You are really tired, but you only have a little while to go and have to finish the delivery soon. What would you do? Well if you knew about the system you would try to speak in a perky voice to fool the computer, right? Well, that won't work on this device. It will see right though your act. Again, in the end that is a good thing I guess.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 疲労(ひろう). It is pronounced hirou and means fatigue. If I weren't going out tonight I would get some sleep to get rid of this fatigue. Oh well, to quote an old friend of mine, "I can sleep when I am dead."

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN

Thursday, July 24, 2008

JJNN thursday: Culture - 03

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday July 24th, 2008. Today we will be taking about how hot it is out there.
Yes folks, it's hot. And on top of that it's humid. A dastardly combination that I have come to hate. So what do you do when it is really hot? Do you sit under your air conditioner and drink cold iced tea? Do you go and take a cold shower? Do you set up a tent in front of your refrigerator with the door open? To me, those sound like very good things to do when it's hot.
As it turns out in Japan it is not quite the same. The Japanese (at least the ones around where I live) like to sweat when it is really hot. They will eat a really spicy curry or drink some hot coffee. That makes no sense to me what so ever. Personally, I try to avoid sweating in front of people at all costs. But, maybe that is just me.

The Japanese also like to eat eel when it gets really hot. There is a special time of the year, which happens to start today, on which lots of Japanese people eat eel. The name of this special day is doyou ushi no hi. I don't think I will be running out for some eel, but if I happen to get some I will still eat it.

It turns out that are 4 doyou a year
. Doyou are the traditional last 18 days of a season. You many be wondering why it is called Doyou? Well, it's actually rather interesting. All of the seasons traditionally have one of the 5 elements associated with it. Spring is wood, summer is fire, fall is metal, and winter is water. Wait a sec! 4 seasons and 5 traditional elements. What about the 5th element? Well, as you probably have already guessed, that 5th element is earth. But, where does earth go? Earth's place ends up being at the last 18 days of every season. That way all the elements are separated nicely and earth gets to play a role. The word doyou means dealing with the earth. This year the summer doyou is from July 24th to August 5th. 

Well, that's all well and good, but what does that have to do with eel, right? Actually, nothing. The fact that one traditional season is ending has nothing to do with eel. So, why do Japanese people eat eel on doyou no ushi no hi? That is a good question. There are many answers to that question, but the one most people believe is the story about a person that was running a failing eel restaurant hundreds of years ago. The restaurant owner went to this person named Hiraga Gennai with his problem. Gennai thought about it for a second and remembered a folk story he once heard that said if you eat food that starts with u on ushi no hi you will never look to the heat of summer. It just so happens that in Japanese eel is called unagi. Gennai told the man to put a sign into his window that says that it is ushi no hi and the customers poured in. Marketing genius! Ever since than Japanese people have been eating eel during the summer time. You can see a picture of what people eat below. 
There is one problem with that this year. It turns out that the price of a nice eel meal is going up. One meal like that has gone up over 200 yen in most places. There are many reasons why the prices are going up. The most pressing one is because of the fuel prices of the boats that get the eels. And than, of course, there is the fact that they have been over catching eels for a long time and we are starting to run out of them. 

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 鰻(うなぎ). It is pronounced unagi and means eel. I remember the first time that actually ate the Japanese eel. Everyone was saying it was so good, but I really didn't want to eat anything that looked like a snake. When I finally did try it I found out everyone was right and it was very good. Goes to show you that you just shouldn't be picky about trying new foods. Mmmm... monkey brains.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

JJNN Wednesday: Games - 02

Welcome again to JJNN for Wednesday July 23rd, 2008. Today we will be taking a look at games and being trendy.

Today is going to be a quick post because I have a "let's party to the point that we forget the fact that it is so damn hot out" party tonight. That means I am here at just past 5 AM trying to think coherently and type at the same time. This post is for the gamers out there that are proud that they are gamers. It's for those gamers that get up in the morning and think to themselves "You know, I like game and I want the world to know that I like games." The original story can be found here.

Playstation put out a new line of clothes and other accessories that would make any gamer proud. The think that I like the most about these things though is that they are subtle. I mean there is a big difference between a gamer that goes around wearing a loud tie with a video game character on it and a bright hat that has a video game logo plastered on it and these clothes. I mean take a look at this shirt with a playstation logo on it.

A person that wears this shirt makes the statement "I'm a gamer, but I am not in your face about it." There are definitely extra points to be had for people that are willing to show they love something but not wanting to be in everyone's face about it. The same goes for the playstation signature watch shown below.

If I didn't already have a nice watch I would think about getting that watch. Not because it is a playstation watch, but because it just looks cool. There is more than just fashion being sold in the playstation signature store. There are traditional items of geekery like fashionable PSP covers and PSP stands. There are also things like wallets, notebooks and mugs. I don't know if they ship out of Japan, but it is definitely worth taking a look. You can find it at

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 腕時計(うでどけい). It is pronounced ude-dokei and means wrist watch. My watch is a Casio G-shock. A little expensive but it is a good watch. I love how it can set its own time and charge itself up with a tiny solar panel that runs around the edge of the display.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

JJNN Tuesday: Entertainment - 02

Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday July 22nd, 2008. Today is entertainment day.

I won't keep you in the dark about today's news story. Today I will be talking about shadow art (man that was bad). The original story can be found here. A city in central Japan called Gero city built the first place in all of Japan were people can come and see shadow art. The name of the place is Gero-onsen-gasshou-mura. That is a mouthful so I will just tell you the gist of the name. I means the Gero spa prayer village. Now, this doesn't actually have anything to do with prayer, it is just a weird name for a place.

The point of this new place is to let the locals and anyone else that wants to visit know more about the area. They will use shadow art to tell the stories that have been passed down in the area. They will also be educating everyone about other famous places in the area. I am thinking this would be a good place to take elementary school students for a filed trip. Below you can see a picture of some of the shadow artists at work (I think those are foxes).

The group that is going to be putting on the performances is called Kakashi-za. They are fairly well known in Japan it seems. Take a look at some of the stuff they can do.

This next clip is from a music video. It takes a little while before the shadows come up, but when they do come up it looks good.

The shadow art shown in the two clips is a little bit different from the art that can be seen in Gero city. The two clips are more for entertainment value than anything else, but the art at Gero city is part of a story they want to hand down to the next generation. People have to go to great lengths to hand down culture now days.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 影絵(かげえ). It is pronounced kage-e and means shadow art. I think the only shadow I can make is a bunny, and even that looks a little bit sickly.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Monday, July 21, 2008

JJNN Monday: Science - 02

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday July 21st, 2008. Today is science day, but today is also a day off for me so it is lazy science day.

Today's news story can be found here. In southern Japan there is a prefecture named Hyogo prefecture. In south-western Hyogo prefecture there is a town called Sayou-chou. Sayou-chou is known for for a couple of things, but during this time of year everyone is talking about the sunflowers there. You can see a picture of what the sunflowers look like now below.

Looks nice, huh? All of the sunflowers are now in full bloom and everyone is going to go see them. The sunflower festival will go on until August, 3rd. You might want to buy your tickets now so that you can get there on time.

You may be thinking that it looks good, but that has nothing to do with science. That's not true. Science is everywhere. Lets look at the sunflowers. We could talk about things like how the sunflowers use carbon dioxide and sunlight to create energy for themselves and oxygen as a byproduct. We could also look at how sunflowers make themselves sexy for bees and other bugs in order to help spread pollen to other sunflower plants. We could also talk about heliotropism. That is a big word that means that sunflowers always keep themselves pointed towards the sun.

One thing that I do want to talk about quickly are the florets that are on the face of the sunflowers. You can see the florets well on the picture below.

Do you see how the florets (which are actually little flowers) are set in a circular pattern? Well there was a scientist and mathematician named H Vogel. The actual equation (thanks to wikipedia) is given here:

Just goes to show that math and science can be used to explain so many things in nature. The things that can't be explained now will eventually be explained with more research and time. Go science!

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 向日葵(ひまわり). It is pronounced himawari and means sunflower. The kanji(Chinese characters that the Japanese people use) for sunflower is great. It means a hollyhock that always points towards the sun. It fits perfectly unlike a lot of the kanji floating around out there.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

JJNN Sunday: Leftovers - 02

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday July 20th, 2008. Today I will be looking at what Japanese people do to be able to work during the summer.

As I always say, Japanese people are always thinking about the environment. A few years ago the government came up with a plan they dubbed "cool biz." The basic idea is that all of the air conditioners in all the offices governmental buildings across the country were suppose to be turned up to 28 degrees Celsius (82.4F). That means that people have to work in hot rooms all summer long, so the workers were all told that they didn't need to wear ties or other types of clothes like that.

Well, I guess that is good for the environment in the end, but according to this piece of news cool biz is not all good. It turns out that for every degree over 25 degrees Celsius workers' efficiency drops by 2 percent. That means at 28 degrees efficiency had dropped a whole 6 percent. That doesn't sound like a lot of lost work, but in the end it could mean the difference between success and failure for a project at work.

I know when I am working at the city hall it is always hard to concentrate at 28 degrees Celsius. It is really asking too much to do anything productive at that temperature with that kind of humidity. I like the idea of being able to help save the environment and all, but there are better ways to do it than making people suffer. The article mentions that fans work to help keep people productive, but fans are not allowed in my work place or in most governmental buildings unless there is no air conditioning at all.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 冷房(れいぼう). It is pronounced reibou and means air conditioner. I am sitting here at my computer with my air conditioner set to 25 degrees Celsius. Perfect in every way.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

JJNN Saturday: Pseudoscience - 02

Welcome again to JJNN for Saturday July 18th, 2008. Today I will be looking at something that really stinks.

Well I guess it doesn't stink for everyone. I will be talking about feet. You may be asking yourself what feet have to do with pseudoscience, but there is a connection. I come across this connection at least once a week and it always annoys me.

On my walk to go to work on certain days I have to walk in front of a store with a picture like this posted on its front door.

Well, as you can see, they are feet. But, notice that the feet are separated into many different areas. All of the areas have some sort of symbol on them. Those symbols are the Japanese symbols for other parts of the body. For example the tips of all of the toes have the symbol for the nose or the 3rd area down under the big toe is the symbol for the heart.

So, why are the feet separated into different areas that have symbols for different parts of the body? Well, apparently, those parts of the feet are magically connected to those parts of the body. For example, if you find you can't smell as well as you used to (or your nose hurts) all you have to do is have someone massage the tips of your toes. Or, if you find that your heart is not working as well as it should all you have to do is have someone massage that part of your feet. After that massage your suppose to end up in perfect health (for the part of the body connected to the part of your foot that got massaged).

Before I tell you exactly what I feel about this I want to talk about how it is suppose to work. Well, one way it is suppose to work is by activating lymph nodes. Well, there are lymphatic vessels in the foot, but it doesn't look like there are any real vessels at the bottom of the foot. On top of that there are no lymph nodes in the foot. The closest ones seem to be near the crotchal area (it's a real word...look it up). I am not a doctor so if I am wrong about this call me out on it. This all means that the lymph system does not make this work.

Another reason people give for this to work is energy. A certain part of the foot is connected to a certain part of the body with a flow of energy. If the flow of an energy gets blocked it can be unblocked by massaging that area of the foot. This in turn will make that area of the body better. This energy flow can not be found scientifically. There is no way that anyone can prove that it actually exists, so I have to say that energy can't be the answer either.

Now, let's look at this though the glasses of a scientist. Energy and the lymph system are thrown out the window. What does that leave? Well in my own humble point of view I think that it is probably a form of a placebo effect. If you go into a place and pay some money (sometimes a lot of money) to get some relief for a symptom of some sort you want to get that relief. You will convince yourself that you will get the relief and because you do that you will actually get it for a little while. This is all because the person that gives you the massage will show you a chart and explain things to you. That along with the relaxing atmosphere of the office and the massage itself will set up a series of events in your brain that will lead to perceived relief.

Well, if that's true, why is going to one of these places bad? Well, for one, it is expensive. You are basically handing your wallet over to a con-man that will give you nothing in return. Also, if you have something really wrong with you (like cancer) and you go to that place to get cured it could lead to your death. How could it lead to your death? Well picture this, a man has severe headaches all the time. Instead of going to the hospital to find out what is really wrong with him he decides to go to one of these massage places instead. The headaches may go away because of what I explained above, but they eventually come back. The man decides to keep going to the massage places because it gives him temporary relief, but unfortunately a foot massage does not destroy a brain tumor. The man ends up dead, his family ends up very sad and the foot massage specialist ends up rich. Fair? I think not.

I really don't want to talk about this any more because it does make me mad. Seeing as I have a date later tonight (yay!) I don't want to be mad, I want to be happy. But, I will leave you with this. How long do you think people train to become one of these massage specialists? Three years in university? Two years in vocational collage? No. In most countries it is less than 6 months of study. It is all just a big scam. The "university" that trains the practitioners gets money, the practitioners get money from the patients, and also there are a lot of people that made devices for home massage that cost a lot of money. I really hate to see people getting duped out of their hard earned money.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 足つぼ(あしつぼ). It is pronounced ashi-tsubo and means pressure point on the bottom of the foot. There are pressure points everywhere, but lately the ones on the bottom of the foot are the ones that are in vogue. I really don't get it. I mean the only reason I would go in for a foot massage is if I had sore feet.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Friday, July 18, 2008

JJNN Friday: Technology - 02

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday July 17th, 2008. Today I will be looking at another form of new light bulb technology.

It seems that lately a lot of Japan's biggest innovations in technology are in the lightly department. Information on the latest type of new light bulb can be found here. Yesterday Toshiba technologies announced that they have come out with a LED lightbulb. LED stands for Light Emitting Diode and you probably know LEDs from things like old toys or signs that use many points of lights to spell something out.

LEDs are just like any other diode. A diode is an electronic device that lets electric current flow in one direction and blocks it from flowing in the other direction. This may not sound like an important device, but diodes have been developed to do so many important things. A few examples are radio demodulation (which allows us to listen to radio signals), disallowing current into certain parts of a circuit at certain times, and measuring temperature. So, you may be asking yourself what this has to do with lights. Well, it turns out that when the diodes are made out of certain materials they give of light when current is applied to them. The type of light depend on physical makeup of the diode. Different materials glow different colors when current is pushed though them.

The first LED that produced light that could be seen with the naked eye was red. After that many other colors were produced, but no one could figure out how to make a white light. After the first blue LED was produced by some Japanese scientists, it was possible to produce a white LED. Yellow and blue were combined to produce the long sought after white light. We may think of white light as normal, but it was extremely hard to produce a white LED.

So, using the white LED technology, Toshiba decided to make a white LED lightbulb. You can see a picture of two types of the bulbs below.

The first think you will probably notice is that they look a little strange, but the bottom of the bulbs are just like normal bulbs. That means that you can screw one of these bulbs into a normal light socket and use it like a normal light. There is no other special equipment needed. That would be a good thing.

Let's talk about the good part before we talk about the bad part. This light bulb will last a long long time. It has an expected lifetime of 20000 hours. That is just under 2 and a half years. This means that you can keep this light on for 2 and a half years and it probably won't burn out. Also, this bulb consumes one eighth the energy of a normal lightbulb. This is a good thing because it leads to less carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere from power plants.

Now the bad point of the lightbulb. It is costly. One of the 100W bulbs will cost about 15000 yen, or about 150USD. My wallet says "ouch". I am all for saving the environment and giving myself a lower electricity bill in the process, but that is just crazy. I could buy much more than 2 years worth of bulbs for that. Maybe Toshiba will find a way to produce the bulbs at a lower price, because I don't see many people buying them if they don't.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 時間(じかん). It is pronounced jikan and means time. This was probably one of the first Japanese words that I have ever learnt. I hope that you all remember it for possible use later.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

JJNN Thursday: Culture - 02

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday July 16th, 2008. Today I will be looking at Japanese culture though the looking glass of schools.

Today I want to talk a little bit about the education system in Japan. I always like to talk about education in Japan because I have been dealing with the education system here in Japan for years. Sure I am not a full fledged teacher, but because of that I have been to many schools and was able to learn a lot about how teachers and students think.

So, first comes the question about the differences between schools in Japan and schools in other countries. I am from America and I know the American system so when I make comparisons it will be to American schools. Feel free to leave a comment if you are from another country and say how it works in your country. Also, I am going to skip pre-school in this post, because I still can't quite figure it out because different kids can start pre-school at different ages. Elementary school starts at about age 5 and goes for 6 years. That is a year longer than in America. Jr. High School is 3 years long. As soon as students graduate Jr. High they are done with the education that they legally have to take. Not a lot of people drop out after the Jr. High graduation, but it does happen. High school is only three years in Japan. A year less than in America, but if you do the math it adds up to the same number of years.

The basic classes in Elementary and Jr. High School are gym/health education, math (arithmetic for elementary school), home economics, music, art and industrial arts, science, Japanese, and social studies. In Jr. high the kids also have English as a subject. There are two special subjects that are in both schools. These are the moral education class and integrated studies. Personally I am of the opinion that normal people do not need a school subject to learn morals, but I guess it never hearts, right? The integrated studies class is one in which the students have to use information they have learned in all of their subjects to think about things like environmental problems, handicapped people, and other such things. Also, English education for Elementary schools fall into the integrated studies class because they have to think about other cultures using the information from everything they have learned so far (that and it doesn't fit any other type of category heading).

I spend most of my time in Jr. High school so I want to talk about that for a little while. Every day there is homeroom in the morning and in the evening. The style of the homeroom depends on the teacher, but it is usually run by the students. They do things like report on the schedule for the day and check the general help of the students. Because of the large class size (this depends on the school, but at mine the number of students in one class gets up to 35 or so) the homeroom is really needed. Also, depending on the school, the students all have to read a book for 5 to 10 minutes every morning. Every Monday when I go to my Jr. high school we also do and English broadcast so the students can practice their English listening.

After the morning homeroom and other morning activities there are 4 classes that are 50 minutes long (sometimes they are only 45 minutes long, but this can be rare). After the 4 classes it is lunch time. In most schools there is no cafeteria so the students eat in their class room. Also, the students take turns passing out food to the other students. The homeroom teacher usually eats with the students. After the students eat the students clean up the area and take an hour or so off to play in the gym or in their class room. After that they clean the school. Yep, the students are the one that clean the schools in Japan. And, mostly, the teachers watch over them like hawks to make sure they do a good job at it. After that there is either one or two afternoon class and then the afternoon homeroom. After that the students usually go to club activities for hours on end and than finally go home or go to cram schools to study more.

A lot of kids go to cram schools in Japan. You may be asking yourself why a normal healthy kid would want to study more after school. That is a good question, but there is a good answer. In most schools there is no automatic movement from Jr. High School to High School. That is because kids in Japan do not have to go to High school. This means that all the High Schools give entrance exams. If you fail the exam to a school that you want to go to, you can not go to that school. That drives some kids to study hard, but it drives the parents of all kids to make their kids study hard. The competition for High Schools and Universities (especially the privet ones) is intense. There are students that fail the exam and refuse to give up on a particular school (or they fail all of their entrance exams) so they are stuck in the system for a year until the next round of exams. They call those students "ronin." Ronin used to mean a samurai with no master, or a wandering samurai, but now it refers to those students.

There are a lot of other minor differences. For one, the students never move unless they have to go to a special class room like the science room or the home economics room. The teachers go to the students. The students all have inside and outside shoes. This makes it a long ordeal to move the kids outside for gym or some other reason. It is also very rare for a teacher to stay in the same grade every year. Normally they are moved around to go with the students or to fit a certain need. The teachers also change schools ever 3 to 7 years. The teachers are employed by the government of an area, not by the schools.

I could go on, but I am going to leave it at this. Let me know if you have any questions.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 学校(がっこう). It is pronounced gakkou and means school. I like teaching in Japanese schools. A day spent teaching at a school is much better than a day spent sitting in my office and staring at the wall across the room.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

JJNN Wednesday: Games - 01

Welcome again to JJNN for Wednesday July 16th, 2008. Today is gaming day.

Today I want to talk about a certain type of game that is popular in Japan. It is the rhythm game. This is the type of game where you have to push a button (or do the equivalent action) when the it says to do it on the screen. It sounds like a simple game, but it can be very hard to pull off some of the songs on hard.

My favorite version of the rhythm game is called pop'n music. There are nine buttons (though I usually play on the 5 button mode) and all you have to do is hit the button when the colored bar reaches the bottom of the screen. Since I have no natural rhythm (anyone that has ever seen me dance can attest to this) it is not that easy for me, but that is not true for all people. Here is a video of a Japanese guy going crazy on a song in hard mode. Check it out.

There are also other types of games of course. The one that I have been playing lately is called guitar hero. In this game you run around with a plastic guitar with a wii remote stuck into it. The 5 buttons (though again I am on the normal difficulty level now so I only use 4 buttons) are by the left hand and there is a little plastic switch-type-thing on the right that you have to hit in time with the colored circles. There is also a whammy bar just for fun and extra points. This next video is a 4 year old Japanese kid playing one of the songs on easy. Maybe he should be concentrating on how to play a real guitar or some other instrument.

There are many other types of games like this that include drums and other musical instruments. There is one that I played just once that is near and dear to my heart though. It is the shamisen game. It is just like guitar hero but you go around with a plastic shamisen instead of a plastic guitar. I wish I could find an arcade that actually had one of those in this area. It would be fun to skip shamisen practice just to go and play a plastic shamisen.

One other game that I want to talk about is band brothers DX. This is a game that is sold for the DS. It is even possible for this game to interact with the Wii and download extra songs. In this game you can play any of the instruments in a particular song. That is an interesting thing, but not the most interesting part of the game. The best part is that you can compose your own songs for the game itself. You can try to make a classic song that just happens to not be included with the game or make up your own song. The game play after that is just hitting buttons with the beat of the song, like the rest of the games. Here is an example of a band brothers song.

That is a theme song from a kids TV show by the way. I know I just scratched the surface when it comes to these types of games, but a package from amazon just came so I am going to read a nice geeky book. If you have any suggestions about anything you would like to hear about, just leave a comment or email me.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 大合奏(大合奏). It is pronounced dai-gassou and means large concert. That was part of the full name of Band Brothers. I still don't understand why the Japanese love to give products names with meaningless English. Well I guess this one is better than the snack food that is called cream colon.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

JJNN Tuesday: Entertainment - 01

Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday July 15th, 2008. Today is entertainment day.

As soon as I got back from work today I had to get to my bosses house to help prepare for a going away dinner for my friend. I helped cooked and ate and am just getting back now. I am tired and want to sleep so I won't be doing anything really in depth tonight. Sorry about that folks.

But, being that it's entertainment day, I want to talk a little about Studio Ghibli. Studio Ghibli is an animation house that makes some of the best animation in the world (in my opinion any way). Some of their famous titles are Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. I will give you an example of the art work for each one below:

Both of the movies were very good and had the common theme that almost all of Studio Ghibli's work had: be good to the environment. For example in Spirited Away there was one creature that came to the spa because it was bloated with trash and other bad things. The spirit represented a river that was really polluted. In Princess Mononoke it was the basically the story of humans encroaching onto old forests and what happens because of that. Both very excellent movies.

Studio Ghibli has a movie slated for release on the 19th of this month. The name of the movie is Gake no ue no Ponyo. That can be literally translated as something as Ponyo on Top of the Cliff. The basic story is about a young fish named Ponyo. Ponyo has just one dream, she wants to become a human. The story goes though her adventures with a young human kid from what I can tell. Here is a video that has a trailer.

I will talk about the movie more after I watch it, but now I just want to get some sleep so...

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is スタジオジブリ(すたじおじぶり). It is pronounced sutajio jiburi and means Studio Gibli. If you go to Japan and want to talk about Japanese people about Gibli you have to make sure to pronounce it more like jiburi or no one will know what you are saying. I learnt that the hard way.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Monday, July 14, 2008

JJNN Monday: Science - 01

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday July 14th, 2008. Today is science day.

This is actually a bit of sad new. You can see the article here. It seems that a great name in science died of colorectal cancer on July 10th at 12:30 pm. His name was Totsuka Youji and he died at the age of 66.

Totsuka Youji a did most of his work in the field of study of neutrinos. I want to give a very quick background on his life. He was born on March 6th 1942, which means he was born during the middle of World War II. He went to school and ended up getting his PhD from Tokyo University in 1972. After he got his PhD he worked his way up in Tokyo University from research associate to associate professor to professor in 1987. As well as his work at Tokyo University he also became the director of the Kamioka observatory and the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research.

Because of Totsuka Youji's work we now know some interesting things about neutrinos. Before we get into what he found out I want to talk a little bit about neutrinos. neutrinos are funny little elementary particles. They travel close to the speed of light and go straight though solid objects without slowing down at all (in most cases). Why do you think that these particles can go though most matter without slowing now? Well the answer is that they are like electrons with no charge so they are not effected by electromagnetic forces. They can only be effected by the weak nuclear force. Weak nuclear forces only act over a short distance so it is more likely neutrinos can mover over long distances without being slowed down.

These particles are made by nuclear decay like that seen in the sun or when high energy solar rays strike atoms. There are 3 different types of neutrinos out there. They are all made by slightly different processes, but I won't go into that. The names of the 3 types are electron neutrinos, tau neutrinos and muon neutrinos. I bet these particles seem exotic and rare, right? Well, the fact of the matter is that according to this about 50 trillion of these particles go though any human being.

Those are interesting facts, but what Totsuka Youji found out about neutrinos is even more interesting. First, he is the person that found out that the neutrino has a very small, yet detectable, mass. Before it was thought that these particles did not have a mass and it was sort of like light, but he helped to prove that theory was not true. Second, he helped to prove that while neutrinos are moving though space they turn into different types of neutrinos and turn back again. Both of those discoveries are pieces of information that will help us to know more about the neutrino and other things in the universe.

Before going onto the word of the day I want to talk about how we know that neutrinos exist in the first place. Like I said before, neutrinos do not play well with other matter (by the fact that they go though it), so how can we detect neutrinos in the first place. Well even though the neutrino goes though most materials, if it goes though enough stuff it is bound to hit something because of probability alone. So, a good neutrino detector is one in which there is enough of a substance that is isolated from things like cosmic rays and constantly watched for an interactions. Super Kamiokande in Japan uses a lot of water that is surrounded by phototubes that will pick up the Cherenkov radiation given off by the neutrino when it collides with something. Other detectors use different materials.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is ニュートリノ(にゅうとりの). It is pronounced nyuutorino and means neutrino. I remember the first time I heard about neutrinos and the fact that there are so many of them going though our bodies every second of every day. That is probably one of the things that really made me want to study science (thanks Nova).

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

JJNN Sunday: Leftovers - 01

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday July 13th, 2008. Today is the day where I talk about any news story that I didn't pick up any other time during the week.

This story is a technology story. The actual story is given here. Matsuda Denko and a team from Tokyo's University of Agriculture and Technology came together to develop a new type of fluorescent lamp that does not rely on a electrical discharge to produce light.

I think everyone has seen if not used fluorescent lamps. These are the type of bulbs that start to flicker when they are about to go out and get really really annoying. These bulbs work by electrical discharge. Basically one side of the long bulb is positive and the other side is negative. After you flip the switch to turn on the bulb charges start to store up on either side of the bulb. There is one thing everyone has to know about electricity, if charges can jump they will jump. After a critical point the charges jump, like the firing of a giant spark plug. This excites the mercury gas which is stored in the bulb. After the mercury gas gets excited it wants to drop back down into it's unexcited state and it does this by releasing UV light. The phosphor on the inside of the bulb gets hit by this UV light and it gets excited as well. The phosphor, like the mercury, wants to drop back down into its unexcited state and it does that by releasing visible light.

That's all well and good, but let's think about this for a second. The bulb depends on a huge electrical discharge to produce light. Huge discharges are not very safe. Also, the inside of the bulb has mercury gas. That is not very healthy for anyone that happens to be around when a bulb breaks open. And if a bulb does break watch out for the phosphor on the inside of the tube as well. All in all, it is not a very safe way to light your house.

This is where Matsuda Denko comes in. They thought of a new way to make a light bulb. The basic idea can be seen in the picture below.

This new type of bulb (OK, so it's not a bulb but more of a sheet of light) is produced used something called a "nano-silicon battery." Well, this is an isn't a real battery. The nano (which just means really really small) silicon device can not actually store any energy, but it will release a lot of high energy electrons when a current is passed over it. The electrons be produced in a unit that contains xenon gas. Xenon gas is chemically inert and safe for humans. When the gas gets excited by the high energy electrons get excited like the mercury gas in the fluorescent bulbs. The xenon releases UV which hits a fluorescent substance. This gets excited and releases visible light.

I would like to see where this will end up going. It looks like the "bulbs" are actually strips of light. That means that we could light a room just by glueing (or otherwise attaching) strips to the tops of walls and other such places. Depending on the flexibility of the bulb (though I have no reason to think it will be flexible) it could be used in many interesting places.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 水銀(すいぎん). It is pronounced suigin and means mercury. I remember one year working in the physic department there was a minor mercury spill. The surface tension of mercury is so high that is naturally makes a ball when it is out of a container. It was fun chasing those small beads of mercury around.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

JJNN Saturday: Pseudoscience - 01

Welcome again to JJNN for Saturday July 12th, 2008. Today is pseudoscience day.

So I was going though the newspaper trying to think about what to write about today when I came upon the horoscope. There have been plenty of people that have written about horoscopes and how there is no way that can really work, so I don't want to talk about that. What i want to talk about it another form of fortune telling (horoscopes are fortune telling after all) that is practiced in Japan.

So what determines your sign in the horoscope that you see every day in the paper? You're date of birth, right? Now, that's not anything you could every change. You are stuck with the day that you came into the world. It turns out the Japanese fortune telling system is also based on something that you are stuck with, your blood type. Yep, the Japanese can supposedly tell how you act and what you will do in a given situation just by knowing your blood type.

Before I go into a little depth about this type of fortune telling I want to talk a little bit about blood types. There are 4 basic blood types: A, B, AB, and O. What makes the blood types different is the fact that they each have different antigens. an antigen is chemical that tells the body to make antibodies, which are things that keep us from being sick a lot of the time. Blood type A has A antigens, blood type B have B antigens, blood type AB has both A and B antigens and blood type O has no antigens. The blood type that you have is inherited from your parents.

Have you ever seen those charts for your horoscope symbol that tells you your good points and your bad points? Those charts are all over the place on the internet for the blood type method of fortune telling. Here is a link to one such chart for people with a description of people with type A blood. I am not going to translate it all, but here are a few examples from each category:

Good personality traits:
You use your time wisely and always keep your promises.
You always think before you take action. You will never get into a needless adventure.
Bad personality traits:
You are too cautious. You tend to look at things negatively.
You try to make everyone around you happy, but this just ends up making people angry.
Relationships with other people:
You don't have many friends, but the friends you have you keep for a long time.
Because you are very proper, your bosses love to work with you.
It is hard for you to tell people what you feel, so it takes a long time for a relationship to get started.
You hardly ever approach the opposite sex.
You should work in a big company.
You save money little by little.

OK. I don't care if your A type or B type or you just don't know what you are in terms of blood type. Anyone that reads that will think a least half if not more of the things written there apply to them. This is how these things work. People do some "observation" and find personality traits that can apply to curtain blood types. The problem with this is that observation is in no way scientific and relies mostly on old folk tales.

The other thing people do is make up a lot of stuff for one reason or another (usually to make money). They make it up and people read it start believing they act that way even though they might not have acted that way in the first place. It is not the first time that a prediction actually caused an event, but it is amazing that something this simple really makes people change the way they act.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 血液型(けつえきがた). It is pronounced ketsueki-gata and means blood type. You know, I still don't know what my blood type is. I guess I really should look into that one of these days. Though, rest assured, I won't be checking my blood type to see how I am suppose to act.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Friday, July 11, 2008

JJNN Friday: Technology - 01

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday July 11th, 2008. Today is technology day.

There is nothing more exciting for most Japanese people that the start of sales for a new piece of technology. It just so happens that today is the first day that the iPhone goes on sale in Japan. You can see some stories about it here and here.

I think that everyone that reads this probably knows what an iPhone is, but just in case I want to talk about that a little bit. The iPhone is a cell phone that went on sale in the states on June 29th of last year. Another version of the iPhone that is called iPhone 3G (3rd generation of cell phones) was released today in the states. That same cell phone is the one that went on sale in Japan and 19 other countries.

Let's get right to the price. A 8Gb iPhone will set you back 23040 yen while the 16Gb version will set you back 34560 yen. I guess all in all it is not a bad price. I mean it can be used to hold all your music and some other files. I don't see any real reason to get the 16Gb version unless you are into music. I guess all this talk of music makes it seem that the iPhone can only be used for music, but don't forget this is a phone (as well as an internet browser, a map, a contact list, a calendar and the like). The monthly fee for the basic plan for phone use is 7280 yen.

The phones started to go on sale at noon, but there were people waiting in line from at least 7 in the morning in places like Sapporo. In Yuraku-cho in Tokyo there was a countdown ceremony. A picture from the ceremony is below.

The lady on the right is named Ueto Aya. She is one of my favorite actresses. Maybe I will be getting myself an iPhone after all (I don't think I will really get one, but it looks nice).

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 携帯(けいたい). It is pronounced keitai and means cell phone or anything else that you can carry around. The Japanese love to shorten words. The actually word for cell phone is keitai denwa, but everyone just calls it a keitai. I guess simple is best.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

JJNN Thursday: Culture - 01

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday July 10th, 2008. Today is Thursday so I will be talking about Japanese culture.

It's summer time. That means one thing in Japan, the summer festival. Well, actually summer means a lot of things like going to the beach and smashing open watermelons as well as going to the mountains and catching beetles and a lot of other things.

This time I am going to take a look at a summer festival, because I love summer festivals. I used to go to one every summer in a city I lived in up north, and I go to one in the city I live in every year. I will talk about those festivals some other time. Today I am going to talk about the festival in this news story.

The name of that festival is the Gion festival. It is probably the most famous festival in all of Japan and it is held in the city of Kyoto which is located in southern Japan. The festival goes on for the entire month of July, but the best part is the parade which is held every year on July 17th. Thousands of people, both form Kyoto and from far away, come and watch the parade on the 17th.

The preparations for the parade started this morning. They started putting together the giant portable shrines that will be used in parade. You can see a picture of the portable shrines that were being worked on this morning and an example of a finished portable shrine below.

There is not only one portable shrine in the parade. The shrines represent different parts of Kyoto and different parts of the country. This year there will be 32 different shrines taking part in the parade. The workers started working on the first 3 shrines (Naginata-boko, Kanko-boko, and Tsuki-hoko) at 8 this morning. The most amazing thing about this construction work is the fact that they don't use nails to put these shrines together. Everything is tied together with a strong natural rope. The shrines are about 25 meters tall and can weight over 10 tons, but still everything is tied together and nothing falls apart.

I wish I could go and see the parade, but that is not going to happen. I guess I will have to wait for videos on youtube.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 祭り(まつり). It is pronounced matsuri and means festival. There are, of course, festivals during other times of the year in Japan, but the most famous ones are in the summer. Plus, you can't dress in a yukata in the winter, so what's the point.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

New format

Hi guys

I decided that I am going to change the format of this blog a little bit. Instead of being all about science and technology news from Japan I am going to be a little bit more broad. I will take on 7 topics, one for each day of the week. All of the topics will still be news stories about Japan, but they will be a little bit more varied than before.

The topics will go in this order;

Monday: Science
Tuesday: Entertainment
Wednesday: Games
Thursday: Japanese culture
Friday: Technology
Saturday: Pseudoscience
Sunday: Leftovers

Most of the categories are self-explanatory, but I will say a little about all of the any way.

The science category will cover anything from paper airplanes to quantum engines. I will try to make things easy to understand for everyone, but if there are any questions, as always, leave comments.
The entertainment category is going to cover things like TV, movies, music and the like coming out in Japan. There will probably be a lot of youtube clips on this day.
The game category will not be for just video games. It will also include board games and games played specifically in Japan. Also I might talk about games you are familiar with, but with the Japanese rule sets.
The Japanese culture category is going to be an explanation of specific parts of Japanese culture. These might include things like how to have fun at a Japanese festival or how to take a bath.
The technology category is the bread and butter of this blog. I will not change anything from how I have been doing this part of the news.
The pseudoscience category is going to take a look at pseudosciences and their interaction with the people of Japan. This is going to be a fun part of the blog to write up because there is just so much material out there to write about.
And lastly, the leftovers category is for any of those interesting news stories that I just didn't report on during the week. I will try to give a nice weekly roundup as well.

The major difference here is that fact that most of the time I can't reference a news story because there may not be a news story to reference about the particular topic I will be writing about. It will be hard to find a story in, say, Japanese culture every week, so those weeks with no culture stories I will just take information from my own experiences and make the post as good as I can.

So what do you guys think about this? Leave me a comment and let me know.

See you next time on JJNN

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

JJNN 44 July 8th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday July 8th, 2008. Today I will be talking about concrete walls.

I found the this story here. This is a story of a slightly different concrete wall produced by Japan's Atomic Energy Agency and a research laboratory that is based in Kumagaya. A few of you may be wondering what the Atomic Energy Agency would want to produce a new type of concrete wall. Well, the goal of this wall is to absorb neutron radiation.

Neutron radiation is another try of nuclear radiation that occurs during radioactive decay. I talked about radioactive decay on July 5th. In neutron radiation the nucleus of an atom releases one high energy neutron. This type of radiation can be found in places like nuclear power plants and around places that give PET scans.

The best way to protect people from neutron radiation is to hide them behind thick walls of concrete. Neutrons don't really interact with anything that is not organic so a neutron will go right though a thin wall. The fact that thick concrete walls are needed places limits on the construction of nuclear power plants and medical facilities. There is where the new type of concrete comes to the rescue. This new type of concrete will absorb a lot of the neutrons that try to pass though it. This means that thinner walls give the same protection as the traditional thick walls. This discovery may lead to a construction revolution. I would like to see where this goes.

I would also like to tell you more about the wall, but not a lot of information was given. I would like to think that the lack of information was because the company is still testing the wall, not because Yomiuri does not know how to report on science. I really want to know what is in that wall that helps to stop the neutrons.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 中性子(ちゅうせいし). It is pronounced chuuseishi and means neutron. Neutrons are particles that don't have a net electric charge. They are made up of smaller particles called quarks. The quarks that make up the neutron are the up quark and 2 down quarks. I know that sounds funny, but it is really interesting. Maybe I will poke at quarks in a post some time.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Monday, July 7, 2008

JJNN 43 July 7th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday July 7th, 2008. Today I will be talking about disposable digital cameras.

I found the first story on slashdot and it is given here. It seems that a Japanese company called Plaza Create came up with a new and slightly strange camera idea. I think almost everyone has had one of those days when they went on a trip, but forgot to bring their camera. What do you do at a time like this? Well, most people would either take pictures with the digital camera on their cell phone or maybe go and buy one of those disposable cameras. Plaza Create decided to combine these two ideas by making a disposable digital camera.

Yes. A disposable digital camera. You read that right. Technically it is not disposable, but it is used in the same type of way. A person will buy the camera, take pictures and hand it into a store for developing. The person will never see the camera again, but will get the pictures. The only real difference is the amount of pictures that can be taken. Most disposable cameras come with 24 or 27 pictures, but the digital version can take up to 50 pictures. The camera will also have a resolution of 3 megapixels.

The other difference is price. Most normal disposable cameras cost 1000 yen or less in Japan, but the digital version costs from 1280 to 1980 yen. I guess an extra 280 yen for a few extra pictures is not that bad. To get a copy of the pictures you have to pay 37 yen each. Compared to 10 yen for a normal picture that is a huge increase.

When a person brings in a camera to get the pictures developed the store will take the digital camera and recycle the parts to make another disposable digital camera. I guess that is better on the environment than a normal disposable camera (especially when you take into account the chemicals that are used to develop normal pictures) but it is very expensive. It would probably be better to just buy cheap digital camera and bring it everywhere with you.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 画素(がそ). It is pronounced gaso and means pixel. I remember way back in the day when digital cameras could hardly be rated in megapixels. That was a long time ago. Also, I got to say I like the feel of a film camera better that that of a digital camera any way. There is something about the wurl of the film advancing that I love.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

JJNN 42 July 6th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday July 6th, 2008. Today was a busy day so I will only be doing one short news story.

Today's news story can be found here. The story is an update about the conditions of the victims of the The Iwate-Miyagi Nairiku Earthquake which occurred about a month ago. There are a lot of people that still can not get to their houses and still have to live in emergency shelters with a lot of other people. In one of the shelters, in which over 100 people are not living, everyone is getting ready to celebrate Tanabata.

Tanabata is a Japanese star festival that is based on a Chinese star festival. The basic story is a story of two lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi who were separated from each other. The two lovers were only permitted one meeting a year on July 7th. It is a bitter-sweet love story that just happens to take place in the heavens. The Japanese celebrate Tanabata by setting up bamboo like in the picture below.

Everyone decorates the bamboo and writes wishes. The people in the emergency shelters wrote many wishes, but most of them went along the lines of "I hope I can go home soon." or "I wish I could see everyone smile again some time soon." I can only say I hope that get their wish.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 七夕(たなばた). It is pronounced tanabata and means the same thing. I always look towards Tanabata. A lot of the schools decorate their hallways with the bamboo and decorations made by the kids. It looks good. I just hope no one really believes that there is some super power that actually grants those wishes.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

JJNN 41 July 5th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Saturday July 5th, 2008. Today I will open the "oopps" file.

The original news story is given here. There are few different places and times you never want to hear a person say "oopps." A good example is during a major surgery or from piano movers when they have the piano hanging a couple of stories off the ground. Another time you never want to hear "oopps" is when people are dealing with radioactive materials. Depending on the material, radioactive materials stored in the wrong place can cause a lot of damage depending on the amount of the material.

Before getting into the story I want to talk about the different types of radioactive materials. A radioactive material is a material with an unstable nucleus that goes about loosing energy by emitting either energy or particles in the process of radioactive decay. There are many different ways for a material to go about radioactive decay. The first one is alpha decay. In alpha decay an alpha particle (2 neutrons and 2 protons: the nucleus of a helium atom) is ejected from the nucleus of the decaying atom. This actually changes the decaying atom into a different type of atom. The next mode of decay is called beta decay. In this form of decay the nucleus releases an electron (which is an negatively charged particle). And than there is gamma decay in which the nucleus releases a high energy photon. There are more ways for a nucleus to undergo decay, but these are the basic ones. Different materials go though different types of radioactive decay.

Radiation can be used for both "good" and "evil." Other blogs and text books have gone into all that before so I don't really want to talk about that. I will get back into the news story. It seems that on Friday some workers in Japan's National Institute for Fusion Science found 10 grams of uranium oxide in an envelope that no one knew about. Uranium oxide releases gamma rays.

The uranium oxide was found in a cardboard box surrounded by a lot of different papers. The paper and the box actually blocked the gamma rays so they envelope was never found. But, when the office that contained the box was cleaned and the envelope taken out of the box it had a reading of .8 micro-sieverts, not a whole lot of radiation.

You may be wondering how the radioactive material got into the box in the first place. Well it turns out that when a professor that worked in Nagoya University retired he moved to Japan's National Institute for Fusion Science. The professor retired in 1964 and his stuff was moved in 1997. Apparently he never bothered to open that box because there was the uranium oxide waiting for someone to find it. It is only 10 grams, but still that is a huge "oopps.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 放射性物質(ほうしゃせいぶっしつ). It is pronounced houshasei-busshitsu and means radioactive material. You may not know it from my writing on nuclear topics, but I got my degree in physics with a focus in nuclear physics. I only really studied naturally forming radioactive sources, so I never studied things like nuclear weapons or things like that, but I don't see the use in studying about stuff like that any way.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Friday, July 4, 2008

JJNN 40 July 4th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday July 4th, 2008. Today I will talk about the story of Megumi Yokota.

The original news story can be found here. For those of you that don't know who Megumi Yokota is, she is someone that was abducted from Japan in November of 1977. She was taken away to North Korea and never seen again. She was only 13 when she was abducted so her loss greatly shocked her parents. They are still working now to see if they can get her back from North Korea or avenge her if she was killed. It was announced that she died in North Korea, but her parents still fight on her behalf.

Megumi Yokota's parents have done so many things to tell as many people as possible about the fact that these North Korean kidnappings did happen. They have made movies, written books, had comic books drawn. All they want to do is get the word out. This time they decided to have their book about their daughter translated into English. The name of the book roughly translates into "Megumi, your mother will save you," but of course that is not quite as catch in English as it is in Japanese. That is why they changed the name of the book to "North Korea Kidnapped My Daughter." Quite the flashy name.

They are planning on selling the book from January in America. When it comes out it will be about the 100th work that they have had translated into English. It is also suppose to be the crown of all their works. Megumi's mother even gave a copy of the book to the prime minister of Japan so he can pass it on to the president of the US when he comes to Japan next.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 拉致(らっち). It is pronounced racchi and means abduction. The North Korean abductions happened a lot in the prefecture I live in because it is close to North Korea. Even now Niigata refuses to accept boats from North Korea.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

JJNN 39 July 3rd, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday July 3rd, 2008. Today I will talk about another train related news story.

The original news story can be found here. It seems that everyone is trying to do their part for the environment these days. This is not a bad thing, if it done in the right way. For an example of the wrong way to do something good for the environment check out JJNN for June 22nd.

This time the Japan's train network is getting into the earth saving action. They decided to go in a slightly different direction than turning off lights and lighting candles. Tokyo station (one of, if not the, biggest train stations in Japan) announced that it will be putting up solar panels starting next year. The roofs of platform 9 and 10 will be set with 3000 square meters of solar panels which should be produce 390 KW of energy - enough energy to power about 90 homes.

That is wonderful and it should decrease the CO2 output of Tokyo station by about .3%. That does not sound that much, but it is actually 90 tons of CO2 that is being kept from going into that atmosphere. Any little thing helps in the end. If the Tokyo station solar panels prove a good success other stations may try the same thing and save yet more money (in the very long run) and CO2 from going into the air. Solar panels are not the most efficient way of producing energy, but they work better than a station putting up a big windmill.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 東京駅(とうきょうえき). It is pronounced Tokyo-eki and means Tokyo Station. I still remember my first time going though Tokyo Station. I never thought I would find my way to where I needed to go or find my way back. I guess you get used to it if you go there a lot, but even now I still think it can be a maze.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

JJNN 38 July 2nd, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Wednesday July 2nd, 2008. Today I want to talk about a couple of random and very unrelated news stories.

The first story comes from here. It seems that goo (a semi-popular search engine in Japan) and wikipedia are coming together to give people a semi-new web searching experience. Goo wanted it to make it easier for people that are not familiar with searching engines to find things online. The best way they could think to do this was to make a search engine protocol that can search for something with normal every day speech.

In other words, if a person is looking up information about they new kind of car they want, they would not type in "honda crash test data" they would type in something more like "What is the crash test data for honda cars." It would be something that could be considered closer to every day English. Well, actually in this case it would be every day Japanese, but close enough.

Personally I don't see the point in it. A person can well get carpletunnel from all that typing. Plus it takes forever to write out all those sentences. This is going to be geared towards those are not computer savvy, so that means a lot of people typing with 2 fingers if they are lucky. I just don't see that this is going to get off the ground and become anything big.

The second news story can be found here. This story is about Studio Ghibli. Personally I love Studio Ghibli. If you don't know what Studio Ghibli is you should go to a video rental store and rent Laputa: Castle in the sky or Princess Mononoke. There are so many other good movies that they have made, but I don't want to type them all out. If you think you will like it, go and check up on it yourself.

Any way, the animation of Ghibli films is always top notch because Studio Ghibli always hires artists that go though a long training program. But, for some reason, last year they canceled their training program. In the place of the training program the studio decided to hire artists straight out of collage, but they would not make them full time employees. The studio will give the new artists a two year contract.

I wonder what this will do with the quality of Studio Ghibli's art. I guess we shall see how every thing goes when they put out more movies. They next Ghibli movie will be out this summer, so I guess we will have to wait a year or so longer to see what will happen.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 契約(けいやく). It is pronounced keiyaku and means contract. There is a huge difference between contracted employee and a regular full time employee in Japan. The contractees just don't get as much respect even though the pay may be the same.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My Day July 1st, 2008

Hi guys

Today was a hectic day. I know hearing about other people's hectic days cheers people up so I figure I will skip the news for a day and just talk about my personal news.

So, since this Sunday i noticed that my car's battery light was lit. You know, that red warning light that says "you should really do something about this before it is too late." Well, since I had a busy Sunday I pushed going to the garage back on my list by a day. On Mondays I have to drive about an hour to work. Normally I am all good with an hour long drive, but there is something a long drive with one of those warning lights lit that make it seem so much longer than an hour.

Any way, I get to school, do my thing and go home. My car is starting to act a little strange at this point. The windows are taking longer to go up and down and it is not starting as smoothly. I drive my car to a place where I can get dinner and get my car worked on in the same area (not the same store though heh). So I have them change my oil and have a look at my battery. The oil change was the good part. All they said about my battery was the Japanese equivalent of "I don'no" I wanted to smack the guy at this point. It is his job to know for the love of (some) God! I payed for the oil change and got out of there.

I knew one more place a little bit closer to my house. But, because the first guy made it sound like the battery was low I went to a gas station first. This is a station I always go to. They know me well here. I drove in and asked for some gas and a little (electric) charge. They refused me the charge. I couldn't believe it. They know me there and I know all of the people that work there. They said that they were busy, but there was no other car in the place. Technically gas stations in Japan are suppose to be full service and are suppose to do something like that for free or a low cost. Maybe they just didn't feel like being nice that day.

Any way, after that debacle was over with I headed towards the other garage. I told them I needed a charging and they said they needed to keep the car over night. That wouldn't do because I have work in the morning, so they said they will look at that battery instead. I agreed thinking I would just get another "I don'no," but this place was better. They checked the whole electric system. It turns out that my alternator went bad. The alternator a a device that uses the spin of the engine to produce electricity and recharge the battery while the car is running. A bad alternator means that the car is running of the battery alone. This leads to a battery that quickly dies.

So the second garage says they will look for alternators and call me the next day. From what they said at the garage it sounded like I had at least a week left just on my battery so I decided to drive my car to work today. I drove to work with not only the battery red warning light flashing at me but the ones for the ABS. ABS are very important to staying alive if you need to stop suddenly. ABS uses power and the system could not run off just the battery alone. After I finished work I drove home with yet more red lights flashing at me. I was so relieved when the garage called me not a half an hour after I got home. They said they found parts and I should drive my car over so they can put them in the next day. I said that I needed a car for the next day, but they insured me they had a spare car I could use. I agreed and went to get into my car.

This is where things went down hill. I got into my car and turned the key. Nothing happened... I tried again. Nothing happened... With a sigh I did the only thing I could do. I called the garage and had them come and do something about it. The guy from the garage came with a couple of batteries. He hooked up a used battery to mine and started up the car. In order to get that car to the garage he had to keep the batteries hooked up so he had wires trailing from under my hood, though the passenger side window and to the used batteries on the floor of my passenger side.

Well we got to the garage and all would seem set. The garage guy gave me the extra car and I was on my way. Halfway over the bridge back to my house I get a phone call. The guy left some wires in the in the car and wanted me to bring them back to the garage. With a sigh I said I would get back there. So I arrive back at the garage and handed over the wires.

I was so happy I could get back home and eat some dinner. When I got back home I walked up to my door and got ready to pull out my key to get into my house. That is when I released my house keys were attached to my car keys, back at that garage. The expletive I let out of my mouth at that moment could have set and alarm off on the car that garage gave me if it actually had an alarm. I had to race back to the garage and get my key so I could finally finish my day. It feels good to be back home again.

The good thing I got out of the deal is that car they are letting me use. It is so tiny. After almost 2 years of driving a car that can literally called a whale it feels good to drive a tiny car. Sure the car has no real power under the hood, but it will get me where I need to go for the next few days. I will be fun to put again in a tiny car for a little while.

Any way, I am sure I will find news for you tomorrow.

See you than.