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29 October 2016 @ 11:37 am
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?
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Current Mood: tasty
07 March 2016 @ 10:42 am
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.
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Current Mood: laughing
Current Music: Up, up and away!
03 February 2016 @ 04:17 pm
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.
Current Mood: pained
We're watching a retrospective about the Great Hanshin Earthquake. One of the points that they raised is that at least some of the fires that followed the earthquake were due to resuming electrical service! See, apparently when the earthquake hit, power shut down. And in many places, of course, lights, electrical heaters, and other gadgets got bounced around in the quake. But since they had no power, no problem.

But then the electricity started being restored, and... Now the heater laying in a blanket comes on and starts a fire. They are saying that several of the fires in the hour or so window after the earthquake can be traced pretty directly to restoration of electrical power.

Restore service and start fires, or leave the power off and subject people to winter weather without power? They didn't say, but I'll bet some of the power return was automatic, too.

Makes me wonder about building shake sensors into the breaker boxes.
08 September 2015 @ 01:08 pm

Barton Street Gym by Zoey Ivers and Pam Uphoff

One important point. When I finished reading it, I immediately looked for the next in the series (Chicago!) and bought that. Which should indicate what I thought about this book.

Who should read it? Everybody! It's a romp, basically following two young people (14 and 16 years old, so I suppose this qualifies as a YA, but I think adults can read it too -- I certainly enjoyed it!). One young woman, Alice, and one young man, Joe. Oh, and one young AI, Barton Street (yes, it's the building AI). The plot focuses on the three of them learning to deal with their world, which happens to be composed of dimensional bumps... except that when you open the door the wrong way, you actually go somewhere else. And in those extra dimensions, there are other AI who aren't so friendly. That's probably enough hinting. Read it, you'll enjoy it.

So, the book has several big ideas -- the dimensional bumps, which people are setting up housekeeping in, Alert, which removes the need to sleep, the bios, which are living dolls, the AIs... I think you'll enjoy learning about this brave new world (or is it this rabbit hole?). Don't worry, the author did not go the route of massive infodumps. But the big ideas do add savor.

What else can I say? I'm going to go read Chicago, and I hope you enjoy reading Barton Street Gym. Just watch out for what's behind the door!
Current Mood: reading
27 May 2015 @ 11:24 am


There is an oddity. Apparently people are using the term "driverless" for automated cars, and most people are very nervous about that term. The aids -- automated braking, collision avoidance, lane tracking, and so forth -- they are very happy with, even eager to buy, but the whole package with that name on it, no.

Personally, I think I would change the name. Call it driver plus, and go ahead and add all the bits and pieces, including automated driving as a way to help the driver by removing the boring, tedious, repetitive bits and pieces. Emphasize the safety, emphasize letting the driver relax and enjoy the ride. Don't talk about removing the driver, do talk about letting them make the important decisions, where to go, which alternatives to take, where to stop along the way, while the car does the grunt work of controlling speed, watching for other cars, staying on track and so forth.

Heck, you could do a John Henry contest. Have a driver plus car take on a regular driver, with the question of who gets there and is well rested, ready to party? Do you really want to spend your entire trip making those tedious small decisions or would you rather make the big decisions and leave the minute-to-minute driving to the car?
Current Mood: sleepy
20 March 2015 @ 06:30 pm
One of the funny things about learning a language as an adult is that there are holes in your vocabulary. Yesterday, walking home, the kids in front of our apartment were all having fun with jump ropes. When I thought about it, I knew how to say, the children are jumping, but I didn't know what the word for a jump rope was. So I stopped and asked one of the mothers, who laughed and said, "nawatobi." Then she thought about it, and said... Nawa? Tobi means jumping, but nawa -- maybe it's nagai, which means long? She wasn't sure where the word came from, but she was sure it was nawatobi.

I looked it up, later, where I found out that nawa actually means straw rope! So apparently this is old enough that they were using straw ropes for jumping.

And now I know one more word of Japanese. So I can joke about a jump rope. Maybe.
03 March 2015 @ 05:19 pm

Another TV ad that I think is great.

The ad starts with the camera looking past someone's shoulder at a young man who is peering at a cell phone in his hand. He glances up and asks, "What's the difference between candy crush and candy soda?"

At this point, the camera pulls back, and we see whose shoulder that was. A tall man is kneeling on his white legs on top of the table in front of the young man. On the back of the tall man are translucent wings! From his head, two antenna rise in majestic curves, ending in orange ping-pong balls. His earlobes have dangling florescent green triangles. In one hand, he is holding a white scepter with a large green figure of some indeterminate kind on the upper tip. He looks down at the young man, unsmiling.

The ad then cuts to an animated game screen showing candy bits moving in a maze, and the logo for candy crush soda pops up on the screen.

That kneeling figure with the strange outfit is what makes this commercial. Even after you've seen it a couple times, when it comes on again, you watch for the humor of it.

And now they have at least two variations of the ad also running! In one, the kneeling figure sways a little bit, and his wings move, but he reassures the young man that his wings are moving by themselves. In the other one, he's actually kneeling on the seat across from the young man, with a table in between. I haven't caught what they are saying yet. Apparently they are in a diner or something? It looks like a diner booth, anyway.

Very eye-catching.

Current Mood: lazy
26 February 2015 @ 03:16 pm
There is a TV ad running now in Japan, by one of our cell phone companies, that I find very interesting. Here's what it looks like:

A bearded man looked out the window. He tugged at his vest, and adjusted his watch chain. The door behind him clicked and opened. Without looking, he said, "Watson?"

A man in blue jeans and a T-shirt came in the door. He looked around and said, "What year is this?"

The bearded man turned, stood up, and looked the man who had come through the door over, from head to foot. The bearded man shook his head and said, "1876."

Then the bearded man looked at the man in blue jeans and said, "What is that in your hand?"

The man in blue jeans chuckled. He lifted his hand. "This? This is a telephone."

The bearded man looked closely at it. He lifted the little box and said, "But where is it connected?"

The man in blue jeans shrugged, and pointed out the window. The bearded man looked where he was pointing and said, "A cloud?"

Just then, the door opened again. A slight figure stepped through, and looked at the two men. The short figure, silhouetted against the light, said, "What year is this?"

The bearded man said, "1876."

The slight figure stepped forward and said, "300 years!"

The bearded man and the man in blue jeans looked at the slight figure and said, "What is that in your hand?"

That's the end of the ad. From there, they simply go to the name of the sponsor, one of our large cell phone companies. But the thing that I love about this ad is the sequence. First we have Alexander Graham Bell faced with someone who stepped through time and shows him a cell phone. And then we have one more figure, who has something in their hand. That last little bit is the part that I really love about this ad. 300 years -- 2176? What will they have in their hand then?
Current Mood: slow
26 January 2015 @ 11:37 am
Most of the time, being in Japan doesn't baffle me too much. However, right now I'm fighting a cold, and part of the treatment...

See, I have these little metallic foil packages. Open here, by tearing off the top, use your fingers to spread, and... pour the granules into your mouth and swallow.

My wife says it's easy, everyone knows how to do that! But despite suggestions -- get a sip of water in your mouth first, then pour the granules in, then swallow? Huh? I am still having trouble. At least I have gotten over my first reaction, which was to try to sneeze -- blowing medicine all over. But after swallowing I still find myself with granules in between my teeth, and I am far to likely to chew on them, and they taste terrible.

If you pour it in dry, that's even worse, and of course, if you sip too much liquid, trying to open your mouth to add the medicine can get messy... I don't think my mouth was designed for mixing medicine!

Pills, tablets, capsules, those I can handle without any real problems. But this loose granulated stuff, or the powder that some of the medicines are -- I suppose it does digest easily, but really, why loose?

How do you swallow it?
Current Mood: sneezy