Sunday, August 31, 2008

JJNN Sunday: Leftovers - 05

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday August 31st, 2008. Today we will be taking about a new way to buy software.

I remember way back in the day when software was all on floppy disks that were over 5 inches on one side. Since than software has gone to slightly smaller disks, to optical data like CDs and DVDs. It has been interesting to watch how companies have used the media of the day to sell software.

The latest version of this is talked about in this article. According to slashdot japan a company called Source Next wanted to fix the problem that many laptop owners faced when it came to software. Lately the trend of laptops is to be small, which means that a lot of them actually don't have any optical drive. Source Next's solution for this problem was to start selling their software on USB memory sticks.

On the fifth of next month (in 6 days) Next Source will sell their first USB memory stick programs. The program Virus Security Zero along with 6 other programs are to be put up for sale in this first round of releases. The second round of releases is already scheduled for October. The second round of releases will be 13 software titles.

As with all changes there are positives and negatives. The positive parts of this change are things like the fact that almost all computers can access the software, it accesses faster than an optical drive in most cases, it is quiet and it can be used as a storage medium. But, what are the negatives? I really can't think of any. If I really had to think of one i guess it would be the fact that USB would be harder to store than CDs or DVDs. You would need to come up with a great labeling system if you get enough of these programs.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is ソフト(そふと). It is pronounced sofuto and means software. It is amazing how fast storage media has moved forward. From tape drives to DVDs and USB flash memory in less than 30 years. I wonder what things will be stored on in 30 more years.

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

Saturday, August 30, 2008

JJNN Saturday: Pseudoscience - 05

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday August 30th, 2008. Today we will be taking about ghosts in Japan.

During the middle of August there is a period of time in Japan called obon. Many people take time off from work and go visit the graves of their family and friends during this time of the year. You could think of it as the Japanese version of memorial day. The only thing a little different is the fact that Japanese people visit graves on obon because it is during obon that the spirits of their friends and family come back to earth and take up shop in their household alters. In this way it is sort of like the Japanese version of Halloween.

This is why there are so many shows about ghost stories on during the middle of the summer. I always enjoy coming home at night and seeing famous people on TV get freaked out because of creepy ghost stories. A lot of these TV shows also have pictures or video that is suppose to be about ghosts. I found some really good pictures and videos while researching this post and I want to share them with you. Keep in mind I will bash these with the science hammer afterwords so don't be too scared!

This is a picture of what people call ghost orbs. Apparently when ghosts are lazy and don't want to take their human shape they fly around as little orbs in a sort of ghost version of energy save mode. It may surprise some to know, but these are not ghosts. Ghosts orbs are actually dust. Yes. Common every day dust. When the flash from the camera bounces off from the dust you get little orbs like that in your pictures. When people take pictures like this they always say things like "Nothing was in the room, but that showed up in the picture." Well, yes. Your eyes don't work fast enough to process the light, and even if they do you wouldn't think anything of it anyway. But, now that it is on film (data) it is a big thing. The only thing is, it's's just dust.

Look! A creepy ghost in the window! Well, actually, no. If you look to the left of the picture you will see a blob of light that signals the use of our old friend, the flash. This is another trick of light and reflection. In this case the light is reflecting off of one of the people in the picture, hitting the window and reflecting back to the camera lens. It is very dark outside so the glass will act like a mirror. More than likely it is the person on the left who is the actual ghost.

Lastly I want to share this video.

This one freaked me out for the longest time. I mean, it's just scary to see something like that. But, eventually I got to see this video below which explained it all. Got to love Captain Disillusion (well, except what he says about Japanese TV shows which are all in all entertaining). Watch an enjoy.

It is a good reminder that there are other reasons there are ghost pictures and videos out there. Either they are a natural play of light in the form of reflections, refractions, etc or someone just made them up. Remember to look at things with a skeptical mind.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 幽霊(ゆうれい). It is pronounced yuurei and means ghost. There are probably close to 100 words for ghost in the Japanese language, but yuurei is the one that is used the most. It is so amazing to see how Japanese people look at things like ghost and goblins (not the video game).

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

Friday, August 29, 2008

JJNN Friday: Technology - 05

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday August 29th, 2008. Today we will be taking about a new type of battery.

Well, Matsushita did it again! Of course I am saying that in a good way. Matsushita is known in Japan and around the world as a maker of various types of electronics. They are the company that makes electronics under the brand name of Panasonic and Technics. That all means that Matsushita makes everything from electronic home appliances to professional music equipment.

Today's news story is about one of the smaller things that Matsushita makes. You can see the original story here. Matsushita announced yesterday that they are going to be selling a new type of rechargeable battery under the name Evolta. Evolta will be Nickel-Metal Hydride (or NiMH) battery. These types of batteries have been in uses for about 20 years now.

So what makes the Evolta different? Good question. Matsushita decided to use a very thin exterior case along with a top and bottom that have been put though some secret process to increase the volume of material that can actually fit inside of the battery. If the volume of the battery increases, than the the capacity to hold charge a long time also increases. Compared to another of Matsushita's rechargeable battery line (the HHR-3MPS) the number of times that the battery can recharge has gone up 20% and the life of the battery has increased. It seems that you can recharge the Evolta up to 1200 times and the amount of time the battery will stay active for its 800th charge has gone up by an astounding 10 percent.

This is a good thing. It leads to less batteries in our landfills and a happier earth. Also, it seems that the engineering that Matsushita stuck onto top and bottom on of the batteries causes the batteries to be stronger in the end. This leads to less battery explosions. Nothing stops a geek party faster than a lot of exploding batteries.

As an aside, do you know how rechargeable batteries work? It is actually very interesting. I am going to write down a couple of equations, but don't let that scare you away. In the equations H is hydrogen, O is oxygen, M is the special metal that is on the inside of the battery, e is an electron and Ni is nickel. There are two equations because there is a positive side of the battery and a negative side of a battery. The equation for the negative electrode (side) of the battery is thusly:

H2O + M + e-  <->  OH- + MH

If you read this equation from left to right the battery is being charged. The electron (what gives the battery its juice) goes from being free for use to being stored in the metal. If you read the equation from the right to the left the electron is being freed so the battery is being used for something. The equation for the positive electrode is given thusly:

Ni(OH)2 + OH- <-> NiO(OH) + H2O + e-

Notice that the equation for the positive electrode is just the opposite that of the negative electrode when it comes to the positions of things like H2O, OH- and e-. This is what truly makes these batteries rechargeable. The metal and the Ni are just things that help to get the electron and the OH to run around at the right time.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 電池(でんち). It is pronounced denchi and means battery. This reminds me that I should really be charging the batteries to my wii so I can do more of that wii fit.

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

Thursday, August 28, 2008

JJNN Thursday: Culture - 06

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday August 28th, 2008. Today we will be taking about dialects from around Japan.

Japan has a lot of different dialects. The dialects range from those are almost like normal Japanese (the Japanese spoken in Tokyo) and those that almost seem nothing like Japanese. I call the dialect from my city the "gaa" dialect. People just seem to sprinkle the word "gaa" randomly in their sentences. It can be interesting to listen to, but I don't think I will ever be able to speak fluently in it because it is just too random. Maybe there is just some grand "gaa" pattern that I am missing.

The most famous Japanese dialect is that dialect from around Kyoto and Osaka. Many people from even around here like use that dialect. Many comedians in Japan come from the area around Osaka, so people that can use that dialect are automatically funny in some way or another. The person in the clip below will teach you a little Osaka dialect. Notice how it is different from the normal Japanese.

Another of the the category of hard dialects to understand is Akita dialect. Akita is a prefecture in northern Japan. It is It is north of Niigata and located on the sea of Japan. I found a news story about Akita dialect. You can see the original story here.

It seems that the people of Akita prefecture wanted their new foreign teachers of language to learn about Akita dialect. Eight foreigners from 4 different countries were made to take a class to learn the dialect. All the students said they were so surprised that Akita spoke such a different from of Japanese. They said that it was almost like a different language. Others said that it felt like a warm dialect and they liked it.

I want to give you an example of what Akita dialect sounds like. Below is the opening of an anime called ndagarasha. The anime is based in Akita and is all in Akita dialect. There are two subtitles at the bottom. The top subtitle is what the music is saying (in Akita dialect) and the bottom subtitle is normal Japanese. I love the fact that they have to subtitle their anime so normal Japanese people can understand it. Any way, enjoy:

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 方言(ほうげん). It is pronounced hougen and means dialect. I think there must be more variety in the dialects of Japan compared to the dialects of America.

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

JJNN Wednesday: Games - 04

Welcome again to JJNN for Wednesday August 27th, 2008. Today we will be taking about more games played in Japanese schools.

I was planning on doing a report on a new MMORPG (Massive Multi-player Online Role Playing Game) called Lucent Heart but it is impossible to actually enter the game because of all the people that pounced on the game when it started. I guess I can't really complain because it is a free role playing game. There are a lot of people that loved the other games put out by the same company so I guess I should have known I would not have been able to play on the first night. If I get a chance to play LH before next week I will give a report on that next week.

Instead of LH I want to talk about more games played in Japanese elementary schools. Last time I talked about dodge ball so this time I guess I will go for the other classic game. Well, not really game but set of games. The dreaded TAG! (start the dramatic music).

I think we have all played tag at least once in our lives. It is the classic "run away from someone" game. Tag in Japan is exactly like that as well. The terminology is a little different though. Instead of saying "it" to point to the person that everyone is running away from they say "oni." Oni actually means demon. I guess that makes sense, I know i would run away from a demon.

Did any of you have an special rules for the way that you played tag? Or, did you have any special tag like games? In Japan there are so many different types of tag. It is sometimes hard to keep up when the kids run up to you and ask you to play tag. You have to ask them what type of tag and if there are any special rules. After all that I am made to be the oni nine times out of ten. Bah

Any way a couple of the popular tag games that we play at my schools include the Japanese versions of freeze tag and a game the kids call "Tasuke Oni." Freeze tag is just like in America where if a person gets tagged they can't movie. They can move again if someone else that is not it goes under their legs and "unfreezes them." Tasuke oni is sort of like freeze tag, but instead of a person freezing they have to go to jail. All the people that are in jail can link hands if any other person touches them they can all leave jail. This is a great game if you are not it. If you are it you have to spend all your time running.

Below is a picture of tasuke oni. I think it will only make things more confusing, but it might help some of you out there so I am going to put it in the post.

There are a lot of other types of tag that they play at my schools as well. One that comes to mind right off is called "maru dashi." The game starts off with the person that is it standing in the gym outside any of the circles that are painted on the floor. When I say circles on the gym floor I am talking about the ones that are their for basketball and other games like that. All the other students pile into the circles, which are safe zones. If a kid gets tagged outside the circle or pulled outside of the circle they also become it. I don' like this game because it almost always leads to crying kids rubbing their hurting shoulders.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 鬼(おに). It is pronounced oni and means it or demon. The name for tag in Japanese is oni-gokko which means to act like a demon. A funny name for a kids game when you really think about it.

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

JJNN Tuesday: Entertainment - 04

Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday August 26th, 2008. Today we will be taking about Japanese music.

There are many different types of music in Japan. You can hear all of the stuff here that you would normally hear back home in America, but also there are different types of Japanese music. Japanese music ranges from J-rock and J-pop to traditional Japanese music. One of the categories of music that falls between those two is called enka.

Enka is a style of music that became popular after WWII. It has a style that goes with it that is very distinctive. Once you are told one song is enka you can figure out if another song is enka because it will have the same feeling to it. You can see the video of an enka song kalled "Kita Sakaba" below.

If you ever hear a Japanese song that sort of sounds like that it will probably be enka.

Lately there are even foreign enka singers. The most famous foreign enka singer now is named Jerome Charles White, Jr. In Japan they just call him Jero. He sings enka, but it is a slightly different style because he mixes traditional enka with other types of music. It is very popular because no one has thought of doing that before Jero. Here is a video of Jero.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 演歌(えんか). It is pronounced enka and means enka. When I first got to Japan I really hated enka. I thought it sounded terrible. But, after a while I got used to the sound and I like enka now. Not that you will ever catch me singing enka at a night out at karaoke.

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

Monday, August 25, 2008

JJNN Monday: Science - 04

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday August 25th, 2008. Today we will be taking about an interesting open house.

A lot of different places have open houses. There are the companies that want to show themselves to potential employees, schools that want to be open for any parents that want to watch class, and of course the kind that actually involves houses being shown to potential buyers. The open house that I want to talked about is in this news story.

Japanese's High Energy Accelerator Research Origination (known as KEK because of the the Japanese name) is going to hold their open house on August 31st. I would love to go to this open house. I have always wanted to go to an accelerator and see how things actually work. The basic idea is that magnets are used to accelerate subatomic particles around around a huge circular track. When the particles gather enough energy (speed up enough) the magnets are used make the particles collide. This helps scientists learn a lot more about what the particles are made up of and what happens in high energy and speed collisions.

KEK is located in Tsukuba city. It was started in 1997 and has an accelerator that is over 3Km long. Their system can accelerate electrons to an energy of 8GeV and positrons up to 3.5GeV, where GeV stands for Giga-electron volt. That is a lot of energy.

This year KEK's open house has the theme of "Space, Materials, and Life" They will be showing how their accelerator helps to reveal some of the hidden secrets in those three categories. It is amazing what one little circular tubed buried underground can reveal to the world.

It is too bad people in other parts of the world are trying to shut down other accelerators. Here is a little news story I found about that on youtube. I am too disgusted by the terrible science that people use to try to shut down the accelerator and the good science that comes out of it that I really can't talk about it. Just watch and be ready to shake your head.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 加速器(かそくき). It is pronounced kasokuki and means accelerator. I really do want to go and see an accelerator some day.

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

Sunday, August 24, 2008

JJNN Sunday: Leftovers - 04

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday August 24th, 2008. Today we will be taking about true entertainment.

Every year around this time of year people in the music industry sit up and take notice. It's not a new singer or drummer they are looking for, but a new guitarist. Well...not exactly. Actually, every year around this time of year is the world air guitar championships. There is really nothing more entertaining than watching a guy with nothing in his hands run around a stage and pretend that he is playing the guitar.

For the last two years (2006 and 2007) the champion has been Japanese. His name is Ochi Yosuke and he is from a comedy duo called Dainoji. Personally, I don't see anything special in his comedy, but he really knows how to run around with a pretend guitar. This was his performance at last years air guitar championships.

Unfortunately, this year Ochi Yosuke could not get his 3rd championship in a row. He ended up in 6th place this year. Another Japanese person named Ichikawa The Rock ended up in 4th place. All in all a good turn out of Japanese people in an international championship.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 逃す(のがす). It is pronounced nogasu and means to miss out on something. Maybe one day I will how to play air guitar.

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

Saturday, August 23, 2008

JJNN Saturday: Pseudoscience - 04

Welcome again to JJNN for Saturday August 23rd, 2008. Today we will be taking about pseudoscience in shintoism.

Shintoism is the native religion of Japan. It has a long history that includes many interesting folk tales that explain how Japan and the Japanese people came to exist. Shinto is an animistic believe system, which means their gods (known as kami) live in natural objects. For example, Mt. Fuji is a god. So is Mt. Yahiko near my house. There are gods in very old and big trees known as shinboku. One of those trees can be seen below.

Shintoism is rather interesting as a religion because there is really no praying that we would think of as praying. Once or twice a year people go to shrine and make a wish (I guess that is sort of like a prayer) to the kami of the shrine, but is is not done in a way like church back home.

Any way, shinto is very interesting. I invite you to consult ol' wiki if you want to know more about it, because this post would get very long if I went on and on about shintoism. What I really want to talk about it one specific pseudoscience in shintoism. It is the process of blessing a car.

Almost everyone in Japan that buys a new or used car will take that car to the nearest shinto shrine and have the car blessed by a shinto priest. The theory goes that when you get a car it comes with evil spirits (que creepy music). Apparently these evil spirits must be like the gremlins of yore. For a large chunk of money (it's a different price at different shrines) the shinto priest will come out and do their form of an exorcism on the car. This is what one of these ceremonies looks like.

Sure it is entertaining to watch and deeply linked to Japanese culture, but what is waving a stick over a car really going to do in the end. It will do just the same as when Christian priests throw holy water on a car. Absolutely nothing! In fact, if people really believed in the ceremony I can see it having the opposite effect. The driver will get so relaxed in their car that they start driving sloppily and end up causing an accident. In sort, blessing a car is a waste of money and time.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 車祓(くるまばらい). It is pronounced kuruma-barai and means car blessing. I got a new (very old) car a few weeks ago. Maybe I should bring it in for a car blessing just so I can see the look on their faces.

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

Friday, August 22, 2008

JJNN Friday: Technology - 04

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday August 22nd, 2008. Today we will be taking about a new stem cell technology.

Way back on June 6th I told you about a news story in which the Japanese government was thinking about making a stem cell bank. I gave the basic description of stem cells there so if you want to please give it another read though. Today's news story is a step close to making that stem cell bank becoming a reality. The original story can be found here.

A group from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology with the help of a professor from Kyoto University have succeeded in iPS (induced pluripotent stem) cells out of a removed wisdom tooth. Skin cells were made using the iPS cells from the wisdom tooth.

This is a huge step towards Japan actually making this iPS cell bank. Just think about the possibilities. Almost everyone gets their wisdom teeth taken out at a young age. Instead of throwing away the wisdom tooth, like they do now, it can be shipped to a central processing unit with all of your information. Later, if you ever get in an accident or sick, doctors can take your old tooth and make things like skin or organs. The possibilities are really endless.

At this moment the process for making iPS cells can only be done on the wisdom tooth. The scientists want to expand their process so they can making iPS cells from the teeth of adults or even baby teeth. If they can pull that off, the possibilities are really endless.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 親知らず(親知らず). It is pronounced oya-shirazu and means wisdom tooth. If you translate it literally it means someone (or thing) that does no know their parent. It is called that because they pop up at a different time than the rest of the teeth. I don't really get it by I just nod and smile.

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

Thursday, August 21, 2008

JJNN Thursday: Culture - 04

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday August 21st, 2008. Today we will be taking about my favorite Japanese food.

There are a lot of different foods in Japan. Not only are their Japanese takes on foreign foods like curry (Japanese curry is not really curry), but there is food that is original to Japan. One of my favorite Japanese foods is sushi. In this day an age I think that everyone knows what sushi is. It has become very popular in even the most rural parts of America (AKA where I am from) and I assume that it has really taken off in almost every other country.

There are two types of sushi restaurants in Japan. The first type (and the most inexpensive) is the rotating sushi restaurant. I guess with a name like that it sounds like the restaurant itself is spinning around, but only the sushi really is actually doing the spinning. You can see an example of one of these restaurants below:

If only those little subtitles actually spun around with the sushi! Sometimes you get a little surprise because a lot of the cuts of fish can look a lot alike. so, here is how one of these restaurants actually works. You go and sit down at the counter and watch all the sushi file by. When you see something that catches your eye you take it off the belt (be sure to take the plate!).

After you are done eating the sushi pile up your empty plates. You will notice that the different types of sushi are on different plates. That is because the color and design of the plates represent how expensive the sushi is. When you are done eating and ask for the check the waitress will come over and make a note of how many of each type of plate you have. That will be your bill.

I love this type of sushi restaurant because it is simple and fast. You can grab the sushi off the conveyor belt or just order what you want from the menu. I usually go to this type of restaurant once a week. This week I think I ended up going 3 times. When you find a good thing it is hard to give it up, right?

The second type of sushi restaurant is a sushi bar. This type of restaurant can get very expensive, but the sushi is of a better quality and the service is usually wonderful. It is a "special occasion" type of place to eat. Below is a Japanese comedy show about eating at a sushi bar. Keep in mind that most of it are jokes, and enjoy.

Oh to to to to...

Ma ma ma ma ma...

By the way, the salt that is left outside the door of the sushi bar (it is not left in all places) is actually from an old Japanese superstition that says salt purifies and keeps out the bad spirits. I wouldn't recommend eating of it unless you want to make the owner of the building mad.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 握り(にぎり). It is pronounced nigiri and means nigiri. Nigiri is one of the 3 major types of sushi. Nigiri has a big cut of fish (or something) on top of rice that has been formed into a specific shape. The other two types of sushi are maki and gunkan. Maki means the nori (seaweed) is wrapped along the outside to make a long thin roll that is usually cut into 6 pieces. Gunkan is hard to explain so I will just show a picture.

There is also te-maki in which the maki sushi is rolled loosely by hand (I don't consider this a major group of sushi)

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

JJNN Wednesday: Games - 03

Welcome again to JJNN for Wednesday August 20th, 2008. Today we will be taking about one of my favorite games.

This week I am working with a lot of elementary school students. I am part of a summer English "camp" where the students have to put on an English play. It is really good fun, and an old guy like me really gets to feel young working closely with elementary school kids. I find myself thinking back to my own elementary school days.

Back when I was in elementary school we used to play a lot of different games after lunch. The one that I liked the best was kickball. It always felt good to kick at the ball as hard as I could (even though half the time I would miss). I think I was always the catcher, but I didn't care because I was having a good time.

My second favorite game was dodge ball. After elementary school I never really played dodge ball, but that all changed when I got to Japan. When I got to Japan I started teaching jr. high school students and elementary school students. It was actually really rare for me to teach elementary school students, so I really never played anything besides basketball and volleyball with the kids. When I came to Nagaoka 4 years ago I started teaching in an Elementary school at least once a week, It was at this time when I ran into dodge ball once again.

I was actually very happy to see a game that I knew well. Japanese kids play all sorts of games that made no sense to me, so I was glad to see dodge ball again. I figured that I knew the ins and outs of dodge ball so I joined a game without even thinking that there might be different rules to dodge ball in Japan. I mean, what could be different? It's called dodge ball. All a person has to really do is dodge a ball, right? Well actually, the rules are slightly different if a person couldn't dodge the ball. I didn't think about this until years later, but the rules are sort of like the ones used in the old NES game called super dodge ball. Here is a taste of what the game super dodge ball was like:

Notice that there are people that are on the outside of the court. In Japanese dodge ball when a person gets hit by the ball they have to go stand on the outside of the opponent's court. That way a person on your team can throw you the ball and you can try to hit your opponent from the other side of the court. In most of the games I play (different from the NES game) if a person in the outer court hits their opponent they can go back to their court. This means that even if you are hit you can get back into the game. This leads to very long and interesting games of dodge ball.

I assume that most of the people that read my blog are past the age where they actually play dodge ball. That's too bad. I don't think that anyone should be too old for dodge ball. I challenge everyone out there to a game of dodge ball! If you find yourself in Japan make your way up to Nagaoka and I will take you on! I bet you good money I will kick your ass! (I have been practicing with the kids). WHAT SAYEST THOU, NAVE!?

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is ドッジボール(どっじぼおる). It is pronounced dojjibooru and means dodgeball. You know, even now I am not sure of dodgeball is one word or two.

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

JJNN Tuesday: Entertainment - 03

Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday August 19th, 2008. Today we will be taking about the Japanese and their mascots. (mascots are normally entertaining so I am keeping this under entertainment)

There is nothing that the Japanese like better than a symbol. A symbol is something that people can stand behind and become as one. When people are are attracted to a symbol there is a more of a sense of unity and the people will work together more efficiently. On one end of the symbol spectrum there are things like flags and national symbols. They are things that are basically two dimensional and all people in the country recognize and hold a least a little respect for. On the other side of the spectrum are things like mascots. Mascots are characters that are usually in some three dimensional form (though some times they are not) that a lot of people know. Notice that there is really no form of respect for mascots. There may be those that respect certain mascots, but they are few and far between.

In Japan there are mascots everywhere. Some famous examples are the ones used by Japanese baseball teams and ones that are used in various cities and prefectures. Personally I like the one shown below. His name is Shota and he is here to remind us to put out our fires.

Any way, today's news story about mascots can be found here. It seems that Nara is celebrating its 1300 year anniversary. And, of course, there is no better way to celebrate such a hug anniversary than celebrating with a mascot. The Nara mascot is named sento-kun. It can be seen below.

I know what you are thinking. "That is on ugly Mo-fo" Well, you're right. It is ugly. They tried to do too much with this mascot. They wanted to add both the Buddhist aspect (the biggest indoor Buddha is in Nara) and the deer aspect (Nara is known for deer). When those two aspects are put together you end up with that abomination.

Sento-kun was unveiled today because it is 500 days before the birthday of Nara. He will be around Nara for a little while, but in October there is going to be a mascot battle in Shiga prefecture. In the battle will be the Nara mascot, Sento-kun, and the mascot for the 400 year anniversary of the Hikone castle, Hikonyan. I will be on the edge of my seat for this battle.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 奈良(なら). It is pronounced Nara and means Nara. Nara is a famous city in western Japan. It is very close to Osaka and Kyoto. It has a lot of interesting old temples to see, but a lot of the buildings surrounding the old temples are very new. If you can shade that part of the picture, it is a great place to spend a half day or a day wandering around. Definitely a good place to visit if you are going to visit Kyoto and Osaka any way.

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

Monday, August 18, 2008

JJNN Monday: Science - 03

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday August 18th, 2008. Today we will be taking about my favorite science.

You know, I have always loved science. I remember way back when I was elementary school and wrote that I wanted to be an astronaut when I grow up. Well, over 20 years have passed since that day I still have not stepped one foot on the moon or even an international space station. Maybe it was the fact that I heard that astronauts have to be physically fit (I have never exactly fit into that category: a certain "pot belly raccoon" nickname from childhood springs to mind) and have to deal with high G forces (I like my internal organs exactly where they are), so I gave up on the dream of becoming an astronaut.

Instead I decided to look into a different brand of science. I wanted to still study about the stars so I had my eyes set on astronomy and physics. I took an advance placement physics course in my senior year in high school. At first I didn't think I could do all of the work required for the course but because of a great (and sometimes scary) teacher, named Mr. Johnston, I stuck it out for the whole year. Because of his teaching style I grew to love physics and all science more.

Long story short, I went to collage and got my degree in physics. But, what does that have to do with today's news story? Well, actually, there is no news story today. I am busy cooking my lunch for tomorrow because there is an English camp for elementary school kids. OK. But, what does that have to do with science? Allot!

You see I said I would be talking about my favorite science, and I am going to. My favorite science is cooking! What's that you say? cooking is not a science? I beg to differ! There are all sorts of chemical reactions going on when something is cooked. For example, when meat is cooked the proteins are denatured and this causes the meat to have a different flavor. Or, when water is put on a burner to boil there are lots of thermodynamical processes going on (things like induction of heat to water changing to gas when it hits the boiling point). These are just two examples, but there are many others. Instead of getting into all of the science (which could bore some people out there) I will just say that there is science everywhere and we should always keep our eyes out for it. When your eyes open up to science there is a whole new world of possibilities that was not there before.

Now, let's get down to business. I decided to make beef stew for lunch. The recipe can be found here. Here is a quick translation.
Beef 500g
Onions 2 medium
Celery 1 stock
Red Wine 750cc
Mushrooms You decided
Carrots 2 medium
Tomato 1 can
Bay leaf
The cheaper the beef and wine are the better the stew ends up tasting actually. The beef should be the type that is usually used in curry and again cheap is good!
Brown the meat and cut the veggies up into big pieces. This will be cooking for a while, so if the pieces are not big the veggies will end up disappearing. We don't want that, do we?
Throw the browned meat, onions, celery, and carrots into a big pot. Pour enough red wine in to just cover everything. Cover it up and let it cook from 30 min to and hour on very low heat. When time is up throw the tomatoes, mushrooms, bay leaf and any remaining wine (you didn't drink it, did you?) into the pot. Turn down the heat as low as it can go (it will burn because of the sugar from the tomatoes, so you have to make sure it is very low) and let it cook for another 2 hours or so. Scoop off the beef fat and you are good to go.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 料理(りょうり). It is pronounced ryouri and means cooking. If you want to, you can give that recipe a try. It is easy and the end result is very yummy. I am going to add some starch to mine to make it nice and thick. A thick beef stew is a good sauce for rice in a boxed lunch (I hope).

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

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I'm back!

Hi again everyone

I am finally back home and ready to start up blogging again. I will start again on the normal schedule tomorrow unless something major happens.

I had a good time at camp but came back exhausted. I rested a day and than went down south to Osaka. I spent a day in Nara and a day in Osaka. I had a good time and saw a lot of interesting things. I would share some pictures, but I lost the memory card converter for my cell phone's memory card.

But, here are a few things that I saw: The biggest inside sitting Buddha statues in Japan, one of the biggest ferris wheels in Japan, the smallest mountain in Japan, lots of disgruntled deer, 2 huge whale sharks, lots of freeky long legged crabs and a lot of other sea creatures in the aquarium. I also got bitten by a deer. Damn deer.

After my trip I was just tired and busy. I didn't have the time or energy to actually post. But, I got a lot of sleep last night and the night before so I am ready to start up again. I can't wait to post again!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Nagaoka Fireworks

Hi again.

This is the first post in a while because I have been going out every night since the first of August until last night. Why? Well every year from the the first of August to the third of August is the summer festival of the city I live in.

I love the Nagaoka summer festival. On the first of August thousands of people line up in the street to dance the traditional dance of Nagaoka. After the mass dance, portable shrines are paraded though the streets. This is all done with loud speakers playing some traditional songs about Nagaoka. Here are some pictures of the first night.

On the 2nd and 3rd there are fireworks. Each night has about an hour and a half of fireworks which can be seen over the Shinano river (which is the longest river in Japan). My house is very close to the Shinano river, so it was used as a base of operations for the past two days. On the first day I had a BBQ. It was a good time. Here are some pictures that I took with my cell phone.

So, why do you think that we have fireworks every year on the second and third? Well, starting in 1879 Nagaoka the local samurai groups worked together to put on two days of fireworks. Before WWII the fireworks were in September. This changed when Nagaoka got bombed on August first and second 1945. They changed the days with the wish that Japan and Nagaoka would quickly recover from the war damage. Starting in 2006, after a major earthquake, floods and a very hard winter the Phoenix was added to Nagaoka's fireworks. The Phoenix represents the fact that the citizens of Nagaoka will rise again no matter what happens to the city itself. The Phoenix can be seen below.

It is a good time and I make sure I go to the fireworks every year. It is one of the biggest fireworks shows in Japan and people from all around Japan come to see it. If you are ever in Japan on any of the fireworks days it is worth the price of the ticket to get to Nagaoka.