Monthly Archive for April, 2005

Small Arms, Huge Burrito?

This news from ABC isn’t embarrasing, it’s actually sad. Small arms, even those guaranteed by constitutions like the one in the U.S., is harmful. Plainly dangerous. There are so many irresponsible people out there that even a car is a deadly weapon in their hands, and then you have laws which allow to posses weapons. Paradox. If any government – not only the one in the U.S. – is serious with it’s goal of security and peace, they might want to look into their own backyard and disarm their own population.

School Mistakes Huge Burrito for a Weapon

Firefox Hits 50M

The Mozilla Foundation produced a new, open source browser called Firefox. If this is news to you and you still use Internet Explorer (reasons to switch), go and get Firefox, download it, install it, use it. Btw, this journal doesn’t look as good as it should with IE and I can’t think of a better reason to get a decent browser. 馃檪

Get Firefox!

Firefox: 50,000,000 downloads (8:58 AM PST 4/29/05)

Visualization of News

Spiegel Online was yesterday, say hello to newsmap.

Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator. Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information. Newsmap’s objective takes that goal a step further and provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe.
Newsmap does not pretend to replace the googlenews aggregator. It’s objective is to simply demonstrate visually the relationships between data and the unseen patterns in news media. It is not thought to display an unbiased view of the news, on the contrary it is thought to ironically accentuate the bias of it.

Strengthening Ties with India

Prime Minister Koizumi is trying to strengthen bilateral ties with India – further ensuring support for the UNSC bid? Japan already backs India and they will return the favor. The article at Reuters mentioned another detail – Japan is only the fourth biggest investor in India, after the United States… and Mauritius (Britain is 3rd). I knew Mauritius only from stories about the Dodo. Now it seems, since their independence some 37 years ago, they took off-shore banking literally. Not bad for a rather small island in the Indian Ocean. Even Deutsche Bank joined the party.

Reuters – Japan seeks partnership with India as China looms

Trimester-Test Results

We had another appointment with the gynecologist, this time mainly for the results of a trimester-test. Before the test, the chance for a trisomy 21 anomaly was 1:400, now it is somewhere around 1:10000. Good for us, I’m happy we don’t have to think about a next step, in case the odds were worse afterwards than before. When we asked about an accoucheuse (midwife), the doctor said there’s no need for one before the birth as they can do all the care, check-ups etc. as well, if we wanted one for the first weeks after the birth we could decide that later. I thought midwives have tight schedules and are booked up months in advance – and that the majority of parents utilizes their services. Mentioning the ventricular vestibule septum defect, the doctor said she would check it next month. It’s just strange that when I asked first whether it is passed on in the family, she said no and that we shouldn’t worry about it. When I made clear that I have had it and not my parents, she changed her mind and wrote it down to check it next time. If it’s not passed on genetically, why the change of heart? (no pun intended)

It’s already the second time she’s acting in an uncertain way. Perhaps we’ll find another doctor. I noticed something else, which has nothing to do with her competence as a gynecologist: When shaking hands, she looked elsewhere, but not into my eyes. It gives me the impression she’s somewhere else in her mind. If she were Japanese, the missing eye contact wouldn’t surprise me as much, but with Germans it is unusual.

Clean Samurai Teeth

The GEO Magazine reports that Samurai were among the first who used toothbrushes regularily – the brushes were wooden sticks, wrapped in cloth. I wonder what they used for tooth paste.

GEO.de – Kulturgeschichte

New Layout – Enter Kubrick

I used the Kubrick for Blogger template for the page (original template by Michael Heinemann, the old one was too dark and uninviting. Still some stuff to do though, but right now that should be enough. I had to relearn some programs I used to design with in the past, also, since I didn’t really code for ages modifying was difficult enough. Too bad there won’t be time to learn CSS properly.

Friendly Spam

How much spam do you get? In my case, it’s between 60-150 spam mails a day, which is about 81% of all emails I get. Lately, it’s not only spam that’s annoying. Early in the morning, we have regularily Jehovah’s Witnesses at our doorstep, besides people ringing our bell to drop advertisement several times a day (and everyone claims to be the mail(wo)man – living on the fourth floor, I don’t feel like checking every time), salesmen, phone company agents trying to sell new products and what not. I haven’t gotten spit yet, but that might be only a matter of time. Anyway. Now I got spam, that really, really crossed the fine line of decency. A friend of mine has a boyfriend, he’s some kind of therapist. Opening our letterbox, I found advertisement for some kind of Lovers Journey and partner therapy from a doctor for depth psychology and other workshops, charging between 150 and 1000 Euros. The before mentioned boyfriend was one of the conductors – I was tempted to fill his name into the application as partner therapy seems something he needs far more than I (we) do. Being divorced and a more or less single parent with psychological issues he really ought to work out, he’s not the kind of person I would go to for counseling. Meeting him the next time will be interesting. “Friendly spam” hit the fan.

Holodeck 0.1alpha

Sounds like science fiction to me – more exactly, like Star Trek’s Holodeck. For educational purposes, this could be a major step forward: Imagine schools and universities equipped with such devices. Instead of listening to a lecturer about Einstein, Gaius Caesar or the Battle of Verdun, you could actually “be” there, experience it yourself, talk to the persons involved etc.

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft: CyberWalk

Sophie Calle in Aachen

Today my wife and I visited an exhibition in Aachen about Sophie Calle’s work. It was the last day of the exhibition.

My wife, studying history of arts and the “professional” of the two of us when it comes to art, liked the exhibition very much. Myself, I have to confess, I am less enthusiastic. The work I had problems with is exquisite pain, which took some time to absorb in its completeness.

The idea to tell and re-tell the same story from different angles is intriguing, but the first part – “before the pain” – in connection to the second part was actually very dissapointing. The reason for my dissapointment may be due to my personal view on life and values, less to the story told. I’m still thinking about the reason though. Sophie travelled to Japan, leaving behind a man, who broke up with her directly after her trip and didn’t even care to tell her the truth in person in New Delhi. Truth being told, I’m not sure how “exquisite pain” can be that intense as how she displayed it to be. I was looking for every picture, reading piece after piece up to a certain point. Somewhere in between, she wrote to her lover something he would “never read” – because she slept with a stranger (I think she was already in Japan at that time). At that point, I thought, “how much does she really love her boyfriend back in Paris? Does she love him at all? What does he mean to her?”. Progressing to the part of the story where her boyfriend left her, I thought, “Well, they both didn’t really seem to care enough about one another” – because if they did, she would’t cheat on him and he would’t leave her for somebody else. That’s why the display of pain afterwards wasn’t that convincing to me. Certainly, this is a perspective on the situation with different values – and I’m not going so far to deny other people emotions, pain or love. I wondered Sophie Calle’s boyfriend might have reacted if he learned from her one night stand during her travel. If he were an artist like her, he might create a similar work, don’t you think? I left the exhibition with the feeling that – if not one side of the story – at least parts of it remain untold?

I remembered her email address from her correspondence with Josh Greene, the guy she lent her bed to to overcome the end of his relationship. I hope she doesn’t mind me writing to her directly.

My favourite piece in the exhibition was the text next to the mirror (“Benedict – a woman vanishing”) in which people visiting a museum were categorized and compared to one of four animals: ant, butterfly, grasshopper and fish. The ant walks meticulously from piece to piece, to not miss out any work. The butterfly flies from one part in the exhibition to another, without a plan. The grasshopper sees one work he likes and jumps ahead, ignoring everything inbetween. The fish slowly floats by, but never stops.

I think I am an ant.

Emails Dumb You Down

If this is true, I need a year of vacation from the internet.

Emails ‘pose threat to IQ’

Spontaneous Abortion Risks

Not really news, but good to know: The ‘Le Kremlin-Bic锚tre Cedex’ research institute in France published a report about spontaneous abortion. The probability increased with the parents’ age. If the father is over 35, the chance increases about 30%, a 40 years old mother has three times the chance of a miscarriage than a mother of 25. The sooner you get a child, the better.

Influence of Paternal Age on the Risk of Spontaneous Abortion

Yasukuni Again

Japan’s Prime Minister Koizumi apologized in front of 100 Asian and African leaders for the damage Japan is responsible for in World War II. Hu Jintao, the Chinese president was also present, and I would be really curious to know what they will talk about directly during the Asia-Africa summit in Jakarta. Unfortunately, Japan will have to show that its words are backed by actions. Right now, the opposite is the case, and that is exactly why apologies can be made, but their believability is equal to zero if at the same time 80 Japanese members of parliament turn out to pay their respects to Japan’s war dead at Yasukuni shrine. What do the Chinese, Koreans and other people see right now? On the one hand, one part of the government apologizes for the war and and at the same time, a considerably big part of the parliament pays its respect at a temple with enshrined war criminals. The parliamentary’ spokesman said, they paid the ‘visit to honor the dead and pray for peace’, there seems to be quite an insensibility towards the additional meaning of the visit.

There have been plans to move the war criminals out of the shrine as an attempt to defuse the problem. Unfortunately, the government can’t has no influence over Yasukuni’s priesthood in this matter. Although Shinto experts have confirmed that a relocation of class-A war criminals can be done, the priests in control have no inclination of doing so. They (correctly) refer to the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion, but a look on their website reveals a revisionist and nationalist view on history. Interesting enough, the Google search result in English gives as a description Includes photos, FAQ, and its nationalist war memorial museum. The description hits the mark. Let’s take a look at their website.

The text books used in history instruction at intermediate schools from the 1997 school year will contain material on the subject of comfort women. The textbooks depict as a historical fact the story of Asian women who were forced into prostitution by the Japanese Army. Imparting this story to students who are still young and immature has become a great problem since last year. […] Can we say that this view is correct? […] We cannot help but feel that the possibility of ulterior motives have not been discounted. […] Japan’s dream of building a Great East Asia was necessitated by history and it was sought after by the countries of Asia. […] We cannot overlook the intent of those who wish to tarnish the good name of the noble souls of Yasukuni.

I guess the content doesn’t require further explanation, the message is quite clear. The shrine claims eight million visitors per year, including top government officials. The shrine itself might be independent, but the message the shrine and the visits send out to Japan’s neighbors weight far more than words. I can’t imagine China will be contented by Prime Minister Koizumi’s recent apology, there’s quite a chance that it will be seen as an opportunistic move to increase Japan’s chances for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council – irrespective of the honesty of the apology.

Koizumi Apologizes for Past, Meeting with Hu Sought

The Daniel Project

Sometimes you surf the net and you don’t know where the next click takes you. I read a posting in the newsgroup soc.culture.japan.moderated about a review at japanReview.net. The article’s title in question was The Dave and Tony Show. Read the review what the two books are about – I can really recommend the second one to anyone who’s married to a foreigner, but especially to Japanese readers. The review mentiones a guy named Olaf Karthaus. As this name sounds German, and since I’m a very curious person, I looked it up in Google. The top page listed in the results was a copyright form in German for a “Project Daniel”. I moved two parent directories up and found The Daniel Project.

On first look, it was a memorial site for a child as I have read a few in the last several years. Then one sentence caught my eye: “Born with a severe congenital heart defect.” That sounded familiar. When I was born, I was diagnosed with a ventricular septum defect, I was a blue baby with a little opening in the wall between my two lower heart chambers. My condition though was far less life-threatening than Daniels. In contrast to him, I didn’t need any surgery. I wasn’t allowed to participate in every sport event at school, but when I turned 14, my body seemed to have healed all by itself, the systolic murmur detected by cardiac auscultation in regular checkups was gone. I read the whole website, including the book about Daniel’s life, his surgeries and his death. I can’t remember when I have been so touched to tears by somebody’s writing on the net. I haven’t thought about it earlier, but now I’m a little bit worried whether our own baby will be healthy or not since there’s an indication of a genetic link. Let’s hope for the best, my wife’s genes aren’t as crappy as mine are.

Benedict XVI.

Benedictus XV.Benedictus XV. (1914-1922)

“Habemus papam” is probably the most important sentence said this year. After a long day doing research in the library, falling almost unconscious onto the sofa and turning on the news, this was really a surprise. Alright, I wasn’t right with Tettamanzi and I thought the conclave might take longer because the participants have no pressure to hurry up, their lodging is comfortable like never before and the Sistine Chapel has a roof (one conclave was speeded up by exposing the conclave to the roughness of nature). The new pope’s name is Benedictus XVI. The last pope with this name was Giacomo della Chiesa (1914-1922), he failed repeatedly to conciliate the parties involved in World War I. Benedictus is the first word in the song of Zacharias at the birth of John the Baptist. Traditionally, the choice for the new name carries a message. I wonder why cardinal Josef Ratzinger chose that name.

One sidenote: “That a German has been elected as pope is a moment of pride, it is an honor,” said Angela Merkel, the leader of the opposition Christian Democratic Union (source: Spiegel Online). Pride has never been a favorable or salutary emotion. Pride as the strong emotion it is can be hurt, be it by other people’s insults, or in extreme cases, by simple difference of opinion. Where I’d have to agree, Benedict XVI.’s heritage as German apparently wasn’t a disqualification for his eligibility.