mbarker: (Burp)
Mitsuko and I were watching one of the TV shows common here in Japan, with the TV talents happily eating something or other, with extreme expressions of joy as they chew and swallow, followed by ecstatic declarations of how tasty it was... Which is when I realized that there's something wrong with us!

I mean, I enjoy eating, and I have my favorite foods, things that I really enjoy, but. I don't think I have ever made such a joyful face while eating. Nor do I erupt into lyrical announcements of how wonderful the taste is when I eat something I like. Watching the TV folks eat, it seems as if they have a whole different level of engagement with their food from what I get.
So I'm wondering if I don't have the right tastebuds, or maybe I'm just not chewing and swallowing the right way?

How do you get that ecstatic experience of eating that the TV seems to indicate is the norm?
mbarker: (Me typing?)
This morning the news had a short piece about a group doing their practice emergency drone flights. I missed the location, but this is an area that has had some kind of major disaster in the recent past. The guy was showing us pictures from that -- looked like a flood or mudslide, might have been an avalanche? And he was explaining that one of the problems they had then was just finding where the people were who needed help.

Which is what today's practice was all about. If I understood correctly, this is a volunteer drone squad, and they were practicing the three kinds of drone flights they have developed for emergencies. First, location -- using cameras, including IR cameras, they fly over an area and identify people waving, bodies, and so forth. So they can quickly direct emergency aid to where it is needed. Second, communications! They have drones with speakers, so they can fly over an area and make emergency announcements. Third, supplies. They have drones that can carry at least small medical packs and supplies, so they can deliver those even where emergency vehicles or other aid can't get in.

So, in the event of an emergency, look, up in the sky? Is it a bird, is a plane, is it Superman? No, it's the emergency drones! Looking at you, talking to you, even bringing you the supplies you need.
mbarker: (Me typing?)
Morning news had a brief piece about a new vending machine here in Japan.  Basically, it looks like a billboard, with the vendor or other information on it, until a customer gets close enough. Then it switches over to a display of the various offerings. You have to know enough to press the offering (I think they should have put clearly marked "Press here" buttons underneath, but... it's new!) but otherwise, it acts just like a normal vending machine. Except that as you walk away, it changes back to a display again.

Basically, they've replaced all those little windows and individual buttons with a big touch panel display. The sensor to detect a customer in range is kind of cute, and I'll bet people will have lots of fun coming up with "not in use" displays. I suppose you could even run the latest ads for your preferred vendors on it...

Of course, it does mean that spotting a vending machine just got a little harder. Look for the coin slots and delivery chute, I guess.
mbarker: (Default)

Well, that was funny. At the Christmas Eve service, we met a young mother we know, and her two boys, about five and three years old. Mitsuko had bought a present for them, four little play trucks. The boys had a great time playing with them. But the mother asked me what they were called in English. Which is when I realized I wasn't sure!

I recognized the dump truck. But the one with panels? I guess maybe it's a container truck, but I'm not sure. The one with a power shovel might be a backhoe, but I'm really guessing. Then there is the one with a large shovel across the front? Not a forklift...

The boys, of course, knew the Japanese for each kind, and gleefully tried to teach me. Too bad I couldn't return the favor.

mbarker: (Default)

I think I'm missing something. One of the news items we have recently had here in Japan concerns a young couple and their child. They apparently went to the government, trying to get the child added to their family record, as is customary here. That's where the trouble started. Apparently the government so far is arguing that they cannot register this child as theirs.

The problem, of course, is that one of the two is a surgically altered woman, not a natural man. The sperm for the child was either donated or something, and no one is arguing that the child should be registered to someone else. Nor are people complaining that they can't be married, apparently. But... The idea that a child who is not actually a direct genetic offspring should be listed in their family record apparently is too much.

I keep asking what happens when someone adopts a child, or whether anyone really believes that every child in the history of Japan has definitely been the genetic offspring of the couple who claimed him. So far, all my friends agree that sometimes the genetic father of a child and the father listed in the family records may not be the same, but...

For some reason, the idea of letting this couple claim a child as theirs if the sperm came from somewhere else seems to really bother people. Even though it seems to fit either the adoption scenario or the other man scenario.

Maybe they shouldn't have been so honest about what they were doing? I mean, I'll bet the people filing the forms wouldn't have noticed if they had just filled them in and handed them over without mentioning the little difference in this couple from any other couple wandering into city hall.

Is DNA really thicker than ink?

mbarker: (Default)

I've seen a pile of these ads, with a young woman wearing what looked like earmuffs of curled braids, and then the various sheep in the background, often with some kind of large numeral one. One had her and the sheep apparently going into the base of the one, towering over the field. Usually the ad ends with the name Musee Platinum. But there was never enough context to tell me what the product or service was.

Today, there was another new version. Same young lady, this time just her head, apparently floating, turning round and round. Then a small sheep ambled into the background. And fade to the name. Musee Platinum.

So I looked it up. Google gave me a selection of pages, but in Japanese. It did suggest that a related search was available for Musee Platinum reviews. So I pulled that up. Aha! Plenty of English... Hair removal? What?

Yes. Apparently the service that Musee Platinum offers is hair removal. In particular, laser hair removal, with specials on underarms and such. Which may explain the rather odd ads. I mean, I suspect showing us young women having their pelts removed wouldn't really reach their target audience, but a non sequitur such as sheep, who often do need trimming, suggests the service without being explicit.

Amusing. Well, now I can ignore that ad. Although I am glad that one more minor puzzle has been solved, even if the answer isn't particularly useful or amazing.

mbarker: (Default)

The news had a short piece about the new products out in the stationary stores right now -- it is the start of the school year here in Japan, so the stationary stores have a lot of new stuff. One item caught my attention, mostly because I had never thought about it. It's a left-handed ruler, with the numbers running from right to left rather than the normal left to right. The guy who was explaining it showed us that a left-handed user holding it flat on the paper with the numbers at the top can easily start at his right and draw the pencil across to the desired length. He also showed us that the normal ruler makes left-handed kids have to either push the pencil, which doesn't work well, or start at the high numbers and subtract, which can be difficult for a youngster to get right. I never realized that the direction of the numbers on a ruler were biased towards right handed users, but when he explained it, it is obvious. Interesting.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

mbarker: (Me typing?)

Sometimes Japan comes up with really interesting twists. The news had a piece about a new ... I want to call it a museum, but that's not quite right. A place for kids to play? Kind of. For example, at one area, the kids were handed real fire extinguishers, and got to put out a real fire! In another area, the parents and kids got a chance to run or crawl, don't walk, through smoke-filled corridors, holding a towel over their mouth. There were gas-masked guides available, but if possible, they guided themselves through the maze. Anyway, this "playground" gave these kids the opportunity to experience what happens in a real fire, and learn how to react and what to do.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

mbarker: (Default)

They had a short piece on TV about a man, I believe in New York, who collects houcho ­­ the kitchen knives, here in Japan. Of course, he's collecting the hand­made beautiful ones that are descended from the katana, the samurai swords. He has over 200, and knows the story of each one. So they had them arrayed across a table, and he was showing us just how beautiful one of them was, with the edge sharp enough to cut a thought, the finish rippling shimmers of light.

Then the interviewer asked him when he used it, how that felt? He shuddered, and said, "No, of course I never use them. The finish wouldn't last, and the edge. No." Then he went on talking about how the smith put his soul into the knife, that it was alive.

It's a kitchen knife. Superbly made, beautiful, but if all you do is keep it in a box and take it out now and then to look at it... Does that honor the smith? I mean, I think they make these for use, not just for display?

It just seems wrong somehow, to think of these wonderful knives that will never be used.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

mbarker: (ISeeYou2)

This evening, there's a made-for-TV show on. It's Hisatsu Shigotonin 2013. I'll probably watch it, although I have to admit, I don't think the movies have been as good as the series used to be. But I enjoy trying to understand the story, and contemplating just why this particular genre scratches an itch for us.

listen to the whistle of the sword... )

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mbarker: (Default)

One of the evening tv specials had a Japanese title, and an English title for that extra special touch.

The show was mostly about a 19 year old policewoman, who is working in an area with bars and whatnot, so she's seeing some of the best drunks around. Also a mother and daughter team working in a grocery store, picking up shoplifters. And a woman on the Guardian Angels Safety Patrol, working in a popular area at midnight on New Years to help keep things cool.

So the English title was "Ladies in Pandemonium." Which seemed odd to me. So I looked at the Japanese title. Shuraba no onna. Onna is the word for women. But shuraba? I had to look that one up. It's old kanji, with the meaning of fight scene, or scene of carnage? So maybe "Women in Crises" would be a better translation.

Ladies in pandemonium. That's an interesting title. But at least for me, it doesn't really summon images of a policewoman or plain clothes security folks. Or even the Guardian Angels.

Maybe I just don't understand English.

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mbarker: (Default)

I was thinking about a little incident that happened a few years back today, and considering how modern technology would have changed things.

an incident from the past... )

Even if I was on time.

Answering machines and cell phones. Making relatives happy.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

mbarker: (Default)

Okay. I know I'm missing something here.

Let's start with the basic product, because it isn't well-known in America. Basically, peep ee- rehkey-ban. (ビッブエレキバン, if you want the Japanese) The peep seems to be just noise. The rest of the name seems to be a shortened version of electric bandage, interestingly enough. What it actually is, is little magnetic tablets, nicely rounded and smoothed, enamaled I think, with a round bandage to stick them to you. Because what people do is wear them. According to the users, they relieve various aches and whatnot.

Now, according to users like my sister in law, you need fresh ones. I have tried to argue that the magnets don't fade -- they are permanent magnets, and will stick nicely to a refrigerator or whatever even after she insists that they aren't fresh anymore, but... I don't argue with beliefs like this.

Okay? That's the basic product. Little magnetic disks for you to stick to yourself to relieve whatever. And you have to buy new ones pretty often because you need fresh magnetic waves, not those old worn-out ones.

But there's a new ad out for the new, improved version. Are you ready? Peep ee-rehkey-ban MENTHOL! As far as I can tell, they have doped the bandage with menthol. So along with those magnetic waves doing their mysterious magic on your bod, you get good stinks! Of course, this may make it easier to convince people that they need fresh ones, since the menthol may in fact wear off.

Still, we're now talking about sticking a magnet to your body over some kind of power points, and adding in the ineffable benefits of having a menthol odor at that point. So to the well-known advantages of dosing yourself with magnetic waves, we add having a dose of menthol.

Huh?

And I used to think the tales of snake-oil salesmen were odd.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

mbarker: (Fireworks Delight)
If you were in Japan, the odds are good that you were outside, trying to see the solar eclipse. Despite clouds here and there, most of us got at least a glimpse of a fiery ring, or a fingernail clipping of bright light with a dark shadow over it. Along with all the fun of trying out pinhole cameras and various solar glasses that had been on sale since last week. Heck, the Monday morning news got bumped in favor of various specials about the solar eclipse!

Lots of happy cries of "Detekita!" (it's coming out!) and "Kirei, kirei!" (beautiful). Fun!

There's something oddly reassuring about the dance of celestial mechanics. Awe-inspiring, exciting, and fun to watch.
mbarker: (Burp)
We went to lunch with a friend to a new restaurant in a nearby mall. The name is Baqet. I had sesame roast chicken, coated in black sesame. The friend had chicken in tomato sauce and basil, Florentine style, according to the menu. Mitsuko had some kind of gratin.

But the main dishes, while quite good, really aren't the point of this restaurant. Instead, the real calling card is in a double row of small trays nearby, maybe a dozen or so altogether, filled with various fresh rolls. Fresh baked, eat all you want. And we each had a couple of plates of rolls. Small croissants, bran rolls, 3 seed rolls, onion, garlic, tumeric (I still don't really know what that was, but the yellowish color was intriguing). And so on. Warm rolls, with plenty of butter.

Lunches were about 1,000 to 1,200 yen, which is reasonable for this kind of restaurant.

And all-you-can-eat warm rolls really hit the spot. Nice change of pace from the rice that is the usual staple.
mbarker: (BrainUnderRepair)
Okay, now that's amusing. I may not have the figures exactly right, but basically...from the news last night.

One of the small towns here in Japan hit by the earthquake and tsunami last year has carefully converted a lot of the trash into a pile of woodchips, ready for slow burning. Let's be honest, it was more like a small hill of woodchips. They understood that it would take a while to truck and burn, but at least they were ready for the next step of clean up.

However, someone got nervous, and insisted that they measure the pile for radiation. This is well outside the area of the Fukushima contamination, but... what the heck, right?

Well, the pile showed about 64 becquerel per kilogram! And suddenly, the truckers, the trash burners, everyone said "No, no, we can't handle this."

The town people were puzzled, and then they did something smart. They got someone to do the same measurements on woodchips from a number of normal sources, just the kind of stuff that is going into the burners every day.

The result? Normal levels averaged 70 becquerel per kilogram, higher than their woodchips.

Apparently the town is going to be able to dispose of their woodchips after all.

I think it's amusing. A measurement without a baseline... I have to remember that for the next time I'm teaching research methods.
mbarker: (Default)
Yomogi mochi (toasted), a little brown sugar and soy sauce, and cinnamon?
A winter treat )
It sure tastes good!
mbarker: (ISeeYou2)
This morning's news had a visit with an 80-year-old Japanese woman basically to talk about her hobby. It started with her explaining that when she was 50, she was having trouble remembering things. She said that she would look up a phone number in her address book, then start to punch it into the phone, and realize partway through that she had forgotten it. But she says that she doesn't have any problem now with her memory.
Try mirror talking! )
mbarker: (Burp)
One of the TV shows recently showed us some of the back story for the sushi that we all enjoy here in Japan. Negitoro, kazunoko, and amaebi.
add a bit of corn oil? )
What fun. "Raw" fish? Well, sort of. They're not cooked, I guess. But if processing counts...
mbarker: (BrainUnderRepair)
Oh, drat... we had a visiting group of Japanese high schoolers here, and I was invited to join them for lunch. Talk and lunch, that is -- I know we're the exotic entertainment. Faculty, that is.

So the second bunch that sat with me included a couple of young women. One industrial designer, one mechanical engineer interested in robotics. Interesting pair, quite cheerful. And when they excused us and started to rearrange for the afternoon session, another young woman came running up, clearly looking for them.

That's when I made the mistake. I said, "Here they are. We didn't eat them."

She turned to me and said, "What? What did you say?"

I repeated it, then translated it into Japanese. Then she said, "Why would you say that?"

And that's where things got complicated. Why do we joke about eating people?

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