Since a few days there it is not only the oversized Christmas illumination, but also a new construction site, which attracts my attention on the way home. According to a notice nearby they are going to fix some gas pipes over the next weeks. What is really interesting, is not the ongoing construction, but its size and how things are organized. Basically, two men are working in a trench, one operates a mini-excavator and there is some kind of supervisor who coordinates things. However, beside these four workers there are three(!) security guards who make sure that people who walk by don’t fall into the trench (which is protected by a small fence, anyway). One security guard is standing in front of the construction site, a second after it, and since they ask you to pass the site by walking on the other side of the of street, someone positioned a third security guy there. But how does this relate to the title of this post, i.e. Star Wars? Well, to understand this one needs to know how a typical security guard at a Japanese construction site is equipped. To help you save time searching on Google, just look at the image below.
Of course, such security guys are not dressed up like Darth Vader, but all of them have this kind of lightsaber. So when it is dark, they fidget with their light-swords in order to make sure that nobody walks into the construction site. Watching three of these security guards from a distance of 100 meter or more, one could get the idea that a new Star Wars movie is filmed, rather than just checking some old gas pipes. Sounds unrealistic? Of course! But hey, after I have passed at least three sites with weird Christmas decoration/illumination before, nothing seems to be impossible.
Coming back to the original purpose of this post, there is one thing in Japan that’s for sure – security goes first at construction sites. Small or big constructions, all have their security guards on duty. One gets used to it. However, with some imagination (or just being shortsighted), one might think for a short moment that the dark side of the Force is waiting for you on your way home from the office
A few weeks ago I was going through the pictures which I had taken this year in order to find a nice shot which can be added to our season’s greetings card. But it did not take long before I realized that there was not a single picture that looks really nice. If one suggests now that the reason for this is that I am not skilled photographer, I can’t really rebut that argument. However, it is not only me who should be blamed for poor photos, one needs to know that I never used any kind of good camera. As far as I can remember, I never had anything more than a simple pocket camera. Of course digital image processors can do astonishing things, especially for an amateur like me, but pictures from such cameras never reach the quality of a single lens reflex camera (SLR).
Thus, after thinking and considering for quite some time, I came to the conclusion that the time for a new camera has come. And this time, I would spend some money on a camera that no longer is the excuse for poor looking pictures. So I compared brands, prices and technology and finally came up with a decision that serves both, my expectations and my wallet. So it happened that an early self-bought Christmas present in the form of a brand new Pentax K-30 was delivered to my home yesterday.
Well, this thing has so many buttons, functions and features that it will surely take some time to master this new tool. But hey, maybe I end up shooting some really nice pictures in the new year (or even this month – one might forgive me for playing with my Christmas toy before Dec. 24th ) and eventually even post them here or on Facebook?
With the Halloween season finally over, Japanese department stores have taken out their Christmas decorations and put Santa-san and his reindeers on display. However, Christmas decoration is no longer limited to indoor environments, but has found its way outside on the streets. What started with a few light-bulbs some years ago, has now turned into a kind of competition about the best Christmas decoration. Two years ago, I wrote an article about the same topic, and reading it now makes me think that things have gone from bad to worse. Not only that there is more weird stuff (called “Christmas decoration”) outside, but also the total number of so-called “illuminations” has went up by a factor of three (my guess). On my way home from the train station, I pass one public university and two private high schools. Since about one week all of them have their LED-based decorations on display, and none of those “illuminations” is small. The university has put-up a huge tree-like decoration, that spans the whole height of a 10-story building. Of course this kind of main decoration is accompanied by many other light installations, showing something that relates to Christmas or just something that looks “cool” (ducks, airplanes, trains, etc.) when being portrayed in long chains of LEDs.
When I see this every evening and then watching the news on the TV, saying that electricity shortages in Japan can only be avoided by burning fossil fuels, I start doubting about the sanity of some people. What is the point of having an “illumination” for a university, school or a public body (city hall, library, etc.)? They don’t need to attract “costumers” and at least the public bodies should be responsible for spending tax payers money more useful, than creating a 30m high Christmas tree decoration with thousands of LEDs.
Tagged with: Christmas
, Christmas decorations
, Christmas traditions
, Christmas tree
, electricity shortages
, Light sources
, Light-emitting diode
, Santa Claus
Posted in Japan
When I was a child I went to ski school every winter for one or two weeks. Also in high school school we had ski trips and later on I went skiing with my friends. Even here in Japan, I have been to different ski resorts. All those places have in common that they advertise their choice of pistes and lifts in a very smart graphical representation – the ski map. Compared to a normal map, which offers you a view of the area from (directly) above, a ski map is a kind of 2.5D representation. This means, one looks at the mountain area from a side angle, so that the whole ski resort with its pistes is covered in the scenery. Other than a picture taken from a plane or helicopter, a ski map has been manipulated by an artists or cartographer. In doing so, the main features like lifts, pistes, huts, restaurants and other places of interests are added to the map, Thus a ski tourist can easily navigate himself through the area. Personally, I always enjoy looking at those maps as they seem to be a kind of art – carefully created, easy to understand and having a style that doesn’t go out of date (unless the ski resort changes some of its infrastructure). For those of you with a similar tic, I recommend to have a look on this page where you find a collection of ski maps from all over the world.
Last month before I boarded my flight back to Japan I bought “The Racketeer” (only click this link if you don’t plan to read the book!), a 2012 novel from John Grisham. Grisham, who is well known for books like “The Firm”, “The Client” or “The Runaway Jury” (respectively the corresponding movies), followed the tradition of his lawyer stories when he wrote “The Racketeer”. When I saw the book I thought it might be a good read on the flight, but as the entertainment program was not that bad I did not dig out the book from my bag which was stored in the overhead bin. After I returned to Japan, I was somewhat busy and I did not start reading until last weekend. Well, I am not a real fan of Grisham and the only prior work which I really liked was his non-fiction book “The Innocent Man”. However, “The Racketeer” slightly changed my impression about Grisham’s fiction writing. Although the book starts off somewhat boring on the first twenty pages, the plot accelerates quite soon and from this time you won’t stop reading. There are quite many unexpected turns in the story and the suspense does literally not stop before you finish with the last sentence of the book. I am not saying that the “The Racketeer” is high literature, but it could be a book for you that is worth to be read. It wouldn’t be Grisham if there isn’t already the discussion of making a film out of it. And yes, from my point of view, this would make sense. Maybe, there might be some similarities with “The Firm”, but I guess I would go to the cinema if “The Racketeer” is screened with a well selected cast.
I have to admit I did it also (once) – I included a pie chart in a scientific paper. When I look now at the paper, I am wondering why I did not find a better way of representing the results in that particular section. But why do I think pie charts are not the best way to show scientific data?
First of all, someone who looks at a pie chart will have troubles to judge the exact and relative size of the pie slices. People know this, and the solution for this is to put the absolute or relative (usually percentages) numbers next to each slice. In doing so, the real information comes from the text and not from the graph. The same information could be communicated by a simple table. This leads over to the next issue – the space such a pie chart takes. If you compare the information content with the space such a figure demands in your paper, you will easily decide not to include it, especially when the journal has a page limit for submissions. Moreover, most journals charge you extra for color figures. Since pie charts only look good in color you will surely need to pay for that figure, if you want to see it in your paper. In addition to that, there seems to be some kind of implicit limit of how much information one can represent. If you have only two numbers, there is no need to show them as two slices of a pie chart. If there are more than 8 slices, some of them will be surely too small so that in the end valuable information might be lost. Having many categories prevents you also from putting the description of each slice inside the circle, but requires you to generate a legend, add arrows/lines to each section or generate an “exploded pie chart”. All of these solutions take more space, and shrink the size of the pie chart w.r.t. the text around it.
I am not saying that one should not use pie charts at all, but I am of the opinion that they should not be used when publishing a scientific paper. At least I will do so, always being reminded by that poor looking figure in a paper which I published three years ago.
An umbrella basically has only one purpose – to protect you from the rain. It’s principle is very simple and umbrellas are sold in different price ranges. On one end there are very expensive hand-made designer pieces that are sold for 500 USD or more. On the other end of the price range, one can find a simple plastic umbrella for 100 Yen here in Japan. The latter type is really popular, especially when one considers that after an average typhoon your umbrella likely looks like on the pictures below
So why spend much money on an umbrella when you know that it is destroyed in the next bigger storm? Well, there seems to be a solution for this problem. Hiroshi Kajimoto from H-Concept has developed the “Unbrella”. They just mount the umbrella in reverse direction on the stick and place the frame outside. The idea is quite simple and when looking at the solution one asks himself why it has not been invented before.
I am usually drinking tea rather the coffee when in the office. It is not only a choice of lifestyle, but also related to the fact that the coffee here is, to put it mildly, not the most tasty one. However, from time to time, especially when guests are visiting our lab, it happens that I have a cup of coffee. I used to drink much more coffee during my PhD time in Vienna, and four cups a day were not a rare case to keep me going. The drawback of caffeine consumption is of course that the later on the day you drink your cup of coffee, the chances that you will have a hard time to fall asleep in the night are somewhat positively correlated. I assume that this is something almost everybody has concluded by himself. However, when is the best time for having a cup of coffee? Is there a kind of optimum time for having your coffee that does give you a kind of energy boost, but does not disturb your sleep? Well, as I learnt from this article, there is such a preferable time. According to the author ” … your coffee will probably be the most effective if you enjoy it between 9:30 AM and 11:30 AM, when your cortisol levels are dropping before the next spike.”. That’s a little bit in contradiction to the idea of having a quick morning coffee before starting to work. As explained in the article, one should only consume a drug (i.e. caffeine) when it is needed or best suitable for your body.
Well, most of this does not apply for me at the moment. First, I am sipping already my second cup of (green) tea and I don’t feel like having a coffee. Second, even if I would like to have a cup of coffee, one needs to buy a (reasonable good) coffee machine for the office and then also bring real coffee (not that instant stuff) in order to make a decent cup of coffee.